A cold, leaden ball formed in Andrew’s stomach as the guards dragged him into the room with the throne thing that Emms and his followers had been building. It tore at his senses even more than it had the first time and the pounding in his head grew even worse. Every instinct in him screamed run, but that was impossible with the guards holding him.
Instead, he took a deep breath and tried not to panic as he realised that the technicians swarming around the throne were installing what could only be life-support equipment around it. It took great effort not to start hyperventilating when he saw that Kimi was chained beside it.
Emms was standing near the throne in deep conversation with a young woman with a clip board. They seemed to be arguing and Emms didn’t even look up when Kimi’s chains clanked as she jumped up at the sight of Andrew.
You have to get out of here, Andrew, she said in his head.
I can’t. Not without you.
Andrew- she began
No, listen, he said, mind racing. Even if I were inclined to save my own skin at your expense – which I’m not – it wouldn’t work. You’ll give him an unblockable conduit to me. He’ll use you to force me to come back. I can’t escape without you.
You’re right. Her head drooped. I wasn’t thinking.
Just let them get me a bit closer, Andrew said. He tried not to tense obviously as they dragged him forward.
A movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. The young, not-quite-dragon that his father had called Draylian was being dragged in by two alfar. As the boy looked up, Andrew saw that his eye had been blacked and his lip was bleeding. He couldn’t ask but Draylian clearly knew what he was wondering.
Emms knows that since I’m not collared, I’d run to your father as soon as he activates that thing – but he also know that Matthias-idan would sense if he collared me. Even with a collar that wasn’t one of his.
So he’s intending to collar you as soon as he activates it? Andrew asked.
Draylian gave a mental nod that exuded misery and resignation.
Hush, Dray. Another voice joined the conversation. It’ll be okay.
Who? Andrew barely stopped himself jumping. Then he saw the green dragon girl who had helped his father remove the circlets from the Alfs after Daniel’s maturity lurking unnoticed behind a pillar. He shot a glance at Emms, fearful he’d be listening again, but he was still arguing with the technician woman and seemed oblivious to the conversation. The dragon girl followed his glance and smirked.
Don’t mind him, he’s too busy trying to keep control of her to pay attention to us. She’s stronger than most and mind primary, so she’s giving him problems, she said. Anyway The Dragon Lord ordered me to keep an eye on Emms. He didn’t order me to interfere but my orders don’t preclude it. He got the feeling that she was giving him a wry smile. I don’t like humans, but I dislike this one more than I do you and your father. If you can break yourself, your gryphon and Dray free, I’ll do my level best to get you out of here. She paused and then added. See the pendants the humans are wearing? If you can break those, it’ll put them out of the fight.
Hmm? Andrew glanced at one of the guards. A small clay disk with a strange multihued crystal embedded in it was hanging from a leather thong around his neck.
It’s a leakage blocker, a bit like your bracelet but more crude, she explained. Didn’t your father mention that non-warriors tend to collapse without help here?
Ah! Now she mentioned it, Andrew did remember his parents mentioning it. He did a quick tally of the humans in the room. There were at least a dozen. To take that many out he’d need a plan and he didn’t exactly have leisure to make one. The only thing that might help was that it was very humid in here â€“ which gave him the glimmer of an idea. He reached out with his mind and carefully began to pull the heat from the air. He felt Kimi tap his mind in approval before beginning to help.
He was almost at the base of the steps up to the throne when he finally felt ready to try his plan. The temperature and humidity both plummeted as dozens of icy spears formed and flew at the humans in the room. He tried to make sure that they only flew at the amulets but he couldn’t control the large numbers. Many missed their targets and pierced flesh instead. As he flinched and tried to block out the screams of the injured, something warm sprayed against his cheek. He glanced sideways and immediately wished he hadn’t
One of his guards was clutching at his throat, blood spurting between his fingers as he collapsed to the floor. As he stared at the growing pool of blood at his feet, Andrew was only vaguely aware that the other guard had also collapsed and that all around the room, other humans whose amulets had been shattered were sagging to their knees. His eyes stung and he gave a strangled sob.
Stop staring and get moving, idiot! the dragon girl snapped in his head. Then more gently. It’s a war, people die sometimes. Get upset later or you’ll be wasting his death, which would be an insult.
Andrew sobbed again, but forced himself to take a deep breath and sprint towards Kimi, who had her chain in her beak and was trying to rip it loose from the floor.
“Stop them!” Jayden Emms yelled and leapt at Kimi. Most of the other humans were down but the two alfs let go of Draylian and surged towards Andrew.
The dragon girl leapt in front of them, bolts of green lightning crackling from her hands and striking both of them, throwing them across the room. She pivoted and tossed another bolt at Emms – who was so busy grappling Kimi that he didn’t notice her attack until it shattered his own amulet. He stopped, looked down at it, then gave her an amused smile.
“Nice shot. A shame it’s quite useless.” He flipped one hand at her and sharp shards of rock flew at her while she seemed frozen in shock. Andrew gasped and threw out his own hand towards her. A mist of ice crystals appeared around her and the rocks shattered against it. Emms chuckled. “So strong.” He lifted his head and stared towards the door. “Yes, you can come in. This stupid little dragon girl has pretty much blown our secret out of the water.”
The floor creaked as someone or something heavy stepped in to the room. “I thought you’d say that, old friend.”
Andrew stiffened in shock. He knew that voice; he’d heard it before during the battle at the Storm Palace. He turned his head slowly towards the door.
Standing just inside the doorway, head nearly reaching the ceiling, was the troll Huldre. For a moment, Andrew’s mind froze as he tried to figure out what the hell he was doing here – but then everything dropped into place. A speaker who could attack dragons, a human who stayed standing when his supposedly protective amulet was shattered, and both with power over earth. “Oh my god,” he whispered.
“Not quite.” Emms laughed wildly. “Bring him here.”
Grab Draylian and run and tell my father! Andrew told the dragon girl. I’ve seen this one fight. We can’t win.
But he’ll never forgive me if I leave you. I don’t want him angry at me.
Don’t be stupid! He’s not that unreasonable. Andrew sensed that she was going to argue more and snapped at her. Just do it!
Her head snapped back and she stared at him. Oh my! As you command. She grabbed Draylian’s hand and vanished just as Huldre grabbed him.