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Choose between us, Faraday. My father, or me.
Which door, Faraday?
There was nothing in Faraday’s mind of Demons, or how to restore Tencendor to its glory, or even of Katie. All Faraday could think of was what she should say to this man.
How she could gracefully tell him that, after all her hesitation, all her fright and denial, all her determination not to lay open her body and soul to the betrayal it had suffered with Axis and Gorgrael, she was prepared to do it all over again if it meant loving, and being loved.
The Mother had been right. Her life would be nothing if she refused to dare to love.
Faraday glanced at Axis’ door several paces away.
There was no question of the choice, and maybe Drago knew that, but it would have amused him to have presented her with the mirage of alternatives.
No, Faraday’s major problem now was how to back down with her pride intact from the position she’d dug herself into.
Having denied the man, and her love for him, for months, how could she now turn around and say she’d been wrong?
What superior smile would wrap his face? What triumph?
“None, Faraday,” said a soft voice behind her, and she whipped about.
Drago … no! DragonStar (and now she could see why Azhure had used that name) was leaning against the wall several paces behind her.
Faraday’s entire existence stilled, save for the painful thudding of her heart.
And save for the painful sensation of her desire crawling out of the very pit of her soul, through her stomach and up her throat to offer itself to this man.
Tears filled her eyes. He was glorious. Somehow, somewhere, in the week or more since she’d last seen him, he’d been re-transformed. Transformed into his true self, the self that Azhure and Axis had tried to hide, the self that the power of the Enemy had been successful in returning.
DragonStar was not handsome, nor even physically imposing. The tired lined face and the violet eyes were the same — and yet radically different. Both face and eyes were transfused with such depth of understanding (Faraday did not think she could call it “power”), and such heights of compassion that she thought she might choke on her emotion.
DragonStar half-smiled, acknowledging her reaction, straightened, hesitated, then brushed past her and opened the door to his chamber. “You wanted to speak to me?”
Faraday’s temper flashed.
“Is that all you have to say?” She turned and followed him into the room. “What happened to you? And Caelum? And Qeteb? And Tencendor? None of us have heard —”
DragonStar laid a hand on her mouth. “Hush, Faraday. First, there are other things that must be said between us.”
She didn’t want to. She wanted to hide in the safety of hearing what had happened above. She wanted to tell him about her encounter with Isfrael. She wanted him to know that the Earth Tree had gone, but that was all right, because in her belt she had —
He slid an arm about her waist and pulled her gently against him. “I missed you.”
“Who are you?” she whispered, somehow terrified of this being what Drago had transformed into.
“The same man,” he said, his eyes travelling slowly over her face, “but deeper.”
He shook his head. “Softer.” His arm tightened fractionally. “Qeteb —”
“Qeteb can wait. Faraday, talk to me.”
She took a huge breath and closed her eyes momentarily. What had the Mother said? Until you learn to dare, you will never live. Take that risk, Faraday … take that risk.
“I will not betray you, Faraday,” DragonStar whispered, and she realised he was now very, very close. So close that his warmth burnt through the layers of linen between them. “Trust me, trust me…” His voice drifted off and she opened her eyes.
I will never betray you, she heard him whisper in her mind, not for another woman, not for riches or glory, and not for this land.
“I do not require your blood,” he said aloud now, although still in a whisper, “Tencendor does not require your blood.”
And still she had not spoken.
How hateful, she thought, that I have found it so difficult to accept his love. Faraday.
How hateful that I have found it so hard to accept the Sanctuary of his heart. Faraday.
How hard that I have found it so seductive to allow myself to remain the perpetual victim rather than allowing myself to live.
She shifted slightly in his arms, exploring the feel of his body against hers.
DragonStar, she whispered back into his mind. And then she smiled, and laughed a little, and relaxed against him, and then laughed a little more at the smile on his face.
“I have loved you forever,” she said, and those were the easiest words she had ever said in her many existences.
