The sheer number of guests meant dinner in Waldhafen’s Great Hall was an informal and communal affair that night. Plates of food sat on several tables near the dais, Humans, humanoid, semi-humanoid speakers and even goblins came and filled their plates, while young dryads and haltia fetched food for those Speakers with no hands to serve themselves.
His parents, Sarah and Jason were all still there, so Daniel sat with them and casually mentioned the Council’s suggestion.
“Could I look after Mela?” Sarah looked surprised at the question. “Well, I do have a nice swimming pool, and it’s not chlorinated.” She turned and smiled at Mela who was munching on a plate of some sort of poultry. “Do you want stay at mine?”
Mela looked up at her with a frown. “I’d rather be able to go home, but that’s not safe. If the dragons didn’t kidnap me, my mother would probably kill me. But will I be safe there?” A thoughtful expression crossed her face. “And will I be able to watch that TV thing?”
“You’d definitely be safe. I can draft in extra help if I need it.” Sarah stared at her for a moment. “You like television?”
“It’s interesting,” Mela replied.
“She likes science documentaries, Sal,” Matthias said. “She’s fascinated by the way our world works.”
“Really?” Sarah said. “Well, I’m sure I can provide lots of those.”
Mela looked at her. “Well, it would be okay then, I guess.” She looked down at her hands. “Except it sounds lonely, I’d be the only Speaker there.”
“That’s true,” Sarah sighed. “Birke could come as well and I have a son just your age, but even so it’s not ideal.”
“Nothing about this situation is ideal for anyone.” Rilletta paused on her way to the table to refill her plate. “But for what it’s worth, I’m satisfied that you could protect Melusine from anyone but Gerian himself and the first dragons generally avoid Gaia.”
“I am so happy to have your approval,” Sarah said sarcastically. “It’s so important that renegades approve of me.”
“Now, now,” Rilletta said. “Be nice. There’s no need for that tone. I’ve been nothing but polite to you, Life Warrior.”
“You’re a traitor to your own kind, wretch, why would I be nice to you?” Sarah snarled. She was gripping the edge of the table so hard that her knuckles blanched. “I saw the damage dragons can do thirty years ago.”
“You know nothing about me, nothing at all,” Rilletta said calmly. “And even less about dragons. Perhaps one day I’ll be at leisure to educate you, but not today.” She picked up a plate of meat from the table and headed back towards her seat.
Sarah snarled again and the wooden table beneath her fingers burst into life, sending out shoots which rapidly produced leaves. She pulled her hands back sharply . “Oh!”
“Calm down, Sal,” Matthias said. “I haven’t seen you do that since we were kids.”
Sarah nodded and took several deep breaths. “Sorry. It’s just she-”
“I know,” he said soothingly and then turned to Daniel. “So you’re going to see she who was Elaranor this evening? Good.”
“Good?” Daniel frowned at his father. “You want me to talk to her?” He narrowed his eyes. “You never intended for me to help you, did you?”
Matthias’s lips twitched. “You are helping me, Dan. But no, I never wanted you to help in the sense you mean. If I’d wanted help in that sense I’d have roped in Andrew, not you.” He looked up as a little lightning imp flew in through a window and landed in front of him. It was sparking fitfully and the colour seemed wan. “Ha! I wondered how she’d react when she found out.” He absorbed it and went white. “Damn!”
“What’s wrong? Who was that from?” Daniel asked.
“Valeria. She wanted to apologise – abjectly – for the way she’s been behaving.” He snorted again. “When Karen was hurt she was trying to stop a dragon kidnapping Princess Salia. It seems that he caught up with her.” He looked up as Weide approached the table. “Dariad sent you an imp?”
She nodded soberly. “I assume Valeria’s told you what it said?”
“Yes. Poor kid.” He twisted a napkin between his hands. “At least the shock seems to have knocked some sense into Val. The war council is a good idea. Are you going to agree to host it?”
“We… well-” She broke off and chewed on her lip. “We need to discuss it and I suppose this is the only place where you could attend currently. But I’m not sure how secure we are.” She glanced towards Rilletta meaningfully.
“I don’t actually think that matters. Nowhere is really secure where dragons are involved, and we can ward where we meet to stop eavesdropping.”
“War council?” Daniel asked.
“Yes.” Weide nodded. “Valeria and Dariad are of the opinion that if two of the first twelve are moving it won’t be long until the rest will. They think we need to plan a response as a group. It’s a good idea… it’s just the where. As I said, we need to discuss it.” She smiled at him. “Anyway Betula will guide you to She who was Elaranor’s shrine as soon as you’ve eaten.”