Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 080

Inner Peace (Through Superior Firepower) - Episode 080

Two turns after Wanda‘d had her head worked over by Betsy and Charlie, she was able to ride. So Jillian packed up their rations and led her slowly through the city on horseback, on up the ramp to the outer walls on the northwest side, and into the shade of a huge cylindrical cistern.

“You got your appetite back yet?” she asked Wanda again, helping her down to the stone walkway. Physically, she seemed a lot less frail. But that wasn‘t difficult.

The Croakamancer nodded. “I believe I can eat something.”

Jillian unpacked the bento boxes and canteens, and threw a horse blanket down on the damp stone. They munched on crisp vegetables and little fish rolls, looking down at the sunlit city of emerald. Wanda ate daintily, but she did seem to be making a dent in her box.

“You gonna miss this place?” Jillian asked.

“Not here,” said Wanda. “This city was hers. My home was the city of Haffaton, with the stone garden.”

Jillian nodded. “You‘re not gonna keep that up?”

The Croakamancer looked into the distance. “I think not. I...cannot imagine creating a monument to the memory of Olive Branch. And if I let one story fall to oblivion, it might as well be all.”

“Well, for what it‘s worth, I think Marika would‘ve liked hers,” said Jillian. “The person with the bird wings you did. That was... It was appropriate. It was her.”

“Thank you,” said Wanda. She nibbled on a pickled carrot.

Jillian stared up at the skyline. Three little blue dots hovered by the Grand Tower. And if she could see them, they could see her and Wanda. No escape. No privacy. She needed out of this birdcage. “Three more turns ‘til we ride out. We‘ll need to cement a deal with Charlescomm before we go, or the High Elves won‘t let us out. We‘re under a very polite siege right now.”

“You said you would sign,” said Wanda, turning to look at her.

“Yeah. If you‘re cured,” said the Chief. “Are you?”

Wanda‘s brow wrinkled. “My head hurts,” she said. “Constantly. But I believe I am going to live.”

“What about the flowers? Do you crave them?”

“It‘s...” She shut her eyes tightly. “It‘s different than it was before. Knowing what they were, I always tried to manage my need of them. I went as long as I could without one, until I could feel my body decaying. You‘ll recall, I never wore one to interrogate you. Even if you did not know what they were, I could not appear before you in a position of weakness. I learned to fight the cravings, to defer...”

Jillian sat up and looked at her. “How is it now?”

“Better,” said Wanda. “I do not actively need a bud.”

“I do,” said Jillian, bitterly. There‘d been dark hours at night when she was certain she‘d be calling out for the Archons at any moment, and bargaining for buds. Whatever Charlie wanted. Only the thought of the flower as an enemy got her through. That, and having to look at Chynna and admit her weakness. In those thin, watery moments of will, she generally got up and did calisthenic exercises until she dropped from exhaustion. That worked in the moment, but the need never went away.

“I would accept one, though,” said Wanda, looking at her with shame. “If you offered me a heroine bud, I would place it in my hair at once.”

They locked eyes for several moments. “That‘s terrifying.”

“It‘s the truth. I think you‘ll be left in a similar state.”

“And if Charlie wants to control either of us, he really just has to dangle a flower,” said Jillian, looking up into the blue sky and shooting a glare at the distant blue dots. “I can‘t keep saying no forever.”

“He will leave Faq alone. He is contractually obligated.”

Jillian shook her head. “I‘ll be out in the field. If we‘re competing for a job or something, those she-beasts are going to be right there, in my face. ‘Wouldn‘t you rather have a few of these, Chief Warlord?‘ That‘s Charlie‘s way.” She put the empty box aside and leaned back on her elbows. “Anything and everything‘s a deal. And he always deals dirty.”

She lay back in the shade, staring at the dirty dots in the clean sky. “You know any good curses, Wanda? I need to learn some new ones.”

“Inside Tina‘s crystal box,” said Wanda, “You did not give in. I was impressed.”

Jillian felt a warm rush of blood around her chest and neck. “Thanks. It wasn‘t easy.”

“No,” agreed Wanda, “it is not.”

Jillian watched the dots in the sky. “So is this the same thing? Same principle? ‘Zat what you‘re saying?”

Wanda poked at a rice roll with her chopsticks. After a moment, she picked it up and popped it in her mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “You could not have held out forever. I did tell you, Haffaton was patient. But you forced the issue by escaping. Perhaps you can do something similar here?”

Jillian sat up and looked around. “What, escape the city?”

Wanda shrugged. “Force the issue. Be impatient. In you, it seems to be a strength rather than a weakness.”

Force the issue. There was an enemy in the form of a little pink flower. Charlescomm was popping that “unit” in quantity.

Jillian hugged her knees at the edge of the wall and looked down. “Maybe I should go to Charlescomm and burn their gardens.”

Wanda smiled. “An option, I suppose. Dame Branch made a few efforts to that end,” she said wryly. “They didn‘t go as planned.”

“Yeah, nobody gets close to Charlie.”

She spent a few minutes in thought. A breeze blew through, not carrying bud-scent but some ordinary kinds of flower. She could see some of their new mounts down in the street below. Bright patchwork tents stippled the far horizon.

