Song of the Earth

Written in the Cards

And then time was moving forward again. As soon as acceptable, Daniel removed himself politely from the situation in the dining hall. Gabrielle gave them a deadline of one night, after all, and he has things to do, people to talk to. So he wandered He wandered with a sense of purpose, trying hard not to get too distracted at the overwhelming size of the Chantry, trying hard not to get pulled into an exploratory tour of what the space is and what it could be. There is time to admire the ten foot windows and doorways to unknown places later.

He knows where he is going. He doesn’t know how(magic), but he does. He can feel a sense of exactly which room he should be in and exactly how to get to such a room. It’s the place he left his violin, and his young friend before heading off to Saturn. The walk allows him some time to reflect on the events of the past few months in relative silence…the first time he’s let himself do such a thing since New Years rolled around.

By the time he comes to the door he’s looking for, there is a budding sense of serenity radiating off of him. He died, yet here he is. His friend’s mind was trapped, but there he is. You have to be thankful for the small miracles in life. Daniel pauses at the door, a smile gracing his lips as he thinks about that. He raps gently on the door before sticking his head inside. “”/characters/jianyu-zheung" class=“wiki-content-link”>Jianyu? You awake?"

Jianyu’s room is nearby Daniel’s, about where the guest room he used to stay in is. Jianyu is sitting up on his bed. Stretched out in front of him are a collection of bits of stone—futhark runes—and a deck of tarot cards in a neat stack.

“Yes, I’m awake. I’d say I’m never sleeping again if I didn’t just sleep a couple more weeks.” He stretches his legs out, putting them over the side of the bed, but he doesn’t come over to hug Daniel. He sat on his legs and now one is asleep.

“Glad to see you made it back. I wish I could’ve gone into space with you.”

Daniel stays beyond the threshold of the door, not wanting to interrupt the young Dreamspeakers space without a proper invitation. “Ha, yeah…it’s funny how that works, right? Even mages still need sleep to survive. How are you feeling?” He pauses. “Do you mind if I come in?”

“Maybe someday you’ll get a chance to. I’m not sure I would recommend Saturn, though. I love the idea of it, of exploring a realm entirely of Time. Too bad it’s dangerous even when you are careful. Predicting what place and moment to step was…” Another pause. “Deadly.”

“Come in, come in.” Jianyu stands awkwardly and holds his arms out. “l didn’t expect to see you again. Not… you.” Just an echo in that place.

Daniel steps into the room and closes the door gently behind himself. He offers Jianyu a bittersweet smile before moving in to pull him in a tight hug. “You really didn’t think I would leave you there, did you? I was…fuck, Jianyu. I am so grateful for what you did, but I was devastated. I would have found someone, eventually, who could help me free your mind. I will never give up on you.” He pulls away, hands on the teen’s shoulders. “I’m sorry. Thank you. Never do that again, okay?” Another pause. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Jianyu says with a shrug. “Once it severed the connection between my mind and spirit—or whatever it did—it stopped targeting me. I could explore a place made of memories, even if they were bad. It’s how I went back to find you. It was just sort of…” he looks for the word. “A purgatory. Nether-world. I made the most of it.”

He gestures at the runes on the bed. “Time is my strongest sphere, even if I’m not like you, big brother. I talked to ”/characters/aaron-spaulding" class=“wiki-content-link”>Aaron‘s subconscious in there. Ecstatics sometimes use systems like I-Ching, Futhark, Tarot, bones and sticks to foretell the future, but it’s really just storytelling. That means any Dreamspeaker can tap into it and use that focus. I’m trying to see which system works better for me."

“What was it that did it? Just the passage itself or something within the passage?” Daniel asks. It’s clear he’s still curious about the Passage, even if it’s not in his better interests. Curiosity is a hard curse to break. He steps back, dropping his hands back to his sides. “Purgatory is a good word for it.”

Daniel gives Jianyu a warm smile when he calls him ‘brother’. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you surpassed me in that, someday. You are very clever and grasp concepts so quickly.”

“My mentor used to use tea leaves and tarot, she loved the tarot especially.” He agrees. “They provide a great starting point for a story, and it’s all about filling in the blanks. Depending on the spread or method you use, as well, you will find so many different answers to questions. Which have you found suits you best so far?”

