Read The Threshold Child Online

Authors: Callie Kanno

The Threshold Child (75 page)

BOOK: The Threshold Child
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There was an outcry at his words. “War, your Highness?”

“How will that be possible with our army destroyed?”

“Surely not, sire!”

He raised a hand, gesturing for silence. “We can no longer stand
idly by while the Shimat continue in their crimes. I know that it will be a
long and difficult war, but I cannot rest until the entire order has ceased to
exist.”

A young nervous-looking man began wringing his hands. “How can we
begin to fight such a war?”

This question seemed directed just as much at Adesina as it was at
L’iam. He glanced at her, inviting her to speak, if she chose.

She leaned forward thoughtfully. “It cannot be done quickly—possibly
years of careful planning and preparation. We can begin training all soldiers
right away in how to fight more effectively against the Shimat. Even with all
the knowledge I can give the Protectors, though, we will still need allies.”

L’iam nodded in agreement. “Which we can gain once we have found
our new home.”

There was still some uneasiness around the table, and the L’avan
prince did his best to reassure them.

“We will be better prepared the next time we meet them. Better warriors
in the battlefield, and allies at our side. L’avan ambassadors in every major
city will help eradicate Shimat influence. Our own network of spies will weed
out theirs. Most important of all, the world will know that they truly exist,
rather than believing that they are nothing more than childish fears.”

Adesina spoke up in support of L’iam’s declaration. “We cannot
bring an end to them overnight, but we can do it with time. We can chip away at
their very foundation until the entire order crumbles.”

Their expressions were becoming more hopeful as they began
planning their immediate actions.

“As Lady Adesina said, we can begin training the Protectors
immediately.”

“And we can also begin training those who wish to volunteer as
spies.”

“No, no, relocation must take priority.”

“We can do both, I think.”

“Relocation? We cannot even start to think about that until we
have recovered from this tragedy!”

L’iam brought them all to silence with another gesture of his
hand. “First of all, we need to take care of our dead. We will build funeral
biers and hold a service for all those who have fallen.”

The woman conducting the council shook her head. “I respectfully
disagree, your Highness. First we must crown our new king.”

For a moment it appeared that he was going to insist on his own
plan of action, but L’iam inclined his head reluctantly. “Very well.”

With a heavy sigh, he extended his hand to Adesina, who took it
and followed him out of the cavern.

 

***

 

Adesina was dismayed to find that her Dream has taken her back to
the field of battle, but as she looked around she noticed that something was
different.

Instead of being sprawled haphazardly, the bodies of the dead were
laid out on their backs with their arms across their chests. The pale, lifeless
faces seemed so peaceful now, whereas before they had been contorted in pain.

In the distance, a white robed figure could be seen going from
corpse to corpse, bending over each of them. As Adesina approached, the robed
figure turned to greet her.

It was a man with snowy white hair and beard. In spite of the aged
wisdom in his eyes, he had a surprisingly youthful face. His expression was
warm and inviting, and Adesina had the unnerving feeling that he knew
everything about her.

“Hello, Ma’eve,” he said in a deep, melodious voice.

She gave him a perplexed look. “Who are you?”

“I am your father,” he replied.

“My father?” she asked, startled.

A small smile played at the corners of his lips. “I am father to
all of your people.”

Her expression cleared as she understood his meaning. “You are
L’avan, the founder of our race.”

He inclined his head, then continued in his work. L’avan knelt
down beside a body, caressing the face lovingly. Then, in a voice that was both
gentle and compelling, he called the fallen soldier by name. The soldier’s eyes
fluttered open, then his body shimmered into a sparkling mist that ascended to
the heavens.

When this was done, L’avan moved on to the next warrior, and the
next.

Adesina followed him, slightly bemused. “What are you doing?”

“Calling them home to the arms of their Creator.”

She furrowed her brow. “Do you mean…you?”

He looked at her kindly. “No, Ma’eve. I did not create your
people. I was only chosen to lead them for a time.”

Her gaze was arrested by the face of the boy they were standing
over. He was probably no more than sixteen years old.

“He is so young,” Adesina said sadly. “How can this
Creator
allow
so much pain to happen?”

L’avan’s eyes became distant as he reflected. “Our suffering, as
well as our joy, shapes who we are and who we will become. We may wish for all
of our trials to be taken away, but to do so would be a great disservice to our
personal growth.” He focused his gaze on the young woman before him. “I think,
in time, you will see that more good than evil will stem from this tragedy.”

Adesina stared at him in disbelief. “Good?” She gestured around
them. “What good could come of this?”

“It is not always easy to see the light in so much darkness, but
it is there for those who seek it.”

She let out a heavy sigh. His reply reminded her of Ravi, and she
found it just as frustrating. “I want to understand, but I do not even know
where to begin.”

He smiled empathetically. “You will in time, for truth comes to
all who truly desire it. For now, it is enough that you wish to believe.”

“But what of my people?” she pressed. “So many of them are dead.”

