The Theramore Gambit
- Heavy RP
- Type of RP: Mix of highway robbery, politics, and PvP
- Level Requirment: None
- Class requirment: None
- How to get in on the RP ICly: News of the events in Theramore can be considered common knowledge both in Theramore and other major Alliance ports. Similarly, there could very well be awareness of these attacks in the Horde settlements in the area.
On the roads and waterways leading to and from the city of Theramore, perched on a razor's edge between the great sea and the sometimes dangerous denizens of Kalimdor, there has been trouble brewing. Merchants passing through the city or making their home have found the roads a dangerous place, made so by a band of Horde bandits that use the murk of the swamp to their advantage.
The attacks have become more common. Jaina Proudmoore has promised to help but some think she's not acting quickly or forcefully enough. The beast that is the monarchy of the Alliance has stirred, and there are rumors that they make take their own action. As for the bandits, some wonder if perhaps these bandits are, in fact, a secret attempt by Thrall to 'renegotiate' the terms of his settlement with Proudmoore. All this going on, as the tearing of the Dark Portal calls away heroes and troops ...
'Freshness Date': Storyline initiated in December 2006
We'd like to encourage folks to participate in this storyline! We are very open to how this progresses. As Remia stated quite nicely on the ER forums, "This is not an attempt to ICly usurp the roleplaying authority of any who already act in the legal system in Stormwind or elsewhere. This is filling what we see as a gap in any law enforcement body to handle issues and crisis. We have attorneys and judges but no one to deal with situations on the streets or highways."
So, there is clearly an appointment in the works. While several of us are hoping that the appointment succeeds, we want to emphasize that we will purposely leave the authority of this position somewhat grey, so that folks can either RP around it (e.g., 'Stormwind may recognize him, but I won't') or, even better, use it as a basis for even more RP in game.
And, Stewards of Highways and Byways is a completely invented historical position but hopefully one that is viewed as plausible. The intent is essentially an Alliance version of a highway patrol, or the Texas Rangers. The Stormwind position would have no clear authority over Theramore but would likely be accorded some at least grudging respect, at least at first. This should allow Theramore folks who favor Jaina plenty of room to respond, we hope!
If you have concerns or ideas, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at tai AT greytigertong DOT net. Or go ahead and post here!
News from Here and ThereEdit
The Aftermath of a Highway RobberyEdit
Guard Sittinputz stood his post on the bridge just outside of Theramore watching frogs hop. His stance wasn’t even remotely rigid or proper as his eyes followed the frolicking frogs with envy. A belly belch rose from deep down in his stomach. He tried to swallow it, but it escaped despite his best efforts, blending right in with the sounds of the swamp frogs.
The rancid aftertaste of Crokolisk Gumbo lingered with the faint remnants of stout, causing a hideous heartburn. The job was downright boring – that was his beef. In fact, he was so sick and tired of it that he did not even notice the woman on horseback careening dangerously towards him.
For a moment, Sittinputz was illuminated by the Light and he thought he was becoming undead. A woman so bright he had to squint, nothing short of a blonde bombshell, dressed in scanty leathers and looking very much like his best fantasies of The Perfect Woman, appeared in his light. She expertly halted her horse mere inches from his face and plopped down gracefully with a purpose. Stepping forward, she poked him in the chest because his eyes were bulging with disbelief, shock and downright lust.
“YOU! Wake up!” Her perfect voice pierced through his cloudy dismay. He jumped to attention and saluted her, words failing, because he did not know what else to do.
“I NEED you!” the blonde bombshell said to him. Well, he just about wet his armor right then and there. What man ever gets to live his fantasy, after all? No one he knew, that’s for sure. His face ruddy, Sittinputz stammered, “Uh, sure, yep. Here??”
The Perfect Woman sighed and remounted her horse. “Follow me, quickly, there’s some trouble out here.” Once she delivered this to him, he realized she meant guard work. Another belch came out, undisguised this time. It made the woman’s eyes roll with impatience.
Sittinputz did not want to get up and go running while this woman rode, so he moved his rump slowly and deliberately. The Bombshell clearly meant work and not play. “What’s got your armor all bunched up anyway?” he asked her with clear mocking skepticism.
“We were attacked, now are you coming or not! Time is wasting and the roads here are no longer safe!” Her command was falling on deaf ears as he smiled at her disrespectfully.
Sittinputz didn’t care about that one bit. His one concern was protecting Jaina and the quiet city of Theramore, which was a piece of cake. Anything beyond that meant fruitless effort and misaligned loyalty, human or not.
He went, but took his sweet time about it, which made the woman bright red in fury. They arrived at the scene of the ambush and he took a sweeping glance and then shrugged. “So whaddya want me to do about it, Lady?”
“Don’t you even care that the caravans bring supplies to your city?” she spat at him.
He shrugged nonchalantly and muttered, “Filthy merchants - just another bunch of lowlife worms if you ask me.”
“Excuse me!?” Kennia said with flashing eyes.
“Nuthing.” He took out a notebook and wrote a few token sentences, making sure she couldn’t see. “I’ll turn in a report.”
Kennia could smell the stale and spicy gaseous ale mix coming from this man’s relieving belch. “You do that,” she said, and rode off in disgust to vent to the rest of the Tigers. Something clearly needed to change in Theramore, and Kennia was going to make sure that happened.
As she rode into the sunset, Sittinputz smiled and crumpled up the report and threw it into the swamp for the Croks to digest, hoping it would cause them indigestion. It was the least he could do to return the favor.
Von Surveys the DamageEdit
(By Vonnacht and known only by those involved please)
Von grimaced as he surveyed his fellow Tong members. The staged attack certainly looked genuine, that was for sure. He'd managed to escape with bruises, as had several comerades, but one Tiger had ended up losing a lung and was out of action for some time. He'd have to pay the Horde members a visit and make sure they spoke to the wounded, and apologised. He lit a cigarette and plotted the future. The increased Alliance presence in Theramore would, on the surface, cause problems, but if the people running the town owed their position and survival to the Tong, it would be no bad thing.
He stepped out into the cool Menethil Morning, intent on sharing a joke with his fellow associates, and planning the next stage. 'A little bruising's worth it, even one-lunged Del will understand his sacrifice when the money starts pouring in...'
Lodging Complaint in StormwindEdit
Arragon T. Weasell (the Third) scribbled in an answer in the amusing word game he’d been working on at his desk all morning, his coffee cup almost empty. Since he’d become Trade Minister for the monarchy, he’d managed to get quite good at these little puzzles; the trick was to not focus on any particular ... He frowned as he heard raised voices in the front room, voices getting louder. He glanced at the clock and pursed his lips. Too early to make an exit for lunch down along the canals …
In the midst of contemplating how to avoid any hard work, Weasell was as quite surprised when the door to this office flung open with a bang, and in barged a well-dressed, dark-skinned bald man, followed by his meekly protesting secretary. It was the merchant, Jiang, and he didn’t look happy.
Jiang glowered at Weasell, stopping right in front of the bureaucrat’s large desk and holding up a red cloak. The secretary, realizing he wasn’t accomplishing much, looked helplessly to Weasell. Jiang thundered, “This … this is what the Alliance allows to happen to honest merchants?!” With this, he wriggled a finger through a fairly large hole in the cloak (a hole that, as best as Weasell could determine from a life lived within the stone walls of Stormwind, had been made by a bullet).
Jiang balled up the cloak and flung it on the desk, partially covering the half finished and now forgotten game. Leaning forward, Jiang put one hand on the desk and pointed the other at Weasell, “That’s the third caravan in a fortnight! Do you know what those Horde bandits are costing us?! How the fel do you expect us to get supplies to the army camps if we can’t even get out of Dustwallow Marsh without being robbed?!” With this, Jiang banged his hand on the table, making Weasell’s coffee mug jump.
Jiang continued, clearly furious, “Just last night we were attacked again! My wife, Kennia, got some of the soldiers to come out and investigate, so I’m sure there’s a report filled out in triplicate somewhere on someone’s desk but …” Jiang banged his fist again, “ … I’m tired of reports and trying to get the Theramore guard to handle this. It is time that the Alliance take a firm hand there.” Jiang paused at this, sizing up Weasell. He then straightened, rubbing his chin and making a show of exhaling, “I’m wasting my breath here, aren’t I? Busy man like you …” Jiang let his gaze linger on the corner of the word puzzle as he picked up the cloak, before glancing up deliberately at Weasell, “Maybe I should take this up to the Keep …”
Weasell stood up, unconsciously wiping a bead of sweat from the side of his face, and scuttled around the desk. Putting his hands up and stepping in front of the dark man, he licked his lips nervously, “Now, now … no need to be hasty. I’m sure I can help in this matter. Now what is this about attacks outside Theramore?” Jiang raised an eyebrow, in apparent disbelief, “You’re telling me you haven’t heard? More than one company and more than one caravan has been robbed along that road. Surely …” The tone of disgust was clear in Jiang’s voice.
