chapter 5: THE HIGH PRIESTESS

this card, 2nd of the Major Arcana, here signifies Wisdom, the Spriritual Virgin

That Mysterious Figure in Black had approached the balcony to 
watch the burlesque of the Clown, had seen the magic of the
Sorceress, and had studied the beauty of the Initiate.  Imagine
an eldritch light glowing in each shadowed eye as he stares 
at Wand. Imagine also some heavy breathing, sort of 
dirty-old-man like.

The disappearance of the Sorceress was annoying: he would have 
to wait to see what she was up to.  But for the moment 
he was content to study the girl, Wand.  She seemed perfect. 
Beautiful.  Sensuous.  Of age.  A virgin.  With training and
talent in sorcery.  Much potential.


Up on the balcony Elro asked Wand, "Where did they go?" Wand shrugged. "I don't know. Mother took them somewhere. It's all right." Elro turned around, sword drooping, perhaps relieved not having had to use it. ""Well," he said, "I suppose Luminata can take care of herself if anyone can." "Quite so," Emperor Aleister agreed and then called over to the gazebo, "Maestro! Strike up the band! Let us continue with music and merriment!" The Tarro City orchestra returned to life. The mystery of the vanished Clown was forgotten to the tune of a new dance, and the couples on the Place spun once again into gayly cavorting. "Will you dance with me again, Elro?" Wand asked him. He too forgot the Clown then, smiling and slamming his sword into its sheath with an unintentionally symbolic flourish. "Indeed, let's, My Lady!"
The Mysterious Figure made a magical sign with his right hand. The people nearest him wandered away until there was a circular space about him. He pulled several small skin bags from his cloak, from which he sprinkled a circle of red powder around his feet, in the center of which he drew a cross in blue, over which he stood. Around that he laid a black pentagram. No one noticed him doing these things because that was one of the effects of the spell.
As they danced, Elro spoke with Wand. "Let's run away." He said it as if he was joking, but his eyes were serious. "Oh? To where?" she replied. "I don't care. Westerland." "Well, I cannot." "And why not?" "I must work magic tonight" Wand was to perform for the city, a demonstration of her skills as a Sorceress Initiate. It was a tradition. "Why Westerland?" she asked anyway, as they twirled. "I have friends there." "Across the mountains...it could be interesting." "Tomorrow then! We'll ride off into the dawn, incognito, no one will know who we are or where we are or what we're doing." "And what, prithee tell, would you have us be doing?" "Adventuring! Experiencing! Romancing." His nostrils flared and he leered in a very cute way. Wand gave him a big smile. "Silly boy." Elro pretended indignation. "I? My Dear Lady, you are speaking to and of the future Emperor of Theland: how could I possibly be silly?"
Somewhere else, Benutio held Clown's hand in the darkness. Feminine but firm fingers held his other hand and led him swiftly, as if the way were seen. They walked briskly, making turns, passing through doorways that opened and closed for them in the blackness. "This will do," came Luminata's voice, and a circular room became bright around them. Clown looked around confusedly. "Where we?" Then in dismay. "Where She?" "Wand is not here," Luminata told him, "I am her mother. We shall speak." Benutio took the lead. "Good, for indeed it is to speak with the very Sorceress of the Tower of Tarro that we have journeyed here from quite far away." "From Yonders, via Finemark and Westerland." "Ah, you are deserving of your reputation as inspired Sorceress, madam, as well as for your reputation of inspiring beauty." He did his famous gypsy smile and bowed elegantly. "Permit me to introduce myself as Benutio, guardian of this poor fool, this Clown." He grimaced. "I am afraid that tonight he put himself into more trouble than usual. When he saw your daughter from below there was no containing him. He escaped me and--well, I thank you for rescuing him from the angry Prince." "He saw my daughter when you pointed her out to him. And he came up on the balcony as you instructed him to. I intervened because the Clown is of interest to me." "Lucky Clown." Benutio was openly admiring Luminata's face. She looked him back directly in the eyes, quite unabashed and unaffected. "My daughter saw this Clown in a vision five years ago. Tell me about him," she demanded. "Ah? This is all a very great coincidence, My Lady..." "I am not Your Lady." "..ah, no--not yet--the coincidence being that I have been squeezing my brain to find a way to meet and speak with you about this Clown. You are not easily accessible to the masses in this shining silver tower of yours. And yet, here we are." "As you have so engineered, Gypsy." Benutio shrugged modestly. "I was working on it, but Clown acted on his own when he saw your daughter, Wand. Sometimes he..." "Want Wandle," Clown interrupted, "Crown go find now." He tried to leave, but Benutio still held his hand. "...sometimes he acts impulsively." "What do you wish of Wand, clown?" Luminata asked. Clown looked at