Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

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

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Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:57 am

OOC: Previous thread.

IC: "I'm afraid my father is not himself right now," Leland admitted somberly as he and his men led their captives inside, "Should my sister die from her wounds I fear what he might do to you. If you...," he stopped suddenly, the words catching in his throat. He hesitated to continue but he knew that he must. "If you have any evidence that your father was involved in the attack or had prior knowledge of it you would do well to come clean. My father's treatment of you may be lenient if that were the case."

He was trying to offer her help, but the look in his eyes told a different story. Seraphine knew just as well as he did that if she did have such evidence and used it against her father than their arrangement would effectively be at an end. Lady Seraphine would no longer be in a position to be trusted by Lord Borrocor and would therefore be of little use to Leland. The political situation between House Ducant and House Borrocor would also become increasingly complicated. House Ducant may be one of the older Houses and a military power but that power could easily be stunted if House Borrocor should issue and embargo against Ducant. They would be facing a similar situation to House Rosario, a situation Leland did not find amusing.

"It's up to you," he continued, "I know the situation you're in is difficult, but if the worse should happen then do what you can for yourself. I would rather not see any harm come to you."

If he actually meant that it was difficult to tell. Leland was still wrestling with his frustration over possibly losing a valuable ally after he so painstakingly negotiated their contract. Their cooperation together hadn't even had a chance to begin yet before his father's action threatened to tear them apart.

**********

The engineer who had spoken up before overheard Titus as he spoke to the Lady Sage and walked over towards them. "You misunderstand, good Sir," he said suddenly, surprising them both, "The danger up there isn't the lack of atmosphere, but rather too much of it."

He could see they didn't quite understand him so he tried to explain it better. "The platform is just under the spaceport, a few meters below where the dome meets the central pillar. The air filtration system is also up there so flying in is a bit tricky. You got air currents going every which way so once you're on the platform you best keep your head low lest you find yourself taking a rather big fall."

Both Felicity and Titus just looked at each other for a moment then finally Felicity turned back to the engineer. "How did you even hear us from over there?"

"Oh, sorry. Cybernetic ears," he said, pointing at his left ear with his opposite hand, "Sometimes pick up more than I'm meant to."

Felicity suddenly realized that this man could have easily heard her entire conversation with Autumn and as the thought had dawned her the man seemed to be giving her a look that suggested her secret would be safe with him. Still, that somehow failed to help her feel comfortable. "Well, um... Thank you for the information then. We're in your debt."

"My pleasure, m'Lady," the man answered with a bow and Felicity couldn't help but squirm uncomfortably at the gesture.

**********

Monument Peak, Planet Ryffan

The shuttle settled down atop the landing pad, hydraulics hissing in response as the landing gear fought to support the weight of the ship. A moment or two later the boarding ramp lowered and Lord Aleksander Rosario walked down it followed by a small retinue of guards. On the tarmac the eldest of Lord Borrocor's sons awaited him. They spoke briefly before Yiande turned to lead them into the palace. They were taken to the same room Lord Ducant and his son were led to nearly a week before though Aleksander had no way of knowing that. He nodded appreciatively at the intricate stonework of the palace, noting that this was his first visit to Monument Peak.

ArchLord Farrid awaited them at Ceremony Hall and as soon as Aleksander entered he surprised the other man by bowing deeply to him as a sign a respect, something that was not generally done between Lords. "Forgive my sudden intrusion, Lord Borrocor," he apologized, "I waited till the last minute to announce myself for fear that my brother's reputation preceded me. Even then I was worried you would not receive me, but I'm glad you have. We have many things to discuss, but first I think you know why I'm here."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:57 am

"I can assure you, I knew nothing of such attack, much less have evidence of it." It wasn't entirely a lie, but it also wasn't entirely the truth. She had her suspicions, but hadn't managed to follow up successfully on those hunches just yet. If her father had been involved in this, more than likely he was clever enough to not leave a trail. And it would not be Ducant's best interest to push the issue, unless they could produce evidence to back up their allegations.

Seraphine knew she was walking a very delicate tight rope. As a daughter who wasn't even in the succession, she was pretty expendable to the Lord Borrocor. She did not expect him to give up much to get her back. Which meant she had to make herself of value to House Ducant, but not at the expense of betraying her own House. Her father may not have valued her much as a daughter or emissary, but there was no doubt he would place great priority on her life as a traitor.

"I understand this is not your doing or preference. But please emphasize to your father that these allegations, my arrest, are counterproductive. House Ducant may find itself falling out of favor with the other great Houses if it engages in such deflamation without any evidence to back up such a claim. And I strongly recommend you allow the supply and relief ship in orbit to return to Borrocor space. My father may be able to overlook my arrest temporarily, but he will likely not overlook the insult of taking the relief supplies in conjunction with my arrest."

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

Titus considered this a moment, nodding slowly. It was an improvement over the idea of a space walk, although it did not sound much safer, all things considered. "It still sounds dangerous, but if it is our best chance of getting out of here, then I suppose we will have to risk it. Once we get to the spaceport, how difficult will be to get a ship?" The Lancer addressed both the engineer and Felicity. "One way or another, we are going to have to muscle through some security, I imagine. Perhaps we can get our hands on some stun weaponry to keep things from turning into a bloodbath?"

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

Farrid Borrocor gave an emotionless smile at the young man before him. House Rosario. Borrocor and Rosario hadn't had much of a relationship over the years. The late Lord Rosario had been a proud but honorable man, reasonably easy to work with. Once Darien had taken over major operations on his father's stead, things had become much more adversarial. He wasn't much surprised to see the new Lord Rosario at his door, and he knew better than to pass up an opportunity like this.

"Of course, Lord Rosario. And let me just express once again my condolences on the terrible tragedies that have undertaken your House. House Borrocor has publically decried the both the tactics and the message of the terrorist known as Charles Marrik. And in that spirit, I am certain we can come to amiable agreement to end the embargo on House Rosario."

Farrid took a step backwards, gesturing to the table. "Please allow me to extend to you the hospitality of House Borrocor. Food and drink will be brought, and if there is anything else you desire for the evening, such as companionship or something to smoke, please do not hesitate to ask."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Thu Dec 15, 2016 5:14 pm

Leland gritted his teeth. It wouldn't take long for the relief vessel to realize they've lost contact with the Princess. What they did after that could determine how Lord Ducant dealt with them. Whether they decide to flee or launch a suicidal rescue attempt. He would speak to his father about it, of course, but in his current state of mind there was little telling what he might actually do. "I will do my best to help resolve this issue peacefully," he said. Especially since I was the one who caused it, he thought. "My men here will escort you the rest of the way. I assure you, they will not harm you."

Then he bowed respectfully to her and departed, heading in the opposite direction towards his father's personal chambers. The Lord Ducant did not look well since his daughter was put in the hospital. He had barely eaten for several days and had barely slept. His hair and face were unkempt and he had a disheveled look about him. When Leland entered he barely even seemed to take notice of him.

"Is it done," he asked in a raspy voice.

"Yes, Father, my men have her now and are escorting her to the brig. I must advise you against this, though, when Lord Borrocor hears of this...," he started but then his father interrupted him with a sharp look.

"He will what? Lie to me? Assure me that he is our friend? If that were true then he would have shared with us what he knew before this attack that put my daughter in the hospital," Lord Ducant roared as he shot out of his chair.

Leland was silent for a moment as he looked away. Finally, in a quiet voice he asked, "And what of the relief vessel in orbit above Odessa?"

"Destroy it," Ducant said simply and he returned to his chair.

Leland's eyes widened in shock. That would almost certainly lead to war. "Father, you can't! We have no evidence House Borrocor was in on this! We're risking enough as it is by detaining his daughter, if the other Houses hear of this..," he left the rest hanging in the air but his meaning was clear.

Lord Ducant was silent as he considered that. After a moment his shoulders slumped and he finally nodded. "As you wish, surround the vessel but do not allow it to leave. I want to hear Lord Borrocor's defense before I decide what to do with his daughter or his relief vessel. I will meet with him in a neutral location under a flag of truce. He will have one chance to convince me that he was not privy to this attack and if he fails to do so then I will launch an attack on his borders and I will not stop there."

Leland felt a lump form in his throat as his father spoke. He was talking about open war with one of the most powerful Houses in the sector. House Borrocor may not have the same military strength of House Ducant but they held a monopoly on the raw materials necessary to maintain that strength. If it came to a war between them Leland wasn't entirely sure who would win. "Very well, father, I will personally see to it that Lord Borrocor receives your message."

He turned on his heel and left the room. Outside in the hallway his personal guard awaited. "Prepare my shuttle," he told them, "I will personally be traveling to Ryffan to deliver a message..."

**********

"Stun weaponry we can do," the engineer replied, "We've kept stockpiles of weapons just in case."

"No," Felicity said suddenly, "We won't be needing them."

Both Titus and the engineer looked at her incredulously. "I'm sure you mean well, my Lady, but--," the engineer started but Felicity interrupted him.

"Those men up there may be following Charles' orders but are they loyal to him because of who he is or because of who they think he's working for," she asked him pointedly. The engineer just stared at her, he did not have an answer. "If I really am the descendant of a lost line of Lords then they will not attack me. I'll simply order them to let us through."

**********

"Actually, my Lord, I would much rather get right down to business," Lord Rosario replied, "I have--some things I wish to discuss with you. Things you may not wish to be discussed publicly. I believe that you and I have mutual interests and can help each other. If you wouldn't mind," he bowed his head respectfully to defer to Lord Borrocor, pausing a moment to wait for his leave. Most of the information he had on House Borrocor's interests were based on either pure speculation or gut instinct, but as the half brother to the Prince Aleksander has had plenty of time to study the other Houses and key persons of interest. He would never assume he had Lord Borrocor completely figured out, but he believed he knew enough about the man and his family to decipher a small piece of his plan. He only hoped he could use that plan to propel himself towards his own goal, the complete and utter destruction of House Sage...

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Sun Dec 18, 2016 4:21 am

There was a brief pause of silence as Titus, as well as everyone else within earshot, struggled to come up with the words that would convince Felicity to change her course.

Titus finally spoke. "I... understand your intent, my lady, but we have no idea where the loyalty of all these people lie. It's too dangerous to assume-"

"She is right." It was Autumn who spoke from nearby, her eyes fixed on nothing. Titus turned to regard the Lady Kyne, surprised to hear her speak, slightly irritated that she would defend a near suicidal plan, and curious at what drove her to enter the conversation.

Autumn elaborated, slowly drawing her eyes up to look at Felicity. "If this planet was made to the home of House Sage, then it is protected against threats at a great many levels. Even if we were to shoot our way through security and steal a ship, I do not doubt that we would be engaged by anti-ship weaponry before we were clear of this place. I daresay that none of us are likely to have the experience necessary to pilot a craft in such a manner that we could evade all of the defenses we will encounter."

It was a good point, Titus had to admit. "I agree with your assessment, my Lady. But if we are able to get clear before they are aware a craft has been stolen, we may be able to get one step ahead of them."

Autumn shook her head. "If Felicity does not have the hearts and minds of her people, she will fail and we will not get off of this planet. This Regent Charles may have a loyal cadre of men, but it will be the loyalty of the citizenry which determines our success or failure. We must follow Felicity's lead on this."

Titus sighed lightly to himself. He had taken vows to House Kyne, and those were vows he did not take lightly. "If that is your wish, my Lady."

********

The Lord Borrocor heaved himself into his chair, a specially made construct which allowed both his girth and weight. "I appreciate a man who knows what he wants and quickly pursues it. Tell me what it is you wish for, and what it is you plan to give for it."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Tue Dec 20, 2016 4:18 pm

"Then we better take some time to rest," Felicity said, "For this to work we'll have to move fast. Once we leave the bunker it won't be long before Charles is onto us."

She spoke with the kind of confidence only gained from leading men into battle, giving Autumn and the others nearby the impression that she'd been in this kind of situation before. Even Felicity herself was feeling a bit nostalgic as her current situation reminded her of her time on Ord Mantell. The instant she remembered the lives that were lost there, though, that feeling of nostalgia faded and was replaced by a dull numbness that seemed to permeate throughout her body. Finally, with a sigh she walked past Ossica towards one of the beds and as she passed the Messryn she said, "Wake me when we're ready to move."

Then she fell atop one of the empty beds and closed her eyes to try and sleep...

**********

Lord Rosario glanced around the room warily before sitting down himself. "With all due respect, Lord Farrid, I have come to propose an alliance. You and I have a mutual enemy."

Lord Borrocor raised an eyebrow at that, intrigued by his statement. "Really? And who might that be?"

"House Kyne," Aleksander replied, "I know you have interest in them."

Farrid's expression hardened somewhat but he managed to maintain his composure without giving anything away. "That's quite the assumption. Tell me, what led you to this conclusion?"

Lord Rosario leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers together. "Before I inherited the throne of my House I acted as an adviser for my brother," he explained, "My goal was to advise him on inter-House politics and to that end I spent a great deal of time studying the royal members of each House. Your son, Yiande, is head strong and impulsive, but reserved enough to avoid causing a scene like the one he started at Lord Kyne's dinner party unless, of course, you had ordered it specifically. Now, I don't know what exactly your plan is, but Yiande's actions on Oridin hint at some greater motive on your part. It is for that motive that I have come here to speak with you today."

He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and withdrew a small holo projector, setting it on the table before him. "I assume from your condolences that you've seen the video in which my family was slaughtered," he said, "but what you don't know is that the girl, the one they referred to as Lady Sage, arrived at my palace as a guest of House Kyne."

He pressed a button and the holoprojector sprung to life, displaying a two dimensional image of a young, dark-haired girl standing next to a young blonde haired one. Behind them were commandos dressed in black. Lord Rosario pointed towards the blonde girl. "The girl standing next to Lady Sage is Autumn Kyne in disguise. I know this because Prince Gaius Ducant was present when they disguised her. He informed me of her true identity and now I am informing you. Now, if you would have me believe that my assumption of the incident at Lord Kyne's party was somehow imagined then picture this for me, if you will; the navies of House Kyne bolstered by the black magic of House Sage. It paints a chilling picture, does it not?"

Aleksander himself didn't believe in the rumors surrounding House Sage, but almost everyone who had grown up in the Maldavi Sector had heard the stories. If there was even a chance they were true then Lord Rosario would use that possibility as leverage to get what he wants.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Wed Dec 21, 2016 1:03 am

There were general murmurs of agreements from those around Felicity as she gave her benediction, and the group began to disperse as much as the small area would allow.

