The Noble Gases Chapter 7

By tadthornhill Comments (7) (Tipped by 6 people!)


 <--Chapter 6


 

Oggie woke up in a bed for the first time in turns and stretched. He had gotten rest each night, and refreshed at the beginning of every turn, but it felt better in a bed. It felt a lot better in this bed, a soft pillow, a warm blanket, and a mattress he could spread all over. So, this was what you got for being a warlord, huh? It was almost as good as combat.

 

There was a light knocking at the door. Marie, the Bunny from last night, stuck her head around and looked in to see if he was awake. She was wearing the same outfit she had last night, and it was odd how much it was designed to accentuate the differences between male and female units.

 

When she saw he was awake she came in carrying a tray with his morning rations on it. She smiled while he sat up in bed, then set tray in his lap. “Enjoy your rations.” she said, “I’ll be back in in a bit to help you get ready for court. Is there anything else you need?” Oggie just shook his head, so Marie bowed and went back out, quietly closing the door behind her.

 

Breakfast went quickly enough, and Marie came back to help him with his dress uniform. It seemed like a bother to have a separate set of clothes just for court when his own uniform was cleansed at dawn. When he asked about it he was just told, “It’s custom.” They walked to the court, where the Noble Gases were already assembled, and then as Robbing and his Very Men were led up, the court guard threw open the doors and they all entered court together.

 

The Noble Gases all marched into the court in formation, and stopped a respectful distance from the throne. As Oggie watched Robbing and his men go up behind them he thought, I hope I look more like the knights than like them. They were shuffling forward hesitantly and staring around, their mouths agape. Robbing was at least trying to imitate the knights, but his steps kept being interrupted by his chains.

 

Finally, it was Oggie’s turn. He stepped through the twin doors and saw what the Very Men had been gaping at. The walls were covered with huge, brightly colored tapestries of battle scenes. Beneath them were wooden tables bearing candelabras and small stands with battle prizes such as polished helmets and torn battle standards. The king’s courtiers were seated in chairs along these tables, their clothes as brightly colored as the tapestries.

 

The king himself sat on a massive wooden throne at the end of the hall, behind him a giant, green banner that matched the badge on Oggie’s chest—two yellow dwagons, back to back. Next to him on one side was a Bunny in blue and on the other a caster with blue robes and a tall pointed hat with golden stars scattered all over them.

 

Oggie walked stiffly forward; he couldn’t manage the dignified looking march that the knights managed, but he was determined not to shuffle like the barbarian prisoners. He decided to take one step closer to the king, since he was a loyal warlord, and they were just mercenaries. He stopped, bowed, saluted and then said, “Warlord Og-118 reporting as ordered, your majesty.”

 

Oggie stiffened as quiet laughter rose from the courtiers seated along the walls. The king just smiled patiently and then said, “It is customary to either salute or bow. The bow you gave first is more proper for court though. The salute is reserved for the field or the garrison.”

 

Oggie blushed and looked down. “Yessire.”

 

“That is not important though.” Utha smiled broadly, “What is important is what you have brought me. Let’s start with the prisoners, shall we?”

 

“Yes, sire. This is Robbing Hood and his Very Men, John-Boy, Red Will, and Mulch. This is Friar Tic, a novice Healomancer.” Oggie said, pointing to each in turn.

 

The king stared at them closely. “Archers, hmm? And forest capable at that?” Utha turned to Master Kestrel.

 

“It does seem quite fortuitous, your majesty.” Master Kestrel smiled tightly.

 

“We apologize for foraging on your land without your leave and beg pardon.” Robbing said, stepping forward and looking down. The others all snapped their necks down as one.

 

“I am in the mood to be merciful.” Utha’s smile got wider, “We, Utha Panjandrum, hereby request that you and all your men turn to the side of Prytain. We promise treatment as honorable as any unit popped herein.”

 

They all looked up happily as the green of their clothes changed shade slightly to that of the banner behind the king and the dragon badge appeared on their chests. The only red left on Red Will was the hat on his head. Friar Tic’s appearance didn’t change, but his manacles disappeared, as did those of the others.

 

“Yes, Sire!” they shouted, again as one.

 

“Robbing, take stack and head to the barracks to receive your equipment. Friar Tic, break stack and stand against the wall behind Master Kestrel here. He will instruct you in your duties later.”

 

Utha’s new units quickly carried out their orders as the assembled courtiers applauded the king’s decision. Oggie noticed that the Bunny, Marian, squealed with joy and hugged Robbing around the neck as he walked out. Then she looked at the king, bowed and followed them out.

