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The Sepulchre of Lies

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Valaran
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
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Founded: May 25, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

The Sepulchre of Lies

Postby Valaran » Sat Feb 27, 2016 5:22 am

The Sepulchre of Lies


“No”, the king replied, and hope for the traitors vanished.

More mouths opened, to plead for mercy, but he silenced them with a look. He would become known for that gaze, for it pierced the soul. He would brook no shred of dissent, and where disorder of noise had reigned, now silence ruled.

Then the monarch descended from the throne and came to his childhood friend, who had thrice saved his lord’s life. He went up to Amalric, and gazed at him. Alone of the nobles, Amalric was not cowed by that gaze, and matched with his own defiant eyes. The King was silent for a long moment. Then with a single blinding strike he tore the traitor down with a sword of dark grey steel. This was the command, and the other traitors were shortly dispatched. Their bodies were thrown into the Lethran, the blood staining the water. But the King did not allow the same for Amalric. Instead, with the entire elite of the realm gathered, he took a torch and set it on the corpse. It was said the fire reflected deeply in his eyes, as he watched the body burn in pure silence.

It is, in my mind, that moment when Edric took up his ancestor’s mantle. When the frost crystallised over his heart, when his soul was tempered by the heat of a dark fury. Until that point, no one else had yet been worthy to wear that name. No son of the first Edric had survived to his father’s place, and yet here was his true successor.


-Saerd, ‘The Way of Kings’

Music



“Have ever considered the shadows?”

“Never.”

“But they hide so much from the light.”
- excerpt from ‘The Duskman’s Way’, anon.

The man knew he was about to die. It didn’t stop him from running. Sprinting footsteps kept pace with heartbeats as adrenaline kicked in, and Sevra chased him through the shadows. The shadows of a necropolis. Old Astaria, the forgotten masonry of a lost segment of the capital, had submerged by the edifices of a modern city. A place to hide to escape into the deathly murk. She had to keep her quarry in sight.

The man launched back suddenly, coming straight for her. Sevra’s speed took her straight into his path. She didn’t stop. Instead, she spun, arcing his leg into his chest. he ducked out the way and she dodged his return strike. She kicked him again, and this time it connected, his shoes slid across the floor as he slid back, his hands raised in a perfect block. He gave two strikes back, swift jabs which she rolled away from. He was clearly trained well, and rolled away from her next attack. But his movements, they seemed overly jerky, energetic. Some control was missing.

And then he was gone, clattering down the hallway. She swore as she breathed and the chase began again. He climbed stairs, and Sevra followed him into the light.

She scrambled into a construction yard. One of Arcan’s new towers, powering the heights of industrial megalomania and the new property boom that funnelled Astaria upwards, grasping towards the sky with every shining edifice. These were the foundations. Mounds of ochre splattered dirt reared up, slabs of light grey, fossils of yellow and swarms neon safety jackets all bombarded the vision.

A streak of black flashed across her vision. There he was, darting through the moulded topography of wasted earth. Builders gawped as she sprinted through them, her boots leaving a trail of heavy imprints. She was tiring, panting under a combat vest. But her mind was agile as it cornered her prey. The prey, weaved its own path, twisting this way, before abruptly turning that, jerked forwards by some invisible puppet strings. Sevra caught his eyes once, darting glimmers of white and dark colour.

He halted. The pier extended into the river, all exclaimed land. Around them, the edifices of Astaria encrusted the river, unfolding along this threading current. Sevra halted behind him. She took out her pistol and levelled it at him. “On the ground. I have no problem shooting you right now.”

He turned, snarling. “Oh you’ve done it now, you bitch.”

“I said on the ground!”

To her relief, he crouched down. It would have to do. “Now tell me what you know.”

“To think, my life came to this.”

“I have no hesitation dropping you right now! Tell me everything!”

“Oh yes, of course. You so desperately need to know, that you’ll interrogate anyone, even a simple junkie like me. But you must promise me one thing, after this. You must.”

“Which is?”

Her turned and looked at her. His jaw was slack, his clothes creased. A brown stain ran down his shirt. His eyes, they darted for one brief flicker, before snapping into focus, locking onto her.

“You have to kill me.”



“Plots never feel small. On the contrary, they appear vast, engulfing one’s view until it is all one can see. That is how they prey on the mind, how they lure you in. There is something inevitable about such a plot, something enthralling about such a descent.” - Murlke

Ceorl Engavar Caraved was having a bad day. The Ceorl was young, and beset by a twitching irritation, one that plagued him right now. Fear had sunk its claws in, and was slowly tearing his mind to shreds.

Someone met him at lobby. A tall, middle-aged man, smartly dressed. He kept pace as they walked, Engavar not willing to give the other man the lead, even though he didn’t know where he was going. “I am Commander Norved, Ceorl. I’m glad you could come on short notice.”

“Don’t give me that crap now.”

Norved nodded amicably. “This won’t take long, I hope. Its only a single væklas.”

Caraved frowned. “What does she know.”

“She chased a target across central Astaria. Had him at gunpoint, before being attacked by an unknown assailant, and being forced to kill him. The other man then told her several things, before expiring himself.”

“And you believe that there is such a conspiracy?”

“We have found… connections.” Engavar twitched. Was it him or had the day gotten darker? To even imagine a conspiracy…

Sevra was sitting quietly as Engavar entered, her head bowed, hair pulled back almost savagely in a pony tail. It exposed her jawline, and the sharp focus of her blue eyes. Her hands didn’t tremble.

Engavar stood for a moment. He breathed slowly, and then intruded onto the scene. “Do you know who I am, væklas?

Seva looked up. “No.” She replied, before adding, “sir.”

“I’m Ceorl Caraved, of the Fifth rank. Engavar Caraved.” She nodded. “It appears that you killed one of our retainers. I would like to know the reason why.”

Her eyes flickered first to her boss. He nodded. “He charged at me, after recounting the details of the conspiracy. He said-”

“Yes, I heard the report your superior gave to me,” Engavar interrupted. “A grand conspiracy and all, or so the dying man said. Naturally no specifics on the names.”

Sevra looked at him. And asked a simple pointed look that unnerved the shit out of the noble. “Ceorl, are you at all afraid?”

“Are you implying I should be?”

“I’m stating it outright.”

Engavar moved for another quick fire dismissal, but it caught in her gaze. I’m terrified. He moved to speak again, to let the words strip away his cloak of dismissal. “I’m-”

“Ceorl, someone is calling for you,” Norved interrupted. “They are outside now, apparently. A lord.”

“What?” Engavar felt his stomach clench. He turned to Norved. “If you’ll excuse me.” He nodded at the operative. Her face stayed rigid, and the Ceorl left, his mind contracting into layers of fear.

* * * * *

Nethri de sol Savran smiled as Engavar came into view. “Engavar, isn’t it?” He flashed a row of white teeth. A dozen retainers flanked him, the bulk of muscled men hefting machine guns so very prominent in the Engavar’s vision. “I’m sorry to hear one of your men was killed.”

Ambition glistened from Nethri. The Patriarch of a rising family, he was ascending faster than anyone predicted. Rumours swirled, like currents in a dark wine. They whispered that he was one of Osteric’s followers, or he had made a pact with anyone, everyone. But to the lowly Ceorl, all he knew was that he was confronted with something far out of his league. “I didn’t know him,” he responded blandly.

“Ah yes.” Nethri gave a dismissive wave. “Well that is still a shame, all the same. After all, such a man may have held quite valuable information, theoretically speaking. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Theoretically speaking.” Engavar’s tone was guarded.

Nethri smiled. “It might be quite damaging for such information to leak. Such knowledge… has an inherent value.”

“I’ve often found that it does.”

“Tell me, what is it like, being such a low member of the Caraved?” The change in tack was sudden. And the whirring thoughts in Engavar’s brain clicked. He resisted a smile, for it would have shown the fear too obviously. He was about to be offered something, but it was not something he could decline. He swallowed.

“Stifling.”

Nethri sighed. “I had imagined so. No room for… ambition. Which is undoubtedly a shame, when such talent is on display.” His eyes flickered up, back to Engavar. “But ambition is a jealous creature. It has but one master, which in turn leads to disloyalty. The last thing a noble house wants is disloyalty.”

“Perhaps if there was a way to prove my loyalty,” Engavar fixed his stare to Nethri as the pieces slotted into place. “I would grasp it.”



“For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first.” - Agency proverb

Sevra fidgeted. It was never a good sign. The youthful Caraved hadn’t been gone long, and yet she was nervous. Things were moving too fast, even as her hands began to shake, feeling the phantom grip of a knife clenched between fingers-

The Ceorl returned. It had been a short meeting. But his attitude looked changed. Gone was the consternation, replaced by detachment. There was a neutral tone to his voice, summoned by one practiced in elocution. He avoided her gaze. “You will be pleased to know that the Caraved have decided not to place charges for the murder of one of their retainers.” The Ceorl intoned this slowly, acting as if it was some success. “However, we expect there to be serious repercussions for this clear transgression of the Private Officer Decree, and thus any information or use of his death will be rendered void. Any attempt to transgress on this point will be met in court. Perhaps next time, you might wish to restrain your operatives.” He turned to Sevra. “And perhaps, next time, you ought to control your aim.”

“Perhaps fear had clouded my judgment, Ceorl,” she snapped back, pissed off by his aloofness.

The officer began began to admonish her but Engavar waved him away. “No, Commander Norved, its fine. I am certain that she is just feeling the stress of a difficult job.” He paused, appearing to consider something. “Maybe a rest is advised, if its taking such a toll.”

Her glower answered him as he left.

“And they tell me sexism is dead.”

Sevra despised one so easily bought. His casual sexism nearly as bad, but the blatantly bribery that had just taken place was far worse. Nobles and their schemes, she would say. Or be tempted to say, for any other time.

“Do you think we should have told him the full truth?”

“No. It was more important to see who they sent to bribe Engavar, and for that matter, to see whether it would work, than to attempt to convince one member of the Caraved on such flimsy grounds.”

It made sense. And Engavar had aptly demonstrated just how unreliable he was. It still hurt through. They had a chance, right there, to… convince someone. It wasn’t like they needed absolution, but it would have somehow made things seem more tangible, rather tun the insane ramblings of dead men. I killed a man for this? “Who did they send then? Sir?”

