Tea and Prophecies (short fiction)

Wren & Hess


Torma was just one of hundreds of oracles that called the city home. She made a decent living offering up glimpses of the future, so she wasn’t terribly surprised by the appearance of Wren and Hess at her door.

“What’s this then?” asked Torma. “It’s not inspection time.”

“We’ve had a complaint,” said Wren.

Torma, her left eye a milky white, her face creased with wrinkles, sighed. “People love to complain about their future. It’s not my fault if it isn’t always to their liking.”

“No,” replied Wren, “but when you tell a young bride her husband is going to die on their wedding day, and her father just happens to be a wealthy friend of the chancellor and the chancellor gives the Tower a call, we end up here.”

They regularly visited Torma. They all knew how things worked. Hoops had to be jumped through. Steps followed. The test must be taken or her license revoked.

“What do I have in my pocket?” asked Wren.

The old oracle gazed into the distance. “I see three demons, one broken in twain, made by mortal hands. Each a thin servant of the flame. Each harmless until struck by a careless hand. They die, consumed by fire, so that men might live.” She smiled. “Is that right?”

“You could’ve just said three matches,” said Wren.

“Where’s the fun in that?”

“Why don’t you simply lie to your customers?” said Hess.

“I have my ethics. No one is making them come to me. If they want to be told their tomorrows will be an endless series of wonders until they die, happily, in their sleep then they should try the oracle down the block.”

“You don’t have to lie,” said Wren. “You just don’t have to tell the whole truth.”

“I never do,” said Torma with a grin. “For example, I didn’t tell that bride that she too would likely be dead very soon. As would myself. As would nearly all of us in this city. I didn’t tell her to pack her bags and flee for her very life. And why did I not tell her this? Because she might have well taken my advice, never filed her complaint, and you never would have come to visit me.”

“If you wanted to talk to us you could’ve just put a call into the Tower.”

“I did.”

Oracles came in all styles and talents. Most were good for minor predictions. Some might get a flash of something bigger now and then. Torma saw the future with staggering clarity. Her accuracy and honesty worked against her. People didn’t visit the old sage unless they were prepared to learn the truth.

Wren, appreciating honesty, didn’t mind Torma. Hess, being a fatalist, had no problem with her either. They sat with the oracle. She had some tea waiting, one with honey, just like Hess preferred.

She sipped her tea. She would give them the information when she was ready and not before. She had no family. She was just a lonely woman who most people avoided. Wren and Hess were the closest thing she had to friends, but it was a friendship that had saved the city from disaster more than once.

“What’s this about the city?” asked Hess.

“A collective of rogue necromancers who mean to sacrifice every soul in the city to their dark gods. Yet another disaster waiting to be thwarted. But there’s always one, isn’t there? Now, would either of you like to know the day and hour of your death?”

“No thank you,” said Wren.

“Suit yourself. Lovely weather we’ll be having next week.”

They chatted with the lonely oracle for an hour, and afterward, she gave them a slip of paper with an address written on it. “I’d hurry if I were you. Until next time, constables.”

With an enigmatic smile, she closed the door.

“Funny old bird,” said Hess. “I wouldn’t worry though. I’m not due to die today.”

“Oracles aren’t always right. Not even her.”

“So does that mean you don’t care if she told me the day of your death as well?”

“No, but keep it to yourself,” said Wren as they walked into the night to save the city from one more little disaster.

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