Karen listened as Lydia laid out her idea to Rilletta. Part of her couldn’t believe they were actually considering this, but it did make a crazy kind of sense – if they could trust the River Singer, and if she was right to trust her dragon allies. Karen wasn’t at all sure that she wanted them to be trustworthy.
After Lydia had finished, Rilletta leaned back in chair and stared thoughtfully at the woven branches of the ceiling.
“It’s not a bad plan,” she said finally. “But I can see a number of flaws with it. Most obviously, how do you intend to get back to the heartlands once you have the princess? You won’t be able to jump or open a gate to Gaia there. It won’t work, and you’ll alert Gerian to your presence if you try. If you flee for his border with Caerdu, he’ll realise that the girl is gone before you reach it and anticipate you. If it were a long border you’d possibly be okay, but it’ll be all too easy for him to find you as it is.” She cleared the top of a nearby wooden table as she spoke, then poured deep red wine over its surface. The wine began to flow and pool into a map, the rich colour of the wine contrasted well with the pale wood.
“That’s a neat trick.” Karen gaped at the map. “I wonder if I can do that.”
“Probably more easily than I can,” Rilletta replied absently. “You don’t need a surface to make one.” The map continued to develop, the wine pooling upwards in defiance of gravity to show mountains and hills in three dimensions. Rilletta eyed it critically. “It’s probably not entirely accurate, as it’s from memory and the borders tend to move a bit, but it will do.” She pointed to a point marked by a pillar of wine. “This is Gerian’s palace. His closest border is actually ours – as you can see.” She tapped the border. “But your plan means you can’t run for there as you’ll be running in to a warzone. This is his border with the yellows.” She gestured to another border. “Trust me, you really don’t want to go there.” She touched a tiny section of border. “This is his border with Caerdu.”
“What a bottle neck!” Lydia said. “I can see why you say that wouldn’t be a good place to cross.”
“Indeed.” Rilletta gave her a smile and gestured to another longer section of border. “I think you should head here.” She caught their quizzical looks. “It’s silver territory. You’ll probably be unmolested there, and it’s easy to swing around and get back into the heartlands.” She pursed her lips and tapped a point on the border. “If you cross, here you’ll be very close to the Earth Guardian’s sanctuary and Gerian won’t be able to follow you. He won’t be able to follow you into silver territory either, so there will be a very small area where he can hit you.”
“You’re suggesting they run for the Earth Guardian’s sanctuary,” Matthias said. “And how do you know where it is? I mean I imagine you knew where the original ones were, but we had to relocate them.”
“Ystelyan told me.” Rilletta smiled and, before he could ask, added,Â “The strongest dragons can sense the Guardian’s Sanctuaries as islands of stability reaching down into the mabain undersea. And yes I am. They have the key.” She nodded towards Lydia. “And he’d probably let them in anyway.”
“That does make sense,” Valeria said.
Karen looked over at Valeria and wondered if she meant heading for the Earth Guardian or the dragons being able to sense the sanctuaries. Rilletta surely though she meant the former, but Karen had a feeling she meant the latter.
But there was a more pressing problem. “Won’t he anticipate that as well?”
“Once he realises that you aren’t heading for Caerdu, yes. There’s no doubt that you’ll have to move fast, and this is a very precarious plan which depends on a lot of things falling out right. Unfortunately I can’t think of a better one, so you’re stuck with it.”
Rilletta looked back at Matthias. “You should talk to your silver healer. She’ll be able to give you a clearer idea of where’s safest to cross the border. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll send an imp to Yst to ask if he’ll do it.Â I’m sure he’ll say yes, even though he’s still angry about the two of his court that you have. He enjoys annoying Gerian even more.” She closed her eyes and water began pooling in her hands as she began to make the Imp.
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