Part 32: 18-2: The Center Cannot HoldUPDATE 33: THE CENTER CANNOT HOLD
: Just do us this favor and you'll have your fight, I promise!
Hakon grunts, coming down from his battle cry.
: If there's a chance to turn the odds in our favor...
: You used to be harder than steel, Hakon. Now you turn into a lap dog when they ask you to beg.
: Watch your tone. Things change, Fasolt. I never asked to lead the varl. Now I have to think of more than myself.
Fasolt leaves in a violent mood, yelling obscenities.
: Always had a temper, he did.
: Is he really turning his back on you like this?
: He'll come around eventually. Hopefully. I'll miss his varl in the coming battle, though. The rest of us will gather your barrels, but don't get comfortable giving me orders. And whatever you do, don't let that fence of toothpicks fall before I'm back.
Every last varl leaves the caravan. Most to help Hakon with the barrel plan. Some have disaffected along with Fasolt. I don't know what the breakdown is, or if Fasolt will be back. I suspect not.
We start trying to repair the walls and prepare our counterattack.
: Bad news from our clansmen. Many dead or missing, some to dredge. Others to bedlam. Could have been worse, but it's all going wrong since the Sundr showed up...
Aleo is spot-on that it could have been worse. If you camp your caravan near the gates (we delegated the decision of where to camp to Oddleif), hundreds of them die when the walls fall.
: We need to start patching these holes, or there won't be anywhere safe in here!
: For now I suggest we focus on the dredge!
Our first event. Apparently it's an unavoidable fight.
No varl in this fight. They're all busy. And, uh...where's Ludin? And Nid?
Surely they didn't die offscreen when the wall came down?
Nothing to be done for it, in any case.
: One thing at a time! Dredge first!
This is not a hard battle, but it's also one that's not even remotely fair. That 13 strength slinger in front? He gets to go first.
And now Yrsa has 1 strength left. Which she doesn't need to be effective, but it's some shit that you can immediately get maimed before you even have a chance to move.
Alette's overwatch guarantees her a SHOT, but not a HIT, on any enemy that moves in her bow range. If something is sufficiently heavily-armored, her shot can be deflected. In most cases, her Lucky Shot talent gets around it. But here we have some bad luck and the direguard shielder comes in to mess Alette up. I no longer have a meaningful Overwatch.
It's fine. Yrsa takes an injury and we leave Alette on the back line using Mend. All kills are fed to Tryggvi so he can hit 10 if we're so inclined.
Other men fill in the gaps where you've moved on. Holding the dredge at bay is easier work than pushing them back. More trouble further down the wall beckons, and there is no time to rest.
Literally no time to rest. We'll have to either do without Yrsa, or bring her to combat -2 strength. Which honestly isn't so bad for her.
"How can we help?" Oddleif shouts up to one standing on rubble, trying to wrestle away a sheared log. He speaks softly, but makes it clear that they need replacement wood and stone to patch the damage.
You all voted to let our bannermen handle problems, and you also recommended listening to Petrus. That makes this an easy choice.
We lose 20 clansmen, but hopefully it'll save > 20 lives.
Literally we can't save the city. There are too many problems and not enough solutions.
: Look at the horizon. So many just standing, watching!
: Other houses. They're waiting for us to fall before they step in.
: Dammit! Where are those barrels?
You plead and threaten those heading toward the docks, asserting there's nothing out there. Some listen, but most ignore you. "Can't reason with a rainstorm," Petrus laments after some time. "And we're needed elsewhere!"
You move on, worried that you've already taken too much time here. A woman catches your eye, amongst the crowds. Her gold cloak stands out. "Nid? you ask.
: There's nowhere safe out there.
You realize that her eldest boy is missing, and can make a solid guess why.
: He's gone? How did it happen?
: He's not gone. He's dead. I don't blame you. Or myself. I don't even blame the dredge. Who is to blame for all of this? Do you know? Nobody can tell me.
Editor's Note: It's Eyvind and Juno, almost certainly.
: I just don't want to be here anymore. Anywhere but here.
She pushes past, having said her piece.
: Stay, Nid. I've known cowards and you're not one of them.
: This isn't about...
She stops mid-sentence. She looks down at her boys and her expression softens.
: This isn't about me, is it? Sometimes I wish it were. Wouldn't things be so much simpler? I envy my parents. The most they had to worry about was getting their children to eat eggs. Every parent wants to give their children a better life than they had, but my boys will never have that chance. Not unless I make one for them. You're right. I'm no coward.
Nid pushes back the hair from her eyes, and follows you away from the docks.
...I forgot about that event. Poor Nid Anyway, she's still with us for now.
There is no end to the problems, though. At this rate the city will eat itself before Ruin ever has a chance.
You assign three-man teams at key locations, to hold back the dredge as much as keep the townsfolk from trampling each other. Hopefully they survive to return to the caravan later...
So far, no major disasters. But now this.
: Don't go easy on them, Petrus.
: Oh, I won't. Believe me. I've been waiting for this.
And so we leave Petrus to an uncertain fate. We did say we'd trust him, and he said that we needed to deal with Rugga in order to stop any of this. So let's go do that.
What do you want, Rugga?
: This has to end. Now! There are people dying by the minute to a Sundr, the wall's falling as we speak and still, still your clansmen fight against us!
: I don't deserve all the credit. There are many players in this game.
: This is no faen board game!
From what feels far away, bells toll above the din of the carnage outside.
BGM: TREES CANNOT GROW IN A MOONLESS SKY
: What are those bells?
: Meinolf. Finally dead. Sounds like you need me now, more than ever.
: Are you kidding me? You've lost your only...why should we even let you live, now?
: Lass, Meinolf died days ago, he just didn't know it. That poison had no cure. When I learned the menders were forbidden from touching the mind I found a suitable venom. He died in his sleep, dreaming the most horrific visions. Or so I've been told.
: You vicious son of a bitch!
: Have you ever witnessed a city turn, hungrily, upon itself? Like a starving wolf eating its own cubs? Have you witnessed the rape, slaughter, and torture of thousands, the sounds and the smells of it? I have. Oh, and when that chaos spills over the edge, there is no cure. Just like Meinolf. Should I die, you will see these things for yourself. I promise you that.
: No, you're going to listen to me, now!
You don't pull your punch. Rugga's head swings back as if on a hinge. He is no longer smiling.
: Do you know why I do this?
: Do what, you piece of trash? Deceive? Leech on mankind?
: Why I speak on behalf of the people you despise so much? Why I have always done so? Because they will always be here, no matter how hard you pretend they don't exist. There is nothing more infuriating, or terrifying, than not being heard! So they give me their power! I am the will of the people!
It's time to deal with Rugga. The choices here lead to further branches, but this basically boils down to 3 things:
A.) Negotiate with Rugga. He's untrustworthy and will almost certainly betray us when convenient. But in a city about to eat itself, if we can delay the betrayal, it might come at a less disastrous time.
B.) Walk away. We have a stalemate presently. His men can't get too violent lest Rugga die. Of course, if they manage to spring him then we're in trouble. He's only leverage for us while he's in our power, and we're about to go beyond the wall to fight Ruin.
C.) Kill him. Let his men come and riot. Rugga is an evil bastard, and letting him live one second longer just invites future trouble.