It was a perfectly average, sunny turn in the Magic Kingdom and Adept Mathamancer Nash Equilibrium was sitting still while staring at a piece of paper with scribbles all over it. Nash was a thoroughly unremarkable example of his class, thin of frame and balding on top with grey hair and wire-frame glasses that he alternately peered over and through. Nash wore a rumpled greyish-brown tweed suit with a vest and had several pens of different colors in his shirt pocket which he took out from time to time to take notes on another piece of paper on a lap desk in the grass next to him. He had been sitting like this for the last twenty turns.

 

Mathamancer Nash's last contract had been for the Skunkworks of Cia. He had been optimizing mining pathways for maximum probable gain in minimum time. Previously, they were drawing pretty pictures on maps. It was a simple application of a three dimensional space-filling fractal, but those words would be meaningless together to anyone but a Mathamancer. Nash had recently completed the contract and was flush with schmuckers, so he had turned to some Mathamancy of his own interest.

 

Right now his interest was cryptography. The information on this page was hidden with Foolamancy, but since the information was there, it must be possible to analyze what was visible and calculate the rest. More than one master Eyemancer he trusted had assured him that there was something there, Nash merely had to make the right calculations and deduce the rest. A shadow fell over the page.

 

“I'm not hungry, Alicia.” He said idly. Alicia was a Date-a-mancer with an interest in Mathamancy. She was studying him the way he was studying the page in front of him. She didn’t hide what she was doing, so he agreed in return for the occasional meal. She had leveled while studying him, something few Hippiemancers ever even achieved, and he had a lower upkeep because of it. It worked well for both of them.

 

“I’m not Alicia.” A harsh, male voice above him replied. “I have work for you, not food.”

 

Nash didn’t even look up. “If you're not Alicia, then go away. I'm doing well and I'm busy with my own research. I don’t need a contract right now.”

 

“You will take this contract. It has been FORETOLD.” The voice continued to interrupt his calculations. The tone of the last word made Nash look up.

 

He found himself staring at a male unit with extremely unpleasant Signamancy. The caster staring down was a completely bald, incredibly fat old man wearing only a long, wrinkled white robe and a pair of sandals.  He was holding an uncarved wooden staff nearly three inches thick and his mouth was drawn down into a wrinkled frown that was most likely the Titans’ punishment for making his ruler unhappy too many times. The most remarkable thing about him were his eyes—they weren’t there. Below each of his thick, bushy white eyebrows was a burnt-out socket where an eye should have been. Nash frowned at the illogic of it, being stared at by a man with no eyes.

 

“That face of yours is rather unsettling, have you ever considered seeing a Healomancer about those eyes?” Nash asked.

 

“Many times. Many, many times. I have also Foreseen croaking immediately afterwards. I’d prefer to put that off for as long as possible.” The caster’s gaze took a less penetrating cast with this comment.

 

“Foretold, eh? I suppose you’re a Predictamancer.” Nash asked, standing up, while carefully folding the paper and putting it away safely inside a pocket of the tweed duds he wore. “If you can predict what your side needs, what do you need me for? Why not just do it?”

 

“For the same reason you were staring at that piece of paper when I walked up. I know there is a solution, I simply do not know what the steps are which lead to it.” The Predictamancer started frowning again. “I know you will work the contract, but I don’t know what will lead you to do it. What do you want, schmuckers, gems, tower time?”

 

“How did you know what I was doing when you walked up?” Nash asked. “You’re blind. And how did you know what my study meant?”

 

“I use low-level Predictamancy to tell my way.” The Predictamancer tilted his head and shrugged, “I don’t see where I’m going, I predict where I’m about to be. I also received a prediction of you solving the problem on that paper. It seemed to mean quite a lot to you for some reason.”

 

Now Nash was interested. “You know I’m going to solve this? Where? When?” He asked hurriedly.

 

“In the Tower of Pareto. It is a level three city on the border of my side’s oldest rival and the reason for this contract.”

 

“Well then,” Nash said, rubbing his hands together, “let me tell Alicia I’ll be gone for a while and let’s head to Portal Park to meet your ruler.

 

“I will meet you at the edge of the park. I have no interest in entering the Hippiemancer Glade.” With that, the Predictamancer turned, put his hood up, and strode toward the center of the island.

 

 

Nash was greeted by the sight of crowds of casters walking in every possible direction, both singly and in small groups, as he stepped out of the Hippiemancer Glade onto the verge of Portal Park. The multi-colored swirl of rectangles were doorways to the many sides that lay in the center of the island. There was a pattern there, but no-one knew what it was. The chaotic arrangement was more complex than the pattern of growth on the veins of a leaf or of the shape of a cloud in the sky--but there was a tantalizing something that told you there was an arrangement of some kind. It was considered an adept problem—too hard for an apprentice and by the time you made master you realized there were more productive ways to spend your juice.

 

As the Predictamancer had said, he met Nash on the border and led him to a perfectly normal looking golden, glowing portal, one neither near the center nor the edge--not that location mattered in the least. They stepped through, and Nash found himself in a huge room. Every portal room was different, every portal room told you something about the side. This side was focused on security and was concerned about dirtamancers.

 

The portal room was really more of a domed cave than a room and the portal itself was on a small pillar in the center of the room with a platform around it that was barely large enough to stand on. The rest of the room was a huge lake, with the only boat on the far side, bearing one small lantern at the bow. As they stepped through, Nash thought he could hear the orders of pikers and archers snapping to battle-ready positions far across the cave as the boat started to move.



“I am Amalgam II, king of Mishmash, and I have called you here because I love order.”

 

This was not at all evident. Perhaps the king liked giving orders, but it was unlikely King Amalgam really loved order itself. As Mathamancer Nash looked around, he could see evidence of every single type of unit imaginable displayed on the walls or standing in neat rows at attention beneath them. Everything was in rows and columns—there was that—but there was no further order, neither type nor unit nor special nor Signamancy—not even color. A twoll stood next to a shady elf stood next to a piker stood next to a—something-or-other. Hung on the walls above them were croaked unipegataur, doombat, and dwagon skulls as if the king was equally proud of all three trophies.

 

“How may we do business together, your Majesty?” Mathamancer Nash was careful with his language. He was not about to serve; it always lowered his negotiating power, and he didn’t really want to be here anyway. Rulers were too used to service anyway; it did them good to remind them they were negotiating with an equal.

 

“Princess Alloy, explain.” The king replied with a wave.

 

Whatever metals the Titans had mixed to make Princess Alloy, they had mixed to perfection. They must have wanted a Chief Warlord, because that was what they mixed. From her clipped, dark brown hair to her polished shoes, her Signamancy was truly Noble. The look on her face was one who was both well used to command and expecting to do it. Every muscle was a steel spring ready to explode into combat. The armor she wore fit her better than any he had seen before and she wore it like court dancing duds. Her eyes scanned him, immediately taking in every stat, every special the Titans showed, and several they merely implied. Her voice when she spoke completely ruined the effect.

 

“Tee-hee.” She giggled in a high-pitched squeak. “So, umm, ahh. There's these enemy sides… to the south… and the west… and they’ve just started giving us trouble?” Was she asking him?

 

There was a long pause. She was asking him. “And?” He asked.

 

“We-aaalll.” She rolled her neck. “We can take both of ‘em with no trouble. Honest. Really.” She assured him.

 

“Then what’s the trouble?” Usually sides wanted to tell you their problems instead of making you ask.

 

“Let’s us go to the magic map room and I’ll show you. We’ve got a Dirtamancy thingy that helps plan battles.” She closed her mouth with a snap and turned back into the perfect image of a Chief Warlord, first nodding respectfully to the king and then gesturing Nash to an ornate doorway in the back of the throne room.

 

King Amalgam stood up, “At the advice of the chief warlord, this court is recessed.” He waddled off in the other direction as Nash, Alloy and a pair of pikers headed for the map room.

 

 

The map room itself was as ornate as the doorway leading to it. It was a huge room with the floor laid out as the hexes of a map of the kingdom. Each hex was carefully crafted to show what kind of terrain it was, field or forest, hill or town. Above all this, courtiers were flying around on winged shoes adjusting simple wooden markers that told where every unit in the kingdom was, friend or foe.

 

“Step over here.” She directed him to a pink tapestry on the floor with a white winged horse on it. When he and the pikers stood on it, it became clear it was a flying carpet. She ordered It to an excellent vantage point and after directing the courtiers out of the way, began speaking again.

 

“Now let’s jest seee…” she started. “You can see over there to the west and south how there’s troops on the border.” In the directions she pointed the hexes became considerably less ornate at the edge as it showed the neighboring sides. Nash could see little wooden figures, but he didn’t know what they meant.

 

“To some extent.” Vagueness was better than ignorance.

 

“So, all they got now is a few infantry units and some scouts, just to see what we'll do, but the fact that they put them there means they’re plannin' sumptin'."

 

“You seem to have everything under control.” Nash replied. He didn’t want to talk himself out of a job, but he didn’t see one here in the first place. He wasn’t a warlord, but he trusted her analysis—just not her voice.

 

The flying carpet spun around suddenly. “Up until this, we’ve been doing all our warrin' in the northeast—there.” Alloy pointed out a curved, ragged edge of the kingdom, with several towns and forts on either side of it. There was one city right in the middle. “We call it ‘The Pareto Frontier’ after that city there.” She then proceeded to tell him the whole story.

 

Mish-Mash had been at war with the kingdom of Ordnung longer than anyone could remember. Some said one side was of the ninety-nine first kingdoms, some the other. Some said they were both colonies of the same side, some they were colonies of two forgotten kingdoms that had been at war. One thing both agreed on—there was no reason to be allies, or even at peace. The two sides had been fighting each other so long and knew each other so well, that once a side got an advantage in a battle that was pretty much it for that battle, wait ‘til next turn. Over the turns both sides had made plans and strengthened their lines enough that advancing into the enemy's kingdom just about anywhere was a suicide plan. The border however, was a chain of towns and forts that changed hands—a lot. The only real city was Pareto, right in the middle—and it changed hands too.

 

“So, err, you can see how broken up the border is. Whupsie! Frontier just changed again.” A courtier in a corner of the room rang a bell and another one flew swiftly over to receive a message the first had just pulled from a hat. As Nash watched, one of the border forts went gray and indistinct as that hex was conquered by Ordnung. The flying courtier moved some unit tokens around and then returned to a station on the wall.

 

“Hit ‘em with the usual.” Alloy ordered with a snap of her fingers, “And then hit the fort one step south of Pareto too. Keep support on Galois, but make sure the support can help Agnesi if they do anything funny.” She waved her fingers at the hat courtier, who immediately started scribbling orders.

 

“Galois and Agnesi are the two warlords in those towns we’re holding southeast of Pareto.” She added, turning to Nash almost apologetically.

 

“You still haven't given me a mission.” Nash replied.

 

“Optimization.” She said proudly, and then more emphatically. “Op-tuh-muh-zay-shun. Adipose heard about what you did for Cia, and Pops wanted that for us too.”

 

“Your system seems fairly efficient.” Nash said.

 

“Yeah, for a one-front war. Alloy said. “Right now, I’ve just gotta decide whether to move troops one way or the other. For the longest time our neighbors Quadii to the west and Quadiv to the south have been having their own problems, so they haven’t gotten frisky. I dunno what happened to get things good for them, and don’t care, but now I’m looking at a three-front war. I need to pull troops off of here to head to the new front. Pops wants ta optimize the Pareto Frontier so's I can slap down his other neighbors without losing anything.” Her accent was still annoying, but her manner was more confident now that she was talking directly about her specialty, even if she was asking for help.

 

“May I have control of your carpet for a moment?” Nash asked suddenly.

 

“Ummm, sure?” Alloy's confidence was gone again.

 

The carpet spun slowly in a circle, first one direction, then the other, as Mathamancer Nash studied the three borders and the roads laid out beneath them. Then the carpet flew slowly to the floor where they had mounted it and landed with a bump. “My contract will be in three parts,” Nash said, “Analysis, solution, and implementation. First is analysis: I will require the use of your tower and full upkeep for a turn or two while I formulate an approach to a solution. If I come up with an approach, I will present it for the price of another two turns’ upkeep, if not, the contract is over. If it is approved, we will negotiate a contract for the solution. Is this acceptable?”

 

“I'll ask Pops.”

 

Nash held out his little finger, “While you are asking, may I continue studying the problem? I promise to only use the time for the good of your side.”

 

Alloy locked pinkies and winked, “Sure, under guard.”

 

Permission was granted, the preliminary contract was signed, and Mathamancer Nash spent the rest of that turn in the Map Room familiarizing himself with the Pareto Frontier. Next turn, immediately after rations, he headed up to the top room of the capital tower and locked the door behind himself. He came down as the sun was setting without a drop of juice.

 

 

“I have Predicted you will want an audience with the king tomorrow morning.” Predictamancer Adipose said by way of greeting as he left the tower.

 

“Why would you waste juice on that?” Mathamancer Nash replied.

 

“Nothing else to spend it on. See you tomorrow morning after rations.” Adipose winked broadly and walked off as an archer escorted Nash to the guest quarters.



They were in the throne room again, the garish, disordered throne room with skulls on the wall and random units in ordered rows. This time King Amalgam had his court tight around him, Princess Alloy on his right and his Predictamancer on his left. Nash locked his fingers together and stared at the floor as he began pacing back and forth.

 

“The problem, your Majesty, is in two parts. What do you want, and what do you need?” Mathamancer Nash gave his proposal as a lecture since that was the public speaking method he was most comfortable with. “You need to survive, you merely want to grow. The Titans have blessed us with these instincts, and it is our responsibility to live up to them.” He paused for a sip of water on a table he had requested. “Therefore, the problem here in not merely one of Numbers, but also of Life. It deals not merely with your desires, but with what you need to survive. This is only half of it though. What this really is about, is the relationship between your side and that of Ordnung. As I understand it, the troops that you will be pulling from the northeastern border to guard the other two will not be able to be shuttled back in case of emergencies.  Is that correct?”

 

King Amalgam folded his arms. “Yes.”

 

“But you have no intention of losing the Pareto Frontier because of this new threat?”

 

“That's right.”

 

“So you want to defend your northeastern border with the fewest number of units possible while still maintaining kingdom integrity. Is that it?”

 

“Yeeesss.” The king replied, his teeth clenched.

 

“The simplest solution is to convince your enemy to devote fewer troops to the border as well. I will work a method out for this, but because it is also a relational problem I will be requiring additional assistance from a Date-a-mancer I know. She is well-versed in the basic theories of Mathamancy and can support me.” Mathamancer Nash adjusted his glasses.

 

“And the cost?” King Amalgam drummed his fingers on the arm of his throne.

 

“It would be similar to the part of the contract we have just concluded.” Mathamancer Nash replied. “You would be responsible for upkeep for the two of us during the research. If we came up with a solution, the cost for providing it would be equal to that upkeep. Implementation would be extra if you required our assistance.”

 

“And if I don’t like your solution, or you don’t find one at all?” The King leaned forward, gripping the arms of his throne tightly.

 

“Then both my reputation and your treasury suffer greatly.” Nash said flatly. “Life carries risk.”

 

The king leaned back again, his fingers steepled and a deep frown on his face. “You will be presenting a solution that will let me pull enough troops off the Pareto Frontier so that I can safely defend my entire kingdom, correct?”

 

“Anything less would not be a solution.” Mathamancer Nash replied folding his arms.

 

“Wait in the Map Room while I confer with my advisors.” The king motioned to the side door and two pikers walked up to escort Mathamancer Nash out.

 

 

King Amalgam's advisors had been in favor of the contract, and Predictamancer Adipose was dispatched to the Magic Kingdom once more, this time to expand the contract to a second caster. He returned before the turn was out with a short, round female unit with silver hair. Her duds were rather subdued for a hippiemancer, but she had a broad smile and incredibly piercing eyes. She waved to Mathamancer Nash and then walked over and quietly slipped her hand in his.

 

“Thought I’d pay you back a little more directly than XP.” Nash said by way of greeting. “Take a look at this contract.” She did, and then looked up at the king.

 

“Date-a-mancer Lox, do you agree to this contract? The king said.

 

“It seems interesting.” she replied.

 

“My Chief Caster tells me that even though it is a 3-way contract, it is not complex enough that we will require a Signamancer.” The king signed it with a flourish, and then, one at a time, so did the two mercenary casters.

 

“For now,” Mathamancer Nash said, “We will require access to your library. And room to work, and quiet.”



The two of them were alone in the library, the king's caster had assured him that the contract would prevent the mercenaries from working against Mish-Mash’s interests, so they could be safely left to work in privacy. It was clear that the library was used occasionally, but it was just as clear that it was rarely used. The holy scripture were dust-free, but the historical records were thick with dust. It was these that Mathamancer Nash headed directly towards.

 

“Not looking a gift contract in the Numbers.” Alicia said, “But no-one ever told me what my part in all this was. That creep of a Predictamancer wouldn’t even come into the Glade to offer the contract, he just sent a Carny in with a message.”

 

“Mish-Mash needs to lower troops on one border to raise them on two others. I have to calculate how much they can lower the troops safely without risking the border.”

 

“And me?”

 

“Theoretical calculations are nice, but for real calculations I need data—for data, I need a Date-a-mancer. Not just any Date-a-mancer, any Date-a-mancer would know their Numbers, but you have a real grasp on Mathamancy.”

 

“Mmm.” She said with a half-smile, tracing her finger through the accumulated dust of hundredturns. “So why are we here?”

 

“Data. I want the combat records for the Pareto Frontier, and what better place than a library for combat records?”

 

She sighed and shook her head. “These are the records of croaked sides, Nash. We want the records of a living side.”

 

Nash opened his mouth and then closed it again with a click as he started rubbing his chin in thought.

 

Date-a-mancer Alicia patted him on the cheek and said, “You certainly needed me.” She strode across the room and opened the door. Without looking out, she said, “Go fetch your Chief Warlord. Now scoot. We'll stay here.” From outside came an indistinct reply. At this she replied, “Very well, then, help me find her.” Alicia looked over her shoulder at Nash. “Be a dear and stay here. I'll be back with the Chief Warlord in just a bit.” She stepped out the half-open door and closed it tightly behind her. As she had said, she was right back, and Chief Warlord Alloy escorted them down the hall to the records room where they both immediately got to work.



King Amalgam was slouching on his throne, staring from one wall to another, wondering if there would be a better arrangement for his trophies. The doombat skull looked out of place among the more impressive trophies, but Titans disband it, that was his very first croak; he wasn’t getting rid of it for anything. The caster mercenaries had been in the hall of records for nearly two dozen turns now, and he was getting restless.

 

“You’re sure this is going to work?” He snapped at his Predictamancer.

 

Predictamancer Adipose replied immediately. “Indeed, Your Majesty. I have been careful not to look too deeply so as to avoid disturbing the Standing Wave, but it shall work for the good of the of the kingdom.” The Standing Wave was a small piece of heresy that Adipose held tightly to. He believed that the future was undetermined unless it was predicted. Because of that, he was careful to request that the king phrase prediction requests so that they only had positive or neutral answers. He didn’t get as much information this way, but he never predicted anything bad.

 

“Alloy tells me that Quadii and Quadiv are starting to build real forces on the border.” The king shifted in fitfully.

 

“And my abilities tell me that Mathamancer Nash will solve this problem.”

 

“Will I like it?” The king sat up suddenly and gripped the arms of his chair.

 

“That is an open question, Your Majesty, it may disturb the Standing Wave.” Predictamancer Adipose bowed his head and folded his head in the sleeves of his robe.

 

“I don’t care. I want to know.” King Amalgam said petulantly.

 

Predictamancer Adipose looked up, his eyeless sockets seeing something that wasn’t in the throne room. “You will be furious. Alloy will be uneasy. Chief Warlord Kiffer of Ordnung will think you are making fun of him, but it will work. Mathamancer Nash will come up with a solution that will allow Princess Alloy to safely move enough troops off the Pareto Frontier to defend against the build-up by both Quadii and Quadiv.”

 

“Furious?”

 

“Yes, Majesty.” Adipose paused. “I’m sorry, really.”

 

King Amalgam sighed. “That’s what I get for asking an open question. When will he be done?”

 

“That is a safe question Your Majesty. They will be here before I finish speak-"

 

The great double doors to the throne room opened, and Chief Warlord Alloy came in, leading the mercenary casters and a stack of pikers as escort. She looked uneasy.

 

“Err, ahh, hi, Adipose. Hello Pops.” She shifted from one foot to the other, wringing her hands.

 

“Predictamancer Adipose has told me that you would be uneasy with the solution and I would be furious.”

 

“Yah, well, he's never wrong.” She gritted her teeth. She looked over her head at the pikers. “Everybody out. I don’t want no-one gettin' croaked by accident.” The stack left, and the five of them were alone in the great hall.

 

“So, tell me."

 

And Mathamancer Nash did.


“WHAT?!?!?”

 

“I have checked the Numbers thoroughly, your majesty.”

 

“WHAT??”

 

“This will solve your problem.”

 

“Are you mad?” The king gripped the arms of his throne and came halfway out of his throne.

 

Mathamancer Nash looked briefly over at Date-a-mancer Alicia. She shook her head slightly, so he turned back to the king and replied, “No, your majesty. I am quite sane—and quite serious.”

 

“There's no way I can convince Ordnung of this."

 

“I can, your Majesty.”

 

“This? This is what you foresaw?” King Amalgam spun to face his Predictamancer.

 

“I foretold the caster would have some answer. I foretold your anger. I foretold the safety of the kingdom. I did not look too deeply for fear of disturbing the Standing Wave and foretelling unhappy events.”

 

King Amalgam looked over at his heir. “Princess?”

 

“Weeaall, it'll sure free up troops.”

 

King Amalgam sat in silence for a minute, buried in thought. Finally, he looked up and looked Mathamancer Nash hard in the eyes. “Very well, We will acceed. Will you represent Us at parley with the Chief Warlord of Ordnung and make it clear to him that you are acting in Our Name and Our Interests?”

 

Mathamancer Nash nodded.

 

“Your payment for this contract is obvious. Any further assistance by the Date-a-mancer next to you is your concern, not mine.” He turned to his daughter. “Chief Warlord, set up a parley at Pareto with Chief Warlord Kiffer. Then head out there with a suitable escort and this caster—and may the Titans help us all.”



An offer of parley was sent, and a turn agreed to. Nash had asked Alicia to come along, he still needed her to manage the data she had gathered, and she had agreed to come for mere upkeep. Alloy led them out with only a half stack of archers for accompaniment.

 

“We're going to the second most heavily defended city in the kingdom, we won’t need a real escort until we get there.” The trip out proved completely uneventful, and they started to set up a parley tent on the far side of the city of Pareto. Their opposite number was nowhere to be seen. “Now I need to tell you a few things about Ordnung.” Alloy said as they watched the pikers assemble the tent. “First, they’re never on time to parleys—never. I’d be concerned if I saw them out there, it would mean they weren’t here to parley, they were here to fight.”

 

“You sound--different—more confident.” Nash was surprised at Princess Alloy’s total change in demeanor.

 

“I’m not in the capital. More importantly, I’m not near Adipose. That Caster gives me the creeping horrors. I keep expecting a Shockamancy bolt to come out of the heavens and destroy whatever city that Titans-damned heretic is in.” She started stomping back and forth. The pikers continued working as if they'd heard it many times before. “Pops says it doesn’t matter, that it's trivial and that it helps him Predict safely, but the turn I get the throne that unit is going mercenary and he can peddle his nonsense from your kingdom, not mine.”

 

Nash blinked in surprise at Alloy's vehemence. He’d heard quite a few stranger things than Adipose's ‘Standing Wave’ in the Magic Kingdom. “Ahhh, back to the matter at hand…”

 

“Right. Ordnung. They’re late, they’re always late. They’re casual and they don’t care about formality. Adipose hates them, which has to be a point in their favor. They’ve got a Florist who grows a particular herb, and a Changemancer who makes their high-level units magic items that, used together, give them a Disorienting Breath Special. Chief Warlord Kiffer is representative of everything they are—but he's smart. He acts like an idiot, but it’s just an act.”

 

“And the treaty?”

 

She looked over at him, worry obvious on her face, “The way you told Pops, I’m sure you mean it, it works worse for you if you’re wrong. Are you really sure though? Is it really gonna work?”

 

“It will work, and it will work well for you.” Mathamancer Nash replied. “The proposal may make it appear otherwise, but it is entirely in your best interests and I will be sure to let Chief Warlord Kiffer know that this is why I am proposing it. The only reason I believe he will accept is because it is in his best interests also.”

 

“Why is he gonna want it, though?”

 

“You’ll see.”

 

They spent that night in the field, even with a comfortable city nearby to sleep in. Ordnung had their turn first, but Chief Warlord Alloy was unwilling to give up the position. Bright and early the next morning, just after rations, the Ordnung army appeared on the border, a cloud of smoke hanging over their forces.

 

 

Mathamancer Nash saw the single parley stack approach under the Ordnung banner with its three broad horizontal bars of black, green and yellow. Underneath it rode a knight as banner man, another mounted figure who must have been their chief warlord and a stack of garishly dressed pikers with longer than normal pikes.

 

“Hmmm.” Chief Warlord Alloy said, shading her eyes, “He's got a stack of Lance-connects and a Ritter with him.”

 

“Lance-connects, those are the knight-class pikers that Ordnung pops?”

