“His rage is his strength, but also his weakness. He expends his power too readily and too extremely. I used another card to bait him—until the Emperor was depleted. After that, he was a mere mortal.”
So how to bait him? Coming for you, Richter . . .
V. The Hierophant, He of the Dark Rites (Guthrie)
VI. The Lovers, Duke & Duchess Most Perverse (Vincent & Violet)
VII. The Chariot, Wicked Champion (Kentarch)
I glanced up. “Who’s Kentarch?”
Aric said, “My other ancient ally.”
And I was Death’s ancient enemy. “What’s his power?”
“Teleportation and intangibility.” To Lark, he said, “In games past, he was better known as the Centurion.”
She scribbled again.
“Why isn’t he here?” I asked. “Will he help us?”
Aric shrugged. “He searches for his wife. I doubt he will do much of anything else until he locates her.”
But we could use him! “You can’t talk him into fighting for you? Call on your friendship?”
“He and I aren’t friends.” Aric seemed to grow more distant by the second. “Our interests have been aligned.”
I bit back my frustration, planning to keep working this angle.
VIII. Strength, Mistress of Fauna (Lark)
IX. The Hermit, Master of Alchemy (Arthur)
X. Fortune, Lady of Fate Luck (Zara)
XI. Justice, She Who Harrows (Spite)
XII. The Hanged Man, Our Lord Uncanny (??)
“The Justice Card was known as the Fury,” Aric said. “Her title, She Who Harrows, is the same.”
Lark updated the list. “What were Spite’s powers?”
“She was a fanged demoness with batlike wings and the ability to spit acid. Strangely, her acid wouldn’t rise when we faced off.”
“A Bagman might have bitten her,” I said. “Sol talked about a card whose powers were neutralized.”
“By the way, boss”—Lark’s eyes grew tinged with animal red—“I officially called Fortune’s kill. Zara and her stupid choppers are mine.”
He raised his brows. “Good luck with that. You’ll need all the luck you can get.”
“What are the Hanged Man’s powers?” I tried to remember more about that player.
“I don’t know,” Aric admitted. “I’ve never faced him, nor seen him mentioned in any chronicles I’ve read. The Star had his icon in the last game. But did the Arcane Navigator take it himself, or harvest it from another?” Aric rotated his shot glass on his desk blotter. “The Hanged Man remains a mystery. That is why he’s called uncanny. In this game, all have been accounted for, but for him.”
“Then he’s the inactivated card?” One Arcana was dormant—until he or she killed another player. “Matthew told me to beware of that player but wouldn’t reveal an identity.” He’d just said, Don’t ask, if you ever want to know. Merely thinking of Matthew made my anger churn. “Of course, the Fool’s a cowardly liar, so I’m not banking on anything he said.”
Both Aric and Lark looked surprised by my tone.
How could they be? Seething, I turned my attention back to the page.
XIII. Death, the Endless Knight (Aric)
XIV. Temperance, Collectress of Sins (Calanthe)
XV. The Devil, Foul Desecrator (Ogen)
XVI. The Tower, Lord of Lightning (Joules)
XVII. The Star, Arcane Navigator
XVIII. The Moon, Bringer of Doubt (Selena)
Just as I’d reduced Selena and Jack to epitaphs, Lark had reduced the Moon to a scratched-out name. Because of Richter, Selena had been banished to history.
XIX. The Sun, Hail the Glorious Illuminator (Sol)
XX. Judgment, the Archangel (Gabriel)
XXI. The World, This Unearthly One (Tess)
Oh, God, they hadn’t heard.
“I had a scout on Tess for a while,” Lark said. “She’s possibly the nicest person I’ve ever stalked.”
“Her powers will suffer this game, becoming unstable,” Aric said. “She needs mass amounts of calories to wield her abilities, and there’s little food out in the wastelands.”
Voice thick, I said, “The World is . . . gone.”
“You mean dead?” Lark’s lips parted. “Did Richter get her icon? Figures it’d be him!”
I shook my head. “Her death was an accident. Joules or Gabriel must have her icon.” In the case of an Arcana’s accidental death, the closest player would receive it.
“What happened?” Aric asked, with what might have been sympathy in his eyes.
“I believe Tess reversed time, and her power got away from her.” At Lark’s frown, I explained, “Each minute she went back in time drained her. Her corpse was wasted, the way it looked when she reversed time before. She loved to help so much. . . .”
Lark folded up her list and pocketed it. “You saw her body? Gabe and Joules just left her to rot?”
“Someone had buried her in Fort Arcana.”
“What’d you do, Eves, go grave-digging?”
Aric had once told Jack, If you can’t speak your deeds, then don’t do them. “I . . . did. I had to know if it was Tess’s grave—if reversing time was an option or not.” Yet more evidence of my love for Jack.
I glanced at Aric. His eyes had turned cold as ash.
Lark made a sound of disbelief. “Damn, girl, you went to the mat, huh?”
It hadn’t mattered. I hadn’t been able to change fate. Did that mean I never would be able to alter the course of my life? Would I always fail—because I had zero control over my own destiny?