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GOLDEN TAROT: Eight of Cups

The Magpie

The ruined building had stood at the corner forever; melancholy with the architecture of a bygone era. The roof remained, though the walls had long ago crumbled into piles of rubble, like a pie crumbles when sliced with a dull knife. It looked like a big gaping mouth.

Byron walked past it every day. He felt a strange connection to the ruins and often speculated what they had housed and who had built them. One particular mystery were the faded posters pinned to the fence which flapped in the wind; they also littered the rubble. A picture of a young girl named Maggie took up most of the paper; ‘missing’ printed on top, ‘reward’ at the bottom. She’d disappeared in 1974, and Byron wondered about her. 

One cloudy day, as Byron walked past the sun peeked through the pesky clouds that set the icy breeze on the world, and shone on the ruins.

A glint in the rubble caught Byron’s eye. A tiny shimmer of something glimmered in the subdued sunlight just before the yawning entrance into the belly of the building.

“Kids,” he muttered, supposing some had dropped a shiny toy while playing.

He walked two paces, then stopped and glanced back; the shiny object winked at him.

I must be part magpie; he realized he could not walk away without knowing what shone in the rubble. A memory floated up his spine, but Byron suppressed it. It involved a Hot Wheels, a glaring policeman blocking a toy store’s exit, and a can of whoop-ass his mom had opened at home. 

Byron realized not that he licked his lips and wrung his hands as the thing twinkled again. A quick glance; no one watched. Byron climbed the fence with the agility of a monkey. He trudged and traipsed through the stone crumbs toward the sparkle. 

A haze had fallen on the street and the air smelled like rain.

“Curiosity killed the cat,” he grumbled as he almost turned his ankle on a precarious rock.

“But satisfaction brought it back,” he said when he reached the dark mouth of the ruins.

He scanned the ground for the gleam; his heart skipped when he saw it.

“Ha!” He exclaimed and picked it up.

He turned it in his hand and held it up to the glimmering light. It was an old coin; its engraving defaced by time and earth. Byron shrugged, and with a tiny ember of dismay, turned to go, when his eye caught another flicker further inwards. Beyond it, something else winked at him, and something else beyond that. 

Byron grinned, unaware he did so, and a greedy sparkle shone in his eye. The memory of him shoplifting returned, and with it a feeling, a wish he’d buried that day, awoke. The Magpie stirred deep inside his body and compelled him to move, kneel and collect all the tiny shiny things scattered among the rubble.

It absorbed him, and before he knew it, he’d entered the deep guts of the building, never wondering how it could continue for so long and so deep.

As he picked up the last of the defaced shimmering coins, he glanced up. Darkness surrounded him, cavernous and tomb-like. The dense and musty air stifled him, and Byron’s first thought was I need to leave now. Yet, how? His eyes could not pierce the pitch dark.

A cold, ominous draft blew from within, and the surrounding walls rumbled with a deep groan. A terrifying thought snaked through his mind. The beast is awake.

***

Torn and yellowed posters pleading for the whereabouts of Byron Elster clung to the rusty fence as Rob’s eyes flickered with yearning for the winking trinket by the derelict building.

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THE GODDESS TAROT: XIV Balance —Yemana

Wishing for Solitude

Dear Stella,

I have followed your advice column for years, but never had cause to contact you until now.

My family has owned Wraith Manor for two centuries, and, in it, I have enjoyed a most quiet existence.

I love the cold, drafty rooms and ancient halls. I spend my happiest moments in the solitude of home. At night, the stars peek through the old casement windows and the soft breeze blows through the dark hallways, dripping with the musk of my mother’s roses.

I am free to roam my domain at will; yet, now and then, infestation appears, like the biblical locusts.

In the past, I have removed these plagues with little effort, but now, try as I might, I cannot get rid of them. My tried-and-true tactics—footsteps, moving objects, torpedoes, wails, moans and slamming doors—no longer work. 

Worse even, the new vermin have taken my family portraits off the walls and installed pesky fireflies that light up with the flick of a switch.

I love fireflies as much as the next, but these little bugs, instead of blinking soothing green, light up in garish hues of white and yellow that glare and crackle.

Gone now is the moonlight wafting through the windows. Gone now is the sleepy silence of the hall, kitchen, ballroom and bedrooms. Instead, there is a constant chatter of voices by day, and a relentless buzzing by night. 

I have done my best to spook these pests away, but to no avail. I even reached out to my cousin at Canterville Chase, but he could not offer much help.

What can I do?

Spectrally yours,

Wishing for Solitude in Eternity

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GOLDEN TAROT OF THE RENAISSANCE: VIII Justice

The Ancient Cemetery

The forest had swallowed the ancient cemetery until all that remained was the stone angel projecting from the undergrowth. The name on the tomb had vanished and moss and dead leaves covered the statue’s feet. Lichen clung to its wings. Twining plants wound and twirled around the statue’s legs, and Spanish moss hung from its outstretched arms. The right hand clutched a sword ready to strike. The left hand held an uneven balance scale with empty pans, their weights lost in the sands of time. A thin mist always hovered as a ghostly reminder of the long-forgotten names interred there. 

