The Devil
Stage Fifteen

The Tower
Stage Sixteen

The Star
Stage Seventeen

The Moon
Stage Eighteen

The Sun
Stage Nineteen

Stage Twenty

The World
Stage Twenty-one
Part One
Part Two


The road narrowed until it became a track which finally stopped at the base of a small hill, at the top of which stood the tower. Although the late afternoon sun still shone on the valleys and forests below, up here it was grey and cold.

Dismounting from the Chariot, the Fool tethered the horses to a board which marked the end of the track. Crudely painted on this board was the image of a creature with horns and the legs of a goat. The upper half was half man, half woman, and in its left hand a beacon glowed. The Fool had heard tales of this creature - a supernatural force that had become perverted and now took delight in tempting men and women into the bondage of sin. Yet this picture held little terror for the Fool, for he felt sure that whatever lived within the tower could not harm him while the sun still shone.

The horses, tired from the journey, were grateful to rest, yet seemed nervous as the Fool patted them farewell and set off to climb the hill. Strangely, although the hill was dotted with trees, there were no birds and the only sound was the low moan of wind and distant thunder. Now his goal was within reach, or so it seemed, the Fool felt less and less eager to meet the inhabitant of this infamous building.

The door to the Tower was open, showing a circular entrance hall, with stained glass windows filtering what little light remained from the sinking sun. At the far end of the hall was a spiral staircase leading upwards but there was no visible sign of life.

The Fool walked carefully upwards straining his ears but the only sound was the creaking of wood, as with each step his weight shifted a different stair. The staircase circled several times before reaching a landing. The Fool stopped. On one side of him was a closed door while above his head the stairs continued upwards. The silence was suddenly broken by a voice - deep and resonant.

"Stranger, what seek you here?"
Nervously, the Fool replied, "I come with goodwill, to convey the greetings of the Emperor of the South to whoever is the lord of this area."

The ensuing silence was palpable. Then, with a great clatter, a stream of golden coins fell onto the stone at the Fool's feet.

"Behold the never-spent coins," commanded the Voice. "With these coins you can have all you desire in the material world. These coins will fill your pocket to overflowing no matter much you buy for yourself. If you wish you may take them and leave now. The door provides an exit to this place."

Having acquired, and lost, a fortune before, the Fool hesitated before picking up the glittering coins. A picture passed before his eyes. A figure bloated with insatiable desire. These coins would be never-spent, but neither would the appetite of the possessor! Without regret, the Fool stepped over the money and continued up the stair.

A small bannister provided the only means of balance as the steps grew narrower. Suddenly, a piece of the bannister broke off in his hand and instantly became a wand glowing with a Kaleidoscope of colours.
"The Wand of Power!" laughed the Voice. "This is yours, to use for good or ill, as you wish. With this wand you can overcome any opposition. Take it and go now."

Feelings of confidence and strength flooded into the Fool, as the wand's magical power surged through his body from head to toe. Yet, a small part of him remained untouched by the illusion. "Beware," said this still, small voice, "for this wand is but a rod that makes enemies wherever it appears!"

The Fool flung the wand away, and as soon as it had left his hand it turned back into an ugly club which smashed into the wall then fell to the bottom of the tower leaving a trail of angry splinters. Resolutely, the Fool pressed on up the winding stairs, being careful now to touch nothing, for he could see that everything offered him was not as it seemed.

He was nearly at the top when he noticed an alcove, set into the Tower wall. In the alcove rested an ornate Cup, bathed in a warm light. As he paused to look more closely the sonorous Voice spoke again.

"Move on!" it urged. "There is nothing here for you. You have declined my gifts of wealth and strength, and have done well to see so clearly the bitter fruits that would accompany them. Now you can claim your reward. Pass by this Cup and meet me at the top."

Naturally, the Fool's curiosity was aroused, and he felt it could not hurt to hold this Cup, which seemed full of a liquid which bubbled softly and gave off a delightful fragrance. As he sniffed the Voice spoke again. "That is the Cup of Love. Drink from it and you can taste the joy of communion with all of life. Your ego will drop away, and you shall dance with all of God's creation."

But as the cup moved towards his lips, his inner voice said, "You are not yet ready to taste this brew, for this is the Cup of Death. Once drunk you shall indeed dance with all earth as it claims your limbs!"

The Fool quickly dropped this dubious treasure and the liquid fell from the Cup like crimson blood.

The last remaining steps led to a door at the very top of the Tower. As he strode up these a sword whistled through the air and stuck upright into the floor before him.

"Three gifts you have rejected," said the Voice of the Devil. "Few others could have reached so far. Now you may enjoy the prize no other soul has enjoyed. Before you stands the Sword of Knowledge. With this weapon at your disposal every battle is won before it begins. An intellect as sharp as steel, of which there is no equal in the world, is yours with this sword. Leave now and you may take it with you."

The Fool hesitated remembering the many times when he had failed through lack of suitable knowledge. Yet his inner voice was murmuring "Beware the intellect so sharp it cuts itself. He who knows all can no longer enjoy communication with his fellow man. That way lies madness!"

And with this thought in mind the Fool strode past the dangerous sword and opened the door at the top of the stairs to meet what lay behind.

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Copyright © 2000 by Jenny and Chris Gilders,
Tarot cards by Rider-Waite, U.S.Games, Inc.