Teller of Fortunes 21: Stories Everywhere

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The caravan arrives at its next station within the city, moving ever closer to the opposite end. 

The Teller of Fortunes decides to skip breakfast in favor of setting her tent up quickly and having some time to take a bath and read a little before she’s expected to work. When she finally emerges from her wagon, clad in her veil, gauzy skirts, and the lodolite and copper pendant tied around her slender neck with a thin ribbon, she is every bit as relaxed as she was when she got home the day before — either the puffroot was uncommonly good and long-lasting, or something about spending time dreaming with the little slipshell effigy left her exceedingly well-rested.

Ane settles herself on her short stack of embroidered cushions and begins to shuffle her cards. With luck, this will be another good day for business. It’s not likely, given how well the previous day went, but maybe…

The spectacle of the caravan is still fresh, and there’s a whole new flock of clientele now that the wagons have rolled to a new spot in the city. People line up outside, eager to see what future awaits them. This keeps Ane rather busy, sweating under her incense to catch up with the tempo of fortune telling, at least until the middle part of the day. Around then, the line dwindles down and there’s an occasional gap between customers, providing little breaths of fresh air. 

Around then, a strange glow gathers around the tent-flap. It seems to be a gathering of shard-flies. Their little glows circulate and shift behind the canvas, slowly becoming denser. Around then, an arm sweeps back the tent’s entrance flap. There, standing in the opening, is a shasii wearing a rather striking headress. It appears to be made from a skygg’s skull with the tattered fur trailing down behind it into a mantle. Beneath this is a young shasii woman, with the eyeless swirl-span of her upper face half-covered in long, braided mid-shade hair. She has a rather mystified expression, seeming rather misplaced in time and space with her wrapped chest and limbs. A few shardflies cling to her back, trying to stow their way with her into the tent.

“The spirits feel strong here,” she remarks, perhaps a bit obliviously. 

Not as strong as the spirit I’m probably going to need when this is over, the Teller of Fortunes thinks to herself. It’s challenging enough reading cards while trying to tactfully navigate the context of Paakoese spirituality, and people are often willing to argue when the “wrong” cards turn up. She does not know what this young woman’s particular metaphysical context is, but she can sense a sudden, sharp uptick in difficulty. 

“Greetings,” Ane says, with her practiced warmth, automatic smile, and a graceful gesture toward the cushions in front of her table, “It’s five silver for three cards, and five more for every three thereafter. What answers may I help you find?”

The woman wanders forward and kneels down onto the cushions. She furrows her brow, looking thoughtful — at least, as much as one in her garb can look thoughtful. 

“How may I find my guardian spirit?” The woman asks, after a moment or two of consideration with shardflies buzzing around her head. “You seem like someone who knows them well…” The customer’s swirls are wide, as if she’s either really impressed, really off her rocker, or both. 

The Teller of Fortunes’s hands pause in shuffling for a moment. She could just tell her the answer, but a reading is a reading. Ane begins to deal out the cards.

“To seek your guardian spirit… Ah, here we have The Sun Shard reversed. You’re asking me because you’ve been trying, to no avail. You’re feeling frustrated at your lack of success.”

The woman nods hurriedly, causing her skygg-headress to bob with the motion. She’s certainly an excitable sort.

Really? I didn’t actually need a card to know that.

Nonetheless, she continues. She flips over another card with a practiced air, setting it to flank the first.

“Here is The Rogue reversed. You may be feeling that you’ve fallen victim to deception… Perhaps some charlatans have attempted to guide you in the past?” 

The woman frowns gently, perhaps at some rueful memory. This individual probably has some choice words for whoever she’s thinking of… 

The Teller of Fortunes nods gently as she turns over the third card, setting it to form a rough triangle with the other two. 

Void, that isn’t good.

She takes a deep breath. To say that this requires sensitivity is a bit of an understatement. Beside her right elbow, the little katagon-bowl exhales a smoky sigh, as if commiserating. 

“And here is The Tyrant Dragon, reversed. This indicates avarice — you will find your guardian spirit only after you have overcome frustration, deception, and greed. These may be things to beware of when you’re seeking a mentor, but we sometimes overlook characteristics we harbor within ourselves. It is good to be aware of our own negative aspects, in order to acknowledge and integrate our internal light and shadow. When you are able to do this, you will find your guardian spirit,” the Teller of Fortunes’s neatly-manicured fingertips drum lightly on the trio of cards as she pauses for a moment.

“And,” she adds, hesitantly, “If that doesn’t work… Drink about a cup, cup and a half of sightwort tea on an empty stomach and see where it gets you.”

Her mouth drops agape slightly, not in shock, but as if she’s too deep in thought to regulate her expression. 

“Well, there are many charlatans!” She blurts, after a moment’s pause. “Some claiming to be shamans, or men pretending they’re fellow warriors of the spirits… Still, if I want to avoid greedy folk, I need to stop wanting things so badly,” she reflects, resting her fingertips upon her chin. “But sightwort? Really?” She asks, uncertainly. “I heard it just makes people see strange things, but… There is really something about the air here,” she says, looking around. “I suppose I will believe you.”

The Teller of Fortunes shrugs a pointed shoulder. Some of her mystical air has been dropped by now — once you’ve reached the point of telling someone to solve their problems with hallucinogenic tea, there’s not much reason to try to keep pretending. 

“Sure, but nobody sees strange things coincidentally,” Ane supplies. “You can meditate looking up at clouds, and learn things based on what your mind picks up. It’s not that these things necessarily have any special virtue themselves, they provide a space for your mind to play on — like the backdrop for a puppet show. It might just be a backdrop, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a story there.”

The woman nods studiously, listening with rapt attention. She begins to gently dispense silvers onto the table as a tip — more than another reading’s worth. Apparently she deems this sort of information much more valuable. Moreover, she finds Ane has more than established her credibility. 

Once Ane has finished dispensing her wisdom, the woman beams. 

“That makes a lot of sense! I’ll try some of that; maybe I’ve been stressing too hard to please the elders… and myself.” She sighs, and then drops another couple of silver. “Just a tip, to get a head-start on lessening my avarice,” the would-be animist says with a smile. “Well!” She hops to her feet. “I’m glad I asked about that, instead of my next yield of shardfly eggs. Thank you for the advice,” she says, her disposition now much sunnier, almost literally so with her halo of swirling, glowing bugs. 

“No problem,” the Teller of Fortunes says, with a wave of her hand, “Just make sure the sightwort isn’t dusty and hasn’t gone moldy — you’ll be gassy for hours otherwise.”