The Battle for Gloom Isle- Scene Three: When Things Get Weird

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                Start of turn, three turns later…

 

                Prince IldeKroek was in his command tent when the horns blared. Scout reports from last turn said the city, which he now knew was called ‘Nest Egg’, was defended by two stacks each of pikers and archers, and another of QuestingCouatls… no confirmation on the presence of a warlord though. The port city reports were little different, just a cruiser in port and a small numbers difference. He silently issued the order for his second in command, a level 5 Seafaring capable warlord named Jones, to take the port.

 

                Ordering his own tent taken down and preparing for the turn’s march, he stood and wondered. Why had none of the scouts reported during the enemy turn? Even with no contact, scouts were required to report an update prior to turn start. Silently he sent an order for the nearest scouts to return to the column.

 

                Error. Unit not present. He felt through natural thinkamancy.

 

                Hmmm… better check on the rest. Ilde thought to himself. Each scout within a dozen hexes of Nest Egg returned the same message. When he got to those down near the port city, they returned to him their morning reports they had sent to Jones. The port of FrostDeep, at least, would go as planned.

 

                “Ares, Kronus! To me!” He shouted.

 

                Within moments his two Berserk capable warlords in the column rode up next to him, each already mounted on Quarterback. Kronus had even had the mind to collect his personal Quarterhorse.

 

               “Well boys, it seems we may be in for a bit tougher fight than we had planned. All our scouts in the target area have been eliminated.” Ares and Kronus smiled at this, but waited for their commander to continue. “FrostDeep is set to continue as expected, however our attack plan for Nest Egg is being modified due to our new lack of intel. You two will join me on the front, bring full stacks of unmounted Slashers with you. The walls shouldn’t be a problem assuming the city wasn’t upgraded to a three this morning. If there is no response to my parley request we go by the numbers. You two strike one another for four hits minimum. You will then follow me as we assault the gate. Their side’s name has to do with dwagons, so we should assume we will face some. Keep a stack of archers nearby, just in case. As soon as we breach, scan the skies, if you see dwagons, switch to leading the archery stack and berserk, otherwise stay with your slashers and do the same. This should minimize our potential losses. ‘Tween Angels and our last two Archons will remain outside of the hex until we can confirm or cause there to be no Dwagons, then they will come in by air and strike at the tower. By orders of the Emperor we need to lose as few of our fliers as possible. Any questions?”

 

                Ares and Kronus looked at one another for a moment. “Can we beat each other now? We can put on a show for the troops for it!”

 

                IldeKroek pinched his nose in consternation, trying to keep himself calm. “No, not until we reach the city hex. We can’t waste any of your hits for the berserk bonus…”

 

                “Awwww….” The two chorused… unfortunately the nearby ‘Tween Angels picked up the chorus causing the hex to reverberate with the disappointing sound.

  

              IldeKroek breathed in deeply and let it out slowly. “Arrange stacks, then move out.” The column felt the order and began to move.

 

               The column collected itself quickly. Two stacks of ‘Tween Angels, each led by an Archon flew in the air. Four stacks of slashers and three of archers stood on formation beside their single stack of siege. The spare mounts assisted in pulling the siege along. The final stack was his personal favorite… he had picked them up in their stopover at Flickerville, a stack of rage and seafarer capable units called Vikyngs. BonBon was the only city of their side to pop them, in place of the Emperor’s favored ‘Tween Angels.

 

                He rode over stacking with the Vikyngs as they moved out. Ilde wasn’t sure why BonBon popped Vikyngs for them instead of the Corsairs that Baywatch had defending the port, he assumed it had something to do with BoonLund’s hardiness and natural signamancy. Emperor GilSoma had wanted to raze it and rebuild to have another site to pop ‘Tween Angels from, but Ilde had argued that the seafaring Vikyngs would be more important in the island arena. So far he had been proven right.

 

                The march was silent but for the tweeting of the ‘Tween Angels. There would be more than enough screamin’ and hollerin’ when they met the enemy. Soon enough, the pitiful level 2 walls of Nest Egg came into view through the forest. The so called wall was little more than a torso high stone fence, with a little help a unit could simply climb over the edge and enter the city.

 

               As they came closer though something nagged at the bag of Ilde’s mind. Where are the enemy units? His stack now stood less than arm’s reach from the walls, when he called the column to a halt. Signaling for parley he looked over the wall into the city proper. Rows upon rows of simple huts were arranged haphazardly in this forest hex. He could make out the wooden barracks, a lumbermill, even the garrison with ease. The tower seemed to be little more than watchposts placed in a large tree whose branches spread out wide over nearly a quarter of the city. But again… not a single enemy unit was in sight. Nobody was responding to his parley request either. This was decidedly odd. Ares and Kronus were waiting impatiently on their quarterhorses, they had yet to take notice that there was nobody here to fight.

