Nathaniel knocked on the door to his brother's room, then went in without waiting for a reply.
"Are you ready to go on yet?" he said. "Everyone's out there waiting."
Barnabas looked up at him, surprised.
"Yeah." Nat leaned against the door frame. "It's your turn to prophesy, remember? I did it last year, and Rodney did it before that."
Barn jumped up and began rifling through the papers on his desk. "Quick, get me a pen."
"You forgot? It's a friggin prophecy, how the hell did you just forget?"
"I've had a lot on my mind." He found a blank sheet of paper and began looking for something to write with.
"You can't just make up a prophecy on the spot!"
"I can if you help me. Here we go." Barn readied a quill pen. "Quick, give me a date."
Nat peered over his shoulder. "Don't make it to specific. If you do, everyone will remember it, and if you're wrong they'll know you cheated."
"Then give me a season."
Barn wrote it down. "Midsummer," he said. "It sounds more impressive. What's more plausible, someone getting married or someone getting pregnant?"
"Married. That way all the girls will be gossiping about it. They'll probably make sure to get married, just to say it was about them."
"You need to make it all flowery sounding, or else no one will take it seriously."
"I'll ham it up on stage."
Barn finished writing and folded the paper in half. Nat shook his head. "I can't believe you just pulled a prophecy out of your arse."
"Especially since it'll probably come true. What time do I go on?"
"Uh, about thirty seconds ago. Da actually sent me in here to get you-"
Barnabas ran out of the room, tucking the slip of paper into his sleeve as he went.
* * * *
Barnabas stood on the stage in the square, hoping nobody noticed how badly his hands were shaking. The whole town was gathered around, all waiting for him to start spouting the secrets of the future.
It wasn't a big deal, really. It was just a tradition his family had. Great-great-great granddaddy had a knack for small prophecy that ran in the family. After a while, great-great-great granddaddy's handing out bits of advice had morphed into a full-blown town tradition. And after months of being cooped up for winter every year, well, people would use any excuse to get drunk, go outside and celebrate. Every year there was always at least one person from the Vissent family up on the stage. Hell, Barn had done it himself a few years ago. The only difference was that last time he'd actually put a bit of time, effort and magic into it.
Barnabas cleared his throat and tried to discreetly peek into his sleeve.
He tried to think of some flowery language he could use. Nobody would take a plain prophecy seriously- which given the situation was a bit funny, to his mind. He decided to go with something traditional to start off with.
"By the power of star and stone and blood, I have seen-"
The oddest feeling hit him then. It was the same feeling he got after taking a breath of air after not breathing for too long. Everything felt swimmy. His arms and the top of his head suddenly felt lighter than air. Nobody in the audience seemed to notice, though. They all stood around, waiting patiently for the show to start.
He tried to press on.
"I have seen-"
Barnabas was fairly certain his heart exploded then.
His eyes crossed of their own accord. Blood pounded in his ears. For one blurry, painful moment, the sky melted, the world spun and the ground was suddenly simultaneously very far away, and very very close.
The next thing he knew, he was on the stage's wooden floor, drool seeping out of the side of his mouth. His head throbbed and his throat burned raw.
He sat up, wiping the drool off his face with his sleeve. Everyone stared.
The applause started slowly. It began tentatively from once side of the crowd and fanned out, gaining enthusiasm as it spread, until everyone, even the people backstage, were cheering. Not quite sure what to do with himself, Barnabas shakily got to his feet and went behind the curtains. Nat was there, grinning like a loon.
"Yeesh, Barn. When you say you'll ham it up, you really ham it up."
Nat wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulders and lead him out of the way so the actors next-up could get to their show.
"What happened to the marriage prophecy? It wasn't dramatic enough for you?" Nat let go of him and stopped to get them each a snack from one of the booths. "One for me and one for the prophet."
"Nat," said Barnabas. "I-"
Nat shoved the food into his hands and headed for some nearby benches. "And how did you get that voice? Even Da has to use the voice of some little air spirit. If I didn't know better, I'd say you'd gotten a full-blown god to give you a hand. Or did you fake that too?"
Nat plowed right over him. "Anyways, I bet the whole town will be buzzing for weeks about this. Or rather," he stopped to chuckle. "Won't. That was genius, my man."
Barnabas dropped the food and grabbed his brother by the shoulders. "Nat! Listen to me. I. Did not. Prophesy."
Nat snorted and shook him off. "Good one."
"I didn't! It happened on it's own. It came out of nowhere, I thought I died."
It looked for a moment like Nat would believe him, but then he smiled and shook his head. "I'm on to you."
Barnabas wanted to pull hair out. Either his own hair, or his brother's. He counted to ten to stop himself from screaming.
"Nat," he said eventually. "What, exactly, did I say?"
Nat shook a finger at him. "Ah ah ah," he said through a mouthful of crumbs. "That would be telling. "He swallowed. "You yourself told us not to talk about it, so I'm not saying a word."
"I told you not to tell? Me?"
"Well, I think we're allowed to talk about the not being allowed to talk part. It's the bit about the king we're not allowed to mention."
"King? We don't have a king. We're under a muddled combination of military dictatorship and an aristocracy."
"Damn, I wasn't supposed to mention that bit. I'm getting out of here before I spoil anymore. Want to keep that prophecy up, ehy?" He winked and left Barnabas surrounded by people but ultimately alone.
Barnabas stared after him. He could hear people talking, playing music and generally being happy. The curtains had just opened again and the players were ready to do their show. He got up and kicked his fallen food. It didn't even make him feel better: it only splattered crumbs everywhere and got his shoe greasy.
"Dammit!" he said. He looked up at the sky and tried to glare where he'd imagine a god to be. "That wasn't funny!"