Meet the Wizard

Lo, he comes!


All bow before he who shall rule the worlds of Arcanus and Myrror! The Great Wizard Dubya!

[Uh, I guess now would be a good time to say that people who take their politics or religion on the serious side might not enjoy this report. Having said that, this report is for entertainment purposes only. Any similarities to events in the news are purely coincidental.]

[So, uh, you're still here?]

Our friend Dubya is a pure life mage; he starts out with all of the low-level life spells. In terms of extra spell picks, of particular interest is his investment in the incarnation spell. Life magic provides powerful buffs for friendly units, but does not have many useful direct attack spells. Doubtless Dubya will be depending on the incarnation to proselytise enemy heathens.

Mage Dubya intends to lead the klackon people to dominance. Klackons are insect-like creatures with a hive mentality; they make good workers, and have better-than-average spell resistance, but have a severely limited tech tree. Another problem with klackons is that all the other races hate them. Conquered towns will require temples or military garrisons to sooth unrest.

Now, let's go back in time, to January of the year 1400, the beginning of Dubya's reign in Arcanus...



Table of Contents
1)  A Legend is Born
2)  The Way and the Life
3)  Either You're With Us, or Against Us
4)  Shock and Awe
5)  State of the Union
6)  Operation Enduring Freedom
7)  Finding that Last Pylon
8)  Into Myrror
9)  Repent! The End is Near
10) Happily Ever After





1) A Legend is Born

"... and that is why you have made the right choice in electing me to be your Great Wizard!" From the balcony of his tower-home, high above the mass of staring insects, Dubya finished his victory speech. The silence was positively deafening -- not a chitter echoed from down below, and nary a mandible twitched. "Not exactly the response I was looking for," the newly-minted mage-king observed to himself. With a frozen smile on his face, he waved to the buggy crowd below as he retreated back into his tower. Within seconds, the the members of the assemblage turned as one and dispersed, the sounds of their passing like the rustling of leaves in a dust devil. Dubya shuddered. He was not used to dealing with the hive mentality of these klackons.

"Condi!" he bellowed. A swarthy woman legged her way into the audience room. "Turn the garrison out to patrol the countryside. We need to wreck an otter... wreak another..."

"Reconnoitre?" offered Condi helpfully.

"Yeah, reek in oyster the area for enemy combatants. I want to expand our empire as soon as possible, so as soon as possible, give someone the contract for the new granary as soon as possible. Then have someone train a crack settler squad so we can construct a new base."

"Did you have a preference about who the contracts should go to?" Condi queried.

"Oh, I don't know. Let's just find a couple of my friends and see who wants them." Dubya grabbed some scrolls on his desk and started leafing through them.

"You have friends? People who like you?"

Dubya look up. "I'm sorry, I was thinking important thoughts. What was the question?"

"Uh, nothing. Yes, sir, I'll have it done immediately. Is there anything else?"

"No, Condi. I'm going to head up to the casting chamber for a while. Make sure no one disturbs me. I'll be busy summoning a great and powerful leader to lead us into the next age."

One of Condi's eyebrows shot up. "So you won't be leading us?"

"No. I mean yes. I mean next question. I -- never mind! Granary, settler!" Dubya stuttered, snapping his fingers.

Condi curtseyed and left to fulfill her duties while the klackons' supreme commander took the steps to the casting chamber.



As Dubya locks himself in the pinnacle of his tower to better concentrate on the powerful summoning spell he's casting, the starting garrison from Dubya's Tower-Home (DTH) sallies forth to explore the surrounding lands. The region is rich with resources; WTH is next to a gold vein, and also a mithril deposit. Were he leading a race capable of building alchemist guilds, he would have been able to use the mithril to forge magical weapons to increase his units' abilities. Though the klackons cannot exploit the ore in this manner, the bonus mana income will be handy, as the hero "strategy" in MoM is a heavy mana drain.

The area is also rife with magical nodes, which will be guarded by creatures too powerful for the low-level units Dubya is capable of fielding this early. The hell hounds could be defeated early, but the klackon scouts can't tell how many units are in there, so it'd be dangerous to face the chaos monsters within the chaos node's buffing effect. Likewise, the nagas sitting in the sorcery node are pretty weak, but sorcery nodes generally contain additional forces that have weapons that ignore armour. Dubya will have to fight for his oil.

Dubya founds his second city north of WTH. On a river, this second town gets a gold bonus, which will be useful if mana runs low (mana can be converted to gold -- and vice versa -- at a rate of 2:1). Unfortunately, Dubya's Raunch misses grabbing the wild game bonus by one square. Oops.

Many months pass as Dubya puts all his fledgling powers into casting incarnation. The main bottleneck is mana income. However, by transmuting his tax reserves, he eventually gathers enough energy to weave mystical strands of power into a gateway bridging space and time. Through the portal stumbles a doughty champion, whom Dubya hopes will lead his hive to supremacy on the twin worlds of Arcanus and Myrror.



Where... Who am I? More importantly, who are you?
Welcome, my friend! You may call me Dubya. And you, sir, you are the personification of white magic. You are destined to lead my klackon servitors to greatness.
I am?
'Tis true. Now, as to what you shall be called... [Dubya whips out a rusty sword and levels the blade at the newcomer.]
Hey watch it! You could poke out an eye with that thing.
[Dubya doesn't seem to have heard him.] I, Dubya, dub ya "HeyZeus". [HeyZeus flinches as both his shoulders are tapped by the flat of the blade. Dubya continues smiling beatifically.] Now go forth and subdue our enemies! [He thrusts the rusty sword, blade first, towards HeyZeus.]
[HeyZeus, eyeing the sword point, the takes a step backwards.]
Well, take it already! [Dubya emphatically wiggles the sword.]
[HeyZeus steps cautiously forward, and grasps the rusted weapon by the hilt. Confused, he stares at Dubya.]
Whatcha waiting for? Go go go! Spread the word about bushido! [HeyZeus heads for the stairs, darting glances behind his shoulder. As his hurried footfalls fade to inaudibility, Dubya mutters.] I can't believe this guy is supposed to be the saviour of the klackon people.



2) The Way and the Life

On the shoulders of HeyZeus rest all the hopes and dreams of the klackon folk of Arcanus. HeyZeus possesses the leadership, constitution, might, sage, prayermaster, caster, missiles immunity, and magic immunity attributes. He grabs a horse from Dubya's stables and hastily rides away from the strange man who has summoned him.

HeyZeus is not yet powerful enough to liberate the magic nodes, so he explores the countryside. Dubya helpfully enchants him with endurance to make things go faster. The incarnation enters a dungeon, defeating the single sprite company and looting 110 gold for klackon coffers. A few turns later, he clears out the skeletons north of Crawford. The three companies of skels seem too much for HeyZeus at first, but he shows off his deft equestrian skills by nudging his mount around, giving him enough breathing room to cast a healing spell. The undead creatures are vanquished, netting another 50 gold for the forces of life.

Back home in WTH, Dubya is fending off an attack by raiders. Lizard folk send sword soldiers, but luckily, Dubya has enough mana in reserve to cast heroism on the klackon garrison. The buff is sufficient to help the bugs send the invading lizards six feet under.



"Hee-yah!" HeyZeus yelled as his rusty sword descended upon the last skeleton's fleshless head. Flecks of bone puffed into the air while the skeleton, jaw chattering comically, fell prone. "So does life triumph over death," intoned HeyZeus, using his first two fingers to trace the sign of a sword over the fallen undead. "Rest in peace."

Suddenly, the air shimmered before him. HeyZeus gazed at it warily, weapon at the ready.

The shimmer took the form of Dubya. "HeyZeus, how you doing, dawg?"

"Um, fine sir. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" He sheathed his sword.

"In light of recent valorous actions, I am immediately promoting you to the rank of myrmidon," intoned the wizard. Dubya waved his hands, and HeyZeus felt a slight increase in his abilities. "But with this elevator rank comes escalator responsibilities," Dubya continued. "My intelligence tells me, no, my intelligence operatives tell me, that there may be a hobbit settlement somewhere to the northwest of your position. Rumour has it that hobbits are mighty good farmers, and I'd like to secure a reliable source of food. I order you to take up a missionary position and convert this town to the bushido way by whatever means are necessary!" Message delivered, Dubya's image blinked into the ether.

HeyZeus spurred his horse to the northwest.



When the gates of Bremen, the hobbit town, finally came into view, HeyZeus sighed with relief. Civilisation would be a nice break from the monotony of the road over the past few weeks.

He rode up to the gate. Legions of short, chubby hobbits, armed with shortswords and slings, watched him distrustfully.

HeyZeus held his empty hands, palms out, in front of him. "Lo, fair denizens of Bremen. I come in peace, and bring Good News of a Great Wizard --"

"We don't let Jehovah's Witnesses in," interrupted the foremost of the halfling guards. "They're harder to get rid of than telemarketers."

"Ah, I see," smiled HeyZeus. "But tell, me, have you read the Book of Life? It says that --" A slingstone clinked against HeyZeus' head. It didn't hurt at all, but the rudeness of the act left him speechless.

"We're not interested. Go back from whence you came," said the hobbit spokesperson.

HeyZeus made a sad face. A very sad face. "Very well. I have my orders, and you have left me no choice." Drawing his trusty, rusty sword, he yelled a battle-cry: "Do unto others as you'd have done to you!"

