Each Major Fortune has a set of mixed meanings and different interpretations when drawn in a reading. The most common interpretation is that of a person who will or already does figure in the querant's (the subject of the reading) life. Other times, the Major Fortune colors the rest of the reading, changing the meaning of another card (or all other cards) with varying connotations. The card may also represent the querant him- or herself at differing points in their life path, promising that pivotal moments are about to come up, or events that will recall previous key moments or foretell future ones are on the way. Finally, some variant decks replace or alter the designs of various cards to accord with their own prophetic schemes and traditions, for a variety of reasons.
The Koldun - I
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) potential, learning, adolescence, opportunity, growth, will, action; (inverted) ignorance, arrogance, squandered potential, overweening pride
- People: kolduns, alchemists, scholars, powerfully Gifted, the young
- Life Path: The Koldun represents both the potential and folly of youth. One's life has limitless opportunities, as the Koldun has many powers, but the querant is still sheltered and protected from the real world. Even a little knowledge seems large. The querant risks being blinded to the breadth and depth of his ignorance, which encircles his knowledge in the same way the whole world stretches out beyond his sheltered childhood.
- Design: The traditional Koldun card design is of a robed man with arms held up, with seven orbs of different colors passing in an arc over his head. The Hammer and Sword hang from a cord around his waist, the Star hangs from a chain around his neck, the Quill and the Chalice in his hands. The seven orbs represent the seven common Gifts, and together with the symbols of the Minor Fortunes they represent the worldly knowledge that the Koldun thinks is such an abundance of wisdom.
- Variant Decks: The Koldun's Fortune deck does not ascribe most of the same negative connotations to this card that the Vaoz's Fortune deck possesses, for obvious reasons. Instead, the meanings often associated with the inverted Koldun card are matters of unrealized rather than squandered potential, with the sense that time is being spent on frivolity that could be better devoted to learning and study. However, even this is not so harsh a condemnation as it seems, for the best kolduns realize that the insights of their art are incomplete without experiences of the wider world. One never knows when a random tidbit of information gleaned by chance will prove crucial to attaining a new understanding of a difficult problem.
The Zultana - II
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) wisdom, serenity, reflection, thoughtfulness, spirituality, maturity; (inverted) selfishness, egotism, disregard for others, intemperance
- People: usually female; clergy, Sandmen, wisewomen, healers
- Life Path: The Zultana represents maturity and growth from the ignorance of the callow youth. The self-centered querant becomes truly aware of others as people with their own hopes, dreams, and honor, while the withdrawn naif grows into their own person and becomes independent. The Zultana also represents something of a loss of innocence, as the querant learns how much larger the world is than them, but also as they experience the passion and loss of first love (requited or not). Finally, the Zultana indicates increased awareness of the spiritual, as one begins to truly contemplate the meaning of Honor and the Church's teachings. It is at this point in life that a querant might turn to the priesthood as a vocation.
- Design: The traditional design of the Zultana shows a Zultanista woman in brilliant white robes and blue cape, and with the Zultan's hat of office. She wears the sun disc of the Church on her breast, and kneels with eyes lowered in contemplation. Behind her, a tree stands with seven branches, each terminating in a single leaf from seven different trees from across the world (three to the left, three to the right, one at the top). Each leaf is a different color representing each of the Skies, with the red leaf of the Sky of Fire at the top - given eminence as the axle around which the "wheel" of the other Skies rotates. (As there has never been a Zultana in the history of the Church, though such a thing is not forbidden, the figure on this card can be taken to mean the Church as a whole instead of any particular personage.)
Those who believe in the heresy of the Koldun Prophet suggest that the seven colors of the leaves instead mark the seven Gifts, hinting that the truth of their beliefs is encoded in this card.
- Variant Decks: The Pirate Fortunes deck replaces the Zultana with the Clockminder, the keeper of the Clocklight on Ilwuz and president of any Ilwuzi Congress. The Clockminder is about tempering youthful romanticism (be it for a first love, or for piratical adventure) with responsibility, as strange as that might sound for a deck dedicated to piracy. It depicts a sturdy yet fair-featured woman in plain skysailor garb effecting repairs upon the Clocklight, surrounded by tools and weapons both as she goes about her business.
The Empress - III
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) motherhood, attention, caring, fecundity, spring, sexuality, abundance, prosperity; (inverted) famine, withdrawing into the self, callousness, barrenness, abandonment, overbearing
- People: usually female; mothers, caretakers, farmers, nobles, royalty
- Life Path: The Empress is not any one royal figure, but instead the universal mother figure. She reflects the creative urge in the querant, as well as the desire to nurture and care. The querant is called to new beginnings, not necessarily for one's own profit but instead beginning for beginning's sake: to sire or birth a child out of love for the child, or to start a movement or cause to help better the world. The Empress also warns against caring too much, however, for obsessive devotion can smother the very thing to which the querant gave life. There is a time to be possessive and protective, and a time to let what one has created grow beyond its original scope and purpose - for it will grow, that the Empress assures. As the stewardess of growing things and new life, the Empress also represents the spring season.
