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Verity & Fortune

The gritty crunch of rock grated against his ears, matching the fierce battle playing in his vision. Two powerful kingdoms that had once been friends—brothers—were now as unyielding as the steel swords fisted in each soldier’s hand. Each side sliced through their enemy with ravenous desire, resulting in a land scrubbed with blood.

An unbidden droplet escaped the corner of his eye and Gace swiped a dirt-caked hand across his cheek, leaving a trail of patterned mud. He was normally not so emotional. This, however, was the fifth occurrence of the same vision. He couldn’t doubt the validity of the fortune; this was The All-Knowing Tjora speaking through his gift, and the state of the kingdom was already aligning with the vision, if the whispers were true. A dull ache inched along the right side of his temple and he rubbed at it slowly.

“Gace? You alright, Son?” His father called to him from the opposite corner of their small plot of land.

Gace waved back. He would tell his father later of what he had seen. If he tried to speak now it was too likely that his voice would give way to the sadness and anger lurking within, waiting to overwhelm him. He closed his eyes and let the cleansing light of the sun soak his tired eyes, and the dull throbbing behind them began to ease in the warmth. Dropping his tool, Gace wandered over to a bench that separated the fields.

A large bucket of tepid water squatted in the middle, bending the rough-hewn boards into a u-shape. Taking the ladle, Gace forced as much as he could down his throat without choking. He took a moment to scan the horizon, hoping the sight of the gentle slopes and patches of thick trees would soothe the mess tangling his stomach. The queue of evergreens, however, only helped him to envision a procession of gleaming armor and prancing horses. Gace sunk to cradle the heaviness of his thoughts.

A few minutes passed and the bench shifted before a strong hand squeezed his shoulder. “Tell me what it is, Son. You’ll feel better for having said it,” his father Bohta’s rumbling voice filled his head.

“This time, Pop, this time I doubt anything will soothe the burden of this fortune.”

“Tell me all the same and I will do as I have always done—help you find a solution.”

Letting out a breath through loose lips, Gace recounted the details of the fortune that plagued him. The end of his tale left them both speechless; the weight of the future more than either could bear together. After a moment Gace said, with more confidence, than he felt, “I need to do something, Pop.” His heart charged at the implication of his own words. “I cannot feign disinterest as I have with past visions, but I’m scared. People don’t take to me and I fear they will turn away without hearing my words.” The emotions from past exclusions stung at his eyes and throat. “I’m feared and avoided. I don’t want to imagine the reactions of those in a large city.”

“Son, the future is not written in stone. Anything—the smallest of things—could alter the course of the kingdoms. Involving yourself will only lead to frustration and disappointment. The leaders know what they’re doing. You have to believe they will be come to an agreement,” his father countered.

“They are still men, Pop. Only Tjora the High King is wise,” Gace whispered.

Bohta let the farming tool in his fans thump into the dirt between his feet for a few beats, taking time to find and measure the words he sought to speak. “Son, you have been given a gift I don’t rightly understand. Only Tjora knows why he blessed me with you for a son. I cannot bear to see you go. I need you here, but I cannot stop you from leaving if you think that’s the right thing to do.” He gave his son a sad smile. “Seems I’m running out of advice now that you’re grown. Do what you must, Gace, just come back to me.”

Gace turned his left eye upon his father and found the verity of his words both comforting and saddening. His father had tried so hard to understand him and his gift, many times finding the task impossible. Looking at him now he could see that at his heart, Bohta thought himself inadequate. Gace wished there was something he could say or do to reassure his father; the humble farmer had done more than enough for him. Bohta was a better man for having raised a son with a strange gift, and Gace was proud to be of his blood.

He pulled the older man to his feet and into a tight embrace. Muffled in his shoulder he said,

“I promise, Pop, I will be back.”

“I know, Son. I love you.”


Never had his surroundings seemed so harsh, Gace thought as he slipped through crowded streets. Already he wished he was home. The soft greens and browns and distant trees of his familiar farmlands were definitely favorable to the harsh and rigid grey walls that towered over the bricked streets of the capital. He stood just close enough to the main gate to catch a vague glimpse inside the protective barrier, and already he could tell that the chaos was going to bother him. His previous determination to pass along the knowledge of his vision waned as he eyed the shuffle of bodies of those eager to get inside. Gace wanted to return to the familiar and avoid the awkward stares of fear he was sure to encounter, but the small voice of conviction reminded him why he had initially journeyed so far from home. He took a bolstering breath. Vorstra would not be a place he resided in for long. He would deliver his message and go home. With a roll of his shoulders, Gace strode through the portcullis and beyond the thick walls.