The hobbits surged towards the gate before HeyZeus could squeeze through the gap in the walls. The halflings, garnering a defensive bonus from the fortification, fought bravely against the hewing, hacking thing that was HeyZeus. The ones with swords held off the lone attacker as best they could, but with the incarnation able to heal himself, it was only a matter of time before the walls were breached. One sword-hobbit, the last in his unit, stood frozen in place as HeyZeus rode him down, finally gaining entrance to the city. The slingers, without the benefit of the walls, and essentially useless against the missile-immune HeyZeus, were reduced to bloody rag dolls.

As the last of the hobbits fell, the air shimmered again.



Great work, HeyZeus. Now make sure to train a couple of those shorties to guard Bremen, and prepare to receive your new marching orders.
So the plan is to train hobbits to guard the hobbit city we just conquered?
Yeah, that's the plan.
OK.



While HeyZeus recuperates and directs the preliminary reconstruction efforts in Bremen, Dubya has expanded with a third klackon city, picking up the food bonus that he missed before. With the newly-conquered hobbit settlement, the empire of the United City-States of Arcanus now numbers four towns. Though mana flow is still somewhat of a problem (HeyZeus himself takes 12 mana per turn to maintain), gold income and food production are healthy. HeyZeus, participating in so many battles, is gaining experience quickly, and will soon be able to crack open the nodes to unleash a wave of mana into Dubya's pool.

However, two opponent wizards make contact with HeyZeus at the hobbit settlement. They will surely have something to say about Dubya's aspirations to power.

I do not wish to have contact with you or your filthy minions.

Oberon has five nature, four sorcery, and three chaos spell books. He has nature mastery, mana focussing, and node mastery skills.

I greet you Dubya with warmth and admiration, and I hope that you and I can maintain a peaceful coexistence.

Like Dubya, Ariel has 11 life books; she also has one nature spell book. This probably accounts for her favourable disposition towards Dubya, a fellow life mage. She could possibly be a good spell trading partner for Dubya. She is also a sage master and charismatic. Unlike Dubya. Ahem. Back to the report.

Skirmishing with some of Oberon's units, HeyZeus gains the rank of captain. Dubya judges the incarnation strong enough to conquer the nodes back home, and orders him to return to base. On the way back, he takes the opportunity to explore a tower of sorcery. It's guarded by three shadow demons, but HeyZeus has enough mana to cast true light,
Axe of the Caster:
+10 casting,
1 charge of high prayer
rendering the encounter a cakewalk. Within the tower, he finds an enchanted weapon.

HeyZeus also subjugates another small halfling town. As he prepares to enter the hell-hound infested chaos node north of Dubya's Raunch, conquest and expansion have significantly increased the area under the sway of the way of the bushido. Ariel has founded a city to the northwest, but that will be dealt with later.



[HeyZeus prances up the stairs to Dubya's tower-home.] Wizard Dubya, I have returned with godly loot.
Indeed you have, my son. May I examine it? [HeyZeus hands over the axe of the caster.] 'Tis a fine weapon. I believe I will frame it and keep it as a monumento of my great accomplishments in Arcanus so far.
[Looking crestfallen, fingering his rusty sword.] But I think I need a new weapon. You know the saying, "An axe in the bush is worth two in the hand?"
Isn't it the other way around?
Oh, right.
[Dubya turns the weapon over in his hands, carefully examing it.] Hmmm, it's even imbued with with a high prayer spell!
Oh, please. You couldn't possibly believe that stuff works.
[Sighing.] I suppose you'd better be better equipped to better better the evil-doers guarding the magic nodes. Here. [Hands the axe to HeyZeus.]
My thanks, my lord. You are as generous as you are wise. What orders have you for me?
[Wiggles his fingers and conjures a magical shell around HeyZeus.] My son, I have just now blessed you. Go forth and defeat the hell hounds so that we can secure start drilling for mana in that chaos node. I think that one's gonna be a real gusher! Then come back. We'll work together to find some way of protecting you from the sorcery node's minions.



HeyZeus raced into the volcanic node, and it was not long before the hell hounds caught his scent. He reined in his horse, so they could rest for a few precious seconds before the hounds got into range. Six groups of the feral beasts surrounded man and steed.

HeyZeus swung his axe at the first pack, shearing off two demonic heads. The dogs, enraged, lunged, biting at horse and rider, while belching out orange tongues of flame. HeyZeus' mount shied at the sudden heat, nearly toppling the hero from the saddle. The incarnation, reins wrapped tightly in his left hand, swung the axe of the caster wildly with his right. The hell pups and the hero traded blows for several minutes; the fiends' numbers steadily reduced, not by virtue of HeyZeus' skill at arms, but by the fact that the hounds were so thick around him that any blow would have been guaranteed to cut something.

The progress was not without cost: HeyZeus and his horse were both scorched and bleeding. He ceased waving his weapon and chanted an incantation. Through some fluke, the chaos node's aura did not interfere with HeyZeus' casting, and healing rays enveloped him and his mount. Reinvigorated, the hero held up his axe to parry the incoming monsters. Reduced in number, they stood no chance against the refreshed rider, but fought mindlessly to the death.

Back in WTH, Dubya summoned a magic spirit and cast endurance on it. This speedy ghost operative rushed to the north, and sabotaged Ariel's outpost before it could become a resupply area for for her troops. Ariel, though troubled, did nothing. She currently had other problems -- she and Oberon were waging war on each other. Scouting farther, Dubya's ghost saw that Ariel's territory was suffering from corruption, doubtless Oberon's doing. "That's what you get for not signing on to Kyoto," Dubya chortled, as he conjured up a guardian spirit to claim HeyZeus' liberated chaos node.

HeyZeus returned to WTH as ordered, where he funnelled his own casting ability into Dubya's efforts to cast true sight. Protected by this cantrip, HeyZeus would be able to face sorcery monsters without fear. Indeed, HeyZeus cleared the sorcery node by WTH in record time, though it was crawling with phantom warriors and nagas. The high prayer spell charge on his weapon was a great help. The incarnation's master dispatched another guardian spirit to siphon magic from the sorcery focus.

Meanwhile, Dubya evicted some of his klackon followers from WTH, forcing them to trek north to colonise new lands for the United City-States. Their new homes were burned to the ground scant months later, when Oberon's troops marched into the unguarded outpost and looted it. Dubya fumed. He could as yet do nothing except impose sanctions, but soon, he would be ready, and would have his revenge.

Back in WTH, HeyZeus and Dubya sat in conference, plotting the domination of the two known worlds.



You've done good work, HeyZeus. With the liberation of the two nodes, the agricultural, economic, and energy sectors of my klackon empire are now all profitable. In precognition of your contributions to the USCA's success, I am promoting you to commander.
Wizard Dubya, you are too kind.
While you were away, I was contacted by Kali, another wizard. I was horrified to learn that she is a death mage. Obviously, she is an evil-doer who is an atheist... anti-theist...
Antithesis.
Yes, she is the Aunt Theseus of what we, and good God-fearing folk stand for.
You fear me?
Huh?
Nothing.
Anyway, here is what Kali had to say to me.
Beware Dubya, Kali has arrived to free the worlds from your madness.

[Kali has three chaos and nine death books. She is also charismatic, a conjurer, and an artificer.]
Why doesn't she like me? I've even cast just cause. Making my cause ever juster. Why doesn't she believe me?
There could be many reasons. But let's not dwell on it. What would you have me do?
My ghosts have been very diligent with their scouting. There's a nature node I've marked on the map with an "N". "N" is for Nature, you see. I think you're strong enough to clear out the spiders guarding it. After that, you should head up north. There are lots of caves and dungeons to explore. Maybe we can find some people to kill or capture or torture. Or maybe even some better weapons for us to use. And lots of Oberon's units are wandering around up there. If we can figure out where he lives, we'll have to pay him back for attacking us. Maybe Ariel will help. She's not an evil-doer. What do you think, my son?
A good plan, good Wizard. I shall depart immediately.



3) Either You're With Us, or Against Us

HeyZeus hied himself towards his assignment. As he rode into the outskirts of the node, he noticed that the forest seemed more alive. The sun shone brightly, rendering the leaves above as vibrantly colourful as a rainbow; their rustling, teased out by a playful breeze, was like jovial conversation at a supper table as they drank up the day's light.

The white knight hefted his axe as he scanned the flora at ground level, his free hand caressing his mount's mane, counselling silence. Dubya had warned him that giant spiders had been sighted in the node, but HeyZeus was not particularly worried. Having grown accustomed, if not comfortable, with the klackons under his wizard's sway, he gauged himself well-prepared to face the overgrown insects of Arcanus.

HeyZeus' horse snorted gently, smelling something in the air. A split second later, a wild roaring echoed among the trees. HeyZeus sighted a pair of bears lumbering towards him. The horse bucked, while Dubya's champion tried to keep his seat.

Before the battle of wills between man and mount could be resolved, the expected spiders descended on thin, shiny strands affixed to the branches above. HeyZeus' jaw dropped. Truly, these arachnids, each as large as his horse, were worthy of the appellation "giant". One pair of the insects squirted out sticky strings all over him, forming a web. He was glued in place.

