It was a long time ago, longer now than it seems. The world was a very different place to the one we know now. Light and dark battled for control over everyday life. Night and day came and went, as swift as the wind that whistles through the trees. Many years fell away, a lifetime passed in the blink of an eye. It was a time of great triumphs, legendary heroes, honourable rulers, but only one event is of any importance. It did not seem a significant occasion to most, but not many actually know what happened that fateful night...
The small room was sparsely furnished - the most notable feature the hooded figure kneeling in the centre. Coarse matting of bright vermillion dug into her bare ankles, leaving a spider-web of red marks across the pale skin. Her face was shrouded in the shadow of many deaths, her eyes closed, but not unseeing. Her lips were moving, chanting soft lilting words in the language of old.
"Deus meus, mihi ad veritatem. Quaerenti dextram regat. Servio tibi, domine eximie. Deus meus, mihi ad veritatem. Quaerenti dextram regat. Servio tibi, domine eximie."
The room, however bare and cold, was calm and peaceful.
This vision of tranquillity was cracked as the harsh sound of marching feet was heard. The women did not stir, or break in her chanting, not even when the door was thrown open. A man strode through the doorway, flanked by two enormous guards. The room seemed to shrink in his presence. He towered menacingly above the kneeling figure, cleared his throat...
...and stood expectantly.
When the woman neither acknowledged his presence, or stopped her incessant chanting, he began to get impatient. He gave the impression that he wasn't accustomed to being kept waiting.
"You called me here, Aruspex*. I cannot be summoned like some mongrel bitch."
The low murmur of the woman's mantra stopped abruptly, leaving the man's words to drop like a knife to the floor. Without looking up she replied, her voice scathing.
"It would seem you can."
The man reddened visibly, anger seeping from his pores. His hand flew up, as if to strike the woman in front of him, but with a touch on the shoulder from one of his men, he stood down.
"No, Sire. It will do no good to anger her."
The woman laughed humourlessly.
"Listen to him, boy. You are not in your castle here. I am not a servant of yours. This is important. You must listen carefully."
The prince breathed deeply, trying to control the anger that vibrated through him. No-one should be able to speak to the Crown Prince like that and get away with it! No-one! But he was aware of her power, and that made him cautious.
"And what," he said, through gritted teeth, " Is it that is so important?"
The woman pushed back her hood and raised her head. Her eyes opened, a flame lit. There was an age to her eyes that did not match her youthful face. Slowly she got to her feet, her movements graceful and lithe.
"I've had another vision, my lord." She bowed mockingly.
At this, the prince stepped forward, his features twisted with anxiety and an undercurrent of fear. The Aruspex's visions were unpredictable, they could mean anything.
"What? Tell me, quickly! Or I'll..." He trailed off, unable to find words that would mean anything to her.
The woman smiled. It was almost funny, the way the prince, with all his airs and graces, was just a spoilt brat at times. He was only a child still, had only seen twenty summers.
"You can't threaten me. Patience, my little lord."
He bristled at 'little', but stayed quiet. Good. He was learning.
She turned away, walking to a little table at the side, where a candle burnt softly. She lit a taper, the light casting dancing shadows on her face. Soon, the soothing scent of lavender prevailed. She turned back to the prince and closed her eyes.
"It was dark, pitch black, apart from the fire within the eyes of the figure opposite me. He didn't speak, but I heard his voice. Soft, so soft, but with a gentle menace that chilled me to the bone. The same as last time. Exactly the same, with the exception of the words I heard."
She paused and opened her eyes to look at the prince. He was quite handsome, in a regal way. Brown curly air down to his shoulders and lovely dark brown eyes, but he smiled with a cruel malice that showed his true nature. He was an impatient boy, always had been, and he looked back at her with a look of annoyance.
"What did he say?"
His voice was gentle now, compared to his anger from before.
The Aruspex closed her eyes once again, and continued speaking.
"When grey and white rule the world,
Beware the blue born babe.
Colours fade to black and white.
For when boy turns to man,
Death will be the only King
And red will flood the land."
The words sounded foreign on her tongue, not at all like the comforting rise and fall of her chant.
The prince stepped back in puzzlement.
"What does it mean?" he demanded.
She opened her eyes, another flash of flames. Silence hung heavy in the air, mixing with the lingering scent of lavender. Two pairs of eyes locked together: the brown eyes of a prince, and the gold of an enchantress. The gold eyes blinked...and the connection was broken.
"I don't know, my lord."
* - Aruspex means soothsayer or prophetess in the old language.