Prophecy’s Power: Section 1 of Chapter 6

By Emma Moesswilde | Mar 19, 2011

The black horse was still following me four hours later. The light was beginning to dim, the gray clouds becoming black and purple. The damp dirt road smelled of spring, the air was cool, fresh and breezy. The rain had stopped some time ago, much to our relief. Now Murrow turned in his saddle for the third time since we had left the Order behind.

“The town of Innes is a five minute ride from here. We'll get rooms at an inn — I don’t fancy sleeping on wet ground tonight. Stay quiet and listen to me, though.”

He turned back around, facing the never-ending horizon of grayish hills and thin brown road. Conor’s horse whinnied; Rowin’s answer was weary. I was tired, too.

We turned off the main road five minutes later, as Murrow had promised. Innes seemed to be a bustling town, considerably larger than the tiny village near the Temple of the Moon. First there were farmhouses, many more than we saw along the main road, dotting the tame green landscape. Then they clustered together, becoming less rustic.

Several people walked the muddy streets, baskets over their arms as they investigated the insides of the few shops. We rode alongside them, attracting little notice; horses were probably a common sight in this town. As we passed the central square, a small park of stone benches around a speaking platform, Murrow saw the inn. It was a tall, clapboard building that looked quite new. A hanging, painted wooden sign in front identified it as The Spotted Roe.

As we reached the entrance, Murrow dismounted, making a “stay here” gesture with his hand. Conor and I waited in awkward silence, not looking at each other. At last Murrow reappeared, nodding with satisfaction.

Inclining his head for us to follow him, he led Flyt around back to a small, clean-smelling stable. A narrow aisle boasted four stalls on either side, half of them occupied. Murrow took the fourth stall on the left-hand side, Conor and I the two closest to the door opposite his. We untacked in silence, draping saddles and bridles over the stall doors and filling buckets with water and oats. I gave Rowin a pat on the nose, grabbing my pack and saddlebags and following the other two out the door.

It was nearly dark outside; the street next to the entrance was deserted now. The inside of the inn was bustling, and full of chatter, music and laughter. It was a sharp contrast to Rankin’s establishment near the Temple. Next to the fire, several musicians strummed lutes and harps. One pounded a drum.

A buxom woman made her way thorough the crowd, smiling as she arrived next to us.

“Your beds are ready,” she said in a cheerful voice. “Would you care to eat first? One of the girls will bring up your things,” and she waved to one of the serving girls, who set down her pitcher and curtsied. “On second thought, maybe two. Mamie!” Another girl came running. Murrow inclined his head in thanks as the two took our possessions up the stairs at the far end of the room.

“Please, sit,” the woman continued. And she was gone, as Murrow beckoned to us to do as she had bid. We sat at one of the low wooden tables. The people around us seemed to be locals; only a few diners appeared to be travelers like us. I felt self-conscious in my heavy tunic, leggings and boots, still damp from the rain and muddy in places from puddles Rowin had stepped in. The townsfolk were dressed in long gowns, obviously homespun or wool, but still elegant compared to what my companions and I wore.

A shadow loomed over me, and the woman, clearly the proprietor of the inn, set in front of me a plate piled with a mutton chop, boiled greens, a thick slice of bread with butter, and a bowl of creamy soup. Murrow and Conor received the same, and it was all they could do to mutter their thanks before digging in to the spread. The food was excellent, made even better by the fact that we were cold, hungry and tired. I wondered for a moment if Murrow and Conor adhered to the vegetarian diet of the Order. My uncertainties were put to rest a moment later, as I saw Conor tucking into his mutton, while Murrow ate heartily of the soup, greens and bread, but left the meat untouched.

We ate in silence, occasionally overhearing snippets of conversation much more interesting than the discourse on science or art that was commonly heard in the Order. People seemed to be curious about their new sovereign. Where had she come from? Why had they not heard of her before? Why had the throne not gone to the nearest relative, an elderly, crotchety old duke from the Southwest?

Murrow glanced at me once, gesturing for me to listen closely. I did. Kasha, I was sure, had answers to all of these questions and more. Already, after a week of reign, she had placed strict tax measures on the country, more so than ever before. In addition, she had begun to propose binding treaties with other countries: Morlen, our neighbor and traditional enemy to the south, the Klann Islands, even Hirran, far to the west. People were concerned. They wondered how someone who did not even have royal blood could rule the country well, and help it become strong again after Briam’s rule.

Soon my food was finished. I looked at Conor, who was leaning on the table, eyes rather glazed. Murrow caught my eye, nodding upstairs. Although it was early, we were all tired. I remembered that Murrow could sense what I was feeling. He could tell when I was tired, upset, or happy. This disconcerted me for a moment, and I saw Murrow glance at me in concern. I smiled at him, got up and watched as he nudged Conor and led us to the bar, where he asked the woman directions to our rooms. “Second three doors on the left of the third landing,” she replied with a smile. We couldn’t miss them. Wearily we climbed the stairs and went into our adjoining rooms, me in the middle, Murrow and Conor on the left and right. My pack was on the bed, and I undressed quickly. I could hear Conor and Murrow getting ready for sleep as well as I cleansed my teeth in the pewter basin and got into bed. I blew out the lamp, and everything was dark. The pillow was very soft and the quilt was very warm as sleep claimed me.

 

Emma Moesswilde lives in Belfast.

 

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