"He was christened in blood, Sascha. Don't ever forget that." Tamsyn sat down cross-legged in front of her. "Until he met you, do you know what he was like? Do you know where he was going? Day by day I watched him get more protective, more unbending and strict, especially with the kids, and there was nothing I could do."
Sascha was caught by the passion in the healer's voice.
"He's undoubtedly our alpha, someone we'd follow into hell and back if he asked it of us. But it takes more than an iron fist to rule, and he was starting to lose those other parts."
"He's so good with Kit," Sascha said, recalling all the times she'd seen him with the juvenile.
"Five months ago, not long after we lost Kylie, he banned Kit from solo runs."
"He didn't want the boy hurt." Tamsyn shook her head. "Kit has the scent of a future alpha - to have him always have a babysitter could've destroyed his development and turned him from us. Even more than the other juveniles, Kit needs the freedom to let his beast roam."
"You persuaded Lucas to change his mind?"
"No, Sascha. You did." She put a hand on Sascha's knee. "Kit was ready to rebel when Lucas quietly took him out for a run soon after he met you. When he came back, Kit wasn't with him."
"He let Kit go his own way?" Sascha knew it must've been one of the hardest things he'd ever done. Protecting his own was a compulsion with him. It was also something he couldn't indulge in - it would smother the very people he was trying to shelter from harm.
Tamsyn nodded. "You allow him to think, to see past his emotions."
"I think you're giving me too much credit. I can barely understand my own emotions."
"I think I know what an E-Psy is."
Sascha twisted her fingers together. "You think E stands for Emotion, don't you? I've already considered that but it makes no sense. Before Silence, all Psy felt emotion."
Tamsyn didn't answer her. "The changeling healers around the country have a sort of informal alliance," she said, in what seemed a complete change of topic. "We share our knowledge in spite of the fact that we might belong to enemy groups. The alphas don't even try to stop us. They know we're healers because we can't be anything else - we refuse to withhold information that could save a life."
"And the Psy call themselves enlightened," Sascha whispered, stunned by the humanity of these so-called animals. "We wouldn't give water to our enemy if he lay dying on our doorstep."
"You would, Sascha. You're Psy, too. Maybe, just maybe, there are more like you than you know."
"If you knew how much I hoped for that... I don't want to be alone, Tamsyn." Tears choked up her throat. "I don't want to die in cold silence."
Tamsyn shook her head. "You're never going to be alone again. You belong to us, to Pack." Her hand covered Sascha's. "Don't be afraid of letting go of the PsyNet. We'll catch you when you fall."
Sascha desperately wanted to tell her the truth but couldn't. If any of the leopards found out, they'd never allow her to set her plan in motion and it had to go ahead. If it didn't, the SnowDancers would declare war. In a war between the most lethal wolf and leopard packs in the country and the Psy, thousands would die, innocents and guilty alike.
Nobody could know the ultimate secret of the PsyNet. It wasn't only an information net, it was a life net. No one knew when it had been created, but theories abounded that it had come into existence on its own because Psy minds needed the feedback of other Psy minds.
Deprived of that feedback, they shut down and died. Even comatose Psy retained the PsyNet link, their bodies well aware of the requirement for the connection to ensure survival. The instant Sascha dropped out of the Net, she'd begin to slip into the final darkness.
"Thank you," she said to Tamsyn, hiding her fear.
The woman squeezed her hand. "The reason I told you about the healers alliance is that we pass on a lot of things through word of mouth. One of our oral stories is very interesting - it tells of healers of the mind. They disappeared from the stories almost a hundred years ago. Interesting timing, don't you think?"
Sascha stared. "Mind healers?"
"Yes. They could apparently take suffering and anger from people, enabling them to see past the block emotion can often be. They could also heal those who'd been abused, violated, hurt in a thousand different ways. They bandaged up wounds that might otherwise have destroyed people." Tamsyn's eyes were intent. "They were adored because everything that they took from others, they put into themselves. They had the capacity to neutralize the burden, but it had to have hurt."
Sascha was so stunned, she was trembling. All those times she'd imagined taking away people's pain, all those times she'd felt the heavy rock of others' emotions sitting on her heart... none of it had been pretend. "They healed souls," she whispered, knowing Tamsyn was right.
The explanation fit. No wonder she was fracturing. Her cardinal powers had been brutally contained for twenty-six years, growing endlessly with no release. The pressure point had been reached.
"I think that's what you are, Sascha. A healer of souls."
A single tear streaked down Sascha's face. "They told me I was broken," she whispered. "They told me I was flawed." Because of their lies, she'd contained her light, her rainbow of stars, trapping the healing gifts of her mind. "They crippled me. And they had to have known!" Her mother certainly had to have understood her child's unusual mind. She was Council - she knew their history, what had to be hidden... what had to be destroyed.