“Good evening, Parson. Don’t get up; you need your sleep. You’re a busy guy, so I thought I’d be considerate and contact you when you weren’t doing anything important. Don’t worry; you’ll still get all the refreshment benefits. This counts as a dream, mechanically. I’m nice like that. I want to show you something. I’ll explain it in a minute, but first, I want to do a soliloquy. Humour me, okay?”
Grainy, pixellated video footage appeared. There was a row of tables laden with vague pink-cream objects, hard to make out with the poor quality. What looked like a small blonde girl in an apron was bent over one, doing something with her hands. Two Archons, to judge by their blue glows, floated at the far end of the room. From their body language, they seemed to be putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the girl.
“Ever since Spacerock, I’ve realised something. You’re the hero in this story, aren’t you? Only a hero would go charging into danger like that. Me, I’d never do that sort of thing. Most wouldn’t. I value my own life too much, and then there’s the fact that it wouldn’t even help. I’m not a swashbuckler; I wouldn’t add to a fight. Even aside from the fact that I’m a Ruler.
“The interesting thing is that it didn’t really help you either, but you still did it. You could have promoted someone on the field to Chief, had your Dirtamancer craft golems and send them in … that’s against Magic Kingdom laws, of course, but you don’t care too much about those at the best of times. Instead, you went in person.
“You put your own life on the line to help your friends, so you must be the hero. Or at least, the story thinks you are. And that makes me the villain, so of course we’ve got to fight. This wouldn’t bother me too much. It wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened. That’s just business. And I’d take you out like it was business. There’s just one problem. You’re the Perfect Warlord.
“Stanley wants every Ruler in the world to kneel to him. Wanda wants to murder and personally mind control everyone. Now, that’s business too; you meet people like them every day. They’ll be stopped by some coalition of good guys sooner or later, so I don’t need to get too worked up over them, Arkentools or no. But you … you want to break the world. Destroy everything. And you’re good enough that you could pull it off, too. But I won’t let that happen. No matter what, I will stop you.
“That all sounded pretty cool in my head, but I bet you weren’t too impressed. Blah blah villainous posturing blah, nothing you didn’t hear when you murdered Ansom or Slately. You’ve probably already forgotten what I said. So here’s some new information you might remember.”
The video abruptly came into sharp focus. It still took him a while to figure out what exactly the pink-and-cream things were, or rather what they had been. Despite the perfect resolution, they didn’t look like anything he’d ever seen before. Even though he’d seen dismembered humans in his two battles, there’d never been anything remotely like this; in particular, none of them had been still moving. The revolted, haunted expressions on the Archons’ faces, those didn’t look quite like anything he’d ever seen before, either.
“I’m sure you’ve figured this out already, but those are Decrypted. A third party who will remain nameless managed to capture a patrol; they’d heard on the grapevine that I was offering bounties on decrypted captives, and the rest is history. As you can see, they’re not dusting: they’re still alive, inasmuch as decrypted ever are, in spite of … all that. The girl’s a Healomancer, by the way. She’s from a defunct side that was censured for … well, that’s a whole other story. I don’t like having her here, for any number of reasons, but she’s indispensable, a true genius. She’s hands down – pun not intended – the best there is at what she does.
“As a hero, Parson, how does that make you feel? Angry? Filled with even more DETERMINATION to beat me? It shouldn’t, not if you really are the hero. It should make you give up. You can’t pin this war and its casualties on me. You’ve been at war nonstop since you got here; if it weren’t me, it’d be someone else. It’s not her fault either; I’d get someone else to do it if she refused. I don’t like her methods, but a Perfect Warlord bent on world conquest, backed by two Arkentools? I have no choice; to stand a chance of stopping that, I need every advantage I can get, especially knowledge of the Decrypted. I don’t even blame Wanda. You’re a real piece of work, aren’t you? To you, everything down to the harvesting rules is a weapon of conquest and destruction. You don’t need decryption to be an existential threat. It just makes things easier.
“No. The only reason, only common thread, only culprit, to every unspeakable thing done to stop you, is you. You’re not the hero, Parson. You’re not even the villain. You’re a complete monster.
