by Jared Ornstead
aka Perfect Lionheart
"There is just something wrong about a man who keep the severed head of Walt Disney on his shelf, asking it questions about the future," Amy declared hotly.
They had all begun going through the now deceased mayor's belongings.
It was something vital to do after the man himself had been defeated.
Without him, the Mayor's forces had simply disintegrated. Minor undead like most of the skeletons and zombies simply collapsed where they stood. Ghosts passed on, freed by the death of the necromancer who'd bound them. The man had regenerated his Nightmares but their power and toughness was linked to the swamps he controlled, and with his death he no longer controlled any, so each of those horrible horses had faded away like a dream.
And the rest of his army had gone into disarray.
Coordinated groups with clear purpose and direction became uncoordinated mobs wandering aimlessly, and more often than not turning on each other. Hordes of demon imps had gone out of control and fled into the hills, wiping out the werewolves they found there, but were weakened doing so and in turn finished off by others also seeking cover in those same dens and burrows.
It was really quite a mess out there right now.
Xander had turned white when he'd learned the Mayor had controlled two hundred Plague Rats, as each of the little one-one rat swarms gained plus one-plus one for every other Plague Rat swarm you controlled, meaning that, with two hundred of them, each of them counted as a two hundred-two hundred creature.
But, thankfully, those couldn't fly, so the attacking angels had skipped right past them. And, with the Mayor gone, he no longer controlled anything. So, united, the Plague Rats were unbeatable, but in the absence of a master to control them and combine their strength they became one-one creatures again, trivial to mop up and annihilate.
Sadly, all sorts of stuff had broken free and ran off on their own. A few hundred mummies had taken off for Los Vegas, no one knew why (although they'd later learn the casino there shaped like a pyramid had acquired a new guard force, rather suddenly, one night). The mayor's cadre of assassins had also split, escaping off when nobody had been looking.
Stuff spreading out over the countryside like that was going to be a real problem.
"You know, the weird thing is, we got lucky," Harmony declared, checking over a vast horde of papers, wearing her reading glasses. "Because most of the real strength of the mayor's army were vampires, most of which could even fly, and Xander just whacked ten thousand of those a month ago, so his defenses were not at their best when we hit him."
"Why couldn't he have predicted Xander's doing that? Going Johnny Storm and whacking those vampires, I mean?" Hope asked, looking up from a chest she'd been going through on her own.
"My guess is the chaos magic behind it," Amy responded for her. "It's very hard to predict."
Mercy gave an agreeing sound. "Yes, it wouldn't be very chaotic if you could simply ask a pet oracle ahead of time what was going to happen and adjust your plans to suit, I guess."
Cordelia, who had entered just in time to catch this conversation, was still wiping goop from off the blade of her sword, having been put in charge of the mop-up operations. "Still, he had a thousand troops with stinger missiles on the ground, and another thousand armed with anti-tank rockets (and a few more hundred armed with flamethrowers). Not to mention all of that artillery and stuff. He wasn't exactly defenseless."
Harmony was calmly paging through notes. "No, I'm not saying that, just that he'd once had more to his defenses than we faced. A key element, the flying vampires, got removed a month ago by Xander going trick or treating as the Human Torch, and Wilkins hadn't had time to replace them properly. We faced a ton of real minor stuff, along with a handful of very, very elites, but the middle ranks got mostly torn out of his guard forces a month ago."
She eyed Cordelia over her glasses. "We got lucky."
Cordy sighed, sheathing her sword and taking a seat before admitting, "Yeah, yeah we did. Something out there the rest of you probably aren't aware of, yet, but the mayor that came up in that sleigh with those nightmares to attack us? We found its body in a crater where it had fallen. It was some kind of double."
"Simulacrum," Amy intuitively answered. Then, when she had everyone's curious gazes on her, expounded, "It's a black spell that makes one of your creatures take all of the damage you would, by making all of your attackers think it was you. They kill it and go home."
A little shiver of distress passed through the gathered angels, thinking how easily that could have been their own response if they hadn't lost track of the falling body.
"Well, it's not exactly like that," Cordelia expounded. "It was some kind of robot, purpose built to look like him would be my guess. Still, it was convincing. I'd never had guessed it wasn't the real guy until I saw the thing crushed or dismembered and had a look at the metal parts inside. Otherwise, it was flawless."
They all spent a moment in thought.
