It’s Healer Week on Here Be Magic—and ever so conveniently, it’s also the release week for Vengeance of the Hunter, my latest from Carina Press. And what ties these things together: the character Faanshi, the female lead of the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy, who happens to be the most powerful healer that the nation of Adalonia has ever seen. In this post, I’d like to talk a bit about why I made Faanshi a healer.
I’ve posted before on this site about the Elfquest comic book series, and that’s worth mentioning again here. Some of the most powerful magic users in Elfquest are healers, including the series’ long-running antagonist, Winnowill. (And how a primary villain can in fact be a healer is worth a post all by itself.)
It’s easy to think of healing as a feminine magic, and certainly Winnowill and Leetah are notable as Elfquest characters who are both a) powerful healers and b) female. The series adds gender balance, though, by also presenting Mender and Rain as healers—and while Rain is a briefly mentioned character in the backstory of the Wolfrider tribe, Mender is an ongoing significant character in the recently started, brand new storyline. As with many aspects of its characterization and worldbuilding, Elfquest thusly demonstrated a gender balance that was a fundamental influence on how I set out to write my own stories.
Just as important, though, was the physicality that it brought to healing magic. One of the earliest panels I remember from the very first Elfquest story I read was this one, where Leetah is healing Redlance, who’s been wounded by a human spear.
More than just laying-on of hands, this image spoke to me of the inherent power that could spring out of the connection of a healer’s hands to an injured or ailing person’s body.
It’s a theme I saw elsewhere, in early sources of SF/F in my life. The old Star Trek episode “The Empath”, while not without its problems, gave me another example of a character whose healing powers were very much oriented around physical contact with her subject. With that came another, equally important aspect—how the female who the Enterprise crew called Gem empathically felt the pain of those she healed, even as she healed them. Gem put herself in serious danger when she healed Kirk, and then threatened her own life when she healed McCoy. When I first saw this episode, Gem’s part of it played out for me very powerfully, and stuck with me even as I matured in my understanding of all things Trek.
Last but not least, the works of Gael Baudino contributed a final important building block to Faanshi’s creation. In her novel Strands of Starlight, Baudino tells the story of the character Miriam, later Mirya, who is possessed of incredible healing power that she cannot control. She must heal any injury or sickness she comes across, and it makes no difference whether she likes or even knows the person in question.
All of these came together in my head to eventually put me on the path of playing my own healer characters in roleplaying games—notably, I played Mender on the Elfquest-themed online game Two Moons MUSH. Later, on a Star-Wars-themed game, I played a character of my own creation, Rellawy Woodlake, who possessed great but uncontrollable healing talents, which at first got her mistaken for a nascent Jedi. Eventually, on AetherMUSH, I played the original version of Faanshi.
In Rellawy’s case as well as Faanshi’s, I loved the inherent conflict of a healer character forced to heal even when she didn’t want to, and the fight between antipathy towards one who might need healing and one’s own healer’s instincts. I also greatly enjoyed seeing where these characters’ ability to glean insight into the natures of those they healed would take them.
All of these rolled into the version of Faanshi who appears in the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy. This version of Faanshi is one who, even as she struggles to master her magic, draws great strength from what her magic has told her about Julian and Kestar, after she saves both their lives. It’s a source of reassurance that bolsters her almost as much as her faith in her goddess, Djashtet.
And it’s a big reason behind why Book 1 of this series is called Valor of the Healer.
If you’ve read Valor already, I invite you now to check out Vengeance of the Hunter, newly released by Carina Press! If you haven’t read Valor yet, now is a great time to start. Valor’s official page is here, and the page for Vengeance is here!