THE CRUSADING WIZARD
(revised & expanded edition)
SNEAK PREVIEW #2
Christopher & Ed Stasheff
Matt turned back to Moshe. “Okay, Rabbi, how I can help protect Jerusalem?”
“You ask me this? You, from what I hear, are much more powerful than I! You cast spells with poetry alone! But I?” Moshe gestured at the varied magical equipment on the table. “As you see, I need tools, talismans, and scripture to do what I do!”
Balkis sprang off Matt’s shoulder and landed on the table with a soft thud. She immediately began nosing around the books, parchments, and magical apparatus, one more pupil thirsty for knowledge. The Rabbi stepped back in surprise.
“Oh, that’s, uh… my familiar,” Matt improvised. “And don’t worry, she doesn’t bite.” To prove his point he started stroking her back. Balkis arched her spine under his hand, began purring, and Matt decided to move the conversation along before the Rabbi noticed a cat was spending an inordinate amount of time trying to read Hebrew. “Please, Rabbi, explain to me how your defenses work. I’m not really familiar with your style of magic—but the more I know, the better I can help.”
The rabbi paused to stare at Balkis batting a paw at an abacus, perhaps mildly surprised that the sums were accurate, then looked back up at Matt. “Uh… very well, Lord Wizard. My students and I maintain the city’s wards against sorcery, while the Arab wizards duel the barbarian sorcerers with combat spells. You, I think, will do well at that, at least from what I’ve heard of your talents.”
Matt frowned at that division of labor, suspecting some form of prejudice behind it. “So why are the Jews relegated to behind-the-scenes defensive magic?”
“Not being on the front lines of battle? This I will not argue with! We, after all, are clergy, not soldiers.” Moshe smiled. “But the truth, Lord Wizard—although few, I think, would say it openly—is that our wards and protective spells are superior. We Jews, after all, have been practicing them for centuries.”
Matt contemplated that. It had been well over a thousand years since Judaism had a kingdom of its own, and ever since they’d been a minority, sometimes persecuted, wherever they lived. Given the superstitious fear of magic among the peasantry, it made sense the Jewish community would prefer quiet, subtle protective magic over flashy fireballs and lightening bolts. Matt nodded. “Yes, I can see that.”
“Also, I think, some of the barbarian sorcerers must be familiar with Arab and Persian magic—enough, at least, to counter it somewhat—but they know nothing of Jewish magic, making it harder for them to break our wards.” Balkis butted her head up against the Rabbi’s palm and slipped under it, jumping-starting the petting process while purring like a diesel engine, eager to make friends. It worked; Moshe began stroking her absently as he continued, “This room, for example, is triple-warded. Here we can speak freely, Lord Wizard; no enemy can spy upon us.”
“Triple-warded?” Matt echoed, impressed.
“Oh yes! The first ward is on this room, as you can see.” Moshe gestured to the door.
Matt spun around, staring at the doorway and wondering what he was supposed to be looking for. After a moment he saw it: a small cylinder with a Hebrew letter ש on it, fixed to the door jamb. “I see… uh, what is that?”
“A mezuzah,” the Rabbi answered, “containing a scroll inscribed with the Shema Yisrael… and an additional prayer—in rhyme, of course—imploring God to protect the room from sorcery.” Although he was trying to be modest, Matt could tell the Rabbi was proud of his handiwork. “So it’s not exactly kosher, but… eh, it works.”
Matt frowned. “But… if this room is warded against spells, how can you work magic?” He gestured to the bowl of ink, obviously used for scrying.
The Rabbi shrugged, palms spread. “What God can keep out, God can let in.” He tapped the dish, and for the first time Matt noticed the Hebrew characters painted around it. “This bowl is warded against the wards.”
Wards within wards within wards… Matt’s head spun; this guy was good.
Balkis meowed and batted at an amulet hanging from a chain around the Rabbi’s neck.
Moshe looked down at her, surprised, then laughed as he rubbed behind her oversized ears. “Ah yes, little one, this, too, is a ward, to protect us from sorcery. We’ve made them for all of Tafas’s officers and wizards.” He reached into a leather pouch on the table, pulled out another talisman, and offered it to Matt. “Here, Lord Wizard, for your protection. ‘Therefore shall you put these words of Mine on your heart and on your soul,’ ” he quoted. “Any sorcerer attempting to locate or scry upon you will not be able to find you.”
