Description: Rose is having a quiet time doing quiet fortune teller things when she is accosted (again) by a woman who may or may not be of aid in esoteric conflicts. Said woman is also an aggressive pervert, much to the dismay of literally everyone who has to regularly deal with I-No.
AFTER, IN THE DARK
The woman called Rose has come out to Venice, tugged by the subtle flows of fate and destiny to travel here, to the city slowly sinking into its lagoon; perhaps to consider its fate, perhaps to consider her own. Perhaps truths will be revealed here, Rose knows: or perhaps they will be hidden eternally from even the second sight.
Or something to that effect.
Rose is seated alone at a table with the canal on her right. The tent that would keep off stray rain squalls has a bright light clamped to it, which is giving her plenty of illumination for her task, which is threefold.
First, to kill that entire bottle of amber wine, not of great vintage but of excellent quality, that she ordered. The wine, no doubt, helps the Soul Power: it certainly helps Rose's mood in these darksome days (the days are almost always darksome when you can see through the cosmos).
Second, a plate of caprese salad. Same principle as the first.
Third is to break in the new deck of cards.
Rose reads Tarot: it is the kind of fact that was on her trading card back during the illfated year when the promoters of Saturday Night Fight tried to make trading cards a thing in physical media again. Tarot is a personal thing, though: the cards must be broken in, gathered to your will. Rose has spread out her yellow scarf across the table, giving her a golden road on which to see the future.
This moment she has spread out something with nine cards in an asymmetric pattern. As a gondola paddles by, Rose nods once, sets the deck down, and produces a phone from within her purse (sitting on a neighboring chair), swiping to the sports scores with her thumb.
After some glancing back and forth, Rose lets herself smile. Her chin rests in one hand. "Perhaps I should make another wager," she muses to herself. How did you think she paid for all those fancy bathtubs and jet tickets.
It takes some real weird occurrences to sneak up on a psychic. Some might even call it witchcraft.
"Th'fuck you've been doing with yourself, Soul Glo?"
I-No, who has never faced formal accusation of being a witch (in this timeline), enters Rose's peripheral vision. She's already walking around the table to claim the free chair without waiting to ask or be offered, perhaps because she's a busy woman, or perhaps because she's the kind of person who begins greetings with 'th'fuck.' Either or.
(WITCH FACT: It's the latter and I-No has direct proof that Shakespeare would approve of her and her works.)
Not that I-No looks particularly witchy at the moment, as she sinks into the open chair. It's still easy to recognize her: the eigengrau-black bob of hair, the aggressive lipstick and eyeliner, and the wild affection for red clothing don't vary. Her hat is missing, and her modesty-in-dress situation has progressed... sideways, charitably. The nighttime does lend some plausibility of her exceedingly clubwear outfit choice of a red vinyl mini-dress with a scandalous square neckline and square cutouts down each side, accented by a golden zipper in the front and a black collar secured in the front by a ring. The thigh boots remain because fuck you they're amazing.
I-No smiles wide but without showing any teeth. It is a confident, unhurried kind of smile accompanied by half-lidded eyes looking across the table at Rose. When she speaks again, her familiar uncouth tone has switched into something more stylishly femme fatale, with both a hint of a purr and actual complete enunciation of words.
"New deck? I hear they take forever to break in. I wouldn't mind going a few rounds with you. We won't even need protection."
Watch the shift of mood in the face of Rose.
Surprise, mixed with a grimace, at the exciting new nomenclature levelled to her.
Assessing examination of I-No as she swans round the table and moves to slop down into the wooden chair. It's stoutly built, so it does not rattle. (Nor does Rose, usually.) Rose's eyes close once, slowly, like she was greeting a cat - and perhaps that's not too far off the mark.
Rose leans back in her chair and sets her phone down, reaching over to slide her fingers beneath the bulb of her wine glass and raise it upwards. She swirls the amber-tinged wine as she says, "You know how it is. It's difficult to figure out what to do with yourself after something astonishing happens. But for better or worse, it might just be coming undone."
