chapter 14: THE HEIROPHANT

this card, 5th of the Major Arcana, here signifies Spiritual Father, Generosity, Mercy

They drove all day without talking much, slightly embarrassed 
about the poor show they had presented--even if it was only 
to avoid a battle with highway scoundrels for whose admiration 
they cared nothing.  That evening they camped in a forest but 
made no campfire, for Tunddal was not as safe as Theland.

Clown had been quite silent all day, reading, or simply looking 
out into space.  Finally, after they ate their evening meal, he 

"I'm sorry about that show back there," he said, looking 
contrite, "I became frightened when I suddenly realized just 
what we were doing--and that I could actually get hurt 
or killed doing that stunt."

"But you've done it a thousand times before," Devo commented.  

"Have I?  Perhaps, but I have never actually comprehended the 
danger before."

Benutio nodded, "Fear is a logical reaction: awareness of risk 
is new for you."

"Yeah, you'll get used to it," Agra said.

Clown frowned.  "Will I?  When I think of the stunts I've done...
if I remember right, everything before is kind of foggy...
wasn't there something we did, jumping between rooftops?"

Agra laughed. "Yeah, you were great."

Crown's face clouded.  "Was I?  Well, no more.  It's a stupid 
trick--I could be killed."  He got up and went into the wagon 
to be alone.

"Well, our jolly Clown is not so jolly tonight," Devo said.

Agra spat into the night.  "Nor so brave.  Is this our fearless 
hero who's supposed to take on the dangerous sorcerer Otius?"

"Clown's always been too fearless," Benutio told them, 
"because he was so stupid.  I wouldn't have done those 
stunts and neither would either of you." 

"Yeah, well, I'd have done the stunts if I could, and the thing is 
he still could do them, if he would," Agra insisted. "But 
more important: if he's going to fall apart doing these little 

"Yeah," Devo nodded, "what do we do about Otius if Clown gets 
cold feet?"

