We Do It For The Homeland (Semi-Open, WA)

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We Do It For The Homeland (Semi-Open, WA)

Postby Snefaldia » Sun Sep 04, 2016 7:12 am

Leemtrecht, Hartstad, Dutch Democratic Republic of Knootoss

"...yes, brothers and sisters, we can do no else, we must unify as Snefaldians abroad, build our movement, and return to overthrow our oppressors! the fight for Snefaldian independence will begin here, with we Snefaldians living out of the homeland, those of us who have been forced from our homes. The Popular Front of Overseas Snefaldians cannot do it alone, though. We require your aid, your assistance. Any contribution, whether it is monetary, in kind, or in labor will aid our struggle to liberate our fellow Snefaldians. We do it for the homeland, the struggle begins today!"

The rented auditorium was filled with applause, much of it energetic, as yet another speaker concluded a fiery speech in defense of Snefaldian freedom and liberty. The whole room was filled with expatriate and refugee Snefaldians, those who had been forced to flee (or at least simply prevented from returning) in the aftermath of the military coup in 2014. Nearly two years later, the Field Marshal was dead, but they were unable to go home; a new neoconservative bloc had taken firmer control of the reigns of government, mixing the Marshal's rhetoric of a national revival with the older messages of the Aatem Nal era and a new narrative of economic and social development: only under the Supreme Council and the system they championed could Snefaldian prosper and remain stable.

The Popular Front was one of those groups that tend to spring up whenever dissidents are forced to flee overseas to organize; they wanted to carry on a fight they had lost on their home soil, print the newspapers that had been banned, spread the ideology that was cause for imprisonment, and attempt to gain the support of other expatriates and refugees by hosting community events and feeding the hungry. In Knootoss it seemed, as long as you weren't advocating socialism and The Revolution, or any flavor or Redness for that matter, it was acceptable for slightly suspect foreigners to organize these kinds of mutual aid and advocacy societies.

Åntor Thiłvem was the local district organizer for this branch of the Popular Front; the national organization had sent a few of the bigwigs over for the monthly fundraising event, one of the big soup kitchen-type shindigs that they periodically ran. Thiłvem was watching as the Municipal President, a stocky Sringi expatriate called Zimna Sannádi, gave a rousing speech urging Snefaldians to contribute to the relief efforts for the deadly explosion in Dwalmdam, since it was the duty of all Snefaldians to show gratitude for the nation that had given them shelter.

Thiłvem was one of those who had been forced to flee the country after Hantili's coup. His father had been a prominent local member of the Snefaldian Nationalist Party, whose national chairman had been one of the first to be imprisoned. Thiłvem had by now become accustomed to using "had" when thinking about his family. It didn't matter which party you'd supported, really, because the military targeted such a wide range of individuals for such nebulous crimes as "provoking quarrels" or "disturbing public order" that no one had really known what their crimes were. Thiłvem's father and mother feared what was coming, though, and put their son on a place to Knootoss, where a distant uncle ran a textiles concern.

He was sure the story was the same for many of the faces in the room around him, even the expatriates who had been in Knootoss for years. They had little to go on but bland reports in state-controlled newspapers; X was imprisoned for Crime A, Y was executed for Crime B on such-and-such a date. He'd spent weeks scanning the papers for those reports, which seemed to take up the lion's share of the pages. Phone calls went unanswered, or it was obvious the line was being monitored. Sometimes, unfamiliar voices picked up and pretended to know nothing. His father's name had shown up in a report one day, months ago. Guilty, of course, and sentence carried out. Of mother nothing. Other families were not so lucky.

He was jerked out of his reverie when the event was ending, and he went up to the podium to give a few words of encouragement, reminding the attendees of the events they had planned during the month: Dutch language sessions, job fairs, and self-defense training for the Youth Wing. Zinma Sannádi was waiting for him, along with his uncle, Marïk Thiłvem, and the Communications Director, a wispy Neeri woman in her mid-40s named Zarívêne Nârvimeldë. The fat Sringi shook his hand first.

