Laxmi’s brows knitted together in a worried frown as Alaryia leapt between her and Ema. Hannah had the distinct impression that the Indian woman really did not want to fight the dragon. Indeed, she backed away rapidly.
“Oh, now don’t go running away,” Alaryia said. “We need to ask you some questions.” Ropes of light span from Alaryia fingers and flew towards Laxmi.
Laxmi leapt back and slashed at them with her shadowy claws. The ropes were unaffected but the woman’s claws seemed to ignite and disappear where they touched the light. Her face crumpled with pain and she gave a heart-rending scream as she sank to her knees. Her eyes returned to their normal colour and her surviving claws vanished back into her skin. Alaryia’s ropes wrapped around her but didn’t seem to cause her any distress when they were touching her skin. Alaryia raised an eyebrow and cupped Laxmi’s chin in one hand, tilting her head back and studying her eyes.
“Now that’s interesting and disturbing,” she said. “Are you what I think you are?”
“What do you think she is?” Hannah asked. Alaryia glanced at her but didn’t reply. She just looked back at Laxmi.
“Well? Are you?”
“That would all depend on what you think I am.” Laxmi’s voice cracked with pain. She blinked away tears and added quietly. “But yes, there is a fair chance-” She broke off as Huldre sent a storm of rock shards at the two of them.
Alaryia spun around and threw up her shield in time to block them, but the troll took advantage of her distraction to run to Laxmi’s side. He ripped the light ropes from around her and picked her up under one arm. Alaryia raced towards them but he vanished in a whirl of rock.
Alaryia clenched her fists and swore in draconic.
“Well, at least we won, even if we didn’t capture Laxmi,” Matthias said. “We should head to the Core now.”
Alaryia looked at him for a moment, then nodded. “We should. That’s important as well. But this is worse than I imagined; even when we realised he was as old as he is, I never imagined that Jayden Emms might be him. My mother is going to, what is it you say? Freak out? Yes, she’ll freak out when she finds out, and we’ll have to tell her. She knows more about him than I do.”
“Likadrian.” She bit off the name in a way that made it clear she didn’t want to say it. “The maker of the lost ones.”
“Which explains the drawings.” Matthias gave a heavy sigh.
“Drawings?” Alaryia asked. “You know about the lost ones?”
“Oh yes, we hadn’t told you that bit yet with everything else. But we only know what Lyrrekka and Tarian told us after we found the drawings he did as a child,” Matthias said. “Let’s get going. I’ll tell you the rest while we walk.”
Laxmi was crying when she and Huldre reappeared in the room.
Andrew frowned at her as Emms ran over and took her from his heart friend. She didn’t appear to have any injuries, but she was moving like she was hurt.
“Laxmi, are you okay?” Emms asked as he helped her to one of the chairs.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, I had to let my claws out when the Daoine girl attacked me, but the first dragon has light powers…” She trailed off with a sob. “She realised what I am. It’s not much of a leap to who-”
“I know. I was watching.” He gave her a little hug. “It wasn’t your fault. It was his.” He jerked his head at Huldre, who was glowering in the corner. “He shouldn’t have confronted them. And mine; I should have gone myself.”
“You had to go after Cat,” she said.
He gave a bitter chuckle. “It was too late. They’d beaten me to it and I could have sent you anyway. Cat likes you.” He turned to Huldre. “Fetch me one of the healers. Laxmi needs some attention.” He gave her another little hug. “You’ll have to guide them in healing you and then wipe their memory. You’ll freak them out.” He turned back to Huldre. “Get the healer now! We’ll talk about what happened when I’m less pissed off at you.”
Huldre glowered at him and then lumbered from the room.
“You okay handling the healer, Laxmi?” Jayden asked. She gave him a tremulous smile and nodded. He squeezed her hand and rose to his feet. “Then I’ll go and try to scry for Cat again.” He left the room, leaving Andrew and Kimi alone with Laxmi.