chapter 4: THE FOOL
this card, Zero of the Major Arcana, here signifies Original
Innocence, Anarchy, Stupidity
Emperor Aleister XXII of Theland was a good, jolly ruler. He
left his subjects alone as much as possible, he avoided wars
and undue taxes, he treated all persons with equal respect,
and most important, he had a good sense of humor. To Aleister,
being the Emperor was simply a matter of being born lucky and
he did not take it too seriously.
Of course he had some enemies, for there were greedy barons
and warlike factions even in the happy domain of Theland, but
when it was necessary to deal strongly with an opponent,
Aleister was quite capable of direct and intelligent action.
His son, Prince Elro, was much like his father had been when
younger, still a bit rash in his judgments, perhaps quicker
to take action when dialogue would suffice, but all in all
good potential for a future Emperor.
The girls of Tarro were all infatuated with the young prince,
he was handsome, charming, a dashing and romantic figure in
every way. A thin moustache was trying to grow beneath his
twenty year old nose, but otherwise he was perfect.
However, Elro had no eyes for the girls of Tarro, nor of all
Theland, for he was hopelessly in love. He often cursed his
luck that it must be Wand, the cold-hearted daughter of the
Sorceress, who had to be the object of his burning desire,
for she was the one girl who would not dash herself at his
feet. One of life's little perversities, he believed.
And now, this evening, Wand was to be pronounced Of Age and
Royal Privilege, announcing to all the world that her hand
could be asked for. Elro dreaded an avalanche of amorous
princes and heroes to take her away from him. But at least
Elro would be expected to kiss her on the cheek in the
ceremony--after his father and mother, that is. He thought
His mother, the Empress Frieda, was yet a beauty herself and
famous for her love of children and animals. She was a patron
of the arts and openly sentimental about life in general. It
was she who would officiate at Wand's celebration.
It was going to be a perfect evening: the air was calm and
cool after a warm day, the stars were ready to come out and
shine even as the sun hovered on the brink of the Western
Mountains. The magical light crystals of Tarro began to
glow in readiness for night.
Well, there was one small black cloud to the north in the
otherwise clear sky, too tiny to offer any threat of rain--
although it was strange, for Luminata had seen to this
evening's weather. The cloud seemed to boil and churn oddly,
but it did not come nearer to the City of Tarro.
However, a mysterious figure wearing a cloak and hood the same
color as that cloud had come walking into town from the north,
a very tall thin man. No one noticed him, even though
there was a definitely Sinister Aspect about this guy. He walked
rapidly and with purpose in the direction of the City Place.
There was a great merry crowd on the Place, just below the Royal
Balcony, to witness the ceremony and to cheer and dance when the
music would begin. The Tarro City Orchestra was positioning
itself in the Place Gazebo, tuning instruments. Everyone was
in high spirits, bursts of laughter and song could be heard
throughout the crowded square.
The sun set. It was time.
Above the great palace portals, the Royal Balcony was a stage
for many public announcements, entertainments and artistic
presentations. Just offstage, to the left, the Royal, Family
waited out of sight. A herald walked onto the balcony,
presented himself to the folk of Tarro, and blew his trumpet.
"Hear ye! Emperor Aleister the Twenty-Second, Lord Highness of
Tarro and Theland and His Royal Family!" He blew his trumpet
again and those mentioned walked into sight, dressed in full
regal trappings. The people below cheered enthusiastically,
for they loved their Emperor and they loved the parties
Good Emperor Aleister waved in return, with dignity, and smiled
upon them all. Then he motioned for silence and got it.
"Thank you, People of Tarro, Folk of Theland and Friends of the
Empire: tonight we celebrate the coming of age of our own Royal
Sorceress Initiate, the very daughter of our beloved Sorceress
Luminata, and we bask in the magical beauty of Wand of the Tower
"Wand, come forth."
Wand stepped into view. She had finally gotten her hair right.
There was a collective gasp of admiration from the people below,
for she was a true beauty and the people were proud of her. Her
white dress and orange sash scintillated afire in the light of
Luminata's crystals. Directly behind her came her mother.
The two of them walked to the Emperor, where Wand kneeled and
Luminata bowed slightly (for a Sorceress is not required to kneel
"Be it known," announced the Emperor in his best voice, "that this
person is Woman, child no more, and that any man who desires her
hand may court her." He added with a flamboyant gesture, "and I
assume the competition will be ferocious!" There was laughter,
whistling and loud agreement from the folk.
"We also proclaim Wand to be in Our Royal Favor and to have rank
and privilege as benefits a member of Our Family, for she is as
a daughter to us!" The Emperor bowed towards Wand, and stepped
Empress Frieda stepped forward.
"We of the Royal Family of Theland have a gift for Wand," the
Empress declared in her clear, happy voice. A pageboy came to her
side, bearing a small velvet cushion, from upon which the Empress
took a glittering pendant. "Dear Wand, let this Talisman of Tarro
be your symbol of Our Favor."
