The Deck of the Numinon
A Tales of Terranovae Novel by GJ Scherzinger Genre: Fantasy
Full Color Illustrations
With a turn of the cards, a Stone Giant breaks loose from the Granite Mountains, leaving a path of destruction through the Regency of the Stands. The fabled guard towers of Safrasco are destroyed by a sorcerous griffin, the threat of war rising in its wake. Captain Ferriman turns to a blind herb trader named Cerra Meadows in the hopes she can help him navigate the sorcerous paths that threaten the peace of the Empire.
The Cards are drawn, the cast put into play. The Deck is ruled by the majics that created it. Events take on a life of their own, reliant on the strengths and motivations of the players whose avatars are determined by the draw. The Queen of Quills represents qualities that Cerra must embrace in order to discover the identity of the Seer and locate the Cards before her world runs out of Time.
THE THREE OF QUILLS an excerpt from “the Deck of the Numinon”
Susinna looked carefully at the young woman, gauging her reactions as she spoke. The calm and accepting posture told her that Haviana was entirely comfortable with her upbringing. She did not expect an answer and continued. “You show every sign of being their offspring … undeniably smart and eager to learn.” Susinna’s smile drooped, a measure of sadness crossing her face. “Therefore, it pains me to send you away.”
Haviana’s stomach seemed to drop deeply, leaving her feeling void, her skin momentarily an empty shell. “I’ve done nothing wr …” She barely had a plea formed on her lips when the abbess continued.
“Oh. Well, I didn’t say that quite right, did I? I meant that I have an errand for you, Haviana. I’m afraid it will interrupt your schooling.”
“An errand.” There was no questioning in her voice as Haviana felt her senses tingle, a sudden burst of relief and attention spiked by immediate curiosity.
“Maybe you should think of it more as a ‘mission’.” Susinna countered. “It will involve some discretion. And tact.”
“I’ve never been known for tact. Aren’t there other Sisters more qualified than I?” Haviana knew it was a bold question. She would not be here by happenstance. The Mother Abbess gave no clue that she had heard the question.
“They call you Havi, do they not?”
“You’ve adopted the Gyrfalcon. A most marvelous bird. It’s attention to detail and ferocity suits you well.” Susinna looked out towards her balcony mulling over her next words. “So unlike your parents … yet we are all our own people, are we not?”
The Abbess turned back to face Haviana. “You asked if I had more qualified Sisters to, er, send … on this errand.”
“heh. Mission. I’m glad you’re taking this seriously from the start.” Susinna gave the young woman another appraisal. Young or not, she had a strong disposition, further advanced in her training and abilities than her years. She had her parents to thank. “Yes, there are more qualified candidates. I have very strong misgivings about sending you at all, yet to do nothing is worse. The fact is, I can’t send anyone … important.”
“You want someone who won’t attract attention.” Havi stated, following the Abbess’ trail of logic.
“In a manner of speaking, yes. And, for reasons I’ll explain, one not in position to directly affect the proceedings.” The young girl was intent, her sharp hazel eyes already absorbing information. “Some years ago, there was a purge within the order … your mother may have mentioned it?” A glance was enough to see that the young girl was well-versed in her mother’s history. “As it happened, a number of Sisters went missing, many dead, sadly. But for the grace of the fates, your mother could have been one of them. Some artifacts also turned up missing during that unfortunate time. Without divulging the entire list, I will speak of one …” The Abbess drew a card from underneath the small stack of old parchments and turned it face up on the desk. “ … the Deck of the Numinon.”
Haviana remained silent, waiting for the Abbess to continue and noting details of the exposed card with a glance, the lacquered figure an ancient goddess by her reckoning.
“This is one of the cards … Azinnan … the High Priestess. The Deck … a story in itself … was commissioned long ago by one of my predecessors. A fortune telling deck by its nature … but also a creator of fortunes. It was devised by a mage who lived for a time deep within the mountains of the far Jimals. By all accounts, he was quite a powerful one and the Abbess had a long affair with this vizier in the course of her Office. The Sybellines are known for the power of their Oracles. It is part of who we are, no? The spirit that dwells in the deck is the result of their collaboration.”
