IPTSF Text 14
In the deep hours of the night, Wanda walked alone through the darkened halls of Kiloton's garrison. Her boots clumped softly on a checkerboard of black and white marble, and the footsteps went echoing away.
Some of the men of Haffaton had tried to follow her upstairs, Larry among them. They had, in fact, tried a lot of things this evening. Apparently putting a hand inside the enemy's shirt was not a form of engagement that was prevented by Olive's spell. (Which shouldn't have been surprising, from what she understood of Hippiemancy's free-loving ways.)
Once this rule of engagement was established, though, she had her retort. Every man who attempted to put his hands on an unwelcome part of her body found himself with one of the Fellows fervidly trying to do the same to him. And with no chance to engage and defend themselves, the culprits were now spending the night either running from the lascivious crotch-gropes of the uncroaked, or curling up in a corner somewhere and enduring them.
The last few hopefuls who had followed her up the stairs were dissuaded by a line of uncroaked warriors, each holding their hands palms-up and wiggling their fingers obscenely.
"Good night, Larry," Wanda had said, without looking back over her shoulder.
"Awwnow, wait m'Lady..." But she'd rounded the corner and left him behind.
It had certainly been a party.
Revelry with the enemy, even in the name of talking peace, was a difficult thing for the average soldier. Or any soldier. After pinky-swearing that the recreational provisions contained no poisons or charms ("Oh now, but I'm not saying they won't intoxicate!"), Olive provided an array of spicy wines, fruity liquors, mushrooms, veiny blue cheeses, and baked treats for the company. Most of them also smoked at least a pipeful of peace. By this hour, few of the living were sober. Olive knew what she was doing, that much was clear.
Wanda strode a crooked stride through the opulent corridors, thinking about Haffaton's offer. This city was more impressive than the City of Goodminton, and it wasn't even their capital! Olive admitted there were not one but two level fives on her side. This enemy had Goodminton quite outmatched for a long fight. Why were they even offering peace when they could win with steel?
That was Olive's decision alone, Wanda suspected. She must wield enormous power at home. She said "Haffaton wants," not "Lord So-and-so wants." She had never even mentioned her ruler by name, or even gender. "Haffaton wants peace," she said. It really meant, "I want peace."
And so sweetly, with that voice like a wooden flute, she had also said, "Haffaton wants you, Wanda!" Which really meant--
Mm. Think of that. So why, then...
Why was she off somewhere now with Tommy?
As she walked down another empty hall, Wanda casually held out her staff and tipped a ceramic vase of dried orange flowers from its marble pedestal. The crash was painful to her wine-tenderized head, yet enormously satisfying. Really, even the pain of it was satisfying.
So Olive's spellsong did not prevent this form of engagement, either. Haha, then perhaps she could break enough stuff to slightly reduce the garrison's siege defenses. She swept a little sculpture of a typo fairy off its base and savored the clatter of pure destruction, then a potted plant, then an amphora. She batted a copper dish of sweetmeats against a wall, then whacked it flat. She found a portrait of some snotty-faced Haffaton warlord, and artistically added holes in his left eye and the middle of his pantaloons. punch punch
She plowed onward through the enemy corridors, thus disturbing the peace.
Eventually, she came to a large mirror in a brass frame. The other Wanda was in it. Oh, hello again. You look terrible my dear. Thank you, darling, and do shut up!
Their offer made no sense. Again, all they wanted was her. Just the only daughter of Firebaugh, Overlord of Goodminton, the last side of the once-powerful Croatan Tribe. For this, they would let Goodminton define any length of treaty, any penalty for breaking that treaty, and even throw in the city of Plankton to boot.
A nice crystal decanter and glass set turned to diamonds and raindrops at the end of her staff. She was starting to get the hang of this weapon now.
And why did they want her? "Oh, that's got to stay our secret," Olive smiled, her sultry eyes half closed. She did have such lovely lashes. She was perched beside Tommy on a wooden bench, cozying up to him. Larry was trying to do the same thing to Wanda, with less luck. Olive's perfume filled the air. The rest of the room was rowdy with drinking and gaming, contests of skill and strength between the rival armies. "But what's there to fear? Whatever horrible, evil thing you think we're up to, at least Goodminton will be safe from us, right?"
When the discussion reached this point, Tommy asked Wanda aside for a private talk. They found an unoccupied corridor off the banquet hall, beside a glowing candelabra of brass and beads. Tommy hunched over her and looked up and down the corridor with exaggerated secrecy.
"Look, I dunno what they're up to, but we're not trading you for anything, sis. Okay? But listen, I have--" His expression was eager, his breath laden with wine. He put his hand upon her shoulder. It was probably meant to comfort her, but the only real function of the gesture was to keep him standing. "I have a plan. Hows about I seduce her?"
Wanda looked at his grinning face for several long seconds.
"Yeah!" exploded Tommy. "It's brilliant, right? She falls in love with me, and then I ask her to turn. And then she does! And then Father makes her Chief Caster, and Delphie's Prediction can come true, right? And, Titans, I'll have a...a girlfriend!"
Wanda blinked several times. Her chest felt tight. "I didn't think you knew. About Delphie's Prediction," she said slowly.
"Oh yeahhh," said Tommy. "She made sure Father and me knew. And yeah, I've been real worried about it. But y'see? This is how it's gonna come true. We'll just seduce her to Goodminton, and then everything else makes sense!"
From the expression on her brother's face, he was utterly convinced he had just hatched the most cunning scheme since the Titans imagined the world. And the truly galling thing about it was that, as rock-stupid as it was, it was exactly one more plan than she could think of.
Father and Tommy knew about Olive...
With a sudden sourness in her stomach, she took his hand from her shoulder, patted him on the head, and walked back in the direction of the party.
"So...go ahead, right?" Tommy called from behind her. "Wanda?"