Digdoug - Episode 17

Digdoug - Episode 17

When Digdoug looked and realized that no Delkey troops could even see him up here, his Stagemancy-fright vanished completely. He planted his feet on the tower and unleashed spell after spell, sending “wounded” Archons fleeing, and “croaked” ones tumbling down to the rooftops below. They did the hard part, the acting. From the walls of the palace, Prince Creen and his men would only see that spells were flying from the tower top.

Six Shockmancy spells had been bound to the tower when Digdoug arrived in the city, to which he‘d added another twenty-four. By his count, Homekey was facing a force of thirty-eight Archons (or more, if some were still veiled out there), but the plan called for Charlescomm to be routed within just a dozen or so shots.

A blast of dazzling light and a thunderclap almost knocked him over. The golem he was crouching behind had just taken another “hit.” It looked terribly damaged, with a gaping crack from shoulder to crotch. But when Digdoug looked at the stacked unit‘s points he could see it was still nearly whole. Amazing.

He ducked behind another one to unleash a spell to the southeast, vaguely becoming aware that King Posbrake had left the screen and was flashing his sword at the Archons from the edge of the tower.

“Sire!” shouted Peck in warning.

This three-dimensional battle, fake or not, was sheer chaos. From the tower top, Digdoug could see a bowl of sky, but the Archons were flying in a spherical space, often ducking below his view. They did a good job of “suggesting” targets to him with their maneuvers, and he was catching on to their cues. But still, he never knew where to look, and always felt exposed from one direction or another.

He unleashed a spell, clamped down to conserve its power, and knocked a nearby dark-haired unit out of the sky. Hadn‘t that been a dozen shots by now? He‘d lost count, but he thought it was more than a dozen.

He glanced over at Peck and His Majesty. For several seconds, Posbrake had stood there exposed to incoming fire, but the King had drawn no shots. Peck was now leading him back toward the center of the tower. Quickly, Digdoug unbound and fired off the next spell, without watching the resulting “show.” Then he reached into the tower and unbound still another.

“They did not try for me,” said Posbrake, once he was standing within the little circle of golems again.

“Don‘t do that again!” snapped Peck, and Digdoug realized with astonishment that Peck had just given the King an order, a Chief Warlord‘s rare prerogative when the side might be at stake.

The battle wore on. Some “wounded” Archons had left the airspace already, or were retreating, carrying away bodies of their supposed fallen. Many of those actually were wounded, struck by the arrows of Delkey‘s archers, whose volleys from the palace walls were mostly too low to spot from here. Digdoug hoped there wouldn‘t be any actual croaked among them, but there might well have been. The bodies being carried away to the horizon looked convincingly limp.

But at least twenty Archons still swarmed, still zoomed around the tower taking fake potshots. Digdoug stopped for a moment and counted the spells within the tower: eleven left.

“This is going on too long,” growled Peck, glancing skyward with a dark suspicion on his brow.

“I know,” agreed the Dirtamancer. “I‘m running out of spells.”

“Fire, Digdoug. Keep firing,” said Posbrake. “That‘s our part and we must play it.”

Another blast struck nearby, crippling a Homekey archer. When they struck for real, the Archons were still shooting to incapacitate. This was an agreed-upon part of the scene; a convincing battle had to have casualties.

“Yes, Majesty,” Digdoug said, and dutifully unbound a spell. Ten left. He aimed and released it.

“Try a barrage,” ordered Peck.

“How many spells?”

Peck stroked his beard. “Five at once?” offered the Chief.

“All right.”

Digdoug unraveled five of the sloppiest-looking spells one at a time, his head consumed with the effort of holding them all in check. He released them all at once, in more or less random directions.

His target selection was necessarily vague this way, and he wasn‘t able to keep as much control as before to damp down the power this way. But he almost didn‘t mind that. Maybe they should feel it a little, to let them know the show was over.

The flash of all that Shockmancy blinded him for a moment, so couldn‘t tell for certain. But he believed that all five of his shots had missed their targets completely. No Archons fell. That wasn‘t supposed to happen. But maybe they‘d been overwhelmed or something. Maybe his aim was that bad.

“Five spells left, Chief.”

“Are they turning against us?” wondered Peck aloud. He kept his voice low, so the Homekey troops nearby wouldn‘t overhear. They were not party to the plan, and had surely wounded some of the Archons themselves by now.