Miranda and Maureen had visited this place since their youth; the twin sisters had loved to meander around the mounds of earth, moss and protruding partial headstones. They’d loved to gaze at the stone angel with facial features smoothed out by time and the encroaching forest. Tall trees surrounded the burial grove and a break in the topmost branches allowed a tiny ray of sun to shine its feeble light on the statue. For decades, every Saturday, the sisters had taken the narrow and nigh invisible path to the ancient graves. Then had sat on a rock before the stone angel to enjoy a picnic of sandwiches, chips and soda. 

Birds trilled in the trees as Miranda traipsed through the path, broken and uneven by the thick roots of the tall oaks that lined it. Once Miranda approached the grove, all sound ceased and the perennial thin mist hung low about the ground. Here she found the solace and comfort she needed from the oppressive burden of loss. She missed her twin sister’s following footsteps and sometimes felt the warmth of her body beside her. But when she turned her head, Miranda saw only the rainbow caused by the feeble sunlight through the spectral mist. 

Miranda sat on the rock and wept. Maureen would never visit this place again; those happy picnics gone forever, ripped from her by a careless teenager from the prestigious boarding school on the outskirts of town and his fancy fast car. Miranda took out a black-and-white picture of the sisters in their younger days with their beehive hairstyle, strapless gowns and coy smiles. In their prom picture Miranda and Maureen were as young as the boy with the flying red car who had plunged Miranda into a life of one. 

“The sign flashed ‘walk’ and he didn’t stop! Oh, Maureen!” Miranda cried, and her voice broke the eerie silence. Her blood boiled as she recalled the police dropping the charges the moment the boy’s father had opened his checkbook. An unfortunate accident, they’d ruled. 

Now, the ritual comprised tears over a fresh grave in a proper cemetery, then a melancholy picnic before the stone angel. The boy zoomed past her as Miranda left the graveyard. She walked through the town center on her way to the forest; the bright red car parked on the street. The boy and his friends sat at a cafe’s outdoor patio, laughing and joking, not for one moment heeding the sad old woman with the quivering lips. Miranda hung her head and, with leaden steps, trudged to the ancient burial ground and its funereal serenity. 

On the rock, Miranda put her face in her hands and sobbed, her wails shaking the tree leaves, yet muffled by the mist. 

“Justice! What justice is that?” She lamented. 

“Miranda,” a voice whispered and Miranda glanced up. 

The trees rattled and a figure emerged from the statue. First the feet surfaced, then the tunic and the arms with the scale and sword. The face took on radiant and benevolent features and at last, the pearly glimmering wings materialized. 

The angel stood before Miranda and smiled. He showed her the balance scale. On the heavy plate, she saw an image of her sister’s grave, while on the lighter plate the image of the rich boy appeared. He was at the café as she’d seen him moments before, still laughing and joking. 

The angel swung the sword and Miranda smelled the metal as it swooped by her. The plate with her sister’s grave rose while the other lowered. The scale clicked into place. 

Miranda watched the principal expel the boy from school. The scale tipped and the once-generous over-protective father threw the boy from his house. Again the scale clicked into place and the boy, with blood-shot eyes and tattered clothing, stood on a street corner and leaned into the window of a black car. 

With each tip of the scale, the boy became a man. By the seventh click he was homeless and freezing in the driving snow of an unnamed street; the scales almost balanced. 

Miranda watched with bated breath as the scale tipped one last time. The homeless man stood on a street corner. The ‘walk’ sign flashed; he stepped off the curb. A bright red streak hit him. The speeding car did not stop for the vagrant dying on the street. 

The plates leveled on the angel’s balance scale and Miranda’s eyes filled with tears. 

“Thank you,” she whispered and wiped her eyes with her fingers. 

The angel vanished and the sun shone its single beam on the nameless grave with the stone statue. Wind gusted through the trees and lifted the oppressive sorrow from Miranda’s heart.

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TAROT DRACONIS: V The Hierophant

Cat-O’-Nine-Tails

The abbess knocked on the door. The sounds of a flogging whip shook the darkened corridor; she received no reply. Starlight shone through the arched Gothic windows that lined the passage. 

She knocked again. 

Should she enter? The young novice needed the last rites. 

The abbess knocked a third time and gave the door a slight push. It creaked open. 

The bishop stood with his bare back to the door, and in the dim candlelight the abbess saw streaks of gooey blood marring the skin. 

A whip cracked and a wound opened. 

What great sin could he be repenting? 

Another crack and the pieces fell into place. As blood poured down the wounded back, images flowed through the abbess’s mind. With each lash, she recalled every visit the bishop had made to her abbey and the events thereafter. 

The young novice; the stillborn.

Sister Elizabeth; the drowning.  

Her eyes widened and the dreaded thought flashed like lightning: not coincidences but consequences. 

“You!” The abbess exclaimed; the bishop whirled around and glared.

She stood in the doorway, old, wrinkled and yet so innocent, but her wide eyes betrayed her horrible realization. The cat was out of the bag, his secret sins exposed. 

He advanced towards her with such violence that she turned and ran; her frail steps booming with the guilt of his crimes. He followed down the narrow window-lined corridor, starlight and shadow alternating with each step. He caught her just as she reached the winding stone stairs. 

