chapter 16: FORCE
this card, 11th of the Major Arcana, here signifies
Strength, Power, Fortitude, Lust
Ryndah lived on the edge of Tundtown in a 3 story apartment
building, where they went to the top floor. She had a small but
pleasantly luxurious room, as Clown could see once she lit some
candles. A sofa-bed half filled the room, there were many books
on shelves and scattered around. She had told him that she was a
school teacher. Ryndah said, "take off your shoes, make yourself
comfortable on the bed, I'll bring us some wine."
Clown sat down on the sofa bed--he had never slept on anything
like that, he was used to his little cot in the wagon. Fluffy
pillows, thick eiderdown, this was another level of existence,
very cozy. He was wallowing in the comfort as Ryndah came back
with the wine.
She had changed clothes, and was now wearing an a wispy robe
that revealed glimpses of nakedness beneath, and never had
Clown seen or been near so alluring a woman (or had he? there
was a distant memory of some blonde girl he had almost known).
She brought forth a bottle of wine and two glasses, which she
Ryndah sat in front of him on the bed and looked him deep in the
eyes, very serious. "Clown, or whatever your name is, I am used
to tempting men. But you tempt me too, which is wonderful and
terrible for me. I could easily fall for you, because I can tell
you're going to become something great.
"So I'm going to do my best to tempt you into loving me." She
slid part of her robe down her arms to reveal her wonderful
breasts, then posed for him.
Clown reached for her, a wild feeling surging through his body,
lust for this woman. He slid his hands up her legs, parting the
"Stop," she said in cold blood, "you must marry me first."
Clown stopped. "Huh?"
"I need you to marry me, it's my assurance that I am not being
a fool for giving away my great treasure. What kind of girl
did you think I was?"
"Marry? You don't even know me yet!"
"And you must give me a gift: 78 majors."
"The money I won at cards tonight?" Clown pondered, then
said, "But another woman only asked for 40 majors."
"Malinta is a whore--and besides, she wasn't tempting you, I am.
She wasn't selling you a chance to marry her, I am. That costs
more." She gave Clown an irritated glance, "Look, you got the
money for nothing, I don't want more or less, just that specific
symbolic payment, and then we can get on with it."
Clown took the money out of his pocket and gave it to Ryndah,
unsure of these procedures, maybe this was normal in Tundtown.
She smiled in relief. "You know, I was afraid you wouldn't pay,
that it would be some sort of moral dilemma for you. That's
why I had to have the money, as an acceptance of my value."
"The money doesn't matter," Clown shrugged, "but you can't be
serious about getting married so soon..." suddenly he could
follow the calculations behind her eyes: ...if this money
doesn't matter, then he must have a lot more...
He drew back for a better look at her, just as she was discarding
her robe. She really was beautiful naked and she knew it, posing
for him just out of reach. Clown couldn't help it, she made him
"I'm quite serious. We can marry tomorrow, and then I will offer
you all the wonder a woman can offer a man. And you may offer me
She turned, so that he could see her swelling hips and rounded
haunch. "We can have children, and you may redesign this town
to your heart's content."
At last his intelligence rose above his physical instincts, and he
found himself observing this woman as if from a distance: she was
physically alluring because she had a healthy young female body
with breasts and buttocks, an appealing face with regular features
and a smooth complexion, standard items for arousing male mating
instincts. And she was acceptably intelligent--not on his level,
but pretty good for a normal human--which was the best he could
ever hope to expect in a world where he was unique. But...
...but she was calculating, shrewd. An exciting predator, but
maybe not very nice. He could follow her logic as if she spoke it
out loud: this guy's gonna get me everything I want, he's got
SUCCESS shining out all over; all I have to do is control him with
sex, like women always do with men...
And he could chart his own future within the intended dynamics of
this affair, even though he was quite inexperienced in affairs
with women: sexual obsession (he was experiencing that already) &
infatuation driving him to surrender and marry himself into her
power; a period of seeming happiness due to sexual & emotional
gluttony; a job of some sort in this town to pay for her
expenditures; eventual disappointment over her mental and moral
character; and finally a realization that she was not his kind of
girl; an end; guilt, a divorce & settlement in her favor of their
collected properties; shame, sadness...
All this was going through his head even as his head was being
turned by her wondrous physical beauty, and he almost lost his
train of thought, especially when she moved so close to him that
he could smell the maddening musk of her.
Suddenly there was a fleeting memory of Wand's face. So fleeting
that Clown couldn't even see if she was pretty or not, just a
flash of blonde hair and a blur of eyes. Hardly enticing eyes,
but frightened eyes, eyes in trouble...
Ryndah sensed that she no longer had him hooked. They sat there
together in embarrassed silence. Finally Clown cleared his voice
and said, "Benutio and the others will wonder where I am."
"Yes. You'd better go."
"I'm sorry I can't..."
"Sure," she said, "because you're committed to something, or
someone right now."
"I guess so," Clown said, then "maybe when it's over I'll come
back here and..."
"Don't promise anything, Clown. It'll just make us both sad
later. Go on your quest, do what you must."
Clown nodded. "What about you?"
"Oh I'm great:" her voice was almost hard, "I got a dowry for
Clown was going out the door when she called to him. The
hardness was gone from her voice, it was a hopeful and
innocent young girl who said to him, "Clown, wait---if you just
want to have me for the night...you can."
Clown almost turned around to take her up on the offer right
then. But knew he couldn't, so he left instead. Walked out
into the night, on out of town, to where a gypsy wagon waited.
end of chapter 16
Agra was still awake when Clown arrived. He sat outside the
wagon in the moonlight even though the air was cold. He had
sobered up but it was obvious that he had been brooding.
