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The Silvery Moon

                                   Jonathon Pierce

The sun slowly sank over the horizon, casting its auburn rays across the twinkling sky. Iffley stared into the blazing sunset, losing his soul to it. The wizard knew that it was dangerous to be out on the surface, but thanks to a Radiation Shield Spell--thoughtfully proffered by Madison--brief visits were safe enough. The wind whipped across the wasted landscape, and Iffley silently shook his head. A brilliant comet streaked across the sky, startling Iffley. The comet was an omen. A tocsin warned him that the shield was wearing off, and he returned to the City of Remembrance.

He met Taft in the Square of Remembrance, the City's central park, for his Sceptre lessons. Taft was patiently waiting for him, which seemed, to Iffley, rather unusual; perhaps his acceptance of Taft as an Iffley was improving his 'bubba'.

Iffley handed his prized Sceptre to his brother and directed him to transform a nearby rock into something useful. Taft jabbed the Sceptre in the direction of the rock, and it became a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Iffley rolled his eyes, "Theo, you are not concentrating enough. Try teleporting that rosebush."

Taft pointed the Sceptre, and the rosebush turned into a bottle labeled Coke. "What's that?" Taft inquired.

"Why, I have no idea." A bewildered Iffley replied. "Anyway, it seems that you cannot channel your thoughts into the Sceptre. Project your mind. The Sceptre will do your bidding."

Again, Taft aimed the Sceptre at a tulip. It shook and then became a box of raisins.

Iffley moaned, "Why do you always transform things into food?"

"I can't help it: I'm hungry."

"Perhaps this will help." He removed the Ring from his finger and handed it to Taft. "Try again. Channel your thoughts through the Sceptre and change that bench into a chariot." Taft concentrated and a crude, wooden chariot appeared in the bench's place. "Very good. Now the Sceptre will only do what you expect of it. If you only want a crude chariot, that is what you will get. Have a little confidence in yourself, and you can do miracles." Taft stared at the chariot, concentrating deeply. Suddenly, the chariot became an ornate, golden masterpiece of Roman innovation. "Now, give me back the Ring and transport it to that oak tree."

Taft returned the Ring and waved the Sceptre at the chariot. The chariot, however, remained in place. "Suralio, I don't understand. Why did it not teleport?" Taft turned around and was met with solitude. Iffley had disappeared.

*  *  The Challenge  *  *

Iffley appeared atop a large, transparent pillar. He surveyed the odd landscape that stretched out below and around him. The surface was circular, with alternating bands of gold and silver. Four circles floated around the edge of the area. Iffley noted that the entire region look very similar to a gigantic klitik board.

With a flash of silver light, Sterling appeared, the Shard glowing brightly in his hands. "Welcome to my gameroom, Suralio Frith Iffley. I, Sterling, have returned."

"How did I get here?"

"That was quite simple. I just reformed Taft's mental command, causing him to send you directly to me. Oh, by the way, did you enjoy my little comet? I have heard that you delve in omens, and I didn't want to disappoint you."

"Now that you have taken the trouble to get me here, what are you going to do with me?"

"You see, my dear Enchanter, I shall have my revenge. And, with Adena out of the way, you are naturally next on my list." His face contorted as he continued his spiel. "You are here to play my game, Iffley. The rules are quite simple: simple enough for even you to understand. We shall play a game of klitik. If you win, then you shall be set free. If you lose, then you shall die.

"There is one other rule. You will move each piece from this pillar, but when a challenge is made, you will become the challenged piece and fight for the territory. Should you win, you shall occupy that territory; failure means death of that piece. As you lose pieces, your strength will decrease, until, eventually, you shall die. Are the rules quite clear?"

"And what if I chose not to participate?" Iffley asked defiantly.

"Then the pillar you are standing on shall reform into mist, and you will plummet to your death." Sterling snarled contentedly, "Shall we begin? I, of course, shall play silver. You shall have the advantage of the opening move." The Shard sparkled, and Sterling disappeared.

