Discord and Harmony

18 years after the Battle of Yavin...
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Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Sat May 23, 2015 12:59 am

The wind howled through the trees and through an open window as two figures sat huddled in the dark. At their feet a small child happily playing with a set of blocks, unable to comprehend the conversation taking place around her. "What do we do," the woman asked, her voice nearly breaking under the worry she carried. "She's too young to understand the danger. If someone were to find out..." She was unable to finish the rest but the man sitting beside her understood.

"I know," he said quietly.

Below them the blocks which had been floating in the air fell to the floor in a heap, eliciting a small laugh from the little girl who immediately began to make them float again. Varian Amell, a simple captain in the King's army slammed his fist into a table, startling the girl and causing her blocks to fall once more and making the girl cry. "Damn it," he cursed, "Why now? It has been nearly ten generations since someone in our family was born with the gift. I thought it had left us entirely."

"No one can know about this," Miranna said as she drew her daughter into her arms to calm her. "It would be just as before and it wouldn't end with her. They would come after us too."

"Not if they can't touch us," Varian replied, "I've already made captain in a year. If I stay this course I could be a colonel or a general, then no one could touch us. We'll have the backing of the king."

"That may not be enough, Varian."

"Maybe not, but it will have to do. I won't let anything happen to you or my daughter," he reached out and put his arms around both of them and quietly whispered to them, "I swear it..."

**********

Fifteen years later the young girl was all grown up. Saffron Amell, daughter of Varian Amell, the king's most trusted general and adviser. Varian was true to his word, sacrificing much of this time with his family all in pursuit of furthering his career and building his stature. He was ruthless in his dealings with the other Houses and fiercely loyal to the king and to the empire. By now every being on Talys had heard the name Varian Amell and they all knew quite well the dangers of underestimating him. The noble lords of the five great houses both feared and respected him and he had the love of many in the Imperial military, but for all of his success it came at a terribly high price.

Varian wanted only to keep his family safe, but in the end he ended up driving a wedge between himself and his daughter who only ever wanted to be with her daddy. Lately Saffron had begun lashing out at him, she had always been a quiet and reserved little girl but after a few missed birthdays here and there she had begun to question whether her father loved his job more than her. Varian never told her the truth, that he was doing it all for her. He simply took her verbal tirades in stride and always made the same empty promises he knew he would have to break. So it came as no surprise when she started sneaking out and breaking her curfew. Just as she was about to do tonight.

A friend of hers, a noble from one of the great Houses called for a gathering in town. It was a celebration, of sorts, for a friend of theirs. He was the quarterback for their school's blitzball team and they had just won a big game. Saffron had spent all night getting ready for it though she still felt woefully under dressed. She always felt that way around Lady Eirika Cayne of House Cayne, the gowns she wore were always so beautiful but so expensive. Looking at herself in the mirror now she decided she may as well be wearing rags. With a sigh she flipped the mirror around and moved over to the window.

Her parents were downstairs arguing again. It was the same thing every night. Her father would come home but only for an hour or two before he'd have to leave again. The rebellion that had sparked against the crown was keeping him busy and it was also taking its toll. Over the years he had fought many wars against the great Houses, but he had never fought one against the people. Worse yet he couldn't even say for sure that he disagreed with them. Things were bad all over Talys, but the common people had it the worst. The great Houses loomed over them like titans, trampling them in their wake as they vied against each other for the throne. Even Varian was growing weary of it, but he could never disobey a direct order from the king. Over the years that was the only thing that hadn't changed.

Then he won't care if I slip out, she thought to herself as she slid open the window and climbed outside. It wasn't a short drop from her room to the front yard, but that didn't matter to her. With her special talents she could come and go as she pleased and no one would be the wiser. No one, that is, except for her parents. They were constantly warning her never to use her powers in public or at all, for that matter. Doing so was dangerous, they said, but that never stopped her from trying to hone her skill. What was the point of being born with something she could never use? So with a simple push she leapt clear of the window and with a gentle telekinetic blast towards the ground landed safely outside.

The iron gate to their home was swinging slightly in the wind as she stepped through it. Her father must have left it open when he came home. Latching it shut she hefted her small backpack over her shoulders and headed down the street in the direction of the city. Eirika and the others were gathering at the usual spot and Saffron hoped they would still be there when she arrived. They were supposed to meet at six, it was five thirty now and she was just leaving her house. That meant she was going to be late. She didn't live far from the city, but it was far enough that she would need a taxi and as she waved one down it never occurred to her that tonight was the night that her life would change forever...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Sat May 23, 2015 12:46 pm

Across town Saffron wasn't the only one running late to the meeting. Eirika Cayne, daughter of Eddard Cayne and lady of the estate refused to leave until everything was perfect. That meant spending an extra forty five minutes longer than she wanted to just getting ready. It would have been faster if she could have asked for the assistance of her servants, but then that would have drawn the curiosity of her father and she didn't want to have to answer any of his questions. So she struggled with setting her own hair into the intricate curls she loved so much and dressing herself, tossing several gowns onto the spread sheet of her bed before settling on one she felt was just right. For a moment she wondered if the dress would be a bit much, but glancing at all the other outfits she had in her closet she eventually decided that this particular dress was the least extravagant of the bunch. A simple sleeveless gown with a low neckline, low enough that her father would not approve. The gown was a brilliant purple, the color of House Cayne and accented her eyes perfectly. In other parts of the galaxy it might have seemed odd for a girl to be born with violet eyes, but then again Talys was not known to the galaxy, nor for that matter was the galaxy known to Talys.

Talys was a quiet planet located in what had become known as the far Outer Rim somewhere in the Unknown Regions. There were no known trade routes to Talys and no ships have made contact. Talys was isolated and in a weird sort of way its current troubles mirrored those of the galaxy at large. A nation torn apart by strife and war, a people on the verge of rebellion. It almost sounded like something out of a holovid if it wasn't so real and among them. Fortunately, the fighting had wound down since the succession of the recent King. King Viserys III was a ruthless man and he pretty much ended the war with one swift strike. The families that were caught in the crossfire didn't deserve to die the way that they did and many point to this event as the spark that caused the rebellion. Truth was it was the straw that broke the camel's back. This event came at the end of a long chain of events that would have eventually ended the same way, but as of this moment these thoughts were far and away from Eirika's mind. She was finally ready to leave for the meeting, now came the difficult task of sneaking by her father.

Lord Eddard Cayne was currently in the library with his adviser. The door to the library was ajar slightly as Eirika approached. In her hands she had a small clutch containing whatever pocket change she had and dangling from her fingers were an expensive pair of high heel shoes. She creapt up to the door quietly, her heart pounding in her throat as the voice of her father grew louder with each step.

"So far things have been quiet, My Lord," Brandon Howell, Eddard's chamberlain and chief adviser was saying, "There's been some movement in and out of the Valley but so far the rebels seem content to wait."

The 'Valley' referred to an abandoned military outpost just north of the city. Nestled between two mountains it had earned a reputation for being an impregnable fortress. Ever since the House Cayne Reforms, however, the base has lain dormant, much to the chagrin of its current lord. Abandoning the base gave the rebels an opportunity to set up a base of operations, one that would quite clearly put House Cayne in the very center of this war should it ever break out. House Viserys would like nothing more than to move troops into the Valley to clear it out, which put Eddard in a very difficult situation.

"The King will want access to the Valley," Eddard mused quietly, "and if he takes it...,"

"House Viserys will have troops stationed just north of our capital," Brandon finished for him, "and if we deny his soldiers passage we may as well throw our lot in with the rebels."

"I will need to think on this," Eddard replied, "In the meantime I want extra security for my daughter. Her habit of sneaking out is becoming a danger I can no longer ignore."

"As you wish, my Lord, will there be anything else?"

At this Eirika realized the meeting was coming to a close and quickly rushed past the library and down the hall. There were some servants in the foyer at the front of the house but none of them paid her any heed as she passed. She was out the door and down the long driveway in front of their estate long before anyone had noticed her disappearance. From there it was a short tram ride into the city to a place called Verdant, a night club she and her friends frequented on a fairly regular basis. It was a small, rather stout building in the seedier part of town, or rather a part of town that had become seedy over time. House Cayne had not always been kind to the common folk, something Eirika's father had desperately been trying to turn around. With the Reforms came many changes to Cordelia City, but some parts of town were slower to progress than others. Not many people ventured to Verdant on a night like tonight, or any night for that matter, which is why Eirika and her friends were permitted inside. Both as a result of her status as Lady of the House which owns the land it currently sits on and because the club was desperate for clientele. Eirika simply showed her signet ring to the man standing at the door and was permitted inside.

Glancing at her chrono she noted the time, 6:15. She was fifteen minutes late. By now most of her friends were there, though a few were still running late. Among the missing was Saffron and Kriel. Kriel was a boy she met through school, as most of the others were. They were a rather odd mix of nobles and commoners as it was a school that permitted everyone regardless of class as part of her father's reforms. Eirika was rather venomous to most of the commoners for awhile but eventually she settled down and even made some friends. Some of which had already graduated and were attending the Royal Academy, it had been almost a year since she had last seen them.

On the other side of the room Daisy and Julian locked eyes with her and waved her over. Eirika smiled broadly at them and quickened her step but she made it barely a foot when something jumped out in front of her. A small device careened off a table and fell to the floor shortly before it erupted in a blast of light and sound. Eirika's ears were ringing and she fell to the floor blinded. She couldn't see what happened to the others, there was so much movement around her. Almost distantly she became aware of someone grabbing her and picking her up, but her vision was still blinded by bright white spots and she couldn't see who.

The others at the table had all been affected by the blast. Daisy and Julian were the only ones who had managed to look away in time and they were now busy herding the rest of their friends out the back as gunfire began to tear into what few meager patrons there were. Julian had tried to go back for Eirika but there were too many figures moving amongst the empty tables and dead bodies lying at their feet. He quickly assessed the situation and decided he had no choice but to leave. Whoever these people were it was clear they only had one target and they were willing to kill anyone who got in their way. The best he could do right now was try to remember as many details as he could.

Outside the five friends huddled against the back wall of Verdant. "What the fuck," Lena cried as soon as she could hear again, "What the hell happened?"

"It was an extraction team," Julian said quietly, "They were here for Eirika, probably followed her from the estate."

"How many people were killed," Daisy asked, that was just like her, all business.

Julian shrugged, "Hard to say. I counted nearly half a dozen people aside from ourselves. It's possible some of them made it out."

"Who the fuck were they," Lena shouted, she had a rather flowery vocabulary.

"Never mind that," Morgan said hotly, "How could you leave her in there, Julian? She's our friend and you left her in there to die!"

Morgan and Julian had never actually seen eye to eye. Morgan was a noble and Julian a soldier, they couldn't have been further apart.

"They're not going to kill her," Julian said simply, he didn't let Morgan's accusation get the best of him, "I said they were an 'extraction' team. They only mean to kidnap her, possibly to use her against her father. There's a chance we might be able to rescue her if we move quickly."

"Rescue her? The five of us?" Daisy asked incredulously.

"We have to do something," Morgan insisted.

"And that something shouldn't involve getting ourselves killed! We should just go to the authorities."

"There's more," Julian said quietly, "and you're not going to like it."

"I already don't like any of this," Daisy told him, "What could possibly make it worse?"

Julian sighed and looked away. "Kriel was with them. I recognized the scar on his face. I'm sorry, Morgan, but your celebration is going to have to wait. Before we go to the authorities we should at least talk to Kriel first. Maybe he will tell us where they're planning to hold Eirika."

