chapter 2: THE EMPEROR

this card, 4th of the Major Arcana, here signifies Law of the Land, Social Structure

Four years passed during which Wand studied her craft and made
no mistakes as serious as her near-lethal encounter with the Old
and Evil One.  That had been an effective lesson.

As she matured, so did her beauty in a spectacular manner until
it was not only the talk of the City of Tarro, but of all
Theland as well.

Perhaps we should orient ourselves at this point, and give those
four years ample space to slide past.

The City of Tarro was the capitol of the Empire of Theland.  You
will find no mention of it on any current or historical map, for 
it is of another time and place so long ago that even the 
mountains and seas we know now were in different places.  
Perhaps it was somewhere in what we now call Europe, or maybe 
the continent that would later become America, or even those 
lost continents of Atlantis or Mu.  We simply do not know.

What we do know is that this story takes place during the reign 
of Emperor Aleister XXII, and that his empire spanned over 
several minor states, themselves ruled by other kings; such as 
Westland, Yonders, Finemark.  Theland was not a huge warlike 
empire, as were the later-to-come Atlantean or Roman empires, it 
was much more cozy in those days, orderly and peaceful.  This 
was possible because the Emperor's authority was backed up by a 
Sorceress rather than a military machine.

Tarro was a city of twelve thousand basically happy people, 
built in a style resembling Medieval European.  The magnificent 
old Palace of the Emperors overlooked the City Place, the scene 
of many a celebration and pageant, there upon the west bank of 
the River Lyfe.  Standing tall before the Palace and the Place, 
midstream in the river between the old bridges, was the shining 
silver Tower, wherein dwelt the Sorceresses, for generation after 

It was a very pleasant city, in a valley of grains and grasses
and fruit orchards checker-boarding the land on all sides, with
the calm, wide river meandering through.  Most of the buildings
were old but well-kept and proudly painted, the streets were 
kept clean, as was the river, and its environs were happy to 
live there.  At night magic crystals illuminated the city as if 
it wore a crown of jewels.

Tarro was not a walled city, as were most towns built before the
Empire conquered those barbarian hordes which had laid waste to 
all in the semi-ancient days.  It was an open, unafraid, free 
place, completely vulnerable to attack except for one thing: the 
tower rising up out of the River Lyfe, around which the city had 
been built.

The Tower of Tarro was more ancient than the very Ancient Days
themselves.  No one knew who built it or when, it may have been
put there when the world had been created.  Yet it shone in the
sunlight and appeared to be new.  It's silvery shell was an
unknown metal which could not be scratched or bent or cut or

It was invulnerable to attack, for no one could climb or penetrate 
it, and it stood too tall to reach with grappling hooks or ladders, 
being the equivalent of 20 stories to the platform on top.  There 
were retractable balconies at several levels, but only one entrance, 
that being a fifth of the way up the smooth round tube-shape, from 
which a Bridge of Light could span the distance between the Tower 
and the top floor of the Royal Palace, when the Sorceresses wished 
to come and go.

The Tower had always and only been the domain of the Sorceresses.  
The city had been built around the Tower because a sorceress was 
protection more effective than walls or moats, or even armies.  
For generations unknown the sorceresses had lived therein and 
wielded the magic of the Powerstaff, an ancient magical wand that 
was passed down from mother to daughter.  Only women had been the 
recipients of that particular Powerstaff, even though many a male 
sorcerer had attempted to conquer the Tower and take the
Powerstaff for their own.  But the power was kept, the city
illuminated by it, and enemies zapped by it when necessary.

The sorceresses were therefore as royalty, although they did not rule, 
for the Emperors were usually on familial terms with them (several 
emperors had fathered the line), and the power of the Sorceress was
the authority of the Emperor.  It was not that the sorceresses could 
not rule, but that they did not allow themselves to.  They had rules 
of their own.

There had been evil sorceresses in olden days, in other cities,
misuses of power, but in Tarro the sorceress had always had the
love of the people, for their healings and weather magic were a
boon to all.

So it was, that when a sorceress' daughter, an Initiate, came
unto her eighteenth birthday, she was honored as royalty and the
city held a great celebration for her coming of age.

And now we find Wand turning eighteen.  There is to be a
three-day festival, a ceremony, dancing, feasting, perhaps even 
some drinking by the merry folk, and certainly some magic.

