17. Limbo

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The Beginning

"You lied to me." It wasn't pointed, not an accusation. Just me, simply stating the facts.

"Oh..." Abu glanced over at me, but darted his eyes back to the spectacle at hand, unwilling to share his attention. It didn't bother me. I hadn't really cared about his explanation; I just wanted him to know that I knew. And besides. I didn't really want to share my attention, either.

The desert didn't end until it reached the gulf on the other side of the Southern Imperial City, and even then, the sand continued infinitely as an underwater desert. But after almost three weeks of traveling across the desert, we finally escaped the wraths of the relentlessly beating suns. Abu and I stood against the stone walls of a musty tavern two hours away from the outskirts of the Southern Imperial City while the adults banded together in its center, passing up its chairs for its tables and its sharab for water. That was, almost all the adults. My mother had rode ahead with Jamshid two days earlier to find Jamshid's brother and his wife. With every second she didn't return, my stomach twisted tighter.

The tavern was owned by a friend of a friend of a friend of Abu's father, who had at one time had told my mother that if she ever needed it, it would be here, that she would be surrounded by friends. Surrounded was hardly the word, though. Only a few rough-looking men sipped from bottles of sharab at a single round table, eyeing us suspiciously. The owner himself had embraced our party with open arms when we'd arrived and smiled at me warmly. I'd stared back at him blankly. I hated warm smiles. The desert was hot enough.

The establishment had a single lounge and a tight corridor for its back, meaning that they could no longer shut Abu and me out. But they wouldn't have, even if they could. It was time. I could see it in the atmosphere of the room, in the way nobody's eyes could ever seem to fixate on one place. And I could feel it in the tremor of the owner's syrupy energy. Finally, energy. It had a hot, bitter kick like the alcohol he sold. His energy only reminded me of my own. We were close to the city. My father would be able to sense me soon, if he hadn't already.

It was time.

It was all I'd thought about for months, but somehow, it didn't feel real. I'd always expected my mother to be the one to tell me the truth, or at the very least to be there. Without her, I was at the mercy of Izzet and his friends. They had gotten so used to privacy, they spoke about me like I wasn't there.

"I honestly am not even confident with it thus far. I told An, the boy has blue blood. Raised there, brainwashed there, half of his family is there. He has no incentive to go along, it's just irresponsible," Izzet said.

"She should have raised him Ashbahi from the beginning. What does the boy know about Oriane? Or care for that matter?"

"Yes, well that's easy to see in hindsight, but it would have been dangerous to them both."

"Dangerous like it is here now, or in Ashbah always. His incentive is the safety of his mother, it's simple."

"She is only half of his blood. I see the other half in him every day," Izzet again.

"He's just a child."

"That's part of the problem. Is he even going to be able to do it?"

"It would be better if Anaram was here. I cannot believe she's okay with this."

"Okay with this? It was her idea. I am not okay with it." Izzet again.

"We should wait for her. How much longer could they be?"

"It could be minutes, days, forever."

I grew irritated.

"What do you think I cannot do?"

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