<--Chapter 3


 

Warlord Og. Og the Warlord. Og, a Warlord to the King of Prytain. Og just couldn’t stop repeating it to himself. Not only that, I’m leading nearly a full stack of high-level knights on a mission for the king. I’m a warlord. Now all I need is more battle so I can level.

 

Og looked around suddenly. The last time he had said something like that, Fate (or Luck, he wasn’t sure) had met his wants. Just because he got more combat didn’t mean he wanted to be surprised. But, there was nothing on this hex but a few sparsely scattered trees and a farmhouse off in the distance.

 

“What are you looking at, Oggie?” Sir Helium Eyegouger turned his head. He was the most talkative of the Noble Gasses, and the one that had given him his nickname. Helium had said that while he had fought well enough to get a nickname, a title was still well beyond him. Oggie wasn’t much of a nickname, but it meant they accepted him.

 

“I was looking for enemies. We’ve got to stay alert, right?” He felt silly about his worry, that coincidence was something a stabber would believe, not a warlord.

 

“Naaah, not in farmland. Farmland has the lowest feral pop rate of any kind of hex. Well except city, of course. Even what does pop isn’t very dangerous. Wascally Wabbits is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

 

“There was that big, black dog we ran across in Brittany.” Count Neon Throatslitter didn’t speak much, but what he said was always illuminating.

 

“Yeah, you’re right, I’d rather face a stack of Wabbits than a dog like that again.” Sir Helium went on to tell the story for Oggie’s benefit of how they killed that dog. From the looks on the others’ faces, Oggie was sure he was exaggerating a lot.

 

“What’s the road like ahead,” Helium asked when he was done with the story, “It might be good to know what might really jump out at us?”

 

“I don’t know, this is the first turn I’ve left Caer Lial. I’ve never seen anything else.”

 

“Well, you’re a warlord now, you’ll want to be aware of these things. If you lead units out of the city, you’ll want to know what you’re leading them into. Xenon, you like maps, what is he leading us into.”

 

“I haven’t been in this area before, so I spent some time in the library while you were swilling yourself senseless.” Lord Xenon Heartrender said stuffily.

 

“Hey, you did plenty of swilling yourself.”

 

“Some, not plenty. At any rate, we will be going through farmland for the rest of the turn. Next turn it’s the Sure-Would Forest, and then the turn after it’s the Mended Hills. We’ll reach Caer Melyn at the end of that turn, if we have move left. I’m not sure of the roads.”

 

“Thank you all for all the help, do you give advice like this to everyone?”

 

Duke Argon Skullcrusher smiled and broke into the conversation, saying,

 

“When a seed first sprouts

“The wise gardener inspects

“Seeking for promise”

 

Og wasn’t sure what he meant by this, but it sounded like rhyme-o-mancy, even without any rhymes. He thought about it quietly for the rest of the turn.


 

Artha and Gwalchmai didn’t start out at first light when the turn began as they had first planned, there was more to do than just grab some lancers and go.  Since they were going to have a Hat, Utha promised not to end turn until after he got a message that they were out of move, and that gave them the time to make sure they had the best units available. Artha had to sort through the stacks of lancers and pick them out, but he also had to make sure that Caer Melyn still had a solid defense. He and Utha were talking as they inspected the ranks while Gwalchmai was getting the Hat from Kestrel.

 

“That communication delay during the battle a couple of turns ago bothers me, son.” Utha sounded irritated. “I understand that Okay needed to fight the battle, but I needed to know what was going on. And so did you.  If we had a Thinkamancer we wouldn’t have this problem.” Utha considered having a Hat Magician, even a Master to be a poor second to a Thinkamancer.

 

“What could you have done Father? Caer Lial is three turns away. On a good mount, it’s still two turns because of the terrain.”

 

“I don’t know, promoted someone or something. Maybe disbanded that idiot Agog before he got half his stack killed. The only good thing is it gave Og a chance to shine. Titans’ Grace. That warlord will be worth something.”

 

Artha nodded and turned to the Bunny following them to get a mug of cocoa from her. His grandfather had captured a Cocoanaut for breeding, and now, in the capitol they could occasionally get a cup of cocoa. Most of the time the bird didn’t lay enough eggs to use though. The Bunny smiled as he turned to her and nodded. They performed so much better when you gave them individual attention. Of course, all units did.

 

“What we need father, is a new idea. Whether you want it or not, the Titans gave you a Hat Magician, and we have to use him as best we can.”

 

“What kind of new ideas are you talking about?”

 

“I don’t know either, that’s why they’re new.” They continued walking through the ranks, picking out this lancer or that one and sipping their cocoa.

 

Suddenly, Artha had a thought, “Marilyn, what would you do?”

 

“Marilyn, who’s Marilyn? That’s not this lancer’s name.” Utha turned to his son, a confused look on his face.

 

“It’s the Bunny’s name, father.”

 

“Bunnies have names? When did that start?”

 

“All units have names. They like it when you use them. It raises Loyalty—I think.”

 

“Still, why would you care what—Marilyn thinks. She’s just a Bunny.”

 

“We need a new idea, father. She doesn’t think like a warlord, and she doesn’t think like a caster, so she’ll come up with a different idea. We don’t have to use it, but it might give us new ideas of our own. Order: Marilyn: speak up

 

“Bunnies are here to help, highness. I’d be happy to help with this too. I think you could put a Bunny in every city and give them the Hat for their city. They can operate the Hats while the warlords make war. Just call them Operators to set them apart from the regular Bunnies. Have apprentice Nimue work out a system where each Hat has a code, so an Operator can send to any Hat in the network.”

