Post by rothome on Mar 4, 2015 19:19:04 GMT
LAND OF LORDAERON - 10 YEARS EARLIER
Cally shivered beside the blazing hearth. Not from cold – indeed, the heat was stinging her cheeks – but from fear. She was pretty and young, and that was a dangerous thing. The four brigands who had stormed into The Black Cat had made short work of the few armed patrons in the place, knocking them out with clubs and blackjacks. She could only assume – only hope – they were being spared for ransom. Now the brigands were making merry, smashing bottles and spilling nearly as much of Olfas’ best mead as they were drinking. The old man looked at the drunken hoodlums who were demolishing his livelihood and did not bother masking the hatred on his face. He was standing beside her, hands balled into fists, quaking with rage. Cally reached up and gently touched him. “Do nothing rash,” she murmured. “Perhaps they’ll just rob us and leave... eventually.”
Olfas grunted but said nothing, continuing to fix his stare at the invaders, but particularly at their leader. He was a human, at least by birth, though if Olfas had been told he’d harbored orc blood the man would have believed it. Like his men, he was dressed in boiled leather and scale, dyed deeply black. When they burst in, they had all worn sable masks to conceal their faces, but now those masks lay upon the floor, soaking up spilled alcohol. The brigand’s leader – called Norrys by his men – bore a peculiarly pointed, chisel-shaped chin with a prominent cleft. His face bore numerous scars, likely the result of childhood pox. He was thin and wiry, and the hair on his face and head was the brown of tree bark and thoroughly unkempt. He saw Olfas’ chilling gaze and returned a smile and a hefted tankard. He drank, poured the rest on the floor, and refilled. He was clearly mocking him.
Cally could feel Olfas’ body tense even more. Please Elune, she murmured to herself in prayer, keep us... Her plea went unfinished, because in the balcony she had thought she saw something. She squinted. It was a shadow, moving slowly, creeping up in the poorly lit darkness of the steeply peaked roof’s stout wooden beams. She wanted to point it out to Olfas, and glanced up at him, but the man was too fixated on the brigands. When she turned back, the shadow had vanished.
“Pretty flower!” It was Norrys, smiling, hands on his hips. “I think I might just keep you for myself!” A pair of roars came up from his men. They would make no more noise that night, for a trio of gaily fletched arrows appeared, like magic, within their throats. Thwip-thwip-thwip. They dropped to the floor, stone dead, in the order in which they had been shot.
There was a noise like the sound of a huge bat taking flight. A figure sprang from the overhead beam, landing on a stout oak table on the balls of his booted feet, legs folding up, coiling, and then springing forward. A bow was tossed aside from the bounding attacker, freeing the hand to draw a basket-hilted rapier that struck like a cobra for Norrys’ throat. The brigand batted the thrusting blade to one side with his gauntleted hand, and backpedalled away to assess this new threat.
Now it was Olfas who yelled. “Lord Rothenholme! Save us!”
Norrys’ eyes folded into cat-like slits. He hissed. “Well, I’d have worn better garb had I know I’d be duelling with a lord of the realm.” The man who stood before him was rangy in build, with wispy blonde hair and a fair complexion. He was devilishly handsome, and had an air of bemused mischief about him despite the grim situation. He was armoured much as Norrys was, although his ensemble included a flowing cloak of purple and black, the source of the fluttering noise as he had dropped from above. He sported a crooked, roguish smile.
“’Rowdy Randy,’ Norrys spat. “I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time.”
The man was still grinning, brandishing his rapier in a classic guarding position. “As have I! Yes! It is I, Lord Randolph Rothenholme, ruler of these lands. Archer, duellist, poet, and...” He turned sharply, suddenly, dramatically, to face Cally, and his smile gleamed in the firelight. “... lover of ladies fair.”
Olfas caught Cally in his arms as she swooned. Rothenholme's eyes drifted downward to Cally’s cleavage pushing up through her bodice.
“Nice fun-bags,” he murmured appreciatively. Then Lord Rothenholme returned his gaze to his opponent. “And you – you varlet, you miscreant, you ne’er-do-well ruffian – are surely Norrys the Grim, who along with his men have been a pox upon my land and its people for many...”
With a shout, seeming to have grown tired of listening to the tow-headed noble ramble on, Norrys leaped forward. He brandished a heavy broadsword that Lord Rothenholme knew would sever him in two should he let it. He twisted out of its way, as his rapier would shatter should he try to use it to parry such a heavy blade. But the brigand was explosively fast, and even as Rothenholme recovered his balance, the blade had scored his arm. He grimaced, but riposted and scored a puncture through his opponent’s chest piece - deep, but not deep enough. The brigand’s eyes blazed with pain and rage. He seized a chair with his free hand, using it to try and tangle up the noble’s lean blade. They pushed back and forth, neither able to force the other into making a fatal mistake.
With no warning, Rothenholme felt a hand close around his ankle and jerk him off balance. One of the brigands was not yet dead, and had expended his last breath of energy to aid Norrys. His left hand, his weapon hand, cracked knuckles-first into the hard wood surface of the table, and the rapier slipped from his numb fingers to skitter across the floor slick with spilled wine and blood. Norrys smiled and brought the blade up for the death stoke. But even as his blade went up, Cally’s frying pan came down. It connected with terrific force on the back of the rogue’s skull. There was a sickening crunch, and a thin trickle of blood came from Norrys’ ears as he bent at the knees before folding over, dead.
It took a few hours to clean up the mess, drag away the corpses of the brigands, and return The Black Cat to order. Now the rescued patrons were seated around the table, Lord Rothenholme their rescuer at its head, with the lovely Cally upon his lap, arms draped around his neck. She nibbled on his earlobe.
“My subjects,” he called out to the assemblage, who hushed at the sound of his voice. “Today we have struck a great blow for the security of my domain, for we have vanquished the quartet of opportunistic criminals that have vexed us for many a year!” The listeners responded with a roar of approval and the loud banging of flagons. Over the roar, Cally whispered softly, “To the victor go the spoils, my lord...”
He chuckled ruefully and playfully nipped her neck, to which he responded with a squeal of excited delight. Olfas approached, shaking his head in amusement. “Lord Rothenholme, forgive my interruption of your... revelry, but I would offer you some of The Black Cat’s most famed delicacy – a slice of our delicious blueberry pie.”
The noble wrinkled his nose. “Forgive me, Olfas – I’m sure it’s delightful, but I can’t stand pie. I prefer other sweets.” He tickled Cally again, and she squeaked.
“And that,” said the sindorei bard to the audience gathered around the plaza in Silvermoon, “is the tale of the dashing Lord Randolph Rothenholme.” There were polite applause, and the clink of coins being put in the tale-tellers copper cup. All the listeners contributed – even the rather dim-witted Forsaken who had been standing around, listening to the story with rapt attention. She noted that his coin, unlike the others, was gold, and she nodded thankfully. “Most generous, sir. I hope you enjoyed my tale.”
“Well... I sure did like most of it,” said Randy the Rotbrain. “Especially the part about Cally’s fun-bags.” He almost seemed to reminisce for a moment before going on. “But the ending, it didn’t make sense. I mean... everyone loves pie, pretty lady.”
He said it with the solemn authority of a sage, and the blood elf couldn’t help but smile.