Anoint thyself before entering.
Kalvinus considered the sign, then he waved his hand dismissively and approached the door.
"Wait, my lord."
Kalvinus turned to Durian and raised an eyebrow.
"It will displease the Oracle."
Kalvinus clenched his teeth. "I've no time for more superstitious nonsense. This visit alone is enough for me." With that, he placed his hand against the door and firmly shoved it open.
The Oracle's quarters were sparsely furnished, with only a table and two chairs available for visitors. Stone bowls filled with various murky liquids were strewn about the floor. Outside the lone window, wind chimes jingled.
"I seek the Oracle," Kalvinus announced to the empty room.
There was no response for a moment, then the popping of ancient bones as an ancient woman made her way into the room from what appeared to be a closet.
"Yes, yes, come in. You are Kalvinus, the great warrior, correct?"
"And what is it you seek?"
"Your blessing, crone. I am told you can see that which has yet to occur. Before I embark on my campaign against the Santonian hordes, I would hear your counsel."
"Ah. That." The Oracle felt her way along the wall until she found the chair. Kalvinus wondered how she could blindly move about the small chamber without kicking over the bowls. They must sit in the same places at all times. What filth.
"Please come closer," the Oracle requested.
Kalvinus stepped forward, well within her reach.
Kalvinus shot Durian a vexed look, then complied.
The Oracle placed her hands on Kalvinus's exposed abdomen. She leaned in until her nose was nearly touching his navel, then breathed in deeply. "Mmm," she said. "Some specimen you are, Kalvinus the warrior."
Kalvinus felt a mixture of pride and revulsion. The Oracle continued to run her hands over his muscled figure, seemingly oblivious to the strangeness of the situation. At last, she withdrew, then looked him dead in the eye through her own cloudy lenses.
"You will perform admirably. Many foes will fall to your sword, and the honor of our people will be dutifully upheld by you and your men."
Kalvinus stepped back, relieved to have gotten the good news and to finally be free of the strange old woman. "Many thanks. I trust your -"
"But you will perish."
Kalvinus froze. "What?"
"You will die long before the battle is decided. A frightened horse will kick your face in. Your family will be unable to show your body at the funeral, as your face will be cratered beyond recognition."
He was stunned. "You insolent -"
"Your men will also lose the battle. Badly. They will be taken prisoner, and the horse that killed you will be appointed their new commander as a joke by the Santonians."
Kalvinus felt his face getting hot. He fixed the old woman with his fiercest scowl before realizing that she couldn't see him. Defeated, he turned toward the door and spat out, "Durian! We are leaving. I care not for the filthiness of this place."
Before he was able to exit, she spoke up again. "I do see another way."
Kalvinus nearly kept walking, but considered the possible ramifications if he was unable to obtain the Oracle's blessing. If Durian's frightened expression was any indication, news of this rejection would send the troops' morale into a tailspin.
"And what is that?" he asked quietly, trying to keep his composure.
"The night before the battle, you are to offer up a sacrifice to three gods: Xar, Hilva, and Phyro. When you engage the enemy the next morning, send most of your troops into direct combat, but take a handpicked brigade of your own around the western mountains in order to flank the enemy. You will catch them by surprise as dusk falls and make a successful strike into the heart of their general's camp."
"Ah, yes," Kalvinus replied, with some degree of admiration. "Brilliant strategy. I'll take a smaller force and stab at the head of the beast. When I cut him down, the fighting will cease."
"No," said the Oracle, "A boy of four-and-ten will sneak up behind you and bash your skull in with a rock before you can find the general. Your men will still lose badly, and your funeral will be a shameful one." She paused. "But it is another option."
Kalvinus stormed out of the Oracle's chambers and slammed the door behind him, nearly catching Durian's head as the servant boy bowed on his way out. Before leaving the cave, Kalvinus also made sure to topple the bowl of scented oil that sat outside the old woman's door.
"I - I won't say a word of this to the men," stammered Durian. "I swear it."
Kalvinus could barely hear him over the Oracle's mad cackle.