Hall of the Mouse King
The city of Hoffman was considered cursed by its surrounding neighbors. Once, long ago, it had been part of a royal side led by a Dollamancer king known as Carver, who spent his days crafting fearsome wood golems whose jaws could crack the skulls of even the heftiest heavy.
The Doll Kingdom as it had been known became very feared across that part of Erf for the strength of its units and, according to the stories, the madness of its king. As a result, its neighbors banded together to destroy it. And as King Carver had neglected to pop an heir, his side would surely have ended with him.
When the final siege against the city of Hoffman came, the alliance forces fell on the capitol like a tide. The fearsome wood golems were splintered, the winged infantry-class sugar plum fairies were skewered, the uniformed pikers were slain, the side's natural allies (the winter elves) chased out of the hex, and the city set ablaze. The mad King Carver died laughing that none of his opponents was fit to groom his pet dormouse.
And yet... the city didn't fall. The hex burned to ash, the representative of the alliance leader stepped in to claim the city, and still it remained part of the Doll Kingdom. Dirtamancers were called in, and could find no evidence of a secret tunnel that could have escaped the blaze. Certainly none that could have hidden a secret heir. Even so, they used their talents to collapse what remained of the city, only to reveal nothing more than a still-active portal and a few irritated burrowing ferals that had survived the blaze due to natural Luckamancy and were less than happy at having their burrows disturbed.
And still the city did not fall.
Amidst terrified whispers, the alliance abandoned the capitol and retreated to their own cities. Several tenturns later, and the city of Hoffman was rebuilt just as it had been, with the same livery no less. With no indication of how it was accomplished.
Many hundredturns passed before anyone was brave enough to return and try to claim the city. The squad of pikers led by a new warlord entered the city without combat, and without seeing any enemy units entered the garrison unopposed. When the city did not fall, they spread out and searched, only to find nothing save that the city was infested with small ferals. The kind of creature that the Titans had created to require no appreciable upkeep and instead serve as a harvestable source of upkeep for larger units. If such units had upkeep, it would have been measured in tiny fractions of a shmucker and their hits at no more than one each. There was no sign of any unit capable of holding the garrison against an invading force.
But yet the city didn't fall.
Curious, but determined to figure out the puzzle, the warlord in charge of the unit ordered his pikers to harvest the infesting ferals for upkeep and spend the night in the garrison to resume their search in the morning. His men did exactly that, and all went to sleep in the garrison of an enemy that seemingly did not exist.
A dozen turns later, a single surviving piker staggered back to his side, delirious with terror and gibbering about a dormouse wearing a crown.
Five squads were sent to investigate, including the side's Findamancer. None returned.
A siege group was sent to burn the city to ash. They succeeded, but were unable to claim the site. The moment the last unit left the hex, the city was automagically rebuilt just as it had been. All members of the siege group prayed to the Titans for salvation and fled back to their home cities.
It was another few hundredturns before another side made a similar attempt... to similar results.
(NOTE: User was awarded 25 shmuckers for this post. -Rob)
I wonder how many turns it would take to earn enough schmukers to rebuild the city from ash with essentially zero upkeep.
Less than 70 obviously, but I'm guessing this city wasn't a level 1? A lot of people on the forums seem to think a level 1 city is essentially free (something I don't agree with but still...)
This is a wonderful legend and a great addition to the mythos of Erfworld.
Still, I wonder what the implications here are. We can surmise that before King Carver died he made his pet dormouse heir to his kingdom. This feral unit then survives for hundreds of turns or, as is more likely, has someway of cheaply producing heirs who then appear with the signamancy of a ruler (the crowned dormouse) when the first "king" dies. It might be some quirk of feral units that makes this is possible. Or, the king made a dormouse doll that somehow commands the loyalty of normal dormouse and King Carver crowned it as his heir.
Whatever the reason, the rest is rudimentary. These feral units and the Dormouse King can tunnel into the burrows and wait out the invaders who of course don't suspect the dormouse of anything. If the invaders in smaller groups decide to go to sleep in what appears to be uncontested territory, the feral dormouse under the command of the Dormouse King would then in untold thousands (with new pops supported by the lost city's treasury) swarm the beleaguered troops to bite and scratch them to death.
The Dormouse King would raise the city back to its prior state, easy enough since the treasury must be bloated by this point, using whatever sense of designated rulership a feral could perceive. This would be more akin to a lab-rat clicking a button to dispense edible pellets, it does this merely for the benefit not knowing why it works.
So the city survives with the original heraldry as it was the day it fell to the alliance.
That was kind of spooky. Not exactly edge-of-the-seat tension, but it had that remote air of mystery that the first page of Forecastle's story had. Of course you'd made it clear from the start that it was a mouse protecting the city, but I hadn't expected it to hold up so well.
...certainly not to the extent of croaking a half dozen squads and a caster.
It's too bad the lone piker's physical wounds wouldn't have remained. A few descriptions of his injuries could play up the danger into one of at least a few styles you hinted at. If it was one supremely powerful rat (I'm thinking David/Goliath, the Monty Python Grail rabbit, or a Nac Mac Feegle), then this could be an action flick. But my feeling from this is that it was an army of swarming, seething, filthy-fanged rodents, and that's an offscreen moment of horror.
Good job considering an unusual angle.
We haven't seen actual dying/croaking due to old age, and all the info seems to imply it has never happened. It could be a single dormouse the entire time. (Some have gone through a specific cycle, but if the cycle is broken they remain indefinitely.)
As there has been no indication that a Dormouse is sentient, I doubt the mantle of ruler would grant that anymore than it granted intelligence and wisdom to any other ruler. On the other hand, I bet a unit turned to that side would still get 'orders' from the ruler, even if they were something vague and impressionistic like a feeling to collect food.
The winter elves were driven out, but there's no reason to assume that all took place in a single turn.
Not sure what happened to the other units lost while in the city. Maybe they went nuts being unable to find any units and not being able to capture the city. After all, it's been shown the lower units usually aren't too bright beyond the focus of their own purpose, and if prevented from fulfilling their purpose it is a strain on them. (There's some great fanfic on site for that, but it has been hinted at in the main canon.)
Of course, it's possible that some kind of nasty feral occasionally wanders in for snacks and the units there couldn't handle it.
Another possibility for the croaked or otherwise missing units. With the super low or non-existent upkeep, the rodents and things in the hex can pop until the hex is maxed. Lets say each one of them is only 1 hit point, only does 1 damage, and has a lousy but not impossible hit chance. On the other hand, they probably have the swarm/horde special and can mass attack a single unit. If the Mouse King gets mad at the invaders and orders an attack, just how many will be necessary to wipe them out via sheer numbers alone? It's a pretty easy exploit in games, and that's why the Zerg Rush from Starcraft was such a popular and cheap strategy.