Aurora's World

Talking to the Dead

That morning I’d woken up, and there was something not quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was, so I’d put it to the back of my mind. It wasn’t until much later I realised I shouldn’t have. Of course by then I was already in the midst of something I didn’t understand until much later. When it first happened I couldn’t have understood it. At the time we knew something unusual was happening, because a number of people had died on their 18th birthday. Unfortunately we didn’t know what was causing those deaths, so there was no way I could know what was coming, and I’m not sure, even if I had, I would have cared. My parents were in the midst of preparing for my birthday party, where I would meet the woman I was going to be handfasting, which meant I had to do the same, from the moment someone walked into my room to wake me up.
I was born a prince. My parents were the King and Queen of a small kingdom that was almost entirely surrounded by mountains, a Kingdom my older brother would rule when Father finally decided to give up his throne, a Kingdom none of them realised was changing. No one did at the time. Until I collapsed, at the very moment my bride was introduced to me, it wasn’t possible for them, or me, to know what was coming. We couldn’t have changed things even if we had known. Magic was going to transform our world in ways we never could have imagined. People would fear it, covet it, hate it, love it, seek to destroy it, try to protect it… the list was never ending, and I was the first person to survive the blooming process.
Even now I have no idea how I did. The pain in my head got so bad I was certain that it would explode, and for a little while I actually would have preferred death. It seemed simpler. Unfortunately the decision wasn’t mine to make – my body survived the same thing that had killed so many of my father’s subjects. My eighteenth birthday was always going to be a day of change, but the changes that ended up happening were ones that I never could have anticipated, especially when I started hearing voices. At first there was a cacophony. None of the voices were understandable, although I did try to untangle them. During the time they slowly became less of a noise I was in the castle’s medical room, with the healers, who were trying to work out why I’d collapsed, although they never once suggested magic as a reason.
Mother was worried about me. She spent hours sitting with me, holding my hand and telling me stories she may well have been making up the way she had when I was a child. It was nice, even though I knew that she was only there because I’d collapsed and the healers had no idea what was actually wrong with me. Had they known she would have been elsewhere, fulfilling her duties as Queen, the way she had done since I was old enough to understand what she was. Having her there did help a lot. Listening to her took my mind off the voices I couldn’t get rid of, and seemed to calm them as well. Eventually, after being there for twelve long days, I actually managed to pick out a voice that I vaguely recognised, one that belonged to a woman I had met before I could remember anything clearly.
‘Sauin?’ Grandmother sounded unsure. ‘Can you hear me?’
“I can.”
‘You don’t need to speak, love, I can hear your voice fine if you just think what you want to say. I wasn’t certain this day would ever come, because everyone was so insistent they wanted to talk with you no-one would give you a chance to get used to what had happened. Listening to Ilaria’s stories did seem to calm everyone enough that I could convince them to let me be the first one to actually talk to you. Once they heard my arguments they realised I was right, as talking to someone that you already know is much simpler than talking to a total stranger.’
‘Being able to talk to you is appreciated, but I would have thought Grandfather was the better choice as I did actually know him.’ Grandfather died when I was eleven, but before we had been very close. ‘Mother told me about you, though, because she loved you very much, and I know she misses you every day.’
‘Had he known what was coming I’m certain he would have waited, but he chose to move on to his next life. I’m sorry, Sauin, I wish I had better news for you. For a year, maybe a little more, he watched over you all, until it got too hard for him to be able to see you without being able to help when you had problems. That’s when he decided it was time to start again.’
‘Why haven’t you made that decision?’
‘Some people don’t. There is another world, very much like Beshnai, and our deaths are not so different to our lives, although I have had a chance to learn so much more about our history. I’ve met people here from the very beginning, and hearing them talk about their lives is fascinating. Your grandfather never really settled. He might have done if he gave himself more time, but there are those who never do, and I wasn’t going to force him to stay when it was obviously hurting him so much.’
‘Can you tell me who he’ll be?’
‘I can, but I’m not certain I should. You are the first of our people to have magic, but you aren’t going to be the last. There are others who are getting close to blooming, people who will need your help, and it is important that you focus on what is coming.’
