Book 1: The Battle for Gobwin Knob
Stanley controls one of these tools, the Arkenhammer, but his quest for the others seems to have been costly and unsuccessful.
The story opensErf-b1-p001 with the Battle of Warchalking fought by the forces of Stanley the Plaid and Marbits. The battle ends in defeat for Stanley, when Stanley's last living warlord – Manpower the Temporary – is killed in battle.
After getting the spell from the magic kingdom, Wanda summons Parson Gotti from a gaming session in his apartment on Earth into the ErfworldErf-b1-p016, where he is to serve as Chief Warlord to Stanley.
One of Ansom's warlords, a female barbarian Jillian Zamussels (who is Ansom’s love interest) flies on a scouting mission. As soon as she leaves, Ansom sends a squad of heavy ground units led by warlords Sir Webinar and Dora to follow her as emergency backup.
Jillian is captured by Stanley's forces and taken to Gobwin Knob, where Wanda interrogates her. Their interactions suggest that they are romantically or otherwise intimate.
After concluding the interrogation, Wanda, confident of her emotional domination of the prisoner, plans to deliberately release her to be found by Webinar's squad and become a bait for Ansom.
Expecting Ansom to personally lead a rescue expedition, Wanda, Stanley, and Parson plot an ambush. The trap fails when Vinny Doombats of Transylvito, one of Ansom's warlords, persuades him to remain behind although Ansom moves with the flying units to the head of the column. In addition, he contacts Charlie, a powerful Ruler and a mercenary, and hires three of Charlie's Archons from him to reinforce Webinar's group.
During this time, Parson has been learning the battle mechanics of Erfworld and has planned an attack on the coalition.
Taking advantage of the enemy column's lack of air cover, Parson sends a force of dwagons to make hit-and-run raids. They surgically target heavy siege units, which are critical to Ansom's attack plans, and then retreat.
After the raids, Vinny's scout doombats discover a ring of dwagons in the forest near the column. Inferring that this formation has been deployed to protect the attacking dwagons until they heal the next turn, Ansom assembles a force to punch through the far side of the ring (its weakest point) and finish them off while they are still wounded and vulnerable.
Ansom's force fights its way into the circle, and finds nothing inside. The ring formation is a trick (in fact, the wounded dwagons are hovering over a nearby lake, out of reach of enemy ground units). Ansom considers his options for salvaging the situation. In the hope of saving the remaining siege units, he orders Jillian to lead the air units in a hunt for the wounded dwagons.
Jillian begins to carry out the search as ordered. However, she deliberately sends Webinar, Dora, and most of the slower flying units on wild-goose chases and leaves them behind. Then, she declares that she is abandoning the mission in favor of heading directly back to Ansom's position to help him escape from the dwagon ring. One of the Archons confronts her with the question of whether her actions are the result of being under a spell just as they find the group of wounded dwagons.
Meanwhile, Stanley and his advisers monitor the situation from the situation room at Gobwin Knob, using a battlefield command-and-control display generated by three mentally linked spellcasters: a Lookamancer, a Thinkamancer, and a Foolamancer. Parson worries that Jillian's group is getting too close to the wounded dwagons; however, Wanda insists that Jillian will not attack. Sizemore Rockwell, another of Stanley's casters, warns that the Suggestion Spell on Jillian might break if it requires actions (such as ignoring enemy units) that are too difficult to rationalize away. Wanda angrily dismisses his concern.
Face to face with the wounded dwagons, Jillian is unwilling to attack, and flounders for a reason to avoid doing so. Jaclyn, one of the Archons, presses her for a decision to either attack, switch sides, or quit. Under this pressure, Jillian overcomes Wanda's Spell and sends a message to Ansom declaring her hatred for Stanley and love for Ansom. She then leads her force in an attack.
Parson directs a focused counterattack, ordering his forces to "croak, not capture" the enemy warlord. Wanda objects, but Parson and Stanley are unswayed. However, Ansom comes to Jillian's rescue just in time, with Vinny in tow. With these reinforcements, the dwagons are routed and destroyed.
Stanley is enraged over the loss of the dwagons and will not listen to Parson's attempt to suggest a new plan of attack. He decides to take his last stand back into his own hands and orders Parson, Wanda, and Sizemore out of his sight. As they leave (with Parson carrying Wanda, who is in a state of shock), he sends a command to recall all of his surviving forces to Gobwin Knob, and orders the three casters to break their link.
