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Madame Destiny sees all! Knows all! And might tell you some of it!

Until midnight tonight (Wonder City time [Eastern time]), she will entertain requests for Tarot readings.


For free, gratis, nada, she will draw one card from her World War II Wonder City Wonders Tarot deck and tell you what is most dominant in your life right now! Simple comment below and request a card.

For a mere $20, she will perform one of her renowned 5-card Perisphere-and-Trylon readings!

For the simple investment of $50, she will give you the benefit of all her considerable skills and perform a full (10-card) reading!


---

It's been a while since I did one of these. Today, in hopeful celebration of spring coming soon after the arrival of March, I'm offering Tarot readings, written in the persona of Madame Destiny.

Here are links to some of the earlier readings Madame and I did:
One-card Readings, Part 1
One-card Readings, Part 2
One-card Readings, Part 3
One-card Readings, Part 4
Full reading #1
Full reading #2
Full reading #3

Also, really, can you resist seeing what she'll wear *next* time?









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Here's a little movement and action in Wonder City for the new year!



The Inevitable Law of Revelation

The sight of the massive leather-clad bulk of TinkerMel seated on Madame Destiny's floral sofa, sipping tea from a tiny china teacup, very nearly reduced Angelica to helpless giggles.

"I'm very glad to meet you, Angelica," Lady Justice said, shaking her hand firmly. The old woman was less unkempt than that old newspaper article had implied: her hair was recently cut and washed, so that it was an iron-grey, wavy mass a little shy of her shoulders, and her clothes were old, but certainly clean and there was a neatly mended tear in one knee of the woman's jeans. "Now, Pearl has briefed you, right?" Lady Justice had the keenest, bluest eyes Angelica had ever seen.

"Yes, ma'am," Angelica said, using the honorific automatically. "And I'm fine with your power."

"You can just call me Lady J, or whatever you like, dear," Lady Justice said with a grin.

"You need to get used to being 'ma'am'ed again, Lady J," said a balding elderly man sitting in a straight chair next to the chair Lady J had risen from. He looked mostly in their direction, but his gaze was vague. His smile, however, was utterly charming. "You're the bosslady here."

Everyone settled down and Pearl made introductions to which Angelica attended carefully. The old man next to Lady J was Ira Feldstein, formerly the hero Mister Metropolitan. Madame Destiny was their elderly hostess, and she looked both sick and exhausted. X, Madame's apprentice, was a dashing spark of light in the room, genderqueer as hell and dressed to the nines. And the young, plain Asian woman with the terribly old eyes was Madeline Fukuda, the biggest single-person U.S. scandal of the Second World War. Ah.

No wonder Pearl was recruiting younger people. Poor X.

"All right," Lady J said, limping back to her chair and settling into it. "Let's summarize for our new folks, Angelica and Mel."

"Alien invasion," X said, with a gesture upward.

"A little too succinct, dear," Madame said, sipping her tea.

"Noooo," Angelica said. "That makes sense, actually. I'm guessing they've infiltrated the government and that's where we're getting the little mobs of men in black?"

"Your guess is as good as ours," Madeline said with a little shrug. "We know it's aliens from questioning in the Oracle. How they're controlling things so invisibly and making everything so wrong is still a mystery to us."

"I think I can help with that," Mel rumbled, carefully setting the teacup down on the table and reaching into one of his many inner jacket pockets. He set one of the rings he'd confiscated down on the table, and then held up a little plexiglass display case with another one of the rings taken apart and exploded like a display skull, each miniscule piece attached to a slender pin.

The group leaned in close, but couldn't really make anything of the rings out, though Pearl said, "Wait, isn't that one of those promise rings that the men in black have been handing out? Some of my patients have been wearing them."

"Yes," Mel said. "They're not transmitters, which is what I thought they were originally. I've dissected a dozen of them in various ways. They're similar to the TeslaNet receiver-transformers, absorbing some sort of ambient energy and then transmitting it to the wearer in concentrated form. I can't tell you what the energy is, though." Angelica knew how hard that last sentence had been for him -- Mel prided himself on being able to figure out any device.

The group stared at Mel for a moment. Then, Angelica, thinking of Simon, said, "Could there also be... larger versions of the rings that don't need to be touching someone?"

Ira turned his head toward her, his face lighting up. "Like a speaker system? To focus it on somewhere in particular? Watson said something about the Marigold Lane house being worse for whatever-it-is than elsewhere. And it felt worse."

Mel chewed his lower lip, scowling down at the exploded ring. "Yes, I think so. A repeater type of technology."

"Technologically-enhanced mind control?" Pearl said. When everyone looked at her, appalled, she said, "Well, that's what we're all thinking, isn't it?"

