Durazno stood between his sisters. The king and Lord Peterrin stood on Naranja’s right. Across from them was the new general of the Dragonfriend army, Reynold, Reynold’s dragon, and several other commanders of the Dragonfriend army.
“I would be willing to make a treaty,” Reynold was saying. “this war has lasted far too long.”
The king pulled out a long piece of parchment and handed it to Peterrin. “Right down exactly what I tell you.”
“First of all, we need to know that nothing we did in the war will be held against us after.” Reynold listed. “Secondly, you will outlaw dragon slaying, or you can take your chances with continuing the war. Thirdly, we need to know that none of our dragon’s young, eggs or dragonets, will be stolen or killed. Fourthly, our dragons would like the looting of their caves to stop.”
“Is that all?” Peterrin asked.
“Yes.” Reynold answered.
“I can’t promise that nothing done in the war will be held against you. We will need you to hand over all your tortures, and possibly several dragon eggs to ensure your good behavior. I can outlaw dragon slaying, but that doesn’t mean that it will stop.” The king warned. “The same can be said for your third and fourth demands. Is that good enough for you?”
“No. Fifthly, you will not try to rule the dragons. They will not bow to human demands, they have their own queen.” Reynold’s dragon said.
“For that one, we will need to meet your queen and work something out.” The king said. The dragon nodded.
“We shall try to bring her to Aalen’s field in a fortnight.” The dragon said.
“One last question. Answer truthfully or the treaty is off. Was Councilman Braster spying for you?” Peterrin asked.
“Yes, he was informing on you.” Reynold said carelessly.
Ceridwen sat beside a small patch of flowers that she had been told had once been a girl called Callen.
“You are very interesting, Ceridwen Night-slayer.” A voice whispered in her head. “That’s what they’re calling you now.”
“Are you Callen?” Ceridwen asked quietly.
“I am.” Callen said. “You do not want to go down in history as the woman that killed the monster that ripped through the king’s army. You were friends.”
“Yes. The Hydromancer didn’t tell me that it would kill him.” Ceridwen said, her voice breaking.
“She didn’t know. You were right, the creature you named Despair wasn’t ever human. If he had been, it wouldn’t have killed him.” Callen told her. “He saved my life, once.”
“He did?” Ceridwen asked, wiping her eyes with her fist.
“I was captured by a witch called Corina. She changed me into something not quite human, but he killed her and took me away from that place. In the end, I returned the favor.” Callen said.
“I’m sorry that I wasted your sacrifice.” Ceridwen said.
“I am different now. I understand that what you did was completely necessary, and I forgive you.” Callen assured her. “I see many things, like the suppressed anger in you.”
“Will I ever find the dragon that killed my family?” Ceridwen asked.
“I can’t see the future, but I’m sure that you will someday. And what will you do when you do?” Callen said.
“I don’t know.” Ceridwen admitted, rubbing her forehead. “I want him to pay for what he did to my family, but I don’t know.”
“You will do what you think is right.” Callen said. “I have another question for you.”
“What?” Ceridwen asked.
“You realized that Despair wasn’t ever human right before he died. So what are you going to do? I can sense that you want to know what he really was. How are you going to find out what he was?”
“I don’t know yet.” Ceridwen said indecisively. “But I’m hoping to find an answer to that problem soon.”
“I may be able to help you somewhat, if I try.” Callen offered. “There are other bits of earth magic that could be more helpful.”
“Like what?” Ceridwen asked, interested.
“The deep earth knows far more than I do. Ask Silt about it.” Callen suggested.
“Thank you.” Ceridwen said, rising to leave.
“Wait.” Callen said suddenly. “Do you want to be human again?”
“I don’t know anymore.” Ceridwen hesitated.
A scarlet petal fell off one of the flowers and drifted to the ground. “Take it. If you want to become human again, eat it.” Callen said.
