chapter 19: JUSTICE
this card, 18th of the Major Arcana, here signifies
"Masser, howcum Powerstaff work anyway?"
Otius was relaxing between rituals. He answered Clown's questions
mostly to amuse himself by confusing the fool.
"The Powerstaff is an ancient device of an even more ancient race
which dominated the world long before the barbarian nomads
wandered into what is now called Theland, back when the towers
were built, before the time of Man. It is a remnant, like the
Tower of Tarro, of a technology so advanced that matter and energy
are equally manipulated by yet another form of reality.
"This Powerstaff is a control unit and transmitting antenna for
vast power banks of crystal below the ground here, even as at
Tarro and various other points on the planet. With this small
machine I control great energies: gravity, heat, light--creative
and destructive energies."
"Can Crown pray with it?"
"Play with it?" Otius laughed. "THIS in the hands of a fool
could bring utter ruin to everything. Fortunately, you could not
operate it or make it work, it serves only me." He held it aloft
in one hand.
Clown watched the sorcerer fit the two rings on his right hand
into the slots on the device--as he had seen Luminata do with her
own Powerstaff--there was a click and a hum, then a bluish glow.
Otius waved it toward a large iron pot, which floated up from
the table and flew around the room as if in orbit around the
Powerstaff. Then it sailed out the window and up into the sky.
Clown ran to the window and looked up for it. The pot was now
in orbit around Castle Darkstone.
Otius stood beside him. "Now watch."
A red ray streamed from the tip of the Powerstaff. The pot,
touched by the ray, exploded into red-hot mist and was gone.
Otius frowned. "Oh, drat! Why did I do that? I liked that
end of chapter 19
Being free to move about in the day, Clown systematically
explored Castle Darkstone. It was a huge ugly building, a simple
square block with a tower on the corner, there was a great cellar
with dungeon, 4 floors above ground and the tower went up another
3 floors, 22 rooms in all.
He was especially interested in finding one item: he remembered the
little black cloud Otius had used to escape from Luminata’s wrath,
evidently a magical vehicle of some kind. He’d learned from Wand
that it had also teleported her the thousand leagues from Tarro to
Castle Darkstone in an instant. Perhaps they could use it to escape,
when the time came. But he saw no sign of it anywhere.
Instead he discovered the great stone column passing up through the
middle of the entire building, up to the ceiling below Otius' study
on the top floor, upon which the metal pedestal sat. An idea
occurred to him, which he investigated in the cellar where there
were tools to loosen the stones in the wall.
He found that the stones hid the silvery metal of a Powershaft,
similar to the one in the Tower of Tarro, extending from deep
within the earth up to Otius' study, the "pedestal" being the top
of this artifact from the time of the Ancient Powerbeings. It
had been walled in when Castle Darkstone was built around it
thousands of years before.
Clown listened closely; there was the faintest humming. He
touched it and his fingers tingled with something similar to
static energy (he must get around to defining what static was,
he thought). This silver column was evidently the energy
source for Otius' Powerstaff.
Wand and Clown played cards. Fear and Dismay watched them
closely; they had become suspicious that something was going
on between the two people, although they didn't know what.
Sometimes Wand and Clown would play actual card games, partly to
convince the demons that it was all innocent, and sometimes even
just for fun.
At first Clown assumed that games were too trivial because he
could always win unless he threw the game to fool the demons, but
he soon found a formidable opponent in Wand. He would win games
of strategy and complex memorization, but Wand could win games of
chance because she had a good poker face.
"Why you two always play paper squares?" Despair asked.
"Fun!" said Clown. "You want pray with?"
"Demons don't play with paper! That game's stupid!" Fear spoke,
"Well, Crown stupid," he admitted, shrugging.
"But Missy's not," Fear said, stroking his chin, thinking.
"I'm just passing time," Wand said, "Come on, Crown, deal."
"How can you know Powertext?" she dealt.
"Don't yet. Trying to learn from Otius' metal book, which is
Lost Volume of Powertext."
Wand gasped and looked up sharply from the cards at Clown. The
demons were watching her. "No cheating, Crown!" she said, out
loud. With cards she signaled: "That should be most dangerous
magic in world. Are sure?"
"Pretty sure. Understand words, phrases, missing much. Have
memorized many pages, working on translation even now. Could
Clown took a blank card and a brush before he laid out the next
cards, which read: "Very important symbol need to know, I
draw--" And he started to put pen to paper.
Wand went ashen. "No!" she cried out, grabbing his hand. The
demons looked at her with surprise, as did Clown. She covered
again by speaking, "You keep cheating, Crown! Bad Clown!"
Then hurriedly laying out her cards, "When you write Powertext
--things happen!" She looked Clown in the eye, "and if you
don't know what a symbol means...dangerous things can happen!"
