The Staff

Not related to Standing in the Storm, which continues tomorrow.

Sid and Max face off.

Sid sketches a pentagram with his foot. It’s just a scuff, but he’s got special Nike Pentagram Boots. They’re the best shoes in the world for drawing pentagrams. It only takes a scuff and the whole pentagram is right there.

“Nice,” says Max.

Sid’s pentagram is glowing now. It’s shining with white lines springing up from the earth. There are all kinds of cool little details, including a little Sid logo. It’s the only logo that markets 100% Sid!

“Isn’t it?” says Sid.

Max looks a little smug. He spreads his hands wide. Pillars of silver fire burst from the ground and surround him. There’s that annoying little angelic chorus that tends to sing when Max does his stuff.

The world shivers all around Max and pulsates with light.

The angels’ song reaches its crescendo, then falls to silence.

Sid sulks.

Sid snides, “Not as loud as usual.”

“Can’t bribe as many angels these days,” Max says.

Then Max laughs.

He sweeps his arms out from his trenchcoat.

Max invokes Snowstorm. “Snowstorm!”

Clouds gather over his head. The snow fairy manifests. Snowflakes begin to fall all around Max. Max pushes at the air and the snowstorm flows over and dumps snow on Sid.

Sid shakes snow out of his hair.

Max intones, in the voice of a magician at work, “Snow—harder!”

But Sid is ready. He has stepped back. He has drawn his sword. It’s a 21st-century sword, and it’s not very good, but it’s sharp enough for this. He pokes it right into the cloud.

“Ow!” says the snow fairy.

The clouds swirl around. They’re just a little bit red.

Sid says, “Don’t snow on me.”

The snow fairy is now uncertain which magician to listen to. It attempts to hedge its bets.

“Perhaps you’re not familiar with the benefits of snow,” it says. “There are many! It’s cold and white and Christmasy! You might like snow.”

But Sid scuffs the floor in that special way he has and there’s a dual pentagram. He invokes Double Thing. “Double Thing!”

It’s like a thing, but twice as much!

Half the thing scrunges upwards from the earth. Half the thing scrunges upwards from another part of the earth. The thing rumbles and shakes its hands around.

“That’s an earth thing,” judges Max, after staring at its bumpy surface for a bit.

“It’s twice the thing!” says Sid, proudly.

“I don’t want to fight,” says the double thing.

“You’re my ancillary in a magical duel,” Sid points out. “Now, stop the fairy from snowing on me harder, or we’ll both get chilly!”

The thing doesn’t want to get chilly, so it oscillates until the fairy is confused.

“Is it one thing? Is it two things?” the fairy asks, getting progressively dizzier as it tries to evaluate the situation. “No! One! Five! Seventeen! Eight!”

The fairy faints.

“That is not snowing harder,” says Max. After a moment, he adds, “That’s not even snowing smarter.

“It’s snowing lower,” the double thing points out.

“Now, double thing!” says Sid.



It looks at Sid. It hesitates. Then it looks speculatively at Max.

“I could stay out of this,” it says, to Max.

“I don’t want a double thing’s pity,” says Max. He’s drawing back. He’s readying himself to invoke Scrubbing Bubble. It’s the battle magic that never helps!

“It’s not pity,” says the double thing, in frustration. “It’s not having a stake in the conflict—”

But Max ignores the double thing. He even interrupts its sentence! He invokes Scrubbing Bubble. “Scrubbing Bubble!” The wind screams down from the sky. The world flares up with red and purple light. Scrubbing bubbles bubble up from the earth, scrubbing ominous contrails through the air. Max shoves the magic with his hands. The bubbles scrub closer to Sid and the double thing.

It doesn’t help.

In fact, the double thing thinks, as it attacks, it’s probably the opposite of helping.

6 thoughts on “The Staff

  1. Dammit, Rebecca. How can I eat my breakfast when I’m laughing so hard?

    Puzzling over the significance of the title. Attribute of a magician (even though neither of them is said to have one, specifically)? The Snow Fairy and Double Thing as employees? Sid and Max as employees? (Maybe they’re alpha-testing a MMORPG. Clearly some aspects of the battle magic system need tweaking.)

  2. What I find most telling is when the Double Thing asks “what are my stakes in this conflict”? What are, in fact, his stakes? If he wins, does he get to crumple Max to little bits, or avoid being snowed on, or be free of annoying wizards?”

    The question made me wonder if Hitherby had spent a bit too much time reading the Forge or stuff informed by it or the games designed by the major players there (Dogs in the Vinyard, Prime Time Adventures, etc).

  3. No such thing as too much Forge time! (Well, okay, maybe there is. But it would take a lot.)

    Anyway. The possible connection between Scrubbing Bubbles and Jeremiah Clean intrigues me. He doesn’t really help either, does he?

  4. Cleanliness is the next thing to wogliness.

    The urge to clean is in part an urge to simplify. When someone says (as in another legend) “Calgon, take me away”, they are asking for all the difficult parts to be magically over — a form of escapism. Jeremiah Clean cleaned everything by scrubbing out all the things that supported the world. In this legend, Max short-cuts through a possible negotiation with the Double Thing by insisting on a simple confrontation. But when you simplify the world, you’re really making holes where your mental model of it doesn’t actually match reality.

    Alternative psychological explanation: Jane and Iphigenia are finding the where-does-everything-fit stage to be messy.

  5. Well, I just finished reading this and spent thirty seconds giggling manically. After having been hit in the face by a random stranger earlier tonight, that was something I needed. So thank you.

  6. Does this mean that bubbles and/or cleaning products have, like sharks, or jaguars, officially established a place in the symbolic language of Hitherby?

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