Prophecy’s Power

By Emma Moeswilde | Oct 18, 2010

Previous chapters of "The Prophecy" have been printed in the Herald Gazette.

Murrow laughed, something I hadn't heard before. "Antho! Get up, Lia, my crash-landing pupil!" He sounded overjoyed. I heard feet crossing the floor. The steps stopped near my head, which throbbed as I stood.

Antho was a short, chubby man, balding, though he looked to be about the same age as Murrow. He grinned at me; Murrow stood next to him, smiling, and looking almost like a boy. "We came around the back way."

"So I saw." Antho chuckled. "You know you could have come in the normal way. Nobody will mind."

I admired the sun streaming in through the windows, making the reddish stone wall sparkle. Murrow shrugged, and again I wondered why he was so secretive.

"I didn't expect to see you this soon. You said you wouldn't be here until midsummer," Antho said, sounding miffed.

Murrow's smile slid away, to be replaced by pure business. "I found her," he replied. "I thought it was best she came here first."

Antho looked shocked. His mouth opened slightly, exposing small, very white teeth. He looked at my mussed hair and grubby tunic, my frustrated face. "And?" he said. He, too, was all business now. "You're sure it's her?"

Murrow nodded. He looked at me, then at Antho. "Shall we sit?" he asked. "There's a lot of explaining to be done."

He nudged me into a heavily cushioned chair when I remained standing. Antho sat as well, his wide trousers spreading around him and his balding pate glistening in the sunlight. Murrow lowered himself into another chair, his shoulders slumped. His eyes were steady as he looked at me.

"You already know that I am a sorcerer, Lia. What you don't know is what kind of sorcerer I am." He sighed and glanced at Antho. "Sixteen years ago, I was a member of the Order of the Wolf, too. I was a promising young student, with a gift that was rare: I could sense the emotions of people around me. It was not mind reading, far more imprecise, and it was hard to tell what other people felt, and what were my own feelings. Finally I mastered it, though, and I became a brother here; Antho became Head Brother. I began to teach, and I was happy. Always suspicious, though, for I knew that there were some that longed for our knowledge of sorcery, of wolves, of the elements and how to control them.

"One day a young man came to the Order. He was my age, and I began to befriend him, to trust him as others did, and eventually to believe him worthy of Brotherhood. But on the day before his induction ceremony, I felt something in his mind, something new and different. It upset me. It was greed. This man had learned our secrets, and yet he wished to go away from here, and make money for himself, by selling our secrets to others, across the sea. I lashed out at him, like the Wolf, but without wisdom. With my dagger, in my haste and rage, I killed him. Antho banished me, because he had to. I could only wander, and wish, and practice my skills in secret, so that I would never misinterpret again, and kill someone from my mistake."

"So was he guilty?" I asked.

"Partially," Murrow replied. "He was indeed thinking of sharing our knowledge, but to hospitals, armies, and others who could greatly benefit from it. Still, the Wolves' secrets are closely guarded. While I should not have killed him, it is imperative that this sacred understanding be kept only within the Brotherhood."

I nodded. Strangely, I felt no different now that I knew Murrow to be a killer. Neither, it seemed, did Antho.

"Dinner, Murrow?" he asked. "Should only be a few minutes."

Murrow sighed. "I suppose. We must talk, though. There are other things Lia needs to know, as well."

"Tomorrow," Antho said. "You both are tired, hungry. The other things can wait."

Murrow's eyes were still troubled, but he nodded. "Shall we?" he said. He stood, offering me his arm, as though we were fine lords and ladies going to a grand ball. I laughed.

"This way," Antho said. He held the door for us as Murrow and I paraded down the corridor toward the Main Chamber of the Wolves.

 

 


 

The next day, after breakfast, Murrow, Antho and I met in Antho's room once again. We sat clustered around a small table, Antho darning socks and Murrow fiddling nervously with his teacup. I waited, wondering what was going to happen. Antho began, his small, pale eyes surveying me kindly. "Lia, Murrow has already told you about your gift of prophecy. And as he said, there are things you must know. We'll start at the beginning."

"I was the youngest of three children," Murrow said, taking a breath. "My parents were ambassadors, and respected advisers to the king. My sisters and I were gifted with sorcery, but for my parents, the country always came first. My mother was only slightly gifted, but she used her power- the sensing of emotions, like mine-to her advantage in politics. Kasha, the oldest, would use her power, which was very strong, to control others, make them do what she wanted. Not cruelly, but to get her own way. Selia and I were much younger. Kasha was already seven when Selia was born, and I came along three years after that.

"When Selia was 21 she fell in love with a hunter from the north. Our parents disapproved. They had a politically advantageous match set up with a duke from Morlen. Selia was always a bit of a misfit, though. For her gift was that of healing, and it was not helpful in politics, nor was it something they understood. But Selia was very good at it, and she learned a lot from local village women. Markus was poor, not connected at all, and my parents despised him. The next year, with my help, he and Selia ran away north together. I was with the Order at the time, and I came and visited Selia and Markus in their new village. My parents did not know where she was. And they didn't care, for she did not deserve their family name." His voice was bitter. "It was better for Selia, though, and in a few years she told me she was expecting a child. Nine months later, she had a baby girl. She and Markus were so proud."

