Inastra’s Wheel

21 December, 2007 at 3:16 am (tarot, tarot stories, universal fantasy) (, , , , , , , , , )

UF 2 of Wands‘Have you found it yet? I thought you knew these maps inside out.’ The scholar sighed. ‘It’s not as easy as all that, you know. You didn’t bring me many clues. A fortress of temptations, a forest where the phoenix roosts, a mysterious ancient artefact… You know how many of these there are in these parts? Lots. And these maps aren’t exactly new. Or accurate. So there. Why don’t you go for a gallop to let off some steam and let me concentrate? Bring some herbs for the soup too while you’re at it.’

UF 9 of CupsGilloe sighed and left the scholar’s dusty room. He hated being a horse. He just wanted to find the damned portal and go home. He hated being stuck in the ridiculous little world, he hated Inastra’s riddles and, most of all, he hated being a horse. He should never have agreed to that bet, what was he thinking? At least he had found the Cup. He smiled as he remembered the funny tavern keeper back at the Nine Chalices. He was lucky to recognise the tavern keeper’s prize cup for what it was, his ticket home, complete with instructions on how to get to the gate. A souvenir from a great foreign Lady, he’d said. Ha! Lady indeed… He really hoped the scholar would make some sense of the riddle his ‘lady’ had left for him.

UF Knight of CupsHe gathered some edible looking plants and made his way back. Thankfully the man had found a probable looking location that wasn’t too far away. He thanked him, shared his soup and set off. The first obstacle was a mountain, as they often are. He galloped and galloped, moving ever upwards, with the cup always in his hand. For the first time, he started enjoying this little adventure. There was something about the way the air whispered in his ear, the way the ground gave way to his strong hooves. A sense of freedom he hadn’t felt for a long long time… His mind drifted as the miles fled behind him. It was dark and then light and he still kept going. It was getting dark again as he reached the fortress.

UF 7 of CupsHe knew this had to be the one. It was just like her to put such a thing in his way. He heard laughter and music coming from inside. He could smell food cooking and drink, and impossibly, the delicate fragrance of female flesh. Oh yes, this was the place. Here he would find the Key. Now which door… He didn’t really fancy any of the snake ones, or the one with the crown. The ones with naked women on them were probably hiding the nastiest surprises. Oh yes, the flower one. Too obvious? He hoped not. He hoped he had guessed the theme right and she was feeling romantic. He entered.

It was morning when he finally stumbled out of the tower. He hadn’t thought it would be so hard. The fortress had been… interesting. Every room enticing, every corner hiding something deliciously seductive. It was a miracle he managed to remember he was looking for the key at all! And when he came upon it, he almost missed it, hiding in that woman’s hair like that. He congratulated himself for having been so resourceful. Flattery gets them every time. ‘Oh darling, you have such beautiful hair, why keep it restricted with that pin like that…’ Disentangling himself from her company had been more challenging. If he didn’t have the suspicion she was watching, he might have stayed a bit longer. But now off to the forest to find one of those blasted birds and learn the Word.

UF Page of SwordsAs he came deeper and deeper into the forest all his tiredness started to slip away. The sounds of the trees and the little creatures gave him comfort. But he couldn’t find any birds. Not that he knew what a phoenix would look like. But for now that didn’t matter as there were no birds around. He started getting really annoyed, then anxious. And then he saw the hunter. A bird was hanging from his shield, looking rather dead. ‘Hello mate. Can I ask you something? That bird… it wouldn’t happen to be a phoenix, would it?’ The hunter didn’t look very friendly. ‘Yes it is.’ Great. He spent hours looking for one and this guy had gone and killed it! ‘What do you want a phoenix for?’ He felt a bit silly, but decided to answer anyway. ‘Well, I was hoping to ask something…’ He fidgeted with the cup, not really wanting to get into details. ‘Right. Ask something. Try your luck with this one then. I can get myself another down the road.’ He took the bird and offered it to Gilloe.’But… it’s dead! Are you mocking me?’ The hunter started laughing and he didn’t seem so grim any more. He seemed very amused in fact and that annoyed Gilloe quite a bit. He didn’t get the joke. ‘Dead… Hehe… Well, it’s a phoenix, isn’t it? It’s bound to come back any moment now. It won’t be happy, that’s true. But they’re pretty cranky birds, the only way to catch one is to kill it. It comes back to life pretty quickly, but in a very bad mood. So you must have it all tied up. Then you can ask it whatever you want and it will answer in return for it’s freedom. Here. Take it. And tie it up well, they’re pretty strong. And they have a nasty beak. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ He took the bird, thanked the hunter and continued on his way. How was he supposed to know that? Anyway, he was close to his goal now. He had all he needed, now only needed to find the Gate.

UF Wheel The bird came to just as he was reaching the place the scholar had described, a rocky plain scattered with ruins. As the hunter had predicted, it wasn’t very happy. But he explained what he needed to know and begged it to tell him the Word. ‘I’ll then set you free and we can both go home! Please tell me what I need to know!’ The bird stopped trying to separate his flesh from his bones and considered this for a second. ‘Ok then. The word you’re after is scale. You need to say it as you turn the key. The place you’re after is round this corner here. Now let me go!’ So he did. He’d had more than enough of this world. He turned round the corner, his eyes searching eagerly for the Gate. He couldn’t have missed it. It was huge and dominated the landscape with its cold presence. The central wheel glittered in the morning light.

He approached it and started looking for the way to activate it. There should be somewhere to put the key… He found it. As the mechanism came to life he looked up with a crooked smile and said ‘Tip your scales for me, love! I’m coming home!’ The wheel started turning, slowly at first and then more rapidly. Mists covered the doorway and the landscape disappeared. He walked through.

UF JusticeShe was waiting. She was pleased, he knew, but she wouldn’t show it just like that. He realised with delight that his horse body was gone at last.’The horse thing wasn’t funny.’ She smiled, indicating that for her it kind of was. ‘Remind me never to bet with you again. What was the bet about anyway? You can tell me now! I’ve won!’ She was looking at her scales with interest. She didn’t look perturbed. That made him worry a bit.’I did win, didn’t I? I’m back. And I didn’t fail at anything, I don’t think. I found the Cup, and the Fortress’, he squirmed there a bit but kept going,’and the Word and the Gate. My heart is true to you. I passed the tests and I came back. ‘

Inastra put her sword aside.’I’ve been watching you in my scales. You gave them a good dance, tipping back and forth. They wouldn’t stay still. Your heart is strong, but flighty. They went up, then down, filled with light, then with darkness. You felt happy racing up the mountain, but sunk in despair when you couldn’t find the bird. Your faith is not constant. It’s a miracle you ever made it back here at all. I won’t even go into the business with the fortress… You stayed in there for three days and didn’t even realise! But it’s true. You found your way in the end. You are true to me. Fancy having another go at the wheel? Got some new worlds I want to try out.’ She smiled wickedly at him and reached for the hilt of her sword. ‘No more rides on the wheel, please!’ He really felt like resting for a while, pondering on his last adventure. But then he noticed her smile. It was a smile of Challenge. And he smiled back. Oh no, here we go again…

Images from the Lo Scarabeo Universal Fantasy Tarot.


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