REIGN OF SIN   RULE OF VIRTUE

illustrated playing cards

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Part I: Reign of Sin


pride, envy, wrath, greed

I have foreseen dark things for this empire.

Pride: King of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert   Pride: Queen of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert   Pride: Jack of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

pride|clubs



Part II: RULE OF VIRTUE


humility, wisdom, patience, diligence

You speak of dark portents, but I too have read signs in the flights of birds, the turning of the stars, the births and deaths of animals. And I tell you that in my own visions I have seen very different things...

Humility: King of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert   Humility: Queen of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert   Humility: Queen of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

HUMILITY|clubs






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PRIDE: THE KING OF CLUBS

Pride: King of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

PAINTING | 11x17" ink and pencil on paper. DRAWING | 9x12" Col-Erase on Bristol.

ORIGINAL ARTWORK AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE HERE.

Pride: King of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

In my vision, I found myself amidst one of the many garrisons of Narmurius the Unyielding. All around us, from every tree and tent and horse, hung banners - so many banners that, were their colors more spirited, I might have mistaken the encampment for a village caught up in the celebration of some ostentatious festival.

Here, though, each banner bore the black club and watching eye of the emperor's seal, and a less celebratory atmosphere would have been difficult to imagine. Everywhere was a sense of guarded unease; among the soldiers, where one might expect to hear snatches of song and raucous conversation in a dozen tongues, there were only lowered voices. Not a man among them called his companion "brother," and each eyed the others warily.

'It is strange,' remarked my own companion, 'that so tall a man would be so insistent in his desire for others to bow low before him.' But he made this observation quietly, into the dirt, for above us Narmurius was passing by.






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PRIDE: THE QUEEN OF CLUBS

Pride: Queen of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

PAINTING | 11x17" ink and pencil on paper. DRAWING | 9x12" Col-Erase on Bristol.

ORIGINAL ARTWORK AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE HERE.

Pride: Queen of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

In my vision, I walked the market streets of a populous city. As the noon bells rang, a host of heralds took their places atop the minarets bordering the square, and as if in one voice, raised a great cry that boomed and echoed off the stone buildings such that no one within a dozen miles of the city could have failed to hear it.

I had heard such heralds in other cities for song or prayer, but as I listened, I realized that this particular faction cried out in celebration the glory of Nephemet The Renowned. For many long minutes, we were regaled with the hundred ways in which the city had prospered under the rule of the queen; if the criers were to be believed, each fish that leapt in a net, each child born healthy, and each stalk of wheat that pierced the soil to stand in the sun did so at the queen's behest.

The racket was such that all attempts at barter or conversation had to be abandoned; as the day was hot, we waited out the recitation under the shade of a market stall where a vendor was laying out her scanty wares. As the bells rang a second time and the din subsided at last, the woman spat on the ground. 'Thrice a day for the past five years have I heard such praise, but I have yet to behold these wondrous works of Nephemet the Overblown with my own eyes.' Feeling the gaze of a liveried guard fall upon her, she added, 'Though the harvest under her rule has indeed been a fine one!'

As the bustle of the market resumed, my companion and I moved on. 'I have known many who believe they can tell the story of their own deeds,' he said. 'It is a wonder to me that they never seem to hear the true authors of their histories whispering at their backs.'






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PRIDE: THE JACK OF CLUBS

Pride: Jack of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

PAINTING | 11x17" ink and pencil on paper. DRAWING | 9x12" Col-Erase on Bristol.

ORIGINAL ARTWORK AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE HERE.

Pride: Jack of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

In my vision, I was favored with a visit to the gardens of the renowned sculptor Soris, who was said to breathe life into marble. The man's talent was widely known, despite his young age, and it was a sorry palace indeed that was not graced by at least one example of his statuary.

As my companion and I wandered the sprawling grounds, with Soris's exquisite creations towering all around us, I too was struck by the transcendent beauty of his artistry. Strangely, though, my companion made only the most noncommittal of noises as I exclaimed over the elegance of the lithe figures and graceful drapery wrought in stone.

