Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 037

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 037

When the stumbling carcasses had all been beaten to dust and the garden had been thoroughly weeded, then a banner of Faq‘s green did finally wave over the brown bricks of Diecast.

Jillian‘s shoulders slumped with relief. Something had been telling her to brace for an ugly surprise, because this situation was too good to be true. The weak garrison might explain how Haffaton handled its upkeep, but how could an empire so huge keep its cities this poorly guarded, unless they had some good tricks against invaders?

Eh, well...maybe it was reputation alone that kept their enemies from doing what she was doing right now. Haffaton was a giant, and giants are scary. People usually run away without testing them. The Kingdom of Faq was doing exactly that, when maybe they should be walking up and stabbing Haffaton right in the eye.

“Let‘s take an hour or two to explore,” she ordered. The leadership stood together on the grass in front of the steps of the tower archway, savoring the victory. “Hedda, see what you can scrounge from the armory and smithy. Chip and Bart, find the stables and the larder and take on provisions. Take the best, because we‘re wreckin‘ the rest. But don‘t let the troops get into the booze; we still have to fly this turn. I‘ll poke around upstairs for maps and intel.”

“Heh. You just want to have a look in that tower,” said Hedda.

That tower. Jillian thought about the head she‘d seen. Those eyes.

“No...no I really don‘t,” she said, taking her apprehension and slapping a smirky mask of sarcasm over it. She lifted her face to the bright overcast sky, squinting at the tower top. “But it would bother me forever if I didn‘t go up there. And, uh, have a look at whatever was looking at me.” She chuckled, with no humor to back it up.

Hedda had plenty of humor to go around. She showed her teeth and laughed like a jackal lantern, discovering some true hilarity in her Chief‘s nervousness. She hadn‘t looked in that window, though.

“Arright, shut up,” said Jillian.

“Would you like an escort, Chief Warlord?” said Bart Lightrail.

Bart rarely said anything, so it earned him all of their attention at once.

He pursed his lips self-consciously, looking around at each of them. “I‘m curious too,” he shrugged.

Jillian‘s mind immediately went somewhere she didn‘t need it to go. In fact, it busted down the door of a padlocked room she‘d been trying to keep it out of since they‘d left home. Since they‘d left Mount Pilot, even.

Oh, yeah? Would she like to go up in the tower with the tall, rock-ribbed Viscount of Kibo? Alone? Is that what he was asking? I‘m curious, too...

Oh, boy.

She‘d maybe hinted her interest to him a few times, but it was a difficult and dangerous thing. She didn‘t want the other two warlords (or Titans forbid, the regular infantry) to know she liked the new guy. With the stakes so high, she couldn‘t afford to undermine her leadership with any trail drama right now.

So far, self-discipline had been easy. Out in the field, they usually slept on their separate gwiffons. Nothing could happen at night. Sometimes they made a proper camp, with bedrolls and tents, but even then she was safe from any thoughts of converting her new warlord into a temporary mount unit. There was no way she could do anything with him in camp without Hedda and Chip and half the soldiers knowing about it.

Well, she wasn‘t safe from the thoughts. But she was alone with those thoughts in her tent, employing the third edge of Three-Edged Sword, and that would have to do. That was a safe, drama-free place for her to be.

This tower, though. The tower was not a safe place. There were actual locked doors up there. And behind them, rooms. Rooms with beds in them.

“Eh, sure,” said Jillian, as casually as she could. Oh, crap, did she say it? Fine, she did. She was in trouble now. Was that voice too high to pull off casual? “But I‘m not holding your hand if you get scared,” she sneered at him, then turned for the steps. Bart followed.

Hedda laughed wickedly as they climbed.

---

“Okay, you saw this thing too, didn‘t you?” Jillian asked Bart, who was striding up the staircase in front of her. For the first few flights, just looking up the flaps of his long mail shirt and watching his buns work had been entertaining enough. But she was wasting her chance to strike something up, to get to know the man. To make the most of the alone time.

“I didn‘t see it move, but I saw it,” said Bart, over his shoulder. Still climbing. Still scrunching and bunching. “I think it was a sculpture or a statue. Something decorative, perhaps.”

“You‘re something decorative,” muttered Jillian under her breath.

“Sorry, Chief?”

“I, ah... It doesn‘t look like they go for ‘decorative‘ around here,” she said, nodding at the walls. That was true. The Signamancy of this city was dull, functional, industrial. Aside from the potted plants every floor or so, there was barely so much as a painting to liven the tower up. Nor was there much sign of recent occupancy. “I guess we‘ll see.”