"The conquering hero returns!" he announced as Clown approached.
Clown didn't feel like a conquering hero, so he didn't say
anything, but sat down next to Agra.
"All right, so I messed up," Agra admitted, "but it's all your
fault. If you hadn't been showing off--winning at cards, winning
the girls, winning the fights--if Otius hears about us it's your
"Well, I was supposed to be incognito, that's why I didn't wear
my clown suit."
"You're saying that we kept calling you Clown?"
"Big word, showoff." Agra suddenly punched Clown on the shoulder,
as if in fun, but hard and it hurt. Clown let it pass.
"I guess you think you should be boss now, with your big brains
"Benutio's the boss, Agra, I'm still learning."
"Yeah, well, I'm your boss too, little brother."
Clown looked over at Agra, who was shorter than himself.
"Actually, I'm about 2 years older than you, Agra."
"Yeah, well, I've been like your older brother."
"Yes, you have," Clown gently admitted.
"Your brains don't change that."
Clown didn't say anything, so Agra prodded him, "Do they?"
"Brains don't change what was, no. But they change everything
that IS. Surely you must realize that."
"Surely you must re-a-lize..." Agra mimicked and punched
Clown's shoulder again, same place for pain effect, no longer
pretending that it was all in fun. "How many times did I stand
up for you, defend you, fight for you?"
"Many times," Clown admitted, rubbing his shoulder.
"Well then, don't forget it."
There was silence, then Clown decided to speak: "Too many times,
Agra. You were too hard on people, you're a good street fighter,
but cruel sometimes. And as I vaguely remember, sometimes you
beat me up too."
"Oh, now you remember!" Agra cocked his fist back...
"Don't hit me again, please."
"And if I do? Think you can take me?"
"I don't want to hurt you, Agra."
"Well, you're worried about the wrong guy!" Agra punched at
Clown's shoulder again, but this time Clown turned and
intercepted the blow, catching Agra's arm with one hand and
deflecting the fist away with one strategically placed finger.
Agra lost balance and landed sprawling on his side.
It happened so fast that Agra looked around in confusion to see
what had happened, who had intervened from behind, but there
was only Clown standing there. Then he was on his feet in a
flash and ready to show Clown who was boss. He took the fighting
stance he always took, angry, nostrils flaring.
"Stop, Agra. You can't hit me anymore. I know your techniques
too well. Right-left feint, kick with left."
Agra hesitated, surprised to hear his plan of attack told to him,
then scowled and shouted, "You can't fight with brains!"
"I can plot trajectories, calculate leverage angles, impact
points, organize velocities that coincide with mass and inertia
"What the hell are you talking about?" Agra shouted out in
frustration, and attacked.
It was his old left foot feint, right foot sweep at head trick,
big surprise. Clown ducked under, grabbed, turned. And ended
up behind Agra with a crushingly firm grip on his crotch.
Very carefully, Agra stood still and made no more threatening
"A variation on one of your moves, Agra. And now that I've
got your attention, I'd like to explain a few things to you.
All right?" A little squeeze was enough to get a nod from Agra.
"You have defended me many times--thank you for that--but you
were often too cruel about it. You know what you would do to
your opponent now with this grip?"
"I had a revelation," Clown said, "--yes, another one--of an
efficient fighting technique, actually a philosophy,
call it a martial art." Clown slipped Agra loose. "Now
look at me: how I'm standing."
Agra turned to face Clown, who stood relaxed, balanced, ready--
and absolutely unassailable. Agra was an instinctive fighter,
and his instincts told him that no attack he made against Clown
would get through to him without it being turned back against
him. He looked and saw with wonder that it was not his idiot
little brother he faced, but his master, his sensei, his guru,
"It's not for the cruel, Agra."
"...I forego cruelty."
Crown opened his arms. "Brother."
When the sun came up over the misty horizon Clown was already
awake and once again wearing his clown suit, his face painted
with the eternal stupid smile. He had a small knapsack packed.
"Wake up," he said as if to the morning itself.
"We are awake," Benutio responded, stepping out of the wagon.
Devo and Agra stirred inside, and stuck their heads out to see.
"Change of plans," Clown announced.
"Yes, I supposed so," Benutio agreed.
"I'm taking over the expedition now," Clown said, as if
apologizing to Benutio.
Who raised his hands in blessing, "I was counting on it."
"We're supposed to be sneaking up on Otius, to surprise him,
but we're putting on a show everywhere we go. I think it best
I go on alone now."
"You'll cross the mountains alone?" Agra asked.
"I've studied the maps. It would take too long to get through
with this wagon. I'll buy a horse and ride fast--the idea is
to rescue Wand and Prince Elro before it's too late instead of
"At some point you must, of course," Benutio admitted, "but it
is still a long way to go alone."
"I need to be on my own, to experience and learn in new ways."
"But what about all the books?" Devo asked, "They're too heavy
"I've memorized them all; I don't need them anymore. You must
get the encyclopedia back to the Library in Tarro, as promised."
"But you'll need backup when you get there," Agra insisted.
"Not against a sorcerer who can destroy you from a horizon away.
No, this is a one-man expedition, always was. I just needed to
be ready, now I am."
Benutio nodded, but asked, "No misgivings, Clown? No doubts
about doing this, or why you're doing this?"
Clown shrugged. "I'm doing this because of what I would be if I
don't do it."
Chapter 17: THE HERMIT
List of Chapters