The Horde, Part Seven
Part Seven: The Very Hard Way
by Thomas K. Martin
Gordon rode alongside the column with Prince Murphy. The siege towers were slowing them to a crawl. In this mountainous terrain they were only going to be able to make one hex per turn. They did not have far to go, however. The level five city of Whitecliff was only three hexes away. Viscount Burr had told him last night that he could now actually see the city from the air. In three turns the side of Earl Light would be no more.
The prince had been trying to come up with a name for his new side for the entire march from Azalea, but even his enthusiasm had dimmed once they had entered the foothills and then the mountains. Gordon stopped to watch as the first siege engine rolled up to the hex boundary. Two stacks of stabbers were using levers and pure muscle to try and help the horses drag the massive tower over the uneven rocks.
Gordon felt his hat rumble on top of his head. Apparently the prince had received a message as well, for he took off his helmet and pulled the wand from his belt. Gordon broke open the royal seal. His heart climbed into his throat as he read.
We have a thirty turn truce with Earl Land and Earl Light. Abandon the siege towers and rams and return to Azalea at once with the ballistae. Destroy anything you leave behind.
His Royal Majesty, Condon, King of Dixieland.
Gordon folded the missive and put it in his saddlebag, his thoughts racing. Their truce with Mangolia should have ended last turn. Minghis must have been ready to march as soon as the sun rose this turn. King Condon would have sent in scouts at the same time. He must have received a report when the scouts found Minghis’ troops. Gordon briefly wondered if Ornella was leading them and then pushed that thought out of his mind.
“Hold!” Gordon shouted to the men trying to push the siege tower across the hex boundary. Gordon glanced over to Prince Murphy who was reading his own message from the king. The prince did not look happy.
“This is a mistake!” Prince Murphy said. “Even if that ignorant barbarian is attacking, we should have continued on to Whitecliff! Now King Black and his son have thirty turns to build up against us!”
“I am certain his majesty has information we do not,” Gordon replied. The prince wadded up the paper and made to throw it away.
“No!” Gordon shouted just as the ball of parchment went flying. He dismounted and rushed to retrieve the discarded message. Fortunately it had not gone far. He reached into a crevice between two boulders to retrieve the note.
“Why the bother?” Prince Murphy asked.
“We do not leave missives from the king lying around for the enemy to discover,” Gordon explained. “Also, open this and tell me if there is an ink spot in the top left corner.”
“No,” Prince Murphy said once he had examined the note. “No ink spot. Why would that be important?”
“It means there is a hidden message on the parchment,” Gordon explained. “I’ll show you in a moment. For now we have to gather the siege towers and the battering rams in the center of the hex.”
It took them almost an hour to gather the siege equipment together and reorganize the column. Now that they weren’t pulling the siege towers and rams, the column had twenty four extra horses. Sacrificing the siege towers, but keeping the ballistae increased their base move from four to six. Unfortunately, there was no way the extra horses could be used to increase that. Not as long as they had to bring the ballistae.
“Viscount Burr, fire the siege!” Gordon ordered. Their two reds engulfed the massive stack of lumber in flame and then flew off to the south to rejoin the column. Gordon took his note from his saddlebag, dismounted and approached the flames, motioning for the prince to join him.
“Throw your message into the fire,” Gordon ordered. The prince complied as Gordon unfolded his own parchment. The heat on his face was already almost too much to bear but Gordon took another step forward and then held the parchment out at arm’s length toward the flames. Hidden writing appeared on the back of the parchment.
“It’s a bit of signamancy that Baroness Ardent uses,” Gordon explained. “Sometimes we receive sensitive orders or information this way. Always check for the ink spot.”
“What does it say?” Prince Murphy asked. Gordon scanned the message.
“It’s a personal note from the Baroness,” Gordon replied, folding up the parchment. “I’ll read it later. We need to rejoin the column and get out of here.”
* * *
They had only made two hexes today, but that had gotten them out of the mountains and into the foothills. Next turn would see them back in the forests of Dixieland. Count Gordon sat in his tent reading Dale’s note by the light of a small powerball held in a glass lantern.
I hope this finds you well. Three turns ago I was in the Magic Kingdom when I felt our truce with Mangolia end. It had not been violated, it was simply no longer in effect. From this I concluded that their side had ended. Now I have learned that it is much stranger than that.
Our scouts found the city of Arboria razed to the ground. When they pressed further in to Mangolia’s territory the turn after that, they were wiped out. Shortly afterwards King Condon received a hat message from Minghis using the hat he captured from the scouts.
