“I see my own death in every place and in everyone,” the young woman said. “I see it in the smoke of a sputtering candle, in dim mirrors and still water; I see it among the hooves of my black stallion and in the dark eye of every raven . It is in my beloved’s smile and lurks in every shadow and dream. I close my eyes and it is there. It dogs me, a sinister second shadow, and leaves me no peace.”
“You want to be rid of it, do you?” The speaker was a wizened woman with deep grooves in her skin, as though a thousand years of tears had carved its surface. She sat half hidden behind flickering candles and the smoke of incense.
The young woman spread four gold coins that glinted even in the poor light on the dusty and crowded table. “Please,” she whispered. “Rid me of it forever and I shall pay you well.” She shivered a little, suddenly, seeing her death in the face of the old woman.
The old gypsy woman reached a leathery, jointed hand for the coins. They clinked merrily into her other hand. “It shall be done,” she said quietly.
And it was. She muttered a few musty syllables over a brazier, sprinkled a few crushed herbs on the fire, and it was done. The young woman departed and never again was she troubled by the face of her own death. She ducked out of the dark little shop on the unfashionable side of town, hurriedly crossed the paved street, and was on time for tea with her family and beloved. She thought occasionally of the shop, but never again went to see it.
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