Return to Gobwin Bump

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Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Fri May 06, 2011 2:37 am

Turn 7

On the morning of the seventh turn since the Barbarian hordes from the South had crossed the border and attacked, Gwegor the Gweat assembled his council of war.
"Well? The enemy are at the gates of Gobwin Bump. They have many very powerful stacks. They have several very powerful warlords. You have lost my stacks, and my summer house at Gobwins' Hollow. Now they come for my palace. What do you intend to do about it?"
Chief Warlord Lazkar raised his eyebrow.
"My Lord, there are still some options open to us. We have thick walls, and many stacks of our own. Our Commanders are not as powerful as those of the enemy, but they are willing and loyal. The battle is not yet over.
Gwegor thumped his hand on the table.
"What use are thick walls when the enemy have those Dwarf Gunners? Our walls will fall in a turn, and then thier cwoakamancers will harvest our bones to add to their armies. Why should I not simply make terms now? Or flee to our strongholds in the north?"
Lazkar shook his head.
"They will not parlay with us. They want us cwoaked, and they want to animate our corpses. They will not deal. And fleeing will only delay the inevitable. We must stand, and we must fight."
Commander Rizka shook his head.
"We must fight, yes. My Lord; Chief; look again at the Scout reports. Look once more at the information from our Lookamancer. There is an opportunity here, if we are bold enough to take it. See - the western flank is wide open. There is a clear path to Gobwins' Hollow - only a turn's ride for my Spidew Cavalry. We cut behind them, sieze the Hollow, and deny them their spawn point."
Gwegor leaned over the maps.
"The Alliance is not strong in Gobwin Hollow?"
Rizka laughed.
"They have two stacks! Two stacks! Each of only one unit! And one of the units is a mouse!"
Lazkar tapped the map with a dirty claw.
"Gobwin Hollow has walls. Quite thick. You will need to be good to get over them, even against some weak stacks. And that Worghog is not defenceless. It will take some doing. And to what end? The Alliance will simply recapture the Hollow in the next turn."
Rizka nodded.
"If we can hold it, even for a few turns, it will increase divisions and tensions in the Alliance. They may yet break apart. I have consulted with the math-a-mancer. Taking the hollow will be risky. But it can be done."
The third Commander in the room, a level two named Buzket, agreed.
"Not only can it be done, it must be done. Better to be cwoaked attacking than in defence."
Gwegor turned to his Chief.
"What are you thinking, Lazkar?"
Lazkar stood to attention.
"You have expressed your dissatisfaction with my command so far. Perhaps it is time for Rizkar to take my place."
Gwegor growled and slapped the table again.
"I cannot afford to waste the resources to name a new Chief. You will serve, advise, and carry out my orders. What do you advise?"
Lazkar turned to the map.
"I advise against Rizka's plan. It is too risky, and gains us very little. I propose that I lead the Dwagon stack, here, and attack the Dwarf Gunners. We will inflict heavy casualties, and reduce their capacity to damage our walls. We will not be able to annihilate them, and we cannot use the rest of our stacks to allow a second assault on those Gunners. Those Archers, that Dwigible, those Critters - each would slaughter anything we sent against them. We attack the siege, and then wait for reinforcements from the Tool."
Buzket scowled, but is was Rizka who spoke.
"My Lord, that would be foolhardy. We would risk losing our King Dwagon, and our Chief Warlord, and our most powerful stack. No, sacrificing the Dwagons will avail us little, and will eliminate any chance of escape. And the enemy will simply pop more Siege in the Hollow, and still take our Capital."
Lazkar opened his mouth to reply, but Gwegor held up a hand to stop him.
"The Tool advises that he is not in a position to send more forces. His armies are busy elsewhere. The Dwagons we have are the only ones he will send. And the C Elfs will not come to our aid. They hate us far too much for that. We must win this battle for ourselves, or be destroyed. What is your advice, Rizka?"
Rizka cast a careful glance at her Chief, then returned to the Ruler.
"Take the open path to the West. Take the Hollow. Hold it. Hold it for all we are worth. If Lazkar leads the Cavalry, his special abilities will increase the chance of success. And you, my Lord, should leave the City with the Dwagon stack, and go north. Buzket and I will stay here, and hold the Capital."
Gwegor turned to Buzket.
"And you?"
Buzket growled.
"Attack. Attack them now. With everything. Stack the Twolls, and charge."
Gwegor nodded, and sat quietly for a long moment.
"Very well. Here are your orders."

