Star Wars: Concord's End

2 years prior to The Force Awakens...
A persistent and interactive galaxy set shortly before the events of Episode VII

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Pryde
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Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Jul 03, 2016 12:32 am

Somewhere,
deep in the Unknown Regions...


Warning klaxons filled the air as the damaged ship carrying a young Felicity rocketed through space. She was lucky to survive her encounter with the Knights of Ren. Her mentor, a man belonging to the Church of the Force who called himself Renn Corso, unfortunately was not. He sacrificed himself upon the blade of Kylo Ren in order to buy her time to escape. It worked, but only just. The First Order warship in orbit around Ord Mantell nearly blasted her out of the sky. As it was a stray bolt from a pursuing TIE damaged her ship's navigations and she had to make a blind jump to escape. That jump took her deep into the Unknown Regions to a sector of space she was unfamiliar with.

If she had time she would have tried to make contact with her friends to find out if they had managed to escape as well, but at the moment her shuttle was on a crash course with a nearby planet. She had no propulsion now. That jump she made would be the shuttle's last. Power systems were failing all over the vessel and she had no way to alter her course. She did what she could to divert power to the ship's stabilizers but that wouldn't be enough to divert her fate. The ship rocketed into the planet's atmosphere, or fell rather. At this point her shuttle was little more than fallen debris, which is probably why no one from the surface had tried to contact her. They probably thought she was just a meteorite.

The ground came rushing up towards her, getting bigger as she went. She ground her teeth together as she strained her muscles pulling on the flight stick in a desperate attempt to level her craft. She could see a city below her and she was heading right for it. The last thing she wanted was to crash into a metropolis but it didn't seem like she had much of a choice. By sheer determination she had managed to level off slightly so that her angle of descent wasn't quite so steep but not even that was enough to stop her from reaching her destination. Skyscrapers flew past her as she soared above the streets and she could see in the distance that she was heading towards a house, a mansion by the looks of it.

The grounds around the mansion were fairly large and that gave her a glimmer of hope. She aimed the ship towards it as best she could somehow managing to just narrowly miss the house. Instead her craft landed nose down in some kind of large pond or pool sending a large wave of water into the night sky. The craft's momentum carried it to the other end of the pool where a duracrete walkway ended her fall for good. The force of the blow flung her forward into the console causing her to hit her head on something. Immediately afterwards her vision began to swim and she collapsed out of her chair before finally blacking out...

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sun Jul 03, 2016 9:02 am

There was no time to call anyone, no time to seek outside opinions.

Sitting in the gunner's chair of the anti-aircraft turret, a KSE officer monitored the falling object, sweat rolling down his face. The object was plummeting from orbit like space debris, and under any other circumstance, would have been destroyed in the upper atmosphere to prevent any debris from making it to the ground.

The only problem was, this 'debris' had already made two course corrections, which implied someone was alive on what could only be a crashing vehicle. The gunner's eyes were fixed on the monitor which showed them an estimated fifteen seconds to impact and an estimated impact point of somewhere on Kyne Estate grounds, clear of the estate itself. By the time he explained what was going on to a superior, the debris would already have hit ground.

Regardless if there was someone alive on whatever was left of the crashing ship, the problem now was that its entry vector had changed to take it right over the city of Caltan. If he were to shoot it now, it would rain fiery bits of metal all over the city. There was no doubt that would not be a popular decision.

The impact point is clear of the estate. It's less likely to hurt anyone if it just hits ground. His fingers were still twitching on the fire button, as though he body was telling him just to do it to be safe, but there was no real safe option. He clenched his teeth, and took his fingers off of the fire control, praying that the craft would not hit anyone in the estate grounds. Oh please, oh please, oh please....

**********************

"I am Benedict Kyne the IV, ruler of the entire Noble House Kyne." The Lord Kyne was looking into the mirror as he spoke, his jaw muscles tensed, lending a certain edge to his words. "At my command, men would lay down there lives or fight to the painful end." He adjusted a strange bit of fabric on the elaborate blue and silver garment stretched over his large but firm frame. He looked up in the mirror to meet the eyes of Ethan Selt Kyne, Benedict's trusted advisor who was doing his best to look solemn.

"Tell me again, Ethan, why it is I have to wear this ridiculous outfit and entertain these people in my home?" He asked of his advisor humorlessly, still eyeing the man in the mirror as he tried to adjust his outfit. Every time he did, however, it seemed that there were more pieces of fabric that would come out of place, and it never quite looked right.

"Is my lord being rhetorical, or would you like an answer to that question? Because this dinner party was your idea to help ease tension with several of the bordering Houses, in hopes that more attention could be devoted to ascertaining the truth of these rumors of rebellion. And as for your outfit, I am assured that it is at the height of fashion. I am sure if you let the young lady standing to your right do her job, it would be adequate for the evening's festivities."

Benedict waved off Ethan's comments. "It was rhetorical, Ethan." Finally, he gave up, dropping his hands from his chest and looking to the young servant girl, who was standing by, being very careful not to show any signs of being amused at the sight of the Kyne patriarch struggling to dress himself. "Be quick, please."

The servant went to work, unbuttoning his shirt and tucking in the fabric he had pulled out. In short order, she was buttoning the suit back up, only this time instead of it looking like a mess of fabric, it looked like complicated, multilayered affair with subtle shifts of texture and color to make for an eye catching, but not ostentatious, garment.

Benedict looked at himself in the mirror for a moment before nodding lightly in satisfaction. Appearances were important; All of House Kyne would be judged based off of him and his pride would not allow him to be seen by the other nobles looking anything less than his best. He had to admit, the suit would present a fitting message: complicated but not needlessly showy.

"It will do. Thank you, you are dismissed." He said to the servant girl, who bowed and retreated from the room as Lord Kyne turned to face his adviser. "I need to know if these rebels are real, and if they are within House Kyne borders. I will not jump at shadows, but I will not stick my head in the sand and ignore the facts either. If I cannot learn anything useful from the neighboring Houses, I at least want to ensure they are not intending on reopening old grievances while my attention is elsewhere."

Ethan nodded once. "I believe you can count on the fact that if they are aware of your attention being elsewhere, they will seek to exploit that. But this will be a good opportunity to smooth over any ruffled feathers for the moment at least-"

He stopped suddenly as loud explosion came from outside, followed seconds later by a wailing alarm as someone activated the Estate's lockdown mechanism. Forcefields sprang to life over every window.

Two heavily armed soldiers, members of Lord Kyne's elite Lance Squad, entered the room quickly. "My lord, we had a unknown vehicle crash on the grounds. We would like to move you to a safe room until we have cleared the situation."

The Lord Kyne pursed his lips together in annoyance, but nodded. It never hurt to be cautious, especially until he knew the situation. "Is my daughter safe?"

"Yes, lord. She had be secured in her room until the lock down is lifted."

"Very well." He turned to Ethan. "Go learn what you can of this. And make sure this is all cleaned up. I will not postpone this dinner unless it is absolutely necessary."

"I understand, my lord."

**********************

The emergency response team around the estate was the best that money and training could acquire. When the ship struck the pond, it had evaporated most of it, causing an explosion of steam, but extinguishing most of the flaming parts. When finally the ship came to rest, twenty individuals were there within minutes, dousing the whole area with flame retardant, and to prevent anything from spreading. They didn't bother trying the wreckage's hatch, which was half submerged in the ground, but merely cut through the ship with plasma cutters.

"One occupant." The lead rescuer slashed through the restraint devices with a sharp blade, and pulled the girl free. All things considered, she looked to be in not bad shape.That is to say, it was surprising she wasn't a mangled, burned, bloody wreck like her craft. Attaching stabilizer rods to her to prevent any unnecessary movement of her spine, the team quickly hustled her out of the ship and on to a gurney.

"Patient is in ventricle fibrillation." The small medical droid immediately assessed her even while the others were strapping her down. "Beginning defibrillation, please stand clear."

Two arms extended from the droid, which quickly ripped through the tattered remains of her shirt to attach themselves to her chest.

"Please stand clear." The droid announced again, unnecessarily. Everyone knew better than to touch the girl right now, and instead the focus was on keeping the gurney moving to the small medical bay in the estate.

The survivor's body jolted from the electric current, which was sufficient get the heart beating correctly. "Patient is stabilizing."

Twenty minutes later, the patient was as cleaned up and stabilized as she was going to get, laying the white and blue infirmary at the Estate with a team of doctors and nurses looking her over. What was left of her personal belongings were taken and put in a solid durasteel box nearby, just in case there was any potential of a bomb. As the patient slept, the doctors drifted off to attend other duties, which was when Ethan entered the room.

The woman did not look familiar, which was unsurprising. He walked over to her possessions, looking them over for a clue as to her identity. A blaster, which Ethan pulled the powerpack from and placed in his pocket for the time, a cylindrical piece of debris he could not recognize, a smooth cube which looked... strange.

Nothing that would tip him as to an identity. Nothing that would tell Ethan how she would fit into the political jigsaw puzzle that was Oridin.

Not one to wait for answers, Ethan pulled a chair up next to the bed and gently shook the woman's shoulder to see if he could rouse her.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Jul 03, 2016 11:02 am

Felicity was only distantly aware that someone was touching her. She swam around in the blackness of her vision as her consciousness slowly awakened. Then all of a sudden what was meant as a gentle rousing felt like a hand reaching out and grabbing her, holding her prisoner. On the other side of that hand was the visage of Kylo Ren, his three bladed lightsaber raised and ready to strike.

"No," she cried and her eyes snapped open. She tried to get away but Ethan held her firmly to the bed.

"It's alright, you're alright. You're safe," he assured her.

Felicity's wild eyes eventually settled on him, seeing a face she did not recognize. He didn't look like he was about to harm her, though, and slowly her rapid heartbeat subsided. She glanced down at herself, first noting that she was not wearing the clothes she had arrived in and then noting the bacta patches placed over the lightsaber burns on her upper thigh and right arm. As she inspected herself and tried to gather her wits a thought occurred to her and she desperately scanned the room searching for a particular item. "The cube," she asked, "Where's the cube?!"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:38 pm

Ethan watched her for a heartbeat passively before speaking. "It is safely contained inside of a blast box outside your door." The girl looked as though she might try to jump to her feet, regardless of her injuries. Ethan forestalled any attempt by placing a firm hand on her shoulder to keep her in the bed.

"Where it will stay until it is determined that none of the items pose a threat to this House and that you are not our enemy. To that end, the sooner you start answering my questions, the sooner we can arrive at that conclusion. Let us begin with your name and where you are from."

*************
If there was such a thing as passive aggressive hair brushing, Autumn Kyne had honed it down to a science. Even though her hair was nothing but a sheening black wave of perfectly straight hair and there was little to be gained from brushing it, she angrily dragged a comb through it while glaring at the two Lancer Squad soldiers in her room with her, as if all the woes in her life were their fault.

