Book 2 - Text Updates 055

Book 2 - Text Updates 055

Mary Sagittari owed her life to a disturbance at the Royal Court.

Some seventeen hundred turns ago, the warlord in charge of managing Spacerock was desperate to be taken seriously. So he had petitioned for more units to be popped in his city.

Some sides regard city management postings as a favor, a reward for a warlord's distinguished service. The Court of Jetstone used them as a mark of shame, for warlords it regarded as too dishonorable, incompetent, or disobedient to carry the Royal Radish into battle.

Spacerock's city manager, Count Topotato, was regarded as a dullard and a problem. He was kept in the capital mainly to keep an eye on him, which unfortunately meant he was often present in the halls and chambers where serious business needed to be discussed. Worse, he had recently learned the procedure to introduce an item for formal consideration at Court, which was technically the right of any commander.

This had led to dozens of formal proposals, ranging from the banning of pointed objects (apparently including spears, arrows and swords) in the Garrison area, to hiring a Weirdomancer to try to make the Gumps grow radishes in their branches, to having "a day where everybody gets to wear the Royal Crown, just to see what it's like." (This last had nearly gotten him disbanded.)

After being denied time and again, Topotato grew fixated on having at least one of his proposals passed to King Slately and granted. So he proposed the idea of creating a 400-unit synchronized honor guard for the city, with a nightly display of torches, fireworks, a marching fife-and-drum corps, and culminating in a ceremonial fight of Orlies.

This happened to be a turn on which Prince Tramennis was home from his diplomatic errands. While the rest of the Court sat in embarrassed silence, Tramennis stroked his chin in thought. "Don't you actually mean, 'flight of Orlies?'" he asked, searching Topotato's face. "You don't, do you..."

"No, fight!" yelled Topotato, slapping his fist into his palm. "Fight of Orlies! See, Highness, our two strongest Orlies fight each other in the air up by the tower, and then the loser becomes the feature dish of that night's feast! Hahaha!"

Topotato's proposals had lost their amusement value to the Court some time before, but it was clear he was not going to give up until one of them passed. So Tramennis put on his negotiation face. He talked the proposal down, bit by bit, until all it involved was popping some more garrison units for the city's defense (units which were probably needed anyway). The motion passed, and it was granted by the King the next day.

Unfortunately, this small victory only spurred Count Topotato on to more and wilder proposals and interruptions. In the end, he had to be traded away to Haggar for the price of two Clotheshorses and a tun of mead.

Fifty turns after that, word arrived from Haggar that Topotato had croaked at sea, having jumped out of his corvette in an attempt to lead a stack of Aquabats in underwater combat. Reportedly, his last words were, "Topotato, and beyond!" Haggar provided these details to the Court of Jetstone in a written appeal for a refund of their units and mead.

Their appeal was denied.

---

Mary Sagittari knew nothing of this, of course. To be a garrison unit in the capital city of Jetstone placed you farther from the goings-on at Court than if you were a warlord twenty turns' ride away.

She had popped on the outer walls as part of a stack of eight archers, all bearing the Sagittari CXIV stack name, all with the same level and function. Her sisters and brothers were called Carrie, Terry, Jerry, Perry, Harry, Gary, and Rudolfo.

On the turn they popped, they received no training or instructions, but simply stood there until sunset. They held their bows, occasionally plucking the string to make sure it was still taut. They looked down on the city streets, but they were not even on the side of Spacerock which faced the main gate.

They did talk a bit among themselves, but it was hard to find topics of conversation when you were merely hours old. They all agreed that Jetstone was mighty and good, and that if anything tried to attack this city, they wanted to be the first to shoot an arrow at it.

"I even want to hit it!" insisted Rudolfo. "I want to hit it and crit it! And then level up!"

Mary and the others looked at him oddly.

"Well," said Gary, clearing his throat, "we all hope our volley hits a target. As for anyone's personal arrow striking a target, I'd say that's something for the Titans to decide."

Most of them nodded, and Rudolfo seemed suitably abashed.

