“Damn!” Sarah signalled one the dryads who’d come from Waldhafen to assist her, then ran to Tarian’s side as Lyrrekka lowered him to the floor. “This looks bad. Can you stop him frenzying?”
“I can but at the moment he’s not trying too, which is a very bad sign,” Lyrrekka said. “That’ll come once you stabilise him.” She didn’t say if, but it hung in the air all the same.
Sarah frowned for a moment then nodded. “Ah, like that dragon who saved Ian that time.” She pursed her lips and laid a hand on his wound. “Let’s see what I can do.” She closed her eyes, obviously concentrating while Lyrrekka stroked Tarian’s forehead and whispered soothingly to him.
After a moment, Lyrrekka looked around at Julie. “What about the tags? Are we safe here?”
“Yes, though more by good luck than good judgement,” Julie said. “Ian sensed the tags as soon as we brought the first girl through and acted quickly enough to block them. We were lucky he was here. We’ve extracted them from the kids and the machine and I’ve got a couple of the cousins teleporting around the country with them to confuse the trackers.”
Lyrrekka let out a sigh of relief and her eyes returned to Tarian’s face. “That’s good then. How are the kids we rescued?”
“Drugged to the eyeballs with some narcotic the healers can’t identify but otherwise fine â€“ physically, anyway,” Julie said. “I expect they are going to be messed up emotionally for a while.”
“I see.” Lyrrekka fell silent watching Tarian and Sarah. “Please be okay, Tar.”
Tarian’s eyes fluttered open and he looked up at her. He opened his mouth but obviously couldn’t speak, after a moment’s struggle he switched to mental speech which was still faint and halting.
I don’t think I’m going to be, he said. I’m sure you’ll catch me.
“Of course I will if needed,” Lyrrekka replied. “But Sarah hasn’t given up yet so don’t you dare. Keep fighting. You’re too good a friend to lose, even temporarily.”
You know me, Lyr, I’ll keep trying until I can’t any– He broke off as a portal tore open nearby and Karilya came running through looking frantic. She landed on her knees by Tarian and clung to him.
“Daddy, please stay!”
Estara emerged from the portal more sedately and inclined her head to Julie. “I’m sorry for tearing my way through your wards like that but Karilya wouldn’t calm down and she was going to hurt herself trying.”
“It’s forgivable in the circumstances,” Julie said. “Hopefully–”
“Damn!” Sarah looked pale as she looked up. “The bullet did too much damage. If we could take him to Waldhafen we could put him in stasis while the dryads healed him but I can’t even get him stable enough that we could move him there without killing him.”
“Daddy!” Karilya wailed.
Hush, Kari, he said. You’ll see again me soon. I’m sure I’ll be a good little brother to you.
“But I’ll be grown up before you remember me again.” She clung to him again still sobbing.
Then we’ll make new memories in between, he said. But you need to let go now so I can transition â€“ Sarah-alra and her friend can’t hold me much longer.
Karilya sobbed even more loudly but did as he said. Estara knelt down and hugged her as Sarah and the dryad who had been assisting both straightened.
“It’s no good, I’m sorry,” Sarah said.
Thank you for trying, Sarah-alra, he said weakly. Are you ready, Lyr.
“No, but I’ll do it anyway,” Lyrrekka replied.
Good, he said. At least we’ll get to test Dalrydian-mirian’s theory now. He closed his eyes and exploded before collapsing down into an egg in Lyrrekka’s lap. She hugged it to her her chest and wept quietly.
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