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Deal 866: Frog Prince’s Band

He looked forward to his plans coming to fruition.

His conversion from frog to prince had worked well, but left him itchy and uncomfortable if he strayed too far from his origins. He worked that problem for the last year, and finally had success with an ointment that relieved the itching in short-term, and after a few months of use he was finding he no longer needed it at all for days at a time.

So now it was time to put the band together, and go win himself a princess.

A banjo, a washtub bass, and a jug would be a start.

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Deal 865: Inn at the Bridge

The Inn at the Bridge was well placed to see all sorts of folks pass through. Not everyone stopped, of course, but many did to pass a few hours until the bridge was clear.

That also made the Inn a popular place to lie in wait. Even parties that don’t stop are visible as the road turns to approach the river. Not that the innkeeper was ever willingly a part of such a plot. But a recent episode involving poisoned beer was the last straw. That killed many innocent travelers while apparently not actually killing the target who at the last moment declined to stop for a drink. Meanwhile, the poisoned keg was tapped and served to all comers.

The Inn has turned over several suspicious kegs for investigation, as well as several transient workers who may have had access to the keg room.

Further, the Inn now has a standing challenge that any concerned customer may demand that staff taste any draft.

The Inn’s owners are confident that these measures will reassure the traveler that the Inn remains a safe and convenient stop on the long dusty road.

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Deal 864: Secrets

The trick with any disguise, as with any plan, is to get it to survive first contact with the enemy.

Once you are used to walking calmly past the guards armed only with a clipboard filled with blank paper as your authorization, you can go anywhere. But that first time, it is so easy to be overwhelmed by the apparatus of security theater, and to automatically assume you have been caught.

The secret is that all security theater fundamentally depends on the guilty party feeling guilty.

Just don’t.

Then the world is your oyster.

Bob’s your uncle.

And you can keep the apple a day you were planning to sacrifice to fend off the medical profession.

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New Spread: Old to New

With a new year upon us in the real world, it is time perhaps to consider a little mental housecleaning. It is time to put out the old, and welcome the new. Exchange new lamps for old, as the classic tale has it.

Old to New Spread

The Deal

  • Deal a concrete card to the center as the pivot.
  • Deal two concrete cards to the left as the old.
  • Deal two abstract cards to the right as the new.

Interpretation

The pair to the left stand for things to throw out with the changing of the year. Cherish them or hate them, their time is past. Let them go.

The pair to the right stand for things anticipated to come. Await them eagerly or fear them, their time is upon you.

The card at the eye of the storm is the pivot on which the whole turns. This might be a main character, a place, a prop, or a theme. It might not need to be mentioned by name, as events will turn about it regardless.

Example

Pivot: Music
The Old: Mirror, fowl
The New: Prudence, Loyalty

As the dancers moved around her, the Princess finally relaxed into the moment and just let herself enjoy it.

All that business with the mirror, the old hag, the poisoned chickens, and the five extremely tall men was over and done. She had survived, and even perhaps learned a few lessons. The hag was no longer a threat. The chicken flock was once again healthy. And the mirror knew better than to offer any opinions. For now, at least.

Tomorrow was another day, which she would deal with then. She imagined that more care was needed before accepting help from just anyone. And she expected that her new council members (all unusually tall and thin) would be loyal to her before all else.

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Deal 863: The Wizard’s Breakdown

Everywhere I turn, there’s another one. It seems like there is no reprieve.

I was driving along the other day, and one burst out of the bushes and tried to run me off the road. I was having a hard-boiled egg for lunch, and there was a note to me inside the shell. I found a sack in a closet that produces eggs when I’m not looking. There are footprints on my cards. I was cleaning a friends attic, and too many of the strange dusty antiques had them painted on.

I am going crazy.

It is like a bomb went off spreading them everywhere.

And I am the only one that notices.

My friend thought everything was normal, just dusty. No one thinks my cards are odd. Many people seem to think that a steady supply of eggs is good. Eggshells contain lots of things, so why not notes? And why can’t a chicken cross the road?

It must be all in my head.

All in my head.

All in my head, they tell me.

So perhaps I’ll stop at that Inn under the sign of the cat and see what happens. Something inevitably will, and there will be a chicken behind it!

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Deal 862: George Procrastinates

As always, the cats were sure of themselves. What else could I do but obey?

There was also the promise of beer, though where exactly the cats were planning to find it was not clear.

But first, there were necessary chores. I hadn’t finished documenting our last trick, one that had involved the transformation of a white tiger into a black panther during a levitation. While I enjoy the thrill of pulling off something like that the first time, it is important to have all the details clear so that we could bring it back into a future show without re-inventing the whole thing. Writing it all down takes time, and I’ve never enjoyed that part.

Hence the scheme that the cats worked up amongst themselves.

They promised me a night out. And beer.

But only when I turned in my homework.

Clearly they were not in the mood to accept the old saw about the dog, especially since in this household the dogs all knew who was in charge and would never dare cross the old lioness.

When the door opened and Michel came in carrying a bag, I deduced who they had recruited to go shopping without me. Besides, there were few people in the world willing to open that door uninvited and risk what might be lurking in my shadows. The cats may order me around mercilessly, but they were also fiercely protective, and would gladly order the death of an intruder. It turns out you only need to have one intruder eaten to get a reputation in amongst the thieves. He wasn’t even actually eaten, merely shown more teeth and claws than he realized could live in one old dark building rumored to be occupied by an elderly recluse.

Turned out he was wrong about the recluse part. Or at least not entirely right. I do prefer the company of the menagerie to most mortal folk. So there aren’t any mortals living in the building. Michel, of course, is exactly as mortal as I. That is to say, not apparently mortal at all.

So I suppose the would-be thief was right about the elderly part, while at the same time completely wrong. I’m far older than he was imagining.

In the end, the thief escaped with a wild story and a few tooth marks in his boots and gloves.

A short time after that incident, the menagerie and I began public performances. That gave a public excuse for why there might be a large cat or two in my building. We let the public assume that I am the magician and trainer, and that the cats do my will. They are wrong about that, but it doesn’t matter because the cats and I generally agree on most things. Including a willingness to scare would-be thieves.

Michel had joined us without realizing he was part of my menagerie, as sort of a pet of the rat colony. He wasn’t always paying attention to the present, preferring to dwell on the future. Today, though, the present seemed to be accessible, and the future seemed to be pleasantly signaled by the bag.

With the added incentive of the carrot cake that came out before the bottles, I wrapped up my notes and turned my attention to my friends of all species.