Mel nodded heavily. "I can also tell you this: whoever made this is either human or well-versed in human technology. I've seen some alien tech, and this is totally down-home."

Lady J sighed. "That means the involvement of someone who's made a special study of paranormal powers and 'improbable physics', like Professor Canis."

"Who is missing," Madame noted. "So not her."

"That would explain why I couldn't figure out the energies," Mel mumbled to himself, looking a little pleased. He tucked his show-and-tell items back into his coat. "But Professor Canis has written extensively about her work. I'll do some research, see what I can find."

X had turned very pale, Angelica noticed, but wasn't saying anything.

"If the aliens are projecting something down at us," Madeline said quietly, "then we really do need to get to their ship or ships. Or into orbit at least. And we don't have anyone who can do that."

Madame nodded. "That was the thing we were bringing to the table: we either couldn't contact the superhero teams we know, or they couldn't help us for some reason."

Madeline said, "There are a couple of small, young teams, but all of them are street-focused vigilante types. We don't have any cosmic heroes willing, able, or available."

"Speaking of cosmics," X said, "the Young Cosmics have been forbidden to engage in any major actions by their backer. So no help there. Though..." X's lips compressed into a line and the word cut off. "No, no help there."

Ira said sadly, "Watson Holmes said she didn't want to draw attention to us, since she felt there was attention being paid to her household. I... saw some very disturbing things. That poor boy, Simon... so reduced..."

Feldstein! Angelica didn't quite snap her fingers with realization. Of course! Ira was Suzanne's father-in-law.

She was so distracted by her epiphany that she nearly missed Lady Justice raising her head and saying, distinctly, "We have one last hope, ladies and gentlemen, and it's a damnable long shot."

This managed to rivet everyone's attention.

Lady J turned to Pearl and Angelica. "Do either of you know anyone who's got a knack for focusing other people's minds?"

The two women looked at each other quizzically. Angelica pursed her lips and said, "What do you think about Kendis?"

Pearl made a surprised noise and said, "What is she registered as?"

"I have no idea," Angelica said, "but she once said that if she ever took a superhero name it would be 'Ginkgo Biloba.' Students hire her to sit in the next room when they take exams and shi... stuff like that."

"She works at that para nursing home," Pearl said, rubbing one of her thumb joints thoughtfully.

Angelica looked at Lady J, and she had to admit that there was something thrilling about being the focus of that woman's intense gaze, being the person appealed to for expertise. Yeah, okay, Lady Justice was awesome. "I think so. I don't know how much control of it she's got, though."

"It's worth a try," Lady J said. "All right, I need you, Angelica, to bring that friend of yours to the Stars 'n' Garters Cafe Saturday morning. And I'll need you too, Madeline."

"What are you going to do?" Madame said, a little worried.

Lady J smiled grimly, cracking her knobby knuckles. "A little jailbreaking."











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Wooo, I finally got it written and up! Hope you enjoy this reading!

A 5-card reading for The Leaky Pen )








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Am I Invisible? Am I Inaudible?

The group reconvened a few days later in Madame's living room, after X had called them all to let them know that Madame had recovered from the session with the Oracle.

"The question of the day is," Madeline said, "now that we know, what do we do about the alien invasion?"

Ira sipped his tea. He couldn't stop himself from squinting to see his companions' faces and being frustrated, as always, by his blindness. Finally, he said, "Well, who can we contact who can take on an alien... is it an armada? Or one ship? I mean, if they're somehow... controlling things, do they need an armada?"

"Unfortunately, the Oracle is never precise," Madame said.

"And always obscure," X muttered.

"Does it really matter?" Pearl said. "Either it's one ship or many. Either they're in orbit or hidden somewhere on Earth. The facts are that they are, I think, meddling with people's minds, and I'll tell you this as mental health professional: if someone doesn't stop it soon, there will, in fact, be irreparable damage done to thousands, if not millions, of people."

There was a silence, and Lady Justice said, "Is what you're seeing that bad, Pearl?"

Pearl cleared her throat. "I have clients coming to me, week after week, who just don't remember what they said the week before. It's like they're all being reset to be maximally screwed up." Ira could tell from the waver in her voice that she was upset. "Some of them stop coming to me because they've forgotten I exist. And... I've been talking to other therapists in town, and we all agree that the rate of attempted suicides has at least tripled."

"Oh," Lady J said, and they all sat in silence again.

"I tried calling the Gold Stars," Madeline said. "They're still 'on a mission in space'. I tried calling Ruth, too, but there's no answer at home and there's... someone else in charge of her company right now. And it's not Ms. Revelle."

"They've been on that mission for at least 6 months," X said. "Sophie mentioned that Ruth had gone with them. I tried the Guardians. They're currently unavailable and, uh, I think they're compromised."

