Chapter Twenty Three
Dariad winced. “Are you sure that’s the wisest move? I mean his people are probably too scared to stop him. They don’t deserve–” He paused and scowled. “But why doesn’t his throne intervene?”
“Fear can’t excuse some things, Dariad,” Alaryia said coldly. “Ameliorate them maybe, but not excuse them. But that about his throne is a good question. It should.”
“Mother says it’s because he only uses it during a dragon attack,” Valeria said.
“Hmmm… yes, for the things he’s done previously it wouldn’t do more than sting him a little in those circumstances. Protecting his people from attack would be more important. But this is different; I wonder if he realises he’s crossed the line and it’ll view him as more of a risk to his people than my sister?” She gave a nasty smirk. “I think I’ll go and talk to her rather than just sending an imp. She may not even need to hurt anyone if she can just psyche him into using his throne.”
“That’s almost exactly what Matthias suggested,” Valeria noted.
Alaryia gave a strained laugh. “Yes, I’m not surprised. It’s a very silver thing to think of.”
“Is it safe for you to go?” Dariad asked. “You said–”
“It’s okay, Dariad.” She turned and smiled at Matthias. “Please thank he who was Indirian for reacting so quickly.”
“Oh,” Dariad said. “He already took over?”
“Yes,” she replied. “So I can talk to Est without worrying. It shouldn’t take long.”
“Take Ian with you,” Sarah said. “He’ll be able to help her to find his heart friend quicker.”
“That’s a good idea,” Alaryia said. She held out her hand to Ian again. “Coming, kid?”
“Uh?” He looked at her nervously.
“Neither she nor Estara is likely to eat you, boy.” Ystelyan had arrived while they were talking. Behind him, Rilletta, Kyle and Darya dismounted and their mounts went into resting form to allow the last two thunderbirds to land and discharge their passengers. Ystelyan waited for them to join him and then inclined his head to Alaryia. “Alaryia-miria.”
“Ystelyan-mirian.” She inclined her head in return then added something in draconic in a formal tone. He replied equally formally in the same tongue. Alaryia smiled and glanced at Dariad. “Formalities,” she explained.
“What? Were you promising not to kill each other?” he asked. Both of them laughed at that.
“Nothing so dramatic, your majesty,” Ystelyan said. “Though it was a declaration of peaceful intent.”
“Not that I’d expect anything else from Ystelyan. I’ll go and talk to Est, then,” Alaryia said. “Would you talk to your throne and see if it will talk to Plamen’s throne?” She tutted thoughtfully to herself. “And you know, we should probably get little Arava out of Waldhafen until we’re sure the danger has passed. That little one doesn’t need someone else trying to kill her already.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Sarah said. “If Dariad’s willing, of course.”
“Of course I am,” he replied.
“We could do with finding her heart friend as well,” Sonia said. “The Core might aim Marian at them â€“ at least I assume it knows who they are. Do we have any idea?”
Sarah shook her head. “None of the families have a kid the right age who was sick at the right time. I think they must be a Wild.”
“The Core won’t know who they are,” Alaryia said. “It might know where they are, but that’s unlikely. Matthias-idan had it all tied up before that idiot–” She banged her forehead with the heel of her hand. “That’s what I’ve been missing. Your wards breaking down when he activated that thing wasn’t accidental. The mimicry it allows is more sophisticated than I realised. I think he’s using them to manipulate the Core in order to distract you. Where did he learn to create such a thing?”
“What?” Matthias stared at her for a moment then frowned. “Yes, that is possible, isn’t it? In that case someone else will need to take point on resetting the wards to make sure he can’t do that any more.”
She nodded. “That’s a good thought. We’ll discuss the exact plan when I get back.” She glanced at Ystelyan again. “Can I borrow Kyle-alran and Darya, if they’re willing? They’ll be useful if Plamen starts setting fire to things.”
“I have no objection if they don’t,” he replied. “It’s a good idea.”
Kyle and Darya looked at each other.
“Of course we’ll accompany you, Alaryia-miria,” Kyle said.