King's Tourney by Geeta Boodansingh

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King's Tourney


The sun sank slowly in the sky, recalling golden tendrils back to their heavenly domain. The night crept in, draping the cottage and the surrounding woods in her inky tapestries: doings that went unheeded by the inhabitants of the small home.
Tessa sat on the floor of the cottage in silent meditation over an ornately carved basin, while her companion watched and fidgeted anxiously.
"Well?" she finally spoke, her shrill voice shattering the silence. Her plump form rocked forward, trying to get a closer look into the basin.
"Is he handsome?"
In response, Tessa leaned forward. Her thick hair followed suit, framing a small, dark face in curtains of black silk.
"Quite," she replied, waving her slender hand over the bowl.
The gesture caused the liquid in the basin to swirl slightly, then solidify, freezing in its midst the image of a face that had lain floating in its ripples.
"See for your self," the sorceress commanded.
Her companion peered in eagerly, barely able to suppress her squeal of delight at what she saw. "Oh! He is! He is!" she cried, grabbing hold of the other woman's hand and shaking it vigorously. "Thank you!"
The sorceress bowed her head slightly as she spoke. "It is my pleasure" she said. The two women rose from the floor. The basin, left alone on the ground, allowed its contents to liquefy once more and returned the image back to whatever realm the seer had conjured it from.
"You can leave a token of your appreciation in the urn by the door," the sorceress said, escorting her guest out.
Depositing several pieces of silver in the open urn, the woman called to her servant to make ready for their journey. Wordlessly, he held open the door of the coach for his mistress. She hurried in, eager to just settle back and fantasize about the handsome stranger she was destined to meet. Closing the door behind her, he turned around. The sorceress had stood in the doorway watching him silently. It was she that spoke first.
"A good evening to you Master Erad,"
"Sorceress," he replied curtly.
She studied him intently, he returning her contemplative gaze with a stare of ice. Clearly, he was still upset over their earlier encounter, when he had come seeking her help. But there was nothing she could do about that. To fulfill his request would mean violating ancient laws to which she was bound. Erad had not understood that. Or had chosen not to. Instead, it was easier for him to assume that her refusal had been because the pockets of the villagers were not deep enough. It was those very pockets that she hoped to protect now.
"Erad, your plan will fail. It will serve to do nothing but part you from what you have worked so hard to earn."
"Keep your predictions sorceress," he replied gruffly, "they are not wanted by us. It seems your talents are best suited for playing matchmaker to the wealthy, than assisting us poor folks."
With those words, Erad mounted the coach. With a crack of his whip, he stirred the horses into a brisk run, leaving Tessa standing in the darkness staring after their receding forms.

* * *

The blacksmith paced anxiously about the small room, his burly form casting a great hulking shadow that moved across the floor.

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