Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 072

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 072

“Track her, Jack!” shouted Jillian to the bird. It perched on the daemon‘s shoulder, ruffling its wings with agitation as they climbed into what was arguably the sky. The gwiffon had assumed Rusty‘s pointy-eared form as soon as he climbed on top of it, merging them both into one hideous yellow beast. Jack remained a little brown snipe. Flower dreams were endlessly weird.

“Instruct me! I‘m not a ranger!” chirped the Snipe.

Swimmy-looking green towers slid downward, as the stack gained altitude. Wanda‘s slender arms hugged Jillian‘s waist tightly.

Jillian kept forgetting herself in the dreams....who she was, what she was trying to do here. But yes, she certainly was a ranger, now that she‘d been reminded of that fact. She could track a fleeing prisoner. Her instincts gave her clarity. “She‘ll be leaving the city!” she said forcefully. “The city has four gates.”

“Main gate,” said Wanda into her ear.

“Which one leads to the Garden?” tweeted the Jack-bird.

Jillian nodded, pointing her sword. “Main gate,” she confirmed. “Into the smoke.”

---

Coughing felt like getting punched in the back of the head, and it turned her whole upper body into a quivering block of putty. So Jillian tried not to. Beams of sunlight lit up the hazy way ahead. Sometimes the smoke looked like smoke, other times it was swirling snow or flower petals tickling her face. The ground was only a memory from here.

“Think we‘re too high!” she shouted.

“Clearly,” said the Snipe.

“Let‘s try and get under the sm–” Jillian broke into a coughing fit as petals flew into her mouth. Her body wobbled like a steel spring. “Smoke.”

The faceless gwiffon responded to her order to dive, but it wasn‘t flying right. There was some sideslip. Wanda hung on behind her. The yellow daemon also seemed to be having trouble, drifting away and yawing left. Did gwiffons dream, too? That would be bad news, if so.

They flew on, descending, catching only a couple of glimpses of green brick pavement. Then suddenly they broke into a column of clear air, and Jillian could see all the way to the main gate.

It was wide open. The portcullis was beginning to rise.

“There!” chirped Jack.

A flower grew on the bricks before the gate. No...a lizard stood there. On all fours, hopping around impatiently. A lizard/flower thing...she couldn‘t resolve it quite. But that was certainly Olive.

And behind it, beyond the gates, stood an army of small soldiers, waiting to enter the city.

---

“Shoot it!” shouted Jillian to the daemon, which now had drifted quite far away and dropped into a steeper dive than was probably safe. Jillian could barely see the Jack-bird flapping frantically on its shoulders. “Shoot the lizard!”

“Peep?” came the daemon‘s voice on the wind. It flapped its stubby arms, refusing the order, and stared at the lizard. Its mouth hung agape. It drooled.

“He doesn‘t see her as you do!” shouted the bird in frustration. “You don‘t...you don‘t even want to know what he sees!”

The portcullis was nearly at waist height. They would never get there in time to stop her from leaving. Jillian‘s eyes bulged, and she held back a scream. “Make him, Foolamancer! Cast on him!”

“Ah yes!”

A little shower of magical sparks lit up the yellow daemon‘s shoulders, and it suddenly turned. It‘s black-tipped ears flattened back fiercely. The flower/lizard thing was now squirming to fit under the rising gate, but the daemon charged.

“Peeeep at...you!” it cried.

The lizard-flower-prey turned and snarled at the approaching beast, just in time to take a blast of jagged light full in the face.

---

Another cloud of petal-smoke got in her way, and Jillian couldn‘t help breathing it in. It was so chokey-sweet. It tasted like warm sunshine. Felt good. Losing her visual anchor of the city, she began to forget where she was and what she was doing up there again. Did she have any wine with her?

No...she was on the hunt.

Yeah. Yeah! Right, she remembered. Pretty sure that Rusty‘d nailed the target. The prey was down, at least for a few moments. That army outside...was that a dream? Or real? They had to get down there and finish her off.

The gwiffons seemed to respond to the order before she gave it, as both of them started plummeting from the sky.

“No, keep flying...” she muttered, trying to give it the force of an order. “Forward! To the gate.”