"Excellent work, my boy. Excellent indeed. Every day we move closer with events like these, and people like you." he burbled.

"That is our goal, Mr. Sannádi. I can't help but feel, however, that we are farther away than ever."

"It's natural." Nârvimeldë chimed in in low tones. She always spoke in a whisper; it was rumored she had been tortured in Antarctic Snefaldia; she'd been a translator in some government office there. She'd never spoken about it, so sometimes he wondered how the rumors began. "But all movements take time." she finished, "Your father knew that; he was an organizer himself."

Thiłvem seemed a bit suprised, and Nârvimeldë noticed, saying quickly. "I'm sorry, your uncle told me.... We have all lost people. But everything the Popular Front is doing is a chance to honor those that suffered, and suffer still."

Thiłvem nodded, feeling the resolve rise in his heart. "Uncle Marïk, thank you for coming. I didn't know you knew our esteemed Municipal President." His uncle nodded, his brush-like moustache rippling into a smile. "I know Mr. Sannádi through the business community. He encourage me to help in whatever way I could... some of us still have secure links to the homeland. I do what I can to pass information along."

Sannádi smiled. "Indeed, my boy. If you'll excuse us, Ms. Nârvilmeldë and I have some strategy to discuss. I wanted to ask your uncle for his opinion on some matters relating to our impact on trade. And, I think you have someone waiting for you..." he pointed, indicating a young brunette waiting at the entrance to the mostly empty auditorium. Åntor smiled, thanking them for their time, and went to greet the woman waiting for him at the door.

"My my, what a dashing figure, the young revolutionary." she said playfully as he approached. "Don't joke now!" he responded with a laugh, putting his arm around her as they walked into the warm night air, turning onto the street. "This isn't revolt; it's reclamation. We're helping those who need it, and in the process we'll help our homeland. I didn't expect to see you tonight, Marie."

Marie Kuipers-Taygâttis smiled widely. Her nose was a little too large for her face, Åntor thought, but he loved her just the same. "Mrs. de Kock closed up early. Wasn't that your uncle there?" she pointed back to the auditorium, the lights going off as the caretaker mopped up. "Yes, it was. Apaprently he knows our Municipal Chairman."

"The fat one with the combover? I thought he was an important banker or something. His name is in the business section of the Free Herald a lot." Marie sniffed as they walked toward the public transit. "He is," Åntor responded, "but he's one of the expatriates that has taken the risk to support the Popular Front."

They chatted on further, moving from politics to events, and then to love, and to cooking. Marie promised to cook vëkiš orgêt for him tomorrow, if she could get the fresh mustard greens and venison. "But it won't taste very good, mom always cooked Knootian dishes for my dad, so all I have is a Dayan recipe book I bought online."

"It'll be delicious anyhow." He smiled. It was nearing 10:30 at night now, and he suddenly smacked himself in the forehead. "Good gods! I left my satchel at the auditorium." Marie frowned, pouting. "Oh darling, just go get it tomorrow. I have something waiting for you at home..." She smiled coquettishly, and he smiled in return. "I can't, there's letters that must be posted first thing for the Front in it. If I don't get them off in the morning..."

"Well hurry on then, and we can get it off tonight, AND in the morning. Don't just do it for the homeland, do it for me" Marie laughed, and Åntor gave her a wolfish kiss. "Head on home, Marie dear. I'll take a taxi." he said.

"I'll be ready and waiting for my handsome revolutionary." She laughed brightly. "And here's the bus anyway! So hurry on then!"

Åntor hurried back down the street, not quite running, but walking with the jaunt of someone who must complete a mundane task in order to achieve a reward far in excess of the labor required. It was a good fifteen minutes before he got back to the auditorium, and he cursed as he found the doors locked, the janitors having gone. He looked into the alley, seeing a light on at the rear service door where to the kitchen facilities; maybe one of the volunteers was still cleaning up from the Front's soup kitchen.