Grim! Rose raises the glass to her lips as I-no makes her proposition, and Rose's eyebrows raise again. After a sip that leaves a faint lipstick print, she says with a single-beat chuckle, "Why not? It's been a while since I've done it with someone else."
Her fingers draw the cards together with the long-practiced immaculately-manicured motions of a six-figure blackjack dealer. They are shuffled thrice and then Rose proffers them towards I-no: "Do you know the routine? Form your question and cut them. Then, I spread, and we see what the future will hold."
I-No, probably to little surprise, is unphased by grim things. She keeps on smiling that ate-the-canary smile while Rose unwraps the offer. There is, subtly, a fractional further narrowing of her eyes as Rose bats the innuendo back over the net.
The red witch lowers her gaze to the offered deck of cards, showing off once more the strange, kaleidoscopic effect of her irises. She studies for a moment the tarot and the hands that hold it, and then leans forward to claim the thing.
"First time in a long time, is it?" she says. She turns the deck over in her hands, settling back into her chair. "I don't mind taking it slow. I get a real fuckin' high tolerance for romance when I'm horny."
(OH NO TOO DIRECT)
I-No transfers the deck to her left hand, holding it upright so that each woman is faced by a length of cards, both unable to see the face on the bottom of the stack. With her free hand, she reaches down into her cleavage -- with the tightness that vinyl offers, this particular iteration of her trick requires a determined push of her fingers, but thankfully I-No keeps her nails trimmed short -- and withdraws a vibrant blue guitar pick.
She spins the pick once between her fingers and then tosses it up in the air. It flies just shy of the tent ceiling at its apex, and then comes falling back down. It lands wedged between two cards in the middle of the deck.
I-No looks past the pick toward Rose. She offers the tarot back to her.
"Question formed firm and quivering."
Rose tsk-tsks lightly. "Think of the children," she murmurs. "Then again, perhaps you shouldn't."
The deck is penetrated by I-no's pick, and Rose takes it back, splitting them with one hand at that point, gently tossing the pick back /to/ her, and then saying, "Shall we examine this from a simple perspective before we get in too deep? Past,"
A card comes down: The Moon,
Another card: Lust, known in some systems as Strength,
Rose stops as card #3 lands. It's an ornate symbol resembling a hyperspatial star of David. She looks at it for a moment, and then up at I-no, and for a moment there is a haunted, horrified look in her eyes -- before she laughs! It is a bit too loud, almost gusty. "How funny! You're quite right - they DO get balky until they're used to it."
Rose leans forwards to say in a low voice, "I threw this one out at my hotel. It's an artifact of the printing process. Did you slip it back in?"
"I hate kids," I-No explains, voice flat. She catches the pick midair and sets it down on her side of the table.
The witch makes an open-handed, permissive gesture to Rose at the plan for the reading. She turns her eyes downward once more to watch the unfolding drama. Slight changes in her expression hint at a story. The Moon -- nice, it seems, as she inclines her head. Lust -- a clear winner, with her smile deepening. And --
Rose stops. I-No looks up, returning her attention to the other woman's now-laughing face. She does not share the amusement save for the good humor that is already in her face. When Rose leans in, I-No sees her cue and leans in as well, though not as much because her leaning is for show rather than a real need for privacy.
"Me? Cheat?" says I-No, placing her hand to her chest and not even making a sincere attempt to fake her indignation. "And sneaking around a woman's hotel room. You must think I'm a real pervert. Some kind of Silence of the Lambs fucker in red, using supernatural powers to get access to women's clothing."
A moment of silence. I-No's look lingers. The faint faux scandal in her expression fades as she lets the satisfaction shine through anew.
"How would I have done it? I just got here. Maybe I'm just special. You don't have to come up with my prize right away."
Rose holds that extra card in her hand, between her fingers. She rests her elbow on the table and presses the heel of that hand's palm against her forehead for a moment, taking a deep breath and closing her eyes. It probably looks pouty. Breathless.
"I see you aren't denying it, exactly.," Rose says. She settles back and starts to deal out the cards in front of her in a neat set of rows as she explains: "But I'm just getting arch over the unexpected."
