For over forty years, Tal and Korbis traveled the province of Aragon, settling for about ten years in any one place before Tal got the itch to move on once again. At each town, Tal would start a garden with seeds he’d saved of the healing herbs he knew best: thyme, rosemary, parsley, mint, lavender and lemon balm. This garden announced to the neighbors that a healer was amongst them and the two magicians did not lack for business.
Although the Roman influence was felt nearly everywhere, they always settled in towns where the locals only tolerated Roman rule. In this way, they knew their services would not only be wanted but it would be unlikely they’d be reported for the practice of witchcraft. But one early fall day, Tal made a fatal mistake…
It was grape harvest season and there was always work to be found for a physician during this time, treating various ailments and injuries of the vine workers. He and Korbis were passing through the city of Caesaraugusta, which lay in the valley of the Ebro River – a prime area for wine grapes.
At that time, the Romans were spiritually divided: some held faith with the old gods while others were following the new Christ. In the city of Caesaraugusta, a temple to Diana has been taken over and was being re-consecrated as a Christian church. Tal and Korbis happened to pass in front of the building on their way to find lodgings for the night when a fight broke out between the arguing factions.
Whenever Romans fought, injuries followed and within minutes, the two men were caught up in the melee, attempting to help those who had fallen. As I perched on the roof, Korbis helped a woman who had been hit on the head to the steps of the building. Digging in his pouch, he handed a handful of arnica flowers he’d obtained in trade to her, telling her to use them in a poultice on the lump that was forming on her forehead.
Down in the street, one particular man was bleeding out from a stab wound to his side. Tal knew he’d have to act fast to save the man’s life so in addition to ripping off a part of his robe to staunch the blood flow, he injected some healing magic into the man to start the process of knitting together the blood vessels.
A bystander saw the blood stop pouring out of the man and started yelling, “Magic! He’s a magician! Guards! Magic!”
That effectively stopped the fight as everyone turned to look at Tal. Neither side had much use for magic so it didn’t take long for them to turn on a common enemy. In the blink of an eye, two men who had been guarding the church were hauling Tal up off the man he’d been trying to save. Korbis heard the shouting and began to make his way through the crowd to Tal.
“Run, boy. Save your own life,” Tal said with his head hung, to avoid laying suspicion on Korbis.
Korbis froze in his spot. Although they’d frequently discussed the possibility of death due to the changing customs, he was indecisive as to whether to abandon his friend and mentor. I had no choice but to project an image of Korbis being beheaded, which would have happened had he stayed. Whether Korbis exhibited any signs of magic or not, he would have been guilty by association.
With a last look back at Tal held fast in the burly arms of the two soldiers, I took flight and Korbis turned away from Tal, walking as calmly as he could away from the fracas in front of the temple.
That night within the confines of his room at an inn on the edge of the city, Korbis mourned his friend. As did I. Tal was a jovial man, always ready with a joke, which eased the minds of many of the patients he tended. He also helped Korbis with his magic, which, in turn, strengthened my connection to my human.
Korbis vowed to leave the Roman-occupied area, but where to go? He’d learned from talking to people over the years that the Roman influence was widespread. However, he’d heard there was an island far to the north where they had little, if no influence. The first step, then, was to make our way to the coast and hope to find a trading ship to take us to that mysterious place.
We left Caesaraugusta the next morning. Korbis didn’t know where he wanted to go – only that it needed to be toward a major port. We followed the Ebro eastward, reasoning that where it flowed into the ocean would be as good a place to look for a ship as any. As we had in our travels with Tal, Korbis plied his trade as a traveling physician, staying at first this farmhouse, then that townhouse, trading his healing skills for lodging, food, and the occasional coin.
During this time, Korbis kept his magical skills under wraps. Walking the Roman-built roads, we saw far too many soldiers and citizens dressed in the Roman style to be comfortable. In those places where he felt relatively safe, he’d cast a quiet charm for a young lady to find love; or for a young couple to have a good harvest, bringing in a little extra money to aid them in starting their life together.
Two years later, we smelled brackish air – we’d reached the delta. Inquiring of a traveler met coming in the opposite direction, Korbis learned there was a small port just a day’s journey farther. We camped that night in the open and the next day arrived at the Roman trading post that doubled as a port.
To Be Continued…