Parson decides that he has to risk Stanley's wrath and convince him to attack the enemy leaders. Before he can do so, he finds that the surviving dwagons (from the decoy ring) have returned to Gobwin Knob. Stanley takes them, along with the Foolamancer and the top three units of the Knights in Stanley's Service, and departs the city.
Parson is left as sole commander of the limited forces remaining at Gobwin Knob, which he must rally in a final stand against Ansom's vast coalition. Parson goes to the situation room and finds that Misty, the Lookamancer, was killed by the severing of the link.
While examining the tunnels under Gobwin Knob, Parson learns from Sizemore, Stanley's Dirtamancer, that they were designed for mining rather than defense, and can only be collapsed to a limited extent before bringing down the entire city.
During this conversation, Sizemore describes Stanley's rise to power. Originally a common piker, Stanley was promoted to warlord. He then found and was attuned to the Arkenhammer, enabling him to tame dwagons. The battles he won as a result impressed then-ruler King Saline IV, who made Stanley his Chief Warlord and Heir Designate. After a gobwin rebellion resulted in Saline’s death, Stanley, who was away on a mission at that time, returned and succeeded Saline as the Ruler, but in his case he is an Overlord because he is not Royal.
As Ansom's forces approach Gobwin Knob, Jillian surmises that Stanley has fled and requests permission to pursue, but refuses to explain where he went or how she knows. After her request is denied, she tells her story to Ansom in person. Jillian had been the heir to the small, hidden Kingdom of Faq. Unhappy with life at home, she led mercenary expeditions to supplement Faq's treasury. While on a mission, she got a message describing a massive dwagon flight over Faq, and then found her status changed to barbarian. Continuing to take mercenary jobs to support herself, she learned that Stanley was a likely suspect in the attack. This was confirmed the first time she was captured by Stanley's forces, and encountered a caster from Faq, who turns out to be Wanda Firebaugh, working for Stanley. After this explanation, Ansom agrees with Jillian's conclusion that Stanley is headed to the ruins of Faq with the intent of making a new start there.
Parson then begins putting his new plan into motion. He directs Sizemore to lead his golems in an overwhelmingly strong attack against the furthest-advanced Marbit scouts in the tunnels, ignoring all other forces. This ploy should lead Ansom to believe that the tunnels under the city are mostly unguarded. Parson consults Maggie, the Thinkamancer, who tells him that Wanda will probably recover eventually, but not yet. Parson then has Maggie put him in direct contact with Charlie, and offers him a deal. Charlie takes a friendly tone, but declines to damage his reputation by changing sides in mid-conflict. After Maggie tells him that she has the stamina to send only one more Thinkagram this turn, Parson contacts Ansom and deliberately goads him, scoffing at royalty and declaring that Stanley's attunement to the Arkenhammer and Ansom’s failure to attune to his Arkenpliers shows Stanley to be Ansom's "superior".
However, this goading is unknowingly interrupted by Stanley. The Foolamancer was mentally damaged by the severing of the link, and has been unable to cast a proper Veiling Spell to help Stanley evade pursuit. Stanley contacted Maggie to see if she can help with the problem. She suggests addressing the Foolamancer by his proper name to restore his sense of self. Unfortunately, neither she nor Stanley knows what his name is.
Ansom dispatches a force of air units, led by Jillian and Vinny, to hunt down Stanley. Jullian is instructed to break alliance with Jetstone at the end of the day and re-ally with the Translyvito and Charlie. This will give them a late-afternoon turn that day and an early-morning turn the next day, thus giving them a double move before Stanley can get any further. They plan to catch on Stanley and intercept him in a narrow mountain pass leading to Faq.
Ansom then sends a force of Jetstone units led by Webinar and Dora into the tunnels, believing (thanks to Parson's earlier ruse) that he has found an undefended path to the main city garrison.
Jillian leads her forces directly over Gobwin Knob, buzzing the Tower of Efdup. She confronts Wanda, who has partially recovered from her collapse. After Jillian declares her intention of hunting down Stanley and freeing Wanda from his service, Wanda activates the tower's anti-air defenses. This strikes down several Unipegataurs and Jaclyn the Archon, but spares Jillian herself. The intruders retreat, and Wanda heads down to the courtyard to uncroak the fallen enemy units, providing Gobwin Knob with a small air force.
