Dreams of Change(3)

By: Brandy L Rivers


“The forest, an ale with my few trusted friends, the wind in the trees, and your smile when it appears on your face.”

Her face lit up. There was nothing in any world that had ever made him feel as good as she did.



* * * *



The next morning, Merova woke in his arms, on a fur blanket by the still burning fire. There was only one place to sleep, so she insisted he sleep beside her.

She was the one who burrowed into his embrace. Against all reason, she trusted him. He never once asked for anything and avoided the topic of her gift the entire night. He provided food, shelter, and companionship. She felt as if she could tell him anything, like the fact she wished she could leave and never come back. That she wanted to travel, to see new sights. To explore.

After meeting him, she would never be the same. She wanted to be with Halstien, but knew her family would never trust him. Still, Merova needed to see her family one last time. He didn’t want to let her go alone, claiming he had a bad feeling.

That should have scared her, but she felt it too. Something big was going to change. Well, other than her falling in love overnight. A threat lingered in the air. Perhaps the man she’d met on the mountain, before Halstien appeared.

Halstien shifted into a ferret who climbed into a hidden pocket in her cloak. Even as a small animal, his warmth chased off some of the fear.

She nodded. “I’m glad you’re with me,” she whispered before opening the door.

Mother rushed forward, tears in her eyes. “We were so worried. Zariha says you were attacked in the hills.”

“Zariha?”

“Yes, we’ve agreed to his proposition. He will give you sanctuary away from a dangerous man who wants to use your talent.”

“What?” she whispered. “What are you talking about?”

“He’ll fend off the monstrosity that wants you to make his every desire.”

She shook her head. “You’re not making sense.”

Her mother gripped her arms. “Halstien will use you.”

She jerked free and backed away. Halstien didn’t want her gifts. No, Zariha did. He’d said as much. And Halstien understood the burden.

Her father came in with the man from the cliff. The one she sent away. That was Zariha?

Shaking her head, she backed away from Zariha. “I won’t go with him.”

“He’ll keep you safe from the man who murdered his own family.”

Lies, they believed the lies.

Merova slipped through the door and cast a ward to keep them in, then ran. Didn’t matter where, she wasn’t thinking. She ran into the forest, then someone yanked her from the trail, to somewhere else.

The trees were old, thick, towering. She spun around and found Halstien.

He caressed her face. “I heard everything. What do you want to do?”

“Leave. I was wrong to come home. I thought—I hoped they would accept you. They think you murdered your family. They were going to send me away.”

“If it helps, your family didn’t want to send you away. They want you safe. Only they don’t know they played into the enemy’s hands.”

“Who is Zariha?” she whispered.

“He feeds off those of us with magic. I’m not sure if he wants you for your magic or to feed from you.”

“We leave then. Go far away.”

“You’re sure you don’t want to see them again?”

She nodded. “Extremely.”

He pulled her in another direction, taking her farther into the strange forest.

“Where are we?”

He bobbled his head. “Nowhere, really. This rift spans the space between the Sylvan Forest in Faery and is placed throughout our new world. The rift is large, and one entrance is where we started. I’ll take you to another land, far away, near the ocean. There are people there. Many different kinds. They won’t know your magic or mine. You never have to be used for what you can do again.”

“Take me. I’ll follow you anywhere.”



* * * *



Nineteen hundred years ago…



At times Merova missed her family, but she’d made her own with Halstien. Their daughter Babette was almost two. And lately her skin crawled every time she thought about her family believing the lies Zariha told them.