Seven Secrets About the Order of the Stick

1. For once, Belkar wasn’t just being obnoxious – he really did mean it when he said Roy was a smokin’ hot babe. What isn't there to like? All height and cheekbones, broad shoulders and lithely muscled frame, big capable hands. Serious coal-black eyes with long dark lashes, and just enough of a temper to make life interesting.

What he fails to understand is why anyone should think that the stupid belt had anything to do with it. Hey, it’s hardly his fault if the others are going to assume that his loud and frequent expressions of appreciation for the seafood buffet mean that he doesn’t also like to sample the sausage platter on occasion. The Belkster is perfectly happy enjoying the whole menu, thanks.

2. Shortly before the formation of the Order of the Stick, Roy and Durkon spent an evening together. It was night of thunderstorms, which Durkon took as a signal from Thor to remain indoors, and Roy took as a signal that the night-market he'd planned to go to had probably been cancelled. Bored out of their brains, Durkon decided to teach Roy one of his favourite childhood drinking games. He was, of course, careful to choose one that was generally played by six-year-old dwarves and under, and breathed a secret sigh of relief when Roy failed to spot how blatantly the dwarf had allowed him to win. Roy then taught Durkon the Official Fighting and Drinking Song of Bash U, which seemed to involve standing on chairs and screaming 'YAARGH!' a lot before sticking one's head in a bucket of ale and blowing bubbles. Following this, they decided they were still bored, and made up a drinking game of their own which ran along the lines of 'Drink Every Time The Terrible, Terrible Bard At This Stupid Inn Drops a Note, Repeats A Song, or Tells That One Joke About The Alligator and the Bucket Again'.

After this, things get a little hazy, but at some point Roy invented a significantly less fun game called 'Drunkenly Rant About Being A Massive Disappointment to One's Father' and insisted on playing it until they were asked to leave the bar. Back in their room, Durkon created the 'Hug Roy and Tell Him He's Your Best Friend and You Really Love Him' game. This was followed by Roy's invention of the game 'Tell Durkon He's Amazing And You Love Him Too', and Durkon's creation of the 'Hey, You Know I Think I Have Another Flask of Whiskey In My Pack Somewhere' game. History does not record which one started playing the 'Your Best Friend Is Awesome And You Really Should Kiss Him' game, but it was followed by the 'Mmn, That Feels Nice, Do It Again' game, which went on for several hours before they passed out (Durkon on top of the wardrobe, for some reason, and Roy with his head in the mercifully unlit fireplace).

In the hideous grey-white morning, in between attacks of vomiting and sincerely-expressed wishes for swift death, they made up another game called 'Tell Ourselves That Sometimes These Things Happen, Particularly Between Close Friends Who Have Been Under a Lot of Stress Lately, and It Doesn't Mean Anything, No Really, It's A Completely Normal Part of Life', and played it with great enthusiasm for several hours.

They then spent the next two and a half years playing 'Don't Ever Mention That Evening Again', and got very good at it indeed.

3. The confirmedly male members of the Order are under the collective impression that Haley insists upon sharing a room with Vaarsuvius whenever the company stays at inns because the elf is a) a fellow female, b) rendered completely proof against transgression by a happy and secure marriage and/or c) utterly, unthreateningly, asexual.

The confirmedly male members of the Order are dead wrong on at least two counts out of three.

4. Elan is so, so happy that everyone is all back together again. It's especially nice to be back with Haley - she's smart and beautiful and he loves her so much and he just can't wait for them to get their happy ending! However, he does have to confess that there's someone else he's glad to see too. Well, Roy, of course. Cool, awesome Roy, who's like all the best bits of a big brother and a dad put together, with the added bonus of hardly ever attempting to murder him! But someone else even besides *that*…

He's never admitted this to anyone else, not really even to himself, and he certainly couldn't talk about it with Haley. The thing is, he finds that he can't help but experience certain funny feelings of – well, let's call it 'excitement' – when Belkar starts getting violent, or chases him around and around the camp with his daggers out. The feeling is completely different to the sensation of running away from any of the other things that have tried to kill him so far on this adventure — it's not terror, or rather, it is, but edged with a fierce joy and a queasy half-nervous curiosity about what the halfling would actually do with him if he caught him. He knows it wouldn't be very nice at all, and yet he still sort of wants it to happen. It's weird — why would he enjoy someone being mean and hurting him? Why would he be unable to stop thinking about being pounced and tumbled in the dust by someone half his size and three times his strength, of thick dark bruises to be kissed better, of cold steel tracing a delicate path down his naked back…

Lately, he’s taken to mildly annoying Belkar on purpose, just for the fun of running shrieking across the hot sand, and one day soon he’s going to get himself caught.

