A lot of tales would have us believe that simply confronting our challenges is enough. However, in reality, sometimes we give a situation our best shot and still end up losing. The Five of Swords finds Ash Gravedust stepping out of the temporary protection of the Four of Swords to face his tormenter, the menacing Zombie Red, only to be mercilessly bested. In life, Ash had been a more skilled fighter than Ryuichi, but since being resurrected by the Virulent Red virus, Zombie Red trained relentlessly with a singular focus on the day when he would meet his former partner once again. The Five of Swords would inevitably be the end for Ash if not for the intervention of Alexis Montclaire, the teen scourge of the Sword Kingdom. She is seen approaching the fallen Ash with sword drawn, eyeing the gloating Zombie Red. In this story, Alexis is a defender of the underdog, often battling the rigid (and at times oppressive) House Swords. The decaying remains of several Sword Knights litter the yard of this card’s haunted house; reminders of previous battles with Alexis.
The Accidental Suicide Mission
After the recuperation period of the Four of Swords, we may be tempted to look again at our frightening, looming problems and decide to attempt to finish it all in one go. Possibly this is still a residual fear reaction or maybe it’s a sudden surge of over confidence. Admittedly, this ominous problem will not go away on its own and must be addressed but, in the case of the Five of Swords, it’s going to take more than one pass to overcome. The results of the immediate failure can range from humbling to outright humiliating. Ash recognized an inferior opponent in his former partner but is unceremoniously cut down. The card shows slashes across Ash’s face and a look of shame as he averts his gaze from the wickedly triumphant Zombie Red.
A Loss with Consequence
This is also a loss with a fairly major consequence for Ash. In battling Zombie Red, he is disarmed and the Five of Swords depicts the moment when the undead assassin shatters Ash’s enchanted sword. The shattering of Ash’s sword represents crumbling truths. Ash is out of practice with honesty, having lived his life as both the traitor and the betrayed. Therefore, Zombie Red’s sword of doubt and fear ultimately overcomes Ash’s weaker sword of truth.
The Overwhelming Truth in the Five of Swords
Losing is important. Making mistakes is important. These are the moments when avenues we’ve never considered become possibilities, new opportunities come into play and we really find ourselves. Truth doesn’t always come through strife but this is often how it appears to us in the Five of Swords. Just as Ash has violently thrown himself against his own demise and all seems lost, Alexis arrives. Though it is not depicted in the card, it is implied that Alexis uses her own sword of truth (a mirror of Ash’s) to momentarily defeat Zombie Red. Alexis is representative of a new path opening to Ash; one that he may have been too proud to take before. It’s important to note that Ash decides to follow Alexis after he is saved from imminent danger. He could continue to run and hide or he could try to face Zombie Red again (though this would almost certainly be his final mistake). It’s not fear that finds him casting off his pride and deciding to follow a teenage sword prodigy into the snowy hills of the underworld. It’s a genuine recognition that she has what it takes to defeat his adversary and he doesn’t.
The Futility of a Locked Door
The haunted house featured in the Five of Swords prominently displays a lightning bolt in keeping with the running theme in the Suit of Swords of illumination to the truth and destruction to make way for creation. Lightning dramatically touching down from the skies reinforces this theme. However, this haunted mansion is unlike the others featured in my Suit of Swords in that it features intricate patterns of bars over the stained glass windows and a steel locking vault door as its main point of entry. This is meant as a rejoinder of the necessity to seek out a new path because this haunted house, locked tight and surrounded by mountains of ice, is a dead end.
The borders are marked with a labyrinthine design leading to a lock in the center showing no immediate solution to a major problem without first doing the work, obtaining the key and choosing the right path. At the corners, the remnants of Ash’s sword are shattered against a cracked background.