Mela looked up at Rilletta defiantly. â€œHe has a funny way of showing it then. He nearly killed Shadavar and then he stuck a knife to my throat.â€
â€œYouâ€™re right.â€ She turned to Shadavar and bowed. â€œMy apologies. Darya did not mean to hurt you so badly. He was merely trying to stop you, but he misjudges his strength sometimes.â€ She turned back to Mela and smiled down at her. â€œHe really is worried about you, Melusine. Youâ€™re in a great deal of danger, you know.â€
â€œAnd whoâ€™s fault is that?â€ Daniel snarled at her.
â€œIn all honesty itâ€™s her motherâ€™s fault. Sheâ€™s the one who forcibly moulded her essence so sheâ€™d be able to use the Seekerâ€™s pendant when she wasnâ€™t born with the ability. I dread to think what plans that one had for it.â€ She gave him a calm smile. â€œBut I suspect that youâ€™re blaming us, and I swear she is in no danger from Ystelyan or anyone from his court. Weâ€™re trying to protect her.â€
Her tone was so earnest that Mela instinctively reached for Ebonaâ€™s mind and received mute confirmation of the truth of Rillettaâ€™s statement.
â€œProtect her from what?â€ Daniel asked.
â€œFrom Gerian and his court. He wants to locate some people, but your sister and her friends did a good job of blocking his previous method of finding them at the same time they banished his human servants back to Gaia.â€
Mela gave a shocked gasp. â€œThe Dragon Knights!â€
â€œThatâ€™s what you call them, yes. Youâ€™re quick, Melusine. Darya said that you were bright.â€
â€œAnd he thinks the Seekerâ€™s Pendant can find them?â€ Melaâ€™s hand flew to her empty throat. â€œBut Kyle took it, so… oh.â€ She swallowed convulsively.
â€œMela?â€ Daniel put a hand on her shoulder. â€œWhat is it?â€
â€œI think it might be possible to recreate the pendant by studying the way my mother twisted my essence.â€ She shuddered at the memories. â€œI donâ€™t think Iâ€™d like that.â€
â€œYou wouldnâ€™t. Itâ€™d hurt worse than the original twisting did.â€ Rilletta reached out and then sighed when Mela flinched back. â€œIâ€™m not going to grab you and kidnap you, child. Youâ€™re a guest of Waldhafen, so itâ€™d be a breach of truce. Iâ€™m here to talk about how to keep you safe. If the dark warrior here canâ€™t persuade us that he can protect you from Gerianâ€™s alriri, we will have to take you from him as soon as you leave Waldhafen. Which would be unpleasant for him.â€ SheÂ gave Daniel another cool smile. â€œAfter all, we would have taken herÂ last time if Talira had eaten before the mission. Thatâ€™s not a mistake Ystelyan will let her make again.â€
â€œWe have nothing to talk about. I wonâ€™t let you or them take her.â€ Danielâ€™s statement might have been more convincing if his voice hadnâ€™t shook slightly. â€œAnd do you really expect me to believe you donâ€™t want her for the same reason this Gerian does?â€
â€œOh, we donâ€™t need her to use the Seekerâ€™s Pendant, should we ever decide to use it. Darya can use it.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Daniel asked. He looked at Mela, who nodded.
â€œHe was born with the ability. Mother only attuned me to it because she didnâ€™t trust Darya.â€
â€œI see.â€ He narrowed his eyes at Rilletta. â€œIn that case, I have no idea what your angle is, but Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re still hiding something. What do you actually hope to achieve here?â€
â€œHonestly? There are a number of good reasons for Ystelyan not to attack Waldhafen again if he can avoid it, but he will if he has to. Gerian has no such issues. He only sent those dragons after you on Gaia to get Melusine back here. Talking may not be an option, but I wouldnâ€™t advise the council to end this negotiation. Weâ€™ll leave when you do.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Daniel said.
â€œGerianâ€™s servants wouldnâ€™t be guests here,â€ Rilletta said. â€œThink about it.â€
Alban must have told Dariad about Ignifer, Valeria realised as Rai came into land at Caerdu. There was a large fire already burning in the landing cave. It was giving off a great deal heat but Rai landed as close to it as he could. Valeria gathered Ignifer into her arms; the nymph was still breathing, but was even colder than when theyâ€™d picked her up. Getting the nymph down without injuring her was likely to be even more difficult than getting her up had been. She gritted her teeth and began to drag Ignifer towards Raiâ€™s side but stopped when a hand landed on her shoulder.
She looked up to find Dariad had leapt up behind her.
â€œYou look exhausted, cousin,â€ he said. â€œLet me.â€ He took Ignifer from her arms and leapt down. â€œSheâ€™s so cold.â€
â€œThank you,â€ she called after him and then climbed down more sedately. â€œI didnâ€™t realise Iâ€™d let myself get so weak. Mother would be furious.â€
Dariad looked over his shoulder at her. â€œYouâ€™re not weak, Val. Youâ€™ve had a terrible day.â€ He handed Ignifer to a cherufe, who carried her into the bonfire and laid her at its heart.
â€œNow we wait,â€ he said. â€œSheâ€™s still alive, but Iâ€™m not sure itâ€™s enough.â€
â€œI know,â€ Valeria said. â€œIs Karen going to be okay?â€ Then added formally. â€œThank you, for your hospitality, cousin. It is more than I have right to expect given how weâ€™ve argued recently.â€
â€œYouâ€™re welcome, Val. I would never turn you away when you needed it. And Ambassador Alaryia says Karen will be fine. Come on, Iâ€™ll take you to them. My chatelaine Brita has prepared chambers for you. One thing,â€ he said as he led her through the corridors. â€œIâ€™ve sent an imp to her brother and sister about what happened. I expect theyâ€™re on their way back here. Please donâ€™t do anything precipitous.â€
â€œI have more respect for your territory than to do anything like that,â€ she said. She decided not to mention that right now she needed all three of them alive to have any hope of rescuing Salia. â€œAlaryia sounds like a draconic name; are you sure about her?â€
â€œShe says itâ€™s the name her mother gave her and her father didnâ€™t give her a name,â€ he said. â€œAnd she also says that she doesnâ€™t work for a dragon and I had a unicorn there at the time. And she saved my life, and the Flame Warriorâ€™s and Karenâ€™s. Which would make no sense if she was an enemy.â€ He paused and frowned. â€œBut the other goblins with her have draconic names as well.â€
â€œGoblins canâ€™t lie to unicorns. Even dragons canâ€™t lie to unicorns,â€ she said thoughtfully. â€œBut thatâ€™s very strange.â€
â€œWell, youâ€™ll meet the amassador in a moment, because sheâ€™s still tending to Karenâ€™s wounds.â€ He stopped outside the doors to a grand suite and knocked on the door.