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Volume 4 - You've Got a Friend In Me - The Life and Adventures of Sir Edelbert Spore

The Life and Adventure of Sir Edelbert Spore

Previous : Volume 3

 

Volume 4

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

 

Edelbert’s eyes opened slowly. Although he expected to be in manacles, he was comfortably lying in his own bed. The sun had already risen and his turn had begun. Everything seemed ordinary, except the dull pounding in his head.

 

Start of turn healing was a wonderful and miraculous fact of life. Although all wounds were sealed and statuses cleared, there was always a bit of something that lingered. It was like the body healed but the mind could not forget. Old wounds did not actually hurt, there was not pain. They ached, a dull distant discomfort that arose sometimes like a twisted daydream.

 

Waiting near the bed were Pidgeon A and Edelbert’s level six Defender. Edwin and the Crap were down in the orchard. Most of his golems seemed to be gone though. A level two Hard Rock was the only other golem survivor from the SDE battle. Four level one Softs were also within the hex; all had been in guard positions elsewhere during the fight.

 

Somewhere nearby Turnip was healthy. Sir Spore could not sense it in detail, the way he could the golems, but him and the daemon were connected none the less.

 

Despite how many golems were lost, Edelbert considered it a full victory, both Turnip and himself had survived. A few of his favorite golems made it as well. Bonus

 

As for what happened, he figured he would never know. With Turnip unable to communicate at all, there was no story to piece together. Somehow, the SDE lost the fight even after his incapacitation.

 

Empress Toots and Warlord Dioxide had taught the dirtamancer a few hard lessons. Anyone who visited a ruin was going to be prepared, especially if they had come to such a remote location. Enemies that scouted ahead of time would only proceed if they believed they could win.

 

Most importantly of all, a Dirtamancer was NOT a Warlord.  Edelbert did provide a bonus, which made him formidable. A warlord on the other hand controlled a battle, even when against a superior foe.

 

He should have realized it before. Just as casters possessed senses for their disciplines, so too a warlord would possess instincts for battle. Each unit was Popped to their number and to stray from that was folly.

 

The Crags defenses were significantly undermined. As badly as his head throbbed the turn had already begun and there were golems to build. Traps to redesign. Tests to plan. The SDE would be back soon.

 

*

            Turn 1447-  Good Day Journal,

 

Battled a Wully Bully today. Even for a Heavy the unit had an abnormally large Hit total. The encounter lasted a long time. I was thankful for the distraction.

 

One of my Terracotta Pikers was broken but the other one levelled. Probably a worthwhile trade. I wonder if I could figure that out somehow?

 

 

            Turn 1523- Life is Weird,

Turnip used its Chant on me today, just as most any other turn. I got to spend my day with the Switcheroo ability. As an action, I could focus to randomly jumble my stat scores. For a time, my six from move was in my attack stat. I felt deadly. Most of the turn, I spent rotating my stats just for the experience of it.

 

That was fun but is not the news of the day. Switcheroo was my twelve hundredth unique special and that apparently qualifies me as a Novice in Weirdomancy. I was not expecting this at all but it makes a strange sort of sense.

 

Oddly, I did not get any spells or understanding with this novitiate. Classing up by technical qualification must not be as rewarding as earning it the hard way. That is all right though. I am glad to know the Titans reward hard work.

 

I had a thought. My last class up in Dirtamancy was also unexciting. What if I classed up through a technical requirement rather than a tangible one? Maybe I improved because I had cast the right number of novice spells or spent so many hours digging.

 

Attaining some practical Weirdomancy should be oodles of fun. Besides, I know I can do it, I am already a Novice. The details are just a matter of time.

 

How many specials does a unit need have before they can claim to know something about something? One thousand two hundred, exactly.

 

 

 

            Turn 1576- How are you today Journal?

 

Still no progress.  Casting Weirdomancy is quite difficult. All my attempts to grant Fly have failed completely. In the last four ten-turns I must have wasted a total of fifteen turns worth of juice.  Each casting a failure.

 

I am beginning to think I should change strategies. Fly is about as far from Dirtamancy as is possible, I would guess. What if I focused on a special that appealed to my natural strengths, like Miner or Burrow?

 

Giving up on Fly is not an option. Maybe I will return to the project the next time I gain the special from Turnip. Possessing it again might provide insight.

 

 

 

            Turn 1642- I do not know what to do Journal,

 

I was burdened with the Longview special today. As soon as I attempted to access the ability I was dragged into a vision of such strength that I could sense nothing else. A wave of images rushed at me without any context.

 

Every picture had odd details that were overly defined in otherwise blurry scenes. Highlighting things like a group of units on a battlefield or a weapon being used in a dual. Very few of these images made any sense. Aspects did stick within my mind though.

 

Fire, fungus, flowers, and frogs.

 

There will be fire, of this I am certain. Flames raged through many of the visions. Even the spaces between them were often burning or smoldering. I know nothing of the nature of the blaze beyond the fear it evoked within me.

 

Big puffy mushrooms all humming in harmony. What could that possibly mean? The thought of it makes me happy despite my ignorance.

 

From the heart of a beautiful flower rises a pink woman. Wait, maybe it was; From the heart of a beautiful woman rises a pink flower. Actually, it was both. This regal lady was clearly wearing a platinum crown.

 

Suddenly a wave of frogs rushed into the vision. Masses swarmed until they blotted out my sight. They multiplied uncontrollably until I was no longer standing but swimming in a sea of frogs. Just as I was completely overwhelmed by these creatures, I awoke.

 

When I came to, the turn was nearly over and I was completely out of juice. My worry is that I experienced a Predictamancy special. Apparently, the ability pulled from my general juice, which increased its power and duration.

 

What do I do with any of this information? I am glad I am not a Predictamancer.

 

 

 

            Turn 1674- Good News Journal,

 

Experimenting with Weirdomancy today I stumbled upon a new spell. With it I can more clearly see the interactions between the various classes and disciplines of magic. Basically, the spell functions as a supercharged version of my regular magic sense.

 

While I was playing around with my new sight it dawned on me that I possessed a sensory spell for Dirtamancy, Weirdomancy, and Flower Power. There had to be a spell to improve or expand my Dollamancy senses too.