Buzket stood impatiently as the results came in.
The first attack had been a dismal failure. Sending Twolls into battle without leadership! It was lucky the stupid things hadn't hacked each other to death.
But the rest had been quite successful. Against lone opponents, but still. Success.
Buzket turned to his ruler for the tenth time this turn.
"Now, my Lord?"
Gwegor sighed.
"Very well, Buzket. You may have your moment of glory. Try and bring me back some Twolls."
Buzket gave a hasty bow and almost ran from the room.
"Restack! All Twolls in the Garrison, form a Heavy Stack on me! Attack the Dwarf Gunners! Charge!"
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Fri May 06, 2011 2:37 am

Turn 8

Gwegor wanted to scream and shout, but there was no one of consequence to yell at. Certainly he had yelled a lot last turn. He had yelled until his throat was sore. But it had made no difference. They had still cwoaked. She had still cwoaked.
Buzket had left the throne room, and the courtiers had been dismissed as soon as they arrived. There was no one of consequence, just a twoll by the archway, ostensibly on guard. But guarding against what? The Alliance was hexes away, slaughtering his stacks in Gobwins’ Hollow.
The Advance had gone wonderfully. The Cavalry had slipped down the open flank, and taken the City. The Alliance were trapped between two fortresses, ready to be crushed. But.
There was always a but. A way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Rizka had taken the Hollow, leading the Spidews. Lazkar had led the Dwagons. The various forces in the south were gathering, ready to reinforce this turn. But.
Gwegor slammed his hand down on the table and swore.
“Titans’ Slippers!”
The Twoll in the Archway stiffened in surprise, but did not look around. No good ever came of looking at Gwegor the Gweat when he was in a mood.
Gwegor slammed his hand on the table again. He was the “but”. The plan had gone beautifully, and then he had added to it. Even Buzket’s part had worked. The solid charge of Twolls into the Dwarf Guns. It had been expensive, but worth it. The Dwarfs couldn’t pierce the Capital’s walls. And then, just moments before he ended turn, Gwegor the Gweat had issued one last order.
He had done it to save his precious Dwagons. The Dwagons that had been a gift from the Tool. The Dwagons that had won battles, and turned the tide against the C-Elfs. The Dwagons that were his greatest joy.
Gwegor ordered them to leave the Hollow, and stay in a hex on the far side. He hadn’t wanted them to be vulnerable to the attack that was sure to follow.
Lazkar had objected, but Gwegor had overruled. And Lazkar’s loyalty rating was high enough that he didn’t disobey a direct order, even when he knew it was wrong. The Dwagons had moved out of the City.
And with only two stacks of Spidews remaining, Rizka had fought and been cwoaked. The Hollow had fallen to the Alliance again.
It had been close. But not that close.
If only Gwegor had a mathamancer to tell him the odds. If only he had listened to his Chief Warlord. If only the isolated units in the south had moved a turn earlier. If only…
If only he had kept his mouth shut, and ended turn sooner.
He hadn’t been prepared to lose his Dwagons to win the war.
Now he had his Dwagons, and the war was lost. That had been his best chance to break the Alliance. And now it was gone. And with it Rizka, his favourite commander. Gwegor had thought about naming her his heir, but never got around to it. Gobwins didn’t like heirs that much. They had a tendency to cut their masters’ throats. Gwegor had certainly done it.
Twice before foreign armies had approached his city. Twice before they had been turned back. This time, Gobwins’ Hollow had fallen, his precious Spidew Cavalry was devastated, and all he had gained was a few more turns of time.
“Titans’ Beltbuckles!”
Last edited by LTDave on Fri May 06, 2011 8:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Fri May 06, 2011 2:37 am