“Oh,” said her warlord. Maybe he‘d heard her, and was disappointed. Or was that Jillian‘s imagination? And why was she backpedalling, anyway? Why be subtle? When they got up to that penthouse, she could just order him to lose the armor...

Her boot kicked a stairstep and she stumbled, distracted by the thought.

He stopped and looked back. “Are you all right?”

Sheesh, what had gotten into her? Normally she could keep a better lid on this kind of thing.

“Yeah,” she said, climbing up the next step and nudging him forward with her shoulder guard and cheek. Ooh, his leg was warm. “Keep going, we got stuff to do.”

---

The door to the penthouse suite was locked and barred, but this was a Faq city now. Jillian was its mistress. Only her King could lock her out of a room in her own city.

“This looked like somebody‘s bedroom,” said Jillian. “From the outside. Didn‘t it?”

Bart stood at the doorway, quite close to her. “It‘s your bedroom now, Chief.” His voice was low and quiet. Jillian couldn‘t read him, but maybe...he looked a little hopeful. She liked being this close to him.

“That‘s true,” she said. “So I guess I‘m inviting you into my bedroom, then.”

Bart smiled. “There‘s something I never thought I‘d hear.”

“Oh yeah?” said Jillian. She became aware of her own pulse, right at the base of her neck. “Well...don‘t get any ideas. There‘s a monster in the room and it‘s gonna get us, remember. I‘m planning to throw you at it first.”

Bart nodded with his lips pursed in consideration. “That‘s fair. You‘re the Chief. I‘ll try to be a satisfying meal so it‘ll let you get away.” Okay, he was definitely flirting back.

“You ready?” she said, hand on the brass knob. “You wanna draw first?”

Bart shook his head. “It could be some kind of trap, I guess. But I doubt it‘s anything we‘d have to fight. It‘s not a unit; we just took this city, didn‘t we?”

Jillian smiled a bit. “Are you convincing me? Or yourself?”

The handsome man looked at her and smiled shyly back. “Probably neither. But let‘s go in, Chief.”

Leaving her sword sheathed on her back, Jillian turned the knob, and felt the scrape of the wooden bar being raised. Her armor thunked against the door. She leaned in.

In the dimness, the eyes were the first thing she saw. She drew a breath sharply.

“Lights,” she said. Much like the bar upon the door had, the room responded to her order with natural Dirtamancy. It sparked up four or five powerballs, and the dim room revealed its secret.

The thing had eyes upon its head, but nothing else. No face. It wore a gown. Bart put his head into the doorway. His chin brushed Jillian‘s hair.

“Augh,” she declared, and stepped immediately into the room. It was a bedroom, a nicely appointed personal suite. Jillian hardy noticed, but walked toward the thing in the corner.

“What is it?” asked Bart, following cautiously.

It was facing an enormous floor-length mirror. What she had seen from the window were its reflected eyes. The movement was probably her own reflection.

The dress it was wearing was incomplete, and not her style: a fine linen blouse wrapped in a brocaded surcoat and a leather corset. Something for a caster to wear, maybe. Or a courtier, in some court that wasn‘t so hung up on equality as Faq‘s. There was a Haffaton emblem embroidered on the bosom: the skeleton with the flower garland again.

Still, she had to admit it was a really pretty gown.

“It‘s a Dollamancer‘s mannequin,” said Jillian, stepping toward it. “I guess they must have a Dollamancer.”

The mannequin was made of burlap, with a detachable head that someone had painted elaborately realistic eyes on, but no other features. Jillian felt the sleeve of the dress, and could smell a faint perfume of flowers and wood. “Somebody didn‘t finish what they started,” she mused.

Bart‘s hand, warm and masculine, was suddenly resting on hers. She snapped her head around, wide-eyed. His face was right there.

“Somebody should,” he said, almost in a whisper. She couldn‘t help but kiss him.

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Recent posts... (See full thread)
Headdesk: Hey guys, if this was trapped wouldn't Haffaton style be poison? The love trap would work too, but poison would kill them outright. They could probably even make it a sleep poison to knock them out, but not kill. Then they can capture, harvest or croak at their leisure. That would be both simple and effective.
If so, the poison would more like be something subtle, most likely airborne, and delivered by something relatively innocuous appearing - like plants in little pots placed in the stairwell . . . Also, if they burned the plants outside (which would be the easiest way of clearing 'weeds', especially weeds that are shooting at you), the smoke could carry the poison, and if nothing else get the invaders so stoned they go rampaging through the city looking for the pantry. And, of course, since nothing there requires food, they could poison / drug the food with impunity, knowing that only an invader would consume it.

