this card, 10th of the Major Arcana, here signifies Luck, Chance, Destiny

Wand was nervous, of course, as would be any eighteen year old
girl being the center of attention for the entire City of
Tarro.  The celebration would begin at sunset, in one hour.

She shuffled through her note cards, ensuring that she knew what 
magic applications she would need to have ready.  The cards were 
simple symbols she had drawn referring to specific Powertext 
scripts, which were forbidden to be written out in case they fell 
into wrong hands. 

She had on her new dress of perfect white, for innocence, and a
sash of bright orange to signify that she was an Initiate to
sorcery.  Tonight she would be given a symbolic gift by the
royal family on the great balcony above the City Place, and 
that would begin the dancing and feasting.  So she toyed with 
her golden hair, to get it just right.

She knew that Prince Elro would be the first to dance with her,
that was protocol.  But she also knew that he was silly-in-love
with her and now that she had come of age he would most likely 
be the first to ask for her hand in marriage.

A sweet boy, Elro, and a good friend.  And, well, yes, she was
honored to be enamored by the heir to the throne of Emperor of
Theland.  But she knew that although she might even love Elro--
sort of--as a brother perhaps--she still wanted to bide her time
and see what other offers she might get.

She laughed at herself: a better offer than from the handsome 
and rich Emperor-to-be?  What better offer could there be?

Of course, her mother's advice was a consideration.  "Marry
not," Luminata had said, "if you shall be an effective sorceress. 
Housewifery and Power do not jell together.  Have lovers, if you
wish, but always be in control of your own life, or your magic
may be turned into tears when you most need it."

So perhaps she would have an affair with Elro, that appealed to
her slightly.  Then she sighed and wondered if she would ever
really feel the passion for a man that would cause her to lose
both head and heart as the village girls so often did.  It 
seemed not to be her way.  Like her mother, she was in control 
of her emotions so well that she was no longer in control of 
her control.

The white of her dress was an appropriate symbol, for she was a
virgin.  Not because of any morality she practiced, but out of
patience, or perhaps indifference.  She was awaiting the proper
moment, or man, she knew not which.  Her interest in the sexual
experience was intellectual, rather than sensual.  She wondered,
in fact, if she had any hormones at all.

Also, there was the magical value of virginity.  Certain forces
were very moralistic and would respond only to virgin girls of
perfect purity.  Wand was not certain if she would ever need
those forces, for they were rather specialized, but she was
reluctant to throw any advantages away.  Especially for a
momentary thrill.  Perhaps, she thought, I may stay a virgin
forever...but there was something unappealing about that.

A commotion sounded outside her balcony, up from the city streets. 
To be expected on a festival day, but the laughter drew Wand's 

From her balcony six stories up, she looked down into a crowd 
of people just off the City Place.  In the middle of that crowd 
was a Gypsy wagon painted in wild rainbow colors, atop which 
stood a lean and dynamic man waving his arms and hawking some 

"...from building to building, a death-defying leap," Benutio was
proclaiming, "will he make it?  Obviously, I believe he will and
am prepared to so wager!" 

"Show us your betting money!" cried one man from the crowd.

"Ah, money have I none, but Collateral have I: regard my fine
Chariot."  Benutio indicated the wagon beneath his feet, just
washed and touched-up and looking quite pretty.  "Worth easily
two thousand majors," he informed his audience.

People looked at the wagon, and no one could argue that it was
otherwise than as the Gypsy had said.  "Does the horse come with
it?" asked one interested spectator.  "Not Arcano, he's part of
my family," Benutio said.  The wagon was old but well-kept, like
the buildings in Tarro, and people appreciated that.  The 
spoked wheels were true and taut, the springs were firm, the wood 
healthy.  It could sleep five people.  Many were interested.

There was a cry: "There he is!"  And the Clown came into view
upon the roof of a building at the corner of the Place square,
four stories above the cobblestone streets.  He waved to

And from two stories higher up, Wand had a good view of the scene, 
and she saw the Clown for the first time.  Her eyes went wide in 
recognition.  "It's him!  It's the Clown from my vision four years 

And there he was, about to make a mad leap across an impossible
distance to a probable death.  Wand froze as she watched the
drama below.

"This is the wager," Benutio announced, "that the Clown will
leap from this rooftop, and somehow make it alive and unharmed
to that rooftop across the street.  If he makes it, we win.  If
he doesn't make it, or doesn't jump, you win."

"Impossible!" cried one and another.  "Why, it's 45 feet 
between!"  "He'll just splatter on the street!"  "Hey, that 
might be a bloody good show, after all."  "Yea, and we can't 
lose!"  "Aye!  Let the idiot jump!  Take the wager!"

"Who will take my wager?  He will not jump without a wager.  You
must put up two thousand majors against my wagon.  Who wants to
make the bet?"

"We!"  "And we!" Many voices called out.  There was a woman
selected to hold the money and the negotiations were completed.

Benutio waved up to the Clown at last, who leaped up and down on
the edge of the roof, almost falling off a couple of times, so
excited he was at being allowed to do his trick.  Some men laughed, 
but there was a sickness to it.  Only one woman protested, "Hey,
he's going to get killed, maybe we should stop this," but she 
was silenced immediately.  The crowd was ready.

The roof was steeply pitched red tiles which offered little in
the way of traction or security.  Clown crawled up to the
peak to get ready for his run.

From above, only Wand could see what was happening upon the roof
to which the Clown was leaping, but even so she assumed the Clown 
was doomed if he went through with it.

"Now!" Benutio cried out.

Clown never hesitated, as if he had no concept of what could 
happen to him if he failed.  He ran down the pitched tile roof 
as fast as he could and leaped off the very gutter edge in a
magnificent dive that carried him in an arc as far as half the
distance he needed, before his fall began.

There were cries below and above.  There was also a clear spot
for him on the street below, no one stood under him, all had
made certain of that.

And fall he would have, had not Agra, with perfectly rehearsed
timing and skill, tossed Clown a rope from the other roof even 
as he made his leap.  Rope and Clown met midway between the
rooftops, and Agra braced himself for the weight.

The result being that Clown swung to the opposite building
instead of falling, landing lithely against the wall, and deftly
scampered up the roof to the targeted rooftop.  From there he
waved and curtsied and grinned like the fool he was.

The crowd was astir.  Some called, "Cheat!"  Others called
"Bravo!"  "A magnificent feat!"  Many were relieved not to have
witnessed a death, some were disappointed.

When challenged, Benutio reminded them of the exact wording of
the wager, and collected.

Wand watched all this with great wonder.  She felt her heart
pounding inside her, stirred both by the proximity of death and
prophecy.  She tried to fathom the Clown from her lofty
perspective, but he was too far away to see his eyes.  Besides,
he was acting like a clown, doing funny things.

"What is he really like?" she wondered, unable to see if he was
young or perhaps handsome under that paint.  It was clear that 
he was brave and skillful, agile, strong, and talented.  "But 
is he my intellectual equal?" she asked herself.

She had just watched him perform a very clever stunt, she had no
way of knowing that he was not a clever man.  In fact, she could
not decide if the feat was clever or foolhardy, but only that it
had intrigued her.

At any rate, she must get herself to the Royal Balcony where the
ceremony would take place in mere moments.  In the mirror she 
checked her hair a last time, her teeth for any surprises, made 
sure her rings sparkled, and was ready.  She would find out more 
about the Clown later.

end of chapter 3

Chapter 4: THE FOOL <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>