Part 20: IntermissionChapter 19: Intermission
Tell me, my liege, how is that you mages got to rule Ardania?
Well, Ardania used to be ruled by succession of kings. Unfortunately, one of them got afraid that his rule won't be remembered because... well, because his predecessors had already vanquished all sorts of monsters and villains, leaving none for him
What about establishing trade, supporting arts, funding universities and magical schools, building really big warships?
I don't think the king was smart enough to think about it, since his solution was to summon a demon lord, then to kill it and thus become famous. However, demon lords are not known to be pushovers, so the demon was victorious and the kingdom fell to ruin
Perfect time for great mages to swoop in and stake their claim?
No, that was a long time after that... after another Great King that vanquished the demon, as well as accomplishing many other tasks. And considering how Ardania was run back in those days, that's no mean feat
What so special about Ardania?
Well, you know happens when I want someone dead?
You send the elite guard to murder everyone and take their gold?
Precisely. No ratman is going to run away with my gold. However, the king didn't have such power, probably because he wasn't a mage that scoffed at the natural order
During the years of rule of Ardania, various warrior professions got taken over by heroes, who banded into guilds... and who only worked when motivated by ludicrous amounts of money
More often than not, said heroes were idiots
But surely the king had loyal subjects that didn't empty the coffers!
Oh, there were some of those. His Majesty's Royal Advisor always worked for free. Even provided his own castle to jumpstart the reclamation of Ardania
It was a small castle, but it had to do
For one, it had peasants, and peasants were the driving force behind everything done in Ardania. Heroes were hired for the taxes collected from peasants and stayed in guild halls build by peasants while enjoying the protection of towers constructed by peasants
Pesants were protected by guards and royal guards, lads of variable prowess that patroled the grounds and took a halberd to any threat. After the disappearance of the king, they banded together in a guild and built Halberdhalls. But back then, they were the thin iron line between peasants and death
Of course, the peasants wouldn't and couldn't tax themselves, so there were tax collectors, making rounds, collecting money, getting eaten by a monster.
Some say that this system is reponsible for all the gold you can find creature lairs
Not hard to see why the monsters would eat them
Aye. To mitigate the tax collector attrition, the king would build guard towers. Simple structures of stone and wood, they were helpful against the more mundane sort of threats. However, the more you built, the more expensive they got
What? Why? Wouldn't the experience gained by building towers make them cheaper?
Unfortunatelty, the tradition was to use the most illiterate peasants, and the select the thickest for any sort of construction work. Probably though that their skulls would be more resistant to falling brick
Likely the peasants would get confused with so many towers, thinking that they already built what was required, delivering materials where they were not needed and so forth
That sounds horrible
Little surprise, really. The peasants were so dumb, they used to build their hovels near monster forests and monster lairs
The only good thing about it was that while the monster was mauling the peasant hunt, heroes could be summoned for help
Those were some impressively poor and stupid peasants. I mean, their wells used to double as sign posts because they were too poor to get actual posts for signs
Then again, how could they not have been poor? The taxes were high, all to pay the extortionate rates of hero protection
150 gold pieces would get you one green ponce with most basic of bows and potato sack tunic
Rangers and hunters were the most basic of heroes back in the day... later on, when mages took over, they forced the guilds to change tactics and provide entire companies of men for the fight
You can exert a lot of influence when you're throwing lightning bolts, you know
Anyways, none of them ever deigned to bring any sort of decent equipment, and the king would have to provide it... in various contrived ways, of course
Even the smallest exploration task had to have money backing it... and hopefully one of the green idiots would indulge you by doing it. It was no way to run a kingdom nor a military, but the Great King managed
I'm starting to understand why they're calling him 'Great'
Oh yes! Even the clerics belonged to guild and had to be paid. Worst of all where ones who sold their power to the king directly. 250 gold pieces for a single casting of healing magics? Why, we would have been bankrupt before reaching Ashwind Dale
What is even more horrible is that today, our serried ranks of troops trample monster lairs without any trouble
But back then, you had to hope than a man with tights will demolish a wolf lair before the wolves get him, you, and your peasants
If rats from the severs didn't get you before that... Imagine, sever entrances popping up all over the place and various edicts, pacts and acts forbidding you to demolish them!
They didn't have crocodiles to keep the sever rats in check?