At sunset, they went inside the nearest turret tower. They sat on wooden benches and received and ate hot rations of bacon and yams, with a large cabbage leaf. Down a staircase, they found bunks waiting. There were plenty enough for other soldiers, but nobody else was around.

Mary lay on the bottom bunk, looking up at the dent that Carrie's body made in the rope and straw mattress above her. It was nice to have her brothers and sisters around. But nobody had greeted them today, to welcome them to service. To Jetstone. To life, even.

She supposed they were just not that important.

---

In the hundreds of turns that followed, nothing occurred to change that supposition. It was just a fact of life. They did eventually meet other infantry, and were spoken to occasionally by a warlord. They sometimes were ordered up to the tower, or to another part of the inner or outer walls. But there was no training, and nothing to do.

The tiniest change in routine, the smallest difference among them, was magnified and discussed endlessly.

Mary stood out a bit for her dark hair, which had a few strands of white in it. There were very few chances to see a mirror in the course of her day, but Carrie and Terry seemed to think Mary was showing off. They took to positioning themselves at the opposite end of the formation from her, whispering and laughing.

One evening, Mary borrowed a sword from an infantryman and cut off most of her hair.

Her distinctive white-streaked raven locks were restored at the start of the turn. She looked the same as always. But Carrie and Terry stopped noticing Mary's hair after that.

The name of swordsman whose blade she had borrowed was "Dodge." He was a garrison unit as well. He told her that, as a stabber, he had an overpowering urge to stick things in people. Then he asked her to sneak away with him so he could stick something in her.

Mary found that she wanted to. It would certainly have been a thing to do that wasn't the same as all the other things she did. But she told him no. She didn't want to give Carrie and Terry anything more to talk about.

Which was funny, because the next night Dodge sneaked away with Terry, and she and Carrie never discussed it.

---

When the war began to change, even the lowliest grunt could sense something going wrong. Losing Prince Ansom was a thing keenly felt by every unit in Jetstone's army. And although Ossomer was beloved and worshiped by all, the suspicion that he was trying to fill boots a size too large was inescapable.

Events far beyond the imagination of Mary and her siblings were shaping the kingdom. Rumors popped up every turn, like a new kind of ration. There was even a sense that the war might come here to the capital.

Only...each day was still the same. The same blue horizon. The same empty walls. The same seven other faces. Gary, the stern one who kept them in line. Harry the jokester, who was always undermining Gary. Rudolfo the quiet one, almost as quiet as Mary herself. He always watched the horizon.

Mary thought he must be wondering something, but she never asked what it was.

---

The days finally turned dramatic and exciting just before the Battle for Spacerock. Many, many more units occupied the streets of the capital. Mary and her siblings had never seen such a show of Jetstone's might.

One morning, Rudolfo yelped and drew his bow. "Shapes! Out on the horizon!" he pointed. The shapes were blobs. Yellow blobs. All of them drew their bows, but a horn sounded from the tower, signalling "allied units arriving."

The Queen of Faq and her megalogwiffs were the first non-Jetstone units they had ever seen. The shadows they cast over the tiny infantry units in the streets were terrifying. How much more power was there in the world? What did it mean that the battle was coming here?

Mary didn't know. But she was desperately glad that the huge yellow monsters were on Jetstone's side.

She still had some trouble sleeping at night, knowing they were flying up there above her.

---

On the morning of the great battle, so many new things happened at once that Mary lost her grip on it all. First Ossomer fell. Tramennis took his place. Then enemy dwagons–oh, so many!–and Archons flew into the airspace right above them.

Over the Atrium roof, the enemy stacked in dread formation against the smaller force from Faq. These were live targets. Mary could not believe what she was seeing. She had the urge to loose her arrows upon them all blindly, and would have, but their standing orders were to hold unless directly engaged.

Prince Ossomer, now an enemy warlord, led the Gobwin Knob forces on what had once been Prince Ansom's flying carpet! He was now a target! And...the enemy had casters! There was a parley happening, oh...

