When Karen woke late the next morning, her mother was sitting by her bed. Karen watched her for a moment then sat up slowly. Her mother looked up with a worried smile.
“How are you feeling, dear?”
Karen rubbed at her eyes. “Calmer, but I still want to know why I did that.”
“You were angry and I can’t say I blame you. But we need you and the others ready to leave today. Can you do that?”
“I-I think so. Whatever it was, Kyle snapped me out of it.” She pulled a face. “I think it’s similar to what happened to him when he found out the Core was responsible for his parents’ deaths.”
“I’ve seen similar things with warriors before.â€ Sonia said. â€œI’ll get Sal to tell you about how she lost it at the battle of Caerdu one day. We’ll worry about it once Salia is safe, but it’s not common.” She hesitated. “The Council have extended the truce to cover Kyle and Darya. They’re here right now.”
Karen nodded slowly. “That does make sense. How are those kids?”
“They’re as well as can be expected,” she said. “But their family has been wrecked. According to Kyle, the mother of the little goblin and dragon survived but she’s badly hurt. Her Haltia husband is dead. Ivina – that’s the haltia girl – is distraught.”
“She would be.” Karen pushed herself to her feet and looked around. “My clothes?”
“They’re being washed. You were rather bloody after what happened. Your father fetched you some more.” Sonia pointed to a carrier bag on the chair. “And your tunic and cloak should be dry before you leave, at least.”
“Thanks.” Karen pulled on the jeans and fitted t-shirt and brushed out her hair. The scent of soap wafted past her nose as she did and she frowned. “You washed my hair while I was asleep?”
“It was bloody as well,” she said. “And I thought it might upset you again.”
Karen thought about that and nodded. “It probably would have. Thanks, mum. I wish this place had a mirror. Do I look okay?”
“You look as lovely as always, Kaz.” Sonia grinned.
“Oh good. Shall we go, then?”
When they reached the main hall, Karen spotted Kyle sitting in the corner with Darya. His shoulders were slightly hunched and he looked like he was trying to be invisible. From the way Daniel was glaring at them, Karen could understand why. At least Daniel looked better. She didn’t want to ask out loud so she tapped her mother’s mind questioningly. Sonia shook her head slightly.
Yes, Halia helped two of the dryads fix him up in double time. Sonia’s gaze strayed to Kyle. And no, nothing has happened yet.Â Daniel saw the logic of inviting him here once I explained, but he’s not really happy about it. He doesn’t really understand what happened like you do.
And Darya did stick a spear in him, Karen said. That would piss anyone off.
Indeed. I think they need to scream at each other to clear the air.
I hope not. It might be hard to stop it escalating beyond screaming. Karen gave a sigh. I’ll talk to him. Dan, listens to me. She walked over to her brother and placed a hand on his shouder. “Come on. We need to talk.”
He frowned up at her. She could feel his puzzlement, but after a moment he nodded. “Okay.”
She led him up one of the ramps until she found a quiet alcove with a couple of seats woven from branches. “This will do.” She looked back at Daniel. “Well-”
“This is about Kyle, isn’t it?â€ he interrupted. â€œHe said you used to date. The first time we met.”
“Yes, we did,” she said. “He was my first friend at Brierthorne.”
“And you want me to cut him some slack?” he asked flatly.
“I know Darya stabbed you in the shoulder, but Kyle stood guard over you while you were unconscious earlier. And he snapped me out of whatever the hell happened to me – did mum tell you about that?”
“The way you made mush of the Leshy?” he asked. “Yeah. But still he works for a dragon and he nearly destroyed the world. I’ll concede he was provoked, but didn’t he kill another of your friends? The metal warrior?”
“Sean,” she said softly, an all too familiar knot of pain forming in her gut at the thought. “That’s what the Core says, isn’t it?”
“And the Core is not the most reliable of witnesses in this matter,” he conceded. “Did he?”
She shook her head. “Not exactly.”
“Hmm, but he’s still working for that dragon,” he said. “I don’t think I can stomach that after some of the things I’ve seen in the last few months. You wouldn’t bel-” He broke off at her sharp laugh. “Oh, of course. You would, wouldn’t you?”
“I doubt you’ve seen anything on a par with Esen Peak. I certainly hadn’t until earlier.” She shuddered violently.
“That bad?” he asked.
“You have no idea,” she said, then showed him.
“Shit!” He blanched. “That’s horrible.”
“The blues haven’t done anything on that scale and things are so screwed up recently…” she sighed deeply. “Darya saved Valeria’s life. And the silvers seem to be helping as well. I’m so confused, Dan. But I think we have to give them a chance.”
“And Kyle too,” he nodded. “You’re right. Okay, I’ll be civil to him. At least he’s not coming with us tonight.” He rose to his feet. “Let’s go back down. We need to check our supplies.”