Premonitions of War

Jezebelle coughed raggedly. She’d nearly choked on her tea. Giving her cup a double-take confirmed what she’d just seen. Every tea leaf in her cup was stuck in a big clump near the top. Every. Single. One. They’d suddenly jumped to that position of their own accord, before she’d had the chance to finish her tea, let alone seek the wisdom of the oracle.

“Uh… Grackle? Wake up, dodo, you’re gonna want to see this.” She said to the lump of oily black feathers snoozing on her windowsill. She didn’t take her eyes off the cup.

“Zzzz-snrrk, hnn..? Jezzy it’s still dark out, why are you awake? Why am *I* awake?” complained the raven, hopping onto the table grumpily to inspect the dregs of the teacup. He let out a low whistle. “Hoo.. that’s super bad. What the hell did you ask?” He tutted.

“I *know* that, and I didn’t ask anything! It just did that. What does it mean?”

“No idea, but judging by how high up they stuck whatever it is is gonna happen soon.” He looked pensive for a moment and turned his glistening black eye upon Jezebelle.

“Jezzy, You’ve er..been spending an awful lot of time cooped up alone here in this wagon. Are you okay? This isn’t a weird cry for help or something?”

“Your concern” she said icily, “is noted. I’m *fine*” she sighed, rising to her feet carefully in the small space. “Really. I’m fine.”

She gathered her shawl about her tattooed shoulders to ward off the morning chill, and stepped out the door of her caravan. “I’ve got to go talk to someone about this. Cinn, probably. You wanna come along and see Zipporah, lovebird?” she offered.

“Harrumph! She’s too classy a lady for me. But it, er… couldn’t hurt to check in and make sure all’s well anyway, surely?” Grackle fluttered out the door and perched on Jezebelle’s shoulder. The centauride smirked. “Surely.”

Cinn had fallen asleep in her bed, with her face buried in the big book of elven enchantments. She’d spent the rest of the night looking in her mother’s old wisdom book, for an appropriate spell for that poultice required for Hopping Jack’s ritual. All of a sudden, a knock on the door made her stir. Then an insistent tap on the window glass, and a familiar raven voice. “Nghhh… Who is it?” Cinn asked lazily.

She yawned and grunted. “Ugh… five more minutes please…” She rubbed her eyes, then squinted at the window, the sun was barely coming out behind the hills yet. Cinn stretched out, and got on her hooves. “Alright, alright, I am coming…” Yawning again, she answered as she walked to open the door.

“Rise and shine, Cinny! I’m not happy about it either” crowed Grackle from the window. Cinnamon opened the door to an anxious-looking Jezebelle, arms crossed against the spring morning chill, one hoof pawing at the dirt. She had a bag of books and knickknacks slung over her shoulder that she’d doubled back to her house to get.

“Hey Cinny, sorry about the early morning visit. I need to speak to someone about a portent and you’re the best hedge witch I know. May I come in? I’ll make us tea.”

“Hey guys…” She tried to fix her hair so as not to look like she just got off the bed. “Hey Jezzy! How are you hun? Yes, please come in… oooff… it’s still chilly out here…” She rubbed her arms with both hands as she felt the cold morning breeze. Cinn took a step back and gestured to the two to come in. Shutting the door behind them, she walked towards the bed, picked up the big elven book, and closed it. “I’m sorry about the mess… I just woke up.” Yawned again as she dropped the heavy book on the coffee table. “Went to sleep late doing research for this whole ‘Hopping Jack’ poultice thing I have to make. So… what’s going on? Is everything alright with you?”

Jezebelle explained the situation as she availed herself of Cinn’s kettle, setting it on the fire to boil.

“Basically, big lumps represent general misfortune, even spreads represent good fortune. I have never seen all the leaves clump together of their own accord without any prompting before. So I get the feeling something is trying to warn us” she looked out the window a moment, as if trying to put sight to the nameless dread she felt.

“Come to think of it, I didn’t hear any of the usual morning birds singing on the way here. It feels like the whole world’s holding its breath…” her thoughtfulness was interrupted by the kettle whistling. She retrieved a small box from her bag and spooned tea from it into a pair of cups. “I hope you like jasmine, cuz it’s what I got.” She offered Cinn a cup as Grackle chimed in from where he was perched admiring Zipporah.

“Basically I think Jezzy wants your help with a divination cuz she’s worried she’s going crazy or something. She wants a second opinion, as though she didn’t have the foremost diviner in all of Roonwit right here.” He puffed his feathers pridefully as Jez shot him a withering glare over the rim of her teacup.

“More or less what the overgrown pidgeon said. You in?” Said Jezebelle.

Cinnamon gasped at the explanation, as she held the tea cup in her hands and gave it a small blow before taking a sip. Tapping the cup with her fingernails, she considered what she just heard. “General misfortune… you said? Or a warning?” She bit her lip nervously. “Um… I might have sort of an idea of what that could be about, but I am not sure. And I mean… I am not much of a great divinator but I can definitely help… I’ll do my best. As long as we don’t set ourselves on fire again, though.” Cinn chuckled before sipping on her tea again.

