<-- Chapter 1


 

Kestrel, the Chief Hat Magician of the Prytani sighed. How to explain to his newest charge that what she wanted was not likely? Most casters could not cast outside of their own Discipline, and even fewer could cast outside of their Class. Nimue was a Date-a-mancer, of the class of Hippiemancers, while he was a Hat Magician: a Stagemancer. As a Hippiemancer, she understood Life and Matter quite well, but weaving them together with Motion seemed beyond her. She tried to make up for her lack of magical Motion with a rather distracting, although pleasant, amount of physical motion.

 

Nimue had honey-blonde hair and pale blue eyes the color of her garb. She was still a young unit, but she showed real promise as a date-a-mancer—if she would only focus on her own Discipline. Unfortunately, she had seen a performance by Master Kestrel on her first turn and decided that she wanted to be a Hat Magician more than a Date-a-mancer. Every time Kestrel could get her to try something new in Date-a-mancy it worked. It wasn't what she wanted.

 

He idly scratched his balding head with his wand while holding his own magic hat out in front of him, a blue cone, decorated with embroidered gold stars. “Now,” he began, “Wave your wand over your hat and speak the magic word ‘Waldo’ as you drop the bead into your Hat.” They were practicing passing a bead back and forth by hat. Or trying to, she had not succeeded yet.

 

 She bit her lip, took a deep breath and did as ordered. The motion of her wand and the pronunciation of the magic word were precise, but nothing else happened except the click of the bead hitting the bottom of the hat she was holding. She frowned and her shoulders dropped. Watching her move was really the only part of the exercise that Kestrel enjoyed.

 

“Had the bead been transported,” Kestrel continued, “I would wave my wand and say ‘Dora’.” He did so, and, as he expected, nothing happened. “Now, let’s try again. Think of Motion as you move your wand. You know Life and Matter. Try to think of Motion in the same way. Think of the magic Moving the bead.”

 

She did it again, and this time Kestrel felt the quiver that indicated a hat that was ready to receive. He smiled broadly, said 'Dora', and then frowned as instead of a small blue glass bead, a note popped out of his hat. He opened the message, frowned more deeply, and said, “Lesson’s over, I have court business to attend to. Your time would be better spent mastering your own magic. Next time you come to me for a lesson in Hat Magic, show me some new Date-a-mancy first.”

 

She nodded, bit her lip again, replaced her hat on her head, and left the room, her skirts swishing and her hips swaying. Kestrel looked forward to the end of these lessons for more than one reason. He set his own Hat on his head, smoothed out his robes and headed out of the tower study to the King’s court, wondering how the king would receive the bad news.

 

Kestrel always enjoyed going to King Utha’s court, it was a noisy place, full of Life, Erf, and Motion. In the Magic Kingdom, he had been told by others of royal courts that were staid and boring places where the king would speak slowly and the warlords would scarcely move. Utha’s court was not like that. There was pretty much always a party going on, Utha liked happy people around him. Living on an island as they did with only one other side to fight, the king didn’t have to spend most of his time on diplomacy like other kings did. Since the Pix up north favored forest-capable units, they couldn’t invade over the plains easily, and when the Prytani invaded northwards, their attacks usually sputtered out: either lost or ambushed in the forest.

 

 There was always a fight going on in court, either a wrestling or a boxing match, or a knife duel. Utha didn’t want his warlords holding grudges, so he insisted they fight it out in front of him to first injury if they had a problem. Everyone healed at dawn, so it worked out well. Some warlords would even insult each other for the fun of the duel that followed. King Utha was well known to reward frequent winners.

 

As he entered, Kestrel looked across the hall to his king. Utha was a heavy unit, taller and larger than any in his court. He had a short salt-and-pepper haircut and a long, drooping, gray mustache. Even with the gray hair, the rest of his Signamancy was that of an accomplished warrior. He was clearly enjoying himself, as he had broad smile on his face, a horn of mead in one hand and a Bunny in the other. Bunnies were a type of courtier that popped with higher than average natural Date-a-mancy. Their ability to know how to relate to others made them excellent servants—among other things.

 

Kestrel idly took a mug of ale from the Bunny at the door. She was dressed, as all of them were, with a pair of cloth rabbit ears and a fur rabbit’s tail stuck on a uniform that barely covered her. Yes, it was ale he wanted right now, not water. He needed a drink to fortify him for the bad news he was about to give. Kestrel smiled at the Bunny and she wiggled her nose and followed him to the front of the hall, waving another over to do door duty.

 

“Kestrel!” King Utha called out, “Good to see you! Show us a trick!” Kestrel sighed. The king enjoyed minor magical effects more than he enjoyed the higher arts of Hat Magic. Kestrel smiled broadly and took his Hat off with a flourish, an Order was an Order after all.

