Daniel threw up his shield and sensed the rest of his family doing the same. It didn’t do much good â€“ as the shards ripped though their combined shields like wet paper. It did slow them enough to give him time to dodge as he threw himself to the ground.
As the storm of shards cleared, he checked himself over. He had a few grazes, but mostly from where he’d hit the ground rather than the attack. He sighed in relief and looked up at the others. Everyone except Lydia had got down in time. Lydia, however, was lying motionless on the ground, bleeding from a wound on her left temple. At least the rise and fall of her chest indicated she wasn’t dead. Bennu had landed beside her and was rubbing up against her worriedly.
“She wasn’t hit,” Sarah said as Daniel crawled over. “But she slipped when she was trying to get down and cracked her head on a rock. I think she’s broken her elbow trying to break her fall as well.” She winced. “She might have been better off catching the edges of a hit. Speakers can’t produce essence poisoning like dragons so it might have done less damage.” She motioned Birke over to her side. “We’ll take her back to Waldhafen and start treating her. These two are well out of our league, so we’re not much use in the fight.”
“You can help Hannah as well.” Lyrrekka came running up with Kenna. “She managed to get the key but she’s really hurting. Halia-alra took her and the others back.”
“At least something is going right then,” Sonia said. “Because if that damned troll hadn’t been distracted by Emms’ rage, he would have made mincemeat of us.”
“I think Hannah’s taking the key was responsible for that as well,” Matthias said. “That girl is a real trooper.”
“She is,” Lyrrekka agreed. “So we have to be as well. Let’s go and help the others. Those four are holding their own against Likadrian, but they’ll need help if they have to face both.”
Matthias looked at her, then nodded. “Look after Lyd, Sal.”
“She’ll be fine,” Sarah said. “Just make sure that you are as well.” She disappeared with Lydia and Birke.
Mum, how likely are you to collapse again during the fight? Karen asked as they raced up the hill towards Emms. Do we need to be ready to evacuate you quickly?
I really have no idea, Sonia said. It hasn’t been long but the wounds in my essence feel more healed this time. I think Alaryia did something after my fight with Mitakrian. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to be careful.
I’ll stick close to her, Nephele said. Even if something happens, I should be able to jump her out. I hope nothing does – we’re losing people too quickly.
At least no one’s died yet, Daniel said. But she’s right; we can’t afford to lose anyone else.
Especially not Sonia, Lyrrekka said. Wind is surprisingly effective against earth. Especially if… She trailed off thoughtfully. Do you remember how we forced Shalriya to retreat after she took out the guardian system, Son?
How could I forget? Sonia asked. You want to try it again.
I think it’s a plan. It might not work as well given that he and Huldre are stronger than Shalriya but it’s worth a try.
You’re right, Sonia said. The rest of you keep him distracted while the four of us put this together. She, Lyrrekka and their heart friends stopped as they reached the summit.
Of course, Matthias said. Come on, Dan, Kaz. Let’s intercept Huldre before he reaches them. He grabbed their hands and jumped them between Huldre and the confrontation between Emms and the four dragons.
“You again?” Huldre sounded bored. “You don’t learn do you?” He halted and shards of rock began rising around him again.
We’re not going to attack, Matthias told them. It doesn’t work against him. We need to put everything into creating a barrier he can’t get past until the others are ready.
What are they doing? Daniel asked.
You’ll see, his father said. I don’t want to say because I’m not convinced he won’t hear. Now concentrate everything you’ve got into a wall between us and him.
Is this going to work with Kaz and Alban being Light?
Sure it is. Karen gave him an exasperated look. Let me and Dad handle that bit since we’re both trained in working with opposing affinities and you aren’t yet.
Okay. Daniel concentrated on pouring all his energy into creating a wall of darkness between Huldre and them. Beside him he could feel the others also feeding into the wall. Remembering how easily Huldre had broken their shields he pushed deeper into his essence than he ever had, seeking more energy.
Careful, Dan, Matthias cautioned even though Daniel could feel him doing the same thing. Don’t hurt yourself.
We don’t have much choice but risk it, Da- Karen broke off. Brace! It’s coming!
That was just enough warning for them to get ready before Huldre’s attack hit the wall. Daniel kept on pouring every ounce of energy he could into the barrier and this time it held â€“ though he could feel it fray and weaken by the second and the heart of his essence was beginning to ache from the effort.
Just a few moments more, Matthias said. This might be a good time to get down. Things are likely to get very hairy in a moment.
Just as Daniel did as his father said, the area around Huldre exploded into a fiery tornado.