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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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Tue Aug 02, 2016 11:54 pm

"As you wish, my Lord, I shan't mention it again," Prince Darien said with another bow then he turned and left the room.

A clever story, he thought to himself, even if the rumor turned out to be true Mr. Orssen would still deny it. Either way there would be enough doubt to make it appear as though House Rosario was simply trying to discredit him, or discredit House Kyne. Either way would not be favorable for him or his House. Quite the clever net, he thought. He had to wonder who this girl was that the Lord Kyne would protect her so.

A short while later he and his envoy boarded their shuttle and prepared to depart. His personal body double, a man named Kal Droha, and his Chamberlain, Caleb Schaffre were waiting for him. "I take it the negotiations went poorly," Caleb asked as Darien walked up the boarding ramp of the shuttle.

"That sounds about right," he said then he pointed at two of his personal guard, "You two, take my cousin downstairs and give him the royal treatment."

Kyle's face went completely pale. "Cousin, please! I'm sorry," he cried but Darien was done listening. The two guards beat him then dragged him below decks.

Darien turned to Kal. "As it turns out this may not be a complete loss. It appears that Lord Kyne is keeping a secret. A young girl he claims is the illegitimate daughter of Taylar Orssen."

Caleb looked confused. "I was not aware that Mr. Orssen had a daughter."

"Exactly," Darien replied then he looked to Kal again and said, "I need you to stay here and find out what you can about the girl."

"Of course, my Lord," Kal answered and immediately after he spoke the Clawdite's face changed completely to that of a young woman. To complete the disguise his clothing also changed to match that of the uniforms usually worn by servants of House Kyne. "I'll report back to you as soon as I am able," the young woman said.

She headed down the ramp back onto the Kyne Estate. That disguise would be enough to get her past Kyne security and once inside she would be able to morph into anyone to hide her identity. Darien was lucky to land such an effective spy. Kal was a Clawdite who came from outside the Sector. He was originally one of several refugees escaping something they called the First Order. Darien had allowed them refuge in House Rosario territory but in return they were pressed into service. The work was rough and not all of them made it, but once Darien had learned of Kal's abilities he didn't much care about the others. He offered Kal a position on his staff and a way out of the salt mine by proving his loyalty. All he had to do was kill the last two remaining refugees from the known galaxy. The last two people who knew what Kal was capable of. He did so without hesitation and has been a loyal servant ever since.

Finally, Darien turned to Caleb. "I need you to funnel a sizable sum from my cousin's account to House Kyne. I also need you to draw up a formal apology for the unsolicited attack on one of House Kyne's servants to be signed by my father."

Caleb nodded, that explained the brutal mistreatment of the Prince's cousin. "Is there anything else you would ask of me, my Lord?"

"No, that is all for now. Should the Lord Kyne attempt to contact us let me know," he said and then he headed for the aft of the yacht where his personal lodgings were located.

**********

It was later that evening when Lyra Reese, the young maid who had been brutally attacked by Kyle Rosario, heard a knock on her door. At first she was hesitant to answer but the knock came again and then again after several moments had passed. Finally, she got up from her bed and crossed the room to open the door. On the other side of it, much to her surprise, was the girl who had saved her from before.

"Felicity! What are you doing here?"

"I heard from the cook you weren't at dinner," she said, "So I brought you something."

She held out a plate of warm food and offered it to her. "I don't know how hot it is," she apologized, "I sort of had to ask the matron which room was yours."

Lyra took the plate then walked over to a nearby table and set it down. "I don't understand," she said quietly, "You've done so much for me and I don't even know you. Why?"

"Why not," Felicity asked and then she walked over to her and looked her in the eyes, "No seriously, why not? If you see someone hurting isn't helping them the right thing to do?"

Lyra was still not convinced. She still felt like Felicity was trying to do too much. "But, he would have hurt you too. Why risk yourself for me?"

Felicity smiled, "Because I wanted to."

She pulled out a chair and helped Lyra into it. "I didn't have much growing up. Not many of us did, but what little we had we shared with each other. People helping people, that's how we got by. I might be in a new place now but that part of me is still the same. Now go on! Eat before it gets cold," she told her and then she thought about that and corrected herself, "Well, colder."

Lyra smiled at her which caused her some discomfort but she set that aside for the moment. "I don't think I've ever met anyone like you, Felicity Orssen. You're very--unique."

Felicity made a sour face. "Yeah, well try explaining that to Rilan. I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm just a waste of space."

Lyra's sudden laugh nearly caused her to choke on her food and her throbbing cheek made her immediately regret it.

"Are you alright," Felicity asked.

Lyra nodded while rubbing her bruised cheek. "I'm okay, thank you."

"That's good," Felicity said, "Well, I better go but I'll be back to check on you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay," Lyra answered and then the strange girl was gone. Out the door and down the hall.

Outside Felicity decided to take a 'shortcut' through the gardens on her way to the guest wing. She'd been cooped up inside all day making up for the time she lost this morning when she missed Rilan's first lesson and a short walk through the gardens seemed like just the thing to clear her aching mind. Halfway through the garden she stopped at the pond and sat down at the water's edge. By now all of the damage from the crash had been repaired and the garden was fully restored but even so she could still imagine herself sitting in the cockpit of that two-man shuttle watching the ground rising up towards her. She remembered how scared she was and how she thought she was going to die and then she could remember nothing at all. It was almost like she had died until Ethan woke her up on a hospital bed.

She shook the images from her mind then leaned back and gazed up at the stars. Her thoughts lingered on the incident that occurred that morning and on the words Prince Darien had spoken to her. He said that touching a noble without permission sometimes led to death. Is that what life is like here? She'd noticed a bit of tension among the servants when in the presence of a noble but she never thought much of it. House Kyne's servants were treated fairly well and Felicity had thought that was the norm, but what if it wasn't? What if House Kyne was the exception? That thought left a sour note in her mouth. The idea that there were so many people out there being marginalized and beaten. It was worse than what she'd experienced on Ord Mantell.

Maybe I'm wrong, she thought to herself and she leaned back and placed her hands under her head as she stared up at the sky...

**********

A small crowd had gathered in the courtyard of the palace as Gaius faced off against his brother. It was just like his father to turn this into a spectacle. He tried to push his anger aside for a moment and concentrate on the impending fight. He did a few quick calisthenics to relax his body then grabbed the hilt of the sword a nearby servant had offered him. He drew it from the scabbard slowly and deliberately listening to the sound it made and using that to focus his mind. This was his element, he had fought hard in the arena to get to where he was at and his brother would not take that from him.

Leland stood on the other side of the makeshift circle next to Lady Seraphine. He was just finishing putting on the last of his safety gear and strapping it down tightly. Then he drew the sword Marcella held for him and tested its weight. He did a few flourishes followed by a stab and then a bow to the cheers of those assembled. Gaius scowled at him from under his helmet. He was already behaving like he had won.

"Ready Gaius," Leland asked.

"First to three," he said and then he raised his sword into guard position and move towards him.

They stood there assessing each other for a moment then Gaius made the first move. Their blades clashed in a quick series of feints and jabs as they tested each other's defenses. As always Gaius was the aggressor in the fight, but there was something odd about his movements. Lady Seraphine was easily able to pick up on a slight hesitation he had never shown in any of his bouts. In Gaius' mind the reason for his hesitation was simple. He'd never beaten his brother before. Leland was the one who instructed him, as such he was well aware of his flaws and habits. That hesitation led to Leland punching a hole in Gaius' defenses and scoring a hit.

"You're getting slower, little brother, or is that fear I sense instead?"

Gaius lunged at him then, attacking furiously with his blade. He let his anger control him which is exactly what Leland had wanted. This left Gaius' guard wide open which Leland managed to exploit. First he parried all of Gaius' attacks and when the younger man over extended himself Leland made him pay for it by swatting his blade aside and scoring another hit.

"Same old Gaius, quick to act not quick to think," Leland taunted him.

Gaius took a step back and tried to focus. He was now one point away from a clean sweep. After he had collected himself again he raised his sword into guard to signal he was ready. This time when the two clashed Gaius' movements were measured, calculated and precise. He let Leland dictate the flow of the fight and when he felt confident of his victory Gaius pulled the wool over his eyes, twisting his blade around the edge of his brother's and then scoring a hit on Leland's wrist. The score was now two to one and Gaius was far from finished.

"A lucky hit," Leland said and there was an edge to his tone. Gaius had surprised him, he thought this was going to be an easy win.

"The fight's not over yet, brother," Gaius told him and the two joined swords again.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:14 pm

Benedict sat behind his desk, staring at Ethan, who was reading over the datapad provided by Darien. "Financially, I cannot fault the offer. Provided we can arrange for efficient transport, the transaction would have a clear profit margin. Unfortunately, I do not think this deal is as simple as that. I believe you are correct in assuming there are potential complications, and by collaborating with Rosario scheming, we make ourselves vulnerable. Both to House Boroccor, and to House Rosario, when they choose to end their agreement with us. And it would end, eventually." Ethan spoke at last, delivering his take on the situation. "I cannot recommend it, as the cash gained would not be worth the potential fallout if Boroccor decided to extend the embargo to us."

Bendict grunted. "They're too greedy to let money slip through their hands for long. It sounded like this conflict was mostly an issue of bruised pride, and perhaps a few soldiers. I think Rosario would be better off waiting them out." His comment prompted a shrug from Ethan.

"They might not have that luxury. With not materials, construction and even maintenance falters, and a House falters with it. Then again, perhaps House Rosario has more to gain by involving itself with House Kyne."

The Kyne Lord leaned in slightly. "Meaning what?"

"They may be hoping one deal will lead to another. Or, if such matters become public, a sense of strength from being associated with House Kyne. I am certain that Rosario has a greater end goal then just acquiring materials.This is merely a step of it."

Lord Kyne stood and paced absently by some books. "I much preferred dealing directly with the elderly Lord Rosario. He is aggressive but striaght to point, you did not have to wonder what his intentions were. Not so with this son of his."

Ethan remained silent, knowing the Benedict was still thinking. After a few more paces, Benedict stopped and looked back to Ethan.

"I think perhaps we should look to pay Lord Rosario a visit."

Ethan quirked an eyebrow. "You know that will be declined on account of his health."

"Then we will make it a condition of a continued negotiation. If the Rosario patriarch is on the verge of death, then House Rosario could potentially be unstable. If the Lord Rosario's health is merely a screen for his suddenly antisocial behavior, I should much like to get to the bottom of that. Either way, it will move to shake something loose in this situation."

It would not have been Ethan's first choice of actions. In fact, he found it to be a bit surprising to see the Lord Kyne make a choice in this direction. "My Lord, why is it that you wish to involve yourself in this? It would be very simple to decline House Rosario and stay out of the incident altogether."

"On more than one occasion, Lord Rosario and I have had our differences. I also know that this indirect approach to an embargo is not at all his style. He would either take war to Borrocor or maintain aggressive negotiations. If I can work out the full nature of their situation, I feel that I can stay on top of it easier. Simply by asking me to help them, they have already involved me one way or another, so I intend to stay in control of this relationship."

Ethan shook his head lightly. "I cannot advise this course of action, my Lord. If you begin prying into their business, they will likely feel the need to retaliate in some manner."

"I understand your objections, and I know that it is the dance of the toreador, but I intend to stay ahead of it. I will proceed with this plan."

"As ytou wish, my Lord. Do you intend to go yourself?"

At that moment, the door to the study opened, and Autumn entered, both men looking at her as she did. "I am not interupting anything, am I?" Her tone implied just enough sarcasm to leave the distinct feeling she did not care one way or another.

Benedict's jaw clenched briefly. Only his own flesh and blood could bring the anger to the surface so quickly in him. Slowly, he relaxed.

"No, child. In fact, we were just discussing a task I have for you to perform."

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

Seraphine couldn't have been entranced by the fight. Every step, movement of their arms, positioning of their bodies, her eyes drank in, taking in every detail of their posture and fight. She knew Gaius was an excellent fighter, a fact that he had demonstrated endlessly in the arena. Yet here, in his own home, he flagged and floudered like a neophyte.

It wasn't that Leland was a better fighter, Seraphine quickly realized, although he was good. It was that Leland was inside Gaius' head, and Gaius could not shut out his own emotions. The anger pushed him to recklessness. The nervousness left him slow. He was so used two losing to his brother, he thought he was following a script.

Seraphine readjusted herself, watching as the fight neared the end. She did not much care who won, as they were both good swordsmen, though she did find it thoroughly interesting how much Leland was able to exploit his brother. She wondered if Gaius would see it before it was too late...

((OOC: I'll let you finish up the fight however you wanted))

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Thu Aug 04, 2016 11:55 pm

Darien sat silently for a long time after cutting the transmission. His loyal Chamberlain stood behind him, a question on his mind but he knew better than to speak before his master was ready to listen. Finally Darien stood, an indication he was ready to talk. "My Lord, if I may," Caleb asked and Darien nodded, "Why did you agree to such an arrangement? The only man who could convincingly play the part of your father was left behind on Oridin."

"I'm well aware of the situation, Caleb, thank you," Darien replied, he stepped behind his ornate desk and sat in his chair, half turning to look out the viewport at the swirling hyperspace tunnel beyond. As he leaned back in his chair he steepled his hands together and placed them on his chin in thought. "I admit, I underestimated Lord Kyne. House Vanray, House Ducant and House Droma were all too self absorbed to make counter moves, but Benedict Kyne is a shrewd man. He knows I'm hiding something."

He turned back to his desk and pressed a key on his computer which brought up the latest reports of Borrocor troop movements along with those of his own. Borrocor was looking to force them into an agreement and the price they quoted would have House Rosario going bankrupt in about three years. Had it been a few dead soldiers they might not have taken it this far, but the son of an influential family within the Borrocor territory was caught in the crossfire and killed all because the man he sent to retrieve his sister got a little trigger happy. I wish I could bring him back to life and torture him to death even more, he thought to himself.

The alternative was war, but a war between Rosario and Borrocor would be a costly affair and since Rosario lacked the materials to repair their fleet it would ultimately turn into a war of attrition. One they would eventually lose, not that his father would have paid that any mind. It's possible they could force Borrocor to the table with more favorable terms should the war drag on too long or prove too costly, but with Ducant and the other Houses circling them like vultures that was not a risk he was willing to take. Negotiating with Borrocor with House Kyne in his back pocket would have tipped the scales and if the right implications were made would have had the Archlord fearing the possibility of fighting a war on two fronts.

"Perhaps we need a change of tact," he said finally, "The Archlord believes the order to retrieve my sister came from my father. Perhaps if I became Lord of House Rosario he might treat with me more fairly. After all, I haven't offended his good graces."

"Forgive me for saying so, my Lord, but for you to officially become Lord of the House your father must pass on. You're not intending to murder your father, are you?"

Darien just shrugged, "I wouldn't dream of it, Caleb, the story we've circulated is a convenient excuse, but if my father should pass before anyone's laid eyes on him to verify his condition then their suspicions will turn on me. No, we'll have to let my father speak with the Kyne envoy."

"They'll think he's stark raving mad, my Lord. Are you sure that's wise?"

Darien thought about that a moment. "That experimental drug we're developing," he asked, "will it make my father cogent enough to speak with Autumn?"

"Well, I suppose so but only for a short while. He'll need regular doses of the drug and that could kill him."

"And what a tragedy that would be," Darien replied, "Very well then, I want my father sobered up enough to pass for sane by the time Autumn arrives. I also want you to put the military out in full force to welcome her. Should my father's health take a turn for the worse there will be rioting in the streets. We will have no choice but to barricade the palace to protect our guest."

"And then leverage her safe return against her father," Caleb finished for him.

Darien frowned, "You make it sound so crass, but that's not entirely correct. The narrative we will spin is that an alliance between House Rosario and House Kyne would restore the people's faith in their leadership and bring order to the streets, allowing for the safe return of his beloved Autumn. I am to be as much a victim in this as he is, thrust into the Lordship so suddenly, unprepared for the responsibility. How was I to know how the people would respond?"

"I see, my Lord, is there anything else you would have me do?"

"Yes," Darien said, "increase the taxation of the poor and double the public beatings. I want the people whipped into a frenzy for when the time is right. They need to be ready to storm the palace gates to create the proper tension that we need. I will, of course, try my best to calm them but I am but an untested prince. Lord Kyne will have no choice but to acquiesce, otherwise I'll feed his daughter to the mob."

**********

Leland grimaced as Gaius pressed his advantage. He wasn't fighting like he had before, somehow he had been able to collect himself and focus his mind. When Gaius was in control he was a truly fearsome opponent and he proved that with every step, every feint and every jab. Leland was hard pressed to stay ahead of it and he knew at this rate he would lose. He made one false step and Gaius broke through his defenses again and scored another hit, tying the score at two each.

Leland took a step back to breath. He cast a glance over at Lady Seraphine who seemed enraptured by the fight and an idea occurred to him. "My, my, Gaius, if I didn't know any better I'd swear you've gotten better. Or are you just trying to impress Lady Seraphine."

"What are you trying to say," Gaius asked him, a slight edge to his tone.

"Come on, Gaius," Leland prodded, "I've seen the way you look at her. Oh what rage you must feel at your own--inadequacies, knowing she picked me over you last night."