No, and wizards would pour potion left overs down the drain, to make it all worse
Pardon me, m'lord, but Ardania sounds like quite the nightmare
Funny you should mentioned that... because nightmares were His Majesty's greatest training tool!
The court wizards decided that it would be a good thing to let the King practice in his sleep, in a dream he could never win
Oh yes, with the odds already stacked before him, the was purposefully made to be even harder. Can you imagine that? The king had only one goal: survive as long as possible
The start would be humble a palace, some peasants, a few gold coins. Almost enough to build a decent defense
And he would need that because the palace would appear in near proximity of, say, nest of flying vipers. Rest assured, they were as fould in Ardania as they are here
And haunted graveyards. You wouldn't believe how many of those existed back in the day
So the king would start with towers and with a hunter guild, since those ponces at least claimed to be experts in hunting monsters. Of course, they weren't really bright nobody who dresses like that is so such concepts as clearing out the surroundings before attacking the lair were beyond their grasp
So it wasn't unlikely that hero would me an untimely or all too timely death at the claws of the monsters. This meant getting them a new, special cemetery. Which also came with its own compliment of angry, angry skeletons.
I still have little idea of how spontaneous skeleton risings occur. My current leading theory is that it's all because of moping kids of about fourteen to sixteen summers
Of course, the cemetary could be used to revive a hero. Again, for a fee. This was a terrible, terrible idea...
But it was necessary, especially when lairs got demolished, since they used to unleash quite a few monsters. Angry monsters without a home! Individual heroes barely stood a chance against it, and the peasants would prove to be the desserts
Those that survived, killed monsters and accomplished tasks would gain money, which they would spend on potions, arms and armor. And gues who had to provide both places that sold those things and the merchandise?
It does seem convoluted, but not too different from what we have today
You see, I don't have to wait for any useless layabout to go and buy a weapon. I just equip them according to my own judgment. And I equip them entire companies at a time
Really, though: the lowest rank of warriors would charge into battle with wooden swords!
What good is a wooden sword against a marauding ogre?!
Small surprise that the only time they were effective against ogres were when brutes were asleep
And in the mean time, a band of skeletons would claw their way through the southern part of the base
And so His Majesty would dream anew. Again, the same palace, the same monster spawners. Hopefully, a new strategy
'Oh' the King would think 'maybe I'll hire wizards this time! Wizards are powerful'. And yes, wizards are technically powerful. But there's a reason why there are so many wizards, yet so few Great Mages
Wizards rarely understood when they were outmatched. And when they finally did, it usually was too late
The King would pay for their resurrection, but wizards saw that as another assurance that their actions had no consequences and would run off again, and get killed
However, the trouble with wizards didn't end there. Tell me, Rurik, have you ever been to Baytown?
Only once, after the occupation, sire
You might have noticed the tall, floating crystal spire there. It's a great thing only costs me some mana for upkeep, but shoots at my enemies without me paying too much attention to it.
However, when the King wanted the protection of magic towers, he had to pay money for their continued operation. If the time ran out and he didn't have money to pay, well, some ogres would be having a much easier time knocking down the village
And they were surprisingly effective against liches, too. Well, those liches were nowhere close to my level, but still, wizard towers were the best defense against them... when the blasted things worked
And while you could destroy crypts, you could do nothing against the expansion of severs and their pipes that gave home to ratmen. While ratmen under my command were definitely better than the wild beasts of Ardanian severs, the King didn't have such luck
And bearmen would be even worse, killing and maiming wherever they went. And once they killed someone...
Well, I mentioned that paid resurrection was a stupid idea that should have been outlawed. It wasn't and it hurt the kingdom even more. You see, it cost significantly more to resurrect a powerful hero than a green one. I don't know why: for me, the mana expenditure is always the same. Must be the greed
Anyway, deaths of high ranking heroes could start a cascade where more heroes died, with no funds to resurrect them...
Vampires would get involved...
Eventually, the King could only look through the window and witness the mob of critters assaulting the palace, cutting down whatever defenders could be mustered
He'd wake just as the walls started crumbling around him, where the Royal Advisor would assure him that he did quite well
Interesting story, my liege. I guess it explains why he disappeared in the Northern expedition: maybe he wanted to run away from the nightmare that was the rule of Ardania?