Turn 9

“Gobport is vulnerable.”
Gwegor raised an eyebrow at the commander, but said nothing.
“If the enemy move north, they can occupy the City with very little effort. Gobport is vulnerable.”
“Everything is vulnerable, Buzket. Everything. If the Alliance move anywhere, we are vulnerable. All our southern units, lost! Our Chief Warlord wandering somewhere in the eastern hills, and I can’t contact him. All our Spidew Cavalry, wiped out! All we have is a few stacks of stabbers and some archers. Not a lot to hold a city with damaged walls.”
Gwegor turned away from the level 2, and faced his courtiers.
“Let us turn to the question of popping. What are our options?”
The Courtiers did not speak. They were rarely asked for advice.
The Treasurer opened his mouth.
“There is always the question of an appropriate heir…”
Gwegor waved that one away.
“We don’t have the time. Or the resources. It is far too late for that conversation.”
“Then all your options are more archers and more stabbers. More of the same.”
Buzket agreed.
“Yes – we can pop some more forces in Gobport to reinforce the City. We are vulnerable there.”
There was silence in the throne room for a few moments. Gwegor took a breath to speak, but was interrupted.
“We have an open slot.”
It was the Librarian. She rarely spoke. Her job was to consult the books of lore, search them for changes, the constant patches and tiny alterations to the fabric of the Erf, as the Titans debated amongst themselves the appropriate colour of apples, and the points-cost of a sparrow. She rarely spoke in council.
“With the passing of Rizka, we have an open spot. A special spot. We can leverage our existing forces.”
“What do you mean?”
She shrugged.
“That is for others to decide. We have room for a new special. A Dittomancer for our archers. A Dirtamancer to repair our walls. A… cwoakamancer… if that would be helpful.”
There were mutters from the courtiers. Buzket looked around, stupidly.
“It cannot be a cwoakamancer,” said the Foreign Secretary. “That would be in violation of our pact with the C-Elfs.”
Gwegor nodded. They were particularly uptight about the idea of harvesting the cwoaked for income. He wasn’t particularly excited about it either.
“Who would we upgrade? Lazkar already has the power of the rocking. And Buzket is in the Capital. We cannot pop or upgrade here.”
Buzket was starting to catch on.
“I can go to Gobport. We are vulnerable there. I can lead the defence.”
Logistics shook his head.
“There is no way of getting Commander Buzket to Gobport in anything less than two turns.”
The Treasurer spoke again.
“We can always pop a new commander. Our resources would stretch to a special as well.”
Gwegor nodded. He turned to the Librarian.
“Thank you for the option.”
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Fri May 06, 2011 2:39 am

Turn 10

Gwegor sat on his throne. He always appeared here at the start of the turn. His various courtiers stood about, their positions the same each and every day. They were not much use to him at this time. The Treasurer started his daily report, but Gwegor cut him off.
"What's the point? Be gone, all of you. Leave me in peace."
The courtiers went to wherever it was they went when not in his presence. He didn't really care.
"My Lord?"
Gwegor looked up. It was Buzket. The Dullest of his commanders. But there was something different about him today.
"You've levelled."
Buzket nodded.
"Yes, my Lord."
"Congratulations. Enjoy it while it lasts."
"Will you be reviewing the scout reports this morning, my Lord?"
Gwegor grunted.
"What's the point? The Death-Mongers have camped outside our walls, and this is our last turn to breathe. What good will a review of scout reports achieve?"
Buzket gave a little grin. His new level had moved him from fierce barbarian to bright (if not brilliant) soldier.
"I like to think, my Lord, that there are always opportunities. And this turn's opportunities have come on the silver tray of the Titans themselves."
Gwegor scowled. Buzket was quoting him. Gwegor the Gweat.
"Very well. Bring back the courtiers. Assemble a full report. Let us see these silver tray opportunities."

Chief Warlord Lazkar gave a woop of exultation as the Diwigible went down, billowing smoke and flames.
"O! The Gobwanity!"
He calmed himself and his mount.
"Lazkar to Gobwin Bump. Operation Silver Opportunity is go! Next attack! Go!"

Buzket looked around him at where his stack used to be.
"Next wave! Go!"

Lazkar nodded.
"Now the Pikers! Take out that last stack's attack!"

"All Alliance stacks have been engaged and hit. Send in the Archers."

