Tarotnomics

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OtherStr8aura
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Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

A fanfic project I've been working on steadily for a month or so. I'm new to the forums, but wanted to post this here before AO3 so I could get feedback as I went along, and possibly edit it before the 'final version' on AO3. A story about made-up religions and unrealistic politics, meant to entertain and lampoon- not inform on- the subjects in a way similar to the source material. A story of which this may be considered the first chapter, with two/three more to follow as they're written, aptly titled-

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TAROTNOMICS

CHAPTER ONE: KING TO A DOG

(let me know if this first chapter is too long to all fit in one message- im happy to edit and reformat. And yes, I drew that cover image on tumblr.com/blog/str8aura-draws-horses-and-stuff. Cheers! :D )

_________________________________

"TAROT!"

From everywhere at once came the crack of an unmistakably, indescribably green voice. Its words were spat like fire from a silver tongue, its tone commanded order and attention, and with a single boom of the great voice all who heard were struck with the paralyzing realization that there exist beings we cannot understand.

"You forgot to order a drink." Dragon pointed out.

Across the table from her, Tarot looked up from her menu.

The diner was called Bluebell's, famous in the surrounding county for its pancake breakfast. Due to being family owned in a world of chain restaurants, the owners had gone through more than their fair share of troubles with money and competitors, but always seemed to luck out long enough to stay open another year. The head chef called it their guardian angel, and could never imagine just how close he was.

The truth was, Dragon liked the place, frequently touting it as the best diner in the known multiverse- and when a demigod decides your place is good, its going to stay open. 

Her affinity caused her to center many of her Earthly meetings around it, although her companion was less than enthused by the quality of taste herself. Had money been an issue, Tarot would have surely raised a complaint about the prices as well, but being the mortal avatar of a higher deity did come with the occasional perks. So, muffins and cookies near every day the cooks watched a tall primly suited woman sit down at a corner booth with her pet Pomeranian and talk for a few hours about things they knew weren't their business, and all anyone on the planet ever suspected was that this nice businesslady liked pancakes and treated her dog well.

"I'll just get a milkshake." The dirty blonde Pomeranian murmured, fiddling with her collar. She still fretted frequently about Dragon's public appearances; Despite her power, the mythical beast' human disguise was imperfect, and rain fell when she cried (which was often) no matter what form she wore. In other words, a major component of the spell was humanity's general inability to pay attention to their surroundings, a ramshackle form of magic(k) if Tarot had ever seen one. 

To those in the know, however, she appeared in one of her favored forms- a bipedal green dragon, whose tail took up half the booth and who easily boasted two feet over Tarot even when sitting. "You don't have to shout at me." The dog gently reminded.

Dragon flagged down the waiter casually, with little regard for inconspicuousness. Tarot watched with a twinge of paranoia as their waitress took an order from the superpredator and her accompanying Pomeranian without noticing a thing wrong. As soon as they returned to the kitchen, Dragon cleared her throat.

"How's your food?" She delicately began.

"I can't eat eggs, so I wish they'd tell me when they're included in combos." Tarot admitted, poking her food with a fork.

"It's a breakfast joint, they have to stuff eggs in all their combos. It's the law." Dragon dismissed.

"I'm just saying, you're a lot more omnivorous than me. I feel like I get the short end of the stick at these visits."

"I don't even need to eat!" Dragon protested. "This place makes mortal processes worth it for me. That's how good these eggs are." And took another exaggerated bite to emphasize this point. "Dogs are such picky eaters."

Tarot sighed, leaning back into her booth and bouncing her knee.

After a moment of just watching Dragon eat she broke the silence. "Do you need something? We don't really have casual breakfasts. They always build up to something."

"I do, I do." Dragon assured. "I just thought you might like a minute to savor your breakfast."

Tarot looked down at her plate of fluffy yellow eggs, disgruntled.

"Right then. Down to business." Dragon patted her chin with a napkin. "Now I'll admit, I've been... lenient with you as of late." She waved her claw vaguely. "You know, Halloween parties and dates and stuff, that's not really the Heaven approved usage of mystical power."

Tarot raised an eyebrow that carried an unspoken retort.

"Yes, yes, mortals are fickle, I'm not holding that against you. My point is its been a while since you've done any avatar-ing for the woman who cuts your checks."

"You don't pay me."

"You're the loyal servant of a Demigod, Tarot, I'm paying you in good words with Cerberus. You've got a cushy afterlife planned for you. All of which will be useless, of course, if I'm not around to whisper into one of her ears, so lets talk shop." Dragon reached for a napkin and removed a lime green pen from her breast pocket, testing it on the corner.

"Course." Tarot grunted, scooching forward. "This is closer to my comfort zone. Who am I fighting?"

"You'll be pleased to know..." Dragon murmured, sticking her tongue through her lips as she scribbled. 

"...I've got an easier job for you this time."

When she was done, she presented a poorly done doodle of her own head, alongside a smug looking gryphon with several daggers pointing towards him. "Do you remember how The Game started?"

The Game. Like a proper noun, the weight it carried demanded full capitalization. To the uninformed, it whispered of dark secrets beyond the veil of reality, and invisible hands pushing society from behind the scenes. Tarot was, unfortunately, informed.

"Your brother?" Tarot squinted at the napkin. "You got into an argument with-"

"No, no no, I mean how The Game started. Our first moves. Human civilization was just beginning, and the first move of any seasoned player is to create..." She doodled a familiar shape to anyone who lived in Babylon Gardens- the stone monument in the woods, key tenet of the local religion the forest animals practiced. "...A temple. 5000 HP, potentially unlimited MP, these let humans trade faith for power. Rule number one of The Game is that Gods need prayer. Thankfully, Humans need miracles, which makes these the stepping stone to greatness. I mean, except in 5E, where you need to build a mana pool separately and elect a prophet, but..." Dragon cleared her throat. "You're getting bored. Let's move on."

Tarot took the napkin scribbles handed to her, flicking her ear to signal she was listening.

"My brother set his first temple in the middle of the Saudi Arabia desert, taking the risk of less people finding it for the reward of greater mana. I, of course, forwent creating a temple entirely and spent all my beginner points nerfing him. Cut to 5000 years later, and that was still the greatest trick I ever pulled. Now I have multiple worshippers across the planet and all Pete has is a dingy little temple collecting dust in a forest." Dragon sighed. "Still don't know how he moved it. You following along so far?"

Tarot nodded. "You're great, Pete is terrible. I work for you, Dragon." She reminded.

"I am great!" Dragon defended. "I've had my hands in nearly every major world event! I've forged history, I've guided empires, I've been at the right hand of Kings of Kings!"

Tarot sensed insecurity, slightly more than usual. "So what's the problem?"

Whatever Tarot had said had clearly struck a nerve. Dragon slowly buried her face in her hands, and Tarot flinched, watching the clouds outside the window carefully.

"Well... while on paper, it looks like I'm in the lead. But The Game isn't played in wishes and vague senses of accomplishment." Tarot knew for a fact that wasn't true. "It's played in cold hard numbers, and the numbers say that I've got a lot of things Pete doesn't, but he has the one thing I don't- and desperately need." Dragon lifted her head, breathing in deeply. "I have about 500 scattered followers across the Earth, almost none of which know the others exist. Pete has a religion."

"Openerdom?" Tarot wondered aloud. "Dragon, his 'religion' consists of forest animals, deer and possums and raccoons. That can't be worth much in Game numbers."

"Low points, but high numbers." Dragon waved off, growing agitated as Tarot repeatedly jabbed her metaphorical sore spot. "Numbers, numbers are what matter! He has a Religion, and all anyone knows me for is a stock fairy tale character! Fictional characters have bigger followings than me, muffins and cookies it!"

Tarot did her best to comfort the irritated Dragon with an ear scratch as the demigod's head lay in a heap on the table. She flinched back when Dragon suddenly shot up, trying to recompose herself as the clouds outside turned white again.

"What I need is to stop being humble. I need to remind the humans that I am someone to be feared, that they live their lives in servitude of me- That I'm the head God, not my brother and his dirt cult!" Dragon dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief, clutching it to her breast and turning to Tarot passionately.

"What I need... is a religion."

Tarot patiently waited for more.

When none came, she awkwardly scratched her head.

"Okay... so make a religion."

Dragon tilted her chin down an inch, adopting a knowing smile. Tarot raised an eyebrow, still expecting her to continue.

This quiet staring match lasted a long while, long enough for the surrounding customers whose attention had been drawn by the blasphemous cry to grow bored.

"Do I... need to spell it out?"

Finally, Tarot's eyes widened in dawning realization.

"No."

"Yes, Tarot." Dragon grinned toothily. "As your Demigod I am promoting you- no longer will you toil in the slums of obscurity. You will toss off your mortal binds, accept your true power as an Avatar, and become my proph-!"

"I said no." Tarot repeated flatly.

At some point in her speech Dragon had stood up. Now she blinked, frozen in rise.

"I... Come again?"

"I really don't see what I need to elaborate on." Tarot replied professionally, shaking her head. "No, I'm not gonna be a prophet for your startup religion."

Dragon opened and closed her mouth a few times, searching for words. "Tarot... you're my Avatar. Representative of all my godly matters on Earth. You know how this works, right? You don't really get a choice."

"Yeah, yeah, what you say goes." Tarot agreed. "If you so demand, I'll teleport to Australia and back to fight strangers, and start a relationship with some guy I've never met to create a loophole in the rules of The Game, and take him to another planet to vie for his affection against you." Tarot shook her head quickly. "I'll do all that, but I also... you know, have a life. You've expended your reach. You got too greedy this time. And now I'm happy to tell you that I'm putting my paw down. I am not becoming the town loonie the world over so you can..."

Tarot sighed. "Look, let's be honest, it's a made up game against your nerd brother. You can pretend you're the king of kings and that this has all been slave to some greater purpose, but... we all know it's just a game, right? It's in the name. Do I need to limit your computer time like a mom? Maybe ground you from going to God Camp? Why is this even a discussion that needs to be had?" She scoffed, shaking her head in exasperation. "You being bigger than me does not a slaveowner make. I've got some pretty big idiots in my life, but even- What, Bino has never asked me to form a religion. And if he did, you know what I'd say?"

Dragon put on the intimidation factor, clutching the table with her head held low. "Tarot? I am your Goddess, and I am commanding you-"

"I'd say get real." Tarot blew a raspberry, leaning back in her seat and crossing her arms. "I told you, I have a life, and relationship, and people who care about me, and they outweigh my demigod boss by a pretty enormous magnitude. If you want me to show you the affection I have for you, give me ten bucks and I'll custom print a mug for you off the web. 'Happy Demigod Appreciation Day'."

The booth stayed quiet. Dragon, as anyone who's met her could guess, wasn't exactly used to being turned down. Fear, Anger- she had seen her gamut of emotions from mortals when she demanded things from them, but something about Tarot's matter of factness made retorts fail her. She felt like her Avatar might actually be right- that Dragon might be wrong- and she wasn't sure how to deal with that. Instead, she fidgeted with her silverware.

"I- I could pay you?" Dragon feebly offered.

Tarot didn't break her glare.

"...A new boyfriend?" Dragon tried.

This time she actually did break, turning away in disgust. "Do you want me to run standard exit procedure?" Tarot tapped her table. "Because I feel like... what's the word...?"

"Tarot..." Dragon whined.

"I feel like I could... like I might be about to..."

"Hey, hey, come on, your milkshake hasn't even arrived yet! What's taking them so long?" Dragon glanced nervously to the kitchen.

"Say the word, Dragon. You have to be the one." Tarot leaned forward expectantly, raising an ear.

Dragon sputtered, then stopped.

"Wake up." The tired looking demigod murmured.

And Tarot fazed out of existence.

______________________________

Tarot shot up in bed, completely wordlessly. After so many years of the process you eventually stop screaming.

Tarot quickly searched for any golden statues or giant feathers that may have made the trip with her. When she was satisfied, she let out her breath, rubbing her nose with two fingers. It looked to be about midnight in Babylon Gardens, judging from the moon out the adjacent window.

"Sweetie?" By her side a furred shape stirred, and as she rubbed her eyes its hand gently tugged at her arm. "Everything alright?"

"I'm fine, Peanut." She murmured. "Work."

As annoying as the 'it was all a dream' procedure Demigods preferred to use was, she had to commend it for allowing her to conduct these affairs from the safety of her own dog bed (Or at least, the one that the human owners were polite enough to let a stray like Tarot use). She caught her breath, smacking away the taste of sleep that had suddenly replaced her eggs and struggling to catch up her dream and physical memories to align them. It took a second to remember why she had even woken up so angry.

"Has anyone ever told you its a bit strange that you work while sleeping?" Peanut asked, eyes open but not sitting up from his comfortable spot.

"I don't think I had a standard for strange before I settled down here. I almost miss being oblivious to how crazy my life is." Tarot admitted.

"You're being more self aware than usual. Everything go alright in your dreams?"

Tarot scratched her head. "Not really. I'm probably going to regret some of what I did."

Her partner sat up, rubbing her arm comfortingly. "You know what makes me feel better when I'm plagued in the middle of the night?"

Tarot glanced askance at him skeptically. "Wait, you worry about things? Like, at all?"

"Sometimes. With you."

That one made her smile. "So what do you-"

Zzzzzz

"Peanut!"

"Kidding, kidding." Her partner shot up again, rubbing his eyes and sidling next to her. "Mostly. You're much better at dealing with emotional gunk than I am. If you have a problem, you'll figure it out- but nobody does their best thinking at night. Except Opossums, I guess. Cougars. Raccoons. Dogs don't do their best thinking at night, I should say." Peanut settled back into bed, pulling one of the folds of the ratty blanket over him. "If it still bothers you in the morning, tell me. But sometimes these things just go away after a good sleep."

Tarot didn't respond, still leaning on her knees and staring off into the dark corners of the room.

Something in the diner had bugged her, and now with the acute awareness of a dog woken from her sleep in the middle of the night she was beginning to put it together. Tarot lived in Babylon Gardens because of Dragon. Tarot was in a healthy relationship, for all its oddities, because of Dragon. Tarot had powers other mortal pets of her ilk could only dream of because...

She talked like it was odd that Dragon thought she could uproot Tarot's entire life on a whim, as if it hadn't already happened once before.

Tarot tried to remember what life had been like before Babylon Gardens, and found herself with a splitting headache and wishing very much that she could go back to bed.

Sometimes these things go away after a good sleep, he had said.

"You might be right."

"Can't remember a time I was wrong." He rolled away from her with a beam.

Tarot looked down at her boyfriend one last time, content just with watching him breathe.

"Love you, Peanut." Her voice drifted off.

______________________________

It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair one bit.

Dragon angrily sipped the unclaimed milkshake, still fuming in her diner booth.

Mortals live 50, 60 years, and during that time they develop such an ego that they forget who they owe their progress to. It was Dragon who created the pyramids, Stonehenge 2, Geocities, and Everyday Chemistry. She gave so much, and what did she get? There was no justice, not when her brother could rewrite a man's entire genetic code and still get more loyalty out of them.

It was times like this she wished she could talk to someone who understood her.

So, she turned to the window beside her booth, grimacing at her reflection.

"Its not my fault." She protested. "I'm doing what I have to do! There's too much at stake in this game. I mean, in this Game. Tarot understands I don't want to hurt her, she's my friend!"

"She doesn't know you're her friend!" Dragon's reflection frowned. "Wait, no, that's terrible advice. How about this- She knows you care for her, she just doesn't know where your boundaries are. She can only respect yours if you respect hers."

Dragon nodded in satisfaction. That sounded good. She didn't know what it meant in practice, but in theory it sounded good.

"Sooo..." She continued to spitball to her reflection. "I let her go! That's fine. There are other avatars. Other prophets. I could find someone smarter, with more power..."

Her minds eye pictured the other canine and feline residents of Babylon Gardens, running through every possible candidate in the blink of an eye. Some were obvious rejections- too slow, not charismatic enough, just plain annoying to work with, until she had a small pool of about five different individuals who she could target next.

She crossed every one of them off the list. They all possessed the same critical flaw of Not Being Tarot.

Dragon looked to her reflection for advice, frowning in annoyance when it remained silent.

"Don't give me that look." She snapped. "I like Tarot- shes powerful and skilled, and an easy conversation, and always seems to have one more forgiveness left in her. She's been at my side for years- I work with her or I work with nobody."

"Do you have a choice?" The glass retorted. "You of all people know the stakes best. You work by yourself and you lose- You can't be picky. If you must have her, you need to respect her, and only take the parts she's willing to give up. Does that mean anything a-?"

Dragon froze, looking past the window. "Wait, it does."

Souls contain multitudes. This tended more often than not to be a source of hassle for Dragon- but in this case, it occurred to her, she might be able to use this. Tarot refused, but Tarot was a complex puppy.

She was one of Dragon's most loyal followers. Surely she could forgo one part of her. Some small part of her she would hardly miss. 

A plan was beginning to form.

"Of course, killing Tarot is out!" Dragon quickly clarified to nobody, shaking her head vigorously and setting a claw on the glass window. "I'm not a monster. I just gotta, y'know. Split her soul a bit." Yes, that seemed nicer.

"She'll understand. She's loyal! The most loyal I could ask for! And better than King if nothing else." Dragon gesticulated wildly. "It's not like I'm committing some heinous sin. It's not something I'd tell Heaven, but... What do they know about sin anyway? I'm just taking the good with the bad. Take out the bad parts, put em to work, Tarot can live her life and serve me. I'll never need the good parts of Tarot again! She'll thank me!"

She slammed a hand against the glass, rattling the entire wall. "It's a good thing. I'm doing the right thing. Tell me that, okay?"

Unsurprisingly, the reflection didn't answer.

Dragon smiled nervously. Take the good with the bad.

She turned back to the unnerved looking waitress, still clutching her pen and a tablet. "I'll take my check, please."

______________________________

Less than a few hours later, Babylon Gardens had fallen deep into its sleep.

