Part 1

 

Part 13

 

Hopefully I had given Don King something to think about.  After breaking the call with him I headed to the courtyard, Maggie in tow. I had her relate a couple of orders. I could have tried to get everything I wanted done using direct ruler orders but Maggie was simply more experienced. I only had to tell her the broad intent of my orders and then she could fill in the details. Another advantage of using Maggie for relaying orders was that I got immediate feedback. Since I lacked the usual ruler senses non-special Erfworld rulers possessed I had no built in way of knowing if my orders were carried out the way I intended. I really looked forward to the time when I could delegate more once the whole situation had stabilized, right now however I had to micromanage most aspects of my side myself.



As first action I ordered all prisoners to move from the city into the dungeon, keeping natural allies and ‘normal’ Erfworlders separated. For guard duty I assigned all of my freshly turned golems, since only heavies had a serious chance at stopping an escape attempt by either Jillian or Stanley, and about half of my speaking units. The other half was needed for blocking the exits of my garrison; I still had lots and lots of barbarian casters running around in my capital after all. Any unit attempting escape would get one warning to return to his or her cell and then be engaged. All units had strict orders to attempt to recapture Jillian and Stanley if they should actually manage to get free; trying to croak them was almost guaranteed to fail thanks to likely intervention from Fate. Or if it did indeed not fail, the consequences would be probable horrible anyway.  Everyone else was fair game though, trying to capture gave a combat penalty and the lives of my units were more important than the lives of my prisoners if I had to choose between the two. 

 

I really would have liked to have a commander down there, preferably someone who could provide leadership. Unfortunately I was still the only Warlord of my side. I could promote one of my infantry units and probably would do so in the near future but I wanted to evaluate potential candidates first and not pick someone at random. Sizemore would have an effective leadership bonus if he led a stack of his golems but as Chief Caster he would be in charge once I left the hex and therefore occupied otherwise.

 

Wanda would have been a safe choice, safe as in I could be sure that Fate would not let anything permanent happen to her, but I did not trust her near Stanley or Jillian. Actually, I did not trust her at all.  Jack might likewise be compromised concerning Jillian while Maggie was needed as my personal assistant. That left Misty. As a level 1 Lookamancer she could not contribute significantly to prison security and rather was a potential casualty if a jailbreak occurred.

 

Perhaps I could convince Janis to help with guarding the prisoners? Her time out spell would be ideal. If another Hippiemancer had access to the same spell and would be willing to help out then the chance of successful escape for prisoners should be as close to zero as I could make it. Perhaps structural reinforcement of the problem prisoners cells using Dirtamancy? I had Maggie make a note, right now Sizemore’s juice was reserved for other tasks. If I wanted a Hippiemancer still in possession of his or her full mental facilities and not at least partially affected by natural flower power or consciousness influencing substances as we used to say back on Earth then I had better pick one soon.



My other general order was for my dwagons to assemble in the outer city and be ready for takeoff. Since the natural allies would be staying in the dungeon, they were no longer necessary to keep the peace. In the upcoming negotiations it would be crucial that my side was not seen as weak, therefore I would be taking along most of them and only leave a single stack of pinks in the garrison under Sizemore’s command in case he suddenly needed either firepower or firefighting capabilities.
On the way up to the garrison the first prisoners passed me, guarded by some of my units. They would have to be crammed in for a bit, since a lot of the cells were not ready yet. The twolls were still busy transferring beds gathered from the empty houses in the outer city. Personally I was of the opinion that every person should have his or her own bed, unless choosing to share a bed with someone else of course. They would get two blankets each, nights here on top of the mountain where quite chilly and the dungeon was not exactly well heated even before the coal braziers had been removed, not that heating had been their primary purpose.

 

Once the twolls would be finished with their current tasks they were ordered to new fabrication assignments while those of them most suited where charged with making a soup for the prisoners. In Erfworld prisoners only received one meal per day while normal units got two, one at turn start and one at turns end. Busy units could delay their meals popping until they had time to eat, if circumstances forced them to forego that until the next meal was supposed to pop then the first one was wasted, there were no refunds either. For me that was a small problem, I still ran on Earths three meals per day mode and got hungry accordingly. Therefore I had eaten a midturn meal from the larder everyday these last turns. My special status in Erfworld got once again reinforced concerning how my upkeep behaved. While it did go down when I ate food in addition to my popped meals, the amount of saved Shmuckers was negligible. At the rate my upkeep dropped I would have to consume about eighty full meals to halve it like other units could do with their upkeep. That would be beyond gluttony and physically impossible anyway. Normally I would order all my units to consume something from the larder until their upkeep halved but this turn everyone was still due the start of turn meal. In a few hours there would be end of turn meal and standard Erfworlder stomachs had limits, while the dwagons only ate meat which had run out anyway. Paying full upkeep for one turn would not end my side but it was something to be kept in mind for less busy turns.