 

By comparing my other perception spells, I could define a few similarities. While maintaining those traits, I tried to weave my knowledge of Dollamancy and the motion that underlies that craft into the spell.

 

Over time I have learned a fair number of tricks to improve my Dirt sense. Beyond those innate feelings, I can enchant myself with perspectives of three other disciplines.

 

There is the Life Gauge spell that I imagined so long ago, associated with Flower Power and the auras of life force. This enchantment has proven useful on many occasions down in the orchard.

 

Today I developed the Motion Notion buff which grants me a heightened awareness of physical interactions, both cause and effect. Although it is a Dollamancy sense, I am certain this spell will help with my construction projects, probably golems too.

 

Most versatile of all is my Weird-o-vision. When the spell is active, I have a deep awareness of the interactions between the various classes and disciplines of magic. Although useful, the spell is prohibitively juice intensive.

 

Each of these abilities will prove invaluable as time progresses. There is so very much to be learned.

 

 

 

            Turn 1680- Answers only ever bring more questions Journal,

 

I saved enough juice yesterday so that I could cast Weird-o-vision before start of turn today. I have finally managed to make some serious progress on the cleansing riddle.

 

Dirtamancy was always an obvious component of the daily effect. I always sensed something else, however, could never place the other disciplines. There were four disciplines and then some.

 

Signamancy seems obvious in retrospect. Beard trimmed, clothes hemmed, fires lit or extinguished, paths cleaned; all in a flash. Units and objects shift to the way they are supposed to be. That does not necessarily mean they become what they once were.

 

Healomancy should not have been much of a surprise either. I do not have much experience in this field though. Thinking on it, I realized that wound restoration is a big part of the start of turn effect.

 

Changemancy and Turnamancy also registered, although not to as strong a degree. Changemancy is Stuffamancy, so I can see how it might be involved. Turnamancy was only a surprise in that it is not more prominent in the start of turn.

 

Beyond these strong forces I can now sense something underneath. Unfortunately, I cannot perceive it clearly enough to make anything else. Whatever this sub-force is, I struggle to imagine.

 

 

 

            Turn 1739- Exciting Development Journal,

 

I found an item had spawned in the mines today. A wooden club capped with a horned skull. The body of the implement is lined with teeth the way a mace might have metal studs.

 

The Remotion Rod is a potent Croakamancy item. Along with a small bonus to the spell itself, the rod also increases the unit types which a caster can Uncroak. In a pinch, it also works as a +1 bludgeon.

 

Using this I might be able to practice some Croakamancy. I have always wanted to dabble a bit.

 

 

 

            Turn 1786-  I got a new one Journal,

 

There is a problem in playing with Dollamancy that I often encounter. Although making new gear is fun, there comes a point in the design process where testing becomes necessary. I am hesitant to use my regular golems for  defensive items investigation, but I certainly do not want to risk them on untested offensive items.

 

I have tried making targets or dummies to use my gear against but they are just destroyed too quickly to be useful. So, why not make an animated target?

 

Yesterday and today I spent playing around with a new doll design. I wanted to keep it simple because these things needed to be at least partially disposable. On the other hand, I wanted them to be resilient because I needed a realistic response as to how the new gear would affect the target unit.

 

I made a basic dummy and stuffed it with as much padding as would pack in. The next step was to heavily reinforce all the seams. While doing that, I realized that the cloth joints were not going to be very tough no matter how I reinforced them.

 

Another approach occurred to me and I severed all the limbs and head. Each part was reattached using a ball and socket joint, allowing them to detach without breaking given that too much force was applied.

 

It got two black buttons for eyes and a simple slit for a mouth. I did not want to feel bad about blasting the thing, so tried to make it less life like than I usually strive for. Little targets placed on key locations all over the body, especially critical spots, would allow me to more accurately judge the weapon tests. The doll was lastly adorned with a sturdy green jumpsuit, to match my robes.

 

The shape and frame of the doll were simple, nothing to cause any difficulty in animation. The spell consumed just over four times the juice expected. The unit I received was well worth that cost.

 

Croak-test Dummy

Level 1

Move 2

Hits 4

Combat 1

Defense 3

Upkeep 42 schmuckers

 

Specials

 

Advanced Training- Training against this unit provides a moderate boost to the XP generated by a training session.

 

Always Training- Any engagement counts as only a training exercise for this unit. XP gained by the unit is always gained at the reduced training rate.

 

Tisbutascratch- Unit takes only a single hit regardless of an attacks damage, however the unit also loses one random limb.

 

Critical Strike Immunity

 

 

I see little use for this unit outside of the training field. I might make one more just to speed up the growth of the other golems.

 

 

            Turn 1831- I can’t put my finger on it.

 

A stack of Thunder Lizards and a couple stacks of Lightning Turtles popped in the orchard this morning. Not only was I already on my way down the mountain but I had a full combat stack of golems. Turnip (Luckily) had given me the Conduit special which meant any Shockamancy hits healed me instead of damaging me.

 

We caught the reptiles unaware and croaked one in the surprise action. I had an inspiration and Weirded my special onto the golems. It cost most of my juice but it proved an invaluable decision. I could not have planned all this better.

 

Although it took some time, the golems flattened the intruding beasts without serious effort. The healing provided by the Lightning Turtles meant that any damage we did take was cancelled out nearly instantly.

 

The entire turn I could not shake the feeling that this had all happened before, that I had done many of these things at some foggy point in the past. The phrase Déjà Vu comes to mind, but I have no idea what that means.

 

 

*

Sir Edelbert Spore was spending his 1872nd turn testing out a new Terracotta Archer. The design itself was only a ten-turn old and he had wanted to put the ranged unit through its paces.

 

How far could they shoot? How fast could they shoot? What was their Crit chance? Did all their arrows re-pop each turn? A myriad of questions came to mind. He had never had an Archer before.

 

It was getting to be later in the afternoon and the replacement arrows Edelbert had summoned earlier were beginning to run thin.

 

“Okay, I want you to hit it at the highest point that you can manage.” He said as he launched an apple far into the airspace, using a tap of juice.