It was nice here, in the shade, seeing Wanda looking better. The Lady Firebaugh seemed intent on finishing her meal, despite the tiny bites she was taking. Jillian had made this happen, and that felt pretty good. All it took was a little stubbornness in negotiation. She had something Charlie wanted, badly. It had only required holding out for what she wanted in return.

“...Oh.”

“Hm?”

The Chief stood up. She put her fingers in her mouth, and tore out a whistle through her teeth. The high horses skittered and bucked, even the ones down below.

“Hey, supertramps!!” she shouted. “Get down here a second!”

The blue dots moved like they‘d heard her. Jillian beamed at Wanda, who looked puzzled. “Okay,” she said. “I‘m forcing the issue. Howbout, if Charlie wants me to sign, he‘s gotta burn down his own garden?”

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Recent posts... (See full thread)
ftl wrote:
I wasn't on the boards at the time, but was there really speculation about how the constant headache was a reference to some unknown past rather than a joke?
I don't know the answer to that, but I wouldn't expect there to be any speculation at the time. At the time I'm sure it seemed like a little joke that was mildly amusing at best, just the sort of thing that people would think nothing of. Back then we didn't know Wanda very well at all, so we couldn't know that telling jokes is unusual for her.

I think we can boil this down to three possibilities for what was intended at the time. (A) Wanda was joking about having headaches as a mild jab at all the things that annoy her. (B) Wanda really does have headaches caused by the stress from working for Stanley and dissatisfaction with her life. (C) Wanda has headaches for some other mysterious reason. Option A seems a bit odd for Wanda now that we know her better. Option B seems like an overly strong reaction to the situation. Option C seems like remarkable foresight for Rob Balder.

Given those choices, I'm strongly tempted to choose the one where the only problem is that it would require Rob Balder to do something amazing. Rob creates Erfworld and that means he's in the habit of doing something amazing three times a week. I consider the fact that something is amazing to make it more likely that Rob did it, not less, and it seems only natural that Rob would have made a rough outline of the history of his characters before he began writing, so there's an excellent chance that he knew about the events of Book 0 in at least vague approximations.
When I first read the update I was of the mindset that Charlie would shoot her down cold, but now I'm not so sure. Jack described Charlie as paying a great price to keep relatively little information secret. Leaving Faq alone and restoring their kingdom isn't that big of a price. Losing the buds would be.
Lilwik wrote:
Not Me wrote:
If you see the first decrypted units (for example, Ansom here in the last panel and here in the 4th panel) their livery had the skull but not the bud attached to it.
I see in those early pages that some skulls have flowers and some don't, and the inconsistency of it makes it seem to me that it's just a stylistic choice of deliberately leaving out tiny details in some panels where the artist decides they aren't important enough to draw. I don't think Rob suddenly decided to add flowers partway through.

I'm not sure, but it seems to me that female decrytped have the flower attached. There are cases where it is impossible to tell whether the flower is present or not, but the three flowers I can spot in Book 1 all seem to be on women (although I could be mistaken). Also, I can't see any characters who are clearly female but don't have the flower.
Lilwik wrote:
it seems only natural that Rob would have made a rough outline of the history of his characters before he began writing, so there's an excellent chance that he knew about the events of Book 0 in at least vague approximations.


Agreed. The detail of the flowers is on the borderline of what I'd expect him to have worked out by that time. Could go either way.

Certainly in my fiction projects I've thought of little details waay ahead of time (in one case, revealing the thought that got me thinking of the story in the first place only in chapter 26) Having scenes or random details planned out well in advance is common. Of course, sometimes you work it out on the fly.
Here's the link to the original thread for the "headache spell" (erfworld 18), 5 page of it.

I remember back then.. that's when the story started to grow on you... but i wasn't reading the forum for extra details that i missed either :)

http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=32166
Well, okay, but as noted, there's no chance that someone could have predicted that she'd turn out to be an ex-heroin(e bud) junkie
I think they meant first time the flowers were shown to be drugs in IPTSF, not first time ever.
Morni wrote:
I remember back then.. that's when the story started to grow on you... but i wasn't reading the forum for extra details that i missed either :) (link to old forum)
It is fun to look back at that old forum thread. I was especially amused to read:
fangthane wrote:
It's obviously never going to approach the genius of Donaldson or even Terry Brooks or Dave Duncan

Apparently back then people considered Wanda's constant headaches to be hilarious and no one posted any wonderings about what deeper meaning her words might have. I expect that they assumed she was just joking or exaggerating and completely ignored the implications of taking her seriously. I'm pretty sure that's what I did at the time.
High Mare: ... and Applejack said, like, "neeeighh", and then Fluttershy went all, like, you know, totally...
High Horse: (oh titans how did i even get here won't she ever shut up please just croak me already...)
arbo wrote:
High Mare: ... and Applejack said, like, "neeeighh", and then Fluttershy went all, like, you know, totally...
High Horse: (oh titans how did i even get here won't she ever shut up please just croak me already...)

The high horse is looking down on the little pony? Color me surprised! ;p