The Battle for Gloom Isle - Scene One: A simple contract
Portals in this MK were circular, rather than the rectangular portals of the MKΔ. He missed the forested octants of MKΔ, though the grassy fields here did have their own appeal. MKΘ, that would be what he called this place. Other than these two he had visited two other MKs on his journey to map as much of Erfworld as he could, one of those being his own home MK he dubbed MKβ, which had a desert theme instead. He was far from that home now…
Hmm, 3 MKs distance at 2,500 hex width per MK. Titans! Over 8,000 hexes from Tog and his once ruler Sultan Kole… if he’s still around. The thought gave him pause as he stood staring into the shimmering pool before him.
Carl Rapher was waiting for dawn to come. He had received a request for his mapping services surprisingly fast considering how undervalued thinkamancers and hat magicians were in this MK. He’d only been here a score of turns until last night when, while chatting with the local populace, a carnymancer of all things said she knew of a gig for him.
He had learned a long time ago that carnymancers in any MK were trouble, always having some trick card up their sleeve, playing a part in some act only they knew. Normally he would’ve passed on a job being handed from a carnymancer, but here in MKΘ the carnymancers were the rich and powerful ones. So after paying a few more rands than he’d have liked for a ‘finders fee’, dang carnymancers, he had listened to her…
“So,” Pigeon had said… that would be the carnymancer mind you, “I was doing my usual circuit last turn, checkin’ in with my usual uppity ups and down ‘n outers y’know? Well I caught wind of this fresh side along the Somber Sea… easy mark right? Well ye’d be wrong, when I paid them a call their chief caster, a Luckamancer of all things, put me in the clinker!” She had virtually spat when she said luckamancer, looks like even here they weren’t viewed favorably. “Their Emperor kept me stewin’ in chains ‘til their turn ended ‘afore seein’ me, and he sure wasn’t pleased. Spoke a lotta ‘bout ‘standing on his morals’ and ‘following true scripture’. Thought ‘twas gonna be the end of me fer sure, until the princeling spoke up.”
“Now, seems the prince had been wantin’ a piece of the pie for a while. They had some agreement where if princy boy could get enough land to spin his own side the Emp would let ‘im. Now, while princy wasn’t much keen on me, he mentioned he could use a good map of this island he had his eyes set on. Now at this time I saw how to get outta dodge and still make a pretty penny. I had heard of yer yarn, and wif maps bein’ yer specialty and all, so naturally I told ‘em just that. Got ‘em to send me back wif a request fer yer audience come dawn! They was a bit cheap on the payment, but I feel getting’ anythin’ from holers like them is a step in the right direction. So, now here we are!”
Gah, she had been a talkative one. But the request was valid, even gave specific instructions on which portal to enter. Carl looked up at the sky. Dawn was just a moment away, time to step through. Opening his eyes on the other side, he looked around. Marble walls, orange tint from portal, no seams… single piece of marble. High level capitol then, good. Flooring covered with a smooth yellow carpet, unworn… not much use for their portal room? Only one or two casters then. Marble desk, pillar shaped legs, sturdy. Behind the desk, caster and four… archons? No, less than archons, but… similar. Livery of white, gold, and yellow, emblem of yellow rose behind a golden crown upon an ivory disc.
He looked closer at the caster as the unit stood. Chief caster, Luckamancer, level 6, unit stats average, non-noble, no specials. Equipment, rabbit foot scarf hanging across both shoulders, reflective glasses hiding eyes. Average height and lithe frame, has hair short and tangled, a bill nose and ears flat by his head. Primary livery shows a white elephant central on silk shirt, king’s livery present just below neckline.
“You would be the map-maker then?” The caster said, pausing long enough for Carl to nod. “I am Vizier Maneki, Chief Caster to Emperor Ghyaholl. In his name I welcome you to our capitol of WhiteFlame. Our side of BooNLund has desire of your services. If you would follow us to the forum, the Emperor will speak to you of our request and it is our hope a deal may be reached swiftly.” Maneki swung his arm widely to gesture to the hallway behind him.
A prepared formal greeting, if a bit curt… they probably aren’t accustomed to receiving a legitimate visitor. “Very well, Maneki was it? The name’s Carl, Carl Rapher. I am here at your discretion. Please lead the way.”
Maneki frowned, his brow furrowed- indicating a narrowing of his eyes. “Vizier is my title, I would ask that you address me as such.” He turned and began heading down the hallway, pausing just long enough to ensure Carl was following. Two of the not-archons flanked behind him to follow as he passed, twirling wand sized staves in their hands. “The Emperor will expect you to address him by title only during negotiations, or his title and name. If you must, you may address him as ‘your majesty’ or ‘your eminence’.”
