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Seas Of Erin > Tir-Nan-Og > And this weak and idle theme
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 08:11 PM
Marcello's sleep was dark and dreamless, the sort of sleep one only gets when one is truly exhausted, heavy, still, black sleep without any trace of wakefulness. If the girl at his side had moved, he would not know-- if an entire orchestra struck up a gavotte, he would not know.
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 08:14 PM
"I told you so."
The red-headed girl was sitting cross-legged in the darkness, white shift dispelling the shadows around her.
"But oh no, you had to go and think the worst had already happened."
She snorted, patting her deck looking insulted. "The worst thing has never happened, there is always further depths."
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 12 2007, 08:19 PM
"Contrarily," replied the girl in black, from the other side, "there's no place to go but up, right?" Her cards, their backs red-and-orange-and-gild like a maple in autumn, were held gripped in her lap.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 08:21 PM
Marcello sat up straight. "BOTH of you?!" he exclaimed, red-faced. "BOTH? And that's--" Marcello gave the redhead a dark look. "I never said such a thing," he informed her, before leveling a glare at the black-haired one "Or if I did, it was hyperbole. This still isn't the worst. Niabheara's armies are going to fall sick, we'll be left with just the Trul, and Titania will attack just when we're at our weakest, something's happened to our bard, and no doubt they'll come up with a way to hurt Morgana and Mortoch as well."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 08:24 PM
"See? I told you something was wrong with her. The magus inversed..." She sighed, looking between Marcello and the other girl, her mouth growing pouting and unhappy.
"Go find your own to play with, I like this one. He's just the right amount of stupid."
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 12 2007, 08:27 PM
"If it's any consolation," the girl told Marcello, "we are not in cahoots. However, I can't quite call it coincidence either, since coincidence doesn't exist on my level, so I'm just going to call this a conference."
She smiled sheepishly at Aly. "No can do, I'm afraid. And it's not fair to call him stupid. Just . . . unenlightened." She ruffled her cards between her fingers. "Go on, you first. For once, I'm usurping."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 08:32 PM
She glared at the strange woman, straightening her back somewhat. "He doesn't want to be told where the light is, this means he is stupid. Or maybe silly. And I don't like to share..."
But she pulled a card from her deck anyway, watching the woman.
The card was the hermit, which seemed to mollify her somewhat.
Maybe it was alright then, maybe this was just another step in the dance.
Hesitation was for fools and men anyway.
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 12 2007, 08:35 PM
The dark girl pulled her own card: a garishly golden and sky-blue Wheel of Fortune. Flashing it and a quick smile at the other woman, she slipped it back into the deck.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 08:53 PM
'Wonderful,' Marcello muttered. 'Two majors in a row. We already know the rest of the world is messing with me. Namely, you two. You still owe me cake' he reminded the black one.
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 09:04 PM
Alynealin pondered the black haired girl a moment longer, then she shrugged and smiled at Marcello.
It was not like she worried too much about these things in the long run after all.
In the dance you couldn't think about where you put your feet, it was all in the rhythm.
So, pushing the hermit back in the deck she eyed him sternly. "You are being stubborn, obstinate and stupid. Why do you keep turning yourself into other things than swords? You already had the nine of swords ram through your life, and the knight of pentacles just doesn't get it. Why can't you just be a sword and be done with it? It is the best dance for you... the alternative..." He eyes him closely, pondering.
"No, that part is too big for you."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 09:15 PM
'The alternative is what?' Marcello asked. 'Tell me, I'm curious to listen. Or don't, and maybe I'll surprise you. You said I was a sword and refusing to admit it, not that I wasn't changing into what you wanted. What changed your mind? Why won't you just admit I might actually know myself better than your cards do?'
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 09:22 PM
"Because you don't." She gave him a chiding look, holding up a finger. "Remember the death card? That's the problem. Nothing changes unless it changes, and that changed everything. Nothing is fixed now,, everything's fluid." He pulled a card at random from her deck again, the wheel of fortune but reversed.
This caused her to give the black-haired girl a glare as if it was somehow her fault.
"Change. Broken change. This is bad, or rather it can be bad. If you had just turned out to be a sword the change would have been so predictable! Why can't you just be predictable, are you expecting luck to last you through this?" She put the wheel of fortune back, sighing.
"Might as well close your eyes, spin around and pin the tail on the donkey. You don't get to do that, I do."
She held out the cards for him to mix.
"Let's see how your luck holds."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 09:28 PM
'Of course things have to change,' Marcello agreed, taking the cards. 'I never questioned that. But just because your cards don't predict me as you like doesn't mean I'm the broken one. There's more than one reading, more than one deck..
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 09:36 PM
Oh that did cause her to shoot a glare at the other woman, huffing slightly as she took the cards back.
"See? That's the problem. Unless she wants to play too..." Her eyes grew narrow as if pondering what dance the other woman would follow.
But... that was for later.
"And the cards predicted you, they just pointed out that there was a point where you defied prediction. I want to move beyond that point.
She started placing the cards on the now stone floor underneath them.
They still had the backside up, so it was impossible to see what they showed.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 09:46 PM
"Why?" Marcello asked, shutting his eyes as he reached a hand up into the air, waving it around as if he expected to grab onto something. "Why must everything be predictable? Life isn't like that. Life follows no patterns. In real dances, people fall down. They change partners. The cooks bring in the giant marzipan pig and they all stop to gorge their faces. There aren't set rules. And this is my dream," he pointed out, wrapping his fingers around something. "Which means that I get to be the Magician. Ah."