 

“Right.” She said “And I’m not sure if your research found out, but Ritters have a magic save bonus if they’re stacked with two female units. I can’t tell from here how many of those Lance-connects are female, but I’m betting at least two. He must know I’ve got pikers and Casters and he’s gotta want protection if things go to Hellabad. Well, let’s sit down. We’re here to parley, not fight.” The three of them took their places at one side of the table, with the stack of pikers arrayed behind them.

 

Nash watched as the Ordnung contingent slowly rode closer. The banner man sat his saddle like every other knight he had ever seen, straight back, tight grip, and head high. His face was very different. He was smiling. A great, big, broad, open, contented smile. His round face was framed by an even rounder hairstyle that covered his neck with medium brown hair. Things must be very different in Ordnung.

 

The stack of pikers escorting them were dressed in the Ordnung black, green and yellow, but the colors clashed so wildly it was as if their duds were trying to make a Shockamancy attack. The duds had huge black and green checkers on them with giant sleeves. The cloth had slashes all over and more bright yellow cloth was pulled out of the slashes. Rather than marching, they almost preened, as if they were proud of their ridiculous duds.

 

Chief Warlord Kiffer, on the other hand, was slouching his saddle as he approached. He was clearly making use of the Changemancy item that gave him his breath effect, every now and then he would hold it to his mouth and then blow out a cloud of smoke. He had ropy brown hair topped by a bulbous crocheted cap in his kingdom's colors, and glowing red eyes. His armor bore his badge, a green flower with seven sawtoothed petals, or maybe they were leaves, Nash wasn’t sure.

 

Kiffer dismounted at a safe distance and his knight rammed the flag into the ground. The two of them came on alone while the Lance-connects waited with the mounts, posing, rather than standing at attention.

 

“Yo, Ally.” Chief Warlord Kiffer sounded like he was half asleep.

 

“Yo, Kiff.” She smiled back.

 

“Ready to turn?”

 

“You first.”

 

“Your dad still got Fatty?”

 

“Ayup.”

 

“Not gonna happen then.”

 

“Don’t blame ya.”

 

“Nice town you got here,” he said, looking up at the walls of Pareto, “I think I’ll take it next turn when we're done with this palaver.” Chief Warlord Kiffer’s voice started to take an edge to it.

 

“Bluff. Not gonna happen.” Alloy replied.

 

“Actually, if I may interrupt,” Mathamancer Nash decided to interrupt whether he was allowed to or not. “There is a 95% chance that Ordnung will take Pareto in the next seven turns.”

 

“WHAT?” Both Chief Warlords stared at the Mathamancer.

 

“I thought you were working for us!” Alloy protested.

 

“Where are you gettin' your intel? We’ve been moving troops crazy careful.” Kiffer sounded awake now.

 

Nash turned first to one and then the other. “I am certainly working for you Warlord Alloy, I have been getting my ‘Intel’ as you put it, Warlord Kiffer, from historical records. Shall we sit down and palaver?” They all sat down, the two warlords obviously shaken. Date-a-mancer Alicia was now the only unit smiling.

 

Nash turned to Alicia and took a volume from her. “This is a collection of military records of the battles for the city behind us going back nearly a thousand turns. It was gathered from the record hall in the capital of Mish-Mash.” He paused for a sip of water. “The only place where this information is not a military secret is at this table, because every one of those battles was with the kingdom of Ordnung. If you took the time,” he looked Kiffer square in the eyes, “You could get this exact data from your own record hall.

 

“I said there was 95% chance Ordnung would take the city within the next seven turns. There is an equally high chance you will hold it for less than twenty. After that, the probability of you retaking the city does not go above 63% for at least a hundred and twelve turns. Warlord Kiffer you are losing this war. Every successful attack you make on every town or outpost on the Pareto Frontier uses fewer troops, is further apart in turns, and is held for a shorter period of turns.” Nash paused for effect and took a deeper drink of water. Then he continued.

 

“But. You are not losing quickly enough. Not quite. Mish-Mash is going broke. They may be taking more and holding longer, but they are not profiting. I may be no Moneymancer, but I can do math and I can tell that Mish-Mash is spending more on this war than they are earning. If you were the only two sides on Erf it would not matter. But you are not. This is not a bubble war. I don’t know who or what is on your other borders, but eventually they will see weakness. King Amalgam doesn’t want his neighbors to see weakness, so he hired me to calculate a solution.”

 

“Which is?” Kiffer had been leaning forwards, listening closely, but now he leaned back and folded his arms across his chest, his eyes slits.

