Outside her daughter’s bedroom, Merelda Phlane leaned her head back against the wall. It was the same torment each night. She was the rare witch who’d married. Rarer still was losing the love of her life in a tragic, misguided war across the strait.
A daughter who refused to accept the truth made the loss fresh each night.
She conjured her love and stepped around the corner. “Sabara, it’s late.”
“Please, just a little longer looking through the spell book?” A junior spell book. Her childhood would fade if witchcraft materialized with puberty.
Sabara was still eleven, but not for much longer.
Tarker was lost almost eleven years before. He’d left with only the locket holding his wife and daughter’s pictures, and her heart.
She wandered to the window. “Very well, another fifteen minutes.”
On the sill, Esbar was subdued, the crow’s gaze fixed on Sabara. Behind him, the Raspell lights spread downhill to shimmering Inversion Harbor. It connected to the gulf that separated her from the gorgeous mountain where she’d been the lone witch.
After losing Tarker, the memories drove her away. Moving to Raspell helped. A little.
“Do you think my powers will arrive soon, Mama?”
“Sabara, you know that just because I’m a witch—”
“I know.” Sabara huffed and dropped her shoulders. She was headstrong like her father, perhaps gifted like her mother, and heartbroken each day. Sabara’s voice softened. “I’m sorry Papa went away.”
And didn’t come home. “He was all my yesterdays, and so many of them upon the bridge in distant Farthing.” Each breath measured the time he was gone. “It wasn’t that he wanted to leave, it was … 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. She deserved to inherit the magic she so dearly desired. It’d at least be a diversion from more painful thoughts.
“The bridge, Mama, always you mention it, but you never say why it’s special.”
“I met your father there.” The bridge. Tenacia Falls. It was where she’d given 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.”
She chuckled. “Did you now? You talked to Esbar?”
“Yes. He said he knew where it was. He’s only just returned.” Was Sabara’s gift appearing early or was she imagining her conversation with a familiar?
There was one way to know. “And he told you…?”
Sabara straightened her back as if reporting to a teacher. “The bridge is directly above the falls in a deep gorge. Two other thin falls enter from much higher. Too, 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 exact. Was Sabara’s gift early arriving or was she so desperate for her mother to shed her grief that she’d research the details at the library?
“Esbar said he could smell the Wizard’s Blooms. Their fragrance combines with the pine and mist to create a natural perfume.”
“Sabara, are you sure you didn’t—”
“No, Mama, I didn’t.” Sabara’s eyes glistened. “I wanted to look it up, I did. Even more, I wanted to hear about it from you. I know it hurts that Papa left, but I never had the chance to know him.”
“Oh, Sabara, I’m so sorry.” If her gift was real, what kind of mother was she that she hadn’t noticed? “He and I, we’d gaze from the bridge and share our hopes and dreams.” She blinked back the stinging in her eyes. “The roar of the falls, the mist. In winter there were sheets of ice and he’d hold me tight against the cold.”
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.”
“Yes, Mama! He was there when Esbar visited. They remembered each other.”
Sweet mother, what kind of mess had she created that her daughter was given to fantasies? “That’s simply not possible, the government—”
“It is possible! He was looking for us, but didn’t know where we’d gone.”
“What?” She pulled in a breath too fast and coughed. “I’m so sorry, Sabara, but I’ve the letter from—”
“Esbar says he has a limp now. His hair, there’s a little gray, and … and he had … he had—” Sabara pulled a hand across her cheeks to dry them. “He was clutching a necklace, Mama.”
Her heart lost its rhythm. “A necklace?”
“I was afraid you’d be angry because I spoke to Esbar before I was supposed to.” 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.”