That night, Parson discusses plans with Sizemore and Wanda. Sizemore is very unhappy about fighting, not because he fears death, but because he does not wish to kill. However, he accepts that he has no real choice. Wanda intends to go after Stanley and rescue him, but is dissuaded when Parson explains that he has made a deal with Charlie. Freed of his Jetstone alliance by Ansom's turn order exploit, Charlie is bowing out, avoiding a new alliance with Transylvito by making them an unacceptably expensive offer. Without the Archons reinforcing the enemy, Stanley will be able to survive on his own. The next day, Parson's turn does not begin at dawn as usual. Instead, a large number of Archons arrive in Gobwin Knob airspace, and Charlie offers to hire Parson and extricate him from the siege. Parson declines, and convinces Charlie to stand by and await the outcome of the battle with Ansom's forces.
When Parson's turn does begin, a box of Luckamancy Charms appears, along with the final piece of a sword. The back of the box indicates that the items that have been appearing in his meals to date (a pair of glasses that let him see unit stats, a bracer that interfaces with his calculator watch to compute battle odds, and the previous pieces of the sword) are there to correct flaws in the summoning spell and make Parson the "Perfect Warlord" he was originally supposed to be.
Parson learns from Wanda that the Foolamancer's name is Jack, and has Maggie contact him in an attempt to get him to convince Stanley to return to Gobwin Knob with the dwagons. However, Jack does not seem to understand. Stanley, Jack, and the rest of the group continue on until they reach a choke point, where Jillian, Vinny, and a force of Transylvito warlords and bats wait in ambush. Transylvito warlord Caesar Borgata leads the assault, planning to make up for the departure of the Archons with a large quantity of bats reinforced by warlord bonuses.
Stanley fights his way through, and closes with Jillian, who stayed in the rear as a backup. Jillian and Jack recognize each other, and after Jillian addresses him by the name Jack snaps out of his derangement. He uses his illusions to help Stanley escape.
Finding himself with only a half dozen of his original 30 dwagons and still on the wrong side of the choke point, Stanley is convinced to abandon his plan and head back toward Gobwin Knob.
Back at the city, Parson sends a large force led by Sizemore into the mining tunnels under Gobwin Knob to repel Ansom's underground attack. Hidden traps are activated and badly damage the Jetstone units. Sizemore himself is confronted by Webinar and Dora. He re-animates one of his defeated golems, who then squashes the two Jetstone warlords. With the loss of their leaders, the invaders are routed. Sizemore then seals the tunnels against further incursion, and Wanda reanimates the fallen enemies from this underground conflict to make an army of uncroaked soldiers, which Parson will use to protect the outer walls of Gobwin Knob.
The sight of uncroaked former Jetstones defending the walls of Gobwin Knob increases tensions within Ansom's coalition and outrages Ansom himself to the point of launching a one-man assault on the walls. He cuts a swath through the uncroaked horde with the Arkenpliers, until Wanda leads her flying uncroaked units against him. Ansom loses the Arkenpliers and is knocked from his flying carpet, falling to the city walls. He desperately offers Charlie a new alliance, and one of the Archons presents him with a set of "amended" terms, which he grudgingly accepts.
The Archons then disintegrate Wanda's flying uncroaked forces, including the unipegataur she was riding, and she falls down. Ansom recovers the Arkenpliers and confronts Wanda, but she is rescued by Sizemore and his golems.
As the attackers breach the outer walls of Gobwin Knob, Parson has his units stage a fighting retreat into the garrison, and moves his headquarters from the tower to the dungeon beneath the city.
Wanda leads uncroaked infantry in a dance fight and at first gains upper hand against coalition troops pouring into the courtyard as they lack units capable of dance-fight.
Ansom counters that with a Dance Dance Revolution-style dance relayed to his troops by Charlie's Archons, which gives his forces a massive bonus and leads them to victory.
Ansom seizes the courtyard and Parson relays through Charlie a desire to personally surrender to victorious Ansom atop the tower parapet. Parson gets his twoll lackey, Bogroll, magically disguised as himself and sends the twoll to surrender in his place. Ansom realizes the trick too late and the twoll tackles the prince off his flying carpet. Ansom and the twoll fall from the height of the parapet in front of the entire coalition army, and both get croaked - Ansom by the fall and Bogroll by the enraged coalition forces immediately after.
Parson follows his assassination of Ansom by ordering Sizemore to collapse all the mining tunnels beneath the city, completely destroying Gobwin Knob and many coalition units within its walls.
