• Solo • The Sign of Five and a Half

Oram continues with the briefing he was going to have before he got interrupted by Immortals.

The shallow bay Egilrun is situated upon is used, these trials, for crafts and crafting. From boatmakers to weaponsmiths, glassblowers to metalworkers, the sound of hammers and saws can be heard almost every break of the trial, with crews working in shifts to produce the beautiful craftsmanship which they might, one trial, become famous for.

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Oram Mednix
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The Sign of Five and a Half

22 Ashan 721

continued immediately from here

Oram blinked, then looked at the ranger who had just come in. One of the younger ones. One that probably didn’t want to make a bad impression. Oram grinned, pointed to a spot on the floor. ”Take a seat,” he invited. ”Haven’t gotten chairs in yet, I’m afraid.” The woodsman gladly picked out a spot on the floor and sat down. Rangers weren’t generally that fussy about such things, and everybody knew that there weren’t a lot of chairs to be had just yet.

”Did I hear you talking to someone before I came in?” asked the new arrival. ”There isn’t someone in the back room waiting to surprise us, is there?”

Oram glanced unconsciously at the door to the little annex room where all the books were. ”If there is, it’ll be a surprise to me, too. No, I was just thinking out loud, maybe rehearsing some of the points I wanted to go over.” That seemed to satisfy the recruit.

A bit later another pair of rangers walked in, one young and female, the other older and male. Both human. Oram didn’t recognize the woman, but she carried herself like someone used to the field. The hunter had found that people used to walking quietly through the woods just moved differently from those who weren’t, somehow.

The male didn’t even give an impression of how he carried himself at all; he just somehow appeared where he wanted to go, and you weren’t even sure how he had done so. The man parked himself in the corner nearest the door, and proceeded to extend the folding legs of the camp stool he had brought with him. Rosser Hopkin had been at this trade a long time, knew what to be prepared for, which in this case was a potentially long meeting in a room that didn’t have chairs. He sat down and extended his legs, relaxing his back against the corner. He gave the traveler a curt wave. ”Hey, Oram,” he said, simply and quietly.

The mood, though still relaxed and informal, became more sober and focused with Rosser in the room. Oram had found that he liked working with Rosser, and hoped the old Ranger felt the same way about working with him.

That mood tensed up noticeably with the next knot of people who came in, four in all including a particularly menacing man known simply as “Jim.” Scal-town had its hustlers; Almund had its bums; Darbyton had Jim, who was not be messed around with. He was the head of security at the Ranger Headquarters, and was every bit as intimidating as such a job title might lead one to expect. He remained standing, behind Oram, with a scowl on his face that Oram could feel even when the traveler couldn’t see him.

It looked like all the people Oram was expecting were there, so Oram began. Standing up, he grabbed his slate and chalk, and walked to the front of the room to stand next to the tabletop with the Scalvoris outline painted on it. He surveyed the gathering for a trill, shuffling nervously on his feet, then began. It was his first “briefing”.
Last edited by Oram Mednix on Tue Apr 06, 2021 2:10 pm, edited 2 times in total. word count: 550
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Re: The Sign of Five and a Half

Let me briefly brief you all in this briefing.

Oram looked at his audience, at the seven pairs of eyes (including a small pair of red ones underneath his table) and composed his thoughts. ”We’re here to talk about patrols,” he announced simply. ”To decide what ones we’re going to do in the coming trials, and what we’re going to look for on them.” He waited to see if…well, he wasn’t sure what he was waiting for. It was his briefing. So he continued:

”I’ve numbered some places on the map here that I think we should focus on.” He hummed and hawed awkwardly as he glanced back and forth quickly between the map and his slate. ”Number One.” He pointed at the numeral next to the northeastern bridge. ”This bridge is along a road that leads east from Scalvoris all the way to Egilrun. It leads to a fork in the road that goes to Slag’s Deep, too.” Belatedly, he realized he should be pointing to what he was talking about, so he awkwardly pointed at the things he just mentioned.

”This is not the road we took to get here from Scal or Darbyton; it’s not a road I’m personally familiar with at all, but I figure that if we know what’s crossing that bridge, we know what’s on the road. So I think we should guard it.”

