“Well, go on, dear,” Keon motioned to the small tent where the strange woman was waiting.
“How… how did she know my name?” Oliana whispered.
“I haven’t a clue,” Keon said. “Perhaps there’s something to that fortune telling nonsense after all,” he laughed. “I’m famished, so I’ll find us some food while you’re enjoying your complimentary fate.” He smiled and strode off as Oliana glanced back at the tent. Though there was still plenty of light out, the inside of the canvas itself was quite dim. She entered dubiously.
“Take a seat, young lady,” the elderly woman said. She gestured to the seat across from hers on the small table that held a crystalline orb. For a moment, Oliana imagined herself back in Jarrah’s small hut sitting at his own modest table. The teller wore a purple hood that covered her eyes, her wispy grey hair escaping in strands across the sides of her cockled face. Oliana could not understand why, but this woman made her uneasy.
“How do you know my name?” she skipped the regular formalities.
“Fate told it to me, of course. I am a powerful instrument of Fate. I have such a strong connection that she will sometimes project images in my orb of what has been and will be.”
“If you’re so powerful, why are you a simple festival attraction?”
Instead of taking offense, the woman chuckled gruffly. “My young Oliana, you still have much to learn. I will share something with you before we discuss your future. The fact that I am a lady of contradiction makes me very much like Fate herself. She tells the good and the bad to people of both pure and evil intentions. A storyteller like Fate accepts that you must know the darkness to appreciate the light. You will never fulfil your fate or discover the truth until you embrace paradoxes like my choice of occupation.”
Keon began the trek back to the food market with enthusiasm, not having eaten all day. He could already smell meat and spices that had been saved for the occasion of the festival as they wafted through the open air. His musings of turkey legs were jerked to a halt as he spotted a wall on one of the many buildings lining the street. It was covered in sketches of wanted criminals. He would have to search through each drawing quickly and carefully for his own sly face.
Instead of finding his own, however, his eyes were snagged on an image for which no expense had been spared. The largest posting was that of a greywolf colored with blue-grey hair, white markings, and glowingly fierce golden eyes. Keon could not help but recognize it immediately as a drawing of Dechar. It was what was below the drawing, however, that caught his true interest. Though he could not read, he could recognize that the more zeros there were, the higher the bounty on the individual. And he had never seen so many zeros on a single sheet. This had to be one wanted by the king himself.
His heart pounded in confliction. To keep the promise he’d made about the wolf’s freedom, or to be bathed in more wealth than he could imagine? I am a thief, after all, he reminded himself.
Oliana’s eyebrows took the shape of confusion. “How can the truth be found in contradiction?”
The woman smiled. “That is a paradox in and of itself, is it not? The truth is all around you in black and white and other opposing forces, Oliana. You need only realize it. I offer you my invaluable information at no cost because the most precious things in life have no value in coin.” The orb began to glow and Oliana jumped in her seat as she saw flashes of her memory manifest themselves as images in the sphere.
The first was of her very earliest recollection of sitting on her mother’s lap by the fire. “The future depends on the past,” the teller continued, and the orb now showed a small child: Oliana holding her father’s hand and weeping by her mother’s grave. Oliana wanted to look away, but something about the orb held her in captivation. “Pain is needed for healing,” the old woman looked up such that Oliana could now see her piercing eyes glimmering in the faint glow of the orb. “And war is often necessary to achieve peace. You must ready yourself for what is to come by dawning the armor of your past.”
“Tell me more,” Oliana insisted, blood charging through her veins as on the backs of horses.
“Your closest friend,” the woman said as Dechar’s face illuminated the crystal ball, “must be removed very far from you. He denies his fate at this time, but if the she-wolf takes him to learn of his origins, he will come to realize his true calling. He would not leave you willingly. You, on the other hand, must keep the company of thieves,” the orb took a dark hue. “They will teach you many important skills that will help you fulfill your destiny. Now, about that destiny," the woman slowed her speech to make it more deliberate. "You and Dechar must steal the kingdom in order to return the balance that has been robbed from its people. And that concludes my fortune telling.”
Oliana hyperventilated. “Steal the kingdom? You say it with such candor! Please, you cannot stop here. Be more specific!”
“I will not tell you everything; some things are best left in the shadows to be discovered later. You see, both light and darkness are needed to form a complete picture of Fate’s revelations. That is why I dwell in the grey,” she smiled.
Oliana, frustrated yet thankful, showed her gratitude and left the tent, completely ignorant of the fact that she had just spoken with none other than Merenia, King Gillireth’s personal seer.