Chapter 8 The Ploughed Field (#ulink_84289c22-944d-5b9c-817c-7d30b7fb16e4)
DragonStar’s witches sat in a circle on their straight-backed wooden chairs, their hands folded in their laps, eyes downcast. Faraday was dressed again in her white linen gown, the Mother’s rainbow sash about her narrow waist holding the entwined arrow and sapling against the womb of her warmth. Her small feet, clad in elegant red leather slippers, were crossed beneath her chair. Her newly-combed chestnut hair tumbled in a restrained but joyous manner down her back, save for the single thick strand which had somehow wound itself over one shoulder and curved against one breast.
She had a tiny and almost secretive smile on her face. The past few hours had been sweeter than any Faraday had ever experienced previously. All fear had left her, all sense of betrayal had gone. All that was left was the warmth and memory of DragonStar as she had left him in the bed.
Leagh sat similarly clad and shod, although her distended belly allowed no encumbrance of sash or belt. Her face was as happy and content as Faraday’s, and glowing and relaxed after her days of rest and good food within Sanctuary. Her thumbs surreptitiously pressed against her belly, feeling the tiny movements of her and Zared’s child safe within.
An infinite field of flowers, Faraday had told her. She was growing an infinite field of flowers within her belly.
A tiny tear slipped down Leagh’s face, but it was the result of joy, not sadness.
The third female witch, Gwendylyr, sat slightly less gladsome than Faraday and Leagh. Her lover and husband still throve, as did Leagh’s lover and husband, Zared, but Gwendylyr and Theod shared the sadness of having witnessed the death of their twin sons. Tomas and Cedrian had passed into the Field of Flowers from the Western Ranges and, while Gwendylyr knew they lived and played among the flowers and paused in awestruck delight atop magical cliffs that thundered down into foamy seas, she still missed them deeply. She always would, however long she had to live in this existence before she walked for the final time through the gateway (never opened) into the Field.
Even if she and Theod conceived and raised other children, nothing would replace the lost laughter of their twin sons.
She slowly raised a hand and pushed it through her black hair, lifting a heavy wave off her forehead and pushing it further back over the crown of her head. Like Faraday and Leagh, she wore it loose, falling down her back in sliding, silken curls.
The fourth in the circle was Master Jannymire Goldman. He had no luxurious hair to tumble down his back, nor sinuous form to (barely) conceal within heavy folds of white linen. Nevertheless, his attire — a short tunic of a white linen identical to the material of the women’s robes, and feet in red leather sandals — gave him a sameness with the other three.
The serenity in his warm-cheeked face and bushy grey eyebrows gave him an aura of astuteness that few people, witch or wizard or Enchanter, ever attained.
Goldman had discovered mystery and strange philosophies when DragonStar had hefted him through the gateway into the Field of Flowers, and now every hour Goldman found something new to explore, some strange thought that would lead him to even stranger pastures. He spent great lengths in every day seeking out those who would consent to spend even a few moments with him talking of these spiritual puzzlements and intellectual intrigues. Already he had a reputation within Sanctuary of being a man who might one day make the extravagances of the spirit knowable to all and the riddles of the unknown as accessible as a plate of bread and cheese.
Goldman sighed happily and closed his eyes, letting the power of his soul overwhelm his flesh. He was at home.
The fifth of DragonStar’s witches was not sitting in a chair at all, nor was his place part of the circle. DareWing FullHeart lay on his back in the centre of the circle, making himself its focus. His chest rose and fell with great bubbling breaths, his body afire with fever.
DareWing was dying: a second death, which made it all the more painful, debilitating and spiritually draining.
They sat, or lay, under a great crystal dome in a secluded part of Sanctuary. The crystal dome rested on seventy crystal columns that rose the height of two men from the terracotta-tiled floor. Beyond the columns stretched a great plain of newly-ploughed earth.
Nothing else was visible.
Drago’s witches waited, each consumed with their own thoughts, or with their dying.
He strode across the ploughed fields, his naked feet barely sinking into the soft earth.
His body was similarly naked, save for the white linen wrap about his hips, and the lily sword and jewelled purse that hung from his begemmed belt.
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