He tried the heavy door and found it ajar, leading into the rear dishwashing area. The lights were off, and a few pans were sitting on the heavy slanted metal washing table. One of the two doors led to the main kitchen area, with its big central prep table and rows of wholesale grilltops where the catering groups and volunteers of any half-dozen civic groups that rented this auditorium. As he neared the door to open it, though, he heard voices through the thin veneer wood, and stopped.

The voices were familiar, and he went to open the door with a smile, stopping dead a few inches from the handle when the voices became clear. A mixture of confusion and shock washed over him... what was he hearing? It had to be a trick, it couldn't actually be their voices... but if it was true, he needed to hear more. This betrayal, this utter perfidy, meant that...

The words were cut short in his head as he stepped closer to the wall to hear better, dislodging one of the heavy stockpans drying on the table. His hand reached out to steady it, but it was too late, and it tumbled to the ground, the din of metal on brick echoing through the kitchen. Åntor was off like a shot, rushing out of the kitchen into the alley. He didn't want to wait; anyone in the next room would have heard. He rushed out of the alley, hoping he hadn't been seen.

He didn't stop running for a full ten minutes, trying to twist down different alleys and streets in case anyone might follow him. His heart pounded, partly with fear, and partly with the thundering horror at what he'd heard. He had to tell someone. He pressed his back against the wall of the shop entrance he'd found refuge in, hoping the steps would go the other way. His heartbeat was in his throat; the few seconds were stretching into whole hours as he waited; the footsteps were gone.

He breathed in deeply, and stepped out into the street. He'd made a clean break of it. He had to get back to Marie, tell her what he'd heard and figure out what to do. He hailed the next taxi he saw, jumping in and telling the South Epheronian driver his destination. He settled back, letting the city fade into mist.

* * *

In the morning, Peter Bouwmeester was starting work skimming recycling from the canals in Leegkerk; he was on the 5:00 shift for a contracting company that collected, cleaned, and re-supplied Pink Bunny Cola cans to one of the various third-party suppliers the soda conglomerate used to produce their incredibly popular beverage (Now in Bubblegum Blast™ and Cotton Candy Craze™!). Bouwmeester scratched at his respirator; he wasn't used to wearing it, but his line manager had insisted that everyone had to wear them as long as the "threat" of gas clouds was about. He of course had said nothing about the noxious fumes the canal generated, but Bouwmeester wasn't paid to grumble.

He lifted a few cans out of the water, scooting along the concrete edge of the canal slope, and stuck his net back in, hitting something hard and buoyant, covered in scum and netting. Probably a stryrofoam crate, maybe one of those ones the restaurants used to dump their empty cola cans. He grabbed his long gaffer and dragged it in, turning it over carefully.

It was probably the respirator that kept Peter Bouwmeester from throwing up at what he saw next. He wouldn't know it until the police arrived later, but the black, bloated face staring back at him belonged to 25-year-old Åntor Thiłvem, part-time factory worker and district organizer for the Popular Front of Overseas Snefaldia.
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Postby Knootoss » Tue Sep 13, 2016 5:03 am

Elfentuin, Hartstad Capital District
Dutch Democratic Republic of Knootoss

It was 6:30 in the evening when Detective Theo Wassen fell into his sturdy desk chair, the plastic creaking as his wide buttocks settled in. On the right hand side of the desk sat a disposable plastic plate that held a stack of three white bread buns with butter and fat, deep fried beef croquettes that had been flattened between them. To his left lay the dossier of the case he was presently working on: the suspected murder of Åntor Thiłvem, Snefaldian immigrant.

Theo was sufficiently adjusted to the sight of murder victims (and their pictures) that he continued to wolf down croquette sandwiches while the bloated face of the young immigrant stared up at him from the forensic pictures that had been arranged inside the dossier. Skipping over the pictures, he slowly went through the reports that had been inserted by his assistant, Linda. These were transcripts from his audio recordings that had been corrected by her from the jumble that voice-to-text made of his spoken reports. She had also (he noted with annoyance) removed some of the on point observations he'd made about the Snefaldian immigrant community.