There were cheers from the crowd, but no one was especially
surprised, for the Talisman was the traditional gift to the new
sorceress initiate. It had also been given to the young Luminata,
who returned it to the Royal Family when she became a mother,
which was also tradition. There was only one Talisman, and could
only be one, for it was made of the same shining silvery metal as
the Tower of Tarro itself. It was rarer than any other metal,
more precious than gold, an indestructible and immutable pendant
with the symbol of the Tower engraved into it, impossible to
change or duplicate. It was also very old, made with techniques
unknown to mankind.
The silver chain was put over Wand's head and the disk of the
pendant lay upon her bosom. Empress Frieda kissed Wand upon
The Emperor kissed Wand on the cheek as well, and then it was the
turn of Prince Elro to perform his formal duty.
Thus, formally, he stepped up before the young woman and looked
down upon her special beauty. For the first time he thought he
saw some emotion make her tremble ever so slightly. He smiled
and he kissed her--but somehow missed her freckled cheek and
landed that kiss full upon her surprised lips.
Ah, how the crowd cheered! If Wand was embarrassed she showed
not the slightest sign, but went on with the formalities,
kneeling once, twice, thrice before the Royal Family.
Prince Elro could not refrain from grinning. The Emperor too
appeared to be amused, but Empress Frieda was not. Nor was
Luminata, the Sorceress.
There was a subtle but powerful discharge of static electricity
and Elro straightened up, eyes wide for an instant. He gulped
and maintained his composure, so no one but those upon the balcony
knew that Luminata had zapped him. The Emperor had to look away
to keep from laughing aloud.
When Wand kneeled a fourth time toward the crowded City Place,
that was the signal for the merriment to begin. The orchestra had
been awaiting that moment and struck up a dancing tune. There was
a cheer throughout the city as men folk caught up their womenfolk
and began to dance the traditional steps of the Tarro whirl, a
merry whirl indeed.
Elro moved to Wand-- after pausing first to bow respectfully (and
nervously) to Luminata, who looked upon him with level eyes--and
he asked, "The first dance, My Lady Wand?"
Wand smiled at him, relieved that the formality was over and that
the fun was beginning. She took his proffered arm.
The Prince was a deft dancer, as was Wand, and they twirled in the
limelight, a perfect couple on the stage above the crowd, as that
crowd below did the same. Wand felt her nervousness dissolve
entirely and a great joy in the center of her being.
end of chapter 4
Remember that Mysterious Figure in Black Robe and Hood? Well, he
moved through the crowd in the City Place, avoiding dancing
couples, ignoring heavy-laden feast tables, bypassing tankards of
free ale compliments of the Emperor. He moved toward the Royal
Balcony but did not move in time to the music.
Wand looked out over the happy city full of people dancing, the
orchestra playing cheerful music, the wondrous "crown of jewels"
effect of the light crystals. At last she felt a stirring of what
could be called a "romantic moment". She analyzed it: a sense of
euphoria, delight, an acceptance of Now for Now's sake. She
As her vision glided across the rollicking City Place, Wand
noticed a rainbow-colored Gypsy wagon parked on the far side.
Then Elro spun her around.
The Prince held her hand firmly as they danced. Wand focused in
on him, aware of the love he was projecting toward her. She
looked into his eyes and saw it all there. She had to smile.
"Really! That bold kiss!" she teased.
"And if I do?"
"Then you must kiss me to prove it."
She laughed, and felt more for him than she had ever felt, beyond
friendship, rather as a woman might feel for a man. Aha, perhaps
she truly was of age tonight! Perhaps this social ceremony had a
magical power, even as the rituals of sorcery did.
Laughter. The folk below the balcony were amused by something.
The dance ended and there was only the sound of many people
laughing, louder and louder, amazed and hysterical sounds.
Elro and Wand, still holding hands, walked toward the edge of the
balcony, to see what was so funny.
But before they even got to look, the Clown came vaulting up and
over the balustrade and perched before them. The crowd gave a
So abrupt and startling was this arrival that Elro stepped ahead
of Wand and grabbed at his sword to defend her from this freak.
Two guards, stationed at each side of the balcony, rushed forward,
armed with halberds with which to axe or spear anyone who might
attack the Royal Family.
"Halt, one and all!" cried out a firm female voice. Everyone
froze in their positions, except Wand, who was somewhat immune
to the power of a sorceress' command. She turned to see
Luminata step forward, powerstaff glowing slightly.
"The Clown will do no harm," she said, "do him none."
Prince Elro was theoretically of higher authority than Luminata,
but he knew that to obey her was usually not only the best policy,
it was always the smartest. He let his sword point fall, but did
not sheath it yet.
The guards hesitated, unsure.