Not a light remained on in any window.

As the moon apexed, a dark shadow blotted its light over the household belonging to the unassuming Sandwich family.

And from the shadow something indescribable fell to earth, hitting the ground and creeping through the grass, then up the wall and slipping in through the cracked window.

The invisible force cascaded like water down the stairs, searching diligently through the rooms for any sign of life before catching a glimpse of fur. The low purr of energy turned into a growl as the force rushed into the living room, flowing around furniture and growing in power like a tidal wave crashing towards a single point at the center of Tarot's forehead, finding its aim true and-

Tarot woke up.

If it could even be called that. 

Something felt terribly, terribly wrong. She lifted a paw to rub her eye, and saw in the dim darkness that it barely resembled her own. Sitting up and pulling herself over to the square of light pouring through the window, she inspected the offending arm, following its new deep blue coat up her shoulder, down her belly, and to her legs.

Not a hair of her dirty blonde coat remained.

She sat up, finding herself several feet away from the dog bed she had gone to sleep on, and went to wake Peanut. Something stirred in it, and she squinted in the dark to try and make it out. Once her eyes adjusted she realized it looked awful familiar.

It was Tarot, still peacefully resting. Meaning the dog who had just woken up and was crouched over the bed... wasn't Tarot.

She forced herself away from the bed, staggering away, and fast realized the second part of this metamorphoses. New thoughts were coursing through her brain, new urges and plans Tarot's old morality would forbid her from having. None of those restrictions were there anymore, and the blue pomeranian that was once Tarot realized that her old name barely suited her anymore. She was a brand new dog.

She felt individual. She felt unique. She felt powerful. She felt like she could throw up.

She slowly turned back to Tarot. A shaky hand reached for the fur, feeling her own coat with a sense of dissociation as a heart and chest that were no longer hers rose and fell in gentle motions.

She scritched herself behind the ears, watching her own leg kick slowly. She turned to Peanut, and instantly felt a sickening pit in her stomach that forced her to look away. Only for a second- just as quickly any sadness she might have felt was filtered into disgust.

She thought she heard a whisper in her ear. Before she could reflect on it, the moonlight was briefly blotted out by a dark shadow passing over the house. 

She couldn't bring herself to wake up Tarot. She didn't want to think about Peanut. And trying to focus on the whispers made her head hurt.

Which left only one real option left for social interaction.

The dog slipped out through the front door, tiptoed down the stairs, bypassing the step she knew from a lifetime of being Tarot creaked, and stepped onto the grass. She set her new paws on her hips as the same long shadow dwarfed her.

Dragon's true form was a long and slender serpent, hovering in the air with most of her body twisted into mobius loops. Her head bent down to ground level to talk eye to eye with her creation, while her hands nervously twiddled car-sized digits.

The whispers hushed when she looked Dragon in the eye.

"What did you do, Dragon?" Her own voice sounded unfamiliar- deeper, with a slight echo even at normal volume.

Dragon quickly looked over her shoulder and back, searching for words. "Just now, you mean?"

"What did you do?"

"I... well, you know. I split your soul. I thought, well, this way you can help me out... and enjoy your life too?" Dragon tried to smile. "You should probably... break the news to her."

The two watched each other in silence for a moment.

Cicadas buzzed in the chill night air.

"No." The dog surprised herself with her words. "No, we're not telling her. You want her to enjoy her life? She's had everything bad about her stripped away. I say leave her alone. If we're lucky you'll never come back for her."

Dragon seemed taken aback. "I... take it you know what I want you to do then."

Oblivious to Dragon as she spoke, her creation was finding its mind fascinating. Below everything left of Tarot in her head, she could feel a brand new force tugging her reason along, something she was smart enough to recognize likely benefited her intended destination.

Soul splitting was a sorting process, after all- One reserved for the recently dead. The point was to send all the good parts to Heaven and the bad parts to Heck. Now, thanks to Dragon, both parts were stuck on Earth, and it didn't seem very much like Heaven to whisper arcane secrets in her ear.

Which could only mean she was the evil Tarot.

Strangely the idea of being the evil one didn't bother her too much.

Being evil wasn't anything like she expected- She had no uncontrollable desires turning her into a slathering monster, no violence and arson and murder bubbling out from inside her. She was completely calm. Evil wasn't seducing her, but rather it was the only option she could see left. To leave well enough alone wasn't even a possibility worth considering.

Which meant she still had some sense about her. Enough that a part of her fretted for Peanut, enough that a part of her knew going along with Dragon was her best bet, and enough that she knew she needed a new name. It was hardly convenient to keep calling herself 'the pomeranian' or 'Dragon's creation'. She needed something succinct and to the point, that would tell everyone who met her exactly what her game was.

"Yeah." Evil Tarot mused. "You want me to be your prophet."

Dragon nodded, pleased with herself. "Yeah. Yeah! I knew you were clever."

She nodded slowly. "Alright. I'll do it."

Dragon raised a suspicious eyebrow. "Wait, I haven't told you the plan yet."

"I have a plan." Evil Tarot growled.

"Already?"

"Already. It requires you do everything I say to a tee. It won't be very hard, I promise you. But we have to move fast."

"And... Why is that?"

Evil Tarot turned back to the house, looking it up and down one last time before setting her sights for the woods behind Babylon.

"Because I'm smarter than you apparently think I am. And I wake up very, very early."

______________________________

Tarot woke up.

Good Opener, she woke up- she couldn't remember ever having a night as restful as the one she woke up from. She gradually rose her head from her bed, stretching out her spine and limbs as far as they could go, and gave a doggish yawn that clacked her teeth together while she sleepily smacked. 

She felt like she could run a mile. It was possible to feel this good? Instinctively she tensed, waiting for the other foot to drop.

Ten minutes later she untensed, relaxing. She vaguely recalled being worried about something last night, but couldn't for the life of her remember what it could have been.

"Mmm? Tarot?" A sleepy voice emerged from under the upside down lump of fur she had been sleeping next to.

Tarot flexed her digits. Even her fur seemed shinier. In a daze, she glanced down at Peanut, getting down to her knees and scratching under his chin to stir him.

With her newfound mental clarity, the first thought she voiced was, "I love you."

Peanut lifted his head, tail wagging. "I love you too. Feeling better?"

Tarot admired her hands dumbfoundedly, suddenly entranced by them like a newborn puppy. "I don't know if I've felt this good in my life. My brain feels... weird."

Peanut nuzzled his nose against her, but she stood up without reacting, holding her head and staring off into space.

"Tarot?" He tried.

"This is insane. I have problems in my life." Tarot's mouth kept running.

"That doesn't sound very insane at all."

"But I recognize them. I know how to solve them. My head is filled with thoughts. Someone up above handed me a brain while I was asleep. I- I need to start writing." 

Peanut sat up, curiously watching her. She got down on her knees, prowling the floor with a paw until hitting something- a napkin that had fallen off her when she got up, covered in lime scribbles. Her eyes caught the words 'OR WAS IT' in the corner, and she briefly fumbled when she realized she couldn't remember where the napkin came from. Shaking those thoughts off, she flipped it over and began writing.

"This is... a new mood for you! Especially after last night." Peanut sat up, more and more invested in Tarot's radical personality shift.

Tarot glanced up. "What ha- Don't tell me. I'm starting fresh fresh. I need to get up and go. Problems, problems! I'm dating Peanut, who has a thing with Grape, who is dating Max, who is clearly a repressed bisexual..."

"You're drawing a shipping chart?" Peanut asked flabbergastedly. "This early in the morning?"

"Its a complication, Peanut! My life right now is like... like, some sitcom where we're barred from ever growing. Other things... Uh, my life is being controlled by a demigod overemotional drama queen. King is still a dog. I think Grape killed a guy."

"Bino owes me twelve dollarbucks." Peanut chimed in from the dog bed.

"Peanut!" He jumped at Tarot's sudden exclamation, and found her hands on his cheeks before he could respond. "I love you so much." She repeated.

"Seriously. Is everything... alright?" Peanut coughed out through smushed cheeks.

"Things haven't been alright for a long time, hun." She shook her head slowly. "I can't believe I haven't realized it. We've been going in circles for years and years and- Holy Opener, I can see everything. All our problems."

"All of them?"

"All of them!" Tarot repeated, looking past him as she talked. "I want a stable relationship with you, Peanut. I need to stabilize my life, massively- and yours, and Grape's, and Maxwell's- I'm seeing everything."

She released Peanut, seizing her napkin and running for the door. "I'll see you in a bit- I need to start talking to... well, just about everybody. I'm going to fix it, Peanut! I'm going to fix every problem ever!"

She slammed the door shut enthusiastically.

Peanut blinked, still barely awake.

"...What?"

______________________________

Tarot's Spontaneous Wave of Therapy lasted two weeks and left no survivors.

Long standing feuds were resolved. Toxic relations were separated. Fetishes were come to terms with. The Good Ol Dogs Club was renamed The Good Ol People Club (albeit changed back a few hours later for not rolling off the tongue well enough). It was unprecedented, unexpected, and generally agreed to be one of the stranger things the pet population of Babylon Garden had ever seen.

Between her newfound matter of factness, charismatic conversations, and uncanny ability to know what the other person was thinking, Tarot was able to do so much many victims of the Wave had trouble believing she was the same easily stressable and overly cryptic pomeranian they had always known.

New Tarot talked fast, came and went like the wind.

And New Tarot made things look easy.

Peanut found her two weeks later on his couch. Charts littered the floor around her, nearly all of the various notes and to-dos crossed out in lime green pen. Still she worked, rifling through them for something new with almost feverish zest.

"Hey, hun." He tried knocking on the side table to get her attention. "You, uh, alright? Been a while since we talked. You're always moving somewhere, trying to do something."

"I know, Peanut, I know. I'm just a little cluttered. This town's bigger than I thought, and if I'm being honest, I forgot there were people in it." She sighed. "You know how many humans want to take advice from a dog?"

"Yeah, I do." He nodded sagely. "I mean, this is great. But... how do I put this..."

"But they're all such easy fixes." Tarot cut off, listening to herself. "I mean, half the time you just need to talk to someone! How do people struggle with communicating? You open your mouth and words come out!" Tarot threw her hands in the air.

Peanut paused, before opening his mouth and waiting patiently.

"Can we talk?" He finally prompted when it was clear no magic(k) force would possess him

"We sorted us out, didn't we?" She pointed to a connecting green line. "One of the first problems I worked to solve."

"Without the therapy I mean. Heart to heart."

Tarot looked up curiously, setting down her pen slowly.

"Ah... Yeah, yeah, I'm here. What do you need?"

Peanut sidled next to her on the couch, fiddling with his thumbs and scratching behind his ear anxiously. Reveling in the brief peace, he looked for a good way to put his argument.

"You've been different lately."

"How so?"

Both of them glanced down at the mess of graphs littering the floor.

"If you give me ten seconds I can think of a reason this is healthy." She tried.

To herself, Tarot decided her boyfriend might have a point.

Despite all the help she had given, under it all Tarot felt... strange. She was just doing what came naturally to her, which had never come naturally a day in her life before. If she was a super-genius psychoanalyst, things wouldn't have gotten this bad in the first place. It was all far too easy, and when she tried to zero in on it, it felt like she had been missing a limb this whole time. She really couldn't believe it was that easy. It was abnormal.

Peanut started talking, but she wasn't listening. In between her thoughts, she had gotten distracted- a fly was buzzing around the room. It had been for the last twenty seconds.

Tarot hated flies.

She was supposed to hate flies. It was only natural. Flies meant pestilence, and death, and the perversion of the natural...

A fly was just a fly.

Why did she want to hate it so much?

The fly landed directly on her nose, twitching and rubbing its legs together less than an inch from her eyes.

Right in her grasp. She stared it down, and began to feel fear- not of the fly, but of the increasing, growing temptation to snap. She didn't even know what that meant entirely. Only that the simple insect was making her muscles tense and her blood boil. Sooner or later the pressure was going to break.

The fly turned, and they locked eyes.

A vein bulged under Tarot's fur.

It flew off. The room was again filled with its incessant buzzing, grating and tearing.

Something was terribly, terribly wrong. Only now Tarot started thinking about Dragon, and tried to remember the last time she had seen her boss.

"Tarot?"

She turned quickly to face her boyfriend. Apparently too quickly- he jumped at the suddenness of her motion.

Somehow, looking at him calmed her, and she began to think rationally again. Tarot was missing something vitally important, it seemed. Before she could think up a reasonable excuse to assure Peanut, there was a knock at the door.

He turned towards the sound with a grimace, but dutifully stood and went down the hall for it. As soon as he was out of sight Tarot fell back into the couch cushions with a gasp of air.

"For you!" He called.

Tarot only flicked an ear in response.

______________________________

The rabbit on her front door looked simultaneously like he expected Tarot to beat him and fall at her knees.

His ears were easily the same length as his arms, if not more, and his pelt was the same uniform grey with a break at the neck for his obligatory collar- a nice green, although thankfully not lime. He kicked his foot on the porch, feigning casualty and seeming more than a little put off at Tarot's appearance, not that most people this week hadn't been.

The rabbit gave a curt wave. "Uh... Hi."

Tarot nodded politely. "Hello. Do I know you?"

The rabbit sighed. "You don't know how long I've waited to hear someone say that."

"Unpopular?"

"I wish. I'm the Opener of Ways. You can call me Zach. We talked a while back, remember?" Zach extended a paw forward.

Tarot raised her eyebrows in recognition as she shook. "Oh, yeah, I know you. You look different in the stained glass windows. Sorry, a lot's been going on recently."

"Sorry to disappoint, but I don't think rabbits can be that tall." Zach apologized with disgruntlement. "The other day is actually what I wanted to talk about. May I come in?"

In Tarot's experience, the animal population of Babylon Garden could be divided two different ways- the residents who knew about The Game, and the residents who didn't. As the secret became harder and harder to hide, the line between the two blurred considerably across the last few years, to the point where she frequently had to take guesses at who might need an in-depth explanation of the galaxy's hierarchy and who was already in the know. Mice running around in the fields? Probably didn't know. Victims of sudden polymorphing? Probably knew. 

Zach was an odd case. On one hand, he was the figurehead of Pete's self made religion. On the other, by all accounts he had stumbled into it accidentally and didn't even know much about the religion or the animals who worshiped him. Tarot decided to play it safe- it wasn't likely The Game was even going to come up in a house call.

"Sorry." Tarot grunted, resting her paw on the door. "Too many irons in the fire- I'm going to be taking some time to myself for a bit. Uh, take a number and I'll see if I can get back sometime... soon." She slowly started closing the door.

"That's fine, that's fine!" Zach leaned into the shrinking gap left by the door. "Hey, I won't be long! It's no trouble!"

"I'm sure its not." Tarot politely smiled through the crack.

"I'd just like to ask for my job back!"

For the first time in two weeks Tarot was thrown for a loop.

She paused and opened the door again.

"...What?"

"I know, I know." Zach quickly rushed to defend his perceived slight. "I don't like being the Opener. I've gotten used to it, but its still awkward when people bring you their sick children and beg for a miracle. I was more than happy to throw a big ceremony, and, you know, 'pass down my godly power' and all, but now that I don't have it... I'm getting antsy. I think we should reverse it. Don't worry- they believed it the first time, and they're not really the smartest tools in the shed in the first place."

Tarot shook her head in confusion, shutting her eyes. Uncomfortable feelings were starting to rise in her, like the nagging thought she was forgetting something. "You made me Opener?"

"Two weeks ago. Don't you remember?"

"I think I would remember something like that." She thought. "I mean, I was occupied at the time. Not that occupied."

"You came to me in the middle night, complained about my performance, negotiated my position with me, talked something about a dragon, and left an hour later once I agreed." Zach numbered off on his fingers, still awkwardly standing in the doorway while Tarot cradled an ebbing headache. "Then we held a big celebration the next day where I announced that you would be Opener to the forest population, and..."

He cleared his throat unsurely. "Tarot, why are you still here?"

Tarot thought very, very, carefully. She had gotten good at thinking ever since that queer morning, but her new abilities were failing her suddenly. She hadn't seen Dragon... who had been talking about making Tarot a prophet... Now an actual prophet was at her door, claiming to have made her one... There was a connection here, she just couldn't put her paw on it.

"My eyes are gold. Did she have lime green eyes?" Tarot defaulted to the first possible answer, pointing a claw at her amber irises. It wasn't entirely out of the question for Dragon to take on a Pomeranian disguise and do the job herself. There was no Earthly way The Game would allow her to be her own avatar.

"Ink black, actually." Zach responded with a shrug.

Third gut punch this conversation over. Tarot was starting to feel queasy.

"...Was she blue?" She slowly asked.

"Pretty blue." He nodded with a snap at the air.

Tarot stood up from where she sat.

She reached through the doorway to Zach and gently took him by the shoulders.

She stared at him pointedly.

"You met a blue dog with black eyes and thought it was me." She repeated.

Zach instantly got defensive, pulling away and rubbing his shoulder upsettedly. "She called herself you, alright? Hey, I used to be bright purple! It was late and I couldn't see her well, I-I've never seen you around much, and I heard you were some magic(k) witch girl or something-"

Tarot waved a paw in his face, putting things together slowly.

"Stop, stop, stop. You asked why I was here. What did you mean by that?"

Zach stared at her like she was the stupidest person in the world. A familiar sensation was beginning to bubble up inside her, like a broken leg learning how to move again.

"Tarot..." He began slowly, patiently. "Have you been watching the news at all lately?"

Her mouth gaped open.

"Dragon." She hissed like a dirty word.

"There you go again. What dragon?"

______________________________

The Sandwich Household was rarely trodden in, which made it perfect for Tarot's purposes. The average magic(k) user had more than a few tools up their sleeves- the ever helpful Ouija Boards, pendants and charms and copper artifacts alike, and enough mystical machinery to fill entire rooms.

Tarot had a basement that wasn't even hers. She made the most of it.

