Peasant Problem, Part 2

Peasant Problem, Part 2

Nov 08

[Last week, the orcs of the Battle Country declared war on their fellow LARPers. Keep reading to see how they got there and what happens next.]

Peasant Problem


Wayne crouched in the underbrush. The fast-fading twilight of the late October afternoon raced against him toward darkness as he worked. With a tortoiseshell compact mirror – an old one of his mother’s, pocketed while cleaning the master bathroom – balanced in one hand, he daubed green makeup onto his round, shiny face. Next to him in the crunchy leaves, lay his glaive, all pool noodles and PVC pipe and duct tape and spray paint. The polearm was Reapsong and it swung for eight damage and, satisfied with his makeup, Wayne was Grimgnash, the orc warleader; mighty was his fury and swift was his vengeance.

In the trees around him hid the other eleven members of the Seven Skulls orc tribe. In his periphery, Chris swung a two-handed axe, testing its heft. If everybody stuck to the plan, in the morning, Wayne and his orcs would have changed the face of the Battle Country.

Through the clearing ahead, the game’s population of Arbor Elves sat around a campfire, a dutch oven hanging over the flames. One of the elves strummed an acoustic guitar while another sang along. It was, as near as any of the orcs could tell a hundred yards away, an acoustic cover of a Lady Gaga song with parody lyrics about the LARP; it was the sort of thing that meant you never got laid if you did it among a normal group of people. Everybody here, though,was predisposed to love that sort of thing, especially the elf girl swooning over the guitarist. As the tune ended, the elves all clapped and whistled. Their guard was down; staff never sent out roaming monsters on Friday nights, and when they did, it was never near a camp area.

Complacency, Wayne told the Seven Skulls, was their biggest advantage.

Looking down at the glow-in-the-dark numbers on his watch face, Wayne watched as the hour of the attack inched forward. He reached down and lifted his glaive up, resting it on his shoulder. The polearm is made from a six foot length of 3/4” PVC pipe wrapped inside a foam pool noodle and swathed in duct tape. It has been colored with spray paint and markers with an eye toward verisimilitude – the length has been painted a deep, oaky brown with bands of dark grey at the butt end to represent the iron-shod description the weapon has in some edition of the Player’s Handbook. The blade is thick foam padding, the kind they use in hypo-allergenic pillows. The fluff has been shaped into a spike, wrapped in tape and sprayed bronze,then painted with archaic-looking runes that, as far as Wayne knew, meant nothing. He’d used Reapsong for years, yet he still wondered how people gripped these things; it is still slightly too big for Wayne’s not inconsiderable hands. There were times in melee when he’d lose his grip on the haft, which had contributed directly to two of Grimgnash’s deaths over the past four years.

The orc chief checked his watch once again; it was time.

The signal was a duck call blown twice in quick succession. The HORK! HORK! was louder than Wayne expected and he waited for the elves in their camp to notice the loud, incongruous noise but they never did. He advanced forward into the night, his tribe closing ranks behind him.

The plan, as Wayne explained it at the volleyball courts that afternoon, was to hit the Arbor Elf camp quickly, wipe out the population and use it as a springboard to take the other camps throughout the night. It had to start, he instructed, with the healers. Taking out the clerics and shamans meant that the dead stayed dead, at least for thirty minutes, at which point they would just regenerate at the temple.

Wayne leaped out of the brush, his glaive swinging wildly as the blade slapped into the side of the most powerful elf cleric in the camp. He bellowed, “EIGHT DAMAGE!” as if It were a rallying cry. The huge foam beard of Fat Chris’s axe caught the girl who had been swooning over the guitarist, knocking her flat on the ground as he called his damage on her. Sniksnak, the youngest orc player, struck an elf warrior down from behind, invoked his invisibility powers and made his way to another target.

The singer made a run for it. Wayne nodded to Matt, the lone orc spellcaster, and he lobbed a beanbag toward the runner. It struck him square in the back and he stumbled for a step. As the bag hit, Matt intoned, “Slow,” and the elf slowed to a walk at once. Wayne signaled with his free hand and five orcs jogged down the escaping elf and all struck him down at once. Overkill.

The orcs looted the elves’ in-game money and their scrolls and reagents; the ones they couldn’t use could be sold at market. The raid was flawlessly executed.

There were two fatal mistakes that Wayne made. The first was in thinking that the elves would not, as soon as they were able, run straight back to their camp with allies, but the second was in not noticing that the escapee that Matt had Slowed had cast Whisperwind before he died. The Whisperwind spell allowed a player to text a message to another player at the event that weekend.

This was why the orcs were taken unawares not fifteen minutes after they cleared the elven camp. Just as they were making ready to move out again, a squad of guards came down the path at them. Wayne was the first to fall, subdued from behind by the Mikes as he struggled with a gargoyle guardsman. He watched a few others fall, then heard Fat Chris give the call to scatter into the night. It was smart thinking, Wayne knew. Otherwise, they’d all have fallen right there.

Nonetheless, all the orcs would be captured by dawn. The attack was over just minutes after it began. But the coup was just beginning.


Nobody questioned why the two boys had green-smudged faces inside their hoodies. Fat Chris and Aaron – the teen who played Sniksnak – trudged through the Wal-Mart, still sore from the night before. The cart Chris pushed was full of PVC and duct tape and hypo-allergenic stuffing and about a dozen pool toys bought on clearance. Chris had also indulged and stacked a few five pound barrels of cheese puffs and two cases of off-brand Mountain Dew, which he thought would be good for morale.