Sword in hand, Posbrake watched the skies. Bolts from Charlescomm‘s elite units kept arcing through the air. Up above, some of them were fighting hand-to-hand with the screening hippo-drones, but that was all staged. Almost certainly, that was staged. “Perhaps,” said the King, frowning with uncertainty. “But keep firing.”

“Still at minimum power, Sire?” asked Digdoug. With Peck and Posbrake both looking worried, his caster‘s instinct told him to throw whatever fury this tower could still inflict on the enemy attackers. There were so many of them still up there...

“What about the lightning trap?” offered Peck.

Posbrake shook his head once. “Minimum power. Don‘t activate the trap.”

“Aye,” said Digdoug. He found another spell and carefully unbound it. He would not miss with this one.

“They may be trying to wear us down,” said Peck, as Digdoug fired off the spell. “exhausting our air defenses before attacking in earnest.” This time, the spell appeared to hit. An Archon with a ghastly wound between her shoulder blades was flying away from the palace, trying to escape the airspace.

“How? Why would they attack? They wouldn‘t be able to take the city,” said King Posbrake.

Digdoug freed up another spell. Just three left, after this one.

“Not with this group,” said Peck, “but this might not be their only column. Perhaps they‘ve additional units under veil, or even a ground force?”

Whoosh-boom! Digdoug struck another Archon, who dramatically spun out of sight. He unbound the next spell.

“We‘ve been over that. We have excellent scouting and vantage, this close to home,” said Posbrake. “A ground force wouldn‘t be possible. Not one large enough to threaten the capital.”

Whoosh-boom!

Another Archon appeared to fall, but that left only two spells and about sixteen targets. Digdoug clenched his teeth. Why wouldn‘t they retreat? He unbound another spell and let it fly, swatting one more enemy flyer from the nearby sky.

“One spell left!” he reported.

“They could‘ve come through Delkey,” said Peck, pointing in the direction of the river. “They don‘t have as many infantry fielded as we do. They‘re much more porous.”

“Nobody‘s that porous!” said Posbrake sharply. “You‘re suggesting a whole army marched through Delkey undetected? No. Stop fighting phantoms and lead this battle, Chief Warlord.”

A blast impacted the tower‘s edge. Digdoug looked at Peck, trying to get his attention. “Chief, should I fire the last spell?”

Peck glanced at the sky, but nothing up there had changed. “Yes,” he said reluctantly, “but then we will withdraw from this exposed position. Of course I‘ll lead this battle, Sire. Of course. But on the ground. Are we in agreement on that?”

Posbrake gazed into the distance, his lips thin and grim. “Very well. Shoot the spell. If they don‘t withdraw, then we must do so ourselves.”

With magical senses, Digdoug reached in and found the tower‘s oldest spell, one that had been on it since the turn this city was built. He unbound it, and scanned for a target.

“Stay screened,” Peck ordered them both. “Prepare to dash inside the tow– Ho! What are you doing?”

Something happened nearby, but Digdoug was cradling the half-cast spell in his mind and he couldn‘t spare his attention for anything but finding a target. The spell burned to be released, and if he wasn‘t careful it could slip away and misfire.

Overhead, a group of three Archons tangling with one of the hippo-crates caught his eye. They were clustered and nearly stationary, and he was seriously tempted to put a full-power burst right in among them.

“Read-AY! Set!” came a voice from behind him. He couldn‘t turn to see what was going on, but he could at least hold his fire for one more moment.

“Hhrnn, serve!” came Prince Creen‘s shout.

A volley of tightly-synchronized arrows flew into the sky from just behind him, trained on the trio of Archons he‘d been targeting. All three were struck by at least one arrow, and one got hit pretty badly. The enemy flyers shouted and peeled away at once. The severely wounded one lost altitude quickly as she fled. Another pair flew in to assist her.

Digdoug shot the spell at one of those two (at minimal power again, reluctantly). There were no impressive fireworks this time, but the target did make a show of flailing and shrieking. And unless he was mistaken, she also threw him a look of profound annoyance.

“Read-AY!”

His spell now released, Digdoug‘s mind refocused on his physical surroundings. He spun around and saw Creen standing–not floating–with his captains. Two full stacks of archers stood there in front of the blockhouse, assembled in perfect lines. The front stack was kneeling and nocking new arrows. The rear stack was raising their bows to the sky.

“Set!” shouted the Prince. The archers drew their bowstrings. Creen‘s white-wigged head turned, tracking another trio of Archons who were making a low pass at the tower. He pointed. “Serve!”

