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Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32

Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Epilogue

Gentleman’s Wars
Book 1: The Rules of Engagement
by Andrew Karevik

Gentleman’s Wars: Book 1
Copyright © 2021 LitRPG Freaks
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means without written
permission from the author.

Chapter 1
The death of a single family member is a tragedy. The death of
four within rapid succession, all via a series of strange and
improbable accidents, is a sign that you too are not long for this
world. The first to go was my beloved uncle, proprietor and manager
of our estate. He fell down a flight of stairs, falling so far that by the
time his body hit the ground level, nearly every bone in his body had
shattered. Curiously, the apothecary physician who attended to my
uncle mentioned that it wasn’t the fall that killed the man, but rather
the stab wound in his back, aiming straight for his heart.
My cousin Thomas, heir to our humble estate, the Blake Manor,
perished choking to death on his own soup. How one can choke to
death on tomato soup is quite suspect, especially when the autopsy
revealed that his throat had swollen completely shut. Shortly after
Thomas met his grisly end, gasping and wheezing, Tabitha, his
sister, committed suicide…by shooting herself in the back with six
arrows while out on a hunting trip.
And now, as I stared at the latest victim, my older brother, the
Knight-Errant who had only returned home for a few days to collect
his inheritance, things were beginning to fall into place. Someone
had their eye on our est; ate. On our territory. And they weren’t
interested in just invading us. Oh no, rather than send an army of
golems to capture our land, they decided to conquer through the
oldest and most cruel of political means: assassination.
I was never especially close to Sir Eric, for he was many years
my senior and had long entered the service to the Queen’s Regiment
before I was even able to speak. But finding a noble knight, whose
only crime was to be next in line to inherit Blake Manor, strangled

and hanging from the ceiling filled me with both dread and rage.
Rage that my brother had not died in service to his country or
Queen, rage that some coward snuck up on him in the middle of the
night (for that was surely the only way they could kill the mighty Eric.)
Dread from the fact that with my brother’s sudden passing…
well, I was next in line to inherit the entire estate. And I’m not talking
about a simple mansion, oh no. I’m talking about the entire estate.
The mansion, the staff, the two vineyards which produced a
significant annual income and of course…the real treasure, the
crown jewel of the Blake family history and most likely the reason we
were suddenly dying off like flies. The Fire Spice mines.
One of the rarest resources in the world, Fire Spice was the
single most valuable component for any military force. The Fire
Spice stones, when ground up and turned into red powder—hence
the name Fire Spice—had the ability to immediately revitalize and
repair anything powered by crystals. Karrack Rifles, the single shot
weapons, powered by Mephian Crystals, could be recharged by a
little sprinkle on the back of the gun. Golems, the backbone of Her
Majesty’s regime and defensive guards for any estate, could be
brought back to life with a bottle of the stuff. Fire Spice sold for
thousands of silver and ensured my estate was always well funded.
“I’m afraid he is indeed dead,” my loyal manservant and butler,
Sigmund, said as he performed the grisly task of cutting the man
down and laying him out on the bed. “No signs of struggle. They
must have taken him in his sleep.”
“How many more, Sigmund?” I asked, my heart in my throat.
“How many more will die?”
“Do you wish for me to soothe you, like a babe who fears in the
middle of the night?” the old man asked, looking at me with a stern
and grim face. “Or do you wish the truth, Master Richard?”
“The truth,” I said. “Give me that bitter tonic, so that I may
prepare for what is to come my way.”

Sigmund rose from my deceased brother’s side and turned to
face me. He was an old man, well into his eighties at this point, but
world-wise in many ways. The man might be a servant today, but
long ago he was a soldier, in the Dark Times, when there were no
laws governing how men could war with one another. He rarely
spoke of what he saw back then, but…I could always see in his eyes
just how grateful he was that those days were long past. That we
were now in a new age, an age of civility.
“You will be next. Then your little sister, who has barely begun
to even walk. After she is dead, they will come after your bastard
niece, someone who has no claim to the estate, nor someone you
even know about.”
Those words came as a surprise. Eric had a daughter? Out of
wedlock? “But why would they kill someone who cannot inherit the
estate?”
Sigmund sighed heavily. “For those are the types of people we
are dealing with. They want your estate, Richard. They want
everything you have. And the lives of a few children won’t stop them
from taking what they believe to be theirs. They will take no risks,
even killing a child who cannot inherit a title. With all members of
your estate dead, the land goes into the hands of the Crown, until we
are able to determine a claimant.”
“And then the assassin shows their face, either with a falsified
claim, or a legitimate one,” I murmured. “Taking everything the
Blakes have worked hundreds of years to achieve.”
“You understand the stakes. That is good,” the old man said as
he covered my dead brother’s body with a sheet. I wish…well, I
wished that I had more tears to shed for Eric. Though he was
somewhat of a stranger to me, he was still kin. But after losing three
people who were so close to me in less than a week…well, I had no
more tears to spare. Now, all I felt was a burning anger. An anger
that my great brother didn’t even get to meet his coward attackers

head on. That he did not get to die with his boots on, as any noble
knight desired.
“Sigmund…” I said after a moment of silence, looking at my
brother and then back at the old man. “What must be done? I know
who you were before you came into my family’s service. I…I will ask
you, in service to my house and to my estate, to tell me what must
be done.”
“You may flee, young man. Take your little sister and head to
the Crown, where many a landowner resides, enjoying the Queen’s
hospitality and perhaps gaining her sympathy over time. No assassin
would dare strike you in her midst. Or…” he trailed off for a moment,
causing me to instinctively lean in, to listen to what he had to say.
“You can do what your uncle refused to do. You may right the great
wrong that your family has committed, insulating yourself against
further assassinations, and join the Great Game. That you take part
in the Gentleman’s War and that, dear Richard, you play to win.
Those are your only options.”
I blinked at those words. They must have had some
significance to Sigmund, but to me, they meant nothing. Wars were
not fought anymore. The age of civility had put an end to all war. Sir
Malphius Masterson, with his great crystal marvels and wondrous
creations, had created the perfect soldier: the Golem. Unfeeling,
unafraid and immune to the traditional weapons of men, the Golem
had become the preferred soldier for all but the Queen, who still
relied upon her knights to keep the Golems in check.
Sir Masterson had distributed the plans for golem creation
freely, to all nations and to all men, creating a gridlock, where golem
ended up fighting against golem, reducing casualties and eventually
exhausting just about all armed conflict. When a side ran out of
golems, well, they were done with war, for knives, swords and even
ballistae could not stop a nine foot stone and crystal monstrosity.
“Forgive me, sir, but I don’t know what you mean,” I said. “I
remind you that I am an alchemist by trade. Up until…well this week,

I had never even thought of running this estate.”
The old man sighed wearily at that. “It is better to see such
things. Come, follow me. We must enter a place long neglected by
your uncle. Long forgotten by the Blakes. And we must hurry. Who
knows how long you have until the assassin strikes you next?”

Chapter 2
The maids shuffled out of our way as we walked through the
East Wing. I could feel a chill run down my spine as Sigmund led me
past the dozens of portraits of our family. Each portrait seemed to
glare at me, urging me to survive no matter what. I could practically
hear my father shouting about how my lineage could not end here. If
only he and mother could be here to guide me. But alas, plague had
struck them years ago. Though now, I wonder if it truly was an
illness. The apothecary physician had always been somewhat
hesitant to discuss their fate. As if there was more to their death.
We arrived at a large metal vault, its great wheel almost rusted
from decades of being untouched. I had never been in the East Wing
of the manor, for the house was far too great for me to ever know
every nook and cranny. Forty rooms in this home, six gardens, four
baths and eight parlors. Each family member basically took a section
of the house and lived in it for days, sometimes weeks without
running into another family member. We Blakes value our
independence and alone time. Though now, I suppose I would give
anything to spend a family dinner with my beloved uncle and my
cousins.
“If you would be so kind?” the old man asked, pointing to the
rusted wheel.
“Of course,” I said. I grabbed hold of the round lock and began
to twist, slowly opening it up. The rusted metal was rough against my
hands and I could feel the tension barely budge as I put all of my
back into opening the damn thing up. A loud groan greeted us as the
vault finally began to give way, opening up to reveal a dark chamber,
filled with cobwebs and dust.

“You are an educated man, I know. Studied a great deal of
world history,” Sigmund said as he led me into the chamber, raising a
light crystal to illuminate the room. The darkened crystals in the area
all responded to the energy from the light he held, sparking up at
once and glowing with cool, white light. At once, I could see that this
vault contained but only one treasure. A large glass case in the
center of the otherwise empty room. What did it hold?
“You know that the golems brought unprecedented peace and
prosperity to our land. That the Crown was able to establish rule and
order upon the sixteen territories. But what you don’t know is that
men will always be men. Lust will always dominate their hearts. Lust
for conquest, power, gold and sometimes, simply domination,”
Sigmund continued as he led me up to the glass case.
“The Crown understands that conflict will happen. Rather than
foolishly try to stamp it out, they decided to instead regulate it.”
“Regulate what?”
“War,” he said, digging into his tunic and producing a necklace
from underneath his shirt. I had never noticed that he wore a simple
chain around his neck until now. How long had he worn this key? A
few days? Or his entire service here? “War still happens. The Crown
allows it, provided each participant follows a set series of rules.
These are known as the Ten Rules to Gentlemanly War, often
shortened to the Ten.”
I had never heard such a thing. Of course, my field of study
was far more obsessed with alchemy, learning how golems worked,
how to repair them and how to even build them. Crystals, Fire Spice
and physics were more of my interest. The idea of ever even taking
care of this estate was far outside my purview. At most, I was
planning on presenting my uncle with a golem of my own creation
someday, as a birthday gift, but that was really more of a way to
show off my skills than to serve the needs of our land.
Sigmund placed the key into the base of the glass case,
carefully twisting it. The case swung open and I stepped to the side

to get a better look. Resting on a red pillow was a small, silvery
locket. It was a charm of sorts, with the locket in the shape of our
family symbol—a small, short bottle of Fire Spice. As I stared at the
locket, it glinted green for a second, causing my eyes to widen.
“Is this starmetal?” I asked. For there was only one substance
in this world that changed from silver to green at random. Well, one
substance from outside of this world that is.
“You are observant. I see your studies have paid off,” he
replied, taking the locket and holding it up in front of me. I could see
the green light gently pulsing every so often, moving from the top of
the chain to the bottom of the charm in a flash, like a shooting star.
“When the Crown creates a title, they forge a charm out of starmetal.
It is this item here that determines who is landed. The building
beneath our feet and above your head means little without this
charm. The Starmetal Signet grants control over your estate. Anyone
who possesses such an item will have great power.”
I reached out instinctively to grab the signet, but he pulled it
back. “Why, if it gives such power, is it here then? Why did my uncle
not have it with him at all times?”
“Your uncle was…” Sigmund paused and sighed heavily. “I do
not wish to speak ill of the dead. Arnison was a good man and a
great father. While many men would resent bringing more children
into their household, after your parents died, he was delighted to
have you here. But…he was a family man. A man of appetites and of
leisure. He did not want to play the game. And wrongly assumed that
the game would never come to him.”
I narrowed my eyes at that. “What do you mean?”
Sigmund held the locket back up, causing it to shine even
brighter now, the emerald hue turning his entire face green for a
moment. “One of the ten rules outlaws assassination. But those who
are not participating in the Gentleman’s War are open targets. Of
course, it is unlawful to take land from a non-participant, and the
Crown would come down with a righteous fury upon such a

