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«THE SOUL WEAVER», Carol Berg

For Mother

In the Lists of the Dar’Nethi are tallied the full number of the Talents: Singer, Builder, Silver Shaper, Tree Delver… They are named without interpretation of their worth and without report of their rarity, for who is to say that the common Builder, who sings his bricks into the harmonious arch that pleases a thousand eyes every morn, is of any less value than the Word Winder, who creates an intricate enchantment that only a few can use to any effect? D’Arnath himself was born to be a Balancer, a most ordinary gift, but it was magnificence of his soul that made him a Balancer of Worlds.

Yet there are three rare Talents that cause a hush to fall among the people when they are named. One is Speaker, for the gift of discernment and truth-telling is rarely welcomed, and those who practice it are never other than alone.

The second is Healer, for of all things, life is the most sacred to the Dar’Nethi, and the youth or maid who accepts the gift of life-giving is both blessed for the glory of the calling and pitied for the burdens of it.

The third is Soul Weaver. Some say there has never been a true Soul Weaver, for who could relinquish his own life so completely, taking unto himself the fall body, mind, and spirit of another being - lending strength or courage, skill or knowledge - and then be able to yield the other soul undamaged? Who could do such a thing and himself remain whole? Some say the Soul Weaver should not be entered in the Lists. It could be no part of the Dar’Nethi Way, for it is an impossible calling and only a legend amongst a people who are themselves the stuff of legends.

Ven’Dar yn Cyran

“A Brief History of the Dar’Nethi Way”

PROLOGUE

Karon

My senses were deafened by Jayereth’s pain. Desperately I fought to maintain my control, to prevent her agony from confusing my purpose. We were bound by an enchantment of healing, our mingled blood linking our minds in the realm of flesh and spirit. If I shut out the experience of her senses, then I was powerless to heal her, but if I could not quiet her enough to see what I was doing, she was lost just as surely. Dark waves already lapped on the shores of her life.

Jayereth, hear me… Hold fast… for your daughter, newly born to grace your house… for T’Vero who cherishes you… for your Prince who is in such need of your service… With everything I knew of Jayereth I commanded her to hold quiet - just for the moment it would take me to see what I needed to see.

She understood me, I think, for there came the briefest ebb in the death tide, an instant’s clearing in the red mist of her pain and madness that let me perceive a host of things too terrible to know: ribs smashed, lungs torn, blood… everywhere hot, pooling blood and fragments of bone, her belly in shreds… Earth and sky, how had they done this? It was as if they knew every possible remedy a Healer could provide and had arranged it so I could do nothing but make things worse.

Another instant and I was awash once more in Jayereth’s torment, feeling her struggle to breathe with a chest on fire and a mind blasted with fear. I could not give her strength or endurance, only my healing skill and a few pitiful words of comfort. But even as I fought to knit together the ragged edges of her heart, her last remnants of thought and reason flicked out. Her screams sagged into a low, flat wail… and then silence. I had lost her.

Let her go, I told myself, you can’t help her by traveling the only road she has yet to travel. That road is not for you… not yet. Forcing aside the wave of enveloping darkness, I gritted my teeth and spoke the command, “Cut it now.”

My companion cut away the strip of linen that bound my forearm to Jayereth’s and allowed our mingled blood to feed my sorcery. The cold touch that seared my flesh was not his knife - his hand was too experienced for that - but the sealing of a scar that would forever remind me of my failure in my young counselor’s last need.

The red mist vanished and the death tide, and my bleary eyes focused on the ravaged body crumpled on the stone floor of my lectorium. The only sound in the candlelit wreckage of the chamber was my shaking breath as I knelt beside my fallen counselor and grieved for the horror she had known. Cross swiftly, Jayereth. Do not linger in this realm out of yearning for what is lost. I’ll care for T’Vero and your child. On D’Arnath’s sword, I swear it.

I envisioned Jayereth as she had been, short and plain, with brown hair, a liberal dash of freckles across her straight nose and plump cheeks, and the most brilliant young mind in Avonar tucked behind her eccentric humor. When I summoned Jayereth’s young husband, T’Vero, I would try to keep this image in mind and not the gruesome reality.

“Was there nothing to be done, my lord?”

Two small, strong hands gripped my right arm and helped me to my feet. Bareil always knew my needs. Unable to speak as yet, I shook my head and leaned on the Duke’s sturdy shoulder as he led me to a wooden stool he’d set upright. Padding softly through the wreckage, he summoned those who huddled beyond the door.


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