Matt accepted and examined the talisman. It was actually a small wooden phylactery, a tiny cylindrical scroll container on a string, with a Hebrew character vaguely resembling the letter W carved into it… the same character as on the mezuzah, now that he thought about it. One end of the talisman popped off, and he could see a tiny roll of parchment inside. “Thank you, Rabbi,” he said, donning the necklace. From the corner of his eye, he saw Balkis snag one for herself, under the pretense of playing with the string.
“Come, Lord Wizard,” Moshe said as he collected some scrolls and equipment off the table and into a satchel. “I’ll give you a tour of Jerusalem’s defenses.” The Rabbi headed out the door, tapping the mezuzah on the way, and down the stairs.
Matt scooped up Balkis (albeit with some protest), set her on his shoulder again, and followed Moshe down the spiral staircase. “I suspect you’re a more powerful wizard than you admit, Rabbi, perhaps even to yourself. Maintaining multiple wards simultaneously isn’t easy.”
Moshe dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. “I am, perhaps, an above average wizard, but no more. No, what my students and I have achieved here is from nothing more than layering enchantments to reinforce each other… although perhaps, I will admit, in a clever way.”
“Yes, but how do you maintain them?” Matt asked. “One spell per student?”
Moshe shook his head. “We do not. God does, through the power of prayer and scripture.” He looked back, eyebrow raised, and Matt could almost feel the old man shift into teacher mode as he continued. “What is a spell, wizard, and what is prayer? Only words. Ah, but what are words?”
“Verbal symbols,” Matt answered. He knew well the magical power of symbols in this universe.
The Rabbi looked pleasantly surprised. “Why, yes! Few men realize that. Now I ask you, wizard, what is a text?” Moshe shrugged. “Nothing but words and letters.”
“And letters are nothing but symbols,” Matt finished the thought, “that can be combined in infinite ways for infinite meaning.”
“Very good!” Moshe nodded, then shook a reproving finger at Matt. “You did not tell me you were a scholar as well as a wizard!”
“Well, I never got my doctorate,” Matt hedged. “Didn’t finish my dissertation. But please, Rabbi, continue.”
Balkis meowed agreement.
Moshe fell back into lecture mode without missing a beat. “Anyway, we write down a rhyming prayer to place inside a mezuzah, then cast the spell aloud to set it in motion—but then the symbols in the letters and words of the written prayer maintain the spell.”
“Interesting…” Matt pondered that. It was certainly true that magical items, both holy and unholy, frequently incorporated a textual element—symbols, letters, words, even phrases—usually painted, carved, or engraved on them. Jewish magic, however, seemed to take that to a whole new and much more complex level. “I’ll have to experiment with that myself, Rabbi when I have more time.” Although with a wife, two children, and a kingdom to help run, Matt wasn’t sure when that would be.
As they reached the bottom of the spiral staircase and headed out the door of the watchtower back onto the city wall, Moshe pointed out another mezuzah on the door jamb that Matt hadn’t even noticed when he’d entered. “This is the second ward I mentioned. It dispels all enchantments as they enter into the tower. Had you been an imposter, who changed his face by sorcery, the guards would have known the moment you stepped over the threshold and the spell failed.”
Well. That explained a few things. Then Matt heard a trilling in his ear as Balkis made a confused sound somewhere between a meow and a growl. He guessed what she was thinking, and suddenly had questions of his own.
Matt slowed down and let himself lag behind as they followed the Rabbi along the battlements and down the stairs from the wall. Once they was enough distance to ensure at least a little privacy, Balkis whispered in his ear (or as much as a cat can whisper), “If that miza thing cancels magic, why did I not return to my human form when I entered?”
“I was wondering that, too,” Matt admitted. “I’m not sure, but I have a theory. The Rabbi said it dispels enchantments and spells—but not necessarily magic.”
“What difference does that make?” Balkis asked with a touch of impatience.
“All the difference, if you’re a being of magic,” Matt answered. “My guess is these wards keep out spells—and probably spirits like demons or ghosts as well, given that djinn can’t seem to cross it—but perhaps not flesh-and-blood magical creatures. Rocky, for example, didn’t seem to have any trouble flying over the walls. I suspect a dragon or troll could pass through that doorway just fine.”
“That doesn’t explain why I’m still a cat,” Balkis objected.
