The Imperfect Warlord (Chapter 4)

Part 4 of 11 in The Imperfect Warlord
 
Chapter 4: Ansom&Vinny, Georgia, Stanley&Toma, Wanda&Magic, Jillian&Jaclyn, Distraction, Ansom&Tool, Devious, Isaac&Sizemore
 
 
Yep, lost it,” Vinny told Ansom as he winced in sympathy for his bat becoming a dwagon snack.
 
Sorry Count, we had to know,” Ansom replied.
 
Oh I agree, yer Honor,” Vinny dismissed. He understood the importance of sacrificing his pets in order to be sure about what was going on in the area. Bats were inherently considered expendable anyway. “That far hex was weak, though. Stack had only three dwagons: a yellow, a purple and a pink, not even an archer on the spot.” Vinny supposed that really did mean there were only twelve of them.
 
That is sensible,” Ansom acknowledged. “He has tilted his strength to the side of this formation which faces us. The easiest side for us to attack.”
 
Should we attack?”  Sylvia considered. “Can we not push on towards the city?”
 
Ansom sighed, “we surmise that the wounded dwagons Stanley withdrew had low remaining move. They needed a safe hiding place. Hence this fort formation. Three warlords, and as many as two dozen heavily wounded dwagons, are lurking in that base hex. If we allow those dwagons to heal at dawn, they will again hit the column with the same tactic with even greater force. The only advantage we'll have next turn is the fact that those keshiks will not be able to rain arrows down on every hex.”
 
You're sure of that?” Duke Nozzle asked.
 
Yes, while scouting, we found a large number of empty cases near the dwagon fort. They were clearly fabricated, by the twolls Stanley commands, to hold arrows. This would be the reason the raid group left the column area every two hexes, because they needed to refill their depleted stocks. None of the dwagons in the fort formation had any further cases, and all twelve infantry have been shown guarding the center, along with the dwagons. We figure that the raid might have gone on for another hex or two, had they not been running out of ammunition. Next turn, they will only have what pops in their quivers. A small mercy.”
 
However,” he continued. “If we allow those dwagons to heal at dawn, they will again hit the column with the same tactic, with more than twice the force. Recall, while the ranged units were devastating, and helped wipe out over half the numbers of every hex they raided, they were still focused on our weakest units, the basic infantry. They are not needed to take down the siege, which is the clearly the main goal. While I would dearly like to kill those archer knights, they are not the main threat.”
 
We lost more than 40% of our siege,” Georgia bitterly mentioned.
 
We could lose the rest,” Ansom agreed. “Devastating as it was, this turn's losses will look small, if we do nothing.”
 
The discussion continued. Eventually, they agreed for Ansom and Vinny to lead the forest units in an attack by swinging around to the weak back hex and punching through into the centre. Which is exactly what happened. While the three guard dwagons didn't go down easily, they DID go down.
 
It was time to croak whatever was in that center hex.
 
Gonna spend a bat to get a look first,” Vinny called out as another of his pets went rushing towards its assumed doom.
 
Then we charge,” Ansom said with determination.
 
Then we charge,” Vinny agreed. “Abso-flippen-lutely. I mean we're gonna...” he suddenly realized something important as his bat fluttered too and fro over the hex.
 
Titans' testes!” He cried out. Ansom said something in reply but Vinny didn't hear it due to his shock.
 
“It's EMPTY.”
 
OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
 
“And, success!” I exclaimed.
 
“What do ya mean success?” Stanley denied. “He just croaked three dwagons.”
 
“I didn't like that bit either,” I agreed. You could be blasè about any other unit but Stanley took the losses of his dwagons personally. “If there had been less, he might have figured out that there was nothing inside though. The whole point was to draw him out so we could mass attack him.”
 
“However, their sacrifice was not in vain. Look at his position,” I put on a predatory grin. “He's on the far side of the circle. Isolated, low on move and no chance of reinforcements. Then look at our stacks. We got a pincer formation.”
 
“Ansom's in the pincers,” Tool agreed. The mention of positioning having an effect is an aspect that isn't really mentioned much but it does carry some advantages. In this case, having two nonadjacent hexes of your units touching an enemy's hex while it is isolated, and in open territory, gives your troops a +1 bonus to all attackers, if you attack from both hexes at the start of your next turn.
 
“He's in a bit of a vice. He can run but that only pushes him further away from his allies. And the whole reason he took this gamble: to hit our wounded? They are not there. They're two hexes past the fort, over a lake he didn't even KNOW existed.”
 
Tool nodded at that. I had explained the plan already, after all.
 
“He's so stupid!” Stanley gloated. "Teach HIM for thinking he's smarter!"
 
“Yea, you really suckered him in Tool, and you know the best part?”
 
“What?”
 
“Ansom knows we have a foolamancer.”
 
“What does that gotta do with anything?”
 
“Well, like I said Tool, he's got nothing but contempt for you. I suspect that he would rather believe that we had veiled our wounded units, rather than we had bested him tactically. In other words,” I paused and looked at the board. Given how time works differently. I could well imagine Erfworld showing Ansom make his next move, just because it would have good dramatic effect, if it did so right now. I wasn't disappointed.
 
“Ansom is going into the centre hex,” I concluded. If you had enemy units in four of the hexes surrounding an unsupported enemy unit in open terrain and attacked on your next turn from all of the hexes, all attackers got a +2 to attack. Also, in the unlikely event that you had managed to get all six hexes covered, you got a +3.
 
“Hehheheheheheheh!” I chuckled. “Okay, Ansom now has one option left. He can call in Jillian and those demnable archons to reinforce his position.” I shrunk the map so that her position was shown.
 
