Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 078

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 078

On the day after the battle, Jillian woke up as a Chief Warlord, thinking Chief Warlord thoughts.

She was leading a single-city side, which was always a precarious position. They had a bunch of casters, but not much else. There were tactics to think of. Defenses. Even if they did raze this city and return to Faq, they had to protect it for the ten turns they‘d need to pop their mounts.

Charlescomm, their likeliest adversary, had an unknown number of high-powered air units and an army of elves outside. The elves could be a problem. The Archons...they could handle the Archons if they prepared.

She rolled out of bed and headed for the garrison, intent on finding Orwell.

---

By day 3, Jillian possessed an up-to-date Battle Room, and a working defense plan.

Orwell had worked pretty hard, poring over Haffaton‘s treasure trove of maps, taking his Chief Warlord‘s directives seriously, despite the King‘s insistence that Charlescomm was no threat. The Lookamancer set up two separate tactical maps, one of Efbaum‘s internal defenses and the other of the surrounding 56 hexes and the High Elves‘ positions and strengths. If he resented her for putting a sword through his guts, it didn‘t show.

She‘d only brought it up once, in jest. “I was Serving when I blinded you and you struck me down, and I am Serving now,” he‘d told her with a shrug. “I bear no resentment, but I am uncertain of the lesson. I have much to meditate upon.”

The Court was still traumatized, but they were nothing if not philosophical about it.

Jillian put most of the rest of them to work spelling up the tower. Useful for a change, Rusty Trombone designed and directed the implementation of an interlocking array of spells that would draw on some of the magical disciplines they had to work from. He and Wanda talked about the city defense he had put up against her army. Although the fight was futile (with that stubby pagoda they called a tower), Faq still managed to get a few licks in. Christian Sidehug had apparently fallen, and been uncroaked in mid-battle to rejoin the fight.

It was a weirdly friendly and technical discussion that Jillian listened to with fascination. Even though attacking cities by air was her business, she learned a few things. How did a Croakamancer know so much about Shockmancy?

Wanda wasn‘t looking too good, though. She kept that last, empty flower in her hair long past the time when it could be doing her any good. She was having trouble moving around. Jillian worried about her.

And of course, her own need for a flower never quite left her mind.

---

Five days after the battle, the Archons approached the Chief Warlord again. She‘d ridden her high horse out to the northwest wall at sunset, to have a look at crenellating the battlements for casters, in case it came to that.

They played some kind of music as they drifted in from above; she didn‘t know why. Maybe they were trying not to startle her.

“Had a chance to think it over?” asked Chynna, descending effortlessly from the orange sky.

“Yup,” said the Chief. “Lots of chances. And I passed every one up.” She turned her attention to the stone edge of the wall, taking a sight on one of the elves‘ tents with an imaginary crossbow.

“Ah.”

The Archons hovered there for a while. Jillian drew her sword in a purposely reckless arc and put the point into a mortarless crack between green bricks. As Chief Warlord, she willed the brick to come loose as she pried, then pushed it over the edge of the wall. It fell in the mud, twenty-three feet below. Spuck.

She took another sighting through the hole it left. Yeah, better.

“You missed an interesting council today,” said Chynna.

“Doubt it.” The Court met at council twice daily. Jillian hadn‘t even attended once, but the Archons were sitting in. She tried not to think about the security damage that was probably causing.

“Olive was there.”

Jillian swung around, then hated herself for the overreaction. Oh, right. The uncroaked unit. “I thought my father didn‘t want it around.”

“He acknowledged that,” said the Archon, looking smug, knowing she‘d gotten a reaction. Disband it. “But then he made a speech about ‘intellectual bravery‘ and facing what you don‘t want to. It was quite novel, and inspiring.”

The other two nodded.

The Chief turned back to the wall. “Yeah they‘re into that crap.”

“It‘s not crap,” said Carnie.

“Yeah, it is,” said Jillian, setting Three-Edged down on the wall and putting her hands against the brick. That was a lot of elves she was looking at. She had to imagine that Charlescomm was still footing their upkeep. How long would that go on? How long until they were free agents and might decide to attack this city on their own? The Archons would probably tell her if she asked, for a fee. “You can go away any time.”

“Olive was there because the Lady Firebaugh was under inquisition,” said Chynna, ignoring the comment. “Before the Court accepts her as a member, they wanted her to defend her discipline. They essentially made her answer for all of Croakamancy.”

Caster stuff, in other words. Club initiation. “So?”

“I don‘t think she did very well,” said the Archon. “She seemed to be having trouble standing up.”

Jillian picked up her sword and turned around slowly, locking eyes with the hovering unit.