Without asking permission or really without giving consideration towards others, Autumn made her way into the small shower stall crammed into the corner of the room. It looked suspiciously like it had been salvaged out of an old engine casing of some kind, but the nozzle embedded in the ceiling produced satisfactory heated water when she turned the spigot.

The shower area had little to offer in the way of privacy, apart from the opaque walls of the casing itself, so Autumn found herself forced to undress inside the stall and throw her clothes out, managing to get her clothing wet in the process, though it hardly mattered in the moment.

It was the first time in the past... how long had it been now? Days? It felt like weeks. It was the first time since she had left Caltan she had felt something close to safety. Not that this was safe, not by a long shot, but at least she didn't feel immediate danger. At least there were layers of steel and armed men between her and danger at this moment.

She let the water wash over her, soaking into her hair. The water, while clear, had a very earthy smell, and somehow she imagined it was some sort of run off of the greenhouse above her. At this point, she wasn't complaining. Taking the bar off rough soap from the holder than had been welded in, Autumn began to scrub her hair, scrubbing out the rest of the dye job in her hair. The soap was abrasive, meant more for degreasing than for delicately finessing a woman's hair, but it did the job, and soon Autumn's hair was stripped back to its natural raven black. Even with the abuse it had endured, somehow her hair still managed to cling to its luxurious nature, as though it was woven of black silk and slicked back to her neck in uneven strands.

A sigh escaped her lips, a quiet lament for the loss of her hair. A necessary loss, but a lamentable one all the same.

The noble girl allowed herself the luxury of standing under the running water for a few minutes before the water began to grow more tepid, signaling the end of her shower.

She sighed again, shutting off the water.

It was then she realized her mistake. She had no towel, no change of clothes.

"Titus?"

Titus had just laid down on the of the cots, deseparate to get a few minutes of shut eye before the next hurricane of activity came about. Hearing his name, he came up to his feet, walking over towards the shower stall.

"Milady?"

"Find me some clothes. And a towel. Please." His instructions came through the thin metal of the shower stall, terse but with a distinct pleading note. He wondered briefly how it was that one of the most powerful people in House Kyne could be so shortsighted, but that was a question that it would be better to never ask aloud.

"I will do my best, Milady."

His best turned out to be a faintly odd smelling towel and a left over utility uniform consisting of cargo pants and shirt. The uniform was rather too large for her, so he assisted her in cutting the pant legs and tying them to her calves and tying her shirt to her waist.

By the end of it, she looked to be more like a space pirate than a noble heiress. It was a testament to her beauty that even in a cast off uniform that was altered by knife to fit her and chopped short hair, she still managed to hold an air of mystique and allure. As she curled up into the cot, she looked equal parts strong and vulnerable, exotic yet common.

Having done his duty, Titus returned to his cot, casting one last glance over at Felicity before making another pass at sleep.

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

Farrid considered the newly minted Lord for a split second before speaking. "You both surprise and impress me, Lord Rosario. While it is, of course, quite an assumption you are making regarding my intentions towards House Kyne, and those are not intentions I am quite ready to reveal, I will not deny that they have things I want, and anything that strengthens their position will make future negotiations more difficult."

He took a sip of wine from the cup in front of him before continuing. "We can both agree that House Sage was put down for a reason, it would have been better for it to stay put down, especially if they have the support of House Kyne. Shall I infer that you wish more than just a resumption of ore shipments?"

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Fri Dec 23, 2016 4:35 am

"Put simply, my Lord, I want revenge against House Sage for the murder of my family," Lord Rosario answered. "To be fair I had little love of my brother and the galaxy is probably better off now that he's gone, but I loved my mother and cherished my sister and I will not suffer the man who took them from me to live. Still, despite my resolve, the countless losses we've taken both on our home world and along our borders have left my House in a weakened state and I find myself in no position to challenge the might of House Kyne. So here is what I propose."

He leaned forward in his chair and placed his hands together in his lap. "Lift the embargo on my House and resume ore shipments to my people. Whatever the price we will pay it, in return I ask for your support in eradicating House Sage once and for all. Whether that's on the battlefield or at the royal court it matters not, I only wish to see justice done. Afterward you will have the full support of my House in your dealings with House Kyne."

**********

There was a sort of unease that had fallen over House Ducant after Seraphine's arrest and Leland's departure. Gaius had no idea how Archlord Farrid would react to news of his daughter's capture and the Lord Ducant's baseless accusation, but knew what the consequences would be should the Lord Borrocor react poorly. A war between the two Houses could devastate them both or worse should other Houses decide to intervene. House Ducant may be a military power but they relied too heavily on raw materials shipped to them from House Borrocor and in this situation it was House Ducant who was in the wrong. The other Houses would not condone his father's actions and may even side with House Borrocor in a war against him. Such an eventuality could lead to the destruction of his House. It was exactly that possibility that Gaius hoped to avoid.

The cell block where Seraphine was being kept had been mostly quiet. For her part the young princess had managed to remain composed despite herself, but now locked away in a cell it was almost as if the young girl had no idea what to do with herself. The guards watching over her paid her little mind short of occasionally making sure she was still in her cell. Not a single one of them had tried to talk to her, though truth be told none of them were sure they even knew what to say. This move by Lord Ducant had taken everybody by surprise. Word had it that House Borrocor was arriving with relief surprise and instead of being allowed to dispense said supplies the Lord of House Ducant ordered his men to imprison the princess and refused to allow the relief ship up in orbit to leave or to even offer their assistance. The men under Declan's command just weren't sure what to think, but there was at least one person who had made up his mind.

Seraphine stirred slightly from her cot when she heard the sound of a body falling onto the ground. She came to the edge of her cell but could not see what was happening. A second later she heard an electric jolt and another body hit the ground. Someone was attacking House Ducant? Was it her father? Had someone come to rescue her? Before she could seek an answer to her questions the force field blocking off her cell disappeared. Lady Seraphine stood there for a moment completely dumbfounded. That's when Prince Gaius Ducant finally showed himself, stun baton in one hand and the guard's security badge in the other.

"Come on," he told her, "There isn't much time."

**********

As Felicity and her group rested there was a general sort of unease that had fallen over the other occupants of the safe house. Felicity's declaration that she had planned to leave did little to comfort their nerves. They had sacrificed much in their defiance of Charles Marik only to have their savior turn her back on them. One man in particular wasn't taking it so well. He eyed Autumn with what could only be described as murderous intent. He wandered away from the others as far as he could trying to decide on what he should do. By now it had been nearly an hour and the trio of companions were deep in sleep. He cast his eyes from Autumn's sleeping form to Felicity and then back at the others. No one seemed to be paying him any attention. He figured maybe now was his chance.

Sticking to the outskirts of the room he crept closer towards Autumn's caught, a concealed vibroknife in his hand. As he came closer to the girl he made sure to keep on eye on Titus and the others, making sure that no one was about to stop him. Finally, he was within arm's reach and ready to strike. He pulled the dagger from under his jacket and thrust it at Autumn. That's when Felicity suddenly bounded over her cot and fell on top of him. She wrestled him to the ground and locked his arm that was carrying the knife in a hold. At the sudden sound of a struggle everyone in the room looked up, including Titus and Autumn.

Felicity, for her part had been dead asleep before the would be assassin made his move. It was when he had come within inches of Autumn that she felt a flash of danger and wasted little time getting up. She leapt over three cots to land on top of the dagger wielding foe, spinning him about and tossing him bodily onto the ground before putting him into an arm bar. Now she sat on top of him with her knee in the small of his back and the rest of her limbs pinning his arms and legs.

The overseer of the safe house had heard what had happened and came rushing over. When he saw the man on the ground holding the knife he seemed disappointed. "Eryk, why," he asked.

"You heard what she said," he managed to say through the pain in his joints, "She's only leaving because of that bitch! I heard what you called her and I know who she is! Her ancestors fought against yours in the war that destroyed your House! Do you really plan to choose her over us?"

Felicity looked down at him and then up at Autumn who now had that same fearful look on her face that she had ever since Charles first arrived at House Rosario. She felt for the man, for the people who feared they were being abandoned, but she was sure in her belief that she was the wrong person for the job. With a sigh she looked away again and closed her eyes. "I am choosing to help someone in need," she said quietly, "I don't need your permission for that."

"She's your enemy! Her family fought against you!"

"And killing her now, what does that solve," Felicity snapped at him and there was an edge to her voice that was uncharacteristic of her. "What's done is done, it's in the past! Killing people who had nothing to do with it now is not going to bring my family back, it's only going to breed more hatred and war! It's a circle of destruction that can only end with the deaths of everyone you love! That is the path that Charles Marik walks! Do you really intend to walk it with him?"

When the man didn't immediately answer Felicity wrestled the knife from his hand and then begrudgingly allowed him to stand. Then she turned to address the others. "Peace starts with forgiveness," she told them, "If you can't see that then there is no future for House Sage."

To emphasize her point she tossed the dagger away, the clatter it made as it fell to the ground seeming to somehow ring like thunder in the ears of everyone present. As all eyes had fallen on the discarded weapon Felicity had spun on her heel and walked over to Autumn, gently urging the other girl to her feet. "Come on," she whispered quietly, "We're leaving now. Suddenly I feel like our present company can't be trusted," she said that last part while eyeing the man that had tried to kill Autumn.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Sun Dec 25, 2016 1:15 am

Farrid gave a small smile the young lord. This was a golden opportunity. An investment. If he could help Aleksander maintain his House, he would gain a powerful ally. Most Houses were unwilling to be strongly associated with Borrocor, but Aleksander did not seem shy about this idea. It left some interesting possibilities in place, and Farrid knew it would be wise to pursue them. Carefully, of course.

"I will have ore shipments resumed immediately." Farrid leaned in, helping himself to a bit more wine before continuing. "And I heartily support your vendetta against House Sage. You have an uphill battle in front of you, however. The next few weeks are going to be a fight, both in the court and on the field, to prove that you have control of House Rosario and you will not suffer any interference from anyone else. House Boroccor is ready to assist in helping you maintain borders as well as support you in the courts. You will receive pressure, especially as a younger Lord, but I can assist you."

He levered himself up. "An alliance it will be. I will summon a scribe and a Guild Intelligencer to draw up the details of our accord. Once the details are settled, we should celebrate this officially with a formal event at your palace. It will provide a chance for the other Houses to legitimize your claim to rulership with their presence."

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

To say that Seraphine was caught flatfooted by the situation would have been an understatement. She had not expected to be in the custody of House Ducant to begin with, but she doubly did not expect that someone from House Ducant would be looking to break her out in such a clandestine manner.

"Gaius...?" It was a half question, half statement followed by an uncertain step forward out of her cell. She was half expecting this to be some sort of trick, a firing squad waiting outside to shoot her for attempting to flee.

"What is happening?"

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:04 pm

Titus had been dosing. It was a far cry to say he had any trust for the dissidents that surrounded them, but he had been on high alert for the last several days, functioning on pure adrenaline. It was starting to catch up with him, so he had allowed himself to close his eyes, figuring this was likely to be as safe as they were going to get for a little while yet.

The sudden flurry of movement and sound snapped him out of his sleep and broke any misplaced sense of safety. Barely awake, he saw the knife near Autumn before he even saw who was holding it, and sprang into action as the blur that was Felicity sprang out of nowhere. In the time it took for him to get up off of his cot, Felicity landed on the enemy, twisting him to the ground in one deft motion and disarming him with an impressive counter joint technique.

Even as he moved to lend assistance, she twisted again, transitioning to a back control position, locking the opponent in place.

What happened next was about thirty seconds of chaos, as everyone in the safe house clamored momentarily.

Autumn awoke at the noise, looking around in confusion and fatigue, having only been asleep for an hour at best. She didn't understand quite what was happening, other than several of the locals were very unhappy with one of the men. Titus was standing nearby, hovering protectively and tense.

All she could do was nod dumbly as Felicity came over and pulled her up to her feet. She wanted this to be over. She wanted to go home, and go back to being bored and mildly discontent with life. Never had she thought she would be sad to be away from the confines of the manor which had been her home, her de facto prison, for so long. Now she could think of nothing but returning there.

She was still dressed in her makeshift pajamas, but they were functional enough, so she simply looked to Felicity while Titus armed himself serriptiously with a knife from the food prep area. He knew Felicity wouldn't approve, but he was not risking capture again without some sort of backup plan, a long shot though it might have been.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:30 am

As the group was leaving the safe house the overseer intercepted them. "My Lady," he said with a slight bow, "I beg you to reconsider. It is not safe for you to leave it."

"Sorry," Felicity said with a shrug, "but I've never had very much patience."

She waved her hand at the door and with a tug on the Force the latch unlocked and the door slowly began to open. The man operating the machinery to close it stared at the console in front of him in amazement as Felicity and her companions stepped through. It was dark again but that didn't much matter. It was pretty much a straight shot from the safe house to the stairs and Felicity confidently led the way while gently guiding Autumn by the hand. Once they were back up the stairs and out into the light again another man had stopped them, this time it was the engineer from before.

"Wait, my Lady," he called out to them.

Felicity rolled her eyes at the mention of her title. "I already told you I'm not--," she started but the man immediately held up his hands to stop her.

"It's alright, I came to help," he told her, "Someone's got to fly the speeder cause the only way out is to jump."

Felicity glanced between him, Titus and Ossica then shrugged. "Alright," she said, "and thanks."

The companions gathered by the door of the warehouse as Titus carefully scouted the area to check and see if the coast was clear. There were others around, of course, supporters of House Sage who opposed Marik's rule. Felicity kept her eye on them to make sure none of them had any murderous intent towards Autumn which also meant she couldn't help but notice the sullen looks on their faces. The supposed savior they'd been waiting for for all these centuries was abandoning them, or so they believed. Felicity felt the opposite, she felt her presence would only put them in more danger and hoped that one day they'd understand.

"How is it," Ossica asked as Titus returned.

"Marik has patrols everywhere, but if we move carefully we can avoid them. There's a parked speeder about a hundred yards that way but sadly the owners forgot to leave the keys in the ignition."

"That won't be a problem," Felicity said, "Anyway, we'd better go."

Without any further discussion Felicity led the group back across the plaza in the direction of the parked speeder Titus had indicated. Fortunately, they managed to arrive without incident thanks in part to Titus' guidance. Once they had arrived it was a simple matter for Felicity to hotwire the speeder and start the ignition. Then the engineer took over in the pilot's seat as everyone else piled into the back.

"Avoid the main roads," Titus warned him, "and don't make the approach to the spaceport until we're right underneath it."

