Scrying Stew

The woman stares into the murky pot watching the patterns of grease and spice swirl on its surface.  “Would you like to know your future? The visions are quite clear at this time,” she asks.

You hesitate. The future is uncertain. The nation to the north demands tribute and threatens war with the other northern nation. The land here has become dry and farming is harder every year. Rain is coming some say. The land here is done others say. The south territory is empty but untamed. To the east, the sea stretches beyond the horizon. To the west is the edge of the world. You know that soon you will have to choose a path to follow.

“Umm, ok,” you whisper.

The woman’s eyes open wide as she smiles revealing too many teeth. She gently picks up the ladle and stirs the pot in a figure eight. “I see a war. A battle.” As she talks the rising steam blows in your eyes, her words fade from your hearing and the vision springs into your mind.

You will lead an army against the north. Their defense will be weak. Astride a body covered battleground you will walk.

“Burn the bodies,” you will yell and your soldiers will obey. Bodies will be piled and set a flame. From one pile a still living man will crawl out. A soldier who tried to play dead after the first assault hoping you will pass over him. He will crawl from the bonfire of his comrades and beg for mercy.

You will grab him, lift him to his feet with one arm, and shout, “This one laid among the dead. This one hid from us among the dead. This one belongs to the dead.” He will scream and thrash but you will be too strong. You will feel nothing as you throw him back onto the pyre of his brethren.

“Hey hey!! What did the boss you about reading the future in the stew?!” the busser a shouts at the cook. “Look at this young lady. She looks all a fright. What did you tell her?”

“Only the truth.” She quickly fills a bowl with stew from her pot and slides it in front of you.

“Get back to work and no more future reading.” The woman moves to the next table and offers them bowls of stew. He turns back to you apologetic, “I’m sure whatever she told you won’t come true. Would you like a roll on the house?”

You snap back into the present moment. “Yes, thank you.” He nods returns with a small roll.

The stew is hot and full of spices. You catch glimpses of other battles as you spoon meat and vegetables to your mouth. You dip your roll in blood soaked fields. You lift the bowl to your lips and pour a final pyre into your mouth and let out a small burp of satisfaction. The future is uncertain but you’ve made your choice. This land is dying but you will not abandon it and its people. The coming war will be your war. A war that you will win.

But for now, you have homework and chores to do at home.

***

Author note: This started as an attempt at writing a story in future tense. Of course, english doesn’t have a future tense for verbs so all you can do is add “will” in front of them. I originally wanted most of the story to be in future tense but writing “will” in every sentence felt too repetitive, so the frame story expanded.

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