Andrew found his parents in the sitting room, though the TV was off for once. His mother was sorting through a pile of newspapers while his father was looking at a tablet. Both of them were frowning.
“Wouldn’t you be better doing that online?” he asked.
“Possibly,” Sonia said. “That’s what your father’s doing. But I find it easier to do it this way.”
“What are you looking for?”
“Mostly the opinion columns,” Matthias said. “We get better information about what’s happening from the TV but it’s what they’re thinking we need to know now.”
Andrew considered this. “Ah! You’re looking for someone who might be amenable to helping us.”
“Exactly!” his father said.
“Okay, makes sense.” He looked down sheepishly. “Could one of you help me in the kitchen? Naria wants me to get some food for our prisoner and you know how I am when I try to cook.”
His parents both chuckled and Matthias got to his feet. “Not quite as bad as Karen, you mean? I’ll help. Did she say when he’ll be ready to answer questions?”
“About half an hour… well twenty minutes now. She’s giving a telepathic crash course to improve his Lova. He kept slipping back into draconic.”
“Just long enough to throw something together then,” Matthias said. “Let’s go.”
“Is he ready?” Andrew asked as he put the grilled tuna steak and salad in front of Yedan.
“I’m ready,” Yedan said. He poked at the tuna curiously. “Human food. I’ve never had human food.”
“You should try it,” Naria said. “It’s good.”
“When dad makes it anyway,” Andrew said. “Which he did. You wouldn’t want to taste my cooking.”
“Your cooking would be fine if you’d just pay attention and not get impatient,” Matthias said before looking back at the prisoner. “Eat your food, kid. You look like you need it.”
“Thank you.” Yedan tasted the tuna hesitantly and his eyes widened. He rocked back slightly and seemed to be gasping for breath. When he recovered he stared at Matthias. “Oh! It’s good. We don’t have anything like this at home.” He started eating at double speed.
Lyrrekka gave a wry chuckle. “That’s the truth. The food on Kithra is uninteresting at best and it’s not often at best. There’s not much edible there so they make do. How their taste buds haven’t degraded, I don’t know.” She chuckled again. “Just don’t give him your hot chocolate, Matt. From that reaction it might blow his head off. No wonder there’s rumour of a black market in human food and drink.”
“There is?” Matthias gave a thoughtful frown. “Interesting.”
“I know that look, Matt,” Lyrrekka said. “What are you thinking?”
“That there must be some way to use that to our advantage,” he said. “But let’s get on with this.” He looked back at Yedan. “So tell me, what is your ida planning?”
“I don’t know,” he said quietly. “She sent me here because I couldn’t understand what you were saying. I don’t know what she didn’t want me to know.”
“A strange thing to choose a spy for,” Matthias said.
Yegan shook his head. “I didn’t need to understand you. Just record everything and send it to her.”
“So she speaks English?” Matthias asked.
“I think so,” he said. “Or she has someone who can but more likely she does.” He studied his hands. “I don’t know what she’s planning. She doesn’t confide in her kedri but I hear rumours. If you promise to help me sever from her I’ll tell you what I’ve heard.” He stared at the faded tattoo on his arm. “Please promise.”
Matthias looked at Lyrrekka. “Can we do what he asked?”
“We can try,” she said. “I already am but unless we make him a dragon – which he doesn’t want – it’s not certain we’ll succeed.”
“Okay then.” Matthias turned back to Yedan. “I promise we’ll do everything we can that you are okay with. If it comes to a choice between you becoming a dragon or not being severed from Xantaria, which would you want?”
Yedan looked panicked at the question. “I don’t know…” He shook his head violently. “What sort of choice is that? Doing everything up to turning me into a dragon will be enough. If it gets that far I’ll have to decide then, but don’t make me now.”
“If promising to do our best is good enough then I won’t,” Matthias said. “Now why don’t you tell us these rumours.”