- Design: The traditional design of the Empress shows a woman in sumptuous, queenly attire yet heavy with child. She sits in a throne grown out of a flowering bush, and a long-stemmed rose rests in her hand in place of a scepter. In Barathi it is common to paint her with the likeness of the present empress (or most recent, when an emperor rules instead) with twelve pearls sewn into her mantle, but designers on other islands tend to make her a generically pretty woman in their nation's dress and of their apparent descent. The ground at her feet is lush with new growth, while the Sky behind her is thick with the Mists.
The Emperor - IV
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) fatherhood, discipline, order, leadership; (inverted) rigidity, lack of foresight, crushing devotion to the status quo, domination
- People: usually male; fathers, nobles, royalty, military commanders, figureheads
- Life Path: Similar to the Empress, the Emperor is not a specific royal figure but instead a powerful father figure. He represents the desire for order and stability, of humanity's constant struggle with nature and one another to make the world after their own wishes. As opposed to the concern and care of the Empress, this is the card of dispassionate stewardship - the captain at the wheel, who must keep his ship steady no matter how the winds may blow. The message of the Emperor is also one of moderation: not everything is controllable, and one can get lost in their power lust and desire to master all they survey. The querant who does not realize his limits risks losing control of all by grasping for more.
- Design: The Emperor is most often rendered as a large man with fine robes of office cloaking damaged and battle-scarred armor - a true warrior-king, marked by the challenges life has thrust his way but in good health and ready to face more. In the Colronan Kingdom, the armor might be the torn uniform of a Musketeer, while on Crail it might be that of the Commandant. He stands with the swords of nations plunged into the ground before him, symbolizing his will to command and order, but with a stone throne behind him with a large crack running through it.
The Prophet - V
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) respect, knowledge, duality, the divine, experience, the church, organizations; (inverted) loss of self, dogmatism, deception, secrets, exclusion
- People: often male; clergy, wise men, advisors
- Life Path: The Prophet, as the name suggests, represents the figure of the First Prophet, who brought the truth of Vaoz and the eminence of Honor to the Dome in the wake of the Last Kroyu War. He is bridge between Sun and Sky, making the spiritual and the holy manifest upon the gross material world. His lesson is simple: once the Emperor has learned that he cannot control everything (and, in truth, does not control anything but merely has stewardship over it for a time), the Prophet waits with Vaoz's wisdom of how now to grapple with life. Possessions, offices, and titles are transitory, but the light of Honor lives on in the world.
The Prophet is a lesson on power, and the surrender of power. As the Zultana makes one aware of the spiritual, the Prophet offers the tools necessary to truly examine the meaning of Honor and to question it for a better understanding. The card can also, of course, refer to the Church of Vaoz and the clergy, or any source of wise and valued advice in the querant's life. The Prophet does not exhort the querant to listen to only one source of truth, but all sources of truth in life. Inverted, the Prophet warns of the dangers of ignoring the deeper meanings of life and one's actions.
- Design: The Prophet is traditionally rendered as a Zultanista man in blue robes and a white cape, in contrast to the Zultana's white robes and blue cape. He also goes bare-headed, with no pretense of office or social station for he needs none. His right hand is raised to the Sky, with the Sun hovering over his open palm as if he held it in hand, and his left hand is open at his side pointing to the island beneath his feet.
Some of the conspiracy theorists who like to point to the Zultana as coded evidence for the Koldun Prophet heresy also suggest that the Prophet card holds its own secrets about the Church and about Vaoz. The most popular one is that the card does not refer to the First Prophet, but to another "Secret Prophet" that the Church elders have kept from general knowledge. This Secret Prophet's lessons, they claim, include the real path to union with the divine, and perhaps even that Vaoz is not the true creator god but another intercessor on the path, or perhaps even an obstacle on the way.
- Variant Decks: The Koldun's Fortune deck retains the Archkoldun from the archaic Kroyu Fortunes deck, though the imagery is almost identical to the traditional design of the Prophet (a fact that drives conspiracy theorists wild, but is more likely simply because of laziness). The Archkoldun depicted is traditionally held to be Murgen, who founded the Koldun Fraternity. The lesson of the Archkoldun is not the Prophet's lesson that power is transitory, but instead that true power lies not in things and offices, but in the independent will unfettered by others. As Murgen struck out on his own and founded the Fraternity, securing his name in history, so must the querant be prepared to slip the restraints in their life.
The Lovers - VI
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) love, opportunity, choice, passion, sex, union; (inverted) doubt, dilemma, temptation, loss (of a close friend or lover), confusion
- People: paramours, spouses, close friends, new allies
- Life Path: While the querant struggles with questions of power and place, of wisdom and Honor, he eventually stops to raise his head and is struck once again by the world around him. Life carries on while one is planning, after all, and the querant now finds himself jarred from contemplation when he encounters a fork in the road. Either path seems equally desirous (or at least, equally inoffensive), and there are few hints about which would benefit the querant most. One must make a choice, even though one is not yet fully armed with the ability to make the choice wisely. This is the essential meaning of the Lovers card, which casts that choice in terms of a decision between two romantic partners who are equally attractive but for different reasons. One may be the more sensible choice in the long run, but another is far more tempting in the short term. When referring to people in the querant's life, when upright the Lovers card may instead promise the beginning of a new relationship (be it a paramour or a friend), or the souring of an existing relationship when inverted.
