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Thread: Gather 'round, it's backstory time!

  1. #1
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Gather 'round, it's backstory time!

    I could be secretive, but hey, it's pretty obvious that it's Collins this is about since it's rogue-business. He just goes under a different name for a bit because he's sneaky like that.


    He called himself David, and he thought of himself by that name. It helped to get into the role properly, so that you did react when somebody called you by your alias.

    Together with two other rogues, who called themselves Marcus and Shaun respectively, he left Ravenholdt Manor early one evening, dressed as simple travelers. They reached the Foothills just before the glow of the sun rose over the horizon, through a thick cover of clouds.

    At that time, none of them knew that the time they currently lived in would later be known as the Third War. The rest of Lordaeron was far away from Hillsbrad Foothills though, and after all, Prince Arthas had gone off to find a way to save his country from the dark forces. However, even so there was a stirring in the air. Hideous, undead creatures found their way through Silverpine Forest all the way here – not many, but enough to make people worried. There were strange things going on, far too close for comfort.

    A caravan with materiel to prepare for war had come from Stormwind – at a price, of course – via Ironforge, and it would bring people with it back. Those who could, and knew to be careful, gladly took the chance to send their families towards a hopefully safer place.

    However, the road through the Foothills had never been safe, not since the Second War. Not since Alterac fell to pieces and the Alliance created a whole new problem for themselves while trying to deal with a traitorous nation. Stormwind didn’t care much, of course. They had enough to do with their other creation, the Defias Brotherhood, to care about peasants in far away countries being plagued by a similar – if more disorganized – foe in the form of the Syndicate.

    That was why David and his companions now rode into Tarren Mill, as the town council had decided to call in at least a few experts to help protect the travelers.

    At this point, the Forsaken did not even exist. The whole thing would seem very ironic, as well as tragic, a few years later.

    About a dozen wagons lined the road leading southwards from the town, and both townspeople and caravan guards were working to unload crates and sturdy boxes. Children and dogs ran around the scene, most of them keeping a distance. By the looks of that, there had been stern instructions to not get in the way. Even those who obeyed those orders, though, stared with great interest at the men in leather and mail armor with swords at their sides and bows slung over their backs. Most of the kids had probably never seen anybody from such a distant place as Stormwind, before.

    A light rain fell over the scene, just a breath away from being thick mist. However, the air was warm which created a stiffening humidity in combine with the rain. The people worked mostly in silence, set on getting done with the job so that they could go and relax inside with a cool drink.

    Thanks to the fact that there were so many people focused on the wagons, the rogues could make a discreet entry to the town.

    David was prepared for the reaction as he and his companions were let into the town council hall to meet the caravan master. He turned out to be a broad shouldered man named Andrew Renfair. And since David had been ready for the predictable, he managed to keep his face passive when Renfair’s first reaction was to speak his mind.

    “Only three?!”

    “Ravenholdt has its own troubles to attend to,” David said in a calm voice. He’d always been good at hiding his emotions. It was very handy in situations like these.

    Renfair rubbed his face, sighing deeply. He had dark lines around his eyes, and from the look on his face he had hoped that the arrival of Ravenholdt agents would help him feel more at ease.

    “I guess it’s better than nothing,” he said after a moment. “And I guess you’ll all play theater to the rest of my people?”

    “It will be easier to counter attack a possible Syndicate assault if they don’t know that we’re there.”

    Grunting, Renfair nodded and went over to a table where a map of the Foothills laid. He put a big finger on Tarren Mill, then moved it along the road first to Southshore, and on to Hillsbrad Fields.

    “We’re taking this route, as quick and straight as possible. After dropping our wares and gathering up everyone who is coming with us, we’re heading back towards Arathi,” Renfair said, watching the three men intently. “How great do you think the risk is that we get into trouble with the Syndicate?”

    “Normally I wouldn’t say it’s great, Sir,” David said, pursing his mouth. “Their fractured groups don’t have the manpower to attack anything like a caravan this size. However, lately there’s been a little rascal leading his own band that are a bit more daring.”

    “Named Eventide or something, was it?” Renfair said, his eyes narrowed. “I heard about ‘im. They said he’s a sneaky brat.”

    “Reports say he admires Perenolde, Light knows why.” David allowed himself to curl his lips in disdain. “Probably just kissed Perenolde’s ass to get some soldiers to play with.”

    But the fact of the matter – and it had most of Ravenholdt very, very upset though none of them wanted to admit it – was that young Roland Eventide somehow managed to lead his men into blitz attacks on travelers, townspeople and agents (when found) alike. And he got away with it again and again. Lord Jorach Ravenholdt had raised the price on the damn brat’s head twice over the summer, and yet the son of a once noble Alterac family kept eluding them.

