“It’s ready! It’s really ready.” Jayden was incredibly cheerful when he bounced into the room the next morning, carrying a large breakfast on a tray. He put the tray down by Andrew and stretched his arms to the ceiling. “I’ve waited so long for this moment, Andrew. So very long.”
Andrew said nothing to that, though he did pick up the fork and start eating. He needed his strength, after all. He glanced towards the doorway and saw Laxmi loitering there with an anxious expression on her face. Her eyes as she met his were dark pits of worry.
He doesn’t suspect a thing, she told him. Make sure that you keep it that way.
But you suspect something, he said non-committally. It might be a trap after all. Her mental sigh was deep.
I’m neither stupid nor blinded my ideals, kid. I’d be amazed if nothing was going on and that’s leaving aside the fact that I know that you were talking to your father and Ystelyan via that blue girl yesterday. I don’t know what was said but I can guess. I hope I’m right. I wasn’t kidding last night; I hope that you win. He’s got to be stopped – this won’t work. It’ll only hurt more people. Her eyes became sad. I think cocking up again would probably break him – and that would be bad for more than just him.
What do you mean? Andrew asked. I find it hard to care about him.
No doubt, she said. But when your kind break it tends to be bad for everything. She hesitated . It was seeing a band of ordinary humans – what astrals call nulls – wiped out by another astral’s temper tantrum which pushed him over the edge, you know. He swore he’d never let anyone else die for lack of ability to defend themselves.
And he thinks this is the way to do it? Andrew asked. I mean I understand the sentiment but who would actually think this was a good idea? It’s a really bad idea. He looked back at Emms who was cheerfully eating his own breakfast, oblivious to their conversation.
I know, she replied. It’s also – well he’s bigoted. He thinks not being astral is a disability to be fixed. The idea that some people may not want to be fixed doesn’t matter to him.
Andrew refrained from nodding with effort and instead speared a tomato off his plate. I’m still not telling you what’s going down. No offence but I have no reason to trust you.
No, she agreed sadly. You don’t. I’m a monster and I suspect the best I can hope for is being put down. Better than going back to that place. Her shoulders slumped and Emms finally noticed.
“Laxmi!” He gave a heavy sigh. “It’s not going to go wrong again, I promise.”
“I hope you’re right,” she said.
“I wouldn’t even be trying if I wasn’t sure.” He finished his breakfast and stood up. “Come on, we’ve got a lot of preparation to do.” He headed for the door. After a moment, Laxmi followed. She paused at the door but didn’t look back.
I’ll tell you when he’s most distracted and try to keep him from noticing, she said, leaving Andrew to stare after her in shock that she knew that much.
If Andrew could have got up from the throne he would have been pacing the room waiting for it to be time. Over the last hour or so he’d felt an heaviness building in the air. It was making him feel nauseous in much the same way that the throne had before they tuned it. But he didn’t think any amount of tuning would make him feel better this time.
Is it time yet? he asked Naria. There was a long pause then he had the feeling she was shaking her head.
He’s still preparing, he’s not committed yet. You need him as distracted as possible.
You’re with him? he asked.
Yes, he’s got all of us here for some reason. But no matter what we do, he’s going to realise as soon as you take control. You should have the other dragons here attack as soon as you do. It will distract him a bit longer and he’ll have to choose between saving what he’s doing and going after you.
I see, he said. This is a good idea.
Except they might be killed, he said. I don’t want to be responsible for that.
Most of them would kill you for being you, Drew, she said. My kind have a bad reputation for a reason. You’ve been lucky enough to meet the decent ones.
Are dragons really mostly bad?
Not really, she said. But a greater proportion than humans, I think. It depends which court you’re in mostly. Look at Tarian. He’s not a bad person but he did bad things in Gerian’s service before he was pushed too far. What does that say about the people who stay there?
That’s a good question, he said. But I don’t know… I feel bad about making them fight against their will.
Needs must, she said. If you don’t have them fight Emms, they’ll be fighting your kin instead.
I- You’re right. He sighed heavily. I just wish there was another way.
Yes, she agreed. So do I. But sometimes there just isn’t.
I know, he said then felt her stiffen. What’s wrong?
He’s starting the ritual, she said. Uh, my head. He felt her rubbing at her temples. He had the vague impression that the other dragons were doing the same. Give me a few moments and I’ll tell you when we’re ready to go.
Yes, he said. His own head was filling with fog as well. What’s causing it?
The amount of energy he’s putting into the air. He’s trying to break something. She seemed to consider. When you take control tell the others to eat that energy. It’ll clear your head and slow him down.