HeyZeus frantically sawed with his axe, trying to sever enough of the bonds so he could swing effectively at the incoming monsters. But it was futile, for the moment he freed his weapon-arm, another pair of the spiders spat their silky manacles all over him. The bears and the insects closed in a semicircular formation. Tooth and claw and mandible raked across his armour as fetid breath -- surely the rank smell was of some unfortunate who had wandered into the node and become these nightmares' dinner -- assailed his nostrils.

The steed pulled its forelegs free of the slimy juice, and reared up on its hindquarters. Two hooves descended, smacking clop-clop upon the bulbous head of a spider. Skull smashed, brains oozing onto the forest carpet, the insectoid collapsed. Its fellows, heedless of their hatchmate's death throes, trampled all over it in their hurry to surround HeyZeus.

They fought for what seemed an eternity -- the spiders alternately webbing the invaders and clutching at them with their hairy legs, the horse kicking and biting, HeyZeus feebly waving his axe or aiming a boot at a humongous multi-faceted eye, the bears all the while roaring up an unholy racket.

One by one, the arachnids succumbed to HeyZeus' efforts; their puny brains offsetting their size advantage. More often than not, they crawled directly into the path of the mounted warrior's attacks. When the last of the giant insects fell lifeless, HeyZeus -- arm burning from the exertion of wielding his axe, blood from a cut in his forehead dripping into his eyes -- summoned the last dregs of his strength to chop at the bears. One swing gashed deep into a furry muzzle, and HeyZeus was nearly unable to wrench his weapon free of the dying creature. The other bear swiped its claw across the horse's flank; the jagged wounding caused the steed to rear up again. As it descended back toward the ground, HeyZeus held up his axe. Letting gravity do most of the work, HeyZeus buried his trusty weapon into the neck of the bear, nearly severing the head. He lost his grip on the haft.

The last strands of the spiders' goo flowed onto the undergrowth. The horse, finally free, bolted madly from the concentrated smell of blood. A low branch hit HeyZeus across the chest, and in his weakened state, he tumbled from the saddle and fainted.



He awoke to the whinnying of his horse nearby. Trying to sit up, HeyZeus felt the world spin around him. Clutching his head as the grogginess faded, he felt a crusty scab on his forehead. He limped over to his horse, retreiving the axe of the caster on the way.

Posing his hands to the heavens in a gesture of supplication, HeyZeus muttered arcane words. A shaft of sunlight, fiercely brighter than its neighbours, shot like a lightning bolt to ground level, bathing incarnation and animal alike in healing warmth. The terrors and bruises of the recent combat sloughed off, leaving the survivors relaxed and refreshed. HeyZeus, on foot, led his mount deeper into the node.

In the heart of the glade, a massive oak tree sprouted up from
Holy Shield:
+6 defense,
+4 movement,
+6 resistance,
righteousness
the earth. The thick foliage overhead filtered out most of the daylight, but an insistent ray battled through the leaves to reflect on a shiny object. HeyZeus grabbed a metallic corner of something, almost buried under long sheaves of grass. It was a shield. He smiled. "A worthy reward for our valiant efforts, my steed!"

The horse snorted. The two of them strolled out of the node and back into the wilds.



HeyZeus, now with five bonus movement points to his base two, fairly breezes through the untamed lands on his way north to parley with Ariel. Back in WTH, Dubya has trained klackon engineers to build roads connecting all the cities in his empire, which will eventually span the entire continent. With each roaded square taking only half a movement point to traverse, the incarnation of life would be able to zip from town to town as needed.

As HeyZeus nears the city walls of Mirndale, Ariel's capital, the hobbit garrison waves cheerily. Two squads of orcish cavalry, surely mercenaries, are busy rubbing down their horses and polishing their arms. The ruling wizardess, escorted by a minor hero, curtseys as HeyZeus reins in. Dubya, projecting his image à la Emperor Palpatine, joins them in conversation.



[Smiling sweetly.] How are you gentlemen? Welcome to Mirndale.
Gracious lady, thank you for opening your door to us.
Yes, on behalf of the klackon people, we thank you for your hospitotality.
[Blushing in a most fetching manner.] Nay, 'tis I who should thank you. In this large and dangerous land of ours, it's good to know there are moral and devout folk such as yourselves, who are willing to spread the Word from the Book of Life.
[Whips out his spell book and starts thumping it.] Amen, Ariel! God bless the meek, who shall rule the worlds!
You are too kind, lady.
Gentlemen, I propose that we form an official dalliance. Oops, I mean alliance. [Her cheeks redden. Not those cheeks.] You have met Kali; you know she is a devil-worshipper. I even hear tell [in a loud whisper] that she has group hex with other witches!
[Gasps.]
I can understand your revulsion, sir HeyZeus. So, what say you? Shall we band together for the salvation of our peoples and the very universe itself? I would be willing to sweeten the deal... [Winks.]
What did you have in mind?
We could work out some economic arrangement. Perhaps we could exchange research, cutting the time each of us needs to unlock the secrets of the Book of Life. I have had my astronomers analyse the cost savings, and they predict the increased efficiency could trigger exponential growth in our mana reserves. Since we are both able alchemists, we could convert the extra mana into gold. The potential profits are virtually limitless!

I'm sorry, could I see that pretty drawing of yours again?
Certainly, O most puissant Dubya. [Dangles the graph in front of Dubya's projection.]
[His smile is wavering.] I'm sorry, are you mocking me?
Pardon?
[Face reddening. To HeyZeus.] SHE MOCKS US! SHE DREW A [unprintable]ING CARTOON OF THE PROFIT! GET HER!
Huh?
GET HER! GOGOGO!
OK.
[Confused.] WHAT JUST HAPPENED HERE?



4) Shock and Awe

So HeyZeus attacks Ariel's capital. Her hero escort barely has time to pull her back behind the walls before the axe of the caster whistles into his skull. Poor fool. Ariel races back into her tower to better work her spells, but HeyZeus is too strong now. Catapults launch boulders at the incarnation, but he swats them aside with his shield. Hobbit shamans, shooting magical sprinkles of dust, are entirely ineffectual thanks to HeyZeus' innate magic immunity. And the hired orcish muscle? No match for HeyZeus' muscle. And so, leaving a trail of corpses behind him, Dubya's emissary dismounts and runs up the steps of Ariel's tower.



[Backed into a corner of her casting chamber.] Why are you doing this? What have I ever done to you?
[Hefting axe menacingly.] I dunno. He mentioned something about overhearing you on a wiretap. Said he couldn't tell me for reasons of national security.
[Clasps hands in front of her, begging.] Please, can't you see what he's doing? Can't you see what he's like? Allow me to prove my innocence!
[HeyZeus raises his axe, and prepares to behead her.] I'm sorry, I have no choice. [As the blade descends, he suddenly stops. The two search each others' eyes; Ariel sees some complex emotion flitting across HeyZeus' face. He affixes his weapon to his belt. Ariel begins to smile her thanks, but HeyZeus' expression is stony. He waves his hands, opening some sort of magical portal. It pulls at Ariel, elongating her body like some sort of ethereal torture device. It doesn't hurt her; or at least she doesn't scream. The portal sucks her out of Arcanus and to... where? HeyZeus descends to ground level, to report to his commander-in-chief.]
BATTLE REPORT!
It is done, Wizard. I have sent... [Both of them catch sight of a sudden flash of light. Kali is making contact from afar.]
You have left me with only one choice: to reduce your empire to dust. [Image fades to nothing.]
WAR, WAR! WE MUST PROTECT THE KLACKON PEOPLE! SECURE THE BORDERS! THE LESBIANS ARE ATTACKING! WE MUST ATTACK OBERON'S PEOPLE! I mean bring democracy to Oberon's people!
Master Wizard, don't you mean Kali's people?
No.
Do you realise that we're not at war with Oberon, that he hasn't made any aggressive moves for years and shows no signs of doing so, and that all our current intelligence shows that he could not possibly hope to attack us given the sanctions we imposed on his nation for the skirmishing during our first contact?
Yes.
OK. I just wanted to make sure I understood your orders.
OK.
OK.



Within Ariel's casting chamber, HeyZeus finds a summoning circle incantation. Dubya may find this spell useful in the future.

Rjak, a wizard of the alternate world of Myrror, shambles his undead minions into the tower of sorcery that HeyZeus opened earlier. They cross into the plane of Arcanus, making contact with Dubya.

You and I shall treat well together, so long as you acknowledge my superiority.
Mine is bigger.

Rjak is yet another death mage, commanding nine books of that realm, supplemented with one of sorcery. He has the infernal power ability, and started on the Myrran plane.

One of Ariel's former holdings, reverting to a neutral city after her defeat, has been conquered by Kali's forces in the northwest corner (yellow dot) of the known world. But other than that, though Kali's units have been spotted throughout his continent, Dubya has no idea where her power base is. Rjak's point of entry into Arcanus is marked with an orange X, close to that small village of hobbits that HeyZeus conquered earlier. The circled areas are parts of the continent which Dubya's spooks haven't explored yet. HeyZeus gallops towards the fog of war in the eastern chunk, since Oberon's units seem to be streaming from that direction.

In his travels, HeyZeus comes across a stone giant, and several of Oberon's unit stacks, consisting mostly of weak spear troops. Clearing them serves a dual purpose: it reduces the chances of Oberon being able to successfully attack Dubya's holdings (they are very lightly defended, since all of his hopes are invested in HeyZeus), and it helps HeyZeus to level more quickly.