Looking down, Rose says, "Having the lagniappe card in there like that - it's possible that I overlooked it, but given what I am seeing here I suspect that it is not exactly the case." The cards seem to be telling little vignettes if you know where to look: The nine of swords (cruelty) follows the Princess of Disks (notably pregnant). There are no doubt others but that one may pop to even an untutored glance.
Rose sweeps them upwards again and sticks the stray card into her own top, perhaps in preference to leaving it where I-no could, hypothetically, ensorcelate it. Another quick shuffle as she looks up, then another, eyes coming up to meet I-no's.
"I can think of various ways. It might not, of course, have literally been breaking and entering," Rose says, her tone mild, almost intrigued. "You could have obtained another deck. This is not some hand-illuminated work of monks and ascetics; I bought it at a store. You could buy the same."
Rose plops down a card. Queen of Swords. "That's you," Rose says, as she keeps putting others. "Behind," (the Tower), "in your mind," (the Fool), "your path," (Seven of Cups (debauch)) - "The object of your desire -" (The Empress) - "and -"
The bonus card appears again. The one in Rose's top hasn't moved.
She looks up towards I-No, incredulous.
There's plenty of ways to leave someone breathless. This one is nicer than I-No's usual method, which involves lung collapse caused by overwhelming blunt trauma.
I-No bides her time for a smartass response until Rose has finished transferring smoothly from soft accusation to soft self-reprimand to sof texplaanation. It's when Rose takes the time to sweep the cards up that she gets in her jab punch:
"There's no use denying anything when everything's possible, von Forelock."
I-No leans to her left, resting her weight and her elbow on one of the armrests. When Rose looks back to her, I-No pointedly glances down to the other woman top, and then raises her hand to tap her index and thumb together as if to beg the question if Rose is ready to find out if I-No can steal that card from its most sacred of vaults.
But, ultimately, the witch shrugs at the theorizing and lets the game drop. Maybe Rose guessed correctly and the fun is over. I-No /did/ get a fair bit elaborate when she was cutting the deck. There's not much obvious space to hide a card on her person, but not everyone in the world follows the same spatial rules.
Another round. I-No looks down with mild interest.
Queen of Swords.
Seven of Cups.
"Seventh whisky of a seventh whisky."
"I /have/ been feeling dykey lately."
Rose pulls the last card. I-No watches it come down, lips parted and ready for her last remark.
Rose looks at I-No. I-No looks up at Rose, eyes wide with manic excitement. Her lips part even wider to reveal a toothy smile that can't help but look cruel.
The witch's laughter grows louder and more erratic, the vinyl of her dress shifting in the light as she begins to need deep breaths to keep up with her delight. Even when she tries to talk, it's through mad giggling.
"Fuck me with an oar, I'm the sparkliest goddamn princess! Do you think I'm the fuckin' chosen one? Hahahaha!"
At this point a waiter swings by. He is unattractive. He looks at I-no cackling up a storm in her vinyl dress and asks Rose, "Does Madame -"
Rose steeples her fingers. "Please bring the most lesbian wine that you have available, thank you. Put it on the tab..."
She waits for the rippling jagged-silk edges of I-no's laughter to calm down. From the look on Rose's expression, which strongly resembles a classical statue, it isn't the first time she's had to wait out a little laughter.
"It's as if you climbed out of Zeus's forehead last week," Rose says, "but that's impossible, isn't it? We met in the other world and you seemed, to say the least, as if you were flesh and blood. Even so, the cards can read you as a figure that exists, but you seem detached from the usual flows of cause and effect."
Tapping her nose with a finger, Rose both leaves the actual-bonus-card unguarded in its heroic shelf and looks at I-No with a newfound intentness. "This may sound strange," she asks: "But did you used to be part of someone larger?"
"Hahaha... hahaha... oh, shit, the fuckin' universe gets a break from me for that one," says I-No, who laughed all the way through the waiter's appearance and disappearance because he didn't look like anyone whose face was useful.
The witch reaches up and wipes at her eyes, smudging her eyeliner in the process, but it only looks artistic because she is one of those contemptible people who set trends by making anything they do look good.
