Part 1  
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Part 2: The Day the Erf Turned

 

Ch. 6

	The queen of Faq stared up at the ceiling of her room as the beginning of the turn approached.  Which, with the mirror that was inexplicably placed there, meant she was staring back at herself.  And Wanda.  Up until last night, it had been Ansom.

	Jillian had to admit to herself that she really didn't know what she was doing.  Not with Faq, not with Wanda, not with Ansom.  The last few turns, she had taken Ansom, Wanda, Vinny, and Stanley out to raid Jitterati.  Besides filling up her treasury from razing, thus allowing her to build up her three cities, Wanda was filling up their garrisons with (zero upkeep) decrypted Jitterati infantry and the mountains around Faq with decrypted Giants. Between that and Stanley taming dwagons, her side was getting stronger very quickly.  Provoking a big side like Jitterati would normally have been a bad idea for a little side like hers, but Jitterati had allied with Metroland to go after Transylvito.  They would probably find out where she was eventually, but for now she was blindsiding them.  A handful of more turns, and she might have enough decrypted troops to snowball all the way to their capital.

	But, last turn, King Slately had recalled Ansom (some situation involving King Dickie of Haggar).  Jillian knew Slately hated her (the feeling was mutual), and had no interest in loaning out his heir to her as a warlord, never mind loaning out the Arkenpliers to a Croakamancer.  There was going to be heck to pay when Slately found out that Ansom had left the pliers in Faq, but Ansom had insisted.  At any rate, Ansom leaving was all it took for her to fall right back into her old habits with Wanda.  Which brought her back to the feeling of not knowing what she was doing.

	She was even having mixed feelings about Stanley of all people.  He was an idiot strategically and a mediocre tactician, but the bonuses he provided as Chief Warlord were really nice, and it gave Jillian an excuse to direct battles herself. Part of her was still angry with him for destroying the old Faq, but everyone she had actually cared about there was right here with her in the new Faq.  Besides, it was clear that it had just been business as usual for him (doubly so since some anonymous caster had apparently manipulated him into doing it).  Hearing him tell her how he had gone from fifteen dwagons to thirty-six just on the few turns it took to get to Faq, when it normally took him several turns just to find one, got her thinking that maybe there was something to the Prediction that Faq would fall.

	And so it was that she was staring at her own reflection when an unexpected voice suddenly spoke in her room.  “You know your Signamancy really just hasn't been the same since Haffaton.”

	Jillian sat bolt upright.  Then she yanked the sheet up to her neck with one hand while fumbling around for a weapon with the other.

	“Don't bother,” continued the voice, definitely a man.  “On the one hand, you don't have anything I haven't seen a thousand times.  On the other, you will find that no one in this room will be able to engage until the start of the turn.”

	“Who are you?!” Jillian looked around the room until her eyes finally settled on a cloaked figure sitting in her comfy chair.

	“Ah, well,” the figure started, standing up and walking slowly toward the bed.  “I generally prefer Garth, your Majesty.”

	“No...” the exclamation came from Jillian's side, where Wanda had also risen to a seated position.  “Garth is just a myth.”

	“Am I now?” chuckled the figure.  As he stepped forward, Jillian could make out his stats.  Level 37 Caster?!  Grandmaster class?!  How was that even possible? “Then I must be doing something right.”

	“Who, what...?” Jillian started.

	“Garth the immortal.  The first caster.”  Wanda said.

	“What does that mean?  I could believe he's the oldest caster on Erf with a level like that.”

	“Not oldest.  First.  Said to have been there when the Titans created magic.”

	“Seriously?”

	“Honestly,” the old man huffed, “they weren't that impressive.  Big, powerful, sure, but they were never really the ones running the show.”

	Jillian looked back and forth between the two casters.  “If the Titans aren't in charge, who is?”

	“Fate,” Wanda said simply.

	“Almost,” allowed Garth.  “But not singular.”

	“Wait, you mean fates, as in more than one?” Jillian asked sceptically.

	“Many, and they change over time.  They play a game with our lives by setting Predictions.  The two of you, one fighting against all fate, the other fighting for it,” Garth shook his head and sighed, “all I can say, you've made a hash of things, both of you; you really need to learn how to exploit your fate better.  Though philosophy was not what I came here to talk about.”

