Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 016

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 016

"Chocolate," said Tommy. "Olive says we drink it like tea."

Wanda sat on the edge of the canopy bed, her eyes half-closed and her head still a bit achy. Her brother had stoked and refueled the wood-stove, and the iron kettle of brown liquid he'd brought was keeping warm atop it. She put the porcelain cup to her lips and tasted it. Strange. Rich and loamy. She couldn't quite decide if it was something she liked, but it was certainly something to take away the predawn chill.

Tommy, for whatever reason, looked perfectly fine and focused. He was dressed for battle, and showing no ill effects from all of the wine and other strangeness he had consumed at the party last night.

Muffled by the stone walls, a Goodminton bugle sounded Assembly. "That's Fritz," he said. "Make sure all the Fellows are in the Courtyard, except the ones me and you are stacking with."

Wanda nodded, and mentally sent the order as she took another deep swig of chocolate. "Done. So, we expect to fight today?" she asked, beginning to come around to full wakefulness. "What's our plan, Chief?"

Tommy cracked a small, confident smile. "Same plan. We go to the negotiating table with Olive in private, and then she turns. Stacks with me and you. Then we let their units retreat peacefully and leave us to claim this city. I'm thinking you might be able to turn Larry, too. You should try, at least."

Wanda raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Really? She agreed to that?"

Tommy's attempt at reserve broke away, and his smile became a big toothy grin. "Well, you know she can't say it. But, she all but did. It was in her eyes; she'll turn, believe me. And I told her we'd still try for a peace treaty with Haffaton, and we won't harm their forces, since we'll have them outmatched here. You know, with her on our side."

In her eyes. Wanda remembered those eyes from the shadows of the corridor, flashing brightly. Was there any indication there that Olive was interested or desperate enough to turn sides? Definitely not desperate, but...maybe interested. And not necessarily in Tommy, or in Tommy alone.

She shook her head. "Why battle assembly, then?"

"Heh. Fritz is hung up on it," said Tommy. "He said we only have Olive's word that the spell will apply on their turn, so he doesn't want us to get jumped. Which, I guess is sensible enough. But I believe her."

Wanda met Tommy's smiling eyes briefly, then looked away and finished her beverage. "Okay," she said. "Give me ten minutes to freshen up."

---

The start of Haffaton's turn thus began at dawn with Goodminton's forces in battle formation, and the enemy drinking chocolate and playing games. The only apparent threat was from the occasional errant kick of a fungusball, but Fritz kept a watchful eye. His troops would remain stacked and ready until negotiations were completed.

Wanda and Tommy followed a bleary-eyed Larry and quiet Olive into a stone blockhouse. Olive shut and barred the iron bound door, leaving all their other units outside. The little room's interior was stark, containing only a wooden table and benches, a few empty chests and weapon racks, and a yellow powerball in the rafters. On the table were some basic writing supplies and rolled-up maps, three books, and a steaming pot of chocolate. There was no stove or hearth, and the still, musty air was cold enough to show their breath.

Larry and Tommy shook hands formally. Wanda and Olive bowed their heads to one another, and they took their seats. Olive unrolled a piece of parchment, oriented it for Tommy and Wanda to read, and affixed it to the table with two glass paperweights shaped like pink flowers.

"This is Haffaton's peace proposal, with some of the important details still to be filled in," she said, looking down at the page and pointing at some empty spaces in the text. "If you'll tell me the turn length and define your penalty terms, then I can add those in and we can sign this into effect before the no-engagement spell expires at the end of our turn."

After seemingly avoiding his gaze, she finally looked up at Tommy.

His arms were folded, his lips were closed, and his jaw jutted forward. Lifting his eyebrows in an expression of formal address, he said, "Well, we'd first like to thank Haffaton for your fine hospitality, and the sincerity of your, uh, diplomatic...relations. But I have a counter-proposal to the one you've offered."

Olive stiffened a bit, and took in a deep breath through her nose. "Chief...just don't."

Tommy narrowed his eyes. "Why not?"

"Because it's a cute idea, but no."

"What's a cute idea?" asked Larry, leaning forward and folding his hands on the table. His head was turned to face Olive.

Tommy cleared his throat. "We'd like for you both to turn," he said. "Here and now. Olive would become Chief Florist of Goodminton. It's a better way to fulfill the Prediction."

Olive slumped, and looked down at the peace treaty on the table, shaking her head. Larry looked at Wanda and Tommy in turn. "What Prediction?"