In the isolated northern part of Dubya's empire, Kali attacks Ariel's occupied capital. The death mage calls down a fireball from the sky, frying half of the hobbit city's two-spear garrison. Luckily, that fireball saps her casting ability, allowing Dubya to throw bless and heroism on the remaining halflings. The enchantments and the sturdy city wall are more than enough protection to rebuff Kali's elvish and undead marauders.

Despite HeyZeus' speedy movement rate, it is several months before he spies Oberon's capital. From the outskirts of the city, HeyZeus spots five squads of sprites guarding the stronghold, with not even a city wall to hide behind. He rushes into battle, knowing victory is a foregone conclusion.

Oberon does his utmost to resist, casting earth to mud as soon as HeyZeus gets into range. However, with no military capable of denting the incarnation's armour, Oberon is only delaying the inevitable.

After slaying the wizard's sprites, HeyZeus takes the tower stairs two at a time, leaving muddy bootprints on the worn stone steps.



[HeyZeus steps into the casting chamber. It is empty, but he senses Oberon is close.] Oberon, show yourself! I would speak with you. [Silence greets him. Holding the axe of the caster and the holy shield at the ready, HeyZeus treads carefully through the room. When his bootheel thumps hollowly, he smiles in understanding. Kneeling, he opens a trapdoor in the floor and hauls Oberon out of the hole.] Clever.
[Oberon's eyes are bloodshot. The wizard licks his dry lips, and wipes his damp brow with the back of his hand. He looks unkempt. Like he could use a bath. Heck, he could use ten baths. Call it a bath party.] Why?
I dunno. Something about dubya emm dees.
Got none, sir! Go ahead and ask the United Magicians inspectors if you don't believe me.
Whatever. I've got my orders.
But what of my loyal subjects?
Don't worry, Wizard Dubya said he'd help them rebuild. 
[Oberon shudders as HeyZeus raises a hand, a glowing orb sprouting from his palm. A bolt of energy shoots out, connecting with Oberon. He winces instinctively. A look of confusion crosses his face.] What the... [He disappears to wherever defeated wizards go. HeyZeus smiles in satisfaction.]

Rummaging around in Oberon's casting chamber, HeyZeus finds a scroll bearing the recall hero spell. It will come in handy if Dubya's heroes ever get into trouble.



5) State of the Union

Dubya looked down on the throngs of klackons thronged around the base of his tower.

"Thank you, thank you all for coming today." Dubya paused for a heartbeat.

Clearing his throat, he started his speech proper. "The economy is strong, and only getting stronger. We are constructing many new sawmills in the hobbit cities that have recently joined our nation. You will be pleased to know that your manufacturing jobs will be moved to the hobbit cities, freeing you to take up more lucrative jobs here at home."

Dubya continued, "In the area of education, many klackon parents have often asked me if our children is learning. This is a question that is very important to me. I myself was a great scholar, and I recognise that all children in Arcania should have the opportunity to improve their minds, and that adults should be able to upgrade their skills. Therefore, I have ordered the construction of many libraries and institutions of learning in our new hobbit cities."

"Marketplaces are the backbone of our economy. They allow the free exchange of goods, so that the prosperity of our country as a whole can be redistributed among all its citizens. That is why we are constructing marketplaces in our hobbit cities." Dubya paused for applause. There was none.

He shifted his stance. "Now, I know many of you have questions about the conflict. Ours is a nation that has been nearly constantly at war since I took power, and there have been many whisperings about 'unjust invasions' and 'magical-industrial complexes'. Prominent hive members have voiced concerns about bringing democracy to Ariel and Oberon's people, and danger to our servicepeople. I assure you, these military actions were just and necessary. We said again and again that there is hard evidence that Oberon and Ariel were planning an attack. Therefore, we had to preemptively attack them. And worries about how the repressed citizens would react to our soldiers have proven to be unfounded. The liberated peoples have welcomed our troops with open arms."



"Our ghost operatives are working very hard to gather intelligence about the dangerous lands and peoples surrounding the United City-States of Arcania. Our understanding of the geopolitical situation increases daily, thanks to the efforts of our ghosts, led by the tireless Val --"

Condi interrupted him. "Wizard, I don't think you're supposed to let the public know the identity of our secret agents."

"Oh, of course, you're right, Condi, I just wanted to publicly recognise the hard work of Val --"

"Sir, please!" Condi interjected again.

"-- lame. You give good advice lady!"

  Dubya shuffled his papers, and beckoned behind him, drawing HeyZeus onto the balcony. "I would also like to introduce my champion, your champion, HeyZeus. He has been a true hero, daily putting his life in danger to safeguard our borders. HeyZeus, come out and receive a warm round of applause from our klackon friends."

The klackons remained still and silent.

"HeyZeus will be working to defend us from the evil-doings of the vile death mages. We will crush them like bugs!" The klackons below shuffled nervously. "Er, crush them like small bugs! Keep up the great work, HeyZeus," Dubya grinned, clapping pathetically. HeyZeus stepped back into the background as Dubya concluded his speech.

"Now, this is not general knowledge, but I know many of you have heard rumours of the 'missing' gold and mana from our reserves. You are worried about what this means for your retirement funds, and justly so. I am confident that this is just an accounting error from our friends at Enron, but rest assured that even if the funds have truly been stolen, I will leave no klackon behind! A better deal for everyone!"

Dubya's subjects didn't react.

"Thank you, and God bless." Dubya waved his hand in farewell. The klackons dispersed efficiently.



"... and so I'm promoting you to champion." Dubya, after the conclusion of his speech, had accosted HeyZeus. "Now, since Ariel and Oberon have both been eliminated, their empires are in chaos. I order you to go forth and bend their cities to our will using whatever means are necessary. And keep an eye out for magic nodes. My spell casting is becoming expensive, and need will only increase as Kali continues her persecution of the klackons."

And so it was that HeyZeus found himself within a nature node, trading blows with a stone giant twice his size. Though he had made great strides in his bladecraft since his run-in with the spider army, he was still barely a match for his tall opponent. His breath came raggedly; one of his ribs was certainly bruised, and probably broken, by one of the giant's mighty swings. Thankfully, the monster itself was in a bad way, bleeding from a multitude of cuts courtesy of the hero's axe.

The stone giant roared, raised its massive club, and thundered it towards HeyZeus' head. The incarnation's agility served him well; spurring his horse forward, he hamstrung the goliath as its weapon thudded ineffectually into the earth, sending clumps of grass wafting through the air. As the giant fell, HeyZeus looped back around and chopped with all his strength, decapitating his foe.

Some minutes later, a whistling jolted him out of the mental haziness of his post-battle healing ritual. A man in tattered clothing walked up, waving both hands in the air to show he was unarmed.

"That was quite a show, friend!" he smiled.

"Indeed," HeyZeus responded. He put away his axe, and asked, "Who might you be?"

"My name is Cheney, Dick Cheney. I am a great and powerful hero. Perhaps you have heard of me?"

"No."

"Hmmm, well, I am a great and powerful hero, who was kidnapped by stone giants. They held me here for what seemed like ages, torturing me for sport. We never heard back from my family about the ransom demands." Cheney sighed.

"I guess they didn't want to negotiate with stone giants," HeyZeus replied.

"Friend, I am penniless and hungry. May I beg of thee for charity?"

A light went on in HeyZeus' head. "You say you are a hero?"

Cheney beamed. "'Tis true, a great and powerful one am I; there is no other in the world who can match my prowess with the bow and arrow."

"Very well. My employer, the great and powerful wizard Dubya --"

"Never heard of him."

"Yes, the great and powerful wizard Dubya, is in need of folk like you. He seeks to bring peace and democracy to all denizens of Arcanus and Myrror. If you swear to me, HeyZeus, to serve my master, Dubya, then we shall give you succor."

"Sounds like fun!" Cheney. "Let's go eat. Where's the nearest town?" He moved forward, grabbing for the reins of HeyZeus' mount. "Shall I ride in front or behind?"

Face stern, HeyZeus jerked the straps out of reach and nudged his horse away. "Ummm... You're walking." With that, he cantered away atop the charger.

The incarnation's departing cry echoed in Cheney's ears as he started putting one foot in front of the other. "It's just a couple days' walk to the east!"



[HeyZeus and Cheney are sitting in the town square of a hobbit settlement. An image of the magician Dubya bobs in the air before them.] Wizard Dubya, may I present to you your newest vassal, the hero Dick Cheney.
'Tis a pleasure sir, to meet you. I look forward to serving you.
Dick, it's my pleasure. Tell me, what are Dick's special talents?
[Fawning.] Wizard, I am known throughout the world for my shooting skills. I am also a marvellous trailbreaker. I have some ideas about how my talents will be of use to you. HeyZeus has told me a lot about you and your cause. I support it fully, and I'm ready to devote all my energy to furthering your agenda.
[Turning to HeyZeus.] I really like Dick.
And I like Bush.
OK, then.



6) Operation Enduring Freedom

Things are looking good for Dubya at this point. Having rescued Cheney from the clutches of the stone giant enclave, he's added another hero to his roster. Cheney is an archer-type hero, which will be nice for attacking flying monsters. He also has scouting, pathfinding, might, and a smidgen of casting skill. The pathfinding is very valuable, as it will apply to all units stacked with Cheney. Once he gets suitable speed-boosting equipment, he and HeyZeus will be able to zoom around Arcanus like no one's business.