"That's a big if, Julian," Daisy answered, "but fine. I've known Kriel a long time and if he's working for the rebels I'll want to hear it from him."

**********

Meanwhile, a short distance away Saffron was fidgeting uncomfortably in her seat. She didn't fully understand why but she felt incredibly anxious all of a sudden. She simply chalked it up to nerves, they weren't very far from Verdant now and the closer they got the stronger the feeling became. Perhaps she was just nervous to see her friends, she was rather shy after all. Trying to put the feeling out of her mind she turned to the window and watched the store fronts as they passed. Down a side street she caught sight of something strange. Six dark figures carrying a woman who looked a lot like Eirika were climbing into the back of a heavy speeder van.

"Wait, stop," she cried, "Stop the cab!"

The speeder roughly came to a stop and without even bothering to pay her fare Saffron threw open the door and hurried out.

"Hey, my fee," the man called after her but she ignored him.

The men were almost done loading into the van and running as fast as she could she tried to catch up. "Hey," she called after them, "Hey, stop!"

One of the men looked up and saw her and for a moment Saffron thought she saw Kriel, a friend of theirs from high school. What was he doing wearing body armor and carrying a gun? And why did he take Eirika? Saffron had thought they were friends. The doors to the van closed and the vehicle began to speed away. Determined to catch up Saffron closed the rest of the distance between her and the van with a giant leap. She hit the side of the van scrambling for any kind of purchase before finding a place to put her hands and feet. Inside the van there was a loud thump and one of the men inside looked up at Kriel.

"What was that," he asked.

"Probably nothing," Kriel said.

"Sure didn't sound like nothing." Then he turned and pounded on the wall separating the back of the van from the cabin. "Hey, stop the van!"

"No way! We're still in Cayne territory!"

"Just do it!"

Outside the van suddenly slowed to a stop, surprising Saffron and causing her to lose her grip. She fell from the van onto the duracrete road just as the doors on the back flew open and five men clad in black armor poured out. Saffron quickly scrambled to her feet and put her arms up in front of her prepared to fight.

"What are you doing with my friend," she asked, trying to sound tough, "Release Eirika at once!"

The five men just looked at each other. The one who had spoken before and ordered the van to stop looked surprise. "That girl was almost twenty meters away when we closed those doors. No human could make that jump."

"I said release Eirika or I'll... Do something to you!"

She was already prepared to use her powers against them, even if that meant revealing herself as a witch but despite her parents warnings now didn't seem the time to hold back. She barely had the chance though before a sixth rebel climbed out of the front of the van and struck her in the back of the head with the butt of her rifle. Kriel looked away as it happened, he had always had a soft spot for quiet, little Saffron and he hated to see her get hurt.

"Was that necessary," he asked.

Serenity simply shrugged her shoulders. "Girl wasn't going to let us go."

"What do we do with her?"

"Leave her, someone will find her later."

The others started to load up onto the van when one of them stopped. "Wait, I recognize her," Dax said, stopping the others in their tracks, "From the holovids. She's General Amell's daughter, another high profile target."

"Well, well, two for one," Serenity said with a slight smirk on her face. "Well, don't just stand there load her into the back."

The others did as they were told and when Eirika saw her friend being dropped unceremoniously beside her she cried, "Saffron! What did you cretins do to her?!"

"Shut up," Dax shouted, "One word out of you and you'll get the same!"

"That's enough, Dax," Kriel said firmly, "Just tie her up and keep quiet."

Both Kriel and Eirika locked eyes for a moment and Kriel could see the anger in her face. He knew what he was doing was the right thing, he only hoped that the price he had to pay was worth it...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Sat May 23, 2015 9:00 pm

They had been on the road for near three hours when Saffron finally began to stir. Her eyes fluttered open and the first thing she saw was Eirika lying next to her. Instinctively she reached out to the other girl to ask if she were okay and that was when she realized her hands were bound. "Wha... What's going on," she asked quietly.

"Saffron! Oh Saff are you alright," Eirika asked with a concerned look in her eyes.

Saffron's head ached from where the rebel had struck her and she could feel a warm trickle of blood against her neck. "I... Don't know," she stammered, "Where are we?"

"Shut up," Dax said suddenly, drawing Saffron's eyes to the other people in the van. That was when she saw Kriel sitting near the back of the vehicle.

"Kriel," she said, "What's going on? Why are you doing this?"

"I said shut up," Dax shouted, backhanding the girl across the cheek with enough force to knock her flat on her back.

"That's enough, Dax! You'll not touch her again, you hear me," Kriel shouted at him.

Dax just looked away and sat back down. If there was one thing he hated more than the nobles it was General Varian himself, the voice of the King they called him. He was the one who led the charge against Rickford city in the climactic battle that ended the war and it was in that battle that many of Dax's friends and loved ones died. He would have wanted nothing more than to kill the General but he would settle for his daughter instead if not for the fact that deep down inside he knew the girl was worth more to them alive.

Saffron for her part could almost feel his ire towards her wafting off of him. The feeling was so strong that it was almost tangible to her. She had felt privy to the emotions of others before but none had felt so red hot as this. Why does he hate me, she asked herself quietly, what have I done to him? She looked over at Eirika who stared frightfully at her friend, worried about her condition but also about their predicament. Saffron wanted to say something, to reassure her that everything would be alright but even she couldn't fight past her own fear. She worried what might happen should she try to speak again but she had so many questions she wanted answered, not the least of which was why Kriel had thrown in with the rebels and kidnapped his friend.

She looked up at her friend but he was turned away, unable to meet her gaze. His regret was almost palpable and she could feel it as strongly as she felt Dax's hate for her, but still she said nothing. Eventually the van had slowed to a stop and the doors were thrown open. Once the girls were outside Saffron was able to recognize where they were, an old abandoned military outpost named the Valley. She had seen it once or twice while touring with her father.

"What is the meaning of this," a voice suddenly asked and a man flanked by two guards quickly approached them with an angered look on his face. "I don't remember ordering an operation to kidnap Lord Cayne's daughter."

"No, I ordered it for you," Serenity said as she climbed out of the front of the van. "Command was growing impatient and they wanted results."

"Then they should have talked to me."

"They might have, Strider, had your attempts to negotiate with Lord Cayne not proven so fruitless. The Lord should be much more amenable to our demands now."

"This is foolish, Lord Cayne is not going to negotiate for the return of his daughter," at the mention of that last bit Eirika let out a soft whimper which drew Strider's eyes to her. Realizing what he had just said he turned to one of his guards. "Escort these two to a cell," he told him then he turned back to Serenity, "You and I should discuss this inside."

Then he turned on his heel and left as Saffron and Eirika were carted away...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Sun May 24, 2015 2:32 am

"Bringing in Eirika was foolish," Strider said once he and Serenity were alone. "Lord Eddard Cayne might have been willing to cooperate with us before, but now...," he left the rest hanging in the air.

"He'll cooperate with us, if we wants his daughter alive."

Strider couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Is that what we've become now? We're going to murder an innocent girl just to get our way?"

"Eirika Cayne is hardly innocent! Her family has been indenturing people into servitude for years!"

"Before Lord Eddard Cayne succeeded the House," Strider pointed out, "It's the only reason I was able to convince High Command to let me talk to him."

"Well, I say too little too late," Serenity replied, "If he really was intending on making a difference he wouldn't have turned you down three times."

"It's complicated," Strider told her, he would have explained further but he doubted Serenity would care to know that House Viserys had been pressuring House Cayne into subservience. Throwing their support in with the rebels would mean open warfare with the King and that was a battle that neither House Cayne nor the rebels could win, but Strider was close to convincing Cayne to support the rebellion discreetly. A steady supply of weapons and food would have gone a long way towards helping the rebellion take down the established monarchy. After today, though, that cooperation was little more than a pipe dream.

"You've got three days, Strider. Three days to convince Eddard Cayne to side with the rebellion, otherwise I'm sending his daughter home in a box."

Then she spun on her heel and left the room. After she had gone Strider swore quietly under his breath. He had at one time been a strong voice amongst the rebellion, pushing the others towards a peaceful resolution with the nobility, but time and constant oppression weakened his position. Now hot headed young officers like Serenity were calling the shots and taking unnecessary risks. Risks that would eventually push this rebellion into open warfare with the nobility. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of people would die in that conflict and Strider intended to do everything within his power to avert it, but first he needed to deliver some bad news to a man he would have liked to have called a friend...

**********

Saffron had never been in a prison cell before and it was every bit as bad as she'd imagined it to be, possibly worse with the rabble standing outside their cell looking in. A lot of them were young, like Kriel, couldn't have been any more than eighteen. Others were older and while the younger ones, laughed, cheered and jeered at them the older ones kept quiet and simply sneered at Eirika.

"Probably not as comfortable in there as back at the estate, eh, Princess," one of the rebels called to her.

"Probably misses being waited on hand and foot by your sister, Jack," another teased.

"Shut up, Dorian, didn't your mother work as a cleaning lady for the Caynes?"

"If by 'worked' you mean slaved away for pennies then yeah, sure."

"Alright, you lot, that's enough," a stern voice called from somewhere in the back and an older gentleman stepped forward wearing a colonel's uniform.

"Colonel Frank Robinson," Saffron said in surprise as the man stepped forward. He stopped at the bars and shook his head.

"Never thought I'd see the daughter of an old friend behind these bars," he said, "I'm surprised you remember me, you weren't that old the last time I came 'round your house."

That was almost eight years ago. She vaguely remembered Frank being court-martialled shortly after that, she never knew why but Frank's discharge from the royal military never sat well with her father. "My father was deeply saddened when you left the military," she said.

Frank Robinson chuckled slightly. "'Left', that's a nice way of putting it," he said.

"I once heard him say there was no finer man he had the pleasure to work with."

"Your father honors me, my dear, and I deeply wish I could repay him the favor but sadly I can't set you free. You and your friend are to be our bargaining chips to force either your father or Lord Cayne to take a stand against the King."

Saffron didn't say anything but she knew that wouldn't work. Her father would never betray the King, not even to save his own daughter's life. Just looking at Colonel Robinson standing before her now she could see the same thoughts running through his mind. He knew her father almost as well as she did, probably better considering he spent more time at work than at home with his family. He knew Varian Amell would never negotiate with terrorists, which meant there was only one likely outcome to this event. A cold icy terror gripped her heart and something must have shown in her face because Robinson's expression softened somewhat and he appeared apologetic.

"I'm sorry, my dear, it was never supposed to have come to this. If I had my way you'd be safe at home in your bed, but...," he stopped then and looked at Eirika. "Children shouldn't have to pay for the wars of their fathers."

Eirika's shoulders slumped then and she began to whimper quietly. Saffron could do little more than stare blankly ahead. She wanted to cry, but the tears would not come. "You have three days," Frank continued, "I do hope your fathers will prove us wrong."

Then he turned and left the room in silence. Most of the gathered men just stared at each other. "Wait, we're going to kill them," one of them asked.

"We have to send a message to their fathers," another explained.

"But they're just kids. I have a brother their age."

The chattering continued but the two girls had long since stopped listening. Eirika had curled up into a ball and was slowly rocking herself back and forth on the bed. We're going to die, was all she could think to herself and as desperately as she wanted to be strong, to maintain some semblance of nobility and deny this rabble the satisfaction, she couldn't help but admit that she was scared to die. Saffron wasn't much looking forward to it either, but she had abilities the others knew nothing about. She could escape, she had to escape. For the sake of her and her friend she needed to break out of this prison, but she couldn't do it now, too many witnesses. No, she would have to wait until the time was right.

**********

"I hear you're headed to Cordelia," Kriel said as he entered Strider's office. "I want to come with."

