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The Great Diviner

In this story, the ball of life bounces in the right direction at the right time. It is a story of a dream world, that of hope and expectations, where things do happen as we wish them. But we know better: it is a desperate man's hope, not a reality. One may listen to this story and yet experience a momentary vicarious triumph and solace... with the feeling that all is not lost.

Long, long ago, there were two young men, nicknamed Stone and Toad. Stone was very intelligent and resourceful, while Toad was rather slow but sly. Both of them were very, very poor.

One day, resourceful Stone conceived some ideas to try to reverse their financial dire straits. He told Toad, "Toad, life is so hard for you and me because we have always been so poor. Let's do something so that we, too, can live a little more comfortably. What do you think, Toad?"

"You are right, Stone, but what could we do? I can't think of any workable ideas," said Toad.

"Well, Toad, as a matter of fact I do have an idea."

"You do?"

"Yes, I have a splendid idea! Would you work with me, Toad?"

"Surely, if you think I can," replied Toad.

"Of course, you can. From now on, you are to become a diviner."

"A diviner? Said Toad doubtfully. How can I act as a diviner when I cannot even divine where my next meal is coming from?"

Toad did not understand, but Stone smiled and said, "Relax, Toad. There's nothing to worry about. All you have to do is to follow my instructions exactly. Now, listen carefully. Today I am going to sneak into Moot Hall and steal the clerk's log. Then, I am going to bury it under the old tree in Town Square Center. When the time comes, you will go to the mayor and say that you are a diviner and that you can solve the town's grave problem. Say to the mayor that you can tell where the clerk's log is. After its recovery, you are sure to be rewarded generously. Then, you and I will share the
reward. How about it?"

"That sounds great, but...what if you get caught?" asked Toad, looking very worried.

"Don't worry about me", insisted Stone. "No one else besides us knows about this great plan."

That night Stone slipped into Moot Hall, stole the log and buried it under the tree. Everything went well, as planned. Next morning, there was a big commotion in the town over the stolen log. The mayor issued a stern order to his officials that the log be
recovered at once. But the mayor's men had no idea about where the log might be or where to even begin their search for it. As days passed, they became more and more worried over their inability to recover it. Much speculation and rumor abounded. Some said the Krolvin had sent spies to take the log and use the information to mount a great invasion against the town. Others were sure that a ghostly apparition had made off with the valued book, obviously to deliver it to some powerful dark force, which would use the knowledge found within to put a fatal curse on the town and its inhabitants. The more cynical individuals smirked and said the clerk had obviously misplaced the log and was creating all this ruckus to make himself feel important.

A few days after the log was stolen, Toad went to Moot Hall and said calmly and confidently: "I am a diviner. I will try my best to locate the stolen log, if you allow me to." Toad was immediately welcomed by the relieved officials who, at this point, felt they needed any help they could get. Toad was then led into the mayor's office. He sat down, closed his eyes, and occasionally blinked rapidly several times. Then he took out several pebbles which he had picked up from the road on his way to town. He examined them closely, peering intensely at them as he had seen fortune-tellers do. Then, all of a sudden, he exclaimed, "Aha! This sly old tree! Standing innocently like that but it can't trick me!" The surrounding officials looked at each other, puzzled. With a guileful display of innocence, Toad stood up, walked out of the offices and straight to the old tree in Town Square Center and started digging under it. Lo and behold! There it was, the town's official records - a bit dirty with soil but otherwise intact.

The mayor was much relieved and pleased, and rewarded Toad generously. Toad and Stone shared the loot, and having enough silver to go adventuring for a long time, Stone bid farewell to Toad and set off to explore on his own.

A few days after this, however, Toad was in for trouble, for he was summoned by the mayor when a thief stole the Goddess Lorminstra's symbol from the temple, an ornate gold artifact much revered by the faithful. This time, it was not his friend, Stone, who had stolen it. Toad was at a loss. Not knowing what to do, he just strolled around the temple and adjoining graveyard, head bowed, pretending to be waiting for divine inspiration. He walked back and forth all day, and that night, too, strolling and regretting his earlier participation in Stone's scheme. Just then, someone suddenly appeared in the dark. It was a young woman, who kneeled in front of Toad and bowed her head politely.

"Who are you? And what are you doing?", asked Toad.

She lifted her face. Toad could see tears in her eyes.

Choking back the tears, she said, "I know, Sir, that you know everything about what happened. Please, don't pretend that you do not know."

"Lady, I do not understand what you are talking about," replied Toad in a calm voice, trying to hide his puzzlement.

"It is I who stole the holy symbol and hid it under the wooden floorboards behind the altar," said the maid, pointing to the temple . "I thought I could make myself important by finding it later." She sobbed. "Sir, please, be merciful. Please, do not tell this to

Hearing all this, Toad felt quite relieved, convinced that she was telling the truth. "Yes, yes, child! I've been waiting for you to come forth and ask for forgiveness for your outrageous deed. I am glad you came to me tonight. Never again do such a shameful thing!" Toad admonished her gently, putting on a straight face.

Early the next morning, Toad went before mayor and the High Priest, bowed deeply and said, "My Lords, I have located the precious symbol. This time, the culprit is the wooden floorboards around the back of the altar. I will lead you there." Reaching the location
pointed out by the maid the night before, Toad started carefully lifting floorboards and produced the gold symbol, much to everyone's amazement.

After this second divination, Toad became famous, and his name became a household word throughout the town. His reputation eventually reached towns far from his home. A noble baron from a faraway land wished to meet Toad, the famous diviner, and an arrangement was made by the mayor, who invited the noble to visit his town, as he,too was eager to bask in Toad's fame as well. Toad was once again summoned to demonstrate his remarkable divination abilities for the important and noble visitor.

Pointing to a stone on top of a small mound of earth the mayor said: "Toad, what is hidden inside the mound? Tell us what it is."

Toad almost fainted. He felt as if the whole world were collapsing on him. He thought he would not see another sunrise. Until then, he had been simply lucky, but how in the world was he going to be able to tell what was hidden under that heap of soil? He bitterly regretted the lies he had told, as he finally realized that nothing good could come from deceit. He was sure he would be sent to jail, or worse.

Tears were welling up in his eyes as he considered what his fate would be when he was found out as a deceiver and a fake. He hoped desperately that somehow he could be saved, but he knew it was just impossible to get out of this situation. Toad lamented inside, remembering how everything had started: "Stone! Because of you and your scheme, I am about to be discovered and punished, maybe even killed. Had it not been for you, Stone, I would still be poor but I would not lose my freedom or perhaps even my life. And...." When his inner lamenting reached this point, he could not help being
overcome with sorrow and resentment, and finally he shouted out aloud: "Toad is dying because of you, Stone!" and he fell to the ground in utter despair. Just then, loud cheers and much applause exploded from the mayor, the noble, and his entourage. Toad was speechless...what could they possibly be cheering about?

The mayor promptly walked up to Toad, and helped him up to his feet again, gazing at him with pride. Then he led Toad to the mound, where he quickly lifted the stone and, reaching inside the soil pulled out a big, brown-spotted toad. Toad was aghast. He could not believe it. He was happy and relieved to have made it out of yet another divination, and made up his mind never to try another.

Out of admiration, the foreign baron rewarded Toad with a heavy gold and emerald pendant and an invitation to be his guest at his castle, anytime he wished to visit his part of the world.

Some time passed without incidents which required Toad's famed skills. However, the next time that the mayor summoned Toad, the officials found his home quite empty with just a short note on the table that read: "Off to find the Stone on the road".




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