Read Soul of the Fire Online

Authors: Terry Goodkind

Tags: #Fiction, #Epic, #Fantasy

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BOOK: Soul of the Fire
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Ann’s cheeks plumped as she smiled. “So they are, Richard. The Mud People must know better than to try to bribe with rice cakes the powerful forces they believe in and fear, don’t you suppose?”

It’s the act of making the offering that’s important,” Richard said. By his unruffled attitude toward the woman it was apparent to Kahlan that Richard had learned to pick the berries out of the nettles.

Too, Kahlan understood what he meant. “It’s the supplication to forces they fear that is really meant to appease the unknown.”

Ann’s finger rose along with her brow. “Yes. The nature of the offering is really only symbolic, meant to show homage, and by such an obeisance to this power they hope to placate it.” Ann’s finger wilted. “Sometimes, the act of courteous yielding is enough to stay an angry foe, yes?”

Kahlan and Richard both agreed it was.

Better to kill the foe and be done with it,” Cara sniped from back at the door.

Ann chuckled, leaning back to look over at Cara. “Well, sometimes, my dear, there is merit to such an alternative.”

And how would you ‘kill’ evil spirits,” Zedd asked in a thin voice that cut through the drumming of the rain.

Cara didn’t have an answer and so she glared instead.

Richard wasn’t listening to them. He seemed to be transfixed by the Grace as he spoke. “By the same token, evil spirits … and such could be angered by a gesture of disrespect.”

Kahlan was just opening her mouth to ask Richard why he was suddenly taking the Mud People’s evil spirits so seriously when Zedd’s fingers touched the side of her leg. His sidelong glance told her that he wanted her to be quiet.

Some think it so, Richard,” Zedd offered quietly.

Why did you draw this symbol, this Grace?” Richard asked.

Ann and I were using it to evaluate a few matters. At times, a Grace can be invaluable.

A Grace is a simple thing, and yet it is infinitely complex. Learning about the Grace is a lifetime’s journey, but like a child learning to walk, it begins with a first step. Since you were born with the gift, we also thought this would be a good time to introduce you to it.”

Richard’s gift was largely an enigma to him. Now that they were back with his grandfather, Richard needed to delve the mysteries of that birthright and at last begin to chart the foreign landscape of his power. Kahlan wished they had the time Richard needed, but they didn’t.

Zedd, I’d really like you take a look at Juni’s body.”

The rain will let up in a while,” Zedd soothed, “and then we will go have a look.”

Richard dragged a finger down the end of a line representing the gift—representing magic. “If it’s a first step, and so important,” Richard pointedly asked Ann, “then why didn’t the Sisters of the Light try to teach me about the Grace when they took me to the Palace of the Prophets in the Old World? When they had the chance?”

Kahlan knew how quickly Richard become wary and distrustful when he thought he felt the tickling of a halter being slipped over his ears, no matter how kindly done, or how innocent its intent. Ann’s Sisters had once put a collar around his throat.

Ann stole a glance at Zedd. “The Sisters of the Light had never before attempted to instruct one such as yourself—one born with the gift for Subtractive Magic in addition to the usual Additive.” She chose her words carefully. “Prudence was required.”

Richard’s voice had made the subtle shift from questioned to questioner.

Yet now you think I should be taught this Grace business?”

Ignorance, too, is dangerous,” Ann said in a cryptic murmur.


Zedd scooped up a handful of dry dirt from the ground to the side. “Ann is given to histrionics,” he griped. “I would have taught you about the Grace long ago, Richard, but we’ve been separated, that’s all.”

His apprehension alleviated by his grandfather’s words, if not Ann’s, the sharply defined muscles in Richard’s shoulders and thick neck relaxed as Zedd went on.

Though a Grace appears simple, it represents the whole of everything. It is drawn thus.”

Zedd leaned forward on his knees. With practiced precision, he let the dirt drizzle from the side of his fist to quickly trace in demonstration the symbol already drawn on the ground.

This outer circle represents the beginning of the underworld—the infinite world of the dead. Out beyond this circle, in the underworld, there is nothing else; there is only forever. This is why the Grace is begun here: out of nothing, where there was nothing, Creation begins.”

A square sat inside the outer circle, its corners touching the circle. The square contained another circle just large enough to touch the insides of the square. The center circle held an eight-pointed star. Straight lines drawn last radiated out from the points of the star, piercing all the way through both circles, every other line bisecting a corner of the square.

The square represented the veil separating the outer circle of the spirit world—the underworld, the world of the dead—from the inner circle, which depicted the limits of the world of life. In the center of it all, the star expressed the Light—the Creator—with the rays of His gift of magic coming from that Light passing through all the boundaries.

I’ve seen it before.” Richard turned his wrists over and rested them across his knees.

The silver wristbands he wore were girded with strange symbols, but on the center of each, at the insides of his wrists, there was a small Grace on each band. As they were on the undersides of the wrists, Kahlan had never before noticed them.

The Grace is a depiction of the continuum of the gift,” Richard said, “represented by the rays: from the Creator, through life, and at death crossing the veil to eternity with the spirits in the Keeper’s realm of the underworld.” He burnished a thumb across the designs on one wristband. “It is also a symbol of hope to remain in the Creator’s Light from birth, through life, and beyond, in the afterlife of the underworld.”

Zedd blinked in surprise. “Very good, Richard. But how do you know this?”

I’ve learned to understand the jargon of emblems, and I’ve read a few things about the Grace.”

The jargon of emblems …?” Kahlan could see that Zedd was making a great effort at restraining himself. “You need to know, my boy, that a Grace can invoke alchemy of consequence. A Grace, if drawn with dangerous substances such as sorcerer’s sand, or used in some other ways, can have profound effects—”

Such as altering the way the worlds interact so as to accomplish an end,” Richard finished. He looked up. “I’ve read a little about it.”

Zedd sat back on his heels. “More than a little, it would seem. I want you to tell us everything you’ve been doing since I was with you last.” He shook a finger. “Every bit of it.”

What’s a fatal Grace?” Richard asked, instead.

Zedd leaned in, this time clearly astounded. “A what?”

Fatal Grace,” Richard murmured as his gaze roamed the drawing on the floor.

Kahlan didn’t have any more idea what Richard was talking about than did Zedd, but she was familiar with his behavior. Now and again she had seen Richard like this, almost as if he were in another place, asking curious questions while he considered some dim, dark dilemma. It was the way of a Seeker.

It was also a red flag that told her he believed there was something seriously amiss. She felt goose bumps tingling up her forearms.

Kahlan caught the grave twitch of Ann’s brow. Zedd was straining near to bursting with a thousand questions, but Kahlan knew that he, too, was familiar with the way Richard sometimes lost himself for inexplicable reasons and asked unexpected questions. Zedd was doing his best to oblige them.

Zedd rubbed his fingertips along the furrows of his forehead, taking a breath to gather his patience. “Bags, Richard, I’ve never heard of such a thing as a fatal Grace. Where did you?”

Just something I read somewhere,” Richard murmured. “Zedd, can you put up another boundary? Call forth a boundary like you did before I was born?”

Zedd’s face scrunched up in sputtering frustration. “Why would I—”

To wall off the Old World and stop the war.”

Caught off guard, Zedd paused with his mouth hanging open, but then a grin spread, stretching his wrinkled hide tight across the bones of his face.

Very good, Richard. You are going to make a fine wizard, always thinking of how to make magic work for you to prevent harm and suffering.” The smile faded. “Very good thinking, indeed, but no, I can’t do it again.”

Why not?”

It was a spell of threes. That means it was bound up in three of this and three of that. Powerful spells are usually well protected—a prescript of threes being only one means of keeping dangerous magic from being easily loosed. The boundary spell was one of those. I found it in an ancient text from the great war.

Seems you take after your grandfather, taking an interest in reading old books full of odd things.” His brow drew down. “The difference is, I had studied my whole life, and I knew what I was doing. Knew the dangers and how to avoid or minimize them. Knew my own abilities and limitations. Big difference, my boy.”

There were only two boundaries,” Richard pressed.

Ah well, the Midlands were embroiled in a horrific war with D’Hara.” Zedd folded his legs under himself as he told the story.

I used the first of the three to learn how to work the spell, how it functioned, and how to unleash it. The second I used to separate the Midlands and D’Hara—to stop the war. The last of the three I used to partition off Westland, for those who wanted a place to live free of magic, thereby preventing an uprising against the gifted.”

Kahlan had a hard time imagining what a world without magic would be like. The whole concept seemed grim and dark to her, but she knew there were those who wanted nothing more than to live their lives free from magic. Westland, though not vast, provided such a place. At least it had for a time, but no longer.

No more boundaries.” Zedd threw his hands up. “That’s that.”

It had been almost a year since the boundaries were brought down by Darken Rahl, fading away to rejoin the three lands again. It was unfortunate that Richard’s idea wouldn’t work, that they couldn’t cordon off the Old World and prevent the war from enveloping the New World. It would have saved countless lives yet to be lost in a struggle only just beginning.

Do either of you,” Ann asked into the silence, “have any idea of the whereabouts of the prophet? Nathan?”

I saw him last,” Kahlan said. “He helped me save Richard’s life by giving me the book stolen from the Temple of the Winds, and telling me the words of magic I needed to use to destroy the book and keep Richard alive until he could recover from the plague.”

Ann was looking like a wolf about to have dinner. “And where might he be?”

It was somewhere in the Old World. Sister Verna was there. Someone Nathan cared deeply for had just been murdered before his eyes. He said that sometimes prophecy overwhelms our attempts to outwit it, and that sometimes we think we are more clever than we are, believing we can stay the hand of fate, if we wish it hard enough.”

Kahlan dragged a finger through the dirt. “He left with two of his men, Walsh and Bollesdun, saying he was giving Richard back his title of Lord Rahl. He told Verna to save herself the trouble of trying to follow. He said she wouldn’t succeed.”

Kahlan looked up into Ann’s suddenly sorrowful eyes. “I think Nathan was going off to try to forget whatever it was that ended that night. To forget the person who had helped him, and lost her life for it. I don’t think you’ll find him until he wishes it.”

Zedd slapped the palms of his hands against his knees, breaking the spell of silence. “I want to know everything that’s happened since I’ve last seen you, Richard. Since the beginning of last winter. The whole story. Don’t leave anything out—the details are important. You may not understand that, but details can be critical. I must know it all.”

Richard looked up long enough to catch his grandfather’s expression of intent expectation. “I wish we had time to tell you about it, Zedd, but we don’t. Kahlan, Cara, and I need to get back to Aydindril.”

BOOK: Soul of the Fire
8.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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