They were, of course, following orders. In the event of a lock down, she could always expect that two of those goons would find her wherever she was.

They were wearing their dress uniforms, which consisted a medium external armor emblazoned with house colors and gleaming silver highlights, deep blue berets and mirror shined boots. In case someone decided not to take them serious, They also wore a heavy blaster rifle slung across their back and a sleek rapier on their hip.

Autumn scowled at the both of them. They had no business being in her room. Nor did they have a choice, as the lock down procedure had actually sealed her room, but still.

Both of the men were as emotive as statues, staring straight ahead and breathing mechanically. Autumn glared.

Her eyes roamed the face of the closest man. Apart from being incredibly fit, he was extremely plain looking; not particularly attractive, not particularly ugly. Her eyes stopped at the sight of discolored skin, just visible above the stiff collar of his armor along the side of his neck. It looked like scar tissue.

She had never been to Syphos Valley, the infamous and hidden training site of the Lance Squad, but there were rumors that after enduring nearly eight months of grueling training, a Lancer would have to ritualistically brand himself with a sigil on his neck, to show that he had conquered his fear of pain, death and cowardice. Autumn had always figured it was just an exaggerated story, one look at the other Lancer's identical mark told her otherwise.

She continued brushing her hair angrily.

It wasn't the lock down that upset her. No, it was this dinner her father had planned. She hadn't seen the complete guest list, but there were probably close to a hundred people coming. Most of them were minor nobles, though a few notable names topped the list as well, and even a few of the more influential commonborn.

Autumn hardly dared to hope that her father would cancel the event. Even if the hellfire was falling from the sky, cancelling an invitation was paramount to insult in noblesse etiquette. No, there was little chance of him cancelling just because something as silly as...

What exactly is going on?

She walked up to the Lancer, trying to stare him down even though she was close to eight inches shorter than him. They really could not have looked more opposite, Autumn's short stature, clad only in a dressing gown, flawless hair and tanned skin making her a near pinnacle of beauty. This, compared to the hardened mass of warrior muscle that stood in front of her, skin toughened by the elements to a near hide like thickness.

"I demand to know what is going on." Her chocolate brown eyes narrowed. The Lancers did not answer to her, and everyone in the room knew it. Still, she was daughter to the Lord and heiress to House Kyne, which was nothing to scoff at.

The Lancer's stoic expression cracked as he looked down at the girl, debating whether he should answer.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Jul 03, 2016 11:18 pm

House? Enemy? Enemy to whom? Felicity had no idea where she was. She did not recognize the planet on her way down nor the city she flew over, what little of it she managed to see, that is. Of course, having lived most of her life on Ord Mantell that wasn't saying much. She looked at the man in front of her, several years her senior, taller and more thickly built. If she wasn't injured and still in pain she might be able to take him in hand to hand, but not knowing what exactly he was capable of that would be a dangerous gambit. Injured as she was, though, any thought of fighting her way out was tantamount to suicide.

Then again fighting might not even be necessary. All he seemed to want was information, but that begged the question of how much should she give? That blind jump could have easily taken her to any corner of the galaxy. She could be in Republic space or in the hands of the First Order. She didn't recognize the colors of the uniform the man before her wore but that didn't necessarily mean he wasn't tied to either the Knights of Ren or the First Order somehow. At the moment she decided to give him as little information as possible, just enough to appease his concerns.

"My name is Felicity," she said and Ethan looked at her expectantly.

"And?"

"Excuse me?"

"Felicity what," he explained.

Felicity averted her eyes. "Just Felicity," she said, "I don't know if I have a second name or even what it might be."

She knew it sounded strange but she didn't want to have to explain why she only had one name. Nor did she want to explain that the only reason she even knew that much was because she had woken up on Ord Mantell wearing a bracelet with that name on it. A bracelet she has since outgrown and misplaced.

"Alright, then where are you from?"

"I--," she faltered slightly unsure how much she should say, "I don't know where I'm from, but I came here from Ord Mantell. My ship was attacked by--," she drifted off after realizing she probably shouldn't admit to being attacked by the First Order. "Pirates," she finished, "My navigation control was damaged in the battle and I had to make a blind jump."

She stopped and let him absorb that information before looking around the room. "I'm sorry, but I don't know where I am. What planet am I on?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Mon Jul 04, 2016 9:34 pm

"You are from... Outside." Ethan sat back in his chair, stroking his chin thoughtfully for a moment even as he worked over the implications of what this meant.

Oridin was located within a rather isolated sector. There were few safe hyperspace lanes in two the sector and several anomalies that made navigation very difficult if the sector was not approached from those safe lanes. If it was true that this woman had entered this sector on a blind jump and made it to the heart of Oridin... She was either the luckiest person in the universe, or possessed technology that was in excess of that used in this sector. Or both.

Ethan's eyes returned to the woman as he brought his focus back to the question asked. The much simpler explanation to this woman was that this could well be a ploy by any number of other Houses. Deception was a household word. "You are on the planet Oridin, capitol of House Kyne. In fact, you have arrived at the capitol city of that planet, and even managed to guide yourself to the Kyne Estate, which, I must say, is perhaps one of the most implausible landing sites in the entire sector. To be quite candid with you, I am having a difficult time accepting your story as true, or conjuring a reason why I shouldn't have you imprisoned and interrogated to ensure you are not a spy or assassin. Perhaps you have some meanings of proving what you say?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Mon Jul 04, 2016 10:26 pm

Oridin? Felicity may not have been well traveled but she did spend the last seven years of her life pouring over old navigational charts in her spare time. Oridin was no planet she ever heard of nor was it on any of the maps. House Kyne was a term she was unfamiliar with, also. It didn't sound like anything that might have been affiliated with the Republic but there was still the mystery of the First Order. The prospect of being imprisoned was definitely something she wanted to avoid but how could she prove what she said was true? Whatever she said it had to be convincing. In her current state the likelihood of escaping alive by fighting her way out was pretty slim.

"I--," she started, her mind racing for something to say, "I don't think I can. Like I said my navigation computer was damaged the origin point of my last jump wouldn't have been recorded. Communications were also down, I tried to fix it after the jump but the internal circuitry is fried. It's irreparable without replacement parts."

Then a thought occurred to her. "The cube! I--I might be able to prove it with the cube if I can open it, but um... I don't know how."

All Renn had told her was that she would be able to open it when she was ready but he never gave her an idea of how that might be done nor did he give her any idea of what 'ready' meant. She'd spent hours fiddling with the thing but there were no obvious controls or switches on the surface that would open the cube, it looked impossible. With a sigh she leaned her head back against the pillow.

"I guess I can't prove it," she said quietly, "You'll just have to believe me."

That was a tall order considering the unlikely circumstances of her arrival. Somehow against all odds she had managed to crash land in the capital city of a foreign government, on the grounds of their capital building no less. She knew what that made her look like but there was no way for her to convince him that she was not a terrorist.

**********

Meanwhile, outside the Kyne Estate a mob of reporters had gathered. Many of them had gotten there early in preparation for the dinner party taking place later tonight. Others, however, arrived just after the shuttle crashed onto the grounds of the Kyne Estate. Blake Moseley was part of this second group. He had passed on covering the dinner tonight because he knew how much Autumn hated it. She'd been complaining about it for a week now. After the crash, though, he wanted to come down personally and make sure Autumn was okay.

Just as he had thought the guards at the front gate weren't allowing anyone through. The driveway to the gate had been cordoned off to allow for guests to arrive which left reporters standing on either side of the fenced driveway. Blake had managed to worm his way somewhat closer to the front but made it a point to keep a low profile. At the moment he was fiddling with his communicator trying to hack whatever frequency the KSE were using, a trick he had learned from his father.

Blake's dad used to work as a spy for the royal military until he was caught selling secrets and summarily executed, or so the "official" story claimed. Obviously, Blake had his doubts about that but he couldn't prove anything. That was part of why he gave up on swoop racing and became an investigative reporter. Well, that and his mother's drinking habit. Most nights she would be completely out of it which left Blake responsible for paying all the bills.

"Say again," a voice came out of his communicator after he had found the right frequency. Blake quickly grabbed the ear piece and shoved it into his ear so no one else around him would be able to listen in.

"The hyperdrive," another man's voice responded, "it's like nothing I've seen before. I mean, I've worked on hypderdrives before but not like this. I don't even know where to start with this."

That was interesting. A hyperdrive more advanced than anything fielded by Kyne security forces? House Kyne was one of the larger, more powerful houses so if someone had a technological edge over them that was pretty significant. Blake flipped off the device and shoved it into his pocket. Hacking into Kyne communications undetected was one thing, staying undetected was another. He was fortunate to get even this much information. Instead he worked his way to the front of the crowd and shouted for the nearest guard's attention.

"Excuse me! Excuse me," he said and when the guard looked his way he continued, "When will we be hearing from Lord Kyne about the crashed shuttle craft? Do you have an ETA?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Tue Jul 05, 2016 1:53 pm

Ethan gave her a faint smile. "I believe you will find, child, that trust is not so common as to be available for the asking on Oridin." He stood slowly. "You will be cared for well here. Once you are cleared by our medical detail, you will be moved to guest accommodations until such time as a more long term decision is made regarding what is to happen with you. Understand that you will be watched by armed guards at all times. If there is any suspicion that you are attempting any sort of espionage or subterfuge, they will not need my permission to stop you in whatever way they see fit. I recommend you suppress any curiosity you have for your surroundings until such time you have cleared as a threat. Do you understand?"

*****

Lord Kyne surveyed the damage done to the estate grounds with a scowl as the Estate Steward stood close by. The pond had been nearly half evaporated from the sheer heat and impact, which had also thrown mud in every direction, coating the fertile, tended grass. The wreckage had cleared the pond, leaving a long furrow in the ground before uprooting a paved stone walk way and coming to a halt.

"How soon can this be fixed?" Benedict asked, his unhappiness at the situation readily apparent.

"I already have a landscaping team on the way, my lord. They said they will be able to refill the pond, level out the furrow and put sod over it. They did not know how well they could repair the stone work without looking it over in person, but they were confident they could have the grounds back to your standards within two hours. Chief Engineer says they should have the wreckage dismantled and gone within an hour."

Guests would be arriving within two hours. It would be close, but there was really no alternative.

"Urge them to hurry. I do not want my guests affected by this."

"Of course, my lord."


*****

The Correspondence Guild was a complicated and multifaceted entity, encompassing the worlds of news, media, and many communication lines. Technically neutral across all of the Houses, they were universally disliked, respected, feared, and used for their services.

