King in the Macnime - part 8

The great Kogane was a firm believer in both Fate and Free Will. Many asked him how he could believe both in the same time. To this he answered: "All men paint the masterpiece of their own life. For some, the canvas is completely blank. For most, there are a few spots were someone else passed a brush, or smeared some paint. For an unfortunate few, the canvas was painted on by someone else, and whole sections are complete. But we alone are responsible for the art and feeling of the piece."

Nala looked at him with disbelief. "Are you serious? You're really going to chase adventure instead of warning your King? Where's your sense of Duty, prince Kogane?"

Kogane did not answer at once. He was being swamped by new knowledge, as completely new senses that were lying dormant within him were opening and flooding him with sensations.

"There will be no need to alert the king, dear Nala. The king already knows."

From around him he could hear the gasps of some of the more observant of his units. Nala, blinded by her rage, continued: "How do you know that, Kogane? Did you talk to him?"

King Kogane smiled sadly, and spoke softly to Nala, giving it just the hint of an order: "Nala, my friend - look at me."

Nala raised her eyes. Her expression changed rapidly - from anger, to bewilderment, to grief.

Kogane closed his eyes, and contacted his sister.

"Kogane! are you all right? You must return at once!"

"I am fine, but I need your help. Is there a way I could send a message to the entire side? I fear the sudden upheaval will cause a massive drop in Loyalty, unless we do something."

"I am not sure, brother - There may be a way to piggyback a message on your new ruler ability - the ability to send orders to all the units in the side. It will drain every drop of juice I got, but I'll try."

"Do you best, sister, and we will see each other soon enough."

Kogane opened his eyes, and focused on Nala. Feeling his link to her, ruler to subject, he could feel similar links to the other Pride units around him, and the sense of many others beyond his line of sight. While concentrating on these links, King Kogane spoke:

"On this day, Chief Warlord Isibanda struck a blow most foul against his elder brother and rightful liege, my father, the king Mofasa. The great Mofasa would not go down without a fight, and in that fight he and his brother slew each other, as all across the field brother fought against brother, to the great ruin of the Pride.
But even from this foulest of deeds, there arises new hope, for we are now again a kingdom united. The poison of disloyalty that has long contaminated us has been cut out.
As heir to the throne of the Pride, it is my solemn and proud duty to take on the mantle of king, and lead the Pride with honor and strength.
Are you with me?"

All around him he could hear shouts of joy and assent, not just from the handful of units around him, but from far away in the field. It was a good feeling, the feeling of trust and loyalty his subjects had for him. Not all was good - from the two large armies in the north there were now only remnants. The survivors of the king's army were mostly loyal to him, but a few of the warlords from Isibanda's army turned rogue.

Returning to the present, Kogane looked at his friends and smiled. Hitta and felix seemed ill at ease, unsure how to treat their young friend now that he ascended to the throne. Lu Zijian seemed unfazed by the transition, only happy for him.

"My friends!" Kogane said. "I am indeed now the ruler of the side, and as such will be happy to welcome you, should you wish to join us. I would counsel patience, though - These are dangerous times, and perhaps the extra security of Barbarism would serve you well, until my kingdom is secure."

Lu Zijian seemed to scoff at the idea. "My place is with you, your majesty" he said, and inclined his head. The Pride's livery, yellow on red, unrolled on his robe., with the snakes and hourglass of his double discipline. "Ah!" he said. "much better."

Hitta simply said: "I've found a home. I'm not going to lose it." Felix seemed unsure for a moment, then smiled and said: "I never did like playing it safe!". The two of them turned at once.

Kogane was touched at the confidence his friends showed in him, and their willingness to place themselves under his command. He took a deep breath, and said: "Come, my friends! let's go and explore where fate wishes us to go, and then return with all speed home!."

Nala expression changed to fury again, so fast Kogane thought it almost comical.
"What? Explore? My liege, will you risk the entire kingdom for an adventure? Is this what you mean by "Leading the Pride with honor"? For shame!"

The archers in the Snail gasped with horror. Even Nala seemed a bit shocked for saying such a thing to her ruler, face to face. Kogane, however, was amused.