“If you like to think you really are the hero, though? You do have the power to end all this. You can stop every single awful thing happening right now, done by every person in the world united only in their desire to stop you. Forget your Fate. Bow out. Leave this world. Your friends will be fine. I’ll even put them under my own personal protection. All you have to do is stop.
“If it makes the decision easier, I have full footage of everything she’s done so far. Audio too: high-def sound effects, plus she loves to chatter while she works. You could try to wake up, if you don’t want to watch it, but if you can’t even do that, how do you think the people formerly under your command feel living it? Well, that’s all from me. Sweet dreams, Parson.”
Breaking speeches are fun.
Self-cross-promotion: I’ve started an original story here. If you like my writing style, check it out. That one’s a little unorthodox, but I’m assured it grows on you.
(NOTE: This user was awarded 25 shmuckers for this post.)
Idk. Erfworld is a setting that seems to invite constant war, if only because units are constantly produced, have upkeep, and don't die of old age or disease. Charlie isn't responsible for that. Given those constraints, it's actually conceivable that he doesn't even depopulate it. If side A hires him to croak some units of side B, and he later croaks some units of side A, he's croaked a bunch of units ... who otherwise would have croaked each other. I can construct a plausible narrative such that he does lower the world population, but I can also do so such that he raises it. He's the story villain so you're probably right, but it's ambiguous from the text.
nw about being critical: I know it means you care. Besides, I've had nasty criticism, and that was not it.
@Horatio: He may or may not be lying, but I find it hard to believe that he's never tried. I mean, back when JS had the Pliers, he could easily have offered to buy them for $lots, and he really should have if he didn't know everything about them. Given how valuable his Dish is, if there were the slightest chance he could extract mileage out of a second Tool, it would have been a steal at any price; and he probably could have got it for cheap, since Ansom was using it as a cudgel. Jeez, hire an MK Dollamancer to make a +3 sword and offer to trade.
Twofer, I get the impression that the Arkentools weren't something Charlie was willing to pay the price of acquiring. Similar to the way he could have slaughtered the entire GK/GM camp (besides Parson) thanks to his bedrock-mining powers, un-collared portal, and guns, but didn't until the GMs moved directly against him.
A large part of the reason for that might be that Charlie can't attune to multiple Tools at once, and without that ability he'd need to find trustworthy companions... who can not only attune (like Stanley) but really capital-A Attune (like Wanda). I mean, the latter second quality is already an extreme rarity... hell, so's the former, if Jetstone's possession of the unattuned Pliers means anything.
Or maybe there's another Prediction in play.
That said, I doubt he's truly lying in your theoretical conversation. In fact, I could see Parson calling that out, and Charlie's response...
"Not possible, even with the Arkentools? Bullshit, Chuck. Decryption alone solves the upkeep problem... and the Loyalty one. Not the solution I'd go with, but it's one we both know for sure exists. Handle upkeep, and almost all of Erfworld's incompatibility with lasting peace is dealt with."
"True. In theory. I'll admit, I'd never seen the result of a Master, Royal Croakamancer attuning to the Arkenpliers before Wanda, and it certainly... exceeded expectations. It doesn't solve the Signamancy decay issue... at least, I don't think so, but of course it's too soon to completely guarantee that... but, yes, an Erfworld composed almost entirely of Decrypted would go quite a long way towards actually achieving peace.
For the purpose of this conversation, we'll just ignore the possibility that I might actually discover useful information on how Decrypted upkeep works - possibly even find a way to duplicate it - through these admittedly... distasteful experiments.
Before you can consider the what-ifs of "a world of Decrypted," you have to consider the possibility of even getting there in the first place. You nearly lost your whole army to one link-up and a single garrison of archers, and we both know that if you and Wanda weren't Fated, there'd be no "nearly" about it. Jetstone burned their bodies to prevent Decryption... and Unaroyal disbanded the entire side for the same purpose. Even then, the sovereign sides of Erfworld still don't yet truly consider runaway Decryption to be a true worldwide threat. If they did, your little invasion force there in the MK would have been snuffed out as soon as that wall was torn down.
