The Farseekers (The Obernewtyn Chronicles #2)by Isobelle Carmody
in the two years since its takeover of Obernewtyn, the secret community of Misfits has flourished. Protected by their remoteness, Elspeth Gordie and her allies have worked hard to develop their forbidden mental abilities—all in preparation for their inevitable confrontation with the totalitarian Council. And though their training is far from complete, the… See more details below
in the two years since its takeover of Obernewtyn, the secret community of Misfits has flourished. Protected by their remoteness, Elspeth Gordie and her allies have worked hard to develop their forbidden mental abilities—all in preparation for their inevitable confrontation with the totalitarian Council. And though their training is far from complete, the Misfits can no longer stay hidden when they learn of the existence of a new Talent—one whose power may eclipse anything they have seen before.
From the Paperback edition.
Sonia Ana Miller
“Blends graceful storytelling with appealing characters.”—Library Journal
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Roland shook his head decisively. "I can do nothing to hasten the healing, Elspeth. If you rested them more often ..."
I sighed and rubbed the tender soles of my feet. "Kella said a warmer climate might help."
Roland nodded absently, returning satchels of herbs to his carry-all. "It's true cold doesn't help the healing process, but whatever miracles healers can do, changing the weather to suit their patient is not among them."
I was startled at the unexpected touch of humor from the dour Healer guildmaster. Hefting the weighty bag onto his arm, Roland gave me a piercing look. He added significantly, "If you would stay in your room in wintertime with banked fires instead of wandering around the draughty halls and beyond ..."
"I am mistress of a guild," I said.
Roland was unsympathetic. "Garth finds no difficulty in remaining in his caves and the Teknoguild works do not crumble because of his inactivity," he said with faint asperity.
The Teknoguild was concerned with studying the Beforetime and researching the effects, past, present and future, of the Great White. I had little interest in such things, but I had met secretly with Garth only that morning. I wondered if Roland knew.
"Garth ... is Garth," I said with a smile. Roland's lip twitched.
There was a knock at the door, and Kella entered carrying a jug.
Roland waved his ward in impatiently. "Soak in that, then rub some of the salve into the soles. Andstay off your feet!" he growled, slamming the door behind him.
Kella poured the liquid in a flat pan, smiling ruefully. "He's angry with himself because your feet aren't healing properly."
I lowered my feet gingerly into the shallow panniken. A sweet scent rose from the water. "Herb lore?" I guessed.
Kella nodded. "A recipe given us by the Master of Obernewtyn himself."
I smiled, never quite able to accept the grandiose title for Rushton. When I had first known him, it was as an enigmatic farm overseer. No one had been more astonished than I to discover he was the legal owner of Obernewtyn.
Kella was staring into the fire, its orange glow playing over her cheeks. "Rushton has not come back yet from the highlands," she said, a faint line of worry between her brows. I wondered idly if the healer were attracted to Rushton. It would be a pity for her. His brooding singleness of purpose made him blind to anything but his complicated plans for the future.
"It's good to see you smile," Kella said. The old fear of revealing myself caused me a moment of sharp fear, then I consciously relaxed. The need for hiding my expression was past, at least at Obernewtyn.
"Yet there is not much to smile at, even here," I said somberly.
Kella's expression sharpened. "You spoke to the newcomers?"
I nodded. "When I was in the orphan home, torture was nothing more than a rumor."
Kella's face was pale. The deliberate infliction of pain was anathema to any healer, but torture was doubly dreadful, being both mental and physical pain forged into one. She disliked the mind-bending activities of the Coercer guild, but this was far worse.
As if reading my thoughts, she said, "Miryum claims there are times when the end justifies the means, but even a coercer could not condone torture."
Tactless Miryum was guilden of the aggressive Coercer guild, whose function was to defend Obernewtyn and prepare for battle with the Council, if it should come to that. There was a growing rift between Healer and Coercer guilds. Where a farseeker could read conscious thoughts, near and far away, healers, like coercers and futuretellers, could descend into the unconscious mind, deep probing. All three guilds shaped the ability to deep probe differently. The mind of a coercer was a weapon to suborn the will of other minds. The healer also entered other minds, but with a probe honed tendril-thin for healing. It was little wonder the two guilds were at loggerheadsusing the same ability to opposing ends.
