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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:36

“I have every idea.” The cold words cut through the room, reminding all of them that Gabriel had lost his mate, Tala. Damien had taken her into battle, and she had perished.

Gabriel continued in his chilling voice. “But there’s nothing you can do for her right now. If she was dead, you would feel it.”

“Does it hurt?” The fire went out of Malachi’s belly. The pain twisted in his chest. “When I died, did it hurt her?”

He wasn’t sure whether or not Gabriel would even answer. But the scribe raised his chin and said, “Yes. It hurts. Physically. Emotionally. If she was gravely injured, you would feel it. Not in an incapacitating way, but you would know. Do you feel anything like that?”

“Then she was in danger, but the danger has passed. Tell me about your dreams.”

He could feel the heat in his cheeks and Gabriel gave him a knowing look. “We don’t talk much.”

“That’s normal. Most Irin couples who are physically parted don’t spend their dream walks in conversation.”

The three men settled into seats near the fireplace. Clearly, sleep was a memory.

“Why can’t I ask her questions?” Malachi asked. “Every night, I go to sleep, and I tell myself I will ask her where she is. But when the dream starts…”

Gabriel crossed his arms and took a deep breath. “I’ve heard it said by scholars far more intelligent than me that the Forgiven gave Irin mates their ability to dream walk in order to feed the soul. It is not conscious life, though it still feeds us physically. Otherwise, our tactile need for each other when we were separated would become a liability.”

“So even though I’m away from her, I’m still caring for her?” It helped. To know that he was at least doing something.

Gabriel nodded. “She’s probably sleeping better than most widowed mates would. She’d be more calm. Centered. Physically, she will be stronger because of the walks.”

“But why can’t I ask her anything? Why can’t I ask her where she is, like I always tell myself to.”

“You don’t understand. You’re not meeting on a conscious level. Dream walks are your souls speaking to each other. And the soul isn’t concerned about worldly problems. Day-to-day worries never enter into a dream walk. You don’t chat about the children or work. If you’re fighting, your souls would reach for each other more, not less. Dream walks are the place Irin mates connect on the most spiritual level, where your soul reads your mate’s and gives it exactly what it needs. Connection. Comfort. Pleasure. It’s not like a normal conversation.”

“So her soul doesn’t need me to find her?” That couldn’t be correct. He had reached for her even when he didn’t know her name.

“Don’t you see?” Gabriel asked. “Her soul has already found you, Malachi. Within her dreams. Your souls have found each other. It is only your bodies that have not.”

Leo asked, “Do you think she knows they’re more than dreams?”

“Probably not. After all, why would she even consider it?” Gabriel’s voice was rough. “She thinks Malachi is dead. They all do. After Tala died, I dreamed of her almost every night. For years. I knew it wasn’t the same because I’d experienced dream walking, so I knew the difference. Ava does not. She probably thinks her walks with Malachi are only that. Very vivid dreams.”

Malachi cursed silently. Then he held out his arm. “And this? My talesm returning?”

“That, I have no idea about.” Gabriel shook his head. “It’s not like we’ve seen many resurrected scribes. It must have something to do with her particular magic. The scholars would drool over this.”

Leo said, “And the reason we’re not consulting them is…?”

It was more complicated than Malachi had expected. Compulsion grated on his instincts, but the arguments were compelling. The Irin were dying off. Generations of Irin children had been lost. The Irina needed to be protected. In fact, some of the most pro-compulsion elders on the council had lost mates and daughters during the Rending. They were passionate about the safety of the Irina. Passionate about the need for them to be protected from the Grigori. And most did not downplay the Grigori threat.

On the other hand, many of the elders who supported restoration clearly had no idea just how much the Grigori were spreading. They dismissed the Fallen, almost as if they were something out of a myth. They claimed that those in favor of compulsion were fear-mongering bigots, that there was little threat to the Irina. They needed to simply step back into public life and everything would sort itself out.

Vienna was a city riddled by politics, confused by its own safety, and flush with more money than Malachi had ever imagined. It was lazy and indulgent. The city stank of greed.

“We should try to get some sleep,” Leo said. “Rhys will be by in the morning, and Max is supposed to call around noon.”

“I don’t know,” Leo said. “He mentioned a message from a contact the last time I talked to him. I think he was in Berlin.”

Leo grinned. “They asked after you. If we’re going to keep your story a secret, we may need to avoid the city. You spent many years in Berlin.”

By noon,Gabriel had gone into his offices and Leo, Rhys, and Malachi met with Konrad in Gabriel’s library.

“So you are the scribes that nobody and everybody is talking about,” Konrad said. He was a gruff man. Not handsome in the least, he appeared to bear the weight of the world on his stooped shoulders. He was barrel-chested and gray-haired, clearly having cut back on the longevity spells after he’d lost his mate, Catherine. She had not died in the Rending but, of all things, a traffic collision while they were on holiday. It was a shocking reminder to Malachi of how dangerous the world could be, even in ordinary times.

“I don’t know about that,” Malachi said. “I’m not much for gossip.”

“Oh, we eminent politicians don’t call it gossip, Malachi. We call it ‘intelligence.’” He lifted the corner of his mouth in what could almost be a smile. “I knew your father for a time. You look like him. When we were young, we trained together near Jerusalem. Of course, that was very long ago.”