LIAB Prologue 15
Turns since TBfGK: 11
There were only a few basic functions of an Erfworld city. All of them were for war. But among the empty cookie-cutter buildings, this city had many oddities: structures that imitated functions it didn't really have.
There was an amphitheater, for instance. It would seat about 800. Why? There was never any reason to go there. Something like a bank or counting house stood on one corner near the garrison, its steel vault bare. There was an ice house, where blocks of burlap-covered ice would pop. When they eventually melted or sublimated, more ice blocks would pop.
And there was also a slaughterhouse and smokehouse. This struck Parson as particularly weird, because of how farms worked. As he understood it, if you had a farm, then one turn a piglet would pop on your farm. It would live there for a few turns, becoming a bigger pig each turn. Then at the start of another turn, it would depop and various pig-related foods would pop in the larder of the nearest city and/or the capital.
Gobwin Knob's slaughterhouse stood clean and empty, fresh sawdust on the bloodless floor.
But he had to go and look at it, or it wouldn't "work" as efficiently. They would get more bacon next turn because he had walked in and out of the slaughterhouse this turn. Or possibly the act looking at it would doom the pigs, cows and chickens on some farm. He wasn't really sure.
Parson usually took along someone to talk to as he made his rounds. Sometimes this was Maggie or Sizemore. Sometimes it was one or two of the Decrypted Warlords or Archons. Today, it was Jack, the Foolamancer.
They walked the back streets where other units were sparse, poking their noses into various buildings. Parson still wore his armor and jeans, but had acquired a walking staff topped with a little wooden Hamstard.
Jack wore a dark purple trench coat and a wide-brimmed white hat, and carried a thin straight cane, topped with an 8-ball. He had a birdlike habit of glancing around at things, fixing his eyes on one nearby spot after another. Parson got tired of following his gaze to see what he might be seeing, and eventually started walking a step ahead of him. Jack said very little, unless prompted.
"So what do you think, Jack?" Parson had asked him earlier. "Why have something like a treasure house if there's nothing inside it?"
"A house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived," said Jack.
Jack was supposed to have his mind back together, but Parson had his doubts. He also didn't like non-answers. "You're saying you don't know."
"I am saying I don't care, my good Lord," said Jack, tilting his head. "But that is true as well."
They came to what Parson thought of as the courthouse, a small jail with holding cells. Empty, of course. They walked through the building, along the rows of iron bars. "I guess this place actually does have an Erfworld function," he mused, as they came to the exit. A set of iron keys hung on a peg, and he jingled them like a wind chime. "Taking of prisoners, etc..."
Jack glanced back at one of the tiny windows in one of the open cells. "No longer, it would seem."
He followed Parson out into the street. "Fashions change, my good Lord," said Jack. "The taking of prisoners is passe. Skulls are the new shackles." With his cane, he gestured toward a pair of Decrypted soldiers standing on the opposite corner. "But black still goes with anything."
Parson thought about it as they walked two blocks toward the lumber yard. The clacks and rings of city activities carried on the breeze. "Yeah, Wanda's scary," he said at last.
"Oh come now, good Lord," said Jack, smiling brightly. "Surely you can be just as scary!"
Parson smiled, despite himself. "Jack..." He sighed, and stopped walking. "No. I'm out of the 'scary' business. Or trying to be."
The Foolamancer looked at him wryly. "Are you? I thought you'd a talent for it."
"That's the problem."
"I see," said Jack. He turned and started walking again. Parson now followed him. "To have talent is to be in demand. I well know."
"Yeah. Right. But my talent has... I dunno, moral consequences," said Parson. "I don't think they're worth it. So I've got it so I don't have to be in demand. Happy enough with that for now."
"The talent itself supplies the demand, good Lord," said Jack. He stopped suddenly, looked up, and raised his cane. "Here, the sky."
The ten or twelve dwagons flying around up there seemed to double. As Parson looked closer, though, he saw that about half of them were in odd colors. Orange, silver, maroon, and even a candy-striped one.
Parson looked down at Jack, "You just felt like making some fake dwagons up there?"
"Indeed, my talent demanded it," said Jack, with a twinkle in his eye. "Just as yours demanded you put real ones up there."
Jack turned again and began walking away. "Do you suppose that will carry any 'moral consequences?'"