Right, so... Billy informed Kate of my return. Kate, if you remember, is the Watcher who was supposed to be training me to become a Watcher... right before I disappeared. Kate came and spoke to me, and then went and arranged a meeting with the Elders.
It took place in the same room we used the last time I met with the Elders. It's basically just a small conference room with a big table in the center. I suppose I could tell you that it's in an office building, but that's about as specific as I care to get.
So there we were: in the same room, sitting around the same table, only this time there were more people. Oh, and donuts. We didn't have any donuts last time, probably because last time they were just calling me in to give me my instructions in person. This was more of an actual meeting, the sort of thing where a bunch of people get together to decide what needs to be done.
Crystal drove me to the meeting, and walked me into the building. There were four Watchers present, and my mentor Kate was among them. They checked me over pretty thoroughly when we arrived, and asked a few questions about what had happened and where I'd been. I explained about the aftermath of the experiment as best I could, and they didn't ask for a lot of detail.
There were five Elders there, including the batrachian man who kept licking his eyebrows. (I remembered him from last time.) Three of the others looked human: two women and a man. The last was woman of vaguely apelike proportions: her arms were long, and both arms and shoulders were heavily muscled. I noticed later that she had a tail as well, covered by a custom-designed pair of slacks.
They asked a lot of questions, of me and Crystal both. A few were directed to Kate as well. When they were finally satisfied that they had learned as much as they could from us, they turned to the question of what I should do now. I told them that I wanted to continue training to become a Watcher (mainly because at this point I couldn't imagine what else I could do), and explained that I wanted to look for Claire.
That last part went better than I expected. Apparently our disappearance had caused some friction with Claire's people. That wasn't surprising; it wasn't all that long ago that we were actively at war with them. The Elders wanted to avoid any more hostilities, so they gave me carte blanche to search for her... provided, of course, that I continued my training and kept Kate informed of my progress. Naturally, I agreed.
On the way out of the meeting, Kate stopped me and gave me back the silver snake bracelet - the same one Claire had given me. I'd left it with Kate when I went to the dream study, and she'd had it ever since. Having it back on my wrist was a relief, though I'm sure some of that feeling was also from being done with that meeting.
So that much is done. The next step is to get in touch with Claire's parents, and ask for their help. I'm sure they've been looking in their own ways, but there may be things we can do together that wouldn't work for any of us alone.