The Hierophant and The Fool
My borrowed clothes felt heavy and hot. The walk from Rafferty’s home to the maze portal was shorter than I expected. Bruce accompanied me down the path with a light conversation about his new motorcycle and his laptop problems. It felt strange sharing technology pointers while walking through a place with no modern conveniences.
Arriving back at the hedge maze to the silence of a hundred empty acres felt ominous—the large house towered in the foreground. A few lights shown through the kitchen windows, but otherwise, it looked empty.
Bruce hugged me quickly before straddling his bike. “Thanks for not ripping out my throat. I’m going to sleep like a rock.” I smiled, wrapping my arms across my chest. “Give Dagen a few days, Love. He’s quick to anger and forgiveness.”
“Good to know. He seems pretty pissed.”
“You scared the crap out of him.” Bruce fired up his bike, splitting the silence before he headed down the driveway.
I noticed a new light switch on by the front doorway. Malou stood in the distance with a white shawl wrapped around her shoulders.
She cuddled her arm around mine as I entered the house.
“We were all so worried. I’ve called a few of my colleagues out to inspect the mirror shards, including Bob, so he can refresh your glamor spell. They fade when you cross through portals.”
“Thank you, it’s been a very strange day.”
“You need sugar. There’s caramel ribbon ice cream in the freezer.”
“Sounds perfect.” I could still smell Leo’s scent on my skin. I let a little tear run down my face. I would miss Leo, but I would miss Dagen even more.
“Did my phone make it back?”
“Dagen brought it with the mirror shards. I think the screens cracked. I put it on the kitchen table.”
“Thank you.” I nodded and followed Malou to the ice cream.
Plugging in the battered device, I found only my screen protector was cracked—one small bit of luck from an otherwise unlucky day.
Minutes later, several texts popped on my screen. Emma and Pax were worried. My mother was very concerned no one had heard from me. My sister sent a happy picture of her and William at dinner, but nothing from Dagen.
His last text from before the mirror was, “do you like pepperoni?”
I sent him a message first. “I’m sorry. You have my heart. Please remember that while you punish me.” I set out to answer everyone else, but Dagen still didn’t respond.
“Here we go, a big fat bowl.” Malou walked two bowls of ice cream to a small sitting area off the kitchen. I followed her, grabbing two spoons from the drawer. “We have at least an hour before anyone arrives. Let me look at your cards.”
“I’ve never played before,” I admitted.
“You only need to shuffle them and pick out three.” I went along knowing full well the woman could read my future with a spell.
The old cards felt like a person, like shuffling slices of skin through my fingers. There was energy or a lack of energy. I stopped at a card that piqued my interest.
“The Hierophant, hmm, interesting. Pick another one,” she coaxed. Shuffling again, a card actually felt tingly under my fingers. “The Lovers, expected. Your most pressing matter is?”
“Dagen is really mad. Leo is disappointed I left him in the Grove, and Henry is coming home tomorrow after his wings burn off.”
“Well, think of just one of them for a moment and pick a third card.” I focused on Dagen. Even with my reservations about a life with him, I want him to stay. “Ah, The Fool.”
“Great, sounds bad but appropriate.” I shoveled a full spoon of ice cream in my mouth.
“Well, it’s not bad. Mixed with the hierophant and the lovers, it means a time of turmoil in a relationship—a bump in the road. A new direction may solidify through strife and mania.”
“Mania, for sure. I better get cleaned up. I can smell the Grove on my clothes. Do you think I could borrow something to wear? Everything I own is at Dagen’s.”
“Not a problem. Tomorrow go into town and get new clothes. Leave what’s at Dagen’s for a few days. It gives him a reason to bring it back to you.”
“I can ask Chris to—”
“No,” she interrupted with a soft motion of her hand. “Don’t involve anyone else in your dealings with Dagen unless you want to end things with him permanently.”
“I should spare him, but I really don’t want to.”
“Would you like to know what I saw the first time we met? When I read your future in the sunshine.” Malou nodded toward the stained glass above the front door.
I nodded my head. “Is it bad? It’s bad, right?”
“I saw Leo smiling and standing with several happy women loitering around—his arm extended toward you. You were standing next to Dagen and a dozen or more children. The children were all yours, but only two of them were also Dagen’s. Three from the bunch were girls. Their blood binding your family portal to the White.”
“I’ve never said it out loud, but I want to give him a child. I’ve seen the tragedy he’s endured, and it makes my insides ache.” I pressed my hand to my stomach. The vision of him crying over his infant son haunted me. “My father did this to me. He showed me Dagen’s memories.”
“You need to separate the past from the present. You can’t live five-hundred years and not be dragged through sorrow. Let go of other people’s demons, or they will devour you.” Malou swiped a tidy spoonful of ice cream into her mouth. She seemed to be looking right through me as if she could sense something I was missing.
