Chapter 14
30 Sp'gin (We'yetday)


The four of them reached the wagon and found everyone standing around outside chatting and waiting for them.

"Ah, so there you are, finally," said Underground. "Alecstar's been back for some time now. Some of us have been getting impatient. And who are your friends? People known from past travels, or perhaps new recruits for your current enterprise? Come on, man, introductions are in order!"

Darius said, "These are Maid Marian and Little John, who I've just met." He turned to the two of them and, waving a hand toward the spy, said, "This is Jasp Underground, who is not really a member of my group. He's with us temporarily, due to circumstances beyond our control, not that we're not glad to have him. Any other information about him I'll leave to him to share or not, as he chooses. In fact most information about anyone here will be up to them to share or not." Turning back to his party, he said, "You may introduce yourselves, as you like."

"I suppose you've already claimed Robin Hood for yourself," Cameron inquired of Darius.

"Yes," said Tiejo, "and Will Scarlet am I being! Or no wait, was thinking maybe of Much. Not decided, have I..."

"Oh, you're Much, if you're anyone," Tom put in. "Not sure I'm interested in playing this little game, personally, but I should think I'd make a better Will Scarlet than the street rat..."

"Funny," said Cameron with a grin, "'cause you look more like Friar Tuck." Tom just glowered at him. "Anyway... I think I should be Alan-a-Dale. Don't sing, but at least I'm a minstrel."

"I will be Will Scarlet," insisted Alecstar. "So, sorry, Tom, it looks like you're stuck with Tuck. Not that there's anything wrong with that. On the other hand, Ginger is the spirit-talker amongst us, perhaps she should-"

"Don't even think about it," said Ginger.

"Perhaps I could be Will Stutely," suggested Tom.

"Anyway, those stories never had enough roles for women," said Ginger. "But then, that's ancient Earth, for you. So Emma and I seem to be excluded."

"And I certainly don't know who I'm expected to be," put in Underground. "A Saracen, perhaps?"

Ginger said, "I think if Tino was here, he'd want that role. Maybe you could be... uh, Arthur a Bland."

Underground shrugged, shook his head, and said, "Whatever. This is just a silly game. I'm Jasp Underground, chief spy of LandOrder's Tonad branch. Not that I can't play other roles when the job calls for it, but it's not something I do for fun."

"It is a silly game," agreed Marian, "and I'd just as soon the rest of you cut it out. I try to have a little fun now and then, and you're all horning in on it. I don't like it. My real name is Marian, and my partner-in-crime's name is John, so when we met we just had this little joke between us, but I don't want it to become, like, a whole thing. We do sometimes go by other names, so if it'd help you all to forget about this nonsense, maybe you could call us, um... Talia and Sepp, for example."

"No, that's not necessary. I'm sorry," Darius apologized, shaking his head. "Please, call me Darius." The others all introduced themselves by their proper names, and then Darius said, "Anyway, I've invited Marian and John out to lunch with us." He checked the sun's position, and amended, "Or is it more of brunch time?"

"I hardly think it matters," said Alecstar. "Come on, let's just all pile in the wagon and head into town. I'll drive."

He climbed up into the cockpit, and Darius came around to the other side and sat beside him. "I'll join you; I want to show you where to find a pub I know, in case you've never been there. The Meandering Gander."

"Nope, never been there. Is it open this early?"

"Last time I was in town, which wasn't so long ago, they served breakfast or brunch until Second Four on We'yetdays, We'gindays, and Mo'enddays. Then they open up again from Third Two till First Three." Darius turned and called into the back, "Tom, have you got the time?"

Tom checked his pocket watch. "Second Three and twenty-five," he said.

"Thanks." To Alecstar: "Well, we've got 75 centhours to get there, get seated, and order. Of course, they'll want all their patrons out within an hour after that. Maybe we should just go back for supper, instead."

"Sounds best. Jump Village has tons of restaurants and cafes and such to choose from."

"Sure does. Well then... you're driving, you may as well pick one. Surprise me."

"Okay..." He turned forward and got the striders moving.


