The Royal Tanenbaum Guard was all in a tizzy. Normally when entering into a war, you make sure you have an actual fighting force trained beforehand. But when the enemy is the one initiating the war, and they do so without warning, your side can easily be caught almost defenceless. At the least, it usually means the attackers have a head start on the war preparations.

Worst of all, the Tanenbaums had no spies in place in the southern nation, so they really had no clue what was going on down there. Was there a massive troop build-up along the border? A few patrols had been sent out along the south-western border, and nothing unusual had been spotted, but an army of unknown size could be hiding behind those hills or deep in that forest. Forests were especially worrisome, as the Pesce--for all the Tanenbaums knew--were in league with the trees. After all, neither trees nor Pesce could be trusted, and a Herring probably wouldn't cut through either.

This also brought the Tanenbaums to another alarming fact: they had lots of things useful for killing, scaling, beheading, and slicing fish, but not so many designed to do the same to a person. Oh, sure, they had weapons--pretty much every society does--but military armaments had not been the chief area of study for the Tanenbaum people, whereas the Pesce had likely been studying such things in secret for quite some time now. It was apparent they were a warlike nation.

So the harpoon manufacturers were now working on larger items that could possible pierce an enemy ship's hull, knife-makers were rapidly being trained as swordsmiths, and a budding armour industry was quickly discovering that good armour was not the easiest thing in the world to make. It had to allow people to move easily, yet at the same time stop the movement of enemy weapons.

Meanwhile, every halfway-healthy beggar between the ages of twelve and fifty was being conscripted into service. Sword-fighting academies were put under governmental control and made to focus less on the skilful artistry of true swordsmanship and instead teach halfwits how to swing a piece of metal. The Pesce clearly had the advantage in that they'd had time to train troops and acquire notable military skills. The Tanenbaums would crush them in number by making good use of the underclass.

Luckily, the Tanenbaums also had a brilliant strategist in Lord Vortin. He reasoned that, as both nations involved were seafaring nations, the enemy would be attacking chiefly via naval assault and would expect the Tanenbaums to do the same. He brilliantly concluded that a decisive Tanenbaum victory could be achieved by simply holding off the enemy armada while ground-based troops flooded south by foot.

You may recall that the Tanenbaums spy network in the southern region was non-existent. Were that not the case, they may have realised that the Pesce were engaging in exactly the same strategy, but such is the nature of unexpected wars.


The Pesce army was finally on the move. Their fighting skills were still a bit rough around the edges--one officer commented that most of them were still rough around the /centres/, edges the damned!--but the Tanenbaums could launch their attack any day now, so they had to be in place at the border. Being well entrenched before the fighting began would give them an advantage they sorely needed. Once there they could continue their training.

Though most of the officers considered the troops incompetent, Leath was pleased with their progress. He was one of the few officers who had worked with the new recruits from day one, and while the experienced military personal may see them as a pathetic bunch of oafs, Leath knew the progress that had been made. He doubted the Tanenbaums had done a better job despite their presumed head start. The recruits were polite, able to swing a scythe without injuring themselves, and could recognise officers' ranks (for the most part). He was rarely called 'captain' anymore, thank Dag.

Just then General Copenhagen Ghoti came up to him and proclaimed officiately 'Most esteemed Lieutenant, my staff and I have been discussing your illustrious career and your admirable effectiveness in training the troops and we have come unanimously to an agreement that we hope will please you greatly. It is now my great honour and privilege to hereby promote you to Captain. I am sure you will bear this new rank and responsibility with the same pomiferous manner as you have done so well as lieutenant.'

'Oh! Um...thank you, sir. I am most appreci--wait, "/pomifer/--"right, I appreciate your faith in my abilities and I will do my best to serve as well I can. You do honour me, and are a shining beacon to all your troops.'

The General wandered off and Leath was left to tramps along himself. 'Hiya, Lieutenant!' called out a passing private.

'Greetings. Oh, and it's Captain' replied Leath.


/A Short Realisation/

Percival suddenly sat up in his bed. Why did everyone always call him Wartface? He had no warts. This he would have to ponder.

/A Longer Realisation/

Snook suddenly sat up, though not in his bed, as he was lying on the ground. He glanced over at their pile of supplies and noticed it seemed smaller. Someone had stolen half their possessions! Probably a polar bear. He quietly leapt to his feet stick in hand, ready to do battle and save their supplies, but he saw no polar bears in the area. Of course! Polar bears are white because it makes them hard to see against the white snow. What he needed to do was turn the area black so the white fur of the polar bear would stand out. Cautiously, he grabbed a burning stick from the campfire and began lighting nearby piles of brush.