Gaius had a look of annoyance on his face but Leland could tell he wasn't getting quite the reaction he wanted. So he decided to try a change of tact. "Or could I be wrong," he asked, "Do you prefer her brother instead? Why Gaius, I had no idea you were so sly."

"Shut up, Leland," he said between gritted teeth but Leland continued to egg him on.

"I guess in hindsight it kind of makes sense. I mean you do look so much like your mother."

"I said shut up," Gaius shouted and he lunged at Leland, lashing out at him like a man possessed. This was exactly the reaction Leland was looking for. Gaius attacked him without any regard for his own defense. Leland parried his blows but managed to stay ahead of him until finally Gaius lunged at him intending to end it only to have Leland sidestep his blow and strike him on the back for the win. Gaius stumbled forward off balance and fell to his knees, his sword clattering to the ground at his side.

Meanwhile, Leland was taking off his helmet and congratulating himself. "Ah well, better luck next time, Gaius... Is what I would say if you had any chance at all of beating me," he gloated, then he handed his sword and helmet to a nearby servant and turned towards Lady Seraphine. "My Lady," he said, extending his arm, "Might I have the honor of escorting you to your ship?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Fri Aug 05, 2016 2:58 pm

Seraphine took Leland's arm, although her eyes lingered on Gaius's form, heaving and panting, for a few moments before she finally brought her attention back to Leland. "Well won, Sir Leland, your strategy is as blunt as it is effective." It was sort of a half compliment, but it was delivered with a smile. She wasn't too sure he would have won without the verbal jabs that had distracted Gaius, but there was more to a fight than just swordplay.

Seraphine allowed herself to be walked down to her ship where her ceramonial guards waited to reboard the ship. She turned to Leland and spoke. "I look forward to recieving the Ducant delegate at the Boroccor palace when the time comes. Please give my farewells and regards to your father and the rest of your family."

***********

It was difficult to say who was the most unhappy in the room. Autumn definitely was a strong runner up, but both Ethan and Benedict had enough unhappiness to go around. They were in the middle of a briefing regarding the objectives and purposes of a visit to House Rosario, a task that Autumn didn't want to do, Ethan was against her doing, but Benedict had already made the decision she would done.

"It's time for you to grow up, Autumn. You cannot hide from your responsibilities forever and this is a good chance to get your feet wet into the political dealings of the House. You are there to see what the state of House Rosario is, look for signs that they are suffering from a lack of materials. Look for evidence that something is amiss with Lord Rosario." Benedict was speaking. Ethan stood silently by, looking almost... sullen. Autumn could not recall the last time she had seen him like this.

Truth was, Ethan and Benedict had gotten into a surprisingly heated arguement about whether or not it was a good idea to send Autumn on a potentially high stakes task like this. Ethan had been unsuccessful in swaying Benedict's opinion, but had at least convinced the Lord that a contingent of Lancers should accompany her for the sake of safety.

Part of Autumn knew her father was right: it didn't matter what she said or did, she was who she was, and there was no escaping that. But she was also not keen to give up the freedoms and the perks that had come from straddling the line between responsibility and childhood. A lot of it was childish rebellion, she recognized that, but that didn't mean she was any quicker to give it up.

"Fine. Anything else, father?"

He sighed. "No. You will depart in two days. Use that time to familarize yourself with intelligence reports of House Rosario, The more you know going, the better equipped you will be."

She stood silently and left the room.

Benedict looked to Ethan. "Anything to add beyond your disapproval?"

Ethan shook his head. "I will get together as much information as I can to aid her. With your permission, I would also like to had select the Lancers to accompany her."

"As you wish."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Fri Aug 05, 2016 11:47 pm

The next two days passed without incident. Felicity's studies with the House mentor continued unabated and so far she kept her promise of never again missing the morning lesson. Though of course two days was hardly enough time to restore Rilan's faith in the girl, not that he had much to begin with. Felicity was studious at times and at others shockingly dimwitted. She still struggled with courtly etiquette and had no ear for music, but was surprisingly good at ballroom dancing. She'd never danced a day in her life, but she studied the martial art and had excellent control of her body. She picked up on the basics fairly quickly and was even working on more advanced techniques after only one day. This one triumph, however, did not excuse her other failings. Rilan and the other House mentors would not be satisfied until she had mastered everything they taught her.

It was early in the morning when Felicity received her usual wake up call. A maidservant would come in and throw open her blinds at exactly the same time every morning. The sunlight wafted in through the window and Felicity stirred slightly in the bed, grumbling to herself as she woke. "I don't suppose I could bribe you for five more minutes," she asked irritably.

"You could, but then I would have to remind you how Rilan feels about tardiness," Evana said, opening up Felicity's wardrobe and then beckoning the girl to come to her.

Felicity stifled a groan then gradually pulled herself out of bed and crossed the room to her wardrobe. Evana picked out an outfit for her then helped her into it. By now Felicity had given up complaining about it and simply let the girl do her job. After she was dressed Evana directed her over towards a nearby chair in front of the vanity mirror where Felicity sat while Evana brushed her hair.

"I heard about what happened to Lyra," she said quietly, "and I heard what you did for her. That was very brave of you."

Felicity sat quietly for a moment, her eyes cast down at her feet. When she spoke next her voice was subdued. "It was just spilled tea, why'd he have to take it so far?"

Evana continued to brush but looked away. "I don't know, it's hard to say what he was thinking but it's fortunate you were there."

"I wish I'd been there sooner," Felicity replied, her voice little more than a whisper.

The two fell silent for a moment as Evana continued to run the brush through Felicity's hair. It was definitely much easier now than the first time she'd sat through this. She had so many knots in her hair it took almost an hour to brush them all out. After a moment of staring into the mirror Evana spoke up again.

"I must say, Miss, you have very lovely hair."

"Um, thank you," Felicity said, she'd never given much thought to her hair before. Well beyond the occasional worry that someone might catch it during battle and put her at a disadvantage, that is.

"I'm curious about something, though. You have beautiful features but you barely know how to take care of yourself. Why is that? Did your mother not teach you," Evana asked.

"My, what?" Felicity looked flustered.

"Your mother," Evana repeated, "Did she not show you how to style your hair, wear makeup properly or anything mother's usually teach their daughters?"

"Oh um, we never really had time for that," she said, trying in vain to hide her embarrassment despite the fact they were both sitting in front of a mirror.

Evana noted the redness in her cheeks and the way she averted her eyes. There was something she was trying to hide. "Oh well," she said and then she stood and let Felicity's hair fall around the girl's shoulders, "There, all done."

Felicity stood and looked at her. "Thank you."

Evana gave her a slight curtsy then waved her to the door. "You better hurry, Miss. Rilan will be waiting for you."

"Oh, right," Felicity said and then she hurried out of the room.

After she was gone Evana picked up the hairbrush again and picked several hairs from it then slid them into a small plastic bag she withdrew from her pocket. Kal Droha, who had been disguised as the maidservant assigned to Felicity, slipped the tiny bag into his pocket again and made mental note of the tattoo he saw. He was sure it was significant somehow but he wouldn't be able to discover how or why while he was still on the estate. In the meantime Evana Anders had more work that needed to be done.

**********

Felicity was on her way to the study when she passed by the ballroom and happened to peek outside. She spotted Ethan, Benedict and a contingent of Lancers prepping a shuttle to leave. Allowing her curiosity to get the better of her she cut through the ballroom and then down an adjoining hallway towards the landing pad. Ethan was standing closest to the door and had a very dour look on his face. Benedict stood some distance away with several Lancers surrounding him and an equally dour expression on his face.

Felicity couldn't help herself. She stepped up beside Ethan and said, "Hey, what happened? You guys look like you're getting ready for a funeral."

**********

The Ducant shuttle touched down at Monument Peak on the planet Ryffan and shortly after that the boarding ramp lowered to permit Lord Declan Ducant and his son Leland Ducant to exit. Lord Ducant had ultimately decided to leave Gaius behind despite the fact that the matter to be discussed directly involved him. Or rather it was because of that fact he was left behind. Declan didn't need his son beside him to treat with the Archlord and he certainly didn't need Gaius and Yiande getting into another verbal match. He wanted this matter settled as quickly as possible and to show the Archlord Borrocor that he still thought very highly of him.

A small delegation from House Borrocor came out to great them. In the lead was Prince Yiande. Lord Declan greeted him with a smile. "Ah, Prince Yiande, a pleasure to see you again. I've been meaning to stop by sooner to speak to your father, but I suppose any excuse to leave the house."

The comment sounded jovial but there was little hint of humor in his tone. "Come now, let us meet with your father. We have much to discuss."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Wed Aug 10, 2016 12:43 pm

Ethan gave Felicity a sidelong glance which could only be described as icy. "No. Not yet." He didn't say anything else for a long beat, as though perhaps he was just going to leave it at that. Finally, however, he spoke again.

"This is politics in motion, and is a decision I am not in favor of. I only hope that Lord Kyne will not come to regret this decision."

Felicity opened her mouth to speak, but Ethan didn't let her. "If you wish to discuss the intricacies of House politics and the weighted advantages and disadvantages of this particular move, we may do so at a more appropriate time. Now, however, I am sure you have somewhere to be, and will probably have to hurry if you do not wish to be late. Again."

**********

The planet Ryffan was once a rich mineral world, before Borrocor claws had settled here. It then became a massive mining world, with thousands of miles of underground mining tunnels spanning the globe. As the minerals became less and less plentiful and more and more expensive to mine, Ryffan became a forge world, processing the massive raw materials from other worlds into usable goods.

A very volcanically active world, Ryffan had vast territories that were fields of lava, open vents and entire plumes of smoke and fire.

Monument Peak sat in the bowl of a long lifeless volcano, a sprawling palace and city that functioned as the seat of power for the House, symbolically and geographically above everything else. Artificially sustained lava, sealed safely behind geothermal powered force fields, veined the entire city like a spiderweb, giving the whole city a burning red tinge, which was in contrast with the green parks and trees which lived along side the lava rivers. It was a clash of forces, the burning red inferno coexisting with the civilized city and green parks, but it sent a clear message to the Borrocor residents: House Borrocor provides, and House Borrocor could bring everything to ruin and ash if they chose.

Monument Palace loomed above the city, its massive statues of the Archlords who had come before standing like stern and silent giants next to the pinnacles and towers of the palace itself. Half carved into the mountain, and half built of dense stone, it would have looked like an elegant, if archaic, preindustrial fortress were it not for the many protrusions of defensive weapons, which somehow did not seem to wreck the aesthetic of the fortress.

The guests arriving in their shuttle had been guided to one of the external landing pads, which was situated at the end of a long walkway over the cliff side of the mountain, leaving the disembarking passengers nothing but a seemingly endless drop to either side of them and a long, empty approach to the reinforced door leading in to the palace.

Yiande waited for them at the base of their ship with a small contingent of honor guard troops. In contrast to the troops who had been sent to the Ducant manor, these troops were male, armored, and wore helmets which turned them into faceless and stoic soldiers. Next to them stood a member of the Correspondence Guild, well bribed by the Borrocor, of course, who was making notes on his tablet.

Yiande bowed lightly at the Lord Ducant who greeted him. "Lord Ducant. I greet you on behalf of House Borrocor. We look forward to putting an end to this trifling matter of honor." His eyes flicked over the rest of the group, giving a fractional nod Leland, and taking note that Gaius was not among them.

Interesting. One approach would have been to simply have Gaius and Yiande duel and declare the matter settled. Apparently Lord Ducant had other ideas of how to settle this, and was a bit more invested in this than Yiande would have expected. Unless Leland would duel on his brother's behalf... Yiande looked again at Leland, who did not look bored by the proceedings, but also did not seem particularly interested either. Yiande wondered briefly at his presence, but moved back to the matter at hand.

"Come, let us move inside where it was more pleasant." Whether it was the distant volcanoes or the rich industry, the air on Ryffan always smelled at least faintly of ash.

He led them silently into the palace and into the Ceremony Hall. The hall was richly decorated with statues and paintings, all of them masterfully wrought, all of them remarkably egotistical renditions of important people and moments in House Borrocor history. Here waited Archlord Farrid Boroccor, an ornate robe covering him to help detract from his massive girth. Behind the Archlord was his wife, the Lady Tessa Seyla Boroccor, who stood back just far enough to make it apparent she was there to be seen, not to participate in any way.

"Lord Ducant." He opened his arms wide in welcome, stepping forward with the whirring clicks of his leg supports activating. "Welcome to my humble home. We are honored that you would give this matter your personal attention."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Wed Aug 10, 2016 4:15 pm

Felicity only stared at him a moment but said nothing. If she knew what was going on she could probably offer a different opinion on the matter or maybe ask to help, but so far all she knew was that something was happening and Ethan didn't like it. She looked over at Benedict who saw her standing with Ethan but made no effort to move from where he was. Just looking at the assembled group it seemed like they were waiting for someone, but whom? Autumn, maybe? She couldn't think of anyone else here with any political authority. Was that why Ethan was so upset?

"Okay, well um... If I can help in anyway," she answered finally but she left the rest of that sentence unfinished. She didn't expect either of them to come to her for help, truth be told she wasn't even sure why she was being allowed to stay. Benedict had mentioned something about a service he wanted her to perform some day, but whatever that might be was anyone's guess.

"I, um--guess I better go," she said and then she turned and headed back inside. Ethan nodded absently at her words but barely paid her any mind as she left. His callous sort of dismissal of her left Felicity feeling kind of jaded. All this time she'd spent here indebted to them and they still treated her like the outsider.

She shook her head and tried to push those thoughts from her mind. She'd only stayed here to try and learn more about why the Force had brought her here. Once she had done that she would be free to go wherever she pleased, theoretically that is. She wasn't quite sure what exactly Benedict's plans for her were and a small part of her wasn't really all that eager to find out...

**********

Lord Ducant kept his expression impassive as they walked through the massive halls of Borrocor's Monument Palace. Out of the corner of his eye he watched the Correspondence Guild member making notes as they walked and resisted the urge to make a sour face. Declan Ducant had no love for the Correspondence Guild, he understood their usefulness but like Borrocor they were becoming more powerful than he was comfortable with. The thought of commoner's possessing more power than those rightfully considered to be noble-born was a distressing idea. House Ducant had thousands of years of proud noble tradition behind them dating all the way back to the first families to colonize this sector. House Borrocor was merely a recent upstart who had bought their way into power through underhanded dealings and at times outright bullying. The fact they were considered nobles now tarnished the name in Declan's eyes, but still he pretended to be cordial with them because to do otherwise could potentially end with a crippling embargo on his House.

"I would have it no other way, my Lord," he said with a respectful bow of his head, "Considering our past dealings it seemed only fitting to handle this matter myself. I apologize for not bringing my son along, however, as I feared his presence would only serve to further antagonize the young Prince. Gaius can be rather--free spirited at the most inappropriate times."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Thu Aug 11, 2016 12:26 pm

Autumn sighed to herself, finishing the brief message to Blake, knowing full well it was not going to satisfy him. She had asked around as discreetly as she could, but there was definitely no unusual individuals being held in the holding cells, nor had there been any prisoners taken at the Estate and transferred out. There did not seem to be any unusual staffing changes, though there had been a few new additions lately, but by in large, there was really nothing to report.

The only real thing she was able to glean was that the wreckage of the ship had been transported to the Kyne military base on the outskirts of Caltan, which was slightly unusual, but hardly enough to start a witch hunt about.

Blake, I am sorry this message has been so slow getting to you. I have asked around as best I can and have not discovered anything particularly interesting for you. The wreckage was taken to Northpoint Military Installation, but there have been no talks of a survivor, and certainly no prisoners. Unless my father integrated a complete stranger into the staff, which I do not think is likely for many reasons, I cannot find any reason to believe there were any survivors. If I have a chance to look into it more, I will, but other than a visit to Northpoint, I do not know of any other way of learning more about this.
Sorry. –Autumn


It was the best she could do right now, though she had a feeling it wouldn’t be good enough for Blake.

She sent the message to his comm, then shut down her console, taking the time to erase what evidence she could that she had sent the message. Who knew what hell her father would raise if he learned she was giving “secrets” out to independent journalists.

With another weary sigh, she stood from her desk, glancing once more around her room. There were servants and handmaidens who took care of all her packing and every detail of her trip, ostensibly to leave her with full concentration for the mission ahead. Maybe it was just sheer decadence.

It always left Autumn a bit at odds with herself. She had grown up her whole life being waited on hand and foot, and most of the time, that suited her fine. But having been among the commoners, having experienced some of life through their eyes, she had seen what it was like for people who have less, who found themselves in poverty. It left her sympathetic, but it was a sympathy that was drowned in cynicisms of harsh reality. Even if House Kyne sold off every bit of excess and gave to the poor, there would still be more impoverished people. It was impossible to make it all go away. And if you couldn’t make everyone’s situation better, than how do you decide who gets help and who does not?
No, it was better to be a good ruler, to ensure a strong economy and that all in society were treated with dignity, no matter their social standing.

One more sigh. Sometimes she wasn’t sure if the words in her head were her own, or the voices of her Mentors and Tutors growing up. Maybe it didn’t even matter. The point was, she had her part to play, and if she didn’t, there was the potential for bad things to happen to her House. She might not like the task was assigned, and that was putting it mildly, but maybe it was for the best.