lawbreaker. But…those who are clever understand that they can
sometimes take territory with a fabricated claim. They look to nonparticipants as easy targets.”
“So…my uncle was killed because he wasn’t participating in
some foolish game?” I growled. “As if war were some kind…some
kind of parlor activity?”
Sigmund’s face darkened. “War has indeed been reduced to a
parlor game, boy. And you should thank the stars for that. The
alternative is hordes of golems arriving at your doorstep one night,
tearing the walls down, killing everyone inside, maid, servant or
guest without any remorse. You and your little sister would be
trampled down in the blink of an eye. You know not what the Dark
Times were like. What true war can do to the world.”
“I didn’t mean to offend,” I said, putting my hands up in protest
of my butler’s dark words. “I’m just saying it seems unfair that my
uncle would become a target because he wasn’t participating in this
Gentleman’s War, as you call it.”
“Peace can be a curse. For when it goes on for too long, one
makes the mistake of believing it will be forever. If your uncle knew
that trouble was to come, he would have taken the locket, I’m sure.
But he believed that no one cared about this little estate. There are
far greater Fire Spice mines elsewhere. And any true gentleman
would respect an estate owner’s wish to avoid participation and
instead focus on taking land from others who play the Great Game.”
“But we are not facing a gentleman. We are not facing
someone who plays by the rules,” I concluded. “Unless we force
them to.”
“The Crown leaves us to our own devices. A barony might
possibly get the Queen’s Men to investigate, but let’s be honest. We
are a mere gentry. Our estate is but the size of a grain of rice in their
eyes. There is no reason to find out who murdered our kin, not when
there are thousands of other problems for them to solve. We have no

influence, no power, no allies. By the time we can get the Crown
involved, you will be dead.”
“Unless I take upon this charm?” I asked. “So if I join the Great
Game, they cannot just assassinate me?”
“The wearer of the locket must voluntarily surrender it, for the
estate to be transferred to another house,” Sigmund said. “Or a
golem must take it from your house when they invade. Once you join
the game, our territory becomes active on the grid. The Queen’s
Men, the royal Judges of the game, will begin actively observing us,
to ensure that we follow the rules and that our enemies follow the
rules as well. If you are assassinated while playing, it will be a great
scandal and the Crown will investigate with full force, bringing the
murderer to justice with ruthless efficiency.”
“Of course. If they cannot punish those who violate these rules
of warfare, then there is no reason for anyone to care or listen to
what the Crown has to say,” I mused. I slowly reached out towards
the locket. “I don’t have much of a choice, do I? My uncle did not
raise me to be a coward, nor would my brother ever approve of us
abandoning our family’s home.”
“You always have a choice,” Sigmund said, pulling the charm
back a little. “Don’t think that your life is going to get any easier when
you take upon this Signet. You have only one enemy right now, but
as soon as you become active upon the grid, you will have many
who want to take what you have. Worse yet, your primary enemy,
whoever they may be, might be waiting for the house to join the
game, so they can invade without resorting to assassination. We
could be facing a great deal of chaos within minutes. What’s on the
other side is only danger and war.”
“But my family will be safe,” I said. “And my niece too. And that
is the only thing that matters to me. I am a Blake, and I shall not
allow any force to destroy what my lineage has worked so hard to
create. Give me the amulet, Sigmund. I’ll join this game. And I intend
to win.”

Chapter 3
I was truly unaware of what my butler meant when he said that
this locket would grant the wearer great power. As I slipped the
silvery charm around my neck, immediately, I felt as if a jolt of
lightning had struck me, rushing down from the top of my spine to
the bottom of my feet and then back up again. I shivered, almost
violently, as stars formed in my eyes, shimmering and nearly blinding
me.
“Starmetal comes from outside of this world. But its magic is
immense,” my butler advised as I nearly barreled over. He caught
me by the arm and held me still as I felt the world shift beneath my
feet. One moment, I was standing here, in the vault, and the next, I
felt as if I were soaring, moving out of my own body, higher and
higher into the sky.
“Am I to become a specter? A ghost of some sort?” I shouted
as I continued moving upwards, into the great blue abyss of the
atmosphere. Below, I could see the mansion growing smaller and
smaller.
“Come now, calm yourself. It is a mere trick of the eyes. Your
body is still here,” the old man grumbled, pinching my ear to remind
me that I was indeed still in a human form. Only my vision was
suspended above the world.
I ceased flying once I reached a certain height, perhaps a few
thousand feet above the land. Below, I could see…words? Yes!
Large words hovering over the three parts of land that the Blake
Gentry controlled. I recognized them full well, for cartography had
also been a passion of mine.

Blake Manor: Unsecured
Haverton Vineyards: Unsecured
Fire Spice Mines: Unsecured
I squinted at these words. They seemed to inform me of the
security status of my territories. All unsecure. I realized that not only
did my territories have names above them, but they were indeed
colored as well, with a great orange hue that extended up to our
borders. Dozens of other colors intersected with this orange hue—
green, red, blue and yellow—all of different shades and strengths. I
could see, as my eyes swept across the landscape of Tryn, many
other lands with the same hovering names above them, marking
each site of interest. The territories to the left and right of me were
just as small as my own, neighboring gentries who were recluses in
their own right. They taxed our wine caravans to enter their territory,
but that was our sole interaction with them.
In the distance, however, I could see vast baronies, counties
and even a few duchies with a great number of territories, a few so
vast that they took up the majority of Tryn.
“I take it from your astonished silence that you are seeing the
world for the first time, not through a map or from a hill, but through
the view of the Grid,” my manservant remarked.
“Tremendous! Truly astonishing in all ways,” I said, feeling my
mouth move even though my body felt way above the clouds. “I’m
taking it that this is how we play the Great Game. Any territory that is
on the grid is a valid target, right?”
“Or a potential ally. A good friend or maybe even a suitor to
marry into,” Sigmund replied. “Not everyone on the grid is ambitious.
Once you have secured your territory, you can simply kick back and
relax, defending yourself only when necessary. Our neighbors to the
east and west are of that opinion.”
“But we can grow bigger and stronger…” I said.

“Curb your ambition, young Richard.” Oh how I hated when he
called me young Richard. I was not a boy any longer, nor had I been
for years now. I was 26 and a college graduate, one who had studied
underneath a laboratory technician who worked directly with
Malphius Masterson. I was not a boy any longer. “You have to
defend your territory first.”
“Tell me how,” I said, opting not to get into an argument with
him. We could bicker about titles later. For right now, I needed to
figure out the rules to the Grid, so that I could protect our land. My
little sister, barely able to walk, was depending on me here.
“The amulet allows you to shift perspectives, from your regular
vision, to the Grid. And from the Grid you can access three important
things,” my servant continued. “The first is your resource section.
Focus for a moment, if you will. Think about what resources our
estate has.”
I complied with his direction, focusing on what resources we
were in control of. To my surprise and wonder, in the right-hand
corner of my vision, three symbols appeared. The first symbol was a
silver coin with the numbers 1,500 next to it. The second was a blue
crystal. This number was at zero. And the third was the familiar
orange vial of Fire Spice that was instantly recognizable. This
number was at 500 but had a +2 next to it.
“My guess is that these symbols represent our current stock.
Silver for our cashflow, crystals for the mana crystals and of course,
our Fire Spice reserve,” I mused.
“Very good. It would seem the fortune your uncle spent on
college was well spent if you can recognize these symbols,”
Sigmund said with his signature dryness that made it hard to tell
whether he was joking or mocking me. Somehow, I felt it was both at
the same time. “These three resources are your lifeblood. You need
silver for building purchases and various necessities. Also for
greasing palms and giving gifts to your potential allies and suitors.

Mana crystals are necessary for purchasing Golems, and Fire Spice
is necessary for repairing and upgrading them.”
“Purchasing Golems?” I asked. As if to answer my question, a
small box appeared in the left-hand side of my vision. It was a
familiar symbol, one that I knew very well. The signature MM with
two lines in the middle, the brand of Malphius’ Marvels, the store that
had changed the world. Merely focusing on the box caused it to open
up, revealing a great deal of information to me, as if I had opened a
smaller book inside of the Grid.
Basic Golems read the first page. Below those words were
pictures of different Golems, many of which I could recognize.
Beside each picture was a price, not in silver, but in crystals. And the
costs were rather steep too. 10 crystals for a simple Stone Golem,
the most basic of all golem types? Outrageous.
“Tell me there is a way to gain crystals,” I said. “Because these
prices are unfriendly.”
“There’s…well, there’s the trouble, Richard. You see that we
have a high amount of Fire Spice, but we are sorely lacking in
crystals. Fire Spice is good for upgrades and repairs, but we’re going
to need a steady source of mana crystals if we’re going to defend
our territory properly,” my butler said. “So, we must secure either a
package of crystals, or better yet, an income of them before we
begin any serious development. You’ve bought yourself some time
here, young Richard. Your enemy, whoever they may be, will be
forced to pull their assassins back. But they will undoubtedly levy an
army and march them to our territory. How long it will be is anyone’s
guess. But we don’t even have buildings that can alert us to their
presence until they are inside our territory. Time is of the essence.”
“I suppose it’s worth asking, would they simply be content with
attacking our mine and vineyards?” I asked. “And just leave our
manor alone?”
There was a snicker, a rather harsh laugh from my butler. “Why
would they waste time on those when we’re unsecured? That’s like

walking past a castle’s open gate and attacking the shed next to it.
They’re going to go for the killing blow, as soon as possible. You
must hurry and find us some mana crystals. Time is not on our side.”

