Under the old duke, Almagest was the court stargazer. When Khan Dir took the duke’s place, he dismissed all the court soothsayers. Clairvoyants, astrologers and fortune-tellers, cared for by care, suddenly found themselves on the street without a penny in their pockets. There were plenty of superstitious townspeople with overstuffed wallets in Vallor, and the guild of diviners did not abandon its members, so many of them quickly found themselves a new source of income.
But Almagest harbored a grudge against Khan Dir. Expelled from the duke’s palace in disgrace and declared a charlatan, he left Vallor to find new methods of divination in his wanderings. So accurate that even the non-god-believing ogre admitted his mistake and publicly apologized to him.
After many years, the astrologer returned to Vallor. During his absence, the Free City had changed. It got darker. More embittered. Two wars and an epidemic of plague, which fell on Vallor in just one decade, markedly affected the mood of the townspeople. On the way to the duke’s palace, Almagest saw here and there boarded up windows, facades of buildings damaged by siege weapons of the empire, guards decorated with deep scars, huge numbers of beggars and homeless even for Vallor. Even the former splendor of the Upper City has dimmed.
Getting an appointment with the Duke was not easy. The line of applicants was huge. But the astrologer waited patiently. The thought of the imminent triumph warmed his soul. Finally, it was his turn. In the spacious hall he was met by Khan Dir and more than a dozen guards from his personal guard.
– Is that you, old charlatan? – The ogre recognized the visitor.
– I have come to prove that prophecy is not an empty phrase! I can…
– Get the brat out of my waiting room!
Not listening to the exclamations and protests, the guards seized the old man. A few seconds later, the astrologer was outside the door, and one of the guards gave him a kick, forcing him to roll down the stairs.
– With old duke you would be flogged for this in the marketplace! – The astrologer shouted to the guards.
– Don’t say the old duke’s name! – One of them shouted back with superstitious fear. – Bad sign. Especially in the palace! If you don’t shut up, you’ll go to the prison!
Rubbing his back and muttering curses under his breath, Almagest got up and hobbled away. To the arena of the free city.
– Well, if the duke doesn’t want to be nice, we’ll have to start with a demonstration. It’s bad luck to kick the seers out! – The stargazer muttered with a grin, approaching the window of the bettor.
He bet all the gold he had on the victory of one of the fighters. And won. And having won, he repeated the bet again, and again, doubling his capital again and again. Stunned by his success, the inhabitants began to bet on the same fighters as the soothsayer. The arena closed earlier than usual, because there was nothing to pay the winnings.
The next day the Almagest stood in front of the betting window by opening time. The clerk who saw him backed away, whispered something to the guard, and slammed the shutters. The crowd of townspeople behind the astrologer hummed menacingly. A few minutes later, pushing the crowd, the guards approached the Almagest and, grabbing his hands, dragged him to the exit.
– I didn’t break anything! You are committing a crime! – Shouted the soothsayer. The crowd cheered in agreement:
– The Free City has always respected the right to win with all your skills!
The guards were immediately torn off from the astrologer and pushed away, accompanied by curses, kicks and debris flying after them. Enraged by the closure of the arena and the excesses of the guards, the townspeople began to smash everything around. Almagest, who had caused the pogrom, happily led the crowd. Under the command of the astrologer, the Vallorians broke into the premises of the arena and barricaded all the entrances to it.
Rumors of a riot immediately reached the duke. As well as about his instigator. After a little thought, he gave several orders, gathered a detachment of the best guards, and soon was already standing in front of the arena. Almagest went to him for negotiations.
– All right, sorcerer. You proved that your predictions are coming true, now tell this scum to disperse!
– What do I benefit from this?
– Say what you want.
– The place of the court astrologer and a public apology!
– I won’t offer you an old place. But there is something else. A true soothsayer will be of great use to my guards, sentinels and militia of Vallor. Who knows who else we have to fight. As for an apology, we’ll think of something.
The following day, notices were posted throughout the Free City:
“Khan Dir, Duke of the Free City of Vallor, from now on forbids calling soothsayers charlatans! Also, all soothsayers, fortune-tellers, clairvoyants and astrologers are prohibited from placing bets in the Free City arena!”