The dinner was trout with herb butter stuffing which melted in the mouth. It reminded Andrew of the way his father cooked trout so much that he couldn’t resist commenting on it. To his surprise, both Ystelyan and Naria laughed.
“It is the way your father cooks trout, Drew,â€ Naria said, sounding amused. â€œBoth Halindan and I liked it so much when he cooked it while we were collared that we took note of the recipe and passed it on. Halindan and I were in a terrible state when he found us at Elapyron. They hadn’t been feeding us either way.” Her expression became solemn. “I wonder why he didn’t just kill us rather than spending so long nursing us back to health, given how he felt about dragons? I mean yes, we were useful once we were healthy again, but…”
“Matt would have scruples about killing someone who was completely helpless, even if he thought they were evil,” Lyrrekka said. “It’s a Morgan thing.” She scowled to herself. “But really, what the hell were the people at Elapyron thinking? Even Gerian was appalled.”
“I’m not sure but I suspect that their heads were turned by Huldre and Likadrian,â€ Ystelyan said. â€œThe original circlets and collars seem to have been Likadrian’s design. But they were lucky that Matthias-idan hit them first. If I hadn’t been preoccupied trying to find a way to avoid hurting the Speakers they’d enslaved, I would have hit them much earlier â€“ and I would have been much less gentle with them. I think Al was planning the same thing; I suspect that’s why Halia-alra was spying on Elapyron when Matthias-idan caught her.” He took another mouthful of the trout. “And he is an exceptionally good cook.”
“Both my parents are,” Andrew said. “Why didn’t-” He broke off as there was a knock at the door and goblin man entered and bowed.
“Ystelyan-mirian, Talira-alra has returned. She says that she needs to speak with you urgently.” He paused and frowned. “And she’s not alone.”
“Not alone?” Ystelyan frowned. “Who’s with her?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “She was absolutely frantic to see see you, so I hurried here to tell you. But by the look of it, I think it’s her family and they look terrible.”
Ystelyan’s frown deepened. “Why would she bring her family? She must have a good reason but I dread to think what. Bring them here and fetch another table and more food for our unexpected guests.”
Talira seemed almost hesitant when she entered the dining chamber. A blue-eyed, middle-aged woman and two children were with her, and all of them had the same light brown skin and dark hair as the dragon girl. And as the goblin had said, they were not in a very good state. Their clothes were tattered and the woman especially showed whip marks and abrasions on her wrists and ankles. She visibly swallowed and rushed past her daughter to kneel at Ystelyan’s feet.
“Ystelyan-mirian, I am Xeria of Xantaria-ida’s court. Please grant me and my family asylum.” She hesitated before blurting. “Xantaria-ida is planning to invade Taloa! I don’t know how but she knew this was going to happen and it’s what she’s been waiting for and she’s got the idri council so tangled they can’t stop her.”
“Please calm down, Xeria-alra.” Ystelyan lifted one of her wrists and scowled at the abrasions. After a moment later, he waved over one of the servants who was setting the table he had ordered. “Banian-kedan, please fetch Malisia and some fresh clothing for our guests.”
“Yes, my mirian.” Banian bowed and raced from the room.
Ystelyan turned back to Xeria. “Now, Xeria-alra, start at the beginning, please.”