A Proportionate Response

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Tarq
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A Proportionate Response

Postby Tarq » Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:41 pm

(Collating a short chain of fic from Feathermap. This first one contains ingame dialogue from Fenneous and Lore!)

Three tall lean shapes come down out of the night, strolling ‘long the edge of a battlefield like they were off to the theater. That’s what you might see, were you paying attention in Andorhal on that particular happy Wednesday night. ‘Course, most anyone in Blue Andorhal with their eyes open of a night has something better to pay attention to, crouched upon their flank like a great stinking cloud waiting to burst with foul rain.

“Dinna mind my askin’, Master Bolfry,” Tarquin says as he picks his way down the south road, “Sounds like yeh’ve a pairsonal stake wi’ the deiders.” He’s the shortest of the three, a condition he is sadly used to since the elves came over and changed everything, but it’s a comfort that he’s also the best-dressed. He walks casual because this is a poor and lazy excuse for a warzone, or at least, ‘cause he’s got the reputation of a man who would think that sort of thing, and reputation is all.

“Something like that,” allows Fenneous Bolfry, gangling his way alongside. He’s a bit warier, either taking Andorhal a bit more serious or just exercising the common caution of a sensible man out for a night’s stroll with the Oathbreaker. Either’s good form. “After what the bloody rotters did to Gilneas, think I’m not exactly undue.”

A cold and chary watchman moves to block their path, but Lorelli slips up ahead and shows him her military commission. Or maybe it’s a coin, or for that matter, a knife. It gets him out of the way however. “Sure eno,’” Tarquin tells Bolfry. “Bein’ Lordaerii masel’, I ken the feelin’...an’ then ay course, Tymara can tell yeh we’d our share ay difficulties recent.” A beat. “Wi’ the rotties, that is.”

Lorelli huffs amusement through her crow-mask. She most surely doesn’t take this battlefield any kind of serious, but she’s working, so she at least tries. Fenneous glances at her before asking, “That so? What sort, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Pointy, lad,” Tarquin tells him, weighty and portentous. “Pointy.”

“Better’n plaguey, at least.”

Tymara breathes out a laugh again, and murmurs, “Point.” Tarquin’s got to agree, and either this Bolfry bloke is humoring him with the banter, or he truly is another one of the world’s blessed who can trade quips a stone’s throw from the stinking curtain of death. The mad, the bad, the dangerous to know – in other words, an adventurer.

Up near the edge of Blue Andorhal, Tarquin stops and digs out his cigarette case, gesturing widely like he’s selling a house. “Yeh can see live side’s doin’ awright. But that’s only half the house standin’. The other half, well…” Fenneous and Lorelli don’t really need to follow his pointing arm. They see where Red Andorhal lurks; a stupid name really, because it’s black as tar where it’s not dead sickly white. They’re probably fifty yards from some kind of fight.

In fact, there’s a couple rotties looking right at Tarq while he talks. Scourge, likely, right on the Breach where the lich still holds sway, because neither dead nor living got the stones to sort him out and leave themselves open to their neighbors. Tarq looks back at the dead things till they come creeping forward, and then starts walking towards them. “Tymara?”

Lorelli doesn’t really leave, in the sense that a punter sees her moving. She’s just one place and then, in the fullness of time, she is in another. That other place is on the leading rottie’s blind side, and she sticks a knife into its empty socket and cores its head like an apple. Then it’s on to the next one. Tarquin and Fenneous just keep walking, and it’s clearer’n ever that the Gilnean is just the sort of man for whom Good evening, I am a notorious criminal, you owe me a free and unquestioning spot of demolition, and it’s up in an undead warzone is a fair regular event.

Their destination’s looming over the edge of the Breach, just on the Blue side, new timbers raw as a wound even in the damp dark of night. Nobody’s working on it just right now; they wait a silent moment while Tymara “relieves” the lone guard with whatever incentive got the first bloke scampering. “Right, so,” says Tarq once they’re alone, “This’ll be a new watch-tower.”

“Seems like a thing they’d need, yeah.” Can’t just see Bolfry’s face in the dark, but he’s too deadpan not to be joking. Lorelli nestles herself in the unfinished timbers where she can see Andorhalians coming, Blue, Red and Thoroughly Dead alike.

Tarquin thumps the solid timbers over his head. “O’erlookin’ the break-point an’ all, right? I am far frae tactician masel’–” this is middling true, far as it goes – “But this looks ta be a sound point fir our lads in blue.” Fenneous nods, probably wondering when he’ll get to the point. He knows Tymara is. But he takes his time, because reputation aside, not like he really gets to do something like this all that often.

