Book 2 - Text Updates 012

Book 2 - Text Updates 012

Ossomer glanced around the city below, his eyes tracing the outer walls.

Bare of defenders, of course. What units remained here would surely have been withdrawn to the garrison as soon as the veil was lifted and it was known that Gobwin Knob's main threat consisted of flyers.

He breathed deeply. He did still breathe. The air was still sweet here.

These entire circumstances seemed unreal, if not actually dreamlike. This battle struck him more as an abstract tactical scenario. "Here, Prince Ossomer, now you portray the enemy forces, and we will try to stop you! Set the pieces upon the map again."

He could and would conquer this city for the Tools of the Titans, but it was still home. He could see tiny figures on the tower parapet. Among them must surely be Father.

He'd not repeat Ansom's folly. He would not bother to plead the Titans' new Truth to the King of Jetstone. Father was even more stubborn than any Prince. He would have to be shown. Alas, it was probable that most of the living would have to be shown, as Ossomer himself had been.

So be it. If the Titans willed an easier path, then let them mark it.

His tactical mind took the fore, and he took this abeyance to work out an order of battle, and consider the merits of various tactics.

Within a minute or so of thought, it became clear that there were three classes of likely outcomes: a facile victory, a straightforward victory, and a costly victory. It depended entirely on Faq. Should Faq ally with Gobwin Knob, the city would fall easily. Should Faq stand aside, their victory over Jetstone would also proceed relatively smoothly. But to fight his way through the forces before him, Ossomer knew he would expend too large a portion of his own force to take the garrison without destroying it.

Commander Firebaugh had ordered him to arrange stacks to do precisely that. Hold Archons and Casters in reserve, while pinks and blues engage top units to immobilize. Yellows and greens then screen for the purples and reds, which would burn and topple the tower. Croaking Father in the tower would then cause Jetstone's field units to disband, and allow Ansom to advance Gobwin Knob's significant ground forces to defend the city against Haggar's column.

But it seemed a waste. A terrible waste. Nearly six thousand units would disband, including Prince Tramennis, three Casters, and forty-eight Warlords. He frowned.

It was...less than optimal.

So much depended upon Faq. He trusted his Commander, gifted as she was with Titanic power. She had taken his life away, but given him this Second Life. If she said Faq would switch alliance, then it would. But in that case, everything he understood about Faq had been wrong.

Perhaps he should attempt some psychological warfare of his own, then. To help the cause.

He looked at the Chief Warlord of Faq and cleared his throat.

"Royalty is obsolete!" he said loudly.

Those words, in his own voice, seemed the most unreal thing yet. The Warlord turned his head and regarded Ossomer. "What?"

"Royalty is obsolete!" repeated Ossomer, with even more conviction. "The mandate of the Titans that those of a Royal line should rule has been superseded!"

The Warlord stared at Ossomer for a long, long moment.

"So what?" he finally said.

Ossomer blinked. "Yours is a Royal side. You have a Queen."

The Warlord shrugged. "She's Royal. I popped in Jitterati. I don't give a stray bit of snot for Royalty." The Warlord glanced skyward, where the parley continued. "I've yet to see evidence that the Queen does, either."

Ossomer found this perplexing and annoying. He pulled his carpet away, frowned, then quickly turned back.

"Then why do you fight!" he challenged.

The Chief Warlord leaned forward in his perch-saddle. For the first time, a little smile crept into his otherwise blank face.

"To win," he said simply.

"You can't win!" shouted Ossomer. His arm swung out, and he pointed behind him without breaking eye contact. "Look at the forces before you!"

The smile broadened, and the Chief Warlord shrugged. "You're really high-strung, you know that?"

He leaned back in his saddle. "We'll win," the man said, with perfect serenity. "I doubt it will even be close."