My phone buzzed. It was Pax. “Send me the blame of the itch who tapped you.”
“Lol, no witch name yet. Malou may know soon. Have Emma turn off your spell check.”
“This contraption was bitched into being by an evil beast from the depths of the great pit,” he responded.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Texting gets easier with practice. Come visit while I sleep if you have time,” I responded.
“Do not pity me. C U soon,” he responded. I sent him back the purple devil face emoji.
Several witches arrived shortly after I finished cleaning up. The massive sugar load from the ice cream made me sleepy. I chatted with Bob as he refreshed my scar spell. He explained because it was a demon favor, it would never fully fade. Only switch off when traveling through dimensional portals.
“Hey, why did Pax cut off his hand after he saved me?”
“Saved you? He resurrected you. A sacrifice was required to pay for the magic he took from this plane. Nothing is given that cannot be taken away unless you make a suitable offering.” Bob was almost giddy as he described the power required to repair my injuries and restore my life.
“Will his hand grow back wherever his real body lies?”
Malou smiled. “Yes, of course, once your body turns to dust, he can reclaim his flesh from this plane.”
“But I’m only twenty-four. I might live for hundreds of years.”
“You called his name and asked for this favor. He knew what it required. Besides, a few hundred years to a greater demon is nothing.” Bob patted my hand. “Be happy you have powerful friends.”
“I had no idea.”
My phone buzzed again. This time it was Dagen. “Not punishing you. I’ll call in a few days.”
“Something cool happened. My first thought was to tell you,” I responded.
“Need a few days to take care of business things,” he responded.
Malou walked close and motioned toward my phone. “It’s Dagen,” I whined, showing her my screen.
“Tell him good night, and don’t text him back until three days from now.”
“That’s a long time.” Malou shrugged her shoulders and smirked. “Fine, I’ll try.”
I sent Dagen “sweet dreams” with a sleepy face.
“Now, don’t contact him again until he suggests you meet face to face. The garage has several cars to choose from in the morning. We keep gas cards and proof of insurance in the glove boxes.” Malou patted me on the shoulder and went back to her guests. They inspected the pieces of mirror and were devising a spell to determine who trapped me.
I left my phone on the kitchen counter so I wouldn’t be tempted to text Dagen.
The bedroom Malou gave me was much larger than my guest room upstairs. The long room was sparsely decorated with a simple bed and dresser on one side and a set of double glass doors in the middle of the space opening into a neatly kept rose garden. The warm air flowing in the room was lightly scented by the flowers and the fresh-cut grass. It looked as if no one occupied the room for some time, but it was spotless.
I settled into the wide bed and stared up at the ceiling. It wasn’t long before I could feel someone invisible sit on the bed next to me.
“Sleep.” The voice in my ear was Pax. I closed my eyes and let my body relax.
Pax appeared in his human form. I threw my arms around him and hugged him tightly. He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me to his lap.
“I am glad to see you alive. I assumed the old wolf would keep you safe, but a witch attack never crossed my mind.”
“It’s been nonstop bullshit. Sorry I didn’t text you sooner. I didn’t know you would lose your hand to save me?”
“It is a small price to pay. Perhaps you can allow me to burn your body—after your death, of course.”
“I don’t see why not. It’s not like I’ll need it.”
“Others may want to keep your body intact after you pass. You could sell it to a lesser demon or let it rot in a box.”
“Really, I think I should give it to you to burn so you can get your hand back.”
“Very well then, we have a deal.” Pax extended his hand to shake mine. Fear enveloped every cell of my body. It was unlike anything I felt before. “Oh, don’t fret, Little Worm. This won’t happen for hundreds of your years.”
“Well, that’s a happy thought,” I laughed. “What have you been up to the past few days?”
“I fornicated with seven women and one man. It is not going well.”
“That sounds like quite a few people for just a few days, Pax.”
“Yes, but none of them lived. It’s quite perplexing.”
“Does Emma know what the problem might be?”
“It’s their necks. I like the feel of it in my hands, but it’s too fragile to really grab.”
“Hmm, yes, it houses arteries and the spinal column and some easily broken bones,” I explained.
“I learned to kiss you, but the movies Emma found aren’t helping with the other acts.”
“Porn? Yeah, that’s usually unrealistic. It’s not real sex.”
“Perhaps I can watch you, and your old wolf copulate.”
“Probably not happening any time soon. He’s upset with me.”
“For dying? What an asshole, everybody dies sometimes.”
“No, for getting sucked inside a mirror for Leo. Here look through my memories. Dagen is quite skilled.” Pax took my hand and laid back on my bed.
“Different experiences from each person I see?”
“Yes, unquestionably different.”
“Hmm, very interesting.”