Sarah had a wry smile on her face when she returned from calling Stefan.
“How did it go?” Matthias asked.
“He chewed me out for not trusting him,” she said. “He said that he had been waiting for me to call ever since Marian called him.” She snorted and shook her head. “He also said that things are just as bad on the continent and the European families are barely keeping on top of it. He asked me what the hell happened.”
“What did you tell him?” Lyrrekka asked.
“The truth.” Sarah shrugged. “What else could I tell him? He went very quiet then said that he thought that the Lavernes might have something that would help. Apparently his mother told him that they had more information than anyone else on what happened back then, though they wouldn’t let anyone else see it.”
“Those history stones we found!” Collette exclaimed. “I’ll bet my eye teeth he means those.”
“You know, that does make sense,” Matthias said. “We’ll check them when we get back from the Storm Palace.”
“The Storm Palace? Did something happen to Val? You should have come and got me.”
“Nothing’s happened,” Matthias said. “Nothing bad anyway. Valeria sent a imp while you were on the phone. There’s someone who needs to talk to us.”
Sarah scowled at him. “Do I have to drag it out of you?”
“Alsia-ida sent her heart friend to Valeria with a message for us because she’s being watched,” Lyrrekka said.
“Ah!” Sarah nodded. “Yes, that makes sense. We’d better go and see then.”
“Kari!” Salia ran over and hugged her friend when she came through the gate after her mother and the humans. “I missed you!” She turned to her dryad playmates, who were eyeing Karilya nervously. “This is Kari. Don’t worry, she won’t eat you. These are my friends Nuin and Kaya.”
“Hi!” Karilya smiled at them. “Pleased to meet you.”
Nuin cocked her head at Karilya and curtseyed. “Any friend of Princess Salia’s is a friends of ours.”
“Even if they are a dragon,” Kaya said, then clapped a hand over her mouth when Karilya flinched. “Sorry! I shouldn’t have said that.”
“It’s okay,” Karilya said. “But I’m really not going to eat you.”
“Why don’t you girls go and play,” Lyrrekka said. “We need to talk to Eseld.”
“Good idea.” Salia grabbed Karilya’s hand and dragged her towards one the alcoves, brushing past the ice dwarf woman who had walked over and bowed to Lyrrekka.
“Lyrrekka-ida, it’s good to see you again. Alsia wanted me to apologise for her failure to stop Shalriya from abducting you.”
“There’s nothing to apologise for.” Lyrrekka shook her head. “It was scarcely Alsia’s fault. And not without its compensations.” She glanced over at Karilya with a fond smile. “I doubt I’d have two daughters if it hadn’t happened.”
“No, I suppose not.” Eseld turned and looked at Matthias and the other humans. “Could you introduce us please?”
“Of course.” Lyrrekka introduced everyone and the ice dwarf bowed again.
“Alsia apologises for not being able to meet with you directly, but she is being watched by your mutual enemies.”
“So we’re given to understand,” Sonia said. “We’re glad she sent you to us. We were trying to figure out how to contact her.”
“Yes, she thought you might be,” Elsed said. “She says that Xantaria seems so unsurprised by what happened that she thinks she might have precipitated Likadrian’s escape. To what end, she’s not sure.”
“Given that she’s apparently infected a lot of embers with that neurotoxin of hers and the fact it wouldn’t have much effect on them without what he did, I’m inclined to agree,” Lyrrekka said.
“Neurotoxin?” Elsed asked blankly. As Lyrrekka told her what had happened, her skin flushed to navy, she swore viciously and turned and punched one of the pillars. “That’s horrible! What is she up to? Alsia doesn’t know about this – I’ll have to warn her. I probably won’t mention who made the antidote for you though,” she added. “She really wouldn’t like that.”
“Yes, she really hates him,” Lyrrekka said. “I wonder what he did.”
“She’s silly sometimes,” Elsed said. “He says it was an accident and I believe him. But it’s not important. What is important is that I tell you what we know of Xantaria’s plans – which isn’t much, I’m afraid – and we sort out some path of communication that is less cumbersome than this but also unlikely to be intercepted.”