Gifts of Power
Out on the porch, Jase listened to the door close behind him and breathed a sigh of relief. He had once again avoided telling the real reason, but he wondered just how much time he had gained. A day? A week? Sooner or later he would have to tell her what had happened to him. Sooner or later he would have to accept what fate had so unceremoniously dumped in his lap. Just not tonight.
He took a lantern from its peg next to the front door and struck a match. After adjusting the glow, he shook his head in frustration and started across the yard. It was obvious his mother knew it was more than boredom or lack of challenge that kept him from using the dartbow. For her to so pointedly mentioned its ties to the Power proved it. Like so many other times in his life, she knew what was troubling him before he had truly figured things out for himself.
Only it wasn't the dartbow being Power-wrought that bothered him - he had known since the day his uncle had given it to him that it was - it was sensing the Power within the tiny weapon that made him want to hide under a rock. The sensing had happened a month ago and had startled him so badly he'd nearly bitten his own tongue off to keep from howling.
The memory of that first encounter came unbidden to his thoughts, and he cringed. He'd been leaving on a hunt and had picked up the small weapon to holster it. No sooner had he touched it than a tingling surge shot up his arm with such force that he had dropped the dartbow and jumped back in surprise. Startling, to be sure, but it wasn't nearly as upsetting as the understanding that had come with it. He had known that what he felt was Earthpower.
Later that same day he'd felt another tremor of Power when his mother had used her Gift to green up the lawn. He had been behind the smokehouse chopping wood but had seen what she was doing in his mind's eye as clear as if he'd been standing right beside her.
Even now, if he closed his eyes and really concentrated, a shimmering outline of the world would come into focus around him. And with it would come an awareness of an ocean of power so vast he couldn't begin to comprehend it. If he focused his mind on that power, it would flare bright as the sun. Since the moment he'd first sensed it, Ta'shaen hadn't stopped calling to him.
I am Gifted, he conceded sullenly, and the admission tied his stomach in knots. He did his best to force the feeling away. Is it really so bad? he wondered. His mother was Gifted, after all. And not only had she accepted her Gift, she'd eagerly embraced it. She found joy in using it for the benefit of others.
Yes, but she has a single, useful Gift, not three with no real purpose except to harm or intrude on others.
He reached the flowerbed where his stone box was hidden and carefully pushed his fingers into the dirt to grab the bottom edge of a large rock. With a gentle heave, he rolled it over onto its side. The stone box beneath reflected the lamplight dully, and he brushed dirt away from the lid before prying it up with his knife.
Inside were several leather bags. He took one, hefting it before him. It would be more than enough gold to compensate the Himels for the loss of their sheep. He just wished there was more he could do for their emotional well-being. They were badly shaken by what had happened; the haunted look in Mrs. Himels' eyes had shown it would be some time before she recovered.
He set the bag next to the lamp and sealed up the box, careful not to disturb his mother's bulbs as he smoothed the dirt around the rock. He had to do something to help, though, and short of hunting the creatures down and delivering their heads to the Village Council - something his mother would surely frown on - gold was all he had. Taking the lamp and the bag of gold, he started for the barn.
How had his mother known about the box? Did she know about the one he had built into his bedroom wall or the one in the loft of the barn? Probably, he decided. He was starting to think there wasn't much he could hide from her, and it was more than a little unsettling.