The Wolves of Wallst
This story was an entry for Vendanna's This Is Sparta Contest! The contest is closed, but you can check out the other entries!
Card Palmer had an idea, one that could make him and his side of Down Jones incredibly successful and powerful. And that’s when the murders started.
“ ‘Murder’ is such a loaded word, majesty.” Cooed Card, meeting his Monarch’s arched eyebrow with one of his trademark winning smiles.
“All we’d be doing is ordering basic level one infantry to make their way out of the eastern gate and wind their way back to the main western gate.”
“Card, you do recall that we lost the eastern bridge to the Mountains of Moodiness, over the Ravine of Ravin’ Ravens forty turns ago when Dabeears attacked, yes?”
“Of course, your Magnificent Majesty.”
“So you are also aware that ordering units to ‘cross the bridge’ will result in them falling to their likely doom hundreds of feet below?”
“Indubitably, your Illustrious Illuminatrix.”
“Then you have not forgotten that, assuming the poor souls survive the fall, they’d have to traverse the twelve hex long ravine, unled, fighting off the probable attacks of wild Lee-On’s, Tie-Gears and Bee-Ar’s; not to mention Oh-My’s!?”
Card’s smile didn’t waver. Despite yelling, her Majesty was not growing angry (though certainly more puzzled). For unclear reasons, Oh-My’s! had an exclamation mark as part of their name.
Nodding and smiling, Card answered with “Precisely, your aristocratic augustness."
Queen Numi S. Mattic’s lips drew into a taut line. “Then I would not be mistaken in assuming you mean for whatever sorry unit survives those ordeals to then have to make their way through the Forest of Eyearess, fighting off the dreaded Wolves of Wallst?”
“Absolutely correct, your Ravishing Royalness.”
“All right, now that I am sure I’ve heard your plan correctly …. Assuming I would even entertain the idea... What I haven’t heard is how this is supposed to make us bank.”
And then Card told her.
“Oh. Oh my.”
Queen Numi was not one to throw away units into the void for petty amusement. But as a Moneymancer herself, the appeal of monetizing misery and cashing out on catastrophe, all to ensure her side’s wealth and prosperity was another matter.
“Good morning, you lucky fresh pops! Who wants to save their side?”
In her seconds-long existence, Mono couldn’t help but think that the caster yelling at them was smiling way too much.
Mono looked around, and saw her brothers and sisters shuffle about in confusion, before someone hesitantly answered “We do?”
“Excellent! You’ll need these, to guide you on your way.” The caster moved about them, handing out dull red stones set in leather necklaces and putting them over their heads.
“Now Pikers, your orders are absolutely vital to the side.”
“Really?” asked Mono, to keep from shifting nervously on her feet, wondering confusedly why it wasn’t a warlord giving them orders.
“Oh yes! Completely vital!” The caster winked his eyes closed in what Mono feared was a well rehearsed, fake smile.
“Your orders are to cross the eastern bridge, it’s right over there, and follow the path to the city’s main entrance.”
One of Mono’s sisters beside her blinked and made a face, like someone who wasn’t quite sure who’d passed wind in a small store room. “Our orders… vital to the side… are to walk around the city?”
The caster squinted, taking a dislike to her question. “Indeed they are, so you better get marching missy!”
And with that, they all started inexorably marching to the eastern gate.
Mono took the dull red stone in her hand and turned it over. Odd, no matter how long she held it it felt cold to the touch.
Before she could puzzle out this tiny magical mystery, a bigger one appeared in front of her.
Or rather, disappeared in front of her. The four brothers and sisters in front of her stack just ahead of her had vanished! She looked down as her own boots unflinchinly marched, seeing a bottomless ravine replace the cobblestones.
Queen Numi and Luckamancer Card walked along the Royal Flush. It had originally been a simple, if extremely long hallway that bisected the castle and connected the eastern and western outer walls.
The Queen had had it upgraded with lovely cascading fountains that fell in either direction, making use of the hall’s natural slope. It now had a more interesting use.
The hall was filled with sconces glowing various shades of vibrant green. Card gestured at eight particular little sconces along the wall, with gems alternating bright and dull ruby red and green. “As your majesty can see, the latest batch netted us two normal survivals, one exceptional survival, two incapacitations, and two instant croaks.”
“Mmm.” She took the ‘Exceptional survival’ gem into her grasp, feeling the powerful stored up Luckamancy inside. “A shame this was such a small harvest, but the Exceptional was worth it. Make sure to send a squad of Diggers to recover the unspent necklaces.”
Queen Numi smiled lightly. The pendants stole good Luckamancy from whoever wore them until they were croaked, and stored it in the sister gem. Any unit with the charged gem, which she had crafted out of a measly Shmucker and Card had enchanted, would be able to use the stored Luckamancy at a crucial point, helping claim a decisive victory.
Card shrugged bemusedly. “True, but that’s the Mathamancy of it. We do however have enough of these to make a few very profitable attacks with our army, perhaps after we can hire a Mathamancer to maximize our luck harvests?”
