When I saw Cardan later that day, it proved to be more uneasy than before I had talked with my brother. Which was why I was more determined to no longer allow ourselves to maintain a code of silence. As he passed Little Rabbit to me, I asked, "How was she today?"
For a moment, he looked at me in surprise before he smiled. "Energetic. I think she is at last over her fear of the Gryphons. She approached a few when the other children did. It is unfortunate, however, that she does not seem able to make friends."
I took a hand and brushed back her unnaturally black hair. "It is because she does not speak. Has she ever spoken to you?"
"Once. Before the dragon came." His features had become rigid and I knew that he would not tell me what she said.
Nodding, I told him, "I only ever heard her speak when the dragon asked for our vows. Since then, not a word."
Cardan sighed and reached out a hand to brush his fingers against her face. "I wish you would speak, Little Rabbit. We wish to know you."
For once, she turned her face from him and nuzzled closer to my neck. I stroked her hair again. Then I sighed and took a good, long look at Cardan. There was yet one more thing we needed to discuss.
"I want to take her flying again tomorrow. A longer trip, this time."
"Where to?" he asked, his voice sounding wary.
I met his gaze and lifted my chin. "Silver Lake."
"No!" he snarled. "Absolutely not! You cannot take a child there; are you mad?"
"Well, I must go and I cannot leave her behind."
"Why do you need to go? I thought you had done what you came to do?"
"I have dealt with the dragon, yes, but I have not stabilized the bridge between the Forest and Shade."
"We have no need without the dragon."
"Of course we do. Cardan, what happens when we bring Little Rabbit back here to be presented? The deal I made with that dragon means that the day she turns fifteen, she may reappear in our lives. Do you want the warning that she is lurking nearby, or do you want to be caught unaware?"
Silence fell between us once more, and he looked as if he wished to snatch her from my arms and run far away. Yet, we both knew I was right. We needed a warning now more than ever. If we were in the Forest when it came, the dragoessa would give it. In the desert, I was not certain I would have the same kind of allies.
With a sigh, I said, "I regret you not being with Ryin and I. You would see them differently if you knew what their powers cost them, I think."
"No, I would not."
I shook my head. "Believe as you wish, but we are going tomorrow. I will have Ryin and Azrael take Little Rabbit. Maphail will consent to take me."
At this, his back shot straight. "I can take her."
"And you would leave with her before I had a chance to introduce her to the dragoessa. You would interfere. I am asking that you either remain behind, or keep your mouth shut when we arrive."
Before that moment, I had not known what Cardan looked like furious. His eyebrows contracted and his face darkened. His lips curled back in a silent snarl.
Without waiting on his tirade, I turned around and carried the child away. It was only when I reached the house that I realized how heavy she was getting. Weeks with constant meals was finally putting meat on her frame. Soon, I would not be able to hold her for such a time.
Setting her down, I took her hands in mine and turned her to face me. While she would not speak to us, she had understood every word spoken and I was determined to reassure her.
"I am sorry you were witness to our disagreement, Little Rabbit. Cardan fears those he does not understand, and he chooses not to know them. A mistake, on his part. Tomorrow, we will go and see the dragoessa of Shade. I am making friends with them, and hope that they will see you as a friend, as well. Powerful friends are good to have when we have powerful destinies."
For a moment, I almost expected her to question me. Yet, this was a child that had learned more through observation and patience than by constant questioning. A thought that made me smile as I pushed her hair out of her eyes.
"I will protect you from all that means you harm, Little Rabbit. You are my family now, and I will defend you and love you as my own. Do you believe me?"
In the weeks prior, I was not certain I would get a nod out of her. Yet, when her head bobbed up and down with no visible hesitation, a wide smile spread across my face and I pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"Very well. Now go wash up. We must help Mana prepare dinner tonight."
When she had run off, I got to my feet and found Cardan standing beside me. At once, I opened my mouth to stave off another argument when he held up his hands. Then he looked me in the eye and asked, "We will bring her back here?"
My mouth fell open. "Of course we will. She is of the Forest. While I think she will thrive as a desert blossom, I know to nurture the roots as well."
"How often will we come back?"
"I should think at least once a year. Maybe when we return, she will be speaking enough to make friends."
He nodded. Then he asked, "Why do you want her to meet the shapeshifters?"
I looked away. "Because I think they may be kin."
YOU ARE READING
Forest born, but desert bred. Tallie is a Bridge Walker of Valhoal. While raised beneath the desert skies, she was never allowed to forget that her kin are those of the Forest Realm. On the day she turns fifteen, Tallie finds that her worlds are abo...