Aubrey looked at her tarot with troubled eyes.

     “Are you sure you want to do this?” her father asked.

     She shook her head. She wasn’t sure. But…

     But the cards chilled her. Though they no longer held the tainted glamour of the Karojan (of whom there was still no word), they had. What had happened was totally unheard of. And who could say that her deck was the same simply because she could not tell otherwise.

     For the past week she had done no readings. No one had pressured her to, for which she was grateful. All knew what she’d been through, all knew she had every right to be afraid. Her cheeks still held the scabbed marks of the tiny Death’s claws.

     Now she stood at the edge of a jagged stone bluff. Twenty or so feet below, small waves rolled in smoothly and broke into violent foam on the rocks. She held the tarot before her. Face down. She’d kept it so since gathering all the cards from the floor of her caravan. She didn’t want to see if the images were moving.

     Should she do this? Could she? She had told herself yes, of course. But now doubts plagued her. A gypsy chi (woman), a fortune teller, destroying her cards? Something inside her said that would be wrong, terribly wrong. And wasn’t all of this like falling off a horse? Shouldn’t she conquer her fear and start reading again as soon as possible? Should she let the fear get to her this much?

     I can get another deck, she thought.

     She thought of the small creatures scurrying through the wagon, of the symbols of the Minor Arcana spinning brightly and violently in the air.

     Even her crystal ball had been shattered.

     The cards were growing heavy in her hand.

     Two days ago, she had almost shuffled them. Had almost decided to read for herself, with the query in mind, Should I keep this deck or destroy it?

     Of course she hadn’t done it.

     Her father’s hand fell lightly on her shoulder. “Do it if you’re going to. Don’t if you’re not. But you’ve got to decide.”

     She turned to him. His face showed mild surprise at the sight of tears on her cheeks. “Do you think—“ she started to ask.

     He pressed a finger to her lips, silencing her. “They’re your cards, Aubrey. It’s your decision. Not mine. Not anybody else’s.”

     She nodded, turning her face toward the distant horizon from whence the waves came. That horizon was gray, clouded, with only the slightest glow of sun. It would probably begin raining again soon.

     My decision.

     She made it. She tossed the deck to the winds; they danced apart, twisting turning whirling, falling to the surf below to be washed away, out to sea, or to the shore, or anywhere, but they were no longer a part of her and that was all that mattered.

     Her father squeezed her shoulders and his face nuzzled her hair. “Good girl. I think you did right. Now let’s get back. I’m thirsty.”

     She nodded. “All right.”


...CHAPTER 14...