The Gypsies came to town the day the celebration was to begin. A festive energy filled the air, colored paper streamers crossed above the cobbled streets and fluttered from doors and windows. Up in her Tower, Luminata studied Documents of Powertext, concentrating upon an occult schematic delineating the 22 paths between the 10 points of Power. "It begins," she said to herself, "The Chariot has arrived, perhaps The Hierophant as well." Tracing the converging lines she muttered names of symbolic personification, "And here's The Fool...who should come stumbling along at any time now." She turned the page to an illustration of that Fool grinning up at her, a young man drawn dancing, eyes wild with madness, body on the brink of balance/unbalance. "A jester, a clown, perhaps? But that path crosses this other path, of a Magus..."
The Gypsies had arrived in a gaily painted rainbow wagon pulled by a great bay gelding. Pots and pans dangled and clanked along the sides, iridescent fabrics flapped in the easy breeze, people turned to watch this jolly house on wheels roll by. Three gypsy men rode atop the wagon, handsome and dark, the face of a very exotic girl was framed in the wagon window, and another set of eyes, wide in wonder, could be glimpsed peeking out. The driver was a tall, lean, sun-browned man of indeterminate age between fourty and fifty, with grey streaking the sides of his otherwise black hair. He had a traditional thin gypsy moustache and perfect white teeth that exaggerated his smile, and he smiled a lot, as if at some joke. His eyes were kind and wily and wise and his name was Benutio. His two sons rode beside him. Agra, the family thief, eighteen and bold with the ladies, short but muscular and physically beautiful. Devo, the student, was tall at seventeen, and usually had a book in his hands. The other two inside the wagon were Leema, Benutio's sixteen year old daughter and the Clown. They waited to make their appearance. The Clown was at the wagon's door, ready to spring out and do something. "Now? now?" he asked eagerly. "Wait, Clown, not yet. Benutio will let us know when." "Crown reddy now." "Wait, I said. I'll tell you when." The wagon rollicked through the streets of Tarro, crossing a bridge, from which they could see the Palace of Emperors and the shining silver Tower. Benutio paused a moment to look at the Tower. It was, after all, very famous. Then he clicked to the gelding and they rode on, past the City Place, the Temple, the Clocktower, shops, hostels, taverns, police house, and finally stopped at the Market Square. Here were many vendors of foods and goods, under open sky or under awnings of tentcloth rigged with ropes like a ship. Here it was crowded with people buying and selling, eating and drinking. The smells of meat and bread and cheese, the colors of fruit and jellycakes tantalized the hungry Gypsies. "I could eat it all," Agra told his father. "If I go lift a purse..." "No. Not here, not now. It's too important not to have trouble with the law in Tarro just now. We will have to earn some money." Agra sighed. "All right, but we'd better hurry or my stomach will decide otherwise." Devo said nothing, but his eyes were also hungry. Benutio felt awkward about allowing his family to get hungry, but he had driven them all to reach this city on this day because it had to be so. And they made it, but now they had to do something about their economic plight. He climbed down from the wagon and pounded the dust from his clothes and hair, tweaked his moustache straight, adjusted his powerful smile, and was ready. There was a seller of breadmeats. Benutio approached the man's booth. The smell was maddeningly good. "Fine looking breadmeats you have there, friend." Benutio spoke theatrically and loudly enough to attract the attention of others in the crowd. "For just six minors you can enjoy one yourself, friend," the marketman said. "Ah, well! Six minors! And I with a hungry family to feed. Well, then, how much for five of those lovely breadmeats? Any discount for volume, friend?" "Why, two majors and six minors, of course, friend. No discounts." "Ah, what is a poor man to do," Benutio asked the crowd, "when he cannot even afford to feed all his children?" The marketman sighed and looked to heaven for help. "Okay, okay, five for two majors, then. Shall I wrap them?" "Ah, well," Benutio scratched the grey above his ears, "there is now only one problem remaining." The marketman stopped wrapping. "No money," he guessed with a frown. The crowd looked to Benutio for the next bit off drama. Benutio offered a good-humored shrug. "A small matter. Keep them warm for me." He returned to the wagon and slipped a violin from beneath the driver's bench, and climbed up atop the rainbow wagon, as if it was a stage, for now he had an audience. Agra pulled castanets out of his shirt, Devo materialized a guitar from somewhere, and at the same moment that Benutio began to play, they were ready. A Gypsy song rang out in the Marketsquare and the crowd thickened. "Crown go now? Now, huh?" "Not quite yet." Inside the wagon, Leema held the Clown back from the door, waiting for their cue, as they had rehearsed this so many times. After no matter how many performances, however, the Clown could never get the timing straight. When it came she clapped him on the shoulder and let him at the door. "Now!" The back door of the Gypsy wagon flew open and the Clown sprang out into the crowd, handspringing over the cobbles of the street. People jumped back, surprised by this wild and nimble Clown. Then they began to laugh, as he danced upside-down on his hands to the music, which was rapid and merry. The Clown was almost inhuman in his agility, more like a monkey than a man. But a young man he was, of perhaps 20 years, dressed in a