- Design: The most common version of the Lovers card depicts a man with the device of the Colronan Kingdom on his coat's breast, caught between two women. One, fair and smiling but in a commoner's dress, is shown around a city corner from the man, holding a small bouquet of wildflowers to her bosom. The other, finely dressed and carefully groomed, looks down upon the man from a second floor balcony with a teasing smirk on her face.
- Variant Decks: Another common design shows a Barathi woman in fine dress flanked by two men, each down on one knee before her. One is clearly a warrior, with a sword at his side, while the other appears to be a bureaucrat or avokato (but with a spider-marked dagger at his belt that hints at hidden depths). The warrior promises honor for the woman's House and victory in Vendettas, while the bureaucrat/spy promises stability, wealth, and position (with the possibility of getting mired in deeper, and more dangerous, politics). In this "Barathi Lovers" variant deck, the choice presented by the Lovers card is often one of assuming overt or covert troubles, and the opportunities that arise therefrom.
The Chariot - VII
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) victory, challenge, vehicles, mounts, success, recognition, confidence, reward; (inverted) arrogance, inflexibility, loss, harm (to reputation, self, possessions), anxiety, Vendetta, war
- People: friendly rivals, enemies
- Life Path: Eventually the querant will come face to face with not another choice, but with a challenge - often one born out of a previous choice made poorly. One paramour's brothers come to beat the querant for spurning their sister, or a heated remark leads to a duel when one would have done best to hold his tongue. When faced with a challenge, then, the solution the Chariot advises is to set forth with confidence and determination. Act instead of reacting, and the situation shall move to the querant's will. It does not suggest going at a problem with brute strength and raw force, however, for to run headlong into a fray is to put the charioteer's steeds at risk. Instead, the Chariot attacks from the side, with cunning and might carefully applied. Come at a problem sideways, the Chariot advises, for maximum effect. But, it warns, do not lose control of oneself or the situation by moving with too much eagerness, for a wild Chariot is difficult to bring back under control and as liable to leave the querant broken on the ground as his enemy. Conserve strength and spend it wisely. In a more material sense, it also relates to the fate of a vehicle or riding animal in the querant's life. A reversed Chariot may promise misfortune for an unfortunate captain's skyship.
- Design: The Chariot depicts a soldier at the reins of a Colronan war chariot, used by both Zultanate and Kingdom in past skirmishes along the open plains of Colrona. Depending upon where the card has been made, the soldier wears the device of the Kingdom and the chariot bears that of the Zultanate, or just the opposite. Meanwhile, the chariot is drawn by two horses, one a magnificent black Colronan breed and the other an equally magnificent white Zultanate breed. In the background, a city skyline crosses the card broken by the charioteer's body; the observant might note that to one side (usually the one with the Zultanate horse) the city seems built in a classic Kingdom architectural style, while on the other (with the Kingdom horse) the city is built in a classic Zultanate style. Conflict and unity is at the heart of this card's imagery, just as it is at the heart of the collected Colronan peoples.
- Variant Decks: The Barbarian Fortune deck renames this card to the Ruq, and depicts a bold Sha-Ku woman in flying leathers on the back of a mighty ruq. Ruq and rider together divide the card in half, with the left side showing wide-open Sky and the right choked with tym and other rare trees of Sha Ka Ruq - representing the ruqrider's passion for flight and the boundless Skies, yet her responsibilities to her island and people. Despite the differing name and art, the meaning is much the same as that of the Chariot.
Honor - VIII
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) impartiality, justice, grace, objectivity, intellect, reason, fairness, peace, honor; (inverted) dishonor, disarray, ongoing conflict, coldness, distance (from an issue), escaping responsibility, unfairness, partiality
- People: mediators, peace-keepers, judges, Virtutoirs
- Life Path: As Vaoz's Church came to the Dome after the Last Kroyu War, so does Honor come after the Chariot. Victory in a fight is not the end to a conflict. Now, it is up to the winner to clean up the mess he has just taken part in, even if he was not the instigator of the conflict. A gracious victor satisfies the demands of Honor, allowing the loser to walk away with dignity and without undue punishment. To be excessive and ungracious in victory means a conflict shall simply come around once more, be it in a day or a hundred years. To prevent such endless conflict, which destroys the victors as surely as the losers, is why Vaoz gave His holy word to the First Prophet. In contrast to the Zultana card, which is a personal awakening to the spiritual, Honor is a call to all involved, from the combatants to the witnessing world, to acknowledge and cleave to what is necessary for peace and the restoration of balance in life. Dishonor, the inverse, can only throw life and the world into further tragedy.
As the cardinal virtue of the Church of Vaoz, Honor is also supported by Fortitude (Trump XI) and Forbearance (Trump XIV), which encourages the querant to moderate and measure their zeal for honor with both firmness and mercy.
- Design: The Honor card depicts an Angel of the Sun, a feminine figure in long red robes that hide her feet, floating above the ground. In one hand she holds a golden sword to slice open a tangled problem as if a rope, and in the other a silvery mirror to show the conflicting parties their own bloodied faces and misdeeds. The Sun halos her head from behind. To either side of her are two stone pillars, which frame her within the material world even as she comes to bring the counsel and justice of Vaoz.
