Far to the northeast, just beyond the boundaries of the ruins of the Cups district, a large castle stood amongst the midst of swirling ethereal mists that swamped the perimeter in clouds of green, blue, and purples which, when struck by moonlight, shimmered in a mesmerizing storm of chaos. Inside the mist surrounded castle an ancient council had gathered, their faces stern and somber with the seriousness of the upcoming subject. Their world had been thrown into chaos, the creatures tearing each other limb from limb as magical wars between ancient races exploded around them. Their world was dying and a crucial decision had to be made.
With haste they gathered in the council hall, a large hall constructed with liquid black marble in glass-cased flooring. Purple shimmering Aether intertwined with the marbled liquid, breathing life into its depths. It thrummed softly like a heartbeat under their feet as the twenty-two members sat in their crescent-styled table forged out of lumarian quartz that had been inscribed with runes along the curve of it. In front, was a milky pond, filled with the same liquid that flowed under them. There was a soft illumination to it with definitive supernatural energy that called to them. On their seats, in the middle moon of the triad moon above their heads were the numbers 0 through 19, each member took their respective places except for one.
"Thank you for coming," Brett, the leader of the council that the Universe had aptly named Major Arcana, introduced. It had been decades since the Universe had gifted him the title of The Fool, and he found the sheer weight of the title exhausting. Though he had ascended into being a respectable god in his own right before he was granted the ability to govern over the council he had been a simple thirty-eight-year-old necromancer. He had had a wife and three children until pestilence had caught them in its grasp and stole them away from him. He had lost his mind in his maddening search to bring them back and by the grace of the Universe, it brought him back to life.
His midnight eyes that held speckles like red, yellow, and green stars scanned the faces of his brothers and sisters. His hair was a sandy brown color with peppered flecks of gray. He would look like this until his next rebirth. He pressed his hands together, his index fingers on his lips as he summoned up the courage to confirm their fears.
"As you all know, our world has turned to chaos. The real question is not just how this happened, but why? I've come up empty-handed on my end of things," He admitted, his hands dropping and his shoulders slouching. He heard a scoff, his eyes honing in on the offender. Charlotte sat relaxed in her chair, her leg bouncing with the energy she hadn't spent up yet. She eyed him seriously, sneering at him.
"Of course, you haven't." She muttered under her breath. His eyes narrowed at her, watching her stiffen beneath his gaze. Her ombré hair shifted with her movements as if it was part of the air itself. Her green undershirt clung tightly to her small but strong frame as she prepared to put him in his place if he challenged her. She was a gifted werewolf in this life and could have easily led a pack of her own if the Universe allowed it.
"Charlotte not now, please. I can't focus on the issue at hand and your incessant blabbering." He requested, choosing to ignore her outburst. He saw her deflate in his peripheral as he continued to scan the room. "Does anyone have any news? Artemis? Sandra?" His eyes went over to the elderly man who sat comfortably in his chair, his universal eyes glazed over in a fog as he stared straight on. His head shook as if it were off balance and his brown monk's robe looked as worn as he did. The elderly man shifted his head slightly as he acknowledged Brett, his expression turning from solace to one of distress.
"I'm afraid, Fool, it is much worse than we feared. Sandra, perhaps you wouldn't mind assisting an old man in sharing his vision of the events?" Artemis' tired voice barely reached across the room to her, but the High Priestess came prepared as always and smiled warmly in his direction, and gave her husband one last reassuring squeeze of the hand before standing. Her smokey, gray satin gown dragged elegantly behind her. Her Nordic white hair matted into thin but kept dreads that reached like branches from a willow tree down her back. She met him halfway, the old man walking with a bent spine and small strides. Gripping his frail and mangled hands gently, acknowledging the fact that time had weathered his vessel down, and guided him into swirling black liquid that seemed to thicken and coat his skin and robes.
Distorted whispers reached through lavender tendrils that crawled their way up to his hips, weaving themselves into the fabric of his robes and mapping the wrinkles of his skin. The rest of the group watched in fascination as the universe that appeared in Sandra's eyes expanded, making the burn like fire as she sang a soft but ancient chant, drawing the Aether up to Artemis' face until it crawled into his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth like millions of veins.
Yellow sparkles of Air soon began to appear like flecks of gold into the Aether, joining its mother element so as to project the vision. Artemis groaned as the liquid element flooded his lungs and sunk into the labyrinth that was his brain and imprinted itself deeply into its maze. The power was truly overwhelming, Brett could see blue veins being pushed upwards into Sandra's arm, spidering up as more veins became superficial through the pull of the element. She gritted her teeth painfully, the magic bending to her will as it dug deep. Brett made a mental note to schedule Artemis' next rebirth as soon as possible as he could tell that this was the last sharing ritual that he could perform as Temperance in this life cycle, and he would personally see to it that Sandra met with Strength, even if he had to force Elysetta to go past her comfort zone to do it.
"Gadriel's actions had more severe repercussions than we had originally thought. His slaying of the adolescent boy, though accidental, has tipped the balance of the Universe greatly," Sandra began to explain as Artemis' head flew back, dangling on its onslaught. Beams of light sprang from his eyes, projecting a vision in the air of their universe, watching the burning orange and yellow edges of its large expanse shrinking as if recoiling from the darkness's touch. The room grew heavy as it watched the vision, hearing the high-pitched distortional screams. Shock wasn't a word that could cover the heavy feeling that fell upon them.