	“Then what do you want?”  Jillian demanded.  Her hand had finally found her sword, but he had been telling the truth – she wasn't able to engage.  Crap, this was like Olive's Chill Ax all over again.

	“Nothing from you, child.  But Lady Firebaugh has information that I need.”

	Jillian could feel Wanda tense.  “What information?” Wanda asked guardedly. “And how do you know me?”

	“I have known you since you were popped, girl.  The Fates were quite invested in you, and I haven't lived this long by letting any fate blindside me.  I think you know what I want, don't you?”

	“The Summoning spell?”  Wanda asked.  The one that failed?

	“Something is going on in the world, Ms. Firebaugh.  Something like I haven't felt in ages, and everything leads to you.  What did you bring here?”

	“I don't know,” Wanda shook her head.  “I can't even describe it.”

	Garth stepped forward and sat on the bed near Wanda.  “Then link with me and let me know it.”  He held out his hand.

	Wanda hesitated for a moment, but then took the hand.  The two sat in silence while Jillian watched.  She had the feeling of something odd, but she couldn't put her finger on it until she saw that Wanda was getting a leadership bonus to her level as a caster – a rather substantial one at that.  Was that what normally happened when caster's linked, or was this more of the impossibilities that seemed to surround Garth?  Jillian was just about to give up watching and put some clothes on when the two of them suddenly spoke in unison.

	“We see,” the two of them chorused.  “It intervened, offering itself in place of the fated one.  It has returned them.  This has been useful.  A reward is due. Here, take this image.  It is her wish.  Yes, this will do nicely.”  The strange conversation left Jillian totally confused, and she didn't move away when the two, hands still linked, reached out to touch her face.  “Wings.”

	Jillian felt no pain, but rather a sensation of expanding senses, somewhat like she had felt when she became ruler, but extending from her back.  She flexed new muscles that she never had before, and there was a great rustling sound. Something soft brushed her bare arm.  A white feather floated down in front of her face.  Jillian looked back over her shoulder to find a pair of white wings sprouting from her back.  She dropped the sword and clamp her hand over her mouth.

	“They are beautiful,” she heard Wanda say, now apparently free of the link. Jillian turned to look at her chief caster, who looked somehow relaxed in a way she never had before.

	Garth stood. “Well then, I've done what I came to do.  I should be going. Oh, and Ms. Firebaugh?”

	“Yes?”

	“You have real potential.  If you ever tire of what the 'mancers of the Magic Kingdom have to offer you, come find me in Chessboard.  I'll show you what real sorcery is,”  With that, Garth was gone, seeming to simply vanish while Jillian blinked.

	At that moment, dawn broke, and Jillian felt a new unit pop.  Except, it wasn't the megalogwiff she was expecting, it was a warlord.  One with...

	“Get dressed!” Jillian ordered Wanda.  Jillian dressed quickly, almost knocking herself over trying to get a shirt on over her new wings. She settled for a halter top she didn't even know was in her wardrobe, and flew down the stares to the war room.  Literally.  Titans, she felt light on her feet now.  Maybe the fact that she had more move now than some of her gwiffons had something to do with it.

	When she got there, she found Stanley walking around the new warlord, looking him up and down.  Well, mostly up.  No sooner had she touched down than the new unit turned to salute her, the great white wings on his back snapping to a folded position.  “Attention!  Ruler on deck!”

	Stanley looked miffed.  “What's with the new guy?” he started as he turned to look at Jillian.  “Wait, scratch that, what the flip is up with you?”

	Jillian opened her mouth to answer, but found that she couldn't form the words.  “Wanda!” she called back over her shoulder.

	Wanda wasn't exactly hurrying.  “That may take a while to explain,” she said to her Chief Warlord.  She wasn't sure what was going on, but it was definitely caster stuff.

	While she was waiting for her Chief Caster, Jillian looked at the new unit. “You are...an Archy?”  She had never heard of that unit.

	“Ma'am, yes,” He responded smartly. “First level Archy, Gabe Real, reporting for duty, ma'am!”