Nothing could have prepared him to step into the midst of the bustle of the compacted city. Thousands of shouts reverberated one upon another, vying for his attention, the sounds invasive to his rural ears.

“Half-gold for my fine pottery!”

“Look the best in these handsome jew—”

“Trade items! The best pric—”

“A garnet for my cabbage!”

“Finest hand-dyed cloth in the cita—”

Gace covered his ears and squeezed his eyes shut as he leaned against the defensive wall just inside the main gate. The sharp note of a lively tune pierced through his fingers and he glanced up to see a man dancing a jig and playing the dizzying music on a small wooden flute.

Far worse than the noise was the hundreds of truths filtering through his vision each time he looked upon the waves of people. The truth—verity—about each individual filtered through his left eye as his gaze flitted about the street like a hummingbird hungry for sweet nectar. This market was worse than the traveling gypsies and their annual summer fair. Gace slammed his eyes shut once more and gripped the straps of his pack tighter.

“If you’re going to just stand there do us all a favor and GET OUT OF THE WAY!” A voice told him before disappearing into the throng of people.

A disappointed sigh escaped. If this is what the citadel people were like, he didn’t want to imagine what it would be like to confront the nobles. A sour twist rolled his stomach. Gace set his sights on tallest tower and, making himself as small as possible, shoved his way through the crowd. It felt rude, but his left eye told him the underlying truth of the people in Vorstra—kindness did not exist. If the capitals of the other kingdoms were the same, it was little wonder he had seen visions of impending war.

A half rotation put Gace inside the castle. The main foyer teemed with the activity of managing a kingdom. Sadly, the busyness took away from the elegance and splendor of the space. He took a moment to appreciate the rich tapestries and detailed paintings lining the vaulted space. The nicest building in his village was the small communal hall, and even that had seen better days. After committing to memory the décor of the castle, he cast his eyes about for someone to help him gain audience with the King. Gace captured the attention of a frazzled young woman with auburn curls marginally contained beneath a cloth cap and inquired about audiences with the king. He held her attention for a moment before she took in his eyes and then glued her own to the floor before speaking in a whisper. Her response was no surprise. Still, he had hoped that his one green and one brown eye would not have brought as much superstition to the people of the citadel.

Taking the typical response to his odd colored eyes in stride, Gace made his way to the clerk the young woman had indicated. A scribbling middle-aged man in an isolated corner caught his eye. What he saw through his left green eye did not give him hope, but when he was close enough he still said, “Excuse me, sir, I would like to request an audience with the King. I have an important message to give him.” He was pleased with the confidence of the statement, yet the focused clerk thought little of it. Not sure the man heard, Gace continued, “Ex-excuse me, I said—”

“I heard what you said. The King is far too busy to meet with a youth to discuss changes to the kingdom for the better,” the clerk replied in the rehearsed manner, the type of tone that told Gace he was a man who cared only to complete the tasks given him and nothing more.

The sting of rejection laced his throat like a collar. Gace needed to tread lightly if he was to succeed. The fortune needed to be told. After a cleansing breath, he said, “I’m sorry to have bothered you, sir. If you could kindly please—”

“The King has not time in his schedule this week to meet with the commoners. Now, go away.”

“Sir, please, you do not understand. This is a—”

“I understand perfectly.” The clerk continued to scribble without breaking; a gesture that served to twinge the vice of rejection around Gace’s neck. “Go join some local guild of young people and talk to them about the unfairness of the laws. You are wasting my time and if I have to speak again I shall call the guards to escort you out.” The clerk pounded several stamps in rapid succession as a clear sign of his dismissal.

Growling to himself, Gace spun and strode back toward the entrance, keeping his eyes trained to the floor, swallowing to keep the tears at bay. The clerk’s response made no sense. He was here in the castle on a public meeting day. It was kingdom knowledge that there was open court the first day of the month, and he had timed his trip so as to spend as little time in Vorstra as possible. How was he to pass along his message if he couldn’t get in?

Gace felt the heavy thump of a body hitting his followed by the sound of fluttering papers and he winced as his tailbone came in sharp contact with the stone floor. “My sincerest apologies, sir!” the words spilled unbidden from Gace’s mouth as he snagged at wayward pages, pushing them into a messy pile. “I was so lost in my thoughts—”

“Not a worry, lad. Not a worry. I am at fault here as well. These reports take all my attentions. I should know better than to walk these halls during public visitation,” the man replied in a gentle, apologetic tone. A slim hand entered Gace’s vision. “Name’s Rosto. I’m the court mystic.”

Still afraid to meet the man’s gaze, Gace took the mystic’s hand to be pulled to his feet. The firm welcoming shake was a nice change to the dismissals he had received. Dusting his knees as he said, “My name is Gace, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

Straightening, Gace looked Rosto in the eyes. The verity of this man was a refreshing sight after the constant grime of everyone else.

