chapter 18: THE STAR

this card, 17th of the Major Arcana, here signifies Hope, Expectation

Clown was taken to the sorcerer's workshop down in the cellar, 
where there was a forge and tools for forming metal.  Old armor 
and broken swords lay about, piles of chain and metal plates, 
reminders of whoever had lived in Castle Darkstone before Otius 
took it from them, for he had no use for armor or swords.  But 
he did have a use for the metal.

Clown was stripped naked and forced to stand still while Otius 
used his Powerstaff to weld plates of sword-steel around Clown's 
waist and under his crotch in such a way and so snugly that he 
could never wriggle out, and so effective against sexual adventure 
that even an erection would be painful.  There were no locks, 
which Wand could have easily opened anyway, it was all one piece 
of shining steel, very neatly done with no rough edges.  Otius 
took pride in his work.

Although Clown was apprehensive of what Otius was going to do to 
him, he was also very interested to observe at close range how the 
old sorcerer worked.  At first Otius was grumpy,  mumbling 
something like "more trouble than you're worth", but he soon 
warmed to the task and became quite concentrated and efficient.  
His Powerstaff zapped and glowed and spat out minor charges of lightning 
as Otius waved it freely about, as if part of himself.  

He mumbled incomprehensible phrases.  Metal flowed and formed at 
his command, and he seemed to be quite relaxed and content, almost 
about to hum as he toiled, in perfect control of godlike 
forces.  One had to respect the craftsman.  

This was the enemy, close up.

Clown was closely watching Otius' face, when the old man suddenly 
caught his eye and gave him a very stern and quizzical look.  
Their eyes locked, and Clown saw that the man he had to fool was 
no fool.

Fear surged through his brain, nose to nose with Otius the Old 
and Evil, the ugly, the awful, the undefeatable...he was sure 
that Otius could see into his brain and his intelligence and 
instantly blast him with that Powerstaff he had ready in his 
hand: blast him with a Curse--of stupidity, perhaps!

Clown spoke without thinking, he was too afraid to think at that 
moment: "Oat-tiyus rike Crown?"

Otius blinked.  "How could you possibly think that I like you?"

"You give Crown metal pants."   

Then slowly, a very nasty smile took place upon his ugly old 
lips.  "You really are stupid, aren't you?"  Otius delighted in 
Clown's discomfort and inferiority.

And then Clown's fear evaporated.  For he saw clearly that his 
formidable enemy loved to be cruel, that he had a mean and 
niggardly soul, and Clown's intelligence assured him that Cruelty 
was a weakness.

Otius studied the finished chastity belt formed to Clown's body. 
It was perfect, the young man could never slip out of it, but 
still not safe enough considering what was at stake.  He 
considered possibilities (including castration anyway, but it 
would be best to have Wand's cooperation for some of the upcoming 

"It needs a spell or two," the old wizard announced, "to insure 
that you tamper with no virgins, you horny fool."  

Otius dragged Clown back upstairs to his study, where he consulted 
the metallic pages of a large and strange book mounted fast onto 
an altar-like pedestal of steel in the center of the room.  

"Aha, yes, of course," he muttered with satisfaction.  Then Otius 
touched his Powerstaff to the metal harness and it rang out a loud 
and clear metallic shriek.  "A simple spell, which will become 
active only if you should somehow slip out of this harness."  

Then he touched Clown's flesh with the Powerstaff and chanted a 
long and complex formula in an unknown language.  A horrible 
wave of nausea flowed through Clown, he staggered, almost fainted.

"If you become separate from this harness," Otius said with an 
evil grin, "then your blood will become acid, just like in my 
mud-moat outside. You will melt into a puddle and die horribly." 

"And just for fun..." he said, touching the Powerstaff to the 
harness again, and Clown felt the metal heating up, "...a spell 
to heat it up if you get hot--so keep your thoughts pure, 
Clown, or you shall get very hot!" 

"Ow!  Hot!" Clown cried, almost going into panic, being unable 
to escape the metal burning his crotch and hips, until it 
gradually started to cool.  

Now was Otius satisfied, smiling wickedly, chuckling even, eyes 
shining with evil enjoyment.  "Now do you still believe that I 
like you?"