Lazkar looked about the hex. All his available stacks were spent, and the enemy remained. Hurt, but in place. And worst of all, most of the Siege had survived.
"All Stacks! Return to the Capital. There's nothing else we can do here."
Looking down, he noticed a stack with 0 move. He directed his Dwagon to land beside them.
"Sorry lads. Nothing we can do for you now. Shoot straight and true."

Gwegor read the reports. His Commanders stood before him.
"A Diwigible, a stack of beavers, and an enemy commander. Not bad. But their siege remains in place."
He stood and looked out over his city. Would he live to see another turn? And if he did, would that be his last?
"Restack. Prepare defences. Prepare to end turn."
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Fri May 06, 2011 2:40 am

Turn 11

Gwegor stared at the empty square slab of stone in the centre of the Throne room. Only seconds before it had held the body of his Chief Warlord, Lazkar the Imperturbable. The start of a new day meant that the body was now gone, vanished into thin air, just as his breakfast bowl of gruel had appeared on the table behind him, and the Courtiers assembled as from nowhere.
The only marker to Lazkar would be a small stone statue that would appear in the city's graveyard, bearing Lazkar's name and level. It was not a fitting monument to such a commander, but times being what they were, the entire side was on economy settings. Hence the gruel.
The new one, Pozkar, cleared his throat, ready to speak, but Gwegor waved him to silence.
"Enough. It is enough. We are undone. Without its walls, this city is of little use to us. Form stacks, standby to march."
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Fri May 06, 2011 3:13 am

Turn 12

Starting turn in the field made a nice change, Gwegor reflected. For a start, there were fewer courtiers giving him disappointed looks or avoiding his gaze. There was no longer a capital, so there was no longer a minister for artistic development and cultural awareness. A thin and constantly unpleasant courtier. She had long been frustrated with Gwegor’s opinion of culture that did not include the dogs of the Titans playing poker.
And the Imperial Gardens were gone as well, so the chief greenkeeper had not appeared this turn. Gwegor hoped that the Titans had plenty of weeds that needed pulling. Serve that nasty little fellow right. What a waste of Schmuckers that had been.
Even his ‘camp’ throne seemed more comfortable than the monstrosity in the palace. Gwegor stretched and reclined, stifling a yawn. He hadn’t slept so well in, what? Dozens of turns? Maybe a hundred? Perhaps since he had been a Chief Warlord? For a very long time now he’d started each turn in one of his cities, travelling about by Dwagon, never stopping in the fields or woods that abounded in his realm. Yes, things were nicer out here.
Even the breakfast rations appeared better than the gruel he’d been consuming for a dozen or so. There was some fruit, a small pile of nuts, and what looked like a roasted Wat. Why couldn’t he have had such delicacies in Gobwin Bump each morning? Sometimes the imponderable nature of the Erf frustrated him. Today it was just another cause to grin and shake his head.
A few of the remaining courtiers started to shuffle their feet and mutter. The blasted things were never happy until they had given their little reports or been dismissed. Perhaps they were hungry? Perhaps they too were looking forward to Wats and Nut?
“Very well. Proceed.”
The Treasurer was the senior courtier, since no side could exist without one. His report was long and rambling, about income, expenditure, offsets, and how long the side could continue to exist on projections.
Gwegor just sat and nodded, chewing on the nuts and fruit. He was leaving the Wat until last. The report didn’t interest him, and normally he would have cut the boring old clerk off and demanded the balance sheet. But this morning he was in a particularly good mood. The Alliance hadn’t cwoaked him in his sleep, the rations were improving, and the view from his throne was inspiring. Things were looking up. And on the plus side, the Courtiers had to stand and watch him eat while the report droned on.

