In the Archenland Forest
You stand in the middle of a forest. The trees are broadly spaced, the ground beneath you uncluttered by underbrush, giving the gently rolling landscape an almost parklike feel. Dappled light filters down through the branches, leaves shimmering and translucent against the sunlight. A few birds flit by overhead while others sing in the trees, providing a merry counterpoint to the whispering of the wind. To the south, mountains separate Archenland from the Southern Desert. The forest continues in all other directions.
[Lanisen sneaks in, unsuccessfully.]
Loc is kneeling, examinging a patch of Queen Helen’s lace. He straightens a bit but doesn’t look behind him. “You’ll need to be better than that if you want to avoid detection my friend.”
Lanisen pauses, scowling down at the snapped twig beneath his foot. “Who said anything about avoiding detection?”
Loc chuckles and stands, turning to face him. “Well, if you wanted to be detected, then you wouldn’t be sneaking.” He turns the flower in his fingers carefully, “Besides, I know you. I saw your–” He grins, “Performance last night. Very masterful that.”
Lanisen’s eyes flicker uncertainly at the last, but he recovers quickly. “Avoiding detection’s just prudent,” he replies. “There’s bears about.”
Loc says, “I know. Saw the bear myself.” He pauses, “And… I know of the other dangers.”
Lanisen raises an eyebrow.
Loc smirks a bit, “I know about your uh–‘companions’.”
Lanisen is very much wrong-footed, but he hides it well, only his briefly darting eyes displaying his nervousness. He saunters easily to one side until the bole of a massive tree is covering his back and answers, “Pretty, ain’t she? Rich too. Bit of an idiot, more’s the pity, but…eh, can’t complain.”
Loc casually leans against a tree of his own. “Not /that/ companion. I mean the other one.–The /smart/ one… Are you his apprentice?”
Lanisen eyes the other warily. “Fraid I got no idea what you’re talking about,” he answers coldly, and slips away into the trees.
You stand in a broad expanse of meadow. Every type of wildflower imaginable seems to spring forth here in sunbathed brilliance, from asters and daisies to bluebells and day lilies. Every step over the lovely springy thyme seems to release a glorious fresh scent, and larks soar overhead, their songs creating a delightful symphony. A small and cozy looking cottage sits at the north end of the meadow.
An arrow comes flying toward you from the west, landing a foot or so from Lanisen!
An arrow comes flying toward you from the south, but it doesn’t hit anything!
Lanisen is running, keeping low, toward the north end of the meadow. He halts, looking around him for a further escape. Seeing none except the cottage, he sprints for the door, sparing a glance over his shoulder.
Loc saunters into the meadow, laughing.
Loc calls, “If I’d have meant something I’d have hit you.”
Lanisen tries the door and finds it locked. He bangs hopelessly on the door with one fist, then turns around to face the archer reluctantly, noting the still-wielded bow with obvious fear.
Loc pauses several yards away and slips the bow away in one lithe movement. “See? I come in peace. I did think a demonstration would be useful though.”
Loc holds up a finger as he makes his point, “You guys can use the two of us to great advantage. No one expects a long shot.”
Lanisen’s expression shifts from terror-for-his-life to blank canvas in a matter of seconds, though fury sparks in his eyes. He watches the man apprehensively, ready to dart off again at a moment’s notice, keeping his mouth tightly shut.
Loc folds his arms across his chest. “You seem wet behind the ears. You been in the business long?”
Loc pauses, “You like ale?”
Lanisen says warily, “As much as the next man, though I’d be inclined to pass on an offer from /you/.”
Loc chuckles, “I know a nice little tavern. Its tender is unassuming enough. In fact, you were there last night. For being such a good sport I’m willing to buy.”
Lanisen snorts. “Thanks anyway.”
Lanisen asks, “Who are you?”
Loc smiles a bit, “A man of many talents. Yourself?”
Lanisen snorts. “Gimme a straight answer or none at all, please.”
Loc says, “Call me Tal.”
Lanisen repeats skeptically, “/Call you/ Tal?”
Myrd comes walking toward you from the south.
Lanisen shifts a bit. “Fine. Tal. What do you want?”
Loc shrugs, “To make an impression.”
Lanisen asks dryly, “A deep one with sharp pointy sticks, I take it?”
Loc grins a bit, “They work well with animals. On people too. I wanted to show I could be of use.”
Lanisen’s jaw clenches. “Huh. Funny. You missed.”
Loc shrugs, “Would you prefer that I hit you?”
Myrd eyes the stranger as he approaches Lanisen. His expression is decidedly cold. “You do, and you answer to me.”
Loc turns abruptly, smile disappearing. He gives a nod of acknowledgment. “You’re the one in charge then?”
Myrd crosses his arms. “You ask plenty of questions for a man who keeps sticking his nose into our business. It isn’t a healthy thing to do, usually.”
Loc nods, “I agree. Usually. I wouldn’t be here without a reason.”
Lanisen’s features relax as Myrd steps in, and he hops down from the cottage’s doorstep, smirking a bit at the unfortunate archer. He strolls over and takes his place slightly behind Myrd.
Myrd’s eyes narrow further. “Then best be stating them. Otherwise, I find my hand grows a bit…twitchy. And unlike yourself, my dagger and I never miss.”
Loc places his hand to his belt, clutching a hilt that has been concealed to this point. “I was told our request to join was accepted–to an extent. I wanted to offer my services and skills.”