“Well, I always assumed you being able to change shape was due to a spell or enchantment of some sort,” Matt explained. “But, now that I think about it, I’ve never heard you recite a verse to transform—you just do it, like it’s an inherent ability. You don’t just use magic, Balkis—you are magic. The dryads made you into a shapeshifter.”
Balkis had no response to that, possibly shocked silent by the thought as they descended the stairs and walked along the wall. After a few moments of uneasy silence, Matt decided a distraction was in order. “I’ve noticed you’re still in your catsuit. Why haven’t you changed back into a girl?”
“In a city full of men who haven’t seen a woman in weeks, and fear they might die tomorrow?” Balkis replied with a hint of sarcasm. “Do I really need to explain it to you?”
“Hmm, yes, good point,” Matt admitted. “Still, if you remain as a cat, stay close to me. These soldiers are so hungry, they might consider a stray cat a nice meal.”
Balkis yowled at that, claws digging into his shoulder, and Matt noticed her tail fluffing up like a bottle brush. He hurried to catch up with the Rabbi, hoping for a change in conversation. Once again he noticed the thick rope strung along the city wall, and decided it would make a suitable new topic. “By the way, Rabbi, do you have any idea what this rope is for? It doesn’t seem to have any purpose.”
“Ah yes, the eruv line!” Moshe replied. “This is, in fact, the third ward of which I told you.”
“Really?” Matt placed a hand on the rope and, sure enough, now that he was paying attention he could feel the subtle undercurrent of magical energy flowing through it. “How does it work, exactly?”
The question was all Moshe needed to launch into a new lecture. “For Jews, during Shabbat, it is forbidden to carry things between the private and public domains,” he explained, “which is a problem, if you’re the mother of a newborn, or an old man who needs a cane to walk. How, I ask, can you go to synagogue on the Sabbath if you cannot leave your house? So we, in the Jewish Quarter, erect the eruv by connecting our homes together into one large private domain. Carrying a baby between houses, then, becomes no different than carrying them between the different rooms of a house.”
Matt looked back at the rope. “So you’ve set up this rope… to turn all of Jerusalem into one giant eruv?”
“Yes indeed!” The Rabbi nodded in approval, pleased with his newest pupil. “This eruv line, therefore, makes all Jerusalem into one community, one household—with a very strong threshold protecting it from evil magic.”
“And one heck of a mezuzah warding that household?” Matt guessed.
“Very good! You, I see, learn quickly!”
Matt frowned as a thought occurred to him. “What happens if the line is cut?”
The Rabbi spread his hands. “Then the ward, too, is cut,” he answered. “For this reason, my students patrol the wall constantly, making sure the eruv line remains unbroken.”
Matt’s frown deepened. “Do you suspect there are saboteurs inside Jerusalem?”
“Eh, myself, I worry more about rats or birds breaking the line,” Moshe answered, “but spies, too, are something to guard against, I suppose.” He turned to Matt with a crafty expression and a sly smile. “Ah, but to break the eruv line, our enemy would first need to know about it—and, unless they have some Jewish soldiers in their horde, I doubt they do! This, I think, is why the barbarian sorcerers have such a hard time breaking our Jewish wards. They assume, I think, that they have only to disenchant a verbal spell. They are, most likely, unaware of the texts that maintain the wards. To break them completely, they’d have to find and destroy the written prayers in the mezuzahs—and, to the best of my knowledge, they don’t even know about them. Even if they did, how would they get inside the city to reach them?” He smiled and shook his head. “No, this gur-khan, if he wishes to take Jerusalem, will have to do it the old-fashioned way—by force.”
Matt couldn’t help being impressed. The Rabbi had taken simple, everyday wards designed to protect homes, and scaled them up into a complex, multi-layered ward shielding an entire city. He was beginning to understand why Tafas was so grateful. Matt and Moshe continued to discuss the intricacies of magic and theology as the Rabbi led Matt out of the Muslim Quarter of Old Jerusalem. Balkis hung on their every word, occasionally mewing a question in Matt’s ear to ask the Rabbi. As they entered the Jewish Quarter, despite it being every bit as battle-damaged as the rest of the city, Matt couldn’t help but notice and admire the subtle shift in architecture. Some of the buildings were hundreds of years old, possibly even a thousand, and seemed to teem with history and culture.