The engineer nodded and shifted the speeder into gear, taking off at a leisurely pace. With a brief moment of respite Felicity turned her attention back to Autumn, worried about how the other girl was doing. On Ord Mantell she'd been in situations like this before and knew how harrowing it could be. Knowing that at any moment your life could be forfeit was tough to handle, even for a seasoned warrior like Titus, but for a girl like Autumn? Felicity couldn't imagine what she was going through. She'd never had the luxury of living a "normal" life. It was fight or flight growing up on Ord Mantell and she usually chose to fight. Years of fighting for her life had hardened her against the fear, but Autumn had never been through such a crucible. This was perhaps the first time she'd ever been in danger.

"Hey," she said quietly, "we're almost out of here, okay? I'm going to get you home just like I promised, just hold on a little bit longer."

**********

"Isn't it obvious," Gaius said, "I'm breaking you out."

"Out," Seraphine repeated, "why?"

"Because you and I both know this is wrong but my father is too stubborn to admit it and Leland is too cowardly to do anything about it. Now move, quickly! There isn't much time and we can't waste it by answering anymore questions!"

Seraphine looked like she had a few more things to say but Gaius was right. If they were going to escape they had to move now. She quietly nodded and started to follow Gaius out of the detention center, when she realized they weren't breaking out the others she stopped. "Wait, what about the others," she asked.

"There isn't time," Gaius whispered, "There's a shift change coming up so we need to move now."

He gently grabbed her by the wrist and urged her towards the door. Once they were through it, however, they suddenly found themselves completely surrounded by a squad of Ducant legionnaires. Gaius glared at the blaster rifles aimed at him but said nothing. A moment later the wall of men parted allowing Lord Ducant to step through. He walked over to stand in front of his son and gave him a harsh stare. Gaius simply returned the look, seemingly unphased by his father's displeasure.

"I expected some act of defiance from you, but this," Lord Declan began, "You would betray your own family to save our enemy?"

"She's not our enemy, father," Gaius shot back at him, "You have no proof of that and the longer you keep her locked up here the more likely your are to bring war upon us. You must see that! I don't care how saddened you are about Marcella's...,"

Declan suddenly silenced him with a firm backhand across the cheek. "Silence! You will not lecture me on what I must do!"

He half turned then to address one of his legionnaires. "Escort Lady Seraphine back to her cell and then have my son brought up to my personal chambers. I will decide what will be done with him."

Then he spun on his heel and stormed out of the circle leaving his legionnaires to carry out their orders. Gaius shot Seraphine an apologetic look but there was something about his demeanor that suggested he wasn't ready to give this up quite yet. He would fight his father tooth and nail on this if he had to in order to get his way...

**********

Aleksander knew the risks of getting into bed with House Borrocor. Farrid was a shrewd man and an opportunist. It was entirely possible that the new Lord Rosario would come to regret this arrangement but ultimately he didn't care. He harbored such resentment against House Sage that he was willing to sacrifice anything to achieve his revenge, even if that meant selling his soul to the devil.

"That sounds like an excellent idea, my Lord," Aleksander replied, then he reached forward and grabbed a pitcher of wine and quickly poured himself a glass. Before taking a sip he raised his cup towards Lord Borrocor. "Why don't you call some of those lovely servants you have back in here and let us celebrate this arrangement until neither of us can see straight."

**********

Oridin,
House Kyne Territory


Blake rubbed his sore eyes as he looked over his notes for the umpteenth time. The connections he'd made seemed fairly solid but the evidence was circumstantial. At best he could call it an educated guess, but he wasn't sure if either the Lord Kyne or Ethan would be willing to trust him over a guess. He didn't have much time to think on it, though, before Ethan walked into the room accompanied by one of his intelligence operatives.

"You said you have something," the Chamberlain of House Kyne asked.

"Maybe," Blake said thoughtfully, never taking his eyes off his notes, "I mean I do, I think."

Ethan gave him a hard look then glanced up at the wall where Blake had pinned various images of people and places, connecting them all with string in an almost chaotic pattern. "What's all this," he asked.

"Oh sorry," Blake apologized, "I know you have computers for this but doing it the old fashioned way helps me to visualize it better."

"Well, get on with it, boy. We don't have all day," the man standing next to Ethan said impatiently.

"Right," Blake said after quickly standing up. He moved to the end of his makeshift board and pointed at a holo image of Felicity and Autumn surrounded by House Sage commandos. "At first I had tried running facial recognition searches on every face visible in this photo," he explained, "I got hits on Autumn and Titus, of course, but none on the woman you called Felicity and sporadic sightings of all these others. After awhile I thought maybe my search pattern was too broad so I decided to focus in on one person at a time. Specifically, this man," he pointed to a tall blonde man standing next to Felicity, "I had several hits on him at different locations. Same face, different hair color, different eye color. My guess is he's a spy."

"Fascinating story but how does this help us find Autumn?"

"That's what this is," he said pointing to the pictures on the wall, "These are all places he'd been spotted at, complete with dates and times. I pinned them all to the wall in roughly the same locations where they would be found on a galactic map. Now I know that looking at this seems very confusing at first but when you put it all together and connect the dots something stands out."

He pointed at a spot on the board where no string had crossed, leaving an almost hexagonal circle in the center of the board. "Or actually, it's what isn't there that stands out," he corrected himself. "I redrew these lines on a two dimensional map of the sector and this spot is fairly close to a nebula just outside of Kyne space. There's a neutron star at the center of that nebula and orbiting the star is an asteroid field. If House Sage was able to survive by hiding out in a secret base then that seems as good a place as any to put it."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:16 am

Autumn's jaw was a tight clenched line, the muscles beginning to ache from the subconscious tension she was holding there. Her mind had gone numb to the dangers around her, oversaturated by potentially threatening stimuli, she was past the point of effectively observing any useful information.

Felicity's voice startled her.

She looked slowly at Felicity's face with a blank expression, as though Felicity was a stranger speaking in an alien tongue. Finally, Autumn blinked, focusing on Felicity, and she managed a nod and a slight smile. There was a valiant attempt at courage, though her uncertainty could be clearly seen.

"Yes. We will be home soon." She echoed Felicity's sentiment, trying to regain some level of composure. She had years of practice in courtly life, covering shock, hiding emotions, faking pleasantries, but this was very different. It was much harder to cover the sinking despair that she may never get out of here, that she may never feel safe again. She wondered briefly at how Felicity could be so confident in such a crisis situation.

She glanced over at Titus. He looked ragged and tired, but the tiredness only seemed to make him look meaner and more formidable, as if he would break bones of anyone or anything that got to close to her. It seemed like on his focus on protecting her was driving him forward.

She was glad to have him here, just as she was glad Felicity was here. With them, she would have died an ignoble death several times over by now.

"We will be home soon." She repeated again, her eyes tracking over to the towering spaceport which loomed in the center of the domed city. Maybe they would make it after all.


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

It was an unexpected respite, Gaius's offer of freedom, and not one that Seraphine was going to argue with. She was in a hurry to get out of this place while she still could. She stayed close to Gaius, matching his quick footsteps as best she could.

Her heart jumped then sank when they crossed the threshold of the detention center to find a waiting squad of soldiers. Her first thought was they intended to kill her and use the breakout as a justification for doing so. Maybe this had all been a trick in the first place and Gaius was in one it.

She thought that until The slap of Lord Ducant. She winced ever so slightly, knowing well the feel of her father's hand raised in anger and disappointment.

As the guards pulled her back to her cell, Seraphine resisted slightly, turning enough to yelling towards Lord Ducant. "It doesn't need to be like this! We can reach a bargain! Whatever you want, I can help!" The guards pushed her back towards her cell, taking her from the Ducant's presence.

*********************
Lord Borrocor slammed his meaty fist down on the table, rattling the cup and pitcher in spite of the heavy weight of the table. "You, my friend, and I are like minded. For there is nothing finer than to be surrounded by beauty with a drop of wine."

He grabbed up his own wine glass. "To House Rosario."

At the Archlord's request, the meeting hall was soon filled with musicians and beautiful servants laden with trays of delicacies, waiting on the two lords, catering to their every desire. Farrid drank heavily, but always kept one eye on Aleksander's drinking, making sure that he never drank quite as much as Aleksander did. The Archlord was a large man, and he could handle more alcohol than most people could, but it never paid to be careless.

********
Ethan's gaze wandered the entirety of the room, taking in every detail of Blake's work area. It was littered with papers, remnants of meals, and glut of evidence that the man had been working to an near obsessive level.

His premise of the man being a spy was circumstantial... but also rife with implications. If it was true that House Sage was hiding on the part of the map noted, then they had been hiding in House Kyne's shadow for sometime. It could put House Kyne in an uncomfortable position if this came to light, and it was perceived that House Kyne had been hiding House Sage for generations. The idea was, of course, preposterous, but it would make good gossip, and that was all anyone would care about.

"It warrants further investigation." He said quietly, as his eyes drifted to a purple swath of the map next to highlighted point. It was House Itthi space. The possible hidden location of House Sage lay in a neutral buffer between House Ithhi and House Kyne. This would have to be a delicate operation. "Further careful investigation."

The tall Chamberlain looked back to Blake. "You seem to have quite a knack for this. I can assure you, if this information leads to Autumn's safe return, House Kyne will deeply reward you."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:26 pm

Blake waved him off. "I'd rather you didn't," he said, "Respectfully, I mean. Autumn is my friend, I don't need a reward for helping to bring her back safe and sound."

Well, that and he didn't particularly enjoy the thought of being rewarded by a noble anyway. "Though, if it isn't too much trouble I would like to be here when she returns. I think after whatever ordeal she's going through it would help her to see a friend."

**********

Gaius resisted the urge to rub his sore check as his father paced in front of him. He'd never seen the man so angry before. "What am I to do with you," he roared, "You sister may never walk again because of that girl's father!"

"You don't know that for--," Gaius started but Lord Ducant interrupted him.

"Silence! I've had enough of your disobedience! Your actions today warrant a response," he continued, "The typical sentence for treason is death."

Gaius' heart skipped a beat. Surely he wouldn't?

"However," Ducant said as he stopped his pacing, "as you are heir to House Ducant and my former wife's son I'm sure a bit of time spent in the brig will suffice."

"Father, I...," Gaius tried to object but Lord Ducant was having none of it.

"No, I've heard enough! First your brother invites this woman to our home now this! Take him away!"

The two guards near the door stepped forward then and surrounded Gaius. The young Prince thought to push the issue but still feeling the smarts from his father's earlier strike he quickly reconsidered. If his father was willing to lock his son up in the brig then there was no telling what he might do if Gaius pressed his luck. Finally he just nodded and turned to leave with the two guards in tow. He was led unceremoniously to the dungeon and as fortune would have it he was locked into the cell directly across from Seraphine. Gaius stood by the door to his cell and waited for the guards to leave before calling to Lady Borrocor.

"I'm sorry," he apologized, "I didn't mean to get your hopes up. Please, tell me they didn't hurt you."

**********

Felicity and her companions quietly made their way to the center of the biodome. With the help of intel from the insurrectionists and Titus' knowledge of military tactics they were able to pick a route that brought them fairly close to the doughnut shaped lake at the center of the dome. Once they had hit the edge of the water they began their ascent to the spaceport. They were nearly there without any incident when a call came through on their radio alerting them they had been spotted. The group had only mere moments to get down to the spaceport, find a ship and escape but first they needed to disembark from the speeder.

Felicity leaned over the side of the vehicle and stared at the platform below them. She glanced back at Autumn then turned to give the engineer a look of concern. "Can't you bring us in any closer," she asked.

"Not if you want to live, my Lady," the man replied, "I'm already fighting the currents as it is any closer and I could lose control, maybe even crash."

Felicity frowned. She knew she could make the jump as well as Ossica. Titus may be able to make it as well on account of his training, but Autumn? "Alright, I guess we'll have to try. I'll go first," she shouted to the others of the whine of the speeder and the roar of the winds. Without waiting for a response she leapt from the side of the speeder and landed on the platform below, rolling with the impact to absorb the shock. Ossica followed a moment later though he had trouble with the landing on account of his wounded leg. Felicity had managed to catch him last moment and hold him steady.

Titus was next but before he could leave the speeder the engineer stopped him.

"Here," he said, handing Titus a blaster, "I managed to snag one as we were leaving," he told him, "I know that my Lady wouldn't approve, but you seem to genuinely want to help her. Make sure she survives this."

Titus took the blaster and nodded at him then he turned and leapt from the side of the speeder. He rolled with the impact the same way Felicity did and his landing was almost as practiced as hers. Once he was down he turned to look up at Autumn. "Jump," he shouted at her, "I'll catch you!"

Autumn moved precariously to the side and stared down at the platform wide eyed with fright. "I don't think I can," she cried.

"Yes you can," Titus urged her, "There's nothing to fear! I won't let you fall!"

Autumn slowly dangled her feet over the edge of the speeder. Felicity could still see the fear in her eyes and worried that she wouldn't jump. If she took any longer... A blaster bolt rang out and struck the speeder causing it to tilt to the side. Autumn screamed as she was knocked loose but somehow Titus had managed to catch her as he promised. Meanwhile the speeder was careening out of control, it lurched forward and spun in a circle before crashing into the central pillar and plummeting to the ground below.

"No," Felicity cried but there was little time to mourn. More blaster shots followed, striking the ground around Felicity and the rest.

"Move, now," Titus called to the others and they all ran as fast as their feet could carry them.

The wind from the air circulation unit was strong up here which made progressing further that much more difficult. They found themselves fighting against the wind which severely hampered their ability to run. There were more blaster bolts that followed as the enemy speeder pulled up alongside the lower platform. Lord Charles Marik and a squad of troopers climbed out onto the platform and continued to fire at Felicity's companions. One bolt caused a part of the platform beneath them to give way under Autumn's feet. She screamed as she slipped and fell then slid down the upper platform to the one below. Charles was on top of her in an instant and roughly lifted her to her feet.

"Autumn," Felicity cried instinctively and Charles' face lit up with recognition.

"So that's what this is about, is it," he asked, shouting over the roar of the winds so Felicity and the others could hear. "This whole time Lady Autumn Kyne was right beneath my nose. Who'd have thought you'd be so kind as to deliver one of my greatest enemies right to my door?"

"Let her go, Charles," Felicity ordered him, "She's not part of this!"

