She nursed the drink carefully; it was fuming still… She would wait a few more minutes before she started drinking it. Otherwise she’d burn her tongue. And it wasn’t something she wished to do. It wasn’t an agreeable feeling. She’d done it a few times before when she wasn’t used to drinking the beverage. A mistake she learned not to make again. Beyond the slight blisters the boiling drink created, it was a struggle to speak afterwards. She remembered the first time so clearly she smiled. She almost spat the drink out of sheer surprise but had swallowed it despite the scalding pain.
“What is so funny?”
She looked up at the man who’d sought her out to employ her skills. He’d paid quite a hefty fee too. He was altogether too arrogant for her taste but he didn’t need to know that. And he was a paying customer. Whether he would listen to what she had to say remained to be seen. However, few people hired her to ignore what advice she gave. The thing was that her kind was disappearing and soon their skills, their gift really, would become a legend that none would actually believe in. In some ways, she knew it was better; she wasn’t an innocent soul who had been abducted and forced to serve a master she didn’t want. She refused that sort of fate a long time ago. Instead she’d made her life, turned herself into something different: a whore, her family would say. Selling herself to the highest bidder.
Well and so, what other choice did she have? People like her could be slaves, temple servants or mercenaries. She preferred that word to the other one. If she were a man, selling fighting skills, they’d call her a mercenary. Because she was a woman selling another type of knowledge, she was called a whore. Not by anyone who mattered though.
“Nothing… I merely remembered my first time with this drink.”
He said nothing. He might be arrogant and rich but he was still afraid. She wasn’t entirely safe from that man. He might try and dispose of her after she’d done what he wanted her to. She took the mug and blew on it one more time. She raised it to him, in a toast, and downed the entire thing. It tasted as bitter as every other times and the scalding in her throat and eyes had nothing to do with the heat of the beverage.
The room swam around her before it entirely disappeared. She could have been surprised even afraid but she knew what the beverage was supposed to do. They called it the drink of prophecy, brewed by the true seers to tear apart the curtains of the future. Only those who could lift the veil to tomorrow knew how to prepare the beverage and nobody had ever managed to pry it from them. They died before they revealed anything.
What she saw then might have scared her; it should, she knew. The man getting angry at her because she couldn’t tell him what he wanted. She couldn’t guarantee that he would inherit his father’s fortune. For all that he was the elder, his father still wanted to ensure his younger sons to benefit from what riches he held. And his attempts to get rid of his brothers might or might not succeed. The thing about the future – something that too few people understood – was that it was always and ever changing. No one could know for sure what would happen: not when men’s choices were at play. There wasn’t a true prophecy to offer this man. She might even give him half the fee back to avoid the man’s anger. She might not be afraid but she didn’t care to die because of a frustrated client.
She walked away from it ready to return but she was engulfed by something different. Something bigger. Something that had nothing to do with the man in front of her and everything to do with her kind. Temples burning; seers on pyres, slaves being flayed alive. And one man drinking from a fuming cup as lives were cut short in violence. She couldn’t see his face but even here she was terrified. From the pyres, the burning temple voices rose.
“Let the whore destroy him who would rid the world of us that he might control it all.”
She opened her eyes. She was heaving, struggling against the violence of this prophecy. War was coming to her kind… And to everyone else. She needed to search for a temple to unravel the mystery of the man. She stood and walked away.
“Hey! You haven’t told me what I paid you for.”
Turning towards the arrogant man, she almost spat the words.
“You will die before your brothers if you go down the path you have chosen. Be grateful for what you have. Don’t be greedy. Your father loves you; it’s more than some of us can claim.”
And in his eyes she saw his future unfold. He wouldn’t listen. And he would break his father’s heart three times over: one for each of his sons’ death. An unraveling of its own. She wasn’t responsible for it.