"Fate is not a game of chance" — Extract from 'The Games of Gods and Other Powers' by Scholar-Priest Bi-Tan, Grand Library of Aimsmouth.
The shutters of the Only Inn banged and clattered as winds battered Mount Orion. Storm clouds circled the mountain in a brooding ring and within them screamed the assembled storm host. Lightning flashed. Thunder sounded. Great bellows rung out.
The main door of the inn crashed open and Khor, King of Storm, strode in. He was a giant of a man, with wild brown-blond hair and eyes that crackled with electric energy. Tattoos of blue-white lightning covered every inch of his otherwise naked body — whorls on his sculpted pectoral muscles, jagged rings around his bulging biceps and marks of cult and the deep mysteries of storm down his chiselled stomach. A sliver of lightning pierced the head of his soft but massive cock.
A flurry of winds entered with him. They run riot through the room, knocking aside bottles, upending chairs, and sweeping up every loose piece of dust, paper and rubbish. Men and women were thrown off their feet and sent sprawling across the floor.
Only the round table at the very centre of the room proved protected against the storm's power. It say in a zone of calm, projected by the beings arrayed around it.
One of the table's occupants looked up. "You're late." The words came from a sour, pinch faced man. This was Malleus, Chancellor of the Dread College.
"Khor is never late!" boomed Khor. "Khor is as the wind!" Winds once more shook the room.
"And yet you are," said Malleus.
He crooked a finger and one of his acolytes, a pretty blonde girl wearing a form hugging black robe and shining silver jewellery, pushed herself off the floor and hurried over with a bottle. She poured and blood red liquid fell into Malleus' obsidian cub.
"Oh behave, Malleus dear," said the woman sitting to Malleus' left. She placed a hand on his arm and just her touch seemed to inject vitality into the sour man.
All knew the Queen of Summer.
She was a radiant beauty, with soft gold-olive skin that shone with an inner light. And there was a lot of that skin. She only technically wore more clothes than Khor. A necklace of white gold hung around her neck and covered part of her impressive cleavage; a bejewelled chain connected her nipples; and a thin golden belt encircled her waist and hung from her wide hips. Everything else was completely bare.
Between her legs knelt an initiate into her deepest and most personal mysteries. In any lesser company the initiate would have been a prize for kings to war over, with flawless bronzed skin and lustrous black hair, but next to the Queen she looked almost plain. Her tongue worshipped at the Queen's challis, licking, toying, pleasuring. The Queen rolled her lips in pleasure and moaned softly.
Beside the Queen sat the Crone, an ancient hag and First Witch. Her skin was like crumpled parchment but her eyes were hard like bog iron. Her hair was spun cobwebs. Her long claw like fingers drummed on the tabletop. She wore a formless black robe that hid most of her body.
Khor dropped his immense bulk into a seat next to the Crone. The simple wooden chair groaned under him. His cock slapped with a fleshy smack against the wood.
"It is so nice to see you again," purred Nyxanda from her place next to Khor, "and it is especially nice to see this again too." Her silk-soft fingers closed around Khor's turgid cock and squeezed it gently. She too wore very little: a bikini made from interlocking golden scales that only just covered the nipples of her huge breasts and a narrow thong of the same material. Everything else was pale purple skin.
"Demon whore," grunted Khor as his cock jerked.
She leaned in close and whispered, "And I'd have it no other way."
"Behave, behave," sung Delirium in his sing song voice. "What is behave? Up down, back forth, banana?" She cocked his head and her long white hair fell over his insane swirling eyes. The man-woman giggled.
The Crone glowered at Delirium, her ancient eyes narrowing. None could truly trust Delirium for she was insanity given form.
"Ooh," crooned Delirium as he turned to the woman on her left. "Play me a song. A song of ... A song of life, love and very bad things."
Euphony nodded her head and started to play. The song was everything Delirium requested, at once joyful and haunting, wonderful and full of life's greatest despairs.
Euphony's skeletal hands flew over her harp's string, plucking notes that spoke to her very soul. Faster she went and more magical the music became. Her story was an old one but still known to all present. She was the first and greatest musician, so skilful in her art that her music charmed even death. But her charm only lasted while she played and should she ever stop, death would claim her in an instant.
