chapter 12: THE EMPRESS
this card, 3rd of the Major Arcana, here signifies Decision,
Plan, Mother Love
The gypsy wagon was parked just beyond the edge of town near the
river, where their horse could graze on the grassy banks.
But they were aware of townspeople watching them from afar,
for there was always a distrust of gypsies no matter where they
Benutio's children had been waiting at the wagon all day. They
were not sure of what was happening, but they had a good idea of
Benutio's plan. So they waited with varying degrees of patience.
Devo was content to read some local newspages he'd found in the
town--he had looked in vain for a new book, for he had already
read those he had so many times--he just loved reading. Even
though the newspages were not especially interesting, he liked
to learn about the places they travelled to.
Leema was making a soup. They had earned good money with Clown's
rooftop trick and still had a little bit left, enough to eat
again tomorrow as well. She liked it there on the river by this
pretty town--it would have been a nice place to stay. But the
catastrophic events of yesterday had marked the town, and she
knew that Benutio and Clown were now involved in a continuing
drama that was only beginning, and that they would soon be on the
Agra was the least content to wait, he was yearning for some sort
of activity. He'd love to go into town and steal, or get into a
fight, but Benutio had put them on best behavior here because he
wanted to make a deal with that sorceress. Agra picked up that
Benutio had also become quite interested in Luminata as a woman,
and he didn't blame him for that, there were also some girls here
he wouldn't mind flirting with...if he didn't have to be so
The sun was setting when Benutio arrived from town, alone. "Break
camp, kids, we're going into town for the night."
"What's happened? Where's Clown?" Agra asked.
"Clown is--well, it worked, he's changed..."
"Clown is...healed?" Leema asked, with joy in her voice.
"Much more than healed--" Benutio said, "--he's with Luminata now,
and we're going to meet them in a warehouse where we're going to
take on supplies for a journey."
"Aha, action at last!" Agra jubilated.
"But keep it quiet, this is a secret mission: no one is to know
that we are in league with the sorceress, or that she's financing
our trip, so we have to be sneaky."
"Hey pop, we are gypsies!" Agra reminded him.
end of chapter 12
Inside the warehouse Clown and Luminata waited for the others to
arrive. Luminata had ordered various items delivered to this
great hall, and entranced those involved to forget what they had
seen. It was getting dark outside.
It had been a very long day now, and Clown and Luminata were still
intensely processing information. They were both very tired, and
yet it seemed that Clown's mind just got sharper and more focused
and organized with every hour.
"Luminata, what can you tell me about Otius' magical abilities?"
"Otius has a Powerstaff, as I do, which is a control device for
the power banks found around the world. One of them is here in
this tower, another under Castle Darkstone, the seat of Otius'
power. You have seen what he can do with that, and yet his power
is reduced here because it is not his place of power.
"But a sorcerer also has a patron spirit. Mine is the goddess
Hecate of Olympus, but I have heard that his is the Demon King of
Hell. There is also a rumor that Otius is in possession of one of
the Lost Volumes of the Ancient Powertext, said to be instructions
for magic of the utmost evil. Those texts were supposed to have
been removed by the Ancient Powerbeings when they left this world
behind, but who knows?
"The truth is, I cannot say what his limits are, but he is
assumedly one of the most powerful sorcerers in the world. Beware
"Can you teach me any sorcery to use against him?"
"I'm sorry, no...it is forbidden for me to teach anyone but my own
heir, only Wand, for there is but this one Powerstaff. And even
if I would anyway, no one can become a sorcerer unless they are of
the sorcerer blood lines."
"You mean that the trait for sorcery is genetically determined?"
"It seems to be."
The gypsies arrived under cover of darkness after the warehouse
staff had left, drove the wagon into the great hall and closed
They saw Clown talking to Luminata when they arrived. Leema
hopped out of the wagon and ran up to him. She stopped in front
of him and looked at him intensely--but he looked the same, still
painted up as a clown.
He interrupted his conversation with the sorceress to look back at
her. He and Leema stared at each other for a long second.
"Clown! Talk to me!" Leema cried out, "Say something intelligent!"
Clown smiled, nodded, spoke: "Something intelligent."
That was enough, Leema could hear it in his voice, see it in his
teasing smile, and she laughed and threw her arms around his neck
and embraced him wildly.
