“Well, this is exciting,” the Duke said. “Our first official after-action debriefing.”
For the purposes of the meeting, the atheneum had been turned into a war room, with a large map of Krim hung up on one of the walls, completely covering the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. A slate slab was propped up against the shelves on the other side of the room, to serve as a make-shift blackboard.
The Duke wrote the word “debriefing” on the board, followed by five “R’s.”
Geoffrey and Bartram sat next to each other on the far end of the table that was in the center of the room, and General Lukomendrius Dungerame and Ayoob al-Hoque Haleem Raadi sat on either side.
The Duke stepped forward to where he’d been sitting and flipped open a notebook.
“The first ‘R’ is for ‘reconvene,'” he said. “And here we are, reconvening after last night’s unexpected military engagement.” He nodded at Geoffrey and Bartram. “Two of the key members of our advisory council were beset by bandits during a trip to the village of Cleig Grijan.”
He glanced down at the notebook. “Second ‘R.’ ‘Reset the tone.’ I want to remind you that this debrief is a safe place. All of you, regardless of rank, are free to share your open and honest observations. I am no longer the Duke. General Dungerame is no longer the general. Bartram Snell Ashenhurst is no longer the man with all the money. We’re all fellow soldiers here, fighting to make Heartburgh safe and prosperous.”
He flipped to the next page. “Review objectives. Bartram?”
The financier leaned forward. “As you all know, the Hidden Temple of Qualdir is known for its orgies…”
“No, no,” the Duke said. “The military objectives.”
Bartram looked at Geoffrey for help.
“Umm… to deliver mail?” Geoffrey suggested.
“I thought I was very clear yesterday,” said the Duke. “The goal of the exercise was to create team bonds. You, Geoffrey Napadayushyi, and you, Bartram Snell Ashenhurst, were supposed to be bonding.”
“Oh, right,” said Bartram. “We were going to an orgy in order to do some bonding.”
“That’s better,” said the Duke. “But I understand that there was no orgy, and instead you were attacked by bandits.”
“Yes, that’s right,” said Bartram. “There was nobody at the temple except one guy, and the next orgy isn’t until the summer.”
“But you bonded by fighting off the bandits instead?”
“Umm, yes?” Bartram looked at Geoffrey, who nodded.
“Thank you. General Dungerame, do you have any questions?”
“Yes.” The general stood up and pointed to the easel behind him, which held a poster board with a map of Heartburgh and the surrounding area. “We didn’t expect to have contact with enemy forces so soon, but we did. Now we have an opportunity to learn something about the enemy. The attack took place right here.” The general stabbed the map with his finger.
Geoffrey coughed. When the general glanced over, Geoffrey whispered, “The map is upside down.”
“I don’t know why I keep doing that,” the General said, and turned the map. “So. The attack took place right here, right outside the Hidden Temple of Whoever.”
“Sacred Cult of Qualdir, God of the Underworld,” said Bartram. “But the temple wasn’t actually hidden. You could see it from the road.”
“Then you fought off the bandits,” the general said.
Bartram glanced at Geoffrey.
“Yes, the bandits were waiting for us when we left the sex cult temple after not finding an orgy there. We fought them off, drove them away, and got back to Cleig Grijan with only minor injuries. Then we rode in the coach back here to Heartburgh.”
“That sounds very straightforward,” said the general. “I don’t have any questions.” He stepped away from the easel and was about to sit down when Ayoob raised his hand.
“We have a question from our game design expert,” said the Duke. “I’m not sure why you’re in this meeting, but go on.”
“So there were two of you,” said Ayoob. “How many bandits, exactly were there?”
“Two,” said Bartram at the same time as Geoffrey said, “Eight.” The two men looked at each other. Bartram counted on his fingers. Geoffrey looked up visualizing the battle. “Five,” he finally said. “There were five.”
“That’s right,” said Bartram. “Five.”
“You should give descriptions to General Dungerame so he can cross-correlate them with other bandit sightings and track activity,” said Ayoob.
“That’s a good idea,” said the general. “I know a good artist. I’ll have her sit down with us and make some sketches.” The general looked at Geoffrey and winked, which Geoffrey took to mean that the artist the general was referring to was alliances and outreach coordinator Flame Bunyips, who liked sick animals and high-heeled boots. “I think that just about wraps…”
Ayoob raised his hand again.
“Yes?” said the Duke.
“How were the bandits armed?” Ayoob asked.
“Swords, right?” said Geoffrey, looking at Bartram.
“Yes, swords. Also knives.”
“And one of them had an axe,” said Geoffrey. “No guns. Which reminds me — why didn’t they have guns? I know I’m knew here, but isn’t Krim supposed to be based on 1500s England? Didn’t they have guns by then?”
The Duke sighed. “I looked into that,” he said. “It’s a supply issue. People come to Krim to fight battles, to do crafting, to practice heritage skills, that kind of thing. Nobody wants to go to a virtual world during their time off in order to turn horse urine into saltpeter. I hear that it’s a terrible job. So’s digging up sulfur. I actually have a gun. It’s hand-made, cost me a fortune, I can’t get ammunition for it, and if I do try to use it, it will probably explode in my hand.”
The Duke turned back to the blackboard. “The next ‘R…'”
“Hold on,” said Ayoob. “So there were five bandits. They were all armed. What weapons did you two have?”
Geoffrey and Bartram looked at each other again. After a few uncomfortable seconds, Geoffrey said, “Two apples. I had two apples.”
“I had a suitcase,” said Bartram.
“So you had weapons in suitcase?” asked the General.
“Well, no,” said Bartram. “I had orgy outfits for me and Geoffrey. I wanted us to look good for the cult priestesses. You really have to bring your own so everything fits.” He glanced at Geoffrey. “I guessed at your size.”
General Dungerame sat down. “Now I want to hear more.”