Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 002

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 002

Goodminton‘s command structure seemed to draw a stark line between leadership and magical affairs. Chief Tommy actually felt it was more important for Wanda to meet her Chief Predictamancer, Delphie Temple, than to meet her Overlord (and father).

“Really, she‘ll be the one to tell us what to do with you, you know? Ha!” Although Wanda had no knowledge of any other way of affairs, it struck her that Tommy spoke of the Lady Temple as his equal counterpart. It was unusual, she was certain.

As in all capital cities, the Portal Room was on the dungeon level. It featured the same functional, rectangular timber-frame architecture as the rest of the Garrison, but with a jarringly pink portal to the Magic Kingdom at the back. Just across the brick-floored hallway from there, Delphie and a Level 3 Luckamancer named Clay Dice shared a comfortable double suite.

Delphie was a green eyed, zaftig woman, shorter than Wanda. Her gray-speckled black hair was curled up in tight locks, and her eyes and cheeks were made up with some kind of low-grade cosmetic Signamancy spell which Wanda thought might be of her own design. She wore a flowery violet tunic that emphasized her assertive chest. She flashed her smile around like a cocked crossbow.

“How portentous!” she declared, upon meeting Wanda and hearing what she was. Unlike Tommy, she enthusiastically hugged the new arrival. Her open hand grazed Wanda‘s backside as she pulled away.

“I‘ll have to study you closely, my dear...” she winked.

By contrast, Clay barely spoke. He rose resentfully when his Chief Warlord came to the doorway, slouched a lot, and looked off into space. A sullen, barrel-gutted man in black leather pants and a too-small white linen shirt, he gave Wanda a “Hey,” and a little wave when they were introduced, then returned as soon as he could to a workbench strewn with figurines, books, and playing cards.

At a momentary conversational lull, Lord Tommy hesitated, grasping, as if he wanted to ask Delphie a question. Wanda thought there was a rather obvious question to be asked, but she stayed silent, watching her brother.

Tommy only mashed his lips together and shook his head. “The turn has started, of course,” he said. “I‘ll need to meet with Fritz. Wanda, see me for introductions in the Overlord‘s reception chamber. Let‘s say ninety minutes.”

“Yes, Chief,” said Wanda, choosing the term over the more neutral “Lord” or the more personal “brother.” It seemed to please him. He smiled as he turned away.

Delphie took Wanda around to show her the dungeon layout. It was a clean space. Goodminton did take prisoners, preferentially in fact. But they had apparently bargained all of them away in various diplomatic and financial maneuvers. Much of the dungeon space consisted of unoccupied commanders‘ and knights‘ quarters.

“You can choose any living arrangement you like, dear,” she said, touching Wanda‘s arm. “The tower has some nice rooms. Though it might be best for you to stay down here, nearby to Clay and me.”

Wanda stopped in her tracks, dumbstruck. Delphie‘s last sentence had been delivered in a perfectly friendly and casual tone, but it carried the natural Thinkamancy weight of a direct order. You will be quartered on the dungeon level, Caster.

“Yes, Chief,” Wanda almost whispered. It seemed the right term, equal to how she had addressed her brother. Wanda pointed to one of the nearby doors, almost at random. “This one?”

Delphie looked her in the eye, smiling with matronly approval. “I think that‘s a good choice. It suits you, Wanda. Let‘s go inside.”

Again, it could not have been more plainly an order if Delphie had shouted it.

“Yes, Chief.”

Wanda‘s new quarters had one large anterior chamber with a larder, study desk, and empty bookshelf, and a bedchamber with wardrobe, mirror, and basic personal items. She stopped in front of the mirror.

This was her. That was her face. Soft raven-black hair, a dark, smooth complexion, and ice blue eyes. She smiled tentatively, and the face in the mirror smiled gracefully back. The woman in the mirror was beautiful, yes. But also dangerous, cunning, and potentially...something. What? Her Signamancy was striking, despite the frumpy blue robe and buckled boots. Potentially, she was something very much more.

Wanda wanted to be the woman she saw in the mirror.

Delphie stepped beside her and met her reflected eyes. Wanda‘s smile slackened.

“You‘re something worth looking upon,” said the woman, her voice soft and kind. “But don‘t waste all your time in front of a mirror.” She winked again.

Wanda stared at her. There were wrinkles around Delphie‘s eyes, and at the corners of her mouth. Once you could detect the cosmetic spell on her, it couldn‘t distract the eye from clear Signs that the Predictamancer was in personal decline. Delphie had seen better turns than these. Something about her was in decay.

“I think,” said Wanda after a moment, “that Tommy wanted to ask you...why you did not Predict that I would be a caster.”

Delphie‘s eyes narrowed. “What makes you think I did not?”

“He said he was expecting a warlord.”

“Yes, he was,” said Delphie, her eyes becoming slits. “One to turn the tide of battle.”

The implication that the Chief Caster of Goodminton had lied to the Chief Warlord, and by extension, to the Ruler, was more than Wanda could immediately grasp. Delphie took Wanda‘s arm with a forceful grip and turned her to meet her eyes directly. She did not let go of the arm.

“I want to tell you something, Wanda. Listen closely.” She still smiled, but her eyes had lost all humor. “I want to tell you two things. The first is: you have a role to play here, and you will play it. You answer to me. You‘ll do as I tell you to. Your Fate,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper, “is larger than this side. Your life has meaning. The same can‘t be said of everyone walking these corridors. Do you understand me?”

Wanda was unsure that she did understand, but she nodded.

“Good. And the second thing is,” said Delphie, leaning in closer. Her smile was pure menace. “Stay away from Clay. He‘s my man.”