"Just look up and tell me what you see". Her instruction was so sudden that I did as I was told, without thought, but noticed nothing out of the ordinary above my head. I shrugged my shoulders in reply.
"Erm, the sky? Clouds?"
"Of course you see clouds. But what do you see in the clouds?"
"Grey. Shapes. Sort of drifting."
She rapped me sharply on the arm with the fan she always carried. Open, it served to keep her cool as she wafted it before her; closed, it was an effective weapon. The place where it had landed was already smarting and beginning to colour. I would have a bright bruise, I knew it.
"Stop being obtuse, young man. What can you see in the clouds? What are they saying to you?"
I was not about to admit that I could ascertain nothing at all, and so I began to speak - any nonsense that came into my mind.
"Well there's a sort of carriage over there, with four white horses in front of it; an elaborate, enclosed carriage, fit for a queen. And I think that could be a rabbit, or maybe a hare, running across a field to escape a fox."
There was no response, but I knew I had not yet said what she wanted to hear and so I closed my eyes and continued.
"The queen is in danger and is having to run for her life, away from some threat that follows hard on her heels. She has sent a decoy in her place, to ride in the coach, in the hope that she can escape while her pursuers are engaged in the chase, but the wily usurper knows her plan and is close behind. Without help she is doomed."
Realising that I was talking moonshine I opened my eyes, expecting at any time to receive a further assault, but I was surprised to see a slight smile on the crone's creased lips.
"That was much better," she said quietly, "we might make a seer of you yet. Now we must hurry to the king to inform him of your prophecy."