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Chapter 6

Something was very wrong. At first Kinnet only had the odd echoes she could feel through the stormwitchery as proof. After speaking with Arama, though, she had retreated to the cabin provided for her. Using the sea-glass pendant as a focus, Kinnet had stretched forth her awareness, seeking whatever phenomenon might be causing those echoes.

She had found nothing.

That alone was a danger signal. Kinnet knew she was more powerful than most stormwitches. She had spent the past five years in a silent rivalry with Pralith Menever, the king's stormwitch adviser, and she knew she was realistic in her self-assessment. If she could detect no cause for those echoes, it was because whoever caused those echoes didn't want her to detect him.

And yet...

She hadn't lied when she told Arama the echoes weren't caused by a human. She knew the power signatures of all the major stormwitches in Amethir. If the echoes were the result of some human stormwitchery, she would be able to identify the power behind it. Since she wasn't, the only logical explanation was that the echoes were caused by some power that was not human but was somehow aware.

Who are you? she thought.

She had abandoned the sea-glass pendant in favor of a velvet pouch full of sand. It was a mixture. That alone would displease many of her colleagues. But Kinnet had learned in the past several years that sand was most useful when combined. The very nature of sand was to swirl and tumble under the surface, to sink beneath a wanderer's feet, to shift with the tides. Sand worked better as a focus when mixed.

She slipped her fingers through the sand, eyes closed, awareness extended to the edges of her ability. She could feel the Dawn Star both around her and cradled within her as her awareness floated with the sea. She could sense the wind above her and the currents inside her. She could feel no storms.

Yet she sensed some strange pulse, almost a pattern but not quite. She felt a call throb against her from without. A seeking of some kind, a summons. But it made no sense. Who would be calling her?

No, not her. Kinnet settled her awareness deeper in the ocean and let herself float. She wasn't the one called. But the echoes, they were echoes of a call. The results of a deep longing. Deep called to deep.

She thrust her fingers into the sand and curled the fingers of her other hand around her sea-glass pendant. WHO? she demanded.

For a long moment there was nothing, only the feeling of her inquiry stretching out in all directions away from her. She was slipping away, losing control of her power, diffusing in the salty waters of the sea. And then--

Companion! It was a faint cry. So faint she almost didn't hear it. But in the next instant, it came again, thundering so powerfully she felt it vibrate in her bones. Companion! There was shock and joy and a world of longing in that cry. It shook Kinnet to her depths.

"No!" she cried and pushed the pouch of sand away from her. She wasn't the answer to anyone's call. She was no one's companion. She was solitary, enough unto herself. She needed no companion, and no one needed her. That suited her well.

Companion--? The ponderous presence reached out for her, the joy turned to confusion and sorrow. Kinnet shoved it away. Whomever--whatever--sought a companion, it didn't seek her.

She rose from her kneeling position and dusted off her knees. She would rest and try again. Tugging her skirt straight, she glanced in the tiny, round mirror that hung on the wall over her bunk. Or perhaps she would wait until tomorrow.

The deck vibrated ever so slightly under her feet. Kinnet ignored it. The echoes undoubtedly had nothing to do with the prince. In a few days they would be in Ranarr and her duty to protect the prince would be discharged. She would worry about them after that.

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