The small procession made its way through the castle, or more precisely the ‘palace’ as Carl learned it was called. The entire building looked to be cut from a single piece of marble, the main hall itself had large pillars reaching up six times his height to the ceiling. Along the walls were gold and silver inlaid murals depicting what he could only assume were the rulers that came before Emperor Ghyaholl. They passed very few units within the halls, a handful of simple infantrymen speaking in hushed tones, a few more of these not-archons tossing their wand-staves in the area to catch them as they fell, or pumping the air with bristling balls while they jumped, flipped or danced around kicking their legs up high.
Through the windows of the palace he could see a much larger than average port, with five galleons currently docked and room for eight more, not counting the smaller ships. In the air above he could see numerous more of the not-archons, I’m gonna need time to get a good look at one, would be interesting to know what they are, as well as a few actual archons and was that a Valkyrie that just landed on the walls?
Carl stopped in his tracks. By the Titans that unit was HUGE. What on Erf was that? A humanoid unit certainly, but she was so large that even a Megalogwiff could fit in her hands… and as Carl stared out at the massive unit he watched as it shrunk down so it was hidden by the walls.
*Ahem* came a sound from one of the not-archons behind him. She gestured impatiently with her wand-staff for him to keep moving. Bowing in a hurried apology, Carl picked up the pace to catch up with the Vizier.
At the end of the main hall he could see two stairways. The one in the center was wider and went straight, it was flanked by various knight class units all the way up to a large pair of double doors. Off and to the right there was a spiral staircase that led both up and down, likely to the tower and dungeon respectively. Maneki led him up the wider stairwell, as they approached the massive doors they seemed to open inwards of their own accord. As they stepped in a sudden trumpet flared and a herald stood forward.
“Presenting his Majesty, Emperor Gilsoma Ghyaholl, son of Soman’kroeken Ghyaholl, son of Kroekenmosta Ghayholl.” The list went on for a few minutes.
I thought Pigeon said this was a fresh side?
“In attendance,” the herald continued, without missing a beat. “Visionary Angela, Court Changeamancer; and Marquis Montegue, Chief Warlord. Now arriving, Vizier Manichek with guest.”
The Vizier stepped forward, into the center of the room, between two arms… wait a minute did he say that a Marquis was Chief Warlord? NOT the Prince? A very unusual side… of a ‘U’ shaped table. Manichek motioned to a chair in the center of the ‘U’ for Carl to take a seat. The Emperor, Chief Warlord and caster sat at the bend in the table, a table which could clearly seat a dozen different commanders. The walls of the room were plain marble and an intentional hole in the ceiling allowed for sunlight to pour in and light the table area.
“Your majesty,” Manichek said, standing behind Carl as he took his seat, “May I introduce to you Carl Rapher, the map maker.” The Emperor nodded. There was a pause while Angela changed seats so Manichek could sit beside the Emperor.
The Emperor himself was a striking man. Short in stature and barrel chested, he had a thick beard that flowed halfway down his chest. His arm’s muscles bulged as they grasped the arms of his throne, a large hammer within reach. The Emperor wore a thick Ivory breastplate, most likely magical in nature, and his crown… it was more a combination crown and headdress. This was certainly a warrior ruler, not some behind the desk sending treaties type, like Carl was accustomed to.
Once Manichek took his seat, the Emperor finally spoke. “Carl Rapher hmm? Very well, before we get to the business at hand we must first know who we are dealing with. Kindly state your level, caster type and any additional casting disciplines.”
Carl raised an eyebrow at this. It wasn’t common for a caster to have more than one discipline. As far as he knew less than 5% of all casters even tried to learn outside their discipline. Problem was, he was part of that 5%, and he generally kept that a secret. But being directly asked as a prerequisite to making a deal? He had little choice, if they learned of his other disciplines later he could be found in breach of contract…
“Uh, well your eminence, I am a level 9 master class lookamancer, with a novitiate in both foolamancy and findamancy, I’ve also studied a bit of singamancy, but not enough to cast any spells yet.” Being knowledgeable in half of the ‘awareness’ disciplines, generally implied that the unit was a spy. Which, granted, he could certainly do, and he often used his combined skillset to travel safely between borders… but it was never wise to let a potential employer know this, unless it is why you were being hired. He had no idea why the Emperor had even thought to ask this, let alone why he would want to know.
