Bridge of Dreams

Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop Read Free Book Online

Book: Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne Bishop
down the mouthful of food. Anyone might wear white trousers and a lightweight, collarless shirt. But only one group of people wore the long white robes.
    The new Keeper was a
    “You are Zhahar?” he asked.
    His voice held the song of a mountain stream and a whisper of summer grass. His dark hair was grizzled. His face was unlined, giving her no clue to his age. And he had the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.
    Kobrah elbowed her, a sharp reminder that she hadn’t answered the man—and a Shaman wasn’t someone she wanted looking at her too closely.
    “Yes, Keeper,” she replied. “I am Zhahar.”
    He glanced at the flatbread. Then his eyes returned to hers.
    “Do you value your work?” he asked.
    “I want to keep this job.”
    “That isn’t what I asked.”
    His smile was gentle, but it held regret—and a decision.
    She spoke before he could. “I’m sorry I was late, sir. My sister received bad news and was distressed this morning, so I stayed a few minutes too long to comfort her.”
    “Ah.” He reached out and touched her arm. Just a brush of fingertips, but she felt the warmth of that touch. “Does she need you with her today?”
    Sympathy. Understanding. Genuine concern.
    “No, sir. My other sister will be with her today. And we’ll all be together this evening.” Not quite a lie, since they
be together that evening. The words just didn’t acknowledge that her sisters were always with her.
    Nodding, he turned his eyes to Kobrah. “You are a Helper?”
    “Yes. I mostly work with Zhahar, Keeper.”
    He looked uncomfortable. “‘Keeper’ is a title I must use when I deal with other officials, but it is not what I am. So I will tell you what I told the other Handlers and their Helpers. When we are private as we are now, youmay call me Danyal. Out there”—he made a graceful move with one hand to indicate the grounds—“you should address me as Shaman.”
    She wasn’t going to be dismissed. Knowing she would still have a job made her momentarily dizzy.
    Which the Shaman noticed, of course, because Shamans noticed everything.
Zhahar thought.
Let my secret remain secret.
    “Break your fast,” Danyal said. His smile was a bit apologetic. “You had good reason to be tardy today, but I must set an example. The others have their assignments. There is only one task left, and it is hard, dirty work. Meet me outside in ten minutes.”
    He walked out of the room.
    Zhahar looked at Sholeh’s tunic and sighed.
    “Do you think he really gave the other Helpers permission to call him Danyal?” Kobrah asked.
    “No.” She took another bite of bread and cheese. It would probably sour her stomach, but she needed the food if she was going to spend the day laboring. “But I doubt any of the Helpers were present when he talked to the Handlers. What did you want to tell me?”
    Kobrah nibbled her piece of flatbread before answering. “I made a friend. He’s not like anyone I met before. He doesn’t dress like us or talk like us. We take walks and hold hands, and he doesn’t mind just being friends. He’s met me a few times now, and he’s going to come back. I don’t know when, but he’s going to come back.”
    Startled, Zhahar ate the rest of her bread. Kobrah, taking a walk with
a man
? What man? Kobrah wasn’t allowed to leave the grounds. She couldn’t stand the male Handlers, and becoming involved with an inmate was foolish as well as dangerous. So who could it be?
    “Where did you meet him?” she asked.
    Kobrah hesitated too long. “In a dream. He says we meet in the twilight of waking dreams.”
    She sucked in a breath. A couple of the inmates had talked about dream lovers. The woman had become calmer, more lucid, but the man had become violent when he wasn’t allowed to leave in order to “crossover” and meet his lover in the flesh. If this was a new symptom of madness…
    “What does he look like?”
    “He has pale hair and blue eyes. His name is

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