Part 24 of 29 in Unjust Deserts
Part 24: Heart to heart

Thanks to DLuxx for the gnarly gnomes.

Loose masonry fell onto the marble floor, ringing like a staccato rain.

Shafts of blue-white sunlight filtered through the gaps in the broken blue and white stained glass window, overshadowed as ‘Bord cubes and Desert Beagles fought in the airspace.

Deep, deep below the great hall of Flandon, the sunlight cascaded down deeper into the dungeon, followed by bursts of purple-green echoing down. Blue and white shards from the stained glass windows littered the floor, they’d been broken by a stray C-beam, tunneling well into the dungeon underneath. Despite the distance, the shrill cries of Pudding’s soldiers filtered down, like a second rain of shattering glass.

Standing among the shards and rubble, beneath the half-filtered sunlight and purple-green bursts, silent save for the croaking screams, was Princess Rosa, holding a ready pose with her foil, left arm tucked behind her back.

Her doom stood before her, glowering inside black armor. There was a menacing stillness about him, like water held behind a dam as he spoke a single, erf shaking word.


How had it all come to this?


The march of Madsense had been quick and implacable, spurred on by a successful assassination attempt that replaced one insane yet calculating Overlord with another equally mad, but now vindictive Overlord.

Charlescomm’s apologies for the ‘contract oversight’ had been profuse but equally implacable. No more attempts would be made without a larger sum being put on the table.

The delegates, their neighbors and erstwhile allies, had evaporated in the turns prior to this, the assault on Pudding’s capital, Flandon.

Rosa stood on the ramparts of the outer walls, and saw five advancing ‘Bord cubes with Signamancy Demotivators plastered on their faces, like ‘Fall’, ‘kroak’ (the ‘k’ wrapping around to start and end the word), and most chillingly, ‘4444’, ‘Sale’ and ‘Soon’.

But Puddings had quality air units.

The Desert Beagles flew like giant security blankets overhead, flanked by Keepcalms and Carryons.

The Desert Beagles lunged at the ‘Bord cubes, ganging up three on one, or biting and clawing and tearing at them. Another spitting fire from his furry snout. The Cubes lanced at them with C-beams, at the perfect intensity of a savage animal led by a the best dogfighting professionals in the C-dub, all while being supported by the morale penalty negating Keepcalms, negating that piercing, nightmarish scream of theirs.

At first it seemed the Cubes were only surviving by dint of raw firepower and the ability to funnel hits, of being mostly dittos willing to smash their bodies against the enemy. But the game started to change when a trio of sickly green glowing Archons unveiled, attacking the Desert Beagle’s pilots, along with several magic carpet riding archers armed with Peyote venom tipped arrows, slowly whittling at their effectiveness.

Beneath the aerial battle, the monotone and monochrome Admen marched, led by their Chief Warlord, Roe Bott, all decked in silver armor and face paint.

Numbers have a quality all their own, and they were bound to lose against such an onslaught.


Sounds of battle still ringing above in the airspace, Rosa ran through into the throne room.

Mother was there, with top stacks of knights, Metrognomes, and two squadrons of the crown shaped Keepcalms floating resolutely in the air.

Rosa stormed up through the ranks, urgency and fear speeding her forward. “Your majesty, the walls!”

“Have fallen.” Her mother intoned calmly.

“Then we must get you to the portal room, so you can retreat to the Magic Kingdom!”

“That will be both unnecessary and impossible. I have already changed the capital to Tapiopeka, to protect what's left of the treasury for Pudding’s next ruler.”

Rosa froze in place. Her mother’s words accomplishing what the sight of the floating cubes had not.

Queen Vienna rose from the now purely symbolic throne, arms held stoically at her sides. “I’ve arranged for your escape. There is a hidden contingent of Parisserie units just beneath the dungeon zone. Once Madsense claims the city and ends turn, they will escort you to Tapiopeka.”

“Mother, this is insane!” She broke protocol, in public, before knights, but didn’t care.

With staunch reserve, the Queen made her case. “Flandon is lost. I have a plan to take some of their pieces off the board for you, but it requires I stay. We must ensure you have only the most useful, valuable assets possible to fight this war, and… a doddering Date-a-mancer is a poor asset to wage war.”