Lanisen’s eyebrows skyrocket. “Accepted?” he asks incredulously, looking at Myrd.
Myrd has his own dagger ready with surprising swiftness. He keeps his attention on Loc, ignoring Lanisen as he might ignore the buzzing of a gnat. “Accepted. That’s a funny turn of phrase. Your companion seems to think you’re going to make yourselves useful.”
Loc watches the leader with his dagger, lifting his chin a bit though he is clearly impressed by the gesture. “She doesn’t lie. And we plan to.”
Jana enters the meadow. Her brow rises a little as she observes the goings-on, but she makes no comment. Instead, she leans down and plucks a flower, twirling it. “Nice hangout for a bunch of crooks. Really complements the scars.”
Myrd snorts. He doesn’t allow his focus to shift as he replies, “Only scars I know about are the ones I leave. He’s the one you were telling me about yesterday?”
Loc keeps his attention on the leader, though his eyes flicker to the woman. He lets her talk.
Jana steps further into the meadow. “Yes, this is he. Don’t let me interrupt, though.” She settles among the flowers, her dress billowing out and falling in a neat circle about her. She waves a hand. “Go on.”
Lanisen looks from Jana to Loc and back at this. “Drat,” he mumbles under his breath, glowering at Loc.
Loc flashes a fleeting grin at Lanisen. He becomes serious and looks to the leader again, waiting.
Jana’s eyes flit between the two boys. She crooks a finger at Lanisen, indicating that he should approach her.
Myrd maintains a stony expression. “Don’t worry your pretty head about that. You’re not. Your friend and I were just having a polite discussion.” The hardness in his eyes hints at the opposite as he nears Loc. “Now, I want to hear all about how “useful” you’re going to be.”
Lanisen blinks at the gesture and glances around uncertainly. Satisfying himself that she definitely means him, he throws out his chest a bit and ambles toward her.
Loc stiffens, eyes flickering to Jana and his expression indicating displeasure at her summons of Lanisen. He turns his attention back to Myrd, fingers lightly on the dagger hilt as he draws near in case the need to defend himself arises. “I blend well with a populace, making me useful for any movements in town. I’ve worked the streets for ten years now. I work well on a team. I can spin almost any story and gain the trust of most townfolk. I use that as a lure and bait. There’s also my skills with the bow. Useful in ambush in the wilderness. And I take orders well.”
Jana whispers to him, gesturing with her finger at the two “conversing” men.
Jana mumbles “What exactly has been going on here?”, to Lanisen.
Jana mumbles “… … … … going … here?”, to Lanisen.
Lanisen looks slightly crestfallen, but answers her promptly.
Lanisen mumbles “Your friend tried to shoot me. He do that often?”, to Jana.
Lanisen mumbles “Your friend … … shoot me. He … that often?”, to Jana.
Myrd takes advantage of Loc’s momentary lapse in concentration. When Loc looks towards Jana, he strikes upward with the blunt end of his dagger, his intention to quickly knock the weapon from Loc’s hand.
Jana snorts and looks mildly pleased. She is about to respond when Myrd makes his move. Her attention is immediately diverted, although she keeps a general awareness of the man sitting next to her.
Loc’s dagger slips. Loc’s eyes flash. He flicks his wrist downward, his finders snaking over the hilt and grip it securely. In another flick the blade is pointed up. Loc uses his free hand to push off of Myrd’s shoulder placing some distance between them. He keeps his focus Myrd and holds his ground.
Lanisen straightens quickly, fumbling for his own dagger.
Myrd suddenly sweeps outward with his foot, aiming for Loc’s ankles. He puts most of his force behind the swing.
Jana raises her brow at the young man beside her. She sighs dramatically. “Are we really to have fighting in the ranks so early on? The fact is, you promised me we could join if I could get the bracelet. I did.”
Loc jumps over the kick and immediately begins backing towards Jana.
Myrd stops and grunts out, “Everything’s a test. Keep that in mind.” For the present, it seems as if he’s done with this particular test.
Jana fingers the secret pocket in her skirts, ready if need be. She keeps her hand there even after the clever man has called off the scuffle.
Loc nods, keeping Lanisen in his side wide and Myrd in his front. He gives a small nod. “Can’t expect to get in for nothing right?” He addresses Jana.
Jana inclines her head vaguely.
Myrd’s permanent scowl lightens somewhat. In other words, he almost smiles. “Isn’t that the truth. Now, you pull a dagger on me again and I won’t be so easy on you. C’mon, Lanisen. Time for us to meet Zan. You two can join up with us tomorrow. If you can find us.”
Loc eases slightly, “Duly noted.” He lowers the dagger, still keeping the men in his sight.
Jana moves out of the way, still alert, but it’s more her natural alertness.
Lanisen frowns slightly, trying to puzzle out the intent in Myrd’s wording, and turns to follow him. He eyes Loc with deepest loathing, and it’s no secret he’d rather they /didn’t/ find them.
Jana winks at Lanisen as he passes by.
Lanisen promptly stumbles over something hidden in the grass and blushes crimson.
Myrd strides off into the forest. He seems to expect that Lanisen will be behind him. As he leaves, he calls out, “And fake names are fine, but don’t expect me not to know you’re trying to put one past me.”
Loc smirks. He nods, watching them leave.