She returned her eyes to her son and found him still intent on rolling food around his plate with his fork. Sighing, she poured herself another cup of tea and raised it to her lips to wait.
When Jase finally looked up and found her watching, he smiled sheepishly and dropped his fork next to his plate. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm just not very hungry tonight. I've got a lot on my mind."
Her breath caught in her throat, and she had to cover her surprise by taking a sip before setting the cup down. How many times had Benak offered that same apology, she wondered, when he, too, used to brood over his meal, taking the problems of the world upon himself as if he could be the one to fix them? The similarity between Jase's actions tonight and those of Benak's was frightening. Please don't follow in your father's footsteps, she prayed. Please don't walk a path of death and violence.
She forced a smile. "Like what?"
Jase gaped at her. "What do you mean like what? Doesn't what happened to the Himels' sheep concern you?"
"Of course it does. But you can't change what has already happened. Worrying about it does nothing but eat you up inside." She paused, shaking her head sadly. "That was something your father never seemed to understand."
She saw Jase frown but didn't add anything more, angry at herself for letting the negative comment slip. Jase had never known his father. He'd been just a baby when Benak vanished along with Areth Fairimor while on a mission to rejuvenate the Earthsoul. Everything Jase knew of his father came from what she told him, so she always tried to speak positively of him. Few people knew the real Benak Fairimor, and that was probably just as well. The truth was a dangerous thing. Far too dangerous for Jase to know just yet. Someday she might tell him the truth. Maybe. If the prophecies were true, she wouldn't have to. The truth would make itself known.
"I was thinking about going for a ride this evening," he said into the silence, trying unsuccessfully to keep his tone neutral. "You know, just to check things out, maybe get a whiff of what killed the sheep."
Brysia fixed him with her best stare and noted how he had to force himself to meet it.
"That will be fine," she said. "Just don't disturb any of the bulbs I planted when you uncover your secret hiding place." Jase's reaction was better than she had anticipated, and she smiled in delight. It was some time before he could speak, so she busied herself with sipping her tea.
He finally managed to mumble a weak, "How did you know?"
She reached over and patted him on the cheek. "You should know you can't keep secrets from your mother."
"But you keep secrets from Grandmother," Jase protested.
"That's different," she replied. "I'm a woman."
"After a moment he shook his head. "Will you still be two steps ahead of me when I'm fifty?" he asked.
"Probably," she said with a shrug.
Exasperated, he rose from the table and carried his plate to the wash basin. "I won't be gone long," he told her and started for the stairs.
"I'd feel better if you took your dartbow," she said, indicating the miniature crossbow hanging in its holster near the door.
"You know how I feel about using an assassin's weapon."
"It's only an assassin's weapon if you are an assassin," she replied evenly.
Jase arched an eyebrow at her.
She set her cup down. "You use a bow when you hunt."
"Do you think no one has ever been assassinated with a bow and arrow?" she asked.
If Jase saw her point, he ignored it. "It's not the same thing," he said darkly. "Bows were made for hunting as well as for battle. That thing," he said, jabbing a finger in the dartbow's direction, "was made just for assassinations."