Weasell hurried to nod in agreement, though truth be told he had heard no such thing. Still, Jiang was known to be well-connected. Best to play this off. He replied, in his most assuring tone, “Of course I’ve heard of the attacks. I meant these attacks last night … it seems Mister Pyhole here …” With this, Weasell shot a dark look at the secretary, who now looked simultaneously as if he were trapped and as if he were about to be sick to his stomach. Weasell continued, “ … has neglected to gather all the reports and supply them to me. Regardless …” The minister turned to Jiang again, “Your point is well taken. Perhaps Theramore needs a change of leadership.” He raised his eyebrows in attempt to be conspiratorial with Jiang.
Jiang frowned and shook his head, “Change in leadership? Don’t be a fool man. Who would advocate that Proudmoore be relieved of duty?” Weasell felt his lungs collapse with the weight of concern that word might get out of what he’d just suggested. Jiang shook his head, “It’s not a matter of change. But it is a matter of … assistance.” Finally, Jiang smiled a little, “What that city needs is a Steward, someone who can focus on protecting the routes in and out of the city.” Jiang nodded, more to himself than Weasell, as he seemed to think out loud, “A military man, no doubt. Someone willing to exert force where needed. An experienced hand in battle and an officer …”
Jiang looked up, as if realizing Weasell was still standing there, “If I were Trade Minister, that’s what I’d be doing. Finding someone to be the protector of the highways and the port …” With this, Jiang glanced down at the cloak. He shook his head and tossed the wadded up cloak to the startled secretary, “Add that to the ‘report’, eh?” Jiang walked out, chuckling to himself, leaving Weasell and Pyhole exchanging confused looks.
It was Weasell who broke the silence, annoyed, “Get me a list of candidates. Can’t be any harm in what he suggests …” Weasell trailed off, not entirely sure, but he was eager to get back to his puzzle and it seemed the easiest course of action. The secretary made some sound as if to protest but Weasell waved his arm dismissively, moving back to his chair, "Shut it, Pyhole. Just do it."
Stormwind Looks West to TheramoreEdit
Duke Ghilmore tugged on his beard, contemplating the memo from that obsequious worm, Weasell. Complaints from Alliance citizens about the safety of the roads and waterways around Theramore … Something Weasell saw as a distraction from his daily routine of crosswords and hot cinnamon rolls, the duke saw as an opportunity. As counsel to the monarchy, he’d earned a reputation amongst the court as a man who saw and understood the webs of the politics of the world.
Ghilmore poured himself a bit more tea. Theramore, founded and led by Jaina Proudmoore. Some viewed the city as a hamlet of deserters, and some wondered if perhaps Proudmoore might some day make claim to the title of high leader of the Alliance.* Regardless, Theramore had proven to be a burr under the saddle of Stormwind, certainly not foe … but not exactly friend either. It had proven to be a delicate balance.
Picking up his cup and taking a sip of the dark tea, Ghilmore swallowed and smiled softly. The Stormwind court would never risk challenging Jaina Proudmoore’s authority, at least not directly. Weasell had exceeded Ghilmore’s expectations, suggesting a less direct route, the appointment of a Steward of Byways and Highways. Though none existed at the moment, there had been several Stewards back when the seven human kingdoms had come together under the banner of the Alliance of Lordaeron^. As Lothar had assembled his massive army, he had appointed Stewards to protect the merchant routes, knowing trade was the lifeblood of their nations. The Stewards had acted as police of the roads, ruling with an iron hand. Respected, even loved by some, the authority of the Stewards had ended at the gates to towns and cities. Another delicate balance.
Now, Ghilmore mused, what if the Stormwind court were to name a Steward to protect the trade routes to and from Theramore? It was no direct affront to Jaina and, in fact, appeared to be a gesture of kindness. On top of that, Alliance merchants had called for action, action from their government. Ghilmore took another sip of his tea, glancing down the list of names Weasell had suggested. He frowned at each, thoughts of another already on his mind … It was time to have a word with some of the other members of the court …
A Light Goes Out and a Columnist OpinesEdit
A newspaper clipping from the Theramore Herald. It is an editorial by a well known hothead:
LIGHTHOUSE DESTROYED BY ORC BANDITS - WHAT NEXT?
City officials have confirmed to this reporter that the lighthouse was not only damaged in last night's explosion, but virtually destroyed.
"We'll have to tear the whole [censored] thing down and rebuild it," Senior Officer Keegan was quoted as saying. "Everyone saw that big bang at the top, but there were also smaller explosions along the support walls on the inside. The whole structure is unsound now."
Perhaps even more alarming than the property damage was the vandalism. Scrawled along the base of the tower in red paint were the words "HUMANS GO HOME" as well as several smaller comments in Orcish, wihch are apparently disparaging remarks about Archmage Proudmoore's heritage.
The destruction of our lighthouse is only the most recent in a series of events that have unsettled the populace. Only yesterday a large merchant caravan limped back to town after having been ambushed in our own lands.
Messengers to Orgrimmar report that Thrall denies these attacks as being linked to his army, and Archmage Proudmore is calling for calm.
"It's just some hothead bandits," one Orcish merchant in Ratchet, who prefers to remain anonymous, said. "If Thrall wanted you gone, you'd all be dead. No offense."
It is this reporter's opinion that something needs to be done. Our merchants are being waylaid, and now our port has been effectively erased from the sea! There is a deliberate campaign of terror afoot, and our officials are merely sitting on their hands while the neighbouring horde laugh at us.
"No offense?" I AM offended, Mr. Orc! The Alliance has come to Theramore in peace, but if we are attacked thus, our assailants will leave in pieces!
I call for a stronger military presence in Theramore! All true patriots will join me in my call. Let the governor's windows rattle from our shouting - let them see us marching in the streets!
If the officials do not do something soon, then rest assured, the people will.
- Rushleigh Embough
Theramore Intelligence InvestigatesEdit
Dominik struggled a bit and, with some effort and a bit of pain, managed to sit up in bed. It hadn’t even been a week since he got rescued and already the paperwork began to pile up. He sighed. To make things worse, he was bed-ridden indefinitely. He was stuck at this inn room, unable to go anywhere on his own, and the cabin fever was driving him batty. So much of this might have been better taken care of if he could actively direct things. But, he supposed, better to be in this cozy inn than the place he’d been the past three months. That was a hell he’d just as soon never return to.
“That’s the report on the lighthouse attack, Mr. Daleus,” the young militiaman said, “Our commanders figured you’d need to know.”
The blond rogue took the papers in his good hand and reviewed them with minimal struggle. Goblin bombs, Horde sightings along merchant trails, lighthouse had to be reinforced. It was a perfect mess, and with perfect timing. He sighed again. He had no desire to be involved with this right now. Not until he could move again.
If he could move again.
He shook his head. Both Frelle and the old gypsy woman were doing a remarkable job. He was sure he’d be able to get out of bed again sometime…It just might be a while.
“Nobody saw the attackers?” he asked.
“No, sir,” the militiaman responded, “No reports of sightings at all.”
Dominik sighed once more. “Blasted fel, I wish I could leave this damn room,” he muttered.
“Sir?” the militiaman questioned.
“Nothing at all,” the rogue replied, “See if there’re a couple trackers who can investigate. I realize it’s nearly impossible to track across the water, but maybe we can get some idea of the boat used. Anything at all. And see if I have any staff I can dispatch into the swamp to investigate there, too. We could stand to find out where these attackers came from. That should be all for now. Oh, and please tell Janene I’m getting hungry and I’d very much appreciate lunch.”
The militiaman nodded and hurried out.
After the young man left, Dominik slid back down into a prone position and closed his eyes tightly. His injuries, combined with this, and the fires sparking about whether or not to make overtures to Stormwind for support were wearing him down. He still hadn’t gained back most of the weight he’d lost over the last three months, and the stress of having to do work was not helping his recovery along in the slightest. Unfortunately, there was no one else he could have do it. With Alopex’s situation such as it was, he had to give the man some time to find peace and tie up the loose ends.
Another sigh. Then he dozed off, fading in and out of a fitful sleep until Janene arrived with lunch.
