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The Hierophant and the Lovers

The Hierophant and the Lovers Cindy didn’t know what she was looking at. It appeared to be an old, wooden Gypsy wagon from the outside—as well as the inside, for that matter. But as Tommy had explained to her, it apparently wasn’t. “I mean it is,” he said. “But it doesn’t travel with the wheels. I, uh... I think they’re stuck, actually. It just kind of appears and disappears. I don’t really know why or how it works, but it sends me to different... realities, I guess, in order to help people.” “So you’re like a magical, traveling salesmen, but the things you’re selling is fixing shit.” “That was a weird analogy,” Tommy shook his head. Cindy stuck out her tongue. “Shut up.” “But basically, yes.” Tommy laughed, patting the side of the wagon. “Her name’s Mathilda.” “And that’s where you’ve been all these years, having adventures, helping people. It sounds like fun.” Shrugging, Tommy looked a little sad. “It was terrifying, or heart-breaking sometimes, but yes, it was a lot of fun. Except that now I’m stuck here.” “Stuck?” “Yep.” He sighed, sitting on the creaky, wooden step. “Usually it’s obvious who I’m supposed to help before I can move on, but this time, I’m not sure. Remus was always a lot better at that.” Cindy sat next to him. “Well, maybe you just haven’t met them yet.” They sat in silence for a moment, both thinking. “I might know someone who can help you.” “Really?” he asked. “She’s kind of a weird-shit collector,” Cindy nodded. “But you’ve gotta promise me something.” Tommy looked slightly terrified. “What is it?” “Don’t be an ass,” she laughed. “Just promise me you’ll come home a little more often. At the very least to use a real bathroom, cuz I didn’t see one in your traveling bachelor pad.” He shook his head and laughed. “You’ve got yourself a deal.” “Alright then. “She stood, taking out her phone. “Gimme five minutes and we’ll go.” “What are you doing?” He seemed slightly bemused as she held up the phone to the wagon. “Taking pictures,” she replied. “Aurum doesn’t get out much.” Cindy finished taking her photos, and they set off to Aurum’s lair. The winter wind bit at them, and Cindy nearly lost her scarf as it was almost wrestled from her grasp. But after a few minutes, they made it, the large, round dome looming over them. “This is... the North Branch, right?” Tommy asked. “It always gave me the heebie-jeebies.” “Yep,” Cindy nodded. “She does that on purpose to keep people away.” Nodding, Tommy narrowed his eyes in thought. “So this Aurum, is she a witch or something?” “Afraid not,” Cindy said, grinning. “She’s a dragon.” She was vaguely disappointed that her big reveal didn’t get a bigger reaction than: “huh. I wonder how she fits in there.” “She doesn’t usually look like a dragon.” “A shame. I’ve never actually met a live dragon before. Just seen the bones. Think I could get her to show me?” His eyes lit up at the thought. “I don’t know,” Cindy shrugged. “You’d have to ask.” They pushed open the large doors and entered the large, echoing space. Tommy took a moment to glance around while Cindy proceeded to the desk, where Servus was organizing some papers. Today he had added a beanie to his usually nonsensical ensemble. Or rather, Aurum had told him to. Cindy doubted that Servus had the capacity to his own design choices. “Hi, Servus,” she smiled. She liked to give him a smile; he always seemed oddly sad to her. “Do you know where Aurum is?” He nodded and held up a hand, telling her to wait. Just as he was going to set off towards the doors to presumably find Aurum, Tommy approached the desk. “Oh, Tommy, this is Servus, he’s an automaton. Servus, this is my older brother.” Again, Servus nodded. “You’ll have to forgive him, he doesn’t talk.” “Cindy,” came the familiar voice of Aurum as the large doors to her left creaked open. “You’re early today. I thought you said you wouldn’t be here until three.” She moved to the desk, her gauzy scarf flowing behind her while her frizzy hair bounced in time to her step. “I didn’t think I would, but my brother here needs help with an artifact of an occult persuasion.” She pointed back to