“Are you ready for this?” Indaturan asked without preamble when Adrian gated them into the meeting point.
“I’ll be fine,” Karen said. “As long as he doesn’t try to kill me again.”
“He won’t,” Takilyan said. “I’d like to say he has too much hon–”
“Gerian has no honour!” Indaturan snapped.
“I know,” Takilyan said. “I used to think he had at least a little until he attacked Karen-alra here while she was still a child.” He smiled at her. “But he still won’t attack you. Not when you have so much back up.” He turned to Alison. “So you’re his daughter? Did he give you a name?”
Alison ducked her head nervously. “He named me Aritiya, Takilyan-mirian.”
“Aritiya-alra,” he said. “Let’s see about getting your heart friend back.”
“And the others,” she said firmly.
“Oh, he’s already agreed to that; it’s yours he’s worried about,” Indaturan said. “He doesn’t want to risk handing her over to those he considers enemies and I think he’s scared they won’t be able to heal her in time even if he does.” He turned to Sarah and Birke. “Which is why you’re here. To assess her condition and see if it’s safe to move her to Waldhafen.”
“Indeed,” Sarah said. “Though I can’t say I’m comfortable with this myself, since he’s demanded we meet on his territory.”
“He’s a jerk,” Lydia said.
“He is,” Indaturan said. “But I don’t think he means to play us false. He was genuinely horrified and upset when I described Aratiya’s psychic injuries to him. He hadn’t realised it was that bad. Still, he’s probably going to be demanding and petty. Try not to let him get to you.” He looked around. “Is everyone ready? I’m opening the gate to his palace.”
Gerian was waiting outside his palace for them when they gated in. He looked much like Karen remembered except for his expression, which was almost diffident as his eyes fixed on Alison. A moment later he rushed over to her and knelt down taking her hands in his.
“My darling Aratiya,” he said. “Are you well? Have they been treating you well?”
“I’m fine, father,” she said. “They’ve been very kind, but there’s something wrong and I think it’s because…” she trailed off unhappily.
“You need your heart friend healed, I know. Indaturan told me. Speaking of which, I’d better deal with the formalities.” He looked up at Indaturan and Takilyan and said a few words in Draconic. They replied in formal tones and he rose to his feet and put an arm around Alison’s shoulders. “Please, come in all of you. We have much to discuss.”
“It’s a bit late to be polite when you’ve blackmailed them into coming here when they could be rescuing Kayleigh-iatia,” Indaturan said dryly. “If Xantaria kills her it’ll be your fault.”
Gerian stiffened and glared at him. “Maybe you should have waited to tell me the state my daughter was in, then. Her wellbeing is far more important to me than some girl I don’t know.” He gave a sigh when Adrian growled at him. “Look, I know that bitch better than anyone. I fought her for the red miriate after she stole it from my sister. She won’t kill the girl until she’s sure she can’t get the imposter back.” He scowled at them. “I was going to deal with Likadrian before he did this. That would have stopped her dead, but no, you had to keep getting in my way.”
“You know what she’s planning?” Sarah asked sharply. “And maybe you should have tried explaining?”
“Who the hell listens to dragons?” He shook his head violently. “Not humans or Speakers, that’s for sure. And no, but I know she released him so it was obviously part of her plan. But let’s discuss this inside.” He strode through the doors with Alison at his side.