And, I say, I was, I was, but this week, the top 9 contestants had to pick a former contestant to partner with. intrepia asked me to work with her.
This story is a continuation of hers, but since I'm on vacation right now, I don't know if I'll be able to post in order with her, so I'm posting it up now. I will add links to hers once it's up
Before reading this post, you should go read intrepia's post, here.
And, without further ado:
The Fool pulled out a deck of cards.
"It's time to go all in," said she, and she fanned the cards out in her hand.
They were pretty things, the backs done up in gold leaf (or something that looked convincingly enough like gold leaf) with little decorations tooled into them.
The Queen was not impressed. She looked askance.
"Cards?" she asked. "I would hardly wager on a crude game."
"Not a game, My Lady" said the Fool, as she began to shuffle the cards with a practiced ease. In other times and places, in a show, perhaps, her dexterity would have been something worth watching.
She split the cards into three stacks, and moved the stacks around one another like a carnival huckster playing one of those games involving a bean and a walnut shell. Finally she stopped, and brought all three stacks back to one.
And she began to lay out the cards.
The first card lay in the middle, face up. The Fool smiled as she saw it.
It was, appropriately enough, a card entitled The Fool, with a carefree young woman walking along, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was about to step off the edge of a sheer cliff. A little white dog nipped at her heels.
This piqued the Queen's interest. "It's you!" she exclaimed.
"Yes," agreed the Fool. "And no. This is the character at the center of our story. Our everywoman, so to speak, and a very good everywoman, too. Everything is new to her, everything is an adventure, and she's just begun a long voyage full of wonderful things she's never seen before. But--"
She laid down the next card, over the face of the aptly named Fool.
"It's upside-down," said the Queen, and she reached a hand over to turn it.
"Leave it," said the Fool. "It's meant to be upside-down. Do you see what it is?"
"It's you again," replied the Queen, as she scrutinized the drawing on the card. The image depicted was of another young woman, who looked curiously like the Fool, but who wore a plain shift, and held a staff in her hand. Six other staves stood tall in the grass before them, almost as if they were people, almost as if they were the bars of a cage.
But the drawing was, as the Queen said, upside-down.
"This is usually the card of courage," said the young Fool. "You see how the figure is holding up her staff, as if she's going to take on the other ones singlehandedly?"
The Queen nodded. "I see. But you say usually. Not now?"
"She's reversed," said the Fool. "So this...this card says that the basis of the problem is a lack of courage. Maybe even cowardice. Or maybe she's still courageous, but she's up against insurmountable odds, a force she can't tackle on her own. So she's run away."
"Is that why she's traveling in the first card?" asked the Queen.
"Maybe," said the Fool. "But there are more cards to see. Maybe one of them will tell us."
She took a third card and set it again over the first and second cards, but at an angle, so it crossed over them both.
"Oh my!" exclaimed the Queen, when the card was revealed. It was very different from the two that came before, dramatic and highly stylized, a picture of a tall tower being struck by lightning. All around it, flames erupted, and two figures fell plummeting to the earth.
"This card crosses the first two," said the Fool. "It shows the major conflict at hand. The thing that lies in the way."
"And that's your silo," observed the Queen. "That's your grain stores on fire."
"Not really," said the Fool. "The cards...they're not literal. Well, not usually. This card is cataclysm. Earth-shattering, sudden change, beyond anyone's control. Or at least beyond the Fool's control. It doesn't have to be the grain silo. But maybe," she added, considering,
"the grain silo is the source of the cataclysm, in a way."
By now the Queen had forgotten her dismissal of the cards, and looked on in fascination, tapping her fingers impatiently on the armrail of her throne. "Go on. What comes next?"
The Fool laid out eight more cards in quick succession, four cards around the center, like the cardinal points of a compass rose, faces up so that the illustrations were visible. She set down the other four with their faces down, in a column to the right. The Queen's eyes flickered over to these cards, their faces still hidden, an anticipatory glint in her eyes. And then they came back to the four that were now visible.