"What are you doing?" Zach called after her, rushing down the stairs to her.

"I need to go to sleep. Now." Tarot lugged her own hastily filled collapsible Travel Dog Bowl, sloshing water down the steps she leaped down ten at a time and making her pursuers job considerably harder.

"Somewhere like your basement?" Zach confusedly asked, stopping when he hit the bottom steps. Between the boilers, Amidst waves and waves of (what looked to be electric) candles, a red Pentagram was painted perfectly on the floor.

"Take this!" Tarot tossed a small leatherbound book into Zach's arms, which he barely caught against his chest.

"What am I supposed to-"

Tarot flipped a switch on the wall, and every candle turned on at once, spreading their dim gold glow. She set the dog bowl down at the center of the Pentagram and fell to her knees, taking steady breaths in and out as lime green leylines lit up across her skin and through her shaggy coat. "Page 26, read the lines in italics at the top!"

Zach flipped quickly, stuttering in his haste, but still managed to choke out the black words inscribed in the tome mortals were not meant to hear.

"Alright, now punch me."

"What?" Zach sputtered, gripping the book tightly.

"I told you, I can only do this when I'm asleep! It's god stuff, I can't explain it!" Tarot psyched herself up, fanning her face and hopping between paws.

"You think I don't know how god stuff works?" Zach threw his arms up.

"I don't have the time or crayons to explain sacrilege! Punch me, darn it!"

Zach's fists opened and closed, clearly considering the idea as he nibbled at his lip. Tarot leaned back and forth, growing more impatient before groaning and giving up. Kicking the dog bowl to him, she hopped over to one of the brick walls.

"Pour that on my face if I'm out for more than ten minutes." She instructed.

Zach didn't answer, and she caught him slapping a paw over his eyes and cursing himself out before she turned towards the wall.

"Always have to be the one to do this myself." She muttered, leaning her paws against the wall.

Leaning back and forth, Tarot sucked in air, screamed from the bottom of her throat, and swung her head forward.

______________________________

She awoke with a gasp somewhere entirely different- the hard asphalt of a parking lot.

One in front of a familiar blue roof she had seen more times than she could count.

BLUEBELL'S

Tarot scrambled to her paws and barreled through, making an impressive scar in the glass with her small frame as she shouldered it open.

Running to their usual seat, Tarot scampered past surprised waiters to the empty booth.

"Dragon!" Blistering with anger, but out of options, Tarot ran between remaining booths, spooking the poor families trying to eat and undoubtedly getting animal control called on her. She didn't care- it wasn't like she'd be staying here long.

"She can't keep getting away with this. Dragon! Dragon, where are you?"

Returning to their booth, Tarot felt under her collar for a stashed napkin- one covered in lime green penwork. With a choked growl, she fell to her knees, yelling into it and leaving long tears where her claws fell. Everything suppressed from seeing the fly was finding a new, much grander reason to pour out.

A demigod had royally screwed up.

"What could you possibly have done in just two weeks?"  She cried upwards in a rage.
Last edited by OtherStr8aura on Sun Nov 06, 2022 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Amazee Dayzee
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

I like how you have started this story out here and where you are going with it! Can't wait to see what else you have coming up!
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CunningFox
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by CunningFox »

This is excellent.
OtherStr8aura
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

TAROTNOMICS

CHAPTER TWO: DOGMA

(Thank you for your kind words so far. Once again, this is a first draft experiment, so feedback is appreciated greatly.)

_________________________________

Dear Diary

I ended up glancing back through old entries this afternoon. Its hard to believe I once said I felt invisible.

Guests are nothing new to me- many have made the sacred path to my home to beg for the smiting of those they aren't particularly fond of. More often than not I just feel bad for them- I'll wave my arms around and say some made up words and then head back inside to sneak upstairs with whatever food Tiger hasn't eaten and generally wonder how my life got to this point. That's my ritual by now, and I think I'm past wishing my life would take changes. Big, earth shattering blows to the status quo clearly don't suit me.

Last night's visit bothered me, though. One of the neighborhood dogs this time- the ones who are supposed to be more sensible, at least in theory. I may have written about Tarot in here before, but I can't recall ever speaking to her in person. She's a sort who keeps to herself, which I can admire.

They also think she's psychic or something, but if I listed the powers attributed to me alone I'd fill the rest of my dwindling pages.

She talked about the sanctity of the divine and the importance of my position, and took no small pleasure in criticizing my performance. I half expected her to pull out flowcharts of my approval ratings. Her view was that I was wasting my position, that I could whip the forest around into a place of peace, bring about some real change. To the forest. Where half the population regularly hunts down and eats the other half.

Obviously I tried to keep the facade of some great prophet who could curse her cows and raze her fields, but as we talked it started to dawn on me how sane she seemed. She didn't throw herself down at my feet and she didn't watch me with the same awed starry eyes as the raccoons and deer do- I was just a rabbit to her, and still she took my unwilling snake oil job seriously. So I told her exactly what I thought of her. If she wanted to be so stingy about the muffins and cookies job, she could have it.

Surprisingly she accepted, and I realized that was far from the worst idea.

That's right- I've got a ticket to somewhere more familiar. I'll take Tiger and Marvin any day over atheist opossums knocking on my door and grilling me into proving my divinity. Somehow, no matter how hard I try, they always leave convinced they were wrong.

So I negotiated with the dog. We're gonna have a big ceremony where I pass down my power- she even showed my some of the magic tricks she's going to pull off to really get their superstitious goat. I give the performance my all for one more day, and I can finally slip my ropes, leaving her 'in charge' of my entire congregation the forest behind Babylon Gardens.

Reading back, that sounds bad. Listen- a hundred or so herbivores that jump at small noises isn't exactly a militia. I'm not concerned.

Mostly. Her eyes bothered me for some reason.

-Zach


_________________________________

Tarot awoke with a gasp, finding herself in some unknown man's arms. As soon as the compromising situation registered to both of them, Zach dropped Tarot to the ground again.

"Don't do that to me!" Zach hissed, gasping. "I thought you had just given up!"

Tarot sat up, nursing the head wound loopily.

"Zach... Do me a favor... Fill me in on what I missed."

_________________________________

"This is Talking Heads Theatre with Kurt O'Donnel. In Washington, the late stages of the Presidential Election are heating up as both parties reel from a sudden and unexpected change in the political climate. Abbey, what's happening down there?"

"Thank you, Kurt. Off the back of a recent legislation proposing citizenship for all sapient animals- wherein sapiency is determined by the Weinersmith Defecated Moderation Awkwardness Test- the newly established Pet Party has rode in on a
white horse of votes from America's newest wave of citizens, leaving both sides reportedly very unsure of how to feel. This new party is headed by presidential candidate Evil Tarot, a pomeranian from a small town upstate whose honesty in tackling todays problems and centerpiece position in a web of religious dog-ma have put her front and center of the minds of the millions of deer, birds, opossums, and other assorted nuisa- err, critters who represent the face of the modern voting population. For once in America's long and glorious history, it would appear humans are the minority. We talked to citizens on the street who have no stake in this at all and asked them what their thoughts are."

"It just seems like pandering. I mean, she's a woman, a dog, AND evil? I'll bet she comes out as gay next."

"I beat at a raccoon with a broom the other day and they filed a lawsuit for damage. Their attorney was also a raccoon. I fear for Humanity's future."

"How deep does this law go? Do the microbes in my body need to pay me rent?"

"Is 'Evil' really her first name? What's up with that?"

"Thank you, Abbey. The morning we'll wake up to on election day is an uncertain one, although many fear the outcome may already be set in stone. Talking Heads Theatre will as always be providing you with regular updates as these events unfold. For now, stay safe, stay informed, and sell your Zoo stocks while you can. After this break, Energy Drink scam busted for advertising the ability to turn drinkers into squirrels, the search for notorious criminal Joel Robinson continues to fall flat, and a beloved webcomic artist is found dead in their studio."


_________________________________

It was a long way and a lot of money from Babylon Gardens to Washington, but logically, Tarot knew she must have done it once already.

The string of bus rides had earned them a handful of dirty looks from passengers, for reasons Tarot could only imagine. A part of her wanted to throw a fit for once again getting the blame for Dragon's actions- another wanted to not be thrown off the bus.

Peanut, for his end, was pleased at the very least she let him bandage up her head wound before she dragged him off.

"I can't believe her." Tarot growled. "I honestly can't. I mean, she's messed up before, but this one really takes the cake."

"Split." Peanut echoed the words he had been told, staring off in awe. "Two Tarots. And this happens naturally after death? That's... kind of cool, right?"

"Oh, no." Tarot waggled a finger, feeling dramatic in her rage. "This is about as unnatural of a process as you can get, actually. I got the supernatural equivalent of a lobotomy in my sleep, if the removed pieces of your brain decided to run for president after they were cut out!"

Peanut glanced around nervously. "You're being very loud on a civilian bus, Tarot. I don't think now is the time to be a public disturbance."

Tarot caught sight of the numerous human faces watching her skeptically and sank back into her seat, leaning against Peanut's shoulder with boiling anger.

Peanut scritched her under the ear to try and reorient her. "So, what's the plan?" He prompted.

"Plan?" Tarot spat.

"Yeah, plan. I mean, we got on a bus, right? We're heading down to where Zach said Other Tarot left for? You brought me along, that means you have a plan. What are we gonna do, some magic(k) spell that's gonna zap her back into you or something?" Peanut gestured what could be vaguely interpreted as magic(k)ally.

Tarot snapped her teeth grumpily. "Yeah, I got a plan. I'm going to whale on her like there's no tomorrow. Then," She held up the same accusing finger, "I'm gonna do it again, and with any luck she'll be back in me in time to scream at Dragon with my full mental faculty."

Peanut patiently waited for the rest.

"So the plan is... beat yourself up and hope for the best." He skeptically recapped.

"Do we need a better one?" Tarot murmured.

Peanut pursed his lips.

"...Nah?"

Tarot tried to catch his eye, which seemed to be suspiciously escaping her gaze. She leaned in, and he leaned away, fidgeting with his collar.

"What? What is it?" Tarot nudged him grouchily.

Peanut searched for words. "This... soul splitting thing. Black and white, right? All the good goes to Heaven, the bad to Heck?"

"That's how it works, yeah." She nodded.

"And you're the good stuff?"

"Of course I'm the good stuff. The bad stuff became a politician."

Peanut put a paw in his mouth, gnawing nervously.

"You just... Aren't what I expected."

"I'm not- what?" Tarot paused, a bit of the fire in her ebbing.

"It's pretty easy for me to imagine what the best parts of Tarot are." He struggled to articulate himself. "I love how down to earth you are. How smart and compassionate you are. How you always... seem to know what's best for me. And when I look at you now, its like... Well, like you're trying to get there, but just can't quite make it all the way."

Tarot watched him fiddle with his hands, and a strange understanding came over her. The pieces to one, anyway. When she tried to pick them up and fit them all together into the same puzzle, it just felt like they were all made of jelly and hurt her brain. She turned away, breaking the physical contact by scooching an inch away. Still, her hand found his knee, and she gingerly brushed his unruly fur down comfortingly.

"...Sorry." She said away from him. "You'll get your normal Tarot soon enough. We just gotta focus on one thing at a time. We'll find her."

"And make Dragon apologize?"

Tarot gritted her teeth.

"...Yeah. Apologize."

His tail gave a half wag.

_________________________________

During Tarot's apparent mental incapacitation, Peanut's most pressing concern became how a pair of dogs would get all the way across the city where they needed to without being impounded. It would be a harrowing mission, he imagined, fraught with danger, where stealth was imperative to making it through the moonlit streets of a sprawling art deco cityscape (Peanut, admittedly, had no idea what Washington looked like).

Getting off the last bus, it occurred to Peanut his fears may have been slightly misplaced.

It was zootopia in the streets- whether societal structure accommodated them or not, animals of every kind were using the roads and sidewalks to their leisure, venturing far outside their comfort zone now that they were allowed. Even if not allowed warmly, that didn't stop fauna from reclaiming the urban jungle- bears sauntered into coffee shops, raccoons dragged full trashbags in the streets behind them, and most exotically, a giraffe who had just recently decided to up and leave the zoo they had spent their whole lives in delicately ducked beneath a traffic light as she made her way downtown.

"This isn't a normal sighting outside Babylon, right?" Peanut felt the need to ask. "It's been a good few years since I've been anywhere else."

"No... No, this is odd." Tarot agreed, sidestepping a mischief of mice running between her legs and filing down the street drain as the two dogs stepped onto the sidewalk. "Let's see if we can buy a newspaper."

"We don't have money- and we can't buy things without a human."

"You don't have money." Tarot fished around under her collar. "How do you think I paid for the bus pass?"

"I assumed we were stowaways, actually."

"And if we can successfully buy a newspaper without a human, that'll answer one of my questions." Tarot pulled out a crumpled wad of single dollars.

"Well, stop raising more! Who's paying you?" Peanut asked, flabbergasted.

"Funny thing, actually." Tarot acknowledged. "But the other day I got a letter full of cash handed to me by a human- Signed off by the ECP."

_________________________________

Several days earlier, Lana sat down at her desk with a heavy sigh.

The morning was still very young, and she couldn't deny she wasn't happy about coming in to work this early, but she understood her boss' insistence. Their guest seemed to be on a tight schedule- and with how deeply entwined the organization's history was with this particular guest, she was not one to be crossed.

(Although Lana admittedly wasn't sure if Psychics even could be late for anything.)

The ECP was well aware of The Game. Keene had made a name for himself not only in his egregious spending, but in how fragrantly his practices flew in the face of the supernatural and divine by exploiting its loopholes in a way Middle Age churches would have admired. From internship Lana had known that Heaven was real, all dogs went there, and if she still wanted a hope of making it in she needed to start repenting fast.

So of course she would put time aside to meet with a god's representative.

"Tarot, right?" Lana began, shuffling the papers on her desk.

"Evil Tarot." The blue pomeranian at the other end of her desk courteously nodded.

"Sure. Normally I wouldn't respond to calls like this, but Keene says you're a friend- and more importantly, that the ECP needs to stay out of the crosshairs of demigods for a while, so try and keep us in their good graces, will you?"

"I'll throw in a good word." Evil Tarot noncommittally waved off.

"Nice to know eternal salvation can be bought after all." Lana set down her papers and met her guest's eyes professionally. "Anyway, work. What do you have for us?"

"An opportunity that doesn't come often." Evil Tarot pleasantly steepled her hands. "Surely you're familiar with Openerdom."

"The ECP is not a religious group, lets shut that down right now." Lana patted down the air. "But yes, we know about them- technically, we stole a few of their holy artifacts."

Evil Tarot cleared her throat. "You'll be pleased to know I hereby consider your sins waived."

Lana furrowed her brow. "...Since when do you have the right to do that?"

"Since I came into control of Openerdom, actually." Tarot smiled. "The animals in these woods are... susceptible to coaxing. I'd like to explain how you can make the failure to separate God and State work for you."

Lana pursed her lips, slowly leaning forward. "I'm listening, even though I probably shouldn't be."

"The ECP's primary method has always been convincing by demonstration, showing how animalkind can successfully integrate into human society, but it happens at a rate too slow to be successful. If months pass between small victories, its not a trend, its the gossip mills latest ten second craze." Evil Tarot began demonstrably.

"Its gained us attention and notoriety, hasn't it?" Lana defended.

"Its gained you ridicule, no thanks to your owner's spending habits. All people see is an organization run by animals with big ambitions and no real way of meeting them." Evil Tarot argued.

Lana considered grumping more, but wised up. "What, you think you can speed up our process?"

"Here's how I see it- You've got flexibility, I've got reach." Evil Tarot extended a paw. "You have enough money and resources to make a senator listen to you, I have an army of people who need representing. We can make this work."

Lana tilted her head. It was times like this she wished her smooth operating was backed up physically- a little taller, a little less squeak to her voice. "The entire forest?"

"More." Evil Tarot nodded.

"Do you realize how much that would bankrupt us? We're on thin ice as it is."

"They don't need protection, or manpower." Evil Tarot shook her head, lifting a paw. "Or a giant mansion to live in like everyone else you take under your wing. They need citizenship, and they can work out what direction to take their civilized lives in themselves. A little lobbying and their future looks a lot brighter."

Lana chewed her lip, staying seated with her paws flat on her desk. To her left, deliberately facing away from any potential guest and towards the head of the table, a gift of Keene's stared her between the eyes- His own headshot, winking at the camera with a confident thumbs up.

DENY EVERYTHING read the emblazoned caption.

"Its a rather unprecedented situation, granting entire species citizenships." Lana pointed out flatly.

Evil Tarot smiled. "We both think its worth it, don't we? This is everything the ECP stands for. This can show them you're not just a bureaucratic Rat King of ferrets."

Lana flexed her fists in a steely manner. "Alright. I've heard the kinds of things you can do. If you say this is worth putting energy towards, we can dip a toe in the water. Talk to me."

_________________________________

Tarot took her seat on the curbside corner at an intersection across from the newspaper stand they had just left. She was joined shortly after by Peanut as soon as the morning commute finished crossing the street and it was safe again to sit where they walked. The newspaper was nearly the size of her sitting down, making unfolding it a hassle even with completely outstretched arms. Still, she managed, skimming the headlines as she awkwardly held the pages open.

"Zach gave me the rundown. I figured out some for myself. And it looks like the rest won't be hard to figure out at all," Tarot pointed out, nudging her chin in Peanut's direction. "...It's all the papers are reporting on."

The Scoop on Evil Tarot's Plans for the Economy

Animal Rights Legislations: How They Affect You (A Human, Presumably)

The Problem With Pomeranian Presidency

Is Your President Involved In A Secret Heck Cartel? (A Pun That Would Translate Better If This Comic Was PG-13)


"It's been a while since I've read the news. When I had Dragon I used to just hear about current events a few days after they happened, then use clairvoyancy in the past to learn them before they happened." Tarot discarded the papers that were rapidly coming apart in her paws, giving up and dropping them to soak in a puddle below her. "But a picture's coming together. It's no wonder... well, everything. Animals are citizens now."