Madame snorted mirthlessly. "I think that's safe to say, given that their voicemail message is full of Biblical verses, and while I think most of the Guardians are, in fact, Christian, none of them have ever been so... forward about it."

Ira grappled at something in the back of his mind for a moment and finally said, "Mental!" out loud. Then he was sure everyone was looking at him, and felt his face heat up. "I... was just thinking. If it's a mental thing, why don't we ask a telepath?"

"Do you know any these days?" Lady J said.

"Yes!" Ira said. "At least, I've worked with one. Two years ago, that killer, remember? We had someone I was told was the Class 10 telepath networking us."

"Renata Scott!" Madeline said. "Of course! Do you have a way to get in touch with her? Because... well, I know her but Ruth always handled the contact."

"I don't," Ira said, slumping in defeat. Then he straightened up. "But I know someone who does! I can't count on Suzanne right now, but I bet Watson Holmes knows how to get hold of her."

"Okay," Lady J said, sounding businesslike and leaderly, "we have one person to contact. Ira, that's your job. Who else?"

Ira was noticing a lot of silence in this meeting.

"Well, let's list some of the other groups we have contacts with," Lady J said patiently. "For me, there's the Lightning Family, the Solarians, the Animal Kings, the Regulars..."

"The Regulars are just a neighborhood group," Madeline said.

"They might be under the radar of whatever is going on," Pearl said.

"They're not going to be able to fight an alien invasion," Madeline pursued.

"We're just brainstorming," Pearl said, "so let's not pooh-pooh anything right now."

Madeline said, "All right. Well, then, while we're at it, let's talk not only Wonder City and environs, but beyond. I know the Blazers in New York, and the Patriots in Philadelphia."

"The Minutemen and the Stormriders in Boston," Ira said. "I know the Minutemen's founder."

"What about that group you know in Britain, Madame?" Lady J said. "The Next Generation?"

"Have you seen the things people are saying about the UK right now?" X said. "People are saying that the cities in the UK make them believe in a zombie apocalypse. Except, you know, without all the parts falling off."

"I hadn't heard," Ira said, and there was a general murmur of agreement.

"There's nothing in the news, but there's a lot of talk online," X said. "People in the rural areas are avoiding the cities and warning other people to avoid them too, because everyone in the big cities is acting really... robot-like. No thought, no conversation... no crime, but I'm not sure about the trade-off there."

"Hmm," Madame said. "The Next Gen was based in London last I heard, too."

"What is it with London anyway?" Lady J said. "They're as bad as Tokyo with apocalypses."

X said, slowly, "There's also the Young Cosmics." Ira thought X must have looked around the room before saying, hurriedly, "I know they're not very... together. But I know they're not totally under control AND they have a Class 10 elemental, an unclassable intellect, a speedster, and a android with a range of Class 6 powers. If they can't search space, they can at least canvass Earth for the aliens, right?"

Lady J exhaled. "All right, X, you contact the Young Cosmics. Madeline, are there any other folks in the Tens who might be helpful?"

Madeline paused in a way Ira suspected was thoughtful. "Jennifer Lombardi might be helpful. Her power is, ah, being able to see everywhere at once. I can't think of a better person to have a look around. Though she's a little... random sometimes."

Lady J made a noise of agreement. "That sounds good. Also, I've been thinking that maybe we need some more people who're... under the radar like us. I mean, no one pays special attention to us. But we're... some of us are old and not very mobile. It would be good to get some more young folks in so X doesn't end up doing our footwork all the time."

X laughed, Ira thought, just a little bitterly.

"I think I can help with that," Pearl said. "And I can do it without even violating patient privacy. I know a woman who's a receptionist at Queer Energy. It's a sort of community center and low-income clinic for paras -- mostly queer people, but some not. I bet she knows some folks, but I think she'd also be good for adding to our little cadre."

"Oh, are you thinking of Angelica?" Madeline said. Presumably Pearl nodded, because Madeline went on with, "She's a smart cookie -- a good ideas person."

"Okay," Lady J said, clapping her hands together lightly, "I think we have the start of a plan. If X will give me a hand with Parapedia, Madame and I will put our heads together to see what other groups we can call, and make some of those calls."

Ira nodded, smiling. "It's good to be working with you again, Lady Justice," he said, giving her shadow a sloppy salute.

She leaned over and squeezed his shoulder. "And it's good to have something to do, isn't it?"

Ira nodded, thinking that perhaps he'd just go actually visit Watson Holmes. After all, didn't she live in the same building with Simon? Maybe he could kill two birds with one stone -- or two conundrums with one bus fare, at least.

---

Trying very hard to remember that Ira is blind while I write. Please let me know if you notice any slips.








