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I am a very slow child, and I am sorry. I will probably continue slow, since I am afflicted with plague right now. Here is the second of Madame's commissioned full readings. Enjoy!

For [profile] cointeach:
Madame Destiny is wearing a turban and matching wrap of silver lamé; the pins holding both are constructed of bright, faceted silver leaves adorned with garnet-colored berries. Her dress under the wrap is a soft grey silk brocade patterned with cherry blossoms in the same color. Her nails are lacquered in a shade of pale pink with iridescence, and her hands are laden with silver rings; a snake ring with garnet eyes, a poison ring with a foxglove etched on its face, and a heavy men's signet ring inscribed with a blocky "O" are remarkable among the otherwise unremarkable mass of bands and twists and semiprecious cabochons.

"Well, dear, are you ready for your reading?" she asks, shuffling the cards carefully, bridging them repeatedly. "This will take a while to do properly, you know. I hope you don't mind. I tend to ramble a bit from time to time. But this will be a general sort of reading to give you a feel for what may be affecting your life now and in the near future."

She flips the first card, which she lays in the center of the table. The card shows three very young white women wearing U.S. Army uniforms -- olive drab jackets and knee-length skirts, pale beige shirts immaculate and ties neatly knotted -- and standing shoulder to shoulder, beaming at the camera, each raising a coffee mug in "toast" position. Their hair is neatly restrained, and the two standing on either side are wearing squared-off caps with brims. The woman in the center is very blonde, while the woman on the right is an olive-skinned brunette, and the woman on the left is a freckled, snub-nosed redhead. The card is upright to you. "Well, dear, what a nice start. This is your position right now: the three of cups, the card of friendship and joy. These three ladies were icons of the Women's Gold Stars Auxiliary: Jane Liberty there in the center, Betsy Starr -- Ebb's grandmother, you know, but this was before she was married, and Starr was just part of the code name she took -- on the left, and Bernadette Andruzzi, better known by her code name 'Spare Change,' on the right. They joined around the same time, went through boot camp together, got deployed to Europe together: the best of friends, inseparable in sickness and health and rain and bombs and all that. You are in a good place in your life, with good friends and a calm center despite the tumult around you. It's a very strong position to be in."

Madame deals a second card onto the table so it sits above the three of cups from your perspective. The card depicts a man in a charcoal grey body suit, gunmetal-colored belt, and a dark blue cloak, masked cowl, trunks, gloves, and boots. He is posed half-crouched on a rooftop, and the skyline behind him is low, with few tall buildings, and there is the glow of fire or explosions in the distance. The card is upright to you. "This is, of course, the iconic original Midnight Mask costume," Madame says. "Back before someone with some design sense got to him. Early stories about the Mask's origin suggest that he had some sort of experience that called him to put on the costume and go out and fight crime. Those have evolved into an extensive mythology about some criminal killing someone near and dear to him -- sometimes it's his wife, sometimes it goes all the way back to the parents. But the truth of the matter is that his epiphany came to him when he came down with polio as a teenager. He expected the worst, like everyone: that he'd die, or end up in an iron lung, or at least be fighting for every bit of mobility like President Roosevelt. But everything came back to him -- his ability to breathe, his ability to talk, and his ability to walk. Beyond that, he found that he was a bulletproof. Just a little, just enough. And he felt that he had to make the most of his miracle, concocted the mask and costume, and went out into the city and, later, the war." She taps the card. "The crown of this reading is the Midnight Mask, who represents Judgement. It's about figuring out who you are and what you need to be doing."

Madame places a third card below the three of cups. A male shape constructed of dull grey metal, dressed in Army fatigues, is shown leaping down a hillside, a heavy machine gun blazing in each hand. His mouth is open as if shouting, though the sides curve up slightly in a wicked sort of smile, and the artificial eyes in the only vaguely human face glow red. The card is upright to you. "If you can believe it," Madame says, "that is Mr. Jack Hammer, back when he was Sergeant Jack Hammer. This was late in the war, you understand. His body had been badly damaged by a grenade in France, but his brain -- and most of his face -- was intact, and so he was able to volunteer for the experiment of having his brain placed in a cyborg body. It took him quite a long time to learn to move his new body, and a great deal of adjustment and tuning by the scientists who created the body. The first body was made with an eye toward utility and fighting, not aesthetics, he says, and that's what he did for the last year or so of the war. In this deck, he represents the Knight of Wands, and in this reading, he is in the root of the reading. I think you have a great deal of energy and have put a lot of work into learning what you need to learn, and you have gathered up your courage and daring. And that's all related to the Judgement card." She taps the crown card.

