''Gwen! Whatever is wrong?''

            "Gwen! Whatever is wrong?" Greta asked as she brushed herself off, looking at the young woman she was to be watching. By the heavens, when did she grow taller than me?

            "I'm sorry," Gwen told Greta. She can be a burden, yet she does care. And in her surprise, she confessed, "A fortune-teller scared me."

            Greta cocked her head to one side quizzically, and waiting for a witty punch-line. When none came, she glanced behind Gwen at the tent.

            The fortune-teller  parted the tent's entrance curtain with a slim, scarred wrist. Rings glittered in the sun on her delicate hands, exotic jewels that looked both mystical and out of place - that is, on a mere marketplace tinker.

            Gwen had moved to the side, and thus the middle-aged nurse was now staring the strange woman down. Gwen was speechless, as she looked from Greta to the teller, from the teller to Greta, and back again several times before the uncomfortably warm silence was broken.

            "It has been a long time, Greta. Would you like your fortune read, my sister?"

            The nurse gave a sour smile, "Running away from home for your witchcraft and yet we both end up in this dreadful corner of the world?"

            "I have been watching you, Greta. I knew you were in these parts."

            It was then that, in the speechless awe of how small the world really was, Gwen spotted the thirteenth card in the fortune-teller's hand.

            "I have not finished your reading, my dear," she told Gwen, catching her eye.

            Greta's sour smile parted to a serious look of analysis and dread.

            "My last card, the twelfth hand of the circle?"

            "Yes, my dear. What about it?" The fortune-teller sounded reluctant to turn it over in her hand, as if Greta had disrespected her the moment she ran from the King of Diamonds.

            "I paid you for a full reading. Does that not involve turning over my final card?"

            Greta whispered in Gwen's ear, "My sister does not read fates, according to the tinkers of Edinburgh. They exiled her, for she is cursed, so they say, to spin fates. Not that I necessarily believe in fate"

            Gwen frowned, not believing any of it either. Fate is a concept that clashes directly with free will. If God gave men and women free will, why would - No, no, he only gave prophecy to men as pertains to the plans of God. But this prophecy, it pertains tot he plans of men. Does the Devil bind our free will with fate? Who was I reading that mused upon this so elegantly...

            Greta smiled, impressed that Gwen had been standing her ground. And she stared her sister straight in the eyes.

            "Fine," the fortune-teller chided, "but know this - you are better off not knowing."

            Greta and Gwen stared down, as the glare shone on the glossy card. A joker. A single joker.

            Greta, however, identified it - remembering from her childhood some of the strange arts her older sister had dabbled in. There was an edge in her voice, "A wild card."

            Gwen took this well, "Excellent. No destiny to bind and shackle me to one trajectory."

            "You are a foolish girl," the fortune-teller began to lecture, "If you think a life without fate to trust in is good. And know this! The rest of your reading is not rendered moot - rather, it is unpredictable. This is a curse upon your probable fates, my dear. This is no boon, overturned in my hand!"

            "Perhaps," Gwen said defiantly, no longer curious in what the dark arts might tell her. "I wish to return home, Greta."

            "Very well," Greta said, as servant rather than chaperon. "Darla, I will return this evening when Gwen's mother, who is in my care, is asleep. We must speak."

            The overbearing heat, and the dusty street, made the silence unbearable. Gwen fidgeted, Now is a good time as any to run off from Greta.

            "Very well," the fortune-teller said to her sister, "The kettle will begin boiling at sundown. Be here, and we shall speak. And if you permit me - I will read your-"

            "Tarot reading, if anything," Greta interrupted. The safest, they warned us, if ever we welcomed you back into the family back home. "It's settled."

            Gwen smiled, glad to see that Greta could keep more of a personal life than the occasional night at a tavern, while following her decrepit mother around the world for years. Perhaps my jailer is not so cold.

            And with that, Gwen and Greta parted ways with Darla, the fortune-teller, as a thick, dark cloud in the bare sky eclipsed the sun for a brief moment.

The End

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