"Could get hairy, Kriel, I'm going to go tell a man that I've kidnapped his daughter. I at least owe him the courtesy to tell him to his face."

"That could be dangerous," Kriel told him, "What if he has you arrested?"

"Then his daughter will die, he won't risk that happening," Strider explained, "What about you? Why this sudden interest in going back to Cordelia?"

"I've got friends there and they're worried about me. Been trying to contact me all night."

"You think they know you're involved in Eirika's disappearance?"

Kriel just shrugged, "Don't know, don't much care but I at least owe them an explanation."

"Fair enough, Kriel, but you might not like what they have to say."

Just then the door to the office slid open and Dax entered, looking very concerned. "Sir, I have something I need to tell you. It's about what happened last night."

Both Kriel and Strider shared a brief glance before Strider nodded, dismissing the younger man. Kriel hesitated a moment before turning to leave. He almost certainly knew that whatever Dax had wanted to talk about had something to do with Saffron. The man had a burning hatred for General Varian and his family and he didn't feel safe leaving her here on the base with him, but it wouldn't have been right for him to stay uninvited for a private conversation so eventually he decided to leave. He didn't stray for, though, and once he was through the door he loitered about in the hallway just outside.

"What is it, Dax," Strider said when they were alone.

"It's about the girl," Dax explained, "The General's daughter. I don't think she's human."

Strider resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Don't be absurd, Dax, she's just a girl."

"No, I mean...," he stopped suddenly and reconsidered his words. "Last night when we were loading up the van we look up and see this girl running toward us, but she was still a ways off so Kriel shuts the door and we take off. Next thing I know there's this loud thump and the girl's clinging to the side of the van. That distance couldn't have been more than twenty meters, and there's no human I know can cover that distance that fast."

"You were on an op last night, Dax, you had just kidnapped a noble and thought you had seen something strange."

"It wasn't just me, Sir, Kriel saw it too, said nothing of it, acted like it was normal."

"Dax, I don't have time for this, I have a transport leaving in twenty minutes."

"At least put the girl under heavier guard, Sir, or kill her. I could do it for you right now."

"Now you stop right there," Strider said icily, "You touch a hair on that girl's head before I get back and I swear I will put you six feet under, you get me? Been a part of this rebellion a long time, Dax, and not once have I killed a child. Don't intend to start now. Now you put these thoughts aside and you do you job unless that's too difficult for you in which case you tell me now and I'll have you confined to quarters. Now is there anything else, Soldier?"

Dax stood up straight and clicked his heels together. "No, Sir," he said quickly.

"Then you're dismissed."

Dax executed a crisp about face and hurried out of the room. He passed by Kriel on his way out and from where Strider was standing it seemed like something had passed between them but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Either way he had more pressing concerns on his mind right now and he wasn't looking forward to his meeting with Lord Cayne...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Mon May 25, 2015 1:50 pm

Everything was quiet after the colonel had left. Eirika had long since cried herself to sleep while Saffron stood watch over her. She was afraid for what would happen to them but she also felt a strange calmness as well. She felt cool and calculating as she planned her next move. First was getting out of this cell, a simple matter of using her power on the lock. Then came the guard, she needed to catch him unaware but without exposing herself. That was the tricky part and as she pondered it there was a soft shuffling of feet at the door.

"I need the room," a familiar voice said and Saffron looked up to see Kriel talking to the guard.

"No can do, Sir, I got orders to watch these two."

"They'll be fine, Jack, please," Kriel said and finally the other man nodded and stepped outside.

By now Eirika had stirred awake at the sound of Kriel's voice and she had a scowl on her face as he approached them. "Hi, Saffron, Eirika," he said in a soft tone as though they were just friends hanging out at the club, "How are you doing? Holding up okay?"

"Why should you care," Eirika asked coldly.

Kriel sighed, "I know you may not believe me but I didn't want this. I would never hurt you or Saffron, but I didn't have a choice. The operation to kidnap you was going to go down regardless of whether I wanted it to or not, I just... I thought it would be better for you if I was a part of it."

Eirika was not convinced and her scowl only deepened, "Yeah, you're a real big hero, Kriel, I'm sure."

Kriel fell silent for a moment and the three just awkwardly stared at each other until Saffron broke that silence.

"How long have you been a rebel, Kriel," she asked.

"Three years, since the end of the war. Lost some good friends during that last battle. People who had no business being a part of it."

He had a sad look on his face and Saffron felt for him, but his actions were still inexcusable. He should have done something to protect them, to warn them, anything but he didn't. He kept it all a secret.

"How could you," she whispered quietly.

"I had to do something, Saff. For them, to honor their memory. I knew eventually it would put us at odds, but...," he left the rest hanging in the air.

Another awkward silence fell between them and Kriel fidgeted uncomfortably. "Besides, Saff," he said finally, "I wasn't the only one keeping secrets. I know about what you can do."

Saffron's eyes widened in surprise. "How," was all she could say.

Kriel looked away, "One of the first jobs I had after joining the rebellion was keeping a watch on you. High Command needed to know what your patterns were in case... In case we needed to grab you to force action from your father. I saw you, leaving your house and--," he paused briefly, "and coming back."

Saffron said nothing. There was no explanation she had for what she could do. Nothing she could say to him to make him think of her as anything but a freak. He surprised her, though, when next he spoke. He had an urgency in his eyes as though he were deeply afraid but not of her.

"Promise me you won't try to escape, if anyone finds out--," he couldn't finish the rest. "There are people here who hate your father. They would like nothing more than to hurt you any way they can."

For a moment Saffron thought he was crazy. Not try to escape? Why would she even consider that? But something about the look in his eye convinced her and finally she nodded. "Okay," she whispered quietly.

"Good," he said, then he stood and started to leave but Saffron stopped him.

"Where are you going?"

"Back to Cordelia," he said, "You two aren't the only ones to whom I owe an explanation."

And then he was gone. The guard from before had come back into the room and a silence had once again fallen over them. After awhile Eirika looked quizzically at her friend.

"What was he talking about, Saff? What is it you can do?" But Saffron said nothing. All she could think about was the last thing Kriel had said to her. People here wanted to hurt her? All to get to her father? The thought of that made her want to escape even more but she had just promised Kriel she wouldn't use her powers. Now what do I do, she thought but no answers were forthcoming...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Wed May 27, 2015 2:03 pm

The next day Strider was perched on a low cliff over looking the Cayne estate. Below them the estate grounds were crawling with Cayne security personal, a few representatives from the Royal Army and even the local police. "I don't like it," Jeana Clay said from where she was lying right next to him, "The place was already a fortress, but this?"

"Lord Cayne is an honorable man," Strider told her, "I owe it to him to do this in person. Just find me a way in."

He handed her the macro binoculars and started to climb down to the estate. He would have felt more comfortable if Kriel were here as well to back them up but he understood the young man had other things he needed to take care of. Strider could only imagine what he was going through. While the rebellion had taken its toll on everyone involved very few of them ever found themselves in a position where they had to betray a friend. Strider just hoped this whole incident wasn't going to shake the boy's resolve. Kriel was a good soldier, skilled with a gun and at hand to hand combat. He was grateful to have the young man at his side.

Down at the bottom of the cliff Strider hid in the shadow of some bushes a few yards from the outer wall surrounding the estate. Meanwhile, Jeana was aiming her sniper rifle at the two security cameras atop the wall. Shooting them would almost certainly draw the attention of the security forces on the other side, but the high powered laser she had attached to the barrel of her weapon allowed her to blind the camera's sensitive electronics temporarily. Once the coast was clear she gave the signal to Strider and the man immediately darted from cover and climbed over the wall. Getting in was the easy part, staying unseen and then later getting out was going to be much harder.

Using her scope to note guard positions as well as the layout of the garden and the estate she managed to talk Strider through to the window just below Lord Eddard Cayne's study. A trellis on the side of the wall would allow ingress into the study from the balcony but leave him exposed. He waited in the shadow of a small hedge as Jeana kept track of the security patrols around him and then signaled there was an opening. Strider quickly scrambled up the trellis onto the balcony and hid against the wall. Inside the study he could hear the voices of two men.

"At this point the fact that your daughter is with them is rather academic," Lord Eddard Cayne was saying, inadvertently identifying the other man. "A cab driver from the city saw her take off after the men who took Eirika."

"I never thought the rebellion would be so bold," General Varian Amell replied, "We're fortunate that no one was hurt during the incident."

Strider was surprised to hear that as well. During the operation the rebels had deployed stun bolts so no innocent bystanders would be hurt. Strider was rather shocked at Serenity's restraint. The woman was usually far more hotheaded and reckless.

"My men managed to track a van leaving the city in the direction of the Valley," Cayne continued, "My guess is they're holding the girls somewhere inside the base."

There was a moment of silence as Varian considered that. "That base is built to withstand a siege, but perhaps a small team of highly trained commandos--," it was then that Strider stepped out into the open and interrupted them.

"I would advise caution before attempting that, General," he said, "My men are under orders to shoot the girls should either of you try something like that."

General Varian immediately drew his gun from its holster and pointed it at the man. "Who are you," he demanded.

"A friend," Strider answered, "I only came here to talk and to urge you both to make a deal with the rebels."

"It's alright, Varian, you can put that away," Cayne urged him.

Varian lowered the gun but did not place it back inside the holster. "Pretty bold of you to come out in the open. What's to stop me from having you arrested?"

"The well-being of your daughter, General Amell. Should I not report back to my men within the next hour this story is going to have a very unhappy ending."

It was Eddard's turn to speak up next and he cut straight to the point. "Strider, I told you all the reasons why I can't support the rebellion and nothing has changed. I make a deal now to save my daughter's life and I doom my house to destruction at the hands of King Viserys."

"I know, Lord Cayne, but I don't see this ending any other way. I'm sorry, to you both, it was not my desire for things to come to this."

"Then end it, Strider, the men in the Valley are under your command, are they not? Have them release our daughter's at once."

"Can't do that, my Lord, I'm afraid I'm just a soldier too. I have a voice in the rebellion but I also take orders and right now my orders are to kill the girls in three days should I fail to convince you to make a deal."

"If you're a man of such principle then how could you even take those orders," Varian demanded.

"Believe me, General, when I signed on to support the rebellion I did not think I would find myself poised to murder children. I thought we were fighting for something more, but this... This is not rebellion, it's terrorism and I will not support it. The way I see it you have three days and the general here has intimate knowledge concerning the base's layout. I can tell you where the girls are being held but the rest is up to you..."

**********

Kriel rang the doorbell to Daisy's loft and waited nervously for her to answer the door. Of all the people in their little group Daisy was perhaps the most reasonable of the bunch. He was sure she would help explain his situation to the others. He had a duty to the rebellion and he couldn't back down from it, even when that duty put him squarely against his friends. If anything he had hoped the others would understand the impossible situation he was in, but he harbored no such delusions.

The door opened finally and Daisy gave him a look. "Where have you been, Kriel? We were trying to contact you."

"I know," he said, "that's why I'm here. There's something I need to tell you."

"Then you better come inside, there's something we have to tell you too."

We? That meant the others were here as well. Kriel wasn't looking forward to seeing everyone at once but he stepped inside anyway. Better to just get it over with, he thought. "Look, Daisy, what I have to say isn't easy for me, but--," he was cut off suddenly when something struck him on the head and he blacked out. When he woke up some time later he was tied to a chair and his friends surrounded them.

"Where's Eirika, Kriel," Julian asked him.

Kriel felt groggy and just stared at his friend. "The Valley," he said, "We took her there after we... After we grabbed her."