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My apologies for the slowness of getting this up, and also because there will be no new episode today. Apparently, my brain went off on summer vacation and didn't take me. I will try to get the new ep up by Friday.

A 10-card reading for Cointeach )








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The Truth Is Out There

Ira was both prepared and relieved when the light of the Oracle permeated the room. As that time more than two years earlier, the strange, harsh, bluish light returned his vision in youthful clarity. He was able to see the other people who had all gathered of their own accord in Madame Destiny's workroom: Madame's androgynous Asian assistant, X, who was wearing a plain blue buttondown shirt and tailored black trousers; Lady Justice, whose unkempt grey hair was roughly tidied back with bobby pins and whose face looked like a topographic map of some mountainous place in the unflattering light; Madeline Fukuda, who still looked as young and lovely as she had the first time Ira had met her in the 1950s, though, perhaps, the lines around her eyes were more pronounced with worry and sadness; and the woman to whom he'd just been introduced, Pearl Wong, X's grandmother, who did, in fact, look a great deal like X except very definitely a woman in her mid-60s, with all the wrinkles and grey hair to go with it.

Madame was sitting in her accustomed chair, her back ramrod straight, her eyes wide and glowing with Oracle-light. Ira saw that she'd aged shockingly since the last time he'd been able to see her; she looked exhausted. There was a long pause after the light came up, and Ira could see that her shoulders and head were trembling very slightly. Finally, with almost a little sigh, the Oracle said, "SPEAK."

X stepped into Madame's line of sight and said, "Oracle, those gathered in this room have observed strange happenings in the world. We would like to ask you about the source of these happenings."

"EACH OF YOU MAY SPEAK A SINGLE QUESTION."

X had briefed them before the session, while Madame was preparing alone in the room: the Oracle only took yes/no questions right now, especially from a large group, because Madame's endurance was not what it used to be, and one should assume that the Oracle will know the circumstances around one's question, because delay for lengthy explanations would only tax Madame more. X glanced around the room to make sure everyone was ready, then gestured to Ira, who had drawn the straw to ask the first question.

Ira briefly reflected on the fact that X apparently knew about the Oracle's ability to clear the vision of the blind, given the gesture, then shook himself and said, "Has there been a major reorganization of the timeline in the past two years that is causing the odd behaviors I've observed?"

The Oracle turned Madame's head slowly to consider him. "NO, IRA FELDSTEIN."

Ira said, "Thank you," and looked at Lady Justice.

Lady J chewed her lower lip for a moment, then said, "Is there a single person responsible for the behavior changes?"

The Oracle again turned Madame's head, and Ira fancied the hesitation was a little longer. "NO, DOROTHY SANDERSON."

She nodded briefly and said, "Thanks."

X looked at Madeline, who drew a long breath and said, "Is the government at the root of the new behaviors?"

The Oracle said, without hesitating, "NO, MADELINE FUKUDA."

After Madeline had muttered her thanks, everyone looked at Pearl. She looked around at the rest of them, and said, "Does it come from the skies?"

Everyone stared at Pearl. Ira recalled her mentioning something her therapy clients had been saying lately.

The Oracle snapped Madame's head around to look at her, and said, "YES, PEARL WONG."

Now they all stared at the Oracle. Ira noticed that Madame's tremors were worse, and there were tears tracking down her face. X apparently noticed as well, moving forward to put a hand over Madame's wrist and a finger on her pulse.

Madame's face turned up to X and the Oracle said, "YOU HAVE NOT ASKED, EMPTY VESSEL."

X stared into Madame's possessed face, and glanced at Pearl. "Have we been invaded?"

Again, no delay. "YES, EMPTY VESSEL."

X nodded, then said, "You should go."

Ira saw the Oracle sweep an unreadable gaze over the group. Then the light went out and Ira's vision returned to its usual blurry glow. He heard a scuffle and X let out a pained exhalation.

"A little help here?" X said with an audible effort to sound calm.

"Let me," Madeline said, and Ira could see her move rapidly across the room, trailed by someone he assumed was Pearl. Certainly, he knew, Lady J hadn't moved that fast or well since the stroke. "Get her a glass of water," Madeline added. He heard X jog out of the room.

"What's wrong?" Ira said, keeping his seat with difficulty.

"Madame collapsed," Lady J murmured. "Let the kids handle it, Ira. We'd just be in the way."

Ira reached out toward her, and Lady J took his hand. They gripped each other's hands tightly, their ancient superstrength and invulnerability keeping them safe from one another. "It's another invasion," Ira said in a low voice, tuning out the quiet hustle around Madame.

"It seems like we get them about once a decade, doesn't it?" Lady J said. "I mean the really big ones."

"They're changing the world this time. It's just... just..." Ira stopped.

"It's kind of like the Great Gulf, without the time manipulation, isn't it?" Lady J said, giving his hand a squeeze.

