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Empathy's Pain

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Chapter 1 - Age 10

“I don’t want to do it, it hurts!” she screamed before dropping to the floor and curling her tiny body inward. She was nothing but a small lump on the floor.

“Affinity, you must. You must learn this, I’ve told you that. It’s very important.” He bent over her prone form and gently pried her knees from where the were curled tightly against her body. Her luminous eyes were filled with pain and tears. There was so much pain it broke his heart and he nearly gave in and allowed her what she wished for, to stop the lessons for the day.

“It hurts and I can’t block it out! I’ve tried so hard to learn everything you’ve taught me but I can’t do it. I’m not smart enough!” she wailed, attempting to pull away from him and curl back into a ball.

He wouldn’t allow it, he pulled her to her feet and steered her to a low stool. “Sit.” He waited for her to settle into the seat before he went to fetch a glass of water. “Drink this.” He pushed the glass into her small hands, curling her fingers around the cup when she didn’t move. “Dink.”

She lifted the glass to her lips and drank slowly. He nodded and stepped back, watching as she drank. She was small, tiny for her years. So slender she appeared malnourished. It worried him, caused him to fear for her. Fear she might break before he could teach her what she needed to know. At ten years of age, she should be taller, but she’d only attainted the height of a girl of about seven years old. She was a good foot shorter than she should be. When he’d discovered her at the age of four he thought she was much younger and it caused him a great deal of fear because of how strong her power was.

As he studied her now, he pushed out a sigh. Perhaps her size would be an advantage, maybe the evil would underestimate her because of her small stature. Underestimate her because of her wide, innocent brown eyes. Eyes that stared at you with such intensity you believed she was reading things in your very soul.

The glass was now empty and she held it out to him with a small smile. “Thank you, Carder.”

He nodded and took the glass from her, setting it on the table. “How do you feel now?”

“Better. I think maybe I needed a break.”

“Perhaps you did. Are you certain you’re all right?”

A brilliant smile lit her face. It was a smile straight from the heavens. One that made him believe in higher beings. “Yes, I’m sure. Can we try again?”

“If you feel up to it.” If she requested a stop, he’d let her beg off lessons for today. Though moments before he was insistent on continuing. It was hard to resist giving in to her, she looked so frail. He stepped back, allowing her to slip past him and make her way to stand in the center of the room. When she gave him a nod, he smiled. She was a tiny warrior. “Clear your mind and try to concentrate. Focus on a pleasant memory, something bright and happy. It must be strong to dispel the pain you feel.”

She nodded and her eyes closed.

These were the same instructions he’d given her a dozen times before and that was just today. He stood back and waited while watching her. Though she was learning, she hadn’t been able to focus for long. The pain always crept back in. Her empathy for the suffering of the people was much too strong. If she allowed herself to continue to feel it she would eventually be swallowed by it. It would kill her. Slowly but surely it would end her life. Drive her mad and steal her soul until she perished. That is the end he feared above all else. That this tiny girl he’d come to cherish would be swallowed by the emotions she couldn’t hide from and in the end, she would crumble as those who came before her had done.

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