Matthias looked up as Karen and Kyle approached. “You two look worried. What’s up?”
“Do we know why the Aylmers aren’t here?” Karen asked.
“Ah, you noticed.” He shook his head. “No, last we heard they accepted the invitation. I’ve sent a couple of the cousins to check on them because being this late to a meeting is very out of character for them.”
“Yes, we thought you’d have noticed,” Karen said. “But we’d thought we’d better mention it.”
“Better safe than sorry,” he agreed.
“Oh, and Robert Cantrell was trying to pump me for information – badly, but we should probably warn the others. They don’t know to be careful of the Cantrells.”
Matthias snorted. “Now that isn’t unexpected. Garrett’s teeth must be itching that he doesn’t know what I’m going to say tomorrow. I’ll warn them.” His slight smirk turned to a more genuine smile as Adrian came over.
“May I join you?” he asked.
“Of course,” Matthias said. “Where’s your shadow?”
“Kay, you mean? I got one of my cousins to dance with her because I wanted to talk to you without her there. I have a message from Indaturan.”
“Ah! What did he say?”
“He’s requested Alaryia or Ystelyan host your discussions,” he said. “He doesn’t really think neutral territory exists and while he knows they are your allies he trusts them not to mess him about either.”
“I have no objection to that,” Matthias said. “Did he say when?”
“As soon as possible. He’s just waiting to hear back, though he does know about the meeting here as well so knows to be careful about when he sends a message.” Adrian looked over at Kyle. “Do you think your mirian will say yes?”
Kyle cocked his head and considered the question. “I can’t imagine that he won’t,” he said finally. “He has no reason to refuse that I know of.”
â€œOh good.â€ Adrian looked around and frowned. â€œBy the way, I think Garrett Cantrell is up to something. He accosted me after I left you this afternoon. Wanted to form an alliance against you; he seemed positively angry when I told him we had a formal truce for the duration of this crisis.â€
â€œReally?â€ Matthias said. â€œThat’s a bit odd. The Cantrells don’t like us much but they’ve never shown any inclination for any sort of war.â€ He looked over at Karen. â€œWe’d definitely better give the others your warning about them. Could you go and fetch them, please?â€
â€œOf course, dad.â€
Karen found Lydia and Daniel talking quietly in a corner by the buffet table. Both of them had plates of food but neither was eating. Lydia looked up as she approached and smiled wanly.
â€œThis is a whole lot of people, Kaz. There are so many of us.â€
â€œYes,â€ Karen said. â€œAnd this is nowhere near everyone. But Mum and Dad want the two of you.â€ She nodded towards their parents’ table.
â€œOkay.â€ Lydia grabbed her plate and got to her feet with Daniel not far behind.
â€œHave you seen Drew?â€ Karen asked. â€œThey want him as well.â€
â€œI saw him and Naria duck behind one of the curtains.â€ Daniel nodded towards the stage at one end of the hall. â€œI think he was even more uncomfortable with the crowd than we were.â€
â€œHe’s never been one for crowds,â€ Karen agreed. â€œYou go see mum and dad. I’ll find Drew.â€
She found Andrew and Naria sitting side by side in front of an old piano in one of the tiny practice rooms off the backstage area. Naria had her head on Andrew shoulder and was giggling as he played chopsticks for her, which was about the limit of his musical repertoire as far as Karen knew. She couldn’t help smiling and watched them for a minute before clearing her throat. They both jumped and looked around at her.
â€œSorry to disturb you two,â€ she said. â€œBut mum and dad need you.â€
Andrew gave a sigh but didn’t complain as he got to his feet. â€œOkay, we’d better go then.â€