“What happened?” Andrew asked.
Laxmi looked up at him with a wan smile. “Your family won this one, thanks to the help they got from the first dragon,” she replied. “I don’t think there’s any way for Jayden to stop them placing the wards back on the Core now.” She didn’t sound disappointed about that. “I’m just glad that he’s not ang-” She broke off as the door opened and a young black man not much older than Andrew came in. For some reason, he looked a bit nauseous when he saw Laxmi. He also seemed to be studiously ignoring Andrew.
“That troll guy said that someone needed a healer in here, Laxmi?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so, Simon,” she said. “I got in a fight and lost.”
“Is this going to be as creepy as last time I had to heal you?” he asked.
“You remember that?” Laxmi stared at him for a moment, then shook her head. “No, don’t answer that; obviously you do. I thought I fixed that.” She gave a heavy sigh. “It’ll probably be worse, I’m afraid. It’s not a normal wound this time.”
“You did, but you left a noticeable gap in my memory and I’m pretty good with mind stuff myself, so I managed to pry the lid off. Please don’t do it again.”
“I won’t as long as you don’t freak out,” she said. “But my claws got injured.”
“Your claws?” he said levelly. “Laxmi, you don’t-” He broke off as shadowy claws appeared around her hands. Several of them were broken. “What the hell?”
Andrew squeaked in shock. Those semi-transparent claws were like those creatures from Devon. Given that Laxmi and Emms both knew about them and that Laxmi sometimes felt like one, he doubted it was coincidence.
Simon and Laxmi both turned at the sound. Simon looked confused and shook his head again, then stared at Andrew. “What the hell?”
Andrew suddenly realised the other boy hadn’t been ignoring him; something had been stopping him noticing him. Simon stared at the chains binding Andrew to the throne and his eyes went wide with horror. “Who? What? Why didn’t I-” He broke off as Laxmi pressed a clawless finger to his lips.
“Hush. If Jayden realises you’ve noticed Andrew, I don’t what he’d do but it wouldn’t be good for you. He’s been keeping an overly tight mental rein on the people who know about him. I rather like you, so I don’t want to see you dead or a brain mangled zombie. Now let me show you how to fix my claws and I’ll see if I can’t find some place where I can explain what’s going on without him knowing.”
Simon hesitated for a moment. “Very well.” He knelt beside her and took her hands in his, then shuddered. “God, Laxmi, your aura! You’re so cold. How did I never notice?”
“No one is supposed-” She broke off and stiffened as he wrapped his arms around her. “What?”
“You hurt so much…” he hesitated and frowned at her. “Both of you.” He took her hands again. “Now show me how to fix these damned claws.”
They’d had to leave Jason and Caolainn to guard not only their dragon prisoner, but Hannah and Ema as well. In spite of Halia and Alaryia’s attempts to heal Ema, she was still in a lot of pain â€“ though out of any immediate danger. As soon as the wards went back up he was supposed to jump to Caerdu with Ema and Hannah before returning. Lydia chewed on her lip and glanced back to where they’d left them. Would they really be okay? Someone squeezed her hand and she looked around into Halia’s alien green eyes.
“They’ll be okay,” she said. “I boosted Hannah up so she isn’t exhausted any more and mother locked down Kifarin so even if he wakes up, he can’t do anything.”
“But that wound,” Lydia said. “Why is it still hurting her when you closed it?”
“It’s not the wound that’s the problem,” Halia said. “I fixed all the physical damage. It seems the lost ones’ claws have some sort of psychic feedback built in. Ema’s in pain because she thinks she is and my mind affinity isn’t up to fixing that, so we’ll leave it to the Mind Warrior.” She hesitated. “I think the initial wound was partially inflicted the same way.”
Lydia considered this. “I see. That makes a lot of sense.” She turned her attention back to her father, who was telling Alaryia about their trip to see Catherine.
“The fact he botched enhancing his sister’s abilities doesn’t really give me much faith that he’s really figured out what he did wrong,” Alaryia said when he’d finished. “Enhancing a single ember is pretty basic after all.”
“It is?” Matthias sounded surprised.
“Of course,” Alaryia said. “I mean I only know how to do it in principle, given how young I was when I left Taloa, but it’s simple enough.” She frowned at him. “You mean you don’t know how to do it?”
“We knew it was possible â€“ it happens accidentally sometimes after all â€“ but it was one of the things we lost in the purge,” he replied.
“Ah, well I can tell you how it’s done if you want,” she said. “But he should know how it’s done and enhancing someone without askingâ€“” She broke off with a shudder.
“It is,” he agreed.
“The only good thing is that his identity should get us more help,” she said. “He’s widely hated for what he did.” She stopped and sighed. “Oh, it’s trying to hide now, as if I don’t know where it is.” She closed her eyes and the air around them seemed to flex before a tall, slender spire appeared in front of them. “Here we are.”