Eventually the Rabbi took them to a modest two-story yellow stone building with tall arched windows and doors. Matt assumed it was the Rabbi’s yeshiva, and his guess was confirmed when Moshe led them into the broad courtyard at its center and Matt saw several young men with yarmulkes and earlocks running around. The students were hard at work, clustered around what looked like a half-dozen large dungheaps.
As they drew closer, though, Matt saw they were actually mounds of dark, reddish-brown mud molded into rough, crude humanoid shapes lying prone on their backs—very crude; they had no ears, no face, and only the barest outline of fingers curled into a fist. The sculptures glistened in the sun, smelling like wet earth… and, strangely, looked oddly familiar…
Suddenly, it clicked in Matt’s mind where he’d seen them before: up on the city walls, the mannequins he’d assumed were decoys. He froze. “Rabbi? Are… are those what I think they are?”
“If you think they are golems, then yes.” The Rabbi nodded, suddenly serious. “Myself, I would not have dared make them, were our situation not so desperate.”
“You use them to supplement the troops on the walls, I assume?” Matt inquired.
“Indeed.” The Rabbi nodded again. “And they have been a great help, especially since the Mahdi has used them most cleverly. Tafas, the first day the golems were ready, cleared the sentries from a section of wall and replaced them with golems. There they stood all day, still as rocks, and this the enemy noticed. So they shot arrows into the golems—and when they didn’t even flinch, the horde assumed they must be dummies, that the section of wall was unguarded. That night, just as Tafas had predicted, the horde focused their efforts on scaling that part of the wall. Only when they stepped onto the ramparts did the golems animate, and start knocking men off the battlements.” He looked at Matt and shrugged. “They are slow and clumsy creatures, true, but very strong, and cannot be killed with sword or spear. These, the barbarians had never encountered before—they had no idea what they were fighting, or how to defeat them.” He spread his hands. “So they panicked. For this I cannot fault them; I, in their place, would have done the same thing! But that’s when, on the walls, our soldiers joined the golems, and we defeated the enemy very thoroughly. The horde lost many men that night, and ever since have been far more careful about attacking walls that seem lightly defended.”
Matt turned thoughtful, thinking through the possibilities. “So if golems can’t be killed, does that mean they’re effectively invincible?”
“Hardly!” the Rabbi scoffed. “They cannot be killed, Lord Wizard, because they were never alive! Animated, yes, but not alive. And they can be defeated simply by hacking them to pieces—although the barbarian raiders rarely have the time or sufficient numbers for that. Every night, though, the golems do take quite a beating from the enemy, and every day we bring the damaged ones back here, to disenchant and mend as best we can. Some have even tumbled over the walls and been lost for good—they are, as I said, clumsy. Others are damaged beyond repair, so we use their mud to fix other golems.” He sighed heavily. “We had well over a score when the siege began. Now we have less than a dozen.”
Matt’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Why not just make more?”
The Rabbi shrugged and spread his hands. “To make mud, wizard, you need water… and water is in scarce supply these days. The aqueducts into the city were cut off by the enemy long ago, and our cisterns are almost empty.”
“That’s something I might be able to help with,” Matt mused.
The Rabbi turned to look at him, surprised. “You can create water? Right here, right now?”
“Well, not create, no,” Matt hedged, “creation is God’s domain, and only He can create something from nothing. But I might be able to figure out another way to refill the cisterns…” His voice trailed off as he evaluated possibilities in his mind.
“This, the soldiers would love. As would I—we’ve tried making golems from other liquids, but this did not always work.”
“Oh really?” Matt asked, interested. “What did you try using?”
“First, we tried oil.”
Matt eyes widened, alarmed. “Not lamp out, I hope!” He had a sudden mental image of a flaming golem, ignited by enemy fire-arrows, running around setting fire to everything it touched.
The Rabbi smiled and shook a finger. “Oh no, Lord Wizard—that, we knew, would be disastrous. No, we mixed olive oil in with the earth and water. That, we found, worked quite well, as it kept the golems from drying out in the sun and becoming immobile. After we discovered that, we coated the rest of the golems in olive oil. This has worked well so far.”
“Fascinating.” Matt nodded, and Balkis meowed in agreement. “What else did you try using?”
The Rabbi grimaced. “Next, we tried wine… but, eh, that did not work so well.”