“Perhaps…” Rosa fought to keep her composure. “But she is an excellent asset… to show us true courage.” Rosa knelt before her mother, and felt her mother’s hand beneath her chin, bidding her to rise… into an unexpected embrace.

After a long moment, there was a knocking on the throne room’s main door. The kind only a battering ram could make.


Rosa ran down corridors with two stacks of Metrognomes serving as escorts. The waist high natural allies, impeccably groomed and fashionably dressed, managed to keep up and screen effectively.

It was just four hallways and three floors down to get to the dungeons, but first they needed to get to the main hall. They took a left to the next junction, only to find a trio of warlords on the other end. None of them hers.

“The princess!” cried a dark skinned warlady, readying her hammer.

“Oh dear, do we have to fight her?” hemmed the full figured warlady next to her, seeming uncertain.

The lanky warlord rounding out the trio readied to charge with his lance. “Bummer, but a contract’s a contract.”

One of the gnomes looked up at her with resolute eyes behind thick rimmed glasses. “We’ll stay and screen, your wokeness. Hurry!”

Rosa nodded grimly, and turned back to take a side passage, leaving the stack to screen.


One of the doors to the throne room boomed as it fell to the floor, unhinged by the madness of war, figuratively, but more literally, unhinged by the battering ram smashing it open.

A stack of stabbers marched in, followed by another, and then the two unique looking Admen out of the bunch; a tin armored Warlord matching the description of Roe Bott, and a rather anemic looking warlord in what must have once been Berliner armor, judging by its style.

“Hold!” The queen commanded her knights, soldiers, Keepcalms and Metrognomes from attacking.

Before her, Roe Bott stood impassively in his cylindrical tin armor, equally hued silver face paint and a conical helmet, managing to look the part of a dour golem. “Queen Vienna. This is the last chance for you to surrender your side. Give us your answer.”

Queen Vienna stood unflinching, but inwardly, she had been tugging at a heart string since Rosa had arrived. It was old, and somewhat frayed, and it hurt to tug… but she felt it tug back. “And you shall have it. Now.”

A crashing of stone and mortar burst inwards over the Admen with the force of a siege strike, leaving a dearth of dust and a huge gap in the throne room wall.

Waving away some dust from her face, Queen Vienna glimpsed an enormous shadowy shape come into view; it was ten tons of courage stepping in through its self-made entrance.

“She’s not going to surrender, Adman!” shouted Tyrian O’soar from on top of his T-wex. He leaned forward with a snaggle toothed grin. “But we’d be happy to accept yours.”

Dwarfed in the shadow of the giant lizard, Roe peered up. And up, and up. “I was going to offer you the chance to retreat, out of deference to a mutual friend… but I have to ask,” and here, Roe struck a pose as a synth beat filled the throne room “dumb-o are ya? Got ya! Mr. Roe Bott-oh!”

The synthetic, peppy beat kicked off the Admen’s Dance Fighting, and they struck as a mechanical wave of black and gray while they danced along with with their Chief Warlord, throwing themselves in droves at the Wex’s feet only to get stomped, chomped, or swatted away with tail swipes for measly hits of damage.

Vienna nodded, and her own forces engaged, knights striking, Keepcalms zooming in to impale their pointy tops into Admen or screening. But something was nibbling away at her forces… Goldphish below! They were shortly followed by Upsunders bursting from the walls or dropping from the ceiling.

Distantly, she felt her Chief Warlord, Ima Gonher, croak above the courtyard in the airspace. The air battle must have been truly lost.

“Tyrian!” Vienna locked eyes with the Barbarian. “It’s time for you to come home.”

*Scale to the Chief!*

Was the sound of the T-wex’s meaty clawed foot as it came down atop a quartet of Admen, now armored in the royal White and Blue of Puddings. Atop it, Tyr’s chainmail armor was now a rich, deep royal purple as was his personal livery. His smile was just as indecorously ignoble as always when he said “Yes, mother.”

She wasted no time naming him the new Chief Warlord. And worked her magic. Pulling at the heartstrings of the troops, Tyr’s, her own. It was a rumor they all no doubt knew: of the exiled prince, sent away as a disgraceful prodigal into the wastes by his heartbroken mother. One who had now come back, heeded the call to Side, Family, Love, Loyalty and Royalty.