"That's a good thing, isn't it? If they weren't we'd have been thrown off the first bus we took." Peanut pointed out, nervously scooching away from the discarded newspaper on instinct.

"Remember that time mice tried to overthrow the government in your kitchen?"

"Sure I do."

"Remember how it never went anywhere because 15 mice are hardly intimidating, your kitchen has no government, and Grape ate their leader?"

"Yep."

Tarot set her head in her paws, staring off into the distance. "The rodent population of the United States is around 400 million according to Spo. Humans have a government ripe for the taking. And dogs are notoriously hard to eat."

"...Oh."

"Yeah, exactly. There's one upside to this- It shouldn't be hard to find my dear departed mind. If she's campaigning right now, in fact, we'll only have to commit a little trespassing."

"And then?" Peanut raised an ear, perking up and leaning in.

"And then kill her."

"Alright, so we're back to this." He sighed.

_________________________________

Behind the scenes at the presidential debate, Dragon was stooping low and blithely wishing her human form was just a little smaller.

Her candidate was scheduled to go on any minute now. Various mammalian assistants were rushing back and forth, and the televisions were tuning into what would eventually be the show's recording. In the middle of it, Evil Tarot fiddled with a clip on tie, hovered over by what looked to everyone else like an unusually tall adult woman.

"No suit? You want to go onstage naked?" Dragon pestered, hissing beneath her breath futilely, given a normal talking voice couldn't be heard over the din.

"I'm not naked, Dragon, I have my collar." Evil Tarot rebelliously tilted her shoulder away, patting the tie down into her chest. "Its nothing they don't see anyway."

Dragon hummed in disapproval, but made no further queries. "The moderator is going to ask her questions- I watched a Youtube video on it last night. Everyone and their moms knows your policy on animal rights, you cannot just repeat it ad infinitum, or go on tangents unrelated to what she asks. Stick to the subject and stay cool." She sighed. "I would have skipped this part of the process entirely. Statistically, you're a shoe-in."

"It looks suspicious if we don't." Evil Tarot pointed out calmly. "Like I was elected entirely because we gamed the system. Theoretically, yes, I could go fishing for three weeks and still win. But if I'm going to be president, I'm going to be a respectable one, muffins and cookies it."

Dragon winced, drumming on her knees nervously as she looked around. "It's not the humans that bother me. It's... You know."

"Hey. She's powerless?"

"She's not my avatar anymore, yeah."

Evil Tarot nodded. "Well then, there you go. She's out of our hair."

Not that she believed that for a second. It was impressive Tarot had stayed gone for this long. But if she showed up... Well, then she showed up. Dragon could eat a nice big slice of humble pie, and Evil Tarot would keep on her merry way.

Evil Tarot had much, much bigger fish to fry.

"You're really not nervous in the slightest?" Dragon grilled.

"Nope. So imagine how nervous Tarot is." Evil Tarot turned away snidely. "Nothing's getting in my way tonight."

"Tarot?"

Evil Tarot blinked, and the eight foot tall scaly reptilian behind her no longer was. Dragon simply ceased to be, like some sort of chameleon reflex. A part of Evil Tarot wanted to call this cowardice- another part of her wanted to somehow follow suit.

The voice behind her was one that didn't belong, and already she could hear humans trying to usher it off. She waved her hand impatiently without turning around, signalling her assistants to buzz off, and took a fleeting half second to compose before slowly turning on one heel.

The human who had been holding his arm backed off at Evil Tarot's glare. She found herself overcome with deep embarrassment at her stupid tie, quickly yanking it off her collar with little care for the work she had put into straightening it.

Standing in the door was, precisely, the one thing that could go wrong.

"Peanut, hun..." Evil Tarot rubbed the bridge of her nose between two fingers to keep herself in order. "...You're not supposed to be here, for a number of reasons. You're going to screw-"

"Are you the bad stuff?" Peanut interrupted.

Evil Tarot's face fell when she heard the question, reeling her thoughts back into order and hurrying over to comfort the forlorn looking Peanut.

Mouth agape, she hesitated before answering. "...Yeah. I'm the bad stuff."

Peanut bit the inside of his cheek.

Something inside him seemed to be struggling.

"...Can you... prove to me its worth it?"

"Prove what's worth it?"

"You look like her." Peanut pointed out, taking Tarot's paw and rubbing it. "You sound like her. But you're the bad stuff. Can't you... Punch me? Call me a mean name? Do something to convince me that you need to be defeated?"

Evil Tarot realized her mistake, pulling away quickly and raising a paw threateningly, before slowly letting it fall to her side.

"Me and Tarot split up. She's searching the rooms for you, and she'll find us any minute now." Peaut whined. "Do something."

"Peanut, go home." Evil Tarot strained to say. "If you're telling me the truth, you don't want to be here when she comes."

"What kind of boyfriend would I be if I let my own girlfriend get beaten up?"

"You have your girlfriend."

"No, I don't. I don't have her at all." Peanut pleaded.

"Peanut, listen..."

"You!" A new voice called.

Peanut suddenly looked fearful, glancing down between Evil Tarot and their interlocked paws. Evil Tarot grimaced- Then her face solidified, taking on a calmer, more confident expression. She released Peanut, and stepped slowly away, facing her counterpart with a measured frown.

"Two weeks. You're late." She spat venom, doing her best to sound extra evil.

Across the room, Tarot clenched her fists, standing in the doorway and looking very much like a protagonist. Human assistants murmured among themselves, none quite too sure what to do about this new development.

"Not late enough to stop you and Dragon."

"Why?" Evil Tarot shrugged in disbelief. "You have no further stock in this. You're out of the game. You've got Peanut. You can have an ordinary life. I even gave you headpats. What more can I possibly give you? Go home."

Tarot lifted her fists. Between the two twins, Peanut shuffled into their line of sight as a precaution. "Just because I'm not her designated driver anymore doesn't mean I don't still have beef."

"Then you can mess with her on your own time. Leave me out. I'm a little busy."

"Guys, cut it out." Peanut protested to no avail.

A human manager leaned down to Evil Tarot, unsurely whispering. "Is this..."

"Keep working, Matt. This will only take me a second." She murmured back. Then, out loud, "You seem to have forgotten on the journey over the basic principal of soul splits. It's not very becoming of you to start fights, and further more not possible. I'll bet if I genuinely sucker punched you in the stomach you'd have to thank me."

"Are you willing to take that bet?" Tarot snarled.

"Yeah, I am. You want to knock my block off? Here I am." She spread her arms invitingly, watching her other half sourpussedly. "No, no, this should be rich. Take your best shot. Punch me, knock me out, right here."

There stood Tarot, fists clenched, lips curled up, teeth bared- Her tail stuck straight out, every inch of her shaggy pelt standing on edge. She was practically shaking, but still she remained, not daring to move a muscle. She was completely immobilized.

Peanut gulped, sweating bullets.

Evil Tarot hmphed.

"Yeah, that's what I thought." She dismissed, turning around and inspecting herself in the mirror. "Its not very becoming of 'good halves' to start fights. That's not the attitude that gets you into Heaven. You're not wanted, not needed, and furthermore I don't even have time to entertain whatever notions you came with. Thank you for visiting, take a pin, and don't forget to vote. It's your constitutional right- you're welcome."

Trying to fit her tie back on, she waited patiently, When she heard no footsteps, she tilted her head back expectantly. Tarot still hadn't moved.

Tarot was still tingling all over.

Evil Tarot raised an eyebrow.

"Go ahead, doggy. I said gi-"

Evil Tarot was sent into the wall with a crack that sounded suspiciously like it came from her skull. Someone screamed.

Tarot stood over the downed dog, fist clenched so hard it was turning white through her fur. She looked down at her hands in amazement, eyes widening.

Screw it. Was her last thought as Evil Tarot struggled to right herself.

Tarot caught her around the waist, and both became a rolling ball of fluff as they wrestled on the floor. Instantly the humans gathered around moved in to separate them, until Evil Tarot waved them off frantically.

"Do you think I can't handle myself?" She growled.

A kick to the stomach sent the larger Good Tarot reeling, and Evil Tarot quickly scampered off, clutching her side and mumbling under her breath.

A shockwave silenced the commotion, as air was suddenly forced from the space Evil Tarot took up- When the fluttering papers dissipated, a hulking blue beast had taken her spot, covered in dashing lime green leylines that pulsed with energy. Her back and shoulders rose as she breathed, and fiery green eyes three times the size they had been zeroed in on the Pomeranian.

Tarot was small on a good day. In front of her souped up other half, she was downright dwarfed.

So naturally, she did the only sensible thing and charged at the monster.

Humans scrambled out of the way in the panic as the two dogs clashed, all the while Peanut danced between the two, frantically staying out of their warpaths. "Stop, stop, stop! What are you doing?" He barked in a panic.

A well timed kick to the gut sent Tarot sprawling back towards Peanut, who caught the flying form in his arms and lowered her into a bridal carry. Evil Tarot rushed towards him, and with one paw plucked Tarot out of his arms- Then, delicately and so fast she hoped he'd miss it, nudged him out of the way. Without missing a beat she dragged the gold hound to the wall and latched onto Tarot's skull, slamming it repeatedly against the drywall with a roar.

"Evil Tarot, you're up!" A voice called from onstage. Evil Tarot glanced up, distracted for long enough to get her thumb bitten by tiny teeth. She howled, releasing her prey and giving it a split second needed to roll between her legs and behind her.

Like a fantasy knight fighting a giant, Tarot climbed up her other half's back, clutching handfuls of hair as footholds. Not unexpectedly, Evil Tarot rolled onto her back, dislodging the bruised dog onto the floor.

Evil Tarot took a breath, facing the stage and willing herself back to normal. The green energy dissipated, and she shrank back down to her original size as she calmed down.

And was promptly caught with a hook to the back of her head.

The audience gasped collectively as she was flung onto the stage, sliding across the well cleaned floor to her podium.

Tarot made another charge, this time crossing onto the same slick floor. She lost her footage, but not her momentum, and began to slip and slide her way towards the ready Evil Tarot.

The presidential elect clenched her fist.

In front of everyone, she punched a dog square in the face, knocking her down for the count.

The audience fell silent. Nobody else onstage existed to them- the only podium that mattered was the one a dog had just been punched out in front of.

Evil Tarot staggered to the podium, bracing herself on it for support. Bloodied, purpler than usual, and with the lime light fading from her eyes, she cleared her throat.

"My fellow... My fellow Americans." She coughed, summoning her strength to bang her fist on the wood.

"That is how I will defeat this country's enemies."

The crowd erupted in applause.

_________________________________

The bus ride back from the debate was a despondent one.

The fact that it was filled with similarly disgruntled human passengers lugging around now-useless Anti Evil Tarot signs didn't improve the atmosphere much. Tarot half expected to find out what new slurs for dogs had been brewing up as she spitefully licked the cuts on her arm.

"President." Peanut breathed. "Of, like, the United States."

"She's not gonna be president of Mozambique." Tarot muttered, packed tight with her partner on a seat in the corner. Thank small miracles for that- the rings on the ceiling were too high for them.

"I mean, is that legal?" Peanut searched for a reason she couldn't without stating the obvious. "She's... Well, are you a naturally born citizen?"

"I don't know how she did it either." Tarot admitted. "Which is weird, because logically I should be able to. Darn it, I've been locked out of half my brain- All my ability to conjure Machiavellian plots is in the other Tarot." She held her head in her paws. "I'm quite literally out of ideas."

The bus rocked back and forth. Not a single passenger was coming out of the debate happy. Peanut was wrestling with emotions himself.

There really is no test of character better than seeing your girlfriend beat up, except maybe seeing her beat up by herself. Surely, surely that constituted a villain, he reasoned. A villain so evil, only a knight in shining armour like Tarot could defeat her.

He nudged her shoulder gently.

"Oh, come on." Peanut huffed. "That's just not fair. Look, the games rigged against you to make you want to give up. That's why you brought another head with you, right?" He waited for her to look up and tapped his temple expectantly.

"...Maybe?" She struggled to remember.

"Right, should have expected that. Look, I can't tell you how to fight back a demon invasion or beat up an avatar. And normally you're better at the emotional gunk too- But if there's one thing I can do, its put my foot down and do my duty as a loving boyfriend. Gimme your phone."

Tarot reached under her collar, fishing out a thick cellphone at least a decade old and handing it over. Peanut pulled up the contact list and started scrolling.

"I'm calling in the cavalry. We're not leaving the state until we get an early impeachment. President Tarot must die." His bravery faltered as he said it, turning back to her. "Because that will... fix you, right?"

Tarot lifted her shoulders slowly.

Peanut forced himself to look away. It still didn't feel right to him, this stranger he was traveling with. "The cavalry will know. Besides, she's not even President yet." He reasoned. "We made it here fast, right? We'll have her back before she can step foot in office."

_________________________________

"I, Evil Tarot, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The newly elected President's parties were animal houses. The culture shock was very apparent as humans in thousand-dollar suits and dresses skittishly danced around critters with muddy feet that rushed through the various rooms.

The house may have been legally owned by one of Dragon's human pseudonyms, but it was an unstated fact that everything in it really belonged to the President herself, up to and including Dragon herself- now pushing through the crowds of chintz to try and find where the easy-to-lose dog had gotten off to.

"Excuse me, pardon me, sorry..." The sharply dressed woman held her fists up in a defensive manner as she shouldered her way to the snack table, shying away from flying flecks of chocolate where birds perched contently in the fountain. Blushing an unnatural green, she raised her chin above the crowd to scan for any sign of the unmistakable coat color.

"Darn it, darn it, darn it..." Uttering words in the language of devils, she pushed back into the crowd, this time making for the glass doors at the back of the room.

Pushing through them and out of the din inside, Dragon sighed happily, getting down into a sitting position on the white wood steps facing the expansive driveway.

And nearly jumped a foot when she noticed who was already sitting next to her when she came.

"Tarot!" She clutched her chest. "President Tarot, I should say. I was looking for you."

"You found me." President Tarot, still dressed in her suit from the inauguration, sat with her chin pressed into her thumb contemplatively.

Calming her beating heart, Dragon exhaled in exhilaration. "This month has been crazy. Feels nice to take a break outside, huh? I mean, you did it! You won in a landslide!" She spread her arms in a vague arc. "My plan was to head to Egypt and start over, but... Wow, on the spot you had this all planned out- And then, and then to put it into action? Your bit with the birds, using their migration to spread your campaign..." She pantomimed an explosion next to her head. "You're something else, Miss President."

"What's the word inside?" President Tarot ignored the rest of her rambling.

"Cut to the chase, right. People don't think you're the most professional yet, I'll be honest- B-But you can turn that around. Once they see your actual policies? Like, ah..."

Dragon paused.

"Uh, Openerdom! The new national religion, right? I took it upon myself to make some changes to the scripture- You know, Ctrl+F all instances of 'Gryphon', replaced them with 'Dragon'. The normal stuff." Then, tittering, "...You... Do have other policies in mind, right? I hear a lot of people care about this 'employment' thing."

"I got other plans in mind. Don't get too worried."

Dragon threw her head back, laughing in an all-too-fake cadence. "Of course you do! You're Tarot. My Tarot."

Dragon scooched closer, throwing an arm around Tarot and making her bristle. "I chose you for a reason, you know? I... I know what you think of me. But I looked at you as a pup, barely a week old, and I knew. Part of me knew, 'This girl is going places'." She slapped President Tarot's back heartily. "You've made a girl proud, Tarot."

Cicadas buzzed outside. Birds chirped inside. After a moment of taking it, President Tarot briskly lifted her paw, gently nudging Dragon's arm off her shoulder.

"Dragon, do you know why I had that plan ready and raring to go as soon as you made me?" She looked Dragon in the eye.

The demigod in human form blinked. "I mean... You're smart. I figured it just kinda... came to you."

"It didn't come to me." President Tarot shook her head. "It's been stewing in Tarot's head for a long time actually. Everytime she's alone, with nothing to do- and her phone's dead, usually- she liked to put herself in your shoes. 'If I had infinite power, and I needed to win this game, how would I do it?' Most of them were stupid. I'd hold the planet hostage, threaten to crash the moon into it- Something dumb. But over the years, as I played this game with myself, entertaining the dumb fantasy... Well, once I moved into Babylon it all clicked for me. For Tarot, I mean. She was sitting under a tree, like Isaac Newton or something, and it all clicked together in her head."

President Tarot's lip turned up. "So she slapped herself on the back and moved on with her life. And now, almost a year later, here I am, and look what I'm doing. That exact same plan, coming to fruition."

President Tarot stood up, dusting her suit off, and professionally fluffing herself up. "Dragon, I'm resigning."

Dragon blinked. "From... Presidency?"

"From you."

The words took a second to reach her. When they did, she scrambled to her knees, almost at eye level with the smaller dog. "Wait, wait- What? We had a thing going for a second there, where is this coming from?"

President Tarot's jaw cracked open, eyes narrowing. "I... Really?"

"Yes!"

"Really?"

"Yes!"


"What did you think would happen when you tried this? When you made me, I mean?" President Tarot pressed. "I'd forgive you, because... Evil?"

Dragon opened and closed her palms nervously. "...Maybe?"

"Dragon..." President Tarot chewed her lip. "...Tarot hates you. There's my evil deed for the day. Blunt honesty. She didn't use to, once. She didn't really like you- You just admitted to wrenching her around like a ragdoll since birth- But she could tolerate you enough to have Breakfast with you. Now? If I'm mildly annoyed at you right now, I cannot imagine the force Tarot is coming at you with. You made the right call, running off like a coward at the debate. Because if you hadn't, and Tarot had seen you..." President Tarot shook her head. "I can't imagine what she'd do to you. What she'll do to you. And I used to be her."