"No wonder the mayor was so surprised that we'd found the real him, and said so few did," Hope surmised.
Cordy nodded. "Well, he's dead now. And speaking of dead, there were a couple million skeletons and zombies lying around out there. Since we don't want anyone to go out and reanimate them, I had them gathered into piles and burned. Some of those bonfires are as big around as our high school."
"How did you gather them together so quickly?"
"The Mayor had trolls running city services like postal delivery and garbage collection. They came out of their holes and started cleanup the moment the shooting was over. Don't even seem to care who they work for. We're in charge right now, so that's us."
"I'll go out and paint them green so we don't get any personality conflicts," Hope nodded, rising from her seat and taking along some paint cans.
"Probably a good idea," Amy admitted. "Black trolls would get up to all sorts of horror-movie things that we don't want anyone we're responsible for doing. I'll come help."
"So, what have you done with all of the ruined planes and such?" Harmony asked as the other two angels departed to go about their work.
"Didn't have to do anything," Cordy admitted with some surprise. "Could have shocked me. But the Mayor's got a bunch of things like santas elves hidden down in this humongous cave network, and they fixed everything mechanical as soon as the trolls dragged it to them to work on. Then they just moved it back to storage in its underground hangars. They're also fixing up the battle damage around town. I gather they do this a lot."
Harmony looked up from her reading, shocked. "Wait! You said this mayor-double was a robot?"
"Yeah." Cordy didn't see the point, but answered truthfully all the same.
Harmony grinned. "And if it was operational, you couldn't tell it from the original?"
Suddenly they both grinned.
"And that's that." Cordy dusted off her hands.
The rumble of the guns had just ceased, and the ground of the valley they'd chosen for this killing ground stopped shaking, although it could be a week before all of the dust settled unless they got lucky and a rainstorm came along to do it for them.
Not a lot of rain in Southern California, though.
Then the dust exploded as newly restored bombers dropped sheets of napalm over the entire valley, burning up everything inside. They'd used the newly repaired Mayor-Bot, freshly reprogrammed to work for them, to take command of the rest of the mayor's undead and icky things from his rapidly scattering ground forces, regroup them, then lead them into a trap where his own artillery had finished them off.
The napalm was just to seal the deal.
A few things ran out of the field of destruction, as there had been some things the artillery and chemical fire simply couldn't destroy. But those the angels could block and wipe out themselves. And they were already doing so, thankful for the opportunity to, as that was much better than the alternative of all that undead just running uncontrolled all over the place.
No, this cleanup operation had just gone a lot better than she'd feared. Very little of what the mayor had once controlled had escaped destruction at their hands. And most of what did, did so only by changing sides to join them. Like those trolls, and machines didn't care who sat at the driver's seat. But there had been a few surprises as well, as the sorceresses and sorceress queens, who'd once been among the mayor's bodyguards were now desperate in their pleas to be painted white.
And they saw no reason not to oblige them. Forgiveness and repentance were both central qualities to the side of light, as was mercy. Just as much as Justice. The real trick to being a good creature was in knowing the cut-off points, where mercy and forgiveness ceased to apply, and justice and judgment took over, for instance.
In this case, they'd pretty much taken care of everything irredeemable, and that which cared to be redeemed, they could work on. Where earlier they'd defeated the mayor, now his army had been almost completely destroyed, effectively annihilated except for a few stragglers who had escaped earlier, or those things that had changed sides.
Smiling, Cordelia let the trolls go about their duty and march into the smoke and dust of the valley to go about their cleanup of the bodies.
Cordy then flew off to get some lunch.
Harmony came into the room where the rest of them were sorting stuff, waving a sheaf of papers overhead.
The restaurants in town had all closed down due to everyone being asleep, but Charity had chosen to make a quick trip, flying down to LA to pick up enough Chinese takeout for all of them so they could both eat and read as they went over the former mayor's documents.
And they were finding all kinds of stuff. The natural caverns under Sunnydale went on for miles, and a good portion of that had been converted to usable space by Mayor Wilkins. Among those things were workshops where he kept enslaved elves working on restoring all of the machines and fighting vehicles he used on a regular basis, another was storage for all of them, but yet one more of the things he'd kept down there was extensive archives.
And Harmony, being the one with the reading glasses, had taken point on that project.
