IPTSF Text 11
Funnyface was out of move, but Goodminton had popped another sawhorse this turn, and completed popping a brontosword the turn before. She called her new mount "Uggymug," and rode it out of town, with the great lizardly monster flumphing along behind her.
This round trip was not as costly as Wanda feared. Although it took her three turns to reach Hamfurter again, there had been no major action to miss. Chief Tommy wanted to spend several turns mustering forces from other cities, popping new siege towers, and building up a garrison infantry force for the outpost. And other than two vigorous field skirmishes, the enemy had not seen fit to give them any distress.
Ever the thoughtful big brother, Tommy had left her the spoils from those actions just inside the stockade's wall of sharpened logs.
"Lords! Ladies! The war goes ever on and on," said Wanda to a bony wagonload of neatly stacked remains. "And you have rested here too long. Arise." They clattered to their feet, and followed her in faithful formation.
Tommy and Fritz knew that uncroaked units had a limit in turns, and guessed that Haffaton might be holding its counterpunch until those units decayed. They were prepared to move out when Wanda got there, but would have to wait for the heavies she'd brought to regain their move.
Goodminton's next logical target was a nearby Level 2 city named Plankton. But patrols and scouts showed that the road all the way to a Level 4 called Kiloton was clear, and that the city's walls were poorly manned. Tommy therefore opted to bypass Plankton and make a try for the enemy's second-largest production center. "We might get our keisters handed back to us, but let's try a gamble while we've still got the Fellows."
Fritz concurred that the risk was a good one. Even if they could not hold the city once it fell, they could certainly raze it and bolster Goodminton's treasury. And Wanda's Fellows did benefit from a powerful combination of bonuses when she and Tommy led them together. Once they got within a city's walls, they had shown that even fairly well-led stacks of defenders fell easily before them. The only real worry was archery, or perhaps another caster, but for that sort of protection they could rely on Clay back home. Probably.
Tommy's mood to gamble included his tactics as well as his strategy. He sent out the new siege towers first, with a minimal escort. This was partly to test the waters for another enemy trap, and partly because the towers had low move and would take three turns to reach their target. They completed the first leg of their journey without incident, but it was not known if they had been scouted.
That evening Wanda and Tommy holed up in the outpost's command center, which had two fairly comfortable leather seats and a nice fireplace. There they drank mulled wine and talked for hours about their father, about Delphie, Clay, and Haffaton's peace offer.
Their speculation about Delphie ran to the absurd. "Would you be able to tell if she were, say, actually a Carnymancer who claims to be a Predictamancer?" Tommy asked, very late into the evening. Wanda snorted, but then had to admit casters can't actually see one another's discipline. The two siblings agreed that whatever she was up to, Delphie's advice should not be taken as reliable.
"I never thought we're really locked in to an ultimate Fate, anyway," said Tommy, frowning. "I mean if we are, then what's the point? We're not even really people, you know? Just...like, trees or something."
Wanda shook her head, and pulled her feet up under the psychedelic fur blanket she had found there. The fire was getting low, and she was tired from many turns' riding. "I don't care," she sighed. "Really, I don't. It's not something we can ever know, I don't think. Not in this life." She gaped her mouth in a huge yawn, "Ahhhh gyust think I know where I belong. I popped with you. My big brother. In the War Room. I didn't pop with..." She took her arm out from under the blanket and flailed her hand around, seeking the right epithet, but came up empty. "Delphie."
"Yeah, Signamancy," said Tommy. He had his chin on his chest, his cloak thrown over himself. "But maybe she's really an evil Signamancer."
"Oh yes, with that make-up, pff," snickered Wanda. She shook her head, smirking. Her pewter tankard's wine had gone cold, but she didn't feel like doing anything about it. Instead, she drained the last of it in four swallows, and set aside the empty. "I'll give her a Sign."
"Or a Foolamancer..."
"How do you know I'm not one of those!" said Wanda, throwing him a sarcastic look. "For that matter, maybe the Titans are all Foolamancers, and we really are all just...trees."
Tommy's eyes had been closed for a little while, and his breathing was deep and relaxed, hinting at a snore. After three or four progressively louder breaths, Wanda thought he was probably out. She watched him, studying his black whiskers and for some reason just feeling terribly glad and proud to be his sister.
Suddenly, he opened his eyes a crack and said, matter-of-factly, "I don't feel like a tree."
She emitted an explosive cackle that made his eyes go wide. "What?"
"Nothing," she giggled. "Go to sleep, tree man."
He closed his eyes again, turned sideways in his chair, and pulled his cloak tight. Wanda spread out the multicolored fur blanket to cover as much of herself as possible. It had a perfume to it, a somewhat intoxicating floral odor that she recognized from her own outfit.
"Olive Branch" was the one topic she hadn't talked about with her brother. And as far as she knew, nobody had mentioned it to Father, either.
This blanket was another Sign. "Evil Signamancer?" Hm. Or evil Date-a-Mancer? It was hard to deny she felt headed for something significant. Was it her Fate to meet and to serve this woman? If so, she would fight it, to stay with Goodminton. Or perhaps they could fulfill the Prediction by capturing and turning this Olive woman, and making her their Chief Caster. Wanda didn't much like that idea, either.
Was there such a thing as an "evil Florist?"
"Hey, maybe she's a Retconjuror," mumbled Tommy from the other chair.
"Oh do not even joke about that," said Wanda warningly, wishing she had a pillow or something to throw at him."There is no such thing."
Tommy's only answer was a snore. And Wanda soon wished she had a pillow for its primary purpose.