Fine Line: Part Six
Alamor had nearly caught Uva off guard. The pink Kau had just finished telling the fortune of a young Kacheek and was finishing up her dinner when she happened to peer through the hole in her tent and saw the camouflage Kougra striding towards her over the sand.
Uva stuffed the remains of her Suti jam sandwich and Cheops salad into her drawer, which was hidden in the table that housed the crystal ball. When the pink Kau deposited her dinner, however, her hoof brushed against the little velvet bag, which had recently gained considerable weight. A pang of guilt rushed through her veins as she slammed the drawer shut and sat down at her stool, not even having the time to light her candles as Alamor appeared in the tent flap.
“Good evening, Madame Uva,” said the camouflage Kougra, inclining his head as he stood, hanging back just inside the midnight blue canvas.
“Welcome, Alamor,” said Uva, slipping into her mysterious voice. She beckoned him with a hoof that trembled ever so slightly; she was glad that he could not see it in the darkness. “I have been waiting for you.”
“Then you know what I am looking for,” said Alamor, taking his seat on the opposite side of the table. The veiled orb rested between them, covered in its violet silk folds.
“Tonight, you plan to spirit away an artifact from the Tomb of Nefertissi,” said Uva, her voice filling the dim room with its subtle power. The Kau felt another wave of emotion rising up inside of her as Alamor’s eyes widened. He had not told her anything about what he had been planning to steal, but the fortune teller had other ways of uncovering information.
Yes, Uva was a master of clever thinking. She had taken the puzzle pieces from Alamor, and from her other visitor, the one who had been nearly as persuasive and calculating as she... The pink Kau had built up her reputation by remembering the words of all who spoke to her, and she knew exactly when to reveal what she had learned. Alamor was a puppet in her grasp. She had him exactly where she wanted him, exactly where she wanted anyone who dared to ask the details of their future. They trusted her; they believed that she knew all...
“I don’t need to tell you anything, I guess,” said Alamor, looking down at the wooden table. “You already know what I am thinking, Madame Uva.”
“I know only what has been revealed to me,” said Uva, in one of her rare moments of truth. She looked at Alamor, as she did with every pet who wandered into her tent, with a keen eye. He was worried, uncomfortable, not himself at all. The Kougra who was normally confident and calm now appeared unsettled. She was not accustomed to this behavior, and did not know quite what to expect. Therefore, she changed tactics.
“I will allow you a special privilege,” said the pink Kau, standing up from her stool and crossing the room. She struck a match and lit a single candle, carrying it back through the darkness and setting it on the table. The flickering light cast its glow in a narrow ring, covering only the wooden table and casting shadows on the faces of the two Neopets who leaned forward in the gloom. “You may ask a question directly,” said Uva in a low voice, slowly pulling the violet veil away as she spoke, “to the crystal ball.”
The effect was flawless, as was everything that the fortune teller performed. The lone flame lit the cloudy orb with an eerie shine, the wavering quality of the light making the crystal ball seem to pulsate. Alamor leaned forward, drawn in by the heavy cloak of magic that Uva had woven over them. He stared into the misty glass, searching.
He hesitated before speaking. “What,” he whispered, and Uva had to lean forward to discern his words, “will become of my son?”, and the Kau felt as if her eyes had been opened.
Of course. In the simplest of questions, Alamor had revealed everything that Uva needed to know. He feared for his son, what would become of the little one for whom he was the sole caretaker and role model. The fortune teller had always known of Alamor’s one weakness. His love for Lasa was the lone chink in his armor, the one thing that could slip up the greatest thief in Hajiro. He stole for Lasa to eat, and he regretted stealing for fear of his son becoming like him. Alamor was trapped in a paradox, the vices of poverty and immorality closing tighter and tighter against him, tighter, Uva knew, even than Alamor realized.
Alamor was afraid, but not because of his planned theft. He was afraid of what would become of his son, and Uva knew that she needed to give him an answer, a reply that would allay his fears but that would be an accurate prediction of the future, and this caused the Kau’s mind to begin racing furiously.
She leaned even farther toward the crystal ball, peering into its cloudy depths. She said nothing, but she placed her hoofs on the glass and stared intently at it, as if searching for the hidden answer to Alamor’s question.