"Oh, but I beg to differ. She is very much a part of this. Her and her father are part of the sickness in this sector! Entire planet's worth of people are consistently trampled on so she and her kind can live their luxurious lives! I plan to turn that all around and make them pay for what they've done to us!"

"This isn't the way! Answering violence with violence will only result in more bloodshed, you must see that!"

Charles' expression hardened. "What I see is a sector of space in need of new leadership! That could be you! All you have to do is submit to me and I swear I will lead our Forces to a glorious victory!"

"I'll never submit to you," Felicity said, "Never again! Now let her go!"

Charles chuckled lightly to himself. "Very poor choice of words," he told her then he threw Autumn over the side of the platform.

"No," Titus screamed and he blasted the man almost immediately after he let Autumn go. The shot took Charles in the shoulder and spun him about over the side of the platform then the squad troopers opened fire on him. As he and Ossica moved to take out the opposition Felicity was already jumping down to the lower platform. She ran to the edge and reached out one hand towards Autumn as she fell. All of a sudden the young girl ceased to be falling and just floated there. Then gradually she began to rise as Felicity leveraged the Force to lift her friend to safety.

Below the platform Charles Marik had managed to snag himself in a bundle of cables hanging down from the top of the pillar. He stared at Autumn as she rose up through the air before him and his eyes traced a line back to the top where Felicity was half leaning over the side of the rail. "No," he silently mouthed to himself, "No, no, no, no. It can't be true, it can't..."

The fighting atop the platform wound down as Ossica and Titus managed to take out the last of the troopers. The last man to fall had his hands on a grenade and as Titus blasted him the grenade fell from his hands and exploded, knocking a large chunk of the platform loose and sending Felicity over the edge. She started to plummet but much to her surprise Titus was there and managed to catch her. Somehow, even as she was falling Felicity managed to keep her hold on Autumn and after a few moments everyone was safe and sound atop the platform again.

Felicity leaned down next to Autumn after she gently set her down on the platform. "Are you alright," she said quietly.

Autumn just looked up at her, eyes wild with fright.

"We need to keep moving," Titus told her and Felicity nodded. She helped the other girl to her feet and the four companions carefully made their way inside.

Once inside the soldiers guarding the spaceport put up little resistance. Felicity simply ordered them to lay down their arms and half of them did so almost immediately. Not many of them were willing to go against the will of their House Lord so most of the others followed suit as well. The ones who resisted made no effort to impede Felicity or her companions as they boarded a ship and took off. Felicity was at the controls while Titus tended to Autumn and Ossica occupied the copilot's seat. The ship gently lifted from the platform with surprising ease as Felicity guided it towards open space. They rocketed off away from the biodome out into a massive asteroid field. It was several long minutes before the cleared the last rock and as they finally emerged from the nebula a ship jumped out from hyperspace right in front of them. It was House Kyne...

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:16 am

Ethan gave a small nod to Blake's request, a small smile on his face. "Often the best rewards do not come in the form of wealth. I will see to it that you are nearby when she is brought back safe and well."

***********

Seraphine sat in a sort of stunned silence, trying to sort through the rapid turn of events that had led to her being in this cell next to Gaius Ducant. It was as unpredictable a turn of events as one could imagine, but she still found some part of her brain desperately trying to plan, scheme and predict what was to come.

Her father would likely not care about her predicament, unless it served him in some way. He would play the dishonored victim, most likely, but would not push hard for her release or any sort of recompense, so as to keep the scales tipped in his favor. As long as House Boroccor seemed the hapless victim in this, House Ducant would have much less traction to garner any support in this conflict.

Theoretically.

But she had not predicted Lord Ducant's actions. He was emotional, and rather unstable at the moment, which meant there was no telling what he would do. And that made him extremely dangerous, especially to Seraphine. She would have to play this very, very carefully.

She looked up as she realized Gaius was talking to her, and moved over to the edge of her cell closer to him. "I have had worse injuries..." She spoke to the object of her curiosity, taking a more unabashed look at him than she might have under more civilized circumstances. "What... What do you think your father is going to do with me? Lord Boroccor is unlikely to agree to any sort of ransom.."

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

It was a small advanced scout party, consisting of little more than a small frigate and a few scout fighters, but the ship was big enough to discourage any pursuers as the frigate quickly listened to their distress call and brought the ship aboard. The ship wisely made its escape before any further conflict could arise.

They were all hustled into the medbay, after an initial security sweep and identification check, and before long they were all on comfortable, if utilitarian, beds, being checked by medics and doctors. There was a palpable energy from the crew of the ship, whom had obviously not been expecting to be ones to rescue the daughter of their leader. As such they practically fell over each other trying to make Autumn and the others comfortable on the rather sparse military craft.

Autumn seemed to appreciate the attention at first, but quickly grew weary of it, dismissing the staff after everyone was settled. Her mind kept trying to replay what had happened, but it was like there was a piece missing. She was falling... then suddenly rising. She looked over to Felicity in the next bed. The woman had something to do with it, she was sure, but... What? House Sage magic? Could it be more than just a myth?

Her eyes tracked over to Titus, whom she saw, was looking at Felicity as well. He fancies her. Poor fool is setting himself up for disappointment. She thought to herself as he stood, crossing over to Autumn.

"My Lady, since you are in good hands now, I would like to go ready my report and get some sleep. I do not think your safety is in danger here."

She nodded. "Thank you, Titus. I do not know if I would be alive without you." Titus glanced subtly over to Felicity.

"I think you would, my lady." He turned and left with a bow of his head.

She turned to look at Felicity. "May I ask you something, Felicity? What exactly happened on that platform? I thought I was going to die."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Sun Jan 29, 2017 10:57 pm

The transmission reached every noble House via their official communication channels, a prerecorded message from an unusual source: House Ithhi.

Lord Hessan Vos Itthi was an elderly man, small and wizened but with piercing and intelligent eyes. He wore a ceremonial robe of purples and blacks, emblazoned with pictographs of a goat. It had something to do with the House Itthi religion or tradition, each member selecting or being given a patron animal.

This, of course, made for no end of "old goat" stories, jokes and insults, although very few were brave enough to voice such comments within the earshot of the Itthi.

Hessan stood on a raised dais in front of a massive window overlooking a panorama of harsh mountain crags swathed in sheets of mist and fog. On the far horizon, the sun was deep into twilight, casting the sky aglow with hues of purple and reds. Whether it was accident or design, the colors of the sky matched well with the official House colors of Itthi.

Hessan took a deep breath, looking at the holo-recorder as though he were trying to glean information from it.

"With the sudden revelation of House Sage's continued existence, it is needful that House Itthi should issue forth a proclamation of its own." He spoke, his voice strong despite his stature. "House Itthi and House Sage once shared a bountiful friendship, and House Itthi has felt nothing but sorrow over the House Sage's corruption and atrophy. I wish to see House Sage returned to its rightful glory, before greed rent it apart, before its name was sullied and became a byword in the Royal courts." He paused a moment with a wistful smile, although as if he were personally remembering some happier day with House Sage.

Presently, however, his smile faded, his eyes hardening. "To this end, we cannot, we will not, support Charles Marrik. He has chosen to pursue the path of a butcher, with an unwarranted and unnecessary act of savagery. If he is to be the face of House Sage, then we will mourn for House Sage, but we will offer no support. House Itthi has not yet made the decision to wage war, but the option is being weighed very carefully based on House Sage's next actions.

"Thank you, and many blessings to you and your families."

The transmission terminated.

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

-----Monument Peak, Planet Ryffan------

Archlord Borrocor sat behind a large desk in his study, sifting through a mound of reports and information in front of him. By in large, most things in the House ran autonomously, with various levels of underlings to handle the multitude of tasks that needed to be done. There were, however, some things he liked to give his personal attention.

This new arrangement with Lord Rosario, who had left the day prior, was one such thing.

It would have been easy to turn the task over to an intelligence officer to feed House Rosario information, but Archlord Borrocor had more of a special puzzle in mind. It would not be deception, per se, but more a creative omission of information, just enough to make House Kyne look even more dubious than it already did. Lord Rosario was mostly focused on House Sage at the moment, which was fine, but Farrid wanted to ensure his new partner kept at least a little bit of suspicion focused on House Kyne. It would be a small, subtle step towards eroding confidence in House Kyne, something he very much wanted.

The door opened and Farrid looked up to see his son, Yiande, standing in the door way with a smile on his face.

Farrid stared at him for a moment before looking back at his work. "The only time you smile is when you are with a whore or you think you are being clever. I don't see a whore, so out with it."

"My sister has gotten herself into trouble." Yiande sauntered in, sitting down in front of the desk.

Farrid arched an eyebrow. "Explain yourself."

"We received a call from the relief vessel sent to Ducant space. They have been detained and are not being allowed to depart. Apparently dear sister Seraphine has been taken in to custody."

This caused Farrid to lean back in his chair, a thoughtful look on his face. "This is unexpected. No official communiques from House Ducant?"

"None."

The Archlord frowned. "Is he mad? Holding a member of a noble family without explanation or demands?"

Yiande's smile deepened. "Perhaps I could lead a war fleet over there, demand her safe return."

Archlord nodded his head slowly. "Yes... Perhaps you could. After all, if you were to successfully lead a fleet to effect a rescue mission, that would make quite the stir in the Royal Court, wouldn't it?"

The younger Borrocor did not see quite his father was going with this, but went along anyway, nodding.

"And what is the relative fleet strength of the Borrocor navy to the Ducant?" Farrid asked mildly. "How quickly can a battle group mobilize? How long of a campaign do you think this little adventure of yours will turn out to be? What will be the per-day cost of such an escapade?"

Yiande just blinked against the sudden onslaught of questions. He opened his mouth to speak, but his father held up a hand.

"Let me save you the trouble of speaking out of ignorance. You do not know the answer to any of those questions, and you do not even care. As long as it makes you look good. Let your elders and your betters do the thinking, Yiande, it is not a task you are cut out for yet. We wait this out for a few more days, and if nothing happens, then we test the waters. Until I know what Declan is thinking, I am not going to push this."

Yiande didn't say anything, but his smile had faded.

"Brute force has its place, Yiande, but you must know when to take the subtle way. Now go." Farrid waved dismissively, and Yiande retreated with a terse nod of his head.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Mon Jan 30, 2017 1:29 am

Gaius frowned and looked away. "I suppose that depends on my brother," he said, "He left by shuttle a short while ago to deliver a message personally to Lord Borrocor. I have no idea what he was thinking."

Both brothers had their own way of defying their father. Gaius' method was a bit more direct than Leland's, but for once they finally agreed on something. Imprisoning a foreign ambassador would only lead to costly consequences for House Ducant and neither of the brothers were eager to see what happened to House Rosario happen to them. Ducant absolutely depended on the strength of its fleet, without the materials necessary to maintain it... Gaius didn't even want to think of the possibilities.

"Assuming Lord Borrocor doesn't have him arrested the minute he lands my brother will be delivering a message from my father. He's agreed to meet and discuss terms, what happens after that depends on Leland."

He hated to admit it but it was true. Everything resided on Leland being able to talk down their father.

**********

Felicity looked up from where she sat in a near meditative state, though truth be told she was half dozing. All the excitement was over now and the adrenaline was starting to wear off. Now her lack of sleep over the last few days was finally starting to catch up with her. She cast a quick glance over at Ossica who had managed to doze off after the medtechs had tended to his wounded leg then she looked back at Autumn.

"I--I guess you already know... Sort of," Felicity began in an uncertain tone, "Your father called it sorcery and I guess there's an old legend about my family. It's--mostly accurate."

"So the legends about House Sage practicing black magic," Autumn asked but she left the rest hanging in the air.

Felicity shook her head. "It's not magic," she told her, "I mean, not really... How to explain?"

She racked her head for a moment as she sought the words. The Force was a concept she had only just learned about herself so trying to explain it to someone else was a difficult prospect. "What you call 'magic' is actually an energy field," Felicity explained, "From where I come from we call it the Force and it's what gives a Jedi their power."

"Jedi," Autumn repeated, a look of confusion in her eyes.

"Ancient warriors," Felicity replied, "They were wiped out some time ago by the Empire, but the stories all say that the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. They're what inspired me to try and help people."

"And they all have this power called the Force," Autumn asked.

Felicity shrugged. "Well, technically everybody does. Ossica, Titus, Charles. Even you."

Autumn looked surprised. "Me?"

"Yes, a little bit," she said and then she clarified, "I told you the Force was an energy field, right? Well, it exists everywhere life can be found. Even all the way out here. It's energy constantly surrounds us and all living beings, penetrating us and flowing through us. If I close my eyes and concentrate hard enough I can feel it inside you, inside Ossica and everyone else on the ship. Some of you may even have the potential to use it yourselves, but I wouldn't know the first thing about how to find out. When I learned I had the gift it was a pretty big surprise for me."

**********

Leland frowned as he glared at his father's holographic image. "No, father, it is you who are making the mistake. Lady Seraphine and her father are innocent, the fault is House Kyne's you know that. The rebel we captured...,"

"Told us what we were supposed to hear," Lord Declan Ducant snapped, "Lord Borrocor is a shrewd man and a deceiver. He has a history of making backhanded deals and using leverage or outright deception to get what he wants. Is it a coincidence he informs us of a possible rebel cell in Kyne space days before Marcella is attacked but cannot tell us exactly where? Then to have this rebel easily caught and susceptible to torture. It all feels planned!"

Leland just shook his head. "That's borderline paranoia, father! You are seeing ghosts where there are none. When I return from Monument Peak unharmed you will see that for yourself."

Then he reached out and disconnected the holocall before switching frequencies. He would have preferred to have sent this next message out sooner, but the delicacy of the situation warranted some discretion. They were too far out now to use their own waystations to broadcast and even if they weren't it would still require a direct connection to the Correspondence Guild's network to transmit the message all the way to House Borrocor. To ensure that the line would be secured certain palms had to be greased before sending the message.

"My Lord Borrocor, this is Prince Leland Ducant of House Ducant. I come bearing--difficult news and a message from my father. I ask to be permitted landing clearance at the palace and a safe place to speak in private. I come unarmed and with no personal guard and I willingly put myself at your mercy. I hope that by doing so I can help resolve the tension between our Houses peacefully."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Wed Feb 01, 2017 11:31 pm

Seraphine sighed lightly to herself. She did not much like the feeling of helplessness that came from her current situation, temporary though it might be. Her father would get her out. He had to. It would be ridiculous to leave her here...

"You risked a lot to try to help me. I suppose I should thank you for that." Her eyes finding Gaius again.

