Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deck of Hand, Head and Heart (non-magic item)

It was the last week of school before the summer break, and for Billobi and best friend Tristan "Hum" Beadle it also felt like the longest. All the tests and projects for this term were completed, so these last days served no other purpose than to torment the poor pupils with "fun facts" and "interesting people" - at least, that's what Billobi thought. He failed to see the fun in listening to old people talking about how things were when they were young in Badgerbrough (mostly how much more expensive everything had become), or cleaning your desk for the tenth time.

On the last day an old man visited the class. The teacher presented him as Mr. Pimbleman, brother to the famous brewer.

"Good day, young students!" he said and took off his hat. "A fine day for indoor activities, isn't it?"

Outside the sun drenched the schoolyard in warmth, making the horizon ripple nervously. Tristan buried his head in his hands with a sigh and longed for the ocean.

"Just kidding! I was once in your seat, believe it or not. I'll make it short, I promise. Have any of you ever seen one of these?"

Mr. Pimbleman pulled out a thin deck of cards, and held them up high. No one answered.

"Apparently not! It's called a deck of hand, head and heart, and it is used for fortune-telling. Does anyone know what that means?"

At this point, the teacher stepped forward and whispered something in Mr. Pimbleman's ear with a troubled look on her face.

"No, it's all right, Mrs. Alcott", he said to her with a smile, "I'm sure they can handle it. They won't be cursed or anything...or WILL THEY?"

He paused and glanced over the class room to see if he'd caught anyone's interest - he hadn't.

"Anyway... A deck of hand, head and heart tells something about someone, by the use of special symbols on the cards."

The teacher stepped forward again and whispered something into his ear, still with a troubled face.

"No, the symbols aren't magical, Mrs. Alcott, I assure you no one will come to harm."

He went silent as he shuffled the deck with great care.

"But what use is a deck of fortune-telling cards without anyone to tell the fortune to? I need a volunteer. Anyone?"

Remembering what the old man said about not taking too long, Billobi raised his hand to end it quicker.

"Lovely! What is your name, young man?"

"Billobi Rustfoot."

"Billobi, let us see what the cards have in store for you. We'll draw three cards from the deck: one for the heart, one for the head, and one for the hands. The heart card tells about your feelings or inner beliefs. Okay?"

Billobi nodded.

"Okay. So, the heart card is a...aha, look at this, a Lady of Love!"

Mr. Pimbleman held up the card for the class to see. It had a rather obscure drawing of a women with strange, oversized proportions, especially the bosom.

"This, young pupils, is the Lady of Love. She most often stands for love and affection. Tell me Billobi, is there a special girl in your life at the moment?"

At the sounding of those words, Billobi felt how his heart began to beat harder. He stared Mr. Pimbleman in the eyes and shook his head intensively.

"Really? Not a single one? Maybe someone in your class? Someone slightly more cuter than the rest?"

As his heart kept racing, Billobi could feel the sneering looks from the other students, pointing at him and giggling. A warmth started to spread in his face, and he wished he could blame the sun for it. He shook his head again, harder than the first time.

"Okay, we'll leave it there", said Mr. Pimbleman with a smile. "So, you have the Lady of Love in your heart, let's see what your head says!"

He pulled another card from the deck and showed it; it was a grotesque picture of a whale with the sun and the moon in its mouth.

"Of course, the World Whale! This ugly creature stands for surroundings, or the day and night cycle. While the heart card reveals your true feelings, the head card tells what you're thinking about, or how you reason with your heart. The World Whale in your head tells us that the love in your heart is someone you're thinking about all the time, day and night!"

The giggling had now turned into laughter. Billobi sat there in silence, face red as sunset, wishing he had never raised his hand. Tristan would surely remind him of this day for the rest of his life.

"And now, the hand card, which tells us how you deal with these feelings and thoughts. Let's ask the deck once more..."

Mr. Pimbleman pulled the last card from the deck, and showed it to the class. The card had a square, bearded head pictured on it, with its mouth closed.

"Obviously, it is the mute, or the shutter; he who closes up and reveals nothing! So, Billobi, according to the cards, your heart desires someone - or something - that you can't stop thinking about, but you handle it by not to telling anyone about it. Does that sound accurate to you, hmm?"

