Prophecy's Power, Chapter 3

By Emma Moesswilde | Sep 11, 2010

Chapter 2 of "The Prophecy" was printed Aug. 4 in The Herald Gazette.

It was growing dark, and after several hours of riding, Murrow had only spoken to ask if I was doing well, or needed to stop, never once trying to make conversation. He rode in front of me, though the road was wide enough for two horses to walk abreast. The sun had nearly disappeared and I was beginning to feel a bit miffed from this lack of talk, when Murrow turned in the saddle.

"There's an inn up ahead. I daresay you're getting quite tired."

I made a noncommittal noise in my throat, which seemed to satisfy Murrow. He faced the front again, and soon I could see lights glimmering in the distance. Several minutes later a small farmhouse was visible, a 100 yards back from the road. It looked warm and inviting.

Murrow veered into the yard and I followed. We dismounted, taking our bags with us. "Through here," Murrow said, leading Flyt toward the back of the house, where a small stable adjoined to the inn. It was cramped, with no stalls, only a wide aisle. One small, swaybacked mare that had seen better days was tethered there. Murrow left our horses next to her with full nosebags, and I followed him through the door to the inn.

A few big, burly men sat at one of the two rough-hewn tables, drinking from leather jacks and laughing raucously. It looked as though the foresters all needed shelter from the evening chill tonight.

"Where do we go?" I warily asked. Murrow began to speak, but was stopped abruptly as the thinnest man I had ever seen strode into view. He looked about, and spotted the two of us standing by the doorway. Making his way across the room, the man appeared at my side, looking gloomy.

"Murrow! My good man, it is a shock to see you again so soon!" His voice was gloomy, too, in tenor, and reedy.

Murrow nodded, his voice carrying over the drunken laughter. "Rankin, I have come back this way sooner than I thought to. As you see, I have taken a ward from the Temple of the Moon, half a day's ride northwest of here." He nodded at me. "This is Lia."

Rankin turned as though seeing me for the first time. "Ah. Pardon me, madam. I didn't see you there." He nodded distractedly. "A room-or rather, two? Food and drink?"

"Please. We would take supper in our rooms, however," replied Murrow.

It was odd to hear this formality from such a craggy, rough- looking man. Rankin led us to the back of the room. We followed him up two flights flight of stairs, the noise downstairs becoming more muffled as we reached what seemed to be the top of the house. Rankin bowed us into two adjoining rooms as we reached the third landing, and departed with a toneless, "Your food will be up in a moment."

I took the right room, Murrow the left. It was not until I had taken off my cloak that I realized that Murrow had our bags. I longed for fresh clothes; my tunic from this morning was sodden and cold.

I knocked tentatively on the door to his room, and was answered by a pleasant, "Come in."

I entered. Our two packs were on the bed, one partially opened. He looked up from his seat on the floor. "I thought I might see you."

I didn't know what to say. "Um, sir, my pack."

"Ah, yes." He reached for it, rising from the floor and crossing the room to hand it to me. "The food will be up momentarily. Would you care to dine with me?" He looked a bit shy, and I was taken aback by how young he suddenly looked-perhaps 30 or 35, only a bit younger than my mother.

"If it would please you, sir," I replied. His mouth twitched. The door rattled, then suddenly opened to reveal a slight young girl standing in the hall. She walked in unsteadily and placed her loaded tray on the table next to the bed. Bobbing a hasty curtsy, she backed out of the room and shut the door. I heard quick, pattering footsteps on the stairs and looked at Murrow. He caught my eye, gesturing to the food and smiling widely.

"Please, sit. Eat." He took a seat on the bed; I sat upon the hard-backed chair opposite him. Murrow broke the crusty loaf of bread and spread butter liberally on one section, pulling one of the bowls of stew toward him in the same movement. I took a piece of bread as well, and dipped it into my bowl of stew, which looked to be barley and vegetables. I put a spoonful in my mouth and watched Murrow chew. The light from the candle next to the bed was welcome in the darkening room. I took a breath and prepared to ask the question that had been nagging at me.

"Are you a sorcerer?"

"Yes. I am," Murrow replied after a moment. "Not a very proficient one." He gave a twisted smile that made me wonder if this were indeed true. "But a sorcerer nonetheless. I can sense things. Well, some things." He smiled again, unhappily. "It's truly not much."

"Oh." I ate another spoonful of soup. It was good, rich and full of herbs. I had one more question. "Why did you take me away?"

His eyebrows rose, his brow wrinkling. "Lia, you have a sickness. Elan told you. I'll bring you back once you've recovered."

"I don't believe that." I resisted the urge to walk out of the room ad back to the Temple, away from this obstinate man who I didn't even know. "I hit my head on the floor. I'm all right. If only someone would explain what I saw, I wouldn't ask."

The look of happiness slid off Murrow's face, and his eyes darkened again. He ran a hand through his hair, making it stand on end, and he closed his eyes for a moment. "Lia, do you have dreams?"

What a strange question. "Not often, sir. But sometimes."

"And do you have visions?"

"Visions?" I echoed.

"Glimpses, sights in your mind-of things that aren't there?" His face was intent, concentrated.

