Part 2 of 6 in New Beginning

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"I counted three warships and over a hundred transports, Prince."

 

"Drat. How many units is that?"

 

"I don't know. I'm water-capable, not seafaring. I saw four stacks on one's deck, so maybe that many? But I didn't get a good look; they fired when I got too near the hex boundary."

 

"Do we have any seafaring units?"

 

The twenty-three other units in the city give him blank looks.

 

"I used to know one," volunteered a blonde Shoujo called Serena.

 

"Did they ever tell you anything about ships' capacities?" Ray asked.

 

"No," Serena said, scuffing her shoe.

 

He resisted the urge to ask her why she'd bothered saying anything at all. "Well, it doesn't matter anyway. Four hundred stacks. We have three. Can't we call in reinforcements?"

 

"No," Haru said, looking exasperated that she had to explain everything to him. "Maria found those Far Lane gwiffons in the mountains, and the Ova patrol did too, remember? They're obviously hoping we'll leave a city empty like that, so they can ninja-raze it before Groan's turn. Besides, they only have thirteen units too. Sorry, twenty-one," she corrected, giving an unimpressed sideways look at the fresh stack of Redshirts, sitting bewildered in the corner.

 

Ray thought. "Then we'll have to negotiate a truce with Groan, while we pop more units. Haru, you said our other two Casters were both Thinkamancers, right? How do I use them to negotiate with Groan?"

 

She shut her eyes and Thought for a moment. "It's cheaper if you're stacked with them, but you can Think to them and ask for a link if you know the other unit's name."

 

There was a pause.

 

"What's the name of Groan's Chief Warlord?"

 

No-one said anything.

 

"Okay, who's leading this assault?"

 

Silence.

 

"Do we know the name of any Groan unit?"

 

"The Chief Moneymancer is called Burns," Haru said.

 

"That'll do." « Thinkamancer Birdman, give me a link to Chief Moneymancer Burns of Groan. »

 

There was a crackle of static, and an image of a skinny old man with a long nose superimposed itself over Ray's vision. Burns scowled. "Who is this?"

 

"Prince Ray of Anima. I want to negotiate a truce."

 

"Hmm … no, I think I'd prefer to crush you like a bug," Burns said.

 

"I'd like to see you try! But you won't succeed anyway. Not with those gwiffons waiting for you."

 

"Far Lane? Bah! Those fools are no match for us."

 

"Exactly," Ray ad-libbed. "Wouldn't it be easier for us to ally, and capture their cities instead?"

 

"We're capable of defeating you both," Burns pointed out. "And their cities are defended. It's cheaper to wipe you out first."

 

"How about this, then. It'd be even cheaper to let us wipe each other out first. What if you give us a ceasefire for three turns, and we use that time to croak those gwiffons."

 

"They're as much a thorn in your side as ours. And the upkeep of all those units isn't free."

 

"Isn't there anything we could offer you to hold off on attacking for a few turns?"

 

"Hmm. A Caster?"

 

"Anything else?"

 

"No."

 

"Well …" Ray cast around. He couldn't not achieve anything. They didn't have the Shmuckers to hire Charlie, and Haru had emphasised that they were completely screwed if Groan had him on side. "How about this. We both agree not to hire any mercenaries for the rest of the fight. Save both sides the Shmuckers, right?"

 

"Excellent," said Burns, steepling his fingers, then burst into maniacal laughter. The Thinkagram fizzled out.

 

Ray sighed. "We can't hold Toe Quay. We have to fall back."

 

Their gaze turned to Sunset, the Shoujo he'd sent to scout the Groan armada. She was down to two move. Groan had a heavy flying golem with them; it'd find her, and she'd be croaked, for sure. She burst into tears.

 

"Oh, shut up," Haru said. She walked over to Sunset. "Gozaburo Ren." There was a twinkle, and Sunset had the submarine special. "That'll last two turns. Hide in the bay, then circle round east and get to Subdub. Oh, stop it," she added, as Sunset hugged her. She looked up at Ray. "So, what? We're just pulling back?"

 

"I don't think so," Ray said, thinking. "Burns was right. We can't manoeuvre with those gwiffons there. We have to get rid of them. Besides, I need to level. Give us all mountain capable for a few turns," he ordered Haru. He went back over the map. "We'll make it to Ova before they do … Haru?"

 

"No," she said. "First, you're Chief Warlord, but I'm Chief Caster, and four levels higher than you. You don't get to tell me what to do. Second, there's no point giving garrison units that special."

 

"What if I promote them to field?"

 

"What if I tell Dad that you're wasting money?" she shot back. He frowned. "Thirdly, I'm a Caster. I'm not going to end turn outside of a city, just to croak two stupid scouts. I'll give you and the Shoujo mountain, and I'm going back to Ova."

 

"What? But ― you're the highest-level unit here."

 

"Darunia," she said. He felt a tingle: mountain capability. "Try not to croak in your first outing, Prince."

 

She turned and flounced off. 