President Tarot fiddled with her collar, reaching around the back and unhooking it. The bright red clashed with her fur anyway.

"I don't really blame her. So I'm leaving you. This is probably the healthiest thing I could do, and Lord knows conglomerates of sin incarnate are the healthiest things alive. Or whatever I am."

She placed her collar in Dragon's outstretched palm, and closed her smaller fingers. Dragon jerked her head between her palm and President Tarot. "Wait-"

"The house is yours. Thanks for letting me stay."

In the distance, a jet black car pulled out of the night, hood adorned with tiny American flags. As it pulled to a stop in her driveway, President Tarot hopped down the front porch steps, stopping at the bottom one.

"Oh yeah, guess you deserve to know- Your soul splitting failed, as should be evident by Tarot socking me in the jaw. You couldn't even get that right, I guess."

Dragon watched her leave, eye pricking with tears. A single solitary raindrop hit the porch, darkening the wood where it landed.

Dragon shook.

"Tarot! Tarot! Tarot!" Scrambling to her feet, she waved her arms violently around her, pointing and hopping like a loon. "Get back here! Hey, we're not done! You can't just not fight for me! I'll take your powers away! I'll do it, don't think I won't! TAROT!"

The black door opened for the newly elected, and she spared a glance back at Dragon.

"Here, Tarot. Now."

The pomeranian rolled her eyes. "I'm not Tarot."

And climbed inside, shutting the door behind her.

The clouds erupted, and a heavy storm began as soon as she was inside. The car crept out of her driveway and slid away into the night again.

_________________________________

Despite being in a potentially world threatening situation, Sabrina had to admit it felt good to finally get to hail a taxicab. A domesticated cat taking a cab was probably the most accepted animal endeavor happening in the city right now. Sabrina briefly entertained the risque idea of taking her collar off, but decided against it if only for the sake of keeping the driver at ease.

Reclined in the backseat, she cradled in her arms a flat wooden board held protectively to her breast even in her relaxed position. As she glanced out the window, her fingers danced anxiously on its face.

"The hotel up here?" The cabby clarified. "What brings you to Washington, kitty?"

Sabrina ignored the probably derogatory comment. "I'm going to assassinate the president." She answered calmly.

"Ha!" The cabby chuckled. "Not a fan of Tarot?"

"Big fan of Tarot. Don't care too much for the President."

"Can't imagine the arguments you stir up at family dinners. The animals all love her- You've got more rights than ever now. What could she be doing wrong in the eyes of a cat like you?" The cabby glanced in his rearview.

"Well, she's struck demonic ties to get in charge that will eventually lead to the end of the world as we know it."

"Yeah, they've said that about all of em. Here's your stop, Missy."

As soon as she was out the door and had her paws on the ground, she was pulled into a glomp by a dog who had evidently been waiting for her. Her assailant panted happily as Sabrina gingerly patted his back, holding the board safely away from their hug.

"Hello, Peanut."

"Sabrina! We hardly talk outside the troupe!"

"I'm sure we'll be doing a lot of that here." Sabrina pulled away with a smile, turning to the other dog present on the pavement and nodding with respect. "I came as soon as I could when I heard."

"Good." Tarot scratched the back of her head. "Because between the two of us... Let's consider this a final test on all your training. Did you bring the goods?"

Sabrina smirked, lifting the board over her head and knocking on it with a closed fist. "Let's get out of the foot traffic, shall we?"

_________________________________

In their hotel room, the three sat in a tight circle on their bedsheets, all facing around the object that Sabrina had slammed between them- an ancient wooden board covered in black calligraphied letters, paint chipping and bearing more than a few food splatters, but still unmistakable in form and function.

"Ouijia boards- The psychic's prime tool of the trade. Its getting harder to find a good one of these now that Hasbro bought them out- Idiots there don't know anything about ghosts." Sabrina snorted derisively. "But you get one of these, a Major Arcana, a febreeze can full of Holy Water, and you can pretty much take on the world. Hell, a water gun works wonders when blessed properly."

Tarot nodded sagely from experience. "You made the right call, Sabrina."

"How many points do I get?"

Tarot blinked. "What?"

"For the test." Sabrina elaborated. "How many points do I get?"

"Uh... 50. No, 100."

Sabrina clucked her tongue judgementally. "I see where the other Tarot's inflation policies come from."

"Thanks for reminding me. I'm changing the subject." Tarot grumbled. "Look, I've told you how soul splitting is supposed to work. Your sins get a blue color scheme- for some reason- and spend the eternity slaving away in Heck, and your virtues get a halo and get showered in eternal bliss in Heaven. That's been the process for billions of years- And it is a process, regulated and watched heavily. OSHA wishes it had the omnipotence Heaven has."

"But you told me Dragon doesn't work for Heaven." Peanut postulated. "She's just... a lizard."

"Exactly. Which means when she tried her hand at the process... well, the first time isn't always the charm. And neither of us realized until I picked a fight with Evil Tarot- kicking puppies isn't exactly a virtue. Which means Opener knows what parts of me are in who."

"I... have my ideas." Peanut admitted sheepishly.

"Please, elaborate on what you were saying on the bus. I'm a bit biased here." Tarot encouraged.

Both pair of eyes were on him. Peanut gulped, gritting his teeth. "I mean... Not to put too fine a point on it, but you've been a little brash. Leaping before you look, you know? I mean, in a day you decided it was your job to therapize everyone in the town, in another you decided we were driving up to Washington that afternoon, and when you saw Evil Tarot you instantly jumped to trying to kill her."

"This is an emergency." Tarot argued back. "I'm being polite by not burning down the White House right now."

Sabrina and Peanut exchanged a look.

"But I'll concede I'm not in the best state of mind right now- Like I said, she's inherited my long term planmaking. Even I have to admit its impressive she got here so fast. Almost unrealistic." Tarot glanced askance.

"Well, since this is clearly turning into a serious situation, the best choice is to call up Heaven's hotline right now, report the appropriate demonic activity, and get this shut down like a college frat party." Sabrina got down, mopping the planchette in circles like a rotary phone as she spoke.

The board rung for a minute, and the three patiently waited. Suddenly, Sabrina's arms leapt into action.

"Here, here it is..." She nodded the other two to join her, and they watched as the planchette began slowly gliding between letters. "Someone get a notepad."

H...E...A...V...E...N...I...S...N...O...T...A...V...A...I...L...A...B...L...E...R...I...G...H...T...N...O...W...P...

"Okay, you can stop. I get the gist." Sabrina piped up thirty minutes later. "This is why I write like a Usenet forum in these things."

"Heaven can screen your calls?" Peanut asked skeptically.

"Not really. Only calls from Clairvoymarketers. If we're getting a dial tone, that means one of two things- either this is spite because I turn into a real jerk when I die, which seems statistically impossible-"

"You would never." Peanut hugged her with a happy smile.

"Or something down here is screening our calls." Tarot sighed. "Given who President Tarot answers to, that makes sense."

"Is there a way to get through it?" Peanut asked.

"Depends on the type of spell." Sabrina's eyes flickered to Tarot before clearing her throat and continuing. "Could be a spell on President Tarot, a spell on the city, a spell on us... and I don't fancy experimentation right now. We can't bring in the big guns, and we won't bring in Heck. What we need is someone uninvolved in bureaucracy on either side- Somebody we can trust, with a better modus operandi than 'blow up the city and call it a day', neutral good aligned at least, but powerful enough and versed in soul biology enough to help us out."

The two psychics put their hands on their chins.

And held that pose for longer than they needed to. Both of them had come to the same conclusion midway through talking- they just wanted to put it off as long as possible.

"...Santa Claus?" Peanut tried.

Sabrina sighed, setting her hands firmly on the planchette. "Yours is the final word, Boss."

Tarot nodded glumly. "Just do it."

Barely one letter had been typed (F) before the gathered party heard a knock at the door.

_________________________________

And just like that Sabrina's endeavors were once again in the acceptable range of strange.

Their visitor had an unnaturally golden fur color, almost shining in the noon sun and giving him a likely deliberate ethereal appearance. When he flicked his tail, eight others behind it followed suit, fanning out like a peacock's to fill the doorway. His eyes were a brilliant red, medically inadvisable to stare into for too long, and when he spoke, it was with an unmistakably, indescribably red voice.

"Hey, Peanut! I was gonna give you a fun shortened nickname, but its hard to keep it family friendly."

Peanut blinked. "Have we met?"

"Not for another four years or so, actually." Kitsune scratched his chin. "But I'm afraid we'll have to exchange pleasantries then. You'll want to let me in quickly- If my omniscience is correct, Tarot should be on the warpath right about now."

"Kitsune!"

"There it is." Kitsune sighed, patting Peanut on the head and politely letting himself in.

Tarot barged up to her summon as the door shut, stubbornly ignoring the fact that all the clenched fists in the world couldn't make her grow a foot. "Your 'player' screwed up majorly. I don't know much about Universes and Unrealities, but in the real world I'd say you're every bit as responsible for not stopping her."

"Hello to you too, Tarot." Kitsune replied boredly.

"I didn't bring you here for small talk." Tarot jabbed into his chest. "We're in a major crisis, if you haven't noticed. I'm not even all of myself right now!"

"And what an improvement its had on your disposition, clearly. Watch the fingers, by the way, you know what happens to people who touch these tails." Kitsune advised, strolling nonchalantly over to the bed and picking up the board to examine it. "I thought you'd bring up something like that, pin blame on me. Might I remind that I've stepped in to stop my Celestial buddies from outright destroying the universe more times than I can count? I care about the mortals who live here, oh so very much. What I 'allow' to happen, was always going to happen, because of my favorite little trick..."

"Watch this, he's going to wave around his book." Sabrina murmured to Peanut.

Kitsune flipped around, the Oujia board magic(k)ally transformed into a solid black little book he held between three fingers. "If the standard issue Book of Fate says it goes, it goes- and as the DM for this game, I must remain impartial."

"You just told us you could intervene in times of disaster. A demon is in charge of an entire country right now." Tarot growled.

"Hey, I'm not coming to deliver you the bad news. You've got enough of that as it is- And after such a good two weeks, too." Kitsune observed to Tarot's lack of amusement. "Let's talk long term solutions." He spirited away the book.

"That was my Ouija board..." Sabrina lamented.

"What you've got is a category 5 Bad Guy." Manifesting a napkin, Kitsune bellyflopped onto the bed and started scribbling in the corner with a red pen. "A heck-associated demon who happens to be our demon- the cute little pup we previously knew as Tarot. Names are a point of contention, I hear." He pointed the pen towards Peanut, looking up past his forehead. "Once we re-fuse her- re-fuse, not refuse- She comes back to our side and the veil placed around her to hide from Heaven comes down. All you need to worry your pretty little heads about is getting to her- I can't help you there. What I can help you with is slapping you back together."

"Dragon didn't work for Heaven either." Tarot folded her arms. "How do I know you'll be any better at carrying our their processes?"

"Oh, fixing you up? Infinitely easy then taking you apart. I mean, all the stuff is there- I just need a little bit of glue, some elbow grease, and to not drop anything in the process. Think of it like sewing up a seam in a doll." Kitsune kicked his legs in the air behind him, flicking his tails casually.

"Mm-hmm." Tarot hummed, not entirely convinced. Sabrina gently kicked her ankle.

"Of course, she won't go easily- I know firsthand how much of a hassle you can be, Tar. If she's magically protected, we need a breach, some weakness we can exploit to pull her out of her shell."

"I need to beat her. For real this time." Tarot decided. "Can you power me up like Dragon did?"

"It's not exactly regulation- but it could be managed. Promise not to tell and I can soup you up with just a little bit of the good stuff." Kitsune agreed.

"Between me and Kitsune, you might have the power you need to beat her. We just need another good chance to fight her." Sabrina pointed out, raising her paw and folding a tiny flame between her finger. "I learned from the best, after all."

"And... what about me?"

The room turned back to Peanut, standing in the corner and waving with one paw behind his back. Tarot sucked air through her teeth, scratching her head and looking to Kitsune expectantly.

Kitsune shrugged. "Well? Answer him."

"Your job..." Tarot thought. "...Is to stay here. I want you safe- And to throw us a heck of a party when we get back. Uh, no pun intended."

Peanut looked to Kitsune, but his face was still flat.

"Then we all know our roles?" Kitsune directed the question to everyone, but remained focused on Peanut. Finally, the dog nodded.

"Very good! Then I'm fully convinced that with all of us working together, we can all nip this problem in the bud. As a team."

Kitsune laid it on extra thick for Peanut's sake- he tended to be slow.

Then he changed the topic, as if nothing had happened.

_________________________________
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

CHAPTER 2 CONT

(Best laid plans of mice and dogs are laid to waste by character limits.)

From her chair on high, Evil Tarot could see the world.

She rattled about ice in her glass, slouching back in the Oval Office's big chair behind her fancy new desk. Her renovation had kept only the essential, and the George Washington portrait- everything else had been redone to her specifications, including her favorite Hieronymus Bosch.

There was also the noticeable difference of a pillar of heckfire in the center of the room billowing into a great window between the planes, through which a beast shifted between an infinite combination of random faces in excruciating pain.

"Could this have been an E-Mail?" Evil Tarot murmured.

"It could have been." A cacophany of voices responded. "But you are speaking to one of the chief executives of Heck. And Heck enjoys making things needlessly painful."

"Not good enough to talk to the President, am I?"

"Heck is not a democracy. If someone was president, they run the risk of deriving joy from it- which falls very, very far outside our modus operandi."

"Noted. May I know your name?"

The melting pot bubbled thousands of eyes to its surface, all of which focused on her as they dissolved endlessly. "I am the Well of Souls, the punishment for the punished. Those who fail to work become a part of me. Their wails are my voice, and their bodies are my machinery. My name is Legion, for we are many."

"Hello, Legion." Evil Tarot politely nodded, unperturbed. "I assume you're here to deliver my approval rating."

"You have done well, Tarot. You have heeded our whispers, and shall soon enough let the damned run among the Earth."

"That's the plan. Its kind of hard to hear anything but your voice in my ear. 24/7. You yammering in one, Dragon yammering in the other, its a wonder I did anything in those weeks, let alone become president of the United States."

"You have the space and power. With it, we may enact our final plan. A great pentagram will be built in the subways and tunnels that are the lifeblood of these states. The greatest portal mankind has ever seen will open up. It will be Alpha and Omega's kingdom come."

"Build a portal, got it. I figured it would be something like that. But it won't be that easy."

"Explain."

"Well, this deal is a quid pro quo. I assume you speak Latin already, but in case you don't, it means I want something from this too." Tarot argued.

"You are made of the same material that makes up the souls I contain. You belong to me." The voices snarled as one.

"Yeah, and the US of A belongs to me." Evil Tarot pointed towards herself, curling a lip. "I outrank you. You can eat me or absorb me or whatever bad thing you do when I die, but you'll be waiting an awful long time- and you won't have this opportunity twice."

"A corrupt president? You're right, I'll be waiting an eternity to find one of those."

Evil Tarot paused, narrowing her eyes. "...Was that a joke? Did the Punishment for the Punished make a joke?"

"It happens. On occasion."

"Whatever. Still, I've got your plan by the throat. You cave or you find another president."

"And what do you demand?" The flames of the Heckmouth flickered.

"When Heck's forces run the Earth, I keep order. You can do whatever you want to the people, but I want the economy running in my endless eternity of pain and suffering. If I play my cards right, nobody will notice."

"You'll be a figurehead. Why do you care?"

"That's all I need- Influence. When my work here is done, I'll still have duties on this Earth to tend to."

"The Cosmic Game." Legion spat. "You have been chewed up and spat out by forces you now run- why do you bend to the requests of ants, Tarot?"

"That's not my name." Evil Tarot stood up from her chair, seeming to grow a foot from her glare alone. "And a deal is a deal. I promised Dragon I'd help her win her board game- Like her pyrrhic victory is gonna mean anything by next year. I'm altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it further."

Evil Tarot stared into the heart of Legion and didn't blink.

"You're not Tarot's vice. You're something far, far more fickle. A human would almost be preferable."

"You handed me the oar, and I'm rowing." Evil Tarot crossed her arms. "Do we have a deal, or do I tune you out for the rest of my term?"

"You'll keep your meaningless human position." The well conceded. "Thin ice, 'Evil' Tarot. Thin. Ice."

The flames dissipated in an unearthly crack. Evil Tarot sighed, swiveling her chair to look out the windows into the late night, inhaling and exhaling slowly. Starting tomorrow, work would be painful, grueling, and exhausting. Tonight was her night.

Evil Tarot felt her eyelids falling. Tonight...

Was her...

There was a knock at the door.

Evil Tarot signaled for the door to be opened. Nothing happened. Frowning and swiveling around, she remembered she was alone.

The intimidating white door swung open, and a happy looking shaggy dog came in, surveying his surroundings, impressed.

"This is your office? It's not bad. You should get a trampoline in here, like in Big. What are they going to do, tell you no?"

Evil Tarot rubbed her head. Something felt off, but she mustered a smile for an old friend. "Hello, Peanut. I don't suppose you have a political crisis you need me to handle."

"Not last time I checked." He shrugged.

"That's good. I can put the national debt on the backburner. For you." She insisted. "How can I help you?"

"I wanted to congratulate you." Peanut smiled brightly. "A part of me always knew- it always whispered to me, 'Peanut Butter Sandwich, your girlfriend could be President of the United States one day'. And I always told it to shut up, but who's laughing now?" He waved his arms out wide. "What the heck, right?"

Tarot sighed. Finally, it clicked why her wavy, unreal surroundings bothered her. Like the room they were in was the only thing that existed, and the night sky outside was some inky void.

"This is a dream, isn't it? I fell asleep in my chair. Nobody just goes to see the president. Nobody's protecting me. No Secret Service- I can't believe it took me this long to realize. Who put you up to this? Pete?"

Peanut shook his head diligently. "Nobody put me up to it! We're planning to defeat you, as you probably guessed, but it doesn't involve me. No magic(k) powers in these guns o mine." He flexed his nonexistent biceps.