He pulled down his own deck, grinning at the redhead as he started laying out cards of his own.
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 09:56 PM
"You don't get to be the magician!" She looked at him as he had just proclaimed that he would wear frilly lace cuffs and dance down the street. "That's taken! I... think."
Her face contorted in a frown, then turned over the cards.
"I don't care about you anyway, I am going to find out what lies beyond the death card." She stuck out her tongue at him, looking at the cards.
In the center lay the queen of cups reversed, crossed by the reversed moon. "See? It's about her instead. Discomfort with the worlds of mind and matter. She's pulled all into her head, scared of what will happen otherwise. Her obstacle is clarity, because she has to lie to herself all the time. It's not pretty when the good things stand in your way. The moon reversed means the dawning of a new day. Fear it." She gave him a stern look, then turned the four cards surrounding the center of the wheel.
The top of the wheel was the nine of swords, the base the fool, the passing left side was the reversed five of cups and the coming right side was the reversed empress. "See? The goal is the nine of swords again, you can't escape that. Misery, misery and torment. Bad, bad swords again, and not the same one but a new. One after the change. And no wonder, because the foundation of the wheel rests on the fool, that is who you are, you can't ever be the magician! You're just the fool. You might think that the past is accepted with the reversed five of cups, the lives have been spilled and the future dawns but you are wrong. Look at what's coming, the empress reversed. The inversed magus is gone, now the true face is revealed."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 10:27 PM
"You don't care about me?" Marcello asked dryly, as he finished laying his cards out. "Yet you keep coming back to read. You can't know what lies beyond the Death card. That's the whole point of Death. If you were meant to know what happens after the change comes, it wouldn't be Death. You're getting more caught up in this than I am and it's my life. You're seeing the cards and making them be what you think they ought to be. And I am the Magician. It's my dream. Out there, maybe I'm not, but in here, I pull all the strings."
He turned the first three cards, just as she had. "The Star," he said. "Crossed by the Queen of Cups. And that's an ironic card to sit there, because there's more than one woman it could represent, and for at least one of them, it's even more bitterly ironic."
He looked thoughtfully from the cards to the girl. "And all of them are crossing what would otherwise be my peace of mind."
He flipped the third. Eight golden cups, which prompted a laugh from him. "Not entirely the first thing on my mind, but considering that I am asleep..."
He looked back to the girl's cards. "I am afraid of the dawn. Our enemies are going to strike the moment the rest of the camp gets the sickness. And I don't know what to do with Niabheara when that happens. We're depleted. She's depleted. If I had my way, I'd stay sleeping for a good, long time, sleep through everything. If I could have her here with me, but the only way I'd have her is if she were a figment of my imagination and not the real Niabheara. Which is why I have to wake up eventually."
Then he frowned. "Are you sure you haven't been reading for her all along?" he asked, as he turned his next three cards. "If a fool can be a sword, a fool can be a magician. A fool can be anything he wants to be. The fool isn't the weakest card in the deck, it's the most potent."
"And..." he turned over the card at the base of the cross, a Knight, carrying a coin. "There's my old friend again," he said, giving her an amused look. "The swords are in the past, see?" He turned a reversed four of swords next. "A treaty broken. And that we know is true, isn't it?"
He turned the next, revealing a naked girl among the branches of an apple tree and eight coins. "There's temptation again, in eights. But this isn't the same kind as the cups. The serpent in the garden tempted Even with truth. Clarity. There's going to be a moment where we finally get truth among all this nonsense."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 10:40 PM
She rolled his eyes at him, pointing at the knight of pentacles. "Him again? You could do better you magus to be, stop idling withing your boundaries. At least your fool is turned the right side up this time, and at the bottom instead of the top. The reason for cards and dances and stuffed pigs is to see what lies beyond the death card. To cheat the world, to see what should be hidden, to dance the forbidden dance. Don't tell me you don't want to peek behind the curtain, under the skirt of lady fate."
She held up her hands, fingers entwine. "You. Her. Does it matter? Two hands still play one card."
Eights. Eights were a difficult number, the number of fulfillment, the number of fingers on your hands. Eight fingers. Two thumbs.
That made ten which was the constricting card.
She turned the cards of the staff, from the bottom up.
"Your card, her card, the cards of your entwined fates at the base of the staff is judgment. But being right doesn't guarantee that things will be right. But there will be a resolution."
The next card, the environment, was turned revealing "The seven of cups, reversed. No more illusions. In the bleak light of dawn we can see the wrinkles of reality. This is the moment where we see what is on the end of every fork."
She shivered a bit. "And in her hopes and hearts and fears lies the ten of rods. The road is too long. The mud is too deep. There are ten sticks, and still she is drowning in her blood. Blood and mud. And no rest." She had grown serious by now, each card making her face pale slightly.
"The end. The conclusion. Another ten as it should be. The ten of damned boundaries, the ten of swords. Reversed." She looked at the two tens, shaking her head. "The darkness before dawn. Growth through suffering. In crushing and utter defeat may the seeds of total victory be found. Ultimate knowledge through ultimate sacrifice. What say you to that little fool magus?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 10:59 PM
Marcello was looking all too pleased at his new title. "I say I don't expect good things anymore," he answered. "And that ten of swords isn't any different from Death, really, is it? It doesn't show us what's beyond Death so much as the nature of Death. The type of transformation. Your seven of cups matches my eight of coins; there will be clarity there. And the rest? If you say it doesn't matter who you draw for, if our fates are tied so inextricably, that in itself would make me a happy man."
