For Glory, For Empire
A Day With the Angel of Destiny
From outside the hut came the sound of hard booted footsteps on the ground, every note accompanied by the jingle of metal. The gait was loud and posturing, clearly intended to announce one’s presence long before they came into sight. For a long moment the rolling pace echoed in the still hot air, the ferric rattle’s high tone a stark contrast to the low sound of soil and step.
He stepped into the hut with unconscious assumption that he belonged there, his presence augmented by his tall height and clearly non-Meseidiaran proportions. His eyes took in the whole room in one sweep like an advancing wave, flicking from various points of interest until it settled on the hut’s occupant, one of the newcomers from the last supply ship, Palah’s Respite. He was dressed in his finest; the brassy buckle on his hat shone, a plume set at a jaunty angle in the brim. His puffed and slashed silk shirt was partially open for relief from the heat, revealing a heart shaped charm with two gleaming pearls resting against his narrow chest. The rattle came from the scabbard hanging off the belt, the loose noise a deliberate affectation to add some aural swagger to his step. The outfit was completed with a set of trousers and a fine pair of buckled boots.
Ts’ao Hai looked her over once again. “They tell me,” he said softly, “that you are a maven of the cards, an angel of destiny with a wicked pack.” He tapped the table with his fingers, like a blackjack player. “Lay a fold for me, and tell this ancient mariner what penance he has to do.”
Jarvinia barely noticed the man’s approach, too lost in her business of getting what little things she had together and in their proper place. And the sounds of footsteps on the paths was too natural for her to pick out any individual uniqueness of step, even with the person’s intent to stand out. As the man had stepped into her shared hut, she heard the change of the step move from outside to inside, and she turned to face this ‘guest’.
It was clear to her that this man had a desire to be noticed, as everything he wore screamed it to her. She smiled a bit though after looking him over, having to admit to herself that he did look nice even if a bit gaudy. She brushed at her clothes a bit, trying to knock off some of the dirt and dust that she had gained over her travels to this land. The white and slightly puffy shirt she had made what dust there was stand out. After she had done that, she moved to grab her small folding table she had set aside even as the man had begun to speak.
Setting up the table onto the ground in front of her, it was a lot shorter than one might expect. After she took a seat next to it, the reason the table was so short became clear. With Jarvinia sitting with her legs crossed next to the table, it was just at her waist height, and perfect for her tasks. “I have to admit, that it is quite impressive to have a guest so quickly after I showed up. Please, take a seat and introduce yourself. Then we can discuss and begin with more earnest.” Jarvinia motioned with a wave of her hand towards the spot across the small table and then waited to see what he would do.
The sailor dropped down, moving from standing to sitting cross legged in the indicated spot with a single, elegant motion. He had a preternatural grace to every expression of his being, a purity of motion native to his species, and enhanced by heroic accomplishments and hard earned skill. He didn’t reply right away, once more taking the measure of his host before saying, “I am Ts’ao Hai.” He paused, looking for any reaction to that somewhat infamous name, tilting his head in a way that made the feather in his hat bounce and flutter like a peacock preening itself. He eventually continued by saying, “I heard about you from the sailors, and the new colonists; they had good things to say about your gift. Like any man with sense who goes upon the sea, I share that respect.”
Jarvinia smiles a bit when she hears the name. She had heard of it a few times amongst her travels, especially as she came closer to the sea. The flattery afterwards however was not poorly received nor enjoyed, and instead she unsnapped the clasps to one of four small boxes attached to the belt on her waist, pulling out a deck of cards that had an aged look to them. “Then first I shall ask you the same question I have asked all the others, what is it you desire from this fortune? A fortune with no goal gets neither of us to where we wish to be.”
Goals were not exactly how Ts’ao Hai thought of his life, or charted its course. The man was like a feather, to be carried by whatever breezy impulse was strong enough to move him in a particular moment. He visibly though, tugging at his chin for a moment before replying, “I want to know… as the Darkness grows, if the moon shines at full or no.” He looked at her expectantly, and then added, “By that I mean, what Light I am to follow through the storm I know is coming. That is my goal.”
