Teller of Fortunes 25: Wealth in Smoke

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After her last bout of fortune-telling — and a misunderstanding — the Teller of Fortunes is now left buried underneath a pile of gifted puffroot.

Elsewhere across the camp, Brair the fire-breather is in a similar situation to Ane’s sudden wealth of puffroot; the only difference is that he’s getting loaded down with appohs instead. This is all because, after predicting a Chaos Storm, she told the locals they would enjoy puffroot and appohs respectively. Apparently neither boon is enough to deplete the village’s crop by any measure, but it’s far more than any single person is meant to have in their wagon.

This is a whole damn village, after all, and a fairly sizable one at that. None of them give a damn about the shows, though. They’re all too busy starting the preparations — moving their crops, planning for barricades, considering where to lodge when the month ends — that sort of thing. There is a Chaos Storm coming in a month, after all.

Ane is beginning to have second thoughts about telling the woman to be generous to avoid the wrath of Vurumaji. It’s not that she isn’t grateful, as she certainly hopes Brair is if he’s getting free appohs, but there’s just so much of it. She could smoke up the entire caravan for weeks. It is a pretty valuable haul, but turning it into coin also means storing it, moving it, finding a market for it, and haggling.

At this rate, she’ll be stuffing her mattress with puffroot just to have somewhere to put it.

As more material pours in, it even overturns the coin bowl at some point. The silver clatters out across Ane’s table, rolling and flipping out onto the brocade. One by one, they tumble out, and when they land…

Nine out of the ten in sight are heads-up. While it’s certainly improbable, perhaps it is a sort of omen… After all, coins and cups are symbols of the gods Sarehn and the Wanderer. This result might mean that they look favorably upon this reading. Regardless, the sight instills a certain, visceral warmth in Ane’s chest, like the sort one may feel upon moving an injured, bleeting vulre kid in from the rain.

In time, the situation calms, and Ane is now sitting with her great mound of puffroot. The whole lot of it would have to be measured in the dozens of pounds. The take in silver is pretty normal for a small town — just three gold, mostly in copper — but this is a hilarious sum when one considers that Ane did only one reading for the entire day.

Hopefully Jarrik the caravan master likes smoking, or has managed to hire a passel of mercenaries who do — he’s probably going to be disappointed, otherwise. Ane decides to stop the Half-Light Show a little early, the better to begin shifting all of the puffroot to her wagon. It requires many trips and the patient stuffing of several empty pillowcases, but, eventually, the interior of her wagon looks like a rather oddly-decorated puffer parlor.

Even so, when she goes to take down her tent, she still finds some of the stuff tucked away in the folds and corners of the canvas — and will probably continue to do so for months. 

At least it smells good.

Later, she sits on her bed, nestled beside her window as a cool breeze flutters her curtains. She’s wrapped in her robe, with a book propped on one knee and a cattail paper cigarillo pinched between her thumb and forefinger. Silvery smoke, tinged with an earthy fruitiness and deep, molasses-sweetness, rises and drifts lazily from the ember glowing at the end of it. Though she’s reading, her efforts at doing so are minimal at best — it’s another dogeared bit of romantic fiction, a lyric poem following the adventures of a buxom milkmaid and the lord of the manor (or was it a well-endowed farmhand and a duke? It doesn’t really matter). She could probably still her hum completely and have a better adventure play out in her half-drowsy imagination right now. 

Romantic stories have never been among her interests, but books are expensive. Most of hers had originally been collected by the caravan’s old bearded lady — a costly balm for the woman’s own frustrated passions. There were Archestran epic poems about star-crossed lovers, Aed’harthi bodice-rippers about pirates, Pellan tales of sloe-eyed maids seduced by fae, S’vargan stories about dashing bandits and courtly intrigue… When Ane inherited a crate of them upon her friend’s passing, how could she turn them down? The stories themselves are often uninspired, but, on a long enough road, even the antics of dewy-eyed lovers without an ounce of genre savviness make for good company. There are many books printed in ways Ane will never be able to read (flat ink is no friend to a shasii’s sight), but she wouldn’t give them up for all of the gold in Archestra.

Ane smothers a yawn with the back of her free hand and shakes her head as if to clear it. She reaches around to stub the puffroot out on the side of her stove, leaving the rest of the cigarillo atop it to wait. Void, she can’t even finish a pinch of puffroot in a sitting — she has no idea how she’s going to live with this much of it.

She pulls her blanket up around her, tucking herself in to enjoy the tail end of the day, lulled to sleep by a gentle high and the soft, staccato bap-bapping of the shardflies against her curtains.