Gerian led them straight to the room where the heart friends were in stasis. He didn’t have to say which was Alison’s heart friend – she ran straight to the pillar of light containing an ice nymph. Karen hissed as she noticed the deep cracks and fissures running throughout the nymph’s icy skin. She really was badly injured to look a broken statue like that.
Sarah and Birke walked over more sedately and laid their hands on the beam as if it was solid. After a second, Sarah hissed. “What the hell was done to her?”
“Apart from the physical injuries?” Gerian said in a clipped tone. “Essence inversion which I managed to fix but which left her too weakened for even my best healers to fix the physical damage. Can you help her?”
“Possibly,” Sarah said. “The wounds are fixable, but we’d need to take her to Waldhafen and put her in one of their life support trees while we worked. The problem is, I don’t think she’d survive long enough out of stasis to teleport or gate her there.”
“We could collect a stasis bloom to put her in from Waldhafen and then fly her there,” Birke said. “That should last long enough.”
“I don’t want to…” Gerian trailed off as Alison glared at him. “Just a moment.” He walked out of the room returning a few moments later with a white unicorn with hooves and horn of glowing crystal. For some reason, both Indaturan and Takilyan made strangled gasps when they saw him. “Right now we can talk without fear of deception. Is Waldhafen the only place she can be healed?”
Ebona made a huffing noise. â€œYou could have asked me that.â€
â€œI could, but I had another reason for bring Kasi in as well,â€ he said flatly. â€œNow is Waldhafen the only place she can be healed?â€
“That I know of,” Sarah said. “Alaryia could probably do it but–” She broke off and smiled wryly as he hissed. “Yes, I gathered she might be even less acceptable to you.”
“She’s telling the truth,” Kasi and Ebona said simultaneously.
“Okay,” he said. “And they won’t hurt her or hold my daughter captive? I think Ari is going to outwalk on me but I still want to see her safe.”
“Well, that’s got to be a first,” Kasi said.
To everyone’s amazement Gerian gave a wry grin. “Not a first. More like a third.” He looked back at Sarah. “Well?”
“No one is going to hurt her,” Sarah said. “Even if we were inclined to punish Alison, her heart friend had nothing to do with what happened so we wouldn’t be able to.”
“True,” Kasi said cheerfully.
“Third,” Indaturan said suddenly, even though he was still staring at Kasi like he’d seen a ghost. “Your wife, your son and your daughter. Don’t you think it’s time you extended such forbearance to a fourth? Lyrrekka told us what you did to your own heart friend.”
Gerian stiffened and looked towards the other end of the room. “That is none of your business,” he said. “Elidyr argued with me too much. I had to shut him up somehow.”
“You really are a jerk, aren’t you,” Lydia snapped. “You nearly killed my sister, I saw what you did to Ignifer, you keep a prison of captured speakers for food and don’t even enforce your own rules on their welfare and you put your own heart friend in stasis because he argued with you. You are an asshole! That’s why no one will listen to you. Not because you’re a dragon.” By the time she’d finished speaking she’d stomped right up to him and was standing mere inches from him with her fists clenched. Gerian looked bewildered and actually took a step backwards before turning to Karen.
“Yes, I’m being nagged to apologise to you, Karen-ida,” he said. “I shouldn’t have used my venom on you. I didn’t actually intend to but I was so angry with you for getting in my way and it sort of leaked. But while I understand the technicalities of why they want me to apologise, I’m not going to. I was trying to kill you and not using it wouldn’t have changed my intent.”
“You know, I’m told that one of the nice things about not being a unicorn is the ability indulge in diplomatic lying,” Kasi said dryly. “That skill seems to have passed you by, Gerian-mirian.” The unicorn looked over at them. “He’s being truthful when he perhaps should edit himself again.”
Given that everything she knew about Gerian suggested he didn’t take being sniped at well, Karen was surprised when he only responded to that with another sheepish smile. She didn’t have time to puzzle over this discrepancy though because Takilyan spoke for the first time since the unicorn had appeared.
“What are you doing here?”
“Gerian asked me to help and to stand witness that what he’s going to ask in return for freeing the other heart friends and helping you rescue Kayleigh is not a delusion,” the unicorn replied. “Though I told him he should do both of those anyway because she would expect him to, but he doesn’t listen.”
“What is he going to ask?” Sarah said flatly.
“He wants you to find Keylaria,” Indaturan said with certainty. “And he’s proved she’s alive quite handily. I don’t know why he didn’t do it before.”
“Oh?” Sarah said.
“Kasi here is Keylaria’s heart friend.”