Volume 21 - The Jungle Temple - The Life and Adventures of Sir Edelbert Spore
The Life and Adventures of Sir Edelbert Spore
The Jungle Temple
It was Turn 5442 and Sir Edelbert Spore was flying high above the jungle canopy. The expeditionary force which he was a part of was on course to a ruin hex in the deep northern wilderness of Mushroomish territory. Edelbert had named it the Temple.
It was late in the day because their turn was third in order. This was a disconcerting fact because usually there were only two sides in the Mushroomish turn order. The Kingdom was allied with Hamerica and the Prefecture so all three shared a turn. The SDE had its own turn, very near the beginning of the day. The extra turn could only mean a third side would be in the battlespace that day.
Chief Kernel was jumpy and nervous. He had not expected to encounter anyone else. He hoped that this contact would be made by some other units of the side. His expedition was not prepared for first contact, it was a battle formation without any doubt. Any warlord would be able to tell. There was no avoiding the enemy even if he wanted to. Turn order was natural Predictamancy after all.
Edelbert pulled his frog in close to Kernel. “Don’t worry. We are not going to encounter anyone. What are the chances we will run into another side in a ruin in the wilderness? Take it from an ex-barbarian. Sides do not explore ruins very often.”
The Chief Warlord just looked at his Chief Caster and adjusted course down toward the ruin. Above the tree tops loomed a large stone fortress, great bricks stacked together high above the forest. That was their destination.
Scouts went in first, understandably. A few moments passed as they did their sweep of the ruin hex. Three scouts returned instead of four.
Kernel sighed deeply. “Contact with an unled enemy, a small group of jungle units. They were definitely sided.”
Edelbert perked up. “Well, I guess this is going to be an interesting expedition after all. Do you know what side?”
“No, the scouts can’t pass that data during combat. You should know that. Okay everyone, stack up for maximum screens on the commanders. Flying Hard Rocks in front. We are going in.”
All four stacks of frogs descended into the trees. Underneath the canopy waited a large stone courtyard with a multi-tiered pyramid poking up toward the sky. Intriguing geometric designs adorned the entire place.
In a copse of trees near the entrance to the pyramid was a short stack of Capoopin Monkeys. The shattered form of a Clay Pidgeon lay on the ground nearby. The monkeys were jumping back and forth, while chittering wildly. They had emblems in their fur, but Edelbert nor Kernel could make them out.
The Chief Warlord looked grim. “They are unled, and we are exploring this hex. I guess we will have to take them out before we continue. Can’t have’em taking pot shots at us. Arrow Frogs, volley as soon as you have a shot. This is a simple fight. I expect no damage taken, anyone.”
The entire group moved forward, and the frogs released a wave of projectiles. The barbs crashed down, tearing the tree to shreds, as well as the Capoopins. That was when the massive gorillas charged from inside the Temple.
A whole stack of hulking Barrel Monkeys emerged. One tossed a keg and took out an Arrow before they had fully emerged into the courtyard. The Barrels charged the Mushroomish stacks with a mighty group roar.
Kernel was just as surprised as everyone else. “Take to the air. These are ground units. We can whittle them down from above.”
At that three more stacks came out from the Temple. Another two stacks of Capoopins and a stack of Wildmen emerged with a warlord. The Monkeys all released simultaneously, barrels and acid crap filled the airspace just as the Mushroomish force took off.
Kernel screamed as a crap ball struck him in the side. He silently ordered. “Golem screen against the Barrels. All other units come down on top of the other stacks”
The Capoopins were primarily ranged units and broke when the charge came. A few of them took arrow barbs in the back but most of the Frogs were focused on the ensuing melee.
The Wildmen fought like beasts in the skin of men. Against three stacks of mounted knights, they managed to score a good number of hits and even a couple of croaks. They simply did not have the units to survive the Mushroomish onslaught.
Edelbert stayed stacked with his four flying Hards and took to heading off the Barrel Monkeys now charging the Mushroomish flank. He laid down a quick pit trap and then prepared to heal his creations.
The enemy warlord broke stack suddenly. He ran forward and leapt into the air. As he vaulted over the Mushroomish line, he kicked a frog in the face. The warlord came down gracefully and right in the center of the Barrel Monkey stack.
It was not enough though. The charge of the great beasts was intercepted and stopped by the golem. One Hard dropped to a crit by the warlord, but otherwise the battle ensued quickly in Mushroomish favor.
“Capture the warlord!” Kernel yelled into the melee. Several tongues shot into the fight and grabbed onto the struggling enemy leader.