He smiled slightly, and the air around them all was full of the scent of Niabheara's skin and hair and a faint tinge of blood underlying it all. "I don't want to know what's behind the curtain because I don't believe there can be anything behind the curtain that isn't mutable," he informed the girl confidently. "Everything can be changed. You peel back the curtain, you see the answer, you drop it again, and they shuffle the cards."
He turned the base, a boy carrying a staff. "There. That is me. You said I'm not yet a knight, and this card-- this was me as a child. And this--" he turned the King of Cups, reversed. "I don't-- that could be Auberon. Giving and generous but unreliable, shifting."
He turned the next card, to the horned, hoofed, hairy faun that represented the Devil, also reversed. "And I never thought I would go on image alone, but there is his Puck. Which means the Queen crossing us back before, that must be the real Queen. So all three of them come into play. The Queen crosses us, the King sets the stage-- the Puck is the unexpected element. Not that he's ever anything but."
And he turned the final card, and the angel Temperance smiled at them.
He beamed. "And what do you say to that?"
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 11:10 PM
"Lightning strikes, the tower crumbles then comes the kindly king of cups." She closed her eyes, reciting her former reading. "The magus is inverted and you ride off as the knight of pentacles being none the wiser." She opened them again, pointing at the queen of cups. "The queen of cups is right side up and your obstacle, same as the inversed unjust empress that stopped hiding behind the magus that is coming into mine. The kindly king of cups is now revealed as a fraud and reversed, and the trickster plays a merry tune."
She giggled and clapped her hands together. "But the page of rods is much better than the knight of pentacles. Rods suit you better little magus to be."
She watched the two cards that topped the staff, shaking her head.
"Ruin in reverse for her, tranquility for you. That can mean only one thing."
She placed a single card between the two readings, it was the wheel of fortune again, right side up this time.
"Are you a gambling man little magus?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 11:16 PM
"I told you that before, Cups or Rods are usually my cards. If it's action, I'm a staff, not a sword. Swords are too permanent, too fixed in their ways. What are you thinking? You're combining all these readings, all the cards who've ever shown themselves to us?"
He shot her a twisted little smile. "What kind of gamble did you have in mind?"
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 11:20 PM
Her smile widened, tilting her head as she watched him.
"The cards always shift and change face, you know that. Some stay true to their faces, some do not. Some cards sing one song for some persons, some cards sing a different tune for everyone."
She pulled back her hards in the deck, mixing them together.
"Would you gamble on your card?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 11:21 PM
Marcello gave her a quizzical look. "You want me to guess what it is, find it in the deck, or stake something on it?" he asked.
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 12 2007, 11:33 PM
"I already know what your card is silly little gambler." She put it down on the table again, a random card from the deck. Once more it was the wheel of fortune.
"I am speaking of gambling on what it might become. The fool, the wheel of fortune, those are the cards with power but no direction, all potential but limitless. Do you dare to pick another future than the boring knight of pentacles or the weak page of staves? Do you dare to be yourself for once?"
She held up two cards with the back out, covering her eyes. "Cards are masks." The smile was cruel and wicked as she held them up in her hands. "Ace of wands and the reversed seven of cups. No masks. No illusions. New beginnings."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 12:10 AM
"I'm all masks," Marcello answered, pulling a card from his own deck.
He turned the seven of coins toward her. "That is myself. It's what I'm good at. Potential, not action. Cups, not swords. Ideas. Plans. I thought you said I was a sword. Is the wheel the other card you thought I might be?"
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 12:16 AM
"Silly. No this card is you. The swords is what you were going to be. How you were going to be useful, because the wheel of fortune rolls whichever way. Swords are much more predictable." She scoffed at the seven of pentacles.
"Oh grow up, are you going to be concerned with potentialities your whole life? That is not how it works! Not if you want to -do- something!"
She looked at him sternly.
"She doesn't need masks. Everyone around her already wears them. It makes it hard to know which one to turn to when the fire comes."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 12:22 AM
"Which is why I don't put one on for her," Marcello answered. "Someone has to be concerned with potentialities. Otherwise everyone else misses them. If she did everything her way, she'd have followed a straight path into the lion's mouth already because she wouldn't have seen the possibilities around her. And even then, I miss some of them."
"You want me to gamble on what I'll be? No, thank you. I don't care to know."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 12:29 AM
"You mean you don't want to know the future?" Her eyes narrowed, growing sharp and clever as if things hinged very much on his answer.
She had listened very closely to what he had said about him and Nialla, fingering the cards as if she'd rather be biting her nails.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 12:35 AM
Marcello shook his head. "Cards are one thing. Hints and guesses are another. But life-- that's supposed to be uncertain, isn't it? And sometimes even when you do know, it's not what you expect or people don't believe you and that makes it worse. Oedipus? Miserable. Cassandra? Miserable. You cheat at cards, and you get kicked out of the pub and maybe shot. And that's just cards."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 12:45 AM
"Knowing the future doesn't make you miserable, stupidity makes you miserable. If you don't watch it you'll turn into this calcified old man" She pulled the hierophant reversed from the deck "And that's not who you want to be."
She sighed, putting the card back, taking a long look at him.
"Maybe life is supposed to be uncertain, but that -hurts-. There's ice everywhere and she will slip. The fires will come, I can smell them. I don't know if you will be enough. My dance takes me here in circles again and again I come back to this spot and now the dawn is coming."