“If she takes a direct line. She'll end up passing the hidden hex completely,” and wasn't that a surprise. When I had originally read the comic. Few were more disappointed than I was when those wounded dwagons were found and killed by Jillian. I was certainly the most vocal of the people that were active in the comic forum at the time. I asked myself, way back then, how freaking hard is it to pick out the straightest line from one spot to the other and not be on it? However, it was clear that Jillian was not taking the most direct route. Oh, it was mostly direct but she wobbled around a bit as she sent off the two Jetstone warlords from her group.
 
I gave a silent apology to Rob Balder for my actions back then before going to talk to Wanda.
 
“The Suggestion spell seems to be working,” I commented. “She ditched her complement but her erratic movements have also put her new projected course to possibly enter the dwagon hex. Wanda.” I turned to look at her. “What happens if she actually sees a hex full of wounded dwagons?”
 
“She'll move on,” she firmly stated, with no trace of doubt. “She will not attack and she will not tell Ansom of what she found.”
 
“What about Charlie? He's the world's greatest thinkamancer and his archons, who also can do thinkamancy, are travelling with Jillian. Won't they see the same thing she does? Why isn't Jillian getting rid of them too? The way I see it they should be able to break whatever spell she's under and even if they didn't do that, they could still tell Ansom about it.”
 
“The fact that Jillian didn't get rid of them means that Ansom isn't paying for magical protection. So they won't do anything.”
 
“You're going to have to explain that a bit more, Wanda.”
 
“What you must understand about Charlie is that everything he does is motivated by profit and, even when you hire him, you couldn't really say he's in your side.”
 
“Okay but what does that have to do with magical protection? The dwagons are clearly not hidden in any magical way. I'm sure the archons were ordered to try and find the dwagons if they could. Are you saying that even if they find the dwagons, they wouldn't report it?”
 
“Precisely, which is why Jillian is keeping them with her. If they were on their own, and they found the dwagons, they would have reported it but with Jillian there, it makes it her call. Since she is under a magical influence, if she acts like there is nothing there, then the archons can't disagree without exposing that Jillian is under a magical spell.”
 
“What exactly IS magical protection? Does that mean they don't engage in foolamancy?”
 
“Magic that is offensive in nature is allowed. Shockomancy is magic but they use it. They will also use foolamancy to hide themselves and assist in attacks. However, if the enemy is hiding using foolamancy, they won't reveal it. Likewise, if a member of the people that hired them is under a spell, they won't expose it. Magical protection can include free use of Charlie's thinkagrams, although that can also go under a separate package. Without access to that, they will only report matters using whatever method their current masters have available, unless paid otherwise. They also can supply various raiment for the duration of the hire that has different effects.”
 
“So, basically, magical protection is focused on the less directly combat applications of their service.”
 
“Correct.”
 
“Hmm,” it all sounded so plausible, to hear her say it like this. It also jived with what the comic showed. It would have worked. Exactly as she said, except one member, Jaclyn, just couldn't resist forcing things. Why was that one so adamant anyway? It's like she had a personal stake in the fight.
 
“Hamster, get over here! Now!” came the frantic cry of Dwagon Lord Stanley the Tool.
 
“Well, here goes nothing,” I said while getting up from my chair.
 
“She's over the lake! She's one hex away!” Time had run out. The actions of the next half hour would probably determine my fate for the rest of Book 1.
 
Of course, it would have been a trivial matter to move to a different lake hex. However, as much as I had hated this move back when I first read it, I'd had to look at it again with new eyes after the story was finished. When it was, I asked myself a simple question, 'what would have happened if Jillian hadn't found the dwagons?”
 
The answer? Gobwin Knob loses. The seeming victory was a trap. By killing the siege, you win the battle but lose the war. The consequences are these.
 
First, Stanley stays in the city. Sounds good right? WRONG. Cause now the fliers don't leave the hex to look for him and Charlie will stay under contract. With the archon's foolamancy, the tower defenses are less likely to hit fliers. Doing this means the coalition has air control right from the start.
 
Second, Jillian remains under the suggestion spell. The only reason Jillian was allowed to break off to look for Stanley was because she was able to tell Ansom where Stanley was headed. If she stays under the spell, even if Stanley does leave the city, the fliers will never split up to hunt after him, as they will decide conquering the city needs to be the priority. Charlie will have no opportunity to defect and, even without the siege, defending the city just became a lot harder. That is because of reason the...
 
Third, the underground defences no longer works. Sizemore won in canon because Ansom didn't really commit to the attack. He could have sent five times the forces, with much stronger leadership. By giving Ansom a chance at the walls, it caused the coalition to divide its forces. Allowing Parson to put full effort into blocking both, one at a time.
 
Fourth, no volcano trick. If Stanley's in the hex, the volcano kills him. I might be able to convince him to leave in time but, on the other hand, I might not. If Stanley dies, we lose.
 
Fifth, the volcano worked because it killed everyone. This might not be too big a worry, but if Ansom is attacking early, he might not wait to properly surround the hex, because doing such a thing would be useless without siege that is capable of breaking through it. If he launches an early attack, underground and by air, it's possible that enough might survive to do something. Maybe capture the city before anyone enters the portal. Maybe beat Stanley on their own. It's not as big a worry as the others, but it's still a possibility.
 
If the coalition attacks en masse, it's impossible to win. Parson only barely managed because the forces kept splitting up. Fliers take off, then Charlie breaks alliance, then Charlie joins again but Ansom attacks before Charlie can join properly. The underground attacks before the surface. All these piecemeal movements were the only reason Parson was competitive at all. If the force had just stuck together and attacked as one, nothing would have stopped it.
 
So, in short, by winning this battle, we lose the war! I had no boop choice but to put the dwagons exactly where they were in canon.
 
“Don't attack!” I called out. They were in the hex. I had to lose, but not lose badly enough that Stanley would lose all faith in my abilities. I had no idea if I could manage it. However, I had put some thought into how this would go.
 