They were still taking pot shots from the remaining Capoopins, so Kernel ordered the Arrows to hunt them down. This task did not take long.
Edelbert went immediately to the new warlord. “Hello, I am Sir Edelbert Spore of the Mushroomish Kingdom. It is a pleasure to meet you.” He held out is hand in a gesture of goodwill.
The enemy warlord lunged forward, snapping his chains taught. He tried to bite down on Edelbert’s outstretched hand.
“Whoa” The Dirtamancer exclaimed as he yanked his hand back. “Calm down there. We do not intend to hurt you. Just turn to our Kingdom and we will release the chains.”
The man growled an almost indistinguishable response. “Never” He then lunged forward again, pulling the changes to their limit.
Chief Kernel came over to inspect the prisoner. “That will be one for Peaches I think. Negotiation probably won’t work on a Wildman. Turning Natural Ally units is much tougher than regular troops, especially leadership.”
Edelbert had not known that.
Kernel continued “We are here now. I have the Toadie setting up camp. We have had our first real battle with the Tarzanians. I doubt that Arthur will be pleased. I know he was hoping to negotiate peace with them, when the time came. This will certainly make things harder.”
Sir Spore was focused on the ruin already. It had been too long since he had been a barbarian in a ruin hex. The stone construction of the buildings allowed the Dirtamancer to get a solid idea of the layout of the pyramid. There was a large central room with many smaller rooms and passages branching off the core. The place was massive.
“I assume” Kernel continued once Edelbert had ungrounded “I would hope that the Tarzanians already cleared many of the encounters from the hex. They had no loot or gear so presumably they have not claimed any treasure. They may have made our jobs a lot easier. Since we are injured, I will have us camp here tonight and we will delve the ruin in the morning. Alright Chief Spore?”
“Sounds good to me, my friend. I will be in my cottage. You are always welcome to the second bed.”
The Chief Warlord smiled at the offer. “No thank you Edelbert. I prefer to sleep out with my Frogs. See you in the morning.”
The morning arrived without incident. Edelbert had slept well in his Collapsible Cottage. The morning air was crisp and moist. Dew hung from nearly every surface.
Edelbert was in a stack with his four Hard Rocks and three Toadie knights. Kernel was nearby with a stack of knights, as well as some Pigeons in a throw away stack. The group had entered the Temple and moved into a large central chamber.
Within the room were several powerball torches, clearly illuminating the great space. Emblazoned upon the ground was a set of four concentric circles, centered upon a short pillar. An odd pattern of colored shapes adorned the circular design. There were four large doorways leading from the main room, however each seemed to be sealed with a great stone door.
Chief Claypool looked to his Chief Caster. “Well you are the ruin expert. What do we do now?”
“Investigate, probe, observe, explore.” Edelbert listed off his usual attitudes toward a mystery. “Do be careful though. These places are certainly dangerous. I do not sense any traps, at least in this room. Let us check out the pedestal, as the only notable feature.”
The pair, followed by their stacks, moved over to the small pillar. On its top was a series of embedded colored stones. They were arranged neatly in matching pairs. There was no label or message present.
Kernel reached out to touch one of the stones. “What are these?”
Edelbert tried to call out “Wai…”
The middle of the circles on the ground began to spin. It moved a few meters and stopped. The warlord pressed another stone and the inside ring began to move too, but in the opposite direction.
At that, Edelbert felt something. A small pulse of Moneymancy began to pour from the pedestal into a crystalline channel underneath the floor. “Wait, that did something.”
The caster followed the line of magic and found that it stopped in a green circle inside the innermost ring. It went no further. The little channels of crystal seemed to web out among the rings, just under the surface. “Kernel, hit the first button again. Keep pushing it until I tell you to stop.”
The warlord did so, and the center ring began to move. Edelbert watched through his Dirt sense as the crystalline channels moved too. As the panel spun, he could see with Weird-o-vision that another channel in the center ring filled with Moneymancy.
“Stop” Edelbert yelled. “I think I see what to do. Push one from the last set of buttons, until I tell you to stop.
Again, Kernel followed his orders. The outermost ring began to spin and eventually the Moneymancy flowed. Once the channels were filled up to the outside of the ring, one of the doors on the east side of the room opened with an unpleasant scraping noise. The passage beyond was pitch black.
Edelbert laughed. “That does it, I suppose. Don’t hit the button again or the door will close. I don’t want to have to use Juice to burrow our way back out. Kernel I suggest we leave one stack of knights here to guard the pedestal while we take the golem and head into the Temple.”