"Can't even tell the brass the truth anymore", he grumbled. Ever since that thirty-something metahuman had been made Chief of Police in Elfentuin the proper human staff - the people like him - had begun to look for different positions. If he left, there'd only be a bunch of Politically Correct halfbloods left, and none of these immigrant-on-immigrant murders would get resolved for fear of offending someone with dark skin or pointy fucking ears!

When the bread buns had all been consumed, he threw the plastic plate in the direction of the bin on the other side of the office and then reached for his phone. Ever since Linda had shown him how to use that 'app' thing, he'd refrained from typing up reports altogether. As he could only ever use two fingers to type, this saved a whole lot of time that could be used to do actual field work. The time saved made dealing with that 'dumbphone' (as he liked to call the smartphone) an acceptable evil.

After mashing the imaginary red button on the screen, he picked up the phone and held it in front of his mouth like a walky talky, sitting back in his creaky office chair and rambling on his findings so far:

"Second recording. Thirteenth of September. Case of An-tor Thil-veem. I've spoken with the uncle and the girlfriend again today, and I'm beginning to think that it might not be the usual honour killing bullshit that is usually going on when someone from one of the 'sand cultures' gets killed." He rolled his eyes inwardly as he tried to imagine how Linda might correct that one, then continued: "None of the friends and associates have motives, and they've all got suspiciously good alibi's as well. With FriendFace pictures and everything."

He grunted as he noticed that he'd forgotten to toss the paper towel that he'd brought with him from the canteen. He tried to throw it in the direction of the bin, but instead of landing properly it just floated downwards to a spot nearby. Whatever. The cleaners would take care of it.

"Mind, the ones who did it will probably still smell of spices and old carpets, like the rest of em Snefaldians. Native gangs and robbers - heck, not even the knife ears - they wouldn't go through the bother of dumping their victims in a canal. And then there's the forensics and the wallet to suggest that this wasn't just a murder of convenience."

"Since this guy is the district organizer for the Popular Front of Overseas Snefaldia, or the Overseas Snefaldian Peoples' Front... or the Peoples' Front of Snefaldia..." he couldn't help but joke at his own clever little reference "... I'm going to put my money on a political motive. Though why they would kill someone so far down the line remains a mystery. Then again, these little 'resistance' groups that make their home in Elfentuin and beyond all love to plot and scheme and engage in infighting. There's a good chance that it was some internal matter. For the next few days at least, the investigations' going to focus on that angle."

He grimaced as he pulled open his agenda (still paper, he wasn't going to entrust EVERYTHING to the dumbphone) and summarised: "For the next few days, me and the deputies are going to be questioning his friends and enemies at the Front. People from that district. Bosses. Assistant bosses. Anyone I can find who went to that meeting, the last one he was confirmed to have attended. From there we'll compare stories and see if anyone fucks up. Should be interesting. End of recording."
Last edited by Knootoss on Tue Sep 13, 2016 5:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Snefaldia » Tue Sep 13, 2016 8:12 am

Pulling at the collar on his uniform, Valentijn Mandeviel moved down the road at a brisk clip, trying to keep his shoulders thrust back to project an air of confidence and poise. In a short-sleeved work shirt and matching high-visibility jacket that made him look more like he was training for a triathlon, it was a bit difficult. In this part of Elfentuin, the police were viewed with a healthy degree of suspicion, so perhaps more casual uniforms were meant intentionally to project anything other than authoritativeness.

It was probably better too, Mandeviel thought, to seem more casual. He reckoned military junta types enjoyed fancy uniforms and lots of pomp, so these Snefaldians would probably be more comfortable talking to someone who didn’t look like they would haul you off to a secret prison for getting dust on their brass buttons.

