Voice of the Gods Online - Trudy Canavan

PROLOGUE

The man staggering through the hospice door was covered in blood. It streaked his face and clothing, and leaked from between fingers pressed to his brow. As the occupants of the greeting hall saw him they fell silent, then the noise and activity resumed. Someone would take care of him.

Looks like that someone will be me this time, Priestess Ellareen thought as she glanced at the other healers. All priests, priestesses and Dreamweavers were occupied, though Dreamweaver Fareeh’s bandaging of his patient’s arm had quickened.

When the newcomer saw her approaching he looked relieved.

“Welcome to the hospice,” she said. “What is your name?

“Mal Toolmaker.”

“What happened to you?”

“Robbed.”

“Let me see that.” He reluctantly allowed her to lift his hand from his brow. A cut to the bone seeped more blood. She pressed his hand back over the wound. “It needs some stitches.”

His gaze slid to the nearest Dreamweaver. “You’ll do it?”

She suppressed a sigh and indicated that he should follow her down the corridor. “Yes. Come with me.”

It was not unheard of for a visitor to the hospice to request a Circlian healer, but it was unusual. Most who came here were prepared to accept any help. Those who did not like or trust Dreamweavers went elsewhere.

Dreamweavers worked with Circlian priests and priestesses readily enough, and vice versa. They all knew they were healing many people who would not have received any help before. But a century of prejudice against Dreamweavers could not be erased in a few months. Ella had not expected it to be. Nor did she even want it to be. Dreamweavers did not worship the gods, so their souls died when their bodies did. She had great respect for them as healers—nobody who worked alongside them could deny being impressed by their knowledge and skill—but their dismissive, distrustful view of the gods irritated her.

I don’t approve of blind intolerance either. The tendency in some people to fear those different from themselves to the point of irrational hatred disturbed her more than the common violence and miserable poverty that brought most patients to the hospice.

Recently a new group that called themselves “true Circlians” had begun harassing the hospice workers. Their arrogant belief that their worship of the gods was more worthy than hers irritated her even more than the Dreamweavers’ indifference. The only issue she agreed with them on was the Pentadrians. Unlike Pentadrians, Dreamweavers never claimed to follow gods—gods that didn’t exist—or used that deception to convince a continent of people that Circlians were heathens and deserved to be exterminated.

At least this man isn’t too proud to seek our help, she thought as she led him down the corridor into an unoccupied treatment room and directed him to sit on the end of a bench. Scooping water into a bowl from a trough of constantly flowing water at one end of the room, she warmed it with magic. She took some cloth from a basket, shook a few drops of wound-cleaning oil onto it, dipped it into the water and cleaned the man’s face. Then she began stitching the cut.

A young priest, Naen, stepped into the doorway when she had nearly finished.

“Your mother just arrived, Priestess Ella.”

She frowned. “Tell her I’ll see her as soon as I’m finished with this patient.” Yranna, make her stay put until I’m ready. And let her not be in one of her moods.

:Naen will make sure she does not interrupt you, Ellareen, a voice assured her.

Ella straightened and looked around. There was no sign of the woman she had heard. Am I hearing voices, like that crazy old man who comes in here all the time?

:No, you’re not crazy. You’re as sane as most mortals. Saner, even. Even if you do talk to me all the time.

:Talk to…are you…Yranna?

:That’s right.

:It can’t be.

:Why not?

:Well…you’re a god. A goddess. Why would you talk to me?

:I have a task for you.

A thrill of both excitement and fear ran down Ella’s spine. At the same time she heard one of the priests in the greeting room raise his voice.

“There is a crowd blocking the street outside. They won’t let us leave the hospice…no, we can’t…best to wait it out.”

Not the “true Circlians” again, she thought as she tied the last stitch.

:Yes. They have surrounded the hospice.

Ella sighed, then felt a chill of realization.

:But…this blockade must be different to the others, or you wouldn’t be asking me to perform a task for you.

:That’s right.

:What is it?

:I want you to immobilize the man you are treating. Use magic, drugs—whatever