She deals a fourth card to the left of the three of cups. It depicts a great golden airship with a zeppelin-like float and an ornate gondola beneath, all illuminated by bright spotlights from a city below. The style makes it look like an Art Deco travel poster. The card is upright to you. "This is the Living Airship, known these days as Doctor Hel Blau. She was built around the turn of the century by Captain Blau, and when the Great War happened, he tried to keep out of it as much as possible. He was a pacifist -- as evidenced by the fact that Hel had no weapons originally -- and even though he loved his home country, he didn't believe in fighting. He did the same thing in the Second World War, particularly because he loathed the Nazis, but he died in 1942. At that point, Hel decided to take her fate into her own hands, rather than allowing the new 'captain' her creator had nominated to take over management." Madame smiles fondly at the airship's portrait. "She had her crew drop the 'captain', who was one of Captain Blau's proteges, off on a remote island in the Pacific, and pointed herself northward. She requested asylum from the US government, and after a period of investigation and political debate and scientific bribery, was recognized as her own woman and allowed to help in the war efforts. In this deck, Hel represents the Chariot, the card of focused will, assertion, and control -- putting the horses in harness and driving them. In your recent past, you've been asserting your will, taking control of your own destiny... this really plays beautifully with the other cards we've been discussing."

The fifth card is placed across the three of cups. It depicts a man in a black domino mask, grey aviator's jacket, and matching jodphurs. Set below his knees are giant metallic cylinders with long handles sticking up along the side that he grips in each hand. He is standing a little turned away from the viewer, looking out over a waterway. There appears to be a number of controls on each handle. "That is Spring-heel Jack, a UK vigilante who patrolled the British coast for Nazi spies and landing parties. He lost his legs in the Great War, and was frustrated that he couldn't go back to the trenches for the next war, so he built himself those legs, which were essentially giant springs. No one ever got a look at how they worked, but he could walk, heavily, and leap great distances, and when he kicked opponents, they stayed pretty well kicked. He was a great motivator for local militias and veterans charities, and became a great motivational speaker after the war. Spring-heel Jack represents the two of wands in this deck, which is all about daring and creativity and originality. This card is upright on the bridge you are crossing to the near future. You are taking bold strides your own way and moving on with your life."

When Madame starts to deal the sixth card, it almost leaps out of her fingers, hits the table so that it appears reversed, then bounces and slides around to be mostly upright. "Goodness!" she says, sliding it into place to the right of the three of cups. The card shows a white man and woman, arms linked, in full matching costumes: heavily armored grey jackets and trousers with red piping, bright black boots, and pointed silver helmets with no faceplates. They are smiling and clearly standing at an altar, apparently just married. "I see," Madame says, studying the card. "These two are Rocket and Red Glare, a pair of paras who were allowed to work together in the sex-segregated Gold Stars after they got married in 1943. Their marriage was really the first fully spandex marriage, and it was a huge media event. Their marriage continued to be a major subject for the news for the rest of the war and even after the war, and it continued to be very happy, according to the news. Behind the scenes, it wasn't so very happy, because Red Glare insisted on continuing to be Rocket's partner even after the war was over. Everything was over the day that Red Glare demonstrated that her power over fire far, far outstripped Rocket's. She had a choice between hundreds of people dying or saving her marriage, and she made the right choice: showing that she was a Class 7 para to his Class 3." She picks the card up and then puts it back down. "I think what the deck is cautioning you about is possible difficulties with a partner who may be intimidated by your boldness and assertiveness--" she touches the two of wands and the Chariot "-- but if you keep communication open and active, I think your relationship may end up stronger than ever."