"You know," said Darius, over a warm cup of Prittian coffee, "this is where Toros and Gaiya met." The Chaos party and company were sitting at a few small, round tables set up just outside the Plaza Cafe.

"Wow!" exclaimed Tiejo, dropping his piece of buttered toast with blackberry jam. "Right here cafe in?"

"No, Tiejo," Darius said with a grin, "I meant Jump Village."

"Oh," he said with a hint of disappointment, and went back to eating his toast.

"Who are Toros and Gaiya?" asked Emma.

"Toros was bishop in my home village of Triscot," said Darius. "He became a Protestant very early in the movement, and he and his wife, Gaiya, were very close to my clan. They died with them."

"Tiejo them once met," said the street rat, between bites of ha'cit fruit. "When traveling with master. Goodly peoples."

"Wow," said Darius, smiling again, "smaller world than I thought. It's a wonder we never met."

Tiejo shrugged. "Maybe we're not knowing that we did," and took a sip of his milk.

"Maybe. Anyway, Toros was originally from my father's home village of Ship, before he moved to Jump Village, and later Triscot. In fact, I believe it was my father who recommended Toros for the position, to replace Bishop Kellan, when he moved away...."

"What does any of this have to do with anything?" Marian asked.

"Nothing," said Darius. "I'm just trying to make conversation. To be honest, I've never been very good at it. Most of the time, I can't think of anything to say. And if anything does occur to me, it usually seems unimportant, not worth bothering to say, so I don't. My folks always used to say, as do some of my friends, even vague acquaintances or strangers, sometimes, that I need to work on my conversational skills. So I'd listen to other people talk, and mostly it bored me to death. I can talk about things that interest me with friends or even strangers, but most things just don't seem to interest me. Still, once in a while I try to improve. All I can do is say whatever pops into my head. Sometimes I say stupid things and people get annoyed at me for it. Sometimes I just bore myself and possibly others. So mostly I just remain silent, and hate myself for that, as much as for thinking I sound strange when I do speak. I can't win, really. At least, not often." He sighed.

"Speaking of conversations," said Cameron, "you missed the end of mine with Tom, earlier."

"Oh, you noticed that, did you?"

Cameron grinned. "Quite. Any idea how it might have ended?"

"If I had to guess, did Tom finally say, 'If you say so.'?"

"Yup. Good guess!"

"Go see if I make you a pocket watch now," grumbled Tom. "Call me predictable, will you...?" he mumbled into his coffee.

Darius looked around to make sure there was no one nearby to overhear the topic he was about to bring up. Turning back to Marian, he asked, "So, why don't you tell us all how exactly you two got into your current line of work?"

She sighed, and Darius thought for a moment she'd decline to answer. However, she said, "Well, John already mentioned he used to be a police. And I used to have a regular job, myself. It wasn't a great job: very little fun, for very little pay. And I had to deal with rude, obnoxious customers, most of the time, and be polite to them. But, whatever... that's life, you know? There's no point in complaining. Anyway, I got by. And I was looking into possibly enrolling at the university, having finished grade school and earned the last stamp on my adult license. But then... well, Mom moved away, and of course I couldn't afford the rent on our apartment, not by myself. Nor was I invited to move with her. Which at first I thought was just as well; I figured it was time for me to get out on my own, anyway. But when I went out looking for apartments, I discovered something truly disgusting about the Order. There are housing laws that require you to have a certain income before you're allowed to rent most places. Your monthly income has to be, like, three times what the monthly rent is. I actually was making enough that I could afford the rent on some of the cheaper apartments in the area, but my income was only about twice the rent, so I wasn't allowed to do so. On the other hand, the government, in its infinite wisdom, recognizes that not everyone can afford normal apartments, so there's also a program in place to provide low-income housing. But here, I had the opposite problem: your income is required to be below a certain level, to qualify for the program. My income was considered too high, so I couldn't get low-income housing, either. And if I'd just worked less hours, my income would have been lowered sufficiently to meet the requirements, but then I wouldn't have had enough money for all my necessary expenses, after paying rent. So, clearly, there's this big gap between having too little and too much money, which the laws fail to account for. A lot of people fall into that gap, and, like I said when we first met... those people are just plain screwed."

