Read The Threshold Child Online

Authors: Callie Kanno

The Threshold Child (9 page)

BOOK: The Threshold Child
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“This is only a dream,” said Adesina in disappointment.

Her mother tipped her head slightly to one side. “Are dreams not
real?”

Adesina paused in uncertainty, then shrugged her shoulders as if
asking to be told the
answers. Her mother waved a hand as if to brush it aside. “That is
for you to decide, but not in this
moment. There are
things we must discuss.”

Adesina felt a strange mix of apprehension and longing. “Like
what?”

“You, my daughter.”

The feeling grew stronger. “What do you mean? What about me?”

Adesina’s mother’s gaze was direct, not unlike her own. “Why are
you here?”

This question took Adesina by surprise. “I…am going to the High
City.”

Her mother gave an encouraging nod, but said nothing. Adesina
continued. “My assignment
was to go there, and
I shall fulfill my duty.”

The last comment brought a raised eyebrow. “Duty? And what duty is
that?”

Adesina’s answer was almost automatic. “I am a Shimat. My duty is
obedience to the
Sharifal.”

Her mother’s sweet smile became sad. “To what end? To what
extent?”

Adesina became defensive. “This is the life that
you
gave
me! I have always done what was
asked of me—far
better than my peers, I might add. My entire life I have worked and struggled,
all to achieve what was expected of me.”

Her mother shook her head. “It was not my choice. I knew that this
was not your path.”

“Then what?” the young Shimat asked in an almost pleading voice.
“What do you want of me?”

“It is not what I want that matters, dear one. Not now.”

Adesina’s frustration was growing. “Then what
does
matter?”

“The answer to my question.”

She furrowed her brow. “What question?”

Her mother replied patiently, “Why are you here?”

Adesina bit back an exasperated sigh. “I answered that question. I
am on my way to the High City.”

There was a gentle shake of the head as the older woman leaned
forward. “That is not what I meant. Why are you here in this Dream?”

“You would know better than I,” responded Adesina a bit tartly.

Her mother’s expression did not change with Adesina’s lack of
manners. “You are the one who called me to this place, Ma’eve, not the other
way around. Everything that happens in this forest is of one’s own making. That
is the gift of its magic.”

A confused frown crossed Adesina’s face. “I do not understand.”

“You are not here because of me, I am here because of you. Why
have you called me to this place?”

The young woman was speechless. “I…do not know…”

Her mother prompted her gently. “Was there something you wished to
ask me or tell me?”

Adesina could do nothing but repeat herself. “I do not know.”

With an understanding nod, her mother got to her feet and began
walking back towards the woods. Adesina followed; hanging on the soft-spoken
words of the woman she had spent her whole life imagining.

“Do not trouble yourself, my daughter. When you find the words, I
will still be here. Understanding will come in time.”

Adesina saw they were approaching her camp. “Are you leaving?”

Her mother’s smile became sad again. “It is time for you to
awaken.”

“Will I see you again?”

The older woman gave her a significant look. “I have answered that
question, Ma’eve.”

She felt a bit childish, but pressed on. “I just want to hear your
promise.”

Her mother reached up a slender hand and caressed Adesina’s face.
“I promise.”

Somewhere a pan clattered, and Adesina jerked awake. She opened
her eyes and saw Kendan stirring the fire and preparing some breakfast. She sat
up with a start. “Kendan! How are you feeling today?”

He was still quite pale, but he looked much more calm. “I am doing
better. I heard music last night. Singing. It helped to quiet the voices I
hear.”

Adesina glanced at Ravi, but he was preoccupied and did not return
her look. “I am glad to hear it.”

Kendan shuddered slightly as he put more wood on the fire. “I will
be relieved when we leave this cursed place. I wish we had never come.”

Adesina dropped her gaze to the ground and muttered quietly, “Yes,
well. We do not have much farther to go.”

He turned to face her with a worried expression on his face. “I
have been so preoccupied with my own struggles that I have not checked to see
how you are doing.”

She waved aside his concerns, trying to appear unaffected. “I am
fine. I suppose an advantage to having a sheltered childhood is that there are
few memories that can be used against me in a place such as this.”

Kendan folded his arms tightly against his chest. “I envy you
that. My childhood was…rather violent.”

“Your parents?” she asked gently.

“And the rest of my family,” he replied. “I really only have the
Shimat order left as far as people who are close to me are concerned.”

Adesina didn’t really know what to say, and so she settled on what
she had heard others say
in similar
situations. “I am sorry.”

He pressed his lips together. “It would have been worse if I had
been left on my own rather
than being brought to
the fortress.” He glanced up at her. “In spite of all of our troubles, we are
more fortunate than most of the people in this world.”

She could see that Kendan was embarrassed by this show of emotion.
He cleared his throat and broke eye contact with her, finishing his preparations
for their morning meal.

They did not speak anymore throughout breakfast or as they broke
down the camp. Just as before, Kendan took the horses’ reins in one hand and
held on to Adesina’s hand with the other. She rested her free hand on Ravi’s back,
and they walked purposefully through the trees.

The voices returned full force as soon as they left the sanctuary
of their camp. Kendan had a sharp intake of breath and squeezed Adesina’s hand
painfully. The young woman sighed softly and did her best to shut out the
noise.

“You were given a Dream last night, were you not?” asked Ravi.

Adesina frowned. “How did you know?” she whispered to keep Kendan
from hearing.

A smile flitted across Ravi’s feline face. “One learns to
recognize these things.”

They walked in thoughtful silence for a few moments more before
Ravi spoke again. “Will you tell me about your Dream?”