“Nethri de sol Savran.”

“Shit.”

“Quite. Its worse than imagined, if they can afford to use him as a lackey.”

“Well, we already knew how far this went, if the target’s report is true.” She looked up at him. “I think this is the part you tell me that we’re out of our depth, sir.”

“I’m not sure when we were ever in our depth, Sevra.”

“But their suspicions have been raised. And early, too.”

It had been unintentional, but a trembling note had crept into her voice. Norved looked down at her, features tinged with concern. “Sevra, how are you feeling?”

* * * * *

“I’ve said everything you want to know.”

“No, there must be more.”

The man laughed. “There is so much more, but I am no oracle. Only a fool, who was ensnared like the rest. The Hayabusans are all in it, as are half the nobles in Astaria. The legions too. Maybe even Flint, who knows what that spider does?”

“You’re feeding me rumours.”

“No. No, no, no, I’m telling you the truth, if there is such a thing. The heart of the scheme rotting the Empires’ Valaran and Artalia.” His eyes were bloodshot. “The maggot is under our skin. Its laid its eggs, and they will hatch soon, burrowing their way through organ meat and blood matter. You know it, and,” he made a clawing motion with his hand, “you know the only way is to dig them out, taking flesh with them. You will feel the truth, one way or another.” He tottered to one side. “And all you need for the truth, its in Edenguard. Edenguard and my home. I have laid everything out, as neat as I could. Neatness is important, yes?” The eyes darted downwards to the creases in his clothes.

“I’ll need you to verify your statements.”

“No, you owe me a promise.” He pointed a finger at her gun.

“I should bring you in. What you’ve said needs more verification and you need help.” I’m not about to shoot someone.

“Don’t you see? I’m already a dead man, so kill me now.” His eyes began twitching again, as his voice pleaded with her. “Pleeeaasse. I need to die. I need to.”

“We can help y-” He lunged for her. It was a snarling, animalistic leap. There was no attempt at distraction, or jumping to the side. He simply went for her, charring straight into the barrel of her pistol. Her gaze met his and Sevra was confronted by a frenzy, the inchoate anger of someone who is truly lost.

And she hesitated.

The man smashed right into her. A shot rang out, a bullet skimmed into the water, and Sevra was thrown right back, slamming into the ground. She tried rolling, but suddenly the man was on her, grappling at her wrist, lunging for her neck. He was overpowering her with sheer force of frenzied will. Her hand slipped to her boot, fingers scrabbling for the sheath. It took too long, and he jumped at her again. His teeth descended.

She rammed the knife into the side of his head. It was a desperate attack, aimed too high to hit the soft pulp of the neck. Instead, the blade bit into the skin before skidding of the skull. Blood spattered downwards, drops landing in her eyes. The man screamed, howling anguish borne of something more than physical pain. Sevra stabbed a second time, her face a mask of gritted horror. There was one final sickening crunch, as the metal sheared through bone and skin.

When it was finally over, she rolled to one side, panting for breath. His eyes had fixed onto her as he had died. Fixed their gaze, so that she wouldn’t escape their pain.


* * * * *

Sevra looked up at her commander, steely eyed resolve filling her gaze. “I’m absolutely fine.”




-20 klicks from Astaria-

This was not a place to meet kings. And yet here the monarch sat, legs splayed, head resting on a hand as he surveyed Andurian. Examining him.

“Colonel Andurian, is it? Step forward.”

“My… liege.”

Edric peered forward, interested by this specimen. “You were going to say emperor, weren’t you? It should fit, shouldn’t it. But it doesn’t quite. Catches in your throat.” Some emotion passed across his amused eyes. “Or were you going to dispense with formality and call me Edric?”

“If you would prefer.” Andurian sensed the invitation.

“I would. Tell me though, what do you think of my name?”

“Your name?”

Edric smiled disarmingly. “Yes. What does the name Edric conjure for you?”

“Nothing,” he ventured cautiously. What was the Emperor hinting at? “Except… what I know of history. Of the other Edrics…” He trailed off. Did I say wrong? What is his point?

“Ah yes. My forebears. Such a rare name in the lineage of kings. We have half a dozen Lyrias’ all in quick succession. Five who bore the name Magnus. But there were only two Edrics. They were cold men, Andurian, used to war. Edric I, the reaver, who usurped the throne. And Edric II. Edric the conqueror. The Edric of the north, the one who broke Alaved. A calculating man, by all accounts, and a ruthless one. He held his own elite within a steel grasp.” The monarch withdrew into himself, introspecting. “It was said, by Seard himself, that only he was fit to bear the name Edric, that only he was a worthy heir to that reaver of the north. So why then, I wonder, did my father chose such a name for me? What was he harking back to? What did he hope to install in me with such a bitter legacy?”

Andurian gave his sovereign a level stare. “Piracy, clearly.”

Edric laughed. A deep, smooth sound, layered with articulate gravity and the ripples of subtle emotions. “Clearly. Or perhaps, it was as a reminder. A reminder of what the monarchy was then, and what it is now. This is not the era for reavers, and that was the lesson in my name.” He paused, and the smile became a shade closer to a grimace. “Perhaps there was also a hope. A hope that I would give the name Edric a new legacy, one not borne of bitter conflict.”

“Did it work?” It was a foolish question. Andurian should not have blurted it out.His nerviness had faded, when perhaps it remain useful. But he had been curious, seeing a window into the Emperor’s mind, and he mistakenly assumed that he had been granted access.

Edric’s smile faded. “As with anything my father imparted to me, it worked, at a cost. A cost I would not consider worth his aim, and one I have always borne.” He gestured to the throne. “I am the weakest Edric ever to hold court at Veldaron, and all present know it. All the politicians see it, and quietly include me as a piece into their schemes. And the nobles, they are worse. They care so much about lineage, so behind the fluttering eyelashes, the titters of an gaudy, ephemeral elite, they mock me.”

Caution took hold of Andurian once more, and he was reminded of the context of this meeting. “Your Majesty, are you sure that you should be telling me this?”

“Is it wise to hide the presence of a secret known to everyone? Why pretend otherwise?”

“Saying things like that might damage your reputation.”

Edric gestured again. “My reputation means nothing here. All those who I trust, know me,” His gaze pierced Andurian. “Do you know me?”

A command. Anduran knew what this meant. He went to one knee. “What does your majesty want of me?”

Edric gazed at him. And in that gaze, there was a single hint, a flicker of the cold eyed legends that were Edric’s ancestors. A single guileful hint of the reaver, and the embedded steel of authority. The Emperor of so many millions raised his head, the light casting shadows over his cheekbones.

“I am lord and master of the Valaran Empire, and I would have you root out traitors.”
I used to run an alliance, and a region. Not that it matters now.
Archeuland and Baughistan wrote:"I don't always nice, but when I do, I build it up." Valaran
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New Hayabusa
Diplomat
 
Posts: 540
Founded: Sep 19, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby New Hayabusa » Fri May 13, 2016 4:19 pm

Wide Awake

It seemed endless. The ascendance from ground level to the top of the Infinitas, the pride and glory of Edenguard and a symbol of the Great Kingdom's immense prosperity, had been in progress for about ten minutes now. At least seven stops were made, with people of all different kinds hopping on and off the elevator with him, sending him down a few floors, then back up, down again, and back up, and so forth. Everyone from pompous little rich lads to hipster uni students to high end money makers seemed to all converge on the Spire, as it was commonly called. This was mainly because the towering structure was fixed with hundreds of different types of facilities, from night clubs and expensive housing to private classrooms and pools. Kevin Godson, registered agent of the House Ramirez Intelligence Service (HRIS), was at the Spire for a much more serious reason, though. A discreet transfer of information was to take place in the "Galaxy", the extremely high end and exclusive night club at the very top of the Infinitas that everyone dreamt of visiting, but only few had even come near.

With an all black blazer, black trousers, a silenced compacted Beretta MX4 tucked out of sight, and slick looking brown hair that appealed to any woman, Godson surely looked like a man with a plan, like he knew exactly what he is doing. But truly, he didn't. As the city of Edenguard got smaller and smaller from his view inside the glass shuttle, he began to get a bit more nervous as he started to realise that he actually didn't know at all what he was getting into. All he was told by the Prince Blake is that someone would approach him with valuable information, and that information must be passed on directly to the Royals. Regardless of what other factors could pop up during the course of the mission, he quite simply had to complete his objective at all costs, or perish to be framed as a common psychopath. The very existence of the HRIS, an organization four centuries old, was completely illegal, and is one of the single most well kept secrets of the Ramirez family, with very few people outside of the family having even heard a slight notion of it's existence.

Suddenly, the glass shuttle stopped abruptly, and a resounding ding came from the overhead speakers. As Godson drifted away from his thoughts and back into reality, he realised that he was now able to see over some of the tallest buildings in Edenguard, and out into the distance at the light's of Eden's distant suburbs. He was now at the top of the Infinitas.

"Open the doors," the agent said in plain tone of voice, commanding the smart technology. Not even a second later, the white doors slid open ever so slowly, giving way to one of the most outrageous flaunts of sheer wealth that he had ever seen. As he stepped out of the shuttle, he seemed not to step out into just another floor, but into the future. The club was fixed with dark blue walls, only dimly lit by light blue neon fixtures on it's edges, and slightly brighter blue lights on the ceiling of it. That colour pattern was consistent throughout the club, which as far as he could see, was even larger than it looked from down below, with an almost fully seated eating area, a luxurious bar, and a strikingly symmetrical lounge that gave way to a balcony, which surrounded the entire top level itself. There was a slight vibration that could be felt pulsing through the floor as the bass from the song playing in the dance floor below him took it's impact. Surrounded by glass on it's outermost parts, you could see the whole of Edenguard from inside the protection of the windows just as fine as you could see it if you were out on the balcony. Everything inside the facility also seemed to be fitted with the latest of smart technology. To Godson, who thought he was well off, it was an outrageous sight.

Someone in of the crowd seemed to take note of his bewilderment. Godson looked slightly to his left, observing a beautifully formed brunette, about his age, stand up from her leather seat at the lounge, and began walking towards him in a nonchalant manner. She had just set down her drink, and looked as if she had a few before he came around. Kevin did a fake scratch of the head, motioning for her to move down the stairs to the dance floor. She simply ignored the motion and walked past him. Not a second later, his Flipboard Mini vibrated in his blazer pocket. He went and took a seat at the bar in front of him, taking out his device carefully, so that he did not reveal the machine of death that he was carrying very close to that same pocket. He looked curiously at the message displayed in front of him, swiped across the screen to unlock his device, and began conversing with the sender.

