Homekey’s Dirtamancer took the nine-turn trip out of the capital on foot. Mounts were available, but the golems he was supposed to deliver didn’t have a whole lot of move. He would’ve been tying up a valuable unit for his own comfort, not to speed his mission. And he didn’t mind the walk.
Often, he traveled for short stretches with an escort of fresh-popped troops, passing him on their way to the war. Sometimes there were allied soldiers from Delkey. He saw a lot of Homekey’s fertile farm country, detouring briefly through the cities of Cydoor, Bonzibuddy and Xupiter to take notes and make a few minor architectural improvements.
But on this trip, his juice was mainly spent on constructing hard-rock golems. He’d built up a respectable little troop of seven of them by the time he had made it through the Epic Mounts, and could see the angry charcoal sky over Weatherbug.
On maps, it looked like a city worth fighting for. Weatherbug stood guard over a narrow mountain pass, just on the enemy’s side of it. If Numloch wanted to attack those prime agricultural cities he’d just toured, then they’d either have to tangle with this town or march nine rocky hexes north to avoid it.
Once you were there, though, you could see why the place had so often been surrendered or traded away. Even razed.
Generally, cities in rainy hexes were pretty miserable places to serve, but Weatherbug’s rain poured. You could stand under the eaves of any of its brick buildings and watch endless gray curtains of water lash at the pavement. You could see a sheet of falling water coming up the road before it hit you, churning up the hopping, sopping black mud that always coated the pavement. It hissed. It spat all over you.
Hmf. This one would be fun.
“Have you come to make it dry?” the Warlady in charge of the garrison asked Digdoug at the main gate, shouting her words into the wind, just as a lightning bolt threw the whole area into bright relief. Lady Chains was her name: a brick-faced, physically powerful woman who’d been promoted up from the ranks after the battle for this city. She stood stacked with a group of pikers, their helmets glistening and dripping.
“No!” shouted the Dirtamancer. Then the thunder hit.
He smiled sadly and shook his head during the deafening boom, flinging water from the bill of his rain hat. “Sorry. I’ll do what I can, though,” he promised, ducking under the iron spikes of the portcullis. The golems followed dutifully behind him.
Drying out a city was impossible, of course. Rain hexes were the Titans’ work. They served as headwaters for all the world’s streams and rivers. But after only one day in Weatherbug, he could sympathize with the near-drowned woman. Even indoors, even at start of turn, nothing ever seemed completely dry here.
On that first turn, Digdoug barely glanced at the city’s defenses. He felt he could work more freely here if he could first get the drainage under control. All of this water didn’t want to be in a city. It had somewhere else to be—a Titanic mission to follow. It wanted to leave Weatherbug more than any of the poor sodden units stationed in it.
So he mucked through the mud in his all-too unmagical rain gear, and helped the water along. Where it pooled, he dug a channel. Where it flooded the street, he made a covered drain. Below the ground, he laid pipes made of hard clay. He punched countless spouts and watergates through the city wall. On that first day, he gave Weatherbug its own crude river system.
And it worked. By nightfall, those drainpipes were helping most of that lost water find its way into the real river system of Erfworld. As he walked the streets, his boots went “plip, plip” on the pavement, instead of “plash, ploosh.” Satisfying.
Digdoug finished up his drains and started on the roofing the next morning. Whoever had originally designed this city chose high-peaked roofs of wood shingles for most of its structures, which was smart. But there were no gutters on these buildings, which was dumb. When you went outside, the buildings rained on you worse than the sky did.
In the cold and unrelenting downpour, he chose the first of two dozen streets full of gutterless roofs and set off on a patterned hike, humming tunes as he cast. One of his golems shuffled along behind him, occasionally rumbling out a bass harmony part.
Throughout the morning’s work, he held about half of his juice in reserve, just in case the city was attacked. But Numloch’s turn passed without any sign of trouble, and Lady Chains rode out in force that afternoon to look for some.
Before night fell, he’d finished the gutters and added a couple of badly needed latrines by the main barracks and the gatehouse. The Dirtamancer then eked out the last of his juice on eaves and awnings, creating as much space as he could where a unit could stand by a major structure without getting poured on. He wished he could cover the whole place in roofing, or even just tarps, but this would have to do. He couldn’t spare another turn for what was essentially Signamancy.
Tomorrow, he’d start on defense. He would give this town some teeth. These improvements weren’t made for the enemy to use; Homekey was going to keep this city. When Numloch inevitably came to take Weatherbug back, it would still be a Level 2. But they’d find it a much harder target than the city they had abandoned, because Dirtamancers could fashion traps from terrain features.
And a permanent storm? That was a terrain feature. The natural Shockmancy of the city’s weather could be harnessed, directed in its own defense. Besieging armies, beware! In the new Weatherbug, castle storms you.