“The lack of buds is very dangerous for her,” said Chynna, her eyes narrowing. “We have an unlimited supply. The next time you have a chance to reconsider our offer, perhaps you‘d care to think about her needs as well as your own.”

---

Wanda had her own suite in the tower, where she‘d stayed whenever she was in Efbaum. It was similar in luxury to Judy‘s, but on the ground floor.

She came to the door and unlocked it for Jillian. But in trying to open it, she fell.

---

“Strategically,” said the Lady Firebaugh, “you should only pop nine mounts. It would be wasteful of...time and resources.”

“You‘re making the trip, Wanda.”

“No...”

Jillian sat on the edge of the bed, wearing her armor, while Wanda shivered under the covers. She had helped the caster back into bed, and it was suddenly apparent how frail and close to croaking she really was. Lack of a flower was a constant point of agitation for Jillian. It made her yell at people and kick things. For Wanda, it meant the end was coming soon.

“I order you to live,” said Jillian. “Faq needs you.”

Wanda said nothing. Jillian looked around the room for water, or something else she could bring. Or anything she could do.

“I heard they raked you over the coals today,” she said. “Made you defend yourself for being a Croakamancer.”

“Yes.”

The Chief smiled wryly. “I‘ve been there. A lot. I have to defend my being a warlord every time I‘m with them,” she said. “So how‘d it go? Did you win or lose? I always lose.”

“I lost,” said Wanda distantly. “I suppose I always lose, too.”

“We should start our own side,” said Jillian. “Call it ‘Popped to Lose‘ or something. You can be my Chief Croakamancer. We‘ll pop the worst units possible.”

Wanda didn‘t laugh, only shivered. The bed gently shook.

“Should I start a fire?” Jillian asked, after a minute or so. The room had a nice little hearth.

“There‘s no firewood,” said Wanda. “She didn‘t like burning trees.”

Jillian stood up, looking around the beautifully appointed room. “I‘m sure I could burn something in here,” she said. She picked up a chair by the writing desk and held it up, ready to smash it to kindling. “How ‘bout this?”

“No...”

She put it down. “Want some tea? Chocolate?”

“I can‘t eat. Haven‘t in two days.”

“Oh.”

She sat down on the chair, watching Wanda shake and waste away. Then she stood up again, reached into her armpit, and began unbuckling her breastplate.

---

In her longjohns, Jillian lay beside Wanda, holding her hand like they‘d done in the Garden, talking about any little stupid thing and trying to lend her some warmth and comfort.

She did not mention the big stupid thing until it got late.

Her internal battle had been fierce, but she‘d finally decided that Wanda deserved to know about Charlescomm‘s offer. Heroine buds still existed, and they could be had for a price. Jillian just wouldn‘t pay it.

Wanda‘s eyes had been halfway closed for an hour. Now they were alert and open, but she said nothing. Jillian felt guilty. What was her stubbornness costing now? Wanda‘s life?

“Maybe...he‘d, um... accept something else in return for buds,” she said lamely. “I can‘t take the Deal.”

“No,” said Wanda, “don‘t.”

“You don‘t think so?”

“They are furious at you, at Court. They want the King to order you to sign. He refuses to.”

Jillian had wondered. “Huh. Why not?”

“Because you are Fated to be Queen of Faq after him,” said Wanda. “He respects the Ruler you will become. The Deal of a Lifetime would constrain Queen Jillian in a way that he does not feel privileged to impose upon her. Orders within his reign are one matter. He will not issue an order that will affect you in yours.”

“I... Wow.” She lay there in the dark, holding Wanda‘s frail hand, trying to process that.

“You should not take the Deal...because you should not have any more of the buds. From this point, you can recover. I cannot. I have used them for too long.”

She squeezed Wanda‘s hand. “How long have you got?”

“A turn or two, I think.”

“What about if you had some of the buds?”

“Fifty or sixty turns?” guessed Wanda weakly. “Not much longer than that. Likely not a hundred.”

Jillian shook her head on the pillow helplessly. How unfair was that? Where was the battle plan that let you fight your way out of that situation? Whatever the odds, there should at least be a fighting chance. For several minutes she turned it over in her head, looking for the flaw, the weak spot to punch through. Why couldn‘t she just be outnumbered in the air? Why couldn‘t this just be something she could fight?

“Jillian...” said Wanda.

“Hm?”

“There‘s something important. But there are things I can...no longer s–” the Croakamancer suddenly convulsed in pain.

“You...are you okay?”

Wanda shook her head, and clamped her hand over her own mouth, squeezing her eyes shut.

“Is it the Deal, doing this?”

Wanda almost, almost managed to nod.