Chapter 4
My normally quiet life of study and experimentation in my
alchemy lab was done and over with. With my estate in dire peril, it
was time to put away theory and learning. Now it was time to
become a man of action, a man of courage and vigor. My family’s
legacy depended upon me and I wasn’t about to disappoint them.
Whoever had slain my kin would pay for their crimes. I just wish that
I had time to mourn their passing. But unfortunately, one cannot
grieve and fight at the same time. Their bodies would be laid to rest,
but the funerals and sorrow would have to wait until our manor was
secure.
I had somewhat of an advantage with my newfound status as
Gentleman of the House. Though I knew nothing of the Grid or the
rules of warfare just yet, I had a good grasp of how politics worked.
More importantly, I knew that there was a great deal of crystal
caverns to the east of Blake Manor. Most of which belonged to a
very powerful Lady, who had the most unfortunate nickname of the
“Crystal Bitch” for she was both cruel and exacting. Now whether this
name was propaganda, invented by her enemies to smear her, or an
accurate depiction of her personality remained to be seen.
Lady Efera was a major up-and-comer in the political world,
aggressively absorbing smaller territories around her, usually with
conquest, though occasionally through political means. It occurred to
me that whenever I read the phrase “conquest” in these political
reports, I never much paid any mind to them, since no real war was
involved. I just assumed that one side ran out of golems. Now, I was
beginning to realize the complexities of conflict were much more
than just two sides throwing golems at each other.

Out of everyone who owned crystal caverns, Lady Efera was
my choice to reach out to. Why? Simply put, I didn’t just need to
make a trade. I needed to make an ally. And while she owned a
great deal of crystals, what she sorely lacked was Fire Spice, for the
damp conditions of the east, caused by frequent rainstorms,
constantly flooded any attempts to make a mine. Even if she weren’t
friendly to my cause, she would warm up (hopefully) to my spice
collection. And if she decided to just attack me instead? Well…I
really hoped that she wouldn’t. I had to play it cool with her, act like I
was new on the scene but not someone to mess with. A bluff for
certain, but hopefully one that I could pull off.
Leaving the Manor was a strange affair, for the entire house
staff lined up for me as I made my exit through the main halls. All the
maids, servants and few security guards we employed were perfectly
still, standing at attention as the Gentleman of the House made his
leave. These were people who had never much paid me any mind,
not out of malice or spite, but simply because I rarely required
anything other than the occasional sandwich while working in my
study. Until today, they had been servants to my uncle. And now,
they were looking to me to keep the estate operational.
Walking past so many nervous, worried faces who were trying
their best to keep a stiff upper lip started a fire in my stomach. These
were not simply employees, but men and women who had families of
their own living in the servants’ quarters. Their livelihood was just as
much at stake as the life of me and my sister. Should I fail in my
duties, they’d all be out on the street without a red coin in their
pocket. Most servants had long and lucrative contracts with the
Blake Manor. They would suffer greatly if they lost both their homes
and their jobs in one fell swoop. It was doubtful my assassin would
be willing to retain them.
With this resolve now burning in my heart, I entered our brand
new Malphius Horseless Carriage and took a seat, inhaling deeply.
Sigmund, who was sitting across from me, said nothing. He merely
stared out the window, gazing at the manor. No doubt he was

wondering if our home would be there when we got back. It was a
rare thing to see concern on his face. I hoped that I would be able to
win his confidence by gaining the necessary mana from Lady Efera.
The crackling drive-crystal started to pop and hiss as it warmed
up, emitting a powerful field of magic that began to draw our metal
carriage forward. Truly a wondrous creation, for the Horseless
Carriage could drive forward at high speeds, guided by the same
intelligence that allowed Golems to function. Unlike horses, the
intelligence did not need to be trained properly. It was created with
an understanding of how to navigate the vast sprawling roads at top
speeds. Without the need for rest or food, the drive-crystal would
take us as far as we wanted to go. All we needed every few hundred
miles was a sprinkle of Fire Spice to power the crystal back up
again, something we had in droves.
The trip was short, for the back roads of the eastern
countryside were well developed but sparsely populated. Save for
the occasional trading wagon, the roads were empty. And the closer
we got to the great cliff sides overlooking the Colossal Sea, the
lonelier the road became.
At the top of a great hill was the Efera Embassy, a building
meant to host visitors from any other gentry. Only those of higher
rank were permitted to visit the Lady in person at her own Manor.
Everyone else was stuck taking a number and waiting in the
embassy. Fortunately, my butler had the foresight to send a letter
ahead of time, informing the Lady of our interest in a trade
arrangement, and we were instructed to meet her within the
embassy.
“Are you ready?” Sigmund asked as our carriage rolled up to
the front of the embassy, where a white-gloved valet was awaiting
us. He was a stocky fellow, with burly arms and a great mustache.
He looked less like an attendant, and more like a bodyguard in a
poor disguise. Perhaps he was.

“I suppose,” I said. “Hopefully our spice should do the talking
for us.”
“A little bit of deference goes a long way,” Sigmund advised.
“And Lady Efera is known to be exacting. Show her all the respect in
the world. And she may test your temper. Do not give in to your
pride. You’re here with your hat in hand. Do not forget that.”
“Aren’t you coming with me?” I asked, realizing that my butler
had not attempted to get up from his seat.
He shook his head. “It would be unbecoming for you to enter
with someone whispering in your ear. She is sharp and perceptive.
One glance at me for reassurance and she will know that you are
inexperienced in the ways of running an estate. I will remain here,
until you return.”
And with that, the door to our carriage opened up and the valet
motioned for me to enter. “Good day, sir,” he said with a thick, gruff
accent. “The Lady of the House is expecting you in the atrium.”
“Very well then,” I said, climbing out of the vehicle and standing
up to stretch. As I stretched, the big man was instantly upon me,
hands roughly patting down my outstretched arms, stomach and
legs, even going up in between my legs to areas one should not ever
make an effort to touch in public! I wanted to demand he get his
hands off me but held my breath. This was a mere security frisk, to
ensure I carried no weapons. A simple precaution, I guess.
Once the pat down was over, the man stepped back and tipped
his bowler hat at me. “Forgive me for the impropriety, sir, but we’ve
had two incidents as of late. The Lady is off-limits to being targeted,
as you are well aware of the rules, but she still has loved ones. And
they are open season for those who are looking to cause trouble.”
I nodded and straightened my coat, making an effort to conceal
my curiosity. Assassins had targeted her too? Or at least, those
close by? I did not know whether this was business as usual or

something new. Although to be fair, the Lady wasn’t known for her
lack of enemies, that was to be sure.
The “valet” led me through the embassy itself. The building was
a tall brass structure with many stained glass windows, each window
depicting a different planet or star. The interior of the embassy was
rather empty, save for a few maids here and there, cleaning, dusting
or polishing the brass statues. I couldn’t see any other visitors or
attendants in waiting.
“Here we are,” the valet said as we stopped at a pair of
translucent glass doors. On the other side, I could see a great atrium
filled with all manner of tropical plants. Some were even bearing fruit.
“The Lady will see you here. Be quick in your words and do not
waste time with pleasantries,” he said. He lowered his voice. “She’s
in one of her moods today. So try and save as much of her time as
possible.”
The valet then opened the glass doors, bowing down a little,
and I could see that he had a Karrack pistol sticking out of the back
of his trousers. He was almost certainly a bodyguard, ready to take
me down at a moment’s notice. But as long as I behaved here, I
wouldn’t be in any danger. I thanked him and strolled into the tropical
atrium, feeling the immense heat wash over me almost instantly.
The warmth was overwhelming and sweat immediately began
to materialize on my brow, threatening to roll into my eyes. I was not
used to such heats, for my part of the country was almost always
cold. I couldn’t appear to be nervous about this meeting (though I
certainly was) and dabbed my forehead with my handkerchief
frequently, as to keep the sweat from forming any more.
“Do come in,” came a calm, sullen voice in the distance. “I take
it the trip to the embassy was an easy one?”
“Indeed it was,” I said. “You have secured the roads and
maintained them well.” That was a good compliment, right? I strolled
over to where the voice was coming from, behind a particularly large
green shrub with little purple berries. Standing, facing a beautiful red

and blue flower, was a tall woman with jet black hair and a pale
complexion. She wore a red blazer and deep marine blue pants. At
her side was the customary longsword that only people of high
status were permitted to carry.
Without the blessing of the Queen, only soldiers could carry
arms and only when on duty. But when granted honors from the
Crown herself, a noble was allowed a blade that they could carry at
all times. Whether that blade had ever taken a life was a curiosity to
me. I tried not to stare at the weapon on her hip, but I had never met
anyone who had the Crown’s Blessing before.
“Get to the point,” she said without turning to look at me. She
was still inspecting the flower before her, carefully pulling dead
leaves off of it with her fingers. The Lady sounded quite annoyed
with me.
“Of course,” I stammered. “I have recently inherited my uncle’s
estate. Blake Manor, as I’m sure you’re aware—”
“I’ve never heard of it,” she replied, still not paying any mind to
me. She was trying to unnerve me, I was sure of it. But I had to keep
my cool here.
“Well, long story short, my uncle was never much for action. He
refused to enter our household in the Great Game, as it were. And
well…I am not my uncle. I have taken upon our family Signet and
have entered this competition.”
Those words were enough to get her to stop plucking at the
flower. Lady Efera turned to face me, and I took a half step back to
give her room. She was shockingly young, much younger than I
expected. Hearing of her exploits, I would have assumed she was in
her forties at the most, but she was clearly in her mid-twenties.
Perhaps even my age.
Her deep blue eyes seemed to pierce right through my soul as
she stared at me, a deep frown upon her cherry red lips. She
seemed so bored. So displeased with me or perhaps just with life

itself. “This is no competition. It is a fight for survival. You would do
best to remember that, Mr…”
“Richard,” I said, bowing to her. “Richard Blake.”
“Mr. Blake,” Efera repeated. She made no respond to my bow,
nor attempted to introduce herself. “So why are you here? Your
letters indicated you wished to trade?”
“Indeed. I am a possessor of a great Fire Spice mine, as well
as two vineyards that produce an excellent annual income,” I said,
scrutinizing her face. She made no expression one way or the other
indicating how she felt about those words. I continued, trying not to
be intimated by her (though failing miserably!) “Erm, and I wish to
negotiate a trade in exchange for mana crystals. I know by
reputation that you have a great deal of crystals in your possession
and—”
“What is my reputed nickname?” she demanded.
“Ma’am?” I asked.
“What do they call me, that would tell you that I have many
crystals?” she asked, putting her hands on her hips, her frown only
deepening.
“I assure you, I… er, don’t…” I trailed off, certainly not wanting
to say such a vulgar thing to her face.
“They call me the Crystal Bitch,” she said with a scowl. “A most
unflattering nickname. Did you hear that name and think that you
wanted to do business with a woman with such a reputation?”
“Well, nicknames are usually marketing campaigns by the
enemy, right? I mean, they called Queen Licesi the Madwoman of
Elgot, but her only crime was lowering taxes on the peasantry and
raising them on the rich,” I said, unsure of where I was going here. I
suppose changing the subject was probably a good strategy.
Lady Efera’s expression slightly changed from a frown to
almost a smirk. “So you don’t believe me to be cruel? A most foul

woman?”
“I believe that the papers print only what sells and the things
that sell the most are lies,” I said. “Until I meet a person, I try not to
form opinions.”
She shrugged at this. “Not the most prudent way of looking at
the world. But there’s a kindness in that outlook, I suppose. You
should know that I see people in one of two categories, Mr. Blake.
Enemies and allies. One or the other. I do not tolerate those who are
neutral. If you wish to join the Gentleman’s War, you must declare
your intentions with my house.”
“Ally, of course!” I said, perhaps a little too quickly. “I am here to
open a trade route and friendly relations.”
The Lady nodded, slowly looking me up and down. I felt slightly
uncomfortable with how intensely she scrutinized me. “I know little
about the Blakes. Your family history is of no consequence to me, so
that is a good sign. But how can I trust you? Hmm?”
I opened my mouth to make a pitch, but she was quick to
interrupt, answering her own question. “The truth is, I can’t. Your
friends can betray you; your enemies may surprise you by showing
mercy. I have been in this war long enough to know that word, bond,
trust, all of those things are meaningless, really. At the drop of a hat,
a man’s loyalties may change any way he pleases. So I don’t see
much reason to build a relationship up on trust.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I merely nodded.
“100 units of Fire Spice,” she said. “In exchange for 200 mana
crystals. Repairs are more expensive than units, so I think that’s only
fair.”
She was willing to trade? Though I didn’t quite understand what
she meant about not building relationships on trust, what did that
matter? That exchange rate was more than a fair deal. Most basic
units only cost 20 crystals. At the very least, we could secure the
Manor this way.