They struggled; she scratched him. He tried to pull her back to his chamber, but she fought hard. To control those flailing arms, he pushed her. Her slight frame lifted off the floor, and, in an instant, she flew out the window. 

The bishop glanced at the broken abbess pierced by the thorny briar and surrounded by shattered glass sparkling in the starlight. He returned to his chamber. A cat wailed in the night. Hurried footsteps. 

***

Lillian gazed up from the book Derek had placed before her; eyes filled with fear and wonder. It had been blank, then little by little, the horrible scene had appeared within its pages, each moment ripped out of Lillian’s mind like tangled hooks.

Derek took the book from her and wrapped it in its towel. 

“Does this book show you your nightmares?” Lillian stammered. 

“I don’t know,” Derek mumbled, “does it?”

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OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Ten of Cups

Under a Crimson Moon

The fire crackled and sparked in the stone fireplace and lit up the dim room; the ornate grandfather clock ticked. Claire stood by the casement window as the sun glittered over the valley beyond the grounds. The castle lay atop a hillock and the gleam of the setting sun gave the shimmering landscape an air of magnificence. Xavier read his book. 

As the sun dipped into the jagged horizon and cast one last ray of light, Claire distinguished the three crosses silhouetted in the distance, their long shadows like ghostly fingers reaching for the castle.

The clock chimes mingled with the seven peals of the church towers beyond the gates. 

“Xavier, do you know the story behind those three crosses?”

Xavier, taciturn, rather than ask which crosses she meant, closed his book and joined her at the window. 

“Hmm,” he grumbled, “I don’t remember, but I believe they were three merciless bandits.”

“Strange someone would bury them and mark their graves,” Claire commented; Xavier shrugged. 

She glanced at her husband, his handsome features eerie in the dim firelight. Claire didn’t resent their move to this place. It wasn’t Xavier’s fault he’d inherited it from an estranged uncle. She would have preferred her modest old house, in her old village, yet they must take the golden opportunity. 

The castle needed much repair and Xavier had inherited the property and everything in it, but not the means to restore it. Now, they lived with parts of the majestic home closed. They meant to inhabit the castle, repair it little by little and turn it into a fancy hotel. Yet their savings were all but gone and the project not advanced enough to generate an income. 

Claire pulled up a chair by the casement. Darkness cast itself over the land and Xavier retired for the night. The full moon rose crimson and cast copper beams over the landscape. The stars poked through the inky black one by one. 

Charlemagne, their German shepherd, sat at Claire’s her feet. Claire’s eyelids drooped and her head nodded forward, then jerked back. She resolved to go to bed and cast one last glance at the glistening valley; the fire glowed dim. 

Charlemagne rose and gazed out the window, his ears perked and alert, listening. Claire followed his gaze. Under the rusty moonlight, three hooded figures rose from the three graves. Claire could not distinguish their features in the dusky night, but felt no fear, as if the figures meant no harm. Gliding, they approached the castle and faint moonbeams caught the crucifixes twinkling on their chests. 

“Monks, not bandits,” Claire murmured. Charlemagne gave a low whimper. 

The figures entered the grounds and stopped by the large weeping willow whose leaves drooped over the murky moat. The figures glanced around, then disappeared under the dangling boughs. 

Hoofbeats trampled the moonlit silence; the monks emerged from beneath the willow. Horsemen appeared and stormed the castle. Claire, with a hand over her mouth, let out a muffled shriek. The monks stood stoic as the horsemen slew them. 

Charlemagne growled; a cloud covered the blood-red moon and plunged the valley into darkness. The wind swept the dusky clouds away and the moon, now white, shone upon the land. All figures had vanished, though a silver moonbeam shone on the weeping willow. 

Claire grabbed a light and leashed Charlemagne. Xavier watched from the bedroom as the moonlit figures of his wife and dog crossed the grounds and approached the willow. They passed through the gnarled limbs. 

Charlemagne sniffed around the massive trunk; Claire followed his movements with her light. The German shepherd, resting his front paws on the trunk, stood on his hind legs and barked. Claire shone the light upwards, and in its soft glow, saw a tree hollow several branches overhead. 

Charlemagne yipped and wagged his tail as Claire climbed the willow. When she reached the tree hole, she dipped her arm in, wary of waking its tenant. An owl hooted as Claire’s fingers touched smooth metal. 

“Did the monks hide something?” Xavier called from the ground. 

“You saw them too?” Claire answered. 

She sat precariously on the branch, and hesitating, stuck her other arm in the hole. She pulled something from the tree hollow.

“Catch!” 

She dropped a box into Xavier’s extended arms. Surprised by the weight of the box and the cold metal, he dropped it. It clanged onto the tree root and flew open. Claire clambered down from the tree. 

“What is it?” Claire asked when she noticed Xavier’s gawking expression. 

Scattered over the twisted tree roots, sparkles of ruby, emerald, sapphire, gold, and silver glimmered in the thin rays of moonlight that passed through the heavy leaves. 

“It’s our financial salvation,” Xavier exclaimed.