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Bring News Back

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"They're wearing steel that's fine and true
They carry news that must get through."
Led Zeppelin, "No Quarter"

The characters have discovered what the Big Bad is up to. They have no hope of stopping him, but if only the Reasonable Authority Figure knew... There is no Epic Hail handy. They have to go in person to Bring News Back of what is happening, along a long, difficult, dangerous route. Odds are good that they will be chased. (Bottled Heroic Resolve may be required to keep going.)

Other reasons to Bring News Back include disaster about to strike; disaster averted, and news must be Brought Back so that the people at home don't activate the fallback plan; discovery of a traitor; et cetera.

Often leads to You Shall Not Pass!, which requires sacrificing No One Gets Left Behind. In other cases, people preparing for a Last Stand may dispatch a Sole Survivor to carry back word of the battle (being sent to Bring News Back means that the people who didn't get sent are More Hero than Thou). This often tests the sternest sense of duty.) Can be combined with an Epic Hail, if the newsbearers are trying to reach an outpost equipped for Epic Hailing.

Getting back may not be the end of their problems. Being the Bearer of Bad News, they are often greeted with disbelief or even Malicious Slander; the Evil Chancellor or a Divided We Fall character may try to keep them from the Reasonable Authority Figure. If the messenger fails to deliver his news, he becomes an Impeded Messenger.

For obvious reasons, much more common in settings that don't have radios, although anything that can cut off communication can bring back the trope — as can factors that make it too dangerous to use, such as monitoring.

See also Spare a Messenger. Compare Almost Dead Guy. Indeed, this can be Almost Dead Guy, told from his point-of-view, but the survival rate is rather higher. Pursued Protagonist uses this as the opening, to get to The Hero, as a form of Herald. Compare Harbinger of Impending Doom. Contrast Late to the Tragedy, Apocalyptic Log, Can't Stop The Signal. An inverse of sorts is Bring Help Back, when the message is that the ones sending the message need help, not information that the ones receiving the message need to have.


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    Anime and Manga  

  • Rurouni Kenshin - Anti-Hero Chou lies to Kamatari that this is the latter's duty as to prevent any further suicide attempts.
  • Sound of the Sky - Someone has to warn two armies the war is over before they start a new one. Even if it takes cutting a path through your General Ripper forces.
  • The Final Flight of the Osiris is entirely this trope. This finale to The Animatrix records the last minutes of the crew of the hovership Osiris after they discover the machines' plan to destroy Zion. While the rest of the crew fights for their lives and for every second they can spare, Jue enters the Matrix and races to a deaddrop with the information.

    Comic Books  

  • Dilios in 300 is ordered to return to Sparta to report what happened, using the story of Leonidas' sacrifice to rally the Greeks to stand against the Persians.
  • The comic-book-within-the-comic-book "The Black Freighter" in Watchmen depicts a man going to horrific lengths to get back to his town in time to warn them about the approach of the titular pirate ship and the death and violence it will bring.
  • Spider-Man villain Digger does this with two mooks who work for his/their arch-enemy. The other one was thrown out of window to deliver the message. The other would be the message.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Mulan: Shan Yu lets two captured soldiers go just so they can deliver the message of his coming to the Emperor. And just to show how cruel he is...
    Shan Yu: How many men does it take to deliver a message?
    Archer: (aiming) One.
  • The Thief and the Cobbler: the sole survivor of a massacre rides for miles with a volley of arrows on his back and arrives at the palace, living just long enough to say the name of the Big Bad. "One... Eye ... is coming!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Serenity: After learning the horrible truth about what happened on Miranda, Mal and the crew of the title ship set out to reach the only means of sending/spreading the report on what happened. It's a variant on this in that the only "authority figures" around had the report buried, since they were responsible for the whole thing, but Mal is determined to get the message out in order to speak for the people who died there and strike a serious blow against the Alliance.
  • Star Trek: Insurrection. Dougherty actually dares Picard to send word to Starfleet; "by the time you do, this will all be done." Picard sends the ship anyway, but sticks around with an away team to stop Dougherty's plan. Something of a subversion, since the action was legally sanctioned and Picard was trying to get them to reconsider.
  • Gallipoli. The climax of the film.
  • In Citizenfour, Edward Snowden reveals information about illegal surveillance to journalists so they can expose those actions to the world, even though he knows what it will do to him.
    Snowden:: I appreciate your concern for my safety, but I already know how this will end for me, and I accept the risks....I ask only that you ensure this information makes it home to the American public.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Aragorn is separated from the Rohirrim on the way to Helm's Deep, and is presumed dead. On his weary way back he encounters Saruman's Uruk-Hai army, and must quickly ride to Helm's Deep and warn them of just how large the opposing force actually is.
  • Just before the climax of 300, Leonidas sends Dilios back to Sparta in order to tell the tale of the Spartans' mighty feats, as Leonidas knows that he and what's left of his army are facing a a hopeless Last Stand against the Persians. Partly to obviously report on what happened, partly to rouse the thousands of other lifelong Spartan soldiers into battle.


