|Parson and Stanley stand in Spacerock's war room, next to a large square table. Behind them is a blackboard. Surrounding the table on the other three sides are three rows of seats, with stairways leading up them.|||
Stanley the Tool swept his way into Spacerock's war room exactly like he owned the place—which, to be fair, he did—and left Parson behind to shut the enormous door. The Chief Warlord swung the brass-bound door closed, and felt the latch mechanism click. Did that mean it was locked, though? He'd never seen a door handle like this before.
"Hey nice! So, whaddya think of this city, Hamster?" Stanley hadn't so much as broken stride. He just kept going on those little legs, into the vast, dimly lit chamber. "Huh? It's not bad, for your first conquest."
"Yeah I like it a lot better now that it's not on fire," said Parson, touching the brass knob and feeling around for a button or a latch to turn or something. "How d'you—"
A bolt snapped shut, and he knew the door had locked itself in response to the focus of his will. It was exactly like issuing an order, or using the eyebooks. He shrugged, and turned around to catch up.
"It looked pretty sharp from up in the air!" said Stanley, who was all the way up at the main maptable now. "Sizemore did a good job puttin' it back together."
Parson walked across the red and white tiled floor toward the one pool of light in the big, empty chamber. Their map table was square, about 12 feet on a side, bathed in light from an array of seven white powerballs hanging from the ceiling, clustered in a brown-shaded fixture.
What made this room really interesting, though, was that the strategy table was surrounded on three sides by tiers of benches, forming a little amphitheater. Infantry-heavy Jetstone must have packed this room with warlords before any major campaign.
On the one open side, where Stanley and Parson now stood, a black slate chalkboard stood in a wrought-iron frame. No pieces and no terrain markers adorned the table, and the blackboard was blank and clean.
"Sorry, who did a what job, now?" Parson asked, squinting in the brightness.
"Well, yeah. But you never remember it," said Parson, cocking an eyebrow. "I also don't think I ever heard you say the words 'good' and 'job' in that order."
Stanley shrugged, and scratched at the slate-blue felt on the tabletop.
Parson was never sure just how weird Erfworld could get. He was at least willing to entertain the thought that Stanley being nice and remembering names might actually be evidence that he was some kind of magical imposter. Maybe he should ask Jack to look him over for Foolamancy.
"I mean, you haven't even yelled at me yet," he said, trying to make it sound like a joke.
It wasn't, really. At their big reunion, Parson had expected to be chewed out. He'd also half-expected to be demoted from Chief, now that Ansom was back. But neither thing had happened. In fact, Stanley had seemed weirdly happy to see him.
The Overlord looked up, confused. A hint of suspicion crept into his voice. "Why? What'd you do, Hamster?"
"Pff. We got Ansom back, right? We got paid. Bigtime! We screwed Charlie out of a quarter mil, and she stopped wreckin' our cities. Yeah, I mean... I wanted to croak her, but... Iiiii, kinda didn't. You know what I'm saying?"
Parson shook his head. In fact, he had no idea what the Tool was saying.
"I guess," said Parson, wrinkling his eyebrows. Wanda had agreed to the assassination, and almost pulled it off, so he wasn't really clear what her feelings about Queen Jillian might actually be. "So, what, you didn't want her mad at you?"
Stanley made a choking sound, and gave Parson his classic you're-a-big-stupid-dummy look. Okay, maybe this really was him after all.
"Hamster! I don't give a crap about that! Wanda's been mad at me since the turn we met. But if I did croak that Queen, whaddya think was gonna happen? I'd have to draaag her body back here, so Wanda can bring her back to life."
Parson's jaw went just a little slack. Right. Okay. He did see.
"And then she'd be around here. With Wanda."
Stanley looked back to the table.
"You did fine, Hamster." He pawed absently at the felt. "You're my Chief Warlord, and you were lookin' out for me. This truce was smart. Smart play." He raised his head and looked Parson in the eye, his forehead furrowed."Good job," he said.