The Shoujo were much nicer than Haru. When he asked how their magic worked in a fight, they explained that they used Changemancy to switch to battle forms first, and that their Shockmancy made them about equal to three archers apiece. Not having a ranged attack of his own, he took the lead.

 

He had loaned Victory to Serena just so he could test his new special. It was strange, walking up forty-five-degree slopes as though they were flat; it instinctively felt wrong, but really cool. He could feel the warm glow of a +2 bonus, too. He wondered how sides without Weirdomancers coped, then realised that he knew exactly how: they either popped gwiffons or ships.

 

"Uh, Prince?" offered Amy, a quiet, petite girl with short blue hair, pointing. The gwiffons and riders were in the next hex, and had seen them. They took to the air; even gwiffons wouldn't win fourteen against four. "Permission to transform?"

 

"Go ahead. And thanks for reminding me."

 

There were twelve flashes of light, as the Shoujo Changed to their battle forms. Ray watched their stats rise; Amy's combat went from 2 to 5. Their raiment changed too; he wasn't clear on whether that was part of the Changemancy or their natural Dollamancy.

 

"Ready!" Amy said, looking much more confident now.

 

They made an eight-stack, and he mounted Victory and drew his sword. He felt adrenaline pump through him. This was his very first battle. "Attack!"

 

The scouts broke stack with the gwiffons as soon as the girls began their transformation sequences, jumped off, and ran away in different directions. The unled gwiffons zoomed toward Ray; he tensed, but beams of Shockmancy zapped them out of the sky well before they reached him. They crashed to the ground, crosses in their eyes. He turned around; Serena and another with long black hair smiled. The Shoujo gave a cheer.

 

"Right," he smiled, thinking that that was too easy. "Um … well done! I guess that now we should form two seven-stacks with me and Victory, and find those scouts?"


 Far Lane did not bring only two gwiffons with scouts into the battlespace. In fact, they had brought sixteen gwiffons, two megalogwiffs, two warlords, two more scouts, and fourteen top infantry.

 

"The Toe Quay group is gone, Chief," said the level 2 Stabber who'd been relegated to look for the outriders. "I found an Anima warlord two hexes south-west, with twelve Stabbers and some sort of beast. I'd guess it was about equal to a gwiff."

 

Major Stan considered this. "Not even close to a match for us, unless those are Shoujo, which they probably are. Eh … leave them."

 

"Boss?" asked his understudy, Lieutenant Meg.

 

"Groan will win here either way. Another Warlord will at least take a few of them with him. Besides, we're not here to fight Anima. We're here to loot them." He mounted his megalo. "Take your stack and rendezvous at 12, 523. I'm going to pay Toe Quay a visit."


Lord Moleman peered at the smoking ruin of a city he'd hoped to find intact.

 

"Oh, dear," he said.

 

 

 

Part 2 of 6 in New Beginning

Comments

    • WurmD

      I'm enjoying reading this :)

       

      It's not clear however who is Lord Moleman (from Groan, looking at the city the Prince said they couldn't hold? and thus razed? could be :))

      nor where/what is Toe Quay, a city of Far Lane, that had explicitly only sent the 2 scouts and gwiffons croaked? probably, K :))

      • Twofer

        I find it's kind of clunky to include maps as either exposition or author's notes, that it's better to let geography be revealed as necessary by dialogue or maps at the end, but if it's ambiguous:

        NB takes place entirely on one island, which began under Anima control but which Groan and Far Lane have been making inroads into. Its three cities are Subdub, the capital; Ova; and Toe Quay. Anima is heavy on Shoujo, which are powerful but so slow to pop that they've been losing badly.

        FL has a small but healthy side spread over a few other islands. They favour Gwiffons for mobility, rather than ships; this gives them the mobility for small strike forces of top units, but not enough for a credible invasion. Their usual tactic is to send lightning raids against weakened cities, raze them for money, and withdraw to an inaccessible hex. They've just done that to TQ.

        Groan is a large empire with a number of colonies, spread across the archipelago. Their strategy is to field large fleets with overwhelming numbers of infantry to conquer their enemies. Moleman is one of their Warlords; he's just reached TQ, and is disappointed that they only get a city site and have to rebuild the city from treasury.

        So, Toe Quay was Anima, and they consider it their territory, but had to abandon it. FL razed it, then fled. Groan has just seized the ruins. They plan to rebuild, meaning to conquer Anima and spin it off into yet another colony.

        • WurmD

          huh.. :) 

          I wonder why Anima didn't raze Toe Quay themselves, if they left it undefended :)

          Good reading so far! ^_^

          • HighJumper

            For my part, everything you said in your explanatory comment was stuff I'd picked up from the chapter itself. It seemed clear enough to me, but maybe the ending would be a little clearer as "Lord Moleman, warlord of Groan, peered..." or "Lord Moleman of Groan peered..." since you identified the Far Lane perspective by name and didn't identify the new Moleman's allegiance.