January 6th, 2012 | Published in Dragon Wars
Chapter Twenty One
The soup was rich, thick and tasty and the bread they’d been served with it was soft and sweet. It had brought back Hannah’s appetite quicker than she had imagined possible. They were sitting in the richly appointed chambers that Elarian had brought them to as soon as they had arrived at Ystelyan’s Palace. He’d ushered them there saying they could meet his mirian when they had recovered from their ordeal. A pair of young goblins had been waiting for them inside with baths, clean clothes and now this wonderful food.
The chambers were gorgeous as well. High vaulted ceilings were carved with images of fish and other aquatic creatures and the walls were covered with tapestries showing similar underwater imagery. It seemed odd how at home Hannah felt here until she realised that the entire mountain was thrumming with Earth essence. This water dragon made his home in an earth affinity area. How odd.
“Would you like to sleep once you’ve eaten, Hannah-alra?” One of the goblins, a skeletal dark haired teenage boy who vaguely resembled Agrona approached her. “You look exhausted.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, kid,” she said dryly. “I’ll be fine.”
“No you won’t,” Tara said from where she was feeding soup to Martin. “You look terrible. Get some sleep.”
“I-I don’t think I could,” she said. “I could do with some, but I doubt I could stop thinking about what’s happened.”
The goblin boy regarded her thoughtfully. “Would you like me to get one of the healers to make you a sedative draught?”
“I – um -” Hannah hesitated.
“She means yes, she would, thank you,” Tara said sharply. “And honestly I wouldn’t mind one as well, if someone can keep an eye on this little monkey for me.” She patted Martin on the head.
“Of course!” He bowed and rushed out.
“You do need your sleep, Hannah,” she said when Hannah opened her mouth to protest. She looked over at where Collette and Agrona were whispering and giggling together. “Is he a relative of yours?”
“Yes, my cousin,”Agrona said. “He’s a good guy.”
“He certainly seems to be,” Hannah said. “Are all goblins servants?”
Agrona giggled. “Oh no, not at all. One of Ystelyan-mirian’s chief lieutenants is a goblin â€“ and she isn’t even one of his and Rilletta’s kids. And Medrian isn’t really a servant anyway â€“ he’s too young to have a job. These are our family’s guest apartments and we don’t have any servants so when we have guests, us kids get the job. I get a by this time because Collette’s here but I’m sure that Iralia will take a turn later â€“ and she’s a dragon. My step-father says it’s good for her humility to work sometimes.” There was a smugness about Agrona’s tone which suggested that she and Iralia didn’t get on well.
“Is Iralia related to you as well?” Tara asked.
“Not by blood. She’s Medrian’s half sister and she…” She trailed off as Medrian returned with two steaming goblets.
“Malisia says that this should help,” he said. “And Ystelyan-mirian invites all of you to dine with him this evening. He says that he promises you’re not on the menu.”
“We’d be honoured,” Tara said politely, then glanced sideways at Hannah who was hesitating. “Wouldn’t we Hannah?”
Hannah hesitated a moment longer as she took the goblet. “Yes, we would,” she said finally. “And thank you for this.” She sipped at the sedative draught, expecting it to be bitter â€“ but instead it had a pleasant, explosive sweetness like the best hot chocolate. “Oh!”
“This is lovely,” Tara exclaimed. “Not at all what I’d expect from a sedative.”
“That’s why I went to Malisia,” he said. “Her potions always taste good. Tell me when you’re finished and I’ll show you to your bedchambers.
“Thank you.” Tara went back to sipping the drink.
The beds he showed them to when they’d finished were soft and warm. By the time she climbed into hers, Hannah’s head was already filled with a soft, muzzy feeling. She was asleep as soon as she closed her eyes.
Ema was sitting on the edge of her bed when Hannah woke. She didn’t even have time to say anything before the Daoine girl pulled her into a hug.
“Hannah! I got here as soon as I could.” She shook her head. “If I’d known that this would happen, I would have let Estara rescue you when she wanted to.”
“Em!” Hannah clung to her heart friend. “Oh, Em! I’m so glad you’re here! The Core’s finally lost it completely!”
“Yes,” Ema said blandly. “I noticed. Telling that woman about Matthias being…” She trailed off and shook her head. “It’ll take the Guardian system down if he dies and it knows that.”
“I know,” Hannah agreed. “It must be because of what you found out at Waldhafen.” She released Ema and got to her feet. “Do you know what time this dinner with Ystelyan is?”
“As soon as you’re ready, I think,” Ema said. “It should be interesting.” She laid a hand on Hannah’s arm. “But how are you bearing up?”
“I-” Hannah started to say she was fine, but that was a lie, wasn’t it. “I don’t know. Sometimes, for a few minutes I forget what happened and then I remember and feel bad for not feeling bad. That’s dumb isn’t it?”
“I think it’s normal, actually,” Ema said. “But you need to focus. The Core has declared war on the Warriors and the news is spreading like wildfire, along with the news about what really happened at Elapyron. I think it’s going to cause a civil war.”
“Shit!” Hannah paused on her way to the washstand. “Given how little most Speakers think of humanity a lot are going to side with Core aren’t they? Especially since many of them may not believe it could break this way. What’s happening so far?”
“”Well, Valeria and Dariad have both gone home. From the message Valeria sent, she managed to calm the unrest around the Storm Palace by revealing her fusion with She who was Elaranor. Of course she was helped by the fact that her brother’s failed coup meant the hardliners were out of the way and many of the others know they were saved by dragons and humans. She’s trying to get her borders secured before anyone attacks her.”
“And Caerdu?” Hannah asked. “Has Dariad sent word yet?”
“Oh yes. There’s been plenty of uproar, most of it peaceful. Caerdu’s always been pro-human and the people there already knew about Elapyron and were furious at the Core over what it had done to Kyle’s parents. But realising that they have the first dragon staying in the city is making his people nervous.”
“Wait! He told them who she is?” Hannah exclaimed.
“No,” Ema said. “The Core did. It was probably hoping to turn them against him.”
“Is he okay? I mean…”
“His people are with him for now. Alaryia’s kindness had won her a lot of friends. He’s calling an assembly to give her chance to win them over. I think she will – she’s very persuasive. And she saved Karen’s life, you know, and a little wood girl… not to mention the entire city.”
“She did… I mean… why would she do that?”
“Well, Dariad thinks she saved Caerdu because she wanted the Mabain, but saving Karen and the little girl seems to have been genuinely because she cared. Valeria told me that she seemed extremely distressed when she saw the state the child was in. Someone had inverted her essence.”
“I heard about the Mabain under Caerdu. How is that even possible?” Hannah poked around in the wardrobe and pulled out a Haltia style gown of goblin silk. “Help me into this would you?”
“No one knows how it could happen but there’s some suggestion it’s the result of the Heart and Core tussling for control.” Ema helped her into the gown and with the elaborate pinning at the shoulder.
Hannah fussed with the drape then stared open mouthed at the mirror as the blue gown slowly shifted to a burnished orange colour. “Oh!”
“Yes, that seems to happen when warriors wear goblin silk,” Ema said. “You should brush your hair out. Ystelyan will be waiting for us.”