Chapter Twenty Three
When Valeria had told them that they were going to be riding the thunderbirds to Caerdu, Daniel couldn’t help wondering how they would deal with transporting Ebona and Kenna. After all, the two unicorns were a bit large to ride on the giant birds’ backs, even in resting form.
“I suppose they’ll carry us in their talons,” Kenna said when he asked. “That’s how they used to get me into Caerdu before Lyr, well, you know… It’s not the most comfortable way to travel, but it does the job and while the two of us could gallop there almost as fast as we’ll fly, in the current circumstances it’s safer than trying to get to the ground entrance. Ishleen will fly as well, of course.”Â The unicorn pointed her flaming copper horn at the nightmare, who flapped her wings a little in agreement.
“I’d figured that bit out,” Daniel said. “But carry you, really? That sounds like an uncomfortable way to travel.”
“It does,” Ebona agreed. “But if it’s the only way…”
“Couldn’t we teleport in?” Daniel asked. “Would it be bad manners or something?”
“Ah, well-” Matthias began.
“It’s not exactly etiquette,” Sonia said. “It’s more that even with Dariad’s invitation, it would impolitic for Ystelyan and the other dragons to teleport in. Even knowing what they now know, some people would panic. We don’t want that.”
“Not to mention the fact that Dariad has all Caerdu’s defences up,” Valeria said. “Like the rest of us, he has to expect an attack.” She gave Daniel a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, the ones I’ve asked to fly us have a lot of experience with this sort of transport.”
Daniel stared at her for a moment then nodded. “Okay.” He patted Ebona’s neck. “Sorry, Eb.”
Ebona nuzzled him. “It’s okay. We should get ready to go.”
The first two thunderbirds to sweep into cavern were carrying Ebona and Kenna carefully in their talons. Several guards rushed forward and helped them get clear so the birds could land and let their other passengers dismount. Dariad wasn’t surprised when Lyrrekka and her daughters dismounted from one while Daniel and his sisters scrambled down from the other.”
Lyrrekka turned to where he was waiting with Alaryia and curtseyed gracefully. “Your majesty, thank you-” She didn’t get any further because one of his subjects, a nymph with steaming obsidian skin, leapt out of the crowd and barrelled into her. For a moment Dariad though she was somehow attacking the dragon woman but then realised she was actually hugging her fiercely.
“You really are alive! I couldn’t believe it when Dariad told us about you being alive after the Core told us where dragons come from. I’m so glad it’s true. You remember me, don’t you? You saved my life during the siege.”
“Leura?” Lyrrekka hugged her back. “Of course I remember you. You’ve grown, dear.”
“Well of course I have,” Leura said placidly. “I was only ten at the time. I have a child of my own now. She’s about the same age as your little one.” She nodded at Karilya, who had come up behind Lyrrekka and was staring at Leura curiously.
Lyrrekka smiled at that and wrapped an arm around Karilya’s shoulder. “I’m glad you aren’t afraid of me now,” she said softly.
Leura made an amused noise. “I probably would have been if his majesty hadn’t told us about you. But then Kenna’s still with you and I’m sure she would have vouched for you.”
“Of course I would,” Kenna said. “But we’d better get out of the way. The others are waiting to land.â€
“Good idea,” Lyrrekka came over to join Dariad and Alaryia. “Your majesty, thank you for your hospitality.” She turned and inclined her head to Alaryia. “Alaryia-miria.”
“Lyrrekka-ida.” Alaryia nodded in response as two more thunderbirds swooped into the cavern. This time Valeria and her children dismounted from the first while Matthias, Sonia, Sarah and a teenage boy he Dariad didn’t know climbed down from the second.
“My son, Ian,” Sarah said before he could ask. “We want to locate his heart friend while we’re here – before someone else does. Ian thinks she’s in danger. He says she’s scared and hiding.” She rubbed at the bridge of her nose. “I’m not sure where to start, his affinity manifests a bit oddly and we’ve never been quite sure what the classical form would be. Lucas thinks it might be synthetic – which would be a right pain because he wouldn’t have a bracelet.”
“It certainly looked like a synthesis to me when he was grabbing that data earlier,” Lyrrekka said. “Mind and storm maybe.”
“If that’s the case then I think I know who his heart friend is. A nymph named Pensura – she’s half Psychad, half storm-nymph,” Valeria said as she joined them. “She’s about the right age, and you’re quite right to worry about getting to her first – her family live in Plamen’s territory.”
“Damn!” Sarah went white. “Well he can’t have caught her yet or we’d know about it.”
“Yes, we would,” Alaryia reached out and took Ian’s hand. “Can you reach her? Does she think she can get to the border with Waldhafen?”
Ian closed his eyes and concentrated before shaking his head. “I can reach her, but she says his army is between her and it, and she’ll be seen if she leaves her hiding place.” His voice shook slightly. “She says he burned her home down with everyone still barricaded in it. She and her sister only survived because the fire didn’t get past the wards into the hidden cellar where her mother had stuffed them, so she’s hoping he thinks she’s dead.”
“I see.” Alaryia’s eyes went icy. “We’ll do it the other way then. I’ll send an imp to Estara; she’ll tear that monster’s kingdom apart to find the child if necessary.”