As we ride to the first Westran camp that we’re visiting I notice a few things. Athena and Prior are both fruitlessly trying to cheer Tristan up, and most people wouldn’t notice because the difference between Tristan in a good mood and Tristan in a bad mood isn’t perceptible to most.
The other is that Brea and Lisette seem to be getting along.
“I think it’s a sign of the end times,” Aaron said to me, when Annalise laughed at something she said. I shook my head.
“They’re very alike,” Nika pointed out. “I’ve always assumed it was a matter of time before something broke and they became friends.” I smiled at her. “Or they killed each other, I never knew which it would be.” I laughed.
Nika and I seem to have found some balance, and I’m glad for it. I still miss her as my lover, but I’d also missed her as my friend and I have that at least.
“What changed?” I cocked my head to the side watching them.
“Damned if I know,” Harran sighed, “but it’s a relief.” I laughed. “I agree with Nika it was this or death.” I dismounted. “Is everything alright, Duchess?”
“I need to walk for a while,” I said. “I can’t explain it.” They nodded and I walked ahead of the group quickly. Trees were fewer and farther between, but I could feel the water rushing through each of them. But I couldn’t hear her, not even a whisper.
I wasn’t Dreaming. Normally in Westran the dreams flood in, I can barely focus, but it’s just silence, everything feels cut off and strange.
The off feelings started when I stopped hearing from Damian, and they’ve only gotten worse. I don’t know how to express it either, which is frustrating, there just seems to be something growing in my mind.
“Hello Little One,” I turned at the voice and saw Amina standing in front of me. Her pale skin and hair down around her shoulders and her tight black gown.
“Hello,” I said.
“You’re not afraid?” She smiled. I swallowed.
“Should I be?” I asked. She sighed.
“I should have claimed you,” she said, “why I let my sister,” she placed a cold hand against my cheek. “Things are shifting though.”
“Is that what I’m feeling?” I asked. She smiled.
“I hadn’t realized you were feeling anything else,” she said, “but I suppose so. We’ll speak again soon.” I blinked and she was gone.
“Marina,” Tristan ran over to me, “you shouldn’t go ahead like that, it isn’t safe.” I stared at him. “A messenger arrived, Caro got to Dorin.”
“I need to talk to Lisette,” I said, “and Raymond.” He frowned at me.
“Marina,” he said softly, and went to take my hand. I jerked back.
“Don’t touch me,” I said, “no one should, I can’t.” I walked back to the group and found Annalise sitting with Brea. “Lisette, I need,” I swallowed. She looked at me. “I just saw Amina.”
“What?” Annalise stood up.
“I was walking and I was trying to center, and I haven’t been able to lately,” I swallowed, “and then she was just there. She said things were shifting,” I exhaled. Brea sighed.
“The alarm that you all use around the Dark Lady is so tiresome,” she stood up and brushed off her robes. “She can’t hurt you, you’re alive. She’s frustrated by that fact, I am sure.”
“She touched me,” I growled. Brea’s eyes opened wide.
“Oh,” she said, “well, that is different, then.” I nodded.
“She touched you?” Annalise asked. I nodded. “And you didn’t faint? Or send out light?”
“No,” I said, “her hand felt cold, but then she disappeared.” I sighed. “I don’t know, I’ve been feeling something for ages, and I think it might be whatever this shift she was talking about is.”
“Do you think it’s got something to do with Rastan?” Annalise asked. I shrugged.
“I don’t know, I wish I did.” I sighed. “Can we stop for the day, or do we need to press on further?” Brea bit her bottom lip.
“I’ll check with Harran,” she said, “I’m sure we can rest for now.” She walked away. Annalise hugged me tightly.
“Why are you and Brea being friends?” I asked. “It’s really alarming all of us.” She laughed.
“I’ve decided if Prior and Tristan can be actual partners,” she sighed, “I can at least be pleasant.” I raised my eyebrows. “I’m going to try with Caro too, when she comes back.”
“That is big of you,” I nodded.
“I know,” she whispered. “Are you alright?” I shook my head.
“No,” I whispered. “But there’s not a lot to be done about it for the moment.” She sighed. “I’ll be fine, but I want to figure this out.” I sighed. “What if I’m hers now?” I said. She presses her forehead to mine, that confident smile of hers clear as crystal.
“I refuse,” Annalise says. “Even if she wanted you, wouldn’t the pledges protect us?”
“It should,” Raymond snuck up on us. “That pledge is strong magic. Marina would have to break it herself.”
“Don’t do that,” Annalise said. He grinned and looked at me and held out his hands.
“Hands, Marina,” he said.
“Do the Mastero vows do it?” Annalise muttered. He looked at her. “Make you into an insufferable bossy infant with no manners?” He chuckled as I lay my hands on his.
“You’re not carrying any shadow,” he said. I nodded. He knew it was what I was most worried about. Damian carried shadow with him for months after Brayton attacked him.
“Thank you,” I said softly. He nodded.