‘How far until the Pantomime desert?’ Arty asked Percy the horse. He had begun to accept that his horse could speak and would occasionally forget that he was a horse despite riding atop him. Percy was sharp-witted. However, he had a rather pessimistic view of human behaviour. Arty supposed that related to having to carry people around. Arty had asked him his views of animal subservience to humans. Percy replied that it was merely a matter of perspective.
‘After all, wouldn’t human society fail without horses? You wouldn’t be able to transport anything, soldiers, goods, nothing. However, if you all buggered off, horses would live free and be happy and healthy.’
Arty found that impossible to argue with.
‘Another day of travel should do it,’ Percy replied. Arty wasn’t surprised that they weren’t too far, given the change of landscape. The green grass and moist ground was still present, but only in patches.
It was from one of these patches, partially covered by some overgrown shrubbery, that a sound emitted that gave pause to their steady, plodding sojourn. It sounded all the world to be that of someone muttering quietly. Arty got down, his armour clanked as he stepped toward the noise. Due to their poor fitting, it meant that stealth was simply not an option.
‘Careful,’ whispered Percy, ‘could be chanting, might be magic.’ Arty paused and drew his sword. It was, in reality, not much longer than a knife one would use to carve a roast, but that suited him well. The knights (before they fell to their deaths) had swords that were bigger than Arty if he stood to his full height, which he never did.
Carving his way through the patchy growth, Arty found himself in a small clearing. A man was stooped low, in the middle of the patch of grass and seemed all the world to be talking to the ground.
‘Um, excuse me?’ Arty said after a few moments of not knowing what to do.
The man turned and stared at Arty. The look said that he didn’t like to be interrupted. He was old, had a long beard and bushy eyebrows. He wore a long cloak that seemed to envelop him whole.
‘What? I’m busy.’ His voice wavered but matched the annoyance on his face.
‘Oh, sorry, we were just passing through.’ Arty began to back away, but curiosity got the better of him. ‘Are you a wizard?’
‘Yes, so what?’
‘Oh, well, I’ve never met a wizard before. My name is Article Nonesense.’
‘What a ridiculous name.’
‘You can call me Arty; all my friends do. Well, the alive ones anyway.
‘I am Fumbleweed. You can call me Fumbleweed.’
‘Right, well, we best be off, but I was wondering, were you doing magic?’
‘’Doing’ magic,’ the wizard frowned. ‘No, I was talking.’
‘To the grass.’
‘Ah, you’ve nature-based magic, perhaps?’ Arty was making small talk in a subject he knew nothing about. It was a skill he’d picked up at the two parties he had attended-uninvited.
‘No, not exactly. I have one potent spell. And I’ve promised to no longer use it on sentient beings. It is simply too strong.’
‘Oh? What is it?’
‘The power of omniscience.’
‘You know, all knowledge of the entire universe.’
‘Oh. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?’
‘Would it?’ The wizard moved towards Arty, who backed away nervously. ‘You would know the immensity of all existence and thus the insignificance of your own. No mind can cope with it. I even did it to a Buddhist Monk once. He got drunk and punched himself in the face until he forgot everything again.’
‘Buddhists don’t drink or conduct violent acts.’
‘Ah. So you made the grass amnisesent instead?’
‘Omniscient, yes. They can handle it better. Suddenly being born into consciousness works well when you’ve no intelligence to speak of.
‘Oh,’ was all Arty could offer.
‘Then again, maybe the spell would work on you,’ the wizard smirked. Arty had the sense that he was being insulted but couldn’t quite grasp the thread.
‘Well, I must be off. Got to catch a bird who stole my things, quest for the King and all that,’ Arty attempted once again to back away.
‘Very well, I shall attend you!’ The wizard made a flourish with his arms; although still contained within his cloak, it looked more like he was trying to escape from a confining garment.
‘You are clearly in need of aid, and I in need of a quest,’ he announced. ‘Grass tends to become rather tedious to talk to. Just let me just say goodbye to Henry.’
‘Well?’ Percy asked as Arty returned to the saddle.
‘We have a companion, somehow,’ Arty replied, confusion thick in his voice.
‘A good companion?’
‘I can honestly say I’ve never been less clear on anything in my entire life.’