"I know who our enemies are," she declared, and suddenly she held the attention of EVERYONE! Clearly enjoying this, she did not make them suffer, informing them quickly, "Or rather, I found the Mayor's files on who the opposing players are, so now we can know what he knew about them!"
"Which is?" Hope took over as spokeswoman while everyone else was cheering, and the celebration was well worth it, as the single most dangerous aspect about this whole thing was not having any effective information about their enemies.
"Well," Harmony brought the sheaf down so she could read aloud. "In rough order of age, we've got something called the First Evil..."
"There was something about that in the Watcher's Archives we'd copied from Giles," Amy volunteered. "I could go look it up."
"Please do, but later. You wouldn't want to miss out on the rest of this," Hope assured her.
Harmony continued without prompting, "Then we've got fourteen miscellaneous demon lords and archdevils, all collectively referred to as Old Ones. Some toads, some insects, some squids, reptiles or other stuff. No two of them are alike."
"That's in keeping with what little Giles had on them," Amy agreed. "Also that they'd been perpetually involved in wars of conquest against each other, or anything else they could fight, so that part fits, too. Actually, I'm a bit surprised there's only fourteen of them left."
"Maybe those are just the ones who consider themselves in competition for this planet's real estate?" Charity offered helpfully.
"Right," Harmony went on. "Then we've got some guys called the Yama Kings..."
"Immortal overlords of the Chinese Hells, according to that mythology," Mercy volunteered. Her parents best friends were Chinese, and big into that stuff. "Think Hades or Pluto, but Chinese, not Greek, and there were nine or ten of them. Also pretty scary looking."
"Ok, then we've got another demon lord by the name of D'Hoffryn, a Hellgoddess by the name of Horrificus or Glorificus, it's hard to tell by the handwriting..."
"Hell would seem more suited to horror than glory," Hope offered her opinion.
"Agreed," Harmony quipped. "Then we've got a team of demons working together. It says they are too minor, even together, to control any worlds. So they came up with this scheme where they formed an organization of even lesser creatures than they are to do it for them. Anyway, on this world, that organization takes the form of the lawfirm Wolfram and Hart, after the Wolf, Ram and Hart demons that form the trio at its head."
"Ok, demon law firm, scary but believable," Cordelia prompted.
Harmony kept scanning papers. "Then we've got a couple of immortal Chinamen, not a team, it says they spend most of their time and strength fighting each other for power over Asia. One immortal pharaoh, who it says is a mummy and controls most of Africa. An Aztec immortal, another mummy, this one in charge of most of South America. One guy called Gilgamesh, who controls virtually all of the Middle East behind the scenes, and that's the last of the immortals. Then we've got a bunch of secret sorcerers who, while they might not call themselves 'The Illuminati' are certainly close enough in practice, using mind control over just about any world leader you can think of. Then we've got The Watcher's Council, The Mayor himself, and us. And that's about it!"
"Mind control is depressingly easy using magic," Amy sighed. "Xander probably has some cards to do it in that deck of his. Even some vampires can do it. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised somebody saw that as a route to power."
"Are there any names for these guys?" Charity asked.
"Sure! There's tons of stuff, whole boxes and filing cabinets of info on these guys. I just thought you'd all like to hear an overview as soon as I knew what I was looking at," Harmony replied. "It's divided into two sections. There's a room full of filing cabinets and hard drives about the 'other dimensional opponents', and a different one on guys based on this world."
"That again fits with what I'd read in the Watcher Archives," Amy volunteered once again. "Apparently there is some sort of spell or enchantment in place where no supernatural creature above a certain level of power can enter or leave this world. Those already here are trapped here, and those outside can't enter. Something like that."
"Wasn't there a key that could break that enchantment?"
"Probably. I'm not too worried about it, though. Most spells have something that could break them, and this one's been in place for thousands of years. What are the odds the thing to break it would turn up now?"
Back on their island in the Pacific, Dawn sneezed.
"So, what have we got?" Amy wanted to know, after they'd been looking over the Mayor's papers for over an hour.
Cordy waved her hand toward a bunch of arcane paraphernalia. "Well, with these spells and devices, not to mention the fact that we now own the land it sits on, we control Sunnydale, including the Hellmouth."
"Control of the Hellmouth, what does that mean?" Mercy asked.
