The Thing on the Garrison

Part 1

To anyone who will listen, I write this not to tell of my glories or my failures, the latter holding predominance in this tale. I write about something that I can hardly describe, but does exist on Erf. There are things popped in this world that defy the normal boundaries of signamancy. Perhaps they are creatures of pure weirdomancy or carnymancy. I am not Qualified to guess. I can only present my tale.

Three turns ago, my Predictamancer, M. C. Privilege, took the time out of his busy meditation to inform me that we were all doomed. Every soldier, nobleman, caster, warlord, and royal in Median would croak in three day’s time.

Two turns ago, as the sun rose in the east, scouts spotted King Jeru of Ball leading an invasion force towards Median. This made myself, King Middling, quite wary of Privilege’s prediction.

Chief Warlord Malcolm laid out the intelligence on King Jeru’s armies. Jeru is a careless man, leading his own troops into battle rather than sending a chief warlord alone. I had to admit that the man has confidence. He came with over two hundred infantry, fifty of which were Dillinjas, the stealth pickles. Thirty-Eight Great Sola’s flew above him, radiating light. There were four warlords, one was correctly assumed to be his foolamancer and another was Drumah, who was rumored to have a rhyme-a-mancy special.

In a straight fight, it would be a balanced one. However, Jeru was cunning and I trembled.

The turn King Jeru’s army reached Median was accompanied by the beating of Drumah’s drum, a constant, low beat of doom. The skies went dark in every hex surrounding our own, and then our own. It was as if it were night. Our defense towers were now at a disadvantage against their Great Solas and began to fall. The bulk of our army retreated to the Garrison where we had greater control over the terrain. However, that is not what worried me.
The beings roaming our halls worried me.

The first appeared behind my throne and would have assassinated me if a stabber had not rushed it. The creature vanished. Malcolm claimed that it must be the natural foolamancy of the Dillinja’s, pickling up our vision as they snuck in.

The infantry saw three more over the next ten minutes, behind our lines, and a stabber was found dead, drained of his bodily fluids.

I could not have told you what they looked like, as they were wreathed in shadow. I began seeing them out of the corner of my eye as I walked the corridors only to have them disappear when my line of sight turned to theirs.
Three more stabbers disappeared, not even a corpse left.

Drumah’s beating of her drum drew closer.

Chief Warlord Malcolm called me to the top of the garrison. Something outside was very wrong. As I looked out at the city, I saw nearly a thousand lights throughout the city. They were torches, apparently lighting the paths of the enemy units. Were we wrong about their numbers, or was this a trick by their foolamancer? The scope of that foolamancy should have been beyond the enemy foolamancer, but Titans only know what boosts the Dillinja’s could give him.

The drumming stopped. One more tower was destroyed, then the Sola’s went silent. The torches grew closer and we knew this would be a lost battle. We had no tricks. Our units were being lost more quickly than theirs. It would be lost even if the torches were a bluff.

Fleeing was not an option, only surrender.

I gave the order, and chains appeared on all of our hands and feet. Perhaps I could barter away the cities King Jeru wanted for our lives. If executed, at least Princess Fair, in far away city of Mode could continue the side.

Minutes later, King Jeru ran into our garrison with a little over one hundred infantry Warlady Drumah, and another warlord known as The Hammer.

King Jeru stood before me, dark skinned and well built, carrying a cleaver the size of my head. However, his countenance was weak.

Jeru grabbed my shoulder and demanded, “Why’d you surrender?” His face was frightened, as were those of his units.

“Because we believed we were overwhelmed. You and your foolamancy did their job well.”

“But we were…” shouted Drumah, before the king cut her off with a hand wave.

“Let me tell you my story,” said King Jeru.


Part 2

As King Jeru began his story, I noticed lanterns flickering unnaturally and his units barring the doors.

“Allow me to come clean. We had no choice but to attack you, even though the numbers did not guarantee us victory. The wrath of the math may have been on your side, but we knew how to get it twisted. Your encroachment into our territory, and the loss of Robert Sonic and the city of Ashenafi had us bound. We had to go to war.

