I can never stay away from new stories for long, and this time I thought it might be fun to take a look up north to Narwhal Junction. I hope you enjoy Mads’s journey!
The stones didn’t really do anything, but Mads pretended they did. Forty of them in different shapes but mostly the same size, mostly flat and painted white on one side and black on the other. They were just stones. Sometimes when Mads was bored he organized them into fun pictures. They fell on the table, were tossed, were picked and placed down intentionally by Mads’s clients, and Mads told the future with them. Either that or Mads dropped them himself like he was doing now, when his clients wanted advice but couldn’t admit it.
The smoke in the air didn’t do much either. It was a cloud of hailvine smoke, a minor intoxicant. Everyone thought that soothsayers got their powers from being intoxicated, and sometimes that was true, but hailvine wasn’t Mads’s drug of choice. He burned it because it was cheap—it grew like the weed it was in cellars and basements, thriving on the dark and cold—and smelled mysterious, which made people take him more seriously, and when mixed with a few powders, it made his fire burn green or blue or whatever other colour he wanted, which people thought was magic but was actually just cheap apothecary Morten had taught him.
The animal bones and beads he wore were also his brother’s, or had been when Morten had been alive. Mads hated wearing them, but did because it was what people expected of him. Nobody wanted to hear the future from someone dressed in a normal tunic.
The mouth around Mads’s cock, that was a little more useful. In addition to drugs, everyone knew visions of the future came to soothsayers more readily during or after an orgasm. A lot of Mads’s clients either sucked or jerked him off themselves or brought someone to do it for them. A lot of them brought Nuka, the cute little homeless boy who was happy to suck Mads off on someone’s behalf for a couple coins. Nuka earned about a dozen coins a day doing that, often pretending to be a client’s son or little brother because, he guessed, they thought a family connection with Mads’s orgasm would give him better visions of them, but also thought Mads’s powers could be tricked with the local homeless boy.
Mads didn’t have any powers to fool, but he liked getting his cock sucked by cute little boys and hailvine smoke made him horny, so he wasn’t going to tell anyone that. Besides, if he advertised that he didn’t have any actual precognitive powers, he’d have to get a real job.
He dropped a third handful of stones on his paper-covered table. The big circular paper he covered his table with was also part of the show. Its ink blots moved around, forming shapes and sometimes words, but never in a language Mads knew. It was obviously magical in origin and sometimes Mads pretended to read it to help him tell the future, but it was just some enchanted junk he thought he’d won in a card game or something. He wasn’t actually totally sure how it had come into his possession. One morning a few months ago he’d woken up naked in a tavern cellar clutching the roll of paper, and nobody had ever asked for it back.
That, he thought, seemed like enough stones. It was only about half of them, but he never used all of them, that was too much and would obscure the moving ink. The client, a shaky guy who was picking at his fingernails, was looking pretty anxious, so Mads should say something before he started freaking out. “This is a good pattern,” he told the man, whose name was Sem, which Mads knew because Nuka had made sure to say it when they’d come in.
“Is it?” Sem asked, nervous. “Aren’t a lot of the stones black?”
Just under two thirds of the twenty-two stones on the table had their black faces up. “It’s a common misperception that black stones automatically mean something bad. They often just mean a disruption to the status quo. You’re due for a major change in your life soon.” Nuka sucked him a little harder as he said that.
“Oh, no,” said Sem, which wasn’t what Mads had hoped for. “Ria is going to leave me, isn’t she? I should have known, she’s having an affair again…” he slumped in his chair, looking at the foreign words that had appeared on the paper as if they meant something. Normally it was a bit more work than this for Mads to draw out what his customers were worrying about.
He pointed at a random cluster of stones that only looked a little like his dick. “This pattern here is the Gourd. It represents plenty. You have a lot in your life to be grateful for, don’t you? You shouldn’t focus so much on the things that are hard.”
“I…I suppose, but…”
Mads pointed at a line as Nuka took him into his throat. “This is the Split. It means there’s going to be a rend in your life, but see here on the south side of it? That’s after the split.”
“There’s just…one stone…”
“That’s the Sun. It’s a new beginning, and it’s white, see? A new status quo. Stability, and peace. Your ocean will calm after this storm passes, you just have to stay afloat through this one hard part.”
“Oh. Okay, so I should…”
“It’s not my job to tell you what you should do,” Mads told him sagely. He’d gotten a lot of practice using his sage voice. “Just what the signs say.”
Sem nodded, staring at the stones as if expecting them to tell him the secrets of the cosmos. They would, if he stared enough. That was the point of them. “Just…I just need to know one thing. Is the baby mine or his?” As he asked it, the paper grew a series of lines, meeting in the shape of a house.
“The baby…” Mads stopped, his breath catching as his orgasm came for him, his cock spasming in Nuka’s throat. “It’s his,” he said, on the third spurt. And then, a few spurts later when he was finished, did he realize what he’d said. Shit, why had he said that? “I’m sorry,” he added.
“No, it’s…” Sem had stopped trembling. “I think I already knew that. Thank you for being honest. I went to another soothsayer and he told me everything was going to be fine and it just…didn’t seem right. I’m glad you told me the truth, Mads. You’re the real thing.”