Clown thought for a short pause, then wrote upon a card anyway
and presented it to Wand: the number 15. Out loud he said,
"Crown tired of game. Want make more cards for more fun."
"All right Crown, I know what; just for fun let's make 22 special
cards, sort of like the 22 agents of P-text. Let's see: we
already have a number zero The Jester, and number 2 Priestess,
here's 16 The Tower..."
"And this one," Clown indicated, pushing the card he had numbered
"Number 15, I draw...The Devil," Wand said.
In his wanderings Clown had found the kitchen, which was every
morning re-stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, red meat and
wine for Otius, jugs of soup and absurd quantities of candy and
cakes and sweet drinks for the two demon slaves. He had to wonder
where the food and other supplies were coming from, since no one
ever came to or from the castle.
He had Wand ask the demons about that, since he had to play dumb.
The answer was very interesting: it seems that little black cloud
he’d been seeking was usually hovering above some warehouse somewhere
(perhaps halfway around the world?) from where it zapped up a
generous load of food and household supplies every night (as
prearranged by Otius with the people on the ground, whether by
finance or fear is unknown), and then teleported that cargo
directly to Castle Darkstone's kitchen pantry.
Whenever Otius need to use the cloud himself he could simply call
it in, but otherwise it seemed to operate independently. The more
Clown learned about that cloud, the more interested he became in
someday getting one of those for himself.
Clown was ostensibly playing near the moat. Actually he was
experimenting. He had a piece of wood, a piece of glass, and a
piece of darkstone. He would dip them into the acid mud, quite
cautious not to splash, and watch them dissolve. The acid ate up
Everything--all but the dark rock of which the castle was made.
"Masser," he asked Otius later, "howcum acid in moat no eat up
Otius was reading his metal book and answered without thinking.
"Because when I made the spell I protected the darkstone this
castle is made of, otherwise it would do me no good to..." He
suddenly looked up from the book, as if surprised.
"That is a rather intelligent question coming from you, fool."
"O, Masser so smart, Crown gonna learn be smart too."
Wand and Clown could converse quite fluently now since they had
expanded the deck to 78 cards, almost magically expressing
anything they needed to say. And the two demons were no longer
even suspicious, but rather bored with watching the humans play
their silly incomprehensible game, wherein they swapped cards
with each other and laid out suits and trumps, but no one ever
seemed to win or lose.
Crown laid out his cards to Wand: "You have very impressive
Control--something I need more of--control over my own fears."
"About your reaction to the demon Fear, is that a pretense?"
"Not pretense," he admitted, "quite genuine. My new
intelligence doesn't protect me from the aspects of the demons--
in fact, if anything it more intensifies my comprehension of
terror and despair. But you--you are unaffected. How?"
"I am affected. But I exercise Control at all times."
"Well, if you can do it, then perhaps I can also learn to, I
"Speaking of hope, what is your plan?"
"Plan? I have no plan yet. Or rather, I have a general plan,
but it is not yet clear how to pull it off."
"How about a general idea of your general plan?"
"To study Otius. Find a weakness. Defeat him."
"That's pretty general all right."
"Actually," Clown dealt out, "he's rather interesting.
I want to pick his brains awhile--he knows a lot. Also, his
library is a vast one: I've been reading the books and amassing
information; astral cosmology, organicolgy, wine brewing..."
"Then you are in no hurry to leave this place?"
"Well, I'm in no hurry to make the wrong move. Otius is
dangerous. The demons are dangerous."
"All the better to leave soon."
"Worry not, Wandle, I won't let him hurt you."
"Think you can stop him?"
"I believe that eventually I will be able to. When I have the
"Information about what?"
"About how to become a sorcerer myself. Then I can defeat and
replace Otius. I guess that's the best plan I have come up with
Wand blinked. "You don't know what you're saying! That would
require a lifetime of training as well as a certain amount of
There was a slightly vain look in Clown's eyes as he laid out
his cards, "I am super-intelligent. I can learn anything."
Wanda frowned, then turned her back to him for a moment. Clown
perceived that she was upset. Then she left him sitting there
alone with his cards and two bored demons.
Clown had calculated a method for escaping his cell at night.
He chose that night to try it out. He pretended to be sleepy,
went to his cell early, and prepared.
Fear came to lock him up some time later. He always tucked the
chain through a side of Clown's chastity belt, relishing in
the clown's overreaction to physical contact with the demon.
Clown seemed to be sleeping, and Fear touched him just for fun.
But Clown just rolled over without hysterics and fumbled for
the chain, tucking it through the strap himself, then
rolled over and went back to sleep.
Fear was chagrined, how boring, so he just locked the chain in
its slot and closed the door, locking the uninteresting clown
Clown sat up and removed from his metal belt the locked dummy
chain, which was not fastened to the floor, for he had been
laying upon that other chain. The loose chain being a short piece
he had found in a cellar.