 

The Archer let an arrow fly, which struck the fruit with a Ding-Dong.

 

Edelbert jumped and looked at the falling fruit in disbelief. Once again the sound chimed and he realized it was in his mind. One of the Stoneheads was signaling the approach of units on the trail. His eyes drifted closed and he focused to see what was on the way.

 

Making swift time up the mountain were three armored units, probably knight class. Judging by their speed, they were almost certainly mountain capable units as well. Of a similar kind to the unit that had been hunted down and croaked by those strange bug men a couple hundred turns previously.

 

“Main stack form up in the orchard courtyard.” Edelbert called out as he ordered his units. The golems converged on his position while A went to alert Turnip.

 

A few short minutes later the three new units came into Sir Spore’s direct view. They were quick enough that Turnip was still making its way down the mountain.

 

All three of the knights had full fire proof gear on, which was impressive. It would have taken multiple turns of high level Dollamancy, or maybe Shockamancy, to complete those enchantments. His attempts to copy their helm had yielded only weak fire resistance.

 

Although the armor was metal it moved like cloth. Much more than chainmail, this Stuff was woven metallic fibers. The actual composition was some complex alloy that Edelbert had been unable to decipher.

 

Each of the visitors also had large gloves and boots that appeared to be a rubber of some kind. On their heads were bucket helms. A darkened visor obscured their faces and through a small vent the creatures breathed loud raspy breathes.

 

“Huh. You are the Dirtamancer of this ruin?” The tallest of the three said. “We are the Moltar and have come for you”

 

With a start, Edelbert dropped into a defensive position. The golems stepped into a full screen as he replied “That will not be easy.”

 

“Do not be alarmed. I spoke poorly, you misunderstand.” The Moltar leader continued. “No desire for battle. We only seek knowledge, possibly friendship. My name is Moltrex, these are Dantar and Molman.” As he spoke the unit raised its hands as if to soothe the caster.

 

“I am Sir Edelbert Spore, Adept Class Dirtamancer. Do I have your word that you will not attack me unless attacked first?” Sir Spore asked, while desperately trying to hide his excitement. Company!

 

“Of course, I go so far as to Pinkie Swear on it. If you would agree to the same?” Moltrex answered immediately.

 

After a moment and bit of wounded pride, Edelbert admitted “I am unaware of the Pinkie Swear. What is it and how does it work?”

 

“Good then, I will teach you of the Pinkie Swear and Moltar. After, you can teach us of Dirtamancy. This can be added to the swear. Moltar will explain first from good faith.” Moltrex offered.

 

“That sounds alright to me. If I like what I hear.” said Edelbert.

 

Dantar, who possessed a blue stripe down the side of her armor, stepped forward “A Pinkie Swear is a form of temporarily binding Thinkamancy. The natural spell harnesses the intention of the participants and uses that force to hold them at their word, similar to giving oneself an Order. The binding tends to dissolve a few turns after the agreement is applicable.”

 

“Is there a juice cost?” Edelbert interrupted Dantar. “Where did the Moltar learn of this? Are one of you a Thinkamancy unit? Oh, is one of you a Dirtamancy unit?”

 

Moltrex took this moment to interject. “There is no cost or hidden effects. As for your other questions, we will describe ourselves and the rest of the Moltar once assurances of peace are made.”

 

Edelbert held up his finger. “I, Sir Edelbert Spore, swear peaceful intentions toward the Moltar. My protection is yours within the Crafty Crags. Learning is a passion of mine and I would not hesitate to exchange knowledge with you.”

 

“The Council of Chiefs has empowered me to speak on behalf of our tribe.” Moltrex raised his gloved finger and hooked Edelbert’s. “We have come to learn from you. Your safety is important and you have nothing to fear from us. I swear.”

 

As they shook the dirtamancer felt a small wisp of juice burn up. It was not enough to upset him. In fact, such a small amount was consumed that he suspected the Moltar did not even realize it would consume any juice from a Caster. The inaccuracy only served as a reminder that these units were limited in their understanding, he supposed unsurprising for more common units.

 

 “This is very pleasing.” Moltrex seemed to relax “Dantar does have limited Thinkamancy abilities. They are uncommon among our people but not rare. Molman is… unique. He possesses the UnLucky special, bad numbers are attracted to him. Although unfortunate for Molman, these occurrences tend to result in better things happening for the tribe members nearby.”

 

Turnip came trotting around the corner. It stopped and looked over the new arrivals then immediately began the usual chanting. “Glum Glum Glum Glum”

 

Edelbert only shook his head, having accepted Turnips behavior many turns ago. “Sorry about that. Turnip is my friend and companion. Daemon are not terribly polite, I have learned. Very pleasant unit otherwise.”

 

“We are aware. Infernox pop sometimes within our home, Magma Bum Loudle.” Dantar added. “Stubborn beasts, they will not ally with us toward the betterment of our tribes or the volcano.”

 

“You are the ones that have been shooting down my Pigeons all these turns? Ha!” the dirtamancer felt no anger at the realization. “We could have been friends long ago if you would have just let me say hello. No matter though, you are here now.”

 

“The Moltar have defensive measures in place, I am sure you do as well. We have no flying units so cannot allow any to enter our airspace.” Moltrex seemed solemn “No ill will was meant. In truth, it was tracking your Pigeons that alerted us to your presence here. Dirtamancy is the solution to our strife. Titans favor the Moltar”

 

“We are a people of flame. A Moltar must end turn near a fire or lava feature every three turns or croak. This limits us to very few terrain types and keeps our numbers few.” Dantar spoke up with a gravelly undercurrent in his tone.

 

Moltrex looked at Dantar for just a moment and then the leader continued. “Add to this the aggression of our neighbors. The infuriating Zorak inhabit the jungles near our home. They have taken it upon themselves to hunt and croak any Moltar that leave the ruin itself. No attempts at negotiation have worked in the least.”

 

“There is no escape from the village of the Moltar!” Molman suddenly jumped and shouted, seemingly at a tree.

 

“Tell me what I can do to help Moltrex.” Edelbert did not hesitate. “Come up to my tower and we can discuss how Dirtamancy might be your solution.”

 

Stepping forward to Sir Spore, Dantar called out “There is no time, we must leave soon to use all of our move this turn. Otherwise we will not make it home.”

 

Moltrex reached out and snatched Dantar by the neck with a single hand. “Do not push your bounds. The Chiefs sent you for your intelligence and abilities. I am still leader here and you will not disobey again.” The large Moltar released the smaller, who stepped back and bowed her head.

 

“What she says is true. We have little time to speak, no more than an hour.” The Chief seemed hesitant with even that estimation.

 

“I begin to see the problem, come over to the Sunset Garden with me. We can sit while we continue.” On the southern ridge of the orchard Edelbert had placed a few stone benches. Watching the sunsets while listening to the sounds of the waterfall had come to be one of his most relaxing pass times.

 

“For our people to migrate we will need to create fire features. To do this we must acquire Dirtamancy. All attempts using our Flamemancy have failed. We can spawn an inferno but cannot change the terrain in any controllable way.”

 

Edelbert, Moltrex, and Dantar each sat down on individual stone benches. Molman stayed standing, apparently enjoying the view. A large flock of Tin Canary passed through the airspace on their way abroad.

 

“We have little time so I will be blunt. There is simply no way I could teach you that much Dirtamancy in any short order, certainly not within an hour. Honestly, I do not even know how to constitute any flame features at all.”  Having never seen permanent flame, Edelbert was unsure where to begin creating such a spell.

 

“As you know Dantar is Thinkamancy capable. With your permission, she will tag you so that our other Thinkamancy units can easily establish contact. We will teach each other over Thinkagram. Occasionally the Moltar can mount a visit here, maybe bring you lava to examine.” Moltrex had apparently considered these issues.

 

“That sounds fun. Tag me Dantar. I wonder what Lava is like?” Edelbert laughed, giddy at this whole arrangement.

 

The female Moltar reached forward and tapped the Dirtamancer on the center of his forehead.

 

At the very same moment a loud crack resounded in the garden. The ground beneath Molman shifted and the edge he was near collapsed off the ridge. The unit thumped limply down the mountain until falling motionless amid a pile of debris.

 

Edelbert immediately cast to reinforce the ground around them. “Moltrex I apologize, I regularly maintain and repair these grounds. If I had any idea that would have happened I would have done something, or taken us somewhere else. I am so very sorry.” Edelbert panicked, worried he had once again lost possible friends. Such interesting friends too.

 

“Do not worry Dirtamancer. The Pinky Swear holds. That was almost certainly due to Molman’s Unlucky. It is too bad; I had hoped he would survive a couple dozen more turns.” The Chief laughed a dry raspy laugh “We should go now. Retrieving his gear is vital and there is precious little time left. The Moltar thank you.”

 

At that both Moltar stepped off and ran down the ridge. Apparently falling and walking off a mountain were different when one was mountain capable.

 

*

 

Excerpts from the Daemondex of Findamancer Red Ketchup

 

-#44- Glum (intermediate) - Glum are gifted with a range of powerful Date-a-mancy magic. Their abilities to magically influence interaction amongst units are near on par with a full popped Caster. From this springs the tragedy of the Glum and the source of their sadness.

 

Glum cannot speak to other units. There are none that have Language. Even the odd speech of the daemons does not recognize the flowers mumbled words. In all my turns of study, the best I can tell, the Glum cannot even speak with each other.

 

They understand the speech of others without difficulty. Orders are still effective. Most Glum seem to be literate as well. They are simply left unable to reciprocate in any way. Thinkamancy cannot even glean their meanings.

 

Turn after turn, these poor units must silently watch as those around them love and laugh and cry. Their abilities forcing them to focus on and manipulate these interactions.

 

Saddest of all, they cannot affect themselves with their own abilities. This often results in very lonely units, as they have great difficulty forming relationships either practically or magically.

 

 

-#115- Dolliwhirl (intermediate) – These daemons gain Turnamancy specials. Generalizing about them is difficulty however, as they draw from an extremely wide range of possibilities. I know of various example units with different conversion spells, engine construction, production boosting, and special attacks.

 

Generalization is further muddled by the possible combos related to Dollamancy from the Dolliwog form.

 

The Dolliwhirl do gain a significantly more agile body. Developed functioning arms and hands assist with their combat capacity considerably. Stronger legs and tail allow for more capable land and water maneuverability.

 

 

-#25- Pikanchuz (basic) - Pikanchuz are particularly useful to tribes of Pokedaemon. They are known for their red and white Ball Caps. These hats allow the wearer to sense nearby Pokedaemon and provides a boost for purposes of interacting with and leading the daemon.

 

Beside the useful Ball Caps, Pikanchuz come with a wide variety of applications because of their inherent Hat Magic. Pikanchuz make useful tunnel units if they wear Miner Helmets; while they are excellent forest units with Ranger Hats; etc.

 

Given time, a group of Pikanchuz can produce enough common hats to give bonuses to nearly every unit in an army. Every scout topped by a Screen Beret. Every stabber and piker wearing a Hard Helm. All your knights adorned with a Knight Cap. These small bonuses add up quickly.

 

Pikanchuz are my personal favorite Pokedaemon. I have been companions with one for many hundred turn. Their Hat Magic has proven invaluable to me during my growth as a Findamancer.

 

 

-#26- Raitanchuz (advanced)- These daemons are fierce combatants. A pool of possible Mathamancy specials provides Raytanchuz with keen statistical insight into any battlespace. Using that advantage, they can execute their Shockmancy attacks to devastating effect.

 

There are few ground units which are faster than Raytanchuz. At level one they tend to possess a high move from the inherent quickness of the Pikanchuz. With each level these daemons gain massive boosts to move. Raytanchuz are excellent units for long range strike stacks.

 

*

 

After 2642 turns of diligent training the days tended to blend together a bit. Edelbert tried to keep focused. His curiosity spurned him forward, but there were times when the loneliness and repetition dragged on him.

 

Every once in a while, the SDE would send a scout or some troops in an attempt to claim Edelbert and the ruins.  These attempts were rarely of much note and as of late had decreased in frequency considerably.

 

Beyond that, Spore mostly had encounters with natural allies, ferals, and the occasional barbarian. These were usually interesting but were just infrequent enough as to be out of the ordinary.

