Prologue - 026

Prologue - 026

Turns since TBfGK: 52

Chocula was a Level Two city, with walls of speckled brown sandstone and thatch-roofed buildings of clay brick and timber. Most nights, it was dark and quiet. But this night, it hissed and rumbled softly. This night, the faces of the block houses flickered with the orange light of the still-burning Garrison.

Lying in the matted reeds atop one roof, Caesar Borgata stared up alone at the plume of smoke smudging and blotting out the moon. He listened to the snaps, crackles and pops of the nearby fire. Half of the shaft of a Carpudlian arrow protruded from his ribs. It rose and fell, bobbing slowly and agonizingly with each breath. He held his lips tight and did his best to ignore it.

The archer who had put it there was croaked or in chains, Caesar couldn't say which. Likewise with the one who'd put another arrow through his right boot and foot, which he had pulled out. But the swordsman who had split open the heel of his left palm, that guy was croaked for sure.

He was the only talking unit of Transylvito's to survive.

He'd had better battles.

The sweet voice in his mind soothed him. She listened. She cared. He forgot the pain as he thought about the events of this day, spinning them into a story for her, and for himself as well.

It was a kind of ambush, see. Taking Chocula was the first part of a two-part plan to sucker our leadership in. Maybe me specifically.

We seen 'em do something like this in Carport, dozen turns ago. Carpool took the city by water, but then they followed that with a big air buildup. Archers, spell defenses, air heads. And we flew right into it. Lost two warlords that way.

I think they learned from that. They're pretty smart. They know we can't spare the forces to push 'em around any more. They found a trick that worked once, so they were gonna try it again.

I din't fall for it. When Don ordered us in, we din't do an airspace attack. I ordered some firebirds, thunderbirds, and a couple a battle bears in from Blackula. Just those two golems, they were the only siege that could reach. I stood in the road with them and led 'em myself, just pounded at the gate while Broadway Tony took the Goyles and birds up and hit the wall defenders. Bats flyin' around takin' arrows for me... It was a scene.

Tony's body fell down and landed at my feet 'bout exactly when the gate fell in. He was a good man, Bunny. Gonna miss him a lot. We can't afford to be losin' guys like him.

Anyway we went in and took the Garrison on the ground. That was tough. Hadda wreck it. Don ain't happy, but that was the only way. Ain't gonna get into it with him.

Couple of times in the fight, I figured it was over. Fly me to the City of Heroes, y'know? Wasn't, though. I almost can't believe we won. I got only three bats and three birds left here, holdin' almost two hundred prisoners, mostly archery. Maybe I had some extra Luckamancy? Nah, I know what it was.

I din't fly at all 'til we took the city. Kept walking on my bad foot. Their Shockmancer was here, a couple turns back. Gone now. He spelled up that tower hard, Bunny. This was a straight up ambush. We woulda dropped like hot rocks if we'd gone in topside. Man, I woulda liked to-a caught that Shockmancer here. But if he was here, I prolly wouldn't be talkin' to ya.

That wouldn't be good.

I love ya, Bunny. You know that. Yeah you do.

Facin' this crap ain't hard. I ain't scared to croak. But when I took this second arrow I started gettin' real scared I'd never see you. Helped me focus. Couple guys I took out, the last thing they ever heard was me screamin' your name at em. "Bunny!" Heh.

I gotta talk to Don. We can't be leakin' all these resources to the crazy broad, and a war that don't make a profit. We're losin' our flanks. We can't hold this city, even. Not with what Don's willing to send out here. It's gettin' completely—

The call faded.

Caesar sighed, wincing at a sudden new awareness of his wounds. Whatever spare juice Bunny had at night, she usually burned it with a voice call to him. These lasted as long as they lasted. They kept him sane.

He was left with his own thoughts now. A little meaner and a little darker than what he was willing to share with his secret lover.

He was seriously considering the chances that he might have been set up here.

He turned his head and watched the lone remaining firebird flitting happily through the flames it had made. Another large chunk of wall flaked away and showered bricks down into what had been the city's courtyard. That was Transylvito he was lookin' at, right there.

He and Don used to see eye to eye. He used to have long talks with his Ruler, and count himself lucky to be working for a guy like that. But he hadn't had anything he could call a good conversation with Don King since they brought home that one-wing bat and he made her a queen. He didn't want to believe he understood what Don King was up to. But he thought he did.

Don bought into this Royalty crap now. Don was fighting a crusade. 'Specially since Unaroyal.

And that left barely-Noble Caesar where? Well currently, it left him five turns' flight from the capital. Half croaked on a rooftop, in a burning city they should never have given up. How far gone was Don? Did he send Caesar out here to get rid of him?

That was his big fear.


The next day, of course, his wounds were healed and gone. The arrow in his chest had vanished.

But the news that Transylvito had begun popping a Royal heir felt very, very similar.