/A 'Holy Shit!'-Type Realisation/

Fin suddenly sat up, though not in his bed, as he was lying on the ground. He glanced over at their pile of supplies and noticed it seemed smaller, and that it was engulfed in flames. Someone had stolen half their possessions and then someone else had lit them on fire, and it appeared said person was dancing around like a mad-man poking his stick into the bushes shouting 'Where are you, Mr. Polar Bear? I know you're out there!' Of course! His travelling companion was a certifiable lunatic. What he needed to do was clobber the idiot and then get the hell out of that place before they all died. All caution aside, he shouted to the others to get up and threw an acorn at each of them, saving the biggest for Hilfa. He then bopped Snook on the head, informed the boy that there were no Dag-nabbed polar bears this far south, and dragged him down the path away from the flames, where he was quickly joined by Melville and Hilfa.

He looked around and then seeing not much else to do, simply proclaimed 'South' and started down the dark path away from the flames. Shrugging to each other, the other two followed him, dragging Snook along as best they could.


Sargent Dallywonk was quite glad of his rank. While the privates had to dig foxholes, he got to sit around and fill out the foxhole digging forms. It was much more desirable.

This did not, however, greatly comfort him as he sat in a damp hole the privates had dug and tried to do his paperwork without a real desk to do it on. The others, meanwhile, having finished with their digging, were practising their scything with the Captain. Thundered rolled across the land and rain slowly began falling in large droplets that were surprisingly effective at soaking he stack of just-completed forms.

Grabbing the nearby stack, he crammed the papers into a nearby tent belonging to one of the privates and then headed over to the tress for cover and watched the troops continue their battle practice in the rain. 'I'll bet zombie trout don't mind the rain' he thought. His thoughts were interrupted by shouts of 'Ambush!' from atop a nearby hill.

Looking up, he saw the guard jumping up and down waving his arms in the air like he just didn't care. 'The Tanenbaums are coming! The Tanenbaums are coming!' Leath and several of the men training with him ran up the slope to get a look at the on-coming assault. Upon reaching the top, Leath took a moment to calm the panicking look-out and then looked out. With a look of panic, he turned back to the encampment and made a quick gesture signifying that there were one million crack Tanenbaum fighters headed towards their position. Then he paused, thought for a second, and then modified the gesture to indicate that it was actually an indeterminate number of enemy troops. General Ghoti liked to modify the hand signals on a daily basis or more often just to prevent the enemy from learning to read them.

Leath stood atop the hill for about ten more minutes while the officers on the ground began organising the soldiers. Finally, Leath came back down and commented to the General, 'Sir, it looks as if they're setting up camp on the far side of the valley, just beyond the opposing hill. They're not attacking before tomorrow, by the looks of things.'

This announcement was met by relief, and some semblance of order was gradually restored to the area. That night, all troops not on duty were told to sleep with their weapons by their sides, and the guard was doubled all around the encampment.

The war was upon them!


The former mother of Snook and Hilfa was annoyed. For the price of half a flounder, she'd sold her only ice cream makers. When she returned from work each day, she had to sit down and make her own ice cream, and she wasn't half as good at making ice cream as she was at eating it. She really should have let Snook buy his freedom leaving Hilfa. She made decent ice cream. But, alas, it was too late now. Perhaps she could go to the adoption agency and find a couple unwanted waifs who knew how to make plain shrimp ice cream, but, no, that ship had sailed. The recruitment ship, that is. It had shown up shortly after Snook and Hilfa had left, and it had emptied the orphanage of all he children over the age of eleven. Eleven-year-olds rarely made good ice cream.

Realising a life without fresh ice cream as soon as you returned home from a hard day's work was no life worth living, Sylvia put on her hat and coat and marched out into the cold. If she recalled correctly, her children had headed north when they took their leave,so she set off along the road in that direction. She just hoped they'd sell themselves back to her for half a flounder.


It is known to every Tanenbaum that to the north of Tanenbaum Region lay an icy tundra. This barren wasteland was inhabited by polar bears and cannibalistic savages who would eat any southerner who wandered into their lands, and were in turn eaten by the polar bears who felt that since they had been there first, the place was, by all rights, theirs. Every child knew the story of Marlin the ancient wizard who had been on an ice mushroom scavenging trip just beyond the northern border and was captured and eaten by the savages. They knew this story because the wizard had come back south the next week to tell his marvellous tale, but the fact that wizard can apparently survive being eaten by icemen didn't mean anyone could, so it was best to avoid the whole area.

Occasionally, however, one would happen across a merchant who claimed he was from up north and that the people up there really were quite nice and not cannibalistic at all. People knew better than to trust a merchant, though, as they'll say anything to get you to buy their wares. If nothing else, they were obviously trying to hide where they actually got their strange merchandise by making up fanciful stories of artisans living in ice huts and eating frozen fish.

What the citizens of Tanenbaum Region didn't know was that no one made more delicious ice cream than the supposed 'savages' of the northern regions. Their thriving domestic ice cream market was actually their chief reason for trade with the Tanenbaums. Fruits could add delicious flavours to otherwise fishy ice creams, and no one could play frozen flavours off each other like the people who lived surrounded by ice all year round. There was no better place for an ice cream lover to visit in search of her lost children.