“Okay, um...you need to tell me something but you can‘t. That means it‘s about Charlie.” She watched Wanda twitch, and started guessing wildly “He‘s, uhh...got the buds. He‘s growing them. What? He has them because...he needs them, too?” Wanda convulsed again.

“Yeah, in the trial you said that Olive used her Flower Power on him. So he uses them now, too, maybe? He figured out how to grow them on his own, so he could stay alive?”

Wanda curled up rolled over in the bed, unable to acknowledge a word.

“But no that can‘t be true. He should have croaked by now. He would have started on them long before you did, right?”

Her eyes got wide.

“So maybe he‘s got a way of coping with it. A cure?” She clenched her fist. There it was. Charlie did have something worth dealing for.

Something was keeping him alive. And whatever it was, she wanted it for Wanda.

image

Recent posts... (See full thread)
Thanks Lilwik, quick find!
Ah, so this is the price that gets Jillian to bend knee and almost certainly not only sign Charlie's deal but agree to a little extra twist that sees some of her memories erased. I can't see Jillian happily working with Charlie in the future if she still remembered all of this.

I agree that:

- The cure must be total so that Wanda is not dependent on some kind of medicine supply in the future;
- Charlie may maintain a supply of the buds so that he can use them as Olive did, and not because he is still a junkie (although it's clear that Olive must have junkie'd him at some stage)
- The Court's distate of Croakamancy is weird given that it means less need for soldiering by the living. Or at least by the living on the same side as the uncroaked. Living soldiers forced to fight against uncroaked would disagree. It may just be an extension of their dislike of war and powers only useful for war.
- The Court's distate for Wanda, who helped sack their pocket kingdom, is easier to explain. Heck, we saw the disdain Olive Branch had for croakamancy. I can't imagine a real life croakamancer in our world would be widely popular either.
- The ability of the heroine buds to do long lasting, eventually lethal damage over multiple turns could potentially be system-breaking in this world, although I can't see Parson engaging in biological or chemical warfare.
MonteCristo wrote:
warriortribble wrote:
Must admit, it's strange to see Wanda slowly dying when there's a Healomancer in their hex. It does make you wonder about the limitations of what sounds like an all-purpose healing class. Some possibilities are:

1. Besty is simply not skilled or high enough to help. Definitely possible since she rarely sees combat and Faq is hardly an ideal place to learn medicine.

2. She doesn't want to help Wanda. Considering the contempt the court is showing the Croakamancer, it's possible she doesn't want to go out of her way to research and cure an ailment that's most certainly new to her. She'll heal any combat injuries Wanda gets, but otherwise, she's content in letting Wanda wither away.

3. Kind of related to 1, Healomancy is simply insufficient in repairing the damage done to Wanda. I suppose Wanda is so close to death that she'll need other forms of magic (like life extending Carnymancy) in order for any long term solutions to be attempted on her.


From a Signamancy point of view it is kind of amusing that the healomancer presumably named for the Betty Ford Clinic isn't the source of the cure for Wanda's addiction.

Unless, of course, Charlie's cure has to be administered by a healomancer...
0beron wrote:
Shai_hulud wrote:
Actually I don't think she knew any of this until after her visit to the magic kingdom.
IIRC, she didn't visit the MK until after she had leveled? The point I'm referring to is when she was a level 1 out in the field.
No, she never mentions having to be a master until here:
http://www.erfworld.com/2012/02/inner-p ... isode-026/
She does try to make a scout dance though, but I'm not really sure that's the same thing.
0beron wrote:
drachefly wrote:
I wonder when [Wanda's] curiosity [about out-of-school casting] reversed to the disinterest displayed in book 1. I suppose FAQ might be enough to turn her around, if the many experiments with linkups weren't enough.
I was musing on this earlier, and with some input from Warriortribble, came to the conclusion that it was likely a slow process. It began when she was forced to try make up for all the lost casters in the final days of Haffaton, and the way she's being treated by FAQ's Court is probably the last straw. When everyone focuses on one aspect of you as if that is all that matters about you (as the Court is doing to her Croakamancy), the typical response is to either 1) disown that part entirely and pretend you aren't that thing or 2) latch on to that singular identity and try to reclaim it as a source of strength, dismissing other parts of yourself.

So being forced to multi-cast and find her abilities falling short, topped off with being told all that matters is being a Croakamancer...and you have a recipe for her quitting her other studies.