Wand was called up to Otius' study. "Now you may take and clean him up, girl," Otius said. "Fear shall accompany you." Clown cringed behind Wand, away from that particular demon. "Not IT! Crown no rike IT!" Hysterical tears ran from his eyes. "He's terrified of Fear." "I see that. It must be a new emotion for him, being so dull that he has never understood physical dangers. All right then: Dismay, you go with them and watch." Wand took Clown to the wash room, where she had Dismay fill the big tub with water and she lit a fire under it with her ring of illumination at full power. Then she took a cloth and soapy water to his face to wash the grime away. Paint washed off as well. She was startled by how handsome he actually was, beautiful even. If only he had a mind, she thought. "You have come so far, and all alone, just to be with me. That is quite impressive, Clown." Dismay left the room for more firewood and for a moment they were alone. "I'm glad that you came," Wand said, now able to express an emotion with the demon gone, "I have been so lonely here. I know you are a good friend, even if your brains are a bit weak." Clown looked at her with an odd sparkle in his eye, as if he too could lower a screen when they were alone. She passed her healing ring over him and the green glow made his scratches heal and his clown costume as new. "Magic," he said, noticing the ring and studying the repaired fabric. "Some. Not enough to get me out of this dark hole. I tell you, Clown, I want out. Otius has some strange plan for me--he's been quite nice about it so far, but my every instinct tells me not to trust him. He wants something Evil from me, I don't know what. "Oh, Clown, if only you could understand!" She looked back to see if Dismay was about to return. "I'm playing at being brave to survive here, but it's hard. At least I can be real to you when we're alone, you're the only friend I've got!" And she kissed his brow. Clown looked around for the demon as well before he spoke. He said, "I..." just as Dismay suddenly returned at demonspeed with a load of wood. He dropped the first person singular, "Crown do unnerstan'." Their eyes locked together. Clown looked her directly in the eyes, as he had never done before. In fact, no one had ever looked her quite so very directly in the eyes before. These eyes were not empty, as in her vision so many years ago... It was she who had to look away. And catch her breath. Her expression was neutral, but he knew that she also understood that he was not exactly what he seemed to be. "I..." was enough. However, after his bath he repainted his clown-face to protect the illusion.
Days passed and Clown could not find time alone with Wand to explain his purpose, so he continued to play his simple part with her as well as with wizard and demons. Even so, the time he spent with her was quite pleasant. She held his hand and walked with him, she was always very nice and even affectionate. She would talk of unimportant things, since the demons were always within hearing, and Clown made her laugh with his agile tricks. Even the demons laughed, and sometimes Otius, but it was for Wand that Clown did his tricks. He had really not remembered what she looked like before he arrived to Castle Darkstone, his idiot memories being fuzzy, but once he saw her he knew not only who she was, but also realized that she was actually beautiful enough to make any man act like an idiot anyway. But Clown could not always be with her. She needed time alone for the meditations she practiced three times a day, the studies of a sorceress went on, and at those times Clown was on his own. Clown had his own room--a dark windowless cell with a pile of straw to sleep on. At least Wand had chased all the fleas and lice away with her magic. To him it was not especially uncomfortable, since he was used to the gypsy life. But at night he was locked in by the demons, and a chain fastened to the floor was also looped through his chastity belt, so that he was quite unable to leave until he was released again in the morning. There seemed to be no way he could get to Wand and talk to her alone. He would apply his new intelligence to the problem: to outsmart the demons should prove no challenge, they weren't overly bright. However, they did follow Otius' commands, which were usually well considered and shrewd. Clown passed the daytime wisely, exploring the entire castle until he knew all the rooms and passages and secret places. He was especially interested in Otius' private den, wherein the old wizard worked his magic and did his researches. However, when Clown was alone the demon called Fear enjoyed seeking him out and tormenting him. Demons can move so swiftly that they really didn’t need to sneak up on you, they were suddenly just there. Even so, that scrawny little demon would hide behind doors or furniture and wait for Clown to pass, then jump at him or call "Boo!" He enjoyed it so much because Clown would always over-react; screaming, falling backwards, entirely losing control. Fear would laugh uproariously. Clown lived in dread of new episodes, but the worst by far was whenever Fear would touch him--physical contact so enhanced the psycho emotive disturbance that Clown thought his heart might actually stop, a feeling of insane paranoiac panic. He felt at those moments his wonderful intelligence was entirely shorted out. Wand would protect him when they were together. Fear had also tried to do those things to her, but she gave no indication of being whatsoever affected. Except that one time Fear had sneaked up on her and touched her--to see if she would perhaps jump if surprised--running his finger down along her arm in a sly caress. She had, without flinching, only turned to look at the demon coldly, then casually zapped him with a shock that left him lying on the other side of the room. So he never tried it again. When Wand was not with him, Clown would sometimes go to Otius for protection, not that the sorcerer offered any, except that he did not tolerate disturbances so Fear dared not play his wicked games. It also afforded Clown an excuse to be there and therefore opportunity to observe the things that Otius did. "O Masser, prease let Crown get to stay!" he begged when Otius told him to leave the den, "little bad Feer hurt Crown all time!" "He does not hurt you, fool, it only seems that way." "All same to Crown!" For some reason, Otius found himself humoring Clown. Normally he found the company of people annoying, but Clown was somehow inoffensive. "Very well, but be silent. I am doing research for the Great Work, I shall brook no interference." "Crown be good." "Be silent instead." Clown was silent. He only watched.
