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  • Revolutionary: Book 1 - An Erfworld Carol {Act 1 - The Scroll}

Revolutionary: Book 1 - An Erfworld Carol {Act 1 - The Scroll}

Revolutionary: Book 1 - An Erfworld Carol {Act 1 - The Scroll}


 

The Earl of Jacobi had been disbanded over an errand just like this one. Sent to the Magic Kingdom on an impossible mission over twenty five and a half hundredturns ago. But then, it had been the Weirdomancer's fault for bringing up the fool idea in the first place. To bring up mad promises that could not be delivered upon? Fools such as that deserved to be disbanded.

There was a feeling in the air this evening in the Magic Kingdom, a feeling that perhaps had something to do with the bank of fog and chilled weather that had settled over the entire island this turn. Or perhaps something else. But Edlorado Banks Neezer, chief Moneymancer for the HouseOfGray, paid no attention to such matters. Superstition was just another humbug in a long line of such things, like the one that had spawned the rumor his king had ordered him to investigate lest it prove true and become a means to strengthen the side. He'd voiced his concerns to the king, telling his lord and ruler exactly what he thought of such poppyboob, but the order had been restated, his mission was assigned, and his mood soured even more than usual.

"Rands for the poor casters! Rands for the poor!"

E. B. Neezer sneered at the filthy Hippiemancers that had appeared to beg for those wretches who could not be bothered to earn their own upkeep and they parted before him with no words and a fearful expression.

"Useless humbug..." he spat as he strode past, spearing the ground ahead of him with his cane on each step. He knew what his Signamancy was like. Hundreds of turns spent minimizing expenses and upkeep for the HouseOfGray and King Penny Pincher had winnowed his body down to the bare essentials. His frame was bone and sinew, his posture bent, his skin wrinkled and dry, and his hair bone white. But his gaze was sharp and his face more fearsome than any Guard Goyle's. His raiment was the Banker standard, embroidered with his personal livery of stacked gold coins over the breast pocket, and topped with a tall top hat. A Magic Hat no less that he'd had... for longer than he'd served the HouseOfGray and kept because it proved useful in the pursuit of his Duty. His cane was a pitch black sword-length pole topped with a golden knob that could be converted directly into enough shmuckers to pay the upkeep of the average caster for two turns. Four for him. Being a Moneymancer had a few perks, and one was having low upkeep. In fact, due to how Rands worked, converting Shmuckers in a caster's purse to Rands at an exchange rate equal to their upkeep, many Moneymancers in the Magic Kingdom made their living converting Shmucker payments to barbarian casters into Rands and taking a cut of the surplus. It was a fine and respectable trade. Far more respectable than what some other casters tried to make a living at.

As if to prove his point, a lady caster with a piece of cloth tied over her eyes stepped out of the fog and barred his way. "Tell your fortune, good sir?"

"Out of my way!" he spat at her and struck out with his cane. He did no hits worth of damage, but he did send the wretched Predictamancer sprawling in surprise. Well, if she couldn't even predict that, how good could she possibly be? Predictamancy was useless trash after all. he walked past her in the direction of the red trees, glaring a clear path in a way that would have been the envy of any Lookamancer. He had business to attend to.

Business with the most wretched and unworthy school of casters on Erfworld.

He had business with the Naughtymancers.


 

The red leaves of the Grove of the Naughtymancers rarely failed to put anyone on edge. There was a Signamancy to them that spoke of foul dealings and fouler dangers hidden within. E. B. Neezer strode through them without a care, his glare calling the bluff of the sinister trees and raising the stakes. He spared more attention on counting his steps, tallying the cost of physical effort and time his errand was taking, than he did on the sinister promise of the trees.

He'd heard all the rumors. The Shockmancers would boast of calling storms any time inclement weather hit the Magic Kingdom, attempting to boost their reputation so that people might forget that Shockmancy was magic that even the most moronic caster could use. The Croakamancers, when they felt undeservedly bold, would claim to be able to croak a unit with just a touch or perhaps knit a wounded unit's body back together so well that they would not need Healomancy. There were even the rumors that Retconjurers were real, and had somehow used their powers to conceal that fact from everyone.

Humbug. All of it. As far as he was concerned, the Naughtymancers were all worthless attention seekers. The Shockmancers couldn't handle the fact that they worked in a highly competetive job market, one where all of their competitors had more skills to offer than they did. The Croakamancers couldn't handle the fact that their discipline was less than worthless in the Magic Kingdom, even if it wasn't an abomination. And both of them felt slighted that the school of Naughtymancy had but two disciplines to its name where the other seven, even those of little real use, had three.

"Halt and state your business," a voice called out and E. B. Neezer looked up. The man before him had decent Signamancy on him, even if his hair looked like it had taken one too many jolts of Shockmancy. His raiment was old fashioned and looked decent enough, but it was clear it had been purchased from a Dollamancer's discount bin given its ill fit.