She shivered, eyes large and petrified, pupils pinpricks despite the dark.
"It will be worse than the tower and the lightning."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 12:53 AM
"And I should trust you?" Marcello asked. "Or her?" He nodded toward the girl in black. "I used to know the future."
He pulled the Emperor, reversed. "That's too arrogant, you see? It's pretending to be a god when I'm just a man. I knew my father would get his comeuppance for drinking himself into a stupor every night. I lost two sisters because I never dreamed it would hurt any of us."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 01:00 AM
Her eyes gleamed a bit and she bared her teeth in a quiet snarl.
"You shouldn't. Not if you are walking away from the swords. If you do that, I can't help you anymore. You will be on your own."
She fingered another card but didn't show it to him, just pressed it against her chest as she watched him.
It was the sun. It was a good card. Maybe she was the one that was supposed to trust him in the end.
But no, he couldn't be that, he shouldn't. It was wrong, but... with the wheel of fortune and the fool who was to say what was wrong?
Pawns turned into queens if they reached the end of the board.
"Can I ask you one thing?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 01:02 AM
"And I'm telling you that swords aren't me," Marcello said. "I'm not walking away from them. I think they're talking about something else. Or someone else. Her, maybe."
And at that, he frowned. "Ask away."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 01:05 AM
"No, they were about you. I told you, the best swords are forged. But maybe you can't be forged. Maybe you aren't a sword like you said. Maybe you can be something more."
she put the card back in the deck, chewing a bit on her lower lip.
"If the fire comes, will you be there this time? For her? What will you do?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 01:14 AM
Marcello gave her a stern, even look. "There was never any question I'd be there for her," he answered. "As for what I'll do...?" He pressed his lips together. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not say exactly. But...this isn't my country. These aren't my politics. If I can...if there's anything I can affect here, I'll do it, but chiefly I'm concerned about protecting her."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 01:22 AM
She nodded as if that answer satisfied her.
"It is not your country. You are a stranger here, and the forces set against you both are more powerful than you imagine." Her hands were pale little things, clutching the deck of cards now.
"She is stubborn and she loves her people so much... even if she sees the doom coming maybe..." Her face softened then, regarding him with a new... was it respect? "Do what you must."
Even if it meant destroying her life to save her life.
The irony did not escape her
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 01:25 AM
Marcello nodded. "I'm hoping she won't have to leave them," he said quietly. "But with the plague...and if her bard is compromised..." He took a deep breath. "She'll do more for her people if she can escape intact. She's not a phoenix, but as long as she doesn't lose her life, she can always rise from the flames."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 01:28 AM
She nodded quietly, looking at him as she put away the card. She nodded at his own deck. "Pick one. Please."
He was not a sword. She was used to swords being hard to forge, but she was not silly enough not to recognize her mistake.
When had she forgotten to look below the surface?
When had she forgotten... what?
The strange feeling that she knew exactly what was going on was fading again, but she clung to it.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 01:34 AM
Marcello gave her an amused look, and then plucked out a single card, looking at it before he shot the girl a crooked smile, waggling both eyebrows at her, and turned back over the angel Temperance again, holding it out to her.
"What do you fancy that means now?"
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 01:37 AM
She rolled her eyes at the card, sighing.
"That you look the fool but are anything but." She stuck her tongue out at the card before sliding back a bit, giving the black haired girl a look.
She was finished now.
She just hadn't expected this to happen.
That this man of masks and lies might have hidden depths.
((Aly will let Serendipity speak uninterrupted for now in case you do something when I am not around))
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 05:39 AM
The girl in black sat back, smiling, flipping the thick deck of cards--with some difficulty; her fingers were short--from hand to hand. "My turn now?" she asked, lifting her eyebrows between the two. "This is the only way I get to cheat, really, since the interpretation's so ambiguous."
She slapped the deck down before Marcello. "Cut 'em, sailor. Unless you've decided you've had all the future you can stomach for one dream sequence."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 05:45 AM
"Again?" Marcello asked, taking a deep, teasing sigh. "They're very ambiguous, aren't they? I'm glad someone appreciates that," he said, looking pointedly at the redhead.
He started to cut the deck into threes, then paused, pursing his lips. "But first," he said, returning the cards to a single stack, bridging them so they flip-flopped one over the other. "I need to tell you that your advice is singularly awful. You got the boy in my charge murdered, and now the girl I love has holes in her lungs, and no doubt her entire support is going to be infected with more plague than the trul can cure. And since you've been overdue on delivering..."
He lifted the re-shuffled deck back up to reveal a small, chocolate cake layered with sliced strawberries, as if it had been hidden behind the moving cards all this time. "I cut the deck, you cut the cake."
And with that, he cut the cards.
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 06:20 AM
As if prepared for this eventuality, the girl immediately produced a silver cake-knife and a small heap of china saucers. "You know," she said, serving, "there was a time when we were looking into a world of instant gratification. Want to know how long that one lasted? Six weeks. We had hope. But you just can't have a world where everyone gets everything they want all the time. I mean, say, you really, really want this cake--" She promptly gave him a plateful. "But I really, really want it for myself. Can't be any other slice. Has to be that one. Who wins out? People were killing each other over what amounted to cake. I mean, there's some cake that I, personally, would die for, but not literally." She levered out a second slice and put it on another plate. "So the solution, obviously, would be to make everyone want the same things. Total community. Sharing. Brotherly love. Everyone humming along in one big hive mind."
