This is most unusual. Or maybe it isn't unusual at all.
Blackjack Saloon, in the wastelands of the outer reaches of Rancho Nuevo. The bartender checks everyone's cards before they drink, before they gamble, before they borrow a room upstairs to do whatever it is they like to do.
Red Jack at the bar. This doesn't happen often, if at all. Black Jack isn't surprised, nor does he change his overly calm demeanor.
"There is a legend in Rancho Nuevo."
"There are many," replies the bartender, maintaining his calm demeanor.
"This one is special. It is one of those only mystics and the mad believe in. This is the one about someone more powerful than a queen."
"There is a reason only mystics and mad men believe in that legend. Believing in it inevitably turns you into one."
"And if I found her?"
The bartender shrugged. "The only way to play the queen of queens is by betting the house on a single hand. You have to bet everything on her or she ceases to be queen of queens. She's the one you have no exit strategy for. This is the one you stay with for eternity, the one you are forever bound to. Mystics and mad men aren't the ones who believe in the legend, they are the ones who exist within it."
The legends of Rancho Nuevo are mostly preset adventures that hinge on self-fulfilling prophesy. They are journeys into yourself, into what you are capable of and an exploration of what brings you to the edge of total destruction.
I once bet everything on a woman I used to call The Muse, but there was an exit strategy. Her madness turned her into someone other than who I knew her to be, a sociopath who had fallen in love with me, which is something that is technically impossible. That made her want to destroy me, slowly and deliberately, by finding all of my weaknesses and manipulating them. What happens when an empath spends two years living in close embrace with a sociopath? When an empath that absorbs and feels the emotions of those around him wraps himself around a sociopath for an extended period of time he absorbs her emotional void.
And that was more destructive than anything. He learned how not to feel, and it took four years and a very special queen to teach him how to feel again. The friend he talked to on the phone the night this queen left him didn't understand why he was so happy to be on his knees crying as he felt his heart breaking.
"I've learned how to feel again. I have emotion again."
A couple of years later, the Red Jack of Rancho Nuevo found another One Queen, the beginning of another pattern of three queens. It was the same story. He walked away. As much as this woman intrigued him he didn't want to run around the same maze he already had many times.
"Do you know who I am?"
"Red Jack. Am I supposed to be impressed?"
"I'm a legend myself. Call me the Jack of Jacks. Look at that, now I outrank you."
"Legend in your own mind, Hearts."
Bet the house or cash out now.
The interesting thing is that she went with me to seek out the One Queen. I told her I didn't hear any music by The Beatles so I knew she wasn't there. It was the first time I began to realize how I felt about my dining companion, who I had known for almost a year.
Either I let myself fall the rest of the way or I get on my horse and get out of town as soon as possible. This is what this particular myth is about.
I haven't decided.
You choose the mythology and the pieces fall into place. People take on aspects of that which you believe them to be and then you convert them completely simply by altering the mythology to fit the experience.
Consider the evidence, set up like a museum in the First Kingdom of Rancho Nuevo. If TheDeadGuy experienced all three of his queens, multiple times, in different formats following the same pattern, it has always reflected who he is. If the pattern changed, then it would mean he had no impact on the lives of his queens. He was never able to break the pattern, but one of the missions he was given in death was to break the pattern which cannot be broken. The only option if he wanted to avoid retirement for the rest of his life and have an opportunity at true, lasting love was to find that which was greater than the pattern.
The Crimson Queen.
The board is now four dimensional, as in order to win the Crimson Queen he will have to gamble not only the present, but the past and the future. He has to offer her everything and entrust it to her care while elevating her above it all.
"Your mythology is intimidating. You expect a woman like the Crimson Queen to not be put off by your list of queens, fiancées, and dark shadow conquests? Either you elevate her to a place above all of it, giving her dominion over every woman and every dream, realizing that it has all led you to her or you don't."
"And if I don't?"
"She becomes a footnote. You run off and probably end up running the pattern again, over and over searching for another Crimson Queen, but you've already named her."
"This is that, I don't doubt you there."
"You've never stayed with a queen. They were always rulers of their own eras and nothing more. Their coming and going marked the beginning and ending of those eras. No one has ever held dominion over all time and space in your mythology. Not even The Muse."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, are you okay?"
"I'm always okay. Nobody ever worries about The Jack."
"Maybe someone does."
She is the most beautiful woman in all time and space simply because I said so. This is how she reflects the mythology in her eyes. This is how I see her through mine.
Damn the torp--