Mad Zoila’s good eye begins to steady and lose focus. Her shaking and fidgeting subsides and she stares into the middle distance. She begins to murmur eldritch verses in lofty tones, clutching her throat and making wafting motions with her other hand. Finally, she takes a pinch of grey and white dust from a bowl and casts it into the air, which dissipates as she takes a long drawn out gasp of air.
She then looks at each of you in turn, saying in perfect unaccented Faerie, Icatian, and Hammaddi, “Greetings travelers of distant lands! Come ye to have your fortunes told by Mad Zoila?”
She settles herself on the overgrown mound. Zoila takes a brown leather pouch from under her ragged shawl and shakes it vigorously, clattering the contents within. She pours out a pile of fingerbones etched with runes and stares at their arrangement with her steely grey eye.
“I see… a journey, a winding path… forked, but both ways lead to the same destination. You must choose… the longer safer path, or the short path frought with peril. I see… an evil, a horrible darkness…”, she says her voice quaking, “… this evil looms over and surrounds a victim wearing the guise of an adversary, a hapless pawn of its dark gods, this one.” Her voice sounds sad, “I see an obstacle on your journey… but it lies before the evil… and the victim, barring them from their desires. To achieve what you wish, you have two patrons available to you. You may call upon an old god… or a new one.”
* * *
“Foreigners they were, but they wore the guises of our people. BEAR BAITING!”, Zoila suddenly shrieks, “I saw through their masks. Zoila sees through the mists and fog… she does! They spoke in strange words, like a thousand black ants swarming about the grass. But, to have sight one sees the patterns of their scurrying. Words they make in the dirt, words Zoila can read.”
The old crone rocks back on her heels muttering to herself, “The innkeep will hang, oh yes he will… oh yes!” She breaks into a fit of cackling that ends in ragged wet coughing. Coming to her senses, Zoila recalls the details, “They were speaking of someplace far away… someplace in the west, across the salt seas. They spoke of a woman they were meant to seize. They failed, and their masters were wroth. So they fled, they fled here. They fled from their wrathful masters, because they failed to get the woman. They took her prize, though. Something valuable, something precious to her. More precious was it to their wrathful masters, though. A ‘key’ they called it… a key to a mountain. The ‘Mount of the Seven’, they said.”