We found ourselves outside the manor wall and looking down the hill at the rows upon rows of grapevines. “There’s plenty of room for you to fly around and I’ll wager a lot of bugs, too,” Korbis pulled me off his shoulder and threw me up into the air. I was growing stronger and managed a brief flight before I saw a snack – a juicy looking grasshopper on the edge of the grape fields. Two more and I was full for the moment, so flew back to Korbis, who was wandering around, looking at the compound itself and eyeing the fields where not only men but several ladies were tying vines to supports and checking the vines’ health.
We were called back to the room by Orison. “We dine with the other workers in the common hall but you must leave your bird here. We will look at the window tomorrow in full light to see how it can be adapted for his use while still keeping out the weather.”
The next morning, Orison and Tal together refashioned the leather latch on the wooden shutter so I could open it myself. Although Orison knew what I was, it was explained to young Korbis that choughs are exceptionally intelligent birds, which was why it only took a few tries for me to master it. I now had the freedom to go find my own food whenever I was hungry.
Orison and Korbis spent a lot of time in the fields, getting to know not only the workers but the grapes. I finally learned to fly long distances and between flights, kept many an insect from invading the fields.
Spring turned to summer, which slowly turned to fall and the first harvest overseen by Orison. Everyone was busy picking, pressing or catching the juice in clay amphorae, which were taken into the cellar for fermentation. Orison oversaw the pressing, noting which was free-running juice (the best and once fermented, sold to the Romans for a hefty sum), first-press (for the lord’s table, the medicinal wines and also used to pay Roman taxes) and second-press (for the household). Korbis, by the mark made by Orison on the amphora, directed the storage in the cellar.
During this first harvest, Korbis hit puberty, which means his magic manifested. Thankfully, it was in our room in the evening so no one but Orison saw the piece of rock fly out of the fireplace when Korbis lost his temper in regards to keeping company with one of the lord’s daughters.
“Ah, your magic has finally manifested,” Orison said as he calmly picked up the rock, replaced it in the fireplace, and waved his hands to firmly affix it to its neighbors.
“I…what?” Korbis sputtered.
“You knew your mother had magic, yes?” Korbis nodded.
“You knew what she did out of sight of curious eyes was to be kept secret?” Korbis nodded yet again.
“Your mother entrusted you to me on her deathbed not just because I could teach you a trade but because she knew your magic would come in when you hit puberty and I could teach you about that, as well.
“You have a lot to learn. We will now commence lessons in the evenings – and during the day in the winter months. In the meantime, you must keep control of your temper, especially when we’re not alone. Bird, I know you hate enclosed spaces but you’ll have to stay in the cellar with him while he works. I’m counting on you to control him if he can’t control himself.”
Korbis looked from Orison to me and back again. “Huh?”
“Your bird is your familiar. He’ll help you with your magic. You’ll get to know him better during your lessons. Now, it’s bedtime. It’s going to be another long day tomorrow.”
When Korbis had bedded down, I introduced myself in his mind. That caused him to sit straight up in bed, yelling for Orison, who quickly relit the lamp.
“What is it, boy?”
“There are spirits here! I felt one!”
Orison laughed, which caused Korbis to become angry. When he opened his mouth to yell, I quickly dampened his anger and projected an image of myself along with the calming energy. Korbis continued to hold his mouth open while looking first at me then at Orison.
“There probably are spirits here but I do not think they’re bothering with a young boy. Did you feel pressure in your head, sort of like the start of a headache but not quite?”
Korbis closed his mouth long enough to swallow, then nodded and said, “Yes, and now I can’t get the picture of my bird out of my head. I was mad and now I feel just fine. What is happening to me?”
Orison laughed again. “Remember what I said about your bird being your familiar? I believe he is introducing himself while at the same time, controlling your temper so you don’t cause the entire house to collapse with your unwarranted anger.”
“How do you know this?” Korbis asked.
A note of sadness touched Orison’s voice. “I once had a familiar, as well. Sadly, he was killed by hunters some time ago so I am left alone. But I do remember our days together. Guard your bird well, Korbis, and treasure him.”
Orison extinguished the lamp and I let go of the block on Korbis’ emotions. I projected an image of Korbis asleep on his bed then a second one of me asleep on my perch. He got the message and shortly, his conscious mind drifted off and he started dreaming of spending time amongst the vines with the lord’s daughter. This didn’t concern me so I disassociated myself with his mind and I, too, went to sleep.
[Amy interjected, “You mean you can see everything in my head, even my dreams?”]
Yes but as I have told you in the past, most of it does not interest me so I, as you say, tune it out. May I continue?
Korbis was like you, a fast learner. Within three years, he had outpaced Orison in power. However, he had almost no interest in learning the vintner’s trade. Instead, with the lord’s permission, he became apprenticed to the lord’s physician, Tal.
To be continued…