The Hunter – Part Five
The awe of his stature and the mystery, and creepiness, of the black-hole hex was starting to wear off. Now, this guy just seemed more and more a dumb brute. Of course, Sicks never said that, and tried very hard not to show it. They tried room after room, looking for the Portal room, because he could not sense it. Maybe his stats in the brain area were just so low that he had not made some simple connection?
“It’s not something you forget,” Sicks said, trying to sound encouraging.
“I get that impression,” the big guy said, then suddenly stopped. “Perhaps…”
Without another word, he suddenly took off. He led them to two rooms before finding the door that led down a flight of stairs into darkness. He did just upgrade the city… I guess he’s not used to it yet.
The stairs went down one, maybe two floors, then came to an abrupt end. It did smell of something hidden, however, as there was a small circular space with one statue embedded into the wall opposite of the stairs. It must be the first Ruler that started the side and his ‘bonded’ creature, as it shared an uncanny resemblance to the hunter.
“This is a sacred place where we perform the Bonding ritual” The hunter blinked, looking at Sicks. “I suppose I wasn’t meant to bring you here, but… My father said that if ever I needed anything, I should come here and seek guidance of the woods.”
Sicks grinned. “That reeks of some sort of secret. I’ve read of many tales about things like that. ‘The power to vanquish your foes has been inside you all along’, or ‘in order to find happiness, you need to return home’, things like that.”
Because he had no juice until his next turn he had to do this the hard way, but he got to work examining the statue. It was not hard to find – the statue was wearing a Thinkamancer’s emblem – and he pressed the eye.
The thrill of unlocking this puzzle, a thrill that he lived for, sent his heart racing. What was it? Door? Magic? The statue moved. It slowly walked forward, and stopped itself in the centre of the room. Right where the statue had stood, there was a tunnel.
“Righto,” Sicks said, forgetting his diplomatic face. “Let’s see where that leads!”
It was fairly short, but curved around in an s-shape so that the original room was no longer visible; this place would be perfect for traps and ambushes, Dittoed traps. When they final reached the end, a solid oak door, neither were prepared for what was on the other side.
Sicks had been right. The city was underground.
It was an enormous underground cavern, with the typical buildings of a city. He recognized the tower and the barracks immediately. It was still a level 2, but the mystery of a single small shack taking up the entire hex was now solved.
“Nature’s beauty,” the hunter said, awe oozing from his voice. “I had no idea.”
They walked through the empty city. Already, Sicks was imagining the city bustling with units – likely creatures and beasts – and what it might look at higher levels. Glancing at the hunter, he recognized the non-stop sweeping of his gaze, trying to look at everything and understand it. He had been like that, many turns ago when he popped.
Sicks led them to the tower, a small, two-floor affair, and they found the Portal.
Finally. Sicks clenched his teeth. I will complete my mission, father.
“So, we enter this-”
Sicks grabbed the idiot and pulled him back. At least, that’s what he had tried to do. Instead, it pulled him off balance.
“No! Only casters can go through Portals,” he quickly explained.
“So what, then?”
“I’ll go through and ask around. There are casters aplenty who can come here and have a look at you.” And here goes. “But in order to hire them for you, I need you to Turn me.”
“Why?” and there was the suspicion he knew was coming.
“The casters in the Magic Kingdom that’ll work for you belong to no side. They need upkeep. They work on contract. I can’t ask them to work for a side when I don’t know you’ll be able to pay their upkeep.”
He felt that there was a reason the previous Ruler had only popped this one Heir. There must be rituals or traditions or myths or other such nonsense. To turn a caster, to gain another unit, might go against everything this guy held dear. It had to be done, though.
“Okay,” the hunter said, eventually. “How do I do that?”
“Formally request me to Turn to your side… what is your side called anyway?”
He nodded. “Sicks of Emmai, I, Sa’nyang… Ruler… of Black Hill formally request you Turn to my side.”
An interesting mix of suspicion and naive obliviousness. I think I'm missing something with the Side name, and I'm also confused how the city can be both level 2 above and level 1 below. It would take some serious exertions to separate them, but I suppose the concept is no more crazy than the disconnection of Ruler senses without trimming Ruler powers. It's almost like it's magic.