“Gracious Tadodaho, I trust you find the accommodations acceptable?” beneath the slight lilt of the voice was a commanding undertone so powerful it slapped the Iroquois chieftain upside the head. Two seriously overweight guards stood on each side of the gold-trimmed hall as Darius meandered through; his ceremonial Persian pyramid helmet did a superb job covering the emperor’s growing bald spot.
Tododaho bowed, not out of respect for his potential ally, but because it gave him a chance to crack a sandal joke. Unfortunately, Darius had anticipated this and wore Hush Puppies. He truly is a military genius.
“Darius the Great... or may I call you Darius?”
“I take offense to anything other than Darius the Great.” he said coldly. Tadodaho shifted uncomfortably. “Got ya!”
“Your perfect piety to pervasive precociousness precedes you, portly Prince of Persia!”
Darius clasped Tododaho’s forearm with a Vulcan-like death grip, and snapped his fingers twice. As if by magic, thirty or forty servants raced through the room; harnessed to their backs were a mahogany table and two slender chairs. A really short man with a really long beard rolled a hand
truck full of equipment out from a beaded curtain and began setting up a microphone, two large speakers, and what looked like an 80s style turntable. After a successful “testing... 1 2 3,” he motioned for the two to sit down.
“While I appreciate your grandeur,” Tododaho gushed, “The rapping is a little overblown.”
“Would you prefer Persian Punk?”
“I’d prefer a little military strategy.”
“Burn!” Short Xerxes (the short man with the long beard) yelled as the vinyl phonograph ground to a halt.
Darius stroked his moderately short beard, inhaled, squinted, and made a protracted sighing sound. It wasn’t a normal sigh, but an almost comically loud sigh, one with far too much effort behind it. To Tododaho, it seemed as if Darius had taken a breath in anticipation of a long-winded reply, but had totally blanked at the last second and had no recourse other than to make a really loud sighing sound to expel the air. How shameful!
“Darius,” Tododaho leaned over to gaze right through the man’s corneas and into his soul. “Darius, do you know why I’ve come here?”
Before he could answer, Tododaho grabbed his arm and pointed out the large open window. “There!” the Iroquois laughed. “Do you see the armies of Teh User?”
Darius’ face was flushed, his complexion was ashen, and his voice sounded completely flummoxed. “Teh User is here already?”
“No... and that’s the point, Darius.” Tododaho whipped out a scroll concealed in his sleeve. “Behold,” he said as he unrolled it on the polished mahogany.
“Yes. It’s a replay. One of many, I admit. But aren’t they all the same?”
Darius looked down, unflinching. “How did you gain access to a replay?! Replays are heresy!”
“We are royalty,” Tododaho bellowed, raising an angry fist to the air, “and no ‘file protection’ or whatever they call it can stop us.”
“What... does it say about us?” Darius asked, his interest in the forbidden text easily transparent.
“One hundred six.”
“One hundred six losses. Darius, I’ve seen them all personally. They all go the same way: Teh User selects the lowest difficulty setting, the smallest map, and the maximum number of factions. Then while we fight amongst each other to build a stable power structure, and waste our collective resources in the process, Teh User is free to turtle.”
“Teh User builds all manner of fortifications, while simultaneously researching upgrades. Once Teh User has completed all possible upgrades, they’ll have an army capable of crushing all other forces in the Game. And we’ll have... nothing.”
Darius chuckled softly. “Bah! Teh User is a total newb! I say we continue sending small waves of soldiers at Teh User’s cities where they can be easily killed by defensive buildings.”
“You’re not listening to me!” Tododaho thundered, slamming the table and rasping with an almost pleading look on his visage. “We’ve done all that before, in the replays! And I can tell you one thing, Teh User isn’t a newb. Teh User is a n00b. A newb would’ve started at the easiest level, but improved over time, gradually advancing to harder and harder games. Teh User has stagnated, content to fight the exact same war again and again. That’s total n00b.”
“Even is what you say is true, how can you be so sure it’ll happen again?” Darius protested. “How do you know that this time, gradually sending small groups of units to be destroyed by Teh User while fighting each other won’t win this war?”
Tododaho swept the replay scroll up into his sleeve. “That’s what Tsarina Catherine the Great asked. Fifteen minutes later, Teh User captured Moscow.”
“I thought something was up when the Russians didn’t return my calls...”
“Emperor Darius, we need to rally the units! We’ve been defeated in over a hundred identical wars.” Tododaho stood up. “The time has come to abandon the current difficulty setting-”
“It is forbidden!”
“-and pwn this n00b. Indeed, Teh User must be pwned as no n00b has been pwned before! This will be—and I’m absolutely sure of this—the greatest pwnage in history. Thousands of years from now, our descendants will sing songs of this pwning.”
“Okay... just stop saying ‘pwn.’”
Tododaho bowed gently. He’d said all that needed to be said, and had done so with the honor and silent dignity of an Iroquois. Even Short Xerxes was cowed, and played an upbeat techno waltz as Tododaho walked through the palace arches.
The Persian general waited for his Emperor to look up. Darius knew the despot wanted orders; from his side window, Darius spied the passing Iroquois caravan. Surely Tododaho would never suspect him now...
“General, marshal our standing forces... and attack Saratoga.”
“Sir? That’s an allied city!”
“Tododaho’s fretting about forbidden files and frivolous force formations foretells of a fortuitous Farsi federation!”
“And what of Teh User?”
Darius wrinkled his pointy mustache. “Short Xerxes, do you remember what Tododaho said about Teh User?”
“Oh, I remember,” Short Xerxes bleated belatedly over the booming bellicose beats. “He said something about...” But the rest of his sentence was cut off by the endless spinning of the Persian turntables.
“I didn’t catch that part,” the general yelled, trying uselessly to out-shout the DJ.
“He said you should go do what I’ve commanded of you,” the soft-spoken leader of over one hundred military units chided.
Tododaho would pay for his foolishness. “Imagine,” Darius sneered, “Teh User, a n00b!”
He tapped his Hush Puppies. “Would a mere n00b offer the Emperor of the Persians such comfortable footwear?”
“You are wise in all ways, Great Darius.”
“Ja! Now, play that be-be-be-bop-bop, Short Xerxes! Don’t skimp on the bass, or I’ll make a coat rack out of your spine!”