"Yeah," Ira said, wiping at his eyes where they were watering. "But without the time manipulation, it won't be as bad. It can't."

---

Author's Note:

Being the vessel of a cosmic entity is hard work.

Don't forget to vote for Wonder City Stories at Top Webfiction!








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Remember that the offer of readings from Madame is good only until midnight tonight, until the next time I decide to do this!

- $5 for a one-card draw.
- $15 for either a 3-card answer to a specific question or a 5-card general reading.
- $45 for a full 10-card reading.








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Madame Destiny sees all! Knows all! And might tell you some of it!

For five thin dollars, she will draw one card from her World War II Wonder City Wonders Tarot deck and tell you what is most dominant in your life right now!

For a mere fifteen dollars, she will either answer a question (3-card reading) or give you an abbreviated general reading (5-card Perisphere-and-Trylon reading)!

For the simple investment of forty-five dollars, she will give you the benefit of all her considerable skills and perform a full (10-card) reading!

This offer will be open until Monday, June 18, 2012!

---

My freelancing is a little thin on the ground right now, so I thought I'd offer another set of Madame Destiny readings. Think of it as buying Madame some tea while learning some Wonder City backstory! Remember, all these readings are done *in character* as Madame.

If you missed the earlier set of readings, here are the links them:
One-card Readings, Part 1
One-card Readings, Part 2
One-card Readings, Part 3
One-card Readings, Part 4
Full reading #1
Full reading #2
Full reading #3

Also, really, can you resist seeing what she'll wear *next* time?

That's:
- $5 for a one-card draw.
- $15 for either a 3-card answer to a specific question or a 5-card general reading.
- $45 for a full 10-card reading.









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His Faded Idol

12.

The festivities went on well into the daytime hours, and Erszebet was intrigued by the shift in the type of people she saw walking the halls. Of course, the vermin had to leave before sunrise, and they were replaced by vastly more people in colorful costumes than she had seen previously.

Everyone is happy to attend a celebration. Not quite so many are so happy to attend a funeral, even for someone who was, essentially, a kind of head of state.

She retired to what she'd begun to think of as "the Garnet Parlor", a sprawling room done up in lavish Victoriana, full of comfortable chairs, gas fireplaces, cozy conversation nooks, and sound-deadening wall-hangings and rugs. There was also something that flattened out emotional noise, so that it was very peaceful and quiet in all ways. In a dimly-lit corner, in a wingback chair, she closed her eyes and sighed with relief.

"Ah, Ms. Farkas," said a vaguely familiar woman's voice. "How does the last day of the event find you?"

Erszebet opened her eyes and found a cheerful almost-elderly woman smiling at her from another wingback chair; the woman was wearing a black turban with a peacock plume attached to it, and a long black dress, set off by a metallic wine-colored wrap, and a magnificent garnet parure. When the young, beautifully-dressed Asian man appeared in a morning coat and trousers, carrying a tray with a china teapot and cup, she recognized Madame Destiny. "I am extremely tired," Erszebet admitted. "But it has been an... unforgettable experience."

"I expect so," Madame said, taking the teacup offered. "You've had quite a week. And more experiences upcoming soon."

Erszebet looked sharply at the woman. "How do you know these things?"

Madame smiled and sipped her tea. "I've been a fortuneteller for almost fifty years."

Erszebet glanced at the young man, who smiled briefly and nodded. "She's a very good fortuneteller."

"Thank you, X, dear," Madame said. "Oh, would you take this, dear?" She handed the teacup back to the young man and turned a serious look on Erszebet. "I'm sorry, this will probably be somewhat unpleasant, but..."

There was an alarming change in the room -- the light shifted, became sharp and harsh and unforgiving, laying bare not only all the age lines in Madame's face, but the imperfections in the wall hangings, the upholstery, and the hem of Erszebet's dress. Madame, for her part, sat up very straight with her eyes glowing blue.

"ERSZEBET FARKAS," Madame said in an unearthly, sepulchral voice, "YOU ARE A CHILD OF DESTINY."

Erszebet just stared.

Madame went on: "YOUR TRAVELS WILL NOT END, YOUR WORDS FENCES TO MEND, YOUR NAME MANY WILL CALL FRIEND. GO WITH PEACE FOR NOW, THOUGH CONTENTION BE YOUR ETERNAL PARTNER." And with that, Madame slumped back in her chair and the light returned to normal.

Erszebet looked from Madame to X and back, alarmed.

X bent and set a gentle hand on Madame's shoulder. Madame took a startled breath and opened her eyes. She awkwardly nudged the turban on her head and smiled, a little vacantly, at Erszebet. "Well, dear, did that help?"