"Mm," is the extremely noncommittal and nondescriptive noise I-No makes when Rose begins asking questions that are only as rhetorical as they fail to get answered. She shifts her poise, resting her hand near enough the side of her jawline to lightly tap her fingers there to some slow rhythm.
"What," she says. "You mean am I like you?"
She keeps staring.
Again, the staring continues.
The waiter returns with a glass of dry red Greek wine and two glasses, which makes Rose finally move; her eyes, towards him. He pours out two half glasses and then, sensing his imminent demise, gets the fuck out of the area.
Rose returns her gaze back to I-No and says finally, "More or less. You're distressingly well informed, aren't you? I wonder what you asked the cards."
Rose raises up the new glass of red in faintly ironic salute. "But yes, in so many words. It would explain things. How did you find out?"
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: https://www.methymnaeos.com/dry-red
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The waiter returns and somehow gays up the place with dry red wine. Who knew? I-No doesn't shift her attention because she has already established that he is a background character who probably doesn't even get access to the food services table.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The silence goes painfully on after Rose asks the real question. I-No luxuriates in a slow reach for her wine, bringing it up to her face to smell the bouquet, deeply, with eyes closed.
Yeah. Smells like wine.
Only then does the witch salute back with her own glass.
"It's a long story," she says. "But I'm willing to reveal it all -- for reasons relating to the safety of the world."
I-No's expression fades into solemn neutrality. She takes a drink from her wine, looks down at the glass, nods in grim approval, and then sets it aside. Folding her hands, she sinks back into her chair, the picture of a woman haunted by demons of burden and duty. Several moments pass, the customary boon given to storytellers collecting their thoughts.
"I'm a fucking witch and I do fucking magic."
I-No sits up and leans forward with abrupt animation, sweeping up her glass back into her hand and gesturing spiritedly.
"And yes, sometimes literally. Fuck if I know all that pagan orgy shit works or not, but it's the tits when you've popped the right pills!"
The shadows of the night play across I-No's face as she shifts her posture and narrows her eyes. Just as the elegant sharpness of her face tends to make her smile cruel, it unavoidably makes this expression predatory.
"Nah. We're not the same. Not like that, anyway. You've got some sincerely fucked-up kink hiding behind that wise woman con you've got going." I-No's face splits in another bloody-lipstick smile. "Not like I'm judging. It's just a general fact of human fucked-upery that anyone who crusades hard against 'evil energy' might just as easily get into the world domination harem business. Two sides of the same Bison Dollar."
It is unclear where Bison comes into a conversation about Vega, but I-No doesn't always make sense.
The wine is earthy and rough. Just like the isle of Lesbos.
Rose leans forwards slightly, almost involuntarily, as I-No leads into her story. She is attentive. Concerned. Curious, hopeful, brave, thrifty, reverent, and in a single shocking moment emphatically and decisively owned. Her head sags forwards then, hair drooping almost visibly to the tabletop.
After this she takes a deep breath and raises herself upwards. Her eyes turn over the glossy predatory face of the witch across the table and she says, "You've got me at a disadvantage, don't you? I know hardly anything about you - even the journey to Outworld seems halfway to a dream, now. And now..."
Rose shifts herself to a fully upright seat, eyes turned towards the canals. "Now you are making all these insinuations. Tsk tsk tsk."
Bison Dollar, Rose thinks. What -
IN A PREVIOUS FRAME
"I will need a boat," says a Rose of another era, reclining in a tub and talking on the phone with the Ikari Warriors. She twirls the cable of the phone's handset around a fingertip - it was /that/ long ago. "Equipped with the latest in stealth technology..."
THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
BUT THIS IS HAPPENING NOW:
"My stable of evil lieutenants aside," Rose says, "you sought me out. It would seem my cards have difficulties reading your destiny, but perhaps it is only a question of the query was placed." She sweeps the spread back together, lingering momentarily over the Empress before it goes away. The one in her bodice is also removed if set aside - and with a wine glass put decisively atop it.
And then she hands the deck towards I-no. "I think," she says, "it's yours now. But pull a card and hand it to me, and I'll do my best to read your present."
