“Just try and relax, Drew,” his mother said. “It’ll make it a lot easier for both of us. A cup of tea will help.” She poured tea from a pot into two china cups. “Sarah comes here a lot, so she makes sure that there’s plenty of home comforts.”
Andrew took his cup and added milk and sugar absently, all the while taking in the view from the treehouse’s balcony.
“What exactly are you going to do?” he asked finally.
“Build you a secondary personality which will come in to force when you meet with Jayden.” She sipped her tea. “Well in your case it’ll mostly be your own except you won’t remember anything we don’t want you to while you’re with him. The biggest advantage – apart from stopping you messing up and getting yourself and your father killed is that if he thinks to try it the other way he’ll only be subdividing your false personality so it won’t work.”
Andrew struggled through that and frowned. “My brain hurts just thinking about it. It’d be like those little russian dolls.” He paused as something occured to him. “What about Kimi? She knows everything I know. What if he goes after her?” He scratched Kimi’s ears where she had her head in his lap and she made a strange huffing noise that he thought was the big cat equivalent of a purr in response.
Sonia tapped her teaspoon against her saucer thoughtfully. “That’s a very good point.” She smiled down at Kimi. “Would you be willing to let Nephele poke around in your mind and make sure you don’t give Andrew away?”
Kimi’s ears and tail drooped. “I don’t really like the idea,” she said softly. “But if it’s really to protect Andrew…” She trailed off unhappily.
“It is,” Sonia said. “Would you like me to me to ask one of the unicorns to bear witness to that?”
“It’s okay, I think I believe you. They would have called you on it in the hall otherwise,” Kimi replied.
“Uh?” Andrew said blankly. “Why would a unicorn help?”
Kimi gave a rumbling chuckle. “Unicorns can’t tell a direct lie, which I’d imagine is inconvenient sometimes, but it gives them one major advantage – they can sense if someone is directly lying around them as well.” She looked back at Sonia. “I’ll let your heart friend into my mind.”
“Oh,” Andrew said. “Oh! I think Karen mentioned that at some point.”
“Thank you!” Sonia said. “We shouldn’t have to do anything anywhere near as comprehensive with your mind – just make sure it concurs with Andrew’s.”
“I’m not sure I like the sound of comprehensive.” Andrew gulped down the rest of his tea. “Can we do this before I change my mind?”
“Of course, dear.” His mother chuckled and finished her own tea. “Come and sit over here on the floor. This is going to take some effort on my part and I don’t want to fall over when I’m done.”
“I don’t suppose that you’ll believe me,” Rilletta began. “But dragons aren’t monsters. Not all of them anyway.”
“Well, I’m certainly a little sceptical,” Lorelei said. “They don’t show much sign of not being monsters and the old stories say that the very first dragon betrayed us badly at the creation of the Core.”
“You have no idea what happened there!” Rilletta snapped and then rubbed at the bridge of her nose tiredly. “I’m sorry, it was before Ystelyan became a dragon. I was involved in the Core’s creation and we all agreed not to speak about what really happened, but she had a good reason for what she did. Not that I expect you to believe me about that either.”
“It would have to be a bloody good reason,” Mela said. “I mean she left us helpless.”
“That’s better than dead, which is what everyone would have been if she hadn’t.” Rilletta folded her arms. “But this is tangential – we’re talking about Darya.” She sighed. “He came to us, you know. After he found out what the Core had done to Kyle.”
“He must have been pretty desperate to turn to a dragon,” Lorelei mused.
“Yes, but he knew that the Core had only left him alive because it still needed Kyle and would dispose of them both once it was finished with him.”
“And renegades are immune to that.” Lorelei nodded. “They must be or there would never be any.”
“Protected, not immune,” Rilletta said. “But yes, that’s why he came to us. He was desperate and if he couldn’t trust the Core he was willing to question everything.”
“Well, I can’t say as I blame him.” Lorelei looked down at her hands. “But he trusted you?”
“Not at first. We won his trust.” Rilletta gave a soft smile.
“How?” Lorelei asked.
“By never lying to him and treating him with the respect he deserved,” she replied. “And by saving his and Kyle’s lives in the end, when the Core did try and kill them both.”
“And by not eating him?” Mela asked blandly.
“Well, yes, I imagine that helped as well,” Rilletta said, equally bland. She reached out and took Lorelei’s hands. “Your son came to my husband because he had nowhere else left to turn. Even if you don’t agree with him, please don’t hate him for that. He loves you dearly. You too Melusine.”
Mela looked away and blinked back tears. “Does that happen a lot?”
“What, speakers turning to dragons because they’ve nowhere left to go? Too much, especially recently. Not all of them choose who they run to wisely either.” Her expression grew haunted. “Pick the wrong dragon and you will get eaten.” She shook her head. “You should probably get back to the meeting before the Dark Warrior decides I’ve kidnapped you. We can talk again later if you want.”