Side Story Three
Two Years Ago
Karen chatted to her father as they walked down the hill towards the Storm Palace. Since he was officially her sponsor, no one thought anything of it. They had to be careful not to say anything that might give their true relationship away, of course, but it was still nice to have a chance to talk to him. Especially with what was coming.
“Sarah and I have been trying to find out what’s going on this time,” he told her. “But the stories are strange. Birke and our other sources have told her that a group of humans appear to have allied themselves to a dragon. We thought they must be dragons masquerading as humans but everyone insists not.” He winced. “He who was Indirian agrees.”
She could see Sarah Tyler talking to Jason just in front of them, no doubt bringing her little brother up to speed on the same information. Karen chewed over it for a few moments and then scowled.
“Non-warriors don’t do well here, do they?” she asked quietly.
“Well They never have before,” he said. “Not without serious help, anyway.”
“So, whoever they are either have serious help or a dragon has found and subverted a group of warriors we don’t know about?”
“Even in the first case, it would mean said dragon had found and subverted a significant number of Wild Astrals. It doesn’t seem credible.”
“No,” she agreed. “I-” She stopped as a small grey shetland pony with a white flash between its eyes trotted up to Sean. “Oh my! Is that…” she trailed off.
Her father followed her gaze and nodded. “It’s a unicorn with a metal affinity in resting form. I would bet on her being Sean’s Heart Friend. She looks like she’ll be a beauty once she’s powered up.” His eyes strayed to Sean. “And that shouldn’t be long.”
As Sean reached out and stroked the unicorn’s nose, the opal gem in his heart bracelet began to glow. It spread out over him until he was glowing, when the pony reared up and grew into a beautiful unicorn with horn and hooves of polished steel. Her grey hide had taken on a metallic sheen and was much less shaggy.
“So that’s what he meant,” Karen murmered to herself.
Her father gave her a curious look and tapped her mind questioningly. Karen responded by showing him what Sean had said earlier about sorting things out tonight.
Yes, that should work, her father conceded. He must have very clear dreams to have identified his heart friend’s species, though.
Karen was about to reply when Kyle wandered over to them. He too was eyeing the unicorn thoughtfully, but she could sense that being forced to be around Sean this much was fraying his temper. At school the timetable had been arranged to keep him and Sean separate as much as possible.
That’s not good, her father said. Can you calm him? He likes you, so you might be able to do it without his direct permission.
As Kyle reached her, she slipped her hand into his with fake casualness and projected soothing vibes at him. It seemed to work; some of the tension went out of his form. He was still watching Sean with the same intensity most people would watch a dangerous animal.
“Kyle,” she said softly. He looked around at her, then smiled and let go of her hand so he could wrap his arm around her waist.
“Well that’s interesting,” he said. “It should finally put an end to his lies.”
“It should be an interesting evening,” she agreed. She looked over his shoulder and the teenaged merman standing there. She smiled at him then nudged Kyle. “I think you should introduce us.”
“What?” he said. “Oh, yes! I was just about to do that when Laverne’s unicorn turned up.” He gestured to the merman. “This is my heart friend Darya. He was on the way to the Storm Palace to meet us when he realised how close by we were and detoured to meet us. Darya, this is my girlfriend Karen Stevens and he who was Indirian’s heart friend Matthias Morgan.”
Darya nodded respectfully to both of them. “I am honoured to meet you both.” He looked and Karen’s heart bracelet thoughtfully. “Ah, you’re the Light Warrior. I know Prince Alban is waiting for you at the Storm Palace-”
Kyle swore softly. Karen looked around and saw Sean striding towards them with the unicorn in tow. He nodded politely to her and her father before looking back at Kyle with a mildly challenging expression.
“I think we need to talk, Kyle. Don’t you?”