This was going to be a very good turn.
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Mon May 16, 2011 3:02 am

End of turn 12

Gwegor was hungry, and it was only midday. At least, that's where the sun stood in the sky. Already there was an urge within him to end turn, if only to bring about hte next turn, and the next meal.
There was nothing to stop a ruler from never ending turn. Theoretically, he could keep the turn going forever. There were rumours about a local ruler doing exactly that, maybe two hundred turns ago, back when the C-Elfs first appeared. They were trapped, and on the verge of elimination, so did all they could to deny the inevitable by not ending turn.
Gwegor had been in the battlespace, but all he remembered about that turn change was that he had the best sleep he could ever remember. He'd been a commander then, a lowly level 2, charging about on Spidews and fighting with random monsters.
There were many rumours, too, about how and why that nation's turn had eventually ended. Some said that the Titans themselves had intervened, bored with their little erf not performing as they desired. Others insisted that the turn went so long that the heir's loyalty rating dropped too low, and so he cwoaked the ruler on his throne. But most said, and Gwegor believed them, that the ruler and his troops became so hungry that they turned on each other, cwoaking and consuming the bodies of their victims, until finally the ruler ended turn, or the heir cwoaked him, or they were all consumed.
However it happened, the turn had ended, the C-Elfs had entered the capital, and the side had ceased to exist. The rumours spread from those who claimed to encounter emaciated barbarians wandering in the same area over the next few turns, deranged and rambling about the sun never moving.
Rations popped at the start of the turn, and were quickly consumed. This morning had been pleasant - annoying courtiers, observing archery practice, strolling through the green grass, watching the swallows dive and dance. But now there was a little reminder deep within him, that he was hungry. It was as if a lever had been pulled. A moment ago, he had been fine. Now, a moment later, he was hungry. In not too long, the lever would move again, and then he would be very hungry.
It was time to move on. Time to march. And then time to end turn.
Sooner or later, he would end turn for the last time.
But not this turn.
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Tue May 24, 2011 1:50 am

Turn 13

Little Bump was the most northerly of Gwegor’s Cities, and at this time of the cycle, unnecessarily warm. Normally Gwegor would spend the hotter turns in Gobwins’ Hollow, enjoying the cool breezes. But, of course, the Hollow was in the hands of the invaders. And so Gwegor sweated in the Winter Palace, designed to keep royalty warm in cooler turns. How he longed to be back in the field! Last turn’s camp out had made him feel newly-popped, energised, revitalised.
Gwegor wasn’t that old in game terms. There were some rulers who were down to a d6 if they survived the night. Of course, those old fools had heirs, and heirs on heirs, ready to stand in their place. Gwegor’s mortality roll was one on a d900, which still made him quite young, really. The Librarian had told him that exercise and a healthy diet could increase that roll, but Gwegor didn’t really see the point. One in 900? You were more likely to flattened by Dwagon Poop.
Many more rulers were cwoaked by enemy action or internal rivalry than by mortality rolls. And it was certainly looking that was for Gwegor. At least he had no heir, so there would be no long knives in the darkness. No, it would be enemy action that finished him. And he intended to go out swinging.
“Where are they?”
The Lookamancer opened her eyes and blinked hard.
“The situation is unclear.”
Gwegor hated this response. It was to make things clear that he had a lookamancer in the first place!
“The question is simple, Tuzki. Where are they? Are the scout reports accurate, or inaccurate?”
Tuzki gave a head waggle and a shuffle of feet.
“Questions are often simple, my Lord. Answers are rarely so. The situation is unclear.”
The low rate of upkeep was beginning to show, Gwegor reflected. The side had been on minimum upkeep for a dozen turns now, and the loyalty rating of the units and characters was beginning to drop. Lack of respect from a lookamancer thisturn, mutiny in the Gobwin ranks nextturn?
Tuzki went on before Gwegor could express his anger.
“The situation is unclear because Cephar has become involved. The Scout reports appear to be accurate, but it could be a veil. Or a bluff. Or a blind. Or the truth.”
Gwegor winced.
“Cephar? Are you certain?”
Tuzki shrugged.
“I am certain that he is active. There is much confusion and low visibility the further east I look. The C-Elfs are blocking my farsight.”
Cephar. The C-Elf. The Foolamancer. The Masterclass Foolamancer. The reason why the C-Elfs had been able to conquer half the region in a few dozen turns. Well, one of the reasons. Gwegor had only been able to stop them by making a deal with the Tool. And it was the conditions of that deal that had brought the Alliance into the region, dooming him again.
“Titans’ Aglets! Interference by Cephar is strictly forbidden by the terms of our treaty with the C-Elfs. They are bound by heavy penalty against blinding our scouts or bluffing our lookamancers. If Cephar is concealing Alliance forces, then they are in league, and that is a declaration of war.”
Tuzki gave him a quizzical look.
“Do you wish to go to war with the C-Elfs, my Lord?”
Gwegor gave a little chuckle.
“No, one war at a time. I’m just frustrated by the scout reports. Everything indicates that the Alliance have not advanced. But logic dictates that they must have advanced. Why give us time to prepare our defences? To build a great Siege battery? They must have advanced, and Cephar must be concealing them.”
Tuzki gave another shrug.
“Or they have stopped for reasons of their own. Perhaps the Tool is threatening their lines to the West?”
Gwegor sat quietly for a while.
“What juice do you have left?”
“A little.”
“Show me Unaroyal.”
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Tue May 24, 2011 7:17 am