  • A common theme in stories based on Warhammer 40,000; a soldier's second most important job, after fighting the enemy, is to let those in charge know where the enemy is.
    • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel For the Emperor, when they discover the underground genestealers, Vail has them head back. Even after the apparent loss of all their companions, Cainnote  and Vail plug on.
      • In The Last Ditch, Cain overrules a commissar who would rather die fighting tyranids than let anyone know it wasn't (just) orks out there.
      Forres: Nevertheless, our duty demands…
      Cain: Our duty demands we live to report this, so we can mount an effective defence and save this planet for the Emperor.
    • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 novel Space Wolf, when they discover Chaos Space Marines, Sergeant Hengist sends Ragnar back, with some companions, to bring the news, and rallies the rest for You Shall Not Pass! to buy them time. When one of them is injured, Ragnar sends the others on, to bring the news, while he tends the wounded one.
      • In Grey Hunters, Ragnar finds some soldiers and by spying, he learns they are loyalists who are trying to discover who had landed and, if they were loyal, bring them word of where the Chaos forces are concentrated.
    • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel The Flight of the Eisenstein, Garro learns of Horus's treachery, first on Tarvitz's word, then by seeing the weapons being armed on his own ship, then when an order to attack their own men is intercepted. He demands all his men and the officers of the ship swear an oath of moment to get the word back to Terra, and they set out to do so.
    • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40000 short story "Renegades" Rykhel attempts this, to bring back news of his company's treachery and murders (the story ends with his traveling off into danger).
    • In Legion of the Damned the first part of the Space Marines' plan is to make make a Last Stand defending the only city on a cemetery world. They hope to inflict so much damage on the invading Chaos Blood Crusade that it will move on after killing the defenders and thus does not find where the women and children are hiding. The second part requires that once most of the defenders are dead at least one of the survivors fights his way out of the city and is thus able to tell any arriving Imperial forces where the women and children are.
  • "Passage To Dilfar", a short story in Dilvish, the Damned by Roger Zelazny. The whole story is the attempt to bring the news back.
  • In The Shiva Option, the 4th Starfire book by David Weber and Steve White, an Alliance survey fleet finds a "back way" (an unusual warp point detectable from only one side) into one of the Bug home systems. It's a vastly easier avenue of attack than the direct route- but the fleet is already deep in enemy territory and cut off from retreat. In the end, it takes the Heroic Sacrifice of all the fleet's fighting vessels to get the survey ships home with the news.
    • The previous book, In Death Ground, similarly has a Terran fleet stumble upon a back door into one of the humans' home systems, which the Bugs could use to pounce on humanity at any time. They have to get back and warn Terran H.Q., but they can't use the back door to get there and have to go around the long way.
  • C. S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy, part of The Chronicles of Narnia. Near the end of the book Shasta must run a long distance to warn King Lune of the invading Calormen army.
  • An immortal postman in Terry Pratchett's Going Postal failed at this once, causing the destruction of civilization. He's hoping time is cyclical so that he'll get another chance to deliver the message in time.
