The King of Swords

She lit the five votive candles in front of her and positioned them around the edge of a black place-mat sized piece of velvet.  A large deck of cards sat to her left, an intricate design of twisting ivy and pentacles winking with the flicker of candle light, and Alana inhaled deeply, then closed her eyes to center.  The cards were her last chance, her only hope.  She cupped the deck between her hands and held them in a silent prayer.

“Goddess show me the path that I need to walk,” and she began to shuffle.  Once, Twice, a third time, Alana fanned the deck after each round until she did not feel the need to continue.  They had their answer and she took another deep breath before dealing.

As always, the first card representing her was the Queen of Pentacles, which told her that she had at least connected with the deck, she then proceeded to deal out the remaining 9 cards.  Number two, number three, the air grew heavy as though a rain storm were approaching on a very hot day and she felt the hairs on her neck stand up.  Cards four and five went down and she could feel the electric charge building- this was definitely NOT how her Tarot readings normally went.  As she set card number six into place, that card which represented the near future, Alana felt herself jump with the movement of a shadow in the corner of her eye.  Turning quickly to see what was there, she sat facing an empty and darkening room as the sun was nearly fully set.  Her hands firmly planted on the table in front of her to stop them from trembling, she took another deep breath, centered, and continued her reading.

Cards seven, eight and nine went down with nothing more than a slight flicker of flame from the tea lights, but she paused as she reached for the tenth.  The moment that her fingers had connected with the card, she’d felt a burst as though a damn had broken and energy was rushing inside her toward the finger tips touching the final outcome of her reading.  Slowly, Alana brought the card over to its position on the right side of the table and flipped it over.  She was staring at the King of Swords, the card of a powerful man with great determination.  The rush of energy finally overtook her and the room went dark as she lost consciousness, falling forward on the table still clutching the King.

All that she could hear was the soft sound of running water and a breeze rustling through the trees.  The air felt soft and she vaguely asked herself if air could in fact feel soft before dismissing the question.  Through her closed eyes the sun fell upon her face, warming it deliciously while she lay upon the softest grass she’d ever felt.  A slow realization was coming to her that this was not a safe place to lay around, but she had never been so contented and was loath to move.  The rustle of leaves and footsteps shook her out of her reverie and she sat up too quickly, her head pounding with blood flowing out.

A shimmering figure appeared on the pathway and grew more solid with every step toward the clearing and an immense white granite throne.  It was a man, he was wearing a black suit with a black knit shirt, and she could tell that the hair was dark, but his face was still a blur.  The image slowly went from analogue to high-definition as he continued on his way toward the throne and as he strode, she saw the light glint off of the steel of a sword.  She gasped loudly and he turned to look at her, his expression stony and uninterested.  Could he truly be the King of Swords?

“Your Majesty,” Alana says with a hesitant curtsy, “May I have an audience?”

“I will grant your request, but know that everything comes with a price,” he replied imperiously.

“What kind of price?”  The pressure on the back of her neck flared up again and she began to doubt that this place had anything to do with the Goddess.

“The ring, young Alana, where is the ring?” The stony face was now animated with a dark glare directly at her.  She stumbled back and fell to the ground.  Of course this was about the ring!

“I don’t know who sent you, but this is kidnapping, technically,…” she trailed off and he rose, sword drawn and picking up speed as he charged toward where she lay on the grass.  Alana did the only thing that she could think of as she pulled her Athame out of her pocket and drove the blade directly into the palm of her hand.  The pain shot up her arm and as she rolled to her side.  The clearing and the trees and the entire fantasy world melted around her until all that was left was the darkened dining room and her hand bleeding all over her favorite deck of Tarot cards.

“Shit!” she hissed, looking at the wounded hand, “I hate damned hospitals.”

After thoroughly wrapping her hand in paper towels and plastic wrap she went to her bedroom and retrieved a fire safe from underneath the bed.  There was a solid inch of important papers in it, but after a minutes rifling she found it- the ring.  Her grandmothers ring, the last piece of an extremely powerful Crone and Alana was not going to let it out of her sight.  If her mother or whomever wanted this signet, then they would have to pry it out of her cold dead hand.  She took a long silver necklace and slid the ring onto it before picking up her car keys to drive to the emergency room.

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