They destroyed their own side and are now marching toward Summer Fort. What kind of people would destroy their own side before going to war? Please return safely and quickly to us. I am frightened. Barkoff keeps saying that our doom is coming.
All my love, Dale.
Gordon folded the note. Minghis had destroyed his own side? Dale was right, that was utter madness. How would that work? All of his units would disband…except for those stacked with a warlord who had their upkeep in his purse. That was insane. He would need a warlord for every eight units. There was no way he could pop that many warlords, but he could have promoted enough. Even if he did that, how would he continue to pay their upkeep? How would he replace units lost in battle? None of this was making any sense. In ten or fifteen turns, the whole…horde would vanish from lack of upkeep.
Gordon closed the shades on the lantern and climbed into the bedroll on his cot. He found his sleep troubled by images of a beautiful, raven-haired warlord on a golden hawk.
* * *
Ornella flew over the dense forest. She could see nothing below her but a green canopy of leaves. Her purpose was to scout ahead of the column for trouble, but there could be an entire army down there and she wouldn’t see it.
Danger ahead, Klytus’ silent voice whispered in her mind. The hex three hexes north of her flight path flashed red in her mind’s eye. Two hexes due northeast from her current position was the clearing in which the army planned to camp for the night. Kala must have spotted something.
Hold position, came the silent orders. Ornella banked Warcry and began to circle the hex.
* * *
Quickbough waited in the forest for the enemy to pass. His advance scouts had been pulled back after sighting the enemy’s vanguard before their turns could be suspended. His orders were to gather intelligence for the king of Dixieland and to avoid all engagements if possible.
So far, all they had learned was that the main force was flanked in at least three hexes by warhawks. In the lead hex were sixteen hawks and there were fifteen on either side. One of his scouts believed he had glimpsed another formation of hawks in the hex southwest of the northern wing. If that was true and their formation was repeated southwest of the southeastern wing, that gave the enemy a total of at least seventy six warhawks.
Quickbough wrote down that information and handed it to one of his tribe mates.
“Go one hex north and then two hexes northeast,” Quickbough ordered the Woodsy Elf scout. “Wait for us there. If no one has joined you by the time the sun is halfway to setting after noon, continue on toward Summer Fort. If you sight the enemy before then, evade them and continue on toward Summer Fort.”
Quickbough studied the map he had been given. He was certain the enemy was heading for the brush hex two hexes southeast of his current position. Men preferred to camp in the open, after all, even if it meant sacrificing move. After the enemy had reached their destination, Quickbough would send his scouts to observe the enemy camp and report back. They needed to know what they were facing.
* * *
“Ten eight-stacks of Woodsy Elves,” Kala said. She sat astride her nickel horse with her eyes closed. “One warlord. One elf has just left to the north, carrying a message, I believe.”
“Scouts,” Minghis said.
“That’s a large force just for scouting,” Khan protested.
“They remember what we did to their last scouting party,” Minghis replied. “This one is much larger and further away. They have probably been sending smaller groups from that hex to observe us.”
“Your orders, Sire?” Klytus asked.
* * *
Continue on to the clearing, came the silent order. Ignore the enemy, pretend you do not know they are there.
“What nonsense is this?” Ornella wondered. Surely her father wasn’t going to have them make camp within two hexes of an enemy force?
With a sigh of disgust, Ornella banked her hawk to the northeast and carried on toward the clearing. She had learned long ago not to question her father’s orders, but she could not help but wonder at his plan.
If they diverted the army to the target hex, they would not be able to get the ground troops to the clearing for the night. Without forest-capable units, they could not defend themselves from Dixieland’s dwagons if they were in the area. That was why father had decided to continue on past the enemy.
After travelling straight to the clearing, the knights would still have move left. How much? After reaching camp they would have travelled three hexes through forest and one brush hex. The slowest horses would have six and a half move left. From the brush hex, it would take four and a half move for the knights to reach the target hex, and a half move less than that to return – too much.
But if father diverted the knights north from the hex she had just left…
* * *
Quickbough looked to the sky – not quite noon. The enemy should have had time to reach the clearing by now.