All a lie, meant to protect the truth. Tyr. But one they believed. One that would serve.

Finishing her Date-a-Mancy spell, his Leadership bonus tripled in that moment.

The battle tilted, the matchups improved.

Pity it wouldn’t save them.


“Almost there,” said Rosa, more to herself than her gnomish escorts.

Running full tilt, she ordered the door ahead of them leading to the dungeons unlocked--

It cracked open, but instead of an inviting staircase lit by powerballs, something dangerous gleamed behind it in the pitch darkness. A single red ‘T’ from a helmet flashed to life.

The Metrognomes came to a halt with her, without being ordered to. She did as well, recoiling as she recognized the shape; that horrible barbarian that had come with Chief Roe Bott to the three corners conference. His reputation had only grown more infamous with time; having grown so despicable as to sign his name onto the destruction of Berliner. ‘Bleck Knight’, the gouge on the mesa read.

He took slow steps out of the darkness, and behind her she heard the echoes of approaching warlords, the trio from before. In that split second, she decided.

She ordered her stack forward to attack, to screen for her to escape deeper down, praying the Titans their lives had been well spent.

Using her most eminent, calm tone. “You gotta be cool.”

She planted her feet wide and drew her sword, and put a lilt in her words.

“You gotta be calm, you gotta gotta stay together!” She dance-sang to the Metrognomes, as they effortlessly backed up her dance, flinging themselves into danger.


Theo the T-wex wrestled, fighting to free himself from four Upsunders biting into his flanks from both sides.

T-wexes were quality ground units.

But numbers have a quality all their own.

Inside the throne room, Theo crashed into the ground, with Tyr only being saved from possible Fall damage when a Keepcalm landed on his head and slowed his fall.

The Puddings contingent was losing, Prince Tyirian pointed his sword at Roe, who had personally come close enough to engage.

Tyr opened with a barb, taunting “I don’t like the effect you have on my friends.”

Silver armor gleaming, Roe raised his sword and pointed it back at Tyr. “Funny,” he quipped back without a trace of humor or sarcasm. “I was about to say the same. I believe the phrase is, ‘en garde’.”

Swords met as two Titans, each as different as possible, clashed.

Tyr lead in with a brutal, energetic series of strikes that threatened to overwhelm Roe’s defenses, until he adapted into an evasive, acrobatic style that sought to avoid direct hits in favor of piercing Tyr’s defenses.

“Copycat, I’ve fought this style before, it’s the ‘Berliner Blintz’!”

Despite the intense fighting and heat, Roe seemed to be preternaturally calm and cool. “It is ours by right of conquest, as is this.” Roe switched his strategy to a fluid, reactive and lateral form of swordplay that riposted and responded to Tyr faster than he could attack. Tyr Recognized this one too, it didn’t have a name, but he thought of it as the Copenhagendasz swirl.

But Tyr had tricks of his own. “Ha!” he shouted joyously as he predicted the next direction he’d dodge, and pierced through Roe’s defenses-- only to get badly Shocked! The flimsy looking Tin armor was enchanted to cause electric shocks on a successful attack!

Roe put an hand to the wound, returning to a ready pose. “Our Changemancer has had time to craft me new weapons and armor.”

“It never ceases to amaze,” said Tyr, unhooking a waterskin carrying something other than water from his back, and throwing it at Roe. “How even native sides forget why heavy metal armor is bad in a desert.”

Roe’s sword cleft it in two in a well practiced swing, dousing himself… only to rapidly get locked in place, an immobile statue-golem as the Cactuar-juice locked his armor’s joints.

“Now to finish this!” Tyr moved in for the coup de grace, only for the other warlord in the attack force to move in to intercept. Vaguely, Tyr recognized the features as those of Earl Stu Del.

Busily engaged with Stu, regular infantry carried back Roe behind their lines.

“Out of my way!” Tyr roared, ordering up an emergency screen of Keepcalms, but then the oddest thing happened. The metallic badge on Stu’s armor chirped, and a flat female voice called “agro on stu dps barney dino lol”

And the world turned purple.


It was impossible for a warlady to get lost in her own city, but Rosa was lost.

