Beneath the moonlight, the ship sailed smoothly across the face
of the sea. Its sounds had grown familiar; the creaking of timber
and rope, the snap and flutter of the sail, the sleepy murmur of
sailors on night-watch.
After a time, I sensed Bao's approach, the divided half of my diadh-anam
drawing nearer to me.
Bao, my husband. Despite the long months that had passed since
we were wed, I wasn't accustomed to the word. He came to stand beside
me, gazing out at the silvery wake, his forearms braced on the railing
and his shoulder brushing mine in a companionable manner. "Did you
dream of her?" he asked in a low voice. "The White Queen?"
I shook my head. "Just restless."
"Ah. With Terre d'Ange so close, I thought maybe..."
"I did, too." I took a deep breath. "But no."
Bao nodded, and said nothing. In the silence, his diadh-anam
entwined with mine, a sensation as intimate as a caress. Until I
was a woman grown, I had not fully understood that most folk do
not carry their diadh-anams within them. Although I was half-D'Angeline,
Naamah's child on my father's side, I was born in Alba to the folk
of the Maghuin Dhonn, the Great Bear Herself, who planted a spark
of Her soul in each of Her children, a flickering inner light to
guide us through our lives.
Never, ever had I heard of a diadh-anam being divided; but
mine had been. It had restored Bao to life.
The deed lay behind us in distant Ch'in, Bao's homeland, farther
in the receding past than Bhaktipur, where we had saved an empire
and freed a dragon, where a sorcerer had slain Bao with a poisoned
And Master Lo Feng, in his grief and sorrow, had used his arts
and my magic to give his life and half my divine soul-spark to bring
Bao back from the dead, inextricably linking our destinies.
Master Lo couldn't have known that it would send his stubborn magpie
of an assistant, a reformed prince of thugs, into headlong flight
from a destiny he hadn't chosen; nor that I would be compelled by
my diadh-anam to follow him.
On the Tatar steppe at last we admitted to ourselves and each other
that it was love, as well as Master Lo's art, that bound us together.
But as soon as we began to truly explore our bond, we were betrayed;
me into the hands of a Yeshuite fanatic in northern Vralia, wrapped
in chains that stifled my very soul-spark, while Bao was sent on
a fruitless quest in the opposite direction to rescue me.
Still, in the end, we had found one another again. In the valley
kingdom of Bhaktipur, we were wed.
Of course, our union was complicated by the fact that on the eve
of our wedding, I was visited in my dreams by the ghost of Jehanne
de la Courcel, the impossibly beautiful and highly mercurial D'Angeline
queen I had loved so very much; and that Jehanne had told me I had
unfinished business with a man both of us had loved, and would need
her aid before it was over.
I stole a glance at Bao. His face was calm in the moonlight. Shadowed
eyes, high, wide cheekbones, full lips. Moonlight silvered his unruly
shock of black hair, glinted on the gold hoops in his earlobes,
and the bands of iron reinforcing the bamboo staff he wore lashed
across his back.
He caught me looking, and raised his brows. "Like what you see,
huh?" he asked in a teasing tone.
I tugged on one ear-hoop hard enough to make him wince. "Mayhap."
Bao grinned. "You do."
I slid one hand around the back of his neck and kissed him. "I
He kissed me back, then pulled away, his expression turning serious.
"It's going to be hard for you, Moirin. Coming home."
"Home." The word escaped me in a sigh. "Terre d'Ange isn't home,
"Aye." I gazed into the distance. "But..."
"Raphael de Mereliot." Bao finished my unspoken thought for me.
His mouth twisted. "That idiot Lord Lion Mane."
I said nothing. Raphael de Mereliot was the man that Jehanne and
I had both loved; her favorite courtier, the man I had believed
held my destiny for a time. Tall, tawny-haired Raphael de Mereliot
with his healer's hands. I'd let him use me, use my small gift of
magic to augment his healing arts. Together, we had saved lives,
including my father's.
But I had let Raphael use me for other purposes, summoning fallen
spirits filled with trickery. It had nearly killed me. I had been
very young, and very foolish.
Jehanne... Ah, gods!
She had saved me from Raphael's ambition, saved me from myself;
claiming me for her own. And I had let her, gladly. She'd had a
bower filled with plants made for me, granting me a safe haven.
She had made me her royal companion. She had trusted me to be there
for her when she honored her promise to her husband, King Daniel
de la Courcel, setting aside Raphael de Mereliot and praying to
Eisheth to open the gates of her womb, that she might bear the King
But I had left her.
And while I was on the far side of the world, pursuing my everlasting
destiny, Jehanne had died in childbirth. If I had been there, we
could have saved her, Raphael and I.
Bao's arms encircled me. He spoke no words of false comfort, only
breathed the Breath of Ocean's Rolling Waves, drawn in through the
nostrils into the pit of the belly, expelled through the mouth.
Slowly, slowly, as I had done so many times before, I matched my
breathing to his, my thoughts growing calm.
The ship swayed and creaked beneath us. The past continued to draw
farther and farther away, the shining trail of wake etched in the
moonlight, ever fading behind us and drawn anew.
I wiped my eyes. "Thank you."
Bao nodded. "I am here, Moirin."
My breath caught in my throat. Those were words I had spoken to
Jehanne many times; and they had always been true, until they were
not. I turned in Bao's arms, studying his face, wondering if he
knew. "You are, aren't you?"
A wry smile lingered on his lips. "Try getting rid of me."
"Oh..." I reached up to tweak his ear-hoops again, then tugged
his head down for another kiss. "I'd rather not."
Bao laughed softly. The ship sailed onward, rendering the past
a series of memories, carrying us toward a new destiny. I prayed
that for once, the gods would be merciful.
But I doubted it.