After a time, it struck me that although the statues represented all manner of ancient gods, fallen heroes, and kings of old, each of them bore the same face - a youthful countenance, handsome, proud, perfect. When we came at last to the workshop in the center of the garden where the artist himself was working, I felt I already knew his visage well. Although the likenesses in the garden were striking, the perfection of marble had failed to capture the peculiar emptiness of Soris's eyes; it was as if, having found the thousand wonders of the outside world lacking, he had abandoned such paltry sights and instead turned his gaze inward.

We exchanged brief pleasantries, and he accepted graciously enough the praise that I lavished on his craft; but before long, the conversation seemed to have run its course, and his attention wandered back to his work. Eager to see such mastery in action, I did not begrudge him this disregard; for under his clever hands the face of a youth was emerging from a block of marble - handsome, proud, perfect, without the slightest hint of emptiness to its eyes.






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HUMILITY: THE KING OF CLUBS

Humility: King of Clubs - Reign of Sin & Rule of Virtue playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

PAINTING | 11x17" ink and pencil on paper. DRAWING | 9x12" Col-Erase on Bristol.

ORIGINAL ARTWORK AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE HERE.

Humility: King of Clubs - Reign of Sin playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

In my vision, I found myself amidst a great assembly, and by the multitudes in attendance, I knew it to be an occasion of great significance. On a dais before the crowd, a nobleman was stripped of his magnificent armor and fine robes, and divested of every piece of gold and adornment that he wore. A dozen chests containing the unfortunate man's personal goods were relinquished to a solemn flock of clerics, who indiscriminately distributed the costly wares within to the gathered crowd.

In the place of this finery, he was given an austere garment to wear, and a rough helm of some base metal that gleamed only by the polish of much handling, for it was old, and worn, and apparently quite heavy. The nobleman was not a young man, and he sagged slightly under the weight of the thing, but bore it without complaint.

At first I took the proceedings to be a cermony of exile, or the exactment of some harsh legal penalty; however, my companion, admiring a newly-acquired sash of exquisitely woven fabric, informed me that this was in fact the coronation of a new king.

'In this land it is held that in order to rule justly, a king must have no interests but those of his people; no stake in worldly goods or personal alliances to put before the livelihood of those who owe him fealty. The burdens of his people are his to bear; he will guard them and serve them until the end of his days.'

And so it came to pass that I was witness to the crowning of Narmurius the Unworthy...






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HUMILITY: THE QUEEN OF CLUBS

Humility: Queen of Clubs - Reign of Sin & Rule of Virtue playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

PAINTING | 11x17" ink and pencil on paper. DRAWING | 9x12" Col-Erase on Bristol.

ORIGINAL ARTWORK AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE HERE.


In my vision, I travelled a long road through rough terrain - a harsh journey, but whenever some small misfortune befell my company, we found ourselves aided by others upon the road. My attempts at thanks were dismissed out of hand; each traveller, it seemed, paid us only such kindness as had been offered them by another; and just as these kindnesses had been given with no thought of renumeration, so in turn they gave them to us. At the start of the journey, most of these souls spoke of the kindness of strangers; but as we travelled further, their stories began to coincide in such a way that it seemed they all described a single individual. The further our journey progressed, the more certain the descriptions became: a woman, or perhaps a girl, clad in a silver cloak and starry crown. By the time we left the mountain passes for the lowlands, I had a name to put to this vision: Nephemet, or perhaps Nereiet - as we travelled a road where many dialects mingled, our various protectors seemed unable to reach a consensus on this point.

As we approached the lights of a distant village, dusk was falling; in the darkness, the wheels of our cart somehow contrived to wedge themselves amongst the tree roots that latticed the muddy track, and we found ourselves hopelessly mired less than an hour's ride from warmth and shelter.

To our delight, we spotted the faint glow of a lantern approaching; the beggar woman who found us proved handy with her staff and her shoulder, and soon our cart was on solid ground again.

Although I had become accustomed to having my gratitude brushed away, I thanked the woman profusely. Instead of deflecting the praise, as most we encountered had, she instead indicated the lantern she carried. 'A light in the darkness will serve only to blind, unless it finds a form to fall upon to give it shape and meaning. Better that I extinguish my lamp than hold it proud of those who might be illuminated by it.' With this strange observation, she went on her way.

'Though the custom is largely forsaken in these lands," my companion remarked after she had gone a little ways, "There are those who might advise you to kneel in the presence of a queen.' Bewildered, I looked after the retreating figure - holding high its lantern, shapeless beneath the tattered cloak that was, in truth, more gray than silver.

'Many before us have stood in the light of Nephemet the Unsung,' he continued, 'But this does not make the honor any less great.'






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HUMILITY: THE JACK OF CLUBS

Humility: Jack of Clubs - Reign of Sin & Rule of Virtue playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

PAINTING | 11x17" ink and pencil on paper. DRAWING | 9x12" Col-Erase on Bristol.

ORIGINAL ARTWORK AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE HERE.


In my vision, I came to a great marble pavilion; I might have taken the imposing building in whose shadow it lay for a palatial courthouse, but by the garb of the people who milled about it, it seemed more likely to be a monastery. Nine men of every ten in this crowd of hundreds were swathed in enveloping robes of plain, heavy fabric; their faces were hidden behind carved wooden masks, each one identical in its simple design, but beautifully crafted.

Winding our way to the center of the crowd, my companion and I came upon a broad reflecting pool; stone steps spiraled up from its edge to meet a raised platform at its center, where a fire burned in a brazier. As we approached, we saw that a young man was being led up the steps in the midst of a stream of silent, masked figures. He was robed as his chaperones were, but his pale face was bare, and his hands were manacled.

"The convict Soris," my companion said. The name was clearly meant to be familiar to me, though I had never heard it. My companion did not deign to enlighten me, though; his attention was fixed on the proceedings above.

For my own part, I hesitated to look on, for a few of the masked figures were stoking the fire in the brazier, and a crowd had gathered below to watch. I did not like to think what horrors I might be about to witness; but my fears - if not my confusions - were somewhat allayed when the young man was unshackled. One of the figures on the platform came forward, and placed in his hands a mask like the one they themselves wore.

The young man held the mask out in his cupped hands, and a dozen hands filled the empty bowl it formed with bundled herbs, dark powders, sprinkled elixirs, and a single ember from the brazier; the young man spoke his own name over the smoldering mass, with a gravity that somehow told me it was the last time it would ever be spoken - "Soris," like an incantation, and the name seemed to feed the fire, for all at once the contents of the mask caught spectacularly with a great gout of flame and smoke. When they were almost entirely consumed, the glowing embers were tipped into the brazier; the still-smoldering mask was quenched in the pool and fitted, by half a dozen pairs of hands at once, over the face of the man, whose name had been... Already it had escaped me, as if I had never heard it at all. A hundred voices spoke at once, in such a practiced harmony that they may well have been one voice; the mouth of the youth was hidden now, and I could not have said if he too spoke the words:

"Those who know the way as if the map was writ within them must not contrive to walk the path alone. There are others who do not feel the pull of an inner compass. Let the hand they would turn to iniquitous acts be stayed by the many hands of the brotherhood. We demand of them no righteousness in their own hearts, only the humility to allow themselves to be guided on a righteous path."

The ceremony concluded, the masked figures flowed from the steps as one, like a flock of starlings, dissolving into the ranks of the many who thronged below. I could not spot the youth among them.

I turned to my companion, who so often had some pithy observation to elucidate the strange spectacles we witnessed, but found him silent; his face was unreadable behind his wooden mask.



more to come...

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Playing card art by Wylie Beckert - ©2015 Wylie Beckert

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