Cowabunga's Ambition Chapter One: Goku-San Knee High
Miso was popped twenty turns after Clan Dango had been founded from one of the two cities their side had been “gifted” on the rough and dingy shore of Oshiruko Island which had been until then the sole domain and honor of Clan Mochi who ruled from Black POW-Durr Mountain since the founding of the Ichi-sama Empire. The original Clan had been forced to split some of their number, fear that the northernmost island was growing far too strong to be kept under yolk of the Emperor and thus it fell to the youngest of the Mochi Children, Udon, to start his own side in the remains of the few remaining Barbarian fortresses. It was not exactly what the Side or Lord Udon had wanted, Miso found swiftly, as he was quickly escorted from Kombu (little more than a shanty town) to the unimpressive level 3 city of Wakame. Lord Udon had hoped to pop another Warlord, the previous General Chow Main having been lost to sea, but instead he’d received a Caster and not a cheap one at that. He had been a step away from Disbanded until several clever Courtiers had mentioned that perhaps they wait until he was sent to the Capital.
Miso learned quickly that Casters were not well respected within the Empire which valued physical combat and personal duels above “tricks” and “demon magic” and to add insult to injury he’d been popped a Weirdomancer, a Caster that only truly shone with other Casters to work with. Clan Dango had no other Casters, had never had Casters and as far as Lord Udon was concerned never wanted Casters and the parent Clan of Mochi was in the same boat. Oshiruko Island was known for only three things. The Onee, large female Ogres that Popped easily and cheapily for the Cities on the Island. Fishing which was not at all a commodity when the entire Empire was situated on an archepeligo and fiercely independent and poor Barbarians, the last of which were wiped out when the Dango Clan was formed. What Oshiruko was also well known for was for its lack of other viable resources which meant that both the Mochi and Dango Clans were, frankly, rather poor.
All Sides, also known as Clans outside the Emperors own, payed homage to the Emperor who sat on the Golden Throne sat in the center of Honshoo Island and in return were afforded a great deal of protection from the combined force of what was nominally an Alliance no other side near them could muster. To afford this protection however each Clan was required to send a portion of their income per Turn to the Emperor as well as a portion of what their cities produced, this kept the other sides in the Alliance weaker even if the Law was eased in times of conflict. The other rule, Miso had learned on those first few turns, was that each Caster Popped was required to visit the Imperial Court and undergo several long Turns of interrogation, processing and introductions to the senior Casters. The Capital was everything Oshiruko Island wasn’t. Loud, vibrant and full of life the level 5 City of Cansigh offered anything and everything a bright young Caster might want however he was on Order not to spend what little money the Side could offer abroad which left him at the mercy of joint lodgings with other starry eyed Casters and the guards they had been afforded in some cases for the richer sides. His dingy robes and gaunt face hid little from the others and just as in his own City he found himself alone. At least it had been a short trip.
Miso recalled those Turns much more fondly than the ones that bookended them by a wide margin. He had been shuffled into the vast hall to stand before the Emperor, a grandfatherly man who moved like a crane and rasped like old paper on old paper when he spoke yet not unkindly. He’d been shuffled to meetings with dozens of old fat men in silk and jewels and tested for various aptitudes and fortunes by Luckamancers and Signamancers. He’d been taken to the Magic Kingdom for further tests by Weirdomancers and put under Oaths that he could still feel on himself to this day. Then he’d been sent home on a rickity sloop and he wondered if he’d meet the same fate as old Warlord Main and drown on the stormy seas. He’d at least returned home to his fuming Lord with good news. For if Clan Dango had to scrape to keep a Caster -and- a Chief Warlord they’d at least have a Chief Caster that was worth the money, and he was most assuredly. Few Casters could Master even their own Discipline let alone others and Miso, well Miso was one of those lucky few. From there Lord Udon seemed more than happy to allow him to travel to Honshoo and the other islands to aid other sides and even managed to make some Schmuckers out of loaning his Chief Caster, a business that as the Turns continued slowly filled the Banks of the Side.