Matt stared, surprised. “Wine?”
The Rabbi spread his hands. “Every drop of water is needed for the troops. What else is there to use? Besides, drinking wine only makes men more thirsty, and Muslims are forbidden to drink it at all—what else, I ask, are we to do with it?”
Well, that did make a certain kind of sense, Matt thought. “So what went wrong? The wine-golem wouldn’t animate?”
“Oh no, it animated, just… did not move very well. It was slow to obey orders, staggered and stumbled around, and kept missing when it swung at the enemy soldiers scaling the walls. The first night it fought, in fact, it tripped and fell off the battlement, and was flattened on the ground. After that, we disenchanted it, and stopped experimenting with other liquids.”
Matt stared at him. “Are you telling me the wine-golem was… drunk?”
“This, I find hard to believe, as it had no mind to intoxicate, but…” The Rabbi spread his hands and shrugged. “I do not know how else to describe it.”
One of his rabbinical students stood and approached. “This one is ready, Rabbi, as well as we can prepare it.”
“Thank you, Chaim. Everyone, please, stand back.” Moshe knelt down next to the inert golem, reached into his satchel, pulled out a short wooden stylus, and motioned for Matt to join him. “Come, Lord Wizard, and watch carefully—this part is very important.”
Matt joined him in kneeling, Balkis leaping off his shoulder to the ground and watching just as intently. Matt picked up a discarded lump of mud and examined it, squeezing it between his fingers. It was surprisingly firm—not wet potter’s mud as he’d assumed, but a thick, heavy clay that held its shape remarkably well while still remaining pliable, almost like modeling clay. Matt imagined getting punched by a ham-sized clay fist with over a ton of moving golem behind, and shuddered.
The Rabbi began chanting a prayer in Hebrew, rocking back and forth slightly as he traced three Hebrew characters into the forehead of the mud-man. When he was finished with his prayer-spell, they stood and Moshe turned to Matt. “These three characters spell the word ‘emet,’ the Hebrew word for ‘truth,’ and will animate the golem.” He looked down at the golem and said, “Arise Adam, man of earth, and stand!”
Very slowly, the creature sat up, stood, and faced the Rabbi, still and silent. Its empty, featureless sphere of a head was downright uncanny, and Matt had underestimated its size—the thing towered over them, at least eight feet tall and half as wide.
It suddenly seemed a lot more dangerous.
The Rabbi turned to Matt. “Listen, Lord Wizard, and remember, for this is very important.” He pointed up at the last of the three letters etched in its forehead. “If you ever need to disenchant a golem, you must rub off the last character here, the letter ‘aleph.’ That will change to word from ‘emet’ to ‘met,’ which means ‘dead,’ and the golem will return to nothing more than an inanimate mud statue.”
Matt felt a tingle of apprehension. Having studying comparative literature in college, he’d heard the story of the Golem of Prague… and remembered that it didn’t have a happy ending—Rabbi Loew lost control of his golem and had to destroy it.
Before Matt could ask any questions, though, the Rabbi turned to the golem and commanded, “You are to follow any and all orders given to you by myself, my students, or Emir Tafas. You must harm no one within the walls of Jerusalem—Jew, Muslim, Christian, or Armenian—and must ignore any orders to do so, even from myself. You are to go to your watch post on the wall, do nothing, and wait there until the barbarians attack Jerusalem, or you receive new orders. Fight only the barbarians outside who seek to get inside the city, and even then, use only enough force to get them off the walls. When there are no more barbarians on the battlements left to fight, your job will be done. Return to your watch post, resume waiting, and do nothing. Do you understand?”
Slowly, the creature nodded. Matt wondered how it could hear without any ears.
“Go now to the wall and guard Jerusalem. Chaim here will show you to your post.”
Matt watched the huge thing lumber slowly away, and wondered how it could see where it was going without any eyes. He turned to Moshe. “Why did you show me how to disenchant them, Rabbi? Are they dangerous?”
“They can be.” The Rabbi nodded, his voice and expression grave. “They are obedient creatures, but cannot think for themselves, only follow orders—and they do exactly as they are told, nothing more and nothing less.”
Matt began to see the potential problem. He’d had college friends in the Computer Science department who’d said similar things about programming computers. “And if you phrase things the wrong way?” he asked.
