Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 075

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 075

“What does it feel like?” Jillian asked.

“Like nothing at all,” said Jack. “Until I try to think about it. Then it gets a bit headachy.” He squinted into the distance, looking at nothing but the blank green side of an Efbaum building. “I certainly do remember the events of this morning...huhh!” He flinched. “Well. Even discussing it in those vague terms carries a bit of a physical cost. Quite a powerful spell.”

“Brother Labeler,” said Marie solemnly, “he‘s serious about his croft.”

The Signamancer had spent the last hour in a Thinkamancy link-up with Charlie, administering a kind of unbreakable magical contract they were calling a “Deal of a Lifetime.” Marie and Jillian were among the last who had not yet signed.

“Heh,” said Jillian, catching Jack‘s eyes. “That‘s just what–” Jack gave her a tiny shake of his head. “...I‘ve heard said about you, Marie.”

Marie nodded. “Each discipline comes with its buhden. Special knowledge you cannot share. It shapes you.” She looked down at the paving stones of the courtyard. “Disconnects you.”

A light, crisp breeze swirled through, still carrying a hint of smoke and flowers. Jillian‘s stomach tightened. Her temples went clammy in the wind.

“Yeah,” she said. “I know. And you, especially, right? You see the future but you can‘t talk about it, or you‘ll...make it worse.”

Marie threw her a worried glance, and nodded. Jack watched them both.

“But you got this wrong, didn‘t you?” Jillian asked, gesturing around with her hand. “You said my father would croak, and I‘d become Queen of Faq.” Marie opened her mouth, shaking her head in protest, but Jillian cut her off. “You specifically said Haffaton would conquer Faq. Didn‘t you?”

“Yes, and it did,” said Marie.

“But then Faq conquered Haffaton right back,” said Jillian. “We won. You didn‘t Predict that. And the King didn‘t fall, either.”

“These ah the ways of Prediction.”

“Including being wrong.”

“About specifics?” Marie straightened her shoulders defensively. “Yes, all the time. About the how and the when and the where, suhtainly.”

“Not the what. Or the why?”

Marie raised her eyebrows. “The why is always the same. Fate is fate.”

“Marie,” said Jillian, leaning forward on the stone bench, “I don‘t want what the King wants. I wanna leave Faq and go off on my own. He offered me that once today. I‘m gonna ask him to let me found a side somewhere in all this Haffaton territory. I can protect his flanks! Do you think that‘s possible? I mean I...I don‘t think I can go back to the way things were. That‘s crazy. I can‘t go back. I don‘t even belong here.”

“Give me yoah hand.”

Marie tilted back her head and gazed into Jillian‘s eyes. Patches of bright sky shone as gleams upon the surface of the Predictamancer‘s ivory-white eyes. Past Marie‘s shoulder, Jillian saw Wanda approaching the patio from the direction of the Wizard‘s Hall. Her oath must be complete.

“I don‘t think you should do that,” she told Jillian.

“But I could,” she said. “He‘d let me.”

“You always have a choice,” shrugged Marie. “Thot‘s a bad choice, I think.”

Jillian scrunched her lips in frustration. “Marie, can I break the Prediction about becoming Queen of Faq or not?”

“A Predictamancer‘s function is to advise,” said the Lady Firebaugh. She stepped between potted shrubs and put her hand on Marie‘s shoulder. “You may heed the advice, or take the hard way. Labeler will see you now, Marie.”

As Marie rose, Wanda looked Jillian straight in the eye. “Don‘t take the hard way, Chief Jillian. Whatever it is. I would hope you‘d know better by now.”

“I dunno,” said Jillian with a lopsided smile. “So far it‘s been a real trip.”

---

She found King Banhammer on a straw mat in a vegetable garden, legs folded in meditation, watching the sun set over the walls of his only city. She didn‘t have a lot of respect for his practices, his habits, or his outlook. But somehow she still held her father in awe. This man had ordered her to exist. She served at his command.

She stood by the grapevine trellis and waited. The turn would end at sundown, but she could leave anytime before that and still use her full move, if he would let her go.

“The clanging of your armor might as well be a herald‘s horn, Princess,” said the King, without turning his head.

She took it as an invitation to approach, and entered the garden. Some awful, needy part of her mind made her glance at each growing plant just to make sure it wasn‘t a heroine bud.

“First words you‘ve said to me since the smoke cleared,” she said, stepping up behind him. The King had announced his plan to all, but had silently ordered Jillian to hold her tongue. They would raze el-Efbaum. Faq would be recreated as it had been: three cities in a hidden valley. Charlie would pledge funds to rebuild Faq, and swear a lifetime oath never to attack it, or disclose its location, or aid any side in disturbing it. In return, each person present at the trial would pledge never to reveal what they knew of Charlie‘s past. The Court of Faq would not re-emerge into the world until it had become sufficiently enlightened to show the way for all.

Earlier–during her enforced silence–Jillian had seen her dream of building Faq into a powerhouse side evaporate. But she had formed a new plan, to protect Faq from without, while being the warrior queen she was popped to become.

