The Threshold Child

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Chapter Fourteen: Repercussions

Getting back into her room was much harder than getting out. By this time everybody was about their daily business. Adesina had to find a way back to the house and into her bedroom without being seen or heard, in broad daylight.

She slipped from shadow to shadow, finding every nook and cranny of the city in which she could duck in and hide. She went through several back yards and hopped over many fences to reach her house.

After that it got tricky. Adesina went around to the side of the house and peeked in the ground level window. It showed her that Hass and Jelana’s bedroom was empty. She climbed up on the windowsill and jumped at an angle to catch hold of the sill on the next floor. Adesina pulled herself up quietly and looked in to make sure that room was empty too. There was no one in the storage room, so she climbed in and shut the window behind her. A quick glance told her the hall was empty, and she darted into her bedroom from there. As soon as she entered, she saw a figure sitting in the center of the floor.

Ravi had returned.

Adesina gave a small gasp. “Ravi! You came back.”

Instead of greeting her with a feline smile, he looked quite displeased. “Where have you been, Ma’eve?”

She lifted her chin defiantly, mostly to cover the guilt she felt. “Doing my duty as a Shimat.”

She shut the door quietly and stepped behind the screen to change back into her nightgown.

Adesina had counted on Ravi understanding her obligations as a Shimat, but Ravi didn’t look understanding at all.

“You promised you would do nothing out of the ordinary.”

Adesina heard footsteps coming up the stairs. She hurried to her bed and settled down in the blankets as if she had been there all morning. Jelana opened the door a crack and looked in on her sick foster daughter. She retreated just as carefully when she saw Adesina’s eyes were closed.

Ravi was still looking at her expectantly when Adesina opened her eyes. “Well?”

She shifted uncomfortably. “It was an emergency. My first real mission.”

“I had thought your word counted for more than that.”

The young woman felt herself growing angry. “I cannot put my entire life on hold just because you decide to disappear.”

There was a change in Ravi’s eyes, and Adesina detected an emotion that she had never seen there before. He spoke in a quiet, controlled voice. “I did not come to that decision lightly.”

Adesina blew out her breath. “I am sorry, Ravi. I know how seriously you take your duties as my guardian. I just…it has been a trying couple of days.”

Ravi turned away to face the window. “Why not get some rest, Ma’eve? You have used much of your strength.”

Adesina was surprised to find that he was right. She was unusually tired. She closed her eyes and, in the darkness behind her lids, instantly fell asleep.

It was a Dream.

That much Adesina could tell. The rest was harder. There was darkness everywhere, almost as if she were standing in a great void where light and sound did not exist.

She was in danger. She didn’t know how she knew, she just felt it to be so. Adesina tried to move, but her legs wouldn’t respond. She was rooted where she stood, no matter how hard she struggled. She tried calling for help, but the sound was lost in the abyss. Out of the corner of her eye, Adesina saw a glimmer of light. She turned to face it and saw another figure held by the darkness.

It was the man she had kidnapped.

He turned to her with a look of desperation in his eyes. His lips moved, but no sound escaped them. He reached out his hand, the expression on his face begging her to take it. But before she could make a decision, an invisible force started pulling them apart.

Adesina felt herself falling backwards into an eternity of night.

Adesina jerked awake.

Her heart was racing and her face was covered with a fine sheen of sweat. She struggled to sit up and free herself from the tangle of her blankets.

Ravi was still looking out the window, but it was clear that hours had passed. The purple dust of twilight had stolen across the sky. He turned around at the sound of her gasping breaths and hurried to her side.

“What is it, Ma’eve?”

It took her several moments to calm herself down enough to find coherent words to speak. “A Dream. My first Dream since the forest.”

“What did this Dream show you?”

She described it to Ravi, and a glint of understanding flashed in his eye. Adesina caught the expression and stared at him intently.

“You know what it means.”

Ravi cocked an eyebrow. “Why would you believe that?”