Mads nodded, standing up once Nuka pulled off his cock. His soothsayer’s costume was a cape of elk fur and a lot of bones and beads and nothing else but some body paint that was a pain to reapply, which was one of the reasons Mads had changed the design so it circled his dick instead of being directly on it. Nuka hadn’t liked the taste of the paint anyway. “Just remember,” he said, pointing at that one stupid stone. “The Sun.”
“Yeah, the Sun,” Sem agreed, also standing. He took out his purse and put some coins on the table. “I’m going to tell her I want a divorce. Thank you, really.”
“I’m just glad I could help.” Mads felt a bit bad that Sem was going to get a divorce because of him, but he’d been looking for an excuse to get a divorce anyway, hadn’t he? Even if the Split wasn’t real, a divorce really didn’t have to be a bad thing. He’d be happier this way, in the long run. Mads didn’t need powers, it was common sense.
“Are we, we going now, Uncle Them?” asked Nuka, taking his hand.
“Yeah. Yeah, let’s go. Thank you again.” He led Nuka to the door and opened it, letting cold winter air in. Nuka glanced over his shoulder at Mads and winked before walking out with him. Often he talked their customers into losing a few more coins and a few loads of cum after they’d left Mads, but that wasn’t any of Mads’s business. He’d be back later; it was too cold to sleep outside and so Nuka kept his house clean and cooked his food and did his laundry and let Mads fuck him in exchange for Mads feeding him and letting him sleep under a dry roof in a warm bed near a warm body with a warm cock inside him.
Mads sighed, then coughed as he inhaled too much hailvine smoke. He opened a small window over the stove to vent the worst of the stuff outside, then put the stones away in their box. It would be a half hour or so before the hearthfire stopped glowing blue, but he lit some normal lamps in the meantime. He should roll up the magical paper and put it away in the corner so nobody spilled food on it during supper.
When Mads put his hand on the paper, the whole sheet went black. “Oh,” he said, pulling his hand back. It had never done that before. “Um.” Removing his hand hadn’t changed anything, shit. Hopefully he hadn’t broken his cool magic paper. He’d lost a good coat the night he’d gotten this thing.
It was a weird sort of black, the paper, he thought. It was almost like it was moving, swimming. It was almost like it was screaming. It was so dark, so dark…
It was so dark. So dark, and cold down here. He’d been down here so long that he’d gotten used to it, but sometimes he remembered light and warm and remembered that he wasn’t those things and that made him want to huddle up and turn invisible.
But he couldn’t. He couldn’t do that. The manacles at his wrists and ankles reminded him of that, and so did the stone against his back. He had moments where all he wanted, all he wanted was to lay down for a minute. That was all, just to lay down. He’d even take the slab he’d been on before, at least it hadn’t been a wall.
The worst part about the dark wasn’t the dark, it wasn’t the cold, it wasn’t the pain, the brutal, breaking pain as his body was used and broken and marked over and over again. No, the worst part about the dark was that it wasn’t empty.
And as he thought that, it moved. The dark thing, the terrible Something that was in this dark with him, moved, came closer. Curdled his stomach, made him want to break in half to get away.
“Are you ready yet?”
“Madth! Madth, what the-the-the hell!”
Mads screamed for a minute more, trying to get away from that Something, trying to…it was light. Lantern light, his house. Nuka was crouched over him, a tiny hand under his head, his small, wide eyes staring down at him. “Nuka.”
“Are you okay?” Nuka asked. His voice was shaking. “You were on the floor thaking and you, and you, and you, and you…”
“Hey, hey, slow down,” Mads told him, squeezing his arm. Nuka would repeat those words fifty times if he didn’t slow down. “It’s okay.”
Nuka nodded, took a breath. Slowly, he said. “You were thcreaming.”
Mads nodded, the feeling of the dark Something already fading. “Yeah. I was…I think I was having a vision.” No, that was stupid. He’d just passed out from exhaustion or hunger or being high or something, right? The paper had gone black.
“But-but-but you don’t have vithionth. That’th why you have the thtones…”
Right, Nuka believed Mads’s powers were real. Of course he did. Mads had told him they were. “Yeah, that’s why. But I…” Mads stopped, looking at the table. The paper wasn’t black anymore. The stones were laid out. “Did you do that?” he asked, in a whisper.
Nuka looked at the table, shaking his head. “No. It wath like that when I got back.”
All forty stones were laid out on the table, black sides up. They were in the shape of a crow, and the paper between the stones was still black.
And underneath the crow, in uneven, childish letters, were written two words in Eesk.
2 thoughts on “Soothsaying Is Just Common Sense, but Knowing the Future Isn’t So Easy”
If that’s the Map of Amker, and that vision was from its perspective…does it have anything to do with the boy Scott trapped in Hell? From the story that was whitewashed so he was saved by an angel instead of making a deal with a demon? Because that sounded an awful lot like what’s been happening to him…
It does certainly sound an awful lot like that, doesn’t it? I can’t comment at this time, but that’s a very good theory and it makes a lot of sense! 😀