Her father‘s permission was all that stood in the way. He sat in placid silence, eyeing the orange sky, saying nothing. She had thought he might at least turn around to look at her.

“So, uh... How‘d you like to never have to speak to me again?”

Banhammer drew in a long breath through his nose, and exhaled the same way.

“That day will come, daughter. However the Titans decree it. It will bring a sort of peace, but I do not find joy in anticipating it.”

She wrinkled her brow. “Really? I figured after today...”

“Today was an avalanche. Tomorrow may be a still lake.”

He still had not looked at her. She wasn‘t sure where to look for the next conversational foothold here. Long moments of silence passed, until she decided she was tired of standing behind him. She walked around and stood in front of his sunset, casting a long shadow on him. She was suddenly aware of how loud her armor actually sounded in the stillness.

“The thing is, daddy... I want to go. I want to leave Faq and start a new side. I can be a buffer to you. If any new sides pop up, they‘ll have to come through me first! See?” He closed his eyes, his expression remaining peaceful. “Spin me off. It‘s the perfect time for it, with nobody else out there.”

“I‘m told that you have not signed your Deal of a Lifetime,” said the King, not opening his eyes. “Is that true?”

“Yeah,” said Jillian. “I wanted to talk to you first.”

“Our deal with Charlie is contingent upon all parties agreeing.”

“Yeah, you said.”

“Much depends upon it.” His voice remained low and calm.

“I don‘t actually like anything that depends on it. I actually think Your Wisdom‘s wisdom is pretty...questionable right now.

“I mean, okay you don‘t want to conquer and rule. But that‘s what you have to do, as a King. That‘s the only way to security. That‘s what the side requires. So my sense of Duty is not really thrilled with the idea of trusting the Kingdom to Charlie‘s infinite loving protection. I‘m not actually feeling compelled to sign on.”

She‘d rambled, without any obvious reaction from her father. And now he sat there, perfectly still, with his eyes closed. Doing nothing. Seeing nothing.

“Leave this garden,” he said at last. “I will speak again with Charlie.”

---

Without any clear idea of where to go, Jillian headed out into the city again, wandering aimlessly.

No, she knew where she was going. Her feet were taking her toward the main gate. Maybe some buds had survived the fire. She could go out to the Garden and see for herself. The fact that there was an army of High Elves posted outside didn‘t seem to matter right now. Maybe she could parley with them or something. Maybe they‘d picked a few and would sell them to her...

The Archons caught up to her before she‘d gone six blocks.

“Chief Warlord,” said the brunette. Carnie. They descended around her in the street. “A word, please.”

She eyed the “allied” unit dubiously. “Yeah?”

“We understand you‘re having trouble deciding to sign on,” said Carnie, her hands folded in a pose that said let‘s make a deal.

“Yeah,” said Jillian. “I don‘t like it.”

The Archon‘s face softened into what must be a very practiced look of sympathy. “That‘s perfectly understandable, Jillian. If I might call you that.”

Jillian narrowed her eyes but did not reply.

“It is an enormous, almost unprecedented personal commitment. But Charlie has authorized me to sweeten the offer just a bit for you. That is, for you personally.”

Jillian hated dealing with Charlescomm. It just went against her grain. She steeled herself to reject the coming offer, whatever it was. Everyone was always pushing her. This time, she would decide something on her own, without any further enticements or threats, thank you Charlie.

But the Archon reached inside her blazer and pulled out something glorious, cupping it in the palm of her hand. “We understand you‘ve developed an affinity for these,” said Carnie, holding up a perfect pink flower.

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Recent posts... (See full thread)
Oberon wrote:
Are you saying that Stanley, the GK heir and made Overlord by the death of Saline IV by the unprecedented (and one turn) revolt of the gobwin natural allies whilst Stanley was in the field, is not an example of how leadership of a side passes during duress?
I don't think I'd ever say that. On the contrary, I was just pointing out that the leadership of Gobwin Knob had passed to Stanley when Gobwin Knob fell, since Saline IV died in that battle. Therefore Stanley surviving that fall is an example of the leadership of a side passing from ruler to heir, not an example of an heir surviving in the field.

For all we know, if the gobwins had captured Saline IV instead of killing him, Stanley might have disbanded. Of course, that rule would have the odd consequence of causing people to try to incapacitate and capture rulers just long enough to officially capture the capital and cause the disbanding of all field units, then kill the ruler. If heir is in the field somewhere, then doing that trick would completely decapitate the side by disbanding the heir before the ruler is croaked. Assuming this is how it really works, then it makes perfect sense for Wanda to have croaked Banhammer in the second fall of Faq because I'm sure Wanda didn't want Jillian to disband. On the other hand, it seems like killing Saline IV would have been nothing but a baffling blunder for the gobwins that caused them to immediately lose the city they'd just taken. We even see the gobwins with a still-living Saline IV at their mercy in Book 1, Page 79. The fact that the gobwins croaked Saline IV instead of capturing him may be the best evidence we have that heirs won't disband in the field like regular units.
Lilwik wrote:

Looking at it that way, it seems like it was an awfully shameful thing that Jillian did. She was popped as an heir because Faq knew that it was going to be destroyed so that Faq might continue, and then by luck Jillian survived the destruction


She was popped to preserve his teachings and way of life. Its an awfully shameful thing to try and make your child live your life.