Hop had been sitting quietly in the corner as Oram had spoken, right up until the last phrase. ”Did you say guard?” he asked. ”Or maybe screen? Or maybe just observe?” Even though his voice was soft, all heads instantly snapped around to him, except Jim’s, which remained trained on Oram.

Oram hesitated, baffled by the senior ranger’s question. The next five trills or so were some of the longest he had ever lived to that point. Forunately, Hop himself came to the hapless traveler’s aid. ”We use specific terms in the Rangers for specific missions. So for example, a guard mission suggests… Recruit Bertine, explain to Mr. Mednix the differences among the various missions I just mentioned!”

The female ranger Oram had noticed coming in earlier started. After a moment she stammered: ”A g-guard mission i-is when one is to protect the main body by actually fighting any encroaching enemy,” she paused and glanced uncertainly at Hopkin, who gestured for her to continue: ”with a screen mission, the detachment is charged with maintaining contact with the hostiles, but not becoming decisively engaged with them, and simply providing early warning and information about them to the main body.”

”Correct,” approved Hopkins. ”Those are both security operations. Oram? Are either of those what you want us to do?”

Oram was taken aback, shook his head. ”No, I…” he stumbled a moment before his thoughts regained their footing. ”I just want to keep an eye on the bridge and the road. I’d want the rangers to get out of their if they’re even so much as approached.”

Hopkins sat up and looked over at the female recruit once more. ”So, Bertine, what sort of mission is Mr. Mednix describing?”

The female recruit fidgeted with her hands. She looked almost as anxious and embarrassed as Oram felt. ”A reconnaissance?” she ventured.

”Can you be more specific?” Hopkins pressed.

”A…route reconnaissance?”

The old ranger nodded. ”Right, so we want a route reconnaissance in the vicinity of this bridge. What are we looking for, Mr. Mednix?”

Oram felt like his head was spinning and his feet were going numb. He took a sharp breath. ”Right, so we’re interested in traffic to and from Scalvoris across that bridge, and whether the other end of it is Slag’s Deep or Egilrun proper. There’s a fork in the road just beyond the bridge itself, which I suppose is at least as important to reconnoiter as the bridge.” He pointed with the chalk at a point roughly where the road would be. ”We probably need two teams for that, then.”

Hopkins frowned ”Why two?” he asked. ”I agree the bridge is important, but securing it should probably be the Elements’ task, not ours. Observing the crossroads is probably more important for us, don’t you think?”

Oram looked at the old ranger. He must think I’m a fool, he thought. They all must think that. ”I agree…no, no actually I don’t.” He surprised himself with his sudden change of mind. Having made it, though, he pushed on with his new train of thought. ”Someone from Slag’s Deep might try to take control of it before the Elements arrive to secure it. We need to have eyes on in case that happens. Not to guard it,” he added hastily, remembering the lecture he’d just gotten from ‘Recruit Bertine’. ”But just to know when it happens. Also, to warn the other team, the crossroads team in case they didn’t catch it.” He gazed at the map, then realized something. ”I guess that means we need to find a fording site away from the bridge, in case the bridge gets cut off.”

Hopkins continued to nod knowingly, reclining on his stool. ”We’ll have to work out the exfiltration particulars when we get there. Then we’ll write ‘em up for the other teams.”

Oram looked at him, feeling his control of the meeting just slipping away. ”Other teams?” he asked, just knowing it was a stupid question.

”Well, the relief teams. I’m assuming this mission is going to continue for more than a couple trials, right? We’ll be rotating,”

Oram sighed, at once relieved he understood where Hopkins was going and embarrassed that he hadn’t already thought of it. ”Of course, sorry. I don’t know how long we’ll be out there before we’re done, but it will likely be more than a couple trials, as you say, and in that case we will of course be rotating rangers in and out regularly.” He breathed once more, then said: ”Alright, now, I have four more objectives on that list, but the next one I want to mention is actually the last one: number five.”

”Aren’t you going to tell us what sorts of things you want the teams at the bridge and crossroads to watch for? I mean besides just counting the traffic?”