 

“Change the calculations.” Nash said simply. “Change them deeply. Let me explain. The Titans, in their wisdom, gave us rules for our great war on Erf—rules to prevent chaos and savagery. No side can attack at night. This lets every side have a chance to see an attack coming. There are still veils and stealth, but it’s not the same as attacking a sleeping opponent. Also, each side gets a turn. We can only attack on our side’s turn. This lets weaker sides have some measure of control, instead of being relentlessly and unceasingly attacked. I wish to set up a treaty with a new rule.”

 

“Go on.”

 

“Your two sides have fought each other for so long that you know each other’s stratagems inside and out. The new rule would be that the neighboring kingdom be informed before any troops are moved to the border or popped in the towns on the border. Permission is unnecessary, merely information.” Nash set his hands flat on the table.

 

“And this is gonna help, how?”

 

“Fewer battles. You already know how your opponent will fight, you will now know what your opponent has to fight with. Instead of fighting a losing battle you can merely reinforce a position. If you have a position that you opponent is not reinforcing and you are over strength, you can pull back troops to assign them to a more useful location. Eventually, you can both deploy your troops completely optimally. Battles will only be fought over locations that are critical rather than merely available.”

 

“So why do you care what’s best for both of us, caster.” Kiffer did not sound convinced.

 

“I do not. What’s best for both of you is best for Mish-Mash in the long term.”

 

“There’s still one thing yer fergettin'.”

 

“Oh?” Nash lifted an eyebrow. He was not forgetting it at all—it was the key to the solution.

 

“That city behind ya. That city stays critical. All this treaty of yours means is we stop fighting the little fights on forts and towns and throw everything at Pareto back and forth.” Warlord Kiffer sucked on the Changemancy item hanging around his neck.

 

“The solution to that is that I get Pareto and both sides agree not to attack it.” Nash leaned back and put his hands in lap.

 

Warlord Kiffer’s eyes flew open and he started coughing furiously for several minutes. When he stopped, he turned to his knight and said, “Sir Tripper, tell Rigby this strain is too strong for me, I just heard a mercenary caster say that Amalgam is gonna just give him Pareto.”

 

“I heard it too, Kiff, and I’m not smoking yet this turn. I think they’re making fun of us.” Sir Tripper's broad smile had vanished completely.

 

“I’m thinking that too. I’m thinking I got invited all this way out here for a joke—or worse, a trap.” Suddenly, the Lance-connects stopped posing and formed up in a very effective looking line. Warlord Kiffer and Sir Tripper grabbed the table as if they were about to flip it.

 

“Hey, hey, hey." Alloy raised her hands. “No need for that, we're playing it square. Pops hated the idea as much as you did. The only reason he went along is Adipose told him it was predicted.”

 

Kiffer's eyes were slits again. “So why are you going along. I know what you think of Fatty.”

 

“I got my reasons. All you need to know is I’m playing it straight.” She pressed her hands down on the table and then, first Kiffer, and eventually Tripper released their grip on it.

 

Tripper turned to Nash and pointed at him with his Changamancy item. “How can we trust you? Yer settin’ up yer own side between us. Sounds like that adds to the problem, not takes away from it.”

 

“Pareto is not a Capital Site. My only treasury will be my purse. I will never have enough schmuckers to upgrade it, and the income will only be enough to support me—almost. I will have to make frequent contracts with each of your sides to stay alive. Pareto does not have a port, so you will be able to control who visits me and the treaty will let you know who your neighbor allows to visit me.” Nash stood up. “Remember, Warlord Kiffer, you are looking at a Mathamancer, not a warlord. My interest is my calculations, not conquest, and my calculations keep me in one place. If that place is safe and secure, all the better for me.”

 

There was a long period of silence. Then Kiffer said, “This isn’t peace, this is just a different kind of war.”

 

“That's right, it’s just a stable one instead of a chaotic one.”

 

“They might name a new kind of treaty after you.”

 

“That,” replied Master Mathamancer Nash Equilibrium, “Would be the dream of every Mathamancer.”

Comments

    • tadthornhill

      Sorry about the formatting. Fixed that. Thanks for the comment. 

      • Salvage

        Fun story. Interesting application of Mathamancy. Really enjoyed the description of Ordnung, it's style, and crest.

        Adipose and his Standing Wave were also quite intriguing.

        Well done. Always looking forward to more of your work. Thanks for writing.