The Fool pointed to the card at the top, the Northern card.
It looked very much like the second, a young woman in a shift, with staves standing up in the earth. But this time, she was leaning on one of them, and the other two seemed less like challenges than simply matters of fact.
It was also upside-down, like its near-mirror.
"Three of Staves," said the Fool. "Reversed. Our heroine fell on bad luck. But not just luck, misfortune made by other people. A lack of communication, an argument, a misunderstanding. Perhaps accidental, perhaps orchestrated. It doesn't matter, really, but this cataclysm--" She stopped, and tapped the Tower. "It was avoidable, if anyone had bothered to stop and talk about it."
"I find that to be true most of the time," said the Queen. "Nine out of ten arguments, when my people come before me, asking me to settle a plaint. Nine out of ten are misunderstandings. What's next?"
"Next," said the Fool, as her hand drifted to the card at the South of the compass. "Next is the basis of the problem. The base. The thing at the bottom."
"The Empress!" the Queen exclaimed, delighted at the image of the woman in the crown, with the lovely gown. "Is that me?"
"Maybe," said the Fool, again. "Maybe not. You see, she's also reversed."
"Why are so many cards reversed?" asked the Queen, frowning at the patterns the cards revealed, even to someone so poorly-versed in the art of reading meaning out of a game.
"I don't know," said the Fool. "Perhaps because so much is wrong. Then again," and she smiled at the Queen," perhaps because I flipped the deck. The Empress," she went on. "The Empress...is the embodiment source of female power. She is the mother, the wife, the matriarch. She is the ultimate creatrix."
Then she frowned, her brow creasing deeply. "But. As you see. Reversed. This woman is robbed of her womanhood, her motherhood...she's infertile, or perhaps she's lost a child."
The Fool watched the change in the Queen's face, as her expression turned and softened, her eyes becoming dewy.
"How sad," she said. "But how does...how does this loss...of this child...create...this pattern of events?"
"We'll see," said the Fool. "The next card."
The card on the left, the Western card, was also reversed. The woman on this card was finely dressed, and holding a banner of some sort which displayed two disks imprinted with crowns.
"Two of Coins," said the Fool. "Coins. We haven't had those yet. They're...earthly matters, mostly. Money, work. The two...that's balance. Here...she can't balance something. Something in her life has become too much, she has to choose loyalties, or sides, or...or maybe it's just too much for her."
"And then, this."
She turned to the card on the right.
"Upside-down, again," observed the queen, as she looked over the woman seated in the throne, holding a sword and a set of scales. "Is that me?"
"That's Justice," said the Fool. "Or, in this case, she's upside-down, so--"
"Injustice?" asked the Queen, eager to show that she was learning.
"Precisely," replied the Fool. "Something terribly unjust has taken place."
"For the mother?" asked the Queen. "Or for the Fool?"
"I don't know," replied the Fool. "They might be the same person."
The queen frowned, furrowing her queenly brow until it came to a divot in the center. "Some of the cards are numbers and symbols. Like Two of Coins, or Seven of Staves. And some are...names. Like the Fool. The Empress. Justice. What does that mean?"
"It means that our heroine can't solve her problem alone," replied the Fool. "It means she needs the help of other people, of influences outside herself. But we've finished the cross," she pointed out. "It's time to go to these cards, here."
"The hidden ones," the Queen replied, her tone rising a pitch inquisitively.
"The future," agreed the Fool. And she lifted the eighth card.
In the eighth card, the woman on the card was dressed as an angel, with a single coin in her hand.
"The coins again," observed the Queen. "But this time, there's only one."
"Yes," agreed the Fool. "One Coin. The Ace of Coins. And she's right-side-up, do you see?"
"Is that good?" asked the Queen.
"Yes," said the Fool. "Yes, that is good." And she smiled, softly, as she ran a finger around the gilt edge of the card.