Dubya's two heroes divide up the neutral cities between them. With no defending wizard to cast spells, and Dubya in possession of the recall hero cantrip, even a low-level hero like Cheney is able to conquer a few towns.

Meanwhile, Kali has been busy polluting Ariel's erstwhile capital with corruption (the residents aren't too happy about this), and sending small bands of raiders into UCSA territory (they're not happy about this either). Dubya queues up some hobbit shaman to clean up what looks suspiciously like oil spills, and HeyZeus speedily intercepts Kali's invaders before they can gather into a significant force.

Dubya's scouting ghosts find Kali's fortress on the western edge of the continent. The heroes will slowly make their way over to stop the satanic menace.

In their travels, HeyZeus and Cheney work together to try and overthrow a neutral hobbit warlord, but disaster strikes. Though HeyZeus is immune to missiles, Cheney is not, and being as low a level as he is, he's a prime target for the hobbit slingers in the camp. HeyZeus races ahead to engage the archer units, but with the defenders getting the initiative, it is just a formality. Cheney's buried under an impromptu cairn of sling bullets. Dick, we hardly knew ye. After pacifying the resistance, HeyZeus heads back to WTH in shame.

With Dubya's heroes temporarily out of commission, Kali takes the opportunity to attack Ariel's ex-city. Two elven sword companies stroll into the halfling settlement. Kali reinforces them by conjuring a fire elemental, and putting a black sleep upon half the hobbit defenders. Luckily, Dubya has enough juice to cast heroism on his remaining forces. Though the sleeping hobbit spears die, and one elvish company actually breaches the walls, Mirndale remains free.

Of course, with his death mage sister duking it out with Dubya, it isn't long before Rjak goes hostile too.

Soon, I will put an end to your pathetic existence.

We meet rejoin HeyZeus in WTH, as he prepares to face Dubya's wrath.



[HeyZeus trudges up the stairs to Dubya's casting chamber. He frowns, obviously not looking forward to confronting the wizard after failing to protect his new friend, Dick. As he reaches the chamber, a bright light explodes from nowhere. He shields his eyes, and puts a hand on his weapon.] What the...
Behold, my son! See what I have rot.
HeyZeus! Good to see you! [He is apparently fully functional.]
What the...! But you died! Dick, you were as flaccid as a --
You speak truly, HeyZeus. But I cast resurrection on him. And thus Dick stands upright among us now!
Resurrection? Impossible.
My son, do not act so surprised. A great leader can do great things.
So what's up next, boss?
HeyZeus, Dick, no more playing around. Klackon sentries have spotted many of Kali's troops heading our way. You are to make your way to her fortress and destroy her. If you come across dungeons or nodes in your travels, you have my permission to explore them. Perhaps you'll find some useful items. At any rate, we will deny every possible scrap of treasure or mana to our enemies Rjak and Kali. [He makes the sign of the sword in the air.] Bless you, my children. Go now, and bring glory to the way of the bushido. [Dubya's minions turn to leave.]

And HeyZeus! Make sure no one bushwhacks Dick this time.



HeyZeus and Cheney do as ordered. In the first weeks of their journey towards Kali's capital, the pair search a temple. It's guarded by an arch angel and some guardian spirits. Cheney is in no condition to take on an arch angel, so he spends the battle keeping as far away from the action as possible. Luckily, the angel eventually tires of chasing him, and attacks HeyZeus instead. The incarnation is more than a match for the heavenly creature, and upon slaying it, draws a sword upon its forehead with the tears he sheds at the necessity of slaying such a beautiful being. In the ruins of the temple, the two heroes find a potion of mana focussing. Dubya nabs it with a bit of teleportation, and, drinking it, makes his mana harvesting much more efficient.
Elven Ring of Health:
+1 attack, +1 defense

Soon after, HeyZeus and Cheney crack open another nature node. Within they find a ring.



Gimmee, gimmee! [Snaps up the ring with a teleport.]
Wizard, I do believe we would be better served if you were to give that ring to your new hero. He is still quite weak, and any additional protection Dick wears will increase his chances of survival.
I don't know where you get the gumption to make a request of me like that, son. [HeyZeus rolls his eyes. He can see where this is going.] HeyZeus, where I come from, that is, in that place where I growed up, I was taught that when one man gives a ring, what I mean to say is when there are two men and one of them gives the other a ring, those men are --
[HeyZeus has been busy wiggling his fingers and casting a spell. A puff of air gathers in Dubya's casting chamber, becoming denser and denser. As the wizard's tirade continues, that puff winds up and socks him one across the temple. The wizard falls face down, out cold.] Neanderthal. [HeyZeus teleports the ring into his palm and hands it to Cheney.]






Kali's been a busy little bee, too. The hobbit village beside the tower of sorcery that HeyZeus conquered early in the game hasn't had its defenses (two spears) upgraded at all. Nice work, Dubya. Kali invades with a force of elves too large to resist, so the halfling garrison abandons the townsfolk. One of the hobbit spears is killed in the rout, and Kali razes the settlement. The surviving unit is burnt to a crisp when she chases it the next turn.

Dubya's heroes continue their advance. Vanquishing another dungeon of undead
Mail of Pobox:
+3 movement,
+3 defense,
+3 resistance,
elemental armour
baddies, they uncover a suit of armour which Cheney dons immediately. The increased movement will be especially helpful stacked with Cheney's pathfinding. Dubya, still sporting a bruise from his tug-o-war over the ring, doesn't attempt to co-opt the treasure.

There's a cluster of three nodes (one chaos, one nature, one sorcery) on the way to Kali's base, and it's just too tasty for Dubya to pass up. His lackeys invade the sorcery node first; it's filled with phantom warriors and one phantom beast. HeyZeus, immune to illusions thanks to a true sight spell, charges into the middle of the pack of monsters while Cheney lets loose volley after volley of arrows. The incarnation's bravado nearly costs him his life; though protected from the false imagery of the phantoms, the sheer volume of connecting hits forces him to spend the rest of the battle trying to punch healing spells through the node's dispelling effect. Dubya's lieutenants then attack the chaos node, which is home to several nests of gargoyles. The nature node they leave alone -- they catch sight of at least one basilisk within. The monsters' high health and attack, combined with the node interfering with healing spells, would put HeyZeus in danger, and probably kill Cheney outright.

The action allows HeyZeus to reach the rank of lord. One of the battles yields a magic staff as loot, but it's not terribly useful at the moment since Dubya has no magician heroes to use it.

Dubya orders a magic spirit to cross into the Myrran plane; with Rjak declaring war, locating his power base is important. Back in the UCSA heartland, Dubya's corps of insectoid engineers is busy connecting his cities with roads. In the course of their work, they spy a small army under Kali's control, heading for either Dubya's raunch, or WTH itself. Now, the army is big enough to overwhelm any klackon resistance in the area, but Dubya's got a neat trick up his sleeve.

HeyZeus and Cheney case out one of Kali's hobbit cities; it's defended by halfling slings and swords. The slingers are the real danger here, as they're arguably the most powerful ranged unit in the game. Thankfully, Cheney's new armour, combined with ample healing mana, are enough to buy Lord HZ enough time to win the gates. He softens up the defenders enough for Cheney to finish hand-to-hand, then the incarnation throws recall hero on himself. The next turn, he gallops out of WTH's main road, charges into Kali's lines, and mops the meadow with them. The detour slows the offensive against Kali, but the fall of Dubya would have delayed it further. Well, probably.

Meanwhile, the neutral peoples formerly under the control of Ariel and Oberon are beginning to make forays into Dubya's northern holdings. Slinger insurgents attack Oberon's ex-capital, slaughtering the garrison and liberating the city from Dubya the, er, liberator. Kali is also active in the region; a batch of her troops pokes into a UCSA hobbit village, magicks half the defenders to sleep, and burns the village to the ground.

HeyZeus, en route to form up with Cheney, attacks the basilisks in the nature node. The giant lizards are backed up by bears, but Dubya's champion uses his maneuverability to good advantage, never being attacked by more than one monster unit per combat round. This maximises the effectiveness of his armour, and the hero emerges from the enchanted glade victorious.

The next turn, Cheney escorts HeyZeus to the gates of a hobbit town under Kali's control. They easily overpower the defenders, and train some of the locals to defend it. When they depart for the final leg of the journey to Kali's tower, she tries to take the conquered city back. She manages to fry parts of the militia with a fireball, but Dubya's stat-boosting cantrips allow the survivors to repulse Kali's units.

Finally, Dubya's minions reach Kali's tower. It's guarded by a surprising mix of troops: high elf archers and dark elf nightblades, and barbarian berzerkers. Alas for Kali, the racial harmony among her military is no match for HeyZeus' missile immunity and high stats. Once he wins the entrance, the defenders are mown down in record time. As the last of Kali's troops fall lifeless, the sky suddenly grows overcast, a fork of lighting blasts into a nearby field, and a great peal of thunder rolls through the air. Kali's fortress begins to shake.



