"That wuddn't magicide, Janis. Y'want me to show you what magicide looks like?"
"I drafted the terms, Buck. Are you arguing with a *huff* Signamancer about Signamancy?" said the Hippiemancer, sweatin' and holding her chins up in the air. "Or are you saying Signamancy doesn't matter any more, because you're *huff* holding a gun?"
Joe Spade bit his lip and watched the two of 'em tangle.
Spade was a go-with-your-gut kinda guy, but his gut was all tied up in knots right now. He had about five, no six things to be seriously scared of at one time.
When he'd ran up here to tell Buck about Wanda, he only had three. One, that the Croakamancer was gettin' away. Two, that Ivan was Decrypted and he could work bedrock. And three, that Buck was gonna be mad as a mangled mountain mokey at him.
Now there was the Temple boom to think about, and whoever or whatever'd made it go boom. And maybe a boom was about to happen right here, right under their feet.
Almost as bad, what if the boom was just the start? Maybe Wanda Firebaugh was gonna Decrypt all those Thinky-dinks and use 'em to take over. Guns were great and all, but the Thinkamancers already showed they could stop a gun fight. If that was the plan, maybe all the casters in the Kingdom combined couldn't stop her.
Either way, they really didn't need a Hippie here right now, tearin' up the plaza with weeds and arguin' about ceremony.
Buck looked pretty impatient, too, like he was thinkin' the same thing. "No, I'm sayin' it wuddn't magicide 'cause he wuddn't alive. I didn't croak nobody. Mister Sing-song was Decrypted. I dusted him. It duddn't matter how I did it."
And right there was why she could stand there naggin' and accusin' Buck like that. It was why Pinkie'd stopped Spade from shootin' the prisoner, too. Peace in the Kingdom was kept by Signamancy. The free casters had rules. Not a lot, but some. And when folks quarreled or had differences, they Signed an agreement.
That's what Buck done with the guns. The Dirtamancers only took the guns because the trial was here. They needed to defend the 'mansion. Some casters didn't like that. Some people said the Rockers might try and use 'em to take over, which was stupid, since they were the good guys. So they'd Signed an agreement promising to follow all the stupid rules about the trial and the executions.
As a Qualified caster, Spade respected the rules. Seriously. The Qualified helped keep the rules and keep the peace. But he'd been willing to risk losing his Qualification to shoot the prisoner, because his gut told him it was about time to chuck those rules down the nearest hole, before Wanda escaped down it.
"Buck, we ain't got time for this," he said, using his most serious, in-charge voice. "She's gettin' away."
"No spit," Buck nodded to him. "Ai'ght. I'm gonna count to three, Miss Hippie," he said, theatrically taking aim at the Grand Abbie. "And then I'm gonna spray 'em all. Right down the line. Brrrap!"
He made a motion with the rifle in a line that followed the hedge Janis Atlantis had summoned in front of the prisoners. "I don't think you know what automatic fire looks like. Yer little bush ain't gonna stop it, and neither's yer big ol' squishy belly. So I wouldn't be standin' there at three. One!"
"Free casters! If he shoots me, you must croak him!" Janis shouted. She was talkin' to the dozens of witnesses and jurors who stood by in the plaza. They'd been keeping their distance, and in his Dirtamancers' tunnel-vision (which wuddn't helped by bein' blind in his right eye), Spade had almost forgot the three of them were surrounded. "Or accept him as your king. Because he'll shoot you, next! He will shoot the witnesses!"
She held her arms at her side and stared at Buck.
Buck held the rifle steady, squinting down the barrel. "Two!"
"Decide!" Janis called to the crowd. "Casters, are we free? Or are all classes ruled by the Dirtamancers now?"
So... now Joe added another thing to be scared of. Or a couple things. He didn't want Buck to shoot Janis, 'cause that prob'ly would be magicide. And how could things get un-weird and go back to the way they were, after that? But also, it seemed like maybe some fool or two in the crowd here might panic and start throwin' Shockmancy this way. He hefted his broken rifle, as if that'd help, and one-eyed the crowd.
They was all standin' stock still, except for Roger, who was still back there on the pavement, losin' his marbles over losin' his Minds. Nobody looked particularly inclined to stop Buck from pullin' the trigger.
After a moment, Janis turned her head. "I'll see your answer from the sky," she said, just loud enough to be heard by everybody.
She locked eyes with Buck. "It's three, King Buck. Say 'three.'"