5. Idi & The Oracle’s Quest Chapters 3

Chapter Three ~ The Quest Begins

For a moment Marcus stood, his heart racing in his chest, his thoughts jumping from one thing to another with all that needed to be done.  What if I fail her?  I have to pack: herbs, books, but how much can I take?  Triumphant skies I’m going on a quest!  Will I find him?  I have to.  Oleanna is depending on me.  ON ME!

He started to run, racing with powerful legs, not those of a frail old man as magic flowed through his body.  He laughed as he raced across the fields.  Pulling on his magic to run faster until the trees and hedges began to blur in his sight, faster and faster until Marcus himself became a blur in the air.  There were many things he couldn’t do, but there were still plenty of things he could!

As he approached the homestead, he slowed down so he could look at his beloved home, absorbing the sights and sounds that meant so much to him.  Nestled deep in the valley of the Torrean Mountains the Homestead was a haven in the wildest parts of Talia.  Smoke curled softly out of the tall chimney and spiralled into the sky, and the smell of roasting pig wafted across the fields.  Caldwin was in the yard.  He must have been waiting for Marcus for as soon as he saw him; he began ringing the bell in his hand.

With each clang of the bell, the brothers began racing into the yard.  By the time Marcus reached the small stone wall that encircled the clearing, they were all there.  He could see by their faces that they already knew he was leaving.  He looked at each brother in turn and his heart began to fill with sadness. He did not know when he would see them again, and he had grown to love each one of them as sons.

His cloak fell down around his body as he slowed down, and by the time he reached the gate he was walking.  He pushed the creaky wooden gate open and walked into the cobbled yard.  My home.

The brothers gathered around him, their worried eyes searching Marcus’s face for clues as to what was happening.

“Are the rumours true, are you leaving us Marcus?” asked Matthew.

Marcus nodded.  “It would seem that I am to go on a quest.”

“Then I will go pack,” said Tanner, half turning to go straight away.

“I must go on my own Tanner, although I would dearly love to take you with me.”  Tanner turned back to him.

“There is safety in numbers and my magic ….” Tanner stopped himself from finishing the sentence; he didn’t want to hurt Marcus by reminding him that Marcus’s magic was the weakest of them all.

James came to him and placed his right hand upon Marcus’s

shoulder.  “Before you leave,” he said, “please meet the person chosen to replace you and pass on your blessing as you did for each of us.”

Marcus blinked in surprise; they had brought him here already?  How long had they known?  He nodded at James, afraid to speak lest his voice should not be strong.  James turned behind him to the entrance of the kitchens and beckoned to a slim shadow that stood in the doorway.  As the figure emerged from the kitchens, Marcus’s first thought was that this lad must be young indeed for he was so slight, something plainly obvious even with his cloak pulled around him.  The lad came to stop in front of Marcus, his head bent and covered by his hood.

“Well if I am to bless you, I must first see you,” Marcus said and lifted the hood.  Marcus took a step back in shock.

“A girl!” he exclaimed, turning to James, “you have brought a girl to live with the Brothers?”  The young girl moved behind James as if afraid and Marcus looked at James his face turning red in his instant embarrassment.

“Well?”

“Her name is Leona.  She is without parents, has no home and sleeps in the forest, and she has more magic in her than I have ever seen in my life.  Oleanna showed me where to find her, but as yet the girl has not spoken.”  James looked at Marcus his face showing all his emotions; he did not want to upset Marcus but after all, it had been the Oracle that had told him to fetch her!

“Come here child” Marcus said, beckoning her to him with his hand.  Very slowly she moved from behind James and came to Marcus. He put his hand under her chin and tilted her head back.  For a long moment, he gazed into her eyes.  He was surprised when she held his gaze and did not glance downwards.  Her eyes were so speckled with colours that he had no idea how he would ever describe them.  The colour was pure, and she looked back at him as an open book.  No guile or dark reflections here, and if Oleanna wanted her to join the brothers, then she must be special indeed.  It would, however, raise problems.  He turned back to James.

