As they rode on in silence for a time, they both kept a close look out so that no detail would escape their attention.
“Really and truly, Dixon. Honest to the Good One. A full pack,” she interrupted his musings some time later.
His head snapped to meet her gaze. “What did you say?”
“You asked if there was really a full pack of grut. Yes, again I say, there was a full pack. Honest to Ehyeh!”
His eyes bore deeply into hers. “I didn’t ask you anything.”
“Of course you did.” Her brow dropped. Her expression turned serious. “Just now, you asked me—again—if there really was a full pack of grut the day . . . Well, you know, the day Rowena . . . died,” her voice fell off to a whisper.
“I didn’t ask anything.” He shook his head. Then suddenly, he smiled. His entire face lit up. “Mara! Your attendant magic!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your magic. Your magic!”
“Magic! I just answered your question was all.”
He grasped her arm. “Mara, didn’t you know? When you accept your charge, you take on attendant magic. It’s to help you to fulfill your duties. Apparently your magic is, or at least it includes, the ability to read thoughts.”
Her mouth dropped open. She was befuddled. “Well of course I know about attendant magic. But that can’t be it. I’m sure you spoke out loud.”
He shook his head.
“Are you sure? It’s not that unusual for someone deep in thought to speak out without knowing it.”
“No, I did not speak out loud. I was just pondering over your story about the beasts. It’s just so amazing. You heard me, but you didn’t hear me speak. You heard what I thought.”
“Hmmm. Well if that’s true, then think something else and we’ll see if I can do it again.”
“We can try, but it may not work.”
“Well, an Oathtaker’s attendant magic is not generally ‘magic on demand.’ Not initially anyway. It takes practice before it becomes second nature. So you should test it however and whenever possible. But sometimes, especially in the beginning, it manifests itself in small ways, simply to alert you of its existence.”
He turned his gaze to the increased flow of horses and carriages. With a wave, he directed her off the main route.
“You’ll need to be careful with this,” he whispered. “You don’t want anyone to know about this ability.”
She stared at him, her brow lowered. “What did you mean when you said my magic is, or at least includes, this ability?”
“Considering that Reigna is a seventh and that Eden is— Well, I don’t rightly know what she is. Anyway, in light of their position, you’re likely to be graced with significant power. Your magic is just coming into being. Be on your guard for anything out of the ordinary.”
He thought for a moment. “Actually, now that I think about it, we may already have seen your magic operating a couple of times without having been aware of it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, like the night you sang everyone to sleep.”
She laughed. “That’s ridiculous. I sang the girls a lullaby. You others were just sleepy.” She lowered her gaze. “Oh, Dixon, I can’t bear to think what happened to Drake and Maggie. I feel so responsible. Still, I’m sure you’re mistaken—about this lullaby business.”
He grinned, raising a brow.
“You’re not serious.”
“Completely. Actually, I wondered about it at the time. I was tired, but when you sang, I was completely unable to keep from falling asleep. I just never gave it another thought.” He hesitated. “And about Drake and Maggie,” his demeanor turned serious, “I know how you feel. But you should never take on responsibility for the evil deeds of others.”
Mara recollected the night with Dixon’s friends and the strange look in his eyes before he fell asleep. “But . . . what does singing others to slumber mean? What possible use would such attendant magic, if it’s true my song had such power, serve?”
He shrugged. “Not sure. Maybe just that you can help others sleep. But it might be something much greater.”
“Well, such as being able to bring about specific actions, intentions—to be able to strongly influence others if you set your desires to song.”
She stared at him. His expression was solemn. “You’re really serious.”
“Deadly.” He grinned. “Then again, it may be nothing significant at all.”
“What else? You said we might have seen my powers a couple of times.”
“Mara, when that Heri thug attacked us, you seemed to know just how to get the information that we needed. Quite easily, really. And then you told me he spoke truth. Did you guess what would work best to get him to talk? Did you guess he was telling the truth? Or did you, somehow, know those things?”
“I can’t explain it, but I can tell you that I knew—with certainty.”
“So, you think maybe I have the power to identify truth from falsehood?”
“Perhaps. It’s possible, though that is a rare power.”
“What else? What other kinds of attendant magic powers do you know of?”
“Well . . . it could be the power to do something like being able to hear things, conversations even, from great distances. Or to see beyond a normal range, or even through solid objects. To . . . understand an animal’s thoughts, or to influence others’ thoughts. To infuse objects with magic power. To heal. To take on the pain of another. To speak or to understand languages previously unknown to you. To change the physical form of something. To create illusions, or . . . to move things by thought, or . . . to run or move very quickly, or—”
“Like you,” she interrupted.
“You know—like when you ran toward me to cut off Heri’s attack. I’ve never seen anyone move so fast in all my life! It was as though my eyes couldn’t take it all in as quickly as it was happening.”
“That’s right—that’s part of my attendant magic.”
“What other powers do you know of?”
“Hmmm, let’s think.” He paused. “Oh, I know. It could include something such as being a perfect shot.”
“I am a perfect shot.”
He chuckled softly.
“Really, I’m a perfect shot!” she argued. “Well in target practice anyway.” She scowled. “I did miss a couple of tries at the grut that day.”
He said nothing, just grinned.
She frowned at him. “I’m telling you the truth. I’m considered a very good shot. I hit almost every target, almost every time. How else could I have taken down that pack of grut?”
He held her gaze. “Perhaps that’s why Ehyeh called on you when Rowena needed help.”
Dust rose in the air from the passing wagons, distracting their attention.
“We’ll need to talk more about this, Dixon, but right now we need to see to the girls.”
“Right you are.” Urging Sherman forward, he grasped Mara’s arm again. “Just remember what I said. Be on the lookout for anything—anything out of the ordinary. Once you identify a power, it’s good to practice it so that it’ll be there for you when you need it. Having said that, don’t forget that your powers are for the benefit of your charge, not simply to make life easier for you.”
She thought over the events of the past days. She couldn’t recall having noticed anything else out of the ordinary. “What is your attendant magic? I mean—aside from being able to move very, very quickly?”
“Several things. I received attendant magic with Judith, and of course with Rowena, I got additional powers. For example, I can go long periods with little or no sleep—when I condition myself for that, and . . . other things.”
“Such as? Wait! No, don’t tell me. Such as the power to light a fire with the flick of your fingers!”
“You caught me,” he said, smirking, “but that’s pretty simple. I’m sure you’ll be able to do that. There are some things all Oathtakers can do.”
“Huh. So what other powers do you have?” She glanced out at the crowds.
“Well, let’s see here. The . . . the power to charm,” he said, with a lift of his chin.
She jerked her head back his way. She thought he was joking, but he hadn’t cracked a grin. His jaw was set as firm as ever.
“Charm?” Her mouth dropped open. “Oh, dear Good One, that is rich!” She tried to hold back her mirth, then burst out laughing. Though he was now fully frowning at her, she laughed until tears rolled down her face. “Charm!” she repeated. She held her stomach, it hurt from laughing so hard. “But of course!”
Scowling, Dixon turned to face her. Then the infection caught, and he too burst into raucous laughter.
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