Prologue - 007

Prologue - 007

Turns since TBfGK: 3

Climbing stairs was starting to be less of a problem for Parson, so they decided to hold the picnic atop one of the massive gate towers. The sweeping view was worth the climb. The cruising dwagons and archons were nearly at eye level up here, and they could look out at the surrounding mountaintops, the valley below, and most of the city. A light breeze kept the sulfur fumes from the lava lake at bay. For conversational privacy, Parson redeployed the tower's soldiers to other positions along the wall.

The thin checkered blanket he had added to the basket was far too small, and nonmagical, so it could not be resized. Maggie and Sizemore shared it. Sizemore sat cross-legged, Maggie with her boots off and her feet to the side demurely. Parson sat on the edge of the trebuchet that partly shaded them.

"How would you make a magic blanket?" Parson asked, gnawing on a heel of the rye loaf. "If you wanted one?"

Sizemore looked at Maggie, who was nibbling cheese, and spoke up. "That's Changemancy. Really versatile magic. Weapons, armor, tools...Changemancers either rework and enchant an existing item, or just imagine a new one and conjure it."

"Conjure as in make it?" Parson said with his mouth full. "Create it? Or summon it from somewhere?"

Sizemore leaned forward excitedly, rocking a little as he spoke. "That's a great question, Warlord. There's a big debate about that, getting right down to the level of 'what is magic?' and 'what is Matter?' Some casters think they're the same thing, and that Changemancy proves it. But even we Stuffamancers don't agree about that."

"We..." Parson thought back to the table of magic that he had carefully put down into his notes. He should really make it a point to memorize that thing. "Oh, right. Dirtamancy is Stuffamancy. And Changemancy is, too?"

Sizemore nodded. "Dirtamancers do the big scale projects, tunnels and buildings. And we can make golems. Changemancers mostly do small items. They can enchant objects and do detail work, but they can't make new units."

"So it's like construction work versus handicrafting, okay. Interesting," said Parson. And it was. But something Sizemore had said interested him more. "So...where does a 'big debate' like that even happen? In the Magic Kingdom?"

"Oh yes," said Sizemore knowingly. "The casters who live there have endless arguments about things like that. Philosophy. Metaphysics. Nature. I go there when I can, to hear the great thinkers...and the not-so-great ones." He smiled.

Parson looked at a nearby red dwagon as it huffed and banked into a slow, powerful turn. "Maybe I should go back there. Talk to some people."

Maggie shook her head and swallowed. "I wouldn't, Lord," she warned. "When I went to call on Ken, I found they have our portal under guard. There are many in the Magic Kingdom who believe you ought to have been croaked, or at least captured."

Sizemore nodded at this. "Yes. Janis put you under her protection. But you needed to get out of there as soon as you could."

Parson did not know the name. "Janis."

"A Hippiemancer, Lord," said Maggie. Was that a little sneer?

"A powerful one," said Sizemore. "She took care of us after the...volcano spell. She took care of a lot of things."

Parson nodded, putting his empty hands on his knees. "Man," he said. He swallowed the last of the rye heel, "There's still a ton I don't know."

"We've got all day, Warlord." Sizemore held up the wineskin. "We haven't even hit the apple brandy yet." Sizemore worked the little plug free and offered the skin to Maggie. She took it graciously, had a little sip from the nozzle, and handed it back to him.

Parson raised an eyebrow, as Sizemore took a much healthier swig. "That's not wine, it's applejack?"

"Enough to knock us all flat, Warlord," grinned Sizemore, leaning forward to hand the skin to Parson. "Even you."

Parson put the nozzle to his lips and squeezed out half a mouthful. It burned beautifully when he swallowed, and the aftertaste was smoky and warm. "Ohhh yeah," he said in a froggy voice, balancing the skin on his knee. "Yeah. Those stairs were probably a bad idea after all."


Guest art by Rykka