The Noble Gasses Chapter 1
Our tale opens on the small, level three city of Caer Lial. It shows signamancy of recent upgrade. The walls are clean, the buildings barely used. It has straight square walls made of fitted stone with parapets for archers to fire from. Being a level three, it has a tower, albeit a short, stout one in the middle, almost a duplicate of the walls around it.
This particular city is in a plains hex with forest hexes to the north, and more plains to the south. There are fields around it for farming and three straight roads leading away to the north, east and west until they fade into the hex edges. Each road leads to a city gate, each gate has a stack of guards, each guard a spear. As uninteresting as stabbers usually are, if you were to gaze at a certain one of these stabbers through the eyes of a Predictamancer, you would see something very interesting indeed. At this point in his life, though, he barely even has a name: Og. Let us look at Og’s thoughts as though we were thinkamancers in this world, rather than Titans above it.
I am a guard. I am happy I am a guard. I am guarding this gate. I am a good guard. No-one has got by me. I have only been guarding this gate for one turn. I have been guarding this gate for my whole life. I am a guard. I am happy I am a guard...
I am bored. I want something to guard against.
Apparently, Fate heard his thoughts. Through the haze on the northern edge of the hex came six figures. Six units, all dressed the same and armored the same. They had cylindrical full helms with T-shaped visors, maille hauberks covering them from neck to wrist to knees, and maille mittens covering their hands. They also bore long, straight swords belted at their hips. The livery of all six was identical, white tabards with a single large, black chevron. Tall, confident and firm: they walked with purpose and length of stride. And as they got close enough, Og heard them singing:
We are the Noble Gasses,
We’ll guard your northern passes,
We’ll lead dance fights, stay up all night,
And chase all of your lasses.
We always are victorious,
We’re really quite notorious.
Then, as Og and his stackmates watched, they stopped walking to dance in the middle of the road. When they had finished their impromptu dance routine they continued coming down the road, walking boldly and singing.
We are the Noble Gasses,
We act like complete asses,
But every time we sing in rhyme,
The enemy dies in masses.
We’ll make your battles glorious,
If you are not penuriouuuuuuuus.
Once again, at the end of the verse, they stopped their approach on the city to dance, gripping each other’s shoulders tightly and lifting their legs high.
In wartime, none surpasses,
We’ll mow your foes like grasses,
In time of peace we’ll eat your feasts,
And empty your wineglasses.
Our fighting’s meritorious,
If you’re not pars-i-mo-ni-ous.
By the time they reached the end of their song the company had also reached the city gates. One of them stepped forward by himself and sang the last line in a slow, deep, baritone. He stepped back, and they all stood still, posing with their fists on their hips and their chins pointed out, looking heroic and noble.
Og looked around at his stackmates, Ag, Egg, Ig, Ugh, Yg, and Wg and his stack leader Agog. They were all apparently under the effect of some stunning incapacitation as they simply stood staring, with their mouths wide open. He looked around and realized it was all up to him to deal with these six knights and started to incapacitate from fear. Suddenly, it came to him: follow The General Orders of the Guard. Now which ones did he need…
7. To talk to no one except in line of duty.
11. To be especially watchful at turn’s end, and to challenge all persons on or near my post and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.
“Halt, who goes there?” he said, his voice cracking.
The deep-voiced knight in the center looked one way, and then another at his own stackmates. “How sad, brothers, it seems their guard is hard of hearing. We’ll have to start our song again.”
“We are the Noble Gasses,”
“No, no, no, don’t sing more. You are the Noble Gasses. What does that mean? I’ve never heard of you.”
Another stepped forward, cocked his head and asked, “What do you mean you’ve never heard of us? Were you popped yesterday or something?”
“Yes, yes I was. I’m a only a Garrison stabber on guard duty.”
They all stopped posing and looked at each other, and then a different one stepped forward and said, “We are a mercenary company and we are here to offer our services—”
“For schmuckers!” the others sang out.
