(Artwork from "A Bird in Hand" (WoW TCG) by Gonzalo Ordonez)
Hey Omnuron! I noticed that you tend to have a pained look on your face when I come back from Talon missions, like you just ate something that didn't agree with you.
If it's just heartburn, you should really go talk to Choluna, I'm sure she'd have some sort of mushed up roots or minced wood pulp or something that would help. But if it's stress, you should relax! You need to think about your blood pressure! Besides, there's no need to worry about me like that, Archdruid. I know you keep telling us (well, me) that we should remain hidden, that the Druids of the Talon should avoid direct conflict and leave the fighting to the others, but I can take care of myself! And anyway, sometimes you just need to get your talons dirty.
However, I noticed that I'm pretty much the only one in our Order who feels this way. The others, they like to hover far overhead in Storm Crow form, or lurk in the shadows far away from the action, scrounging up tiny little scraps of overheard intel.
Omnuron, I know they're just doing what you taught us to do, and I know this is safer...but it's just not as effective! I think we need to be more aggressive in our "information gathering" to really get results. You may not always approve of my methods, but nothing loosens a sucker's tongue like a little blood. And since we're already embedded deep within enemy territory, why not do a little damage while we're there?
Makes perfect sense to me!
So anyway, I thought I'd help you out with some tips and pointers I've picked up over the years! That way, we can train more druids on the fine art of recon, infiltration, and of course, a little precision knife-work!
I can't wait!
Thisalee's Guide to Practical Stealth and Espionage
by Thisalee Crow
Hey there! So you've decided to join the Druids of the Talon, and you don't know where to begin. Well, the first thing you need to know is, get a knife. But the second thing you need to know, is what we're not!
(I'll explain the knife thing later.)
We're druids, yes, but we're not front-line fighters, standing toe-to-toe with our enemies, clawing and biting away in our feral forms. And neither are we spellcasters, blasting our foes or healing our allies with Ysera's blessings.
Don't get me wrong, we CAN do these things in a pinch, but our unique talents and skills are much better utilized performing more specialized roles. Surveillance, long-distance message delivery, gathering vital enemy information - these are our jobs! While our rowdy Druids of the Claw cousins brawl away and keep our foes busy, we can sneak by unnoticed and find out what they're really up to!
Now, Omnuron says we should focus on silence and subterfuge, and get our information through eavesdropping or aerial observation. This isn't a bad start, but why stop there? We've got the moves - let's use them! An effective Druid of the Talon can single-handedly cripple an enemy advance by taking out their proverbial kneecaps.
One of our top priorities while on recon is to keep an eye out for any battle plans or troop orders. These are like gold! Sometimes we get lucky, and the enemy just leaves them out in plain sight for anyone to find. If you have time, don't actually take them, but instead, memorize them or make a copy! If they never realize that we know what they're planning, we can tell our forces and counter their moves, or better yet, ambush them! Have you ever seen a brigade of filthy demons walk right into a trap, all the while thinking that they're outmaneuvering us? It's so much fun.
Now, if you don't have time to carefully study their plans, then just pocket them or burn them when you leave. Sure, they'll know something's wrong, but it'll throw them into disarray and make them wonder what else we know. It'll either buy us time, or it'll allow us to go on the offensive and push them back! It's not quite as good, but it's still pretty effective.
Furthermore, remember to keep an eye out for any secondary objectives, no matter how bizarre they might be. I know, I know...it doesn't really make much sense to be playing botanist while you're busy risking life and limb prowling around behind enemy lines. But try to satisfy their requests. They probably have a good reason! They'd better, anyway...
Another task that we excel at is the fine art of SABOTAGE. What's better than stealing a Twilight Cultist list of objectives and bring it back to our side? Why, changing that list and letting the buffoons defeat themselves!
Or, if you're up against two different groups that have made some kind of unholy alliance, then get in there and break up that terrible partnership! A little select theft here, a little planting of "evidence" there, and pretty soon you can just sit back and watch their fragile truce disintegrate like an old, dried-up leaf. It's like music to the ears!
There are also less direct ways of hampering your foes, especially if you can get access to their armories or supplies! Loosen their spearheads, smash (or poison) all their potions, sever the straps on their armor...little things, but they add up to a pretty severe disadvantage! They'll never know what hit them!
Witnesses (Don't leave any!)
This is as good a time as any to mention enemy guards who might be protecting their intel. Sometimes you simply won't be able to reach some valuable information without confronting some grunt or guard posted to watch over it. I've seen veteran druids spend hours carefully picking their way through an enemy stronghold, only to turn away in frustration when they see that the scroll or book they're seeking is being protected by a few grunts.
I don't really understand the problem, here. Don't want to be detected because some jerk is in the way? Take him out. Permanently.
Now, we're pretty good at a lot of things, but removing an enemy quietly and without attracting attention isn't really one of them. Sure, we can float down unseen from above, but then what? Claw at them with our talons? Peck them in the nose? Alternately, we can sneak up in our feline form, but have you ever tried clawing someone to death without roaring and howling like a...well, a wild nightsaber? It's just not in our nature. (Hah!)
This is why it's crucial to bring along a good, sturdy blade, friends. You want something small that won't interfere with your shapeshifting, but it should be strong and tapered to a nice, sharp point. We're Druids of the Talon - it only makes sense to have a lethal one at our disposal.
And don't get some flimsy cheese-cutter! You want a blade that's solid and heavy, something you can really put your weight behind - you never know when you might need to bash open a drawer, knock a prisoner unconscious, or other unexpected, random tasks!