“Help!” came a faint call from the Jack-bird. The yellow daemon rolled sickeningly away and fell out of sight, as the landscape turned. Jillian‘s own gwiffon had begun a bad spin.

She grabbed a fistful of its rubbery neck and tried to will it to level out.

It did not. The green bricks of the city‘s main thoroughfare spun up to greet them.

For reasons that she would wonder about for a long time, Jillian threw her sword away. In the seconds before crashing, she turned around in the saddle and looked at the Wanda-idol. The Croakamancer‘s eyes were the haunting, painted ones of the Dollamancer‘s mannequin. Jillian reached out, put her arms around Lady Firebaugh, and clutched her close for impact.

---

The smoke at ground level was thick. They‘d crashed in the street, but neither Jillian nor Wanda were incapacitated, just banged up. Not the first time. Or the first time today...

The gwiffon had taken most of the fall damage and had croaked from it...or maybe it had been overcome by the smoke. Was that what statue-Betsy tried to say? That she couldn‘t protect the mounts?

Didn‘t matter now.

It was close to “nothing matters” time, in fact. Jillian was wounded, and deep in the visions of flowers. She could see in directions that only existed in dreams. If Wanda hadn‘t pulled her to her feet, she‘d be lying comfortably in nothingness.

“What are you doing! Why are you sitting there! Attack!”

The voice was not Wanda‘s. Nor the bald jester‘s. It was Olive Branch, lost somewhere in the smoke and petals. She sounded panicked and furious.

“Attack this city now!!”

Jillian looked at the intersecting planes where the other end of her body met the world. The ground. Yes. Must be the ground. Where was Three-Edged? Where was Jack?

“Come,” said dream-Wanda, still lovely but not whole. Wounded from the fall. She dragged a bent leg, hopping along. Her shoulder was all wrong, too.

Jillian had serious trouble walking, herself. What was it this time, a knee? Yeah. She could feel no pain, though. The buds washed it all away. She just couldn‘t move very well. In the smoke, she could not tell direction, but following Wanda was doable. They were getting closer to the prey. Closer to the yelling voice.

“Follow my orders! Attack! Rescue me!”

Suddenly there was a bright vertical slit in the fog. The main gate. The prey was squirming there, struggling. The portcullis was going up again.

Beyond, in the sunlight, stood an army of tiny people in elaborate dress. Hoop skirts and pointed shoes. Elaborate hats and hairstyles. But they were an army, Jillian was sure of that.

With the prey in sight, she cast about for her sword. It was nowhere.

The portcullis lifted above the lizard‘s head, and it was free. Jillian charged as best she could, but there was no way she could close this much ground in time.

The flower/lizard could see that, too. It turned around as if to taunt her, but it looked past Jillian‘s shoulder.

“I never loved you, Wanda,” it said. “Just...so you know that.”

Jillian limped forward, actually getting worse at moving as she went on. Forward became a series of tricks, bad choices and missteps. Still, the prey was there. It had stopped. If she could reach it, she‘d fight it weaponless.

“This is your city,” said Wanda.

“Yes it is! And–” snapped the lizard.

“...Chief Warlady,” continued Wanda. “Close the portcullis.”

What happened in Jillian‘s mind in that moment was difficult to put together later. In the thick smoke and white sunlight, in the space and time folds she limped her way through, there was a turn and a click. She remembered herself. Chief Warlady. This was Faq‘s city. The outer walls were loaded with anti-siege emplacements–Dirtamancy traps–of which the portcullis was one. It was not destroyed by the enemy; it had only been lifted up by an escaping prisoner.

She had only the barest instant of clarity, in the middle of madness. But Jillian was a creature of reflex. A warrior only needs an instant to focus her will.

Her prey was not so fast, not so perfectly instinctual. It only had time to gasp. It had barely shifted its weight to flee when the gate came crashing down on it.

The flower-lizard twitched, and lay still. Then its lizard aspect melted away, and it became all flower. A single white lily.

Bells rang out in the city. Outside, the great army of tiny soldiers did not disappear, but stirred to life. Jillian willed the gates to close, but after they had slammed shut, she thought she could hear the soldiers singing: "Ding, dong" ...something. Or was it the bells?

They were still out there, somehow. Had the side not fallen? Had the–

But she was already losing her grasp on events. The smoke was so thick.

