The Wanderer collects what others discard.
As he walks among worlds with eyes truly seeing,
This centaur can spot things that others regard
As junk or as trash, for they miss their true meaning.
One who sees hidden worth may be blessed by this card,
So roam on, Oh wanderer! And good luck in your seeking!
Yet a misaligned Wanderer signifies the loss
Of one’s values or of fortune your path may have crossed.
The Wanderer. Such a relief to draw that card last night, despite drawing it inverted. Like waiting at the crossroads for an unknown stranger, then finding upon meeting that he’s an old friend. Mama always loved this card turning up in her readings. Its message of knowledge hidden in plain sight holds a special place in the heart of any harrower.
I remember her teaching me this card’s song. It was winter. It must have been right after my twelfth birthday, because I’d had my own deck for a year about then. Ivan was in bed already, and dad was up on the roof making an observation, I think. That left Mama and me, bundled up and sitting by the fire. She was telling me stories about the deck. No, stories isn’t the right word. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but she was passing on the spirit of the Harrow, as mother had passed it to daughter for countless centuries before. That was one of the most perfect moments of my life, a moment of so much love and hope and family. That last year was perfect in so many ways, right up to that day in the park.
She was teaching me about the origins of the Harrow. Scholars say it’s some 10,000 years old, created in old Thassilon. But Mama said that anyone with “eyes truly seeing” can spot the handwriting of its creators, and that this card’s zeal for travel, the blessing that it conveys to those who wander, is a sure sign of its creation by the sages of the ancient Varisian caravans, roaming the unspoilt homeland back in the days and nights when Desna walked among them. She probably shouldn’t have told me that. Mama was always looking for small rebellions!
And to be free of that thing calling itself Aunt Livia, twisting my every thought! Can it be true? My father had an illegitimate sister? I know enough of Taldane to realize that Nothus is a surname given to bastards, and from the small and bitter bits that Dad spoke of my grandfather I would believe it. I need to keep myself together. I can’t let myself be controlled by these ghosts.
Yet now, with the Wanderer’s pure good card, Galea Vahnwyn is with me. I felt her presence all day today, and after yesterday’s horrors it was such a comfort. I could feel her powers flowing through me. During the battle, I could see the lives of the people around me, just knowing at a glance how wounded they were. And when I healed them, I could feel that warm surge of positive energy more strongly than ever before. The power of these spirits is growing, no doubt. For good or for ill.
Still, I can’t forget that I drew the card inverted. “A misaligned Wanderer signifies the loss / Of one’s values.” A rebuke for yesterday — oh gods yesterday, forgive me. I slit the throats of defenseless captives. I can say that this Aunt Livia made me do it, but no, that’s not true. She may have been whispering in my ear, but they are my hands soaked in blood. I will never forget it. I never should. The first one was so quick. He was unconscious. I wasn’t prepared for how much blood there would be, how it would rhythmically gush from his neck. The second one opened his eyes. He spoke to me, but I was so focused on the task at hand that I didn’t even see what he was saying. I just remember his eyes, desperate and pleading. I wish I could say that one was harder, but that voice, it was like it was part of me. But it was still my hand and my will that flicked the knife. I am so sorry.
A demon, a succubus, possessed me today. Compelled me to strike down my companions. It was horrid to feel her presence, all seduction and command, controlling me. But in some ways a relief. How many times have I felt these foreign things in my mind, not knowing what was me and what was them? Bearing the full guilt of the actions they compelled, like the stains from the blood of those guards. Here I just watched. It was a horror to watch, but for once it was not me. I fought her, but she was stronger, and so I simply watched, knowing that whatever happened, it was not my actions. After all this — a relief.
I need to be stronger. Against the demons, true, but most of all against the spirits. I now know they are tied to the deck. I need to be ready for them, come what may. So far I’ve seen:
Galea Vahnwyn, my old friend who got me through so many times at the hospital, a healer of mind and body. She is from the old country. Sometimes she speaks to me of Desna. Mama would approve.
That thing called Livia Pulcheria Nothus. Cunning and evil and legalistic. Aunt or not, I have no doubt that she ties to my Chelaxian heritage. I could feel spell powers utterly unfamiliar, but I dared not use them.
When I drew the Crows, something else. An evil presence. The chill of death. The spirits weren’t strong enough to reach me then, but I dread its return. Something about it was familiar.
“The loss of one’s values.” I need help. I need to share this with Ivan. He’ll understand. I should share it with the others as well. They’ve come to depend on me. We’ve come to depend on each other. I need to trust them with this.
I need to start telling them my story.