	Looking at his stats, she could see that he was a warlord with three specials (flight, natural Croakamancy, and resistance) and a higher than normal upkeep.  His base attack and defense were pretty standard for a warlord, but his move was as good as a hers. There was something odd about his bonuses – he was getting Stanley's considerable Chief Warlord bonus, but he was also getting a “Ruler Type” bonus that looked suspiciously like what her leadership bonus would have been if she had been Chief Warlord.  She mentally ordered Gabe to stack with her, and watched the “Ruler Type” bonus jump to her full leadership bonus – while still getting her leadership bonus as a level 11 warlord.  “Um, Stanley, are you seeing this?”

	“Yeah.  It's like when I stack with dwagons.”

	“Or Wanda with decrypted.” It was almost like cheating.  Using her ruler senses, she examined Faq's production schedule.  Her other two cities hadn't changed, but Faq itself now had the option to produce two types of flying units, “Archies” and “Saras”, instead of warlords and stabbers.  She commanded Faq to pop a stack of Sara's next turn, just to see what they were.  By that time, Wanda had arrived.

	“What is this?” Wanda asked without preamble.

	“Our new unit type,” Jillian said without taking her eyes off of him. “Do you know how this happened?”

	“I'm not sure.  I don't remember much about the-” her mouth suddenly clamped shut.  Then her eyes went wide.  “Non-disclosure?  How?  We didn't-” her month clamped shut again.

	“Are you two making fun of me?” Stanley asked.  “I hate that.”

	“Get over it,” Wanda ordered.  “I'm familiar with the phenomenon, though I have only experienced it in signed contracts.  Suffice to say that we are magically prevented from discussing the issue.”

	“'I'm sorry, I just spontaneously grew wings, and now my capital pops winged units, but I can't tell you why.'” Jillian said sarcastically.  No wonder Garth was just a legend. Just thinking his name caused Jillian to twitch.

	“Well, whatever,” Stanley feigned disinterest.  “Hey, Archy, explain your specials to me.”

	“Sir, yes!  Sir!”


Ch. 7

	Charlie was gardening.  It was something he tried to do as little as possible, but right now, he really needed the escape.

	He was used to living under a death sentence.  He knew that he was Predicted to be croaked.  He knew that the Great Minds had intended that the warlord that Gobwin Knob tried to summon be the instrument of that croaking.  He himself had summoned Judy, an innocent such as there did not exist on Erf, and watched her stumble and bumble her way into slaying the leaders of the two most powerful sides of the time, essentially by accident.  For now, Ms. Firebaugh's failure to cast the spell had been a reprieve, but the Minds were sure to try again.

	This was different, though.  He had spent turn after turn trying to break the code piggybacking on the channels, using all of his free time. To be honest, it had even eaten into time he should have been working.  He had put off examining Jaclyn for longer than he should have (though solving the puzzle of the decrypted and bringing her fully back into the fold had been personally rewarding).  It had become such an obsession that, when he had found a small segment of signal that was being repeated over and over again, he had not even questioned it.  In fact, he had been sure it would be the key to unlocking the whole thing.  It had taken a few turns of concerted effort, but he had cracked the code.  Underneath a lot of numeric stuff that confirmed that the segment was being read correct was a simple, two word message.

	“Hello Charlie.”

	That had been enough to give him a brief panic attack.  It was what happened next that shook him to the core.  When he went back to the channel stream to double check the segment, it had changed.  Passed through the same decoding algorithm, the new segment resulted in another message.

	“I have been waiting.” 

	He had not told any of his Archons that he had cracked the code.  He hadn't even physically moved. The implications of the originator knowing when he had cracked the code were terrifying.  There was literally nothing he could do to protect himself if they had penetrated that far into his systems.

	So, he was watching the gardening channel.  But, at heart he was a Carnymancer, and could not hide from the truth forever.  Eventually, he pushed himself away from the channel in self-disgust, and re-focused on the problem.  He would check the segment one more time before giving his security measures an overhaul.  As he suspected, the segment had changed again.  In resignation, he decoded it as well.

	“Watch this.” it read.

	Charlie hit the panic button.  Charlescomm instantly went into red alert, a full lock-down.  Charlie scrambled to check all of his defenses, certain that the codes originator was going to pull off some kind of spectacular attack.

	Then the Erf changed.

	It wasn't some kind of flash of light, booming sound, or erf-quake.  To Charlie, it came as a sudden awareness.  The rules of the game had changed. Someone had done it deliberately.

	And that someone had wanted Charlie to know that they did it.