"How could you, Kriel," Lena demanded, "I thought you guys were friends!"

"We are friends, but that op was going to happen with or without my consent. I just thought I could help protect her if I was on the team."

"And how's that going so far? You've got her locked up in some kind of cell with lord knows how many rebels around her and all of them carrying some grudge or another against the nobles. You really think you can protect her against all that when you're the one who put her there?"

Lena was right. Even with him there to watch over her he couldn't be around her all the time. All it took was for someone to sneak in while he was out. Then there was Serenity's plan to kill both Eirika and Saffron should their father's not reach an agreement. "There's more," he said finally, "Saffron is with them."

"What," the others all said in unison. They all knew Saffron couldn't fend for herself and each one of them had taken her under their wing at one point or another. There was a shared sort of responsibility among them to protect her.

"That's just great," Lena said in a huff, throwing her arms up in the air and walking away.

"How did they get her," Julian asked and Kriel looked away.

"She saw us loading Eirika into the van and tried to stop us," he said. The others couldn't believe what they were hearing, that didn't sound like Saffron at all. "I don't know what she was thinking, but someone recognized her and... Well, you know the rest."

Then he turned and fixed them all with a cold stare. "Look, I don't care what you guys think of me but right now we need to do something to help Saffron. The rebellion has a grudge against the nobles, yes, but almost everyone has lost something or someone to General Amell. She is in far more danger than Eirika is right now and we need to get her out."

"We," Daisy asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I can get you inside," Kriel explained, "I'll just tell the others you're new recruits. Once we're inside we can work out a plan to grab Saffron and Eirika and get out."

Daisy couldn't believe what she was hearing. "That's your plan? Get us inside and then figure it out?"

"It could just work," Julian said, "They wouldn't expect one of their own turning on them."

"It's stupid," Daisy said, but she could tell the others were already convinced. "Fine," she said finally, "but at least let me do some research on the base first. If we're going to do this let's not do it blind."

"It's settled then," Kriel said, "I help you break the girls out and you never have to see me again. Now can someone untie me?"

"We'll think about it," Julian said then he and the others filed out of the room leaving Kriel alone in the dark.

"Well," he said aloud to no one in particular, "I suppose that could have been a lot worse..."

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Fri Jun 05, 2015 12:47 pm

That night Saffron stirred violently in her sleep. Voices came to her from afar, voices from friends, relatives and people she never met, all of whom were calling her name. There seemed to be a sense of urgency in the way they spoke as if they were afraid of something or trying to warn her. The voices continued to speak faster and faster until suddenly everything was quiet and the only voice she heard was her own.

"I am going to tear this monarchy to the ground..."

Then she awoke with a start, startling Eirika from her sleep. "What? What is it," the other girl asked in alarm.

"Mmm, it has nightmares, methinks," a voice said from outside their cell before Saffron could even formulate an answer to Eirika's question.

Both girl's looked up but only Eirika balked in disgust. What stood before them was a lizard-like humanoid creature, a member of the tribe of Mereen who once occupied these lands before human settlements arose to supplant them. Only Saffron had heard of them but she'd never seen one before.

"You're...," she started but the lizard-like creature interrupted her.

"Ossryc," the being told her, "Ossryc is his name. What is its name?"

"Saffron," the girl responded easily enough, but when Ossryc looked at Eirika the other girl simply turned her gaze and refused to speak.

"It does not speak. If it is afraid Ossryc apologizes, it is not Ossryc's intent to frighten."

"I'm not afraid of you," Eirika answered irritably. The nobles had always looked upon the Mereen people with disdain. They were thought of as uncivilized and barbaric. There were even some rumors that the Mereen would capture, kill and then eat any unwary human to cross their path.

"As it says," Ossryc replied, "It does not need to speak if it doesn't wish to."

"What do you want," Eirika demanded.

"To see," Ossryc said simply. "Others have said the daughter of the great general was kept here. Ossryc simply wished to lay eyes upon her. To be sure," he added cryptically.

"Well, you see her. Now what?"

"Now what, indeed," Ossryc answered, staring thoughtfully at Saffron. The girl began to feel uncomfortable under his gaze and averted her eyes.

"Tell Ossryc, daughter of the warrior Amell, how does it feel?"

Saffron looked at him uncomprehending. "I don't understand."

"Is it afraid of him?"

Saffron shook her head and Ossryc gave her a toothy smile. It was easy to see where the rumor about the Mereen eating people came from.

"It is good that it's not afraid. Ossryc's people have served its family for generations."

At that Saffron leaned forward towards the foot of the bed and placed her hands on the bars. "Wait, you serve my father?"

Ossryc shook his head. "Not this father, but its father's father's father, perhaps."

Saffron's shoulders slumped. "You must be mistaken. My family were nobodies before my father became general."

"Not nobodies," Ossryc insisted, "its ancestors were gods amongst men. Powerful, yet kind and gentle. It bears their likeness, I remember it well."

Saffron couldn't believe what she was hearing. For as long as she's known her family has always served the king, but Ossryc made it sound as if they were kings. Then she remembered the last thing he said and immediately she wondered just how old Ossryc was. Or for that matter how long the Mereen people lived.

"This is ridiculous," Eirika said, "If the Amell's were rich and powerful we'd have heard."

"Not the Amells," Ossryc replied, "Not its name. Its true name has been lost to the annals of history."

Eirika was stunned, "Wait, you're saying...," before she could finish someone interrupted her.

"What are you doing in here, freak," someone said and Ossryc turned to look at someone the girls couldn't see.

"Ossryc merely wanted to see with his own eyes," the lizard answered, "Now that Ossryc has seen he will go."

"Good, see that you do," the guard answered. He must have been snoozing, only way Ossryc could have snuck in without him noticing.

One guard to watch us and he's been sleeping? The rebels seemed rather lax about their security around the girls, probably didn't consider either of them to be much of a nuisance which gave Saffron an idea. Ossryc seemed to know what she was thinking and shook his head.

"Not its time," he said, "but consider his words well. Ossryc may not be wise but he has seen what will come. Many trials lay before it, its destiny does not end here."

Then he turned and left the room with the guard sneering at him all the way. For a brief moment Saffron wondered why Ossryc was here. Why would he help the rebels when they clearly had no respect for him? The Mereen were often spoke of as great warriors, but considering that many of their lands were forcibly taken from them they, or for that matter Ossryc, had little reason to go to war alongside the humans nor to support a rebellion. Then she considered the last thing he said, that Ossryc had seen what was to come. Could he..., she thought, wondering if Ossryc was merely here because he knew he would meet her. She shook her head, the implications of that didn't really seem all that pleasant to her. He had said that many trials lay before her and maybe this was one of them, but if that were true then she didn't even want to think about all the different ways her life could change. With war looming over all of them any change to come was almost certain to be unwelcome. Laying her head back on the pillow she considered Ossryc's words along with her dream and suddenly her future seemed very bleak...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:24 am

A loud clanging noise filled the hall as the metal foils clashed again and again. The two men danced expertly around each other, testing the other's defense with a swift thrust and a quick parry. They circled each other like two predators rearing back on their haunches. First one man lunged forward then the other feinted left and moved right, hooking his foil around the other man's sword then up into his chest to score a hit. An electric jolt registered the hit on the man's suit and sent a spark of pain up into his nervous system. He cried out and fell to his knees and the attendees in the great hall applauded the victor.

Gaius Ducant removed his helmet, letting his blonde locks fall freely around his face. With a broad smile he took a step back and bowed to the audience. A cascade of roses fell around him as many of the seated ladies tossed flowers into the circle. Gaius was always a big hit with women, probably the thing Eirika found most irksome about him. If only she had been here to see him win this bout.

"Better go home and nurse that wound," he said to the other man who was no removing his helmet, "You've shamed your house today. I'm sure your father will have much to say about that."

The other man ground his teeth together but said nothing. Gaius had a reputation for being the best swordsman in the kingdom, it was hardly a surprise that he lost. Still, the younger man could at least show some humility. Instead he was congratulating himself and parading around the hall as though he were some grand hero returned from the war. With a quiet harumph he gathered his foil and left the circle, taking the offered towel from a nearby servant.

Gaius also had a towel around his neck that he was using to dab the sweat from his forehead. His father was seated at the head of the table and would very much like to congratulate his son. Gaius strolled right up to him but noticed instead the man had a pensive look on his face.

"I congratulate you, m'boy," Brakul Ducant said as his son approached, "You've won a great victory here. House Laurent will not forget this shame."

"Thank you, father," Gaius said with a flourish. The motion was more out of ceremony rather than any sort of respect. Gaius hated his father, he was a scheming bastard who only saw his son as a tool and nothing more.

"I would say that you should celebrate, but I'm afraid we should speak in quiet. I was just made aware of a matter of some urgency."

His father got up and left the room with a trail of slaves hot on his heels. Gaius turned to look at the other gathered guests who were already deep into conversation and drink as the next bout was about to begin. Wondering what it was his father had to talk about the young man simply shrugged his shoulders and followed him out of the hall. The servants had taken him to his father's study where the older man was waiting for him from behind his desk. Once he was permitted inside Brakul dismissed his aide and anyone else who had been in the room.

"There's been an incident at House Cayne," Brakul said, "Your friends with that lord's daughter aren't you?"

"Just what is this about, father?"

"Answer the question, boy!"

Gaius glared at the man then nodded.

"A rebel sect who has been operating in the area has kidnapped her...,"

"What," Gaius interrupted him in alarm.

"Silence, boy, let me explain," the old man snapped, "They've taken the girl and they're holding her for ransom. House Cayne is a powerful house with many allies. One would do well to have such a house beholden to them, you understand? I want you to go to Lord Cayne and offer your assistance to him. Take twenty of our soldiers with you, you needn't pick them yourself I've already hand selected them for you. Lord Cayne and that general, Varian Amell, are planning a rescue operation at the Cayne estate. I want you to be on the team that rescues Eirika. Be sure to let Lord Cayne know that House Ducant is committed to strengthening the bonds between us, understand?"

Again Gaius nodded but said nothing.

"Good, now begone."

Brakul immediately turned from his son to another report he had displayed on his screen. It had always been like that, his father would order him to do something and then that was that. There was little interaction between them otherwise, but Gaius didn't care about that. All he could think about now was Eirika and how scared she must be. As he was leaving the room he wasn't thinking about building alliances between House Cayne and Ducant. He was more concerned about saving Eirika...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Sat Jun 13, 2015 8:09 pm

There was a knock at the door and Daisy peered warily through the peephole before opening it. On the other side stood Blake, dripping from head to toe. "Some rain, huh," he said with a shrug. Daisy gave him a half smile then stepped aside to allow him to enter. Blake stepped past her into Daisy's tiny studio apartment and looked directly at Kriel still tied to a chair. "Got your message," he said.

"Blake, where the hell have you been," Lena demanded, for as long as they'd known each other Lena and Blake had always been an item.

"Yeah, sorry 'bout that," he said with a wave of his hand, "CSI picked me up last night for illegal pod racing."

CSI stood for Cordelia Security Initiative, the defacto police force of Cordelia city. "So what's the plan?"

"We're going after Eirika," Daisy said and Blake looked surprised.

"We are? I'm amazed that you're okay with this."

"The plan is good," she explained, "and Kriel's been giving us some solid intel. Getting in shouldn't be a problem, we're relying on Saffron's knowledge of the base to get us out."

"Speaking of, where is Saffron," he asked while looking around, noting everyone in attendance.

The five companions just looked at each other and then Julian let out a soft sigh. "With Eirika," he said, "According to Kriel she saw them loading her into a van and tried to stop them."

