Avenari - Chapter 34
“Here are your pen and parchment,” Yoko said once Andris reluctantly handed me off. She gave me the items and the leather pouch. “The pouch contains some key ingredients to actually trigger the spell, and the rest of the materials are in the amulets you already have. Because this is the final amulet, darkness is the theme, as this is the realm that Rubeo rules over. To that end, I’ve included some obsidian in the ingredients—that’s his stone.”
“So I just write down my power requests and put it in here, right?” I asked to be sure.
She nodded. “The form or the language doesn’t seem to matter, but you do have to close with the right words. It’s a spell, however, so feel free to be dramatic. Magic always seems to work better when you spice it up a bit.”
I chuckled a little, shaking my head and trying not to let my nervousness get the best of me. “What’s this symbol for, though?” I indicated the marble floor, upon which a large character had been drawn in black sand within a circle of white. It was just a character from the Shimari alphabet, but I couldn’t understand its significance.
“It acts as a barrier. It’s not in the documents, but I know it won’t interfere with your work, and I am obligated to take every precaution for the safety of the books here. Unfortunately, this is the most suitable place for what you’re trying to do.”
“Huh.” So there was some kind of risk that the books could get damaged? I hoped silently that there wouldn’t be any explosions involved. The thought didn’t help my nerves at all—it was hard enough just getting to the table to write out my bit in all of this.
At last, I put the pen to the parchment and scribbled:
The brilliance of light~
The darkness in my blood~
The air of breath~
The water of birth~
The strength of stone~
The power of lightning~
The chill in the ice~
The heat of the flame~
The absence and presence of life~
For which I ask, to which I am entitled~
To close the chain for eternity.
According to the files, this was how I would tell the amulet which powers I wanted. Like any normal person, I made sure to cover all of my bases—after all, nothing in Simone’s document had told me that it couldn’t be done, and I was curious to see what my version of “everything” would get me. Most of the previous amulets’ powers had been redundant, save for a few gems, so adding in some fresh ideas seemed like a good idea.
I rolled up the little parchment and put it into the leather pouch, then carefully plucked the feather from my palm—the tiniest of pinpricks—and added that as well.
“Andris, could you help me?” I asked, reaching behind my neck and lifting my hair. “I need to get the silver one off, at least, and put it in here.” Hopefully I could just wear the ruby, since taking it off would almost instantly incapacitate me.
His uncertainty about removing the amulet was more than evident, but he came over anyway and unclasped the chain, letting the stone fall into my waiting hand. As it fell, the air changed around me, as though a layer of clothing had come off. I shivered a little bit.
“There you go,” he said, dropping his hands to my shoulders. He leaned down and kissed my hair. “Are you sure you’re ready? I don’t want you to risk it without being absolutely sure.”
I nodded, pushing aside my worry—it would only complicate things. “Let’s do this.”
He stepped back, taking the closest seat at the nearby table. “Good luck, Princess.”
“Thank you, demon,” I whispered as I entered the circle of sand.
I dropped the moonstone in and drew the string, then took the pouch into my clasped hands and held it with other amulet, staring ahead and letting my mind go blank. “Okay, try not to think too hard on anything. It could disturb the process, and I don’t want to end up with four amulets or an extra limb or something.”
“Go ahead,” Nick said quietly.
“The sand will prevent us from affecting it, so don’t worry,” said Yoko, who had produced yet another legal pad to jot down real-time notes. Homer sat on her shoulder, reading her scribbles and shuffling side to side in agitation.
Damn the bird, he was making me nervous all over again.
I forced a laugh, trying to sound much more confident than I actually felt. “Hold onto your hats, people.”
“We’re not wearing hats,” Nick said, deadpan.
I ignored him.
Following what the instructions had told me, I held the items firmly, focusing the amulets’ powers and letting my blood’s core connect like a cable of electricity. The more power I could gather the stronger and more complete my amulet would become. Although nothing had mentioned using other power sources, they also hadn’t forbidden it. If I was going to do this, I wanted to use everything at my disposal.
I could feel the energy building up, a pressure just under my skin. It sparked a change in the core, as though it had started to spin the other direction. It grew and expanded beyond my flesh and into the circle around me like water filling a dome.
The fine hairs on my arms and on the back of my neck prickled, and it made my skin tingle as though a cold breeze had rushed around my body. In response, my trigger snapped open, flooding me with icy, breathtaking power. All of my sources were pouring into the pot now. The circle had filled to the brim, and the pressure pushed hard against me.
When I realized that I had hit the limit, I hesitated. Only true links in the power chain could create new amulets, and those few non-links who had attempted the same feat had died in the process. I took a deep breath, clearing my thoughts. It was too late to turn back now.
I spoke the words:
“Lastra Avenari, qohine a Ploráverim, ome balier narela qora hosai a qualerna sufe lese misal ome qalese.” Why the spell called for ancient Shimari, I hadn’t a clue, but that was how it was—I couldn’t argue. It roughly translated to “I am the raven of the bloodline, the last of the Ploráverim, and I now take the full strength of my clan to close the link and end it.”
I spoke softly, but the words seemed to reverberate through the thick energy, making it shift and roll with each syllable, amplifying my voice so that it echoed back in a timbre that sounded nothing like me. By the time I finished, the gathered power was swirling around and gaining speed. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it moving, and when the last word left my mouth, the ruby took on such a powerful glow that I had to shut my eyes tightly, seeing veins in my lids no matter how hard I tried to block the light.
The leather pouch grew hot in my hands, and the power made a loop between the two amulets, condensing and forming a tangible ring of energy which seemed to draw strength not only from my blood, but from my life itself. Giving up a piece of my existence in its creation would strengthen that connection and make it easier to control…not that I had a choice in the matter. Unlike the other links, I would be part of the amulet’s power.
I felt my strength begin to slip away as more and more of my powers absorbed into the stones. It was becoming difficult to maintain focus and stay on my feet, but I held on, forcing myself to get through it. This was what Mom had wanted for me. This was my one connection to a family I would never know. “No” was not an option.
The light seemed to last forever, burning into my retinas until it finally began to fade slowly to darkness. I held my breath, waiting, but it remained quiet. I could still sense the power, but it had stopped moving. Rather than hovering around me, it now concentrated in one tiny area.
Cautiously, I opened my eyes. I could still feel it…
“Did it work?” I breathed, taking a moment to make sure that everything had stopped before opening the pouch. It was empty. The paper and feather were gone, but there was no amulet. Fatigue tried to swirl my head into mush, but the sudden fear helped me regain at least a little bit of energy. “It’s not in here.”
“They merged into one,” Yoko said softly, staring at me. Her pen had frozen to the page, bleeding black onto the paper. I looked down.
My breath caught in my throat, tangling with the words on my tongue.
The ruby was gone, replaced by another shimmering, weightless stone and chain.
The actual stone was ruby, moonstone, and obsidian swirled together like a gorgeous hurricane, with the blood red feather hovering at the center, entirely visible. The moonstone shone blue-green and caught the ruby’s glow, while the obsidian stripes seemed to swallow all light except for whatever the feather reflected. The rope chain resembled the silver one from the spent amulet, but parts had been carved out to throw off sparks of light from all sides.
As I got over the initial surprise, I realized that there was no clasp. The stone simply hung from a lacy mount shaped like a folded pair of wings. It didn’t even slide along the short chain. There was no way to remove it.
It looked exactly like the amulet my doppelganger had been wearing in my dream, and I couldn’t help a twinge of fear.
“Is that all?” Nick asked in a hush, leaning in for a better view.
I shook my head, and the world swam a bit, but I took a calming breath to regain some of my focus. “I have to activate it,” I said, taking the icy stone in my hands and feeling a connection form with the frozen core of my powers. I focused once more, and this time there was no pressure, just a flow of energy to jump-start the amulet for an eternity of use.
Another flash of light burst in my eyes as the energy formed a silent explosion, boiling up and spreading over me like water to wash strength into the stone and myself. The power moved rapidly, seeking its target, melting through me to find the stone. It slipped between my fingers, brushing across the polished surface as if to test it, and in a sudden rush it crawled inside, the last little tendrils gently caressing my skin as they vanished into the hard, cold rock.
The spell was done.
My exhaustion was gone. I felt completely fine.
“Wow,” I said, somewhat at a loss. I looked at Andris and gave him a shaky grin.
He returned the smile. “It’s beautiful, Lynn.”
I sighed and held the stone up to the light. The energy swirled around it so thickly that I could see ripples in the surrounding air. It really was beautiful, like art wrought of magic.
And then Hell broke loose.