Apparently he needn’t have worried about that, for the king was sitting back and smiling. “Good, good! You are a caster after scripture after all! None of that breaking the rules nonsense. Been seeing too much of that of late.”
The Casters and Chief Warlord nodded in agreement, though they didn’t smile.
The Emperor continued, “So, tell me map maker… how much would your skills cost normally?”
Carl thought about it a moment before answering. “Well, your Eminence, my fees include my upkeep and a half for the turns I remain in your employ. For the maps themselves I normally charge 1 shmucker per hex if territory only, 4 shmuckers for terrain features, and an additional 2 shmuckers for unit information of any hex looked at, if requested. I can also give detailed information on enemy unit’s abilities and specials, though that requires me to be in the same hex as them, so would require an additional 100 shmuckers a turn danger pay, that would cover any spells of foolamancy and findamancy while in the field.”
“Interesting… You say you can see the actual stats of units not of your side, and not allied to you? Would you care to give us a demonstration?” Montague asked, a glimmer of interest shining in his eyes for the first time in this meeting.
“Certainly, if you have a unit in mind…” Carl glanced at the four before him, “which one of you…?”
“Oh, no not us. A unit much more interesting.” Montague paused, sending a silent order no doubt, half a moment later Carl could hear the doors behind him open and close again. One of the not-archons floated casually into the room.
“Whatsup boss? You called for me?” She said cheerily, getting scowls from the commanders in the room.
“Summer, you are here for inspection and consideration for promotion. Stand at the ready. Mister Rapher, if you wouldn’t mind…”
“Sure thing boss!” the not-archon, Summer, said.
Carl stood, giving a short bow to the commanders in attendance before turning to face this unit that was so new to him. He’d been hoping to be able to get a good look at one when he had the time, and now he was being asked to do just that. Luckamancy was on his side, even if he didn’t get the job, learning about this unit would make the trip worthwhile.
“Let’s see here…” Carl began as he focused his lookamancy senses, “Summer Glue… a ‘Tween Angel? Hrmm… level 4 elite class infantry type, move: 32, hits: 5, combat: 4, defense: 2, Specials: flying, and cheer?” that was a new special, never heard of cheer before. The next part took him by surprise though. Carl did a double take, then a triple take to be sure he was looking right. “and, uhm… I see she’s upgradeable… if upgraded to a knight she can become an Archon or a Valkyrie, and if upgraded to a heavy unit she can become a Big Bold Brazen Woman or a Yomama?” Carl was clearly confused, he’d never heard of upgrading a unit into a different unit type, different unit classes sure. And what were those last two? Big Bold Brazen Woman… is that a BBBW? They were large Amazonian warrior types if he remembered right. But this Yomama… he’d never even heard of one of those.
The Emperor and Marquis looked impressed, nodding at each word as they too saw the unit’s stats. The two casters looked at each other with raised eyebrows.
Angela turned back to him, speaking for the first time since he had entered. Her voice was soft and dulcet, carrying well in this room, “You can see her upgrades too? That is something we can’t see… we didn’t even know about the Yomama upgrade until we promoted Whoopee 12 turns ago. Do you see how to choose a specific upgrade type?”
“uhm, no Visionary,” Carl said, choosing to go with her title in this setting. “I can only see that the upgrade is possible. I’ve never come across an upgradeable unit before, well not in this manner at least. I honestly don’t know what to make of it. It could be random, or her signamancy might be a clue, but you’d need a mathamancer or actual signmancer to know with more certainty.”
The Emperor clapped his hands together. “Well, I have certainly seen enough. If there is no one in disagreement,” he looked at each of his commanders in turn, receiving a nod from each, “then we would certainly be interested in employing your skills for a time. Now here is what we need…”
The negotiations went well after that. Turned out that Pigeon was right, their primary desire was to map out an island and it’s surrounding hexes off to the west. The prince was already heading over to command the troops currently there, while their newly appointed Chief Warlord would stay here in case of enemy attack against their in-land holdings.
That work would take a few turns as they wanted both a current territory map as well as a full terrain map of the island, nearly 50x50 hexes worth, and he could only look at around 200 hexes a turn at this distance. But they also wanted him to look at the outlying areas of their in land territory, to be sure there were no sudden attacks from their neighbors. They were also interested in knowing more precisely what their enemy unit’s capabilities were, as well as to check and see if any more of their own had that ‘upgradeable’ feature, which unfortunately none of them did.
