Chapter 26

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I gazed into the mirror, hoping.

My dame and sire had given me the child-glass to their mirror and although I was grateful that they had given me the more portable option, it also meant that either I had to wait for my dame to contact me, or I had to guess at when they would be in their chambers. With no inkling of where the medusa was drifting above the Earth, catching them was proving harder than I anticipated.

Furthermore, their mirror was a more common one that didn't have an active mirror-spirit who could take messages. The best it could do was let them know someone had mirrored them, but not whom or when. All things considered, all I could do was hope that my dame would start missing me and get in touch sooner rather than later.

Nothing. Still nothing. All the while, my mate's vitality seeped out of her with every breath, every moment.

My hand fisted, and I inhaled deeply to suppress the urge to punch something. With our luck, the Fates would laugh as I accidentally broke the mirror. Seven years of bad luck from an enraged mirror spirit would be just the shit topping we needed on our shit sundae.

My dragon snapped his teeth at me and a mental slap from his tail set my ears ringing.

Hardly. Does your mate know you refer to her as such?

I shook my head to clear the stars from my eyes.

"Not her. The situation."

She is an integral part of the situation.

Giving into frustration, I hammered my right fist into the side of my thigh.

"It doesn't matter, all right? I can try to convince myself that this is better than not having a mate until the sun goes supernova and be flayed by guilt that I don't believe it until the universe freezes over, but that's not helpful to anyone, all right?"

"I see. Shouting at yourself is clearly much more constructive."

My head snapped up at the sound of my mother's voice.

"Memere." Relief dizzied me and I sank onto the seat. My dame was here. She'd know what to do, and if she didn't, my sire would. All would be well.

My dragon snorted in disgust. Such a mama's boy.

I snorted right back. As if the overgrown lizard wasn't just as fond of my mother as I was. He was the one always curled around her whenever he found her sitting.

"Kieran," my mother said with wry amusement. "Surely you didn't mirror me just to show me how you still haven't managed to come to an understanding with your dragon."

The tips of my ears flared hot. "No, Memere."

I swallowed. "I wanted to ask you if you knew how to go about singing magic from another being. Adora isn't doing well. She's carrying two babes now instead of just the one, so the Gifting isn't a viable option anymore. She thought that perhaps she could sing magic from us instead, but she can't figure out how and she's weakening fast."

Her eyes flared wide before narrowing in thought.

"She cannot return to Sleep?"

She shook her head abruptly. "No, no, that would not do, not if you cannot Gift her during her Sleep."

Fear flashed through my mother's eyes, then she took a breath and determination took its place. "You are right. Perhaps this is the only choice left open to you."

"You agree?" I asked, hardly daring to believe.

A flutter of slender hands. "I do not disapprove." A soft sigh. "I dare not allow the fact that she is my son's mate to sway me too far. She has a dragon, which makes her different from us Desekthryn, and so I will venture to speak of it, but it does trouble me."

"I don't know where the line is," I admitted. "You have told me often that self-discipline is the only barrier against atrocities, yet here I am, asking you to reveal secrets probably best left unspoken for the love of one female and our children."

Her mouth quirked. "Perhaps the line lies at the boundary of self-doubt and questioning self-awareness, but I can't say for certain either. I fear that I am allowing my own emotions to dictate what is acceptable and what isn't. I can only comfort myself that she has a dragon and there is no danger of her becoming Desekthroi."

"Why does having a dragon self matter so much?" I needed to know if we were actually going to do this. Just what stood between us and the ability to commit genocide?

"There are many theories, but no one knows for certain. Some say that the pragmatic beast reins in the human's avariciousness, but I do not know that I believe it. Others say that the dragon half is magic and keeps the twinned souls from the sort of spiritual starvation that leads to becoming Desekthroi. Yet others believe that the Desekthryn are the way they are because they are disfavored by the Fates and so are more prone to losing their humanity." She grimaced. "You can imagine what I think about that particular theory."

"But what do you think?"

"I think that some are simply easily unbalanced to begin with and are then broken. It is like asking why some people become serial killers. Perhaps someone wasn't loved enough. Perhaps someone had a mind that differed from others. There are countless maybes, but the only certainty is that ultimately it is a sort of choice. Some make it. Others manage to refrain, despite the torment they suffer."

Her gaze sharpened. "So, of course, the true question now is whether you believe that your mate is one to break, or not."

"Does anyone ever truly know?"

"No. I suppose not."

She reached out and touched the mirror on her side, her face softening.

I lifted my hand and pressed my fingertips to the mirror, matching where hers rested.

"What is your decision?"

"Tell me," I said. If all else failed, I would die before I allowed her to become a monster. 

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