He stared at his hand with new emotions as he absorbed her words. The memory of that burning pain, that enveloping sensation, echoed in his mind. The pain was faded, but in its place… He became aware again of the new sensations he was picking up.
He could feel Rogan’s presence even when not facing his direction, and he could sense the structures and trees, and vague presences far out in the woods. It was a strongly amplified version of the intuition he had always felt on the beat, sensing where the criminals hid, only now that sense had sharpened into something he couldn’t pass off as half-imagination.
How could such an object exist, that glued itself permanently to someone’s mind, expanding their senses? How could it happen so quickly?
He wondered if the whole thing could be some sort of trick, if these two had any reason to deceive him. He thought about the dream, and vaguely remembered its return just before he blacked out. But they could not know about his childhood delusion, and he had no reason to suspect they might be able to tamper with his dreams.
He had begun to trust them as allies, soldiers on the same side. Could they have a reason to feed him lies about this… ‘ethen’?
He could almost have guessed what she just told him on his own though. He could feel how this thing had added itself to his mind. He could feel hints not just of senses, but of abilities, of knowledge just around the corner from his awareness. Some of it already seemed to be threatening to break through.
Jack refused to think on it further. He turned his hand over and looked at the soot tracing on the back again. “So, what’s this?”
“Rogan wrought a pattern to lock the ethen should it go out of control. Both gates that the ethen affected required one, so you have a similar one on your chest. If they work, they will limit the power that the thing can draw. He must train you to handle the ethen safely while the lock is still effective.”
“If they work,” he echoed.
“It’s eats,” Rogan called from the fireside. “Bacon and Porridge. Come dish up.”
As if on queue, his stomach grumbled in response. Mysterious magical embers and unfamiliar senses could wait until after breakfast. He stood and went to the fireside to collect his meal. The newly awakening senses gave him a slight sense of vertigo as he moved.
Returning to his bedroll, he could see the carcass out the window, still lying where it had fallen, only yards away from their previous campsite. Flies had begun to congregate above it. It seemed strange to him that the hunters hadn’t relocated farther away from the thing, considering the scavenging animals it would surely attract, until he realized he was the cause of that. He’d been too injured to move.
They ate in silence at first. His companions were leaving him alone to sort things out.
After considering things for a while, he decided he couldn’t imagine these two needing to trick him. They could take anything they wished from him by force if they had such a plan. He would trust them a little while longer.
Then something else occurred to him. “This training has to happen before I can go home, doesn’t it?”
Rogan stopped with a spoonful of oatmeal halfway to his mouth, and raised his brows. “Aye, if you do not wish to accidentally kill yourself, with a strong chance of killing innocent bystanders as you do it.”
After he finished the spoonful, he added, “Jack, that ethen may as well be an unexploded bomb, until your mind is trained.”