"Sir, I don't understand." I cringed at how meek I sounded, but I wanted to please him. His voice was urgent, and his face had a faint air of disapproval.

"Just answer the question, Lia. I don't mean normal dreams, I mean vivid pictures, flashes that come during the day."

"Not dreams." I leaped to my mind's defense, trying to protect it from Murrow's incessant, confusing questions. "I never dream like that; I sleep soundly all the time. Visions, though. Yes, I guess so, but I always thought it was something from a story, or a memory."

"Some are. But some people have special dreams, special visions of things in the future, or the present or the past. Real events and happenings that they can see in their minds," he explained, face softening a bit as he tried to make it clear for me. "It's rare, but it happens." Again, he closed his eyes for a second, and then opened them. "I think you have this gift, and it wouldn't be safe for you to stay at the Temple in this state. You'd always be asking questions, scaring the others, bothering Elan." He waved off my protests and continued. "The poor woman thinks you have a sickness, as does your friend and all the rest at the Temple, by now."

"You must control your visions, learn how to read them, or you'll go mad." He looked almost sympathetic now, and his voice was kinder. The rain beat relentlessly on the window, a grim, gray torrent. "I have a friend who can help. I was going for a visit anyway. We'll leave in the morning." He smiled at me, face unsure but hopeful. "Finish your soup."

I did. While I ate, I thought. I had met healers and hedgewitches, but never a sorcerer. Murrow was so hard to read, one moment businesslike, the next kind, the next unsure and lost. There was something about him, though, despite his interrogation and near rudeness, which made me want to trust him. Could I really have powers like a sorcerer, though? It seemed so unlikely....

Unbidden, my vision over this morning's kitchen work rose to my mind. Murrow was here, wasn't he? He had to be the same man. I could never forget those steel eyes. And if I had seen Murrow's arrival before it happened, what else was I able to see? I thought again of that terrifying woman I had seen. Could that be a vision as well? My head began to spin.

The soup was gone and I had drained my mug of water. Murrow jolted me from my meditations. "If that's all, I will sleep. You should as well. We have several days of travel ahead of us. I'll wake you-no, I‘ll have a maid do that." I nodded gratefully. It would be strange for Murrow to see me in bed, for all that he was my travel guide.

"Thank you, sir. For telling me. And for traveling with me, and all."

He nodded. "Think it over, go slowly. And if you have another vision, tell me. It could be something useful to know." He clasped my shoulder for a moment.

I turned to go. "Good night, sir."

"Lia? Please, don't call me sir."

The next morning was cold and gray, and neither Murrow nor I spoke as we ate a hasty breakfast and bid goodbye to Rankin, who waved us off as we trotted onto the main road, wrapped in cloaks against the heavy mist. This far north it was nearly always gray, and the stark rocks and scrubby pines gazed dismally out at the sparsely vegetated land, dotted with hardy goats and the rare sheep. It was a land that seldom changed: there was no snow in winter, only rain and sometimes sleet, which froze on the rocky mountain roads and made already difficult travel nigh impossible. The main road was dirt, though this early in the spring it was damp and muddy.

As Murrow had promised, we rode steadily for the next four days, traveling perhaps 40 leagues each day. At night we camped, each rolled in blankets against the northern chill and the damp mist that hung low in the forests where we slept. We rarely talked, but rode in what seemed to be a companionable silence, occasionally commenting on animals or the weather. I didn't know quite what to make of this man, or his beliefs that I could see the future. But, I reasoned, if Murrow was indeed insane, I could surely find shelter in the nearest town, and if he was telling the truth, which seemed likely, what better place to be than with a sorcerer? He would probably teach me how to control the visions, or whatever they were. And I needed to learn-I had no wish to go mad. With luck, I could return to the Temple before harvest time: they would need my help with the crops, anyway.

With my thoughts thus organized, I rode with an easy heart, watching the cliffs change to rolling hills and valleys, lush and green, as we came further south.

We breakfasted early on the fifth day, and broke camp quietly. As we rode, Murrow told me that we were a mere 15 leagues from the abode of his friend, and that we would reach there before sundown at the very latest.

"Antho, my friend, is a peculiar chap," he explained. "He lives in the woods, in a sort of Temple, not unlike your own. His Temple is rather smaller, but he is the head of it, though he does not like the term ‘Father.'"

"Antho's Brotherhood does not worship the moon, but the wolf. Not the great god of your pantheon, but the animal itself. The brothers love the wolf and all it stands for: honor, courage, the ability to sing." He chuckled. "I was planning on dropping in to see him on my way, but he will be an excellent tutor for you. Antho is a much better teacher than I."

I nodded, trying to look interested. I had not been able to sleep the night before, and my eyelids were heavy. It was drizzling, slowly soaking my clothes and pack. Through my leggings, I felt Rowin's wet but steaming flanks. As his damp odor grew stronger, I felt my temper rise at the rain and Murrow's uncharacteristic and ill-timed talkativeness.

