IPTSF Text 9
Wanda shut and locked the door, and followed.
"That one, as well, dear," said Delphie, standing by Wanda's bed. Wanda closed the inner door.
The Predictamancer looked her up and down from the front, and from the back by means of the mirror. "That is a very cute outfit, Wanda," she said, nodding gently.
"Thank you," said Wanda. She found herself more pleased with the compliment than she wished to be.
"It suits you..." said Delphie, very slowly.
"I think so."
"...a little more than you know. How did you come by it?" Delphie's tone was laden with hidden meaning, but that was something she did to put others off their balance, and Wanda didn't intend to fall for it.
She told her Chief Caster of finding the garments after reconquering Goodfinger, and Delphie nodded. "The fact that it becomes you so very well, and that you instinctively know that about it, is a kind of a Sign, you know."
Wanda raised an eyebrow. "No, Chief. I don't know."
"Mm. Perhaps I'll have to tell you, then. Because you're not inclined to trust me, are you, Wanda?"
Wanda said nothing. They both knew it to be true.
"Wanda, the reason that Predictamancers do not say everything we know is not because it would change the future, but because it usually will make it longer and more painful to reach those future outcomes. The less you know about what is to come, about your Fate, then the easier it will be for you to get there, the less...you and others will have to suffer, to lose." She looked sadly at Wanda. "But you're a strong woman. You can't just take my word and trust me. You have to know, don't you?"
Delphie smiled sadly. "They aren't Predictamancers, dear. They're in the same dark cave as you are." She sighed, and made a twirling motion at the floor with her finger. "Turn around. Look in the mirror."
Wanda did so. She met her own eyes and was bolstered in spirit.
"I know that raiment, Wanda," said Delphie.
With surprise, Wanda looked up at Delphie's reflection. "Whose was it?"
"Whose?" insisted Wanda.
Wanda eyed the Chief's reflection skeptically. "You were consorting with the enemy?"
Delphie shrugged. "Parleying. On neutral territory. And it was productive; they are making a peace overture, Wanda. They want a very long treaty of alliance with us." She smiled proudly at breaking this news.
Wanda tilted her head, still skeptical. She had fought several vicious battles with Haffaton in recent days, and seen no hint of Flower Power there, as she understood it. They were far from a peace-loving side, and certainly didn't seem inclined to make the first offer. Tommy spoke of Haffaton with no small degree of hatred, and Wanda was beginning to feel that way herself. "So Lord Firebaugh sent you there to hear their petition?"
"Lord Firebaugh does not know, yet," said Delphie, without apparent concern. "I'll need you to help me convince him to agree to their terms."
Wanda considered turning around to face Delphie directly, but was finding the smaller, reflected image of her Chief easier to deal with. "He won't yield any of the cities we've recaptured, if that's what they're after. And I won't advise him to. We paid for them with the lives of too many units. We'll need to pop men in them for four or five turns at least, just to come out--"
"They're not asking for our cities, Wanda," said Delphie. "Their offer states that explicitly."
Wanda frowned. "Well, they can't be after the treasury. We're down to almost nothing, although the new cities help us with that as well..."
Delphie's eyes shined as she shook her head. "They only want one consideration, dear. And if you think about it for a moment, you'll probably be able to guess at what it is."
Wanda closed her eyes and breathed. Her hands lay flat upon the satin of her suit. There's Date-a-mancy here as well. Your Fate and hers are intertwined.
She opened her eyes, but looked down at the carpet. "They want...our Croakamancer?"
"Let me tell you about my own Fate, Wanda," said Delphie. "I'm not fated to be your Chief Caster for long. But Olive is. And assuming that you go along and meet Fate on its own terms, I think that will turn out to be the best thing for everyone. Don't you?"
Wanda's fists balled at her sides. She couldn't quite look up at mirror-Wanda. She breathed heavily, and could feel her heart pounding in her chest.
She waged a short battle inside her head that, in its way, was as fierce as any action she had yet seen afield. But at the end of it, she nodded once.
"Yes, Chief," she whispered.
"Good, good." burbled Delphie soothingly. "And really, that outfit positively becomes you, dear."