Hvs.tCF 68:2

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Turn Number:83
Side's Turn:Gobwin Knob

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"He believes that our... diplomatic posture to this point has been of benefit to our enemies," Ansom had told her yesterday afternoon in the former throne room. "So I intend to strike a more conciliatory tone with Tramennis than we did at the bridge.[1]"

"As long as you do not forget that they are the enemy," said Wanda, seated on the former throne of Jetstone. The grand chair was no longer the seat of power, not even for Gobwin Knob. So this enormous space of columns and rich carpeting had no function. It stood abandoned.

He and Jack Snipe had followed their Mistress to this empty place to discuss his mission. Chief Gotti intended to remain in the Magic Kingdom for a few more turns, but he had seen no need to delay Ansom's departure.

"I do not forget, Mistress," said Ansom. "I only mean that I won't be threatening them, or making demands. I won't tell them that the Titans have issued a higher mandate than Royal lineage. I won't say that all sides will eventually be with us or fall before us. That sort of thing."

"Ehm, sounding conciliatory and offering actual concessions are two different things," piped up Jack. Like Ansom, he was seated on the thrones raised dais at Wanda's feet. "I'm wondering, did the Good Lord Parson specifically authorize you to offer them anything concrete?"

"No lands," said Ansom. "And no drawdown of troops at their border. But for the right security considerations, the Chief suggested that he would be willing to offer Shmuckers. Our treasury is flush, and he said it might 'encourage them to go fight someone else.'"

Jack smiled at that. "Ah, but whom do they hate so much as us? Jetstone is no mercenary side. They fight us on principle, not interest."

Ansom considered it. "King Slately did. I do not yet know King Tramennis, although I think he will be more reasonable. But even if this mission fails, I hope to gain some insight as to what kind of Ruler my brother has become."

"I have insight," Mistress Wanda said, looking down at him. "You should know he has come to view the Decrypted as persons."

"Oh?" asked Ansom. "How do you know that?"

Jack's eyes twinkled as he looked up at Wanda, who was shaking her head. "When and if you return from this mission, I will say," she told Ansom. "But I know that his disposition on that matter has changed. He may not listen to you, but he will not simply dismiss you as a mindless puppet this time."

Ansom stared, confused. Jack gave him a meaningful glance, pointed to his ear and said, "The ringing?"

"Ossomer," said Ansom, nodding. "Tramennis knows that Ossomer turned, so he now believes we have our own will." Ansom twisted around on his rear end to face Wanda. "Mistress, I would never turn back to Jetstone, if that worries you."

"I know," said Wanda. "And it does not."

"But something bothers you, Sister. Won't you tell us," said Jack, using his odd and irksome form of address for her, "that we may make it right?"

Wanda was silent for a very long time, but neither man wished to disturb her thoughts, or change the subject. Finally, she spoke, sounding unhappy. "You know that it's a lie, don't you?"

"I'm sorry?"

"He's asking you to lie," she said to Ansom. "You're not going to say that the Titans guide us, that all the world's sides are Fated to fall or march beside us. But you still know it is true, don't you?"

"Of course."

Jack suddenly leaned toward Ansom, resting his forearms on his tented knees. "Of course, but...?"

Ansom shook his head. "But nothing, Foolamancer. I know these things to be true. I will not forget them."

That is what he had said to his Mistress, and that is what he had meant. He meant it still.

But now, high in the sky and alone with his thoughts, he realized that perhaps his faith was less of a carpet and more of a dwagon. He was no longer flying it forward, into a new dawn for Erfworld. Instead, he was riding something much bigger than himself.

It wasn't the same thing at all.

Notes