Angry, I was sure.
Rakasa rounded the corner, and I slowed her to a trot.
"Wel ?" I demanded.
Georges nodded and opened the paddock gate.
"You have a good seat," Matthew said, eyeing my backside. "Good hands, too. You'l be al right. By the way,"
he continued in a conversational tone, leaning toward me and dropping his voice, "if you'd jumped the fence back there, today's outing would have been over."
Once we'd cleared the gardens and passed through the old gate, the trees thickened, and Matthew scanned the forest. A few feet into the woods, he began to relax, having accounted for every creature within and discovered that none of them were of the two-legged variety.
Matthew kicked Dahr into a trot, and Rakasa obediently waited for me to kick her as wel . I did, amazed al over again at how smoothly she moved.
"What kind of horse is Dahr?" I asked, noticing his equal y smooth gait.
"I suppose you'd cal him a destrier," Matthew explained.
That was the mount that carried knights to the Crusades.
"He was bred for speed and agility."
"I thought destriers were enormous warhorses." Dahr was bigger than Rakasa, but not much.
"They were large for the time. But they weren't big enough to carry any of the men in this family into battle, not once we had armor on our backs, and weapons. We trained on horses like Dahr and rode them for pleasure, but we fought on Percherons like Balthasar."
I stared between Rakasa's ears, working up the courage to broach another subject. "May I ask you something about your mother?"
"Of course," Matthew said, twisting in his saddle. He put one fist on his hip and held his horse's reins lightly in the other hand. I now knew with absolute certainty how a medieval knight looked on horseback.
"Why does she hate witches so much? Vampires and witches are traditional enemies, but Ysabeau's dislike of me goes beyond that. It seems personal."
"I suppose you want a better answer than that you smel like spring."
"Yes, I want the real reason."
"She's jealous." Matthew patted Dahr's shoulder.
"What on earth is she jealous of ?"
"Let's see. Your power-especial y a witch's ability to see the future. Your ability to bear children and pass that power to a new generation. And the ease with which you die, I suppose," he said, his voice reflective.
"Ysabeau had you and Louisa for children."
"Yes, Ysabeau made both of us. But it's not quite the same as bearing a child, I think."
"Why does she envy a witch's second sight?"
"That has to do with how Ysabeau was made. Her maker didn't ask permission first." Matthew's face darkened. "He wanted her for a wife, and he just took her and turned her into a vampire. She had a reputation as a seer and was young enough to stil hope for children. When she became a vampire, both of those abilities were gone. She's never quite gotten over it, and witches are a constant reminder of the life she lost."
"Why does she envy that witches die so easily?"
"Because she misses my father." He abruptly stopped talking, and it was clear I'd pressed him enough.
The trees thinned, and Rakasa's ears shot back and forth impatiently.
"Go ahead," he said with resignation, gesturing at the open field before us.
Rakasa leaped forward at the touch of my heels, catching the bit in her teeth. She slowed climbing the hil , and once on the crest she pranced and tossed her head, clearly enjoying the fact that Dahr was standing at the bottom while she was on top. I circled her into a fast figure eight, changing her leads on the fly to keep her from stumbling as she went around corners.
Dahr took off-not at a canter but a gal op-his black tail streaming out behind him and his hooves striking the earth with unbelievable speed. I gasped and pul ed lightly on Rakasa's reins to make her stop. So that was the point of destriers. They could go from zero to sixty like a finely tuned sports car. Matthew made no effort to slow his horse as he approached, but Dahr stopped on a dime about six feet away from us, his sides bowed out slightly with the exertion.
"Show-off ! You won't let me jump a fence and you put on that display?" I teased.
"Dahr doesn't get enough exercise either. This is exactly what he needs." Matthew grinned and patted his horse on the shoulder. "Are you interested in a race? We'l give you a head start, of course," he said with a courtly bow.
"You're on. Where to?"
Matthew pointed to a solitary tree on the top of the ridge and watched me, alert for the first indication of movement.
He'd picked something that you could shoot past without running into anything. Maybe Rakasa wasn't as good at abrupt stops as Dahr was.
There was no way I was going to surprise a vampire and no way my horse-for al her smooth gait-was going to beat Dahr up the ridge. Stil , I was eager to see how wel she would perform. I leaned forward and patted Rakasa on the neck, resting my chin for just a moment on her warm flesh and closing my eyes.
Fly, I encouraged her silently.
Rakasa shot forward as if she'd been slapped on the rump, and my instincts took over.
I lifted myself out of the saddle to make it easier for her to carry my weight, tying a loose knot in the reins. When her speed stabilized, I lowered myself into the saddle, clutching her warm body between my legs. My feet kicked free from the unnecessary stirrups, and my fingers wove through her mane. Matthew and Dahr thundered behind us. It was like my dream, the one where dogs and horses were chasing me. My left hand curled as if holding something, and I bent low along Rakasa's neck, eyes closed.
Fly, I repeated, but the voice in my head no longer sounded like my own. Rakasa responded with stil more speed.
I felt the tree grow closer. Matthew swore in Occitan, and Rakasa swerved to the left at the last minute, slowing to a canter and then a trot. There was a tug on her reins. My eyes shot open in alarm.
"Do you always ride unfamiliar horses at top speed, with your eyes closed, no reins, and no stirrups?" Matthew's voice was coldly furious. "You row with your eyes closed- I've seen you. And you walk with them closed, too. I always suspected that magic was involved. You must use your power to ride as wel . Otherwise you'd be dead. And for what it's worth, I believe you're tel ing Rakasa what to do with your mind and not with your hands and legs."