"So then...?"

Peanut's shoulders fell. "I just wanted to say hi. And that I missed you."

"You... missed me." Tarot repeated, tasting the words. "You have Tarot. You've got a better Tarot than the United States deserves."

"Oh, she's great, don't get me wrong!" Peanut assured. "But she's not you. Neither of you are, I 'spose. You get what I mean? I tried to explain it at the debate, but then you started punching each other."

"We've got all night." Evil Tarot rolled her chair closer, setting her elbows on the table and listening intently. No matter who's side she was on, she would always have time for Peanut. And if this was their plot to destroy her, she reasoned, he was hardly the type for an assassin.

Peanut gesticulated vaguely. "You know. Until two weeks ago, I had Tarot. She was smart, and kind... and bullheaded and Machiavellian. She was so many things. And I loved her. And now... I don't really understand what's happening. I was never really in the loop, but I had Tarot to help. I don't know what to do when she's the problem- A Tarot who hates herself, and fights with herself, and who I'm expected to help defeat? You've both got everything I love about you, taken apart and... fighting." Peanut looked at the floor. "So now it feels like I have none of you."

Evil Tarot leaned back, finding a part of her uncomfortable at Peanut's dourness. "Peanut, you don't want any of Evil Tarot. I mean... it's annoying, right? Being part of something bigger than you can understand? I don't know why you'd want me... this part of me when that's all I brought you."

"Of course it annoyed me. But I stuck with it, didn't I?" Peanut quietly asked. "You're why. All of you."

Evil Tarot found herself at a loss for words. Instead she rattled her glass back and forth, listening dismally to the ice clinking.

"Anyway, that's how I wish things were. And I wish and I wish and I wish. But I know that's not gonna happen. The two of you are gonna fight for the fate of the Earth, and nobody seems really sure what's gonna happen when you do. Maybe it'll be like a time travel thing where you explode when you make contact. Probably not." Peanut looked back up to Evil Tarot, leaning over the desk. He slowly stretched his hand out, watching for her reaction, and gently scratched behind her ear.

"Anyway, I wanted to say hi. And that I knew you could do it. And that I love you. And... maybe goodbye." Peanut murmured.

He held that pose for an awfully long time.

It was hard to tell in a dream.

Behind the Oval Office chair, fireworks boomed over the White House lawn, forming brilliant flaming letters. As soon as Peanut noticed them, it was over for him.

WAKE UP

_________________________________

Peanut woke up with a jolt. Kitsune was crouched over him in the dark, red eyes still shining brightly as he held his hands at Peanut's temples.

"I guess that's it." Peanut sat up, sighing and wiping sleep out of his eyes.

"Not exactly." Kitsune smiled. "I'm glad you came to me. You may have just what we need to beat this."
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Leotamer »

Calling Santa Claus was probably the better option.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

This chapter was very impeccable in my opinion! Nice work on it!
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by CunningFox »

Excellent work. The stuff between Peanut and Evil Tarot was particularly great. I actually wish we got something like that between Keene and Negabreel in the actual comic.

The only problem is if this takes place before the end of The Game, then Lana shouldn't be in charge of the ECP yet.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

CunningFox wrote: Sun Nov 06, 2022 6:15 pm Excellent work. The stuff between Peanut and Evil Tarot was particularly great. I actually wish we got something like that between Keene and Negabreel in the actual comic.

The only problem is if this takes place before the end of The Game, then Lana shouldn't be in charge of the ECP yet.
I realized that myself while writing this- To tell the story I wanted to tell, I needed to get my timelines in order while I was writing. The first draft had her as the head of the ECP, but in this most recent one, I realized the mistake and did my best to add a few lines clarifying she was just managing the meeting.

The morning was still very young, and she couldn't deny she wasn't happy about coming in to work this early, but she understood her boss' insistence

I'm a little dumb, but at least I caught THAT one.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Hey if you caught all of your mistakes when writing it wouldn't make you human. We just want to see that others can be just as infallible as us.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by CunningFox »

OtherStr8aura wrote: Sun Nov 06, 2022 9:15 pm
CunningFox wrote: Sun Nov 06, 2022 6:15 pm Excellent work. The stuff between Peanut and Evil Tarot was particularly great. I actually wish we got something like that between Keene and Negabreel in the actual comic.

The only problem is if this takes place before the end of The Game, then Lana shouldn't be in charge of the ECP yet.
I realized that myself while writing this- To tell the story I wanted to tell, I needed to get my timelines in order while I was writing. The first draft had her as the head of the ECP, but in this most recent one, I realized the mistake and did my best to add a few lines clarifying she was just managing the meeting.

The morning was still very young, and she couldn't deny she wasn't happy about coming in to work this early, but she understood her boss' insistence

I'm a little dumb, but at least I caught THAT one.
Ah, right. I didn't notice that detail. As I said, this is a great fic.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

This isn't an update, but I feel the need to clarify now that I've noticed this-

In my normal MLP-centric fics, I swear. A lot. Its just something I do. For this one, to better fit the tone of the comic, I decided to set a personal challenge to myself to never swear once- with the single exception of the word that begins with D and ends with N. Barely even a swear, I told myself- for Heaven's sake, Shadow the Hedgehog used it. Disney is using it nowadays.

I was not aware, however, that this board censors swears- and in fact has a very creative way of doing it.

I apologize for all the random instances of 'muffins and cookies'. I will not be replacing them. It is far, far funnier than anything I could hope to come up with naturally.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by SeanWolf »

This is a pretty good story! Looking forward to seeing where you take this!
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by MischaTheWolf »

OtherStr8aura wrote: Mon Nov 07, 2022 6:48 pm This isn't an update, but I feel the need to clarify now that I've noticed this-

I apologize for all the random instances of 'muffins and cookies'. I will not be replacing them. It is far, far funnier than anything I could hope to come up with naturally.
Hey I swear almost all the time except when I’m around children, and it’s kinda something I’m trying to work on. That includes social media as well. I burst out laughing when my first “I am a loaf of bread with no raisins” happened on this forum. By the way, awesome story! I’m still towards the end of the first chapter, but it’s looking absolutely awesome!
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Yeah most swears on the forum are gonna be changed over to something funny since the comic is supposed to be PG-13. Therefore I don't think anything too hardcore will be accepted.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

TAROTNOMICS

CHAPTER THREE: THE DOGS MUST BE CRAZY

Sorry for the twenty day wait. I hope this is sufficient enough to make up for it. Yadda yadda first draft.

_________________________________

It was still mostly nighttime when Tarot woke up, that weird time where the night sky seems to realize its not wanted and quickly clambers out of the sky with the sun on its heel. Its not a slow, graceful process like day to night- Its dead black, and after only a minute inside already the sky is a dismal pale white.

With Sabrina on one side and Peanut on the other, she found it a hassle to crawl out of bed without waking either. Finally she found herself snaking the door shut behind her an inch at a time, wincing even at the soft click of its shutting.

She hadn't chosen the hotel for its luxuriousness, but even a shack in the woods was guaranteed to have a bible and a vending machine. One seemed much more appetizing than the other this early in the morning. Sure enough, after only a few corners she found herself facing down the holiest glow her sleep-addled mind could imagine.

While selecting B-6 for the peanut butter crackers, the hairs on the back of her neck suddenly stood up, and she said out loud, to nobody-

"I know you're there, Kitsune. Its too early for this."

Then waited, still braced against the machine and listening to the slow whir of the mechanical process until even that fell silent. After another five minutes, she gave up, taking her crackers and scampering off.

She unwrapped it on the balcony as soon as she was back in her room, leaning against the railing in the crisp morning air and crunching her food wordlessly.

"Sorry, I was getting Oreos."

The resulting seize nearly lurched her over the edge, gripping the railings tightly for support as her heart fluttered in a very-unromantic way.

"Opener, Kitsune!" She barked.

"Dragon. Third base." He replied without missing a beat.

Tarot shook her head in disbelief, looking over the edge where her crackers had splatted unceremoniously in a puddle below. A golden paw offered her the remains of a crumbled chocolate oreo, which she respectfully refused.

"Big day for you today." He crossed his arms next to her.

"Yeah, yeah, small day for you." She grumbled. "You know everything, this is no big deal to you, get it all out."

"My lips are sealed. I won't even make annoying medium-awareness jokes." He promised, mock zipping his mouth shut.

"Good."

True to his word, he only flicked his tails idly as the two watched the ugly white sky.

"You know what mortal I respect the most?" He spoke up again suddenly.

Tarot rested her head on her arms. "You just said..."

"I know, I know, this is different." He lifted his paws defensively. "You know what mortal I respect the most?"

"...What?"

"Kindergarten teachers."

...

"Okay, I'll bite." Tarot mumbled. "Why kindergarten teachers?"

"Well, think about it. Humans live for 50, 70 years when they're lucky. During that, they won't have time for much. Certainly not enough time to learn their emotional ropes, figure out how those heads of theirs work. Most die without ever finding out. Beyond adding two numbers and your ABCs, kindergarten teachers teach young and aspiring humans how to get themselves. How to work themselves out of funks and learn why they're crying or feeling miserable. It's a real shame they work with humans at such a young and forgettable points of their lives- I think every few years mortals should go back to kindergarten, relearn how to keep themselves fed and enriched. You'd end up with a lot less unexplainable sad periods."

"Do you just feel like philosophizing?" Tarot pulled her head up, turning to him as he watched the distance.

Kitsune scratched his head. "I think you're feeling a lot of conflicting emotions, and can't parse them. That's hard on a good day- when you're locked out of certain emotions? That's gotta be even harder. So I'll pull a Kindergarten trick. Take a breath and tell me what you're feeling, one by one."

"Anger." She responded instantly, before even considering making a snark. "I've been angry for two weeks. I don't know if I'll ever stop being angry. At Evil Tarot, at Dragon, at life."

"Good. Give me another."

Tarot turned away, snorting disrespectfully.

...

"Giddiness. Part of me wants to get into a fight. A real fight, not just the scripted DnD fights I do against Pete's avatars. I want to take out my anger on... Myself, I guess."

"Good. Give me another." Kitsune infuriatingly repeated.

"Worry." Tarot let another spill. "She beat me last time. The more power we let her amass, the harder it will be to reach her. If we don't pull this off, we're going to quickly become unpeople."

"Good. Give me another."

Tarot chewed her lip.

"Regret."

Kitsune nodded, smiling coyly.

"You see why I respect em? C'mon. Sabrina just woke up."

_________________________________

In a dingy motel room, in the crisp early morning, three animals sitting in the corner of the room planned a political assassination.

The cat, Sabrina, was brimming with an excitement that manifested via shivers up her pelt. It felt like decades now she had been training under Tarot. A part of her still jittered like a kitten when faced with plot relevance, and a chance to put her powers to use. Completely self learned, might she add- Even now her mentor had to strike bargains to regain her power. Sabrina was entirely self taught, and that gave her pride, no matter who thought of her as an extension of the master.

A self taught psychic may not be as powerful as one with lent power, but then again, how much psychic energy do you have?

She thought so.

The dog, Tarot, had been in a losing battle with her head for two days now, and showed it clearly in the bags under her eyes and furrowed brow. This wasn't entirely her fault, but when compared to her other half who currently held political office, she couldn't help feeling a little peeved. Even if they were polite enough to not admit it, she was sure she was being seen as increasingly useless by her peers, and that only made her short fuse shorter. So even tired as she was, she dominated the planning and conversation.

A role the demigod, Kitsune, was more than happy to lend to her. He much preferred to take the backseat in situations like this- It made the looks on their faces all the more priceless when he finally stepped forward.

Kitsune was a GM. And a good GM knew exactly how their players thought, well enough to read them like paragraphs of text. So although he offered his snide remarks and played vaudeville for now, his eyes never left either of them.

Kitsune was something else, on a different playing field entirely. And he'd have you know it, thank you very much.

"We don't need to make a big deal out of it. Just come up behind, hit her in the head, she'll be out in a flash. She's not Jesus. Just sock her and be done with it." Sabrina murmured.

Tarot raised an eyebrow. "Why are you whispering?"

"Well... She works for the government, doesn't she?" Sabrina explained, mildly flustered. "She could have this place bugged."

"Kitsune, is this place bugged?"

"Nope."

Sabrina threw her arms up. "Well- Why doesn't he solve all of our problems, then?"

"Why didn't Dragon solve any of my problems? Why didn't Pete just snap his fingers and win? The answer is, they're all capricious losers."

"Can confirm." Kitsune nodded sagely.

Tarot gave him her dirtiest look. "Kitsune, we're insulting you."

"I know."

"Look, I agree that the smaller a deal this ends up being, the easier it is for all of us." Tarot nodded, drawing a circle on the floor with her fingers. "Sabrina's right. Sneak up on her, gouge her eyes out, and go home."

"Not what I said." Sabrina sighed. "We need her alive so Kitsune can do his gluey thingy."

"I'm not letting Kitsune do anything to me that can be described as 'gluey'."

"Would you prefer 'hot gluey'?" Kitsune piped up.

"We've got the basic principle down. We can ad-lib once we're there, just make sure we all know the basic plan. This isn't rocket science, its just basic treason."

"You seem in a hurry." Kitsune observed.

Tarot grumbled incoherently. "S'none of your concern. I want to get outta here before-"

A loud yawn entered the conversation unprompted. The three gathered all turned to the fourth member, until now kept out and allowed to sleep.

Peanut stretched his jaws wide, sticking his tongue out before clacking them back together and smacking. When he turned to his friends, he barely seemed to recognize them at first.

"...Hmprgh?" Could loosely be transcribed from the noise he made.

"Morning, pup. Had a long night?" Kitsune raised a finger good-naturedly.

"Mmph."

"Well, since you're up, you may as well join us." Kitsune turned back to Tarot, smiling broadly. "Tarot, what were you about to tell me?"

Tarot nibbled on her lip, scowling. Then, taking on a gentler expression, turned to the bed and held her mouth open as she briefly searched for words. "...Peanut, we've got to be going soon, okay hun?"

He lifted his head, flicking an ear. "...Without me. Right."

"Its a tactical decision. You know you can't do the same things we can do. I've never trained you like I have Sabrina." Tarot defended, rising to her feet and approaching the dog buried in blankets. Whoever rented this room next would find an ungodly amount of hair with it.

"I know. I know." Peanut set a paw over his nose disgruntledly.

Tarot started to scritch behind his ear, then stiffened when she heard a familiar annoying throat clearing from the corner. "Aw, cheer up, pup. You've got a role in our plan- a very important one." Kitsune said brightly.

Both dogs turned to him, faces communicating a wide range of emotions. "...What's that?" Peanut asked.

From hammerspace Kitsune produced a white letter, sealed with a professional looking red crest, and approached the two of them. "Your very crucial and important mission is this: in three hours, break this seal, and you will get a big surprise."

He tucked it into one of the blanket folds despite Tarot's disapproving look. "Kitsune, he's not twelve. Quit screwing around with him."

"Screw with him?" Kitsune set a hand against his breast. "You insult me. I have no doubt of his intelligence- In fact, I probably respect him the most out of anyone here. Too much to give him a blinky object to get him out of my hair."

"Peanut, ignore him." Tarot sighed. "We'll be back before you know it. The plan is foolproof."

Kitsune and Sabrina shot each other a look.

"Get some rest. And gimme a smile when I get back." Tarot thumbed at the edge of Peanut's lip, making an example.

Plans were wrapped up. The three packed up their (minimal) things and headed for the door.

Kitsune made sure his gaze landed on Peanut one last time. Without even trying, it seemed to pierce through him.

When the door had shut and he was alone, Peanut dared to venture outside of his sheets. A tentative paw reached for the corner of the letter sticking out into the air, and he withdrew it slowly.

_________________________________

It had been a long night for President Tarot.

She awoke still in her Oval Office chair and now very unprofessionally slouched back. Already a team of identical looking black suited men were around her, manning corners of the room.

"Madam President." One repeated. "Your victory speech."

She nodded slowly, rising. Part of her briefly realized being caught sleeping on her first day in office could only bring bad publicity, but a well placed few of her now-infamous death stares should quell that nice and tidily.

President Tarot glanced down at her suit, already littered in her unruly blue hairs. She'd be going through a lot of these, it seemed.

"I need a new wardrobe. Tell the press I'll be on the lawn tout suite." She instructed. "And give me my evil marching playlist while we're heading out."

"Your Campaign Song, Madam President?"

President Tarot nodded affirmatively. "Cold, Cold, Cold, by Cage the Elephant. Lead the way, agent."

Her patrol went into formation around her, walking her out of her office. In the white hallways that snaked through the walls, already lines of yet more agents stood guard, on watch for any potential threat to the new president.

As if she needed the protection.

One caught her eye as she passed.

Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me.

He stood out like a sore thumb. A sheer foot shorter, dressed in the traditional suit and sunglasses, but with a clearly vulpine head and shimmering gold fur. His ears twitched as President Tarot came up to him, holding position and staring dead ahead.

"Are you guys serious? You let him in with this Looney Toons number?" President Tarot gestured to him, sweeping her eyes around skeptically.

The fox-headed agent cleared his throat, confused but still trying to hold position. "Madam President?"

"This is your plan? Its incredible. If you weren't so committed to the bit, you might actually get things done around here." President Tarot set her hands on her hips, shaking her head slowly.

The other agents looked between each other in slight glances.

She finally scoffed. "Get him out of my sight. And try to do your jobs better. That's taxpayer money you're wasting."

The fox-headed agent was taken by the shoulders, escorted off premises despite his protests. President Tarot sighed, turning back down the hallway and marching off. If this was the best they had, she thought, they were running out of ideas.

As the complaining Agent was dragged off, a gold shimmer encompassed his body, leaving a very confused human in its wake still being dragged off by agents.

Another set returned to the Oval Office, murmuring to each other as the President left earshot.

"What was that about?"

"No clue. She just turned on that guy."

"She's crazy. Always said she was."

At the head of the group, one member removed their glasses to clean them, revealing bright red eyes under them. "Not crazy enough." He corrected.

_________________________________

President Tarot had never seen thi-

Actually, come to think of it, Tarot had never seen this many humans in her life, in all her accumulated memories.

Eventually they stopped being individuals- they became a grey mass, some sort of large oil spill of shifting parts, all shouting various things at her to the point in various states of supporting and jeering.

She supposed that could make a nice metaphor, but really she was just colorblind like all dogs.

She took the stand, tapping the microphone and taking a breath.

"My fellow Americans- Human, and other." She began.

_________________________________

Kitsune patted his paws together, satisfied, as his partners delicately shut the door of the Oval Office behind them.

"What... happened to the other humans?" Tarot asked skeptically.

"They're in a lovely bar in eastern Europe with a fully paid tab. I'm sure they'll enjoy themselves." Kitsune admired the hung Bosch as he spoke.

"Then we're ready. Kitsune, I need you on guard in your human form." Sabrina instructed. "As soon as her speech ends and she returns, we knock- Sorry, I think its best I knock her out and we start the procedure. She'll be accompanied by more agents, so its best we move fast... Tarot?"

Tarot was barely paying attention to her words.

Something had caught her eye out through the Oval Office's window.

_________________________________

"I was not your first choice. I understand the reputation I have gained for myself. Many may think me a conman, a cheat, who gamed the democratic system like a game of Poker. I am not here to dispel those rumors. The American people may hate me if they wish. My reputation is of no concern to me."

_________________________________

"Tarot. No." Sabrina hissed, while Kitsune pretended to check his wrist watch with an idle warm smile.

"She's right there." Tarot growled out the corner of her lip, body stiff. "Her back is to me."

"You'll be attacking her in front of everyone. Please, try to find some reason."

"She has all of my reason."

_________________________________

"What concerns me is my action. If I am to be your enemy, I will work twice as hard to precede my reputation. Education, Workforce, the Economy. I have begun presidency with a great debt to pay, and if I have only one term to pay it, or even half a term, I swear to the Opener I will not hesitate until I have finished."

"You have my word, as a woman and an American. Reject the Opener. Reject me. But let me try my hand, and you will not come to regret me."

_________________________________

"Tick, tock." Kitsune droned.

"Tarot!"

Tarot's ear flicked, facing the window and listening intently.

_________________________________

President Tarot rested her hands on the podium to grip it, suddenly feeling tired.

"I... have made sacrifices to get here. Sometimes I wonder if it was the right path to take.

"I've left friends, family, lovers. Let it never be said that I take this job lightly. But I did it because it needed to be done. I needed to do this job. I had no other choice."

"Maybe you won't like me, or my presidency. But I beg of you, from one animal to another, understand that I've only ever done what I've done because I had to."

_________________________________

That sealed it.

Kitsune paid no mind to the crash, or Sabrina's awed "Ohmyopenershejustranin". He only snapped his fingers and turned back to the painting.

"This is why I said I should knock her out." Sabrina shook his head.

_________________________________

"And if I am not to hold this position, may the Opener strike me down where I stand."

There was a resounding crash.

Sort of- It was one window breaking, over the din of the crowd. If it weren't for what happened next, it would have been completely overlooked. But to President Tarot, it hit her like a gunshot, long before the actual impact.

She had enough time to turn around, face the impending blow, and recognize its owner.

And she had enough time to contort her face, dropping her jaw in a look of hatred she couldn't quite fathom.

As Tarot flew through the air, a change began to catch up with her- red leylines of energy tore through her fur, force-changing her entire body. Muscles swelled, skin stretched, and her narrowed eyes became hidden under a powerful red glow that lit up her cheeks.

By the time she crossed the distance from point A to point B, she was three times as large, and four times as ticked off.

For the second time in a week, President Tarot was punched in the jaw.

She went flying into the crowd she had amassed, bowling over quite a few humans in the process. Then she laid there on the grass, staring up into the sky. Tarot was fighting off secret service members, people were rushing to help her up, the crowd was in a panic. She didn't pay attention to any of that.

When she pulled herself off the ground, she had only one thought in her head.

"Oh. Will. You. Leave. Me. Alone?"

Tarot turned from the human she was throttling, dropping him as she snarled animalistically at the President.

President Tarot spread her arms, lifted her chin, and called upon the power vested in her.

Power which, she remembered too late, she had left on the porch when she drove off last night.

Heck.

A meaty paw clamped around President Tarot's head.

Now seemed like a good time to start worrying.

Her expensive suit was torn to shreds as she was shook like a ragdoll in butcher knife sized claws. She quickly lost the ability to differentiate between the ground and the sky as the hulked out Tarot dragged her forcefully through the dirt and tossed her into her own podium. Her ears went not long after, blown into a shill ringing by Tarot's roar of rage.

That left precious few senses left, so she took a look at her remaining options. One in particular stood out as a good idea to her.

"Legion!" She yelled, pulling her face off the wood and turning to the White House as a paw grabbed her legs. "Help me!"

President Tarot was a little past dignity, as much as she hated to admit it. "Help! You need me! They're working for Heaven, can't you see? Help me!"

She didn't know if the well could hear her, but as her limbs were grabbed and wrenched in opposite directions, it was all she could do to hope.

And when she cried into the void, something answered.

For a split second all noise cut out, only to be quickly replaced with a noxious, grinding, repeating drill. Tarot's paws shot up to cover her ears from the horrid sound, but the President didn't fall from her grasp. She remained floating in the air, taking on a thousand yard stare as if she could see something the others couldn't. Steadily, she began to rise through the air.

Her amber pupils faded out, and reflected in the whites of her eyes to anyone who looked close enough, countless colors crawled.

Her leylines lit up- and her skin split.

A flicker of fire appeared in the air, growing and catching until it fwooshed up into a pillar that stretched high into the sky. From it came flickers and tongues of flame that struck the President where she hovered, scorching scars into her writhing skin. From the tears in her body emerged terrible shapes. Some became mouths full of barely restrained fangs, some grew entirely new malformed arms, and further more spit out tendrils and tentacles of alien nature. Her body grew as it was bathed in discolored light, several heads taller than Tarot's Kitsune-powered body.

The huddle of body parts was caught by gravity again, falling to the neatly trimmed lawn and instantly forming a black burn where she lay. Then, struggling to gain control of her new limbs, President Tarot stood.

Every eye rolling in her skull fell to a stop in the same position, watching her double intently.

And with an volatile mix of fear, pain, and anger, she screamed.

When the third jaw attack came, she was ready for it. She caught Sabrina's leg mid leap, wrapping her entire paw around the dazed cat and tossing her carelessly over her shoulder before going for her other half.

The blue mass of limbs met the gold beacon of light and the two began trading blows, finally on even playing grounds. Again and again the two beat each other, so close as to almost be hugging as they bruised and bloodied.

It was clear who had the upper hand, by sheer size and number of hands. Kitsune's new avatar was swelling in the facial regions, making it harder for her to see what exactly she was punching- and the President's soft eyes and nose were constantly finding new places to shift to.

Just when she was ready to start tearing, the President was set upon by Sabrina, still not ready to give up. The cat made a flying leap onto her back and bit down into one of the exposed eyes, making the beast howl and shake. She finally dislodged Sabrina with a tentacle, wrapping it around her neck and throwing her away.

What remained of the crowd now was in a panic. There were no longer sides to take- the beloved President was now a monster, and what remained of the Secret Service was either discarded like toys across the lawn or running for backup. The two that had once been pets wrestled through the lawn, and soon crashed into the large reflecting pool behind the White House. The water instantly began to sizzle and turn to steam where the President made contact, making drowning her an increasingly futile endeavor.

Once, the plan had been to take her alive.

The plan was all but nonexistent now.

President Tarot was having trouble controlling her facial features- some part of her motor control seemed to have been handed over to Legion, but she still fought to bubble a set of jaws to her palm.

"Why did you come back?" Her voice struggled to be heard over a dozen others echoing it. "You have him! You have everything you could ever want! Everything I could ever want! You have won! Now, leave!"

Her own body was rebelling, and she caught a twinge of- was that fear? The jaws tried to close themselves, growing fur and skin over to seal it up, but she forced it to remain open. I'm not done yet.

Another punch sent her opponent through the trees, and as she stood up, her arm shook and struggled like it was trying to separate from the rest of her body. Through it she kept talking:

"I want him to be happy! I care about Peanut more than Dragon, or Pete, or any of these stupid demons I have to work for. If you'd just leave me alone, you could be happy together! If I'm gone, and you die, what will he have left?"

This time, in an act of desperation, her arm did fall off. The part of her body that was Legion desperately wanted her to shut up, so in rebellion, she grew another mouth and kept talking.

"Why? Screw good, screw evil, screw Earth and Heaven and Heck. Just go with him!"

The President stomped on the weakened Tarot, forcing her back to the ground. She ground her foot much more forcefully than she intended to, and forced herself to stop once she heard Tarot squeal.

Kill her, you insolent fool! Legion's voices bellowed. Stop talking to her and just end her! You have her!

"I want her to hear this!" President Tarot shouted back. "Tell me why you're putting yourself in danger! Tell me why you're risking his happiness! What did he ever do to you? To us? Why do we keep leaving him?"

"The Game."

President Tarot leaned closer, despite every nerve in her body trying to pull away. Her eyes widened, and she shook her opponent's shoulder.

"What? What did you say?"

"We leave him for The Game." Tarot croaked, eyes crossing. "We... always do. Both of us."

Kill her.

"You're... better than me."

Kill her!

"But we both hurt him. I've been... pretending we haven't. That we'll go back to him at the end and fix everything."

What are you doing?

"But the longer we do this... The more we're going to hurt him."

KILL HER!

She was having trouble breathing now with the paw on her neck. "We can't do this... alone... help... me..."

President Tarot blinked.

Then growled.

Then screamed.

Her body was splitting in two- From out of her chest came a pair of arms, grasping and flailing. The rest of her body pulled away, trying to escape her, and its eyes and mouths began to disappear back into its flesh. Soon enough a head was forming out of her chest, features shuffling around like runny eggs.

Then came her legs, then her feet.

Below the mass of body parts, Tarot was beginning to lose her power. The red energy was fading, and she was slowly being reduced to her original size.

Finally, with a loud tear, the President split into two. Stumbling backwards was a horrible blue conglomerate of flesh and fur, no longer recognizable as anything.

And embracing Tarot was her identical copy, alike in all but colors. As the remnants of Legion flailed about on the lawn, the two hugged, shutting their eyes tightly.

Legion screamed, and there was a brilliant flash of light.

_________________________________
SUMMONS

MR. PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO APPEAR IN HEAVEN'S HOLY COURT, 1ST STREET, HEAVEN, AT (UNINTELLIGIBLE SYMBOLS) O'CLOCK. IF YOU DO NOT APPEAR, JUDGEMENT MAY BE GIVEN IN YOUR ABSENCE.

YOU WILL STOP THIS GOING TO COURT IF, BEFORE THE TIME GIVEN ABOVE, YOU PAY THE SUM OF HAHAHA JUST KIDDING YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TO PAY OFF A LITERAL GOD. NICE TRY KID.

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE.

PS THIS LETTER IS FROM THE FUTURE, BECAUSE ALL TIME HAPPENS AT ONCE IN HEAVEN. IN YOUR CURRENT TIME WE DONT HAVE A CLUE WHATS GOING ON. JUST IN CASE YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD GET US WITH THAT 'PLOTHOLE' STUFF. AGAIN, NICE TRY.
_________________________________

Tarot was in a white void.

The non-evil one, that is.

But also the evil one.

The two noticed each other quickly- there wasn't much else to notice- and laughed awkwardly, scratching the backs of their heads in a near identical manner.

"This is... kinda weird." Good Tarot admitted.

"Yeah, I really thought we'd, you know, fuse. Just like that. Go home." Evil Tarot agreed.

"America would be kinda without a president."

"What does that matter? I wouldn't exist anymore. Make it someone else's problem."

The two dogs grinned, settling down on their rumps next to each other like they were sitting on a sidewalk and looking out into the white.

"Where... are we?" Evil Tarot asked.

"Some other dimension... or plane... or dimension inside a dimension... Oh, I don't know. Maybe this is just a weird room in the White House. Does it have to be so complicated all the time?" Good Tarot waved her hand impatiently.

"That's what being a psychic is like." Evil Tarot mused.

"Well, its not like we chose this. Nobody ever gave us a 'how to be a psychic' rulebook. We ended up writing it."

"Sabrina's a lucky cat." Evil Tarot nodded. "Doing these things of your own volition must be nice."

"Not as lucky as..."

Their conversation drifted off. They idly kicked their legs.

"I'm sorry I tried to kill you." Good Tarot apologized.

Evil Tarot shrugged. "I'm sorry I tried to hand the planet over to Heck."

"Was it the old 'country-wide pentagram' trick?"

"Yep. It really seemed like it was going to work this time."

"We should try it sometime."

"We should."

...

"Assuming this is actually some other dimension, we might be stuck here forever." Good Tarot pointed out.

"Nah. These sorts of metaphysical locations are meant to teach people lessons. You have an earth-shattering revelation and you head back to Earth again."

"Well, we don't need to go through that again. We both know we screwed up."

"Big time."

"Did you really get possessed there?"

"Yeah. Some biblical weirdo. I wouldn't recommend it."

"...You know you're not my evil half, right?"

"I do now. Its a good thing Dragon's so bad at her job."

"Then why did you stay the course?"

"What other option did I have? Return to Babylon Gardens? You hated me. Peanut was resigned to me dying."

"...What makes you so sure about Peanut?"

"He visited me in my dreams last night. Wasn't that part of your plan?"

...

"Wasn't that part of your plan?"

"Oh Opener."

Just to the right of where they sat, the void gave way to a thin vertical line, which stretched to reveal an indistinguishable white door. They heard grunting through the other end, before a single giant blue eye filled the doorway.

"Tarots? You should be having your epiphany right about now." Cerberus said, peeking in. "The Court will see you."

_________________________________

The Tarots were standing on a large, living room sized slab of white marble.

It took a moment to realize it was meant to be the top of the podium. It was clearly built to be used by much, much larger creatures. The podium was set in the middle of a shining rotunda, with wavy walls and a ceiling miles from either of them that seemed to be composed of clouds.

Tarot had been to this realm more than enough times to grow used to the feeling one gets upon entering it the first time- loosening joints, clearer vision, the soothing of aches you didn't even know you had. Above all else, upon entering for the first time your spirit grows lighter. The heart weighs less, you become more aware of whatever burdens rest on your back, and more eager to remove them.

The perfect setting for a courtroom.

From all around them, but centralized at the head of the room behind a tall throne with a metallic halo hovering over it came an unmistakably, indescribably gold voice.

"Tarot and Tarot." The owner brought down a mighty fist the size of a car onto his seat's arm. It sat at the end of a beefy, muscular arm, which led into a heavily scarred and weary chest, owned by the imposing draconic purple judge. His silver helmet hid whatever expression he may have been making, and he watched the accused with a flat mouth that betrayed no further emotion. His wings spread, revealing gargantuan stretches of orange membrane connecting the wrist to the bony fingers at the ends of each.

BAHAMUT curled his claws idly, speaking with his eons old grumble of a voice. "You have been charged with..."

He paused, scanning his divine wisdom.

"...You have no charges. Why are you in my courtroom?"

"Because I summoned them, Your Honor."

All three of the gathered turned to the back of the room, where a familiar fox stood at attention. It was strange for the mortals to see him so rapt and respectful- slouching and snide was more his style.

"I needed to get them off Earth. For several weeks now, a field has been placed over the human city of Washington DC to prevent Heavenly observation. I felt it was time to get you caught up as soon as possible, Your Honor." Kitstune had grown to match the size of the courtroom, making him appear massive as he crossed the room next to the podium the Tarots stood on.

"A wise decision, Great Kitsune." BAHAMUT granted his approval. "Allow me a moment to set my gaze back to the weeks I missed, to what was allowed to occur in the dark."

Silence reigned. Kitsune bit his lip nervously, glancing at the Tarots as BAHAMUT remained perfectly still.

The corner of the judge's lip quivered.

"A correction is needed." BAHAMUT decided finally. "Bring forth the accused."

A dark shadow fell over the two of them, stretching high past the end of the pedestal. When the two craned their necks, they could barely see the newcomer's chin past the glaring light adorning the rotunda's ceiling.

Then she looked down, and her entire face blanched when she saw the two lilliputian dogs adorning the marble like tiny statues.

"I'll admit, I didn't expect to see you in my courtroom so soon after your brother." BAHAMUT noted, nodding his noggin. "Nor did I expect it to ever be for something like this."

"Dragon." Both Tarots groaned.

Dragon gritted her teeth nervously, stepping back from the podium and shaking her head. "Wait, no- Hey, everything's been fixed! We can just go home and-"

"You will resume your position in my courtroom before the accusations have been set." BAHAMUT boomed.

Dragon skittishly stepped forward to the podium again, calming the great Judge.

"Spirit Dragon. You have been accused of tampering with Heaven's holy processes, damage to a soul's earthly vessel, treason in our war, and above all else, violating the prime directive your Game swore it would obey by risking the lives and mortal souls of every being on the planet Earth. How do you plead?"

Dragon fidgeted, glancing between various individuals in the room, and for a moment Tarot feared she would enter another of her storming blubbers. Finally her sights landed on Kitsune, still standing respectfully next to her, and she swallowed.

"I...I-I plead guilty, Your Honor."

BAHAMUT nodded slowly, moving the thin sliver of darkness that may have contained his eyes up and down hypnotically.

"How very interesting. Then there are three in my courtroom responsible. We shall go cyclically. Great Kitsune. You have been entrusted with the protection of Earth from lower realms. Do you feel you have aided sufficiently in this endeavor?"

"I do, Your Honor."

"Tarot, your thoughts?"

Good Tarot snorted. "He was a prick while doing it. His plan failed, and technically isn't even over yet. But I would have died a lot faster if he hadn't lent me his power, and he did it without annoyingly possessing me like Dragon would have."

"Let the record also show that Tarot does not understand the full extent of my help." Kitsune added. "May I present my evidence?"

"Proceed." BAHAMUT declared.

Kitsune lifted two closed fists, and with a dramatic flourish, turned them palms up and opened them.

In one sat a Book of Fate, standard issue, black leatherbound.

In the other stood a tiny brown dog, marveling at the courtroom he now stood in.

Both Tarots gasped.

"In order for Evil Tarot to reject the influence Legion had over her, and more importantly, to allow herself to be re-fused when this trial finishes, she needed a weakness that could be exploited. Good Tarot interpreted that as a physical one. Far more useful, however, is an emotional one."

Kitsune glanced down at his paw, bringing it gently to the marble slab to let him hop off. "Peanut Butter Sandwich, let the record show that you have been one cool dude this month."

As soon as he was set down, the three dogs rushed towards each other, Peanut encompassing both in his arms and pressing his chin against them comfortingly. The three embraced, and BAHAMUT waited patiently for them to finish before rapping his knuckles on the arm of his chair.

"Then it has been decided. Great Kitsune has been pardoned of all crimes in this fleeting moment, and will be returned to his duty as a protector of Earth."

Kitsune smiled, closing his other palm and kneeling down to the stand. With beefy fingers the size of couches, he plucked a Ouija board from behind Peanut's ear.

"This belongs to Sabrina. Tell her I had to borrow it for a bit."

"Evil Tarot. I may face cases as unique as yours, but never more. You are not as simple as a demon stripped of your virtues and sent to Heck. You are fundamentally morally complex. As part of a whole, you serve no subservience to Heaven beyond that which all mortal souls do. Do you believe you have failed in your duties in a meaningful way?" BAHAMUT watched her carefully as he spoke in his commanding, rusted tone.

Evil Tarot glanced only briefly at the Judge, just as soon turning to Peanut. She looked at him pleadingly, searching for any ounce of disgust or disappointment in his face.

He smiled, good naturedly as ever.

Evil Tarot took his shoulders, dipping her head to hide her choke.

"What... do you two think?"

When one of them stood it ended up being Good Tarot, rising to both feet and turning to look up at the monolithic Judge.

"Your honor, I believe we- I can only make an impartial judgement of my character when I have been restored."

"A fair assessment." BAHAMUT conceded.

"Your Honor, I had previously offered to-" Kitsune interjected, but was cut off with a raise of BAHAMUT's hand.

"Your service will not be necessary. My method is far more efficient than any you or Dragon could offer. Are you ready, Tarot?" His fingers came slowly together, poised and ready to snap.

Evil Tarot was helped to her feet by Peanut, rubbing a paw over her own face to look more presentable.

Good Tarot looked at her, and realized that for the first time since she had been split, she couldn't feel any lingering anger. It was likely Heaven's influence, no actual change to her overall demeanor- but it wasn't like she could prove it.

So she took her own shoulders, and gingerly brought her body against her chest, patting its back tenderly.

"You ready to come back?" She murmured.

"I've spent long enough away. I don't think either of us are great on our own." Evil Tarot agreed.

"That's what I've been trying to say."

"You're the one who tried to kill me."

Good Tarot shrugged. "I guess I did do that. Makes the names we gave ourselves seem pretty hypocritical."

Evil Tarot scoffed. "You think?"

And for good measure, they gave each other one last scritch behind the ears.

BAHAMUT's finger pads rubbed like the legs of a grasshopper, the air around them humming with dormant energy. Bringing his knuckles to his cheek, rolling his fist back and forth on its joint, he spoke with a finality-

"Deus, Ex,"

And at the last word snapped.

His courtroom was washed in light, and at the epicenter two black silhouettes melted together.

Then it cleared, and standing on the podium, feeling herself over in disbelief and blinking out spots, was Tarot.

The actual owner of that name.

"Tarot, what is your last judgement?" The eye of justice waited for nobody.

Tarot flexed her fingers, looking back up to the Judge with renewed vigour. "I think... my work as a psychic is far from done. I will have many more chances to redeem myself. Are my previous actions enough to convince Your Honor that I am of sound spirit and flesh?"

"Let it be remembered on this day that none have seen what your properly separated sinning half would have been capable of. Had Dragon succeeded that day, you may be living on a very different Earth." BAHAMUT mused. "You possess the capability for great evil, Tarot."

"Don't all mortals, your honor?" She argued. "I'm only canine."

"Then it has been decided." BAHAMUT decreed. "Tarot's soul is for now destined to Limbo. Should she provide sufficient repayment to the Court through her deeds in life, she will be viable for reconsideration."

"Can't you see my deeds before they happen?" Tarot furrowed her brow.

"Of course I can." BAHAMUT lowered his head to his steepled hands. "But that's not very fun."

Tarot glowered.

"Spirit Dragon." Without moving his head, BAHAMUT continued speaking, making the until-now ignored Dragon jump. "Your crimes have been stated. You now stand in a jury of those you have hurt, and those infallible. The remainder of this trial will not be to decide your punishment- It will be to decide whether or not The Game is to continue. May I remind you that this is not the first time an action of your players has come up in my court, Great Kitsune."

As he nodded, Peanut slowly began to put two and two together with the earlier brother comment, eyes widening and mouthing, 'Him?'

"I... understand, Your Honor." Dragon looked askance dismally.

"Wait, Your Honor." Tarot spoke up. "Do we have to be so systemic with this? After this month, I can't say I want her to be whisked off to Opener knows where at the end of this without even talking to me."

"Tarot, you're swearing to a fake god while talking to a real god." Great Kitsune politely reminded without breaking his stance.

"I'm used to it, okay? Your Honor, you can dish whatever punishment you want, but for my purposes I want one thing, and that's for her to realize what she did was wrong. Good Tarot would've screamed at her and Evil Tarot would've pretended she didn't exist. Now that I'm all of me, can I just be allowed a moment to talk to her?" Tarot waved her arms in Dragon's direction, gesticulating wildly.

Kitsune swallowed nervously, but BAHAMUT made no move to stop her outburst the entire time.

"...I'll allow it."

Tarot exhaled, turning back to the towering Dragon. For a moment she just stood there, hands on her hips as the much larger monster scratched the back of her neck.

"Well?" Tarot prompted. "Anything crossing that grand, cosmic mind of yours?"

Dragon curled her long neck down to reach some modicum of eye contact, chin still several feet above Tarot and the ground.

"I'm... sorry." She sighed.

"For?"

"...Splitting you."

"And?"

"And... Changing America's national religion?"

Tarot mused over that one, but nodded regardless. "And?"

Dragon blinked. "...I don't know. What else happened this month?"

Tarot's face contorted.

She didn't get it. She still didn't get it.

"For choosing me as a puppy, and denying any chance of living a normal life." Tarot filled in. "For moving me to Babylon Gardens. For hooking me up with a guy I had never met. For trying to steal him. For regularly putting me into bloodsports against strangers. For deciding my fate for me. For screwing up my sleep schedule. For taking more than you've ever gave, and giving with a look that convinces me you think you're the good guy for it. For thinking you're better than any mortal. For any of that, for moving me from point A to point B on strings my entire life and never once apologizing for it, you snake!"

Dragon blinked.

"Oh. Then I'm sorry."

Anger failed Tarot, replaced with a sheer confusion so great it short circuited any other appropriate emotion. Lost and without guidance, she looked instead to Kitsune.

He patted the air in front of him subtly in a 'simmer down' gesture.

Tarot didn't want to simmer down. If she had to pick one thing she wanted in all of reality right then and there, it would probably be belief in a caring universe. But sometimes, just sometimes, Kitsune knew best. So she defaulted to the thing she wanted second most.

"Sure. Apology accepted." Tarot muttered. "Your Honor, if its all the same to you and I am no longer needed, I think I'd like to go home."

"It would be best to not tax her mortal mind any more than has already happened. Reformation is a heck of a hangover, I've been told." Kitsune vouched.

"Very Well. To those Earthly among us, you have done us a great service." BAHAMUT swept his hand in an arc in front of him. "You will be restored to Babylon Gardens. Earth will not remember your involvement. There will forever be a weird blank spot in the list of Presidents. Maybe I will put someone funny there, like Kermit the Frog."

"Let the record show it could not possibly be more absurd than what actually happened to the President of the United States today." Tarot noted.

"The events of which will not be spoken of by those privy to it." BAHAMUT decreed. "You will be sworn to secrecy, breaching of which is forbidden."

He spread his arms, the most motion he had ever made the entire trial. They easily encompassed the length of a football field, expanded further with the stretching of his wings to full span.

"To those who bore witness to this day, be they here in this Courtroom or otherwise- "My word is law, and the law is my word. And none shall escape its light."

_________________________________

Tarot and Peanut were waiting on a bus yet again.

The two sat side by side on a bench, right next to the sign that would flag down the vessel home. For now, they had a few moments to themselves.

"That... Sucked." Peanut was first to point out. "Dragon could go free!"

"She probably will." Tarot nodded. "Kitsune's going to vouch for her."

"Why? Does every Celestial have to be such a weirdo?" Peanut complained.

"She'll be punished in time. I've just gotta wait. Kitsune's better than he seems- I think I can take that away from all this, at least."

Peanut settled down at that, recalling the previous night. "You're really fine with giving her time and space to do worse?"

"I don't think it can get much worse than this month." Tarot noted. "She's stupid, not malicious. And that can only get you so far. I'm forgiving, but I'm not forgetting."

She looked up at Peanut, smiling fondly. "Besides. Sometimes her stupid little things turn out alright for me. Isn't that right, Hun?"

She patted his back, and he wagged his tail in response. "Its been weird. But... I'm happy you're back."

"I should've come back a long time ago. I'm sorry I ever left. Every part of me did something dumb- all in all, it wasn't one of my finest moments."

"You kidding me? You took over a country in like, two weeks." Peanut grinned. "That's probably one of the coolest brags I can have about my girlfriend."

"Peanut. Sworn to silence."

"Right, right."

And he embraced her tightly, pulling her smaller body up onto his lap and hugging her tightly. "Please don't fight yourself like that again."

"No promises."

"Tarot!"

"Alright, alright. I promise- No more self mutilation."

In the distance, a bus came chugging out of the wavy heat. The two boarded, finding tickets magic(k)ally already tucked into their collars. All around them humans discussed fragmented rumors of what was happening in Washington.

At the very back, the two dogs held hands.

"Love you, Tarot."

She clutched his fingers tenderly.

"Love you too, hun."
Last edited by OtherStr8aura on Fri Nov 25, 2022 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tarotnomics

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TAROTNOMICS

EPILOGUE: EPIDOGUE

_________________________________

The White House was in shambles, of course.

Somehow despite lacking a president and the circumstances surrounding the last one's disappearance, the money to begin rebuilding already existed, procured out of some mystery source. Windows were fixed, trees were replanted, and the reflecting pool was refilled of the water melted out of it.

But one trace remained- a trace that, try as they might, no contracted company could quite scrub clean.

During the battle, the two dogs had blindly rolled around, one of them leaving scorch marks on the lawn with their very unholy presence. Being demonic, these marks defied every attempt to remove them, and would likely remain on that lawn until judgement day.

And somehow, inexplicably, when all was said and done and the two dissipated into thin air to never be seen in Washington again, those scorch marks were left in the shape of letters.

And they spelled three words.

'OR WAS IT?'

_________________________________

One more thing.

A letter Tarot found waiting for her when she returned to the Sandwich Household, sealed with a fancy red crest.
Hey, Pup! Guess who?

I know, I know. You're not too fond of me. I won't pretend I don't understand why, but I promise I'm not just here to offer you a third act Goosebumps twist, some last 'screw you'. That's my player's job, and they're too good at it for me.

I just wanted to offer you a next step. You may have noticed that, despite Dragon's claims to having learned from this, you haven't been freed of your shackles. Sadly, for some people, learning lessons isn't enough. Aesops slide off them like butter, and three act story structures may as well be another language.

But you've helped me a great deal recently. So I'd like to offer my thanks.

You ever hear about a Cosmic Lantern?

We'll discuss details when you next fall asleep. For the time being, as a sign of goodwill, I have a more tangible present.

The Game won't last forever. In fact, if I didn't know any better (I do), I'd say its twilight is around the corner. Make of that what you will.

Ah, but what do I know? You're a good dog, Tarot. I hope you find an opportunity in the future to take off your metaphorical shackles and wear... well, a brand new set of shackles. With a little more pride this time.

Peanut loves you. Show him a little love back.

Your friend,

Great Kitsune
Stored in the envelope alongside it was a bright red strip of leather. It was outfitted with gold buckles, and hanging off the front as a tag was a tarot card carved from green metal. Curiously, she flipped it over. The Wheel of Fortune.

Tarot looked down at her current collar. Not yet.

But someday.
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Amazee Dayzee
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Nice to see that you got back into this! A great chapter too!
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

Amazee Dayzee wrote: Fri Nov 25, 2022 9:12 pm Nice to see that you got back into this! A great chapter too!
It's been a minute since I posted it, and you're already declaring it a great chapter. Clearly my brilliance is so vast it beamed the entire text into your head. I may want to look into advertising.

But thank you for the compliment.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Sorry about that as I usually post first and then read later like most of the people on the forums do. Doesn't mean I didn't read it like I'm sure people are gonna accuse me of doing. Also it doesn't mean it wasn't a nice chapter either.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

Amazee Dayzee wrote: Sat Nov 26, 2022 12:34 pm Sorry about that as I usually post first and then read later like most of the people on the forums do. Doesn't mean I didn't read it like I'm sure people are gonna accuse me of doing. Also it doesn't mean it wasn't a nice chapter either.
you're all good man.
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Re: Tarotnomics

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I’m a very slow reader so I’m still on Chapter 2, but your style is awesome and several parts legitimately made me chortle.
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Re: Tarotnomics

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This is a marvellous fic. I love the way it goes from irreverent humour to epic scenarios and finally to heartfelt character moments. It feels very true to the Housepets spirit.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

I am hoping that you can write more stories like this soon! If only because I like the artwork you did for this one since its cute. <3
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

Alright, its been a few days.

First of all thank you for the support. I'm very new here, and on a site like I usually use, it can be easy to forget how much words of encouragement can push you to keep going with a story. I'm happy to have had this kind of personal reaffirmation during the process.

Second, due to the positive reception, I would like to at some point write more ideas on this forum. Tarotnomics is as of the epilogue, completely finished and will receive no sequels or reboots or requels or seboots or anything of the sort, but I love the Housepets universe and would like to try my hand at more projects. On a forum like this, should each fic get its own thread, or should I self contain them to this one?

And finally, for archival purposes (try to find any story on here more than a year old, I dare you), I would like to make my final revisions and upload Tarotnomics to AO3. I will make an update here when I am done, but thank you to everyone who has offered, or will offer criticism and reevaluation of my writing. You've been a great audience.
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Amazee Dayzee
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

I am glad that w could help you with the compliments that we have given to you! This really is a great fanfic worthy of a re-read!
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by NHWestoN »

Amazee Dayzee wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 2:21 am I am glad that w could help you with the compliments that we have given to you! This really is a great fanfic worthy of a re-read!
Agreed! ... and here's hoping the Defecation Moderation party gets on the primary ballots in some of the states for the 2024 election.
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

...do we REALLY want to have them on the ballots though? That would be REALLY gross. :lol:
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

NHWestoN wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 7:53 am
Amazee Dayzee wrote: Sun Dec 04, 2022 2:21 am I am glad that w could help you with the compliments that we have given to you! This really is a great fanfic worthy of a re-read!
Agreed! ... and here's hoping the Defecation Moderation party gets on the primary ballots in some of the states for the 2024 election.
So... Looking back, it occurs to me that joke may make no sense at all to those who aren't familiar with SMBC.

https://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=3397
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by NHWestoN »

Just another incentive for them to read a great story! ;)
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Amazee Dayzee
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Haven't heard of that comic before though it seems very cool! Will have to give it a look!
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by MischaTheWolf »

I’m still on the third chapter, but I gotta say, this is probably one of the greatest fanfics I’ve ever read. Glad you posted it here.
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Amazee Dayzee
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Whatever else they end up planning on posting will most likely be just as good as this fanfic! Hopefully we won't have to wait too long! :D
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by OtherStr8aura »

https://archiveofourown.org/works/43682 ... /109844607

Tarotnomics! has been archived. Thank you to everyone who helped with this project; everyone in the thread who left a kind word has been credited. Kind words to an author are as important as the keys that type the letters.

I will now allow this thread to rest in peace. I hope I may find motivation to write more fic for this fandom in the future. Cheers.
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Amazee Dayzee
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

Glad that you liked the compliments that I gave you and credited me! I have never been credited on much of anything! I appreciate it! <3
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by MischaTheWolf »

I really enjoyed this fic, glad you posted it here, and I hope more people find it on the archives! This seems like a plot that could have come from Rick himself.
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Amazee Dayzee
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

I honestly wouldn't mind it if Rick did something like this. Although since he isn't doing arcs anymore and just posting stories that is highly unlikely,
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by NHWestoN »

MischaTheWolf wrote: Mon Dec 19, 2022 1:23 pm I really enjoyed this fic, glad you posted it here, and I hope more people find it on the archives! This seems like a plot that could have come from Rick himself.
Hope you noticed that Tarot is the cover girl ("cover pup"?) for Housepets! - BOOK 13: WANT TO SPEAK TO MANAGEMENT . ;) :lol: :roll:
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by Amazee Dayzee »

After everything that happened to her before this arc I don't blame her for wanting to speak to management. :lol:
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Re: Tarotnomics

Post by MischaTheWolf »

Tarot has basically been a punching bag for the entire series, so she gets a free pass to act like a Karen.
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