But, okay, let's say that you actually do start pulling that off. You do remember who leads the Decrypted, right? I won't insult both your intelligence and mine by pretending that Wanda is pure evil, but we both know she isn't exactly sane. She attunes to the Pliers, gains the ability to Decrypt, and then... immediately uses it as a conquering tool. I mean, come on. She believes it's Fate for all sides to either join or be destroyed by you, and doesn't even TRY diplomacy, even from what must have felt like a position of invincibility? There are many tiny sides struggling to stay afloat that would've jumped at the offer of "free upkeep". Never mind the barbarians in the Magic Kingdom with empty purses and no hope of surviving the start of next turn! But, no... she just immediately starts slaughtering. Do you REALLY believe there's any hope for peace at the end of that scenario? Because I've got a bridge or two to sell you if you do.
And, uh, let's not forget that I did try working with Gobwin Knob, too. With you, specifically. Did I ever even show irritation about the way your Chief Caster raised and mind-controlled my Archons? No, I tried to be the bigger guy. You did what you had to, to win. To survive. I get that. Really! But you, personally, shut me out, while your side ran amok with Decryption abuse. I still don't get that one... were you hurt that I allowed Ansom to keep buying my services? I distinctly remember telling you that was the case. I mean, the whole reason your veiled-Twoll-trap assassination worked was because Ansom refused to pay for the Spell Security plan, which would have let my Archons warn him about that veil!
So working with you guys is completely off the table. Not for my lack of trying, mind you. So if I wanted to try the Decryption-ends-world-hunger plan, I'd need to find another Croakamancer who can attune to the Pliers. And if that were easy, don't you think Jetstone would have already done it... as opposed to sending Ansom out to a capital battle with them? Honestly, I'd be dumbstruck if I could find another Attuned Croakamancer at any point in the next four or five thousand turns... I know you're kind of used to being surrounded by the Attuned at this point, but trust me on this: you have no idea just how rare true Attunement is.
Trying to recruit... maybe even turn, Wanda, is still vaguely on the table, but... not with a Fated Perfect Warlord and his grudge in the way. I trust I shouldn't have to elaborate on that.
Here's the TL;DR version for you, in case you missed some of that when the Healomancer was busy peeling that eyeball like an apple just now: the Decryption-ends-world-hunger plan won't work, because the only known Attuned Croakamancer is ax-crazy, you can't be bothered to rein her in, I currently can't work with her even though I certainly tried my best, and thanks entirely to your side's own actions, people are now so scared of Decryption, they'd prefer to take part in a mass suicide rather than join you.
So where does that leave me? Here, spending even more time than you watching the results of this butchery. Not really my cup of tea either, buddy. But I have to. Because that's the only way I'll find out if the Decrypted have some universal vulnerability I can exploit, how the Loyalty change works, and whether I could ever duplicate the 0 upkeep trick on my own.
I'd really, really rather not be part of this. But as long as you insist that you need to be here as the "hero", I have to grab every advantage I can get.
But, hey. If you have any other solid ideas on building peace on Erf, I'd love to review them, too. If you come up with something I've never tried yet, I'll even promise to fulfill it to the vbest of my ability.
After you're gone."
I'm falling asleep as I type this so it might not be quite as coherent as I imagined, but I think that neatly sums up why peace isn't possible as is - even WITH decryptin.
I mean it's not like she's a bad person, she's actually a good person like the Riley in Worm (though they're not really the same to me somehow, despite the accurate portrayal).
Riley isn't like your average villain, she's innocent and sweet. The reason she pulls all this genius messed up shit is because noone has told her you're supposed to be nice to everyone.
And it's nice to see Parson get the rip a bit and Charlie treated more sympathetically, even though he's still obviously a worse person than Parson.
Wanda and Jillian might be less bad people than Charlie, but he's more interesting than either.
About the whole whether Charlie is a net good or evil for the world... I mean, he's obviously evil, going by the way he treats his own followers. You couldn't make an argument to defend these medical experiments, but the more average stuff like starting wars etc is pretty normal, and a lot of people like wars in most Erfworld cultures. The betray is worse.