The queen was considering this, when she noticed an odd detail. Always keen for Numbers, she noted Card’s account was for seven gems, not eight. She eyed him shrewdly. “Card, where is the eighth gem?”
Here, Card’s trademark smile went a little slack. “It, ah, has yet to resolve.”
Queen Numi drew herself up to her full height, towering a foot over Card. “What do you mean, ‘yet to resolve'?”
A voice cried out from the western end of the Royal Flush, saving Card from having to explain himself. “Majesty! Majesty! One of the jumpers is returning!”
The queen and her Chief Caster exchanged glances, and ran for the western gate, the former holding up her dress and rushing as daintily as decorum would allow, while Card sprinted to match his monarch’s longer legged stride.
From atop the western gate they looked down and saw that, in fact, a single piker had limped onto the bridge, wild haired, face painted with red triangles over the eyes, and wearing what looked like an animal’s pelt.
“I am the last of the No-Key stack, and I seek audience with the Queen!” roared the piker, her voice ringing clear to the inner garrison.
“How odd. Why can’t I sense her...” Began the queen, but before she could go on, Duty compelled Card to push her behind him.
“What business have you with her, piker?!” Yelled back Card, unable to muster up a smile as a growing sense of dread came over him.
The piker puffed up her chest and managed to glare him down despite being forty feet beneath him. “I have come to return something most dear to her!”
This shocked the queen out from behind Card, furious as she leaned over the gate parapets. “Ruffian! I would know if I had lost anything precious to me, most of all if it were stolen by a beast such as you!”
“It is not something you’ve lost, but something you’ve given me I no longer want!” Lifting something out of her breastplate, the piker revealed a brightly glowing red gem, with thin emerald cracks lining its surface. “Recognize this?”
The queen and Card blanched, a piece of the puzzle falling into place.
“But how?! How did you survive?!” yelled Card desperately, completely at a loss for how Luckamancy could have betrayed him so.
“That’s a difficult question. Summed up? With help.”
The piker was standing on the western bridge, alone, and the queen had half a mind to order her archers to shoot her before this escalated. Then she realized it was far too late for that.
A loud crashing from the Royal Flush hallway behind them drew away the wall defender’s attention. Deep in the passageway they could see two sets of blazing eyes, crimson and bright like torches, one knocking over all the green gems, while the other carefully took the ruby red gems into its maw.
Then another two Wolves of Wallst poked their noses, ears, heads, toothy snouts and snazzy ties over the parapet walls, and started breathing down the queen and Chief Caster's necks.
“Yes, your Menaced Majesty?”
“Did you, perchance, while making your plan forget that the Wolves of Wallst could climb walls?”
“I… believe I did, your Endangered Excellency.”
Suffice to say, the wolves had gorged on so much of the combined good Luckamancy from the duo’s awful experiments that the single stack actually managed to capture and escape with Queen Numi and Card.
Far, far away and very close by, out of the city and on the far side of the Eastern Bridge, over the base of the Ravine of Ravin' Ravens, the piker and her lupine (lowercase “A”) allies accosted the criminals. Hundreds of feet beneath them, the bones of dozens of prior doomed stacks littered the ravine floor, many with bony hands upturned as if waiting to catch someones.
“Release us at once!” Huffed Queen Numi, regaining her regal outrage, though technically no longer a queen since her capture had rendered her a prisoner and sent her Queendom into a thousand turn slumber.
“We intend to.” Answered Mono, gently placing a dull red gem necklace over each of their heads.
“What? You can’t put those on us, we’ll…!”
“Be doomed to bad Luckamancy? I know. It took a while to figure out, but we did. Then my sisters croaked, screening for me so I could escape the ravine.” Mono’s eyes glittered a bit, and she hugged one of the wolves.
The biggest, baddest of the Wolves of Wallst prowled over to Card, sniffed around his robes and bit down. Thankfully, only taking a chunk of his robes away.
It padded over to Mono, and released a vibrantly glowing green gem with red cracks into her hand. She put it down gently onto the ground and smashed it underfoot, causing the one she wore to sputter, crack, and fade to dust.
Mono looked up at them with supernaturally glowing green eyes. “Well. At least you know what you’re getting into. And hey, if you survive the fall, you can get off scot free.”
“Wait!” wailed the queen, panic breaking down her decorum. “Whatever you want, I can pay you! Double, triple it!”
Mono just shook her head, and the man-sized wolves started stalking past her, forcing Card and Queen Numi towards the edge.
Survival far from his thoughts, Card pleaded “How! How did you do it?! Survive my Luckamancy curse, and betray your side!?”
Almost out of sight behind the Wolves, Mono answered. “Oh, that one’s easy. Once I realized I was cursed so everything I tried would fail, I tried to croak. Then, when the Wolves found me, I tried to resist capture and turning to an enemy side.”
Card balked. “But ferals aren’t an enemy side!”
“Shows what you know. We made her our Princess, Mono No-Key.” Growled out the biggest, baddest wolf in Language.
Card and the Queen could only balk as the Natural Allies breathed in. The Wolves of Wallst huffed, and puffed, and blew the leadership of Down Jones crashing down the deep dark ravine.