Wanda straightened in her seat. If Larry didn't know Olive's reasons for wanting to acquire her, it meant that Olive was all that much more powerful in her own side's affairs. Of course she wasn't going to turn to a smaller side. They weren't offering her anything she didn't already have...

"Our Predictamancer...shared some information with your side. Leading to this offer," dodged Tommy, realizing some of the implications of Larry's question.

"It's a caster thing," whispered Olive to Larry. "You wouldn't understand."

Larry frowned. "Well, I'd...need to understand. To decide about turning." His voice was low and conspiratorial. He glanced at Wanda with a kind of desperate, hungry look in his eyes.

"We're not turning," said Olive. "I'm sorry, Chief. That's just not on the table."

Tommy put his hand down flat. "But you said..."

"No. I didn't," said Olive, but she would not quite meet his eyes. "Let's just keep our focus, here, all right? Goodminton needs this agreement, so I suggest you take full advantage of it."

"Take advantage?" Tommy grabbed the end of the bench he and Wanda sat on and moved it sharply, as he stood up. "Yeah, that's a nice way to put it!"

"Chief..."

"Chief!" mocked Tommy, his voice cracking a bit. He put his palms on the table and leaned toward her. "Come on, Olive. What... After last night?"

"Last night was very nice," said Olive, looking up at him. Larry looked concerned and ready to rise, but was following Olive's lead. "Today is today. Take the offer and go home, and maybe we'll see one another again someday."

Tommy stood up straight and looked at her, speechless. He shook his head, looking lost. "That's not fair..."

Olive looked over at Wanda. "Well, that's Life. And Life is definitely not fair."

---

It turned out that Tommy had not even seriously discussed with Father the chance that Goodminton might actually need to sign away Wanda. With things getting ugly, the negotiations adjourned so that they could message the Overlord to ask his will in the matter.

"Can't believe she did this to me," he fumed. They were waiting in a barracks area for Firebaugh's reply. The battered top hat had been sitting idle for many long minutes.

"Turning is a serious matter," said Wanda. "Perhaps she just has very high Loyalty."

"Shouldn't matter, if she loves me," he pouted. Wanda did not reply, but didn't think she needed to. Love, as a force of nature, was something she knew almost nothing about. What little she'd heard and read of it was baffling and contradictory. It seemed like a disease one could catch. There were different kinds, and they made you strange in different ways, often involving Loyalty. The disease was going around. Perhaps Larry had been infected, and probably Tommy had, but Wanda didn't think Olive had it.

One theory held that love was a form of natural Hippiemancy, which was a frightening thought, under the circumstances. But she was even more terrified that she herself seemed to be showing some of the symptoms.

"Tommy, I...should probably go to Haffaton," she said distantly.

"No! I don't want you to!" He pounded on the writing desk.

"I know. I don't want to, either. But the Prediction says so," said Wanda hopelessly. "Delphie says I have Fate to fulfill."

"I don't care," insisted Tommy. "We're not trees, remember? Remember? We make our own choices. Screw Fate! Screw Delphie, and Olive, too! We came here to take this city, and if Father lets us, we still will. In fact..." he said, looking suddenly hopeful and excited, "in fact, I bet we can do that and capture her. Maybe that's how we fulfill the Prediction. Get her and throw her in the dungeon until she turns! That'd teach her."

Wanda smiled weakly. The thought of Olive chained in the dungeon gave her a strange feeling that wasn't exactly amusement.

"We can't attack. She can just keep playing her instrument," Wanda pointed out.

Tommy smirked. "So smash it. You know all that stuff you smashed last night? When she takes it out to play it on our turn, have the Fellows grab it and break it."

Wanda blinked at the audacity of Tommy's suggestion. "I can't--" She swallowed. "I can't actually...think of any reason why that wouldn't work," she said in wonderment.

The hat rumbled.

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Recent posts... (See full thread)
Orzel wrote:
I think it's less "Caster can't be Rulers" and more "No one wants a Caster to be ruler". It seems most sides make their Chief Warlord heir because of the nature of casters.

There seem to be two types of casters. Casters that stay home, predictomancers, thinkamancers, and such. They probably level slowly and are thus too weak or inexperienced most of the time to be trusted as rulers. Then you have battle casters who are sent out the cities often. Make one of them ruler and you lose that ability (or risk the side falling during a lost battle such as an ambush).

