Malachi was sitting in a room with Rhys and the old man called Evren. Both wore looks of confusion as they tried to ascertain what had happened to Malachi.
“An Irin scribe,” Evren said patiently.
“And the Irin are descended from… angels.”
“We are the race formed when angels fell from heaven and mated with human women. Heroes of old. Some would call us demigods, though we are not. We are half human, half angel. There have been generations of us. A separate people, so to speak. The angelic race.”
“But we’re not angels.”
“No,” Rhys said. “Angels are frightening creatures, and you don’t want to meet them.”
“But…” The memory jolted him. “I think I have met one.”
Eyes darkened to near black, then a glowing gold as the human mask dissolved. Jaron’s shoulders grew wide and thick. His frame lengthened… almost seven feet.
“Yes,” Rhys said, sliding forward in his seat. “You have. Do you remember?”
A faint gold shimmer covered his skin as the mask of the harmless doctor fell away and the heavenly being emerged. His hair grew longer… thick ebony strands brushing past his shoulders. The bronze skin of his torso glowed in the afternoon light, and raised talesm rose like shimmering brands on his skin.
Malachi’s eyes blinked back into focus. “I was with her. I had to protect her, but he didn’t hurt her, and I was confused.”
Rhys narrowed his eyes. “We were all confused. What else do you remember?”
Thousands of you, Scribe. One of her. Remember.
“He told me there were thousands of us and only one of her.” He looked up in confusion. “There’s only one of her? What does that mean?”
“We’ll explain that another time,” Evren said. “Is there anything else?”
“Yes and no. There are pieces I remember. Odd things. I knew I was something different as soon as I woke up. A… scribe, I suppose. I knew my father— Is my family still living?”
Rhys shook his head. “No. You have no siblings and your parents both died many years ago. Ava is your only family other than us.”
Ava. The name fell into his mind and filled it. It brought the memory of air tinged with cloves and roasted hazelnuts.
The old man looked at him, pity in his eyes. “She is your mate. You remember nothing of her?”
“My mate?” Not a wife. More than a wife.
“Your mate. Your reshon. It is a sacred union.”
“Your souls were created for each other. And when you marked her with magic, they bonded.”
Evren and Rhys exchanged a look. Rhys said, “We don’t know, but we’re going to try to find her. We will find her.”
She wasn’t here. He felt as if he were stumbling through the dark, looking for something just out of his reach.
“Malachi,” Evren asked. “When you woke, you were like this?”
Malachi frowned. “I was by the river. There was nothing around. But I followed the water and found the farm.”
“The old retreat,” Evren said. “He woke near the old retreat. I think when he came back, he was reborn in the exact place he was born the first time.”
Rhys said, “You think Ava—”
“It must have been. I don’t know how, but it is the only explanation.”
“No Irina has the power to—”
“No Irina is like Ava. She has no training. She has never been told what she may not do, so who knows what she is capable of?”
Malachi broke into their quiet conversation. “You’re telling me I died?”
Evren and Rhys turned to him.
“I died?” he asked again. “Truly? I died. And I came back to life?”
“What do you remember?”
“Nothing. I remember nothing. Just her voice on the wind and the stars overhead. I’ve been getting flashes here and there, but I don’t remember her. How could I forget her?” He felt torn. Incomplete. And it wasn’t just the memories he was missing. “And you think she did this somehow?”
Evren said, “We don’t know. Not really. But there is no other explanation. Your brothers saw you die. Saw your body turn to dust. Your mate saw you die—felt you die.”
“But why would Ava be able to—”
“She said the words,” Rhys said. “The words she had heard her whole life. From the souls of everyone who mourned. She came to me before she left. Asked me what it meant. Vashama canem. Come back to me.” He turned to Evren. “I had no idea. How could I?”
“There was no way of knowing she could do this, Rhys. No way—”
“Wait!” Malachi felt a chill creep along his skin. “You’re telling me she spoke this command and I answered. Even from beyond death?”
“He’s telling you words have power,” Evren said. “Ava asked you to come back to her. And you did.”