After an afternoon’s forced geniality and drinking with Omud–which did strangely little for him–Tervud took to bed. The guest room Omud gave him had a plush bed and breezes of any strength he liked conjured by enchantments on the windows and on another Gravadan-copper device with a stand that adjusted to voice commands. There were pillows, sheets and comforters all of finest gossamer, stuffed with plucked liros feathers or wool or whatever else he could ask for. The bed could even be adjusted with switches on either of its head-posts, made to bend, grow softer or harder, even curve this way or that as the mood took him.
After what he thought must be three hours, he decided he wasn’t ready to sleep yet. He prodded a crystal next to the bed until it glowed and turned to the clock. Its second-hand took seven of his breaths before it twitched.
According to the clock, it had only been half an hour.
“What?” he demanded. “That’s not…” He had a good sense of timing, damn it! The blasted clock must be broken. He reached up to the nearer headpost to pull himself out of bed. It splintered, cracked and broke loose in his hand, all the sounds dragging on and on and on like wind’s last echo in a deep cavern. Then the new part of him thrummed. The thrumming rose, filled his skull, echoed somewhere in his chest, and hot blue light subsumed existence. Tervud expected it to hurt. This sort of thing was supposed to hurt, wasn’t it?
–It could, if you really need it to.– The voice wasn’t precisely in his head, yet he heard it somewhere deeper than his ears. It was too clear, overlapping the bedroom’s night stillness and the low moan of the breeze-makers and distant sounds of wildlife without drowning any of them out. Then those sounds too fell away, and there was only the voice. It sounded like nothing so much as one of his scythe-swords parting air, but multiplied thousands of times, pitched, warped, and deepened with thunderous bass until it became richer than any human voice.
–I commend his desire! Pain forges power!– This second voice sounded similar to the first, but carried a deep metallic hum. It enunciated so clearly it sounded painful, and seemed fond of sudden, near-feral snarling.
–I don’t deny this, but our brother has glutted himself on pain, physical and otherwise. There will be more. Let’s be sure we don’t have too much of a necessary thing.– The bickering voices fell away, and the thrumming returned.
“Tervud, Shalmet’s son,” She said. Tervud knew at once who She was. She had watched him from the first; it was Her light that swaddled him now. The warmth of it buoyed him, soothed agonies he’d carried so long he’d forgotten them. “You made yourself worthy. My children recognize you, their brother. One offers you this guiding question: how might your powers shield the weak?” Her mists wreathed him, gleaming with an infinity of tiny crystals, gradating from sky blue to deepest violet.
Where they brushed him, they spread a comfort deeper than any sleep, any touch, any joy he’d known before. He wept for the wonder of it!
“Shield?” Tervud asked. “I have no powers to defend, Glorious Mother. Only to destroy.” The answer came to him all at once, and the words for it. “Cleave the wicked,” he shouted, filled by purpose he’d not known since boyhood.
“Well answered, child,” She said, and was gone from him.
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