“So.” He looks up at the timbers, and gives the half-a-watchtower a quick and silent funeral prayer and internment in the crypts of his head. “I’d like yeh ta blow it up.”

Bolfry stares at him, gobsmacked for once tonight. “A not even half-complete tower?”

“Specifically,” Tymara muses from her perch on the woodwork above them, “Our not even half-complete tower.” Again, while Tarq could have filled her in, this is about a hundred times more fun, and she’s got the pieces to figure it out.

“Aye, yeh maun want an’ leave this’n oafay the auld advertisement.”

“I realized that.” Fenneous looks away into the night, grimace on his scarred face. “Kickin’ myself for specifying the whole ‘No questions asked’ thing right now. Need to learn to watch my damned mouth.” That last more or less to himself, with the air of a man repeating an oft-studied lesson.

“It happens, mate,” Tarquin says with a nod of sympathy. “I ended up givin’ Sister Tee me job fir a week.” Tymara sighs heavily from where she’s sat; she’d probably prefer and forget about that.

Fenneous doesn’t pursue it. “You got a timeframe in mind?”

“Yir the professional.” Tarq means it. “How long’ll it take yeh ta rig it, an’ d’yeh need a couple assistants?” Engineering’s not what it used to be in the Black and Red, since most of their best died – probably but not definitely a coincidence – but he’s got a couple Riders know their way around a seaforium charge.

“Depends. How spectacular you want the boom to be?” The Gilnean’s studying the tower now, with the eyes of a working man; Tarquin mentally slams the coffin lid on the poor young watchtower, never to grow old.

“Let’s say...theatrickal.”

“Sort of thing you can hear orchestra playing behind, then.”

“Aye right!” It’s starting to drizzle a little, but there’s no need to hurry through this. A good Northern rainfall might whip up Bolfry’s patriotism, if he’s the poetical sort. And a little moral softener might help too. “But think yeh theater, Master Bolfry. The less real damage yeh do, the better.”

“Of course. Means I’ll need to be a little more delicate with some placement. Probably be a job of a few hours.” Tarq can feel Lorelli’s eyes on him, wondering what in the howling fuck her boss is doing with this nonsense; Bolfry’s either given up on trying to figure it out or just wants to do work first. He continues, “Then it’s just a matter of not being seen.”

Lorelli pipes up. “You need someone to watch your back, I can free up my schedule. Also, I’ve a little experience with explosives.” A woman of many parts, Lorelli Tymara; if Arrens Caltrains ever gets a grave, Tarquin’s going to leave flowers on it just as thanks for dropping her into his lap.

He takes a long drag on his cigarette. “Let’s call it Sunday, then. If tha’ suits yeh, Tymara.” She responds in the affirmative and slips down from her perch, and she and Bolfry size each other up more closely. The elf’s taller, ‘course; the human’s got a bit more weight, even skinny as he is, and of course if it comes to cases he’s got fur and claws and fangs waiting in his back pocket. Tarq’d put his coin on Lorelli, but he doesn’t know Bolfry well enough to put a lot of it.

‘Course, if they end up fighting this whole thing’s gone pear-shaped to a degree usually left to the Varley Browns of the world. “So,” Fenneous says, “One ‘theatrical’ demolition. Standard Alliance military construction, from the looks of it. Definitely a few hours if I’m minimizing collateral damage – and I’d much appreciate the cover, thanks.”

“‘Course,” says Tymara, and ducks back a little to get out of the steady rain.

Bolfry just stares at nothing for a moment or two, lips moving slightly, eyes fixed on some distant horizon full of explosions. “Alright, it’s as good as done.” To his credit, he doesn’t look too bothered by that.

“Yir a professional, Master Bolfry,” Tarquin says expansively, hoping the man gets just what a compliment that is. “This goes well, ought’n ha’ some paid work heided yir wey. After all–” he smiles wide ‘til the white of his teeth glints in the dark night – “Canna’ have any punters wond’rin’ wha’ became ay thon contract yeh bid, right?”

“...of course.” Bolfry’s wary again, or showing how wary he’s always been. “That’s, uh, very generous of you.”

“I’m se'en-fifty the richer without liftin’ a finger this past week. Ought an’ put that money back ta work, should I no’?” Tymara grumbles something in Darnassian under her breath, the particulars of which he can’t hear but can imagine.

“Suppose so,” Fenneous says with an uneasy grin. “Awful lot of money to just leave sittin’ round.”

