Ystelyan really was worried, Kyle realised when they entered the throneroom. He was pacing up and down in front of his throne and scowling. It was the first time he’d seen the dragon look anything approaching tense. Ystelyan looked up as Talira closed the doors.
“Are you feeling better, Yemi?” Ystelyan managed to muster a smile but it looked like an effort.
Yemi immediately scooted behind Darya and made a whimpering noise. After a moment she swallowed audibly, peeked over Darya’s shoulder and nodded.
“Much better, thank you,” she squeaked. The unspoken ‘please don’t hurt me’ was obvious in her voice.
Ystelyan shook his head and sighed. “I didn’t go to all that trouble disentangling you from that mess to eat you. You don’t need to be afraid.”
“I-it’s not exactly easy not to be afraid when I can feel how hungry you are, and that one as well.” She jerked her head at Talira.
“We’re always hungry, child,” Ystelyan said. “But neither of us need to eat right now. I can mask it if it’ll make you feel better, but Tal can’t yet. That’s why your room was shielded, it takes some getting used to. I need to talk to Darya and Kyle privately. Tal says you don’t want to be alone, so I’ll get one of my goblin children to show you the pool while we talk. They should bother you less than Tal and I think you’ll like it.”
“I…” she looked at Darya who gave her an encouraging smile.
“It’s more of an underground lake. It’s beautiful. You’ll love it,” he said. “Go on, it’s perfectly safe.Â No one will hurt you here.”
She gave him a long, puzzled look and then nodded. “It’s crazy, but I believe you.” She looked back at Ystelyan. “But why can’t I stay.”
“Because I don’t want Queen Valeria to know what we’re discussing and I have no intention of keeping you prisoner, Yemi.”
“Uh?” She looked at him blankly and then her mouth dropped open. “You’re going to let me go?”
“You and all the others who were being controlled, yes, but not the ones who were in it willingly.”
“Wh-” she began and then blinked. “This is about what they did to songstress Lorelei isn’t it?”
“That’s why we got involved, yes. I don’t like my friends being upset.”
“Oh.” She looked at her feet. “I’d better go and see this pool then.”
“Very good.” Ystelyan clapped his hands and Malisia appeared from the shadows and bowed.
“Would you take our young guest on a tour of the pool?” he said. “I’ll call you when we’ve finished our private conversation.
“Of course, father.” Malisia turned and gave Yemi a warm smile. “Come on then.” She led Yemi from the room.
“I need you and Darya to go on a diplomatic mission for me,” Ystelyan said as soon as the door closed behind Malisia and Yemi.
“A diplomatic mission?” Kyle said. “To whom?”
“Estara-miria,” Ystelyan said tersely. He began to pace again. “She’d never agree to see one of my goblins or dragons but I think she’d talk to you two.”
“Estara?” Kyle asked blankly. “But why? You hate Estara!”
“Hate is too strong a word, my Alran, but it’s certainly true that we don’t get along at all well. She’s not a bad person but we argued a very long time ago and both of us can hold a grudge. I think that we need to get past that because…” he trailed off.
“You need her help?” Kyle suggested mildly.
“Well yes, and she really does hate Gerian, so I think she might listen.” He looked at Darya. “Rill’s spy imp overheard something disturbing. Does Melusine have any precognitive ability? Because she’s had a dream of red dragons slaughtering the whole of Waldhafen to get to her.”
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “I hope not.”
“Well it doesn’t make much odds. They think it’s either a premonition or a sending from Gerian to scare her. Rill agrees and so do I. And he doesn’t make idle threats, so either way we’ll have to assume he’s planning an attack.”
“And you can’t back up the team you’ve got in there and want us to ask Estara to do it?” Kyle asked.
Ystelyan nodded. “She’s the purple miria, so she probably will if you can get her to listen.”
“Okay, but why do you think she’ll listen to us?”
“Because you’re Taloran, my alran, and Estara – like her sister – is very fond of your people. She’ll at least give you a hearing.”
Kyle considered this and exchanged a look with his heart-friend.
Darya nodded. “We can only try.”
“You’re right.” Kyle turned back to Ystelyan. “When do we leave?”