  • Used a little differently in J. R. R. Tolkien's universe. In an extended account of the Battle of Gladden Fields in Unfinished Tales, two men are sent back to Rivendell with the shards of Narsil alongside news that Isildur, his sons, and their whole army perished.
  • In T. H. White's The Once and Future King King Arthur sends off Sir Thomas Malory before the final battle, so he can tell his story.
  • In With Fire and Sword, two of the main characters go on a suicide mission to bring news back of the Last Stand their army is facing and to summon reinforcements.
  • This is pretty much the main plot in the first book of The Serpentwar Saga. Erik and Roo ended up in the death cell and sentenced to hang. They were spared with a few others after a fake hanging to serve in Calis's band of desperate men.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", once Ivga has told Valerius which way Salome took Taramis, he sends her off to tell the news that the true queen has been found.
  • The last chapter of Larry Niven's novel Protector reveals that the entire book has been one big case of Bringing News Back, telling of the human protector's war against the oncoming Pak warfleet, and giving advice on what to do should they (the human protectors) fail.
  • In Black Beauty, the titular horse is saddled in the middle of the night to bring the news to the doctor (who lives several miles away) that his mistress, the wealthy woman to whom he belongs, is very ill and likely dying. Understanding the severity of the mission, the horse refuses to give anything but his best in the run, not even slowing down when his groom offers to let him. Unfortunately, the doctor has no horse and must ride Beauty back to the estate, thus subverting the trope (and almost killing the poor horse).
  • In the first book of the Boundary's Fall series, Jeran and Dahr must bring news of Tylor the Bull's escape to King Mathis.
  • In the first book of Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series, Into The Storm, Benjamin Mallory, Bristar, and Ed Palmer quickly patch a desereted PBY and flies away from the destroyer USS Mahan to deliver news of what happened to Captain Reddy of USS Walker.
  • In Andre Norton's Ordeal in Otherwhere, when Shann is captured by the Company men, Charis steals a copter to get news to Thorvald and the Wyverns. She feels quite guilty about it.
  • In Dragon Bones, after deciding to let the villain invade his castle and get the eponymous dragon bones, and then "rescue" it, as suggested by the villain, Ward has to get home in time to tell his uncle that castle Hurog needs to be evacuated.
  • In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Abdiel leaves Satan's legions and hurries to Heaven to bring back news of the revolt. On arrival, he finds out that they are already preparing for war, but they pause to give him a hero's welcome for his escape.
  • The Measure of a Man by Randall Garrett. The Sole Survivor of a damaged starship has to warn of an alien attack, but only has a single lifepod remaining (the aliens destroyed all the others) that was under repair and without radiation shielding installed. Eventually he does the math and works out that if he can pilot the damaged starship most of the way, he'll hopefully still be alive by the time the lifepod gets back to Earth.
  • This makes up a large part of Galactic Patrol. Space Pirates piloting vessels of greater speed and power than anything the Patrol have are running amok, so the Patrol sends out their most advanced vessel to capture one, tear it apart for its secrets, then bring the information gained back to Earth through an approaching fleet of other pirates. So the information is copied onto tapes and the crew take to the lifepods, while rigging up a system to send their ship on a randomly programmed evasive course.