She raised an eyebrow at Marcello. "You have no idea. Absolutely no free will. None. It was like . . . like I don't even have an example, it was so awful. And in the end, of course, impossible to maintain."
Sucking a bit of chocolate off her thumb, she flipped over the first card. "Three of Wands. See, here's the natural progress of your Fool card again: exploration. Discovery. A leap into the great unknown. Sometimes you fall off the cliff and sometimes--" She grinned at him. "You fly. But taking the first step off the cliff is always frightening. Heart drops, pulse races. You don't know where you're going to land. It's a good take-off point."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 06:25 AM
"And sometimes you strike when the lightning does and get imprisoned by a wicked queen because a nice girl in black fooled you into thinking she wanted the same thing you did?" Marcello asked cheerfully, looking at the card. "I like your way better. You understand potentiality."
Then he gave her a pointed look. "And what have we got anyway? We've got a world where people are literally killing each other over what amounts to cake. Where the woman I love almost drowned in her own blood over what amounts to cake."
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 06:36 AM
"What you've got, buster, is a world where you're free to go out and get some other damn cake." She gave him a lofty look. "I know what I want. I'm not so sure you know what you want. You want her?" She cast a look down at the sleeping Niabheara. "I could give her to you. Right now. You wake up, she's madly in love with you, she's willing to give up this damp, dreary little island and the lump of rock she calls a home and follow you to the ends of the earth. After a while you might even start to believe it was real. I could turn back the clock far enough that you would still be living with your family again, alive and well, everything still ahead of you, and give you the chance to stop yourself before you made any mistakes. No more running. No more people after your head. But you couldn't deal with it. Because it wouldn't really be yours. It'd be no different than any of the rest of this faerie glamour."
She flipped out a second card, crossing the first. "And there's our friend the Death card. Still makes sense from the first one. See, this is exactly what we were just talking about. Death only looks like death. You think you've made the wrong choices, that things are irrevocable, that this is The End. But it isn't, because we've still got some more cards here."
Another turn of the wrist. She sat back as if the card surprised even her. "Well, well, well. The page of swords, reversed. See, the pages are generally just pure potential. Page of Swords is a con-man, an actor. He has a lot of roles to play, and he loses himself in them--literally; he forgets where he leaves off and the masks begin. Finally, it just becomes easier to be an actor, all the time. But he's reversed. He's stepped off the edge to find out which person he is underneath all the personae, and maybe he's a little frightened of what the bottommost layer looks like. Maybe he's not a good person after all. Maybe there's nothing there anymore."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 06:49 AM
"Maybe you're analyzing things a little too deeply," Marcello said. "She--" and he nodded to Alynealin, "she reads things bluntly, goes by the picture and the numbers and if I don't fit, it's because I have to be forced to fit. If a card shows up more than once, it means the same thing every time. You...read more fluidly, but you're reading more than what's on the card and you're starting to guess. You might have been right up to the point where you said he might wonder if he's a good person. He's got a lot of other self-doubts, but being good isn't one of them. And I've never said this is the End. She thinks it's the end, that it's an all or nothing proposition, she wins or she loses, if she doesn't have her land, she's nothing. I'm not all that much older than her, but I know that even losing everything doesn't end things. I like Death," he said, tapping the card. "Death means a new situation, a new mask, a new name."
"But, then, I'm reversed, aren't I?"
He gave her a sober look. "I'm not asking for instant gratification. And I'm not asking you to change the past. I'm not asking you for anything. Well, apart from a lack of deception, and maybe some answers. I don't want you to do it for me. And besides," he said, a bit more firmly. "She does love me."
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 06:53 AM
"I have a little more liberty to read things fast and loose. See, the cool thing about this is, the human brain doesn't know the difference between remembering something and actually looking at something. Theoretically, people could remember things that haven't even happened yet. Which is what I'm doing now. I remember potential futures." She turned over the crowning card--and burst out laughing. "Oh God! How completely predictable is this deck? Ace of Cups!" Between giggles, she sang a little snatch of song: "'It's still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, a case of do or die . . . the fundamental things apply . . . '"
Finally, she wrestled herself down to something like serious again, though the warmth never left her dark eyes. "This is a sad, sad case. Aspiring for love. My stars, can it be that easy?" She blew a raspberry at him.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 07:00 AM
"Yes, you remember potential futures and then give people incomprehensible hints about lightning," Marcello replied. "Did you want me to read your cards too, or do you already know all your potential futures? Did you know this what going to happen, the last time we spoke?"
He was fairly well joking at this point, although he actually got a slightly distant look in his eyes as she described the ace of cups, then looked reasonably at her, pulling a face in response to her raspberry. "You think that's sad? I've never denied that that's what this is. If I didn't love her, I wouldn't-- well, maybe I would still be here, but not under the same conditions." Then he stuck his tongue out at her. "Nice song. Where'd that come from?"
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 07:08 AM
"A place called Casablanca," she said distantly, then went on: "The difference between you and me is that I don't have a future."
She turned the next one. "Immediately backing the current situation . . . hm, Nine of Wands." She leaned forward to tap the card. "It's the sign of the wounded soldier. He's taken some lumps, but the battle's not over yet. There is a sense sometimes that if you try hard enough, you're bound to be rewarded. But the universe doesn't hand out medals for valour. The Nine is here to warn you of two things: one, that there is no resolution yet, and two, that there is the possibility for more pain if you continue to forage ahead without tending to your own wounds. I mean, if you can't walk without a crutch, there's no shame in having crutches. It's not a weakness if you can't hold the world up when you can't even stand on your own."
