Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 073

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 073

Past the point when dreams go dark, there is the mercy of a deep sleep. The visions and landscapes, the patterns, the otherworldly dimensions all slip away. Something still happens to you in that place, but the experience of it is lost.

Jillian had been there for hours, with her inner and outer senses all gone blank, when some tiny awareness got through to her. A message from existence, via her chief warlord‘s sense.

Enemy units entering the city.

Opening her eyes brought light and images, but for a moment she remained blind to their meaning. She sat up. She had been lying on something soft. A straw bed. Not one she‘d ever seen before.

Pain messages flooded in. Her knee, her head, her back, almost everything else... She was still in her gear. Wounded, with no move. Not Faq‘s turn, then. Someone had dragged or led her here, to sleep it off. The wilted flower that had been in her hair was missing, and her head throbbed with need of one.

With difficulty, Jillian stood up. She limped pathetically through the room‘s only door and out into the street. This knee was really bad.

The building she‘d been left inside was one of a row of little townhouses, all with green brick sides and black roofs. She scanned the airspace for hostiles, but the alleyway afforded only a narrow strip of clear blue sky. There was only a hint of smoke left in the air.

Wondering if it would be possible to get a new flower now, she hop-limped east, abusing her sword as a cane.

She rounded the row of houses and stepped into bright sunlight. The main gate of el-Efbaum stood only two blocks up the main thoroughfare from here. It hung open, with the portcullis raised. Beyond the edge of the city there was a riot of bright colors that Jillian couldn‘t immediately make sense of.

In the archway of the gate, two robed figures were standing in the sunshine. Faq units. Okay. Both were gaunt and leaning. Neither looked healthy. She blinked.

It was the Lady Firebaugh. And an uncroaked Commander unit, with zero leadership.

Oh. ...Olive.

Her view of the world beyond the city gates swam into focus. Colorful, ragged-looking tents stood outside the city gates. Troops! They could march right in here! What were they doing?

“Wanda,” she croaked. Her parched voice carried far enough. Wanda looked up, then she and her new unit began heading toward her. Jillian watched over their shoulders, eyeballing the troops outside for any sign of trouble.

For the second time today, she willed the portcullis closed, and hobbled forward to meet Wanda. “What‘s going on? Are we under attack?”

“Chief Warlord,” said the Croakamancer a bit dreamily as she approached. She wore a beautiful pink flower in her hair, and Jillian‘s stomach tightened with envy. Otherwise, she looked terrible. Her shoulder was dislocated, and her arm was hanging wrong. The reality of her emaciated body shocked Jillian. She had come to see dream-Wanda as the real Wanda. “I don‘t believe so.”

“Something entered the airspace,” said Jillian, looking up again. “Something‘s in the garrison!”

“Archons, from Charlescomm,” said Wanda, limping as she drew near.

The uncroaked Olive Branch looked blank-eyed, and had a hole in her chest that you could fit a fist in. But she was oddly lovely this way...no guile, no evil left in those pretty, empty eyes.

“Three of them came over the gate, asking King Banhammer‘s whereabouts,” added Wanda. “They seek a parley.”

“You told them where my father was?” said Jillian, alarmed. “They could croak him!”

Wanda‘s lips curled, and she gave a slight shrug. She seemed dazed. “Then you would be Queen, and have your vengeance, I suppose.” She raised her good arm and put a bony hand on Olive‘s shoulder. “As I have mine.”

“You‘ve got a flower,” said Jillian, hating herself for her priorities. She should be limping down the street to save her King, but...

Wanda smiled. A couple of her teeth were missing, and one was broken in half. “The last one, I am told. The Olive Garden has burned down.”

“Oh no...” said Jillian, before realizing what she was saying. Right, that was a good thing. Sure it was. She just stared at the flower. The last one, ever.

“You could order me to give it to you,” Wanda pointed out, as if reading her thoughts.

She almost did. But Wanda was so far gone. She must be hurting for it, needing it more than Jillian ever had. She‘d been a heroine herself, today. She deserved it.

“What‘s that army outside?” Jillian asked instead.

“High Elves,” said Wanda. “Do not worry. They cannot attack. It is not their turn. It‘s Charlescomm‘s.”

The High Elves were Haffaton‘s natural allies, and when the side fell, they could have continued their turn. They could have taken this city while everyone was incapacitated, sacked it for Shmuckers. Why didn‘t they?

“What are they doing out there?”

“Celebrating, I suppose,” said Wanda. “It was they who burned the Garden.”