[ meet me at the balcony x ] Unknown Sender ]
[ How did you get my new personal, I've given it to no one ] Kevin ]
[ don't worry about that, i'm your friend ] Unknown Sender ]
[ And how do I know you're not a scheming bitch luring me into a trap? ] Kevin ]
[ you don't ] Unknown Sender ]


Setting his Flipboard Mini down in controlled frustration, he politely told the bartender off when he offered to serve him the night's special, and promptly got up from the scarily comfortable stool that he was sitting on. He moved quickly through the big room, passing by a duo of drunk women in the lounge that had just come up from the dance floor. They tried pulling him in, but he briskly pushed them back into their seats, drawing a few concerned looks from bystanding witnesses. As he walked, a pair of sliding glass doors that blended in perfectly with the actual window opened for him, a gust of city wind blasting through and hitting him in the face as he went. The balcony was full of people leaning against the rail, gawking at the mighty display that the city of Edenguard put up, with it's spires in the center and abnormally bright suburban districts. Fairly, it was quite the sight, and it was something that very few people would ever get to see in their lives. Godson immediately blended in, and went to the rail, standing between a group of young girls taking absurd selfies and an older looking man, who was just staring blankly out into the distance with a clear look of regret on his face.

After two minutes of waiting, the brunette he had seen earlier leaned herself against the rail beside him, and looked out into the distance, just as he did. Godson, out of the corner of his eye, was now able to see that she had an extravagantly fashioned short-cut dress on, a dark blue one fit with white stripes The exact colours that had been fitted on her dress were the colours used in the flag of the Great Kingdom. Turning his head completely in her direction now, he could observe her facial qualities, which were no less than as stunning as the rest of her body was. A perfectly balanced face with hazel eyes that could kill a man. Godson adjusting his tie, finally spoke up.

"Am I to assume that you are with the service as well?"

"You are not to assume such a thing, do not enquire about who I serve, it will not be revealed," she shot back, immediately angered by what had come out of his mouth.

"Well then," Kevin replied as he turned his head back to the city, taken slightly aback by her tone, "I'm sorry to have offended you. What are we doing here, then? You're either here to give me what I need or not, and if not, you're a threat."

"Typical HRIS response," she said, with a cocky chuckle.

"That's enough, you obv-"

"I have what you need," she interjected, "I'm sorry. I've just been quite fed up with your house's recent impatience. It's like they think I work for the service. Pays well, at least. What you've been sent here to retrieve is all in this drive right here."

She pulled out a small device from a very well hidden pocket in her dress, and held it over the rail for him to grab. Careful to not let it plummet down to the streets of Edenguard, he took it from her fingers and took a close look at it. The device was a small black octagonal prism, with a blue light flashing on the end of it.

"This is it? Everything I need," Godson questioned, "is in this device?"

"That is correct," she replied, "the data that your royals have sent dozens of buffs such as yourself to retrieve is all in there. All you have to do is touch it to the port on the bottom of your phone there, and then the data will automatically transfer to your boss. Then you need to toss the drive over the top. The man that I work for... he wasn't quite at liberty to let it slip into the hands of the Ramirez dynasty until he got what he needed. We've killed every man that the HRIS and other groups have sent at us, so consider yourself lucky that you were sent at the right time."

"Thanks," he remarked with slight confusion, "but why are you giving me all of this random, extraneous information about your boss, and what you've apparently done to people like me?"

"Extraneous? What I've said is far from extraneous. You're young blood in the service," she snarked, "as far as I can tell."

"Yes, I am," Godson retorted as he turned away from the city and over to her, getting increasingly frustrated, "now enough with your word games, because I need to be out of here as soon as possible. What in fuck all are you getting at?"

"I'll leave you with this," she said, turning to face him with a smirk, "the House Ramirez is not the only shark amongst fish in the depths of the cut-throat ocean that is the Great Kingdom."

With a shake of his head, Kevin scoffed as she struck him smile before she leaned off of the rail and walked away Cheeky, he thought. Looking down, he pulled his Flipboard Mini back out from his pocket and held it so that he could see the bottom edge of it. Upon closer observation, he noticed a small octagonal object engraved into the edge, dimly lit by a faint blue light in the middle of it. It was a new feature added on to the most recent version of the Flipboard Mini, which he had just bought three days ago with the service's money. He had never seen something like it before, but then thought about how stupid someone would look with a flash drive sticking out of their phone, and thought of the feature as brilliantly adaptive.

Without much hesitation, he took the prism that the brunette woman had given him, and pressed it against the octagonal engraving on the bottom edge of his new phone. Springing to life, the phone screen turned back on from it's dormant state, with a blue tab displaying across the middle of the screen, saying that the data had been transferred to the Teverlyn Information Processing Association, which was a mock private entity created by the House for large transfers of data like the transaction that just took place. The data was immediately rerouted to the Royals, and a permanent copy was stored in the mock entity, encrypted almost beyond comprehension so that very few could access it. He dropped the featherweight device from the rail, and watched as it fell until he couldn't see it anymore.

Suddenly, he heard three loud bangs, and muffled screams, just before volume of the music that was being played on the dance floor skyrocketed, reverberating through the entire club with insane bass vibrations. As time seemed to slow, he struggled to comprehend what had just happened in a matter of a second. A much louder banging sound erupted from behind him, and the glass under the rail that he was still leaning against broke off violently. Turning around quickly to make contact with a man dressed in a commoner's clothes pointing a pistol at him, he was sure he was going to get shot and die, when suddenly, somebody disguised in the crowd of running people point-blanked his assailant with a 9mm. Blood and brains sprayed everywhere as he fell to the ground, and the man who had killed him turned around, and aimed his weapon right next to Godson. Godson, turning to his side, saw another man rushing at him with a combat blade in his hands. As a bullet plunged into the side of the rushing attacker, Kevin grabbed him and managed to throw him over the side of the rail to plummet to his death.

The tune continued to blare as Godson hastily pulled out his MX4 and made eye contact with his saviour, a clean-shaven, taller looking Hispanic guy with spiky hair, who was also wearing an all black blazer. As more shots erupted, the man crouched behind a seat in the lounge for cover, and Godson threw himself behind a nearby couch as automatic fire peppered the area around him. Glass was breaking everywhere as the men frantically shot in their direction. Godson peeked out from the side of the couch with his sub-machine gun, and returned fire, dropping a man that was running towards them under the cover fire of what looked like three friends, who were positioned around the stairs that they had come up from. Again, all of them were dressed in commoner's clothing, bland compared to the flare and fanciness that some of the people at the club had brought to the table. As the runner fell to the ground, the firing stopped, and when Godson looked up, nobody was there, except some civilians who had ducked down to the ground and were trembling with fear. The bartender was just standing frozen with his hands held high above his head. The speakers upstairs had been blown out from how loudly the music was playing, and now the only sound that could be heard were the winds of Edenguard rushing in through the holes in the club's foundation, with approaching sirens and aircraft able to be heard in the distance.

"Did they leave?" Godson asked the bartender shakily, still rattled from the sheer surprise of the attack.

"Y-yes," the bartender replied with fear, "t-they took s-s-shot people t-trying to esc-c-cape, and t-took the s-s-s-shuttle."

"Fucking hell," he angrily replied.

Turning his head to the guy who had saved him, Kevin asked if he knew who their attackers were. Standing up and brushing himself off with his hands, the man replied, with a thick Astralonian accent, that the men who had attacked them were most likely Lord Griffon Jackson's men, judging by the how and with what ferocity they attacked. As Godson stood up and walked over to him, the man, in a hush tone, explained how he had seen them scouring the dance floor trying to find something before he came upstairs just in time to witness the whole event go down. He had seen the brunette girl walk away from him and soon after, observed the man with the pistol fire at Godson. Going on, he said that the fact that the guy missed showed that he wasn't able to control his nerves, and was probably a Regular from Jackson's vast war legions. Because Jackson didn't have access to any sort of special forces due to investing it all into creating a massive private army, he relied on inexperienced Regulars to do his dirty work, who often could be seen making mistakes like that one.

"It makes sense," Godson said, his heart rate returning to a normal pace, "because if those guys were in any type of special force, the both of us would have for sure been dead, like three times. They panicked. Did you see their faces as they were shooting at us? They looked no older than 19, and they looked scared out of their minds."

"Yes," he agreed, extending his arm to Godson, "allow me to introduce myself. Alan Hererra, servant of the Olden House."

"Ah," Godson said as they shook hands, "the House Iverton. Kevin Godson, servant of the House Ramirez. Glad to see that I have some allies 'round 'ere."

He didn't tell him that he was part of the HRIS. The House had many "servants" across the nation, so it was easy to pass off as just another one of those. It was even easier, given how slowly he initially reacted to the chaos. A seasoned HRIS agent would have observed those men and killed them all before they even knew what was happening.

Looking around, they both observed the destruction caused by the combat. In just a few seconds, half of arguably the finest club in the world was ripped apart, with fallen glass, overturned chairs, bullet-ridden decorations, and bodies strewn across the floor. The blown out speakers hung from the corners of the ceiling. Half of the glass under the balcony rail had been completely dislodged. Drinks and devices were scattered everywhere, as people had dropped everything to try to escape. The smart civvies took the stairs below the dance floor and were probably still running their way down, alerting others. The unfortunate ones had tried to take the shuttle, and some of them ended up getting shot for it. The men who were the cause of that would disappear, blending into the chaotic crowds in the lower floors, and pass off as commoners before being able to be immediately identified by the EDF.

"God, this looks bad," Alan stated the obvious, "bad for the club, bad for our security, bad for our nation. We're fine though, us two, because I'd reckon that we both have our fake EDF ID's on us... bloody hope so," he continued, sifting around in his pockets.

"That girl," Godson said with genuine curiosity, "is she with the Ivertons as well?"

"No, no," Hererra said, disgusted, "that conniving cunt is with the Snakes, House Winsley. You never know what side they're on because never pick a side. Those fuckers only serve themselves, and they're damn good at doing just that."

