Prophecy's Power, Chapter 2

By Emma Moesswilde | Aug 04, 2010

Chapter 1 of The Prophecy was printed July 7 in The Herald Gazette.

The hall buzzed with the chatter of novices, initiates and guests as I scanned the room for Hanna. There she was, her dark head bent intently over a plate of food. I walked down the aisle between two tables to see her.

"How was weaving?" I asked.

She made a face of disgust as I sat down. I laughed and took a slice of bread from a platter. "Is he here yet?"

She gestured toward the table at the front of the hall, raised on a dais. "Mysterious looking, isn't he?"

Mysterious. A dark traveling cloak hung from his shoulders. His shoulder-length brown hair was tousled, his quick, iron gray eyes darting here and there. His craggy face was expressionless and serene, but I thought I could see something a bit like pain in his sharp features. I stared, captivated, at him. I was still staring when he turned, and those flinty eyes found mine. My head began to spin. Was the room really turning round and round?

I saw a blackened field, littered with discarded weapons -- and people. A woman stood among the carnage, her face twisted into a horrible smile. She flung her head back, and shrieked a battle cry to the lightening sky.

Chapter 2

Shapes danced fuzzily in my vision, murmurs buzzed in my ears. Where was I? A muttered male voice said, "She should awake soon enough." My eyes cleared somewhat, and I could see a blue initiate's robe hovering over me, bosom heaving. Mother Elan! She straightened, and behind her I could see Hanna's face, concerned, and even a bit frightened. But her worry was obliterated by the gray presence that suddenly strode to the other side of the bed. It was he, the man, the sorcerer. Murrow, they had called him. I wondered what he was doing here.

As my eyes became accustomed to the bright sun coming through the window, I realized that I was in my dormitory. No other girls were in sight, but a tumbler of water stood on the table next to the bed, and a fire flickered on the grate in the opposite wall.

Mother Elan laid her cool hand across my forehead. "How are you feeling, my dear?"

She was a plump, gentle lady in late middle age, pleasant, but very strict with the novices and initiates at the temple.

I tried to speak; it came out in a whisper. "Fine."

Mother Elan nodded sympathetically. "You fainted, Lia. At lunch."

Hanna chimed in. "You just passed out. You looked up at the dais and fainted dead away. You started to mutter too. Horrible things about red skies, and storm clouds ..." she trailed off.

It all came rushing back. The man -- Murrow. And the lady on the battlefield, smiling over all that death. "There was a queen," I said.

"You hit your head," Murrow cut in smoothly. "You fell quite hard onto the flagstones, Lia." He smiled at me. How did he know my name? Mother Elan must have told him. My name was special to me. Mother had said it came from her mother's mother, whom she said had been a great and powerful woman. Somehow I didn't want this man to know my name. It was the one thing about me that would never change, the one thing that would always belong to me.

There was something about this man. His gray eyes, so terribly familiar, and his enigmatic smile. I couldn't put him in a category, like I could do -- and did -- with most people. There was something different, something I couldn't place.

"... A common ailment, Elan. Merely as a precaution, of course."

The woman flashed through my head again. I decided to ask; surely it was at least of minor importance. "Mother Elan, have there been wars lately? I had such a vivid dream."

Hanna looked even more worried in the background, and Mother Elan's voice quavered as she answered me. "You must have been imagining things, Lia. We're all very safe here -- we always will be."

I was puzzled. Everyone seemed to know something I didn't. Murrow spoke again. "This condition could go on indefinitely, and the novices and initiates will be in an uproar if she keeps imagining things. I will act as her guardian while we travel, and she will be able to recover from this ordeal."

Mother Elan fiddled nervously with her moon pendant. The gray stone circle seemed to watch me. "Well, Murrow, if you think it will protect this temple."

"I do."

"I'm sure she will be safe with you."

"But of course. I am off to visit friends in the South, and to look in on hospitals and various establishments. It will be a pleasure to have Lia along. I will of course bring her back here when I am sure these spells have passed."

"Well. If you're sure she won't be a burden to you, I suppose you know best."

Murrow straightened and walked to the door. "Excellent. If you have no further need of me, I will retrieve supplies and make preparations for our departure." He turned on his heel and left the room.

It was going too fast. "Wait! What's happening?"

Mother Elan sighed. "Lia, you heard us. Murrow is a good friend of the temple; I've known him for many years. He'll take care of you. The things you've been talking about, they can't be bandied about in the temple. You'll make everyone nervous, and we can't have that. It's better this way. When the spells pass, you can come back. It isn't forever, you know." She smiled. "I'm going to go help with the preparations. You need to leave as soon as possible. Get your things together, and come down to the stables when you're ready. Be quick!" And she was gone. Hanna eyed me from her seat on the bed next to mine.