Adesina was actually relieved to be asked. She wanted to talk
about it with someone who might be able to tell her what it all meant. She described
the Dream exactly how she remembered it and waited for Ravi’s response. When he
continued to be silent, she prompted him impatiently.

“What does it mean, Ravi?”

“That is something only you can decide. That is part of what makes
Dreams what they are.”

Adesina blew out her breath in frustration. “I should have known
you would have nothing useful to say.”

Ravi chuckled. “You are still young, Ma’eve. Understanding will
come in time.”

His words struck a chord with Adesina. “My mother said that in my
dream.”

Ravi nodded slowly. “Yes. Your mother is a good and wise woman.”

Adesina almost stopped in her tracks. “Is? My mother is alive?”

Ravi considered his answer thoughtfully. “That depends on what you
consider to be
alive
.”

This time Adesina did stop. “No more riddles, Ravi. Is my mother
alive or not?”

Ravi turned his golden eyes on Adesina’s purple ones. “Her mortal
body no longer lives, but her immortal spirit will never die.”

Adesina could not quite get her head around this way of thinking.
She shook her head stubbornly. “It was just a dream.”

“No, it was a Dream.”

Adesina couldn’t keep her anger out of her voice. “What is the
difference?”

“A dream is a thing of fantasy—a creation of your mind. Dreams,
however, are real. They are glimpses into other times, other worlds. The sooner
you can accept that, the sooner you will understand.”

Both of them stood still and silent for a few minutes. Adesina’s
inner struggle was only made more chaotic by the words whispered to her by the
incorporeal voices. Part of her wanted to believe what she had been told over
the past several hours, but it felt so wrong when placed next to all that she
had ever been taught. Part of her said that it was all inconsequential anyway
and to just let it go, and yet she couldn’t shake the feeling that this was
part of something bigger. Something deeper.

Ravi stood patiently for a while before walking back over to the
young Shimat. “Keep walking, Ma’eve. We still have a long way to go.”

Adesina forced herself to move forward. She knew Kendan needed to
be led out of the forest as soon as possible. The day dragged on like an
eternity, and both Kendan and Adesina were relieved to stop for the night. She
set up the camp, persuaded Kendan to eat some food, and curled up next to the
fire. Ravi began to sing quietly, and soon Adesina’s eyes became heavy.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she felt herself being pulled
far away from the world that she knew.

She found herself standing in a corridor similar to the ones found
in the Shimat fortress, only the walls were made of white marble and there were
arched windows that lined the wall high up next to the ceiling. Moonlight
streamed through, illuminating the corridor with a mystical glow. The hall
opened to a columned walkway that lined some sort of courtyard. Within the
courtyard, Adesina saw something that took her breath away.

A utopian garden lay before her. Large exotic-looking flowers
bloomed in brilliant grandeur, displaying shades of color that Adesina never
knew existed. These were offset by smaller, more demure flowers that gave the
garden a pleasing sense of balance. Many tall, beautiful trees swayed to the
soft breeze, and the ground was carpeted with the greenest grass she could have
ever imagined.

In the center of the garden was a fountain made of pure white
stone that glowed in the moonlight. It made the white marble of the corridor and
columns dull and gray in comparison. Engraved in the stone were several strange
symbols that were defined by the luminous glow of reflected light. The crystal
water heaved upward in the center to form a pedestal for a shimmering orb the
size of a man’s head.

Seated on the edge of this fountain was Adesina’s mother. Their
eyes met and a shy smile appeared on each of their faces. Her mother patted the
stone next to her. “Come and sit with me, Ma’eve.”

Adesina did so, fairly bursting with questions. “What is your
name?”

Her mother smiled her sweet smile. “E’rian.”

The word sounded slightly musical. It settled into Adesina’s heart
like a warm liquid. “Am I to call you that?”

E’rian raised her eyebrows. “If you wish. Or you may simply call
me ‘mother.’”

This had a strangely strong appeal to Adesina. “Very well,
mother.”

The young Shimat studied the stunning garden that surrounded them.
“Where are we?”

E’rian joined her in looking around. “It has many names in many
tongues in many worlds. I simply call it the Garden.”

“Did you call me here?”

There was a hint of sadness in her eyes as E’rian shook her head.
“No, child. You called me.”

Frustration bubbled up inside Adesina. “I still do not know why.”

E’rian reached over and took Adesina’s hand. “Do not trouble
yourself, Ma’eve. It will come to you in time.”

“And in the meantime?” Adesina asked with a harsher edge to her
voice than she intended.

E’rian stood and pulled her daughter up with her. “We shall make
up for lost time.”

They walked around the Garden for the rest of the night, holding
hands and talking about Adesina’s childhood. For the first time in Adesina’s
life she felt like she could speak freely and know that she would not be
reprimanded or ridiculed. Even Signe and Kendan, both of whom were closer to
the young woman than anyone, did not inspire such a lack of restraint.

When the morning light began to dilute the darkness, Adesina
turned to E’rian with an unsettled expression on her face. “Ravi says we will
be leaving the forest today.”

Her mother nodded serenely.

Adesina found her words were sticking in her throat. She cleared
her throat and spoke in a more brusque tone. “When I find the answer am I to
come back to this forest?”

E’rian looked puzzled. “Why would you need to do that?”

It was Adesina’s turn to frown. “To see you. To Dream.”

The older woman laughed softly, a lovely musical sound. “Ma’eve,
you do not need the forest to Dream now that you know the way. The door has
been opened and you can enter whenever you choose.”

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