Money Makes the World Go Round - Part 9
(Previous Chapter: http://www.erfworld.com/blog/view/50475/money-makes-the-world-go-round-part-8)
It took most of the remainder of the turn to set everything up. Luckily, Gobwin Knob was alone in all its hexes, so the day lasted as long as they needed, and with Jack taking on some of the cost of Thinkagrams, Maggie was able to send out dozens more than normal. The last was especially fortunate, as they had to work with most of the Great Minds Who Think Alike, the Master Thinkamancers, to finally get them to agree to a deal in which Parson would pass through the Magic Kingdom, rather than trying to nab him, as they had apparently done the last time he’d been there.
The Minds, who insisted they had much to share with Parson, were placated by his pinkie swear to hear them out, but he insisted that he needed to talk with Jetstone now. This eventually resulted in a deal, where some Qualified, essentially peacekeepers of the Magic Kingdom, would stand guard over the entire trip, never leaving their posts while Parson was in the Kingdom. They would be from all the various Disciplines, including a few Carnies, all to make sure none moved without the others realizing it.
With that setup, the rest of the turn was spent planning the route of the Warlords, down to the last hex. It would take them two turns to reach FAQ’s capital, and once there, the Warlords would gather at the city’s gate. If she answered them, they would Parley with Jillian, offering her terms of surrender, rather than razing her whole kingdom. If she refused, they were to end her as hard as they could, both as an example, and because Charlie had used her so often, it would be a kindness, maybe giving her at least some peace of mind at last, something she probably hadn’t had in many, many turns.
All the preparations completed, Parson asked him, and the other Casters, to save their remaining Juice. He expected to deal fairly with Tramennis, but he wanted an ace in the hole, should something go wrong. After all that, Drachma found himself, Jack, and Parson in the Dungeons. There, Cubbins, Ace, and Vanna were chained to walls in the different cells, each looking up as the Warlord entered, only to look down again, defiantely trying to avoid his eyes. Parson, for his part, stared at all of them, grabbing a nearby chair, and then looking at them.
“You’ll be happy to know, two of you are going home tomorrow,” he said at last, and that got both Ace and Cubbins to look up, while Vanna’s expression only hardened.
“Jetstone has bargained for our release?” asked Cubbins at last, and Parson shook his head.
“I doubt they have enough to spare to pay what you’re worth. Drachma here is a Moneymancer, and he can tell me what value to place on your release, or to turning you,” he said this while motioning to the white haired old man, who nodded. Focusing his eyes, he saw past the forms of the two before him, letting the sense of their cost enter his mind, before reciting a figure. It was quite large, but then, both Casters were Adepts, with Ace himself nearing Master.
“Wow, that much?” said Parson, whistling. He was impressed.
“Okay, well, that shows you’re worth more than most of your side. Maybe a trade for other Casters, but then, both the Ditto and Healo are Masters, so even together you might not be worth them,” he noted, jotting something down in a notebook, before looking back up.
“So, you’re not selling us back? What are you doing?” asked Ace.
“Simple. Jetstone has one of our archons. We want her back. Better, we want to bargain for peace. Returning you as part of that agreement should result in more favorable terms for us,” he said, and Vanna barked out a strained laugh.
“Ha! You say you wish peace. Did you not offer the same to Ansom? Were you not in violation of Parley when you croaked Ansom, or attacked Spacerock?” she said, her words causing Ace and Cubbins to nod lightly, while looking right at Parson.
“You say that, when you know that it was Charlie who forced both times. And of course, Queen Bea croaked our units under the same circumstances. Worse in fact, as she at least had options that we lacked when she croaked her daughter,” counter Parson, and Vanna looked almost like he’d struck her, both at the mention of that name, and at the dishonor she had done herself.
“And what about you? Linking with Charlie, a Carny, a rule breaker, and using a spell after an agreement had been reached. You knew what the deal was, or at least had some idea, and yet you cast anyway. Where’s your honor?” he asked, and Vanna stared daggers at him, before turning away. He just let out a short sigh, and then rose.
