Karen pulled the comforter around her as if it could protect her from the news. She swallowed the lump in her throat, but it didn’t relieve the sick misery in her stomach.
“A dragon?” She closed her eyes in an attempt to stop her tears but she felt them trickling down her cheeks regardless. “Oh, Kyle!”
“It’ll be okay.” Valeria’s arms closed around her shoulders and Karen clung to her and sobbed.
“Why? Going beserk I could understand in the circumstances, but working for a dragon?” Karen scrubbed at her face with her hands. She looked over at Alban, who was hugging his knees unhappily. “I don’t understand.”
Alban just shook his head silently, obviously just as confused as she was.
“The obvious reason is to get at the Core,” Valeria said. “And it seems this Ystelyan saved his life.” She ran her hand through her hair. â€œDisillusionment is a good wedge to change a personâ€™s allegiences.” She sighed. â€œIt could be worse. At least he doesn’t seem to be like the yellow ones.”
Karen looked up at her. “Yes it could be worse. But looking back I think Darya already was when he reappeared. Someone teleported him in past all the Coreâ€™s safeguards. He couldn’t do that himself.” She frowned. “And he was wearing goblin silk – how did I never notice that?”
“You didnâ€™t notice? That is strange,” Valeria agreed. “I would never have believed that Darya would willingly turn traitor. Certainly not that he’d work for a dragon. He was always such a sweet kid in spite of what his clan did to him.” She paused and snarled. “I had no idea that Sirin had done that to Mela; she told me she was a natural. I’m going to skin that bitch alive when I finally get home. Lorelei will be a much better chief songstress…” she trailed off and her eyes went wide. “Coreâ€™s Guardians! Poor Lorelei, she’ll be heartbroken. Well she already is. But this-”
“I know,” Karen said. She wiped at her eyes again and then gave Valeria a thoughtful look. “So, I take it you’re through thinking I’m evil?” she asked, mostly to distract herself.
“I- I’m sorry about that.” Valeria looked around at Lydia and Andrew. “All three of you. I don’t know what got into me, I was so upset about Darya… I… Iâ€™ve known him since he was a baby. I just couldn’t believe he’d willingly turn traitor.”
“You thought Kyle had forced him to turn on the Core?” Karen asked.
Valeria nodded. “I did. And then I thought that if Kyle was that good an actor, how could I trust any of you? And after what had happened to Kiridan, you didn’t kill them. Well, I guess it just festered.”
“Kiridan?” Andrew asked shortly. It was the first thing heâ€™d said to Valeria and his tone was hostile enough to make Karen cringe. Valeria took it equably enough though.
“He was my mate, Salia’s father. One of the dragon knights killed him just before Karen and the others arrived here last time. I… I don’t like to talk about it.” She looked back at Karen. “So I thought no humans could be trusted, not even you… but the way you were willing to risk your life as a distraction for Salia, that coudn’t be an act.” She turned and nodded to Lydia. “And the way that you sacrificed some of your energy to help a person you didn’t even know. I was wrong, I’m sorry. I’m still not sure about your kind as a whole, but I think you’ve proved you’re on our side.”
“Hey I’m not sure about my kind sometimes,” Lydia said. “And these dragon knights sound like horrible people. They’re human?”
“Yes, they are,” Karen looked back at Valeria. â€œSometimes I wish we could have killed them, but they were just kids. Hell, most of them were younger than we were. And in the end they surrended–” She broke off with a shudder. “We couldn’t just kill them in cold blood. There are some things you just donâ€™t do. So we sent them back to Earth and sent a message back to Brierthorne to track them down and contain them, since they were all wild talents. Somehow they never could. I guess when we hid them from their master we hid them from ourselves as well.â€
â€œHmm. And now it seems he plans to use Mela to find them. Poor girl,â€ she said. â€œI hope we can protect her.â€
â€œSo youâ€™re going to this Waldhafen place you mentioned?â€ Lydia interrupted.
â€œIf they agree to host us, yes,â€ Valeria said. â€œI think they will. I want you to come as well. Maybe you can get your father to explain himself.â€