Fine Line: Part Three
Uva peered out of the tiny hole in the side of her midnight blue fortune telling tent. The morning sun gave the sands of the Lost Desert a blinding sparkle, and the pink Kau squinted her eye. There was a tall figure striding across the dunes toward her.
The Kau retreated from her spy hole and quickly bustled around the dark room. Striking a match, she lit a few of the candles that rested on narrow wooden tables and held the tip of a stick of incense to one of the flames. As an exotic smell filled the interior of the tent, Uva hurriedly smoothed out her purple gown and sat down at her stool. A crystal ball sat on the table in front of her, covered by a veil of violet silk, which was embroidered with gold.
Uva walked a fine line, but she had managed to keep up her fortune telling business without faltering even once. The pink Kau knew all the tricks of the trade, having developed a keen mind with years of experience. Though she had no magic, the Kau knew that she could make herself appear all-knowing, with the help of just a few candles, a crystal ball, and some clever thinking.
Uva checked the hole in her tent every so often to see if someone was approaching. The flat sands of the desert made it easy to spot anyone from a great distance, and the Kau would make sure to hurry and prepare herself before the Neopet could even come close. That way, whenever anyone arrived they would see her sitting in silence in front of her magical orb, appearing as if she had never moved from that spot.
A camouflage Kougra pushed open the tent flap. It was Alamor. Uva knew the thief quite well; he came to her for advice fairly often. He had even brought his son Lasa into her tent for a visit once. Uva had told the little Kougra that he was destined to receive a treat before nightfall. It was a prediction that she knew would come true. Uva was quite skilled in that respect, and she prided herself on a very high fulfillment rate of her prophecies. It was what had made her famous.
But she could never get too comfortable. One slip, one hoof on the wrong side of the line, and she would be finished. Every visitor was to be treated with the utmost care. As Alamor took a seat opposite Uva, the pink Kau reached out quickly and grabbed his hand before the Kougra could say a word.
She ran the edge of her hoof through the dappled fur. The Kau noticed that the thief’s normally smudged hands were very clean; his claws were filed and polished. She continued to probe for a moment before releasing him and saying, “My, Alamor, who are you supposed to be this time, a Qasalan diplomat? Your hands do not lie; you are planning another high profile theft, are you not?”
The surprise and admiration in Alamor’s eyes told Uva that she had been successful. “You don’t need me to tell you,” said the Kougra, shaking his head. “Your fortune telling has given you the information already.”
“Indeed,” said the Kau, furrowing her brow. “Now tell me, what have you come to ask for? Do you fear what will happen on this job?”
“Not exactly,” said Alamor, but as Uva watched his eyes dart down she knew it was a lie.
“Do not avoid the truth with me,” said the Kau, maintaining her mystical tone. “I see all.”
Alamor was silent for a moment. “Well, I’m not really worried about the job, not really,” he said slowly. His eyes roved around, taking in the dark blue fabric of the tent, the flickering candles, and the covered crystal ball, before finally meeting Uva’s gaze. He hesitated. “I’m just a bit unsure,” he said slowly, “if, maybe, I’m getting in too deep this time.”
Uva’s mind was racing in order to keep up with Alamor and make sure she appeared one step ahead. She nodded slowly, buying herself a few seconds. Alamor was nervous, but not about the job. No, he was never afraid of the theft itself. He had come to her to hear his fortune before, but he had always been more concerned with his son, or his friends, or his conscience.
“You are unsure,” said Uva, choosing her words carefully, “if this will set your path in stone. You fear that this paramount act will cement your destiny, will mark you as a thief forever.” She paused, looking for some sign of confirmation in Alamor. When his head dipped, ever so slightly, she continued. “You have promised yourself that you will end this, soon. You grow weary of the life you have chosen.”
Alamor did not respond, and Uva took this to mean that he did not object. She smiled inwardly, knowing that she still had the magic touch. A few more broad statements, building off of each other, and he would be satisfied. She just needed to repeat to him what he was already feeling. The pink Kau knew that most Neopets who came to her were not looking for anything new or unexpected. They were searching for the answers that they already knew in their hearts, but did not want to admit. Uva made her living by drawing out the secrets that were hidden, making assumptions and working by the faintest verbal clues or body language that she could detect.
“Alamor,” she continued, “the future is not set in stone.” She waved a hoof through the air, looking up as if pointing at a shooting star, saying, “Destiny can be changed.”
The camouflage Kougra nodded, but said nothing. Uva knew that she had spoken enough. With a practiced flourish, she drew the violet veil off of the crystal ball, letting it sparkle eerily in the candlelight. “I will peer into the orb,” said the Kau, her voice layered with mystic tones. “I will search the clouds of the unknown and discern what is to become of your next conquest.”
Uva placed her hoofs on the crystal ball and leaned forward. Alamor’s eyes drifted to the glass sphere, which was made specially to have a clouded interior. Uva gazed deeply into the misty orb, her mind working furiously. As she pondered, the pink Kau hummed, the noise resonating throughout the midnight blue tent. Alamor closed his eyes, and Uva hummed and breathed and stared deeply into the sphere, and her hoofs moved in slow circles over the glass surface, and as all of this was happening, the gears of Uva’s mind were turning.
It was crucial that she give Alamor a statement which would satisfy his desire for knowledge, but which would be unclear enough to be interpreted and adapted to whatever events the future might bring. As Uva hummed and peered into the crystal ball, she thought about everything that Alamor had said, thought about all that she had learned about him in the past, and thought about all of the scenarios that might arise from his latest theft. Putting everything she knew about the situation together, Uva grew silent and took her eyes away from the orb. She said, “This object is protected. You will not find it easy to take. However, I see that you will be successful in your mission.” She paused. “However, there will be a price...” The pink Kau let her voice linger ever so slightly in the dark room, creating an effect reminiscent of an echo.
Alamor was brought out of a silent trance. He blinked and leaned back from the crystal ball. He hesitated, and then nodded. “I know,” he said quietly.
Uva knew that her work had been accomplished. Alamor had, in truth, learned nothing from the encounter, but the fortune teller had confirmed his own doubts and fears. He would leave and go about his business the same, but he would think that seeing her had made a difference, just like everyone else who stopped by the fortune teller’s midnight blue tent.
“Thank you,” said Alamor, dropping a few coins onto the table.
Uva covered up the orb with the veil and inclined her head. “May good fortune be with you,” she said.
The Kougra smiled. He straightened up and walked to the tent flap. “Goodbye, Madame Uva,” he said, and he disappeared into the scorched sands of the Lost Desert.
Uva waited in silence for a few moments. Then, getting up from her stool, she took the coins and deposited them in a little bag. She pulled the drawstring closed and stowed the pouch away in a wooden drawer in the table on which her crystal ball sat, draped with the violet silk.
Uva the pink Kau walked a fine line, but she was a fortune teller of master skill. She could walk the border between truth and fiction as effortlessly as she could snuff the candles and extinguish the burning incense.
Yes, Uva could blow out a flame as easily as she could spin a tale of hope for a troubled visitor. She walked a fine line, but with such perfect balance, Uva knew that she would never fall.
To be continued...