"Yeah, she claimed to have killed dozens of more people like me that had come to retrieve the same information, simply because her bosses weren't 'at liberty' to give the info to anyone at those moments. She mentioned that the House Ramirez gave them something for it, presumably a large sum of money. Cunt."

"Well," Alan said, taking a deep breath as the sirens grew ever closer, "it looks like the sleeping dragon that is the eternal conflict in the Royal Court is now wide awake, awakened by The Griff. Now, it's war. Little guys like us, if we're still alive after it happens - we will never know how deep this conflict goes, until it ends in an ocean of blood. The sickening combination of the blood of royals, nobles, and commoners alike."



"Look at this fucking horseshit!" the King exclaimed, dramatically throwing organised stacks of papers off of the wooden table as he spastically flung himself around the room in the lowest level of the Palace of Edenguard, the House Ramirez' private property. He was furiously scanning over the data that had been successfully transferred to the TIPA and over to the highly secretive database of the Royal House, almost shaking with anger as he read the compilation of disorganised bits of critical information. The text had multiple mentions of a suspected conspiracy by a multitude of other houses to cripple the Ramirez dynasty and plunge the Great Kingdom into a war.

"You have got to be fucking kidding me," King Richard shouted, "why on this God-given Earth would any of these people have any interest in doing this!? There has yet to be a mention the Honourable Mr Griffon Jackson, Lord of Whatever-the-fuck-shithole-in-Artalia, but I know he's behind all of this. ALL OF IT, I SAY. The Houses Norton, Avintum, Wilson, and whoever-the-fuck-else was mentioned have no reason to do so! We've been nothing, NOTHING but friendly to every single one of these people. And now, they are plotting attacks, scheming behind our backs, trying to end us as a family!? Fuck, this goes as far as Astaria! As-fucking-taria! What do they have to gain!?"

Breathing heavily, and running out of breath, King Richard ended his futile rant, sweat dripping down his head. He hadn't been so angry in such a long time, because he was under the impression that everything was going well in the realm and that the power and sanctity of the Ramirez dynasty and of the nation was secure. Now, after returning from a tour from the Avencell Islands, which was stressful enough considering that Hayabusan and Feng troops had decimated half of it in the recent fighting, he had to deal with conspiracies to bring anarchy to the GK. Prince Blake, his eldest son and Lord Commander of the Royal Army, was the only other person in the grand basement room, and seemed to understand his father's pain.

"Well, it would seem that various bigshots in Edenguard and in Astaria are banding together, united under one cause - to bring chaos to both nations. By just looking at the notes, I can conclude that they're doing it for power and money, obviously. But if you look closer and think in a broader context, you would remember that these very families have been known to be easily swayed in the past. These same houses were in support of Jackson during his terrifying rule as our Lord Prime Minister, and these same houses all share one quality - extremely far-rightist values."

"What are you getting at, my son?"

"Perhaps these people are not trying to harm us directly at the moment, but are trying to destroy our political system from the inside. The Houses Jackson and Norton both have connections inside the Court of the Commons and of the Lords, and with allies, they could make a significant difference. Perhaps they want their pseudo-fascist values to make their way back to prominence and domination in the Court of Edenguard. What the notes failed to mention is the details of what exactly is going to go on here, and the scale of which these events would occur, leading me to believe that they have done an excellent job at keeping our inside men on the outside, both in our home and in Astaria."

"And we can't accuse anyone of anything right now," the King said, frustrated as he got back into his comfortable seat at the table, "because using this to prove anything would get us in the gutter for corruption and other legal rubbish. We're forced to keep this silent. We'll just have to look for anyth-"

He was interrupted by the ring of his Flipboard Mini, sitting on the table. It was a text from an unknown number.

"Read message," Richard commanded his phone. A robotic female voice instantly replied to the command.

"Objective was completed, obviously. But they know that we know. Killed multiple buffs. KG."

"FUCK! How could they have known that we were onto them? We paid the Snakes for their information through the most secretive network in the Deep Web, and they still managed to find out about this. And now, the Snakes are under attack, and who knows that the fuck they are going to do, the sniveling cowards. These people have managed to create a conspiracy from Hell right under the noses of everyone in our nation and in Valaran, and we can't act decisively to put a stop to it. Makes me wonder what sort of fucking evil geniuses that some of these cunts have working for them."

Sighing with stress, the King slumped in his chair, and motioned with his hand slowly as he spoke.

"I will contact Edric... I want you to get this information out to our most trusted houses. The Ivertons, the Tuanachs, the Screys... the rest of our inner circle... you know who I'm talking about."

Receiving no reply from his son as he closed his eyes, the King rested his head on the table, his hands clamped together, praying to God for the strength to power through and defeat such a vast conspiracy. He knew that this pot of shit had been boiling for a while, but didn't know that it was going to burn up and explode so soon and so quickly. The situation had come to a point of no return. It was either Ramirez or Jackson, sanity or insanity, order or chaos. Destroying the conspiracy would be King Richard's toughest test during his reign, and possibly one of the toughest tests to ever present itself to a Hayabusan monarch for centuries. And there was no guarantee that the House would pass the test, not one sliver of guarantee at all. It was all a toss up.



[ Edric, my dear friend. It has been long since I've had contact with you. Apologies for that. But this is a matter that I am obligated to tell you of. It would seem that there is a ring of traitors that has formed, stretching from my nation to yours. Many powerful names are involved in this. I don't know if you knew about this prior to this message, but we have just uncovered some damning information from our intelligence guys that undeniably ties multiple families together, united to bring chaos to our realms. It is required of us to work together in destroying this conspiracy that plagues our kingdoms, and make sure that nothing like this ever comes into existence again, so long as we are reigning masters of our mighty realms. Apologies for the informality of the message, but it's urgent, and I think you would agree that this matter isn't one that can be delayed by a bird traveling too slowly to deliver a scroll. Godspeed. ] King Richard II ]
The Great Kingdom
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Valaran
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Founded: May 25, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Valaran » Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:10 am

Feelers and Gamblers



Albrecht Caraved was healthy man, broad shouldered and slim, even in his grey age. It was thus something of a shock, principally to himself, when he died. The old Rakna had tottered one day, collapsing quite suddenly of a burst blood vein as he came downstairs, his eldest son and grandchildren watching on. Not his heir though; that had yet to be determined. A council of the clan gathering had to be held, to determine the next Rakna of the Caraveds. It was expected to be a week of feuding and horse trading to determine the new face of the Caraveds. Primogeniture was a bitch, but at least it was predictable. This, however, was another matter.

Engavar fidgeted as the council deliberated, squabbling over generational feuds and haggling over the new line of power. The lesser members, of which there were over two hundred, practically had no say in this. The elders held the power, every one of them crotchety and venal, with far too much caprice and petty ambition, who spoke for too long, and traded insults that only mattered to the other men with white, matted hair stringing down their sides. This bored him.

His mind had long ago drifted away. The thoughts of last week had come unbidden to his consciousness. Frightening thoughts. A pallid body, a gaping incision in the side of his skull. An agent with her hair tied savagely back. The smile of a grasping man. It had been Albrecht’s personal command that he be sent to investigate the retainer’s death. Doubtless not much thought had gone into it; Engavar had no doubt that the dead Rakna had no idea who the lowly Ceorl was. He had met him twice, each with a short handshake, and a brief nod of a patrician head. Albrecht was the head of a Riaven clan-dynasty, but he had been brought up in the style of true Valaran nobility, like the Sathrans, the Hoffenirs, the Osterics. This was normally meant to bring status; it had only created resentment. Like there wasn’t enough of that right now.

Shouting surrounded Engavar. One Mathis had launched a cutting ‘observation’ at one Gohred, prompting an bitter tirade in response. Mathis was one of the more ebullient members of the grey brigade, retaining a sharp mouth, a hearty laugh, and some lingering vigour. A twinkling of his eyes announced how seriously he took proceedings. Such a meeting was an old custom, belonging to the clan-dynasties of the Riaven for centuries. The format, hell, even in the insults probably hadn’t changed since the 1600s, when the status of the Riaven peoples were formally incorporated into the Empire at the tail end of the Lyrian dynasty. Having lost so much of their autonomy under those laws, and much of their power in the civil wars that followed, the clan-dynasties had faded. They had never adapted like the Valaran nobility, preferring to see land as the sole source of wealth until rather late in the 19th century. The transition to industry, and then to services, had never really occurred. But the birthrates had stayed high, and now the Caraveds too many dependents, and too little money. It was a sad state, if not uncommon.

The room was acrid. People were irritable, stuck next to ambitious relatives and disagreeable neighbours. A Riaven clan gathering was like a school of sardines, floating around in one mindless mass, united only by proximity and mutual paranoia.

Engavar nearly missed it. His eyes were drooping, not for the first time, even as the moment of decision came. It took a moment to register the pebble drop, and the sudden wave of silence that followed it. But suddenly, randomly, the time for voting was upon them. The oldest first rank Ceorl present stood up. “We now vote, for the 47th Rakna of the Caraveds.” His voice was hoarse and whispery. His hands shook. If there had been another voice in the room, his speech would barely have carried. “I now call upon the Ceorl to cast their votes. May the Riaven Clan find the thread of light.”

The voting started, but Engavar ignored the others. Instead, he looked at Gohred. Gohred was a Ceorl of the first rank, equivalent to a Marquis in a fairer world. But what mattered was that he would tell the Ceorls bound to him how to vote, and that included Engavar. He was deep-set eyes, hollow cheeks and a permanent solemnity to his face. He stood, arms pinned to his sides. Silence greeted him. Breath was baited. Such men were power-brokers, about to make a King.

“I, Gohred, cast my vote to Edreth Caraved. I call upon those bound to me to do the same.”

A rank of Ceorl’s stood, Engavar hurridely joining them,



Engavar swallowed as he approached the new Rakna. The light had grown dim, and he was nearly last in a long line of well wishers, the tail end of the sycophant brigade.