In times of old, the Correspondence Guild was intended to be a neutral third party for the Houses, a means that two Houses could conduct negotiations without worrying about communications being intercepted, diverted or tampered with. It was a job the Guild had taken very seriously, acquiring for itself considerable prestige and wealth for the secured communication service.

Times had changed, however, and modern cryptography did not require a third party anymore for secure transmissions. Most times.

Now the Guild was mostly in the news business, collecting news across all the Houses and distributing it as they were allowed under House rules. While House Kyne news might have only played in House Kyne territory, it was still the same Guild managing that news as the House Lathun news on the other side of the sector. It gave the Guild a reputation for being spies, which was often a well deserved reputation. Selling news from one House to the next, after all, could hardly be seen as anything but spying.

And so the Houses danced a delicate line with the Guild, none wanting to anger it so much that they spilled any number of gathered secrets not to mention slanted press coverage, but none wanting to give them any more than absolutely necessary. The Guild, too, understood it existed in a precarious arrangement, knowing well that if they burned too many bridges they could easily find themselves kicked out of any number of House territories and slowly relegated to increasingly impotent and diminutive positions.

Not all of the reporters gathered at the Kyne Estate were members of the Guild; there did exist a fair number of independent reporters, and seeing a mixed group was not uncommon, but everyone knew that only Guild members stood a chance at being allowed on to the Kyne Estate. Guild reporters could be controlled, allowing the Houses some level of control on the flow of information out of their territory. Independent reporters were too unpredictable.

One of the guards standing watch over the gathered crowd spoke up in response to the posed question, having already been briefed on how to answer such questions.

"Those of you with Guild credentials will be allowed on to the grounds briefly once the wreckage has been removed, within the hour, for a brief statement from a House Kyne representative. Those of you without credentials are welcome to wait here for a representative who will give a statement at a later time. After statements are given, you will be asked to disperse, except for invited members of the Guild, which may remain."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Tue Jul 05, 2016 3:05 pm

Felicity gave him an uncertain look. She couldn't begrudge him his suspicion but the idea of being followed by armed guards didn't sit well with her. Either way all she had to do was behave. They had no reason to suspect her so as long as she didn't supply them with one everything should be fine.

"I understand," she said faintly.

**********

"Jensen! What the hell is taking so long," the Chief Engineer asked as he poked his head into the wreckage.

"Sorry, Sir, I'm still going over this engine," Derek Jensen replied, "It's an incredible piece of work. Look at this," he said pointing to the fuel injector, "Near as I can tell the fuel from the tank is fed into some kind of ionization chamber. Now the way we burn our fuel we get about a thirty percent energy output per gallon, but with this system, the way it separates the individual atoms in the fuel, it's closer to one hundred percent. That means this ship can go much farther, much faster and with a lot less fuel. Only way to put an engine like this on a ship so small."

The chief looked annoyed. "That's great, Jensen, now can you pick up the pace. We got two hours to clear this wreckage and your fascination is holding us up."

"Yeah, sorry about that, Chief," Jensen winced, "It's just that, looking at this engine it's like I'm a kid in high school again relearning everything I know about theoretical physics."

"I said wrap it up and move this hunk of junk now, Jensen!"

"Sure thing, Boss," Jensen replied quickly and he went back to work dismantling the engine while the Chief turned his attention to another mechanic who was slacking off.

**********

Blake frowned, he had guild credentials but he lacked an invite to this party after turning it down. He quickly fished out his communicator and dialed the office. There was a moment or two before someone answered.

"Yeah, Jack! It's me," he said quickly, "Look, I need an invite to that dinner party at the Kyne Estate."

He paused a moment while listening to the response. "Yeah, I know I turned it down, but I'm on to something big here. You gotta get me in... How big? Well, I don't know yet but bigger than whatever it is Lord Kyne has to say tonight."

There was another pause as he listened and his expression turned to one of frustration. "What do you mean too late? Alright look, I'll figure something out."

He turned off the device and shoved it back into his pocket. He was going to have to steal an invite to this party but the best time for a lift would be right as everyone was going in. Less chance of the theft being discovered before there was nothing left to do about it. All he could do now was wait to be admitted onto the estate grounds.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:58 pm

The Kyne Estate became a whirlwind of frantic activity. Within an hour, the engineers had effectively sliced the wreckage up into pieces, doing what was possible to preserve any salvageable components from the mangled corpse of the ship. By the time they were finished, an entire phalanx of landscapers descended, pumping fresh water into the pond, raking dirt out of the lawn and washing down the grass, and smoothing over the furrows with fresh dirt. There was fresh sod placed over the damaged area, and, although it was a slightly different shade of green, it was still difficult to tell the extent of the damage to the landscaping.

The stonework was the hardest to repair, but the laborers managed to piece back together the walkway mostly, only a small shattered patch remaining as evidence of the violent crash.

From his balcony, Benedict watched absently, less concerned with the landscape repairs as he was with the potential repercussions of the situation.

"What is your analysis?" He asked Ethan as he stepped up along side.

"Our uninvited guest is resting. The doctors say she should make a full recovery. She is a young woman calling herself Felicity, and claims not to have a family name. According to her, she is from a planet outside of this sector called Ord Mantell. I searched the old star charts in the archives, there is mention of such a place. I have been in contact with the Areospace Defense, they are reviewing sensor logs in efforts to trace her trajectory in efforts to confirm her story, but I am not hopeful we will get much in the way of confirmation. I will say, however, this does not feel like a House ploy. If this was an attempt to probe our security, there is very little reason to have a pilot who was more likely to die than not. The same goes for an attempt to insert a spy into our midst."

The Lord of House Kyne slowly nodded. "I see the Guild is gathering en mass. What is the political backlash of this?"

"An unknown ship falling from space, almost hitting Kyne Estate? There will be questions of our security. I understand the decision was made not to destroy the craft due to potential collateral damage to the city, so I recommend stressing the human element, willingness to risk harm rather than let damage fall upon our people. We may blame this on a nameless House, an attempt to disrupt the peaceful dinner party of House Kyne, and embarrass the gracious hosts."

It wasn't too far fetched. "And I trust the Guild will be favorable to our side of the story?"

Ethan nodded. "Relations with the Guild have been well lately. With a nominal donation, I'm sure they will tell the story to our liking."

"Well, let's go face the jackals then."

*****

"Please stand back from the gates. Outbound traffic, please clear the roadway." A voice came over the loudspeaker in front of the estate while a line of guards formed, pushing back the crowds that had gathered.

Once the road cleared, a convoy of vehicles left: landscaping trucks, engineering vehicles, plus a collection of heavy cargohaulers taking the remains of the ship with it to a secured location for further study and salvage.

The roads cleared, and the guards began sorting through the crowd, allowing the Guild members with invitations into the manor. Once the crowds were admitted, they were escorted to a cordoned off area marked with dim blue lights that had been set up for the press release. The Guild reporters obediently trudged to the area indicated, murmured conversations creating a low buzz of noise as they conversed while waiting for the release to start.

Within the foray of reporters was Ghost.

He was an unremarkable man, a bit on the short side, wrapped in lean muscle as though he were someone who was not unaccustomed to long, difficult travel. He was a man who had long surrendered his identity to his cause, having given up on his birth name and now was known by so many aliases that Ghost was a truer name than any of the other identity he took. That name, at least, he had earned by proving time and time again he was able to find his way into targets that others felt were impossible to infiltrate.

His Guild credentials and Kyne Invitation were both stolen, and were unlikely to be discovered, but Ghost had no delusions about the danger he was in. If anyone caught wind of the fact he was an agent of the Counter Movement, it was likely torture and death were all that awaited him.

The guise of a Guild Intelligencer was perfect cover for him to begin sizing up Kyne's security up close, and his holocam moved this way and that, as casually as he could, snapping pictures of the house, the perimeter fences, the defense emplacements, patrols, and everything else that was visible. He might not get too close to the lion's den on this trip, but this just might provide the basis for a more detailed infiltration plan later.

The crowd's murmurings ended with a little spike of surprise as the Lord Kyne himself appeared and came to stand by the podium. Most of the intelligencers had been expecting a representative only, not the actual head of House Kyne to speak to them. It was a classy move, one that was more likely to endear House Kyne to the Correspondence Guild, as the Lord Kyne gave them his personal attention rather than foisting an underling on them.

"Honored guests, members of the Correspondence Guild," the Lord Kyne spoke, his voice easily heard despite the lack of artificial amplification. "Welcome to my home. I apologize for the unusual events that led to you being admitted to the Estate in such a manner, rather than simply filing in with the other arriving guests, but it was necessary to ensure everyone's safety. You may have curiosities regarding the events that have recently transpired, so allow me to explain briefly what happened, so that there need not be speculation."

Benedict did not read off of notes, for he had already decided what he was going to say.

"At approximately fifteen hundred hours, an unidentified derelict vessel was detected entering Oridin's atmosphere at which time Kyne Areospace Defense batteries began tracking it. The decision was made to hold fire, as the Areospace Defense could not determine whether there were life forms or not and they did not wish to endanger lives. As the derelict's descent steepened, it was determined that the safest course of action was to allow the vessel to crash into the ground rather than attempt to shoot it down and risk having a burning debris cloud fall on the city."

The reporters were silent, taking down every word as they watched with rapt attention.

"The vessel struck a garden area of the Estate grounds on the north of the building, resulting in minor grounds damage and no injuries or fatalities. Rescue crews removed one individual from the craft, whose identity will not be discussed. It is uncertain whether this individual will live or die at this time, as they are still being treated for injuries. At this time, we are treating this incident as an unfortunate accident, but we are beginning an investigation to determine origin of this craft and to rule out the possibility of foul play. We would implore any one who is aware of a missing craft to contact a House Kyne representative, so that the issue can be laid to rest. This is all that will be said on that subject tonight. Please feel free to enjoy the amenities offered by House Kyne, but do confine yourselves to the guest areas, as marked by the blue indicators, and follow the other etiquette agreements between the Guild and House Kyne. The other guests should be arriving soon. Thank you. Virtus Est Sapientia." He closed with the House Kyne motto, then stepped away from the podium as the Guild members began their murmurings again, slowly drifting into the designated guest areas of the Estate.


***

Autumn moved between the thick growing plants of the indoor gardens, trying to pretend she did not notice the Lancer who was surreptitiously following her around. Any minute now, guests would be arriving, and she would be paraded around by her father, like a sheep in front of hungry wolves. She knew well what she was in her father's eyes: a pawn. A piece in a game, waiting to be moved when the timing was favorable. And, of course, that move would come in the form of a political marriage to one of the other scions of a different House, forming a crucial alliance. The only thing that could change that would be if her father died before she was married. Then, and only then, she would find herself as the Lady of the House, with sole rulership.