The Blydes ReactEdit
Calithos Calls for ActionEdit
A colorful banner is posted around Stormwind and Theramore the background being dove grey with the ink a deep rich garnet color:
Citizens! For far too long, the streets of our fair cities have been overrun by bandits, ruffians, brigands, and all around general scum of both the mundane and arcane! With no group in sight to aid the lawful from the lawless, something MUST be done! My father before me served the crown to defend the people, and his father before him, and his father before him, and I am prepared to do the same! I ask those with talents that seek to do the realm of Azeroth the greater good for the Alliance! Let us take back our homes, streets, and cities from the scum, and make routes safe for people to walk on, merchants to sell their wares, and for druids to revere their beloved nature! Those that are interested in aiding, shall have the Crown itself as their backing. We shall stand tall!
Sir Calithos Alec Blyde
A Prophet RepliesEdit
A poster lies tacked below the banner, stamped with a red, eight pointed star.
You provide peace, when oblivion for this world is assured?
You provide solace, when soon the Legion shall rend reality to tatters?
You provide an illusion, nothing more, nothing less.
Why believe in such a lie, such a transitory falsehood?
Why believe that one man's actions shall stop a problem bred by the corrupt Nobles, the poverty of Westfall, and the unrest following the disappearance of a king?
Crime, villiany, and such will not be solved merely by throwing more in the dungeons. The Defias have made that painfully clear.
No...there is another way.
There is the Path of Fire, good people of Stormwind. You can live with the illusion that you are safe, or you may simply embrace the truth, and do something about it. Your threat comes not from this world, but from the pure sea of the Twisting Nether. Lay down your arms, and accept that your world is ending. Lay down your arms, and accept that a new world is beginning. Take up the Epistles, and know that you may slough off your mortal forms to join the Pure, and be free of pain and suffering.
I offer you freedom from the fragile and heartbreakingly short life you have now. I offer you the possibility to Ascend to a greater status.
I offer you hope.
-The Red Prophet.
Remia Sees the PosterEdit
Remia paused as she read the propaganda which had been posted beneath her husband's recruitment poster. Whoever this "prophet" was she had to admire his gift for adroitly handling a persuasive argument and for weaving some rather beautiful prose. Perhaps this individual was pure in his faith, she thought, or still more likely he was someone adept in the art of practicing psychological operations to further weaken the resolve of the citizens of the Alliance and leave them wide open for the Legion's ultimate invasion.
The mage frowned as she pondered this, her dark brows drawn together. She had never bought into the argument that the Horde was their greatest threat. In fact she viewed them as being in very much a similar situation to the Alliance in terms of the threat posed by the Scourge and the Legion. Hardlly an original idea, as Jaina Proudmore had apparently been of that mindset as well. Remia believed that there were those on both sides of the conflict under the sway of the Legion and the Scourge who furthered their own ends by causing internal strife as well as fanning the flames of war. After all, if these things continued both sides would become spent, weakened, and ripe for the plucking.
Remia did not believe her husband could offer them some ulitmate safety. But she did believe that in stabilizing some of the internal chaos in one of the Alliance's largest cities and protecting the flow of goods and supplies, that they would be in a much stronger postion to deal with the rising storm. However, lovely the words of this zealot might be; she doubted sincerely how appealling the offer of an eternal life damned to rotting flesh would be for the common folk. Sadly enough, those strange lusts occured with enough frequency in the so called noble classes who might well exchange their mortal state for increased power. Remia's lips curled in an amused smile as she read the line about throwing more villains and criminals in the stockades would not bring peace. Apparently, this Red prophet knew nothing about Calithos. Many of the bandits, brigands and villains would never see a prison..they would be caught in the act of their predations and most likely shot dead on the spot. Her husband was a direct man like his warlord father..unlike some in the current political hierarchy in Stormwind he would not protect or coddle criminals for favors.
Calithos Leaves His Own ReplyEdit
Calithos looked at it...and pinned a note just under it. He walked off.
"Prophet. Doomsayers have been around since the time of my grandfather, Alegar Finneus Blyde. He killed trolls and was damned proud of it. And single men have been known to make differences on this realm in many a war. The work to remove all the scum elves that defied both the Alliance tenents, proved themselves traitors, and fled through that dark portal on the corner of the Blasted lands. You speak like a psychotic fool I knew once, and said we'd all burn two years ago, yet we stand here still.
While I would be glad to find you and bring the doom you scream about to you with my left fist, I must seek someone else out for something far more important. If you ever do wish to seek me out, however, please be sure to reveal your writing hand, so as I may rip it off and shove it down your wind pipe. It would be most appreciative.
Calithos Alec Blyde.
P.s. These lands are my home, and I will be damned to let them fall to corrupted idiots."
The ink seemed barely dry, still dripping slightly like droplets of blood from the scroll, the wind aiding it's drying.
Lady Blyde Considers a Course of ActionEdit
The mage crept out of bed early, quietly disengaging herself from her husband's grasp. He slept fitfully and she was surprised that he did not wake. She supposed that exhaustion had finally overtaken him after several days of anguish and rage overtaking his physical vitality. Alkan's murder at the hands the Winvale's toadies ate at her mind for she respected the complex and fascinating shaman greatly. It was a battle to keep calm and keep her plans in motion. But in order for her Calithos's career to progress and for him to gain the backing of the nobles, in his bid to restore some order to Stormwind, she had to continue forward without becoming mired in her own personal grief or rage.
Remia had decided that she would need to gather some intelligence in Theramore in order for Cal's brigade to be in a position that would allow then to gain the upper hand with the bandits that had predated Mister Jiang's trade caravans. Addressing these issues was not simply an act to legitimize the strike force Calithos sought to put together, it was something Remia felt that needed to be done for multiple reasons, some personal , some political and some ethical. The mage had developed a personal fondness for the Jiangs and their commrades. It angered her to see their business being impacted and members of their band being wounded with increasinging frequency while the guards of Theramore did nothing to protect them.
Furthermore, interuption of trade could well have negative consequences in terms of having the supplies needed for the defense of the Alliance most particularly against the Legion. The mage had been at the Dark Portal the day that the call had gone up from the Argent Dawn for reinforcements as the minions of the Eredor had teamed through the portal in a seemingly unending sea. Remia knew it was essential to keep trade open and to stabilize the chaos in Stormwind if they had any hope of standing against the Legion.
Remia quickly dressed in a somber but elegant outfit as she stuffed her packs with the supplies she would need for her trip to Theramore. People respected wealth and she would use that to her advantage as she gathered intelligence in the port city. Remia gathered her pack up and headed to Southshore to book a passage to Theramore long before even the cook was up to prepare breakfast. Upon reaching the port she set to work questioning some of the guards about the attacks as she shared some of the food and spirits she had packed in her hamper to set them at ease. She found that plying the guards with treats and drinks did much to relax them without being an outright bribe. She had learned through her questioning that there had been a recent attack out in the swamps and she had read about the destruction of the lighthouse. The mage could not help but think that these attacks seemed more designed to break the peace in addition to gaining a profit. The next step would be to scout out the roads outside the city to detemine the preferred ambush spots and routes the bandits had taken. For that she would need additional assistance.
(By Tai Jiang)
At one of the Winter's Veil's invitation-only celebration dinners
Tai, personally, couldn't stand these things. It wasn't the excellent wines or the fine food that bothered him. Truth be told, it was the company. Tai had had to climb the ladder from the bottom rungs himself, and had to work to hide his dislike for these 'nobles' born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths. Still, he had found it to his own advantage to play along and made an effort to mingle at these parties.
Kennia, despite her own humble upbringings, was much more comfortable at these. If the Silvercranes were a noble family, somehow that had survived in Kennia's own blood. She dressed well, knew the proper manners and titles, and navigated the room confidently. Where Tai might have steered a course onto the rocks, Kennia kept them afloat.
At the moment, as Tai sipped his glass of wine (a dark, beefy red) for a short respite from the conversation, he watched as Kennia stood close to Thaydon, a pompous ass but a good friend of Duke Ghilmore's. She smiled and laughed gaily at something Thandol said, likely one of his puns. The man fancied himself quite clever and enjoyed nothing more than seeming to demonstrate that with this supposed mastery of the language. Nevertheless Kennia smiled, her eyes on Thandol's, the picture of rapt attention and admiration. When Thaydon had finished, Kennia leaned in, her satin chocolate-colored gown brushing the old man's arm, and she whispered something to him, as she nodded in Tai's direction.
Tai smiled inwardly first, admiring Kennia's technique, before holding up his glass and nodding a silent greeting across the room. Thaydon hesitated but Kennia slipped her arm through his and guided him across the room. Thaydon smiled, enjoying the contact and the envious eyes of some of the other guests as Kennia showered him with attention.