But her mind could not have been further from the mystical orb. She was torn, not only because responding to Alamor’s question would be difficult, but because she feared that the only accurate reply would compromise her appearance of magic, and that was something that the fortune teller was absolutely unwilling to do.
The pieces of the puzzle were there. She knew that Alamor was in danger, and not from himself. He was a Scamander looking to steal a Tchea fruit, unaware that the shopkeeper was standing over him with a net, casting only the slightest shadow as he prepared to strike. But Uva saw that shadow. She knew what was to come. She knew the future, and whether that was through magic or otherwise, she realized that it was as fixed as the Great Gebmids, and that Alamor was trapped. But, in a way, so was she.
The pink Kau wanted to tell Alamor to give up his mission, take his son, and run away. However, through years upon years of experience, Uva knew that her magic depended entirely on drawing out the emotions and thoughts that lay already within the hearts of her customers. She confirmed what they already suspected, and she took the credit for the fulfillment of those prophecies. If she took it a step further, if she revealed something that Alamor did not know, could not already see, then it was possible that he would begin to question her. Uva did not want to cross the line. After building up her reputation and career, she was not about to let it topple because she tried to shift the foundations for the sake of a Kougra thief and his son.
Yet, the longing look in Alamor’s eyes, and the knowledge that it was not just Alamor but Lasa as well who hung in the balance of Uva’s decision, meant the pink Kau knew that she could not merely let Alamor go through with his plan unimpeded. She had to at least plant a seed of doubt. She needed to let him know that all was not well. She had promised him success in his mission when he had last visited, but she knew more now. The future—her future—had changed. But she could not tell him that. She had to do it some other way. And as the gears of Uva’s mind continued to turn, she developed an idea.
“I see your son,” she breathed, her gaze never having been lifted from the cloudy glass of the crystal ball. “But do not see him as he is now. I see him in a time that has not yet come to pass.”
“How is he?” asked Alamor, his voice low and on the verge of cracking.
Uva could sense the strain and struggle within him. The weight of her decision pressed on her shoulders, bearing her down and filling her with emotion, but the pink Kau was a fortune teller of master skill. She would not sway; she would not fall.
“I see,” she said, “that he is much like you, Alamor.” Uva narrowed her eyebrows, breathing heavily to enhance the effect of her words. “I see that he is like you in both talent... and flaw.”
The fortune teller detected a slight tensing of Alamor’s face; she knew that she had created the desired effect. The pink Kau continued to bore into the orb with her eyes, and then she pushed herself away dramatically, taking in a deep breath and leaning back in her stool.
Alamor blinked and looked up from the crystal ball. “Can you tell me anything more?” he asked. “What should I do? Is there anything I should know?”
Uva stood on the edge of a sword. All the power was hers. She could tell him anything, and he would act upon her words. The fortune teller knew this, that great power comes with great responsibility, and she hesitated. However, her pause was not for effect this time, but out of genuine indecision. She feared that what she was about to say might not be enough. She feared that it might not save him. But Uva knew that she could not cross the line, and she stared directly at Alamor and said, “As long as you remain in Hajiro, as long as you continue with this lifestyle, your son Lasa will grow up as you did. He will be like you, as I said, in talent and flaw.” Uva inclined her head. “That is all that I have seen.”
Alamor watched as the fortune teller covered up her crystal ball with the folds of purple silk. His eyes strayed to the lone candle, and he sat there unmoving for several moments.
“Thank you,” he said at last, pulling out some coins. He stood up slowly and put them on the table.
Uva took them and opened her hidden drawer to put them away. As soon as she saw the little velvet bag, she felt as if her heart was going to crack.
“If...” Alamor began, standing awkwardly halfway between the table and the tent flap, “This may be the last time...” Uva looked up and matched his gaze. “I just wanted to say...” His eyes were wet, and the pink Kau let her guard down for the briefest of moments as she shared that moment of silence. “Thank you,” said Alamor, and he turned away and pushed through the midnight blue folds of canvas, into the vast sands of the desert, which Uva could see were shining in the light of the setting sun.
She bowed her head as he left, but could not bring herself to speak. Uva had kept her footing. She had not strayed.
She only feared that, in her fight to keep her own balance, she had pushed someone else off the edge.
To be continued...