“That sounds more than fair,” I said, bowing once more. “You
honor me with such an arrangement.”
The Lady made a guttural sound of disgust at my words.
“Flattery means nothing to me.”
“So trust means nothing, flattery means nothing… If I may ask,
my Lady, what matters to you?”
This question took her aback for a moment. She seemed
legitimately surprised at my question and paused to think it over.
After a moment of thought, she confessed. “Power means the most
to me. What makes a man trust you is power. And what makes you
trust a man is the power to crush him should he fall out of line.”
One could call this viewpoint cynical or jaded, but there was
something in the woman’s eyes that made me think these thoughts
came from experience. “I suppose you are correct there,” I agreed.
“Well, Mr. Blake, let’s leave the actual trade to the servants,”
the Lady said. “I wish you a pleasant voyage home. Now leave me, I
am done talking to you.”
And with that, she turned to face her plant and resumed her
work, paying me no more mind. I didn’t dare say another word. This
woman was eccentric and known to be temperamental. If she said
she was done talking to me, then so be it. I had gotten exactly what I
wanted out of the deal. It was time to go home and ready my
defenses. Things were starting to finally look up for the Blake Estate.

Chapter 5
I climbed back into our carriage beaming, full of pride for my
first accomplishment as Gentleman of the House.
“I should say that you were successful in your dealings?”
Sigmund asked as I sat beside him, my grin so wide I looked like a
fool with a secret.
“Indeed! 200 mana crystals in exchange for a paltry 100 Fire
Spice! More than enough to get our Manor secure!”
“Quite excellent!” the old man said, slapping me on the back.
“You’ve done us a great service. That should at the very least give
us a fighting chance against our enemy, whoever that may be. Now,
you must—”
There came a rapping on the window of the carriage, startling
us both. I turned to see that a young servant girl, not old enough to
be a maid yet, was standing outside, letter in hand. I was quick to
pull the window lever, lowering the glass down so that she may
speak.
“The Mistress wishes you to have this letter,” the girl said,
thrusting an envelope into the carriage. Sigmund was quick to take it.
“Thank you, dearie,” he said. The girl said nothing more and
merely departed off to do more of her daily chores.
We both looked at the white envelope at once. It was clearly
marked with the seal of House Efera, a red wax imprint of a wicked
dagger.
“What an odd thing to do, give a letter while still in her
company,” Sigmund said as he produced a letter opener. Somehow,

he always had the right tool for whatever job in his pouch. He was
handy that way.
“She was an oddball, I’ll tell you that much. And I thought
Malphius was a strange one,” I said. “Read it as we ride,” I said,
nestling into my seat, stretching out my legs. “It’s probably some kind
of contract.”
“Dear Richard, I hope you are opening this quickly,” Sigmund
read aloud as I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. “For this
information is of the utmost importance. I intend to invade your
mines within the week. My effort shall be as strenuous as any other
invader’s attempt would be, though I am not striking out of malice but
curiosity. It is rare to meet a first generation participant in the game,
for usually they are wiped out within weeks of entering the
Gentleman’s War.”
“What?” I gasped, sitting up immediately. Sigmund, frowning
deeply, held a hand up to settle me as he continued to read the
missive.
“It is my general habit to test worthy allies. As I said before in
our conversation, I only trust power. So, if you can weather the storm
I’m about to send your way, I would be happy to continue dealing
honestly and favorably with you. We could even set up a weekly
trade for our resources. And if I take the mine? Well, we will both
know you don’t have a chance in hell of keeping your land from any
real threat. I’d offer my dear cousin Imius’ hand in marriage to you
and you can let me take control of your estate. You keep your home,
but not your family name, of course, and everyone stays employed.
No need to thank me for such kindness. Sincerely, Lady Efera.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me…” I said, shaking my head.
“What manner of madness is this, Richard?” Sigmund asked.
“What kind of woman makes a trade deal and then announces a
pending attack?”

I paused to reflect on the nature of the offer. While I was still
new to the ways of warfare and knew little about the 10 rules, I did
know that families were forbidden by the Crown from fighting one
another in this war. Blood may not strike Blood, was the rule. Other
than that, there were no rules against deception, lies and betrayals.
This meant that the only way to truly cement an alliance between
houses was through marriage. And oftentimes, when a household
married into one another, the stronger title would absorb the smaller,
unless there were explicit agreements otherwise.
In a way, it would seem that the Lady was offering a kind of
mercy. Perhaps she knew of the assassinations or simply saw
through my meager attempts to appear excited about joining the war.
Marrying her cousin would grant the Lady the right to take my estate
as her own and my property would become hers. The Blake name
would perish here, for we would be forced to change our family
name and whatever children my wife would produce would be of
Efera descent, not Blake. Such was the pitfall of marrying into a
station higher or stronger than oneself.
“I think it’s a worthy test,” I said after a period of silence.
“You can’t be serious. She has betrayed us! We must attempt
to find her enemies and get them to bring us aid!” Sigmund said.
“No…she’s right. I think. Perhaps it is a very violent way to
make a point, but she is right. Our family is new to the Great Game.
If we can’t fight off a potential ally, how the hell can we defend
against an enemy? If she wins, well, we all keep the Manor and our
livelihoods. And our lives. And hey, I get a wife, so that’s not so bad.
And if we win, we’ll have an ally.”
“You would ally with a madwoman?” Sigmund said. “Forgive
me for being so outspoken here, sir, but this is not how one conducts
business.”
“No,” I said. “But it is how one wins the war. She gets stronger
either way. An admirable move.”

“If you find such treachery admirable, I weep for what you see
as unfair,” Sigmund grumbled. “But it is your decision. However you
navigate these waters is up to you. I’m just here to advise you in the
technical matter and in managing the household.”
“Your opinion does mean a lot to me,” I said, trying to mend the
wound I had inadvertently caused. But he held up his hand.
“Listen to an old man in matters of experience, but ignore them
in matters of progress,” Sigmund said. “I have never been involved in
the Gentleman’s Wars. I can say nothing from experience here.”
“But you know so much,” I protested.
The old man laughed. “I know as much as what my Butler’s
Guide to Gentlemanly Warfare says. And that was printed twenty
years ago!”
“A lot can change in twenty years,” I mused. I took a deep
breath. I don’t know if my instincts were something to be trusted
here, but I had a good feeling about the Lady. She was eccentric,
yes, but as an alchemist, I was surrounded by folks like her. Beneath
the madness was usually some kind of method. I would take her test
and pass with flying colors.
“So then…” I said, changing the subject after a few minutes of
pondering. “I suppose we need to protect the mines first.”
“Access the Grid then,” Sigmund said. “We’ve nothing but time
right now anyway. Best make good use of it.”
I could use the Grid when away from home? How novel! As
soon as I began to think of doing so, I felt my amulet buzz and within
a second, my eyes were once again high above the sky, gazing
down at my land.
200 Mana Crystals Acquired! -100 Fire Spice appeared in
my vision instantly and the numbers quickly adjusted themselves in
the right-hand corner. Even though we had just made the trade, it
seemed the transfer was instantaneous. Quite excellent!

I was quick to open up the Units tab on the Grid, my intention
being enough to activate this curious form of mystic sight. At once, I
was greeted by a great deal of Units, all of which I could afford.
Eagerly, I read through each description.
Basic Golems
Stone Golems
Cost Per Unit: 10 Mana Crystals
The Stone Golem is considered the most basic field unit.
Strong, sturdy and capable of absorbing both magical and physical
attacks, these soldiers will easily break through any standard form of
defense.
Strengths:
- Melee Combat: Stone Golems are capable of dealing
significant damage in melee combat.
- Building Destruction: Stone Golems can apply their
melee damage to buildings.
Weaknesses:
- Slow moving: These units move incredibly slowly and
do not react quickly to traps, attacks or other units.
However, their sturdiness usually ensures they don’t
need to worry about most of these problems.
- Unintelligent: Stone Golems are basic units who
respond to threats or enemy buildings. They cannot be
directed in battle, nor can they make efficient decisions.
This makes them useful for general combat, but
unreliable when attempting to pull off specialized
actions.
Shield Golems

Cost Per Unit: 20 Mana Crystals
The Shield Golem is the quintessential defensive unit. With a
wide body in the shape of a shield, this unit can be ordered to protect
buildings, units or areas, blocking off passage of advancing forces
until they are destroyed.
Strengths:
- Damage Reduction: Shield Golems reduce 90% of all
incoming damage from any physical source. They take
only 50% damage from magical attacks.
- Immovable: Shield Golems, once ordered to defend an
area, cannot be moved by conventional means.
Weaknesses:
- Harmless: Shield Golems cannot attack.
Karrack Golems
Cost Per Unit: 25 Mana Crystals
The Karrack Golem is outfitted with the crystal technology that
powers Karrack rifles, granting them a high-powered energy attack.
Outfitted with range and high damage output, Karrack Golems make
for excellent anti-personnel soldiers.
Strengths:
- Karrack Beam: The Karrack Beam is a highly
concentrated blast of mystic energy that deals
considerable damage to enemy Golems.
- Intelligent: Karrack Golems can be directed to perform
complex maneuvers, target specific units on the
battlefield and hold positions.
- Collective Blast: When multiple Karrack Beams strike
the same enemy golem, the damage is increased
exponentially.
Weaknesses:

- Golem Targeting: Karrack Golems cannot attack
buildings.
- Crystal Cooldown: After striking with their beams, a
Karrack Golem must wait 30 seconds before firing
again.
Siege Golems
Cost Per Unit: 50 Mana Crystals
The immense Siege Golem might move slowly but packs a
major punch to buildings. A single Siege Golem is usually enough to
destroy a building in a matter of seconds.
Strengths:
- Building Breaker: Siege Golems deal significant
damage to buildings, Shield Golems and towers.
- Reinforced Body: Siege Golems can take high levels
of damage before falling apart.
- Knockback: Attacks against enemy units by the Siege
Golem cause significant knockback.
Weaknesses:
- Warm-Up: Siege Golems require a 2 minute warm-up
time before they are able to move on the battlefield.
They are vulnerable to attacks while arming up, but
cannot move, attack or defend until the period is over.
- Distracted: Siege Golems will only attack the nearest
building or Shield Golem. If the building or Shield Golem
moves, they will follow.
Wrench Golems
Cost Per Unit: 25 Mana Crystals
The Wrench Golem is a building maintenance unit, able to
rapidly repair broken down buildings within a matter of minutes.