"Revolutionary Victor," he sneered at the man. As if being a master-class Croakamancer with some skill in Shockmancy qualified one for a multi-mastery title. The man was no better than a single-class caster pretending to be something far above his station. And the way he talked of using Shockmancy to enhance his Croakamancy to create something called a 'flesh golem'... wretched. It was positively astounding the man managed to make upkeep.

"Banker," the man glared back, at least recognizing E. B. Neezer's well-earned mastery of Moneymancy. "What business have you here?"

"I have been sent by my King to seek out the Retconjurers," E. B. Neezer spat, the very word leaving a foul taste in his mouth. "Direct me to their assigned area and be about your business."

"There are no Retconjurers," Victor declared. "You are on a fool's errand."

"Perhaps, but I have my orders. And we both know that whether they exist or not, there is a place in this grove assigned for their use. Just like the Clevermancy district has the casino for the Luckamancers, the hospital for the Healomancers, and the bank for the Moneymancers, so too will your grove have a place set aside for the Retconjurers. Even if none exist. Now direct me to it and be on your way."

"I should croak you where you stand for such disrespect."

"Is that so?" E. B. Neezer hefted his cane and brandished it at Victor. "Well, humbug I say!"

Victor's eyes went wide as E. B. Neezer poked him in the chest, and the Moneymancer scowled imperiously, his expression not gaining the least bit of amusement.

"What's the matter, boy?" he emphasized the mildly derogatory term for a male unit with a sneer, one that indicated inexperience and foolishness. "Your purse shrink?"

It was a very situational skill of Moneymancy, but with a minor casting that a skilled Banker didn't even need to use language focus for, a touched unit's purse could be expanded or shrunk. And his specialty cane was a magic item that allowed him to use touch-based magic through it. Against units who belonged to a side, it was an annoyance at best, but against a barbarian? It could be devastating. A barbarian's purse could be shrunk to the point that disbanding the next turn was a certainty, and the shmuckers that were in it added to the Moneymancer's own purse in the process. Such a skill was one of the reasons that the rand had been created in the first place by way of a Moneymancy/Weirdomancy link. He couldn't steal rands from a purse since the Magic Kingdom's barter credit could not be affected by Moneymancy in any way after its creation, but he could shrink the purse that held them to a size of zero. It would be considered an attack if he did so by any security counsel given that the affected caster would be in serious danger of disbanding before the debuff wore off, but he could assuredly skate when it came to light that the Croakamancer had threatened to croak him.

"Why you..."

"It's fine, Victor," a female voice interrupted and E. B. Neezer flicked his gaze at the new arrival. She had a dress with frills and lace like she was prepared for court, much of it in black like many Croakamancers favored, and a golden chain running from her waist to some object in a dress pocket.

"Revolutionary Mina," Victor bowed in respect.

E. B. Neezer didn't so much as twitch as he watched the woman look him over.

"I will take him to the Forgotten Library," she stated. "Perhaps then he will understand the folly of his errand."

"Very well," Victor nodded reluctantly and stomped off into the trees.

Mina was another of the so-called 'Revolutionaries' that supposedly 'ruled' the Naughtymancers. A master-class Croakamancer, adept-class Shockmancer, and convinced that counted as multi-mastery. Humbug. Still, she was leading him to where he wanted to go and so E. B. Neezer followed her, counting his steps along the way.

"Why do you seek the Retconjurers anyway?" she asked him.

"None of your business," he snapped.

"I think it is a great deal my business, considering that as a Revolutionary they fall under my purview whether they exist or not."

"Bah."

She stopped, standing just outside the range of his cane, and stared at him. He glared back, but she met his gaze without so much as a flinch.

"I know your type, Banker. State your reasons for seeking them out or leave this grove. The price to visit the Forgotten Library is your reason for going. No less."

"My King has ordered me to seek out Retconjuration on a personal matter."

"He is unhappy with something," she nodded, but resumed walking.

"Hm," he grunted.

"I assure you, I have heard every mad excuse possible. Does he wish to retconjure an enemy out of existence? Perhaps make it so that a battle that went poorly instead went well? Or might he desire that a particular unit or two had popped as something else?"

E. B. Neezer didn't quite suppress his twitch at that last one.

"Ah, he is unhappy with a particular unit," Mina nodded like such was expected. "Which one?"

"His heir," E. B. Neezer snorted after a full minute of deliberation. "Poor Signamancy."

"Oh dear, for how long?"

"Since the prince popped twenty eight hundred and thirty two turns ago."

"Twenty eight–" Mina began laughing so hard that she had to stop and lean against one of the red trees along the path. E. B. Neezer stopped and glared at her until she finished. "My apologies, but even should Retconjurers prove real, they could not do what your king desires! Perhaps had he popped this turn a mortal Retconjurer could theoretically do something, but what you ask can be granted only by the Titans themselves!"

"I would still see this 'library' you speak of," his scowl deepened.

"Of course," Mina nodded and led him on. He counted each step, memorizing cost of the path in terms of footsteps, twists, and time.

And then she gestured him into a clearing. Before him was a large wide staircase flanked by two stone statues of proud ferals of some sort, both afflicted with the Signamancy of severe neglect. And at the top of the stairs...

