The Shipwreck Arcana is a real game about a fictional deck of cards. The deck exists in a world which is described only as "sunken" or "drowned." The world's history is unknown — but it is hinted at by the fictional illustrator of the tarot deck, providing a glimpse of the history that surrounds it.
The main deck and the first round of expansion cards hint at a number of primary stories. But in the cracks that remain, as well as in the cards contained within the Stars Below expansion, you’ll find one last story with a slightly different theme than the others. It is still a story about destruction — but also, this time, a story about what comes after: the tale of the Stars Below.
She plays games by daylight, this one. Wielding power in The Lord’s court, moving pieces about the kingdom. But the power is not hers. The pieces are borrowed. Even the moves she makes are dictated. Restless, she seeks out games with sharper pieces, greater stakes. She accepts gifts that were better rejected, maps that were better left unexplored. What treasures she finds with them! More pieces brought into play.
She masters the game, or it masters her. She can play with her eyes closed. Perhaps she chooses not to see. Though she never feels the slightest tug, the strings already dance above her. She is a piece herself, making moves against the world. The tools she unearths chip away at its facade. Too soon, there is nothing left to support its weight, and it teeters above the beckoning waters.
The Fall is terrible, and inevitable.
But it is finite.
Over this swallowed land, over these jagged waves, The North Wind rises. She, too, is restless. She churns the seas with frost, and in the ice, stars shine reflected.
Do they shine from above, or below? Or could it be that they shine from both, that the stars live now in frozen sky and frozen sea. They are twins, burning in two worlds. Each fails to provide heat. Each settles for candlelight.
If you closed the book now… if you turned over the cards, and walked away… the world would have remained in ice, glittering from within. The Lantern would cast rainbows into the night, and the stars would answer.
But The Thief cannot walk away from that which glitters, and she has her own passages within the ice. She means to steal, and yet in the end she gives. Every starry jewel she plucks from its cradle is a seed waiting to thaw. Cut free, they do not wait long. Their form is one of change.
The roots take hold, cracking the ice. The leaves are smoldering embers, the trunk a charred husk. It is newborn, and it is ancient, this tree that rises from the sea, weeping rivulets of fire. And from this mixture, fire and ice rejoined, the world springs back into motion. It was waiting, all this time.
No cards can tell how long it took, or what it cost. But maybe that is better. Old worlds, doomed and drowned, are always a chrysalis. A tragedy ends, the lights wink on, and something new takes place.
This time, there is music. The snap of fire. The crashing sea, never one to be forgotten. The wind whistling for its due. Every creature that springs forth from The Ash brings an aria with it. They are The Musicians, one and all.
Would they recognize this world, growing and fiery and rooted in the grave of the old one? Would they who came before look up through the green ocean and be filled with sorrow at their loss? Not all of them. There is one who never stopped toiling, who never lost hope in the ice and darkness. He has served lords. He has served lands. He has served everyone save himself.
When he walks up the beach, leaving footprints in the cooling sand, The Musicians do not ask: How did you endure? They hear it in his voice. He sings the same words as the Stars Below the waves:
Fallen is not extinguished.