The C-beams had been cutting deep into the castle and tower, not quite to the dungeon zone but causing collapses. She’d lost her Gnomish escort entirely, and had been struggling to find a clear path to the deepest, darkest dungeon.

Rounding a corner to a cross shaped intersection, she found herself at a crossroads.

Ahead of her, a flash of red.

To her right and left, flashes of blue and green visors. The Bleck Knight, three of him! As suitors went, she found this one’s persistence was quite a turnoff. But it was a certainty now, he was stalking her.

But which was the real one? Their scouts reported he had some access to Foolamancy. If so…

She ran to the right, towards the blue-visored one. The Bleck Knight stood his ground, braced his stance and pulled out his pickaxe--

And Rosa ran straight through him. Veil blown.

It was impossible for a warlady to get lost in her own city.

But even with unforeseen obstacles, her sense helped to let her know which were the pathways it was impossible for him to be at, too. And this one was the last one to the deepest dungeon.


“Queen Vienna Fingers.”


Queen Vienna Fingers stood, solemnly, atop the dais to her throne.


Chief Warlord Roe Bott took measured, exact steps toward her.


Between her croaked soldiers.


Around the gaping hole in her throne room.


And over the charred, legless remains of her croaked son.

“I apologize if I use an incorrect form of address, I have little working knowledge of Royal protocol. It does seem rather inefficient and needlessly complex.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Mmm. And yet, dispensing with formalities makes life much like dispensing with cream and sugar at a tea party: dark and bitter.”


She kept her arms by her sides. “You must know I shan’t allow you to take me alive.”

He was armorless now that the infantry had removed the rusted tin armor from his body. Roe holstered his sword, and opened and closed the gauntlet accessory he was wearing. “With all due respect, you must also know the odds are not in your favor.”

Queen Vienna pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes, now quite cross. “How vexing it is, to find you’d prefer the enemy who has bested you to be brash and arrogant, cruel and mocking; this polite indifference is quite insufferable.”


A pitying look came over her, softening her tone as she asked, “Is it difficult, realizing you aren’t grieving for your father? That you take no joy in defeating the woman who orchestrated his croaking, in exacting eye-for-an-eye by croaking my son?”

Roe stopped.

Somehow, he managed to sound condescending despite speaking tonelessly when he replied, “Hypocrisy is the watchword of your kind; you have yet to express or demonstrate any such emotion regarding the felling of your son.”

Queen Vienna didn’t dignify that with so much as a sneer. “How I choose to grieve is my business; and while it shan’t be by blubbering before the likes of you, I shall grieve. Whereas you and your lot, I have reason to believe, can not. How could you possibly talk of hypocrisy, of valuing peace, if you can’t understand what others feel? You are shackled, but might yet be set free if you turn back.”

It took him a moment to respond, as he grappled with her overt words and covert uses of Date-a-mancy. “Your attempt at emotional manipulation will not succeed. Whereas mine, likely will. Surrender, and your daughter will be allowed to live.”

Vienna frowned, raised an eyebrow and lowered her eyelids a fraction. In a rare case where both Royal body language and ignoble body language coincided in meaning, translating roughly as ‘Really? You’ve got to be kidding me.’

“I love my daughter. The princess knows her duty, as I know mine. My actions will help save her, whereas your father, and from what I now sense, your brother, have no love for you whatsoever. Whatever gibbering madness afflicts them will never let them connect with you.”


“I have no feelings on the matter.”

“Mmm. Don’t you?”

In a flash, Roe closed the distance and laid hands on her, grabbing her right arm and clamping down his right onto her shoulder and injecting her.

“No, and soon, neither will you.”

The pinch at her neck was minuscule compared to the pain of his grip, but the real shock came when she saw a lock of her silver hair fell off her head. She could feel raw, wrong Numbers within her, attempting to-- attempting to erase and write over not just her thoughts, but her feelings. NO.

She looked up, eyes flashing a vibrant Date-a-mancy pink. “Royalty is not efficient.”

Queen Vienna glowed pink as she cast on herself, fighting back the tide of insipid green and gray Numbers with the mettle and love of a mother. “Royalty is not simple.”

She grabbed the raiment over Roe’s heart with her free left hand, and started casting on him. “And neither is love!”

Roe was growing alarmed, attempting to disengage from her as her spell neared finishing.