“Nara Shan!” he called. Nara was the tribe’s newest warlord, having only spawned this morning after King Condon had given them the shmuckers to breed up the tribe. She was one of the rare woodsy elves to spawn with enhanced foolamancy. Quickbough had never known one before, but there were legends…
“You called, lord?” she asked, running up to him. Nara Shan had strange signamancy. For the most part she looked just like any other Woodsy Elf – taller than a Man, and dark as oak with large, bat-like ears. However, what at first glance appeared to be a necklace were actually three translucent blue stones fused into the skin around her neck.
“Yes, take two veteran scouts and scout the enemy encampment,” he told her. “Avoid engagements and report back. If you cannot report back, return to Summer Fort.”
“We need an accurate count,” he stressed. “The fate of the kingdom and the tribe may rest on what you do here today.”
* * *
Nara led her tiny stack into the hex southeast of the scout camp. This was her first command and she was excited to be leading members of her tribe against the enemy. True, there was to be no battle, and her stack was too small to survive if there were. But it was still exciting to be facing the enemy on her first turn of life.
She saw the hawks through a break in the foliage when she was halfway through the hex. They were passing through the next hex heading north.
Hide! she ordered silently. Her fingers reached up and touched the center stone on her throat. It flared briefly as a veil engulfed her.
“Just a small tree in the forest,” she thought. “Nothing to see here.”
As the hawks passed over the adjacent hex she tried to count them. She estimated their number at forty-five or forty-six. One wing of fifteen stopped in the southeast hex as the others continued on. What were they doing? They couldn’t be setting up a perimeter – the other hawks had continued north, away from the enemy camp.
She dropped the veil and joined the lowest levelled member of her stack beneath a clump of brush.
“Return to camp,” she whispered to him. “The enemy knows we are here! Warn them!”
As the scout headed back, she caught the attention of her other stack mate and motioned toward the southern hex boundary. Together they made their way south, slipping from tree to tree.
* * *
Quickbough looked up from his maps as the scout came running up to him. It was one of the two he had sent with Nara Shan.
“What has happened?” he asked.
“Lady Nara sent me back,” he said. “The enemy knows we are here. They are using their hawks to flank us!”
“Retreat!” Quickbough ordered. “Everyone, head north and then back to…”
He fell silent when he felt their turn get suspended. It was too late.
“Scatter!” he ordered. “Take cover and make every arrow count!”
The Woodsy Elves melted into the forest as the thunder of horses reached them.
* * *
Minghis looked down at the elf warlord. The battle had been brief, but intense. He had lost eleven knights in this battle with twice that many wounded. They had only lost three hobby horses, however. He could have left the mounted archers behind – they had not been effective in this battle, but neither had they taken any losses. The hawks had not been very effective either due to the heavy tree cover.
“Do you think they would ransom him?” Minghis asked, looking back down at the warlord. They had gained nothing of monetary value from this engagement. A few bows and some long knives for the twolls to rework, but nothing else.
“They might,” Khan replied. “I don’t know. I don’t think they would pay very much for him – he’s only a two.”
“You’re right,” Minghis said. It could hurt them more to release this elf than it would gain them in shmuckers. However, he might still have valuable information.
“Tie him across a horse,” Minghis ordered. “We will let Kala question him tonight. Then, if Dixieland won’t pay us at least two thousand for him, we’ll execute him before dawn.”
* * *
Nara Shan’s heart fell when she saw the enemy carry Quickbough into their camp. She huddled with her stackmate beside a wild thornberry bush, her veil making them both seem to be an extension of the foliage.
Over the last few hours the two of them had carefully counted the enemy force. With these new arrivals, her count was over twelve hundred men. She happily counted several riderless horses. Her tribe mates had not gone quietly. She felt a tear slide down her face, but made no sound, nor any move to wipe it away.
“We will wait here until just before sunset,” she whispered placing her mouth right next to her scout’s ear. “Then we will go back to the camp hex.”
* * *
Minghis studied the maps they had captured from the scouts by the light of a powerball. They clearly showed the location of the city Kala was directing them to, as well as the terrain for a dozen hexes around it. The city was marked on the map as Summer Fort. The word summer meant nothing to Minghis, so he assumed it must have been named after someone – probably a warlord or a ruler. Two roads led from the city – one due north and another snaked off to the east turning every few hexes from northeast to southeast and back.
He had no choice but to follow these roads. Time was money, after all. The tribe was still burning through five thousand shmuckers every turn and it would take at least twice as long to reach the next city if they left the roads.
