Outside the bedroom, Merelda Phlane leaned her head back against the wall and resisted the desire to conjure a demon who’d end the torment each night brought. Losing the love of her life in a tragic, misguided war across the strait was all the worse when his daughter refused to accept the truth each night when it was time to dream.
She stepped around the corner. “Sabara, you should be asleep by now.”
“Please, just a little longer looking through the spell book?” A junior spell book for a girl whose childhood would fade if witchcraft materialized in her twelfth year.
Thankfully that was still eleven months away.
Tarker lost eleven years before, leaving only with the locket she gave him. Her picture and his infant daughter’s picture.
“Very well, another fifteen minutes.”
She wandered to the window where Esbar was more subdued than normal, the crow’s gaze fixed on Sabara. Behind him, the Raspell lights spread downhill to Inversion Harbor.
“Do you think my powers will arrive soon, Mama?”
She turned. “Sabara, you know that just because I’m a witch—”
“I know. It’s just, well…” Sabara huffed and dropped her shoulders.
So headstrong like her father, maybe gifted like her mother, and heartbroken each day. What was a mother to do with that?
Sabara’s voice softened. “I’m sorry Papa went away.”
City lights shimmered on the distant water leading to the gulf and what was the perfect mountain town beyond. A gorgeous location where she was the lone witch, but after losing Tarker … moving to Raspell helped a little.
“Sometimes it seems like yesterday. The bridge in distant Farthing…” Each breath didn’t heal, but was another breath removed from him. “It wasn’t like he left me because … well, one day soon I’ll explain.”
Sabara set the book aside. “You always say that.”
“Okay then, maybe tomorrow I’ll explain.” It wasn’t fair Sabara knew so little about him. Even Esbar remembered.
“You always say that, too.”
“Then I’ll try to do better, but for now, it’s late.” She cringed. Sweet mother of all, she always said that too.
Thick, raven hair falling in waves. Dark eyes. Sabara was so much her daughter in appearance. Surely she’d inherit the trait she so dearly desired, the magic that would be a diversion from painful thoughts.
“The bridge, Mama, always you mention it, but you never say why it’s special.”
“I met your father there.” Tenacia Falls, where she gave him the locket before he left.
“I thought so.”
That was worthy of a smile. “Well then, aren’t you clever.”
“Do you promise not to be angry?”
“I asked Esbar to visit the bridge and then come back to describe it to me.”
“Did you now? You talked to Esbar?”
“Yes. He only just got back.” Surely it was too soon for her gift to appear. Was she imagining being able to talk to a familiar?
Only one way to know. “And he told you…?”
“The bridge is directly above the falls in a deep gorge. Two other thin falls enter from much higher and there’s a wider falls just upriver.” She held up a sheet of paper. “I wrote it down.”
“Sacred spirit of Ilyana…” She dropped onto a chair.
The description was exactly right. Esbar could have remembered without traveling there, but still Sabara would have needed to hear his description.
Surely she didn’t research at the library in order to deceive?
“Esbar said he could smell the Wizard’s Blooms, that their fragrance combined with the pine and mist to create a natural perfume.”
“Sabara, are you sure you didn’t—”
“No, Mama.” Sabara’s eyes glistened. “I wanted to look it up, I did, but even more I wanted to hear about it from you. I know it hurts, you know, that Papa left you.”
“Oh, Sabara, I’m so sorry.” If she’d truly spoken to Esbar what kind of mother was she that she didn’t realize Sabara’s gift was surfacing? “You have the wrong impression. I’m not angry at your father. Just the opposite. He and I, we’d gaze from the bridge and share our hopes and dreams.” She blinked back the stinging in her eyes.
Sabara moved to her knees, her face as bright as summoned fireflies. “Then we must go to him, Mama!”
“Sabara, you know he died on the peninsula.”
“But he’s there.”
“No, Mama, he was there when Esbar was there. They remembered each other.”
Sweet mother, what kind of mess had she created that her daughter was given to fantasies?
“That’s simply not—”
“It is! He was looking for us, but didn’t know where we’d gone.”
“What?” She pulled in a breath too fast and coughed. “No, Sabara, it’s not possible. They said—”
“Esbar says he has a limp now, and his hair … there’s a little gray, and … and he had … he had—” Sabara pulled a hand across her cheeks. “He was clutching a necklace, Mama.”
“I was afraid you’d be angry, that you wouldn’t want to know because you were angry with him for leaving. You know, where you didn’t want to speak of it…”
Sabara stretched to the drawer on her nightstand, opened it, and snagged a chain with her slim fingers.
Esbar cried out, flared his wings, and flew to the foot of the bed. “Koww, koww!”
She extended a shaking hand and Sabara set it in her palm. A locket. She opened it and gasped, hand over her mouth. Her younger self and Sabara as an infant.
The authorities were wrong. They had to be. If it were an impostor with the locket Esbar would have known.
“Can we go see Papa, Mama?”
Leaving the chair, she moved to the bed and hugged Sabara tight enough to smother her. “Visit him? No. We’ll leave at sunrise—and we’ll bring him home.”