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28 December 2018 @ 10:42 am
_Wizard_ part 3  

“Let’s get on the rocks and head back. If we can hit the road well below the fork, we won’t mess up Ecksey’s trick with the whirlwind.”


They stayed on hard rock as long as possible, dropping down toward the river . . . and stopped behind a stand of pines to listen to a large body of mounted troops uphill of them and moving toward the village. They hustled after that, reaching the road half a mile from the ford.

Jason leaned and studied the road in the failing light. “Four riders down, four back up. They checked the ford. There’s no way Ecksey could have covered up that many wet horses climbing the far bank. Let’s go.”

They pushed the tired horses ahead. No sign of King Raynold’s men waiting at the ford. The horses splashed in reaching to drink as they walked.

“There.” Gerald pointed upstream. A waving figure at the river’s edge, well up past the road, leaning out between the trees to catch their attention. “It’s Franz.”

They turned the horses upstream, watching the ripples in the water to judge the depth and footing. They were belly deep but still walking, not swimming when they got to the narrow steep path up the river bank.

Franz was grinning in relief. “I was getting a bit worried.” He stepped out of the way so the horses could scramble up the bank. Jason looked back to see Franz maneuvering a cut sapling to lay over the trail.

Dammit. I don’t believe in demons, angels, sprites or, or, anything. But that kid sure knows what he’s doing.

It was easy to follow the trampled path another mile into the forest.

Count William had a tidy camp set up along a small stream. Not really a clearing, but the trees thinned out and the grass was thick under them.

The horses were staked out to graze, and the three grooms hustled up to take theirs.

"Is that black horse behaving?" Jason asked.

Alfred rolled his eyes. "Which one? I mean, the monster horse is turning out to be a pussy cat, but that boy's horse is scary in a whole different way."

Jason stepped out and peered down a wobbly line of horses. How the hell are we going to feed all these beasts? We'll have to cross the mountains . . .

He spotted the giant horse . . . and beyond, a second black horse. Smaller, with a finer head and no feathering on his legs.

"That's Darkness. My old friend." The boy's high voice broke into giggles. "Come and eat. Count William allowed the Ladies one small fire, so there's tea. I have cooked meat and bread."

"Good, we'll have to take inventory." Jason looked down on the child's shaggy red hair. "Ecksey . . . I owe you a lot, for getting us this far. Do you need to return home now . . . or can I appeal to your parents for assistance?"

The boy glanced up indignantly. "This is my adventure. And anyhow, Mom and Dad would just wish you luck and haul me home to go to school."

"You've run away from home?"

"No. I'm having an adventure. I'll go home and do school during the winter. Surely three months a year is enough!" He nodded confidently. "Anyhow. Yes. Logistics. Umm, it's not cheating on an adventure to use magic, is it?"

"I'm not sure about adventures, but an uncrowned king escaping to claim his throne is definitely allowed to use magic. If, by any chance a magician just happened to come along for the adventure."

The boy nodded. "That sounds about right. Especially since there's an evil wizard with a dead warrior out to get the king."

"Yes." Jason swallowed. Well, I knew King Raynold's Monster was . . . monstrous. I just . . . Urk! Would have preferred that he was dead in the normal way of things.

And the Evil Wizard . . .

"I always thought wizards were over rated. I mean, everyone's supposed to have one . . . but my father's were just . . . well, they were fake. Very good at reading people, and fooling them. Vurnom Bramble . . . I thought he was just another fake, acting the part."

The boy wrinkled his nose. "Possession is . . . very hard. And that dead thing . . . I dunno how that would work. I mean . . . dead doesn't happen all at once, the cells take hours to die . . ." His voice sounded uncertain. "Maybe the, the, person is dead, but the body is still alive and the wizard can use it? I'm going to have to think about this."

"What about the Evil Wizard?" Jason hoped his voice sounded steady.

"Well . . . I haven't actually met him, but he was pretty scary, even from a distance. But I'll bet Nil could take him." The boy nodded decisively and led the way over to a small fire.

Where a small sturdy table was being used to slice a nice big juicy roast. Lady Fern sliced a roll and stuffed a couple of slices of meat into it.

She smiled wryly as she handed it to Jason. "Your little demon didn't pack any plates or silverware."

The boy nodded glummly. "I've got a big pot for making soup or stew . . . and no bowls or spoons. I may be able to trade for some, or make some, if we visit any villages."

Jason looked around . . . and failed to see anything resembling a big pot, or a pack bulging with . . . anything.

Franz snorted. "Invisible packs! I'd whip his lying arse . . . if he'd just stop pulling things out of thin air."

Jason took a bite. Fresh bread, rare beef, with a hint of spices. He chewed and swallowed. "Well, I hope it nourishes as well as tastes. This is good."

The Count nodded as he walked over. "The boy's done a credible job of getting ready for us, but we need to do a bit of planning and laying in supplies of our own. Lord Ecksey's preparations have a few holes, and I suspect are not limitless."

"And we've very little money." Ramon nodded toward the women. "The ladies brought all they had on hand. But that won't feed nineteen people and twenty-five horses for long."

"And hunting will slow us down." Jason looked back at the horses. "We could sell some . . . but they'll be branded."

"Oh! I can change the brands!" Ecksey bounced out to wave . . . and his horse trotted up.

Bigger than I thought—the size of the monster horse threw me off!

"See? People thought they could take Darkness because he was a slick—with no brand. So I made the hair fall out and not grow again."

The horse nodded.

No halter, no lead rope . . . well, Gods forfend a baby magician ride an ordinary horse.

