“So what are we going to do?” Karen asked as soon as they were all ensconced in Waldhafen’s Great Hall. She tried to ignore the crowd that had gathered outside, but she could see the curious faces at every window staring at Alaryia. There was no feeling of hostility from the crowd but there was an unnerving undercurrent of fear and anxiety strong enough to make Karen’s skin itch. The first dragon, however, seemed unconcerned by the scrutiny.
“Sort out where we’re going and gather enough forces to rescue Andrew,” Sonia said.
“But we have so little time!” Karen said. “How do we do this?”
“Well, first I want to work out which dragons I can safely send home without them becoming just as big a threat as they would be in Jayden’s hands,” her father said.
“Disarm him as much as possible you mean just in case things go wrong?” Alaryia gave an approving grin. “That’s a good idea. Halia will help you with that, though I imagine Rill has opinions.” She paused and raised an eyebrow when Rilletta shook her head. “Rill?”
“Ystelyan is worried by the situation. He wants Naria-keda and Halindan-kedan freed, of course, but he wants them to help with this first. He’s really concerned about this Emms person.”
“He could send them back once their collars were off,” Matthias said.
Rilletta shook her head again. â€œThey wouldn’t recover in time to help you, and you’ll need to be able to give them quick orders without worrying about being understood or keeping them close to you.â€
He gave her a long look. â€œBut if we lose-â€
â€œWe know,â€ she said. â€œYstelyan knows you’ll do your best, given who’s at stake. And it’s his decision, so he won’t blame you for them still being bound if you do.â€ She hesitated. â€œHe’s not as angry as he was, but he does still want to have a long word with you about binding them in the first place.â€
â€œI’m sure,â€ he said blandly. â€œThough even if I’d been so inclined at the time I didn’t really have much choice. They were already bound when I found them at Elapyron and I had no way to free them.â€
â€œFair point.â€ Rilletta nodded. â€œAnd you treated them better.â€
â€œI would hope so.â€ He looked over at Halia. â€œAnd the others?â€
â€œApart from Naria-keda and Halindan-kedan, most of the others are, well… you know,â€ Halia said. â€œIt wouldn’t be safe for you to free them. To be honest, I’d even be doubtful about freeing Elzaria-kedan.â€ She gave the green dragon kneeling at Matthias’s feet an apologetic smile. â€œNo offence, Elza. You’re a nice girl but your politics are terrible.â€
â€œWell you would say that, wouldn’t you, Hal?â€ Elzaria said mildly. â€œIn the sense she means, she’s probably right, dragon lord. I am your enemy and it’s highly unlikely I’ll change my mind.â€
â€œI see.â€ He frowned worriedly. â€œWhy?â€
Lyrrekka looked away from watching across Kyle hesitantly â€“ neither of them seemed quite ready to approach the other yet – and eyed Elzaria thoughtfully. â€œIs she one of Takilyan-mirian’s court?â€
â€œYes.â€ Elzaria gave Lyrrekka a sideways glance and virtually bit off the word. Tarian surged to his feet, but Lyrrekka laid a hand on his arm and shook her head. He muttered something in draconic and sat back down. A sound from across the room where Kyle was sitting with Rilletta and Darya drew Karen’s attention and she looked around to see he was on his feet as well.
â€œIt’s okay.â€ Lyrrekka shook her head in amusement. â€œI’ve got a thick skin. I can take it.â€
â€œElza! That was rude!â€ Halia snapped.
â€œWhat was?â€ Sonia said.
â€œShe didn’t use my name or honorific,â€ Lyrrekka explained. â€œIt’s a mortal insult from a dragon of lower rank unless they know you. She doesn’t know me and it was certainly meant that way. I would assume because I used to be human. Takilyan-mirian is generally a bit more reasonable than Gerian but he really hates humans. It tends to rub off on his court.â€
â€œTak’s bitter about the exile,â€ Alaryia said. â€œBut he’d certainly never approve of such rudeness.â€
â€œTell me about it.â€ Elzaria gave a wry snort. â€œHe’s yelling at me about it, too.â€ She glanced over at Lyrrekka again. â€œMy apologies for my rudeness, Lyrrekka-ida,â€ she said shortly.
â€œApologies are better when you sound like you mean them, girl!â€ Tarian snarled.
â€œHush, Tar. It’s okay, really,â€ Lyrrekka said. â€œWe need to deal with getting the plan together and we need her help to do it.â€
â€œThere’s something I don’t understand, though,â€ Daniel said suddenly. He’d been sitting in the corner scowling to himself since they got back. â€œWhy do they need Dad’s control system when they have their own?â€
â€œMatthias-idan’s works better,â€ Halia said. â€œTheir system can’t hold a dragon above kedri or a speaker of similar power level. His can hold alrari like me.â€
â€œYes, and I’m beginning to think Jayden deliberately let me find out about what was happening at Elapyron so I’d improve it. We’ll worry about the whys and wherefores later. We need a plan.â€
â€œWith the shortness of time we have, I’d say get Elzaria-keda to lead the way and jump in as many troops as possible and try to overwhelm them,â€ Alaryia said.
â€œWe’ll send some of ours,â€ Shadavar said.
â€œBut if we lose, Jayden will probably-â€ Matthias began.
â€œWe know,â€ Shadavar said. â€œBut we want to help and it’s a risk we’re willing to take.â€
â€œI’d like to help, if you’ll permit it,â€ Tarian said.
Matthias eyed him thoughtfully. â€œCan you be trusted?â€ As he spoke Karen felt a slight zing in the air and realised her father was exerting his control. Tarian rocked back slightly.
â€œYes, of course. It would upset Lyr if I betrayed you and I feel more loyalty to her than I ever did to Gerian.â€ He eyed Matthias reproachfully. â€œYou didn’t have to do that when there’s a unicorn in the room.â€
Matthias ignored that. â€œThen yes, you can help. Who else?â€
Halia raised her hand and he shook his head.
â€œNo, Halia. I want you here to treat any injured.â€ He looked over at Alaryia. â€œWould you help with that too?â€ he asked anxiously.
â€œI was intending to come with you but it’s probably a good idea,â€ she replied.
â€œI’m coming!â€Lyrrekka said.
â€œDarya and I would like to help,â€ Kyle said. â€œPlease.â€
â€œYstelyan wants me to stay here but he’s willing to loan you my troops if you promise to give them back,â€ Rilletta said.
â€œThat’s fair enough.â€ Matthias looked around. â€œRight then. We don’t know how long we’ve got, exactly, so we go as soon as everyone is here and ready.â€