Millennia of playing had reduced her fingers to polished white bones, but her charm maintained the rest of her youth. She appeared a young woman of perhaps twenty five, too hard of faced to be considered truly beautiful, even in company that did not include the Queen of Summer, but not ugly, no never that.
The only person at the table not taken in by her music was the Old Emperor, the King That Was and first lord of man, who had ruled the world when it was yet young. He was an ancient man, more than matching the Crone in age, with heavily lined skin and hands covered in blue veins.
Or so it appeared.
Hidden behind the Old Emperor's rheumy eyes and concealed from even the powers gathered at the table was Mor, the world's greatest thief who had stolen the Emperor's place, role and face for the night.
"Now we are all gathered," said the Crone in a voice of crunching paper, "we shall begin?"
There was no question as to the game. They would play Fate. When beings such as these met to play, all games were games of prophecy and prophecy was as much curse as precognition.
"Deal your cards, hag," said Khor in the voice of rolling storms.
Eyes hard, she lifted the deck in her reed thin hands and shuffled the cards. They were old and puissant like her, made from stiff paper and painted thick with oil paints. Faces flashed by — ghastly and beautiful, holy and profane, erotic and chaste.
She set and cut the deck. She dealt the cards. Three cards thudded down before each player.
Khor picked up his and frowned at what he saw. Others took similar actions.
Malleus wore a small smirk. The Queen of Summer wore a benedictive smile. Delirium was manic and despondent by the moment. The First Musician strummed on her harp, seemingly unconcerned by the cards in her free hand. The Old Emperor's face was hard and lined. Nyxanda preened, chest pushed out so her massive breasts strained against her metal bikini top.
"First bets," cackled the Crone and looked to the Queen of Summer on her left.
The Queen laughed like falling water and beckoned an initiate forward. The initiate was a young, beautiful man with long blond hair and a white toga that left half his sculpted chest free. He held a small chest made from lustrous wood, polished until it glowed. He knelt before the Queen and cracked the lid. From its shadowed depths, she pulled out a single platinum rose.
"A rose from my garden," she said. Dew still clung to the stem.
The other players nodded. Khor grunted. It was early in the game and the bets were understandably small. Such items formed the vulgar currency among beings of power. For all that, the rose was worth a king's ransom.
Malleus offered a vile of potent demon's blood.
Delirium laughed and conjured a bottle of wine made from the grapes of madness. Impossible colours swirled in the liquid's murky depths.
Euphony strummed a string with her skeletal hand and caught the note out of the air. It struggled and wriggled in her grip. "A note pulled from the Music of the Spheres, that which shapes the destiny of all beings, even powers as great as those gathered here."
The Old Emperor reached into his aged decaying robe and withdrew a handful of ancient stone coins, each one made, earned and spent in blood. He dropped them to the table one by one, each sounding like a falling tombstone.
Nyxanda produced a tiny vial containing the concentrated juices of Dark. Her eyes smouldered as she held it, full of forbidden pleasures. She was first daughter of darkness and a child of the eschatonic seed. When it came to smouldering erotic eyes, few could match her.
Khor jabbed a finger. Winds swirled in the room and a miniature whirlwind formed where he pointed. When it abated, a bottle sat on the table. Within it brooded a trapped storm cloud.
The Crone nodded her head and accepted the bets. She took up the cards and dealt the World for all to see.
First down was the Fortress, a looming black stone castle. Next came the Lovers, this card showing the Queen of Summer entwined in erotic embrace with her twin brother, her equal in fairness but lost long ago to the Impossible Infinities. Finally she dealt the World Ocean.
The players studied the cards. It was a strange hand. The Lovers should surely help the Queen but the Fortress and the World Ocean ... Too much could change.
The second round of betting started.
The Queen of Summer added a golden apple to her platinum rose.
Malleus withdrew and dropped his three cards into the Underworld, unburnt. The players all looked. The Scholar was no surprise, no one else would be dealt that card while he remained at the table, but the Tower, that was a stranger draw. What could it mean? The third card was the Night, too wide in scope to pin down.
.... There is more of this story ...