I think the mannequin is actually a surveillance device feeding info to Haffaton, who are even now dispatching forces. The Love Trap (love trap, baby) is actually a Honey Pot trap, much like Pitcher Plants. They exude a sweet nectar on tendrils inside a chamber within the plant, and when an insect flies in to feast, it discovers that it can't get back out, and eventually winds up in the bottom of the chamber where it is dissolved and consumed.
I think everyone assumes the love trap because it's a lot more insidious. Being a war-game odds are any poison effect will not be 100% absolute, so a sleep trap, might leave enough people aware/awake to know what was going on and *maybe* do something about it. Conversely with a love trap people might think they're just high on victory over an easy picking against what they thought was the most powerful nation in their area.
Lamech wrote:
Headdesk: Hey guys, if this was trapped wouldn't Haffaton style be poison? The love trap would work too, but poison would kill them outright. They could probably even make it a sleep poison to knock them out, but not kill. Then they can capture, harvest or croak at their leisure. That would be both simple and effective.

Oh sure, like I said on page one, Chip may be for the Chop (along with anyone he brings to the kitchens). Of course the thing about poison is, it doesn't require a strong army close at hand. That said, there's no reason they can't deploy poisoned food at the same time as the shag trap. Or any number of other traps, there could be weapons in the armoury straight out of Grimtooth's Traps. There could be buckets of unpleasent liquid poised above half open doors. Easily triggered spells that croak and uncroak. The sky's the limit.
ftl wrote:
I don't think it could be an elaborate foolamancy trap.


Probably not.

Quote:
1) They'd have to know FAQ's banner to fake it waving from the tower. How would they know that in advance?


Suggestion: You now see YOUR faction flag.

Quote:
2) The door has to open when Jillian COMMANDS it to open. And she commands by natural thinkamancy. Somebody would have to be watching every thought of Jillian's to see when exactly she commands the door to open and make it open or appear to open at just the right time. If it were that sort of trap, all the doors would probably be naturally unlocked so as not to raise suspicion.


Suggestion: Doors may be attuned to be open by anyone, not just the owners.

Quote:
If there is a trap, it'll be a trap where, true to form, Haffaton wins by not fighting. I think the Love Trap (baby, Love Trap) fits the bill.


Better. Though I was thinking...poisoned provisions myself. Or delayed poison from the plants.
I still can't buy the trap idea. I couldn't buy it when they were outside the city, and I can't buy it now.

There's an idea in astronomy and cosmology called the "principle of mediocrity". Stated simply, Earth is not special. We are not the center of the universe, we are not somehow unique. Earth is a normal planet orbiting a normal Main Sequence star in a normal part of a normal galaxy. It was first stated by Copernicus, and has been carried forward since that time. The primary reason for believing the principle of mediocrity is the sheer size of the universe. Out of something so vastly huge that we really can't even correctly conceptualize it, why are we something more than average?

That's why I can't buy into the idea that this city is specially trapped. It's a random city in back-boop swamp country in the oft stated huge Side of Haffaton. Why would it be trapped? Either all Haffaton's cities are trapped like this, in which case it's not special, or the overwhelming size of Haffaton dictates that the most likely city when selected at random is normal, and therefore not specially trapped.

Traps require effort. The traps that we have seen previously in the comic were specially set up and took time and energy to do. Both the Volcano and Kingworld were made such a big deal of that it's obvious that they are not typical. The other traps we've heard about were specifically targeted: The one Caesar fell into was prepared by a Shockamancer just for that occasion, and the one at Megaton was designed to draw Goodminton's forces in so they could negotiate. Both required quite a bit of preparation by a skilled 'mancer. If we assume that all Haffaton's cities are trapped this way, that would require Olive to visit every city and spend time setting it up. Given that this is a random Level 2 in difficult terrain in the middle of nowhere, does it make sense to assume that she went that far out of her way to set up a trap in a city with little strategic value? Not to mention every other city in Haffaton's very large territory. I believe that Haffaton, like most Sides, would have better uses for their 'mancers.

If then, all cities aren't trapped, why this one in particular? We have seen no evidence that they were spotted. We know Jillian could have sex with Chip. We've already seen that she needs no special motivation to fall into bed with someone. The reason she hasn't "convert[ed] her new warlord into a temporary mount unit" is a lack of opportunity to do it without trail drama. Now she's exploring a tower that she has a legitimate reason to explore and a legitimate reason to have backup that happens to have bedrooms in it. Means, motive, opportunity.