"Anyone would think you were a futureteller," Kella said resignedly, referring to the habit futuretellers had of drifting into a dream in the middle of conversations.
I laughed. "It might be pleasant. You would never be surprised by anything."
"Not for me," Kella said. "I prefer to live in the present. I don't want to know the future."
Without warning, the outer door to the Healer hall was flung open to admit a wild-eyed Matthew. His anxious expression dissolved. "Here ye are! I've been searchin' all over for ye!" he said accusingly.
I blinked at him innocently. "Oh? I must have forgotten to say where I was going."
Kella snorted, knowing I disliked the lack of privacy that went with being a guildmistress, and often evaded such formalities as making my whereabouts known.
Forgetting his frustration, Matthew hurried over. "Rushton has just come back! An' he's called a guildmerge."
My heart jumped. Rushton often traveled outside the mountains, for there was no danger to the legal Master of Obernewtyn, but something serious must have happened for him to call a guildmerge so abruptly.
"When?" I asked.
"Now!" Matthew said. "He sent me to find ye. The meetin's to begin as soon as ye come."
"Did he say why?" I asked, astonished by the haste. I dried my feet quickly and slipped on my boots. Rushton usually gave plenty of warning of a guildmerge, to give the guilds time to prepare reports and requests.
"Nowt a word," Matthew answered, handing me my walking stick. "He was investigatin' a rumor that th' Council meant to establish a soldierguard camp in th' highlands. Do ye suppose ...?" he began, aghast at the thought of a camp so close to Obernewtyn. It had been bad enough when a soldierguard training camp was set up just below the lower ranges. If the Council meant to put a camp in the highlands, it could only be because they intended to tighten their control of the high country.
"It might be no more than gossip," I said.
Most highlanders were simple, superstitious folk only too ready to gossip. Obernewtyn's unusual history made it an obvious subject for speculation. But this time, there might be substance to the rumors.
Ceirwan would know what had happened, since he had gone with Rushton. As guilden of the Farseekers, he would normally have reported at once to me, but Rushton's call for an immediate guildmerge made that impossible.
I wondered if any of the guilds would use the unexpected meeting to make requests. I had had no time to prepare a submission since meeting with the Teknoguild, but Pavo would be at the meeting and might fill in the gaps. If Matthew were right, it was important to act quickly in case Rushton decided to suspend all expeditions.
I shivered. As ever in the mountains, there was a chilly underbite to the air and the old burn scars on my feet and lower legs ached. Roland had promised they would heal in time, but two years had passed and they still hurt at the first sign of cold weather.
My eyes went beyond the gray stone walls which surrounded Obernewtyn and its fields and farms, to the horizon and the jagged line of the western mountains separating us from the highlands. Those mountains were our best protection, especially if soldierguards did come to the highlands. In winter, snows cut us off entirely and, even in the mildest season, the road to Obernewtyn was difficult. The mountains kept us safe, yet the sight of them never failed to disturb me in some deep, incomprehensible way.
Long ago, in one of his queer fits, Maruman had told me my destiny lay in the mountains. Battered and half-mad, the old cat had been my first friend and had followed me to Obernewtyn. Expecting a grim existence there, perhaps a horrible death, I had found Matthew, and Rushton, and learnt I was not alone in my mutant abilities. When Rushton had been given control of Obernewtyn over his defective stepbrother, who had been manipulated by Alexi and Madam Vega, I had taken his offer of refuge and stayed on. Madam Vega and Alexi had been killed in their battle to keep control of Obernewtyn, and Ariel had fled to his death in the bitter mountain winter. I could hardly recall Madam Vega's face or even Alexi's, but Ariel remained a vivid nightmare image. Of them all, his angelic beauty and the manipulative lust for power that hid behind his fairness were, for me, the epitome of all that was evil in the world. Fortunately, the muddle-headed and malleable Stephen Seraphim was the sole reminder of the usurpers. To my surprise, I had been happy at Obernewtyn. Apart from his periodic wandering, Maruman also made Obernewtyn his home.
