Excerpt from Pale Imitations, Book Four in the Voice of the Wind: Shadows of Time series by Elizabeth Monroe
Hesper giggled softly. They were schoolgirls out on a lark meant to cheer Jonquil and so far, the ploy had worked. The fortuneteller’s booths, located among the San Bargel’s slave markets, offered a forbidden excitement.
Although reluctant, Jonquil let the old hag peer into the palm of her hand, chant and foretell the future she glimpsed with the scrolls of fine lines that etched her palm.
The fortuneteller’s voice crackled, brittle with age. A hand, with skin as thin as paper and withered fingers, clasped Jonquil’s hand. Apprehensive and yet intrigued, Jonquil could not pull her hand away from the fortuneteller’s strong grip.
“I see someone who loves you,” the fortuneteller’s crackling voice rasped like smoke swirling among the tendrils of frankincense that burned in a nearby ewer and added to the mysterious allure.
Jonquil smiled at the absurdity of the fortuneteller’s vagueness.
“I see marriage, yes, and much happiness — Oh! I see children!”
“How many children?” Jonquil glanced down at her upturned palm the fortuneteller clutched.
The fortuneteller’s eyes glinted within the veiled folds of her purple headdress trimmed in gold beads. “Four. Yes, I see four children — two boys, two girls — but they are far away, far from the shores of your birth land. I see a long voyage — a very long journey. Yes, a journey over water to foreign shores — San Bargel is not your home…”
“What do you mean San Bargel is not my home?” Jonquil interrupted. Anxiety spiked through her, despite her disbelief in the utterances of a crone who spoke about the fates according to how much silver or gold a patron dropped into her purple, star-studded donation box.
“I cannot see. It is too dim — too far,” the old woman muttered, shaking her head as her thin fingers probed and stroked the lines on Jonquil’s palm. It was the clue to drop another coin into the donation coffer.
Hesper and Golden both giggled.
“What else do you see, old one?” Jonquil asked.
Suddenly, the fortuneteller dropped Jonquil’s hand and uttered a hoarse cry. “Ayee! I cannot see anymore! No more! My old eyes tire looking for young girl’s fortunes! Please go — go!”
“But you saw something. I wish to know what you saw,” Jonquil insisted.
Hesper laughed and tugged on Jonquil’s arm. “Come on, Jonquil. Let us leave.”
“Can you not see her game? The old hag’s a fraud like the other frauds who hawk their visions of the future for the cost of a gold coin,” Golden said.
“Fraud am I?” the fortuneteller cried. “My fortunes are truth, child. No fraud! No gold!” The crone wagged a crooked forefinger before Jonquil’s face. “This girl — she knows!”
Jonquil stared into the gaping opening of the veil and into the old woman’s khol-lined, black eyes.
“You know the truth,” whispered the fortuneteller.
Jonquil swallowed. “Truth?”
“I see one who loves you. He is no longer with you. He has gone.”
“Flaric,” Jonquil whispered. Her heart thudded, a slow pounding beat.
The crone continued. She lifted her hand toward the shadowed ceiling of her booth. “His spirit watches over you — always. The connection of love is a strong force. It does not wither away at death. There is much darkness. I see shadows of evil — and fear. But love keeps you. He will send another to help you when your hour is darkest.”
“Jonquil, come on, of course she can tell you everything that has already happened,” Hesper said.
Golden countered, “Anyone who hears the news from the streets and the marketplace—”
“Or reads the newspapers—”
“Would know about Flaric’s death—” Hesper and Golden both insisted, speaking as one.
Both twins grabbed Jonquil’s arms to hurry her from the booth, but she stood frozen.
The crone laughed. “This girl knows the truth!” the old woman shouted.
“Come on, Jonquil. Father is waiting for us to join him for lunch,” Hesper whispered. She tried to draw Jonquil away.
The old fortuneteller was not finished. “Yes! Loved you will be — many times — but not all love is true — only when love despises love! Only when love despises love!”
The twins tugged Jonquil away from the shadows of the fortuneteller’s booth and out into San Bargel’s brilliant sunlight where their hired cab waited.
Hesper and Golden frowned at each other. “I am not so sure it was a good decision to visit the fortuneteller’s booth, even as a lark,” Golden muttered to her sister.
“How appalling! The old crone should be forced out of business!” Hesper cried.
“Jonquil, are you all right?” Golden squeezed Jonquil’s hand.
Stirring, Jonquil murmured, “Yes, I am fine.”
Hesper and Golden frowned at each other.
“What did she mean when love despises love? Did you understand any of the old fortuneteller’s gibberish?” Hesper asked.
“Let it be, Hesper,” Golden said. “The old witch was trying to take advantage of Jonquil’s bereavement. Another question would have cost you more coin. That is how they operate.”
Hesper nodded. “Frauds. That is what they are.”
But Jonquil was not so sure. She could not forget the fortuneteller’s words, not even when they joined Sir Crispin Perrywhite and Leander Fleming at the Green Dragon for luncheon and were seated at Sir Crispin’s reserved table.
Although death had claimed Flaric, Jonquil had felt his presence hovering close. She had heard his voice speaking to her — as real sounded as he had spoken to her in life. And that night when the stable had burned, Flaric’s warning had been more than a dream. Jonquil shivered.
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