“We were two day’s travel from Median when we came to a lake hex and the men were thirsty. Two thirds of our men, they disappeared instantly, poof, when they looked into that water. They no longer existed, ya hear. Truth be told, I was scared, ya hear. Where did our soldiers go? The Hammer said it was a magic pool and the foolamancer didn’t know nothin’. So, we went around it. It’s not like you all have that kinda dirtamancy. Truth. It was a natural part of the Erf.

Drumah beat us along to your hexes, and that’s when your darkness went up. That was good foolamancy there. Something neither my foolamancer or the pickles had ever thought of. I don’t know how ya’ did it, but we couldn’t get a good look at the city, ya’ see.

But the foolamaner say, ‘why not use it.’ We had da’ Great Solas and da’ foolamancy to see once we were in. We decided to use a shock tactic to spread out around da’ city to look bigger than we were. To light a thousand torches and give ya’ the shock. A dirty, rotten demonstration of our power, ya’ hear?

We sent in the Solas, an’ the pickles snuck into the city and did their thing with the torches. Guess it got you real scared, seeing as you surrendered.”

“Now hold on,” I said to King Jeru. “We saw your Dillinjas, and they were destroying us from within our halls. And that darkness wasn’t ours, it was yours.”

King Jeru gave me a hard look and gritted his teeth, then looked from side to side.

“That’s when the ghosts appeared,” Jeru said, giving no attention to what I said. “They were the ghosts of da’ comrades who looked in da’ water. I could see that they were no longer my units, you hear. They were ghosts, and they started ta croak my units, one by one. Like some divine design it was. My Sola’s started winking out, taking out my siege. The ghost of Warlord Ninety-Nine appeared before me, but he was only, like nine percent there, ya hear? And he sucked the life outa my heavy. I tried ta stab ‘em, but he disappeared. He went back ta whatever place that lake took him, ya’ hear.

I was down half my units and inside your city and we were dying.

You had ta have contracted Charlie, and some foolamancers, and weirdomancers, and dirtamancers, and whatever else you had the schmuckers for.

I was about to surrender, but then you did.

I agreed to da’ surrender just to get inside your walls, you hear. Otherwise, I would’a let The Hammer fall on your surrenderin’. It beez like that.”

Part 3

Jeru the King fell silent. We stared at each other for a minute, trust between two kings in knowing that we were both in trouble.

“Why did you surrender!” he yelled.

I began to answer, but then stopped.

A man was standing there watching us, where there wasn’t one before. He was strange and ethereal. His signamancy showed a tattered brown suit, gaunt look, eyes glowing pink, and pale skin. Every few seconds, a piece of his skin would turn transparent for a second, revealing strands of… something, before returning to normal. What was apparent was that this unit had power.

“We need royal blood,” it said in a calm, disarming voice.

The man… No, the creature, moved forward at an alarming speed and touched King Jeru.

Jeru disappeared, and all of his units disbanded.

I heard screaming all around me, from the hallways and the parapets as I noted my units being croaked.

All except for myself, Malcolm, and my predictamancer M. C. Privilege. Why we were spared, I do not know.
Privilege Looked at the creature, fell onto his knees and begged to join the creature too.

The creature paid no mind, flung open the doors and floated out.

“Please!” yelled the predictamancer.

The creature turned and asked “What is it?”

“Fate. I am its servant,” said Privilige. “The prophesy is not finished.”

I realized what he was saying. The prophesy stated that all would die before the night’s end. Privilige turned and stabbed Malcolm in the back, taking out his last remaining hits. Malcolm fell to the ground. He was mad.

I then disbanded my predictamancer, and only I was left.

The creature floated out the door.

I ran out after it.

It disappeared, and I kept walking.

My city was ablaze and would turn into an infero.