Nothing.

In a bout of uncharacteristic curiosity, he climbed the steps, counting them out at fifty two, and looked over the edge. There was a wide pit ten feet deep at the bottom of a sheer drop, smooth and bereft of growth as if some manner of building had once stood in this clearing, but had been summarily razed or disbanded or something just prior to his arrival. He stared at the pit as if it might yield answers for a moment, even poking his cane into the empty space just past and below the edge of the stone platform to check for Foolamancy, before scoffing and turning away.

"Do you see now what I mean?" Mina asked him.

"Yes. This has been a colossal waste of my time. Good day to you Revolutionary."

And with that, he began his walk back to his side's portal, counting the cost in steps the whole way.



Mina of the Harpers watched the vicious Moneymancer leave, and felt a familiar twinge. A twinge of intuition that told her she'd just made a terrible mistake. A mistake perhaps worse than risking the terrible secrets she guarded. A mistake that cried out to her to be corrected.

She knew him now. The number he'd given for the prince matched up with the one she'd heard previously from a Weirdomancer on a very similar errand. One who she had collaborated with, against her better judgement, for several turns on an experimental project until one day he had gone through his home portal and never returned.

That had been twenty five hundred and eighty seven turns ago by her memory, and her memory had yet to fail her. How could it, given what she was?

The Moneymancer who had just left even matched the Weirdomancer's description once the degraded Signamancy was taken into account. The Earl of Jacobi had asked her to give their joint project to such a Moneymancer should he come searching, and she'd just sent him away.

She didn't like the thought of such a scroll in the hands of a side like the HouseOfGray. Not if even a fraction of the rumors were true, and according to the Earl of Jacobi, the rumors didn't know the half of it.

But he'd also said the scroll was the last best chance the prince had to escape the curse of his family legacy. The Earl had also been half mad at the time, but he'd had a Predictamancer backing him up and that was something one ignored at their own peril.

She didn't like the thought of such a scroll falling into the hands of a king like Penny Pincher. She liked the idea of such a thing being made for nothing even less.

Pulling out her pocketwatch, a gift from a Turnamancer she'd helped once, she opened its face and looked it over, confirming what she already knew. If she didn't make a decision in just under an hour, then night would fall and render the matter moot with the end of all turns and the loss of any unspent juice. And she would be left wondering.

She hated to be left wondering. Especially about a mistake.

Centering herself, Mina prepared to cast in the discipline she'd popped with. It seemed no matter how many times she swore to stop casting it, she kept finding reasons to do so.

She didn't need to go back far, such as to beginning of the day. Just far enough to redo this one meeting.

"Be kind. Rewind."


 

"Oh dear, for how long?"

"Since the prince popped twenty eight hundred and thirty two turns ago."

She didn't laugh this time, and instead nodded. "Well, even should they exist, a mortal Retconjurer could not possibly cast to change something so many turns ago. Such a feat is reserved only for the Titans who cast in all schools at once and have as much juice as they require."

The Moneymancer, Edlorado Banks Neezer, grunted in reluctant agreement and the two walked in silence until they arrived at the clearing.

She watched as he took in the sight of the steps with a grimace and painstakingly ascended them to look over the edge into the pit that made the Forgotten Library's absence all too plain. Like before, he poked past the edge of the steps in case the building might be under some manner of Foolamancy veil, and was satisfied when his cane struck only air.

"This... has been a colossal waste of my time," he scoffed.

"Perhaps, perhaps not," she said, joining him at the top of the steps. "I may not have the means to do what your king wants, but I might have the means to do what your side needs."

"Explain," he demanded.

"The Earl of Jacobi and I worked on a special scroll when he came here," she replied, noting that the man hid his surprise well. "I used my contacts to procure the necessary materials and he used his Weirdomancy to fashion a special scroll. One that he insisted I give to you should you ever come looking for it."

"He was disbanded twenty five hundred and fifty seven turns ago," the Moneymancer snorted disdainfully. "Surely you sold it for upkeep since then."

"I would never," she just barely managed to resist lashing out in anger at the slight on her character. "I swore the scroll would go to you and no other, and I keep my promises. I kept it in a safe place that only I know of."

A small fib, but she wasn't about to reveal the truth.

"Very well, where is it?"

"I must go and fetch it. Wait for me by your side's portal and I will bring it to you."

"Be quick about it. Time is money after all," the man huffed and began descending the steps, spearing each one with his cane as he walked off towards his portal.

Once he was out of sight, she turned towars the empty space at the top of the steps, stepped forwards–

"One step forward, two steps back."

–and opened the doors to the Forgotten Library. She took a moment to breathe in the smell of paper, ink, and history that saturated the building's halls before calling out.

"William! Theodore!" the two perpetually disheveled pages came running at once, reminding her of a time when she'd been in their shoes. A time before she'd been the Librarian and senior Retconjurer in the Magic Kingdom. Senior of three. Out of perhaps five Erf-wide, if that. "Quickly, I need the scroll."

"Which scroll?"

"The big one, of course."

The two junior Retconjurers looked at each other and grinned. "Excellent!"



