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Sizemore's sandaled feet slapped along on the paving stones of a little walkway, shaded by aromatic pines. He had once laid down these stones himself, and he eyed them with some professional satisfaction as he went along. At the end of the pavement, he frowned at a spot where the squares were sinking into the softer ground. Drawing his index finger over the pathway's edge, he spent a little juice to fix it. Then he brushed the pine needles away, and continued on the dirt path that led into the Glade of the Hippiemancers.
There was a lot for Sizemore to do around here. The Florists always needed him in their gardens, always wanted his advice about soil, always smiled when he could visit.
This place, at least, was still a warm refuge.
Smiles and warm welcomes used to be standard almost everywhere he went in the Magic Kingdom. Dirtamancy was among the most rare and useful disciplines here. Everyone needed a wall built, a garden tilled, a well dug, a foundation excavated. There were no city sites; construction was a manual industry. Casters used Rands, a barter credit for exchanging goods and services, so as not to give Moneymancers all of the power. But though he usually took only the minimum Rands for his services that the other Caster would accept, he couldn't help becoming a filthy rich rock star here. Everyone knew him, or knew of him.
Until recently, everyone liked him, too.
Outside politics didn't usually matter much in the Magic Kingdom. All of the permanent residents were Barbarians. Most didn't give a newt turd about warlord matters, unless it might lead to some work. But attunement of two Arkentools on the same side had caught the notice of quite a few Casters. And what Lady Firebaugh was doing with hers was causing real alarm.
The theoretical consensus was that she was extending Croakamancy to the Life axis. Sizemore was inclined to agree, but after getting roughed up by Stagemancers in a few discussions, he had stopped participating in the debate. He didn't need fingers pointing at him. And he was tired of answering for Lady Firebaugh, who had not been to the Magic Kingdom since she claimed the Arkenpliers.
Nobody here liked what was going on. Nobody liked the unchecked power and growth of Gobwin Knob, and the kinds of things Lord Ansom was saying out there were not helping matters. Holy quests, one world side... These things were getting repeated and distorted, and Sizemore didn't know half of what was going on or being said.
He only knew that he was scowled at more and more, every time he returned here. He knew there were places he was unwelcome. He would not live forever, whatever happened. He worried that these friendships he had lost would never be repaired. What could he do? He imagined being friendless and hated at the end of his life.
But as his thoughts reached their darkest, he stepped through the trees into warm sunlight. And over near the gazebo, the more powerful warmth of Janis' smile. He straightened his new jacket, and half ran toward her for a world-righting hug.