Searing pain shot up my spine and into my shoulder blades, so sharp and white hot that I let out a piercing scream and let go of the amulet to hunch over, gripping myself tightly. My nails dug into my own skin, but that wasn’t nearly enough to distract me, and blood tears began leaking from the corners of my eyes.
“Lynn!” I could hear Andris running over, but he skidded to a stop at the edge of the sand circle. I screamed again as another wave of hot pain tore through me.
Nick jumped back with a yelp, tripping over his chair and landing in a heap. “What the hell is that?!”
The pain increased until it was too much for me to take, and with a final shriek, all of the pressure released at once. My back exploded with a sickening, wet crunch, and I collapsed to the sandy floor in anguish. My hair was everywhere, soaked in what could only have been blood. A sound like wet rags shuddering in the breeze drifted faintly into my ears.
“Wings!” Andris shouted suddenly. “A pair of wings…and they’re disappearing?”
“It hurts,” I groaned, tears still streaming down my cheeks. “Is it healing?”
“Not exactly. It’s like they’re still attaching themselves to you. You’re bleeding.” He moved closer, at last entering the broken circle to tentatively reach over and touch my back.
“Ahh! No!” I gasped, trying to hold consciousness as the floor tilted wildly beneath me.
Andris backed off, instead touching his hand to my cheek and combing my hair out of my face. “I’ll take care of you, Princess.”
I looked up, losing my connection with reality, and caught only a glimpse of translucent, towering, blood-soaked raven wings before the world abandoned me to unending darkness.
* o * o *
“I’m proud of you, Lydian,” my mother said softly from her chair by the fire. “It took Mariana three tries and much practice before she managed to make her amulet.”
I looked around. I was in my old house again, the house of pain and memories, the place where I had decided to change my life and try to start over again. I’d lost my innocence, family, humanity—I’d lost my whole life in this house, and gained a new one in return.
Outside, through threadbare curtains, the moon shone as intensely as it had on the night my mother had given me the amulets to start me on this path. It was still full, but too bright, and blue somehow. On Friday, my birthday, the moon would be full like this.
I turned back to my mother. She was still my beautiful mother, my hero.
It felt so good to see her again.
“Mom?” I said timidly, moving away from the thin curtains and taking a seat on the faded couch, whose once-floral designs had become a splotchy sort of brown and yellow over years of love and abuse. “Those amulets weren’t yours, were they?”
She smiled. “I stole them from the treasury when I was eighteen.”
I nodded. My head felt light and airy, as though my thoughts were a long-distance call and it took some time for them to reach my present location. “So it was all true.”
“I saw what was happening, and I knew that I was the only one left capable of having a child. Before I boarded the ship to the United States, I took everything I could from the treasury in the main house. I thought that if I took the amulets, too, perhaps the horror would end.”
“Why did you leave? What was happening?” I asked. This was what Andris had hidden from me, wasn’t it? This was the real reason why he had killed my mother and my bloodline.
She watched the dwindling fire. “Our family has been linked to the other powers for as long as we have existed. We have ties to the Shimaren, hunters, and sorcerers of the world, all because of our link with Rubeo and Ombricel.
“However, there were rumors going around that we were siding with the hunters against the Shimaren. One particular group was the Tiger-Wolf Clan, alternatively known as the Qualerna Toreliaqne. Your Andris had caught wind of it and didn’t want anybody helping them, so he destroyed as many members of our family as he could find. He did it out of fear. I assume he explained what the hunters did to him?”
“Yeah...but Mom, were we really going to help the hunters?” I asked. “Was that safe?”
“Mariana, two links before you, was rather ambitious. The hunters are famously skilled with magic, and she wanted that power for our family. She managed to gain the favor of three weaker clans, but the others were less cooperative, and they eventually turned the deal around to use us against the vampires. It was essentially a matter of politics. We weren’t aware of the Toreliaqne’s grudge against Andris. We didn’t even know that something like him existed.”
“Did she accept?”
Mom shook her head, watching me soberly. “Andris killed her. Too late, we found out that the killer was someone who had nothing to do with the Councils—a completely different level of Shimare. The next links slated to lead our family asked the Shimari Council for help, but they didn’t send anybody or even recognize the problem until I had already run away with the last hopes of the bloodline. Two more links and nearly all members of the main house died before any action was taken, and by then I was gone.
“Though I knew I had made the right decision, I still felt guilty. To atone, I kept the amulets for you. I did everything in my power to teach you kindness, acceptance, and patience, because those were things we needed so badly, and lacked so critically, in our final moments.”
