The Tailor's Lad
There was a young boy, once. He had been raised in the home of an old tailor who had been bringing him up in his trade. Unfortunately, the old tailor died and his home (which was both home and store) was reclaimed by the man from whom he'd been leasing it. The man's daughter had just married and the old tailor's death (of old age) was fortuitous in that now the landlord's daughter and son-in-law could move in. There was no one to take the boy in, so he took to the streets. He became very adept at stealing sweetmeats and apples from the market stalls and evading the adults who seemed to rule his universe. He did not go hungry, though what food he scrounged never seemed to be enough. He was a growing boy, after all.
One day, he was not so quick in evading a pastry-seller's eye and the hue and cry was raised against him. He ran through and around the market stalls, scrambling as quickly as he could away from his pursuers. In his mad rush, he knocked over a girl in a sunhat and a dairy stall--the cheeses and milk were irreparably lost, most likely resulting in a sad and hungry family, but this is not their story so we shall not focus on the dairy-seller. The urchin boy was happy of any commotion that could slow down his pursuers and, once he was certain no one who was looking for him was looking, he ducked under the flap of a tent just off the marketplace and found himself blinking in the dim light and incense-smoke of a fortune-teller's tent.
"Do you have a question, young one?" the fortune-teller's voice emerged from somewhere beyond where his eyes could see. He moved forward and saw her, a woman covered in many layers of clothing of varied colours. She wore a veil, but it was lifted at this moment, revealing a face that was nearly a perfect circle. Her eyes were dark and her eyebrows two neat penciled-in arches. She was smiling ever so slightly.
"Uh. Not really," he replied.
"Nonsense," the fortune-teller said. "You came here, therefore you are looking for something. Something I can lead you to."
"Well, all I want now is to make sure the people chasing me don't get me." He himself didn't know why he bothered replying to her, but now that he had he figured he'd go all out. "And a meal. A meal would be the best thing."
"A meal I will give you later," she replied. "As for the people chasing you..." she trailed off; her large hands, fingers bedecked with gaudy rings, ghosted over the surface of a crystal ball sitting on the table in front of her. Her veil covered her face as though of its own accord.
The boy, not knowing what else to do, sat down on a cushion on the other side of the table and waited.
After a few minutes, during which the boy fidgeted impatiently--he had gobbled up the pastry that had caused his flight, but he was still hungry and the promise of a meal in the future made him very impatient--the fortune-teller began to speak, though her voice seemed to come from very far away rather than from right in front of him.
"There is a tree," the eerie far away voice said, "on the outskirts of the city, with large purple leaves, the color of the bruise just under your right knee. Dig in the spot where the large root branches into three and you will find solace from all your fears. As for the people chasing you right now," the far away voice said in a conversational tone, "they'll give up in about three and a half hours. Stay with the woman who is my medium for the night. She will feed you well before you set off to dig." The voice ceased after that, but the woman did not stir. After a few more minutes, during which the boy tried to figure out what he had just witnessed, the veil lifted as though of its own accord off her face, and the fortune-teller's head nodded on her breast. Presently, she began to snore.
Now the boy did indeed have a bruise just under his right knee, a starburst of purple that was beginning to yellow at the edges, and that was what convinced him to stay, more than the promise of solace from his fears. What were his fears after all? Being caught and beaten, being thrown in jail, these were things he had always avoided and with all the assurance of youth he was sure that his luck would continue. The bruise, though... well, that meant that someone unseen was watching and wanted to help him. If so, he would take whatever he could get.
Thus decided, he waited impatiently for the woman to wake up since his stomach had begun again to remind him of its emptiness. When she did not awaken presently, he began exploring the small tent and discovered that it was not so small as it looked from the outside. There were partitions in the fabric that led to two other rooms. One had a large bed and many arcane and occult things; the other was very clearly a kitchen and it was there he began to explore. Finding the fortune-teller’s icebox was not at all difficult and he grabbed a large hunk of cheese that he found there and an apple from the table, then curled up as small as he could in the farthest and darkest corner of the kitchen and began to eat hungrily. He was halfway through the hunk of cheese when the fortune-teller’s shadow fell over him.
He immediately curled even smaller, not ceasing to eat, because if the food was going to be taken away from him, he was going to get as much of it as he could.
“Lords and Ladies, boy! Didn’t you hear what Missiva said? Put down that cheese and let me get you some real food.”
“Y’ain’t kicking me out?” he asked incredulously.
“Didn’t you hear what Missiva said?” she asked again, and he figured that Missiva was the name she gave to the owner of that eerie voice. “I’m to take care of you until you go on your quest. Now put down that cheese or not, I’m making you a good hot meal as every body should have.”
The boy laid aside his customary suspicion of adults and decided to trust her, but he did not let go the cheese. Still, he ate slower and watched curiously as she made the meal that they would share.
To be continued.
Be well, my darlings!