chapter 6: THE MAGUS

this card, 1st of the Major Arcana, here signifies Willpower, Dexterity, Cunning

The music played on, dancers dancing on.  Benutio and Clown found
themselves returned to the beat and the street via one of
Luminata's secret passages. She herself casually returned to
the balcony, nodding to the Emperor that all was well, and spoke
in Wand's ear: "It is time."

Elro was holding Wand's hand.  She slipped it away with a
promising squeeze and followed her mother into the palace,
through the great ballroom, up the stairs, into a secret passage,
and out across the light-bridge to their silver tower.

Inside, the two of them took the elevator to the top room.

The Tower was of another time, another world.  It was built by 
an ancient race with a technology of catalytic crystals. 
Incomprehensible forces were generated by gigantic crystal banks
contained in the lower half of the tower.  All of this was
controlled in the top room, if one knew how.  And only the
Sorceresses of Tarro knew the techniques of controlling those
forces, handed up through their generations, now to Wand.

Luminata stayed back and let Wand organize the show.  Her
daughter touched the proper crystals and spoke the proper code
matrixes to activate the program.  Crystals glowed gently bright.

From that room the two women proceeded up to the open platform
atop the tower and looked down upon the City of Tarro.

A trumpet sounded at their appearance up there.  The music fell
silent, as did the crowds of people.  Everyone looked up at

And she looked down upon them, seeing all those faces turned to
her.  She knew many of them.  From the Royal Balcony Emperor and
Empress waved, Elro blew a kiss.  Among the musicians of the
orchestra she recognized some friends, the captain of the guard,
a baker, two of the Gypsies sons and a dark-haired girl.  And
there was that Clown, jumping up and down next to Benutio.

But Wand did not notice the Mysterious Figure in hood and cloak, 
nor his circle, nor his cross, nor his pentagram, nor his face, nor 
his sinister eyes.  He was as if invisible now.  But he noticed 
her--intensely--for he was almost ready.

Luminata held up the Powerstaff for all to see.  It sparkled and 
glowed with the entire spectrum of light.  She then handed that 
ancient magic wand to her daughter and with it the control and 
personal extension of those incomprehensible forces in the crystal 
banks of the Tower of Tarro.

Proudly, humbly, Wand held the Powerstaff aloft.  It sparkled
anew.  Then she waved it at the clear, starry night sky.

Clouds formed, glowing in greens and golds.  The sky sparkled as
the Powerstaff had.  Then silent explosions of varicolored light
flashed everywhere above, turning night into day.