“Change the map to unit viewpoint. Flip the screen to a vertical angle. Give me control over Manpower, move him over to Jillian. Make his face, head, hand and arm movements mimic my own. Have him repeat everything I say, when I say 'quote', and don't stop until I say 'end-quote'.” The scene changed. Now it was like watching a movie, with Manpower's eyes as the camera. Jillian started as a tiny dot but grew as I got closer. The audio also kicked in and I could hear the argument starting. Jillian had to break the enchantment but I couldn't make it easy for them
 
“Quote:...”
 
OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
 
By the Titans, Jillian, it seems you are having quite the hallucination right now. You should probably ignore it and get to saving Ansom though,” the zombie then smiled.
 
Huh?” Jillian blurted out, confused. The archons had become quiet, in shock over what happened. They were well aware that zombies didn't talk and act so coherently. What was the trick?
 
Oh, come now Jillian, what are the actual chances of you finding a hex full of heavily wounded dwagons? Obviously, you just wanted it to happen so much that you started imagining it. However, Ansom needs your help to guard the hex he's in. To guard it, mind you. Not to punch through that strong front hex and get back to the column. That would be a terrible idea.” 'For me,' was Toma's unspoken thought. He didn't want her to actually leave in the first place, but if she did, it would be helpful if she didn't kill any more of his dwagons.
 
Her eyes narrowed, “I was just talking about doing that.”
 
Really?” the zombie's eye widened as his mouth opened and hands slapped his cheeks as he mimed being in shock. “I guess that really DOES prove that this is a hallucination then. How else could I have known that?”
 
YOU GUESSED!!!” Jaclyn cried out. “It's not even that hard of one.” She turned to their stack leader. “Warlord, you're under a suggestion spell! We all can see it.”
 
That's not true Jillian,” the one eyed warlord replied. “My being here is a complete figment of your imagination!”
 
HOW am I able to talk to you then? That would be impossible, if you really are what you claim. Unless you're going to say that I am also a figment,” Jaclyn tried again.
 
That's right,” the warlord said, seemingly to himself. “you're actually talking to me. That means... Jillian, your imagination has become so powerful that you've spontaneously developed foolamancy!” he seemed completely delighted at having come up with such a farcical solution. Jillian seemed willing to consider it though. Of course she was. She was under a suggestion spell, after all. She was extremely receptive to any reason she could be given to simply leave the hex.
 
That makes no sense,” Jaclyn pointed out.
 
or does it?” Manpower tried again.
 
It doesn't.”
 
or...”
 
Shut up!”
 
Focusing on the barbarian again, the one-eyed zombie tried a different tactic, "ask the others if you are under a suggestion spell. Let the three of them put it to a vote. If two agree that you are under a spell then maybe you are... but if two out of three say something like 'no' or that 'Ansom ISN'T PAYING FOR MAGIC SECURITY',” he gave a meaningful look at the archons while saying this. It was an extremely fair point, as they weren't supposed to help with things they hadn't been contracted to help with. “Well, I guess that means you are.”
 
His grinning face turned to the blond archon, “so how about it, Farrah?”
 
W-well,” Farrah stuttered as she looked over at Jaclyn before her resolve firmed up. “He's not.”
 
How do you know her name,” the Jaclyn asked in befuddlement.
 
Clearly, because I'm a figment of Jillian's imagination. We already went through this? Huh?” the dwagon rider suddenly turned to face thin air. “It doesn't matter how I know. Tool! I'm in the middle of trying to trick Jillian into not croaking us, don't distract me.” He turned back to face the group, they were staring at him.
 
Oh, did you hear all that? Oh no. I forgot to say...” then he suddenly slumped in his seat.
 
OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
 
“... unquote first.” I finished. I, of course, knew better then to talk to the Tool but it seemed a good reason to make a slip up. I noticed the camera angle go wobbly. Now to make an overreaction! “AHHHH! I disconnected by mistake! QUOTE, QUOTE...
 
OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
 
... QUOTE, QUOTE, QUOTE. Okay I'm back. Um, so... we were about to vote on whether or not this was some sort of foolamancy Jillian learned how to create?” the innocent uncroaked look was really not working as intended (it secretly was).
 
This isn't foolamancy!” Jaclyn was feeling a bit more confident after that mistake. ” This is just you using some sort of weird thinkagram to control the uncroaked warlord! It's all a lie. A bad one.”
 
It's not a lie,” Toma denied through the warlord. “If everyone says it's true!” by complete coincidence, that statement sounded almost exactly like one of Charlie's Rules (The uncovering of Truth is one of our highest objectives. Corollary: A lie can be even more profitable, if everyone is contracted to say it's true.'). It had the effect of stumping even Jaclyn for a moment, as they were not used to someone reciting their own rules back at them.
 
“Look,” he continued, taking advantage of the silence. “in this hex, right now, we're in the cat's box”. It was a term none of them had heard before but they still had a vague understanding of the concept. “Maybe there are dwagons here and some spell is making you unsure if they really exist, or maybe you so want to fight that you are foolamancing up this whole enemy army.
 
“I think you know you can't really trust yourself. Maybe my words are also something you can't blindly believe in but those girls behind you?” He pointed to the three archons. “They can't help you with finding the truth either. There is NO ONE that can help you out and, if you can't decide, isn't it the easier path to do nothing? You should take the easy way,” those were completely the wrong words to say to the women, as they would awaken her fighting spirit. Toma, of course, knew this. Which is why he said it.
 
“The minute you leave this hex,” he continued, seemingly oblivious to what he'd done. “They will go along with whatever you say. If you say there are no dwagons. They will agree. That's the magic of lying. So, don't you think it's time to go?”
 
“I won't,” she said, showing her first real will to fight since she came into the hex.
 
“So you'll fight?” Jaclyn exclaimed, seemingly rejuvenated by Jillian's words. Her request had the opposite effect though, as Jillian started shrinking in on herself again.
 
