Matthias and Sonia were preparing to leave with Halia and Tarian. The two of them were being determinedly businesslike, but Valeria could tell how worried they were. Even if her mother hadn’t been able to feel it dripping off them, Valeria would have known it from the tension in their shoulders and the occasional looks and touches they exchanged as they gathered their things.
Kyle and Darya had accompanied them back to the treehouse. Kyle was sitting in the corner with his head on his arms, and Darya had one hand on his shoulder, murmuring softly to him. Valeria suspected he’d been crying. She didn’t blame him; she couldn’t even imagine how she’d feel in his situation.
“I want to go with you,” Kyle said suddenly. “I need-” He broke off as Matthias shook his head.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said.
“Why not? She’s my mother! I have two younger sisters. They should be told…” He trailed off.
“Yes, they should,” Matthias agreed. “But I think you should wait until after that. Both of you need time to adapt. I think I should have her friend here explain to her. But speaking of your sisters, there’s something bothering me. She supposedly died fourteen years ago. How can she have a goblin daughter that age?”
“You mean Mia?” Tarian asked. “When Lyr escaped into Gerian’s territory she was helping a badly injured fire haltia woman and her goblin toddler. The woman didn’t make it and Lyr insisting on adopting Mia.”
“Ah,” Matthias said.
“Okay, I’ll stay here. Poor mother though, she must have been remade twice in less than a year.” Kyle shuddered violently.
“I just wish she’d told us,” Matthias said. “We would have given her a chance and it would have been useful to know.”
“It wouldn’t have been possible,” Halia said softly. “The kithreiri have a strict ban on any contact of Taloa. It’s not always well enforced, but they do keep a close eye on any new remade. Not that there are many.”
“And once she was captured by Shalriya-miria and remade again, she had to keep her former identity secret.” Tarian added. “There’s no way she’d have tolerated her existence, not when she caused her so much trouble when she was human.”
“Especially since she’s an ida,” Halia said. “Shalriya is terrified of being challenged. She’s lucky she managed to conceal her strength. It would have made her origins obvious.”
“Why?” Sonia looked up from where she was packing a bag.
“Born Kithreiri and Kinstrari can’t achieve idri level,” Halia said. “Those with the potential go insane at maturity if they don’t have some of their energy permanently removed. Mother thinks it’s because we don’t have a heart friend-”
“Okay, I think we’re ready,” Sonia interrupted.
“Yes,” Matthias agreed. “Coming, Val?”
“Of course!” Valeria tried to conceal her excitement at seeing Salia again. It seemed wrong in the face of what had happened to Andrew.
“You’re allowed to happy that your kids are okay, Val.” Matthias squeezed her shoulder.
“B-but the price. I’m so sorry!”
“I think that would have happened anyway,” he said. “It was just bad timing. Anyway, come on. Salia needs you.”
“I’m coming too!” Dariad stood in the doorway with his own bag slung over his shoulder. “I need to talk to Alaryia.”
Matthias stared at him for a moment then nodded. “Very well.” He looked over at Halia. “Would you?”
“Of course, Matthias-idan.” She opened a gate and ushered them through.
The rest of the journey passed in a blur of worry for Lydia and the others.Â Caoilainn was riding behind Jason to keep him upright on Kenna’s back. Ilona had exchanged a surprising flurry of imps with Alaryia and seemed pensive. As they approached the valley that marked the border she called a pause to check on Jason and make sure he stayed stable.
“We’ll be at the border soon,” Ilona said as they got the still-unconscious boy back on to Kenna’s back. “We shouldn’t have any trouble crossing. Gerian knows we’re more than a match for anything he could send. Al says she’s granted your parents safe passage to come and meet you. They’re pretty frantic.” She turned to look at Lyrrekka who talking quietly with Kenna. “Your friend surrendered at Waldhafen. They’re bringing him with them. I think something else is going on because Al’s being unusually coy. But I should probably warn you that they know.”
“I’m not surprised.” Lyrrekka patted Kenna’s neck.
“What do they know?” Karen asked sharply.
“Ah,” Lyrrekka said. “I think it might be better coming from them than me.”
“Is mother coming as well?” Alban asked as they resumed walking.
“Yes, she is,” Ilona said.
“Mummy’s coming?” Salia looked up at that. Her cheeks were still wet with tears.
“I’m looking forward to meeting your mother,” Karilya said where she sat behind Salia on Ebona’s back. Her shoulder’s slumped slightly. “I hope she likes me even though I’m a dragon.”
“I’m sure she will,” Karen said. “She knows how nice you’ve been to Salia and you’re a cute little button who no one could dislike.” She sighed heavily. “Please don’t grow up in to the sort of monster so many of your kind are.”
Karilya looked at her solemnly then nodded. “I won’t. I promise.” They crested the hill into the valley and her eyes widened. “Mummy, I can feel someone else in the ground.”
“That will be Alaryia-miria,” Lyrrekka said. “We’re in the borderlands now. We’ll be there soon.” She chewed on her lip. “This is going to be interesting.”