“Money wants ta move, Master Bolfry. That’s how come we alwis wake up one mairnin’ an’ wonder where at all it went.”

Bolfry’s smile loosens up a little. “Or worse, know exactly where it went.” Tarquin laughs at that, and looks over at Lorelli.

“Awright. Miss Tymara’ll meet yeh Sunday noon, by the birds in Stormwind, an’ gie yeh the timin’ oan it all.” Lorelli raises her eyebrows, probably wondering when she’ll get the timing on it all, but Sunday’s a few days off and she knows that by then she’ll be heartily sick of hearing all about her boss’s brilliant fucking plan.

“Hell, I can even let her flip the switch, if she likes.” Fenneous gives Tymara a smirk that might raise Prayce Thornwood’s hackles a little, but clear it’s all in fun. “Can’t help but wonder what this tower did to deserve it, but I suppose that’s not for me to know.”

Tarquin takes one last drag on his cigarette and drops its drained and savaged husk into the mud. “Let’s see it all shake out first, Master Bolfry.”

“Right. I’ll just do my job and hope for the best.”

“Funny,” Lorelli says, rolling her eyes. “S’what I tell myself every day.” They smirk at each other again, partners in being annoyed how they’ve ended up with naught better to do than end up in another half-head ap Danwyrith scheme.

“Tell yeh one thing, if it helps.” Tarquin leans down and picks his dog-end back up and drops it into a pocket. You can’t be too careful, after all. “Come the end ay this, thim rotties will be feelin’ a fine auld misfortune.”

Just for a second, when Fenneous Bolfry smiles, you can see the wolf bound in his gangly, awkward-looking frame. “Oh, it does.” The Glinean looks up at the tower. “Always glad to put them to some hurt.”

“Barry.” Tarquin tugs his coat around himself. “Well, it’s pissin’ now. I’m goin’ ta get me up ta Hearthglen. Walk wi’ me, Tymara?” She nods.

“I’ll have a bit of a look around, then head back and start drawing up plans.” It’s clear now that beyond his word – which does matter to the man, sucker’s bet or no – Fenneous has a project in mind, the particular madness of his trade, and that means it really is as good as done. Tarquin sticks out his hand for a firm shake.

“‘Preciate yir bein’ professional, Master Bolfry. I’ll see yeh ‘round the wey.” He tips his hat and turns to stroll off, his elven shadow fluid beside him, leaving Bolfry there to plot explosive treason.

For a good reason, of course. If he was to need one.
Now hang me by this golden noose
'Cause I never been nothin' but your golden goose
Silver tongue don't fail me now
And I'll make my way back to you somehow

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Tarq
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Re: A Proportionate Response

Postby Tarq » Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:42 pm

(This one by Fenneous.)

Nerves. It had to be nerves, and at the same time it couldn't be. Fenneous reached for his flask, only to remember it wasn't there. He hissed a curse. Damn the disguise. He hadn't even needed it, he thought with a chuckle. Lorelli had made sure he wouldn't be disturbed, though he wasn't sure he wanted to know how.

And so, he worked. A few deep breaths steadied his fingers again, and they went back to placing the charge. He was careful, more so than usual. No part of this blast save maybe splinters and smoke would leave the tower's foundation, if he did it right. He grinned to himself. Fenneous Bolfry always did the job right.

"How goes the top level?" he spoke quietly, into his wrist.

He wouldn't have heard Florinai land behind him had he not already been so on edge. "All done!"

"Flo, please don't startle me while my face is less than a handspan from a bomb," he said, his voice unnaturally level, "Explosives placed on the outside of the horizontal timbers, arrow pointing up?"

He saw her face float into his peripheral vision- Fenneous was always amazed at how little noise she made moving- and she nodded. He threaded a wire through a post, secured it with a nut, and turned to inspect the skeletal tower.

It had been less work with an extra pair of hands, even though he'd left her the easy jobs that didn't require any tinkering. Sixty-four small, shaped charges in all, dispersed among four load-bearing beams, and he'd finished with an hour to spare. Fenneous hadn't counted on having Flo's help, but they'd made a better team than he thought. They exchanged a quick smile, and she was gone. Still watching though, he knew.

"Lore," he called up to the rafters, "We're ready to put on a show down here. Got a present for you before we start."

Fenneous grinned, lopsided in favor of the unscarred side of his face, and held out a tiny, nondescript box with a single silver switch on it. "All yours."

Most of her face was hidden behind the mask, so reminiscent of a bird of prey, but the visible corners of her mouth turned up in a smile. She accepted the box. "Why Mister Bolfry, you do know how to a show a girl a good time. She's a lucky one."

