The dark haired man turned over another card. They were not tarot cards, or if they were they were unlike any seen before. They depicted gods and demons, imps and fairies, beasts real and beasts of myth, planets and stars and ancient languages and symbols all of which seemed to change with each reading. No two readings were the same.
“Hmmm.” He brooded over the spread, tapping the tip of his nose his left index finger.
“What? What is it?” The blonde woman gasped. The first card showed a great battle, a field of green, men and women and horses and dragons and gryphons and wyrms and sirens and harpies. “There is a force to overcome,” he said, pointing to the card. “Strife to be conquered, a battle to be won.”
She gasped. “My sister and me have just inherited our parents’ house, she wants to keep it but I think we should sell. Could that be it? It’s really started to heat up, I mean we’ve always fought but sisters do don’t they, it’s never been like this before, she- ” She quieted as he laid a hand on hers.
“It could be, yes. Here.” He pointed to the second card, a gold-haired woman sat staring serenely into the distance. “She sits on a throne,” he told her. “Look how calm she is, how peaceful. She represents you. The outcome will be favourable.” The woman’s face lit up. “But,” he warned. “It may not necessarily be the outcome you desire.”
His finger rested on the third card, a field whose outer edges were still asleep and covered in snow. A lamb grazed on the grass in the centre and a rabbit sat in the distance beside a bed of yellow daffodils. “Spring,” said the witch. “Change.” Every time the woman looked back at the scene it seemed to have shifted slightly; had the snow retreated further towards the corners of the card? Had the white clouds drifted further across the sky? Surely the rabbit was ever so slightly closer than before.
“This could mean physical change or spiritual change. You will gain much. You will lose much. See how the land loses its winter coat? So too must we lose parts of ourselves to make way for the new.” He smiled. “You’ll be fine.”
“Thank you,” she breathed.
She shook his hand enthusiastically and after a few more questions she rose and left the table at which he had set up outside a small cafe. The witch barely had time to lift his coffee mug to his lips when a dark haired man took the woman’s place opposite him. The witch had noticed him stop and take a seat during the reading.
“You’re full of shit,” he said.
“That wasn’t an apology. Why do you say that?” He returned the mug to the table, and picked up his cards.
“You were just telling her what she wanted to hear.”
The witch smiled a lopsided smile. “Perhaps.” He began to shuffle the deck, not taking his eyes from the stranger. “Perhaps I was trying to encourage her to be less of a douche to her sister.”
The other man laughed. “And what are those cards, anyway?” He nodded to the deck flying between the witch’s hands like moths batted between cat’s paws. “I’ve never seen tarot cards like that before.”
“No, I can’t imagine you have.” He laid two cards on the table. The first showed a man with black hair dressed in grey standing atop a cliff looking out over a stormy ocean. The next was a wolf baying at the full moon. As they watched waves crashed against waves and angry clouds the colour of bruises passed from the first card to the next, obscuring the light of the moon and crackling with lighting.
“Nice trick,” the stranger said quietly.
The witch nodded once, a smile on his lips and a spark in his eyes. “Thank you.” He collected the cards and handed them to the stranger. “Shuffle them, please.”
The young man laughed and held up his hands. “Oh no, thank you. I’ve no silver to cross your palm with.”
The witch smiled again. “And I shan’t tell you your fortune.” He shook the cards at him. “Shuffle.” The stranger took the cards reluctantly and did as requested. The witch took the time to sit back and sip his coffee, breathing in the cooling evening air. He’d set up just as the sun began to sink from the sky, with nothing but his deck in front of him and word of mouth keeping him in constant flow of cash and coffee. The tables around him were full of people, which is probably why the manager had allowed him to stay for so long, and a handful more stood a few feet away watching the exchange and whispering to each other.
“Stop,” the witch commanded, turning back to look at the man with hair almost as dark as his own. The stranger stopped, looking back at the witch.
“Now lay three cards in a row, please. Face up.”
The man telling fortunes outside a café stared intently at the face of the stranger as a slow gasp rippled through the crowds around them.
The Magician, The Moon, The Fool.
When the stranger looked up at him the witch raised an eyebrow, the stirrings of a smile lifting the corners of his lips. The stranger narrowed his eyes and laid out three more cards below the first lot.
The Lovers, the Ace of Cups, the Three of Swords.
The witch only smiled, holding his hand out for the rest of the deck. The stranger rifled through them before handing them back to make sure that they were now indeed a traditional tarot deck.
The witch laid out two more cards and then set the rest aside.
The Page of Cups, the Page of Wands.
The stranger recovered quickly.
“So what does it mean?”
The witch laughed and leaned in close. “I told you, little wolf,” he whispered. “I won’t tell you your fortune.”
The stranger became very still.
“What did you call me?” His voice was a hoarse whisper.
The witch smiled and gathered his cards. “I believe I’m done for the evening.”
The wolf grabbed the witch’s arm. “Who are you?” he growled.
The witch stared calmly into the Wolf’s green eyes until he let go. “I am the Witch.” he said