"What manner of scroll is this?" E. B. Neezer held the thing out away from him as he examined it warily, like it might bite him at any moment. The glow from his side's portal mingled with the glow of the massive scroll to create an eerie effect, but E. B. Neezer shrugged it off.

"If you must know, it used to be three scrolls created by three dual-caster links for unique purposes," Mina answered him. "The Earl of Jacobi used his Weirdomancy to 'weave' them together into a single scroll so that they might take effect one after the other."

"What kind of links?"

"I am under contract not to say," Mina answered, and he scowled. Blasted Signamancers and their non-disclosures... "However, I can say that the primary power of the scrolls is related to Thinkamancy. Cast it before you go to sleep and if there is an answer to your side's problem, then it will be revealed to you in your dreams."

"A spell to be cast only at night?" How absurd.

"The Earl of Jacobi wove a touch of Turnamancy in to take care of any problems that might pose."

"And from what you say, I cannot cast this on my King?" that would not go over well at all.

"Not at all," Mina shook her head. "The scroll can only affect the one who cast it, and I do not know enough of Weirdomancy to change that. So unless your king is also a caster, then–"

"Very well, I suppose I am ordered. How much?"

"The scroll has already been paid for by the Earl of Jacobi."

"Has it now?" he grimaced. Of course the fool had spent money he had no right to on this... thing. Probably why he'd wound up in the dungeon for thirty turns before being disbanded. "Well, I suppose that lack of additional expense will go a long way to making up for the... haphazard nature of the spell."

'Revolutionary' Mina said nothing in response.

"Good day, then," he finished curtly and walked back through the portal to home.

He emerged into the dilapidated portal room of TwoCity and breathed deeply, before choking on the foul rancid smell coming from outside.

"CRAPPIT!" he bellowed with the force of an order. That useless thrice-disbanded Dirtamancer had some explaining to do!


Mina of the Harpers watched as the man vanished through his side's portal and hoped that the Earl of Jacobi had been right in his assessment of the man all those turns ago. She hoped that he was still right, or the carefully crafted wholly unique spell would be an utter waste.

But there was nothing for it. She had made her choice, the deed was done, and she had already altered events once this turn. Attempting to do so more risked inviting disaster. For as much as the Titans themselves used Retconjuration to suit their needs, they despised its necessity. It was hard to be a caster for a discipline that the Titans themselves shunned, and the weight of that knowledge upon popping drove most new Retconjurers to... reconsider their calling.

Which was why there was the rare oddity among sides where a caster of any discipline might pop with less than half the juice they should have possessed. It was considered a strange omen when it happened, but frequently forgotten about soon after.

But the Titans had made the Rules, and were so bound in how they oversaw Erfworld. And the Rules said that each branch of magic must be represented by mortal casters of its discipline.

And so those scant few Retconjurers who remained such through Fate, Fortune, or Free Will kept the truth of their discipline a secret. As they had since turns immemorial.

"And here I thought I was the one who found trouble," a voice cut into her thoughts, and she turned to see a man standing behind her. A relatively thin, but with otherwise decently healthy Signamancy, man with decent raiment that included some strange shoulder-cape she'd never understood and a cap with brims both in front and back.

"Detective ACD," she greeted the master-class Findamancer with a respectful nod.

"Revolutionary Mina," the man nodded back in the same way. "Quite the horn-it's nest you just kicked there. I don't know what kind of spell you gave him, but that's the HouseOfGray's portal. Some very nasty rumors about that place."

Mina discarded the first few retorts she thought of regarding putting stock in rumors, and decided to just tell the truth. Detective ACD almost always got to it one way or another. She'd had more than a few close calls with the secret of Retconjuration's existence dealing with him, more than half of which had required her to cast to keep that secret, before he'd suddenly given up prodding her.

"I know," she said, looking back at the portal and its decidedly sickly coloration. "From what I hear, it's worse than the rumors say."

"That would be quite the achievement given what I've heard."

"What brings you here anyway?"

"I was bored and decided to go find trouble. My Findamancy senses led me here."

"You were low on rands and went looking for work."

He didn't deny it. Instead, he replied with "Curious how often trouble leads to work around here, isn't it?"
 

"So what's your excuse this turn, Crappit?!" he bellowed at the filthy, literally, Dirtamancer. The man looked like he'd been rolling in his discipline's namesake all day. "Why are you perpetually unable to do the one job you have assigned and clean up this disbanded city?!"

The Dirtamancer cringed with every word and jab of E. B. Neezer's cane, as if fearing he might be disbanded for real over his failure. Fortunately for him, only King Penny Pincher could do that and his highness remained of the opinion that assigning the work to Crappit was cheaper than disbanding him and hiring out from the MK for the job. For now.

"Well?! Out with it! Did you perhaps ignore your orders and drag that blitzed-out Florist off to the farms? Did you decide that you knew better than his highness again and try one of your 'city improvement' projects?"

E. B. Neezer glared so hard the Dirtamancer stumbled back as if actually struck.

"You didn't sneak into the Magic Kingdom for charity work again, did you?"

