“Well,” said Brother Lapis, seated across from Phaedra Byrne at an intricately carved parlor table. “How does this begin? Educate me.”
“It already has,” replied Phaedra. “It is best to put the subject at ease. Do you need another cup of tea?”
“No. Not yet.”
“Well then the next step is to decide what you want. I’ve cards, a crystal ball, a mirror. I can read palms, or you can finish your tea and I can read the swill. I had bones, but I’m afraid they had to be sacrificed to a worthy cause and I’ve not yet found a new set.”
Lapis places the backs of his hands on center of the table. “The palms.”
“Which is your dominant hand?”
Phaedra leaned across the table to peer at his hands, not yet touching them. “You said you’d had your fortune told before?”
“What does ‘not formally’ mean,” she asked as she took hold of his right hand and lifted it.
“Parlor games. Chance meetings. You know how Travelers can be.”
“I do indeed,” she said, as she inspected the whorls of Lapis’ fingers. Lapis kept his eyes intent on her face, watching for her tell. Phaedra spread his thumb and index finger apart to examine the webbing. “Air hands. But not surprising given your line of work. Your dominant hand, by the by, carries your past.”
“You know the signs of the zodiac are each associated with an element? So too are the hands. Frankly, I would have expected you to be a fire, but you run more to the eccentric, it seems.”
“Indeed they are. I’m afraid it means you can be very cold and calculating. Not generally considered good traits, ahh…and obsessive, it seems.”
“Those are valuable traits in my profession. Obsession can hinder creative solutions, but gives one the stamina to persevere through difficult matter.“
“Even cruelty has its uses, Brother, so too with obsession, or any of the so-called negative traits. Without them we would all be living in darkness.” Phaedra turned his right hand side-on, rotated it, then turned it back palm up, then muttering something, reached for the other hand, which Brother Lapis let her have without resistance.
“I might have thought I was of the earth.” Lapis ventured.
“Why would you think that?”
“My parents worked the land,” Lapis said as he let his thumb drift to explore Phaedra’s hand.
“Ahh, no. That has nothing to do with it, I’m afraid. Your parents may have worked the land, but you have gone far from that. Earths are romantics, they almost always marry too young, have too many children and live in too small a house.” She laid the palm of his hand flat against her’s, measuring the length of his fingers, then commenced to examining his fingernails.
“That would describe the house I was born in.”
She turned his hand back over and dragged a fingernail lightly along a line,“I’m afraid it will not be the sort of house you die in, Brother. You’re rather too set in your ways to find yourself settled in a small cottage on a hill overlooking a vineyard.” She tapped a small break in the line she was tracing, “Although it looks like the opportunity did present itself… alas you chose otherwise.”
Brother Lapis nodded. That was a shot in the dark on her part, for he could not think any such incident in his past. “You said you would make a believer out of me. I am ready to hear your proof.”
She looked up and shrugged, almost apologetically, “I can’t. Reading your palm is like trying to read a book held under water. Something about you is….tainted.”
“How so? By my skepticism? Does that hinder the process?” It was not quite the answer he was expecting.
She made a dismissive gesture with her free hand, “No, not at all. If anything it makes it easier. Skeptics can be very chatty and will tell you everything you want to know before you even ask. No it is…Do you know when you stand in a room full of people clamouring at each other and can only catch a word or two of what the person you are talking to is saying?”
Brother Lapis nodded, never taking his eyes from her face. “Perhaps something more symbolic would still the water.”
“I very much doubt it,” Phaedra said firmly.
“I insist,” pressed Brother Lapis.
She took his right hand in hers again and traced a finger along the lines of his palm, “I can see military service, which could easily be guessed at. An illness of some form, or an injury perhaps? Something that left deep scars and a great deal of doubt. Then a driving obsession, that air hand…and then it is almost as if at some point in your life someone drew a curtain.”
“You may as well tell a sailor he will soon have a journey over water.”
Something about the tone of his voice caused her to look up,“Is this an inquisition?” Phaedra asked, she could feel control of the situation swinging away from her suddenly.
Brother Lapis’ left hand shot out and took Phaedra’s right hand in an iron grip, turning it so that the palm faced up. “I see a long journey to a southern country.”
Phaedra did not pull her hands away, or stiffen or flinch, instead she replied in a dull tone, “You may as well tell a sailor he will soon have a journey over water.”
Brother Lapis kept his eyes locked on Phaedra’s, waiting for the tell. “My accent frightens you, doesn’t it.”
Phaedra’s composure was nearly perfect, but biology is within no one’s control and her pupils pulsed wider, once, and told him the truth.
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