For now, however, there was no road which led to Summer Fort. What was worse, there was no clearing within five hexes of their current location according to this map. Except…
Minghis rolled up the map and left the yurt. Kala’s yurt was nearby, part of the central leadership. The cries of the Woodsy Elf warlord had subsided – Minghis hoped he still lived. Dixieland had only been willing to pay a single thousand shmuckers for the warlord’s realease, so he had not ordered the lookamancer to keep him alive.
“Lady Kala,” Minghis called from outside the yurt. She immediately opened the flap which covered the entrance.
“Yes, Sire?” she said.
“I need to speak with the prisoner.”
Kala stepped aside. She had removed her mattress from her cot and had chained the Woodsy Elf to the frame. Minghis would have to order the twolls to make a prison yurt to hold captives. Preferably one that blocked sound better than Kala’s yurt.
The elf’s back was covered in cuts from Kala’s turnamancy whip. Minghis was not surprised to see Klytus here. No doubt both casters had been using their skills on him.
“Has he told us anything useful?” Minghis asked.
“Much,” Kala said proudly. “We now have maps showing the location of all of Dixieland’s cities.”
“Has he said anything about this?” Minghis asked, unrolling the map and pointing to a hex only three hexes from Summer Fort and five hexes from their current location. It was a forest hex but there was a single letter marking the center of the hex.
“No, Lord, but we will make him tell us now,” Kala assured him.
Minghis watched as the two casters renewed their work with the prisoner. Kala showed the map to the prisoner and asked about the labelled hex as Klytus closed his eyes and put his fingers to his temples. The prisoner said nothing and Kala looked up to Klytus who shook his head without opening his eyes.
The two of them worked very efficiently together. Minghis could see what looked like small sparks whenever the whip cut the elf’s flesh. She was casting through the device.
“It is a logging camp!” the elf finally cried out. Minghis smiled.
“I have an image of the camp,” Klytus told him. “If you wish to view it, we will need your son.”
“Meet in my yurt,” Minghis ordered. “Are you finished with this prisoner?”
“I doubt he knows anything else of much value,” Klytus replied. “And the lady Kala and I are running low on juice.”
“Bring him outside,” Minghis ordered. His knights met them outside the yurt and took the prisoner from the two casters. They forced him to his knees as Minghis drew his sword.
“In Dixieland, I make my stand!” the warlord cried defiantly. “To live and croak for Dixie!”
“As you wish,” Minghis replied.
* * *
The logging camp was surrounded by a wooden palisade with a barracks, a sawmill and a lookout tower. It would barely be large enough for the entire tribe to bed down, without setting up the yurts. Minghis and the central leadership would take the barracks. The hawks could roost along the outer wall. According to what Klytus had learned from the elf, only three stacks of loggers, which were basically stabbers with axes, and three stacks of archers defended the camp with a single warlord for leadership.
“This is our target for tomorrow,” Minghis told those assembled – his casters, his children and the five surviving members of his original stack. “We should be able to pick up some provisions here, as well as having a secure camp. Kala, that flail of yours paid for itself this turn.”
“Thank you, Sire,” Kala said, smiling proudly.
“Now,” Minghis began the briefing, “we will hold the knights and mounted archers in reserve…”
* * *
There would be no logging today. Sergeant North had received ruler orders before dawn to keep all of his men inside the camp – the enemy was near.
North had been promoted to warlord solely for the purpose of managing this logging camp on the edge of Dixieland’s territory and had never seen battle. He didn’t wish to see battle today, either. Three stacks of loggers and three stacks of archers were fine against the local ferals, but the rumors said that this army coming at them from the west was ten times that size. He would rather avoid that if at all possible.
When he felt his turn suspend, he knew that wasn’t an option.
“Look sharp, archers!” he ordered, hefting his axe down from his shoulder. “We’ve got traffic!”
The logging camp took up the center third of the hex. North scanned the hex to the northwest and southwest looking for any sign of the advancing enemy through the dense forest.
“Flyers incoming from the south!” he heard someone shout from his left. Sergeant North looked south and saw the enemy warhawks approaching.
“Loggers, take cover!” he ordered. “Archers, prepare to fire! Target the center of their line!”
North joined the rest of the loggers scrambling down from the wall. Those hawks alone outnumbered his entire force by almost two to one. If he got killed on the wall, his men would become unled and would auto-attack the enemy. He joined the rest of the loggers beneath the hoardings of the southern wall.