 

Utha just stared, stunned that one of his Bunnies had such a coherent thought.

 

Artha rubbed his face to keep a smile from showing. “Every city? That’s an awful lot of code words, Marilyn, I think there’s a limit on which words he can use.”

 

“Well, then use numbers too. Say if you want to send, then you use the exchange code word ‘Klondike’ and then the Hat number 50001.

 

If you want to receive then it’s ‘Klick’ 50001. With that big of a number, you won’t run out, even with only a few words.”

 

Utha finally recovered his voice, “That’s a good idea. How did you come up with that, anyway?”

 

“I’ve been at court for a long time, and seen a lot, sire. I just had to think about what would connect everyone.”

 

“How old are you, Marilyn?”

 

“13,215 turns, highness.” She smiled and curtsied.


 

Og and the knights passed the turn’s end in relative comfort. Sir Helium came up with the idea that they spend the night in a farmhouse. Og thought it over. Since they were under contract to the king their rations would be popping at dawn. Then there would be no worry about destructive foraging, so he was doing his Duty to protect the kingdom. Og went along with it. There was no-one managing this farm, so they spent the night as quietly as any stack with Sir Helium in it could.

 

The next morning their rations popped and they headed out. The very next hex, as Lord Xenon had told them, was the entrance to Sure-Would Forest. The light from the sun shone through the leaves, carpeting the ground with green light. It made for very pleasant travel for the first few hexes. The next hex, however, the forest turned darker, the trees thicker, the leaves heavier, and the very branches themselves seemed threatening.

 

Each of the Noble Gasses loosened their swords in their scabbards and started looking from side to side suspiciously. “Bad signamancy.” Count Neon said.

 

His suspicions were proven true when an arrow flew out of the woods, and stuck quivering in a tree next to them. “Halt, travelers!” A male unit walked out of the woods, Warlord: special (archery, forest) dressed all in green with a three-cornered hat and carrying a bow.

 

“Makest thou no threatening moves. I am Robbing Hood, of the Sure-Would Forest, and these are my Very Men.” He waved into the dark woods behind him.

 

“I don’t see anyone.”

 

“They’re hiding. But they are not fearful, my Very Men have their bows drawn, and We Sure-Would croak thee if thou resist, unless…”

 

“Unless, what?”

 

“I see that thou art all warlords, and as such, must have purses. Empty them, and we shall not croak thee. I Sure-Would entreat you to save your own lives. Even if you have no use for them, your King must.”

 

Og shifted his feet. “I am a warlord of Utha, King of Prytain on whose lands you are standing. He may not have noticed you so far, but if you assault me he will send men up to rout you out of these woods and croak you where you stand.”

 

“The king. Hmph, we can hide from his clumsy knights for as many turns as it takes them to get bored… or fall into our traps. They Sure-Would not be able to track us.”

 

Duke Argon stepped forward. “I Sure-Would like to sing a little song.” Without waiting for permission, he started clapping and stomping his feet. When the beat was clear the rest of the Noble Gasses joined him.

 

Robbing, you're a fresh-popped unit,
Looking at your purse, gonna depop next turn,
You got fear on your face,
You big disgrace,
Foraging hard just to stay in your place.

 

Singing:
We will, we will croak you,
We will, we will croak you.

 

Robbing you're a warlord,
Bragging in the woods, gonna take on the king next turn,
You got a sneer on your face,
You big disgrace,
Waving your bow all over the place.

 

Singing:
We will, we will croak you,
We will, we will croak you.

 

Robbing, you're a croaked man, doomed man,
Pleading with your eyes, gonna beg
For your life this turn,
You got fear on your face,
You big disgrace,
Somebody’s putting you back into your place.

 

Singing:
We will we will croak you,
We will we will croak you.

 

Everybody,
We will we will croak you,
We will we will croak you.

 

Og folded his arms when the song was over, “Your Very Men are now stunned and incapacitated. The seven of us can hunt you down and croak you before you shoot more than a single arrow. Then we will come back and croak every one of your incapacitated men. Unless…”

 

Robbing spun about and called out to the forest, “John Boy? Friar Tic? Red Bill? Mulch? You there?” He turned around again, and shifted his eyes from knight to knight, “Unless what?”

 

“Unless you and your Very Men surrender, come to Caer Melyn with us in chains, beg the king’s mercy, and pledge to join his side. Being forest capable units, he will want you in the north to fight the savage Pix. I Sure-Would prefer it if you surrendered.”

 


 Chapter 5-->


 

Notes

 

Wascally Wabbits are more of an annoyance than a threat. They have a very high dodge, but not much of an attack. They have a low unit cost though, so they do breed a lot. When their numbers get too large, their foraging turns destructive.

 

Bunnies have high natural date-a-mancy, but they’re not date-a-mancers. This is why she needs Nimue to actually implement the code. It’s somewhat like the difference between a Stupidworld engineer and a technician. The technician can use the tools and analyze them and make wonderful things with them, but it takes an engineer to dream up the tools. The exception in Marilyn’s case is how old and how smart she is.

 

‘We Will Croak You’ is sung to ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen (as if you couldn’t tell)

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