I-No moves again, restless to be sitting still so long, but of course she only finds another way to be dramatically lit by the lamps and shadows of the place. She has a way of glamor about her that is just on the believable side of supernatural. Perhaps she says fuck every other word because her natural allure is durable enough that no ugly consequence ever sticks.
What a world.
Rose looks to the canals. The witch's eyes, one iris currently sea green with an edge of blazing yellow and the other halfway between pale blue and deep magenta, do not leave her presumed prey. Still, she purse her lips outward in consideration. Complaining about insinuations while looking at the canal counts as a sex innuendo, she decides, and therefore does not require her interjection. It's just poor character that Rose speaks innuendo faintly instead of throwing in a reference to the ludicrous act of tribbing or something.
I-No is seized by the thought and turns the potential jokes over in her head while Rose is not having a flashback to something that didn't actually happen but did, because --
EDITOR'S NOTE: REMOVED SEVEN PAGES OF METAPHYSICS DISCUSSION HERE
The witch spreads her hands, palms open and up, to show that she has nothing to argue with against Rose's accusations. She did seek the fortune teller out, and maybe it is the query. The corner of her evil mouth quirks up as Rose reveals herself tilted enough to linger on the Empress.
"Boo," I-No pronounces in disapproval as Rose removes the cleavage card. Still, she leans forward to take the deck, turning it over in her hands as she wiggles her hips to get situated with a forward posture instead of back.
"I'll tell you one true thing, Madame Milf," she says, reaching for her guitar pick. "You're almost my speed when it comes to co-conspirators. Just gotta freak you up a bit. The fortune I'mma tell you is that you should invite me to your palace of whatever the fuck it's called and we can move on past the foreplay."
I-No flicks the pick into the air as if it were a coin. It spins, but of course lands perfectly between two cards again. I-No partially splits the deck to pull the card beneath the pick, just enough that Rose can finish yanking it out when the deck is offered to her.
This is the trial and trib
ulation of dealing with someone who is not belly-deep in the club scene.
Rose reaches forwards and slides her finger into the split of the deck, brushing against the pick splitting it near the top as she tugs out the card in question. Twirling it around, the fiery red and the baleful eye of the Tower can be seen. "I always liked this deck better than the classic one," Rose muses. "It suits the modern day, doesn't it?"
She reaches forwards then, the card sparkling with a little touch of the witchery that Rose has. She flicks it forwards on a leisurely arc.
The card is drawn as if by magnetism to tuck itself into the top of one of those boots.
"Palace? I thought of it as a villa," Rose muses. "But I do like the sound of a palace."
"Come by towards the end of the month," Rose says. "Right now, it's nothing but workmen."
Rose, who usually reads Italian material, looks up 'milf' on the phone. Her expression is unreadable.
"Maybe not as much freak needed as I thought," I-No mutters as she watches Rose go about a very particular way of taking the card. When the psychic is through, I-No shoves the deck back together and taps the guitar pick down so that it disappears between the cards. They're all going to the same place, anyway.
Rose reveals the card. I-No looks up from her business with the deck to see which it is. The Tower -- I-No doesn't know the meaning, but she does know it represented 'the past' earlier, and that's enough to finally kill her vibe and draw a short-lived snarl.
The witch wrinkles her nose and, for a visible and present moment, fights the negativity down. She composes her look once more: half-lidded eyes, balanced posture, but no smile this time.
"Go with palace," says I-No, watching the card fly -- only to be interrupted with a squirm when it shoots down to slide into her boot. She twists to look down at where the card landed.
"Jesus goddamn christ, remind me not to piss you off while I'm going commando."
I-No pushes her chair out, looking once more, and for the last time this evening, over the table to Rose.
"Fine. End of the month. You've got two weeks to buy some scented candles and lube."
AS IN TWO SECONDS LATER
Rose has to watch I-No pound the rest of her glass of wine, pour another glass, and then pound the rest of that one as her 'road drink' before she finally leaves.
"At least she didn't take the bottle," Rose tells the waiter while paying.
Log created on 19:51:05 10/15/2018 by I-No, and last modified on 01:02:49 10/16/2018.