- Variant Decks: Both the Pirate and Koldun's Fortune decks instead retain the archaic Kroyu Fortune deck's eighth trump, Independence. Continuing the themes introduced by the Archkoldun, the Koldun's Fortune deck uses Independence to represent the power of the will and the determined soul. The card retains many of the positive intellectual connotations of the Honor card, but discards any spiritual meanings. Instead of an Angel, the card depicts a koldun apparently walking on the air unsupported by anything but his own power, bearing a sword representing reason and a wand representing willpower.
Meanwhile, the Pirate Fortune deck tends to read Independence literally, focusing on individual freedom and choice. The ability to live the freebooter's life, bound to no laws or rules but that which one chooses, is an exalted ideal and cardinal "virtue" of Ilwuz. It also carries the unspoken requirement of having the strength to take and command that life, though the consequences of lacking such strength are not lain out clearly until the Pirate King. The card depicts a pirate captain standing proud at the bow of his ship, master of his fate.
The Shaman - IX
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) worldliness, exploration, openness, sensibility, quest, looking outward; (inverted) seclusion, isolation, closed off, lies, deception, falsehood, misunderstanding
- People: foreigners, savages, wise men and women, bluemen, rockmen, Sha-Ku, Peregrinators
- Life Path: With the most important lesson behind him, the querant is encouraged to seek out further knowledge. The conventional wisdom is not all there is to find, nor is it the answer to everything. Only the fool believes there is nothing more to learn. This is the lesson of the Shaman: do not withdraw from the world content with your accumulated wisdom, but go out into it to seek more. However, the Shaman also warns against accepting everything you hear and see, for just as there is much truth to be found, so is there much falsehood. Do not lose sight of the lessons that came before, or you shall be as the savage wise man of the bluemen or Sha-Ku, in touch with a fragment of Vaoz's Truth yet mired in falsehood.
- Design: The Shaman depicts a sensationalist traveler's description of a tribal shaman, usually from amongst the bluemen or the Sha-Ku. Blue-tinged skin is common, as are strange abstract tattoos and feathers or beads threaded into the character's hair. Only a skirt of woven grass and leaves preserves the Shaman's modesty. He is shown as if caught mid-step in some wild dance, arms raised and standing on one foot. The twisting, twining trunks of wheeltrees and other trees dominate the background, except for a break in the jungle canopy where the Sun hangs, the Shaman's gaze upon it.
Wyrd - X
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) randomness, chance, good fortune, surprise, adventure, turning points, fate, reversal; (inverted) randomness, chance, bad fortune, surprise, adventure, turning points, fate, reversal
- People: Gifted (particularly Merhorses and Kitsunes), kolduns, the querant
- Life Path: Many a querant is, at this point, lulled into the belief that he now has the control over his life he sought while under the Emperor card. He is worldly and knowledgeable, accomplished and tested, and so far has come out of every trial intact and unbowed. At his most confident, this is when Wyrd strikes. An archaic pre-Church Viridese concept, Wyrd is the workings of fate and fortune in the life of the querant. It is a reminder to the querant, when he most needs it, that Vaoz still has a say in what happens to him. It may be a harsh reminder or a gentle nudge, but the querant is spun out of his comfortable illusions and off in a crisis or adventure that shall test his skills and his ability to adapt. For many, this is the end of one stage of life and the beginning of another, be it a change of profession or a sudden misfortune, and the challenges are only beginning. Even at its lightest touch, Wyrd is a push out of complacency and self-assurance.
- Design: Wyrd is usually depicted with a skyship's six-spoked rudder-wheel, flanked at top and bottom and to each side by a quartet of winged women. The one on the left is head-down, descending the wheel, while her sister on the right is upright and ascending. Similarly, the woman on top descends head-first toward the wheel, one hand out and touching it lightly, while her opposite on the bottom ascends to also place her hand upon the wheel. The four are nearly identical, so the card looks much the same whether upright or inverted. Between the spokes of the wheel, each open space is noted with an old Kroyu glyph for one of the six Skies that spin around the Dome, with the Sky of Frost at 12 o'clock.
The four winged women are a set of archaic Viridese goddesses or spirits once believed to have power over the course of fate. Their worship originated sometime during the Viridese isolation after the Year of the Maelstrom, focused primarily around a few related Freeholds. (One popular theory is that they were derived from the penstari of the Houses of several allied groups of the Barathi exiles that were dumped on Viridia a millennium ago.) Starting from the left and continuing clockwise around the wheel, the goddesses managed the workings of fate in relation to the past, present, and future, with the final goddess at the bottom separating the tapestry of history into its component threads so that they may be picked up and spun again by her sisters. Their resemblance to popular depictions of the Angels of the Sun helped the imagery of these so-called "wyrd sisters" survive into the present day, with some Viridese believers honoring them as Vaoz's closest attendants.