 

On this turn the Dirtamancer could not get rid of a powerful feeling of unease. Something was coming and for some reason he could sense it.

 

The turn, however, was passing uneventfully. Edelbert had avoided casting at all, going so far as to pay off the upkeep for his golems in schmuckers rather than juice.

 

Turnip cast Chant and Spore got the Wheelman special. With it he understood Turnamancy constructs. He would have attempted to craft one if he had wanted to spend the juice on materials. Instead he passed his time by drawing designs for later study.

 

In the middle of the day, the sun blazed high in the clear sky and Edelbert felt a signal that turn was about to forcibly end. This had never happened to him before, not a bad sensation, just unexpected.

 

“Turnip, a side is coming.” Sir Spore realized and called out. “It can’t be the SDE either. Someone new is coming, we must get ready.

 

“Glum” Turnip responded for the sake of participating.

 

While the preparation shifted from combat to investigation, the afternoon passed by without incident or encounter. No new units arrived. The sun had begun to creep down toward the horizon.

 

“I do not understand.” Edelbert complained, loudly. “For us to share a turn, then some side had to share our battlespace. We never left the hex, so this is our battle space. Where are they?”

 

“Glum.” Turnip said as it pointed with its bloom, out toward the hex boundary.

 

Approaching from the south was a winged beast which flew through the adjacent hex quickly. As the unit got closer it became more and more apparent that this was a mount and rider.

 

With only one guest coming, Sir Spore decided to clear the larger outdoor table and serve dinner in his apartment. The golems made short work of the task. Then, most of the them used their Statuary Veil to blend into designated positions.

 

Into the Crafty Crags buzzed a giant insect of some sort, like a horse sized locust. The bug was bright red, the same color as a fresh wound. If anything were a bad Sign, Edelbert thought that color would be. 

 

With distortion from the huge wings, the dirtamancer found it quite difficult to make out many details of the rider. It was a Man-sized unit and seemed to be a deep blue that shimmered oddly.

 

The duo rose into the airspace, presumably for a scouting pass. Suddenly they stopped and turned, clearly to look down at Edelbert and his half stack.

 

Glum Glum Glum Glum” Turnip mumbled loudly “Glum Glum.”

 

Edelbert, for his part, gave a friendly wave. Inside he was deeply apprehensive. As hard as he tried, meeting new units almost always went poorly.

 

The visitors had paused for a moment longer and then began to descend in wide slow spiral. In time, the flier came to circle just out of arms reach for the massive Granite Guardian stacked with Edelbert.

 

Like a locust or grasshopper, the insect had six legs and a long body. It buzzed too fast to count exactly how many chitinous wings there actually were. The giant white eyes and wound red color gave the mount an intimidating feeling. Oddest of all was the long tail with a broad flat paddle at the end, like a blunt scorpion tail.

 

“Good evening. My name is Harvey Ford, of the Ford Prefecture.” A voice called down from atop the strangely shaped bug. “Exploration is my only goal. I mean you no harm.”

 

“It is my honor to meet you Harvey. I am Sir Edelbert Spore.” The dirtamancer did his best to respond evenly. “Peace is always my preference. I will Pinky Swear to your safety within the ruins, if you will swear to enact no harm upon me or my property.”

 

Without another word, the units dropped gently to the ground and a man hopped off the beast. Then he turned to Edelbert with a wide smile. “I can agree to that.” Harvey chuckled as he offered his pinkie forward and the two shook.

 

He stood shorter than Edelbert by a hand span and was considerably paler of skin. A pull over gown covered his wispy body and limbs. His head was adorned by an irregular hat; A tight-fitting skull cap with a square board secured as if balanced atop his head, a silver tassel hanging from its center.

 

Harvey appeared to be unarmed. As well, both articles of his clothing were made from a blue fabric with an almost magical shimmer to it. Sir Spore could not help but hope that the visitor might be a caster.

 

“The necessities are out of the way, let us get to the formalities, shall we?” Edelbert nearly burst with excitement “This is my friend and ally Turnip the Pokedaemon. You are standing in the Crafty Crags Ruin, our home.”

 

“Nice to meet you Turnip. You can both call me Harv, all my friends and family do.”

 

“Glum” Turnip said as cheerily as it could muster.

 

In one long breath, Edelbert suddenly blurted out. “It is quite late in the turn; I assume you will be staying the night. In my apartment, I have arranged a meal for the both of us. We can eat while we get to know one another.” Immediately he felt deeply self-conscious.

 

Harv smiled and again chuckled lightly “It would be a welcome pleasure. Thank you. Is there a place you would prefer I quarter my Krikkit?”

 

“Order it down to my orchard, one of my golems will supply it with suitable rations.” Edelbert had no hesitations in feeding the mount as well “I appreciate you asking rather than just allowing it to graze.”

 

“It seemed obvious to me that you have put a large amount of effort into your work here. I may not be a Dirtamancer or a Signamancer but I am certainly impressed.” The visitor said with awe in his voice. “This place is beautiful. Did you do all of this?”

 

Edelbert subconsciously stood up a bit straighter and squared his shoulders with pride. “Well thank you. The Titans did much of the work. I have just been adding little things here and there. There have been a lot of little things though.” The dirtamancer considered just how much work he had done over these many hundred-turns.

 

“I have always found dirtamancy interesting. It is everywhere we look, everywhere we go.” Harv began to explain “Cities are riddled with Dirt. Every hex has a flavor and, or so I have read, a tunnel system too.”

 

Sir Spore listened intently, he worried sometimes that his nervous chatter turned people off to his presence. Harv also seemed to have some good thoughts, for an Amateur.

 

“Our cities are strong and beautiful but they have always seemed a bit cobbled together. Like they were built to accommodate needs rather than having been planned or organized. I suppose they were” the man shrugged his shimmering blue shoulders “Knowing some more Dirtamancy would be fun. I have only learned enough to attempt a couple ideas of mine.”

 

Edelbert very nearly squealed, but he managed to contain himself. “I would be happy to teach you a few things. We could exchange information, I have very little knowledge of Hat Magic.”