If we consider metaplot, sure it might be trapped. However, given what we know about Jillian, she doesn't need anything special to get into trouble. She practically carries trouble with her. So there's really no additional metaplot reason for the city to be trapped. Sometimes a Dollamancer's mannequin is just a Dollamancer's mannequin.

tl;dr: Why trap a random city? We've had no indication that this is special, or that there is motivation to trap it.
Housellama wrote:
tl;dr: Why trap a random city? We've had no indication that this is special, or that there is motivation to trap it.

Because it's a cheap and effective method of defending the City, Haffaton have no reason not to have covered Diecast, or indeed any other City the possess in traps. You vastly overestimate the amount of effort involved. And if they have a Dwagon relay equivalent...

And that before considering simple bad luck on the part of the WRECD.
Whispri wrote:
Housellama wrote:
tl;dr: Why trap a random city? We've had no indication that this is special, or that there is motivation to trap it.

Because it's a cheap and effective method of defending the City, Haffaton have no reason not to have covered Diecast, or indeed any other City the possess in traps. You vastly overestimate the amount of effort involved. And if they have a Dwagon relay equivalent...

And that before considering simple bad luck on the part of the WRECD.


Methinks your definition of "cheap and effective" is different than mine.
Housellama wrote:
Out of something so vastly huge that we really can't even correctly conceptualize it, why are we something more than average?

The Anthropic Principle. The odds of intelligent life existing here, given that intelligent life is here to ask this question, is 100%. That tells us nothing of the odds of intelligent life on a terrestrial planet in general.


Housellama wrote:
That's why I can't buy into the idea that this city is specially trapped. It's a random city in back-boop swamp country in the oft stated huge Side of Haffaton. Why would it be trapped? Either all Haffaton's cities are trapped like this, in which case it's not special, or the overwhelming size of Haffaton dictates that the most likely city when selected at random is normal, and therefore not specially trapped.

Agreed unequivocally. The presumed case is that, if this city is trapped, it would be only because such traps are standard on Haffaton backwaters.

Quote:
The traps that we have seen previously in the comic were specially set up and took time and energy to do. [...] If we assume that all Haffaton's cities are trapped this way, that would require Olive to visit every city and spend time setting it up.

Well "seen previously in the comic" is kinda biased. We can assume that any trap on Diecast would have been practical to set up, because it wouldn't have been put there if it wasn't. In a way, this is the anthropic principle at work again.


Quote:
Given that this is a random Level 2 in difficult terrain in the middle of nowhere, does it make sense to assume that she went that far out of her way to set up a trap in a city with little strategic value?

Every city had to be the center of attention at least once, when it was conquered. Installing traps could be just be part of usual consolidation for Haffaton. And any time Olive and/or Wanda isn't needed at the front, she can tour the country renewing/buffing up the traps on cities.


Quote:
I believe that Haffaton, like most Sides, would have better uses for their 'mancers.

Well, when short-turn gains are needed, yeah there's a lot better things they could do. But I can't think of much that would have as great a long-term effect as this.



Housellama wrote:
Whispri wrote:
Housellama wrote:
tl;dr: Why trap a random city? We've had no indication that this is special, or that there is motivation to trap it.

Because it's a cheap and effective method of defending the City, Haffaton have no reason not to have covered Diecast, or indeed any other City the possess in traps. You vastly overestimate the amount of effort involved. And if they have a Dwagon relay equivalent...

And that before considering simple bad luck on the part of the WRECD.

Methinks your definition of "cheap and effective" is different than mine.

A simple alarm and reconnaissance device, maybe something to mire them up a bit, combined with a mobile reserve to counterattack invaders is all that is needed for an effective trap in this case. You can save the flashiness for later, there are plenty of practical (and economical) ways to trap a thing that don't involve blowing up a mountain or altering the natural order of things.
Housellama wrote:
Whispri wrote:
Housellama wrote:

tl;dr: Why trap a random city? We've had no indication that this is special, or that there is motivation to trap it.

Because it's a cheap and effective method of defending the City, Haffaton have no reason not to have covered Diecast, or indeed any other City the possess in traps. You vastly overestimate the amount of effort involved. And if they have a Dwagon relay equivalent...

And that before considering simple bad luck on the part of the WRECD.

Methinks your definition of "cheap and effective" is different than mine.

It's a moot point now, but the trouble was you were thinking in terms of drastic Erf shaking traps of doom (DESToD), when you should have been thinking of pit traps.