Rakna Edreth was a tall man. Black hair, oiled and swept back. He wore a variation of ceremonial dress for this, a dark blue coat, gold thread marking out the Caraved sigil. The sigil was in Valaran fashion, full of echoing motifs and curving aesthetics. He smiled benignly at the woman in front of Engavar, chattering pleasantries. Gohred stood to his side, arms pinned awkwardly to his sides. A few of his peers were scattered about. These were the men who had secured Edreth’s victory, and they would doubtless exact a toll from him for that. Yet only Edreth looked like he was basking in his victory, if one could call it that. True it had not been a done deal, but none had his grace, the easy smiles, or the wealth. The son of Albrecht had supposedly snorted in disgust on hearing Edreth would stand to succeed his father.

The women left, laughter gracing her lips. Engavar breathed and stepped forwards. He bowed half to the waist. “Congratulations, Rakna.”

“Thank you.” Edreth replied, looking away.

Engavar tried again. “I was told by Lord Sathran to speak with you.”

“Ah, Nethri.” Edreth smiled at Gohred, who merely stared back. “Always dressed in flashy colours that one, strutting around. Not so much a man as a peacock, I daresay.”

Edreth laughed. The others laughed. Engavar had a moment of shock, before forcing a chuckle. The sound came noticeably later than the others. It had the ring of falsehood to it.

Edreth paused. His eyes had an intense look to them, and they bored into Engavar. “Yes, well you’ve done a great service for us recently. Although it would be unseemly of me to be granting ranks so soon, I’d like you to have a reward. Gohred and I were thinking of an estate, weren’t we Gohred?”

“Yes,” The old lord intoned. He spoke in deep, judging tones, a world away from the slick politeness of Edreth. “A coastal territory, in the Ruach highlands.”

Edreth’s eyes flicked back to Engavar. “What do you think? Is this enough to show our gratitude?”

“My-my lord-” A whirlpool of possibilities had opened up for Engavar. I am to be given land… This was the stuff that Ceorl’s lower than the Third Rank dreamed about. They were the wastrels of a clan, the excess bodies, who merely provided the First Rank Ceorls with voting muscle, and only for rare occasions. In times past they were soldiers, reavers, guardians of the clan, but the modern age had no need for extended relations to dilute the clan wealth. Those stubbornly high birth rates, the Valaran statisticians would tut, reducing Engavar and his peers to demographic anomalies, just one more reason why the Riaven Clans had declined, a neat academic contrast to the towering assets of Valaran elite. Only the top branches had estates with income, had influence. Engavar had also gazed at their luck, one of the ranks of the envious. And suddenly he was catapulted into their ranks.

“Lord is it?” Edreth chuckled, though his eyes lost none of their intensity. “Now now, I know its not much Engavar, but there’s no need to call me lord. We are family, are we not? I am Edreth, and this fiery old codger is Gohred. We would see you more of you at our estate in future. But…” Edreth looked back at Gohred, who nodded once. “We feel you deserve more. Have you considered taking some vacation?”

What the fuck is going on here? And suddenly, Engavar’s habitual caution returned. He knew why they had rewarded him, but it still seemed out of place, disproportionate. That made him wary. “I…”

“Yes, you do look rather rather tired. Gohred and I were thinking Hayabusa and Artalia would be ideal for a rest.” Edreth continued, apparently oblivious to Engavar’s unease. “Though I hear its rather dangerous now, with that nightclub shootout at the Infinitas. A shame really, I used to frequent there, was even at the place last month in fact. But this is beside the point - a man with a new estate should not go wondering about. We were think of giving you one of my personal retainers, should you ever need protection. They’ll pick you up before your trip.” Edreth’s interest in the Ceorl abruptly dropped, and urned back, ready to face more fawning sycophants. It took a moment for Engavar to realise this, and a moment more to realise that he standing there, his face fixed with a faintly pathetic expression.

Gohred stared back at him. “Run along now. You have a flight to catch.”




“So I’m meant to believe that neither of your two Houses have any business in this?”

“As I’ve stated: we don’t care what the intelligence services believe. My colleague and I have both confirmed that no member of either of our Houses has any part in whatever you are alluding to. Unlike Riaven Clans, we keep track of our members’ activities. We also can afford to hire the best - you will find no stray retainers here.” It was a rote speech. The delivery was stiff, a faint hint of bruised pride adding bite to the words.

Norved ignored the bait. Of course they knew about that. “I remain unconvinced.”

“If you believe otherwise, present your evidence, and we’ll contact our legal departments.”

This was getting nowhere. Norved tried a different tack. “And you’ve heard nothing?”

The man shifted in his seat. “Nothing we feel like sharing. It is the joint view of our Patriarchs that you’ve let the other nobles play their shadow-games too freely anyhow. But it is no matter. We don’t concern ourselves with lesser Houses.” He relaxed into his previous posture. He was an Arcan princeling, dressed in a grey suit. There was nothing flashy about his attire, yet something in his appearance hinted at wealth. Or maybe it was Norved’s assumption.

“I concur with my colleague,” a second man added, his tone at once dulcet and dismissive. “The Arcan and Lyrvaen Houses are of one opinion on this. We see no cause for concern in the plans of such desperate people. This isn’t Hayabusa, where nightclubs get shot up on whims.”

“I wouldn’t say that its any less deadly here.”

“Well of course you wouldn’t.” The Arcan, this time. Abrupt; prim. “You deal with all the problems the shadow games leave. But don’t go assuming we are the same as the minor Houses, or near-destitute Riaven Clans. We long ago learnt that the best political schemes are won through other means than blood. It is why we can sit here today, and ignore every question you’ve asked us.”

“Oh come now, its not like you truly remain aloof.”

The Arcan chuckled; the Lyrvaen shrugged. “Are we meant to respond to that?”

“Only to explain why you bothered to come, if you would give me nothing for it.”

The Lyrvaen gave him a sidelong look. Norved supposed it was fitting.




“How did it go?”

Norved smiled faintly. “Shit, to be honest. I hate being stonewalled.” He gazed down at a row of figures. Most were intelligence officials; a small coalition of the willing. All the same, it was a pitifully small gathering. Norved wished he could trust more, but secrecy had its price.

“Do they have something to hide?” A young man asked the question. He appeared slightly awkward in his surroundings, or perhaps ill-at-ease. Norved could hardly blame him - the youth had no experience of such dealings.

“I can’t find any reason to think so. The risk of such an action on their part completely outweighs the benefit they think they would get. Someone at the top of a pile won’t attempt to destabilise the structure. We will need to be looking further down the ladder.”

“I know I’m only a voicer of bad opinions here, but what about Osteric?” The young man, again. He wore a concerned gaze.

“Its possible that he is behind this, but either way, he will work through proxies, and they’re the most likely to be exposed. We should be looking at the desperate Houses; firms that were near bankruptcy, but are now mysteriously profiting; MPs with rickety finances or other weaknesses. These sorts.” Norved sighed. “Unfortunately, I remain somewhat unsure of where to begin. We could focus our efforts on Nethri, or continue to look at the Caraveds, but I can’t be certain either would bring results.”

“What about Engavar? Maybe he will start meeting with other leads?” Another figure asked this question, one of the analysts. A tireless spotter of trends; Norved had long relied on him to spot patterns others missed.

“In honesty, I doubt he’ll know much, but I was going to assign someone to trail him. We could potentially conduct more serious surveillance, but it would dig deep into our cash reserves.” Norved turned to the young man. “Unless you were to grant additional funds, I’m not sure it would be wise to deplete what cash we have.”

The youth sighed. “I wish I could, but I’ve allocated all I think I can get away with. I’m not known for lavish spending, and certain palace officials are already becoming curious at my sudden and simultaneous penchant for luxury cruises, horse breeding, and hand-gliding.” That brought a chuckle out, but Norved felt the exasperation behind it. “I can allocate maybe a few million more as long as you keep editing my accounts, but that would probably be it. I’m sorry.”

“I wouldn’t wish to trouble your majesty further. Perhaps we could ask someone who is perhaps more… ‘known’ for such expenses.”

Edric smiled faintly. “Justin, then.”

“I was thinking the same, but if there is another you trust…”

“No, he should be fine with this. I just didn’t want to involve my friends in this if I can help it. As a monarch, I’m protected, but nobles like him are vulnerable to retaliation. Unless we were to go public, they could attack him and pass it off as a shadow-game, and that’s not something I could stand.”

Norved smiled. He understood - Edric could endure costs to his person, but he could not bear for his action to bring hurt to others. It was an honourable, earnest stance. So very much like Edric. “Only if they find out his involvement. Hopefully that will not come to pass.”

“Of course. You must forgive me for worrying.” Edric frowned. “This whole affair is troubling enough as it is.”

“Indeed. And I think we should discuss this Hayabusan aspect. A palace faction is troubling enough, but if the links really are there, we could be looking at a much wider grouping. Up to now, this has been characterised as a minor group of desperate men, but international connections are potentially more troublesome. I have tasked Sevra and Colonel Andurian to liaise with the Ramirez Intelligence Agency and work through their problems. Right now it is just a feeler.”

Edric nodded. “I’ll write a reply to Richard then.” He paused, eyes down in though. Norved just about sensed what was coming. “I have one final request.”

Norved suppressed a sigh. His majesty was not predictable in the sense most would expect. He kept his fears behind a mask. But this one nightmare had gotten to him, wormed its way into some void in his soul that Norved knew better to examine. No good came from psychoanalysing his Emperor; it was one step away from manipulation, and that was a dark road. And so, Norved ignored the doubts that plagued Edric’s mind, until they surfaced. Like this. “We’ve talked about this. It sends entirely the wrong signals. Flint would get suspicious. The Prime Minister would get suspicious. The Arcans and Lyrvaens would panic. The generals would scheme, and Osteric would sense weakness. Your own family would, pardon the expression, go nuts.”

“But if they already know what we suspect, and are planning this, then…”

“Right now the game is small. We can’t afford to escalate, but if they gain control in Hayabusa, they can. Sire, on this one thing, I must ask you trust me. I know you won’t like it, and I know it is a gamble, but we are all gambling right now.”

“I just wish we knew the odds.”

On that, Norved silently agreed.

Dear Richard,

You must forgive me for not sending this through the proper diplomatic channels. Confidentiality is sadly at a premium here, as it is in the Great Kingdom.

We too have been gradually uncovering the nature of this conspiracy here, and have recently discovered the links to the Great Kingdom.

Although I cannot promise more substantive information now, I have instructed two trusted agents of mine to travel to Hayabusa (details are attached). They will liaise with your intelligence agency, and inform them of the situation here. They will also act as intermediaries, so that there is no delay in further communication.