 

Utha turned to Oggie again. “You have done your Duty well regarding these former barbarians. Now, tell me about these others.”

 

“These, sire, are The Noble Gases, a company of mercenary noblemen from far off. I’m sure Warlord Okay told you how well they did against the Pix a few turns ago with their dance fighting. Why, they even inspired me to a little rhyme-o-mancy of my own in that battle. Then on the road, their rhyme-o-mancy helped subdue Robbing without fighting, giving you these new units. This is Sir Helium Eyegouger, Count Neon Throatslitter, Duke Argon Skullcrusher, Viscount Krypton Gutripper, Lord Xenon Heartrender, and Baron Radon Croakbringer.” Oggie replied, gesturing at each one in turn.

 

“Noble titles, warlords.” The king said, narrowing his eyes. “You mercenaries are all noblemen?”

 

“Indeed, your majesty, the very model.” Duke Argon replied.

 

“The very model?”

 

Sir Helium responded for him this time, “He is the very model of a mercenary nobleman.”

 

And then Duke Argon started singing:

 

I am the very model of a mercenary nobleman,

With knowledge of each unit type in field, court and garrison,

I can name all of the rulers ninety-nine that once the Titans made,

And all the plots of conquest that were then by their successors laid,

I can speak on any matter that is absolutely practical,

I'm very well acquainted too with matters theoretical,

As well as all the laws set down to units biological…

Of what the Titans want from us both plain and theological.

 I’ve read each book of scripture from the first one to the last of them,

And can dispute with eloquence each verse that’s written fast in them;

In short, in fights afield, in the court and in the garrison,

I am the very model of a mercenary nobleman.

 

I know each caster’s discipline, their axis and their element,

I can debate a Thinkamancer seated on my fundament,

A Carneymancer that engages me will end up full of trust,

I’ll fight a Croakamancer’s army ‘til it turns itself to dust.

I can tell undoubted Foolamancy veils from an army corps,

And how a Dirtamancer raises cities up to level four,

Then I can plan a march across terrain that I’ve seen once before…

And map all of a city just by walking through the entry door.

Oh, I can hide an army in an empty Titan-blasted plain,

And tell you every detail of the hazards of the next terrain;

In short, in fights afield, in the court and in the garrison,

I am the very model of a mercenary nobleman.

 

I can confidently execute a balestra and moulinet,

And I can tell at sight a wakizashi from a practice blade,

Well, such affairs as ambuscades and pincer moves don’t threaten me,

I know precisely how to croak a mounted stack with archery.

Oh, I can lead an army in a dance fight that will overwhelm,

And I know more of tactics than a warlord over level twelve,

In short, in every aspect of all military strategy…

You'll say you got your money’s worth out of this well-armed company. 

My military knowledge is the best that you have ever seen,

There’s no-one who can go against my brothers without looking green;

In short, in fights afield, in the court and in the garrison,

I am the very model of a mercenary nobleman.

 

When Duke Argon had finished singing he stepped back and Baron Radon stepped forward, “You can see the effect we have on your court, your majesty, perhaps we could go someplace more private to determine our contract.”

 

King Utha looked around his court. Most of the court was staring at the mercenaries, their mouths agape while the others were elbowing each other to see who was stunned. “Yes, perhaps that would be best. I hate this chair anyway. Court dismissed. Follow me.” He got up, stretched, and went to his map room. 


Marilyn woke up alone for the first time in her rather long life. Since she wasn’t a lancer, she hadn’t been sent to the barracks with them, and since she was a visiting unit she was given her own quarters. They weren’t the best of quarters, but they were hers. Her entire life she had been waking up in the Bunny Barracks—or privately with some warlord or another. She got up and got dressed and stared at her Hat, the symbol of the change in her life. She was a real courtier now; she was an Operator.

 

Marilyn left the room looking for someone to tell her where the dining hall was. Swindle was a level 4, but it was a large one, so it wasn’t obvious where she should go. The rulers of Prytain had been slowly spending schmuckers on it over the hundreds of turns to make the final upgrade as cheap as possible. It was still smaller than Caer Melyn, but it wasn’t laid out the same. It was almost as if it was laid out on purpose to confuse units. Eventually she just fell in with a small group of units heading in the same direction and wound up where she was looking for.

 

Marilyn didn’t know where to sit, so she ended up sitting at the foot of a table full of high-level archers who spent the entire meal talking about the best way to fletch an arrow. She was actually relieved to be ignored. For the first time in thousands of turns she had no idea what to do.