The dark opening led into a maze of twisty little passages. Thanks to Edelbert’s Dirt sense, navigating was not very difficult. There was a medium sized room nearby and he thought that was the objective. The group made their way, with minimal backtracking, into the eastern chamber.
This space was illuminated by a single powerball and every wall glittered. The entire room was lined with small Gems. Edelbert could feel there was a few thousand worth of schmuckers in decorations. At the center of this room rested another pillar.
Edelbert was getting used to overseeing the expedition. “Kernel, collect these Gems. I will investigate the puzzle.”
On the pedestal was an inkwell, quill and a large parchment. On the parchment was a long series of numbers. Arcane symbols also riddled the page. Edelbert recognized it as a budget. As such, he cast his Mathamancy trick and set to solving the problem.
Kernel for his part had removed all the Gems from the wall, which took quite a while. Each Gem was about one hundred schmuckers, but they had found easily one hundred of them. “Edelbert, how is it going?”
“Not well. I figured that Mathamancy would allow me to calculate this out, but there are some symbols I do not understand, and the basic math does not seem to add up correctly. I am afraid we need a Moneymancer, or at least a unit with Moneymancy abilities. I doubt I can solve this.”
The Chief Warlord was disappointed. “Well at least we got some Gems. Shall we head home then?”
Edelbert was floored. “No, there is still much to do. Back to the main chamber and send word that we need to tell the Prefecture about this Moneymancy puzzle. They are within travel distance of this site.”
The group wound their way back to the central chamber.
“We need to access the other doors. I bet I know how.” Edelbert said as he moved to the center of the room. He then pressed and held the button for the inner most ring. He held it until a channel of crystal was filled, but this time with Predictamancy.
Kernel saw a change on Edelbert’s face. “What is wrong? Not what you thought it was?”
“No.” The Dirtamancer grimaced. “Worse than that. This next room is flavored with Predictamancy. Kernel, as Chief Caster I formally recommend that we skip this passage. Predictamancy is dangerous and I do not feel qualified to handle it.”
Chief Claypool was deeply surprised by this admission. “I understand. I would like to progress into the chamber to see if it is decorated with Gems like the last one. If we find a puzzle or challenge at the end, we can come back here. Sound good?”
Edelbert begrudgingly agreed. The group set off into the twisty passages on the northeast side of the building. Once again, they were fairly easy to navigate, although they did make one major wrong turn along the way.
At the center of this chamber was another pedestal, but this time it had a fountain on top. The walls were randomly decorated with question marks of varying sizes, the dot of each was a gem like the ones before.
Kernel suggested Edelbert collect the Gems this time. While waiting he stepped forward, considering taking a drink from the fountain. As soon as he made eye contact with his reflection, there was a flash of light and he fell backward.
“What happened? Are you alright?” Edelbert exclaimed.
The warlord barked a sudden laugh. “I am better than alright. I am level 6.”
“That is great news Kernel. Maybe I should have trusted the Titans more.” The Dirtamancer peered into the fountain hoping for the same result. Nothing happened. “Well this room was not as lucrative in schmuckers, but it was probably more valuable overall.”
Once again, the group returned to the central chamber. Edelbert repeated the steps as before but this time a charge of Croakamancy ran through the channels and opened the western most door in the room.
This time the twisty passages led to a set of stairs which led up to another large chamber. Inside the second-floor chamber, the walls were thickly hung with spidew webs. Every surface in the room was covered in them.
“I hate spidews” Kernel said with a shudder.
Edelbert considered for a moment. “I will try and ignite the webs. Maybe that will handle any encounters in this room. The pyramid should be…”
Movement in the chamber drew the casters attention. A set of large black shapes were descending from the ceiling.
“Pyroken” Edelbert cast against the webs on the ceiling. They immediately caught fire and a wave of flame swept the room. The blaze moved quickly but without significant fuel, did not become any sort of hazard.
The dark figures struck the ground with a soft thump. They began to move across the room toward the Mushroomish party, very quickly.
Kernel readied his sword and stepped into position just inside the passage. He ordered the golem and knights into a screen in the doorway. Edelbert prepared to heal his golem.
Eight Widow Spidews skittered into full view, their red skull spots gleaming in the powerball light. They leapt forward at the last moment, biting at the defending Mushroomish. One struck true and critted a knight.
In retaliation, the golem laid waste to the hairy spidews. The remaining Toadie knight cleaved the leg off one of the monsters. Two of the beasts croaked, but the other six reared back and began to spray webbing all over the knight and golem.