"The Universe is dying, being swallowed up by the darkness itself. The balance has tipped and it needs to be righted soon or else our realm is doomed to suffer anarchy and chaos." Sandra finished, dropping her hand and stumbling back from the release of the ritual. The Aether that flooded the old man's lungs and filled his body retreated slowly, dripping down as slowly as it came up with exhausted sighs and hypnotic whispers that none of the Major Arcana could even begin to translate. Artemis moaned heavily, his fragile form struggling to remain sturdy.
Dhagda, Sandra's counterpart, leaped to his wife's aid. Striding across the room quickly. His tan leather hide pants and loose white linen shirt hid his sculpted warrior muscles well as he caught his wife.
"No, my love. Help Temperance, he is in need of aid." She requested breathlessly as she cradled her veined hand, waiting for the red swollen skin to normalize and for her breath to return to her before she took her place. Dhagda barely grunted as he hauled Artemis over his broad shoulder gingerly, the dark thrumming liquid melting away from their forms and leaving no traces of its existence on their clothes. He carried the old man back to his padded chair and sat him down softly, covering his weak body with a blanket.
"So, Gadriel muffed up again. No surprise there, but in slaying a living being he broke a major karmic law, the punishment of which is death." Charlotte mused darkly, her brows furrowing, causing her caramel-colored skin to wrinkle with displeasure.
"Normally I would agree with you, Charlotte but we are missing a crucial factor in this case." Lilith butted in. Brett's gaze swept over her smoothly. She was night personified with skin as pale as the light of the moon and hair as ebony as a raven's wing. Her lips were supple and naturally red, her figure toned and sensually curved with earthy hips and her siren's voice. He perked up at her voice, picking up on a thread of conflict. The Universe was never black and white, so why should its rules be? Charlotte blinked in confusion, cocking her head slightly.
"Normally? You don't agree with me in this case when it is plain to see?" Her voice dripped with venom as outrage swept over her.
"Lilith is right, Charlotte. This case is not so simple to pass judgment on." Lucian defended, his black armor adorned arms crossing over his chest as he sat rigidly, glaring at the woman sitting a few seats down from him. Charlotte returned the glare but smiled sweetly, resting her chin lazily on her hand.
"Then pray tell, what factors are amiss?" She purred. Lucifer's jaw hardened at her bemused posture, clearly over her wicked games.
"Malice. The karmic law states that no one will shed the blood of their sibling in malice or strife, or else their soul be stripped and judged heavily. Gadriel doesn't have an ounce of hate in him, it was by pure accident that he killed that boy. He had only been trying to protect the family, he had no way of knowing that the eldest son had snuck out. They were in danger, after all, he did what any brave warrior would do. He put himself in harm's way to protect the innocent. He did just that." Lilith explained coolly, her gaze meeting each member of the council.
"But the boy wasn't the assailant." Dhagda pointed out, his hand resting on Sandra's shoulder, his thumbs stroking her arm tenderly.
"Yes, but Gadriel did not know this. He was doing his job as the Universe intended the Hanged Man to do. He was acting selflessly to prevent the balance from tipping." Sandra said pointedly, meeting her husband's eyes. It was rare that they were on opposite sides of a trial.
"And as good as his intention was, he caused the balance to fall. In my eyes, he broke the law and must be punished." Arcadia spoke up. Her golden gown laced with white silken lace and trimmed with a chocolatey satin complimented her pale pink skin and her bouncing curls of sun-colored hair.
"Ultimately it is your choice, Lilith," Brett sighed. He hated placing the burden on her shoulders, he knew it was a heavy burden to carry. "As Justice, you issue out the verdicts. So what is Gadriel's fate?"
She thought heavily for a moment, pinching the bridge of her nose and hiding her scowl behind her hand. Her decision wasn't an easy one as his action teetered on the cusp of lawful and chaotic, redeemable and condemning. The room sat in silence, perching on the edge of their seats as they awaited an answer. Finally, with a heavy sigh, she lifted her tired gaze to the council.
"A life must replace a life. A holy hand has stolen a life that was not yet ready to steal away, thus I believe it is only fair for him to replace that life. He destroyed a life, so he now must create one." She spoke sternly.
"How? The Major Arcana cannot bear children nor father them?" Daeva interjected, her purple-tinted universal eyes dimming with sadness. She had had experience with that knowledge after trying for lifetimes to have a child with her soul mate only for her efforts to end in tears.
"He will be banished until he finds a way to do so. Gadriel is resourceful enough, I'm sure he can find a way to right his wrongs. We just have to give him a chance." Lilith answered, her eyes glancing meeting with Sandra who nodded her agreement. An unspoken vow lingered between the two, they would find a way for him to create life even if it meant breaking into the archives. Brett nodded, contented with her decision he raised his gavel.
"Very well, Gadriel shall put his duties as The Hanged Man to rest temporarily until he finds a way to fix the balance," he bellowed and brought the gavel down with an echoing slam. The liquid beneath the glass casing stilled for a moment at his order before resuming its waves. "And for all of our sakes, let's pray he does it quickly." He added gravely.