 

So while I talked with Janis about the Hippiemancers helping out guarding my prisoners I let my meal pop. Apparently Erfworld finally recognized the cultural differences between me and Parson, this time I got a nice ‘Schnitzel Wiener Art mit Pommes und Salat’ or Viennese schnitzel with French fries and salad. The Hippiemancers themselves seemed to enjoy the novelty of an actual fire since fire of any kind was strictly forbidden in the Magic Kingdom for good reasons; someone had actually produced Marshmallows from somewhere. Once food came up as conversation topic a few of them volunteered to help out my twolls with cooking. I gladly accepted since there was no reason to turn down volunteers. All the non-popped food around me was vegetarian which was logical given the fact that there were no ferals to hunt in the Magic Kingdom. Meat was highly prized, at least by the Carnymancers and their stews. I made a mental note to try to trade some meat to the Magic Kingdom, I would not get Shmuckers but perhaps an exchange for favors was possible? One could never have enough social clout in the Magic Kingdom after all. Apropos social clout, it was time to make use of the one I had with the GMTTA again.

 

I wanted peace with the RCC and fortunately it also was in the general interests of the GMTTA to help achieve a peaceful resolution to the whole RCC business, after all the less time and energy I had to spend to deal with the RCC the more I had left to deal with Charlie like they wanted me to. Perhaps the GMTTA had connections they could use. From one of them I explicitly knew that he had a direct connection to a member of the RCC. Headmaster Roger Clearance should be especially interested in peace between SC and the Royal Crown Coalition given his relationship with Unaroyal. In canon he was highly skeptical about the whole “Perfect Warlord” plan and turned actively hostile once the collateral damage became higher and higher. If I could avoid fighting between Unaroyal and SC he hopefully would not decide to turn traitor. Thanks to pinky swears it should be relatively easy to reassure him that our interests where aligned.

 

Hopefully Roger would try to convince Queen Bea that it would be unwise to wage war against the “Perfect Warlord”. Unfortunately I could not simply ask him directly as there was no explanation for how I knew that he had a strong connection to Unaroyal, at least not one that would hold up to the amount of scrutiny Roger would be throwing around, therefore a general request to the Great Minds that Think Alike would have to do so after sorting out various other organizational details I approached Isaac.

 

 

“Headmaster, I will shortly leave the city to conduct my parley with Prince Ansom of the Royal Crown Coalition forces. Hopefully I will reach a non-aggression treaty with the Royal Crown Coalition. Unfortunately the time pressure is enormous as I need to stop the RCC column’s advance one way or the other. One of the main problems I foresee is convincing the Rulers of the Royal Crown that everything I claim is the complete truth. Therefore I would like to ask another favor of you and your fellow Thinkamancers. If any of you have connections to any members of the Royal Crown Coalition I would greatly appreciate it if they could confirm the statements I made in these documents.” I handed him one of the dittoed copies.



It only took him a few moments to skim it (or perhaps he had used Thinkamancy and or Eyemancy to memorize the whole thing, what did I know).

 

“Mmh, some of our members had dealings with the Royal Crown Coalition in the past and we can confirm facts like your unit roster to them, however we cannot vouch for your intentions.”

 

“Right, of course. What if I made a pinky swear to you about my intentions concerning the RCC and you vouch for that?

 

“That would be possible.” Isaac replied.

 

I wondered why Pinky Swears where not constantly used to confirm the truth and build trust between different parties and sides. Well, most rulers were not casters and from what I knew of Erfworld so far the majority of warlords lacked an understanding for the capabilities and utility of magic beyond simple applications like cause damage, create unit and heal. Also, for those who actually knew about magic disciplines there was the threat of Carnymancy. Granted, Charlie had the Arkendish and probably was the most experienced Carnymancer in all of Erfworld but even less experienced Carnymancers probably could cheat by making themselves believe that words had a different meaning then what the other side expected.

 

“Everything written in these documents I gave you is true to the best of knowledge and I truly desire a peaceful resolution for the looming conflict between the Royal Crown Coalition and SC. This I pinky swear.”  

 

That should do the trick. However there was another problem. While I truly desired peace I would and could not accept it at all costs. The Royal Crown Coalition might get the impression I was weak and try to make that kind of “peace” with me where one party agreed to everything the other party wanted. Therefore I had another message the GMTTA would have to pass along to the RCC.

 

“This will hopefully be enough to satisfy the leadership of the Royal Crown Coalition of the sincerity and honesty of my stated intentions. However I would like to emphasize that a preference for peace should not be confused with weakness. If the RCC’s rulers force me to do it then I will croak as much of their sides units as necessary. Please tell them that too. Thank you.” 

 

With that I bade farewell to the GMTTA for now. They had thing to do and I had too. Meanwhile the units I planned to take along for the negotiotions had assembled. To properly show force I would take most of the dwagons as well as all of my commanders except Sizemore. Maggie briefly told me about Wanda's scrolls and their properties. I decided to take them with me so that I could show them to Ansom and the other warlords. Any bit of demonstrated power would help.

As I mounted my dwagon, and boy was I looking forward to that flight, I shouted an order.

 

"I will now leave and parley with Prince Ansom. Chief Dirtamancer Sizemore, you are in charge while I am gone. I expect this city to be standing and not in any way on fire when I return. Liftoff!"

 

Behind me the dwagons formed up, with Wanda, Jack, Maggie and Misty riding one each. As we left the hex I ordered the one carrying Wanda right next to me. I could try to use the time spent flying constructively after all and it would be a great way to distract me from the fact that I was flying on a dwagon high in the air with all that entailed.

 

“Wanda, we need to talk. Again. About Jillian.”

 

“Under orders?” came the quick reply.

 

Another moral dilemma. I hated receiving orders which I had to obey no matter what, hated it so much that I resolved to get into a position where I could not be given orders anymore and rebelled against Stanley. It had not been the only reason to dispose of Stanley, Stanley behaving like Stanley in itself would have been enough, but it had played a major part in my decision tree. And here I was, about to give an order to a unit which disliked me and had to obey anyway. But this was too important and could go wrong in to many ways for to many people.

 

“Yes, under orders. Normally the relationship between two units would be no concern of mine. However, in this case, one unit is a fated caster on my side while the other is one of the highest leveled warladies in existence and a royal with lots of political, strategic and historical baggage to boot.” I sighed.

 

“That baggage will play a huge role shortly. Princess Jillian wants to croak Stanley because she holds him responsible for the demise of her side. She will make an attempt to croak him personally at the very first chance she gets and she will petition the Royal Crown Coalition to receive such a chance. Now, Princess Jillian is currently in my dungeon, so why does what she wants matter? Because she cannot be my prisoner forever mainly thanks to her relationship with Prince Ansom, Chief Warlord of Jetstone will lead the RCC against us if it comes to war and who is in love with Princess Jillian. In the upcoming parley, he will insist on the release of Jillian as a condition for a peace treaty with the Royal Crown Coalition. So once Jillian is free, her influence will come on top of the hatred the leadership of the RCC has for Stanley anyway thanks to his claims of superiority over all other rulers and assorted actions to back up said claim.”  

 

“Meanwhile Stanley cannot be croaked, not until he fulfilled his Fate. So unless his Fate is to be croaked by Jillian things are set up to go horribly wrong by the very laws of Erfworld. Regardless of that, Stanley is currently my prisoner and therefore under my protection. If this was Earth I could help set up trial for war crimes, he did attack Faq without a formal declaration of war, but there is no Geneva Convention in effect around here.”

 

Wanda had shown a slightly confused expression at the mention of war crimes. While Erfworlders often automatically grasped the meaning of words they heard for the first time thanks to natural Signamancy the whole concept of crimes in war was probably alien to Erfworld with the possible of exception of the royal rules of conduct and the general outlook to war of the Hippimancers.

 

“So, rather sooner than later I will have to try to lessen Jillian’s hatred of Stanley if I want to at least to reduce the pressure on me to hand over Stanley for formal execution. Which means telling her who gave Stanley the idea to attack Faq in the first place. You. Which will most likely ruin any chance for a continued relationship between the both of you.”

 

I raised my hand to prevent Wanda from interrupting.

 

“Now, despite what you may think, I do not want to hurt you. That is why I am giving you this heads up. And please do not blame me for telling Jillian. She will find out in the near future anyway. Jack knows parts of what happened at Faq and is in the same hex as her. She will seek him out, or he will seek out her. The Predictamancer Marie Lavraie might visit from the Magic Kingdom and have interesting things to say. Maggie knows parts of what happened from Gobwin Knobs perspective. It might be possible to keep the whole thing under wraps for a while yet but not in the long run. Too many people know too much and the pressure is too high for things to come out into the open. Plus, the cost for hiding the truth would be too high anyway.” I sighed again.

 

“I love my father very much. If we two had a relationship and then I would have found out that you were majorly involved in his death… I do not know what I would do. However, if you wanted a tiny shred of hope for continuing the relationship the least you could do would be to tell me yourself. Actually, I would expect a person who claims to love me to tell me the truth. Maybe Jillian can forgive you. Maybe not. You will find out. But my advice would be to be open and honest about it. That way your chances of a continued relationship with Jillian are the highest, however high they might be. Oh, and whatever you do, do not try to make Jillian choose between Prince Ansom and you. From what I have heard of her, she is polyamorous. If you want a proper relationship you will have to accept that part of her too. Now, I will not order you to talk to Princess Jillian. But strongly recommend it. Whatever you decide to do, you should hurry up. Tonight might be the last chance you got."

 

I gave Wanda some space so that she could think. For the rest of the ride I mentally went trough variations of how the parley might go. Anything to distract me from my acrophobia. Hopefuly we would arrive at our destination shortly, dwagon travel was rather fast after all. Then all I would have to do would be to convince the Royal Crown Coalition to leave me and my side alone. Should be easy. Right.

 

Part 15

 

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