 

“All of that sounds great but I only have until my turn tomorrow. I must leave immediately. Another full move day so we can be to Mustang Springs in four turns.” Harv appeared to be genuinely saddened.

 

“We will do what we can with that time. Let me start by showing you a cleansing spell” the dirtamancer tried not to show any disappointment “Not only is it very basic but it costs fairly little juice.”

 

“How could I say no to that?” the Hatter responded.

 

 “A few details to remember. You do not want to be dirty and Dirt does not want to be on you either. Use your mutual motivation. Certain details, like the part of your hair or the scent of your breath, can be affected if considered while you focus.” Edelbert said, hoping to be clear. Then casting as he spoke. “Sponge Bath, is the trigger”.

 

Sponge Bath” Harv repeated successfully. The film of dust from a long day’s flight vanished. Along with all the wrinkles in his clothes and the layer of stubble on his chin.

 

“Well done. You got it on your first try and managed details.” The dirtamancer was genuinely impressed. “Now that we are clean, let us head upstairs for a meal.”

 

“How very thoughtful of you Edelbert.”

 

One of the golems opened the doors for the casters, who ascended the tower leisurely while they chatted. At the library level Harv stopped. “Wow, did you write every one of these? How long have you been here Edelbert?”

 

Considering the many turns, Sir Spore realized how much change he had made to that part of his tower. The table in the center was removed long ago, having been replaced with three shelves aligned to make small aisles.  All the shelves were finely polished Rockwood with a detailed vine pattern carved along all their forward surfaces. As well, books now filled the space. Nearly every shelf was lined with bright clean tomes.

 

“No, I only wrote these.” Edelbert waved toward the nearest shelf, which was very nearly full. “These are my various journals, notes, drawings, and such. I have had to keep busy over these twenty-six hundred turns.”

 

“Wow, that is an impressive run surviving alone in a Ruin.” Harv took his hat off. “I am only three hundred sixteen.”

 

Continuing upstairs the two emerged into the Edelbert’s apartment. Responding to a silent order, the fireplace ignited. The curtains were all pulled back so the full view of the Range was exposed. Laid out on the table was a meal and settings for two.

 

“It is exceptionally rare that I have visitors up here. Usually when they do come I seat them in the yard, due to space limitations.” Edelbert shrugged. “Since it is just us, I figured we could enjoy a more intimate venue for discussion. We have a lush orchard and the golems set out a variety since I did not know who or what was coming. Would you enjoy a salad or possibly some fruits or berries?”

 

“This looks amazing, do you have a Florist hidden somewhere?” Harv paused and a thought dawned on him. “Oh, Turnip must have some Flower Power specials, right?”

 

“No, just practice and a favorable terrain. Would you like a glass of Schnozberry Wine?” Edelbert was, like it or not, a barbarian and he saw no reason to share about his artifact. Harv seemed like a nice guy but a little discretion could not hurt.

 

“Lovely, this is all lovely Edelbert.” The Hat Magician took the offered goblet and sniffed deeply. With a sigh of relief and a deep drink, he sat down across the table. “You really are Noble. This whole place just has a regality to it.”

 

Sir Spore sat silently stunned. No one had ever complimented him so. His mouth opened and out fell the first thing he could think to say.

 

“So Harv, what brings a lone caster to such a remote ruin? I have had many warlord visitors, both friend and foe. Never a caster though. I had always assumed we were too valuable for sides to risk in such extreme locations.” Edelbert stopped himself, realizing he had already begun rambling. Letting his guests talk more was a lesson which he was trying to grasp.

 

The Hat Magician looked conspicuously back and forth before donning a mischievous grin. “All in all you are correct sir. Rulers do not let casters roam too far from cities or protected territory, usually. Wandering alone is unheard of, excepting barbarians of course. Which is why I didn’t tell my father.”

 

“You lied to your King!?” The noble in Edelbert had no idea how to process such audacity.

 

“Not quite and Overlord, actually his preferred title is Prefect but same thing.” Harv interjected “I simply did not tell father that I was going to stop here on my mission through this territory. I am not disobeying orders and I did not lie. My mount is higher level and had more move. If he finds out I left my stack for the night he will be furious, but exploring a ruin was not an opportunity I could pass up. Pops has no reason to ping my location and we are too big a side for him to look without cause. Besides, if he wanted to check in, he would just send me a note. I am the center of our communications network after all.”

 

“The Ford Prefecture is large enough that your ruler will not notice a stray Caster?” Edelbert assumed Harv was exaggerating or boasting. “How big are you? I have shown you my home, tell me about yours.”

 

“Sure, why not?” The Hat Magician chuckled to himself as if hearing some joke no one else heard. “Prefect Ford is my father, as I said. He is a fantastic ruler. His wisdom is invaluable and openly given; he allows all his subjects a freedom to explore and question the world, even infantry. Dad and Uncle Henry popped in a dead empire called Detroitis. All thousands of turns before my time, I do not know many of the details.”

 

“Uncle Henry is our Chief Caster as well as a genius. Not only has he mastered Turnamancy but Dollamancy too. Our side has many interesting constructs, which I do not understand especially well. They are effective though and do great things for our side. Lots of move and minimum terrain penalties.”

 

“I have two older brother, Stan and Ox. They can be a bit boring honestly but I cannot blame them for their disciplines. Stan is a Signamancer, works with words mostly. I did not have the attention span to learn much from him though, too dry. Similar struggles with Moneymancy and learning from Ox. He is my oldest brother and a Heavy caster, which is very rare and pretty cool.”

 

“Our Chief Warlords are the most unusual part of our side.” Harv paused, both for dramatic effect and to crack open the claws from a Crabby Apple.

 

Edelbert considered it for a moment. “I did not realize a side could have more than one Chief Warlord. Is that because of your size? You must have dozens of cities!”

 

Once again Harvey smiled at the mystery joke. “The Prefecture is the only side I know of with more than one, or at least Chief Warlord, I do know of a couple sides with multiple Chief Casters. This all happened before I was popped, but I have heard the tale from nearly every commander unit in the side.”

