With Jayden, Laxmi and Huldre all out of the way, Andrew had risked asking Naria to help him make sense of the device and see if she could free him.
She was sitting on the arm of the throne and watching the threads with him, poking at them carefully. After a few minutes she sighed. I wish I could get you out of this thing, but it’s booby-trapped. I don’t know how to unravel it without destroying your mind.
I doubt we’d have time, anyway. Andrew reached down and scratched Kimi’s ears as she watched Naria tracing the mess of threads. His heart friend was being very quiet and was watching Naria uncertainly. What’s wrong, Kimi?
It’s not much use escaping if your brain is fried, she said after a long moment. Unless it’s the only way to stop Emms. But are you sure we can trust her? She pointed to Naria with her nose.
I hope it doesn’t come to that, Andrew agreed. For now I think I can just mess him up a bit and hope the others figure out where we are. And yes I think we can. I can feel her through this thing, Kimi. Can’t you? He felt her reach hesitantly through his mind to the device and Naria.
I can, she said finally. She put her chin on his lap and closed her eyes as he resumed scratching her ears.
You need to be careful. Naria chewed on her lip fretfully. If Laxmi or Huldre catch on to what you’re having Kifarin-alran do, they’ll order him to stop and they’ll know you share your father’s ability. We don’t want that yet. Not until we have a chance to escape. They’ll be able to negate it if they find out. And you need more practice before you can control all of us at once, which you’ll also need to do if we’re to escape.
Hmm… what if I order him to lie if either of them catch onto his leakage and say he’s doing his best?
Oh, is that why you’re only having him leak slightly?
Well most dragons can’t shield completely can they?
No. She frowned to herself. I’m actually surprised he can. It’s a good thought but you’d better give him that order.
Okay. Andrew reached for the thread of the dragon he’d ordered to give away their position. Kifarin? Does anyone know you can mask yourself completely?
The immediate response to the question was a sulky silence. Andrew was about to ask again more firmly when Kifarin finally responded.
No, I don’t think so. Why? he said harshly.
Next to him Andrew heard Naria hiss sharply and glanced at her curiously.
He’s being rude, she said. None of this is your fault. You don’t deserve that.
Good. If they notice you’re leaking and order you to stop, tell them you’re masking as much as you can. He backed the order up with all his might. And don’t tell them I can override them.
Oh, you’re just the clever one, aren’t you? As you command. After a moment, the dragon added, I wouldn’t willingly have told them anyway but my mirian was going to force me to. There was another long pause then. Naria-keda, could you warn Ystelyan-mirian that my mirian- He broke off with a mental cry. Never mind.
Kifarin? Andrew asked. What were you going to say?
I- I can’t say. Please don’t order me to say. He knows I’ll have to obey but he’ll punish me anyway. He sounded terrified.
That’s probably true, Naria said. That’s the sort of thing Mitakrian would do. I’ll pass what you managed to tell us on.
Thank you, he said. D-do you want me to get your attention if anything important happens here?
Andrew hesitated. He certainly wanted to know if his family was in danger but there wouldn’t be much he could do without giving himself away.
It’s a good idea to monitor it, Naria said. Who knows what sort of possibilities we might find to help without giving ourselves away.
That’s a good point, Andrew replied and turned his attention back to Kifarin. Yes, do that.
As you command.
I’m going to keep investigating this thing, Naria said. If I can give enough information to my mirian he might be able to work out how we can get you free. She rose to her feet and headed towards the control panel Laxmi had used to tune it, then stopped and sagged against the throne slightly. Damn! I need to feed – he’s worse than your father. He didn’t feed us enough until Halia somehow got him to realise but at least he fed us. Emms keeps forgetting we need more than just physical food until Laxmi reminds him.
You can feed on me if you want, Andrew said. I owe you for helping me.
Not a good idea, Andrew-idan. She gave him a smile as she straightened up. They’d notice and I can’t feed without orders in this thing, so they’d realise what it meant.
But you’re hurting and you don’t deserve that. I can feel you don’t deserve it. He looked at her curiously. But how did you attract my father’s attention, anyway? It doesn’t seem likely that your paths would have crossed.
He found me at Elapyron City. Halindan and I were already bound. He wouldn’t have been able to free us if he’d wanted to. She flushed guiltily. And we got caught because we were raiding so you could say it was our own fault.
I have to eat, she said defensively. And after the plague we didn’t have enough people. I wasn’t going to hurt anyone.
I believe you. Andrew grabbed her hand. But if – no when we get out of this I want you to promise that if you find yourself in that position again you’ll come to me. I’ll feed you.
Naria gave him a startled look followed by another radiant smile. Thank you, Andrew-idan.
And stop being so formal. My friends call me Drew and I think you qualify.
She gave a mental giggle. Thank you, Drew. My friends call me Nari. She carried on poking at the panel cautiously for a few moments then stiffened. Emms is coming back. I have to go! She waved a hand over the panel, resetting to where it had been before, and vanished.