"Why the hell would she do that?" Blake was shocked. Saffron had always been a shy, uncertain girl.

"Beats me," Julian answered, "Morgan's out trying to secure us some transportation home. He'll be our extraction and Kriel here is going to get us in."

"Wait," Blake said, "is this really the smart thing to do here? Why not let their father's handle it?"

"Because Saffron might not have much time," Kriel said suddenly, "There's a lot of folk at that base who hold a grudge against her father. Strider's determined to keep her safe but he can't be with her all the time."

"Strider," Daisy asked, her eyebrow piqued. "Is that one of the rebel leaders?"

Kriel realized he had said too much and kept his mouth shut.

"What do we do with him," Blake asked.

"We take him with us," Julian replied, "Don't have a choice. He's been very forthcoming with information about the base but he won't tell us anything about their leadership or how many men they have. Either way, the rebels won't let us in without him."

"This could be a trap, you know."

Daisy shook her head. "Kriel wouldn't do that to us. He might keep secrets, but if there's one thing we can count on it's how he feels about Saffron."

Blake thought about that a moment then shrugged. "Alright, so when do we leave?"

"Tomorrow morning. Kriel says there's gonna be a truck bringing in new recruits heading for the Valley tomorrow. That's our ticket in. What we need, though, are some weapons. Think you can help us out?"

Blake smiled, "I'll see what I can do..."

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Sat Jun 13, 2015 10:59 pm

Saffron awoke suddenly the next day. She had not noticed when she had drifted off again but the sound that awoke her was the sound of her cell opening. Two men entered and each of them grabbed her by the arms and pulled her from the bed. "What's going on," Eirika demanded as she climbed out of her bed, but a third man, one whom Saffron recognized from the night of the kidnapping, stopped her in her tracks.

"Stay right there, Princess, this doesn't concern you," Dax told her.

The guard who had been watching them the night before was on his feet now. "What are you doing, Dax? I'm supposed to be watching these two."

"Captain wants this one for questioning," Dax told him, "You want me to call her now or are you going to take my word for it?"

Jack knew he was lying but the look in Dax's eye put him on edge. "Fine," he said, "have it your way."

He would ask the captain about it later. He didn't want to start something right now that he might regret. The two men half dragged, half carried Saffron out of the cell, the poor girl casting a frightened glance at her friend as she was carried past. "Where are you taking me," she asked but no one answered. Even without being told Saffron knew where she was heading, she had a feeling in her gut.

She was taken to a secluded room in an unoccupied part of the base. The only people there besides Saffron were Dax and his two cronies, just from that alone Saffron knew something was up. "The captain's not going to question me, is she," she said.

"Shut up," Dax shouted, backhanding her across the cheek.

Saffron's head spun with the blow and she fell to her knees. Dax knelt down beside her and grabbed her by the chin, forcing her to look at him. "Tell me what you are, girl. You're a witch, ain't you?"

Saffron stared at him with wild eyes but said nothing.

"I saw you two nights ago," Dax continued, "That leap was inhuman. How did you do it?"

Again Saffron said nothing and a frustrated Dax let go of her chin and held his hand up to strike her again. Frightened Saffron closed her eyes and looked away but no blow came. Instead Dax spoke again.

"You know there's a story," he said, "An ancient house once existed whose lord practiced black magic. Once upon a time they ruled the lands far to the north until the other houses banded together to wipe them out."

He stood and walked away from her, hands clasped behind his back. "At first I thought these were just stories, but then I saw you. Have you heard of them? The house that was destroyed?"

He turned to look back at her but Saffron still had her eyes closed and her face averted. "I thought not. Not many people tell that story nowadays. Most people consider it silly superstition, but it was a popular story to tell back home."

He sat down in a chair on the far side of the room and watched her closely. "I don't know if you're connected to this house or not," he said, "but if you are capable of using black magic then that makes you dangerous. Far too dangerous to keep alive. Your friend Kriel and that Strider may have a soft spot for you but I don't. I'm going to take great pleasure in watching you suffer."

Then he turned to one of his men. "Start in on her slow and make sure she feels every bit of it."

The man gave him a wicked smile then pulled a long knife from a scabbard at his waist. He started to move towards Saffron and the girl could feel him getting closer. He reached down and grabbed a handful of her hair and then jerked her head back. Running the blade of the knife along her cheek he drew a small trickle of blood which made Saffron cringe. Then he leaned in and whispered into her ear as he lowered his knife down towards her belly.

"Squeal for me, you noble loving bitch," he told her and the edge of his knife started to bite into her side.

"No," she screamed and a sudden telekinetic blast exploded outward from her, picking up the two men behind her and throwing them against the wall.

Dax was on his feet now, his gun in his hand. "I knew it," he said, his finger tightening on the trigger but before he could fire his weapon Saffron picked him up with a wave of her hand and tossed him out a nearby window, shattering the glass and sending him tumbling down two stories. She didn't bother to see if he was alright and acting on instinct she ran through the door and out into the hallway beyond. As she ran her mind raced trying to remember the path back to Eirika. This isn't exactly how she had planned for this to happen but now that her secret was out in the open she and Eirika needed to escape and sooner was better than later...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Wed Jun 17, 2015 2:46 pm

Eirika lay fearfully awake as she awaited word of her friend. Dax had said that some woman had wanted to question her but something about his tone didn't feel right. She was almost certain Saffron was in trouble and there was nothing she could do about it. She had tried calling out to the guard several times until the man finally told her to shut up else he would make her shut up. That threat was enough to keep her quiet, she was afraid of these people, of what they could do to her but what could she do to help her friend?

Just then there was a loud thud and a soft groan as a body fell to the floor. Eirika quickly sat up and saw Saffron standing there by the door. "Saffron," she cried with joy, "How did you--,"

"No time," the girl said as she held her hand in front of the lock. Eirika could hear the latch undo itself and the door open but she didn't hear the familiar jingle of a key or even see on in Saffron's hand. She was about to ask Saffron how she did that but couldn't even get the words out before the other girl grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her to her feet.

Outside they could hear gunfire coming from the southern end of the base and several gun boats flew overhead firing down into the complex. Eirika looked up and recognized the symbol on the side of the boats. They belonged to the royal army, their fathers were finally here to save them.

"We need to get out of here," Saffron said and then she pulled Eirika down a side path away from the gunfire.

"But--," Eirika started to say but Saffron never gave her the chance to finish.

They were almost at their destination, an underground passage that was intended to be used as an escape route should the base's outer defenses fall. They weren't far from the entrance before several men appeared in front of them. "Stop right there, Princess," one of the men shouted, raising his submachine gun to his shoulder and aiming it at the girls.

Just then there were three loud gunshots and both Eirika and Saffron closed their eyes expecting that they had been killed, but when their bodies weren't riddled by blaster fire they slowly opened their eyes again. "Funny running into you here," Lena said with a smile while she rested the barrel of her rifle against one shoulder.

Saffron looked at the smoking barrel of the weapon then at the others behind her, all of whom were armed and even the blade Morgan carried was covered in blood. "You guys...," Saffron said, not believing what she was saying, "You came for us."

"Of course we did," Julian said, "You're our friends."

"But the rebels..."

"Were in our way," Lena told her as if it were that simple.

Just then the two girls noticed Kriel standing behind them. "You," Eirika cried, rushing forward to attack Kriel but Julian and Daisy stopped her.

"It's alright," Daisy said, "He got us in here to rescue you."

"I just wish we could have done it without killing anyone," Kriel said softly.

"Well, no one expected the royal army to show up. Besides, we should be happy that we made it this far. Now how do we get out of here?"

"I know a way," Saffron said. "Through there," she pointed to a doorway off to one side. There's a tunnel on the other side, the entrance is hidden but we should be able to use it to escape."

"Good, then let's get out of here before anyone else shows up," Julian answered while waving the others ahead of him.

Meanwhile Lord Eddard Cayne stood with Varian Amell aboard his command ship as they watched the attack unfolding below them. "The rebels are taking the bait," Varian noted to no one in particular. "Prince Ducant should be able to use the tunnel to attack the rebels from behind without alerting anyone to his presence. At that point we move the rest of our forces forward and begin to land troops inside the base."

Eddard was impressed, the way the battle was progressing he could see why the general had earned a reputation for ruthless efficiency. It wouldn't be long now before the remaining rebels surrendered or broke ranks. After this battle they would no longer pose a threat to either the Cayne family or the royal throne.

"I hate to see it come to this," Eddard said softly, "but they left me with no choice."

Varian said nothing but silently nodded...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Thu Jun 25, 2015 1:07 pm

"This is it," Saffron said, moving to the side of a tall book shelf, "Give me a hand with this."

Julian and Kriel moved to help her and together the three of them moved the shelf aside to reveal a doorway locked by a keypad. Saffron looked at the keypad and frowned, she didn't remember hearing anything about that.

"What's the code," Julian asked.

"I--I don't remember," Saffron said, her mind racing for an idea, "Just let me think."

Outside they heard shouts of alarm and a bunch of footsteps hurrying towards them. "Shit, they found us," Lena cursed.

"Probably admiring your handiwork outside," Kriel admonished her.

"Be quiet, they're going to be here soon. Everyone take cover," Julian ordered them, "Daisy, try to get through the door."

The other woman nodded and stepped past Saffron to examine the lock as the others took cover behind various filing cabinets and desks. When the rebels entered the room they were greeted by a salvo of gunfire that took down one individual and forced the others into hiding. Daisy was momentarily distracted by the blaster fire burning into the wall next to her before turning back to the lock and trying to force her way through it. It was a combination of six digits with any number of permutations. She tried one combination after another with no luck.

The gun battle continued with the rebels firing from behind cover. Lena emptied the last of her clip then tossed the weapon aside, pulling out a small pistol instead. "I'm almost out," she told Julian.

"Me too," Blake told him.

Julian's mind was racing. Between the three of them they had maybe a clip and a half. Kriel had no weapons, they didn't trust him with one. Daisy had a pistol with maybe one additional clip but he wasn't sure how many shots she fired in their previous encounters. Just how the hell were they going to get out of this?

"Daisy, get back," Saffron shouted suddenly.

She felt an ice cold warning just moments before grabbing Daisy and pulling her to the side. The two girls hit the floor behind a desk as the door they were trying to break into suddenly exploded outward. A group of commandos sporting the symbol of House Ducant poured into the room from the tunnel and quickly dispatched the last few remaining rebels. As Julian and the others stepped out from behind cover Gaius Ducant entered the room armed with a submachine gun and dressed all in black.

"Julian, Kriel," Gaius said in surprise, "What are you all doing here?"

"Same thing as you, I suspect," Julian said. He looked over at Kriel, wondering if Gaius knew what part he played in Eirika's kidnapping, and if he didn't whether or not he should tell him. If I do that Gaius will surely have him tortured for information and then killed. He knew how Gaius felt about Eirika, but Kriel was still a friend.

"Get Eirika and Saffron to safety," Gaius told them, "Once you're outside the walls you shouldn't be in danger anymore."

"Morgan is meeting us with transportation," Daisy replied, "He can get us back to the city now that you've opened the door."

"Good, then you guys better get moving. We're going to clear out the rest of this base."

Gaius ordered his men forward and they filed out of the room into the corridor beyond, their weapons sweeping this way and that searching for any threats. Before Gaius followed them he stopped and looked at Eirika. She seemed relieve that he was there, that she was finally going to be safe. He wanted to reach out to her, to hug her and let her know everything would be okay but he couldn't. Not in front of all these peasants, it wouldn't be proper.

"Be careful," he said instead and then he hurried out the door after his men.

