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MOCIA 2, pt 61 . MOCpages longest running interactive time-travel adventure continues! Continuing from the last installment, we have... . Massive procrastination. Tremendous procrastination. Inconceivable procrastination. Unimaginable procrastination. But other than that... (This follows directly from, which follows directly from, which follows directly from, and so on and so forth for more than fifty pages.) Weaving past a party of table-movers, who were doing a certain degree of weaving of their own, Lord Hood stepped over to the hearth. "Now, where were we... Ah, yes, intrusions." He turned to a cavalryman much less pale than the others around the fire. "Which merry band of trespassers were we discussing, Erich?", he asked. "Ah, the ones near Totenwald, as I recall, my lord. Yes. Johann the forester came across them and followed them from a distance." Hood pondered for a moment. "Which Johann?" "Heinrich's son, my lord." "Ah, that Johann. Promising lad, I hear." "That he is, my lord," Erich said with a patience born of many tangential conversations. Hood, not being abnormally witless, returned to the original conversation. "What happened to them?" "Two were killed in a run-in with a boar." "Idiots." "That they ar-" Erich paused for a moment. "-were, my lord. Another fell into a vixen's den, and had to be carried home. A roaming wolf pack slew another and wounded seven more." "They broke and withdrew after meeting Angry Hans." The warlord grimaced. "One cannot blame them; that creature truly is the most unpleasant excuse for a bear I have yet to encounter." "Forsooth, lord." "What else?" Hood asked. Gunther Dietrich, bombflinger and zeppelin-climber extraordinaire, turned to the nearest armsman. "No wonder they call it the Totenwald. This is normal?" The man shook himself out of his reverie. "Hm? Oh yes. Outsiders die there every month, though it does train very competent scouts." "I can imagine." Erich continued his report; "Konradsreuth, Wolfsfeld, Mosbach, Wilhelmstadt and the little settlement next to the Blutfeld all had visits. Each group was of five hired men, with one of "Lord" Red-Hand's wastrels "leading" them. Warden Klaus believes them to be scouting parties, though until I informed him, he was not aware of any but the one he dispatched." Hood rubbed his chin. "This fits with the pattern," he observed, before turning his head to a tall, caped retainer on the other side of the fire. "Raganhar, have your agents heard anything?" The man tilted his head. "Uncertain. I plan to hear their news tonight; several of my agents in Red-Hand's lands mentioned, a fortnight ago, that they would require more time to investigate their discoveries." Raganhar paused to idly scratch a scar over his eye, before continuing. "Most agreed that many more mercenaries than usual were being hired." He smiled thinly. "If my memory serves me, the women in particular were most displeased.." The smile disappeared. "Something appears to be planned. It is likely enough to be an event we would not enjoy, though I suspect Hildebrand's men-" A small wave at the heavily armoured fellow to his left, who bore the expression of a man with very little tolerance for failure, "-will be able to control our enemies without need of more than a few armsmen." Hood's head swiveled again; "You concur, Hildebrand?" Hildebrand's fingers danced about his dagger hilt, but his eyes bore no malice, and he spoke proudly: "I do, my lord. Forsooth, they may well be "mere commoners" and "unworthy" of shedding the blood of their "betters", but they are very disciplined and while we must make do with the scraps the enemy deign to hand us,-" he spat noisily into the fire, "-they- we -are much better armed than the dregs stupid enough to hire on with our foe." Hood grinned hungrily and humourlessly. "Excellent. Then neither of you see any reason to delay my rounds?" Hildebrand's reply was a terse "No, my lord." Raganhar's was rather longer, but bore much the same meaning. "All is well enough. Certainly you would be more than a match for any ragged band of hired bandits alone. With the guards you usually take with you..." A touch of amusement crept into the lord's expression. Very little, however. "Forsooth." Our hero latches onto that last exchange, and makes an inquiry: "Rounds"? "A term the lord uses to describe his most irritating habit," Erich explained. "If mylord does not take offense at-" "Nonsense!" interrupted the subject of the discussion. "'Tis a word most fitting! Certainly my wife makes much use of it!" Erich loosened a bit. "Well, then. Our lord-of-the-hood is fond of traveling around his lands in person every few fortnights. To settle disputes, inspect guards, and-" he directed a glance heavenwards "-The Lord only knows what else." "Among other words.." muttered Hood. "In truth, it causes much upset for those of us-" a quick glance towards the self-occupied warlord which the most uncharitable would have termed a mild glare "-who must watch over him and protect him from harm." "...many of them horridly unladylike and harmful to the character of her muchbeloved husband..." "From himself, more oft than not, 'though some men-" the glare switched to the departing and uncaring back of the departing Hildebrand and intensified "-seem to delight in finding more dangers for him to leap to meet..." "...verily any priest would be shocked- shocked I say -at such words from a wife to her husband and would sermonize at length 'pon the matter..." A short way off, Dietrich's little natter with the armsman about local naming schemes and the appropriateness thereof had diversified to more bloody subjects- namely the favoured tactics of the local lords. "...naturally enough, of course, with plentiful pauses in which to shriek about witchcraft and weird men-at-arms and the ruthless slaughter of good Christian noblemen- not the mercenaries of course, to hell with them, inveterate sinners to a man..." Our hero and his host's courier/internal intelligence officer, having concluded their exchange, now pause to stare bemusedly at the completely absorbed lord-by-virtue-of-conquest, whose separation from tents and wandering mercenary armies was visibly shrinking by the second. Hood paused from a promising- and obscene, though quiet -diatribe on the subject of priests in general and bishops in particular. "I apologize, I am being an exceptionally poor host. I forget this often, I fear; you must be very tired from your journey." "Erich, could you escort these two travelers to a suitable chamber? I have a few questions I must ask of my spymaster, who seems to have wandered off." "Certainly, my lord. If your guests will follow me..?" Gunther broke off his conversation with a suitable comment about wishing for long and happy lives and walked over. Fred, for his part, took the time to make certain he wouldn't trip over his own sword. They began to follow their appointed guide, but paused at a throat-clearing sond from their host. "A moment. Would you two care to accompany me on my rounds, in the morn?" A raised hand. "Certainly I have no expectation of an answer now. Some questions must be slept on. There will be a surplus of time." So then: come the dawn, will these two... fine, heroic characters: A: accompany their host in his visits? or B: wander about on their own? Group. You have until the next one is ready. So, January then, given my current rate. (By the way: that use of "weird" above was in the original sense of "uncanny", not in the modern one.)

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