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TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: 4 of Chalices

Elysium

 The battle raged, thunderous with destruction, despair and human cries of violence. Lucius, shield in one hand and gladius in the other, cut men down one by one. The sweat and muck in his eyes made it difficult to see, and he hoped he slayed only the enemy. Rain fell hard, and each drop stung his face; it cooled his body though it pinged off his armor. 

Lucius found himself alone, ensnared in the sudden hush of the surrounding dead. In this temporary calm, he wiped the grime, sweat and rain from his eyes, looking this way and that. Had the battle ended? A strange silence had befallen the field and Lucius thought he might be dead and on the threshold of Elysium. 

Lightning flashed and struck the ground nearby; the vibration snaking up his legs. Lucius blinked, and, astonished, glimpsed a young woman in a strange yellow cape standing in the middle of the battlefield. She had appeared in the flash and now glanced around, confused. 

For a moment, Lucius thought she might be a witch and raised his sword to slay her, but his dark eyes met hers and Lucius froze. A shock of short black hair framed her thin and dainty face, white as marble. Long dark eyelashes outlined big blue eyes which shone with fear and wonder. Eyes fixed on him, she extended a gloved hand, reaching for him. 

Thunder clapped and the clamor of war broke the eerie enchantment. Out of the corner of his eye, Lucius caught the menacing figure of an enemy, turned and stabbed him dead. The young woman remained, confused and frozen to the spot. A sword rose behind her, ready to strike. Lucius rushed to her side; he pushed her to the ground and killed the enemy. She screamed, covered her head with her arms and rolled herself into a bright yellow ball. Lucius kept fighting, aware of the delicate figure at his feet, careful not to trample her. 

Another lull. Lucius pulled her up by her elbow. He placed his shielded arm around her and ran with her into the nearby forest away from the onslaught; her body warm under his protective embrace. 

Lucius pushed her against a tree and told her to stay there. She freed herself from his grasp, hopped up and grabbed the nearest branch. He watched amazed at her nimble movements as she climbed the tree. She stopped on a fat branch and huddled against the trunk. Those big blue eyes shone at him through the wet leaves. Thunder and lightning flashed, and Lucius prayed for Jupiter to spare the tree from Vulcan’s bolt. Their eyes met one more time, and he returned to the fray. 

The battle soon died and the young woman clambered down from the tree. She walked among the dead, looking for her savior. She found him caked in blood and mud. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she wiped the blood from his closed eyes. He groaned. Her soft giggle of relief sounded like heavenly music in his ears. He opened his eyes and smiled into those bright blue irises gazing down at him. 

“Lucius,” he whispered and pointed to himself. 

The young woman took his hand in hers and raised it to her lips. 

“Miriam.”

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THE GODDESS TAROT: XVIII The Moon

Arcane

Derek stood before the bookcase and sighed. He scanned the spines searching for the book stated in his handwritten note. It didn’t help that the borrower had only provided the title of the book. He’d checked the catalog and the only reference was “occult”, which had turned out to be an extensive section in the library basement. He was on his third bookcase. 

Aha! Derek checked his note again and retrieved a dusty book with strange symbols on the cover and titled “Necromancy, Wizardry and Dark Magic” in big bold letters. He sneered as he perused the pages; pure balderdash and poppycock. 

He heard a strange rumble far away and wondered whether a storm was coming. Derek shrugged and tucked the book under his arm. He turned to leave when the ground shook and flung him into the bookcase. The lights flickered, and the books rattled in their shelves; a few tumbled onto the floor. When the tremor ended, Derek rubbed his shoulder and sighed. He set the requested book aside and bent down to pick up the fallen books and reshelve them. 

One lay open, and, as Derek reached for it, a cold draft blew through the aisle and flipped the pages. Derek squinted as he tried to read the writing. He didn’t understand the language, nor the alphabet. Something crept up his spine and tickled the back of his mind. 

He sat cross-legged on the floor, and without touching the book, stared at the pages. He sensed he could almost read the writing, as if he’d once known it but had forgotten long ago. The pages then turned to an illustration. 

A baby in swaddling clothes left behind at a doorstep. Derek examined the picture and wondered why it brought feelings of déjà vu. A memory flashed; he sat in the kitchen with his mother, snacking on milk and cookies. 

“You found me on the doorstep,” he’d said, matter-of-fact. 

“Of course not,” his mother had smiled, “you were born in the hospital. I know, I was there.”

The memory ended and his mind focused on the picture. Though he couldn’t see it, he knew the doorstep belonged to an earthen home with people around a warming fire. 

The picture moved, and Derek, frightened yet curious, wondered whether his mind was tricking him. The door creaked open; an old woman peeked out. She saw the baby, picked it up, gazed left and right, and cradling it, took it inside the hut. Derek’s heart thumped, as long-forgotten dreams flared and burst into puffs of haze in his mind. Could he be the baby?

“Derek! Are you down there?”

The boss’s voice plunged into the basement and broke the spell. Only the strange writing remained on the page. 

“Coming!” He yelled. 

Derek closed the book; the cover was old, leather-bound, weather-beaten and title-less. He put it back on the shelf, at the very end where no one would notice it. He grabbed the book on magical crapola and walked toward the stairs, reluctant to climb them. 

The library closed and Derek, the last to leave, snuck down to the occult section, retrieved the book, hid it under his jacket and took it home. 

Moonlight shone as he pulled into the driveway, its eerie silvery light an omen, which Derek felt with every cell in his body.

“Once in a blue moon, Derek,” Grandpa’s forgotten voice whispered in his memory, “a book comes along that changes your life.”