Lydia was mildly surprised that Alaryia wasn’t waiting for them when the gate opened to her palace. Instead, they were met by a man with dark hair, gold eyes and wings of golden light. He extended his hands to them and smiled.
“Welcome, honoured guests. I am Kylissan, Alaryia-miria’s first lieutenant and consort.”
“Thank you.” Matthias cocked his head at Kylissan. “You are Kithreian?”
“I am,” Kylissan said. “Alaryia will join us presently – she wanted me to see if I could help your prisoner first and was worried she might frighten him.” He turned to Yedan. “You’re well warded. May I see your brand?”
“Of course, Kylissan-alran.” Yedan pushed up the sleeve of the robe one of the dragons had leant him to reveal the faded pink tattoo on his arm. He extended it to Kylissan who bent down and examined it with a thoughtful scowl, tracing the lines with one slender finger.
“She had got you all tangled up. I haven’t seen a kithreiri brand this tangled in over a century. The only reason it could be this tangled is that she’s trying to avoid something.” He traced the lines some more. “Yes, there’s a gap here â€“ an obvious one at that. Do you see it?”
Yedan stared at the brand and his eyes widened. “I do! I never noticed that! But such a gap means she’s…” He trailed off and narrowed his eyes.
“Means she’s what?” Matthias asked.
“Hiding something from him that would dissolve that tattoo,” Lyrrekka said. “And she knows it would. She’s been trying to block it and failed.”
“I’d say I see but I really don’t,” Matthias said. “I think you need to explain exactly what that tattoo is. It binds him to her somehow?”
“It’s an oath brand,” Kylissan said. “It’s a sort of Kithreiri artifact used by idri to secure oaths and prevent members of their court severing. When they swear to them, they place the brand and it stops them breaking their oaths. Its only known weaknesses are that dragons are completely immune to it and it’s vulnerable to Kithreiri obsessions.”
“You mean that’s how the rebels untangle themselves?” Lyrrekka said incredulously. “That’s so obvious I missed it.”
“Er?” Matthias said.
“We’re prone to developing obsessions with things,” Kylissan said. “We seem to need them. It’s as much part of our nature as hunger is to dragons. If something we’re obsessed with conflicts with an oath brand the oath gives unless the brand resonates with your colour or your obsession conflicts with it as well â€“ in which case it gets messy.” He gave a shudder. “Very messy. Actually having obsession and colour conflict is messy even when you’re not oathbound.”
“Which means golds are pretty much screwed,” Naria said with a smirk.
“Who oathbinds golds?” Kylissan said wryly. “It’s completely unnecessary.” He looked back at Yedan. “So I know this is incredible personal but what are you obsessed with? For most of us it’s our kin. The blatant threat Xantaria poses to their families is how most Kithreia who flee to the rebels from her court sever, but this is something more complicated.”
“I have no kin,” Yedan said. “They’re all dead or worse…” He trailed off and shot a guilty look at Naria and Lyrrekka. “Well I think it’s worse.”
“You’re obsessed with revenge?” Kylissan asked. “That’s not really healthy for a green. Understandable, though, and not quite conflicting… so who?”
Yedan looked down at the floor. “Mitakrian.”
“Well that explains the gap,” Lydia said. “Xantaria appears to be working with him.”
“What?” Yedan’s head snapped up and he stared at her. “Are you sure?”
“Alsia-ida took a great risk to send us a message to say so anyway,” Naria said. “We’ll arrange for you to talk to her messenger.” She shot a glance at Matthias. “Won’t we?”
“And there’s something else,” Alaryia said. Lydia turned in surprise to see her leaning against the wall. “The thing you know that she didn’t want anyone to know.” She nodded to Sonia. “Sonia-ida, tell him. Flare your aura and tell him.”
“Huh? Oh!” Sonia’s aura rose in a black storm around her for a moment. “I’m going to challenge Mitakrian.”
Yedan gasped and spun towards her, eyes wide. The tattoo on his arm writhed and crawled for a moment before most of it vanished, leaving only the sigil at the centre. He glared at it. “I still can’t quite sever. I think I need proof she’s working with Mitakrian for that.”
“It’s enough for now,” Alaryia said. “Let’s eat and then we’ll sort out the rest.”