Nessa watched Ember and Umber dancing in their human forms. Instead of the sinuous grace that they moved with in their dragon forms, they were clumsy and awkward. Umber accidentally trod on Ember’s foot, and she kicked him in the shins. The blow through Umber off balance, and he fell over.
Nessa laughed and pulled him to his feet. “Maybe you should watch Silt.” She suggested. “She doesn’t have any trouble with this kind of thing.”
Umber made a face. “That’s probably because she’s been practicing for eighteen years.”
“I’ve been doing it for sixteen years and I still can’t move like that.” Nessa laughed, pointing to where the Geomancer was twirling and leaping, her silky hair flying out around her.
“I’m not sure how she does that.” Seren said, coming to stand beside them.
“Look at Tansy.” Umber said, pointing at the dark-haired girl.
Tansy’s movements seemed to flow together as she twirled. Her black hair swung behind her like one long ribbon.
“That’s unnatural.” Nessa agreed.
“Does anyone actually know why she’s living here?” Seren asked. “That sounded bad. But is there a reason that she’s not with her mother?”
“She hasn’t forgiven her mother for faking her death and abandoning her.” Ember answered him.
“I guess not everyone gets as lucky as we did in the mother department.” Umber commented.
“I hope that she and her mother work things out,” Nessa said. “you never know until it’s too late.”
There was an awkward silence for a moment.
“Who wants gooseberries?” Seren asked cheerfully. “I think we might even have some sugar and cream to go with them.”
“Sure!” Umber, Ember and Nessa chorused.
“Tansy, Silt! Do either of you want gooseberries and cream?” Seren called.
“Yes.” Tansy answered.
“Extra sugar on mine!” Silt said.
Marisindin sat with Lady Elsanna and Senna. After Braster had been arrested and executed, John had been moved into Braster’s seat, and Senna was now Lady Senna.
The room seemed to be swelteringly hot. A sudden wave of nausea hit Marisindin. She ran over to the window, threw it open, and vomited on the cobblestones far below. Elsanna and Senna looked at her with alarm. Elsanna took the pitcher of water on the table and poured her a glass. Marisindin sipped the water gratefully.
Elsanna smiled at her. “Marisindin, I think that you’re pregnant.”
“It does look that way, doesn’t it?” Senna said mildly.
“What?” Marisindin exclaimed.
“Morning sickness, you haven’t been eating certain foods at dinner, and stuffing your face with others.” Elsanna explained. “I think you’d better tell Peterrin.”
“Come, dear.” Senna said, taking her by the arm. “I’ll go with you.”
They found Peterrin in the garden, reading by the fountain.
“I’ll leave you two alone, then.” Senna said, giving her a conspiratorial smile. She turned and walked away in a rustle of tan silk.
Marisindin eased herself down onto the bench beside him. “Peterrin, I think I’m pregnant.”
“What?” He asked, then laughed. “In the end, it turns out that we didn’t really trick your mother!”
Marisindin laughed with him. “Shall we go to the healers and tell for sure?” She proposed. Peterrin pulled her up and they walked to the healer’s wing together.
Renna gave her an answer almost at once. “You are definitely pregnant.” She told Marisindin. “Congratulations!”
“We had best tell my mother.” Marisindin said. “Thank you, Renna.”
She and Peterrin went to deliver the good news to the queen, and of course, the queen immediately began to fuss of over Marisindin.
“Are you getting enough to eat, dear?” She fussed. “Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m fine. We’re considering staying with Peterrin’s parents for the next nine months, away from all the fuss at the castle.” Marisindin said.
“That might be a good idea, dear.” Her mother said. “I could come, and bring Leo with me, if you want me too.”
“Only if Leo really wants to come.” Marisindin said with a smile. “I think father might need both of you here.”
“I suppose your right. When do you plan on leaving?” her mother asked.
“In two days,” Marisindin said. “I’ll miss you.”
“Be sure to take care of yourself, Marisindin.” Her mother said.