He rejects the good herald’s call and goes to the fortune teller. She is a gypsy. She has a big nose and big eyes that bulge. Middle-aged. A mouth checkered with dark spaces where teeth once where. Her robes are bulky, like she is hiding a dozen things inside of them. She wears a peasant man’s hat (like a bomber) with a wimple draped over it, but is adorned with opulent necklaces and bracelets. Her carriage is drawn by two draft horses. Too strong for such a small burden. One mottled and the other dark black.
HERO approaches the carriages path and hails her. She pulls the reigns on her steeds and he greets her politely and with more formality than he can gauge she’s accustomed, because he wants her to do give him quality service. She bears an entertained laugh and dismounts, not speaking more but sets up shop.
She opens the carriage door. It has a thick woven curtain behind it, on the inside of the carriage. Once inside it’s starkly dark, and he can see why the redundancy of the curtain. The dank air smells like patchouli. Earthy. Heavy. Cold. Dark. Slightly sweet. Almost moist. Crisp. Nutty. Oaky. Minty. Ancient. A pop and then a vigorous ripping sound, and the cabin is illuminated in phosphorous orange. In a moment it dies down to the glow of a candle wick. He sees her by a squat kettle-like oil lantern, and watches her set down two stones with remnant embers on them. She doffs her headdress, and a bushel of brown, thick curly hair bounces out from underneath the cap, like an escaping prisoner. Somehow the dim lighting reveals more of her than the overcast sky had. The wrinkles in her eyes and mouth reveal laugh lines. Her eye sockets are deep, especially against her high cheek bones, but her caked eye shadow and eyelash mud diplomatically distract. She’s also missing half her ear. Her throat also wears the necklace of a failed cutting.The tell-tale stitching was hastily and crudely done, possibly self-administered. She was once beautiful.
It’s overly spacious inside. Soft. Throw pillows. Blankets. Complex colored linens of fine quality and craft. Mismatched. Festooned. Obviously from separate places. Some it he recognizes from his own royal court. Others bear the sigils of far off kingdoms. Space is maximized with storage and drawers everywhere. Under the seats. Above. There’s a wardrobe. Everything is tightly secured. Things that shouldn’t be in a carriage because of their instability are, but secured to the walls and to the floor. dressers with small drawers, small enough to not fit more than fingers in. Jewels. Silver. Gold. Strewn in places and the floor. A chandelier swings. There’s too much inside of the carriage. Despite it’s deceptively large space, it’s cramped because of all she has. It’s amazing that a criminal managed to organize this well. He took a seat. She told him her price would be high, and it wouldn’t be worth his money. She spoke in a rough, glottal accent. One from across the hills, but obviously rough enough to be due to her scarred esophagus. He ignored her and threw his gold on the table that was nailed down to the floor. She acquiesced and unsheathed her crystal orb. It’s purple glow overcame the lantern, which curiously dimmed itself.
“You already have your question in heart?” She asks while concentrated on the ball.
‘I–,’ he begins to respond.
“Do not privy me! Hold it in heart!” she interrupts as she deftly stirs her hand above the glow without breaking eye contact.
He saw a concentration of lavender that moved oddly, organically, ocularly. It shifted around the room creepily, landed its iris on him, and lingered. He shifted in his seat. And it blinked. Then lazily rolled backwards to face the gypsy.
A low, low hum, almost imperceptible, enters the cabin. It didn’t reverberate in his seat or in his body. He questioned if he heard it. It seemed to be coming from inside his head. She clearly felt it too, because she began squinting and tilting her head in the same way that HERO did, yet less so, as if she were accustomed.
The darkness beamed more opaque and dense, and the purple light contrasted more sharply against it as it grew closer to them. The ambient light wasn’t retracting, it was fighting the dark, glowing brighter but losing its ground. The gypsy’s green eyes pierced into the crystal, looking left and right at details. She looked slightly concerned, but retained her professionalism.
A drop in temperature from behind him. The down plush lost their warmth. The dark rallied. He was fearful. He looked around and was concerned he wasn’t close enough to her.
“Shall I go on, varrior?” her voice irreverently cracked the atmosphere. He looked at her and she was rapt with attention on him, like a harpy. No longer attuned to the sphere. He nodded, but with unsurety that she percieved.
Her mood changed, and eyes softened. She tilted her chin and gazed at him over he nose, and slowly and gently rolled her head and shoulder. “Peradventure. Your coin. Gold buys many things. Especially when so heavy,” she purred in an odd contrast to the feel of the room. Her hands moved from the surface, one to her scarf and the other went to her knee. A bare leg retracted from her dress and the undertable.
He immediately felt a head rush and his pulse quickened, mouth agape. Here? Now? It didn’t make sense. And he wanted to. What a hap to tell his brother! He blinked hard and took a breath: no! He mustn’t. He never had to fortitude to cross this far into the darkness before. He wouldn’t do it again, and he couldn’t miss his chance or lose his focus. He dug into his purse and threw another piece on the table.
“You don’t vant dis, varrior.” She chided as she remodested her leg and rested her hands on the surface. “It is too dangerous. You–are dangerous. It doesn’t bode vell. I don’t sink you or me much prepared. You have much potential. However, it’s not vhat you want. Or vhat you should want.” She pushed the pile of his gold back to him, passed the still glowing ball–although he noticed it looked like less than what he gave her. “Go to se servitude. Be servant. Make your your gods et your ancestors ploud.”
He bristled in the dark, and breathed a heavy gust. ‘Give me what I paid for, lest I tell the hamlets that you’re a cheat and a charlatan,’ he growled.
“Don’t sreaten me, boy,” she icily spoke back, but without overt malice. The frightening kind of quiet discipline that makes one anxious and scares more than shouting. She whispered something harsh, foreign, and directed at him, then cooly went back to work. All the while the room was frigid and brimming with potent dark.
“Have you in ever life asked you vhat it’s like to bad? Live bad?” A mist gracefully crept outward from the base of the ball.
“You can be gleat.”
“You can be. . .” She went silent.
He waited. He heard his own breath. The hum remained, and fogged his head. His eared wined with a pitch, and then the hum dissipated. The cloudiness remained. A whisper. He looked to his right. Immediately the whisper again. And then behind him, and to his left. The cabin got colder.
The gypsy woman’s countenance was no longer impressed by what she saw in the crystal. She looked concerned again. Her pupils were dilated and mouth pulled into a frown. Without a blink her eyes shot at him, and she slowly smiled.
“You must—choose,” she said with patience before the last word. “Se dardk gods have much for you. You vill not be veak. You vill not be fettered. You can be gleat.