I don't remember where I read this, probably in a printed anthology of science fiction from the 1970s or 1980s.

A woman is trained to be a handler for a powerful psychic with limited intelligence. He has lots of abilities and raw strength, but I seem to recall this man could be dangerous if not controlled rigorously. I'm a bit fuzzy on how she "handles" her charge - through drugs or intimacy or just because he was manipulated to trust her implicitly.

For some reason, she is no longer able to control him properly (was she dying?) so at the end of the story she holds him close and tearfully cuts his throat to make sure he is not a threat to anyone.

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    Set in a non-tech society, the girl was assigned to be the child's minder either when he was born, or as soon as his ability was discovered. The problem being that the use of his power would damage his ability to discern right from wrong, eventually burning it out completely. I recall seeing it printed in one of the monthly sci-fi/fantasy magazines, but I recall neither which one, nor the story title. Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 7:48

2 Answers 2


That would be The Promise of God by Michael Flynn. It's no longer on his website, but he writes briefly about it here and you can hear a reading of it at Clarkesworld. The central idea is that the use of magic destroys the conscience, such that the main character mage is no longer able to distinguish right from wrong.

I haven't read it in a while, so some details below may be off. The story uses archaic language ("wereman" and "wifman", the handler is a "rixler"), and starts with a woman coming to the "mage" with a problem while the rixler is away. He debates helping her or not, eventually revealing that his "solution" (summoning salamanders) would be simple, effective and horrifically overkill for the problem.

At the end, the rixler reveals she has cancer and doesn't have long to live. As she comforts the mage, she slits his throat to make sure he won't be a monster without her as his conscience.


That sounds like a small part in a set of short stories Anne McCaffrey wrote. I remember there was a handler, and a psychic empath? someone who could sense other psychics like a hound? who was large, brutish, and if not properly handled would be dangerous somehow. A main character is the person Daffyd ap Owen. If that sounds familiar try the novella "To Ride Pegasus", or the short stories "A Womanly Talent", "Apple", or "A Bridle for Pegasus". I hope one of them is the story you are looking for. Have not read the series in about 20 years, so that is as close as I can get for you.

  • You're thinking of "To Ride Pegasus", the first book of McCaffrey's Talent series, but I'm pretty sure that there was no throat cutting.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 9:58

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