Was the Council really so indifferent that they would wait until the last second to save one of the last remaining sorcerer families? I was beginning to see why Emperor Tatsune wanted Andris and me to hunt down Tivor and the hunters who helped him. It was all interconnected—had been since before my birth. I transcended both the Ploráverim and Shimaren, so it fit somehow that my mother’s killer would lead me to the hunters who had started it all. Despite the convoluted circumstances around me, it was beginning to make sense.
“Simone volunteered to go, didn’t he, Mom? He knew what would happen if nobody was watching over us, and he knew Andris.”
“Precisely. After I died, Andris spent a lot of time watching you, and nobody could predict what would happen. None of the Council knew what to make of his behavior. Eventually, Simone went to keep an eye out and protect you in the event of another incident. I had hidden the amulets the best way I could—in the Realm of Shades, where Rubeo resides. They were safe there, but you were still vulnerable.”
“The Realm of Shades?” I repeated, recalling what Yoko had said about my family’s guardian. “So that’s where I am right now? And you’re here now, too?”
She nodded. “Ombricel, the Realm of Shades, is Rubeo’s domain. It serves many purposes, both as a plane for the souls of those who have some connection with Rubeo, as well as an intermediate point between the living and the dead. It is also the source of your powers, including those wings.”
“Huh?” I glanced over my shoulder and my jaw dropped.
Like dark glass in a pool, a pair of translucent wings folded neatly behind me, curved over the back of the couch where I sat. They looked almost as though they weren’t actually there.
“Mom…why do I have wings?” I demanded flatly.
“Because one of your predecessors wanted them. It killed her, by the way. You saw how they grew in—it wasn’t any easier for her. The only difference was that she was human.”
Her casual, somewhat amused tone made me stare at her in surprise. “So because I had a wacky ancestor, I have to deal with these things now?”
She shrugged a little. “Well, yes, but they only appear when you call them. They also serve some purposes. For example, their link to Ombricel means you can pass through transitional planes—perhaps. At least, that was what our ancestor had wanted. Obviously, we never really found out whether it could be done.”
I kept staring, silent, until she finally laughed. “Lydian, I’m sorry, but this is part of being the last of us. As I’ve said, not everyone in the family made the best decisions, and it’s your good fortune that you have a body that can handle a lot of the punishment that the others couldn’t.”
“But…but that’s stupid.” I looked away at last, utterly floored, and glanced back at the wings. They fidgeted a little, as though embarrassed with my rejection. I briefly considered yelling at them, but changed my mind when I realized that my mom was sitting right there.
“So they don’t have to be around all the time?” I asked instead.
“They are a permanent part of you now,” Mom said, trying to stifle her amusement. “However, they will come and go according to your will. It should just be a matter of concentration. The wings can only be used when you have them with you, though.”
“How am I supposed to take care of them?” This was crazy on a level that I hadn’t known could exist. I half-expected nice young men in clean white coats to leap at me from the shadows.
“No need. They’re magic,” she replied simply.
“Right.” I shrugged my shoulders, testing the feel of the new limbs, and they shifted and folded with the movement. They were a little bit more solid now. I could feel them, too, but my brain wasn’t used to having the extra body parts, and couldn’t seem to figure out how to translate the sensations in a way that I could properly understand.
Mom laughed a little at my fiddling. “If it’s any consolation, they are beautiful.”
“Yeah, but they’re still wings,” I said, rolling my eyes. “This is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me. I thought being turned was strange, but that was before I grew wings and made a magical amulet that I could never take off. Nick’s going to have me committed.”
Mom nodded, but though she tried to appear sympathetic, her smirk sort of ruined it. “I see what you mean, but you must remember that all of the other links had teachers. You are the last, and have been isolated for far too long for you to know what is going on. I must admit that you’ve done better than I had expected. I see now why Rubeo sees so much potential in you.”
“He’s the guardian spirit of the family. He gave you that feather.”
“I know. I met him.” I gave her a suspicious look. “Have you two been plotting behind my back?” If that were the case, I wasn’t going to be very happy.
“I was part of the inner family,” she said, shrugging. “I had exposure to stories about him, but only met him after I came here. He stops in once in awhile, mostly to let me know how you are doing. I watch over you when I can, but it takes a lot of energy to peer between the realms.”
She frowned and adjusted how she was sitting, folding her legs underneath herself the way I did sometimes. “He is the master of this realm, but there are others like him—weaker versions of him. I talk to them more often. Some can see between realms as Rubeo can, and keep me informed of how the world in general is doing.”
