(Although this fictionalized tarot card reading is, as usual, purely for creative and writing inspiration, and should not be taken as any sort of reflection, critique, diagnosis, classification, or judgment pertaining to actual mental and emotional conditions, this month’s reading is, however, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. If you find yourself in need of help and support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional or to a crisis line.)
Sometimes, the enemy lies deep within oneself. Sometimes it’s external forces that can’t readily be seen, or identified. Sometimes one may not even be sure they exist at all. Are they even real, or simply a figment of someone else’s imagination? Perhaps one of the most terrifying situations in horror fiction is when the character’s reality is deliberately distorted by those around them, and they simply have no way of knowing which way is up, or what the truth actually is. They’re faced with a situation where they’ve been taught that their own perception, knowledge, and intuition can’t be trusted. Such is the situation our fictionalized main character is facing.
Character: Knight of Swords. This character is the royal heir to a wealthy and expansive kingdom. The kingdom is so widespread that the regents, the main character’s parents, have difficulty in holding onto their power. These regents face challenges both without the castle walls, where war and bloodshed is almost a constant presence, and within, where not even the regents’ inner circle can be trusted. As a result, the royal heir, as the regents’ only child, lives a life of near-total seclusion. In fact, the only people the heir has come in contact with are his parents. Within their suite of rooms, the heir knows only luxury, peace, and security, despite the wars raging outside the castle.
Setting: The Tower. As the heir comes of age, however, the regents provide them with a companion, thought by all to be trusted, and the pair become very close. It’s a blow to the heir when the regents inform their child that the companion was involved in an attempted assassination and the heir is left with a broken heart, having fallen in love with the companion. What the heir doesn’t realize is that, even with his once-trusted and once-beloved companion gone, the danger is closer than anyone realizes. The heir awakes one evening to the smell of smoke and the sound of screams and running footprints from inside the castle itself. Gone are the flowery scents and the soft music the heir is usually surrounded with day and night. Instant terror replaces the heir’s complacency when a series of loud bangs sound against the door to his suite.
Theme/Development: Nine of Pentacles (Reversed). The door splinters into pieces, and a cadre of masked people rush into the room. The heir is forcibly seized from his bed, and as he’s thrown over the shoulder of one of the heavily armored intruders, he sees the others set fire to the velvet drapes that line his bed. The heir, despite his sheltered existence, realizes that the betrayal his parents have always feared has finally happened. The heartbreak over his lost companion doesn’t compare to the pain he now feels. Outside the room, the smoke is even thicker, and he can barely make out dark masses scattered over the floor. Once outside, the smoke clears, and the heir realizes the masses are bodies. He looks up to see flames shooting up out of the castle’s roof and windows. He closes his eyes, afraid that he’ll see the bodies of his parents among the slain masses. He’s tossed up on into a horse, and he struggles to get away before his captor mounts. There’s a curse, a sharp pain, and true blackness overtakes the heir.
Conflict/Climax: Two of Swords (Reversed). The heir comes to, and he hopes that all of what has happened was nothing but a bad dream. Although everything is still dark, he feels warmth off to his left. The fireplace in his room, and he snuggles down deep into his sheets. Instead of the finest silk, the sheets are of a coarse fabric that rasps against his skin. Before the heir can register that he wasn’t dreaming after all, light pours in abruptly. A shadowy form blocks out the light, and the heir scrambles backwards until he hits a solid wall behind him. The form grabs him and hauls him upright and pushes him out the door and into even brighter light. As his eyes adjust, colours flood in. Colors only nature can provide. Vibrant greens of trees stretching out to the horizon, even brighter flowers growing at their base, and the prince’s breath catches in his chest, followed by a swift, sharp, yet oddly pleasurable pain. There, in front of him, is his companion. And nowhere, as far as his eye can see, is any trace of the dangerous and war-ruined landscape he’d been told existed outside the castle walls.