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Chapter One: Fate and Fortune

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"Ta-da!" Silay opened her closed fist, revealing an empty hand where a coin had been a moment ago. Bowing to an imaginary audience, she pulled the coin out of her pocket, then placed it back in her hand before repeating the trick. When her hand once again proved empty, she grinned. One more trick mastered. The grin faded and Silay slumped back in her chair with a sigh. Practicing sleight of hand tricks was pointless, but she had nothing else to do. Her parents were both at work, and so was everyone else. The day was unusually hot, so there wasn't even the usual coming and going through the streets for her to watch. Or was there?

A movement just beyond the open shutters of the window caught Silay's attention. Leaning forward, she saw a small cluster of people walking down the street, and they were heading towards the Seer's cabin. She scowled at the thought. It had been almost a year since the Seer had called her a ghost and thrown her out, and rumor had it that she had notified the leaders that she would not tell fortunes this year. Perhaps the leaders were going to beg her to reconsider?

Curious, Silay pocketed the coin and set of down the street, following the leaders from a distance. She reached the Seer's cabin and, ducking, crouched under the open window where she would be able to overhear the conversation. The Seer might not have seen a future for her, but in some ways, she had still made a correct prediction. Silay had become a ghost. The people of Dagrosa didn't know what to make of her, so tacitly, unanimously, they had decided to make nothing of her. People went out of their way to avoid having to acknowledge her, for to do so would mean acknowledging one of two facts. Either it was possible for a person's future to be unknown, or their Seer had failed. Either truth could mean an end to fortune telling, and not just in Dagrosa. People everywhere relied on the guidance of seers. Yes, they only saw may-be's, not must-be's, but it was something all the same. And no one wanted to think about what it meant that the Seer had seen nothing in Silay's future.

"The girl was a fluke, everyone knows that. No one doubts your abilities, Seer". It was one of the leaders. The head of Education, if Silay wasn't mistaken.

She pressed her ear against the side of the cabin to catch the old woman's reply. "You best hope she was not, sirs. Indeed, pray the girl was just the first of my failures and that my age has at last weakened my view of the future."

"What do you mean?" A different man's voice asked the question.

"Do you think I only look into the future on Fortune Day?" The Seer paused for a response. Receiving none, she continued. "I watch the future always, and what I have seen is ruin. So again, I tell you: hope the mistake was mine, and that I am mistaken even now."

"Do you believe you are mistaken?" It was the head of Education again.

"No."

"Then it is your duty to say what you have seen."

"Duty?" The old woman paused again, as if thinking. "Yes, perhaps it is. But what of your duty? Will you share what I am about to tell you with the people?"

"We will do as we see best."

"As you see best? Well, I suppose I can expect no more."

Silay heard movement within, and then a gentle thump. The Seer must have set the Seeing Crystal on the table, she thought. There was a moment of silence, then a gasp from the men. Then more silence.

Finally, one of the men spoke. "Are you certain?"

"Certain?" The Seer's voice held contempt. "Of course I'm not certain. Do you know nothing of fortune telling? Yet, I'm as certain as I've ever been. Everywhere I look, the paths all lead to the same thing. Death. Ruin. And not just in Dagrosa. I see it everywhere; I see all people's future's ending in the same place. Plague. Plague is coming."

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