Valentijn had been tasked with doing some of the interviews of relevant parties from the Popular Front fundraiser event where the deceased had last been seen. Wassen hadn’t given instructions that were too clear (just go ask ‘em what they saw, alright?), so he thought he’d work his way up from some of the local business owners. He adjusted his cap a bit to block the sun off his somewhat rounded features; the baseball-style cap couldn’t hide his slightly pointed ears, however, and he hoped the Snefaldians he was talking to wouldn’t notice. They probably didn’t have full elves, let alone half-elves like him in their country.

Recording device in his hand, he found his first destination: a bakery, unhelpfully titled “Avävérayamlē,” one Mr. Quintïs Zildárâne, proprietor. Mr. Zildárâne was known as a supporter of a number of the Snefaldian dissident groups in the area; his name regularly appeared in the papers for vox pops about the plight of the Snefaldian people. Manedviel carefully transcribed the name of the bakery (unsure how to pronounce it) and entered, the door ringing from an old-fashioned bell hanging near the top corner.

The bakery was empty except for baskets filled with intricately-twisted loaves of bread and two shopworkers; both women, one extremely old and one merely approaching middle-age. Approaching the counter, he opened his mouth to speak, but didn’t have a chance. The elderly lady cut him off, rattling off what sounded like a question in a lilting tongue. Mandeviel was briefly caught off guard, and he looked around to make sure she was talking to him; he even stupidly pantomimed “who, me?” and pointed at his chest. The old woman repeated her question, her younger companion drawing closer.

“Pardon me, ma’am. Do you speak Dutch?” he responded. “I’m deputy Mandeviel.”

He noted with interested the brief look of shock that passed over the woman’s face, and she then shook her head, pointing toward the other woman before backing away to the entrance to the backroom. “Manedviel? This isn’t a Neeri name,” the younger woman said in good but heavily-accented Dutch.

“Excuse me, ma’am?” he rejoined.

“Neeri. You are not a Neeri? Your are not Snefaldian?” she carried on, her expression a mixture of interest, fear, and confusion.

“No ma’am. I am Knootian. May I ask your name?”

She was silent a moment before answering. “Zildárâne, Inelisë Zildárâne. My brother runs this bakery. This is my mother-“ she said, point to the elderly woman hovering in the passage to the storeroom. “I’m sorry, she does not speak Dutch. Are you looking for anything special?” she said, pointing to a stack of golden-brown loaves twisted into the shape of a delicate peacock.

“Ah, no, Mrs. Zildárâne. Is your brother in?”

“No. What do you want him for?”

“Do you know when he will be back? Or where I can reach him.”

“I can’t say at the moment. What do you need to see him for?”

“Just a few questions for him, ma’am. Are you sure you don’t know when he’ll be back?” he pressed on.

“Can’t say.”

She folded her arms on her chest after brushing a few strands of silvery-gold hair off her face. Mandeviel was struck by how familiar her features seemed; fair, delicate, somewhat regal. Her hair was similar to his own… and her ears had the slightest point to them. An idea struck him.

“How much are these?” he asked, pointing at the peacock loaves. “I’ve never seen anyone bake bread like this. My mother might like a loaf. How do you do it?”

She uncrossed her arms. “These aren’t too much. 2 ducats. We do everything the traditional Neeri way her, one of the only bakeries in Knootoss to do it this way.”
“The traditional Neeri way? I’m not familiar with it. We don’t really learn about Snefaldia in school, the different regions, that is.” He carried on, trying to be more conversational. Maybe she was put off by the questions? Trying to protect her brother. Or maybe she was just naturally distrustful of police. It would make sense, if she were a refugee.

“Yes. It’s a secret method. We are from the southern province of Neer Dal. Beládanyá people. Only we do it this way, folding it into images and shapes. The tradition comes from the old royal courts. I’m sure your mother would love the peacock. My mother does them.” She carried on, keeping the subject on the bread.

“That’s wonderful. Excuse my surprise a bit early; I was a bit surprised she spoke to me in, what was it, Neeri?”

