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The Edge of Worlds: A Novel of the Raksura


Night Shade Books, April 2016
Cover art by Yukari Masuike




An expedition of groundlings from the Empire of Kish have traveled through the Three Worlds to the Indigo Cloud court of the Raksura, shape-shifting creatures of flight that live in large family groups. The groundlings have found a sealed ancient city at the edge of the shallow seas, near the deeps of the impassable Ocean. They believe it to be the last home of their ancestors and ask for help getting inside. But the Raksura fear it was built by their own distant ancestors, the Forerunners, and the last sealed Forerunner city they encountered was a prison for an unstoppable evil.

Prior to the groundlings' arrival, the Indigo Cloud court had been plagued by visions of a disaster that could destroy all the courts in the Reaches. Now, the court's mentors believe the ancient city is connected to the foretold danger. A small group of warriors, including consort Moon, an orphan new to the colony and the Raksura's idea of family, and sister queen Jade, agree to go with the groundling expedition to investigate. But the predatory Fell have found the city too, and in the race to keep the danger contained, the Raksura may be the ones who inadvertently release it.


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audiobook: Audible.com, Audible.uk, and Amazon.com, narrated by Christopher Kipiniak

eBook and AudioBook available on iTunes


Chapter One


Moon knew he was dreaming.

In the real world, he was in Jade's bower, lying on the furs near the metal bowl of the hearth, just close enough to feel the heat of the warming stones on his skin. Chime lay nearby, breathing deeply, a book unrolled across his chest. Jade was up in the hanging bed, and he could hear the faint rasp of her scales against the cushions as she stirred in her sleep. The damp night air was laced with the familiar scents of the court, the flowers floating in Jade's bathing pool, and the ever-present musky sweetness that was the scent of the mountain-tree that housed the colony.

In the dream world, he was watching the Fell destroy the Indigo Cloud court.

He could see the central well, spiraling up through the heart of the great tree, lit by the soft glow of snail shells that were spelled for light by the mentors. Fell stench was thick in his lungs and the walls were alive with hundreds of dark shapes as dakti swarmed up the polished wood walls. Three massive major kethel climbed up from the greeting hall, their claws catching on the carved balconies, gouging through the stairs that curved up the walls, cracking the delicate pillars. They plunged their clawed hands into the bower doorways, and Arbora screamed and blood splattered against the wood and jeweled inlay.

The perspective changed and Moon watched dakti flow through the passages of the teachers' levels. He tried not to see faces and couldn't help it. There were Rill and Bark and the soldier Ginger, piled up at the mouth of a chamber they had tried to defend, their eyes blank with death but their mouths open in snarls of furious terror. And the warrior Vine, lying in a junction of bowers, caught between his scaled form and his groundling one, half soft brown groundling skin and half-scaled, one wing twisted under him, his stomach ripped open and guts spilling out. A scream of rage rang out from further up in the central well and Moon knew it was Pearl, the reigning queen.

Where's Jade, Moon thought, Where am I? Where's Stone? Why aren't we doing anything? That thought almost broke him out of the nightmare, and for a moment he lay on the furs again. He could see his favorite carving, the one of the Raksuran court that covered most of the bower's ceiling. In different colored woods and gemstones it depicted queens, consorts, warriors, and the wingless Arbora, all their bodies entwined or flowing apart, separate pieces making one whole.

He tried again to turn the dream into something else, tried to wake, but the rulers flowed down the stairs to the teachers' hall, past the mutilated, blood-streaked bodies of Arbora and warriors, took the passage that led toward the nurseries--

"Moon, wake up," Balm said.

He snapped out of the dream. He was on his feet, breathing hard in terror and fury. Chime yelped and shifted, sat bolt upright, dumped the book off his lap, and kicked a stray piece of pottery across the room. Jade flipped out of the hanging bed and landed on her feet, spines lifted for battle.

Balm leapt back a pace, dropped her spines and held out her hands. "Sorry! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you!"

The relief was so intense, Moon's knees almost gave out. He said, "No, sorry, no, it was me." He shifted back to his groundling form, scales dissolving and reforming as soft skin, and he felt a chill cold enough to make him shiver. It was the thwarted fight-urge from the dream, still running through his blood. He had had plenty of nightmares but he rarely shifted while he was asleep. It was a long ingrained habit from all the turns of self-control while he had been living in groundling settlements, pretending to be anything but a shapeshifter. "I was having a nightmare."

Chime struggled to his knees and rescued the book and the cup. "So was I," he said, following Moon's example and shifting back to his groundling form. His hand trembled as he set the cup next to the others beside the hearth bowl. "It must be something in the air."

"I wasn't sleeping well, either." Jade settled her spines self-consciously. Queens didn't have a groundling form, shifting to a smaller Arbora-like shape with softer scales, no wings, and fewer spines. That was the form they slept in, and Jade must have shifted to her winged form at some point between leaping out of the hanging bed and landing on the floor. Moon's heart was still pounding. The relief of seeing her and Chime alive and well was almost as intense as if the dream had been real.

Balm should have been looking at them as if they had all lost their minds. Moon knew he was still twitchy from his turns of living like a feral solitary, but waking him usually didn't cause this much of an outburst. Especially considering it was Balm, Jade's warrior clutchmate and one of Moon's oldest friends in the court. But Balm looked worried, the gold scales of her brow furrowed. She said, "Were you all having nightmares? About the Fell attacking the colony?"

Startled, Moon said, "Yes."

Jade flicked her spines in an affirmative, then glanced at Moon. "What, you were too?"

Rolling the book back up into its cover, Chime looked up. "Uh, so was I."

They didn't have a moment for the strangeness of that to settle in, because Balm said, grimly, "So did almost everyone down in the teachers' bowers, and maybe everyone in the court. Some of the younger mentors woke up screaming. Heart wants to talk to you and Pearl right away."


***


"I know it's odd," Chime was saying as they went out into the queens' hall, "but it's theoretically possible for a mentor or a queen to share a dream with the rest of their bloodline and related bloodlines."

"Theoretically possible doesn't mean any mentors or queens know how to do it, or if they have, they never mentioned it to me." Jade's spines and expression were somewhere between appalled and angry.

As sister queen of the court, she should know. Of course, Moon was her consort, and technically he should know too, but he hadn't been raised as a Raksura, and most of the time it seemed everything he learned about his own people had to be acquired the hard way. "I think if Pearl could do it, we'd know by now," he said. It might be theoretically possible, but the idea made his skin creep.

The queens' hall, meant to impress visiting queens and consorts, was still quiet except for the water falling into a fountain pool against the far wall. The huge sculpture of a queen, her scales set with bright sunstones and her outspread wings stretched out to circle the hall and meet tip to tip, was suddenly an uncomfortable metaphor, at least for Moon. The open gallery of the consorts' quarters was above the sculpture; Moon, Stone, and Ember, the only adult consorts currently in the court, had bowers up there but they seldom slept in them. From the well that led down through the center of the tree came the faint sounds of movement and voices. Raksura, especially Arbora, didn't always sleep through the night, but this was the noise of disturbance, uneasy voices and people calling out to each other.

Jade stepped to the edge of the well and unfurled the deep blue expanse of her wings. "Balm, you wake Pearl. Chime, find Stone." She jumped off the ledge and cupped her wings to control her fall.

Chime looked uneasy at the prospect of disturbing Stone. "If he's having the same nightmare we were..."

"Just make sure he's awake before you get close," Moon told him. Stone was the court's line-grandfather and could be cranky at the best of times, let alone when he was caught in a vivid dream about the Fell eating all his descendants.

Balm went toward the reigning queen's bower to wake Pearl, saying, "I think I'd better stand in the doorway and call to her."

Moon shifted to follow Jade and used his wings to drop straight down through the central well.

The dream was still too close for Moon to be able to look at the stairs curving up the spiral well and the carved balconies without wincing. He kept expecting to see dead bodies lying in the round doorways.

It wasn't as if the dream had been of some far-fetched, impossible circumstance. The Fell existed by feeding on groundling settlements and cities and had destroyed Raksuran colonies and killed entire courts. Moon was a survivor of one of those attacks; it had been the reason he had spent most of his first forty or so turns of life alone. A Fell flight had nearly destroyed Indigo Cloud's old colony to the east before the court had fled here to the Reaches.

Moon landed on the floor of the greeting hall a heartbeat after Jade. This was the first chamber visitors to the colony tree would see when they entered through the twisting passage that led in from the knothole, and it was designed to be impressive, as well as easily defended. Directly across from the entrance a pool of water was fed by a small fall from a higher channel, and the shell-lights glinted off all the warm colors of the carved wood.

Warriors and Arbora, some in their scaled forms and some in groundling, were out on the balconies that looked down on the hall, their voices rising in worry as more of them woke from the dream. Arbora soldiers were on watch in the hall all day and night, gathered around the hearth bowl near the pool. Usually they traded off turns sleeping but now they were all awake, on their feet, and watching Jade's arrival with relief. She said, "Ginger, you all had the dream too?"

Ginger flicked her spines in an affirmative. "Four of us were sleeping, and we all saw--" She stopped and her throat worked as she swallowed uneasily.

"We thought it was just us, but Balm said it's everyone," Sharp added.

Jade made her voice reassuring. "Send someone to find Knell." He was the leader of the soldiers' caste, and one of Chime's clutchmates. "Tell him to have the other soldiers check through all the bowers, make sure everyone's all right." She glanced up at the warriors gathered on one of the upper balconies. "Sand, Aura, Serene, the rest of you. Get down here and help the soldiers guard the entrance."

As the warriors dropped down to the greeting hall floor, Sharp said, uneasily, "You don't think the dream is going to become real..."

"No," Jade said, absently enough for it to be convincing. "But if it's a warning of some danger, we want to be prepared."

There was something Moon had to check on first, before worrying about the rest of the court. "I'm going to the nurseries."

Jade flicked a spine in acknowledgment and Moon dove down the stairwell into the teachers' hall. The round hall was crowded with uneasy Arbora, all talking nervously. They barely noticed as Moon flashed past and flung himself down the passage that led to the nurseries.

He slid to a stop in front of a round doorway with a lintel carved with the figures of baby Arbora and Aeriat, took a deep breath, and shifted back to his groundling form. He couldn't hear any crying or screaming inside, which was a good sign.

Moon stepped through into the first big low-ceilinged chamber and almost ran into Blossom. She lifted her hands and said, low-voiced, "It's all right. It didn't affect any of the clutches, whatever it is."

Moon let out his breath, the tension in his chest easing. He hadn't realized how afraid he was until this moment.

Everything was quiet, though some sleepy Arbora toddlers played near one of the several shallow fountain pools. Doorways led off into a maze of smaller rooms, and teachers were moving in and out of them, checking on their charges, a few being trailed by querulous Aeriat fledglings. The inhabitants of the nurseries had changed over the past two turns in the colony tree. Several Arbora had clutched, producing new Arbora babies and warrior fledglings, and the court's population balance was finally on its way to becoming more stable. Moon asked, "Did it happen to you?" From what the others had said, everyone's version of the dream was a little different. The one thing in common had been the overwhelming violence of the attack, the helplessness, the sense that the court had been caught with no warning at all.

Blossom's nod was grim. She was an older Arbora, though the only sign of age yet was the threads of gray in her dark hair. Raksura lost all their coloring as they got older, and Blossom's skin was still a warm bronze. She was the teacher Jade and Moon had chosen to be in charge of the care of their first clutch. "The Fell attacking the Reaches." She lifted her shoulders, not quite shuddering, and turned to lead the way across the room. "It was like the old colony all over again, but worse."

At the far end of the main room was another small chamber with a pile of furs and cushions. Moon and Jade's clutch was in the center of the pile, three queens and two consorts, sleepily climbing on each other and tugging on one another's frills. They were with the other royal clutch, the last three survivors of the Sky Copper court. The two fledgling consorts Bitter and Thorn were half-awake, leaning on each other, and Frost, the little queen, sat in front of the babies to guard them. "What's going on?" Frost demanded. "Blossom said everyone's having the same dream."

Blossom shushed her. "Keep your voice down, some of the others are still sleeping."

In a piercing whisper, Frost repeated, "Is everyone really having the same dream?"

Moon sat down beside the nest and untangled Cloud's still soft claws from Fern's frills. At a little over a turn old, the clutch couldn't talk much and were mostly concerned with playing, along with eating and sleeping and other bodily functions. "It looks like it, but we don't know why yet. You didn't have the dream?"

Frost shrugged her spines. She was in her Arbora form, small and deceptively soft. Her scales were green, and as she had grown over the past turn, the yellow tracery was becoming more pronounced. All queens had a second contrasting web of color across their scales, and it was a sign that Frost was finally maturing. She was still a long time from officially leaving the nurseries, whatever she thought. She said, "We dream about Fell all the time." Thorn and Bitter sleepily nodded.

The Sky Copper clutch had survived the Fell attack on their colony to the east, only to be captured by a Fell flight. It would have been a horrific event for anyone to go through, let alone fledglings, and they still bore the effects of it, though it wasn't as obvious now. "But you weren't dreaming about them tonight?" Moon asked, just to make sure, as Sapphire lunged into his lap and started to chew on the cuff of his pants. Queens shared mental connections to their courts; it was how they brought the court together, how they could hold other Raksura in their groundling forms and keep them from shifting, and other abilities Moon still wasn't so certain about. But Frost wasn't in the Indigo Cloud bloodline, so even if it was possible for a queen to give a nightmare to the whole court, he didn't think it could have come from Frost.

"Blossom already asked that," Frost informed him. "We weren't dreaming."

"If any of the clutches did have the dream," Blossom said as she lifted Solace and Rain out of the nest and deposited Rain in Moon's lap, "they don't remember it. When we started to wake them, they all wanted to play or eat or go back to sleep. They weren't shifting, either."

When fledglings and baby Arbora were frightened, they shifted at random, even in their sleep. As proof he hadn't been upset, Rain curled up in Moon's lap and hissed out a contented breath as he fell asleep. Bitter crawled into the nest, pulled Cloud and Fern against his chest, and followed suit. Frost gave Thorn a push and he joined them, curling up in a ball. Moon arranged Solace, Sapphire, and Rain next to Thorn. It calmed abraded nerves just to come down here and touch their little soft-scaled bodies. He felt better able to think about this logically now. "I need to get back to Jade." She was going to want to know the nurseries weren't in chaos, for one thing. "Frost, keep an eye on everyone, all right?"

When the Sky Copper clutch had first come to the court, Frost had been, off and on, an incorrigible terror. Over the past couple of turns, Frost had gradually been getting better, either from growing more secure at Indigo Cloud or just getting a little older.

Moon had expected her, and maybe the two fledgling consorts, to be jealous of his new clutch, but it had just seemed to make all three of them happier and easier to deal with. Bitter, who had refused to speak to anyone but his clutchmates, had even started to talk to the new babies. Maybe a new royal Aeriat clutch, along with the clutches that the Arbora had produced, had been another sign of security in their new court and colony.

Frost hesitated, clearly torn between wanting to watch over the other clutches and wanting to be a part of whatever was going on. She said, grudgingly, "Someday I'll be big, and I can fight the monsters."

"It's not a monster." Moon pushed to his feet, and thought, Probably not a monster. In the Reaches, anything was possible.

Blossom followed him out to the doorway. Keeping his voice low, Moon said, "So whoever did it, didn't want to upset the clutches."

"Which means it was one of us. Unintentionally, I mean." Blossom eyed him a moment. "Could it be Chime?"

Moon hesitated. Before Moon had come to Indigo Cloud, Chime had been an Arbora and a mentor. The Fell influence at the old colony had caused disease and a drop in warrior births, and one day, Chime had shifted and found himself a warrior. This was apparently a natural process that happened in courts on the decline, but that hadn't made it any easier for Chime to cope with. Warriors never had mentor powers, and so Chime had also lost his ability to heal, to augur, and to manipulate rocks and flora to produce heat and light. But the change had affected him in odd ways, and he had gained the ability to hear things he shouldn't be able to, and to get odd insights about groundling magic.

Those insights had warned them of traps, but had also lured Chime into dangerous situations. It wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that something had made Chime do this. But while Chime could hear strange things, he had never shown any ability to make anyone, including other Raksura, hear him. Moon said, "Maybe, but I doubt it. I think he'd know if he did."

Blossom nodded thoughtfully. "That's true. He always does seem to know."

Another consort whipped through the passage down from the teachers' hall, not quite with the speed Moon had. Ember jolted to a halt and shifted to his groundling form. He said, "They said you were already here. Is everything all right?"

"They didn't have the dream," Moon told him. "Did you?" Ember was Pearl's consort, given to Indigo Cloud by the court of Emerald Twilight. His skin was a lighter bronze than usual for the Aeriat of Indigo Cloud or Emerald Twilight, and his hair was a light gold-brown. He was young and had been gently raised, but had a comprehensive knowledge of court politics in the Reaches, which made him nearly the opposite of Moon in every respect. Moon liked him, but Ember made him feel large, awkward, and like the feral disaster that most of Indigo Cloud had considered him when he had first arrived.

Ember nodded, stepping past Moon and Blossom to look worriedly into the nurseries. "So did Pearl. I saw Floret on the way down and she said she did too." He told Blossom, "I'll help you get the babies settled." Like a real consort, Ember was good with clutches. Pearl was probably only waiting another turn or so for him to mature a little more before she had another clutch herself.

Moon left them and went down the passage back to the teachers' hall. It was a big chamber with walls carved with a forest of spirals, plumes, fern trees, and other varieties, their branches reaching up to the domed ceiling and their roots framing the round doorways that led off to other chambers. It wasn't as large as the greeting hall, but it was less drafty and somehow more intimate, as if the tree carvings made you feel sheltered and protected. This was where both Arbora and Aeriat tended to come in the evening, to share food and conversation and stories. Now it was crowded with disturbed Arbora and warriors, gathered around Jade and Pearl.

The reigning queen, Pearl was the birthqueen of both Jade and Balm, though Moon had never been able to see the physical resemblance that was obvious to other queens. She was a head taller than Moon, and her scales were brilliant gold, overlaid with a webbed pattern of deepest indigo blue. The frilled mane behind her head was a golden sunburst, and there were more frills on the tips of her folded wings and on the triangle-shape at the end of her tail. Like all Raksuran queens, she wore only jewelry. Her relationship with Jade had become notably more tranquil since Jade had clutched, and she didn't hate Moon nearly as much as she had when Stone had first brought him to the court.

Pearl flicked her spines and several of the warriors turned to shift and leap up the stairs toward the greeting hall, probably going to join those who were guarding the entrance. Moon started through the crowd, and the Arbora made way for him until he stood beside Chime and Bell, Chime's other clutchmate, and chief of the teachers' caste. Bell leaned in to whisper to Moon, "They told you none of the clutches had the dream? It's strange."

"It's not that strange," Chime countered, and several Arbora hissed at him to be quiet.

Heart, the chief mentor, sat on the floor near the hearth bowl, staring at the warming stones. Or staring at the way the heat rising from the stones bent the air. She was a small female Arbora, in her groundling form, her brow knit in concentration. The spell-lights in the room shone on her dark amber skin and found highlights in her bronze-colored hair. She was using a quick and dirty method of scrying for danger or other momentous happenings that Moon had seen mentors use in emergencies. Jade and Pearl both watched her, their tails moving restlessly.

Keeping his voice low, Moon asked Chime, "Where's Stone?"

"He went outside to take a look around, see if there's anything out there." Chime was back in his groundling form, and lifted his shoulders uneasily, unconsciously twitching the spines of his scaled form. "You don't think the Fell are really about to attack..."

"No." Moon gave him a reassuring nudge to the shoulder. There hadn't been any Fell stench in the draft coming through the knothole entrance. The one thing the Fell could never disguise was their odor. He didn't think there was any reason to panic now. But what the vision might be telling them was that there was plenty of reason to panic later.

The other two young mentors, Merit and Thistle, watched Heart intently. Most of the other Arbora waiting worriedly were teachers, the soldiers and hunters having either gone up to guard the greeting hall or to search the colony on Jade's orders. Most were in their groundling forms, their skin various shades of bronze and copper, their hair dark or light or reddish brown. Arbora were shorter and often rounder and heavyset compared to the taller thinner Aeriat. Seasons in the Reaches tended to be cool and more rainy or warm and less rainy, and this night was warm and damp, so most of the Arbora were dressed in brief kilts.

Bone, the chief of the hunters' caste, came in from one of the doorways on the far side of the room. The crowd parted to let him make his way toward Pearl and Jade. His groundling form showed the signs of age, with his hair turning white and an ashy cast to his dark bronze skin. He was stocky and heavily muscled, and he had a ring of scar tissue around his neck where something had once tried to bite his head off. He reached Pearl and said, quietly, "The doors in the lower part of the tree are still shut, and nothing's disturbed them."

He meant the doors out to the root levels, on the forest floor. Pearl flicked a spine in acknowledgment.

Then Heart looked up. "I can't see anything. If it was happening somewhere now, or about to happen here, I'd know."

Merit's shoulders slumped in relief. Thistle said, "No one could fail to see it, let alone Heart."

Pearl tilted her head and looked at Jade. Jade said, "Stone will be back soon. He can confirm it."

Pearl turned to regard Heart again. Moon would have twitched uneasily under the fixed predatory intensity of her gaze, but as an Arbora, Heart didn't have the same reflexes. Pearl said, "So what was it?"

Heart rubbed the back of her neck and glanced at Merit and Thistle. She said, "They think it was a shared dream."

Merit was close to Heart's age, but to Moon he had always seemed younger. In his groundling form, he had wide-set eyes, warm brown skin and fluffy light-colored hair. He was a little on the easily distracted side, but, like Heart, Moon had seen how powerful a mentor he was on a few memorable occasions. Thistle was young too, part of the copper-skinned and reddish-haired bloodline of Indigo Cloud, with a determined chin. Merit said, "That's a dream that comes to one of us, and is so...powerful, it spreads through the rest of the court, everyone who's asleep."

"That's what I said," Chime muttered under his breath.

"Everyone, but not the clutches," Moon said.

Everyone looked at him, then back to Merit.

Merit lifted his hands. "Arbora babies don't show mentor potential until they're at least ten turns old, sometimes older. Maybe fledglings and babies don't develop their connection to the rest of the court until they're older."

"It must be rare," Jade said, watching them with the scales of her brow furrowed, "considering we've never heard of it before."

"It is rare," Thistle said. "We've seen mentions of it in the mentors' histories, but that's all."

"If Flower hadn't made us read everything the court has, we wouldn't know about it," Merit added.

Not for the first time, Moon wished Flower was still here. She had been the court's oldest mentor, the one who helped guide them out of the east and to the Reaches. She had been dead for nearly two turns now.

Pearl's expression suggested shared dreams weren't rare enough. "It has never happened to this court, not in our memories. Why now?"

Merit and Thistle turned to Heart, who said, "We just don't know."

Then Jade cocked her head, and a moment later Moon heard voices from the stairwell up to the greeting hall. Jade said, "Stone's back."

Pearl turned and took the stairs in two bounds. Jade followed and Moon went after her, everyone else trailing behind him. He noticed he was getting better at this part, at realizing what his place was and taking it. Two turns ago he would have stood there a moment, waiting to go with the warriors and Arbora, while they stared at him awkwardly.

Stone was in the greeting hall with Knell and some of the other soldiers and warriors. He was in his groundling form and a little damp from the light rain outside. Raksuran queens and consorts grew larger and stronger as they grew older, and Stone was old enough to remember when the court had first left the Reaches, generations ago, so his winged form was too big to easily get through the part of the knothole entrance where it narrowed. Tip to tip his wings were more than three times Moon's twenty-pace span.

In his groundling form Stone was lean and tall, like all the groundling forms of Aeriat. One of his eyes was partially blind, with a white haze across the pupil, and his skin and hair had faded to gray with age. He wore battered gray pants and an old shirt, with absolutely no concession to the idea that consorts were supposed to dress to do credit to the court. But one of the benefits of being a line-grandfather was that you could do pretty much whatever you wanted. As Pearl came toward him, he said, "There's nothing out there."

There were murmurs of relief from the Arbora and warriors, and Jade's and Pearl's spines flicked, shedding tension. Pearl said, "You're certain?"

Stone said, "There's nothing in the air. It's not as damp as it was last night and there's a breeze. I can scent the redflower that just opened on the next mountain-tree, but no Fell."

The Fell's distinctive stench permeated their surroundings and would be carried on the wind even over long distances. It was probably one of the reasons they relied on less scent-sensitive groundling species as their main prey. If they were anywhere nearby, their odor would be hard to disguise, and Stone's senses were far more acute than an ordinary Raksura's.

"So," Pearl said. She looked around at all the anxious faces. Moon knew he didn't feel much relieved. "I'm not going to tell you to go back to sleep as if nothing happened. But there is no immediate threat, and there is no point to behaving as if there was."

For Pearl, that was an inspirational speech. All the Arbora and warriors here had grown up with her, and they knew it was an attempt to reassure them, as well as a not so subtle hint that they should shut up and stop panicking.

Pearl turned to go, collecting a few of her warriors with a dip of her spines. She exchanged an opaque look with Jade, who turned to follow. Yes, Moon figured they were probably going to talk over what had happened.

As Jade passed him, Moon caught her wrist. "I'm going to spend the rest of the night in the nurseries."

Jade didn't question it. She brushed the back of her hand against his cheek. "Just try to get some sleep."

Moon didn't make any promises, as he was pretty certain that wasn't going to happen.

Jade and Balm both leapt up the wall onto the first balcony level with Pearl to head up toward the queens' hall. Chime was climbing down the steps back to the teachers' hall with Heart and Merit and the others, still arguing about the characteristics of shared dreams. Moon found himself standing next to Stone. Keeping his voice low, he asked, "Did you have it?"

Stone eyed him. "Did you?"

"Yes." Moon didn't ask Stone exactly what he had seen. Stone was the one responsible for Moon being the first consort of Indigo Cloud rather than a feral solitary, and also the closest thing Moon had ever had to the relationship many groundlings had with their male sire. Moon didn't want to know what form Stone's vision of the destruction of the court had taken, and he didn't want to talk about his own. The images were still too vivid.

Stone jerked his head toward the stairwell down to the teachers' hall. "Do the mentors know what it was?"

"They said it was a shared dream, not a vision. And no, they don't know why it happened." Moon still felt uneasy to the core. "You've never heard of anything like that?"

"No." Stone looked away from the Arbora and the warriors who still gathered at the far end of the room, all restless and talking anxiously. "This isn't just chance. Things like this don't happen for no reason."

Moon wished he could believe Stone was wrong.


The Edge of Worlds (The Books of the Raksura, #4)



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