“The Passage itself, I think.” The Passage still hasn’t been purified. They retrieved Aaron, and it lost a lot of its power without it, but it’s still there.

“Tarot. I know, the Chinese kid should be using I-Ching. But it’s easier to construct a story out of faces and names and scenes. The cards themselves are like—have spirits.” He sits back onto the bed. “Furthark is different though. I think it is itself a spirit—the whole thing. I’m just not sure I know enough about it to communicate with it. It’s why I’m trying to Rosetta Stone the systems.”

He leans back. “One thing is clear: you and I aren’t out of the woods yet. I think… I think some of the others might get out of this okay. It’s all probability right? But whatever was there for you didn’t go away yet. Or for me.”

“That makes sense. We may have to go look at it, when all of this is over.” Daniel says. “Not…enter it again. I’d rather not anyone get trapped in purgatory again. I do have a feeling, though, that visiting it again might be a part of the healing process for Time.”

“The Chinese kid should be doing whatever the Hell he wants.” Daniel smirks. “Use what works best for you in the moment. Maybe it’s just a matter of taking more time to understand I-Ching.” Daniel perches himself on the edge of the bed, eyes still on the tools. “Furthark is Norse, correct? Is there a particular spirit or diety who used it the most in mythology who it might be linked to?”

He purses his lips thoughtfully at Jianyu’s assessment of the events ahead. “I hope all of them get out of this okay.” He says. “I was futilely hoping dying on Saturn was enough, but it seemed too simple of a thing that one of the ”/wikis/daughters-of-mnemosyne" class=“wiki-page-link”> Daughters would block me from Seeing it." He lets out a soft breath. “Everything is probability, that is true. Nothing is set in stone until it happens…and even then we both know it might not be final.” He looks at Jianyu. “What did you sense for yourself, Jianyu?”

Something seems to go distant in Jianyu’s eyes. “Let’s do a reading for it.” He reaches for his Tarot deck and begins shuffling it. “Three cards,” He begins, and stops as one drops out onto the floor. He picks it up, careful to keep it in its original position as he flips it over.

“The Prince of Disks.” He glances to Daniel. “Disks is the Earth suite. I much more associate myself with Air, with the Swords.” He pulls up a small side table, putting three cards face down. “Swords represent the power of reason, cutting a big problem into many smaller ones.” He places the Prince over the top of the cards, crowning them. “Past, present, future.” He indicates.

Then he flips over the first card. Death. He lets out a breath. “At least it’s in the first position. Death means change. Redemption through putrefaction. I was lost to the Passage, but Gabrielle brought me to new life.” He shrugs, and flips over the second card.

The Tower. Even Jianyu winces a little. “Chaos, destruction, war. Purification through fire. This is the struggle we’re going through now.” Major Arcana both. And both fairly straightforward to read. Jianyu reaches for the last card, and flips it over.

9 swords dripping blood and tears. There is a word written at the bottom of the card. “Cruelty.” The mage says, staring at his own fate. “”/characters/kal" class=“wiki-content-link”>Kal. Cruelty… represents the moon, represents dreams. He’s going to put me back to sleep."

Daniel watches quietly as Jianyu works his magick to read the cards. He has his own scrutinizing, far-away look as each card is pulled. He sits up a little further on the bed while Jianyu works, hands clasped in his lap.

“I don’t think Disks is that far off for you, though. Not the Prince, at least.” He says. He doesn’t elaborate further, but keeps his eyes between the teen and the cards. Death in the past, that’s not surprising. Change, renewal, rebirth. The Tower causes the Ecstatic to tense up, though it’s a good reading of their current situation. “Purification through fire, but purification for who?” He asks softly.

It’s the last card that causes a true reaction out of Daniel. Part of him knows its coming even before the card is flipped, a sense of helpless dread falling over him at Jianyu’s future. He reaches out to squeeze Jianyu’s shoulder. “It’s not set in stone.” It’s empty reassurance, he knows just as well as Jianyu that the reading is accurate. “Like you said, it’s probability. There is always another possible path.”

