Sabriel D'Cannith is a stately woman barely into her earliest forties. She carries herself with dignity and confidence. Her eyes are a sharp hazel, her lips are thin and her laugh is loud and infectious. Her wire-straight hair, black and streaked with steely greys, is held back in a functional knot. Down the length of her left arm is the intricate and delicate detailing of her birthright -- the Mark of Making. The other arm, silver and polished-metal smooth, is a perfectly articulated piece of Artifice, an example of the prosthetics she has created to restore movement to those who lost pieces of themselves to the War.
She is sitting at a small restaurant table, inside the lightning rail station at Metrol. Her luggage, in the form of one
|A handy haversack that holds the following: |
- 2 pairs of gloves (1 leather, 1 silk)
- 2 pairs of shoes (1 for walking, 1 for dancing)
- 1 fashionably broad-rimmed hat
- 1 warm coat
- 1 cloak
- 2 tunics (1 day, 1 evening)
- 2 pairs of trousers (1 day, 1 evening)
- 2 dresses (1 day, 1 evening)
- 4 pairs of knee-high hose (2 knitted wool, 2 lightweight cotton)
- 1 pair full-length hose
- 2 pairs of ear-rings
- 1 necklace
- 1 pair of hair sticks
- 1 hair claw
- 1 hair brush
- 1 night gown
- 1 pair well-worn slippers
- 1 nightcap
|As well as the following: |
- 1 copper kettle (fills with hot water, 2xday)
- 2 tea cups
- 1 tin of crackers
- 1 tin of cookies
- 6 marmalade sandwiches
- 1 journal
- 6 pencils
- 2 pens
- 10 volumes of poetry
- identification papers
- travel papers
- letters of credit
- 12 vials of oils and ointments for artifice
- 12 calligraphy brushes stored in a carved wooden box
- 1 Cannith UMD (duplicates the effects of Detect Magic, Prestidigation and Read Magic),
- 1 Vest of Master Artifice
- 1 pair of Cannith Goggles
- 1 Spare Hand
, rests at her feet. Sharing the table is a young man, elbows on the tabletop, listening to her speak. He is going to be a writer, he told her. He's going to be somebody. He wants to know everyone's story, wants to share it in the world. He wants to understand everybody,wants to make sense of it all.
And he couldn't help notice the sheen of her arm. "I know there must be a story there," he had said, spinning his drink nervously as he offered her a shy smile. "And I know its awfully forward of me, approaching a lady like yourself like this, but I couldn't resist asking you," here he gulped the air and started to speak more slowly, as though he only just realized that he was racing. "I would love to hear your story."
"When I was young,"
Sabriel says, sipping from a cup that holds no tea, only hot water. "There were no great hopes for me. I was no prodigy, to be sure of it. Instead, I was the sort of terrible and unruly child who would happily bury herself alive in mud, sticks and terrible scraps with the neighbourhood children. My studies, as they were, came naturally enough but I didn't love them. I certainly didn't worry about them. And who could worry about such things, really, when Verey from down the road had torn your tree fort right from its branches!"
The woman laughs happily, "No no, my studies were of no use to me then. What I learned instead was exacting perfect, and perfectly childish, revenge."
"I never meant to do great things in the service of the House. I would have been just as happy a cobbler as an artificer. Even as an adolescent, I couldn't bring myself to care, or be afraid, when they shuffled me off (my hair painstakingly cleaned and combed by
my brother, for the occasion) for the Test. There wasn't any angst, crying in my
|Sabriel's brother, Raal, is four years her junior. Unmarked, he nevertheless showed a natural talent for artifice and a passion for the work. A decade earlier, he abandoned his rights to the Cannith name, after an intense courtship with a minor noble in Sharn. Although he has since been widowed, he continues to call Sharn his home. When Terrice left her mother's home three years ago, she went to live with her uncle, where he provided for her as she began to establish herself in the City of Towers. |parents' lap, losing sleep; I didn't endure any of those sorts of things, the afflictions adolescents develop as they wait for their turn, sick with nervousness and wonder. No. I knew that either way, I'd be well off and making a life for myself."
"Would you just listen to me!"
|Sabriella and Maudrin d'Cannith were always kind and supportive parents, although they didn't always see eye to eye with their fiercely individual daughter. They have long been well-loved and respected in their House, and as much as Sabriel has always avoided politics, she was always polite and sociable at their parties. The fact that she is their daughter carries some weight, and helped strengthen her reputation. It's not likely that she could have earned her Signet Ring without the weight of their parentage behind her. |
Her parents recently retired to Pylas Talaear. Sabriel enjoys a friendly and ongoing correspondence with them.
she says with another laugh. "Monologuing like that."
the man, a boy really, startles and reddens. "I don't mind. Please do carry on."