"Yeah, that sucks. That's definitely one of the things I need to change about the world. ...Although, couldn't you just get a roommate?"

"Well, that's the main reason the government gets away with creating this whole situation. Most people do solve the problem that way. And don't think I didn't try. But my friends all had places already, with roommates of their own. Except John, who had recently lost his job, at the time my housing problem arose, so there was nothing he could do to help me, either; we were both homeless. And as for my family... I have some siblings, but..." she shook her head. "Forget about it. We just never got along at all. Oh, and none of us have heard from our dad since we were little kids, by the way. But anyway... even if I'm better at dealing with strangers than you seem to be, that doesn't mean I want to live with them. There's just no way I'd move in with someone without knowing them first. Maybe I can't blame the government for that, but... for me, it's just not possible."

"Believe me, I totally understand. It'd be practically impossible for me to live with friends, let alone strangers."

"Right. So... I really just had a month after Mom left before I had to leave our old place, and then I managed to crash with friends for another month while continuing to look for a place, and meanwhile also looking for another job. But there just weren't enough hours in the day for any second job to sufficiently increase my income, especially when I had to spend most of my free hours looking for an apartment, whenever I wasn't working at my first job or, you know, sleeping. And there was no way I could stay at my friends' place more than a month, so in the end... I was just homeless. And that's when John and I teamed up, as bandits and adventurers. Adventuring is kind of... meh. It's not something you can just teach yourself, and there weren't really any masters around to teach us. Certainly there aren't any courses on it at the Order's schools. So, if you don't know how to properly go about adventuring, it's hard to find... things to actually do. Which means it's just not very lucrative, you know? Banditry, on the other hand, is a much simpler matter. It took awhile to convince John to go along with that, but... he was always a fan of Robin Hood stories from Earth, and the coincidence of our names kind of put him over the top, in the end. Oh, I should mention we had originally met a few years before any of this happened. It's funny, at the time we had no idea our Robin Hood jokes would someday lead to actually becoming outlaws. Anyway, as I said when we met, John and I never steal more than it seems someone can afford to lose. And even then, of course we never really harm anyone, if we can help it. Sometimes they do fight back, and don't give us much of a chance to show them we were only bluffing... and that can lead to them getting hurt, I'm afraid." She shook her head. "But luckily, that almost never happens."

Underground wasn't paying attention to any of this. He'd eaten his scrambled eggs and bacon as soon as they'd been placed before him, and then he'd turned his chair around to face away from the cafe. He sat there scanning the plaza and the adjoining streets at either end, taking occasional sips from the mug of coffee he held cupped in his hands.

Suddenly, without turning to look at his companions, he said, "Excuse me, I'll be right back." He stood up, set his coffee down on the table, and jogged off across the plaza to talk to someone.

While Jasp was doing that, Darius turned back to Marian and said, "You know, since you mentioned university, I should say I haven't looked closely into the matter since graduating primary school, myself, because I wasn't terribly interested in continuing my education once I got my mental stamp. However, I have a rough idea of prices, and I'm surprised anyone who wasn't born into the so-called nobility would even think they had a chance. I know there are loans, but... it seems like they'd take most people decades to pay off, assuming they qualify at all. It must be prohibitively expensive, for most people. In fact, I've sometimes thought the existence of universities is just another way the Order has of widening the class divide that they all but invented, themselves, even while making it seem as if they existed to narrow that gap. I suppose on some level, I might have thought universities were something we should get rid of, but now... maybe it'd be poetic justice to turn them into something our side can use against the Order, by making them more accessible to everyone. I'm not sure how we'd work that, but... if we could lower tuition, make more affordable loans, or... even set up some way to..." He shook his head. "I don't know, I'll have to think more about it, or delegate the problem to allies. But one way or another, I promise you... if we do succeed in our 'current enterprise'... at that point, aspiring scholars' ships will definitely come in...."

"Sounds good," said Marian.