[HeyZeus takes the steps two at a time. Kali's tower continues to thrum and shudder, but the incarnation's battle experience has made him sure-footed. He soon breaks into Kali's casting chamber. His eyes widen at the scene that greets him.] Halt!
[Kali's just finished summoning a glowing portal, surely a rip in the fabric of the known world.] Too slow, lackey. Tell your master we're not done yet. [She hurries through the magical escape hatch, which dwindles to nothing once she's through.]
[In anger, HeyZeus pounds the vibrating wall with a fist. The shuddering intensifies.] Damn! [HeyZeus races back down the steps. As he stumbles outside, the building implodes into nothing.]
[Dubya's image is busy chatting with Cheney when HeyZeus exits.] HeyZeus, what a fantastic implosion! Ha, ha, ha! You got her good!
Actually, Wizard, Kali escaped. She opened a back door before I could dispose of her.
This puts a cramp in our plans.
That's the truth.
Hunt her down, my son. She does not believe in the same things we do, and we cannot allow dissent in these trying times of war. Or any time, actually.



7) Finding that Last Pylon

A perfunctory search of the town yields two new spells: enchant item and create artefact. They could be useful in the future, but Dubya's casting skill is too low to craft items quickly, as he's been mainly pumping his harvested magic power into his mana pool to maintain and cast buffing spells instead of increasing his skill.

In her absence, Kali's forces run amok. They assault UCSA slingers, en route to reinforce the heartland so that HeyZeus and Cheney will be free to adventure full time. Kali's units also waylay hobbit shaman, travelling to clean up the pollution in the north. One of her heroes even leads an attempt to retake one of her captured cities. However, with Kali out of commission, her military is unable to capitalise on its superior numbers. A couple of power-boosting spells from Dubya allows his forces to drub Kali's troops.

It isn't all rosy for Dubya, though. Rjak sends his ghouls into a fledgling klackon colony. With a dose of black sleep, he knocks out the insectoid troops and gains a base of operations in Arcanus. Adding insult to injury, Rjak raises the slain bugs from the grave to serve him as mindless undead. It's rather embarrassing, since the town (in Rjak's purple) is pretty close to WTH, Dubya's stronghold (circled). Rjak's forces are accessing Arcanus through a tower of sorcery (X).

A couple of Kali's rogue elvish longbow companies also manage to break through the defenses in a northern town. Without city walls, even Dubya's protection spells are not enough to save his troops. The attacking elves mercilessly bulldoze the settlement.

These are minor setbacks. While Kali and Rjak conquer piddling towns and populations that Dubya cares nothing for, HeyZeus and Cheney are
Jaer:
prayermaster,
casting,
missiles immunity,
wind walking.

The Ossifier:
+2 attack, +2 casting,
stoning attack,
-3 spell save

looting dungeons and developed cities. The two heroes split up, with HeyZeus taking the tougher targets. Cheney is actually becoming quite capable, able to take on mid-level units if he's careful. Indeed, Cheney dismantles the resistance in a fallen temple guarded by unicorns and guardian spirits, freeing a a captive hero in much the same way that he was emancipated by HeyZeus. Dubya starts imbuing some jewelry to increase the movement speed of his new disciple. Since Jaer is a mage hero, Dubya breaks that staff HeyZeus found out of storage. Needless to say, Jaer is pleased with his new employer's generosity.

Will anyone be able to stop Dubya's meteoric rise?



The Myrran soldiers, dark elves and dwarves, gazed hatefully at WTH. Rjak's image, flickering in and out of focus, harangued them.

His voice was sibilant. "Our scouts say Dubya's fortress is lightly guarded. The fool sends his heroes out to seed chaos throughout the worlds and forgets to provide for his own citizens." Rjak spread his spectral arms wide. "My children," he intoned, "You are the strongest of my warriors, and our enemy has naught but his bugs standing between him and his destruction. Together, we shall cleanse Arcanus and Myrror of Dubya's infestation."

Rjak's troops clashed their weapons against their bucklers to show their approval. "Go! Let this day be the dawning of a new era!" the death mage ordered.

The elves and dwarves advanced slowly, taunting the unreadable klackons attending WTH's walls. As they drew closer, the city gates rolled heavenward, and a lone rider trotted out of the shielding masonry.

"Ha!" One of the dark elves laughed harshly. "He sends an emissary to surrender. Cowards!" The elf's companions renewed their catcalls.

In their preoccupation with cooking up insults involving klackon hive queens, they didn't notice Dubya's rider accelerating. Soon, the horse was racing faster than any mount should have been able to run. Its hooves were a blur; their clopping a rapid drumbeat against the earth. The rider was upon them before they even thought to draw their arms. Heads rolled left and right as HeyZeus chopped this way and that, his eyes gleaming with a holy light. Soon, only one elf remained standing. He hefted his blade defiantly, daring HeyZeus to make the first move.

The incarnation raised his axe high over his head, so the blade caught the sunlight. "Next time, don't talk smack until you've won the game."

The dark elf arched a brow. The next second, that brow, and its head, were rolling on the grass several yards away from the elf's toppling body.



Gee, that's the second time that recall hero has saved Dubya's bacon. His three heroes congregate in WTH, adding their casting skill to his, and Jaer's amulet of speed is finished ahead of schedule. HeyZeus has recently been promoted to grand lord, and is only two levels off of the max. Slingers from the north are beginning to reach WTH; these reinforcements will ensure that Dubya's heroes can concentrate on offensive activities rather than defending their capital. Indeed, HeyZeus and Cheney resume their sweep of Kali's cities, while Jaer prepares to lead hobbit slingers in an attempt to pacify the neutral cities, which keep attacking Dubya's northern holdings.

Cheney happens upon Kali's last city, and quickly trounces what remains of her army.



Cheney ascends Kali's stronghold, still under construction, and about to be toppled again.




[A limping Dick nearly trips into Kali's casting chamber. He is huffing and puffing.] Kali! [Huff.] Dick, here, coming [Puff.] to do whatever [Huff.] is done to defeated wizardesses like yourself. [Puff.]
[Snorting.] Do your worst!
OK, then! [He waves his hands. Nothing happens.] God damn! I have no idea what I'm doing! [Huff.]
[Smirking.] Why don't you go back downstairs and call your master and ask him what to do? Surely he'll know.
[Frowning, Cheney contemplates the prospect of descending the tower, asking for instructions from Dubya, and then remounting the endless flights of stairs.] You know, that doesn't sound like such a great idea to me. How about I just come shoot you? [He fumbles for his bow, but it gets caught in his pants. There's a commotion coming from the stairwell, anyway.]
[HeyZeus virtually leaps into the chamber, bowling Cheney over. Cheney ends up in a undignified position on his knees, with his bow pulling his waistband down and exposing a fair bit of... er... cleavage? HeyZeus skids to a stop in front of Kali.] I nearly [Huff.] killed my horse getting here [Puff.] in time...
HeyZeus, thank God!
Yes? [Huff.]
Huh?
Nothing. [Puff.]
HeyZeus, thank God you're here. I have no idea how to do the... [He wiggles his fingers.] I've definitely been caught with my pants down on this one!
I can't believe I was beaten by you clowns.
Silence, O Lesbian!
I'm actually straight. The things people will say just because I'm a necrophile.
Oh. Well, your preferences never mattered to me. I've never actually said anything against stuff like that.
Lesbians? Or necrophiles?
Um, both.
HeyZeus, come on! Dubya's waiting downstairs.
Yes, yes, of course. [He sketches arcane figures in the air, sucking Kali into the void as she rolls her eyes.]




8) Into Myrror

With Kali having bowed out, Dubya's only opposition is on the Myrran plane. The Arcanian lands are free for the taking. Although Cheney and HeyZeus could scout out Rjak's hiding place more quickly, Dubya prefers using his heroes to clear the remaining dungeons and neutrals of his continent, while a buffed magic spirit goes sight-seeing in Myrror. HeyZeus, temporarily escorting Jaer, sneaks into another tower of sorcery, defeating its guardians and adding an axe to the armoury. More importantly, they find an altar of battle spell, which Dubya puts to use immediately on the city training halfling slingers.

Cheney, solo, tries to nab some of the remaining nodes and dungeons Arcania-side. He manages to retrieve some magic armour in his travels, but his melee strength is still too weak for the swarms of hell hounds that surround him in his next battle. Dubya has to pull Dick out with a recall hero spell. In the Myrror East, Rjak corners Dubya's scouting ghost and kills it. The life mage's hand is forced; he directs HeyZeus and Cheney to free Rjak's enslaved klackons in Arcania and then to flip over to Myrror and conquer whatever they can while seeking Rjak's tower. Jaer waits for enough slingers to accumulate so he can lead them to crush the hobbit uprising in the north.

Rjak has a number of small armies in the middle of Dubya's lands, but they are no match for even single groups of enchanted slingers. Slowly but surely, Dubya is tightening his grip on his home continent.

Jaer and his hobbits sweep the north. Neutral cities guarded by melee units have no hope of countering the slingers, and those cities which are watched over by ranged units are helpless against Jaer's missile immunity. The free cities fall like flies.

Soon, Jaer works up the courage to assault a chaos node. It's guarded by fire elementals and a chaos spawn, so Jaer's forces handle them
Shalla, the Amazon:
blademaster,
thrown attack,
armsmaster
might, charmed
easily. In the aftermath, they find yet another captured hero, who is willing to sign on to Dubya's service in thanks for her rescue.

