“Really, why do you say I would think badly of you? What’s going on?”
She stood again, fidgeting. Her mouth would open to speak, then she’d place her fingers over her lips, then she’d try again. Back and forth she went.
“Basha, sit.” He took her hand. “I won’t think you’re crazy. I promise. I know you and you’re . . . Well, you’re not the ‘crazy’ type!”
From a few feet off came a rustle in the underbrush.
“Shhh,” Dixon cautioned, his finger to his lips. He reached for a knife.
Basha went still, then relaxed when a small hare jumped out from behind the brush.
“Never mind, just a hare,” he said.
She nodded as she gathered her thoughts. “Dixon, what would you say if I told you that—well, that—”
“Go on,” he urged.
“What would you say if I told you that I think Therese still lives? There, I’ve said it.” She leaned back and waited for his reaction.
“Therese is alive?”
“I believe so.”
“Wait—” He held his hands up. “Why would you say that? We searched for days for her after she fell. What would make you think she still lives?”
“I haven’t seen her, but . . . I believe she’s alive.”
“Dixon, would you know if Judith was alive? Or Rowena? I mean—what if you didn’t know for certain that either of them had died? What if you’d never seen their lifeless bodies? What if—”
He shook his head. “It’s not possible, Basha. We searched for days, weeks even.”
“But it is. It is! Don’t you see? You’d know.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Dixon, think about it. Suppose you hadn’t seen Rowena after her death. What one thing might make you believe . . .” She shook her head. “No, what one thing would tell you with certainty that she lived?”
The cool evening breeze, filled with mist, brushed against his skin. Hesitating, he listening to the rushing falls. Over the surging water, came an owl’s hoot.
“Well, I suppose there’d be only one way.”
“And that would be?”
“Exactly,” she whispered.
He stood and paced, then returned to her side. “You feel your bond with Therese?”
“Are you sure it’s the bond and not just some . . . I don’t know, some—”
“No. No, Dixon, it’s not just some longing. It’s the bond. I know it. But it’s very . . . odd. It . . . comes and goes.”
“Comes and goes?”
“Yes. Sometimes it’s so strong I find myself on a path to meet with her. I’ve gone days out of my way, only to have the pull disappear as suddenly as it first began.”
Dixon didn’t want to falsely encourage his friend, but he knew the bond was an unmistakable draw. An Oathtaker would drop anything to respond to it. “Go on,” he said.
“I knew it. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“No, I trust you. I’ve seen some unusual things with oaths and bonds of late. I don’t believe you could mistake anything else for your bond, unless . . . Well unless . . .”
“I’ve never heard of it happening, but could someone have bewitched you somehow? Could someone be trying to order your steps?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I only know that it’s happened on numerous occasions. Sometimes it lasts for days and is highly intense. Then it just . . . dies. Each time, I feel I’ve lost her all over again.”
“Oh, Basha, I am so sorry. How awful. I don’t know what to say.” He played a drumbeat on his thigh. “So, what do you want to do about it?”
“I want to accompany you to the City of Light. That’s the direction from which it seems to pull me each time. If Therese is there, maybe I’ll find her. If she’s alive, then she needs me.”
“But why wouldn’t she come to you then?”
Basha chewed on her lower lip. “I’d like to think it was because she couldn’t, and not because she wouldn’t.”
“Maybe the Council would have some answers, or maybe scholars at the sanctuary library could help shed some light on this.”
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