The others turned and headed for the tunnel but Kriel stopped. "Guys, I can't go with you," he said.

"What? Why not," Saffron asked.

"These people, they're my friends too and right now they're dying out there. I have to at least try and help some of them escape."

"You go out there you'll die," Julian told him.

"Then I'll get what I deserve," Kriel said, "Take care of Saffron for me."

Then without another word he rushed out the door after Gaius, picking up a discarded rifle from one of the fallen rebels. Saffron tried to go after him but the others held her back. "No, Kriel! Wait!" She called after him but he was already gone.

"Come on, let's go," Julian said, gently urging Saffron into the tunnel as the others followed.

Everything that happened after that was a complete blur. All Saffron could think about was Kriel and whether or not he was still alive. Meanwhile, her father continued to press the attack and the rebel lines had broken. They were now in full retreat as soldiers from House Ducant, House Cayne and the Royal Army were moving in to secure the base...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Sat Jun 27, 2015 8:42 am

The battle at the Valley was over, the rebels in full retreat. Varian and his men were now sweeping the base clean and collecting any intelligence they could find. Eddard was nearby, concerned with his daughter's safety but content to hear that she was on her way back home. The estate security could watch her while he stayed behind to see this finished.

Varian and Eddard were watching a tech peruse through various computer terminals in the control room when a grunt rushed into the room. "Sir, his Grace King Viserys III," he said with an extravagant bow.

Varian looked surprised as the king entered the room, resplendent in the dress uniform of the Royal Army. "Your Grace, I had no idea you were in Cordelia," he said with a bow.

"I arrived this morning," king Emereus Viserys III said, becoming for everyone in the room to stand.

"I came to see your progress with my own eyes. Has the rebel army been crushed?"

"It has, your Grace, the rebels are in full retreat."

Viserys' face darkened. "Yet you do not pursue?"

"I saw no reason to, the rebels are disorganized and leaderless."

"That is not acceptable, General. I will not tolerate any challenge to my rule. You will take these men and hunt down every last one of them."

Varian hesitated only momentarily before nodding. "As you wish, your Grace," he said, then he turned and gestured towards several of his men and he and his entourage left the room.

After they had gone King Viserys turned to look at Eddard. "I appreciate your help today, Lord Cayne, but your presence is no longer needed. Go home, be with your family."

"Thank you, your Grace," Eddard said and bowed briefly before leaving the room. Out in the hall he felt a chill run down his spine. He had no idea how cold Viserys felt...

Shortly after Varian and his men left a man was escorted into the control room flanked by two royal guards. "Your Grace," one of the guards said, "This man surrendered to us freely, says he has information you need to hear."

"There's a traitor in your midst, your Grace," Dax said, "The general has been--,"

"Silence," one of the guards shouted, striking the man in the gut with the butt end of his rifle. He would have done more had Viserys not waved him off.

"Let him speak," Viserys said, "What has the general done?"

"His daughter," Dax managed to say between fits of coughing, "I saw her using black magic."

The other men in the room looked skeptical and some even laughed but Viserys remained stoic. "That is a rather bold condemnation, I assume you have proof?"

"The security cameras, allow me to show you how to access our computer systems and I'll show you."

One of the men standing close to Viserys leaned in to whisper in his ear. "Your Grace, this rebel is obviously lying to save his own skin, don't trust him." But Viserys' interest was already piqued.

He nodded and waved the prisoner over towards a nearby console. Dax looked warily over his shoulders at the two guards standing next to him then hesitantly stepped forward. He entered a few commands into the terminal then stood back as a holographic image appeared in front of him. In the image everyone present could see Dax, The general's daughter, a girl known as Saffron, and two other men.

Silently Viserys watched as the men attempted to torture the girl when suddenly she blew them away with an invisible force. There was an audible gasp from the others present in the room but Viserys remained silent until the feed had ended. Dax waited with baited breath for the king's next words.

"Delete this recording," Viserys said finally, "and execute this man."

"But, your Grace--," Dax tried to say but a blaster bolt to the back of his head silenced him for good.

Finally, one of the royal guards turned to look at Viserys. "What of the general and his daughter, your Grace?"

"I will handle them," the king said then he turned and left the control room without another word...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Sat Jun 27, 2015 8:33 pm

It was some time later when Saffron finally arrived at home. The others had taken Eirika back to the estate but Saffron had elected to return home to see her mother. So after the others had dropped her off she found herself staring up at the house that had been her home for years all the while wondering what to expect when she walked through those doors. With a sigh she finally steeled her shoulders and walked up to the front door.

Her mother was inside the house sitting down in the living room with a communicator gripped tightly in her hand. Upon seeing her daughter enter the house she immediately stood and her eyes began to well up with tears.

"Saffron," she said, covering her mouth with one hand as she approached. When she was close enough she fell to her knees and embraced her daughter. "Why are you here? How did you escape?"

"Julian and the others," Saffron said, "They came to rescue us."

Miranna held her daughter out at arm's length. "Why were you out past curfew? Why didn't you call the police when you saw them taking Eirika? Do you have any idea how worried we were?"

"Mother, I'm sorry," Saffron said and finally all the emotions she had been bottling up rushed to the surface. Tears welled up in her eyes and she embraced her mother once more, squeezing her tightly. "I was so scared!"

"I know, dear, I know," Miranna said, patting the girl on her back, "but you're safe now and your father will want to speak with you when he comes home. Why don't you head upstairs and wait for him in his study?"

Saffron held her hug for a moment or two longer before quietly nodding. She hesitated a moment before pulling away from her mother and heading upstairs. Her father's study was the first door on the right and she dreaded going in there. Usually she was only allowed in when her father was reprimanding her for disobeying her mother. She was sure he was going to reprimand her for this. She'd be lucky to ever see the sun after everything that's happened.

With a sigh she crossed the room over to a long leather couch, her usual spot during one of her dad's lectures. She hadn't been there in awhile but everything in the room was just as it had been the last time she'd seen it. Books stacked immaculately on the shelves and desk, papers strewn about the table. There was a cup of long forgotten caf still sitting on the desk and just beyond that the bust of King Viserys III stood tall and proud atop an ornate table set against the back wall. Viserys, for some reason she was scared of that man, she hated to look at him. There was just something about him that made her feel very cold when he was near, she couldn't really explain it.

Just then there was a knock at the door downstairs. The door to the study was on the balcony overlooking the foyer so it wasn't hard to hear. Almost immediately Saffron wondered who it could have been. Her friends were off helping Eirika get back home so it couldn't have been them and her father wouldn't have needed to knock, so who else could know she was... Oh no, the thought raced through her mind. She ran to the door and threw it open just in time to see her mother opening the front door downstairs.

"Mom, no," Saffron tried to shout but it was too late.

As soon as the door was open the man on the other side of it forced his way into the house, stabbing Saffron's mother in the gut with a long, thin blade. Saffron gasped then quickly closed the door again, her eyes darting around the room looking for someplace to hide. She could hear the man coming up the stairs now and in an effort to slow him down she dragged a book shelf across the door with the help of the Force. Then she turned her attention back to the room. What could she do? Where could she go? Her eyes kept coming back to the bust of Viserys, there was just something off about it.

Without really thinking she ran over to the bust and as she got closer she noticed a slit in the man's throat. His head was just leaning back slightly. She reached out towards it, hesitantly at first but when the assassin began trying to force his way into the room she quickly grabbed the head and threw it back. Inside the neck there was a switch which she pushed immediately. To her left a false wall slid back revealing another room. Saffron couldn't believe what she was seeing, she never knew her father had something like this built into the house.

Behind her the pounding continued as parts of the door began to break away. The book shelf was on the verge of teetering so Saffron decided to buy herself some more time by moving more furniture in front of the door. The effort was costly and she found herself panting heavily after just moving the couch. Frantically she turned back to the mysterious room. There was a table inside, a kind of table she'd never seen before. She moved over to it and ran her fingers along the surface. On the side there was a panel with a bunch of switches on it. She found one that looked like a power switch and pressed it. The table sprung to life with the holographic image of a resplendent estate, one that didn't look like any of the estates belonging to the other houses.

There was a town around the estate and mountains and as she stared at the image marveling at how life like it looked it occurred to her that she'd seen those mountains before. It was on one of her family trips to the northern regions of Talys. It never made much sense why her father had always wanted to go there, there were much prettier places to go for a vacation but now things were starting to make sense. It was all true, what Ossryc had said. Her family had fallen from grace.

Another pound at the door drew her back to the present and then she noticed a light on the table that was flashing. Reaching out to it she pressed the switch lightly and an alcove opened up on the center of the table as a small pedestal rose up revealing a golden signet ring. A ring bearing a crest she did not recognize. Suddenly she knew what she had to do, she had to take this ring and she had to leave. She needed to go north and find out the truth about her lineage.

The assassin was almost through the door by now. He had opened up just a big enough hole to stick a blaster rifle through and take a few pot shots. The lasers struck the magic table and shorted it out but just before the pedestal fell back into the alcove again Saffron reached out and snatched the ring. Then she darted back out into her father's study just as the assassin had broken through. He raised his blaster rifle at her but Saffron was faster. She levitated several books into him, striking him hard on the head and knocking the weapon from his grasp. Scowling like a madman he drew the long blade he used to kill her mother and stalked forward.

Saffron was out of her league and she knew it, but she had no intention to fight. Instead she rushed to the window and jumped through, crying out in pain as the glass cut her hands and arms as she shielded her face. The fall to the ground wasn't far but she didn't do anything to slow her descent so she hit the ground hard. The assassin was at the window now, his blaster rifle in hand. Saffron quickly scrambled to her feet and raced along the yard as blaster fire trailed her out beyond the fence until finally the assassin couldn't see her anymore. She was safe for now and though a part of her wanted to stop and mourn her mother she knew she had to keep running. There was a long way to go from here to the north and she would have to make the journey alone. There was no way she could drag her friends into this. Still, if only her father was here, but for all she knew he could be dead already. That thought struck her hard and she nearly faltered in her step but she kept running. If her father was dead then she was determined to find the man who killed her family and pay him back a thousandfold.

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Mon Jun 29, 2015 1:32 am

The next day a young woman was spotted outside a home in the suburbs, she had her favorite set of lock picks on her and was blasting her favorite music through the headphones she wore on her ear. She'd scouted the house twice so it came as something of a surprise when Blake appeared behind her. "Funny," he said, "after all the excitement yesterday I figured you would want to lay low."

"Holy hell, Blake, you scared me," Lena said, "Thought you were CSI, or something. How'd you even find me?"

"GPS on your communicator," Blake said with a shrug, "Dad taught me a few tricks."

Blake's dad used to work as a spook for the royal military until he was caught stealing secrets and summarily executed, or at least that was the "official" story. Now Blake lived alone with his mother and every day was spent wrestling with her drinking habit. He spent so much time taking care of her that he had little time of his own for racing or even going to school. "Anyway, what's the story on this house," he said, gesturing towards the door.

"Owner's away for the day. I watched him leave for work. He's a corporate stooge at some big investment bureau. Thought I would relieve him of some of his stuff."

Blake smiled, "That's just like you, Lena, still fighting the good fight. Funny you didn't join the rebellion like Kriel."

"Don't even joke about that, Blake. The rebels are a bunch of crazed murderers who kidnap children. Worst I've ever done is steal a speeder or two, or a holovid. I ain't never pointed a gun at someone who didn't deserve it. Nobles may be pompous assholes sometimes but they don't--,"

"Get down," Blake interrupted her when he caught something out of the corner of his eye.

The two ducked behind some bushes as a CSI patrol car flew past. The driver didn't seem to notice them so they waited until he was out of sight before stepping out into the open again. "Why don't we go get a bite to eat," Blake said, "Seems like this place is a bit to crowded, anyway."

Lena only nodded, tucking her lock picks back into her pocket. She was really looking forward to getting her life back to normal. A short while later the two of them were sitting at a small corner cafe some distance away from Lena's attempted heist. The cafe sat on a four way junction on one of the busiest streets in all of Cordelia. Lots of people were walking by or driving their speeders past. The sheer number of people meant that the going was slow for everyone. Pedestrian traffic was moving at a crawl and gridlock filled the streets. Lena was frowning as they found some seats.

"Why do you keep coming back here. Takes an hour to get anywhere in this part of the city."

"I like the drinks," Blake said with a shrug, "Besides, I'm meeting someone here. He's setting up a race for me this weekend."

"So soon," Lena teased him after his remark from earlier, "What was that you were saying about laying low?"

Blake smiled, "I guess we both were in a hurry to get back to our lives."

A waitress came up to their table then and asked them for their order. Blake was quick in ordering, he'd been here many times before and always ordered the same thing. Lena's order took a bit longer and after the waitress had jotted everything down she took their menus and headed back towards the kitchen.

"You been back to the Cayne estate yet," Blake asked suddenly and Lena nodded.

"Yeah, this morning. Whole place is on lock down. Stupid butler wouldn't even let me in to see Eirika."

"Same," Blake said quietly, "Looks like Lord Eddard's not taking anymore chances with his daughter."

"After everything we did for her too." Lena sounded bitter.

"Makes you wonder when Eirika will be allowed to--," Blake trailed off suddenly and Lena looked up at him. His eyes trailed off to somewhere behind her at something she couldn't see.

"What," she asked, turning around to look. When her eyes fell upon what Blake had seen she drew in a sharp breath.

There was a news report on the holovid above the counter and the headline read, "General Amell Branded A Traitor!"

"Turn that up," Lena said, quickly climbing out of her chair and moving to the counter. The woman behind the counter looked at her then after a moment of hesitation she grabbed a remote and turned the volume up on the holovid.

"The General has already been taken into custody under suspicion of having ties to the rebellion," the news reporter, a man in his thirties, was saying, "The Amell family home was burned to the ground last night and the General's wife is presumed dead. Currently there is a city wide manhunt for Varian Amell's daughter who is suspected to be in possession of documents containing vital information about the royal houses," a picture of Saffron appeared on the screen and the reporter continued, "It is believed Varian planned to sell this information to the rebellion and has since given the documents to his daughter. Now this girl may look young, but she is to be considered armed and extremely dangerous. If you see...," The report was cut short suddenly when Lena grabbed the remote and turned the holovid off.

"This is ridiculous, Saffron wouldn't hurt a fly," Lena said incredulously, "This has got to be a mistake!"

"Or a lie," Blake said, "Varian just took down the rebellion, didn't he? Probably would've looked like a hero to the citizens of Cordelia and all of Talys for ending the war in one night. Viserys probably just wanted him out of the way."

"But why go after Saffron, Blake, that just doesn't make any sense."

She had a point. If Viserys just wanted to get Varian out of the way he would have no reason to hurt his family. There was something else going on and all signs pointed to Saffron. They wouldn't have orchestrated a city wide manhunt for a young girl without reason. Maybe Saffron did have something they wanted, or maybe they wanted to use her to crack Varian. Either way, they needed to find her and quick before CSI caught up with her...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Mon Jun 29, 2015 10:48 am

A sharp breeze blew past causing Strider to shiver slightly as he lay atop a rock outcropping overlooking the plain below, a pair of macrobinoculars in his hands. There was still no sign of the Royal Army for which he was thankful. The Royals had been dogging their steps ever since they left The Valley. He wasn't sure why they pulled back but the rebels weren't about to let this chance slip past. They put as much distance between them and the Royals as they could as fast as they could. They were almost to the coastline now and reinforcements would be waiting to pick them up.

There was a soft sound of shifting gravel behind him and Strider turned to look. Kriel was coming up the hill behind him, his rifle held low in his grasp. "Kriel, glad to see you made it," Strider said.

"Thanks," the other man replied, "but I'm not sure I should really be here. I helped Eirika and Saffron escape."

"I know," Strider assured him, "and you don't have to worry about it. Between the two of us I've done far worse. I led the royal army right to our doorstep and told them where we were keeping the girls."

"Sir?" Kriel looked surprised.

"I had a feeling it would turn out like this, but you know just as well as I do that what we were doing was wrong. I hate the nobles as much as anyone but we'll never win the hearts of the people if we don't stand by our principles."

Kriel nodded at that. He felt the same way. Only reason he joined the rebellion was because he believed in what they stood for. He never would have considered joining had he knew what they were capable of. "Any word on the Royals?"

Strider shook his head. "Nothing yet, but I've got a feeling that won't last for long. We better--," he tried to say but Serenity's voice over the com interrupted him.

"Strider, get down here. You need to see this."

The two men looked at each other then Strider collected his gun and stood before dusting himself off. "Well, let's go see what she wants."

Down on the plains below them the rebel convoy was moving at a crawl. They had a good number of tanks and other vehicles but not enough to carry everyone so most of the rebels were on foot. That meant the fastest they could go was as fast as a grunt at full sprint. Right now they were moving as fast as a walk to give everyone a chance to relax and catch their breath. After running for a full day and a half many of their soldiers were in bad shape. Strider had been cycling them in and out of the vehicles to give them time to breath but these men and women could only take so much.

They found Serenity inside one of their APCs, this one had communications equipment built into it and currently she was leaning over the tech's shoulder looking at something Strider couldn't see. When she saw Strider and Kriel walking up to them she stepped aside. "Look," she said, gesturing to the console.

Both Kriel and Strider climbed into the APC and looked over the tech's shoulder at the screen beyond. "Intercepted communications from Cordelia," Serenity explained.

It looked like a news broadcast but the headline was incredulous. "General Amell suspected of ties to the rebellion," Strider asked, "That's absurd, we've never had any dealings with him."

"Doesn't matter, this accusation is coming from the King," Serenity said, "No one's going to refute the King. If he says General Amell is a traitor then General Amell is a traitor."

"What about his daughter? What about Saffron," Kriel asked urgently.

Serenity shrugged, "Don't know. Last I heard CSI was running a city wide manhunt for her. If they'd found her by now we'd have heard."

Kriel turned and hopped down from the moving APC. Strider followed him out and caught him by the shoulder. "Where do you think you're going," he asked.

"Back to Cordelia," Kriel said simply.

"Don't be ridiculous. Cordelia is back down that road and there's the Royal Army between you and the city not to mention The Valley blocking the only route home. How the hell do you expect to get past all that?"

"I'll figure something out," Kriel said, jerking his shoulder free of Strider's grasp.

"You'll get caught, Kriel, and you won't be able to help her if you're dead. Besides, you made a choice, a commitment to me and these men. If you abandon us now...," he left the rest hanging in the air.

Kriel stopped in his tracks, a pained look on his face. As much as he wanted to make sure Saffron was safe he couldn't just walk out on the rebellion now.

"I'm sorry, Kriel," Strider said gently, "but this is how it's--," he was interrupted suddenly when an explosion tore through some of his men. More explosions and a hail of blaster fire followed.

"The Royals are back," he shouted into his coms, "Order the convoy to pick up speed and have our armor lay down a suppressing fire on that ridge line!"

The rebel tanks each turned their guns to face the Royals and opened fire, their explosive shells tearing through the enemy ranks. Strider and many of the rebel grunts returned fire with their blaster rifles and ruby darts filled the intervening space between. Meanwhile the rest of the convoy began to pick up speed and the rebels were fighting as they were running, falling back in waves to lay down cover fire for the rest. Colonel Robinson's training had been rather effective and this rabble of men and women were moving like a trained force. With any luck they would all get through this and regroup. The next time the Royals tangled with the rebel army they would find that they were dealing with a much larger force than they anticipated...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:46 am

"This is my daughter's safety we're talking about here," Eddard said to the ambassador from House Delacroix, "Now you've approached me before about an alliance and I turned you down but recent events have caused me to reconsider your offer."

"We're very glad to hear that," the ambassador, a man by the name of Ethan LeBlanc Delacroix said, "I assure you an alliance between our houses will prove mutually beneficial."

Eddard only nodded though he wasn't sure if he could trust the man or his house. House Delacroix had an ill fated reputation for being assassins and thieves, but Eddard knew that at least the "thieves" part was untrue. "The rebels were able to kidnap my daughter underneath my nose," he said, "I know that she's not safe here now. A marriage between my daughter and Lord Delacroix's son will ensure my daughter has adequate protection, but I want your assurance she won't be used as a bargaining chip against me."

"My Lord Eddard, you may think ill of my House but I assure you House Delacroix would never stoop to such uncouth tactics. We are much more honorable than we seem."

"Thank you, Ambassador, hearing that makes me feel better."

Ethan bowed his head. "Very good, now when should we announce the marriage arrangements?"

"Not yet," Eddard replied, "the timing isn't right. House Viserys has expressed an interest in a political marriage with my daughter as well and with the Royal Army still camped on my doorstep I wouldn't want this to appear as a slight against the King."

"I see, then how about I offer a few of our guardsmen as a gesture of good faith. They will not be dressed in House Delacroix colors to help avoid suspicion."

"Thank you, Ambassador, I'd appreciate tha--,"

Just then the door to Eddard's study slammed open and his daughter stormed into the room. "What is the meaning of this," she demanded.

Eddard sighed then looked back at the ambassador. "That will be all, Ambassador, I thank you for your time," he said, then he hit a switch turning off the display and cutting the communication. After the screen blanked he looked up at his daughter. "What is the meaning of what, dear?"

"You're helping King Viserys conduct a manhunt for my friend! Saffron is innocent, she would never hurt anyone!"

"I know that, Eirika, but I can't disobey a direct order from the King. Not when his army is parked right outside."

Eirika stared at him, her hands balled up into fists. She wanted to tell him what a coward he was but even she knew how dangerous King Viserys could be. The man could wipe out her entire house in one night if he so chose. "At least let me look for her instead. If what they're saying is true and she does have some stolen documents then I can talk her into giving them to me! That's all they want, right?"

I'm not so sure, Eddard thought, but he refrained from voicing his opinion out loud. King Viserys wouldn't waste so much time and effort on a manhunt without reason. While he didn't believe the young girl deserved to be hunted he knew there was something more going on here. "Look, I'm sorry about your friend but it's out of my hands. I've given the matter to CSI and I'm letting them handle it," then he looked up at two of his guards, "Please, escort my daughter back to her room."

"Wait, I'm not done yet," Eirika protested, but the guards had moved to flank her anyway.

"This way, my Lady," one of them said with a gesture of his hand.

Eirika glared at her father then immediately spun on her heel and stormed out of the room. Eddard had a feeling she was going to be trouble, but he was thankful House Delacroix would be sending some additional help. If she tried sneaking out again he would know about it...

**********

Saffron felt like everyone was looking at her. All she was trying to do was get out of the city but everywhere she went all she could feel was the eyes of everyone staring at her. She'd seen herself in the news and she knew why they were staring. It was all a lie, of course, she didn't actually have any stolen documents. All she had was a ring and she wasn't quite sure how to use that yet. She didn't even know what House it belonged to.

Whispered voices off to her right caught her attention and she turned to look. Several people were looking her direction and pointing so she quickened her step around a corner. Further down the street she caught sight of two CSI officers and stopped dead in her tracks. The officers seemed to be conversing with someone until one of them looked up and saw her. He pointed her out to his partner and Saffron quickly spun around and ran the other way. He could hear them shouting at her from behind but she kept running.