 

“My sister, River, is a master strategist. Her planning and general approach when handling our neighbors has caused the side to flourish. Her skills as a warrior are second to none. No one questions these things, but she can be very difficult to deal with. Although her leadership bonus is admirable for a level six, she does not inspire the troops. Uncle Henry said that this would be harmful to loyalty over time, especially if we encountered any Turning abilities.”

 

“The solution presented itself in the form of Zaphod Brannigan. He popped on the turn of a battle in a little city we have called Sparkplug. The fight was lost before it began. Brannigan and all the garrison units had been written off by my father. They were too few to defend and too slow to flee.”

 

“That is terrible. Does your father throw away lives so easily?” Edelbert blurted out before thinking about what he had said.

 

“It was a tough call, but sometimes sacrifices are made. Even worse is when those sacrifices were already made but the units won’t be lost for a couple of turns. How do you make those last turns count? The point is that Zaphod made them count, not River or Father. Somehow he managed to croak three higher level warlords with minimal losses. The leadership stacks had all included Keg Ponies, which were captured and turned for their Drinking Buddies special. He shared a round of refreshments with the invaders and then gave a speech which converted the remainder of the attacking force to our side.”

 

“At the end of his first full turn he was level three. Having started with five stacks of various garrisoned defenders, Commander Brannigan had acquired another twelve stacks infantry, four stacks of knights, and six stacks of archers. He had materialized a combat force, and one that was loyal to him deep into their cores. We were suddenly able to go offensive on a front we had been losing the turn before.”

 

“In ten turns he had captured two more cities. A reclamation of one of our previously lost sites and a new location claimed from the enemy. The Zapper, as he began calling himself, had also acquired level four and even more units. Our enemies fled before him and our troops adored him. His Leadership bonus was unusually high. The only thing to do was promote him to Chief.”

 

“Father sent a Whirlygig to return the commander to the capital for the bestowment of honors. Once back home, it became quickly apparent that Zap was an idiot. Still is an idiot.” Harv shook his head and sighed.

 

“Amazing fighter though. Only unit I have ever seen dual my sister and not seem weak. I know it frustrates her. Especially since he found that magic sword in the wild. The Heart of Gold,  a +3 broadsword with some sort of celerity buff. I have seen arrows move slower than Zap when driven into a full combat state.”

 

“Stan proposed the solution. He and father drafted a document which divided the responsibilities and powers of Chief Warlord into two equal positions. Warlady River Ford would hold the position of Insident; responsible for the internal matters such as garrison deployments, resource management, and interside politcs. Warlord Zaphod Brannigan would become the President, charged with maintaining a command presence on major battle fronts, dictating army strategies, and generally running all external military campaigns.

 

 

“The system has worked for the last few hundred turns. Everyone is getting to do what they enjoy and the side benefits greatly from the arrangement.” Harv smiled then took a swig of fruit juice. “Good plan Stan. It turns out that three heads are better than one.”

 

“What do you mean ‘three heads’ Harv?” Edelbert felt a little lost at this point.

 

“Oh, didn’t I mention? Zap has the Polycephaly special, it means he has two heads. Trying to talk with the both of him can be impossible sometimes. Although watching them argue with himself balances the frustration out with hilarity.”

 

*

 

Edelbert and Harvey spent the rest of the night talking. Magic theory and religion filled much of that time. The Dirtamancer learned that Hat Magic could make golems, which consumed hours amidst comparative design applications. Neither man had ever gotten to hold a deep conversation with a fellow caster, as an equal.

 

Being the youngest caster in the Prefecture, as well as a Stagemancer, Harv’s ideas were often received as limited. Magic Kingdom casters were mainly too stuck up to be bothered. The ones willing to talk always had an agenda of selling their services in one way or another.

 

Edelbert simply had no one to talk to but Turnip and Journal.

 

It was not until dawn and the start of Edelbert’s turn, that the men realized so much time had passed.

 

“Oh wow!” The Dirtamancer exclaimed “We must get to work. Let us head down to my workshop and spend a little juice together.”

 

“I do not have much juice to spare, but I have a plan.” Harv the Hat Magician sighed as he descended the stairs. “Uncle ordered me to spend the rest of my juice this turn on Hats for the side, I have a list. The way I see it though, you can watch while I explain what I am doing. There is also a side project I have been working on which I would like to get your opinion on, it is almost Dirtamancy.”

 

“Go ahead and tell me. I cannot stand a mystery.” Edelbert laughed, unsure what Stuffamancy a Hat Magician might be concocting.

 

“One turn in the Magic Kingdom I attended a debate between a Dirtamancer and a Changemancer. The discussion itself was interesting but the point that struck me had been the concept of a Cornerstone.” Harv said the word as if it meant something special but Edelbert was unfamiliar. “The way I reasoned it, if the first stone of a project guided the entire construction. Well then shouldn’t the last stone placed have an effect too?”

 

“I follow so far; I am unsure where you are going though Harv?” Edelbert did not follow. He was bluffing to save face. All he had to do was catch up before his guest noticed.

 

“We are getting to it Edelbert, I would expect more patience from a unit that has not Moved in a couple thousand turns.” the Hatter chided the Dirtamancer for fun more than being annoyed. “Thinking about the city construction I reasoned as follows. If the Cornerstone was the base of a city, then its opposite would have to be the top. If we were talking about a unit, the top would be the head and creating cranial enhancements is exactly the purview of Hat Magic. Looking at a city like a unit it seemed obvious that the Tower top would have to be the “head”. If I wanted to improve a city using Hat Magic what I needed was a Capstone accessory for the Tower.”

 

“The last couple of ten-turns I have tinkered with the Tower whenever I had some spare juice. The only progress so far? My senses assure me that this WILL work. My struggle probably comes from only being Adept.” Harv rubbed his hands and smiled. “Until now I did not have any Dirtamancer friends to ask about my ideas. What do you think Edelbert, can you point me in the right direction?”

 

Edelbert worried during the bulk of the explanation. Although he was quite confident in his abilities as a Dirtamancer he had never actually seen a city or Tower. “Does your city have any available enhancement slots? That would be my guess.”

 

“What is an enhancement slot?”

