Book 2 - Text Updates 054
A man can get used to nearly anything unpleasant, eventually.
As he modded the Royal Scepter, it dawned on Ace that he had become accustomed to working in cloth – weaving and cutting and shaping it to another Dollamancer's specifications. And though he never stopped resenting that, at least the actual work of each turn gave him the satisfied feeling of fulfilling his Duty. Only this sudden shift – to freely working in accessories, using his feel for action, his mind, his strength – made him aware that he had actually gotten used to something he hated.
Likewise, there was nothing to like about the stiff shaking of the Tower of Jenga, the swaying and vibrating with each blast of dwagon breath. But there was real satisfaction in explaining his items to King Slately. Finally, his Ruler could see some of the possibilities of Dollamancy in action!
So Ace had tuned out the siege attack. And only when something changed did he realize he had stopped minding it. Another blast hit them from below, but this time the tower did not shake.
It crunched, almost softly.
The floor dropped a few inches, enough to make everyone stumble. When they regained their footing, the city walls and horizon looked a little tilted. The archers murmured and tried to re-form their jostled formation.
King Slately, who'd hardly stumbled at all, was now standing with only one foot touching the tilting tower floor. The armor backplate was granting the King a sudden nimble dexterity. Some part of Ace's mind understood that, and was weirdly proud to see the item work so well so soon.
Another, more survival-oriented part of his mind was listening to the King's frantic voice, as His Highness turned and pointed his scepter.
"To mounts. To mounts!!" (Dollamancer and Hat Magician, the unspoken part of the order's intent.)
Ace glanced at his little bud Cubbins for the briefest moment. He was wide-eyed, scared. They turned in unison and bolted for their waiting Unipegataurs. The mounts were only a few steps away but suddenly those steps were uphill. And the floor was descending again, inch by inch.
Loping forward, the Dollamancer tackled his Uni by the waist and performed a twisting leap into the saddle. The saddle horn somehow caught him square below the sternum. He was blinded by the pain of it for a moment, struggling to catch a breath. There was a lot of noise. People were shouting "Your Majesty!" and "Highness!" and for some reason "Prince!" and "Ossomer!"
When he could, he looked up to make sure Cubbins had made it, too.
Cubbins' mount was riderless.
That was the first thing he saw. Then he saw Ossomer, in Jetstone livery. The King was staring at him. Huh. ...Huh?
Finally, he saw an archery unit atop the third empty Uni, the one the King had requested but would not need. Cubbins was helping the Archer into the saddle.
"What are you doing?!" Ace shouted. Cubbins shot him a glance he couldn't understand. The stones near the tower's edge began crumbling away. An archer fell over the lost edge, shouting. The floor lurched and fell a little more.
Of course! Cubbins was grabbing one more unit for the stack, one more they could save, one more they could use in combat. Brave, though risky. Why hadn't Ace thought of that himself? His little friend was running toward his own mount now. There was time, the floor hadn't caved yet. He could still get up...
Then Cubbins grabbed another archer by the arm. He began helping her into the saddle.
"NO!" shouted Ace. "Cubbins, what in the...Titan's tinkle hole are you doing?!" The other archer took the reins, looking equally bewildered.
Cubbins turned and looked Ace squarely in the eye. A flight of orlies burst from the tower interior crying, "Fol! Fol!" A frantic white wing caught Ace across the side of the face. He just shook his head and stared at the little Hat Magician.
Cubbins said nothing, but swallowed hard. Sadly, he saluted Ace. A cry went up from the ranks of archers as the tower cracked like the snap of a jaw, and the floor fell away for good.
Ace was airborne. And the sky was ablaze with light.