“Eh, wot be this’ens?” My Old Dwarf reached for a bag that I had just taken out of the pantry.
“It’s a bag of fortune cookies.” I took the bag from the dwarf’s hands and opened it, spilling the contents into a large glass bowl.
“Wot be a fortunate cookie?” The rotund figure grabbed a cookie and was about to pop it in his mouth, whole.
I grabbed it from him. “Fortune cookie, not fortunate cookie.” I cracked it open and showed him the contents. “A fortune cookie is a thin, crisp, folded cookie with a small slip of paper inside. The paper has a wise saying, a prediction, or an accepted truism written on it.”
“Accepted truism? Wot be thet?” My Old Dwarf took the cookie and stuffed it in his mouth, ignoring the piece of paper.
“Oh, you know, a statement no one could argue was not true. Something like you must have darkness to see the stars, or April showers bring May flowers, or change is inevitable.” I read the slip of paper from the dwarf’s cookie. “Your fortune says You will enjoy a long life.”
My Old Dwarf grinned. “Thet cookie paper be pretty smart! I already been enjoyin’ a long life!”
The old reprobate reached for another cookie, but I gently slapped his hand. “These are for dessert with lunch today. You can have another one then.”
I placed a cover on the bowl and carried it to the sideboard in the dining room, where Miles was just setting up a buffet lunch. My Old Dwarf grabbed a plate and got into line, joining the rest of my hungry characters.
“What did you prepare today, Master Miles?” My Young Hero craned his neck to see what dishes my husband was arranging.
“Well, today I can take no credit for the food. Today we have takeout from the Golden Dragon restaurant. We have egg rolls, cream cheese wonton, low-mein, fried rice, steamed mixed vegetables, and a variety of chicken, pork, beef, and seafood dishes. I think you will all find something you like.”
“An’ fer dee-zert, we be havin’ fortunate cookies.” My Old Dwarf rubbed his ample belly and smacked his lips.
“What are fortunate cookies?” Sorceress tilted her head and wrinkled her brow as she reached for some food from the buffet table.
I shook my head at my Old Dwarf. “I told you, you old silly, they’re fortune cookies, not fortunate cookies.” I chuckled and turned to Sorceress. “As I explained to my Old Dwarf, a fortune cookie is a thin, crisp, folded cookie with a small slip of paper inside. The paper has a wise saying, a prediction, or an accepted truism written on it.”
My Foreman raised his eyebrows. “That sounds much like part of a custom my people shared.” He paused a moment to spoon some rice onto his dish. When he continued, he had a wistful expression on his face. “On the eve of the new year, we would have a grand cake. Each slice was carefully examined before being eaten, as one slice would hold a small silver cylinder containing a miniature scroll. The note would have a prediction for the coming year inked on it.”
“I remember that.” My Young Hero nodded. “My father usually got the cylinder in his slice.”
“I remember, too.” My Bounty Hunter smiled. “I spent a few years in your town, and participated in the new year’s eve celebration at the inn. I never got the cylinder.”
Cleric frowned as she ladled some steamed vegetables onto her plate. “My father told me the elves residing in our homeland did something similar to celebrate the new year. I wish I could remember what he said. I do not believe it involved food; rather the fortunes were placed in something else.”
“Yes.” My Arrogant One stared at Cleric. “I had forgotten you grew up abroad, in human lands, and were cut off from many of the traditions of our homeland.” He spooned some vegetables over a mound of lo mein. “Well, during the last month of the year, small spiral-shaped seashells were collected. Pieces of paper were wedged into the shells, which were then thrown to the assembled villagers at midnight on the eve of the new year. Predictions were written on the papers, some delightful, some dire. Although it evolved into merely a festive ritual, at one time much stock was placed on the fortunes.”
“My people also had such a custom. This one did involve food, but it was not a celebration of the new year.” My Gypsy filled his plate as he spoke, taking a little bit of each dish. “On a person’s birthday, they were presented with a small, individual-sized cake, something a bit larger than what I have heard called a cupcake in this world. If the person found a gold coin in the cake, they could trade it to the village sage to have their fortune told. Depending on the sage, that could mean having their palm read, having tea-leaves read, or having the cards read.”
“But what if they did not find a gold coin in their cake?” My Young Hero followed his friend’s example, taking a bit of each dish.
“Then their fortune was as empty as the cake.” My Gypsy frowned and shrugged. “That person faced a year of want and poverty and hardship.”
“Yer people musta been takin’ yer customs from us dwarves.” The rotund figure piled his plate high with triple servings of everything.