In exchange, I would humbly request that you assist their efforts within the Great Kingdom, where they will attempt to fighter uncover what links we are aware of.

I hope and pray that through our efforts, this conspiracy will be uncovered.

- Edric
Last edited by Valaran on Tue Aug 16, 2016 12:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
I used to run an alliance, and a region. Not that it matters now.
Archeuland and Baughistan wrote:"I don't always nice, but when I do, I build it up." Valaran
Valaran wrote:To be fair though.... I was judging on coolness factor, the most important criteria in any war.
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New Hayabusa
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Founded: Sep 19, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby New Hayabusa » Wed Oct 05, 2016 8:25 pm

Tales of the Covenant Guard
Image


A small sized white luxury vessel waded across the Eden River with an out-of-place mode of tranquility, as other boats sped around it, and small aircraft whizzed by overhead. Dark storm clouds loomed in the distance behind the center of Edenguard, and the spires that were seemed to be growing brighter and brighter as the dark clouds approached. The cloudy Wednesday afternoon seemed to have everyone busy with something in some way, so much so that the bullet rails had been overflowing. Because of this, RIS Director Andrew Longshaw thought it would be a good idea to arrive at their destination in the center of Edenguard by boat. Godson opposed the idea because of how exposed they were, but his friend the director didn't really give him a choice, in jokingly threatening him with a "mysterious disappearance".

The two had just sort of sat there for a while, watching as they got closer to the skyline of Edenguard in silence and in prayer of which the pious Andrew had forced him to participate in. Quite ironically, Longshaw was one of the most peaceful Christians that Godson had ever met, with an outspoken opinion in that he didn't believe in killing. He confessed and prayed for each and every man and woman that had died as a result of his orders, be they friend or enemy, and claimed that he would be a lucky man if God didn't turn him away at the gates. Godson was quite the opposite in terms of religion; in fact, he always snuck out of mass as a child. Now, he attends his mass on a semi-regular basis, but still finds it quite hard to believe in all the mystery.

So while Longshaw prayed, Andrew enjoyed the aesthetics on display for him, with the towers of Edenguard getting larger and brighter as they and the storm clouds grew closer. Observing the young lads speeding around on their expensive boats, Godson took a few moments to try to remember what his life was like prior to his indoctrination into the RIS, and he could hardly remember a thing. After multiple combat experiences fighting the Feng army in Avencell and other island chains, he had been changed from a little punk to a hardened man. He had never expected to be selected for RIS training, but he was, and that is what truly changed him as a person, internally and externally. Months of pain resistance drills, indoctrination, physical and mental strain, almost going past the brink of insanity, all at the hands of "Andrew Longshaw the Peaceful Catholic"... these were the reasons why he was the way he was. He still maintained at least some of his youth, being age 26, but most of it besides his cheekiness and discomfort with religion was lost in the training.

After a while, Kevin Godson finally broke the silence.

"Nice view, yeah?" Godson remarked.

"It sure is..." Longshaw replied, staring out into the distance, "but it's also quite a scary view, isn't it? The people stacked up in the towers of grandeur could pool their money together and buy the Great Kingdom, fucks sake. The teens here are also especially snobby, with their designer clothing and unbelievably stereotypical accents. Whenever I see this city, I can't help but think about how many people were killed to achieve it, and how many will die because of orders coming out of it, God bless them. I'm saddened to know that I am one of these people ordering the deaths."

"Well, you did sign up to be Director of the Ramirez Intelligence Service," Godson replied, intrigued, "perhaps you didn't know what you were getting yourself into?"

"I was younger, more ambitious, like you. You can't blame me for that. I honestly didn't even think that I would make the cut, and just did it to see how far I'd make it before quitting. Never did I think that I would find myself in the position of Director twenty years later, killing people on the daily."

"Well, yeah, but you didn't answer my question," Kevin said, curiously, "did you know what you were getting yourself into?"

"Not in the slightest. I honestly, legitimately thought that the RIS was just another secret branch of the RIA, and that I would be leading the hunt for enemies of the state, because this is what we were told by our superiors at the time," Longshaw replied, "this would have been something that I could've lived with, in a moral sense. I did not know that this organisation targeted civilians and scared the balls out of complete innocents to further a sketchy agenda, alongside hunting enemies of the state and of the royal family. Immediately, I wanted out, but my friendship with the King demands otherwise. He would have been killed a hundred times already without me, and I'm pretty sure his crazy ass daughters would have been kidnapped, too. Don't tell him I said that."

"You've got your loyalty to the King down right, then," Godson said, "and that's all that matters in this service."

"Look at you," Longshaw replied through laughter, "talking to me like an experienced member of the service. Talking to me about loyalty. They've sure got to you, haven't they?"

"I guess they have, you're probably right."

"Well then, enough banter," Andrew said, his laughter fading, "our destination approaches. I'll give you a quick briefing."

They were now in the central part of the Eden River and therefore right smack in the center of the metropolis. Looking up, Godson could gaze upon gigantic skyscrapers in every direction, and then look further so as to watch as they were dwarfed by even larger skyscrapers behind them, and then see those made to look like Lego towers in comparison to the Infinitas. He could still see that at the top of the Infinitas, there were multiple broken windows, as a result of the recent exchange against Jackson's goons. There were some men operating cranes and other equipment up there, doing reconstruction work.

"You will be meeting and greeting two Valaran agents at the Regale, one male and one female. These agents are the ones with the profiles that I know you half-assedly skimmed through the other day. Just show them some of the city landmarks and wonders that can be seen from above as an introduction, get to know one another on a personal level for a bit. It is imperative that you explain to them recent happenings in Hayabusa and what the RIS believes is really going on. You are also to expected to acquire information on what's been happening on their end, so we can achieve our end goal with this mission and form a unified idea about this whole conspiracy."

"Understood... will that psychotic bitch with the Snakes be there again?"

"Oh," Longshaw chuckled, "you mean Alexa Rittendal. No, she won't be joining in on this particular shitfest. We have RIA posted everywhere in and around the place on surveillance and on guard, so an unidentified agent will be lucky to make it a meter through the door without being turned away."

"Excellent. I've never been to the Regale, though. Where is it?"

"To your left, the penthouse."

Looking up and to his left, he founded himself staring blankly at the glowing logo of Mall of the Great Kingdom. The outrageously large mall stretched twenty floors high, and it was still one of the smallest buildings in the metropolis. Civilians could be seen walking into, out of, and around the building, a diverse mix of the new young and the traditional old. Other boats were pulling up beside theirs, docking, and unloading to enter the mall. It was an incredibly active and busy area of the city, despite being quite a small part of the central hub.

"Really, Director? Sticking in the MGK with exactly the people I don't want to be around? Really?" Godson complained, semi-seriously.

"Out the boat mate," Longshaw said as he briskly pushed Godson out of the boat and sped away before he could do anything about it.

- - -

After taking a few minutes to find the elevator and going through a variety of extensive security checks by RIA plants, he had finally arrived at the entrance of the Regale. It had an eerie similarity to the Club Galaxy. The sort of people that were there, the futuristic design with the touch technology and experimental holographic technology everywhere, the trendy fashion advertisements on the walls, all of it. The only way in which it differed from Galaxy was that it seemed to be much less rowdy and much less of a party-like atmosphere, and the piano music playing just added to that effect of appearing to be a tranquil zone. Godson approached the uni-age guy at the front desk.

"Hello, I believe I have a reservation here," Kevin said in a respectful tone.

"Name?" the guy responded in the same tone.

"Godson, Kevin."

The front desk man typed some things into a tablet screen and scrolled a bit, looking for the given information.

"Got you. And that's a group reservation, correct? You'll have others joining you?"

"That's correct."

"Right this way, then."

Kevin followed the waiter who walked in between the columns of tables, avoiding bumping into the elbows of those who sat on the edges of their seats. He followed him further inside the facility, going past the famed bar and over to the tables fixed next to the north windows, which had a view of the outer parts of the city. The curved windows also allowed for spectators to view the skyscrapers that completed the circular formation around them. With the dark storm clouds approaching quickly and turning the sky to a darker shade of gray every minute, the darker, plain gray aesthetic of the restaurant was nicely complemented. Still, Godson was hoping that the Valaran agents arrived before the rain began.

"Here you are," the waiter said, pointing to a table with more than enough seats, "when you're ready to order anything, if you order anything, just scroll through on electronic surface on the table and simply tap on what you want ordered, and we'll have it for you as quickly as possible. Enjoy the view."

Godson nodded and sat down at the table. Looking out at the city around him, Kevin anxiously awaited the arrival of his new allies.



"I just don't understand why we have to stay in the palace, and can't leave at all unless accompanied by an army of guards. This is all very sudden, and I've been having a great time out in the real world. I've met true friends, father," Lacie Cristina Ramirez, the 17 year old Princess of Hayabusa complained, "really, you've ruined it."

King Richard chuckled mockingly at his daughter.

"Really? 'True friends'? Where'd you meet them at then, some rave in Allershire? No, that's not how it works. You'll meet your true friends when you get some maturity in you and start actually attending Church. I don't even think you realise how much scrutiny I've received from the Royalist Daily for your recent tour of our nation."

"Well, you know what, I'm not sure I care about any of that," she retorted, looking down at her phone with ignorance.

"Well, that's just too bad. This is not a joking matter, not at all. You, along with the entirety of this family, are in grave danger. Honestly, do you think I don't know what you've been doing out there in the frey? And do you really, truly think that I didn't have the means to put a stop to it if I wanted to? Trust me, I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for serious reasons. Your sister and younger brother seem to be coping with the changes quite finely. You need to drop the prissy attitude, and your mother expects to see you at church tomorrow morning."

"Yeah, okay," she replied as she had one of the butlers hesitantly shut the huge private room doors on the King.

King Richard had recently received information from RIS that there were attempts on each of his childrens' lives, so he had been forced to take protective measures. He didn't know if the situation was as bad in Valaran as it was in Hayabusa, but he still made a mental note to himself to advise King Edric to do the same thing with his family. The King and Queen had agreed to let them go out and be adventurous for a while, experience what real life was like for a change, meet friends, be kids, but still keep to their daily duties such as religious practice and status updates, which they never did. It was incredibly dangerous enough that they were being allowed out as commoners, even more so when RIS would have to track them down when they intentionally slipped away from their secret guard details. Suddenly, a tap on the shoulder made Richard leap out of his skin, and out of his thoughts. Turning around to see who it was, he met face to face Lord Thomas Tuanach, an ally.

