Saturday, November 15, 2008

Possibilities and choices

Today's bit of fortune-telling is courtesy of "The Silicon Valley Tarot", an online reading of which is available at the Steve Jackson Games website. The thus-far-unnamed Hedge-hunter may well find himself on a character sheet sometime soon...


Instead of an oddment, today I have found a Hollow, a portion of the Hedge that someone... or several someones... claims as their own. Ranging in size from a small campsite to a sprawling estate, these areas are rarely unoccupied, and certainly wasn't in this case. The motley of Changelings had set up a camp drawing on the images of a traveling circus of mdoest size. After talking my way past their embarrassed lookouts (easing their discomfort with a few extra goblin fruit I keep for such occasions), their leader insisted that I accept the wisdom of their "seer". Imagine my surprise when, after ducking into a six-sided pavilion tent, I found myself facing a pasty-faced Wizened in a lab coat, manipulating what could only be an actual Babbage Engine.

The somewhat androgynous person turned from the machine to face me, adjusting the lenses on his (her?) goggles. "Come to consult the machine?" she (he?) inquired. The voice gave no clue as to gender; I set the issue aside as irrelevant.

"Your colleagues in the rest of the motley insisted that I speak with you," I said.

The "seer" nodded and gestured at a worn Aeron chair. As I settled myself, the seer opened a large, portable bookcase and extracted a bundle of worn, blue-tinted punch-cards tied with what looked like magnetic tape. The seer untied the cards and presented them to me in the usual manner for Tarot cards. "Meditate on your question. Shuffle the cards, choose three, and hand those to me," were my instructions.

Having made my indecipherable choices, the seer ran them through the Engine and informed me of the results.

"First is the Firewall. Protection, fortification, civility, courtesy, protocol. You're well fortified against the barbarian hordes." It took me a moment's thought to realize that this seer drew upon the symbols of mortal technology. It made a certain amount of sense, given the technological bent to most of the decorations, and definitely piqued my interest for the rest of the reading.

"Next is the Flame War. Two pedants, locked in mortal combat, scorch each other with fiery words. Angry, aggrieved, they wield their righteous furies in rhetorical joust. Insult, invective, profanity - they will stop at nothing until one or the other is humiliated or banished. Quibbling, hair-splitting, dogmatism, nitpicking." I considered whether any of my colleagues or contacts back at my primary Freehold would meet this description and made a few mental notes.

"Last is Encryption, inverted. Beware of subterfuge, ignorance. Things are going on behind your back. Can you afford not to know?" I sighed. My forays into the Hedge and research into oddments were, by and large, meant to keep me out of the idiotic games that the Courts played endlessly. While this particular symbol was hardly unusual for anyone who was involved at all in any Freehold, the fact that it was brought to my attention did not cheer me.

The seer approached a chalkboard and began to scrawl with a singularly noisy piece of yellow chalk. "Jet-set betrayals," the seer said, after a moment's calculations. "Is that a Chateau Margaux you're pouring there, or is it your life's blood? The plusher it gets, the deeper the grave. You may be saved, but you'll have to wash dishes."

I carefully recorded the seer's words in a notebook, then gave my thanks. The rest of the motley thanked me for my visit, offering a few words of advice about the most recent goings-on in the Hedge and the location of a nearby portal back to the mortal world. Perhaps it was time to return to the Freehold for an extended period?

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