"It is good that Loyalty to the side burns so brightly within you, Nala." Kogane said. "However, you do not fully understand my reasoning. but first - Lu Zijian! Are we predicted to go down the hidden door in the city, today?"

"Yes, your highness. I so Predict."

"Drop the "Higness" boop, Lu - we're among friends. Nala, this you must understand - We will explore that ruin today. When something is Predicted, you can count on it as a fact. The context may change, but the fact will remain. If we are Fated to explore that ruin today, Fate will make sure we do, even if he has to hound us with enemies from every side down the entrance. To do anything but explore it now - as wounded, depleted and tired as we are - is extremely foolhardy, and could cause the kingdom great harm. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, your majesty" Nala said with a small voice.

"Good. There is still the matter of your insubordination - the punishment you must suffer for talking to your king as you have, Warlady Nala."

Nala stood up straight, looked Kogane in the eyes, and said: "I will gladly accept any penance you put upon me."

Kogane nodded. "It is good, for I plan to be rough on you. I hereby promote you to Chief Warlady!"

"What?!" asked Nala.

"I have need of leaders who are not afraid to speak their mind. Never be afraid to tell me if you think that I am wrong. Well, now that the pleasantries are finally over, shall we be on out way?"

It took the party only a short while to reach the hidden entrance. With his last juice, Kogane tickled the ancient mechanism into operation, lifting a huge part of the floor of the building, and revealing a smooth corridor that went down steeply below the ancient tower.

"This doesn't feel like a dungeon" said Nala.

"I can't sense any hostile creatures" said Hitta.

"There is a feeling of peace here, but not of harmony" Said Felix.

"There were mighty traps here once, but they were built to be disabled with time. They road is safe now" said Kogane.

Together they made their way, lower and lower into the deeps of the earth. Kogane prided himself for acquiring some Dirtamancy senses, but he could not sense anything outside of the corridor. The material it was made of seemed to block all senses. The corridor had a feeling of something that was made by magic, not labor, but it was s strange magic - as efficient as Dirtamancy, as finished as Signmancy. Whatever it was, it was clearly master-level work.

At long last the party reached a small door, half as wide as a regular door. There was a mighty lock on it, but it could be unlocked easily from their side. Cautiously they opened the door and stepped inside.

Inside they saw a large room, built as a pentagon. Two of the walls on the opposite side were utterly destroyed, though the remnants of a grand door could be seen there. The floor was strewn with debris, including what looked like the remains of several golems.

In the middle of the room were 5 recliners, positioned so the heads of the beds were towards the middle of the room. On each recliner was positioned a small, glittering helmet.

On a table in the middle of the room was a large crystal spire, surrounded by books. Kogane made his way to the center of the room, intending to try and read some of the books, when the spire flashed to life. A picture formed, crystal clear, though obviously only inside their heads. Four elderly figures stood, solemnly gazing at them. One of them raised her head. She was tall and thin, with pointed ears and emerald eyes. She was dressed with a simple green dress, and held a green wand. She looked with her sad eyes straight into Kogane's eyes, and started to speak.

"Greetings, explorers of a time far ahead! I am Dame Muotilla. I was Chief Signamancer to the kingdom of Valtakunta. With me are my partners and friends, four of the five members of the Mehumash."

Next, came a small man dresses in a formal evening suit and cape. He spoke with a strange accent. "I am count Szamok, Chief Mathmancer of the kingdom of Kiralysag. It was our last king, king Kalandor, who found the 5 helmets of Machshava, at a ruin he explored as a young prince. working together, the casters of Kirlysag managed to divine their powers and purpose - a safe, efficient, 5 casters link - the mehumash".

The next caster to speak was also tall, with pointed ears, and dressed simply in a robe. While Muotilla gave the feeling of simplicity and openness, this caster's signamancy was of serious expression, meticulous neatness, and clipped speech. "I am raha, moneymancer of the court of Valtakunta. When our friends and allies from Kiralysag and Rike came to us with an intriguing proposal, a magical partnership of 5 casters for the benefit of 3 sides, we could see the potential rewards immediately. Our 3 kingdoms were on the edge of impassable terrain, and had few neighbors. We could see that using our powers together, we could make ourselves self-sufficient, and almost impossible to conquer. We would not rule erfworld, but our kings could see a way to leave the endless cycle of war behind us.

