3. Idi & The Oracle’s Quest Chapter 1

Chapter One ~ Detainers

“Oh mother of all demons!” Idi cursed as he swayed on the wet, moss-covered stepping stone.

This was the furthest from the village he’d ever managed to get; he had hoped that maybe, just maybe, today he could have escaped his wretched life of despised orphan.

The snowmelt hurtled downstream and the stone Idi stood on shook under its power; his cold dirty feet curled tightly over its slimy surface.   Knees bent and his arms out-stretched steadying himself, he shook his head, flicking his long greasy hair out his face.  He daren’t for a moment take his eyes off it.

On the other side of the river waited an enormous crow.  It was about the same size as the huge wolves he’d spotted stalking the forest recently.  The bird’s claws scratched at the river bank, whilst its beady black eyes focused on Idi with intent.  If Idi hadn’t have been concentrating so hard on where to step next, he might have noticed the huge bird arrive.

Looking past the crow to the mountains so teasingly close behind, Idi ground his teeth.  It isn’t fair I need to get out of this cursed valley. 

The creature, as if sensing Idi’s sudden desire to make a dash for it, threw open its huge black wings and squawked with piercing menace.  Idi wobbled in fright and as he did so his foot slipped, his thin arms flailed manically for a moment, and then he toppled forward into the rapids.

The crow stopped its flapping and squawking and seemed to peer with worried, squinting eyes at the water where Idi had fallen.  The boy was nowhere to be seen.  The black bird hopped out onto the first stepping-stone and then another until it was on the one where Idi had stood.  Gone.  The bird stretched itself upwards, straining its neck to peer down the river to where something seemed to be bobbing in the water.

Idi, caught in the icy fast flowing current, was being hurtled down the river, his body crashing between rocks and driftwood.  His lungs hurt the most, as he fought to get his head above water, to suck in air quickly before being dragged under once more.

The crow circled for a while and then cawed shrilly as it flew off into the woods in a flurry.

The white frothy waters swirled around Idi, he relaxed, resigned to the fact that he was probably going to die.  He stopped fighting for air and simply allowed himself to be swept along.  After a while he found himself floating just under the surface.  Calm descended and he opened his eyes seeing clearly through the bubbling crystal waters to the sky beyond.

Ma Rose will be looking for me by now.  She’d give me a right clip around the ear for being late and for not having all me chores done.  I won’t miss that.  I won’t miss anything about me life.  If I can’t leave this damn valley any other way – then river take me.

Just then, something caught his attention in the sky above.  It looked a bit like a huge white bird.  What is it with giant birds today? he thought, as his eyes closed, and he drifted into unconsciousness.

Idi came round slowly.  He was puzzled.  He seemed to be flying.  He tried opening his eyes; they flickered for a moment and then closed again.  The sensation of flying was confirmed as he felt his body drop onto some grass.  He opened his eyes slightly.  Was that a huge white bird talking with that monstrous crow?  The white bird’s wings seemed to disappear, and suddenly a lady’s smiling face was in front of him.  A gentle hand stroked his forehead.  I must be dead then!

Some time later Idi yawned and stretched; he felt good, like he’d had the best night’s sleep ever.  He opened his eyes and saw the sky above him instead of the attic roof; he reached out to his sides, in alarm, feeling for his bed.  Grass and not a mattress was what his hands touched, and he sat up in surprise.  He stared at the village in front of him.  Hell’s bells how did I get here and what am I doing in this soddin’ field?

Scratching his head, trying to remember, the image of the crow came rushing back.  He stood up and turned to look at the stretch of land behind him, taking in the farmlands, then forests, that lay before him and the mountain range far away.  It had taken half a day to reach the river, how had he got back to the village when the sun was still in the sky?

“Did I dream it all?” he said shuddering, it hadn’t felt like a dream, and now he was back in this nightmare of a place.

~~~~~~

Oleanna stood in the shadows of the trees.  Kerwin, her tamed giant crow, was stood next to her.  She reached out and gently stroked his neck as she watched Idi making his way back to the village.  The crow cocked his head to one side and caw-cawed quietly.

“Yes I know he will be thirteen soon, and when he is it will be time for him to leave.”

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