“Ema!” Karen stared at the Daoine girl who was waiting patiently where she’d triggered the border alarms. “What are you doing here? And what were you doing in dragon territory?”
“Karen!” Ema leapt to her feet and hugged her. “I was hoping the first purple dragon knew where her sister was.” She said it as if that was the most normal thing in the world, then glanced at Matthias Morgan. “Oh my goodness! I know who you are. I confess to wondering if you were the dragon lord. Apparently I was right.”
“You were, but why were you looking for the first drago… oh, you’re still investigating the Core?” he asked.
She nodded. “She was very reticent about where her sister is, but said she’d sent a message to her.” Ema scowled thoughtfully. “Did you know that Kyle and Darya are alive?”
“We know.” He narrowed his eyes. “So that’s where they headed when they left Yemi and the others. Hmmm… We’d better get you back there, then, and you can tell us exactly what you’ve been up to. If you can.”
“Of course,” she said. “Talking about it shouldn’t be a problem for me any more. Though I’m still missing several pieces, so it may not make such sense. Kyle said that the River Singer is at Waldhafen?”
“She is,” he said as they began to walk back.
“I want to talk to her. She was there as well. She might know what I need to know.” She paused. “The first purple dragon wants me to relay a message to the council.”
“I’m sure it can be arranged,” he said.
Dariad turned and smiled at Ema as Matthias and Karen led her into the council chamber. She gasped, dropped to one knee in front of him and bowed her head.
“You didn’t tell her I was here?” Dariad laid one hand on her head. “Are you well, Ema? Did you find out who was calling you?”
“I am, My King, and I did,” she looked up at him. “It was the Earth Guardian. He wished to help me with my quest.”
“And you’re under his protection now?” Valeria asked â€“ or was she speaking for her mother?
“I am. He…” She trailed off and frowned. “He witnessed the events of two years ago, as it happened within a stone’s throw of his sanctuary. He became aware of my quest and that the Core had decided to stop me, and decided to intervene. It seems the guardians can protect Speakers from the Core.”
“They can,” Valeria said. “I didn’t realise he’d held himself together so well.”
“Good for him!” Karen said fiercely. “But what if it goes after Hannah instead?”
Ema bit her lip and looked down. “Hannah’s worried about that too, but she’s promised me that she’ll gate to me at the slightest sign of danger.” She frowned. “I wanted her to do it before then. I think she’s up to something as well.” She stared at the table and then snorted. “Would you believe I had to talk that dragon out of launching a rescue? Which reminds me.” She turned to the councillors. “She wanted me to tell you that she won’t ever attack you, and she hopes one day you can be on better terms.”
“Maybe,” Chiara said from her perch. “Nothing would surprise me at the moment.”
“Why are you searching for the first dragon, anyway?” Matthias asked.
Ema leaned on the table and frowned again. “I can’t prove it yet, but I think the Core may have been broken from the start. Its creators couldn’t fix it because they didn’t have time to start again.” Her frown deepened. “And I’m amazed that they had time to create it at all, which I want to ask about that as well. I’m hoping the River Singer might be able to shed some light on what happened, because the purple dragon wouldn’t tell me where her sister was. She said if I wanted to find her I should look to my past. What does that mean?”
Dariad’s stomach lurched as she said that. It was a leap of logic, but a sudden cold certainty grew in his gut. “Caerdu,” he whispered. “Your past is mostly at Caerdu, Ema.” He buried his face in his hands and groaned. “I never thought to ask her that, did I?”
“Dariad? What’s wrong?” Valeria asked.
“Ambassador Alaryia. I asked her if she worked for a dragon. I never thought to ask if she was a dragon. What have I done?”
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