Banter Road

And now for some more world-building. I don’t know if I’ll end up finishing this line of stories, since this and the one before it could use one final story to turn them into a nice mini-trilogy. I hope you enjoy this piece!

Thumeron stalked down the road, his staff striking against the stone under foot, as he attempted to shut out the babbling coming from beside him. Panma noticed absolutely none of these signs from his master, but was a bit worried that perhaps the old wizard was not paying as much attention to the story as he should have been. After all, it was an important story! Why else would she be talking about it? It wasn’t every day she went on like this for hours at a time. Well, maybe every day. But she didn’t tell more than one…or two…or three stories like this in a day. Could she help it she picked up so many good stories?

“So then you know what happened?” she asked Thumeron.

“You promptly produced the pomegranate from your purse, proclaiming ‘Looking for this?’ before quickly leaving the room as his face turned redder than a bloody radish,” said the wizard lazily.

“I promptly produced the pom– wait a second!” she turned to her master, surprised that he had quoted the punchline with such ease. “How did you know what I was going to say?”

“It was no sorcery, I can assure you. That was just the ninth time you’ve told that story in the last week.”

“Huh.” Panma turned back to face the road ahead of them. “And you even got all my alliterations right.”

“Perfectly.”

Panma grinned, and turned her attentions elsewhere. The countryside was green and bright, and a few trees lined the road, providing a little shade for two of them, master and student. They were headed for the capital of Miris, where Thumeron had been summoned to provide some service for the king. What service it was, Panma didn’t know, and she thought that even Thumeron didn’t know. But he was unlikely to tell her the reason, even if he knew. She was used to this from him, but that didn’t stop her from trying to guess. She hiked up the pack on her back and looked over at him.

“So why are we going to Miris again? Is there a war starting up?”

“We’ve been over this. I don’t know.”

“I bet it’s a force of possessed camels invading from the north. They’re trying to suck all the water dry, and then they’ll shoot it out of their humps at us.”

“Or maybe I’ve been summoned to catch a thief,” suggested Thumeron.

“Right, like they’d need you for something that boring! You’d send me at that point – and even I’d have that thief in a heartbeat! No, it’s probably something like an attack of parasitic plants that go through people’s ears and then eat their brains, turning them into vegetative slaves. That would be fun.”

“Or maybe there’s some strange vampire who’s killing people with light from his skin.”

Panma regarded him oddly at his attempt to play along with her.

“Nah,” she replied after a moment. “Now, if it were vampire sheep, or cows who went mad and bit people during the full moon, that could work out. Anyway, I’m just trying to be realistic here!”

“Oh, so parasitic plants are realistic, but not sparkling vampires?”

“No, obviously!”

They laughed, and then fell to other topics. In the meantime, a city appeared on the horizon, the road leading them right towards it. It was the capital of Miris, the city of Redon. The city stood on a lonely hill overlooking the entire plain. It was made of three tiers: the first began at the base of the hill, where stood the first proud wall of the city; the second was marked by another wall, starting about half-way up the hill; the third was not distinguished entirely, but was the very top of the hill, where the governmental buildings sat and the citadel reached up to high heaven, like a great staircase to reach the clouds.

The duo entered the city and made their way up the hill, past lines of people going about their business in the city, past a number of guards watching everyone very carefully. Thumeron led the way up to the citadel, where they were halted by a proud guard in blue and gold.

“Who are you and what is your business with the king of Miris?” he asked.

“I am the wizard Thumeron, and this is my pupil Panma. We were summoned here to give aid and advice in the king’s time of need.”

“What?” exclaimed Panma before the guard could get a word in. “We’re here for baking?”

Thumeron rolled his eyes. “Of course not. Sir, please pardon my pupil. She has a love of words, but even more of putting them in places where they do not belong.”

He turned toward his student. “Now consider that double meaning as we meet with the king, who I do not think will appreciate your kind of talk.”

Panma was downcast as the guard at last let them inside. Inside was a great hall, extending many feet in all directions. A long carpet was laid on the center of the floor, crimson and gold, and it led all the way up to the dais at the far end, where sat three people on great seats of gold and silver.

In the center was certainly the king, old and wise, with a gold crown on his head and blue robes flowing from his shoulders. On his right sat a woman about his age, and she too wore a crown: she must be the queen. On the king’s left was a young man, probably the prince. It was on this man that Panma’s eyes rested, admiring the bright eyes, the flowing hair, the strong hands, the young body. It was times like these when she wished boring old Thumeron wasn’t the only man in her life. She would certainly love to meet up with someone her own age.

“Hail, King Anthanse,” said the wizard, bowing. Panma copied him behind. “I have come, as you summoned me.”

“Well, not as he summoned you,” Panma muttered. “It’s been a week since we got the message, and I’m sure you’ve grown your beard an inch since then – probably two.”

“Welcome, Thumeron the Wise,” replied the king. “Now tell me, who is that yonder saucy youth, whom I hear speaking under his breath?”

“Saucy? So we’re not here for baking – we’re here for cooking! I see now!”

“Oh, didn’t I tell you that you’d butter be silent?” the wizard said to her, before turning to the king again. “Pardon her, sir. That ‘saucy youth’, as you put it, is Panma Tolvirir, daughter of the late Lord Nymical, and my pupil.”

“Wait, daughter?” asked the prince, suddenly leaning forward.

Panma growled. Sure, he had good looks, but he was lacking brains. “No, not yours. What, are you surprised that I’m a woman? Just because I’m not wearing a dress?”

“Well, you are dressed like a man,” said Thumeron. “But that was my insistence, since a dress would inhibit your studies. Perhaps your son would get along well with my pupil, my lord, since they both seem to enjoy interrupting conversations.”

The king smiled at this as both Panma and the prince blushed. “But now is not the time for jest. Lanuman has requested aid. I am planning to assault the eastern fortresses of Morbaren, but I’ll need your help.”

“I can certainly give it,” replied the wizard, bowing again.

“Very well. Now indeed I have certainty of victory.”

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