Amy sank down to a heavy seat in the mayor's leather chair. "Well, I asked Xander that before he left on his honeymoon, and, in our terms, the Hellmouth equals a planar gate - so creatures cost 2 less to bring into play, which explains why new vamps rise so fast here. But also it has a special bonus where activated abilities cost two less black." Seeing the confusion on the newer angel's face, she explained, "If we were playing black, that would be priceless, as it would cut all of our mana costs down to practically nothing. As it is? Meh. We'll keep control of it, but mostly that's only to keep it out of the hands of our enemies."
"So, what else?" Amy did not want them to get hung up on this topic.
Harmony was already flipping through papers. "Well, let's see. The land our former Mayor controlled includes the Hellmouth, obviously, plus vast amounts of deserts of the American Southwest, and a majority of the swamps of the American southeast, plus a bunch of rental properties in towns for rents and things. Also a decent chuck of the deserts of Mexico."
"How did he get so much?" Charity was confused.
Harmony shrugged. "This town's been a murder factory since he founded it a hundred years ago, and he's got a slick arrangement going with several banks where he's been converting victims' cash, accounts and savings into land holdings for a Very Long Time!"
"Why so much land?" Hope asked.
Amy had already figured out that one. "Because he was planning on being a demon lord and ruling this world, so had been buying up parts of it in anticipation since he began this, to make it easier on him once he finally changed."
"What else?" Hope pressed.
Harmony took off her glasses and thought about how to put it. "Well, tons, actually. The Mayor was around back when gold and silver strikes were being made all of the time out here in the West, famous mines worth billions of dollars, and it turns out from his diaries that he simply had vamps enthrall those prospectors who'd made the strikes, pass ownership over to him, then kill them. He's been making a mint. He even owns a couple of the major Los Vegas casinos. Oh, and a movie studio in Hollywood."
Mass blinking all around.
"So, what did he do with the money?" Charity asked.
Harmony shrugged. "Like I said, from these papers, it looks like this guy spent a hundred years buying up all of the deserts and swamps in the North American continent!"
"How many of them did he own?"
Harmony spent a few moments busily checking over papers carefully, and referencing a marked map. "Most of them. By our scale, that works out to about three hundred desert lands, and sixty swamps."
Amy exhaled a huff of air. "Well, that'll be useful."
"What do you mean?" Verity asked.
"Spoils of war," Cordelia declared. "What he owned, we own. The deeds and property rights papers are all here."
"And Right of Conquest is a law older than any currently existing nation," Amy agreed.
"Better still, the little, santa's workshop elves managed to repair the Mayor-Bot again, so we can use it as our front man to control anything to avoid jumping through any complicated legal hoops, because as far as anyone out there will know, he's still in control of everything he once owned." Mercy told them with a smile. She then helped herself to another slice of the wedding cake Mayor Wilkins had ordered for them. It was delicious.
Good could not even begin to express how Willow was feeling.
Something about achieving her lifelong dream of being married to Xander, having friends who were happy for her, a wondrous place to live, it all added up to more than she'd ever dared to dream of!
There was also the little fact that she was an angel. That seemed to make everything better.
The Elfhame Palaces put any five-star hotel to shame. Their tropical islands were beautiful, and having all of these animals about made life seem a bit like a Disney movie, in that if she wanted to, she could walk right up to a lion and pet it.
If they weren't expecting to be attacked daily over the next month she would go so far as to describe life as idyllic.
Right now her happiness had a teeny, tiny speck of discontent in that she was a little sore, having given her virginity to the man she loved, her husband and hoped to be father of all of her children. So they were waiting a little before resuming the sex marathon that each young person fully expected to dominate the majority of the rest of their day.
They were, after all, newlyweds.
Actually, while probably not unique in that, they stood out as having had two weddings on their wedding day. Because, while the Mayor had full legal authority to perform marriages, as angels it was impossible for them to accept a human-sacrificing, would-be demon as having the moral authority to do so. So, they'd gotten one of their angels to preside over a quick, second ceremony right after the first, and this time things went even better because there was no fight afterwards, and the guests did not have to attend wearing torture devices.
So, Willow was feeling life was pretty much complete, when she blinked up at the sky from their room in the Summer Palace. "Xander, did you summon some giant butterflies?"
"No," the young man whose side she was snuggled into replied.
"Then what are those?" she pointed skywards.
He squinted at them for long moments, before declaring, "Parachutists. Skydivers."
"What are they doing here?"
"I don't know."
