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Silver Bullet -- Sheeply Misadventures

We've gotten first edits back on Silver Bullet, the third book in the Order of the Air which will probably be out at the end of the summer/beginning of the fall, and so I thought I'd share a piece from Lewis learning to use his abilities, assisted by Stasi in her inimitable way! Check it out!

Dinner was over and the washing up was done. Alma and Mitch were listening to the news in the living room, the radio a comforting crackle too low for Lewis to make out the words.

Stasi gave him a little shrug and draped the dishcloth over the rack. "Ready?"

"Ready," Lewis said grimly. It had been his idea to have a teacher. He wanted to learn, and while Stasi might not be a very conventional teacher, there was no denying that she was good at what she did. Nor was there any denying that her clairvoyant talents were far closer to his than the talents of any of the others. Ostensibly it was one of the reasons Alma had hired her -- she could teach Lewis. And yet he approached some of her lessons with deep-seated trepidation. Some of the things she did were things he'd been told as a child were of the devil, and even though he believed Alma when she said that it was the intent, not the tool, that made magic evil, he still found his palms sweating at the idea of using Stasi's tarot cards.

He followed her into the dining room anyway, flipping on the electric lights. Stasi sat down at the little-used table. They usually ate in the kitchen. She got the leather box off the sideboard, putting it squarely before her on the polished wood. "You don't have to do this," she said.

Lewis took his seat. "Yes, I do," he said. "I have to learn how to use my own gifts. I nearly got us all killed last spring because I couldn't understand my own mind. I kept seeing sailing ships and foul winds when we were crossing the Gulf of Mexico, and I couldn't figure it out. I didn't see until it was almost too late that what I was trying to tell myself was that we had a bad headwind and we were going to run out of fuel fighting it. Because I didn’t understand the symbols in my own mind."

Stasi made no move to open the box. "But you're scared of this."

Lewis sighed. "I guess I don't know what's going to come through them."

Her eyes were kind. "Nothing," she said. "Nothing is going to come through them. Nothing but you. They're not some kind of window into another dimension or voice for a demon. They're just a tool. They're a way of focusing your own abilities, just like using a screwdriver to put a screw in rather than turning it with your fingers."

"I don't understand."

Stasi took a deep breath, as though she were searching for the words. "Look, you were saying just now that you knew something was wrong when we were flying across the Gulf, but you couldn't understand the language your subconscious was using to tell you. The cards are a way of translating your feelings, your hunches, into a language you can read. That's all they are. There are no other entities involved, no demons or angels either. It's just a way of taking what's in your head and putting it down in front of you in a language that's easy to interpret."

"I thought you could tell the future," Lewis said.

"To a certain extent," Stasi said. She caressed the box almost lovingly. "True prophecy is rare, and 99% of the time you don't need it. What you need to know are the results of things that are already in motion, and for that plain old clairvoyance is as good or better than real prophecy. How would you find out whether it's going to snow tomorrow or not?"

Lewis blinked. "Um." He looked at the box. "Well, I wouldn't use those. I'd look at the wire from Salt Lake and see what was going on there and whether the pressure was stable or dropping there."


"Because most snow storms move in from the northwest," Lewis said. He couldn't quite see where this was going. "It's the prevailing weather pattern. Salt Lake usually gets snow before we do, something like ten to twenty four hours ahead. If they've got weather moving in or pressure dropping, we're probably going to get it later today or tomorrow."

"Because it's the pattern," Stasi said. "And that's predictable."

"Well, yeah." Lewis put his head to the side. "I mean, it's not like upper level winds just randomly change. They may vary in logical ways, but if Salt Lake has a storm coming in, it's pretty sure we're going to get it."

"So with your experience you can look at the pattern and make a prediction that you rely on to be fairly accurate," Stasi said.


She tapped the box. "That's what I do too. You're saying that the weather pattern is already established and predictable. It's not likely to change much in half a day or a day. It may not be snowing here yet, but if the pattern is in motion you can be reasonably sure that it will play through."

Lewis nodded. "So somehow you're looking at patterns?"

Stasi gave him a brilliant smile. "Exactly, darling! If it were a hundred years ago, 1832, and you asked me if it were going to snow tomorrow, I would be reading the same pattern -- only without the wire from Salt Lake because that didn't exist yet. But the pattern did. Before the wire existed, it was still just as likely it would snow here tomorrow if it was snowing in Salt Lake."

And that made sense. "Right," Lewis said slowly. "The weather pattern was there before we could measure it or communicate it by telegraph. This is more of that scientific magic stuff."

"And when we were flying over the Gulf last spring, the wind was a problem whether or not the plane could measure it. You were just a more sensitive instrument than the Terrier." Stasi patted the box cheerfully. "This is a sensitive instrument. That's all it is. It's a way of looking at the patterns and translating them into symbols you can understand, just like the wire from Salt Lake turns the weather into a pattern you can read on a little piece of paper!" She opened the box. "So let's take a look." Stasi turned the cards right side up and fanned them out, bright colored pictures on rectangles of cardboard, beautiful and oddly compelling.

He dredged something out of childhood memory. "Don't people tell fortunes with playing cards?"

"These are easier," Stasi said, spreading them out. "Each picture tells a story. All you have to do is read the story." She fished one out and handed it to him. "Like this one. What do you think this one means?"

A woman in medieval robes stood in a garden surrounded by golden pentacles while trees and flowers grew around her. She was smiling at a tame bird that sat on her hand while blue sky arched above her.

"Um," Lewis said.

"Just tell me a story about it. Who is she? What's she doing?"