She pursed her lips, still considering the card. "I think I screwed that up, because that sounds a bit more like a future situation than a past one. But never mind."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 07:10 AM
"That sounds more like a recurring situation," Marcello said tightly, and then he gave the girl a worried look. "You know it's a future situation, don't you?" he asked her, quietly.
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 07:14 AM
"I know of two future situations," she said soberly. "One of them will make you very happy. The other one . . . not so happy, but it still has a bit of hope to it."
She flipped the next card with a dawning look of real disheartenment. "Two. Of. Cups. Wow. I . . . seriously don't think I can say anything about this that isn't sarcastic. But I'll try." She cleared her throat and straightened her back. The posture failed almost as soon as she assumed it. She threw up her hands. "Two of Cups. Good grief, it isn't obvious?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 07:19 AM
"There's always a bit of hope," Marcello replied. "But I hate that you know these things and sit there and act like it's the difference between roasting a ham or a duck."
"And here are all my cups and wands," Marcello said cheerfully, slanting a look in Aly's direction, before grinning at the black-haired girl. "I think I can guess what that card stands for, but why don't you tell me nonetheless? I wouldn't like to draw the wrong conclusions."
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 07:24 AM
"Oh, you totally get into making me uncomfortable, don't you?" She pushed her thick bangs from her eyes and gave Marcello a stern, yet severely cute glower from beneath heavy eyebrows. "Two of Cups. By itself, it establishes a relationship. Could be anything from a friendship to a romance to a truce. But the way things are going here--hang on, let me see if I can't clear it up with the next one . . . "
Starting at the bottom of the staff, she turned the card--and again, threw up her hands. "Three of Cups. Well." She rolled her eyes. "Moving right along with the fucking fairy-tale, we have the Three of Cups. I can only assume that, with the Two of Cups being here, this signifies the phase where you go around constantly nuzzling each other like a pair of friendly cats. Consider this your Friendly Kitty Card. Or, if you want to be perfectly vulgar, the Gettin' Some card."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 07:33 AM
"Are you sure you shu--wait, I shuffled those," Marcello replied, his cheeks going a bit flush.
Then he grinned, and then laughed, giving Serendipity a chastising look. "She's sick," he pointed out chidingly, then bit his lip, trying to look more serious. "I'm not-- I wouldn't ask the cards about that," he said, faintly embarrassed. "That card is for celebration, too. This could be a truce, and then the--"
He sighed, shaking his head. "Except I don't know how that would be possible. Not that I'm complaining if she--"
And his cheeks and ears went red again. "Oh, remember what happened the last time I listened to you?!" he exclaimed helplessly. "If you're just making the cards come up this way to get me to do something..."
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 07:35 AM
"I swear! I don't frig around with the cards; I told you, this is the only time I actually get to tell anyone anything without it seriously screwing around with the fabric of the universe or something!" She gave a weary sigh. "Look, let's just move on, shall we? Outer perceptions, outer perceptions . . . "
The card turned. Again the girl sat back, hands on her knees, mouth agape. "Hokay. I'm seriously starting to suspect where all these Cups are coming from." Her lips set in a line. "Although I don't see how . . . Anyhoo. Ten of Cups. This . . . is a friggin' shitload of Cups, man. Happy family card. Joy. Abundance. Peace. Good fortune. But for outward perceptions? Not such a good sign, because it generally means that we ourselves don't know just what the heck is so obvious to everyone else. Possibly a continuation of that truce I mentioned from the Two. It's for letting go and enjoying your blessings."
She drew up short again, stopping herself mid-word. A tricksome smile played over her features. "Never mind. I know exactly why this is here. And it's not yours."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 07:38 AM
Marcello blinked, and frowned even as his mouth was open mid-question. "What do you mean, it's not mine? You mean this one's not mine?" he asked warily. "Or all these ones before, too?"
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 07:41 AM
"The Ten is definitely not yours. Or--lemme correct that--it's not your perception. You know exactly what's going on with it; you are at least quick enough to recognise a good thing when you have it. Er. Certain other people, who may or may not have their head firmly up their own asses when it comes to their love-life, may not be so quick to catch on. Not naming names or anything."
This time she peeked at the next card, then slapped her hand down over it, looking to Marcello with big, solemn eyes. "If I told you it's another Cup, are you going to accuse me of rigging the deck again?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 07:46 AM
"So..." Marcello looked back at the cards with a sense of consternation. "So you're saying-- is that someone else's perception of me, or someone else's perception of themselves?" he asked, pressing his lips together. He gave her a hopeful look. "You said this is the one way you're allowed to tell these kinds of things, and we've only got two cards left, so we might as well get our mone-- I mean, cake's worth out of it."
Then he raised an eyebrow. "I'm going to accuse you of joking," he told her.
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 07:53 AM
The girl heaved a deep sigh. "The essence of the perceptions position," she said, as wearily as if reading it from an inventory, "is that it very often represents a quality that other people recognise but that the person experiencing it does not. Can't see the forest for the trees, as it were. In this case, I suspect--and I'm using the word 'suspect' the same way a lawyer uses the word 'alleged' here--that this may be something that you can see and she--" She gestured toward Niabheara. "--is blind to. In other words, you might be the one to grab her nose and stick a cup of espresso under it. Or future events could do it for you; that's one of the not-so-happy endings I mentioned before. And as far as joking goes . . . "
She turned over the Six of Cups and made a rather lacklustre fanfare.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 08:01 AM
This forced Marcello's expression into a frown, his brow knit with worry. "I wish you wouldn't say things like that," he said quietly. "About not-so-happy endings you know about. But if we--" he shut his eyes for a moment. "No matter how bad it is, if we're together and safe and reasonably in one piece, I don't-- we could come back from it," he said, trying to sound determined, although there was a note in his voice that sounded like it belonged to a lost little boy. "We could."