Something they'd forgotten to take into account was: their island did not have Sunnydale Denial Syndrome protecting it.
A group of skydivers had been among the first to spot them, early that morning. Jumping out of airplanes was a popular sport, and just the sort of thing vacationers got up to, to add spice to a holiday. Since Hawaii was something of a vacation capital, it ought to surprise no one a fair amount of it went on there.
A group of early rising skydiving enthusiasts had flown up into the pale dawn light and soon discovered that the usual islands now had this big, new neighbor over there.
Being up in the air also increased how far a distance you could see, and, well, rather a lot of air traffic went in and out of Hawaii each day. So on their flights in and out increasingly more and more people saw an island that had never been there before.
The island cities floating in the sky above made everything even more visible, though at the same time even harder to believe.
All through the early parts of that day boats and airplanes went out tentatively exploring this new island, circling around what they could not adequately explain, taking photographs and mapping, startled more by the obvious cities and castles they could see there than by the appearance of the island itself, as people could easily make up all sorts of wild theories about how or why a couple of volcanoes could have produced a land mass overnight, and even delude themselves over how it got forested with trees before anyone noticed. But the signs of habitation were harder to explain away.
Although they could see them, nobody had seriously even tried to explain how those four floating island cities were anything normal.
All that morning nobody made any close approaches as the reefs were uncharted, and no one could detect any airfields or even a decent road to land on. Hails were made on radio, only since there was none of that equipment on the mysterious new island that made no difference. Helicopters were being discussed, only it was afternoon before anyone worked up the courage to make a landing - and that was the original skydiving group who had first spotted the island just after dawn, who just decided 'to heck with it' and skipped all of the bureaucratic tangles that were then forming and flew over to make their jump.
What they were *not* expecting, under any circumstance, was to be joined in the air by a couple of angels flying up to greet them, white robes billowing around their tone forms.
"Hello." Xander, wings fluttering behind him, asked, "why are you jumping onto my land?"
"Squirrels, man!" The skydiving hippie, dressed in tie-dye tights and with a braided beard hanging down to his waist, told him. "We're here to check out the squirrels!"
"You'll fit right in here," Xander told the man blandly.
A news helicopter was the next thing to land.
Xander was there to greet them, floating, wings out, robes and halo on, and asked mildly, "Out of curiosity, why did you bother coming when no one is seriously going to believe whatever you print about this place?"
He rather pointedly directed a look skyward to one of his floating island cities.
The reporter, who had never in her life expected to come face to face with an actual angel, was put off her usual mode both by this question and his obvious angelic nature - it wasn't just his appearance, she'd believed before this anyone could fake anything, but there was something about him, a feeling to his presence, that was undeniable.
"I'm going to Hell, aren't I?" she asked, thinking over all of the shady dealings she'd done in slanting news articles in the past.
The angelic man appeared to look straight into her soul for a moment, before answering very simply, "Yes."
"Oh," she shrank in on herself quietly, while all of this was being caught on film and simultaneously broadcast to millions of people by her faithful camera crew.
"Now, now," the angel told her gently, lifting her chin so he could smile into her eyes. "All men are fallen, and are lost. That's why we need Christ, who paid the price for our sins. Forgiveness is free, all you have to do is accept that you have done wrong, regret it, make restitution where possible, and try to do better next time. Repentance is a gift."
He smiled into the reporter's eyes. "One of the central lies evil is always trying to convince people of if once you've screwed up, that's it. You're fallen, lost and without hope. But that is not the truth. The Gospel of Christ is forgiveness, 'though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow'. For most people it's never too late while they live to turn around and do better. Remember: Where there's life, there's hope."
"Someone called?" Hope popped up from behind him.
A destroyer out of Pearl Harbor was the next to make an attempt at landfall, sailing up to within a reasonable distance and preparing to send a boat ashore.
Willow met them as the party of marines and sailors were climbing down off the side of their destroyer and into the little dingy. "Hello, I'm sorry but why are all of you people working so hard to interrupt my honeymoon? Today was my wedding day, and I'd really rather be spending it with my husband. So I'd appreciate it if you did not try to trespass on our land. It's getting very tiresome."
She was, it must be told, feeling rather irksome over the lost snuggling.
One frightened soldier fired a shot off.
Willow caught the bullet in her hand, and though it hurt, it was the right thing to do, as floating there with the flattened splash of lead from the bullet in her palm convinced everyone that further attempts with firearms would be the wrong approach.
