The Prophetess's Prologue
The prophetess didn't like to use the word "witch" to describe herself, though she couldn't deny sharing many of the traits and habits of a witch. Most witches had some sort of prophetic power, in little ways, though it was much amplified in the shadow Gelert. Likewise, the prophetess shared some common abilities known to all witches: scrying, starting fires, turning people into Mortogs, etc.
The connotations of the word "witch" were what was really unappealing to her: witches are stereotypically ugly, covered in warts, prone to magical mishaps. The prophetess saw herself as a helper, a contributor to the community.
When she was younger, still an apprentice to the previous prophetess, generosity was instilled in her. The previous prophetess, an opinionated brown Blumaroo, emphasized it merely with her actions. Every day, she would open up her home to the public for a few hours, and tell them their fortunes for free.
The Blumaroo never explicitly told the prophetess the value of generosity. That was something the prophetess had picked up on her own, seeing what good the Blumaroo did for the community without being asked.
The previous prophetess was gone now, though, and left the current one in her wake. The prophetess took her role model's ideology and expanded upon it: she allowed walk-ins at any time, even abnormal times. She moved to a crowded part of a crowded city in order to help more people. Often she lost sleep over them, over oddly-timed visits and ill fates.
The process was simple: someone would come in, having seen the sign, and hand the prophetess an item of importance to them. The prophetess was able to see glimpses of that particular person's future through this item; she would tell them, and they would thank her. If it was an unfortunate fate, the prophetess would remind them that once the future has been declared, it can be changed with work.
It warmed her insides to help others just for the sake of it. The prophetess had little money and much power, and she intended to use it for good.
Never had it occurred to the prophetess that she could regret such a good deed. In her youth, the Blumaroo prophetess before her had never complained. So when the prophetess got up in the middle of the night for the second time to accommodate some worried father, it didn't occur to her that she was allowed to complain. It didn't cross her mind for a second that her lack of sleep and constant stress were the fault of others.
Not everyone was kind to her; some people would refuse to believe future events which weren't to their liking, or they would demand that she tell them more. It hit her one day that, to her clients, her fortune telling was a right rather than a free service. That to be denied her services was taking something away from them rather than serving as an optional addition to their lives.
It began to drag on her. She would nestle down into her couch after a particularly stressful session, only to have to get up a moment later for someone else. Sometimes there were lines all the way down the street, and she missed meals and gave out all her tea. The clanging of the bell, indicating a waiting client, now made her cringe. She would pretend she was out getting groceries and let people turn away.
Finally, she admitted to herself that she couldn't handle it any longer. She took down the sign outside her door.
A red Lupe came the next day at six in the morning; refreshed and relieved at the notion of her encumbering situation ending, she politely explained that she was no longer providing her services.
The Lupe was angry. "You promised me you'd help me with my stocks," he said. The prophetess recalled no such promise, but the idea of not going through with something was too much of a burden for her. It ate at her while she considered her options.
Finally, she caved in, and helped the man with his stocks. He left significantly happier, which made her feel good in a tired way, but it also hurt her that he didn't understand. He didn't understand that it wasn't all about money, that she now thought he was just using her for profit instead of for the chance to change his life.
When the next person came, she didn't even get up to answer the door. The prophetess sat in the corner as the bell rang, reading the same sentence over and over in her book distractedly. She sighed when the ringing stopped. Was this how she'd live out the rest of her life? Hiding from people who didn't appreciate her?
To her horror, a JubJub stared at her through her window. He had not gone away, merely peeked in on her. Invaded her privacy. The prophetess couldn't suppress a groan as she went to the window and pantomimed the end of her community service.
The JubJub glared at her and stormed off. An awful, sinking feeling overwhelmed the prophetess's stomach. She could've helped him, if she'd just let him in. She might just have turned down a life-or-death crisis.
The pattern repeated itself twice more, with the prophetess giving in to the whims of dissatisfied clients. The latter was rude to her even after she agreed to assist him, and so the prophetess resolved that she would not open her door for anything, no matter what.
A crowd collected outside her door. She did not respond to the angry clanging of the pretty little bell she'd bought so long ago. She didn't even respond when someone tore the bell down and the knocking began instead.
A near-mob formed outside her door, shouting things at her to get her to come outside: someone had brought their family twenty miles south to see her. Another needed to know if she would ever see her father again. A shadow Gelert had come to complain about how he couldn't so much as walk down the street anymore without someone mistaking him for the prophetess; he blamed her for his new need to move far away.
Tears welled in the prophetess's eyes. She did care about them. She couldn't bring herself to not care. She forgave every last one of them for being cruel with their needs, completely understanding their situations more than they attempted to understand hers.
Though she sympathized with them, she resented them all. She couldn't even talk to her old non-witch friends without them asking her to do a reading or two. Relishing every rare moment of alone time, the prophetess even came to dislike people even as she loved them.
She hid from eager people for days in her home, slowly running out of food. The siege waged on, and she could not so much as leave. She feared for the reaction if she did. Even thinking about the kinds of things people would say to her brought her to tears.
As she dined on her last scone, a plan formed in her head. Lazy and mostly unwilling to devote their time to grabbing the prophetess's attention, much of the crowd had dwindled. It was about time for her to leave. Not merely to replenish her food supply or get a breath of fresh air, either. She would leave for good, leave these ungrateful people to fend for themselves.
The prophetess didn't leave a note for her false friends. She packed what little she needed into a sack and climbed through the back window, never to return.
The prophetess had never felt more selfish, nor more free.