Kernel set immediately to slashing at the webs, trying to free his units which thrashed and resisted being stuck. Edelbert saw an opportunity and opened a pit beneath the feet of two spidews. They dropped through the floor and crashed down among the full knight stack guarding the entrance room. This tilted the odds that much more.
The golem were immobilized, still three were able to attack. Melee broke out between the units in earnest and the whole thing was done in a couple of rounds.
Edelbert walked into the room, careful to avoid the pit he had added. At the center point of this room was another pedestal. He approached carefully. Up on the pillar rested a glass vial, inside was a thick black fluid.
Spore picked it up cautiously. “I wonder what this does?”
Kernel stepped up beside Edelbert and gently grabbed the vial. “It looks like poison to me. Stow it in your bag and let us clear the last passage. This place is starting to unnerve me.”
He did so. Then the group returned downstairs for the final chamber. Once again Edelbert manipulated the buttons. This time a channel of Findamancy was filled. The twisting passages were very much the same.
The north-western chamber also had a pillar at its center. The inside of the room was different however. On the walls were engraved flags, each with a gem at their center. The pedestal held a large square stone. On the stone was carved a grid of letters, each chosen apparently at random.
Edelbert was not sure what to do. “I know it is Findamancy so maybe there is a hidden message here, but I do not see it. What about you Kernel?”
“Nothing. I miss Vi. She would know what to do here.” Chief Claypool teared up just a bit as he recalled their friend.
Not expecting the reference, Edelbert started slightly. “Not the time Kernel. If neither of us has any idea what to do with this puzzle, I suggest that we collect these Gems and leave. We can return to camp and wait to leave next turn. I see nothing else for us to do in this hex.”
Edelbert was having a lazy morning. He had not been awake long, and it was very unlikely that anything else would pop in the ruin, which had just been explored. His breakfast consisted of eggs and hashbrowns. He had not even gotten dressed yet. There was still time until start of turn.
The knights and Kernel were on alert just in case something did approach. As soon as the Mushroomish turn began, they would mount up and start the nearly two turn journey home.
Without warning, a flash of light and a thunderous musical sting erupted from the direction of the temple structure. Thick smoke billowed out into the field between Edelbert and the stone entryway.
“Prepare for trouble” From within the smoke a sturdy woman suddenly appeared, striking a pose with hands on her hips. Her short-cropped maroon hair and malicious smile added to her intimidating presence. Such a lovely singing voice somehow did not match her face.
“And make it double” This time, a dandyish man appeared next to the woman. His flowing mauve hair stood out starkly against the pair’s matching black uniforms. A large red R adorned each of their chests.
Again, the woman took a turn. “To spread mischief, mayhem, and devastation”
Followed by the man. “To protect the interests of paying nations”
“To battle on, come push or shove”
“To extend our thanks to the Titans above”
“I’m Jess” she pulled a rod from some hidden place and held it grandly aloft.
“And I’m Jamie” Out came what appeared to be a conductor’s baton. The man struck a pose as well.
“Team Rhyme-It crashes in with the morning light”
“Surrender now or prepare to fight, fight, fight.” As the man finished, the music reached crescendo.
A chubby feline daemon suddenly popped up between the two singers. “And Bigmouth, that’s right!” Which was followed by one final cymbal crash.
As the music faded into silence, four stone cubes bounded forward into screening positions for the first three units. Each block had a carved face and sharp looking ridges all around its edges.
Kernel stepped to the front of his knight stack. “We have no desire for trouble, mischief, or devastation. Vague threats are not appreciated either.”
Jess stepped forward toward the ready knights. “We do not mean to threaten you. That is just our theme song. I am sure that a big strong side such as yours could make use of some uniquely powerful mercenaries?”
Edelbert stepped forward, the woman was clearly casting. “Cease your casting at once. We may be willing to negotiate but not under magical influence. State your unit types.”
Jamie answered this time. “I am a Rhyme-a-mancer, at your service. As for Jess, she is a Date-a-amancer. Our companion Bigmouth is Chief of his daemon tribe. These are his Thwimps.”
The Dirtamancer found himself surprised. He knew from the daemondex what a Bigmouth was, but a Thwimp was a new one. He was certain the little blocks were not included as an entry. It was too bad none of the Mushroomish daemons were present, Arthur would have been excited to gain two new varieties on top of the spoils the expedition had already uncovered.
Kernel interjected “I have never heard of Thwimps. We may be interested in purchasing one of them from you. Our tribe could certainly use some more variation.”
The Bigmouth growled. “You dare insult me and my people. Daemon are not simply for sale. We will only join you after an honorable dual. I do not see any of your tribe here, so the point is mute. We can negotiate fees for service though. I might even be willing to arrange a dual with your tribe, for the right price.”