The Archons were so low that they dipped below Digdoug‘s view as the volley was loosed. He couldn‘t tell how badly they might have been hit, but all of the Shockmancy blasts suddenly ceased. The rest of the Charlescomm force disengaged all at once, snapping into a clear and sharp retreat.

Digdoug stood on his toes for a moment, to peer around the city. Three or four Archons were dipping to gather their fallen, and the others were massing on the northeast side of the city and heading out of the airspace. When Creen shouted “Read-AY!” a third time, there were no targets left in easy range.

“Hold!” commanded the Prince of Delkey.

A cool breeze blew across the tower top. All of the zooming and zorching and exploding was over, leaving quieter sounds in the air now: bootsteps, soft moaning, the agitated flapping of wings overhead.

Chief Peck observed the retreat with sword in hand for a moment, then pivoted and strode over to Creen, whose silver rapier had apparently never left its jeweled scabbard. The Prince was dabbing some perspiration from his temple with a monogrammed scarlet handkerchief.

“Prince Creen, you are here,” said Peck, loudly enough that everyone could hear, “in contravention of my order.”

Creen glanced down at the handkerchief with a vague look of distaste, then handed the damp cloth to one of his captains. “Hhrnn, yes,” he said. “So I am.” The Prince then reached inside his coat and produced a little silver tin of snuff and popped it open. He gathered a pinch between his thumb and forefinger.

Digdoug stood beside King Posbrake. They both remained walled by golems and stout men, as they‘d been ordered to. The King did not move, but he was watching this exchange carefully.

Digdoug couldn‘t quite see Peck‘s sword strike, but it must have been astonishingly deft, to knock the snuff box out of Creen‘s hands cleanly. The little tin clattered when it landed on the roof of the blockhouse behind the Delkey men. In its way, the sound was louder than the tumult of battle had been.

Before the tin landed, Creen‘s captains had closed in front of him, swords drawn.

“Explain yourself!” barked Peck.

The Prince put his flattened hand between his captains‘ shoulders and nudged them apart. They kept their swords raised, but allowed him just enough space to step between. He had an eyebrow arched, and his lips in a wry smirk.

“Which explanation would you prefer, Lord Peck?” he asked, “That I am not subject to patently stupid orders? Or that I am not subject to the orders of patently stupid men?”

Some of Delkey‘s archers sniggered.

Peck did not move. “You are in Homekey territory,” he said, speaking formally. “By treaty, and at the sole pleasure of His Majesty King Pos–”

Lights flashed overhead, followed by an immediate series of explosions and the screaming of beasts and men. Digdoug had to shield his eyes as he looked straight up, to see the two hippo-crates being torn apart by magical blasts. The damage they were taking was beyond any Foolamancy; the poor monsters were disintegrating in mid-air. Pieces of them began raining on and around the tower, as Peck ran back to the golem stack and scanned the skies again.

“Archers, read-AY!” shouted Prince Creen. The Delkey lines both raised their bows to the air, but there were no new targets in the airspace to shoot at. Quite the opposite, in fact. Horns sounded an all-clear signal, as the last visible Charlescomm units left the airspace to the northeast.

Peck motioned the golems to close tighter, and stooped to huddle with Posbrake and Digdoug. “What part of the plan was that?” he whispered to the King.

Posbrake shook his head with one twitch. “No part,” he said. “It cost them eight thousand to croak those ‘crates.”

“Then why did they...?”

“I don‘t know,” said Posbrake. “Much of the way they fought is a riddle, but the fight is over. They have fulfilled their obligations and retreated, and the contract has automagically been paid out from our treasury.”

“I don‘t like riddles, Sire. This smells of something,” whispered Peck, “a hidden motive. Something.”

“I‘m not disagreeing with you,” said the King. “But we‘ve a part to play yet, to convince Delkey. So we must apologize to Creen, and thank him for coming to our rescue. If he feels he‘s been a hero, then he‘ll be less inclined to question the particulars of the attack.”

Peck looked sour, but he knew an order when he heard one. The huddle broke. Peck stood and sheathed his sword.

“It seems we‘ve prevailed,” said King Posbrake jovially. “Although they, ah...took their last lumps. Case of sour grapes, I suppose.”

Prince Creen stood with his men and sniffed at his brother. “Quite.”

“I also suppose,” continued the King, “that we have you to thank, Prince Creen. You and your men, and your...quick tactical thinking.”

Creen tilted his head, and his eyes shone in the mid-morning light. He said nothing.

