LIAB Text 46
Antium (no longer did "Duke" seem to matter) stood in the blue light of Spacerock's portal, vexed. The room was filled with fresh Decrypted troops, mostly of a much lower level than he was. His Mistress and the Foolamancer stood nearby, talking. They seemed inclined to stay there.
He'd just participated in a disturbing tactical action. Although, he also admittedly found it a spiritually uplifting one.
He had given his best to stop the Titans' work. He was proud of that. Proud of having come so very close to croaking his Mistress, having served well in a cause he could now see was lost. It was Duty, either way. If the Titans could see his score, he was sure that it all would count in his favor. What else could a Nobleman possibly have done?
But of course, to oppose the Titans with all of one's might was to run up and kick a boulder with all of one's might. And this boulder had been rolling downhill at Jetstone for quite some time. From this side of re-creation, he had to wonder how they'd ever believed they could fight and win.
Because to fight for the Titans with all his might had been distressingly easy. Given his leadership and the Mistress' bonus upon the Decrypted, they had overwhelmed stacks of Jetstone infantry and lower-level Warlords throughout the dungeon area. But more than that, the fallen enemy swelled their forces upon Decryption, leaping back into battle and setting upon their former comrades instantly. It was a tactical cascade, an avalanche, a wildfire...
Or no. He had simply become the boulder. To push with it instead of against it was exhilarating. It had even come with the reward of being able to croak Duke Lacrosse.
"Cor, she's amazing isn't she?"
That would be the same Lacrosse who was elbowing his rib at the moment, and apparently ogling an Instrument of Titanic Fate other than the Arkenpliers. The Mistress had adjusted her raiment, stripping away damaged parts and most non-essentials. "Tell ya! We lost the war mainly because we didn't have anything like that on our side."
"We haven't-- Jetstone hasn't lost the war yet, Lacrosse," Antium said dourly. "We should be up at the tower seeing to that, I feel."
This he spoke too loudly, as Mistress Wanda snapped her head in his direction. "Be still. We're awaiting leadership," she said. Antium took it for the order it was. In fact the entire room fell silent. But he had to wonder: "awaiting leadership" from where, when it was not their turn?
"The battle is won," said the Mistress.
The Foolamancer raised an eyebrow and peered around. "Is it? That was unexpectedly dull."
She flicked a scowl at him. "The battle, in its most important sense, is won. These..." Here she held up the Arkenpliers. Antium felt a little rush of joy at the gesture. "...will survive, and so shall you and I. If nothing else, we can step through the portal right now."
"Ah," said the Foolamancer, with a little smirk. "And would you? I'm trying to imagine your reception on the other side. I don't think anyone there would exactly bake you a cake, though they might send some kind of party after you."
The Mistress looked down and smiled, ever so slightly. "I am simply saying that the option exists. I may have...strayed from Fate's path. At the moment, I can't quite see how." She squinted, as if trying to picture her misstep.
"Look harder," said the Foolamancer, leaning on his cane. "Can you see something blonde, perhaps in a top hat?"
The Mistress' reaction startled Antium, as she whipped her Arkentool to the floor as fast as any sword strike he had ever seen, and knocked the tip of the Foolamancer's cane away. The other caster stumbled forward, then turned it into a little dance step, and spun around with a flourish. He put out his arms theatrically and bowed with crossed feet.
"Tada. You and I should have worked up a dance routine around such moves, Lady. We'd have croaked them at the Court of Faq."
The Mistress seemed vaguely amused at the idea, and raised the 'pliers again. "We couldn't have. I didn't have these, then."
"Nor did you need them, to croak them at the Court of Faq," he said pointedly. "You must have danced divinely that day."
"I must have," she agreed, her voice betraying nothing. "That is the only way I know how."
For Antium, the full impact of what the Mistress had said began to sink in. Would she truly choose to abandon the fight? The city? He knew Jetstone's forces here were massive, and their leadership was impressive even without mighty Ossomer. But surely this city was a prize worthy of a fight. He frowned. Giving his Second Life up to cover the Mistress' escape was nothing he feared, but the loss of the glory would be a great pity.
As if reading Antium's mind, the Foolamancer gestured to the portal. "If we did leave the field, we would lose quite a lot here."
Mistress Wanda turned and looked directly at Antium. "Nothing that could not be replaced," she said. "But it was an academic point. We will not leave this room to fight, because it could serve as our means of escape." She turned her gaze to the portal. "But I have no intention of returning to the Magic Kingdom."
She walked up to Antium and spoke directly to him. He came to attention, not making eye contact. Her closeness gave him an uncomfortable elation, a tingle in his stomach. He thought he heard Lacrosse take in a sharp breath as she leaned forward. "I know the enemy forces here are strong. I know that they may counterattack at any moment. In truth, I have very little idea how to win this city. But Lord Parson will be here soon."
Antium had never heard the name "Lord Parson," but the Foolamancer now looked thoughtfully at the portal.
The strange caster nodded distantly, reverently in that direction. "Hm. Enough said."