Billobi shook his bright red head in silence.

"Very well! Well, that's all I've got. Thank you all for your time, especially you Billobi, and thank you Mrs. Alcott for having me, it was a pleasure."

Mr. Pimbleman received a round of applause before Mrs. Alcott wished everybody a nice summer, and declared the start of the summer holiday. During the chaos and cheering that followed, Billobi all of a sudden met Ana Althorp's eyes across the class room - and they were bluer than ever.

A deck of hand, head and heart contains cards with various symbols or drawings, and is used for fortune-telling.

The fortune-teller first draws one card for the heart; this is said to tell about inner beliefs, true feelings, and so on.

The second card drawn is for the head; this tells about reasoning and logic about what the heart believes.

The last card to be drawn is for the hands; this reveals how the person deals with all these things through words and actions.

The possible meanings of the symbols are infinite, and the ones presented below are just some of the more common. Some of the symbols found on the cards include:

The Lady of Love

Possible meanings
Love, Affection, Lust, Fertility, Naiveness, Inability to take action

Possible meaning when drawn in heart

Possible meaning when drawn in head
Not thinking clear

Possible meaning when drawn in hand

The Striped Sword

Possible meanings
Battle, Duality, Sharp-sightedness, Toughness, Readiness, Wit

Possible meaning when drawn in heart

Possible meaning when drawn in head
On the alert

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Looking for a fight

The Devourer

Possible meanings
Gullibility, Hunger, Searcher, Keen learner, Yearning, Theft

Possible meaning when drawn in heart

Possible meaning when drawn in head
Eager student

Possible meaning when drawn in hand

The Mute
(or The Shutter)

Possible meanings
Liar, Ignorance, Nonchalantness, Hiding, Dumbfounded, Starvation

Possible meaning when drawn in heart

Possible meaning when drawn in head
Withholding information/lying

Possible meaning when drawn in hand

The Reversal

Possible meanings
Opposite, Inversion, Negation, Conflict

Possible meaning when drawn in heart/head/hands
Depends on the other two cards, often negating a feeling/reasoning/action (or stating a conflict)

The Tainted Tree

Possible meanings
Escape, Growth, Escalation, Filthy, Deceitfulness

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
Bad intentions

Possible meaning when drawn in head

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Spreading rumours/mongering

The World Whale

Possible meanings
Surroundings, The entire world/everything, Transitions, Day/Night, Cycles, Enclosure, Imprisonment

Possible meaning when drawn in heart
In control

Possible meaning when drawn in head

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Repeating with obsession

The Mask of Mazes

Possible meanings
Delusion, Confusion, Entanglement, Chaos, Craze, Hindrance

Possible meaning when drawn in heart

Possible meaning when drawn in head

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Uncertain about what to do

The Serpent Spot

Possible meanings
Concealment, Traps, Fraud, Unsafe spot, Hidden agenda, Sneaking, Crawling

Possible meaning when drawn in heart

Possible meaning when drawn in head
To serve or go by unnoticed

Possible meaning when drawn in hand
Covering one's tracks

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Message sticks (magic item)

It had been yet another night of face licking for Billobi, but at this point he was used to it. Sleeping on the floor in Mr. Bickleigh's brick house was a sure way of getting your face clean by the house cat; Mr. Bigglesworth sure had a rough tongue.

Living all alone in the middle of the Ogrebelly forest meant giving up on some of the convenience of a city or village, but Mr. Bickleigh didn't mind. The forest had everything he needed in terms of food, magical ingredients and - strangely enough - intellectual exchange.

"I talked to some heather last night", Mr. Bickleigh said and put a pot on the stove. "You'd think they'd be quite the conversationalists, Mr. Rustfoot, but sadly they just talk in riddles and twisted wordplays. Bah, it's easier to talk to a stream!"

Billobi got up on his feet and walked over to the kitchen window to adore the scenery for a second.

"How does one talk to heather anyway?" Billobi asked.

"What do you mean? With your mouth of course! But Mr. Bigglesworth, what are you doing! You stupid cat!"