“Do you know about the other sorcerer families? I was told that there were five, total.”
“Each has a spirit who guards their particular gate to whatever realm they rule. However, our family had been in power for hundreds of years, dabbling in all kinds of black magic near the end and almost ensuring our superiority against the other families. That was our undoing, though—we tried to gain control over the higher species, not just our own people.”
“That seems to be the theme when it comes to power,” I muttered. “It makes everybody want more and more until they’re so corrupted that it destroys them.”
Mom sat back a little and folded her arms with a somewhat irritated frown. “It would have been nice if our ancestors had made a more concrete set of rules, but nobody ever seemed to think that far ahead. I ran because I knew my future child would be at risk from our own ambitions. I needed to get away from all of that.”
I couldn’t help a laugh. “Did you know that a vampire was going to come and watch over me? Not every mother would entrust her only daughter to a creature like that.”
“Oh, you were never at risk from Simone or the other vampires,” she replied with a chuckle, “although I never expected that they would turn you. They were afraid of what would happen if the family disappeared without a closing link, I suppose.”
“I guess it worked out, then.”
“Yes, I think so.” She smiled warmly and rocked a bit in her chair.
“Mom…” I began, but the question died on my tongue. I wasn’t afraid of the answer, really, but just bringing up the topic felt like some kind of taboo.
Mom watched my struggle for a moment, then sighed a little and reached out to take my hand. “You can ask me anything, sweetie. Don’t be afraid of how I might react.”
The warmth in her hand gave me just enough courage to let the words leave my lips. “Mom, why did you want me to forgive Andris? Why did you ask me to help him?” It came out as a whisper, but I knew she heard me.
She leaned into her chair and considered it for a long time. “I never begrudged him for what he did,” she said slowly. “He shared his thoughts with me, and I understood him. He was in pain, searching for a way to end it, and our family just happened to block his path.
“I was afraid, though. When I died, I knew that you might be next, and I was helpless to stop him…but he never hurt you…and so I had my friends in this realm watch over him, too. He seemed so lonely.” Her gaze slipped away, watching the fire.
“Is that all?” I asked.
Mom glanced at me, but looked away again and shook her head. “No, there is something else, but we are treading dangerous waters even discussing it here.”
My wings shifted nervously without my permission, but I ignored them and moved closer to her, kneeling at her feet and taking her hand. “What is it? Mom, please tell me. You’re the only person in all of this who seems to know what the hell is going on. Simone never told me anything, never even hinted at any of this, and now I’m confused, and things are happening so fast, and I’m just getting strung along without a clue as to what I should be doing.”
She fell quiet, her thoughts impenetrable, even with my Shimari powers, but just when I started to ask again, she said softly, “Andris is different. He has power that even he is not aware of. I think it had been dormant all his life, and it only awakened when he first saw you.”
“What do you mean?”
She seemed worried, but not about Andris. “We are running out of time.” I tried to protest, but she raised a hand to stop me. “I’m not talking about our time here together, Lydian. I am talking about the future of the world you know. There are great powers in motion—ones that I fear only you and Andris are capable of handling. However, that depends entirely on what happens between you two. I watched him for a long time, and I realized something about him.”
“And that would be…?” I pressed.
Her expression went so dark that I held my breath. “You have met his thirst—I know it. You have the ability to control it for him, but like your blood it has a presence of its own. Do you remember what his thirst said to you?”
“What, that it doesn’t trust me?” I knew I was fishing, but Mom was being far more serious about this than I could have predicted, and it worried me.
“No, Lydian. He said that ‘without both, neither would exist.’”
I just stared. “I don’t understand.”
She sighed a little, shaking her head, and whispered, “I’m sorry, sweetie, but if I say any more than that we may never be allowed to speak again. Just think about it, and eventually you will understand. After all, you are just like me; far too smart for your own good. I just hope that you will meet a better end than I did.”
I still didn’t get it, but I knew that she hadn’t been lying. There was something keeping her from telling me the whole story, and though it killed me to be left in the dark, I had no choice but to accept it this time. After all, my entire life as a Shima had been nothing but riddles and shadows, and the deeper I delved into the answers, the deeper the shadows became.
However, darkness was my power.
