Treachery is a skill that the Outlands breeds within people; not only out of necessity, but also, out of pure guile. The Outlands are tough. There is little hope that goes by without being defiled out here. So decrepit a world has not existed in many a age.
It was within this world that, Myr had grown up. A world that had beaten her innocence to within an inch of its life and robbed her of her childhood. Self pity held no sway over her actions, however. What had once been innocence was now frigid logic and an instinct driven mind.
“What do the cards say?”
A voice laden with hope pushed through the fog of a glazed stare. Myr, now a teenaged girl, stared at the weedy man before her through strands of murky hair. He was answered in an exhausted sigh and the sound of shuffling cards.
A tired glance caught his greedy eyes attempting to catch a glimpse of the cards she handled so expertly. Another sigh escaped her and set a reminder upon the small table between them.
“You remember the payment, right?”
“Yes, yes... A piece of the Greater for each card... I have it.” The man reached into his shirt, worn inside out and pulled a small metal piece from the inverted chest pocket. He placed it on the table between them and sat back. His hungry face was alight with urgency. His curiosity was beginning to eat him and this was palpable enough for the teenaged Myr to see.
The marked Greater, the market's three tiered currency of specially marked metal pieces, was snatched from the table and stuffed within a bag that hung around her shoulder. Myr was dexterous and displayed her ability by cutting her deck of rough edged cards with her other hand and placing the shuffled deck upon the table.
“Choose your fate,” she commented dryly, her voice lacking all of the mysticism one might associate with the words of a supposed fortune teller. Her words, for that matter, fell short of interested by a span of exhaustion.
The man hardly noticed. His trembling hand hovered over the deck while Myr waited for him to decide but her impatience was already getting the better of her. The deck spread itself over the table of its own accord. She could see the man's eyes widen. Fright and fascination danced behind those gray eyes. There had once been a time when even this overt show of wonder from clients would infect her with a smile, fleeting as it might have been. Not anymore. Like most everything else in life, she'd become desensitized to it. Hers was a world were even the tiniest glimmers of happiness were quickly and decisively dealt with.
While the man took his time attempting to choose a card, Myr glanced around the small cubicle she'd rented within Red Hollow, the Outland's largest market-place. Myr knew little of the location except that the construct the entire market was housed within was a relic of a by gone age. Rumors had it that it was a leviathan of a machine that had been used to try to fight back the first effects of the Dark. Now, all that remained of it was skeleton. Its meat and innards long since scavenged away leaving the barest of remains for the founders of Red Hollow to find and build a market within.
Myr was housed in a small empty cubicle with a single door leading within. There were marks on the walls that indicated that there might have once been something attached or bolted to it but now all that remained was a rusted wall with a single banal red lamp hanging from a hook.
Myr had heard that some of the other rooms, the larger ones that required a higher rent, contained real red lights. These rare electricity powered lights were said to be powered by something rumor mongers called a 'Mins Redder', which was a large machine itself that provided electricity for the lamps to continue shining. They said that the hum that ran through the market place was a result of the Mins Redder's working.
“Hey! You listening?”
Myr arced her eyebrows and offered the man a hard glare. She may have been lost in thought, but to be talked down to like that... never again. Anger flared within her but it was quickly quelled. Losing her temper had gotten her into trouble once before. She'd learned prudence, like many other things, the hard way.
“No, sir, I was not... I was attempting to dive into the depths of your perceivable future. You should be happy that my mind wasn't lost in the Dark... and I don't charge extra for that!”
She held the man's startled, angry gaze and waited for him to cower before it. It wasn't long before his eyes darted away from her and after a moment's awkwardness decided that it was best to settle upon a card and begone from the company of this girl that sent shivers down his spine so.
“Fine then... I choose this one!”
Myr's deadened eyes glanced at the card he was pointing at and sighed once again. She took it and then placed it face up in front of them to reveal a sketch of a of a man holding a heavy bag in one hand and the hand of a woman delicately in the other. In the crimson glow, the picture seemed to flicker and the image of the man upon the card appeared to glower at the reader.
Myr stared at the card, feeling a little satisfied if not drained by it.
“You have wealth and love in your future...”
“Does it say when?” His voice leaped across the table at her. Both were commodities rare in the Outland.
“No... but these cards,” Myr paused, brooding, “My cards, generally see results within a week or so.”
She nodded slowly, watching the man and wondering if she disliked him enough to add her 'choice' statement or whether or not to let the man find out for himself. The man did, after all assume he could talk down to her and if that wasn't infraction enough... he smelled horrible. She stared at his smiling face, oblivious and complacent. He'd find out himself, she reasoned... and maybe then he'd learn just how cruel this world was.
She sighed again and took her cards back, leaving the one he'd chosen on the table.
The man, realizing his time was up quickly stood up and left with a poorly concealed bounce in his step. She waited till the ragged curtain that covered the entrance slid back into place. With another sigh she turned back to the card upon the table and watched it burst into flame, rising quickly and dying in the same fashion. The remaining ash upon the table resembled a rune but she cared not for it. She'd been doing this a long time. She wiped the ash away and stood up.
Myr was exhausted, but a day's worth of fortunes had earned her enough to survive long enough to build up her strength and make more cards. She'd need to find some more supplies for the same. As soon as the curtain that covered the entrance to the cubicle fell back, Myr got up and found that she needed to steady herself against the wall.
That last card had taken far too much from her. Trembling, she decided she'd leave... but not before she paid the rent for her cubicle. The Masters of Red Hollow did not take non payment lightly. It was one thing to be sure of one's powers and abilities, but there was a fine line between self assured and cocky. She had no intention of ever crossing it. She knew what it could do to you.
The Outlands didn't do hand outs and second chances; and she was already pushing her luck as it is. She looked at the deck of hand made cards she held, once again lost within a thought and a memory. She remembered when and how she'd learned of her power over fate and of the restrictions and intricacies her power came with. Each prediction required a hand sketched card... and some form of energy from her that she did not understand completely but one that seemed akin to rigorous physical exertion. Her cards were her life in a way. Without them she would never have made it so far and so long in the Outlands on her own.
She jumped. It wasn't the sudden jolt back to reality that startled her, however, it was the voice... kind, polite... cultured. Myr looked up and saw a woman, poking her head through the curtains. Before Myr could react to the beautiful visitor, she'd stepped in and fixed Myr with magnificent, doe-eyes that would have made almost anyone willing to run to her aid.
“I would like my fortune told,” she whispered, the declaration, shining far too brightly in the dim room.
“I'm closed.” Myr tried to stand firm, but her exhaustion and... something else made her steel spirit waver.
“Please, dear... its important.”
Once again the woman showed an aptitude for enforcing her will without seeming to impose it. Her pleading eyes caught Myr, the expression so alien to her that she couldn't help but be captivated by it. I didn't help that the woman reached out and took Myr's hand.
Myr stared at the contact point, eyes wide... at first.
Soon she felt a certain acceptance wash over her. It bolstered her tired spirit and surprisingly, instilled within her... hope? Myr nodded slowly and pulled the cards from her bag, lost within this sudden companionship with the helpless looking woman.
“I suppose... I suppose, one last reading... It might be alright. Have a seat.”
Author's Note - I've been made to realize that this concept needs to be fleshed out more. While I'm not particularly happy with the last few paragraphs, I thought I'd put it up. Here's a look at more of the world and I think this will be continued... Posting this one simply because I didn't want it to be too long.