Erszebet found her voice, and decided to be very polite. "No, I'm afraid it only confused me."

Madame smiled more widely and managed to focus on her at last. "I'm sorry, dear, the Oracle is sometimes like that. It's usually so cryptic that its meaning isn't obvious until much later."

Erszebet was very glad when shortly after, Juana Zalazar came to abduct her. "You look rather pale," Juana said when they were out of the parlor. "Are you well?"

"I... just had a rather remarkable experience with one of the paras, I think," Erszebet said. "I can't quite make out whether it was a prophecy or a curse."

Juana patted her shoulder kindly. "Sometimes, it is impossible to tell the difference. Speaking of that, I'm taking you to see my mother."

Erszebet gave her a wild, alarmed look at this particular segue.

"Not to worry," Juana said, smiling. "My mother has asked to speak to you privately, and Dame Geneviève would like to be introduced to you."

Erszebet's look did not diminish in alarm at all. Both Grand Matriarchs wanted to speak to her? Specially? Had she spoken out of turn? Had Isolde mentioned her embarrassing assumptions earlier in the week? Was she to be sent home now instead of taken on a grand tour of the country?

The two Grand Matriarchs were ensconced, side by side, in comfortable-looking high-backed wooden chairs that looked as much like thrones as they could without actually being thrones. There was no dais, no added jewelry, no ermine or gold, nothing that really indicated that these two ancient women were actually queens who had just peaceably split a kingdom between them. The Zalazar had gone from "plump and cheerful" to "massive and imposing", the tall Spanish comb set with brilliants in her hair only adding more height. The de León's deepset eyes and hooked nose lent a grim and forbidding aspect to her mien.

Zoltan stood quietly to one side, a bland but pleasant smile on his face, his hands clasped behind his back. The smile widened a little at the sight of her, but there was nothing either warning or excessive in the expression.

Everyone in the room -- with the certain exception of Erszebet -- was locked down, emotionally, tight as a drum.

"Erszebet Farkas," Magna Mater Consuela said with a smile.

Erszebet sank into the deepest curtsy she could manage, trying desperately to remember the little "just in case you're presented to the new Grand Matriarch" tutorial her aunt Csilla had given her while also wondering why everyone was using her full name today. Her reward for the curtsy -- and staying down -- was a tight note of approval from Zoltan.

"Rise," Magna Mater Geneviève intoned. "So you are the girl."

Erszebet tried not to show or leak panic as she drew herself back up to her feet.

"She is," Magna Mater Consuela said complacently. "We wish to thank you, Erszebet."

Erszebet tried not to show or leak confusion. She didn't succeed.

"I had planned to challenge Griselda no matter what," Magna Mater Consuela continued. "As had my counterpart here."

"The historical information you passed on to the St. Michels," Magna Mater Geneviève said, "was promptly spread far and wide throughout the American Family, which inspired all the Ancients to challenge."

"It may be an unprecedented event, even in the old country," Magna Mater Consuela said, "this great challenge. You should check with your aunt and let us know." She smiled, and Erszebet took it as reassurance.

"I am grateful to have been of service, my Mothers," Erszebet said, curtsying again.

"I look forward to your company on our travels to my realm," Magna Mater Consuela said, beaming upon her. "And perhaps more discussions of history."

Erszebet dipped to the floor again.

Magna Mater Geneviève turned a moment of crushing, laserlike focus upon her, and Erszebet narrowly managed to avoid cringing. "I understand you are acquainted with my granddaughter," she said after a moment.

"Yes, Mother," Erszebet said, locking down her embarrassment as hard as she could.

"Well, then," Magna Mater Geneviève said, "when Magna Mater Consuela releases you back into the wild, I will charge my granddaughter Isolde with bringing you to my Household for a time."

Yet another curtsy. "You honor me greatly, Mother."

"Shall I send her back to you, Zoltan?" Magna Mater Consuela inquired. "And you can facilitate her reunion with Isolde."

He bowed so that his long hair brushed the floor. "I should be glad of hosting my cousin again, Mother."

"It is settled, then," Magna Mater Geneviève said, thumping the arm of her chair. "Leave us now. We still have many people to see today."

Erszebet escaped the room gracefully, with Juana's assistance. In the hallway, she carefully mopped her forehead and face with her linen handkerchief as she said to Juana, "As if one Grand Matriarch is not terrifying enough..."

Juana laughed. "Yes, indeed. Well done. Come, we will get you a drink. You deserve one."

---

Author's Note:

Portents! Portents and omens! And terror! Yes, terror!








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I have started (knock wood) to emerge from this horrible plague, and so I have managed to finish this, the final full reading that Madame Destiny has owed. Enjoy!

A 10-card reading for Interleaper )








wonder_city: (Default)
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!