So, I walked out of the gates of the city towards the hex boundary, but could not leave because it was not my turn.
And here I sit, recalling my tale as a warning to whoever reads it.

A few remaining Great Sola’s, now members of a feral tribe, are rushing towards me to finish the work of their former ally.

I now publish this book and hope that someone reads it.

 

(NOTE: User was awarded 20 shmuckers for this post.)

 

Comments

    • Ninstar

      Excellent work.  Are the ghosts from the lake founding a side?  That's what I took from the need for royal blood.

      • greycat

        You're misusing the word Warlord to include Casters.  Warlords are non-magical.  The word you're looking for in some cases is "Commander", which includes both Warlords and Casters.

        Other than that, I liked the story, though I do wish we had some info on this overpowered magical lake.

        • Falcon X

          I definitely agree that it feels a little rushed and needs a few revisions. And thank you for the input, positive and negative. I might enjoy refining this tale someday, and that will help :)

          Point of note to help understand the concept: I took a bit of inspiration from Lovecraft’s earlier works on this one. He infamously gave very little detail to the horrors that were seen, almost always were in the paste-tense perspective of a person who went through the indescribable horror, and rarely carry carry the weight of fear to a modern reader (At least to me).

          Another challenge was this: How do you do horror on the scale of a war strategy game? Sure, Erfworld usually gets to a more personal level, but at its core it’s a war strategy game. I’d be interested to see more people try to approach it as such. Maybe I’ll host a contest someday about that...

          • ElementalNimbus

            Honestly I missed the fanfic tag when I clicked the post, enjoyed it quite a bit though. Was immersed deep enough in the lore and had enough layered references to fit right in, so kudos.

            I think my first thought (While I was still thinking this was Canon) was "Oh. I guess this is what happens due to Charlie stealing so much source power. Scary.". I like the idea of Erf itself taking that power back however it has to for 'balance' purposes. Oh, Jed had to steal power to save Parson?, Guess we'll wipe 5-6 random kingdoms off the map somewhere to pay for that.

            • Bandaid

              I quite enjoyed it. The people featuring in your tale probably did not.

              Anyway, what is the story referencing, if anything?

              As for critiscm, you might want to add a bit more paragraphs.

              • Falcon X

                Thank you :)

                For King Jeru references, start by searching the Biblical figure of Gideon. Therename also has double meaning with a famous rapper...As for Middling, his side is very grey, focusing on average and middle-of-the-line signamancy. There might be some other nuggets in there, but there’s your start.

                Yeah, I might come behind and flesh it out. I do better in longform. Wanted to keep it short for the Halloween contest though....

                • Bandaid

                  I might have used the wrong word. I meant more linebreaks. The stories length is fine.

                  • Jatopian

                    I couldn't follow the plot. :/

                    • Brother Mirtillo

                      Well, it certainly layered the doom on thick. But in the horror-writer's balance of knowing what's out there vs. not knowing, I think this went a little too far towards the latter.

                      The torches and drumbeats were a classic tactic and well used in darkness. I was less afraid of the corpseless vanishing. Maybe if I'd known the victims, or if they'd gotten a few moments to gibber or scream, it might have been scary. As it was, in the time it took for me to imagine the scene, they were already gone. For an audience, that doesn't feel like a loss.

                      But as for the notion that the cunning attacker was a) not responsible, and b) at least as terrified as the defenders? That was a kick in the head. (I suppose it was yet another nod to the story of Gideon, which I do know but hadn't caught this reference because I wasn't aware that he ever had a nickname.) And I'm glad to have gotten some idea of the supernatural threat but, once again, the suddenness prevented much of the horror. The lake wasn't scary. The sensory ghost attacks? Much scarier. ...as for what seemed to be a vampire Deisaac? That just got confusing. But a panicked, self-destructive caster? Much closer to home and just plausible enough to maximize the oh-crap factor.

                      I think I missed how the inferno started, but there's no doubt that a lot of ruination happened here, and the final swoop of the King's end was a well-played fall of the axe.