We were brought into a room high above the rest. I was told to sit down and just watch. The girl who was obviously in charge was choosing the game that night. These people took game night too seriously. As I was only a guest I could just watch to see how it’s really done. They said that I didn’t have to play with them and embarrass myself. How kind. This was the third game table this week. Hopefully they had what I was looking for.
She pulled out a deck of cards. They were old and worn. They were tarot cards and as she explained her game I knew that I had a finally found them. “Deal me in.”
The table laughed. I didn’t care. The girl who brought me as a guest leaned over to tell me to tell me I didn’t have to do this. It wasn’t a big deal if I didn’t play. But the other side of me had already taken over. She knew we would win. We had to. I was calm. There was no chance of failure.
The game was simple. Each player is given a set of cards and with those 12 cards they must create a story for the group. The story had to have certain criteria but mainly it had to keep each player engaged. They are all known as story builders, and these are some of the best. If your story started out and the group wasn’t entrigued the gameplay would be ended and you would be asked to leave the group for the night. All you had to do was keep them entranced. Darkness was their favorite intrigue. I could do that. The cards could do that.
The cards had already known the game before she said it. The cards had told me their story. All I had to do was be their conduit.
I volunteered to go first. Everyone at the table laughed. Newb.
Holding my hands over the cards I channeled their energy. My eyes opened wide and a voice began to tell the story of Mary Woodward.
Mary Woodward had been accused of witchcraft. Of course she was a witch, so the accusations fit but she was a witch of light and harmony. The townspeople did not care. A man had been seen flirting with Mary. A married man. And although she had declined his advances it was obviously her witchcraft making him act out anyway. Of course.
It was in the night that she heard the voices. A mob holding torches coming to judge her and bring her to their false justice. She was quick though. She went out the back and jumped on her horse. They began to ride out of town and into the night. Soon, though, the sky clouded over and a cold rain began to fall. She knew the townsfolk could be right behind them so she pushed the animal to carry on. It wasn’t long before the horse fell. His ankle broken. The poor thing. Mary eased him into the woods and made a shelter out of branches. She hoped she could heal him and she was also hoping for some rest.
Then she heard the voices again. Their torches were extinguished but they had continued on. They were following the hoof prints. They were still a ways off but Mary started running. It was cold and wet. Her feet sunk into the mud. She couldn’t feel them anymore. She continued running. Running from the monsters that wanted her to burn. There was something wrong with the mud beneath her. Like the townspeople’s need to place blame, the ground felt the same hunger. This was an evil place fueled by fear of the unknown. And Mary fit the bill. Her feet began to wear away. It started with her toes and moved up. She was running on stubs of her ankles. Her bones showing through. Her fear was the only thing keeping her moving.
The moon peered out. The clouds receded. The rain finally stopped. She found herself in a clearing. The mud was gone. This place brought her a moment of peace. Even with her injuries and impending death-by-townfolk the felt at home. It appeared to be an abandoned town the buildings looked new but their were obviously no people. Thirteen buildings all in a circle. In all but one was a small glowing light. Had she not been filled with fear still and overcome with pain she may have been curious. As it was though, she looked down on where her feet once were and she wept. She let out a scream. A high pitch screech that could surely be heard by the mob following her. And in that yell she released much of her fury into the sky. She called upon the powers of night to help her. She wanted revenge. She fell to her knees and screamed at the darkness.
From the buildings, black figures came to her. Almost human but mostly shadow. They surrounded her and gathered in a circle. Still human in shape they started to chant and a low gutteral sound came from them as well. They danced around her. A ritual. Their shapes became fluid. A black wave fell on her and the figures were gone. Mary stood. Her feet repaired. Her body and strength restored beyond even what she had once been. Her eyes were black. She glided through the clearing back from whence she came.
She heard the villagers on horse back coming her way. She raised her arms. As she saw them approach she lifted herself. Above the ground she looked down and saw everything. The space between all things. She allowed her anger to surround her. It was a cloud that swarmed. It sounded like bees humming all around. They were bees. As the villagers got close enough to see her slender body hovering above the earth they too saw the cloud of insects glistening in the moon. She grabbed her anger, and forced it out at them. Her anger combusted turing into a wall of fire. As it passed over the mob it pushed them all down and pulled the oxygen from them. They were gasping pleading for air. The bees climbed over the skin, their eyes.
Mary could not hear them. The women who had come to her and given her this power now stood beside her. The black figures marched somberly behind as Mary walked through the mob. And as she did, her fire-bees clung to her clothes, leaving behind the deformed townfolk, all dead. Mary lifted herself once again from the ground and made her way back to her horse. He lay beneath the trees. Dead but peacful. Mary ran her fingers through the horses mane. The horse rose from the mud. Alive but not. Mary rode her one-and-only companion back into her town. Where the women, her accusers, had stayed behind.
Expecting to see their husbands riding back, they all shrieked at the sight of Mary and her army of death. From the flame’s light they saw Mary on her horse, a shadow more or less, followed by 12 black figures. Mary lifted her arms and the bees that had become her dress flew from her and brought little flames to the mouths of the women of the town. They burned their lips. Leaving them alive but unable to open their mouths from which had come the lies they had told. The lies they had used to kill woman after woman. The lies that sent them to the pyre. Those would end tonight. 13 was enough. The witches would burn no more.
Mary thanked the black figures. Her coven. And together they returned to the abandoned town. Mary took the 13th house. It had been waiting for her. She was finally home.
I finished the story. The cards had held them for so many years. They had been Mary’s cards afterall. When people heard of a witch-village the desperate and sick had started to visit. Mary could now see a person’s future. She made the cards to store some of her sight. She had been the Tarot. She passed the knowledge and power down to her daughter. Yes she had a daughter. Raised withought a father the daughter was more than aware of what men could do. Her twelve aunts had taught her well. She was careful to choose a mate as well. The cards had been passed down the line. And here they were after all these years.
The players at the table looked at me and they started to speak. The girl running the game silenced them and told me that I had not followed the rules. She said I had to leave.
“Not without my cards” I replied. I stood to leave. The cards shot across the table into a pile stacked neatly in front of me. The girl tried to stop me from taking them as I went. The jacket I had been wearing fell from me in a hum. There was a glow in the room as I walked down the stairs, cards in hand. A warmth. And just after the light fell away, my bees came back to me.
“I will have to talk with the child when I get home. She cant just leave the cards laying around.”