 

He stuck his arm all the way up to his shoulder into his Hat, which, if it had been a normal hat would have barely held his forearm. He reached around and then, from the inside, pushed the helmet off one of the warlords near the king. It fell to the ground with a clatter, and he grabbed it, still from the inside, flipped it right side up, and by walking his hand across the floor Kestrel scuttled the helmet to where he was. He picked it up with his other hand and put it on the Bunny next to him. She smiled, made a show of setting it properly on her head, and then scampered across the room to give it back to the warlord. The king laughed, the court laughed, and everyone applauded. Kestrel approached the throne with his bad news.

 

“I bring dire news, Sire.” Kestrel approached the throne with his hands in his sleeves, trying to look dignified. The mug of ale he placed in Hat Space for later. He would likely need it.

 

“What’s the matter, difficulties teaching Nimue? Maybe you should apply a different kind of approach.” The king grinned and winked at him. King Utha had a rather odd opinion of female units. He seemed to judge them mostly on their value as prospective nookie partners. It made it difficult for his warladies; they had to prove they were better than their male counterparts just to be treated the same, while low level stabbers he treated almost like Bunnies. Kestrel just shook his head.

 

He stepped around a pair of wrestling warlords as he approached the throne. It was Artha and Gwalchmai. They were probably arguing about who had the better livery, or the better spear, or the better mug. Those two could always find something to argue about, but they never seemed to get angry at each other; they just wanted something to argue over.

 

Artha was the heir to the kingdom. He looked like a blond version of his father, and only a little smaller. He had a more traditional view of women than his father, nookie was nice and all, but he wanted warriors at his side. Kestrel didn’t think as many Bunnies would be getting popped when Artha took the throne.

 

The warlord he was wrestling with was Gwalchmai; he was well known for his special, (tamer). Gwalchmai could domesticate any feral in half the time it took another unit and he could tame some that no-one else could. Above all else though, he preferred Warhawks. There were some mountains just to the north where he would go hunting, and King Utha was always happy to see him return with more units for the army. Gwalchmai sported bright red, mustaches that drooped like the king’s, but his face was much narrower and he was clearly not a heavy unit.

 

Kestrel handed the note to the king, who read it while taking a drink of mead. This proved to be an unwise choice, as he spit out a mouthful of mead in rage from the contents of the message. “Hold!” he bellowed. The two wrestlers in front of him stopped immediately and took a knee. Units that had been slow to obey this order in the past had gotten their heads smashed together to the point of incapacitation.

 

“Artha! Stop playing! Take Gwalchmai and two stacks of lancers east to Caer Lundein. The city is under siege, and I want to know more about the attackers.” This was serious. There were three capital sites on the island of Prytain, Caer Melyn where they were, Caer Edyn, the capital of the Pix far to the north, and Caer Lundein. Whoever the invaders were, if they took Caer Lundein they could form a colony of their old side and start a new one, which would make them very difficult to dislodge. Prytain’s dominance over the island would be threatened, as the three sides would swap alliances and war on each other as they did in the old days before the wall was built. If they were strong enough, the new invaders could even destroy Prytain and take the island for themselves.

 

“Yes, father.”

“Yes, sire.”

 

They both stood up and retrieved their shirts from the Bunnies holding them. Gwalchmai turned to the king. “Your majesty, may I take a stack of warhawks for scouting?”

 

“You may, and Kestrel, give Artha a dual-use message hat. I don’t want to rely on horse messengers, or the hat that Warlord Whittington has. The city might have fallen by the time you get there.” Dick Whittington was courtier rather than a warlord. He had been set there because Utha’s grandfather had been worried about the loyalty of a warlord in a capital site. Dick was loyal though, and Caer Lundein flourished under his care, but he was not particularly martial.

 

Kestrel nodded. He spent many turns making these hats; the kingdom didn’t have a Thinkamancer, so they relied on him to speed communications. As he turned to go, his hat quivered softly on his head. He removed it, spoke the magic word, and quickly opened and read the message. This was—better—news, maybe.

 

“Your majesty, Lady Okay, up north on the border has what may be good news.”

 

“What, she rebuffed an invading Pixish army?”

 

“Better than that, a mercenary group came south seeking employment. And they have some Rhyme-o-mantic skills.” King Utha bitterly regretted the loss of his rhyme-o-mancer during the last Pixish war. Taliesin had popped not long before he had taken the throne, and the two had been inseparable. The hunted together, fought together and did everything else together. Taliesin was also an accomplished rhyme-o-mancer. He could change the course of a battle with a single song. After his death, Utha had popped warlords exclusively for dozens of turns hoping for another rhyme-o-mancer until he finally got Kestrel. He gave up at this point, deciding that the Titans didn’t want him to have another rhyme-o-mancer. Kestrel worked hard to serve the king, but he knew that he was not what the king originally wanted.

 

“Kestrel, Artha, Gwalchmai, come with me. We need to talk about this.”

 


                                                                                                                                                                             Chapter 3 -->   


 Notes

For this exercise Nimue is using a regular hat. Any unit can use a magic hat for sending and receiving, but it takes a caster to send and receive with a plain one. It is not as easy as Kestrel thinks. Any criticisms you may have of his teaching methods are entirely founded.

 

I see Hat Space as the same as Hammerspace in other fictional works. Its complete manipulation is the sign of a true Master Haberdasher.

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