Yet I had the sudden chill premonition that the long healing time of peace was drawing to an end.
"What is it?" Matthew asked.
"I was thinking of the past," I said. "Everything that happened in the caves with Alexi and Madam Vega, the Zebkrahn machine exploding, these ..." I touched my scarred legs. "It all seems like a dream now."
Matthew nodded grimly. "'Tis easy to forget," he said softly. "But sometimes I dream of Ariel an' I ..." He shook his head. "I wish I had killed him. If he had nowt died in th' storm ...
I looked up, surprised at his vehemence.
When I had first met him, Matthew had been thin and frail looking with a limp and hungry, intelligent eyes. The limp had been long since healed with a reset bone, and Matthew now stood a head taller than I, with strong, wiry limbs. Ceirwan was convinced he was developing deep probe ability, saying he often seemed to know our thoughts before we sent them. I had dismissed that, thinking it no more than the natural result of our closeness. But it might be so. There was so much about our abilities we did not yet understand.
Farseekers converse mind to mind over varying distances. I had thought myself the only farseeker able to deep probe. Multitalents were not uncommon among us, and choice of a guild was based on the dominant ability. In rare cases, two abilities were of equal strength, and then choosing came down to simple preference.
As if to confirm his ability to know my private thoughts, Matthew said, "Maybe we should use this guildmerge to raise th' matter of Zarak changin' guilds."
Zarak was that rarity, a Misfit with two equal abilitiesthat of communicating with animals, beastspeaking; and farseeking. He had chosen the Beasting guild.
I shook my head decisively. "Now is not the time. Besides, I think the matter can be better resolved on a personal level. But something will have to be done soon, I agree. Zarak is proving to be a disturbing influence in the wrong guild."
Matthew nodded fervently. "Not that Lina isn't capable of gannin' up to mischief on her own, but Zarak ..." He trailed off as we approached the front steps to Obernewtyn.
The new doors were less imposing than the old, being too plain to complement the ornate stone scrolling of the entrance. I had a fleeting memory of watching the original doors burn, and with them the concealed maps showing a route to the Oldtimer weapon machines. To the others, the burning had been simply the easiest way to get at the inlaid gold we had used to make armbands for the guildmasters. That had been my suggestion, and Rushton had agreed. Perhaps my wounds had made him humor me. He had been very kind then, I thought pensively. These days he seemed distant and preoccupied.
As if conjured up by my thoughts, Rushton was waiting for us in the circular entrance hall.
He looked tired, and it was clear from his clothes that he had not bothered to change. I felt a rash of gladness at the sight of him, for though Obernewtyn ran smoothly even in his absence, I never felt as safe as when he was there.
He met my look with an ambivalent stare. It was almost a challenge. Before I could speak, he sent Matthew to find someone from the Futuretell guild, then he ushered me toward the guildmerge, matching his steps to my own limping progress.
"What has happened?" I asked.
Rushton turned to look at me. "The Council is showing a renewed interest in us. Two men were up in the highlands asking questions about Obernewtyn."
"You think they were from the Council?"
He shrugged angrily. "I know nothing, except that I am tired of my ignorance. Do you remember when I went to claim Obernewtyn in Sutrium?" he asked unexpectedly.
I remembered. Sutrium was the center of Council activities. It had not been easy for him to convince us to wait for his return. Many had wanted to leave, fearing his trip would lead to their capture and burning. That we had chosen to wait had been an act of faith in Rushton. We had never regretted it.
"I remember," I murmured.
"I thought the Council trusted me. Maybe I was wrong. With farseeker or coercer help, I could have made sure. Now it would be different."
"Now?" I echoed.
Rushton looked at me, his green eyes glowing with sudden excitement, as if he had resolved some inner doubt. "It's time we found out what the Council is up to. Time we made a move into their territory."
"Sutrium?" I whispered.
"Sutrium," Rushton said.
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