Adesina’s eyes narrowed. “I know you, Ravi. That look in your eye says that you heard something significant. Something only you understand.”

Ravi walked back over to the window and sat down again. “It would not be significant if I were the only one to understand. True knowledge is never for one being alone.”

Adesina shook her head impatiently. She wasn’t in the right frame of mind to sit and listen to his little gems of wisdom. “What does it mean, Ravi?”

He looked at her sharply. “I am not a companion of convenience, Ma’eve. You cannot choose the times you listen to me and then discard me at will. You have chosen your path in the labyrinth of destiny. Now follow it.”

It took Adesina a moment to recall their conversation before he left. She took a deep, steadying breath. “What are you saying? Are you leaving for good?”

Ravi frowned. “Of course not. I will not abandon my duty to you.”

“Then what?”

He fixed his gaze on some point on the distant horizon. “Follow your chosen path, Ma’eve. I will follow mine.”

Ravi’s silence now seemed determined. Adesina didn’t talk to him for the rest of the night. She tried to get some more sleep, but she was restless. She tossed and turned in bed for a while, then got up and paced around the room, then went through her Shimat belongings to organize and review, and then went back to bed to start the cycle all over again.

By dawn she was completely exhausted. She was more affected in mind and spirit, but her body also suffered from the draining night. It wasn’t long after the sun appeared that Jelana came to check on her. Adesina had been in the middle of pacing again, and was scolded sternly by the older woman.

“Adrie, you should not be up.”

Adesina gave a reassuring smile. “I am fine, Jelana.”

Her hostess would not hear it. “Get back in bed this instant.”

“But, Jelana-”

“Not another word. You are staying in bed until I am convinced that you have fully recovered.”

She reluctantly climbed back into her bed. “The illness has left me, Jelana. I am still weak, but I can attend school.”

The kindly woman was adamant. “Not today. You are going to eat and rest, and if I am satisfied, you may go to school after the weekend.”

Adesina saved her groan until Jelana had left the room. “The weekend? How will I pass three days in bed?”

Ravi did not look at her or answer. He appeared to be deep in thought, completely unaware of his surroundings. Adesina had never seen him so distracted.

She sat up. “Ravi?”

Even this did not break through to his conscious mind. He continued to stare out the window.

Adesina wondered if he ever received visions other than in Dreams. She laid back down, considering this possibility. Perhaps that is what happened right before he had left her to seek one of his own kind. Perhaps he had received some kind of warning. It had to have been something important to take him away from her.

Her thoughts turned to their conversation the night before. He had told her that she had chosen her path. She had finally been faced with what she had greatly desired: a choice. And, like Ravi had warned her, it had passed before she was aware of its importance.

It had seemed like a simple matter of doing what she was told. After all, hadn’t she sworn loyalty to the Shimat order? She wondered what would have happened if she had honored her promise to Ravi and stayed in the High City while he was gone. Her opportunity for her first mission would have been missed, but was that all?

She was not the only Shimat in the High City. There were others who could have accomplished the mission if she had not. The organization would not have been harmed by the decision to honor her promise to Ravi, only her ambition. That is what it all came down to: her ambition. And now she was set on a path without knowing where she was headed.

Such thoughts made Adesina feel powerless, and she hated that feeling more than anything. She was glad when Jelana reappeared with a tray. It distracted her from the trap of her own mind.

“Are you feeling up to having a visitor?”

Adesina frowned in confusion. “A visitor?”

Jelana smiled and gestured Aleron into the room. He tried to give her his usual sunny smile, but the worry lines on his forehead spoiled the effect. “How are you feeling today?”

Adesina gave a brief smile in return. “Much better.”

Jelana discreetly slipped out of the room and Aleron moved to sit on the foot of Adesina’s bed. “Gainor, Deasa and Rina said they would come visit you after school today.”

She wasn’t sure what sort of response this statement merited. She settled on a nod as she turned her attention to the food on the tray in front of her.

