Unlikely Heroes: The Bandit Jorn Raveloe

Second in a series, or at least a trilogy, of stories between WCIII and WoW. Takes a few liberties, such as the fact that it's hard to develop a character who never gets off his horse and the fact that Bandits don't generally get high enough in level to avoid Possession. So the Bandit Lord will not look exactly like the one on the screen at all times. Be warned.

This series exists because I believe in the existence of folk who are interesting, individual, and completely unimportant except in their own little corner of the universe – in fact, the antithesis of the Stereotypically Noble and Attractive For His/Her Species characters who generally populate all video games, not just Warcraft.

Chapter 1

Five-pointed leaves swirled about the narrow lane in a whirlwind of red and yellow. The trees were small and new here, and their autumn shedding barely covered the giant flagstones of one of Dalaran's broader avenues. Now weeds and wildflowers sprang up here and there amid the stone, strangely colored from the mana that had leached deep into the soil.

A small and very dirty boy scrambled from doorway to broken wall, clutching a bundle to his chest. Steam rose faintly from the grubby linen that wrapped his burden as he hurried on toward his destination.

A large hand snaked out of a doorway, seized the boy by one leg, and hoisted him unceremoniously upwards.

"You can't have it!" the boy hissed, struggling futilely as he was held upside-down above the ground. "You can't have it, it's for Mister Raveloe!"

The enforcer surveyed his catch without apparent dismay, scratching his forehead under his brown helmet. "Yeah?"

"You'll be in big trouble if he doesn't get this!"

"You'd better not be lying, kid," Sid the Enforcer muttered.He turned to carry the protesting child back through the tent-strewn atrium of what had once been a large hall. It lay open to the sky now, and a great many men stood or sat throughout the area. Bandits, rogues, and assassins watched Sid pass with his burden. Some glanced up and went on cleaning their gear or sharpening ugly, businesslike weapons. Some did not look up at all, because they were busy playing cards. Here and there, the mob was sprinkled with other enforcers or the odd wizard. One apprentice was even sweeping the leaves with an awkwardly-homemade broom.

Sid carried the boy all the way to the back of the atrium and dumped him at the feet of a burly man in worn armor. He sat in a cushioned chair that had probably been built for him. An ordinary seat would certainly collapse under two hundred-odd pounds of gnarly, scarred muscle.

"You got some nerve, kid," the man said mildly.

"I brought this for you, Mister Raveloe," the boy said. "My Mum said I should get it here before it gets cold." He thrust the bundle forward.

"Yeah? Whatcha got?" Jorn Raveloe unwrapped the proferred object carefully. He extracted a rather squashed brown lump and held it up.

"Ah hah. Tell your Mum I said thanks, kid, she's a sorceress in her own right. Now get going, before it gets dark. You know we get gargoyles through here at night."

"Sure," the boy said, and shot Sid a dark look as he ran off back toward the front entrance.

"Get on back to work, Sid," the bandit chieftain said, buffing his nails on his brown cotte. "No cookies for you. You shoulda been nicer to the widow when you were in town last week."

"Sure, Boss," Sid sighed, and turned to retreat after the child.

Jorn Raveloe bit into the cookie with every sign of enjoyment. "You want one, Blitz?"

The dark wizard Blitzen Harryranks snorted. He reclined on a large cushion just outside the tent's entrance, his staff lying near to hand.

"Have you the slightest idea how difficult it is to grow a beard this long at only thirty? I'm not having crumbs in it, thank you very much."

"More for me," Jorn said, reverently setting the bag of cookies on a small table on his left. And I got no beard whatsoever. It wouldn't grow straight anyway, with all the scar tissue on his face. He'd taken his fair share of cuts from ghouls, abominations, and the odd elemental or golem that haunted the environs of Dalaran.

"I confess your logic eludes me," the wizard said. "We could easily own that whole village. Another bandit chief would, if you didn't continue to prevent it. Yet you fail to even exact any tribute."

"It's 'cause I got a heart of gold beneath my rugged exterior," Jorn said smugly. He ate another cookie. Good stuff. Got plenty of tarts hanging around camp, but none of 'em can cook like the Widow Eiderstaff.

From the corner of his eye, Jorn saw the wizard roll his eyes.

"I recall to your attention the incident last week, when Birk the Assassin tried to withhold more than his share of the treasure from the last caravan you raided. Do you recall what you did?" Blitzen said.

Jorn smiled blissfully as he chewed. "Took the butt-end of his spear and made him a third leg," he said after swallowing. "Gave his whole share to Sid, too."

"I refute your claim thusly," the wizard said.

"Un huh," Jorn said. "Actually it's more 'cause of that thing you told me. With the echoes and gnomes."

"Economics," Blitzen sighed.

"Right." Jorn reluctantly rewrapped the package.He leaned back and tucked it into a pocket in the wall of his tent. Gonna be a while before I get any more, as lousy as the grain harvest is this year.

"See, the villagers in Shandlewight got no gold, and not much of anything else. The Forsaken got plenty of gold, and lots of other stuff, too. This way I keep the goodies we get off the Undead, and I get free cookies for keeping them off the Shandlewighters. And my men spend money in Shandlewight, so the villagers can afford things like, oh, dried dates to bake with. And the shandy they keep sending, of course."

"Very astute," Blitzen said. "Though it seems rather a lot of trouble. We lost two men the last time the Undead attacked Shandlewight."

Jorn shrugged. "We lose men less than the Alliance does. And none of us is gonna live to be a hundred in Dalaran, anyhow. Besides, I like cookies."

The wizard sat up and reached for the cup of mead that stood on the flagstones beside him. "I've wondered why you don't ask one of the camp women to move in with you. Sid seems to be doing rather well with Stephanie."

"Sure," Jorn said. "But Sid hasn't got a face like a map of Lordaeron. Don't particularly want a woman who'd move in with a guy that looks like me. I get first share every time we take down a caravan, so they're generally not after my conversation, you know?" He spoke the words complacently, as one who has long accepted his lot in life. "Haven't noticed you snuggling up to anybody, either."

"I am a wizard," Blitz informed him loftily. "Unless one is particularly gifted, romantic entanglements tend to interfere with the practice of magic. And I am not particularly gifted, or I would be an archmage instead of languishing here in your camp."

"Poor you," Jorn said. "Languishing on a new cushion drinking honey mead."

"My policy is that if one must languish," Blitzen said, "It is best to do it with a modicum of comfort."

"Amen to that," Jorn said. "Well, see you later. I'm gonna go make sure the guards are still guarding and not playing strip poker with the girls again."

He heaved his unarmored bulk out of the chair and reached for his breastplate. His mare nickered from behind the tent as she heard the familiar creak.

Yeah, a guy could do worse than this. Lots worse.