“I can't,” she replied.
 
“You have to be! Look at these creatures.” the uncroaked Manpower waved back at Jaclyn as she spoke. “Um, not that one, but the other ones. You can see how they are without will, controlled by the croakamancer. Is that what you want to be?”
 
“you just...” Jillian had become despondent. “you don't understand. How could you?”
 
“What don't I understand?”
 
“I...” Jillian mustered up all the strength she could to make this humiliating confession. “like it.”
 
“Why not turn? We could use a high leadership warlord,” the uncroaked tried to rally.
 
“I can't.”
 
“Then quit the fight,” Jaclyn suggested.
 
“I can't!” Jillian said more forcefully.
 
“What are you going to do Warlord?” Jaclyn asked.
 
“I don't know,” she replied as she sunk down in her gwiffon.
 
Manpower suddenly slumped as Toma stopped controlling him.
 
OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
 
“Wanda, this spell is not working as advertised. I'm thinking maybe you'd have better luck talking to her through the uncroaked?”
 
“Would you like to call a friend?” Jaclyn's voice suggested.
 
I froze at the words that I knew were coming, “oh ship,” I cursed.
 
“Quote:...”
 
OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
 
“You don't want to do that Jillian.” the undead warlord called out. She turned to look at Manpower, then back to Jaclyn.
 
“I think I do,” she replied.
 
“Look, we can have you talk to Wanda. She's right here. She can help you...”
 
“No,” Jillian interrupted. “I want to talk to Ansom.”
 
“F-fine! But don't blame me if he's too busy to talk to you,” with those words, his posture collapsed for the last time, as the dwagon turned around to join up with his stack.
 
OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
 
“Disconnect the board,” I said. “Give me a thinkagram to Ansom. Tool! I need you to talk to Ansom, while I try and work out a plan.”
 
“Oh, sure. What do I say?” Stanley asked.
 
“Doesn't matter, must keep him on the thinkagram. If he's talking to you, then Jillian can't contact him.”
 
“Gotya! I can totally handle this,” I actually picked him because I was sure he couldn't annnnnnnd, connection established.
 
“Hey Ansom! How ya doing?” he asked. Unlike with the battle board, I couldn't hear the replies the person on the other side made.
 
“It's Tool Stanley, actually.” he continued the conversation.
 
“Yea, that's right, I realized that my attunment made me a Tool of the Titans and gave me a holy calling!”
 
I turned to the foolamancer, “hey, can we send two different messages at once using you guys?”
 
“No warlord, he replied. “While the thinkagram can be improved in various ways, even in a link, we are limited to one sending at a time.”
 
“Well, it's certainly not because I'm trying to distract you from anyone. Hey! He hung up,” daaaang, how could Ansom have seen through that suspiciously specific denial? The Tool crashed and burned on this task even faster then I had anticipated.
 
“Demn,” I said while thanking the Tool for doing his job. “Okay. Lets not do anything. Maybe they already tried to send a message, got rebuffed and are about to give up. If that's the case, then trying to talk to them again would make them realize that the thinkagram from us is done.”
 
I pretended to consider my next move before saying, “Thinkamancer, monitor Wanda's link to Jillian through the suggestion spell. If it breaks, tell me and then help her to make sure she doesn't suffer permanent damage from the backlash. As soon as you determine that the worst is over start up the battle board again.” While Wanda hadn't gone permanently insane from this in canon. She came closer to it then I liked.
 
“So we just wait?” the Tool asked.
 
“Yea,” I reply. “We've done all we can. All we can do is hope....”
 
“The spell has been broken,” the thinkamancer heartlessly broke in. I threw my hands in the air and cursed. “Mitigating damage from the feedback, unable to directly control the army.”
 
“We need to hook the link back up,” Stanley said worriedly.
 
“It's no good if Wanda dies from this,” I replied. “The minimum repairs only though. Make it fast.”
 
“We're starting to lose dwagons,” Stanley informed.
 
“Done. Linking up. Reconnecting.”
 
“BOOM! HEADSHOT!” Jillian's voice rang out as Lady Phath Singh got killed in the weak stack. Was a bit surprised that happened the same as canon, since all three of the uncroaked stacks had one less dwagon in them. At least I had made sure to switch Leeroy position so that he would last a bit longer.
 
“Have both Manpower and Leeroy merge stacks and croak the enemy warlord.”
 
“No.”
 
“SHUT UP WANDA!” I gave it the force of an order. “I'm winning this battle. Leeroy goes in first to distract, giving his battle cry while Manpower comes in slightly after from the other side.”
 
“Hurry! Ansom might decide to join in,” Manpower got in and was starting for a kill when he got plucked by the arkenpliers Ansom carried. While Ansom was not attuned to them, like Stanley was to his, they had a special property of being able to kill undead units with the lightest of hits and to even be able to hit multiple uncroaked on a single turn, much like the cleave feat offered for heavies.
 
“Hamster! Ansom is in the hex!” Stanley called out.
 
“Fug it. Have Leeroy pull back. Have him croak a gwiffen instead. Those two dwagons go after another one, there. Rest of the dwagons screen for them.
 
“Why the gwiffens?” Stanley asked in an angry tone.
 
“Cause I'm not going to lose this battle without croaking SOMETHING.” I replied in a rage. Losing without even one kill would be too pathetic.
 
Somewhat to my surprise, I actually did manage to kill them. The green that attacked got a lucky crit with its breath weapon and Leroy chopped the second up with his sword, before Ansom swooped in and finished him off. The battle was over within a minute. I bid him a silent farewell before looking towards Wanda.
 
She had collapsed to the ground like a puppet with strings cut. She had clearly still taken major damage. Well, that was fine. “Guard, take Wanda to her quarters.”
 
I turned to the Tool. He was furious. I had to pick my words carefully, “We can still win this.”
 