For half a day they drove across the great valley, then east toward Tundtown, through which they would have to pass on their way north. Benutio had Clown take the reins to learn how to drive the wagon, which he had never done as an idiot. "Don't be afraid of Arcano!" teased Agra with acrid humor. Clown did not respond. Clown learned the techniques in minutes and was driving effortlessly, although still saying nothing. Benutio sat beside him, the other two were inside the wagon. "You want to talk about it?" Benutio asked. "Sure: I am reluctant to take foolish and unnecessary risks." "An intelligent policy." "I only did so before because I was an idiot." "Understood. Now, why are you angry with us?" "Because you made me do those things. How could you do that?" Benutio laughed. "You really don't remember before, do you? It was you who wanted to do those things. We couldn't stop you--and anyway you were so good at it that we believed that you could never fail." Clown drove in silence for awhile, then, "I wish I could believe that now." "The stunts were what you did, what you were. You wanted to contribute something, and you did stunts no one else could do, like magic. It made you happy. It made us love you." "Yes, I do remember that." "Yesterday wasn't that long ago, it's not really gone." "The fearlessness is gone. Now I'm afraid of being afraid." Benutio said, "You're on a Quest, and quests are always about defeating fears." "About that quest: Just why am I going after a sorcerer? I could get killed that way too." "Because," Benutio explained calmly, "(1) you're the only one who might be able to pull it off with your heightened intelligence. Because (2) you OWE that intelligence to Luminata (and me). Because (3) you promised that you would save Wand from Otius. Don't you remember any of this?" "Sort of--although I didn't really know what I was promising." "Yes, you did. You loved Wand--remember?" "Uhm...sort of, I guess...there was a very pretty girl, although I don't remember what she looks like. Nor do I remember wanting to DIE for her." "You're not supposed to die, for her, but save her--and maybe win her heart, who knows?" "But do I want to win her heart at all?" "It does come nicely packaged," Benutio chuckled, "I have a feeling that when you meet her again you'll want her heart all right." "Yes, well, we'll see. The more I think about this sorcerer Otius, the less I want to confront him. It all seems pretty daunting. And this girl Wand--whoever she is--who am I to her? Just a clown!" "Think about this, Clown: the day before yesterday you were doomed to eternal idiocy, today you get to be a heroic genius on a Quest for your own Destiny. Even if you should fail, you will have won this moment."
The horse and wagon and four men rolled on through the wilderness of Farland day after day, there were not many villages out here, just an occasional farm. The flatland became hills, and then the Major Mountains were before them. Benutio had been through here before and knew the way to and on through the pass.
Clown and Devo discussed what they read, but were often in disagreement: "Wow, Clown, this encyclopedia must be the best in the world, what a treasure of knowledge and culture." "Yes, well, it's better than nothing. If only it wasn't so full of mistakes--inaccuracies, falsehoods, misleading conclusions..." "What do you mean? Some of the greatest minds among Mankind are represented here: Karatinn; Gruznowf; Slihann..." "Right: Slihann, for example...he writes that the world is the center of the Universe and tries to prove it by maintaining that the Sun, the Moon and the stars revolve around us. Which is wrong: the moon revolves around us, but not the sun, not the stars." "Sure they do, any fool can see that the sun rises and sets," Devo insisted. "And fools are always fooled by what they seem to see. It is the earth which revolves around the sun--and the earth which rotates to cause day and night." "That old theory was disproved by Slihann--we would have to rotate so fast that the wind would rip us apart." "Not if the atmosphere rotates with us," Clown reasoned, "which it does." "Oh Clown; you really think you know it all." "No, I don't. But I learn quickly and I remember everything... since my change at least...and I can rework things I learn and find new solutions to old problems. I am a super-genius, you know." "Yeah, but does that make you wise?" Agra butted in. "Wisdom being the ability to make good decisions--I hope so. Even though I have almost no life experience to balance against the academic knowledge I am gathering, I do have the raw intelligence to solve problems effectively if not correctly. "Of course I know that Knowledge is not enough, there's always some detail I don't have, so I have to guess at truths. However, a well-informed guess is always better than an ignorant guess." "Not always," came Benutio's voice from the driver's seat, "highly intelligent men frequently guess wrong--precisely because they are prone to guessing correctly, so they take bigger chances on being right." "And when they're wrong," Agra adding his own philosophical wisdom, "they defend their mistakes to convince us that they were right anyway--maybe like that guy Slihann." Then Agra gave Clown a stern look. "Just remember, Clown, that kind of intellectual arrogance will get you killed if Otius picks up on it." "I'm aware of that, of course," Clown agreed, shrugging. "Actually, it's best for Clown to be intellectually arrogant NOW instead of when he meets Otius," Benutio pointed out, "so that he can recognize which behavior to avoid." "Only if we diligently point it out to him," Agra insisted, but with a wry little smile. "Oh, fools you all," Clown admonished, with his own slight smile, "how little you understand." Then he became serious again: "Otius is presumably a very shrewd and experienced wizard with unknown magical powers, possibly derived from ancient forbidden Powertexts and I am just an inexperienced over-genius. The plan seems to be to put me on his turf, at his mercy, and then I simply "outsmart" him somehow. Which is to say that there is no plan. "Any intelligent analysis of the situation reveals that I am going into danger, and that I should be frightened. And I AM scared: I can easily imagine innumerable disastrous outcomes of this contest. Any intelligent man should simply refuse to do that which I am expected to. "So now I must convince myself that I really am superior to all others--yourselves included--and the most effective way to do so is by ostentatious demonstration of my vast mental powers to impress you yokels." "Sounds logical," Benutio admitted. "Yes. Actually, I seem to be formulating a new science of the mind...let's call it psyche-logic.
