Once you know the rules, you know the game. Once you know the game, you've won. The rest is just busy work.
Lawrence Friday hated busy work. Heirs were supposed to have people to do the boring things for them. It should be one of the Rules. But one of the rules of Festivus was that princes get their hands dirty just like everyone else.
Well, as far as busy work went, counting wasn't bad. Everything was really just Numbers, anyway; Mathamancers knew that better than anyone. Scorists said the Titans kept a count of everything. Lawrence wasn't strictly a Scorist, but he liked the idea anyway. Counting made him feel like a Titan.
The Titans probably had better things to count than doshibas, though. They were the only mounts that could fight without stiff penalties in Festivus's rocky terrain. Riding one nearly doubled its knight's move - at the cost of his sanity. Their ear-splitting cries drove Lawrence up the wall.
"Wow." One of the warhounds peeked its head over the stable walls. The nameplate on the door declared it Much Charge, prized steed of Lord Hal. In the stalls beside it, So Havoc and Very Attack yipped in response.
"Shut up!" Lawrence kicked the post holding the wooden roof in place. "You're making me lose count!"
That was a lie. As if he could lose count.
"Larry? Is that you in there?" A cheery face peeked into the doorway. There was only one person he'd let call him Larry.
"Yes, Lily. I'm counting."
Festivus's Florist stepped around the corner and eyed his work. Lily Strange put her hands on her hips and smirked. "Don't you naturally know how many-"
"Father says mingling with the troops 'builds character'. Well, I haven't leveled yet, and I need to do something before I croak of boredom."
She walked up and ruffled his dark hair. "I think he meant talking to the men. And I have to agree, it would do you good to have a conversation with someone who isn't yourself."
With a shudder, he groaned. "All they want to talk about is stabbing! Stab this, stab that, I stabbed him, I want to stab her. They don't even keep count!"
Lily's giggling knocked her off her feet. "Oh, Larry. What are we going to do with you?"
His exasperated expression cracked into a smile as he pulled her to her feet. "Well, if I have to talk to the grunts, I'd at least like you with me." He snapped his fingers, spending the smallest fraction of juice. "It'll drop my desire to disband myself by 30%."
Lily shook her head as she grabbed his wrist and dragged him out into the garrison. "I swear. Why couldn't you be a Hippiemancer like the rest of us?"
Roctoberfest was a towering Level 4, nestled between Mount BigRock and Mount Candy. Festivus's Dirtamancer had used the terrain to form a natural wall, making it practically Level 5 against ground attacks. Most of the side's defenses were focused on its tower; the spells hung on it sparkled against the pink and white pattern spiraling up it. All of Roctoberfest was decked in bright, cheery colors - the rainbow rocks of Candy made for uplifting material. Combined with the springs of ale that ran through the gutters, the atmosphere of Roctoberfest was eternally jovial.
Lily pulled Lawrence to the training yard at the center of the garrison. They kept very few ground troops here in the city. Most of their Schmuckers went to fortifying Ecksmas or Spanksgiving. The small regiment, sprawled out on crates, lifted their glasses as the casters approached. "'Ey, it'za pretty lady! Hi, pretty lady!"
"Hello, John, Paul. I see the training is going well." Lily gave an amused glance to the pile of weapons discarded long ago.
"Whassa bookworm doin' wi' you?"
Lawrence snorted. "Wishing I was anywhere else."
The Florist stamped her foot. "Larry! You will stop moping and start enjoying yourself." Technically, she couldn't order him, but it hit with the force of one anyway.
Grumbling, he sat down in front of the little band. "So. Uh. I, uh, hear you like stabbing."
The one called Paul nodded, wobbling. "To stabbing!"
"To stabbing!" The others raised their glasses, then chugged.
"An' I hear you like... like.. that ting wi' the objects and the numbers..."
"Yeah!" Paul pushed a mug into his hands. "Well, I know a.. a ting wi' counting and drinking we c'n do."
"Really?" He had to admit, his interest was piqued.
Lily smiled and turned to leave. "You have fun, boys."
Paul took a sip and gestured with his drink, spilling the bronze liquid onto the pastel pavestones. "Okay, it goes like this. Ninety-nine bottles of beer onna wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer! Take one down, pass it aroun'..." He paused.
Lawrence raised a finger. "Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall?"
"Huzzah!" The group drank.
"Sis bottle beer onna wall... Sis bottle a beer..." Lawrence hiccuped. "Take down.. pass... round..."
Paul drew a fresh glass from the stream beside them. "Seben bottles?"
"No no. Seben's afore sis. Five bottles next." He grinned and raised his mug in a shaky hand. "You guys... I lub you guys, man. To stabbing!"
"Stabbing!" The conscious remainders clinked their glasses together, splattering the ground and each other.
"Alright, mister. You've had enough." A swirling Lily grabbed him by the collar and yanked him to his feet. "We have a strategy meeting tomorrow, and you need to be alive for it."
"Awww... kay." Stumbling, Lawrence turned back to wave to his drunken friends. "No more bottles of beer."
"Come back again next turn, man?" Paul waved an empty glass.
"You c'n... hehe... count on it."