The sound of rushing water was deafening. The smell of pine filled her nose as she skimmed by the houses along the river’s edge.
They were all empty.
That’s when she saw another child, who stood on the other side of the river. The child stared at her, head tilted, and waved. She waved back, and the child in the sapphire silk dress ran off towards the bushes.
The roaring of the water became louder.
The screams echoed in her mind. The yellow eyes and wolf like grin. The smell of smoke. The taste of metal. The inability to breathe.
“No!” Liora screamed, opening her eyes to find herself in her room. Caldor was sitting up in the chair at the desk, his brow creased at hearing her panicked cry.
“Child are you…”
Liora didn’t hear him. She feverishly scanned the room, hoping this wasn’t another layer to her messed up nightmare. This was Demor. It smelt like Demor with the leather books and rosemary. The old sage was there, with his caterpillar brows and chipped spectacles.
“Cáel! Where’s Cáel?” she asked, feeling the bed sink when Caldor sat along the edge.
“There will be time for that later. How are you feeling?” Caldor lifted his hand to her forehead. It had been a week since she had knocked herself out. Everyone had changed their focus on her wellbeing, since Cáel.
“I’m fine. Cáel’s not dead, is he?” Liora listened to the old man sigh before he reached for a cup on the bedside table.
“No!” she smacked the cup out of the old man’s hand. It shattered on the floor. She didn’t want silly tea; she wanted to know what happened. “Answer my question.”
The door to her room opened as someone peeked in.
“Ah, I guess you heard her,” Caldor murmured, “come in, then.”
A ginger haired boy entered her room. He was tall and lean. He wore a woolen cloak lined with fox fur. His emerald eyes sparkled. The goofy crooked smile and the lute made her guess who he was. But, it wasn’t possible.
“Cáel?” the name sounded foreign on her tongue. This wasn’t her friend. He resembled her friend in appearance. He mirrored her friend’s expressions.
The bed sunk further down when he came to sit on the edge after hooking the twisted wood cane on the footboard and adjusting his leg along the edge.
“Yah remember me, even with yah brain all jumbled like a egg,” he jested. It was him. Cáel would have made a joke like that. “Yah leave yar mouth wider, ya’re gonna catch flies.”
Liora leapt from her pillow, wrapping her arms around his chest. Her heart pounded behind her ribs. Tears streamed down her cheeks, the salt tickled her tongue. There was a gentle weight on her back as she felt him rub small circles between her shoulder blades, the same way she had done for him. His heart was beating quickly, just like hers as she forced down her tear and sniffled back her snotty nose.
Pushing him away, Liora had to look at him again. She had to make sure this was real. He appeared too healthy to be the boy she knew. It would have taken months for him to recover and years for him to walk if they had found a cure. Yet, here he was.
“You were dead…” Liora mustered herself to say, “even the almanac couldn’t do that.”
“Nothing in this world could do what you did, my girl,” Caldor stated.
“Me?” she was shocked.
“That light that knocked you out brought the prince back. Mind you, I would not attempt to try it again,” the old sage tapped his head, “you took quite a hit.”
“Yah got hit so hard, yar hair turned white,” Cáel blurted, lifting the piece behind her left ear. The streak was white like the snow that covered the garden outside.
“I should leave you two to talk,” Caldor added, heading for the door. “The prince has been more irritating than you were when he was not well.”
Cáel chuckled, turning pink.
“Yeah well, I was worried, ’ight,” Cáel said turning back to the girl sitting beside him.
Caldor took his time closing the door, admiring the two for a moment longer before giving them time to catch up.
“How’s he?” Foe’s voice boomed, making the old man jump. “Sorry…”
“Do not sneak up on me, you buffoon. My heart could have stopped,” Caldor hissed, straightening out his robe. “The prince is fine. So, is Liora by the way.”
“That’s good. I just… we just don’ need him pushin’ himself,” Foe sighed. There was a twinge in his stomach for forgetting about Liora. The girl had been on his mind, but the prince was the first thought to come out of his mouth.
“There is no need for you to worry. Whatever the girl did has fixed him completely. Fate knows how she did it, but she did.”
“I think the Gods would know more than Their ma,” Foe muttered.
“Why would you say that?” Caldor curled the end of his beard. That was an odd answer.
Sure, the Dermite were worshippers of Darkel, and didn’t pay much attention to the entity that gave life to the three Gods, but what Foe had said made Caldor think there was more to it.
“The lass’s Gods-touched me wife says, and from what I’ve read… I can believe that,” Foe explained.
The old sage narrowed his eyes. Foe had read something asides from work? Where did he find the time between the issues in Derlin and the conflicts at the border? A better question was: what could pull the man away from such important issues and was capable of changing his mind?
“What did you read?” Caldor’s voice was sharp.
“That book those singers were wavin’ ’round the streets. The words are too close to what we know of the girl to be coincidence,” Foe lowered his voice to a rumble so others lurking in the halls couldn’t hear him.
“You read the Prophecy!” Caldor exclaimed. “That text is complete hogwash. Why did you waste time with reading such mullock?”
“Unlike some, I have an open mind and don’ let my bias in the way of possible answers,” Foe grumbled, crossing his arms, crumpling his vest.
Caldor doubted that he was biased against discovering what the girl really was. He had considered quite a bit of information that he would never have considered before, except the one piece Foe was suggesting.
The fact was this girl was outside of logic. Her gifts weren’t under the normal parameters. All he had believed had been flipped around.
There wasn’t enough proof that seers were real. They were folklore and twisted in with exaggerated events. No one had been able to prove that seeing through the veil was possible, until Liora, a fourteen-year-old girl, had done it with ease.
Considering her newest gift of touch healing, Caldor didn’t have an answer. Every healer wished they could cure a patient with just a touch or thought, but the girl actually did it - almost at the expense of her own life.
Foe gave out a heavy sigh before moving his arms back down to his side, “Read it and ya’ll see.”
Foe turned to lumber off back to the walkway. They both had their duties to attend to, the Steward more so than the sage, at the moment.
A lot had happened during the past couple of months. The unrest in the southeast growing, news of Morza was fading away from common conversation and was replaced with other tragedies befalling those living along the southeastern border.
The girl without a people had found a place to call her home for the moment, and when she was better Caldor was certain she would be ready to learn more than what her grandmother’s almanac offered.
The prince would need to learn more than just fairytales and folklore, like most of his reading had consisted of. Now that the boy was well, Caldor had to prepare him for becoming the future king of Derm. The sage had always had a poor prognosis for the prince, and it had taken a miracle to cure him.
Maybe there was something that was listening to peoples’ prayers? Caldor doubted that. There was always a logical explanation for everything, and if not… than there would eventually be a logical explanation when science was advanced enough to solve it.
With balancing the children’s studies he still needed to do one thing which still gnawed at the back of his mind. He needed to find the answers to what the girl really was.
Entering his room, Caldor was pleasantly surprised when he found the steaming pot of tea resting on his desk. The servants were learning, although they hadn’t brought him a new cup. There were enough old one’s laying around he could use.
The sage stoked the fire and went to his desk. There was an old tea cup resting upon a pile of papers in the corner of the desk. He hadn’t moved it since the girl had put it there.
Picking up the chipped cup, Caldor glanced at the paper the cup had rested on. A dark ring wrapped around the scribble in the center of the page, as if it wanted to draw his attention. The paper was the note he took at Naygu’s hut, all those months ago. How in the world did he still have that? He had lost larger pieces of paper in a lot cleaner places. He had researched all of Kanrow’s books, except one.
The rose red bound book rested under the right leg of his desk. It had made a nice prop to keep the wooden leg even with the others. There were now two people who wished for him to read the book. Naygu had a logical mind. The woman wouldn’t have scribbled it unless she had good reason.
Using his shoulder, Caldor managed to lift the table enough to slide out the book. There was a dent in the cover but it hadn’t damaged any of the pages. All he had left was this book. He hadn’t dared fill his mind with such nonsense but there hadn’t been any other with the answers he was looking for.
I am not biased if I consider reading such mullock. Caldor thought, resting the rose red text on his desk. He peeked over his shoulder at the locked door.
No one would come in and see him reading the Prophecy. His reputation would be safe.
If he were to read it, it wouldn’t have taken him even the afternoon to complete. Yes, the book would waste an hour or two of his time but not any longer than that. Still, Caldor couldn’t push himself to open the cover.
He could hear those at the university snickering at him for even considering peering at the pages of such a ridiculous work of fiction. All his life he had avoided this book and now he was left with little choice but to read it.
It is just a book - you fool - not a bloody cobra. Caldor tapped his thumb along the spine before taking a deep breath. Once it was open he knew he would be fine. He gripped the edge and flipped to the page he had written on the note.
The twelve lines were short but to the point. He found himself looking over them again and again. Kanrow’s writing was scattered and unorganized but it was clear to Caldor what the Prophet had been trying to share with the world. If he hadn’t experienced Morza, and if he hadn’t found Liora, these lines wouldn’t have made much sense.
The sage lowered himself into his chair, setting the thin text onto the desk before leaning over it. Now he understood what Foe was trying to tell him. The chaos singers weren’t doing the work justice with their poorly quoted preaching’s. This, the actual words were truth. They were what had happened. They said exactly what the girl had done.
Taking his pen, he tapped it twice against the well before taking the paper with Naygu’s note. This had been the information he had been looking for, but out of those twelve lines it was the first that intrigued him the most.
As neatly as he could he copied it down onto the paper before writing the girl’s name beneath.
‘The first will be the Child of the Light.’
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