Below, the Mysterious Figure pulled another Powerstaff from his cloak. He held it aloft and chanted ancient arcane words.
Up in the Tower, mother and daughter felt a chill wind begin to blow from the North. The clouds thickened. Wand frowned, this was not the weather she had made. Almost instantly there was a storm upon them: high wind, pelting flakes of ice, and then lightning. The hair of both women bristled with static electricity. "We are under attack from another Sorcerer!" Luminata cried to Wand, "Give me the Powerstaff quickly!" Even as Wand turned to hand it to her mother, who was more experienced in such an emergency, a great blue arc of lightning zigzagged from the Northern horizon to the Tower and struck her squarely. Wand was enveloped in a blazing ball of blue light, which faded away until it--and she--was gone. The Powerstaff, however, she had managed to toss at the final instant, aware that her mother must have it or all was lost. It flew in a perfect arc toward Luminata's outstretched hand. But a mighty downward blast of wind bent the arc, deflecting the Powerstaff from its course, and it bounced upon the metal tower floor with a bell-like clang. Luminata was almost too horrified and stunned to react as a Sorceress should: "Wand! Oh Daughter!" she cried, even as the Powerstaff bounced again, as if alive, toward the edge of the Tower's upper platform. But her witch-way instincts replaced her motherly instincts as she realized that the attack was not yet done with--and therefore not yet lost. She leaped for the bouncing Powerstaff, to the very brink of the Tower, grasping out over nothing at her absolute limit of balance, but too late, as it passed just beyond her fingertips and down from the high tower toward the River Lyfe below. She almost followed it. But it did not fall into the water, it bounced again against the shining silver side of the Tower and arced out over the City Place. Luminata saw this, clinging to the edge of the Tower-top, and the crowd down there, churning in place, confused and afraid, awed by the sudden storm and the eldritch lightning bolt which had consumed their poor Wand in plain view of everyone. And within that sea of people one man stood alone within a pentagram drawn within a circle, dressed in a black cloak, holding up a Powerstaff of his own. A Sorcerer! And it was he who had done and was doing this. He had--perhaps--killed her daughter and was now stealing her Powerstaff. He had chosen the moment when the staff was out of her more experienced hands to attack, and he had done so with precision and speed. Luminata almost allowed herself to feel a blinding rage at his effrontery and ruthlessness, but that was the mother in her. The Sorceress remained calm and respected her enemy as she made her move. She hoped he would now assume her to be less of a threat without her Powerstaff. Quite so, but not absolutely, as she would demonstrate. The Powerstaff hit the edge of the pavement by the river and bounced incredibly high, as if it were made of rubber, toward the black-cloaked sorcerer who calmly awaited it with outstretched hand.
Benutio saw all this. He also recognized the sorcerer, although he had not yet seen his face, by the standing aspect of the tall man. As yet no one else on the City Place had noticed him due to the spells cast (which was not actual invisibility, more a hypnotic attention gap). And Benutio watched Luminata's power wand bounce over the crowd, and bounce again, and saw that within two more of those bounces it would end up directly in the palm of the attacking wizard. Once that had happened all the power contained in the Tower of Tarro would be at his disposal and the battle would be over. He knew they could not let that happen, but it was hard to think fast with Clown tugging frantically at his sleeve. "Where Wandle go? Wandle gone!" "Quick, Clown, catch that bouncing stick!" "But Wandle..." "Wand needs that stick! Do it!" Clown turned to see the Powerstaff arcing over the heads in the crowd. People were scrambling to get out of its way, terrified by the strange behavior of a device they knew to be charged with dangerous forces. In one last bounce it would come to the hand of the Mysterious Figure. Clown scratched his head, looked back at Benutio, "But Wandle..." "The stick, Clown! Now! Or Wand will die!!" Clown may have been stupid, but was also very quick in some ways. He dashed across the City Place, weaving through the crowd, springing full over people's heads, heading instinctively toward the very spot where the Powerstaff must hit for the final bounce. But he could not arrive in time: the crowd was too thick; and the wand bounced away again before he could intercept it. However, the arc it would now describe would have to pass over where he could be if he hurried, over where it so happened that the gigantic red-bearded lumberjack we know as Crusho was standing, watching the Powerstaff fly over his head with mouth open, not really comprehending what was happening. So Crusho was taken by surprise as once again the nimble Clown was vaulting onto his burly shoulders, from where he leaped further up with outstretched arm and hand and fingers to intercept the flying Powerstaff. Which he plucked perfectly out of the air. Then Clown, Powerstaff, and Crusho collapsed into a tangle on the stones of the City Place. Crusho roared, "What was--oh no, YOU again! ARRRR!" He did not understand what had happened and he reached for Clown to really punish him this time, but Clown was already up and running, a good firm grip on the Powerstaff. That Mysterious Figure cried out--first in disbelief and anger, but then again in disbelief and wicked joy, for that stupid Clown was running right towards him, bringing him the Powerstaff after all. Clown fled, away from Crusho, dashing helter-skelter through the confused crowd--until he suddenly skidded to a stop up against a magic spell that surrounded a circle and a pentagram. And a tall man in a black cloak. The hood was cast back, revealing the old and ugly face of the Sorcerer. He was wrinkled like a prune, with no hair, a huge nose and glittering malevolent eyes of vast power. He held a leathery hand toward Clown. "Give me the Powerstaff!" His eyes shot Clown cold, who was frozen to the spot and could not move. The Sorcerer gestured for Clown to approach. Hypnotically. Clown blinked, stupidly. Then smiled, shyly, and began to step forward. The Sorcerer also smiled, but smugly, not nicely. "AHA! I have you now, pest!" Crusho came roaring up from behind, having finally burst through the crowd. Clown turned his head in alarm at this attack from behind, then curtsied once to the Sorcerer and was gone with a roll. "No! Come back!" the Sorcerer snarled, and cast a curse, but it was Crusho who came between him and Clown and who crashed to the ground, stunned. Clown disappeared into the confusion of the crowd, in which no one had any idea of what was going on. As the wicked old wizard lifted his own Powerstaff, ready to unleash some terrible force into that crowd, Luminata hurled a steaming globe of green energy from her tower. It blazed around the Sorcerer with a sulfurous incandescence. Some bubble of energy kept it from touching him, but he turned away from the Clown to battle her. The crowd surged away from him, he was no longer unnoticed. "That man is the Sorcerer Otius, and our enemy!" The voice of Luminata was amplified by the tower's sound system and the City of Tarro shook to her words. "He has attacked us! He has worked an evil magic upon my daughter and is attempting to steal my Powerstaff! Stop him!" Up from the crowd came a roar of anger. And fear: the Sorcerer Otius! Everyone knew the name, it had been used to frighten them as children. The crowd moved farther away. Emperor Aleister gave orders, "Captain of the Guard! Seize that man!" Soldiers moved briskly forward into the City Place. Meanwhile, Clown gave the Powerstaff into Benutio's hands. "Crown do good?" Benutio slapped him heartily on the back. "Yes, Good Clown--but we're not done yet. We have to get this to Luminata! Now, let's go before Otius catches us." The two of them slipped into an alleyway.
end of chapter 6

Chapter 7: THE TOWER <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>