Oram didn’t even notice who had asked that, apart from the fact that it had been one of the other male rangers who hadn’t spoken before. For a brief moment he went cold with panic. He had some general ideas, but not really a prepared list. He gave an answer that might have been desperate, or inspired, or both: ”The teams will be given those instructions at the time they are placed. They may change from time to time.” To his amazement and relief, that answer seemed to go over well with the group.

He willed the meeting to move on and not get bogged down. ”Number five is an…area reconnaissance. We don’t know much about the area along that road, what the surrounding terrain is like, what the inhabitants are like. I intend to do that reconnaissance mainly on the way back from emplacing the first teams on the bridge and crossroads.”

”By yourself?” came the challenge from Hopkins. Oram pushed back on it, although he wasn’t sure he was right to do so.

”Yes, I don’t want to waste more ranger resources than necessary on it, so I’ll just do five on return trips from rotating teams at one.”

”That’s fine,” cut in Hopkins. ”But don’t you want me along for that? I’ll be with you on the return trip, right? So we can do five together.”

Oram felt drenched in nervous sweat by now. He wondered how badly the room smelled of it. ”Of course,” he conceded. ”We’ll do those together…”

He continued with the other items. These went more smoothly, somehow. The rangers seemed especially interested in the route he described north of Slag’s Deep into the mountains (number two). He would take Hopkins with him up there, he decided, that way the experienced ranger could take future patrols into that area by himself in the future, leaving Oram to do other things.

When he got to the port, Jim, who had stood silently in the back, broke his silence. ”Leave the port to me,” he said simply. ”I’ll keep you in the loop, and Hopkins, too, but I’ve already got an op for that.”

That announcement left Oram feeling simultaneously relieved and shorn. He was happy to have Jim take that mission off his hands; he wished it had been his idea, though, or at least that he could have pretended it was his idea.

With that done, Oram realized he had covered all his points. ”Right then, that’s it. Everyone’s dismissed I guess. Except I’d like to talk to Jim and Hopkins, if they have time.” The two senior rangers both nodded their assent, not stirring from their places as the junior rangers filed out. Once they had, Oram practically ran back to his table and sagged into his seat, certain that he reeked of sweat and failure.
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Re: The Sign of Five and a Half

That was a beautiful meeting. So beautiful. The greatest meeting ever. Most people don’t know that.

Jim, to his credit, did not continue to loom against the wall behind Oram once he had a seat. Both he and Hopkins rounded the table to stand before the hunter, who slumped forward and propped his elbows on the table, and lean his head into his hands. ”That could’ve gone smoother,” he mumbled.

”You did fine,” said Jim in a grim tone that made Oram wonder if he meant it. ”But we still have plenty of work to do.” Oram leaned back up with a groan, although, or rather because, he knew that Jim was right. Hopkins picked up his camp stool and moved it over next to the table. Jim found another wall to loom against, where the others could see him this time.

The traveler thought a moment, then looked at Jim. ”You said you had an op planned for the port, can you tell me more about it.” Jim opened his mouth to start to speak, but Hop shot a glance over to him, then back at Oram.

”Can we finish planning our recon out to the crossroads and bridge first? There’s a lot more moving parts to that.”

Jim nodded and added: ”The logistics for the port mission are fairly simple. I only need a couple rangers I work with regularly, and the harbor’s right there.” He pointed over Oram’s head.

Oram thought for a moment. ”Rorn’s farm should be fairly easy, though, right. We just have a ranger or two out there, switch them out every trail or so.” He blew out his cheeks loudly. ”The mountain pass is going to be a doozy, too, isn’t it. I’d like to wait a couple trials and maybe speak to Elliott before we do that one.”

Hop agreed. ”You and me can talk more about that on the way home. That way we’ll have clearer plan by the time we get back.” Oram remembered that Hopkins planned to accompany him on his survey of the red sands -even though the Ranger did not yet know that was what he was interested in. ”That leaves the crossroads and bridge missions…”

Hopkins outlined the various things that needed to happen before such a mission set out. They needed a packing list. They needed to identify which animals they were taking, which would establish their fodder requirements. They needed to work out contingency plans, such as the exfiltration plan the old ranger had mentioned during the briefing. That, in turn, meant they would need a third team to come with them when they set out: one to reconnoiter the run for suitable fording sites, and also escape routes for the Ranges watching the crossroads.