Whispers and rumors passed among the ranks. "That's more than enough force to take the tower." "King Slately can't leave the city, we're off turn!" "Good luck, everyone. I'm still glad I was a Jetstone."

It seemed as if this day would be the end of everything. The city was largely empty of field units, and no reinforcements could arrive until Jetstone started turn. It was doom for the side. They would fall in battle, or become Gobwin Knob's prisoners.

All that enemy power hovered in the sky, waiting to be loosed.

Mary did not know what she was supposed to be thinking at a time like this. She ended up wondering why she had never wondered anything at all.

Then a bright light flashed from the tower, and it was Jetstone's turn.

---

In an hour or so, columns of victorious Jetstone units began marching through the city gates and down Mainway toward the Garrison. These soldiers and heavies had crushed the enemy's infantry on the road, said the rumor, and now they were returning to see to the rest.

Large numbers of archer units–more than Mary knew the side even had–filled in among them on the walls. There were even a few warlords among them. The sudden comradeship and the jubilance of certain victory buoyed them all afternoon, until the enemy yellow dwagons began bombarding the Atrium.

Mary did not understand why (or even how) they could do that, but the mood among the archers dimmed suddenly. The stacks stood and watched in a hush, as combat seemed to have started.

But then, just as suddenly, some of the enemy dwagons began plummeting downward, and a loud cheer broke out. Mary shouted along, adding her "Huzzah!" to the chorus and feeling suddenly giddy. This was a victory that would be sung for ten thousand turns, and she was a witness!

But...not a participant yet. Why had they not been ordered to shoot down the enemy? She squinted at the tower. Prince Ossomer had not yet fallen. Surely such a traitor should be worth a dozen volleys.

She shrugged. That was not for her to decide, she well knew.

A slight commotion seemed to be making its way around the wall toward Mary's stack: orders being barked, and heads turning. Before long, Mary could see a tall woman with flaxen hair, carrying a beautiful white longbow. An archery-capable warlord! She was giving instructions to each stack of archers.

"Stack, harken!" snapped the warlady, when it was Mary's stack's turn. She and her siblings snapped more rigidly to attention.

"I am Countess Artemis. These are your target priorities. Since you are low-level and unled, I want you volleying at the lowest-level Archons you can sight. Prioritize the ones with Leadership, then those with Foolamancy, then the rest. Stick to those targets, and leave the rest to higher-level and led stacks. If you see a led stack volleying, follow in turn. Otherwise, hold until ordered."

Having spoken, the Countess then moved on to the next stack.

But Mary stood there, awestruck. Her voice had been as smooth and strong as the limbs of a good bow. Her eyes...they were so fierce, so full of menace to Jetstone's enemies!

What was that? How could there be such a person?

"How could I be such a person?" she whispered, but loudly enough that Perry beside her could overhear.

"Hm?" he asked.

"She leads with a bow," said Mary, lost in thought. "She came to the Archers and prepared us for the fight. I...wish I were like that."

Perry frowned. "I don't see why you'd say that," he said. "May as well say you want to fly around like an Archon."

---

Bad things began to happen in the battle. Prince Tramennis was wounded. The tower shook, with King Slately still inside! The Countess disappeared into the fight, and Mary never saw her again.

Above them, some of the enemy Archons raised their skirts up, waving their bits around and wiggling, to taunt and distract them. On Perry and some of the others, it certainly seemed to be working, but Mary just blushed.

"No," she sighed softly, "I don't want to fly around like that."