"No!" Crappit shook his head frantically. "I noticed some of the buildings were starting to get unsound again and I–"

"–IGNORED YOUR ORDERS!" E. B. Neezer roared so hard the Dirtamancer fell over. "You are to clean the streets of this Titans-awful filth and maybe make a golem or two out of it, nothing before!"

"But the–"

"NO EXCUSES!"

"The prince–"

Crappit cut off as the tip of E. B. Neezer's cane whipped out to an inch from his forehead.

"The prince is Signamancer Pickle-so's problem," E. B. Neezer said dangerously. "The city is yours. Unless and until either one is solved, you will both continue to do as you have been ordered! Do I make myself clear?!"

Crappit nodded slowly, and E. B. Neezer stalked off to find the king.

"Sir..." Crappit called after him, apparently finding additional foolish boldness from somewhere. "If... if perhaps we could have full upkeep instead of bare subsistence..."

E. B. Neezer turned slowly to spear the Dirtamancer with his glare, and whatever boldness the man had found fled in terror.

"Did I just hear you questioning his highness's choices for side management?"

"N-no... It's just that... TwoCity is..."

"Indeed, what is TwoCity?" E. B. Neezer stalked back over to the cowering Crappit. "What Titanic insight have you discovered that has eluded me when I have lived and served here for longer than your apparently worthless existence?!"

"It's... it's two cities, sir! I'm just one–"

"Of course it's two cities, Crappit!" E. B. Neezer shouted at the caster. "Two cities, two capitol sites, no less, situated in adjacent hexes! The most unique of rare jewels upon all of Erf, and it is your job to make sure they shine like it! So get back to work!"

Crappit scurried away frantically, either to return to his Duty or to escape his chief caster. E. B. Neezer didn't care, so long as the failure was out of his sight.

"And if I catch you slacking off, I will personally drag you before the King to explain yourself!" he yelled after the man.



Hexes where cities could be raised were rare things, and capitol sites rarer still, and they tended to be situated well far away from each other. City sites close to one another were highly prized, especially those close to a capitol site. Cities in adjacent hexes were thought by many sides to be a fairy tale.

Two capitol sites in adjacent hexes were believed by most to be impossible.

Which might explain why, when the Titans fashioned the first 99 kings and queens, King Monty Blue the Full did not see the need to scout further when he found the site shortly to the south of where he popped as a barbarian, feeling secure that he had succeeded in the first task the Titans had set for him and named his city Escalation.

The same with Queen Catapulette the Siege who found a similar capitol site to the north of where she'd popped and claimed it as the city of Ballista.

Had either scouted one hex further, they might not have been taken by surprise to see a city rise in the hex just south/north of their newly founded capitols.

As the records show, the two royals hated each other for the trespass, and they waged a long and vicious war, seeking to destroy the other. Hiring out as mercenaries to other royals bordering their expanded territories to build up resources to fuel their perpetual two-sided siege upon each other.

A war that grew even more fierce when each side's Predictamancer foretold the fall of their side due to the actions of the heir the other was about to pop. And as secrets of this nature go, everyone in both cities knew of both prophecies by the end of the day, and all were convinced that the key to escaping destruction was to croak the other's heir first.

So when the prince of the Monty Blues and the princess of the Catapulettes popped, absolutely everyone sought to either croak them or aid them in croaking the other.

No one saw it coming when the two fell in love.

This was partly because they managed, through the aid of a precious few sympathetic friends on each side, to keep their love for each other hidden. It was also partly because the outcome was unthinkable to the bulk of both sides. And so the war grew ever more fierce until one turn King Monty Blue the Full and Queen Catapulette the Siege decided, after a rash of recent assassination attempts on both heirs, to settle the matter in a duel.

As it happened, each croaked the other in their battle, leaving their sides in the hands of their heirs who immediately signed a binding truce to end hostilities. The two then proceeded to hire casters from the Magic Kingdom to carry out a plan so ambitious its like had never been seen before and even its parts have never been duplicated since.

Through a three-caster link involving the Monty Blues' Turnamancer, the Catapulette's Thinkamancer, and a hired barbarian Weirdomancer or Carnymancer, the new king and queen ordered them to cast upon the hex boundary between the two capitols, altering it so that so long as both cities were held by a single side or sides in alliance, then units of the controlling side(s) could pass through the hex boundary as if the two cities were one.

They then, in a special structure erected across the former hex boundary, had a master-class Date-a-mancer perform a lengthy ritual upon both of them, one whose details have been lost to antiquity, that bound both of them together as if they were one ruler, uniting their sides.

Their sides had been reborn as one side, their two cities joined as TwoCity, and their mutual heir Prince Shaken Spear became the first unit in all of Erfworld to have both a mother and a father. And such a state has not been repeated though the prince's line and the joined side ruled over TwoCity until–



"Humbug," E. B. Neezer shook off his musings as he finished his journey. One of the interesting quirks of TwoCity's state was that even though it was on the books as one city, it gained the full benefit of two city's, two level 5s at that, worth of production in shmuckers, units, bonuses, and both towers. Towers that had stood tall and proud since the times of King Monty Blue and Queen Catapulette. Towers that still stood now despite the Signamancy of neglect upon them. Perhaps if Crappit was so concerned about buildings, he'd have the Dirtamancer start with the twin towers.

