The Totem-Maker: Jealousy (part five)
Any fortune indicated within a base-up triangle was taken reversed; and the four directions of the wind were the houses into which one’s spirit had been born. The north, of the intellect; east, of love. The south, of concealment; west, of the flesh.
I put that letter we call fish before my comrade, to explain to Lom the nature of the telling. “You see, a thing under water symbolizes wealth. If the water be still, your wealth be safe; if it flow out to sea, you must be bankrupted rain by rain; if it flow inland, you will gain. If the fish fall here, under dark of night, which we read left, though it sit right…then, my Lom, it will not be luck for you to have a water sign fall on the right above. You will pray, if you turn that one, that it fall in the center.”
“Ah!” said Lom. “Where water pools and does not flow.”
I smiled. “You have got ahead admirably. I will put the fish away, and draw another.”
I shook my bag of tiles, and with some flair in placing them one by one, laid out Lom’s fortune. I meant to tell it truly. The tiles could not lie, but the teller had freedom to interpret. For friendship, tempered by this necessary undercurrent of design, I would tell Lom a tale of redemption, and of hope.
And here was fish again…and so such gods as there were must demand it. And here was eda, the diminutive. Lom gave a sigh. He had nearly spoken, then stopped himself—showing me an unearned reverence—as I turned for him the first. The last three up-tiles were tre, bega, and sun.
The down-tiles were fal, rain, and wev.
“Will it be bad?” Lom asked.
“It! Your fortune?”
“Kire,” he said to me…the name an endearment, “I know my fortune. I read signs also…those my grandmother knew, sold from that place behind the mountain.”
He meant that vanished city under Lotoq the traveler had spoken of, and…as did we all…kept silent a moment for having mentioned it. “She saw it.” He held my eye. “That would have been the day you were born, her people carried away. At dawn a flight of ravens, and you know…”
He made me unhappy, saying this. I would have to tell him.
Ravens were said to carry souls to the clouds, to the realm of the gods. He had got both fal and rain, and these being down, meant up. He had got bega, which was the sign of the raven. He had got it in the center, thus it touched all other signs, drove them like the hub of a wheel.
But if he had not told me his story, I would have made light going of all this, for Sente’s sake. His two servants were at the rail. Their bodies threw shadows over my work, but their mouths were shut; they did not jeer. I sat, faltering, and my lengthening muteness brought a nod of the head from Lom.
I heard…in my betraying voice…a brokenness. “A small legacy will come to you, unexpected.”
“Interesting. I’ve seen you, Cime’s servant. Always in the company of Mumas.”
Lord Sente said this.
(2018, Stephanie Foster)