Lydia stared at her mother in confusion. The stunned babble from the rest of the room told Lydia that the announcement was important, but part of it was bothering her.
“Er? You, me and who? I have no idea what you’re talking about, Mum.”
“That explains why they had time,” Ema said simultaneously. “I was beginning to wonder if it might be something like that.”
Sonia retook her seat and shook her head at Lydia. “Not you, sweetie.Â Matt’s cousin. You are named after her though.” She scowled at Matt thoughtfully. “You know, I’m beginning to think that she didn’t just flip at Eric’s death. She might have been pushed. I mean, it must have been gunning for her as well, and it was very unlike her to rush in without an escape plan.”
“She was grief-stricken, Sonia,” Jason pointed out.
“She had a son to look after!” Sonia snapped back. “No matter how grief-stricken she was she would never have lost sight of that.”
“Oh!” Matt looked down sadly. “I never told you, did I? You were in such a mess that I was just focused on getting you better… She thought he was dead as well. Although Marian Laverne might have deliberately arranged things to make her think that, so you could well be right. She’d never have been able to take Lydia if she had been in control of herself. She was certainly trying to provoke me, and she didn’t even know I was a resonant.”
“That would be because she hates you,” Sarah muttered.
“You’re talking about the Water Warrior’s parents, aren’t you?” Valeria asked.
“We are,” Matthias agreed. “It’s no wonder he went off the rails like that when he found out The Core was responsible for what happened to his parents.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “But you know what this means, don’t you?” He turned and favoured Mela with a long, thoughtful look.
“What?” The mergirl looked ill at ease where she sat between her aunt and Daniel.
“It’s the Heart that’s been calling you,” Daniel said softly.
“Oh!” Mela’s mouth dropped open. “That’sâ€””
“Indeed,” he agreed, then turned to Valeria. “And it must be the Heart that She who was Elaranor has been sensing pulling against the Core. But what does it want Mela to do?”
“And what are we going to do about the fact the Core will probably be after all of us now?” Sonia looked at her feet. “I should have restrained myself once I realised. Told you when we got back to Earth.”
Its options are limited unless it decides it doesn’t need the guardians – which would be stupid, given the consequences for the heartlands’ stability, Elaranor said. Then again it’s not really showing much intelligence at the moment. But I would warn the Earth Warrior to be ready to jump with absolutely no warning.
“I will,” Ema agreed. “But she pretty much is anyway.”
“The first thing I’m doing is warning the family to prepare for a possible war with the Lavernes,” Matthias said. “Other than that we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Sarah nodded. “I’ll do the same and some of the others I know I can trust.” She looked at Matthias as if daring him to object.
“It’s not a bad idea,” he said after a long moment. “But be careful, Sal. One mistake in who you tell and it’ll be you who brings the Lavernes down on all of us.”
“I know,” she said. “I will be. But I think we should talk to your Halia now.”
Dinner in Lyrrekka’s suite was a pensive and quiet affair that evening. Salia picked at her food but couldn’t summon her appetite at all after earlier. Coromel seemed just as upset, and neither Lyrrekka nor Karilya seemed inclined to eat at all. Lyrrekka was twirling the long white strings on her plate onto her fork, staring at them, letting them slide back on to her plate and starting again. People said dragons were always hungry, but apparently that didn’t apply to normal food.
“Come on, mother, at least try it.” Mia said softly. “It’s your favourite.”
“I know,” Lyrrekka said. “I’m sorry, dear, it’s-” She broke off at a knock on the door. “Come in.”
“Lyr? Can I talk to you?” The dragon who’d been on guard at the main door to the wing earlier stuck his head around the door. To Salia’s eyes, he looked almost as upset as Lyrrekka.
Lyrrekka looked up from her barely touched meal and smiled wanly at him. “Of course, Tarin. I could use a distraction.”
“Our Mirian has just given me a mission,” he said unhappily. “I’m supposed to leave on it tonight.”
“Not one you relish by the looks of it,” she said.
“Not at all. He’s ordered me to attack Waldhafen and grab that mergirl he’s so interested in. He thinks that she’ll just give up if we threaten the city. I know she’s protective of her family and friends, but does he really think they’ll let her do that?”
Salia tried to stop her ears twitching visibly. Mummy was at Waldhafen and she didn’t want them to realise how intently she was listening. Maybe she could sneak a warning into her next Imp. She doubted it since Lyrrekka was so sharp, but it was worth a try.
“He probably does,” Lyrrekka said. “He struggles with understanding people.”
Tarian gave a short choking laugh. “Understatement, Lyr.” His expression grew somber again. “What am I going to do?”
“Not panic for one, Tar. The situation is not unsalveagable.” She glanced at Salia with a thoughtful expression. “We shouldn’t talk here.”
His eyes shot to Salia and he nodded. As he followed her into the next room, Salia’s sensitive ears picked up his whisper to Lyrrekka. “That’s another thing. I’m not sure I want it to be salvaged.”