In the Shadow of the Sun by E.M. Castellan Read Online (FREE)
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The fortune-teller surveyed me with a watchful expression as her deft hands shuffled the pack of cards. Her kohl-rimmed eyes were soft, but the way she examined my disguise, as if she could see right through it, still sent a shiver down my spine. Despite the fire crackling in the hearth, cold permeated the low-ceilinged room, and I tightened my plain borrowed coat around my chest.
“What do you want to know, child?”
An encouraging smile stretched the lines on her thin face, and she handed the deck to her assistant. Warm amber light shimmered off the cards when the woman, as wrinkled and stooped as the seer, displayed them facedown on the worn wooden table.
Her gentle voice and calm demeanor were meant to put me at ease, but I shifted my weight in my seat, reconsidering my decision to come here. The rickety chair creaked, and I cast a nervous glance around the dark corners of the one-room flat. The pale dawn that filtered through the dirty square windowpanes brought very little light to my surroundings, while the single candle lit on the table cast shadows along the dried herbs hanging from the rafters and the jars and clay bowls on the shelves.
“You’re safe here, child,” the seer said, guessing my thoughts. “Now, why have you come?”
I tilted my head to the side. By now, she’d likely surmised my clothes were borrowed and the name I had given upon my arrival was a false one. Despite my efforts to hide my true station, she’d also likely noticed the shiny gloss of my hair beneath my simple plait, the healthy complexion of my skin, and the delicacy of my hands under the grime I had scrubbed into them. Truth was in the details, and I feared there was no denying what I was—a noble girl alone in the seediest part of the French capital at an ungodly hour of the day, in a magicienne’s lodging, no less.
I sprang to my feet, my heartbeat quickening. What was I thinking? This had been a mistake. There were magicians and seers at court. I didn’t need to be here. I shouldn’t be here. The risk of discovery was too great. Reputations had been ruined for far less than this. But then, my good name would be the least of my concerns if this woman chose to tell her neighbors and acquaintances about me. I could very well not make it back home alive at all.
My feet had taken me to the door when the woman’s quiet voice rose behind me.
“Today is a most significant day, isn’t it?”
I bit my lip, my bare hand hovering above the lock.
“You wouldn’t be here otherwise,” she added.
She was right, of course, but it was easy to guess. Despite her reputation as the most talented fortune-teller in Paris, a lady in my position wouldn’t have risked visiting her in this part of the city if not for a great motive. I glanced back at her, and she motioned to my empty seat.