Emperor Aleister laughed, breaking the tension. "Got everyone
excited here over a clown. Say--how did you get up here, sir
Clown, who had been cringing back from all the potential violence
his foolish trick had aroused, answered meekly, "Crown crimb."
"Up that wall? The palace wall?" Elro demanded, looking down at
the finely-fitted stonework. "Impossible! He'd have to be a
monkey, not a man!"
"Crown rike monkey!" he agreed merrily, and then did a forward flip
in place, landing on his feet in the exact place again, still
balanced on the narrow balustrade high above the stone paving
The Empress gave a little gasp, afraid he would fall, but the
Emperor only cheered. "Bravo! An amazing feat! Can you do more?"
Clown frowned as if confused, scratched his head, "But Crown only
have these two feet!" and he lifted up one foot, then jumped over
to the other, showing them to the Emperor. Even the guards laughed
now, and so did Wand.
Why, he's cute, she thought to herself. Under that paint he might
even be handsome. His costume was ridiculous, every primary
color there was, stripes and checks and polka-dots, target on his
chest, dunce-hat loose and floppy, but it was obvious that his was
as perfect a male body as ever since God made man.
"He moves so well," Luminata was saying in Wand's ear from a
distance, "he has a very clever body, yes?"
"Yes, mother, a perfect physical specimen."
"You are intrigued?"
"Of course," Wand admitted, "I remember the vision, but--"
Elro looked down from the balcony to find out how the Clown came
up, by rope or ladder, certain no man could have climbed up the
palace wall to the Royal Balcony. He found nothing, but saw a
man who appeared to be a Gypsy calling up to him.
"You, sir, hello there! Hey, Prince! Please don't hurt the
Clown! He won't harm anyone! He's an idiot, a simpleton!
Prithee, let him go!"
"Your Clown has taken over up here," Elro called back, "come up
and fetch him!"
"I shall, I shall, thank you!" cried the Gypsy and ran for the
great door. Elro called down for two guards to "admit and
escort that man up here".
Meanwhile, at the urging of the Emperor, the Clown was walking
circles upon his fingertips, yet balanced on the balustrade
sill, as if he did not notice the three story fall to the
Elro joined Wand, who was giggling at one of the Clown's silly
tricks. "He's amazing," she told him, "absolutely fearless!"
"Well, of course, he is an idiot, after all," Elro told Wand,
with some pleasure, "that's why he has no fear of heights."
"Why do you say that?" Wand's voice was slightly cool.
Elro shrugged and told her, "His master is coming up here now to
fetch him--and he told me that the Clown is indeed a simpleton."
The Clown curtsied profusely as the Emperor and Empress laughed
and applauded his agile silliness, as well as the crowd watching
from below. A drum in the orchestra kept time with his pratfalls.
Then he sprang from the balustrade to land before Wand, and
curtsied for her alone.
Inches away from his face Wand saw that his eyes were a lustrous
ice-blue, and that he admired her with all of his being. It was
very intense. And it was frightening as well because she could
see into his soul with her magical vision, and behind that
emotion she could also see his utter simplicity.
She moved back, suddenly afraid of him. He was not a simple man,
he was something...less.
He sprang again and was upon her, kissing at her face, holding
her body, a male animal in rut. Wand reacted as a witch-woman,
shifting her weight and sending him flying over her hip.
But the Clown simply landed with an amazingly graceful roll into
a run up the wall, continuing into a backwards flip, and landing
in front of Wand again with a stupid grin under that constant
smile painted on his face.
The crowd laughed and hooted, but the Emperor frowned and the
Empress cried out, Elro pulled out his sword again, the guards
spun in circles. Luminata just watched.
"Varlet!" Elro cried out, now justified that his original
reactions were correct, "stand away from her!"
The Clown looked about him, slowly comprehending that he had
blundered once again. "But Crown wuv!" he explained innocently,
pointing at Wand, "Wuv her!"
"Wuv?" Elro paused in confusion, then understanding. "Love my
hindquarters!" he bellowed out and stepped forward to deliver a
backhand slap to this ruffian who dared insult the woman he
But like a frog the Clown was out of reach, up onto the
balustrade. And the Prince followed, also up onto the
balustrade, fearless in his anger, sword vibrating. The
Empress screamed. The crowd cheered, loving it, wonderful show.
"No, my good Prince, I pray you!" Benutio called, haing now
arrived at the balcony.
"It's too late for your Clown!" Elro snarled back, thrusting at
the poor fool with his long sharp blade.
So Luminata raised her Powerstaff and every light in the City of
Tarro died away into darkness complete, for night had fallen
since the ceremony had begun. Screams and shouts, laughter and
curses were heard, but nothing seen.
In a moment the lights returned, before any damage was done in
panic. All was as before except that the Clown, the Gypsy, and
the Sorceress Luminata were gone.
Chapter 5: THE HIGH PRIESTESS
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