Book 2 - Text Updates 007
"Ossomer turned? Ossomer? You're sure."
Captain Overpants nodded again, vigorously. "Yes, Your Highness! Coded message, straight from Jetstone. The Prince was captured and turned by Gobwin Knob's Croakamancer."
Prince Sammy blinked at the message in his hand as he read it again. His smirk died. "Oh."
Sammy understood, even if the Captain didn't. Ossomer had been croaked. The new Naughtymancy of the Arkentools had been applied to the Crown Prince of Jetstone, along with all that that implied.
His hand dropped to his side. He stared at the green moss on a tree root by his feet, working it out in his mind. Stringy blond hair fell over his eyes.
Jetstone was sending messages, so the capital had not yet fallen under attack. Maybe it wouldn't, now that Gobwin Knob knew about his column. The message warned of heavy flyers and a Foolamancer. He'd never faced one, and never wanted to.
"Restack the entire column," he told the Captain, without looking up. "Warlords with archery, every archer stack with a Warlord or a multilevel scout." He crumpled the message and dropped it on the road. "Watch the skies."
The message also warned that Gobwin Knob was geared for some kind of chorus-rock dance fighting. That didn't worry Sammy. Rock was in his blood. Alone, he could rock out harder than any ensemble, and his men could at least headbang. If they landed to dance, he would show them the great truth of the Titans by which he lived: there's only one way to rock.
No, despite Gobwin Knob's habit of targeting Royalty, the danger was not that they'd attack Haggar's column. It was that they wouldn't attack the city.
Prince Sammy and his father didn't agree on much. But when the King had come up with this plan, he gained more respect for old Dickie than he'd had in hundreds of turns.
Back when Ossomer had Sansabelt under siege, Sammy had stood with his old man on the palace's sandstone balcony, overlooking the shore and grand lighthouse. Sammy had come home to plan the counterattack, but the King told him, "No. We will ally with Jetstone. We will raise a great infantry force. We will wait until Jetstone needs help most, then send everything we can spare into this fight."
He couldn't believe the old goat was serious. "You make me crazy, you know that? We should be attacking Jetstone right now!"
But the King raised his hand. "Wouldn't it be a pity," he said quietly, "if we had a large force near Jetstone when their capital was attacked, but not quite near enough to help?"
Leave Gobwin Knob and Jetstone to beat the crap out of each other. Whichever side won, it would be too weak to defend itself. Haggar breaks alliance, steps in; winner takes it all.
Until this moment, Sammy could see no flaw in that plan. He and King Dickie paid appropriate lip service whenever Jetstone went on about the Titanic mandate. Jetstone saw this as a holy war, and Haggar saw that only as a way to manipulate Slately.
Except...now that witch with the Arkenpliers had just claimed another Royal trophy. Just like that. Smug, square Ossomer had fallen without ceremony.
Sammy unslung his axe from his back and examined the blade. He'd been planning to take Ossomer's head with it, if he could. The fact that he still might have that chance only filled him with dread.
Should they have heeded Jetstone's warning?
He shouted defiantly, and heaved the axe over the heads of his men. It turned once and a half, and stuck deep in a sycamore tree with a thunderous crack of heavy metal.
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