*********

Autumn stared at Felicity for a long moment, trying to make sense of her answer. It sounded religious in nature, which meant complicated. It was obvious that Felicity believed in this, however, whatever it was, and Autumn couldn't deny the preternatural experience she had been subjected to. But it was an answer that did not entirely satisfy. That aside, it was good enough for now.

Autumn gave her a small nod. "I would be interested to hear more, sometime. Thank you for saving my life, however it is that you did it."

********

Farrid Borrocor could not decide whether or not he was surprised at the arrival the Ducant prince. Finally he decided to settle with mild surprise. "Allow the shuttle to land and have the Prince escorted to my study." Farrid commanded his aide, not bothering with a direct response himself.

He moved to turn away, then spoke again to the aide. "It is an honor escort. Do not give him the impression he is being detained in any way."

A short while later, Leland was escorted into Farrid's study where he was waiting.

"Young Ducant." Farrid went through the trouble of standing, which was obviously something of an effort. "There has been a disturbing lack of communication from my envoy to your father. I trust you are here to explain why."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Mon Feb 13, 2017 5:17 pm

"It's nothing, really," Gaius assured her, "I defy my father all the time so it's not really out of my way."

He tried to make light of the situation but something about his answer didn't sit right with her. "Still, I have to ask," she said, "Why did you do it?"

Gaius sighed and leaned against the wall of his cell, slowly lowering himself to the floor. "I don't know if he'll listen," he said, "There was a complication with my sister last night. She's back in the ICU. My father might not look like it but he cares for his children, especially my siblings. He married my mother for mutual benefit, but his first wife was something more. She reminds him of her, my sister. If she dies...," he left the rest hanging in the air.

"Let's just hope your father can talk some sense into him," he added after a moment had past.

**********

Leland resisted the urge to swallow the lump in his throat. Right now he needed to show strength, not weakness. In the midst of the lion's den the last thing he needed was to present himself as prey. "Before I say anything further, my Lord, I must first explain. My father at this moment is grief stricken, he's not in his right mind. The attack on our capital, my sister was caught in the blast and is currently being treated for her wounds. We--have no update on her condition or whether or not she'll survive. My father, he um... Well, upon hearing the news of Lady Seraphine's arrival he had ordered me to take her into custody immediately after her shuttle touched down. He's convinced himself that House Borrocor purposefully withheld vital information that could have saved Marcella. As I was the one who invited Lady Seraphine to Odessa the mistake was mine so I am here personally to try and rectify it."

He took a moment to collect himself before continuing. "It took some doing but I've managed to convince my father to meet with you to hear your side of the story. He gave me these coordinates, it's a neutral location outside of both our territories," he explained as he handed Farrid's assistant a datapad. "It is my hope that this situation can be resolved peacefully and without violence."

**********

"Any time," Felicity said with a smile, though she had a feeling her explanation of the Force may have confused her more than anything. Still she let it go, at the moment she had other concerns. Like what to do about Charles and her ancestry and more importantly what might happen when they arrived back on Oridin. She fell silent for a bit and leaned back in her bed, she had a pensive look on her face though she took care to hide her expression from the others.

The trip back to Kyne territory was uneventful after that. A few hours into hyperspace the general excitement had started to wear off and things were slowly getting back to the typical hum and drum of life in House Kyne's military. Felicity had tried to keep her distance from the crew, from Ossica and from Autumn. She didn't think the other girl could see what was happening but it was clear as day to Felicity. After the initial rescue and even during it members of the crew had treated her with caution. Eventually those sidelong glances turned to suspicion and eventually fear. House Sage had so spectacularly announced itself to the entire sector and they did so by slaughtering an entire noble family. No doubt people were beginning to wonder whether the Lady Sage herself condoned the action and even if she didn't did it really matter? House Sage had effectively kidnapped their Princess. Whether Felicity wanted it or not they were now enemies with House Kyne. That carried a weight with it, one that might crush her once this ship reached its destination.

She didn't have long to wait, either. Much to her surprise Iselia wasn't that far from Kyne territory. In a relatively short amount of time they were back in orbit around the planet Oridin and Felicity, Ossica, Titus and Autumn were herded onto a shuttle and headed towards the planet. Felicity took a moment to look around at the people surrounding her. The soldiers who had accompanied them weren't exactly what she would call an 'armed guard' but the way they nervously handled their weapons may as well have been. The real surprise was what was waiting for them on the surface. As soon as the shuttle had touched down on the landing pad and the ramp was lowered the passengers could look out and see the impressive cadre of legionnaires waiting for them.

As soon as Autumn saw her father's face she immediately rushed down the boarding ramp to go greet him. The nightmare of fear and death finally behind her. The minute Felicity and Ossica exited the shuttle, however, the legionnaires immediately raised their weapons and surrounded them. When Autumn saw what was happening she immediately placed herself between them and her father.

"Wait, no! What are you doing," she asked.

"It's alright," Felicity said before Lord Benedict could answer, "I did technically kidnap you."

She held out her hands to the closest legionnaire to allow him to place binders on her. Then she half turned to Ossica and urged him to do the same...
Last edited by Pryde on Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:08 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Thu Feb 16, 2017 1:27 am

Farrid accepted the datapad with a frown, though inwardly he was reasonably pleased with the progression of this incident. Certainly it was not getting him closer to his objective with House Kyne, but if Lord Ducant became so irrational he began striking without evidence to back up his accusations, House Borrocor would have more than a enough justification to demand recompense in the Royal Court.

Of course, this would still take some finesse. There was no predicting the movements of an irrational man.

"You understand my hesitation to meet at a location of his choosing given his anger towards my supposed involvement in your family's tragedy. But I too wish this terrible situation resolved peacefully, so my daughter can be returned to me, and I can help your House find the real people responsible this."

He looked steely at Leland, then at the datapad in his hand. "I will be there. I fear whoever is actually responsible is attempting to set up House Borrocor to take the fall, and if that is the case, then I have a strong personal interest in getting to the root of the issue."

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

Benedict frowned lightly, then waved at his guards to stand down. "Perhaps you misunderstood my instructions. Lady Felicity Sage will remain under house arrest." He stepped forward to address Felicity directly.

"From the reports I have received, you were not directly responsible for Autumn's abduction, and you were instrumental in returning her home. However, the revelation that you are of the Sage bloodline has complicated an already complex situation significantly. Until I have had an opportunity to make a decision regarding what should be done with situation, please consider yourself a guest in my estate, albeit an involuntary one. You will be escorted everywhere you go until it is deemed unnecessary. I apologize for the indignity this is to one of your stature, but you have placed my House in a rather awkward situation, and I must be certain as to its safety first and foremost. Once I have had a chance to settle the immediate circumstances, we will talk more and determine the next course of action for all of us."

He turned to look at Ossica, who bowed his head as the noble lord looked at him. "I understand that you are in the service of Lady Sage."

"It is so, my lord." Ossica bowed a little deeper as he spoke. Benedict looked at him for a long moment, taking note of his damaged leg.

"Then you are to remain either in her quarters or at her side for the time being. If you need further medical attention, my staff will see to it."

"You are most gracious. May your orchards bear endless fruit." Ossica responded, giving an ancient blessing of his people.

Benedict's face twitched in a smile and then he turned to Autumn, who had been waiting someone anxiously nearby.

Restraint. It was the hallmark of the noble class. Restraint to the point of dispassion or even apathy. She really didn't know what to expect from her father, who had never shown much in the way of outward concern for her, other than fits of anger when she did something dangerous.

Benedict's eyes looked over the face of his exhausted daughter. Her hair had been sloppily chopped to near shoulder length, the shortest she had had it since she was a small child, and her expression was one of deep fatigue piqued only by enough adrenaline to keep moving. She wore loaner clothing that neither suited nor fit her well. It was easily the most unglamorous he had ever seen her. And it was easily the most relieved he had ever been to see her before.

Stepping forward, he pulled her into an embrace. Amongst the phalanx of soldiers at the landing pad, there arose a spontaneous and loud cheer at the sight of the heiress returned home.

"Welcome back, my daughter." He said quietly to her. "I am glad to have you back in safety."

Autumn held the embrace as long as her father did, then smiled at him as it ended. She tried to think of something to say, but no words came. Instead, she merely nodded as tear welled in her eyes.

"I imagine you wish to get yourself cleaned up. We will talk later."

He looked past Autumn to see a man in a Lancer uniform, standing patiently, waiting to be dismissed.

"You must be Lancer Sergeant Sandello."

Titus snapped to attention. "Yes sir."

"It appears I owe you a deep gratitude, Sergeant. Your actions may well have saved my daughter, and your reports have given me some insight into what transpired."

The sergeant was silent a moment, then responded. "It was an honor to be of service, my Lord." There was more he thought of saying, perhaps giving Felicity more of the credit, but he stopped himself. It seldom paid to be chatty to the Lord of a House and he had already put such details in his report anyway.

"Your actions were courageous and necessary, and they will not go unrewarded." Benedict reached forward and shook the sergeant's hand.

Bendict turned to the captain of the guard and nodded, who immediately set about dismissing the assembled troops. From a short distance away, Ethan stood with Blake close at hand.

"Now may be a good time to approach her, if that is your wish." Ethan spoke quietly to Blake as the troops began filing away with military precision.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Thu Feb 16, 2017 4:56 am

"That is excellent news, my Lord, I shall inform my father at once. The date and time of the meeting are in the file I've provided you with. In the mean time is there... Is there any message you would like me to deliver to your daughter," his tone had grown more hesitant as he said this last part. Partly because he did feel some guilt for putting her in this situation and partly because he had no desire to inadvertently hint at the alliance he had arranged with Lady Seraphine. Despite her current situation she was still useful to him and he had no desire to waste such a valuable resource.

**********

Blake glanced up at Ethan then over at the Kyne soldiers who were now beginning to disperse. He resisted the urge to swallow the lump in his throat then quickly squared his shoulders as he crossed over towards Autumn and her father. She looked a lot different from the girl he saw at her father's dinner party, but then he had expected that. He saw what they had done to her hair in the holovid. Looking at her now her hair was back to its original color, but her clothes were a mess and two sizes too big. A part of him actually liked seeing her dressed as one of the common rabble, there was just something more sincere about it. She still looked absolutely beautiful despite the fact she was clearly not at her best but he refrained from mentioning any of this out loud. He knew how much Autumn would hate to hear it and it wouldn't have been appropriate considering she had just been rescued and looked disheveled as hell.

"Hey," he greeted her with an uncertain voice, "I'm glad to see you back safe and sound."

Meanwhile Felicity let her hands fall back to her sides as the guards had lowered their weapons. Hearing that she was still on house arrest didn't make her very happy. She had been intent on leaving this sector the very second she got back but it didn't look like she was going to get the chance. She glanced over at Ossica who was standing nearby. Despite his injury he looked ever the loyal subject ready to stand fiercely in defense of his lord. Felicity had no idea what she was going to tell him. After everything that had happened she had no intention of going back. With a sigh she quickly averted her gaze and that's when she saw Ethan standing nearby with a boy she didn't recognize. Upon seeing his face something inside of her just snapped. All of the weariness, the frustration, fear and loss of the last few days had all come crashing down on her. All of which punctuated by the sacrifice of yet another loyal friend.

It was the thought of Galen that spurred her forward. Her pace was at a walk at first then it quickly became a run as she closed the distance between them and then suddenly threw her arms around him. Ethan seemed surprised by the gesture and stuck somewhere between either accepting the hug or simply ignoring it. After an awkward moment had passed Felicity finally let him go and took a step back. "I'm sorry," she apologized, wiping a single tear from her eye, "I have no idea what came over me."

Her actions surprised even herself. She barely even knew Ethan but something about him just felt familiar and safe. Just seeing him made her want to drop her guard around him and cry into his shoulder, but this was hardly the place for that. She cast an uncertain glance back over her shoulder at Autumn, her father and the two guards who had been assigned to watch her. There was so much she wanted to talk about but she couldn't do it in front of an audience and certainly not in front of him, she thought, casting her glance over to Ossica.

"Could, um... Could we go inside," she asked, turning back to look at Ethan and as she stared up at him he could almost swear she had this pleading look in her eye.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:06 pm

The Archlord Farrid considered that for a moment then said. "Just reassure her I will do what I am able to ensure her release. I am sure you will see to it that she is kept comfortable until such time as this unpleasantness is resolved. Now, if you will pardon me, I have many duties to attend to. My steward will escort you."

On cue, the Steward entered the lavish study, guiding the young Ducant noble out.

In the hallway, Yiande waited, leaning up against the wall. He matched Leland's gaze icily as the other man walked by, but said nothing. After he had left, Yiande walked into the study where his father was.

"What did he have to say for himself?" Yiande asked, his hands flexing unconsciously. He had no concern for his sister on a personal level, but the affront to the Borrocor name... Well, that was enough to get his attention.

Farrid exhaled slowly, a flash of impatience at his son flickering across his face. "The Lord Ducant wants to met. Undoubtedly so he thinks he can pressure me into admitting to some sort of error of omission."

Yiande scoffed. "You're not going to go through with it."

The Archlord groaned, putting a hand to his head. "I really feel some days that you test my patience on purpose. Of course I am going through with it. With proper security precautions and a member of the Guild to moderate, of course. The Ducant's have no proof of wrong doing. If they did, there would be no talking. That means, all there accusations will amount to nothing. If they act rashly, they will be discredited in front of the Guild, and we will be the victims who are due recompense. If they are civil, then we are the reasonable ones, meeting at the bargaining table even when one of our own has been imprisoned without cause."

Yiande considered that a moment, then nodded. "You will need to have a strong presence at this meeting. Do you wish me to go?"

Now it was Farrid's turn to scoff. "No. Get Murrak. He will go with me."

Yiande fell dead quiet for a handful of seconds. "Murrak. You want Murrak to go with you to a peace talk."

"I am done explaining myself to you today, Yiande. Fetch your brother from whatever dalliance he has found for himself."

With a sneer, Yiande left the room. He had endured his father's slights for his entire life, but this was beyond insulting, his father taking the psychopath Murrak instead of Yiande.

Maybe there's a way I can use this...

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

Autumn stepped forward and hugged Blake, giving a half laugh at seeing her childhood friend unexpectedly in front of her. "Blake! I am... I am glad you are here. It has been a truly horrible..."

Ethan gave a little smile, separating himself from her to a more appropriate, but not rude, distance, and took her hand. "Think nothing of it, Lady Sage. Perhaps there is deeper kinship between the two of us than either of us realized."