L’avan nodded, his face filled with sorrow. “The L’avan were never
meant to dwell in isolation. Their gifts were given to them to strengthen the
shoulders that bear heavy burdens, to lift the heads that hang with despair.
Now, because of this tragedy, they cannot remain in their state of
independence. They will be compelled to return to the world and fulfill their
purpose.”

“Do you mean to tell me,” she said slowly, “that these men were
slaughtered because they were not living up to the expectation of some deity?”

L’avan’s voice became firm. “They knew when they accepted their
gifts the responsibility that went along with them. They swore an oath, and
they have not kept their word. There are consequences to every choice we make.”

Adesina knew that truth better than most. Her eyes dropped to the
ground and her face burned with shame as she thought about the bad choices she
had made in her life.

He reached over and gently took her hand. “Everything our Creator
does is for our greater good—like a parent who disciplines their child, it is
out of love. We may make bad choices, but our Creator is forgiving and shows us
how to learn from our mistakes.”

Normally, she didn’t like being touched by people she didn’t know,
but she was unusually comforted as he held her hand in his.

She gazed into his piercing blue eyes, searching for answers. “What
do we do now?”

L’avan gazed into the horizon, as if there was hidden knowledge
found there. “Go forward, Ma’eve. Believe in yourself, and trust those around
you. You will be guided if you allow it to be so.”

 

***

 

The night before the coronation of the new L’avan king, Adesina
and L’iam walked through the woods that surrounded the city of Yavar. The
moonlight streamed down through the trees, illuminating the overgrown path that
they wandered down.

The past few days had been very hectic, and they hadn’t had the
chance to talk in quite a while. They were both glad to slow their pace and
take a deep breath, happy to be in each other’s company again.

“I always feel at peace when I walk through the woods at night,”
L’iam said softly. “I feel more like myself.”

She nodded her agreement. “Yes, it feels very pure.”

Those weren’t quite the words she was looking for, but the smile
on his face showed that he understood what she meant.

They came to a small glade and paused for a few minutes. Adesina
leaned against a nearby tree, and L’iam stood next to her.

He reached up around his neck and removed the black ribbon he
always wore there. Then he hesitantly offered it to Adesina, who took it with a
confused expression on her face.

“What is this?”

“It is a mourning ribbon,” he replied simply.

Adesina’s brow furrowed deeper. “For your family?”

He shook his head. “No, I have had that ribbon much longer than
that. In fact, I have worn it most of my life.”

She recalled that he had been wearing it since they had first met,
but she had never questioned the reason why.

L’iam turned his intense eyes on hers. “When I was three years
old, the mother of my
dava
disappeared
just weeks before giving birth. It was assumed that both woman and child were
dead. It was not until many years later that I learned they had been taken by
the Shimat.”

Adesina’s heart began racing, but not nearly as fast as her mind.
She did her best to appear casual, turning the ribbon over in her hands. “So
you wore this to mourn your
dava
?”

“Yes,” he said gently. “It is rare for a
dava
to die young, because it would not make sense to give someone
a
dava
if they are only meant to lose
them. Still, we mourn them as if they were a spouse.”

“That is a long time to sorrow over someone you have never met,”
she said quietly.

He nodded. “Perhaps, but it was a loss that I felt very keenly.
Living a life of royalty is not easy. Even though I was constantly surrounded
by people, I often felt alone. It is hard knowing that there was someone
perfectly suited to you, and then she was taken from this life.”

Adesina glanced at him doubtfully. “How can you be so sure that
she was the right one for you?”

His eyes turned upward, towards the treetops. “Well, the Readers
have never been wrong. More important than that, though, was the way that I
felt. I felt incomplete, like a part of me was missing. I yearned for her, even
though I had never met her.” After a slight pause he added, “She did not feel
like a stranger to me.”

Adesina was warmed by the thought of such devotion. She couldn’t
quite look him in the face as she asked, “What if your
dava
was still alive?”

He took a few steps away, studying her expression out of the
corner of his eye. “Well, she would not be obligated to hold to our traditions.
No L’avan is forced to marry against their will,
dava
or not. I would just hope to be able to make her fall in love
with me so that she would want to marry me.”

Adesina smiled. “I am certain that would not be difficult.”

He shrugged. “I am not so sure, myself. My wife will have a lot of
weight bearing down on her shoulders. The L’avan have much ahead of them, and
to be one of their leaders through such a series of trials is not an enviable
position.”

After a brief pause he went on. “Of course, she would have three
years to think about it before she came of age.”

She nudged at the dirt of the forest floor with the toe of her
boot. “And what if she turned out to be a murdering spy for an organization of
assassins?”

He nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, that would be a problem. No one can
go through such trials and remain unchanged. I would probably be in great
danger of loving her even more than before.”

She gave a short laugh and looked up at him. “Your reasoning seems
flawed. Why would you love someone
more
for making bad decisions?”

“It is not the decision, but the lessons learned,” he reminded
her, “and you have always been an exceptional student.”

Adesina quirked an eyebrow playfully. “I know.”

They laughed together and continued walking through the forest,
hand in hand. As they left the glade behind them, she let the black ribbon slip
from her fingers.

L’iam would not need it anymore.

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