Taishent walked quickly through the market place, prodling his young granddaughter along. “Come along, come on. I’ll be late because of you.”
The girl ran after him, looking right and left, distracted by the multitude of vendors and people rushing about.
“Aimee! Would you please move faster!”
She ran to catch up to her grandfather and trailed him to an enclosed booth a half block away.
A young woman met them at the door and asked them to sit down, while she announced their arrival. Taishent lowered himself in a chair, while Aimee lingered by the door, looking at people pass by.
“Why is it you act like you’ve never been to the market?” the mage complained. “Each time I bring you here, it’s the same story.”
The girl sat down in a chair by the door, restlessly kicking her feet, a short distance off the floor.
“Dyann!” Corambis appeared at the door through which the young woman disappeared. “I was wondering if you were going to come.”
Taishent rose to his feet and greeted the sage. “Aimee made me late again,” he complained. “I can’t wait for her father to return!”
“Again,” Corambis smiled. “Did you enjoy the holidays?” he asked, bending down next to the girl.
The girl nodded shyly and looked down at her dangling feet.
“Would you like Thuna to show you around the market?” Corambis asked.
Aimee nodded, still looking at her feet.
“Good, good. Thuna!” he called for his assistant, getting back to his feet. The young woman entered and stopped by Corambis. “Take Aimee to the market for a few hours. Taishent and I have some business to see to…” Thuna nodded in agreement. “…and if she pick’s up any more of your bad habits…” he warned in half voice.
How I fear what an influence Thuna might be on Aimee,” Corambis told Taishent when his assistant left with her charge. “She’s such a quiet girl.”
“She’s only quiet in public,” Taishent said. “At home she’s only an angel when asleep in a locked room.”
The two men laughed for a moment, then Corambis suggested they get to business and they entered his office.
“I’m very sorry that Roisart Connall died. You’ve been predicting a holiday disaster for a while now,” Taishent mentioned.
“You know, the Connall twins stopped here for advice just a few days ago, right before the murder,” Corambis said with some irony in his voice. “I read it on the Wheel and considered our last casting and warned them lightly and dismissed it all as soon as they left. I thought Fionn Connall’s death was it.”
“I hope Luthias recovers,” Taishent sighed. “The two were almost inseperable. I’ve never seen a place love its nobility as much.”
“Quite a tragedy,” Corambis agreed, preparing ten wooden discs for a new casting. “Have you heard that someone killed Terell?”
“Bah! Heard it and didn’t feel a bit of remorse,” Taishent snapped. “The only thing we had in common with him were two years in the same school. I never did like his style. I’d bet he got killed after striking a bad deal.”
“Don’t be so negative. I’m sure some people out there consider us to be eccentric.”
Taishent grunted in disbelief. “Let’s do the casting.”
“Let’s,” Corambis agreed.
After a short ceremony, the ten wooden discs were dropped on the Wheel of Life. Most of them landed on the symbols of Fox, Torch and Mistweaver.
Corambis shook his head. “If the last one was bad…”
The discs of Heart, Spirit and Body lay in the center, together with the red disc representing Dargon. “In the Mistweaver’s grasp…” The ally lay in the clutches of the Fox and the adversary in the flames of the Torch.
“Too symbolic,” Taishent said.
“Trouble. Trouble,” Corambis verified. “Our allies won’t be our allies for long and adversaries may crush us. It’s very uncommon to have most land on so few symbols.”
“What’s the bottom line?”
“Do your casting first,” Corambis said.
The two men moved to a small makeshift table and sat down. Taishent produced a deck of cards, placed a Fate card on the table, then shuffling the deck, placed an unknown card on it. He reshuffled the deck and lay out a pattern around the two cards. Both he and Corambis bent down to scrutinize the pattern.
“Look here,” Taishent pointed. “Good present, tense future.” Knight, Wizard and Sorrow decorated the top row. Beneath them lay Tranquility, Eagle, Water and a hidden card. “The past doesn’t tell much,” Taishent ignored the bottom three cards. The card covering fate was turned over to reveal the ugly face of the Jester.
“Incredible,” Corambis said.
“I’ll skip the dramatics,” Taishent hurried. “I predict a conflict in Dargon sometime soon.”
Corambis stood up and walked over to the Wheel of Life, contemplating the challenge. “I say an external conflict, but in due time.”
Taishent came back to the larger table, to look at the pattern again. “I see no resolution.”
“The Wheel hardly ever shows the means to an end. Your casting wasn’t conclusive either.”
Taishent recast the future row, using the method for far future. Fire, Air, Griffin. “Nothing,” he said. “Conflict.”
Silence ruled the room for some time, while the men considered the fortunes they had cast.
“You know,” Corambis finally broke the silence, “we’ve been doing this after every equinox for for more time than I wish to account for and to what results?”
“We’ve been right most of the time.”
“I hope we’re wrong now,” Corambis sighed. “I couldn’t wish a fortune like this on anyone.”
“I feel guilty for making predictions like this too,” Taishent said.
“Let’s get some air,” Corambis said, sweeping all the wooden discs with his arm to the side of the table.
Taishent reshuffled the cards.
“May Dargon get through this with its skin intact…”