her stupidly, as if not understanding the question. Then blinked and looked a little sad. "Wish she here." "Why?" "Ruv her," Clown said, shyly, looking down. "Why?" "Dunno. Wandle...pletty." "His emotions are as simple as his mind," Benutio confided. "How simple?" the Sorceress asked. "Like a three year old in some ways, like an animal in other ways, very poor memory." "And yet his acrobatic routines are very sophisticated." "Yes, in that way he learns quite adeptly. We have trained him to do certain tricks." "Like leaping from rooftops?" "A routine I developed as a boy myself. Family tradition." "But he is not of your family." It was not a question. "No. I took him in when his father died in a rather stupid circus accident. Like father, like son." Luminata wrinkled her brow. "But his simplicity is not genetic." "No. He is afflicted by a curse." "Yes, I smell it." "Ah, do you have experience with curses?" "I have dealt with some before." "And it is that which we have come to see you about." "Describe the curse." "This Clown's ancestor offended the sorcerer Otius," Benutio announced," seven generations back." Luminata's eyes narrowed. Benutio went on; satisfied that she was familiar with that name. "The curse is that every son of that line shall be born an idiot." "When was the curse cast?" "A hundred and eighty years ago. Otius is quite old now, but his curse is still working." "He is Old, but even more powerful now than then, I hear." "Yes, that's true," Benutio agreed, "I have seen him: he walks as if he were younger than I, although his skin is old and wrinkled like a prune. He dominates at Castle Darkstone in Farland even to this day." "I know about Otius of Darkstone and his 'youth'. He is a vampire of the Life-Force, having acquired the evil power of sucking the vitality out of others. Yes, one of his curses might well endure seven generations." Luminata observed the Clown tugging to free himself from Benutio's grip. "And why do you wish to see me about this?" "You are a powerful sorceress. Perhaps you could..." "It is not my curse to remove. You must speak to Otius himself." "Ah, well, that would be fatal. No one leaves Castle Darkstone alive." "Indeed, I have heard this." "It is true." Benutio looked away from Luminata's eyes, as if his own would reveal too much. "But I can do nothing," she told him. "Nothing, my lady?" He looked her in the eyes again, challenging her. As if he knew something she was not telling. She met his challenge. "You know something of sorcery?" "I am a Gypsy," he said, with a shrug and smiled again. She nodded. "I could attempt to remove the curse. But by so doing I would be as great a fool as your Clown. "I would thus incur a Debt of Magic to Otius. Also, should I Fail at this; I too would share the Clown's affliction. There would be great danger to me, to my daughter, and to the City of Tarro. Tell me why I should attract the antagonism of the Old and Evil One for this Clown?" She looked at the Clown and remembered Wand's vision of five years before. "Even though I might wish I could." Benutio said, "I have no answer to the question of why it should be you--in fact, I've been wondering that myself. But I was told to come here and present Clown to you." "Told by whom?" Benutio hesitated, as if unwilling or embarrassed to reveal his source. Then shrugged and looked Luminata square in the eye and admitted, "By several people, again and again. But I didn't believe any of them until..." Luminata waited, not saying a word. "...until I was also told by the ghost of my wife, in a dream." Luminata showed neither sign of sympathy nor disbelief, "I see." Benutio gave a sigh and another shrug. "Then that is that. Ah well, at least I did succeed in reaching you. I really did not know what to expect after that." He managed a smile. "I am sorry it was in vain," Luminata said to both of them, "I do sympathize." "Now we go find Wandle?" Clown asked. He had not really understood their conversation, nor did he care about whatever it was. He didn't really mind being stupid. "You mean Wand," Benutio corrected. "Yah, Wandle! Wandle!" Clown insisted. Benutio shook his head. "You've already caused enough trouble for tonight. No more Wand." Clown began to cry. Benutio rolled his eyes for Luminata. "I'd better get him back to the wagon now. He's going to be hard to handle tonight. Perhaps you could lead us from here to the streets?" "Yes, of course." Benutio looked her in the eyes again. "Thank you for saving him from the guards, at least. I understand your situation and have no hard feelings..." his Gypsy smile took over again, "...in fact, I can only feel wondrously alive in the presence of such an attractive and desirable woman...My Lady." "You dare to flirt with the Sorceress of Tarro, Gypsy?" "Absolutely. She's my kind of girl: mature, intelligent, and soul-inspiringly beautiful." "Sorceresses tend to dominate men," she warned. "Gypsy men are indomitable," he warned, "join me later tonight, and I'll show you." Luminata smiled for the first time. "Perhaps," she said.
end of chapter 5

Chapter 6: THE MAGUS <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>