IPTSF Text 8
"Now here's an important thing, though," said Clay, pointing at the die. "Where did those 4s come from?"
Clay grinned slyly. "So you're saying my juice had a physical effect on the way the die rolled."
"Yes and no," said Clay, grinning more broadly now. "It's not a direct effect, you see? The 4 is a Number. It had to come from somewhere."
Wanda put her hand on the workbench and stared at the dice some more. She could smell Clay's breath, and it wasn't good. More of the Signamancy of decay she had noticed on both Clay and Delphie. But she was tired of asking simple "why" questions. She was weary of learning, but still wanted to know. So, what could he mean...?
She folded her left hand over her right, on the edge of the workbench, still staring at the die. "The juice in your spell did not create the outcome, you are saying. Your spell did not create the 4. It...what?" What was the alternative? "Enabled it, somehow?"
"Honestly?" said Clay, "that's the nice way to say it. Whatt'm saying is that maybe that die would have come up 4s three times anyway. So maybe my spell did nothing at all, at least so far. That's why I say it'll roll high 'for a little while.' I don't know. But here's what I do know. And maybe it's kind of a secret of my discipline but I think it's important, and I wanna tell you."
He shifted in his seat. His feet were fidgeting, making the strained joints of the little stool squeak rhythmically. "Luckamancy doesn't create good outcomes, because that would undermine Mathamancy and Predictamancy. Mathamancy deals with real Numbers. If Luckamancy could just create Numbers out of juice, out of thin air, then every odds calculation would be off. Y'see?" Wanda thought she did. "So what Luckamancy actually does is steal Numbers from the world. Don't tell anybody that, okay?"
He paused, serious enough about this point to wait for Wanda to nod in agreement.
"Please. I'm really not supposed to talk about my work like this. But it's so interesting iddn't it?"
Wanda was not entirely sure she agreed. These were unfamiliar, esoteric concepts, and she had to admit that her eyes were glazing over from the overload. Clearly though, this magic was as complex and nuanced as her own discipline. She saw in Clay's face the same kind of illumination she recognized from her own journey of discovery. The things she had taught herself so far about Matter and Motion must have made her just as jubilant as Clay was about his dice and cards.
And this stuff Clay was excited about might even be more important, in the grand picture of the world. She should learn it, if she wanted to function as a warlord for her side. "Where do you steal the Numbers from?" she prompted.
"Well, the world," said Clay, looking a little less sure. "If you rolled all the D4s in the world a bunch of times, that one included," he said, pointing at the die, "you'd get an even mix of ones, twos, threes and fours. This little guy stole his roll from somewhere," he said, picking it up. "And I think the world is lazy, you know? I don't think it goes very far to steal good outcomes when I boost one of our warlords, you know?"
Wanda frowned, "Would it steal from our enemies?" She could see this boosting the effectiveness of Luckamancy.
But Clay rolled his eyes with exasperation. "If only. That's the one thing it really doesn't do. In fact we sometimes see the opposite. The enemy rolls better than they should or," and here he looked really pained, "...or we roll worse."
Wanda was horrified, "What, it steals Numbers from us?!"
"Not all the time!" said Clay, putting up a hand defensively. "I mean, it depends. The net effect is still good for us, because we're picking the right battles to win. But yeah it can be really hard on the rest of our side, sometimes. Especially unled and unboosted units. We...lose more of those kind of battles than we should. That's another reason we're not exactly conquering Erfworld right now."
When he saw the look on her face, he seemed to realize just why Luckamancers are not supposed to talk about such things.
Wanda didn't even know what to say. She just stared down at the dice, her brow wrinkled in consternation. Was Clay hurting them as much as helping? Was he actually worse than useless? And it was Delphie making these decisions as to who would receive a boost at the cost of everyone else? Why would that not be Tommy's call? Or Father's? It disbanding-well should be.
Perhaps fortunately, she did not have to say anything more to Clay. The doorknob turned at the other end of the room, and Lady Temple swept in. "Hello, dears!" Her voice was light and musical, but Wanda felt she could hear the edge of a dagger in it. Delphie's eyes fixed on the two of them together at the workbench for a moment, before she set down her satchel on the table.
Wanda instinctively moved a step away from Clay, who was rising with a grunt. "Uh, hey Delphie."
"Hello, Chief." said Wanda.
Delphie crossed the room like a breeze, talking the entire way. "Had a bit of a delay, talking business as I was with some peers. They're really so helpful at times, honestly. Hard to tear yourself away, sometimes, isn't it? Easy to talk a little more than you really should. Hello, Dear," she went up on tiptoe to kiss Clay. "You're in trouble."
"I know," said Clay.
"Don't go anywhere, Love." She touched him on the nose, and turned to Wanda. "Your quarters all right to talk?"
Wanda was expecting the suggestion to fall with the hidden weight of an order. It did.
One corner of her mouth curled up. "Yes, Chief."