This rack and ruin is insufficient for victory though as too many coalition forces remain alive. Parson retreats with the casters into the portal room in the dungeon to discuss the desperate final plan. Gobwin Knob is built atop an extinct volcano, and Parson orders Maggie, Wanda and Sizemore to make it erupt. The casters use magic to link the minds of Wanda the Croakmancer and Sizemore the Dirtmancer, and with their combined skill they uncroak the volcano.
The plan succeeds and the eruption devastates the coalition, annihilating all besiegers who entered the city and those in the surrounding hexes. Charlie attempts to treat with Parson, but he refuses and escapes with the casters through the portal to the Magic Kingdom.
Elsewhere, surviving Transylvito warlords and Jillian discuss the news communicated to them by the Transylvito Thinkamancer. The coalition is dissolved, and Jillian and Vinny are devastated by the news of Ansom’s death. Caesar Borgata wants to claim Faq for his side.
Parson and the casters return to Gobwin Knob early next day to find a scene of utter ruin. The coalition is erased and the terrain itself changed. Sizemore shows Parson that he has discovered a fortune in gems exposed by the volcano, while Wanda finds the Arkenpliers in the ruins and attunes to them.
Parson muses on the death and destruction that he caused and wonders if that is what he dreamed about. Wanda tells him that it is the world that wanted him, not the other way around, as she digs up Ansom’s corpse.
Meanwhile, Stanley receives a call from Maggie and gets updated with the situation in Gobwin Knob. He decides to get back home immediately.
Gobwin Knob's turn starts at dawn, and Parson concludes that there are no enemy troops in vicinity. Wanda reanimates Ansom with the Arkenpliers, and the result is different from the usual uncroaked: Ansom appears lifelike and has his memories and intellect basically intact. However, he now sees things from a new viewpoint and wishes to help Parson conquer Erfworld.
Wanda uses the Arkenpliers to reanimate the whole army of croaked units as lifelike "decrypted" units. Describing how she knew that she would one day wield an Arkentool, she reveals that she had led Stanley to Faq. She had underestimated him, believing that he would be defeated and thereby deliver the Arkenhammer to her. Instead, he sacked Faq, and Wanda turned to his side and maneuvered him into questing for the other Arkentools.
- Gobwin Knob is rebuilt, Stanley returns, talking and fireworks.
- Stanley decides to conquer back his lost cities, Ansom gets promoted to chief warlord, Parson gets to 'manage' GK.
- Jillian moves with the Transylvitan warlords towards their capital, visiting Aqua Velva on the way.
- Parson chats with Charlie. Charlie guesses about the volcano-spell.
- Jillian meets Don King, talk about Royalty and rebuilding Faq.
- Parson, Maggie and Sizemore have a picknick, with lots of talk and discussions.
- Parson tries to leave the city, and to ride a dwagon, both unsuccessfully.
- Led by Ansom and Wanda, GK's army reaches the first city to conquer, Warchalking.
- Parson finds something useful to do for Stanley: collect dwagons in the minty mountains, using Archons as scouts.
- Parson talks with Jack on his daily tour of the city, wondering about some useless buildings in the city.
- Vinny visits Queen Jillian in the newly rebuilt city of Faq.
- (Charlie takes a picture of GK's army conquering Orgchart.)
- Parson starts to study strategy, using Jack as a battle simulator.
- (In the morning, some units of Charlie were defeated by GK)
- Charlie contacts Parson, Charlie spends another battle-calculation.
- Jetstone troops led by Prince Ossomer arrive at Dhrystone, Prince Tramennis meets him there and tells that Ansom has changed sides.
- Charlie contacts Jillian, proposes to become her secret ally against Stanley.
- Parson sets up a dwagon-express. (Exact date not known)
- Ansom has a meeting with Stanley in GK, talk about conquering Unaroyal and Jetstone.
- After a parley with GK, Queen Bea of Unaroyal decides to destroy her side and write Don King a letter, giving information about the decrypted army.
- (Empty capital of Unaroyal gets captured by GK)
- Parson talks with Maggie on his daily tour, discussing routine work, Wanda, and sex.
- Parson has a conference with some of the Archons, learns details about them and Charlie.
- Caesar Borgata has barely won a battle against Carpool over the small town Chocula.
- The town most likely was set up as a trap for Transylvito's warlords.
- He reports via thinkagram to Bunny, who turns out to be his love-interest.
- Transylvito is now producing a heir.
- Parson chats with Charlie again. Ansom has tried diplomatic contacts.
Book 2: Love is a Battlefield
See also: Descriptive Table of Contents