There are more than a few card games and different kinds of decks around the Dome, but by far the oldest and most common are the Fortune Cards. A complete Fortune deck is divided into the Suits and Trumps, also known as the Minor Fortunes and Major Fortunes. However, most people have only seen or played with a deck composed of the Minor Fortunes, and don't know much about the Major Fortunes except that they exist. Indeed, few games incorporate the Major Fortunes, which see use only when the complete deck is employed as an aid to divination and fortune-telling (hence the name).
When used by a koldun or someone with the Gift of the Merhorse, a full Fortune deck helps the querant stretch their gift to see further than normal, though at the cost of accuracy. The meaning of a reading is often ambiguous and can be taken multiple ways, from the very literal to the highly metaphorical.
There are actually two major versions of the Fortunes, the archaic and the modern, and a deck from one is in many ways drastically different from a deck from the other. Given their original purpose as a divinitory tool, the Fortunes are laden with heavy symbolism and meaning, with extra meanings often added on as time goes by and people come up with new conceptual schemes to apply to the cards.
The Minor Fortunes
Each suit of the Minor Fortunes has seven numbered cards (each associated with a particular Sky, under some divinitory traditions; the most common order from lowest to highest is Fire (1), Mists (2), Jungle (3), Thunder (4), Stones (5), Ghost (6), Frost (7)) and four face cards: the Knave, the Gallant, the Consort, and the Monarch. This makes for a total of 55 cards in the Minor Fortunes.
Each number and face card modifies the essential message of the suit when drawn, sometimes literally in relation to the Sky but more often metaphorically: the One (Fire) of Stars, inverted, may warn that a traveler will stray into the Sky of Fire, but more likely means that a journey's troubles will "burn" the traveler. It could even indicate arson while the traveler is away from home and business.
The face cards all have specific common meanings that are modified (or modify) the meaning of their suit. Some kolduns and Merhorses also ascribe further meanings to each of the numbered cards, usually to some different population or group around the Dome. Obviously this only increases the ambiguity of a reading.
- The One card, aside from being associated with the Sky of Fire, is sometimes referred to as the Fool of a suit. This comes from the destruction of Kroy in the Sky of Fire due to their own misdeeds, and how few positive interpretations can be made from referring to that Sky. Dragons are also popular images for these cards.
- The Two card, associated with the Mists, promises opportunity for the keen and wary. The end of winter means the clearing of troubles and the resumption of trade, but the Mists obscure lingering threats.
- The Three card, associated with the Jungle Sky, calls upon one to pay attention to and work with the environment they find themselves in, while its negative interpretations emphasize risk around a person - the world out to get them.
- The Four card, associated with the Sky of Thunder, is considered a card of extremes. It emphasizes the meaning of its suit to the farthest bounds, whether to the heights of fortune when drawn upright or to the depths of disaster when drawn inverted. Thunderbirds are frequently featured.
- The Five card, related to the Sky of Stones, promises gain and loss - often together, after the great danger but also great mineral wealth of the Sky. Opportunity at a cost, and setbacks that reveal a new path.
- The Six card, related to the Ghost Sky, also portends things related to the strange and mystical. It may imply things are about to get out of control, though for good or for ill is left up to further interpretation.
- The Seven card, connected to the Sky of Frost, is a tempering card. As the winter makes it difficult and dangerous to travel, so does the Seven advise prudence and caution when facing an obstacle - or directly represents an obstacle that thwarts a person and must be approached at a more opportune time.
During a reading, a face card often promises obstacles or opportunities in the form of a specific person. The precise meaning of the card may be relative to the querant, or speaking in absolute terms. The Monarch of Quills may be speaking specifically of the Barathi Empress, or instead refer to a powerful female relative or female superior in an organization. In short, the associations are:
- Knave: a personal servant or sidekick, member of a ship's crew; or a bureaucrat or other government official, or member of a ruler's personal staff or court
- Gallant: a companion, or an armsman serving the querant, an officer of a ship; or a military official or ruler's Champion; or highly-placed member of an organization such as the Musketeers, Imperial Spiders, Sandmen, etc.
- Consort: a parental figure of the querant (mother or father, depending upon suit), immediate superior in an organization, the first mate of a ship; or the consort/spouse or right-hand man (or woman) of a ruler
- Monarch: a parental figure of the opposite sex of the Consort, depending upon the suit, or a high superior in an organization, the captain of a ship; or the ruler of a nation, major organization, or freehold
The Kroyu Minor Fortunes
The archaic Fortune deck is also known as the Kroyu Fortune deck. It emerged around 800 years ago, within a century of the Year of the Maelstrom and Viridia's return to the international stage thereafter. Its form changed somewhat over the centuries, but its definitive form was standardized sometime in the century before the Last Kroyu War, after Colrona gained its independence. Its five suits are associated with the "great nations" of the time (in the opinion of those creating the deck, of course), as well as five traditional "estates" of civilized society.