She caught a glance of herself in the mirror on the way out the room, clad in relatively simple travel clothes, though still ornate: a jacket with a stiff collar, giving it an almost militaristic look, silvery veins running down the sleeves in delicate scrolls, and dark pants with heeled boots. Formal enough that she would not be mistaken for a commoner, relaxed enough that it would not take a team of servants to get her out of it.

As she made her way to the shuttle, she rounded a corner to find herself inches from running in to Felicity who, for lack of a better term, seemed to be storming away with a predominant scowl on her face.

“Felicity.” Autumn said, mostly out of surprise at nearly colliding with the girl. She was obviously upset about something, and Autumn had a quick internal debate about whether or not she should brooch the subject. Normally she did not involve herself in the details of staff problems, but… Felicity seemed different than most people here.
And, in all honesty, Autumn was okay with anything that delayed her trip, even if it was by mere minutes.
“Is there something wrong?”

************
Archlord Borrocor chuckled at Declan’s comment. “Of course. I know well what problems hot blooded children can bring. Come, let us adjourn to a more comfortable area.”

It was not a far distance, as the Archlord was not in the habit of moving more than he had to. Off of a back door of the Ceramony Hall, they found themselves in a fair sized chamber, ringed with comfortable couches made of plush materials. Several servants and slaves stood by in the room, waiting with food and drink for the guests.

Seraphine also was waiting in the room, reclined in a couch wearing a silky dress that was slit all the way to her waist, leaving a smooth leg exposed. She smiled as the guests entered, but did not rise.

“Please, make yourselves at home.” The self-titled Archlord invited, spreading his arms out to encompass the room before sitting promptly on one of the couches. “Name your vice and we will provide it. Nothing is too good for the guests of House Boroccor.” He snapped his fingers at the servants, who immediately went about ensuring that the guests were comfortably seated and had whatever they wanted.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Thu Aug 11, 2016 12:54 pm

Felicity had been so lost in her own world that she almost didn't notice when Autumn turned the corner in front of her. Felicity stared at her a moment then looked over the clothes Autumn was wearing before glancing back over her shoulder towards the landing pad she just came from. So, I was right. They are sending her somewhere, she thought, somewhat envious now of Ethan's concern for Autumn. She doubted either he or Benedict would feel the same for her had they sent her away. Well, other than sharing their distrust in her that is, the thought of which hurt even more. Felicity didn't like the idea that there were people here who didn't trust her.

"I, um--," she started, not really sure what to say. It wasn't exactly like she could explain her situation to Autumn. Yeah, I came from a different world and your father doesn't trust me, she grumbled to herself, resisting the urge to shake her head. "It's nothing, really. I'm just not much of an early riser," she lied, once again averting her eyes from Autumn.

"So, um... Are you going somewhere," Felicity asked after a moment, looking back at her.

**********

Servants waiting on commoners, it was almost too insulting for words. Looking around Declan noted the presence of several slaves as well, which made him grimace slightly. House Ducant had always treated commoners as they were meant to be treated, but in all their long years never have they once participated in the deplorable act of slavery. Remembering his purpose, though, he hid the expression on his face and allowed himself and his son to be seated by Borrocor's servants.

"Forgive my rudeness, my Lord," Declan said once the servants had seen to their needs, "but perhaps we should get to the matter at hand. As the insult was caused by my son it's only fitting I allow you to tell me what it's going to take to mend this grievous wound."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:57 pm

The woman was a horrible liar. Autumn was fairly confident that even with her back turned to Felicity, she still would have been able to tell the woman wasn't telling her the truth. This country girl from far away hadn't even been around nobility enough to learn the art of basic deception. She couldn't even hide her feelings.

Girl from far away... who doesn't know about nobility... who appeared shortly after the crash... Autumn blinked slightly as the trail of thought reached its hypothesis. It was unlikely... but it was also possible. If there actually had been a survivor from the ship, Felicity was a strong runner up.

"Yes, I am leaving on a diplomatic mission." Autumn spoke after only a slightly perceivable pause in their conversation. "And I would like you to come with me." The next words out of her mouth were almost as surprising to herself as they were to Felicity, who looked literally dumb struck. "It is a few days flight and I could do with the company."

Felicity made a sort of half heart gesture vaguely in the direction of deeper into the Estate. "I-"

"Please." Autumn said the word in a way that somehow managed to make it sound like a heartfelt wish combined with an order that really could not be disobeyed.

At loss for anything else to say, Felicity just nodded, looking like someone had just turned her world upside down. "I need to pack, I-"

"I will have someone bring some suitable clothes for you and make the necessary arrangements." A brief but surprisingly warm smile flickered across Autumn's face. "Thank you. Come on. Once we are on board the shuttle, I will speak with Ethan."

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

The Archlord smiled at his guests, although somehow the gesture failed to convey any sort of emotion. In truth, the only thing he was particularly enjoying about the moment was the obvious discomfort of Lord Ducant.

House Borrocor was used to playing the role of deviants amongst the other Houses. Generations ago, when House Borrocor had first came to power, they had tried to mingle with the other noble houses, but very few of the old blood Houses were interested in making friends with commoner upstarts. Now, with a formidable military and a stranglehold on most bulk mineral goods, House Borrocor enjoyed shocking the sensibilities of the Houses, partaking in debauchery, being uncivilized, anything to get a rise out of others. They were important enough that no one could do without their services, at least not without making themselves vulnerable, but not well mannered that they received royal invitations except when it was unavoidable.

"Of course. I certainly don't mean to detain you any longer than necessary." He said, taking a sip from his wine and grabbing another handful candied fruit before continuing. "Since this was a simple matter of boys being boys, I had thought just to let the two of them slap each other around and call an end to this trivial matter."

Yiande shifted in his seat, looking rather annoyed at the condescending manner in which his father treated him. "Father-'

Farrid didn't even look at his son. "Shut your mouth, boy, your betters are talking." Seraphine smiled faintly at Yiande's rebuke, shifting her eyes over to Leland as her father kept talking. "Since Gaius is in absentia , however, I could take a small service of information as repayment, provided House Ducant is willing to accept that Gaius was in the wrong without contest."



The Archlord paused a moment, letting his eyes wander a particularly shapely servant girl as she passed before returning his attention to Ducant. "All I would ask is for some information on House Rosario. Despite our best efforts to be civil with them, they have refused repeatedly to come to the bargaining table. What I am wandering is if perhaps they have been seeking help from the other Houses, such as your own. Understand that I would bear no grudge to any House that had sought to aid a fellow Noble House, I merely wish to know if they have been seeking unconventional solutions so that I would know which..." He paused, looking for the right word, "negotiation tactic to use."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Thu Aug 11, 2016 10:24 pm

"I am not privy to House Rosario's intentions," Lord Ducant replied, that was mostly true. While House Rosario did indeed approach them with a trade offer Lord Ducant turned them down before they were even granted permission to step a foot through the door. Lord Rosario and Ducant had never been on the best of terms, but at least with him Ducant was dealing with an equal, a bit eccentric and strange but still an equal. Declan did not trust Lord Rosario's son any more than his father, so he turned down the trade offer without even looking at it, though he suspected it may have had something to do with the embargo.

"Further more, my Lord Borrocor," he said, leaning forward in his chair a bit, "while I am willing to admit the insult was caused by my son I am not willing to accept that he was in the wrong. As I understand it the young Prince here insulted the Lady Kyne in the home of her father and my son came to her defense. So I would advise you not to push the matter further. I came here prepared to make an offer of alliance to put this matter behind us, but if you continue to impugn the honor of my House then our boys will have that 'slapfest' after all."

Leland gave his father a sidelong glance, surprised at the tone of his voice. Declan had never shown much appreciation for Gaius, quite the opposite in fact. Gaius' complete lack of interest in noble politics and indeed in his very heritage caused their father a great deal of consternation. Lord Declan Ducant placed great value on the traditions of his family but Gaius constantly spit in the face of those traditions out of pure defiance. That plus his obsession with the arena made him unworthy to serve as heir for House Ducant in the eyes of his father, but according to their laws there was no other. Still, to see Declan defending Gaius like this was quite the surprise.

**********

Felicity just stared at Autumn helplessly. She was not the head of the house but technically speaking she was still a noble and still her superior according to the laws and traditions of this sector. Felicity may not have been from this sector but while she was here she would have to abide by those laws. If Autumn had ordered her to come along, which she had, then Felicity would have no choice, right? If Rilan were here what would he have me do, she asked herself quietly, but not knowing much about the man beyond his overzealous desire to educate she was unable to come up with any answers.

Finally, her shoulders slumped and she nodded, falling into step with Autumn as they headed back towards the shuttle. As they walked Felicity occasionally cast a sidelong glance in Autumn's direction. She was probably the first person in a position of authority in this house who actually trusted her, even though she didn't really know who she actually was. Still, that wasn't going to help when either Ethan or Benedict found out about this. Autumn may be in a position of authority over her but those two, or at the least Benedict was in a position of authority over Autumn.

As they neared the landing pad Felicity's mind raced for something to say to Ethan or to Benedict as soon as they arrived but nothing came to mind. They walked through the doors together to meet the group of lancers and the Lord and Chamberlain of the House. Both Ethan and Benedict cast an inquisitive glance in her direction and all Felicity could do was shrug.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:13 pm

The Archlord gave a humorless chuckle, neither his mouth or his eyes showing any signs of the warmth that normally accompanied the gesture. "Well, like they say, the wrong thing done for the right reason is still wrong." Farrid offered with a shrug. "Since no claim against that dear girl's honor was mentioned, and I was not there to witness the event, I can only deal with the situation that has been put before me." He took a moment to scowl at Yiande, making evident his displeasure at having to moderate this dispute, before continuing.

Dealing with House Ducant was always a balancing act. They were elitist almost beyond the other Houses, but obsessed with honor. Which meant they would go to great lengths to regain lost honor, but on the other hand, would go through equal lengths to avenge taken honor. It was a double edged sword, a razor's edge, and a difficult line to walk. Farrid could see that he was not likely to get anything like an apology from the House, as the Lord Ducant apparently did not see his child in the wrong. While having Duncant feel in the wrong would have been preferable, It just meant that he had to switch angles slightly. There was still gain to be made here.

"There is obviously no great harm done, so this need not be a complicated exchange. How about this: in exchange for calling the matter settled without fault or blame, Gaius will duel in Yiande's stead, when next Yiande finds need to defend his honor."

Yiande stirred at this, in obvious agitation, but said nothing. It was a tacit admission that Gaius was a superior duelist, which was probably true, but also would intertwine their honor for the purposes of a duel. If Gaius fought in place of Yiande, his success or failure would be the win or loss of both of them. It was, in one stroke, both a vote of confidence in Gaius's swordsmanship, and a hanging favor that could be redeemed when Yiande was challenged to a duel.

Yiande moved in his chair as if to say something, probably an objection, but Farrid cut him off with a raised finger, focusing on Declan. "What say you?"

*******************************
Benedict had just been getting ready to walk away from the landing pad when his daughter had approached, leading a rather timid looking Felicity. it took him a split second to figure out what it was that his daughter had in mind, but his jaw set into a tight line as realization dawned on him.

"Absolutely not."

"Felcity, go wait on the shuttle, please." Autumn said quietly. For a moment, it looked as though Benedict would countermand her directive, but after a brief pause, he gave Felicity a microscopic nod, then turned his attention to Autumn.

"Explain to me what wild logic you have come up with to make this seem like a good idea." He asked stoically.

"Why Father, whatever you do mean?" Autumn gave him a saccharine smile. "What difference would it make which house hold staff accompanies me on a trip? Unless there is something different about her..."

"You know well she is not part of the household staff. She is an invited pupil, and this little stunt will interfere with her education."

Autumn's posture shifted into one of defiance. While it was not often that she stood her ground against her father, she was every bit as stubborn as he was when she did. "This little stunt will only serve to forward her education, which seems to be unusually lacking in the basic understanding of the Noblesse Etiquette, which one might argue, is rather common knowledge amongst the citizens of this sector."

Benedict was not so easily dissuaded. "Of course. What could be a better learning opportunity than taking her back to the people whom she was almost in a conflict with?" Even the Lord of a House was not above sarcasm.

Autumn was quick with a rebuttal. "You have often told me that the more off balance your opponent is, the more likely to make a blunder they are. If House Rosario is not being appropriately apologetic, Felicity remains a way to remind them of their sins, to keep them on the defensive."

It would have been a pretty good ploy, were circumstances different. If Felicity had not been such a wildcard, Benedict could have supported it wholeheartedly, but there was still so much about her he did not know. Still, he knew enough about Autumn to know that even if he forbade her to take Felicity, it would not help the situation. Autumn would simply spend the whole trip pouting, and would not concentrate on her task, and would likely return unsuccessful.

"Ethan, go speak with Felicity, make sure she understands that she is not to be seen by House Rosario, unless it is deemed advantageous."

"Yes, my Lord."

Autumn spoke before Benedict could as soon as they were alone.. "I know that there is more to her than you're telling me."

"We will speak of the subject more when you return. Understand that I am allowing this because you are showing some initiative and your point is well made. Do not think for a minute that I will tolerate insolence from you, certainly not in front of others."

The sweet smile returned to Autumn's face. "Of course, Father."

While the two Kynes spoke, Ethan made his way up the shuttle and found Felicity sitting rather nervously in the shuttle's compact, if luxurious, living area. She was alone, the Lancers on board having taken up residence in the crew's quarters in the back.

"Lord Kyne has agreed to allow you to accompany Miss Kyne on this travel. I will ensure that Mentor Rilan and the other staff members are informed of this decision." He spoke as he stepped over to where she was sitting. For a few seconds, he simply looked at her, as if trying to judge something about her, but finally he spoke again.

"You will be going to House Rosario, the same one whom you nearly fought with defending the servant girl. It would most likely be beneficial for you to stay with the shuttle and stay out of sight of the House Rosario members. However... This may also be time for you to begin using your own discretion."

He glanced at the shuttle's entrance, but there was no sign of Autumn just yet. "I have serious misgivings about sending Autumn on this task. House Rosario is.. potentially unstable at the moment, and I do not know if Autumn is mature enough to keep ahead of this situation. I do not know where your loyalties lie or what abilities you have at your call, but if you value any of the hospitality you have been shown here, please keep her safe. Follow your own intuition. I do not think you will find Autumn as... demanding as others, so this will be the time for you to think and make your own decisions. Do not be afraid to offer her advice. Even if she does not take it or she argues, she will still need what guidance she can get."

He glanced once again towards the boarding ramp, hearing the sounds of Autumn's approaching feet. "Do you understand what I have told you?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Aug 14, 2016 10:13 pm

Declan raised an eyebrow at that, the underlying meaning behind Farrid's proposal was not lost on him. Had House Borrocor had any decency in its dealings it might have carried more weight, but still it was something. Had the situations been reversed he didn't know if he could make the same request. To have someone else fight for his son's honor...

"That sounds like a reasonable request," he said finally, "I'm sure Gaius will not oppose."

Any reason to fight in the arena, he grumbled to himself. Declan Ducant had nothing against the arena. It was a good place to test one's mettle and defend their honor. Normally he would be proud of his son for his accomplishments, but Gaius' obsession with fighting in the arena went far above a simple hobby. Gaius would focus all his attention on practicing his sword play or researching his opponents to the detriment of all else and as heir apparent of House Ducant he had a lot of responsibilities that went undone. Still, this was a request being made by Lord Borrocor as amends for Gaius' transgression against his House. House Ducant was getting off lightly, considering.

**********

Felicity just stared up at Ethan and blinked twice. She had no idea what advice he thought she could give Autumn. Felicity had barely any understanding of the politics of this area and no idea who the players were. To make matters worse considering her penchant for leaping into things without ever thinking she might even be the one to put Autumn in danger in the first place. This whole thing just seemed like a bad idea to her and the fact that it was happening at all left her dumb struck.

What was she supposed to do, exactly? She didn't even know why Autumn was being sent to House Rosario in the first place. If it was as dangerous as Ethan made it sound it made more sense to just have her stay here. None of this was making any sense to her and the more she thought about it the more it frustrated her until finally she couldn't take it anymore. "No, I don't understand," she said in an exasperated whisper, her frustrations from earlier pouring to the surface, "I have no idea what's going on or why. I don't know anything about House Rosario or even what sector I'm in. I don't know why Autumn ordered me to go with her or why you're even allowing it and I have no idea why no one here can seem to trust me."

She stopped to catch her breath, her gaze averted to the far corner of the room. Why was she such a threat to these people? She did nothing to harm them even after demonstrating how easy it would be for her to do just that. All she ever wanted to do was stop the First Order and end their tyranny for good. She wanted to protect the people and become a Jedi like the tales of old. She wanted to make the galaxy a better place for everyone. Why couldn't Ethan and Benedict understand that? Why can't they see the good in her?

Autumn was boarding the shuttle now and Felicity could hear her coming closer. "I'm just so completely lost right now," she finished quietly, a slight hint of despair in her tone. If there was a reason why the Force had brought her here she just couldn't see it. "But," she continued, looking back at Ethan, "you asked me to keep Autumn safe and I swear to you I will. Whatever I can do to protect her I'll do it, you have my word."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Wed Aug 17, 2016 12:37 am

Farrid's lips twitched in the facsimile of a smile, and he gave a deliberated nod. "Excellent." His eyes turned to the Correspondence Guild member, a shifty looking man who sat on the side of the room, though his eyes strayed more towards the attractive servant girls than the business at hand.

