Corvyn knelt beside me, moaning in horror, and I lifted my head from Lark’s ear to find his stunned grey eyes, wet with fear. I had to make him strong, make him believe, if only for his own survival. I concentrated on what must be said. My power to tell was spilling out onto the cobblestones.
“Hide her words, Corvyn. Because if she dies . . . if she is even harmed, you will share the very same fate.”
His eyes widened as mine closed, and the words and the world grew quiet.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
I can’t make words. I can’t make a sound. I have thoughts and feelings. I have pictures and colors. They are all bottled up inside of me because I can’t make words.
But I can hear them.
The world is alive with words. The animals, the trees, the grass, and the birds hum with their own words.
“Life,” they say.
“Air,” they breathe.
“Heat,” they hum. The birds call “Fly, fly!” and the leaves wave them onward, uncurling as they whisper “grow, grow.”
I love these words. There is no deception or confusion. The words are simple. The birds feel joy. The trees feel it too. They feel joy in their creation. They feel joy because they ARE. Every living thing has a word, and I hear them all.
But I can’t make them.
My mother told me with words, God created worlds. With words He created light and dark, water and air, plants and trees, birds and beasts, and from the dust and the dirt of those worlds, He created children, two sons and two daughters, forming them in his image and breathing life into their bodies of clay.
In the beginning, He gave each child a word, a powerful word, which called down a special ability, a precious gift to guide them in their journey through their world. One daughter was given the word spin, for she could spin all manner of things into gold. The grass, the leaves, a strand of her hair. One son was given the word change, which gifted him the ability to transform himself into the beasts of the forest or the creatures of the air. The word heal was given to another son, to cure illness and injury among his brothers and sisters. One daughter was given the word tell, and she could predict what was to come. Some said she could even shape the future with the power of her words.
The Spinner, The Changer, The Healer, and The Teller lived long and had many children of their own, but even with blessed words and magnificent abilities, life in the world was dangerous and difficult. Often-times, grass was more useful than gold. Man was more desirable than a beast. Chance was more seductive than knowledge, and eternal life was completely meaningless without love.
The Healer could heal his siblings when they grew ill, but he couldn’t save them from themselves. He watched as his brother, The Changer, spent so much time as a beast—surrounded by them—that he became one himself. The Spinner, who loved The Changer, was so crazed with grief, she spun and spun, round and round, until she’d spun herself into gold, a statue of sorrow next to the well of the world she’d climbed up from. The Teller, realizing she’d predicted it all, swore to never speak again, and The Healer, alone without them, died of a broken heart he refused to heal.
Their children spread across the land, and years became decades and decades became centuries. Their numbers grew great, and there were many with the power of words or the ability to change or heal or spin. But the power was diluted and altered by the mixing of the gifts. New gifts emerged and some gifts were lost all together. Some used their gifts to harm.
A descendant of The Changer, a king who could transform into a dragon, ravaged the countryside, destroying the land with fire and killing the people who opposed him. A powerful warrior who wanted to be king slayed the dragon and garnered the gratitude of a terrified people. He claimed that everyone should have the same gifts. He said those who could spin or tell or change or heal shouldn’t be able to use their gifts because it gave them an advantage over other men. People had grown both jealous and afraid, and many agreed with the ambitious warrior, though some did not. A woman whose son was saved by a healer argued that the gifts did benefit all. A man whose crop was saved by a teller who predicted a terrible storm and warned him to harvest early, agreed with her.
But the voices of fear and discontent are always loudest, and one by one, the Tellers, the Healers, the Changers, and the Spinners were destroyed. They burned the Tellers at the stake. They cut off the Spinners’ hands. They hunted the Changers like the animals they resembled and stoned the Healers in the village squares, until those with special gifts—any gift—were afraid of their abilities and hid their talents from each other.
The warrior became king and his son reigned after him. Generation after generation of warrior kings held the throne, vigilant in removing the Gifted from the population, convinced that equality could only be realized if no one was special, and the power of the words was eradicated.
My mother made words. She was a Teller, and her words were magic. She spoke and the words became life. Reality. Truth. My father knew it, and he was afraid. Words can be terrible when the truth is unwelcome.
My mother was careful with her words, so careful that she made them soundless when she died. Now they swarm silently all around me, like quiet watchers waiting for someone to speak them into being.
But as I walked, the forest was thick with sound.
The night whispered to me, words layered over one another. The owl cried who, but he didn’t want to know the answer. He already knew, and he watched without trepidation. The moon was huge above me, the ground soft beneath my feet, and I relished the sense of belonging among other silent creatures. We were the same. We lived, but no one really noticed us. I brushed my fingertips against the rough bark and felt an answering greeting, though it was more a feeling than a word. The world was sleeping. The forest was sleeping too, though not as deeply. There was a world coming awake here, and I leaned against the tree that felt like a friend and let the peace wash over me.