Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 042

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 042

“Prisoner is alert?”

“Ahh!” gasped Jillian, snapping her head and trying to focus in the twilight.

Lady Firebaugh had returned. She was standing beside the glass box, in the dark, peering down at her.

Jillian had given up hope of any relief this day, once Haffaton's turn ended. She‘d expected a third night of lying here, her insides gurgling with a magical hunger. (Or was it real? She certainly hadn‘t eaten anything since her capture. Perhaps the magic was actually suppressing her real hunger, and the Croakamancer had lifted it.) It had become a routine, and she'd adapted to it. Just a field hardship, nothing new. She had almost forgotten to be afraid.

“Prisoner is alert?” asked the Croakamancer again. Her bony form and limp hair made a uniform gray silhouette against the dim sky. Much like the mannequin, her eyes were the only distinct feature of her face.

“Yes,” breathed Jillian.

“For food, say, ‘Yes, Mistress.”

“Yes, Mistress,” said Jillian, before she could take even a moment to remember the idea of resisting her captor. She surprised and disappointed herself.

“Good.”

More shadows emerged, casting their silhouettes against the sky. Soldiers. Uncroaked. Hers, she thought. It was hard to tell. Several of them drew weapons and closed ranks around the Croakamancer, who lifted her satchel up with one hand, and touched the box with the other.

Jillian twinged, having learned to fear that gesture, but all that happened was that iron chains and manacles suddenly appeared on her wrists and ankles. She didn‘t test their strength. There was a promise of food, more tantalizing than escape.

The Croakamancer lifted the lid of the box. Fresh evening air rushed over Jillian‘s face, smelling sweetly of grass and nectar. She made no motion. The lid stayed open of its own accord, and the caster rummaged through her satchel. Over the previous days, she‘d rehearsed some combat moves in her mind, should she get an opportunity to strike like this. But those detailed plans seemed like an old, unfunny joke here, in the dark, in chains. The soldiers would put a spear through her neck before she could get her legs over the side of this thing.

In truth, she could only focus on what morsel might be coming out of the bag.

“Here,” said the Croakamancer, holding up a flat cylinder, wrapped in cheesecloth. She offered it to Jillian, who sat up and eagerly grabbed at it, but the caster held on to the prize. “Say, ‘thank you, Mistress.‘”

“Thank you, Mistress,” snapped Jillian. The Croakamancer hesitated a moment, as if trying to decide whether to take issue with Jillian‘s tone, then she let it go. Jillian tore into the cloth, finding something dense and spongy and smelling of the Titans‘ own kitchens. She shoved it eagerly into her mouth and chewed.

“Pattycakes,” said her captor. “Made fresh for you. I have more, if you are willing to play now.”

Jillian, in her frantic chewing and swallowing, already was beginning to return to herself again, which meant rediscovering her stubbornness. She said nothing. As she wolfed down this amazing scrap of food, she immediately began to think about the price she‘d paid for it. Yes, Mistress. Even that much cooperation felt like a surrender, a slip-up.

The Croakamancer watched until she had consumed every crumb, her chains rattling as she licked at the cloth and her fingers.

“Tell me about Bart, Jillian,” said the enemy caster.

Jillian wanted another cake fairly desperately, but she shook her head.

“It is not important information. Part with it, and you may eat all you wish tonight.”

Jillian‘s stomach actually picked this moment to growl loudly, undermining her toughening stance and just...embarrassing her. She sighed, and lay back down on the pillow.

“Close the lid.”

---

“Until I return, you will freeze,” said Lady Firebaugh in the morning. The hunger was gone now, but Jillian shivered in the sunshine for two days, with frost forming on the walls of the glass cage, before her captor returned with soft blankets and a hot drink that made all things inside her go pleasantly, joyfully warm. This was “chocolate.” Not bad.

It changed nothing, though. In the morning, the Croakamancer told her, “Until I return, you will itch.” Four wretched days of that, and she was taken to a hot spring to bathe. On the start of Haffaton‘s turn, her self-inflicted scratches and welts all disappeared.

“Until I return, you will thirst.” Two days. Lady Firebaugh seemed to have places to be and things to do. People to “plant.”

Then she returned, bringing a skin full of icewater from a glacial spring.

“Until I return, you will hear screaming.” Three days. The silence at the end of it was better relief than anything yet. Still, she offered nothing.

“Until I return, you will roll,” said the Croakamancer the following day.

“...Roll?” But the box was already turning. For four days, Jillian lay without rest in a slowly rotating box, sliding and thumping, the cushions and pillows and blanket sliding with her relentlessly.

