Mela stayed in the lounge while Daniel went to check on some things before they left. She kept her eyes firmly fixed on the television and tried to ignore the Dragon Lord studying her thoughtfully, but the weight of his gaze made her fidget.
“I just wish I knew why they wanted you,” he said after a long moment, pushing himself away from the wall. “I know it can’t just be to eat you. They just aren’t that picky.”
“Oh, we aren’t picky at all when it comes to food, Dragon Lord. Not that way anyway.” Halia walked into the room. She looked distracted and silver flecks swirled in the vivid green of her eyes. “Forgive me for interrupting. My mother wants to talk to you.”
“Your mother? You mean the first dragon who’s court you belong to?” he said.
“Well, I’m that too,” Halia’s voice took on an echoing quality as she spoke. “But, no, in this case the relationship is actual.”
“I see. I was wondering when you’d turn up.” He seemed unphased. “Most of you turn up to abuse or threaten me within hours of my collaring one of your servants, but it’s been weeks.”
“I don’t do threats, Dragon Lord, they rarely accomplish anything. Abuse would be even more pointless. After all you’re only doing what you think is necessary… as are we all.”
“What?” Her calmness seemed to be putting him on edge. “Why are you here, then? I have nothing to discuss with you, dragon.”
“You really believe that, don’t you? You’re wrong, but there’s no use trying to talk to someone who doesn’t want to listen.” She glided past him and looked down at Mela. “What do Ystelyan and Gerian want you for?”
Mela said nothing. Even if she’d known the answer, she wouldn’t have told a dragon. Halia cocked her head and studied her, but she could tell it was someone else who looked out from behind her eyes.
“I don’t see anything,” the dragon said finally. “I hate knowing I’m missing something. Still… if it was just Ystelyan after her I’d be inclined to let it go, but I’ll be damned if I’m letting Gerian have anything he wants if I can prevent it.” Her hand darted out and caressed Mela’s heart stone. That should help, I hope. The voice in Mela’s head sounded amused.
Silver light surged through her mind and she jerked convulsively as something inside her seemed to tear loose. She was vaguely aware that the Dragon Lord had grabbed Halia and dragged her away, but when her head cleared a second later they were both gone from the room.
Andrew prodded at the bowl of stewed meat Kaguya had brought to him. “People here really don’t believe in vegetables do they?”
“I asked Brita about that while we in Caerdu,” Lydia said. “She said that they can’t eat them, but she made an effort to find us some non-meat foods for the supplies.” She rummaged around in the bags and found a flat loaf of brown bread and some unusual lumpy red fruit. “Here we go. She had to buy them from the goblins, apparently.” She broke the loaf in half and handed part of it to him along with one of the fruit.
“Isn’t there a poem about not buying goblin fruit?” Andrew asked as he examined the fruit dubiously. “This thing looks weird.” He sniffed at it. “But it certainly smells edible and I don’t think Alaryia would try to poison us.” After several failed attempts he managed to break through the skin and gouged out a chunk of the speckled white flesh before tasting it cautiously. His eyes went wide and he popped the rest of the chunk into his mouth. “Damn! This is good.”
“That’s dragon fruit isn’t it?” Kaguya had returned with a pitcher of foamy milk while they were talking and knelt down by Andrew to fill a second wooden bowl with it. “I’m sorry about the limited fare. We weren’t expecting human guests.”
“No idea,” Andrew said. “But dragon fruit? Talk about an ominous name.”
“It is a bit ominous sounding, but it isn’t really. I grew up near a goblin village and they used to grow them. They call them that because the skin looks like scales, and because dragons love it apparently. Goblins certainly love it, they won’t usually sell it. You’re honoured.”
“But it’s safe?” Lydia asked.
“Hmm?” Kaguya frowned. “Oh yes, it should be okay for humans. You guys can eat anything a goblin can.” She smoothed out her long black gown. “If you’re up to it, Arrats is ready to gauge how much you already know about your abilities when you’ve finished eating.”
“I think I’m ready,” Andrew replied. “My ankle still aches, but a nap worked wonders.”
Kaguya smiled at him. “I’ll help you through when you’ve eaten, then.”