After Ema finished her discussions with Estara, the dragon had sent Virian to escort her to the border. Kyle and Darya remained to continue their planning with Estara and so were with her when the glowing imp entered the room and flew to her. Kyle stared at it in borderline awe.
“From my sister?” she asked, “Yes, it is. It must be important.” She held out her hand to it. “Ah! We’d better hurry up our discussions.”
“Hmm?” Kyle asked.
“It seems that Gerian is definitely planning an imminent attack on Waldhafen. I’ll send out extra scouts to watch for them.” Her purple eyes glowed for a moment as she spoke. “It also seems that he’s got some dissent in his ranks.” She saw the anxious look on Darya’s face and smiled reassuringly. “They’re moving your cousin to Taloa, right now. But they’re going to try and make him think she’s still there.”
“They want to be attacked?” Kyle asked incredulously.
“Yes, actually. He’s played into their hands. They’re-” She broke off as one of Ystelyan’s imps flew in and landed in front of Kyle. “I expect that will explain.”
Kyle gave her a curious look, linked his mind to Darya’s and absorbed it. Then he hit his forehead with the heel of hands. “If I’d had any doubt that those four were really Morgans, this crazy plan would have convinced me. Without your sister’s help it would just have got them killed. It’s still incredibly risky.”
“Probably the only thing that would work, though,” Darya said thoughtfully.
“Indeed,” Estara agreed. “It may not be as crazy as you think. Gerian’s arrogance tends to get the best of him. It’s how you all dealt him such a blow two years ago. Though it’s certainly precariously risky – if there were any other choice, I suspect Alaryia would have tried to talk them out of it. They can’t not respond to what he’s doing; he’ll just keep doing it if they do. They can’t afford to have other warriors facing them. Plus what sort of ally would they be if they didn’t try to rescue Valeria’s daughter?”
“That’s true, but still. Every other attempt to attack a draconic stronghold has ended badly for the attackers.”
“Well, yes, but all the others have been frontal attacks. And like a frontal attack on one of the thrones of Talonyka, that will never work unless the keyholder is away.” Estara smirked. “I wish I could be there to see the look on Gerian’s face when he realises he’s been decoyed.”
“You really think that he’ll fall for it?”
“Oh yes, he would never even consider that dragons and speakers might have formed an alliance of convenience against him. He wouldn’t do it and he has a hard time imagining other people doing things he wouldn’t. Reds in descent tend to be like that and he wasn’t the most empathic of creatures even when he was in ascent. He’ll be very confused when he figures out what happened, as well.” Her smirk widened. “Being shaken up might be good for him. Did your mirian give you any orders?”
“He wants us to be ready to help with the defence of Waldhafen,” Kyle said. “Though I’m not sure they’d be delighted to see us after the last time we were there.”
Mela swam around her temporary home as she tried to get a feel for it. It was nice to have room to stretch her tail out and actually swim, but what Sarah Tyler had called a swimming pool was apparently a very large, oblong bath that humans used for recreation. It would keep her and Aunt Lori wet but there were no fish or similar. It all felt very sterile, especially with the white ceramic tiles which covered it. But at least the water was clean and a nice temperature. It wasn’t ideal, but it would do.
She surfaced and looked over at Aunt Lori, who was sitting on the side of the pool with just her tail in the water and talking to Yemi. Aunt Lori had insisted that they bring the Water Haltia with them as no one had been able to find the girl’s clan, and being in the middle of a battle was the last thing the traumatised girl needed. Mela suspected Aunt Lori was mothering Darya’s friend as a surrogate and to distract herself from her own trauma. She certainly seemed happier than she had for a while.
“Why do they have something like this, anyway?” Yemi asked.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to use the river for swimming?”
“It’s safer, probably,” Aunt Lori said, then looked around as a human boy about Mela age came in a nothing but a pair of shorts. “Hello!”
“Er…” He looked nonplussed for a moment. “Hello?” He leaned back out the door and yelled. “Mum, why are there a pair of mermaids and an elf in the pool?”
“She’s a haltia!” Came the shouted reply. “Wait there and I’ll explain.”
“Haltia, elf,” he muttered. “Same thing.” But he sat down on the bench to wait. “Sorry about that, you just caught me by surprise.”
“I told you to come and see me when you got back.” Sarah sounded exasperated when she came in. “I was going to explain.”
“I was hot,” he whined. “I wanted a swim.”
“We don’t mind,” Aunt Lori said quickly. “It’s your pool, we’re just guests.”
“See? You can have a swim. They won’t eat you. I just wanted to give you a heads up. Anyway, this is Mela, her Aunt Lorelei and Yemi.” She gestured to each of them in turn. “This is my son Ian. He’s a good boy, if a bit of a pain sometimes.”
“Are you sure it’s okay?” He looked at Lorelei dubiously. “I’ve heard strange things about mermaids.”
“Oh, for heavens’ sake!” Sarah snapped. “What has Birke been telling you now? You’re so gullible it’s stupid. It’s perfectly safe – like Lorelei says, they are guests here. I’d be a bit more cautious about it if it was their home, but it’s safe enough if you know them.” She headed to the door. “Come and see me when you’ve had your swim. I’ve more things to bring you up to date on, important things.”