Almost as soon as he got under cover, he heard the archers fire. Soon after that, he heard the sound of enemy arrows hitting the wall, a sound he had never heard before. The screams of wounded and dying men was worse. He had once heard a group of loggers that had been attacked by a feral Kodak Bear scream like this – once at the bear’s foolamancy double, and again when the actual bear had attacked them. North had leveled that turn and a fresh stack of loggers had arrived from Summer Fort two turns later. He had never wanted to hear that sound again.
A single croaked hawk crashed into the camp from above, spilling two riders on the ground as the rest flew on past the camp. One of the riders, a knight, climbed to his feet and North felt his loggers tense for the charge.
“Hold your ground!” he ordered. “Archers, clear the camp!”
A dozen arrows brought down the knight. That told North that half of his archers still lived. With luck they would be able to bring down another one of the hawks before they were killed. Of course, when the hawks came back from the opposite direction, he and his loggers would be exposed to them.
“To the north wall!” North ordered the loggers. He led them in a charge to take shelter under the northern hoardings when he heard the sound of siege against the northwest gate.
“To the gate!” he ordered.
He heard the wood of the gate crack and splinter at the next impact. Just as he and his men passed the sawmill and caught sight of the gate there was another crash and the gate flew open. Two enormous, woolly battering rams crashed through the gate, but it was what North saw behind them that knotted his stomach.
Forty twolls, led by an enormous and heavily armored Great Twoll charged into the camp.
“For Dixie!” North shouted as he and his men charged toward certain death.
* * *
Dale Ardent stood in the war room watching as Benjamin read aloud the message from Fort Summer which King Condon had just handed him. The king simply sat in his command throne, staring at the map table. Benjamin had arrived just this turn after taking the dwagons and leaving Prince Murphy’s column three turns ago.
“Ninety-one hawks,” Benjamin read, “twenty stacks of knights, twenty stacks of mounted archers, forty stacks of stabbers, twenty stacks of archers, forty twolls, forty rams, one-hundred and forty-four oxcarts.”
Benjamin set the note on the map table and stated down at the map. Dale had never heard of a single side fielding a force this…massive. It was madness.
“Raze the city,” Benjamin suddenly said. Beside him, Dale gasped in surprise.
“What?” the king asked, no doubt certain that he had misheard his Chief Warlord.
“Evacuate the city,” Benjamin replied. “Promote every unit to field units. Send a few stacks of Woodsy Elves to scout Minghis’ army, and have everything else fall back toward the capital. Then raze Summer Fort. Use the money to breed up the Woodsy Elves.”
“Has this barbarian completely unmanned you?” Condon asked. “I never expected to hear such cowardice from you!”
Dale felt Benjamin tense in anger at the king’s words
“I am no coward, your majesty,” Benjamin assured their king. “This is a strategic recommendation.”
“Explain yourself!” the king shouted, rising from his throne.
“Minghis needs funds to sustain this army,” the Chief Warlord explained. “He plans to raze Summer Fort. I don’t know how he expects to keep all of the shmuckers from it, but he clearly does. Pull our troops out, raze the city so he doesn’t get the money he needs to continue on. Once he heads for one of the other cities, send the Woodsy Elves and gumps to slow him down while the troops from Summer Fort march to reinforce the target.”
“No!” Condon shouted. “I will not sacrifice a single Dixieland city to this barbarian scum!”
“We will lose Summer Fort,” Benjamin insisted. “This way saves us the resources to protect our other cities.”
“No!” Condon shouted. “Find a way! Spend the entire treasury if you must, but give me another strategy. I command it!”
“You can command the sun to stand still in the sky, but it won’t happen, your majesty,” Benjamin replied.
Dale again gasped in surprise. She had never heard Benjamin speak to their king like this. Her dateamancer senses told her that the king was dangerously close to losing his fabled cool.
“How dare you!” Condon shouted. “I should disband you where you stand for such impertinence!”
“Your majesty,” Dale attempted to interrupt.
“Silence, Baroness!” Condon ordered. “Gordon, find a way to hold these Mangolians at bay until we can get reinforcements to Summer Fort! That’s an order!”
Dale watched as Benjamin stared down at the map table. He shuffled through the reports of the forces available at every city in the side. After a while, Condon once again sat down on his throne as Benjamin continued to study the situation.
“We can ambush them in this hex,” Benjamin finally said. Condon rose from his throne to see where Gordon was pointing. It was the forest hex southwest of Summer Fort.
