“Nari,” Matthias said. “He called her Nari. Seems awfully familiar.”
“Yes,” Ystelyan said thoughtfully. “And he sounded very fond of her. You’re thinking what I am, aren’t you, Matthias-idan?”
“I think so, yes.” Matthias nodded. “They’ve been stuck in a rather stressful situation together for some time. It’s entirely possible they’ve unintentionally bonded.” He hesitated. “What would the offspring of a dragon and a human be, anyway?”
“A human,” Alaryia said. “They’d definitely be eskalri in this case, of course, but they’d be a human one. A talori parent trumps our transformations.”
“Eskalri?” Matthias asked.
Alaryia smiled but didn’t reply.
“It means dancers,â€ Lyrrekka said. â€œIt’s what dragons and exiles call resonants. So you don’t need to worry about that, and Naria-keda seems like a nice girl. Interesting, though. What’s her affinity?”
“Fire.” Matthias and Ystelyan said simultaneously.
“Oh, my, that would be interesting,” Sonia said. “Fire and Ice. The arguments would be exciting.”
“Never mind that she’s a blue,” Lyrrekka said. “They’d balance each other brilliantly!”
“You could be right,” Matthias said. “But the idea is going to take some getting used to. I mean, she’s a dragon – and – uh – no offence but I’m still not sure how I feel about having one of your kind as a daughter-in-law.”
“We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” Alaryia said sharply. “Even if they have formed a bond they may not want to take things any further. Let’s not worry about that until they do.”
“Indeed.” Matthias paused. “She’s worrying about if we’ll save her in time. Is she really that close to her maturity?”
“I-” Ystelyan closed his eyes and seemed to be concentrating. After a moment he swore vividly. “Yes,” he said after a long moment. “She really is. At the moment the collar is restraining it but something is going to give in the next day or so.”
“I hope it’s the collar, then.” Matthias sighed.
Ystelyan see-sawed his hand uncertainly. “If she were going to be an ida it would definitely be the collar, but she’ll be an alra and whether she’ll be a strong enough one that the collar fails…” He sighed heavily. â€œIf only we had a way to reach her to remove some of her energy. She’d be better off if we could because it would delay her maturity.”
“No use crying over spilt milk,” Sonia said. “We just have to hope we have time.”
“It’ll be okay, Yst,” Rilletta sounded like she was trying to convince herself. “It has to be.” She shook her head. “I’m more worried about the dangerous timing. If he starts whatever he’s doing, who knows how much damage he’ll do even if we manage to stop him… And what if we don’t?”
“We’ll manage,” Lyrrekka said. “We don’t have any choice. And the only time we stand a chance of success is while he’s distracted.” She looked over at Alaryia and Lydia. “Are either of you getting any sense out of Fellaria-ida yet?”
Lydia just shook her head while Alaryia covered her eyes and sighed heavily.
“I’m afraid not,” she said. “She’s talking to me – which is something of a miracle – but she’s absolutely terrified of him. She says they barely stopped him last time and there were more of them then. She says the initial purge against us would have failed but a lot of us died taking him down. Some gratitude, hey?”
“Sounds like the human race, all right,” Matthias agreed. “But I don’t think he’s that strong.”
“He certainly had trouble with Gerian’s barrier and with fighting all of us- oh!” Lyrrekka broke off, looking stunned. “What if his barrier was broken like Marian’s? That could explain that and being post-transition it’d be back in place.”
“That could be it,” Ystelyan said. “Resonants are much more likely to survive a breech like that since we have our heart friends to balance us and we can bleed off the pressure. Though more usually a breech drives us into transition. And it would explain something that Naria noticed. He’s created an amplifier. I thought it was just to help with what he’s planning but Naria thinks it’s too unstable for that – as if he’s rigged it to explode.”
“Huh? Why-” Matthias began then stopped as both Lyrrekka and Alaryia swore.
“Tell me the idiot isn’t planning to rebreech his barrier,” Alaryia said. Ystelyan just looked at her and she swore again.
“What are the chances of him surviving him a second time?” Matthias asked.
“Extremely good, unfortunately,” Lyrrekka said. “Once you’ve survived it once, the pathways it opens remain etched on your essence forever. If he manages to crack it, the pathways are already there.”
“But it’ll make his sanity even more precarious,” Alaryia added. She looked thoughtful. “And he may be aware of that, which may be why he is waiting until he needs the strength. But that would mean…” She trailed off with a pensive scowl.
“What is it, Al?” Ilona asked.
“He may be planning to push himself in to transition to power what he’s trying to do. It would be monumentally stupid, but it might work if he timed it right. I wouldn’t want to be in the vicinity when he did that, however.”
“Didn’t Keylaria do that when she opened the first gate to exile?” Ystelyan said.
“So they say,” Alaryia said. “I wouldn’t know â€“ I was just a toddler. But if she entered transition rather than dying, no one ever found her.â€ She sighed heavily. “Mother won’t talk about her and there are those stories.”
“Ah,” he said. “Gerian insists she’s alive, you know.”
“Yes,” Alaryia said. “I think half his determination to get back to Taloa is because he’s sure she survived and got trapped somewhere. That’s the sort of obsession a red might develop.”
“Could he be right?” Sonia asked.
“It’s not impossible and it’s likely he’d know if she was dead since he’s her closest kin. Of course he may just not want to know.”
“Ten thousand years is a long time to hold on to a delusion like that, Al,” Ystelyan said. “Even for one of us.”
“That’s true,” Alaryia said, then looked over at Matthias who was cringing. “Matthias-idan?”
“Please don’t throw around millennia like that it’s very disturbing,” he said.
“Sorry,” she said. “The years stop meaning anything after a few centuries.”
“Yes,” he said. “I suppose they would.”
“If it helps, we tend to sleep a lot as well… well hibernate, really,” she said. “It reduces the physical stress.”
“Huh,” he said.
“Obviously it didn’t.” She shook her head in amusement. “As soon as your son sends Naria here we’ll release her, and once she’s calm she can lead us back.”
“That’s the general idea, yes,” Matthias said. “Of course it depends on Drew being able to grab control of the system from Emms.”
“He’ll be able to do it,” Sonia said confidentally. “I’m sure of that, Matt, and once he does we can find him â€“ even if Naria can’t get out.”
“He’s been using it already,” Ystelyan said. “So he’s already aware of how it works.”
Matthias nodded. “But it’s still risky. This is our only chance.” He frowned worriedly. “I wish we had more help.”