Voice of Crow

Voice of Crow by Jeri Smith-Ready Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Voice of Crow by Jeri Smith-Ready Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jeri Smith-Ready
feel different, incomplete. The symptoms vary depending on which part of them has been stolen.”
    “They have to live that way forever?”
    “Until the dead soul thief lets go. Sometimes they do it on their own, or a Crow person convinces them to give it back.”
    Growing up in Asermos, Rhia had known no Crows, and it seemed as if every day brought a new awareness of their duties and powers. “Whose souls do the Kalindon elders hold?”
    “Probably the soldiers who slaughtered them. Each man is no doubt lying awake now, hearing the voices of those he killed.”
    “Good.” Rhia bit her lip, trying to quench an ember of bitterness. “Not good for the Kalindons, of course. Can the soldiers talk back?”
    “No. Only second-and third-phase Crows can speak to the dead, and even then only with the help of thanapras.”
    “But I spoke with Nilo after he died, without thanapras.”
    “He was your brother. Sometimes loved ones can connect to us in a way others can’t.” She took Rhia’s hand—an effusive gesture for the reserved old woman. “I’ll speak to the elders, urge them to let go and cross over. But not tonight. Between the battle and the journey and the funerals, I’ve nothing left.”
    “I know you’re tired.” Rhia squeezed Coranna’s fingers, which felt too cold for the warm weather. “That’s why I want to help.”
    “Retrieving soul parts is exhausting, even dangerous. Besides, the thanapras isn’t safe for the baby. You can help me after your child is weaned if, Spirits forbid, the elders haven’t all passed on by then.”
    Rhia’s shoulders sagged. “I hate feeling useless.”
    “You have many years to learn your second-phase powers.” Coranna released a sigh that was half groan. “I wish you hadn’t progressed at a time like this. It’s such bad wisdom for one so young.”
    “Too late. What do I do with it?”
    “Keep it to yourself.”
    Rhia thought she’d misheard. “We can’t tell the survivors that their loved ones aren’t at rest?”
    “It would only trouble them,” Coranna said. “Remember, your highest value is compassion.”
    “What about truth?”
    “Truth brings pain. It’s our duty to bring peace.”
    “Yes, to the dead.”
    “And the living.”
    Rhia wanted to protest, but she couldn’t deny that the last thing the surviving Kalindons needed was more heartbreak.
    “Get some sleep.” Coranna squeezed Rhia’s knee. “Tomorrow I’ll show you some meditations to help quiet the voices.”
    A few minutes later, Rhia sank back into bed. Marek shifted and wrapped himself around her. She nestled into his embrace, hoping his presence would calm her thoughts.
    As her breath slowed and deepened, the chorus of dead Kalindons faded at last. Sleep drifted over her like fog.
    “Comfortable?” a deep voice said.
    Rhia’s eyes flew open. She must have dreamed it.
    “Look at the cozy little Crow, lying in the embrace of my murderer.”
    Her muscles seized, waking Marek with their jolt.
    He came alert at once. “What’s wrong?”
    Skaris the Bear, the man Marek had killed to avenge her own attempted murder, was in her head.
    “Nothing,” she whispered. “My foot cramped.”
    “Want me to rub it?”
    “It’s better now. Sorry I woke you.”
    Marek kissed her temple, then stroked her hair until he fell asleep again, his hand going limp against her head.
    She waited for her old enemy to speak again. His voice hadn’t stretched and distorted itself like the Kalindon elders; it had been as clear as a nightingale’s call.
    Did he hold a piece of her soul? Why did he haunt her and not Marek? She didn’t dare ask Coranna, for fear of revealing Marek’s guilt.
    “I’ll be sure to tell her,” Skaris said.
    Rhia jerked again. Marek grunted and sat up.
    “What is it?” he said. “And don’t tell me it’s another foot cramp.”
    She reached out in the darkness. “I hear him.”
    Marek took her hand and kissed it. “Who?”
    “Skaris.”
    His grip tightened.

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