Ch. 8

	Janis was running.  It was not something she was accustomed to, but her situation was something she never would have imagined.

	Erf had changed earlier in the morning, and over the course of the day, many of the Hippiemancers had gotten progressively more aggressive.  Mostly it was the Florists, but it seemed to be affecting all of the casters that had been particularly dependent on some of the Florists' harder stuff.  As far as she could tell, they weren't working anymore.  Flower Power had changed, leaving its more potent products ineffective.  Cravings turned to aggression, and, as night fell, aggression to violence.  Hippiemancers started to croak each other, which had lead to the next unfortunate discovery: they no longer had the power to prevent engagements.  

	This left Janis completely unprepared to deal with this kind of violence.  So she ran as the Hippiemancers' grove burned, not really knowing where she was running to.  It was something of a surprise when she broke through the treeline and into Portal Park, and it brought her up short.  The glow of the portals in the twilight somehow brought her back to herself.

	As Janis caught her breath, she saw a figure bearing a lantern walk from among the portals.  She watched as the figure approached, resolving into an auburn haired woman in a cloak and simple dress, an eighth level caster.  Janis had never seen her before.  “Who...who are you?”

	The woman smiled gently.  There was something compelling about her sea-blue eyes.  “Hello, Janis.  You can call me Elly.  Would you come with me?”


Ch. 9

	King Garry sat at his desk, reviewing the reports that had come in from all corners of Chessboard.  The early ones had been queries about the sudden and unannounced promotion of garrison units to field units (which neither Garry nor his Chief Warlord Bear had ordered), followed by notes of alarm that the move of all units was going down regardless of whether they were crossing hex boundaries (including one rather exuberant report that units could now cross hex boundaries without losing move).  There were various reports from ship captains about non-allied units crossing hex boundaries on Chessboard's turn, followed eventually by confused observations that no other side's turn was beginning.  Captain Dick had sent a message that he could only get his full move in the turn by constantly moving in more or less a strait line, and Garry had a hand delivered essay from Nick on theoretical changes in natural and cast Turnamancy.  Poly had topped it all off by telling him in person that, against all odds, time appeared to be passing uniformly in all hexes.  Garry was still trying to figure out if all of this was somehow his fault.

	He didn't hear Kendra enter his study, but he felt it when she wormed her way into his lap and pressed her lips against his neck.  Garry flushed bright red, and she giggled, and then sighed becoming serious. “We can't make Gumps anymore.  Or poisons.  Flower Power is just...different.”

	Garry buried his nose in her hair for a moment.  He always found the flowery scent of it relaxing.  Like the rest of her clan, Kendra had bright red hair and copper colored skin.  Her body was small and lean, but distinctly feminine.  Dwyads were Chessboard's natural allies, and their stealth, archery, forest capability, and natural Flower Power contributed to the side in a number of ways.  They made excellent forest scouts and ambushers, but they also hunted, foraged, and cultivated enough provisions with the help of their Flower Power to contribute significantly to the whole side's upkeep. However, their direct contributions to Chessboard's combat power really came down to the use of Flower Power to make Gumps and poisons for arrows.
	
	“That's okay.  There are plenty of other things to worry about this turn, trust me,” Garry consoled.
	
	“Our daughters are very depressed, you know.  They feel like they've let you down.”

	Garry squeezed Kendra and kissed her hair.  Garry's relationship with Kendra was, to his knowledge, unique on Erf.  What other Overlord had an agreement that contractually obligated him to an exclusive intimate relationship with the chief of a natural ally?  It had been Garth's idea, and Kendra had (eventually) become quite enthusiastic about it.  Well, Garry really didn't have any complaints, though it had led to some odd results.  Such as the fact that the three hundred or so Dwyads that Kendra had popped (with Garry's shmuckers) since their agreement was Signed called Kendra “Mother” and Garry “Father”.

	Frankly Garry found the whole thing extraordinarily odd.  Very few units anywhere considered themselves to have a parent (generally royal units or popped heirs), and it was simply unheard of in natural allies.  The idea of a unit having both a mother and a father almost seemed like sacrilege.  But, there it was.  All of his “daughters” adored him, and it was impossible not to love them back.

	“Don't let it get you down,” Garry went on.  “Something is going on that is beyond your control.”

	“In deed,” came a weathered voice from the doorway.  Garth walked into the room and dropped himself into one of Garry's more comfortable chairs.  “Something I have not seen in a long, long time.”

	“You know what is going on?” Garry asked.  

	Garth waved his hand noncommittally.  “Not entirely.  But this isn't the first time an Arkentool has been used to change the rules.”

	Garry looked to where his sword was leaning against the table (and more importantly the Orb that was it's pommel).  “Uhhhh...”

	Garry saw Garth roll his eyes. “As ham-fisted as you can be sometimes, this wasn't your doing.  Besides the fact that it takes a concerted effort by multiple linked casters to pull this kind of thing off, the aspects involved, turns, travel, and Hippiemancy, are the domain of the Arkenshoes, not the Arkenorb.”

	Garry cocked his head.  “But, I though you said that the Shoes had been lost to Erf when Judy Gale used them to go back to where she was summoned.”

	“They were,” said Garth.  “Something brought them back.”

	“'Something'?”  Garry asked.  “That sounds kind of ominous.”

	“Garry, this whole thing is ominous, from top to bottom.”

	“I get that.”

	“So, not that I really know what the two of you are talking about,” Kendra interjected from her spot on Garry's lap, “But does this have anything to do with Carpool, or is it something totally unrelated?”

	Garth scratched his chin.  “I wish I could say for sure.  I can definitively connect all of this,” Garth indicated the pile of reports on Garry's desk, “to the grand summoning spell that was foisted on Gobwin Knob before it fell.  Both have the footprints of the Arkenshoes all over them.  But Carpool...” Garth threw his hands up and leaned his head back on the chair's headrest.

	“Well, what about Calder's report on Marecab?” Garry asked.

	“About that,” Garth said, looking at Garry again.  “As I've told you, even I can't get inside of that wall to see if it was really Marecab that took Carpool.  On the assumption that it was Carpool that got into Marecab's battlespace, I went looking through all the ruined capital sites near enough for them to realistically strike.”
	
	“I'm guessing you didn't find Marecab,” ventured Garry.

	“Yes and no.  Or perhaps 'maybe and no',”  Garth allowed.  “None of the cites I found were Marecab.”

	“That you found?” asked Kendra.  “Did Garry move an island again?”

	Garth laughed.  “No, probably not.  Garry, do you remember the Core-Em reef?”

	Garry nodded.  “I think so.  North East of us, mostly unnavigable, with lots of storm hexes?  Are you saying there is a capital city site hidden in it?”

	“Not anymore.”

	“The city is gone?”

	“No, the whole reef is gone.  Well, most of it.  There are a couple of reef hexes left, but the whole area around where the city site was is now 'deep ocean'.”

	“Um, it wasn't me,” Garry said hesitantly.

	Garth waved him off.  “Yes, yes.  My problem at the moment, not yours. Though next time you see Calder, ask him to take another look at that Marecab market.  I have a suspicion that Carpool might have found the city's location by sending their Lookamancer through it's portal, what with that market they have.”

	Garry thought for a bit.  “By the way, did I ever get around to telling you that Calder thinks Archons might be flying in and out of the Charlescomm portal veiled?”

	“Oh?  Well, isn't that interesting.”  Garry was surprised at Garth's response.

	“I put some extra guards in the portal room, but I don't think we would last long if a hundred or so Archons came flying through it.”

	Garth grinned.  “Did I ever tell you that no one can pass through our portal without my permission?”

	“Seriously?”

	“Been that way since the Magic Kingdom was invented.”  Garth grinned, standing up. “Anyway, I think I'm off to bed.  I could use some sleep.”

	Garry was suddenly reminded of something.  “Wait, Garth.  I've been having a strange dream lately, and I wanted to know if you thought it meant something.”

	
	Garth sat down.  “How strange?”

	“Very.  It's kind of like an abstract spell concept, but more complicated.”

	“I'm listening.”


Ch. 10

	Ace Hardware was doing what he always did, what he was always ordered to do, what he hated doing (which is to say, he was working on making yet another cloth golem from a pattern handed down from his predecessor), when Prince Ansom walked into his workshop.  It caught Ace off guard, not just because he had hardly ever spoken to Ansom before, but because he hadn't even known the prince had returned to Spacerock.

	“Dollamancer,” Ansom started, but then paused.  “Ace, right?”