Shalla the Amazon joins Jaer's intrepid band of adventurers. As a hand-to-hand fighter, she'll tank for the hobbits and Jaer himself. Dubya whips out the key to the armoury and awards Shalla some of HeyZeus and Cheney's unwanted loot, immediately boosting her newby skills to more respectable levels. Rjak, seeing this in his crystal ball, starts muttering about mule accounts.

Meanwhile, HeyZeus and Cheney are having a ball converting Myrran cities. Whether dwarves or night elves, neutral or Rjakian, none can resist those two ardent disciples of bushido. For valorous actions in combat, Dubya promotes HeyZeus to the rank of superhero.

Rjak is driven to madness by Dubya's success in the Myrror East. Each time HeyZeus and Cheney depart their latest conquest, the death mage sends in his own troops to attack. Since roads in Myrror are enchanted and take no movement points to traverse, Rjak's troops raid quite often. With Dubya training only low-level units to defend his captured cities, it is only a matter of time before Rjak's military scores victories in the Myrran towns, even taking into account buffing and healing. And, whenever the enraged Rjak retakes a settlement, he orders it torched. Played like a true death mage, sir. Bravo.

It isn't long before HeyZeus and Cheney sight Rjak's tower in the distance. But before they get close, Dubya mysteriously calls his lieutenants back to WTH for a special meeting.

Dubya's sages have made good progress in researching life spells. With his casting heroes in WTH adding to his own skill, he is able to further cocoon his heroes in invulnerability and lion heart charms, fashion a rudimentary bow for Cheney, and finish the casting of crusade. Under the influence of the enchantment, HeyZeus gains the level of demigod.

Argh, what do I have to do to actually become God?

HeyZeus has now risen as far as it is possible for a hero to rise, and it's time to wreak some havoc. Dubya deploys his armies to test their augmented abilities.



The colossus thrust a golden fist at HeyZeus' head. The incarnation, reading the giant's moves like a child's storybook, pivoted his blocking arm and met the hardened limb with his shield. The loud, harsh sound of metal clashing on metal rang out, saturating the combatants' hearing. HeyZeus lashed out with his axe, scratching a zig-zaggy line in the giant's glowing skin. The two danced in a circle. HeyZeus' horse sniffed curiously at the scentless automaton against which his master was struggling, and twitched its ears at each gong-like hit.

The colossus feinted one way, and then suddenly reached out and grabbed HeyZeus around the waist, pulling him from the saddle. The hero had to act quickly, for the giant's strength could tear trees asunder. Holding his axe aloft as the monster clasped him closer to its sculpted breast, HeyZeus let out a battle cry and crashed his weapon upon the colossus' skull.

The clang was deafening, and for hours afterwards, HeyZeus could hear nothing except a monotonous droning. But the attack yielded the desired effect: the golem dropped HeyZeus to massage its forehead. The incarnation landed unceremoniously in the dirt and scrabbled backwards, keeping his eyes on the monster.

Its head was vibrating, and as the seconds marched on, the vibration spread. Soon, even the thing's hands, tasked with damping the trembling, were shaking like a village drunk's. The colossus threw its arms wide in anguish, emitting an emotionless scream. It then exploded into a cloud of fine particles, blanketing HeyZeus in a golden shower.

Alternately coughing and sneezing, the hero bit back an oath as he brushed his soiled clothes. "I just bought this shirt," he sighed.



Cheney and HeyZeus rode leisurely into the abandoned keep. Their initial scouting had found little sign of habitation, but they were about to find out how wrong that was.

The ground rumbled. That was the only warning Cheney had before a hill of earth rose up before him, and a gigantic green head burst forth, shaking the dirt from its eyes. The great wyrm had evidently burrowed through the earth from its lair, judging the heroes a perfect meal.

Given its size, the wyrm darted with improbable deftness at the archer. Cheney frantically slashed with a hunting blade, but his blow did not prevent a strip of flesh from being torn out of his side. The archer groaned.

HeyZeus took advantage of the wyrm's occupation, readying his axe as he ran his horse towards the drooling beast. With two quick chops, he successfully diverted the wyrm's attention. Though the incarnation was many times smaller, he was a wily veteran of many campaigns. His natural martial abilities were boosted by varied life spells, and were a match for the monster's brute strength. Soon, bleeding from myriad cuts, the wyrm slumped lifelessly.

"Oh gods, I'm dying! It hurts!" Cheney yelled.

"Crybaby," HeyZeus muttered as he prepared a healing spell.



Jaer swooped low, Shalla and the slingers wrapped securely in a shell of wind that the mage towed behind him. The ground loomed at an alarming rate. The amazon cackled like a madwoman; the hobbits' brows were beaded with sweat. Just as their descent seemed to cross from the realm of near-death-experience to that of certain tragedy, Jaer angled up and slowed, gathering a cushion of air to brake their landing. Dubya's two heroes raced their steeds towards the stone giants in the meadow, while the slingers loaded their ammunition and squinted at their enemies in the distance.

Jaer gathered his mana into his palm, molding it into an icy spike. With a mental command, he launched it towards the grunting leviathans stomping his way. Shalla rode circles around the giants, whipping fiery throwing axes at the monsters' hairy hides, as Jaer continued to pepper them with his magic bolts.

A couple of the giants stayed behind the front lines, gathering massive boulders into their arms, and heaving them at Dubya's slingers. The halflings tried to scatter, but they were packed too tightly. The ones unfortunate enough to be in the rocks' trajectories were at least fortunate enough to be granted quick deaths. The survivors, elite warriors all, rallied a counterattack. Polished pebbles arced through the air and connected with the soft, exposed parts of the giants. Several of the beasts howled, trying in vain to cover their sensitive spots as the hobbits flung another volley.

The amazon drew her flaming battle axe and charged a writhing giant. One mighty stroke bit into flesh, roasting giant meat and filling the air with a pungent odor. The wind mage, and Dubya from afar, worked protective incantations around the halflings.

The monsters, out of boulders to throw, tried to stride into melee range, but the ceaseless stream of hobbit slingstones, Jaer's icy bullets, and Shalla's unforgiving cuts made it impossible. Soon, the battlefield was littered with humongous corpses. The wind carried the life army's triumphant cry, "For Dubya!" to all four corners of the world.



9) Repent! The End is Near

HeyZeus and his horse picked their way through the dead trees. Cheney was some distance behind them, nocking an arrow to his bow and aiming at the four great drakes winging their way towards the heroes. HeyZeus and Cheney's faces were sooty even from the minimal exposure to the chaos node's atmosphere.

"Here they come!" cried HeyZeus. "Fire!"

Cheney didn't have to be told twice. His bowstring twanged, and the arrow whistled through the air. However, his aim left something to be desired. HeyZeus felt a tingling sensation at his back. Glancing down, he saw a nasty-looking arrowhead protruding from his chest. "Great, just great. I just bought this shirt."

Cheney fumbled for another arrow and let it fly, but this shot was no better. The missile made a beeline for HeyZeus, stapling his weapon hand to a tree. A thin trickle of blood dripped into the blackened wood. "Wonderful! Get the other hand and I can say, 'Look MoM, no hands!'"

"You have a mother?" blurted the archer.

"It's my paternity that's in question!" HeyZeus retorted.

The nearest dragon dived for the incarnation, opening its toothy maw and unleashing a torrent of flame. HeyZeus whipped his holy shield around, deflecting the attack. With superhuman strength, he wrenched his pierced hand free and clutched at his axe. As the huge drake braced in mid-air for a second belch, HeyZeus urged his horse forward. With an energetic chop, he cleaved the beast from chest to navel, spilling steaming internal organs all over the ground. He backed his mount up before the dragon's corpse could fall and crush him.

Meanwhile, Cheney seemed to have found his groove. He drew, nocked, pulled, and released in smoothed, practised motions. His wood and metal death-dealers perforated delicate wing membranes, inexorably drawing the great drakes to ground level, where HeyZeus laid waste to them.

With a deft twist of his hand, the incarnation snapped off the arrowhead in his chest, and with some difficulty, pulled the shaft out of his back. Throwing these bloody implements away, he cantered up to Cheney. "What the devil was that?" HeyZeus demanded of his companion.

Cheney was blushing furiously. "Sorry, HeyZeus, it was the damnedest thing. That's never happened to me before. Must have been a gust of wind. Act of God or something." At HeyZeus' scowl, Cheney reconsidered. "Must be the new bow."

HeyZeus frowned. "Right. When we first met, did you not claim you were the best archer in the known worlds? How do you explain that aim?"

The archer's cheeks turned a deeper shade of red. "My aim's fine. It's just that, for a second or two, you looked very much like quail."



Refreshed from a generous dose of healing after their fight with the great drakes, HeyZeus and Cheney ventured into a sorcery node, only to run into sky drakes. The hulking lords of the sky were joined by djinn, who managed to cast guardian wind on the dragons before committing suicide against Dubya's champions.

Cheney and HeyZeus were on opposite sides of the node. Though each of the archer's arrows flew true, none pierced the protective spells around the airborne lizards. Cheney turned his horse around in frustration, and threw his hands up in the air.

"Look out!" came his companion's distant cry.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the blue creatures skimming towards him, claws extended. Cheney's horse swerved, its mane violently ruffled in the breeze whipped up by the passing of the dragon overhead.

HeyZeus waved. "Dick, head over here! I can't protect you if you're that far away." Cheney hunched over his mount's neck and sped for his ally. Wearing his velocity-enhancing charms, he easily outraced even the quick dragon pursuing him.