She directed a flat and angry glance to the captain of the destroyer. "Captain, your forces have fired upon me." A massive sea serpent the size of a large train then burst forth out of the water behind her, looming up over the tiny vessel like a cat over a mouse, shedding water whose droplets splashed the little crew, convincing everyone they did not dream this. "Therefore, you will withdraw all elements of your country's military from our airspace and territorial waters. Our defense forces are on high alert, having to deal with assaults by the forces of Hell nightly, and will respond to provocations accordingly. Is that understood?"
The panicked ship captain looking up into the maw of a serpent whose jaws were bigger than his entire vessel assured her it would be so, and Willow flew away, annoyed enough to not even particularly care over the fate of that soldier who'd fired a shot at her.
She was lucky she didn't care so much, because the boy was the son of a senator, and got off with just a warning.
"Can you really do that?" Harmony asked, as Amy just signed a contract with the company Charity's father owned to open a development lab on their island to produce Star Trek technology.
The former nerd smiled up to the former cheerleader, glad in knowing the other girl was not the only one able to make brilliant leaps to advantageous ideas. "In one episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the crew visit a planet populated by Prohibition-Era gangster types, with Tommy guns just about the cutting edge of their technology. Dr Bones leaves his communicator behind when they leave. In the final scene, when they are discussing this, the science officer and captain and everyone else agree that those gangsters would take apart that communicator, and figure out how something called a 'transtator' works. They then say that the transtator is the basis of all of their technology, and predict that it is inevitable very soon those Prohibition gangsters would be in space on equal terms with them."
Amy then directed a pointed to look towards Harmony's cell phone, and tapped her own laptop computer. "That phasor we possess has transtators inside of it. And we have an edge over Prohibition gangsters in figuring out high technology."
"So... we're going to have a starship?" Harmony bounced on her toes.
"It'll take a few years. Even if we understood the technology tomorrow, construction alone would put if off for a bit. But yeah, soon we'll have a starship," Amy agreed. "And phasors, and transporters, and all of that other stuff."
"How can you be sure they won't give the secret of all that technology away?" Charity asked, her own concern over that month-long quest to recreate a set of phasor batteries having worn on her.
"Simple! They all get to sign one of these," Amy flipped through the pad of receipts. "Once they are Xander's creatures, we can trust them as well as we can trust anyone."
Harmony snatched the pad of receipts out of her friends hands, and grew a wicked smile.
"What are you thinking?" her friends asked.
"Ooh?" Her grin fooling no one, the former cheerleader confessed. "Well, we have all of those planes and ships and things, and I was thinking 'there's got to be video game junkies or historical aviation nuts who'd like to fly those', and especially against demons and undead. I mean, can you think of a more ultimate adrenaline thrill than actual combat where you can't actually die, because Xander can easily regenerate you? But I put that aside, thinking there was no way we could trust any pilots we'd signed on. But with these?"
Harmony's grin grew contagious.
Well, Turn Two has now officially taken more space than I'd originally intended for the whole story, but oh well.
Also, a word on Xander's deck. When I first got inspired to do this story I did a quick internet search for "iconic magic cards" because I wanted to know what sort of cards symbolized the game to people who'd played it.
I did that because my original thought on his deck was this was not something designed to win, it wasn't even particularly designed at all. It was more or less a random collection of cards, just like an excited child might throw together on first learning about the game.
So that put a lot of things, like Grizzly Bears and Crawl Wurm in, when they are no longer competitive against the new stuff.
One of the things I held in mind creating it was one of my own first explorations of the game, an unwieldy block of what had to be about two hundred cards, throw together with very little thought or reason behind them.
It was also an insanely lucky deck that miraculously kept defeating well-designed ones built carefully by people who thought intensely over every aspect of the game. I never even knew half of what was in there, but always seemed to draw anything I needed, the moment I needed it.
I loved that deck. Sadly, I'd tried to organize and enhance it, and ended up destroying the magic of it. Soon it was losing consistently, every time I played it.
As for cards, I am using 'Approximately anything my brothers own' as the guide as to what editions are appropriate. In early chapters, that meant earlier cards predominated, as they had stopped collecting about a decade ago.
Then a strange thing happened. I started to write this story, and they started to buy more cards. And one of us shows a marked preference for angels.