I would make the stay at home caster the heir. They can hide in the MK off turn. It completely eliminates the chance of the other side succeeding on a decapitation strike. Plus even if you do succeed on eliminating all cities? Overlord is still there. Two thousand turns later that luckamancer overlord you annoyed? Now a master class trained up to level 10, just bought a new capital site after saving his paychecks (in gem form), has a couple thousand turns worth of scrolls and magic items. Plus the other escaped casters did the same? You are completely and absolutely screwed.
Kreistor wrote:
Okay, here's a scenario for you...

Goodminton captures Olive, and does NOT make her Chief Caster. Wanda stays Chief.

Suggests that they are both captured by a different Side much later.


Yeah, I had a feeling after the previous strip that "Olive as Wanda's Chief Caster" is a prediction that will come to pass in "present" Erfworld, not this prequel. Perhaps Olive will be a gift from Janice to Stanley, and Stanley will install her as Chief Caster. Wanda somewhat controlled Stanley through sex appeal, and it looks like Olive is an ace at that tactic...
Quote:
The only apparent threat was from the occasional errant kick of a fungusball


Could blindfolded un-croaked fire sling shots at "inanimate objects"? Same question for bows and javelins. Maybe something like a biathlon tournament but blind. It would not be efficient or fast but it should croak a few units.

Also shooting skeet (or equivalent). Arrows (bolts, javelins, sling bullets etc.) that actually hit the skeet would be useless but the rest would fly down range. Hitting a skeet that is flying perpendicular to the direction you are shooting is extremely difficult.
pSycHOtic chICkeN wrote:
Quote:
The only apparent threat was from the occasional errant kick of a fungusball


Could blindfolded un-croaked fire sling shots at "inanimate objects"? Same question for bows and javelins. Maybe something like a biathlon tournament but blind. It would not be efficient or fast but it should croak a few units.

Also shooting skeet (or equivalent). Arrows (bolts, javelins, sling bullets etc.) that actually hit the skeet would be useless but the rest would fly down range. Hitting a skeet that is flying perpendicular to the direction you are shooting is extremely difficult.

Alright uncroaked attack the ground beneath the feat of the enemy forces! Damn it! Not a single hit on the ground the enemy forces kept on getting in the way.
Men, so weak against women in any universe.
Saw this one coming a mile away. (Rob still did a fantastic job with it. Doing the expected isn't a bad thing if it's done with style and finesse) Tommy's an innocent thug. A naive little child with big fists and a small brain. He fell in love with a worldly woman who used him for a good time. If he was a bit more mature, he might have been able to simply enjoy it and walk away. But he isn't. He's an inexperienced romantic. Now he's gonna respond the only way he knows how: by hurting people. He's going to strike out at her and anything that is connected to her.

A little Predictamancy here: They are going to catch Haffaton completely flatfooted and destroy their troops there. Wipe out everything because they are going to be totally unprepared for the assault. He'll leave Larry and Olive alive and say turn or die. Maybe he'll kill Larry, maybe he'll turn him, I dunno. But if Olive doesn't turn, Tommy is going to say Boop fate and try to kill her despite the Prediction. This is where Wanda will step in and stop him.

That's when things start to go badly for everyone.
I still remain intrigued and horrified by the implications of Hippiemancy. I thought Wanda came close to truth of the matter with her ruminations about love possibly being natural Hippiemancy. If that is true, then it's a short leap to deducing the existence of Hippiemancy love spells and then becoming suspicious when both you and your brother fall head over heels in love with the same Hippiemancer within a day of meeting her. i mean really -- I assume Tommy was not a virgin at this point. Have any of his past sexual partners abandoned all sense of Loyalty and Duty after a single night of passion with him? Does he really think he's that special?
atalex wrote:
I still remain intrigued and horrified by the implications of Hippiemancy. I thought Wanda came close to truth of the matter with her ruminations about love possibly being natural Hippiemancy. If that is true, then it's a short leap to deducing the existence of Hippiemancy love spells and then becoming suspicious when both you and your brother fall head over heels in love with the same Hippiemancer within a day of meeting her. i mean really -- I assume Tommy was not a virgin at this point. Have any of his past sexual partners abandoned all sense of Loyalty and Duty after a single night of passion with him? Does he really think he's that special?

It's possible he's never had "real" sex. Remember, a commander can simply command one of his troops to do whatever he wants. Maggie was somewhat astonished that Parson hadn't done this with the Archons, remember? She was confused, and assumed he must be celibate or something. Who wouldn't just command a desirable underling to have sex with you?