Another quirk was that the portal room and seat of power could be switched between North TwoCity and South TwoCity with no cost. As it happened, the portal had been in the South half when he'd returned, but the seat, and the king, was here in the North half. Along his walk, he'd spied many of the garrison units of TwoCity slacking off along the streets, some apparently sleeping on the stone without a care, some moaning for extra rations, and all possessing horrid Signamancy as they neglected their Duties. Some could have croaked where they lay given how little they seemed to care. Croaked like the bodies of the unransomed prisoners that had been fed through the EXP-boosting device that the king simply called 'Madam' in place of the payment the prisoners' sides were not sending.

"Ah, chief caster!" the pleasant and cultured voice interrupted him as he entered the North garrison. He looked up to see the one man in the city besides himself who cared enough to be impeccably dressed and clean even at this late hour. A man who had been blessed with the most exquisite of Signamancy for as long as E. B. Neezer had known him, even when his entire side seemed to degrade from lack of care on the parts of his subjects. King Penny Pincher of clan Gray, who could trace his lineage from his mother, Queen Jacqueline Hyde all the way back to Queen Dory Anne, one of the original 99 royals and founder of the HouseOfGray. Every last member of which had been blessed with Signamancy as pristine as King Penny Pincher's from the day they popped until the day they croaked. Except one...

Penny Pincher's kingly raiment sparkled with cleanliness even fabricated as it had been from perhaps fifty shades of his clan's namesake as was tradition, and E. B. Neezer's Moneymancy senses dutifully appraised the precious metals and jewels the man wore as accessories at more than his own purse could hold. At his side was strapped an artifact broadsword that E. B. Neezer had once watched carve through the neck of a powerful heavy unit with the same ease it carved through air. King Penny Pincher, through personal battle experience early in life and repeated use of 'Madam' recently, stood at level 13. The highest level among the side, and the highest E. B. Neezer had ever heard of.

Behind him wobbled HouseOfGray's Florist, one Apache Carrie. She had popped as a barbarian, a rare enough event for a caster in itself, to a group that all possessed a specialized form of fabrication to turn croaked ferals into not just rations, but also into raiment as well. As happened with many barbarian-popped casters, she'd been captured and turned for her skills. The rest of her barbarian tribe had been deemed useless by the king and summarily executed with the newly constructed 'Madam'. Since then, she had been tasked with growing the recreationals that the king required to ease the burdens of the crown. She had also grown overly fond of the substances herself and could rarely string two coherent words together. The leather and beads raiment she still wore from her barbarian origins hung just as loosely on her shrunken frame as her so-called 'peace pipe' hung from her fingers.

"Your majesty," E. B. Neezer bowed his head respectfully, ignoring the Florist and leaning on his cane so he could go as low as possible without losing his footing. "How goes the side?"

"Well enough, I suppose," King Penny Pincher sighed dramatically. "We've filled several orders for neighboring sides who want our pikers with a few more possible contracts on the way. Chief warlord Silver is even escorting an envoy from that new alliance to the west to discuss purchasing some of our surplus infantry. And, of course, income continues to be maximized thanks to your efforts chief caster."

"Thank you, sir," E. B. Neezer nodded. He'd spent most of his many hundredturns in Penny Pincher's service trying to boost the income of the HouseOfGray's cities, TwoCity in particular, as high as it would go after all. Ever trying to eke out just a few shmuckers more from their income production. Or, indeed, from wherever he could manage to find it.

"And yet, it seems that our Dirtamancer is slacking off in making the city presentable. Likewise with our Signamancer in getting the prince presentable. Plus, I heard my son was again caught stealing from the larder on his assigned rounds to pass food out to our lazy troops. He continues to claim that it is necessary to prevent some of our longer-serving units from de-popping."

"Well, if they are like to depop, then perhaps they had better do it," E. B. Neezer agreed, "and decrease the drain on our treasury and free up space for more Loyal units."

"Well said!" King Penny Pincher laughed. "Still, perhaps I can get something for them when the envoy arrives. Make back some of the loss. Or perhaps the envoy is a ruse, in which case those units will serve their Duty and we will have plenty of new prisoners to ransom! I do hate to waste shmuckers after all, though it seems I may have to spend some of those hard-earned shmuckers on barbarians from the Magic Kingdom to do their jobs. Speaking of which, did you find what I asked for?"

"I managed to procure a scroll," E. B. Neezer pulled the massive scroll out of his pocket. "For... deferred compensation pending its success."

"How shrewd!" the King laughed. "So this is what Retconjuration looks like?"

"Sadly, no," E. B. Neezer shook his head. "As I suspected, there are no such casters. However, I was assured that if there is a solution to our problem, this spell will either provide the answer or reveal it."

"Hmm..." the king nodded, looking disappointed. "Not what I ordered, but I suppose you did your Duty to the best of your ability. When do you cast it?"

"On myself before I go to sleep."

"Indeed? Well, how novel! I wish you half as good a rest as I myself shall have."

"Oh?" E. B. Neezer asked politely.

"Yes! The loveliest lady pikers that popped this morning have generously agreed to grace my bedchambers! I have high hopes that they shall last longer than the last set!"

"Lovely little pikers, hanging from the rafters..." Apache Carrie sang, her eyes unfocused as she wobbled back and forth. Disgraceful how a caster could allow themselves to fall so much, and to their own magic no less.

E. B. Neezer shook his head in disdain and politely excused himself to his bedchambers.

 

 

Detective ACD had watched Mina walk back to the Naughtymancer's grove, or as it was called by many in the Magic Kingdom the Red Leaf District.

He didn't pretend to understand the origin of the name, given that it had never been recorded anywhere he'd come across, but he understood there was a particular Signamancy to it. One that suggested that certain 'services' were readily available within. Sure, a few Turnamancers of potentially questionable morals advertised 'an authentic dungeon experience, guaranteed no turning involved' (he'd made upkeep more than once investigating those and similar claims), some Carnymancers offered 'special private shows', Dirtamancers had a reputation (whether they deserved it was another issue), and Hippiemancers in general were not shy at all about such matters. But most everyone knew that for almost every deviance a unit could have, there was a Naughtymancer somewhere in the Red Leaf District that would happily fulfill it... for the right price of course.

There were even sometimes advertisements of sorts on the various job boards to draw in casters looking for such things. He himself had partaken of such services on occasions when his funds were higher than usual. Shockmancers tended to be direct with things like 'for a good time, gram ___' and Croakamancers tended to use the phrase 'little croak' readily. It was part of the nature of casters to advertise even matters like that in the ways as familiar to them as breathing.

Which was why he so very well remembered the advertisement that had led him to Mina the first time. The one that read 'for a night you'll never forget'. Had he not known better, he'd have thought it was a Thinkamancer advertising such services, but those casters got enough work that they were more likely to be the 'buyer' as opposed to the 'seller'. And, she was very clearly a Naughtymancer of some sort.

He wasn't in Love with her, that particular folly of his had been reserved for a certain lady Carny on a different side back when he still had one, but he couldn't deny that he was intrigued by her. Findamancers, like any class of caster, had their own particular weaknesses. One was that they could find trouble more readily than any other unit type (which, he supposed, balanced rather well with their strength for finding ways out of trouble). Another was that they had a very hard time ignoring a mystery. And Mina was so very much a mystery. One made all the more enticing given how many times she managed to slip through his fingers, a feat not easily accomplished against a master-class Findamancer.

So he'd stepped back and thought on the matter, deliberately avoiding casting about it as he considered the facts he knew against the possibilities he supposed. And he'd come to one very startling and unbelievable conclusion.

A conclusion he felt certain he'd never be able to prove, if only because no one would believe it.

But he'd been surprised before.



He came across Signamancer Pickle-so in the halls, carrying a large rectangular object covered by a spare cloth. Another of his failures, most likely.

"Ch-ch-ch-ch-chief caster N-n-neezer..." the man gulped and tried, pointlessly, to hide the object behind him. "W-w-what a p-pleasant surprise!"

"Humbug, Pickle-so," E. B. Neezer snarled. "I'm not in the mood to hear your excuses, nor see what abomination of Signamancy you created this time instead of the royal portrait you were ordered to produce."

"I-I-I w-was j-j-just–"

"He was just *cough* following m*cough-cough-cough*y orders, sir."

Neezer sighed and his angry face softened just the slightest bit as he turned to look at the HouseOfGray's prince and heir. The prince was a complete wreck of Signamancy. The shortest unit of man he'd ever laid eyes on, face sunken like he'd not had full upkeep (the prince'd probably given his rations to some of the useless pikers again, disband it) for a while, and with a layer of dirt like he'd been out rolling around in it (probably trying to help Apache Carrie with the city gardens again, in direct contravention of standing orders... again).

"Prince Timothy Oliver," he bowed his head in respect. "You know your father wants this portrait done properly."

"My *cough* father and I *cough-cough* have different opinions on *cough* what makes a good *cough* portrait."

E. B. Neezer repressed a heavy sigh. The prince seemed to almost delight in defying his father's orders and it continued to amaze everyone that he got away with it ever since he'd popped with the worst combination of poppable traits anyone had ever heard of. Rather than a proper royal with an elite array of stats and a few good specials, the prince had a very below-average array of stats and several negative specials.

"Pickle-so," E. B. Neezer sneered, "get out of here. I don't care where to."