He stopped, and I stared at him, hardly daring to hope. "Was that me?" I asked.

"Yes," Murrow said. "It was you. I am your uncle, as well as your godfather. I came to visit you just after you were born. You and your parents were so happy, and I was with the Order, and everything was right. But the next year, well, you know what happened. I was expelled and went looking for students to bring to the Order, and I visited Selia, Markus, and you again. Kasha was still searching for Selia, though, and after a while it became too dangerous for me to visit. Then, when you were seven, the fever came. Your mother worked so hard to stop it, and few people died. But when she got sick," he paused and swallowed, eyes hollow, "it devoured her. You were there. I was away. I had received news from the border of war and went to investigate. When I got back, it was too late. And within the next week, Markus died as well. It couldn't be a coincidence, I thought. Your parents knew that Kasha was looking for them. They knew, as did I, that Kasha would stop at nothing to get revenge on the woman she believed had damaged the family name beyond repair. We wondered if Kasha had perhaps engineered the fever with the help of the king's sorcerers, and planned your father's accident.

"I didn't know if Kasha knew about you, so I decided to come get you. When I arrived at your village, though, you were gone, and I had to go into hiding myself. I looked for you when I could, but sometimes news of a sickness like the one that had killed Selia would surface, and I knew that Kasha was still looking, and you were still alive. When I was traveling North this spring, I decided to visit the Temple near your village. Maybe they would have news of you. I thought that your power had already begun to show, and it would be best to find you before something happened. When I saw you there, I knew it was you. You look just like your mother."

His voice caught. Antho clasped his shoulder for a moment. "I wished I'd found you earlier," he continued after a moment. "And when you collapsed... my grandmother used to do the same. She had the same gift. I knew you needed to leave. I know Elan-we met sometimes at gatherings between the Order and the Temple. I told her you needed special care, that the Order could provide it. She guessed what I was talking about, I suppose. I didn't want to scare you."

He stopped, looking exhausted. Antho took over. "I know something about these sorts of power," Antho told me. "I'm somewhat gifted myself. I can check to see how strong your power is. Maybe, if it's not very potent, we can train you here and then you can go back to the Temple."

I nodded. I could see Hanna again. It would be like before. Antho leaned across the table, dropping his darning in his lap. He lightly touched my forehead. "Close your eyes."

I did so. It felt rather like there was a butterfly in my head, flitting about, investigating. Suddenly the butterfly touched something. It wasn't my mind, more like a well or a spring, which only occasionally let forth water. It was dry now, but when the butterfly flew near it, a drop of something seemed to drip out, saturating my mind. I just barely glimpsed something green, and then the butterfly flew out again. I opened my eyes.

The room was the same-only seconds had passed. I felt different somehow, though. "Well," Antho said. "She certainly has something. What do you think, Lia?"

I was still somewhat shaken. "A spring," I said, uncertainly.

"Yes! Oh, Murrow, she definitely has it! We'll have to figure out how much, but it's very strong. Oh, she could be a wonderful Seer! Just wonderful!"

He spoke on and on, as Murrow nodded with his eyes closed. I couldn't listen. Murmuring something about a breath of air, I left the room, letting the door shut behind me. I ran down the corridor, down the flight of steps that led to the first floor.

I opened the door to the outside, breathing deeply of the cool spring air and feeling my senses clear. The meadow, which had seemed so inviting to me yesterday, was fogged over now. The cool, damp air was a relief against my flushed skin. I made my way to the stables, looking for Rowin's comforting bulk.

I went straight to his stall, and he nickered when he saw me. I reached over the gate, stroking his nose. In the dark of the stable, I mulled over what Murrow had said. Everything made sense. I knew more about my parents than I ever had: They had eloped together, with Murrow's help! I imagined him part of a lovers' plot and laughed to myself. Rowin whinnied with me.

Was my gift as strong as Antho had said? He seemed so delighted. I thought of the spring I had felt in mind and felt the confusion from Antho's room come rushing back. As I pushed the thought out of my head, I heard the faint sound of strings being plucked. Going down the aisle, I peeked over doorways and around the few horses in the barn to check. I saw nothing. As I neared the end of the stable, however, the music grew louder, and as I entered the door to the feed room I saw where the noise was coming from.

A boy sat slouched among sacks of grain and bales of hay, plucking a small harp intently. I backed away. Clearly I should leave. But as I listened, the tune changed. Where it had been hesitant before, it was now powerful, a strong cheerful air that echoed among the barrels of oats. I couldn't move. The music wrapped itself around me, holding me fast.

