Money Makes the World Go Round - Part 13

(Previous Chapter: http://www.erfworld.com/blog/view/50984/money-makes-the-world-go-round-part-12)

 

The plaza was croakily quiet for about a minute as everyone slowly got out of their hiding spots. Pierce sent out a quick mist of healing liquid into the air, mending what wounds could be mended so simply, and lightening the air a little amid the bodies of the croaked. Tramennis himself knelt by his old Captain of the Guard, a woman who had faithfully served the city of Jetstone since long before he himself had popped.

 

“I’m sorry to ask this now, but I request permission for Wanda to decrypt Charlie’s archons. We need to know if he’s got something else up his sleeve,” he asked, placing his hand on Tramennis’ shoulder. The small king looked into his eyes, and for a moment, the pair bonded. In those orbs, the Ruler of Jetstone could see a pain for the fallen, something many a Warlord simply did not have. Parson, it seemed, had it in abundance, but he felt his duty came first.

 

“Of course, Lord Hamster,” he said, rising to his feet. It simply wouldn’t do to have the King show less composure than a visiting Warlord, after all, but he would have a discussion with the Gobwin Knob Unit sometime tonight. He felt there were tales that needed trading between the two of them.

 

Wanda, without being asked, walked over towards the pair, holding out her Arkentool, giving Drachma his first look at it in action. The thing was glorious. Where Parson and his bracer were ‘twisted’ this felt ‘solid’. There was no price to it, even in his mind, because it was beyond such things. Letting his senses flow out around the device, watching as sparkles of red magic flew from its body and began to sprinkle onto the croaked. He was shocked as they gained this same solidity for a moment, before their bodies slowly began to heal, senew, muscles, and bone literally growing to replace what was lost.

 

“So, you never mentioned your arm could do that,” said Parson as he walked up beside Drachma, and the white haired Caster turned from the scene before him, to look up at the Warlord.

“I would say you did not ask, but I feel that line is old and trite. Instead, I will simply mention, that neither of us expected my person to take a direct hand in battles. Thus, the functions of that hand was information that seemed less useful compared to other things. I assure you, I would have gotten around to it eventually,” he said, and Parson considered that for a moment, scratching at his chin. He came to no conclusion, however, as the archons snapped back to life, and one of them shot forward.

 

“Lady, you must evacuate the tower!” she cried out, pointing to Jetstone’s large, ornate construct beside the plaza. Tramennis, feeling trust had been earned, sent the command the moment the words had reached his brain, and a stream of units began to come from within. Watching some of them, he turned to face the archon, obviously to ask what was the matter, when the truth of what was happening became obvious, as the tower was rocked by a series of explosions, chunks of masonry, stone, and lumber sailing into the sky, huge boulders freezing in midair when they hit the hex boundary.

 

“By the Titans!” swore more than one voice, some adding other explicatives as they all dove down, some just barely getting to the floor in time to avoid some of the more low flying debris. The tower itself fell in pieces, the bottom level first blasting away, then in a sequence, it climbed upwards, one level at a time, giving those below a ringing in their ears that would last for turns, if not for Pierce, who kept his cloud of healing mist in the air, hoping to prevent any more croaking.

 

Finally, it was quiet again, but this was not the quiet of croak, rather, this was simply less noise, as voices began to ring out, stack leaders taking stock and making sure every unit was accounted for. Casters rose, Sizemore undoing a shielding dome of Erf he’d cast upon himself and Maggie, while the Healomancer went to those he could, doing his discipline all the justice that was in him. Minutes should have been allowed for the recovery of this scene, but Parson stalked towards the archon with a purpose the moment he was able.

 

“What in the hell was all that?!” he demanded, and the archon, the red-haired one, seemed taken aback for an instance, looking to her mistress for guidance, before standing straight and facing Parson.

 

“I, under orders from Charlie, I rigged several devices to the tower. I believe the purpose was to shut the Portal, and prevent you from returning to Gobwin Knob,” she said, and Parson appeared to freeze in place for a moment, his brain processing the information. When he came around again, he spun towards Tramennis, who was already approaching, and nodded at the unasked question.

 

“It is true, the portal room has been destroyed utterly. Nothing remains of it,” he said somewhat sadly.

 

“How soon can it be repaired? Can Sizemore help in some way? I know Dirtamancers can make city repair cheaper,” he said, his mind working at a million miles a minute, while Tramennis looked at the Warlord like he had just grown a second head at the questions.

 

“I am afraid, Lord Hamster, that Portals are not of Erfly make, and cannot be mended by mortal hands. It will, if Tramennis has the funds, be whole when dawn comes around again,” explained Jack Snipe, as he joined in on the conversation, dusting off his suit.

 

“Okay, that’s an issue, and probably something we need to look into. For now, everyone gather up. We’re cut off, but so is Charlie, so now’s the time to make some plans,” he said, intending on giving orders, and getting Ansom and the others to camp out for the night. With that plan in mind, he turned towards the archon again.

 

“Is there anything else? Any other scheme’s Charlie has going that you know of?” he asked her, and the archon shook her head, turning to her sister for a moment, who did likewise.

 

“I apologize, my Lord, but we know little of Charlie’s overall strategy. In truth, this plan feels ill conceived. He has thrown us...away. He threw us away to gain even a chance of croaking you, in a way that alienates Jetstone as a future client. I must confess, I do not understand it,” she said, her tone growing sad at the pause, and then positively bewildered at the end. Archons were used to Charlie playing his games many levels deep, but they were his tools, his will upon the world. Normally that afforded them some insight into his goals, but this was positively bizarre. Parson, meanwhile, barked out a laugh.

 

“Heh, that one’s easy. Tramennis showed him he wasn’t playing ball anymore. I get the impression Charlie’s been sharing things he shouldn’t with the good King of Jetstone. This move with the Ditto was just a bit too much out of line for Charlie to trust that he could control Jetstone as he does others,” explained the Warlord, and the units in the plaza in earshot nodded, as beyond the repairs were being conducted. Bodies were piled up like cords of wood, while debris was pushed aside into big mounds. All of it would clean up upon the start of turn for Jetstone.

 

“You truly believe we have so angered him that he would do this simply out of spite?” asked Tramennis as he took his throne back. Despite everything, the chair was relatively intact, and a quick gesture to Ace with a mental command, had the Dollamancer, with some assistance from Pierce, fabricating simple chairs for the Gobwin Knob units.

 

“Spite? No, not spite. He’s not angry. He’s afraid,” he said simply, as he took the seat, and the Casters did likewise, along with the real Lilith and the two newly decrypted archons.

 

“Fear? Charlie fears us?” said the King of Jetstone, the words feeling somehow wrong as he spoke them. Charlie was literally the most powerful side in the world. A legion of one of the most versatile units, connections to sides that spanned the known hexes, and now these weapons, guns and grenades, so powerful that they possibly dwarfed even the first two advantages. How could someone like that be afraid?

 

“He has many reasons to do so, not all of which you know. For instance, we have intelligence on Charlie. First off, he’s a real Caster, not just using the Arkendish to do his dirty work,” began Parson, and Tramennis seemed less than impressed.

 

“Many believe his skill with the Tool is of too great to simply be the result of all these thousand turns of use. Still, is such a secret worth croaking us over?” he asked, and Parson just chuckled in response.

 

“Maybe yes, but the real reason it’s notable is because we know what type of Caster he is, something you could spread in ways Gobwin Knob couldn’t,” explains Parson, smirking in that evil way of his, Tramennis looks like he’s about to ask, when Parson hold up a hand.

 

“Charlie, is a Carny,” he says, with all the weight such a revelation warrants. Everyone in earshot who’s not doing anything freezes, as that information filters into their minds. Charlie was an Overlord, a Ruler without the Nobility of Royal Lineage, and yet, he had been trusted for many thousand, or even tens of thousands, of turns. He had dealt seemingly fairly with every side, despite always profiting from the exchanges. That had appeared at the time merely to be good planning on his part, but if he truly was a Carnymancer…

 

“I pinkie swear, it’s the truth,” added Parson as doubt began to grow, that maybe this fact was of the false sort. The magic swirled about the Gobwin Knob Warlord, proving he spoke, at least in his own mind, not a word that wasn’t true. Every non-Gobwin Knob unit took a moment to consider all the implications of that nugget, and how it would affect their future. Now every one of them knew something about Charlie that no one else had ever known, a fact that was worth croaking over. Many a unit looked to their leader, the great King of Jetstone, to see how they should feel, and to their surprise, their King was smiling, almost a mirror for the wicked grin Parson wore.

 

“That...would explain much,” he said at last, chuckling. Tramennis, more than another other Prince of Jetstone, had dealt with Charlie, and always he’d found the dealings to be distasteful. He now knew way, and it actually made his heart flutter a little. Oh, he was no Translyvito unit, to take pleasure in pain, nor one of King Dickie’s lackeys, enjoying stepping on others. Charlie though, that was a special thing, and having lost his father because of Charlie’s machinations, it made him feel almost warm inside to know what he was going to do with this.

 

Tramennis was about to offer the Gobwin Knob Warlord a private audience, a rare and coveted privilege, when their Thinkamancer groaned, not from her wounds, which were few, and mostly healed now, but instead as her mind was assaulted. Her stance wobbled, and Sizemore standing beside her tried to hold her up, but the woman suddenly snapped to attention, her eyes wide with fear. Pushing Sizemore aside, she rushed forward, grabbing Parson’s hand.

 

“My Lord, Gobwin Knob, no Lord Stanley, is under attack!” she screamed, and once more quiet fell over the plaza.

 

(Next Chapter: http://www.erfworld.com/blog/view/51410/money-makes-the-world-go-round-part-14)