Clown was reading constantly as they drove along, the nearer they came to Castle Darkstone, the more he felt he had to know. But he was also getting tired of the encyclopedia. "Devo, those books you have, what are they?" "Oh, they are great stories, you should read some of them." Clown tried one, but a few pages into it he challenged Devo: "This story can't be true! Nobody can do the things this man does." "True? No, of course not, it's an adventure story. Fiction, made up." "Then...then why read it?" "For fun." Clown tossed the book back to Devo, looked out from the wagon at the land rolling beneath the wagon, at the sky, the trees, all the world passing by unexperienced as he studied prodigiously. "Fun would be doing something other than reading!"
They arrived at Tundtown in the early evening. It was not a pretty city like Tarro, it was a working man's town, mostly wooden 2-story buildings, torch-lit streets instead of magic crystals, but it had a casual rustic atmosphere and there were shops and places to eat and wine to drink, so they resolved to have a night on the town. They camped just outside of Tundtown, where they buried the bag of Empress Frieda's money for safety, taking only enough coins along for an evening's entertainment, as well as their musical instruments, and went on into town. Clown did not go as a clown. He washed the paint from his face and put on the one set of plain clothes he had, and went into town with Benutio & sons in disguise as a normal young man. It was a liberating feeling, being totally anonymous (and not as "the Clown" at any rate). They ate grilled wild swine in a restaurant and had some wine, living well on Freida's financing. Agra asked about night life in Tundtown and they were referred to a certain taverna. It was a big saloon, and there was a good crowd of farmers and lumbermen drinking lots of wine, merchants making deals, gamblers playing cards, tea-smoke clouding the air. And there were women, the boys noticed, although generally not so pretty as those in Tarro. It was almost a party, but there was no music, thus when Benutio and his boys came in with their instruments there was a cheer and wine was given to them to play, so they did. They didn't really need to play for money this time, but Agra and Devo were very ready to play for fun, especially because girls always came to them when those gypsy rascals played their seductively throbbing gypsy music. Clown was being low-key and in the background, shy and slightly lost in this crowd of strangers; he played no instrument, and he had no wish to do his funny clown dance tonight. He would just observe, study human nature from the lofty perspective of his new intelligence. He watched a few rounds of a card game, then decided that it was too simple to be of interest to him. As he was standing in the crowd a woman pressed up against him from behind. "Hi, cute guy, do you play?" Clown turned to looked at her, an attractive brown haired woman, quite a bit older than himself, slightly drunk, dressed in a very open blue dress. Clown had had no experience with women, although he had always been a horny fool, so he was flustered when this one pressed her breast firmly against his arm and smiled invitingly and said, "you can play with me if you're interested." "Play what?" He really didn't understand at all. "Oh, you're just in from the farm, aren't you? You can lay with me, if you want...for 50 majors." "Oh!" Suddenly Clown got it and also got extremely embarrassed. He blushed and bumbled, "oh, uh, no, uh, no thank you, I...I..." "Ok ok, for you, 40 majors. Because you're just so cute," she went on, brushing his hair with her hands, "so blond and blue-eyed, we don't see many like you here in Tundtown." "Uh, no, I don't want to lay with you, sorry." "Why not? Don't you like me?" "Well, I don't even know you." "That's only because you haven't laid with me yet." "Good logic," he begrudged, "but it feels wrong for me." He was already backing away. She shrugged and went off into the crowd. Clown found himself a corner where he could hide in the crowd. Once again he had been rattled: he had always been a horny idiot, who had learned that he must not molest the ladies because it causes trouble. Of course he was different now, but the lesson had not yet been unlearned. And he was quite aware of how undeveloped his social maturity was; like a preadolescent saying "Yuk, girls!" because he just couldn't admit to desiring them. The worst was that he had felt aroused, even over such an older woman, but was too afraid of doing something bad. Afraid again, is that the curse of intelligence? He drank some wine, which helped. Benutio and brothers were playing really good music now and the ambience in the saloon was getting high. Clown really couldn't help tapping his toes to those rhythms he knew so well and he started to feel comfortable in this strange place. Men and women were dancing drunken "gypsy style", stomping and whooping, having fun tonight. A little more wine and Clown started dancing too. But not the funny clown routines--he started inventing elegant new steps to the music. Girls asked to dance with him and, no longer shy due to the wine, he spun them as they'd never been spun. When the music stopped for a break, four girls were hanging on Clown's neck, trying to kiss him. Agra couldn't help being slightly jealous, commenting, "Hey, Clown, save a few for us!" And Devo joined with, "Yeah, aren't you supposed to be true to Wand?" "Klaune? Is that your name? Who is Wand? Are you married?" the girls all asked, very interested in this tall blond and handsome young man. It was kind of fun, but there wasn't any woman among them who really appealed to him. Until She walked in.
end of chapter 14

Chapter 15: THE LOVERS <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>