Fortitude - XI
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) self-control, patience, composure, compassion, kindness, inner strength; (inverted) impatience, cruelty, selfishness, rashness, immaturity
- People: mentors, teachers, guardians, guides, Cenobites
- Life Path: As the querant is pushed out of his comfortable illusions, he faces a new struggle. Not the physical fight of the Chariot, but a challenge to one's view of oneself and one's place in the world. Wyrd is the challenge, Fortitude is the response. When the supports are pulled out from under a person's established life, it is easy to topple along with them. Here physical might, political favor, and wealth avail one not at all - this battle is entirely one of integrity and will, to have the personal strength to face the world even as it rains blows upon the querant. Even if one's personal Honor is questioned and degraded by others, at this point the answer is not to lash out in a way that confirms such suspicions, but instead to stand firm. Self-doubt and fear are the true foes in this struggle, those around the querant mere reflections of the inner battle.
- Design: The Fortitude card depicts a Sha-Ku woman standing over a wild ruq, the great bird's head bowed in submission. The woman is not a Ruqrider, instead dressed in simple civilian's clothes, and she holds one hand cupped over the ruq's beak and the other on the back of its head. A lush forests of tym trees grows in the background, while above hangs a twisting wheeltree grove of the Jungle Sky.
The Drowned Man - XII
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) self-sacrifice, contemplation, reevaluation, secret knowledge, awakening; (inverted) strife, passivity, obstinacy, surrender, inaction, dilemmas
- People: prisoners, the unjustly persecuted, martyrs, altruistic turn-coats, gurus, the spiritually awakened
- Life Path: While the querant masters himself, the struggles placed in his way by fate and his own nature do not leave him unmarked. His understanding of the world has to this point still been a shallow thing, not truly challenged, but the challenges of fate and the discovery that he is no longer the untouchable hero of his adolescence forces a new perspective. Previous troubles and mistakes often catch up to the querant at this point, dangling him from a line of his own making. From his new perspective, however, he is able to reevaluate the choices he has made and his assumptions, and discover flaws to his world that he had missed all along. Refusing to open one's eyes at this point invites disaster. Either way, the querant is not getting out of this situation unscathed.
- Design: The Drowned Man depicts a man hung upside-down from a support (usually a plank off a ship, but sometimes a pier or some kind of gallows arrangement) into water. He is completely submerged, and held in place by a line of funiket that sprouts out into living bindings of silver-thread kelp once beneath the water's surface. Despite his precarious position, the man has a serene look on his face as he contemplates the beauty of the ocean floor beneath him. Indeed, the kelp seems to be more a support than a binding, wound about him in a manner that no captor would use to actually hold a person - if tried, one could escape it with a minimum of struggle.
Death - XIII
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) transformation, closure, necessary change, endings; (inverted) loss, abrupt change, shattered confidence, inevitability
- People: anyone experiencing sudden change or loss of a cause or position or purpose, alchemists
- Life Path: Here the sacrifices and struggles of the querant come to fruition in a most dramatic and final fashion. To this point, much of the battle has been about resisting change and scavenging as much of the querant's old life as possible. But ultimately this is a futile act, and the course of fate - whether by the querant's own hands or events out of their control - force a break with what came before. A merchant loses it all, a pirate is captured, a vigilante has his revenge and naught else. But at the same time, this clean break carries an opportunity, for the Death promised by the card is not a physical one, but of the persona that came before. It is the chance for the querant to reinvent himself, to find a new purpose and understanding. One's world is shattered, but the pieces are there with which to assemble a new one.
- Design: Death depicts a skeletal figure in black armor, with great wings spread against the Sky. Below, scores of men and women lay dead or dying. Many of these figures are those depicted on earlier Trumps, including the Emperor, the Koldun, and the Shaman. A Vizier of the Church still stands beneath the skeletal figure, though on his last legs. The figure's wings are molting and ragged, feathers falling out across the land below. Every body has a feather upon it somewhere, with one about to alight upon any still standing, including the Vizier.
Forbearance - XIV
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) temperance, moderation, self-control, balance, restraint, synthesis, art; (inverted) obsession, loss of control, destruction (of self or others), inability to cope, suicide
- People: shut-ins, recluses, dreamers, artists, creators, scholars, Eremites
- Life Path: On the surface, Forbearance is about moderation and compromise. The querant is called to strike a new balance in his disrupted life. This balance, however temporary it may be, allows one the opportunity to plan and prepare for further troubles. But it also represents a time of letting go, of withdrawing from life to consider the lessons of Death. The Death of one's previous life is a foretaste of the true death awaiting all at the end of their physical life, and it is frequently both troubling and enlightening. One must thus refrain from immersing in the everyday world immediately, or else the distractions of life will keep one from understanding the lessons of death. Forbearance is, after a fashion, the opposite of the Shaman: a reminder that the inner search for truth is just as important as the outer search, in its proper time and place.
- Design: Forbearance depicts an Angel with wings spread, one foot in the air and the other still on the ground as she steps off the edge of an island to take to the Skies. She holds a silvery chalice in one hand, the other held over the open mouth of the vessel as if refusing further drink (or keeping what she has from spilling). The Sun hangs low in the Sky, which is itself grey and dreary, hinting at the Ghost Sky. In the common symbolism of the Fortunes, then, this adds a mystical undertone to a reading, a liminal state between the death of one life and the birth of another. The Angel's feet in both Sky and on ground reinforce this, putting the card and querant between the material and mystical worlds.