Strengths:
- Nimble: Wrench Golems are exceptionally quick and
able to cover the battlefield within a matter of seconds,
allowing them to reach buildings in need of repairs.
- Structure Repairs: A Wrench Golem can repair a
structure as long as it has at least 1 hit point remaining.
They repair at a rate of 25 hit points per second, up to
half of the building’s original strength.
- Small Target: Wrench Golems are small by design,
giving them bonus reflexes against larger enemies who
try to strike them.
Weaknesses:
- Dedicated: A Wrench Golem cannot leave a building
until it has finished repairing. If the building is being
actively damaged, the Wrench Golem will remain until
the building or the attacker is destroyed.
- Fragile: A single hit from a melee or ranged attack is
enough to destroy a Wrench Golem.
My eyes scanned over each word describing these marvelous
golems. How captivating, how fascinating! All with unique abilities,
strengths and weaknesses. I was eager to make my first purchases
but realized quickly that since the abilities referred to buildings quite
a bit, I should understand how these structures work in relation to the
battlefield. Perhaps my butler would know more…

Chapter 6
My eyes widened as the world around me seemed to expand.
One moment I had been looking at the Fire Spice Mine, known
colloquially as the Burning Barrows, the next I was floating above the
actual entrance to the mine itself.
“By focusing on a territory you control, you are able to access
the battlefield itself,” Sigmund explained. My eyes swept across the
landscape. There was a grid of sorts below me, turning the grassy
area leading to the mine into a giant translucent checkerboard. The
words WARNING: NO MANA SPHERE hovered in big red letters
before me, warning me of something dire.
“What does a Mana Sphere do?” I asked.
“Ah yes, that is the key to the entire battle! You understand how
golems are powered by mana crystals, correct?”
“Obviously,” I said. “One does not study alchemy without
attaining such knowledge.”
“But ask yourself, how do these golems take orders?
Recognize friend from foe? Follow the instructions you grant them
through the use of the Starmetal Signet?”
“The Mana Sphere…” I said. “It links them all together.”
“Indeed! An invading force doesn’t want to destroy each and
every golem. Such a thing would be too time-consuming and
exhausting. Instead, they will want to strike at the Mana Sphere,
cutting off your ability to fight back at all. Once the sphere is gone…”
“The battle is over,” I said.

“Indeed. Well, I mean, you technically could refuse to
surrender, but there’s not much you could do, and you’d gain a
reputation for being a poor sport,” Sigmund explained. “So you’ll
want to place your Mana Sphere and build your strategy around
defending it. All the while trying to exhaust the enemy forces that are
coming in.”
I rubbed my chin at those words, examining the battlefield. It
was quite large. Large enough for me to develop some kind of
defensive strategy, one that might make use of our very limited
resources. “Does the enemy have a sphere of their own? One that I
may counter-attack?” I asked.
“Afraid not. The rules forbid battle outside of designated
battlefields, and the enemy will just place their sphere outside your
territory. For defense, we must strictly destroy their incoming units.”
“That hardly seems fair,” I said.
“Well, if you win, you get to harvest the mana crystals from the
fallen golems, so that’s in our favor. Plus we have the luxury of
building defensive structures. It evens out, I believe. Fortune favors
the prepared, so the more preparation you put into the impending
attacks, the better off you’ll be.”
The Grid below us formed a kind of chess board with each
square large enough to place some kind of structure or golem on it.
A completely empty field, ready to be outfitted with all manner of
offensive and defensive units. More importantly, the field needed
buildings. I hadn’t yet looked at what was available in the building tab
(partly out of fear of the prices!), but now that I understood how
many golems I could purchase, it was time.
Opening up the buildings section, I was greeted by yet another
catalogue full of pictures and descriptions, as well as prices.
Thankfully these prices were in silver and, for the most part, seemed
relatively affordable. Well, at least the License Level 0 buildings were
within my means.

“What’s this business about licenses?” I asked, trying to access
the Level 1 tab, only for a red message to inform me that: You are
not authorized to access this part of the catalogue!
“Hmm?” Sigmund asked. “Oh right, right. If I recall correctly,
every House has a rank that allows them to purchase licensing for
better buildings. The Crown doesn’t wish for the market prices of
lumber to skyrocket the moment someone enters the Great Game
for the first time, so you have to prove yourself before you can get to
the good stuff.”
“Yet it would be the good stuff that helps us survive,” I mused.
“Sounds like a protectionist racket.”
“Grumble all you like, but eventually you’ll be invading enemy
territory too. Then you’ll be thanking the Stars that such levels exist.”
I ignored that comment, turning my attention to the buildings
that were open to me. They were moderately priced in silver, cheap
enough for me to easily outfit this field will all manner of outfitting.
License Level 0 Defensive Structures
Mana Sphere
Cost: 250 Silver
Health: 1000
The Mana Sphere enables all buildings and Golems to function
as well as obey your commands. When destroyed, all units in the
area immediately cease working. Please enjoy a complimentary
Mana Sphere, provided by Malphius Masterson as a thank you for
purchasing this catalogue.
Wooden Barricade
Cost: 10 Silver
Health: 100

Range: 50 feet
Wooden Barricades prevent enemy forces from moving past
them. If an opening is available, enemy units will ignore the
barricades and move on to the opening. If the barricades completely
seal off a path to the Core, all golems will strike random barricades
until an opening is made.
Karrack Tower
Cost: 150 Silver, 1 Mana Crystal
Health: 300
Karrack Towers target nearby golems and fire upon them with
high-powered energy bursts. These cause considerable damage to
golems over time.
Strengths:
- Rapid Burst: Karrack Towers do not need to recharge
in between shots, allowing them to strike at any passing
Golem within range.
- Cumulative Strikes: For each additional Karrack Tower
striking the same target, damage increases
exponentially.
Weaknesses:
- Dumbfire: Karrack Towers target the closest enemy,
regardless of its type, resistances or abilities. They will
not cease firing until the target is dead or out of range.
This can lead to problems if they target a particularly
strong defensive unit.
Ballista Tower
Cost: 50 Silver
Health: 150

Range: 300 feet
Ballista Towers utilize the patented Malphius Rapid Reload
system to automatically reload their payload after firing. With
penetrative bolts and pinpoint accuracy, the Ballista Tower is an
effective long-range tower that can break down even the heartiest
Golem.
Strengths:
- Piercing Shots: Ballista Towers fire powerful bolts that
break through most defenses easily enough, bypass all
active physical damage resistance.
- Fire-and-Forget: Ballista Towers fire at a single target,
then immediately move on to the next, allowing a high
level of damage distribution throughout the battlefield.
Weaknesses:
- Exaggerated Marketing Claims: While it’s labeled to
have a “Rapid Reload” system, the mechanism still
takes some time. Each shot requires 15 seconds of
active reload time before it is able to shoot again.
- Physical Shots: Ballista Towers cannot bypass other
buildings, meaning they must have a clear view of the
battlefield to be able to fire. Note: This does not include
barricades.
Phlogiston Cannon
Cost: 250 Silver
Hit Points: 300
Range: Melee
Master of the fourth classical element, Fire, the Phlogiston
Cannon releases a burst of flames, overheating enemy golem
crystals and dealing tremendous damage to their immediate vicinity.
The flames will hit all targets within the area, no direct targeting
necessary!

Strengths:
- Component Melting: The high heat of the Phlogiston
melts down important alchemical components in a
golem, slowing their movement down by 30% while
being hit.
- Ever-Burning: The Phlogiston Cannon has no recharge
times, nor need to cool down, so run it to your heart’s
content!
Weaknesses:
- Frontline Unit: The short range of the cannon means it
must be placed in a square directly next to the enemy
pathway. This means the unit is highly vulnerable to
attacks.
- Explosive Ending: When a Phlogiston Cannon is
destroyed, a chain reaction occurs causing the cannon
to detonate, damaging all structures (and units) around
it. Great for taking down your enemies, but bad for
keeping your barricades and towers alive.
Miniature Trebuchet
Cost: 500 Silver
Hit Points: 100
Range: 300 Feet
Blast Radius: 4 Squares
The Superior Siege Weapon is now yours to own in a much
smaller form! This modified trebuchet releases a payload of highyield explosives that strike an area, damaging all Golems within
range of the radius.
Strengths:
- Directed Targeting: You may, at any time, change the
area of impact of the Miniature Trebuchet to any four

squares within range.
- Friendly Fire: Using the Masterson Aura Recognition
Enchantments, explosions will only deal damage to
enemy golems. Friendly units and structures will be
insulated from the blast, which will harmlessly dissipate
before it can destroy them.
Weaknesses:
- Long-Shot: The payload of the Miniature Trebuchet
takes time to reach its targeted area. A shot takes 10
seconds to land, so fast units will most likely be clear of
the area before it hits.
As I read these descriptions, rudimentary strategies began to
form in my head. Barricades were weaker than Shield Golems, but
could be purchased in larger amounts, allowing me to give shape to
the battlefield. And if I knew the goal of my attackers—destroy the
Mana Sphere—then I could predict their route. Any enemy would
most certainly take the shortest path to reach the Sphere. Could I
then build a maze with these barricades? One that would slow the
enemy down quite a bit, while also allowing me to create trapped
areas for these attack towers to hit?
Instinctively, I focused on the free Mana Sphere, provided to
me at no cost by Malphius’ company. At once, an outline of a large
wooden building appeared upon the battlefield. The building was big,
six squares wide and two squares long. I could place it anywhere on
the field of my choosing. But seeing how the enemy would be
coming in from the roadside entrance connecting to the mines, I saw
it prudent to choose the left-hand corner of the map.
As soon as I willed it, the building appeared as if by magic,
sounds of saws cutting and hammers tinking echoed in my ears as
the Mana Sphere unfolded. The building itself was a long wooden
platform with a massive crystal circle atop it. Blue shimmering
energy appeared in the center of the sphere, radiating mystic power
that would connect all of my units together. Above the Sphere, I
could see a green bar, indicating how much health the unit had. This

was the enemy’s objective, their target. The whole reason for
showing up. When the Sphere was destroyed, I’d be forced to
surrender not only the mine, but also my family title to the Lady
Efera.
I wasn’t about to let that happen. I might be new to all these
rules and regulations, but I had somewhat of a strategic mind. My
colleagues back at school had enjoyed playing many a game
involving reenacting historical battles, pretending to be generals and
moving troops around on a large map. While I wasn’t nearly as
dedicated as some of the lads there, I had played enough of their
war reenactments to pick up a thing or two about military strategy. At
least I had that experience to draw back on.
Looking at the large, empty map, I tried to develop a proper
strategy. My resources were limited here. 1,500 silver and 200 mana
crystals. And I couldn’t just spend all of our money here. After all, I
had two other territories to protect. Silver would be easier to come by
than Mana, so I could afford to spend at least a thousand. As for the
crystals? Spending half would be appropriate, I think. The only
question was what I would be spending my resources on?