I don't know how long I stood there, spellbound by the tune emitting from that small instrument. Eventually, the boy looked up. He was my age, or perhaps a little older, with brown eyes so dark they looked black, shadowed by heavy eyebrows and glaring right at me.

"What?" he asked. "Was there something you needed?"

I shook my head, backing away.

He stood. "Why were you here, then?"

I murmured something about visiting my horse.

"He's not in here, is he?" He made a show of looking around. His voice was low, yet challenging.

"It was the music," I said. "It was-beautiful."

He smirked, stepped toward me. "Glad you enjoyed it. Now go."

I went. His eyes seemed to follow me, until I was outside the stable. I leaned against the wall, panting. From inside I heard the music begin again, louder this time, angrier.

 


 

Murrow's door was closed when I came back to the dormitories. I went into my room, tired from this morning's revelations and my strange encounter with the boy in the stables. Lying on my bed, I remembered his angry face, glaring at my compliment. What did people learn here, anyway? There were no women, just men, all sorcerers, I presumed. Murrow had been a very adept sorcerer; he had said it himself. Antho seemed to be as well-I thought of the butterfly flitting around my head and shivered. I still couldn't quite get used to all this magic. It was very different from the simplistic, earthy lifestyle of the Temple.

Had my mother come here? Had she and my father visited Murrow, met Antho and eaten in the Main Chamber just as I had?

It was a dizzying thought. I closed my eyes. Darkness closed around me, and I sank into sleep.

Several hours later, I awoke, not knowing quite where I was. Then I saw the engraved wolf on the door and remembered. It had grown dark while I slept, the sun just disappearing as I washed my face, combed my newly clean hair, and changed into a clean, light gray tunic. Ten minutes later, I knocked on Murrow's door. He opened it, looking refreshed.

"I was just about to come get you," he said. "Dinner is starting. Would you care to join us?'

I nodded. He led the way down the stairs, out into the courtyard and across the expanse of stone, following several young men, who joked and jostled each other as they entered the large double doors of the building across from the dormitories. A sea of chatter greeted us as we joined them. Men and boys sat at low tables scattered around the room, amply lit by the many candles set in the walls. I saw many of the diners cast their eyes over me, some appraising what they saw, others merely curious as to what a girl was doing here, in this inner sanctum of male learning. Antho, seated near the opposite wall with several other men near his age, waved to us.

"Lia! Murrow! Glad you came!" he said when we had woven our way through the Chamber to him.

The men around the table greeted Murrow jovially, some of them studying me with interest. As Murrow explained who I was, I looked around the room.

Boys from the ages of eight onward sat with teachers, or other students, conversing earnestly or laughing contentedly among themselves. While I watched, several young boys got up and retrieved instruments from the wall-lutes, pipes, drums-and sat back down. They began to play, though I could hardly hear above the noise.

Antho bade us sit, and we ate with the other instructors: Dom, Maks, Leam, Michal and Robbie. The Order, I learned, was like a school, teaching music, languages, art and sciences. The only difference was that all the students were male, and that sorcery was offered as a course, if not actual lessons in the art, then the history and theory of it. Many noble families in the capital sent their sons here to be educated.

The table was laden with platters of vegetables, cheeses, fruits and breads. The fare of the Temple was plain in comparison. I noticed the lack of meat at the table, remarking quietly on it to Murrow as we helped ourselves to the generous spread. "The brothers are vegetarians," he said. "Some can speak to animals, and they refuse to eat meat. The rest simply live without."

I looked for the boy from the stables, wondering if Antho could tell me who he was. Finally I found him, seated alone against the far wall. A small leather case lay on the floor next to him: probably the harp I had seen him with earlier. I prodded Antho. "Who's he?" I asked quietly.

"Ah," Antho said, following my gaze. "Conor. He's new here. Amazing, really. His parents are the head of the king's spies-they know everything that's going on within five hundred leagues, but they couldn't for the life of them figure out what to do with their son. Luckily Murrow found him, and brought him here. He has an amazing gift. Give that boy an instrument and he could charm the King of Morlen himself. But his parents," he stopped and frowned. "Well, let's just say Conor could have been a lot happier if he had been allowed to play music all his life, instead of learning how to fight."

"I saw him in the stables today," I admitted. "He didn't seem happy."

"No, he's not happy. Leam-he teaches music-he can't even get the boy to pick up an instrument in class. It's a pity, because he could teach Leam a lot." He laughed. "Why don't you go to lessons tomorrow? I daresay the Temple ladies didn't give you much schooling."

I shook my head.

"Murrow needs some time off. I'll show you around tomorrow, and you can learn something while you're here."

"I'd like that," I replied. "Maybe I could go to a music class as well?" The Temple frowned on instruments, but they let bards come and play occasionally, and I had always wanted to learn to play like them.

"I'll talk to Murrow," Antho promised. He beamed at me, and took a bite of pie. I smiled back, glancing once more at the figure in the corner before turning an ear to the enthusiastic tunes being played by the young students.

 

Emma Moesswilde lives in Belfast.

 

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