- Variant Decks: The Pirate Fortune deck replaces Forbearance with Foresight, combining it with Independence (Trump VIII) and Fortitude (Trump XI) to define the attributes of a successful pirate captain, much as Honor, Fortitude, and Forbearance are cardinal virtues to the Church. Foresight is not about introspection and moderation, but instead learning to anticipate the future against the expectations set by the past. When facing troubles, one is encouraged not to compromise and change oneself, but rather to think ahead and change the situation.
The Pirate King - XV
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) materialism, temptation, egoism, instinct, freedom, challenge, eustress; (inverted) bondage, anger, doubt, futility, ignorance, stagnation, deception
- People: pirates, unscrupulous merchants, con artists, criminals, iconoclasts, heretics, Ilwuzi
- Life Path: The Pirate King is a card of mixed meanings and heavy ambiguity. It represents challenge and opposition, a figure who appears to provide trouble and difficulty in the querant's life. However, this is not some simple villain from children's stories and morality plays, but a foe who reflects that which the querant is most proud of in himself. He has reasons for who and what he is, and ones that the querant can sympathize with. The Pirate King is not merely an opponent, but a genuine nemesis: a dark reflection of the querant, who revels in his darkness. And yet, the Pirate King has an independence and joy of life that the querant often envies, gaining satisfaction and fulfillment out of iniquity and dishonor. He gets what he wants without having to obey the rules. The challenge the Pirate King provides is not one that can be solved with the clash of blades, leaving him triumphant until the querant contends with that inner darkness the Pirate King represents.
The Pirate King is an amorphous and indistinct figure and need not even be a single person, or a person at all - the card is named for the Ilwuzi concept of the "pirate king" for a reason. It is a lifestyle as much as it is a foe, one that offers wealth, pleasure, and independence for the person strong enough to grasp it… for as long as they stay strong. It is a cut-throat way of life that requires stepping on others until one is stepped upon in turn. At the same time, the Pirate King is necessary to a fulfilling life because he is a foe for the querant to face and test the might of his convictions against. Even in one's darkest moments, the fight against the Pirate King is a reason to carry on, never to surrender.
- Design: The Pirate King is rendered as a dashing figure, larger than life and sinister yet glorious. He is the romantic fantasy of the pirate captain, in flashy clothes and feathered hat, saber or cutlass held out in a commanding pose against the brilliant blue Sky. Yet before him in the foreground of the card stand a man and a woman in shabby and threadbare versions of his clothes, scarred and ill and ugly and with notched, rusted swords in their hands. They look up at the Pirate King in envy, failed imitations of his glory: those who grasped at the power and prestige… and danger… of the Pirate King's lifestyle and were not strong enough to hold on.
- Variant Decks: The Koldun's Fortune deck replaces the Pirate King with the Devil, referring to the heretical belief in the Devil of Dishonor, Vaoz's dualistic opposite. The Devil carries many of the same connotations of the Pirate King, but also refers specifically to the Church in one's life. It represents freedom from dogma, reveling in the Church's disapproval. By the same token, one who focuses excessively on defying dogma is still allowing his life to be defined by the Church, making of himself a mirror to reflect everything of which the faithful disapprove and only furthering the Church's message in the world. The card depicts a shadowy figure that stands over two naked people, one chained and one free, much as the Pirate King stands over his subordinates in the normal card.
The Lost Island - XVI
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) chaos, ruin, destruction, disillusionment, downfall, violent change; (inverted) epiphany, revelation, eucatastrophe, "falling upwards"
- People: zealots, extremists, one who has lost sight of their reasons for pursuing a goal or vengeance, Kroyu, kolduns
- Life Path: Even in the most optimistic readings, the Lost Island is a card of ill omen. It is another trial in a life full of them, one that pushes the querant to the extremes of loss and despair. Everything that the querant takes pride in is struck down abruptly and forcefully, as if the hand of Vaoz Himself came out of the Sky and smashed a tower to rubble. This is, in a way, the first part of the climax of the querant's life - their greatest troubles come and bearing down upon them, but with resolution nowhere in sight. So much of what the querant has worked for in life - wealth, faith, reputation, legacy, everything that screams to the world that I am - is struck down and swept away before the disaster promised by the Lost Island. And what is worse, the disaster is one that is pointedly, undeniably of the querant's own make. A single great error or a lifetime of small ones finally take their toll and there is no one else the querant can blame except perhaps Vaoz above. If the querant is very lucky, they manage to find ground with a modicum of grace and pick up enough of the pieces to carry on, sadder and scarred but wiser for it all.
- Design: Any child could tell you that the Lost Island is based on Kroy, at the very climax of the Last Kroyu War. The card depicts a cloud island seen from a distance as a titanic blast of light and force tears it asunder like a bolt of lightning splitting a tree. The blast shears up and down from the island, cleaving it all the way through and boiling off the protective fog. Already, pieces fall away and entire settlements near the edges have cracked off and tumbled free. Skyships strain to flee but are knocked sideways and capsized by the raw force of the blast. In the background, the Sky of Fire twists and storms, waiting to consume the fractured island. It is the very moment the island-killing weapon backlashed on Kroy and damned the entire island for the madness and dishonor of their leaders and the kolduns who were willing to build the weapon.