He looks from the cards to the window. “My question is why. Is it because you are the next potential threat, if he manages to erase ”/characters/will-harrison" class=“wiki-content-link”>Will, Aaron, and America?" He pauses. “My mentor used the three card method regularly, as well. There are many interpretations, based upon the question you are asking. Past, Present, Future. Situation, Action, Outcome. Situation, Cause, Outcome. Perhaps we can prevent this.” His hand drops from the boy’s shoulder and he holds it out, palm up. “May I?”

“Well the Prince is a symbol of the fruit and seeds of Earth, so I can see the connection to potential.” He’s 16, it’s not like people have ever stopped telling him he ‘has potential.’ He hands the deck to Daniel. Daniel can take the four cards laid out of if he wants to.

Daniel nods his head, a soft smirk on his face. “Exactly. It’s also a symbol of dependency and meeting that potential.” He leaves the four cards already out face-up and shuffles the deck without them. They already know the future, what can they do to prevent the worst outcome? He focuses on his question as he shuffles the cards through his calloused fingers. It’s meditative for him, the soft sound as the cards shift, the feel of them in his fingers. He’s silent for a long time, waiting for the right moment to tug at him when he finally pulls three cards to lie face-down on the small table.

“Our current situation.” He murmurs. He flips the first one over and frowns. Seven of Cups — not off to a good start already. He stares at the card in far-off contemplation before finally speaking. “Too much of a good thing. It’s a failing of Ecstatics…” He trails off. “The damage to Time, caused by selfishly wanting the best outcome.” Wait…hasn’t he been a proponent of looping?

He flips over the second—the action—The Queen of Disks, inverted. “Fertility. Water. Bringing life back to the earth?” Daniel furrows his brow. “I can’t get a read off of this one, it’s blocked for me.” Much like his death was… “If the Queen were to represent an individual, though, I would guess Gabrielle? No, that’s not right. America? She is the creation of the Tellurian.” He trails off, perhaps not entirely believing it.

He takes a deep breath as he flips over the last card. The Outcome. “Two of swords.” He murmurs. Also inverted. Peace inverted. “Hmm.” His brows stay furrowed, his eyes still unfocused. “Blocked peace…or our two opposing Archmages, blocked from doing further damage to the Tellurian?”

Daniel looks up to Jianyu. “It’s funny how the best of intentions can really fuck everything up, right?”

Jianyu looks at Daniel. “If that’s right, then our best outcome is to let America win. Or your best outcome, maybe.” Who’s to say any two Mages will have the same end goal? He gathers up all of the cards now, shuffling them. “May I?” He asks Daniel. He drops a card as he asks, too—once Daniel answers, he picks it up.

Death.

“A good place to started,” He muses. “I’m going to try a longer reading.” He places down 10 cards—six form a wheel, with 2 cards on top of each other and four around them. Another four form a column to the right.

“The first card is the Querant.” He begins, carefully moving the top horizontal card to get at the bottom vertical. “It’s you. The Queen of Cups. The water of water. Passive, receptive, accepting of things.” The queen on the card is nearly invisible, covered in shadows. “Hidden, though. The next card is what’s crossing you, the opposing factor.” He flips it over. “The Queen of Disks. America?” He speculates.

“Maybe,” Daniel agrees with a bemused tone and passes the deck back to the Dreamspeaker. “Of course. I’m curious as to what you’ll find.” His eyes are on Jianyu’s hands as he shuffles, still using the motion as a meditative focus.

A few weeks ago, seeing Death would have gotten an automatic reaction out of him. Now he just releases a deep breath he didn’t know he was holding. Experiencing death twice, now, has taken a lot of the anxiety out of it for the Ecstatic. It’s just another path, another start of another journey.

“It’s nice to get that one out of the way.” Daniel agrees once more. “Alright.” He watches as each card is laid out on the small table, silent as Jianyu works his magick.

“The water of water,” He muses. “It’s not inaccurate.” In fact, it is very accurate. Always going with the flow, accepting what’s needed of him, but very private: Daniel in a nutshell. He worries at his lip as Jianyu flips the second card. “Perhaps. We have been on opposing sides of the Time situation.” He shuts up after that, though. This is Jianyu’s reading, he doesn’t need the peanut gallery piping in.