Comic - Book 2  Text Updates 055

Recent posts... (See full thread)
I believe they had mentioned in Parson's stupid meals that they had so many of _____ units remaining and mentioned they were mostly low level or mid level etc so I think we had a pretty good reason to believe that all units had levels. If they didn't it would have created problems when stabbers get promoted to warlord like Stanley was.
Muzzafar wrote:
So what's up with all the references?
Mary Sagittari: "sagittarius" means "archer" ("armed with arrows and bow") in Latin. "Sagittarii" is plural for "sagittarius".
What about Sagittari CXIV? (CXIV is 114 written in Latin numbers.)
What about Carrie, Terry, Jerry, Perry, Harry, Gary, and Rudolfo? Any significance in Gary being "the stern one"? Harry the jokester? Rudolfo the quiet one?
Swordsman/stabber named Dodge?
Googling "Count Topotato" and "Topotato, and beyond!" reveals that both refer to the phrase "counting to potato" and Internet meme "to potato and beyond" that mock people with low intelligence. Anything else?
"Clotheshorses" probably refer to clothes rack while "Aquabats" may refer to The Aquabats.
Any ideas?


My first thought with her was that it was a reference to the so-called 'Death Star' - but it turns out that's WR 104, not WR 114. So I'm at a loss. The eight of them, though, would seem to represent the 'teapot' of Sagittarius, which is comprised of eight stars.
BLANDCorporatio wrote:
Still no.

i lol'd

also i think as much as anything else, Rudolfo's name not rhyming with the other 7 is the joke.
Balerion wrote:
Reading another example of infantry viewpoints, and combining it with the start of the prequel, I want to toss out a theory:
Upkeep is a constant cost that must be paid to keep a unit from returning to "0". The more upkeep a unit costs, the farther from 0 it is so it can be more defined. Notice that parson costs over 1k a turn; a high level archon might have been what, 400? This is why even if a unit is fed from other sources, it simply is at "minimum upkeep" instead of being a free unit. Something has to keep it from falling into nothingness, and that is the schmukers burned for its upkeep.

Because the basic infantry cost so little (especially garrison units) there is very little there; some basic impulses, rudimentary knowledge, and that's it.


We do know that units have a 'minimum upkeep' as well as a way to reduce their standard upkeep down to that number: by hunting or foraging, trading move for upkeep reduction; by eating from a chuck wagon, which is either a special unit or special device; or by eating rations provided by another side; and probably other ways related to finding food and/or equipment. Are arrows replenished each turn? If so, finding or making arrows may reduce an archer's upkeep.

I don't think a unit's upkeep directly defines their intelligence/capabilities, but rather, it reflects them. For example, an ordinary archer apparently can't just start acting like a warlord, giving orders to other units, etc. They can probably pass along orders, and other things that seem reasonable, but to suddenly decide what their target priorities are, etc, just isn't possible for them. It's either possible but not in their nature, or actually outside their capabilities.

Basic infantry/archer units do have limited actions they can take. They can follow orders, either by being led directly, or following orders they had been given previously, or auto-attack with a priority based on some presently undefined set of parameters. That's about it. An infantry stack with no orders will just stand there, forever. Even when everyone was off-turn during the night, this group didn't seem inclined to do anything particular such as explore the city.

It's possible there are basic units who are more inclined towards those sorts of things, those are probably the ones more likely to get promoted up to warlord.



Unrelated to the above quote: Potato joke explained:

One potato, two potato, etc...

To Infinity and beyond!

To potato and beyond!


There.
Kreistor wrote:
Questions:
Do volley fire kills give exp to the entire stack, or just the unit that hit, or does the unit that hit get a bonus?


Quote:
"I even want to hit it!" insisted Rudolfo. "I want to hit it and crit it! And then level up!"


And critting strongly suggests killing it, from past crits we've seen. And "killing blow" xp was established by the Bogroll/Ansom battle, by Crimson's killing blow on Ossomer, the Wrigley spear-man interlude, etc. Simplest explanation is xp by individual kills. And "volleys" has a pretty clear vernacular definition, easily understood by Erfworlders as a round of ranged attacks. There might well (but need not) be a minor bonus to hit from volley fire as well.
Beeskee wrote:


We do know that units have a 'minimum upkeep' as well as a way to reduce their standard upkeep down to that number: by hunting or foraging, trading move for upkeep reduction; by eating from a chuck wagon, which is either a special unit or special device; or by eating rations provided by another side; and probably other ways related to finding food and/or equipment. Are arrows replenished each turn? If so, finding or making arrows may reduce an archer's upkeep.