She nodded, brushing the strands of hair off her face again. “Of course. She thought you were a Snefaldian, a Neeri. You have the look. But our people don’t become policemen in this country. You really do look like a Beládanyán boy!” At the last sentence she gave a bit of a laugh, and Mandeviel allowed himself a smile.

“That’s good to know! I’m only half-dutch. Easy mistake to make! Look, Mrs. Zildárâne-“

“-It’s miss, actually.” She said, winking.

He smiled. “Of course! Miss. Zildárâne. Your brother’s not in any trouble. We just have some questions about the Popular Front fundraiser the other night. That’s all.”

She gasped, and clapped her hand to her mouth. Uttering a sharp few words to her mother, she leaned forward and gestured for Manedviel to lean closer. “It’s about poor Åntor, isn’t it. Great Trees, we saw the papers already. Everyone is talking about it, it’s terrifying.” As she spoke, the elderly woman moved toward the front of the shop, skirting along the u-shaped counter toward the display windows. “Deputy, my brother is in Chamaven visiting some cousins, he’s been gone for a week. I was at the fundraiser, though. We provided some bakery goods. What happened to poor Åntor is awful.”

Mandeviel felt a surge of energy. “What can you tell me about Mr. Thiłvem’s actions and movements that night? Anyone he spoke to in particular?”

“It was normal. Speeches, refreshments, more speeches. Some poetry. Allashan poetry, not very good. There was the municipal president, the fat one whose name I can’t remember. And his uncle, Marïk. Oh, and Zarívêne Nârvimeldë. She is a Neeri as well. She has an important position in the group. Doesn’t speak much. I couldn’t tell, I was too far away, but they seemed to be having a discussion. Åntor left with his girlfriend, the nice Dayan girl, but a few of the others stayed. I was cleaning up, almost the last out the door, but the municipal president, Zarívêne, Marïk Thiłvem, and a few others I didn’t know stayed behind. That was around 10:50, I think.”

Mandeviel held the recorder up, careful to get all of what she was saying. Wassen would be interested in hearing this, for sure. “What can you tell me about Åntor, miss?”

“Lovely young man. Quite handsome. He was so passionate. His poor father was killed by the government, and his mother, who can say?” She folded her arms again. “Most of us have a story like that, somewhere. Handsome young men like yourself and Åntor always get caught up in something dangerous.”

That word struck a chord, and Valentijn blinked slowly. “Was Mr. Thiłvem caught up in something dangerous?”

She opened her mouth to answer. The old woman at the window gave a sharp shout in her language, and Mrs. Zildárâne shut her mouth, uncrossing her hands to grab a white paper bag and slide one of the peacock loaves into it just as a customer pushed into the shop, the bell ringing.

“Here your are, Deputy! I hope your mother enjoys it.” She said with a smile, winking after a quick, hard glance at the new customer. Mandeviel took the hint, smiling and tipping his hat.

“Good day to you, ma’am.” He said as he placed the bag under his arm, leaving his change on the wood counter. He emerged from the store and walked down the street, scanning the faces on the road and mulling over the responses in his head. They had a clear idea of who left at the auditorium in the evening; the girlfriend had said he was going back to find his bag. Maybe there’d been an altercation? But with who? Wassen thought it was political, but was it political enemies? He still needed to talk to those others: Zannádi, the one the baker couldn’t remember, the uncle, and the quiet Neeri.

His mind turned to the way she had reacted around him; he was half-elvish, but she’d assumed he was a Neeri, like her. They did have similar features, and now that he thought about it, a lot of these Snefaldians would be indistinguishable from other elvish types except for the distinctive clothing they wore. In fact, the old woman hadn’t guessed he was anything other than another Snefaldian, albeit one wearing a police uniform. He suddenly realized that the people on the street, when they looked at him, weren’t looking at his ears: they were looking at his uniform.

I think I’ll update Wassen and then change into street clothes before I go interview the next people on the list. he thought to himself. With any luck, they’ll be comfortable enough to let their guards down a bit.

Something about that last phrase bothered him, though, but he couldn’t tell why.
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