Build Mod, Then We'll Talk

Build Mod, Then We'll Talk
"Guard" by DeviantArt creator wlop, 12/15/2015. Depicts a Medieval soldier in full plate armor with a tower shield protecting a demure maiden with his red cloak
The first in a two-part narrative retelling of how a community turned one girl's act of care for someone she wanted to protect into something she never imagined it would become - this is the story of Bluesky Social's community outsourcing of moderation, how it started for one user - and how it will fall apart.

A FLIGHT OF DOVES streaked across the clear, blue skies on this quiet afternoon, disturbing the stillness just enough to catch the eyes of the wandering Rogue. No one knew where this wanderer came from, who she was, or, really, how she came to end up in this small little town, except that she, along with many other travelers from faraway, were invited here. These invitations from the royal court were rare in these days, and were treasured in the Outlands - promises of a new start, a blank slate for travelers to start anew.

It didn't matter that by and large, this was a lie - old soldiers from long-forgotten wars carried their scars with them - same shit, different day. But everyone wanted to be at the new town square, after all, it was "what's hot." It was there, in that small yet vibrant square, that the Rogue first laid eyes on...Her.

She could've been anyone, but to the Rogue, she was everything, she was light, she was beauty, she was grace, she was her Maiden. Time passed in this small yet bustling plaza, and as it did, the Rogue and the Maiden began to exchange pleasantries - furtive glances across the gala, a fluttering of eyelashes or a quick once-over, as if to indicate something more. Noticing the sparks of something beautiful beginning to take shape, some of the local taverngoers and lovers began to flock to the pair, mesmerized.

This blossoming courtship was, of course, interrupted - scattered troublemakers had crept into the community, spreading vitriol, causing a ruckus and otherwise shattering the illusion that this place was safe from their ilk. Someone from the crowd shouted for the royal guard, but - somehow - none were present. Come to think of it, no one had ever seen them, aside from that rumor about someone threatening to bludgeon the local jester to death with a mallet.

It was clear that someone needed to do something, but what? The townsfolk had no tools to deal with the assailants - sure, they could be shoved away, but then they would just find another target to harass. Something needed to be done, and fast.

As if finally heeding the call, the court wizards strolled into the plaza to introduce something they hoped would help calm the townspeople: Silencing Scrolls, they called them - write your assailant's name on the scroll, and they disappear from sight, also applying this effect for anyone else with a copy of that scroll. Well, it wasn't quite the Trust and Safety normally associated with the royal guards, but it was something, at least. The crowd, still somewhat shaken, was reluctant to step up to claim these lists - after all, anyone in the square could see if you were in possession of one, and what a terrible responsibility that would be.

For some odd reason, though, the Rogue, seeing the Maiden in obvious distress, felt an almost protective urge blooming inside her. She'd never quite felt that way before - it just wasn't in her nature. But something about this girl compelled her to cast aside her rogue's cowl, claim a few scrolls, and pick up a shield - from this point onwards, her sole purpose would be to protect her Maiden from ever having to have her peace disturbed again. It was at this point that the Rogue took on a new title, one at first jokingly suggested to her by a confidant:


IN THE DAYS following the initial incursion, the town continued to grow, and the Empress was becoming quite proficient in the use of her newfound tricks to protect her Maiden, whom she was growing rather fond of, indeed. Oftentimes her keen eye would catch would-be troublemakers before the Maiden was even aware, even while she slept, her Empress would keep watch, a nearly ever present protective force.

Others, it would seem, took notice of this as well. It wasn't long until the first citizen came knocking on her door, asking for help with a local bandit. Up until this point, the Empress had been solely the protector of one solitary girl - and damned good at it, too. Did she really want to open her services up to, for all intents and purposes, a stranger?

But the Empress, once a sellsword, felt that strange pull at her heart strings again, that cry for help resonating in her mind as she tried - and then failed - to ignore it. She dealt with the bandit just as any of the others she had dispensed with before, but - to her surprise, rather than simply bidding her well for a job well done, this individual did something quite curious indeed:

They called her a HERO.

She had never been called that word before. Tricky word, too - people tend to assume an awful lot about their heroes. They tend to project all their positive aspects onto them - their sense of morals, right and wrong, all of the good, none of the bad. Makes it all the more disappointing when that hero does something that goes against those contrived notions. She should've said something to that stranger that day, but..she didn't. Maybe she was just convinced it would be different for her, that she could keep her "work" and...pleasure separate from each other.

She was wrong.

The town continued to grow in size, and as the bandit attacks kept coming, the Empress kept getting more and more requests to deal with trouble in the township, alongside other community groups like Sky's Watch. Truth be told, she hardly noticed where the line between what she did for her Maiden, and what she did for the townsfolk was, anymore - the sheer volume had a way of blurring the distinctions between the two. Eventually, gold tributes began trickling through - the citizenry's way of thanking her in the royal court's apparent absence or non-action.

Try as it might, though - no amount of gold could ease the burdens of what the Empress saw in her day to day - no ordinary citizen should have to see that level of human wretchedness on full display. But to this town, it seemed, she was becoming much more than ordinary. There were nights where she would lie awake, possessed with the fear of losing sight of what was most valued to her - her love, above all else - to this new cult following surrounding her. But on her worst nights, she would be able to read correspondences from her Maiden - words that, from her lips, could heal any wound. Maybe it would be worth it to keep going. Maybe not.

As she was on a stroll down the main road, a curious sign caught her eye - it was a poster with her own face emblazoned on it that read: "THE EMPRESS WILL KEEP US SAFE." It was a strange feeling. After all, didn't the townsfolk know about the still ongoing need for a guard battalion? Why should it be on her shoulders to protect the keep? She hadn't a day of training to be a knight, let alone watching over an entire township.

It was then that she saw the reason for the poster: a banner at the tavern from a prominent writer's guild. Taking the scroll in her hands, she read the title in large font: "WHERE ARE THE ROYAL GUARDS?" - the piece was, evidently, lamenting the lack of any real, tangible Trusted and Safe guard patrols in the kingdom. It seemed a fairly average critique of the kingdom's failures, at least, until she froze in place, seeing the words:

If there is hope for the kingdom, it lies in citizens like the Empress.

At that moment, two thoughts fought for dominance in her mind:

  1. How did I let things get this far?
  2. How do I kill the hero that's been made in my image before it kills me?