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Of Puddings and Prophecies

Helen French is a part-time Digital Producer for a media company (which essentially means she helps maintain a gazillion websites), and a full-time writer, book hoarder, and TV soaker-upper. You can find her on Twitter @helenfrench.
Wesley and Kara sat on the side of a hill in Etriun, facing the water below them and the night sky above, waiting for the future to happen.
"The fireworks will begin soon," Wesley pointed out, breaking the silence.
"Of course," Kara said. The fireworks were the only element common to both prophecies and they took place on the same day every year.
"We could go back?" Wesley suggested. "Rescind your prophecy, let mine stand. It's the easiest way out. Otherwise we might be waiting for days." He shivered. "It's cold out here."
Kara laughed. "You won't be any warmer at home." She raised her voice into a croaky impression of Mistress Debiner's. "Leave now and don't come back until one of you is definitively, absolutely, proven right!" She coughed. "There's no shame in being wrong, you know."
Wesley bristled. "I'm the seventh son of a seventh son. I was born to this. I've seen visions since I was three years old. You're a baker's daughter. Your future lies in pudding." He sniffed. "Are you seeing things in your puddings?" It was as if it was the first time he'd ever stopped to wonder how Kara was matching his skills so well.
"Not puddings. You know a good baker never reveals her secrets." Kara hated puddings. She hated baking, too. She hated everything except the taste of magic.
If Wesley could be a prophet, so could she. He was her neighbor. They'd grown up together, gone to the same school, played in the same fields. Why should some accident of birth make him a prophet and her a baker?
A flower exploded into the sky in a flash of yellow and green, blooming then dimming as it screamed through the cool dark air. A whole field blossomed and died in the heavens.
"What comes next?" mused Wesley. "The leader of an army come to save us, or the woman come to warn us."
"My money's on the woman."
"If the warning was about true danger, the prophecy would be about that, not the warning itself. A warning's not important enough."
"How is a man on a horse important? Because you say so?"
Wesley huffed. "We shall find out soon enough."
The sky was still exploding. It was dark down by the water, but Kara thought she spotted something shifting in the blackness.
Wesley sat up straight, his face taut with anxiety.
For a brief moment, Kara hoped her prophecy was the false one. Baking, however awful, would always be there for her. Wesley only had magic and his skills were limited.
The something became a silhouette charging towards them.
"He's here," Wesley whispered.
But he was not.
The figure grew closer. A breathless woman on a horse dismounted upon seeing them. "Is Etriun beyond the crest of this hill?" she asked. Wesley nodded but did not or could not speak.
"Why?" Kara asked. "Can we help?"
The woman shook her head. "Two people alone can't do much. There's a plague coming. My people are with me, a few miles back. They're not sickening, I swear. But the illness is moving. It's heading this way. I must warn your elders and ask for help. Which is the quickest way over the crest?"
Her hand shaking, Kara pointed to a narrow path nearby. The woman left her horse without a word and ran towards it.
"Do you think I could take it?" Wesley asked. "The horse, I mean. I can't go back, can I, not now?" He stared at his hands, as if they'd let him down. Then he stared at Kara. "What I don't understand is, how do you do it? I've been dreaming my visions for nearly fifteen years. They're right more often than not. But where are you getting yours?"
Kara sighed. "From you, you big dafty." She had to tell him the truth or let him go, and if she let him go she would no longer be a prophet anyway. "We are neighbors, are we not?"
He nodded, looking forlorn.
"It turns out I can read a sleeping mind, or at least dream alongside it. Yours is the closest mind to mine at night, and the one I know best."
"I don't understand."
"I didn't at first. It took many years to understand why I would dream things that had no place in my mind. Years more to realize I sometimes dreamed your prophecies before you revealed them."
"I still don't understand."
"You get your visions when you dream. Then you interpret them to make a prophecy. Well, I simply have a different interpretation most of the time. Take today. We both saw the fireworks. We both saw a figure in the darkness, with many smaller figures behind it. A vague but bloody future. You decided it had to be a man, and a man and all that blood meant war. But I saw a woman. I saw how she carried the weight of her people on her shoulders. I saw they were running from something. I'm no prophet. I'm just better at interpreting your dreams than you."
"Oh."
"I don't want you to go," Kara continued, desperately. "If you go I'll only be able to dream the dreams of regular folk. I won't be able to prophesize anything. And you'll have gone. Stay and let me dream with you."
He laughed a sorry little laugh. "We won't be neighbors forever. We are almost full-grown. It's time to move on from our parents."
"Then marry me," she offered. "We'll sleep side by side, share our dreams, argue the interpretation, present the very best to Etriun. Stop these rows. What do you say?" She didn't love Wesley. But she did love the visions and affection could grow over time.
"There's a plague coming."
"Yes."
"Etriun needs both our skills."
"Yes."
"Then yes."
Wesley took Kara's hands in his and squeezed them tight.
The fireworks stopped flowering, but the future kept coming.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, June 16th, 2017

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