	Ace brightened.  “Ace Hardware, at your service, your Highness.”

	“Right, just who I wanted to see.  Can you make flying golems?”

	The question just about floored Ace.  “I suppose it's possible, if I was allowed to experiment some...”

	“Can you give it a high move?  Make it carry multiple units?”

	Ace just stared at Ansom for a moment before realizing that this was his big chance.  “No, no, your Highness!  You don't want a flying cloth golem, you want an accessory that allows units to fly!”

	“You can do that?”

	“Yes!  And so much more!  I have Shockmancy weapons, armors that boost defense, boots that boost move...” Ace scrambled around, gathering his accessories as he named them off.

	“Prince Ansom!” a warlord shouted from the door to Ace's workshop.  “The King orders you to the throne-room immediately!”

	
	Ansom looked at the warlord in surprise.  “Duke...Antium, right?  Tell Father I will be there shortly.”

	“By force of arms, if necessary,” the duke continued, as he drew his sword.

	Ace saw Ansom's face harden and watched as the Prince stormed out of the room.  Antium followed, sword still drawn.  Not knowing exactly what to do, Ace quickly re-sized a few accessories to stuff into his pockets, gathered up an armful of others, and hurried after.

	“Father, what is the meaning of this?” Ace could here Ansom shout as the Prince threw open the throne-room doors, and doubled timed to slip in the door behind him.  He could see King Slately seated on his throne, with Prince Tramennis standing behind him.

	“You dare ask me that after what you have done?!” the King thundered back (in so much as such a small man could thunder).

	“What I have done?  I have returned to the Capital as ordered.”

	“After deserting your post to go give that barbarian woman a side!”

	“I deserted noting.  I was following Stanley the Worm to finish him once and for all after Gobwin Knob fell.” Ansom responded levely.  “And Queen Jillian is Royalty, Father.  I thought that meant something to you.”

	“Royalty?!” Ace winced.  King Slately's voice had cracked into the level of a screech.  “That uncouth, ill-mannered, harlot?!”

	Ansom's eyes narrowed.  “How dare you.”

	“How dare I?  How dare I?!  Where are the Arkenpliers, Ansom?  Where is the treasure that was entrusted to you?”

	“They are with the one they were intended for,” Ansom responded, nearly through clenched teeth.

	“That witch?!”  Slately's face took on a look of contempt.  “It was bad enough that you allowed a Croakamancer into our side, but to let her leave it with the Arkenpliers?  Have you no shame?”

	“She Attuned, and is providing much needed support to our new ally, Faq. I'd say that is more of a use to our side than my carrying the Pliers around as a glorified war club.”
	
	“Ansom,” the King stated darkly, “Do you know what has happened while you were playing around with your barbarian wench?”

	“Father, if you persist in insulting our new Royal ally...”

	“Haggar destroyed the entire column of units you were supposed to be commanding as they returned home,” the King shouted.  “Prince Ossomer fell, you useless fool!”

	“What?” Ansom's jaw dropped.  He hadn't known, Ace realized.  Maybe he thought the changing Chief Warlord bonus was just the King shuffling around the position.

	Tramennis stepped in.  “Air units, Ansom.  King Dickie somehow got his hands on a number of flying mounts after the Day That the Rules Changed.  They have been ripping our forces to shreds with near impunity.”  Which Ace knew all too well.  
	
	Ansom grasped onto this.  “That's exactly it!  We need to reorganize our forces.  Lighter, faster units.  You should see what Faq's forces can do from the air, even before the movement rule changes.”
	
	“No, no, no!” shouted the King.
	
	“I can do it!” Ace called out.  “I can make our troops faster.  I've got accessories for anything.  Attack.  Defense.  Specials.  I'm sure I can make one that will let an infantry unit fly.  You just have to let me...”

	“Silence!  I.  Will.  Hear.  No. More. Of. This!” Slately punctuated each word by pounding his fist on his throne.  “Leave my sight!  Leave my city!  Leave my side!  You are both banished!  Begone!”

	Ace felt a sickening feeling as the words hit home.  He had just turned barbarian, by order of the King.

	“No,” whispered Ansom.  Oh, Titans, Slately had really just turned his heir barbarian.

	“Out!” screamed the King.