A 10-card reading for Cointeach )








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His Faded Idol

3.

"Madame Griselda," Zoltan said with a graceful bow, "I am Zoltan Farkas. Will you allow me to present to you my cousin, Erszebet Farkas?"

Erszebet dropped a perfect curtsy, which had taken a great deal of practice (and drilling from her aunts) to learn, and rose from it almost as gracefully as Zoltan had bowed.

Griselda looked more ancient than the body of the Grand Matriarch had appeared, her thick coil of hair gone pure white and her little dark eyes peering out of a mass of pallid wrinkles. She was seated in a wingback chair in a parlor that had been conjured in one of the rooms in the convention center. Some corner of Erszebet, possibly the one that had listened to her mother and aunts talk about other families for decades, was strangely satisfied by this. It seemed good and appropriate that the deceased (Hungarian) Grand Matriarch had lived longer and looked finer than the (British) Grand Matriarch presumptive.

"Who are you, boy?" she demanded in a harsh voice not at all softened by her accent.

A very neatly buttoned-down woman in a dark skirt-suit bent her pale blonde head toward the old woman. "Grandmother, he is the favorite of the late Grand Matriarch."

The obsidian gaze narrowed. "Oh, you're Klotild's pet nelly, are you?"

The blonde woman winced visibly and offered Zoltan and Erszebet an apologetic look over her grandmother's head. Zoltan beamed at the ancient and said, "Yes, that would be me. I did earn my keep, as you may have heard."

"Yes," Madame Griselda said, looking him over. Then her gaze flicked to Erszebet. "You're too young to have a Household. Just larking about here in the New World then?"

"I am my family's representative to the funeral," Erszebet said, bowing -- trying desperately to look willowy as she did so. "My elders send their deepest regrets, but Budapest is somewhat... difficult at the moment."

The elderly woman waved a dismissive hand. "Budapest has been difficult since it was founded, my dear. No surprise they couldn't leave. Get out while you can." She looked back at Zoltan. "The daughters won't sell us the manor, you know."

He bowed. Erszebet suspected his bow was better than her own. "Klotild and her sisters built the manor, you understand; it holds great sentimental value for Magdolna and her sisters."

"Sentiment doesn't enter into it, you little pouf," Griselda snapped. "It's the center of the empire, and you know it."

Zoltan's smile didn't falter. The granddaughter looked ready to faint. "Ah, Madame Griselda," he said, "you have grown ever more charming as you have aged." He put a slight, barely-detectable emphasis on the last word. "Pardon me, but I see that Klotild's chief husband would like to speak to me."

Erszebet curtsied as Zoltan bowed, and then she followed her cousin. Griselda flushed brick-red, but held her tongue, glaring at Zoltan's back.

"Was that wise?" Erszebet said in an undertone. He was reckless, suicidal, and a pervert. What was her mother thinking, sending her here?

Zoltan shrugged. "Either they will use my services or they will not. Here, let me introduce you to Harald."

They caught up with the craggy, aquiline man who had caught Zoltan's eye. His hair was short, shaped carefully, and blindingly white. His bushy eyebrows rose upon Erszebet's introduction. "Delighted, my dear, absolutely delighted," he said, bowing over her hand. His homey accent was comforting after the encounter with Griselda.

"Getting used to being courted, my friend?" Zoltan said, shaking the man's hand warmly.

"No," Harald said mournfully. "Nor is anyone else, truly. So many enticing offers -- do you know, that egregiously arrogant woman, Juana Zalazar..."

"From New Mexico?" Zoltan said.

"The very one. Well, she has been most astonishingly kind about everything." Harald smiled sadly. "She even managed to head off that bi... harridan Griselda the second time she came around to 'sympathize with' the lot of us."

"Juana Zalazar must want as many of you as she can get very badly," Zoltan said, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "How old is her mother again?"

"Certainly old enough to be in the running after Griselda," Harald said. The old man smiled at Erszebet. "Oh, my dear, it must all seem so very dull to you."

"Not dull at all, sir," Erszebet said. "Only, why are you being courted?"

The two men exchanged a glance and smiled. She flushed and said, "You must understand, I have been to so few funerals in my short life, and they are not spoken of at home."

Harald nodded and said, "Well, the tradition is that the Household established by Klotild and her sisters is to be broken up now they are all dead. That means that the men of her generation and her companions are free to do as they will, go where they want."

"It is considered rude in the extreme to offer to take on the companions as donors, of course," Zoltan said. "But companions of the Grand Matriarch are in great demand among politically powerful households in an advisory capacity."

"Often, the companions will have far more information than the men," Harald said, smiling thoughtfully. "Though I think that is not so true in our Household."

"Other Households will therefore offer the companions a place to come to die of old age," Zoltan said, "and the men someplace new to live where they will not be inconveniencing the daughters and their Household men."

