Fair Upon the Tor #58 (updates Mondays)

Hi everyone. I took a break from posting over the New Year break. Back into things now. I’ll be posting every Monday again for the foreseeable future, but will increase the rate of posting once I have written through to the end of the first draft. Getting closer now. Thanks for sticking with me.

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He laid out the next card, and the next, announcing as he did: “The Journeyman Fool–The Maiden–The Great Burden–The Warder at the Gate–The Seer–The Seven of Weirds–The Tempting Lord–The Seeker–oh… um, Death doesn’t necessarily mean what people typically assume it does… and… Herself of Shadows.” He turned his head and said, “What an interesting array.”

“Very interesting,” said Caewen. The Journeyman Fool was dressed exactly as her doppleganger in the maze had been dressed. The card called The Great Burden showed a man carrying a great bundle of swords rather than one huge sword, and the Seer depicted a dead woman with no jaw.

Caewen asked about that last one.

“That? Oh, uhm-hm, it’s just religious iconography. Certain cults of seers are buried with their jaw cut off. I don’t know why.”

“Are they buried with a spinning whorl too?”

“Yes, now that you mention it. Have you been to such a funeral? They’re rare these days.”

“No. Just something I saw somewhere. What a very interesting array of cards.”

The man then proceeded to tell a very unlikely story about great riches, and marriage, and many bonny children and an ascent to some position of household power, or something. Caewen only half-listened. She had a strong sense that although the man apparently had a knack for turning the cards, but he had no idea how to read them.

When they were done, she thanked him, and she and Dapple left the tent.

“What was that about?” he asked. “You got all funny looking when he put your cards down. You don’t go in for that nonsense, do you? I mean, it’s not like there’s no truth in prognostication, but its a shifty truth, and changeable… and well, rather hazy too. It’s hard to know what any fortune told might mean. Hurm.” A rolling flick of his red eyes. “Even when there is real power lying behind it.”

“There was real power in his cards, wasn’t there?”

“Yes.”

“You could smell it, or taste it?”

“Yes. The air was curdled with the power. Like wet steam coming out of a bakery at dawn.”

“But he didn’t know how to read the cards did he. The cards were true, but that story he spun?”

“Nonsense.”

“Yes. I thought so.”

“Hur. Hurm. So that’s what was bothering you then? You were wondering if his telling was truthful?”

“No. Not that.” She paused. Looked down at the dark wet grass. “I ran into some things in the maze–I don’t know. Visions? Illusions? And they were in the same pattern as the cards. Or mostly the same pattern. Some things were missing or moved around a little, I think? It wasn’t exact.”

“Hurm,” said Dapple, but he didn’t seem to have anything else to add. “Well, that’s peculiar.”

“Peculiar doesn’t even start to describe it. Come on. If we walk down that way, we can avoid going past the Harper and his friend. The longer we’re away from them, the more I think you were right. There’s something decidedly off about those two.”

“I hate to say, I told you so, but… wait. No. Hur. I like saying that.” He snorted and thrashed his tail. “Told you so.”

“Dapple?”

“Yes?”

“A moment of seriousness.”

“If you insist.” He tossed his head, but his tone was more attentive.

“Fafmuir had one of those bronze fortune heads in his tent. What do you think that might mean?”

Dapplegrim seemed to consider this long and carefully. There were no quick jibes, not even a dismissive snort. “That would mean he is a very dangerous man. If it is a real brazen head, hrrum hur… such a thing is worth more than a small kingdom. Hur. Hereabouts, of course, the goddess protects, but every unscrupulous sorcerer for a hundred leagues would try to take it off him the moment he stepped away from the moot. Why, hurm, they’d be a murderous fight over who got first dibs on murdering him. He certainly must have killed a… a personage.. or something… of great power to get his hands on a brazen head in the first place… such things are not so or given up freely. Hurrrm. And to keep it! To defend his treasure against thieves. He would need to make short work of a lot of upstarts and assassins. He would need to build a reputation.”

“A person not to be trifled with.”

“Indeed. Hrmm.”

“I’m starting to wonder about Fafmuir.”

“Only starting to? I was wondering about him from the moment we met him. No one with so cheery a smile and such a pleasant whistle should be trusted.” As if to underline the point, he displayed his own grimace of sharp teeth.

As they walked, Dapple stopped, bent his neck down and bit at his front hock. “Hurm. Damn. He wasn’t lying about the bedbugs, anyway.”

She shrugged. “Ah well. They can fight it out with my infestation of wool-moths to decide who gets to rule the backpack.”

“True. True. Hurm.”

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