Book 2 – Text Updates 031
Some days bring bad news.
Other days turn into a relentless series of awful revelations. The shocks keep coming. You think they'll never stop hitting you.
Yet this day had started out so well.
Sizemore had awakened in a dewy haystack, to the cheery chirping of finches. Uhura had left a wooden bowl full of blueberries on top of a tree stump for him, but she was nowhere in sight. His rations of rye loaf, cold spring water, a hard-boiled egg and a strip of beef jerky had popped beside the fruit. He sat on the stump and ate with his fingers, watching the birds squabble and preen.
He thought about Uhura, who had chosen him as her companion for the evening. She was a smooth, powerful woman with mocha skin and a swirl of black hair. A Date-a-mancer. She was beautiful, and he loved her.
"Love" meant so little and so much. For the Hippiemancers, their casual Date-a-mancy was only one expression of the love they each felt for one another. Intimate, but to most of them it only meant the same thing as a hug.
Uhura had said she wanted him because she knew he was lonely.
"Oh, no," he had protested. "I'm happy enough just to be here. Don't feel you have to cure me of loneliness."
She had laughed. "I won't cure you! No, I just think it would be interesting to be with a lonely man."
And sure enough, as warm and wonderful as those hours of rolling with her had been...he was not cured.
But, he did feel better. Sizemore felt so much at home here. He loved her, as he loved them all. You couldn't help it.
When he had finished eating, he fished his jacket from the haystack and walked out of the little glen, pausing to rinse his hands in a stream.
It was not a long hike to the other side of the glade, and it passed through some of the nicest little meadows and wooded stands. The air was moist and cool, scented with wildflowers and moss. He greeted a few of the Hippiemancers along the trail, but did not see Uhura. He supposed it wouldn't matter if he did or didn't.
The first shock struck him as he stepped out of the woods into the main park. Janis was on the other side. He could see her sitting cross-legged, holding an informal group discussion under the topiaries. He raised his hand to wave in her direction...
And he felt the turn end.
Sometimes it was possible for him to feel completely at home here. With little need for him in Gobwin Knob, Maggie had secured him Lord Stanley's permission to do some study in the Magic Kingdom for four turns, of which this was the morning of the second. So aside from Janis' talk about the coming battle yesterday, he hadn't given too much thought to his side's affairs.
And that battle was to happen this morning, wasn't it? But it was so far from the capital, even by dwagon relay he would not have been able to reach it. If it had gone very well, it would still be a strange moment to end the turn early...
He frowned as he sat down in the wet grass, among the white clover buds and tiny toadstools. Janis welcomed him to the circle with a wink in her twinkling eye, but no words. A Signamancer was busy talking about the significance of colors, and had much to say.
Sizemore didn't participate in the discussion. Nor did he pay much attention. He couldn't make sense of the early turn end, and became more worried about it the more he thought it over. He rocked in place a bit, and stared at the grass, while the Hippiemancers joked and teased one another. Their words fell farther and farther away into the distance.
A soft hand on his shoulder made him look up. Janis stood over him, apologizing to the group for closing the discussion early. "I have need of Sizemore's services this morning, I'm afraid. The rice terraces should be shored up before they burst, and surely a dozen other things need some mending on the grounds."
Janis led him away down a narrow path. They had barely spoken at all when the second shock hit him. He must have gasped.
Janis stopped. "What's wrong?" she asked, turning toward him. But she could see: he had no Chief Warlord bonus. "Oh."
"Warlord Ansom?" Sizemore's jaw sort of went slack. He shook his head, looking at Janis with wide eyes. "Something went wrong at the battle. I'll...probably have to go. The rice terraces..."
"...can hold up for some time," Janis nodded. "Let's head toward Portal Park."
They did not hurry. Sizemore had no actual orders to return, and was reluctant to think about going. They walked the trails without saying much. He listened to the frogs and crickets, and fretted.
The third shock came as they stepped upon a wooden bridge. He tried to take it in stride, saying nothing. But Janis stopped and looked at him anyway.
"That's low," she said of his new Chief Warlord bonus. "Is it him?"
Sizemore nodded, though he didn't want to.
Janis' mouth got tight. "Sizemore..." she said, her voice pitching up. "Stay right here, please. Please stay in this spot and talk to no-one. Will you do that for me?"
He would do nearly anything for Janis, and said so.
"Good. I'll be back within one hour. Two at most. I need to talk with a friend." She gave him a quick hug, and walked past.
"Who?" said Sizemore.
Janis shook her head. "A...Predictamancer. She may want to talk with you. Please stay here." She scuttled off the bridge the way they had come, left the trail, and vanished into the trees.
A Mathamancer had once told Sizemore that bad news tends to come in threes. He was able to console himself with that fact for nearly an hour, until he received shock number four.
Via Maggie, Warlord Parson was ordering him to return to Gobwin Knob immediately.
He peered into the woods one last time for Janis, even shouting her name. But an order is an order. He crossed the bridge, and hurried toward the center of the Magic Kingdom, grimly recalling that the Mathamancer had said bad news also comes in fives, eights, thirteens, and twenty-ones.