"This is the role of our Heroine," she explained. "And the Ace is...two things. A beginning, but also...unification. The sum total. The ideal. And if you look at the Coin, the coin is a circle, like a pregnant womb. So there are two things here. One, the Heroine might be able to help the Empress have her child, but also, the Heroine is the posessor of great wealth."
"Is that me?" asked the Queen.
"Maybe," the Fool answered, in a way where the single word was fast becoming a sort of mantra. "But wealth doesn't have to be literal either. She might be...singularly posessed of self-awareness, or of a feeling of unity with the world around her."
And the Fool, as she spoke, flipped the ninth card.
The Queen's eyes widened. "That is me!" she exclaimed, as she peered at the elegant woman sitting on the throne, with one arm holding a sword aloft. After a moment, the excitement in her eyes dulled, and her eager expression pulled itself into a grimace. "But I'm upside-down."
"The Queen of Swords," said the Fool. "Is a woman who is singularly possessed of intellect. So, when she's reversed, she's...well, she's not necessarily bad, you see," she said, in a reassuring tone. "She's...it's more that she's someone who lets her heart get away from her head. Who's more likely to act on emotion than on reason."
The Queen was quiet for a moment, her face going stony and expressionless. "I see," she answered, the volume of her voice a notch quieter than it had been before.
The Fool gave her a cautious look. "If that doesn't sound like you," she said, hesitating between each word, "it might not be you. Just because it's a Queen...all it means, if it's a face card, is that it's most likely the influence of an individual rather than an outside force, or an idea. And in this case, the position of the card is the position for outside influences, so it makes sense for the Queen to be here."
The Queen was still quiet, but she took a breath, and nodded. "Of course," she said. "We have only two cards left. Continue."
On the next card, a young woman stood over a table, one hand aloft and holding what looked like a scroll. A figure-eight pattern floated over her head, and the table in front of her was littered with four objects: a coin, a staff, a sword, and a goblet.
"The Magician," said the Fool. "And where the Magician appears...this is the person our heroine hopes to be. This place, the second-to-last card, represents the hopes and fears our heroine carries with her, and the role she might play in her own story."
"But what is she?" asked the Queen, as she looked over the card intently.
A slow, soft smile spread across the face of the Fool.
"She's a storyteller," replied the Fool. "A person who makes stories real. If our heroine can do that, can be this, then she will succeed, despite all the trials that have come before."
The fool smiled back at the rest of the cards laid out in front of her. "Despite all the upside-down cards," she added, a happy note in her voice.
The Queen looked from the card to the Fool, from the Fool to the card, and then back up at the young woman who sat across from her. She wore an intent expression she had not worn before, as if, in that moment, she had suddenly acquired a newfound respect for the young woman before her.
"And the last card?" she asked, her tone expectant, almost breathy.
The Fool turned over the last card.
It was another angel, not unlike the one who held the coin, at the base of the staff, but here...here, the angel held a goblet, and a pure white dove flew above.
"Another Ace," said the Queen, and she pointed to the Ace of Coins. "Like that one."
"Yes," agreed the Fool. "Like that one. But..." And she paused, looking over the card. "This one is more than that. This is our outcome, the position we could find ourselves in. This is where we want to be, the ultimate ending to our heroine's tale."
The Queen looked over the card. "And what is it?" she asked. "This ultimate ending?"
The Fool touched a finger to the goblet. "I can't say for sure. Do you want to hear what I think?"
The Queen nodded hastily. "Of course."
The Fool smiled. "Birth."
Please continue reading back in intrepia's journal, here.
This entry was written based on a real tarot reading. I pulled the cards to write this and then wrote the story and drew the cards around it based on the characters and scenario that intrepia came up with ahead of time.
intrepia is the model for the Fool character. I am the model for the Queen character.
This post was written for therealljidol Week 33: Going All In.