Lukus paused to listen to the rain of clicks and squawks from the oilbirds in the countless chinks and ledges throughout the gargantuan vault of cave ceiling over Gerddi Teg, kept daylight bright by glow lichens. He threw his panniers across Starfire's rump, checked Shimmer's girth and went back inside the cottage he and Soraya had spent the summer in.
"Your bags ready?" he said, hefting Soraya's tightly packed panniers."
"Tied tight and buckled," she said from the next room.
"I guess I'm asking if we're forgetting anything," he said.
"We can't be," she said, walking in. "We're still here, and nothing's ever forgot until you get down the road and remember."
"Yea. like one of the kids, or something."
"No worry then," she said with her serious face. "Grandfather would send us right back."
"And not wait for us to catch up again."
"Nope!" she said, erupting with laughter. "Not after we forget our own babaí."
"You are the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen when you laugh," he said, scooping her into a sound hug. "And you've been mighty sober lately."
"Yea," she said, standing arm in arm with him as they looked out the open door. "It's kind of hard to leave a peaceful place after what we've been through. And the thought of being out in the open with Daniel and Ariel makes me feel, well, exposed."
Lukus watched Abaddon in the yard, playing dragon and giving rides to Daniel and Ariel. "You know, they could really get hurt," he said.
"From piggyback rides?" she said. "His piggyback rides? He is the gentlest boy I ever saw play with little kids, especially with Ariel."
"They could still get hurt."
"What is this?" she said. "The worst that would happen from some unlikely stupidity of his would be nothing more than a scrape or a knot on the head of one of them. And you're not stupid, so why is this bothering you?"
"I know he has been good with them, but he is Spitemorta's son..."
"And King James's. And I've not heard you say anything but good about James."
"And Abaddon is very magically gifted. He's been good all summer, but what if he surprises us and turns out like the rest of his line back through Demonica? That's a dark lineage."
"Daniel and Ariel trust him..."
"So what?" he said, as he quietly pushed the door most of the way closed. "Children don't have the experience and judgment to keep from being taken in by some..."
"Human children. And ours are half Elf, actually better than half, since you have Elf behind you..."
"But lately he finds a way to be here every single day. For a boy his age, isn't that...?"
Soraya put her finger to his lips, kissed him on the cheek and closed the door. "I just became certain of something this very day," she said, turning back to him.
"My word, what?"
"Ariel and Abaddon have a heart bond."
"Fates! What if he's evil?"
"I suppose it's possible, but I've never ever heard of a heart bond between Elf and an evil..."
"When did it happen? Are you certain?"
"No one knows when a heart bond actually begins, Lukus," she said as she took his hand. "I mean, when did ours begin? But it is completely out of anyone's control, as you well know. And I'm so very sorry you're troubled by this. I think Abaddon's simply wonderful and I can't imagine that he would ever harm either one of them."
"I hope you are right. Because if he ever does, I swear I'll fix him."
"And with my help, dear," she said.
"There goes Arwr," said Lukus.
Arwr came to a springy halt some distance away and jogged back.
Abaddon wheeled about and scooped Ariel off the ground, giving her a grand giggly hug before setting her back down. "Bye Ariel!" he cried before dashing through the gate. "Bye Daniel!"
"Abaddon!" cried Ariel, trotting to the gate.
Abaddon stopped and turned back. "We'll be together before the day's over!" he hollered with a wave.
"See you!" she cried with a great bounce of her curls as he dashed away and sprang astride Arwr. She stood waving until Abaddon and Arwr had vanished between the cottages across the common.
Soraya squeezed Lukus's arm as she put her head against his shoulder.
Ch 24, The Reaper Witch
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps