Aurora's World

Felicia Blooming

The one thing Calix had hoped, ever since Tuula had come into their lives, was that Felicia would never bloom. It had been longer than he liked since their last conversation, because they both knew it was better for her if she didn’t spend too much time around him. Having Tuula as a part of their family had changed everything. Once it would have been normal for Felicia to spend hours with him, the two of them talking about what she’d been learning from her teachers, and he would teach her little things that they didn’t know, as they weren’t magic users. Fortunately. Otherwise Tuula would have had them removed and Felicia’s life would have changed ever more than it already had. She knew that everyone was waiting for her eighteenth birthday in a way they hadn’t been before Tuula had arrived.
Calix remembered one conversation they’d had after hearing about the execution of more than a hundred magic users in Konir. That was when he’d known for certain that the future his best friend had seen for him was going to come true, no matter what. He couldn’t remember exactly what it was about the news that had made him come to that realisation, as that was long before Tuula had married into the family, and he still hoped that he would be able to keep Atecia as a safe kingdom for magic users, even though the news coming in from Haerith wasn’t good either. Invaders from Ialaera were taking over the kingdom and hunting down every magic user they could find, as though that was going to remove magic from the world.
No one knew why Sauin had bloomed originally. Calix had read Sauin’s journals from that time, started just after he bloomed and before he really understood what had happened to him. At first he appeared to be the only magic user in the kingdom, maybe even in the world, but soon that changed, and when it did it slowly became obvious that he was, at the very least, one of the first. He’d expected, once everyone had found out that the Crown Prince was a magic user who needed guidance, someone would step forward to teach him what he needed to know, and when it never happened he asked the dead if there was a reason for that.
Sauin had found out then that the dead didn’t offer information to anyone – it had to be asked for. When he asked the question he got the answer he was hoping he wouldn’t get: he truly was the first. There were no older magic users and he would have to work out by himself how to use the powers that he had found himself with. Calix couldn’t imagine what that must have been like for him. It had been hard enough to go through the blooming process and learn about his abilities when he already knew that he was going to be a magic user… and he was the only person in the kingdom, probably in all the kingdoms, who had that certainty. It seemed likely that the worry he’d felt on the days before his birthday was much more like terror for everyone else.
It was Calix’s fear that Felicia would bloom that took him to her bedroom on her birthday. Some of the servants, thankfully, didn’t fear him because of his magic and they’d told him that she hadn’t been seen for a couple of days. That wasn’t unusual as she preferred to keep away from Tuula, but they told him that Felicia looked a little ill. One of the male servants, someone Calix knew had seen his daughter bloom before sending her off to the relative safety of the mountains, told him that she looked like his daughter had and that was why he’d put some berries he knew to be poisonous in his pocket, just in case. He hated that he had them, but blooming wasn’t a safe process.
How bad it would be if Felicia’s blooming went wrong depending entirely on how much magic she had within her. Some people were much stronger that others. There were those who manifested all of their known abilities at the same time, which could be very interesting if you happened to be in the room with them, and then there were others who manifested one at a time, over a period of months or years. Calix bit his lip. He’d heard stories of bad bloomings that had taken whole cottages with them, leaving families devastated. It was unusual for children to suddenly find themselves orphaned when that happened and some didn’t have aunts, uncles or grandparents willing to take them on, so they ended up in group homes, being looked after by a number of adults who’d offered to take on the job of raising them, even though they didn’t have space in their own home for them.
Calix knocked on Felicia’s door and waited for an answer, as he tried not to think of the worst. It was just hard. When she didn’t answer he opened the door, half expecting her to be engrossed in a book at her desk, because that was normally the reason she didn’t hear someone knocking. She wasn’t at the desk or in her bed, which left her bathroom. “Felicia,” he called, hoping she didn’t hear the fear in his voice. Knowing that he was terrified too wouldn’t help her if she was blooming.
A sigh of relief caught in Calix’s throat as Felicia opened the door. “It’s bad, Cal,” she said, sounding as though she was in pain and her pale face covered with a sheen of sweat reminded him of the only other time he’d been with someone on their blooming day. “I thought I could do this, I really did, but…”
“When did it start?”
“Early.” Felicia ran her free hand through her hair, clinging onto the door with the other. “It was still dark out. When someone brought breakfast in I remember looking at them but I couldn’t see them. They were all blurry. Fortunately that’s faded now, but I don’t know if I’m going to get through this.”
Feeling strangely calm Calix made his way over to his sister. “You’re going to be fine, Lis.” He used the handkerchief he had in his pocket to wipe the sweat off her face. “You’ve got through the worst of it.”
“Are you sure?”
“It’s if you panic during the blind phase that things are likely to go wrong and you didn’t, otherwise I have a feeling this part of the building wouldn’t actually be here. Right now it hurts, I know, but that will fade. You’re near the end of the process now.”
“Can I make the pain go away?”
“Maybe.” It wasn’t always easy to remember what abilities someone would bloom with and Calix tried to think of what his sister would be able to do, although he wasn’t entirely certain exactly how she’d need to use them. He knew of someone who could only use their water magic if they sang and another who could create water by writing poetry. “You should be able to work with the earth, Lis, and heal, but I don’t really know how you can use either of them, because I know from a friend that you can’t heal yourself.”
The knife Felicia seemed to get from nowhere surprised him, even though it shouldn’t have done, because he was the one who had convinced her to start carrying one, just in case. She was the only daughter of the King of Atecia and that made her a target, at least until the time came when it was finally put into law that magic was illegal. It was more of a surprise when she cut the back of his hand with it, although, when he thought about what he’d just told her, it made sense. Calix just hoped she’d work out how to heal him, because otherwise he’d have to find a way to explain why he had a cut without telling them Felicia had bloomed.
Keeping silent he let her try to work out how to use her ability. He knew, from experience, that trying to help would often do more to hinder the newly bloomed magic user. Finally he felt it, her magic, for the first time, and he knew then that he’d been wrong about how much of the building she would have taken with her, because she was strong. Much stronger than him. If she’d panicked she would have taken at least half of the castle with her and that was a terrifying thought. If it had happened Calix would have been dead before he could have helped her. Suddenly he knew what everyone else in the kingdom must go through before the day of their relatives’ eighteenth birthday. He shivered, glad that it had worked out, otherwise…
Shaking his head Calix told himself to stop thinking about things that hadn’t happened and to focus on his sister. Even though she was still pale it was obvious that using her abilities was helping and he found himself reaching out to gently stroke her hair. Felicia smiled at him. “You were right, Cal.”
He smiled back. “That does happen occasionally.” He held his other hand out. “We still have plenty of space if you want to try again.”
“Why not the same hand?”
“You’ve healed the hand, but it still needs time to finish the process. That’s something one of the healers I knew learnt when she was doing the same sort of thing you are now, only she was working on how to heal deep cuts, and she found that when she recut the newly healed wound that the magic hadn’t finished fixing things under the skin. It meant she had to work harder to heal the new cut, as she’d affected the magic in some way.”
“Like she’d damaged the magic with her action.”
Calix nodded. “That works as a explanation.” He winced as she cut the offered hand, this time making the cut bigger than the previous one, and he knew he had to find her someone else to experiment on. “Fortunately she wasn’t the sort of person to rely just on magic and when she realised what she could do she made the decision that she was going to learn how to heal physically as well as magically, so when the cut didn’t fully heal she stitched it. A couple of days later it was fully healed, but it taught her that magic is something to be careful with, even though being able to do what you can is a good thing.”
“Magic is neither good or bad,” a voice said from the bedroom door, making them both jump, and Calix looked over at his older brother. “The servants told me what was happening too, Cal. You might think that Tuula has brainwashed me, but she hasn’t – I just know what a precarious position we’re all in right now. It was better that I stayed away from both of you, to keep you as safe from her as I possibly can, but if you want to survive you’re both going to have to leave.”
“No,” Felicia replied, shaking her head. “I’m not letting her make me leave my home, Vance, even if it means I end up getting executed.”
“It’s not that simple, Fliss.” Vance stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. “Do you know how rare healers are?” He shook his head. “They need you, in the mountains, because they only have one and living there isn’t safe. I don’t want you to go, and I don’t want Cal to go, but Cal won’t go unless you go and, Cal, you have to go as well.”
“Why?” Calix asked, studying Vance. “What’s changed?”
“Tuula is pushing and I can only keep her at arm’s length for so long before I have to give in – otherwise we’re going to be in the same position as Haerith.”
“What’s happening in Haerith?” Felicia asked, and Calix could feel her eyes on him as he glanced at their brother. Apparently she hadn’t been told certain things, probably for her own protection, but the time had passed for that. “Why don’t I know what’s happening.”
“Father and I were doing our best to protect you,” Vance replied, sounding guilty. “Both of us were hoping you wouldn’t bloom and therefore wouldn’t need to know, but we should have told you anyway. You’re a princess and you have the right to know how the recent changed are affecting our world.” He bit his lip. “I’m sorry, Fliss, we should have known better, and I wish we had of told you what was happening before now.”
“Haerith is under attack.” Calix sighed. “The King there made the decision that his kingdom was going to be a safe haven for magic users, because he knew several of them personally and trusted them, but the King of Ialaera wasn’t happy. Haerith is one of the kingdoms that borders theirs and he didn’t think it would be safe for his people to have a sanctuary for magic right next door, so he sent in a group of soldiers to bring an end to the Royal Family, followed by the person he wanted to take the position of King. Right now they’re still busy killing off as many magic users as possible, executing them if possible, the same way they executed the King and his three advisers, all of whom were magic users and had children of their own that we haven’t yet heard anything about. The King’s wife and family, apparently, are somewhere safe.”
“I believe the King when he said he’d found somewhere safe for his family.” Vance shrugged. “Last I heard he sent them to Konir.”
“Seriously?” Calix shook his head. “I though Konir and Haerith were still on bad terms, and if everyone else thinks the same way…” He smiled. “No one’s going to think to look in Konir for them, even if they do hear the rumours, and last I heard one of the magic users there was busy setting up somewhere safe for his kind.”
Vance nodded. “He is. All I know is that it’s going to be underground and only the people who have been invited to enter can get through the wards. I have no idea how he’s done it.”
“We don’t know everything about magic.”
“I’ve found out why.” Vance shook his head. “About six hundred years ago something like this happened before, although not to the same extent, and we lost a lot of what we’d found out about magic, because it was destroyed. It happened before that as well, but none of the times before has it been this bad, so the time has come for you both to leave – head for the mountains with the information we still have left before someone destroys it. Calix….” Vance slumped. “I need you here, but I know too well that if you stay we will have to execute you, to protect the kingdom, so you need to go, with Felicia, tonight.”
“How is it going to work?”
“I’m not leaving,” Felicia growled. “This is my home, Vance. You can’t make me leave.”
Calix turned to look at Felicia. “If you want to stay here, Fliss, that’s entirely up to you, but if you do you won’t be able to learn how to use your abilities safely, and you’re a healer. You staying here would waste that, when there are people who need you.” He reached out a squeezed her shoulder. “Leaving isn’t a safe option, but it’s safer than staying, because if Tuula finds out you will be executed… and so, probably, will Vance, for hiding you from her. That will leave Father with no heir to the throne.”
“No, he’ll have an heir.” Vance sounded as though he was disgusted with himself. “Tuula’s with child.”
“Don’t.” Calix took a step closer to his brother. “You did what needed to be done, Vance, and I don’t want you to hate yourself for that.”
“How could I have done that with someone I don’t like? We made a child, Cal, one that I’m going to have to raise with her, and she’s already says she wants more than one.”
“Tuula isn’t a bad person.” Calix couldn’t quite believe what he was saying, although he knew it was the truth. “She’s simply been taught, from a young age, that magic is dangerous and she is doing what she can to protect you, this kingdom, and her unborn child. I don’t hate her for that, and I’m not going to say that I like her either, but what she’s doing makes sense to her, so, to be honest, I actually kind of pity her.”
“I really appreciate that, Cal,” a female voice said, making them all jump, and Calix looked over at Tuula. It was a surprise when she smiled at him. “The one thing I’ve always liked about you is that you’ve been fair to me, even though I’ve tried to make it obvious to everyone how I felt about you, because it was how I was supposed to feel. My father, fortunately, doesn’t know that I don’t believe magic is dangerous, so I’m guessing I’ve done my job right.”
“What?” Vance asked, sounding like Calix felt.
“I’m not the person you think I am, Vance, although I have done everything I can to make you think that, because it was safer for both of us, until today. Now that you’ve bloomed, Felicia, it changes things and we need to get you out of here as quickly as possible.”
“Why is everyone trying to make me leave?” Felicia sat on her bed, wrapping her arms around herself. “This is my home, sister-in-law, and I don’t want to go to the mountains.”