She passed the card over to Haviana, who took it carefully, as though handling a relic. The novitiate turned the card over, the old lacquered paint appearing to glitter with life and power when the light chanced to glance over it a certain way. The figure of the High Priestess was seated on a lotus flower as a throne. Bees decorated the hems of her robes and on her head lay a crown of crescent moons. Havi’s eyes sharpened with a raptor’s intensity, examining both sides as Susinna continued.
“The High Priestess represented the Abbess who had the deck formed, though by lot, the onus belongs to her heirs as well. It is considered the most powerful card in the deck, which is saying a lot. She had the good sense to remove this card and hold it separately, so it could not be used against her.” Susinna retrieved the card and studied the face of it for a moment while she spoke, as if addressing the High Priestess of the Deck.
“One of the cards. There are seventy-six more and many of them quite dangerous in the wrong hands.”
Greg Scherzinger spent the bulk of his career as a TV Producer and Director, and skiing as much as possible in the Western mountains and the Alps, before leaving the broadcast business and spending the next 13 years living on a 41' yawl in NW Washington. He has sailed the Inside Passage, the Gulf of Mexico and the Bahamas. The author's newest book, “The Henna Witch”, along with "The Wizard of Grimmer's Wharf", was written after he moved to a small farm in the coastal hills of his native Oregon. "The House on Chambers Court" was penned while living in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur in Mexico. He wrote his first book, "Demon of the Black Gate" while residing in the San Juan Islands.
One of my earliest story concepts was approaching the tale from the viewpoint of the Demon. Where did the Balrog come from in Lord of the Rings? What was the motivation? They seemed like aimless thoughts, but they germinated into a demon of great power and ability and from those seeds, the story ‘Demon of the Black Gate’ was born.
That story was admittedly hijacked by the character of Cerra, the blind woman I placed in his path to break the spell that was laid over him. Even so, the dynamic power of his character is central to the story. The demon was created by ill sorcery, a human soul shriven into the basic elements of fire, water, air, and earth. His powers derived from those pure elements, as unbridled as nature and driven by the empty agony of his prison, the Void.
When he is freed from the sorcerous hold by chance, he escapes in a rampage that ends in exhaustion near the cabin of Cerra, the blind woman. It is the aura of the man he once was that penetrates her dark vision. In one of the most touching scenes in the book, he allows her to mold him into the shape that she saw. Through her intervention and patience, he comes to terms with existence beyond the spells of his captors. As he becomes more aware of his humanity, the efforts of the wizard to regain control become more drastic.
There are passages in ‘Demon of the Black Gate’ where the reader sees the world through the demon’s eyes, which for me was an exercise in giving emotional relevance to elements. What would air evoke? Or earth? Or fire? Or any combination. There is a darting rampage to fire and a peaceful weight in water, a solidness to ground that isn’t measured in time. A creature of the elements would be driven by the basest of emotions and I tried to impart that to the demon’s reality as he evolved and changed through the story.
At the center of both stories lies the blind woman, Cerra. The transformation to Demon has left him bereft of the sense of morality, for nature has no standard. Morality is cultural and only Man wishes to make morality a defined notion. The demon recognizes his strength comes from utilizing all of the elements in conjunction, as much as his various forms allow. Cerra was the one soul in his shattered world that wanted nothing from him, only his well-being. She restores in him the essences of morality, insights that come with patience and inquiry. That unerring flame proved to be more powerful than the magics sent to recapture him, a spell that was no spell at all, only genuine compassion.
The Demon is very climactic in his various forms, from dust-devils to towering storms, fiery plasmas to granite pyres. Nature is malleable and the Demon is able to find form in all of it, depending on the balance of his elements. In ‘The Deck of the Numinon’ the Demon is dissembled into the most gaseous quality of air by a sorcerous encounter and abandoned to timeless atmospheres while Cerra is left to confront dangers on her own.
Though Cerra has the starring role, the Demon owns a commanding presencee in ‘the Deck of the Numinon’. Indeed, without his incredible powers, some of the forces unleashed by the Deck could not have been defeated. His presence to the Seer shows as the card ‘Abbadon’, one of the most powerful cards in the Deck, and often laid as so the outcome is uncertain.
As Cerra did for herself along the journey, the Demon is forced to acknowledge and accept the being he has become, thereby breaking the bonds of Time.
(Tarot Art by Bluebird - essay from the author’s Facebook page)
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