The five suits of the Kroyu Fortune deck are as follows:
The suit of Cups was associated with the First Estate, or "Those Who Rule" - the high nobility, including the royal family. Specifically, the suit represented Barathi and the island's byzantine, lethal politics. The Cup bears a drink proffered by another, which may hold poison or may be wine offered in friendship. The cards of this suit dealt primarily with Chance and Trust, and interpersonal relationships. In divination, an upright Cup card can encourage one to take a risk or even forego vendetta to make a new ally, while an inverted Cup indicates a relationship that has soured and will soon lead to poison and knives in the night.
The suit of Swords was associated with the Second Estate, or "Those Who Fight" - the low nobility who raised and levied armies, and the Warmaster caste of Viridia. Indeed, the suit specifically represented Viridia and its devotion to martial prowess. The Sword is that of the Warmaster on the march, but it is also the metaphorical blade that cuts through tangled deception and trouble as the Varlok cuts through a crisis for the Viridese. In divination, Sword cards deal with Strife (when inverted) and Reason (when upright).
The suit of Wands was associated with the Third Estate, or "Those Who Create" - primarily kolduns, especially at the height of Kroy's golden age and dominance of the Skies. The suit represented Kroy as the source of innovation and competition. The Wand is a fire wand held aloft by a koldun, representing the spark of inspiration and the will to succeed. In divination, an upright Wand card means a Challenge that one must rise to meet, while an inverted Wand predicts Failure or an insurmountable obstacle, with undertones that it is the querant's fault for not being sufficient to the task.
The suit of Sheaves was associated with the Fourth Estate, or "Those Who Serve" - commoners, in other words. It was associated with Colrona shortly after that island's war of independence, meant somewhat derogatorially at first but something the Colronan people eventually took pride in. The Sheaf is a bundle of harvested Trigo, the much-desired wheat that grows best on the island and makes the bread that feeds the world (or at least those who can afford imported wheat). In divination, an upright Sheaf card indicates Health and Sustenance, of both the body and the heart; meanwhile, an inverted Sheaf card often indicates a Lack, be it famine and hunger or the empty heart of one who disregards others.
Finally, the suit of Coins dealt with the unofficial "Fifth" Estate, or "Those Who Defy" - pirates and criminals of the Skies. It was associated with the pirate haven of Crailwuz, who despite their lawlessness were nevertheless a constant concern for even the great nations of the time. The Coin is the plunder of a pirate lord, and the last scraps left to a hungry beggar. An upright Coin card represents material Wealth, promising a rich haul on a raid or good luck on a trading venture. An inverted Coin represents Loss and misfortune, a foolish investment gone to the Blue.
Vaoz's Minor Fortunes
In the aftermath of the Last Kroyu War and the rise of the Church, political tensions and ideology spurred the deck's revision into the modern deck, also known as the Vaoz's Fortune deck. Associations with the mystical and the criminal were scrapped and the deck was cleaned up to more sectarian tastes. Despite that, the deck's continued use in divination and the belief that the Trumps are still loaded with coded arcane information means the present-day Church often looks askance at the Fortune deck's use even for simple games.
The modern Minor Fortune deck is structurally identical to the archaic deck, with five suits of eleven cards (seven numbers, four faces of Knave, Gallant, Consort, and Monarch), but the suits have been altered and their meanings shifted and changed. Only the Swords suit even retains the same name.
The five suits of Vaoz's Fortune deck are as follows:
The Cups have become the Chalice, representing a new interpretation of "Those Who Serve" - the clergy, who serve Vaoz and serve the spiritual well-being of the people. The Chalice suit represents the Zultanate of Colrona. It is a goblet of life-giving water in the desert of the Zultanate, but is also a vessel filled with the Honor of Vaoz that sustains the Dome. An upright Chalice represents Honor and Fulfillment, especially of the spiritual sort. An inverted Chalice warns of Dishonor and Disgrace, and emptiness of the soul.
The Swords still represent "Those Who Fight," but are now associated with the Kingdom of Colrona. It is the blade of a Musketeer, fighting for king and country but also for higher-minded ideals such as honor and love. The upright Sword no longer exemplifies Reason, but instead represents Courage and Boldness, particularly in guarding one's own honor and that of others. The inverted Sword still represents Strife, but its meaning has spread from the merely martial to threats against one's reputation and social well-being.
The Wands have become Hammers, also still representing "Those Who Create" but now meaning the common craftsman rather than the koldun. Metal-rich Viridia with its vast deposits of useful ores (especially wix) is now represented by this suit. It is the hammer of a smith or a mason, the carpenter's mallet, or any tool used in the blessed act of creation. The upright Hammer represents Effort coming to fruition, the Honesty of honorable and diligent work. An inverted Hammer is the Frustration of an honorable person's effort by outside forces, or the inevitable Failure of the dishonorable as all they touch is fouled by association.