“Yes, yes, for schmuckers. We are all noble barbarians from the far-off Operatic States, here to win fortune, fame and glory—”
“Yes, yes, and schmuckers, we do have to make upkeep after all. Will your ruler hire us?”
Og looked around, his stackmates were all still stunned. His stack leader, Agog, was sadly living up (or down) to his name. Og didn’t know what to do. And then he did.
9. To call the City Warlord in any case not covered by instructions.
Warlord Okay had an unfortunately accurate name, and equally accurate signamancy. She was of precisely average height, her hair was a medium brown, and her face was perhaps just a little too round. She had average stats, and records showed that it took her exactly the average amount of time to reach level 5. She was still level 5 though, and that was why she oversaw the City of Caer Lial. She was responsible for keeping the Pix in the North where they belonged, or more precisely, out of Prytain. Pix going east and west were OK with Okay.
Both sides were on a rather large island though, and the Pix had no sea-capable units, so the only direction for them to attack was south. Many thousands of turns ago, a former King had built a wall running the length of the border, but that wall was a hex to the north of the border now, in the forest; they hadn’t been able to keep it. The current king maintained a series of well-defended high-level cities along the border instead. If the Pix came south, the Prytani would pour out of the cities closest to the invasion to attack them in the fields. The Pix were almost all forest capable units, and were fighting out of their element in the plains.
Warlord Okay had one of these cities, and she was concerned anytime any unit came down the road from the north. She didn’t have a road south like her neighbors did, and she was concerned about that, too. She also had a Message Hat, so anytime the King was upset about anything she heard it before them, and that was the most concerning thing of all. Okay was concerned a lot. Right now, she was concerned that a level one stabber was calling her to the northern wall, rather than the guard’s stack leader. What was the stack leader doing?
She got to the wall, and was happy to see the complete lack of a Pixish horde outside her walls screaming threats and throwing poisoned spears. She was not happy to see nearly an entire stack of stabbers stunned to incapacitation and staring down off the wall.
“What is your name, stabber, and what is going on?”
“Sir, Stabber Og-118, reporting a mercenary unit requesting entry.”
“And hire, especially hire!” came a loud voice from over the wall.
“Og, how about you start by telling me why you’re reporting instead of your stack leader.”
So, Og repeated the whole story while the mercenaries outside shouted strange, incomprehensible and often pointless comments—most of them having to do with money. When he was done, she walked to the parapets and looked over the edge at the six knights posing nobly and heroically outside.
“Who are you?”
“We are the Noble Gasses, we—”
“As we told your guardsman, we are here to take service—”
“As mercenaries to your King… What was his name again?”
“Utha! King of Prytain, by the Grace of the Titans, destroyer of the Pixish horde! Well, a Pixish horde, they’re massing forces again.”
“He destroyed a Pixish hoard? Why wouldn’t he just capture it? Are Prytani allergic to Pixish wealth?” One of the mercenaries clearly thought himself a wit. Or he was completely witless. Okay wasn’t sure which concerned her more.
“No, no, not a Pixish hoard, a Pixish horde. With an ‘e’ on the end. Lots of enemies, not lots of wealth. Look, I’ll message King Utha and he’ll decide if he wants to hire you. For now, I can allow you to camp outside the city without being attacked by our forces, as long as you don’t cause any trouble. If the Pix attack before negotiations are over, we’ll pay you a bounty on every unit you kill. But claim their corpses—Pix or it didn’t happen.” Okay stomped away to message the capital.
The song “Noble Gasses” can (and should) be sung to the tune of “Knights of Camelot” from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”
While there will be quite a few Arthurian references, both to the story of King Arthur and to the real geopolitics of the time, this is not an Arthurian legend. Og is not Arthur, and he will not become the heir, and eventual ruler, of Prytain. Nor, for that matter, will anyone else, Utha will reign for this entire story.