"Well," Lewis looked at it again. "She's rich. She's dressed like a duchess or something, and it looks like there's a big house off in the corner here. She looks happy. I guess everything is going well for her. She's got her garden and her pet bird and all this gold."

Stasi rewarded him with a brilliant smile. "Exactly, darling! That's what it means. The nine of pentacles means prosperity and wealth, and enjoying the good things in life by oneself. It means being happy with the riches you have and having fun with solitary pursuits."

"Oh." Lewis blinked. "It's that easy?"

"A lot of them are that easy," Stasi said. "You just have to learn the stories. And once you do, it's easy to read them when they come up for someone."

"Yeah, that part…."

"That's where the skill comes in, darling. Anybody can learn the stories. But being able to lay them out so that they reveal the pattern is what requires talent. That's the hard part. That's the part that's focusing your gift, and either you can learn it or you can't." She put her head to the side like a bird. "I suppose it's like wind. Before you can interpret what the wind pattern means you have to first be able to feel it."

He nodded slowly. "And if you can't feel it, then learning what a wind from the northwest means is pointless."

"But that's not your problem, darling. You can feel the wind. You just don't know how to interpret it." She patted the cards. "And that's what these are for." Stasi scooped them up and shuffled. "Now, there's a thing called a spread. That's just positions that mean things, like the future or the past. Once you get used to it, you can create your own spreads as long as you're clear on what you mean, because you have to arrange the cards subconsciously using your gift. So it's easiest to start with one simple spread. I generally don't ask people what their question is. I just ask them to think about what they want to know."

Lewis frowned. "But what if what I want to know is really complicated?"

Stasi sighed. "It's not about complicated. It's about variables. Look, if you ask me to read on the weather tomorrow, that's easy."

"Because you've seen the wire?"

"But I haven't, darling," Stasi said patiently. "No, it's easy because the weather pattern is already established. As you said, it may vary a little, but it's not going to change much. What's going to happen is predictable because there aren't many variables. There aren't many things that are going to divert a snow storm between here and Salt Lake City!"

"There aren't any," Lewis said. "If it's a storm. It's not going to just go away. It can't change that much."

"Yes. So if you asked me to read on the weather tomorrow, that's easy because it's not going to change much. The conditions already exist, and there are very few variables."

"That makes sense," Lewis said.

"But if you ask me if you can drive to Denver safely tomorrow, I can't answer that."

He nodded slowly. "Because there are too many variables. I make too many decisions when I drive."

"Not just you, darling. But hundreds of other drivers you might or might not encounter on the road from here to Denver!" She sat up straighter, still cheerfully shuffling. "Let's say you drive to Denver tomorrow, and you're following a sheep truck up a grade when the truck brakes and the sheep all fall back against the tailgate and the gate springs open and a sheep falls out. You swerve to avoid the sheep and hit a tree."

Lewis grinned. "Ok. I'll play. So variables. I might not hit the tree. I might hit the sheep. The sheep might not fall out. The sheep might fall in the other lane. The truck might not brake on the grade so the sheep might not land on the tailgate."

"Or you might not be behind the sheep truck at all. You might be a quarter of a mile ahead of the sheep truck when the sheep falls out. Or you might be half a mile behind. There are thousands of variables, darling. I can't possibly read on them and neither can anyone else."

"But a sheep probably won't fall on me," Lewis said.

"True. And if you ask me to read, that's what you'll get. The probability. The probability is that you will drive to Denver without sheeply misadventures. But there's no guarantee. It's not a prophecy. Just a probability." Stasi shuffled again. "But you don't need me to tell you that. That's a pointless reading."


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 23rd, 2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
Interesting Stasi use the tarot, which is my own particular tool for... ah... questions, if you will. The IX Pents is an interesting card and does indeed mean all that you say but, often there's a sense of unease about her, as if everything is too good to be true. I think that lies in the walls around the garden. :)So I gotta ask, do you use them or is this research you've put together?
Mar. 27th, 2013 04:06 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, a good point about the Nine! A bit later in the book there's one where yeah, you could take it that way.... *squints* The two of cups might mean a party where people are toasting each other. But it's more likely to mean....

Mar. 27th, 2013 05:55 pm (UTC)
Now you know full well that depends on the context. It can be a choice, and may well be...
Mar. 27th, 2013 06:01 pm (UTC)
True. On the other hand, if the querant has a hot date that night...

And then there's the big reading at the end, on the big question. "Will there be a war bigger than the Great War in 1939?"

The wheel of fortune crossed by the chariot as the center.

The hanged man as the past.

The nine of wands in the present (December, 1932)

Death as the future

The moon as the final outcome, the dog howling beside a white tomb in the moonlight.

Lewis is the querant.

Mar. 27th, 2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... four major cards in a very small spread, two of which are about massive changes. I hope he sits up and takes some notice because, by the goddess, that's some hairy stuff coming his way. So why not The Tower (one of my least fave cards, closely followed by certain Swords)and, are any of them Rx?
Apr. 2nd, 2013 12:23 pm (UTC)
No, none are reversed. Why not the Tower indeed? When the agreed upon sacrifice is called for (the Hanged Man), and the death is fit and necessary for the good of all, it may be mourned but it isn't the Tower. It isn't disaster. It's what must be. Lewis is twice sworn -- as Diana's priest, and by his commission in the Air Corps Reserves. If war comes, he's prepared to lay down his life in defense of the innocent, and he would never for a moment consider that disaster or wrong. (He sails for England on June 1, 1942.)
Mar. 24th, 2013 12:06 pm (UTC)
I love this! Stasi is a good teacher. :)
Mar. 27th, 2013 04:09 pm (UTC)
She is! I'm glad you like it.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )