“You’re back quickly!” Valeria said when Halia arrived back with Hannah and the others. “Are things going badly?
“Halia shook her head. “She did better than anyone expected and managed to rip the key away from the arrogant prat, but she hurt herself.
Valeria covered a smile at Halia’s turn of phrase. “You’ve been around Matt far too long,” she said.
Halia cocked an eyebrow at her as she laid Hannah down on one of the couches, but then grinned, as she realised what she’d said. “Probably, but it’s such a good word.” She laid a hand on Hannah’s forehead. “I think I’m going to need some help here.”
“I’ll help.” Weide bustled over. “I’m used to dealing with essence burn.”
“Thank you, councillor,” Halia said. “And we’ll need to deal with that as well. It’s wrapped up in her essence in a way that will intefere with healing her.” She nodded to where the key was clutched tightly in Hannah’s hand. She tried to pry the girl’s fingers open gently but even unconscious Hannah was gripping it so hard her knuckles were white.
Wake her up, Elaranor said. She’ll have to let it go herself and persuade it to stay away.
Halia looked at her for a moment then nodded and turned back to Hannah. Once more she laid a hand on the girl’s forehead and this time there was a quiet groan in response.
“Hush,” Halia said. “And don’t try and reach – we can’t heal you yet. We need you to put the key down first, okay?”
“Huh?” Hannah looked at her blearily. “Er… I’m not sure I can. It doesn’t like being away from me.”
Valeria considered that but before she could suggest any solution her mother gently pushed her aside to use her voice. “You need to talk to it then, Hannah. Let it sense your pain and that it’s intefering with your healing.”
Hannah blinked at her. “Your majesty?”
Valeria felt her lips curve into a gentle smile at her mother’s direction. “No, it’s Elaranor, child. I’ve borrowed my daughter’s voice because I didn’t think speaking to you the other way was wise in your condition.”
Hannah’s frown deepened. “Okay, that makes sense. But how do I talk to it? I’ve never managed to before and I have tried.”
“Ah, well… I think you need to reach through your own essence to it given how tangled up with it you are. Which might well be painful at the moment.”
“That should work. I can damp the pain down enough that she can manage it,” Halia said.
“But not completely?” Hannah asked. From the way her face had uncrumpled and a bit of colour had returned to it the dragon was already working on her pain.
“Well I could but since you need to communicate why you need it away from you it might not be the wisest course of action.”
“I see. I’ll try.” Hannah closed her eyes, the furrow between her eyebrows deepening further as she concentrated. After a long moment she re-opened them. “It doesn’t want to let go because Emms is still calling it. At this remove I override it but only if I’m touching it.”
“Halia, Weide hold onto Val,” Elaranor said. “I’ll take us to my sanctuary. He won’t be able to call it there and the quiet will be good for her while she’s hurt.”
“That’s a good idea,” Halia agreed and laid one hand on Valeria’s arm while gripping Hannah’s wrist with the other. Weide did the same.
“Ready?” Elaranor asked. “Let’s go then.” She jumped them to the sanctuary, couch and all. As soon as they arrived, Halia turned back to Hannah.
“See if it will let you release it now.”
Hannah closed her eyes again and a moment later her death grip on it relaxed and the key dropped into Halia’s waiting hand. She passed it to Valeria. “Put it somewhere safe.”
“Of course.” She placed in it an alcove her mother directed her to. “I’m going to go back to Waldhafen. Mother will keep watch over you and send you back once you’re done.” She nodded towards the piller of lightning on the dais.
“Of course, your majesty. Go wait for news of your son,” Halia said.
Valeria nodded and her mother jumped her back to the great hall in Waldhafen just in time for her to see Sarah arrive with Lydia in her arms.