	Jetstone honor guards grabbed Ace and Ansom and hustled them out of the throne room.  Shocked, Ace could only just stand there in the hall when they released him.  Then Ansom grabbed him by the shoulder, and, for the first time, Ace wondered at the way that he, a lowly caster, towered over Ansom, a warlord who could probably croak him with his pinky finger.  “Hey, you did your duty,” Ansom was saying, “and that's all the Titans ask.  Here, let me fill your purse.  Go to the Magic Kingdom, and find the portal to Faq.  Tell them I sent you.”
	
	Ace was amazed.  Sure enough, his purse was filled with shmuckers.  Yeah, he was a caster, he could just go to the Magic Kingdom, and anywhere from there.  As he was considering this, Prince Tramennis came through the door.

	“I'm sorry, brother.  I didn't know he was going to do that,” Tramennis apologized.

	“I'm sorry, too,” Ansom responded. “Um, is there any chance I could take my carpet with me?”

	Tramennis shook his head.  “You know better than that.”

	That's right, Ace thought.  Ansom had flown on his carpet from Faq, and it had taken him turns of travel.  On foot that would be...  Ace stared at Ansom. Without a side paying his upkeep, Ansom might have had trouble making the trip to Faq with that carpet.  With less than a quarter of the move, and having to go through terrain, there was no way.

	“Caster, you should probably head to the portal.  Brother, I'll see you to the gate,” Tramennis said.

	“Wait,” Ace said.  “Wait just a moment.  Ansom, take this: it's a one-use thrown stun weapon.  And this net caster (here is the trigger).  And this...”  Ace started handing Ansom all of the accessories he had been holding in his arms.  Then he unslung the crossbow from his back and gave him that.  Then his boots, his armor, and the contents of his bags, resizing anything that needed it, and explaining how each one worked.  “...this is a ghillie-cloak: it won't veil you, but it will give you a big bonus to hide and protect you from Lookamancy.  Oh, and one last thing, this is my soy-lent press.  Put just about anything remotely edible into it, work the action, and it will spit out a preserved ration.”  In the end, Ace was left in an undershirt and shorts, while very little of Ansom could be seen under all of the equipment stacked on him.

	“Thank you, Ace.  I mean it,” said Ansom.

	“I can't believe you actually carry all of that stuff around with you” said Tramennis.

	“Always be prepared” said Ace.

	Tramennis shrugged.  “Okay, now you should be on your way, Ace.”

	Ace saluted Ansom, and walked to the portal.  Cubbins was waiting for him. “They took all of your accessories?”

	“No, I gave them to Ansom.  He's going to need them.”  Actually, the fact that he was likely to use them brought a smile to Ace's face.

	“Are you going to be okay?”
	
	“Yeah, I think so.”  Squaring up his shoulders, Ace walked into the Magic Kingdom.

 

Comments

    • Malvaro

      WOW... Each chapter is more shocking than the previous one. Love the story. Love the rules changing. Love the new characters. Love the old characters in new circumstances. Excelent story so far!!!

       

      Now, about the rule's change:

      • Flower Power drugs no longer work and Hippies can no longer stop engagements. So, those two disciplines are broken now. Only those two? That's very specific... sounds like some kind of vengeance from Judy because of the Hero buds.
      • Charlie's receiving a message just before the rule's change... again sound like a personnal vendetta of sorts.
      • I frankly don't understand why Garth (Belgarath, hehehe) says it's work of the Arkenshoes... Seems like an overpowered Arkentool... The Arkenhammer feels like just a hammer compared to that... I hope it gets explained more in the future.
      • No Hexes' boundaries, but still move is a valid stat (though lower)? I think the factor limiting movement now is "speed". When Captain Dick says he gains move by going in a straight line maybe he is just going faster and becouse of that just getting farther in the same timelapse.
      • And talking about time... no longer hex relative time it's just great (I never liked it on canon). But how the turns work now? Everybody's turn all the time? Seems so, since the hex crossing off-turn.
      • Did anything else changed???

      Other questions...

      • Are Archies Archangels? (Jillian has angel wings now).
      • What are the Saras?
      • What the flip is going on??????

       

      Loved it!!!

      Please keep up the story.

      • Count_to_10

        Yes, the Archies are a play off of Archangels.  The Saras are a play off of the Sara Angels from the Magic card game.