Falcondance Page 20

I tried to smile in return.

"Are you finally back for good?" she asked. "I have been worried about you."

"I think so," I answered. "And I have permission from both Cjarsa and Araceli to be here, so I am not a danger to anyone."

I hope.

"Welcome home, then."

She stood to hug me and invited me to sit with them as she returned to Marus's side. There was so much more I wanted to say, but there would be too many people listening. Hopefully later would still be soon enough.

* * *

I returned again to my home, where I checked in on Hai.

She lay on her side on the guest room bed, one hand tucked beneath her head, looking as peaceful as I had ever seen her, but as pale and still as ever. I felt a crush of disappointment, though I tried to push it away. Darien had given me hope, but what had I expected? I started to turn away, and then I noticed a melos and a small open box that had been set on the bedside table. Both were from the collection of belongings I had taken from my mother's room.

Someone sighed behind me.

You're here. I suppose that means I must cease dreaming that I am not. I turned back to see Hai pushing herself into a seated position. Her face was falcon fair, her hair dark as Ec l, and her eyes the deathly still pools of blood that I had looked into weeks before, when I had fallen in the woods. Only as she leaned back against the headboard did I realize that she had taken down her wings. She pulled her knees up to her chest as if she was cold. She looked very fragile in this world.

"Welcome back," I said to her.

Your wyvern pretended to be glad that I have "recovered," but she is a poor liar compared to a royal falcon.

She peered at the possessions that had drawn my attention a moment before. A father killed within days of my conception, and a mother who would rather have vengeance than raise her own daughter. Such a legacy I am honored to have. She opened one of her hands, to reveal one of the Cobriana signet rings. I suppose it was my father's, Hai whispered, slipping it on just long enough to see that it was far too large for her. She took it off and closed it in her palm for a moment. When she tried it on again, it fit as if crafted for her hand. The casual use of power unnerved me no less than her idly adorning herself with the symbol of the royal serpiente house. What had I done? You are the one who woke me, my prince, she reminded me. A'she'hena; the rest is in the future's hands.

* * *

o'Mehay shmah 'Mehay-hena 'keyika ka-shmah 'Mehay-jacon 'itil a'quean'enae But he who dances with Mehay, he is lost  -  For he who dances with Mehay cannot leave the dance And will face the fire. Nesera. So dance.

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