But now, for once, he might have been with a women with actual free will, who chose to be with him. Even if he is somewhat experienced, this could still be a first.

edit:

It just occurred to me how utterly strange love and sex must be in a world with no procreation. They only exist because the Titans decreed it would be so. Why do men and women have different parts? The Titans made them that way. There is no purpose for those body parts, and there is no purpose for the act itself. Wanda assumes love is a sort of magical disease, and who's to say she's wrong? In Erfworld, it's just another mechanic dreamed up by the Titans.
Saladman wrote:
And yet, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I keep having to wait. So, good job building tension, anyway. The finished story will be good, but like the comic, I wish I had the discipline to wait and catch up.

I have to agree with you about the building tension. The problem with doing a prequel is that the readers know how it is going to end. A good author can still build tension and throw in some detours to keep it interesting. Lucas should be taking notes.

Peep wrote:
Isn't Charlie a caster overlord?

We don't know. Charlie could be a Thinkamancer who Attuned to the Arkendish, like Wanda Attuning to the Arkenpliers. Charlie could be a normal ruler with no innate magic, like Stanley. Charlie could be something else entirely. There are many theories on the topic.

Orzel wrote:
I think it's less "Caster can't be Rulers" and more "No one wants a Caster to be ruler". It seems most sides make their Chief Warlord heir because of the nature of casters.

Every side is different though. We do see that the Chief Warlord is usually the Heir-Designate. The Chief Warlord is also usually the highest-level Warlord. With Goodminton, though, Fritz was higher level than Tommy, but Tommy was Chief. When Faq's heir pops, it will replace Duncan as Chief, but I could certainly see a side keeping a high-level Warlord as Chief at least until an heir has time to level. Heirs and Chiefs are completely at the discretion of a Ruler. A caster is a commander-type unit. I find it highly possible that a caster can be heir. In fact, I strongly suspect that Wanda will be made Lord Firebaugh's heir before Goodminton falls. It is something a Ruler decides. Since every ruler is different, I'm sure that if it can happen, it has happened before.

mortissimus wrote:
I don't think I have anything backing this up, but since Royal sides may pop Royal or Noble warlords, and as far as I know all Royal units we have seen where popped in the capital, I have assumed that when Royal sides order a commander to be popped it will be Royal if popped in the capital, and Noble otherwise.

But it could just as well be a choice as heir/non-heir is, and if so they may have the (probably rather worthless) option of popping a commoner commander.

In the print version of Book 1, it says Nobles are commander-class units popped by a Royal side in a city other than the capital. That would seem to make Royals commander-class units popped by a Royal side in the capital, so your belief seems accurate. I believe commander-class units include casters as well as warlords. I don't think they can choose the pop a commoner warlord, but they can always promote a unit in the capital to warlord.

Whispri wrote:
There's no way to deliberately pop a Caster. It's rare for an heir to be designated from outside the family. And Overlords tend to get ganged up on.

Given the reason Slately gave for not popping Trathingy as 'an' heir here, multiple heirs is a good bet. Slately's family consists of the Royal Units he's popped, Overlord Firebaugh's family consists of Atomic Firebaugh and the Lady Wanda Firebaugh. Plenty of commanders unrelated to the boss in both sides.

It does seem that at that point, Jetstone had plenty of heirs, so there was no reason to spend the extra turns to make Tramennis an heir. Slately's failure to promote him later stemmed from his dim view of Tramennis's Signamancy. I think family sort of works like Royalty, but it has less actual meaning, and it is based more on personal choice. A commander-class unit popped in the capital is the Ruler's "family," if the Ruler wants. Since Royals place such importance on tracing their lineage back to those the Titans chose to rule, it is very important to them, so Kings and Queens always, or almost always, view Royals they pop as their children. On the other hand, it was 18 turns before Overlord Firebaugh acknowledged Lady Firebaugh as his daughter. Still, she did pop knowing her name was Lady Wanda Firebaugh. So, I would go with my earlier claim that family consists of commander-class units popped in the capital. The ruler, however, does not need to acknowledge it, and it may not mean anything to some rulers. To those Rulers that do care about family, they would still have non-family commanders. Those would be the units popped in other cities or promoted. Fritz probably is one of these.

mortissimus wrote:
But if Casters can not be heirs, then a side can decide to have only warlords by popping them all as heirs. Though that appears expensive and stupid.

