Casters' burden Part 1
Burden Of The Casters
In the middle of the night, he woke up to the feeling of Her snuggling closer to him. Lucas, Luke to his Side, always thought of Nyx as of Her, the same way he knew she thought of him as Him, with capital ache for both of Them. He liked Her, and for the last twelve turns they joined physically after turn’s end, the same way they linked during their side’s turns. It was enjoyable for both and it kept them balanced, especially now that they had to produce 10 more scrolls per turn than usual... He stopped thinking, for Nyx has opened her chestnut eyes and was watching him.
“Would you like to... you know... “She asked shyly. “One more time?” she lowered her eyes and blushed. Nyx blushed! They knew each other for so many turns, yet she actually blushed!
“I’m afraid not. Dawn will come soon and our turn will start sooner than I would like, almost following the light of the day.” he said, not unkindly, uncoiling from her hug and getting up. “And our Lord will need us in the casting room at the start of the turn.” Luke finished, starting to dress himself.
He heard as she sat up behind him, pulling the blanket around her slender frame and he turned to look at her. She was thin as a spear, so delicate, so wonderful, the most beautiful woman in the world, at least for him.
Nyx stretched like a cat and started unravelling small tangles in her short black hair. She found them quickly and expertly, separating hairs with hardly a thought, better than any comb could.
“I wish we didn’t have to go up.” she said suddenly, not interrupting her work. “I wish we could have this turn off, just for ourselves. We could go to Magic Kingdom and get back in touch with our friends. We could ask for their help or just run away, hide and relax...”
“We cannot. It’s our Duty.” he said simply, turning around, to continue with suiting up. “We are our kingdom’s biggest asset. Without us, it produces one random scroll per turn. With me alone, it jumps to five Healomancy scrolls per turn in addition to that random one. And with two us linked... Fifty scrolls, easy, with enough parchments and red gems. Even sixty! And tomorrow, with Merry...”
“I don’t want to talk about tomorrow. Or Merry.” Nyx interrupted in annoyed voice. “I don’t want to talk about her. She scares me.”
“Have you forgotten?” Luke turned to face her again. “Without Merry at THAT time in THAT place, there wouldn’t be Healaid kingdom or Healaid side now. Our side!” he reminded her. “If she weren’t there, if she didn’t risk disbanding on the spot for treachery... we would have never linked. Our Prince would have croaked in second turn of the battle and our King in fourth, instead of during third, like it happened. We would have been either croaked, captured or disbanded. Or turned barbarian at best.”
“But we DON’T need her, not any more. We can heal one garrisoned unit thousand times or every single one once, per turn. Or we can produce 60 Healamancy scrolls per turn instead! I don’t see why we need her!” she repeated.
Luke looked her in the eyes and saw that she was arguing from feeling of terrified certainty, certainty of the future that was going to happen if the three ever linked again. He just wanted to hug her, look her in her chestnut eyes with his own black ones and tell her not to worry, they don’t really need Merry, she doesn’t have to do it, and they can just take two turns for themselves, no pressure. But he couldn’t, ‘cause they had Duty.
“We DO! We have our orders.” His face hardened and he seemingly changed the point of conversation. “Tell me, Findamancer, if you remember, where have you found the closest Archon to us yesterday, at the end of our turn?” he asked nonchalantly, trying to sound cold and distant, all business like, as if they were just two random casters talking.
“Over garrison, in our airspace.” Nyx replied gruffly.
-“And the second closest one?”
“Over our tower.”
-“And the third and fourth one?”
“Over our outer walls.” she replied.
-“And two veiled ones?” he continued.
“Over our court, near the courtroom windows.” she said meekly.
-“And how many in hexes surrounding our city? Twenty, right?” he pressed on.
“No, around thirty, maybe more. I didn’t have enough juice left to find them all after making scrolls.” she corrected.
-“And THAT’S why we need Merry.” Luke triumphed, in morose voice. “So we can produce 150 scrolls per turn. So we can give over nine thousand heals in ten hex circular radius around the city instead of one thousand in the city. We need her to have a chance!”
“I still don’t like it. And I don’t like her.” Nyx said, suddenly saddened. Her eyes sparkled and she almost started to cry. “Last time we linked, so many turns ago... It was amazing! I could see so far! I could find our unit with lowest hitpoints on the whole battlefield and I... we could heal it in an instant! We saved our Prince a hundred times that day and by the time our turn was over, he was King Galen the Third and invading army was destroyed! We started producing enormous amount of Healamancy scrolls and reached two thousand in just eleven turns! It was the most wonderful feeling in the whole Erfworld!” she went quiet, euphoria drained from her voice and, all of a sudden, she was sullen again.
“And then Merry had broken the link.” Nyx said, her voice flat. “It was the most horrible feeling in my whole existence! I felt as I was going to croak... something red was gushing from my eyes, and I couldn’t see... My hands, cold and wet, as my hit points drained through them, through my feet, I couldn’t breathe...” She took a shallow breath, shaking her head. “I couldn’t see, but I felt... you. Trying to reach me, but you were hurt as well, she had hurt you too... And then connection, I’ve felt your power, healing me, repairing me, juice draining from your body and I reached, searched, I’ve found the rapport, the... remains of connection three of us shared and... felt safe...
After that, I couldn’t cast for twelve turns, but Merry could. I’ve spent them in a daze instead, but I remember the pain, the hurt every time I tried to remember, to recall who I was, to break the link... so small, so wounded... my only safety in you, in your power, in your discipline...”
Luke and Nyx in broken connection.
her eyes wandered off in the distance, tears falling out of them and down her face. “I don’t want that happening again, EVER! I DON’T! Ever!!” she whimpered, shaking from convoluted sobs.