King Posbrake cleared his throat. “The important thing is, a robust attempt on the capital has been repelled. Numloch must be getting truly desperate, to attempt such a wild gambit, wouldn‘t you say?”

“I would say,” said Prince Creen airily, “that wild gambits have their place and time. It might surprise you to hear me say so, but in a well-rounded strategy, sometimes one needs to employ unorthodox means. It‘s just that a side shouldn‘t make a habit of apostasy.”

Digdoug was still standing right beside his King, watching closely and trying to decipher what the two brothers were really saying to one another, in their private way of speaking, their shared understanding. By the sudden, stricken look on Posbrake‘s face, he thought Prince Creen must have said something personally devastating. The King‘s face went ashen, his mouth slack.

“Brother,” said Posbrake, “why has our alliance acquired a third side?”

The Prince of Delkey smiled a genteel smile, then reached to his waist and drew out his rapier. The blade of the weapon was like nothing Digdoug had ever seen before. In place of hard steel there was something else, a beam of magical red light, like a powerball stretched thin. He held this masterpiece of Dollamancy in a casual en garde, the needle-thin point hanging in the air with perfect steadiness.

All of Creen‘s archers now drew back their arrows, and trained them on the King.

“So that Charlescomm‘s turn will be deferred, rather than ending with Numloch‘s,” said the Prince slowly, and with the tone of a patient tutor. “That way, they may join us on our turn, to help oversee an orderly and civilized transfer of power. You see, we have a contract...”

Recent posts... (See full thread)
Keighvin1 wrote:
I said alliance alot. I'm not sure it's a word anymore.

[Spanish Accent]You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.[/Spanish Accent] :D
Quote:
“Brother,” said Posbrake, “why has our alliance acquired a third side?”

IMO makes sense either way.

Side A makes alliance with side B, then side C.

All three sides are now allies with same turn, don't attack each other.

...

If Side A breaks alliance with side C, is side B still allied with side C?

Yes and No both fit with above, and not really important as side B and side C which never before made an alliance could easily make one or break one if it mattered later.

...

Because Posbrake explained plan sounds stupid, imo either he has extra secret plan, or he is likely under influence of carnymancer (weaken one stat/rule).

[Plan to attack self makes little sense because it weakens side in case someone else is still going to attack. But it makes sense if trying to get someone else overconfident and 'break an alliance and pay penalty'. The original prediction might have identified that Creen would betray Posbrake and all this was setup to trap Creen for example, make him pay penalty for breaking alliance, then capture or croak him, and use money from breaking alliance to hire way to defeat mother side.

As far as long time customer goes, Posbrake wanting to hire a Carny, Posbrake not backstabber (if other side backstabs first, not really betrayal), and wanting to 'fight fate' would make him seem a nice choice to survive for Charlie and friends... customers that don't backstab are less risky even for a backstabber.]

It still also makes sense that Posbrake would be legit sad when Creen reveals backstab... means everything is now certain, no hope my brother was better than that. It would be like a parent that heard rumours that son was drug addict and planning to rob parent at gunpoint for cash... once it actually happens it is still heart ache for parent, even if parent has trap set up (gun won't work and police hiding around corner) just in case.

If Creen made contract with Charlie first, then Posbrake secret plan may fulfil obligations... Charlie has already taken out air defenses, and remaining obligation to attack Posbrake if he doesn't comply could easily be handled with "no ranged attacks can hurt me". Creens force is all archers and Creen. So may be only one guy (Creen) verses Posbrake+dirtomancer+Carnymancer+Golem+chief warlord... croak Creen, back everyone else off and archers autoengage king with ranged fire while king picks them off one by one and levels.

Even original predictomancer hiring could have been "will Creen and friends betray me, and if so how?" rather than more generic question. Predictomancer's work best with specific questions.

Creen wanting to see books may have been Creen wanting intel to make sure his betrayal plan would work.
IPTSF 19
IPTSF 19 wrote:
One of them had to be the first to break alliance with Goodminton
Shai_hulud wrote:
IPTSF 19
IPTSF 19 wrote:
One of them had to be the first to break alliance with Goodminton


That is interesting. Also interesting (and forgotten by me) was how Goodminton broke alliance with Frenemy only, and left Quisling alone, in IPTSF 20. It specifically stated that breaking alliance with Frenemy only let Quisling attack Goodminton if they wanted, suggesting that the act of one member of the alliance was enough to break that member away from the whole alliance but didn't have to do so. It kinda suggests that if Delkey breaks alliance with Homekey, it leaves Charlescomm the option of siding with either of the others (or maybe both or neither.) That makes sense to me, though it's still a bit vague on the details for my taste.
Xarx wrote:
@Lilwik: If weather had never been mentioned in the comic, then your "obvious default conclusion" about it would have merit. But it has been mentioned, numerous times, and it has been made abundantly clear that weather does not work the same way in Erfworld as it does in Stupidworld.

