chapter 19: JUSTICE

this card, 18th of the Major Arcana, here signifies Adjustment, Balance

"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

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 use help." 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 towards her. "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 this castle?" 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?" Wand asked. "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 hope." "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 proper information." "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 so far." Wand blinked. "You don't know what you're saying! That would require a lifetime of training as well as a certain amount of native talent." 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 into darkness. 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... "Hello, Crown." 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 for me!" "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?" She nodded. 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 attributes..." 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." "What feeling?" 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.
end of chapter 19

Chapter 20: THE HANGED MAN <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>