---

“Highness! Lady Firebaugh!”

Jack, with Betsy in tow, spotted Jillian and Wanda from a side street as they limped toward the garrison area. The Foolamancer and Healomancer hurried over the bricks toward them, but Betsy stopped when she saw Olive. Jack merely gave the uncroaked Florist a quick glance as he rushed up.

“Oh. You‘ve...acquired a new unit for the side. How unsettling. Sister Betsy, might you do a Service and tend to the, ah, living?”

Their gwiffon had perished too, and he and Rusty had both been incapacitated in the fall. Betsy had found them in a mangled heap, healed them, and sent the Shockmancer back to the garrison. King Banhammer was there, regrouping everyone at the site of the trial.

“He‘s in the Wizard‘s Hall, parleying with the Charlescomm units,” said Betsy. Her voice was cold and mechanical, and she kept looking over at Olive Branch. She held up her hands, intoning “Rexall, Revco, Eckerd...” and Jillian felt her body pulling itself back together. Titans, it felt good. If she could just take Betsy out into the field, she‘d come home with more soldiers than she usually managed to.

Wanda looked all right now, too. A little glassy-eyed. Her shoulder was back in place.

“You shouldn‘t bring that to your new King,” Betsy scowled, indicating Olive. “He‘s been disrupted enough this day.”

“I understand,” said Wanda.

“I don't know how you could do this. He loved her,” continued Betsy, in an accusing tone. “That should be plain.”

“Yes. Everyone does, at first,” said Wanda, her voice softly distant. “And then they are made sorrowful.”

She stepped over to the uncroaked woman and touched her blonde hair, brushing a little curl out of her/its eye. Olive did not flinch, or even blink.

“No-one who loved her ever failed to suffer for it. Nor could she feel remorse. King Banhammer shall be the last of her victims.” She turned and looked at Betsy. “I doubt he will find solace in that fact, but I do.”

She turned in the direction of the gathering, brushing past Betsy. Olive did not follow.

“She‘d have destroyed you all,” said Wanda, touching the flower in her hair as she walked away. “As surely as she has destroyed me.”

---

Everybody looked glum, subdued, wounded in spirit if not in body. When Jillian first caught sight of the sorry bunch of casters, she‘d shrugged. “That‘s how they celebrate victory over the biggest side in the world, huh?” she muttered to Jack when they came upon the scene. Jack offered no comment.

But as they approached, the fact that Brother Labeler had not cleaned up around here suddenly struck Jillian. In a day of such unimaginable weirdness, it was a tiny thing, but so completely wrong. Labeler always took care of everything. Faq was normally laid out for maximum neatness and harmony. There were no messes at home.

Here, the broken pots and furniture were shattered and scattered around the patio area, where the Court of Faq had gathered in muted mourning. This was a battlefield, Jillian realized. No less than any siege-toppled, fire-blackened city on a hill.

The casters offered their Princess only the barest acknowledgement as she sat down on a broken bench. They were grouped in twos and threes, holding quiet, muttered conversations.

“Orwell‘s back among us,” she commented to Jack, seeing the Lookamancer sitting alone, without shackles.

“He tunned back,” said Sister Marie, overhearing. “He wos left a prisonah of no side. Easy choice.”

“What‘s my father doing inside?” she asked Marie. The big doors to the Wizard‘s Hall were shut tight.

“Talking,” said Marie. “Deciding things, without counsel.”

“With the Archons,” said Jillian. Marie nodded. “Let me guess. One‘s called Chynna, right?”

“I don‘t know,” said Marie.

“Charlie‘s a treacherous little twoll,” said Jillian, eying the doors. “Nobody here is worried that they‘re just gonna croak him?”

Marie looked at Jillian strangely. “They won‘t do that, no.”

“Yeah?" she said, "Izzat a Prediction?”

Marie glanced over at Wanda, who was seated beside Jillian. She took a deep, tense breath.

Jillian felt a phantom tap on her shoulder, and a little arrow appeared in the air between Marie and the Lady Firebaugh. Jack was reminding her of a certain conversation they‘d once had.

“No, Cholly won‘t croak King Banhammah, Princess. Not today,” said Marie, her voice low and resigned. “This I Predict.”

