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 
about that.

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 
he threw.

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 
of Tarro.

"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 
to anyone).

"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 cheek.

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.

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 liked it. 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. "Forgive me?" "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 hearty cheer. 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?" 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 below. "See?" 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 pavement below. 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 himself loved. 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.
end of chapter 4

Chapter 5: THE HIGH PRIESTESS <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>