Corambis stood over the large table with the Wheel of Life, scratching his head. “Thuna! Thuna, bring me a pebble from the outside,” he called out.
Something crashed with a thud in the outer room, but he ignored it, pressing his hand down on the velvet table. It tilted.
“By Kurin’s beard! Expert craftsman my …”
Another loud crash outside drowned out the sage’s words. “What’s going on out there, Thuna?” he shouted.
The door opened and Dyann Taishent stepped into the casting room, holding his hand in the air before him.
“What is she doing?” Corambis demanded.
“I’m not sure,” Taishent looked back out the door, “but she told me to give you these,” he dropped some pebbles on the table.
Corambis shook his head.
“…and she asked me to tell you to stuff them in your …”
Another loud crash in the other room cut him off and Thuna shrieked.
“That does it!” Corambis snapped and went over to the door. “Thuna, what are you doing?”
His assistant jumped into the casting room and slammed the door shut after herself. Her dark brown hair was a mess and in her hand she held a broken stick. “You have a mouse, Sir,” she whispered, trying to maintain dignity.
“A mouse,” Corambis said flatly.
“Well…a rat…maybe two…”
“Then chase it out, girl! Get the broom and chase it out!”
“I can’t, Sir. It ate the broom.” She handed him the stick she was holding. Sharp grooves of tooth marks marred it on one side and it was splintered from being hit on the other.
“In the name of Ol!” Corambis cursed. “Three weeks and we all ready have rats! Here,” he handed her some coins. “Go get me a cat.”
“I don’t think a cat will solve it, Sir,” Thuna muttered.
“Get me something,” Corambis ordered and opened the door.
Thuna peeked out cautiously, then retrieved the remains of the broom from the sage and ran out.
Corambis sat down holding his head. “Rats all ready. It was fine when I had the grain merchant next door…”
Dyann Taishent sat down across from Corambis. “If you’re too busy to do a casting today, maybe we can sip some cider and then chase the rats around…”
Corambis let out a laugh. “Here, give me a hand.” He scooped up the pebbles on the table and pointed to one of the corners. “Press down on that.”
Taishent put both of his hands on the edge and tilted the table, while the sage fumbled at the opposing leg, stuffing the pebbles beneath it.
“There,” Corambis finally got up. “Stable for now.”
“I wish. Trissa got some wood cutter to make me this. All the legs are of a different length. Twenty years bringing her up and she gets me a casting table made of oak.”
Taishent chuckled. “How does it cast?”
Corambis shrugged. “Madam Labin asked me to cast for her pregnancy. According to my casting, she will have a puppy.”
Taishent’s mouth dropped open. “What did you tell her?”
“I said she will have a healthy baby…if a little on the hairy side. I will have to call her back for a second casting…”
“Do you still want to do a casting with the table acting up like that?”
“Of course,” the sage said. “But we best do it under the influence.” He got up and took a jug and two glasses from the corner. “At least the rats haven’t gotten to this.”
“Jerid has been raiding my house every few days,” Taishent sighed. “He took all the cider and just two days ago carried off a package of kavaliculi. Told me I was too old to eat all that.”
Corambis filled the two glasses and handed one to Taishent. “Live good while you live.”
“I’ve got a new hiding spot,” Taishent winked. “I’ll be picking up some pickled meats this evening.”
“Now,” Corambis produced a bag of chips. “The casting.” He chanted the incantation, naming Baranur as the recipient and let the nine blue and one red chips fall to the wheel carved in the table.
The ally discs slipped to Pyrale, the torch. The adversary markers landed on Kafarn, the ship. The other discs landed in random areas, some rolling out to the outer rim of the wheel, where the major power elemental symbols took form. The red disc representing Baranur danced around the table for a time and finally came to rest on Aurus, the mistweaver.
“Be better off chasing rats,” Taishent muttered.
“Allys in water, enemies in fire…” Corambis said. “That’s a new one…”
“Only the body is on Valonus,” Taishent pointed to the oak symbol.
“Usually all of them are there,” Corambis sighed.
Taishent quickly unwrapped his deck of cards and placed the Fate card on the table with the wheel. He shuffled the deck, said the incantation and placed another card on Fate, face down. After a second shuffling and casting, he laid a pattern on the surface. The top row held Sword, Wizard and Moon, the one below it contained Sorrow, Air and Fortress.
“If I did not know any better, I’d say we’re at war,” Taishent smirked with sarcasm and turned over the hidden card on Fate.
“The Jester again!” Corambis exclaimed. “That’s the fourth time!”
“Fifth,” Taishent corrected. “I first cast him last summer.”
“Indeed you did,” the sage agreed. “This makes it five times consecutively.”
“I guess we got it all right last summer,” Taishent said, sitting back down. “The unrest of the mob, the actions of that coven, the Duke’s trial…the war…”
“Do the far future,” Corambis prompted.
Taishent recast the cards and laid out the last row — Water, Knight and Fire.
Corambis fumbled to refill their glasses with cider. “Why water and fire?” he wondered. “Both of us…”
“Clifton Dargon’s fleet?” Taishent guessed.
“But why the fire?”