Cheney lined himself up behind the incarnation, drawing a simple hunter's blade in case one of the sky beasts tried to make another grab. But the dragons were intent on HeyZeus, spitting sparks of electrical energy and swiping razor-sharp talons at him. The demigod expertly caught each bolt of lightning on his shield, and parried each claw with his axe, and punished each incursion into his space with a wicked slice at whichever dragon was closest.

Soon, the Myrran soil was stained through with the ichor of the drakes, which had fallen to the ground. As HeyZeus wiped his axe clean on the grass, Cheney approached the monsters on foot. The lizards, mortally wounded, could do nothing but glare hatefully at Dubya's disciple as he hammered his blade into each dragon's skull, mercifully ending their pain. Cheney made the sign of the sword in the air, honouring the fallen as any good follower of the bushido would.

Dubya's heroes had now taken on the most powerful creatures in the known worlds. In the distance, the outline of Rjak's tower glowed against the preternaturally dark Myrran sky. "I think we're ready," Cheney remarked.

"Yes," HeyZeus reflected. "Yes, I think we are."



Jaer and his band are quickly consolidating the Arcanian plane under Dubya's rule. HeyZeus and Cheney's adventures in Myrran nodes, aside from demonstrating considerable ability to shock and awe, also net Dubya two chaos spell books and various low-level magical items. The weapons, being weak, are melted down for extra mana, while Dubya greedily pores over the chaos texts and prepares to memorise some offensive words of power.

Rjak's attempts at liberating his lands from Dubya's control have slowed, and ultimately come to naught, thanks to Dubya's invulnerability and lion heart buffing. Cheney and HeyZeus arrive at the death mage's tower and wrest the city from the garrison. Any enchantments Rjak can create are totally useless against the life hero. Cheney stands guard while the incarnation ascends the fortress of Dubya's last opponent.





[HeyZeus takes his time climbing Rjak's tower. The death mage isn't going anywhere, and this will be the last time he has to ascend an enemy tower.]
[Rjak waits impatiently for the incarnation to reach the top. The two eventually come face-to-face.]
Wizard Rjak.
HeyZeus.
[HeyZeus raises his arms, a familiar incantation ready.] Have you any last words to say to me?
You can't let him continue to rule. He has looted his own people to fund his insane vendetta, and has destroyed countless lives on Arcanus and Myrror. And he won't be content with that -- don't you know there are other worlds?
[Laughs mirthlessly.] You're one to talk. A death mage, who slaughtered his own people rather than liberate them? Would you be a better candidate to rule these other worlds?
You are very foolish for one with such power. Do what you will!
May God have mercy on your soul! [He summons a rift that swallows Rjak whole. A smile of satisfaction spreads across his face as he returns to ground level. There, Cheney's dancing a jig with Dubya's projection. They're shrieking deliriously.]
YEAH! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! [Jigging.]
[HeyZeus lets this go on for some time. He loses patience eventually, and cuts into Dubya and Cheney's whooping.] Sir, what orders?
[Dubya composes himself.] We've done a helluva job, HeyZeus. Before my next project, we're gonna take a little break. Celebrate our accomplishments, you know? Come back to the ranch; we'll prepare a big feast to mark our victory!
Yeah, food! And I don't even have to trade for oil! [Bows deeply.]
If you bring the water, I'll make the wine. [Salutes, smiling.]



10) Happily Ever After

[HeyZeus rides into Crawford Raunch. Cheney nearly trips over himself racing to the picnic tables, laden down with all manner of tasty treats. Dubya, spotting the incarnation, waves cheerily. The undisputed Master of Magic of the dual planes of Arcanus and Myrror has an apron on. He's busy barbecuing steaks on a grill. An enticing, fatty smell swirls through the air and burrows into HeyZeus' nostrils. He dismounts, nimbly landing on his feet.] Mmmm, BBQ. Funny, though. I'd always pegged you as the type of man who preferred cooking with oil.
HeyZeus! Welcome back. Now that I am truly the leader of the free worlds, everyone will prosper. Tax breaks for everyone! Especially for people who don't need them.
Yes, about your being the leader of the free worlds part --
One of my predecessors said something very profound, HeyZeus. I can't remember exactly what it was... Something like, "Ask what you can do for your count --"
If I might get a word in edgewise --
-- and you can be sure I won't forget your part in all this, my son. You will be well-rewarded for your efforts. Would you like to be a director-of-something? Or perhaps you'd prefer a military position? I know it was hard for me to leave the military after my years of proud service, even to become the great leader you see before you now. Well, think about it. I can appoint you to any place you want, regardless of your qualifications!
Actually, Wizard Dubya, I'd like you to be quiet for a second. I've brought some of your old friends to help you celebrate. [Raising his hands, HeyZeus makes a tearing motion. A rift opens in front of Dubya, and out of the portal step a number of familiar characters.]
[In unison.] HI, DUBYA!
What... what is the meaning of this? HeyZeus! Are our enemies not dead?
Dubya, you are a danger to the worlds. Your policies are violent and destructive. You do not care about the suffering you cause, and, indeed, you constantly tread upon the most vulnerable of your citizens. You cannot be allowed to continue in your position. As you can see, I have put together a coalition of the willing to effect a regime change.
I never would have thought you would turn Judas on me, my son.
On the contrary, Dubya, I am most loyal... to the Arcanian people.
So be it! If you think you can take on the Master of Magic, then fight on! [He begins to cast an attack spell.]
Not so fast! [Oberon, with his knowledge of sorcery, casts counter magic. Dubya's spell fizzles.]
I'M NOT DONE YET, CHEAP NEWBS! [He waves his hands, beginning another incantation.]
Oh no you don't! [Rushing forward.]
I've got your back, Rjak! [She casts a life buff on the death mage. Which is sort of perverted. And I don't mean in a good way.]
[Ariel's spell gives Rjak a boost of speed and power. He grabs Dubya, casting drain power.] Ha!
OMG --
Yes?
HUH?
Nothing.
OMG I CAN'T CAST SPELLS ANYMORE. [Dubya deliberates for a couple of seconds. Having nothing but his bare hands, he decides to make the best of it instead of retreating. He dashes towards HeyZeus, fists raised.]
I don't think so. [A wall of fire springs up and surrounds Dubya. He can't leap through the flames without burning himself. He holds his hands in front of his face, in a pitiful attempt to shade it from the heat.]
Dubya, you have been judged by your peers and found wanting. We therefore sentence you to banishment from the worlds of Arcanus and Myrror. Wizards, channel your mana to me! [The other four magicians hold their hands out. Crackling energies dance along their arms, shooting into the air and flowing into HeyZeus. He fairly glows with the infusion of mana.]
[A light bulb goes on inside Dubya's head.] You're the one who was stealing from my mana pool! [HeyZeus acknowledges this with a curt nod. Whatever happened to "Thou shalt not steal?" Just goes to show you you can't trust the help nowadays. Where was I? Oh, yeah, Dubya licks his lips, trying to cook up a way of buying time.] Where did you hide them? The other wizards?
Same place as the WMDs. [A massive, roiling cloud sprouts from HeyZeus' fingertips, drifts towards his ex-boss, and begins to engulf him.] Mr Wizard, I'm afraid your term is up.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooo...... [Exit Dubya.]
Take me too! [Exit Condi.]
Don't leave me! [Cheney, holding an expired food ration in each hand, jumps into the magic vortex, which has begun to collapse. It disappears just as the tips of his toes get through.]
Well, that's that... [He gazes at the four remaining casters. They all eye each other uneasily. After all, their philosophies are quite different. Life, death, sorcery, nature, and chaos are all represented in this tiny group.] Friends... if I may be so bold as to call you that... I think we have shown today that people of different beliefs, abilities, and backgrounds can work together to accomplish important work. Surely we have learned that we can cooperate to make the worlds better places? That consensus is better than unilateralism?
[Mumbling.] Agreed.
HeyZeus, if I may venture a question... Where did you send him?
We sent him far, far away, to a place far more ready for his ilk than Arcanus or Myrror. I am confident he will be no danger there. [The four mages frown quizzically at HeyZeus. He realises he didn't really answer Ariel's question.] Oh, sorry. I sent him to the 21st century. A place called America.





Closing Remarks

The Cheney and Condi pictures, and the first Dubya picture, were their official portraits (public domain), and were lifted from their Wikipedia pages.

The pope picture is obviously modified, so special credit goes to freakingnews.com. The other photos were nabbed them from an about.com page, http://www.bushorchimp.com/, and http://www.dubyaspeak.com/incidents.phtml. The hand-holding pictures are by Associated Press. I personally did not doctor the Dubya pictures except to crop, resize, and flip them to better fit the dialogues. It is my belief that these pictures are all in the public domain, but if they aren't leave me a comment and I'd be happy to find substitutes.

As usual, thanks to you, dear readers. If you were not there to wade through my verbiage, this exercise of mine would be totally pointless.

So that brings us to the end of this MoM report. Whether you liked it or hated it, whether you want to nitpick about the style or just yell out inane "first!" remarks, or even have helpful suggestions, you're certainly welcome to visit the comment section for this report. I promise to read and cherish them. Or, you can go and leaf around for another report in the BR.com report listing.

Until next time, remember, HeyZeus loves you.