Crown Infernal

The Devil's Picture Book

The Celtic Cross lay-out

Summary: Daniel visits to a fortune-teller.

Independent gen story: pre-'Stargate', the movie.
Spoilers? - read into it what you like. 8-)
Status: complete .

Spooky Note:
I wrote this story five months before I found the above illustration
which is adapted from from Psy-Centre website:

Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.

A travelling fair. Rides. Sideshows. I'm taking a few hours off. Blow away the cobwebs. I've almost finished my preparations. Now, I need a breather before my public lecture tomorrow.

The fortune-teller's tent

I'm still not entirely sure what drew me in here, though. Because it was there, I suppose - a tall, circular red-and-white striped tent, just like a fortune-teller's booth from the Middle Ages. “Cross me palm with silver and I'll tell you what your future holds...”

I'd pulled the flap aside and entered. Now, I'm committed. No turning back.

As my eyes become accustomed to the softer light after the bright sunshine outside, I make out a still figure. She's sitting behind a rickety table covered by a dark red velvet cloth that reaches the floor.

Brightly coloured bandana - large, prominent dark eyes that look right through you to some distant horizon - weathered face - long dark hair, streaked with grey, pouring over a full bosom - rings with gob-stopper stones on nearly every finger - beads rattling with every movement... If that's what you're expecting, Madam Azara doesn't disappoint.

“Welcome, my dear,” she smiles, “and please be seated.”

I sit down and hand over the specified fee. She opens an ornately carved box of shesham wood and takes out something wrapped in black silk . Carefully, she pulls back each corner of the silken square to reveal a deck of tarot cards.

“What's your birth sign, dear?” she asks.

“Cancer,” I tell her.

“Very nice, dear,” she says, “caring and compassionate...”

She flips through the cards and selects one.

No turning back...

The King of Cups

“This is your Significator, dear - the King of Cups.”

“What's that?” I ask, “a... Significator?”

“It represents you,” she replies and lays it in the centre of the table.

The card shows a king seated on his throne which is surrounded by waves. He's holding a large chalice.

She passes the deck to me and tells me to shuffle them, including twisting some top to bottom. I do so.

“Now,” she says as I offer her the pack again, “split the deck into three piles with your left hand, and moving to the left. She collects the three piles into one and starts laying individual cards out on the table.

“This covers you,” she tells me, putting a card directly on top of my card.

It shows a young man in mediaeval costume. He carries his belongings in a bag at the end of a staff over his shoulder and a white rose in the other hand. A white dog prances beside him as he steps blithely towards the edge of a cliff. Well, I can identify with that!

The Fool - key #0

The Ten of Swords

“This crosses you.”

She lays a card at right angles on top of the first two, forming a cross. I really don't like the look of that one. It shows a man lying face down under a black sky. There are an awful lot of long swords sticking out of his back. Euwww... She gives a quick glance in my direction as she draws a fourth card and places it below the 'cross'.

“This is below you.”

I can see the design better because the card is upside-down. (Is this a good thing or a bad thing?) It looks like the Pope, dressed in red and raising a hand in blessing over two monks. He holds a patriarchal cross in the other hand and there are crossed keys at his feet.

The Hierophant - key #5 (reversed)

The Eight of Cups

“This is behind you,” she says, laying the card to the left of the cross, her left.

There is a pile of chalices at the front of the picture. The moon looks down as a man in the background walks away towards a mountain.

“This crowns you.”

The card, showing an old man with a staff and a lantern, is placed above the crossed cards, and closest to me.

The Hermit - key #9
The King of Swords

“This is before you.”

It is a king in blue robes holding a large sword. The card is laid to the right of the cross. More swords... Hm.

The next four cards form a vertical line to her right of that arrangement. At the bottom, a magician - upside-down - represents my fears.

The card above it tells what other people are saying about me. There's a man looking at some chalices floating on clouds.

The next card up represents my hopes. This looks better! There's a big star with several smaller stars shining down on a naked girl. She's holding two ewers and pouring water into a pool on one side and on to the grass on the other.