“The past,” Jianyu continues. He has a distant look in his eyes, his voice sliding away from the familiarity he used to express his last reading. “Success. The Six of Disks.” He looks up at Daniel. “”/characters/alex" class=“wiki-content-link”>Alex‘s ritual. The disks each represent a planet, with the Sun inside the hexagram. Like Alex’s ritual. The harmonious movement of the spheres. Why, though, Alex’s past here?" His hand moves to the future. “The Eight of Cups. Indolence. Saturn in Pisces.” He gestures to the alchemical symbols on the card. “The power is spent, the water turned to slime. The flowers droop and the cups are broken. The end result of Debauch, I suppose.” There’s something here that Jianyu just isn’t seeing.

His hand moves to the top card. “This one is your goals, your desire.” He flips it over. “Prince of Wands, reversed. The air of fire. Intellect and storm. He wants what he wants and he wants it now—but that’s not really you at all, is it?” his finger traces the edge of the Queen, trapped under the Queen representing America. “Last card is your subconscious.” He flips it over. Three of Wands. “Virtue,” the Dreamspeaker reads. He looks at Daniel, but all he says is, “Creation.”

It’s not long before Daniel finds himself chewing on a thumbnail. It’s a nervous habit he hasn’t partaken in years but it’s an unconscious gesture of his idle mind. He stares at the past and future for a long time as he tries to grasp what is probably beyond his Sight as well.

“I don’t know,” He says suddenly. He’s coming to the conversation late…or right on time…as his mind catches up with what Jianyu says. “I’ve been rather insistent lately.” The diplomatic way of putting it. “The Starlight Passage is a good example of that. It’s not normally me, though, you are right about that.”

“Creation,” He repeats softly, looking from the Three of Wands to Jianyu. It makes sense of a musician, that his subconscious would be represented in such a way.

“The next card represents advice, on your approach.” All confusion has left his tone as he turns it over. Six of Swords. “Science.” Strange for two Traditionalists to uncover the one card in a mystical deck representing Technocracy. “The swords are lying on a fencer’s diagram, which was worked out scientifically to show the positions a fencer can stand on and be invulnerable. A perfect balance of intellect and principle. Be invulnerable,” He repeats to Daniel.

“External environment. 5 of Wands. Strife. “The wands are Caduceus, Phoenix, and Lotus. After coming together in spirit, disunion has begun. Stability is broken.” His hand hovers toward the second-to-last card. “Hopes and fears.”

“Science,” Daniel repeats again, this time sounding slightly deadpan about it. Of course it would be science. He thinks back though, remembering Hypatia, remembering living her life. A Traditionalist who was also a proponent of science and maths. His eyes stay on Jianyu. Be invulnerable. What else would Kite, Juanita and Kouame have put him through Hell for? Be invulnerable. He’s been staring down the barrell at his death for weeks…months. He swallows and nods. “I will.”

Five of Disks, reversed. Worry. “The Five of Disks show five pentagrams, the binding of celestial forces to mechanical purposes. The binding of the Archmage in the Sephirot of Judgment—but of course this card is reversed, blocked. Alternatively, this card is a material crisis. The complete destruction of the material. Ordinarily I think that would be sufficient to be your fear, but we know the world and the people in it can have fates beyond destruction.” His eyes are drawn to the card crowning it all. Death.

He comes to the last card. “Final outcome.” He flips it over. The Fool, reversed. “The fool is the start of your journey. You begin again… but not really.” He shakes his head. “I can’t tell you anymore, Daniel. We both know why.”

Is he worried that the rest of the cabal’s plan is not going to work? Of course. He lets out a deep breath. “Of course.” Daniel agrees with Jianyu’s assessment. “There are worse fates other than these.”

He’s flexing his fingers when the final card is flipped. The Fool. “Hmmm.” Begin again, but not really. A involuntary loop? His Avatar moving on? The Ecstatic stares at the last card for a long time, his eyes flicking up to the death card now and then. “We do, yes.”

He lets the silence carry for a few moments longer before letting out a frustrated huff of breath. “You know, part of me definitely feels that ‘I want it now’ that was earlier in this spread.” His fingers touch the Prince of Wands. “You’d think, as a Time mage, I would have a little more patience than I do. It’s irritating to see it laid out for you, but not able to put a finger on exactly why.” Tension bleeds out of his shoulders as he forces himself to relax. “The rest of me likes the wait. If I…if we don’t have much time left, we need to savor those moments now.”

