Mav was first with the news, Rory supplying added colour and commentary.
“Lady Rosarina is livid! She’s the one who sent her father down here to give you a telling off and now he’s yelling at her for inappropriate behaviour and being rude to a foreign diplomat.”
Rory was bubbling, “Of course her tantrum when His Highness didn’t appear at her door had already made the rounds of the castle and she’s in the process of being uninvited to three different events over the next week. Her plans to get the leading edge on your crown just exploded rather spectacularly.”
The dragon originally named by Lady Rosarina appeared next, flying through the door as the waiter came in, ostensibly to clear dishes and check progress, but more likely to get an excited dragon out of his preparation room.
This dragon, previously known as Jewel Sparkle – named for Rosarina’s favourite preoccupation according to Marcus – was now Midnight Crystal. Sariya did have to acknowledge that the previous name was not entirely inaccurate. Her best description of this little dragon’s colouring was cut gems on black velvet but the old name did not give any indication of this dragon’s affinity for the night, for clarity of thought or for their slightly uncanny manner. Midnight Crystal, Crystal for short, while lacking Rory’s gift of foresight, seemed to always know a little bit more about matters than anyone else.
“She was in trouble with the rest of the fluffies even before His Highness failed to obey the rumours. She had a plan to not ‘allow’ him to progress to the next course with Lady Genevieve. It was so unfortunate her apartment door was ajar when she was making plans and Lady Genevieve’s mother and personal maid just happened to be walking past at that moment.”
Sariya looked at Crystal in astonishment, “How was she planning to keep him there, lock the door?”
Marcus, grinning, added, “And was the cavalry planning on rescuing me by breaking said door down?”
Crystal transmitted disapproval, “Nothing so charming. She was going to drug your food.”
The king looked grim, “And I suppose we have no proof of this, other than an overheard conversation, with the other parties being anything but disinterested?”
“Unfortunately, yes. However, she has been tried, found guilty and sentenced in the court of peer opinion and I believe her punishment will be harsh.”
Mav bounced into the exchange, “Even harsher when she realises she’s got absolutely no hold over you any more.”
Crystal inclined their head, “Even so. I am looking forward to it. Although I confess a certain sympathy for Lady Penelope and Lady Aureliana. They’re not what I would wish for the future of the kingdom, but they’re not bad people.”
The queen sighed, “No they’re not. Hopelessly ineligible for the role they think they want of course, but not actively dangerous in the way Rosarina is.”
Marcus looked over at Sariya, “So you see, you’re my only hope for the good of the kingdom.”
Sariya blushed, but rallied, “And here was me thinking you liked me for myself.”
Marcus sputtered, then realised she was joking and reached across the table for her hand, “Of course what I really like is your ability to steal dragons from under other people’s noses. It’s a rare and beautiful talent and vastly underrated.”
The waiter chose that moment to serve dessert and they were joined by the final two dragons, Diamond Dancer (formerly Glint) and Opal Flame (previously Rainbow Wings).
Dia, as Diamond Dancer liked to be known ‘for everyday’ spun around the room in a shattering of light, Sariya still could not understand how any of the dragons could move so freely through the castle with no one noticing, but this one in particular was, to her, impossible to miss.
“Warnings! The other three fluffies are on their way here. They wish to apologise for the misunderstanding and sacrifice Lady Rosarina beneath the large wagon from Sariya’s world.”
Marcus looked at Sariya, confused.
“I think the term you’re looking for is ‘throw her under the bus’.”
Marcus’s parents looked politely blank as he burst out laughing.
He looked to has parents, “So, do we let them in?”
The Queen turned the question around, “Sariya is our guest, I think this should be her decision.”
Sariya considered a moment, “I’d be interested in meeting them. Provided the gemscales are able to keep their thoughts reasonably to themselves so I don’t make inappropriate responses or know things I shouldn’t.”
The five dragons promised faithfully to be quiet and docile, and retreated to shadowed corners and nooks of the room.
“Before they arrive, can you please remind me of who they are and what I should expect?”
Marcus listed them off, “Lady Rosarina won’t be there, she’s the daughter of Lord Cragmore, mis-namer of Crystal and frankly a piece of work. Lady Genevieve was connected to Opal, more through her parents’ efforts than any real interest on her part. She’s quite ambitious, but not if she has to do anything herself. Lady Penelope is probably the best of a bad bunch but extremely timid and unsure of herself. Rather evident in naming someone as blazingly eye-catching as Dia, ‘Glint’. And then there’s Lady Aureliana, who we ran away from the day you met Mav. Not a nasty person, but shallow and not very bright.”
The Queen eyed her son, “An accurate summary but not what I’d call diplomatic.”
“I prefer to leave diplomacy to Sariya these days, and she’ll be better equipped to deal diplomatically with this lot if she’s pre-prepared.”
“I have a dragon or volcano to focus on quelling. Diplomacy is wasting my time.”
Samuel chose that moment to sidle into the room once again, looking (if it was possible), even more frazzled than before.
The King waved a hand, “It’s the three ladies with the other dragons isn’t it. We had a little advance information. You may let them in.”
As Samuel opened the door, the four of them rose from the dining table and moved to the sitting area again, Marcus pointedly placing Sariya’s hand on his arm.
The ladies entered the room and stood in a cluster, eyeing Sariya much as one would an unexpected tiger.