Book 2 Archive


2010-01-24

Book 2 - Text 11


The enemy hovered before him, stack upon stack. They were far superior in numbers and in force to Faq's armada. To win, they needed only to strike.

Duncan Scone regarded them serenely, sword in hand. He was about to fight in a massive and fairly desperate battle. He knew this, intellectually.

In the past, this knowledge had meant his guts would churn and his heart would pound and his mind would race. He would try to pull himself taut like a crossbow string, and lock his rage in place. Then, he would aim to unleash the stored hatred upon his enemy.

Yet here he sat, placidly, atop his great mount. Queen Jillian was high above, attempting parley. In his odd state of inner calm, Duncan was simply using the unexpected pause to plan his pairings.

He really hadn't been the same man since leaving Jitterati, he had to admit. But he was not unhappy with the change.

Lord Bobtail vs. Prince Ossomer...slaughter. Alright, then Belzon vs. the blue with the Hobgobwin Knight...much better. Belzon vs. the second red...surprisingly even. Hm.

Determining pairings was his great advantage as a warlord, mostly due to the laurel he wore around his ears and head. It was a magic item devised by linked Casters (a Thinkamancer, Hat Magician and Date-a-mancer) thousands of turns ago in a fallen kingdom called Napster. The laurel gave him a limited but very useful intuition about combat match-ups, so he always could optimize the engagement to his stack's advantage. The effect was somewhere between extra Leadership bonus and Luckamancy.

In this case, it was really more of a thought exercise. Certainly the enemy would overwhelm and annihilate them, if it came to that.

He felt it would not.

His Queen was surely the most frustrating kind a Chief Warlord could follow. Not one Ruler in ten ever left the capital to lead fights personally. Queen Jillian disregarded his advice and overrode his orders daily. She listened to the Transylvitian more than her own Chief. Even now, he did not even know her basic battle plan for this fight.

Nevertheless, he believed in her.

She had captured him and crippled Jitterati with a move bold and brilliant. All he knew about this fight was what she had pledged to him: they would win. This crazed, remarkable woman had not led them all this way just to lose a hopeless fight, he was certain. Whatever her plan, he supposed it must involve a similarly audacious stroke.

He had only one lingering worry now, one ripple on his inner serenity: the parley.

Among other things, Hippiemancy is the magic of relationships: detecting and altering the forces of opposition and attraction which bind people or units. Date-a-mancy is the oddest branch of Hippiemancy, in that it follows the Numbers which underlie all action. Date-a-mancy tries to quantify the intangible, things like leadership and compatibility and morale and Loyalty and Duty and even love, by means of match-ups. This can be very useful in warfare and logistics, but tends to wreak havoc among personal and political relationships. Sides tend not to keep their Date-a-mancers very long, because knowing the cold truth behind our interpersonal relationships only causes grief.

Duncan had such grief now.

Queen Jillian had told him she was safe from the Croakamancer, a claim he doubted. So with the laurel, he had appraised them both, seeking the odds of a match-up.

Being no Date-a-mancer or Mathamancer himself, he never knew the real numbers when he considered a pairing. It came to him as an intuition. He knew how it would probably go. It felt wrong, or it felt shaky, or it felt certain.

But when he considered what would happen if these two women were to fight...

It felt like the Titans were laughing.

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