Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 039

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 039

In the dream, Jillian was no longer a fighter; she was a piece of land. Warlords fought on her, trying to own and control her. Tiny insignificant kings erected cities upon her high mountains and in her grassy valleys. Knights flew her skies. Miners dug tunnels through her rocky flesh. She watched them struggle and strive, fall and burn, and felt pity for them. But she could do nothing. Her body was frozen in time.

This dream went on for far longer her ability to remember. She knew there‘d been some genesis, some moment when she had been shaped into this, but it was lost to her. Probably it was a terrible and traumatic event, but she did not know. She did not want to be this way: made of unmoving dirt and rocks, lying fixed in place. She struggled, but there was no Motion in her. Days rolled by, and the little people fought their wars upon her. Suns rose and set.

Then suddenly, in the high mountain range she had come to think of as her head, there was a pinpoint of warmth. Hot fluids pushed to the surface and burst forward. In the face that she showed to the sunshine, a mountain exploded. Her lips burned. A volcano. Motion at last.

It was the end of the dream. The end of the World of Jillian. The mountain erupted.

It was a kiss.

The sun above grew searingly bright, then was overshadowed by something. Blinding again...overshadowed again. Jillian had eyes, it seemed, and they were only just opening now.

Hovering over her was a face she did not know. A woman, wracked and wretched. Hair of black and gray, cheeks hollow and ashen. Only the eyes looked familiar: deep pools of icy blue. She knew them.

These were the eyes on the Dollamancer‘s mannequin...

With a gasp, she sat up on her elbows. The face pulled away, leaving the blazing sun to dazzle her. The withered-looking woman raised a bony arm and grabbed something in the bright air above. She slammed it down upon Jillian‘s head, knocking her flat on her back.

Jillian raised her arms, and smacked her knuckles on something. She tried to rise again, but her head bumped against a pane of crystal, just inches from her nose. In a panic, she beat and thrashed in all directions. But she was completely contained in a clear box, lying on a cushiony mattress and with a white satin pillow beneath her head. Despite several moments of desperate kicking and screaming, the sides of the box would not yield.

She pivoted in place, managing to turn almost on her side, and tried to get her bearings. She saw colors first: blue and white in the sky, gray granite, pink flowers, white marble, and lots and lots of green. Grass and trees were everywhere. It was like a city park, with square shapes of varying sizes dotting the grass all around. Jillian could not recognize this place or what it was meant to be. She could see only that it was outdoors, and except for the gnarled woman, it was empty.

The woman stood beside the glass box in a simple satin gown of crimson and pink. At the sides, the thin garment was laced up with silvery cord, revealing her skeletal ribs. She did not smile, but looked upon Jillian with a keen interest. Her skin was as pale and wrinkled as parchment. She hardly looked able to stand.

They stared at one another for a long moment, until the woman tilted her head slightly. “Prisoner is alert?” she asked. Her voice scraped like a whetstone on a taut bowstring, but Jillian could hear it perfectly clearly through the transparent barrier.

“What?” asked Jillian in confusion. Her own voice echoed closely inside the case.

“Fingers,” said the woman, holding up three of them. “How many do you see?”

“All five,” scowled Jillian. “But you‘re holding up three. Who are you?”

The woman lowered her hand. “You‘ll call me ‘Mistress,‘” she said, turning away. She began looking inside a black satchel on a nearby marble pedestal.

“Yeah, right,” snapped Jillian, “Be disbanded if I will.”

“Belligerence won‘t serve you,” said the woman, not turning around. “You are helpless, and I have everything you‘ll ever need. To the degree to which you cooperate, I‘ll see that you receive it.” The woman stood straight, having found a pair of long red gloves. She began slipping them on. “Give me your name, rank, and side.”

Jillian only now remembered that she had a side. Her mouth opened in horror. “Where are my people?”

“I have them,” said the bony woman. “Say ‘Mistress‘ for more information. Simply say the word.”

Jillian glared at the woman through the glass. It was hot in this case, and she realized she was sweating. How long had she been out here in this...garden or whatever? How had she come to this place?