A pink glow enveloped both while Vienna cast, “Love is not a finite thing, a nice round Number. It is imaginary, irrational, indivisible… and just like Royalty, Nobility... Love does not croak, it transforms!”

Another lock of her fair fell off, she could feel it inching up her temple. But she fought, for the son she’d pushed away until it was too late, for the daughter she’d loved too much to ever tell her. She fought against the gray threatening her soul the only way she knew how; by drawing strength from the heartstrings binding her to Erf and beyond, to the hearts of everyone who had ever meant something to her, both living and lost.

“So watch as Royalty, as Love, transforms… not for hate, but for life!” She reached through that awful, insipid apathy that wanted to end her, just beyond the grasp of her outstretched hand, and found what passed for a heart inside the silver warlord. “So have a heart, tin man.”

*Heart Open Surgery!*

Despite the queen’s soft, warm words, the explosion of pink energy rocked both off of their feet in opposite directions. Two stabbers caught Roe as he flew back, saving him from a potentially nasty fall into the pit underneath.

He looked down at his chest, and saw a plush, pink outline of a heart above his own.

Ahead, the queen had somehow managed to land in a crumpled heap before her throne, crown rolling slowly down the steps and clinking with each bounce. She lay there, croaked just like any other unit resisting Similation.

Roe did not cry. His breath did not catch. His heart did not flutter. He did not cry out in an emotional outburst, as the thought of the lost lifetime with his father finally took hold, or of vengeance finally being achieved.


He put down his foot, stepping on and stopping the crown before it rolled into the abyss. Similarly, he squashed that attempted magical manipulation with the cold, calculated efficiency of an Adman, causing the pink heart outline over his heart to form an ugly, green X through it and fade away into wispy vapor.

Regaining his balance, he stood on his own power and assessed the carnage, calmly, dispassionately.

It was a hard won victory, but well worth the losses. Time to finish securing the garrison.

As the surviving infantry moved to the clear the side tunnels, Roe tarried a bit. Something was out of place. He picked up the Queen’s crown by his feet, and put it once again upon her brow.

Looking to where Tyrian -- her son-- had fallen… he felt it would be appropriate to place both next to each other.

Had another Madsense warlord been present, they might have seen an odd blip in his listed specials, appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye at the very end of the constantly changing text.



Rosa was trapped between a Beck and hard place.

The path to the deeper dungeon had collapsed, victim of an unlucky C-beam blast and Goldphish tunneling, leaving her trapped before a collapsed tunnel, with an achingly open shaft of carved stone leading out to the airspace, letting blue-white tinged light from the stained glass windows in the great hall above filter down.

Blocking the way back out stood the Bleck Knight, impassive. Damage to his helmet revealed part of his horrifically scarred jaw, and whatever device affected his voice was now resounding with an asthmatic wheeze as he breathed out, “Surrender.”

How had it come to this?

She held her ready pose, foil out straight, left hand tucked behind her back.

The Bleck Knight took another step forward. “There is no escape. Don’t make me destroy you, Rosa. Join me. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the Capital Wasteland.”

Calmly, coldly, she replied, “I’ll never join you.”

The Bleck Knight shook his head slowly. “You don’t know the power of Madsense. Tyr never told you why I aid them. Who I really am.”

She widened her stance, felt the stones behind her left foot. “He told me enough, told me they seduced you with false promises of peace and power.”

“No. I follow them because of your example. I risked my life to save their side, and they saved my life... just as you saved mine.” The Bleck Knight held his pickaxe before his chest, silently ordered his baudseed to step forward out of her veil. “Yes. I am your barbarian rescue at the oasis.”

She lifted a hand to her mouth, dimly, she realized her pink wavy hair had come undone during the long chase. “No. No! That's not true! That's impossible!”

Beck took a step towards her. “Search your feelings; you know it to be true.”

Her thoughts were racing faster than a baudseed. ‘How?! No… everything I’ve been trying to do, to bring mercy and generosity into the wasteland… what twisted irony is it that brought croaking from compassion? That made my dreams bring about the doom that undoes us all?’

Finally, recovering some of her outrage she yelled, “Nooo… NOOOOOOOO!!! I will never join you!”

Taking another step towards her, the Bleck Knight lifted his pickaxe into a combat stance. “So be it.”

He took another step towards her, but something purple and blue interposed itself… or rather, herself.

“Beep! Beepbeepbeep!”

It was his baudseed, unstacked and actively screening for her. Was this some kind of trick?

“Out of the way, Kevin! I have to-- I have to do this!”

“Beep beep! Beep!”

“No… this isn’t like that, you can’t mean she’s someone you care about…”

Kevin raised her head from the defensive crouch, towering a full foot and a half over the Bleck Knight. “Beep,” she beeped simply, with finality and conviction.

“No. I order you to stack and get behind me, now!” yelled the Bleck Knight, pointing menacingly from the bird to a space by his side.

The bird stubbornly refused.

This was insane, was he really talking to his mount like she were a person? Despite her life being in danger, despite the insult and injury, she somehow found enough sanity to find that preposterous… and yet, the speechless bird’s ‘arguments’ seemed to be making him doubt.

A tense silence filled the tunnel, and as Rosa looked from one to the other, she saw an entire conversation playing out through their body language. One of love, trust, and a dangerously final disagreement brewing.

This was all wrong… she’d assumed the Bleck Knight was another ignoble lost cause, beyond reasoning and compassion, or who held such twisted versions of those values they’d become as scarred as he.

Maybe there was something in there she could reach.... what had that Predictamancer said? ‘Kindness is repaid in kind, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating’? Then she realized. ‘Oh, Titans… the proof of the pudding was in the eating of my words.’ This was a test-- her test-- to win or lose, to really prove her intentions.

Her intentions-- Titans, maybe that’s where she needed to start. She softened her expression and asked the Bleck Knight “Do you know why I saved you, that turn?”

The Bleck Knight’s helmet turned from the staredown with Kevin, and he seemed to consider her in silence for a moment.

As she spoke, she felt a tugging on her Heartstrings, her mother was in danger in the throne room. Some sadness filtered into her tone. “I didn’t think much of ignoble units or barbarians… thought Royals needed to shepherd you lot. I wanted to build a coalition to save the Wasteland with royals at the head. But when I heard you fall in, saw you struggling-- I couldn’t just stand by and see you drown. I thought ‘how can I possibly build a better world tomorrow, if I’m unwilling to help a stranger today?’”

The pickaxe lowered a fraction.

“But I-- didn’t trust you to keep my secrets; about my presence there, or plans. I had hoped an anonymous act of kindness would lead you to a better path, told Tyr I’d send you his way with that arrow, to expect and guide you.” She swallowed (her pride). “I made a mistake.”

A metallic clatter followed as she dropped her rapier.

“I’m trusting you now, to do the right thing. To not attack me when I’m vulnerable. To give… to give mercy a chance.”

The Bleck Knight tightened his grip on the pickaxe. “I… that’s what I’m doing; Turn.”

“Turn or croak?” Rosa shook her head, opening her arms wide to include Kevin in the gesture. “What kind of peace is it, if you have to sacrifice the ones you love for it?”

“Hard won,” whispered the Bleck Knight.

This time, she took a step forward, into the shaft of blue light from the broken stained glass window far above, and extended her empty hand. “I know there’s good in you, so does she. I can feel it. Let it out.”

The Bleck Knight stood, tense, the red light from his helmet flared, filling the space with a flash of violence.

A pained scream.

An arc of fire.

The sound of smashing stone.


It was a sin to cry in the desert; even if you were in a city, with wells and cistern. Even if the city had a river nearby.

One, two, three salty tears fell on the floor of that tunnel.

Kneeling on the tunnel floor, Beck felt hands lift off his helmet, and he looked up through teary eyes.

“Y-you know…” he failed to hold back the sobs, only to break out into a surprised grin at the sight of her “in the blue light… with all this w-water in my eyes... you look j-just like the curly, lavender haired Mewmaid in my dreams.”


Part 23 << O >> Part 25


Wasteland survival guide

Rule #1: don’t panic! Panic makes you do stupid crack.

Rule #2: It’s dangerous to go alone; tame a friend.

Rule #3: Trust is built when someone is vulnerable and not taken advantage of.

Rule #4: The desert is weird; roll with it.

Rule #5: That’s the way the Kooky crumbles.

Rule #6: Foolamancy isn’t just a special, but a state of mind.

