First Intermission 19
Turns since TBfGK: 3
In her mind Jillian had built up this meeting into something awful, like her brief and stiff audience with Ansom's father King Slately. In the royal court of Jetstone, they had stood her up before the throne and drilled her with a few pointed and humiliating questions, in front of a coterie of dozens of snickering Nobles. Slately had thought of her as barbarian scum. Ansom too, she supposed.
But Don treated her like a lost daughter. His language was informal but respectful, and his tone was warm. He was happy to have her here, as his guest.
They met in a quiet, comfortable room behind the great throne-bench of power. She'd been given a chance to freshen up, using a clever little closet, where water came in and left through lead pipes. Bunny the Thinkamancer had given her basic instructions. It was an interesting experience. Nice, actually.
The three of them now reclined on black velvet couches, nibbling dried fruits and tiny pastries, and attended by Dolls. A pair of tough-looking Goyles with lances guarded the door. Jillian assumed there were many more guards within shouting distance.
Though she never stopped thinking of escape, she was able to relax and enjoy herself to some degree. With little left to hide, she told Don about Faq. He was fascinated with the question of how they kept three cities hidden from their nearest neighbors: Transylvito to the south, Jitterati to the northwest, and Gobwin Knob to the east. She explained some of the tricks they'd used. Faq had quite a variety of casters for its tiny size, and many of them used aspects of their discipline to aid Jack Snipe in keeping the kingdom's existence a secret.
"This Foolamancer, he must have been a genius," Don said, shaking his head.
"He is," said Jillian sourly. "As he recently reminded me." She'd been over that battle in her head many times now, but she still wasn't sure what had really happened.
"Why, because you're going after Stanley?" Jillian sat up straight. "Are you? Vinny said he thought you might."
Don smiled ever so slightly. "Vinny did, huh? Vinny's smart." He leaned forward and scooped a handful of dried figs from a bowl, and popped one into his mouth. "But," he said, chewing forcefully, "his perspective...is incomplete. He is fresh from that fight, and so it looms large in his mind. Especially because we lost. He does not like to lose. None of us...like losing. I'm sure he does think we should charge back into Gobwin Knob and put Stanley's head up on the tower spike." Don gestured toward the stucco ceiling as he said this.
Jillian's eyes narrowed. "I'll help you do that."
"Jillian. Please." Don looked at her gravely. "You lost this fight as well. You've lost more to Stanley than anyone still living, including, I would argue, your perspective."
That hurt, for some reason. She looked at him while he gathered his thoughts.
"There are two things that you and Vinny are missing in the strategic picture. The first is...exactly what happened at the battle for Gobwin Knob?"
Jillian looked at Bunny, who had been sitting quietly and staring into space, though with a Thinkamancer that could have meant she was working very hard. "I thought you knew."
Bunny seemed to tune in to the room and was about to speak, but Don raised his hand. "Nobody knows. What it was, or what we're dealing with there. And you do not strike out at an unknown threat from a position of strength and security."
"I do," grumbled Jillian.
"Well, I do not. And therefore," said Don, as he reached for a bunch of green grapes, "I still have my kingdom."