Billobi turned around and saw the cat looking back at them both with a postage stamp attached to his nose, and one sticking out from his mouth half-chewed. It didn't seem to understand what the fuss was about.

"Congratulations, Mr. Bigglesworth! Your indisputable and unmatched hunting abilities have yet again led you to the feast of your lifetime - my box of stamps! I admit my defeat, you fat cat!"

"I don't understand", said Billobi, "he likes stamps?"

"Oh, 'like' is such a weak word", said Mr. Bickleigh and started to fumble with the pile of wood over at the stove. "I would rather say that he crave for them! I guess they shouldn't make the sticky stuff on the back so tasty, am I right Mr. Bigglesworth?"

The cat pulled off the stamp on his nose with the paw, and started to chew on it. Mr. Bickleigh took a bunch of narrow sticks from the wood pile, and headed for the front door.

"Come Mr. Rustfoot", he said and opened up the door. "I presume a man of your curious nature never turns down an opportunity to witness something old and magical?"

Billobi shook his head and smiled.

"Besides, I need to borrow your pen and some paper."

Mr. Bickleigh led Billobi to a small fireplace just outside. It consisted of big chunks of rock formed in a crude circle, with some charcoal in the middle from last night's cooking.

"Since that fat cat of mine decided to feast on my stamps on the very day I needed them, I guess I'll have to resort to more unconventional ways of communication. Put some logs on, will you?"

Billobi went around the house and fetched some logs and piled them up nicely in the middle of the stone circle.

"Stand back, or I'll have your nose hair burned off!" Mr. Bickleigh said, and snapped his fingers upon which the logs started to burn immediately.

"People tend to believe it's the motion, when it's really the sound", he added somewhat proud. "Anyway! Pen and paper, please!"

Billobi handed his pen and a piece of paper, tools which he never left home without. Mr. Bickleigh started to write immediately.

"There! This" - he folded the paper twice - "is my message, and that" - he threw the paper into the fire - "is my way of sending it. And now, we'll peel some sticks."

He handed some of the narrow sticks he brought with him to Billobi, and started to peel off their bark. After doing about fifteen or so, he bundled them together and threw them on the fire.

"Those are my receivers", he said and pointed at the sticks, which began to twist and turn in the heat. "A stick for a letter, so it's best to peel aplenty. Quick! Pull them out! Hurry, before they all turn into c's! Quickly, Mr. Rustfoot, my fingers are to valuable for such labour!"

Billobi performed some sort of hopping dance while trying to get the sticks out of the fire. He lined the burned and twisted sticks up in front of them. Somehow, nine of them had turned into crude, ornate letters, and one single stick remained straight but with a small dot placed on it. Mr. Bickleigh immediately started arranging them in different ways, until they spelled out two words, with the dotted stick in between, separating them.

"Hmm..." he said, clearly annoyed. "That's not very nice."

"May I ask what you wrote on the paper?"

"It was merely a request from one friend to another - or, so I thought! - about deliverance of certain beverages to my home, at his expense. Nothing fancy, maybe just some bottles of Pimbleman's Teeth or Horsehead's Stout. Maybe some ripe cheese. And that tasty sourdough bread... Well, that clearly shows that you can't be friends with innkeepers! Pen and paper, please!"

He wrote a new message, folded the paper and threw it on the fire.

"Come, Mr. Rustfoot", Mr. Bickleigh said and headed towards the house again. "No need to wait for an answer to that!"

Message sticks are a way of communicate over long distances using only fireplaces and narrow sticks. Any type of stick will do, as long as the bark is peeled off.

To send a message, one must write it down on a piece of paper (or some other material), fold it and throw it on the fire. Since it's impossible to know how many letters the response will contain, it's best to throw as many sticks as possible on the fire, since one stick corresponds to one letter.

After some seconds, the sticks will begin to twist and turn into letters, at which point they should be removed (or they'll turn into C's). Straight sticks with a dot on them should be treated as word dividers.

Unfortunately, the sticks need to be arranged properly after turning into letters, since they come out all scrambled. This is why most people prefer writing letters.