The woman stared back, waiting with an air of infinite patience. Jillian looked away, deciding to ignore her for the moment.

She turned in all directions, seeing what she could of the place. Her glass box was raised on its own pedestal, to about waist height. The other pedestals and stone shapes on the lawn ranged from simple blocks to little buildings, like elaborate marble or granite sheds. Most were adorned with flowers, in wreaths and bunches. Some had columns and ornamentation, and most of them were engraved with blocks of script on at least one polished face.

“What is this place?” said Jillian, not wanting to look at the woman.

“Another request for information?” rasped the woman. “You ask me questions, but you refuse to acknowledge mine? Even in polite company, that would not be acceptable.” The woman stepped up to the box and put her hand on it, and suddenly Jillian was thrown flat against the pillow. Her body stiffened, and pain stabbed into her elbows, knees, hips and neck. She tried to cry out, but she could not breathe. It was as if she were being pressed flat by a gigantic hand. “And this is not polite company. Say ‘Mistress.‘ Only the word.”

With growing clarity despite the pain, Jillian considered the woman‘s demand. She was trying to be smart about it, trying to think as a Chief Warlord. If she were alive, then her people were probably alive, too. Before she could do anything to help them, she needed to understand what was going on. Resisting for the sake of resisting was a pretty attractive idea–she hated this monstrous woman, whatever she was–but Jillian had to pick her battles carefully. She‘d never before been in trouble this deep.

“Mistress,” she gasped out.

The woman took her hand from the glass, and the pressure was immediately released.

“You asked me several questions, so I will choose which I‘d like to answer,” said Jillian‘s captor. “I choose, ‘What is this place?‘ This is my garden. I plant people here.”

Jillian shook her head. “I don‘t understand.”

“That building,” said the woman, pointing to the largest of the marble sheds, standing in a revered spot on a nearby rise, “is a cenotaph to my brother. I croaked him, and then I uncroaked him. When he was gone, he was gone. It is that way for every unit. But this garden is a way to remember all the ones whose lives I have taken away. To surround them with life. There is nothing like it in the world.”

When what this woman was saying had sunk in, Jillian gasped at the vastness of the green space. There were certainly thousands of stones with flowers on them within view. She was claiming to have croaked that many people, and...uncroaked?

“Lady Firebaugh,” said Jillian in a wondering whisper, and instantly regretted it. The gloved hand touched the glass again, slamming her down.

“Mistress. Say the word.”

“Mistress!” she blurted out. The glove lingered a few seconds longer, then the pain vanished.

“Information,” said the Lady Firebaugh again, “is something we can give to each other. These stones contain information about units who once lived, and who would be forgotten if not for the engravings. I will need your information. We will start with your name, rank, and side...but I feel you are someone special. We may have to talk for quite some time before I can plant you here.”

Jillian‘s sweaty skin went cold. She said nothing. Her captor stared over her with that same unnatural patience, as nearly a minute went by in silent impasse.

“Your reluctance is understandable,” said Lady Firebaugh. “Let‘s start with something a bit easier.”

She gave the barest nod at one of the nearby marble sheds, and the iron door creaked open. For a moment, Jillian refused to believe what came shambling out of it.

“He was your lover,” said Lady Firebaugh. “I watched you.”

At that, the tall figure of an uncroaked warlord in Haffaton livery, resolved itself in Jillian‘s mind. This was Bart. Let this still be a dream. Titans, please.

The Croakamancer leaned over her, smiling coldly. “Tell me more about him, Jillian. Tell me what to write upon his stone.”

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Recent posts... (See full thread)
Oberon wrote:
The problem is that when you invent your figures and call things which have a zero probability as being a non-zero probability, suddenly everything is possible. [...] But I suspect that you're just trolling me, so I'magonna let you go now.

Funny, I was starting to think the same thing...


But to get back off this topic which isn't going anywhere soon... When it first started, I was trying to prove a point.

If I can prove using formal logic that the sun rising blue is in fact possible (which I did, whether you agree with said logic or not) then things such as "Maggie is Charlie" are definitely possible.