As for those pesky guards or sentries? Simply sneak up and get behind them, perform a little ear-to-ear action, and they'll be down for the count with nary a sound. If you need to bring them down, a hard kick to the back of their knees will drop them right down to convenient knife level.
Alternately, if you'd prefer, a stab right to the spine does the trick pretty well, too. If they're heavily armored, you can aim for where the neck of their armor meets the base of their helmet for a quick kill, or failing that, the soft mail right under one's arm, and the lung beneath it, is always a good bet.
Oh, and make sure you cover their mouths - even a final gasp or gurgle can be enough to attract unwanted attention! In fact, if you're up against someone larger than you, do your knife-work, then shift into dire bear form and squash them to the ground. Yelling for help with a fatal dagger wound is pretty hard, but doing it while a massive bear is rolling around on top of you is near impossible. (It's also pretty funny. For us, anyway.)
Now, some Druids think we shouldn't get involved in combat...that we shouldn't get distracted, but instead focus on "fact-finding." Bah! Like I always say, facts are best found on corpses. You never know what type of clue or useful info you'll find on the average cultist or Old God devotee. Besides, one grunt taken out silently today is one less grunt that can kill us tomorrow! If we get the chance, I say absolutely go ahead and thin out the enemy's ranks.
Added bonus - demoralization! Who says you have to be one of those shady Warlocks to frighten people? By dispatching them in their own base/cave/whatever, you'll really throw the fear of Aviana into them! And if they keep jumping at shadows, wondering if there's one of our number hiding within, we've done our job well. They'll think twice before messing with us again!
Tools and Equipment
I've already mentioned a good dagger, but there's plenty of other useful tools you should outfit yourself with before heading into the field! Don't overlook them - they can make the difference between a successful recon mission and an early cairn.
When you're padding around in feline form, you will be able to smell and hear your enemies, as long as they're warm-blooded creatures like humans, elves, ogres, etc. Sometimes you'll need those keen senses when not in cat form, though, so be sure to carry some Blackened Worg Steaks with you. Avoiding enemy patrols is a lot easier when you know exactly where they are! On a similar note, if they've got hounds or beasts roaming about, you can gulp down some Tracker Snacks to be able to sniff them out.
Another helpful device is an Ornate Spyglass. These things are fragile, bulky and awkward to carry, but they do what they're supposed to do. Want to know what an enemy commander is holding, from a few hundred yards away? Need to closely inspect an approaching figure? A few seconds peering through one of these and you'll have the intel you need. The enemy won't even know you're around.
(PS: The Gnomes also make a special version of the Spyglass. Don't use it. Trust me.)
Finally, sometimes things just go terribly wrong, and you need to make an hasty escape. I always make sure to have an Invisibility Potion or two handy, for true emergencies. Remember, as much as you might enjoy carving up a few, we're not really intended for long fights! Strike silently, strike quickly, then get out!
Our roles are less flashy than the Druids of the Claw, and we don't always get the accolades that our kin tend to be showered with. But you know what? That's fine. Proper enemy reconnaissance and surveillance are what wins wars! They might be the bulk and body of our fighting forces, but we're the strike force, the shock troops, the scouts. It takes finesse, skill and patience. And sometimes, it takes a person who's not afraid to get their hands a little dirty to get the job done.
(And really, that's the best part, isn't it?)
Show/Hide Letter Notes
I knew that I HAD to do a Thisalee letter...I just wasn't sure what to do for it! She's got such a fun, vibrant personality already, and yet, there's a real edge to her. It's funny and great to see in an NPC, but it's actually a little alarming to sit back and realize just how excited and hungry for action she is. Ah well, it makes for a fun experience.
I get the strong impression that even among the Druids of the Talon, Thisalee is a little wild and crazy. In comparison, Omnuron seems so calm and normal, and Thisalee so...unrestrained. It seemed the classic case of the old mentor /facepalming or groaning as Thisalee continues to go get into all sorts of trouble...sort of a Calvin feel to her. I thought it'd be funny to expand on this feeling, really make you feel sorry for poor old Omnuron, having to deal with such a maverick under his wing.
I really also like the idea that the Druids of the Talon are Malfurion's "special forces", the group that gets called upon to do the morally-dubious tasks, the dirty work, etc. Not only are they well-suited for the espionage elements, but they really would make great assassins, infiltrators, saboteurs etc. It's just not something you'd normally think of when you think druids, which is maybe one of the reasons it works so well!
I also thought it interesting that Thisalee uses a knife, very noticeably. Not only is it mentioned a few times in her gossip text, but it's used in a quest, and when you encounter it later on, her armor is all exactly the same, but she's gotten a new dagger! I considered why she might have one, and realized that for all their stealth, druids really AREN'T naturally equipped for some dark and gritty assassination work. They really would need a tool or weapon of some sort, which could also be used for miscellaneous utility tasks as well. A dagger made perfect sense, in that regard.
Finally, I tried to keep Thisalee's upbeat, optimistic demeanor throughout the letter. It's funny - it's a fine line between being optimistic because you're confident, and being optimistic because you're dumb or naive. And while you get the impression that Thisalee is young, she definitely does not seem stupid. Brash, confident, maybe a little overconfident, but not stupid! However, like most maverick personalities, you can definitely see a little recklessness in her that will one day lead her into a situation where she's bitten off a little more than she can chew...hence, the inclusion of the equipment section, to show that she's at least taken some precautions and had some escape tricks up her sleeves. :)