Somehow, she devised a system to sleep, with her arms jammed in the pillowcase and her head wrapped tightly in the blanket.

“Until I return, you will be deaf and blind,” said the Croakamancer on the morning after that. All the light and sound in the world left her head. For a moment, it was entirely peaceful. Jillian laughed, and rested her head on the (wonderfully stationary) pillow, thinking that she hoped this one would last a while.

But she couldn‘t hear herself laugh, even through her own body. The experience was immediately disquieting. It did not take long to get much worse.

First, she had the feeling that Lady Firebaugh had never left, that she was watching her every movement. That changed to the general sense of an evil presence watching her, which began to take form in vivid, disturbing hallucinations. Sometimes she would see things out of her nightmares, things that made her jump and slam into the walls of the box. Sometimes the imaginary sounds that filled the silence were louder than all the screaming she‘d endured before.

She did not know how many days this one took, but it was the worst yet. Eventually, the sound of a bird broke through her haze, a real one. She could tell. And she saw the red light of dawn through her eyelids. When she opened her eyes, her captor stood there, whispering.

“Talk, Jillian. Simply talk. It‘s not necessary to suffer.”

Jillian screamed. A part of her rejoiced at the pain of real sound in her ears.

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Recent posts... (See full thread)
Kaed wrote:
effataigus wrote:
The "heals fully at dawn" thing removes most of my empathy for Erfworlder physical anguish. If you remove the fear of being crippled, then there is very little reason for an organism to feel pain from anything short of near-deadly experiences. In my experience, the only pain that REALLY gets to me is the one that convinces me that I'll never be whole again afterward.


So... inflicting horrible agony and psychological trauma is OK, as long as it has no lasting physical effects?

Interesting philosophy. >_>

bladestorm wrote:
I'd argue that it mostly involves manipulation of no-longer-living tissue, but that's a minor nitpick. I do concur that Croakamancy would be much more interesting if, in addition to adding Movement to unliving flesh to make it have a semblance of life, it could also be used to necrotize living flesh, weaken the body, and deprive the senses. It weakens the living and strengthens the dead. This would give Croakamancers much more use in combat than increasing troop numbers from fallen warriors (from either side of the conflict). I am all for versatility among casters.


Well yeah. It's always kind of bothered me how broad Erfworld disciplines tend to, while Croakamancy seems to do only ONE THING. I think we're just not seeing some of its other abilities until now.

Forum wrote:
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*boggles*

There are also some disciplines that we haven't seen much of what they do. Predictamancy seems as much of a single use discipline as Croakamancy's Uncroaking. Thinkamancy and Dirtamancy have both been shown to have a wide variety of uses. I am not sure about Shockamancy, though. It could just have two uses (flash mob stun and attack blast) and different forms of those uses. Lots of speculation on what the disciplines could do, but definite demonstrations of versatility for most of GK's casters aside from Wanda. Arguments could be made that these abilities are a different discipline and Wanda is just multitalented in many disciplines, but Sizemore is noted for being incapable of (though highly interest in) other disciplines. He's able to make golems, tunnel, find gems, reinforce walls, downgrade all of GK to a level 1 city in a matter of seconds, make garden walls, crap golem nukes, etc. If Dirtamancy had the same variety that Crokamancy does, he'd be limited to just making golems.
0beron wrote:
I don't think he was saying its "acceptable", rather that his personal experience/mentality is that he is only scared by things which he thinks might permanently injure him physically.
...
So I think what he could be subconsciously implying is that this could in part explain Jillian's resilience. If she believes she is under little risk of being permanently damaged, she has little to fear.

Indeed!

Yep, not trying to imply I enjoy dunking my cat in the bath just because she survives the ordeal (of course, I'm guessing she'd also make sure I don't enjoy it).

The original post was longer... in it I speculated on whether Erfworlders would have evolved to have a dulled sense of pain with less reason for it and just as much reason against it (in large quantities it hinders your ability to fight). Then I dismissed my own argument on the grounds that genetic evolution relies upon genetics, and we've seen very little to suggest that Erfworld has that mechanic beyond "need a gobwin to make a gobwin." Anyway, it was too long, so I cut it back :D

However, we have seen a lot of warriors doing heroic stuff while missing limbs and dwagons flying over a lake nonstop overnight with ribs showing... I wouldn't be surprised if Erfworlders indeed feel less pain than stupidworlders.
There may be no mechanics in place that indicate a wound hindering combat performance. It may be possible to have a unit fighting just as well fully intact as if it were missing both legs and one arm. Combat score stays the same. Archer got nailed with an arrow that took him to the ground, and still managed to launch an attack in a high arch that impaled Artemis.
bladestorm wrote:
There may be no mechanics in place that indicate a wound hindering combat performance. It may be possible to have a unit fighting just as well fully intact as if it were missing both legs and one arm. Combat score stays the same. Archer got nailed with an arrow that took him to the ground, and still managed to launch an attack in a high arch that impaled Artemis.

