We turned down another wide passageway made up of small uneven bricks that were grey
and dull, and gave the place a gloomy tone. Half way down we stopped by a dark recess in the
wall. Brother Dominic stepped into it and gestured for me to follow. I did and saw a narrow
staircase made from the same lumpy stone. It twisted up and round and try as I might I could
not see an end to it.
“At the top of these stairs is a room. It will be the place where you will reside during your
stay with us. It is also the room that Brother Jude abides.”
“What? I’m to linger in the same spot with an oldie? Nah, this is wrong and somewhat
“Not so. Let me put your mind at rest by reassuring you of Brother Jude’s advancing years
and his vow of celibacy. He will not be a threat to your maidenhood. He is your mentor and
guide to achieving your true potential. You must listen and act on his teachings.”
“Some of what you said filtered through and I am a little reassured. Eadgard and sister
Gabriel made much of my inexperience. It maybe goodly to partake of learning to better my
chances of finding my bro. I’ll be allowed some rec time? To see Wirt and the rest?”
“Of course. You will take your meals in the dining room with the rest of us.”
“The place of sitting down?”
“Exactly. Now, please, follow me.”
I wriggled my shoulders and felt the reassuring thud of my Synthbag against them. All
thoughts about the other thingy that I thought I needed to do vanished. My mind focused on
the unsavoury notion that I must dwell with a near-dead ‘dult. I was somewhat feared at
meeting Brother Jude, never having really got up close to a wrinkleyone before, except for
greatgrangran. All the ancient hominids in Cityplace went to linger as one group, put away from
the rest when they reached a goodly age. We saw them on special occasions, then mostly from
afar when they trundled around the so-called “One-and-only-Park.”
I followed Brother Dominic onto the staircase, which became narrower the higher we
climbed. And though I am trained and toned, I found the ascent stressful upon the lungs and
breathed heavily and loud. Brother Dominic seemed not to take in air and flittered up the steps
as if they weren’t there at all. I marvelled at his vigour, seeing that he too could be deemed as
Just when I thought that I might topple from lack of oxygen, Brother Dominic came to a
halt. He stopped by a wide flat area illuminated by a patterned glass window. The light
streamed through it and made little coloured blocks of red and blue stick to the wall and floor
like un-curved rainbows. It also lit up a dark brown door behind the Monk.
“We are here. As you can see there are no other rooms but this one. No one comes here so
you will not be disturbed. Now I must leave you. You must enter alone,” he said and walked
“Oy, no wait a sec. I cannot go in solo.”
“You will. You must. It is the way of things,” he said, turned and walked down the spiral
staircase. I called his name but he did not answer. I folded my arms and stared at the bars of
colour that changed shape before my eyes, and wondered what to do. Then I heard an
unfamiliar sound come from Brother Jude’s room. It was a high, thin warbley noise like
something a raptor chickle might make if it was sickly. It changed to a low, low growl and
despite my uneasiness I stepped closer to its source.
From behind the imposing door a nasal whine floated out. It was the darndest thing I had
ever heard. It seemed to slip into my ear holes as delicately as a wisp of summer wind and I
could not help but press my lobe against the dark wood to better hear.
I did not get the chance to eavesdrop further, as said door was pulled sharply open. I saw
nought but blur and ended up all splattered face down onto a soft pelt. After spittle-spatting
out some ancient fluff, I gathered together my surprised senses and stood.
Before me was a tall, thinly ancient. His eyes were large and the palest blue I had ever
seen. Unlike the other monks that I saw, he had a thick head of white hair that hung down to
his shoulders. His face was smooth. I had expected many lines and wrinkles. But despite the
lack of crevices, he had an air of age about him and smelt of burning wood. His nose was as
large and similar in shape to the beak of an eagle, and his lips were full and red.
“Adara, welcome,” he said in a voice as sweet as honey. So sweet and rich in friendship
that I gave myself up to cheer and held out my hand just like that. He took it and clasped his
fingers around mine. His grip was strong for one so rich in time passing and I squeezed back,
not wanting him to let go.
“Yes, for sure you are the one. She with six instead of five. She with hair the colour of ripe
corn and eyes the colour of a winter sky. She that can save herself from danger of assault.
Adara, the catcher of birds. Adara, the singer of dreams to come,” he said and dropped my
“S’pose so,” I said, all lame, and felt a familiar heat flush up my neck and cheeks.
“Do not be awkward with who you are. We are all to play a part in what is to come.
Granted, your role will be pivotal, but all who stay with you will have a function meaningful. Ah, my girl, how long I have waited for you. I am all skittish as if a boy again. Come let us sit and
unbend before the work begins.”
He took my am and led me to a grand wooden chair with a high back carved in animal
shapes. I sat upon the red cushion and felt my backside sigh at the softness of it all. I let my
weary upper limbs slump upon the arms of the chair and leant back. Brother Jude pulled a
similar seat to face me and also sat. He put his elbows on his knees, rested his chin on his
cupped hands and grinned.
“I will need to hear what you can do before we begin your training. So, if you would be so
kind as to go to that far window, open it and call forth a raptor or two, I will be able to assess your ability and tailor your classes accordingly.”
I bit my lip and let a look of worry spread across my brow. Brother Jude sat back and stared
hard into my eyes. Then without another word, he stood, went to the window that was made
up of criss-cross diamond shapes, and opened it.
He leant out and I heard a high-pitched shrill sound. “Eagle, I think and quite near. Come,
try it. Call to this creature.”
I stood and went to the window. Brother Jude stepped aside and I put my head out. I saw
snow-capped tips of mountains in the distance. Clouds swirled around them like ghosties at
play and I felt a shiver pass through my innards. The air was cold and clean and I closed my eyes
and filled my lungs with its purity.
“Sing, Adara. Call its name, its true name, and it will come.”
“What? I don’t know what birds call themselves.”
“Then listen and it will tell you.”
I stretched my neck out farther, squeezed my eyes shut tighter, and focused my hearing on
the screams and shrill notes that floated around my head. I listened intently, and to my
surprise, thought I heard a name of sorts. I opened my mouth and sang the note that best
resembled the one I heard. In no more than the passing of a breath, I earholed the shriek of a
large raptor. I pulled back from the window and in flew a golden eagle. It flapped and flopped
around the room leaving large brown striped feathers on the floor. I shielded my face with my
hands lest it decided to munch upon some fresh meat.
“Soothe it, quickly.”
“Lower your voice to the tenderest of a sound.”
I did so and made a “Coo, coo” noise almost in a whisper. The bird ceased its panic and
came to rest upon the arm of Brother Jude’s chair.
“There, my friend. No need to fear,” he said, walked over to it and to my gasps, began to
stroke its head. The creature half closed its eyes and ruffled up its feathers before settling down to a snooze.
“Brother Jude, that was impressivo in the extreme. How came I to tame such a wild and
“This bird is not tame. You have merely caused it forget its fear of humans. You have
caused it to believe that it is among friends who will do it no harm. You have also added a note
or two that has made it forget what tasty morsels we are.”
“How did I do that?”
“By listening to its heart. You must have done something similar before?
“I have, a little. I called upon a chikle to return to-” I stopped before I blabbed about the
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