Halia’s expression was unreadable as Matthias explained Lydia’s plan and Rilletta’s suggestions to her. She was sitting on her heels by his chair and none of her usual resentment was seeping through. Instead, Daniel sensed mostly curiousity and a touch of relief. When his father finished the dragon stared at her hands, obviously deep in thought.
“Halia?” his father asked.
“I’m thinking, Matthias-idan,” she said softly. Daniel frowned at the change in way she addressed his father. From his father’s expression he noticed it too, but he didn’t comment.
“And what are you thinking?” he asked.
“That I wish I could come up with a better pla-” she broke off and her eyes went vacant for a moment. “Ah, my mother was listening in. She wants to talk to you.”
“Since it’s her territory we need to get through, I suppose that’s wise,” he said. “Ask her not to do anything like she did to Mela this time. At least not without warning us.”
“I don’t imagine it will come up this time.” Halia’s eyes began swirling and spots of silver appeared in the green. “I was only trying to help.” An amused smile touched her lips. “I told you we had something to talk about.”
“So, it seems,” he said dryly. “Forgive me if I don’t trust your altruism.”
“And yet this plan relies on exactly that.” She sounded even more amused at that. “You really must be desperate, given that I really have no reason to help the person who’s keeping my daughter as a slave.”
“I didn’t see you rushing to rescue her,” Daniel said sharply.
“If he’d hurt her I would have. And if he’d put one of those things on a child rather than one of my adult offspring I would have ripped his throat out.” Halia – or her mother in her body – shrugged. “And if he hadn’t started feeding her properly I would have intervened fairly soon, but I was sure he’d realise eventually.”
“I didn’t, though,” Matthias said. “Sarah did.”
“I know. I’m glad. All that aside, I’ll help you. It’s a crazy plan – but that means he won’t anticipate it. Ystelyan is going to have to do something pretty startling to get Gerian’s personal attention though. I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with. ”
“Thank you, I guess,” he said grudgingly.
“There is one thing. Gerian keeps a very good guard on his Caerdu border, and I doubt he’ll move them no matter what Ystelyan comes up with. Whoever you send, and you shouldn’t send many since you don’t want to distract his attention away from the distraction, will struggle to pass them. You should probably send them in via my territory as well. I’ll tell Kylissan to let them through.” She hesitated. “Reaching his palace and getting back to the border are probably well within your capabilities, but how do you intend to sneak in and out? It won’t be completely unguarded, you know?”
The only reply was silence. She shook her head in obvious amusement. “Crazy Talori. I am not going to help you get yourselves killed. Fortunately, I think I can help you out. I have a friend who’s made it in and out of there several times undetected.”
“Friend? A dragon or a goblin?” Matthias asked suspiciously.
She shook her head. “Neither. Ilona is an irisad with a gift for bending light.”
“A renegade?” he asked.
“Well, obviously. Friendship between non-renegade Speakers and dragons does happen, but it’s very rare. Most Speakers in that position end up renegade for obvious reasons; the rest keep very, very quiet. But Ilona is an old friend and I know she’ll be glad to help you.” She cocked her head at them. “If you want this plan to work, you really need her help.”
He hesitated. “Let me talk about it with the others. Not everyone is here and I’m not sure they’ll agree.”
“Of course,” she smiled at him. “Just tell Halia what you decide. I’ll be listening. Something you really ought to bear in mind.” She paused and then added. “And could you tell that young daoine that if she really wants to talk to me that badly, we’ll sort something out?”
“What young daoine?”
“The one who…” She trailed off as Waldhafen’s alarms gave three measured chimes that suggested something was happening on the border they shared with the purple dragons. “The one who caused that.”