The major object of Otius' interest was that large book, bound into that pedestal apparently of the same metal as the shining silver Tower of Tarro, with thin metallic pages containing arcane symbols and some ancient written language. Clown watched the old man search through the great book. As the pages fanned by he memorized symbols, beginning to recognize patterns, although he could not yet comprehend them. But he knew that he could eventually learn to read the book if he found a key phrase or two. Otius stopped at one page and said' "Ah!" He tapped a symbol that looked like this:
Clown said "Ah" to himself and memorized. The symbol was written by Otius onto a scrolled parchment among other symbols, which Clown also memorized.
Clown sat with Wand in her room, Fear and Dismay were there as always, watching them. The demons watched Clown closest, waiting for a chance to tease him without getting zapped by Wand. She was still drawing the playing cards, the deck almost complete now. Clown watched her carefully and skillfully delineate the 9 of Red with ink and a fine brush. "Crown dlaw too?" "All right, Crown, just don't make a mess, please." She handed him a few blank squares of paper and a brush. "What Crown dlaw?" "Draw meee!" hissed Fear. "No, meee!" snarled Dismay. Clown strived to ignore them. "Crown dlaw cards, like Wandle!" And he copied Wand's 9 card, but was using yellow ink. Wand looked at the cards with surprise. "That's really good, Crown! You copied it perfectly, except for the color, and so fast!" "Crown dlaw good!" And he proceeded to copy the other cards she had drawn, the red suite in yellow, and the black suite he copied in blue. The demons came closer to peek over Clown's shoulder, he gritted his teeth and tried not to tremble. "You stupid clown, the colors are wrong!" they taunted. "Corols pletty!" Crown shouted at them.
Otius stretched and yawned. He was stiff from hours of study bent over the silvery book. He rubbed his eyes. Clown also stretched and rubbed his eyes. He had been reading over Otius' shoulder. "Are you going to become a sorcerer now, fool?" Otius asked. "You seem to be doing all the research with me." Clown nodded, rolled his eyes. "Crown be sore-sror too!" "It takes brains I'm afraid, little fool." "O, Crown got blains," he said, slapping his buttocks. "Then perhaps you'll be the greatest sorcerer that ever lived, after all," Otius begrudged him.
The playing cards were finished. Wand laid the black king atop the deck. Clown's deck--a perfect copy of hers except for the colors--was almost finished as well. Clown was drawing one last card, then he too was finished. Wand had assumed that card to be the Jester, because he had drawn the other 28 as she had, but was surprised to see that he had drawn a picture of her on the card. A Priestess of Wands. She looked at him, but said nothing; the demons were in the room. "We pray now?" Clown asked, "See if cards wolk?" "All right, let's play cards, now that they're done." They used her deck of 29 cards, played a round. Wand kept it simple and won. The demons watched, half-interested. Another round, Wand won. The demons lost interest. "This too easy," Clown said, taking the other deck he had drawn, and shuffling them into Wand's deck, now 58 cards. She was surprised but did not object, interested to see what he was up to. She remembered his one meager "I..." one word which spoke volumes. So she watched him deal out a complex game she had never seen before. "More permutations," he said, quite casually. The demons neither noticed nor understood, but Wand did, almost stunned into revealing surprise. "I don't know this game, Crown. Can you explain it to me?" "Yah! Easy game, easy for Crown..." the demons were talking to each other, "...four colors root forces--Disks, Wands, Cups and Swords; numbered cards sinifying factors of power; court cards being young/old masculine/feminine personifications of root." Externally, Wand didn't even blink, "Oh, that is easy. All right, let's play that." Internally she was reeling with the revelations she had just received: this Clown was not an idiot, but a very clever young man; he had just described the basic structure of Powertext and was now going to use the cards to communicate with her by the meanings inherent in the numerical values of the Power elementals: Earth, Fire, Water, Air. He began laying out cards for her to see. 8 of Swords (interference), covered by 2 of Disks (change)... All she had to do was try to keep it all in her head. This was the message she interpreted: "I'm here to get you out and away. Also to thwart Otius, if possible. Plan to study him awhile before making any rash move, therefore we must continue to act out our parts--I as buffoon, you as your mother." Wand caught on to the system and was capable of responding, not fluently, but well enough: "Agreed. But how you know I ...? no symbol? being my mother?" "Observed her, observe you: recognize nuances, gestures, control. Your mother healed me, sent me." "Not clear on details, but you...? no symbol? ... are not fool/idiot, somehow you are more intelligent, if not mistaken." "My idiocy was result of curse upon ancestor 7 generations ago, by none other than Otius. Your mother removed curse and I inherit interest on debt: intelligence to power of 7." Wand looked at Clown with amazement, not certain she believed what he was “saying”, then realized it had to be true, simply from the way he was communicating with her. He went on: “Now, we need to assess all of our advantages. Your rings: what can they do?” “Heal, protect, illuminate; but only small scale. Forged in ancient times by a Master Alchemist…” The demons came closer, to see if this game was as interesting as it seemed to be for the players, but they couldn't understand the rules. "Who winning?" "We winning!" Clown boasted.
end of chapter 18

Chapter 19: JUSTICE <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>