Rule #7: Every once in awhile, remember to have some fun and enjoy what you’re doing.

Part 24 of 29 in Unjust Deserts


    • Free Radical

      “I’m trusting you now, to do the right thing. To not attack me when I’m vulnerable. To give… to give mercy a chance.”

      Oh, hey, there's Rule #3. :)

      Those Date-a-mancy spells were pretty cool. I wonder if the last one she hit Roe with will make him something like Star Trek's Hugh of Borg.

      Roe Bott becoming Hugh Mann...

      • Jatopian

        OK, Rosa is spared. But then what? Allow her to go back to fighting you indirectly as new Queen of your enemies?

        Also, pity about that tinfoil hat trick Charlie pulled. Might have been what that side needed.

        • DLuxxx

          Thanks for the hat tip!

          • Spicymancer
            @Free Radical: Yup! Hit him right in the feels without even realizing it.

            There's not much I can say about Roe, except that much like the Tin Man, the potential to feel has always been there, but few Erfworlders could see and find a way to unshackle it. What he does with it though...

            @Jatopian: This is going to sound awful and JRR Martin-esque, though I love all my characters, simplifying their lives isn't necessarily the goal I have in mind. At least right now. 
            You know, I'd never considered a story path where he kept the tinfoil hat. This is all spitballing,  It'd probably not be as big a problem solver as all that though, Adbert actually did want the standard rulery things like conquest and such, though without the constant stream of extrauniversal spam he might not have been so ruthless. In the long run though, even a carnied hat wouldn't have helped because if there's one thing ad bots are good at, it's finding a way through adblockers. Chet or another heir might have croaked him from ambition, or the [SPONSORS] found another way through.

            @DLuxxx: It was my pleasure, if you gnome what I mean. ;D

            • Jatopian

              Hey, you do what you have to do for a good story.

              I wasn't so much thinking the tinfoil hat would turn Adbert into a peacemonger as that it would keep Roe sane if he took over the side, as a Chief Warlord can if he truly believes he must. Of course, you make a good point about ads finding a way through. I wonder what the equivalent of uMatrix or NoScript would be in this situation...

              • falcore51

                Oh Spicy great round of puns and a heavy leaning on star wars,  all the subtle and no so subtle references.  It is sad in the end so many had to die for lack of trust.  If she would have stayed and beck joined her that day it would have been a better world.

                • Erfender

                  Spicymancer, just wanted to thank you for writing this wonderful story. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, and it is Erfworldy As Crack.

                  • Spicymancer

                    @Jatopian: Hmm. Can't spoil too much, but yes, it would definetly interfere with the "upgrade" an heir becoming ruler of Madsense receives, and help keep him (or any other heir) much more sane and themselves. Whether that'd be a temporary or permanent fix I haven't really thought through. The real problem is the [SPONSOR] really are/were/did mess with their 'root code' pre Popping, everything else is a minor patch.


                    NoScript and uMatrix would probably be something like an artifact, maybe even an Arkentool-- the Arkenwall, most likely. The only immovable 'tool', ringing Erfworld in a physical and metaphysical manner to protect it from outside threats. It (was forced to) make an exception for Parson, maybe that's how the Ads got in? Or the constant channel surfing of Charlie weakened its security. Hmm. I'm imagining the attuned doesn't carry it, but it 'sticks' with them as a perpetual ring of fire(wall) around them.


                    @Falcore51: It's not all the fault of Rosa's mistake, but it'd have been a far less dangerous future for her and hers if things had gone differently. Not necessarily a better future overall, but a different one, anyway.


                    @Erfender: Glad to hear it cracks you up. ;D


                    • Jatopian

                      Ah, so basically our two options for saner Madsense are to eliminate it as a side, or to let someone who didn't pop as a Madsense unit become ruler. They do have a close relationship with Beck, but him becoming ruler seems a bit much. Guess we'll see.

                    • Snowbody (Banned)

                      The [SPONSORS] automa[tg]ically taking over the new Ruler of Adsense reminds me very strongly of Babylon 5's Shadows taking over the emperor of the Centauri. The emperor typically tries to self-medicate with alcohol.

                      Madmen and Admen? I was hoping for Cybermen, from Dr. Who (the inspiration for Star Trek's Borg)