Kesali carefully brushed away some of the loose debris from the thick wooden plank supporting her tiny bruised frame. It was damp from the broken sewer line, but the pipe must have completely collapsed because the water stopped pouring and diminished to a slow trickle. She carefully laid out one of her scarves before she pulled her cards out of the wrist sheath where she stored them for quick access. The cards were old, much older than herself. They were a gift from her adopted Varisian family. Their insights guide her future, while their worn edges and occasionally creased cards remind her of the past, the many people, and choices that led her to where she is now; trapped in a 4 foot wide seemingly bottomless shaft created by the fall of the heavy bell from a collapsed temple built on top of generations of older, poorly constructed, ramshackle structures in this pitiable neighborhood of old Korvosa.
She started to shuffle the deck, but stopped abruptly when she heard the odd clomping and moaning of an otyugh from deep below her. The illumination from the dancing light spell she cast might draw its attention, but it’s so far down, that it was worth the risk. She’d fought them before, but never when she was so completely alone. If she hadn’t managed to grab onto this ledge, and she hadn’t died from the fall, surely that creature would have finished her off.
Taking a deep, slow breath, she looked upward. She had willed her floating lights to drift up. She knew she could send them as far as 100 feet, but sometime before they reached their limit, they stopped. The shaft was covered by the wreckage. There was no way to know how deep she had fallen. Were there other survivors? “Oh, Gods, how many people must have died?”
She waited for some sign of a rescue, afraid that if she shouted out for help, it might draw the attention of the Otyugh, who was now speaking out loud in a slow groaning voice, “S-o-o-o-o H-u-n-n-n-g-r-y-y-y, Gnarlug is so hungry.”
“Is Gnarlug talking to himself, or is he talking to me?” she quietly feared. “Does he know I’m here?”
She had no idea what to do, so she did what came naturally. Again, she began to shuffle the cards of her Harrow desk. The sound of the cards wasn’t too loud, but still she prayed to Desna that the ravenous sewer monster would not hear her. She asked of the cards, “How can I get to safety?” Then she played the nine cards in the typical 3 by 3 layout. Sure there were other layouts possible, but this was how her Nona (grandmother for you gadjos) taught her.
In the first column, representing the negative past or the darkness that has come before she played The Avalanche. Clearly this represents the panicked riots that have frequented the city for the last year, from political fear, plagues, and starvation. The city has been in a state of disaster.
As she reached over to reveal the cards in the second column, representing the present, she nervously knocked over the remaining cards. She quickly grabbed them but not before one of the cards fell of the board, and down the shaft. “DAMN IT!” she shouted, not even caring about Gnarlug below, as her family heirloom drifted out of sight.
She continued what would probably be her last reading with her family’s deck. She revealed two significant cards, yet both were misaligned. Representing the positive present, she placed The Crows. Typically this would symbolize murder, violent crime, or the violent loss of someone or something dear. Missaligned, Kes read this as the possibility to avoid or escape the violence. In this case, meaning that it is possible for her not to die in this dark, damp hole.
The second misaligned card was The Cricket. As she realized its meaning tears swelled in her eyes. Misaligned, The Cricket was a treasure that is lost after traveling. In this case it clearly symbolized the loss of the card from her now incomplete family harrow deck.
All that was left to do was reveal the cards in the third column, the future was literally waiting to be revealed, but for the first time in her life, she was afraid to turn over the cards. They had already betrayed her once today. She was considering putting them away when she realized that Gnarlug wasn’t making any more noise. She sat still and listened for what felt like forever, and then… she heard him.
“I – hear – you,” he moaned, dragging the words out. “I hear you up there. Gnarlug is hungry, and Gnarlug is coming for you.”
She heard the sounds of wood cracking and shifting as she imagined the monster using its three large legs and two long spiked tentacles to climb up through the rubble in the dark shaft. She could have sent her lights down to see, but she just didn’t want to know. “Gnarlug is getting closer,” he said is his usually breathy groan. “Gnarlug can smell you now, and you smell fresh.” The sound was getting much closer as Gnarlug’s climb hastened, but then Kes heard him make an odd guttural noise, and then she heard the sound of wood smashing as Gnarlug slipped and fell back down the shaft, ending his fall in a loud, pained yelp, and sudden silence.
She didn’t move or make a sound for several minutes. The monster was either dead or unconscious. Eventually, she lowered her light downward, and saw that Gnarlug’s fall caused more rubble to block the shaft some 30 or 40 feet below her. Even if he survived, he wouldn’t be able to climb back up that way.
Kes decided that if she had avoided being Gnarlug’s meal, perhaps her future was worth knowing so she revealed the last of the cards in her reading. The card of significance, The Waxworks, was positioned as her negative future. This card represented a dark and terrible place of torture, imprisonment. It also symbolized helplessness, and paralysis. She Knew that this could only mean that she was truly trapped, alone and helpless. She put what was left of her harrow deck away, and began to sob. There was nothing she could do. If her friends were here they could climb to her and look for a way out, but she was alone. Eventually, her spell ended, and the light went out. She could have cast it again, but she didn’t see the point. The last card was played. Her fate was sealed. She was going to die here, alone, in the dark.