Chapter Twenty-four: Revelations
Adesina’s eyes widened in disbelief as she saw her mother walking towards her. She rushed forward impulsively into her mother’s open arms.
E’rian was reluctant to let her daughter go again. “I have missed you, Ma’eve.”
“Mother, I kidnapped father and turned him over to the Shimat,” she blurted guiltily.
Her mother nodded. “Yes, I know.”
Then, as if a cover had been lifted from her mind, Adesina knew the question that she needed to ask her mother. The question that had brought both of them to the realm of Dreaming.
“Why did you ask Signe to raise me? Why, if the Shimat are your enemies? Did you not know that I would become a Shimat as well?”
E’rian’s expression was both sorrowful and pained. Slowly, almost unwillingly, she held out her slender hand to her daughter. “Take my hand, Ma’eve. I will show you what I know.”
She was almost afraid of knowing the answer to her questions. Still, she reached forward and took her mother’s hand.
There was a flash of light and Adesina found herself standing in a forest. They were just outside of a building that she recognized as the fort they had left two weeks earlier. A saddled horse was grazing a few feet away from the door without much success, as it appeared to be early spring and the grass had barely begun to grow. The light was fading from the sky, painting everything in rosy tints.
“What is this?” she asked in confusion.
E’rian looked around sadly. “This is one of my memories.”
A high-pitched squeal rang through the quiet forest, bringing the Shimat around sharply. She saw a small boy run out the front door of the fort, followed closely by a man. Both were laughing loudly.
She recognized the man as her father, and she could guess the identity of the small boy. Another figure darkened the doorway. It was her mother, and it was evident that she was in the early stages of pregnancy.
Her father grabbed the boy and spun him around. When he saw his wife he stopped, suddenly looking serious.
“E’rian, I would rather you did not go riding alone. Can you not wait until we begin our journey home?”
She laughed lightly at his concerns. “I need just one hour to feel completely at ease. One hour, Me’shan, that is all.”
He was still reluctant. Even the exuberant attacks of his son could not completely distract him. “Well…”
E’rian walked over to the saddled horse before he could protest. “I will be back soon. Make sure that E’nes has an extra blanket when you put him to bed.”
Adesina looked again at the boy, seeing traces of her brother’s features in the cherubic face. She also found herself looking more closely at her father. He was quite handsome, and seemed much younger than when she had seen him in the High City. Perhaps it was due to care as well as the years.
She wanted more time to study him, but the memory was moving on.
“I will be back soon, I promise.”
E’rian was riding away. Adesina started after her, but her Dream mother still held her hand.
“Wait. You do not need to move, for the memory will find us.”
There was a shift in the scenery as they followed the memory E’rian through the forest.
Adesina was a bit disoriented feeling the change without ever moving her feet. It felt as if the earth was moving beneath her feet with the same fluid motion of a river, and she only had to stand firm against its flow.
The memory E’rian rode quickly at first, eager to leave the shelter of the trees. Once she was out in the open, she slowed her horse to a steady walk. She looked up at the stars and sighed in satisfaction, as if she had not seen them in a long time.
She was so enraptured that she did not notice the small band of men riding through the grassland. They, on the other hand, spotted her quickly and held a quiet conversation deciding what to do. The leader nudged his horse forward to intercept the beautiful young L’avan.
“Excuse me, m’lady, are you lost?”
The man was slender and had a thick beard covering half of his face. Adesina frowned at him, searching her memory to discover why he looked so familiar. Her thoughts were quickly pulled back to the Dream as she watched the memory unfold.
The woman was startled and looked at the group of men nervously. “No, I was just on my way home.”
The man looked amused. “There is nothing for leagues, m’lady. Surely you will not get home tonight.”
The other five men moved their horses to surround the L’avan. Adesina wanted to shout a warning, but she knew it would do no good.
“My husband is not far,” stammered E’rian.
Adesina knew what was coming and could not bear to watch. She clenched her eyes shut, wishing she could shut out the noise as well. There was the sound of a struggle and E’rian’s screams, then everything went quiet. When the observer opened her eyes, she saw that it had also gone dark.
“What happened?” she asked her mother.
“I was taken far away. I remember little of the journey, only that it took a long time.”
Her daughter forced out the words, “Then what?”
They were in a dimly lit stone dungeon. E’rian’s dress was reduced to rags and she was covered in blood and dirt. She lay shivering on a pile of moldy straw, her arms wrapped around her swollen abdomen.
“She is quite weak,” commented a cold, calculating voice from the shadows. Adesina found it disturbingly familiar.
“Yes, but the child will survive. Is that not what you wanted?”
E’rian’s emaciated arms tightened around her stomach.
“Yes, the child will be valuable. You have done well, Breyen.”
The two voices stepped into the light, revealing their faces to the Shimat observer and her guide.
“Do not forget your promise, Signe.”
An arctic smile passed over the lips that Adesina knew well. The lips that had spoken guidance and directed her throughout her childhood. The lips that had sung lullabies when she couldn’t sleep. The lips that had spun a web of tales that she had always been so desperate to believe.
“Do not worry, Breyen. The possession of a L’avan child ensures me the position of Sharifal. Such a gift will not go unrewarded.”
“I want a part in the experiments, Signe. I want a part in the child’s upbringing.”
Signe inclined her head. “I would not entrust it’s training to anyone else.”
There was another shift in E’rian’s memory. It wasn’t a significant passage of time, but the setting was dramatically different. The dungeon was filled with the L’avan’s moans of pain, and there was a bustle of activity around her.
The cry of an infant rent the air and Signe stepped forward impatiently. “Well?”
“A girl. She seems healthy enough.”
Signe held out her hands imperiously. “Give it to me.”
“No,” E’rian cried weakly.
The Shimat leader’s face was contorted with a sneer. “Kill the witch. She has served her purpose.”
A masked guard stepped forward, drawing a knife. The young mother threw a panicked glance at the dagger and then fixed her gaze on her newborn daughter, her eyes glowing with vyala. Then, using the last of her life force, she used an old form of magic—her last resort to protect her daughter from such dangerous enemies.
“Her father will come for her!”
Somehow, Adesina instinctively knew what had happened in that moment. The declaration was E’rian’s dying breath, but it would create a connection between father and daughter that would ensure that they would someday find each other. It would feel like a compulsion to search for the other, and it would lead them to decisions that would help to reunite their paths.
Adesina could almost see E’rian’s spirit leave her body. The guard looked disappointed that he had lost the opportunity to kill the “witch” himself, and Signe looked supremely disinterested. She only had eyes for the infant in her arms: a weapon waiting to be shaped.
She turned and walked out of the dungeon, leaving the servants to deal with the corpse.
Adesina was silent.
She hadn’t spoken since she had been pulled into a Dream the previous night. Ravi and E’nes stayed close to her trying to give her some emotional support as she grappled with the devastating history she had seen. They did not ask any questions, which the young woman appreciated.
She lay beside the fire, curled up in a ball. Her head rested in the curve of Ravi’s body and E’nes sat absently toying with a strand of her hair. She found their proximity comforting.
“Ravi?” she asked softly.
Her guardian lowered his head closer to hers. “Yes, Ma’eve?”
“Is it possible for a Dream to be a lie?” She held her breath as she waited for him to answer, not knowing what response she feared more.
“No, dear one,” he said gently, “Dreams never lie.”
Her fists clenched tightly, and her brother placed a comforting hand over hers. She automatically flinched away from his touch and his arm retreated. She regretted her reaction, but was too proud to reach out to him. She hugged herself more closely and shut her eyes against the tears she felt forming.
“It cannot be true,” she said more to herself than to anyone else.
She couldn’t believe it. She didn’t want to believe it. And yet, as Ravi had said, it could not be a lie.
The people she had always felt closest to were murderers and liars. She felt she was more alone than ever. For as long as she could remember, Adesina had taken great comfort in the solidity of the Shimat order. There were rules and regulations; everything was consistent and unflinching. It was something that could always be counted on, and it was something of which she was a part. No matter how many questions had plagued Adesina’s mind, of that she had been sure.
In the times when Basha, her oldest enemy, would persecute her or make dishonorable decisions, Adesina comforted herself in knowing that Basha would never be among the great Shimat. That Basha, who saw no good in the world and gave back even less than that, would never rise above the mediocre Shimat because she lacked that higher vision that set the Shimat apart from the rest of the world.
The Shimat had been something elite in Adesina’s eyes. They were the peacekeepers, the silent heroes, the shadows that allowed the light to exist.
Now she saw them for what they truly were. Now she had seen things through her mother’s eyes.
“They took her,” she whispered, “and they beat her so badly she could not move. They did not care if she lived or died, just as long as they got what they wanted.”
E’nes frowned. “Who?”
“The Shimat took our mother.”
He cringed at her words, as if they had physically seared him. “You saw all of that?”
She nodded. “Mother showed me her memories.”
Her brother did his best to hide his tears. He passed a hand over his eyes, as if shading them from the light of the campfire. “Father was frantic when she disappeared. He spent more than a year searching for the two of you. I rarely saw him during that time, and it felt as if I had lost both of my parents.”
For the first time, Adesina stopped thinking of her own pain and turned her thoughts to her brother. She pushed herself into a sitting position and looked at him with sympathy in her eyes. “Where did you live while he was gone?”
“With our grandparents,” he replied. “Our father’s parents. I grew close to Ri’sel during that time. He became like a second father to me.”
She searched for the right words to say in a situation such as this. “I am sorry. For me, growing up without parents was simply how things were. No one around me had family either, so it was accepted as normal. It must have been harder for you because you could remember what it was like to have a mother and father.”
“I do not blame him,” E’nes insisted hastily, almost as if he were trying to convince himself of the statement. “I would do the same for those I loved.”
Ravi said what neither sibling wanted to say. “Still, he should not have forgotten his son in his search for his daughter.”
The silence that followed was heavy, only broken by the crackling of the wood on the fire. Adesina slowly laid back down, but kept her eyes wide open.
“You should rest, Ma’eve,” the Rashad advised. “Go to sleep and relieve your mind from troubling thoughts.”
She shook her head. “I cannot sleep. I am afraid I will Dream again.”
He sighed as if the weight of the world lay on his shoulders. “I know that fear well, dear one.”
Adesina lifted her head to look him in the eye. “What do you do, then?”
A sad smile brushed his lips. “I go to sleep anyway. The Dreams come whether we want them to or not. They give us the knowledge we need to make the choices we must.”These words sunk in as she laid her head back down. Reluctantly, fearfully, she closed her eyes and let the Dream take her.