Maisha’s hut is in the middle of the village, which is huge. By the time we’d reached it, the light had started to dim, signaling the coming night.
“Kifo!” he calls as he walks through the door. “I have brought guests for dinner. Tonight we feed weary travelers, then tomorrow, Zuri and Mbaya feed them.”
“Then it is good that I made lots of food today,” Kifo replies as she appears at my side. I jump and she smiles.
Kifo is almost as tall as her husband, and just as dark. However, her skin is covered in white designs that spiral up and down her arms, neck, and legs. She stares back, unfazed by my scrutiny, tucking a loose, rust-colored dreadlock back into her ponytail.
“So you are the Shadow Lord’s daughter,” she says, appraising me with her light grey eyes. “You resemble your mother, however you possess your father’s stubbornness. But that is good, it will help you in the trials to come.”
I look away and mumble my thanks at the offhand compliment.
Kifo reaches out with her strong, slender fingers and turns me to face her. “Things are darkest just before the dawn, Princess Nikki. When you think you have failed, keep faith, for hope can survive even in the direst of situations.”
She releases me and wraps her arms lovingly around her husband’s neck and kisses his cheek. I look away, aching to see Ryan again.
“Let us eat,” Henki says softly, a comforting hand on my shoulder. “Then we can rest. We will talk to Zuri and Mbaya tomorrow. I believe that they will have some answers for you.”
I nod and follow him to the cushioned floor where Daemon is already sitting, telling a group of girls a story about one of his hauntings. Kifo presses a warm bowl into my hands and gestures for me to eat. I eat and listen and laugh. And for the first time since Ryan’s death, I begin to feel a bit more whole.