A/N: So, this is my first story for this fandom, but I discovered OotS a while back and absolutely fell in love with it. And upon finding that its section here on FFN was so lacking, I wanted to contribute something to it… only to realize I had no ideas for any stories whatsoever. Then the other day this little plot bunny struck me, and combined with the massive writer's block I've been having in my preferred fandom, I decided "what the Hell?" and ran with it.
But, enough of my ramblings. Please, enjoy the story!
Oh, and beware of spoilers, mostly for the Empire of Blood and Don't Split The Party arcs (primarily the Soul-Splice sub-arc in the latter).
Disclaimer: I own nothing. The Order of the Stick and all related characters belong to the genius that is Rich Burlew.
Meeting of Devils
The afternoon sun blazed hotly down on the Western Continent, specifically on the city of Bleedingham, capital of the Empire of Blood. Inside one of the nondescript stone buildings on the edge of town, a goateed figure dressed in black was currently venting his frustrations by tossing a series of throwing knives at several crude, hand-drawn sketches of his enemies tacked to the wall. One would notice, however, that most of these pictures were the same individual drawn from different angles, exemplifying just how much that particular person was hated.
Nale, leader of the Linear Guild and self-proclaimed evil genius – though his enemies (and some of his allies too for that matter, though they were quieter about it) would argue the "genius" part – gave a small angry growl as he tossed another knife at one of the pictures of his brother, imbedding it right between Elan's eyes.
"Stupid moronic bard, with your stupid pun fighting," he muttered, "What kind of juvenile sword fighting style needs lousy jokes to work right anyway? That sounds like something out of a cheesy comic book. Or a self-insert fic!"
The knife tossed on that statement actually hit its target so hard that the stone wall behind it cracked from the impact. Taking a deep, calming breath, Nale reached up and rubbed at his beard, glaring at the pictures of his brother and the rest of the Order of the Stick (there were a couple of his father as well, but he ignored them for now).
"Why are you and your friends even here, now?" he asked rhetorically, "I mean, obviously you're looking for Girard's Gate, but why wait almost a year to go looking for it? Unless you went after Kraagor's Gate first, but that doesn't explain the time gap either – unless that old coot in Azure City was even more vague on the information he gave Greenhilt than I thought."
Pausing, Nale picked up another knife and started twirling it in one hand, continuing to think things through.
"On the bright side, at least you're still wandering the desert, while I at least have a more general idea of where to look. Hopefully by the time I finish rebuilding the Guild, I'll have narrowed things down enough to actually find the Gate. Gods, this would be so much easier if Dad's stupid wife hadn't gone and died. And then that moron Thog got himself captured – why can't anything ever be simple? !
"Still, at least we got Zz'drti back from those lawyers; I'd hate to think how badly off we'd be if we hadn't been able to use his magic to narrow the search area down. We'd probably be wandering all over the desert just like you fools. And I suppose it'll be simple enough for him to break Thog out once we've also found new counterparts for the dwarf and the halfling. And once that happens… well, by the time Dad or any of his toadies realize it, we'll be halfway to Windy Canyon."
An evil grin split Nale's face as he lifted the knife in preparation to toss it at the largest picture of Elan.
"And then, once we've found the Gate, it'll be a simple matter of tricking that bone-headed moron Xykon and his pet goblin into giving us the control ritual, and all that power will be mine to-"
"GAH!" Nale jumped in surprise, tossing the knife instinctively, his aim off so badly it smashed through a nearby window and flew down to the street below, where it hit some random passerby in the head. The poor NPC dropped dead instantly… and his corpse was promptly robbed. Meanwhile, back in the house, Nale turned around to glare at his girlfriend, who stared in slight confusion.
"Sabine! How many times have I told you not to sneak up on me when I'm in the middle of a villainous monologue?" Nale snapped.
"Sorry honey," the succubus replied, wings shifting slightly as she sat down at a nearby table, "Just thought you'd like to know I think I've narrowed down our choices for the new counterpart for the halfling."
"Good. And you made sure the candidates were all kobolds, right?"
"Yeah, though I really don't think we should keep using them," Sabine commented, "I mean, it didn't exactly work the last couple of times."
"Hey, we've got a theme going here and we're going to keep it," Nale replied with a scowl, "If I could talk Z into cutting his hair so it's the opposite of the elf's new look, you can deal with another possibly-disposable kobold."
"…I'm not seeing the similarity there," Sabine said with a raised eyebrow.
"Never mind! Just pick a kobold, and then start looking for a cleric for the dwarf. Then we'll have a full team, and then-"
"Actually, technically you won't, pretty boy."
Nale and Sabine both blinked at the new voice, and turned to see a red imp hovering in the air off to their side. He grinned at them and gave a small wave.
"How's it going?" he asked.
The villainous couple stared for a moment before reacting simultaneously. Sabine jumped to her feet and flexed her claws, dark magic swirling between them, while Nale whipped his sword out of his belt and placed the tip directly under the imp's chin. The tiny devil's eyes widened in panic, and he held his hands up in defense.
"Woah! Hold on, I come in peace!" he shouted.
"Who are you, and why are you here?" Nale growled, pressing his blade slightly further against the imp's throat.