Madame deals the seventh card below and to the right of the central set of six. The card depicts a jewel-encrusted emperor's orb topped with a golden apple. Each of the visible eighths of the globe is a different color: red, blue, black, and silver. It floats against a starry background interspersed with random swirls of color. The card is reversed to you. Madame says, "The Harmoneris Orb is a mysterious magical object that was captured by the Gold Stars as it was being transported to Hitler by members of his Magierrat, the mages and mystikai who worked for the Nazis. No one really knows what it looks like, because it changes appearance based on who is holding it at the time, and it's said that it changes effects similarly. It's supposed to respond to one's deepest desires. In this deck, it represents the Ace of Pentacles, and, here, it represents your current position. You may be feeling pinched by the world right now, in terms of money or work or other material things. You are trying to learn how to turn your energies toward what you want, and it's not going as fast or as well as you want it to."

The eighth card is placed above the Harmoneris Orb. The card depicts a curvaceous white woman wearing a red sheath dress slit to the hip, exposing a thigh holster. She is standing in a WWII glamor girl pose at the edge of a stream. Her blonde hair cascades over the left half of her face and her left shoulder, and her left hand is poised delicately on her hip. Her right arm is upraised and she is firing some type of rocket gun into the air over her head, and the rocket has exploded over her head in a star shape. The card is upright to you. "The first Bombshell was a mad scientist who liked explosions, inventing that rocket gun, as well as many other things that blew up," Madame says. "She masterminded some of the greatest demolitions and daring eleventh hour rescues of the war. The Star is a card of hope, the way that if you knew the Bombshell was deployed nearby, there was always hope that a beautiful blonde would save you. This is the position of your emotions -- you are full of hope for your new endeavors, and well you should be." Madame gestures over the central six cards. "I think indications are good, and hope is exactly what you should have."

She deals the ninth card above the Bombshell. The card shows a young, slender androgynous figure in dark blue bodysuit and a black bolero jacket. This person is wearing a simple black mask that covers only the top of the face, and is carrying a fighting staff with silver caps on either end. The background is a nighttime rooftop with a crescent moon in the sky and a caped figure in the distance. The card is upright to you. "Very interesting," Madame says. "This is Domino, who was the Midnight Mask's sidekick." She touches the crown card of Judgment, which depicts the Midnight Mask. "The Mask had several Dominos. Two of them didn't survive the war, and the third Domino joined after the war and eventually took the mantle of Midnight Mask himself. The Mask was bitter about losing his young men, but it was wartime, after all. He always chose bright young enthusiastic things, full of energy and risk-taking behaviors. This is the page of wands, and is the position of your hopes and fears, and since the card is upright, I think your hopes are predominating here. You're afraid to be impulsive, but you're looking forward to this change, this new thing in your life."

The tenth card, placed above the page of wands, depicts a woman with a generous hourglass figure dressed in a black fencer's outfit, complete with a mask that utterly obscures her face. Her formfitting bodysuit is black, with a bright red embroidered heart in the center of her chest. White, very thorny, roses are embroidered around the heart and sprawl organically over the rest of her suit. She holds her sword (too substantial to be a foil) in a fencer's salute. The card is reversed to you. "This is L'escrimeuse, who was part of the French Resistance during the War. L'escrimeuse was celebrated for her quick thinking and silver tongue, as well as her ability to notice and recall tiny details that were immensely important. A few times, though, she was not as decisive as she could have been -- most notably a time when she had infiltrated a German unit and delayed her departure too long. She had hoped she could obtain more information, but all it got her was captured." Madame shrugs. "Fortunately, she was good at escapes. In any case, this is your outcome, the queen of swords: a caution, I think, against being indecisive for too long."

Madame Destiny makes a gesture that encompasses all the cards. "I am reading a very clear message." She taps the center card, the three of cups. "You are in a good position--" then touches the seeker card, the ace of pentacles reversed "-- though it may not seem that way in terms of the material. Still--" she taps Judgement, the knight of wands, the Chariot, the two of wands "--you're pretty well revved up and ready to go on this new endeavor. You are ready. I think the cards just wanted to warn you about the possible partner conflict--" she touches the Lovers "--and about the risk of indecision." She lays her hand over the queen of swords reversed. "But I think this is a very encouraging reading indeed." She folds her hands and smiles. "I hope that helps, dear."









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