April 2nd, 2012 | Published in Dragon Wars
“We’re nearly there,” Rilletta said when they were roughly halfway up the stairs. “Are the people above in the shelters?”
“They are,” Rai replied. “Tonara sent me an imp once they’d sealed the wards. But if this Mitakrian is one of the first dragons, are you sure they’ll keep him out?”
“Probably not indefinitely, but long enough for our purposes,” Ystelyan said with a smile. “They aren’t as impregnable as the wards one of the thrones can make but they are pretty formidable.”
“Could you break through them?” Rai asked.
Ystelyan cocked his head and seemed to be considering. Probably testing the wards himself, Kyle decided.
“Yes,” he said finally. “It would take me a few hours but I could. Less if Rill helped me.”
“So what if-” Rai began.
“Not a chance,” Rilletta said. “Chaya can’t stand Mitakrian – she never could even before he started on his current course. I believe she may have forseen it. They’d kill each other but for the fact neither of them wants to die.”
“His heart friend’s name is Chaya?” Alban asked incredulously. “That’s a dryad name. The first black dragon has a life affinity?”
“He does and he tends to misuse it,” Ystelyan said. “Chaya refuses to go near him and swore herself to Estara’s court just to annoy him. He’s especially angry because Estara made her a toy that lets Chaya tap his energy to maintain her full form without his consent.” He turned his attention back to Rai. “So we have time and once the heart is released, it will be able to protect them, even in its still weakened state.”
“But it’s still nerve-racking,” Coromel said. “Our families are up there.”
“I know, child,” Ystelyan said. “But we don’t have much choice. I’m monitoring the situation – if he gets close to breaking through before Alaryia and the others bind the Core, I’ll go up and engage him.”
“Here we are,” Rilletta stopped a few steps ahead of them and placed her palm against the stone of the wall. It slid away to reveal a vast cavern with a silver sphere shining at its heart. “Those are the wards you’ll need to take down, Melusine. We should make a bridge for you while we wait.”
Everyone clustered around Hannah as they headed inwards. The dragon who was stalking them was still there and now that Alaryia had told them what he was doing, she could sense where he was using the mabain undersea to erode the ground under their feet. She could also sense where her own energy was seeping into the ground and reinforcing it. She carefully increased the flow and watched the ground strengthen further. After a moment she noticed something.
I don’t think he’s the only one out there. At least he’s not the only one undermining us.
I would imagine not, Matthias agreed. According to Naria’s message, Jayden was sending multiple dragons with Laxmi. But I didn’t have many who could mask completely.
I count three, Hannah said. And I think I can locate them all by what they’re doing here.
It feels really weird when you can sense something I can’t, Ema said.
He’s probably sent the three strongest alrari, Halia said. And I doubt he fully understands masking.
That’s true, Alaryia agreed. And yes, do locate them, dear. Once we know where all three are, we can neutralise them quickly.
Hannah nodded and let her mind sweep more deeply into the ground, tracing the paths of erosion through the earth to the point where they originated. In her head they glowed like a vivid but sickly yellow light. This is easy, she said as she passed the information on to the others. I never knew I could do this.
Looks like you have a particular talent for mabain manipulation, Alaryia said. Once we’re through this I can give you some lessons if you want. It’s a useful skill. But for now let’s deal with them. The poor things must be terrified to be up against a group as powerful as we are. She didn’t sound especially sad about that.
But what should we do with them? Matthias asked. It’s not like any of this was their fault.
Depends what you mean by their fault, Halia said. Think through what they were doing when you caught them. I’m pretty sure that any of them would quite happily kill you if Laxmi weren’t restraining them and if they thought they could manage it. And you can’t control them well enough without collars.
I know, but I don’t like killing people in cold blood, he said.
A fight is not cold blood, Matthias-idan, Halia said.
Moral debates later, Alaryia said sharply. They’re about to finish the eroding in spite of Hannah-alra’s best efforts. Hal, you go after Kifarin. She turned and looked at Jason and Caollainn. Can you two handle the other two? Matthias, Lydia and I will wait for this Huldre to show his face. He seems to be extremely strong and he’s likely to go after Hannah when he realises she’s supporting the ground.
We can, Jason said.
Good, then let’s do this, Matthias said as the ground finally cracked and shattered around them.