Chapter Twenty-Three

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Aidan's heart skipped a beat. Riona glared up at them, her eyes bright as hot coals.

"The real question is, how do you know?" they countered.

Riona withdrew slightly, gritting her teeth. "I saw it in a dream."

Aidan cocked one eyebrow in surprise, and Riona lifted her chin defiantly.

"I see visions of the future in my waking hours, how is it so unbelievable I might see the past in my sleep?"

Hester appeared behind her, looking groggy. There was a new warmth in the woman's eyes as she gazed at Riona. Aidan's stomach clenched, and they pushed that thought aside.

"I will not be interrogated on the basis of dreams," Aidan said as casually as they could muster, turning on their heel.

"If you do not tell me, I will leave."

Aidan closed their eyes tightly, took a breath, and then turned back around. Riona's face was grim with determination.

"Did you know?" she asked, more quietly and less fiercely. Aidan studied her for a moment. Her righteous anger reminded them of the more guarded woman they had first met over a month ago now.

They weighed the odds of their next words before speaking. "Yes."

Already Riona's face went white as a sheet, Hester reached out and slipped one arm around her waist in support.

"Yes, I knew it."

Tears glistened as they slowly slipped down Riona's cheeks. "Why did you not tell me?"

"I wanted you to trust me."

Riona scoffed. "Am I to do so now?"

Aidan breathed deeply, holding Riona's gaze. "I hope for your sake, you may, but..." Aidan's eyes shifted quickly to Hester and then back to Riona. "I understand if you do not."

"Do you know who killed her?" Riona asked so softly, Aidan barely understood. "Makda was there but did not perform the deed. It was a Druid named Taelthin."

Aidan nodded, and a hand shot to Hester's lips in surprise.

"Are they living?" Riona asked the strain in her voice seemed ready to crack.

Aidan nodded again.

Riona's face twisted in an expression darker than any Aidan had seen upon her features.

"Revenge is a bitter goal, Ríoghnach," Aidan said quietly.

Riona's lips pressed into a thin line. "That I will decide."

Hester laid a gentle hand on Riona's shoulder and led her back into the tent. As the two women disappeared, Aidan sank to the ground. The dread that had started as a knot in their gut had now made its way to their throat. When the women reappeared, Aidan did their best to affect an expression of calm.

"Aidan, will you help me with the donkeys?" Hester asked too casually.

Aidan nodded and aided the young woman in un-hobbling the beasts and attaching them to the wagon for the day's driving. The rest of the camp was now bustling as the Levi's prepared for travel. Aidan felt a sense of relief at leaving the place of their latest encounter with Makda.

"You look ill," said Hester lightly.

"My errand grows ever darker," said Aidan.

Hester did not respond, gently massaging the side of one of the donkeys.

"I cannot see through the shadow of your soul, Aidan," Hester's voice wavered, but she continued, "I feel Riona is the only light you have allowed in your life for some time."

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