Wanda caught up to her, taking her hand. The ringing sounds became an ocean, and Jillian‘s footing slipped. “I need to sleep now,” she said, doing something that might have been sitting or lying on the ground.

“I know,” said Wanda, drawing closer to her. The vision of Lady Firebaugh smiled, before dissipating into a pale mist.

Jillian collapsed inward. She fell into a reflection of herself on the surface of a pool of herself. In a titanic splash of mind, she disrupted everything she was. Somewhere in the droplets that sprayed out, a tiny bald jester was shaking his fist and shouting into space.

“If they attack the city, we‘re doomed!”

But she did not know what words meant.

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Recent posts... (See full thread)
Lipkin wrote:
That they can be wrong is reasonable doubt.
If we doubt everything that might be wrong by any convoluted imaginable way then we'll never know anything. We have to trust that most characters are speaking the truth most of the time. Otherwise all of Erfworld might be engaged in some elaborate piece of performance art, with only Parson, Wanda, Jillian, and a few others not in on the joke.

Lipkin wrote:
And they have been contradicted.
Only once has anything in a Stupidmeal ever been contradicted, and that instance was a natural simplification of the rules rather than a pointless lie. It said: "When flying units are over water, mountains, or heavy trees, they can only be attacked by other fliers." It just failed to mention that forest capable units are an exception to that rule. Calling barbarians Natural Allies would be just a bizarre lie for no apparent reason if it weren't true. If the first Stupidmeal had made a similar bizarre lie like saying, "No one but other fliers can attack them, not even forest capable units," then I would be more suspicious that we might get more bizarre lies. (For reference, the first Stupidmeal appeared on Page 39 of Book 1.)
There are two arguments going on right now.

1. Barbarians. Natural allies, or no?
2. Natural allies. Can they capture cities and start sides?

Now, since it's been stated that natural allies don't have cities, I'm saying no to #2. That is what I am saying there isn't enough evidence to call.

Barbarians act differently than other natural allies. They don't have to immediately spend their smuckers. They seem to make alliances in a similar way that sides joining forces do. Barbarians don't have a side of their own, so they didn't fit on the other list of the Stupid Meal, so including them with natural allies could have been an oversimplification. They are allies at the very least. Barbarians haven't been referred to as natural allies in any other place in the comic. Find me another example, and I'll drop it.
Lilwik wrote:
It said: "When flying units are over water, mountains, or heavy trees, they can only be attacked by other fliers." It just failed to mention that forest capable units are an exception to that rule. Calling barbarians Natural Allies would be just a bizarre lie for no apparent reason if it weren't true.


To me, those two cases seem pretty similar.
Lipkin wrote:
Natural allies. Can they capture cities and start sides? Now, since it's been stated that natural allies don't have cities, I'm saying no to #2. That is what I am saying there isn't enough evidence to call.
We know they can start sides and they don't use cities to do it (See Book 1, Page 79a, Klog 9). The only question is whether they can start capital sides, and you're right that we don't have any proof one way or the other, but I think the default position should be to assume that the rules are the same for everyone until proved otherwise. We at least know that you don't need to be strictly human to rule a side as evidenced by Don King of Transylvito. It could even be that if the gobwins had managed to hold on to Gobwin Knob they would have ceased to be Natural Allies and become a capital side of their own like Transylvito. We have no real foundation for declaring that it couldn't happen.

Lipkin wrote:
Barbarians act differently than other natural allies.
I agree that they seem to, but I wonder how different they are in general. Jillian is certainly very different from Vurp, but that's comparing a warlord to a knight. I expect they wouldn't seem so different if instead of Jillian we'd seen Jetstone allied with a horde of regular barbarians, all ordinary units with no commanders, no purses, no ability to save shmuckers. We know that such barbarians exist. I also like to imagine that there could be hobgobwin commanders if someone gave the hobgobwins enough shmuckers.

