Kaval stepped out of the Ranger Lodge still picking food out of his teeth. He scowled as he was wont to do. In his experience, if life was all happiness and joy, then the killing was about to start. He watched the Vistani moving about their “fair”, shaking night dew and rain water off the colorfully striped booth awnings, exercising the rare animals, chatting and laughing as usual. He ignored the girl, (was her name Esthera?) though that surprised him. He usually had no qualms about sharing his bed but perhaps he’d heard too much of these Vistani. Glancing into town, he saw Widow Ellen helping some of her elderly neighbors and started to wonder…
“Fortune told, sah? First of the new sun, always the clearest words!” pitched a wiry Vistani boy of about 10 years old. “If you don’t like the cahds, you can watch my sister’s bobbies,” he adds with a creepy, conspiratorial wink.
“Your sister, eh? You call all of them your sister, don’t you?”
“We’re all family so we’re all brothers and sisters.”
“Must make breeding a bit dicey,” he muttered. But the kid grabbed his hand and he still felt ‘off duty’ so he let himself be led. Nothing wrong with a good pair of ‘bobbies’.
The fortune-teller tent was appropriately garbed in deep purple, the color of fate and luck. It looked undisturbed from the previous evening, still shadowy inside with candlelight.
“Gowan!” chided the boy. “She won’t bite less you want her to.” With that he skipped away with Kaval’s fee of a few coins.
He could just go back to the lodge and start his martial exercises. After some hesistation, he heard a voice from inside. “Come in, son of Shard.”
Kaval, intrigued, entered the tent.
The wagon smells of exotic spices and incense, but also of an aged one. It takes a moment for Kaval’s eyes to adjust to the soft light. As his eyes focus, he sees what has to be the largest woman he has even seen filling the other end of the enclosed wagon. No large as in fat, just…huge.
“Son of Shard, sit. You wish to know of the future, yes? For one piece of gold, that knowledge shall be yours. What would you like to know about? Love? Relationship with your compatriots? Your career?”
“Trust,” Kaval says quickly. “Who can I trust?”
The sting of his father and brothers’ betrayal was still sharp and Kaval didn’t trust many people. He’d tried to trust Bree back in Shale but she’d left him for another. Now he was quite hardened for a man of four and twenty years. He wasn’t even willing to trust that these Gray Rangers were as good as they seemed to be. He hoped they were, but he did not trust it.
“I cannot give you names, but we shall see what Trust brings you in the future, eh? First, we must seek to understand your past. Let us draw the first card…. The Sun, Ill Dignified”
“When the card is upside down, it signifies troubled partnerships and marriages, Broken engagements and contracts. Your past is a troubled one, Son of Shard. But then again, why would you ask of trust if all your past affairs were pleasant?” She looks at you in knowing gaze, as if she can see through to your soul.
“The second card will tell us much of your current state of mind… The Magician, Ill Dignified!”
“Your past pain threatens your current relationships, Son of Shard. Being ambiguous and withholding information will cost you what little trust your companions still have in you in the very near future. Again, not surprising given your question. You seem unsure of whom you can reveal your feelings.”
“Now to the third card. Keep in mind this represents your current course. You always have the ability to change the the future. The card…The Moon!”
“Past wounds to your soul will continue to plague you. Your past pain will lead to an inability to see things clearly sometimes resulting in personal depression. This may lead you to feel as if you are losing control of your daily life.”
“Son of Shard, I cannot tell you whom to trust in the future. But it is clear that not trusting will lead to significant pain on your part. Is there anything you else you would like know?”
“I don’t suppose your cards can tell me who my mother is?” he says, half-joking but eyeing the crone with a tinge of hope.
Kaval had never known his mother. His father, Traum Shardson, would not speak of her except when he was drunk and then all he would say is that she was “loverly” but “mad”. The other women of the household, transient lovers of Traum or misguided women seeking to care for this brood of unruly boys… they had never been a mother to Kaval. He was surprised that he was revealing this innermost pain to this stranger…
“Your situation moves me. I shall draw one more card. This represents your mother and her current state of being. If it is the Death Card, then you know her fate. If not, then you serve as a link to discover her well being.”The old crone smiles, and pulls a card from the deck she has been shuffling while you were collecting your thoughts.
“The card is….<gasp> The Devil, Ill Dignified!”
“True evil is at work here.”See closes here eyes, sweat breaks out upon her broad brow. She talks rapidly, trance-like,”I see abuse of authority. Material success is the focus to the exclusion of all other things. Uncontrolled ambition. Greed. I fear your mother is in bondage to a person, situation or thing. I sense emotional blackmail.”
She snaps out of the trance. “I think that is all for you today, Son of Shard. Please pay Montolo outside the wagon. “
Kaval is shaken by the card and her dire words. He gets up stiffly, reprimanding himself for being taken in by fortune-telling even though he knows how powerful it can be. He nods to the woman and walks out, wondering where the boy went with his original money as he gives a gold to the well-muscled Montolo.
What could he do with such information? He did not know who his mother was let alone where. If she was still in Gryphon, he couldn’t return there or risk death at the hands of his family or the Scarlet Blades. Whatever truth had come from that tent, it left Kaval less satisfied than when he’d entered…