He excused himself from the Lord Kyne and escorted Felicity to one of his favored locations: the Kyne Family Library. Since it was a library designed only for Benedict and his family, it was nearly always empty, and Ethan had always loved the solemnity that came from being surrounded by tomes of knowledge, many of them ancient family books traditionally bound in paper and animal hide.

"I have always loved his room." He commented to Felicity as they stepped into the large chamber with vaulted ceilings and floor to ceiling shelves, all immaculately dusted. "It is like sitting in the presence of wisdom."

Ethan walked over to several plush pieces of furniture and sat down, gesturing for Felicity to tell the same.

"You, my dear, have been through quite the trial by ordeal. I am relieved that you have come out the other side uninjured. You have my eternal thanks for bringing Autumn back alive." a small smile came to his face. "I am glad that the trust placed in you has been proven warranted."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:29 am

It wasn't until Leland was back on his shuttle that he had realized how tense he was. He had been hoping Lord Borrocor would be amenable but he was expecting the worse. Still, he was glad he didn't stumble into a trap. Archlord Borrocor was a shrewd man and knew better than anyone that House Ducant had no ground to stand on here. Even if their accusations were true without evidence to back it up they would appear as the aggressor. House Ducant would quickly lose favor within the royal court and it would only be a matter of time before one of the other Houses decided to take advantage of that. Leland hoped his father would regain his senses before irreparable harm was done, but after receiving news that his sister was once again moved back into intensive care he was beginning to have doubts that Lord Ducant ever would. What he needed was a plan and word of his brother's imprisonment had given him an idea...

**********

Felicity had one arm wrapped around herself as she stood awkwardly in the center of the enormous library. She'd never seen so many books in one place before, let along paper bound books. She would have allowed herself a moment to marvel at its majesty if not for the deep concerns plaguing her psyche. As Ethan spoke she was only half paying attention to his words. He had gestured for her to sit, but Felicity had done enough sitting over the past few days. The nurses on the ship had insisted she and the others remain on bed rest for at least a day and a half before they were allowed to wander and even then there wasn't much else to do on a ship at warp than sit and wait.

"... You have my eternal thanks for bringing Autumn back alive," Ethan's words finally began to register in her mind, "I am glad that the trust placed in you has been proven warranted."

Felicity allowed herself a small shrug. "I made a promise," she said simply and left it at that. Then she turned away from him, allowing her arm to fall back to her side, "but that, um... That's not why I wanted to talk to you."

A brief moment of silence passed as Felicity sought the right words for what she wanted to say. Eventually she just settled on asking him about something he had said before. "When we were leaving Oridin, before everything that had happened you told me something," she said quietly, "You said each of us have our own road to take and for many of us that road is fixed before us."

Ethan nodded, "I remember."

Finally Felicity turned back to look at him, a sort of desperation in her eyes. "Is there no way to change the road in front of me," she pleaded with him.

Ethan was momentarily surprised by the anguish in her voice but somehow managed to maintain a calm demeanor. "I believe I said with great effort or luck it might be possible. Why? What is troubling you?"

Felicity looked away from him again. That was not exactly the answer she was hoping for. "The, um... The Messryn have a prophecy about me," she told him, her tone subdued, "Before I was even born they foretold my return to this sector on the same night a city burned. When Galen told me who I actually was it was right before the attack on House Rosario. Right before the city began to burn. It had all happened just as the prophecy said it would."

Ethan had watched her carefully and was beginning to suspect there was something she was leaving out. "But that's not all, is it," he asked and Felicity shook her head.

"In the very next verse it is said that I will bring either salvation or death," she replied, "After everything that's happened I think it's pretty clear which one it is. Since I've arrived here I've been nothing but trouble for you and everyone else around me. First it was the crash, then the incident with Lord Rosario's cousin, then the riots and everything that had happened to Autumn, then Galen he...," she stopped herself, her voice choking on the very next word out of her mouth. She took a moment to compose herself then continued. "He's probably dead now because of me," she managed to finish, albeit reluctantly. "I started this journey because I wanted to help people. When I saw what the First Order was doing on Ord Mantell I couldn't sit quietly and watch. I had to fight back, but ever since then the only thing I've managed to do is get people I care about killed and for what? So that I can live to run away? Why? What makes my life more important than theirs? Why am I so special? I don't feel special, I feel more like a curse! You'd probably be doing everyone a favor if you just locked me up and threw away the key!"

As she spoke her tone grew more desperate and by the end of it she was fighting to hold back the tears.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Sun Feb 19, 2017 4:58 am

Ethan smiled sadly at Felicity as she spoke. He didn't understand the specifics of what she was saying, not knowing who Galen was or the precise context of her situation, but he understood well what she was feeling.

Crossing over to a small side table, Ethan opened a cabinet, removing a small decanter of brandy and a tumbler. "This brandy is made with grapes from the vineyards on the Indigo Coast." He spoke as he poured the amber liquid into the glass. "It is truly a breathtaking place. Lush green fields nestled in valleys set against an empty sky with a thousand meter free fall into the deepest blue ocean. They say something about the ocean air and the soil yields peerless grapes. If ever you find yourself in need of some peace and quiet, I highly recommend a visit out to the Indigo Coast."

He put the drink in her hands and then sat next to her.

"I am... sorry that you find yourself in the position you are in. But I well understand the weight you feel, for I have felt it too. On my council, the Lord Kyne has sent good men to their deaths to accomplish that which must be done. That is not a weight to bear lightly. A good leader, a true leader, knows the value of every life lost and makes sure that it is not wasted. I would not wish that burden on anyone. Certainly not you."

Ethan sighed lightly, his posture taking on a more candid aspect, his practiced cultured demeanor fading to the background. "I understand you may feel as though your are cursed, but you must look at the larger picture in front of you. Your presence has inspired the Messryn people with the hope of salvation from their current plight of being scattered and dominated across the sector. Yes, people will die. People have died. People will continue to die. So you must look down the path to see what is to come. If you choose to walk away, House Sage will be led by Charles Merrik. It will be led by him until the day it is hunted into genocide. The Messryn people will lose their closest ally and will likely never be emancipated from their current condition."

He paused a moment, seeing the look of despair creeping across her face, and took her hand into his. "The alternative is, you can claim your unwanted birthright and assume the leadership of House Sage. You can redeem your family name from savages and warlocks, and turn it in to something worthy of praise again. Yes, there will be war. There will be bloodshed. But you will find allies in the Messryn people, and other unexpected places. And you will have to bear the weight of leadership at least until you find someone worthy to take over. I do not doubt even for a moment that you will triumph if you choose this path."

Releasing her hand, Ethan stood and disappeared behind a bookshelf, returning a moment later carrying a small silken bag. Opening the bag, Ethan deposited an ebony medallion into her hand which bore a falcon's head on one side and the House Itthi insignia on the other.

"I am placing great trust in you, Felicity, for no one must see this medallion or learn that you have it. If you choose your birthright, take this to Vitaliss, the capitol of the Itthi. You will find allies there and guidance. If you choose to walk away from your birthright, while I could not fault you for it, this medallion must not fall into the hands of any others under any circumstances. Not even Lord Kyne is to know that you have it. Do you understand?"

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:24 am

Felicity slowly nodded as she held the medallion in her hand. What Ethan had told her was true. If she had left now then Charles would continue his war on the other Houses of the sector and in the end he would eventually be hunted down and destroyed along with every innocent life on Iselia. The same could be said of the Messryn, she remembered the slaves she saw at House Rosario and how they were treated. There were others around the sector seeing similar treatment if not worse. If she were not here to free them... She closed her eyes and clutched the medallion to her chest.

"I have a lot to think about," she said quietly. Then she opened her eyes again and looked at the medallion in her hand. She vaguely remembered the symbols from her studies. She couldn't remember what the Falcon was but the other belonged to one of the Houses. The freaky one, if she remembered correctly. "But first I have to ask, why do you have this? And what did you mean when you said we share a deeper kinship?"

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:58 pm

Ethan inhaled deeply before he spoke. He knew this room was one of the most private in the manor: barely used, sound insulated and regularly swept by counterintelligence teams. That being said, he knew that the words he were about to say were things he should not say and well could result in his death.

"I am... not in a position to tell you everything. Yet. But it is important you understand what is at stake here, so I cannot leave you completely in the dark. I must stress, however, the information I give you is a matter of life or death, my life or death. You must swear to tell no one."

Felicity nodded uncertainly, perhaps worried about what conspiracy she was being inducted into.

"The name I was born with is Ethyro Kren Itthi. I am the cousin once removed to Lord Hessan Vos itthi, and I have been living with House Kyne incognito for the last decade to ensure the safety of Lord Kyne and his daughter. I realize this will raise many questions for you, many of which I cannot answer at this time. What is important for you to know is that my mother bears blood from House Sage. There have been plans to revive House Sage for many years. As I say, I cannot explain everything here and now. But if you go to Vitaliss, you will get the answers to some of your questions."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:20 pm

His mother has blood from House Sage? Her eyes began to widen at the implication. She didn't know much about the nobility of this sector but from her studies she had learned about successions and the importance of lineage. For House Itthi to have plans to revive House Sage they would have to have had a candidate with strong ties to the Sage noble family. Someone with strong ties to Felicity herself. That meant they were family, cousins most likely although rather distantly, but they could both ultimately trace their lineage back to the same family.

"That's why," she whispered, half to herself. "That's why you feel so familiar to me. All this time I never knew..."

The tears threatened to return again and Ethan gave her a look of concern. "What's wrong," he asked.

"Nothing," Felicity told him, wiping away her tears with one hand, "I'm just happy. For the first time in seven years I have family again."

She wiped her hands dry on her pants then looked down at herself. "I'm sorry," she apologized, "I must look like a mess."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:02 am

Ethan smiled tightly, glancing over at the door to reassure himself it was still closed. As one who had kept a great many secrets and many great secrets, he was not in the habit of being careless.

"You cannot imagine my own excitement when I heard the rumors, especially to find the truth: that you were a not only related, but in the direct bloodline of House Sage. I imagine House Ithhi is eager for news of you as well. I have not been in contact with House Itthi in several years. There is much I wish I could speak freely with you about, but this is neither the place nor time. I know that I cannot compel you to stay to fulfill this legacy, and if you truly wish to escape this sector, I will aid you as best I am able. But I will ask one thing, and that is that you make your decision as quickly as you are able. Undoubtedly House Itthi is examining Charles Merrik and his statements abroad, and determining whether or not to wage war. I should very much like to know where you stand before such a decision is made."

-----Monument Peak, Planet Ryffan------

Yiande viciously shoved the hapless servant out of the way, who had committed no more transgression than simply being in the corridor in Yiande's path of travel.

Saying he was in a foul mood did not even begin to cover it. He was, almost literally, murderous. His father's belittling remarks still echoed in his ears, and he had decided he had taken enough abuse from the old man.

He thinks me a fool unfit to be the title of Archlord. I will prove him wrong. Very wrong.

Arriving at Murrak's chambers, he did not bother to knock, but entered directly into the massive room.

He saw his brother, Murrak Borrocor, working at a grinding wheel, sharpening a long, curved blade with a shower of sparks.

Murrak had his brother's build, compact and muscled, although a touch stockier with a little less muscle. He kept his head shaved bald, and had numerous scars across his face and head from battle injuries that were allowed to heal without medical aid. Unlike Yiande, Murrak had no interest in looking pretty or impressing anyone.

He had only one interest: combat. Everything from the grand strategy of massive military campaigns to the visceral effects on the body that a blade had, if it had anything to do with combat, Murrak studied it relentlessly.

Yiande cast his eyes around the chambers before speaking, having not actually been here in over a year, and noticed that his collection of war memorabilia had grown since the last he had seen it. The only thing in Murrak's chambers which did not seem to be directly war related was the barely dressed woman in the corner who was playing beautiful music on her harp. Even the song, however, was the ballad of an ancient warrior.

"I am busy." Murrak spoke tersely. He seldom wasted breath on many words.

"Your father wants to see you. And I doubt he wishes to be kept waiting."

Yiande didn't bother to wait for a response before turning and making his way deeper into the citadel palace.

********

"But... sir... This is suicide..." The slave looked down at the knife that had been placed into his hands: a small, thin blade imbued with poison, sheathed in a small scabbard. He looked back up Yiande, who stood over the kneeling man with his arms crossed imperiously.

"Let me make this abundantly clear to you. I will kill you right now if you do not agree to this. If you agree and then don't follow through, I will kill your wife and your children, and then I will kill you." Yiande spoke softly, carefully enunciating every word. "If you die in your attempt, I will at least at least spare your family. Of course, if you succeed and live to tell me about it... Well, you and your family get to enjoy your freedom with a bundle of cash. So, this is it: death or freedom. Which do you choose?"

The man drew several deep breaths, then brought the knife closer to him with a nod of his head. He had been a gladiator slave, doomed to die anyway. Perhaps... Perhaps this would be a way out. "How will I do it?" His voice was a harsh whisper.

Yiande smiled. "It will be so simple. I will see to It that you are assigned to be close on hand. All you have to do is sometime after the Archlord and the Lord Ducant have arrived at the same place, draw blood from the Archlord. It need not even been a deep wound, just enough that the poison makes contact with his blood. The venom will do the rest. If you can do it without being noticed, so much the better. If you are noticed... well, the quicker you kill the Archlord, the more your family benefits, understand?"

The man nodded again. "But.. Sir... With all respect... How will I know that you will keep your promise when I am done?"

Yiande's foot caught the man square in the gut, doubling him over. "You misunderstand the nature of this relationship. I give you instructions. You follow them. I reward your obedience. There is no room for negotiation or questioning in this. Now go and get yourself cleaned up. Undoubtedly you will be leaving soon."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:02 pm

Felicity's smile faded slightly and she fell silent. The significance of Ethan's words were not lost on her. She was in a position now to ultimately effect how House Ithhi approached the issue of Charles Marik. Should they go to war tens of thousands were likely to die. Charles Marik would not back down from his vendetta and if the dome around the city were to be destroyed... The death toll was unthinkable. The alternative was even worse. Should Charles Marik be allowed to continue unchecked his personal vendetta against the other Houses would leave swaths of destruction in his wake across the entire sector. Felicity was in a position to prevent both outcomes but at what cost? She didn't want nor craved power and she had seen the devastating effects her influence has had on others. People have looked up to her as a shining beacon of hope and for awhile she reveled in it, until she let those people down. Because of her people were hurt or even killed and those were losses she just couldn't take. Running away seemed easier, but how many more people would she be letting down?

"I--I don't know," she whispered quietly.