Therefore, all obvious default conclusions about it are invalid.

Lilwik wrote:
For all we know, permanent weather hexes may be very rare,

If that were the case, it would be very odd that every single example we've seen of weather in Erfworld was an instance of this "rare" phenomenon.
Again, Goodmitton didn't have perpetual snow around it when Jillian got their. Also I didn't get the impression that when Jill met the archons the it was a perpetual rain hex either.
IPTSF 3 wrote:
Most of the surrounding hills were blanketed in snow, which fell in perpetuity from permanent cloud banks, but the city streets were bone dry. A frigid wind was the only weather the capital had to endure.


Jillian didn't mention any snow, but that doesn't mean it wasn't falling in other hexes.
Lamech wrote:
Xarx wrote:
@Lilwik: If weather had never been mentioned in the comic, then your "obvious default conclusion" about it would have merit. But it has been mentioned, numerous times, and it has been made abundantly clear that weather does not work the same way in Erfworld as it does in Stupidworld.

Therefore, all obvious default conclusions about it are invalid.

Lilwik wrote:
For all we know, permanent weather hexes may be very rare,

If that were the case, it would be very odd that every single example we've seen of weather in Erfworld was an instance of this "rare" phenomenon.
Again, Goodmitton didn't have perpetual snow around it when Jillian got their. Also I didn't get the impression that when Jill met the archons the it was a perpetual rain hex either.


No snow mentioned, but it was freezing cold in the hex still. Specifically it was perpetually cold as well.

Quote:
A chill wind blew through the courtyard.

Chief-again Jillian took a cursory tour of some of the frigid gray streets and buildings.

Feeling the chill through the tear in her leather jacket, her bad shoulder throbbed.

The room remained completely unchanged. Nothing moved but a few papers rustling in the perpetual cold draft.


plenty more references to how cold it is as well


Here's how I see it. We have to remember that Erfworld mirrors a game in all its little attention to detail.

It's not actually a "snow" hex. It's a... dunno... "cold mountain" hex or something. That's its weather. What weather provides is a very specific set of movement/combat penalties while in the hex, as per the Archon's description.

The snow is just Natural Signamancy of the city, as it comes and goes. Or maybe Natural Dirtamancy, as Wanda was able to make a snowman golem unit out of it. That way it's like a resource, in the same way the rain hex provides Lightning, to the Caster that can harness it.

We don't need perpetual snow (I mean, it's never perpetually snowing while Wanda's still in Goodminton anyway) to continue the claim that weather never changes. Just perpetual cold - which we do have evidence for.

I would disagree with your assessment of the hex Jillian was in when she met the Archons. This is what she had to say:

Quote:
They’d been lucky enough to find a stormy hex...

“The Charlescomm All-Weather Rain-ment Poncho is the perfect gear for displaying your side’s livery, even in extreme weather hexes.


Notice how they're for "in extreme weather hexes", and not "hexes experiencing extreme weather" or along those lines. Same with it being a "stormy hex".
you know, not everyone in Erfworld is smart, he might be a king, but that don't mean he's a Parson, Charle has been successful so far in bending over pretty much anyone he needed just to make a shmuck. Not every story had a happy ending
I was going to stay out of the weather debate, but since nobody else has mentioned this, I'll just throw this into the ring:

...because Dirtamancers could fashion traps from terrain features.

And a permanent storm? That was a terrain feature.

I'll just slink away quietly now.
Lamech wrote:
Again, Goodmitton didn't have perpetual snow around it when Jillian got their.

Again, yes it did. What do you think the white stuff on the mountaintops is?

As I said in one of my earlier posts, it's true that the Jillian updates don't say a lot about snow, but why should they? She's flying over it, not slogging through it.

Wanda says that most of the surrounding hexes are under perpetual snow. Not all, so presumably when Jillian lands to sleep she chooses a non-snow hex. Wouldn't you?

And once again, to be clear: There is not and never has been snow in Goodminton itself. Jillian's "perpetual cold wind" is 100% consistent with Wanda's "frigid wind" being the "only weather the capital had to endure."