Money Makes the World Go Round - Part 10
(Previous Chapter: http://www.erfworld.com/blog/view/50688/money-makes-the-world-go-round-part-9)
It was...interesting, returning to the Magic Kingdom. Drachma had only been away a few turns, but it felt so alien now. It didn’t have his room in it anymore, and thus, his cache was elsewhere. His sense of his own worth dropped the moment he crossed the border, and it was disconcerting to his senses, to know that his shmuckers were not at hand to be used as needed.
Of course, the big difference was the people. The Portal Park was normally filled to bursting with Casters at every hour of the day. From the Kingdoms of Erf, they would come in, dealing, wheeling, and otherwise making the transfer of wealth that was the way everything lived. Here and now, however, there were silent glares, and he felt dozens of eyes bore into him, as if trying to send him deep into the dirt, which a few Dirtamancers could probably do.
“Like I said,” ordered Parson, and he began to walk forward, his eyes going from side to side as those arrayed like a corridor stood there, waiting for them. The Old Bird was amongst them, and at the sight of him, Parson was brought up short for a moment, staring at his top hat, blue coat, and face, before walking on, shaking his head and muttering something about a theme song stuck in his head.
Regardless of that, their trek was nerve wracking only for a short time, as Jetstone’s Portal was close to Gobwin Knob’s. Walking up to it, Parson looked around one last time, as if expecting someone to do something, but when nothing happened, he shrugged, and stepped through, followed soon after by the Casters, leaving the sunny clearing of Portal Park behind for the sweeping columns and massive structures of Jetstone.
“Ah, looks like Pierce owes me a drink,” said an old, hunched over man that Drachma quickly identified as the Dittomancer of Jetstone, whose name he knew started with an L, but he couldn’t remember much beyond that. Pierce, he knew, was the Healomancer of the Side, the Chief Caster, and the one who’d come to the Magic Kingdom fairly often to sell his scrolls for some extra shmuckers or even some Rands.
“Oh?” asked Parson, who looked down at the little man who barely came up to his waist, due to his hunched over back.
“Yeah, he figured you’d come through with an attack first, to croak us all,” was all the old Caster said, before waving them to follow him as he walked from the room. Parson followed close behind, saying nothing as they walked the halls. This place was so much the same, and yet different than Gobwin Knob. Where that was a place of low ceilings, and details, all designed to invoke a sense of worth in a place, this was going the other way.
High vaulted roofs hung overhead, giving even the halls the feeling of being rooms, designed for hundreds of units at a time to tromp through. The columns were simple affairs of white, with small detailing at the top and bottom, but otherwise standing as smooth stone sentinels, holding the weight of the world on their shoulders. Every once in awhile, a table or chair could be seen against a wall, or doors that led to side chambers, but none of it was large, and so seemed to fade into the background.
The troops lining the halls ruined some of the image, their gear not quite as striking as it should have been. Oh, it all shined, freshly polished steel for weapons and armor alike, the former having edges that gleamed wickedly in the light. However, compared to Gobwin Knob’s troops, they seemed less unified. They fidgeted, they moved, they even pointed and chuckled when they thought no one was looking. Not like the Decrypted, who barely breathed without their Mistress’ permission.
Finally the walk took them outside the walls of the keep, a pair of huge double doors opening to permit them outside, where a great yellow sun shone brightly on the world, nearly blinding them as it reflected off the white stones. Murmurs died almost instantly as they stepped out onto what proved to be an outdoor throne room of sorts, with the same columns as inside, but no walls behind, or ceiling to hold, only the gentle wind flowing through them to create an almost melodic tone.
“Ah, the remainder of our guests have arrived,” said a voice that seemed perfectly in tune with the wind, but spoke with an air of authority behind it one was hard pressed to miss. Turning to it, Parson and his party gazed upon the King of Jetstone, sitting on his throne, smiling down at them. Parson motioned for the others to copy him, and fell to a knee before the ruler of the Kingdom.
“I apologize for the delay, King Tramennis. We had to see our Warlords off on another mission of some urgency,” Lord Hamster informed the man, who studied him with the eye of a ruler, his gaze moving up and down his body, as he rose back to his feet. He didn’t have time to respond, however, as two figures made their displeasure at his presence known.
“Plotting to take this city as well, Lord Hamster?” demanded one of the two archons off to the side, and Drachma looked towards them, finding to his surprise their worth was almost equal to his own, before his fortune was considered. That was not normal, even for special knight class units. Of course, some of that came from their raiments, which, instead of being duds as they appeared, were actually weaved together with some Foolamancy he couldn’t identify.
“Of course not. We’ve merely come to claim our unit, and perhaps broker peace, in exchange for the return of two Casters we captured in the recent action at Spacerock,” he said simply, not rising to the woman’s challenge. The pair seemed shocked at that news, the one with red hair turning to Tramennis on his throne.
“Your Highness, your predecessor promised the return of that archon to Charlescomm,” she said in an indignant tone, and Tramennis on his throne nodded.
“Aye, that he did. Or rather, the duplicate of my Father did, after Charlie’s machinations caused his croak, a fact to which the Overlord all but admitted in our recent discussions,” responded the King, and this sent ripples through the crowd of courtiers and guardsmen assembled in the open space. They had, of course, all heard scattered accounts of the King’s fall, but none of the gossip had even mentioned Charlie in the slightest. That juicy bit was already being committed to memory, to be shared later, and spread far beyond the bounds of Jetstone.
“I don’t know anything about that, your Highness. That said, Charlescomm has already provided the funds that you earned for dusting and croaking, an amount we allowed you to keep, despite some of those dustings being undone,” she reminded him, and Tramennis actually smiled at her. It was not a warm or inviting thing, not like what Ansom had spoken of once, when sharing stories of his brother with the Casters in preparation for this mission. No, it was a thing of sharpness, ready to cut her down where she stood.
“So, you admit Charlie was involved in that fight in some way, if only offering bounties?” he asked, and this seemed to bring the woman up short, as she seemed about to respond, before the shorter brown haired archon put a hand on her shoulder, causing her to look abashed. The redhead stepped back, to allow her counterpart to step forward.
“Regardless of what we know or don’t know of the Spacerock situation, the fact remains. You have already been paid for the release of this archon to Charlescomm. Would you have it said that Jetstone doesn’t stand by it’s word?” she said, and this got some nods from the crowd, knowing how much honor and keeping your word meant to the old king. Tramennis’ smile only grew more pointed though.
“Indeed, the word of a duplicate of the previous king was given, and so, I believe that this will suffice for the keeping of our word. Lloyd, if you would?” he asked, and the Dittomancer stepped forward, raising his wand, and with a popping sound, Lilith, the archon in red, vanished in a flash of light. The sound and illumination were harsh enough that none present could look upon them, and when they finally returned their gaze, a pair of Lilith’s stood where before there was one.
“A fine deal, don’t you think? Both of you want Lilith for their own, and now, there’s enough to go around,” he said, his smirk reaching a razor’s edge, as the two archons just stared at the Liliths, both of whom wore smiles almost as sharp as the King’s. Obviously, they...she’d been privy to this plan beforehand.
“All that remains is for you to pick your archon, and as you’ve already paid, I believe Charlescomm should have the first pick,” he offered, the two blue adorned archons looking from Tramennis, to Parson, to Lilith, and back, before the brunette sighed.
“I will need to contact Charlie,” she said, not an ask for permission, but merely a statement of fact, as her head sagged forward, and her mind drifted off some place, leaving the scene in silence.