January 16th, 2012 | Published in Dragon Wars
Chapter Twenty One
They were eating dessert when Kyle’s imp arrived. Ystelyan absorbed it and then frowned.
“What does he say?” Hannah asked anxiously. “Is my dad okay?”
“He’s unharmed and staying at the life warrior’s home,” Ystelyan said. “But it would not be correct to say he’s okay. He’s grief-stricken by the loss of your mother, which is only to be expected. He’ll recover, though. He’s worried about you.”
Hannah gave a deep sigh of relief. “Oh thank God!”
“Indeed,” Ystelyan smiled at her then turned to Tara. “They want your help to clarify a precog that has been bothering Sarah Tyler and her sister. One your children share…” he trailed off.
Tara blinked at him. “One my children… oh, the sky one! Yes, I’m working on that one. It’s a doozy to clarify. More examples would be useful to give some context to my efforts.”
“Clarification is an unusual skill,” Ystelyan said. “No wonder your family is so effective at hunting.” He cocked his head at Tara’s wince. “I meant no malice by that, Tara-iatia. It was merely an observation.”
“Tara what?” she asked blankly.
“Iatia,” he replied. “It’s the first tier honourific applied to non-resonant female astrals. It’s roughly equivalent to alra – which is the feminine version of the second tier honorific for resonants.” He smiled again. “In other words, you’re very strong.”
“Er… okay,” she said. “I think I get you. You’re saying I’m as strong as it’s possible for a non-resonant to get.” She frowned to herself. “But that makes no sense. Marian is a lot stronger than I am. Not as strong as you, I think, but stronger than most people expect.””
“That’s not impossible,” he said, “but highly unlikely. If she was too much stronger than you without a heart friend to balance her or the ability to release excess power into the environment by taking resonant form, she’d be in a constant state of mental overload.”
“Perhaps that’s why she’s so crazy,” Collette said. “Her head is very noisy.”
“Very noisy would be a good way to describe it, actually,” Ystelyan said. “Perhaps she is pushing the upper bar.”
“I don’t know,” Tara said. “If her craziness dated from her maturity I’d agree, but it dates from a couple of years later.” She paused, then narrowed her eyes and added. “And now that I think about it, so does her extra strength. We were both on a par before that.”
“That’s interesting. What was she doing before it happened?”
“Well, someone had blocked all our precogs from forseeing our parents deaths. Marian is a superb retrocognitive and she was determined to find out what had happened. She spent weeks barely eating, meditating and banging against the block. She apparently made it through eventually, though I don’t for one minute believe resonants killed our parents.”
“They might have,” Ystelyan said mildly. “People don’t like being hunted. But if they did, I’m sure it was as individuals.” He frowned. “It sounds like she shattered the boundaries of her own power and survived.”
“Huh?” Tara said.
“Everyone, even – what is it you call them – nulls and embers have more power than they can ever safely tap. Usually it remains quiescent, only emerging in an emergency. Every so often the natural barrier holding it back breaks. If you don’t die as a result, you’re left with more energy than you can safely use and no restraints to stop you tapping it.”
“It’s similar to the maturation barrier then?” Hannah asked.
He nodded. “Except that dissolves once you physically become able to cope with the excess power. This one almost never does, except at death.”
“Can it be repaired?” Tara asked.
“Oh yes. You have to realise what’s happened and make a concerted effort not to use your powers until it has repaired itself, but it’s possible.”
“What if you drugged them so they couldn’t use their powers?” Hannah asked.
“Yes, that might work as well. Though possibly not as reliably,” he said. “Because the barrier responds to desire as well – if you don’t want it back, it may not repair itself properly. It should, however, still lead to an improvement.” He gave her a wry grin. “Why are you hoping you can save Marian Laverne’s sanity?”
“I don’t know,” Hannah admitted. “If she really is crazy rather than just irrationally bigoted then it’s right to treat her, isn’t it?”
“Or she might just be both crazy and bigoted,” Ystelyan said.
“No,” Tara said. “At least I don’t think so. My sister used to argue with my parents about the family’s hunting resonants. She said we should at least try and find out why we’d started if we were going to kill people, but that since we couldn’t remember it was likely we never had a good reason to start with. Then boom, after she sees what happened, she’s a zealot. I never thought it made sense.”
“Hmm, that does sound like something pushed her over the edge,” he said. “Simply healing the barrier in her mind might not bring her back, though it would definitively make her less dangerous. She’d probably be grateful to be in less pain as well.” He seemed to consider. “When you go to see about clarifying these precogs, you should discuss this with your allies. They may well be able to help you find a way to do it.”
“I want to find out what she saw as well,” Tara said. “Because whoever murdered my parents killed a lot of innocent people to get to them and that’s just wrong.” She caught his look. “Even Marian has never blown up a plane load of people just to get to two people.”
“How many is a plane load?” he asked.
“There were a couple of hundred passengers at least. The plane exploded on take-off and no one survived. It was ruled an accident but…” she trailed off.
“But the fact no one foresaw it does indicate otherwise.” He gave a little shudder. “But you are right, that is a lot of bystanders to kill to get to two people and whoever did it does need stopping.” He paused and then added. “So a plane is the flying transport machine? Naria tells me that there seems to be a lot of such things on Taloa nowadays. She flew near one and says they are noisy.”
“And dangerous!” Hannah exclaimed. “She could have been sucked into the engine.”
“Or someone could have seen her,” Tara added.
“Oh she was seen all right. That -” he growled out some sort of epithet in draconic “-who enslaved her was deliberately making sure she was seen. It seems to be part of his plan.”
Hannah gave him a long look. “You’re not talking about Matthias are you? Because that really doesn’t sound like him at all,” she said then jumped as Ema slapped her forehead.
“Damn! Didn’t I tell you about that yet? A man called Jayden Emms kidnapped one of Matthias’s kids and is using him as the heart of device which allows him to usurp the control of dragons Matthias had collared.â€
“And the dragon lord failed to get Naria out of there.” Ystelyan sighed. “He did try though. I just wish that I could get a fix on her. But that man is far too good at confusing my read. What he isn’t good at is realising the full extent of the young ice warrior’s abilities. Naria thinks that he might yet break loose.”
“So you can talk with her but not get a fix on where she is?” Tara asked.
“That’s it exactly,” he said. “And I don’t know Taloa well enough to figure out where she is from what she’s seeing.”
“You should pass it on to Matt,” Tara said. “He’ll surely be able to identify where it is.”
“I actually intend to,” he said. “I’m still angry that he ever thought those collars were appropriate, but he meant well and he was very upset that he couldn’t save Naria from Emms. He did save Halindan. I guess I’ll have to forgive-” He rose to his feet as Rilletta entered through the main doors. She looked more than a little travel worn. “Rill! You’re home!”
Rilletta smiled wearily and embraced him. “Melusine and the others are gone and Estara has security for Waldhafen well in hand. There wasn’t much need for me to stay, and I missed you. I’ve left Saridan there as an ambassador to both Waldhafen and Estara. It’s far beyond time you two started talking again.” She turned towards the guests. “Greetings, honoured guests.” She smiled as she spotted Collette sitting by Agrona. “Ah, death warrior! I was unsure if we would ever meet you.” She looked over at her husband. “I caught a little of what had happened before Ema here left with Virian but I think I missed quite a bit. Would you bring me up to speed please?”
“Of course, my love. Sit down and I’ll get the cooks to fetch you something to eat, there should be enough of the main course left, and I’ll tell you while we wait.”