<-- Chapter 2


King Utha led the three of them into his map room. He had hired a dollamancer from the Magic Kingdom to make a table in the exact shape of the island of Prytain. Now, one of Utha’s archers was kept busy fabricating figurines for the map table instead of arrows. Utha frowned and looked at the map.

 

“The mercenaries came out of the North. The Pix have never popped knights before, and this doesn’t seem like one of their tricks. They like sneaking around, not walking up and lying. The Pix probably couldn’t afford these knights, so they must have come south looking for work.”

 

“What knights, Father?” Artha scratched his head. Utha held out the message for Artha to read without taking his eyes off the table as a Bunny placed some figures on it.

 

Utha traced his finger along the roads leading from Caer Lial to Caer Melyn. “That’s at least three turns travel. I don’t want six hungry knights travelling through my realm for three turns without an escort. Who knows what they’ll do.”

 

He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “But, disband it, Okay is the only warlord up there. I need a warlord to travel south with them as escort; a simple-minded stabber won’t do. Let’s see, who can I promote up there… Hey, wait, I’m losing units! What’s going on?” Warlord Okay: order: report.

 

A minute later Kestrel’s hat buzzed and a note came out of it:

 

Pix raiding party. After action report to follow.

 

Utha crumpled it in a ball, “Disband it! What does she mean by ‘after action report to follow’ I’m losing men now! Wait, now I’m not. And now I am again. Artha! I want a Chief Warlord Report, now!”

 

Artha put his own hand to his head and closed his eyes as he used his Chief Warlord sense. “Enemy attacking Caer Lial. Wall zone is contested, but we have far more troops than they do on the wall. Wait, now it’s not contested. Now it is again. Now it’s not. Enemy is all croaked father, the battle’s over. Wow. That was quick. There’s still some barbarian units there, but they’re not fighting.”

 

Utha wrinkled his brow, “They’re not prisoners either. In fact, there’s no prisoners at all.”

 

Warlord Okay: order: report.

 

Another message came out of the hat.

 

Pix raiding party defeated by dance fighting barbarians. Minor assault on wall zone. Request payment to barbarians for bounty on slain Pix. Full report to follow.

 

Utha handed the note to Artha. “Look at that. We only lost a stack’s worth of level 1 and 2 stabbers to a Pix raiding party brave enough to attack a garrisoned level three city. The Pix were completely croaked. We came in here to talk about a problem and I see a solution. I want to hire these knights; any comments?” He looked around. There were no comments.

 


 

Okay felt the order come through as she rushed to the wall. Disband it! I’ve got fighting to do. She ran back to the tower, grabbed the hat and went back to the city walls. Her concerns were confirmed; the Pix were attacking.

 

She penned a quick message, dropped it in the hat, and got to directing the fight. It looked like the Pix had come south of the Wall somewhere to the west of them and then swung around to attack them from behind. The fight wasn’t going too badly yet, she’d only lost a couple of units. Unfortunately, the Pix hadn’t lost anyone; they were attacking with javelins from the side of the city Okay didn’t have archers stationed. Archer stack 4, Stabber stack 11: Orders: move to south wall, opportunity attack only. Then the sound of a rhythmic drumbeat sword hilt on shield came from the north of the city—outside the city. That must be the mercenaries coming to earn their bounty, she thought. Pix don’t pop with metal shields. Well, let’s see what they’ve got.

 

 

Raise a cry and beat the shield, war begins toda-ay
I’m popped again, there’s corpses on the field
Across the way, the foemen stand, all lined up for battle
Anyone can tell the way I feel.

 

Ohhh, put me in Chief, I’m ready to slay—today
Put me in Chief, I’m ready to slay—today
Look at me, I can wield, sword and shield.

 

Well I spent some time in the garrison line, watching from the walls
You know I ground my teeth when my friends began to fall
So, say hey, warlord, tell the king and then go tell the heir
Don't say it ain't so, you know the time is now

 

Ohhh, put me in Chief, I’m ready to slay—today
Put me in Chief, I’m ready to slay—today
Look at me, I can wield, sword and shield.

 

Got a beat-up helm, a good-sized shield
And a shining, sharpened longsword
You know I think it's time I gave this war a try-y
Just to hit the foes, and croak 'em all, a moment in the su-un
He's a-gone and you can tell his stack good-bye

 

Ohhh, put me in Chief I’m ready to slay—today
Put me in Chief, I’m ready to slay—today
Look at me, I can wield, sword and shield.

 

 

And they certainly could. They could indeed. Okay had heard stories before about what dance fighting could do, forcing your enemy too dodge into the rhythm of your attacks and timing your own dodges with their attacks. These knights were clearly masters of it. They were also skilled warriors. Even when the Pix resisted the song, the knights fought well as a team, protecting each other and attacking any openings the Pix were leaving. It almost looked like the Pix were throwing themselves on the barbarians’ swords instead of fighting.

 

Now it was over, the battle had turned, and the Pix were fleeing. With a sudden start, Okay realized they were fleeing up—over the city wall. They considered a garrisoned level three city less dangerous than the Noble Gasses.

 

“Stabbers in place to repel attack! Archers form second rank! No, disband it, Agog! Point your stack in the other direction.” Agog was the first to fall from his mistake, then Yg and Wg. Okay felt bad for those two, she hadn’t even known them long enough to learn how to pronounce their names correctly and now they were going back in the Box. Oh well, Titans’ Will. Odd though, a stabber in Agog’s stack seemed to be doing some rhyme-o-mancy of his own.

