With the scythemaws pretty much done with their fun, and the surprise fun of helping Rhonda and Freddie getting their classes finished, I return my attention to the problem of Hullbreak Harbor. I’m still trying to get more info, and set up a few safeguards, but I think I’m getting close to needing to make a move.
I think. Maybe? I was never terrible at strategy games, but I also would tend to just turtle up until I had enough troops to steamroll. But steamrolling Hullbreak is pretty much the last thing I want to do. I think he can be theoretically reasoned with if his dwellers are safe. If they get hurt, though… I think it’ll get ugly all around.
I just need to make sure I strike the right balance between preparing and not giving Hullbreak the time to prepare too much on his side. From the reports from Leo, I think he’s going to try to strike the beachhead soon. I just wish I knew how soon “soon” is. He’s started sending out expeditions, so he’s sure to find the beachhead eventually.
So now I need to make sure I have some contingencies for if he attacks. I would say “when”, but there’s no guarantee. He could find the beachhead and try to negotiate. I mean… I wouldn’t put money on it, but it could happen. Anyway, contingencies. First is who can I actually try to bring in to fight? Pretty much all my denizens that could work under the water are already doing stuff: the skeletons are doing their thing, the slimes and rockslides are being sneaky. Despite Queen’s best efforts, I don’t think she’s going to manage a water affinity potion before this fight pops off, so I need to plan with what I have.
While Rocky should be a good plan A for dealing with an attack, I need to have a solid plan B in case the attack is too much for him to overcome. In which case… I think the subtle route will have to be tossed out the window. At least that will let me bring in some of my other scions. Not the best silver lining, but if I have to take the kid gloves off, it’ll be time to lay down the law.
Jello will probably be very good under the water. While she still won’t be very fast, the little bit of water testing we did a while ago showed she’s not much slower in the water, either, so she’ll be at her full strength. Probably even stronger, actually, considering how she practically vanishes when submerged.
Grim has a lot of potential, but I get the feeling he won’t want to go on the offensive. He’d be an absolute nightmare on a battlefield, but that’s just not his temperament. I might be able to get him to defend the beachhead while the others attack, but I’m inclined to not even try to push him for this. Besides, after seeing him stop that scythemaw like flipping a switch, I worry it could send the wrong message if he starts just ending whatever Hullbreak sends at him. Gotta wield destructive potential carefully if you don’t want to have to keep using it.
Slash would probably do well under the water, but his involvement will depend on if we can get the axe finished in time. With the hurdle of actually making the sound finally cleared, we’re basically just down to actually producing it now. The ratkin and spiderkin have settled on a good alloy for the head, and while it’s not going to be the shiny stainless steel that I think would be perfect, it’s going to be a proper weapons-quality steel, so I can’t really complain. I don’t even know if stainless steel would be good for an axe. Pretty sure it’s what scalpels are made of, but there’s a big difference between that and an axe. Besides, I still haven’t managed to make stainless steel anyway.
The enclaves are now able to work on the tophat now, too, with the aranea more than happy to weave the hat itself, and the ratkin working with Thing to get the magical tesla amplifiers installed. Slash has been by to look at the work, but he’s been staying out of it for the most part. He knows how to make music, not how to make an electric guitar. He does actually know how to make music, too. He finally got the title of Bard from playing on the lute that I still don’t know how he got. He’s plucked out a few bars from a couple songs he must have overheard through the bond with me, but he hasn’t tried to string them into a true song yet. I think it’s because they’re not designed for a lute, but there’s also other songs he’s picked up from the delvers and even some of the dwellers in the enclaves.
Let me see, what other scions might be able to fight… well, Poe can kind of fight. Which is to say he can definitely fight, but not too much under the water. He could deal with the gull spawner, but I don’t think it’s going to actually make much difference for what’s happening under the waves.
Fluffles might be able to, but unless he pulls a water affinity out of his serpentine behind, he’s going to have trouble moving well. Which really only means I could bring Jello and maybe Slash to the party. The biggest problem with them being my emergency plan is that neither of them is especially quick. It’s about half a day’s walk to the beachhead from home. It’s not a big deal for the skeletons, since they can just walk and don’t have to be there in any real hurry. But if I need an emergency response, I need to get there in minutes, preferably seconds, not hours.
I do have an idea for that, though. Hey Teemo, you busy?
My Voice is currently lounging on Yvonne’s lap in the Sanctum, my lovely birb taking a chance to relax after having spent much of the last few days on paperwork. Taxes and inspections and such for the guild, as she explained it. Aranya is just glad she doesn’t actually have anything new to report, seeing as she’s only just registered as an adventurer recently.
I can see Teemo’s ears twitch when I talk to him, and I can practically see him weighing if he wants to respond. I’m pretty sure he can sense my amusement at him shirking his duty, because he soon sighs and speaks up.
“Nah, I’m not busy, Boss. Kinda deliberately not busy, even,” he says, and Yvonne smiles at his snark.
“Thedeim needs something?”
Yeah, I’d like you to make a new shortcut, please. I’m sure you could hear me plotting and thinking, and I want to be able to respond quickly if Hullbreak attacks the beachhead.
Teemo wrinkles his nose. “I thought you didn’t want a shortcut from inside to outside?”
I don’t, but I have an idea for where to put it. Inside the treeline, past the cemetery wall for one end, and inside the treeline near the shore for the other end. You should be able to hide the entrances with more mundane means, and even if Hullbreak somehow finds it, we’ll already know everything about it. If he tries to use it to counter attack, ambushing his forces would be a cakewalk.
Teemo thinks on that for a few seconds as Yvonne rubs his head, and he soon nods.
“That should work, Boss. How big do you need it?”
I just need enough for Jello and Slash. If you can make it fit an army, that’d be nice, but I really only need it to be able to handle them. It’ll be a bit of a last resort to use, since it’ll give away that I’m not Neverrest, but I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
“Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem then.”
“What are you going to be doing?” asks Yvonne, sitting up a bit more so she can focus better.
“The Boss wants an emergency shortcut through the woods to the beachhead, incase Hullbreak attacks there.”
Yvonne’s eyes light up. “Ah, I had forgotten you were making moves against the water dungeon! Is there anything we can do to help?”
Teemo shrugs. “I mean, I wouldn't mind some company outside. Ragnar and Aelara can see what we’re up to, right Boss?”
Yeah, that should be fine.
“Boss says you all can take a look. He’s clever, and he talks like he’s vaguely familiar with stuff like this, but your party has more experience with fighting and such. An extra perspective would be nice to have on everything. Think they’ll be up for it?”
The hawkwoman nods at that. “Ragnar would love to give his advice on larger scale battles. I don’t know if he was ever involved in any himself, but he at least has a lot of historical knowledge of dwarven battles. If nothing else, I’m sure he’ll have advice for defending the beachhead.”
“Cool. Is tomorrow fine for working on that?”
I tell him that’s fine, and Yvonne says that should be enough time for her to let the group know. They’ll ask if Aranya wants to come once she gets back from chatting with Larx and Vernew. Hmm… I wonder if Folarn might want to take a look, also. I let Teemo know to check with her sometime, too. No rush, though.
He smiles and relaxes back into Yvonne’s lap, enjoying her company. From her smile as she resumes idly petting him as she reads, she’s enjoying his company, too.
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While she still won’t be very fast, the little bit of water testing we did a while ago showed she’s not much slower in the water, either, so she’ll be at her full strength.
Thanks for the chapter!