Also, she's probably doing Erfworld a favor by letting his *hem* wisdom be forgotten. If she had for some inexplicable reason took up proselytizing for his teachings, there very well could have been an extinction level event of sheer idiocy.

Besides, it'd be hard for her to continue the philosophies he espoused considering she was the one who paid the bills by doing exactly what those teachings shunned.


Anyhoo, as for Charlie and the deal he's cutting with FAQ, I expect he's attempting to rig the game in his favor. We know FAQ has units involved in big, capital F, face full of burning log, Fate. A Carnymancer probably has some knack at Predictamancy and Charlie has the resources and personality to try and twist things around so he benefits from them.

Fun Speculation: Fate killed Jack precisely so he'd be free of the bargain and could share the intel. So, indirectly, Charlie killed Jack! That boophole! Charlie really is responsible for everything!
Jabberwocky wrote:

Also, she's probably doing Erfworld a favor by letting his *hem* wisdom be forgotten. If she had for some inexplicable reason took up proselytizing for his teachings, there very well could have been an extinction level event of sheer idiocy.

While I agree with the general notion that King Banhammer is a fool, this is surely a gross exaggeration.
ManaCaster wrote:

While I agree with the general notion that King Banhammer is a fool, this is surely a gross exaggeration.


Its Jillian. A mathamancer seeking to calculate their combined destructive potential would need the assistance of a Thinkamancer link and a really big abacus. We're talking really big here, man, like 'has been mistaken for a capital city' big.
Oberon wrote:
0beron wrote:
WarFAN wrote:
I never get tired to repeat this:
King Banhammer is a galactic-level idiot. I will be very pleased when (if) Rob shows his croaking/uncroaking.
Eh.....I'm not too hopeful. We were so excited to see Olive die...and her death scene was profoundly underwhelming in terms of intrigue. So while I'm hoping for some poetic scene for Banhammer's death in which he has some ironic epiphany or something similarly epic and befitting his idiocy....I know better than to expect it.
More to the point, Banhammers' death has already been described by Stanley, in his recounting of the (second) fall of FAQ. There's just about zero reason for the story to cover those events in more detail.


Well, the battle as seen from FAQ could be used to tie up ends from the next IP(TSF) part, assuming it will center around the Jill/Jack/Wanda relationship and intrigues of the FAQ court. Did Marie fail to predict Stanley's arrival or was Jack away and could not veil the city? How does Rusty meet his end?

It could also be hilarious.

Imagine Stanley arriving and Banhammer trying to parley.

- Bla bla, said Banhammer. Bla bla bla Bla, refrain from shortsighted war and the stupidity of violence...

- Are you calling me short and stupid?! yelled Stanley. Hammertime!
Jack was in another city - Wanda arranged for him to be so. This way he was frozen in time when the side fell and so could be captured, and didn't interact in the battle itself.
Oberon wrote:
More to the point, Banhammers' death has already been described by Stanley, in his recounting of the (second) fall of FAQ. There's just about zero reason for the story to cover those events in more detail.
There I have to disagree, there is a reason. Yes, the occasion of his death was described (in a very vague cursory fashion)...but Stanley did not witness the actual event itself. There is a narrative opportunity there for Rob to show us what transpired between Wanda and Banhammer, and what Wanda's thought process was. Whether or not Rob will take that opportunity, and give it the poetic irony some of us would hope for is debatable, but there is definitely a reason for him to.
0beron wrote:
There is a narrative opportunity there for Rob to show us what transpired between Wanda and Banhammer, and what Wanda's thought process was.
Wanda's thought process has already been described: She thought Stanley would lose and she would get the 'hammer. When it was clear he would win, she turned. I'm not sure I see any value in spending a strip to describe "Hoboken", "Uncroak", "Go kill FAQ units."
Oberon wrote:
0beron wrote:
There is a narrative opportunity there for Rob to show us what transpired between Wanda and Banhammer, and what Wanda's thought process was.
Wanda's thought process has already been described: She thought Stanley would lose and she would get the 'hammer. When it was clear he would win, she turned. I'm not sure I see any value in spending a strip to describe "Hoboken", "Uncroak", "Go kill FAQ units."


But what if Wanda lied? Specifically in retelling that story.
Wanda has an established history of evading the truth and telling selective bits of the truth, but she is also capable of lying.
It doesn't even have to be that she lied. My original point about her thought process was misunderstood by Ohberon, and I didn't bother to correct him because (presumably) another comic came out to distract me.
What I mean is that we could see some insight into what Wanda is thinking in the moment as the Fall of FAQ transpires. Sure we know her stated goals/aims, but we don't know the play by play of what happened inside that Tower out of Stanley's sight, what she was thinking/feeling during it, and what was said between them (and perhaps other members of the Court).