Chapter 7
Time was my biggest ally in an enemy invasion. The longer the
enemy golems were inside the battlefield, the more damage they
would take from the towers. Therefore, it would be most prudent for
me to develop some kind of maze that caused the enemy to take the
longest route to reach the Mana Sphere. The terrain was clear here
and I had no limitations when it came to placing down barricades
(other than the cost, that is!) So my first step would be to create a
functional labyrinth that properly delayed the enemy’s movements.
Starting at the opening of the road, I put two anchor barricades
on opposite sides. These would form the basic wall to the maze.
Then, I began placing wooden barricades, which seemed to mostly
be large blocks, to the right, creating a corner that would force the
enemy to go all the way to the eastern end of the map, going down a
bit, then back up only to head all the way west. With my funds, I was
able to create a traditional labyrinth design for about 250 silver. The
enemy would be forced to travel across almost every inch of the map
before they were finally able to reach the opening to the labyrinth,
which then led to a large empty section that was four squares wide,
large enough to let the Miniature Trebuchet deal bulk damage at the
end.
Once the maze opened up, here they would have to make the
trek to the northwest corner of the map to reach the Mana Sphere. I
had opted to make this route open, for the area was so tight that I
couldn’t really create an effective maze that would be anything other
than a waste of silver. Spending the 250 on the backbone of the
maze would be enough for now.

Certain sections of my timewaster were left hollow, with four
blocks surrounding an empty square. This would be where I would
place my defensive towers, letting them deal as much damage as
possible while the enemy moved through this maze. The most logical
tower choices for these were Karrack, for they were cheap, and they
inflicted a great deal of damage when stacked together. Four
Karrack Towers were set near the entrance, where they would have
the most reach. I worked to place them strategically, so that they
would cover multiple parts of the maze at once.
So, a golem entering the maze would get hit by all four towers
at once, until it was out of range, heading along the path. However,
the first loop would bring the golem right back into range of the
towers, creating potential for it to be struck again! This discovery was
accidental, but I quickly realized the brilliance of the design. By
creating mazes that looped back, I could essentially double my tower
coverage without having to pay more! That was 600 silver down the
drain as well as 4 mana crystals, but with these four towers covering
the entire bottom half of the map multiple times, it was well worth the
expense!
I placed four ballista towers in the center of the maze, encircled
by four barricades to ensure that they would not be struck by any
enemy force. These towers had enough coverage to hit anything
moving in the maze and their fire-and-forget ability meant that they’d
be softening up all targets that were on the move. 200 silver gone,
but certainly a valuable purchase.
These costs were adding up. I hadn’t even added a Miniature
Trebuchet yet, and already I was over my budget by 50 silver.
Gritting my teeth, I realized that my grand ambitions were cut short.
We simply didn’t have the budget to add any heavy hitters here.
Would eight towers be enough? Well, I guess it had to be for now. I
would have to supplement my defenses with the various Golems for
purchase.
The last section of the maze, the open area, would be where I
would position my Golems. With only 100 crystals I was willing to

spend (I’ll just ignore the 4 I spent earlier), I had to make a choice.
Quantity or quality? Four Karrack Golems would be heavy hitters,
able to fire on enemy forces as they exited the maze, striking all the
way up to the Sphere and able to target enemies that I designated a
high threat, such as maybe a Siege Golem. But there would only be
four golems of mine on the field.
I could put a mix of Shield Golems and Stone Golems down
instead. Maybe two shield and six stone? That was a cheap mix. The
shield golems could form a defensive line blocking off exit to the
maze, one after another, and I could place the stone golems inside
the maze as the last line of defense. Not only would those golems be
able to fight the enemy as they advanced, but they would also stop
the enemy movement long enough for the ballista to keep firing.
I had put a lot of stock in the Karrack Towers. I’d rather have a
large mass of soldiers fighting for me right now than only four. So, I
made my first golem purchase, watching as my crystals deducted
themselves from the total. Only 96 left.
On the battlefield, I watched as the mighty golems formed from
the ground up, emerging from the land as if they had always been a
part of it. The Shield Golems looked exactly as advertised, great
stone bodies in the shape of a shield. They staggered towards their
position, struggling to move their enormous bodies to seal off the exit
to the maze. Meanwhile the six golems appeared within the end of
the maze, each large stone creature standing side by side. I noticed
that though the maze was just one square wide, the actual
dimensions were so that all six of the golems could fit in one square
at once. These buildings must be much bigger than I thought. Having
a bird’s-eye view sort of changed my perspective of what was big
and small.
“You do need to eat, at some point,” came a voice, interrupting
my thoughts. It was the soft, careful spoken words of Lily, the head
maid of the house. I blinked, releasing my vision from the Grid,
knowing that I had done all that I could with the resources I had.

A dinner table appeared before me, as did my concerned maid
and a host of meat, vegetables and bread rolls. I had been so busy
musing over the construction of my maze that I had almost entirely
forgotten about the world around me. I had just finished breakfast in
my mind but judging from the darkness outside and the fact that the
full kitchen staff was cleaning up the rest of the dining table, I had
just missed dinner.
Lily frowned at me and gently ran her fingers through my hair,
moving a stray strand out of my eye. She was a kind girl, quiet and
gentle, focused on maintaining the staff and ensuring everything ran
on time. The other maids spoke of her as if she were some sort of
primal terror, who would whip any misbehaving maidservant into
shape, but I had never seen that side of her. Any time she was
around me or my uncle, she was thoughtful, sweet and overly
attentive.
I smiled at her. “Sorry, Lily, just got caught up in some work.”
“I heard,” she said, taking a seat beside me and sliding the
dinner tray up to me. She looked different than usual. Normally she
let her blond long hair go free, but today it was bound together tightly
into a bun. Her usual black and white apron had been replaced with
a deep maroon outfit and she was wearing white gloves, something I
had never seen her wear before. Something was amiss. But what
was it?
I didn’t really know Lily as anyone other than a head maid.
Sure, she spent a great deal of time bringing me food or drink, often
leaving them outside the lab and knocking a few times a day to
remind me to eat, but otherwise, we didn’t really interact. There was
never any reason to.
“Is something bothering you, ma’am?” I said in between bites.
She winced at the word ma’am. Right. I was the Gentleman of the
House now; I wasn’t supposed to give deference to the staff
anymore. That was going to be a hard habit to break out of. But

should I really bother following them? Societal rules always seemed
so labored and contrived. Etiquette be damned, I say!
“Master…” she said, sighing heavily. Her face drooped down
into a deep, worried frown. “When shall we mourn? Your uncle was a
great man to all of us, but…you haven’t given us any time off. We
are forced to work each day as if nothing had changed. As if three
beautiful lives weren’t taken from us. Even your brother, rare as his
visits were, caught the eye of many a maid here. This manor is a
place of tragedy and sorrow, yet you press on like nothing
happened.”
I felt the blood rush out of my face at this revelation. Was this
something for me to handle? Normally…oh wait. Normally my cousin
Thomas handled the matters of the estate. With him dead, who was
in charge?
“Erm, Lily, I…may have neglected to realize that I was
responsible for such affairs,” I said, rubbing the back of my head.
“I’m quite busy with defending the estate from danger. It’s all very
complicated, but, please, I’m no slave driver. What’s the appropriate
time off in these circumstances?”
Lily looked at me with curiosity, unsure of what to say. I sat up a
little more, shifting in my seat. As I moved, her eyes narrowed at the
sight of the pendant around my neck and she raised a gloved hand
to her mouth in surprise. Or was it horror? “You’ve joined the
Gentleman’s War?” she asked. “I thought the Blakes did not partake
in such a thing.”
Had Sigmund not told anyone else? Well, to be fair he wasn’t in
charge of managing the household, just managing the Gentleman of
the House and his kin. Damn, everything was falling apart around
me, and I hadn’t the experience nor the brainpower to handle it all at
once. “Well, we don’t have much of a choice, Miss Lily.” I lowered my
voice for a moment and looked around at the maids and servants
who were waiting nearby for orders. I paused and decided to try
something.

“Leave us,” I said, waving my hand towards the staff. At once,
they all left without saying a word. A little thrill ran through me. I had
never thought of myself as particularly commanding, but…it was
refreshing to see that they indeed would listen to what I said.
I looked back at the worried head maid, feeling a pang of guilt
as she wrung her fingers, trying her best not to look afraid. I suppose
what I was about to tell her wouldn’t make her feel any better, but…
Lily had been in our family since she was a child. I remember her
growing up alongside me all the same. I remember how she had
brought me cakes and treats after my parents had died, all in an
attempt to help soothe my pain. She was a part of this household as
any family member and I could trust her. “My uncle, cousins and
brother were assassinated. What looked like accidents were the
work of some kind of assassin,” I explained with a sigh. A pallor
immediately washed over the woman and I could see the tears form
in her eyes. But she did not weep. Instead, she took a deep breath
and held her emotions in check. I continued.
“And the only way to insulate myself from meeting the same
fate is to join the Great Game. I’ll admit, Lily, I’ve no clue what I’m
doing. I was never ambitious for leadership or running an estate. My
uncle poured a fortune into my college education because he knew
my heart was in alchemy, and he was proud of that. But now…well,
we’re poised to lose everything. The Manor, our family name,
everything. Unless I do something.”
“I see,” Lily said quietly. “I had suspected some strangeness,
but no one has told me anything. Richard, if you’re going to be
involved in these things, in this game as you call it, then you’ll need
to appoint someone to handle the estate’s affairs.”
I nodded and gently reached a hand towards Lily’s. She did not
pull back, allowing me to take her hand in mine, and I squeezed
tightly. “Would you consider the job? I know as head maid, you’ve
got a handle on getting the staff to keep things going around here,
but you’re someone I know I can trust.”

