LIAB Text 53
"What would Charlie do?"
Monica's face scrunched up. "Rachel, you remember when we said weren't going to talk about him any more? Didn't you agree to that?"
"Well, it's worth thinking about," said Rachel. "Right? I mean, he's the ehn- He's the opposing force now."
Phoebe, who was usually quiet when Rachel and Monica squabbled, said softly, "It's okay. I can't say 'enemy,' either."
By order of the Chief Warlord, the Decrypted Archons were scattered around Spacerock's airspace in small stacks, as far apart as possible. The three of them now huddled together over a rampart populated by several stacks of Jetstone archers, giving upskirts on the outskirts to spoil the enemy's aim. If volleys started, their only orders were to stay alive as long as possible. That meant Foolamancy, Shockmancy, or anything else, and pantyshots were about the only shots they could fire right now.
"Yeah, because he's not the enemy," Monica said irritably. "Mistress has an Arkentool, Charlie has an Arkentool, Lord Stanley has an Arkentool, and there's one other. And they'll all come together some turn. So we're all on the same side. That's the way the Titans see it. You want to see it another way? That's you being crazy." She folded her arms.
"Charlie sees it another way," said Rachel.
"Okay, well he's wrong."
Rachel and Phoebe stared at Monica for a very long moment.
Before the Battle for Gobwin Knob, the infallibility of Charlie's wisdom had been the rock upon which all their truths about the world were built. Each of them might be sent off to fight in some battle or spy on some situation they barely understood, but the fact that Charlie knew everything made it okay.
Knowing better than Charlie was a new and uncomfortable feeling.
Rachel cleared her throat. "I know he's wrong. But while he's wrong...he's the opponent. He put us in this situation." She looked down, indicating the approximately five dozen archers directly below their shoes.
"You don't know that," said Phoebe, her voice a distant but defiant whisper.
Rachel shot a look at Phoebe. "Oh please," she snapped. "You're in even more denial than her. The Arkendish's feel was all over that Turnamancy spell."
"I guess." Phoebe looked away, at the enemy tower. It was quivering slightly with the blast of breath from an unseen purple dwagon. Warlord Ossomer hovered near the veranda. Was he parleying with the enemy King again? It looked that way. "It's just like, so different now."
Monica put her hand on Phoebe's arm. "I know, honey."
"Mistress admits she's not great with battle tactics. But there's nobody better than Charlie," said Rachel. "We should be trying to think of what he'd do in our situation. Or what he might do next."
"Mistress says Lord Hamster's better," said Monica, but the doubt in her voice was clear. Rachel just looked at her. "What? He did the dwagon-harvesting thing, that was good." Rachel continued to stare, until Monica looked away, saying, "Okay what could he do? It's not even Charlescomm's turn..."
"It's the Coalition's turn," said Rachel. "And he wants them to win. Their King is going down with that tower, and they have no heir. So the side will just end. He could loan them the money to promote an heir right now."
Phoebe looked at Monica, who frowned. "Charlie doesn't make bad bets. Even with an heir, we'd still wipe out Jetstone eventually. And Charlie doesn't get paid back? Shhyuh. That's a Rule 17 violation."
"'Don't bet on the lame runner, unless you know you can shoot the healthy one.'," quoted Phoebe. She sounded wistful.
"Yeah," said Monica. "When you know a side's going to fall, you don't give them anything. You take what they have left."
Rachel nodded. "Corollary to 17, 'Betting on the healthy runner and shooting the lame one is the better bet.'"
"Maybe he's not ready for Jetstone to fall, though," said Phoebe. "You know? If they go now, all their cities'll go barbarian. But if they retreat, he can milk them dry."
Monica put her hands on her hips and looked at the tower, thoughtfully. "Yeah. That's possible."
Rachel shook her head. "No. I think he thought that spell would work. I don't think he thought Jetstone was going to fall."
Monica suddenly raised her head. "You think maybe he still can shoot the healthy runner?"
There was worried silence, as they looked at one another. "You guys?" whispered Phoebe, "That's us."
Another distant boom rumbled from the direction of the tower, and Rachel stared angrily at its cracking facade. "Could that thing take any longer to fall?"
"I know, right?"