dragged me to the small room and filled the tub, both with hot water and her soothing spell-songs.
I waited until she helped me ease into the water before I began to sing. My voice echoed clear and loud, like it had so many years ago inside that empty bucket. Now, the beautifully carved stone floors and tiled walls received my voice with gladness. The magic raced out with my words at first, sending multi-colored sparks up to the ceiling. The water heated like a kettle about to boil.
Helena massaged my shoulders and whispered grandmotherly comforts. The door opened, and someone joined us. I didn’t have the energy to open my eyes, though much of my power had ebbed away. The remaining magic faded into nothing, as if someone was siphoning it away, shouldering it, bearing it with me as Grandmother had once done.
“I will see that no one knows about this,” a man said, and I had just enough awareness to recognize Castillo’s voice. The door closed, leaving the traces of remaining magic to settle on me again.
No one could know of this most recent lapse, especially here in the compound. Not with Gibson nearby and the Prince’s hunger for magical power so apparent.
“They cannot know,” I said.
“They won’t,” Helena promised, causing me to wonder why she would protect me, why Castillo had just run to cover my magic again. “Come, you need to rest.”
I nodded and let her dress me in my nightclothes though I still hadn’t eaten lunch. A knot of worry seethed in my stomach, for I didn’t know if I could trust Castillo or Helena. They knew about my capabilities, possibly for quite some time. And if they did, perhaps my secret was no longer mine to keep.
I sighed as I closed my eyes and journeyed toward unconsciousness.
“How is she?” I heard through the film of slumber.
Instead of answering, Helena asked, “Does the Prince know?”
“No, no one saw her. And I took care of Cris,” Castillo said. His fingers brushed against mine, and he lifted the magical load from me, the way Grandmother had once done. The way bonds could.
My mouth curled into a smile as I drifted into the darkness of sleep.
I dream of magic, of faraway lands where magicians roam freely and spells entwine with the dust in the atmosphere. My mother walks resolutely from person to person, clutching Grandmother’s aged portrait of my father, rattling it in everyone’s face.
They shake their heads sadly and paint on frowns. She begins to sob, and I see her hair has changed from the rich color of freshly dug earth to spider web gray. She falls to her knees, and I wish to do something to comfort her.
When I’ve felt like that, Grandmother wraps me in a hug and whispers exactly what I need to hear. I rush to my mother’s side and place my arms around her.
She shoves me away, her eyes wild and her fingers clawing like talons. “It’s your fault he died!” she yells. “It’s your fault!”
I lunged into consciousness, my mother’s words shaking the room the same way they’d rattled the sky when I’d tried to climb down the fire chute. Darkness pressed against me, except for a faint glow of a trimmed lamp near the bathroom. Sweat made the bedclothes stick to my body, and I pushed the blankets away. The rug sheltered my feet from the cold, but I had to step onto the chilled stones to get to the bathing chamber.
In the corner of the room, light seeped through a crack beneath a door I hadn’t noticed before. I crept toward it and placed my hand on the knob. When I heard voices, I drew back, confused as to whose room would connect so intimately to mine. The voices ebbed and flowed, never staying in one place long enough for me to identify them.
My stomach rumbled for food. I’d devoured everything in sight when Helena had brought dinner to the room. Soon after, I’d fallen asleep again. With a proper bond this physical debilitation would decrease.
Judging by the depth of the darkness, I guessed night ruled the sky. But