|Close up of King Dickie sitting at a desk.|||
On the edge of the big velvet chair, the Chief of Gobwin Knob clapped his hands to his knees. This call to King Dickie was finally making it click for him. He was starting to get the big joke of Erfworld.
Because His Royal Majesty looked a whole lot like President Richard M. Nixon, wearing a crown made out of little pants.
And somehow, Parson immediately understood how to deal with him because of this. This guy's shrewd. He's paranoid. Things aren't going so great for him right now. He fights dirty, like a cornered rat. He respects power. He will freely lie. He likes to win. He's actually like Nixon. Late-stage, Watergate Nixon. Tricky Dickie.
It made sense now. All the punny names, all the echoes of his own world and its history and popular culture...he was seeing Signamancy in action. Things looked the way they did for a reason, a magical one, which was somehow congruent with his own world.
He should stop fighting it, stop groaning at the puns and use them. Being from Earth gave him a special insight and instinct for this stuff. Effectively, he had some of the powers of a Signamancer. He just had to pay more attention, and respect the big joke.
He had it in mind to offer Haggar most of Jetstone's territory if they'd ally and do the bulk of the conquest work. Ansom might think Jetstone could be talked around to peace, but that's essentially what he was arguing before the Battle for Spacerock. They would try diplomacy with Jetstone, but even Ansom admitted this plan had a better chance of working out.
And here, the Signamancy thing guided Parson. His first instinct was to apologize...to comfort a guy who lost a son in battle...to take the blame.
"Mm," nodded the King. He didn't look angry about it, only grim. "Well. For the record, that wasn't his original plan."
Parson raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? How come? What happened?"
King Dickie's image leaned forward, conspiratorially. "Listen. How much do you know about Charlie?" he asked.
|Parson sits in a chair in his room in Spacerock. In front of him Maggie projects the Thinkagram of King Dickie.|||
Afterward, Parson sat in his quarters with Maggie, getting her impressions of it.
"He's quite the ball of hate, isn't he?" she said, sitting on the chair by his rolltop desk.
"Yeah," Parson laughed. "I was surprised, though. He didn't seem to hate us too much."
"He was gratified that we made an overture," said the Thinkamancer. "He is also impressed that we conquered this city. As the man who croaked King Slately, you have his respect. He does fear you, as a non-Royal who croaks kings. But he fears Charlescomm more. I would say he trusts you no more and no less than his allies."
Parson stroked his chin. "How much of that is your own judgment, versus the extra stuff you can sense through the Thinkagram?"
"I couldn't rightly tell you," she said, tilting her head. "When casting, my own thoughts remain in the background, and are not perfectly distinguishable from the sensations of the spell."
"Must be wild."
She gave him a modest smile. "It is simply what I do, Lord."
"So what do we know?" He stared down at the carpet, trying to digest the details of the call. "In the middle of the battle, Charlie made a tactically reckless play to force Haggar not only to fight against us, but specifically to assassinate Ansom. Why?"
"Yeah, maybe," said Parson, unconvinced. "He wasn't in the city, though. I've always assumed Charlie was trying for Wanda and the 'pliers. Why blackmail Haggar to kill Ansom at the bridge? There's something going on there that I don't know about."
"And now, perhaps Charlie knows that we know," she said, her mouth in a wry twist.
"Yeah, I know," said Parson, giving her a serious look. Before the call, she'd reminded him that Charlie might be listening in, but that the pinkie swear would keep him from even hinting about that fact to King Dickie. "You think he was tapping the call?"
"As I've said, we only know that he is capable of it, not when he does it," said Maggie, lowering her voice. "This above all else is why we must see him removed from the world."
Parson took in a deep breath, and sighed it out through his nose. "I have to tell ya, I'm kind of liking this truce, Maggie. I don't trust Charlie, but I like that the spell he gave me is real. Maybe we can keep these truces going. I know the Great Minds want him gone, but I'm not one hundred percent convinced that the ultimate endgame involves killing Charlie."
Her face suddenly went stony—even mean—in a way that chilled him. It reminded him of the way she used to look when he'd first met her. Her Signamancy had changed a lot in past months. He guessed he hadn't really noticed it, until he found himself looking at a flash of the cast iron bitch she'd once been."I am, Lord," she said crisply.