Side Story Three
Two Years Ago
The Trap Seventeen
Darya jumped back, startled. Through the portal, he could vaguely see a brick house and quiet street of the sort he’d seen on Gaia. He stared at it for a moment, then turned to look at Julie. She was staring at the portal in shock.
“That’s my home,” she said softly. “Is this real or some kind of trick?”
“It’s no trick,” someone said from behind them. Darya jumped again – he hadn’t sensed the speaker there until she spoke. From Marama’s startled squawk, the same thing had happened to her. All three of them turned to find a tall asrai standing there. She gave a gentle smile at their surprise and cocked her head at Julie.
“Ystelyan is not Gerian; he’d never hold you against your will, Julie-keda. Indeed, you’ve been here long enough that it’s wisest if you return to Gaia, for now at least.” She held out a pale blue bracelet that seemed to be made of water to the girl. “But you should take this. It will help hide you from the Core, should it decide to send its hunter allies against you, and allow you to contact Yst should you need to.”
“Who are you?” Darya reached for his knife. “Why should we trust you?”
“Me? I’m Rilletta, Ystelyan-mirian’s consort. You may know me as the River Singer.”
“What?” Darya took a step back and stared at her. “But that would mean- Don’t lie to us, renegade! There’s no way you can be that old.”
Rilletta sighed at that. “I’m not lying, water child. I am that old and I promise I’ll never lie to you.”
“Why should I believe you?” he asked then jumped again as Julie reached around him and took the bracelet.
“My thanks to Ystelyan-mirian, Lady Rilletta,” she said then turned to Darya. “You can come with me if you want. I’ll find some way to hide you until Kyle can come for you.”
Darya looked at her for a moment then shook his head. “I’d have a hard time in Gaia without Kyle.” He turned back to Rilletta. “And you haven’t answered my question. Why should I trust you?”
“That’s a difficult one. We want to help you, but you don’t know me and trust is a thing that is earned.” She stared in to the distance, apparently considering the matter. “Would it help if I summoned a unicorn from my husband’s court to testify to my truthfulness?”
“Yes, do that please.” Darya couldn’t believe he’d said that. Couldn’t believe he was seriously considering that she might not be an enemy. But if he and Kyle were to survive this, perhaps turning to a dragon was their only option. He certainly couldn’t think of any others.
She smiled at him and closed her eyes. “They’ll be here momentarily.”
“For what it’s worth, I think you can trust them,” Julie said. “Ystelyan is supposed to be a decent ruler from what I’ve heard. You could do a lot worse.” She rose to he feet, picked up Marama and headed to the portal. “Good luck.” She walked through it and it closed behind her with a pop.