|Parson leans on the table in the war room of Spacerock. Jack sits on the table and projects a political map of the local part of Erfworld onto the table's surface. Ansom and Maggie stand on either side of Parson, examining the map with him.|||
Parson scribbled on the chalkboard, listing the names of all of the nearby sides they knew about. On the map table, Jack was sitting cross-legged on the blue felt, projecting a political map of everybody else in Gobwin Knob's neighborhood. Ansom and Maggie looked on.
Jack's map was not perfect. But considering how pathetic their field intelligence was, it was kind of a miracle how good it actually was.
It was Maggie's miracle, in fact.
That first night in Spacerock, she'd told Parson a whole lot about Thinkamancy. Or...tried to. Unfortunately for him, it was like being pulled out of a Psych 101 class and thrown into a graduate seminar on neurochemistry. He didn't understand the concepts or the terminology. Some of the things she was talking about didn't even have terminology. You had to be able to cast Thinkamancy to even know what they were, because that's the way the Great Minds wanted it.
His big takeaway from that evening (besides the idea that the Arkentools might be vulnerable to attack) was that Thinkamancy did a whole lot more than the Thinkamancers wanted anyone to know about. It dealt with intuition, identity, memory, personality...fuzzy but potentially powerful stuff like that. Maybe even the roots of reality itself.
He wasn't even close to understanding it yet, but he told her to hit him with any ideas she might have along the way. This map was her first one. It represented the collective spatial understanding and memory of the entire side, fed to Jack via some kind of shared Eyemancy channel.
Because of the post-volcano Decryption Coalition, Gobwin Knob had units from all over the place. And Stanley, Wanda and Ansom had all traveled pretty far afield. Apparently, Maggie could draw on their understanding of the map as a general function of her duties. Feeding this information to Jack under the pretense of a simple performance-enhancement spell led to the wide-area map he was looking at now.
"What do we know about Rightshoring?" Parson asked, chalking the name up on the board. For a side that almost bordered Gobwin Knob's new territory around Spacerock, Parson had barely even heard of them.
Parson nodded. "So...potential ally, potential threat. Let's put them near the top of the list."He was trying to build a sensible "To Talk To" list. Maggie could only manage one long conversation per turn, or a few short ones. Yesterday, FoxMUD and Hyatt had refused her Thinkagram requests, and then she'd wasted the rest of her juice on a call to Hobbitm, Gobwin Knob's neighbor to the south. It was pretty clear that King Froblo only wanted the chance to chew out and insult somebody from Gobwin Knob, so Parson got nowhere with him. But he did learn that Erfworlders can say the word "peckernose."
|Image of the blackboard in the war room of Spacerock, with nearby sides written on it. Hyatt, FoxMUD, and Hobbittm are crossed out. Rightshoring and Haggar are marked "high," Dogfort and Jitterati are "med," and Carpool and Metroland are "low." Transylvito and Jetstone are "special," while Faq is "..."|||
"How 'bout Haggar?" he said, and wrote the name down.
"No, I was considering it," said Ansom, still staring at the map. "King Dickie loathed my father. He refused to join the first Royal Coalition and had to be bludgeoned into joining the second." Ansom looked up at Parson. "Of all the Coalition members, Haggar is the weakest link."
Ansom looked serious. "I still believe peace with Jetstone is possible, Lord Hamster."
Parson put a hand on the table and looked at the former Prince. "Even after everything."
"My brother is not my father. I should at least talk to him," said Ansom. "If possible, I should go to him in person."
Parson stared down at the map again, then nodded and went back to his chalkboard. "S'worth a shot. We'll make it happen, Ansom. Okay, Transylvito. Call? Do not call?"
"I don't know," said Ansom, "Don King has changed. He sent only a token force in the first Coalition: one warlord and some scouting units. My impression had been that he did not care at all for a war to defend the Royal Mandate. But since the Battle for Gobwin Knob, he has committed to the cause. He enthroned Queen Jillian."
Parson frowned, shrugging. "So not a great chance he'll listen to us. Low on the list." He wrote the word "Low" beside "Transylvito."
"But it would be economical to attempt it," added Ansom, "as they do have a Thinkamancer. I understand it halves the cost."
Parson turned around, looking first at Ansom, then Maggie. "Did you know they had a Thinkamancer?" he asked her.
"She," said Ansom. "Transylvito's warlord called her 'Bunny.'"
Parson gave Maggie a meaningful look, then rubbed out "Low" and wrote in "Special.""Okay," he said, "how about Dogfort? I kind of want to call them..."