I would like at this juncture to thank the lovely Libby aka bamfchickie for her help with the one Roma word in this chapter and a thousand synonyms thereof. Any misrepresentations of the Roma and their activities are entirely mea culpa. Likewise anything about the Tarot, though bear in mind these are very odd tarot cards.
ETA: My ropey knowledge of the Arcana has since improved, so there's a slight edit in here
“I’ve got to sing for my supper now, haven’t I then? You wanted to hear of the Tarot and so you shall, in a manner of speaking. No, don’t you worry this isn’t going to be some story about how my great aunt Tilda cast aside the sundered veil and learnt of things that man was not meant to know. The exact location of the G-spot for starters, sorry, been reading too many of my daughter’s magazines, modern rot, but still it makes you laugh. You have a nice smile for an anthropologist, you know, could almost forget that I’m like some microbe at the end of a microscope to you, really could. What I’m going to tell you about The Svzardos Tarot. It is unlike any other tarot you will ever see.
“Look, there. That’s the Queen of Swords. Yes, I know you know that’s the queen of swords. Well, these were a special set painted by my great grandmother after a most amazing vision. She said that these were to predict the fate of the entire family. These days I think she knew exactly what was going to happen and just liked being cryptic as hell, but when I was little, then, well I thought that the lady with the sword was me.
“Silly, right. Of course it isn’t me; it’s my daughter.
“O Hecate! You’ve gone and spilled your coffee. Don’t know why you’re so skittish, you are meant to like exploring the paranormal. Look the coffee will wipe off just fine. The young lady on the cards looks just like her, look, I’ve got her photograph here in my purse. Of course, she isn’t wearing that big horny helmet in that one, it’s a bit conspicuous and it doesn’t really fit into one of those little photo booths. Yes, she does have a helmet like that, it came with the sword, would you believe it. Magic sword. Nasty vicious thing, nearly took my hand off.
“No, I’m not worried about the coffee. They’re not the originals. Look, they’re copies I painted years back for general fortune telling purposes. Of course, they’re exact copies, I used tracing paper and everything. What do you mean “could I have been subconsciously trying to paint my daughter”? She wasn’t even born when I did these, and don’t go on about family resemblances because how many blonde haired gypsies have you seen?
“I didn’t mean to shout. Of course you can have a look through them. Some of them are quite unusual. Oh, that, that’s the three of swords. That’s my adopted son, Kurt. How can I tell? Looks just like him. Yes. He is blue and he does have yellow eyes and a pointy tail. He has fangs as well, really sharp too, but then he doesn’t smile with his mouth open much. Because it scares people.
“Perhaps I ought to explain a bit about Kurt. Okay explain a lot about Kurt. He’s an unusual lad when you come down to it; polite, well mannered, helps old ladies across the street. I haven’t told a lot of people about this, and certainly not Kurt, so can you keep this to yourself. He was given to me for safekeeping when he was a baby and nobody ever came back for him. That’s your lot. Can’t say more than that, I gave my word. Of course, I know what a baby demon looks like, but I never believed that bit in the Bible about trees and fruit anyway, or much else of it either. How do I know what a demon looks like? Because – I – saw – one – before. When I was very young, back in the Warsaw ghetto. I saw a vampire too. Yes, I do look younger than my age and my age is none of your business.
“Of course I’ve heard of the story of Lady Margali and the Demon Child. I am Lady Margali, and that’s a demon child. I made the bloody thing up! No it’s not hundreds of years old. What was I meant to tell him, the sweetest best natured child I’ve ever known, that he really is some kind of demon? And anyway there’s no need, not with all these mutants around these days. He thinks he’s one of them and they’re his friends and that’s an end to it. He always wanted to be a pirate when he grew up. Big fan of Errol Flynn and all that.
“No I haven’t really thought about what’s behind him, I always thought it was part of his ship. Now you say it, it does look rather like a cross, doesn’t it. From what I’ve heard from my Jimaine, he’s thinking about joining the priesthood. Can you imagine it? Still, if it makes him happy…
“I think that’s just the sun behind his head. What else could it be?