 

Get a grip, girl, she thought, you’re an Operator; you’re the first Operator. Go see if you can operate or something. She had learned to eat breakfast quickly, and when she was done she went looking for the Prince. She found him quickly enough, sitting at the head table; he was still eating. Prince Artha had never been a fast eater.

 

“Oh, Marilyn, good to see you. I saved you a space.” He waved with a chicken leg at an empty space at the bottom of the head table.

 

He saved me a space at the head table! And I wasted it! “I’m sorry highness, I didn’t know what to do. I’ll do better next time. I’ll get to breakfast faster so I can serve your needs.” No, wait, Bunnies serve, I’m an Operator!

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Artha said, waving at her, “Just remember that next time, you’re my personal Operator, and you go where I go, except when I order. No one gives you orders except me and the King.”

 

His personal Operator! “Yes, your Highness.”

 

“I hope I haven’t displeased your Highness with where I quartered her…” the city manager broke in with an oily voice.

 

“No, no, not at all. We’re still working these things out. Well, I’ll finish here and take my leave of you, I want to hit Caer Lundein before dusk. Gwalchmai, get the lancers assembled and ready to go. You’re already done eating.”

 

“Of course, Your Highness, the only time I’ve seen you eat quickly is in the field.”

 

“The food’s better in court. I like to spend my time.”

 

“Of course.” Gwalchmai smiled, twirled his moustache and got up and left. Marilyn just sat still, not sure if she should get up and get him water, he clearly needed it, or just wait for someone else to do it. He lifted his glass when he had emptied it and then tried to take another drink from the still-empty glass.

 

“Ha, I’d forgotten how good I had it in court, with all the Bunnies around to get me water as soon as I needed it. No Bunnies here though, just an Operator.” he said, looking straight at Marilyn. “Maddie, have someone get me a pitcher of water.” The prince smiled, set his glass down and shook his head.

 

The rest of his breakfast passed unremarkably, a stabber brought the water and the city manager didn’t try to make any more conversation. Eventually, he finished and the three of them got up and headed to the courtyard to where Gwalchmai was waiting. All the lancers were already mounted, and when he saw them Gwalchmai mounted up himself.

 

It seemed odd to Marilyn, seeing a stabber holding her hobby horse for her, but the look on his face was even odder than that. He seemed to think she was more important than he was. She took the reins from him and mounted clumsily, it was only the second time she’d done it after all, but the look of subservience never left.

 

“Marilyn, tell my father we’re leaving Swindle on time and should have no difficulty reaching Caer Lundein. I’ll message him again when I get an idea of what the enemy looks like.”

 

A minute later she said, “He says he’s happy to find out that having an Operator is working so well for you, and he hopes to form up the operator system after this threat is dealt with.”

 

“You hear that, Marilyn, your idea is going to change the kingdom.”


 Chapter 8-->


Notes

 

One of the Emperors of Prytain in turns past had a dollamancer, Ed Median, who loved making duds in his spare time. No one could think of a reason to get rid of them, so there are entire city buildings that are kept as closets for these. They are normally just used for court.

 

You can sing this song to the tune of “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” by Gilbert and Sullivan—but I’d recommend against it; it’s not easy.

Comments

  • GrayMatter

    Good shit.

  • ThousandCats

    *APPLAUSE* BRAVO, BRAVO GOOD SIR, BRAVO! That is by far the best song parody related to erfworld, and the best parody of that song, I've ever heard. And I absolutely did sing it to the tune of the Gilbert and Sullivan song, which is why I'm impressed, because the not only did you get the rhythm of the song down pat and work in a few internal rhymes that didn't exist there in the first place, the one or two places you deviated from the scheme a bit you compensated with a rhythm that worked just as well, and fairly intuitively. Schmuckers for you, my good man!

  • Salvage

    Your skills with Rhyme-o-mancy are incredible.

     

  • etherkye

    I did actually play the song on youtube while reading it...

  • falcore51

    I song was great have some smuckers for that alone. 

  • SomeGuy411 (Tipped by 1 person!)

    the very model of a mercenary nobleman indeed. That was wonderfully done. If I had shmuckers they'd be yours for that alone

    Interesting seeing the prince very deliberately show the difference for Marilyn now that she's been promoted. The reserved seat showing status, the action with the glass to test reactions, followed immediately by a clear statement that her role was not as a house servant...He may have a better understanding of date-a-mancy than his father ever will

  • tadthornhill

    Thank you so much for all the praise. It's good to know people are enjoying my work.

     

    Someguy411, I have always interpreted the two of them this way. I've taken the names from Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle, and while not the personalities, the key components. I'm telling a different story.