“No worries, we won’t need to do anything dangerous this time… the new table looks nice by the way.” Jez grinned. “I figured we’d try a crystal gazing spell to see if we can glean the meaning of the omen. I’ll cast the spell and you see if you see anything. No fires, I promise.”

Grackle cawed mirthfully “Now now, Jezzy, let’s not count our chickens. It is you we’re talking about.”

“Speaking of chickens, if this one keeps roasting me I’m gonna deep fry him. You want light meat or dark, Cinn?” drawled the crimson centauride.

Grackle gulped dramatically. “Of course I mean I have the utmost confidence in your abilities, Jezebelle.”

“I am tempted to say dark, and well cooked” Cinn grinned, then cleared her throat. “Alright. Yeah, let’s get to it. If this is a warning about what I am thinking, I’d rather know sooner than later.” Said Cinn before getting up on her hooves and clearing up the coffee table. “All yours. Oh, wait. Just an extra layer of insurance…” The healer stood up again and grabbed her amulet from her bedside table and put it on. Then sat down by the table again. “Grackle, Jez… the Invertitia is on that cabinet by the window. Just so you know” She pointed with her finger and smirked.

Jezebelle smiled wanly and placed a hand on the invertitia amulet shining at her breast. “Thank you but I keep some close at hand, always.” Like she had a choice. She was one of only a scant handful of centaurs she knew of to have been turned more than once, and the experience hadn’t done her any favors.

She turned her attention to the task at hand, producing a sinew-bound journal and a crystal ball from her bag. She set the book on the table, open to the relevant page, and held the orb in one hand, offering the other to Cinn. “Take my hand and this will work better” she instructed. “I’ll hold the crystal ball out to you and say the spell, and you should get a vision of the whatever-it-is that’s coming to ruin our day.” 

Cinn held Jezzy’s hand, closed her eyes momentarily, then took a deep breath. Slowly, her mind drifted into meditation, and opening her eyes, she focused on the crystal ball before her.

Jezebelle closed her eyes and began to chant.

“Spirits of prophecy heed our call
As we gaze into this crystal ball.
Let us learn as we doth peer
What weal or woe will happen here.”

The room darkened as Jezebelle held the crystal ball out to the Healer. The crystal seemed to shift, now reflecting a light that wasn’t present in this room, one that beckoned Cinn to look deeper.

Cinnamon stared calmly at the ball, letting the light in it draw her in and guide her through the vision. Slowly the light that swirled around in the scrying crystal began to take shape. The light took the place of a sun among clouds, in a clear image of a horizon, and mountains and valleys began to appear. All of a sudden, in the middle of the sky, three small shapes appear. Slowly they became a hint of something else. As they moved closer in the landscape, their shape grew bigger, sharpened up and formed the silhouette of what seemed to be… “Dragons…? Th… those are… dragons??”

Indeed. Three black dragons, in formation, flying towards Cinnamon’s point of view. And then, by foot, a crowd that resembled some sort of dark army, unseelie creatures indeed, but definitely not the Vitrollia-darkness kind. Cinnamon froze and managed to say only one word. “Shit.”

Trancelike, Jezebelle stood with her eyes closed, quietly chanting the spell. The room brightened again as the images faded from the crystal; or more accurately, all the deepened shadows of the room flowed down and into Jezebelle’s shadow, leaving the light as it was before. Jezebelle gasped like a woman surfacing from a long dive, and her eyes immediately widened with naked fear.

“You saw it too, right?! Please tell me I didn’t see what I think I saw.”

Cinnamon’s mind’s eye was pulled out of the vision, and she found herself back in her home. The healer gasped loudly. Her breathing stopped for a moment, and her jaw dropped to the floor. She was still staring at the orb. She then looked at Jezebelle, who had the same expression of horror on her face.

“What did you see? Is aught wrong? You both look like you’ve seen a spectre.” Grackle cawed with concern, hopping anxiously along his perch and bobbing his head, trying futilely to see what was going on.

“An army of them, actually.” Cinnamon said, turning her eyes to Grackle. “We have to warn the other taurs. The dark fae are finally coming to attack…and they’re bringing DRAGONS! I mean, it was bound to happen. We were starting to drop our guard thinking they might not come as time passed, but in any case I was not expecting dragons to attack Centauria!” The healer stood up, got parchment and quill from the desk, and scribbled a couple of letters. “Zipporah, take these notes to DragonWolf and the Roonwits. Hurry! …Grackle, you go warn the ranger. We need someone at the war horn in Glenstorm as soon as possible, and the other taurs ready to fight. And Jezzy…” Cinnamon turned around from the desk, and with an air of command, spoke to the crimson centauride. “You and I are going to finish this necturn-poultice for Jack. I have limited ingredients and only one shot. Two brains are better than one.”

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