I wondered if what he said was true. Matthew made an impatient sound and dismounted by swinging his right leg high over Dahr's head, kicking his left foot out of the stirrup, and sliding down the horse's side facing front.
"Get down from there," he said roughly, grabbing Rakasa's loose reins.
Dismounting the traditional way, I swung my right leg over Rakasa's rump. When my back was to him, Matthew reached up and scooped me off the horse. Now I knew why he preferred to face front. It kept you from being grabbed from behind and hauled off your mount. He turned me around and crushed me to his chest.
"Dieu, " he whispered into my hair. "Don't do anything like that again, please."
"You told me not to worry about what I was doing. It's why you brought me to France," I said, confused by his reaction.
"I'm sorry," he said earnestly. "I'm trying not to interfere.
But it's difficult to watch you using powers you don't understand-especial y when you're not aware you're doing it."
Matthew left me to tend to the horses, tying their reins so that they wouldn't step on them but giving them the freedom to nibble the sparse fal grass. When he returned, his face was somber.
"There's something I need to show you." He led me to the tree, and we sat underneath it. I folded my legs careful y to the side so that my boots didn't cut into my legs. Matthew simply dropped, his knees on the ground and his feet curled under his thighs.
He reached into the pocket of his breeches and drew out a piece of paper with black and gray bars on a white background. It had been folded and refolded several times.
It was a DNA report. "Mine?"
"When?" My fingers traced the bars along the page.
"Marcus brought the results to New Col ege. I didn't want to share them with you so soon after you were reminded of your parents' death." He hesitated. "Was I right to wait?"
When I nodded, Matthew looked relieved. "What does it say?" I asked.
"We don't understand everything," he replied slowly. "But Marcus and Miriam did identify markers in your DNA that we've seen before."
Miriam's tiny, precise handwriting marched down the left side of the page, and the bars, some circled with red pen, marched down the right. "This is the genetic marker for precognition," Matthew continued, pointing to the first circled smudge. His finger began slowly moving down the page. "This one is for flight. This helps witches find things that are lost."
Matthew kept reeling off powers and abilities one at a time until my head spun.
"This one is for talking with the dead, this is transmogrification, this is telekinesis, this is spel casting, this one is charms, this one is curses. And you've got mind reading, telepathy, and empathy-they're next to one another."
"This can't be right." I'd never heard of a witch with more than one or two powers. Matthew had already reached a dozen.
"I think the findings are right, Diana. These powers may never manifest, but you've inherited the genetic predisposition for them." He flipped the page. There were more red circles and more careful annotations by Miriam.
"Here are the elemental markers. Earth is present in almost al witches, and some have either earth and air or earth and water. You've got al three, which we've never seen before.
And you've also got fire. Fire is very, very rare." Matthew pointed to the four smudges.
"What are elemental markers?" My feet were feeling uncomfortably breezy, and my fingers were tingling.
"Indications that you have the genetic predisposition to control one or more of the elements. They explain why you could raise a witchwind. Based on this, you could command witchfire and what's cal ed witchwater as wel ."
"What does earth do?"
"Herbal magic, the power to affect growing things-the basics. Combined with spel casting, cursing, and charms -or any one of them, real y-it means you have not only powerful magical abilities but an innate talent for witchcraft."
My aunt was good with spel s. Emily wasn't but could fly for short distances and see the future. These were classic differences among witches-dividing those who used witchcraft, like Sarah, from those who used magic. It al boiled down to whether words shaped your power or whether you just had it and could wield it as you liked. I buried my face in my hands. The prospect of seeing the future as my mother could had been scary enough. Control of the elements? Talking with the dead?
"There is a long list of powers on that sheet. We've only seen-what?-four or five of them?" It was terrifying.
"I suspect we've seen more than that-like the way you move with your eyes closed, your ability to communicate with Rakasa, and your sparkly fingers. We just don't have names for them yet."
"Please tel me that's al ."
Matthew hesitated. "Not quite." He flipped to another page. "We can't yet identify these markers. In most cases we have to correlate accounts of a witch's activities-some of them centuries old-with DNA evidence. It can be hard to match them up."
"Do the tests explain why my magic is emerging now?"
"We don't need a test for that. Your magic is behaving as if it's waking after a long sleep. Al that inactivity has made it restless, and now it wants to have its way. Blood wil out,"
Matthew said lightly. He rocked graceful y to his feet and lifted me up. "You'l catch cold sitting on the ground, and I'l have a hel of a time explaining myself to Marthe if you get sick." He whistled to the horses. They strol ed in our direction, stil munching on their unexpected treat.
We rode for another hour, exploring the woods and fields around Sept-Tours. Matthew pointed out the best place to hunt rabbits and where his father had taught him to shoot a crossbow without taking out his own eye. When we turned back to the stables, my worries over the test results had been replaced with a pleasant feeling of exhaustion.
"My muscles wil be sore tomorrow," I said, groaning. "I haven't been on a horse for years."
"Nobody would have guessed that from the way that you rode today," he said. We passed out of the forest and entered the chateau's stone gate. "You're a good rider, Diana, but you mustn't go out by yourself. It's too easy to lose your way."
Matthew wasn't worried I'd get lost. He was worried I'd be found.
His long fingers relaxed on the reins. He'd been clutching them for the past five minutes. This vampire was used to giving orders that were obeyed instantly. He wasn't accustomed to making requests and negotiating agreements. And his usual quick temper was nowhere in evidence.
Sidling Rakasa closer to Dahr, I reached over and raised Matthew's palm to my mouth. My lips were warm against his hard, cold flesh.
His pupils dilated in surprise.
I let go and, clucking Rakasa forward, headed into the stables.