“Okay, you two, get some rest. Tomorrow, you’ll be home. Vanna...just don’t try anything funny,” he advised, and then walked out, slamming the door shut before turning to the Casters.
“Anything?” he asked, seeing if the two could get any sort of information from Vanna than he had. Drachma might have seen some kind of alteration in her worth, while Jack might have seen through deceptions used on her. Sadly, neither had felt anything, making Parson swear once in that odd way of his.
“It was worth a shot. Maybe Charlie has given up on her,” he lamented, more to himself than to them, before leading the way back up the tower. He said goodbye to the two at the ground floor, walking out the door, towards the home he’d selected for himself in the streets. The two casters wished him well, before proceeding up the stairs to their own quarters, the Fool stopping at the landing, and looking towards his counterpart.
“Before I go, might I ask for a cup? To tide me over until morning?” he asked, and Drachma sighed, waving a hand, and producing a small porcelain cup, containing a steaming liquid. Jack took the offered beverage, downing it without thought to how hot it was, before returning it.
“Ah, that’s a wake up call, it is,” he said with a smirk, before continuing down the hall to his chambers, a spring in his step. The liquid would keep him awake and alert the rest of the night, a similar drink having found its way to Wanda, that the three of them might spend the dark hours in meditation. This would give them as much Juice as possible going into the next turn. Hopefully, they wouldn’t need it, but it was always best to be prepared.
“Alright, good hunting,” said Parson, as the Warlords, all with good dwagons and stacks of riders, took off. The force flying away was, if not the most powerful in Erfworld, was at least the most powerful in the local area. No way anyone could match it, that they knew of. Two turns, and it would be in FAQ, almost five turns ahead of the heir popping, according to Duncan, who was flying with them. That man’s knowledge was almost like a second leadership bonus to the whole group, and with all of them wearing Laurels...no way FAQ could take them.
“You sure you’ll be alright here without them?” asked Parson as he watched them fly away. They were a significant chunk of Gobwin Knob’s forces, the City and the Side at once. Without them, the only major forces were a few stacks of dwagons, the five archons they still held, and the Knights in Stanley’s Service. Stanley, for his part just waved his hand dismissively at the idea.
“Hamster, you’ve got to learn to go with the flow. I’m the Titan’s favored son. Even if you leave me all alone, I’m gonna be fine. With Vurp and the tribe backing me up, we’ve got more power here than anyone could take,” he said, motioning towards the hobgobwin with the Arkenhammer. Said unit was standing at attention, with the rest of his tribe behind him, all holding weapons that glinted wickedly in the sun.
“With the bonus of their chief, the capital, the hammer, the Overlord, and this being their ancestral home, each of them is a match for just about anything on Erf,” said Parson, nodding at it. Even so, he didn’t feel good. Their turn had started late. Despite seemingly being alone in all their hexes, they’d gone second. That said something, but no one was sure what. Still, sometimes a barbarian scout could hide, and their Side was spread out. It was probably nothing.
“See, now stop being nervous, and go out and win your battle of wits or whatever. Just make sure you get them licking my boots,” he said, seemingly unconcerned. He then started off for the tower, his new Twoll lackey not far behind. Watching him go, Parson sighed, wishing he could leave more defenses behind, but also knowing he needed to move now. Sunlight was burning.
“Casters, to the Portal Room,” he ordered, his voice barely above its usual volume. Luckily, magic carried the command to them all, and by the time he was in the room, wearing an armored suit Maggie had had a Twoll whip up for him, he found them all assembled. This included Ace and Cubbins, who both were cleaned at the start of turn, and missing the manacles that normally marked prisoners.
“Okay, we’re going to do this fast. No one makes any aggressive moves without my say so. If it does turn into a firefight I’ll call the shots, but until that happens, no one pull the trigger,” he ordered, and everyone present nodded. With a last look around, as if trying to burn the image of Gobwin Knob into his brain, Parson led the way into the shining portal, stepping through into the Magic Kingdom once more.