 

A freshly-popped stabber named Og,

Had a worthless stack leader: Agog,

Agog was croaked quick

But Og had a stick

And stuck all the Pix in their—log.

 

Not great, but good enough. It seemed this stabber’s rhyme-o-mancy was working, he was stabbing Pix like a level 3 and so were his stackmates. This would definitely have to go in the after-action report. Come to think of it, wasn’t Og the one that resisted the mercenaries’ stun effect last turn? Now they were driving the Pix off the wall and the knights were croaking the ones that fled.  And that was it. The battle was over. Okay felt the glow that comes from XP gain. Not enough to level, or at least not enough for me. That stabber seems to have taken over his stack with his rhyme-o-mancy. It was enough for him to level though. His party tonight.

 


 

Utha read the full report that evening with satisfaction. Everything was going to work out. The king in the north would have sensed how quickly his raiding party died, but wouldn’t know why. There would be a halt to the raids for a while. Maybe even enough for them to take Hadrian’s Wall back. The Titans had not given him a rhyme-o-mancer to replace Taliesin, but these knights were enough for now.

 

They had sent messages back and forth haggling over the bounty on the Pix. There was a generally recognized standard schmucker/level/unit bounty, but the knights were haggling up based on how quickly they did it, while Utha was haggling down because the Pix had been distracted by fighting two enemies at once. Utha didn’t haggle very hard though, the real negotiation was yet to come.

 

The first mission he hired them for was an escort mission; to escort Og down to Caer Melyn. They didn’t like it, but then nobody likes escort missions, especially with the special conditions he was imposing. They accepted it when he told them he had a bigger mission for them.

 

Okay smiled and took a deep drank. The great hall of Caer Lial was shaking tonight. The ale was flowing and everyone was happy. There had been a brief moment of silence for their fallen comrades, but none of them had been well known, so it was a very brief moment. Then everyone went back to celebrating the victory.

 

The Noble Gasses had been let into the city after King Utha was done with his negotiations; they were making the party even wilder. They didn’t have any instruments, but they could keep a good beat going on anything at hand: drums, tables, chairs, even a couple of Cocoanaut shells.

 

Okay got up on a table at one end of the room and shouted for silence. She had a happy announcement and the King wanted to make it a pleasant surprise, too. The Noble Gasses didn’t get quiet right away, but they gave a drum roll until everyone else was.

 

“Units! Fellow subjects of King Utha! Honored guests! He has heard of our battle and is pleased!” She paused for cheering and smiled and waved. There was more to managing a city than walking around once a turn.

“Those of you here that had a chance to fight, fought with honor, especially our noble guests.” Okay waved at the Noble Gasses scattered across the room. As one, they smiled, nodded, and lifted and drained their mugs to more cheers. “His Majesty believes one unit is deserving of special recognition, though. Og-118 come forward.” More cheering as the stabber got to his feet and made his way to the table Okay was using as a platform.

 

He had already been the informal star of the party after turning around his stack when his stack leader was croaked and leading it to victory. Also, he was the only unit to level in that battle. He was a little unsteady on his feet, since every unit wanted to share a drink with him and hear his story of the battle. It had been over so quickly, that some units hadn’t even seen it.

 

She started reading the message the king had been sent and signaled her aide with the message hat.

 

"Whereas, We, Utha, King of Prytain by the Will of the Titans, Having Recognized the Valiant Efforts and Loyal Duty of Our Stabber, Og-118, and Knowing Our Own Duty to Behave Nobly, do Hereby Promote Him from Garrison Stabber to the Position of Field Warlord With All the Rights and Duties Pertaining Therein."

 

And the cheering began again.

 

This was the moment Okay was waiting for. King Utha had timed the promotion to be just after the end of her speech. Okay had been promoted from the ranks also, and would always remember that turn. Not just her heroism in battle, but the feeling that came over her that moment as her mind woke to a higher duty than just ‘stab the enemy’. She saw it in his eyes too, as it happened. The joy of knowing more and thinking more. Then, the sadness too, of looking at the units around and knowing that most of them wouldn’t understand that feeling. Well, some nookie tonight would take that sadness away. She hadn’t been with another warlord for turns.


 Chapter 4 -->


Notes

 

We’ve seen so much from sides with thinkamancers in the comic that we haven’t really explored what it feels like for a ruler to lose units and not know exactly why. Frustrating, I imagine. I’m taking the Ruler and Chief Warlord sense abilities from the wiki. I see it as a form of natural Thinkamancy that requires concentration.

 

The tune to “Sword and Shield” is “Centerfield” by John Fogerty

 

Hadrian was a master dirtamancer in the time of Utha’s grandfather King Publius. Publius hired a Thinkamancer and another dirtamancer out of the magic kingdom. The three of them linked up and built a massive set of fortifications along the hex boundary between Prytain and Photo. It was effective for several hundred turns, until the Pix finally took the wall in the time of Old King Cole.

 

The Cocoanaut Bird travels wider and farther than any bird on Erf, but it can be easily trapped with chocolate for bait. Its eggshells are very thick, and can be ground up to a powder that makes a stimulating drink. Chocolate is not native to Prytain, however, and the story of how Old King Cole got the chocolate is actually better than how he got the bird. That is another story though.

Comments

    • Salvage

      Another good installment. You are good with the Rhyme-o-mancy

      Might I suggest posting the link for the previous post at the top instead of the bottom. That way if someone finds the later chapters first, they can backtrack easily. Needing to go back a chapter after finishing is less common, I think.