The Sheaves have become Quills, representing "Those Who Order" - bureaucrats, politicians, avokatos, and others whose work keeps the mechanism of government and society in good order (and, some say, are the true powers in this modern age). The suit represents Barathi, where the morgani contract is the means by which the tangled web of Barathi society is kept from collapsing into a knotted snarl. The quill writes the contract or law by which so many lives may be changed utterly: one moment a blank sheet of paper, the next a document which can upset an empire. (Previously, it was the quill of the missionary and scribe, who sought to share the words of the First Prophet, but the Church's dislike for the Fortunes ultimately led to a more secular interpretation taking over.) An upright Quill suggests Favor from the powers that be, whether it is in a legal matter, a political appointment, or promising the success of a bribe. An inverted Quill promises social Trouble for the querant, be it an unfavorable contract or the revelation of a crime one thought hidden (or getting framed).
Finally, the Coins have become Stars, and represent "Those Who Trade" - merchants, investors, shopkeepers, and especially skyship crews. The suit represents Crail the crossroads of the modern world. They are the stars by which a traveler may navigate in the dead of night, and also the reminder of Vaoz's light when one is lost in the midnight struggle against doubt and fear. The upright Star card represents Fair Skies and Discovery, encouraging one to escape complacency and to test their limits. An inverted Star card represents Disaster and Confusion, warning against wanderlust and instability.
The Major Fortunes
There are 21 cards that comprise the Major Fortunes in most decks. Some variant decks add or subtract a card or two, changing the numbering scheme as well.
When drawn during a reading, each Trump is a major omen and should be paid close attention to by the querant. As with the Suits, Trumps tend to be positive when drawn upright and negative when drawn inverted, though there are some exceptions (the Lost Island, for example, is always a powerfully bad sign).
The Kroyu Major Fortunes
See also: Meanings, Kroyu Major Fortunes
- The Prophet - I
- The Archkoldun - II
- The Lady - III
- The Lord - IV
- The Vizer - V
- The Ancestor - VI
- The Sky - VII
- The Lovers - VIII
- The Shaman - IX
- Wyrd - X
- Fortitude - XI
- The Cursed Soul - XII
- The Cycle - XIII
- The Ship - XIV
- The Pirate King - XV
- The Lost Island - XVI
- The Eye - XVII
- The Moon - XVIII
- The Sun - XIX
- The Blue - XX
- The Dome of the Heavens - XXI
Vaoz's Major Fortunes
See also: Meanings, Vaoz's Major Fortunes
- The Koldun - I
- The Zultana - II
- The Empress - III
- The Emperor - IV
- The Prophet - V
- The Lovers - VI
- The Chariot - VII
- Honor - VIII
- The Shaman - IX
- Wyrd - X
- Fortitude - XI
- The Drowned Man - XII
- Death - XIII
- Forbearance - XIV
- The Pirate King - XV
- The Lost Island - XVI
- The Candle - XVII
- The Moon - XVIII
- The Sun - XIX
- The Blue - XX
- The Dome of the Heavens - XXI
Given that the Fortune cards have no single, official maker, there are a variety of alternate decks found around the Skies to suit different political, ideological, and mystical agendas. Some change suits and meanings, others alter the imagery just a bit, while yet others have very different takes on the Major Fortunes. Some of the alternate decks include:
The Pirate Fortunes Deck
The main difference in this deck is that the Coins suit was never changed to that of the Stars, and the island of choice for the Coins is Ilwuz, not Crail. The deck is produced primarily on Ilwuz, and used heavily by kolduns and Merhorses before going off on raids and adventures. It's traded elsewhere as a novelty, and even if stiffnecked Virtutoirs look down on its piratical imagery, it's no more forbidden than telling tall tales of the Dread Pirate Radu.
The Koldun's Fortune Deck
Produced and spread by the Koldun Fraternity, this deck is steeped in mystical symbolism and arcane metaphor. The five suits are those of the archaic Kroyu Fortune deck, because their interpretations are more widely applicable to the mystical than the modern deck. Each of the number cards also corresponds to one of the seven basic Gifts, while the first three face cards (Knave, Gallant, Consort) each corresponds to one of the three hidden Gifts. The Monarch is instead rendered as the Archkoldun, and tradition holds that each suit's Archkoldun stands for a specific historical member of the Fraternity (even if there is little agreement on which Archkoldun is which). None of these represent Murgen, who is almost universally held to be represented by The Archkoldun, the Major Fortune card, for he stands above the divisions embodied in the suits.
The Barbarian Fortune Deck
A deck for telling one's fortune amongst the wild peoples and places of the Dome, the Barbarian Fortune deck focuses not upon the "great nations" but instead upon the scattered nations of savages on minor islands throughout the Dome. In the most common version, the suit of Quills is replaced with Feathers, and represents the island of Sha Ka Ruq; while the Swords are instead rendered as the Spears, and represent the Bluemen of the Jungle Sky. One version even retains the Wands suit and its association with Lost Kroy and the ethnic Kroyu people scattered around the world, under the explanation that the Kroyu showed the heart of barbarism in the guise of civility when they unleashed the island-killing weapon in the Last Kroyu War.