Then Devo and Agra were there, also staring at him, waiting to be
convinced that it was really true, that their idiot "brother" was
"healed" of his affliction. But Clown was still teasing,
relishing the moment.
Devo went first. "Well, I hear you can talk now. And read."
"Indeed so, Devo. And I am quite convinced that you will be
absolutely overwhelmed to ascertain the quantity and quality of
reading materials accompanying us upon our forthcoming
"Huh?" Devo was flabbergasted for a moment.
Clown had to explain, "Crown talk rill good now."
Both Devo and Agra shouted and laughed and jumped Clown. The
three of them rolled wrestling around on the dirt floor.
Leema served the soup she had made. Everyone was ravenously
hungry, even Luminata, who was glad to sit in the wagon and share
this simple meal with these gypsy friends. She was used to food
prepared for the Royal Family (she rarely had time to cook for
herself and Wand, even though she enjoyed doing it now and then).
"I must go to Prince Elro soon," Luminata said, "I have to erase
his infections every few hours."
"How is the poor Prince?" Leema asked sympathetically.
"Weak, perhaps dying. I cannot give him back the life force Otius
took from him, I can only hold him in balance."
"How sad," Leema said, "and such a handsome young man, almost a
Then she pondered for a moment, and seemed to make a decision.
"Sorceress, may I come and help? I have before nursed...
someone with this same curse. She finally did die, but I kept her
alive much longer than she should have lived with some of the
gypsy remedies I have learned."
Luminata looked at Leema, suddenly seeing with her psychic vision
that very beautiful and sympathetic young woman with Destiny
written all over her open honest face.
"Yes, Leema. I can use any help you can offer me."
"Then let's go to him now."
The women left and the men were left to pack the wagon.
The wagon was loaded with food and provisions for the long
journey, and books: the 75 volume encyclopedia was heavy and
bulky, there were several Atlases and an almanac.
Devo was overwhelmed. "My Gods, this is the Encyclopedia
Intigiana! Do you realize what this is? My Gods! Only Kings
have these sorts of books!"
"They belong to the Emperor." Clown explained.
Clown was offered a dictionary to take along, but he said, "No
thanks, I've already learned that one." Devo, who considered
himself the scholar of the family, challenged Clown to prove
that. So page 583 was chosen, and Clown easily and accurately
recited every word on that page without looking.
When the loading was done, Agra went to sleep. Clown and Devo
were reading articles from the encyclopedia, until they too fell
Only Benutio was awake when Luminata came back to the warehouse.
She was not alone, another woman accompanied her, swathed in a
cloak to make her unrecognizable. But it was not Leema.
It was the Empress Freida. She came to Benutio, tossed back her
cloak and humbly bowed her head to him, saying: "Good Gypsy, I
have come to thank you all for going on this brave mission to save
our children," she said, "and I am sorry that it must be kept so
secret that you must all sneak out of town tomorrow, but please do
save Elro and Wand. Then you shall have a hero's welcome when you
return, as well as a place to forever call your home in Tarro!"
"Your Majesty, we are honored."
The Empress handed Benutio a heavy bag of coins, "This should be
more than enough finance your expedition."
"Ah, yes, how practical...we were a little short of funds. We
thank Your Majesty."
He hefted the weight of the bag; it was a lot of money. He raised
an eyebrow at Freida and asked her, "Do you really trust a band of
gypsies this much?"
"Luminata does, and thus do I. You and your family are the only
hope I have. And I want you to know that I have faith that you
will prevail in this, for I have just seen your daughter Leema
pull my son out of a coma.
"She wanted to stay with the Prince a while longer," the Empress
went on, "Elro responded very well to her medicine...and her
beauty. He seems unwilling to die while looking at her." A tear
ran down Frieda's face.
"So I will ask of you that Leema may stay with us while you make
your perilous journey: it would be safer for her, and give Elro a
better chance to survive until that awful Sorcerer Otius is
finally dispatched and his curse is nullified."
"Of course, Your Majesty, consider it agreed upon: I too want to
keep the Prince alive, and my little Leema out of danger."
"But what of yourself, and your sons? Perhaps you understand the
danger you are entering into, but they are so young..."