She squeezed my hand back and smiled at me. “Of course, sir.
I will begin managing the estate itself at once. But…I fear for you.
For you entering this war.”
“What do you mean? It’s just a means of defense.”
“For now,” she said. “And then, one day, you’ll look around and
see that we are safe and sound. And I fear that ambition, or hunger
for glory may creep up in your heart. There is a lot to win if you
engage in this Great Game offensively. My mother, Stars rest her
soul, was a refugee from a household that collapsed from
overplaying the game. We came here to escape a megalomaniac
who was desperate to make a name for himself. To claim as much
land as he could. She told me such stories every week to remind me
to stay humble.”
“I had no idea,” I said. “But don’t worry about that, Lily. I’m not
the kind who lets ambition go to his head.”
Lily looked at me harshly. She wasn’t angry at the statement,
but it was clear that she did not approve of what I had said. “If you
don’t know your own capacity for greed, then you will never notice
when you have gone over the edge,” she replied. “No great tyrant
thinks themselves in the wrong. Be careful, Richard. For there are
greater dangers than losing your family name. And all of them will be
present in this game you have chosen to play.”

Chapter 8
“Bah,” Sigmund said as we walked around the outside of the
battlefield, observing the great towers in their stead. “What does a
maid know about the most noble of games? Don’t let Lily get in your
head, sir. So what if we take a few territories? She won’t be
complaining when she gets an apron made out of silk, I’ll tell you that
much.”
In the distance, I could hear the rumbling of many wagons. At
first, I had thought it to be thunder. But when the thunder didn’t
cease and a servant rushed up, informing us that sixteen huge
wagon trains were on their way, I realized that my opponent was
arriving.
“I’m not sure her fears are unwarranted,” I said, watching as the
first wagon came into view. It was a horseless carriage, of course,
but significantly larger than a regular carriage. It bore a great metal
crate on its back and it struggled to get up the hill. “But I suppose
that’s for another day.”
“Are you ready, lad?” Sigmund said, rubbing his hands
together. He had dressed in his old military outfit, a black coat with
many medals upon them and thick riding boots meant for taking a
horse into battle. It looked somewhat ridiculous, but I dare not say a
word. He was a relic from the old days, days when men fought with
swords and spears, instead of magic and crystal. He could dress
however he liked, as far as I cared.
“I suppose so. How does this all work?” I asked, realizing that I
wasn’t ready at all. The battlefield was all set up, but I didn’t know
much about anything. I had three days to prepare. Three days was

all it took for Lady Efera to ride her forces all the way here. This was
going to be a mess, one way or the other.
As the wagons rolled up to the battlefield, I felt my necklace
begin to buzz violently. Attackers have arrived appeared in my
vision and a loud horn rang in my ears, heralding the arrival of my
enemy.
“You just kick back and let your planning do the work,” Sigmund
said. “Or you can direct your units too, but I don’t think you have
anything you can order around, have you?”
I shook my head. “Everything’s set up.”
“Then relax and enjoy the show,” the old man said, slapping me
on the back. “You’ll do great.”
The wagons ceased rolling all at once. The large metal crates
on their backs all began to unfold themselves, revealing dozens of
Stone Golems as well as two Siege Golems. My eyes went wide. I
could count maybe 24 total. There was no way my maze could fight
that.
“Hello boys,” Lady Efera said as she exited her stagecoach.
She was wearing the most outrageous dress I had ever seen. It was
a long, flowing red dress with a deep V cut in the middle, revealing
quite a bit, causing me to blush a little. If you hadn’t guessed it yet, I
wasn’t really much of a ladies’ man, what with all my constant time
spent in a lab, working on some new project. This clothing only
served to intimidate me even more.
“If our general had dressed like that, we probably would have
fought a hell of a lot harder, I’ll tell you that much,” Sigmund
mumbled to me, elbowing me in the ribs. I ignored his joke and
approached the woman, keeping my head held high. My eyes
continued to widen as more and more wagons arrived, almost
doubling the number of units. I felt like I was about to pass out.
“Richard, I take it you put those crystals to good use?” the Lady
asked as she approached, reaching out her hand to me. I was quick

to take it and bow down, kissing it gently, as was the custom.
“Indeed,” I said, trying to clear my throat. “You will see behind
us is a veritable killing field. You’d do well to call this attack off and
spare yourself the units.”
She laughed heartily at this, throwing her head back in glee.
“Come now, you can’t expect me to travel all this way without giving
you a little test? Are you prepared? Shall we summon the Judge?”
I glanced at Sigmund who merely shrugged at me, as if to say
’you’re on your own here.’ Perhaps it was a foolish act of panic, at
having seen so many units, but I quickly opened up the Grid and
purchased nine more Stone Golems, placing them in the center of
the maze to act as another buffer. They say to never let the enemy
see you sweat, but I guarantee you that she could see the veritable
ocean streaming down my head.
“Yes,” I said. “Summon the Judge. Let’s get this over with.”
With that, Lady Efera pulled off her own Starmetal Signet and
raised it high towards the sky. “I intend to invade the Burning
Barrows. My objective is to seize the land.” Her voice echoed as she
stated her goal and suddenly, a great beam of light struck her locket.
There was a flash and, before our eyes, a tall structure grew at the
entrance to the maze. It was an observation tower with a single
deck, looming over the entire battlefield.
“That’s one of the Queen’s Men!” Sigmund whispered to me,
pointing out the shadowy figure standing atop the observation tower.
He was an imposing man, wearing a black cloak and holding in his
hand a long wooden sign. On one side, there was an X, and on the
other, there was an O.
“Have the combatants agreed to terms of this duel?” the Judge
stated, his voice so amplified it was as if he were standing right in
front of me.
Lady Efera looked at me. “Are my terms acceptable?”
“Do I have a choice?” I asked.

“This is a formality. A chance for you to surrender while keeping
your status and dignity,” she whispered, winking at me. “Don’t worry
about it sweetie, I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
I nodded, sighing heavily. “We have, your Honor.” Looks like it
was time to start. Did I have anything to do during the actual battle?
All of the units I had placed were dumb, so to speak, so they didn’t
really require any kind of direction. But I couldn’t just sit back and
wait, could I?
“Then by the authority of the Crown, I authorize this warfare as
both legitimate and honorable,” the Judge boomed. He raised his
sign and flipped it so that the O was facing us. “Begin!”
At once, I felt my Signet shimmer violently, pulling me upwards,
back to the Grid. An attack has begun! appeared in my vision,
notifying me of what I already knew.
My vision shifted as I gazed upon the battlefield. The resources
and building tabs vanished. On the right-hand side were the words
Wave 1/3. On the left, I could see Enemies Remaining: 12. So, they
would be coming in waves. Well, that was a good thing, for my
towers wouldn’t be so overwhelmed.
At the bottom of my vision, there were four circles with different
symbols on them. I quickly focused on each symbol, reading what
they meant.
Active Abilities:
- Tower Overdrive: Increases a selected Tower’s
damage by 100% for 30 seconds. Cooldown time: 1
wave.
- Detonate Golem: Immediately destroy a golem you
control. The explosion deals significant damage to all
enemies nearby. Cooldown Time: 15 seconds.
- Alchemical Bombardment: Targets an area and drops
an alchemical substance of your choosing, coating all

units in the bombardment. Cooldown Time: 1 wave.
- Structure Repair: Spend 5 Fire Spice to immediately
repair a structure. Cooldown Time: 1 wave.
I see, so these abilities allowed me to actively change the flow
of the battle. Interesting stuff. Using one of these abilities at the
exact right time would ensure swift victory for me. I just had to pay
attention and look for opportunities to turn the tide of battle.
I felt my stomach churn as more noise sounded in my ears,
informing me that the battle was beginning. At the entrance to the
maze, I watched as 12 Stone Golems came lumbering in, one after
the other. They were all clumped together, making me desperately
wish that I had bought the Miniature Trebuchet. Such a weapon
would almost certainly break apart this group.
The golems came barreling in, moving rather slowly. They
struggled to navigate the turns of the maze, I noticed. For they would
reach the end point and stop almost completely, looking left to right,
and then finally realizing the path to take. As soon as the first golem
came within range of all four towers, bursts of brilliant blue energy
came crashing onto it from all sides.
A small red health bar appeared over the Stone Golem, rapidly
depleting as it struggled to continue down the maze. The Karrack
Towers were dealing tremendous amounts of damage, and before
the golem could even make it to the west end of the maze, it had
fallen apart.
“Yes!” I cheered, elation overtaking me. While there were 11
more golems to go, I was pleased to see that my maze design had
worked perfectly. The towers immediately began selecting their next
target, another Stone Golem at the front of the pile. By this point, my
ballistae were beginning to go crazy, firing shot after shot at random
targets, slowly reloading as the enemy continued through the maze.
The ballistae were dealing considerable damage to just about
every target. A single shot took about 30% of a Stone Golem’s

health. With the Karrack Towers working their magic, rapidly draining
the frontrunner, the bodies were beginning to pile up. By the time
they made it to the eastern turn, the enemy had lost 4 more golems.
But trouble was brewing. The eastern checkpoint was
unfortunately the last spot where my Karrack Towers could hit. The
golems would be free and clear to proceed through the rest of the
maze, only hit by ballistae. The reload times were obviously a major
weakness. One would not think 15 seconds to be very long at all, but
in the heat of battle, it felt like a small eternity. Despite how slow the
enemy golems were, they covered a significant amount of ground in
15 seconds. Perhaps it was time for me to use my Overdrive ability.
Targeting the central ballista with pure focus, I activated
Overdrive. Immediately, an orange aura wrapped around the turret
and the word Overdrive hovered above its head. 30 seconds of
extra power meant 2 shots. The turret spun towards the first target,
one of the Stone Golems at the back of the line, lagging behind so
badly it was now alone. With a thwunk, the ballista fired its heavy
metal bolt straight into the core of the damaged golem, causing it to
immediately fall apart. With gears grinding as the reload mechanism
went to work, the turret then spun towards the golem at the front of
the line, firing another fatal shot. 2 more down!
The four remaining golems lumbered into the center of the
maze, where my panic-purchased Stone Golems were waiting.
These big beasts did not move to meet their attacks, instead just
waiting patiently. More ballistae struck the four remaining golems,
but they did not go down just yet. Upon reaching my forces, a melee
broke out. My golems were glowing bright orange at this point and
Lady Efera’s forces were bright red, allowing us to distinguish who
was fighting who.
There was no grace nor elegance to these beasts. They
smashed their gigantic fists into one another’s bodies, taking chunks
of stone out of each other with each blow. But my golems were fresh
and healthy, Efera’s were battered and still taking damage from the
Ballista Towers, which seemed to have no trouble firing into melee

accurately. A few seconds passed and the results were in. Four
enemy golems destroyed, my nine barely scratched.
I noticed that these golems hadn’t done much damage to the
enemy, but they had served as roadblocks. The enemy golems,
stupid and mindless, stopped completely to fight my nine forces.
They could have just as easily pushed past them and kept going.
Interesting. Definitely something I could exploit later on.
A whistle blew as the Judge, who I could see from my bird’seye view quite easily, flipped his sign to X. “First round is over. Both
sides may take 5 minutes to prepare for the next wave.”
“Not bad. This maze is…a remarkable design. Frankly, I’ve
never seen anyone use barricades to waste so much time,” the Lady
said, her disembodied voice floating around me. “Count me
impressed.”
I didn’t respond, for my eyes were affixed to a great timer that
appeared in the center of my vision. I had five minutes to make
changes, including moving units around. I better move quickly!