“No one does.” Tuula stepped across the room. “If I was in your position I would feel exactly the same way, so I’m very sorry for doing this, but you have to leave today. So far I’ve heard of three other people who have unsuccessfully gone through the blooming process today, all of who were given the berry that Calix currently has in his pocket, and there are three others due to bloom at some point in the future, although I can’t tell you exactly when.”
Calix stared at her. “You can feel bloomers.”
“It’s something I kept from my father. He would have used me to make certain that we killed all magic users before they could bloom and I didn’t want that, so I convinced him to marry me off instead, but I have no idea exactly how I ended up here. When I told him I was ready to be married he said he could use me and as I found myself marrying your brother I knew what I was meant to do, so I did it, while helping as many magic users as I could live through the blooming process.”
“Before sending them to me.”
“Of course. I trusted you to get them to safety and I swore them to secrecy, which was easier than I expected it to be,”
“You saved their lives and the lives of their families.”
“At home I did the same thing…” Tuula blinked away tears. “My sister died, because I couldn’t help her, and that was when I decided it was time to move away. I have three other sisters who might also go through the blooming process, so I wanted to be far away if it happened, as I couldn’t go through that again, especially when Father set light to her body without seeming to care that she was his daughter. As she’d died on her eighteenth birthday it was obvious what had happened and he disowned her the moment he realised.” She wiped obviously unwanted tear streaks off her cheeks. “The annoying thing is I’ve now realised that I will have to go through the exact same thing with my children.”
Vance rested a hand on her shoulder. “We’ll go through it together.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Of course it is, Tuula.”
Tuula shook her head. “Have you ever lost anyone to the process?”
Calix and Vance looked at each other. “Three cousins, one older brother, and our mother,” Calix said, trying not to think of the day when their brother’s failed bloom had killed their mother. She’d taken him somewhere safe and it had gone wrong, although no one was quite sure what had happened, so it had left Calix alone when he went through the process, terrified that something would go wrong for him too. “I visit their graves every year, on the day that they died.”
“That’s something else Father and I didn’t talk to you about, Fliss,” Vance said, sounding as though he felt guilty about that.
“Cal did.” Felicia sighed. “When I asked what happened to Mother about six years ago Cal told me the whole story, and about our cousins, because he thought it was important that I knew. I’m glad he did, now, as it helped me through the process, the same way him telling me what happened when he bloomed did.”
“It’s different for everyone.” Calix smiled. “I didn’t go blind, unlike you, and I ended up setting fire to one of Father’s favourite book cases. You just had to cut me a couple of times.”
“Healing is a difficult ability to learn how to use safely,” Tuula said, as she sat down next to Felicia. “It was one of the abilities my mother bloomed with and I know she was still learning until the day she left us.”
“What happened?” Calix asked, without really thinking about it, before realising what he’d asked. “That is if you want to tell us.”
“Of course I do, Cal. You’re family now, my brother, and I want you to understand why I’ve made the choices that I have, why I’ve found it so easy to pretend to hate you, and why I’ve decided that now is the time to be honest with you all.”
“If it’s because you want to give your father time to get here so he can execute all three of us I’m not going to be happy,” Felicia said, and Calix found himself wondering what Tuula’s answer to that could possible be.
Her laughter seemed to surprise them all. “I promise you that is the last thing I’d do, Felicia. Having my father here… no, I’m much happier not having to deal with him and his irritating paranoia on a daily basis.” She squeezed Felicia’s hand. “Darlings, this is the first time I’ve felt like I can be honest, and not have to pretend with you all, because I am pregnant with your brother’s child. I don’t want him to grow up in a household where his parents hate each other, especially if Vance blames me for the two of you leaving, when the only reason I’m here is to protect myself as best I can from the pain of losing another sister.” With her free hand Tuula stroked her stomach. “I was using contraceptives, because I didn’t want to get pregnant, but… it’s happened, so I’ll deal with it as best I can.”
“You said you wanted three girls and three boys.”
“I told you what I was supposed to say, Vance.” Tuula shook her head. “We’ve all be playing our parts, husband, and I don’t think you understand quite yet what mine has been, because it’s much easier for you to see me as the person I’ve been pretending to be for so long. I don’t blame you. Being her made much more sense to someone like you, as you expected me to be her, rather than me, due to the kingdom I grew up in and the father who raised me, when really I’m not that person and I never will be. Maybe, if my mother hadn’t been who she was, I would have been, but I am who I am thanks to her.”