Before the Last Kroyu War, the Lost Island was generally accepted as referring to Viridia, "lost" in the Year of the Maelstrom but found again. The connotations of the card were not so negative then, as it carried the promise that what was once lost could be found again. It was a powerfully redemptive card, coming as it did on the heels of the Pirate King. However, the destruction of Kroy fixed itself in people's minds, and the Lost Island assumed its new imagery and symbols rapidly in the wake of the war.
The Candle - XVII
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) peace, hope, newfound paths, rediscovery, inspiration; (inverted) isolation, ignorance, pessimism, confusion, getting lost
- People: wanderers, explorers, vagabonds, travelers, skysailors, navigators, astronomers, astrologers
- Life Path: Even at the lowest points in life, when one is lost and wandering amidst darkness, one can look up and see the stars. The Chameleon's Candle guides lost and lonely ships across the Dome, just as the Candle card promises renewal and hope out of the disasters of life and soul embodied by the Pirate King and the Lost Island. Even if a single point of light cannot banish the darkness entirely, it can lift much of the burden and make the night much less daunting. It is the knowledge that no matter where you are, there is a way back to the light. No matter the dishonor and iniquity of the world, even in the wake of the Last Kroyu War, a single flickering flame of honor can lead the way toward redemption.
- Design: The Candle depicts a pair of figures standing on a skyship's deck, towards the fore. Both are sailors, though one is clearly a navigator laden with tools and charts and looking out upon the night Sky, while the other bears a mug and a grin, clearly the winner of the Chameleon's Dram. Above, an array of seven-pointed yellow stars make the shape of the Dragon constellation, with the Chameleon's Candle - the eye of the Dragon - front and center and larger than any other star. One color washes over another on the Chameleon's Candle as its color changes.
The Moon - XVIII
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) dreams, visions, fantasy, imagination, romanticism, mystic secrets; (inverted) nightmares, hallucinations, deception, false hopes, unrealistic ideas, alienation from self
- People: kolduns, Gifted, mystics and shamans, conspiracies, keepers of secret lore
- Life Path: Though the Candle may provide a waypoint by which the querant may seek out the light once more, there are many other lights in the Sky and after so long in the dark even the Moon would shine as brightly as the Sun. But it is yet a light, one with its own fortunes and follies - dreams and inspiration flow up under the wan moonlight, unburdened by stark realism, but so do worries and self-deceptions. The Moon calls for a time of reflection and contemplation, but what one sees and the conclusions reached are not always kind. Even the full Moon still permits enough shadow for men to be base and honorless creatures, and for troubles to go stalking.
- Design: The Moon card depicts a full Moon hanging low in the sky, over what seems to be a small island at the very edge of the world, flanked by the Blue in the foreground and the Uttermost Night in the background. Cerulean tendrils seem to cling to the island, as if it had just floated up out of the Blue, though two ruined old marker stones stand on the island in the background and a path winds from the depths of the Blue across the island. A windwolf stands astride the path, muzzle raised to the Moon as if howling.
The symbolic meaning of the Moon refers to an old teaching of the Church, fallen out of favor in recent decades but once a matter of serious theological debate (and still brought up in arguments by doubters and deniers of Vaoz): the "Question of Dishonor." In short, the argument goes: if the world is the work of an honorable Creator, then how is it He permits misfortune and disaster to befall the honorable through no fault of their own? Either Vaoz permits such indiscriminate misfortune into the world that can blight even the most innocent, which means He does not hold to His own precepts of honor; or He did not truly control how the world came to be, with dishonor and disaster written into its very structure, and is not the creator.
Reinia, one of the early Church mothers and advisor to the third Zultan, wrote a controversial commentary on the issue, the Refutation, in an attempt to quell the emerging heresy of the Devil of Dishonor, among other theological divides. In it, she proposed an "Essential Dualism" within Vaoz - that while Honor is the dominant aspect of Vaoz's nature, Dishonor was also within Him as it is within men. The world reflects this divide, and the most telling sign of this is the presence of both Sun and Moon overlooking the Dome. Reinia likened them to Vaoz's eyes, the Sun His right eye reflecting His honorable side and the Moon His left eye reflecting His dishonorable side. She argued that Vaoz's Essential Dualism must permit Dishonor into the world, for without it how are women and men to grow as spiritual beings and strengthen their own Honor if there existed no Dishonor to stand against?
The Sun - XIX
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) enlightenment, grace, optimism, energy, renewal, splendor, joy; (inverted) difficulties to a worthwhile end, bittersweet results, hard lessons learned, regeneration
- People: clergy, children, the Zultan(a), philosophers, dragons
- Life Path: The Sun is the greatest light of Vaoz, the bringer of the new day and all things related. Renewal, life triumphant, the reward at the end of the long night. The Sun banishes illusions and the dark spectres of the mind and soul, and that which prowls the dark is driven back into hiding. While it may have a sobering effect on the flights of fancy inspired by the Moon, it also frees one from the burdens of guilt and doubt the long night inspires. Not all in life is darkness and trouble, and so the Sun offers its strength and restoration to one who has had the will to face themselves and their troubles.