Sighing, I nodded. ‘First of ours, but not the first on Beshnai?’
‘At the moment there are three magics users on Beshnai who have survived the blooming process. There’s one in Ialaera and one in Konir, and both bloomed in the days after.’
‘How many will there be?’
‘That is a question I can’t answer, although there may be someone in the future who can. We cannot tell you what’s coming, but we can tell you what’s happened, and we do know, for certain, that others will bloom in the future. Right now there is no one with magic here, so I have no idea how death will affect your magic either.’ Grandmother sighed. ‘Unfortunately we will have to learn together.’
‘Do you know why I have magic?’
‘Not for certain. We have a theory, but we have no idea if it’s right or not.’
‘What is it?’
‘Our world is magical. It has been ever since we first called Beshnai home, and there are those who think it’s likely we have changed because of that magic. We have been here for millenia, so I’m not certain I believe the theory is right, but it is possible. How are we to know how long it would take that to happen, or if there was something that had to happen in order for it to have an effect on us? It is also possible something else has happened, something we don’t yet understand. All we can do for now is learn to deal with the situation we’ve found ourselves in.’
‘Do you know why I survived?’
‘I don’t, and I don’t know why the others survived either. All we know is you did, which means that you have magics you need to learn to use, but you, so far, are the only person with the ability to speak to the dead. That’s why everyone was so desperate to speak with you.’
‘Should I tell the healers that I have magic?’
‘That is a question that only you know the answer to. I believe they would accept what you’re saying is the truth, as so many people have died recently for no explicable reason, but if you aren’t certain of that it might be better if you keep what you know to yourself.’
‘Until they find out why I collapsed they’re determined to keep me here.’ I understood why, but that didn’t make me any less certain I was going to free myself as soon as possible, because I hated laying around doing nothing. ‘They want me to rest, to eat properly, to be taken care of, because I am the spare.’
‘You aren’t just the spare, love. They care about you, Sauin, because of who you are, not because of what you are. I can tell you now you will never be King – both your father and brother have a good long life ahead of them.’
‘Are you telling me the dead can see when people are going to die?’
‘We can, and before you ask I’m not going to tell you when you’re going to die. Even though I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future I do know that the decisions you make will be affected by finding out what they might lead to. Anyone who does know anything about what will happen always has to think before they tell someone about how they might react to the information. Learning about the day you will die may make you think you have to do certain things much faster than you actually do, which might, in turn, cause problems in the future for other people.’
That made sense. It almost made too much sense, and I realised that anyone who could see the future would have to think very carefully about who they told what. At that moment all I could was hope that I didn’t have that ability, because being able to talk to the dead was more than enough. ‘Is it possible for you to tell me what abilities the others have? Those who have bloomed like me?’
‘Not yet, because right now they don’t know, and until they find out we don’t know. As I said this is going to be a learning process for all of us. The dead didn’t expect this to happen any more than you did.’
Nodding, I brushed a hand through my hair. The one thing I had been permitted to was shower, fortunately, although they did make certain that I always had someone with me, just in case I collapsed again. It wasn’t much of an issue. From the time I was old enough to go to state functions I’d spent time naked around other people, while they bathed me and clothed me. My sister was much less lucky that I was, as she had to be up earlier than me, so she could be made even more beautiful than she already was.
‘Can you tell me who’s likely to bloom next?’
‘Yes, I can.’ Grandmother sounded relieved, as though she was glad to have a question that she could answer. ‘We have a number of names ready for you, including those who are likely to lose their lives, although there is a chance you might be able to save them. I’m not certain how – all I know is that it is possible because their death dates are…’ She sighed. ‘It’s hard to explain to someone who can’t see them, but there are different types. Some deaths are definitely going to happen. There is no way of stopping them. We call them black death dates. Red death dates are changeable, and all of the dates we’ve seen for bloomers are red, so there is a chance you might be able to save their lives, or someone else might.’
‘Okay, well, the first thing I need to do is get out of here, and then I need to can write down these names.’ I sighed. ‘This wasn’t the present I was hoping to get on my birthday.’