“Terrible things can happen,” the Rabbi confirmed. “Early in the siege, I made the mistake of instructing the golems to follow orders from Tafas’ officers. But then one night, while the enemy was storming the walls, an Arab officer, without thinking, yelled, ‘Kill them! Kill them all!’… and the golem, of course, obeyed.”
Matt winced. “So it attacked everybody, including your own men, right?”
“I’m afraid so.” The Rabbi nodded. “By the time one of my students arrived to disenchant it, it had thrown over a dozen of our own soldiers off the walls. Several died.” He shook his head sadly. “Since then, I have instructed the golems only to take orders from myself, my students, and Tafas himself… and have become much, much more careful in how I phrase my instructions.”
The Rabbi continued explaining the intricacies of the careful layered orders he gave the golems and he and Matt walked around the courtyard animating the rest of the half-dozen mud-men. Moshe even had Matt practice rubbing the aleph off the forehead of a golem to render it inanimate… although Matt suspected erasing it from a still, docile golem was a completely different experience than trying to remove it from an active, aggressive golem in the heat of battle. Interestingly, the Rabbi didn’t instruct the golem to obey Matt’s orders—or, for that matter, anyone who wasn’t Jewish. The lone exception was Tafas himself (and knowing him, Matt suspected Tafas may have insisted on that). Presumably, if Matt ever had to disenchant a rogue golem, he’d have to immobilize it with a spell first… which, now that he thought about it, was probably why the Rabbi was explaining all this to him; Matt was probably one of the few people with enough magical power to handle an out-of-control golem.
Before they knew it, they heard the muezzins in the Muslim Quarter summoning Arabs to afternoon prayers. Moshe led Matt out of the Jewish Quarter toward the cisterns at the center of Jerusalem’s intricate network of aqueducts, reservoirs, and fountains. As they walked, Matt noticed a subtle change in soldiers throughout the city. They no longer looked so despondent—there was relief in their faces and hope in their eyes; Tafas must have informed them of the Christian army on its way. There was a new air of determination about the troopers; their ordeal was almost over, and if they survived it, they’d be heroes.
When they finally reached the great cistern under the Temple Mount, Matt was staggered by its sheer size. He’d been expecting some sort of big vat or tank, but what he saw was more like a man-made, subterranean pond carved out of the bedrock under the city, the roof supported by rough-hewn pillars. Unfortunately, there was only about an inch of water covering the bottom. Of course, the basin was so large that it still added up to a few thousand liters of water, which sounded like a lot, sure… but with thousands of soldiers and civilians in Jerusalem, that wouldn’t last much longer.
“Well, Lord Wizard,” the Rabbi said, “if you cannot, as you say, create water, is there anything you can do?”
“Yes,” Matt said. “I think I can condense water vapor out of the atmosphere.”
The Rabbi stared. “Making water out of thin air? And this, to you, is not creation?”
“No, of course not,” Matt explained, “because the component gasses are already in the air. All we need is a catalyst to combine gas molecules into a liquid molecule and…” He saw the baffled look on the Rabbi’s face. “…never mind. Just trust me, I’m, uh… transforming air into water.”
“Ah!” The Rabbi nodded; this was something he could grasp. “Yes, I see.”
Matt cleared his throat and prepared to chant the spell he’d been working on in the back of his mind for the last few hours.
“Now I enchant this great cistern, when bare,
To let it pull liquid right out of thin air.
Fill it up to the brim, but then no more,
'Til water is drawn, then resume your chore.
Use the chemistry of energy and masses
To build fresh water from diatomic gasses.
Now refill the pool of this city divine,
Two hydrogen, one oxygen, molecules combine!”
Almost immediately, they could see tiny beads of moisture forming on the walls of the cistern. “There we go!” Matt sighed, relieved. “It’s a slow process, I admit—there’s plenty of oxygen in the atmosphere, but not much free hydrogen—but it should produce a small and steady trickle. By this time tomorrow, the water level here should be noticeable higher.”
“This is a good start!” The Rabbi nodded in approval. “If you can cast the same spell over the rest of the cisterns in the city, we should have water enough to last a long time.”
Matt frowned. “How many other cisterns are there?”
“Counting pools, vats, tanks, and urns?” The Rabbi paused to consider. “Oh… less than a hundred, I’m sure.”
Matt’s groan echoed around the cavern for a long, long time.
TO BE CONTINUED…