I have a feeling this should be paid attention to. Also, nice!
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Thu May 26, 2011 2:55 am

{Comments in Comments Thread Please}

Turn 14...
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Thu May 26, 2011 2:57 am

Turn 15

You don’t often see a Twoll run. They are not built for it. When in a hurry, or hungry, which is usually the same thing, your average twoll can manage a rapid shuffle, fast enough to render them dangerous to blind and lame turtles, but little else.
Even when charging into combat, Twolls lumber along at a steady pace, making as much noise as possible in order to give the enemy opportunity to consider whether they want to be occupying the ground that those glacial sized things are going to try and, well, occupy as well. It takes an enormous amount of courage or an even larger amount of arrows to hold fast against the sheer volume of a single Twoll, let alone a herd.
But these Twolls were running. Not that it was doing them much good. They were running for all they were worth. Running away. Away from what, they weren’t quite sure. But away. Away from where they had been, and towards… well, not towards anything. Towards didn’t register. Their only concern was away.
The away had been their camp, their home, their weapons, their position. The reason they were running away were the explosions that shattered the night air and burst the frames of the great guns they had been guarding. The explosions had burst some of the Twolls as well, which was why the rest were running.
A few had stood and fought, aiming their siege weapons at the night sky, which was apparently where the explosions were coming from. But there were not many of these, and they did not live long enough to regret their choice.
You don’t often see a Twoll run. They are not built for it. But when they decide to run, you don’t often see a Twoll stop.
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Re: Return to Gobwin Bump

Postby LTDave » Mon May 30, 2011 11:03 pm

Turn 16

“Time to go.”
The turn had only just begun, and the sun was still low to the horizon. Most of the garrison was stretching and blinking, but the Spidew Cavalry stack was assembling in the courtyard, the riders awake and armed, the arachnids skittering and chattering amongst themselves.
The Stack Champion saw his ruler coming and called for attention.
“All present and correct, my Lord.”
Gwegor nodded. He didn’t know the Champion’s name, he was only newly popped.
“Mount, and prepare to ride.”
Gwegor turned back towards the keep, and started muttering under his breath. The Spidew riders mounted, and formed march column. Still, their ruler waited, striding up and down, glaring at the keep, and growling from time to time. Finally he stamped his foot and opened his mouth to bellow.
At that very moment, the side door opened and out came the Courtiers, led by the Treasurer bearing a small grey chest.
The nearest warriors were sure they heard Gwegor mutter something along the lines of “about booping time”.
Instead his words were slightly more polite.
“You won’t keep me waiting again.”
The Treasurer merely inclined his head.
“It does not seem likely, my Lord.”
Gwegor sneered.
“Give me the box.”
The Treasurer handed it over slowly, with as much dignity as an old gobwin can muster. Gwegor took it and handed it to the Champion.
“Don’t lose this, or we all cwoak.”
The Treasurer cleared his throat.
“On behalf of the staff, I would like to say it has been an honour and a privilege.”
Gwegor turned to face him.
“I would like to say it, but I fear I cannot. To do so would be a lie. These past hundred turns…”
Gwegor waved him to silence.
“Enough. You’ll make me all weepy.”
The ruler climbed onto the Spidew behind the Champion.
“Enjoy your last day.”
He pointed to the gate.
“Time to go.”

