Not long after the reception ended, Adrian turned up at their doorstep. â€œKay didn’t find out anything useful from Robert,â€ he said. â€œShe was exhausted though and fell asleep almost as soon as we got back to the house we’re staying in.â€ He chewed on his lip. â€œDo you want me to come with you to Ystelyan’s?â€
â€œIt’s not a bad idea,â€ Matthias said. â€œBut I’m not sure that he’s expecting you.â€
â€œHe should come,â€ Kyle said. â€œHe might not be expecting him but he won’t mind, and it’s good manners to introduce him.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Matthias said. â€œThen yes, I think you should come.â€
â€œAnd Lucas can check on Kayleigh while we’re gone,â€ Sonia said. â€œWe’re about to leave, though, so are you ready?â€
â€œI’m ready,â€ Adrian said. He looked over at his mother and Tara who were standing nearby. Marian looked even paler than previously and her eyes were puffy like she’d been crying again. â€œBut mum and aunt Tara are coming as well?â€
â€œAgrona wants to see her family,â€ Tara said. â€œSo Collette and I are going and Marian can’t be left alone at the moment.â€ Tara gave her sister a long look. Adrian looked between them and his face paled. He grabbed his mother’s hand and pushed her sleeve up to reveal a bandage. He gave a sharp hiss and looked at Tara.
â€œWhen?â€ he asked.
â€œThis evening while you were all at the reception. She didn’t realise I hadn’t gone and thought it would be too late before anyone realised.â€
â€œThank goodness you didn’t go.â€ He took Marian’s hands and squeezed them gently. â€œStop this, Mum. It won’t fix anything.â€
â€œYou were going to kill yourself,â€ she said miserably. â€œIf that dragon hadn’t stopped you, you would have done. And it would have been my fault…â€ Her voice squeaked and her shoulders shook as she started crying again.
â€œMum!â€ Adrian pulled her into a hug. â€œIt’s okay. I didn’t â€“ don’t fret over what might have been.â€
â€œWhy were you going to kill yourself? Matthias asked. â€œIt seems a bit drastic.â€
â€œI got myself caught up in a bit of a mental loop,â€ he replied. â€œEither resonants were evil like mum said and killing them was the right thing to do or they weren’t and I was evil for having helped hunt them down. Either way I was evil and had to die.â€ He gave a sigh. â€œIf Soyala hadn’t been a renegade in Indaturan’s court–â€ He broke off and shuddered.
â€œAh, I can see why that might have happened,â€ Matthias said. â€œBut like you said, no use fretting over what might have been. But we should be going.â€ He looked over at Kyle. â€œOpen us a gate.â€
“Ah! You must be Adrian,” Ystelyan said when the group appeared in the throne room. “Welcome.”
Adrian inclined his head politely. “Thank you, Ystelyan-mirian.”
“Indaturan-mirian thought you may come, I think,” Ystelyan said. “That explains why he sent the messenger he did rather than just sending another imp when I agreed.” He nodded to where a lovely nymph who looked like nothing so much as a living ice sculpture had burst through the door and was running towards Adrian. “That and he wanted to be sure I’d at least listen to the message.”
“Soy!” Adrian embraced her before turning to the group. “This is my heart friend, Soyala.”
She blushed a faint blue colour and nodded to them. “I am honoured to meet you.”
“Before we discuss arranging this meeting, there’s someone else who’s just arrived who wants to speak with you.” Ystelyan said.
“Someone else?” Matthias asked.
“Yes, I was rather surprised when she asked, though thinking on it I don’t think I should have been.” He clapped his hands and the door opened again, more sedately, to reveal a young woman with incongrously grey hair. A hercian bird was perched on shoulder. Karen stiffened and Alban gave a sharp hiss at the sight of her but neither moved as Matthias held out an arm to stop them.
“Hello, Matthias,” she said. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? I think we need to talk.”