“You pays your money and you takes your choice!”
The carnival barker called out to festival goers, trying to entice them to play games of chance. He knew, and they knew, that there was no winning. All contests were rigged in favor of the Blackwell Bros. Mystery Circus. Still they came, laying down their hard-earned coins in hopes of taking home a prize.
Further down the midway, patrons lined up outside the fortune-teller’s tent, a self-professed gypsy with the gift of sight. She took their money too, asking for a silver forint as a talisman for her augury. A personal item held closely will give away secrets if you know how to ask.
No one knew how old Talaitha was, only that she had been with the circus longer than anyone, even their ring master. She knew things about people, things that even they didn’t know. The milky cataract in her left eye added to her enigmatic presence. She used the affliction to her advantage, playing up her reputation for casting hexes to pry more money from her prey.
Mirela waited in line for hours to visit the fortune teller, her coin held tightly in her hand. Sitting across from the old woman in her darkened tent, the girl held out her offering. As Talaitha picked the silver up, her fingers brushed against Mirela’s palm. The girl drew back her hand with a hiss, angry red spots appearing on her skin where the old woman touched her.
Feeling the burn of power from Mirela, the old woman dropped the coin, then held her scalded fingertips to her lips, trying to cool the fire. The girl’s face went slack, and all light fell from her eyes as she began mumbling incoherently. Talaitha felt the tingle of fear creep up her spine as she realized what was happening.
As Mirela came back to herself, the old woman placed the coin on the table between them, avoiding touching the girl again.
“Tell me what you saw, child,” Talaitha said. “What is my fate?”