Tommy. Aurum smiled and extended a claw-like hand. “Aurum,” she introduced herself. “Collector and expert on all things strange.” “More like hoarder of all things strange,” Cindy muttered under her breath. Though she blinked and revealed a grin which told of the murder that would take place as soon as they were out of polite company, Aurum ignored her. “You can’t be Mike?” she asked. “Nope. I’m Tommy.” “I thought you only had one brother?” Aurum tilted her head, turned to Cindy. She shrugged. “I thought he was dead until a few days ago. I don’t take it Lucius is here yet.” “You know him,” she shook her head. “He won’t be here until twilight dies.” “Lucius?” Tommy asked. “He’s my—” Cindy began, before pausing. How could she put it? Boyfriend was probably the most accurate title, but there was simply something wrong with calling a 2,000 year old vampire her boyfriend. Significant other just sounded lame, and friend wasn’t strong enough... “—Secret midnight lover,” Aurum supplied. Tommy blinked. “What?” “Your sister is seeing an older man.” Aurum batted her eyes innocently, giggling. “Aurum!” “Serves you right for calling me a hoarder,” Aurum laughed harder. “Maybe you’ll meet him later. Regardless, you said you had an artifact you needed me to look at?” “Well,” Tommy admitted, “I can’t really show you...” She blinked once, but hardly seemed phased. “Oh, is it invisible, then? In that case, let me just—” “It’s a wagon.” “Excuse me?” “It’s a reality-hopping gypsy,” Tommy explained, hoping that she didn’t think he was crazy. Wait, what was he talking about? Aurum was a dragon, for christ’s sake. She didn’t prove him wrong. Nodding slowly, Aurum thought for a moment. “Now that’s something I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of.” “I have pictures,” Cindy offered, taking out her phone. Aurum pulled her horned-rimmed glasses, which she kept on a beaded chain around her neck. “Ah, yes. These must be the photos of the digits you’ve told me about.” “I swear,” Cindy rolled her eyes. “You old farts need me to bring you up to speed.” “Nonsense. Lucius has been out there in the world. He knows all the new-fangled technology.” Shaking her head, Cindy sighed. “Lucius still has a flip-phone.” She sounded annoyed, but she couldn’t help smiling all the same, that nice, tingly feeling that always rose in her stomach at the thought of him, especially of all the silly shit he did. “Anyway, here it is.” She held up the phone, handing it to Aurum after showing her how to flip between the images. “Fascinating,” Aurum muttered as she glanced back and forth again and again. “Simply fascinating. You say this device is capable of traversing realities?” she asked, to which Tommy nodded. “And how did you acquire this ‘wagon’ of yours?” Though he hesitated a moment, Tommy took a deep breath. “I inherited it.” He told her about the wagon, and about Remus. He’d been doing this a lot more than he intended, and to his surprise, it got a little easier every time. Aurum nodded as she listened to his tale. “Simply incredible. I wish I could see it in person.” “You can,” Tommy frowned. “It’s not that far away.” She laughed. “Oh, my child,” she said, shaking her head. “I haven’t left this library in seventy years.” Tommy opened his mouth in surprise, but Aurum continued. “You mentioned that it seemed to be malfunctioning, yes? That you are stuck her in Ede Valley, as it were?” “Maybe, I’m not sure,” Tommy replied, still dumbfounded. ‘Well, the good news is that I may have heard of such a device before, though of course never in this particular form. The bad news is that I’ve never operated one first-hand, nor ever seen one. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get a closer look. I’m going to send Servus with you back to, ah, what was its name? Penelope?” “Mathilda.” Tommy had no idea where she’d gotten Penelope from. “But Cindy,” Aurum turned to her, nearly jumping in excitement. “If we could get this to work, it could bring us that much closer to finding the Truth.” “The Truth?” Tommy blinked. “The truth about what?” Looking at Aurum, Cindy sighed. “Well, now you have to tell him.”

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