Calix studied Tuula. He wasn’t certain he trusted her, because she could easily be weaving a story for them all, but he didn’t think she was. There was something about her eyes that made him believe that she was telling the truth about everything. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d heard of a child putting on an act for their parent, to make said parent think that they were following that parent’s rules, even though they didn’t agree with them at all. She must have felt his eyes on her because she looked at him. As their eyes met she smiled, a true smile for what he thought was the first time since she’d moved in with them, and nodded.
“I know,” she said, as though she knew what he was thinking. “Cal, my life hasn’t been easy and I know I haven’t made your lives easier by being here or by acting the way I was, but now…” Tuula sighed. “I’m not certain if your brothers were hoping the same thing I was, Felicia, although I have a feeling they were, because everything would be much easier if you hadn’t bloomed. Now we have to make sure that you’re safe.”
“Why am I so important?” Felicia asked, sounding exasperated. “Cal hasn’t left and he’s in more danger than I am right now.”
“It will destroy Father if he has to hurt you.” Calix squeezed Felicia’s hand. “With me it’s different.” He ran his tongue over his bottom lip as he tried to work out how to explain it to her. “There was no hope for me, Fliss. I’d bloomed before we knew that the people in the other kingdoms were beginning to believe that magic was dangerous, no matter who wielded it, so no matter I was in danger. You we had a chance with, because there was no guarantee that you’d bloom and I was hoping the same thing as Tuula – I wanted you to be safe here.” He shook his head. “Now, sweetheart, you aren’t and if someone finds out what you are it’s not just going to affect Father. Someone could accuse Vance of knowing, which would almost entirely destroy our family.”
“Having Cal here is bad enough.” Tuula bit her lip. “Fortunately both Vance and your father have realised that they can’t been seen to rely on him, even though they did before, because that would affect the way the other kingdoms have reacted to him still being alive. At the moment they accept that Cal is family and killing family isn’t easy, no matter how you feel about what abilities they have, and, as I keep telling Father, they need time to come to terms with what the next step is. Even though they know what the next step should be it doesn’t make actually taking it any easier.” She shrugged. “However I don’t think we have much longer before he starts pushing for something to happen and if anyone finds out that another family member has bloomed…”
“Will put Tuula’s baby in danger.” Calix looked at Tuula’s still flat stomach. “It’s not as though one of her children isn’t already in danger, because it’s a well known fact that the second child born to the Crown Prince will always bloom. Maybe if we knew why that happened we’d be able to change that, but we don’t. We just have records going back to the time when Sauin was the Crown Prince.” He ran a hand though his hair. “The real problem we have is that Sauin was never meant to be the Crown Prince. His brother died, of some illness I think, when Sauin was young, so he unexpectedly became the next in line to the throne, which might have had an effect on things.”
Vance nodded. “If Sauin hadn’t eventually taken the throne the second born son would be the child of the second born son, and then, I think, might not have had as much of an effect on the Royal Family as it’s having now. As it is it’s now always the second born son of the Crown Prince.”
“The problem with magic is that it’s inconsistent.” Tuula smiled. “Your family is the only one known to have that consistency within it in, as far as I know, the entire known world. No one else has any idea if they’re children are going to bloom or not and even for you it isn’t as simple as it could be, although the Crown Prince is always magicless… unless, of course, the Crown Prince’s wife has a miscarriage or loses a baby in some other way. Any third child, like you, Felicia, might bloom or they might not.”
“Is there any way to tell if a child will bloom before their eighteenth birthday?” Felicia asked.
“A few people, like Tuula, have the ability to tell if someone will bloom, but it seems different for all of them.” Calix had known three people who could feel is someone was blooming and he’d heard rumours that the protectors of the underground in Konir could as well. “Some can feel it from as long as year before the person in question blooms, although that’s very rare, and some feel it from around two months before.”
“Unfortunately it’s an ability we have to keep hidden, because those who hate magic would use us to hunt out anyone about to bloom before it happened or they would kill us for having it.” Tuula sighed. “Father had heard rumours of it existing and he went hunting for someone he could use to rid of the world of magic users, which was why I kept it hidden from him, although I know that there are others like me who were killed. A couple were with newly bloomed magic users, but the rest were executed to protect the rest of the world from magic – even though I don’t think that my ability is magic. I had it long before I turned eighteen and I was using it to help Mother find magic users from the time I was six.
