The Brotherhood of Mages
(Book 2 of the Jewels of Earda)
© 2005 By
Janet Lane Walters
The Way of the Healers
Much is demanded of a Healer and inner peace is her only reward. She must seek neither power nor wealth. To walk in the Way is difficult and not all succeed.
When a Healer names a man as Chosen, she must leave the House for she must think only of her craft and those who need her care. If she elects to depart, her knowledge of the healing arts will be stripped from her mind. She will be left with only those skills known to commoners who do not follow the Way.
Jindera left the herb storage hut and strode toward the cottage. Clouds dimmed the morning sun, then slid away. The leaves of the oka trees rustled in the summer breeze and the mingled scents of herbals and seasonings swirled around her. The coming of clouds meant a storm approached, but she felt certain no rain would fall this day.
Would the medicinals she would brew from the herbals she'd selected be of any help? She could only hope. All night, she'd fought the fever raging through her mother's body and had seen no change.
Mama, why did you leave the Healers' House? Her mother could have remained and raised her children with the sons and daughters of the other Healers. On his tenth birthday, Jindera's twin would have been sent to his father. But Jindera's mother had chosen to leave. Love for a man had been her reason.
Tears blurred Jindera's sight. She had loved her father dearly. His death seven lunars before had brought sadness to a home where love had ruled.
Rays of sunlight glinted on the golden stones of the cottage and brightened the dull yellow of the thatch. Jindera hurried along the garden paths that meandered among the beds of herbals and seasonings.
The plants flourished. Lajin's touch, she thought. Her brother had only to tend any ailing plant and it thrived. She paused at the cottage door and peered along the road from the village. Her twin should return soon with the staples he'd gone to fetch.
The stench of illness pervaded the room where her mother lay on a narrow cot. Jindera's breath caught. For a moment, she thought her mother had left this plane without the blessing to release her.
Holding back a sob, Jindera fled to the kitchen to blend a fever potion. She carried the mug of steaming liquid to the sick room and spooned the medicinal into her mother's mouth. A drop or two fell on the linen sheet and spread like the tears Jindera held inside. She inhaled deeply. She had to hold grief and fear at bay. When the mug was empty, she rested her head on the edge of the mattress and prayed the remedy would work.
She jerked awake. How long had she slept? The light in the room told her 'twas near midday.
The rasp of labored breathing filled her ears. She felt her own breaths fall into the same pattern. She raised her head and turned toward the door. Where was Lajin? She tried to reach him on the inner path where they could speak in secret. Flight. Fear. What had happened to him? Her hands and body shook. His fear or hers?
Jindera rose and looked outside. The fragrant scents of the garden brought a welcome calmness to her troubled spirit. 'Twas a false hope. If Mama dies, what will Lajin and I do? Having but sixteen years, they weren't old enough to hold the land.
She heard a rasping cough and turned back to the cot. Her mother's eyes were open. A wave of hope spread through Jindera. "Mama."
"Leave. You. Lajin. Soon. Danger comes."
"We can't leave you without saying the blessing."
"Must." Racking spasms shook her mother's body.
"Mama, don't talk."
"Must. Once. Three sisters."
Jindera listened to her mother's halting words. A grandsire who was a Master Mage. Mama born on the desert and leaving with her older sister for a Healers' House. How her two sisters wanted power and schemed to obtain control of others. One who had talent. One who had none. Mama who had talent and wanted love.
"Ralor. Comes. Hurt. You. Lajin. No Healers' House. Not good."
"Mama, be still." Jindera pressed her hands against her mother's shoulders.
"Starflowers. For Ralor. Make tea. He sleep. Then flee. Remember, danger from Healers."
Jindera chewed on her lower lip to keep from crying. The door opened and for an instant, she feared her father's brother had arrived. The garden, the guardianship, the cottage would pass to him and to the one the Healers sent to tend the garden. The door opened. She turned.
Lajin stood in the doorway. His flushed face and panting breaths told her he'd been running. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"Black robes in the village. Taking boys. What will I do if they come here?"
Jindera shivered. The mages would learn about Lajin's talent for nurturing plants. They would take him. "You must flee to the forest and hide. Go now."
He knelt on the other side of the cot. "Not until we say the blessing."
"Son. Daughter. Go."
Jindera grasped her mother's hand. Lajin took the other. "Mama."
The heavy breathing slowed, then stopped. Had she willed her death?
Jindera's voice joined Lajin's. "Fare well, Mother. May the sun shine on your days and the moons light your nights. Let your shade depart and do not hover between this plane and the next."
Jindera met her brother's gaze. "You must go. I'll follow."
"The grave must be dug."
Lajin, why must you linger? You heard Mama. You must go."