After the Fall

Interlude: Discreet Conversations

The crowd parted as the troop of men trudged down the street. Smelling of blood, sweat and the road, the iron circles on the mercenaries’ black tabards were smudged with dust and grime. As the small group rounded a corner, one of the men separated from the group, waving them on as he plodded into a nearby alleyway, moving a couple paces into the tiny street. The man loosened some straps on his armor and unhooked his pants. Warm urine splashed the ground as the man looked around the alley, unconcerned.

A furtive movement in the alley betrayed the presence of another person. The skulking figure detached itself from the shadows, hooded and menacing in a black cloak. The figure crept closer and closer as the armored man hummed a soft tune, until only a few short feet separated the sinister figure from the man’s exposed back.

“Report.”

The mercenary started slightly, but didn’t look around. “The job went well. The bandits dropped about a half dozen of our men, but we were able to patch most of them up. Full pay and commendations from Dalemont’s man. Seems like they’re relying on us more and more to get the job done.”

“And the others who fought with you?”

“Unusual bunch, but worth their weight and then some. They had a couple spellcasters, which definitely puts them above most of the sellsword rabble that hangs around here.”

The cloaked figure nodded slightly. “Spellcasters see too much, but they’re good to have in a fight. Any of them strike you as likely recruits?”

The armored man buckled himself up and leaned against the wall. “Well, the Kingsguard and the Borderlands Guide are out. Too law-abiding, although the soldier certainly seemed bloodthirsty enough. But that pirate who gambled Hurst and Coran under the table is a possibility, he’s no stranger to killing. He works with another guy, sort of shifty. There was a witch who played things close to the chest, but she had power – sounds like your type. And there was a fire mage who caused a lot of carnage. A little conspicuous, but effective. Come to think of it, he was a little odd. They had to bandage him up, and Coran swears the guy had red skin. Real strange.”

The cloaked figure’s sudden stillness was palpable. The armored man shifted uncomfortably. After a long pause, the cloaked figure said, “Offer the pirate a job. I’ll look into the others myself.”

The armored man shrugged. “Sure, boss. They’re staying at the Busty Schooner.” He leaned over to grab his shield. When he looked up, the cloaked figure was gone. The man shook his head in uneasy resignation, then hefted his shield and trudged back out into the street. Shouldering his way into the flow of bustling humanity, he left without a backward glance.

If he had glanced back, he might have noticed the disheveled figure leaned against the wall outside the alley, a variety of unpleasant smells wafting from the figure’s tattered grey cloak and rough earthen jug. As the large mercenary’s head bobbed away over the crowd, the drunk straightened himself, tossing the jug to the ground and shrugging off the foul-smelling cloak. Under the cloak was a very plain man. Medium height, medium build, with brown hair and eyes, his features were unremarkable in every way. His clothes were worn, but a careful eye would have noticed their good quality and fit. The man’s eyes searched the alley, peering into the shadows and filth as if expecting something to materialize. When nothing did, the man turned and walked out into the street, shouldering a brown haversack as he went. The crowd closed in around the man, and he vanished into the flow of humanity as surely as if he had been invisible.

Comments

GAAAH! Dammit, John, I want more. All this off-screen stuff is addictive!

Can’t really give in-character justification for Miria starting to wonder about the motivations and machinations of every NPC we encounter all of a sudden, but I’m apparently not doing a particularly good job of playing everything close to the chest. Still, I suppose it was better that than dying to bandits, and coming across as a paranoid nut would probably alienate potential allies.

Can’t help but wonder if this mysterious guy’s involved with the Rats. I suspect not, but he seems to be well-acquainted with the city if nothing else, so I figure he’s likely a local.

Not sure how I should feel about these mercs after reading this (not that I’d have IC justification for it). Something’s clearly not on the up-and-up, but I don’t suspect they’re quite as twisted and/or evil and/or corrupt as “modern warfare” FPS PMCs.

Interlude: Discreet Conversations
Jawndar Princess_Buttercup

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