Oram listened, mostly, occasionally throwing out an idea that might or might not make sense and be approved by the more experienced rangers. It was humbling, and hard for the hunter not to feel useless with these guys around. Yet they didn’t seem annoyed with him. At length, it seemed they were ready to call it an evening. Oram would need to come up with the information requirements for the patrols, the things they were looking for. When he mentioned the glass shipments, Hop and Jim looked at each other. ”If they’re shipping from Viden, that’s probably coming from the port here,” Jim pointed out. ”I doubt they’d want to risk carting glass over more land than they’d need to. Plus they probably have people they can trust at the port authority here, rather than Scalvoris.”

Oram thought of something, an idea that almost made him feel useful again. ”The wagon or cart they’d use, they’d want something with springs, right? Something that would cushion the bumps on the road? And the crates would be bulky but light?” Hopkins had the good grace to act impressed by this idea; Jim remained impassive. Oram wrote it down in his notes.

The preparation for the outing to the bridge and crossroads would take all the next trial; Oram, Hopkins, and the patrol would assemble at first light on the 24th to head out. The trial before, Hopkins would spend doing all the heavy lifting of actually getting the patrol ready. Oram would make his list of information requirements. He would also take the Rangers out to the observation post at Rorn’s farm himself. Jim would…do whatever Jim did at the port. Jim also said he’d see to the rotation of new rangers out to and from Rorn’s farm while Oram and Hopkins were gone.

Finally, the two senior rangers left. Oram went to the window that faced out over the harbor and opened the shutters to let in fresh, cool air, which he gulped in, even while the sunlight dazzled him. ”I looked like an incompetent fool, didn’t I?” he asked to no one in particular.

”A bit inexperienced, maybe. No worse than anyone their first time doing something, and, for what my opinion’s worth, better than most.”

Oram started and looked around. In spite of the spots in front of his eyes, Amoach’s outline and glowing eyes somehow stood clear in his vision. The traveler couldn’t remember the last time the diri had said something encouraging. Maybe he didn’t actually look as stupid as he felt? he thought.

”Self conscious people rarely do,” Amoach answered. Oram leaned his head out the window to enjoy the air. As his eyes adjusted to the sunlight, he could see ships out on the bay.

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Re: The Sign of Five and a Half

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Oram:

Knowledge:
[Intelligence] Need-to-know refers to “when” as well as “who”.
[Intelligence] Identify indicators.
[Leadership] Project confidence even when you don’t feel it.
[Leadership] Learn when and how to delegate tasks.
[Logistics] Even small patrols take time to plan and organize.
[Tactics] There are different types of security and reconnaissance missions.

Loot: -
Lost: -
Wealth: -
Injuries: -
Renown: 5, for surviving his first ranger mission briefing.
Magic XP: -
Skill Review: Appropriate to level.
Points: 10
- - -
Comments: The link in the review request didn’t work. It only took me a few moments to find the correct thread though!

That being said, I found this thread quite interesting, especially since it’s a direct continuation of the thread where Oram met Vhalar (I followed that, by the way!). I wonder why he claimed that he had just been talking to himself rather than explaining what had happened.

But then again, I’m not sure if the ranger would have believed him if he had told him that he had talked to an actual Immortal!

Considering that this was Oram’s first briefing, and he was obviously nervous, he did very well in my opinion. I haven’t followed the ranger-related plots too closely, so I found what Oram talked about quite educational. I also appreciate that things didn’t go perfectly – and that you had the ranger’s ask questions and/or criticize what Oram said!

I also like that you used different colors for what the different rangers said.

I thought the brief conversation with his diri worked very well as a conclusion. I like the advice that Amoach gave Oram, and I think what he said about self-conscious people is true!


Enjoy your rewards!

P.S.: I might have added “Deception” to the list of skills used as Oram had not really been talking to himself, and maybe “Detection” as Oram seemed to make observations about the rangers.

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