Lipkin wrote:
Barbarians don't have a side of their own,
Some barbarians do have sides. Faq was still a side when it became barbarian, Banhammer was still its ruler, and if he died, Jillian would have become Faq's ruler, all without any cities.
Lipkin wrote:
so they didn't fit on the other list of the Stupid Meal,
The list of Natural Allies wasn't naming sides anyway; it was just counting the number of each type of unit. At least I assume that Erfworld contains more than a single tribe of marbits and Jetstone is allied with one specific tribe, but which tribe isn't listed.
Lipkin wrote:
so including them with natural allies could have been an oversimplification.
It's not a simplification. It's either true that they are Natural Allies or it's a lie. No one forced the Stupidmeal to put the barbarians into one of those two columns. (For reference, that Stupidmeal is on Page 86 of Book 1.)
Lipkin wrote:
Barbarians haven't been referred to as natural allies in any other place in the comic. Find me another example, and I'll drop it.
That's fair. Skepticism is a healthy thing and Stupidmeals have proven to be fallible, but just because you don't trust that barbarians are Natural Allies is no justification for concluding that they aren't Natural Allies. However flimsy the evidence in favor may be, it's far weaker against.
I see enough differences between barbarians and natural allies to conclude that they are not the same. I am done defending myself. Be done.
Lipkin wrote:
I see enough differences between barbarians and natural allies to conclude that they are not the same.
No matter how many differences you see between barbarians and hobgobwins or marbits or elves, that only means that barbarians are an unusual type of Natural Ally. It could be that Natural Ally is a broad class that includes some highly atypical examples and may mean nothing more than "not a capital side." Just because barbarians are called Natural Allies doesn't necessary guarantee any particular properties in barbarians; it just becomes part of the definition of the term "Natural Ally." We know that barbarians are called Natural Allies, at least once.

Lipkin wrote:
I am done defending myself.
I'm sorry to hear that someone is attacking you.
We know that barbarians WERE called natural allies, at least once.
Not even. Literally the only time Barbarians were called Natural Allies was by a STUPID Meal. Ya know, those things that have the word stupid right in the name, that have been proven time and time again to oversimplify and exclude information. If everyone went around calling Jillian a Natural Ally of Jetstone in Book 1, then you might have a leg to stand on Lilwik. But they don't.

So in conclusion:
  • Natural Allies and Barbarians clearly operate on different mechanics in proven ways

  • The only thing that puts them in the same group is an information source known for inaccuracies
Ergo...the two should not ever be considered the same, even in name only.

Can we be done now, plz?
0beron wrote:
Not even. Literally the only time Barbarians were called Natural Allies was by a STUPID Meal. Ya know, those things that have the word stupid right in the name, that have been proven time and time again to oversimplify and exclude information. If everyone went around calling Jillian a Natural Ally of Jetstone in Book 1, then you might have a leg to stand on Lilwik. But they don't.

So in conclusion:
  • Natural Allies and Barbarians clearly operate on different mechanics in proven ways

  • The only thing that puts them in the same group is an information source known for inaccuracies
Ergo...the two should not ever be considered the same, even in name only.

Can we be done now, plz?

Titans, thank you!
0beron wrote:
Ya know, those things that have the word stupid right in the name, that have been proven time and time again to oversimplify and exclude information.
You mean that's happened two times? I only know of one time. What's the other one?

0beron wrote:
Natural Allies and Barbarians clearly operate on different mechanics in proven ways
People often say that, but it looks to me like they really might operate on the same mechanics. Jillian is hardly typical of barbarians and if she were a regular barbarian (who wouldn't have a purse) then the common mechanics between barbarians and hobgobwins would be more obvious. If you know of some real proof somewhere that everyone seems to see except me, then please point me to it.

0beron wrote:
The only thing that puts them in the same group is an information source known for inaccuracies
You're right that the only hard evidence comes from a source that is sometimes inaccurate, but since that Stupidmeal suggested the idea we can see that barbarians being Natural Allies makes a lot of sense. Barbarians and gobwins both pop in the wild and live in the wild, and they both take shmuckers from capital sides to survive. If barbarians can use shmuckers to pop more barbarians then gobwins and barbarians are so similar that there could be no doubting the Stupidmeal. No one knows whether barbarians can use Natural Moneymancy or not, so it's not a perfect theory, but where there is doubt I've got to go with the Stupidmeal. It said that flying units can't be attacked from the ground in dense forest, and it was right in the majority of cases. The odds of a thing being true are greatly improved by being in a Stupidmeal.