The grin widened, and he gave a little bow. "What can I say? Man of many talents, I am. Go on now, hit the switch and let's watch the magic happen."

Tarquin had asked for theatrical, and that's what Fenneous delivered. The tower collapsed on itself in a glorious column of flame, great plumes of fire reaching for the sky. Red sparks took flight around it in an added bit of pyrotechnic flair, and, barely audible behind the roaring explosion and shattering windows, came the orchestra: a sweeping, epic piece of music to highlight the destruction before the heat killed the buzzbox relay.

"The most beautiful crime I've ever committed," he breathed, with the sudden realization that, yes, he was a criminal. Again. "High time we got out, I think. Not long before they start asking questions."
Now hang me by this golden noose
'Cause I never been nothin' but your golden goose
Silver tongue don't fail me now
And I'll make my way back to you somehow

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Tarq
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Re: A Proportionate Response

Postby Tarq » Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:43 pm

Andorhal.

Arrah Spurlock dreamed of the Wrath Gate, as she did so many nights; of dead faces howling, and the catapults delivering their payload, and good men and women dying in the valley below her. She thought at first, when the blast touched her eyes and ears, that her dreams had entered the waking world. She’d seen it happen before, with Legion veterans, fighting battles five years gone and crying for comrades long dead.

But no, that was real; the night bloomed and thundered, fire twenty feet high and echoing like drums off the towers of Andorhal. A trouble all of itself, that that should relieve her. Arrah was on her feet, shucking her nightrobe and reaching for her swordbelt; she was half-dressed by the time the alarum sounded and securing her armor before Durnt flung her door open. “Chief,” said the burly dwarf. “We bin hit, we hae.”

“Where?” Arrah buckled her breastplate one-handed; her left was still good for holding a shield or a wineskin but little else.

“T’new watchtor, it is. Blawn all ta hells, an’ t’north Britch open as hedges.” Durnt’s thick fingers flexed, as if he had thin grey necks within his reach, and he grinned savagely. “Ach, but thir canny! Ah shid like ta stan’ yon deider chief a roond, ah shid.”

Arrah strapped on her swordbelt, looking out the window again; even from here, she could see the new tower was a blackened skeleton. Durnt was right; they’d been counting on that to watch the Breach where the Scourge was lightest, and the Forsaken could slip through. “I’m going down. Sound arms. All to arms.”

“As ye say, chief.” Proud Wildhammer that he was, Durnt didn’t bother with a salute, no more than he bothered with armor. Said is done, were his clan’s words, and he lived them. Arrah strode out of the room without another thought for it.

There were already a dozen of the regiment around the tower, along with a couple gawping farmers. Nearly lost among the humans & few elves was the small figure of Loosegrip, bellowing the soldiers to order, eding the farmers back. He whirled and saluted crisply as Arrah approached. “Lieutenant,” she told him, “Get these people away from the fire.” It wasn’t as hot as that up close, burning itself out already, but you didn’t take chances with civilians.

“As you say, ma’am,” said Loosegrip, that bass-drum voice welling out of his diminutive frame, and redoubled his hollering. Arrah crossed through the regiment and looked out over the Breach. The Scourge were stirring, and beyond them, in the stinking haze of Red Andorhal, the bastards who’d done this were doubtless already slinking back. Unless they were crouched about, waiting to join the attack.

“Commander Spurlock.” Loosegrip came up beside her, saluting again at the height of her waist. “Blast took a little out of my ears, ma’am – did I hear all arms?”

“You did, Loosegrip.” And to her pleasure, it was already close to done, the regiment forming a rank along the Breach; even the citizen Irregulars were piling into the town square at arms.

“Of course, ma’am. Only–” The gnome nodded towards Red Andorhal. “I don’t see them coming. Don’t even see ‘em forming up. It might could be a trap, or...or something, ma’am.” Arrah looked down at him and tilted her head, and knowing her signs, he continued. “There’s nobody dead, Commander. It went between watches, with none of the crew on it.”

“Of course it did, Loosegrip,” she snapped, mangled hand running over her sword-hilt. “Else we’d have seen them about it.”

“Maybe, ma’am.” Lang Loosegrip ran the night watch in Andorhal; he was a sober, honest sort, quick to admit when the regiment was falling sh – failing to meet goals. Arrah trusted him. So she waited as he weighed his words and spoke again. “It doesn’t add up for me. If Red’s going to come through the Breach, he’d have done it already.”

