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


Nothing stirred on the hilltop. Surrounded by debris, the Fool waited. As seconds turned to minutes his terror abated, to be replaced by disappointment. He had dreaded this return, yet now he was here it seemed nothing was going to happen. He sat on a piece of rubble and decided that he would not leave until sun fall.

What had he expected? Perhaps he sought some tangible evidence of what he had accomplished, or failed to. Instead, all was barren rock and stone. Yet he did not feel he had done the wrong thing to leave the enchanted castle. He felt very calm as the turbulent passions aroused during the past three dissolved into the steamy atmosphere.

The day passed in no time. All had become grey, and the Fool had become as motionless as the rock. Then, something changed, and he knew the Devil was about to appear.

The air seemed charged with an electric current, and a strange sound came to his ears. The sound of subsidence, as if the slabs of brick and stone were settling to their final resting places. It took several moments before he realised that something was moving under the debris, which was cracking apart to let it out from beneath.

A dull rumble was heard, and then the sound of stone sliding against stone. All around, the debris rattled as the subterranean forces pushed up against it. Wisps of steam emerged from cracks, and this steam seemed to coagulate into the shapes of figures before disappearing into the darkening sky. The Earth was giving up its dead in this vapour form, which, once released seemed to hover only momentarily before being sucked away towards the clouds above.

The rumbling sound became a din, as if many trumpets were being blown together to produce this sound to call the dead. The Fool covered his ears then crouched into a foetal position as the sound became so loud it threatened to tear him apart.

Without perceptible end, this sound turned to an oppressive absolute silence. The pressure ebbed away as smoothly as it had arrived. The Fool raised his head to see a figure, standing with its back to him, several yards away.

The figure was swathed in black garments which rippled in the wind. It turned slowly towards him, then reached up to unveil its face. To his immense surprise the Fool found himself gazing wide-eyed upon the Lady of the Castle!

Yet this lady, although in form identical to she who he had left behind, carried herself in a serene and ethereal way as if she were no creature made of flesh and blood. When she spoke, it was a non-human voice, neither male nor female, which formed the words.

"You have done well to come here," spoke the apparition. "I know full well how much it cost you to keep this appointment with that which you feared would bring about your doom. Yet now you are to taste the fruit of your faithfulness."

With these words she approached and embraced the Fool, yet this embrace did not arouse in him the fever of the previous day.

She moved away. "Though you have done well, you have not yet seen the one you must meet before this day is spent. Would you look behind my mask, to see my other face?"

Dumbstruck, the Fool nodded his acquiescence, and the Lady turned away. There was a low moan as the evening wind swept across the ruined hilltop scattering dead leaves before it.

The next moment he was face to face with the Lord of the Castle, his host! Yet, transformed as the Lady had been, his face had lost the haunted sadness it had born before, and he now seemed in the best of spirits.

He laughed boisterously at the Fool's expression of amazement. "Indeed," he cried, "I too know all that happened in this past few days. Every move you made, every thought that passed through your mind, as could be read from your honest face, was known to me! You have indeed proved yourself most trustworthy, and a man of high integrity. You have kept your agreements for the best of reasons; because you made them!"

His face became stern. "Yet, you have something which belongs to me. For this very morning you accepted from my wife a gift which you then hid from me. You wear it now, concealed beneath those fine clothes with which I gladly endowed your wretched limbs."

The joy and pride which had filled the Fool on learning the secret of the Tower was quickly spoilt by this accusation. For he had, indeed, accepted the amulet and had fully meant to keep it secret from his host.

"You speak the truth," he replied, "And I am glad you should thus remind me that my finer sentiments have been outweighed by base fear for my own person. Perhaps it is not to late for me to attone by returning your property." And, so saying, he withdrew the token which now weighed heavily upon him.

The Lord laughed heartily. "Enough!", he cried. "You are a fine sort indeed not to have protested your motives or innocence. It has been an honour to play these scenes with you, and now that we are done, there remains nought but to undo those little illusions which were necessary to the performance of this Play."

At these words the evening wind swirled furiously through the debris, blowing all the dust away, and revealing to the Fool's unspeakable delight, his glittering Chariot with the horses, fresh and vigorous as ever, stamping and whinnying in their traces, as if impatient for the journey home.


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