He bit down on his lip as he looked at the cups. "Or at least I wish you'd say what I'm meant to do to help h--or maybe I don't, considering what you said the last time. Maybe I didn't shuffle well enough. And that-- a six is a solution, isn't it? But so's a ten. Should that even be there?"
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 08:11 AM
"Six is a way-station," she said quietly. "Three is apprenticeship, six is a journeyman, nine is a master. See, everyone knows about the maiden-mother-crone thing, but the male journey is just as interesting. But I'm getting off the subject." She straightened the card in its line, even though it really did not need straightening. "Six of Cups. It's another good, happy card, damn it. But there's always a dark side to all the cards. Six is a midway point; it's easy to become entangled in all the emotions it offers--nostalgia, good will, innocence--until you become blissfully unaware of what's really happening. It's easy to think that you've gotten stuck at this . . . "
She tapped the Ten of Cups.
". . . your happily-ever-after, when what you're really heading for is this."
The final card. Her fingers clung to it, and she shot Marcello a genuinely pained, regretful look. Her tongue hooked behind her upper teeth, as if she would really like to say more. Instead, she shook her head and made the turn.
Three of Swords.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 08:16 AM
Marcello's face went white.
He pressed his hands to his knees to keep them from shaking. "And what if I refuse to accept that outcome?" he asked her quietly.
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 08:20 AM
With a sweeping gesture, the girl scooped the cards off the field. "Then they're not even potentials. They're cardboard with scary pictures painted on them. They're a party g-me."
A card shot out of her hands as she tapped them into place. She picked it up and turned it toward him. Ace of Cups. "And hope springs eternal."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 08:24 AM
"I know that without your saying it to me," Marcello answered brusquely. "But they're mutable potentials. I can do something to change that."
He gritted his teeth, biting down hard on his lower lip. "You said there was happy and less-than-happy. You didn't say there was three-of-swords less-than-happy. And you're not even giving me a reading. No explanation."
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 08:29 AM
"You want me to read the cards or fill out the goddamn questionnaire?" the girl said with a touch of annoyance. "How is this any different from the story I told you when you were in Titania's dungeon?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 08:37 AM
"You didn't read the card," Marcello pointed out. "You just turned it over and then started cleaning up. Here, you want me to read cards for you like that?"
He turned over one from his own deck: the Lovers, reversed.
Giving it a sullen look, he turned another: the Knight of Swords, reversed.
Another: the Empress, reversed; and another: the Page of Coins, also reversed.
He finally flung the deck across the room, one card sticking in his hand: the Five of Cups. "Oh, very funny," he growled at the card, then shook his hand to make it unstick. "This is my dream; can't you be on my side?" he asked the Five of Cups unhappily."
"And to answer your question, the story you told me didn't end with absolute, utter heartbreak and loss," he said tightly. "What is the point of even trying to go through all those damn cups if I know I'm only going to be miserable and alone in the end like always? So I can find another thing to pin false hope on and do it all over again? I've been doing this for too long to -- most people have at least one thing end right."
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 08:52 AM
The girl only just managed to duck the flung deck. "You can't read cards for me, anyway, since I haven't any future," she said, a little sadly. "Look, stop it. Stop." She let out another sigh. "The point is . . . "
She pressed her eyes closed. "You can still change things. It's not all set. I mean, this is coming from someone who has a pretty good line on the future. Consider this forewarning."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 09:00 AM
"Of course you have a future. If you didn't, you wouldn't have looked at me that way when you saw that card," Marcello pointed out. "You would have a prepared response to everything. And you don't. And that means, a little bit, that you don't always know what's coming next."
He gritted his teeth, and, because it was his dream, summoned all the cards back into a neat stack. "The trouble is that I want all those other cards," he told her quietly. "And I don't know what to do, if that path leads directly to that outcome. What-- Never mind," he said quietly. "I know what comes of asking you what to do."
He pulled his knees up. "I don't want to wake up now. She's depending on me, and I don't even know what I can do. I mean, I have ideas, but...I'm going to have to do more, with her sick, and...and that's not even considering all the cups-bits. I can't even think about what sort of future there is for us, because I've got to make sure there's a future first."
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 09:02 AM
She had been quiet through the reading, watching the cards intently.
She had not been bothering to point out that the three of cups at the base of Marcello's cup was her card, had always been her card, would always been her card. It wasn't important here.
Neither had she pointed out that the thing that stood in the way of this reading, the obstacle... was the death and change card from her other readings.
This was what happened if things didn't change.
The happily ever after of the man that wanted nothing more than being with the woman he loved.
It never ended well. Even he should know that.
You couldn't really outrun the swords, and if you weren't wanting to be one of them, there was only one thing that you could do.
But she didn't say that either, just chewed her lip and giggled softly.
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 09:09 AM
"And this is further proof of my theory that knowing the future just makes people dread the future. Which, in my line of work, is counterproductive." She fluffed her fingers through her bangs. "You've got to wake up. There's got to be a future. Things have to progress. You can't hold to sixes."