"My word, you scared me," the King exhaled deeply, "you know, with all the shit that's been going on."

"Apologies," the extravagantly dressed Lord smiled and chuckled lightly, "it's a habit of mine. How have you been doing, by the way?"

"Ahh, you know, alright, but not the best. I've had to put the children of my family on lockdown now, much to their disdain. I've also been severely on edge as of late, as you can tell. Geez, I'm in the most secure place I can possibly be in and I'm still scared."

"You know," Thomas said, "these events that are unraveling are sounding quite like the Covenant Guard's eleventh prophecy. In the prophecy, they predicted that there would be another rise of absolutist ideals deep in the Kingdom's future, and that there would be turmoil among both the upper and lower classes of the realm. The real scary part of this is that the prophecy said that the royal family, at the time, likely alongside their foreign allies, would have to focus solely on protecting themselves for 400 days, or things would... go bad for them."

"The Covenant Guard were a bunch of f-"

"Legendary prophetic messengers, mind you. I don't mean to scare you, but I do encourage you to at least glance at the predictions. Maybe it will help you see something in how to defeat these dissenters. I find that reading their other works helps me function through everyday life with more ease and confidence. Look at me," Lord Tuanach said, looking down with a smile, "I'm getting old, and I've still got the hop in the step you've got."

"You haven't scared me," Richard said through a fake chuckle, "but I will look into it. Thank you," he said as he was about to turn and leave, "Oh! And one last thing. Edric is deploying agents into Hayabusa, they should be meeting with our guys shortly. I'll keep you in the loop there."

"Sounds good, my King," Thomas said, bowing, "call me if you need anything at all."

The King turned and walked away, going towards his private area of the castle. In reality, the Lord had scared him, deeply. King Richard had always convinced himself that the Covenant Guard were a group of wackjobs who got their predictions correct entirely through coincidence, but this one was no coincidence. He was sure that the Lord hadn't told him all of what the prophecy said in order to force him to be inclined to read the whole thing, which he would do immediately as he got into his resting area. Richard had never experienced such a feeling of fear and concern before, being one of the most powerful monarchs that ever lived with the most assets that anyone could think of. At this point, he was just trying to keep himself sane and in touch with reality.



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5-Star General and HighCom Member Adam Miltonson Dies of "Natural Causes"
Brigadier Neville Fenwick Promoted, Fills Miltonson's Position
Trent E. Henries (@TEHHBC)
2016, 17:45 | Allershire, Artalia
[sup]


On the 3rd of October in 2016, revered 5-Star General Adam Miltonson died of what were reported as "natural causes" being attributed to his old age and heart problems. Miltonson is hailed as the most experienced and loyal servicemen that the Royal Knights have ever had in their ranks, helping in leading his nation through conflict as a member of High Command (HighCom) for 38 years. King Richard Ramirez II, among an innumerable amount of former servicemen, other government officials including the Prime Minister, and caring civilians took to and attended the funeral of the deceased general. There is actually a trending hashtag on Flide (#MiltonsonRemembranceDay), where millions of Hayabusans and Artalians are petitioning to make the Miltonson Remembrance Day an official holiday in the Great Kingdom.

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Soldiers of the 5th Army marching in Golden Bay, 2016
Now that the legendary Adam Miltonson has passed away, the just-as-legendary 5th Army has come under the command of the recently promoted General Neville Fenwick, a respectably experienced commander with campaigns in Carsodonia and New Kalayaan to boast. Fenwick was sworn into High Command by his friend and ally, the King, and verified by the Lord Prime Minister just hours ago today. The King deemed Fenwick as a reliable and logical replacement for Miltonson, while the LPM said that he agreed with the King, and was willing to put political differences past him and support him in his new role as a HighCom General. Fenwick has already stated that the 5th Army would be making the move from Golden Bay to Avencell, with the assistance of the Royal Navy, in order to participate in live fire and sim-round amphibious combat training next week. The 5th had fought alongside Valaran forces in Carsodonia earlier last year, and had fought with OEN forces to defend New Kalayaan many years ago, but have notably little offensive amphibious combat experience under their belt, so Neville Fenwick has made it his goal to whip the 5th into shape with island conquest exercises. A month from now, we will be seeing the 5th Army along with a massive turnout of the Royal Knights in Hayabusa's iconic annual "Hell March".


3 Articles Linked - "Adam Miltonson: A History", "Stories From the 5th Army", "Neville Fenwick's Complicated Politics"

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Comments 389K | E-mail
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Comments:
C.H. Eeky · 47 minutes ago
RIP OUR GREATEST SERVANT #MILTONSONREMEMBRANCEDAY

79,084 likes · 1,156 dislikes
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Top Git · 45 minutes ago
I blame Feng lads :rofl:

58,527 likes · 48,923 dislikes
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Pastalad ✓ · 31 minutes ago
What outcry have you uttered about my person, you oafish brute? I shall cordially remind you that I was the best scholar in my law class in Oxford, and I have been involved in several frivolous tea parties and courtroom disputes, and I have over 300 boxes of Earl Gray. I am proficient in the Simian school of diplomacy and I am the top linguist in my book club. Know that you resemble nothing in my eyes save for yet another uncultured mind. I will hasten your undisputed expiritation of the world with grace and finesse. The thought that you can retreat after jesting of such matters over the internet is laughable. As of this moment, I am telephoning a mutual friend to negotiate a swift and sure rebuttal to your argument so I would implore you to prepare yourself for the upcoming verbal deluge. The deluge that will no doubt saturate your life with discomfort. You are well and truly wrong, my good sir. My abilities of travel are unmatched, and I can recite over 700 lines from Shakespeare, and that is just from Hamlet. The amount of knowledge that I have acrued is vast, and I shall use it to firmly state my authority on such matters, you rapscallion. Truly, I wished you had some semblance of knowledge on the matter you have brought up and it's repercussions. Alas, you did not, and now you will suffer a fate most dire, you plebian. I shall defecate concentrated dislike upon you and you shall struggle to survive in it's waters. Pistols at dawn, old boy.

52,478 likes · 19 dislikes
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Last edited by New Hayabusa on Fri Sep 21, 2018 11:24 pm, edited 5 times in total.
The Great Kingdom
Dayashina
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Valaran
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 21211
Founded: May 25, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Valaran » Sun Feb 19, 2017 12:02 pm

In Motion


The journey back had been one of contemplation for Engavar. Feverish thoughts had intruded, the sort that leaves sweat ringing the brow, the mind brimming with half-considered ambitions. And fears. So much had been intoned by Edreth’s witterings, so much unsaid. A Ceorl’s promises were whispers in the dark now. But that was politics. A new energy had found Engavar. He practically levitated above the seat. The promise of power gave that sort of rush, even it had been only whispered.

All the same, something had gnawed at him. Menace had littered Edreth’s comments, to be sure, but it had been Gohred’s brooding glare which had truly concerned Engavar. The man did not like him, this had been plain enough. Gohred had never liked him, not since Engavar had once sought to butter him up (the younger Engavar had been a font of naivety, it must be said). More than that, Gohred appeared to despise having to reward Engavar, and by extension include the Ceorl in their scheme. There was a plainness to his grimace, one that spoke of genuine dislike, raw and moral in nature. Gohred had ever been unsubtle, when dealing with the powerless.

This would not have bothered Engavar on its own. He was used to being disliked. But the way Gohred had stood next to the new Rakna, that was unsettling. It had made Engavar’s throat tighten. The distaste in Gohred had seemed more than idle, it had made Engavar feel like a dangled end of string, twisting before the unblinking hatred of a feline. And what did happen to loose ends? Perhaps he was inferring too much. Everything felt laden with meaning now, each glance foreboding something.

They needed him out the country. This could be good or bad. Engavar mostly thought it was bad. It was much easier to dispose of someone elsewhere. Disposal didn’t have to mean death. Imprisonment was more likely, and extradition was ever so difficult in the international climate.

The car door slid open. Edreth had secured a private car for Engavar’s return journey. It was a sleek black vehicle, with a suited driver and tinted windows. It was like something used by a minor Valaran noble house. Certainly Riaven couldn’t afford luxuries like this - not for their sprawling families. After all, Engavar had went to the gathering by coach.

His flat door was open. More suited men stood outside. By way of explanation, one had shown him the Caraved crest and Engavar went in, his apprehension mounting.

A woman sat there. Pale Riaven hair lay plaited behind unassuming features. She was almost petite, sitting daintily on a chair She toyed with an object in her hands. Oh yes, his new friend, the one Edreth had mentioned. His companion for the ‘vacation’.

“Hello there.”

The woman looked up. “You can call me Kelene Distraen.”

Distraen. That was a Valaran name, not Riaven. It meant something equine, Engavar recalled, though he could not remember what. Kelene was easier - this was a corruption of the Riaven word for Moon. Both common enough, though not overly so. It didn’t roll off the tongue. Kelene ended quietly, its sound fading gently; a verbal action marred by the the strong ‘Dis’ sound. This name felt constructed, and equally ill-fitting, like someone had found two puzzle pieces and wedged them together, heedless of congruity.

Her mien was bland.

“Kelene it is.” Engavar went to the fridge, taking out a dark green bottle. He tried to appear casual in this. Faintly, the door closed, and the last of the suited men left. Kelene did’t answer, and Engavar gave the fridge door a soft push. It was an old device, and it didn’t close fully. Engavar cursed in his mind and gave it a shove. His hand twitched. Kelene was watching him, almost languid in her slow regard. Such a bland expression.

“Can I offer you something? A drink?” No response. “I was going to have a drink.” She didn’t look up. He got out a bottle opener.

“Are you going to be this talkative all the time?” She gave a slow look up at him. The right side of her mouth curled ever so slightly. He wouldn’t have noticed it at all, except for the general expressionlessness of her face. Distaste, Engavar thought. The curling lips showed her distaste, at him, at putting up with this. Engavar found himself reminded of Edreth’ by that expression, the calm, deliberate condescension. But her eyes held echoes of Gohred.

“When it is worth doing so.”