Rosto sucked in sharp breath and quickly snapped shut his gaping mouth but could not contain the surprise rounding his eyes. A firm hand gripped Gace’s elbow and ushered him to a quiet hall. Pinning the young farmer against a wall, the mystic asked, “What is your business here, boy? From where do you come?”

Gace felt his tongue go dry in his mouth. How could he explain his purpose without sounding foolish? The people of his village looked upon him with superstition and fear, yet this man seemed to immediately understand the meaning of his eye colors. Looking to Rosto’s chest, Gace managed to swallow enough saliva to say, “I…I came from Degra, and I am here to give an important message to the King.”

The mystic gripped his arm with sharp, pinching fingers, forcing his heart into a staccato beat. “I am not one to be trifled with, boy. You are not lying to me?”

Honesty radiated from the mystic and sent a pulsing pinch through the left side of his head. This man would easily dispatch him if necessary. Gace winced but set his teeth. He would not let this man think ill of him. “I would not lie to you, mystic. It goes against the grain of my gift.”

Rosto released his arm and a rush of pinpricks gathered at the place where the mystic had firmly held him. Gace stood under the intense scrutiny of Rosto for several uncomfortable seconds while he shifted and studied the tapestries upon the wall. Finally, he said, “Come with me now, boy. We have much to discuss.” Rosto spun, completely forgetting his papers.

Gace considered losing the mystic in the crowd, despite his verity, the man sent shivers up his spine. It took a handful of seconds for Gace to decide that running was useless, the mystic was sure to find him, after all, he had given the name of his village. Besides, if he followed Rosto and detailed his vision, the court magician would have more clout with the King, ensuring that his message would not fall upon indifferent ears. Gace smiled at the thought of going home so quickly. Gathering the sloppy pile of papers Rosto had abandoned he jogged to catch up to the determined mystic, who led him deep into the belly of the castle.


“If what you say will come true, this is very grim news indeed,” the mystic said, the lines of his face deepening while he paced along the same track of a well-worn carpet. Rosto wasn’t an old man, in fact he seemed quite a bit younger than Gace’s father, likely no more than a decade or so older than Gace. His hair was the exact shade of his eyes, a light dry-soil color that stood in great contrast to his midnight tunic and trousers.

“It is why I ventured to Vorstra. I was compelled to tell someone,” Gace said.

The mystic nodded. “Tell me again one more time”—his hand circled Gace’s wrist—“for


“I was born in the sma—”

“No, no, no. Your gift. Your gift, boy.”

Gace sighed. “My green left eye allows me to see if others are telling the truth, and it is constant. No one can lie to me. My brown right eye allows me to see possible fortunes, though they are not constant and only seem to come when Tjora pleases. The more times I see a fortune, the more I know it will come to pass unless something is done to affect the outcome.” He condensed his explanation quite a bit, since he had already explained it several times before, and waited for the mystic to ask for more, but Rosto just continued to pace—ignoring him.

Gace contemplated the emptiness of his pewter cup and decided his throat was parched enough to warrant another drink. He studied the mystic through thin lashes as he poured more wine. The scowl on Rosto’s face intrigued Gace. He wanted to know how the mystic’s involvement would get his message to the King. The question burned in his mind and nearly left his lips, however, the unseen energy pulsating from Rosto was a clear signal he should not be bothered.

To occupy his time, Gace wandered the main room of the mystic’s suite. Through an open door he could see a pristinely made bed, which contrasted sharply with the various piles of rumpled clothes and sloppily stacked books littering the room. Haphazard papers—rolled and unrolled— were stacked amongst bottles of ink and a plethora of quills in almost every crevice of the room. Odd wooden knick-knacks and empty glass bottles decorated the thick wooden beams supporting the room’s massive windows. The space as a whole felt rather educating.

To his left, hundreds of scribblings hid the flat surface of a desk. Gace glanced over his shoulder and, seeing Rosto still engrossed in his thoughts, he let curiosity get the better of him. Gace eased apart the pages, his eyes darting from one paper to the next. The majority of the scribblings were notes and checklists, each scratched away when no longer needed. Some of the information seemed to center around harvest reports and daily court life. One paper, though, did seem rather intriguing. Gace leaned a little closer to find a name scribbled across the page thoughtlessly—Habil.

The name set off a trigger. A fortune blasted through Gace’s mind like a hard hit to the chest. He lost the ability to properly think as a sharp pain sliced through his temple. He clutched the side of his head as the images filtered through his vision. Distantly, he could hear the metallic clang of his cup against the stone of the tower and Rosto shouting his name, but then everything faded to black.


