IPTSF Text 76
“Is that real?” asked the Chief, staring at the bright pink flower in the Archon’s outstretched hand. It stood out so much in all the green. It looked too good to be true, which was one mark of Foolamancy, she had found. Charlie had so many disbanded tricks.
“Yes,” said Carnie, smiling primly. “Very much so.”
Jillian licked her lips. She couldn’t take her eyes off the bud. “How many did you save?”
She met the Archon’s eyes now. “When the elves burned the Garden. How many buds did you preserve? Did you buy this offa them, or what?” She swallowed, thinking about the possibilities this raised. “And...do they last more than a turn? Are you gonna run out?”
Jillian blinked. “Oh. So the elves burned the Garden on their own? You had nothing to do with that?”
Chynna nodded to her partners. “No, the High Elves burned the Garden at Charlescomm’s directive,” she said.
“They were Haffaton’s allies, I thought,” said Jillian.
“That alliance was strained,” said the Archon. “Haffaton had neglected them badly for quite some time, due to a lack of resources. They were receptive to competing offers.”
“I don’t understand,” said Jillian. “Why would you pay them to burn down the Garden?”
“We were under a time crunch. With Dame Branch your prisoner, the Garden was suddenly vulnerable. But it was still Haffaton’s turn when Charlescomm learned about that. So we couldn’t move our units to the Garden. Haffaton’s own allies could get there, however, then break alliance and attack.”
Jillian shook her head. “That’s not what I’m asking. Why did Charlescomm want the Garden burned?”
Chynna tilted her head curiously, as if to say how can you ask that?
Somewhere inside her, the very tiny “Princess” part of Jillian tried to clamp down and apply some tact here, but it was too late. “Charlie is evil!” she heard herself shout. “What does he care!”
All three faces in front of her lost their plastic smiles and went ice cold.
“Charlie is good,” said Carnie quietly.
“Oh, but he keeps his own Garden?” said Jillian, pointing at the flower. “I’m sorry, you’ve lost me there.”
“What don’t you understand?” said Chynna, giving a little tiny warning gesture to Carnie.
Jillian gasped in exasperation. “He keeps his own Garden! You can’t claim he’s out there ridding the world of ‘evil’ Flower Power when he’s growing it himself! That’s ridiculous.”
“What it is,” said Chynna, with ice in her eyes, “is nuanced. I’m sorry, but you can’t be expected to understand. You do not have the full picture that Charlie sees. His thinking is worldwide. Let me just say that Charlie is the only responsible steward for this kind of magic.”
Jillian met the Archon’s cold stare with a hot one. “Were you lying to me out in the field?”
Jillian scowled, certain that Chynna was just ducking the question. “When I was a fugitive and I spotted you. You said you were calling Haffaton to offer to sell them my location. Did you really call them? Or not?”
The Archons said nothing, but presumably had returned to private conference by Thinkamancy. They turned their heads to one another.
“You were lying. Weren’t you? Charlie doesn’t—didn’t do deals with Olive.”
“That’s classified,” said Chynna, looking at her.
“Yeah, you were lying. Covering your tracks. Putting me off my guard. That’s the kind of thing you do,” said Jillian. “Good Guy Charlie lies to everybody, cheats everybody, and keeps all the goods for himself. That stuff’s too dangerous and evil,” she barked, gesturing at the flower, “until he needs to sweeten a deal with someone. Then he’s handing ‘em out like teacakes.”
She almost moved to knock it out of the Archon’s hand, but didn’t trust herself to touch it. She narrowed her eyes and looked at the bud anew, suddenly seeing it not as a reward, but as an incredibly dangerous enemy. This little pink "unit" had a Special that translated into “beat Jillian personally.” Yeah, that was a good way too look at it. Her warrior instincts helped her out, helped her stand against it. This is not a winnable engagement, Warlady. Screen. Flee. Retreat.
“You are already dependent upon the hero buds, Princess Jillian,” said Chynna evenly. “Offering this to you is a kindness, to ease your need. That’s not the same thing as offering it to someone who has never been exposed to it. Or forcing it on someone, as Dame Branch did to you..”
“Why does he have it?!”
“Sit on a poleaxe,” said Jillian viciously. “We’re done here. We’re done.”
She turned away and stormed forward, giving the one behind her—Wendy—a hard shoulder-check that put her on her keister in the street. It was about as hard as you could contact an ally without breaking alliance.
“Get out of my city!” she shouted, stomping away up the road in a completely random direction.
“We stay at the pleasure of King Banhammer!” she heard Chynna shout back.
“Get out of my sight, then!” yelled Jillian. “Tell Charlie I’m not signing!”