"Prince Elro did not back away from Otius, nor would they."
"And look at my poor Prince Elro," she said with clear there-you-
Benutio did not know how much he should say to the Empress--their
mission was secret and the fewer who knew Clown's condition the
better. So he said polite things, as did Freida, and then she
left the warehouse alone.
Benutio would have escorted her back to the palace, but Luminata
said, "No, she wants our meeting to be secret, and she wants to
share your danger in some way, so she goes alone. Anyway--she's
already safely in the secret passageway."
Benutio gave Luminata a questioning look. "Wasn't Prince Elro in
love with your own daughter Wand?"
"Elro's dying, he's clinging to life, and Leema is a powerful
symbol of life. I don't think he's concerned with the small
details right now."
"You're a wise woman," Benutio said, "I like you very much."
"All men like me, Gypsy."
Benutio laughed. It was the first time in a long day.
Benutio invited Luminata for a stroll along the bank of the River
Lyfe, the two of them alone.
"Well, Gypsy, you got what you came here for. Now: do you have
"Plan? yes / no. I really didn't expect any of this to happen,
you know. I just came here to for the sake of trying."
"Indeed, it's all quite a coincidence; your arriving just as
"It certainly is...oh, but does My Lady suspect me of duplicity?"
"No. I know that you have not actually lied--you couldn't
deceive a sorceress."
"Even though I am a sneaky Gypsy?"
"Indeed again: you have left some important things unsaid."
"Quite so, but not to mislead you--rather because until yesterday
it seemed certain that I was myself The Fool for having brought my
Fool to you. Now I know it was Destiny."
"Another message from your dead wife?"
"No, there was only that one dream. But I was also recently told
to be here in Tarro at this time, by a fortune teller who wishes
revenge on Otius--there are many, it seems."
"And you? What are you avenging, Gypsy?"
Benutio looked off into some distance. "That wife, of course.
She was the mother of my children. Otius leeched her of vitality
and she died gruesomely."
"So tell me, Benutio, have you raised that boy simply to be your
instrument of revenge?" The tone of her voice was not quite
They stopped walking. There was a moon, it was a lovely night,
there could have been romance in the air, but first this had to
be settled between them.
"No, Luminata. You do me an injustice. I have raised Clown as a
son, because he was the son of another idiot Clown who died while
saving my life and no one else would take his orphan child. It
"Nor did I believe in revenge over Otius: a sorcerer is like a
force of nature, like a storm or an earthquake, and equally as
unpunishable by a mortal like myself. But if he can be
punished, or stopped from doing more evil--to your own daughter
Wand perhaps--then I will dedicate my services to that end.
"As for Clown, I only wanted to heal him--but now I must worry
that he will be harmed by that monster. And yet, I feel that he
is the very vehicle of destiny sent to defeat the Old and
"Sorcerers are not really untouchable forces of nature," she said,
"they only seem that way." Her voice was not neutral now, for she
had recognized the truth in his voice.
And Benutio knew an opening when he heard it. "What about
sorceresses? Can they be touched?"
"This one can be touched by a sneaky gypsy just now."
When they came back to the wagon, Benutio's children slept, even
Clown, for it had been a long day and night. The two adults
looked down at the young people.
"Luminata, it was my wife whom Leema took care of while dying from
Otius' leeching, and she kept her mother alive quite a while with
some medicines and with a native healing ability she seems to
have. It is good that she stays with you to nurse Prince Elro.
We are riding into danger and may never return. If so, she will
have lost her family and you may have lost your own daughter..."
"Of course, Benutio, we must take care of each other's daughters."
"Yes. Good. Thanks." He kissed her.
It was a casual kiss, the kind a man gives his wife, not of
seduction but of well-established affection. Luminata, who was
usually immune to the desperately passionate longings of men, fell
in love at that moment.
Luminata bent down to the sleeping Clown, studying his innocent
face. "What strange force of nature have we unleashed here?"
Then she kissed the young man on the brow. It was the kind of
kiss a mother gave to a beloved son and that was when Benutio
knew that he too was truly in love. "Bring Wandii back to me,
Clown," she whispered.
"Crown ruv Wandle," he mumbled in his sleep.
Chapter 13: THE HIEROPHANT
List of Chapters