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The Fool's Journey

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The bed curtains draped across Legna’s line of sight, staining the night a slightly different shade of dark. He blinked, slowly, but when his eyes reopened, nothing had changed. He rolled sideways, looking upwards, and found yet another texture, but one no more conducive to sleep than before.

He couldn’t get his pillows positioned quite right.

His blanket had fallen too far down.

Now he had pulled it too far up, and his feet were cold.

Legna sighed and sat up. He might as well admit that he would be getting no sleep for the time being.

Perhaps a walk would do him good.

He pulled his winged robe on and left his room, the chill of the corridor seeping through the light fabric of his nightclothes and making him wonder if perhaps he should have dressed fully. His footsteps echoed loudly against the stone, so different from the constant activity and noise during the day.

He nodded a greeting to a night guard he passed in the corridor, and was greeted by a polite “Good evening, Angel.” But soon enough, the other man’s steps faded away into the relative silence of the night.

It was … restful. Something increasingly rare in his life, especially since he began the Aruosumente ritual and Lante made his fantastic – Legna sometimes feared impossible – request.

Still, instead of returning to his room and bed, he found his feet turning towards the library.

The door opened silently at his touch, and only once inside that it occur to Legna that perhaps the library would be closed, this late at night.

Yet there – a light. And when he reached it, he found a lamp placed near the center of one of his favored tables, illuminating a small stack of books – only four, far smaller than Paruteen’s typical recommendation.

Curious, he spread them across the table. Three were familiar to him – childrens’ books, the sort he remembered, with a sudden burst of fondness, reading to a wide-eyed and eager Aleutian, long past both of their bedtimes.

The fourth was equally thin, its title The Fool’s Journey, with cover art of a cartoonish man on the verge of tripping over a cliff, held back only by a small, white dog.

Something about the image nagged at him, but for the moment he put that aside. He found he was not quite in the mood for a familiar bedtime story – though he appreciated the thought, and now had no doubt that the library was still open – so it was this unfamiliar volume he pulled towards himself and began to read.

With all his worldly possessions in one small pack, the Fool travels he knows not where …

When the Fool met a Magician, and then following that a High Priestess and an Empress, he stopped and took another look at the cover art. Yes, it bore a distinct resemblance to the much more abstract design on the card the Sage had given him, to represent –

Lante, he still thought.

He put that thought aside for the time being, too, and returned to the book.

Only after he finished the book did he look up again, just in time to see another light approach.

“A children’s story?” he asked.

Paruteen’s shoulders barely lifted in the suggestion of a shrug. “It is often easier to remember a story than a list of dry facts. Particularly for children.”

Legna nodded, remembering again Aleutian, and the way he would chime in at his favorite parts of the stories they had read.

“It was interesting reading,” he said. “Thank you.”

Paruteen smiled, a bare upturn of his lips. “There are, of course, many other books you should read to truly familiarize yourself with the subject. But not, I think, tonight.”

Legna nodded. Remembered, suddenly, the Sage’s mention of others, and wondered. “You seem to know so much about the Aruosumente ritual, and about Tarot, already. Have you performed it before?”

“Do I appear to be that badly in need of love advice?” Paruteen asked dryly.

And he must know that was not what Legna had meant; he must know that Legna would not go to this much trouble for anything so trivial –

But if Legna succeeded – when he succeeded, for he could not let his King come to harm – would he really want to discuss this ordeal with others? Diebert, perhaps – he’d already shared so much of it – but others, to whom he was not so close?

Perhaps this was another situation in which one might prefer to hide the truth.

“No,” Legna said. Curiosity prompted him to add, “Do you? Have a wife?”

Paruteen peered at him for a moment, then shook his head and laid one hand against the stained-dark wood of a nearby bookshelf. “These are all the lover I need.” His smile was fond, and – different, Legna thought, from those he’d seen before.

Perhaps it was simply the way the two lamps threw shadow strangely across the room, so different from in daylight.

“Do you think you will be able to sleep, now?” Paruteen asked.

“… Yes, I think so.” Legna stood, his legs briefly stiff. “Thank you again.”

“It was no trouble.” Paruteen inclined his head and disappeared back into the stacks, apparently feeling no need to watch Legna go.

Legna himself returned to his room, hung up his robe, and lay back down.

Sleep did not come immediately, but it came deep.


“The High Priestess? An interesting choice.”

“You were the one who said that gender didn’t necessarily have to match,” Legna replied defensively. “And … it just seems to fit.”

The High Priestess, who instead of speaking to the Fool had handed him a pair of ancient scrolls.

“An intuitive leap? Particularly appropriate for this card.”

“Because she’s associated with instinctive knowledge, too,” Legna said.

“You have been reading.”

Legna might have taken it as a complement if the Sage’s surprise had not been quite so irritatingly evident.

Instead of responding - it was unlikely to do him any good - he circled counter-clockwise to stand, once again, in front of the Fool.

“The Fool’s Journey,” he said. “I wonder if I am the Fool.”

He felt no closer to finding the source of the evil intent towards his king, but he had discovered so many other things since the start of this trial, and all of them through learning about and from the people surrounding him. Just like the Fool had.

But then, to whom could he assign Strength? And where would he move Lante to?

Should he re-think all his placements yet again?

No. He’d leave everything as it was, for now.

“Well, this has been a remarkably productive night,” the Sage said.

Legna glared. “Would you please –”


Sunlight.

Legna considered for a moment burying his face in his pillows, but there was, as always, far too much work to be done. He pushed himself upright and swiped tangled hair out of his face.

He would succeed at this trial somehow.

He must.


A stack of reports in hand, Legna retreated to the library to work.

Paruteen sat at a nearby table, also working – Legna thought he caught a glimpse of Moeran’s incomprehensible handwriting and silently wished him luck. He nodded a greeting to Legna, but otherwise neither reacted nor in any way referenced the events of the night before.

The library seemed like a different place in the daylight, but its sense of calm peace – of sanctuary – remained the same.

As, too, did the stack of book Legna saw awaited him at his usual table – in case, he suspected, he wished for a bit of “light reading” after his reports were done.

But of course, that was not to be.

“Legna! Here you are! I was looking for you.”

Legna carefully signed the last paper in his stack, straightened the rest, and looked up at Lante’s brightly cheerful face. “I need to deliver these to Diebert first.”

“Oh, good idea, I should go get mine, too. Pars?”

The librarian looked up. “I will have Moeran deliver them later.”

“All right, see you later!” Paruteen gave an absent wave, attention already mostly returned to his own work. “Come on, Legna.”

Legna stood, and followed more sedately after Lante, who was already halfway to the door.

He wondered what revelations awaited him this time.  

Perhaps we are both the Fool.