floppy, multicolored, multipatterned costume with great cuffs and collar, blond shaggy-dog hair and his face painted with a stupid smile. Abruptly, with a roll and a bound he was atop the wagon with the musicians, hopping about and making funny faces, seeming always to stumble and fall, but always swinging back up in time to avoid harm. Once in motion, his timing was amazing. The crowd laughed at his antics, applauded the musicians, who played faster and faster until their rhythm became quite infectious and had people clapping in time. The people of Tarro had seen travelling minstrels before and they appreciated a good act. "Now, Clown," Agra called out, "catch Leema!" The wagon door opened again as Leema leaped out, caught the Clown's grip with perfect timing, and was swung up on the stage, even as he flew off in a double-flip to make room for her. Leema rattled her heels on the wooden wagon roof and went into her wild Gypsy dance. Men began to hoot and whistle, for she was strikingly beautiful, her long black hair flying, red skirt flowing and she moved very well. Now the Clown took the floppy hat from his head and passed it through the audience, pointing into it and rolling his eyes. Many threw in small coins, an occasional major clinked among the minors, and the hat soon contained well over the amount needed for the breadmeats. The Clown had understood that this money was for their supper, but could not count so well, and he was as hungry as the others, so he was afraid there wasn't enough yet, and continued around to the same people again and again. One of them, a large lumbercutter named Crusho, taller and more burly and more massive than any other around, bushy of red hair and beard, had offered no more than a scowl to the Clown's hat. When the Clown tried him a second and third time he passed through the crowd, the giant growled, "I ain't given' you nuthin' but the back o' my hand inf'n you don't scruff off!" Clown gave a courteous curtsy, and went on around past the man. But then, with a leap was climbing up Crusho's back, and in an instant was standing balanced upon those burly shoulders, posing for the entire crowd to see. People laughed, Crusho the lumbercutter cried out, "Hey, you little twerpus, I'll..." and reached up to grab the Clown. But Clown was far too fast, having already sprung to the awning of a market stall, which he rolled up onto and ran along as the giant lumbercutter shook his fist and tried to catch him just out of reach below. The crowd laughed harder yet as Crusho shouted curses up at the Clown. Crusho became even more angry and so frustrated that many people were laughing at him, so he used his strength, pulling an awning-rope loose from whatever it was attached to. A bank of awnings went slack and the Clown came tumbling down with them. With a victorious roar the lumbercutter grabbed the Clown by his silly, baggy costume and jerked him up, feet dangling. "Now I'll teach you not to play on Crusho's back!" he shouted into the painted face, and pulled back an enormous fist to deliver his mightiest blow. The Clown was helpless and he looked scared. "Hold there, sir Crusho!" It was Benutio, speaking from atop the rainbow wagon. The music had stopped and the two Gypsy lads had leaped down into the crowd. "The Clown meant you no harm. He is simple!" "I'll say he's simple! To attack me..." "He was born simple. A fool. An idiot. Handicapped. Pray, harm him not, or you will do a great injustice." Crusho growled in disgust and looked at the pathetic Clown in his grasp. The fist still hovered ready. "It is I who will have justice. And perhaps he will learn a lesson!" "Oh, do pray, harm him not." Another voice, just behind Crusho, and although the words were mild, the tone was deadly. Crusho looked back to see the oldest son, Agra, standing very close to him. There was a sparkle of steel in his hand and even more so in his young eyes. Crusho understood that Agra was no simple Clown. Then the crowd joined in. "Aw, be a sport, Crusho! Let the fool go!" "Yea, let him go, he has harmed thee not!" "Come, come, lumbercutter, be festive!" "Find another more your size--if there be any!" "Faugh!" he cried, and tossed the Clown five yards back, to fall rolling over and again--somehow never once spilling even a coin from his hat. Clown finally landed in an undignified sprawl and shook his head in dizziness. Everyone laughed at that, even Crusho. Benutio bought breadmeats and fruit and tea for his little troupe. Interested and friendly people asked from where they had come. "Oh, from here and there," he told them, saying nothing, "the life of the Gypsy, you know." Agra and Devo explored the streets of town, then returned and spoke in the Gypsy language to their father. Benutio then climbed once again atop the wagon. "An Announcement!" he cried out to all, "Tonight, before the ceremony of Initiation for your beautiful-I'm-sure Sorceress' daughter, our Clown will perform a stunt of death-defying bravery and skill!" Benutio pointed toward the Palace. "Where that street meets the City Place, our Clown will leap from one rooftop, over the street, to the opposite side!" "It can't be done!" several cried out, "It's too far!" "That's fifteen yards, and those buildings are five stories high!" "Ah, did someone say it can't be done?" Benutio shrugged and smiled like a Gypsy. "Well, I am willing to make wagers. This evening, just before sunset. Until then, be festive!" Many people shook their heads. "It really can't be done!" shouted a fishwoman, shaking her head. "That Clown of yours must be simple indeed," jibed another. But many others were interested, for people in those days (unlike today) were bloodthirsty and had no television.
end of chapter 2

Chapter 3: THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>