“This place is weird,” Coromel whispered to Salia. She and Karilya were showing the sylph around the garden and the dragon girl had run on ahead. “Karilya and her mother seem nice, but they’re dragons.”
“Karilya is definitely nice,” Salia said equally quietly. “I know it doesn’t make sense, but she really is just like us even if she is a dragon.” She paused and frowned. “I’m not sure about Lyrrekka. She does seem nice and I know she was genuinely furious about what had been done to you by that dragon I bit. But, like you say, she’s a dragon and she works for Gerian.”
“Mummy’s nice!” Karilya interrupted in a petulant tone which made both girl’s jump. They had thought her too far ahead to hear them. She faced them with her hands on her hips and a determined scowl on her face. “She wouldn’t hurt anyone. It’s not her fault that Gerian-mirian is so mean. She says that he’s mean to everyone.”
“But she works for him,” Coromel said. “If she’s nice and she knows he’s so mean, then why would she do that?”
Karilya pulled a face. “I heard Mia ask her that once when they were arguing about the way he treats goblins. Mummy said that he saved her life, so she owed him.”
“Saved her life?” Salia frowned at that. “From the first yellow dragon? I think she mentioned her when I noticed she had yellow blood.”
“You mean Shalriya-miria? I don’t know.” Karilya frowned. “But I think so. She’s the one who made mummy into a dragon, and I think she hurt her as well. Mummy doesn’t talk about it, but she cries in her sleep sometimes. I don’t think she knows that I notice.”
“I suppose his saving her life would leave her with some obligation to him.” Coromel sat down by the fountain. “But still…”
Karilya sat down beside Coromel, reaching into the bag which Mia had given her before they left Lyrrekka’s rooms and pulling out a some kind of meat rolls. She pushed one at Coromel. “You should have one of these. You need to eat so you can recover your strength. Mia says they’re suitable for Speakers.” She stared into the distance. “I don’t know why mummy works for him, but I know she feels she has to.”
“I see.” Coromel took the roll and nibbled on it. “This is good!”
“Mia’s a good cook,” Karilya said. “She cooks all our food when Mummy is too busy to do it herself.”
“Your mother and sister cook for themselves?” Salia asked in surprise. She’d assumed the servants did it.
Karilya nodded and passed her a roll. “Mummy has odd tastes, apparently, and Gerian-mirian’s cooks don’t understand how to deal with them. So she does it herself. She taught Mia and says she’ll teach me when I’m bigger.”
They ate in companionable silence until the sound of voices from the classroom entranceÂ disturbed them. Karilya looked up with a groan and stood abruptly when it became obvious that the voices were moving towards the fountain.
“Let’s carry on with the tour.” She scowled at the approaching noise. “I don’t feel like being teased by Foehn today.”
Salia frowned at the mention of the harpy boy. She’d only encountered him a couple of times since that first day but she knew what Karilya meant. His constant jibes set her teeth on edge. She rose as well. “Yes, let’s.”
“Who’s Foehn?” Coromel asked as she rose to her feet. “That sounds like an air name?”
“He’s the annoying harpy boy I told you about last night,” Salia said.
Coromel frowned, then nodded. “I think I remember that. I was very tired last night.”
“Let’s go!” Karilya said. They headed along the path into a maze of paths and shrubs.
They hadn’t gone far when Salia heard a giggle and the tinkle of bells very unlike the garden’s mood-calming windchimes. She didn’t see anything and would have dismissed it as her imagination, but Karilya looked around sharply and ground to a halt. “What was that?”
“I don’t know,” Salia said.
“It sounded like bells,” Coromel added.
“But-” Karilya broke off as the bells sounded again, just ahead of them on the path. “Come on!” She set off after the sound.
“Er, perhaps we should get Lyrrekka first,” Salia said.
“Don’t be silly. Nothing hostile can get into the garden.” Karilya paused for only a moment before she took off again. Salia and Coromel looked at each other and then headed after her.
They caught up with her at the courtyard wall. She was standing by a door Salia didn’t remember and which was open a crack. It must be another of the normally invisible ones.
“It went in here.” Karilya frowned at the door. “I’ve never seen this one before.” She started to open it fully.
“Er… are you sure we should go in there?” Salia asked.
“It’s visible and unlocked.” Karilya’s eyes were alight with excitement. “We can go anywhere where that’s true. I love finding new places to explore.” She bounced a bit and then returned to pulling it open. “Come on then!” she said once it was open enough for them to get through and slipped inside.
“I’m not sure it’s supposed to be either,” Salia said, but she and Coromel followed anyway.