Chapter Twenty Two
“Ystelyan.” Valeria inclined her head in greeting as the blue dragon strode into her throne room. She’d been startled to receive an imp from him requesting an audience but under the circumstances she’d felt that it was wise to accept. Her court was less enamoured of the idea but they were following her lead.
“Queen Valeria, thank you for receiving me. I wasn’t sure you would.” He glanced around at the members of her court who were lurking around the edges of the throne room and watching him with big, frightened eyes. His eyes fixed on the shining gold unicorn filly standing by the throne and he smiled at her. “Little one, would you please tell your fellows that I mean no harm to any of you and I most certainly am not here to feed. Please don’t be afraid.”
The unicorn regarded him for a moment and then she inclined her head. “The dragon speaks the truth.” She dipped her head deeper, sparks shooting from the tip of her horn to the flag stones. “But being unafraid is not so easy. I apologise.”
“There’s nothing to apologise for,” Ystelyan said. “It’s quite understandable.” He turned his attention to Valeria again. “We have an idea to deal with this issue with the Core, but I need to discuss it both you and your mother, your majesty.”
“I know,” she said. “Both he who was Indirian and the earth guardian have spoken to mother about it. It seems a reasonable plan.” She rose to her feet. “But let us discuss it in private.”
“Thank you,” he said and followed her from the room to her study.
“Would you care for a drink?” she asked and produced a pitcher of wine from a cupboard. “I really need one.”
“Thank you,” he nodded. “You know I never imagined I would be sitting in one of the throne-holders palaces discussing attacking the Core. This is quite surreal.”
“It is,” she agreed. “That’s the way it is though. Mother thinks it was always inevitable that it would come to this.” She looked down. “I’ll help you and I’m sure Dariad will as well. Mother says we can use the thrones to communicate with other throne holders – which was news to me – so I’ll be talking to Dariad and then we’ll try and contact and talk the others around. But I wouldn’t bet on having more than me and him for the plan.”
“Yes,” he said. “That is the biggest flaw in it, isn’t it. Don’t discount your Mother’s persuasiveness and the fact the thrones themselves will back you up, though.”
“I don’t. If it weren’t for that I wouldn’t even be trying. I know my fellows and they would not even consider helping under normal circumstances. But I think I make a good enough case for this not being normal circumstances.”
“Nothing about circumstances has been normal since the Heart was nearly destroyed. Relations between our peoples would never have deteriorated so badly if it were whole. If we have to, we’ll do this without the other thrones and wait for the heart to bring them around. It will, you know.”
“Yes,” she said. “I think I do know. If only the Core… why didn’t it know?”
“From what Rill tells me it was supposed to, but part of the emergency fix they did on it removed that information. I guess the crack turned it against the Heart.”
You all have your part to play in this as well if we’re to hold the world together, Elaranor said then.
“Yes, I know. Estara, Alaryia and I are already bound to the cause and Alaryia says that Takilyan will help as well, even though he’s moaning about helping humans even tangentially. Shalriya definitely won’t help and no one will tell her anyway because she’d try and intefere. Mitrian might if he thinks it’s to his advantage. The others â€“ well, we’re trying to work out who might be best to approach whom. I get on quite well with Endaria-miria, so I’ll ask her.” He caught her look. “The first orange dragon.”
“Eh! I thought the first orange dragon was male,” Valeria exclaimed.
“Only physically, she’s one of the anriri – the third sex.”
Valeria blinked at that. “I don’t… never mind it’s not important. You think she’ll help us?”
“I’m certain she will. Endaria is a good woman and she loves this world. She’ll be determined to help.” He gave a smile. “She’s always been the most prone of us to get upset by the problems we have with speakers. The only problem might be Alaryia being involved. Enda blames her for the situation no matter how much Rill explains it to her. I don’t think she’ll let her feelings interfere, though.”
“I see,” Valeria said then glanced towards the door as she heard a noise from beyond it. “I think we’re being eavesdropped on.” She raised her voice slightly. “Come in!”
The door opened a pair of sheepish looking young naiads came in. They were among those Maran had put circlets on and Ystelyan had freed.
“Were you eavesdropping?” Valeria demanded.
“No!” One of them said. “We were trying to work up the courage to knock.” She bowed her head and her dark blue hair obscured her eyes.
“We wanted to thank him for freeing us,” the other said and nodded towards Ystelyan. “We didn’t before because we were too panicked and we’ve been feeling bad about it.”
“There’s nothing to feel bad about, young ones,” Ystelyan said. “But I’m glad you’re not panicked by me any more.”
“You saved us from…” the first naiad trailed off with a delicate shudder. “Thank you. We are in your debt.”
“No, you aren’t. You owe me nothing for merely doing what was right.”
“We do, and we want to help with whatever is happening. Please let us help.”
Ystelyan and Valeria looked at each other.
“Is there anything they can do?” Valeria asked after a moment.
“Almost certainly,” he replied. “Let me talk to Alaryia about it.”
“Thank you!” The two of them bowed and scampered out.
Ystelyan looked back at Valeria. “How are your people taking this?” he asked.
“Hmmm,” she said. “Nervously for the most part. Between Maran’s coup, finding out the Core is broken and having their view of dragons cast into turmoil, they’re scared and confused. But they trust me and they trust mother even more, so they’re going along. And some, like those two kids, are really going along because they know you saved them.”
“I’m glad,” he said quietly.
“Things are less stable at Caerdu, but Dariad thinks Alaryia will win them over.”
“Probably,” he agreed. “She can be very persuasive when she wants to be and she did save their city.” He frowned to himself. “I wonder if she’ll sell me any of the Mabain. Getting it from the far reaches is becoming too dangerous with the growing instability out there.”