“Here, boy. Have a glass of water. That should clear your head a bit,” Rosto said.

Peeling his eyes open with a groan, Gace shifted against the warmth of thick covers surrounding him. Blearily, he took the cup from the magician’s hand to take a long pull of the tepid water. “What happened?” Gace croaked.

“Well, it seems after ruffling through my private papers, you saw something that triggered a reaction in your gift. That is my wise assumption at least, and should teach you not to rifle through others’ personal belongs. At least you have the decency to grimace about your actions. You were lucky your head didn’t crack open,” Rosto concluded.

“I am sorry, sir.”

“Fine, fine. I was a curious youngster myself once. What did you see, then?”

“Habil,” Gace whispered.

“Now that is interesting. I’ve never really liked the man, but you are certain?”

Gace nodded. “That name connected with the face in my previous visions.”

“Very well, then. Come now, you must tell the King at once what you have seen,” Rosto slapping his knees with a decided air as he stood.

“I can’t speak to the King,” Gace stammered, his eyes saucering.

“My old master used to say ‘Put the can’t under the step and do it anyway’. Pretty wise old fellow, though I didn’t believe it at the time.”

“You have my can tell the King. He’ll listen to you.”

Rosto sat next to him on the bed and patted Gace with a gentle hand. “It needs to be you, Gace. If it comes from me, the message will just be ‘something that eccentric wizard believes’.” Rosto’s lips twisted into a frown.

“People don’t listen to me either, Rosto. People fear me.”

“And in return you are unsure of them, eh?”

Gace picked at the bedding.

“Fear, my boy, is that little chatterbox in our head telling us lies. You shouldn’t believe a word it says. With your history I can see why you would find this difficult, but I believe in you, and if your father were here I’m positive he would tell you that he believes in you too. We must stand in our convictions when we know them to be true,” Rosto said. “Come now”—he stood and offered a hand—“I’ll help you with what to say.”


“Your majesty, what I have said will come to pass if something is not done,” Gace forced out the last sentence of his rehearsed speech and couldn’t help but feel relieved.

“Sire,” Duke Habil said, “this boy is speaking from a gift that has not been heard of in generations. Are you really going to believe him above the men who advise you regularly?”

“You speak sense, Habil,” The King said scratching at his jaw.

“Sire, every time a Truth Seer has appeared amongst use, their words have always been trusted,” Rosto interjected, glancing irritatedly at Habil before continuing. “Your great-grandfather did. Why should the words of this young man be any different than those of the ones whose footsteps he follows?”

Gace frowned as he turned his gaze upon the duke standing to the right of the King, a trusted position for such a corrupted person. The truth of the man’s twisted nature might as well have been a shout in Gace’s ear. Habil believed that the current seat of power must be taken from the King to truly see the land healed from decades of indecisiveness, and only his leadership would see the land would prosper once more. The duke turned to stare at Gace and new truths flashed in his vision, kicking his heart into a heavy thump. If Gace continued to push the subject of his vision, Habil wouldn’t hesitate to have him killed.

Gace leaned over to tell Rosto this when the commanding voice of the King enslaved all discussion. “Enough, Rosto. While you too are an advisor, Habil has never steered me wrong and isn’t prone to exaggeration.” The King gave a hard stare to the court mystic. “We are not on unfriendly terms with our neighbors. I have to agree with Duke Habil on this matter. You are dismissed.”

“Sire—” Rosto started

“The King has heard enough, Rosto. Go back to playing with your potions, or whatever it is you do all day besides helping to run this kingdom,” Duke Habil said, cutting off any protest.

Rosto pressed his lips together for a long second before grabbing Gace’s arm to pull him from the room. Gace could just hear the mystic muttering about the foolishness of the King.

Back in the mystic’s room Gace asked, “What now?”

“Now, you go home.”

Gace gave a sullen nod and shuffled to his pack.

“And, I’m coming with you,” Rosto added. “I’ll not have a front row seat to the destruction of this kingdom.”


Gace pulled his spade through the hard earth, the scratch of rough ground briefly covering the metallic footsteps of soldiers in the distance as they made their way into center of his small village. He paused a moment, leaning against the stem of his tool like a weary traveler to watch the parade of steely men. Rosto and his father joined him, one on either side. The strict changes made by the new ruler, King Habil, were finally being imposed upon this forgotten corner of the kingdom. The three men had stayed as long as possible on the farm, loathe to leave what they had fought so hard to build. Tomorrow, though, the three of them would leave the only home Gace had ever known for one of the southern kingdoms, seeking a new life, and if the villagers were wise they too would heed the warning of his words.

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