In Dana’s temple in Paras Derval, leaning against the altar built to her, the new High Priestess Leila grieves. Her voice, heavy with prophecy, sent the boy she loved to a destiny that destroyed him. Her voice, filled with power and love, called him back and sent him plummeting to his death. He is gone, and it is her fault. Her goddess knows the death was necessary, but in her heart she grieves.
On a battlefield, the fiery Jaelle (faithful High Priestess for many years, though now another holds the name) sheds rare tears for the death of the boy and thinks this came too soon.
There was death in this—Dana warned them, long ago. The Mother Goddess is full of power, rage, and war. But she is also a mother.
And Finn dan Shahar, whatever else he might be, is still a child. A child loved by those the Mother calls her own.
She is not always merciless.
Dari chose well, he hears and understands with joy, though there is a grief to learn that his bright, beloved brother has died in the choosing.
He breathes out, and his head lolls in his father’s lap as his spirit escapes (someone shuts his eyes, but he is not there to notice).
There is a path ahead of him, but a voice calls to him before he begins to tread it and says “Finn!”
He turns and sees a woman with hair so red that he at first thinks she is Jaelle, though he knows she is not. Jaelle is fierce and young, and while this woman can be the first (the Child knows her, and fears her) her face and outstretched hand are gentle. And her eyes are more ancient than all but the oldest of myths (he should know. He was one, not an hour ago).
He takes it, not knowing why he trusts her, and is pulled into an embrace. He does not cry, not now (not here) but feels utterly safe like he hasn’t since he realized that his mother was fragile, and it was his place to make certain she did not break. The woman moves to hold him at arm’s length and says, in a voice like the hearth fire, “You will see your brother again, child, but you have had much of your childhood taken away. Will you not see if you may recover it?”
There is a door, and at her nod, he opens it.
And steps through.