If there were such penalties for missing limbs and the like then that would give croakamancy an area where it could do something else. Some sort of anti-injury spell. Your arm has lost the ability to move? Croakamancy lets it move anyway. ... Actually, you know what would make sense? If those peashooters are combo croakamancy/flower power. Wanda is able to apply her croakamancy to give motion to the plants.
bladestorm wrote:
Swiped this from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symptoms_of_victimization
Victimization symptoms were proposed by Frank Ochberg as a distinct subcategory of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is not formally recognized in diagnostic systems such as DSM or ICD, and includes the following:
...
How many of these has Jillian exhibited so far? Or Wanda for that matter?


I like this list. It's interesting to see how well Rob is characterizing these two during the torture.

Nnelg wrote:
Arky wrote:
The thing is that she's not even being tortured for information. Wanda could have already obtained the location of FAQ from the uncroaked. There's nothing of substance Jillian can tell Wanda that Wanda couldn't have obtained in two minutes flat in another way. This is all about Wanda's sheer crazy.

But yeah, Wanda's getting way overboard on this.


Start small, work up. That's the way to do it. Every victory breaks the victim's will a little more. Look at the reaction Jillian had to "Yes Mistress". Coercion works on a slippery slope principle. "She's only asking for something little, and it will make a lot of badness go away. What's the harm?" Obedience becomes a habit. Reduction of discomfort becomes a drug. For resistance to really work, obedience needs to be a conscious strategy, not a reaction to what's being done.

One of the disturbing thing is the parallels between Wanda's actions and real life. Every technique she's used thus far, hunger/thirst, lowered temperatures, loud noise, uncomfortable environment and sense dep are straight out of the textbook. Metaphorically speaking. So far, Wanda has targeted the body, creating sense-related discomfort. She has't moved onto the mental and social attacks yet. Things like desecration of items of personal importance (although it could be argued that she started with that), ego and identity reduction, attacks on sexuality (not necessarily actual sexual assault). Her carrot and stick is also a perfect example of operant conditioning. Disobedience hurts, obedience rewards. Rob did his research on this one.

I won't bother responding to Kreistor.
Kaed wrote:
Forum wrote:
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*boggles*


Yep, need more *berons.

Oh hey, this looks like it was an interesting update. To be honest I kinda dropped reading Jill's story after the eighth or so. It's horribly unfair of me to have done that, and looking at the reactions to this and the previous update I think I'm missing out. Even if the plot would be slow, I'd be interested in the psychological dynamics of the characters. So thank you forumites (Housellama especially) for pointing that out.
BLANDCorporatio wrote:
Kaed wrote:
Forum wrote:
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*boggles*


Yep, need more *berons.

Oh hey, this looks like it was an interesting update. To be honest I kinda dropped reading Jill's story after the eighth or so. It's horribly unfair of me to have done that, and looking at the reactions to this and the previous update I think I'm missing out. Even if the plot would be slow, I'd be interested in the psychological dynamics of the characters. So thank you forumites (Housellama especially) for pointing that out.

You get the benefit of reading several in a row, without the wait of an entire week in between. It may move faster than expected in that setup.

I remember when I first found this comic. In the story, it was right after Bogroll put together the last pieces of the Sword of Ruthlessness. Those pages went by quickly, even the slower stuff like the klogs and the Ruthlessness page.
wrecan wrote:
Speculation of the week!

Spoiler: show
I think a bunch of casters from FAQ lead a raid to rescue Jillian with the tacit approval of Banhammer. With Hubble's Lookamancy to find her, Marie's Predictamancy to put together a plan, and a combo of Jack Snipe's Foolamancy and Rusty's Shockamancy, I think they will bust in, grab Jillian, and abduct Wanda. They discover Wanda's in a sort-of two-way hookup with Olive. They sever the connection, which sends Olive into madness.


I don't think so. Linkups need a Thinkamancer, after all.
Azukar wrote:

I don't think so. Linkups need a Thinkamancer, after all.

Good point.
I like the reference on playing pattycake! :lol: