Blast From The Past - Part 1
The first thing Rip Encino did after being popped was breathe. The second act of his existence was to become a ruler.
Orders were waiting for him, hanging invisibly in the air the second Rip coalesced into existence: Directive from King Crow Magnon. Defect from side Magnon and claim capital city of Delorean and all its inhabitants as a colony of Magnon.
That initial breath was taken to ask a question. A question like “What am I supposed to do as ruler?” or “Why on Erf did you pick me to lead a side?” Level 1 warlords are popped with little knowledge beyond basic combat technique and rudimentary leadership, but Rip was certain this was an unorthodox promotion. He wasn’t even a royal unit. However duty wouldn’t allow any further delay, no clarification of orders. Rip willed himself into being Viceroy Encino of Delorean.
A flood of ruler sense data rushed into Rip’s mind. Delorean was a level 2 city, located in an arid foothills hex beneath the Brown Mountains. It was a dismal outpost made of crude sheet metal buildings, with a castle that was scarcely more than a ramshackle steel warehouse. The throne room Rip popped in didn’t even have a real throne, just a large black rubber circle hanging from a rope that you could use as an uncomfortable chair. Delorean was a miserable dump, with one interesting feature. It currently housed an army of over 20,000 units, and they were all Rip’s loyal subjects.
It was no lackluster fighting force either. Rip’s army included over two thousand knights and heavies, legions of master-craft golems, even a few hundred tame dwagons. There were 63 purple dwagons, with enough siege power to lay most cities to waste on their own. They were formerly units of Magnon, but switched over to Delorean when it became a new side. With some shock Rip realized he must command one of the most powerful armies in all of Erfworld.
It wasn’t a cheap army either, with a per turn upkeep in the hundreds of thousands. Delorean was severely in the red, with an impossible budget deficit. Arid foothill hexes were notably poor farmland, and a level 2 in such abysmal terrain produced a negligible amount of shmuckers. Delorean’s treasury was competely empty. Nearly all of Rip’s army would disband on start of the next turn. This made no sense. Why would Magnon throw away some of their finest fighters in this senseless way? More importantly, why put Rip in charge of this debacle?
He didn’t have to wait long for an explanation. A thinkagram politely tapped his mind, courtesy of Thinkamancer Ape Sapien of Magnon. The image of a throne room filled his mind, a huge arching chamber of red and black stone, and sitting on a grim throne of Woolybully bones sat King Crow Magnon. He had a conqueror’s signamancy, wearing nothing beyond a fur loincloth and a cape of black feathers. Gripped in his hand was a large colorful hammer with a yellow grip and a red and green head, a weapon that radiated the power of an Arkentool. The satisfied grin on King Magnon’s face was decidedly unfriendly.
“Sire, I am Rip Encino. I am honored that you chose me to rule Del…” began Rip. King Magnon cut him off with a silent order. “Delorean is my city,” said Magnon. “The army there is my army. You are going to watch it for me.”
“Of course your majesty,” agreed Rip. “We forever remain a loyal colony. But, we have no shmuckers. Unless you send us gems, most of Delorean’s forces will vanish at dawn.”
“Delorean won’t exist at dawn,” said King Magnon flatly. “Well, the city will. The side won’t. After this conversation you’re going to abdicate your throne, disband the side. Turn everyone there neutral. The city will freeze in time, along with everything in it. My invasion force will sit pretty in stasis, and they won’t cost me a single shmucker in upkeep until I need em’ again.”
Now Rip understood. Delorean was meant to be a time capsule, a vault to store neutral units until it was time to repatriate them. Magnon could build up a massive invasion force, but pay no upkeep for the army when they weren’t in use. It was a neat trick. You’d want to use your worst city though, since you’d be giving up its shmucker generation and production queue. And you’d want to put your worst warlord in charge of it, so nobody important has to get frozen.
“All right, enough chit chat,” said King Magnon. “Abdicate your throne now. But wait, one last thing, warlord.” The king’s natural scowl softened a bit. “I know it must kinda blow to pop and then get frozen in ten seconds. Don’t worry kid, you’ll be waking up and going to war real soon. We’re gonna conquer Erfworld together. I’ll teach you how to shatter a skull, it’ll be fun.”
“Thank you, I’m happy to assist howev…” began Rip. Magnon cut him off again. “Okay whatever, freeze yourself. Sleep tight.”
Rip willed himself off the throne of Delorean, and the world stopped.
No time passed. Ages passed. It felt like the thinkagram with King Magnon had ended a moment ago, and yet Rip’s body was sore and creaky as if he had slept a solid week. Something was on his face. He reached up and touched a beard, a long flowing cascade of hair that hadn’t been there an instant ago. The frazzled wild strands descended down to his waist, in a drastic and sudden change of signamancy.
The Deloreans were still neutral, but time was passing for them. Rip waited for a thinkagram to invite him to rejoin Magnon. Once he rejoined the side, as warlord he would have the authority to reclaim Delorean for Magnon, along with all the loyal units with it. Rip waited in the throne room for several minutes, but no mental message arrived.
As Rip prepared to leave the room and search for some answers, a neutral knight entered. He was rather short for a knight, oddly baby faced, and with unusual raiment, wearing a red chainmail vest and a rainbow colored helmet. “Warlord Encino, there’s a visitor at the gate,” said the knight. “Her presence unfroze us. A caster of some type, not a Magnon unit. She wishes to speak to our leader.”
“I’m not your leader,” said Encino. It was the truth. As neutral units they were all the same rank, whether piker or warlord. “But as Delorean’s only commander, I suppose the responsibility to talk to this caster rests on my shoulders. What’s your name, knight?”
“Mac Fly, sir,” replied the warrior. The warrior was rather deferential considering he was level 8 and Rip was a mere 1.
“Thank you, Mac,” said Rip. “While I talk to her, check if we have a messaging hat anywhere in the city. We need to get in touch with Magnon as soon as possible to receive orders. It’s possible that Thinkamancer Sapien is already out of juice this turn, and they may not know that we unfroze. We don't have long until upkeep kicks in.”
On his way to the wall, Rip gathered a regiment of archers and a blue dwagon. If this caster turned out to be hostile, they wouldn’t pose much of a threat for the best defended level 2 city in history.
“You are in Magnon territory, caster,” called out Rip. His beard rippled in the wind atop the parapets above the city gate. “State your name and intention.”
The caster was a woman with coffee colored skin, short black bangs, a pink shirt and a blue backpack. At the moment she seemed ecstatic, despite having dozens of arrows pointed in her direction.
“I knew it! This is Delorean,” cheered the woman. “I finally found it! They said I was a fool for looking, but I showed them! I showed them all!”
Rip nodded at the blue dwagon and a warning shot of lightning struck the ground near the caster’s foot.
“Sorry, sorry.” The caster held up one hand apologetically. “Elle Dorado, Findamancer. I come in peace. I’m here to find the fabled lost army of King Magnon, and I suppose you’re it.”
“What do you mean, fabled army?” asked Rip. “We were just frozen.”
Elle grinned sheepishly. “Hm, I don’t know how to say this. I’m sorry warlord, but you’ve been frozen for 120,000 turns.”
End Of Part 1
God damn it. I was doing my dramatic reading when I saw "Ape Sapien" and I had to cut myself off for a second to comment on it. Why am I smart enough to enjoy Erfworld while being stupid enough to make it my favorite Webcomic when I hate puns?! No matter. My first thought if that a Level 1 being made a ruler in charge of an army that big is ludicrous, but hey, I'm going to keep reading. Yoh made the schmuck into a ruler in the first paragraph. I loved that. You cut straight to the point.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. That was what I was thinking of.
... one wikipedia dive later ...
Interesting. The original Buck Rogers character was also a time-preserved character from world war one, moved into the 2400's. The "remake" by the battlestar galatica guy (the real one, not the remake) just moved him about 70 years later.
Equally of interest: My familiarity with the original is from radio shows and a 12 part movie serial. It was comics and novellas before that, including one novella titled "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century".
... Boy, just imagine if modern copyright law was in effect back then. Larson's TV remake would never have happened because the ancient stuff would still be under disney style protection.
There was even another TV series in the 1950's. WOW, this story keeps being told and retold. Boy, you think that the idea of someone going to sleep, and waking up years and years later is some type of ancient story archetype, almost like the concept is so old that it can't be copyrighted.
R.I.P., Van Winkle. -- Oh yea -- another name that needs to show up.