This independance hadn’t been ignored by Clan Mochi however, for as the level 1 City of Kombu went from the disgrace of the Empire with the additional funds it had been turned into well respected fishing city at level 3 with Shipwrights and an admittedly small fleet of whaling vessels that further added Whale Oil and Whale Ambergris to the side for additional profit. Clan Mochi had moved to one of Udon’s brothers and soon talks of war began to brew between the two brothers and Miso, he’d never forgot the message to return home. It was only a few Turns later that war on the Island broke out in full and the Emperor was in no hurry to assist. Lord Mochi had thrown the first blow, the small whaling fleet sunk by the larger Side’s own warships in a bid to bring what they saw as the upstart Clan to heel. Lord Udon had been incensed, never a calm or patient man to begin with, and soon the war was joined. Mochi had the numbers but not the cash while Udon had piled vast riches between his loaning of not only Miso but his new Chief Warlord, General Tso, to other sides who had their own conflicts and what was more the Levels that both had received during these missions. Miso and even the cantankerous General Tso had urged Lord Udon to hire the few agreeable Barbarian sides that remained in the Empire to assist and before long the smaller Clan Dango ran roughshod over the Island and sacked Black POW-Durr Mountain. For not the first time, Miso found himself in the heat of combat for even Casters were expected on the field in the Empire. Between General Tso and himself, victories mounted as the Mochi had no counter to the Spells he had learned abroad and the Onee their side had quickly Popped overran the inexperienced stabbers of the Mochi. Forty Turns after he had been popped, Miso was now Chief Caster of a unified Oshiruko Island from the Level 5 City of Hijiki.
Miso found the new power and increased allowance agreeable as Clans who had been cold to treat the Dangos as anything more than children soon were flooding them with requests. Lord Udon had become a fat, sweaty red faced mizer who rarely interfered with his Chief Leadership after their victories over his brothers and General Tso followed suit, new armor being requested at least every other Turn. Miso however remained balanced, his cheeks filling out a little perhaps but he was still the stick thin little Weirdomancer, Master Weirdomancer after the war was finished, he had always been. Travel was more rare he’d found, the abilities a Master Class Weirdomancer provided were much too important to waste for each Turn he remained in a City he could add or alter a Special on any popped unit. Soon a new type of Unit filled the ranks of the Dango, a Mounted Archer that acted as a Lancer as well. These Samurhigh had already been fielded in foreign conflicts and found to be difficult to counter and thus Miso was grounded.
Clan Dango’s Turn always began at Twilight, as the youngest side in the area, and it was Miso’s task to wander the city in his daily circuit of barracks, armory and taverns. Fur lined crimson robes kept him warm from the cold as a light dusting of snow, a sad commonality on these walks, fell along the streets. Onee swept the streets to keep them clear, their large red muscular bodies steaming from the snow as they worked. It had been a long time since he’d been in a conflict and he was beginning to worry he would follow his Lord and Chief Warlord in getting fat as each walk was getting a little more difficult each Turn. He’d considered ordering one of the Onee to carry him but he’d hate to look weak in front of anyone who might be seeing. Since the conflict the City had grown a sad tendency for extra eyes and ears which he’d learned to his detriment whilst sneaking some extra reading time to improve his Mathamancy of which he was only an Adept and a third Mastery might yet earn him a full transfer to the Imperial City. Those dreams were also grounded it seemed as he took one last slushie step to the Tavern, the end of his circuit, before dipping in. Most Cities didn’t have such a building as far as he was aware but here in the cold the Barracks wasn’t enough to keep the otherwise fiercely Loyal men and women content. A cheer rose from some of the older Units as he entered with a few kicks and stamps to remove the ice and snow from his long toothed sandals though otherwise he went unnoticed. He always drank for free, the other Units bartering bits of food and other knickknacks with the Barman who watched them like an angry crow from behind his counter.
Warm, milky rice wine was the norm and soon he was several large cups in with one of the veteran Stabbers, the last of them to be exact as the Samurhigh had replaced all the men he’d served with. Several times the Stabber, whose name he’d long learned was Taka, had saved his life from an errant arrow or charging Onee intent to hug him until he Croaked and in return Taka had retained a few tricks from the Weirdomancer they rarely ever mentioned even to their own troops. General Tso did not care to deal with the small stack that had become Miso’s own personal body guards and if there was a leader under the Chief Caster it was Taka.
“No books today for you, Lord Dashi?” the grizzled, single eyed battle veteran grumbled through a long draught of the honey like booze that dribbled from the sides of his mouth whenever he spoke.
A quick shake of the head was all Miso was prepared to offer, he was chilled to the bone still and only now was the booze starting to settle within his core spreading its heat. He was never interested in reading after a walk in the snow, all he wanted to do was crawl back into his fur covered bed and dream of the warm valleys of Honshoo that he’d rather be sitting in.