"You don't have to give me an answer today," Ethan told her, "but time is growing short. Just think on it for now."

She slowly nodded and Ethan stood and politely excused himself to attend to his duties. Felicity was pretty much left to her own devices after that. The restrictions on where she could go and what she could do were largely the same as her last stay, the only difference being that now she was treated with a lot more respect by the servants and even Ossica. Felicity hated every minute of it, of course, she hadn't wanted to be treated differently but this was the society she currently lived in so there wasn't much she could do about it. Over the next few days the excitement had eventually died down and things were beginning to return to normal around House Kyne. Felicity was still waiting on word as to her ultimate fate and in the meantime she was closely examining Autumn. The other girl appeared to be almost her old self again but in private Felicity could still see that haunted look in her eyes.

The traumatic events she had experienced would likely scar her for the rest of her life and much like Felicity she too faced a choice. To continue to stand in the face of these events and become stronger for it or to allow these experiences to rule over her and hide from her potential. In a way Felicity looked to her for inspiration as to what she should do, but as it was, just a week out from coming back, neither woman appeared ready to move on and Felicity was still keenly aware of the decision weighing down on her shoulders. Currently the two girls were sitting in Autumn's room. Felicity had sat on the edge of the bed while Autumn was seated at the vanity while a servant ran a brush through her hair. There was silence between them for a moment until Felicity had finally broken it.

"I meant to ask you," she said suddenly, "The boy I saw you with before, who was he?"

Felicity had been curious about him before but never seemed to find an opportunity to ask about him. In the days since their return she had found out from a servant that the young boy was not permitted to interact with the Lady Sage in any way and had been sworn to secrecy about her arrival with the possible threat of facing charges for treason should he break that promise. After hearing that Felicity couldn't help but wonder who he was to have faced such a threat and whether or not the promise was made to protect him or to protect her...

**********

In the intervening days since Leland Ducant's return House Ducant had been struck with terrible news. Lady Marcella Ducant had not recovered from her injuries and passed away in the night shortly after her return to the ICU. Lord Ducant was devastated by her loss and had locked himself away in his chambers. Leland, meanwhile, had sought solace in the arms of one of the many women he'd been with. It was poor Gaius who had no one but Lady Seraphine to interact with in the days since the news had broken. Leland's return and the message from her father had given Lady Seraphine some hope, but news of the Princess' death had quashed that hope leaving Seraphine feeling crushed and Gaius with no shoulder to lean on. It had been like that for nearly a week until Leland had appeared before him sometime in the afternoon. He had entered the prison and approached Gaius' cell, ordering the guard to drop the force field. Gaius sat up on the bed and looked inquisitively at his brother.

"I've managed to convince father to allow you to attend Marcella's funeral," he said simply, "Come, the servants are waiting for you."

Gaius stood and followed Leland out of the prison, stopping only momentarily to look at Seraphine who was still laying on her cot with her back turned to them. Leland barely paid her any attention and in fact refrained from even looking in her direction the entire time he was down there. That worried Gaius but he refrained from mentioning it for now.

"How's father," he asked on their way back to his chambers.

"About as well as can be expected," he said.

"And has he... Is Lady Seraphine...," Gaius started but his nervousness caused him to choke on his own words.

"I'll tell you after the funeral," he said simply and left it at that.

The tone in his voice sent a cold shiver down Gaius' spine and already he began to fear the worst. Still, he kept quiet about it for now. It was more important that he take some time to remember his sister. Afterwards he would confront his father about Lady Seraphine...

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Thu Feb 23, 2017 3:16 am

Autumn glanced at Felicity, giving the other woman a brief smile. "That man who was there when we arrived? A childhood friend named Blake. He is an independent reporter, who works out of Caltan. My father never much liked him, but I guess he had something to do with helping the rescue craft find us, so my father is a bit more accepting these days."

There was a knock at the door, and Ethan entered Autumn's chamber a second later, standing as tall and proud as he ever had. Other than an obligatory expression of concern, Ethan had made no offers to talk to Autumn, and made no indications that her presence or absence had any bearing on his existence. He had always been cool and calculated, it was the only way she had ever known him since the first day she had met him.

"My lady." He said to each of them, giving them an exactly equal bow of respect. "Lady Sage, Lord Kyne has requested audience with you. I will be waiting out in the hall until you are ready to speak with him." With that, he bowed again and exited the room.

"It must be important, if he sent Ethan instead of one of the household staff." Autumn said wryly to her friend. "Do you want to prim up a bit? I could send for a dress. Or a masseuse, it never hurts to be relaxed for a meeting. Ethan will wait all day if he has to." Autumn's smile held just a hint of mischief, enough to imply she had tested that theory more than once throughout the years.

***********
-----Deep Space Rendezvous Point------

The Borrocor ships had arrived in waves: a few advanced scout fighters followed by long range strike cruisers. After the area seemed immediately safe, several frigates arrived, forming a defensive line. And finally there arrived three identical battleships, and aboard one of them was Archlord Borrocor, his mad dog of a son Murrak, and, unbeknowest to both of them, a slave with instructions to assassinate the Archlord.

The entire fleet of Borrocor ships hung back, approximately 100 kilometers from the designated rendezvous site with the House Ducant delegation. They were close enough to provide a presence and hopefully a deterrent, but far enough to be out of actual striking distance of where the meeting was to take place.

The ships hung in the empty, unoccupied void, waiting for contact.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Thu Feb 23, 2017 12:12 pm

Felicity fidgeted uncomfortably when Ethan bowed to her before leaving the room. She still didn't feel like all the platitudes were necessary, if anything she should be the one bowing to him. After all he was older than her and people had always been telling her to respect her elders as a child. After Autumn spoke Felicity looked at her. She got the distinct feeling that she'd left Ethan standing out in the hallway on several occasions before and immediately felt for him.

"Um, no. That's okay," she said finally, "I don't really like keeping people waiting."

An interesting sentiment considering she kept poor Rilan waiting on at least a couple occasions. She did feel guilty about it, however. She hopped down off the bed and headed towards the door, stopping only momentarily to look back over her shoulder at Autumn. "I'll check in on you later," she said.

She'd been 'checking in' on her a lot lately. Autumn was probably starting to be annoyed by it, but truth of it was Felicity was doing it more for her own benefit than for Autumn's. There weren't many people around here her own age and fewer still who could understand the pressures of the position she was in. Autumn was as much a sounding board as a friend and the two were able to talk about things in private that neither girl could speak about with anyone else and while Felicity was still no where close to making a decision she was now better able to understand the life of a noble through Autumn's experiences.

Ethan waited for her outside, mildly surprised that he wouldn't have to wait any longer. Perhaps he thought Autumn might have had an influence on her, but either way Felicity had other concerns on her mind. "You don't have to bow to me like that, you know," she said irritably.

Ethan simply nodded. "Of course," he said, then he gestured with one hand, "This way."

"I'm serious," Felicity persisted, "I should be bowing to you. You and Benedict are the reason I'm still alive right now."

"If that is your wish," he said simply and kept walking.

Felicity ground her teeth together in frustration but said nothing. They'd had this talk before on several occasions and it always ended the same way. As much as Felicity hated it Ethan would continue to treat her with the respect he felt she deserved because that was just the society he grew up in and Felicity would continue to be bothered by it because that was not the environment she had grown up in. With a sigh she decided to change the subject. "Any word on Charles Marik," she asked him and Ethan shook his head.

"He's been rather quiet since your departure," he said, "Given your reports he's probably consolidating his power."

That sent a chill down Felicity's spine. If by consolidating he meant intimidating or even killing the people who opposed him then perhaps she made a huge mistake by leaving Iselia. Still, if anything it kept Charles busy, but it wouldn't stay that way for long. She had wanted to ask about House Ithhi and what they've decided but looking around at all the servants in the area she quickly realized this was not the place. She would just have to hope that House Ithhi wouldn't make a move while the remnants of House Sage were preoccupied.

Felicity was led to the large double doors of Benedict Kyne's study. Before opening the doors Ethan stood off to the side and beckoned her through. She gave him a look that seemed to say, 'You're not coming?' And he gave her a reassuring smile. With a bit of mild trepidation Felicity opened the doors and entered the study, finding Lord Benedict seated behind his desk.

"You wished to speak with me," she asked nervously, forgetting whether or not she was supposed to bow to him or address him differently. As confusing as courtly manners were they had become even more confusing when she became a lord herself.

**********

Pretty much all of Odessa and then some had attended Marcella's funeral. She had been known as House Ducant's Sweetheart and that was reflected in the number of people who turned out to remember her. She had such a heartwarming presence and her charitable work had helped thousands of people across House Ducant's territory. Needless to say the report of her death hit many people hard, least of all her own family. Lord Ducant barely said two words through the whole funeral and deferred to Leland to give speech. Gaius could see his father was barely keeping it together. He probably had Leland give the speech because he believed it would be improper for the Lord of the House to be seen weeping in public.

Sometime after the funeral Gaius had cornered Leland. They were back at the estate and Leland had just retired to his room. Gaius was allowed his freedom rather than being escorted back to his cell so he used that opportunity to try and discover what he had missed. He entered Leland's chambers and before the other man could say anything Gaius cut him off.

"Well," he asked, "What's the news on Lady Seraphine?"

Leland shook his head. "Now, brother," he asked, his voice ragged, "We just said goodbye to our sister."

"Yes now, because later might be too late," Gaius persisted, "You barely even looked at her when you came to get me and I want to know why."

Leland let out a long sigh then finally turned to look at Gaius, his eyes red from all the tears. The agony in his eyes momentarily surprised Gaius and for a moment he felt a pang of regret. He knew Leland cared for her but he had no idea how much. "Lady Seraphine is to stand trial in place of her father. She will be found guilty and then summarily executed."

Gaius' eyes widened in shock. "And what of her father? What about the meeting?"

Leland turned away, another sigh silently escaping his lips. "The First Fleet will accompany our father to the meeting. I'm told the victory will be swift and decisive."

"No, he can't do that. You know he can't," Gaius told him but Leland's shoulders simply drooped helplessly.

"What are we to do," he asked, "Father is devastated over the loss of Marcella and he's not thinking clearly. I tried to talk him out of it but he wouldn't listen to me. Maybe if you tried...,"

Gaius seemed surprised by that. "Me?"

"Father has always respected you," Leland explained, "Maybe if you asked him he would listen."

"Father hates me," Gaius answered, "Why would he listen to me?"

"Father doesn't hate you, Gaius. He is at times frustrated with you because you remind him of himself in his youth, but he doesn't hate you. When you're not around he has nothing but praise for you and your accomplishments. He lorded your victory in the arena over House Vanray for months. You are more like him than anyone else and we all see it. That's why... That's why you have to be the one to convince him."

Gaius stared at his brother for a moment, not entirely believing anything he was saying. Still, if there was a chance he could convince his father to see reason then he had to take it. "Alright, I'll try," he said and then he turned to leave.

Leland watched him go for a moment and after the door had closed behind Gaius, blocking Leland's view of him, his head fell into his hands and he began blubbering. There was no turning back now and he knew that...

**********

Lord Ducant's chambers were a mess. When Leland had entered the first thing he noted were the discarded clothes that were everywhere and the remnants of uneaten meals that populated the various surfaces in the room. His father was seated in a large plush chair by the fireplace and was currently staring into the fire as a servant poured him a glass of wine. Upon hearing his son entered Lord Ducant waved the servant away. The other man turned to leave and Gaius stared at him for a moment in puzzlement. He thought he knew all the servants who worked the grounds at the estates but he didn't recognize this man. After he had left he turned to look at his father.

"I've come to ask you about Lady Seraphine," he said and his father made a sour face.

"You come so soon after my daughter's funeral," he asked in a pained voice, "Have you no decency to leave a grieving father to his privacy?"

"I've come to ask you to set her free, father. Every day we keep her is a day that invites war."

Declan growled at that. "This is not a conversation I'm willing to discuss," he said.

"So you'll kill her and then kill her father and think nothing of it," Gaius demanded.

Now it was Declan's turn to look at his son in puzzlement. "What are you talking about?"

"Your plan to have Lady Seraphine stand trial and to take the First Fleet with you when you confront Lord Borrocor."

Declan stood and turned to face his son, his half filled wine glass still untouched in his left hand. "How dare you accuse me of such treachery," he roared, "I have excused your behavior before because you are my son, but to imply that I would impugn my own honor is simply unforgivable!"

Gaius was shocked. Was everything Leland told him a lie? Why? What was he trying to accomplish?

"I want you out of my sight! I've had enough of your antics for today," Declan finished and as he turned he started to lift the cup towards his lips. As he did so that's when it finally all came together.

"Father stop," Gaius cried but it was too late. Declan had already taken a drink.

The poison was quick to act, clogging up his airways and making it difficult for him to breathe. Declan collapsed onto his side and in an instant Gaius was kneeling down next to him, cradling him in his arms. "No, father! Please," he cried, his eyes welling up with tears.

Declan could do little more than stare up at his son's face until darkness had overtaken him and he could see no more. After his body had stopped convulsing Gaius gently set him down, at this point blinded by his own tears he reached for the cup. Could Leland really have done something so vile? At that moment the doors to Declan's chambers burst open and two guardsmen entered. They stared wide eyed at Lord Ducan'ts still form and then up at his son kneeling next to him, the empty wine goblet still in his hand.

"The Prince has poisoned Lord Ducant," one of them said, "Arrest him!"

They quickly surged forward to take Gaius into custody and the prince held his hands up in defense. "Wait," he said, "Listen to me! You don't understand!" But the guards were having none of it.

In a panic Gaius reached down and unsheathed one of their swords as soon as they had come into reach. He had cut one on his arm and then stabbed the other in his thigh then he spun around the first and kicked him into his companion, sending them both sprawling to the floor. Afterwards he dropped the sword and he ran, flying through the door into the hallway behind. Outside he could hear the cries of more guardsmen heading in his direction. Frantically looking around for an escape he remembered that there was a room a couple doors down with a balcony that overlooked the garden. Next to that balcony was a tree that he could use to climb down. From there it was a short distance to their private hangar and a shuttle that could take him to freedom. He raced down the hall and was through the door of the room and out onto the balcony by the time the guards rounded the corner towards the Lord's chamber. When news came of a stolen shuttle taken from the hangar it was too late for the palace guard to do anything about it...

