“I’m coming with you!” Marian was waiting for them outside the door. Her jaw was set and her mouth compressed into a determined line.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Marian,” Matthias said. “You’re not well yet.”
“You need me there,” she said.
“Is that a premonition, mum?” Adrian asked.
Marian nodded. “I didn’t catch all of it; it was fleeting. But I’m going to have to tell them what happened to me.” She hesitated. “And I think some of them may want to check that Matthias hasn’t had me brainwashed into changing my mind.”
“That’s actually probable now I think about it,” Matthias said. “But are you sure you’re up to it?”
Marian just shrugged.
Adrian put his arm around her shoulders. “I’ll look after her.”
Matthias still looked uncertain but eventually nodded. “Very well.” He looked over as Tara and Carl emerged from the house they were staying in. “Are you coming too?”
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Carl said. “It’s going to be interesting to say the least.”
Matthias snorted. “No argument there.”
The meeting was taking place in Brierthorne’s Gym. Large trestle tables had been set out in a large rectangle and representatives of the various families were seated around it. There seemed to be some sort of order to who sat where that Lydia couldn’t quite fathom but at the very head sat an elderly woman with softly waved grey hair and a kind smile.
That’s Alexandra Louden, Karen said telepathically. She’s the prolocutor… She must have felt Lydia’s bewilderment because she flashed her a quick grin. The chairperson. Our kind can be a bit archaic sometimes. The Louden’s are notoriously apolitical and fair minded so tradition always gives them the chair.
And the order of seating? Lydia asked.
Major families – like ours – get seats close to the chair. Minor but independent families down the sides. Satellite families at the bottom.
Ah, Lydia said. She was about to ask something else but Alexandra Louden had risen to her feet and walked over.
“You’ve brought your children today, Matthias?”
“They wished to observe,” he replied.
Alexandra gave him a thoughtful look. “As is their right,” she said but Lydia got the impression she knew something was up. “I shall arrange extra seats.” She turned to Adrian and Marian. “Marian! So good to see you. Will you be taking your seat?”
Marian shook her head. “I’m here as a witness, Lex, and I’ve stepped down as head of the Laverne family. Let Adrian or Tara have the seat.”
“I’ll happily defer to Aunt Tara now she’s here,” Adrian said. “I’m far too young for this political crap.”
“Well that’s going to cause a stir,” Alexandra said. She turned to Julie and frowned deeply. “And you are? You seem familiar but I can’t place you.”
“Julie is another witness,” Adrian said. “She’s with us.”
Alexandra looked from him to Matthias and back. “I know you have a truce but you two are awfully chummy for enemies. Be honest with me: should I be prepared for trouble?”
“Hopefully not,” Adrian said. “A bit of pandemonium maybe – we do have some bombshells to drop. But I hope it won’t actually cause trouble.”
“Fair enough,” Alexandra said. “People here do rather need a fire lighting underneath them. I’ll arrange the seating for the guests and then we can begin the day’s discussions.”