Madam Azara gives me a strange look as she placed the last card on the table. It indicates “the final outcome” and shows a priestess holding a scroll. She's sitting between a black pillar and a white pillar and has a slender crescent moon at her feet. Priestess, huh? Looks like my hopes aren't about to be realized any time soon then - sigh.

Now the spiel begins.

“You are very unusual,” she begins, musingly. (Bet she says that to every client!) “Rarely do I see so many key cards in a reading.”

“Key cards?”

“Cards of the Major Arcana,” she elaborates, without shedding any light. “They are far more important than the those of the Minor Arcana. On average, there are only two or three in a reading. You have six. Clearly, you have an extraordinary future before you.”

The High Priestess - key #2

The Star - key #17

The Seven of Cups

The Magician - key #1 (reversed)

I have a future? I was seriously wondering, especially looking at that card with all the swords sticking out of the guy's - dead guy's - back!

“The first card represents the reason that brought you to me - the aura that surrounds you - the question you wish to be answered.”

“B-but I haven't asked a question,” I stammer.

“Not outwardly, no,” she agrees, “nevertheless, you came in with a question in your mind - in your heart - and your first card is The Fool...”


I guess I sound a little put out at that as she chuckles richly.

“I'm thinking you're too smart to take these little pictures at face value,” she smiles. “'The Fool' is a beautiful card, an important card. The Fool is a hero of many stories...”


A hero? Me? Um, don't think so.

“Pay attention! In an ordinary pack of playing cards, he has become the Joker - a wild card. In the Middle Ages, he was known as the 'Lord of Misrule'. As such, he brings a period of anarchy - of chaos . He's also associated with Dionysus who was called 'phosphoros aster' or the 'light-bearing star' - Dionysus, the god of free-spirit, of ecstasy, of madness - one who overturns outworn traditions and brings enlightenment. And some call him 'the Babe in the Abyss'...”

“Interesting— Um, what does this mean for me?”

“Not so hasty,” she grins, “I don't do, 'You will become rich and famous - now sling your hook!' I believe in giving value for money.”

“Sorry - and thank you,” I say with a chastened smile.

“To continue, the Fool is about to take a leap of faith. He's not looking back. He has all he needs to know already, packed into the bag over his shoulder, and the white rose indicates freedom from all base desires. What does it mean for you? Well, I think you're in for a bit of a rough ride for a while and you're going to have to make a truly life-changing decision. The card is upright, so it's probable that the decision you make will be the right one. Make the right choice, and it'll take you on the journey of a lifetime towards Divine Wisdom.”

I am - I am almost breathless. It sounds... wonderful! I have A Future! Then I look at that card again. She sees where I'm looking.

“Was I wrong in thinking you're smart enough not to take the pictures at face value?” Madam Azara chides.

“Um, sorry,” I mumble.

It does look pretty horrific, though.

“The card that crosses you indicates what forces may be opposing you - for bad or good...”


“A barrier at a railway crossing opposes you. If it didn't...”

I take the point.

“Now, I'll grant you, the card that crosses you - the ten of swords - looks a little off-putting,” she smiles, “and while it does indicate sudden misfortune, it doesn't indicate violent physical death. Look beyond the dark sky up above to the golden dawn beyond - to enlightenment. I'd say that what is standing in your way are delusions. They must be swept away and then you will set your feet on your path to the Divine Wisdom your seek.”


“Yes. And given that the Fool overturns the outdated traditional beliefs, I'm thinking that you are the one who will break down the delusions of others - or try to - and they will not thank you for it. Hence chaos, but beyond that, your path will become clearer.”

“The delusions of others... It makes sense,” I reply.

It also makes sense that it won't be appreciated. To be told by someone twenty years younger - thirty years - that one's life's work has been based on a single basic error. No, it's not going to go down well. I could cancel - go with the flow...

