First Intermission 38
Art by Tom Whitney
Turns since TBfGK: 19
It was eight flights up, 128 steps, from the library to the Situation Room. Parson was leading the Foolamancer, who seemed not to notice the labored pace of their progress. After three weeks of climbing and clambering, his legs were really starting to tighten up. Living in a stone tower was never going to be fun, though. At least this was the last flight. He could see the top.
"Jack, do you remember what you did... to project the battle table... when you were linked up?" he asked between breaths, as they plodded slowly upward. Last flight. Last flight.
"I remember doing it, Lord. But I don't remember how. If that makes sense." Jack frowned quizzically. "Does it? I often have trouble..."
But Parson understood. "Yeah. Sure," he said. "Like, I remember doing trigonometry in high school. But I'm not sure I could explain what that even is, now."
"Yes!" said the Foolamancer excitedly. "And do you feel the ache?"
"The terrible feeling," said Jack. "That you've lost some grand, Titanic capability you can no longer grasp."
"With trigonometry? Um... I don't know," said Parson. They topped the landing at last. He leaned on the stone wall for a moment and looked at his bracer. "I probably should, if I'm supposed to do Mathamancy. But I forget what kind of math it even was." He strained to remember. "Something to do with triangles? Or is that just the name fooling me?"
"Names can be important," said Jack, stepping lightly on to the landing. He looked Parson in the eye, almost gravely. "And fools, and triangles, too."
Parson raised an eyebrow. Jack usually talked in riddles, and often Parson could see what he meant. Other times? Well... any sufficiently advanced riddle is indistinguishable from gibberish. "Right. Anyway, I know you can't do what you did before: realtime battlefield model with data fed by a Lookamancer. But I'd like to do something similar. I want a tactical simulator."
Jack looked at him appraisingly, "I'm afraid I don't understand, Lord. And also afraid that I do."
"You'll have to run it, but I want a battle map," said Parson, turning to walk toward the guarded archway. The decrypted hobgobwin knights came to attention, without comment. "Animated. To represent the match-ups and scenarios I'll run on my bracer."
They walked into the new Situation Room. It was lit and carpeted, with a flat ceiling supported by huge columns. Much nicer than the old cavernous dome. There were paintings of battle scenes on the walls. Wooden boxes were piled in the corners. Parson talked with his hands as they walked. "I could use figurines and maps, but I think you could do it better and faster. Maybe give me things like savepoints... and point of view angles?"
Jack considered this silently. With a flick of a few fingers, he brought a warm and pleasant beam of light down on to the heavy tactical map table as they reached it.
"I want to learn battle tactics. See?" said Parson, patting the table with a flat palm. "Really dig in to it, you know what I'm saying?"
Jack looked unsure. "I do, and I don't. I thought you'd lost your wish to fight."
Parson straightened. "Well, to lead a battle," he said. "Yeah. Not wild about doing that again. But what you said, about talent supplying its own demand...?" He shrugged. "And I'd like to stay alive. I think if I want to do that, long-term, I might need to learn as much as I can about fighting."
Jack stared at him blankly for several seconds. Then his face lit up with sly discovery. "You are bored!"
"And I am bored," acknowledged Parson.
"I'm bored as well, Lord. The cure for boredom is curiosity." Jack turned to the table and began picking up the small wooden figurines and markers. "Let's learn something about war."
After several minutes of quietly sorting the miniature pieces into boxes, Parson turned to the caster and smirked. "What's the cure for curiosity?"
Jack was studying a map closely, running a finger along it. He did not look up. "Getting croaked," he said.
- ^ This is part of a quotation that has been attributed to Dorothy Parker. The proper quotation is "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."