Aleron studied her thoughtfully. “How does your tribe in the north handle illness? Did your friends not visit you?”

Adesina shook her head. “No. Those who fell ill were left to heal, and then they rejoined society when they were healthy again.”

This was actually a description of student illness in the Shimat fortress. Illness meant time lost from training, and no student would lose time of their own to visit a sick classmate. Most students learned to work through their illnesses. Only the more severe cases went to the medical wing.

Aleron nodded slowly. “Well, I just wanted to see how you were feeling. Is there anything I can do for you?”

She shrugged. “I really feel much better.”

He got to his feet. “Then I will leave you to rest. I need to get to school, so I will talk to you later.”

Aleron was out the door before Adesina could respond. She frowned after him, not understanding why he came to visit at all if he was going to leave in such a hurry.

“He cares for you very much.”

Adesina jumped at the sound of Ravi’s voice. She had not noticed that he was watching the exchange.

“We are friends. I suppose his concern is natural.”

The soft smile that appeared on Ravi’s face brought an unexpected feeling of relief to Adesina. Ravi must have forgiven her for her broken promise.

“He sees you as more than a friend, I think.”

Adesina stiffened, her thoughts immediately flying to Kendan. “What makes you say that?”

Ravi’s smile widened. “I have eyes, Ma’eve. I can see how he looks at you.”

She felt her stomach drop. She had never considered Aleron anything more than a friend, and the thought of him harboring hopes for something more marred that friendship beyond repair.

Ravi could see that the idea disturbed her and changed the subject, but Adesina could not put it out of her head.

Between that, questioning her decision to break her promise to Ravi, and her Dream, Adesina could find no peace of mind. The day was almost unendurably long. Jelana kept her in bed, where there was nothing for her to do but think, which inevitably turned back to all the things Adesina was trying to keep out of her thoughts. By evening Adesina was pleading with Jelana to let her go downstairs. It was only when she promised to sit quietly by the fire that Jelana allowed it.

Adesina settled into the rocking chair, bundled up far more than what was needed for the time of year. Ravi laid down between the chair and the fire, resting his head on his giant paws. Jelana had been teaching Adesina the finer points of needlework, and she was learning quickly. She now took up the square of cloth she had been working on and let the sounds of the evening household bustle wash over her: the crackling fire, the sound of Jelana’s brisk footsteps over the wooden floorboards, the clink of cookware, the soft pattering of rain on the windowpanes, Ravi’s deep and steady breath. Adesina closed her eyes and took in not just the sounds, but the feeling of the house. It was a content sort of feeling—the feeling of a home.

Jelana was preparing supper and Fia followed her around, humming a happy little song. Hass was not home yet, which was unusual, but no one seemed concerned. A hurried knock at the door broke the quiet atmosphere. Jelana pursed her lips as she went to answer it.

It was Gainor, Deasa and Rina. They were drenched from the rain, and shivering from both cold and excitement.

“May we see Adrie, Mistress Jelana?”

Jelana ushered them inside. “Girls, you will catch your deaths being out in such weather.”

They spotted Adesina and rushed to her side, each talking over the other.

“How are you feeling, Adrie?”

“We are sorry we took so long to come visit you.”

“We meant to come much earlier.”

“We have such exciting news.”

Adesina turned her attention to Gainor, who didn’t seem too lost on formalities. “What news?”

Gainor was interrupted by the entrance of Hass. He was also dripping from the rain, with a grim expression on his face. He looked around the room and seemed to guess what was going on. In his sternest voice he said, “Fia, go to your room. I will come and get you when supper is ready.”

His tone brooked no refusal. Fia scurried up the stairs, looking fearfully over her shoulder as she went. Jelana stared at her husband in shock.

“What is it, Hass?”

He had turned his gaze to the group of girls huddled by the fire. “I think it is time for you girls to be getting home.”

They all shot Adesina apologetic glances before hurrying out the door. Hass waited until they were alone before turning to his wife.

“A man is missing. An Outsider.”

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