The Champion was enjoying himself enormously. He was a Spidew Rider, and this turn he was riding a Spidew across open hexes for the first time. It was certainly a different experience to riding around the City streets of the Little Bump. Out here there were clouds, and sparrows, and insects that buzzed nearby, making the Spidew dance and scamper. At one point, just as they crossed into a new hex, the Champion noticed a slight breeze brush past his cheek. The experience was so delightfully unexpected that he gave a little gasp of joy. The sound seemed to wake the ruler, who had been riding with his eyes down, unmoving.
“Yes, my Lord?”
“What is your name?”
“Bruxen, my Lord. Champion Rider, level 1.”
Gwegor nodded.
“How many turns are you?”
“Five, my Lord.”
“And what do you think of it? Life, I mean.”
Bruxen had to think about this question for a little while. The first few turns had certainly been interesting, challenging, disconcerting. Bruxen had popped as Champion to a stack of riders, all of whom looked to him for answers that he didn’t have. Oh, he knew quite a lot about shining armour and caring for Spidews. That stuff was inbuilt. But the deeper questions, he didn’t have answers for those. Now his ruler, the one who had decided to create him, was asking what he thought of life. What to answer? Perplexing? Frustrating? Amazing?
The Spidew gave a little kick of the hind legs out of sequence. Bruxen looked back to see what had caused this and noticed a dark brown Wat fleeing across the hex. The sun was shining, the clouds drifted white and fluffy, the breeze was cool on his face, the grass was green and danced.
“I’m quite enjoying it at the moment, my Lord.”
Gwegor gave a little grunt.
“At the moment, yes. I might even agree with you there. At the moment, things are fine. But in a few more hexes, your Spidew will run of move, and then I’ll have to end turn. And then… well. We’ll see.”
Bruxen didn’t quite understand.
“What will we see, my Lord?”
“We’ll see what the enemy does. We’ll see what they decide about the future. The future of you and me, and the rest of the side.”
“What do you think they’ll do?”
Gwegor was quiet for a few moments.
“I think they’ll cwoak us in the field. Like they cwoaked those siege guns.”
“Then why are we in the field? Wouldn’t you be safer in Little Bump?”
“Are you trying to teach me strategy, Champion, level one?”
Bruxen shook his head rapidly.
“No, my Lord. But I do have a strong urge to turn this stack around and head back immediately. An urge that I’m not sure I can overcome.”
Gwegor sighed.
“It’s called Loyalty, Champion. It’s innate. You have a titanic urge to protect your ruler, because ultimately, you are protecting yourself. Do you know what happens to the units of a side whose ruler is cwoaked without an heir?”
“They cease to exist, my Lord. They simply go – cities, units, courtiers… Is that why the Treasurer said farewell? Because he expects you to cwoak this turn?”
“Very possibly. It is quite likely.”
“Then why are we out here?”
“Because I want to force the enemy to make a choice. Cwoak me, or take my cities. If they strike me down where I stand, then my cities cease to exist. If they spend the time to take the cities, we buy ourselves another turn to get away.”
“Get away to where?”
Gwegor nodded.
“To life, of course. It is the strongest of all the titanic urges – life. The desire to keep on experiencing it. Great, average, or booping terrible, we all want to keep on experiencing it. And I am no different.”
Bruxen was silent for a good while. The Stack crossed into another hex. The sun was high in the sky now.
“How will you continue to live if your cities are all gone? How will you pay the upkeep?”
“You’ve stopped calling me ‘my Lord’. Have you noticed that?”
“I’m sorry, my Lord. I’ll try harder.”
“No, don’t bother. If we survive this turn, I won’t be a Lord anymore. You’ll have to call me ‘Chief’.”
“I don’t understand, my Lord.”
Gwegor patted the grey chest the Treasurer had brought from the keep.
“We’re going independent, Bruxen. Striking out on our own. No more cities for us. We will be creatures of the wilderness, living in tents, eating what we can forage or scavenge. It’s going to be great.”
From somewhere deep in the back, the word “Barbarian” floated through Bruxen’s mind.
“If we survive this turn.”
“What are the chances of that?”
“Meh. Call it, what, one in seven?”
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