I bristled at that—who was he to tell us how to live—but remained quiet.

“Long ago, a wolf fell in love with a very powerful witch. She didn’t turn, because she was happy with her life as it was, but they were mated all the same. Together, they formed a new way of living. Witches. Wolves. Fey. All living together. Having families. This is where I am from. This is how it should be. I’ve tried to tell the other packs, but no one will listen.” He looked at Teresa and Dastien, who sat together, their hands entwined. “But they give me hope for peace in this part of the world.”

He gestured with his hands, and his joints popped. “We lived together for some time before there was trouble. You see, not everyone lived in the villages. Some witches wanted to stay apart. Some packs wanted to roam. Some fey liked underhill better. But we all got along. For a time. Then the magic casters—mages, witches, wizards—whatever you want to call them, it’s all the same—split away from us, breaking into two groups. Good and bad. The good ones practiced a pure white magic. They lived alone, like priests working their magic—meditating and praying. When things went wrong, people from all over the country, from other parts of the Andes, would come to seek their guidance. To receive blessings. It was said that their auras were so pure they glowed in the darkness. And sometimes, a witch from my wife’s coven would decide that they wanted that quiet life and they would disappear to join.” He sighed, and I looked at Yvonne.

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Had she heard of anything like this? I’d have to ask.

“The bad ones,” Muraco continued. “Well, they made evil things. Very evil things. We tried to stay away, but they attacked the village. We couldn’t stand for that. For a few years, there was war. Light and dark. We helped fight these dark casters. The light won, but at a high cost. So many lives gone. And in the end, those white mages… They disappeared. The fight had taken too great a toll. I’m not sure if they lived on. If they had a quiet life in the wilderness or not. But their magic lives. At night, during the new moon, you can see it lighting up the mountain. This magic is what you all need now. Their white energy is the only thing that can fight the coming darkness.” Muraco took a drink of his coffee. “This is the hard part. The finding of them. They might have left behind magic. Books. Or they might themselves be there. It was so long ago that I doubt they live now, but there’s no way to be certain save to look, Claudia de Santos.”

A shiver rolled down my spine at my name, and Muraco continued. “Your power may let you find them where I and others could not. All that is certain now is that dark magic was used to bring back your Daniel. I haven’t seen the like of that in more years than memory recalls, but that is very much what those evil mages did. It took many years before the white mages found a way to fight such power, but they did. We do not have years this time. So you must go. Now.”

Mr. Dawson cleared his throat. “What about her oath to Luciana?”

“What about it?”

“Do you think they can break it?”

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He sighed. “As I said, they might not be there. She might find bits of their magic left behind. And I hope that is enough. From what I know of oaths, what the girl needs to break the bond is already inside her. She gives the oath more power by believing in it.”

He was wrong. Dead wrong. “No. She has a hold over me. She made me—”

“Oh, I’m not saying that the oath has no power. I’m saying that to break any oath you need either good magic to override it or the sheer force of will to overpower it. That’s why some are easy to break. If the witch who did the binding didn’t make it so strong, when the person leaves… Poof.” He motioned with his hands. “It’s gone.”

“He’s right,” Shane said. “That’s why I’m no longer bound.”

“Exactly. Others, the witch wants to hold tight,” Muraco said. “You have to overpower her. Or find some way to override it.”

“Override it?” If this was the whole mating thing again…

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“A bond like theirs will do it.” He waved his hand toward Tessa and Dastien.

Yeah. Like that was going to happen. “So how do I find the temple of these white mages?” If they had a temple. I suspected it would be more of a ruin by now.

“Come with me if you want to go. I’m heading home tomorrow to gather others who might be willing to join the coming battle. When we arrive, a member of my pack will take you to where I last saw them. It’s now a busy village, but you have the sight. If there is magic hidden in the forest, you will see it. Trust your instincts and follow them to find what you need.”

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