Near the end of Darius's latest speech, Jasp and whoever he'd been talking with began walking toward the tables. It seemed Marian had been about to say more, but before she could, Jasp arrived and said, "Everybody, this is Ian Goner, one of LandOrder's dealers."

"You recognized him, did you? Someone from a different village, and not even in the same department as you?" asked Darius.

"Not personally; we have ways of recognizing members, though. Nothing that would be noticed by outsiders, I assure you. I was looking for anyone we might contact here. Mr. Goner has kindly agreed to take us to see his don."

"Free samples, anybody?" Goner asked out of the blue, producing a bottle of pills from a pocket inside his jacket.

"Of what?" asked Darius.

"New thing, just come on the market. Called 'Happiness.' Guaranteed to cure any depression, for a few hours. Works far better and more consistently than alcohol."

"Feh, drugs," said Tom. "I don't trust that stuff. Seen 'em do all kinds of bad things to people."

"Alcohol is a drug, Tom," said Darius.

"Different-colored strider, that is. Altogether different. A person can control alcohol; they can lose control, but only if they're careless. I've never seen a real drug as didn't take control almost immediately, and soon enough lead a person to ruin, possibly death. 'Happiness,' feh! Haplessness is more like it, if you ask me."

"Hmmm. Well, maybe let's just call it 'H,' then," suggested Darius, "and each extrapolate in our own way, from there."

Someone laughed behind them, making Darius and Tom both start, and turn around. A few members of the party had noticed him walking towards the tables, but most hadn't. "Trust me, that stuff is not H, guys."

"Tino!" exclaimed Darius. "Fancy meeting you here. Where ya been, man? And what do you mean, it's not H?"

"I've been here and there. Around. You know. Well, let's say I've read some stories from Earth that involved a drug they called 'H' for short, and this isn't anything like it."

"How would you know what this is like?" asked Goner. "It's brand new!"

"I hear things. Besides, I don't remember ever hearing of the Earth stuff in pill form."

"What other form of drugs is there?"

"Here on the Land? Besides alcohol? None that I know of. Nothing refined, anyway."

"Well, anyway," said Darius, "I think I will take a sample, to try later. I'm actually not feeling too bad, at the moment, but of course I will be, sooner or later."

Goner shook a few pills into a little bag, which he handed to Darius. As he was stuffing the bag into one of his jacket's pockets, a thought occurred. "Hey, Emma, wasn't 'H' one of the abbreviations you mentioned the other day? Headmaster, or something like that?"

Emma started to nod at his first question, then switched to shaking her head at the second, then grinned and stopped moving her head altogether. "Um, yes and no. It was an abbreviation, but for 'Historian.'"

"Ah, that's right. So, regardless of whatever Tino's talking about, I suppose 'H' wouldn't work as a name for the drug."

"Guess not," Emma agreed.

Turning to face her boyfriend, Ginger said, "Anyway, Tino, will you be traveling with us for a while?"

"I guess so, Ginj. I hear you all are getting yourselves maybe into a little bit of trouble. Figure you can use all the help you can get. So, who are our new friends?"

Ginger looked around to see which faces had appeared since the last time Tino had been around. "Um... here we have Jasp Underground, chief spy for LandOrder in Tonad, where he joined us. Helped us escape from InterGang, actually, who had picked a fight with us for no good reason. We're using his wagon, currently, as InterGang has ours. This other guy is a dealer we've just met, who's going to take us to see LandOrder's don in Jump. The other two, who Darius and Tiejo met earlier this morning, are Marian and John. Guys, this is Tino, of course, the fifth member of the Band, who I told you about on the ride here."

"How's it goin', man?" asked John.

"Pretty good, and yourself?"

"Good, good. Hey, Marian," the bandit said, turning to his partner, "maybe we should join these guys. You know, in their..." He suddenly looked around, and decided rather than saying 'rebellion,' to finish his sentence with "uh, quest. Looks to me like we could have some real fun with them. And if we end up changing the world for the better, hey..."

"Great. Bad enough I'm an outlaw, now I'm associating with gangsters and," lowering her voice, "revolutionaries." With a wicked grin she added, "What ever would Mother say?"

