Salia closed her eyes and began forming the imp she was going to send to her mother that evening. She tried to avoid thinking about what she’d seen that afternoon since Lyrrekka was so insistent, but she was sure some of it leaked through.
I know, it’s hard not to think about things, Lyrrekka said inside her head. Don’t worry about it. It’s him finding out what we saw that I’m worried about.
Salia shot her a mental smile and moved on to the rest of the day. When she reached the bit about Tarian being sent to attack Waldhafen she tried to conceal the mental image among various others – Mia playing music for them again and playing with Karilya’s dolls.
From the mental squeak Lyrrekka made, it didn’t work. For a moment she thought the dragon woman would order her to take it out â€“ it certainly felt like she was planning to protest. But then she felt the mental equivalent of a thoughtful frown and a shake of the head and Lyrrekka let it pass. Salia opened her eyes briefly and stared. Lyrrekka was staring into space and looking pensive, but gave Salia a quick smile when she saw her looking at her.
He’s been so ham-fisted that they probably suspect anyway, she said. Your mother has never been stupid, even when she’s acting crazy. And even if she were, there are plenty of people there who could figure out what he was trying – subtle though he can be in inserting things.
Salia pulled a face at that, then closed her eyes and added that to the imp as well. Lyrrekka gave a choking laugh at that.
I’m going to mention what you told me this morning, as well, Salia thought apologetically. I know you said you’d rather I didn’t but, you did say I could.
I did, didn’t I? I’m a woman of my word.
Just how long could they keep talking around in circles anyway, Lydia wondered. They’d been discussing the situation for hours but every time she thought they’d made a decision they started again. Okay, the situation with the Heart required thinking about, but it was obvious that they all knew they really had to accept the help they’d been offered if they were to rescue Salia. They just didn’t want to admit it.
She slammed her hand against the table. Rather predictably, everyone turned and looked at her.
“Lyd?” Matthias said.
“How many times are you all going to say the same things before you admit you have to at least talk to her,” she asked.
“It’s not that simp-” he began.
“No, she’s right. It is that simple,” Shadavar said. “You just call for Halia and then we can get this over with one way or another.”
“I…” he trailed off with a sigh. “I suppose we can’t argue forever. Halia, attend me!”
“Matthias-idan? Have you made your mind up?” she appeared beside his chair and knelt down. The slight gasp Dariad made reminded Lydia that he hadn’t seen the dragon girl before.
“Not yet. We wish to ask your mother some more questions first, if we may?”
Halia’s eyes began to swirl with silver dots again and she glanced sideways at Shadavar and Ebona with a pleased smile.
“Of course you may. It’s only wise of you after all.” She turned and looked at Ema. “Greetings, young one. We shall talk later if the Dragon Lord will permit us.” She turned to back to him. “Ask your questions.”
“Well to start with, where are you right now?”
There was a prolonged silence before she cast a quick glance at Dariad. “I think you must at least suspect the answer to that or you wouldn’t be asking.”
“That’s not an answer,” Matthias said levelly.
“No, it isn’t.” She sighed heavily. “Caerdu. I’m at Caerdu. And I swear there’s no need to worry. I have no intention of harming anyone there.”
“You just needed the Mabain,” Dariad said quietly.
“Desperately,” she agreed. “And I can’t tell you why, but it’s for everyone’s benefit, I swear.” She paused. “I’m sure this isn’t the only thing you wanted to ask about.”
“How do we know your friend won’t just kidnap Salia once she’s helped get her away from the red one?” Valeria asked.
“She won’t, and you know it’s so because Ebona and Councillor Shadavar will tell you I speak the truth. Neither Ilona nor I would wish to use your daughter the way Gerian is. She’s just a child and tearing her away from her family is just wrong.” She paused while the two unicorns confirmed what she was saying. She opened her mouth as if to speak again when a weak looking imp that Lydia recognised as being one of Salia’s flew in through the window and landed near Valeria.
“Hmm,” Matthias said. “I think we’d better pause to let Val take her message.”