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The Sister

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He had told Jonas that as Receiver of Memory he had honor but was without power. Now he knew that the honor, also, was slipping away.

The Elders told him that his previous two selections of a child to be trained as Receiver had been flawed. He had insisted, the Elders reminded him with disapproval, that each child have some capacity he claimed that only he could sense. They would not weigh that with this next selection.

"The Eight, Katharine," the Giver suggested. "She could be selected and training begun early. A selection is already not the same as an Assignment. If I began to train her when she was Eleven, or still a Ten—"

"You will begin the training early," the Chief Elder said, measured. "Katharine is not the child we have selected. You will begin the training of that child. She is a Nine. Her name is Lily."

Also selected without any input from the Giver was the wolf that would be Lily's. He was young, fluffy-furred and far from graceful. Unrelated to the Giver's own wolf, who kept his head on his paws and slid only a glance at this newcomer.

Another child, came the image into the Giver's mind. His wolf was weary of this, as the Giver himself was. A child to train, a child-wolf to join them.

So far as the Giver could ascertain, the wolf pup had yet to name himself. Why should he need to; his world was narrow, his dim memories of mother or any others in a litter with him already faded. The pup was as stunted in his way as Lily herself—and was younger.

Through his own wolf, the Giver told the pup Lily's name, as Lily herself did not know it. A flower-scent, sharp. Nothing like Rosemary, but the Giver felt the co-incidence that his chosen daughter's name too had been a flower.

The pup stared at them, mottled nose tipped up, but did not answer.

The Giver expected that Lily, having met her wolf pup, would be upset when told that he would not be allowed in Lily's family dwelling. Shallowly upset, of course. Any ordinary child of the community could feel no more deeply than that. She could not sense Beyond and had yet to Receive a memory directly from the Giver.

Instead, Lily actually laughed. The Giver had thought she would protest. Perhaps, he had imagined, she would refer out loud to Jonas's wolf, although the name Jonas, like Rosemary, was not to be spoken.

The Elders had gambled that Lily would be particularly conscious of the community's rules. Her own family unit carried the shame of Jonas breaking them.

"He's like a newchild in the Nurturing Centre before he's assigned," Lily said comfortably. "Those don't stay in a family's dwelling."

Not except under unusual dispensation. That might never be allowed again in this community. Jonas had in fleeing taken the officially-unnamed newchild that had been permitted extra nurturing in the home of his family unit.

The Giver yearned to know that Jonas, and Gabriel, were safely Elsewhere. The mind-to-mind connection between their wolves had not been not a strong one, after less than a year of training. It had faded within days of Jonas fleeing.

The memories had returned slowly, most of them to the Giver himself. He believed meant Jonas at least had escaped beyond the borders of the community, rather than died. But he could not be certain.

Lily was crooning to the wolf pup. "You clumsy animal," she said, already sounding fond.

The wolf pup first, and the rules, before he set himself to being the Giver. To transmitting memories, to training, to inevitably attaching himself again.

The Giver reached inside himself for what strength he had left, after Jonas's loss, after Rosemary's, after having to carry the memories alone so many years. His wolf slowly got to his aching paws, angling towards the pup. They had a duty. These young creatures to train, and these memories among all the others that were so heavy to keep carrying.