“Why isn’t it worth doing so now?” Engavar sipped the bottle.

“I have instructions, and these do not entail pleasantries.”

“What do these instructions entail? Protecting me?”

“More or less.”

“Aren’t you allowed to reveal them?”

“My liege would say no.”

“And who is your liege? Edreth, or Gohred?”

Kelene gave a slow smile. Engavar felt like that was a reward, for him finally understanding things. This trip was not going to go well for him. Not well at all.



Colonel Norved left too much unspoken. As failings went, it was a foible. The inability to articulate emotion was a classic spymaster’s tic, a sign that one’s job had bled over into their personal lives (as if one could ever neatly separate the two). Or in this case, it was the other way around. For Norved had a second, worse failing: he cared for his operatives. Sevra could tell. She saw it rest lightly across his features, as he gave her and Andurian a final briefing. It was the worry of an old man. One who knows that events were now beyond their control, but could not accept it. All he could do was to send her into the unknown, and wait.

Unable to communicate his feelings, his worries, Norved had resorted to habits. Mission details, clinical and crisp. The sheen of freshly printed documents. Dry humour. The concern was left no outlet. How could he have given voice to it? It was the pain of delegation, the inability to draw out the skeins of the future; quietly unbearable. It was the agony of watching Sevra depart, and not knowing whether he had made the right decision. And if it all went, horribly, horribly wrong, it was the inability to know whether he could have done something else. These were unutterable things at the best of times; for a spymaster, they were criminal thoughts. If one feared to act, then one’s judgment was compromised. And all he had to offer was his judgement, and his actions.

So Norved buried these feelings, a least while in company. Later they would pour out, along with the regret of a life lived around its flaws. Sevra had seen this once, when she had stumbled into his office, eager to blurt out her success. The man had looked up at her, his face lined and his clothes dishevelled. He had needed both hands to put down the glass, and they had trembled when doing so. Norved had looked up at her in horror, that someone had discovered him like this. His gaze had been unfocused, lost. He had been so far gone, that he hadn’t even recognised her.

Sevra had never spoken of that incident. But she knew what it had meant, why he had been like this. That very mission, there had been a misreport, one which had said that she had died. That was the danger of misinformation.

Andurian shifted in his seat. He had the seat next to hers. It was too small for him. He had flipped open his phone and squinted at the device. The phone was too small for his hand. A military hand, that. Full of meaty texture and solid grip. It probably took willpower not to squeeze the life from the aluminium frame. Valaran agency phones were built for delicate fingers.

Sevra didn’t look at him directly. Sunglasses veiled her gaze. They fitted the part, too. She had a jacket on, dark padded leather. Black jeans. Her hand clutched a glass of coke, complete with a straw. Andurian had chosen coffee, the remains of which was crystallising in cheap ceramic - the sort that clinks in the most grating manner possible. He had already waved away two waitresses when they had tried to it clear up, so now the cup was stained brown.

The cafe was on an upper level of another mall, part of the ring of skyscrapers that were adjacent to the Regale. This was a much larger building, more mass-market than its cousin. A low thrum of pop music droned on, competing with live jazz below. Sevra had chosen view that overlooked the Regale’s entrance, behind straight fronted windows and a steel lattice-work. Low down enough to observe the figures strolling around the circular plaza. Not the easiest place to observe entrants to the Regale, but half-decent. A chic bag (also leather) occupied an empty chair, warding off would-be occupants.

Sevra looked at his phone again. Andurian wasn’t an agency member, and this was off the books anyhow, so they had to give him an older model, three year out of date. Not too different from his personal one, Sevra noted. She had looked over when he was checking it through the flight. A home-screen of grinning, muddied visages. A group of muscle-bound figures with tight embraces. All short crew-necked haircuts for the men, tied back pony-tails for the women. All in black shirts, stained brown. Each holding a small silver pin, in the shape of a mythical creature. Barbed wire faintly in the background, rising over yet more mud. Andurian’s gaze had lingered on that picture, and Sevra’s had lingered in turn. The flight had been during the night, so the screen had shone brightly, each of its details crisply rendered.

“You ok there?” Sevra didn’t look up as she spoke. She twirled the straw in one hand, stirring the coke.

“Just missing some leg space.”

“Feel free to get up and pace moodily, if you’d like.”

“Tempting offer.”

Sevra stretched her own legs and smiled behind the sunglasses. “I could do with the peace and quiet.”

“You don’t like having me around?”

Sevra lowered her sunglasses to the bridge of her nose and pointedly glanced at the clock. “Not for the past three hours and seventeen minutes.”

Andurian struggled to turn his chest towards the clock. A great glaring thing, it hung the mall’s central foyer. He gave her a direct stare. “Is this going to work?”

“Let’s just say that I don’t appreciate being saddled with soldiers.”

“Have a problem with the military?”

“I happen to know the military, so yes.”

“Enlighten me. I’m serious.”

The Vaeklas sighed. She flipped off her designer sunglasses and looked at him. “Ok look, this is a observation op. We’ll be doing nothing but traipsing after Engavar and his little vixen friend, and chasing up dead leads. In about a week you will begin to feel like this isn’t getting anywhere. You’ll tell me so, and I’ll tell you to shut up. In about three weeks, you will absolutely consider this a waste of time. You’ll tell me so, and I’ll tell you to shut up. In four, you’ll be chafing at the mission, just like you are with the leg-room right now. At that point, you’ll start complaining to your superiors, who I assume are VRF Generals, Second Army, that this whole thing was pointless, that Engavar was red herring, or worse, a deliberate set-up, and that you want to go home, and point your big stick at something that fires back. Ten messages like these, and your superiors, who likely thought this was a waste of time all along, would agree. They would pull the plug. I can’t tell them to shut up, though I might try. And that would really fucking suck, because it would probably take me another month before I really got anywhere. But no, mission failure.”

Andurian thought for a moment. “Why do you think I am Second Army?”

Sevra rolled her eyes. “The fact that the home wallpaper of your phone has you and your squad-mates at boot camp together, all holding silver pins. Want to guess what the pin is of? A Sea-Drake.” She shifted in her seat, retracting her legs. “Or how about this: the lapel of your uniform at the meeting was in silver thread; regular VRF only use bronze, and the First use gold. Or the fact that, our Emperor, blessed be his farts, would only use men that he knows. That means the Palace Guard, and guess what army that is.”

Andurian was silent, looking down. Sevra resisted fidgeting. “Look, you may think that you’re good at tradecraft, but trust me, you’re out of your league.” Pop music wafted with jazz through the cafe. The real background noise was the chatter of humanity, an endless drone of squeals and footfalls. Sevra twirled the straw in her glass.

Andurian looked up, suddenly. “So, did your VRF boyfriend cheat on you? Or do you just have a chip in your shoulder when they refused you?”

“What?”

“Your little outburst there seemed a little too well-rehearsed to be entirely based on professional disagreements. Plus, your stance, your attitude and even your hair style scream ex-military. So you either knew one of us real close, or you trained with us for a long time. But we don’t train with spies.” He crossed his arms and sat back as far as the chair would allow.

“If I give you another ten minutes of contemplation and seat kicking, do you think you could come up with an even more hackneyed psychoanalysis?”

Andurian leaned in, and grinned. “Hackneyed as they might be, you’re not denying them.”

Sevra tilted her head. “I don’t deny the existence of alien anal probing either. Some things don’t deserve a serious refutation.”

Sevra’s phone beeped, saving her from further pleasantries. After a glance at the clock, she swiped it open. Abstract swirls of her home-screen confronted her - concentric rings of violet and burgundy, all on a navy-blue background. Not exactly revelatory. Two messages confronted her. One was a timer, the digits now in red. The other was a flight registry, landing time and place. Sevra plucked the straw from her glass and drained the coke, before grabbing the sunglasses. She looked at Andurian, and the annoyance had been replaced by sobriety. “Its time.”

* * * * *

The sunglasses had disappeared by the time Sevra had strolled up the concierge, stuffed into a pocket of the leather bag and dumped into Andurian’s arms. Her jacket was zipped up now, and even the jeans managed to look semi-formal, verging on genuinely fashionable, and not merely ersatz.

“Name of the reservation?”

Sevra turned to Andurian, sliding an arm around his waist. “Darling, do you remember?”

To his credit, he didn’t completely recoil at the sudden contact. “Uh, Godson. Kevin.”

“The rest of your party just arrived.” An arm gestured. “Right this way.”

Sevra nodded. Detaching her arm from Andurian, she allowed him to lead the way. Jewellery clinked softly as she walked; Sevra had worn a few choice bangles at her wrists - halfway between delicate and tacky.

“Actually, shall we stop off at the bar, first?”

Andurian looked at her. “If you would prefer.”

“Splendid.” She looked at the waiter, who was clearly unsure of how to react. “Just for a moment, my dear. I simply must try one of the Regale’s famous cocktails. I’m sure our friends can wait.”

“Of course. Just… when you’re ready, the table is the one over there, with the gentleman.” He gestured near the windows, before disappearing back to his tablets.

Obligee.” She glanced at the table, noting the figures, before sidling towards the bar. “Two glasses of prosecco please.” She glanced again at the seated figure. He was quite some distance from the bar, but she made out details.

“What happened to trying the Regale’s famous cocktails.” Andurian smirked slightly as drew up to the bar table. He leant next to Sevra.

The bartender handed her two glasses. She gave one to Andurian. “When we meet them, you take the lead. Keep it to the point. I’m going to trust that you can’t fuck it up that badly.” She hinted at a smile. “And prosecco fits character better.”

Andurian drained his glass. His smile showed two rows of ivory “Whatever you say, darling.” He began to move back, towards the table.

Sevra sipped hers politely as she followed Andurian’s strides. He smiled politely at the Hayabusan, reaching round to shake his hand. “My name is Captain Andurian, and this is Vaeklas Akanith.”

She smiled as she extended her own hand. “Sevra, please.”
Last edited by Valaran on Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
I used to run an alliance, and a region. Not that it matters now.
Archeuland and Baughistan wrote:"I don't always nice, but when I do, I build it up." Valaran
Valaran wrote:To be fair though.... I was judging on coolness factor, the most important criteria in any war.
Zoboyizakoplayoklot wrote:Val: NS's resident mindless zombie
Planita wrote:you just set the OP on fire


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