All-in-all he received a 20 turn contract at a solid 600 shmcukers a turn for his work. That was all about to change though, as it was now 20 turns later and his maps were… ‘complete’.
Different noble titles for ruler? That’s right. Each is still of noble lineage, but a king isn’t the only form of royalty that exists. King, Queen, Sultan, Emperor, Czar, Khan, Maharaja (to name a few) are all forms of noble lineage and titles. As this area is FAR removed from the main story’s area, they tend to use different affectations of the normal King/Queen and Overlord. Here, it is Emperor/Empress and Despot respectively.
Lookamancy- in the main story we don’t know that much of lookamancy. We know they can ‘scout’ hexes at a distance, gathering unit intel as well as terrain information, they have an increased chance to see stealthed units, and that they have some ‘eyebeam’ attack spells. I added in the ‘lookamancy’ senses portion of being able to see more of a unit’s stats than a normal commander, and that they’d be able to see non-allied units stats as well (something that is implied is that you can only see an enemy’s approximate health level, treaty standing of unit’s side and maybe unit type, but not actual stats). Remember that Isaac is also a master class Lookamancer and said Parson wasn’t any type of caster “as far as he could see”. This ability to look at people more completely also implies that a lookamancer can look at and likely identify magic items and artifact’s abilities.
Upgradeable units- We’ve seen in story that units can be upgraded to warlord, knight, and heavy. Here I’ve shown a simple iteration of a variant of this, where promoting a unit (with the upgradeable feature) to a higher class can change the unit more than originally intended, causing it to become a completely different unit type. ‘Tween Angels, the first unit shown here with the upgradeable feature, were originally created a long time ago in a tri-link including a carnymancer and a changeamancer. Their ruler, whose name has long been forgotten, wanted his side to be able to pop both Archons and Valkyries in the same city. These were the result. (Carnymancy was used to add the rule for an ‘upgradeable feature’ while the changeamancy was applied to allow the change in unit types stemming from the upgrade). Through an unknown method cities began being able to pop these units themselves, though those which could would never be able to pop their upgraded versions.
‘Tween Angels- A humanoid, elite infantry-class, flying unit. They all appear female. They are popped with a single additional random special natural ability. This natural ability is limited to: Dance Fighting, Cheer! (a weak Leadership bonus that can stack with other Cheer! bonuses as well as normal leadership), Distraction (natural Foolamancy) and Tweeting (a natural thinkamancy limited to only contacting others with the same special, thinkamancy capable units, or their ruler). ‘Tween Angels that are upgraded to Knight-class become either Valkyries or Archons. ‘Tween Angels upgraded to a Heavy unit could become a YoMama though nearly all become BBBWs.
Valkyrie- A humanoid, knight-class unit with the flying special. They all appear female. Valkyrie’s will maintain the benefits (and specials) of their basic infantry type (stabber, piker, archer, etc.). All Valkyries are noted for their high defense (for flying units), and their resistance special (enemy specials and spells have a lower chance of working on them).
BBBW- Big Bold Brazen Woman, a humanoid, heavy class unit. All appear to be female and have an ‘Amazonian’ quality about them. Specials vary amongst individual BBBWs, but the list consists of Ruthlessness, Rage, Leadership, Archery and Siege capable.
Yomama- A humanoid, heavy class unit. All appear to be female. Notable for their two specials: Birth Control (a natural turnamancy, capable of increasing [or decreasing] a city’s unit production) and Girth Control (natural changeamancy allowing the unit to change size classes at will, maximum size dependent upon level, minimum size being Large-Heavy. They receive the natural bonuses and penalties of their new size, otherwise their stats remain unchanged).
Carl Rapher: casting out of class- Carl Rapher declares himself as a Lookamancer with Foolamancy and Findamancy capabilities. This may seem a little off as most other multi-discipline casters are casting within their class (Isaac: Headmaster-all Eyemancy, Janis: Grand Abbie- all Hippiemancy, Puppeteer- at least two Spookism masteries, Ringmaster/Ringleader- assumed at least two Stagemancy masteries). However, Wanda has cast spells outside both her discipline and class (most notably Hat Magic and Dollamancy) even without scrolls. So for Carl I gave him two Eyemancy disciplines, and added in Findamancy because of it being aligned on the Erf axis with Lookamancy (it just lacks the element of motion). For his Signamancy knowledge I said he understands it, as it is primarily visual like his other disciplines, but being that it requires Motion and no Matter, and is aligned on the Fate axis, it is currently beyond his reach as far as casting goes.