5. Momentarily distracted from spellwork, V drifts and daydreams. 'Hmm. While I am by no means either practically or emotionally in a position to conduct a further relationship at this stage, and while romantic speculations are in any case not a particularly productive use of my valuable research time, the topic remains compelling. If some nefarious figure were to hold a crossbow to my head, or perhaps some irresistible libido-enhancing spell were to come into effect in conjunction with some catastrophic Will saves, and I were to be forced to enter into physical congress with one of my companions, which member of the party would I choose?

A difficult and complex question. Prior romantic engagements aside, while the bard is objectively the most conventionally attractive member of the group, physical intimacy would no doubt be problematic if one felt continually compelled to throttle one's partner — or at the very least, the character of the sexual act would be fundamentally changed. Leaving him aside, Miss Starshine? She is intelligent, sympathetic and more beautiful than she will ever know. But to risk a friend — and such an admirable one — over a matter as frivolous as temporary carnal gratification? Never. Master Thundershield? Please, no. The unfortunate antics of one Legolas Greenleaf aside, elves are generally strongly repelled by facial hair, and the very thought of that accent ('aye, V'suv'yus, aye! Haerder!) giving voice to the throes of sexual passion is enough to impel one towards monasticism. That leaves only…'

V's eyes temporarily cross in horror. Hir idle, distracted mind has somehow seized upon the image of Sir Greenhilt (who has beautiful hands, and smells like woodsmoke and old leather) *and* the halfling (presses just a little too hard when he kisses, and has the most wickedly sharp little white teeth). Not only are both images distractingly beguiling, but in hir mind the figures are *together*, and are beckoning hir to *join in*. The scenario that flashes before hir eyes also includes, for some reason, a large bed with satin sheets, a bull-whip and an extra-large jar of sticky orange marmalade.

V makes a noise that sounds exactly like a small dying kitten, and begins scrabbling desperately through hir bag for a potion of 'Remove Mental Image'.

6. It would all have been just fine if Belkar hadn't made a slight miscalculation on the afternoon of New Year's Eve in Azure City. The whole V's-gender-debate had been getting on everybody's nerves for far too long, and since he was at a loose end, he decided to make his own fun. He'd been mooching around the inn courtyard looking for small animals to kick when he was struck by a brilliant idea: pheromones! Of course! Now, while humans, dwarves and most other races were stinky enough that a halfling with a decent nose could tell their gender three city blocks away, elves were a more difficult proposition. He'd never managed to get close enough to sniff Vaarsuvius properly on the road, especially since the pain-in-the-ass elf had the habit of trancing off the ground, usually a little too high for him to reach. Now, though, with bedsheets and dirty robes and unguarded laundry baskets lying around…

He'd thought things were pretty bad when Haley had first caught him. She'd given him the oddest look of her life when she'd entered the room she and V shared, only to bust him with his nose buried in a pair of weird purple elven undergarments. He'd thought it was even worse when she then gave him a forty-five minute lecture on respecting the privacy of one's team-mates and charged him a 70gp 'Not-Squealing-to-Roy-and-the-Paladin-Patrol' fee.

He only really discovered how bad things could get, though, when he ran into the beautiful, clever, gifted, stunningly attr STUPID elf at dinner that night, and realised exactly how powerful elven pheromones could be, and why elven underwear was best left unsmelled.

7. There is one secret that wild horses, Epic-level torture and all of the demons of all of the possible hells cannot possibly drag out of Roy. It is this: during the burning inn rescue on the road to Azure City, something terrible had happened to him. He'd been wearing the Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity at the time, his brain and body attempting to deal with a new and somewhat unstable cocktail of hormones as well as some inept assassins, a raging building fire and the usual chaos that accompanies the Order wherever it goes. He'd been hobbling down a corridor in the soon-to-be-razed inn, half-dragging and half-carrying a horribly-poisoned Elan and desperately searching for Durkon or V to heal him. He had stopped to check their direction, and for one fatal second, made the mistake of looking down into the bard's pale face, his beautiful summer-blue eyes rolling back in his head, butter-coloured hair flopping loose on his pale, sweaty forehead, light frame trembling in Roy's arms. The terrible thing is this: for one horrible, unspeakable moment, Roy totally understood what all the ladies see in Elan.

Sometimes he still wakes up screaming.

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