I would assume finding arrows reduced upkeep. I think there is the "physical needs of the unit" upkeep cost, and then the other, keep me in the world upkeep.

Quote:

I don't think a unit's upkeep directly defines their intelligence/capabilities, but rather, it reflects them. For example, an ordinary archer apparently can't just start acting like a warlord, giving orders to other units, etc. They can probably pass along orders, and other things that seem reasonable, but to suddenly decide what their target priorities are, etc, just isn't possible for them. It's either possible but not in their nature, or actually outside their capabilities.


Ah, right. That does fit in better with the luckamancy conversation too, where the dice rolls are just representations of what is going on. Important to get the chicken and egg in the right order :)

Quote:

Basic infantry/archer units do have limited actions they can take. They can follow orders, either by being led directly, or following orders they had been given previously, or auto-attack with a priority based on some presently undefined set of parameters. That's about it. An infantry stack with no orders will just stand there, forever. Even when everyone was off-turn during the night, this group didn't seem inclined to do anything particular such as explore the city.

It's possible there are basic units who are more inclined towards those sorts of things, those are probably the ones more likely to get promoted up to warlord.

I would be curious to know if there are differences of a few schmuckers between units that would account for more motivation etc. I
Probably a minor nitpick on my part, yeah. At any rate, basic units only have basic capabilities, regardless of how the limitation is applied. Your take on the upkeep cost is exactly right, there's a basic cost that needs to be paid no matter what, and then additional costs for food and maybe supplies. We've only had it stated clearly that external food sources help reduce it, as far as I know, but I imagine supplies is in there too.

I'd love to know if there are minor differences in the seemingly identical units. Clearly there's something to make certain ones stand out, with Stanley and presumably others getting promoted up from infantry. I have no idea if that is actually reflected in unit upkeep though.
MarbitChow wrote:
Swodaems wrote:
...his very presence 1700 turns ago suggests that Slately only produced 7 more children in a 1700 turn span despite producing 16 over a 800-1799 turn span earlier in life.

It's possible that the high pop rate early on is due to heavy losses while the side expands. Once it becomes a large, well-allied, and mostly stable and non-aggressive side, they would need to pop fewer royals, since fewer would be dying in conflicts and the rest wouldn't have as much to do.

The problem is that determination of the cause of the discrepancy is a exercise left up to the reader and we're often to lazy to do that kind of work. I would be more willing to do it if I was sure of being proven right or wrong, but Erfworld hasn't really been doing as much World-building as my inner fantasy fan would like. The story has decided to focus on the question of 'Try to guess what happens next?!?!' instead of 'try to rationally piece together how we got to our current situation."

Kreistor wrote:
This one humanized the lesser Units a lot. The Stabber-spearman text entries dehumanized them, I thought.

I have to disagree with you on this. (At least in part.)

Wrigley's first update showed us a man suffering from shock and trying to come to terms with things. Despite using fewer words than this update, we got a very good sense of how Wrigley stood in his side and who he was. The information contained in the update was presented in such a way that it seemed rational for Wrigley to have it and made him seem like a normal, situationally-aware, human who was not in a good place mentally or physically. The mentions of Wrigley's assumpution that he would one day get to do things and his training suggest that Wrigley had goals and was trying to pursue them as best he could. We could connect with Wrigley as a person because we actually had enough information about him to get in his shoes.

That Wrigley's second update was somewhat dehumanizing is a point I will not argue against. The thoughtful Wrigley presented earlier seems to become a simple device being used to convey the attitude of a generalized group of soldiers. Worse yet, it's an attitude that is considered decades, if not centuries, out of date here and is something the comic seemed unlikely to put in the heads of soldiers on our protagonist's side. Wrigley and the other soldiers aren't acting out of pragmatism or hatred. They're trying for personal fun and glory. (As a side point, giving Wrigley the Bolivian Army ending was a bad idea. It simply doesn't fit with the tone established everywhere else in Erfworld up to that point. In the previous named character deaths, all deaths were either shown on panel, the aftermath was shown to us, or the exact details implied with no great subtlety.)