 

               “Not yet you two. First we confirm the enemy presence. You and… you,” He said, pointing at two slashers at random, “climb over the wall and awaken our foe so we may fight!”

 

                The two scrambled forward at his command, using the last bit of their move to physically lift themselves up and over the wall. No horns… no signal for enemy forces. Ilde frowned as he watched the two slashers move from hut to hut and building to building seeking out any signs of enemy units. He sidled up to the wall and poked at it with his axe, half expecting it to be foolamancy. Suddenly a chiming sound filled the air and sparkles fell from the sky covering the city. The BooNLund banner now hung across the barracks and garrison walls. One of the slashers had just stepped into the garrison and was looking back with wide eyed surprise.

 

               The city had been undefended… completely open for the taking. What happened to the defenders? He was about to give the order to ride into the city when a flash of yellow and white above him gave him pause.

 

               “Heya Boss!” called down one of the ‘Tween Angels, “Just got a tweet from Cameron, one of the gals comin’ in from the mainland y’know? Well she’s saying they just docked at BonBon and were waitin’ on orders if ye had any.”

 

               Titans, would these ‘Tweens ever learn some basic respect and composure? “Wait, are you saying they are here a turn early?”

 

                “You got it boss.”

 

                “Everybody made it? Even the caster?”

 

                The ‘Tween Angel looked a bit uncomfortable as she shifted her position in midair. “eh, almost everyone boss. Whoopee’s boat kinda got slowed down when she decided to sit around the deck. But other than that they’re all safe ‘n sound like a bug in a rug.”

 

                IldeKroek sat astride his mount thinking for a moment. His soldiers waited impatiently for their orders, while Ares and Kronus kept peering over the city walls when they thought he wasn’t looking. Something here was decidedly odd… one simply did not come across a city devoid of defenders. He looked up to the ‘Tween Angel, trying to remember her name. “Shelly, respond like this. Ahem, all units stack on walls or airspace. Hired Lookamancer, climb BonBon Spire and cast. Need immediate intel. Location and size of enemy troops in area within… eight hexes of Nest Egg. Include overlook of Nest Egg itself. Respond via Archon quickly.”  

 


 

 

                As the turn ended, IldeKroek went over the counterattack plan one last time with his commanders. The Lookamancer his father had hired was good, even without precise numbers it was clear that Dwagon Berch had planned for them to take the city and would attack full force come dawn… it was also clear that BooNLund would lose that battle, and with no move left they needed this plan to work.

 

                All his units had spent most of their rations on taming environmental critters since entering the city. Only one hit a piece, and no attack to speak of, but even those they couldn’t use would hold the city long enough for this to work. IldeKroek patted the cage next to him, causing the critter inside to give a loud squeak.

 

                “So, what little we know is their force will outnumber us and they have at least two casters with them. I believe this force was meant as an attempt for them to breach the area our Emperor is interested in. We cannot let them succeed, we must do as much damage to them as possible before retreating. Jean, did we tame enough bolt mice for everybody?”

 

                The higher level of his two Archons nodded. “Yes lord. It was close, but numbers will be good for the dawn.”

 

                “Good, then everybody knows their role. See to it all units are ready half an hour before dawn, we don’t want anybody lagging behind. Dismissed.”

 

                The Archon and his commanders bowed as they left. It would certainly be a hard two battles tomorrow… and they would be losing both, IldeKroek only hoped they would hurt the enemy enough to make it worthwhile. That hope warmed him more than his blanket would throughout the night.

 

                He was awakened the next morning by the shuffling of armor and pikes out in the garrison. Donning his armor quickly, he grabbed his axe and the cage as he headed out. Scanning the garrison he verified each unit was in place as the sun crested the horizon. The skies and walls were empty, every unit was standing in the garrison, each stack had with it three caged bolt mice. They didn’t have long to wait after dawn. A horn bleated signaling enemy in sight as the sky to the west filled with dark forms.

 

                Dwagons. Lots of them. He couldn’t make out their colors at this distance, but he could count. Easily five stacks of ‘em were bearing down on the city. Beneath them he could see what looked like ten stacks of infantry, backed by another two stacks of some large turtle looking unit, clearly heavies. Add in the two casters and four warlords that Carl had seen, and even without a mathamancer he knew the battle was hopeless.

 

                The Dwagons came close, approaching the hex boundary of the city, and IldeKroek stared in confusion. They were all the wrong colors. Brown, White, some very large Oranges and… and was that one Plaid? The horns blared again, signaling enemy attack. Arrows flew up from the garrison, many finding purchase in the first wave.

 

                From above, on one of the Dwagons came a yell. An enemy warlord was taking a dive from the back of a brown dwagon! “I’ll croak you all!” he screamed as he came in, his Dwagon inhaling deeply.

 

                IldeKroek stood confused for a second. “What?” he called back, “What do you want? I’m right here you turd rider!”

 

                The rider looked surprised as the dwagon breath rolled out as it came low, billowing out a thick black smoke over the defenders. A crash sounded from within the smoke as the dwagon continued down to the ground. Other dwagons repeated the maneuver elsewhere in the city, minus the crash, quickly filling the entire city in the thick smoke.

 

                IldeKroek rubbed his eyes, as the smoke stun them. Trying to look to the sky he focused on where he could hear the beat of wings. “Archers! Fire! Above and out!” He ran into the streets blindly, bumping into a few units as he went along.

 

                “Stack with me!” he called. “One of their commanders fell over in this direction!” A blast of cold air whooshed along his right, sending a shiver up his arm and down his spine.  He could sense that one of his stack had been hit and was now incapacitated. Loud Thumps and Bangs were resounding throughout the city, the ground shaking in response to each sound.

 

                They ran down the street, bumping into walls and other allied units as they went, stumbling forward as the ground beneath bounced in tune to the thumps. IldeKroek had never fought in a blinding special before, but found it to be little different from fighting while berserk. Follow the sounds of battle, push past whatever gets in your way, chop at anything that’s not allied. The shifting ground was the only thing which worried him at the moment.

 

                From somewhere in front of him he could hear, “Get up you titan’s disbanded lizard! We must return to airspace!”

 

                For a second IldeKroek began to signal to his men, then, realizing they couldn’t see him in the blinding special of this smoke, he shrugged. Letting out a bellow, he roared and charged forward, taking three wild swings. He scored a hit, feeling his blade tear through something soft and malleable. A scream followed from in front and to his left.

 

                Stepping forward to take another swing he felt a pressure building on his right. IldeKroek dropped to the ground just as a tail swung where he had been standing. He heard the thump of two bodies being struck and the crash as they were thrown into a nearby building.

 

                The cloud of smoke thinned for a moment as the dwagon stood, beating it’s wings and roaring. Alone , it stood over its rider and glared at IldeKroek with its one good eye as the smoke slowly creeped back in. IldeKroek charged forward, intent on finishing off the commander before implementing the escape plan, he took another swing feeling it go clean through the unit’s chest, as he heard the remains of his stack holler and scream as they slashed at the dwagon. It fell on the fourth swing.

 

                Unable to see how the battle was going, and without the ruler senses necessary to sense each unit IldeKroek had no choice. He sent the silent order for all units in hex to bolt out.

 

 

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                Mirin Dajo and Dove Akin watched from above, riding atop their white dwagons. They had watched as the warlord Lord Hamilton had paused, unsure about the response to his battlecry, and crashed his brown into the city. They had watched similarly, as their ground forces swept in over the walls and into the smoke, immune to the blinding effects thanks to their own magic. Together they had smiled as the white dwagons swept down, their freezing breath undoubtedly creating some defender-cicles out of the enemy forces, and as the oranges plummeted down to slam their massive bodies into the ground to send waves through the erf. They blinked in surprise when not five minutes later Nest Egg again bore the banner of Dwagon Berch.

 

                That had been unexpectedly quick. Maybe their intel had been wrong about the enemy strength. Cheering rang out from within the smoke as more units realized they had won. Dove and Mirin guided the dwagons across the city, wings beating the smoke out of the hex before they landed.

 

                Lord Winston was waiting for them at the garrison gates. “Notice anything unusual about that battle?” he asked as they approached.

 

                Mirin sneered, “What? You mean like how Lord Hailton crashed his dwagon?”

 

                Winston frowned. “No. The enemy… there… well there are almost no enemy corpses.There was an unusual number of tamed non-combat critters though, and still no sign of their fliers.”

 

                This made Dove raise an eyebrow. She looked around, and indeed she could only see one enemy piker’s corpse. Looking at Mirin she asked, “Were they foolamancy?”

 

                Mirin growled. “You think I’d forget to break any foolamancy in this hex when I entered? I did my Duty. There was no foolamancy present.”

 

                “Hmmm… then how did they leave the hex off turn?” Winston asked. Dove felt him issue a silent order to have some units scout the adjoining hexes.

 

                “Shouldn’t be a need for that. Search the city, we may have captured one and can question him. In the meantime, what were our losses? Princess Joan will be pleased to learn our trap worked, more so if we can report low losses for her assault in four turns.”

 

                “Losses weren’t bad… five dwagons croaked, we lost a stack of stabbers, three pikers, and six archers. All but the rear line units were injured, the dwagons took the brunt of the arrows though, we will be keeping them here until they heal at dawn. Early reports indicate we destroyed their siege, but only a handful of units. Only three Diggers found, five pikers and a single archer. We do know of one stabber that was incapacitated by Dwagon Ice, his interrogation will have to wait until he thaws at start of turn though.”

 

                Dove mulled over the information for a moment. Princess Joan’s orders on the trap had been pretty explicit. Retake the city and wipe out the enemy forces. Upgrade the city back to level 3 then send non-defenders back to rendezvous point for the punch into the gloom cloud. The idea to keep behind the injured dwagons had merit, especially with the missing enemy forces. An ambush outside the city was possible, but Joan would still be expecting a good portion of units to be en route.

 

                “No commander, we can leave the most heavily injured here to recover, but the princess will be displeased if we keep them all here. I’ll take the dwagons with more than half their hits left and head out with the ground troops.”

 

                Winston’s eyes narrowed. He never had agreed with the Empress’ decision to field their casters, and when she granted them a position in the chain of command above warlords, but still under the chief warlord, he had spoken up quite loudly about it. That had almost got him disbanded. “Very well Lady Dove. But you will at least spend your dwagon’s extra move to search the nearby hexes for the enemy forces. Will you be leaving any Carnymancy tents?”

 

                “Mirin will remain with the tents. He will interrogate the prisoner as soon as it thaws. Next turn he and all dwagons will leave to the rendezvous point with half the remaining ground forces. You will remain here to defend the city.”

 

                Mirin gave a crooked smile. The Carnymancy tents were his creation after all, well him and Lauder Johnson had come up with the idea while taking in a show at The Joint. Even if there was a second strike at the city this turn, the enemy would not be able to scout their defenses without them knowing.

 

                Dove flew out on dwagonback soon after, taking thirty-one of their forty-two dwagons with her, a third of their ground forces following behind in sharp formation. Two hours later the turn would end… and the sound of a hundred units popping would fill the air.

 

 

 

Mechanics Corner

 

Slasher- A stabber class infantry unit. They generally wield large swords or axes. BoonLund pops these units with the rage special, and thus have taken to calling them Slashers to differentiate them from common stabbers.

 

Rage- A special that increases a unit’s attack by one for every two hits taken.

 

Berserk- a more powerful version of the rage special. Berserk units maintain the rage bonuses until they go berserk, at which point they receive an additional damage mitigation bonus equal to their current rage bonus. While the attack bonus can still increase as more hits are lost, the damage mitigation bonus will not change after berserk is activated. Units with leadership that go berserk lose their leadership bonus, instead they grant their full berserk bonus to units under their command (maxing out at their leadership bonus)

 

Vikyngs- A tier 3 unit (needs a level 3 or higher city to pop). All Vikyngs are seafarer units that have the rage special, in rare cases the berserk special will replace rage. They can be promoted to heavy or warlord, but not to knight. Vikyngs have high attack and hits compared to other tier 3 units, but have a low defense which they usually supplement with a shield if available.  Vikyng Heavies forego the use of a shield in favor of larger weapons.

 

Corsair- A tier 3 unit. Corsairs are Seafarer units with the navigation and panache specials, and may pop with limited leadership specials. They favor light blades and armor, and may be upgraded to knight class or warlord but not heavy.

 

Navigation- increases effect of seafarers on a water vehicle’s move.

 

Panache- unit may half their attack to add the same to their defense value.

 

Unit type change without rebuilding a city- In the main story it is noted that a city can be razed and rebuilt to make it pop ‘more useful’ units, but nothing is said about side signamancy affecting units popping. Transylvito has units which pop with flight and drain life, which Vinny declares may be a part of their signamancy. If that is so, then a change in governing sides may change the signamancy of the units that pop, in this case BoonLund’s proclivity for the Rage and Berserk specials overriding BayView’s more flash and pomp signamancy (giving them the panache special). In this case there are two specials being shifted, the panache is being taken away and the rage is being added, meaning the unit is quite different, and thus is a different unit type. If there were only a single special shift the unit may still pop as per the previous side (with a lower chance of it’s unique special), but the double shift is what causes this unit type change.

 

Dwagons: Brown, White, Orange… and Plaid?- Dwagon Berch has many dwagons that cannot normally be popped. It is currently unknown how they manage this, but the dwagons they have are Brown (smoke breath, causing blinding special), White (Ice breath, can freeze and incapacitate), Orange (uses their bulk to drop to the ground, causing an earthquake in impact area, only takes light damage from falling) Turtle Dwagons (large, multi-mountable, non-flying heavy dwagons, possibly water capable) Plaid (can use each common dwagon’s breath special once per round). Each of these dwagons has a 1/100 chance of popping in place of a normal dwagon, if that dwagon pops in a terrain type that can support the rare dwagon type. As with all Dwagons they are tamable.

 

Carnymancy Tents- A carnymancy/signamancy crafted item. Prevents anyone outside the tent from seeing or communicating with those within the tent, without first paying an ‘admission price’. When a ticket is paid the users automagically know they are being watched or listened to.

 

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