First Intermission 27

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Book (First_Intermission)
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Turn Number:12 AW
Side's Turn:Gobwin Knob

Art by Pat Jacobs

Turns since TBfGK: 3

Maggie and Sizemore followed him closely. The wood-and-iron portcullises on both the inner and outer sides of the archway were retracted up into the massive wall. The swinging doors on the inner side were open and fastened to hooks embedded in the wall. At ground level, a contingent of 32 Decrypted pikers stood guard on the inner side. These were formerly some of Sofa King's finest. Many more troops occupied the ramparts and manned the defensive engines inside the two main towers.

As Parson and the Casters approached, the piker formation parted in a tightly drilled maneuver to let them pass.

Parson sometimes felt almost comfortable in Erfworld, but at this point things started to feel alien and surreal again. No-one said a word. His own shoes were quiet on the brick pavement, but Maggie's bootsteps echoed weirdly in the archway tunnel. To either side, stairs lit by magical candles led upward into the defensive complex within the walls. He heard the squeak and rumble of some huge wheel in the walls being turned.

The sunlight hit him as they reached the end of the archway and looked outside of the city. The view from here was right down the side of the mountain, looking over the switchback road and down to the fields and trees of the valley floor. A contingent of 8 sourmanders with riders was stationed on the road, in what must be the first hex outside of the city.

They saluted him. He gave them a little chin-up nod.

"You can see hex boundaries, right?" he asked his companions. "There's one right in front of us?"

"Yes, Lord," answered Maggie.

He squinted. "I can't, then. Didn't think I could. But..." He took out his paper glasses from a little pouch and put them on. "Aha." There was a clear line at the edge of the road by the archway. It wasn't lit, or even all that visible, but he was acutely aware of where it was. "Can now. Weird." That line felt almost dangerous.

Leaving the glasses on, he looked at Maggie. "When you walk into the adjacent hex, does it... what does it feel like?"

She pursed her lips. "Other than one's move going down, nothing Lord. You do gain a clearer view of the area within the new hex."

Parson looked out at the road. "I'm not aware of my move stat. If I have one, even. What about when you're out of move or it's not your turn, and you try to cross a hex boundary?"

"There is a sort of soft resistance, in an area about the width of a hand. It will cushion you, but will not let you pass through."

Parson smiled, his jaw slightly askew. "Should I take a running start, then?"

"Perhaps, Lord. It wouldn't be my preferred approach to the problem..."

Parson grinned and took a few steps into the shadow of the archway, bending his knees as if to charge. "C'mon. What's the worst that could happen?"

"You could explode."

Parson stood up straight. "Wait, what? That happens?"

Maggie's purple/red silhouette looked at him serenely. "I am learning to tell jokes, Lord. You've inspired me to explore my own capabilities."

Sizemore looked at Maggie with wonder.

So did Parson for a moment, until his face split with a big you-got-me grin. "Right. Nice," he said, nodding. "Maybe you'll even move up to good jokes someday. Eventually."

"Little steps, my Lord," smiled Maggie, nodding once. She cleared her throat. "Speaking of which..."

"Right!" said Parson, loudly and decisively. "Follow me!" he boomed in a command voice. He strode forward confidently into the sunlight.

And ran smack into the hex boundary, stopping cold.

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