Can he be redeemed? Yeah. He just needs to stop objectifying even his closest loved ones, as gemstones for him to refine and collect. It'd radiate out from there if he could learn to love people more for themselves, at least for the people on his side. The rest of what he wants is just a modern, comfortable world and world domination.
The really bad guys are the Great Minds that Think Alike to me... I mean retarding technology and thus social change since primeval times? Jeeze, that's the worst thing I could think of for our world.
At least Charlie's brand of evil ends with hkm being the beloved God Emperor in a most likely peaceful utopia, other than whatever phlebotinium mines he has set up. The GMTTA would literally have all of existence scrablling in the dirt forever.
@Nyzer: Good points. I imagine stupid PR is the biggest loss from Parson resigning, actually.
@Mellhurst: The Great Minds were foolish, and corrupt, and greedy, and scared. But they didn't entirely reject progress. Only the progress which Infringes On Other Disciplines (and Charlie, who's a real jerk in addition to being their biggest competitor), or which look too scary, such as Strong AI, or Infinite Juice. Theoretically, they were fine with people furthering their own disciplines and Classes. But yes, they've probably done slightly more than Charlie to make Erfworld terrible.
Rule one: Charlie lies.,
Or as a recent title put it, can't spell Charlie without 'lie'.
Thing is, EVERYONE thinks they are the hero, or at least not the villain. Charlie, Parson, Stanley, Wanda, Jillian, Hitler, Stalin, Manson, Trump, bin Laden... Everyone.
They all think they are doing the right thing, the necessary thing, the best thing for their people, whatever.
And the bad things? Necessary, not my fault (that's what Charlie does here, evades responsibility by saying it's necessary because of Parson, etc.), had no choice, etc. Humans are REALLY very good at lying to themselves.
And of course in the real world, life is not so simple, there is no black and white. People like to say "we are the good guys, they are the bad guys," forgetting the other side thinks exactly the same thing, just with them swapped around.
Charlie also evades responsibility by saying (in essence) don't hate the player, hate the game. Not my fault, it's just the way it is, don't fight it, just go with it. But Parson very much hates the game and wants to break it, end the game, and the only way he knows to do that is to win.
As for Charlie Brown's riddle, well the answer is obvious, isn't it? Nothing. Charlie is a manipulative bastard, and if he isn't manipulating someone, he is controlling them completely (see Parson when hre was on Charlie's side). It's not about the money, not really, the money is just a way of keeping score. It's really about being the big puppet master (psychologically, being an invalid and a puppet master is quite revealing). And if Erfworld was at peace, there would be no reason for anyone to come to him so he could control them.
So Charlie doesn't want the game to end, which puts them in opposition.
Now, can the game end? Of course it can!
Erfworld is a game, just on a very large (and weird) scale. Where is it, or what exactly, is unclear, but in the end it's a game. Games like this one end in one of two ways,;somebody wins (whatever the terms of victory may be), or everybody gets bored and quits.
Now Parson wants the senseless death to end. And like most people in a war they don't like, they figure the best way to contest is to win. The Soviets didn't like being invaded by the Nazis, they didn't like the death and destruction, Charlie (as Hitler) would say "if you would stop fighting me, if the Commonwealth, and the Americans would all just stop fighting me and let me do whatever I want, then the war would be over!"
Strangely, people don't usually go for that...
So Parson wants to end the war. Even if it means firebombing and even nuking cities.
Now of course the million dollar question is this: Because Erfworld is a game, what happens when the war is over?
What normally happens is you pack everything up and go home, or turn off the program and do something else.
Or maybe you ask for a rematch, in which case you reset everything and start over.
So, in one the world ends, everyone and everything ceases to be, and Parson goes home.
In the other everything resets back to Turn 1, and if Parson is still there, he goes insane.
But as Erfworld as elements of a real world, maybe the world continues? Maybe the game changes, and becomes something else? That is what Parson is getting the farm on.
Charlie though? He doesn't want any of those options.