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.
â€œI just wish I knew why they wanted you,â€ he said after a long moment, pushing himself away from the wall. â€œI know it canâ€™t just be to eat you. They just arenâ€™t that picky.â€
â€œOh, we arenâ€™t picky at all when it comes to food, Dragon Lord. Not that way anyway.â€ Halia walked into the room. She looked distracted and silver flecks swirled in the vivid green of her eyes. â€œForgive me for interrupting. My mother wants to talk to you.â€
â€œYour mother? You mean the first dragon whoâ€™s court you belong to?â€ he said.
â€œWell, Iâ€™m that too,â€ Haliaâ€™s voice took on an echoing quality as she spoke. â€œBut, no, in this case the relationship is actual.â€
â€œI see. I was wondering when youâ€™d turn up.â€ He seemed unphased. â€œMost of you turn up to abuse or threaten me within hours of my collaring one of your servants, but itâ€™s been weeks.â€
â€œI donâ€™t do threats, Dragon Lord, they rarely accomplish anything. Abuse would be even more pointless. After all youâ€™re only doing what you think is necessary… as are we all.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Her calmness seemed to be putting him on edge. â€œWhy are you here, then? I have nothing to discuss with you, dragon.â€
â€œYou really believe that, donâ€™t you? Youâ€™re wrong, but thereâ€™s no use trying to talk to someone who doesnâ€™t want to listen.â€ She glided past him and looked down at Mela. â€œWhat do Ystelyan and Gerian want you for?â€
Mela said nothing. Even if sheâ€™d known the answer, she wouldnâ€™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.
â€œI donâ€™t see anything,â€ the dragon said finally. â€œI hate knowing Iâ€™m missing something. Still… if it was just Ystelyan after her Iâ€™d be inclined to let it go, but I’ll be damned if Iâ€™m letting Gerian have anything he wants if I can prevent it.â€ Her hand darted out and caressed Melaâ€™s heart stone. That should help, I hope. The voice in Melaâ€™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. â€œPeople here really donâ€™t believe in vegetables do they?â€
â€œI asked Brita about that while we in Caerdu,â€ Lydia said. â€œShe said that they canâ€™t eat them, but she made an effort to find us some non-meat foods for the supplies.â€ She rummaged around in the bags and found a flat loaf of brown bread and some unusual lumpy red fruit. â€œHere we go. She had to buy them from the goblins, apparently.â€ She broke the loaf in half and handed part of it to him along with one of the fruit.
â€œIsnâ€™t there a poem about not buying goblin fruit?â€ Andrew asked as he examined the fruit dubiously. â€œThis thing looks weird.” He sniffed at it. â€œBut it certainly smells edible and I donâ€™t think Alaryia would try to poison us.â€ 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. â€œDamn! This is good.â€
â€œThatâ€™s dragon fruit isnâ€™t it?â€ 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. â€œIâ€™m sorry about the limited fare. We werenâ€™t expecting human guests.â€
â€œNo idea,â€ Andrew said. â€œBut dragon fruit? Talk about an ominous name.â€
â€œIt is a bit ominous sounding, but it isnâ€™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 wonâ€™t usually sell it. Youâ€™re honoured.â€
â€œBut itâ€™s safe?â€ Lydia asked.
â€œHmm?â€ Kaguya frowned. â€œOh yes, it should be okay for humans. You guys can eat anything a goblin can.â€ She smoothed out her long black gown. â€œIf you’re up to it, Arrats is ready to gauge how much you already know about your abilities when you’ve finished eating.â€
â€œI think Iâ€™m ready,â€ Andrew replied. â€œMy ankle still aches, but a nap worked wonders.â€
Kaguya smiled at him. â€œIâ€™ll help you through when youâ€™ve eaten, then.â€