Prophecy's Power: Chapter 7

By Emma | Oct 09, 2011

The sun was bright again next morning. When I woke, the vibrating ball of fluff was gone. I sat up and looked around. It was early yet, the lemon yellow light that had awoken me still barely above the horizon, which I could only just make out through the trees. A jumble of blankets near me was empty. Where was Murrow? Conor was squatting next to the fire, poking it back into life. He glanced around and saw me, nodding a cursory greeting. His mouth might have twitched. The embarrassment of last night came back to me — where was the cat? Reluctantly, I got out of my blankets and went into the trees to relieve myself, wash and change.

When I returned, Murrow was pouring water into the pot. He, too, nodded good morning. I pulled on a clean tunic and my boots, braiding my wet hair tightly. The fire was burning brightly now, the fresh scent of morning mingling with the dense smell of wood smoke. I went over to it, smelling the tea Murrow was brewing. Going to the saddlebags, which we had put in a tree, I fetched out the loaf of bread, the knife and a bag of dried raisins and apricots. I began to slice bread on the flat rock next to the fire, working quickly. I was hungry.

Moments later, Conor was back, his hair wet and tousled. His eyes were smiling, and behind him waddled the cat, purring loudly. Conor sat down next to the fire, eyeing the bread I was slicing. He helped himself to a piece and took a handful of dried fruit. I did the same. Murrow poured out the tea into three pewter tankards. I accepted mine gratefully; the sun might be bright, but the air was brisk.

The cat saw me suddenly, and leaving off its work of cleaning its paws, it waddled over to me, still purring. It rubbed against my legs; making such a din Murrow raised his eyebrows over his tea.

The cat was a deep, smoky gray, except for its feet, which were a bright, clean white. The face was surprisingly small, dominated by brilliant, bright green eyes. It looked around inquisitively, taking in all it saw. Where last night the cat had appeared to be grossly overweight, today I realized that it was in fact small, with a very wide back and a stomach that dragged along the ground when it walked. The tail was held erect, though, and the feet stepped daintily along the wet grass. As it picked its way across my feet, I glanced down at its tail, revealing the cat to be a male. He purred louder in protest. Murrow smiled.

“I think he likes you, Lia.”

I shook my head, scratching behind the cat’s ears. “He seems to,” I admitted. “Now we know why there was such a loud noise last night.” I gestured to the cat’s ample stomach. Murrow stifled a chuckle.

“Have you fed him?” I asked.

“I woke up this morning to the sound of him crunching off the third vole’s head.” Conor’s voice was hoarse; he cleared his throat. “Seemed quite proud of himself, too.”

The cat looked up at us. I looked back at him. He purred.

“We don’t need to go very far today,” Murrow informed us. “Actually, we never really do. But I’d like to get to Risdau near midsummer — that gives us a little less than a month.”

Rowin whinnied. I looked at him, and he busied himself with his nosebag again.

“I think the horses will need some exercise,” I observed. As if to underline this statement, Renna stamped her foot. Conor’s face split into a grin.

“What’s the next town?”

“Fennlo,” Murrow replied. “It’s very small. We could get some more supplies, if we need to — ”

“We don’t,” I said. “Shall we camp again?"

Murrow suppressed a smile. “If you’d like.”

I ignored the sideways jibe and took another bite of bread. Conor made his laughing, choking sound again.

Would it ever end? I looked at Murrow, whose eyes twinkled. Muttering something about packing up my things, I got up and went over to my bedroll.

Everything was stowed in the saddlebags 20 minutes later. We mounted up, guiding the horses through the woods to the road. The cat was perched on the saddle in front of me; he had jumped up as we packed and it seemed cruel to leave him here.

The sun was warmer now, and the dew was beginning to lose its sparkle on the grass. I took a drink from the waterskin at my side: it would be another unseasonably warm day. We rode in the same formation as before: Murrow in the lead, then me, then Conor bringing up the rear. Renna’s hooves were loud on the hard- dried road, sounding off with the rhythm of Rowin and Flyt’s. The cat purred loudly, wobbling happily in front of me. Murrow and Conor loved the creature. I did too, in spite of myself. There was a certain charm about him — his eyes sparkled and he seemed always to be smiling. It looked as though the cat would be accompanying us to Risdau.

Almost as if he had sensed my thoughts, the cat looked up at me. He purred. We would have to do something about the noise: something told me silence would be imperative at some stage of our journey.

I had been getting these flashes of prophecy more often. They were not the full-scale visions I had had at the Temple or on the way to the Order, but slight premonitions in mind. I had imagined Conor coming with us; that vision had not left me rolling on the floor in agony. Perhaps I was getting better at this. If only I could see something, something that would help Murrow, Antho and the rest figure out what Kasha was doing. It felt as though I was an encumbrance on Murrow’s journey — I had, after all, asked, positively begged to come along. Conor could surely be of help; his parents were the king’s spymasters, and probably had passed some of their knowledge onto their son.

Murrow had promised he would teach me more about my gift, but I didn’t know how to bring the issue up. I didn’t know anything about why I had this gift, or how it worked. It was like there was another person in my head, randomly saying what might happen at some given time in the future.

It was nearly noon, the sun almost at its zenith. On both sides of the road there were meadows, long rolling fields sporting a haze of green over last year’s brown crop stubble. Far in the distance, I could make out dots of white, tan and black: sheep and cattle cropping the new grass. Already it was warmer here than it had been where I lived: the breeze milder, the budding trees and flowers nearly in full bloom. The village near the Temple was a mere thirty leagues from the far Northern border, and beyond the border the land was barren, chill and unexplored. People here were more numerous; I could see five farmhouses from where I sat on Rowin’s back.