There was a sort of haze before my vision, and suddenly I saw the field from my vision in the Temple, with the people scattered over the ground, the sky blood red with fire. But this time the red-clad woman was not alone. Someone stood beside her, a dark cloak hanging from his shoulders. The woman turned her eyes heavenward, and I saw the man clearly. His craggy face twisted with pleasure as he laughed with her, steely eyes glimmering with joy. It was Murrow.

"Lia! Lia! Wake up!" Someone was shaking me. I opened my eyes to a craggy face contorted with worry. The springy, wet grass against my back didn't dispel the ache in my shoulder. "Answer me, Lia."

"It was you," I whispered, looking up at him. "You, and her.... Why? You led them, you...."

"Lia, you had a vision. Whatever it was, I guarantee you, I'm right here."

"The woman I saw the day at the Temple, on the battlefield, laughing. But you were there, too, you were!"

"Dead?" His voice sounded anxious.

"No, you were with her, happy, alive, evil. Like her."

His eyes clouded, with anger, fear or something else, I couldn't tell. He hauled me roughly to my feet. "We're nearly there. Get on your horse. Antho will need to hear of this."

Head swimming, I mounted Rowin, who began to move, following Flyt on the twisting path. We had left the road for good the day before, and the overhanging trees contributed to the misery of the drizzle.

I wondered why Murrow was so worried. What could the vision mean? I considered the fact that I had just seen the future, and my stomach leaped with a mixture of surprise and dread.

Perhaps an hour later, the trees thinned ahead of us, and I could make out a damp green clearing further on. As we left the forest, Murrow spoke for the first time since we had remounted. "We need to stable the horses, and see Antho straightaway. I know where his chambers are. We can enter through the back to avoid being seen. It's better that way."

I was confused. I had thought that Antho was his friend. Was Murrow indeed trustworthy? Before I could think about this idea, a strange light distracted me, reflecting off the wet grass in the clearing. Then I realized-it was the sun.

I looked up from Rowin's copper neck. In front of me stood the home of the Order of the Wolves.

Where the Temple of the Moon was stone, monolithic and gray, the Order was just the opposite. Four small and squat, two-level buildings of a reddish stone surrounded a patch of grass in the middle of the clearing. Stone benches were scattered around the courtyard. The newly emerged sun glinted on the buildings and benches, making the Order sparkle like a vermilion gem in the emerald grass. I must have caught my breath: Murrow glanced at me and smiled. "Nice, isn't it?" I nodded happily. There was a feeling of goodwill about this place; it made me want to learn, and sing, and run about on the grass barefoot.

"The stables are there," he pointed to the building nearest to us. "We'll go there first. The dormitories are to the left of it, and the libraries and studies to the right. The Main Chamber is the building farthest from us-that's where they eat, play music, and read."

He wheeled his horse around to make his way to the stables. I followed close behind. In the dark stalls we untacked Rowin and Flyt, rubbed them down and gave them oats from a bin in the corner, and water from the massive trough outside the entrance.

As we exited the stables after tending to the horses, I noticed people in the main courtyard, lolling on benches, some reading, some sleeping, some strumming lutes or playing pipes.

"This way," Murrow said, ignoring the arched doorway into the courtyard. I followed him around the exterior of the building he had pointed out as the dormitory.

As we crept along below the windows that seemed to belong to every room, Murrow counted under his breath. Finally, at what seemed to be number 38, he stopped. "Here," he whispered, gesturing upwards with one hand. He had to be joking. I looked in disbelief in the direction he pointed: up a sheer wall of red stone to a window perhaps 15 feet above. "Truly, Lia. It's not hard." I glared at him. Of course it was hard. "Really." He knelt on the ground before me. "I'll give you a boost. Step on my knee, so, and rest your hand on my shoulder, so, then pick your leg up there, now the other one, put your legs onto the windowsill; now you're standing, perfect." There I was, on an enormously protruding windowsill, on the first level of the dormitory of the Order of the Wolves. What would Mother Elan say?

Murrow clambered up beside me; he was amazingly limber. We were now about five feet off the ground. How were we to get up to Antho's rooms? We stood crammed together on the sill, gazing up at the steep 10-foot wall. Murrow seemed to be looking for something. "Aha! Look!"

I looked. There was a small outcropping just below the window on the second level. Something coiled and white rested on top of it. From his belt, Murrow uncoiled a long piece of hooked wire. He reached up, just barely catching the rope and jerking it, letting the rope fall. Down and down it came, to where Murrow caught it, and started to loop it around his waist. "Best if I go first this time." I nodded numbly as he pulled himself up by the rope, all the way to the windowsill, overhung at the bottom as the first-level rooms had been at the top. It slid open, and Murrow stepped inside. "Your turn, Lia." The rope came hurtling down to me, and I looped it around my waist as I had seen Murrow do.

Hand over hand, I pulled myself up to join Murrow. As I reached him, he smiled at me from inside. "Excellent. Coil the rope and put it away on the shelf, can you?"

Shelf, shelf-the overhang. I coiled the rope and reached down to put it away, nearly losing my balance. Murrow grabbed my hand and pulled me inside. As I fell onto the hard plank floor, I heard the door open. A clear tenor voice filled the room.

"Well, Murrow? A romantic tryst? Or are you merely instructing your pupil in the art of crash-landing?"




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