Folk traditions are often firmly rooted in the magic of another age. So it is with the custom of fortune telling by “reading the lees”–seeking patterns in the sediment left in the bottom of a mead barrel.

In a land where storytelling is a principle art and entertainment, this harvest ritual has become an occasion for merriment and the spinning of  ribald, improbable tales that grow more ribald and less probable with each round of mead.  Yet there’s an undercurrent to such gatherings, a tense hum of mingled dread and hope and fascination.  It’s an emotion familiar to children who venture into a graveyard hoping–and fearing–to see a ghost.

Every now and then, storyspinning turns into truetelling–uncannily accurate tales that foretell a future event, reveal the location of something that was considered lost beyond recall, or answer a question that has never been asked aloud.  This does not happen frequently, and there’s no telling when or to whom a truetelling might come.

The adepts dismiss this as a folk tale, and even many who believe admit, when pressed, that they have never actually witnessed a truetelling, though they will hastily add that a neighbor’s aunt from another island was known for reading the lees.  There’s no telling how many people actually do experience this strange event, or how many truetales are awkwardly laughed off as failed attempts at storyspinning.