Karen shot a thought at Alban then ducked under Mitakrian’s thorn whip and swung at his shins with her axes. His shield flared, turning the blow – though she nearly reached his skin – and she was forced to roll clear as roots suddenly erupted from the rock around her and attempted to impale her. Karen suppressed a smirk as she clambered back to her knees and Mitakrian strode towards her. His attention was so riveted on her that he didn’t realise it was a feint until the first of Alban’s glowing arrows caught him in the back; a second followed it before he could turn and a third took him in the throat when he did. None of them were a fatal wound for a dragon but the fact they were getting through his shield meant it must be weakening.
You two make a good team, Alaryia said in her head. And I think we’ve got him now.
Mitakrian snarled at Alban, pulled the arrow from his throat and started toward him. There was a glowing blur and Alaryia appeared between them. She struck at him with her sword even as Lyrrekka charged into him from the side. When he rose to his feet this time, he was shaking and black blood was seeping from two deep gouges – one in side and one across his midrift. He scowled around at them and growled something in Draconic that Karen suspected was an expletive.
“You won’t always be around to protect them, Alaryia,” he said, then vanished in a storm of black leaves.
“Has he gone?” Karen rose hesitantly to her feet.
“For now,” Alaryia said. “He’ll try again but not for a while, I think. It’s what else he might do in the name of vengeance that worries me now.” She looked at Lyrrekka, who had a thoughtful expression on her face.
“You’re thinking that he’ll tell Shalriya about me, aren’t you?” she said. “He probably will, but I can’t hide it forever anyway.”
“No, but a while longer would have been better. Oh, well – can’t be helped.” Alaryia looked around at them. “Is anyone hurt?”
They checked themselves over but no one was. Alaryia smiled and turned to where Rai, Coromell and her mother were hiding in a corner. The Heart had extended a shield around them. “You can tell your people it’s safe to come out now. The Heart will protect you from any future attacks.” She looked around at the others. “We’d best get back to Caerdu.”
Dariad rather thought that Alaryia looked worried when she returned. Matthias must have agreed because he seemed to tense slightly.
“What happened? You did win, didn’t you?” he asked before Dariad could.
“We did,” she agreed. “Temporarily, anyway.” She sighed and looked over at Lyrrekka.
“She’s worried he’ll tell Shalriya about me. She’s probably right to as well,” she explained. “But it’s not something we can control so why worry about it?”
“It’s going to be hard to build a court if she’s stalking you,” Alaryia said.
Lyrrekka just shrugged. “She’s going to be more focussed on trying to undo what we did today.”
“Hmm.” Alaryia didn’t look convinced. “She might. I’m certainly going to act as if she is. Still you’d better stay on Taloa a while. Though I know I have a couple of people who want to talk to you and I suspect Ystelyan does as well.” She looked around with a frown. “I take it he’s sleeping the aftereffects of Mitakrian’s venom off now?”
“Yes.” Dariad nodded and looked over at Matt. “I guess you’ll be going back to Gaia to continue searching for your son now?”
“That’s right,” he said. “Though I’ve still got no idea how to find him and I’d like to discuss what happened with Laxmi with Alaryia first.”
“We should,” she agreed. “And you should get Lydia to talk to mother about it.”
“I’m already trying,” Lydia said sourly from where she was sat by her mother. She was playing with the silver bracelet on her wrist. “She’s freaking out on me whenever I bring it up. I’ll keep nagging at her.” She paused thoughtfully. “But I think I have an idea how to find Drew. I should have thought of it earlier.”
“What is it?” Matthias asked urgently.
“Well, we’ll need to check when we get back to Earth, but I’m pretty sure I can still get a vague sense of where he is even with all the defences Emms has up. I think the others will be able to as well.”
“A vague sense of direction won’t help, Lyd,” Matthias said.
“Well no, not when we’re all together, but what if we’re not?”
Matthias gave her a puzzled look but Sonia straightened up and clapped her hands.
“Oh! Of course! That’s brilliant, Lyd!” She grinned at Matthias who still looked puzzled. “She wants to try triangulating to find where he is!”