"Your court is certainly... interesting," The Prince smiled and took another sip of wine, "The fare is certainly of the same quality."
"We are still recovering from fighting on the edge of the wastes if you remember," Faris pursed his lips, "My honored guests are the pinnacle of their crafts."
"I don't know how you stand the smell," The prince said while looking pointedly at the goblins and humans around the room, "But then your line favors more of the elf than the dragon."
"I am sorry, I make a poor host," Faris said graciously while moving his food around on his fork, "You didn't come here just to insult me."
"No, I came here to expose you," The prince took another sip of wine and grinned.
"I know," Was his terse reply.
"So, where is this favored human pet of yours? Or the new storm traveler with the toys?" Ban leaned back in his chair expectantly.
"The storm traveler declined to join us, he is not much for pomp. Lord Xander, is visiting with his mother, as is his wife." Faris said taking a drink.
"I forgot you gave it a title." Ban laughed.
"I gave him nothing, these things he earned." Faris glared.
"Of course," Prince Ban placated, "I heard the Great Dragon Aulder was at court, are they not much for pomp either?"
"They like to pick their own audience." Faris grinned
"What little secrets are going to come out tonight, I wonder." Prince Ban leaned across the table and said lowly, "It's ok, I know most of them already."
Faris leaned back and projected confidence he no longer had. Instead, he started running his latest dissenters through his mind, and which ones knew what. Maybe it was the freeholder that objected to the Goblins building adjacent to his property, or maybe the Baroness who complained about him letting the Hunter clans reforest some of the cleared lands around the freeholds. This was an exhausting exercise. Politics was for the ones that loved the game, and obviously, Prince Ban was a skilled player. Faris had little patience for games and less use for a person with fluid loyalties.
"I am not trying to..." Faris was cut short by a loud explosion.
Everyone jumped up and were looking at each other confused. He looked at the fear on the faces of the knights who were still fresh from combat. Then he saw a squire come running towards him.
"I'm so sorry, I swear!" the youth said as he bent over gasping for breath.
"What's happened?" Faris was alarmed now.
"The new student, she, she, she..." The boy gasped
"She what?" Faris was annoyed, "Jasper!"
"Exploded," he said after another pause spent gulping for air.
"I don't quite understand. She exploded?" Prince Ban asked.
"The lake, it's gone." The boy nodded.
"Take me," Faris said and he had the boy open a port even though they were inside. Prince Ban invited himself by swiftly walking through the port before it closed.
"One girl did all this?" The Prince gaped at the crater he assumed was a lake just moments before.
Faris ran towards the center of the crater and found Kenna and Xander already there. Xander was holding Elda about to carry her off through a port.
"I am taking her, Jelen made it clear he is unhappy with this arrangement." Xander said to Faris then before he disappeared he looked back and said lowly, "Mother took this opportunity to visit our friend, you should too, we will see you there."
"Jelen? He was here?" Faris asked, and Kenna nodded her head before porting herself.
"Jelen? Why would he... wait, is that The Child, and you have had her all along?" The Prince was astonished, then recovered himself, "I must insist that you release the child and the new storm traveler into my custody."
"No," Faris said simply.
"I don't think you understand," The Prince said sharply.
"I understand that last night you moved troops onto my lands from Crystal City. I also understand that you mean to name Baron Milner as the regent here. I also understand that you will be deeply disappointed." Faris grinned.
The prince looked confused for a moment. Then out of the shadows came Aulder. Smoke was rising from their very human mouth, and it looked just as shocking as they meant it to be. Aulder got very close to the prince with their mouth against Ban's ear.
"Everything you think you have gained will be taken from you." came the low growl from Aulder's throat, "Because I do not bow to you. You, puny mix breed, bow to me!"
The prince jumped at the realization that Aulder had taken their full dragon form, then swiftly opened their wings and flew away. Then the Prince looked around him and saw that Faris had also slipped away.
Faris ported into the room and found everyone waiting for him there. Baroness Bingham was gracious. She was helping at great risk. She had men that could take them south to the monastery or they could have the Goblins help them go north.
"I would like to seek out my, um, Hima's daughter. So I will be going north with the Goblins," Aydahar volunteered.
"We are going to Sid Hayef. Jelen will meet us in the forest to take us. Of course, Elda is coming with us for the time being." Xan said, "But they won't take mother, she is still tracked."
"Let me serve my purpose, then I don't need to go with any of you." Hin said.
"You can't stay here!" Xander protested.
"Can't she?" Aulder interrupted.
"Aww, I love you too," Hin said facetiously to Aulder then grew more serious, "Hardly anyone knows me. Servants overhear a lot and will gossip about more."
"That... is extremely brave of you." Faris was a bit bewildered but impressed.
"I would only endanger those I travel with." Hin shrugged.
"I will call Alaric then. He will need to know." Faris then motioned for a compact mirror, "Make no mistake, we will be hunted, let us finalize our plans."