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 Post subject: The Only Winning Move
 Post Posted: Wed Apr 02, 2014 6:27 am 
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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..."

"Counting?"

"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."

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     Post Posted: Wed Apr 02, 2014 6:28 am 
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    “We can’t afford to sit and wait for them to attack.” Chief Warlord Hal crossed his arms and scowled at the map. Leading an army was challenging enough; leading the army of a side ruled by a Hippiemancer could drive a man to madness.

    “Diplomacy has never failed so far.” King Goode leaned on his staff and shook his head. “Hairem will not attack us.”

    Lord Val tapped a series of hexes with a gloved finger. “Full stacks of glamazons here and here. If they start a dance fight, we have nothing that can contest them. I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but I have to agree with Hal. We need to strike before they can reinforce.”

    Hal looked across the room. Festivus had no official livery; King Goode insisted that every unit allow its natural Signamancy to shine. The result was a war council as colorful as its capital city. Val’s red and white clashed with his own orange and black. Even the casters had their own colors - the Thinkamancer Thom in a deep olive, Lily in her pink, Paige Larry in a jarring combination of red, yellow, and blue. In the corner, the Mathamancer slouched in his midnight blue cloak, clearly trying to sleep. “Lawrence!” Hal waved a finger at him. “If those stacks of glamazons and groadies start a dance fight, what are our odds?”

    Jolted awake, Lawrence jumped over the table. He studied the formations, placing each token, each marker in his mind. Hairem’s forces against their own.

    He closed his eyes and spent his juice.

    A flat plane. One axis - us and them. Points lit up as his juice spread across the plane. A stack of swordsmen stretched the plane up on the Festivus side. Another stack, another arch. On the other side, glamazons pushed up their own ridges. A dance fighting multiplier magnified the peaks, even tightening up the valleys. As the tapestry twisted, the peaks shifted across the axis. A stack of swordsmen flattened. Glamazon peaks trimmed, but still standing tall.

    He opened his eyes. “Bad. Maybe 10%, with a 2% margin for lucky crits.”

    Lily shot a glance at a triumphant Hal. “What are the odds they actually start that fight?”

    Lawrence shook his head. “I need more info. How much move do the groadies have, what terrain do they initiate on-”

    “They won’t.” King Goode stamped his staff, and the room went quiet. A twinkle in his stern eyes told them he had spent juice of his own. They had tried time and again to get him to explain what his Date-a-mancy exactly did, but he had always refused. “They need to make a show of force to keep Wubwub in line. This grandstanding is style without substance. Lords Savage and Skrill want a fight as little as we do.”

    Festivus’s two northern neighbors had been feuding for hundreds of turns now. They had taken and retaken each other’s cities so often that the city of Whammybar never bothered to fly flags. Festivus had managed to survive through careful negotiation, fueled by Mount BigRock’s vast gem supply. The few fights they entered ended in amiable truces.

    “Sire,” Val started, “we should still make a show of our own. The troops in Sassover have the move to-”

    “No.” The king held up a hand. “This meeting is adjourned. Warlords, you are dismissed.” He turned his eyes to his heir. “Lawrence, Paige, a moment.”

    Sharing a confused glance, the Mathamancer and the Findamancer approached their ruler. Neither particularly cared for the other; all they had in common was the Life axis. Two casters could hardly be more different. Paige was energetic, personable. He always claimed there was joy everywhere, if you knew where to find it. At this moment, in this company, it looked to be a hard search.

    The king waited for the rest of his council to leave before shutting the door and turning to face them. His brow was furrowed, and he spoke in a low voice. “No, our problems are not Hairem or Wubwub. We face a much, much greater threat.”

    Lawrence raised an eyebrow. “The south? Nothing’s coming through the mountains. A column of siege would never make it safely through the terrain, and an air force would have-” He closed his eyes, and the plane in his mind spiked and roiled again, “at best a 34% chance of surviving our tower’s-”

    “No, my son.” King Goode pointed at the map, beyond the lands of their neighbors. “There is an enemy coming. A force that will not negotiate, cannot reason, cannot be stopped.” He stopped, trembling. Something a Date-a-mancer couldn’t talk down? That should be impossible. Or at least really, really improbable.

    “You think this force will roll down into us?” Paige rubbed his chin. “Through both our friends to the north?”

    The king nodded solemnly. “It was Predicted.”

    A shiver ran down Lawrence’s spine. Fate magic was strange, and Predictamancy even more so. The thought of something that knew the rules even more than his Numbers was something he wasn’t entirely comfortable with. No, not comfortable at all. “So... what do we do?”

    “The Prediction was clear: Festivus will face an enemy from the north that cannot be dissuaded through our means. We cannot defeat it with our armies, and we cannot defeat it with our words.” King Goode looked at his casters with a sad desperation in his eyes. “We are doomed.”

    Paige paled. “D... Doomed? We can’t be doomed!”

    Lawrence closed his eyes and rolled the words around his head. Words were just numbers with a different shape. They added and they subtracted and eventually they all equalled out. Every equation has a variable, a loophole...

    “Not our armies, and not our words.” He opened his eyes and smirked. “Our minds.”

    The king’s mouth twitched in the hint of a smile. “Your orders, casters. Go into the Magic Kingdom. Take Lily and Thom. Find a solution. Think of a way out. Save us. Save us all.”

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