“For you it hasn’t been that long since opinion changed against all magic users, but in my kingdom we’ve been executing all magic users since before I was born, and Mother didn’t like that, at all. So she did her best to protect them, by sending them to the mountains or to Konir, depending on what was best for them, although neither journey was safe. In order to make it easier she made the journeys herself, setting up way stations, normally in the homes of magic users who had no interest in running, and it’s something I know was passed from magic user to magic user, so others did the same thing in other kingdoms, protecting anyone they could from persecution. The only kingdom I know of that hasn’t is Ialaera.”
“Ialaera is different.” Calix sighed. “It’s been home to the thieves for centuries and they had a sanctuary there that often becomes home to magic users who have nowhere else to go. Unfortunately we don’t know much about the thieves or why they exist, but I’m certain that the first one didn’t make the choice out of selfish reasons – they were trying to protect someone.”
“Why do you say that?” Felicia looked at him, confusion in her eyes. “I thought the only way to help someone whose bloom was going wrong was to feed them poison berries.”
“The only safe way, Fliss, but there is another much more dangerous method that often kills both the person helping and the bloomer. You can take their magic.” Calix sighed. “It’s something I’ve heard of happening that I would never try myself as I’ve heard it become addictive. Someone might do it the first time to help someone, but then they find it becoming a way of life. My theory is that the first of the thieves had a sibling or cousin who wasn’t blooming right, so they did what they could to help, and for some reason taking their magic made more sense than killing them.” He glanced at Felicia, understanding why they might have made the choice. “However by doing it they changed themselves, they found themselves wanting more magic…
“Maybe it fades. When you take someone else’s magic there’s this time when you feel it, but then it goes away and you want to feel it again.” He shrugged. “So he decided to take another person’s magic, probably went out looking for someone whose bloom was going wrong, although it is hard to find someone like that when you’re wandering the streets. Finding another magic user would be much simpler and because of this urge he had to feel that boost again he decided to simply take someone else’s magic. It didn’t matter who. Once that happened it would be easier to do it again and again.”
“According to rumour there are auctions,” Vance said, “where these thieves, and other magic users, can go to in order to gain certain abilities that they want. Some say they need them, but no one actually needs magic. It’s greed, pure and simple, created by someone who might have tried to do a good deed and found that they’d changed themselves by doing it, although I’m not certain that I agree with Calix’s theory. It does make more sense, because it can, as Calix said, kill the magic user taking the magic, but that doesn’t mean someone didn’t simply walk past someone who wasn’t blooming correctly and take their magic, to see what happened.
“In the early years everyone was experimenting because no one knew what abilities they had. The journals that I’ve read, because we have them in the library still, at least until Calix takes them to the mountains, have all been about how they were learning to use their abilities, how they were sharing information with other magic users that they found, in order to work out why they had magic and what they could do. From them it seems that every magic user’s abilities is different, depending on the very day that they were born, but we don’t know as much as we did before. We’ve lost a lot, from times before when magic was seen as dangerous, although people have obviously done what they can to save some of what might have been destroyed.
“Now we’re learning again and learning more, I think, even though it’s much more dangerous now. By going to the mountains, Flick, you’re going to be able to experiment much more with what you can do, and I do think it’s your best option.” Vance bit his lip. “It’s our best option as well, to protect Atecia, so please, I know you don’t want to go, but go to make things easier for Father. Calix was right with what he said – having to execute you would destroy him and I can’t let that happen.”
“We can’t let that happen.” Tuula sighed. “Vance isn’t ready to be a King yet and I’m hoping now I’ll have a chance to teach him what I know about the other kingdoms, so we can do our best to show that we’re working with them while working against them. If you stay, though, I might not have that time, I might not have the time to raise my son as a prince rather than the Crown Prince, as it would be a much heavier weight on his shoulders, and we wouldn’t have someone there to send people to. Mother always had a contact in the mountains, who she told me about before she died, and I made certain to keep that link. Here I don’t have the same thing.”
“What will you say?” Calix asked.
“Between us we’ll work something out, Cal. I promise you that we won’t say that Felicia bloomed, although we might be forced to paint you as someone you really aren’t.”
“I know.” Calix smiled at Tuula. “A friend told me that I would be the man who made a mistake.”