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
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.
end of chapter 5
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
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
"This will do," came Luminata's voice, and a circular room
became bright around them.
Clown looked around confusedly. "Where we?" Then in dismay.
"Wand is not here," Luminata told him, "I am her mother. We
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
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."
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
"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
"Ruv her," Clown said, shyly, looking down.
"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
"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
"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
"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.
Chapter 6: THE MAGUS
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