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Recent posts... (See full thread)
Oberon wrote:
Parson really didn't get much at all out of Jack. I was fairly disappointed in that update, as far as revealing new information to Parson about Charlie went. And to simply move on when there was so much more to learn, that was disappointing also. Especially when Wanda pretty much ordered Jack, a decrypted in complete thrall to her, to tell Parson all about whatever it was that they couldn't tell him before.
It's suggested pretty clearly in that update that Jack had been talking before the beginning of the update, and probably telling Parson absolutely everything that Jack learned about Charlie, including things that we don't know yet. For example, Jack told Parson about the high price that Charlie paid, while we still don't know about that. I expect that part of the conversation wasn't included in the update to avoid going over old news and to avoid spoiling the next update of Inner Peace.
Shai_hulud wrote:
Werebiscuit wrote:
He may have thought Jillian and Wanda would survive the initial version of the plan where Stanley attacks and gets his butt kicked but once Stanley's forces were boosted he might resonably expect Stanley to kill off any resistance ( i.e Jillian, King Banhammer and any of the casters that didn't flee) with the increased firepower and then to turn on the doublecrosser ( i.e. Wanda) on the premise that she couldn't be trusted.
Whichever way it works there should be less mouths knowing his secret and nothing to tie him to the massacre.
Except how would he have known it was a trap? If the only information he has is Wanda's thinkagram? And both in book 0 and book 2 Charlie seems to like Jillian? He doesn't get mad when she goes against the plan and spares Wanda for instance. It's only when she goes for Ansom instead of Wanda that his panties get all bunched up. If he just wanted them all dead why would he be so sympathetic to Jills forbidden romance? Plus there is whatever is between Charles, Jojo, and Sylvia, and also the whole Charlie/Parson thing. He just comes off as having more complex motives than being a greedy evil bastard for its own sake.


Ok on the subject of the thinkagram...how did wanda contact Stanley ? Who sells thinkagrams to various factions ? So charlie was involved in setting up Stanley, maybe not directly but at least indirectly.
Stanley was contacted out of the blue according to him. So what made Wanda choose Stanley - the arkentool. Who might know about arkentool weilders ? Another arkentool weilder especially one involved with thinkamancy.
Remember what Maggie said about thinkagrams... they convey much more than just the message, they convey intentions,
"To a Thinkamancer, intuition was as communicable as speech or emotion or the underlying intentions of orders. It could be sent and received, combined and multiplied, and manipulated."
That enough for you to know how Charlie knew it was a trap ?... he could even be implicated in planning the trap. He has more than enough conection to Wanda before the fall of FAQ.

Others have answered why Charlie seems to like Jillian but besides..Are you sure it's Jillian that Charlie likes ? Could it be Wanda ? Could that be why he indulges Jillian...since Wanda loves her and he can use that as a lever on Wanda ?
I agree Charlie is complex...I wouldn't want a straightforward "I AM EVIL" protagonist. I'm still trying to figure him out.
I'm just putting forward ( and defending) a theory. It may be wrong but seems to agree with the story so far.
I always assumed Wanda sent the Thinkagram herself. She clearly has some knowledge of Thinkamancy.
Lilwik wrote:
Oberon wrote:
Parson really didn't get much at all out of Jack. I was fairly disappointed in that update, as far as revealing new information to Parson about Charlie went. And to simply move on when there was so much more to learn, that was disappointing also. Especially when Wanda pretty much ordered Jack, a decrypted in complete thrall to her, to tell Parson all about whatever it was that they couldn't tell him before.
It's suggested pretty clearly in that update that Jack had been talking before the beginning of the update, and probably telling Parson absolutely everything that Jack learned about Charlie, including things that we don't know yet. For example, Jack told Parson about the high price that Charlie paid, while we still don't know about that. I expect that part of the conversation wasn't included in the update to avoid going over old news and to avoid spoiling the next update of Inner Peace.
Perhaps, but I didn't get as strong a suggestion about that as you did. Avoiding going over old news is fine, it saves time and avoids spending precious updates on that old news. But avoiding telling the readers what might be vital information about Charlie will only result in problems down the line.

Having the hero of a story abruptly cuff character A and explain that character B had provided proof of their perfidy or their weakness or their mother-in-law's bra size has never been a writing style that I have enjoyed. And this story hasn't done a lot (or perhaps any, but you don't know what you don't know.*) of it in the past. To be clear, keeping secrets about the mechanics of Erfworld doesn't count, since our protagonist was also learning things as he went along. Having characters other than Parson drop hints (either in his presence or not) that are not completed also does not apply. That is a time honored writing technique. But the protagonist with info that the readers doesn't have falls more into line with lousy detective story writing. There's no writing skill involved with "Bugsy told me three months ago about how you killed Rocko, see? I was prepared for your double-cross all along! Now it's the slammer for you!" So if Jack relayed information to Parson which wasn't shared with the readers and which will be pivotal later on, I want to know it now. Or at least far in advance of it being some surprise reveal along the lines of what I've described here.

