The party atmosphere dissipated when the guards left. Mark tugged my hand and we blended in with the other villagers heading for the door. Their reactions ranged from anger at Kandek’s blackmail to worry for their families. They whispered about how unfair it was that they were being held accountable for the actions a girl they didn’t even know. It broke my heart to be among them so visible, yet hidden, knowing that I was the cause of their concerns.
Once we were away from the crowd and headed back to Johna’s cottage, Mark put his arm around my shoulder.
“Don’t let it get to you,” he whispered in my ear.
I glanced around, most of the people were having their own conversations and were oblivious to the two of us.
“How can I not be upset? This is my fault.”
“It’s Kandek’s fault.”
We walked in silence, arriving at the cottage moments later. I walked in the door and made eye contact with Johna, who was still hard at work grinding herbs.
“What’s the matter child?” She wiped her hands on her apron and scurried over to me. I flung my cloak on a nearby hook and sank to the bench.
“Kandek’s going to kill petty criminals if Reychel isn’t turned in within the week. He’s getting married and used his wedding as a deadline,” Mark said, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“Oh no,” Johna cried. “What is it about you that he needs so? You must figure out what makes you so valuable. Think, child, think. What happened during your time with him?”
“Nothing,” I said, balling up my hands. “I’ve thought about it over and over but I still have no idea.”
“Ivy said you had private audiences with him. What happened during those meetings?” Mark asked.
“He would ask me to tell stories; that’s all. There was nothing special other than those were the only times I was allowed to look out the windows. He kept me confined otherwise,” I said.
“Why weren’t you allowed outside except in his presence?” Johna asked.
“I don’t know,” I insisted, pushing my hands on the wooden table as if a secret panel would appear and give me answers. I received nothing more than a painful sliver in my palm. “I never understood it.”
Johna sank to the bench across from me, resting her hands on the table to steady herself. She stared at the table taking steady breaths. A sharp gasp from her mouth startled me to attention. Johna lifted her eyes to mine, gazing intently.
“Great Eloh. Could it be true? I never put it all together,” she muttered. “It’s beginning to make sense now.”
She stared into my eyes. “May I read you, child?”
“Read me?” I asked. “Use your gift to hear what I’m thinking?”
“It’s more complicated than that and only partially related to my gift. I’m going to merge my thoughts with yours. It will allow me to search your memory for anything you may have forgotten but still remains.”
“Is this something any gifted person can do?” I was still amazed at the range of abilities.
“Not all, but some. I am not the most powerful, but I have been known to find nuggets of truth otherwise hidden from the person who bears them.”
“Of course,” I said. “I trust you.”
I sat next to Johna on the bench staring deeply into my mentor’s eyes. If Johna could find anything in there that I didn’t know, then I was more than welcome to let her sort through my mind.
Johna gripped my hands and stared into my eyes. A few moments passed before she slowly pulled away, staring at me in horror.
“I never suspected,” she said. “I should have, everything considered, but I didn’t. Oh Eloh, how could I have missed this?”
“What?” Mark and I asked in unison. Anxiety rose from my stomach to my chest.
“You are the Prophet. The one we have been waiting for,” she said, shaking.
I laughed, pulling my hands away from hers. “That’s absurd. I don’t even have any gifts.”
Johna stumbled away from the table and grabbed a book from a nearby shelf. She leafed through the pages as I tried to steady myself. Of all the ridiculous things I’d ever heard. To be told I was the Prophet. It was ridiculous. Insane. Unbelievable. Me?
“Remember the story I told you and Ivy? About the man who made the prophecy? He had rare gifts that no one has shown until now. Until you. He too could read the clouds.” She closed the book, leaving a finger to hold her place. Her eyes found mine. “That is what you do, isn’t it?”
|Molly C. Quinn||as Reychel|