Holding together the piece of earth under their feet and keeping it hovering above the Mabain undersea while the rest of the ground shattered around them was the hardest thing Hannah had ever had to do. She gasped for breath and sank to her knees, shaking with effort, but she didn’t let the energy she was pouring into it falter. She had to keep this scrap of land high enough above the mabain that the fumes would not overcome Ema. She bit her lip and placed her hand palm down on the rock pouring even more energy into it.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Ema standing there.
“You’re doing great, Han,” she said. “I wish I could help, but this is beyond me.”
Hannah wanted to tell her that she knew but she couldn’t spare the energy to do more than give her heart friend a weak smile.
“Here.” Alaryia placed a hand on her other shoulder and Hannah felt energy burst into her. “Ema can’t help but I can.”
“Thank you!” Hannah redoubled her efforts. “But shouldn’t you save your energy for that troll?”
“Energy won’t help if we’re swimming in mabain,” Alaryia said. “But I do wonder where he is. I’m sure he’ll show himself soon.”
“Bennu’s scouting,” Lydia said. “I’m sure he’ll loc-” A roaring explosion nearby interrupted her. “What was that?”
“Sounds like Jason,” Hannah said. “He tends to be a bit noisy when he’s fighting.”
As if to confirm that, one of Caoilainn’s attack screams sounded from the same direction.
“I’d feel sorry for the poor creature they’re fighting if I didn’t know enough about him from Halia to be sure he deserves it,” Alaryia said mildly. She glanced at Matthias. “Do those collars stop transition?”
“I-” Matthias began. “I- really have no idea. I didn’t even know it was possible when I designed them so it wasn’t in the specs. Then again, if they need to take their resonant form to do it, they might well.”
“Hmm, they probably will then.” She sighed. “I wouldn’t have minded getting hold of Kifarin’s egg. Halia didn’t say but she thinks he’s salvageable. Another, better childhood might have helped.” She gave him a half-smile. “It’ll be harder to turn him around otherwise, but if Halia can capture him without killing him I might give it a go. If only to annoy Mitakrian – he hates outwalkers even more than Shalri-” She whirled and threw up a shield as an avalanche of rock shards came tumbling out of the sky. She gasped as they bounced of the shield. “Void, but he’s strong!” She turned to face Huldre as he came lumbering out of his hiding place on the solid ground. He fired a spray of rock shards at her but she swept them aside and gave a half smile. “Very impressive.”
Huldre stared at Alaryia for a moment. Trolls were hard to read but from what she could tell from his face Hannah thought he looked bewildered.
“Felaria?” he said then shook his head. “No, you’re not Felaria, are you?” He cocked his head at her.
Alaryia narrowed her eyes at that. “You know my mother?”
“Know is the wrong word. We had dealings with her a very long time ago – not good ones. I don’t think she had children then.”
“I see.” Alaryia shot a look at Lydia who nodded in return and began fingering the bracelet on her wrist. Alaryia turned her attention back to Huldre. “You’re strong, but you are outnumbered by your peers â€“ do you really want to start this fight?”
“She’s right, Huldre!” Laxmi came running out of cover and grabbed his arm. “They obviously anticipated us – I forgot that the dragons would sense the ground being undermined.” She cried out as Huldre tossed her to one side, she fell to the ground with a crash.
“Keep out of this!” he snarled at her.
A dark, icy feeling seemed to envelope them all as Laxmi pulled herself to her feet. Her eyes had gone completely black like something from a horror movie. “That,” she said levelly. “Was unwise. You of all people should know that.” She blinked a couple of times and her eyes returned to their normal brown. “And Jayden ordered us not to take them on directly.”
“That’s because he’s more interested in making it work. I spent long enough alone to have a change of perspective â€“ they took him from me for too longâ€“ ” He broke off as a long wailing scream followed by a loud explosion announced Jason and Caoilainn’s defeat over one of their opponents. Huldre growled and glanced in the direction of the noise.
Lydia and Matthias both took advantage of his momentary distraction to strike at him with all their might. The combined wave of darkness and fire tore through his shield and blasted him backwards.
Ema, get that Laxmi girl while he’s distracted. I’ll hold our platform together, Hannah said.
Good idea, Han. Ema leapt across the chasm as if it were nothing and stalked towards Laxmi.