And I can also hear the cries of "Deus ex machina!" from the forums when/if Parson acts on secret reveal information he wasn't shown to have had previously.

* Kingwold *ptui!* comes very close to applying, since a side like GK with more casters than any other, including a polymath and master class level casters, shouldn't have been ignorant of the potential for something like Kingworld.
Oberon wrote:
Perhaps, but I didn't get as strong a suggestion about that as you did.
It's pretty explicit: "Parson had asked Wanda into his dink little dorm room next, but she insisted that he talk to Jack first. After twenty minutes of hearing about the fall of Haffaton, he could see why." Jack's been telling Parson stuff for twenty minutes before Epilogue 7 even begins. Of course no one can say for certain what Jack said exactly, but if it seems like Parson should have asked a question that he didn't ask, then it's probably because the question has already been answered.

Oberon wrote:
But avoiding telling the readers what might be vital information about Charlie will only result in problems down the line.
You shouldn't worry about that. As soon as we get a few more Episodes of Inner Peace we'll be fully caught up with everything that Jack knows about the fall of Haffaton and Charlie, then we can safely assume that Parson knows all of it.
Lilwik wrote:
It's pretty explicit [that Jack has said lot of stuff to Parson that the readers aren't yet privy too]: "Parson had asked Wanda into his dink little dorm room next, but she insisted that he talk to Jack first. After twenty minutes of hearing about the fall of Haffaton, he could see why." Jack's been telling Parson stuff for twenty minutes before Epilogue 7 even begins. Of course no one can say for certain what Jack said exactly, but if it seems like Parson should have asked a question that he didn't ask, then it's probably because the question has already been answered.
I believe that it was you who so correctly pointed out that there's not much point in covering things that the readers already know. And so it's not fair of you to claim that there is a lot of information that Jack told Parson but wasn't shown to the readers in the update. What wasn't shown should be all the history that Jack is aware of and the readers are as well, and that could have easily taken several hours to relate, not just 20 minutes.

But I'll wait and see what new information may come out of the next few updates as the story lines converge more closely. I've never cared much for 'Book 0', as I recall from Word of Author, it was filler that was decided on after the fact to counter the problem that updates for Book 2 had become so sporadic. That is no longer the case, and so Book 0 could be wrapped up and the content and reveals that were planned for Book 2 could revert back to plan.
Oberon wrote:
And so it's not fair of you to claim that there is a lot of information that Jack told Parson but wasn't shown to the readers in the update.
Jack wouldn't hold anything back from Parson. What reason could he have to hide something? For better or worse, I'm sure Jack told Parson everything interesting that happened, and we only got the bits of the conversation that were included in the update, which means we might know everything that Parson knows, or we might not, depending on what's still to come in Book 0. Either way, I'm sure we'll know it all soon.

Oberon wrote:
I've never cared much for 'Book 0', as I recall from Word of Author, it was filler that was decided on after the fact to counter the problem that updates for Book 2 had become so sporadic.
I would never have guessed that. It's remarkable that even the filler of Erfworld is better than almost anything else you can find on the web.

Oberon wrote:
That is no longer the case, and so Book 0 could be wrapped up and the content and reveals that were planned for Book 2 could revert back to plan.
I certainly hope that Book 0 isn't near the end, but you're probably right because it seems to be moving toward a conclusion ever since it's chief villain died. Perhaps all that is left is for Charlie to reveal his true form and hand out gifts to all our heroes in exchange for their silence.
I'm a big fan of book 0. Like it better than the epilogue and also more than regular comic updates, to be honest.

I think for now a reasonable guess would be that Jack just summarized the portions of book 0 that have to do with Charlie. If Parson knows other things about Charlie that are relevant, presumably we'll be introduced to them at some point, either in book 0 or in the book 2 epilogues or when the time comes in book 3.
Lilwik wrote:
Oberon wrote:
I've never cared much for 'Book 0', as I recall from Word of Author, it was filler that was decided on after the fact to counter the problem that updates for Book 2 had become so sporadic.
I would never have guessed that. It's remarkable that even the filler of Erfworld is better than almost anything else you can find on the web.
'Filler' was an unkind term. A better one might be 'unplanned content'.
One mans filler is an( lot of ) other mens extremely enjoyable web-comic . . . that they get for free, more to the point.

I am sure the unkindness wasn't deliberate.