Jason eyed the brand. "XZ? Oh, a play on your name. I see . . . How do you actually spell your name? It's unusual. Initials, perhaps?"

"No, well sort of. My Mom's people do weird names, so I'm E, X, Z, Y. Those are the initials of some of my ancestors. Parents can choose any they want, to honor them, or just get something that can be pronounced."

ekuah on December 28th, 2018 05:56 pm (UTC)
But I'll bet Nil...
..could take him." The boy nodded decisively and led the way over to a small fire.
"Who is this Nil?"
"Archwizard Nihility, formerly know as the Tyrant King of Scoone some eight hundred years ago. He directs the local wizard school."
Zan Lynx: photozlynx on December 28th, 2018 06:06 pm (UTC)
RE: But I'll bet Nil...
Nil might qualify as an Evil Wizard himself, depending on who you ask.
ekuah on December 28th, 2018 06:19 pm (UTC)
Re: But I'll bet Nil...
Well, that's for sure if you ask someone from Scoone or a woman named Feeg ( formerly known as subdirector Efge).

Edited at 2018-12-28 06:39 pm (UTC)
matapampamuphoff on December 28th, 2018 07:04 pm (UTC)
Re: But I'll bet Nil...
No doubt about that, but he claims to be retired.
ekuah on December 28th, 2018 06:15 pm (UTC)
"Archwizard Nihility, formerly know as the Tyrant King of Scoone some eight hundred years ago. He is breeding sheep and teaches at the local wizard school."
Mike WeatherfordMike Weatherford on December 28th, 2018 07:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Correction:
One thing I haven't figured out yet is whether this is taking place on Comet Fall (doubtful), Arbolia, or some other planet. And whether anyone knows where Exzy really is. He may be introducing as much confusion as settling it if his explanations make no sense to those he's talking to. His "wizard tricks" are causing enough, as it is.
matapampamuphoff on December 28th, 2018 07:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Correction:
Whole different world. Exzy figured out gates on his own _way_ early in life. He just sort of thinks "Where can I go to have an Adventure this time? Hmm, that world over there looks likely . . ."
ekuah on December 28th, 2018 07:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Correction:
My bet would be on 'some other planet'.
Because Comet Fall and Arbolia would know about wizards.
And the wizardry there doesn't need to be related to genetic magic of Comet Fall, Arbolia or the Empire of the One.

Pam was faster.

Edited at 2018-12-28 07:12 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous) on December 29th, 2018 12:02 am (UTC)
RE: Re: Correction:
Or has he found the other exile world?
(Anonymous) on December 29th, 2018 01:40 am (UTC)
RE: Re: Correction:
I think Xen or Q said the seldom-mentioned Steamworld was the last.

matapampamuphoff on December 29th, 2018 02:25 am (UTC)
Re: Correction:
There were numerous colony world that might have had some high engineered kids who went there prior to the Exile Laws being passed. No doubt the government thought they'd get around to it later, but . . .

Also any Earth splits fro about 2080 on would have had an active genetic engineering program. See _The Lodge in the Mountains_ for an example. And Earth Bogata Nuke in _Embassy_ had a reference to there's and Chris Hanger can see through illusions and the gates are white.
matapampamuphoff on December 29th, 2018 02:27 am (UTC)
Re: Correction:
And, of course, any of the Exile Worlds could have split as well.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on December 30th, 2018 03:51 am (UTC)
Re: Correction:
“So those wooden forts are based on a bunch of vids about your pioneering age in North America?” Arno was sitting between the two purple haired boys.
“Earth’s North America. Our World is Exile Two. Arrival-Arbolia is Exile Four and Comet Fall is Exile Five.”

Arno eased his feet back from the fire. “So there are two more Exile Worlds out there? Cool! I wonder what they’re like?”

If one is Steam World, theother awaits Pam's word.
matapampamuphoff on December 30th, 2018 05:31 am (UTC)
Re: Correction:
Xin Zhongguo is Exile Three.
(Anonymous) on December 29th, 2018 04:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, Exzy, like your dad's people don't do weird names?

You'd've ended up named Broccoli or something on Comet Fall!

matapampamuphoff on December 29th, 2018 05:04 pm (UTC)
Hahahahaha! Stealing that!
ekuah on December 29th, 2018 07:01 pm (UTC)
Broccoli Xenotimeson
You could do a Slartibartfast joke with his name.

"The name my father gave me is not important. Please don't ask"

Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on December 30th, 2018 03:56 am (UTC)
In a Supermarket HQ I passed on a phone call for the "Brassica buyer".

Since Brassicas include broccoli and two-thirds of all other vegs, I assumed he was a VIP indeed.
(Anonymous) on December 31st, 2018 08:12 am (UTC)
The only brassicas I willingly eat are the leafies: cabbage, kale, and that group. The flower group taste like Yellowstone's mudpots to me. So when I tried to think of the worst possible Fallen name, well, Broccoli is up there with Wklw and Azho in my opinion! Brussles Sprout would be worse.

Pam, I'm delighted to be of service.

(Anonymous) on December 29th, 2018 09:52 pm (UTC)
Did Simon have something to do with naming the horse "Darkness. My old friend."?
(Anonymous) on December 30th, 2018 02:46 am (UTC)
RE: Silence
Ive come to talk with you again?
matapampamuphoff on December 30th, 2018 03:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Silence
Xen's got copies of all of his dad's recordings, so Exzy's has access to a lot of them.

Come to that, there's probably been a revival of all the old songs and movies all across the Multiverse.