Commander!” She looked over her shoulder to see Grant, the farmer who’d become the de facto spokesman for Andorhal’s civilians. “Andorhal Irregulars stand ready, Commander. Are we going after the deaders?” Arrah frowned at him; Thurman Grant was brave enough and knew what he was about, but his frontier polish was a fresh thing. He had papers on him in Stormwind, smuggling and loan-sharking.

Anyway, she didn’t like having her orders anticipated. “When we are, citizen, you’ll hear me say it.” She turned back to look at the Breach, calculating, thinking about what Loosegrip had said. Grant didn’t let up, though.

“Commander, I’m sorry, but we’ve the safety of our families to consider! This was a direct attack, over the Breach! The Forsaken have grown too bold!” Arrah flexed her maimed fingers and tried to ignore him; tried to ignore the shrieks of the Seventh dying before Angrathar. Hard to ignore something you weren’t really hearing.

“Bold?” Loosegrip said incredulously. “Busted cogs, man, they aren’t even here! Look for yourself!”

“Oh I can bloody see, Lieutenant!” Grant choked back his words as Arrah turned and looked at him, and raised his hands peaceably and spoke in a more measured tone. “Lieutenant – Commander – I’m sorry. Think, though. Why would they attack, when they can make the Scourge do it for them?” Loosegrip blinked, opened his mouth, and closed it. Cautious, scrupulous man that he was, he would weigh that. While he did, Grant kept talking. “The Scourge’ll be coming, Commander, soon as Red can drive them! We have to hit them first!”

Arrah looked out over the Breach, where the Lich King’s last children crawled like toothsome maggots, waiting for a body to fall into their clutches. And past, into Red Andorhal, where the real enemy, the one that thought and planned and crafted, assembled their forces. “Citizen Grant, hold the Irregulars. You’ll be homeguard. Lieutenant, scour the tower. See if you can find our saboteurs.”

“Ma’am,” said Loosegrip, saluting automatically, face creating as Arrah walked past him. The regiment was ranked before the Breach; she could see Durnt’s fireplug figure at the fore, ready to sound the advance. “We’re going in, then?”

“I’m taking the regiment over the Breach.” Maimed fingers on her sword-hilt, choking screams in the back of her mind. “This was a direct strike, Lieutenant, and it needs to be answered. Maybe the smell of some blood will wake those southern politicians up, get us what we need to win this city.” Grant grinned and whooped and hustled back to his Irregulars, Loosegrip watched him go with a frown.

“I still don’t like it, ma’am.”

“None of us do, Lang,” she lied back over her shoulder. “It’s war.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Hearthglen.

Lorelli’s in the garden when he ambles outside in the morning, sharing coffee with Annalea, crow’s mask off but armor still on her. “Awright, Tymara?”

“All right, boss,” she says. “It’s done. Around midnight, between watches.”

“An’ yeh stuck ‘round?” Tarquin folds himself into a chair next to Annie, who winds a hand into his hair, gentle and comfortable. They’re the picture of domesticity.

“Long enough to see it. Alliance formed up, and went in. Had a pretty nice little fight, if you’re into that kind of thing.” Tymara grins over her coffee. “Got close enough to hear some asshole farmer yelling about the safety of his family, really pushing them on. Don’t suppose that was just a stroke of luck?”

Annalea laughs softly. “Bittertongue luck. That’s a lowlife named Thurman Grant, who would’ve done twenty years in the Stocks if brother-mine hadn’t gotten him a plot in Andorhal.”

“Ayeh, guess thit’s one less favor owed ta Bric’,” Tarquin says. It was a fortunate thing to come to Bricu’s mind when Tarq bounced this hurried plan off of him; you couldn’t really call it luck, though. Just sowing seeds and seeing what grew of them, three or five years down the road. That wasn’t luck. “Bolfry?”

“Made it out fine; nobody stopped to ask him what he was doing there.” Tymara sips her coffee. “Guess they were all a bit distracted.”

“Should I get word to the client, then?” asks Annie. They could just say Rozen, it being only the three of them, but there’s only one way to build good business habits, and that’s sticking with them no matter what. Tarquin stretches and shakes his head.

“Na’ need. He’ll be readin’ the papers.” He gets to his feet. “He’ll be by, expect, wi’ the second half ay the payment. An’ then we can get some real business goin’.” He pads back into the house, following his nose to the rest of the coffee. He'd always wondered if he'd really be content, away to a country house; turned out, all he needed was a little something to keep busy.
Now hang me by this golden noose
'Cause I never been nothin' but your golden goose
Silver tongue don't fail me now
And I'll make my way back to you somehow


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