I got up, pulled my trunk out from its place at the foot of my bed. "Here's a bag for you." Hanna held out a cloth pack. I took it, pulling out underclothes and stockings, leggings, tunics, my one pair of trousers from my trunk. Suddenly Hanna was beside me folding clothes and placing them carefully into the pack.

"I'll miss you," she said, her voice low. She folded up the last of my tunics. "You aren't bringing a dress?"

I sighed. "Hanna. I'll be traveling. What use will I have for a dress?" She shrugged.

"Well, I suppose you could ... what if you go to Risdau?" Risdau was the capital city of Lenëa; all golden arches and sophisticated cobbled streets.

Hanna thrust my favorite blue dress at me. "If you see the king, tell him about your poor temple friends."

I scowled. "I'm not going to forget you, Hanna. And I'll be back. Murrow said it was only until the spells were gone."

She placed the dress in the pack and drew it closed. "Done."

"Wait," I said. I reached under my bed, pulling out a length of wood. Wound around it were two strings, braided tightly and oiled. "It's Father's bow," I said. "Could you keep it for me?" Hanna smiled, reaching out to take it from me.

"It'll be safe with me." She placed it next to my bed. "I'll come back for it -- once I've said goodbye."

I got up from the floor and looked down at myself. I was still clad in the tunic and leggings from this morning. They were a bit rumpled; I tugged and smoothed until my tunic hung straight. I grabbed my pack, taking one last look at the cheerless stone dormitory. Hanna followed me out into the corridor and down the staircase. We turned left and walked out into the chilly air. I pulled my tunic closer around myself.

I was grateful for the warmth of the stables, their scent of horse breath, hay and manure. Voices by one of the stalls drew us closer and I saw Alfonse the hostler holding two horses: one a dapple-gray mare, the other a handsome chestnut gelding. Mother Elan was talking to Murrow, who stood next to her, clad in a long cloak and heavy boots. Four saddlebags sat on the ground next to his feet, and a pack like mine was slung easily over one shoulder.

"... There's food in the packs, and a pouch of sterlings for Lia's expenses; you may of course use them as you see fit ...." Mother Elan rattled on hurriedly. Murrow looked up and saw me and Hanna. "Ah, Lia. You're packed?" I nodded. Mother Elan smiled distractedly.

"Dear, you'll need to set off as soon as possible. Here's your cloak." A heavy blue garment was pressed into my hands and I donned it swiftly. "And there's your horse" -- a gesture to the gelding -- "and if you're all ready ..."

Murrow nodded to the saddlebags. "These are yours." He slung them onto the horse's back and gripped the other two in one hand.

I glanced at Hanna. Wordlessly she put her arms around me. I hugged her back. "Come back soon," she whispered against my hair. I nodded, and she broke free from me and rushed away, out of the stable.

Murrow cleared his throat. "Shall we?"

"Yes, yes, of course." Mother Elan, flushed and huffing, nodded at Alphonse. He handed the reins of the mare to Murrow, who swung his saddlebags over the pommel and mounted up with a quiet, "Easy, Flyt."

"Rowin here," he said to me, " 's strong and true. He'll never leave ye, defend ye to ‘is last." I nodded and glanced at Mother Elan.

"We'd best go outside."

The sun was just beginning to sink into the distance, though it was still visible over the trees. Murrow mounted up easily, settling firmly into the saddle. Alphonse nodded to me. It was my turn. I stepped over to the mounting block, got up and sat down on the hard saddle. Alphonse passed the reins to me. "Take care of him, Lia." I nodded and he went back to the stable.

As I patted Rowin's neck I surveyed the temple one last time, its monolithic stone bulk, the orchards and gardens, the scattered outbuildings. A lump rose in my throat. I didn't want to leave -- when would I see my friends, my life, again? This business with spells and hallucinations was confusing me; I didn't understand.

Mother Elan pressed my hand in both of hers, bringing my thoughts back to the present. She smiled at me. "Dear, come back soon. Enjoy your travels." She glanced at Murrow. He turned his horse around.

"Come along. There's a way to ride before nightfall."

I spun my horse round as well. We faced the open, damp road, crusted with a layer of dirt. Mother Elan pressed my hand again. "Be safe, Lia."

I managed a nodded goodbye, a wave before Murrow was trotting toward the road. He turned right and I followed. I glanced back once more, saw Mother Elan waving. Then I turned to face the horizon, and trotted away from the temple.

Emma Moesswilde lives in Belfast.

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