    The last thing Ravenholdt needed was a budding master tactician to hone his skills and grow from a headache to a real problem. And they definitely didn’t need one who might actually support Perenolde’s ambition and help further the cause of pulling the infighting ex-noble houses into an organized force. The Syndicate was enough of a problem when it was as much at war with itself as everyone else.

    Renfair sighed and rubbed his face again.

    “Well,” he said. “We’ve got several scouts. Even if you’re keeping a low profile, your best bet to do any good is to keep up with them.”

    All three of the rogues were too professional to roll their eyes at being instructed about the obvious.

    There was a knock on the door and at Renfair’s call, a thin middle-aged man in a priest’s white, embroidered robes was let in.

    “Renfair, I will need–– oh, pardon me,” he started, noting that there were more people present only after he had started talking. He smiled apologetically.

    “No matter, we were just finishing,” Renfair said. He motioned at David and his companions. “This is Father Berling. He will make sure that everyone is well cared for during the trip. Father Berling, these are the Ravenholdt agents I told you about.”

    Less than ten minutes after they had talked about keeping a low profile. David swallowed his annoyance and just nodded politely to the priest. The older man’s nod back was a lot stiffer, and his smile had disappeared the moment Renfair revealed that there were three thieves and murderers in the room.

    Considering that Berling didn’t say anything about it, though, his reaction was pretty restrained.

    David didn’t think too much about it. In his experience those blessed by the Light always took the same view of him and his kind – a borderline necessary evil. The people of the Foothills generally had a more positive view of Ravenholdt since they fought the Syndicate, but David had yet to meet a priest or paladin who thought of him as any better than a skilled street thug.

    He avoided priests and paladins as much as he could.

    Especially paladins. At least priests sometimes had it in their heads that they ought to be humble and polite.

    It was easy these days, thankfully. In these unruly times most of those named champions of the Light had better things to do than run around backwater villages, chasing roving bands of robbers. There were bigger battles to be fought elsewhere.

    Leaving Renfair to his discussion with Berling, the rogues left the council hall and went to work with blending in with the caravan, offering help with unloading the goods that were to stay in Tarren Mill. The townsfolk would think they were from the caravan, and the caravan guards and drivers would assume they were from the town or some smaller settlement nearby.

    Once Tarren Mill’s share had been unloaded, some of its people climbed into the wagons under Renfair and the guards’ watchful eyes. There were mainly women, elderly and children, but also some men both young and middle-aged.

    Shaun took it upon himself to be extra friendly towards those men, while all three of the rogues agreed to keep an extra eye on them. The first information Shaun got was that most of them had family in Southshore and Hillsbrad Fields they wanted to help move or protect, while a few of them wanted to join the Stormwind military for training.

    “I’m glad we let you do the talking,” Marcus muttered to David as the caravan began moving. “I could hardly keep my face straight with Renfair towards the end.”

    “Could be worse,” David said. He climbed into his horse’s saddle and urged it forwards. Shaun had already moved to the front of the caravan to keep an eye out there. “At least he’s smart enough to know that there could be trouble.”

    “Yeah, but this seems a bit too much to chew for most Syndicate bands,” Marcus said as he glanced over the caravan, in a far more positive tone than David could muster up. The other rogue was glad that his friend didn’t tempt fate by saying something like ‘this should be a breeze.’ True that there were a whole lot of people here, and the roving groups of Syndicate thugs were known for only taking on what they knew they could easily defeat. Still, one never knew.

    David chose to just nod, staring at the road ahead as he ran a hand through his sand blond hair. He hoped that there wouldn’t be any trouble, but he was far too cynical to believe it.

    At noon, Renfair ordered a break for lunch before they continued for the last couple of hours it would take to reach Southshore. The horses were steered off the road and into a circle on the meadows lining the road. A cool wind started to blow while the travelers prepared for cooking the shared meals, chasing away the last of the rain and making the air easier to breath. Still, it turned out to be no easy task lighting the fires.

    Most everyone who wasn’t cooking took some time to stretch their legs and converse with their fellow travelers while they waited for the food. The guards, however, positioned themselves at the front of the wagons or in other places where they could keep an eye on things outside of the protective circle.

    David appreciated the sight. He had had his doubts about Renfair for a little while, but it showed that the man was strict about security.

    The rogue walked around on his own, covertly studying faces to make sure he was familiar with as many of the people as possible. Marcus was right that this was probably a bit too big for a full assault from the Syndicate. Their bands were seldom bigger than a dozen people strong. Even so, they could try other tactics, like infiltration to try to make off with some weapons or other goods.

    For now, though, everything seemed peaceful.

    There was a small group of children gathered around a young man who couldn’t be older than nineteen. The sun filtered through the clouds and glistened in the tiny drops of water on their clothes and in their hair. Most of them were blond, that being the most common hair color up in the north. The young man was the same, though a darker blond than most of the kids.
    David recognized him as one of the scouts.

    His eyes were narrowed in concentration, tip of his tongue sticking out as he juggled four cloth balls while the children watched with delight. At least they did until one of the bigger boys piped up:

    “That’s nothing, I saw a guy juggling five balls and an apple that he ate at the big market last year!”

    The other kids looked at him, then all turned towards the young man with expectations written all over their faces. He swiftly caught two balls in each hand with graceful downwards swings of his arms, giving his demanding audience a slanted smile.

    “I can only keep four things in the air,” he said.

    A chorus of disappointed “aww” followed. The man shrugged and dug out an apple from one of the bags by his belt.

    “I’m saving this for later so I won’t eat it, but I can try to juggle it at least.”

    “But that’s still only five things,” the loud boy complained.

    “Tell you what, I’ll let you borrow these,” the juggler said, a smirk in the corner of his mouth as he stuck the apple under his arm so he could wave the balls at the boy. “And when we get to Ironforge I want you to show me how to juggle six things.”

    The boy looked stunned for a second, but then squared his shoulders and put on a smug, determined expression.

    “I’ll show you!” he declared.

    Still watching from a little ways away, David let himself have a rare smile at the spectacle. If the boy did learn how to juggle, then good for him. David doubted it though. Hopefully the scout would be nice about it when he asked for his toys back.

    “Alright then,” the scout said. “But first…”

    He took the apple in one of his hands along with two of the balls and started throwing all five items into the air. As soon as he added the fifth to the act, though, he lost his pace and all but one of the balls and the apple fell to the ground. While some of the children groaned in disappointment, some of the others scrambled to gather up the balls and give them back.

    The scout tried again and again, but he never managed to keep the balls and apple in the air for more than a few seconds. After the fifth attempt he gathered up the balls and stuck the apple in his pocket again, shaking his head.

    “Nope, this isn’t working,” he concluded and handed the balls to the loud boy from before. “You’ll have to show me how it’s done.”

    Several of the children started calling for him to play with them, getting every last one involved in that plea. But he shook his head again.

    “Sorry, everyone,” the scout said. “I have to work. Have to go and look out for bad people so you’ll be safe.”

    David’s hint of a smile faded as reality reared its ugly head. Studying the scout’s face, even from this distance, he saw the grim twist of the young man’s mouth just before he started laughing and backing away from the protesting children. They did not know it, but he did, and David did. If there was anything dangerous out there, the scouts would likely be the first to know – and their report might very well be delivered by their inability to return to safety.

    Turning around, David walked away from the homely scene and continued through the camp.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  2. #2
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    I have to say Collins is a welcome change. You should make a wiki just to keep your characters' adventures straight. It seems I had a lot of nits to pick this time, but I'm curious about the next parts. In a word I think that the parts where you describe the interactions of a few characters work better than the bird's-eye parts.
    He called himself David, and he thought of himself by that name. It helped to get into the role properly, so that you did react when somebody called you by your alias.
    The second sentence, especially the second part is stilted. Perhaps you could use something like 'Reacting when somebody called you by your alias helped.'
    Together with two other rogues, who called themselves Marcus and Shaun respectively,
    There isn't really need for respectively as there's nothing differentiating them so far, is it? I mean, in your mind Marcus might be the tall, burly mutant orc, but the reader would be fine with just the names.
    At that time, none of them knew that the time they currently lived in would later be known as the Third War
    Too exposition-y. 'It was the time that would later be...' would do I suppose.
    A caravan with materiel
    A caravan with materiel to prepare for war had come from Stormwind – at a price, of course – via Ironforge, and it would bring people with it back.
    "and it would bring people with it back" sounds stilted and I have no suggestions. "and would return with other people"? "People" sounds too generic.
    However, the road through the Foothills had never been safe, not since the Second War. Not since Alterac fell to pieces and the Alliance created a whole new problem for themselves while trying to deal with a traitorous nation. Stormwind didn’t care much, of course. They had enough to do with their other creation, the Defias Brotherhood, to care about peasants in far away countries being plagued by a similar – if more disorganized – foe in the form of the Syndicate.