Chapter 9
I quickly scanned the battlefield of the Burning Barrows, trying
to figure out what I could do as the clock began to count down. I had
only a short window to make changes, but what changes was I
allowed to make?
First, I noticed that the building and golem tabs came back. I
could buy a new building, sell off buildings that weren’t working as
well for half the price I purchased them, or even get new golems.
There were two more waves coming up and I saw the next wave
would have 20 enemies coming my way. I had to make a choice.
Commit to my current strategy or tweak it.
The Lady Efera had only sent a handful of troops, basic Stone
Golems. Why? Was she expecting this to be a cakewalk? No. That
couldn’t possibly be it. Logic dictated that there was a reason she
didn’t send her best units out first. Scouting? Most likely. She didn’t
seem to know about the construction and shape of my maze until
after the first conflict. So, she probably sent out affordable losses
early on, just to get a feel for my defenses. This meant the next wave
coming would probably be more specialized and able to handle the
troubles ahead. I had to adapt.
Gritting my teeth, I made one more purchase. A Phlogiston
Cannon. I sold off one of the barricades near the front, where the
enemy would first come into range of all four of my Karrack Towers.
Placing the flame cannon there would not only boost my early
damage significantly, but it would also slow down the movement of
whoever was coming in. 250 silver gone. I couldn’t spend any more,
lest I bankrupt myself on this single endeavor.

With a few minutes remaining, I decided to take 2 of the central
Stone Golems and move them to the entrance as well, placing them
a square behind the flame cannon. These golems would stop any
stupid creature from advancing, giving the Karrack Towers more time
to inflict damage. And when their health dropped low, I’d simply blow
these golems up with my detonate ability, inflicting damage to the
horde. A bold strategy. But one that I had a great deal of faith in.
There was a button to state that I was ready. It indicated that
the Lady had already completed whatever changes she was going to
make to her roster. I suppose that at some point, I should invade
someone, not to take their land, but merely to see what the interface
looked like on the invaders end. I readied up and watched as the
Judge flipped the X to the O. It was time to begin the next wave.
Wave 2/3 has begun. Enemies Remaining: 20 appeared as I
watched the battle begin. A large swarm did not come pouring out,
as I expected. Rather, a single Shield Golem wandered into the
battlefield. It lumbered slowly towards the objective, but upon
reaching the area where all four Karrack Towers could strike, it
simply sat down. My towers all fired up at once, pouring a great deal
of damage onto the Shield Golem, but the damned thing had such
high resistances, I could barely see its health bar move.
This was an obvious exploit of my strategy. Immediately, the
remaining wave appeared at the entrance. There were 13 Stone
Golems, 5 Karrack Golems and 2 massive Siege Golems, moving
forward in perfect formation. The Stone Golems brought up the front
ranks, the Siege Golems were in the center and the Karrack Golems,
with their crackling energy beams, were in the back where they could
strike my own troops with ease.
At once, I felt overwhelmed. How could I stop a force this
strong? Especially when that Shield Golem was soaking up the
onslaught of the Karrack Towers. The urge to panic was strong.
Should I just give up now and save the resources? No, no, I couldn’t.
I had to take a breath and think. Alchemical substances! I was an
alchemist by trade and education. I should activate the Alchemical

Bombardment to see what options I had. Perhaps there was
something in there that could disrupt the Shield Golem…
Sensing my command, the Alchemical Bombardment ability
activated instantly, showing a list of substances I could choose from.
There was no description of what these substances did, but that
wasn’t a problem. I had more than enough training to know what
material did what…
Quicksilver was on the list! Of course! One of the most volatile
of the classical alchemical elements, quicksilver had a great hatred
for mana derived sources. If as much as a single spark of mystic
energy touched the stuff, a reaction would occur that could only be
described as “catastrophic.” So dangerous was this element that I
had never actually handled any of it. No one at my college had, for
magic was everywhere and even residual energy from a spell could
cause a reaction!
Without a second thought, I selected the area for the
Quicksilver Bombardment, targeting the spot where the Shield
Golem was sitting, ignoring attacks from everyone and everything. At
once, a flood of silvery substance splashed across the golem and
then…well, a reaction occurred. To say the least.
Even though I was watching from above, I was forced to avert
my eyes for a second, as the blast was so bright I feared it could
blind me. The ground beneath me rumbled and I felt my manservant
grab hold of me to keep me standing upright as the explosion rocked
the world around us.
When the smoke and flames finally vanished, I could see that
the Shield Golem was gone, as was the barricades surrounding it,
my own Stone Golems in the area and my Phlogiston Cannon. Well,
the cannon was still there, but it was a pile of rubble now.
“Yikes…” I muttered, surveying the damage done. Thankfully
the maze was enclosed due to the large assortment of barricades.
Even though I had created an opening by destroying all surrounding
barricades, the open area only led to two of my Karrack Towers. If

the enemy wanted to get to the Mana Sphere, they’d still have to
follow the maze’s outline.
I gritted my teeth as the enemy foot soldiers, the Stone
Golems, moved past the opening. They would undoubtedly make
short work of the Karrack Towers, but thankfully they kept going.
Their goal was to reach the Mana Sphere and they were too
unintelligent to stop and take down a target of opportunity. My towers
began firing upon the frontrunner golem and once again, my strategy
began working.
I realized that in all of this chaos, the enemy Siege Golems and
the Karrack Golems had not started moving just yet. That’s right,
Siege Golems required two minutes to warm up. And the Karracks
were not going to leave them unattended. With Lady Efera’s Shield
Golem strategy having failed, her plan was falling apart. The Stone
Golems were vulnerable right now. If I could destroy them before
they reached the central checkpoint of the maze, my Stone Golems
could destroy the enemy siege engines.
I quickly selected a Karrack Tower and activated the Overdrive
ability. I could only use this once per wave but doubling the damage
output per second would give me the biggest bang for my buck, as it
were. Indeed, as soon as the power surge started moving through
the tower, golem after golem began to fall to pieces, unable to
handle the amplified damage. In fact, so efficient was this amplified
tower that it became like scissors cutting through a sea of paper foes
with ease. One moment, there were 11 Stone Golems lumbering
towards the western checkpoint, the next, they were all dead.
If I could see my hands, I’d be taking notes right here. The
effectiveness of a Karrack Tower amplified was even greater than a
Ballista, for it did more damage per second. Mixed with the
amplification effects of multiple towers hitting a single target…well, I
learned a very valuable lesson here.
Unfortunately, my victory was short-lived. For the Siege
Golems had activated and began marching their way towards the

Mana Sphere…only to become distracted by the first Karrack Tower.
The turret had been exposed due to my quicksilver attack and now
the two massive Siege Golems were pushing into the area. These
big, bulky beasts with hammer arms began slamming into the tower
with full force, smashing the Karrack Tower to bits. Before I could
even check the health of my tower, it was already destroyed.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I gasped as they began
lumbering towards the other exposed tower. Placing two towers near
each other had seemed prudent, but now I realized the folly of my
ways. With the barricades blocking them off gone, I had no other
means of defending them. Within seconds, two Karrack Towers were
dead and gone. How in the hell was I going to win this now?

Chapter 10
The enormous Siege Golems had demolished two of my
exposed Karrack Towers. Slowly, they were turning around, to
resume their voyage through the rest of the maze. Their escort, the
six Karrack Golems, remained in the back. They were taking small
amounts of damage from the Ballista shots, but they had enough
damage resistance to ignore the hits.
My remaining Karrack Towers targeted the first Siege Golem,
firing at full power, but it was useless. The golem had such a high
amount of health that I might as well have been tickling them with
feathers. Once the enemy reached the center checkpoint, I’d have to
see if my stone soldiers could somehow put up a fight worthy of
taking down the Siege Golems. But the enemy Karrack would
probably make short work of my forces.
I had to think here. Was there something else I could do?
Structure repair was pretty much my only option. For five Fire Spice,
I could repair exactly one structure. Hmmm, perhaps I could be
sneaky about this.
I waited for the Siege Golems to resume their place on the
main path. They were exhaustingly slow, but that was honestly to my
benefit. I waited until these large behemoths were within range of the
cannon, but slightly past it. With a simple mental command of mine,
a flash of light struck the remains of the Phlogiston Flame Cannon
and the structure appeared back in full working condition. The wide
metal mouth of the cannon popped out of its resting crate and
released a high burst of flames, washing over the Siege Golems.
The concentrated damage was surprisingly high, much higher
than I thought it would be. For the first time since they had arrived on

the battlefield, I could see the Siege Golems’ health begin to drop
downwards rapidly. The units both stopped in their tracks, then
slowly began to turn around, but their already slow movement was
exaggerated greatly from the effects of the cannon. The health
continued to drop, more and more as these two giants made their
way to the turret.
My brave little cannon was no match for them, of course. A
single strike from one of the Siege Golems destroyed it instantly, but
much to my surprise, the cannon’s remains exploded, covering the
entire area with flames once more. Of course! I had forgotten about
the cannon’s supposed drawback, of blowing up when destroyed,
dealing incredible damage to everyone in the immediate area.
The explosion destroyed one of the Siege Golems instantly,
causing the large colossus to fall over, shattering into a hundred
pieces of stone. The other one was still alive but injured greatly. As
soon as it came within range of the remaining Karrack Towers, it
melted quickly under the concentrated fire.
All that remained were the six Karrack Golems. They were
powerful, sure, but had no ability to strike towers or buildings. They
were not nearly as hearty as Stone Golems and one by one, they fell
to pieces on the journey to the center, unable to repel the Ballista or
Karrack attacks.
The Judge flipped his sign and called for another break. I let
out a deep sigh of relief. I had taken some heavy losses this round,
but perhaps I could rebuild. Did I have the money for it?
Before I could survey the battlefield and figure out what to do
next, I heard the Lady’s voice speak up. “I forfeit,” she said.
What? A forfeiture? Just like that? “Are you seriously giving
up?” I asked, turning off the Grid vision, returning to see the woman
in front of me. Her arms were crossed, and she looked quite
unhappy.

“I put my best units in the second wave. I’d rather not waste
any more resources. You’ve got this locked down pretty tightly,” she
confessed. “Will you be a gentleman and accept my forfeiture? Or
will you insist that we continue, killing