"Before or after she demanded a piece of the action?" asked John.

"Look, if we're all about done with our witty banter, and our breakfasts, perhaps we should pay our bill and get going," said Underground impatiently. "But damn, we may be needing a bigger wagon, if all this joining keeps up."

Those who were seated rose, and the group walked together toward the wagon. As they did so, Tino said jovially, "So, Marian and John, huh? Anyone mind if I play the Saracen?"

Ginger squeezed his arm and said, "Ha! I knew it!" Emma, Tiejo, and John laughed. Darius, Alecstar and Cameron grinned. Tom, Underground, and Marian all rolled their eyes, with the latter adding a defeated-sounding sigh.


"Sorret council-hall for detectives Levitn and Clueseek," said the t-mail bubble on their desk.

"Open," said Levitn.

"Good morning, gentlemen," said the caller, when the bubble expanded to show him sitting in his office in Sorret. He was leaning back in the chair behind his desk, fingers steepled, a faint smile on his face.

"Chief Councillor Turner!" they exclaimed. Levitn continued, "We didn't expect to hear from you, sir."

"I thought I might be of some help to you. I wish I might have gotten to you sooner, but running a village tends to keep one busy. I've just been going over some of my secondary reports for the week, as I try to make time each We'yetday to do. Sometimes they involve trivial matters hardly worthy or needing of my attention. Sometimes they're things I should've seen immediately. But, it can't be helped, I suppose. Anyway, I find that you contacted Sorret Magic Academy this past Ha'day, on a matter concerning one Cameron Piper, and his companions."

"Yes, sir," said Levitn, "and we were informed there were no records there of him, nor of his companions."

"If it's not impertinent of me to say so," put in Clueseek, "we have heard that perhaps certain files may be missing..."

"On the contrary, detective, it is quite pertinent. It is in fact the very reason I've called. You see, when the Protestant Movement first intruded into Sorret, during the Coming of the Order, I took it upon myself to make copies of the files of all known and suspected Protestant Sorreters. I continued to do so as new information became available, up until the time of the Disappearance.

"Now, since I read that report this morning, I've been searching through my personal files, and I cannot find any mention of a Cameron. This is, of course, before the advent of the surname law. You will of course be aware that certain persons, for various reasons, have altered their first names, however. And I do find mention of a Cam. We cannot be sure, of course, that this is the same person, but it well might be. He was an apprentice at the time, only 15 years old. However, his sister was a young adept of about 20, by the name of Lorraine. She worked very closely with ex-Grand Sorreter Drag, and caused us a great deal of trouble before disappearing along with the rest of the surviving Protestant Sorreters. Presumably, Cam disappeared with them.

"If this Cameron Piper is indeed Lorraine's younger brother Cam, then you would do well to find him, and quickly. He may be capable of causing a great deal of trouble, himself, if he's spent the intervening years training. And if he is captured by the police, I would ask for his immediate extradition to Sorret. There are things I should very much like to learn from him..."

"Naturally, you will be informed if he is caught, and you may submit an official request to InterVil," said Levitn.


"We thank you very much for your help, sir," said Clueseek.

"Always happy to do what I can. And thank you, gentlemen." He sat forward in his chair and said, "Hope to hear from you soon. Close." The connection and the bubble vanished.

"I'll go tell Masonjar," Levitn told his partner.


Jasp Underground sat up front with Goner, who was driving. Most of the others kept a close eye on them from the back.

Goner had just halted the striders outside LandOrder's hidden headquarters outside of town, when one of Underground's t-mail bubbles chimed. He commanded it to open the connection, after finding the call came from Xander Breakhead.

"Jasp, it's me. How are you?"

"Okay, for now, don. And you?"

"Fine, fine. Look, don Chieftain called me this morning to let me know he'd met with Carver Woodrat, and he had then contacted capo Primus. He said he, Amalgamator, and Fourth would all soon be translocating to Kimrin to discuss the Chaos situation with Primus. I just thought you should- Hold on a centhour." Breakhead paused the connection while answering another bubble.