Jianyu slides the cards away. “I’ve felt that way since I Awakened.” Neither of them were at the battle in Cincinnati, but at least Daniel is aware that Trista was there, full Void Engineer now. That would be an awkward reunion. “Especially surrounded by people who can do things. My Spheres—Time and Spirit, Entropy and Correspondence and Mind—are all so ephemeral. Even after my Seeking everything I do is in my own head. I’ve always wanted to…” He holds out his palm. “Make a flame, or fly, or teleport.” He has entirely the wrong Spheres if he wants to make a flame, but Trista is the one who Awakened him, not Daniel. “To explore the Umbra like you got to. And now I think I may never have the chance.”

Daniel chuckles softly in sympathy. “Don’t ever sell yourself short for being able to use Ephemeral spheres.” He says. “You’ve managed to fend for yourself in tricky situations and you are so bright, Jianyu. There aren’t many who would have managed to escape Technocrats trying to haul them in like you did. There was one version of events during the Juncture where you did a lot of the work sealing ”/characters/joshua" class=“wiki-content-link”>Joshua away. I know those aren’t as material as flames and flying and teleporting, but they’re still so important."

He lets out a soft breath. “I’m sorry, Jianyu. I truly am. I wish I could offer more than that, but…” He trails off. They both know why. “I’m sorry Trista stepped in before I got a chance…though I think the Dreamspeaker paradigm suits you nicely. I could have taught you some basic Forces, though.” He offers a weak smile, the joke falling flat. “Believe me when I say that I’ll do everything in my power to…stop Kal from doing whatever he tries to do. If I can’t…” If he’s gone. “I know none of the cabal will give up on you or on hope.”

“Well, what’s a teenager to do when the world is ending?” Jianyu asks with a half-smile. There’s like… no girls his own age in this chantry. Besides America, and he’s pretty sure she’s gay. “I guess if you’re a Dreamspeaker you figure out the plan to help your people. Gabrielle—the Gabrielle who awakened me, lowercase—had already had a banquet with you. She told me you were going to stop ”/characters/johann-erdo-an" class=“wiki-content-link”>Johann. Can I help you?" He asks. “What’s the plan?” Besides wanting to be by Daniel’s side, it seems the right place for him.

Jianyu gets another chuckle from the Ecstatic mage. “Yeah, that’s true. Idle hands and all that, right? Back in my teens, I just practiced my violin until I couldn’t think straight.”

“Mmm, she did? Yes, that is what we’ll be doing.” Daniel nods his head. “Aaron, myself, more than likely ”/characters/ava" class=“wiki-content-link”>Ava, Jacob perhaps…" There is a part of the mage that wants to say no, to keep Jianyu safe. It wars with him briefly before he finally nods his head. “Yes, if you do not think you can offer your services here in ”/wikis/cincinnati" class=“wiki-page-link”> Cincinnati?" He pauses. “We’re going to incapacitate him. We’ve got an idea, I believe. Shared experiences with drugs as a focus. It’ll be our best bet for doing it…” Nicely? Calmly? With as little bloodshed as possible?

Jianyu actually laughs. “Your plan is to share drugs with him? That’s the most Ecstatic thing I’ve ever heard.” The mirth leaves his face. “I guess it depends on who is in Cincinnati. Where are you planning to be?”

Daniel looks pretty amused with the idea, himself. “I know, right? It’s pretty brilliant for a group of Ecstatics dealing with a fellow Ecstatic.” Daniel probably didn’t come up with it. Daniel hardly ever uses drugs as a focus, as Jianyu would know. He holds out a hand to the teen, face up, for him to hold onto if he would like. “We’re going back to ”/wikis/davenport-iowa" class=“wiki-page-link”> Davenport. Back to the Gardens. It seemed like the best meeting place. I’m not sure about the rest of the cabal, if they are staying here or going to St Louis. Gabrielle and Will are going to access the network. Alex, Karasi and Fritha are going to spring the trap. America, Sapphira, the vampires, Ursula, and her Technocrats are focused on Kal’s earthly body."

Jianyu makes a face. “Unless someone is in Cincinnati, I’ll go with you. I’m not Ecstatic but Dreamspeakers can use most Ecstatic foci anyway.”

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