Suddenly the air sang with danger. A rider vaulted off his grey horse. The sight of his moss-green tunic and plaited belt hit her guts. This was one of the Consort's henchmen, a thousand miles from the palace. Had he come to arrest her?
She took a step back, poised for flight.
“A reading, please, seer.” His voice was deep like a slow-flowing river, smooth on top but dangerous beneath.
She allowed herself to meet his eyes, as if she had nothing to fear from his kind. Although his mouth smiled, his eyes were bitter-dark like olives. An aura of vibrant intelligence was enveloped in intense bitterness, and under his cheerful courtesy, pain radiated from him like heat searing from a fire.
Her instincts screamed at her to pull free from the dangerous power before it could burn her, but a genuine wandering seer would not panic at the sight of a palace official, and bolting would draw his suspicion.
She forced herself to stay in her role. “Your hands,” she demanded, careful to hide her accent.
The hands were wrong: Brown, with short dirty nails, calloused, rough and ridged with old scars, they did not belong to a courtier, nor even to a guard.
At the moment of touch, shock surged through her, sending tingles all over her body. Her stomach felt as if a pestle was running along the inside of a stone mortar. Several futures flashed by her vision, too fast to hold, then his past dragged her in. She heard screams of terror and pain, and smelled the stench of burning flesh. This man was burning in the fire of his own soul.