He didn't even wait to watch the man scurry away before he turned to the prince and looked him over, taking stock of the rest of his obvious weakness. The negative specials possessed by Timothy Oliver of the HouseOfGray consisted of such things as 'sickly' which meant that he would not necessarily heal or refresh fully at the start of the turn, 'lame' which gave the prince a severe penalty to movement as well as general penalties to combat and necessitated the use of a fabricated device called a 'crutch' just to get around properly as a garrison unit, 'weak' which supplied penalties to the prince's ability to carry or deal damage, and 'fragile' which gave a unit attacking the prince a bonus to damage and increased the odds that any hit made on the prince would be a crit. These negative specials had even proven impossible to remove, much to the dismay of the Earl of Jacobi as he was the side's Weirdomancer before his disbandment.

"As for you, your majesty..."

The prince actually looked him in the eye without fear or nervousness. He'd gotten at least that much from his royal heritage, despite being a unit that had never seen combat. He'd been garrisoned and at level 1 his entire life since popping, assigned by his father to apply a management bonus to TwoCity for whatever it was worth while Pickle-so tried to improve the prince's Signamancy.

"Ye*cough*s?"

"Get yourself to the larder. You are hereby ordered to eat your full upkeep. No giving handouts to the other units anymore! Do you hear?"

"They *cough* need more to eat *cough*. We're not *cough* giving them enough."

"Humbug..."

"We should treat them *cough* better..."

"Oh just get to the larder already," he snorted. "Eat your fill, don't bother me with anything else, and return to your quarters. Get someone to carry you if you must."

E. B. Neezer watched the prince limp off and call quietly for Crappit. Any other side might have considered the prince's popping a bad omen or simply disbanded him for his horrible Signamancy and terrible stats. Not Penny Pincher though. The King had insisted since turn one that every effort be made to cure his heir of his popped afflictions. All to no effort.

E. B. Neezer stared at the large scroll he carried, and snorted in disdain.



Mina sat on the edge of the Red Leaf District and kept her gaze on the portal well after the sun had set and all turns ended. She knew quite well what kind of side whose affairs she'd just meddled in was, knew it far better than any living unit she'd wager. The casting she'd done to discover that information had been the deciding factor to aid the Earl of Jacobi's insane plan.

A plan that had taken all the money the Earl had been allotted to spend and then some, had required the calling in of several carefully cultivated favors, and risked the exposure of the Retconjurors' existence to the rest of the Magic Kingdom. Just to make that one scroll.

A plan that would either bear tenuous fruit this night, or fail miserably.

There would be no second chances. Even had she the power to attempt such, it would change nothing. If that scroll could not give the Moneymancer what he needed, then no re-run would produce a different outcome. Not even a second dose would do any better.

It was one of the hard truths of the world she'd learned to accept. Even with the power of Retconjuration at her command, some things simply couldn't be changed.

Tonight would prove whether or not the Moneymancer was one of them.

Tomorrow... Well, that wasn't for her to guess.



E. B. Neezer changed into his nighttime raiment, a simple and comfortable old thing that he'd had for what felt like forever. It was little more than a shirt long enough to be a robe over basic under-raiment, a floppy sleeping cap, and some furry slippers.

It was simple, utilitarian, and it served its purpose. Which made it a sight more useful than many units he'd dealt with.

Whatever. He'd delayed this long enough. He pulled the giant scroll out and examined it. The thing positively glowed with what he could barely tell was Thinkamancy. The Thinkamancy of three separate dual-caster links woven together with Weirdomancy. That part of the scroll stood out more to his ordered numerical mind, looking like a patchwork of stitches holding the whole thing together.

And the other halves of those three dual-caster links that had made the component scrolls? He had no idea. He could barely make out swirls of Erf magic, additional Fate magic beyond Thinkamancy, and even some sort of Numbers magic he couldn't identify.

"Bah..." he scowled at the thing, seriously considering throwing it away and telling his King it had been a failed investment for a few long moments. "...Humbug."

Whatever power possessed him to unroll the thing instead, he couldn't have said. Perhaps just an inherent caster curiosity, some part of his mind that wanted to actually see what the big deal was.

And the moment he saw the words of power, his lips were moving as if on their own accord. Five words passed his lips before he realized they were just the initial activation trigger. Something to activate the Weirdomancy holding the scroll together.

"Owen... McDuck... Cross... Slade... Stewart..."

Nine more came, three for each of the component scrolls the spell was crafted from, and he felt them queue up in his mind one after the other behind... something. Some part of the spell from the Weirdomancy stitching that would resolve first. All that was left was the final word that would finalize the spell and release its magic.

"Dickens..."

 

Comments

  • DunkelMentat

    This is really. REALLY. Well done. I didn't read it when I first saw it because Christmas Carol mashups are basically always crap and too cute by half. This is wonderful. It doesn't hit you over the head with HEY ITS CHRISTMAS CAROL BUT IN ERFWORLD WOOOOAAAAH! Unlike normal Christmas Carol mashups it's not Disney-esque, it maintains the grit, filth, and despair of industrializing England. And Retconjurors! Yes!

    This is great! Have a tip.

  • GrayMatter

    Yeah this was really quite impressive. Basically what Dunkle said.

    I look forward to reading more!

  • HighJumper

    I agree, this is amazing work and a fun read.

  • GrayMatter

    Are we ever going to get more?

    This was some good shit. And I'd really love to see where it was headed.