Gregor bathed quickly and dressed in fresh clothes. Mareth led him to a small room where a meal was laid out, then stood watch at the door. "Hey, Mareth," he said, drawing the guard's attention. "How is everybody? I mean, Perdita and the bats? Are they okay?""Perdita has woken finally. The bats will mend," said Mareth evenly."Oh, that's great!" said Gregor with relief. After his father's situation, the thing pressing most on him had been the condition of the Underlanders.He wolfed down bread, butter, and a mushroom omelette. He drank hot tea made of some sort of herb, and energy seemed to pour through him."Are you ready to face the council?" asked Mareth, seeing his empty plate."All set!" said Gregor, springing up. He felt better than he had since he had reached the Underland. News of his dad, the Underlanders' recovery, sleep, and food had revived him.The council, a group of a dozen older Underlanders, had gathered at a round table in a room off the High Hall. Gregor saw Vikus and Solovet, who gave him an encouraging smile.Luxa was also there, looking tired and defiant. Gregor bet she'd been chewed out for joining the rescue party last night. He was sure she hadn't acted one bit sorry.Vikus introduced the people around the table. They all had funny-sounding names that Gregor immediately forgot. The council began to ask him questions. All kinds of things, like when he was born and did he know how to swim and what he did in the Overland. He couldn't figure out why a lot of the stuff was important. Did it really matter that his favorite color was green? But a couple of Underlanders were scribbling down every word he said like it was golden.After a while, the council seemed to forget he was there, and they argued among themselves. He caught phrases like "a son of the sun" and "white water runs red" and knew they were talking about the prophecy."Excuse me," he finally broke in. "I guess Vikus didn't tell you, but I'm not the warrior. Look, please, what I really need is for you guys to help me bring my dad home."Everyone at the table stared at him for a moment and then began to talk with greater excitement. Now he kept hearing the words "follow his call."Finally Vikus rapped on the table for order. "Members of the council, we must decide. Here sits Gregor the Overlander. Who counts him the warrior of 'The Prophecy of Gray'?"Ten of the twelve raised their hands. Luxa kept her hands on the table. Either she didn't think he was the warrior or she wasn't allowed to vote. Probably both."We believe you to be the warrior," said Vikus. "If you call us to help you regain your father, then we answer your call."They were going to help him! Who cared why?"Okay, great!" said Gregor. "Whatever it takes! I mean, believe whatever you want. That's fine.""We must begin the journey with all haste," said Vikus."I'm ready!" said Gregor eagerly. "Let me just get Boots and we can go.""Ah, yes, the baby," said Solovet. And another round of arguments ensued."Wait!" shouted Vikus. "This costs much time. Gregor, we do not know that the prophecy includes your sister.""What?" said Gregor. He couldn't remember the prophecy very well. He had to ask Vikus if he could get in the room and read it again."The prophecy mentions twelve beings. Only two are described as Overlanders. You and your father fill that number," said Solovet."The prophecy also speaks of one lost. That one may be your father, in which case Boots is the second Overlander. But it may also be a rat," said Vikus. "The journey will be difficult. The prophecy warns that four of the twelve will lose life. It may be wisest to leave Boots here."
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