Flash Fiction: Calendar of Fortunate Days

I’ve been meaning to play Chuck Wendig’s “Flash Fiction Friday” game for a while now and run behind enough on reading blogs that I usually see the prompts after their deadlines, but I caught this one and got something written for it just under the wire.

So, I give you: “Calendar of Fortunate Days”, behind the cut.

***

The first time I went to the home of the seer I was struck by how worn it was.  The plastering had chipped off the corners of the bricks, especially around the door, and some of the bricks themselves were wearing away, revealing ends of straw.  The door itself was rickety, and something seemed to have chewed a hole in it, or perhaps it was simply that one of the scraps of wood composing it had fallen out at the bottom.

I had knocked, and been told to come in, and stepped into a near-total darkness.  When my eyes had adjusted I had seen there was no light except that which crept in from the ventilation holes near the roof.

“Is there a light?” I had asked.

“I have no need,” she had said, and even in the gloom of her little shabby house I could see clouds and milk in her eyes where a seeing woman might have had black, and clouds and milk in her hair where a young woman would have had black.

I had knelt down before her and said, with respect, “Grandmother, what do you need?”  I had brought a fresh loaf of bread and a dried fish from the market for my trade, and I had no idea anymore if that was appropriate.

“You have bread and fish.  That will do.”

 

The second time I went to the home of the seer I brought some plaster to fix at least the bricks by her door, along with the bread and fish, because I did not like the feeling that it might crumble away in a sandstorm or dissolve if the flood rode particularly high.  I brought a little oil lamp with me, and she did not seem to mind, and so I could see a bit more of the interior of the house.

The shrine niche had nothing but the expected ancestor figurines, anonymous and universal, and an appropriate spell tablet.  There was very little decorating on the walls, just an amateurish couple of birds painted into the plaster, nothing like the careful friezes of favored gods or bountiful marshlands that I would have found more familiar.  Her bedframe sagged a little, the ropes frayed with age.

Again, I knelt.  “The plaster was crumbling on your bricks outside, Grandmother,” I said.  “I’m not really much of a plasterer, but I’ve tried to fix it for you.  It ought to set soon enough.”

“I don’t go out much,” she said, “so as long as you mind it going out, it will be fine.”

 

I went to see her often, bringing food, mending one small thing or another.  I never quite asked why she seemed to have no children seeing to her, or at her age, grandchildren, though I did occasionally see another person come to trade food for her services, and I knew she was not at risk of starvation.  I began by asking her small things, about the future, about my fortune, making reference to the calendar of lucky and unlucky days I had learned in the temple.

“You were in the temple, child?”

“I served as an acolyte for a little while, but I never advanced.”

“I see,” she said.  “So you can read?”

The next time I visited her I brought charcoal and rust, so that I could paint a sacred script next to her door in the appropriate form.  It was a small blessing, in the name of Nisa, Weaver of Fates.  Afterwards, we shared the bread and fish and the figs I had also brought, and she smiled at me.

 

“How many lots did you draw in the temple, child?”

“The traditional three, Grandmother.”

“I see.”  She always said ‘I see’, even though she did not.  She sat on her low chair, the rag-padded crutch that she used when she got up tucked under her so she always knew where it was.  “Whose names did you draw, if you will let an old woman pry.”

“Nisa,” I said promptly.  “Aparu, and Soula.”

“I see,” she said, with a little smile.  “Aparu the Watcher does like to keep an eye on Soula.”

I dropped my gaze to the floor.  “So I was often told, Grandmother.”

“Hush, there is no shame in drawing the Worldbreaker.  Did they teach you that?”

I was silent.

She scowled.  “I see, you fell in with those who think Lord Soula is Lord of Misfortune.”

“Isn’t he?  The Kinslayer?”

“Nisa governs fortune,” she snapped, irritated.  “Good and ill.”

I sighed, not wanting to argue with her.  “Grandmother, please.  Tell me tomorrow’s luck.”

She turned her face towards me, as if her sightless eyes could penetrate something.  “What day of the month is it tomorrow?” she said, uncharacteristically curt.

I did not know why she was asking, she never had before.  “The thirteenth.”

“Tuti is swelling towards full, then, but not there yet.  An omen of hunger and dissatisfaction.”

“So an ill-omened day?”

“Wait.  What phase is Kulari?”

“The thinnest crescent, Grandmother.  The astrologers at the temple will be watching at dawn for the birth of the new Inconstant Month, I imagine.”

She nodded.  “Kulari is the trickster, but his rebirth is a matter of renewal.  This turns Tuti’s omen from hunger to hope.”

“So a good-omened day, Grandmother?”

“What is the season?”

“Parched.”

“And the portion?”

“First.”  Surely she knew these things, knew the calendars, could hear the tower singers announcing the phase of the Inconstant Moon as well as anyone.  There was nothing wrong with her hearing.  She never needed my help to give an omen before.

“The decan?”

“Second.”

“So the harvest is coming in.  It is coming in well?”

“I have heard of no difficulties.”

She nodded.  “The omen for tomorrow is good, then.”

“You believe so, Grandmother?”

She clucked at me scoldingly.  “You will come back tomorrow.  I will teach you to read Nisa’s threads.”

“Grandmother?”

“You ask.  Two, three times each decan you are here with food and favors, asking me for fortune, good or ill.  I have no apprentice.  You will learn.”

“Why me?”

“It was a fortunate day when you came to me,” she said.  “Nisa holds the web, Aparu will guide you to perceive it clearly.”  She did not say ‘see’.  I noticed.

“And Lord Soula?”

“He knows how to make his own luck.”

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