The group left Faith and her family settling into a couple of free rooms in one of the dorm houses and headed straight back to the one where they were staying. No sooner were they through the door than Lydia ran across the room and hugged Daniel.
“Oh God, you’re okay! Thank goodness! I was so worried.”
Daniel froze in surprise for a moment before hugging her back. “I’m fine, Lyd. We were never in any danger. The Silvers seem quite friendly.”
“What happened?” Lyrrekka asked from the sofa. “I gather they came back with you?”
“Yes,” Matthias said. “Did you know Gerian had a human daughter?”
“Uh?” she said. “You mean a biological daughter? I don’t think so. I mean he adopted Alison, but…”
“She insists he’s her biological father; she says that that’s why he knew she was in danger,” Sonia said.
“But… how…” Lyrrekka shook her head, puzzled. “Tar, do you know anything about this?”
“It’s not impossible,” he said. “There was an iatia he saved from from one of the minor courts and he did get on with her better than he does most people but I didn’t think they were lovers. But if she was pregnant it would explain why he sent her back to Taloa so abruptly. He never said why but the rumor mill assumed they’d fallen out.” He tutted to himself. “What was her name? It sounded almost draconic… began with an M?” He tapped at his temples as if he could knock the memory loose.
“Melissa?” Julie asked.
“That’s it!” he said.
“Apparently that was Alison’s mother’s name,” Julie said. “So it looks like they were lovers.â€
â€œThat explains why he was so soppy about Alison then,â€ Lyrrekka said. â€œActually, that might make it easier to get her heart friend off him. He seemed to really care about her and he’ll want her to be well.â€
â€œIs she still crazy?â€ Karen asked flatly.
â€œShe’s different,â€ Julie said. â€œI wouldn’t say she’s well but she’s certainly more stable.â€ She sighed and looked over at Alban. â€œIs your mother still here?â€
â€œShe is.â€ His tone was determinedly neutral. â€œShe was planning to go back today but I told her what was happening and she decided to stay to deal with this.â€
â€œWe’d best find her then,â€ Sonia said.
â€œShe’s upstairs with the girls,â€ he said. â€œI’ll go and get them.â€ He left the room and returned a few moments later with Valeria and Salia. Valeria’s face was drawn and she immediately sank into a chair and buried her face in her hands.
â€œI don’t know if I can face this,â€ she said. â€œI might do something I’ll regret.â€
Matthias knelt down beside her and squeezed her hand. â€œNo you won’t, Val. You’re stronger than that and even if you weren’t, you know we’d stop you. But we need to tell you what we’ve learned. It may influence your decision on what to do with her.â€ He took a breath and described the meeting with Logan’s family and what they learned about Alison.
When he had finished, she scowled at her hands. â€œHer parentage is interesting but incidental,â€ she said. â€œBut she’s really that distressed by what she did?â€
â€œShe is,â€ he said. â€œAnd she’s still just a child really. What is she, fourteen?â€
â€œIf she’s Melissa’s daughter she’d have to be,â€ Tarian said.
â€œThat’s true, isn’t it,â€ Valeria said. â€œShe was very much a child. I must remember that.â€ She straightened her shoulders and rose to her feet again. â€œVery well, let’s do this.â€