He glared at me, his hands were shaking in anger, “another plan, Hamster?” his voice had a dangerous tone. On the bright side, he hadn't ordered me to stop talking. However, since all my previous plans had failed, I didn't think saying yes was the correct move. Which was a pity, cause I had a real good one to offer...
 
“Charlie's attuned to a Tool as well. He's using his titanic mandate to manipulate destiny!” I tried to defend myself. “It's not easy to beat that but we can still win this war. Believe me! I'll even do it without sacrificing any more of your holy dwagons!” I knelt down so I was eye level with him.
 
“And how are you going to be doing that?” Stanley asked.
 
“You'll see for yourself, if you give me four turns,” I said. “You're thinking of taking the dwagons to go to Faq anyway, right? We'll break the caster link tomorrow. You take the foolamancer, all the dwagons, some of the knights, and a couple gobwins. Just fly out in the direction of Faq for a turn and give me four days to prove myself. If I can't do it, then I'll gladly spend my life in Gobwin Knob as punishment for my incompetence and you can fly off to Faq to start a new Side.
 
“Please, I beg of you Dwagon Lord Stanley, most Holy Tool of the Titans. Please give me one chance to redeem myself,” I begged while prostrating myself before him. “Allow me to show you that I can win this war. That I am worth the smuckers you spent.”
 
The time I spent waiting felt a lot longer then it probably was. “Fine,” he eventually decided. “I'll give you four more turns but my dwagons are not taking part in any more fighting. You're on your own, Hamster, got it?”
 
“Yes, my Tool,” I agreed. “Thank you, my Tool. I will avenge the terrible losses your holy dwagons suffered this turn or die trying. I swear it.”
 
“Good,” Stanley's voice eased up a bit. “Why do you want me to take some gobwins with me?”
 
“They are an allied tribe. They fight for us and, in return, we are supposed to keep their people alive. If Gobwin Knob falls, I believe they deserve to have a new start in Faq.”
 
“Eh, I guess so. They don't deserve to be wiped out, anyway.” he turned to the caster link. “Leave all remaining field units orders to return to Gobwin knob. Then break your link,” my eyes widened in fear at that. In canon, that very order had killed off the lookamancer, Misty, and drove Jack, the foolamancer, half insane. Stanley turned to go.
 
“Tool, if you just have them break the link, it could croak the casters. Please allow me to hire some thinkamancers for tomorrow instead, so that that we can be sure that the foolamancer survives. My duty compels me to not allow him to croak, knowing how important he is to keeping you safe outside of city.”
 
He paused as he listened to my words, “alright. Casters, don't break the link.” he said. “Be done early though Hamster, if they don't finish before I'm ready, or if breaking the link costs too much, I'll do it anyway though," I winced at that.
 
“Understood, my Tool. Thank you for your boundless tolerance for my unworthy self,” I bowed again and waited for him to leave. After he was gone I stood up again.
 
'Well,' I thought to myself. 'All things considered, that went pretty decently. I didn't even have to tell him that the coalition knows about Faq, and I didn't commit myself to killing an archon for every dwagon killed.'
 
It had been a thought that I might need to make a grand gesture to have Tool trust me enough to not abandon everything. Even better, he was staying within a turn's range. Meaning it might be possible to have him come back and help out. Depending on things. It seemed the extra effort I put in to looking competent, loyal and submissive paid off. If only barely. I also managed to avoid three dwagons from being killed like in canon. That, and my extra effort to sound concerned whenever a dwagon was killed, seemed to have helped as well.
 
I had also hoped to keep a dwagon behind but there didn't seem to be a good time to ask for it. Maybe tomorrow? Well, the worst was over now. Stanley was the biggest question mark in my success. The rest should play out predictably enough. I looked over the planned return paths for the field units. All the ranged units would be riding back on dwagon. Good. Few things left to do. First off...
 
“Thinkamancer. I need to contact Isaac again,” she put me through.
 
“Hello again, Chief Tattel,” he said.
 
Isaac (crypto tribe; barbarian).
Race: Man
Class: Caster; light (medium)
Title: Headmaster
Level: 11
Move: 7+3=10
Hits: 5+2= 7
Combat: 0+5=5
Defence: 0+5=5
Special: thinkamancer; lookamancer, foolamancer
 
For anyone wondering how I managed to know what Ferrah's name was, it wasn't because I remembered it. My glasses could see the stats of people, even in a thinkagram. Isaac was the highest leveled person I'd come across so far. He even had an extra bit of information on his stat board, 'title'.
 
I adopted an expressionless face and replied, “greetings Headmaster Isaac.” Thinkamancers tended to be cerebral and communicated by thought when among their own kind. As they aged, they generally became less visibly emotional to the naked eye. They still had feelings but it was communicated through their telepathy instead. While I knew that Isaac didn't mind being around people that were more emotional. I figured it would still be a bit of a help dealing with these casters.
 
“My Tool has suddenly decided that tri-mancer link that I told you about needs to be broken next turn,” I continued. “I have been informed that I can hire thinkamancers to help break the link by tomorrow but if I cannot manage to do so, he'll just have it broken himself. Is there any chance you can gather enough thinkamancers to safely break the link and be here by the next dawn? It would be disagreeable to me to have my casters be croaked from this.”
 
“I can have a group of three master class thinkamancers, including myself, to do the work by dawn tomorrow, if that is your wish,” he replied.
 
“That is much appreciated. What will you require in payment?”
 
“No charge,” he replied. I didn't even blink at the statement. I had suspected that this would be the case and was relieved to have it confirmed. “I would hate to see a good mind be destroyed by a bad link breakup.”
 
“Thank you,” I said. “I recognize that you are doing an expensive service for free and appreciate it. Please be ready at dawn. Do you need a guide?”
 
“If one of the casters could be waiting, in the Magic Kingdom outside of the portal, that would be sufficient.”
 
“I shall see to it.” I informed. “Also, Headmaster, after the link is broken, might you have a few minutes to talk in private. I am most interested in the discipline of thinkamancy and there are a few questions I'd like to ask before you head back.”
 
“That would be acceptable,” he replied.
 
“Thank you, for that as well then,” I added a small bow while I said this. “I look forward to meeting you and your fellow thinkamancers.”
 
“Until then, warlord. Good-night,” and with that the link was broken.
 
Phew!
 
I opened the eyebook.
 
 
LordHamster: Sizemore.
 
I waited for the reply
 
IminUrDirz: Yes Warlord?
LordHamster: Come to the situation room, we need to talk.
IminUrDirz: Very well, I'll be there shortly.
LordHamster: Good, see you then.
 
I turned to the lookamancer, “hey, good news. Looks like you're not going to suffer horrible backlash from breaking the caster link. Just one more day and it's over,” there was no reply.
 
“That said, I need to make sure I get the best use out of you that I can. You three got the juice to make a new magic item? I was looking to make something that protects against thinkamancy, perhaps.”
 
“Apologies Warlord. Much of our juice was used in the battle today,” the casters replied. "The virtual reality (VR) simulation was particularly costly."
 
“Aright,” I conceded, “how about this? Do you have enough juice to look over my glasses here and enhance them in various ways, like you did with the eyebook?  In particular, I'd like them to to be able to see through foolamancy.” I took them off and handed them to her,
 
“Yes Lord, we still have enough juice for that.”
 
“Alright, do that then,” I ordered and they got to work. Sizemore showed up and I told him to wait until they were done.
 
“Done Lord,” she handed them back. I put them on, and checked around.
 
Sizemore (Plaid tribe).
Race: Man
Class: Caster; light (medium)
Level: 3
Move: 7+1=8
Hits: 5
Combat: 1(+1)+1=3
Defence: 1+1=2
Special: Dirtamancer; noble
 
The thing that surprised me the most, was that Sizemore was a noble. I don't know why I was surprised by that, really. He popped under a king, after all, but I still was. Maggie was one too but Misty wasn't.
 
Now, I was told that stat boards are foolamancy so if I concentrate... yea, I could see through it now. Hmm, even though Sizemore had a twollish masterwork shovel, his base attack was still one. This was comparable to how I had been observing this stat. Armour was the same, but since that Stupid Meal fact mentioned that armour did give a bonus, I was guessing that the advantages of items was not something my glasses were powerful enough to discern. Therefore, they just showed the normal combat rating of a unit instead.
 
You know, level three seemed low. Creating golems and digging must not be conducive to level growth. Then again, I knew of a thinkamancer that lived for twenty years and was only level 6. Trying to level up without fighting seems really hard. I looked at the other three. Maggie, the thinkamancer, was level 4. She had probably been the chief caster before Wanda arrived. Misty, the lookamancer, was level 1. Jack, the master class foolamancer, was the highest of the bunch. At level 8, he was the same as Wanda, which sounded about right.
 
All of the non-royals had zero to their base attack and defence stats too. I guess casters just didn't have any innate combat abilities. There was one thing I took particular note of though.
 
Jack (Zamussels tribe).
Race: Man
Class: Caster; light (medium)
Level: 8
Move: 7-1+2=8           
Hits: 5-1+2=6            
Combat: 1-2+3+1=3    
Defence: 1-2+3+1=3
Special: Foolamancer; noble; degradation (advanced)
 
Degradation. All three of them were suffering from it. This must be part of the reason why being in a link croaks the casters. I wondered how much worse it would get before it became a terminal condition
 
I had a simple illusion cast next. The glasses could really spot them. Another valuable items enhanced! I wondered if I could get one more thing out of them before the link was broken tomorrow.
 
"So, what did you want to see me about Warlord?”
 
“Stuff happened and I decided to fill you in,” I began as I explained the day that had gone by. He listened with a fair amount of horror at the tale and when I finished he told me that he would be sure to be up to greet the thinkamancers and to have the caster link in the portal room. He also asked about Wanda. Which reminded me that I hadn't had her looked at, after the original scan. She could probably benefit from the link... I made a note to have them give her a checkup tomorrow.
 
After that business was done, we began talking magic again. As I crammed more information into my head and eyebook, we also started talking a bit about perhaps buying scrolls. I wasn't sure what would be more effective for now but I wanted options. Sizemore said he was willing to go around and pick some up if I wanted him to, which I did. I had some specific requests on that matter.
 
We talked until nightfall. There was still a lot I needed to know but I ended the discussion anyway and went to bed. I made sure to contact Bogroll before I went to my chambers.
 
I asked him if he could make a large hooded robe that covered me from head to toe. I had recalled that twolls could also make clothing. That could be useful later on. I also mentioned that he needed to make for himself a shirt like mine, so that we could be team hamster! He said yes, of course. Afterwards, I told him I needed to get up earlier than usual because I had a special job to do. He said he would be sure that I would not sleep in. I felt he would be reliable for this but, just as a security measure. I also checked to see if I could set an alarm on the eyebook. Turned out I could.
 
So with that out of the way. I felt I had done all I could for now, and went to sleep.
 
NIGHT. TWO DAYS REMAIN UNTIL TBfGK.
 
Mechanics Corner:
 
  • Positioning bonuses: It's known that there are bonuses for terrain and such. The discussion between Stanley and Parson made it sound like there might be a bonus for surrounding the enemy too.
  • Charlie's Rules: doesn't that rule just sound like something Charlie would have? I really liked that.
  • Degradation: The basic for this is that my system for stats would put a noble Jack at precisely level 4 (level 5 if commoner). That's certainly possible, but unlikely because he's a master class. Therefore I added a new mechanic. I feel it makes sense anyway. Being in a link slowly kills the casters and their signamancy is terrible. It feels reasonable to me that units that look bad become physically weaker. Likewise, I believe that a normally light class unit can get fat and become a heavy. I feel that this happened with Don King and Al due to their staying in their respective cities for a long time.
  • Sizemore: He's a freaking noble, and Maggie likely is as well. You pop under a king and this is what you become. I have no idea why this was never freaking mentioned anywhere but it makes no sense for this not to be the case.
Word Count: 7k
Part 4 of 11 in The Imperfect Warlord

Comments

  • threezero98

    That which sounds like Charlie, is similar in content , but not in terms of its aural Signamancy.

  • Thecommander236

    A few things I'm curious about and some corrections:

    Is Wanda even allowed to say that much about Charlie? Wouldn't the Deal of the Lifetime make discussing even his known policies illegal? 

    Also is this a typo: "That is because of reason the..." Reason... what?

    "delighted at having some up with such a farcical solution". "thought up"?

    Also a cat's box? What do you mean?

    "all three of the uncroaked stacks has one less dwagon in them." should be "had"

    Why was Lady Phat killed instead of Leroy. In canon, Leroy was headshot.

    "me to now allow him to croak" Should be "not".

    "Even better, he was staying within a hex's range." "turn's range"

    What is the VR simulation?

    You gave Sizemore these stats: Combat: 1(+1)+1+1=3 Defence: 1+1+1=2; don't you have too many +1's in there?

    "The Maggie the thinkamancer", "The Maggie"?

    There should be a hyphen in "non royals" so non-royals.

    Jack should be of the Banhammer tribe. Zamussels is a name Jillian gave herself, but he is still a Banhammer. Jack wouldn't have her name as his tribe name.

     

    Anyways. I would be surprised if Isaac was willing answer questions about Thinkamancy, but I guess he wouldn't give anything but superficial answers. Even if he was, I would have Maggie make sure he wasn't going to hit me with a Thinkamancy charm or a suggestion. Besides the spelling and grammar errors, I really like the story. You should put the text in Microsoft to catch any of those errors and make sure to reread it to catch anything spell check misses. 

     

    If I was in you SI's place, I don't think I could suck up that much. My pride wouldn't allow it, but I wonder if I could convince Stanley like that. It would be interesting to find out. I am surprised that you didn't have Sizemore come up earlier than that.

  • tomaO2
    • That which sounds like Charlie, is similar in content , but not in terms of its aural Signamancy.

    If you have a better version of the line, give it a go and I consider changing it. I wanted to make something that would fit right in with Charrlie's rules.

    • Is Wanda even allowed to say that much about Charlie? Wouldn't the Deal of the Lifetime make discussing even his known policies illegal? 

    She's not allowed to talk about Haffington. She can say nothing of Charlie's history that he wants hidden. There is nothing secret about the fact that he holds to the letter of a contract only and will screw you seven ways from Sunday in loopholes. That's really common knowledge.

    • Also is this a typo: "That is because of reason the..." Reason... what?

    Reason the... third. Look at the next paragraph. I was going for a more dramatic transition.

    • "delighted at having some up with such a farcical solution". "thought up"?

    Come up, actually. Also, if you are going to give me spelling corrections, please quote the entire paragraph. It makes finding the mistake MUCH easier.

    • Also a cat's box? What do you mean?

    According to Wikipedia: Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat which may be simultaneously both alive and dead, a state known as a quantum superposition, as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur. The thought experiment is also often featured in theoretical discussions of the interpretations of quantum mechanics. Schrödinger coined the term Verschränkung (entanglement) in the course of developing the thought experiment.

    Basically, it goes like this. The cat is simultaneously living and dead, while in the box. It's only by opening the box and seeing the actual result that the cat's fate becomes falls to either being alive or dead. 

    To learn more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger%27s_cat

    In this context, the dwagons are simultaneously both in and not in the hex, because Jillian is not a reliable observer due to the suggestion spell and the archons are also not reliable observers, because Ansom didn't pay for magical protection. If she leaves without fighting, then they were not actually there.

    Clearly.

    She was totally not under any suggestion spell, she was just imagining it.

    • "all three of the uncroaked stacks has one less dwagon in them." should be "had"

    Maybe, full paragraph if you want me to check out the spot. It's not a short update and hard to find the relevant passage. I dislike getting corrections but if you insist, then give me bigger quotes.

    • Why was Lady Phat killed instead of Leroy. In canon, Leroy was headshot.

    Because I already knew that Jillian would attack the smallest stack, so I put Lady Phat in it instead so Leroy would not be killed first, because I LIKE Leroy.

    • What is the VR simulation?

    Short for Virtual Reality. Which is a common abbreviation for when you have a fully immersive experience while playing a computer game. Normally in the context of some sort of future world where your consciousness inhabits a game avatar while your real body is lying, unconscious, at home.

    • You gave Sizemore these stats: Combat: 1(+1)+1+1=3 Defence: 1+1+1=2; don't you have too many +1's in there?

    Hmm, lets go over this again. Sizmore has a 1 base stat (+1 masterwork shovel), +1 chief warlord hex bonus... and that should be it. 

    Yep. That is an extremely glaring mistake too. 

    • Jack should be of the Banhammer tribe. Zamussels is a name Jillian gave herself, but he is still a Banhammer. Jack wouldn't have her name as his tribe name.

    You know that for a fact? I just assumed that Zamussels might have been the name of Banhammer's parent. Last names can carry for multiple generations, I think. That's how I'm writing in for this story, anyway.

    •  Anyways. I would be surprised if Isaac was willing answer questions about Thinkamancy, but I guess he wouldn't give anything but superficial answers. Even if he was, I would have Maggie make sure he wasn't going to hit me with a Thinkamancy charm or a suggestion.

    I'm just making an excuse to meet him. He's a smart guy and will be wanting to take any good opportunity to get some first hand interaction anyway.

    • Besides the spelling and grammar errors, I really like the story. You should put the text in Microsoft to catch any of those errors and make sure to reread it to catch anything spell check misses. 

    I actually DID do that. A lot of those mistakes were not simple spelling mistake, you know. I actually put a lot of work into trying to fix mistakes but things happen. Especially when you tend to edit your posts as much as I do. I've made lots of revisions while writing this out. I've already erased this post twice and posted up new versions because I found corrections I wanted to make.

    •  If I was in you SI's place, I don't think I could suck up that much. My pride wouldn't allow it, but I wonder if I could convince Stanley like that. It would be interesting to find out. I am surprised that you didn't have Sizemore come up earlier than that.

    Sizemore isn't really needed so much in the earlier chapters. He gets a bigger role as we focus more on tunnel defence. I don't think this is too demeaning for SI!me, so far. Also helps when you know it's coming and can brace yourself to do what you need to do to get what you need. If bowing this much to Stanley is enough to save Misty's life and keep Stanley from not getting ambushed. I can certainly do it.

  • falcore51

    Really enjoyed your work and tipped you for it.  Keep writing.

     

  • tomaO2

    Thanks, Falcore! :)

    Also, I made the corrections on the spelling that were pointed out.

  • Roketter

    Likes it a lot, and also tiped with what few schmuckers i had. 

  • Beeskee

    Loving this series :D

     

    I think the city pops nobles and royals if it is governed by a noble.

    I had to go dig up the relevant update: http://archives.erfworld.com/Book%201/88

    "Cities ruled by royals pop nobles (and more royals)"

    Which, to me, makes it sound like a city needs a royal warlord managing it. The king or queen likely counts for whatever city they occupy also. That would be a reason to have a city governed by a royal warlord, also.

    There's different levels of royals and nobles too. Apparently Caesar is "barely a noble"

     

    btw I know it's a good update when it makes me go through the archives ;)

  • Beeskee

    I kinda forgot to add my point: Is Sizemore noble? If the above is true, it would depend on where Sizemore popped and who was governing the city. :D

  • ArbitraryNotion

    I'm really loving this story, great job!!

    (sorry but I gotta mention this)

    A common issue that spellcheck won't help with is the difference between "then" and "than".  "Then" is used to create a timeline while "than" is used to compare things.

    However,” he continued. “If we allow those dwagons to heal at dawn, they will again hit the column with the same tactic, with more then (somparison, should be than) twice the force. Recall, while the ranged units were devastating, and helped wipe out over half the numbers of every hex they raided, they were still focused on our weakest units, the basic infantry. They are not needed to take down the siege, which is the clearly the main goal. While I would dearly like to kill those archer knights, they are not the main threat.”
     
    We lost more then more then 40% of our siege,” Georgia bitterly mentioned.  repeated and should be than
     
    “Well, like I said Tool, he's got nothing but contempt for you. I suspect that he would rather believe that we had veiled our wounded units, rather then (should be than unless considered a construction, if so, "we" should be removed) we had bested him tactically. In other words,” I paused and looked at the board. Given how time works differently. I could well imagine Erfworld showing Ansom make his next move, just because it would have good dramatic effect, if it did so right now. I wasn't disappointed
     
    “If she takes a direct line. She'll end up passing the hidden hex completely,” and wasn't that a surprise. When I had originally read the comic. Few were more disappointed then (comparison, should be than) I was when those wounded dwagons were found and killed by Jillian. 
     
    “You don't want to do that Jillian.” the undead warlord called out. She turned to look at Manpower, then back to Jaclyn. Timeline, correct
     
     
  • tomaO2

    Okay, spelling corrected. 

    @Beeskee. Sizemore is a noble, as is Maggie, as is Jack. Wanda is not and I decided that Misty popped after Saline IV died, so she is a commoner unit

    I've been thinking of how to quantify popping royals and I've come up with this.

    Okay, since Jillian had other units pop in the capital. They are royal units, but they don't seem to count as her kids. This isn't because they are not her heirs, because Tram wasn't popped as an heir but was still a son of Jetstone.

    We've seen royal and noble used interchangeably. I'm therefore making a theory that kingdoms can pop

    1. royal heirs
    2. royal children
    3. royal non-relatives.


    Royal non heirs would take the same amount of time to pop as nobles but just have a higher status (currently thinking 2-3 turns to pop), while royal children would take longer. I'd say 10 turns for them.

    If you want your child to also be an heir, it takes an additional 50 turns to pop, or 60 turns total!

  • Keybounce

    I'm really enjoying this. Especially the whole look at Ansom's horrible leading of the coalition.

     

    You're right: They did keep splitting the attacking party. The whole "destroy all the siege" tactic? That would only work if you can survive a long-term blockade -- you would have to be able to hit their troops (led dragon stacks, check) and keep them out (Strong walls, no weak access points, no enemy fliers) ... unlikely.

     

    I don't know that a full force of dragons against coalition air would have failed. The attack specials of the dragons -- breath and poop -- would still work well even off-turn. The leadership bonus of the coalition ... yea, actually, archons / dance plus Ansom ... unless you could figure out a way to take him out, I suppose you do have to go for the "split us up, and force them to split themselves up" tactic.

     

    Still: Good job on saving Misty.

  • tomaO2

    I think GK could have won if the siege was taken out, but only if Charlie stayed neutral. The tower defences were shown to be capable of wiping out almost the entire air force that Ansom had. The walls are definitely strong, and with a dirtamancer reinforcing them, I'm pretty sure they would have held. There's still the tunnels though. Ansom probably could have broken through if he had put in more men there, I think. Depends on how many units GK could kill and how well Wanda could uncroak them.

    I enjoyed the little segments with Misty. She was fun to imagine a background and personality for.