The world around Samir shimmered and wobbled as he came close to losing control of the careful balance of thinking that allowed this magic to continue. He closed his eyes, sank into his body, took a slow, deep breath, and cleared his mind of everything.

Empty, tranquil, quiet—a white-knuckle peace that he fought to maintain until everything settled back into place. Only then did he allow the questions to surface again.

First, the thoughts that belonged to the vision—the alarming thoughts that Samir had forgotten, because he’d forgotten all of this, but he hadn’t realized all the layers, all the fearful strangeness of what was happening until just that moment.

“We didn’t stay to investigate. We didn’t even think to investigate.” Samir dared to open his eyes again, to meet Varajas’s worried look. “You’re right. We felt it happen. We were here. And then we just…rode back to Triome.”

Even when Samir had suggested this trip, the main thing they’d both talked about was him looking for Arshtar. “I would say we didn’t remember, and that’s almost true, except—obviously—I do remember. I just told you about it. It had just fallen out of my head as important.”

And doesn’t that sound familiar. Samir could risk the higher level thinking now that he’d regained control.

“You’re saying there’s something here,” Varajas slapped a hand against the wall, “that’s been here since that event, and it’s making people forget.” In the same way we’re stuck in a different castle Ulek, and can’t remember how we got there.

But of course, it was even more than that. Layers and echoes. The past weaving into the present. But—Light—if Samir started thinking down that path, he would lose control of the magic.

How to even deal with something like this? There was danger. Samir’s first instinct was to leave and come back better prepared. But if they left now, would he and Varajas—Raj even remember having this conversation?

His vision shimmered again as Samir in the present had a burst of panic at the thought of forgetting.

Raj who was with Samir in the moment of the vision was struggling with the same thoughts—Samir could hear them fluttering against his own through the magic—but Varajas’s voice in his mind was calm and rational. We’re watching what happened. Let it play out. Whether you forgot or not, it’s already happened. You can’t change it. But you can learn from it.

And we’re here. Ruan’s lighter voice, just as calm. We know where this leads to, we just need to see the path.

Samir heard their words and knew they were right, but it was hard when both versions of himself were fighting a terror he hadn’t expected to ever have to deal with again.

Raj stepped in closer, put his hands on Samir’s shoulders as he studied Samir’s face. “Samir. What’s wrong?” The question echoed in Samir’s mind, Varajas and Ruan also listening.

And, oh god, but he couldn’t answer. Couldn’t make the words come. There were no words. Just fear and emptiness and—

If he sank too deeply into his head he’d be lost. Lost again. Lost forever.

He needed an anchor. Something to hold him here. With the hand that wasn’t holding Krys, Samir grabbed a fistful of Raj’s shirt. Dragged him in close, and kissed him.

A note from Barbara J Webb

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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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