“She will need a protector. Go to the village of Torn across the hills, seek out Joanna, tell her that I ask that she would repay her debt and come to shadow this young girl who must now live among the Brothers.”  James nodded and sighed in relief, Marcus would bless her.

“How do you know she is filled with the magic?” Marcus asked.

“We found her in the forest, and just as we approached, two of the boys from the village threw stones at her.  She turned the stones to flowers Marcus.  Not only that, but when she turned to leave the clearing, the animals moved with her, from the birds to the rabbits but more awesome, three grey wolves.  When she saw us she crouched and seemed to speak with them, then they disappeared into the woods.”

Marcus looked at the girl.  She can’t be more than twelve years old, how can she control that much magic when she is so young and without a mentor?

“Has someone taught you the Way?” he asked her gently.  She shook her head.  As Marcus looked at her a passage from one of the lost books of Shyne came to him: ‘old magic never taught, but passed on through heart and thought’.  He had never met anyone with old magic.  He had found the Brothers, and taught them magic they hadn’t even known they had within them before he showed them the way.  But here was this child all alone, and with magic brimming over.  For a moment he felt a pang of regret that he wouldn’t be the one to show her the Way.

He placed his right hand on her forehead, closed his eyes and sank deep within himself to draw on the depths of his magic.  Slowly he felt the heat rise from his inner core up to his heart, and slowly move down his arm, releasing into his hand.  A bright blue light poured from his palm and covered Leona’s head.  She moaned and swayed and Kailin moved to stand behind her lest she fell.

“May the Light always guide your way.  May your heart always be pure, and may you serve with honour.”  The light slowly faded, and he let his arm drop down to his side.  She swayed for just a moment longer and then opened her eyes.  Her lips parted slightly as if she wanted to say something but when nothing came out she threw herself forward wrapping her arms around Marcus and laid her head against his chest.  For just a moment he hesitated with the feeling of discomfort, then slowly he reached up and stroked her hair.  As he did so, he wondered if life would ever be the same again, life was so drastically changing, moment by moment, that he feared for the future.

A short time later Marcus was sat upon his horse, his dark purple cloak replaced with an old travelling grey cape, one soaked in oils and magic to make it waterproof and warm.  His travelling bags were thrown over the horse that stood ready next to his own. John placed water bags on top of the food box and made sure they were tied tightly to the saddle.  Selwin stroked the mane of Marcus’s horse.

“I have been working these horses for twenty-seven moons Marcus.  Now magic runs through their veins.  They will not tire for weeks on end, even if pushed all day and night.  You will see.  Their stamina is unmatched, and their speed unequalled.   I would wager these fine animals could outrace the wind if challenged.  I have also trained them to answer only to your call, no matter the distance between you.   Their ears are attuned to the sound of your voice.  All you have to do is whisper, and they will come.  These are the finest I have ever had the pleasure to instruct.  I learnt from the best you know”.  He gave Marcus a quick grin.

Marcus was touched; it was just what he needed to hear that day.  All his work had not gone unnoticed.  Although he envied Selwin’s magic with animals, he was glad of it.  It would benefit him on his quest.  His long dreamed of escapade.

Marcus pulled on the reins and slowly turned towards the gate of the yard.  Each clop on the cobbles echoed loudly in his ears.  Once through the gate he turned the horse back around so that he could see the Brothers one more time.

He could not speak to them, could not offer them some last instruction, some last lesson.  Instead he simply nodded towards them and they nodded in return.  One last lingering look at the homestead he had built and loved and then he was gone.

Whispers of speed and great need of urgency to the horses was all that was needed.  His horse sprang forward, and the other was like its shadow.  Together they raced into late afternoon and within moments the Brothers were gone from sight.  All he could see was a blur of browns and greens as they sped South through the valley, racing to find his new ward Idi, then to journey onwards, to find the one Born to be King.

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