Soon Murrow raised his hand, the signal for a stop. Conor and I pulled our horses up next to him, and Flyt whinnied happily, rousing the cat from his nap. He protested loudly, twisting about and meowing in an irritated fashion.

“There,” Murrow said, pointing to our left. A large, flat rock sat in the meadow, a short distance from the road. Murrow turned Flyt and together they crossed the shallow ditch separating the road from the fields and houses. Conor gestured to me, and I followed Murrow across the narrow division. I heard Renna behind me; so did Rowin. As soon as both animals were in the field they took off. Holding on to the reins, Rowin’s mane whipping my face, we reached the rock Murrow had designated. I slipped off Rowin gratefully, watching as Conor did the same and began to take out the bread and cheese from his saddlebag. The cat remained curled up in the saddle, basking in the sun.

Flyt arrived a moment later, and Murrow dismounted with a rueful smile. “You two could leave me in the dust any day.” As if she heard this, Flyt tossed her head, galloping off to join the other horses at a very respectable clip. Murrow accepted the bread and cheese Conor handed to him and sat down, his back against the boulder. I sank down next to him, my meal already half devoured.

Conor remained standing, a strangely impressive sight against the clear blue sky. His eyes glittered, perhaps because of the lunch, perhaps because of something else, something I could only guess at. I remembered my vision, remembered the way Conor’s eyes had glittered in that same way, as the streak of silver came flashing down.

“We will need to think of a story,” Murrow said, swallowing the last of his meal and reaching for his waterskin. “With Kasha in charge, we may be searched, questioned, and if she is looking for me or Lia, you, Conor, will also be in danger.”

Conor grimaced, but nodded. “I will say that I am a guard from your family fief, Lia, escorting you and your betrothed to Conor’s family in Risdau,” Murrow continued.

Surely not! I sneaked a glance at Conor, whose ears were a little red. It was bad enough that we were traveling together, but this— why did Murrow have to make up this story?

“I realize that this may be a little — ah — inconvenient for the two of you,” Murrow said. “Please remember, though, that our alibi may not need to be used, and that it will keep us all just a little safer.” I nodded. It was worth three weeks of pretending to be betrothed to Conor to have Lenëa out of Kasha’s clutches. At least, I hoped it was.

I shoved the uncomfortable thought that the fate of Lenëa might depend on whether I could pretend to be betrothed to a boy who hated me or not, and stretched out in the sun. It was restful, lying there and simply gazing at the sky. A light, cool breeze tugged my tunic. I heard a rustle, then the plinking of a harp.

I shoved the uncomfortable thought that the fate of Lenëa might depend on whether I could pretend to be betrothed to a boy who hated me or not, and stretched out in the sun. It was restful, lying there and simply gazing at the sky. A light, cool breeze tugged my tunic. I heard a rustle, then the plinking of a harp.

Drowsily, I looked up. Conor sat in the grass, leaning against our rock. He plucked experimentally, tuning the strings. Murrow gazed into the clouds nearby, lying on his back in the field. The cat purred sleepily. Conor hadn’t taken his harp out since we had begun our journey. I had imagined a taciturn companion on our journey, with Murrow’s and my conversation being the only talk. However, it had turned out to be just the opposite. Murrow had not spoken much at all, and Conor had been forthcoming, joking and talking much more than he had at the Order.

I must have fallen asleep in the sun, for Murrow shook me awake as he and Conor were saddling the horses. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I stood, putting on Rowin’s bridle and mounting quickly, hoping I hadn’t snored or talked in my sleep. I didn’t think these habits afflicted me, but all the same, after the incident with the cat it would be nice to appear dignified.

We formed into our order as Murrow crossed the ditch first, then me, then Conor. I wondered if Conor ever got tired of looking at Rowin’s tail, caked with road dust as it was. Renna whinnied forlornly from behind me, likely missing her newfound friend. I heard a shushing noise from Conor, and she immediately quieted. Rowin neighed in answer, and the cat, still sleeping on the front of my saddle, mewed in protest. He stretched out his wide back, opening his eyes and glancing up at me as though I was responsible for the commotion.

The Temple had not encouraged animals, save horses for transportation and cats to catch mice in the stables and storerooms. These cats were always rangy, glitter-eyed and wanting to fight — their very presence was merely an unavoidable necessity. This creature was the exact opposite. Even with my limited knowledge, I could tell that he was still very young, hardly more than a kitten. His fur was unblemished and soft, save patches where it had been torn away by a stray stick or rock. The perfect white socks around all four paws made him as though he had been walking through heavy cream. His self-satisfied expression only added to the illusion. Proud, I thought. Proudfoot. I said it out loud, quietly.

“Proudfoot.” The cat seemed to like it: he purred happily before stretching out again in the sun. I reached out and stroked his fluffy coat, patting Rowin’s neck as well so he wouldn’t feel forgotten. My cloak hung from my shoulders, doing little but keep the dust off my back. The sun was beginning to sink, the warm air losing some of its heat. I was tired despite my rest at lunchtime — my head hung down as I studied the road in front of me, gazing only at the expanse of almost- dry brown below Rowin’s tireless hooves. It was hypnotic, dust swirling in my vision and the repetitive clop of the horses’ feet.

I thought about Kasha, how at this very moment she could be plotting my demise, or planning her sovereignty of the country her parents had loved and looked after. It seemed that my eyes shut, and for a moment all I could see was black. My ears rushed, I heard a jumble of voices. I stood on a tall tower, overlooking a cobbled city. Screams echoed from the streets; I could see fires burning in doorways and people running, fleeing their homes. Then two men next to me, saying, “Morlen will take us, now the Queen is dead.”

 

 

 

 

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