The last caster was strong and muscular, dressed in blue overalls, and held a pickax in his hand. "I am Fold, Dirtmancer of Kiralysag. There were five of us, all master-level casters in our own rights - us four and Rike's Chief Dollmancer, Dockor. Together we transformed our side's cities. Using the power of dirtmancy and moneymancy we upgraded our cities at a fraction of the usual cost. By combining moneymancy, dirtmancy and signamnacy we made each one as unique, efficient and powerful as possible. Together we made the countryside beautiful, plentiful, and deadly in case of an invasion. A great army of the most powerful golems we could envision guarded our borders. Together we made our kingdoms rich, and our borders secure."

Muotilla spoke again. "For long Rike argued that there was no hurry to sign the formal alliance agreement. They argued that it was a mere formality, to dissuade any distant ambitions, and that the strengthening of our realms had to come first. Unfortunately, we agreed. every day seemed to have more pressing needs than our juice could answer. We were beset on all sides by enemies who wished to stop us before we completed our work. When the work was finally over we all came to Rike's capital, where we held a great celebration before the signing of the contract. On that fateful day, the king of Rike showed his true colors. His ambition was to use these cities as a base for the domination of all the erf."

Fold spoke: "The Golem army struck without mercy. We were caught inside the city, at the mercy of the Rikers. It was at that moment that our kings' greatness revealed themselves. They sent us down here, to try and stop the Rikers, while they gave their lives to delay the enemy and allow our escape.

When we got down to the room of the Mehumash, we knew it was only a matter of time before Dockor's mighty golems will overpower our defenses. We had only one chance to strike, and we took it. We found the city's center, it's well of being, and croaked it. It was a mighty feat of dirtmancy, made possible by the link. In it's wake the mighty city was no more, and hex turned to a Ruin.

Dockor croaked in the chaos of the city's destruction, and his golems with him. We hoped our kingdoms will survive, but our cities were already captured while we were under attack here. When the kingdom of Rike fell as its capitol was destroyed, all our beautiful cities were turned neutral.
Our princes are still alive, but they are far afield. Even if our side will go on, our fate is sealed. We do not have upkeep, and so will depop next turn."

Count Szamok came forward: "There are great defenses around this chamber, but in 10000 turns I calculate they will be rendered useless. After that, it is only a matter of time until we are found.

The helmets of Machshava were the means by which our sides were ended, but the fault lay not in them, but in the minds that used them. We thought to distance ourselves from the war and death of erfworld, but forgot the primary reason for war is not rules or economics - it is the avarice that lies in the heart of men. While there are people in erfworld, there will be war.

To you, distant traveler, we offer but one warning - Do not let your heart's desire seem as fact, for then you will falter and fall, no matter how strong you think you are.
Use the helmets to secure hope and peace, but never forget - such great weapons as the Helmets will always breed jealousy and discontent. Be ever vigilante.
With that, we former casters of the Mehumash, wish you good fate and good luck!"

The vision cleared, but it was some time before anyone moved. It was much to processes, much to comprehend. In the end it was Kogane who came to his senses first.

"It is clear to me that we were meant to find and use these helmets, but not yet for what purpose. For the meantime, we will take what we can - Each caster will take a helmet and guard it well. The rest will take the books that are on the table.
We have fulfilled the mission that fate has set before us, but now Duty sets us another. We must make all haste and return to Odeon, for the Pride's future is in jeopardy."

Together they made their way back, each man and woman encumbered more by thoughts and worried than by simple weight. The Storm Snail was awaiting them in the courtyard, and wordlessly they entered it.

The road back home was long, and Kogane had a lot of time for thought. He thought about his life until now, of his kingdom and friends. The lives of so many people he cared for was now literaly his to command. He vowed to himself to be a worthy king, better than his father, to try and promote peace and understanding, but most of all to be ever vigilant against any threat to his people.

That time in the Snail was the last king Kogane had for quiet thought for quite a while. The vultures were circling in the sky, and from the south a great beast was coming. War was coming to the city of Odeon.
Previous part - Part 7
Next part - Part 9