After a centhour, he reopened his connection with his chief spy and said, "I'll have to talk to you later, Jasp. It's the capo on the other line, with a message to all the dons." He closed the connection.

"Well, let's go," said Goner. They all climbed out of the wagon and followed him.

When they came into the reception area outside the don's office, Goner said to the secretary, "We're here to see don Holdup."

"I'm afraid he can't be disturbed at this time. If you'll all take some seats, I'll let you know when he's available."

"Tell him Lonewander and the Band are here. He'll want to see us."

"He's in a very important conference, and can't be disturbed by anyone."

"Just tell him."

"Very well." She got up and opened the door just a crack, and said, "Please excuse me, don, but one of your dealers is here and wishes to see you. He says he's with Lonewander and the Band."

"Show them in right away!"

"Yes, sir." She opened the door wide, stood back and held it open, trying not to display any annoyance as she waved the party inside. When they were all in, she closed the door behind them.

"Ah, here they are now!" said don Holdup to the other dons, whose faces filled a nearly wall-sized, split-screen bubble. "Come in, ladies and gentlemen, we were just discussing you all."

"Chief Underground, nice to see you again so soon," said Breakhead from the bubble.

Before Underground could respond, Primus said, "We'll continue this discussion later," and closed the connection at his end, as did don Holdup. Now unseen by those present in Holdup's office, most of the other dons stayed on the air with each other to continue talking amongst themselves, waiting for Holdup and the capo to rejoin the conversation.

Suddenly, there were two more people in the room. One was a Sorreter who stood rigid and silent, hands clasped behind his back. The other stepped toward the Chaos party and said, "I am Capp Primus, capo of LandOrder. Introduce yourselves."

They did so, quickly. When they were finished, the capo said, "Well, I see your numbers are growing, already." Turning to the local don, he said, "Kureth, find something to do. I'll talk to you along with the other dons later."

"Yes, capo." He got up from his chair and swiftly excused himself from his office, motioning for Goner to follow him.

"Now, I am informed that you lot are starting some kind of rebellion against the Order. Who's in charge of this rebellion? Lonewander, did I hear?"

"It was my idea, sir, yes," said Darius. "But I mean, nothing's really organized at all. I don't know if we could be said to have a leader as yet, nor do I know if we ever will. In fact, we haven't got any specific plans at the moment, besides looking for people sympathetic to our cause."

"And what exactly is your cause?"

Darius fidgeted uncomfortably, a bit. "I'm embarrassed to say it, but the cause isn't well defined. I mean, I call this rebellion the Chaos. You know, the opposite of the Order. I want most things to be as they used to be, but many things I wouldn't mind staying the same as they are now. There's alot I like about the way the world has changed since the Coming, and alot I don't like. Although actually, I think it was mostly the means of... of changing things, that I don't like. I don't trust the government much. I suppose mostly there are good people elected for good reasons by the people, but I'm sure there must be some corruption. After all, you must know as well as anyone how the Order came into being. The real story, I mean."


"And, well, how can it be all good, with the things the First Order did to set up the Second Order?" Upon reflection, he added, "...No offense."

"None taken. You need to give this some more thought, boy. Figure out what you want to achieve, ultimately, and form some sort of a plan to do it."

"Well, that's one thing I'm sure of, sir. I don't want a plan, per se. A big plan for changing the world, that was the Order's way. I mean to do things differently. The means will be the same as the end, you know?"

"I see. Well, such means don't sound likely to me to produce much of any sort of an end. Unless it's getting yourself and your friends thrown in jail, or killed. But let me know if you can think of anything at all, anything definite about how you want to change the world. Give me some kind of picture."

"Well... there should still be communication, travel, trade between villages. There should still be a World Fair. There should still be banks and things. But maybe not a centralized government, and taxes, and armies, and different social classes. Unemployment went well up after the Coming. Mostly the rich have gotten richer and the poor, poorer. There are far more homeless now, and there's more crime..." he stopped, once again worried he may have given offense.