 

“Keep thinking about units. Any unit can only equip a limited number of items and only one per body part.  Added to this, a magic item can only hold a limited few enchantments. Cities and units are similar in this way. There are limited spaces for upgrades and maximums to those upgrades. Is your city heavily expanded or upgraded?”

 

“Oh yes! The Grand Assembly takes up most of Betelgeuse’s entire garrison, all three zones. Our capital is a level five, by the way. Uncle has made many changes over the turns”

 

“You need a city with available expansion. I can make you a scroll, then we should be able to figure it out. Since you can feel the potential to cast, I would guess that you are already capable of your spell.”

 

 *

 

The morning passed quickly while the two casters worked to teach each other.

 

Edelbert listened intently as Harv gave a short run down of Hat Magic, the magic of identity. Afterward the Hatter plied his trade with Spore watching every move and spell.

 

“Excellent.” Harv beamed as he finished. “I still have a bit of juice left and my orders are all complete. What I would like to do Edelbert, you cast to create your own Sending Hat. I can assist slightly if needs be.”

 

“I am more than willing to try, but that would mean I can only send things to you. How would we correspond? I was looking forward to having a parchment-pal.” Edelbert said slightly dejectedly.

 

“Trust the Hat Magician. My personal headgear is enchanted to be the central link of the Prefectures communications; it is called a Hubcap. Any ComsHat linked to the Hub can interact with any other on the network. Each item is limited by its enchantments so Sending Hats only send and Receiving Hats only receive, usually. Due to my class I can send and receive messages with any cap registered within my Hatalog. We will key your ComsHat to the Hub. No problem, see?”  Harv was deeply enjoying explaining some small tricks of his discipline to an interested caster.

 

“Well then, let us begin.” Edelbert said with enthusiasm.

 

“There is little time and you have grasped everything well. So rather than try and teach you any more theory I will supportively cast to guide your spell in the correct direction. That should minimize your failure chance and hopefully boost the item strength. All we need is letters to pass through but I am hoping we can get the enchantment up to the full capability to transfer magic items.”

 

“I am ready, guide me.” Edelbert put his hand down on his belt where the miniaturized Great Gardening Staff was tucked in a pouch.

 

“The first step is to visualize the physical hat. The style is up to you so imagine something you will want to wear; these items are difficult to alter once completed.” Harv smiled as he thought of a couple of hideous hats he had to alter over the turns. “Then materialize the Stuff of your hat.”

 

With little concern for fashion, Edelbert imagined a simple practical hat. “Onassis”. A round cap with a flat top appeared in his hands.

 

“Interesting fashion choice, very prim” the Hatter laughed a deep laugh.

 

“There is no need for me to wear it around. I am going to keep it on my desk, this way it will sit nicely” Edelbert smirked, knowing it was a good idea.

 

“Fair enough. Now focus on the connection between us and the Hub. Repeat after me… Snownor”

 

Snownor” Edelbert let his juice flow into the words.

 

“Rainnor”

 

Rainnor

 

“Heatnor”

 

Heatnor

 

“Gloomnor”

 

Gloomnor

 

The hat fuzzed a bit as if about to disappear and then solidified in Edelbert’s hand. In his other hand a small bamboo wand appeared.

 

“Welcome to Hat Magic. Very well done, I only helped a little at the end to nudge the outcome.” Harv bowed respectfully. “Just wave the wand and say Postage Paid to trigger the sending.”

 

At that moment Edelbert’s turn ended and the Prefecture’s turn began.

 

“Well that means we are out of time. I have to get going.”

 

“I understand” Edelbert had hoped his turn would be longer. “Call up your Krikkit but do not leave yet. I have something for you. Stay here, I will be right back.”

 

Sir Spore ran inside the tower for a couple of minutes. Harvey took the time to check his saddles and bags.

 

The Dirtamancer emerged carrying a tied sack and a staff. “Here you go, I want you take these as reward for a successful ruin encounter.” Edelbert smiled and laughed. “The bag has 30k in Gems. The staff provides a small reduction in juice cost when casting of any sort, as well as a +1 bonus on Dirtamancy spells.

 

“Edelbert, my friend, this is too generous but I cannot accept. My father would know I had been here.”

 

“Oh, I well… hmm. Why not tell your family that you found it in the wild? You already intend not to mention me or the ruin. That will explain the scrolls I would like to send too” With a thought Edelbert materialized a small chest.

 

“Good thinking. I doubt anybody is going to question gems and magic items too hard.” Harv began strapping the chest to his Krikkit. “You are certain you can afford this Edelbert?”

 

“Yes, I am a Dirtamancer that lives on a mine. Upkeep is rarely an issue.”

 

“Alright, my father would thank you if he knew you existed. Any chance you want to Turn to the Ford Prefecture?”

 

Edelbert had been waiting for that. “Let us correspond for a while and we can discuss it. I admit that the Prefecture is far more appealing than the other side I have encountered, the SDE.”

 

“Yeah, they are stuffy jerks! It is time for me to go. I will send you a note tonight. Thank you once again Sir Edelbert Spore.”

 

With that, the Krikkit took to the airspace and zipped away out of the hex.

 

 Volume 5 - It Takes a Village to Raise an Army

 

Index

 

Forum Thread

 

Comments

  • Bandaid

    I thought that Sir Edelbert Spore would end up prisoner of SDE, good for him. And I am glad that he finally found a speaking friend and a way to stay in contact with him. Regarding his other friend, hopefully he will learn some Carnymancy in the future, that way he might break some of those tragic restrictions his Glum friend suffers from.

    All in all, an amazing read full of fun (and tragic) ideas. I am looking forward to part 5.

  • etherkye

    I'm really glad you came back to this story, I was afraid we'd never get to see it finished.

  • WurmD

    Loved reading it as well ^_^

    Just curious to what happened to the Moltar 

  • falcore51

    Yeah Spore is back.  Glad he didn't get captured.

  • Deck of Cards

    Don't leave us in suspense, how is Mister Fish the Tragikarp doing?

  • Salvage

    Thank you everyone.

    I am sorry my writing is so slow. Edelbert will be finished if it takes me a decade.  Be patient with me.

    The Moltar and Blinky the Tragikarp will be back. I am trying to shorten the installments and release more often, fewer journal entry sections is a part of that.