Then he pushed on the back wall of his cell, and the large stone
he had loosened with tools borrowed from Otius' workshop swung
out, hanging from the ceiling by almost transparent threads,
opening to reveal the night sky outside the castle and a long
drop to the acid moat below. He also had a long thin rope under
his bed of straw-- that and the threads were made of a substance he
had developed from several chemicals in Otius' workshop, a polymeric
strand of great strength. He passed through the hole, out of
the cell, then was clinging to the outside wall of the castle.
A little later, Fear peeked in at Clown asleep in his baggy
suit on the pile of straw. For a moment Fear considered a
bit of delicious tormenting, until he remembered that Wand
was still awake and would come to rescue the Clown when she
heard his screams. Regretfully, he closed the door to Clown's
cell and threw the bolt.
Clown, meanwhile, naked except for his metal chastity belt, was
climbing the stone exterior of Castle Darkstone by clinging to
miniscule grooves in the stonework. He had, of course, stuffed
his clown-suit with straw to appear as if it were himself sleeping
(see? told you he was a genius). When he came to Wand's window
he waited until she finally arrived, dangling from a strap
arrangement he had previously fastened to the window sill.
When she entered Dismay bolted her door from outside as he did
every night and Wand was locked alone in her room. She sat
upon her bed and closed her eyes and released a long sigh. The
end of another day of control and...
Clown climbed up to sit on the window ledge and look into her
room. "You knew I was here?"
"I have visions." She looked at him and frowned. "What is wrong?
You look ill."
The painted mask was running down Clown's face, washed by sweat,
and his entire body was trembling. "As I was clinging to the wall
above the moat of acid I began to think of what would happen if I
f-fell. It was easy to do stupid and dangerous stunts before, but
now I think too much!"
She pressed her head to the bars and looked out the window, down
at the moat of acid below. Her eyes widened in comprehension of
what danger he had braved, but she did not speak as if she were
impressed. "But you did it anyway. Why?"
"I had to talk with you. You seemed...upset."
"Men always say women seem upset. You talk better
with the cards," she said, as if an accusation, clearly
dissatisfied with something or the other.
"What's wrong, Wandle?"
"I thought you had come to rescue me."
"Well, I have."
"Instead you have become fascinated by Otius and his magic."
"Should I pull out a sword and slash our way out of here, as
your bold Prince Elro would have done?"
She turned on him, offended now, "Elro would have died a hero
"Uh, perhaps I'd better tell you...he almost did. He's still
alive, back in Tarro, but only due to your mother's magic."
Wand winced, her control slipping. "What happened?"
"Exactly what we were discussing: he attacked Otius with his
sword and was drained of almost all his life-force."
"Oh, poor Elro." Sadness actually showed upon her face now, she
turned to Clown as if she would fall weeping upon his shoulder,
then assumed control again. "He did it for me, the fool."
"Yes: the fool."
Wand slumped, anger gone. "I suppose that it is now I who must
seem the idiot."
Clown shrugged, "Well, no, not exactly an idiot."
"But not equal to you, I suppose."
"No," he admitted, "but no one is my equal now. Not even Otius.
That must sound vain to you, but it is a fact. Actually, it's
rather lonely to have no one who..."
Wanda gave him the word, "Understands."
"Yes." There was an apology in his word.
"Did it hurt you when I told Otius that I wouldn't desire you
because you were not my equal?" she asked him.
"Hurt? No, it amused me, considering things as they were. And
I commend you upon saying the right things for the situation."
"So do you still...?" Wand paused, unsure if she wished to finish
the question, then smiled slightly "...ruv me?"
"Do you mean if I am still the foolish Clown who abjectly worships
the beautiful Wandle?"
He dropped his eyes, shrugged. "I'm not as I was."
"I hardly thought you were," she said.
"I'm afraid that sort of unqualified adoration is lost to me
now. Unfortunately perhaps, it felt very nice. Although I do
like you very much," he hastily admitted, "you are very
beautiful and have a wonderful personality, very attractive
Suddenly the chastity belt was getting hot, he had to stop
thinking about how nice this girl really was, "...uh, we can
be good friends."
"Oh," Wand said, now looking away.
There was an awkward moment of silence.
"You are sad?" he asked, when he had cooled down somewhat.
"Almost. Actually it is a rather beautiful bittersweet feeling--
even though it does hurt somewhat. I'm glad to feel it, though,
since I thought I might never."
She laughed and looked him full in the eyes. "And I thought
you were so intelligent."
"Oh! Are you saying that you are... in love with me?" He
appeared to be amazed.
"Yes," she answered without equivocation.
"Oh. Oh, I didn't think of that! I mean, I didn't think that
would happen. I mean, you are so in control...I..."
Ow, the belt, HOT! Cool down NOW! He looked away, then back at
her, embarrassed at his own behavior.
She seemed neither happy nor sad, she was in control.
Chapter 20: THE HANGED MAN
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