She held out the third plate to Alynealin. "Cake, dear?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 09:13 AM
"What are you laughing at?" Marcello asked the redhead sullenly, before giving the black-haired girl a tense look. "I'd rather hold to s--"
Then he stopped, and blinked. "Are you saying that's the problem?" he asked. "That the swords are what happens if there's no other progession? If there's regression instead?"
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 09:17 AM
"I told him that before, look at all the potential and he's still sitting around liking being a journeyman or a page or maybe, maybe one of the boring knights. Or playing the fool or wheel of fortune. The only nine that always pops up is the nine of swords, and that's because he's so scared of it!"
She accepted the cake and took a bite from it.
"He is just afraid of growing up and accepting that he might be a master." She stuck the spool in her mouth, looking awfully mature for a moment.
"I should introduce him to Seth, he's just as bad."
She wasn't exactly sure who Seth was at the moment, but she remembered much the same discussions.
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 09:27 AM
"There is no regression," the girl said stubbornly. "There's progress, and then there's stagnation. This, for example, is veering dangerously into the realm of stagnation."
Out of pure curiosity she cut her deck, peeked at the card, rolled her eyes, and set the top half back down again.
"There's nothing wrong with swords," she said to Alynealin. "I know some good swords. And a couple of good knights. So maybe he's cut out to be a Knight of Cups, so what? If that's what it takes to get things moving forward again."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 09:32 AM
"This is two girls having a tea party in my sleep and planning out my future as an archetype," Marcello pointed out. "This isn't stagnation. This is rest that is turning out to not be restful at all. I'm supposed to be asleep right now. If I don't sleep, I'll be in no shape to act one way or the other. And you didn't answer my question," he said to Serendipity. "You...wove around it. What card did you just get?" he asked her. "And you," he said to Aly. "What did you wind up deciding I was when you decided I wasn't swords?"
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 09:37 AM
"You are sleeping! If you don't dream you go mad. You want to go back to being chased around by pigs? Fine with me, here at least you get cake too."
She shot the black-haired girl a secretive smile, nodding. "The knight of cups is a bit better than the boring knights of pentacles, but he's been doing that bit all along, hasn't he? Every man in love wants to be the knight of cups, it's boring and safe! everybody just wants to be the champion, they don't think about what they are really championing. There's so few knights out there, most who think they are are just deluding themselves that they are more than swords or pawns. And he -still- hasn't got a horse. he needs a horse to be a knight."
That made sense.
She didn't like the horse that was stalking her dreams, she wanted to get rid of it.
She gave Marcello another look. "I didn't. Because you didn't. You're still the fool playing with the wheel of fortune, so much potential nowhere to direct it. And you said you would be the Magus this time but... I'm not sure you can."
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 09:43 AM
"Death card again," she told him. "Look, you've asked me like six questions. I'm not Niabheara; I'm not required under pain of whatever-happens to answer you. So help me, I'm answering as much as I can without screwing things up. What, do you want me to give you another 'wait 'til the lightning strikes' response? Because that's what we're gearing toward."
She huffed a bit at Alynealin. "What's so boring about the Knight of Cups? That's the bloody Grail knight."
From behind her back she suddenly whipped a filled glass goblet. The force should have sent the liquid splashing across all three of them, but, miraculously, it barely sloshed to the edges. "Marcello. You've seen the Niall banners. You're wearing her colours right now. What's the house crest?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 09:53 AM
"I meant I could be the Magus in my dream," Marcello said. "Because I can control things here. Not out there. I wouldn't pretend to be him out there. I don't want to be..."
Marcello trailed off, tensing, and fixed his eyes on the goblet. "That's very literal of you, isn't it?" he asked, looking down at his clothes. "I don't want to-- I mean, I'll be whatever she needs me to be," he said. "You wouldn't-- have you ever had any reason to fear anything in your life?" he asked the black-haired girl.
Posted by: Alynealin Nov 13 2007, 09:56 AM
"He's less boring in person, just it's boring because everybody wants to be the knight of cups. He's one of the good ones, but all he really does is ride off to find something good."
She huffed, looking straight at Marcello. "That is your problem. You don't WANT to be anything, you just want things to happen that are good. Good things doesn't happen, good things are made."
She sighed, shaking his head.
Too afraid of his own potential. Just like Seth.
Posted by: Serendipity Nov 13 2007, 10:03 AM
"There are things I am afraid of," she told him gravely. "They're not the things you're afraid of, like people dying or being lost or failing at something important, although it involves that, a little. I'm afraid that good people will be too afraid of changing the world to try to change the world. I'm afraid of this world breaking up, the way some other good worlds have done in the past. I'm afraid of anxieties that translate themselves into stifling repetition. I'm afraid of patterns and dead ends and roads that trail off into nothingness."
Carefully, she set the goblet on the empty saucer and unwound her limbs, rising back to her feet. "You're going to wake to another change in the world. When you're ready to face it, pick this up."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 13 2007, 10:18 AM
"I do want to be something," Marcello said unhappily. "And I've been trying to change the world. It's just every time I start, something else comes along to cut me off at the pass. I just haven't been very good at it this time around. Maybe because it's not my world."
He took a deep breath, then gave Serendipity a tight look. "I'm ready for it now," he said, though he didn't quite look ready; he looked like he was forcing himself into a sense of resolve. "I'm going to wake up now. Enjoy your cake."
He found the place in his head where his sleeping self lay, and crawled back under the blankets, snuggling up warmly against the form of the girl beside him.
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