Primus smiled in a serious, almost patronizing manner. "Oh, don't worry about us. Not me, anyway. I'm a spiritual man; I know that much of what we do is wrong. I know that our very existence supports the continued existence of the Order, however much we might regret that. Just as our own creation caused us to become, at least partially unwitting pawns in the establishment of the Second Order. But we try not to hurt innocent people too much. Trust me, there are plenty of not so innocent people for us to focus our attentions on. And we do some good, you know."

"I'm sure you do, sir. You've already helped us, for one thing. We greatly appreciate it."

"Well, that has to this point been essentially unintentional. I myself have been quite uninvolved. But it now falls upon me to make a decision as to whether our assistance should be continued. Do you want it to continue, Mr. Lonewander? Do your associates?"

"Um..." Darius turned and looked to the others. Mostly they shrugged. Some looked away. None of them had any idea what to say. Darius turned back to Primus. "Um... well, it's hard to say. Of course, we can use all the help we can get. And besides, the police and InterGang probably both already believe we're working with you. So if we agree to part ways now, we'll still have them against us, and no sort of protection from them. We'd be on our own, against both sides of the law.

"On the other hand, there are moral considerations. Now, I don't know you, and I have no firsthand knowledge about the kind of organization you run. I pass no judgment on you and your people. But at the same time, as you yourself said, the Order used you and InterGang to achieve its purposes during the Coming. If I say I want to do things differently, it would be hypocritical of me to use you, as well."

"I don't know if 'hypocritical' is a concept that bears much thinking about, in your situation. You are a very torn man, as I see it, with very conflicting ideas. You don't even seem sure of your ideals, let alone those ideas. Quite frankly, at this point I don't believe I'd hire you to work for my organization, let alone form an alliance with you.

"But some of my most trusted dons have shown an interest in you. They have assured me that you, as well as some of your companions here, have acquitted yourselves rather admirably in past adventures. They also say you usually work alone; perhaps you'd do better to continue doing so. Or perhaps it's simply that my presence is intimidating to you," Primus said with a grin. "There are those brave souls who have turned to jelly before me. Of course, they often have good reason to fear me. You have no reason to do so. Be at ease, all of you."

Darius sighed, did his best to relax. "I appreciate your giving me the benefit of the doubt. I'm afraid, however, that your impressions are largely correct. I've thought the same things many times, myself. I wish I did know better what exactly I wanted, or how to go about getting it. Perhaps I've been naive in thinking things would just happen however they happen."

"Perhaps you must realize that you will have to do some things that the Order has done, if you wish to change anything. That doesn't mean you have to abandon your morals entirely, nor that you will have to continue doing these things once your end has been achieved. On the other hand, in the course of achieving your goals, you may discover that some of your ideas about what you don't want to do may change."

"Perhaps. But even so, I hold firmly to my naive little belief that I shouldn't have a plan."

Primus sighed. "Very well. I still don't know quite what to make of you, or your chances for success. Nor do I feel inclined to promise you much help. But for some reason, I can't help having a certain degree of interest in your endeavors. Therefore, I am hereby assigning chief Underground as a liaison between the Chaos and LandOrder. Chief... keep in touch with me."

"Yes, capo," replied the spy.

"Meanwhile, you all try to take care of your affairs yourselves. But if you ever find yourselves desperately in need of help, and can find nowhere else to turn, you may make contact with the don of whatever village you are in at the time. If he or she decides to do so, they may help you, at least to a small degree. The wagon is yours. That is all, for now."

"Thank you, capo," said Darius.

Primus turned and walked back to his Sorreter, and stood beside him. Together, they vanished.

"Well," said Underground. "I guess I'm going to be with you a while longer. I also suppose we might as well let don Holdup back in."

They did so, and the don asked them, "Well, how'd it go?"

"I think the capo said he'd be talking with you about it later," said Darius.

Just then, a t-mail bubble chimed. "So he did. Open." Once again a bubble expanded to fill most of the far wall. Looking at the dons, and especially at don Breakhead, Holdup said, "Nice to see you all again, so soon." Turning to the others in his office, he said, "You may go." And so they did.

chapter 15

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