"Name's Qarr. And I'm here to join the team," he replied. After a moment of silence, he added, "So… you gonna put the sword down now, or what?"
Nale glared for a moment before lowering the sword and placing his free hand on his hip.
"And what makes you think that I'd let you on my team?" he asked, eyeing Qarr as the imp lowered his hands and rubbed his throat, "In case you haven't done your research, we're evil counterparts, and you don't exactly counter any members of the Order of the Stick."
"How about for the elf wizard's familiar?" Qarr asked.
"What familiar?" Sabine asked with a raised eyebrow as she lowered her hands and dismissed the magic.
"You know, the raven," Qarr replied. At the blank looks, he added, "The bird that follows him – her, whatever it is – everywhere?"
As they continued to stare, he sighed and facepalmed. "Jeez, I dealt with those heroic morons for like, half the amount of time you apparently have, and I know more about them than you do."
"Wait, you've actually dealt with them before?" Nale asked.
"What do you think I'm here for, my health?" the imp snapped, before clearing his throat and saying, "What I mean is, yes, my last boss was this noble with delusions of being the next big bad evil overlord and they got in his way. Long story short, he's fertilizer now."
"So, what, this is some 'avenge the villain' deal or something?"
Qarr burst out laughing at that, clutching his sides as his wings beat sporadically and he almost dropped out of the air. Nale and Sabine stared at the imp as he calmed down and took a few deep breaths.
"Heh, good one," he said, wiping a tear of mirth from his eye, "Like I actually care what they did to Kubota. No, look, I've got my own reasons for going after the elf and his-or-her friends, and since I don't stand a snowball's chance in the Elemental Plane of Fire against them on my own, I need all the help I can get. And from what I hear, you the best shot I've got… well, I might have better chances with the lich and the goblin, but I don't think they're recruiting. Anyway, since the elf's got a familiar, I figure your drow needs one as well if you want a full team. So, do I get the job?"
Nale frowned and stroked his goatee in thought. Rolling his eyes at the stalling, Qarr held up a hand; in a flash of fire and smoke, an envelope appeared, which the imp handed to the young warlord wannabe.
"I brought a letter or recommendation if you're interested," he said.
Raising an eyebrow, Nale snatched the envelope from Qarr and slit it open. Pulling the letter out, he unfolded it, only to blink in surprise.
"…The hell is this?" he asked, gesturing to the symbols written on the paper.
"Demonic script," Qarr responded with a wry grin, "Oops, did I forget to mention that?"
Glaring at the imp, Nale handed the letter over to his girlfriend. "Mind translating this for me, Sabine?"
"Sure thing, honey," Sabine replied, grabbing the letter – and her eyes widened in shock as she read the contents.
Qarr's our newest agent. For reasons above your pay grade, we need him as close to the elf Vaarsuvius as possible, and sticking him with your team seems like the easiest way to do so. Also, he'll be acting as our new liaison, so consider yourself relieved of having to report to us.
Say whatever you have to, but get him on the team. Failure to do so will be… unpleasant for you (and I don't mean in the kinky way your kind enjoy). Just a reminder.
Lee, Director, Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission
P.S. Once this is done, tell your boyfriend to get off his ass and go after the Gates. We're not paying you to sit out entire story arcs.
Sabine stared at the letter for several moments, before she became aware of Nale looking at her with a raised eyebrow.
"Well," he asked, "What does it say?"
"Oh, uh, it's from a very high-ranking devil, saying how much he thinks Qarr should be in the Guild," she replied – technically not a lie, but it's not like she could tell Nale the whole truth.
"Hmm, well then, welcome to the Linear Guild, I suppose," Nale told Qarr as he sheathed his sword, "But bare in mind, I will be watching you. So don't even think about trying to double cross us."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Qarr replied with a smirk.
"Good. Sabine, go and introduce him to Zz'drti. Tell Z if he has any problems with this, he can take it up with me."
"You got it," Sabine said, discreetly moving the letter behind her back and incinerating it. She couldn't take the risk that he might decipher it at some point, after all. As the two fiends walked out of the room, the succubus leaned over to the imp and asked, "So, how'd you end up working for the IFCC?"
"Long story involving a dragon, a deal, and an act of genocide," Qarr replied, "I'd say more, but I think the Directors want me to stay hush-hush on that for now."
Nale heard none of this, as he was too focused on once again flinging daggers at Elan's pictures on the wall.
"Well, this is certainly surprising," he said, getting back into his monologue, "I suppose having another fiend on the team is useful, even if I can't say I entirely trust him. Oh well, I can always deal with him when this is over. Until then, I'll focus on you, my dear moronic brother. Fortunately, I have plenty of time to plan exactly what I'm going to do to you."
And in a true testament to the concept of tempting fate, several days later Nale discovered the posters advertising the tournament that the Empress was having thrown in honor of General Tarquin's long-lost son Elan. The resulting string of swears could be heard all the way in Cliffport.
A/N: And there we go. Not much, but I think it's pretty good for my first attempt at the fandom. And I like to think I've got a good grasp on the series' sense of humor.
That said, I might do more of these if the mood strikes me, and depending on the response I get to this one.
So, please, read and review!