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stood and disentangled Peta from me. The past was of no consequence to me now, I had to believe that, or I would drive myself mad with wondering if I could have done things differently. Or wondering if I should never have interfered at all.

She looked up at me, her green eyes thoughtful. “So now what? We wait on Bella to work her magic?”

I doubted it would be as easy as all that. “You were here, during my banishment?”

“Yes, I searched the libraries of all the families as you asked. Learned everything I could and then some. The Deep holds the oldest records of all the families and I learned much here.” Her eyes went thoughtful. “Why?”

“What my father said, about the old elemental and the connection to the mother goddess. Do you think that was his madness, or did you ever come across something like that in your studies?”

Her eyes narrowed. “What are you thinking? I can almost feel your mind working.”

I shrugged. “What he said has stayed with me, which makes me think there is truth in it somewhere. What if the story was not about the mother goddess, but an elemental that had been powerful like her? And what if that elemental was still alive, and causing grief, controlling the rulers? Shazer said an elemental made him and the stones. Could there be some connection between them? A story that has been twisted from its original meaning, but the center of it still truth?”

Peta tipped her head back and twitched the tip of one rounded ear. “Maybe. But how would you find out?”

“You said the Deep had the oldest records. If there was info about that elemental, this is where it would be, wouldn’t it?”

Excitement zipped from Peta through the bond to me. “Yes, the Undines have an excellent section of old bits and pieces, old papers that have no true connection to anything but that they keep because of their age.”

And Ray would be in the library. Perhaps she would be able to help me yet again in my search for truth.

Peta bounded ahead of me, through the door and across the rope bridge, with the nimbleness only a cat had, before I’d even stepped foot on the swaying structure. “Slow down.”

“Hurry up,” she called over her shoulder. “You need to find a way to improve speed and reflexes. Cat-like, that’s what you need!”

I shook my head, but let the smile drift across my lips.

The tip of her tail twitched as she waited for me. Again, I hurried over the bridge, not looking down, only ahead. The smell of the Deep swirled around me: salt water, seaweed, a faint hint of tropical fruits, and sun-heated sand. I stepped off the far side of the bridge. “You see my eyes? Not violet. No shape shifting in my future.”

“True.” She bobbed her head. “Then again, it’s not like you’ve followed the rules so far. Why not try?”

Laughing, I shook my head but said nothing to dispute her. We both knew it wasn’t possible.

We crossed the white sand, and before long, stepped onto the cobblestone streets. We approached the stables and I slowed. Set up like an open barn with no real stalls, the stable was heavily bedded with dried seaweed for the livestock. Shazer dozed under the shelter off to one side. His head jerked up as I approached, his nostrils flaring.

“We leaving?”

“Tomorrow morning.” I paused in front of him. “Your creator, did he have a name?”

He ruffled his wings and stretched out his front legs. “I don’t even remember my own name, and you expect me to remember the name of the elemental who made me?”

“Couldn’t hurt to ask. Seeing as how we may have to deal with him at some point.”

Both Shazer and Peta stared at me with open mouths.

“What?” Peta blurted.

Shazer spluttered. “I hope you’re kidding. Tell me you are joking, Lark.”

The words had slipped out, but as soon as they’d escaped me I wished I’d caught them. Not because they weren’t my true feelings, but because I couldn’t yet explain how I knew what I knew.

“Never mind.”

“Oh no, you aren’t getting out of this that easily.” Shazer blocked my path. “Get talking.”

I cleared my throat. “It’s like—”

Bella rounded the corner, flushed and out of breath, saving me from explaining myself. “There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“Take it things didn’t go well with Finley?”

She shook her head. “She is . . . stubborn doesn’t even begin to describe it. It is like she is blind to anything around her. Nothing I said got through, not a single word about my concerns.”

“The ring?” I lifted an eyebrow.

Bella shook her head. “I’m sorry, I did try. I offered her my hand as we met, and she refused to take it. A clear offense if I didn’t know why she refused.”

Undines paused as they walked by, slowing to hear us. I put a hand on Bella’s elbow. “Come, walk with me.”

Shazer snorted. “This conversation is not done.”

“Later,” I said over my shoulder.

Bella talked as we strode through the street. “I think the same thing is happening to Finley that happened to me. It was almost like she knows we are here for the sapphire.”

“Not possible; only the mother goddess knows.” I turned sideways to let an Undine carrying a full basket of apples go by.

Bella glanced at me. “I knew what you wanted, the second you stepped into the dining hall.”

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