"And the Guild will make notice of this, of course?" Farrid spoke rhetorically, bringing the Intelligencer's attention back to the issue of politics.

"Of course, Archlord. The Guild has taken note that Gaius Ducant will battle in the Arena in the stead of Yiande Borrocor when requested. The Guild has witnessed this." The man gave at a half hearted attempt at solemnity, but apparently just wasn't invested in the effort, eliciting a bit of a sneer from the Archlord. The level of quality varied from member to member in the Guild, and often times the ones who were the easiest to control and manipulate were not the ones that were the best at their job.

Still, this one did well enough, providing one of the Guild functions of de facto enforcement of agreements between Houses. Neither House would want to be seen as the welsher on an agreement with the Guild watching, as that information would make for juicy gossip amongst the entire Guild.

"I am glad to have that matter settled quickly." Farrid spoke, finishing the last of the wine from his cup. "Now, my dear Lord Ducant, if you do not wish to indulge in our hospitalities, let us discuss some lighter business. Tell me what it is House Borrocor can do to strengthen House Ducant, to increase its favor in your eyes." The Archlord leaned in, a sharp inquisitiveness in his eyes.


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

Ethan was not a compassionate man by nature. He had been born into hardship and had worked exhaustively to get to where he was today. He helped make choices and gave advice that shaped worlds and effected millions of lives. A carelessly spoken word could lead to a poor choice and the potential of suffering and ruin for countless citizens. He rarely found time for sentimentality anywhere in life.

Still, he was not without empathy for the young Felicity. He put a hand on her shoulder, his eyes meeting hers levelly. "I understand this is all new to you. It is your greatest weakness and your greatest strength. You may not know the details of what you are seeing, but you are also not blinded by generations of deceit and self deceit. You will see what we will all miss. Trust is an often exploited luxury in House politics, so do not be surprised if it is very slow to come."

He paused a moment, glancing over at Autumn, who had just walked into the shuttle and stopped at the entrance, slightly perplexed at the way Ethan seemed to be addressing Felicity.

Ethan continued, unconcerned with Autumn's presence. "We are all forced on to the road we must walk. Maybe, with great effort or luck, we can leave one road for another, but most of the time, we must go where the road leads us. I say this to mean that if you feel trapped by your current situation, you are no less trapped than I, or Lady Autumn, or those that cooked your meals today. We all must walk our road, and some maybe easier or harder, but they are no less fixed in front of us." He spoke his words intently, and though they may not have been the most comforting of words, they were rich in empathy for her current situation.

"For what it is worth, I trust your intentions, and I hope that as I get to know more of you, I will learn that I can trust your judgment as well." The older man squeezed her shoulder briefly before retracting his hand. "And know that I, personally, am holding you to your word."

He straightened slightly, smoothed out his clothes with his hand unconsciously, then turned to Autumn, giving a slight bow.

"My lady. I will see you when you return safely and successfully." He said to her, than made his way out of the ship.

Autumn watched him go, then turned her attention back to Felicity. "What was all that about?" She asked quietly, the surprise on her face evident enough to demonstrate that Ethan seldom engaged people in such a manner.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Wed Aug 17, 2016 1:49 am

Declan resisted the urge to scowl at the reporter. Such an unnecessary precaution. House Ducant would stand by its honor even without the Correspondence Guild enforcing their agreement. The fact Lord Borrocor felt it necessary to bring the Guild into this at all was another insult towards House Ducant, but one he did not feel the need to waste any energy over. Instead he simply leaned back in his chair and steepled his hands.

"Perhaps a matter of trade," he said, "The Insurgency took a heavy toll on our navy and I find myself in need of some more materials to repair our ships. A discount off the usual rate, say ten percent, would go a long way towards softening the blow against our treasury."

**********

Felicity's hand unconsciously reached up to grasp the shoulder where Ethan touched her. She had gotten so used to getting the cold shoulder from both Ethan and Benedict that the simple gesture of squeezing her shoulder had caught her completely off guard. It was the first comforting thing anyone had done for her since she had arrived here and for Felicity, who had generally been met with either fear or distrust, that was huge.

"Um--," she started in a hushed tone. The look on Autumn's face seemed to suggest that she was just as surprised as Felicity. "I, um..."

She was going to tell another lie to her but Ethan's words kept ringing in her ears. He had said it was time for her to start using her own discretion. Maybe this was part of it. Autumn was bound to find out certain things about her eventually so why not tell her now?

"I'm not from this sector," she said quietly, glancing away from Autumn. "I came here from a planet called Ord Mantell on the Outer Rim. I'm an outsider and an unknown and your father distrusts me. That's why he was so adamant about not letting you take me on this trip. I think he's afraid I might hurt you or do something to endanger your mission."

Honestly, she didn't know what he thought. Benedict Kyne came from a completely different world, a world where the truth was often times hidden behind a wall of deceit. Felicity couldn't even begin to imagine what that must be like. Still, it was a huge relief to finally tell someone the truth for once, but as good as it felt to drop that weight from her shoulders there was still the worry of what Benedict might do to her if he found out. Whatever the punishment, though, it would just be another hurdle along the path she'd been set on. All she had to do was climb over it.

No, she thought, her hand dropping to her side and then closing into a fist, I won't climb over it, I'll smash right through it. I'll forge my own path and show everyone, even Ethan, that it is possible to break free of your shackles and choose your own destiny.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Wed Aug 17, 2016 3:19 pm

The Archlord gave a sympathetic nod to Declan. "Those damnable insurgents are a growing thorn in the side of us all." Borrocor had more than its fair share of dealing with parts of the insurgency, mostly due to their sometimes brutal treatment of those found to be uncooperative to their rules.

Looking over at the Guild member, Archlord Borrocor gave a dismissive gesture, and the man shuffled off without comment.

Farrid leaned back, his massive girth shifting against the couch as he put a hand to his ample chin as if thoughtfully considering something. "These are hard times for all of us, but I think we can surely help out a fellow House in need, especially in the face of such riffraff as this supposed uprising. I think I could go as high as a twelve percent discount, to help ensure House Ducant stays strong against these honorless foes we fight."

Yiande stirred again at this, obviously unhappy with his father's negotiation tactics of offering a higher discount than was originally asked for. A two percent increase didn't sound like much, but when it came to the volume of purchases that could potentially be made, it could well turn into a tidy sum. Farrid ignored him, however, his eyes on Declan. "I know we of House Borrocor are not always impeccable when it comes to matters of etiquette, but do not mistake that for a lack of respect for you or your family. I hope that this modest gesture will demonstrate that."

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

Autumn took a second to process everything she had just been told. Of course she knew of the wider galaxy. She knew that there were royal traders who made trips beyond their sector for such commodities as bacta and even Tibanna gas for some of the more exotic weaponry used. But those people were the extreme rarities, probably less than a few dozen in the whole sector, willing to take the long and dangerous trip through the navigational nightmare that led in and out of the sector.

There were many questions that came to her mind about what life was like beyond her ken, what were the sights, the smells, the feelings of a completely different existence. But even as she tried to think of what she could ask, she realized, it hardly mattered, at least at the moment. Felicity came from a world that Autumn couldn't fathom, and couldn't even reach. And now, more than likely, Felicity was just as stuck here as Autumn was.

Autumn nodded slowly. "I thought there was something different about you... I had my guesses, but it seems so hard to believe..." She trailed off as a servant appeared on the shuttle ramp, bearing a small trunk of clothing for Felicity. Autumn had yet to consider all of the implications of this particular revelation, she could see an obvious point to keeping this private. If word of this reached another House, or worse, the Royal House, it could easily escalate into quite the incident. If nothing else, it would have made Felicity, and House Kyne with her, the center of political intrigue. The house hold staff were subject to pretty intense screening on a regular basis, but that didn't mean they were immune to gossiping, and gossip had a strange way of ending up in the ears of the wrong people.

She moved on to less secretive subjects. "My father distrusts everyone. I suppose it is a byproduct of having people consistently lie to you and try to kill you and your family." Benedict Kyne was by no means the most hated noble lord, and in fact was probably viewed with a reasonably favorable disposition by most of his subjects, but that didn't mean there weren't those who were interested in killing him. There were always malcontents, and always those that hated people in authority.

"But I can tell you two things about my father. First, that if he thought you were a danger to me, you would not be on this shuttle. He may not trust you, but I do not think he distrusts you. And second, he plans everything, and within his plans are more plans. I may or may not have surprised him with my request to bring you along, but if he was willing for you to be part of this mission in some way, it means he thinks you can be part of his plans. I am not sure if that is a comforting thought or not, but there it is."

The servant deposited Felicity's clothes and then made his retreat from the shuttle.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Thu Aug 18, 2016 2:27 am

Declan Ducant raised an eyebrow at Farrid's offer. He had fully expected the Lord to haggle his discount down not increase it. He had some ulterior motive and at the moment Declan couldn't think of what that might be. One thing was certain, though, if he got up and left now he would never know. There was a brief moment of silence before finally Declan Ducant allowed a smile to crease his lips.

"That is a generous offer, my Lord," he said, then he leaned forward and grabbed a glass of wine from a nearby platter, "Perhaps my son and I will partake in your hospitalities after all."

**********

Felicity turned back to Autumn as she spoke and while her words were somewhat of a relief there was also something unsettling about them. "I'm not really sure how I feel about being part of someone's plans," she said, "If I don't know what his plans are I don't know if I can do them. If he tells me to hurt someone...," she left the rest hanging in the air but it was clear from her expression how she felt about that. "There are some things I won't do," she finished.

Just then the boarding ramp had just finished closing behind the servant that had dropped off Felicity's luggage. Immediately afterward the vessel shook as it took off from the landing pad and rocketed into space. Felicity hopped up out of her chair and hurried over to a nearby window. As the atmosphere of Oridin grew thinner, eventually giving way to the void of space Felicity's lips curled up into a slight smile.

"This is only my third time into space," she said, "This part is my favorite, I think. When the sky opens up and you find yourself surrounded by such wonder." Then she thought about that for a moment and her cheeks took on a faint, reddish hue. "Although, it's also really cold in space so I guess it's kind of scary too."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:57 pm

Farrid smiled at this, enjoying the moment. It would cost him, of course, but hopefully in return he would get greater gain down the road. In the mean time, he got to make Declan uncertain, which was never a bad thing.

It is ever so hard to turn down a morsel, even if you know it probably contains a barbed hook.

"Excellent. Then this is an auspicious day for our two Houses. I will have my Minister of Trade be in contact with your representative to make all the necessary arrangements. In the meantime, please take your leisure and enjoy our hospitality. If you so desire, there is a garden area through these doors that you may enjoy. There is also music and dancers ready, if that is your pleasure."

The Archlord beckoned to the serving staff, who moved to ensure the members of the Ducant delegation were comfortable in every way.

Seraphine stood and changed seats over to be near Leland, smoothing out her silky dress with one hand as she sat down. "I never got a chance to tell you, Sir Leland, of my admiration of your fighting skills against your brother." She smiled at him invitingly. "It truly was inspiring to see the way you bested him using on your mind and your words."


*******

"My father is too smart to ask someone to do something they do not want to do." He either compels them, or finds a way to make them want to do it in the first place. She didn't add the second part, figuring it would not be very comforting. Felicity would learn the joys of dealing with political machinations before too long, it didn't seem necessary to drop it on her now.

As the shuttle began its ascent, Autumn smiled faintly, though she gripped the arms of her chair stiffly. She was not much of a fan of taking off and landing. "I do not fly much myself. I have been on a few trips with my father, but seldom get the chance to leave Oridin." She couldn't quite tell if that was regret or relief in her own voice as she spoke. Perhaps both; Oridin might have been a boring place to call home, but there was something comforting about its stability.

"What did you do on Ord Mantel?" Autumn asked, distracting herself from the queasy feeling of the rumbling ship and curious about her unlikely companion. "Did you have a job?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Aug 21, 2016 9:14 pm

Leland felt somewhat wounded, it wasn't just his wits he had used against Gaius. There was some skill involved, too. Gaius may have perfected his sword techniques but he originally learned those techniques from his brother. Leland knew them well and how to counter them, but most of all he knew how easily he could get under his brother's skin.

"My dear brother sometimes forgets that words can cut as deeply as any sword," he said, though he doubted his father would find much honor in that. He didn't get to see his father's face during the battle so he could only imagine the scowl he must have wore. House Ducant prided themselves on their swordsmanship, to win through trickery or manipulation was seen as unworthy, but Leland knew those qualities were necessary for men who lead, be they great generals or lords.

He cast a quick glance over at his father who was enjoying a few delicacies provided by one of the servants and engaging in small talk with the Archlord. Leland knew the extra two percent discount was an act of manipulation on the part of Lord Farrid. Eventually, that discount will come with stipulations and he doubted his father would like them. Still, he took the deal, leaving Leland to wonder if he knew the danger or if he couldn't see it. The former would suggest that Declan had some plan in mind while the latter would cement Leland's belief that neither Declan or Gaius were worthy to rule House Ducant...

**********

Felicity nodded imperceptibly while staring out into space. For so long she had only ever been able to see the stars from the ground. Her first time into space was exciting but there was also a lot going on so there wasn't much time to reflect. The same went for her second time into space, only that time she had just barely survived. In her mind's eye she could still see the hail of turbolaser fire that had followed her all the way into hyperspace and it sent a cold shiver down her spine.

"I, um...," she started to say, "I used to work in a junkyard. The owner, Grell, took me in when he found out I could be useful. He let me stay inside the shop and paid me to fix up old machines. It was my first actual job."

There was sort of a wistful look in her eyes as she remembered her time with Grell. They weren't particularly close, really, but Grell could be considered the first family she ever had. That is until Renn and the others. The struggles they went through together brought them much closer than her and Grell ever were.

"I might have actually stayed there if I hadn't...," her words trailed off suddenly, a slight unwillingness to continue.

"If you hadn't, what?" Autumn prodded her.

Felicity bit her lower lip. She wasn't quite sure how much she should tell Autumn. Perhaps telling her this much was enough. There really wasn't any reason to tell her the rest, but as she found out the simple act of telling the truth was infectious and she was getting tired of keeping her past a secret.

"Um," she began in an uncertain tone, "some dangerous people had come to Ord Mantell. They were hurting innocents and exploiting them. They'd take people from the outlying villages and force them to work in the mine they had built. After everything everyone had done for me to help me survive on Ord Mantell I just couldn't ignore that and do nothing so I got involved. In the end we couldn't stop the mining and someone very close to me died. The First Order--the people who came to Ord Mantell," she corrected herself, "chased me off world and tried to kill me. That's how I ended up here, I made a blind jump to try and escape them."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Tue Aug 23, 2016 5:37 pm

Seraphine's smile remained, unable to resist the temptation to dig a little deeper to find what made the man tick. "It is not the words that impressed me. It was the understanding that a battle is equal parts physical and mental. You used both skill and cunning in equal measure, which is why I find it surprising you are so absent from the Arena. You certainly are not lacking in capability."

Yiande scoffed, interjecting himself into the conversation. "You will have to excuse my little sister. Just because she gets all hot and sweaty watching the Arena boys dance around, she thinks she's an expert on combat. Now, the fights in the Pit, that is where you can see real combat in action." Yiande spoke of the Borrocor Gladiator Pit, a place where Borrocor nobles and esteemed commoners fought against warrior slaves, sometimes to the death. Viewed as a form of barbarism by many of the other Houses, it was one of those institutions that officially was frowned upon, but unofficially had years ago been justified as a Borrocor tradition and not worth making a fuss about.

If there was one thing that could kill Seraphine's mood, it was Yiande. Well, most of her siblings, really, who seldom passed the opportunity to tell her of her status as second class nobility. Her smile died, and if it were possible for a human to have hackles to rise up, they would have done so. Still, she was quick to fire back. "Yes, dear brother, I do recall that in your last fight, it only took you three tries to figure out which end of the knife you were supposed to hold. I imagine there were many ladies impressed by that."

Yiande came to his feet quickly, rage coloring his face. A brief moment passed in a tense silence before he moved closer to her, as though he was contemplating hitting her. "It's time for you to run along, dear sister. Go back to your room and play with your dolls like a good little girl." His voice was low, with no trace of levity or affection. There was nothing other than malice.

Archlord Farrid watched the exchange in between his conversation with the Lord Ducant, a faint smile on his face. Finally he interrupted them before he could get more heated, chuckling quietly. "Children. You will show some respect in front of our guests." His words were delivered in such a manner as to imply he was not overly concerned with their bickering, but the siblings knew that he would tolerate no disobedience, and neither were keen to test him on that matter. He turned back to his conversation with Lord Ducant, shaking his head. "This younger generation... so full of fire and ice, but empty on manners and patience."

Yiande resumed a more relaxed posture, raising his glass to a servant who came to refill it, while Seraphine simply exhaled slowly, obviously collecting herself.

She turned her attention back to Leland. "Perhaps, Sir Leland, you would accompany me on a walk through the gardens?"

