Chapter 28: Song of Empathy

"So. The new genius is begging for my help." "Avdyra said that you would teach me Blue Magic." "The wonder girl could not do that herself?" "I don't know what you people have arranged or not. If you don't want to, feel free to refuse. It's not my world that's threatened, and it's not I who have asked to hare off into the wilderness looking for some giant blue stone."

This whole conversation is not starting off too well. Once again has Arvid woken up in the dreamworld known as Gwalawala, where he has been summoned to save the world from the Serpent Shadow. Avdyra has told him that he needs to learn the Blue or Health magic, which is supposedly the type of magic that can overcome the collective madness threatening this world. Avdyra's aunt, Vanyra, is the village Healer, and the obvious teacher. Little did Arvid expect the rather cold reception he got there. Sure, she has not been the talkative type when they have met in the past, but now that they are alone, she seems almost hostile.

"You are not easily intimidated, redface. I like that in a boy. But know that neither have I asked you to hare off, as you so aptly put it, on this mad quest. This is all the works of the child prodigy, my brother's pride and joy. Always she has wanted to do something special, and now she has managed to summon a man from the dreamworlds. I am impressed." "You don't sound like you think it's a good idea." "I think it will be your death, one way or another. Has she told you that?" "She's told me that there are many dangers and traps on the way. That's why I must learn all these different forms of magic." "Oh yes. And has she also told you that if you succeed, you may have to sacrifice your life to save the world?"

Arvid stares at her, evidently showing his shock and dismay quite clearly, for the middle-aged woman laughs a harsh, cynical laughter. "So, she did not tell? Oh, but she would not want you to be dissuaded so early. Do you think she would not have gone on this quest for glory herself, if she thought she could survive it? She has been a glory hound since before she could stand up. I know her better than anyone now alive."

Affronted by the sudden onslaught of bile, Arvid defends the younger woman. "I don't know why you hate her so much, but know that she has never spoken a bad word about you in all the time I has been here." "Has she spoken of me at all?" "Hardly ever, except to say that you're the healer here and that you would teach me the Blue Magic." "Ah. I see. And has she spoken of her mother?" "What's her mother got to do with it? She's dead. Killed by the serpents." "Ah yes. Killed by the Serpents, and no one else. Poor Anira. And she who loved her bright little daugther more than her own life. Do you understand that?" "What's to understand?" "Ask the girl. Tell her what I said, and ask her what I could mean." "You're speaking in riddles." "Wish it were so, redface. Ask her and see for yourself."

Arvid turns and starts to walk out of the room, but the Healer's voice stops him. "Leaving already, boy? Did you not come to learn the Blue Lore?" "I thought you would not teach it to me. You've not exactly acted too friendly so far." "I am not going to teach you this for friendship, for I believe that I am sending you to your doom. But as a Healer, I am obliged to teach the Lore to whosoever searches for it. Ask of me, and I shall teach you. But I think that you will curse this day." "Perhaps. Now, I ask you to teach me the Healthlore."

Vanyra sighs. "Hold out your hand." He does, and she takes off the chain with the blue stone, placing it in his hand and holding her own hand over it again. Then she starts singing. The song is in the same short-word language that he remembers from other Stonesongs, but subtly different. The melody is beautiful, but mysteriously sad. It is haunting, filled with longing and loss. He counts seven verses, or invocations. And for each, the sorrow seems to seep deeper into him, until at the end he finds himself weeping openly. To his surprise, so does Vanyra.

As the song ends, she takes the blue stone back and sits down at the table. "It is done" she says. "Now I can teach you the Blue Lore." "What was that song? It was so sad." "Life is so sad, boy. Life is filled with suffering, from the pain of birth to the anguish of dying. As a Healer, you will be able to sense that suffering. You will draw it into yourself, for only that way can you confront it and heal it."

Some of the old bitterness returns to her voice as she explains. "You may have cast spells of light and heat. They are simple things, invoking primary energies. Other spells are slightly more complex, moving some object or energy from one place to another. Healthlore is not like that. Illness is complex, a distortion in the pattern of energies that run through our body. You cannot just banish illness or summon health. Each case requires you to understand it, deeply and truly. For this reason, the Healer must feel the illness. The Song of Empathy has primed you for this. On Healing, you will draw the illness into your own soul, and there overcome it - or, if your Craft fails, succumb to it. This is why you cannot heal death, even if you should want to: You would first have to die before you could vanquish death."

The middle-aged Healer looks up at him, her eyes seem to bore into his, vouching for the conviction he also hears in her voice. "You will learn to understand that this limitation is for the best. For the dead have peace, but the living are always suffering, either in body or in soul."

Suddenly her earlier words connect in his brain. "So to overcome the shadow of insanity, I will have to become insane?" "Yes." "But I cannot do that!" "I fear you are too late, boy. The Song of Empathy has bound you to do all within your power to alleviate suffering, and you will have no peace of heart until you have done it or failed."


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