No. I couldn't. I'd just be compounding the error. Oh Hell! Why did I come here? I must be mad. She's speaking again.

“The third card is below you. It refers to the foundation upon which the present situation is based - things that are already a part of your life. In your reading, it's another key card called 'The Hierophant', or sometimes, the Pope. He's also the guide and mentor of the Fool. The Hierophant creates a link between the material world and the spiritual world, enabling the Fool to communicate with the gods. The Keys of Heaven at his feet signify an understanding of good and evil. Normally, the Hierophant represents the traditional teaching put out to the masses, but in your case, the card is reversed.”

“Is that bad?”

I can't help butting in - disturbing the flow.

“Sometimes the meaning of a reversed card is less favourable - mostly, in fact. Occasionally, it's better, and sometimes - as here - it's merely different. In your case, it indicates unorthodox thought processes - unconventionality. Your mind is open to new ideas, but you must guard against... naïvety?”

That one hits home. Like the conventional idea of a fool, I do sometimes rush in where... etc., etc. And regret it later. I look up at Madam Azara, and find her smiling at me, as though she'd just read my mind. Hope she didn't. Spooky feeling.

“The fourth card,” she continues, “shows influences that are on their way out of your life - things that no longer have any validity for you. This is represented - rather appropriately - by the eight of cups. The waning moon shows that the old order is passing away to make way for a new one. You see that the man has built up a neatly ordered display of the cups, right at the front of the picture. He's put a lot of care into his work and now he's walking away. They're full, but it's still not enough to keep him there. He's abandoned the present situation and he's setting off for the distant mountain - a bigger challenge. I begin to wonder why you've sought out my guidance,” she smiles. “I think you've already decided where your way lies.”

“No. No, not really,” I demur. “I can sort of see what probably lies in the immediate future. I have a choice of routes, but only one if I'm to remain true to myself. Trouble is, if I take that route... The word 'pear-shaped' comes to mind. And then... I've really no idea what I'll do next.”

“So you came to Madam Azara.”

It isn't a question - almost like she knew I was coming. I smile wryly and she continues.

“The fifth card crowns you - that is to say, it is an influence which may come into your life at some more distant time - or maybe not. It's another key card, 'The Hermit'. He represents Absolute Wisdom. He carries a lantern, lit by a six-pointed star within, and a long staff, providing both a light to guide the seeker after wisdom and support when he needs it. This card indicates a time of soul-searching - the need to work things out quietly. If this comes to pass, there will come silent council from beyond this world. I see someone who will guide you on your path - a path which may lead you on a spiritual journey.”

“Um, that sounds - pretty... deep,” I murmur. “Sounds like I'd have to die to make that sort of journey.”

“Death comes to all, eventually,” she says softly, “and many times, a man meets his death on the road he takes to avoid it.”

“Oh,” I mouth soundlessly.

Her eyes crinkle at the corners in response.

“The next card represents something which lies in your very near future, or your case, someone - the King of Swords.”

“A king?”

This all sounds pretty highflown stuff.

A strong character... :-)

“Probably not an actual king,” she grins. “Kings usually stand for men in authority. This man will be involved in something like the government, the military or the law.
He's a strong character, deeply committed to whatever he does - feared by his enemies, but respected by his colleagues. He has a sense of fair play and justice, but he's not easily swayed by pleas for mercy. He needs someone to teach him compassion. I suspect that may be why fate is bringing him into your life. Or you into his...”

I smile inwardly. 'The government, the military or the law...' Can't see me ever having anything to do with any of them, not at close quarters and certainly not voluntarily - not unless they're mummified anyway.

“The seventh card represents your worries - fears even. It's yet another key card - 'The Magician', and he's reversed. He's often thought of as Hermes, the messenger of the gods, so he's a bit like the Hierophant in that he creates a link between gods and men. While the Hierophant is concerned with the spiritual side of things, the Magician's province is connected more with the mind - the intellect. Hermes was also known as a trickster. I can see that it's this negative aspect that concerns you. Knowledge is, of itself, power. It can be misused, sometimes very destructively, so you do well to be aware of this. And you can have too much information sometimes, so it's hard to see the wood from the trees - leads to indecision. That can make you hesitate when you really need to act.”

Madam Azara pauses to give me time to absorb what she's just said. Hm. I don't dither - do I? More like the 'angels fear to tread' bit. Although, when I come to think about it, the less I know, the more likely I am to rush in... Oof, life's a minefield!

“Moving on, dear, the eighth card indicates what people are saying about you, maybe to your face, but more often behind your back. This one's the seven of cups. It's a rather dream-like card, with fairytale visions popping out of each cup - see, dear, there's a dragon crawling out of one, a castle rising from another. There's a heap of jewels and treasure and there, a snake... And a man looking at them in wonder.”

“I think I can see where this one's going,” I remark, a little sourly.

'Friend' Steven Rayner

“I said you were a smart man,” she smiles, “and others would agree with me. They're saying, though, that you're - yes, building castles in the air - have your head in the clouds. You have great dreams and, if only you'd come back down to earth, you'd go a long way. It seems that your friends think you're the one with the delusions. Note that I do not say they are right...

“The ninth card represents your hopes and aspirations - your dreams if you like. 'The Star' is your fifth key card,” she tips her head on one side, bird-like, and gives a knowing smile, “and it is the card of hope and inspiration - and courage too. The main star is associated in the tarot with the Star of Isis. The young maiden, and the life-giving water she pours, stand for renewal, and her nakedness represents truth unveiled - she has nothing to hide and nothing to fear. She shows that no destruction is final - there are no endings, only new beginnings, and when help is needed, it will come to you. You seem to be a singularly well-blessed young man.”

She's certainly given me a lot to think about here. Oh, wait. She's not done yet.

“The last card represents the final outcome, and I really don't know what to say here. This key card is 'The High Priestess'. It's connected with esoteric matters, secrets. I suppose you could say that it is the Higher Powers way of telling me that further information is... classified.”

She gives a deep chuckle.

“So what can I tell you? Very little, really. Cartomancy goes back to the ancient of days. The High Priestess was long associated with the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Hm - I don't know why, but I think you already know this?”

“Ah, well, it is a little familiar,” I confess.

“The soul has a long journey,” she says cryptically.

I'm not sure at this point whether she means past or future. Maybe both.

“The High Priestess carries a scroll containing the natural law and wisdom of the universe, but it's half-hidden under her veil. Only a part of that knowledge is available to mere mortals. Now, the crescent moon at her feet symbolizes the sub-conscious - the hidden part of the mind. There is so much secrecy here.”

This is getting way freaky. What am I? Some sort of cosmic James Bond? I realize she's paused in her commentary, like she's aware every time my attention wanders - gives me time to re-focus...

“The High Priestess sits between two pillars with lotus flowers carved on the capitals. The black pillar, Boaz, represents darkness, destruction, barrenness, wickedness - the negative side of life. The white pillar, Jakin, as you'd expect, stands for the light, creation, fruitfulness, goodness - all the positive aspects of life. As she sits between them, she holds the balance and serenely maintains it. Perhaps you, too, will be faced with a balancing act - playing the Devil's advocate. Maybe that's why this final card is so indeterminate. To point you one way or another may destroy the cosmic balance. Like her, you must use your intuition, dip into the well of knowledge in your sub-conscious. Above all, preserve your integrity. Do not be swayed by earthly influences. Remain pure of spirit and you will advance far beyond your fellow man...”

She looks almost as if she's slipped into a trance state, eyes fixed on something outside of this world.

“...The Shining One is waiting.”

She suddenly shakes herself and focusses on me again.

“You must go now. I can tell you no more. Good day.”

'Nuff said

Bemused by her abrupt dismissal, I step out, back into sunshine so bright that it hurts my eyes. Ah well, time to get back to my lecture notes. The future awaits.

Fizz.... Ting!

Crown Infernal