She doesn't really need the encouragement to carry on. "Well then, if you insist."
She lifts the cup to her lips. On her left ring finger, curled around the teacup's handle, is a silver ring set with a square-cut gemstone. The light that passes through the jewel catches on the finespun, gossamery symbols that appear etched into its heart.
Sabriel drains the last of the water before continuing. "I didn't expect the Mark to change me, but it did. It changed everything. My life's purpose became perfectly clear. I suddenly felt proud of my lineage, and of the gifts it afforded me. I wanted to use those gifts, wanted to help my family, community, House, with my blessing."
She smiles wryly, lines deepening around her eyes. "I suppose being set apart like that -- being Marked -- maybe it got to my head. You know how young people are."
The woman raises her eyebrows apologetically. "Filled to bursting with a sense of confidence and importance, knowing that they can undo the mistakes of the previous generation. As the war tore apart, I could rebuild. I could do something very special. Many things lost to the war could never be rebuilt, but bodies? Within reason, I could do that."
"My work was never glamourous and I had to work diligently for good results. I wasn't gifted in artifice, but I was stubborn and relentless. Through sheer repetition, and from countless errors, I learned to be very good at what I did."
Raising her right hand, she touches thumb to forefinger. "Building these."
Sabriel pauses to study the hand, thoughtful. She wiggles her fingers absently and sets the hand back down upon her lap.
"It didn't grant me abundant fame or any nonsense like that. But I came to earn the respect of my colleagues, and of my House. I did try, always, to stay out of politics, and give the more influential members of the House a wide berth; I have no need for powerful friends, and I'm just candid enough to make powerful enemies if I'm not careful."
Sabriel shakes her head with a chuckle. "Either way, I'm proud of what I've accomplished. And although a few unambitious individuals may have been put of by my determination, I don't think it's so strange for a Cannith heir to be a little eccentric and married to her work."
As the server stops by the table to refill her cup, Sabriel smiles at the writer. "I will be away from Cyre a long time, I imagine. I can't even guess when I may return. I packed up my apartment in Eston and sent my belongings ahead to Sharn weeks ago. I thought I'd better, ah ... I just wanted to visit Metrol for what may be the last time. To take in her sights, and see some old friends."
"Today, I am leaving it all. A new life,"
she hesitates, her expression softening. "Even after all these years, there are always new beginnings."
I am not a young woman any longer. The years behind me may represent even half of my life. But what a life I have enjoyed! And those years were put to enormously practical, enormously gratifying, use.
The Mark gave my life direction, focused my work. And that work -- my work -- has made everything worthwhile. My research has changed lives, has bettered bodies rendered unusable by this long war. What more could anyone wish for, what richer reward could there be, than to know that you eased suffering and brought hope, mobility and dignity back to those who needed it.
I gave so much of myself to my work. My passion, my creativity, and yes, even the odd limb. Well! Any researcher worth her keep will always test her theories on herself. It was only natural that, while my research was in its preliminary stages, I would perfect the work on my own body. I would never dream of subjecting anyone to the procedures if I was unwilling to undergo them myself; it simply wouldn't be ethical, and you can tell some of my esteemed colleagues that I said so. And I must admit that I didn't dislike the notoriety it garnered me; being known by the sheen of my arm as I strolled the streets, the whispers of "She hacked the real one off herself!", as though I was a fearsome creature, inhuman in my dedication to the craft of Artifice, willing to sacrifice my very body to its insatiable demands.
I don't regret it. The prosthetic, I mean. It's a brilliant, beautiful piece.
Sacrifices were made, of course, and my daughter ... When she was still small there wasn't any real love or connection between us. The business of producing Marked heirs -- and don't fool yourself, it is as much a business as any other duty borne by members of this House -- is not a sentimental one. Or it wasn't, at least, for me. I had done my duty, given life to a child who did manifest a Mark; I never doubted she would. But that was the end of my obligations to her, or the House, in that capacity. The war effort was constantly escalating, and the wounded returning home demanded all of my care, attention and energy.
I wouldn't come home for days or weeks at a time.
She's grown now. Nineteen years old and serving the House in Sharn.
But it's never too late to make amends for past mistakes. I'm not so arrogant that I can't take responsibility for what went on between us.
I have an offer in Sharn by
an old friend
|You guessed it! It's everyone's favourite younger-brother, Raal! |
, to collaborate on his work, and I've taken him up on it. He's no one that you would have heard of, one of those orphaned-types who abandoned his title to marry for love. He owns a little shop, and is working on small flying machines in his spare time. A worthy diversion, I think. There's certainly no sense in letting my skills languish in disuse simply because I'm leaving this old place behind.
And Terrice, my daughter. She invited me to live with her.
I want to see her again. I don't -- I couldn't -- expect her forgiveness. But I would like her company. I would like to know her.
It's never too late.