“Why would I make a copy? To stop idiots spilling coffee over the originals, for starters. That was a joke. There are some pretty unconventional cards in the set, ones you won’t find in a normal tarot deck. There was the New Sun for starters, but that spontaneously combusted about a year ago, both of him. There’s a completely blank one called the The Herald Of The New Dawn. The Hanged Man looks rather odd, blue for starters and well, Kurt always was hanging, so I suppose it's not really much change, but it makes me nervy anyway. I did my best to keep that one away from Kurt, but that was pretty impossible.
“No, I don’t know where the originals are right now, I think they’re with my daughter. There’s another reason too. The first deck tended to tell misfortunes. That one there, that’s the Prince of Wands, my son. He’s dead.
“I don’t really want to go into that. Yes, I’m sorry he’s dead too, and the cards told me about it. I saw it and I didn’t want to. Actually that’s not what happened. Kurt was just playing with the cards, the real set, I don’t know how he found them, no point in asking really, even if I’d wanted to, he got everywhere that boy. Where was I? Yes, Kurt was just making patterns with the cards. He didn’t mean to do anything, I’m sure of that. And I just looked, just glanced at the cards and I knew it. The Three of Swords would be Death unto the Prince of Wands and The Queen Of Swords… I don’t want to say the rest of it, I really don’t, and anyway I don’t remember it properly. It was just a glance. And I grabbed the cards off him. Knocked him flat. The only time I’d hurt the child… he was such a sweet boy… nothing like my Stefan at all…
“Yes the cards were right. Kurt was Death unto Stefan, if you want to put it like that. I know it wasn’t intentional, that he didn’t mean to, that he was just trying to save Stefan from himself. He would never have meant to harm him. I can nearly believe my own story; that he really did have the soul of an angel trapped within his demonic flesh. I close my eyes and I can nearly see him, that poor, sweet, confused child begging God to make him human; I can nearly believe.
“Of course, I didn’t feel like that at the time. I wanted to tear his heart into a hundred tiny pieces. I wanted to tear out his deceiving false soul and place him where a demon truly belonged. I wanted him to burn in the certainty of his guilt. I wanted him to freeze in fire like all deceivers of kin ought.
“You don’t understand. I wasn’t just angry. I was anger. These were not my feelings. This was my will. I do not make idle threats. Each and every thing I promise either in good cheer or in anger is within my grasp to do. Was in my grasp to do. Will one day be in my grasp to do.
“You don’t believe me, do you? You think I’m some washed out old woman who can’t afford a damned psychiatrist and has decided that you’d do just as well. I’m not. You don’t have even the faintest conception of what I am. You think magic is all smoke and mirrors, flim-flam to trick the gullible, a dark age which the burning brand of science shall burn away. YOU ARE NOTHING, NOTHING AT ALL.
“Oh, you don’t think the horns suit me, do you? You are but an ant, ignorant of all that lies beyond the anthill. You see but glimpses of the world beyond. I am Margali of the Winding Way and you should tremble before me…
“Sorry, got a bit carried away there. Oh, you’ve spilled your coffee again. Let me help, I’ve got some tissues in my Handtuch. There, much better, you’d hardly notice it, just remember to put it in a cold soak when you get home and it should be as right as rain. I’m a witch. What did you think that meant? That I like crystals and running about without any clothes on? (Try that in Bavaria and you’d have frostbite in places you never thought existed). I was incredibly powerful, just you go and ask that Stephen Strange if you doubt that. You don’t. Well, that’s reassuring. You know how it is, you get older and you worry that you might be losing your touch.
“Yes, magic does run in the family. Not little Kurt, obviously, though he’s not stupid and I made sure he knew enough about the occult for safety’s sake, made sure he knew the signs to watch for and when to run away sharpish. I mean there’s my Jimaine, now there’s a girl with a future. Wanted to give it all up and be an air hostess, can you believe it, but now she’s nice and settled. She’s got a job with prospects, variety too. What more could she want? And Stefan was fantastic, not a late developer like his sister. Perhaps I should have kept a better eye on him. It was magic that did for him in the end, too much, too fast.
“No, nobody with visions, oddly enough. Not since Oma Margali. I was named after her, nothing unusual about that. At least nobody I know about. There was an aunt of mine, who married some gadje name of Adler or Eidler, something like that anyways. The family didn’t really stay in touch. For all I know it might have passed down on her side. I don’t think there’s any way I could find out. Or at least not any I’d care for trying. I’ve left all that behind now