Yiande sneered in the direction of the both of them, saying nothing. Even though his silence, his body language made his opinion clear: a real man wouldn't go on any walk through a garden.

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

Autumn didn't even know enough to understand how utterly improbable the story was. The minutiae of space travel had never really been a field she had engaged in before.

She simply nodded. "It sounds... hard. Confusing. Is there not a government that resists this First Order? I understand there is not a nobility system like in this sector, but isn't there something comparable to a House that looks out for the people under it?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Tue Aug 23, 2016 11:11 pm

Declan idly glanced at his son as he spoke with the Lady Seraphine. He could see tensions were rising but so far his son was not the one behind them which was fine with him. "You speak truly, Lord Farrid," he said, "My boys had similar ill manners when your daughter came to visit us."

Meanwhile, Leland was looking at Yiande out of the corner of his eye, noting the scowl on his face and the slight shift in his posture. The man had no tact, he didn't even try to hide his contempt for either his sister or for Leland himself. One could easily pull the wool over his eyes just by prodding him into a rage.

"Of course, Lady Seraphine, I'd love to," Leland said. "But," he added, then he glanced over at Yiande whose opinion on taking a walk through the garden was readily apparent by his mannerisms, "it would be rude not to invite your brother along. What do you say, Prince Yiande, care to join us?"

Leland flashed him a cool confident smile but deep down he was reveling in the boy's discomfort.

**********

"Well, there's the New Republic," Felicity said, "but they're not big enough to protect the planets on the Outer Rim... Or at least not anymore."

She could tell from Autumn's blank stare that she was going to have to explain that remark. "After the war with the Empire was over the Republic started... What's that word? Um, de-something... You know, when you make your army smaller," she asked, looking to Autumn for an answer.

"Demilitarizing?" Autumn replied.

"That's the one," Felicity answered with a snap of her fingers, "They started demilitarizing. Like, I think I understand why they wanted to do it but there are so many people now with no one to protect them. That's sort of why I tried to do it, I thought I could help. Plus Renn was always telling me I was meant for great things."

"Renn," Autumn asked, interrupting her.

"He was my mentor before he--," her words trailed off and for a brief moment a dark shadow passed over her. "Anyway," she continued, changing the subject. "How long did you say this flight was? A few days? I hope there's something for us to do on the way cause it doesn't look like there's much room for exercise," she said, glancing around the cabin and noting how compact it was. Then a thought occurred to her, "Oh, that reminds me. Where will I be staying?"

**********

Back at the Kyne Estate Lyra had been looking for Evana. She had not reported for her afternoon duties which was unusual for her. She had asked the House security if anyone had seen her but so far no one could remember seeing her since that morning. So instead Lyra had decided to check out Evana's room thinking the girl was probably sick. She knocked once on Evana's door and heard nothing. She knocked again and again but still nothing. After awhile she decided Evana wasn't home and turned to leave, that's when she heard it.

There was a faint banging noise coming from inside. Lyra leaned her head up against the door to listen for it. There was definitely the sound of muffled banging coming from somewhere inside the room. Curious as to what it might be Lyra opened the door and stepped inside. The staff quarters weren't too terribly large but they were spacious enough for a few commodities. As Lyra walked to the center of the room she could hear the banging coming from the wardrobe. Cautiously, she walked over to it then slowly reached out her hand towards the door handle. She breathlessly counted to three then threw the doors wide open.

Evana came spilling out of the wardrobe, her hands and feet bound together behind her back. There was something covering her mouth and her clothes were missing. Lyra was so shocked by what she had seen that she almost didn't respond at first. Then her brain began to process the information in front of her and she suddenly screamed, "Security!"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Wed Aug 24, 2016 3:19 pm

Yiande put no effort in concealing his sneer. "A most kind invitation, but I will have to decline." He looked as though he had one last parting shot for his half sister, but a glance from his father stayed any further comment.

Seraphine stood, offering her hand to Leland. "Will you accompany me?"

The Archlord stared at Seraphine as she exited the room, a hint of suspicion on his face. Among all his children, she was the one that he trusted the least. She was smart, perhaps even cunning, but she was also inscrutable, smart enough to let on as to her own intentions or motivations. He wasn't sure what it is that Seraphine saw in Leland, but he was sure it was something he keep tabs on. She was far too independent for his liking.

He turned his attention back to Declan. "My daughter seems to have taken a shining to your boy. Seldom is she that interested in entertaining guests."


Seraphine had led Leland out of the lounge room, and down a small corridor which emptied into an indoor garden area filled with a bright array of exotic plants. The cultivated gardens were arranged in sweeping paths which were wide enough for two to walk comfortably side by side. The plants on either side of the path formed a natural barrier, giving a sense of privacy as well as beauty.

And the sense of privacy was not just an illusion. Seraphine had long figured out that this room was a nightmare to palace security. The vegetation and the equipment needed to keep it all alive played havoc on the sensors and cameras, meaning that while security might be able to keep track of where someone is in the room, what they were doing or what conversations they were having remained private.

Perhaps that was why Seraphine had always liked this place the most. Or maybe it was the sweet fragrances of a hundred different species of plants combined with the beauty of thousands of blossoms. Or maybe it was simply that this was a room that the others of her family seldom visited, with the exception of some of her younger siblings.

"I will not offer an apology on behalf of my brother, but I will sympathize that you had to degrade yourself by conversing with him." She offered with a smile as they began walking through the simulacrum of an outdoor garden, pollinating insects buzzing gently around and the occasional avian heard winging by.


********

It took about four minutes from the time that the Kyne Security arrived at the scene to having the entire Estate on lock down, every entrance sealed and every craft grounded.

Lord Kyne found himself surrounded by a phalanx of Lancers, a slightly irritating, if probably necessary precaution. He and Ethan were confined in the study at the moment, receiving a briefing with the Security Chief.

"She was found tied in her own room. Her story is that she's been there for a least a few days, but she's not really sure how long. She was kept in the wardrobe, and there's evidence that she was drugged, although we haven't given her a full screening yet. Preliminary tests show dehydration, so it's unlikely the captor offered her food or water. She did say that she heard the captor in the room a few times, but never saw her face."

Ethan nodded slightly. "We know it is a female, then?"

The Chief hesitated slightly and said, "it is our best guess. When the captor did address her, Evana said the captor's voice was near identical to her own. It gets odd, because I checked with Evana's supervisors, who said that Evana has been at work as normal for the past few days, although one did mention a few days ago she seemed very spacey and distracted, not quiet herself. I think we are looking for someone who is disguised as Evana, perhaps quite elaborately."

Benedict spoke next, his eyes levelly on the security chief. "Why do you think the infiltrator did not kill Evana outright? She risks detection by leaving Evana alive."

The chief shrugged. "I can only speculate, my Lord. If this person is impersonating Evana, she might have needed her alive in case there was personal information needed. Maybe she intended to keep Evana drugged enough that when she finally exfiltrated, no one was even aware she had been here. Maybe she just didn't use enough of her drug on Evana."

"I want a full security sweep of this place. If there is one infiltrator, there may be more. Everyone gets checked versus their medical file. I want every imposter found, and quickly."

The Security Chief pursed his lips. "There is one more thing. Evana's recent duties included helping out the guest, Felicity, whose whereabouts are unknown at the moment. We... don't know if she had any involvement in this."

Ethan and Benedict exchanged a look.

"I will deal with this, my Lord." Ethan said, and left the room.

Benedict turned his attention to the Security Chief. "The guest is currently gone, and she is with some of my finest Lancers, so do not worry about her at the moment. Just make sure everyone within the estate is as they say they are."

"Of course, my Lord. I will report as soon as there is progress." The Chief left the room, pulling out his comm as he did.

Moments later, a gruff voice came over the PA of the Estate.

"Attention all staff. There is a security sweep in progress. All security personnel, report to assigned posts, all other personnel, return immediately to quarters. Remain in quarters until you are cleared to leave by security staff. There will be no further warning."

*********

Autumn blinked slightly. She hadn't even considered the question, but had just assumed Felicity would sleep in the crew's quarters with the rest of the crew. Somehow that idea seemed almost rude now, though.

Autumn realized it was because Felicity did not fit in to her tidy view of the world. She was not noble born, that part was easy enough, but she also was not really a commoner. She had not been born into House Kyne, enjoying the protection and prosperity that House Kyne offered her citizenry. She was officially a guest of House Kyne at the moment, meaning there was no expectation that she would repay any hospitalities on any official level.

Felicity was just... there.

It was perplexing. And it was also refreshing, because Felicity was someone who didn't even understand etiquette, much less worry if it wasn't followed exactly.

"I will leave that choice to you. If you wish to sleep in my room, there is a large and comfortable couch there. If you would rather, you can also sleep in the crew's quarters, which are comfortable, but you will have to share space with some one else. And as far as entertainment, there is a multipurpose room in the back which can accommodate "

Before Felicity could answer, two Lancers entered the room. Autumn didn't pay them much mind immediately, as it was a small ship and they would have to pass through this area to get to the galley. That changed, however, as they both walked over, their attention fixed on Felicity.

"My pardons, Lady Kyne. There has been a security breach at the Estate. On your father's authority, I must question all staff members on this ship. Starting with her. Felicity, if you would step into the backroom with me."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Wed Aug 24, 2016 4:15 pm

Declan found that interesting. He did note that Lady Seraphine was smarter than she appeared, perhaps there was an angle she was trying to work on his son. That would prove ultimately pointless, however, as his son was surprisingly dense and completely ruled by his hormones. He had no doubt Leland had already considered a secret rendezvous with her before he had even left.

"Ah yes, well my son is fairly popular with young maidens," he said with a shrug, "He's a rather unscrupulous young man so if you would prefer not having your daughter's heart broken I could have him recalled here."

Outside in the garden Leland smiled at Seraphine. "There is no need to apologize, my Lady," he assured her, "You're brother is rather--uncouth and perhaps thickheaded but people like that do have their uses after all."

He didn't really explain what he meant. He was sure manipulating Yiande would be as simple as manipulating a lock, but the benefit of which was not yet readily apparent. Since the merging of his House with that of Lady Ansons he was no longer heir apparent to the throne. A point which he took great offense to and a good portion of his frustrations came directly from the fact that Gaius didn't even seem interested in ruling.

His father was a shrewd man but far too concerned with honor. He had an eye for deception but no knack for it as far as Leland was aware. He wasn't even sure whether or not his father was aware that his chauvinism was an act... Or at least mostly an act. He did enjoy being the playboy but he constantly played down his own intelligence so that his opponents would underestimate him. If ever an opportunity for him to take power presented itself he would not hesitate to take it.

"Tell me, Lady Seraphine," he began, "Do you know what your father might be planning? Back inside he made no effort to talk my father down and instead gave him an even greater discount. That seems odd, doesn't it?"

Asking her directly was perhaps rude and may not have been a wise choice but Leland wanted to test her loyalty. She obviously had no love for her brother and he could only guess how she must've felt towards her father, but her actions of late suggested some kind of ulterior motive though Leland was not yet aware of what that might be.

**********

Kal Droha resisted the urge to swear under his breath. He knew he was running out of time on the estate but it took him longer to get what he wanted than he had expected. Now he was trying to figure a way out. He had a plan originally, the landscaping crew was supposed to arrive this morning to take care of the garden. He had planned to swap with one of the workers and slip out with them but for some reason their arrival had been delayed. Instead they arrived in the afternoon and started work. Kal had planned to wait until they were finished but before any of them could even leave the entire estate had been placed in lockdown.

Right now he was posing as one of the gardeners but as soon as the gates were closed and all of the vehicles were grounded he quietly slipped away and looked for a chance to change into someone else. The obvious answer to his dilemma was to change into a security guard, but he would have to isolate one and take him down quietly. Meanwhile, the gardener whose identity he stole was tucked inside a maintenance closet. It was only a matter of time before someone found him.

He quietly peaked around the corner noting two Lancers heading in his direction. Quickly doubling back the way he came he hid around a corner and waited for them to pass before continuing on his way. This could only last for so long, eventually he wouldn't be able to hide anymore.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the estate all the rooms were being searched one by one. Lancers and security guards moved swiftly down each corridor checking every staff member and opening every door. It wasn't long at all before they found the missing gardener in much the same condition as Evana. He was tied up, drugged and then shoved into a closet without his clothes. The call went out to the rest of the security teams. They were now looking for a pair of infiltrators, a man and a woman.

**********

Stay in the crew's quarters, she asked herself and then she thought about that. All four of the lancers she had boarded with were male. She had no idea about whether the pilot was male or female or not but the idea of sharing a room with four men did not seem very appealing at all. She was about to open her mouth to say she would probably rather stay here but before she could two lancers entered the room and walked over to her.

Felicity glanced between them, a sinking feeling in her gut. There was an incident at the estate and somehow they thought she was involved. That was the only reason for them to start by questioning her first. She quickly gave each of them a once over, if she had to she might be able to take them both. In this tiny space it would be difficult for them to use their weapons. Felicity, meanwhile, was skilled in hand to hand combat and could easily close the distance and give herself an advantage. If she did that, though, neither Benedict, Ethan nor Kyne Security would be able to trust her again.

Finally she nodded. "Alright," she said then she turned and started heading towards the back...

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Thu Aug 25, 2016 9:57 am

Seraphine gave Leland a slightly exaggerated smile. "Why Sir Leland, are you suggesting that House Borrocor is not well known for its acts of charity and grace?" It was a non-answer, just enough to hint at a deeper truth without revealing more.

"It could be my father simply wishes to purchase some goodwill from House Ducant. Or it could be he has a very specific cost he hopes to mitigate in future dealings." She offered him two theories, neither one of them was probably the complete truth. She had some strong ideas of what her father was after, but did not know for sure. Sickeningly, the only children he felt content to share such details with were the heirs, specifically Yiande and Murrak. While Yiande might not have been the most clever person in the galaxy, he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut regarding the business of their father.

And Murrak... Seraphine avoided him at all costs. There were few people in this life that Seraphine feared, but Murrak was one of them.

"I must say, I am surprised that your father felt the need to speak on Gaius's behalf. Honor must be very important to him if he was willing to come himself to see to it that the matter was put to rest. I feel most Houses feel that House Borrocor deserves any dishonor it receives."

***********

The Lancers led Felicity away while Autumn watched speechlessly. She didn't know what was going on, but she also knew that this was not an issue she had a say in. She might be able to sway them if she really put her full effort in to it, but the Lancers only answered to the Lord of the House.

The multipurpose room in the back of the shuttle was really designed more with entertainment purposes in mind. It was large enough and spacious enough to accommodate a range of physical activities, and with a few adjustments, converted into a theater room for various electronic entertainments.

The Lancers had temporarily altered it to their needs, adding a single table and a few chairs in the center, which seemed sort of ominously out of place in the spacious room.

"Please have a seat." The Lancer gestured politely to a chair, then sat opposite of Felicity at the table.

He was not wearing a helmet, so Felicity could easily see a man with a shaved bald head, darkened from years of scorching sun, a few barely visible scars here and there from long healed scratches.

"I am Sergeant Titus Sandello." The man introduced himself, his voice a slightly gruff and damaged sound, as if his vocal chords had been permanently damaged through too much shouting. "I need to ask you some questions about a security breach that is being conducted at the Kyne Estate. I understand you are a guest of House Kyne, so my questions are not intended to convey any disrespect or suspicion, but it is very important that you answer all questions completely and truthfully so we can get to the bottom of this breach quickly. Do you understand?"

Felicity nodded nervously.

"Very well. We are investigating the abduction of Evana Greenwold." He clicked a button on his holopad, causing an image of her to spring to life. "She was found in her room, and said she had been there for several days. I need you to tell me everything you can about her, including when you saw her last. She was assigned by the household staff to tend to you, correct?"

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Thu Aug 25, 2016 12:17 pm

Leland resisted the urge to roll his eyes. It was true, his father did put a great value on his family's honor. That was House Ducant's signature characteristic stemming all the way back to the first Lords when this sector had been colonized. Many proud traditions have sprung up since then and Leland found most of them to be entirely bothersome. Who cares about how the tea is served? It's just tea!

"Ah yes, well uh--my father is a complicated man," he answered, though his expression suggested he felt differently. "Gaius might frustrate him at times but it is only because my brother doesn't share his reverence for our family's traditions or their sense of duty. As heir to House Ducant such disinterest is irresponsible in the eyes of my father."

Gaius is no better a successor to our father than our father is a ruler. This whole trip could have easily been settled by allowing Gaius his duel. To Leland this entire situation seemed unnecessarily complicated. His father may have only been concerned with avoiding any slight to House Borrocor but by accepting that deal House Ducant was now indebted to Archlord Farrid. That was a foolish mistake.

**********

At the mention of Evana's abduction Felicity's eyes widened in shock. She was about to interrupt him and ask if she was okay but his next comment relieved her fears. She relaxed a bit after hearing that the maidservant had been found, but what Titus said next made absolutely no sense. She just stared at the man in confusion.

"That's not possible," she said, "Evana couldn't have been abducted for several days, she was in my room just this morning. She helped me dress and then brushed my hair."

Titus didn't seem surprised by that. Almost as if he already knew that part. "Did she say anything to you," he asked matter-of-factly. He spoke in a measured tone, one that didn't betray any evidence of what he felt right now. Whether he believed Felicity had any part in this or not was difficult to decipher.

"Um," Felicity began, trying to remember, "She asked me about my mother."

Then she remembered something and her eyes widened in surprise. "But Evana and I have already talked about my mother last week." Why didn't that occur to me this morning?

Now she was completely perplexed. Someone had abducted Evana and then stole her identity? No it was more than that, the intruder stole her face, her voice, her body. How was that even possible?

"We believe the intruder used an elaborate disguise to assume Evana's identity to fool security," Titus explained, somehow he was able to follow Felicity's train of thought.

No, it's more than that, she thought to herself, that 'disguise' was almost too perfect. She would either have to have a twin or... A thought occurred to her. "A Clawdite," she said aloud to no one in particular.

Titus gave her a peculiar look. "A what?"

Felicity looked at him in surprise, she hadn't meant to say that out loud. "Um, a Clawdite," she repeated, "They're a rep--um... Repto? Reptulian?"

"Reptilian," Titus corrected her.

"Oh right," she said, her cheeks flushed slightly, "They're a, um--reptilian species who can change their appearance to match anyone."

Titus just stared at her, a look of disbelief in his eyes. It took a moment for Felicity to process the implication of that. Could it be they don't actually have those here? She knew this sector was isolated but she was just now starting to realize just how isolated it was. Since her arrival she had only ever seen other humans everywhere she looked. She had yet to see a single alien, but that hadn't meant anything to her at first because she'd been isolated to the estate since her arrival. For all she knew there were all kinds of aliens down in the city.

"I, um...," she continued, trying to decipher how best to proceed. Telling these two just how exactly she knew what a Clawdite was would involve telling them exactly where she came from. So far the only people who knew that were Ethan, Benedict and Autumn and she had to work incredibly hard to convince at least two of them. Autumn may have taken her story at face value but this Titus person was paid to be suspicious. Chances were anything she might tell him wouldn't sound very convincing without going as far as she did with Lord Kyne. Somehow revealing her powers to this man didn't seem like a very appealing thought, either. He might just lock her away somewhere thinking she might be a danger to Autumn Kyne.

"I want to talk to Ethan," she said finally, much to Titus' surprise, "Please, it's important and I don't really have time to explain."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sat Aug 27, 2016 9:22 am

Seraphine gave him a sympathetic nod. "It must be frustrating, for your father, feeling like the heir to the House does not take that responsibility seriously." She spoke softly, as they turned down another path. It was a delicate subject to probe, but she had a hunch that Declan Ducant wasn't the only one who looked down on Gaius. Not that sibling rivalry was the greatest revelation ever, but understanding the relations between the two of them was a definite curiosity to her, and a potentially useful one.

Despite Leland's rather womanizing reputation, he had been surprisingly cautious with Seraphine, a fact that she chalked up as a combination of suspicion and trepidation of being associated with House Borrocor. Perhaps he simply just did not find her attractive, but that was a possibility she had trouble accepting. Any false modesty aside, she knew that she was beautiful, as most nobles of good breeding were, and she had used her beauty to her advantage more than once in her life. No, Leland was playing a different game than his usual one, giving Seraphine a different show than others got. It was either a sign of legitimate interest or complete disinterest, she couldn't decide which.

"I know within my own family, there have been mutterings about who is best qualified to assume the mantle of leadership, Succession laws aside. I've had a few doubts of my own." It was a small morsel of information, unlikely to be anything surprising to him, but would perhaps prime the conversation. She continued, opening the conversation up a bit. "As you say, Yiande has his uses, and he would certainly make effective and intimidating bulldog, but leadership takes more finesse than simple intimidation."

*********

Farrid smiled at Declan, this time the gesture was even colder and deader than it usually was. "I believe you would have to have a heart before it could be broken. My Seraphine can take care of herself, so you need not bother with it, though I appreciate your concern."

Farrid helped himself to another glass of wine, before speaking again. "Tell me, Lord Ducant, as I have been out of the House gossip circles for the past several weeks, how are things faring with the other Houses? I heard House Kyne has found itself the victim of several rebel attacks. How is the Lord Kyne coping with such chaos in his ever so orderly House?"

********
Titus pressed his lips together in a thin line, staring at the girl intensely as his mind turned. She knew something, that much was obvious. Wanting to talk to Ethan... It might have been a ploy, but Titus could not think of any endgame from it. It certainly would not get her off of this ship, nor put her in a position to do more damage.

"This thing you wish to talk to Ethan about, it is directly related to the security breach?" He asked after a moment. She nodded emphatically. "I can request it. The Estate is in the middle of a lock down, so I don't know if Ethan will even be available. He turned to the other Lancer, who had been standing silently by the door.

"Montez, can you resume questioning while I go speak to the Estate."

The other Lancer, a woman named Kovi Montez, nodded and took Titus's seat as he left.

She was a stern faced woman, looking every bit as weathered and worn as Titus looked. Her short hair was slicked back, black with speckles of premature gray entering from the roots. "I'm Corporal Montez, Ms. Orssen. The Sergeant already told you what's going on. Is there anything else you can tell me about your association with Evana?"

The Corporal continued to question Felicity for the next few minutes before Titus returned.

"Come with me, Ms. Orrsen. The House Steward will speak with you." Titus led her out of the back room and up to a small communications room, little more than a booth, really, where there was an open channel with Ethan, who's hologram stood on a small display.

"Felicity." Ethan spoke as he saw her enter the camera's view. "I hope this is important, as I am rather busy at the moment."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sat Aug 27, 2016 11:52 am

Leland smiled, that was exactly the sort of information he was looking for. Seraphine could prove to be useful to him if he played his cards right. "Before my father's marriage to Lady Anson," he began, "I was originally named as heir being the first born. After Lady Anson's unexpected demise, however, my father was forced to name Gaius as heir to appease the Anson half of our realm who believed he had somehow murdered her. It probably wouldn't have mattered so much to him if Lady Anson's territory did not almost rival ours in size, but you see the situation I'm in now."

He stopped walking and sat down on a nearby bench. As he sat he leaned forward with his hands pressed against his lips. She could help me. We could work together within our respective Houses but how? He could not see it clearly yet but he knew Seraphine's help would become indispensable. He also knew the next words out of his mouth would be a huge risk, but swaying Lady Seraphine over to his side would be a great boon to his interests so he believed the risk was worth it.

He looked this way and that, making sure there was no one else within earshot of them then he spoke in a low tone. "You and I, we both know we were made to rule, but have both been relegated to obscurity. Now neither of us are in a position to do anything about it, but perhaps there are things we can do behind the scenes to sway things in our direction. To that end I propose an alliance, just between us."

**********

Declan Ducant raised an eyebrow at this change in topic. Perhaps now he was getting close to the Archlord's endgame. Could it have something to do with Lord Kyne? "I spoke with him briefly at the dinner party," he said, "His realm is facing the same challenges as mine only he is fairing slightly better. Perhaps it has something to do with the way commoners are treated within his household."

He made a face, plainly showing his disgust at the thought that commoners were well treated in Kyne territory. It was both an involuntary reflex and a ploy meant to suggest that there may be some deeply held animosity towards House Kyne. The latter wasn't entirely a falsehood, either. House Kyne and House Ducant have always had their troubles and if Lord Kyne had had a son rather than a daughter then perhaps Declan wouldn't have even considered an alliance with him. Still, House Kyne was one of the Old Families, unlike House Borrocor. If he was forced into an alliance with either of those two Houses he would surely pick House Kyne over Borrocor. Despite that, however, he was interested in learning more of Farrid's schemes. If the man held some animosity towards House Kyne then Declan would know of it.

**********

Felicity was shocked the moment Montez opened her mouth to speak. This whole time she thought all the Lancers were men, she had not realized one of them was a woman. As Montez asked her first question Felicity kept her eyes averted from her though her cheeks were flushed red with color. She felt so embarrassed despite the fact Montez couldn't possibly know why.

"She, um--helps me get out of bed in the morning," she began, her cheeks burning even brighter as she spoke, "and she helps me get dressed sometimes too. The clothes they gave me are, um--confusing, so she shows me how to put them on. Also, she's been teaching me how to brush my hair and use makeup."

She realized all of this was making her sound completely helpless, but it was a fact that Felicity had never done any of these things since before arriving here. Admitting them now, and to another woman of all people, just made the embarrassment even worse somehow. She had no idea why she felt embarrassed, she had never given her appearance a second thought, but she knew she should be embarrassed and somehow that was enough.

"To be honest, I don't really know much about her," she admitted, "She's been really kind to me but she doesn't really talk much about herself." And I never asked, she thought, regretting that lack of foresight now. If she had she might have been able to tell something was different about her.

A moment later Titus came back into the room and informed her that Ethan was waiting. She got up and followed him to the communications console tucked away in a room so small it could only be considered as a booth. As she sat in front of the console Ethan spoke, "Felicity. I hope this is important, as I am rather busy at the moment."

Felicity cast a glance over her shoulder at Titus who was still standing in the doorway. She knew what she had to say would reveal certain secrets to him but trying to convince him to leave her alone would take up too much of Ethan's time and what she had to say was important. Finally she turned back to look at Ethan.

"Um, I know what it is you're looking for," she said.

Ethan nodded, "Go on."

Felicity cast another quick glance back over her shoulder at Titus then turned back to Ethan. She still wasn't sure if she should admit this in front of the other man but she didn't have much of a choice. She just hoped being a lancer he was capable of keeping a secret. "Where I come from there's a species known as Clawdite. They're a repto, um--reptilian species who can change what they look like like a chameleon. They can change their appearance to match anyone they come into contact with regardless of species, I've seen it happen. I've met a couple of them on Ord Mantell."

"And why do you believe this Clawdite is what we're looking for now," he asked, he kept his face impassive and it was difficult to tell if he believed her or not.

"When Evana came into my room this morning it wasn't just someone disguised as Evana," she explained, "it was Evana. A Clawdite is the only thing I can think of capable of doing that. Look, you said visitors to this sector were rare, but they do happen, right? I might not be the only one here from somewhere outside and if I'm right than the intruder could be anyone she's touched, even you."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sat Aug 27, 2016 9:55 pm

Seraphine smiled, though it was a smile tinged with surprise. "Leland, you surprise me with your straightforwardness. I suppose it is true what they say about you, that you act quickly when you see something you want."

She knew that as carefully considered as his words had been, her response would need to be equally careful. She and Leland were not comparable. They might not have even been equals. He was just one step from succession, and she was an entire massacre of family, including probably some uncles who would seek to wrest control. The odds of her ending up as Lady of the House were extremely remote. But that was not to say she was without ambitions, they were just different. Having someone like Leland as an ally would be beneficial, but it could also turn ugly very quick.

"An alliance implies we are united both by goals and trust." The young woman spoke in response, leaning in towards him a little, she was thinking quickly now, interested in pursuing this, though very aware of how dangerous this path could be to walk. If her father found out and she didn't have a good explanation, he might not ask many questions. "We may have one, but the other will take time. I would prefer to start our relationship a bit more... quid pro quo. You tell me what you need from me, and I will tell you what I need in return, and visa versa. I am not so honest as to believe there will not be manipulation that takes place, nor am I so cynical as to believe that there is not mutual gain to be had in working together."

**********

Farrid waved off Declan's comment. "There are houndsmen who treat their dogs well, it does not change what the dog is. Still, some of my intel suggests that if you ever desired to put a pressure on House Kyne, soon it will be time. There are spies whispering that the so called Counter Movement might have a Haven inside of House Kyne. If that is true, and I am merely waiting on final confirmation, it is only a matter of time before unrest breaks out or Royal troops descend."

The Archlord swirled his wineglass absently. "Of course, I do intend to share my intel with House Kyne when next we meet. I surely would not want any lasting harm to come to them. But there is nothing like the threat of uprising to soften a negotiation stance, hm?"

**********

Ethan listened intently, then began asking a series of questions about the shapeshifter, related to how it could transform, how fast, how accurately, and many others. Felicity answered what she could, although her own knowledge was limited to a small sliver of experience.

Finally, Ethan seemed satisfied he had as much as he could get. "Thank you, Felicity. If this information helps us track down the infiltrator, than you will have done us a great service." He turned to someone off camera, laying out his orders.

"I want this word past to everyone: all personnel are to pick a partner and stay in eye shot of that person at all times. Have medical personnel scan everyone to look for any genetic anomalies in the blood. It seems unlikely this creature could change itself inside and out. Tell everyone to be on the lookout for someone who could be wearing a very elaborate and accurate disguise. Tell them to challenge everyone, even myself or the Lord Kyne himself, and to verify ID by any means necessary." The man off camera acknowledged and quickly began disseminating the orders.

"Sergeant Sandello." Ethan spoke again, and the Lancer stepped over next to Felicity.

"Sir."

"Have everyone on the ship tested for any blood irregularities. Including Autumn and Felicity. We cannot take the chance on the infiltrator being on the shuttle."

"Yes sir."

Titus turned to Felicity. "Well, miss, let's get this over with. This way."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sat Aug 27, 2016 11:15 pm

Leland thought about that a moment. "It's difficult to say what it is exactly I want as I'm not yet one hundred percent certain how it is that we will benefit from this arrangement," he explained, "I see potential, however, House Borrocor holds a monopoly on the production of vital building materials, that gives you a great deal of power over the other Houses. Having a friendly ear inside such a House who can pass on helpful information would carry with it great reward but also great risk. I'm not sure I have something of equal value to give to you to make the offer worth it... At least not yet."

He gave her a cool, confident smile. "My father will not rule forever and Gaius does not have the fortitude to lead. His rule would fall apart. There are opportunities to be had there, if one is in a position to seize them."

**********

That was interesting. Declan had not heard that the Counter Movement had set up a base of operations inside Kyne territory. Given how much trouble they had caused House Ducant he had thought they were based within his own territory. For House Kyne to permit such an entity to exist inside its borders while also allowing it to attack House Ducant, that was almost an act of war. If the rumors were true that is.

"A clever plan, indeed," Declan agreed with him, he was interested now, "Perhaps I underestimated the situation within the Kyne borders. Tell me, do you believe House Kyne will have time to stall the rebellion once you give them this information?"

Declan, of course, knew the answer to that question. A smart negotiator withholds vital information for as long as possible, revealing it only when it is too late to do something about it. It was a difficult gamble to make, though. Release the information too soon and ones advantage is lost. Release it too late and the situation will escalate before one could take advantage of it. That must mean House Borrocor's and House Kyne's next negotiation was fast approaching if Farrid was willing to tell him this now. Should House Ducant decide to do something about the rebellion it may already be too late.

**********

Felicity thought it was a little silly for Ethan to ask that she be tested too. If she were the intruder then it wouldn't make much sense for her to give him information that could lead to her own capture, but she stood and followed Titus anyway. As they walked she looked up at him, wondering what he was thinking right now. She kind of unloaded a bunch of information on him without any warning and up until this moment, as far as Felicity was aware that is, he had thought of her as a simple farm girl.

"I'm sorry," she said suddenly, "for not explaining it to you sooner. It's just--it wasn't easy convincing Bene... Lord Kyne," she quickly corrected herself, "of where I was from and I wasn't sure if I could convince you. I thought it would be easier to show you, but that was probably a lot to hear."

**********

There was a muffled cry from an alarmed guard as a hand reached out and covered his mouth. Kal reached up with his other hand and injected a drug into the base of the man's neck. It didn't take long for the drug to take effect, leaving the guard limp but alive in Kal's arms. The Clawdite dragged the unconscious guard back into a tiny alcove before shoving his body onto the bottom shelf of a serving cart. The table cloth that hung down from the edges would hide the unconscious guard for now, but unfortunately with security out looking for him everywhere Kal had no time to change into the guard's uniform. Instead he made us of wearable holographic technology to emulate the guard's uniform.

Kal preferred not to use holograms for this sort of thing. A hologram could recreate a perfect copy but the fact remained it was still a hologram. It had no substance and wouldn't fool anyone who managed to put their hand through it, intentional or otherwise. The alternative was to morph his skin to match the texture of the guard's uniform. It will look like he was wearing the guard's clothing but again that was an imperfect illusion. The dangling bits of certain articles of clothing were impossible for him to recreate since it was just his skin that he'd be changing. In short, the guard's security badge that hung from his breast pocket would not hang as it should and would spoil the illusion. A hologram could recreate the badge more accurately, but Kal had pocketed to real thing from the guard's pocket just in case and he took the guard's rifle, switching the setting to stun before slinging it over his shoulder.

Disguised as a member of Kyne security he should be able to move more freely now. The KSE seemed intent on testing all the staff, particularly the servants which made sense. It was originally Evana whose face he wore, they probably had no idea he could change into anyone. This could allow him to get closer to someone in charge, either the head of security, Lord Benedict's Chamberlain or even the Lord himself. If he could steal an identity from one of them he could talk his way out of the lockdown and escape. That still left the monumental task of actually getting to one of them, though.

"Hey, Duberman," someone called to him as he was carefully making his way to the central wing of the estate, "New orders from on high. We're to pair up and keep watch on each other."

"What? Why," Kal asked in Duberman's voice.

The other man just shrugged, "Dunno, they also want us to challenge everyone we see, including Lord Kyne himself."

Kal resisted the urge to swear under his breath. Someone told them about what he could do, but who? Only Prince Darien and his Chamberlain were aware of what he was capable of and neither of them would rat him out to House Kyne, he was here on their orders after all. Therefore it had to have been someone else. The girl perhaps? There was something off about her and her lack of knowledge of social etiquette as well as her accent seemed to suggest she was not from this sector. It was the only possible conclusion. After all, he was in a similar position when he first arrived.

"Ahem," a new voice interrupted and the guard who had spoken to him first stepped aside.

"Oh right," he said, "Sir Ethan wants everyone to be tested for any genetic anomalies. Waste of time, if you ask me. Anyway, let's get this over with."

The nurse tested him first as Kal waited, debating what he should do. The test would no doubt reveal he was the intruder and now that Kyne security knew what they were looking for his chances for escape were slim. He ran over as many scenarios as he could in his mind but they all came to the same inevitable conclusion. There was no way out of this alive.

After the nurse finished his work and the guard was cleared he turned to Kal with his kit and beckoned him to hold out his hand. Kal did as he was told but he was simply just biding his time. As the nurse worked with his equipment Kal waited for the other guard to drop his attention when he did he spun the nurse about in his arms, grappling him into a choke hold. Then he brought his rifle to bear on the guard and fired a single shot at him. The stun bolt struck the other man and dissipated harmlessly off his armor. Two more shots, however, sent him staggering to the floor.

"I'm sorry about this," Kal whispered into the nurse's ear before kicking him forward and dropping him with another stun blast. Then he turned and took off running down the hall.

Meanwhile, the guard he shot struggled to reach for his com. With great effort he managed to activate it and warn the others. "Intruder spotted--east wing," he said between gritted teeth, "Two men down... Intruder is armed and using stun blasts..."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sun Aug 28, 2016 10:03 pm

"Well it is not too hard to see that it could be equally advantageous for both of us to have insight into the other's House, especially if your father and mine are to be conducting business. And my father's hands are in so very many businesses, I am certain I could find more than a few things that would be of interest to you."

She leaned in until her face was inches from his, resting a hand on his leg. "But this relationship must be a pact that stays between us. I will not be your father's spy through you, nor should you expect your words to reach my father's ears. Any decisions to pass information should be agreed upon by us both, to keep this relationship on equal ground, to prevent one of us from gaining an undue advantage. Agreed?"

**********

"I will be curious to see what Benedict decides to do with the information." Farrid answered while not exactly answering the question. In truth, he hadn't even fully committed himself to the idea of revealing this to House Kyne, almost preferring the idea of just letting the situation blow up in Benedict's smug face. "Lord Kyne has shown strength and aggression in the past, but I do not know if he will attempt to outmaneuver the rebels quietly so as to not draw attention, or if he will make a show of fighting them in effort to gain Royal support. Benedict has always been a shrewd man, but not always as easy to predict as I would like."

The greater question, of course, is what will you do with this information, Lord Ducant?


**********

Titus gave her a tight smile as he used a small needle and a portable scanner to test her blood. It came back with no abnormalities, which he found unsurprising. Still, the only way to be sure there was no interloper was to make sure everyone was tested.

"You decided what needed to be done and acted decisively. I can't fault you for that." He set aside the scanner and put the needle in a sterilizer. "I'm just glad that you had solid information, it's really going to make a difference to the people in the Estate. Come on."

For reasons that he didn't explain and, frankly, he didn't really know himself, Titus had Felicity follow him as he went through and tested everyone on board the ship. Autumn went last, and not without at least a little bit of push back, but eventually she conceded and allowed herself to be tested. Once it was determined there were no shapeshifters aboard the ship, the Lancers stood down, returning to their quarters.

Titus left Felicity with Autumn back in the living area, giving her a crisp nod. "Miss Orrsen. Lady Autumn. If you have any further need of the Lancers, please don't hesitate." He bowed to Autumn, then departed to the shared quarters.

Montez was waiting for him just on the other side of the door, wearing a teasing grin. "Well, Sarge, you get a date? Or a comm number at least?"

Sandello gave Montez a sarcastic smile. "Shut up, Montez. How often is it you get to spend a minute or two with someone who doesn't wear a Kyne uniform? Sometimes it's a nice change to see a fresh face, is all."

"Whatever you say, Sarge."

Out in the other room, Autumn was looking anxious. "I heard the Sergeant talking... Something about a shapeshifter... Did it come down in the crashed ship with you?"

**********

The radio call sent response forces screaming to the east wing.

"I want a shrinking perimeter around that area. Bring it in alive if you can... Dead if you have to." The Lancer commander issued orders, looking at a map of the building, noting where the call came from and circling all possible exits. He directed a few teams to over to cover the windows, just to make sure the intruder didn't try to foolishly jump out and run across open ground.

Soon, the East Wing was surrounded. It was still a large chunk to search, but their query was trapped, and it was only a matter of time until the search team found it.

The commander got on the PA, directing his voice through the East Wing. "Attention intruder. Every exit is blocked and you have no hope of escape. Submit now and you will be treated fairly and with dignity. If you attempt to resist, you face injury and dishonor. The choice is yours. If there are any staff members still in the East Wing, lay on your stomach with your hands out away from your body or you will be stunned."

He flipped off the PA, returning back to the secure comm channel of the Lancers. "Search Team, make your sweep through the East Wing. Anyone you encounter who is not in the prone position is viable stun target. Go."

He received acknowledgments as the Lancer team, which a mixture of stun and lethal weapons, entered the East Wing, sweeping through each room.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Aug 28, 2016 11:04 pm

Leland smiled slyly, "My Lady, I would not dare sully this arrangement for the benefit of my father as I hope you would not sully it for yours. This agreement is purely for our own advancement and to that end I find your terms agreeable."

He held out his hand towards her. "Should we shake on it? Or would you rather seal the deal with a kiss?"

**********

Declan nodded, he'd been on the receiving end of Benedict's unpredictability once or twice before. "I'm well aware of the difficulties of handling him," he said, "and this 'haven' you speak of concerns me. If the attacks on my territory are coming from House Kyne...," he left the rest hanging in the air but it was pretty clear where his train of thought was heading. "I would deal with this myself if I had solid intel, but I can't very well act on a rumor. It seems you are in control here, Lord Farrid, so I'll leave the matter of how to deal with House Kyne and the rebels with you."

**********

Felicity watched Titus leave all the way up until the door had blocked all sight of him. He called me Orssen, she thought to herself, even though he knows that couldn't possibly be my name. That irked her slightly, in a way it was nice to have a surname and to feel like she came from a family but it was all pretend. It wasn't her name and it wasn't her family. She was an interloper, trying to squeeze herself into someplace where she didn't belong. She didn't want to wear the name Orssen anymore, she wanted to wear her own name. Whatever that might be.

"I heard the Sergeant talking," Autumn said suddenly, interrupting her thoughts, "Something about a shapeshifter... Did it come down in the crashed ship with you?"

Felicity shook her head. "I was alone on that ship. The shapeshifter was probably here before me," she said but then she thought about it, "Though, I guess she could have come after, also."

Just who is she? And what did she want? Felicity wasn't a great strategist or a skilled infiltrator so she couldn't possibly understand the finer nuances of either of those professions. Still, copying Evana's identity didn't seem like the type of thing one would do if they were trying to sneak somewhere with high security. The staff members had only slightly less restrictions on their access than Felicity did. The only interesting thing Evana had access to was... Wait, she thought, was she after me?!

She shook her head and tried to push those thoughts aside. The idea that someone might send an assassin after her, or whatever the infiltrator was supposed to be, was a rather unsettling thought.

"Are you alright," Autumn asked, drawing her back to the present.

"Oh, it's nothing," Felicity assured her, though Autumn could tell from her tone she was still shaken up, "It's just--I don't think I'm ready for House politics yet."

**********

The manhunt at the Kyne Estate came to a surprising and almost anticlimactic end. Rather than going out in a blaze of glory Kal's attempt to flee ended in what could only be considered a whimper. He had tried his best to get out of the east wing only to find that all of his exits were indeed cut off. He had even considered jumping out of the window at one point, but the flash of a lancer's flashlight informed him that that was no longer an option, either. Not that he would have even considered it. There wasn't much for cover between here and the wall and then there was still the wall. He was definitely not scaling that without any equipment. His only hope for escape lay in his ability to assume the identity of anyone he touched. Without that advantage there was only one way this could end.

The Kyne security forces swept the east wing going room to room. Every staff member they found was checked and cleared and the lancers kept moving, sweeping over the east wing like a well oiled machine. It was in the last room they looked that they finally found him. Kal sat on his knees facing the window, his rifle laying by his side. As the security forces busted into the room he made no effort to reach for the weapon or even to defend himself. The guards called out to him several times but he refused to answer. Then a stun bolt struck him, followed by a second and a third. He collapsed onto his side, his eyes still looking out the window past the wall and down into the city. He was that close from freedom.

"Search him," one of the lancers said.

The first man walked over and started to reach down towards Kal then he balked all of a sudden. Unable to concentrate on his current form Kal had reverted back to his original shape. For some of these men it was probably the first alien creature they'd seen. The lancers sifted through the pockets of his landscapers uniform, relieving him of his holographics, the injection needle he used to drug his victims, any weapons he might have had and a small baggy with several hairs in it.

The lancer who had found the baggy held it out towards his commander. "Sir," he said and the officer came over to look.

He held the bag up to his eye. The hairs inside were black like Autumn's but shorter. Whatever the intruder's goal was these hairs were part of it somehow. "Lord Kyne will want to know of this."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Tue Aug 30, 2016 10:08 pm

Seraphine leaned in a little closer, their lips almost touching. "I think, if we are going to be working together, it might be worthwhile to have a reason to be seen together in the future."

With that, she closed the remaining distance, sealing their pact with a teasing kiss, just enough to nibble on his lower lip and give him a taste of her exotic lip maquillage, which was sweetened with fruit juices. She returned his sly smile. "Perhaps there will be fringe benefits to our working relationship."

**********

It was as good as Farrid could have hoped for. Declan might have been more suspicious of Borrocor than of Kyne, but he was not so endeared to House Kyne that he was willing to overlook the harboring of these rebels. So, if Farrid could get a good trail of intel leading to the rebels in Kyne territory, something that should not be so terribly difficult, he could very easily stir up negative sentiment towards Benedict. Especially if he could prove that House Kyne knew about the rebels and did nothing to thwart their activity, which may be a little harder to prove. And if this information reached royal ears at the same time... House Kyne would find itself pressured on a multitude of sides.

"Well, I am still gathering information. I do not want to throw hasty accusations around until I am certain, but you can be sure, I will keep you informed if I hear of information that pertains to the safety of your House." He spoke as he traded his wine glass for a handful of confectioneries from a servant. "I expect to know for sure within the week, and once I have all of my information, I intend to act quickly."

**********

Autumn gave her a smile that might have been just a touch bitter. "I do not believe anyone ever is. But the hands of the Houses are everywhere, and even if you run away from the game, you still find yourself somehow part of it. Ethan once told me 'everyone is either a player of the game, or a piece', and he was right. Is right. Even at the times in my life when I was doing everything in my power to get away from everything having to do with my father and the House, I found out later that was just what certain people wanted me to do. Even if I run away from everything, I am still feeding in to someone's goal."

**********
It took many hours for the Kyne Estate to settle down and come off of lock down. There were two full security sweeps of every corner of the Estate and all of its staff, every person verified and double verified, every security system, door, window, and computer terminal checked for signs of tampering. Even the food was thoroughly checked for any trace of contaminates, which ultimately came up mostly empty. There were two old listening devices found, simple recorders with microphones secreted in the hallways, but they were non-transmitting and showed signs of having been planted long ago. Apparently, whoever had left them never made it back for them.

The prisoner was moved at gun point down to the cells in the basement of the Estate. It took a little time for adequate security arrangements to be made, but eventually it was decided that the prisoner would be kept under constant surveillance of at least three guards and would be required to wear a manacle on each wrist, so even if he did shapeshift, it would be difficult for him to do so quickly enough to make cause confusion about whether or not he was the shapeshifter.

It was well into the night about Ethan got down to see the prisoner. Normally, he would have simply left the matter to the security chief and not involved himself, but this was a most curious situation.

He stepped up to the forcefield that separated him from the shapeshifter, who was sitting silently, despondently, on the small bunk. For a moment Ethan just looked at him, wondering if he was looking at the true shape of the creature, or if this was all disguises within disguises.

"Under Kyne law, you could easily be executed for being a spy. You are certainly dangerous enough that it would seem like a prudent decision. Yet, even though it would have been easier to do so, you did not take any lives, not even while trying to escape. This tells me you are not a person of pure malice and self interest. When confronted to capture, you chose to surrender rather than die trying to flee. This tells me you do not want to die. So, to this end, I would like to come to some sort of agreement. It really is not much of a choice, of course, because the alternative to my offer will be torture, imprisonment or death, but if you tell me what I want to know, I will advocate for you to Lord Kyne. It may be that he will be willing to send into exile from here in exchange for the information on who it is that hired you and what it was you were doing here."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Tue Aug 30, 2016 11:35 pm

"I appreciate you bringing this to my attention, my Lord. I'm glad to know that House Ducant can count on you in these troubled times. Should the Counter Movement grow any bolder it may take a concentrated effort by all the noble houses to put them down," Declan replied.

A servant came over and offered to refill his drink but Declan waved him off. "I'd hate to cut this conversation short but I've just about run out of time. There are important matters I left behind in the hands of my son and while I know he is capable I have called into question his motivation on many occurrences."

He stood and bowed his head to Farrid. "I thank you for your hospitality, my Lord, but it's time my son and I departed. If you wouldn't mind could you have someone fetch him for me please."

Archlord Farrid motioned towards a nearby servant girl who bowed and then quickly left the room. Declan watched her leave for a moment then turned his attention back to Farrid. He smiled at the man though it was difficult to tell if the gesture was genuine.

"This has been a most enlightening experience. I look forward to our next meeting."

**********

"Indeed," Leland said, still savoring the smell of her perfume and the taste of her kiss, "I am looking forward to it."

He would have said more but shortly after that a servant suddenly appeared and interrupted them. The petite girl informed them that Lord Ducant was ready to depart and that she had been sent to fetch his son. She hadn't used that word of course, but Leland knew that was his intent. He was someone that needed to be fetched, after all. Not someone that could be trusted with the rule of his House.

"Alas, it seems this brief interlude has come to an end," he said, getting up on his feet. Then he turned to Seraphine and bowed to her. "I bid you farewell, Princess. I enjoyed our little 'talk'."

Seraphine nodded her head and said her farewell then Leland turned and followed the servant back inside.

**********

A shadow fell across Felicity's face as Autumn spoke. What she talked about sounded like a prison, but worse than that is what she called it. Every time she said the word 'game' Felicity's mind wandered back to Ord Mantell and the faces of those who suffered or lost their lives at the hands of the First Order. That was no game she played, those were real people who fought and died trying to free themselves from oppression. It was no different here too, right? What happened to Lyra, rumors of a rebellion. People were suffering and those in charge had the gall to call it a 'game'.

"It's unforgivable," she said aloud without really thinking about it.

"What," Autumn asked surprised by her tone.

Felicity's eyes widened and she stared at Autumn, suddenly realizing she had spoken aloud. Finally, she looked away and there was a genuine sadness in her eyes. "How could you call it a game? How could anyone call it a game? These are people's lives you're playing with. This is you're life. Wouldn't it be better to just live it the way you want without worrying about what anyone else wants?"

**********

Kal Droha allowed himself to smile wryly, though he did not make eye contact with Ethan. He doubted either he nor Lord Kyne would feel so generous as to allow him to leave and even if they were it wouldn't have mattered anyway. It was already too late, the end would come soon. It was only a matter of time.

He laughed aloud for a moment then lowered his head into his hands before finally addressing Ethan. "I tell you and you let me go, were it so easy," he said quietly, "You could just as easily kill me after I tell you, I have no reason to believe you would not."

He stood and turned his back to Ethan, stepping closer to the back wall of his tiny cell. For awhile there was nothing but silence as though the Clawdite were considering his options. Finally Kal let out an exasperated sigh and said, "The man who sent me was Prince Darien Rosario. As for why he sent me, well the reason is simple. He does not believe that the young Felicity is the illegitimate daughter of Taylar Orssen and if she is someone important enough to be harbored by House Kyne I was sent to find out why."

There was a brief silence in which neither of them spoke but Kal could tell by his slight hesitation he was surprised at how easy that was. "I do not blame you if you are surprised," he continued, "I have no love for the Prince. When I first arrived he kept my companions and I prisoner in one of this quarries. It was only after he learned what I could do that he decided to set me free, but that freedom came at a cost."

He turned to face the other man. "I had to kill the other refugees to prove my 'loyalty' and to hide my secret."

He saw the look in Ethan's eyes and waved it off. "Had you been in my position you'd have been ready to do anything to be free of that quarry," he admonished him, "but in a sad twist of fate it turns out killing my friends wasn't enough of a reason for the Prince to trust me, so he took steps. A micro-transceiver embedded in my spine, right about here," he said, pointing to the base of his neck, "It took me two days to find it. I was going to have it removed somewhere down there," he pointed in the general direction of the city. "After I had completed my mission this was to be my last. It is still my last, though not how I expected it. Once he learns what became of me... The explosion should destroy this cell, possibly kill you and those on the floor above."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Thu Sep 01, 2016 8:39 pm

Farrid rose to his feet, a task that was difficult for him even with mechanically assisted legs. "Of course, Lord Ducant, I would not wish to detain you any longer than necessary."

Seraphine and Leland entered the room together, Seraphine walking just close enough to Leland that Farrid took note of it. She must have found something worthwhile in Leland to give him any attention, but Farrid could not fathom a guess as to what.

What are you up to now, you little snake?

Yiande gave the Ducant's a faint bow and departed without a word, but Seraphine and Farrid escorted the other nobles back to their ship. "Thank you for the pleasure of your company. I hope you have a safe flight and you will return again some day."

Seraphine gave Leland a slight smirk, but did not bother speaking.

***********

Autumn felt a flash of anger at the girl's words, tamping it down as best she could. How dare this girl, this outsider, have the nerve to speak in such self righteousness about something she couldn't possibly understand? Even as she opened her mouth to lash out, however, she shut it again, forcing herself to take a calming breath.

Felicity was right in many ways. There were too many people who trivialized the bloodshed and sacrifice of thousands of soldiers in the name of getting along well at the next noble party. Death became an excusable indiscretion. She liked to think her father did not fall in to that category, but there were still phrases like "unavoidable losses" that he dealt with. But right or not, that did not give Felicity permission to pass such blanket judgements over her as if she was responsible for the system that existed.

"It is not a game, Felicity." She said quietly after she had taken a moment to collect herself. "I use that metaphor because pieces are moved and sacrificed just like chess, and behind those pieces are hands that move them. Most sane people do not take enjoyment out of the game, none like sacrificing. But if you-" she stopped herself; if Felicity had made this about Autumn, then she would keep it about that way. "If I stop playing, if my father stops playing, that means there is no one to stop the more aggressive Houses. That means occupation forces settle on House Kyne worlds, enforce exorbitant 'occupation' taxes on them, and treat them like second class citizens. If they are feeling particularly generous, the occupiers might turn those House Kyne worlds back to us, after they have bled them as dry as they can and the worlds are beset by poverty."

Autumn met Felicity's eyes steely, a back part of her brain wondering where along the line she had so completely picked up the torch her father had been trying to get her to carry. It was odd and reflexive that as she felt like her the honor of her father or her House was being belittled, she just naturally defended it.

But that didn't mean that the words she was speaking weren't true. "It has happened before, and worse in history. Wholesale slaughter, massive forced relocation of conquered people, slavery... There are any number of atrocities in history to look at."

Autumn's eyes dropped to the ground as an awkward silence descended on them both for a moment. "I do not get that choice. If I could run away and live my own life, I would, but if I do, House Kyne will have no one to lead it when my father dies. It will be pulled apart by vultures, entire systems getting caught in the middle." Her voice was little more than a whisper. "What sort of life would I have, with the suffering of millions of people on my conscience?"


***********

Ethan's brow furrowed, but he did not break his ground. It could have been a bluff, or it could have been a lie that Kal Droha been told. Either way, it surprised Ethan how eagerly the man gave up his employers. It made him either honest, or a plant. The latter seemed like an utter waste of a shape shifting spy. The former was always difficult to believe.

It was, perhaps, a back up plan to point the finger at Rosario if caught, but the spy's story made too much sense, especially considering Rosario's recent visit. Ethan strongly suspected the man was telling the truth.

"I will arrange for a surgical team to remove the device from inside you as soon as possible." He spoke slowly and deliberately, as if pondering each word. "Once we have settled the matter of eminent danger, we will discuss business further. Based on your statements and the fact that you chose a nonlethal manner to execute your mission, I do not believe your situation is as hopeless as it seems. I will return soon."

Ethan turned, pulling his comm as he did to order a medical team to assemble.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Fri Sep 02, 2016 11:37 pm

"Of course, my Lord, it's been a pleasure," Ducant said with a bow and he and Leland boarded their ship. Once inside Declan turned a prying eye towards his son. "Found another conquest to enjoy," he asked and his tone clearly conveyed his displeasure at the boy's promiscuous activities.

Leland just shrugged. "Well, you seemed to have the Archlord well in hand and my hands are more well suited towards--other things," he said slyly. "Anyway, I think I need a change of clothes and a nice hot bath."

He turned and headed towards his room, all the while feeling his father's gaze burning a hole in his back...

**********

Kal's story, as it turned out, was not a bluff. The surgical team did find a device implanted beneath his skin right about where he said it would be. It was tricky to remove as it had been connected to the creatures spine but fortunately they were able to take it out without causing him any undue harm. A specialized bomb squad took possession of the device afterwards and disabled it. All of this they managed to finish just minutes before Kals' next scheduled check in.

The Clawdite lay in his bed afterwards just counting down the minutes. As the last second passed he closed his eyes. Right now he was supposed to be sending a coded transmission to Prince Rosario on a masked frequency. The message would piggy back on signals being regularly broadcast into space from the Estate then travel along a series of relay stations until it reached Rosario space. Prince Darien had paid handsomely to convince the Correspondence Guild to allow them the use of their relay stations for this purpose.

Today, though, Kal would not be sending that message and Prince Rosario would know that the mission had failed. Normally at this point he would activate the device and eliminate all evidence of his existence, but since the device had been removed... He's going to know that Kal had betrayed him, that much was certain, and the Prince was not the kind of enemy he wanted.

**********

Felicity stared at her for a moment then looked away. She didn't have an answer, how could she? She was an orphan who grew up on the street, not the daughter of a noble Lord. She had no idea what it was like to be weighed down by such responsibility. Autumn felt like she was trapped by the circumstances of her life, like she didn't have a choice but Felicity couldn't bring herself to believe that. There was always a choice, there had to be. She just couldn't see it.

"I don't know what to say," she said quietly, "I've only been in this sector for a week and I don't know much about it. I just hear things or see things, like what happened to Lyra, and it breaks my heart. You're hurting too, I can feel it and I want to help you but I don't know how. Everything here is still just so new to me."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sat Sep 03, 2016 4:36 pm

"It appears the spy was being truthful. He did have an explosive embedded in him." Ethan said to Benedict. They were taking the evening meal in Benedict's private dining chamber, discussing the events of the day.

Benedict grunted his distaste at this. "Those who cannot inspire loyalty try to force it. Have the device taken to some back road and detonated in an old transport. Make sure the story of the unexplained explosion reaches any loose mouths we know in the Guild. It should be enough to convince that twisted prince his spy is dead at least. What is your recommendation of how to proceed with this information?"

"If the story of the explosion works, Darien will think his spy is dead, but will have to wonder about what information was gleaned from him, if any. Best to keep him uncertain and guessing at this point. If there is a need to put pressure on him, we could drop some hints that the there might have been a spy who was talking, but a direct confrontation on that information should be reserved for a declaration of hostilities or other aggressive maneuvers."

Ethan stopped speaking long enough to take a bite of the exquisitely prepared poultry dish before continuing. "The prince wants information on Felicity, and we have sent Felicity directly to him. Potentially very dangerous, but also will be very unexpected for him and may force his hand to move one way or another. I do not think he would risk open warfare by anything as crass as an abduction, but I would recommend being ready to react swiftly to any provocation. As for this spy... It may be a worthwhile venture seeing if his loyalties will change with a more humane treatment. It does not sound like he was well treated by House Rosario, even before they put a bomb in his head."

Benedict nodded. "Makes sense. I think I will refrain from telling Autumn this information yet. I do not know that she could resist the urge to bring up that topic while on this mission."

"That seems like a prudent idea, my lord."

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

"There is nothing to say." Autumn replied, her tone a mixture of defiance, resolution and embarrassment. "I am.. sorry if I replied harshly. The right thing to do is often difficult, even when one can determine what the right thing is. But you need not worry about helping me. Goodness knows my father has surrounded me with enough mentors, advisors and tutors that there is seldom someone far from hand to lend an opinion on any subject or choice. I will get on as I always have, and I will do what must be done, regardless of whether or not I like it."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Sep 04, 2016 12:44 am

"Is that what we're doing now," Felicity asked suddenly, bringing her gaze back up to meet Autumn's, "Something that must be done? Ethan didn't say much about what we were doing, but he seemed to think it might not be safe. I promised him that I'd protect you but I--," she stopped suddenly and thought about her words. She was going to say she thought it would be better for them to turn around and go back, but somehow she had a feeling Autumn would disagree.

I know she feels she has a responsibility but does that responsibility really mean she has to put herself in danger? If it were just her on this trip Felicity would feel better about it. She could handle herself in a fight but Autumn was a complete unknown. Felicity didn't know whether or not Autumn had any combat training and if she hadn't then protecting her would be that much more difficult. If she still had her father's lightsaber that would be one thing, but without...

"I need to know what's going on," she finished sheepishly, breaking eye contact with her again as she crossed her right arm over her chest and grasped her left arm just above the elbow. "Why is this trip so important?"

After everything she had said Felicity knew Autumn wasn't going to agree to turning around. That meant at the very least she needed to learn as much as she could about the situation before they arrived if she was going to have any chance at all of keeping her safe. That also meant embroiling herself in House politics against her better judgement, but if Autumn was going to insist on getting herself involved in this then Felicity had no choice. She had a promise to keep, after all.

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Sun Sep 04, 2016 9:36 pm

Autumn inhaled slowly, using the breath to think briefly about what should be said. Felicity seemed trustworthy enough, though she was a terrible liar, which meant her ability to keep a secret was limited. Still, nothing about the mission they were on was really that secretive, so there was not a harm in telling Felicity most, if not all, of it.

"House Rosario has always been more on the aggressive spectrum of behavior, but they have not been without their own set of honor, ruthless though it is. Lord Rosario is growing old now, and his health fades. It has been a long time since he has been seen at any public events." Autumn began speaking, repeating most of what she had learned at her briefing for the mission. It had been a lot of information, but if there was one thing Autumn was not, it was stupid. "His son, the Prince Darien has been taking his place and conducting most of his business, and lately House Rosario has been growing increasingly aggressive and erratic. Darien blames his father, saying his illness leads him to make rash choices on occasion, but some people are wondering if Darien, or someone else, is not exploiting the situation."

She paused a moment to look out the view port at the swirling colors of lights before continuing. "Normally, House Kyne would not involve itself in the matter, but Prince Darien approached us with a rather clandestine deal, trying to entice my father to work around an embargo placed upon them. Just the fact that my father was part of the meeting places a certain level of complicity on him, so rather than sit back and let Rosario try to manipulate House Kyne to their advantage, my father chose to push to the heart of the matter. If he can determine who is really making the choices in House Rosario, it will give him leverage in the situation. When we arrive there, House Rosario will paint us a picture of normalcy. No matter what picture we see, we must see through it to what lies beyond."

She ended with a sigh and a shrug. "Is this trip really that important? I do not know. I tried to talk my father out of it, but he seemed to think it was necessary to prevent House Kyne from being manipulated by Rosario. It should not be anything dangerous... More than likely, it will simply be boring, full of a lot of posturing, lying, and double speak. I imagine House Rosario will try to show just enough vulnerability to try to invoke sympathy about their embargo, but enough strength to not seem like a weak target."

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Pryde
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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Pryde » Sun Sep 04, 2016 11:37 pm

Most of what she had to say was beyond Felicity's understanding. She had always been very honest with people so it was difficult for her to understand the need for all this subterfuge. Plus she didn't completely understand a lot of the politics involved, either, but one thing stuck out. Autumn seemed to suggest that Prince Rosario, the man she met in the hallway the morning Lyra was beaten, was somehow a brutal, ruthless dictator. Felicity just couldn't see it, he seemed so genuine and kind to her, someone he'd never met. Why play a role for her sake if that wasn't really who he actually was?

Just thinking about it was giving her a headache. She wanted to talk about something else but she needed to know as much as she could about the situation. Autumn didn't seem to think there was any danger involved but Ethan seemed to have a genuine worry. Both of them seemed to agree that if there really was any danger it wouldn't be visible on the surface. With a sigh she tried to puzzle it all out as much as she could, asking questions of Autumn about Prince Rosario and his House. She was particularly interested in understanding why the House was unstable. It was possible that danger might not even come from the Prince himself but from somewhere else entirely.

The two of them spoke about this matter late into the night until finally Autumn decided it was time for bed. The next couple of days weren't quite as tense. There were no more intruders to suss out at the Kyne Estate and the discussion between Autumn and Felicity turned away from politics and more towards questions about each other. Felicity, for her part, tried to be as honest and open as she could answering questions about her time on Ord Mantell, but there were still some things she had no answers for. Such as her life before Ord Mantell. Felicity's earliest memory was the day she was left behind seven years ago. She was eleven at the time so she should remember something from her time before arriving on Ord Mantell but she couldn't. She even told Autumn as much.

One thing she was particularly careful not to reveal were her powers. Partly because she didn't want to risk scaring Autumn and partly because she was still somewhat worried about the lancers perceiving her as a threat. Fortunately, Autumn seemed more interested in what life was like outside the sector than in anything she could do. Of course not all of their time was spent talking, they did play a few games together. Felicity had once inquired about asking the lancers to play too and for some reason she couldn't quite understand that seemed like a really strange request. In the end it ended up being just her and Autumn for the most part and Felicity sort of began to understand why Autumn had wanted company on this trip in the first place. She felt sympathetic towards Autumn because of that. She never imagined that one could be so surrounded by people and yet still feel alone.

On the third day of travel they arrived on the planet Emris, the capital of House Rosario. Unlike the Kyne Estate House Rosario did not have private landing pads for guests. The landscape upon which the palace was constructed just couldn't allow for more space to be allocated to such a purpose. Instead guests were directed towards a nearby starport where a driver and a limo awaited to take them to the palace. Autumn and Felicity rode side by side in just such a limo. She had reservations about following Autumn to the palace because of her encounter at House Kyne but she couldn't very well keep Autumn safe from a starport two miles away so she came along for the ride. The lancers rode along as well and it felt strange for Felicity to be seated in such a fancy vehicle next to a noble lady and accompanied by an armed guard.

Once at the palace a man who introduced himself as Caleb Schaffre awaited them. He seemed genuinely surprised that Autumn had brought a guest, but it quickly passed. He offered to take them to a more comfortable setting where they could meet Prince Rosario before the night's festivities.

"Festivities," Autumn had asked as they walked.

"My Lord Rosario has planned a grand banquet and ball tonight in your honor," Caleb explained. He was leading them through the halls of Rosario Castle as he spoke. "Your friend is invited to attend as well, of course," he assured her.

They passed by other servants in the hallway as they talked, some of which belonging to a species that seemed both familiar and yet unfamiliar to Felicity. For the most part, though, she was just surprised that there were actually aliens here. She was starting to get the feeling that only humans populated this sector. Her thoughts on the subject were interrupted, though, when they heard a loud snap as a broom that was being used by one of the servants fell onto the floor. It drew Felicity's attention and for a moment she locked eyes with a young man, a human with sandy blonde hair and green eyes staring back at her. He seemed to be in shock about something but then quickly went back to his duties as they past. Felicity watched him until he was out of eyesight, all the while wondering just who he was.

They were led to a room filled with comfortable chairs and couches in which Prince Rosario awaited them. His eyes widened somewhat when he saw Felicity but that was the only sign he gave that suggested he might be surprised. He quickly crossed the room over to Autumn and greeted her.

"Princess," he said to Autumn as he came near. She held out a hand towards him and he gently took it into one of his own. "It is such a pleasure to have you in my home," he told her, bowing as he did so and then finishing his statement with a kiss on her hand.

At the same time Autumn curtsied in respect and Felicity found herself fascinated by the exchange. It all seemed so rehearsed, as though they had gotten together much earlier and planned this for her arrival. Then Darien turned to Felicity, who was completely unprepared to receive any attention. "Miss Orssen, a pleasure to see you again," he said. He bowed his head slightly towards her but not as deeply as he had for Autumn. In a way that kind of made Felicity jealous although she realized that was just a silly notion.

"Please, have a seat. Both of you," he continued, directing them to a nearby couch, "I'm sure there is much you would like to discuss before tonight's events."

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Re: Star Wars: Concord's End

Post by Xalsin » Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:30 am

Autumn gave Prince Darien a polite smile as she sat, carefully arranging her layered gown as she did so. The Lancers who were escorting her moved themselves to a far wall, making themselves unobtrusive but still present. "Thank you, Prince Darien. Your superlative hospitality is a credit to your family and your House."

Her keen gaze lingered on him, taking in every detail she could manage of the way he acted and spoke. She was slated to be on this visit for the next two days, and though she didn't know the Prince well, it was vitally important that she learn to see through any deception he had. It might not even be possible, but any advantage she could gain could provide the edge.

"There will be plenty of time to discuss business, so it is not my intention to rush such conversations, but as a point of courtesy, I will tell you a more detailed reason for my visit here. My father is giving your trade offer serious consideration, but before he is willing to commit to anything, he wished that I would come here to pay respects to your father in person. He also desired that I should take stock of House Rosario's standing, to ensure that it will be able to uphold any financial obligation incurred. I hope you will not find this visit to be intrusive or insulting, as neither are intended. As you undoubtedly know, my father is a shrewd man, and seldom enters into such risky engagements without fact finding beforehand."

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