“How so?” My Gypsy eyed him curiously.
“Wale, fer a dwarven birfday, there be a loaf o rye bread wit a map inside. The des-tee-nation on tha map be tellin’ ye yer fortune.”
“How did it do that?” I furrowed my brow.
“Wale, fer example, iffin tha map be takin’ ye ta a treasure, it be a bountiful year ahead. Iffin tha map be takin’ ye ta a boneyard, ye wouldna be seein’ anudder birfday.”
“On the island where I grew up, we had no such customs.” Sorceress placed two wontons on her plate and sighed. “I guess I missed out on some interesting festivities.”
Dragon smiled impishly. “I participated in no such festivities, either. Dragons have no need of such things to tell us our fortunes. Dragons make their own fortunes.”
My Gypsy playfully stuck his tongue out at Dragon, then turned to me. “But each of these customs is for the celebration of an event – a birthday or the start of a new year.” The lad looked at me curiously. “What are we celebrating today, Mistress, with these fortune cookies?”
“Nothing, actually.” I smiled. “Here in this country, fortune cookies are not only for a celebration. They are served as a fun dessert with every meal at most Chinese restaurants.”
After we had all eaten our fill from the buffet items, I uncovered the bowl of fortune cookies and placed it on the table. “Each of you can have as many as you want until we run out, but let’s start with just one apiece. We can read our fortunes out loud for some entertainment.”
Everyone smiled and nodded as they reached in the bowl and took a cookie.
“Oh, this one is perfect for me.” My Foreman smiled as he removed the fortune from his cookie. “For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.”
“I guess you had best check your horse’s shoes before you ride again!” My Gypsy laughed.
Sorceress opened her cookie, and her eyes widened. “This is eerie! As the Foreman’s fortune was apropos to his situation, my fortune also sounds as if it were written specifically for me! Your life will be filled with magic.”
I opened mine. “These do seem to be on the mark. Mine says Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, humanity.”
My husband furrowed his brow. “I’ve heard you say that. It was something you learned in a class you took, wasn’t it?”
I nodded. “What does yours say?”
Miles opened his cookie and read. “Life can be very confusing. It’s best to just go with it.”
Everyone doubled over with laughter.
As the laughter died down, my Old Dwarf handed me his fortune. “Kin ye be readin’ mine fer me?”
“You will be hungry again in an hour.”
“Oh, thet cookie paper be knowin’ me real well!”
Everyone broke into uproarious laughter again. As we all settled down, I looked at my remaining characters. “Who’s next?”
A huge smile spread across my Arrogant One’s face as he read his aloud. “You will become great if you believe in yourself.”
My Bounty Hunter nudged the elf. “Keep working on that photography.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/16/some-insights-into-my-arrogant-one/
Then he opened his own cookie and quirked an eyebrow at the slip of paper.
“So? What does it say?” The elf looked at him expectantly.
“It says Be a generous friend and a fair enemy.” The man stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Good advice, considering my profession, I suppose.”
My Gypsy hooted as he read his fortune. “Mine is so perfect for me. Stay relaxed. Sing like a bird. Be observant. Remember your grandmother’s lessons.” He turned to his best friend. “So, what does yours say?”
My Young Hero looked at his fortune and blinked rapidly. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead.
“Well?” My Gypsy looked at him expectantly.
My Young Hero turned to me and handed me his fortune. “Fear and heroism are not mutually exclusive; nor is fear solely the province of cowards.” I gaped at the slip of paper, and my Young Hero gaped at me.
“Mistress?” His voice cracked with emotion. “Did you write this? These are the very words you spoke to me almost three months previous.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/04/07/do-heroes-have-nightmares/
“No, I did not write this.” I raked my hand through my hair. “The only thing I can think is I must have read this same fortune sometime in the past, and it stuck with me. When you needed reassurance, it emerged from my subconscious.”
My Young Hero nodded, but still looked shaken.
After an uncomfortable few moments, I prodded. “Who’s next? Dragon? Cleric?”
Dragon quickly opened her cookie. Her eyes widened. “Mine is also most appropriate. You make your own fortune.”
Cleric was the last to open hers. “Mine states You will be going on a long sea voyage.”
“Oh, my!” My Bounty Hunter and my Arrogant One stared at her, and Cleric turned deathly pale.
Book three I thought to myself. But how do they know?
How much do my characters really know about their past . . . or their future? The answer seems to be ever-changing, like the wind.
Be sure to come back and visit. You never know what adventure or misadventure my little band of displaced characters might have next. And remember, we’ll leave the porch light on for you.