The moment they arrived, Salia raced away from Valeria’s side and pounced on Karilya. Valeria let her go, turning instead to Ystelyan and determinedly keeping her expression neutral as he introduced Julie. The young woman certainly didn’t look evil and she had left that dragon of her own will, but she had still been involved in the death of Kidran. And if Valeria understood Ystelyan’s message, Julie had more to answer for than that.
All she wanted to do right now was grab the girl and tear her to pieces â€“ but it wouldn’t make the pain less. And there was the glowing bird on Julie’s shoulder to consider. She had not been involved. Valeria could not condemn her for the crimes of another.
“I’m sorry, truly I am,” Julie said without preamble. “I would have saved your husband if I could, but I didn’t know until it was too late. It wasn’t supposed to happen. We were just supposed to be scaring people away and drawing in the warriors so he could get their measure and claim the gate. It wasn’t supposed to be a massacre.”
Valeria gave her a long look then turned to Ebona. She didn’t even have to ask: the unicorn knew what she wanted to know.
“Yes, she’s telling the truth.”
Julie held her hands out to Valeria. “Did Ystelyan’s imp tell you about me? Do you know that I do understand your pain? I have lost a husband too”
“He did,” Valeria said softly. “That must be confusing for you.”
“It takes some getting used to, yes,” Julie said. “But I owe you a debt. What do you want?”
“I-I don’t know,” Valeria said. “I’d demand you help with this mess but I think that is why you are here, is it not?”
“It is,” Julie said. She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “What if I placed myself at the personal service of you and your family for as long as you deemed necessary to fulfill the debt?”
“That…” Valeria considered her offer. “Yes, that works. Though we would have to see to your health. You were ill, I understand. Are you well now?”
“I am, thank goodness,” Julie said. “My maturity finally stopped my body attacking itself.”
â€œThen I think we have a deal. Once the situation on Gaia is stabilised, you will be on call to aid me with anything I need and to protect the Storm Palace and my family until such time as I decide your blood debt to me and my children is discharged.â€
â€œAgreed.â€ Julie bowed her head.
Valeria let out a sigh and turned to Matthias. He was watching Salia and Karilya with a quizzical look on his face.
â€œWhy did you bring Salia, Val? Shouldn’t she be in bed? We brought Kari because Lyr won’t let any of her court stay on Earth alone, just in case, but Salia would have been safe enough at the Palace if it’s still in lockdown.â€
â€œIt is,â€ she said. â€œThat’s not why I brought her.â€ She hesitated. â€œShe’d just woken from a nightmare when Ystelyan’s imp arrived. She thinks her heart friend is in trouble. We have to find her.â€