"So they court us, mostly," Harald said. "Though Griselda seems to think that she inherits us by default."

"Griselda thinks she owns many things by default," Zoltan said. "She had the cheek to complain to me that Magdolna and her sisters were not going to sell the manor."

"Will Madame Griselda come to Wonder City then?" Erszebet said. She could not imagine that shriveled shape surviving through the hardships of moving. Then again, she could barely conceive of the woman traveling, but she must have.

Zoltan put his head to one side and glanced at Harald, one eyebrow raised. Harald shrugged. "No, I think she will not," Zoltan said after a moment. "Moving is so much worse than traveling. No, I think she will make some of her daughters move here, and try to run her 'empire' from Chicago."

"Her daughters will not love her for that, I think," Erszebet said slowly.

Zoltan smiled. "No one loves Griselda, my dear. Excuse me, both of you, Julianna is trying to catch my eye." He nodded to them and strode off into the crowd.

Erszebet turned back to Harald with a smile. "Shall I squire you in your cousin's stead, my dear?" he said, offering his arm.

She took it, murmuring polite thanks. She felt oddly secure and insecure at the same time. Without Zoltan, she felt the tension in the air more keenly, and despite Harald's age and obvious influence, she felt undefended.

"Was the trip across very difficult?" Harald asked as they began to slowly move through the crowded, noisy hallway outside the parlor.

"Oh, no," she said, astonished by the array of formalwear they met with, from staid gowns and tuxedoes to costumes more suited to Carnival. "It was quite pleasant."

"I wish I could travel more," Harald said, bowing and nodding to people as they passed. "The airplane feels so strange, and leaves me so enervated these days. I thought I could get used to it, like automobiles, but it just never happened."

"My mother Rozsa thinks it has something to do with not having your feet on the ground," Erszebet said.

"How is Rozsa?" Harald said. "I haven't seen her since she traveled here in... oh, 1935 or so. The War trapped the families over there for so long after, and we heard little news for many years."

"My mother came here?" Erszebet said. Her mother had, in fact, never mentioned it.

"Oh, yes," Harald said. "She was the family representative when Kathalin died. A much smaller affair than this, of course; just the Magyar families and some other friends."

Erszebet chewed on that for a while, as she and Harald circulated through the hall. He dutifully introduced her to the people who stopped to speak to him, and Erszebet could only concentrate on polite greetings, though she occasionally wondered, when she clasped a particularly cold hand, if the individual was vermin. She could never tell.

They ended up back in the room with the coffin. People were milling around on the floor, drinking and speaking in subdued tones. The werewolf security guards were relatively unobtrusive, but Erszebet could sense their barely-bridled tension and the general disquiet they caused among the majority of her folk in the room.

A human, on the edge of elderly, a black turban concealing most of her greying hair and her matronly form adorned in a somewhat-too-young black gown, drifted near on the arm of a young Asian man so well-dressed as to be foppish. Harald paused to bow to her. "Madame Destiny, so glad you could attend."

Madame bowed in return and extended a gloved hand. "Harald, of course, I couldn't miss a chance to pay my respects. Klotild was very encouraging when I was young; I only regret I could not repay her adequately."

He took her hand and kissed it in an extremely courtly fashion, and Erszebet was struck by how outdated the manners of her people seemed to her after spending time in college.

"This is our friend Zoltan's young cousin Erszebet," Harald said, and Madame took Erszebet's hand.

"Well," Madame said, blinking, "you certainly have a time ahead of you this week, Ms. Farkas."

"Um," Erszebet said, caught by surprise by the human. "Thank you?"

"You'll be fine," Madame said, squeezing her hand and releasing her. "Just think it all through logically."

Madame's young escort steered her away and gave Erszebet a sympathetic smile. "It won't make sense till later," he said in a surprisingly light voice.

Harald and Erszebet watched them disappear into the crowd. Erszebet said, "Huh."

---

Author's Note:

I apologize for being slow with the last two readings. I'm working on them!









wonder_city: (Default)
I am late, I am late, and I apologize mightily, but this past week has been keeping me hopping, and not in all good ways. But finally, I'm posting the first of Madame's commissioned full readings. Enjoy!

A 10-card reading for Kore )









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Readings, part the first
Readings, part the second
Readings, part the third

This is the final set of one-card readings!
A card for Ariestess )
A card for Anonymous on DW )
A card for Beetiger )
A card for Glinda_w )

And that's it for the one-card draws. Now I have... er, well, Madame has 3 full readings to engage!








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I'm going to try to do the one-card draw writeups in small batches, and I'll start getting the full readings up as soon as I can.

A Card for Finch )

A Card for Wrenstarling )

A Card for Contrarywise )








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