    Live-Action TV  

  • Andor: After escaping Melshi decides that he's going to make sure the truth of what's happening on Narkina-5 is spread to the Galaxy.
  • An episode of Babylon 5 subverted this when they had to sacrifice a ship to give the Shadows the impression that this is what was happening. The reality was that the information they were carrying was engineered to lure them into a trap.
  • In Doctor Who, the Arc Words "Bad Wolf" were a message carried across dimensions by the companion Rose to warn The Doctor of the impending doom to the fabric of the universe. To produce the Stable Time Loop — they had just learned that it was significant information.
    • In The War Machines, Ben escapes WOTAN's slaves, despite the danger, and hurries to the Doctor to give the news — horrifying the Doctor and the man with him with his appearance.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "2010", SG1 gets back together and form an elaborate plot to send a message through the Stargate back to 2000/1 to warn against meeting a dangerous alien race. They all try to make it to the Stargate with individual notes, but everyone except Carter is killed before they can make it; she just barely manages to get the note through the gate before being killed.


    Video Games 

  • Avernum 5 has you periodically bring back news of the fugitive you're pursuing across the frontier. In a subversion, the person you're reporting to turns out to be The Mole for that fugitive.
  • Alyx Vance in Half-Life 2 carries a packet with plot-critical super-secret stolen data through a long sequence of hostile environments to where it can turn the tide of battle. Due to the bad quality of the radio communications, they can't simply transmit the data, despite sometimes establishing video communication (one can surmise it was analog, or that the Combine jammed the transmissions).
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light, the player's ship travels through seven star sectors whilst being chased by a huge rebel fleet, in order to inform the Federation of the Rebel Flagship, whose destruction would leave the rest of the rebellion vulnerable.
  • The worst ending of Mass Effect 2 culminates with one character left alive to escape and tell what the party has learned to the rest of the galaxy.
  • A single Burmecian soldier arrives to inform King Cid of the attack on Burmecia in Final Fantasy IX. Combines with Determinator and Almost Dead Guy, since he crossed essentially the length of a continent, with the only passageway between Burmecia and his destination taken over by the enemy, and he died immediately after delivering the news.
  • A similar situation as above happens at the beginning of Final Fantasy XII. Vaan's older brother Reks was present when King Raminas was assassinated, supposedly at the hands of Basch. Reks was stabbed in the gut during the incident but lived long enough to testify his version of events before succumbing to his injuries some time latter.
  • In The Alliance Alive, Vivian and Ignace are caught while on an information-gathering mission. Vivian is tortured; Ignace wants to die fighting her attacker, but she orders him to run back to their base and expose the Big Bad's plot. To demoralize the titular alliance, Kuwalsa lets Ignace do so. He also lets Ignace carry Vivian's unconscious body back.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

  • In The Gamer's Alliance, when the Battle of the Rivers turns out badly for Alent's Western Army thanks to the Coalition's surprise attack, the commander orders one of his soldiers to flee to Alent to warn the Council of Mages about an impending Coalition invasion while the rest of the soldiers try to hold back the overwhelming Coalition army.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Justice League season finale "The Savage Time", the League learns that Vandal Savage is leading the Nazis to invade the United States. As they lack any means of radioing this information, the Flash runs across the Atlantic to warn the US.

    Real Life 

  • Just before the Battle of Marathon between Athens and Persia, the Athenians sent a soldier named Pheidippides to warn Sparta that the long-feared Persian invasion had begun, and request Spartan aid. He ran 149 miles to Sparta on foot, then ran back to Athens with the bad news that Sparta would not help them for a week. Supposedly he arrived only a few days after he'd left. This was in 490 BCE.
    • A later, inaccurate legend has Pheidippides run 26 miles from Marathon to Athens after the battle, to let them know that Athens had won and nobody should strike a deal with the Persians. Upon arrival in Athens, he shouted, "nenikékamen!" ("we are victorious!") and promptly dropped dead from exhaustion.note 
    • This inspired and named the tradition of running marathons.
  • The midnight rides of Samuel Prescott, William Dawes, and Paul Revere. The last of these only made it to one village before he got caught, but he got the poem, so he's the famous one.
  • Terasaka Kichiemon- the only survivor of The 47 Ronin- was told to bring word of their successful raid to Ako. After the other 46 committed suicide he alone was pardoned by the emperor. When he died at the very old age of 87 he was buried with the others.
  • Laura Secord is the Canadian version of Paul Revere - after hearing plans of an American surprise attack, she travelled over 32km (from behind enemy lines, too) to inform British soldiers of the attack. The attack met disaster.
  • During the absolute Curb-Stomp Battle that was the Battle of Cannae, one of the Roman consuls, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, was gravely injured. Offered a horse to flee the battle by Cornelius, one of the few surviving tribunes, he responded thus:
    Long may you live to do brave deeds, Cornelius, but do not waste in useless pity the few moments left in which to escape from the hands of the enemy. Go, announce publicly to the Senate that they must fortify Rome and make strong its defence before the victorious enemy approaches, and tell Q. Fabius privately that I have ever remembered his precepts in life and in death. Suffer me to breathe my last among my slaughtered soldiers, let me not have to defend myself again when I am no longer consul, or appear as the accuser of my colleague and protect my own innocence by throwing the guilt on another.