The tent had all the expected trappings of an itinerant seer. It was illuminated by candlelight, and required it even though it was high noon outside. And it was small, but generously furnished with rugs and tapestry. The tapestry was woven densely with arcane sigils, signs, and runes. One panel divided the tent into two sections, and it was from behind this panel that she appeared when needed. She was not yet needed, so she watched through the clever series of peepholes that had been worked into the weave.
Her querent was waiting patiently, already seated in the guest chair at the small table. She was neither young nor old, nor obviously middle aged. So likely of an age where romance and its consequences figure strongly in her mind. She was well dressed for a villager, in white, but punctuated with bright colors in her scarf.
She stepped through the curtain, enjoying her moment of surprise. That opening was well-disguised, and usually missed even by the observant.
“Ah, you’re on time, and you’ve found the right seat. This isn’t your first reading, is it, Mary?”
“Don’t worry, I don’t bite! I’m Pat, please be comfortable in my tent.”
Pat bustled around for a few moments, then settled down in the chair opposite Mary. Cards today for this one, clearly, cards. She found the cards in their proper place, set the wrapped deck between them, then began to unwrap them with some ceremony and care. As she unwrapped the deck, she spoke the blessing: “We ask the cards to treat our pasts with respect, our present with care, and our futures with kindness. That is all we can ask.”
With the deck now seen, she handed them to Mary to be shuffled. Mary did so with little prompting, and set the deck back on the cloth.
“The first two cards,” Pat began, “call upon our memories of your past.” Pat placed two cards to Mary’s left.
“The next two,” she continued, “reflect something about your present.” Pat placed two cards between them.
“Finally the last two, anticipate something from your futures.” Pat placed two cards to Mary’s right, then set the deck aside. She took a deep breath, then offered her hands to Mary. Together then formed the small circle around the selected cards, and silently meditated for a few moments.
“We begin,” Pat began by turning over cards showing Impulse and Will, “in the past. This is as it should be. I see that you have always acted on ideas, choosing swift actions over slow contemplation. The turtle moves, as they say, and you move with it, allowing your will to lead you up Fate’s ladder. And yet you can plan around those moments of impulse. It was a plan set in motion some time ago that brought you here today.”
Mary nodded agreement, but seemed struck by something and had little to say.
“Now we consider the very Now that surrounds us Now.” Pat turned over two more cards showing Reconciliation and Untruths. “And so we see that the present that brings you here is a question. Should you accept him back? Or should you spurn him over what seem to be lies and deception? Is he a cad or just careless?”
Mary was startled.
“Jim isn’t lying—” she began. “Oh– I see– I– I hope that isn’t what he meant.”
Pat smiled to herself. A strong hit, now to set the hook. “It never is, child. Your doubts were likely misplaced. The unexplained has reasonable explanations. And to be sure, it was your concern that brought you here today. Know this, then. There is a path forward. There is a way.”
Mary nodded. “I do seek that way.”
“One way, but it is not right for everyone, is to take on this mantle and train with a seer. But that is a way that would likely lead you away from your Jim, possibly forever.” Pat closed her eyes, and reached for the final cards, holding them so that Mary could still only see their backs. “These are one possible future of the many legs of the trousers of time. Seeing the future too clearly can cause some doors to close, and others to open, letting you ride the rails with purpose. Not knowing can cause alarm at each surprise. You must rein in your impulse and choose wisely between the paths.”
Pat tabled the future, still face down.
“If you see cards in your own future, perhaps you will choose not to see these specific cards. You will take the training, serve the apprenticeship, and set out on the road as an itinerant seer, helping others to navigate the depths and shoals of their own lives, and one day will find yourself at a similar table, having this conversation with a younger woman who clearly has shown signs of the talent.” Mary nodded, and Pat set the cards with the others. “With that choice in mind, this specific future is now moot. You will navigate your many possible futures and help many others do the same.”
Mary sat for a moment, then came to a decision. “Yes. He may be a cad, but that need not prevent me from pursuing my own direction. Will you have me as you find me?”
Pat smiled. She knew the ritual. “I find you as I will have you, and I accept you as you are, to mold you into what you will be.”
Together, they finished it. “And what will be will be.”
Mary looked relieved.
Pat chuckled. “There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?”
“No, and I’m glad of it. What happens next?”
“next, Mistress,” Pat prompted.
“Mistress?” Mary corrected herself.
“We pack up the tent and move on. Consider this your first lesson: whatever else happens, at the end of the day (which might be at either end of the day) we pack up the tent and move on. There are futures out there, but they aren’t found and chosen by sitting still.”
With the two of them working at it, the valuable cards and other supplies were packed away with care, the rugs and tapestries rolled up, and the small tent struck and collapsed into a tight bundle. It all fit in the trunk that somehow seemed larger on the inside than the outside.
The two women easily returned it to the wagon, and set off down the road.