    That was why David and his companions now rode into Tarren Mill, as the town council had decided to call in at least a few experts to help protect the travelers.
    I think that here there's a big concentration of exposition and places/factions and I know the WC2 backstory. If you keep this make "aa tratorous nation" into "the traitorous nation", as it might help people understand that Alterac is the mentioned nation (and a pleasant break after constantly fighting orcs).
    At this point, the Forsaken did not even exist. The whole thing would seem very ironic, as well as tragic, a few years later.
    Which thing? I lost you there.
    Thanks to the fact that there were so many people focused on the wagons, the rogues could make a discreet entry to the town.
    Perhaps remove 'could" and go with straight past to give some immediacy?
    The older man’s nod back was a lot stiffer, and his smile had disappeared the moment Renfair revealed that there were three thieves and murderers in the room.
    Nice flourish ;)
    . The other rogue was glad that his friend didn’t tempt fate by saying something like ‘this should be a breeze.’
    I didn't think that breaking the fourth wall at that point was really worth it, especially since the piece doesn't get rolling from the beginning.
    Most everyone who wasn’t cooking took some time to stretch their legs and converse with their fellow travelers while they waited for the food.
    At times it looks as setting up the background doesn't let you tell the story. For instance here, "most everyone" seems like trying to describe the caravan as a whole by saying so. Contrast the next part where you describe the children and the juggler. It's the first time the reader gets a feel for the caravan itself. If Collins et al. watched some people cooking and others chatting around, it'd convey the same thing that the quoted sentence tried to do, but more effectively.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  3. #3
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    I really needed some nitpicks on this one, especially with the stilted stuff in the beginning. I felt it was that way too, but concrit helps sorting out what I should tweak :) There'll be a lot less exposition from here on out, promise.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  4. #4
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    I did some revisions and rearranged some stuff. Let's see if this works better. I suppose I got overly bird-eyed especially in the beginning because a lot of people really are out of touch with the tactical games. On the other hand, I should trust my readers :)

    Suppose I could also write some cliffnotes for the characters like a wiki, like you say, since they've gone through so much XD


    He called himself David, and he thought of himself by that name. It helped him get into the role properly, so that he reacted if somebody called him by his alias.

    Together with two other rogues, who called themselves Marcus and Shaun, he left Ravenholdt Manor early one evening. Dressed as simple travelers, they rode down hidden paths and through tunnels down the mountain towards the lowlands. They reached the Foothills just before the glow of the sun rose over the horizon, through a thick cover of clouds.

    It was the time that would later be known as the Third War, and although the rest of Lordaeron was far away from Hillsbrad Foothills there was a stirring in the air. Hideous, undead creatures found their way through Silverpine Forest all the way here – not many, but enough to make people worried. There were strange things going on, far too close for comfort. Considering the rumors that orcs had broken out of the internment camps lately, people living in the Foothills had good reason to be on edge.

    At this point, the Forsaken did not even exist, and all of the towns in the Foothills were populated by humans.

    As Tarren Mill came into view, the rogues could immediately see about a dozen wagons which lined the road leading southwards from the town. Both townspeople and caravan guards were working to unload crates and sturdy boxes and to carry them off various buildings. Children and dogs ran around the scene, most of them keeping a distance. By the looks of that, there had been stern instructions to not get in the way. Even those who obeyed those orders, though, stared with great interest at the men in leather and mail armor with swords at their sides and bows slung over their backs. Most of the kids had probably never seen anybody from such a distant place as Stormwind, before.

    A light rain fell over the scene, just a breath away from being thick mist. However, the air was warm which created a stiffening humidity in combine with the rain. The people worked mostly in silence, set on getting done with the job so that they could go and relax inside with a cool drink.

    The caravan had come from Stormwind via Ironforge, bringing weapons, armor and tools for the people of the Foothills to improve the simple gear they already produced themselves. When the caravan returned southwards, it would carry things that were far more precious. Those who could, and knew to be careful, gladly took the chance to send their families towards a hopefully safer place.

    However, the road through the Foothills had never been safe, not since the Second War. Not since Alterac fell to pieces and the Alliance created a whole new problem for themselves while trying to deal with the traitorous nation. Or rather, Lordaeron created a whole new problem for their citizens, since it were they who would have to live with the remains of Alterac’s nobility – and their servants, sent out to rob and take whatever they could for the questionable glory of the Syndicate.

    That was why David and his companions now rode into Tarren Mill, as the town council had decided to call in at least a few experts to help protect the travelers.

    Thanks to the fact that there were so many people focused on the wagons, the rogues made a discreet entry to the town.

    David was prepared for the reaction as he and his companions were let into the town council hall to meet the caravan master. He turned out to be a broad shouldered man named Andrew Renfair. And since David had been ready for the predictable, he managed to keep his face passive when Renfair’s first reaction was to speak his mind.

    “Only three?!”

    “Ravenholdt has its own troubles to attend to,” David said in a calm voice. He’d always been good at hiding his emotions. It was very handy in situations like these.

    Renfair rubbed his face, sighing deeply. He had dark lines around his eyes, and from the look on his face he had hoped that the arrival of Ravenholdt agents would help him feel more at ease.

    “I guess it’s better than nothing,” he said after a moment. “And I guess you’ll all play theater to the rest of my people?”

    “It will be easier to counter attack a possible Syndicate assault if they don’t know that we’re there.”

    Grunting, Renfair nodded and went over to a table where a map of the Foothills laid. He put a big finger on Tarren Mill, then moved it along the road first to Southshore, and on to Hillsbrad Fields.

    “We’re taking this route, as quick and straight as possible. After dropping our wares and gathering up everyone who is coming with us, we’re heading back towards Arathi,” Renfair said, watching the three men intently. “How great do you think the risk is that we get into trouble with the Syndicate?”

    “Normally I wouldn’t say it’s great, Sir,” David said, pursing his mouth. “Their fractured groups don’t have the manpower to attack anything like a caravan this size. However, lately there’s been a little rascal leading his own band that are a bit more daring.”

    “Named Eventide or something, was it?” Renfair said, his eyes narrowed. “I heard about ‘im. They said he’s a sneaky brat.”

    “Reports say he admires Perenolde, Light knows why.” David allowed himself to curl his lips in disdain. “Probably just kissed Perenolde’s ass to get some soldiers to play with.”

    But the fact of the matter – and it had most of Ravenholdt very, very upset though none of them wanted to admit it – was that young Roland Eventide somehow managed to lead his men into blitz attacks on travelers, townspeople and agents (when found) alike. And he got away with it again and again. Lord Jorach Ravenholdt had raised the price on the damn brat’s head twice over the summer, and yet the son of a once noble Alterac family kept eluding them.

    The last thing Ravenholdt needed was a budding master tactician to hone his skills and grow from a headache to a real problem. And they definitely didn’t need one who might actually support Perenolde’s ambition and help further the cause of pulling the infighting ex-noble houses into an organized force. The Syndicate was enough of a problem when it was as much at war with itself as everyone else.

    Renfair sighed and rubbed his face again.

    “Well,” he said. “We’ve got several scouts. Even if you’re keeping a low profile, your best bet to do any good is to keep up with them.”

    All three of the rogues were too professional to roll their eyes at being instructed about the obvious.

    There was a knock on the door and at Renfair’s call, a thin middle-aged man in a priest’s white, embroidered robes was let in.

    “Renfair, I will need–– oh, pardon me,” he started, noting that there were more people present only after he had started talking. He smiled apologetically.

    “No matter, we were just finishing,” Renfair said. He motioned at David and his companions. “This is Father Berling. He will make sure that everyone is well cared for during the trip. Father Berling, these are the Ravenholdt agents I told you about.”

    Less than ten minutes after they had talked about keeping a low profile. David swallowed his annoyance and just nodded politely to the priest. The older man’s nod back was a lot stiffer, and his smile had disappeared the moment Renfair revealed that there were three thieves and murderers in the room.

    Considering that Berling didn’t say anything about it, though, his reaction was pretty restrained.

    David didn’t think too much about it. In his experience those blessed by the Light always took the same view of him and his kind – a borderline necessary evil. The people of the Foothills generally had a more positive view of Ravenholdt since they fought the Syndicate, but David had yet to meet a priest or paladin who thought of him as any better than a skilled street thug.

    He avoided priests and paladins as much as he could.

    Especially paladins. At least priests sometimes had it in their heads that they ought to be humble and polite.

    It was easy these days, thankfully. In these unruly times most of those named champions of the Light had better things to do than run around backwater villages, chasing roving bands of robbers. There were bigger battles to be fought elsewhere.

    Leaving Renfair to his discussion with Berling, the rogues left the council hall and went to work with blending in with the caravan, offering help with unloading the goods that were to stay in Tarren Mill. The townsfolk would think they were from the caravan, and the caravan guards and drivers would assume they were from the town or some smaller settlement nearby.

    Once Tarren Mill’s share had been unloaded, some of its people climbed into the wagons under Renfair and the guards’ watchful eyes. Most of them carried only a meager bag or sack of possessions with them. There were mainly women, elderly and children, but also some men both young and middle-aged.

    Shaun took it upon himself to be extra friendly towards those men, while all three of the rogues agreed to keep an extra eye on them. The first information Shaun got was that most of them had family in Southshore and Hillsbrad Fields they wanted to help move or protect, while a few of them wanted to join the Stormwind military for training.

    “I’m glad we let you do the talking,” Marcus muttered to David as the caravan began moving. “I could hardly keep my face straight with Renfair towards the end.”

    “Could be worse,” David said. He climbed into his horse’s saddle and urged it forwards. Shaun had already moved to the front of the caravan to keep an eye out there. “At least he’s smart enough to know that there could be trouble.”

    “Yeah, but this seems a bit too much to chew for most Syndicate bands,” Marcus said as he glanced over the caravan, in a far more positive tone than David could muster up. True that there were a whole lot of people here, and the roving groups of Syndicate thugs were known for only taking on what they knew they could easily defeat. Still, one never knew.

    David chose to just nod, staring at the road ahead as he ran a hand through his sand blond hair. He hoped that there wouldn’t be any trouble, but he was far too cynical to believe it.

    At noon, Renfair ordered a break for lunch before they continued for the last couple of hours it would take to reach Southshore. The horses were steered off the road and into a circle on the meadows lining the road. A cool wind started to blow while the travelers prepared for cooking the shared meals, chasing away the last of the rain and making the air easier to breath. Still, it turned out to be no easy task lighting the fires.

    While many of the women gathered by the campfires to help with the cooking, children leaped out of the wagons and ran around the camp laughing and screaming. It showed that they were unused to sitting still for so long, and were not appreciating the boredom of the journey.

    The guards, however, positioned themselves at the front of the wagons or in other places where they could keep an eye on things outside of the protective circle.

    David appreciated the sight. He had had his doubts about Renfair for a little while, but it showed that the man was strict about security.

    Many of those who did not have a task for themselves just walked around, stretching their legs and occasionally snapping at the children to not be so noisy. David would have wanted to do so as well, but he didn’t want to draw attention to himself even from the kids.

    The rogue walked through the camp on his own, covertly studying faces to make sure he was familiar with as many of the people as possible. Marcus was right that this was probably a bit too big for a full assault from the Syndicate. Their bands were seldom bigger than a dozen people strong. Even so, they could try other tactics, like infiltration to try to make off with some weapons or other goods.

    For now, though, everything seemed peaceful.

    There was a small group of children gathered around a young man who couldn’t be older than nineteen. The sun filtered through the clouds and glistened in the tiny drops of water on their clothes and in their hair. Most of them were blond, that being the most common hair color up in the north. The young man was the same, though a darker blond than most of the kids.

    (the scene with the juggler is unchanged)
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  5. #5
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    Much clearer, well done.
    It showed that they were unused to sitting still for so long, and were not appreciating the boredom of the journey.
    Ah, poor people who didn't grow up playing Warcraft 2. Though in fairness Blizzard decided WC2 had an amazing hidden backstory after they did WC3, so unless you replayed WC2 you probably wouldn't connect most of the story to the new events.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  6. #6
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Danke. Hah, yeah, they really discovered the story there only afterwards.

    And nooow, another short chapter.


    Over the next week, the caravan trudged on all the way to Hillsbrad Fields where it left the last of its original cargo and loaded up on the last fugitives. The trip continued to be uneventful, to everyone’s relief.

    “It’s almost too good to be true,” Shaun commented to David on the morning after the caravan had left the Fields. The other rogue sat perched at the front of one of the wagons and spoke to David just as he climbed up to take a seat.

    Nodding, David glanced over the sleepy camp. Not too many were up and about around the few tents set up within the wagon circle. Most of the villagers and townspeople did not have the luxury of a tent and slept either under the open sky or inside of the wagons. The only noise was that of people slowly shuffling about, and the chirps of the birds in the nearby trees. Not even the usually energetic children liked such early mornings.

    Shaun remained silent, lost in thought as he sucked on his pipe. The smell of it hung rich and thick in the crisp morning air. Personally David disliked it when other agents smoked – it got stuck on your clothes and could give away your position. Apart from that, even a slight addiction can cause a lot of trouble during missions where one need to be still and wait for hours on end. With Shaun, though, David was forgiving. He only smoked now to give a relaxed impression, and sharing tobacco as well as smoking with others was a good way to earn basic trust.

    David held that thought for a moment.

    It would be nice, he reflected, to get to live life without an agenda for everything you did.

    He shook off the wistfulness a moment later, looking over the camp again. Such thoughts rose up from him being around all these people, adults as well as children, who took the day as it came. They didn’t feel like they needed intricate plans.

    “Are you worried?” Shaun said after a moment. He smirked a bit when David looked at him and added, “Nah, you didn’t slip.” Bending sideways, he knocked the pipe against the edge of their seat to get rid of the burnt tobacco remains. “If I didn’t know you, I’d think you were dumb and deaf with that blank face of yours.”

    “I’m always worried,” David said, but let his mask crack up in a smirk back. “It hasn’t given me stomach ulcers yet.”

    “Lucky bastard,” Shaun grunted. He put the pipe down by his feet to let it cool off. Bending forwards to make his lips less visible should anybody be watching them, he spoke in nary a whisper. “Anyway, Roger, Jack and Bill just left. Liam was over at Berling’s tent last I saw him, and I’m pretty sure Terry is sleeping.”

    The faces of the scouts flashed past in David’s mind as Shaun listed them.

    “I keep telling you not to smoke so early in the morning,” David said, patting his companion’s back.

    “I’m fine, I swear,” Shaun said in a normal voice and rubbed his face as he straightened up.

    All part of the play, of course.

    “Yeah, sure. Don’t let me catch you drinking on top of this, though,” David said. With that he leaped off the wagon to avoid Shaun’s shoddily swung fist. Waving over his shoulder, he walked off into the camp.

    He took the long way around, but eventually made his way to the priest’s tent. The flap was held up with a pair of thin sticks, inviting anybody inside should they need healing or just somebody to talk to. However, Berling himself was nowhere in sight. This suited David’s mission very well. The tent had only basic furniture in the form of a simple foldable bed with a pillow and a wrapped up blanket on, and a foldable table.

    The scout Liam Rivers stood by the last piece of furniture, just pouring the contents of a wooden mortar into the wide gap of a glass vial and smiling to himself as he worked.

    With quick, precise movements he poured water into the vial, shook it, and then set it in a spindly tripod above a small, lit candle. While the mixture began to heat up he put a bundle of herbs onto a cutting board and began to hack it up.

    David recognized both the ingredients and the process, and he also saw that the scout had more skills than that of entertaining children by juggling.

    “Morning, Liam,” David said.

    The younger man looked up and smiled wider.

    “Morning, Mr. Adams,” he said. “Were you looking for Father Berling?”

    “Actually I’m looking for Renfair. I was hoping Father Berling had seen him.”

    Liam shrugged with an apologetic smile and waved towards the camp behind David’s back.

    “I haven’t seen Mr. Renfair, but the Father should be back in a little while. He just went to get himself some breakfast.”

    “Well, suppose I’ll just wait for a little while then.” He paused for a moment, then said, “Are you making healing potions?”

    “You can tell?” Liam’s face lit up at having his work recognized.

    “My sister is very fond of the smell of bruiseweed,” David lied. “I’d recognize that anywhere.”

    “I see. Well, the Father asked me to help him the other day, and I don’t have to go out scouting until after lunch.”

    “You look happy when you’re doing it,” David commented. He smiled a bit. It was a craft he enjoyed as well, and seeing a young person interested in it was nice. Of course, the potions David usually mixed were of a wholly different kind than the healing draughts Liam was preparing.

    Liam chuckled, looking a little embarrassed.

    “I’m glad Father Berling lets me help him,” he admitted. “It’s fascinating how everything comes together.”

    “You didn’t start learning it on this trip though, did you?” David asked, then continued when Liam’s eyebrows rose up in surprise, “Well, you move too quickly to be a beginner.”

    “Yeah, my parents taught me some.” Liam put the knife and herbs aside to turn completely towards David as they spoke, leaning against the table. “Father and my uncle ran a shop together, with goods from places like Ironforge. I can speak Dwarven pretty well, and some Thalassian.” He added the last with no little pride. “Anyway, potions sell better than most raw herbs, so…”

    David nodded as he listened. As a professional he took in every little detail Liam so freely offered and added them to his memory. Coaxing people into talking about themselves was always an easy task when they were relaxed. It was just a habit though, of course. He didn’t mean Liam any harm, nor did he see how the young man could pose any.

    At least, he didn’t see any right now. Being a rogue, he always had to be worried, like he and Shaun had concluded. Or rather, they all had to nurse a borderline unhealthy sense of paranoia.

    “Did you join the caravan because you didn’t want to work in the shop?” he asked.

    Liam shook his head, his smile fading a bit.

    “No, well,” he said, shrugging. “My father got sick and died a few years ago.”

    “Oh, I’m sorry.”

    “You couldn’t know.” Liam waved his hand as if chasing away the subject. “My uncle was the older brother, so he had the rights to the shop. He let us stay, but I felt it would be better if I tried to get out of the way. Mother could keep working, but it was crowded with me there too.”

    “You know Renfair, I presume?” David said.

    “Uncle does. I guess I could join the army instead, but if I hire myself out as a scout I get to travel more and earn money at the same time.”

    David nodded agreement. His thoughts from when he had spoken with Shaun returned, and he couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of the younger man’s carefree attitude. Even so, he had seen the flash of a grim expression before, when Liam talked to the children about his role in the caravan.

    “What does your mother think of it, though? I know I’d be worried if I had a son who did what you’re doing,” he commented.

    “She said she really wishes I had an affinity for magic,” Liam said with a soft laugh. “She’d prefer if I was a healer or a mage, you know, staying at a distance from the danger.”

    “Suppose every mother is like that,” David said, smiling a bit.

    Liam gave a short, soft laugh.

    “Yeah. Doesn’t matter though.” He smiled, shrugging. “I don’t have an arcane bone in my body.”

    “Me neither.” David shrugged as well and turned to leave. “Sorry, I can’t wait any longer. I really have to find Renfair.”

    He started to walk off as Liam bid him farewell, but stopped at the tent flap and looked around with a serious expression.

    “By the way, I heard one of the other scouts said he saw somebody sneaking around in a distance,” he said.

    Liam, who had been turning to the table, froze up and looked sharply at the rogue in disguise.

    “Really? I hadn’t heard that,” he said.

    “He wasn’t sure,” David said, frowning, “but be careful out there.”

    “I will. Thanks.”

    Nodding, David left the tent and immediately found Father Berling standing outside.

    “Oh, Father,” David said, smiling. He continued, keeping up the pretense he had gone to see Liam with. “I was wondering if you had seen Renfair somewhere.”

    “He’s by the fires,” the priest said, his tone calm but strict.

    “Thank you, I’ll go there, then.”

    He was about to nod politely to the priest and move on without saying anything, when the older man spoke again.

    “Actually, I was wondering if I could have a word with you, Mr. Adams.” With that, the priest waved at him to follow and started to walk away.

    Berling’s grim expression hinted at what he wanted to say, but David kept his face passive and obeyed the silent order.

    At a silent corner of the camp, Berling turned around and folded his arms. David threw a final glance around to make sure nobody was nearby. If he had felt uncertain, he would have stopped Berling from speaking.

    “I know that you are here to help protect us,” the priest said in a low voice, which David very much appreciated, “but I hope that you’re not here to find recruits too.”

    Ah. That had been one of the top guesses.

    David shook his head.

    “We’re following Renfair’s orders to be social with the scouts,” he said. “If there’s anything they are worried about, we need to hear it quickly and they need to trust us so we can help them if they need it.”

    Berling eyed the man before him, scowling and without relaxing his arms.

    “I don’t see why you can’t hear it from Renfair, they all report to him,” he said.

    “Neither I nor my companions are giving orders around here. We’re here to help protect the people in this caravan.”

    “So you say.”

    David quirked an eyebrow.

    “Oh, you think we’re from the Syndicate?” he said, calmly.

    “I didn’t say that.” Berling spoke too quickly, though.

    “We would be in a nice position right now if we were, true. But we’re not.” He could have commented on the obvious, that if he was a Syndicate agent he would have killed Berling now. Saying that would not help his case much, though, even if it was true and a good indication to his honesty. Most probably it would just frighten the priest.

    The priest pursed his mouth and kept watching David, searching his face. There was nothing to be found, the rogue knew that. He had complete faith in his own ability to keep his emotions and thoughts away from his features. Shaun might have joked with him about it earlier, but it was the result of training and self discipline.

    “I can appreciate the fact that you maintain a healthy sense of doubt, Father,” David said. “I’m afraid all I can do to convince you is to assure you that we’re here to help.”

    A short silence fell between them, until Berling sighed and let his shoulders fall.

    “Light help you if you lie,” he muttered.

    “I’m not,” David said. “Now if you’ll excuse me…”

    With that, he turned and walked away without looking back. He knew the priest still doubted him, but that could not be helped.

    But if he was honest, while he had not left Berling with a lie, he had left Liam with one – nobody had reported seeing anything suspicious. However, the fact that the trip had been peaceful so far was no guarantee that it would remain so – and spreading those rumors was just a little something David and the others did to make sure the scouts and guards weren’t lulled into a sense of security. The rogues shouldn’t be the only ones who worried.

    As it turned out it didn’t help much, since they were caught by surprise the next day.


    And neeext I get to write a fight scene. Huzzah. My favorite.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  7. #7
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    Very well done! I took my time reading this, but my only remark is that the confrontation with Berling feels like stunting the pace of the story that far. Basically, the priest doesn't give the impression of handling things well. Ireserve my judgment on the last sentence till I read the first one of the next part l)
    even a slight addiction can cause a lot of trouble during missions where one need to be still
    When you say Huzzah, I always picture you as a white square robot from Cave Story.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  8. #8
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Most excellent to know! I'll have to look into Berling's conversation some though, then, because I need to have some stuff about him not quite trusting the rogues. While not being completely unsympathetic. On the other hand, he is out of his element.

    In a reader poll, the 100% consesus based on one vote is that I should instead focus on troll romance rather than this one XD We'll see if I can heed that or just tunnel on with this.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  9. #9
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    You are being trolled then?
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  10. #10
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    *badumpishh!*

    Well, it beats being harassed by bots.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  11. #11
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Rig, clear out your inbox darnit!

    ... that said, I've been overworked (again!) for a while and spent my off-time playing Rift. I still want to get back to this, though. :)
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  12. #12
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    It's always the same: I think I have space and then I have forgotten sent messages that fill my capacity argh. Inbox cleared and ready for submissions. Also, MMORPGs are evil.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

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