This update presented Mary and her stack in a way reminiscent of a high school based 'cliques, freaks, and geeks' sitcom. They felt more like stock characters than people. We had 'picked on pretty girl', 'the gossipers', and 'the bashful stoic'. (I would search TVtropes and find more common names for those characters, but I'm too lazy.) The story about the stabber named Dodge shows us that these 8 characters likely had free nights. (They weren't ordered to do nothing but go to bed.) Despite this opportunity to regularly meet and talk with units who might have a better idea of how things are, they are all shown as still sticking to only really talking amongst themselves while being ignorant of the side at large. This changes their situation from being 'kept in the dark by superiors/circumstance' to 'willingly ignorant group of outcasts'. This makes them extremely hard to relate to. While I will never think of myself as the most social of people, I would be lying if I said I didn't know anything about the state of society at large. It's like these 8 units have decided to try and form their own very small, isolationst, Amish commune.
(These 8 also have the same personal fun and glory attitude that Wrigley and his bros did during their charge, but it's forgivable in them as they never actually make decisions or act based solely on it.)


One of the problems I have with Erfworld is that it sometimes seems like Rob is just throwing out random numbers when he refers to the dates of historical events as they relate to the characters' pasts, not placing them somewhere in the existing timeline. Other updates tell us that there are significant events unrelated to the main storyline events that these archers lived thru. A few one line mentions of Mary and her stack's reactions to things like Forthewin's fall, the campaign against the ad council, the parades for Holly Shortcake's demise, or the increases and decreases of the number of troops in the city as they related to Jetstone's various military endeavors would have made this update feel a great deal more complete to me.

Also, the confirmed ability of Jetstone to keep their capital from even being attacked for 1700 turns without hiding it suggests that they may actually be correct in their assessment that they have the highest amount of military acumen in the world. It's actually somewhat of a shock to me that the side that produced Prince "Generate an incredibly expensive plan, then abandon it the moment a piece of tail gets in danger" could actually be competent. I was thinking that they were just a bunch of foolish blowhards with a decent mouthpiece.
Swodaems wrote:
Other updates tell us that there are significant events unrelated to the main storyline events that these archers lived thru. A few one line mentions of Mary and her stack's reactions to things like Forthewin's fall, the campaign against the ad council, the parades for Holly Shortcake's demise, or the increases and decreases of the number of troops in the city as they related to Jetstone's various military endeavors would have made this update feel a great deal more complete to me.


Adding those though would weaken the moral of the post. "To be a garrison unit in the capital city of Jetstone placed you farther from the goings-on at Court than if you were a warlord twenty turns' ride away." Mary and her stack aren't consulted, they aren't briefed, they're just left alone on the wall or in their tower, and only spoken to when their post is changed from one section of wall to another. They aren't trained or drilled so I don't imagine they paraded, and likely didn't even get to watch. They're zero-move, level 1 garrison units born solely to get a Noble idiot to shut up.

I imagine gossip did filter back to them about some of that, but from the sound of it they don't have the experience to distinguish between what we know were important historical events and "saw an extra flight of orlies today" or "gumps marched through" or whatever. Just 1700 turns of limbo, and at most 2 out of 8 of them have any intelligence or curiosity. (And for all we know, 2 of 8 may be uncommonly gifted for a stack of infantry.) Its like Waiting for Godot as staged by wargame units.
Swodaems wrote:
It's actually somewhat of a shock to me that the side that produced Prince "Generate an incredibly expensive plan, then abandon it the moment a piece of tail gets in danger" could actually be competent.
Ah, oh. You were expecting a story with no imperfect characters. So sorry. Those are rather dull pieces of tales (sic).

Read a bit, you might find that classic literature disagrees with your expectations. Much less a web comic.