“My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
“What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
“I never know what you are thinking. Think.”
—”The Wasteland,” T.S. Eliot
“I don’t like the sound of this,” Sam muttered to Dean.
“Me neither,” said Dean, “but what choice have we got?” He sat across from Maya and put the briefcase between his feet. Sam sat at his side, his eyes on the Green Knight.
Maya looked at the Trickster, who hadn’t moved. “You, too.”
“I’m not a part of this,” the Trickster protested. “You just asked me guide them. You didn’t say anything about tests.”
“We’re all a part of this,” Maya said calmly, so the Trickster sat at Dean’s other side with a frustrated sigh.
“Wait,” said Dean, “you asked him?”
“Yes.” She nodded and put the deck of cards in front of Sam. “Shuffle them, please.”
He took the deck and shuffled them, and Dean said, “Who are you? Really?”
“I’m Maya,” she said patiently and thanked Sam when he gave her the deck.
“Yeah, but –”
“I’m Maya,” she said again, looking into his eyes, and Dean thought, maybe, he understood. “Each of you take a card, please.”
“You know what I’m going to get,” the Trickster said as he took a card.
“Yes, I do, but do it anyway, please. Sam, Dean.” They both took cards, and she said, “Turn them over, please.”
The Trickster turned over his. “The Fool. Big surprise.”
“Isn’t it terrible to be an archetype,” Maya said, smiling at him.
Sam turned his over hesitantly, and exhaled when he saw it. “The Tower.”
Dean looked at Maya a moment more, and then the Green Knight whose hand was resting on the handle of his battle axe. He turned over his card and frowned, confused. “The Hanging Man.”
“Okay,” Maya said. “Good. Good start. You, of course, know your path and your destiny,” she said to the Trickster, who nodded and leaned his head on his hand, bored. “Now, Sam. Yours.”
“I’m just happy it’s not the devil card,” Sam said quietly.
Maya reached over and patted his hand. “Don’t be complacent just because it looks benign. The tower is about pride.” Sam frowned and looked down at the card again. “Pride is what keeps us blind to our own faults and to the changes we need to make to be happy. Or in your case, to refuse your destiny.”
“I don’t want my destiny,” Sam said. “I don’t want to be the Antichrist.”
“And yet,” Maya said softly, “you don’t refuse the gifts that come along with the title, do you? Not the powers, the weapons, the strengths . . . the lover.”
The Green Knight narrowed his eyes at Sam and fingered the handle of his axe a little more blatantly.
“How am I supposed to fight without the advantages I’ve got?” Sam exclaimed. “We are up against something so big –”
“I know what you’re up against,” Maya said. “I know. I also know who and what are on your side. Sam, you’ve been warned time and time again about using those powers, and yet you continue, and you always tell yourself, ‘I’m strong enough. I won’t be tempted.’ But are you, Sam? In your heart, are you?”
Sam’s jaw clenched, and Dean said, “He is,” in a low voice.
“Oh, Dean,” Maya said gently. “Your faith is one of the best things about you.” She said to Sam, “I’m going to give you three words to think about. Pride. Illusion. Change. Okay?”
“Okay,” Sam said. Maya looked at the Green Knight, who was still watching Sam; his gaze met Maya’s and he gave a tiny nod.
“Dean,” Maya said, affection in her tone, and Dean grinned at her. “This is the second time I’ve had to rescue you.”
His grin faded. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“I should have guessed helping you would be a full-time job. You’re a born world-shaker. Oddly enough, this card isn’t about trouble. It’s about contemplation.”
“I keep seeing this,” Dean said. “Hanging men. From trees, from gallows — it’s creeping me out.”
“As well it should. The symbol is following you. I wonder why,” she added softly. She pointed to the card. “Look at his face, though. He’s not suffering. It’s a sacrifice, not an execution. The hanging man sacrifices himself for knowledge and wisdom.”
Dean swallowed hard. “I did that already.”