Karen wasn’t surprised when Salia scrambled down from Ebona’s back without waiting for help and all but flew to Valeria.
“Salia!” Valeria swept her into a hug and smiled at Karilya, who had hesitantly followed her over. “And you must be Karilya. Salia has talked about you a lot in her imps. It’s nice to meet you at last.”
“Thank you.” Karilya smiled and looked over at her mother. Lyrrekka had been ushered to one side by a dragon Karen didn’t recognise who began talking to her quietly and seriously.
“It was scary, mummy!” Salia said.Â “Gerian and Lyrrekka had a fight, and then this man took that boy. He was nasty.”
“Hush.” Valeria hugged her tighter. “You’re safe now. We’ll find Andrew as well.”
Karen smiled, then looked around. Alaryia and Ilona had helped Jason down from Kenna’s back and begun working on his injury, but Halia wasn’t helping.Â She glanced over at Halia, wondering why.
The dragon girl was sitting on a log, looking rather frazzled – and she wasn’t wearing her collar! Karen swallowed. True, her father could control dragons without the collar at close range. And it would hardly have been politic to keep Halia collared around her mother. But Karen didn’t think that was it – and the only alternative made her stomach twist.
Dad must think that Emms was about activate that machine he’d been building.
“Karen,” her father said. “Get over here. We need to talk.”
“I suppose you want to know what happened,” she said.
He shook his head. “Ebona and Caoilainn have already told us what happened, but we’ve learned something important today. You know how you wondered how Lyrrekka knows so much about us?”
“You found out how?”
After he finished, Karen stood speechless. Daniel looked just as gobsmacked as she felt, but beside her she heard Lydia swear. She looked at her sister and saw she was playing with the bracelet from her mentor.
“I’m going to scream at her the next time I speak to her,” she said. “She could have told me! Why didn’t she tell me?”
“No,” Halia said. “She couldn’t have. The idri council has laws against that. She was taking a terrible risk even training you.”
“Butâ€”” Lydia began before a blast of shock from Lyrrekka interrupted her.
She was kneeling on the ground, her hands covering her face and her shoulders shaking as she sobbed. Tarian knelt beside her with an arm around her shoulder.
“Mummy?” Karilya walked over to her. “What’s wrong?”
“I-” Lyrrekka pulled her daughter into a hug. “Y-your brother is alive.” She looked over at Matthias with tear reddened eyes. “I didn’t know. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have gone after Marian, you know?”
“I know,” he said softly. “But I don’t think not going after her would have helped. It was the Core who was Marian’s informant.”
“Ah! Because of the Heart. That makes sense.” Her eyes narrowed. “So she knew and didn’t want to face me when I was calm.”
“That’s our surmise,” Sonia agreed. “The best we would have been able to come up with would have been hiding you like Matt hid me and the kids.”
“Still I should have kept my head. I let Kyle down.” She hung her head. “What am I going to say to him?”
“It’ll be alright, mummy!” Karilya said confidently. “He’ll understand.”
“She’s right, you know,” Matthias said. “He wants to meet you.”
“I want to meet him as well,” she said. “Do you think the Waldhafen Council would permit me to accompany you?”
“I-” He paused and looked thoughtful. “I think they will, given that they’ve had their prejudices shaken almost as much as I have and you were always popular there. But we’ll have to ask.”
“Good, because we also need to discuss how to get Andrew back.
“I’ll ask them,” Sonia said. “I need to send a message to Sal about Jason and Andrew anyway.” She looked anxiously over to where Alaryia and Ilona were still tending her brother. “Will he be okay?”
“Head wounds are tricky but he’ll be fine,” Alaryia said. “He should rest for a few days and your sister will probably want to keep a close eye on him.” She cocked her head thoughtfully. “Ask them if they’ll accept me as well. I have a very bad feeling about all this.”
“Very well.” Sonia opened a gate to Waldhafen and vanished through it.