“Okay, then,” I said, deciding that I would have to make do with what little information she had given me. After all, she was my mom, and I knew that even the little snippets of clues that she could offer were more than enough. “I do have one last question, though, and I’m pretty sure you can answer it, if you want.”
“What is it?” she asked, clearly relieved that I hadn’t pressed for more.
I thought about how to word it. “I know that you wanted me to forgive Andris for what he did, and that you wanted me to help him in some way that you can’t actually explain outright. I can only assume that befriending him was just a fraction of that second request. I have to ask, though: did you try to set me up with him or something? Because I definitely didn’t go into this thinking I would find my soul mate.”
Her eyes went wide, and before I could say anything else she was laughing. Gently, she drew me into a warm hug and held me tight, stroking my hair. “No, I never planned things out in such detail, but I can’t complain with the overall results.”
“Okay, because for a second there I thought you were trying to manipulate my love life from the grave, and things kept falling into place really easily. It was freaking me out.” I couldn’t help rambling, relieved that there hadn’t actually been any ulterior motives, and especially relieved that she didn’t seem upset with me for falling for her killer.
“Lydian, I would never force you to do anything that your heart didn’t already want,” she said, the laughter still evident in her voice. “As your mother, my one goal is to make sure that you are happy, and if Andris makes you happy then I approve. After all, he is strong…and very handsome. Only the best for my beautiful baby girl.”
Surprised, I started laughing, too. “I can’t believe you just said that!”
She drew away, grinning at me, and said teasingly, “Oh, don’t be silly. When I first saw him in the woods, I was sure he was an angel…but then he turned out to be a demon.” Her grin broadened, and I gaped in shock.
“You’ve been listening in on me!”
“Absolutely. I take care of my girl.”
I blanched, then, realizing the implications. “You haven’t been…spying…have you?”
Mom just smiled.
I tried to say words, but nothing sensible would come out, I was so embarrassed.
She let me struggle for several seconds, enjoying the performance, and then said simply. “No, I haven’t been spying. I just know that you have fallen in love, and that he loves you, and that I think I have a son-in-law now.”
“Mom, you are going to embarrass me to death.” I paused, and my brain finally processed what she had just said. “Wait…son-in-law?” I demanded.
She shrugged a little and made a carefree gesture. “Well, I can’t think of anything more appropriate to call him. He is your sweetheart, and you’ll be together for as long as you both shall live. That sounds like a son-in-law to me.”
My heart gave a painful twinge, and I stared at her in surprise, trying not to let my emotions take over.
However, I couldn’t stop myself. The tears just started coming out, and I cried, so impossibly overwhelmed and relieved. I wasn’t sure if I was just happy with her complete acceptance of Andris, or if having a normal mother-daughter conversation was too much for me. I couldn’t help but cry. I was just happy to get to know her, to share my life and my struggles with her. As always, she was my moral compass and my idol, and I loved her so much.
Despite having been gone from my life for so long, I still knew her, and she still understood me. She wasn’t a stranger at all. She was Mom.
“I’ve always been keeping an eye on you, sweetie. I always will. Death is no obstacle for a mother’s presence.” She kissed my cheek, and I treasured those few precious moments for all the times that they were never there when I had needed them. “However, our time is at an end for now. You must go back to your realm and rest.”
“Do I really have to go?” I asked, trying to calm down but having a hard time of it. “You missed my whole life, Mom.”
She held me at arm’s length and smiled sadly. “I haven’t missed a moment, and yes, you have to go. You have a job to do, and there are people who love you in your realm. They need you to be with them and be strong.”
“Do you think we can do this?” I said quietly. “Tivor has the hunters working with him. I know my amulet is supposed to be powerful, but I don’t have the experience of the other links. Do I even stand a chance against hunters who are older than I am? Even Andris is afraid.”
“Of course you do. Don’t doubt—just do—and you’ll have all the training you need.” She touched my cheek gently, her palm warm against my chilly skin. “You grew up a long time ago, Lydian, but as long as you still have your spirit for life, I know that you will survive longer than the rest of your ancestors combined. I have faith in you. Have faith in yourself.”
I took a deep breath, steadying myself and trying to rein in at least some of my emotions. “I guess this is goodbye for now?” I asked, forcing away the tightness in my throat.
“For now, but I don’t think this is the last time we’ll see each other.” She sounded so sure that I had to believe her.
“I love you, Mom,” I whispered, wiping my eyes. “I’ll do my best to make you proud.”
“Lydian, you’ve already done that. I love you, too, my baby girl.”