They may be possible with 0.1% probability, but that isn't nearly low enough to consider impossible: in a sample of size 1000, an event with 0.1% probability has 63.23% chance of occurring at least once. In another sample of the same size, an event with 0.01% probability has a 9.52% chance of occurring at least once.


Besides, other people may have good reasons to believe these theories are more likely than you think they are (and they probably do). So you shouldn't call someone an idiot just because they say a far-fetched theory is probable, let alone possible.
The problem with the "Maggie IS Charlie" theory isn't that it is 'possible' in Erfworld. Everything is 'possible' in Erfworld because it contains magic.
The problem is that, in order for it to be true, Rob would have to be a complete and utter hack writer. THAT'S the probability that is effectively zero.
Maggie sent an encrypted message on Thinkamancy G-Strings in order to prevent Charlie from intercepting that message.
Maggie is actively working to assist Parson, who is believed by her group to be the only means to defeat Charlie.
Every action Maggie has taken since the start of the story makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER if she is also Charlie.
Still more likely than the sun looking blue.
drachefly wrote:
Still more likely than the sun looking blue.
Sure. Rob could be overcome by rage after a crazed fan complains about an update schedule, end the story by scribbling "And then Maggie revealed that she was Charlie and Parson and CharlieMaggie got married and had bunnies and lived happily every after the end" in crayon on a napkin, photograph it, post it, and walk away. I'd put the current odds of that occurring at about 12%, actually. I wouldn't take that bet, but I wouldn't be surprised if it actually happened. 8-)
Of course; I agree the odds of Maggie even being related to Charlie in some way are very slim indeed. But that wasn't what I was trying to argue.


This is what I was arguing against:
Oberon wrote:
Chance Gardener wrote:
Ok, I just have to ask: why do so many folks say there is a tri-mancer link up in play?
Because they are idiots. Really, it's just that simple.

The capacity of the forumites to conjecture that almost anything which has been shown, or not shown, in the comic as being the root cause of just about anything else, well, it defies reason. And no matter how often their conjectures are dispelled, they will continue with their baseless theories. There is no stopping them.

Someone who holds a favorable opinion of that theory, or one of any number of similar 'Epileptic Trees', is not by definition an idiot.


I've already gone over why just bringing up wild ideas is as much if not more a sign of intelligence as idiocy, but for reference:
Spoiler: show
Nnelg wrote:
Oberon wrote:
Take Maggie being Charlie, for example. In this thread this has been speculated on by one person, and accepted by another. If it's true, so much of what we've seen in the story unravels that it'll just suck. And I don't believe the author is going to write a story which ends up in the toilet. So I reject that out of hand. As should any other person.

Ah; so close, but so far... Yes, I (mostly) agree with your line of logic of why the author will probably not do such a thing. But the correct conclusion is not to reject the possibility, let alone without first logically refuting it. The correct response is to reject the probability: no more, no less.

If and only if you logically prove that such a thing is not possible, at the very least within a common set of axioms such as the laws of physics, can you discredit its possibility. But it's always the logical process that's important.

Which is why no one should be called 'stupid' for bringing up an idea, no matter how far-fetched. If far-fetched ideas are never brought up, they can never be logically disproven and -more importantly- those few far-fetched ideas which do turn out to be more correct than the leading theories would never be discovered. (Need I give an example? All right: Quantum Physics.)


Oh, and even if they persist in their beliefs after your logically disprove them make sure your axioms match up before calling them an idiot. For instance, in the example you gave someone might disagree with you that Maggie being Charlie would make the story suck. In the absence of that axiom, your entire argument falls apart -in a completely logical and intelligent manner. If you wanted to continue the discussion at that point, you should instead persuade him that the plot holes that would erupt in the presence of such a development would ruin all enjoyment of the story. But even if they still disagree, "someone of poor taste" would be a better descriptor than "idiot".

I'd like to clarify why I said "so close, yet so far". In my quote of Oberon, he succeeds on the first 90%: he considers the possibility, then creates a logical argument as for why it's unlikely. This is good, following the paradigm of proper logic and reasoning. But then he decides to completely discount any possibility that it could happen at all. This, by extension, discounts the possibility that he missed an important detail that upsets his argument.