Luke approached his pair, his love and gave her a hug, pulling her close to his chest and gently rubbing her naked back through the blanket with his right hand. The other one stroked her hair. He had felt the same way about Merry and the big link: one of the Titans themselves at one moment and in deepest pit the very next one. He was lost and searching, looking for himself, and it took all the power of master level Findamancer to find remains of the broken link, to find all of his pieces, and put them together, and then find a way to the light... And that Findamancer was Her.
“I know, Nyxie. I don’t want that either.” he said quietly, gently rocking her.. “But we don’t have any choices left. Our whole treasury depends on the scrolls, since we are the only kingdom specialised in scroll production, the only one filling its coffers from them. You know that. But here’s what you don’t know.” he made a pause and gave her a kiss on her black hair.
“Sixteen turns ago, we have produced 40 Healamancy scrolls per turn for 200 Shmuckers each and sold them to anyone who had 1000 Shmuckers to pay for one. Fifteen turns ago, Charlescomm forbade us to sell the scrolls to anyone else but them and offered us 1200 Shmuckers per scroll, while at the same time forcing us to increase production to 50 scrolls per turn. And just twelve turns ago, Charlie had pressed our king to produce 60 scrolls per turn, and is currently paying 1500 Shmuckers for each one. We had 5000 healamancy scrolls in our treasury as reserve 15 turns ago. We have only one thousand this turn. Others were sold to Charlie.” Luke’s voice actually shivered at that point. “We are forbidden to sell to Gobwin Knob, our former biggest buyer via Sizemore the Brown, so all our income comes from Charlescomm. His full forces are at most 3-4 turns away from us at all times, depending on the Archons and number of moves they have, since his base is in that area, and Charlie listens to all Thinkagrams. And our treasury is almost empty, since Lord Bandage is using all of our funds to buy as much anti -air defences as he can, doing his best to upgrade our towers as much as possible at the same time. It might turn moot though, since Charlie can force some other side with infantry to attack us instead. And the last time Healaid fought against Charlie’s Archons, our whole side almost ended. Without link-up, we don’t stand a chance.” he finished morosely.
“I know.” Nyx said quietly, her voice muffled. “Charlie has first turn and he can use the scrolls we sold him against us. Four thousand, eight hundred and seventy Healamancer scrolls, plus any other ones he had beforehand, on Archons, almost undefeatable flying knight-type units. I only wish it was different.”
“So do I.” Luke replied, gently breaking a hug. “Get dressed now, and eat your rations. Our turn will start soon.”
“I will, Healamancer.” She joked, smiling through tears, that sparkled in the rising sun.
Once they got to the casting tower, Lucas found Lord Bandage in loud argument with King Galen. King’s face was livid with rage, but he still listened to his Chief Warlord, albeit barely.
“... two hundred o’nurses and fifty hello’nurses, sire. They sacked and razed the city afterwards, and returned to their capital. City of Alcohol is no more.” King actually hit the table with his fist, such was the strength of his anger.
“Titans teats!” he exclaimed. “How could this happen? Undertakers were never able to threaten us before, let alone take last of our level 3 cities. How could this ever happen?”
Lean figure of Thinkamancer got out from behind the shadow of the supporting pillar.
“Warlord Intravenous reported seeing two stacks of Archons lead by a Shockamancer before he croaked, your highness. Thanks to natural healomancy of Hello’nurses, he was able to stand quite a lot of punishment, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Enemy Shockamancer used more than fifty Healomancy scrolls. Our scrolls. Sorry, sire.” Merry finished.
She looked the same as the last time Lucas had seen her, in long black and white dress, her tight grey bun peeking behind the hat of darker grey colour, the same colour as her eyes. The only difference between now and then was the lack of “Umbrella”, made by now extinct Headmistress tribe; it was rumoured that King Galen the Third had it destroyed, since he didn’t want “The flight of Bobbins” repeated; it had meant his father’s life the last time that item was used.
Suddenly, Lucas realised that Nyx stopped walking and turned around, only to find her watching Merry with her mouth wide open, her whole body shivering in silent terror. He got back to her and gently took her hands in his, rubbing them until she stopped shaking. Merry didn’t react at that outburst at all, too busy watching the exchange between King and Lord Bandage to notice.
“What a despicable, underhanded, cheating...” King was overwhelmed by his own fury and finished the sentence in completely unintelligible gibberish. Lord Bandage turned to face him again and started speaking:
“Your highness, this changes everything! The last time Healaid fought against Archons...”
“Shut up!” King shouted at warlord. Lord Bandage did so immediately, his jaws clenching shut in the middle of a word.
“Do you think I have forgotten, you old fool?! I have started that turn as Prince Galen and ended it as King Galen the Third! Do you really think Royal forgets a thing like that?!" King asked, getting off his throne and starting to walk up and down the hall. “Do you, now? I remember it as clearly as it was yesterday and there were just three stacks of Archons in that battle. Three!
And we are facing at least five, right here and now, five stacks of Archons flying around our capital and ready to take our beautiful Aspirin by force at merest thought from Charlie. We don’t have nearly enough units to take Charlescomm down and, since the fall of Unaroyal, no allies either.
Even if we win this battle, the only sides powerful enough to save us are Gobwin Knob and Coalition, and they are fighting against each other as we speak! And I’m not even sure we’ll have enough warlords to defend ourselves if Charlescomm chooses to attack us this turn...”
“Maybe if we summon Prince Robert and Surgeon Amputate back...” Bandage tried.
“Are you insane?” King gave him incredulous look. “I’ve sent my heir far away, sent him to relative safety just in case I get croaked, and your advice is to call him back? No, I think not. Go wait in the court. I have matters to discuss with my casters.” King Galen dismissed him.
Lord Bandage angrily stormed off.
Lord Novak Bandage, lots of turns ago, after the battle.