It was an odd position to be in. Did she wish her father die so that she could achieve a position of incredible importance and stress, where she would be the target of power plays, assassinations, and subterfuge? Or did she relegate herself to unimportance, marry for the sake of alliance, and be forgotten about almost immediately after the ink of the alliance dried?

She sighed lightly. Such wondrous choices.

Yet she still went along with it, sometimes without even conscious thought. Even as she walked the garden paths, she wore an absolutely stunning silver dress with dark blue accents which made her nearly impossible not to look at. As much as she might not have liked the idea, she knew well the expectation: that she would look as good as possible for the guests, to make her seem like an even better choice for marriage. Everything from her hair to her shoes was a carefully cultivated sophistication, with the end goal of making her desirable.

As if a good looking wife made a good basis for a political marriage. Autumn scoffed lightly at the thought, but history had already proven over and over that bigger decisions had been made for lesser reasons than that.

She drifted over to the west facing window, watching the first set of lights descend from the sky, the first guests to arrive. Any minute now, the Lancer sulking around would get her attention and the show would begin.

Hopefully there will be someone I like at this gathering... She thought to herself, not holding out much hope.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Thu Jul 07, 2016 12:43 am

Felicity was alone in her room for quite a long time after Ethan had left. For the most part she had just lain there pondering her options. Right now her rescuers held all the cards. If they meant her some ill will there was almost certainly nothing she could do about it. Trapped as she was in this room there was no way to call her friends for help and trying to step outside this room was certain to get her shot. With a sigh she sat up in the bed and gently lowered her bare feet to the floor.

She was dressed in a hospital gown that covered her from her shoulders down to her ankles and underneath that nothing else aside from the bandages covering her wounds. Standing up she felt dizzy at first but then that feeling slowly subsided. She walked first to the door and tried to peer out the window into the hallway. Just as Ethan had said there were two guards outside standing on either side of the door. She couldn't see much of their demeanor but she imagined they were both armed with blaster rifles.

Resigning herself to her captivity she turned and crossed the room over towards the window by the bed. She pulled back the blinds and from here she could see the restoration efforts of the gardens outside. Much to her surprise a lot of the damage had already been repaired. More importantly, though, her ship had been cut up into pieces and was being carted away. She was sad to see it go but practically she knew she had little use for it. The damage the ship had sustained made many of the ship's vital systems completely inoperable. Communications, navigation and even the hyperdrive would all have to be replaced completely and at that point it would actually be cheaper to simply purchase another ship.

Not that she had actually purchased the ship in the first place. She had no idea who it belonged to and she felt guilty for taking it but it was either that or allow the Knights of Ren to capture her. She closed her eyes, the visage of Kylo Ren coming unbidden into her mind. She'd never been so afraid before. If it weren't for Renn... Her eyes snapped open again and she felt a sharp pang in her heart at the thought of her mentor. For his sake she needed to keep training, to get stronger. Balance will never be brought to the Force until the Jedi are returned, that is what Renn Corso believed and he gave his life hoping that one day Felicity could help make that happen.

For you, she thought quietly to herself and then she caught sight of a small holoclock sitting on a nearby table. Almost as a way of testing her newfound resolve she held her hand out towards it and concentrated. At first nothing happened but little by little the small device rose shakily into the air. Moving something so small should not have been this difficult but the pain from her injuries was too distracting, it was hard for her to concentrate. Then she heard the handle of the door start to move and nervously she let go of the clock forgetting that it was three inches above the table.

The clock fell almost as fast as her arm did but made a lot more noise. A nurse entered the room, glancing first at the toppled holoclock then at the flustered girl standing by the window. "You shouldn't be out of bed," he told her.

"I'm sorry, I got restless," she said.

The nurse walked over to the table and righted the holoclock though whether he suspected something strange might have occurred he gave no sign. "Here, let's get you into bed," he said, holding his hand out to her.

"Really, I feel fine."

The nurse gave her a stern look. "I'm sure you do, but you took a nasty blow to the head earlier and we need to monitor you in case there are complications. It's just for tonight, if everything is fine in the morning you'll be cleared to leave, I promise."

He nudged his hand towards her and Felicity gave up and took it. She let him lead her back towards the bed and help her into it. Once he had her tucked in he glanced down at her.

"Now is there anything you need?"

Felicity thought about that a moment. "A glass of water, maybe? My throat feels parched."

"Of course," he said and then he turned and left the room, leaving Felicity alone again...

**********

Blake had waited to make his move until members of the press were finally being allowed in. With this many people packed so tightly together a clean lift would be a piece of cake. While he waited he had isolated a nearby reporter whom he was sure had an invite to the dinner party. After all, the man had been boasting about it for the better part of the night. Blake almost felt like he was doing everyone a service. Then as everyone was making their way towards the gate he made his move, bumping into the man on 'accident' and then picking the invitation straight out of his pocket.

"Sorry," he apologized.

"It's quite alright," the man replied, helping Blake to right himself.

Blake gave him a nod then pushed deeper into the crowd getting out ahead of his victim. Once he had reached the gate the guard scanned his credentials and his invitation then looked at him out of the corner of his eye.

"You plan on wearing that," he asked, indicating Blake's rather plain clothes.

Blake gave a nervous laugh and scratched the back of his head with a shrug. "Yeah, sorry. They called me last minute. The guy who was supposed to be here in my place got sick. Just my luck, right? Perfectly good waste of a night off."

"You're telling me," the guard said, echoing his frustration. "Everything looks good," then he waved Blake inside. Somewhere behind him he could hear a commotion begin as the man whose invite he stole swore to the guard that he had just had it with him.

"This is preposterous! I had my invite right here in this pocket, I swear. Call my office, they'll confirm it for me!"

"I'm sorry, Sir, but I cannot permit you entry without an invite, now please step back."

The commotion continued until it was out of earshot. Blake had followed the other reporters to a cordoned off area on the grounds as they waited for a Kyne representative to come out and speak to them. Little did he realize that Kyne representative would be Lord Benedict Kyne himself. Blake had found himself in the middle of the gathered assembly but even so he averted his face slightly on the off chance that Lord Kyne would see him and recognize him.

As Benedict spoke Blake recorded every word knowing full well that Lord Kyne was not giving them the full story. At the mention of 'foul play' Blake frowned. They think another house did this? Benedict didn't elaborate but the implications were vague enough that the gathered reporters could fill the blanks in with whatever they want. Blake wasn't interested in whatever fiction Lord Kyne was feeding them. He wanted to know what was really going on. That meant getting inside so he could snoop around.

Not long after Benedict's statement the dinner guests began to arrive. At that time the gathered reporters were allowed to enter the manor with the guests and mingle with the crowd. Blake kept himself towards the fringes of the room trying to look as inconspicuous as possible while looking for an opportunity to slip out. In the meantime he helped himself to the appetizers and grabbed a glass of champagne off a platter as a server passed him by.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Thu Jul 07, 2016 3:11 pm

House Ducant was among the First of the invited guests to arrive. Their small transport touched down in their designated landing zone and Lord Declan Ducant and his three children disembarked. Lord Ducant was an imposing figure, not especially muscular but not overly lean, either. Most of the weight of his presence came from the way he carried himself, with a cool confidence and calculating mind. Normally he would not have bothered with such frivolous festivities but he saw an opportunity here to possibly strengthen his family's holdings. That opportunity came in the form of young Autumn.

"Do not forget why we are here, boy," he said sternly to his youngest son.

Gaius Ducant did his best to hide his contempt. His father never thought highly of him. Unlike his half brother and sister, Leland and Marcella, he possessed none of their cruelty or ruthlessness. Gaius was born of Declan's second wife and took mostly after his mother in both body and spirit. Of the three siblings he was definitely the better looking if a bit androgynous, a fact his brother refused to let him live down.

"I remember, father," he said finally. He cast a glance at Leland and noticed his brother purposefully failing to cover the smirk on his face. Gaius made a face at him but said nothing.

He resented his role tonight and he resented the fact he even had to come at all. Fancy parties weren't exactly his thing. He preferred the dueling circle where he held a reputation for being a very skilled swordsman. Here, though, he was out of his element. He had no idea how to even approach Autumn, let alone what exactly to say to her. He would not be the only Prince attempting to court her tonight, either. An alliance with House Kyne could provide a significant boon to just about any House in attendance.

Lord Declan took a moment to smooth out the ruffles in his suit then put his arm around his daughter's shoulders. "Come," he said, urging his family forward as they followed the crowd into the manor where Lord Benedict Kyne and his daughter we're greeting their guests.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:06 pm

Benedict Kyne and Autumn Kyne, side by side, bore a stark contrast to one another. Benedict's size and bulk looked very much the figure of strength and stamina while Autumn's feminine silhouette, enhanced by good genes and carefully selected clothing and a pinch of luck, gave her an agile, almost prey like appearance. Benedict's neatly trimmed beard was a rough edge when compared to Autumn's liquid smooth hair and grace. She looked poised and cultured, if a touch vulnerable, while by comparison Benedict somehow seemed more savage and strong, despite the livery he wore.

It's all about appearances.

Beneath Autumn's vapid smile, there was a deep seated boredom with the proceedings that was not difficult to notice by the arriving guests. What was a bit more difficult to see was that beneath that boredom was a surprisingly keen intelligence, constantly taking stock of the situation. And constantly being bored by it.

"That is Magistrate Syid Dotorri Kyne. He oversees several of the worlds along the House Kyne and House Ducant border. He has probably been on the fringe of Kyne territory for many years without contact from higher levels of his chain of command." Ethan was delivering a dull commentary to the both of them in a low voice on the arriving guests.

Syid was a dark skinned man dressed in an ornate tan robe with muted House Kyne signet on the shoulders. He stepped forward accompanied by several concubines, who lingered behind, knowing full well their own unimportance in the proceedings. "Lord Benedict, Maiden Autumn. It has been many years. May I say, you are looking well, Lord Kyne. And you, Maiden Autumn, are looking more beautiful with each passing year."

"You are too kind, Magistrate." Benedict spoke for both of them as Syid bowed. "Welcome to our home. Please, let yourself comfortable and allow House Kyne to provide for your every desire while you are here, as a reward for your years of service."

"Thank you, my Lord, you are most generous." Syid excused himself with another bow and went off in search of those desires.

Benedict watched him leave, his eyes lingering on the man. Syid was a man of appetite and questionable loyalty, hence his invitation here tonight. Out on the fringe, it was too easy for magistrates to forget who is was they served.

"Here comes the Lord Ducant now." Ethan murmured as the next entourage approached. "Those are his children, Leland, Marcella and Gaius, I believe. As I recall, there was something of a question of succession among the children, due to the children being from different mothers and the way Ducant succession laws worked. I believe Gaius is heir to the House, but I could be mistaken on that."

Benedict just grunted, eyeing the other lord as he approached. "Lord Ducant, welcome." Technically, as they were equals, they could have used first names with each other, but Benedict wasn't quite ready to give Declan Ducant the impression they were friends. "Please accept the hospitality of my House. You remember my daughter, Autumn."

On cue, Autumn executed a perfect courtesy, her eyes falling to the ground demurely, just as they were supposed to when addressing a lord. "Lord Ducant." She spoke softly, her voice a clear tone that would have lent itself well to a melody. "It is a pleasure and an honor to see you again."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Thu Jul 07, 2016 8:57 pm

"The pleasure is all mine, Lord Kyne. My dear," he said, taking Autumn's hand and kissing it.

He knew well the implication behind the way Benedict addressed him and returned it in kind. The two Houses rarely ever saw eye to eye and things along the border has always been tense between them. Lately, though, with the other Houses looming along the Ducant borders Declan has had to focus his attention elsewhere and an alliance with House Kyne would present the largest unified front in this sector of space.

"These are my children, Leland and Marcella and of course my youngest, Gaius," he continued, straightening up and then presenting his children with a half turn.

Marcella and Leland greeted both the Lord and Lady then Gaius stepped forward and took Autumn's hand. "My lady," he said with a bow, his tone and his demeanor betraying the same boredom that Autumn felt.

While Gaius has never outwardly appeared to be as ruthlessly cunning as his father he did possess a keen insight and sharp wit. He knew the way he addressed Autumn would irritate his father to no end and after he straightened up he had to resist the temptation to smirk. Out of the corner of his eye he caught his father giving him a sharp look but he didn't care. He wasn't going to dance to the beat of his father's drum.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Fri Jul 08, 2016 11:30 am

Autumn met Gaius's eyes briefly, giving him a slight nod beyond their formulaic greeting. Being neighboring Houses, she knew Marcella, Leland and Gaius better than many of her peers, Gaius seemed the least ruthless. Whether or not that was a good thing was something Autumn didn't quite have an opinion on, but it made him the most likeable at least.

Benedict smiled politely as they finished exchanging greetings, and waited while the House Ducant members moved on and the next in the stream of guests arrived.

It felt like an endless tirade of forced pleasantries and formalities to Autumn, but her smile did not falter. Finally, the last of the expected guests came and joined the party. There were around thirty invited guests as well as entourages, making for a sizeable gathering spread out among the Estate grounds and the dining area indoors.

As they were finally alone, Benedict turned to Autumn. "Go, join the party. Remember, you are available, but not inviting. Do not seek out anyone, let people come to you. Do not spend too long talking to any one person unless there is good reason. Pay attention to who is talking to who."

Autumn gave a nod to her father. "I understand." It took most of her self control to keep from saying something else that probably would have angered him.

"Very well. You may go."

Autumn gave a slight courtesy to her father and left his presence.

Available but uninviting. She could probably manage one of those.

Autumn walked slowly away from the main group of the party, out to the west garden, right on the fringe of a series of blue markers indicating the edge of the guest approved areas. She was far enough off the beaten path it was unlikely anyone would find her here unless they had seen her head in this direction, and she was close enough to the restricted area that she could simply walk across the line if she wanted to avoid someone.

Her father probably won't be happy about this when he heard, but for now, it bought her a little peace and quiet, at least until the meal began in a little while.

Not far away, Ghost watched Autumn Kyne's actions with interest. The Rebellion had a decent presence in House Kyne space, but had been keeping a very low profile there. Benedict Kyne was an honorable enough man, for a House Lord, and he may not been sympathetic to the Counter Movement, but he also hadn't been actively hostile. Current feelings were House Kyne would leave them alone as long as they didn't make trouble for House Kyne.

That was under Benedict's rule. Autumn Kyne, the direct successor to the House, was a wildcard. Common opinion was she was not mature enough to rule a House, and if her father was assassinated, she would either be bullied into submission by another House, or House Kyne would be carved by its neighbors and she would not be forceful enough to stop it.

Ghost wasn't entirely convinced. She may not have exhibited the savagery some of the other nobles had, but Benedict was a strong man, and likely pushed Autumn to be strong too. One way or another, he had a feeling she was a woman who would surprise more than one person before the Counter Movement had run its course. He snapped a few pictures of her with his holocam. Not because he needed them for any particular reason, but just because that's what he was supposed to be doing as a journalist.

He was cautious, however, because even though he had some credentials and an invite, he really didn't know anything about the etiquette of how he was supposed to behave at one of these gatherings.

Best to keep to the background.

He made a point of fussing with his camera as two Kyne Lancers walked past on a security patrol, their ceremonial silver armor gleaming in the exterior lights of the Estate. One of them looked at him for a moment before the two of them continued on their patrol.

A low profile was good. If things got dicey, there was pretty much a zero percent chance of escaping. He knew enough about these situations to know that if he so much as stepped into the restricted areas, he was liable to find himself stunned before they asked too many questions. He moved back towards the more populated areas, where he could blend in a little easier.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Fri Jul 08, 2016 12:52 pm

Lord Ducant said nothing as he and his family stepped away from the Kynes but Gaius could tell that his father was brimming. It wasn't until they were some distance away before Declan turned to Gaius with fire in his eyes. "I suppose you think that was amusing," he whispered sharply under his tongue, "You defy me in public knowing that I cannot retaliate without bringing more shame upon my house and you think this makes you brave? I assure you, boy, that your actions will have consequences."

Gaius looked away. He would have considered this an empty threat by his father but I knew that Lord Declan Ducant did not make empty threats. "If you want to kill me then kill me, father. Otherwise, I couldn't care less."

Declan's nostrils flared. "If I could name your brother as heir apparent I would but I'm stuck with you. Assuming, of course, I have no more children."

Leland may have been first born but he was not the heir to House Ducant for a very simple reason. House Ducant was not one House but two. They were joined together in marriage some years ago and Gaius was born of both Lord Ducant and the Lady Anson of House Anson making him the only legitimate heir to both territories in the eyes of their people. The people of House Anson would need too much convincing to loyally follow the son of Ducant's first wife and that convincing could potentially tear their two Houses apart.

Gaius for his part was well aware that his father meant what he said. So long as he was the only son he was safe but should his mother give birth to a second son then his only recourse was to escape with his life. At the moment, though, that seemed rather unlikely as both his parents were past their prime and the Lady Anson was practically barren. Ducant had been making that threat for years now knowing it would never bear fruit.

"Well, maybe some day you'll get lucky," Gaius said simply then he turned and deliberately walked away from his father heading into the crowd to mingle with the other guests.

Meanwhile Blake had wandered from one end of the room to the other. As he walked he feigned interest in the proceedings and even struck up a conversation with several of the guests but his eyes were not on the people in attendance but rather the security officers posting at each doorway and exit. He knew the dinner party was considered to be big news but he had little interest in it. The real story was somewhere on the other side of those blue markers.

He'd seen the trucks hauling pieces of the ship away from the estate but he knew the pilot was still somewhere inside the manor. If this person was alive then that would be one hell of a story. A possible visitor from outside the sector. No one from this region of the galaxy has had contact with the outside for many thousands of years. As the story was told their ancestors were an early space faring race. It is believed they traveled to this region of space in cryogensis over hundreds of years, maybe even thousands. In that time the rest of the galaxy could have been developing even further. What wonders they must have constructed, but he would never be able to confirm any of this if he couldn't get to the pilot.

As he finished his circle around the ballroom he frowned. Every exit was covered, even the one to the gardens. If he was going to make it into the restricted areas he wasn't going to be able to do it from here. With a sigh he headed towards the extravagant double doors opening out into the gardens. As he passed by a group of nobles one of them stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

"Excuse me," a well dressed man wearing the colors of House Vanray said, "but my champagne seems to have run dry. Could you grab me another.

"Not my job," Blake shot back at him with a hint of venom in his voice. Then he shook his shoulder free and kept walking, leaving a stunned Prince Vanray staring in his wake.

Outside the ballroom the air was quieter. There were a few gathered guests around enjoying the gardens but for the most part everyone was still inside. Security seemed to be lighter out here as well and with the ornately shaped hedges and trees everywhere this seemed like the best place to try and slip past security. He just needed to get somewhere quiet.

He lingered around the edges of the gardens observing the guests and the occasional Kyne Lancer. He had a fairly nice spot all picked out that would cover him from most of the prying eyes nearby. He waited until the last Lancer had passed him by before deciding now was as good a time as any. Turning quickly he stepped one foot out of the guest area before a hand suddenly shot out and grabbed him. Startled he turned to face his captor and was surprised to see Autumn staring back at him.

"A--Autumn," he said in surprise, "What are you doing here?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Fri Jul 08, 2016 4:59 pm

"What am I doing walking around the grounds of my own home?" She asked, with a cool hint of both sarcasm and humor. "A better question, Blake, would be what are you doing here, and why you were about two steps away from being shot." Her tone turned a touch more frosty. "Security is especially high, due to the accident, and just because you can't see the snipers on the roof doesn't mean they cannot see you."

As if to accent her point, two security personnel broke off from their patrol, heading directly towards the both of them. "Is everything alright, Princess Kyne?" The security officer's hand was hovering over his weapon, a fact that the man himself probably wasn't even conscious of.

Autumn gave the man a skeptical look. "Of course, corporal. Does it look like something is wrong?"

The corporal really had no answer to that question, as he looked back and forth between the two of them. "Sir, may I remind you that the blue lights indicate the edge of the authorized area for guests. Please stay within the guest areas for your own safety."

"You are dismissed, corporal." Autumn said sharply, causing the other man to blink in surprise. Even though Autumn wasn't actually part of the chain of command and technically he didn't answer to her, but he was smart enough to know one word from her could destroy anyone. She did not appear to be in distress, and the man was not actively trying anything that constitute a security threat, so he nodded.

"Yes, Princess. Good evening, sir."

The guards turned and made their way off, resuming their patrol.

Autumn turned back to Blake, her friend from older days. Her secret friend. Her friend that she took great pains not to be associated with. She couldn't even imagine what Ethan or her father's reaction would be if they learned she was communicating with a freelance journalist, but it wouldn't be good. In their eyes, he would be a security and information leak in need of plugging.

"Now. I know for a fact you did not receive an invitation to this party and, unless something has changed very recently, I know for a fact you are not a Guild member, despite that badge you are wearing, which means you are somewhere you should not be, pretending to be someone you are not. Do you want to try for an explanation?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Fri Jul 08, 2016 6:10 pm

Blake's heart skipped a beat when the security personnel appeared but thankfully Autumn's quick thinking had sent them off. He hadn't accounted for snipers on the roof and felt rather foolish for missing such an important detail. "You know, that 'shoot first and ask questions later' mentality is sort of why the Counter Movement hates you," he said sardonically, giving her a half smile.

Autumn fixed him a stern look and crossed her arms. "Right," he said, scratching the back of his head, "explanation. Well, um--that's sort've complicated."

"Then uncomplicate it," she told him and it was clear she wasn't going to let him go.

Blake let out an explosive sigh. "Okay, yeah you're right. I'm not a guild member and I didn't get an invite to this party. I just have a friend who's really good with computers."

"You forged your invitation," she asked her eyes widening.

Blake shook his head, "Well, no. Not exactly. The invitation I got the old fashioned way." He held up his hand. "Sticky fingers," he explained, "As for why I'm here...," He stopped and looked this and that making sure no one was paying them any attention. When he didn't see anyone he turned back to Autumn and lowered his voice even more. "How much do you know about that shuttle crash?"

He didn't need to wait for an answer, though. He could tell from the blank look in her eyes that she wasn't told much about it. Typical, the one thing you should be worrying about protecting and you keep her in the dark too, he grumbled to himself.

"Here," he said, pulling out his communicator. He loaded up the recording he took earlier and hit play and Autumn could hear the voice of Derek Jensen, one of the techs on the grounds.

"Sir, the engine," he said, "It's like nothing I've seen before. I don't even know where to start with this."

Blake hit stop then looked back at Autumn. "You're father is sitting on the biggest story of my career and he's trying to cover it up. Hell, he even tried to pin it on another House but I know that's not true. Autumn, that ship came from outside the sector and if I could just talk to the pilot I can prove it."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Fri Jul 08, 2016 8:26 pm

Autumn eyed her friend coldly for a moment, sorting through the various things he said and the various emotions they invoked. Blake had been her friend for a while, but friend or no friend, he was currently trespassing, telling her how much she was hated for (implicitly) being imperious and heavy handed, accusing her father of some kind of cover up, and asking (well, hinting) for help. Oh, and admitting to hacking into Kyne secure frequencies.

Without a doubt, Autumn didn't see eye to eye with Benedict. But that level of disagreement stopped short of what amounted to treason. Blake had dragged politics into their interaction, and his words hurt, if Autumn was being honest. The reminder that there was an entire rebellion out there that sought to do her harm was not a pleasant one, and Autumn couldn't help but take it a little personally.

"Look, you are on your little crusade for the next big story- fine. But there is nothing I can do to help you. I can guarantee you that I am being watched more closely than you are, so there's nothing that I could do without drawing attention to you. And if you get caught, not even my influence is likely to save you." She glanced around, making sure that they were still alone. A gentle sigh escaped her lips like steam as the fire and ice both drained from her demeanor. "Why are you doing this, Blake? You know that even if you succeed, the Correspondence Guild will either kill or censor you. They will not allow competition and you will have made two powerful enemies, and for what?"

Before Blake could reply, there was a rumbling sound as a low flying shuttle smoothly descended in the twilight sky on to the east landing pad. Autumn frowned lightly. All of the invited guests had either declined or already arrived, so who could this late arrival be?

**
"I look forward to the next generation of Vanray ships." Benedict was speaking to the Vanray representative, Prince Cestus Vanray. "House Kyne had been quite happy with our last purchase of Vanray fighters."

The young Vanray began to reply, but his reply was drowned out by the dark shuttle's arrival out of the sky, prompting a murmur of the assembled crowd of nobles. "My pardon." Benedict said to his guests within earshot. "I must attend to my fashionably late guest."

He stepped away from the crowd, Ethan materializing out of nowhere to step along side him.

"Who is this?"

"It is a representative from House Itthi. They commed mere moments ago requesting clearance. The Watch Commander prudently granted it."

Benedict grunted in surprise. "They came. And they even said they wouldn't." They both approached the base of the shuttle where an honor guard of officers had assembled, just in case."Thoughts?"

Ethan shook his head lightly. "House Itthi has always been unpredictable, although I must say, they are usually very driven to keep their word. It is unusual for them to declare their intentions and then move in a different direction. Certainly an odd situation, but I do not feel it is dangerous. House Itthi assassins operate on a very strict code of conduct, and would not strike if invited in as a guest. As to their motives, we will have to see what they reveal."

The ramp of the shuttle extended quickly, and just as quickly three figures strode down. The center figure wore a black cloak over top a deep purple highlighted outfit, and bore the emblem of House Itthi on an arm band as well as a stylized hawk. He moved with quick, fluid motions, almost as if every action was impossibly preplanned and rehearsed.

"Lord Kyne. I do apologize for the method of my arrival." The three figures bowed, the man in the center standing while the other two remained on their knees. Benedict noted that they were younger, a male and a female, and were both shaved bald. Not quite young enough to be his children, but not old enough to be escorts. "I am Prince Omyr Vos Itthi, and on behalf of House Itthi, we extend our apologies for the miscommunication concerning our attendance, and our deepest gratitude for your invitation. My only regret is that my father was unable to attend in person."

Benedict nodded graciously. "Be welcomed to House Kyne. I apologize also that I was not more ready to greet you and that my daughter is not here to greet you, but your arrival was quite surprising, albeit pleasantly so. Please, walk with me and I escort you to where you can find refreshments."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Fri Jul 08, 2016 9:12 pm

Blake didn't even blink as the shuttle was touching down. Instead he stood his ground against Autumn. "This isn't just a crusade for the next big story, Autumn," he told her sharply, "Secrets got my father killed and they have no right to keep them from us."

By 'they' he of course meant Benedict and the other Lords but even as he spoke a small part of him realized that it also included Autumn. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as his frustration faded. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, looking at her again as his edges softened, "I didn't even think this through and worst of all I hadn't considered how it might affect you. I know Lord Kyne is your father and me being here puts you in a difficult position so maybe I should just go. As much as I value the truth I value your friendship more."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sat Jul 09, 2016 9:09 am

Autumn reached out, gripping his arm lightly. "Look... Just be patient. Give me a few days to look into this. And if there is something to your story, I will let you know." She could tell that he wasn't entirely satisfied with that, but also understood that it was likely to be the best he could hope for. She squeezed his arm again and then let go.

"I was thinking just the other day about the gang." A wistful expression came over her face. "We had some good times. I am amazed we did not get in more trouble than we did. Have you crossed paths with any of the others recently?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sat Jul 09, 2016 11:14 am

Blake smiled at her. He'd had more chances to keep up with the old gang, obviously, and he tried to whenever he could but life sometimes got in the way.

"As often as possible," he told her, "We all miss you."

Meanwhile, through a window in one of the upper floors, Felicity watched the gathering from her hospital bed. The nurse had long ago returned with her glass of water and showed her how to raise and lower the bed so she could sit up. Outside in the garden she could see groups of nobles quietly conversing. Everyone seemed to be so beautifully dressed and for a moment she wondered who they were. She'd never seen a gathering like this on Ord Mantell but she'd heard that celebrations like this happened all the time on Coruscant.

"I wonder what they're celebrating," she asked aloud to no one in particular.

Back at the party Gaius had finally wandered far enough away from his father to lose his temper. Like the rest of the guests he'd seen the shuttle land earlier but unlike the others he didn't care much about the proceedings to be interested. That is until Benedict came back to the party leading Prince Itthi.

Gaius hadn't seen any of the Itthi nobles in person, for which he could count his blessings, but he was familiar with what they looked like. They had a reputation for being enigmatic and aloof, which made their presence here even more surprising.

Gaius considered getting closer to try and listen in but before he could someone else got his attention. "Ah, young Prince, how is life treating you," Prince Cestus Vanray asked.

"Everything's been great, my Prince," he said with a polite bow, "It's kind of you to ask."

He was hoping that would be the end of it but no such luck. Prince Vanray continued to hound him with small talk as Benedict and Omyr walked past and on to the refreshment table. Gaius watched them as they went but remembering to mind his manners he stayed where he was.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sun Jul 10, 2016 7:49 am

Autumn's wistful smile grew slight. "Maybe... Maybe someday soon we can get back together. A reunion of sorts." She waved the thought off almost as soon as she had it. No, that could never happen, she was just fooling herself.

"Anyway, you have been marked by security, since they saw you approach the boundary. You might as well have a few drinks and leave when you see other people leaving. I wouldn't try to leave on your own, that will just make you seem more suspicious. I need to get back before my father realizes I have not been socializing enough."

She gave him one last fleeting smile, then moved back towards the party, which was slowly beginning to shift indoors as daylight was dying completely.

**
Benedict spent a few moments conversing with Omyr, a conversation that was polite, proper and completely uninformative. Not that Benedict expected to get much of an answer regarding the enigmatic prince's real reason for being here, but he had hoped to at least narrow it down. No such fortune, however, as the Itthi noble was as opaque as always, accepting refreshments and engaging in the conversation while seeming to have his attention elsewhere.

"Well young prince, I will leave you to enjoy the party. I must attend to my other guests, but perhaps we will speak more later."

"Of course, Lord Kyne. Until later."

The two parted company, Omyr remaining near the refreshment table while Benedict found his way of to Lord Ducant, the next person on his mental list of people to talk to.

"Lord Ducant. Thank you for coming this evening. I trust everything is to your liking?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Mon Jul 11, 2016 9:56 am

"Ah, Lord Kyne," Ducant replied, "Yes, everything is perfect. Clearly you have spared no expense."

Now if my son would just do what he's told, he grumbled to himself. "I must say," he continued, "your daughter is looking lovely today."

Outside Blake watched as Autumn left. He didn't like the idea of leaving so soon, especially without finding anything out about the pilot, but he didn't have much choice. He underestimated Kyne security tonight which was a foolish mistake. So with nothing else left to do he took Autumn's advice, grabbed a couple of drinks and ducked out of the party as soon as he saw someone leaving.

Across the room Gaius watched as Autumn entered the ballroom again. He considered approaching her if only to say hello but almost as soon as she came back in she was approached by several other eligible bachelors. He watched their feeble attempts to court her for a moment then opted to stay away for now. So instead he headed over to the refreshments table to refill his drink.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Mon Jul 11, 2016 10:04 pm

Benedict gave an approving nod at Ducant's comment. "Yes, she is the jewel of House Kyne, and every bit as strong willed as her mother. She will make a fine Lady of House Kyne someday... Or a fine wife to some Lord." Benedict took a sip from his glass, leaving any implications of his words unspoken. "Forgive me for my ignorance of your family, but Gaius is the heir-apparent despite not being the oldest of your children, is he not?"

**

A short distance away, Autumn found herself entangled in banal small talk Prince Yiande of House Borrocor, fervently wishing she were anywhere else. Not that escape was possible: even if she got away, there were literally people waiting to talk to her.

House Borrocor called a series of harsh mining planets to be their collective home, which had made them incredibly rich as well as tough from the hostile environments of their homes. While the Lord Borrocor was of course spared the difficulties of the intense heat, high gravity, and violent winds of their home worlds, the Princes of Borrocor, all five of them, were apparently not spared such hardships.

Yiande was the heir-apparent, and was a stocky collection of muscles, scars and bloody rumors. House Borrocor was well known for their love of blood sport, brutal hand to hand combat, and fighting of any kind.

Charming was not the word Autumn would have used to describe him. Monstrous and slightly frightening would have been more accurate adjectives, although she could not deny that he was an impressive specimen up close. He was not particularly tall, maybe 5'11", but his shoulders were broad, his hands like muscled shovels. She did not doubt that he could literally rip her apart if he so chose.

"I faced my fiftieth slave in the Gladiator Pit just yesterday." Yiande was telling story after story of carnage, undoubtedly as a means of impressing her. And, while it certainly did make an impression on her, she did not feel she was quite feeling what he hoped she was feeling.

"That is impressive, Prince Yiande." She knew her part to play, and she played it as she was told, her tutor's voice still ringing in her ears "you are the honey that baits the trap. Make them want more, but never give more. And after they have exhausted themselves chasing that bait, they won't even realize the trap has sprung".

As much as she might not have liked it, she knew it was her destiny. She was determined, however, that it was a destiny she would not take with her eyes closed.

"Yes, the little pike managed to get me a few times with his dueling knife, but when I broken his arm, you should have seen that smug look drain off of his face. And when I was crushing his throat... Oh, you should have seen the look in his eyes." Yiande was smiling, obviously quite pleased even at the memory of killing someone in such a personal manner.

Autumn stared at him unblinkingly. "And what happened next?"

Yiande was slightly taken aback by that. "What do you mean?"

"What happened next? Did you take a trophy? An ear perhaps, for your collection?"

The Prince thought about that seriously for a moment, missing the subtle barb of her question. "No, no trophy. There is no honor in killing convicted slaves, there is only practice at the art of combat."

**
Omyr stood stoically by the refreshment table with a drink in his hand, his eyes riveted on Autumn. He turned slightly as a man from House Ducant approached the table, giving the approaching man a faint bow. "Good evening." He said absently, his attention drawn off momentarily as an unusual moment in the crowd caught his eye. When he tried to find what the strange motion was he had half seen, his eyes could not find anything amiss.

Reluctantly, he turned his attention back to the man who was near him. "Are you having a good evening?" He asked politely, taking the smallest sip from his drink.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:51 am

Ducant bristled at the question but tried his best not to let his ire show through in his expression. "Ah yes, that is true. Some time ago I married Lady Anson and joined or two Houses together. Gaius was birthed of that union and in a unique position to be the only legitimate heir to both houses."

A fact he wouldn't have minded so much if Gaius hadn't taken after his mother. He had her stubbornness and shared in her idealism and as a ruler of a noble House idealism only got in the way. He tried to teach the kid to be more like his son but unfortunately failed in every way imaginable.

**********

Gaius was caught completely off guard when Prince Itthi addressed. It took him a moment to regain his composure and he simply shrugged. "Yeah, I guess," he said, "If you ignore the false platitudes, the posturing and feeble attempts to impress the only eligible bachelorette here."

Then he remembered himself. "I'm sorry, Prince Itthi," he apologized, "I spoke out of turn."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Tue Jul 12, 2016 9:43 am

Benedict nodded in response. "Ah yes, of course. I must commend you on your responses to House Anson territories in the wake of Lady Anson's death. I do recall there was quite a bit of turmoil when she first passed away, but you seem to have been able to quell that unrest quite effectively." It was a bit of history, as it had been many years since Anson's demise, but few would turn down a compliment simply because it was not timely.

**
The Itthi Prince did not speak for a long beat, but took another sip of his drink before replying. "Are you apologizing for speaking truth, or for speaking when it was not your turn?" The way in which he asked the question gave it a rhetorical ring, one that did not really need to be answered. After another contemplative sip, he continued speaking. "Do you not think she is worth trying to impress? I do not know her personally, but she is quite beautiful. She seems intelligent, and charming. Do those qualities not interest you?"
Last edited by Xalsin on Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:18 am

"Ah yes, well I appreciate the compliment, my Lord, but enough about me, I think," Ducant replied. He was getting weary of playing this game. Not that he didn't appreciate the compliment. "Tell me about this meteorite or shuttle or whatever that crashed into your estate. If you believe another House was responsible I would gladly lend any assistance in the investigation should you need it."

**********

Gaius blushed and looked away. Of course those qualities interested him. How could they not? "It's not that," he said, "My father asked--no told me to court her and because it's my father..." He left the rest hanging in the air.

"Besides," he continued, "it wouldn't mean anything anyway. It's just part of the game and she's playing it too. You think she's actually interested in whatever they're talking about," he asked pointing at Autumn and Yiande. "Marriage for an alliance that's all it is."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Thu Jul 14, 2016 5:19 pm

Benedict waved the question away. "A trifle with a derelict ship. It was determined that allowing it to impact would be less damaging than fragmenting it above a city. The investigation behind who, if anyone, was behind it is ongoing but well in hand. Thank you for your offer, and I will certainly accept it if House Kyne reaches the end of its resources without success."

As his eyes wandered the room, he saw Autumn speaking with the Prince Borrocor, looking politely interested in whatever the man was saying. Frankly, Benedict doubted anything the savage of Borrocor had to say was that interesting, but Autumn knew her part to play.

More surprising, he noted that Gaius Ducant was standing by the refreshment table, speaking the Itthi Prince. That was an interaction he hadn't expected to see. He wondered briefly if there was a relationship between Ducant and Itthi. It was worth testing the waters of the topic.

"I see your son has some unconventional company. Have you seen the Lord Itthi recently? Last I heard, he was looking quite frail in his old age."

**

Omyr studied the side of Gaius's face for a moment before speaking with a very small smile. "I find that you are quite unusual among your noble peers, Prince Ducant. You act jealous that there are others who would seek to court the desirable Autumn Kyne, despite the fact that you have orders to do. You refuse those orders simply because the orders came from your father. So you deny what you seem to want, for the sake of denying your father what he wants. Perhaps not so unusual, familial relationships are often strained and complicated, but I do find your honesty about the topic to unusual and refreshing."

He looked back at Autumn and Yiande, the latter who had begun to crowd a little closer to Autumn. Autumn was beginning to look a little uncomfortable with his proximity, which Yiande either hadn't noticed, or hadn't cared about.

"I offer you this question to provoke thought on the subject." Omyr's eyes were riveted to Yiande, watching every moment the man made with a hawk like intensity even as he spoke to the man next to him. "Marriage is a matter of alliance, made most often by the lord or lady of the house. Yet despite this, the potential suitors still try their hand. Why would they try to impress her to make a decision she does not have the power to make?"

The drink had finally gotten to Yiande's head, or at least his hand. He reached down to put a large hand on Autumn's hip, only to have it slapped aside by her.

Everyone in the immediate area stopped talking, waiting to see what would be the reaction to Yiande's faux pas violation of Autumn's personal space.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Jul 17, 2016 12:37 am

Declan gave Benedict a sidelong glance trying to decide just what information the man was fishing for. Gaius speaking to Prince Itthi was as much a surprise to him as it was to Benedict. Now it would appear that Benedict has had a notion that there's probably some history there or some kind of relationship. That wasn't the case, of course, House Itthi had a reputation for being notoriously recluse. Still, would it benefit House Ducant right now for Declan to imply that maybe there is actually something there?

"If that is what you believe," Declan replied thoughtfully. "It would explain why the Lord Itthi is not here. Assuming, of course, there is no other reason."

A vague answer seemed like the right approach. Having never met the man himself there was no way for him to be sure what Benedict was saying was true and if he had guessed wrong then Benedict would catch him in a lie. The best way to avoid a trap was simply to not take the bait.

"It's interesting, though, that they're even here at all. They must hold you in very high regard indeed."

**********

"Maybe because they're idiots," Gaius replied, also watching Autumn, "Maybe my father's an idiot for ordering me to do the same, I don't know."

He didn't quite understand what Prince Itthi was trying to get at, not that it mattered much in the end. Gaius saw the same thing Omyr did and a burning rage swelled up inside of him. "Maybe I'm just an idiot," he said as he set his drink down on the table and started to walk towards Autumn. "Please excuse me, Prince Itthi," he threw back over his shoulder before disappearing into the crowd.

Gaius worked his way closer to Autumn and Yiande. Everyone around them had fallen completely silently as they waited and watched for anything to happen. Yiande looked furious and as he started to raise his hand Gaius grabbed him by the wrist.

"I think you've had enough to drink, my Prince. Perhaps some water instead," he asked and as he spoke he looked directly into Yiande's eyes. His gaze fearless in return in spite of the fact that Yiande was twice as big as him.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sun Jul 17, 2016 6:37 pm

Benedict gave a half chuckle, mostly to provide a half beat for him to decide what to say. There didn't seem to be any gain in faking a relationship with the Itthi, which were fairly distrusted to begin with. "I doubt regard enters much into their motivations. No, I imagine their reasons for being here are much more esoteric and obscure then simply a show of respect."

He paused as there appeared to be a mild disturbance from the far side of the large foyer where most of the guests were congregated. There were enough people blocking his line of sight that he couldn't quite make out what was going on, but he catch a glimpse of Gaius powering through the onlookers, arriving to whatever was the center of attention.

A short distance away, Autumn took a couple of cautious steps back even as Yiande glared at Gaius with equal parts incredulousness and fire in his eyes.

"How dare you put your hands on me." He growled at the smaller man, completely overlooking the fact that he had just been trying to get his hands on someone else. The man knotted his fists, but stopped short of striking Gaius. He might not have been the brightest of nobles, but he knew there were rules, and striking Gaius would be a step past those rules.

Instead, he put one hand on Gaius's chest, giving the other man a stiff shove. There was enough muscle behind the push that the unprepared or the weak could have found themselves floored by the sheer force of his arm.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Jul 17, 2016 6:47 pm

Gaius was half expecting the Borrocor Prince to try and slug him. Hand to hand wasn't exactly his forte but he was no slouch in a fight. He could handle himself well with a sword and was trained by his father's staff to be a warrior. Still, though, the force of Yiande's shove forced him back a step or two in spite of Gaius' attempt to brace against it.

Now that the commotion was over the gathered nobles seemed to lose interest in the fight. Finally, Gaius turned to look at Autumn and bowed his head with respect. "I apologize, my Lady, for the commotion I've caused."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Mon Jul 18, 2016 9:55 pm

Autumn opened her mouth to speak, but Yiande apparently still had a few words to say. "This is not over between us." He growled at Gaius, stepping closer to the other man. "I declare a Feud with Gaius Ducant until my honor is appeased."

His voice was low, carrying only to a few people in the immediate area hearing his declaration, but it was enough to warrant a few surprised murmurs. A Feud wasn't as bad as declaring war or hostilities, but by ancient tradition, meant that Gaius Ducant, and by extension House Ducant, would be honor bound to meet with House Borrocor to resolve the feud. Most often, feuds would be distilled down to a duel or an exchange of goods to smooth things over, provided both sides proved cooperative in bringing the Feud to an end.

Yiande glanced around the room and noticed Benedict Kyne looking in his direction. Not wanting to draw the attention or the ire of the Lord, he gave Gaius one last sneer and left the man's company.

Autumn watched him go until she was convinced he was not returning, then looked back to Gaius. "And I apologize to you, for having to endure such a slight when it was my honor you were defending." Her eyes searched the face of her peer, assessing him. He seemed a little rattled, though whether that was from trying to restrain himself fighting the other man or fear of the Borrocor prince, she couldn't be sure.

Either way, people were looking at him, and it seemed like getting him out of the public eye long enough for them to forget him was a good idea. "Let us step out into the terrace. The fresh air will do you some good."

They walked together out a set of large paned doors on to the stone terrace by the gardens. Once they were away from the crowd, Autumn looked again at Gaius. "Are you alright?" She asked, her speech taking a bit more of an informal ring.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Mon Jul 18, 2016 11:52 pm

Gaius' whole body shook with barely contained rage. Not only had Yiande offended the honor of Lady Autumn he had the gall to issue a formal challenge during a dinner party hosted by a neighboring Lord. Honestly, though, he should not have expected much from House Borrocor. From what he'd seen of the sons of Lord Borrocor it appeared as though they were little more than muscle bound freaks. It probably hadn't even occurred to Yiande the insult he had incurred upon House Kyne.

"Let us step out into the terrace. The fresh air will do you some good," Autumn said suddenly and the sound of her voice drew him back to the present. Wordlessly he nodded and then followed Autumn outside. From across the ballroom Lord Declan Ducant watched his son with an approving eye.

They walked a ways from the party out onto the stone terrace. After they had walked far enough Autumn turned back to Gaius and had asked if he was alright. "I'm fine," he said, "Really, I should be asking you that question. That lecherous filth tried to put his hands on you."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Tue Jul 19, 2016 6:58 am

Autumn gave a sharp exhale to show her contempt. "He is a man who speaks and acts without thinking. I am fine and I have endured worse advances, as unlikely as that would seem."

They found themselves in front of a trickling fountain which was part of a raised garden on the edge of the terrace. The moon was slowly cresting the horizon, adding a bluish tinged light to the scene, which was otherwise lit only by many subdued exterior lights. Further out on the Kynes grounds, Autumn caught movement, probably of a roving patrol sweeping across their route. She turned her attention back to Gaius.

"I have not seen you in quite some time. Is everything well with your family?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Tue Jul 19, 2016 2:33 pm

"Uh, yeah. More or less," he replied. His tone sounded flat and withdrawn. He'd finally separated Autumn from her would be suitors and the first thing she asks about was his family. The last thing he wanted to talk about was how he had to keep constant vigil over his shoulder in the off chance either his brother or father tried to kill him.

Then there was the turmoil a short while ago following his mother's death. Another thing he didn't feel like talking about. "What about you," he asked suddenly, hoping to draw the conversation away from his family, "It's been awhile since we were last in the same room together. We barely had a chance to speak back then."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Fri Jul 22, 2016 7:33 am

It was an odd moment, perhaps even a defining moment. Autumn paused, looking up at the night sky as the distant lights of a ship could be seen moving though thin wisps of clouds.

She could tell he was not interested in talking about family matters, politics, and the other conversation topics that were the normal territory for two nobles to speak of. So, her choice was simple: offer blithe responses and carry on yet another meaningless and bland exchange of words which would end in a handful of minutes, or perhaps, just maybe, it was possible to have real conversation with maybe just a slice of real honesty to it. The latter was risky, the former boring.

Autumn let a slow breath escape her lips.

"Family life is as it always is: ever tangled with politics, expectations, meetings, training, and disapproval." Her tone took an ever so slight mocking ring. "Since last we were in each other's company, I have learned every exceptionally important detail of the planet Reykue and it's importance to House Kyne, I have learned to dance all seven stanzas of Kyne Eddek Motninerra in order to show my physical prowess at the Harvest Festival in two months' time, and I have endured more history lessons than I believe there is actual history to learn."

She shook her head lightly, causing the two beaded strands of hair that were not part of her elaborate bun to sway, and her eyes strayed off over the moonlit grounds of the estate.

"I remember one time when we were children, must have been no more than six or seven, and you had come to visit." There was a faint smile on her lips even as her eyes unfocused to better see the image of that bright lit summer day. "There had been a massive rainstorm the day before and there was a huge mud puddle out on the grounds."

She pointed out near a small copse of hedges. "I think it was right over there. It must not have been that big, but I remember thinking it looked like a lake of mud at the time. My father was irate. Livid even. I'm not even sure if I convinced you to jump in, or visa versa, but we were both covered by the end. I don't think my father let me see you again for about three years after that."

The Kyne noble shook her head again. "The funny part was, I thought my father was mad about the mud and my ruined cloths. In truth, though, I think he was mad about the potential that we could have turned into friends, because our friendship would have effected the politics between our Houses."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Fri Jul 22, 2016 7:15 pm

Gaius was surprised, he half expected her to play the game with him but what she said next actually sounded genuine. He smiled slightly. "Yeah, my father gave me a lashing for that too," he said, "Makes me wish we could go back and do it again but as different people. Maybe then we could have actually been friends."

He was half tempted to suggest that maybe they could become friends now, but even Gaius Ducant had to adhere to propriety. Such a request of the Lady of House Kyne would have been too bold considering the political state that existed between their two Houses. They could very well be friends today and become enemies tomorrow.

"It's unfair, isn't it? The things they expect of us. For two children to be held apart because of something like that...," his words trailed off into nothing. "Maybe we'd have been better off if the nobility never existed," he said again after a moment of silence, "It would have been nice to know what having a real friend was like. Someone who wouldn't treat me differently just because I was born into a higher station."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sat Jul 23, 2016 12:27 pm

"It is a high responsibility, to wear the mantle of nobility." Autumn spoke, realizing that she was repeating rhetoric that she had heard countless times in her lifetime. "We make decisions that effect millions of people and alter the course of history." She exhaled slightly, looking back to Gaius. "I guess things like friendship and personal happiness tend to take a lower priority when everything is put in perspective."

At the sound of the exterior door opening, she turned her head, half expecting to see Ethan or one of her father's other cronies. Instead there was simply a man there, wearing a badge identifying him as a Correspondence Guild member.

There was a brief pause has the man stalled in the threshold of the door, obviously surprised to find people out lingering the dim garden. He was silhouetted by the bright lights of the interior, but Autumn couldn't shake a sense of familiarity about him even though she couldn't see his features clearly.

Finally, the man spoke. "I apologize, sir, miss. I am obviously intruding on a private conversation." After speaking brusquely, he turned to leave abruptly but Autumn called out to him.

"Wait."

The man froze, half turned away from her. He did not turn back to face them.

"You look familiar, have we spoken before?" She asked, her tone somewhere between curiosity and suspicion. While she didn't get a sense of hostility concerning him, there was something about his behavior which set her on edge.

The Guild member hesitated. A classic hint of deception. "I do not believe so, miss. I have done much work in Kyne territories, so it is possible we have seen each other. Please excuse me, I was just on my way to meet the House Vanray delegate. My apologies." He turned quickly, reentering the estate and shutting the doors behind him.

Autumn watched him go for a moment before turning her attention back to Gaius. "And my apologies to you. Guild members can be quite a nuisance." She spoke, not offering any explanation for her suspicion. Honestly, she wasn't even sure herself, other than the fact that he looked like someone she used to know.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sat Jul 23, 2016 5:06 pm

"It's alright," he said. He didn't think it the least bit strange that Autumn might have known him. As Prince of House Ducant he had many run ins with reporters from the Correspondence Guild himself, though he couldn't say for sure if he could remember their faces. "My father has his go to reporters," he continued, "Maybe your father does the same?"

Autumn thought about that trying to decide if that man had been to the Kyne Estate before, but she wasn't sure. She was about to shake her head and change the subject when the door to the gardens opened up again. This time an aide wearing the colors of House Kyne came out and walked directly over to them.

"I'm sorry for the interruption, Lady Kyne, Prince Ducant," he said with a bow of his head to each of them, "but I have a message for the Prince."

"Go ahead," Gaius told him, wondering what it could be about.

"Forgive me, my Prince, but it appears there's been an incident with your Uncle." An incident with his uncle? Gaius' face turned stark white. Of all of his extended family members his Uncle was one of the few he truly cared for and could confide in. For something to happen to him... He refused to think about it. "Your father's delegation is making preparations to depart," the aide continue, "and he has requested your presence immediately."

"Ah, yes. Right away," Gaius replied absently. His mind was still reeling from the shock. What could have happened? Was it an attack? He shook his head to try and clear it then turned to Autumn. "I'm sorry, but I must go. Thank you for your hospitality tonight," he said with a bow.

Autumn curtsied in return, "Of course."

Then Gaius turned and followed the aide back inside. The aide escorted him through the crowd to where is father was standing with Benedict Kyne. "I apologize for our sudden departure, Lord Kyne," Declan was saying, "Perhaps someday soon I shall return the favor and invite you and your family to my holdings for a special gathering."

"Perhaps," Benedict answered with a slight nod of his head.

Declan turned then to face his son as he and the aide walked up to him. "Come, Gaius," he said simply before turning on his heel and heading for the exit towards his shuttle.

Gaius hurried after him and fell into pace beside his father. "What's going on? What happened to my Uncle?"

"Not here, boy," Declan said sharply and Gaius ground his teeth together. They met up with Leland and Marcella at the exit and boarded the shuttle together. It wasn't until they were well underway that Gaius had learned the events that had transpired.

"It seems my brother's transport has crashed during his crossing over the mountains," his father explained, "He's being cared for now but is in critical condition. The doctors tell me we'll know more by the time we arrive."

"Crashed? How," Gaius asked in surprise.

Declan merely shrugged, "At this point it looks like engine failure, but there is very little we know about the situation."

Engine failure? That didn't seem very likely. Gaius' Uncle has made the crossing from his holdings in the north to Gaius' family home in the south a thousand times before and something like this has never happened. A deliberate attack on his uncle, however, seemed even less likely. He was no more placed to usurp the throne of House Ducant than Leland. He was fourth in line for the throne and as far as Gaius knew no one stood to gain anything by killing him.

He mussed up his hair in frustration and stared out the window into space. Whatever the reason he couldn't help but shake the feeling that somehow his father was behind it...

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