Iffley stared below at the board. The pieces suddenly formed on their appropriate territories, giving Iffley a fair idea of the size of the board. Iffley decided uncertainly, "Infantry Two to Ring Three." The move was very basic, but it allowed freedom of movement for his greater pieces. Magically, his Infantry was placed on the third Ring, diagonally right and forward of its original position.

"Infantry Four to Ring Three." The silver Infantry slid to its appropriate diagonal slot.

Iffley recognized the strategy: the Calvary's Gambit. Iffley correctly countered this move by placing his Cavalier on the Third Platform. This allowed adequate protection for his Calvary, while allowing his Chaplain access to the center of the board.

Unfortunately, this left his Infantry One relatively unprotected. "Infantry Five challenges on Ring Two." Sterling's voice boomed across the board.

Immediately, Iffley found himself in the center of a golden plain. He was heavily armored in a cuirass. He also noticed that he was in the body of some massive, ignorant soldier. He momentarily appreciated the power of his body as he held the two-handed sword in the air. A brief second passed and his opponent appeared. The enemy looked as mean and ugly as Iffley felt. The match seemed to be fair, but Iffley knew that the cards were stacked against him; he did not know how to fight with this sword.

The enemy Infantry sneered and charged, swinging his sword in a large arc. Iffley met the sword with his own, producing a resonant clang. The vibrations traveled from the blade and through the armor. Iffley, however, had little time to think about it. Iffley thrust the sword at his nemesis, his muscles pressed against the armor, making it feel tight. The silver warrior smashed Iffley's blade with his own, causing him to drop it. Iffley reached down to snatch it up, but the blade met his arm. As if the blade were enchanted, it sliced neatly through the armor, chopping off his arm at the elbow.

Iffley stared at his stump and screamed with pain. The blood gushed from his wound and splattered onto the golden surface. The opponent smiled wickedly and rammed his sword Into Iffley's face....

Iffley reappeared on the pillar. He immediately reached to touch his severed arm. It was whole again. He did not, however, feel as strong as before. It was almost as if someone had removed a piece of his mind or of his soul. "Calvary challenges Infantry," Iffley said boldly, as he prepared for the transport.

This time, he appeared atop a unicorn. The animal was sleek and pure as snow. Its crystalline horn sparkled from the glare of the floor. This time, Iffley was not so armored. A thick leather breastplate covered his vital organs and a helmet protected his vulnerable head. He was armed with a lance and short sword. The silver warrior reappeared, looking less meanacing from Iffley's mount.

Iffley nudged the animal and it bolted into a run. He lowered the lance and aimed for his opponent. The soldier dodged and struck the lance as Iffley passed, causing him to drop it. The unicorn turned sharply, lowered its head, and charged at the warrior. The Infantry barely avoided the unicorn's deadly weapon, but Iffley's sword did its job. The silver menace was dead. A golden cloud enveloped the Infantry, and it disappeared....

As Iffley returned to the pillar, Sterling was making his move: "Necromancer to Platform One." Iffley, in turn, placed his own Necromancer on Platform Four. Sterling shifted his Infantry defense by placing his Infantry Three onto Ring Three. Then, Iffley moved his Chaplain to the next Ring. Sterling countered by moving his Cavalier to Ring Three.

"Chaplain challenges Second Calvary." The golden Chaplain circumnavigated the board, stopping at a silver square containing the Calvary. Iffley was once again ripped from the pillar.

He reformed in the unimpressive body of a priest. A flowing robe was his only protection. A ceremonial scimitar hung from his belt. In his hand, he held a golden staff. Iffley wondered how the Chaplain could be such a potent piece if it had no advantages over its opponents.

The unicorn-mounted enemy appeared. He lowered his lance and charged. Iffley raised his staff and struck the lance, in much the same way as did his own previous opponent, as it passed. The Calvary did not drop the lance. However, the lance, where it had touched the staff, had dissolved, leaving only a blunt stump.

Aggravated, the Calvary threw down the useless weapon and drew his sword. The Calvary charged again. Iffley parried his blow, destroying the sword. Iffley then shoved the staff into the face of his opponent. The soldier screamed in pain not only from the acid burning his face, but also from the scimitar that Iffley had lodged into his neck....

