11 March 2006

Chapter Four

They all followed Idiot into the meeting hall, a large conference room with teal walls, a white ceiling, and a dark blue carpet covering the floor. Three large tables were stretched across the room, each wooden. There were wooden chairs of two different styles, but with matching pink pillows on every seat. In two of the seats were the people they had come to meet.
The two men rose, and the older of the two introduced himself as Assistant Advisor. He was a tall man, with long gray hair, and a beard long enough to be considered impressive even by Dwarven standards. He was dressed in thick, dark clthing and seemed to be afraid of catching cold on what was a warm but insufferably wet day.
The other man, slightly shorter and wider than the first, was still tall and thin and covered from head to toe in mottled dark greens. His hair was blue, his eyes were blond, and he moved with little grace as he introduced himself as Snarky Anachronism. They all exchanged the politest of pleasantries as they sat, except for Cleans who sat alone and ignored in a corner, and after a few minutes, an awkward, contemplative sort of silence fell across the room.
“So... whassup, y'all? Are you gonna be my homey's now?” asked Snarky with a great deal of indifference. The others looked at him in the puzzled way that confused people look at the person who confused them, then began looking to Assistant for assistance. Assistant, for his part, locked his fingers and stared at the ceiling.
“Snarky,” Assistant spoke, being careful to meet no one else's gaze, “You are not ethnic and should not try to be.” Assistant turned from the table to clear his throat, and when he turned back, he looked to Selfless as he spoke. “It's about time you had gotten your party ready, Selfless. This evil we're up against is mostly a spur of the moment thing, but it's rapidly gaining momentum.”
“It would seem that a few weeks ago, an unknown enemy attacked Prologue, a small village near the border with Locale. As the Locales are not normally hostile towards the people of Setting, Ancient Advisor believes that this is not their handiwork. Your current task is to travel to Prologue and find out who did this and prevent them from doing it again. There will almost certainly be complications and many mysteries to be unraveled, but you may very well prevent a war. As payment, you may keep whatever you take from evildoers, as well as reserved housing in the rather pleasant village of Epilogue.”
“There will be many dangers, which is why this is being done through a Section 23 organization.”
“Although Snarky here,” Assistant waved towards Snarky with his hand, but resumed speaking towards the ceiling, “is frequently not himself and may act peculiar, he will travel with you in my stead. You may trust him as you would trust myself or Ancient Advisor. He will send us reports on your progress and keep you on the right track. Lord Fop, being the only noble on this venture, will be in command, and I trust that you will all bring honor and profit to yourselves, your guilds, and the King. There are other matters needing my attention so I must be going now.” Assistant stood abruptly and bellowed “For the King!” Half of the others did likewise, and bowed as Assistant left the room.
When the door had swung shut, those who were standing seated themselves, and those who were already sitting remained so. “Excuse me,” said Snarky, breaking the resumed silence, “but who are all of you anyways?”
The Goon brothers each gave a startled grunt and threw confused looks at Dandy, but their employer did not speak first. They looked to Selfless when he began. “I am Selfless Sacrifice, a knight in service to his Most Royal Majesty, King Altruist of Setting. This is the third Lord of Insignificant, Dandy Fop, and his men-at-arms, Idiot and Stupid Goon. That is Cleans Upwell, the filthiest of filthy thieves. I do not know the others, as they were pressed into service, unknowingly, by Mr. Upwell.”
Snarky grimaced, reaching into his coat, the whole of which seemed entirely composed of pockets. After a bit of rummaging, he pulled out a notepad, the kind with the curled bit of metal running across the top, and several small sticks of wood and metal. These he laid on the table in front of him and re-arranged a few times as everyone in the room watched him intently. He picked out one of the sticks and used it to write in the notebook, much as one would use a pen, but without any inkwell.
He would look up at each person and then write for about a minute before looking up at the next. Everyone else sat quietly and watched him, except for Noreach who kept scratching his head and face.
“Okay,” Snarky said, pointing at Amiable, “Who are you, then?”
“I am Amiable Rogue, a gentleman bandit, who normally only steals from or bring harm to those deserving of such, and that...”
“I can speak for meself, laddie.” interrupted Noreach. “I am Noreach Axemaster, a dwarven warrior of great fame and little reach.”
“So you're a dwarf?”
“Yes, I am.” Noreach looked at Amiable with a puzzled expression, but Amiable just shrugged indifferently in response.
“What makes you a dwarf?”
“I am fully trained and licensed to be a dwarf in his Majesty's realm.”
Snarky scrutinized Noreach briefly before turning his attention to Adolescent. “What about you?”
“Adolescent Misfit is my name.”
“More than a name, I'd reckon,” muttered Snarky. “Well, we'd better get on with it then.” He said as he rose. Everyone stood this time, and together they quietly filed out of Chapter Four.

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