“My first inclination is to say destroy it…” Dariad trailed off thoughtfully. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Valeria shaking her head at him and realised that she was thinking the same thing he was.
â€œYour first inclination?” Alaryia gave him a shrewd look. “I sense a but coming.”
“Indeed. Like you say, he’ll just send more of them if you do. Even if we somehow manage to catch all of them – and we probably wonâ€™t since that one snuck throught the wards – he’ll just get more aggressive about finding out, won’t he?”
Alaryia gave him a sad smile. “Probably, yes.”
“So, what will he do if he finds out she’s okay? Since it seems like we can’t really stop him.” Dariad asked.
“Probably nothing. It sounds like he’s just trying to reassure one of his renegades, so he’s got no reason to do anything else.” She scowled. “Except if this little creature sensed you know what. That might be a problem.” She looked down meaningfully, to indicate the mabain several floors below them.
“You think he’d attack us for it?” he asked.
“Probably not. He might but itâ€™s unlikely. He does seem to have some sort of resource issue at the moment, so he might be tempted. But he doesn’t have a border with you. He’d have to leapfrog Gerian to attack you and Ystelyan and Gerian really don’t get along at all-”
“You seem to know a lot about dragons for someone who claims not to work for one,” Valeria interrupted in a deceptively mild tone. The way her eyes were narrowed was definately not mild.
Alaryia turned a brilliant smile on her. “What can I say? I’m a political animal, Your Majesty. Knowing who is in bed with whom and who hates whom is useful political currency.”
“Hmmm…” Valeria eyed Alaryia suspiciously.
“No one can lie to a unicorn, Val,” Dariad reminded her. “She really doesn’t work for a dragon.”
“I know, but there’s something…” Valeria trailed off with a frown and turned her attention back to the imp in Alaryia’s hand. “Nevermind. I hate to say this but I think we should let it see Lorelei and then let it go. We’re not going to stop him finding out sheâ€™s okay eventually anyway and if it would keep him from attacking us at least temporarily – well we need the time.”
“We do at that,” he agreed. He looked back at Alaryia who was staring thoughtfully at Valeria. “Will you accompany us, ambassador?”
â€œI will.” She glanced at him briefly before looking back to Valeria. “What were you going to say about me before?”
“It wasn’t exactly…” Valeria hesitated and then shrugged. â€œIt’s just that thereâ€™s something odd about you and I can’t put my finger on it.”
Alaryia snorted. “Oh, I am exceedingly odd, Your Majesty. Don’t worry about it.” She looked back at Dariad. â€œShall we go then?â€ She gave the squirming imp in her hand a little shake. â€œStop that! Weâ€™re going where you need to be.â€
Lorelei was floating on her back, staring at the ceiling when they entered the bathing chamber. Valeria wasnâ€™t sure if the lost expression on the mermaidâ€™s face was from the trauma of being tortured or the news about her son. Maybe it was both. She cleared her throat and Lorelei turned her head slightly to look at her but otherwise didnâ€™t move.
â€œDarya may be a traitor but he still cares about you, Lorelei,â€ she said gently and pointed to the imp in the goblin womanâ€™s hands. â€œHeâ€™s trying to find out if youâ€™re okay.â€
â€œHuh?â€ Lorelei turned fully, sat up and stared at the imp. â€œBut that isnâ€™t one of his.â€
â€œItâ€™s one of Ystelyanâ€™s,â€ Alaryia said. â€œIt was sneaking through the plumbing looking for you.â€
â€œAre you sure?â€ Lorelei asked.
â€œThat it was looking for you rather than just spying?â€ Alaryia asked. â€œPretty much.â€ She opened her hand and the imp shot free and zoomed over to Lorelei. It circled around her several times before hovering in front of her for a moment, then darted towards the closest wall to the outside of the mountain. Alaryia grabbed it before it went through.Â â€œSee.â€ She looked at Dariad. â€œAre you sure about this?â€
â€œNo, but the arguments for letting it go outweigh those for destroying it,â€ he said.
â€œThatâ€™s what I thought youâ€™d say.â€ She opened her hand again and the Imp disappeared through the wall. She looked back at Lorelei. â€œIâ€™m sure your son will be happy you are recovering.â€ She bowed to Dariad and Valeria. â€œIf you will excuse me then, I shall withdraw back to our chambers. I have a bath to finish.â€