Book4 68:2/Text

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Under their new and improved five-minute battle plan, Faq’s ground units marched into the hex and up the switchback road to Gobwin Knob, taking only one flyer along. Chief Duncan went in on his megalo, staying low enough that he could remain stacked with the main force and lend them his bonus.

And that was not all the help he could give them. Heavy siege units typically cannot use siege towers for shelter, but when a few exploratory arrows sliced through the air and indicated they were in bowshot, Duncan hooked his feet into the sockets of the saddle perch and ordered the mount to suck in his boots up to the ankles.

His great mount flopped over completely, showing its belly to the barrage of arrows and bolts. In the safety of its shadow, the giants began battering at the gate.

He looked down (or up), and saw their helmets almost close enough to touch. With several tons of goo above him, he hoped the Queen would take the garrison before his megalo croaked, because this would not be a fun way to fall.

---

She did not arm herself with a rifle. Although the power to take aim like an archer and instantly croak a target was something profound, it didn’t feel like Jillian’s kind of weapon. And with only eight in the duffel bag, it was better to turn one of her first-level warlords into an army of one. She probably didn’t need the boost.

Maybe she was being stupid, though. These weapons raised some questions that were worth getting a headache over, the biggest and most immediate one being, “Would the defenders have rifles, too?”

But there were others, such as, “What were rifles, really?” “Where did they come from?” and also, and again...“Foliage?”

When Charlie had given her the funds to breed the giants, it had come with a weirder than usual request for secrecy. “Whatever you decide to do with this money, Jillian, you have to tell nobody your plans ahead of time. Especially when you’re in the field, and especially not to me.”

A request like that probably meant he was under some kind of Signamancy restriction. But she hadn’t tried to figure out what that meant, because it was a pain to think about, and she really didn’t care.

Now she cared. He wanted her to knock off this city, she guessed, but he could not be seen helping her. That meant he had a contract with Stanley, or maybe Wanda or someone else on the side of Gobwin Knob. Did he give her the guns just so she could win a quick victory? Or was it to even up a gun ambush he knew was waiting for her?

She shivered on her saddle perch, up in the cold, dry mountain air. Every battle could be your last, and maybe she was about to catch a bullet and go to the Titans without knowing...much of anything. For once, she kind of wanted to understand the larger picture, the whole political mess and everything everybody was doing.

But Queen Jillian flew in to the city with a headache and no answers.

---

By the time her troops were blasting their way through the garrison, leaving hallways riddled with bullets and thick with the dust of the Decrypted, she had some answers. And more questions.

No, there were no guns here. Only two riderless dwagons had defended the airspace. This city was not expecting an attack. Wanda wasn’t here. Neither was Stanley or anybody important.

As much as taking this city meant to her, it wasn’t even a letdown. She never cursed an easy win.

But bits of the battle were conspicuously too easy. The tower had sent no shots her way. The few units she encountered in the fight had run away from her, or stood there and let her dust them. Something fairly weird was happening here, when it was over, she was going to find out exactly what.

Because it seemed very important. And she was starting to understand.

---

When the city fell, Jillian did not impose new Signamancy on it. But she did give it a new name.

It was a meaningless gesture, since they would raze the city for treasury money tomorrow. What they did after that would depend a lot on her call to Charlescomm, but based on the name that had come to her, she figured she already knew. Her troops would spend the night in I’m Coming For You Stanley, ransacking the larder and taking souvenirs, and be on their way next turn.