She found a clothing store about one street over and ducked inside. There was some alarm from a few patrons when she rushed through the door and nearly knocked over a clothing rack. Everyone was staring at her now and she looked this way then that looking for a way out. She spotted a doorway in the back and bolted towards it. Along the way she spied a hoodie hanging off one of the racks and pulled it down then she threw the coat around her shoulders and pulled the hood down over her face as she ran through the back door.

An alarm went off but she kept running until she was back out on the street then she slowed to a walk and blended in with a small crowd of people heading in her direction. Behind her the CSI officers came running out of the alleyway. They stopped on the sidewalk, their eyes looking up and down the street searching for her. One of them thought he saw her heading the other direction and told his partner. They both started running, their path taking them further and further away from Saffron. For the moment she was safe and she allowed herself to breath a sigh of relief, but it was clear to her now. If she was going to get out of this city then she couldn't allow anyone to see her face...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:44 pm

Lena waited impatiently by the side of the road pacing back and forth. She kept checking her chrono over and over again wondering where her friends were. Daisy and Julian had said they would meet her here but she'd been waiting for what seemed like hours and there still was no sign of them. Frustrated she reached into her pocket and pulled out her communicator.

She was going to try to call them but she never got the chance. A CSI patrol car flew down from over the building behind her and two men got out.

"Lena Harding, if you would come with us, please," one of them said.

"What's this about? What have I done?"

The one who spoke looked over at the other who turned to face Lena. "Just come with us, we only want to ask you a few questions."

With no other choice and afraid they might try to arrest her if she tried to resist she climbed into the back of the car. The two officers climbed in after her and a moment later they were in the air and heading towards the precinct. They didn't cuff her which was good news, that meant she wasn't under arrest but Lena felt she wasn't out of the woods completely. Whatever it was they wanted to ask her about, if she gave an answer they didn't like she might end up in her very own cell. She only wished she knew what they were going to ask so she could prepare a story.

Inside the precinct she was escorted to a small room. Inside two people were already waiting, Daisy and Julian. After she was shown in the two officers closed the door behind her and left.

"Don't suppose you know what this is about," Lena asked them.

Daisy shook her head but Julian shrugged. "I've got an idea. Pretty convenient they seem to be rounding up all of Saffron's friends."

So that's what this is about. Lena suspected it might be but with her history it was difficult to be sure. Just then the door to the room opened and two men stepped inside. One of them gestured to the table and the chairs around it.

"Please sit," he said, "Sorry to keep you waiting."

Lena and the others sat down as the man set a folder down on the table. He flipped it open and the three friends could see a flimsy with Saffron's picture on it. "My name is Agent Callus, I apologize if my men alarmed you but I assure you we only want to ask you some questions. Now what can you tell me about this girl?"

"Not much," Julian admitted, "We haven't seen her since yesterday."

"When you rescued her, correct? When you were at the rebel base did you see her talk to anyone? Maybe leave something behind?"

"She was locked up in a cell," Lena lied, "Who exactly would she talk to? Her jailer?"

Daisy and Julian exchanged glances but said nothing. It was true they didn't see Saffron talk to anyone but when they found her she and Eirika were out of their cell. It didn't make much sense, neither Saffron nor Eirika seemed capable enough to break out of their cell let alone overpower the guard.

Callus watched the two of them but if he suspected Lena was lying he didn't show it. "Alright, let's talk about what happened after the rescue? Was there any place she wanted to go? Someone she might have wanted to see?"

"No, not at all," Daisy said before Lena could answer again, "She said she wanted to go home, that was it."

"And when you dropped her off did you go inside with her?"

The three companions looked at each other before Julian spoke up. "We had to take Eirika back home. We didn't think to leave anyone behind with Saffron."

"I see," Callus said, making a note on his datapad. "Last question, if Saffron was ever hurt or alone or needed someplace to run where would she go?"

"We don't know," Lena answered quickly.

"You don't," Callus asked, raising an eyebrow.

"At least not with any certainty," Julian added, "There are a few places we go to hang out sometimes and I'd be glad to give you locations, but we don't know where she would go first."

"Very well," Callus said, sliding his datapad across the table. "Give me the addresses."

Julian leaned over and quickly typed in several addresses for places they've hung out in the past. When he was done Callus collected the datapad and the folder and stood up. "Thank you for your time. One of my men will be here shortly to escort you out."

After he left Lena spun on Julian. "How could you? You might have led them right to Saffron!"

"They were holding all the cards, Lena. I had to give them something or else they might try to detain us here."

"Shh, be quiet," Daisy whispered. The others turned to look at her, that's when they noticed Callus and his partner had left the door slightly ajar. Daisy was at the door now trying to listen to a conversation taking place outside.

"Any word on this Blake Moseley," Callus asked.

"Not yet, I have men out looking for him but he has a history of evading CSI."

"Very well, dispatch some officers to speak with Morgan, Lady Cayne and Prince Ducant. In the meantime expand your search for the girl, include these locations," he said handing the man his datapad.

"Sir," the other said as he accepted the datapad, "I should note that the girl was spotted trying to leave the city. She evaded capture but I think we shouldn't bother searching for her at any of these locations. If we blockade the roads heading out of the city...," he left the rest hanging in the air.

"Alright, see that it's done," then he turned and left, his partner on his heels.

Daisy walked back to join the others and told them everything she heard. "Well, at least they haven't caught her," Julian said.

"But why would she leave the city," Lena asked, "Where would she go?"

"I'm more concerned with why she didn't try to find us," Daisy said.

"Probably best she didn't," Julian replied, "They'd have caught her when they carted us in."

"Well hopefully Blake's found her by now," Lena added, "She won't last long on her own."

"Have you heard from Blake yet," Daisy asked her and Lena shook her head.

"Not since I called you guys," she said, "I'll call him again when we...,"

"Shh," Julian whispered sharply. In the hallway outside he could faintly here footsteps approaching them. A moment later the door to their room opened up and a young officer beckoned them to follow her.

"This way, please," she told the group with a gesture of her hand.

The three friends looked at each other a moment then followed the officer out into the main lobby and then outside. Once on the street she bid them farewell and left. Lena watched her go then crossed her arms over her chest with a mighty harrumph. "Least they could have done was have a car waiting for us," she grumbled...

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Re: Discord and Harmony

Post by Pryde » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:05 pm

"And don't let me catch you back here again," a woman shouted and Blake had to dodge to the side as a hydrospanner soared past his head.

A man hurried past with his hands covering the back of his head as more objects followed him out, striking him in the back. Blake waited until he was sure there would be no more flying objects then stepped casually into the garage.

"Hey, Kate," he said, "Been a long time."

A woman wearing greasy overalls looked up at him. "Blake," she said, hands on her hips, "This a social call or do you have work for me?"

"Neither, I'm looking for someone."

Kate shook her head and turned her back to him, walking over to the gutted swoop bike she'd been working on. "Not what I do, Blake. I fix swoops and keep my head down."

Blake followed her over to the swoop. "You used to run races, Kate, had your finger on the pulse of this city. You've got connections."

"I do, so what," she asked, grabbing a wrench and setting to work on the swoop.

"Look, the person I need to find is a friend of mine. A girl."

Kate rolled her eyes. "Why does that not surprise me?"

"It's not like that, Kate, she's just a friend, and she's in danger."

Kate stopped what she was doing and put the wrench down. "Wait, this isn't the one that was on the holovid, is it?"

Blake nodded and Kate stood and held up her hands. "Oh no, no way, Blake, I'm not getting involved in that."

"It's not true what they're saying about her."

"Don't care. I got enough heat from CSI as it is."

Blake sighed, "I'm not asking for much, Kate, I just want to know if you've heard anything."

Kate stared at him then shook her head. "You got real balls, Blake, taking this trouble to my garage. I got out of swoop racing cause I was tired of looking over my shoulder. Nowadays I just fix swoops, I don't make it a point to find wayward girls. Not even for an old boyfriend."

Blake's shoulders slumped but he nodded. "Alright," he said, "Well thanks anyway, Kate."

He turned and started to leave, making it three steps before she stopped him. "For crying out loud, Blake, you look pathetic. Look, I don't have much but I've heard a few things. Heard about a girl hanging out in the Downs kind of looks like the one you're looking for. You want to find her try there."

Blake smiled at her, "Knew I could count on her."

Kate blushed slightly and looked away. "Whatever," she said, "Just get out of here before I throw a wrench at you too."

Blake's smile widened but he said nothing. He just turned and left. Once outside he hopped on his swoop and sped off towards the Downs in search of Saffron...

**********

Gaius was already irritated before his father summoned him to his chamber, but when he entered the room to find his father deep in conversation with two of his aids his irritation turned into a scowl. Naturally he would have to wait until his father acknowledged him which could take minutes or even an hour. Luckily he didn't have to wait long as his father uncharacteristically called him forward the moment he saw him.

"Gaius, my son, it appears your efforts to garner favor with House Cayne have failed to bear fruit."

He gestured for his son to step forward and take one of the empty seats in front of his desk. "My agents at Lord Cayne's estate have just informed me that Eddard has successfully negotiated an alliance with House Delacroix. An alliance solidified through marriage."

At this Gaius' eyes widened and he knew what his father was getting at. Lord Eddard Cayne was planning to marry his daughter to the Prince of Delacroix. Brakul Ducant watched his son carefully as he absorbed the news. He knew how Gaius felt about the girl but Gaius was still young and had not yet learned that how he feels matters little. People were tools meant to be used to further one's station. As Eirika was a means to an end for Lord Cayne so Gaius was a means to an end for Lord Ducant.

Gaius saw his father watching him and quickly composed himself. "So, why are you telling me," he asked.

Brakul leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers together. "It has come to my attention that King Viserys also desired an alliance with House Cayne through marriage. Lord Eddard's back door dealing could be taken as an affront to the King himself."

"And you're telling me this because," Gaius asked impatiently.

"Because I have not yet decided what to do with this information. I would like to hear your thoughts on this matter."

The young Prince rolled his eyes in disgust. He knew his father had already decided what he was going to do this was just a test. A test to see if the son was just as ruthless as the father.

"You said it was an affront to the King so tell him. Have the King remove Lord Cayne as a political rival."

Gaius hated saying the words but he knew that was what his father wanted to hear. Almost as soon as he was finished he began to feel guilty. He wished no harm on either Eirika or her father.

"Good, good," Brakul said, "That is a brilliant idea."

As if you hadn't thought of it first, Gaius thought to himself.

"In the meantime the King has asked for our assistance in his pursuit of the General's daughter," Gaius' father continued, "I want you to lead a small task force to Cordelia...,"

"No," Gaius said suddenly, interrupting his father before he could finish. "I refuse."

Brakul stared at his son then sighed. "I realize this girl is your friend, Gaius, but...,"

"Why help the King at all," Gaius asked, "Why not capture the girl for yourself?"

"Because I have no use for a peasant girl. Perhaps if I had her father in my custody or if he was still in good graces with the King...,"

"I think...,"

"You are not being asked to think, Gaius," Brakul shouted at him, interrupting him, "You are being asked to follow. Now you will lead a task force to Cordelia and search for this girl or I'll have you spend a night in the stockades to cool your heels. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal, father," Gaius said between gritted teeth.

"Good, now be gone from my sight. I have much to work on."

Still smarting from his father's lashing the boy spun on his heels and left the room. He hated his father and he hated the control Brakul had over him. One day he was going to become Lord of this House and on that day the tables would turn...

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