As she came up, she smiled at Tai and said, "Tai, you remember Baron Thaydon Bumpinlhog ... from last year's party." She offered the last bit as a gentle reminder. Tai nodded and smiled, "Of course, Baron. A merry Winter's Veil to you and yours." Thaydon smiled, and nodded back, "And to you."
Kennia made a pout now, "Well, our holiday would be merrier if only something were done about those attacks outside Theramore. We've struggled this last month or two because of them." Thaydon nodded sympathetically, apparently aware of the attacks on the roads. Kennia deepened her frown, and continued, "You know, Baron dear, I've heard that there is talk of Stormwind assigning someone to the roads ..." She trailed off, sipping her own glass of white wine, letting Thaydon demonstrate his knowledge.
The older man puffed up, "Why, in fact, the Duke and I were just talking about that the other day ... bad business, quite ... Can't have it. I'm inclined to ..." Thaydon stopped, as Kennia had placed her hand on his arm, as if listening closely. Tai grinned. She wasn't about to let Thaydon suggest what he was inclined to do. She smiled sweetly, and folded her arm around Thaydon's, pulling him close, as if the three were sharing a secret; "Actually, Baron, I think I know someone who would be perfect for the job." The older man raised his furry grey eyebrows as Kennia continued, "I think Duke Ghilmore might be very impressed with you if you were to suggest ..."
With this, her voice dropped lower as the three conversed. Thaydon nodded as Kennia continued ...
Back to WorkEdit
(By Tai Jiang)
Tai rubbed his eyes, tired but still at the desk. He leaned back, putting his boots up, taking out a cigar, and looked across to Kennia. If she was tired, she wasn't looking it. She was leaned forward, checking the ledger entries for the various caravans she'd been concerned about. The two of them had thrown themselves into work, not wanting to speak or think about Nightshade - and the continued absense of Talula. It wasn't that they didn't care; it was simply that everything that could be done was already being done. There was something to be said for focusing on something else.
That something else was business. In the past month or so, they'd all been caught up in dealing with the threat to their family. That meant that business had taken a back seat. There was the matter of trying to 'acquire' a senator or two for Rocketfellers, and there was still this unsettled question of trying to finagle the awarding of the title, Steward of Highways and Byways for the lands around Theramore. They'd been lucky in the latter case. Calithos Blyde and his lovely wife Remia had been busy in Outland. Kennia had picked up on this and politey chided the Blydes for letting the matter fall by the wayside.
The bad news was that Calithos was now focused on Outland. An interesting twist - one that Tai intended to milk for extra gold out of Blyde for the extra effort. "First things first, Sir Blyde", he'd said to him. "Playing the Stormwind nobility is like playing a chess match - let's first capture the knight before we make a move on the bishop, hmm?"
The logic had seemed to convince the Blydes - though Tai reminded himself to proceed with caution. Neither Calithos, nor Remia, should be underestimated. Still, they'd put all the pieces in place around Theramore; now it was time to pull the trigger.
Kennia was tapping the ledger with her index finger, "Here it is Tai - we've got regularly scheduled shipments of Kharanos Brewery wheat beers headed to Gagetzan. We find a caravan that Calithos can 'secretly' accompany - and let Krelle and her folks take care of the rest." She looked up at Tai and smiled her smile that she flashed when she wanted something, "I think it's best if I go along ..." Before Tai could protest, dropping his boots to the floor, Kennia put up a hand, "We can't afford any messy loose ends. One of us has to be there - and my being there wouldn't raise any eyebrows." She now arched one of her own eyebrows at Tai, knowing full well she had him with her logic. Tai finally sighed and nodded, agreeing, "Ok, I'll contact the Blydes. You get in touch with Krelle and have her line up her hired swords."
Remia clung to the neck of the ebon feathered griffin as it wheeled in the cold violet and tangerine skies. She spotted a softly glowing patch of felweed and whispered softly to the bird and shifted her body weight urging her mount to descend. Bloodstone responded with a deep caw his muscles bunching beneath her as he gently landed on the nearly barren soil. The archmage slid off the griffin and none too gracefully as she was so heavy with child these days she felt as heavy as rock. She sat in the loose russet colored gravel and set about picking felweed seperating the blossoms and leaves then carefully packing the parts in clean, muslin bags.
The plant was as invasive a species as any she had ever seen, growing in the most inhospitable locations, yet its magical properties were such as to make it the base ingredient in all the newer elixirs she had learned to decant since arriving here. She inhaled deeply as she paused to gaze at the empty expanses of Hellfire Pennisula around and above her. Many of the alliance troops sent here complained bitterly about the foulness of the place and how they longed to return to the comfort of Azeroth. But Remia found a stark beauty to this place despite the violent origins of landscape of this area bordering on the edge of the Outlands.
The dark haired woman continued to collect herbs her dark brows drawn together in concentration, part of her aware of the cool, leathery, leaves and the other part of her listening and expecting attack. Her life here was a visceral thing. Moments of peace and solitude strung together with violent battles against minions of the legion and Illidan's allies who clearly had their own agenda in the Outlands. Remia's focus was broken as she felt the ground rumble and quake beneath her. She heard the souless groaning and angry sounding roar before she looked up. She knew what she would see and the fear coursed hotly in her veins and sent a shiver of revulsion yet excitement rushing in her. The fel reaver was making straight for her lifting its massive, highly polished, peridot colored legs; each limb fully the size of a turret in Stormwind Keep.
The giant golem swatted felboars and buzzards out of the way or merely crushed them as it marched on a mindless path. Its eyes glowed emptily most of the time..except when it found prey then it seem driven by some far off masters. Remia was nearly hypnotized with fear yet rabid fascination. She felt horrified but wanted to study the thing. In any case it would be on her in a few moments. As strong as she was she would need a few others to help her kill such a thing. She moved as quickly as she could muster calling to Bloodstone and hefting herself up. The griffon panted as it lifted and flapped it wings furiously as both rider and mount felt the hot rush of air as the metal creature roared and tried to swat them.
Remia saw a small nook in the cliff face ahead of her and urged her griffin on..shouting now over the furious sounding echoes at her back. Her mount managed to land and find purchase on the cliff face as he scuttled as deep in the nook as possible..both rider and mount panting. The reaver roared in what passed for frustration as it began to batter the cliff face. Remia began to chant slowly as she prepared her spells her hands glowing faintly as she called elemental fire fourth. As the rush of energy filled her frame she felt the shaking of the reaver's attack cease and the sounds of its retreating foot steps. The mage peered out cautiously seeing the a blaze of green as the automaton began chasing a small band of horde troops unfortunate enough to attract its attention. Whatever drove the souless thing on wished to extinguish all life regardless of philosophy or affiliation.
The mage slid to the ground clearly relieved sitting breathing heavily. As she sat quietly feeling intensely alive the pendant between her full breasts vibrated signaling an incoming communication.
"Good evening Lady Blyde I trust you are well." Remia inhaled sharply before she replied that she was, her hands shaking but schooling her voice to a practiced civility.
"Well met, Mister Jiang. I am quite well and yourself?". Tai Jiang's voice was immediately recognizable. It was cultured, resonant, and had the confident silkiness of a predatory cat.
Tai Jiang reminded her of their agreement and apparently the Jiangs had kept their end of the bargain even if her husband and herself had nearly forgotten such ambitions in the chaos of this place. Remia intended to pay them well for their time and would add several of the the gems that Calithos had obtained while mining ore to their payment. It would never do to leave a predator or his mate hungry. While Remia was quite fond of the Jiangs she was acutely aware of their philosophical differences.
The mage wanted to see her husband rise in the ranks of the military and be recognized for what she saw as his greatness, his destiny to be a warlord like his father. She had little patience for dealing with the pampered, yet viscious nobles of Stormwind to achieve her ends. The Jiangs adeptly played the nobles..stroked their egos and wove a web of deceit more adept than any Game of Houses that the nobility themselves engaged in.
Remia frowned as she told Tai Jiang she would accompany her husband in escorting one of the caravans around Theramore. This latest scheme might well gain the fickle attentions of the nobles but her heart was not quite in it. The forces that gathered in the ravaged and slowly crumbling lands of the Outlands despised all life.. saw life as chaos and an insult to order. The predations of bandits..the conflicts with the Horde seemed so trivial to her. As chaotic as she was she had an odd sense of honor. She would keep to the letter of the agreement with Tai Jiang and hope that in the end the gambit would allow her mate to advance in his career despite his lack of tact and diplomacy.
Remia reflected on the matter as she sat on the ledge overlooking the stark, orange plains. Calithos was an odd mix of law and chaos. He had an inordinate fondness for tradition and family yet a certain irreverence and lack of respect for self important windbags. The latter was something the two shared in common. Yet most who knew Calithos still recalled the hedonistic wildness of Cal's days as a single cleric during his residence in Stormwind. Few of them ever saw the passion the Shadow Priest had for defending his much loved ancestral lands and his commitment to the Alliance. Remia had often seen the intensity of her husbands devotion to the war against the Legion and his loyalty to her and their unborn son. Her mate hid much of his true nature beneath the veneer of humor and playfulness. She had seen far too many understimate his talent and his ability based on his past. Despite her distaste she felt that she had little choice but to continue to employ the skills of the webspinners. It would be well worth the coin she gave the Jiangs to see the man she loved to be finally allowed to carve a niche for himself.
Remia sighed deeply as she mounted Bloodstone..the violet skies deepened to the color of old blood as she urged her griffin back to Shattrah to the small apartment they kept in the Aldor bluffs. This place felt more like home to her than the Eastern Kingdoms ever had. The only thing that tied her to those lands and the bloodsport of politics was the love of Calithos whose heart would always be bound to those lands.
Litto sat in the graveyard whittling stray twigs off a long branch that was destined to become a passible fishing pole. He sat on a grave stone that was inscribed with the words "Here lies Less Moore. Fell off his ladder, hit his head on the floor. Healer didn't like him, I think he was sore. So now there's no Less... no Moore." Litto had thought to himself, when he parked his rear on the tombstone earlier, that if Less didn't have a sense of humor, the person who commissioned the tombstone certainly did.
He ran through the details of his current job in his mind, as he waited for the convoy to pass out of the city. His earlier tasks had been fairly easy, snoop around town and see if he could find out when the weekly caravan belonging to a Grain Merchant by the name of Seyers was making its transit of the Marsh. Seyers had made his way onto the Tong's black list by refusing to be resonable about protection payments. Tai was looking for a target caravan to advance his plans with, and it wouldn't hurt to make a point with Seyers as well.
It was interesting to Litto that while Seyers didnt see the wisdom of investing a bit of money in a guaranteed protection plan from the Tong, he was willing to shell out a good bit of money to pay for off duty guards to protect his caravan. As Tai saw it, Seyers was too dense to understand the wisdom of employing the Tong, so it was time for a wakeup call. Litto agreed. Guards are nortorius talkers, especially when drunk, so it was not very hard to get the details about when the caravan was leaving Theramore, the path it was following, how many guards were being employed, and the contents of the wagon.
Now all Litto was doing was ensuring he had gotten all the details right, and providing his Horde bretheren with the high sign that the caravan was on the move. He had been sitting on the gravestone whittling for almost an hour when the caravan pulled out of Theramore and crossed the bridge. The man in charge was Seyers' Nephew Stephen, a tall competent looking sort who was obviously a warrior. He rode at the front, followed by two mounted guards. There were two guards riding the front of the wagon itself, and two more mounted and following behind. "Hmmmm" Litto thought to himself "thats strange... my contact said Seyer's hired eight guards." Then he saw the bottom of the tarp covering the wagon lift slightly, and smiled to himself "two more inside."
As the caravan passed, Stephen stopped to look at Litto, signalling the other guards and the wagon to press on. "Going fishing?" he asked Litto. Litto looked up and smiled at him. "As a matter of fact I am. But not until I get this pole finished. Don't want any twigs snagging my line." Stephen looked at him then looked around the graveyard to see if anyone else was about. Then he looked back at Litto ... "Don't you know its sacreligious to sit on a man's grave like that." Litto looked down as if he just realized he was sitting on a grave." "By the light you are correct." Litto said, getting up. "I don't know what I was thinking."
Stephen looked up the road at the slowly departing convoy and turned back to Litto one last time. "Well don't sit on any more grave stones, its a bad omen." With that he spurred his horse and rode off rapidly to catch up with his men. Litto waved to him as he rode off, then sat back down on the gravestone. He touched something behind his ear, and seemed to be speaking to himself. "Roh'rik you there." After a short pause he continued. "One wagon, about three quarters full of grain. If my sources are to be believed you will find two bags of gems hidden in the bottom left most grain bag. Five mounted guards, three in front two behind. Two guards on the front of the wagon and two more hidden inside. The big fellow riding out front with the red cape is the leader, and he got a good long look at me, so make sure he doesn't survive. Good luck.... Litto out."
With that Litto went back to whittling his pole. It was important that he be seen fishing by at least a guard or two, so he walked to a spot that was easily seen from the city walls and made an obvious spectacle of himself as he spent the next two hours fishing. Afterwards, he stowed his fishing gear and went to the inn for a well deserved libation, secure in the knowledge that the Horde members of the family would be done with their part of the business by now.
A Caravan WaylaidEdit
Roh'rik tapped his comm, "I read you Litto. We'll take it from here. Roh'rik out." Roh'rik turned to Nar'gesh,and nodded, "Not long now." Nar'gesh grunted and tugged the bandit mask up over the lower half of his face and climbed on his massive wolf, "Make sure everyone's ready."
He's a brick wall. He's the kind of orc you cross once, Roh'rik mused to himself.
Derona, next to Nargesh, simply nodded and pulled up her mask. Roh'rik looked to his left to where Korttie was nestled high in a tree. He twirled his finger once and then pointed down the road. Korttie grinned and took an arrow from her quiver. Roh'rik turned to his right and gave the same signal to Kayce, crouching with good cover behind a boulder, his own bow at the ready.
Roh'rik grimaced, thinking, Hopefully we won't need him to heal, but better safe than sorry. LT said this was important. And then I had to go shoot my big mouth off about how we did missions like this in the war. Course, I was never wearing a mask.
Roh'rik pulled the mask up awkwardly, finally getting it in place. He now tapped his comm and whispered, "LT, they're on their way. Five are riding, two on the wagon, and two more hidden inside. Red cape is the officer." Roh'rik didn't bother adding he had to die. They had strict orders. They all died here.
He'd suggested putting the scouts up in the trees. The marsh canopy was thick, tangled and dark - a rogue's sanctuary. Krelle had set up shop in the trees with Reims, Benjamin, Sannia and Arbatel - Roh'rik didn't know the orc well but Krelle was confident in his ability. So now it was a waiting game.
Roh'rik deliberately slowed his breathing, preparing himself. They knew their enemy, they had high ground, and they should have the advantage of surprise. Roh'rik had never been an officer but had been in enough combat to know a bit about tactics. All you could do was improve your odds. Lady luck had a knack for showing up in combat. So be it.
Korttie whistled, mimicing the sound of the whipporwill. It was the signal. She had the caravan in sight. Just then, someone, presumably Krelle, gave the two finger tap signal over her comm. Safer than risking a whisper, she'd reasoned. Nar'gesh shoved his helm onto his head, and looked to Roh'rik.
Blood and thunder and all that crap. Let's do this, Roh'rik grunted to himself.
Roh'rik gave Korttie the signal, his hand slicing across his throat. Korttie grinned and drew back her bow, taking aim. After what seemed almost too long, she let it fly.
Stephen Seyers, according at least to Stephen Seyers, truly was meant for better things. If anyone asked about the caravan work, he'd explain, in a bit of a huff, that it was simply out of a sense of duty to his uncle. It was temporary work, until he could earn a spot on the Theramore guard.
He was handsome, capable, devout and eager for more. He was also dead as soon as he hit the ground, a troll's arrow buried in his throat, severing his spinal cord.
The surprised guards were too busy to mourn much, if they were so inclined, as a bellowing orc on the back of a wolf came charging down the road at them, followed by an orc and blood elf running at them with blades drawn.
Kayce crouched, wearing a mask like the rest of them. He was nervous. The bow in his hands was foreign to him. He knew he wouldn't be a very good shot, and might end up hitting one of his own allies. He put it down and rested his hand on the hilt of his sword instead. He didn't risk drawing it just yet, not wanting to make any sound.
Krelle had told him that these men were withholding money from the Tong. But was that money worth the lives of these unsuspecting caravaners? Kayce had serious reservations, but he agreed to go along, both to prove his mettle and in case anyone got hurt. He was going to hang back a bit, waiting and watching if anyone got ganged up on. He'd be the ace up their sleeve, just in case.
Reims stood perched on a tree limb hanging over the road. The bow he'd been given was dangling from the branch above, as was the quiver. Bows, hrmph, he thought, as he drew some of his lightweight throwing knives from his belt and went back to watching the road for the incoming caravan.
Being sat in a load of thorny underbrush for a time can get a man thinking... mostly about when it is that he can get out of said underbrush, but also occasionally about why he was in it to begin with.
He'd been shadowing them across the marsh for the past twenty minutes now, and he did not like what he saw at all. It was your standard torch-and-pitchfork brigade, sloppy, amateurish, but armed with enough pointy and burny things to ruin someone's night, particularly if they didn't see it coming.
The Tigers plan to drum up local fear had worked alright. Too well. And it would seem the locals jumped the shark reliably enough. He could try to figure out how to work this blasted "kom-linc" the Tigers had so graciously provided him, but where would that get him precisely? Tai didn't have enough hands on board to compensate for this development and he well knew it.
Could he stymie them on his own? Long enough for the others to do their jobs and get the fel off the highway before the angry throng reached them?
Could the "bandit" team spare one to save all?
Krelle peered down the road from her perch some thirty feet up in the tree. She could clearly see the small caravan coming towards them in the murky dawn light. Once Korttie has a sight on 'em... The guards surrounding the wagon peered through the trees - but didn't look up.
A whipporwill sang out to greet the rising sun.
Krelle grinned a wicked little grin as she slowly raised her hand, then double-tapped her com's mic. The rogues in the trees shifted positions as one, getting ready to leap down.
Korttie's arrow took the teamster through the throat. Krelle leapt, rolling as she hit the ground and came up next to the suddenly swerving main wagon. The teamster keeled over with a gurgle as his horses reared fearfully.
The guards' leader was shouting commands in Common, his sword already drawn, and charged up the hill with three of the guards to meet the incomming horde. Krelle mentally wrote those four off. Nargesh and his crew would make quick work of them. She heard a startled scream from the other side of the caravan and knew another guard had met with one of her team already.
A movement caught her eye atop the wagon - one of the guards was laying atop it, a crossbow in hand, peering up for the archer that had taken out the driver. The way he was staring into the trees told Krelle he had a target, that he was just waiting for the wagon to hold still.
The horses panicked at the smell of blood behind them and bolted in the only direction they could go - forward. Krelle leapt as the wagon rolled away, catching the back corner. She pulled hard, swinging her legs up as she twisted around to roll onto the top of the wagon. The guard spotted her and shouted in alarm, rolling onto his back. He jerked his crossbow around but she flung a sack of dust at him, hitting him square in the face.
He screamed as he was painfully blinded, reflexively firing the weapon in his hands. She dodged the bolt easily and drew her new dagger. It was longer than her others, and its edges were smooth instead of serrated. It was a killing dagger - no point in serrating the edges, when your mark wouldn't be alive to appreciate the added pain. She crawled up to the flailing human and methodically stabbed him in the chest, between the third and fourth rib. He spasmed silently, then went limp. Krelle slit his throat for good measure then gave him a shove, letting him roll off the wagon and onto the street.
She crawled to the front of the wagon and hopped down into the teamster's seat, grabbing at the reins with one hand, her dagger in the other. She pulled hard, leaning back against the seat. The horses balked and the cart swerved dangrously, but didn't tip over as she reined them in.
A metallic clink behind her tipped her off. Without wasting time on a look Krelle leapt from the driver's seat, rolling as she hit the ground and coming up on her feet. The two guards that had been hidden in the wagon shouted in chagrin and scrambled down after her.
Krelle grinned wickedly, drawing her short sword with her left hand, and waited.
Reims saw the guards advance on Krelle, drew two throwing knives, and leaped. He threw both at the first, one striking him in the neck, the other in his right eye.
The second guard heard the blades land, and his partner scream, and turned... Just in time for Reims to land, feet first, on his chest. Reims rolled away, and tossed two more knives at the prone guard, pinning his arms to the ground. He drew his dagger, leaped on top of the guard again, and stabbed him in the stomach. He kept hold of the dagger, working it upwards, tearing through the soft flesh, under the ribs, until he'd reached the man's lungs. Puncturing both of them, he rolled into the brush, arms coated in blood. He looked to Krelle with a wink as he licked some of it from his gloves and blade...
Krelle gave Reims an evil grin and looked around. Arbatel had appeared from somewhere and was calming the horses. Sannia and Ben were approaching from the other side of the wagon, joking about something. Ben had a grin on his face as Sannia gestured with a bloodied dagger. Krelle nodded at them. She didn't bother to ask if everyone was dead - her team knew its work.
She shot a look up the road where the four riders had crashed into Nargesh's team. There was a furious melee going on in the road - she worried briefly at how loud it was. All the more reason to get moving.
"Arbatel, Reims, run up there and help finish them off," she said. The two men were already sprinting up the road as she turned to the others. "Ben, loot all the corpses. San, unhook the horses from the cart."
Krelle got inside the cart and started rolling the heavy sacks of grain out the back - starting with the one that was supposed to have gems in it. She slit poen the bottom, pawing through the golden wheat until she found a small leather pouch with lumps inside. She grined and stowed it in a pocket, then went back to throw the rest of the grain out.
Ben came to help her, and they rapidly ruined a shipment of grain together. He gave her a boyish grin. "Thois is koinda fun!"
She snorted, and turned to look up the road.
And nothing left to do but put it all on the line, and hope someone was there to bail his carcass out of trouble afterwards. They numbered perhaps a few shy of a dozen, but none of them looked to be more than sprinters. If he could keep them from pinning him down he might have a chance at least at running like the dickens when things got ugly...
...or was there another way?
Cleetus Lyman wasn't a terribly clever man. In fact, he wasn't the sort of man you put in charge of much of anything. Burly, barrel-chested, hirsute and in desperate need of his annual bath, Cleetus had one thing going for him and one thing only: he was loud.
He was loud when the townsfolk tried to run that wheat merchant out of town on a rail. The man wasn't carrying any gear to catch snakes, let alone make oil of 'em. And who says you couldn't grow wheat in Dustwallow? There's water, there's ground, seeds grow in the ground and need water, right?
He was loud the morning after the Merchant had left his house after he'd offered the poor chap a place to stay for the night, since none of the other townsfolk would let him stay with them. He knew that bastard kid of Ged Rainey had broken in and stolen his coin cache that night and no one could convince him otherwise.
He was loud when the irrigation ditch to the town grist mill overflowed into his freshly-planted field of freshly-purchased Westfall grain he'd tilled to try to recoup his losses earlier in the season, despite everyone's assurance that in springtime, in a marsh, things tended to get somewhat wet.
And it was a quality that worked out well for him at town hall when the row was raised over the security of the local highway. Banditry was about and something had to be done about it! Only problem was, he wasn't sure that he should be the man to be leading the effort, since... well, he somehow got the inkling that he was in well over his head.
But if there was something Cleetus Lyman was second best at, it was trudging on through adversity, and so here he was, tracking out along a main drag, looking for some nefarious type of people who might be lurking about, ready to waylay some other hapless grain merchant in the marsh.
So when he saw this bloke standing in the road, just waiting for the troops to march over him, he was a little puzzled. For one, he didn't look exactly like a bloke. More like one of those lean boys that old Ben Oengus liked to hire for picking rice in the fields, and then bugger in the back shed. And he had some sort of fancy cloth or napkin wrapped about his noodle with gold thread decorating it.
He held up a hand and baid them stop, and so Cleetus did. He then said he was the duly-appointed Deputy of the Highways and Byways, and he needed to speak to the man in charge. Cleetus wasn't exactly sure he wanted to be the one spoken to, but he supposed it couldn't hurt any. He just disliked talking to those perfume-squiring, quill-pushing, silk-wearing buttercups that all claimed to report to some lord or other he'd never heard of anyway.
But he did stop, and he did speak with this nancy-boy...
Litto purchased his much deserved drink, and sat down in a corner, with his back to a wall. From here he could both see and hear what was going on in the pub. What was going on got him to worrying.
Two merchants were arguing over the value of something suggested by a fellow named Clytus. The words that caught Litto's attention were "mob" and "justice." This got Litto listening.
Merchant one was arguing that forming a mob and going out looking for raiders was plain stupid. They werent soldiers, he argued, and despite their large numbers, they would probably be masacred by the first dangerous thing they encountered. Merchant two was arguing that the only way justice was going to be served was if they did it themselves. Proudmore was obviously not doing anthing about the situation, they just couldnt sit around and watch their livelihoods be stollen by brigands.
Merchant one mentioned that he found it interesting that Merchant two felt that way, but had decided to stay in a warm safe pub, instead of joining the mob. Merchant two displayed his dislike of Merchant one's insinuations by breaking his mug over Merchant one's head. Litto used the ensuing ruckus as a distraction to slip into the loo and after confirming it was empty, tapped his comm line.
"Roh'rik, this is Litto.... Be advised there is a large mob out on the road somewhere looking for brigands. They dont sound organized or trained, but they seem to have good numbers." He hoped, as he returned to the pub to watch the merchants work out their differences, that his message had been in time.
Roh'rik felt the impact from the blow all the way down in his lower gut. He'd parried the rider's sword with his own, but it had still been bone-shaking.
Need to get him on the ground, the greyed orc thought to himself, with a grimace.
Nar'gesh had sliced the riders' numbers in half, his wolf snapping at heels. Nar'gesh could handle two, leaving Derona and Roh'rik one apiece. The blood elf was fast, agile, darting around her opponent's horse, dodging blows. The guard's horse was near frantic. As the horse reared, forcing the rider to focus on staying in the saddle, Derona stepped forward in a fluid motion and used both hands to slice sideways, her blade catching the man in the belly. His armor kept it from being a killing blow but it did knock him off his horse. The blood elf was on him in an instant, steel flashing. She was skilled, putting to use all the finesse and complicated swordplay you'd expect from a race of peoples who thought they'd live forever.
Roh'rik wasn't that fancy. He relied on his strength, speed and training. The years had their way of taking their annual due of muscle and agility, so Roh'rik had found he'd had to compensate with his experience. And, in his experience, it wasn't a good thing to be looking up at a mounted enemy. So, he went on the defensive, waiting for an opportunity.
That opportunity was Vespa, Korttie's snake. The horse couldn't be blamed for reacting to the huge snake, which when reared up stood as tall as a human - a human that happened to also be spitting venom. The guard dismounted, rolling off of one side as his horse reared up, hooves flashing at the snake.
This left Roh'rik facing the man, who came at him slashing with his long sword. Roh'rik backed up slowly, parrying the blows and slowing the man's momentum. Roh'rik seized the moment, bringing his own sword down in an arc, crashing against his opponent's blade. The man smiled at his success - not realizing the orc fully intended him to parry the sword and leave open his side. Roh'rik drove his dagger in and up in one movement, the blade slicing in between the man's lower ribs. Roh'rik pulled the dagger out and the man staggered back, his hand instinctively going to the wound. Two of Korttie's arrows, in quick succession, finished the man.
With a grateful nod to Korttie, Roh'rik looked around, assessing. Nar'gesh was standing over two dead men, one of them no longer in possession of his head. Derona came over, smiling, "Well fought Roh'rik." Roh'rik grunted but glanced behind her. The guard she'd fought was writhing in the dirt, trying to staunch the flow of blood. Derona looked back at him, disdainfully, and said, "He won't survive that wound."
Roh'rik nodded but walked past her to the dying man. This wasn't mercy. These were simply the rules of engagement. Kill them all. Those were the orders. Roh'rik knelt and, without hesitating, cut the man's throat.
Mission accomplished, he thought as he stood, wiping the dagger off on his pant leg.
Arbatel and Reims came up the road, surveying the scene. Nar'gesh was climbing back on his wolf, "I'll get the horses. See what they have on them." The two newcomers nodded and got to work.
Litto's voice buzzed in their ears, "Roh'rik, this is Litto.... Be advised there is a large mob out on the road somewhere looking for brigands. They dont sound organized or trained, but they seem to have good numbers." Roh'rik and the others paused, unsure for a moment, and then Krelle's voice followed that, "Mobs are made of citizens. Killing citizens might actually get Proudmoore to take action, and that's not our job tonight. Make yourselves scarce, and rendezvous by dawn at what's left of the Shady Inn."
As the others finished going through the pockets of the guards, Roh'rik climbed onto a knoll to keep watch on the road. He'd spent plenty of nights in swamps back in the wars; it had never been comfortable or particularly safe.
Never know what you're going to stumble onto, do you? And tonight add one angry mob looking for Horde highway robbers to the mix., Roh'rik mused.
Grimacing, the veteran orc tugged the mask off his face and stuffed it in his pack.
Just in case.
Krelle gave Ben a quick nod as he handed her a small sack. "Get moving," she said softly.
Benjamin and Sannia headed south from the road. Arbatel was taking the horses to Brackenwall - ogres love horsemeat - and the others were also dispersing into the misty swamp. She jerked her head at Reims and the two headed north.
The two forsaken stalked silently through the marshy islands, avoiding the large gatherings of crocolisks and the occasional raptor with ease. After they'd gone far enough from the carnage on the road they stopped to clean their weapons - and hands.
Reims nodded to the pouch at Krelle's belt, an inquisitive eyebrow up.
Krelle sheathed her shortsword, holding her new dagger in the other hand. "Eh? Oh it's what Ben and Derona got off the bodies," she said quietly, unhooking the bag and passing it over.
Reims pawed through it curiously. She heard the metallic jingle of coins. She carefully wiped the dried blood off of her dagger as Reims "hmmed." He fished around for a moment, then showed her his hand with a chuckle. His four fingers had two rings, each.
Krelle grinned, then peered closer. They were all gold bands. "They were all married?" she said, surprised. "Hunh. What are the odds."
Reims shrugged and let the gold slide off his emaciated hand back into the sack. He tied it shut and offered it to Krelle.
She stood, attaching the bag at her belt again. She grinned at her new dagger, giving it a toss in the air and catching it easily. "I'm going to call this the Widowmaker," she said in Gutterspeak. The word had an unpleasant, gutteral sound to it that she thought was appropriate.
Reims chuckled his approval and the two set out again.
Tellas grinned and shook his head. Torches and pitchforks. Could they be any more cliché?
Lelya had caught their scent shortly after Litto's warning and Tellas had taken to the treetops to see if he could catch sight of the mob.
Speaking quietly into his comm, he said "Hey boss? You may want to speed up the looting process, if you're not already done. Company's coming, headed north on the road from Sentry Point. They look pissed."
Viridia heard the noises of someone climbing up her tree where she’d been hidden from view. It was the best vantage point in the entire area and she intended to send warning to the rest if need be. For now she was content with her hidden status; it kept her from having to declare her presence and risk being involved when she was so wary of her abilities.
She held her breath, uncertain of the intruder until his shape started to make sense. She heard his voice then and recognized it as one of the newer Tong members - the one with the shiny pretty hair. Careful not to give away the fact she was just a few feet above him, a sneeze started to tickle inside her nose. As hard as she tried to contain it and not let it out, she finally gave way to the whoosh of satisfaction that few other instincts could match.
Then as Tellas looked up, Viridia let herself reappear into his vision with a sheepish look.
“M’kay,” was all she could manage, gulping in shyness.
The words crackled out over the comm:
"I don't know what you're up to right now but you might want to put a rush on it, we've got comp--"
The speaker was cut off by something that sounded very much like an axeblade landing against a tree.
Facet flowed though the underbrush with liquid movements, ducking this tree branch, sidestepping that rotted out stump. He was doing his best to stay ahead of his pursuers. He was the more maneuverable, but they could still flank him, and close the gauntlet if he wasn't careful.
A pitchfork landed like a javelin throw just before him, he snatched it up as he passed, and drove the tines into the next tree perpendicular to the trunk as he passed at about neck level...
...he smirked as he heard the satisfying thunk of barely-laden skull against wood. Head level for them, he thought.
Now if the cavalry arrives before I run out of steam, that would be just lovely...
Roh'rik paused mid-slash with his machete. Facet had sounded calm over the comm had sounded calm, but the sound of the axe thudding into wood got his attention.
Voices of the others, trying to figure out what was going on. Roh'rik closed his eyes to listen. Distant sounds of yelling by humans, tree limbs snapping, splashing. Roh'rik opened his eyes and hit his comm, "I'm close. I headed east from the road - can't be more than half a mile."
Taking out his sword and dagger, Roh'rik wondered what the rules of engagement were now. He'd leave that to the Tigers with higher pay grades. Right now his job was to get to Facet. The orc crashed through the brush, letting the tree limbs claw at him futiley.
"That was Facet -" Kayce started to say, but Nargesh shushed him, also listening.
Krelle's voice came over the com. "Anyone close, head over to help. Cover your faces, try for non-fatal wounds. May as well make these our witnesses. Don't kill too many if you can help it, we don't wanna piss of Proudmoore. Scare 'em off and rendezvous at the inn later."
Nargesh listend a moment, hearing the not-so-distant crashing of peasants through swampy underbrush. He drew a heavy club. "On the way with the elves," was all he said into the com before he moved out. Derona and Kayce followed behind him, the one pouting because she couldn't kill people, the other worried about his friend.
First rule of tactics: know your surroundings. Facet was the wiser, and certainly the more agile, but he didn't spend much of his time in Dustwallow, and he'd underestimated his pursuers. They weren't flanking him, they were corralling him.
He saw the bog just ahead, and knew his maneuverability would mean precisely squat in scarcely fifty yards. He would have no choice but to fight. Better to do so now and have a chance at reversing his direction than to be pinned hopelessly between the mob and the bog.
He halted, hands empty and out at his sides and drew a deep breath. For a moment, all was silence... he saw he first line of attackers, the youngest, the fastest among them...
...and also the most foolish.
Ten yards... nine... seven... four...
He exhaled slightly, then took a step forward to the nearest attacker, his hands were a whirlwind of energy, as he moved them into position for his first strike.
Both hands struck the young man- scarcely more than a boy- open-palmed dead in the solar plexus. The fight was roundly knocked out of him along with his last breath of air. He skidded on the ground before Facet in a fetal position, barely conscious let alone mobile.
The next attacker swung wide with his pitchfork, and Facet slid low underneath the arc. He righted himself on the other side of the assault, then drew his ankle back slightly, hooking his assailant's and pulled hard, bringing the man to the ground on the hard-packed peat. He then extended his knee and brought it down on the prone man's crotch like a sledgehammer.
The next man came from behind, swinging wildly with some sort of armament Facet could not see but could hear whistle dangerously close to his shoulders, he brought his arm up to block it from behind, but blind as he was, couldn't see a way to avoid the blade's edge. The axe found a weak point in his bracer and he felt the corner of it bite deep into the meat of his forearm.
He gritted his teeth, no time for yelping. He twisted his wounded arm free of the blade and grabbed the arm that had just drove it into his flesh. In one smooth motion he both drew the man to him and raised his other elbow in line with the attacker's throat. The impact collapsed his windpipe and left him gasping and prone, Facet spun to his feet and kicked the last man for good measure.
He held his wounded arm for a moment, felt the wetness of his life's blood lubricating his armor. The others would be upon him in less than a minute, and now he was short a working arm...
"Looks like we gots us a Hordie brigand."
The big one's face broke out into a malicious grin as the mob closed in on its prey. Someone was going to pay for the attacks on caravans and it was going to be this wounded Blood Elf.
Facet heard the angry murmerings behind him cut short by the sound of arrows and wet gurgling noises. A large lynx sprang from the underbrush and tore the throat from a third man, making a hole large enough for escape. Tellas' voice rang down from somewhere high above.
"Grab him and go, troll!"
Viridia, trying to get better footing, had slipped down a few branches. Clinging for her life was about all the action she was capable of right about now. She had the grace to straddle last a branch where she could actually sit for a moment and took a quick glance around.
Quickly assessing the danger closing in on them all, she felt powerless to do much of anything. That was the precise moment she saw Reims bend over at the waist, then hurl his arms in a series of flings. Ben yelled out over the comm something that Viridia could not quite discern. She was afraid and she clung to the trunk of the tree, just as Krelle's commanding voice entered her mind. "EYES - SHUT THEM!" Suddenly Viridia understood.
She squeezed her eyes shut, heard a series of bombs exploding and heard Tellas yelling all in one instant, "Grab him and go, troll!"
Facet had dodged a blow, his back shielding him from the distracting flash of the bombs, and landed within a few feet of her grasp. She held tightly with her legs and swung down like on a jungle gym, grasping Facet by the elbow. The momentum of her swing down and around carried him high enough off the ground to gain footing in the tree, and she watched him scramble to catch hold. Then she followed him, boosting where she could to help him climb.
She did not even dare look back to see if the distracting bombs had given cover to everyone else. Her mind was still reeling from what she had just done, and it was all she could do to stay transparent.
Kayce ran as fast as he could to help Facet. He saw the angry mob surround his friend and he saw him get stabbed in the arm. Not life-threatening, he thought with relief, as Viridia pulled him up into the tree. He turned his attention to the attackers and ran in swinging his sword crazily, hoping to give them a scare.
It worked. One turned and ran when he saw the group of 'brigands' coming at them. But there were still two more who were running straight at him. Kayce swung his sword and smacked one of the civilians solidly in the chest with the flat of his blade, knocking the wind out of him. The man went down, clutching his chest.
The second attacker saw this and paused, thinking Kayce had sliced his comrade open. Kayce took the opportunity to raise his sword high over his head, making like he was going to slice it down on the second man. For a split second, the man looked at Kayce in terror. Then Kayce brought his sword down and conked the man on the head with the hilt of his sword. The man crumpled to the ground.
Teadore dodged behind a fallen tree, ducking low and peering back over it at the melee. He rubbed his eyes, trying to get the afterimages of the flashbangs to clear away so he could see.
Everything had started out well - a bit of drinking with the boys had turned into a discussion of civic responsibility and everyone had grabbed something solid and headed out into the swamp. Teadore had followed along, swinging a stout stick with the rest of them, not really expecting to find anyone out here.
Then they'd run into that smarmy elf-boy on the road. The elf had tried to fool them, lying about being some kind of local authority, but Cleytus hadn't fallen for it and they'd chased the elf towards the bog.
Only - once they had the elf cornered, he stopped running! He'd knocked down three men by himself - that skinny little thing! - and he wasn't even armed! And now there were explosions and shouting, and the elf had dissapeared and -
Teadore gasped. It had all been a trap! The bandits had lured them to the bog to kill them, and throw their bodies in the murk!
He leapt to his feet, yelling at his friends. "Run! Back to town - it's a trap! Run, run!"
The mob - already rapidly sobering up - panicked at this sudden revealation. Men threw down their weapons, shoving each other as they sprinted back towards the road. Teadore moved towards a fallen man, intending to help him, but stopped as a huge shadow loomed over him. He turned his eyes up to stare in horror at the biggest orc he'd ever seen, grinning down at him from atop a huge worg.
Teadore screamed like a little girl and ran for his life.
Krelle stepped out from the shadows as she watched the humans flee. "Narg, Roh, Reims - chase them to the road," she said over the com. Nargesh bounded after them through the swamps, roaring like an animal. Roh'rik and Reims followed, the one brandishing a large sword, the other tossing occasional flashbangs into the bushes, herding the humans back to the questionable safety of the road.
Well... that could'a gone worse... she thought with a wry grin as she walked over the island, surveying the damage. There were quite a few humans lying around but only two were obviously dead. Two might be ok. As for the others...
In a moment.
She turned towards Facet and Viridia's tree, peering up as the troll tried to help the wounded elf down. Viridia climbed anxiously around him, hesitating to help but obviously worried that he'd fall, since he only had the use of one arm. Krelle just grinned as Facet poo-pooed the injury.
"It's nothing, love, just a scratch," he said, hopping down from a lower branch. His boots squelched loudly as they sank up to the ankles in the soggy ground. He managed to look more annoyed about that than about the arm he held tight against his chest.
"Nice work, distracting the mob there," Krelle thanked him.
He shrugged nonchalantly, but his reply was cut off by Kayce's arrival. "Hey! Are you ok? Let me see that arm!"
Krelle turned away from the two elves with a grin, noticing Derona watching with a little smile on her face. The little Forsaken "hmmed" thoughtfully, then spoke on the com again.
"Let's meet back at the Shady inn - these swamps are crawling with humans."
"Roger that," came Nargesh's reply.
Krelle beckoned Derona over. "Gimme a hand with these guys..."
The humans who had been lying wounded in the swamp were all surprised when they woke up relatively unharmed - aside from a splitting headache, as though they'd been whacked over the head with something hard. They gathered themselves up and headed back to town as the noon sun dissolved the mist.
Kayce approached Facet and removed his bracer. He dumped a bit of water on Facet's wound to clean it quickly. He wrapped it in bandages and then rested both is hands on the wound site. He closed his eyes and muttered something. Holy Light made his hands glow and a cooling tingle swept over Facet's arm. Kayce smiled at his friend and nodded. "Thanks for the warning," he said. "Rest the arm for a day or so, and you should be as good as new." Looking down at Facet's feet, he added, "Sorry I can't do anything for your boots."
He glanced at his boots, "'I'll feel more agile', indeed," he muttered, repeating the Tauren's words quietly...
He glanced around himself, at the half dozen or so that had come charging to bail him out. Not a bad bunch o' blokes, eh? Not a bad bunch at all... He watched Kayce work on his arm and smiled through the pain. He had other things on his mind...
He'd blown off the significance of his diversion in modesty to Krelle, but there was another deeper reason he felt he was owed little. There was a certain sense of satisfaction that always accompanied ridiculous odds surmounted with him. It was a sensation second only to living itself.
"Thanks for saving my skin, chaps," he said, "we'll have to do this again sometime..."