- Design: A naked child rides upon the back of a qilin, bearing a red banner. Beneath and behind them, gold vase flowers hang in the open Sky. Above, a rare break in the thick fogs of the Mists reveals the Sun, a stylized eye looking down from the center. The child represents innocence and exuberance reclaimed through personal struggle (the red banner), while Vaoz watches approvingly from above.
The Blue - XX
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) judgement, new beginnings, decision, release; (inverted) judgement, sudden ending, despair, loss
- People: prophets, doomsayers, messengers, visionaries
- Life Path: The Blue is the foundation of the world, from which the islands issue and to which they return. From afar the lapping cerulean of the Blue looks much like the seas found on grand islands such as Barathi, but on a titanic scale many find hard to grasp. So too does this card suggest a decision or turning point that, from afar, looks much like any other, but is so much more than an everyday trouble. For the Blue is about the will of Vaoz, judgement come upon an iniquitous world. Every island and stone, down to the smallest, arose from the Blue, and - should Vaoz find it wanting - to the Blue it shall someday return. While one person who still holds Honor in their heart dwells upon an island, Vaoz shall stay His hand; but if an island should be given over wholly to Dishonor, then shall it return to the Blue to be swept clean and made whole again that someday it may be restored to the Skies. That is what this card promises: the question of Honor that can exalt the querant or bring them crashing to disgrace. And it is a question that only the querant can answer, never to be answered for them.
- Design: An island is rising just out of the Blue, or is perhaps sinking in at its final moments. On the spur of barren rock just visible, scraps of raw cerulean still clinging to it, three figures - a man, a woman, and a child of indeterminate sex - stand, pallid and corpse-like, naked and with arms held high to the sky as if beseeching the heavens over their misfortune or offering praise and thanks. Above them, an Angel of the Sun observes, dressed in a tabard bearing the symbol of the Church, as if dressed as an ancient Kroyu herald, a style long fallen out of use well before the Last Kroyu War.
The Dome of the Heavens - XXI
- Connotations/Keywords: (upright) fulfillment, prosperity, success, completion, wholeness; (inverted) lack, incompleteness, emptiness, fruitless striving
- People: the First Prophet, the Archkoldun Murgen, other legendary figures; the querant
- Life Path: The Dome is the world, everything from the Blue at the base to the highest point where the Sky of Fire comes to an apex. It expresses unity, oneness with everything - or purest alienation, when inverted. The one seeking to put himself above the whole, rather than being of the whole. The cardinal mistake of the greatest of villains, cruelest of tyrants, is to think themselves greater than the world, while the most enlightened see their place within it. As such, this is a card of great moment and should be considered carefully when drawn. At its simplest it bears upon some great work, the totality of a lifetime of striving and strife.
- Design: A naked woman rests with her legs crossed and eyes closed, hands held out at her sides. A tree with reddish bark crosses the card diagonally, and where it passes over her body it becomes visibly "flat" as if painted on, though it continues fully where the trunk emerges from her shoulder and branches from her body. The branches of the tree hang heavy with fruit, each a different color, and one or two leaves at the end of each branch with the fruit. Her hands cup a fruit at each side, her left hand holding up one from a branch about level with her heart, while her right cups a fruit that branches away from her body just above her hips. In all, there are seven branches and seven fruits hanging from the tree - the two in her hands, two hanging parallel just beneath her breasts, one at the center of her chest, one on her brow, and one hanging just over her right shoulder - with each a different color, reminiscent of the tree depicted on the Zultana card.
If one looked at a map of the world drawn from the side, each of the fruits would correspond to the position of a major cloud-island, barring two. The low-hanging fruit in the woman's right hand is Sha Ka Ruq down near the Blue, the fruit in her left as Barathi, Colrona and Crail beneath her breasts at Widder Low, and Viridia high in the Dome at her brow. The two remaining ones, at the center of her chest and over her shoulder, are popularly supposed as the legendary isle of Telanrem at the heart of Fire, and a placeholder for wandering Ilwuz.
- Variant Decks: The Koldun Fortunes deck shows the woman in a more symmetrical position, sitting with legs crossed and hands resting palms-up on her knees. Instead of a tree growing across the card (and her), a vaguely tree-like array of eleven orbs linked by a series of crisscrossing lines have been branded on the front of her body. A single orb at the base, just visible over her crossed legs, connects and branches out to other orbs, ascending until the tree comes together in a single orb once more at the peak, just at the base of her throat. Each orb has a single Kroyu glyph representing the various Gifts, with the common Gifts making up the bottom seven (starting with the Gift of the Dragon at the very bottom, long considered the most base and overt of the Gifts) and the Hidden Gifts making up the penultimate three. The eleventh orb is marked with an obscure glyph for Enlightenment, which can also be read as Power.
The Pirate Fortunes deck presents the Dome much the same as the standard deck, but rumors hold that if a deck is crafted by an Ilwuzi koldun, then the position of the seventh fruit actually changes as Ilwuz shifts. It's by no means precise, but lacking an Ilwuzi navigator, it would be the next best thing for finding the island - or at least narrowing down in what part of the Dome it might be found.