The Wal-Mart was in the town closest to Camp Lavery, about 10 miles down the state road. They’d taken the camp staff truck, which Chris acknowledged that he and Aaron had essentially stolen, even though it was common knowledge where the keys were kept, because the Council had a pair of scouts watching the camp parking lot; the Count had declared a truce until sunset, but he wanted the orcs under close observation until then. Wayne hadn’t made that easy, though: they abandoned the orc campsite and split the tribe into small groups that spread out amongst their ally races.

None of the other groups had officially thrown in against the Council yet, but they were not turning the Seven Skulls away, offering food and a place to rest at least, though Wayne was negotiating for more earnest support from several sources.

“I don’t understand why we don’t just raid the armory, Chris.” Aaron, being relatively new and young, wasn’t privy to Wayne’s grand plan. That meant he kept trying to wheedle details out of Chris, who did know most of what the next day was going to bring.

“We’re totally unarmed, Snik. We had our weapons confiscated. If we try to storm the armory barehanded,” Chris explained for the third time, “we won’t have a chance.”

“We could buy them from the smiths, though.”

“Wrong again, little buddy. The Count declared that we’re at war; nobody is going to sell us weapons overtly, and even if they did, we got all our coin taken when we were captured, just like our weapons.

“What we need to do,” Chris continued as he pushed the cart down the Nerf aisle, “is make a new stash of weapons. Nobody will expect it. It puts us one step ahead of the enemy and leaves them operating on incorrect assumptions.” He selected a derringer-sized dart gun from a rack, the gun designed to be palmed and kept secret. Chris tossed it to Aaron, “See if you can find five more of these.” As he did, his cell phone buzzed. It was a text message from Wayne, and it simply said, Rope. One more item for the list, then.

Twenty minutes later, Chris and Aaron were headed back to camp, the truck bed laden with the implements of war. They’d take the back entrance and drop off their cargo in the woods outside the dark elf camp before returning the truck to the staff garage, reapplying their makeup and rejoining the revolution.

As Chris drove the stolen truck back to camp, Wayne met with Aldomar, the head of the Necromancers’ College. The rendezvous occurred behind the First Aid station, with the orc chieftain flanked by armed dark elf bodyguards. Aldo came alone, but they all knew he was far from defenseless.

Aldo affected a shrill old-man voice. “I take a great risk being seen with you, orc. The College moves in shadow.”

“And your influence wanes,” Grimgnash countered. “We have common goals. Since the Council elected new members, your men at the table have become outnumbered. The death cult doesn’t carry policy in Battle Country the way it once did.”

“We are more comfortable when we aren’t an over threat. If the study of undeath teaches us anything, Grimgnash, it is that we must bide our time in patience.” Aldomar gave an uncomfortable cackle as he leaned on his foam boffer staff.

“Or that, regardless of boldness or reserve, the same fate awaits us all. ‘Fate dooms oft the undoomed man when doth his courage fail.’ We need support and manpower, Aldo, but what we need most is zombies.”

The necromancer looked hesitant beneath his fake, crooked nose. Aldomar pondered. Wayne was sure it was the “Beowulf” quote that had put him over the edge. “I will not,” the magus finally said, “commit my forces to a hasty ambush. Prove to me that you have a real plan this time.”

Wayne told him the plan and the two villains shook hands. By midafternoon, he had struck alliances with the dark elves, the necromancers, the thieves’ guild, the gnomes and a company of dwarven mercenaries who had no common cause with the orcs, but simply admired Wayne’s audacity. Hidden from scouts in the deep woods, the orcs assembled their new arsenal in secret.


Father Sukor was the Count’s chosen emissary to the orcs. Darren knew he had to send someone important, or the enemy would be insulted, but he also knew he could not waste a skilled warrior. Tom Courts, who had always played healers and was well-liked by most of the player community, was the ideal choice. And nobody targeted the healers or singled them out; it wasn’t illegal, but it was gauche.

Sukor walked into the orc camp to find it empty. When the scouts last reported in, there were a handful of green-skinned players in the tents and around the fire, and that had only been fifteen minutes ago.

Tom Courts never heard the approach of the dark elf assassin. He pressed his foam dagger to the cleric’s throat and whispered in his ear, “in lieu of lethal damage, I render you paralyzed; you may take no action for five minutes starting now.” Tom Courts felt the impulse to run – knew he’d been trapped – but also knew that rules were rules. Besides, he thought, they would likely kill him and he could return to his temple in thirty minutes’ time.

The coup de grace didn’t come. Instead, a pair of orcs came out of the trees behind him and held him steady while the dark elf bound his hands and feet. The orcs led Tom Courts to a campsite further down the path and deposited him inside one of the tents, along with the two scouts assigned to watch the orc camp.

Wayne sat on the bunk across from the guards, smiling, a new glaive on his lap. He looked up as the healer came in.
“Hello, Pastor. You’ll be our guest for awhile.”

Wayne took Tom Courts’s fake beard and passed it to a runner. Back in the orc campsite, the beard was tied to a note that said “WAR” and attached to the flagpole. Then the orcs, armed with new weapons and in the company of new allies, went about their night’s work.

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