I'm not sure how stupid it would be. In fact, this seems to be the key to Jetstones success. They pop alot of Royal and Noble warlords. Slately has been King for over 3000 turns. Of those 3000 turns, he spent around 1380 turns producing Princes and Princesses at his capital. He may not have been the first king. So, Jetstone has been successful for a long time. Their warlords, being Royal and Noble, have higher stats and level faster than commoner warlords. A majority of the Royals seem to have been heirs. That was the Jetstone way of making war. They used huge masses of infantry bolstered by the leadership of, what I suspect was, a higher than usual proportion of warlords. It wasn't all they produced, but they produced many.

pSycHOtic chICkeN wrote:
Could blindfolded un-croaked fire sling shots at "inanimate objects"? Same question for bows and javelins. Maybe something like a biathlon tournament but blind. It would not be efficient or fast but it should croak a few units.

Also shooting skeet (or equivalent). Arrows (bolts, javelins, sling bullets etc.) that actually hit the skeet would be useless but the rest would fly down range. Hitting a skeet that is flying perpendicular to the direction you are shooting is extremely difficult.

I think any indirect attack could work: a Dirtamancer undermining the garrison, a fire-special unit burning the garrison, a siege unit attacking the garrison or a flying unit bombing the garrison.

Housellama wrote:
Saw this one coming a mile away. (Rob still did a fantastic job with it. Doing the expected isn't a bad thing if it's done with style and finesse) Tommy's an innocent thug. A naive little child with big fists and a small brain. He fell in love with a worldly woman who used him for a good time. If he was a bit more mature, he might have been able to simply enjoy it and walk away. But he isn't. He's an inexperienced romantic. Now he's gonna respond the only way he knows how: by hurting people. He's going to strike out at her and anything that is connected to her.


Quote:
Tommy stood up straight and looked at her, speechless. He shook his head, looking lost. "That's not fair..."

Olive looked over at Wanda. "Well, that's Life. And Life is definitely not fair."

This surprised me. It almost seems that Olive is taking Wanda's rejection the previous night personally. While she's certainly handling it better than Tommy, it does seem to be affecting her actions slightly.

A few other things I thought warranted mentioning....

Quote:
She shook her head. "Why battle assembly, then?"

"Heh. Fritz is hung up on it," said Tommy. "He said we only have Olive's word that the spell will apply on their turn, so he doesn't want us to get jumped. Which, I guess is sensible enough. But I believe her."

I love Fritz. I thought of the possibility that Haffaton could exploit Olive's spell to catch Goodminton unstacked, although I thought in unlikely. I didn't doubt, though, that the spell would last through Haffaton's turn. I'm glad someone considered the possibility and took precautions.

Quote:
Olive slumped, and looked down at the peace treaty on the table, shaking her head. Larry looked at Wanda and Tommy in turn. "What Prediction?"

If Atomic hadn't killed himself when he told Olive about the Prediction, this is probably the moment he slit his own throat. If Olive had not already informed her Ruler about what she'd learned, Larry's learning of it practically guaranteed the Ruler finding out. Once Haffaton's Ruler learned that Wanda was Fated to serve under Olive anyway, he probably decided it was easier to have Frenemy and Quisling end Goodminton and seize her. He may have also ordered Olive to assassinate any high-value Goodminton assets she could. If he felt betrayed by Olive keeping this from him, he may have felt she needed to prove her Loyalty.

Quote:
Larry frowned. "Well, I'd...need to understand. To decide about turning." His voice was low and conspiratorial. He glanced at Wanda with a kind of desperate, hungry look in his eyes.

It seems Larry is the only one who gave any thought to turning. They should have focused their attention on him.

Quote:
"No. I didn't," said Olive, but she would not quite meet his eyes. "Let's just keep our focus, here, all right? Goodminton needs this agreement, so I suggest you take full advantage of it."

This update and the one before made me reconsider my view on Olive. At first, I thought she was a very skilled manipulator. The fact that she actually seems to feel some regret here makes me think differently of her. I think she is very vivacious and she seduces naturally because that is who she is. I don't think she is nearly as calculating as I originally thought. So, like most units we've seen in Erfworld, she's basically a good person, but her Duty forces her at times to do not nice things.
I sent 3 into the blog, but I can only remember 2 of them:

the ability to see the back of your head
the ability to transform scabs into beef jerky


scumonkey wrote:dont a lot of guys have that ability already?