As an example, in this particular case the point of contention lies here:
Oberon wrote:
If it's true, so much of what we've seen in the story unravels that it'll just suck.
MarbitChow wrote:
Every action Maggie has taken since the start of the story makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER if she is also Charlie.

These arguments rely on a completely subjective set of opinions, which can and do vary wildly from person to person.

Even apparent conflicts with established canon are debatable: where one person sees an irreconcilable contradiction, another may think that it makes perfect sense. For instance, Maggie working inside a group apposed to Charlie: I for one question the purpose of a disguise that isn't used to infiltrate the enemy.

Finally, there's the Bias Blind Spot. Now, having one is no shame: it happens to the best of us (myself included). I'm trying to be tactful here, so I'll leave it at that.
Nnelg wrote:
As an example, in this particular case the point of contention lies here:
Oberon wrote:
If it's true, so much of what we've seen in the story unravels that it'll just suck.
MarbitChow wrote:
Every action Maggie has taken since the start of the story makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER if she is also Charlie.

These arguments rely on a completely subjective set of opinions, which can and do vary wildly from person to person.
No, it just relies on looking at the facts that the story has already established. Charlie is the overlord of his own side. Maggie is a unit of Stanley's. Stanley can just LOOK at a unit and tell whether that unit is part of his side or not. How can Charlie control his own side and still part of Stanley's side?

You can pull out the "it's magic" card at that point, but it's also crap storytelling. The 'Maggie = Charlie' theory ranks up there with the 'Moon Landing was faked' theory and the 'Earth is flat' theory. You can twist your imagination around all you want to make it seem real to you, but by any objective standards, it's nonsense.
MarbitChow wrote:
You can pull out the "it's magic" card at that point, but it's also crap storytelling.

A completely subjective opinion.
Nnelg wrote:
A completely subjective opinion.
Do you honestly believe that Maggie pulling off the mask and revealing herself to be Charlie would be good storytelling? I'm not trying to be snarky here; I'm actually curious. Erfworld has been shown to be a story built very carefully - all major plot twists are foreshadowed well in advance, even if the foreshadowing is subtle or pun-based. But I don't see ANY foreshadowing for this theory. What does Charlie have to gain by playing the role of Maggie? Why would Maggie use Suggestion on Stanley in order to inspire Parson to retake his role as Chief Warlord if she, as Charlie, wants him removed?

_This_ entire update makes no sense if Maggie is Charlie. Why would she send a coded message, hidden from herself, to protect Parson from herself, 'hoping' that it would work? The tone of the passage is to establish the desperate fear and paranoia Charlie has inspired INSIDE MAGGIE'S OWN HEAD. There's no more intimate glimpse into a character than viewing their innermost thoughts.

If you said that Maggie was Charlie's thrall, subconsciously conveying information, I'd say sure. If you claimed that she's a trojan horse with an embedded compulsion that will be triggered later, I'd have no problems with that. If you claimed that she's a conscious ally, I'd be a bit dubious, but still thematically possible. But if you still insist that the Maggie = Charlie theory actually holds merit simply because "anything is possible", then I'm going to assume you're either arguing for the sake of arguing, or that you and I have such dramatically different definitions of what good storytelling is that we will never be able to communicate ideas properly to each other, because we have no common ground.
MarbitChow wrote:
Do you honestly believe that Maggie pulling off the mask and revealing herself to be Charlie would be good storytelling?

Well, actually, no. But that's just my opinion; those others may vary.

As I said before, I'm playing devil's advocate with this whole "Maggie = Charlie" thing for the sake of argument. I totally agree it's thematically wrong, would raise plenty of eyebrows, and most importantly conflicts with the text update from her point of view. But I can see ways one could explain all the inconvenient details away, so I've tried to use this extreme case to show that someone can like a theory that you'd think was ridiculous without being a complete idiot.
The time for devil's advocacy is on issues where being right is absolutely critical.

This is not such a time.