Jess smiled and attempted to regain the conversation. “As I was saying, our skills are available for a modest fee. You would be amazed at the things a Date-a-mancer and a Rhyme-o-mancer can do together. Your morale will never be higher.”
The Dirtamancer was interested, but something was not quite right. He could not put his finger on it.
Kernel turned to his Chief Caster. “What do you think Spore? We have the extra funds right now.”
At that, Team Rhyme-It perked up and exchanged meaningful glances.
Edelbert noticed Jess’ mouth move oddly, then behind her back she waggled her fingers. He knew instantly that she was still casting. If only he had been prepared, he would have had his gear on. Such a thing would not have escaped his notice using his Weird-o-vision Specs.
Silently, Spore ordered all the units with him to engage. “They are casting on us. Stop them now. Capture, not croak. I want them alive.”
The Mushroomish units responded well. Even Kernel leapt forward, weapon ready, supporting the caster’s orders.
“Ruunnnn!” The Bigmouth screamed. It then broke stack and dashed away toward the rear hex boundary.
Jess and Jamie looked each other in the eyes for just one moment, then they too bolted.
Apparently under orders, the Thwimps hopped forward and received the charge of the Mushroomish stacks. One took out a knight with an impressive attack to the face. The others leapt in low, going for knees and ankles.
The golem and knights followed orders. Each of them began snatching at the blocky units, trying to get a hold of them for a capture. It was not easy. The Thwimps were shockingly quick, making getting a hand on one to be very tricky indeed.
Using the Thwimps as a distraction worked completely. Team Rhyme-It was away and to the border as if launched from a ballista. As the trio crossed the rear hex boundary, they yelled out. “Team Rhyme-It lives to fight again!”
Apparently, the casters were providing some sort of buff or leadership bonus. As soon as they left the hex, the little stone units lost all coordination. This unfortunately made them harder to wrangle.
After some good deal of struggle, one of the Hards managed to get a firm grip on a Thwimp. The golem grabbed on with both hands and after a moment, chains appeared, binding the units together. As soon as one was captured, Kernel gave the order to croak the others.
“Good call Edelbert. We can’t have barbarian casters manipulating us into Titans know what.” The Chief Warlord was quite pleased with the entire result of the ruin expedition, especially his level.
Edelbert was not so pleased. “I should have realized immediately. It makes little difference now. Turn will start soon, we can be on our way home.
Excerpts from the Daemondex by Findamancer Red Ketchup
-#52 – Bigmouth (basic)- A rare skill amongst most daemon tribes, Bigmouths almost always have Language. Beyond that, they possess the Swipe special and natural Moneymancy abilities. Their greed extends from schmuckers into food. It is common for Bigmouths to be portly.
The feline daemon are not known for their combat strength or their eagerness to engage enemies. They are best used as covert units or for their financial skills. In fact, they are most easily compared to a courtier unit. Bigmouths can issue orders and make decisions, but they hold no leadership bonus.
-#53 – Purrfect (advanced)- After the Change, these daemon become ferocious beasts. They gain considerable boosts to all their stats, especially Attack. No new specials are obtained in this form.
Additions to the Daemondex of Findmancer Red Ketchup
By Sir Edelbert Spore
When a new type of daemon is inducted into a tribe, the Chief gains limited knowledge of that daemon and its Changed forms.
-#154 – Thwimp (basic)- These tiny blockheaded units make for excellent infantry. Their single-minded focus makes them fierce fighters and their high Hit totals give them surprising longevity in combat. Like most infantry, their capacity to think on the fly is limited. As long as they can be applied in such a way as to avoid surprises, Thwimps can be very useful units.
-#155 – Thwump (intermediate)- Thwumps have gained the Heavy special upon their Change. Their high stats and hefty bulk make them ideal for Siege actions.
-#156 – Thwomp (advanced) - Even larger than their Thwump predecessors, Thwomps gain significant stat boosts. Although they do not acquire any new specials these stony units are quite formidable.
I assume moot was meant instead of mute?
Predictamancy was used to level a warlord? That can't be the end of the trouble. Nice find in a ruin, of course. Wasn't greatly surprised team rocket showed up in the story, but WHERE they showed up still caught me off guard. Nicely done. Took me half the fight before I realized the Thwimp->Thwomp connection (and here we have a dirtamancer who makes good detailed creative traps. This won't hurt anyone at all as they fall on enemy heads, I'm sure)
As always, a wonderful addition to an already good story