There is also a general disdain for Croakamancy. She was popped with an ability that was repulsive to so many other, from her father and brother, to Delphie, to the casters at Faq. we don't know how her uncroaked were received by Haffaton, so for all we know, her uncroaked could have been relegated to the really crappy assignments that they didn't want to expend real units on. She was liked much better when she wasn't acting like a croakamancer. She was more accepted when she was being anything other than what she was popped to be, whether that would be a warlady, field commander, lookamancer, dirtamancer, general purpose caster, findamancer, or whatever else. Then comes Stanley, and she suddenly finds that she doesn't need to pretend to be anything other than a croakamancer. She had the capacity to cast other spells, but her introduction in Book 1 was as Gobwin Knob's chief croakamancer. not chief caster, not chief counsel of the overlord. There is no bigger prude than a reformed harlot.
Lilwik wrote:
On the other hand, perhaps Jillian still could have responded if Olive tried to cast. Jillian is the sort of warlord who can take whole cities single-handed. Perhaps if Olive had said "Give me love" (the way Janis said it in Book 2, Page 64) then Jillian would have used the sound to guide her in throwing her sword straight through Olive's chest before the spell could be finished.

My guess is that the "can't initiate engagement" effect of Janis's spell allows the target to counterattack when engaged, and that the spell itself counts as an engagement, so Jojo would have been able to attack Janis if he had wanted to.
I think the main reason Olive didn't pacify Jillian was because it would have been more direct than Olive would have been comfortable with. As Wanda said, it isn't her style to engage an enemy without some hidden advantage.
Chit Rule Railroad wrote:
Lilwik wrote:
On the other hand, perhaps Jillian still could have responded if Olive tried to cast. Jillian is the sort of warlord who can take whole cities single-handed. Perhaps if Olive had said "Give me love" (the way Janis said it in Book 2, Page 64) then Jillian would have used the sound to guide her in throwing her sword straight through Olive's chest before the spell could be finished.

My guess is that the "can't initiate engagement" effect of Janis's spell allows the target to counterattack when engaged, and that the spell itself counts as an engagement, so Jojo would have been able to attack Janis if he had wanted to.


That sounds rather useless to anyone outside the MK. I strongly prefer Lilwik's explanation.
drachefly wrote:
Chit Rule Railroad wrote:
My guess is that the "can't initiate engagement" effect of Janis's spell allows the target to counterattack when engaged, and that the spell itself counts as an engagement, so Jojo would have been able to attack Janis if he had wanted to.

That sounds rather useless to anyone outside the MK. I strongly prefer Lilwik's explanation.

While games usually give aggro abilities to tank-type characters, there are situations where a caster has enough defense for it to be useful. Examples: A well-screened caster concerned about the enemy attacking another stack or punching through a blockade; a caster who is flying casting it on a grounded melee unit; a caster mounted on a formidable heavy, like Ace being carried by a Battle Bear. For example, if the TV units ambushing Stanley in Book I had Janis on a gwiffon, potentially she could have cast it on Stanley, then had other stacks remain interposed between her stack and Stanley, and between the hex boundaries and Stanley, and he wouldn't have been able to punch through to attack her stack or escape because he couldn't engage any other stacks. Then TV could have systematically eliminated the other GK units in the hex before regrouping to focus on Stanley.

Maybe I'm biased by my interest in seeing Parson the Heavy Warlord cast such a spell from a scroll, as a further evolution of his willingness to get his hands bloody. It would certainly help him protect Wanda during a portal intrusion.
Chit Rule Railroad wrote:
drachefly wrote:
Chit Rule Railroad wrote:
My guess is that the "can't initiate engagement" effect of Janis's spell allows the target to counterattack when engaged, and that the spell itself counts as an engagement, so Jojo would have been able to attack Janis if he had wanted to.

That sounds rather useless to anyone outside the MK. I strongly prefer Lilwik's explanation.

While games usually give aggro abilities to tank-type characters, there are situations where a caster has enough defense for it to be useful. Examples: A well-screened caster concerned about the enemy attacking another stack or punching through a blockade; a caster who is flying casting it on a grounded melee unit; a caster mounted on a formidable heavy, like Ace being carried by a Battle Bear. For example, if the TV units ambushing Stanley in Book I had Janis on a gwiffon, potentially she could have cast it on Stanley, then had other stacks remain interposed between her stack and Stanley, and between the hex boundaries and Stanley, and he wouldn't have been able to punch through to attack her stack or escape because he couldn't engage any other stacks. Then TV could have systematically eliminated the other GK units in the hex before regrouping to focus on Stanley.

Maybe I'm biased by my interest in seeing Parson the Heavy Warlord cast such a spell from a scroll, as a further evolution of his willingness to get his hands bloody. It would certainly help him protect Wanda during a portal intrusion.

Jojo indicated to the other carnies that he couldn't engage, not that he could somehow engage Janis but nobody else, nor that the spell would wear off if somebody tried to engage him. I think the spell would simply prevent engagement completely in both directions, similar to the Chillaxe but on a smaller scale.