“Give the Woodsy Elves at Summer Fort three thousand shmuckers to breed,” Benjamin continued. “Order them and the gumps to the target hex this turn and have them hide in the forest. When the Mangolians enter this hex, the Gumps and Woodsy Elves will ambush them. Have Summer Fort begin popping archers, if they aren’t already. For that matter, have every city but the capital and Azalea begin popping archers as soon as possible.”
“Now that’s more like it,” Condon agreed. “Anything else? What if we upgrade the city? That will increase the defensive bonus.”
“And give the enemy more shmuckers if they do take the city,” Benjamin pointed out.
“I’m going to upgrade the city to level three while it’s still our turn,” Condon decided and Dale knew from the sudden drop in the treasury that it had been done. “Now, what about moving forces in for reinforcement?”
“They would have to come from the capital,” Benjamin said. “Gump and Dogwood have none to spare since we assembled our force to invade Earl Light.”
“What can you take?”
“What is the capital currently popping?”
“Stabbers and archers.”
“Change it to pikers,” Benjamin recommended. “I’ll lead our entire complement of pikers along with half of our stabbers and archers toward Summer Fort.”
“Take the knights as well,” Condon ordered.
“I would rather those remain here to protect your majesty,” Benjamin objected.
“Take them,” Condon repeated. “We have to stop this barbarian.”
“As your majesty commands.”
“Well done, Count Gordon,” King Condon said. “I knew you could come up with an alternative if I forced you to.”
Dale watched as King Condon left the war room. She could tell that his spirits were much improved even if Benjamin was still unhappy. Dale reached out and took Benjamin’s arm.
“It’s a good plan,” Dale assured him.
“Yes,” Benjamin agreed. “Too bad we can’t win.”
* * *
Minghis watched as the twolls worked to repair the gate. This battle had gone much better than the battle against the Woodsy Elves. Yes, they had lost a hawk and its riders, and they had lost one twoll as well, but there were quite a lot of provisions stored in this camp. There was also a lot of steel for the twolls to reforge.
Minghis returned to the logging camp’s barracks where Kala was busy scanning the surrounding hexes for signs of the enemy.
“Every hex within six hexes of this camp and Summer Fort are clear, Sire,” she told him.
“Excellent,” Minghis replied, before turning his attention to his warlords. “Have patrols and watches been set?”
“Yes, Light of the Dawn,” Sonja assured him.
“Good,” Minghis said. He smiled around the mess table at all of them.
“Rest well tonight,” he told them. “Tomorrow, we ride to war.”
If I recall correctly, "Max" stacks refer not to the actual quantity of units allowed in the stack, but to the point where they've reached the maximum stack bonus. The limitation on stack size in this case is probably more a matter of upkeep vs. the warlord's purse size. Which means he could have a massive stack of reserve troops stashed away for replenishing his combat forces between fights.
If there is no one in your battle space, your turn starts at dawn. At the beginning of things, none of the sides are in each others hexes. As soon as Mangolia enters a hex with the enemy the enemy's turn becomes suspended. The elves are also scout units and I'm not certain how that would affect turn mechanics.
I think you've misunderstood "battlespace". It's not about being in the same hex as each other at the start of turn.
We saw with Jillian in Book 0 that her turn didn't start at dawn because an enemy was "within her battlespace", which she knew implied she was Fated to meet a side with a turn order before hers. It's a kind of Natural Predictamancy that keeps turn orders neat without having every side have to take a slice of each day - only sides they will actually encounter during the day factor into slicing up the day for movement.
In the case of this story, the Horde should have been first in turn order (since they're barbarians, who go before all sides), and because they were going to meet at some point, Dixie's turn would not have occurred at dawn, and would have occurred after the Horde had already moved.
I agree with FR about the turn mechanics not being in line with our current understanding of cannon. It doesn't matter though. Erf fic just needs to be Erfy. This is super Erfy. It feels like Erfworld, it engages with my knowledge and understanding of the universe. If there's some little difference with how Balder would write it that's ok. One of my favorite Erf fics of all time is The Last Turn. That shit isn't cannon-compliant at all. But it's super Erfy and it's AWESOME. So's this.
Yeah, I liked The Last Turn quite a bit too. However, I am trying to stay as close to canon as possible, so I welcome all the comments and I'm really glad that people are enjoying the story. So, future chapters will stick closer to my new understanding of turn mechanics.
BTW, I went back and dug through Book 0 and found what you were talking about. Did it seem to imply to you when Jillian was talking about enjoying when she was far away from FAQ working for other sides that FAQ's turn mechanics no longer affected her?