Sterling's voice seemed slightly miffed, "Retu P'moc Chaplain." Iffley stared at his Chaplain as it grotesquely changed into a silver priest. Iffley's own voice turned hard, "Cavalier to challenge Necromancer," and Iffley was once again ripped from the pillar.

The wind rustled through his hair as the wings of the horse flapped rapidly. Iffley, dressed in light armor, was soaring several feet from the surface. He was armed with a bow and arrows and a wicked-looking boomerang made of sharpened steel. The Necromancer appeared, surrounded by a silver aura. His silver robe, which blew in the wind, was tied with a blue bag.

Iffley loaded his bow with a arrow and launched it. The Necromancer's aura intensified and the arrow bounced harmlessly aside. He reached into his pouch and pulled out a small box. He opened it and a large cloud emerged. It floated upward to a level horizontal to Iffley. Then, a streak of lightning shot from the cloud. The horse dove, and the bolt only singed its tailfeathers. Iffley threw the boomerang. It sliced neatly through the air and arced toward its victim. The Necromancer raised his hand, and a ball of fire met the weapon. The boomerang exploded in an array of technicolor. Meanwhile, Iffley had prepared a golden arrow and shot it. The aura intensified, but the arrow permeated it. The Necromancer screamed as the arrow pierced his shoulder. He glared at the wizard and raised his hand. The horse could not dodge the ball of fire. Iffley's face burned away as the intense heat struck him squarely on the chest....

Iffley was much weaker now. His force was now nine points behind Sterling's. The game would be over soon, Iffley feared, and so would his life. "Emperor to challenge Necromancer." Apparently Sterling was tiring of the game.

Iffley appeared in the golden, flowing robes of the Necromancer. A golden aura surrounded him, stretching out several inches, like some opaque shield. He opened his red bag and saw a variety of objects. He pulled out a small black ball and awaited his opponent. Sterling, himself, dressed in the Emperor's clothing, formed beside him. The Emperor wielded a deadly sabre. A flowing blue cloak was draped around his shoulders, barely hiding the lion's crest on his breastplate.

"This will be your last battle, wizard."

"But the game is not over yet."

"It is now." Sterling said as he approached Iffley.

The Enchanter threw the ball at the Emperor. The ball struck the ground and began to expand. As it approached Sterling, its diameter had grown to almost ten feet. The Emperor simply lifted his sword and sliced the ball in half. The ball fell around him and disappeared.

Sterling parted his cloak, allowing his crest to spring from his breastplate. The lion sprang at Iffley. The aura took the brunt of the blow, but the wizard still was knocked to the ground. He raised his hand at the lion, frying it in mid-leap. He stood quickly up and threw another fire ball at the Emperor. His missile struck the blue cloak and dissipated.

"You see, Iffley, you can't win." He thrust his sabre at the wizard. It penetrated his aura and pierced his abdomen. Iffley dropped to the floor in pain. "Say good-bye, Iffley," Sterling said, readying himself for the execution. Instead of completing his plans, however, he dropped his weapon. He clutched his throat in an attempt to breathe. His pores began to swell as the blood forced its way through his skin. He fell to his knees, as the blood permeated his skin and gathered in large pools on the floor. He convulsed and fell into the red puddle.

Adel walked quickly up to Iffley, "I'll take care of you." She touched his hand, teleporting them to the City of Remembrance.

*  *  The Prize  *  *

Iffley sat in a white bed, surrounded by white walls in the Hospital of Remembrance. He was thankful for Adel's interference, for he knew that the battle was lost. The sword had pierced his left lung, just barely missing his heart. The medicine in the Hospital was miraculous, for Iffley had almost completely healed in several hours. But now, he was feeling rather lonely.

Suddenly, Bronson bounded into the room. "I'm a wild and crazy guy," he said. Bronson seemed like the life of a party (even though there was no party). This was due to Madison's Personality Enhancer Spell. "Well, how ya doin', big guy?"

"I am recovering nicely, thank you. I have one question. Sterling died once, and was reincarnated. What happened to his body?"

"Sterling Baby isn't going anywhere." Bronson said confidently, as he produced a small cage containing a worm. "I think that it's a rather fitting end."

 © 1985, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, A. Mann, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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