“Well.” growled Taka as more wine leeched into the sorry excuse for a beard he wore, “Guess that’s best for you. You’ve got friends looking for you.” the old timer continued, offering only a few gruff chuckles before excusing himself. Miso would remember that.
Sure enough however one of the pages from the Castle quickly made for Miso’s position, knocking several more drunk patrons aside as they made a beeline for him. Miso only offered an annoyed look at the ruckus, draining the last of his wine before standing and bowing to greet the baby faced man that bustled into his personal space.
“His Lordship wishes to see you.” the childlike man barked, shoving at the Caster who wobbled on his feet unsteadily as the alcohol decided at that very moment to assert its presence. Another grunt from Miso was all the man tolerated before stomping off, Miso slowly stepping behind him. The Lord rarely called for him specifically, generally happy not to see his Chief Caster for as long as possible and it was an agreement they both were more than happy to keep. Even after the victories over the Mochi Clan Miso was still a Caster and even though he’d provided the side with their greatest assets it was General Tso who received the most honors at the end of the Turn. There was a time General Tso and himself had got along but those were long ago Turns, General Tso now the most rabid in Court to argue that the side no longer required a Caster, let alone a Caster who had since Mastered another Field and was near Mastering another thus costing the Side even more from their Treasury. Lord Udon at least did not agree that far and as the thought of the two pigs in their pen soured his mood, he staggered into the small and cramped meeting hall of Castle Hijki. At the far end, which wasn’t far, sat Lord Udon as corpulent and sweaty and red as always draped in what was once fine silks but were now saturated and plastered to his body with the nearly equal rotund General Tso in his absurd brightly burnished gold armor at his side.
“Ahhhh, finally arrived after half a day of looking for you.” General Tso called unneededly loud for only after a few short steps had Miso come face to face with the pair, Courtiers scrambling in the shadows for any bit of gossip they could manage. “We’re honored by your presence your Castership, perhaps you’d like another bottle of wine?” Snickering from the shadows followed from the easy jab from the Warlord though a meaty slap from an equally meaty hand silenced any further salvos.
“Silence. His tasks are important I am sure.” snorted Lord Udon as he ran his plump fingers over the noodle thin mustache he had taken to sporting. “And our meeting is too important for you to squabble. Miso. You’re not bowing.”
Miso was quick to his knees to kowtow even as the world spun beneath him threatening to make the bow a full roll forward if he wasn’t careful. “I am here as called, Lord Udon. What can your Chief Caster do for you?” he intoned mirthlessly before standing, keeping his wavering gaze on the largest object in the room.
“Much better. Tell him General Tso.”
General Tso was quick to bow as well, or at least bend as best he could before stepping forward with a large scroll. “His Light in the World, Supreme Leader of the Ichi-sama Empire, Emperor San-So of the Grand Dynasty, has Croaked.” Suddenly the room was no longer spinning, suddenly the world had stopped altogether. Miso, much like his status as Caster, was rare in the Empire for his generally low Loyalty stat but few could equal his love for the Emperor. Of all the people he had met, it was the Emperor in that short visit that had been the most kind to him.
“His..Heir…” Miso managed to offer as he found his voice, eyes darting between his two tormenters who were for once silent.
“Is an inexperienced boy who was popped their Turn. Some form of Turnamancy. Black Magic.” General Tso growled, eyes narrowing as he tossed the scroll at Miso as if it were burning him.
“T-Then there is no problem. The new Emperor has been cro-” Miso managed to squeak out before Lord Udon rose from his seat.
“No sooner had he popped than the Maury Clan, those vipers, seized their chance and invaded the Capital City. They now claim that they are the true Emperor and that we must pay fealty to them. Almost every other Clan has refused and taken up arms.” shouted Lord Udon, his mustache quivering. “We are being asked by the Dew-Waaah Clan to aid in their bid for the throne. General Tso urges that we instead invade the Dew-Waaah lands and take them for ourselves and ally with whoever seems most likely to win the conflict. Perhaps take some more land in the meantime. We are one of the least valued sides. We can change our fortunes! What say you Miso.”
Then Erf was spinning again, Miso clutching at his robes to keep from falling over. The Emperor dead. The Islands at war, the largest in at least two hundred Turns if memory served. There was little to say with such little information yet if they did not act now then they would lose momentum. “Prepare the ships…” he finally managed, a pair of greasy smiles stretching over the folded faces of Lord Udon and General Tso.