Jarvinia was shuffling the cards in front of her, thinking about what Ts’ao Hai had said in response to her question. It was a bit of a hard choice, and one that required a bit of thought from her. So then she let her deck decide for her. Using a little magic, she pulled a card out of the deck and looked at it. A card with the Wisdom suit… It was an interesting choice, but it sounded like a reasonable one. She pulled the nine wisdom cards from the deck and laid them out on the table face down. “Please. Pick one of the cards, then I can get the fortune started.”
Jarvinia gave Ts’ao Hai plenty of time to pick the card. Once he did, she took it and looked it over. The card bothered her slightly, being the Chaotic Evil version of the Wisdom Card, the Lost. “The lost . . . hmm. Seems you may be more confused about things to come than you may have originally anticipated.” Jarvinia swept the cards back up and shuffled them all back into the deck. Afterwards, she very swiftly laid out nine cards in a three by three pattern.
The first three cards were The Bear, The Juggler, and The Locksmith. Jarvinia spent a few moments looking over these cards. It was hard to discern what exactly the cards were trying to tell, but her focus found itself drawn towards The Locksmith card. “Hmm. It seems at some point it seems the answer to your question may have been brought before you, or some guide to help find those answers.” As she said this, she flipped the next three cards.
The second set was comprised of The Midwife, The Owl, and The Uprising. The surprise on Jarvinia’s face was quite apparent as the cards were flipped, her eyes being drawn to both The Midwife and The Owl cards. Even the third card was a bit surprising. “It seems the current you is quite full of surprises and stories to be told. The cards speak of gains brought about through the cooperation of others, and losses that may bring strength and clarity to your goals. Perhaps it is referencing this recent boat, or maybe someone you have met on your journeys? Do be warned though, some other force also watches your actions with an intent that I cannot tell you for certain.”
The final three cards were The Demon’s Lantern, The Tangled Briar, and The Wanderer. Again, she seemed a bit confused, as if something was missing from the cards. “Your future seems unclear. Whatever goal you are after, something hides it. Protected and covered by any number of illusions, traps, or trickery.”
Jarvinia spent another few moments looking over the spread, thinking about what all she had read and spoke of. Trying to find something out of the story of the cards. “I believe that this Light you desire is already here, somewhere amongst you and your people. Whether it is an object, a person, or something else I cannot tell you for certain. I fear however that there is another force that bodes ill for you and your people. And the closer you get to your goal, the more this force may sway your course, or to use your own terms, the more this Storm will cause you havoc.”
“If you have any other questions, I will answer them as I can, but I believe I have told you all that the cards have in store for you.” Jarvinia waves her hand over the table and the cards lift off of it, rejoining the others in their deck and placing themselves neatly within their pouch, the pouch itself snapping shut afterwards.
Throughout the ups and downs of the reading, Ts’ao Hai remained his unaffected and cavalier demeanor. He watched with interest, but was not moved even as the reader’s face went through its series of changes. He listened to the card’s story from the seat of self-assurance; and however unearned or foolish it was, it was still rather impressive, having a sort of magnetic power. At times like that, it was easy to see how someone might follow Ts’ao Hai across the sea and into the unknown. He had a certain dash and fire to him that could inspire even a chilled heart.
When she finished and recovered the tools of her trade, Ts’ao Hai sat back and flashed her a winning smile. “Just one more question; can your cards tell me if I will have the pleasure of drinking a toast with you tonight, on the ship? We’re having a bit of a party to wish my daughter and the crew a safe voyage as they ply the sea for fortune.” His hat had slid (or been subtly tipped) to the most rakish angle possible, and expression was warm with a cheeky sort of mirth, nearly as intoxicating as a quaff from a wine skin.
Jarvinia laughed a bit at the man’s way of going about his invite. Choosing a dancing way with his words rather than a direct approach. It definitely fit someone of his apparent style. “I am not usually much of a drinker, though freshly arriving here at the settlement, maybe a drink or two wouldn’t be such a bad idea. A sort of celebration of my own.” She smiled and stood up from her spot, picking up the small table and moving it back to the side of the room. “Just tell me when to be there, and I shall do my best to arrive.”
Ts’ao Hai gave her a wink as he stood, tipping his hat. “When you see the lights on the water, we’ll be rowing over to pick up a few others. A word of advice: don’t bring your coin purse unless you’re sharper than a knife at the gambling table.” And with a long step he was suddenly out, slipping out of sight as suddenly as he came, though the rattle of his scabbard and the step of his boots echoed for a bit.