**********

Leland stood in his father's chambers and stared down at the body of the man he had looked up to his entire life. If he felt anything in that moment it was difficult to say. Marcella's loss had left him feeling numb and while he believed his father's death was necessary that still didn't make it right and framing his brother for it was even worse. If there was anything he knew for sure in that moment it was that in the coming days House Ducant was going to need strong leadership. Leadership he felt neither Declan nor Gaius could give. So everything he did he did out of love for his family and for his people. Only he was capable of leading House Ducant through these troubled times.

"Where is my brother now," he asked a nearby guardsman.

"Reports are saying he stole a shuttle from the hangar. By now he would be leaving the planet."

Leland turned to look at his communications officer. "Patch me through to the fleet commander," he said and the man nodded.

A second later they had a direct line to Julian Carth, commander of the First Fleet. "Prince Leland," the man said in surprise, "What a pleasure to see--,"

"It's Lord Leland now," the man interrupted him with a gruff tone, "and at this very moment my brother is escaping in a stolen shuttle after having poisoned my father. I want you to intercept that shuttle and destroy it."

"Destroy it, my Lord," Julian asked in surprise. None of this made any sense to him. Lord Declan dead? Killed by his son? Now Leland wanted him to kill Gaius instead of capture him?"

"You heard my order," Leland growled at him, "Destroy that shuttle! Do not allow my brother to escape!"

The admiral hesitated for a moment, his eyes dancing back and forth between Leland's hologram and his ship's sensors output. Finally after a moment he straightened up and stared defiantly at Leland. "I'm sorry, my Lord, but I simply cannot obey that order."

Leland glanced down at the datapad he held in his hand. The little blip that had indicated his brother's shuttle suddenly winked out of existence as it jumped to hyperspace. Angrily he turned to his communications officer. "Who is this man? Who is in charge of the First Fleet," he demanded.

"Admiral Julian Carth," the man reported, "His family has ties to House Anson."

That explained a lot, first and foremost the Admiral's hesitation to fire on Prince Gaius. Finally he turned back to the hologram and looked at Julian's second in command. "You," he said, "relieve the Admiral of his position and place him under arrest. You're in command of the First Fleet now." Then he reached out and disconnected the call turning angrily to the captain of his guard.

"Wherever my brother chooses to go to ground I want him found as soon as possible," he said, "and if he tries anything shoot him."

"Yes, my Lord," the man replied with a bow and then he and his retinue left the room, leaving Leland and the doctors to tend to the body of Lord Ducant...

**********

The very next day Lady Seraphine was visited at her cell by the newly christened Lord Ducant. He ordered the guard to drop the force field and then beckoned Seraphine to step outside. "W--what's going on," she asked in a frightened tone.

"I'm taking you back to your father," Leland told her and she looked surprised.

"But Lord Ducant...," she started and Leland interrupted her.

"I'm Lord Ducant now," he said, "Yesterday my brother poisoned my father and after being caught he fled the planet. I have men searching for him now but there's no telling where he might have gone."

He half turned then to address the prison guard. "Free the rest of the prisoners and allow them to return to their ship," he said, "They will accompany us to the rendezvous with Lord Borrocor."

"And me," Lady Seraphine asked and Leland gave her a cool smile.

"I want you by my side when we meet with your father," he said, "I believe seeing us together will go a long way towards smoothing over relations between our two Houses."

He leaned forward then and whispered into her ear. "And I wanted to be assured that you have not forgotten our arrangement," he told her in a tone that seemed to suggest an unsatisfactory answer would end up with her right back in that cage. Then he stepped back and gestured for her to follow him. "Come, let's get you cleaned up."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:52 am

Benedict looked up as Felicity entered, rising out of his chair and giving the young woman a faint smile.

"Lady Sage. Do come in, and have a seat. I must confess, when first we met, I had not anticipated we would eventually be meeting as peers in social class. But here we are, you the estranged leader of a House you had not known, and I, caught in the wake of your ascension."

After they had both sat down in a brace of chairs near a window, no desk or table to impose between them, Benedict regarded her lightly. "Ethan has advised me quite adamantly it is not in the best interests of House Kyne to keep you in any sort of captivity, and I am inclined to agree. Based off of all reports and even the account of my daughter, you were not involved in any capacity with the danger she face, so I have no punitive reason to keep you here. And any sort of involuntary confinement could well upset the Messryn people, a group I do not wish to make enemies of.

"I have dispatched a few scholars to the Royal Libraries, where they will access the blood sample of the last known living Sage. If you are willing to provide a sample, House Kyne will officially -but not publically, mind you- consider you the ruler of House Sage, granting you the status of asylum, and making Charles Marrik a usurper and rebel. While this will not magically win your war or unseat Marrik, it will give you a leg of legitimacy to stand on when it comes to addressing the Royal Court, should you decide to do so."

He drew a breath in. "As of now, I am considering you to be an asylum seeker. You are no longer confined to the manor, although I will assign a protection detail from my Lancers for you, until you can provide your own protection. I must ask though, what are your intentions now and for the future?"

***********************'

Seraphine's mind reeled as she quickly tried to come to terms with this new set of circumstances. She managed a smile and stepped up beside him. "Don't worry, Lord Ducant. I am always true to my word to those who are likewise." She tried to sound confident, in control, though the truth was she was quick to realize that her situation had suddenly become much more precarious. She had gone from being an equal, a co-conspirator, to nothing more than a spy for Leland. He had leverage on her, being able to reveal her to the Archlord at his pleasure, but she did not have the same leverage in return.

Maybe it would be best to come clean with her father immediately... After all, so far, there had been very little information exchanged, so perhaps it would simply be a no-harm-done moment.

Not that Farrid had a long history of forgiveness, but it was always possible.

Maybe.

And maybe it would be best just to dig my own grave somewhere and save someone the trouble.
Last edited by Xalsin on Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Fri Feb 24, 2017 2:05 am

Felicity was surprised, she had not anticipated this turn of events. At last she would finally be free to leave the sector and finally return home... Wherever home is and for a startling moment she realized she had no idea where she would actually go. She'd been so preoccupied with simply leaving that she never gave any thought as to her destination. She couldn't simply just return to Ord Mantell. Her efforts there may have disrupted the First Order's mining operation but that didn't mean she managed to erase their presence completely. Not to mention there was still the Knights of Ren to contend with and she would be much easier to find back on Ord Mantell. On top of all that there were still countless people here who were counting on her. People who might suffer and die should she leave them.

"I, um... I don't know," she said quietly after a moment had passed, "I never asked to be Lady Sage and I'm not really sure I want to be. I can still give you a sample of my blood if you like but I...,"

"Don't be so quick to throw away your legacy," a voice suddenly interrupted her and Felicity nearly jumped out of her skin as the ghostly image of Rickard Sage appeared standing next to Benedict.

"Are you alright, my Lady," Benedict asked and Felicity gave him a startled look, glancing between him and Rickard whom Benedict did not seem to notice.

"I... I...," she stammered, unsure of what to say or even how to begin.

"Ignore him for now," Rickard urged her, "Try to remember why you are here. There are people in need of your help. Help you will only be able to provide them as Lady Sage. Under your leadership House Sage could become a force for good in this sector and then maybe some day the rest of the galaxy as well. If you leave now you will be throwing all of that away."

"I--I need time to think about that," she managed to finish, forcing herself to focus only on Lord Benedict for the time being, but she was still keenly aware of that other presence in the room with them even if Benedict was not.

**********

Vessels from the First Fleet appeared out of hyperspace at the rendezvous point. Among them was the Borrocor relief ship which had accompanied them as a sign of good faith. Upon reverting back to normal space the Ducant war ships made sure to keep a respectable distance so as not to alarm the House Borrocor fleet. Shortly after arriving a shuttle was dispatched carrying the new Lord Ducant, Lady Seraphine and a small cadre of men to accompany them. A similar shuttle was launched from the Borrocor fleet and the two met out in the middle, attaching their airlocks to each other. Once it had been determined that neither side had attempted a subterfuge the doors were opened. Archlord Farrid seemed surprised to see Leland standing there with his daughter at his side.

"Forgive me," he began, "but is Lord Ducant not joining us?"

Leland shook his head. "Sadly he will not," he said, "My cowardly brother poisoned him last night in his chambers. Probably as recompense for imprisoning him for trying to free Lady Seraphine. I regret that he will not be here in person to deliver your daughter to you, but I believe that in the end he would have been able to see reason. It is for his memory that I am here now to make amends for our transgressions."

**********

A shuttle appeared out of hyperspace above the planet Oridin in Kyne space. On board that shuttle Prince Gaius Ducant sat huddled against the console clutching his side. In his attempt to escape the palace he had gotten into a scuffle with the palace guard outside of the hangar. During the battle a sword had pierced him in his side narrowly missing his kidney. He did his best to try and stop the bleeding but Gaius was no healer, he had no idea what he was doing and at this point he was quickly losing blood. Unable to focus on flying the ship he settled for engaging the emergency transponder instead. The ship began to broadcast an SOS on an open frequency, which in Ducant space would have ultimately led to his being discovered and then captured but here in Kyne territory... Gaius didn't have much time to think about it, though, before eventually passing out...

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:02 pm

Benedict nodded, choosing to overlook her slightly peculiar behavior. "Of course. This is a big change for you, and such decisions should not be taken lightly. Time is not on your side, however, so I would recommend that you decide quickly. In the meantime, rest assured that I have no intention of making public your whereabouts or further complicating your situation."

Benedict stood up and walked over to an armoire which he opened, withdrew a small case with a hypodermic needle in it.

"If you do decide to reveal yourself to the rest of the Houses, this will be the tool for stopping gossip and claims of your illegitimacy." He handed the device to her. "It only needs a drop of blood to read your DNA."

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

Archlord Borrocor shook his head sadly. "It seems tragedy is becoming all too familiar to your family. I am deeply sorry for your losses."

Seraphine held her position at Leland's side, fulfilling her role of looking pretty and keeping her mouth shut, until such time as her father looked at her.

"Ah, my daughter." He opened his arms to her with an efforted smile, and Seraphine stepped forward. He clasped her by the arms, his large girth making an actual embrace awkward if not completely untenable. "It does my old heart good to see you back, safe and sound."

Seraphine smiled back, but said nothing. She knew well that her well being was probably the furthest thing from his mind at this point, other than how it could benefit him.

Farrid released his daughter's arms, and she knew to immediately step behind him, out of the way where she could be forgotten.

He turned his attention back to the new Lord Ducant. "This does indeed help put the unpleasantness of recent history behind us. And there is the small trifle of the fact that Gaius was honor bound to provide a service for my family, and Gaius has since been disgraced, leaving you, as the only surviving member of your family, to rectify. But come, let us sit and speak for a while. As one suddenly thrust into lordship, you have an uphill battle ahead of you, winning the loyalty of your House. Especially since it was Gaius who was meant to have taken that title. You must tread carefully, or you will be facing civil war. I should know, my father too was met with a very sudden end."

Farrid turned to beckon down the hallway towards where a conference room had been prepared. "Would you care to sit for a while, and discuss these matters?"

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

Since the last ill fated shuttle that had careened into Oridin, orbital security had been tightened, including the presence of a few capitol ships sporting tractor beams.

The shuttle was quickly apprehended when it failed to respond to comms. It was pulled aboard an orbiting frigate, breached, and searched, where upon the sole occupant was pulled out and transported planetside for medical care.

With no immediate ID of the person recovered the injured pilot was taken to a Caltan military hospital, and placed under guard while he was tended to.

Rumors were still trickling in from Ducant space regarding a coup of some kind. The shuttle bore Ducant insignias, leaving lots of speculations about a survivor or a fugitive, but without a definitive ID, there was little to do but guess until the stranger regained consciousness.

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Sat Feb 25, 2017 4:15 am

Leland resisted the urge to grind his teeth. Lord Farrid was a clever man indeed, either that or he was well informed. Leland was already starting to run into trouble with his subjects. His imprisonment of Julian Carth was not well received by the Anson half of his territory and the fact that his uncle-in-law had issued a statement condemning the new Lord's testimony of Gaius' treasonous behavior shortly after it was released to the public didn't help matters either. His people were beginning to draw battle lines and it was only the first day of the new Lord's reign.

"Ah yes," he said finally, "I would love to take the time to speak with you on such matters. Please, lead the way."

**********

Felicity looked at the case and started to reach out for it, stopping herself halfway in hesitation. Nearby Rickard stood just far enough to appear in the periphery of her vision as he watched her. "I know why you hesitate," he said, "but you must understand something. Your ancestor applied for nobility not out of a lust for power but out of necessity. He formed House Sage with the ultimate goal of enacting change in the Royal Court, vying for better treatment of commoners and Messryn alike. House Sage can become that again if you allow it, but if you leave it in the hands of Charles Marik then you are condemning all of those people to die."

"I can't," she whispered softly, "How will I know it's the right decision?"

"What," Lord Benedict asked, not quite hearing what she had said.

"A Jedi seeks no power," she continued appearing to be speaking more to herself than to anyone else in the room.

"The Jedi were flawed," Rickard answered her, "Ruled more by their own doctrine than any commitment to the good of the people. That's been true for more than a thousand years."

"How could you know," she whispered, still not taking her eyes off the case.

Rickard just shrugged. "I am one with the Force now," he said, "I can appear wherever the Force exists. What? Did you think I was confined only to Sage Manor? I have been watching you since you were a child. I was there with you on the eve of your escape from Ord Mantell. The only reason you're here now is because of me."

Felicity turned to stare at him wide eyed in shock. "What did you say?"

"I didn't say anything," Benedict answered her, "Are you alright, my Lady?"

Felicity turned to look back at him, realizing how crazy she must have sounded talking to herself. "I'm sorry, my Lord, but I suppose I'm not feeling well," she lied.

Rickard stared at her, arms crossed over her chest then finally he faded from view. "Just consider my words," his voice still came to her, only heard within her head, "You have the power to help a great many people. Don't be so quick to throw that away..."

Then finally he was gone and Felicity was left staring at the case that Benedict held in his hand. Finally she took it then quickly used the needle to draw a sample of her blood before handing the case back to Benedict. He handed her a small bacta patch which she used to cover the small puncture wound on her thumb. Once it was done there was a sudden knock on the door and shortly after a Lancer wearing the stripes of a corporal entered.

"My Lord," he said with a deep bow, "there's been a development. A few hours ago a shuttle bearing the mark of House Ducant arrived carrying a single passenger. Shortly after arriving the shuttle began transmitting its emergency transponder. The pilot has since been moved to a Caltan military hospital to be cared for and just a few moments ago he woke up. My Lord, he's claiming to be Prince Gaius Ducant and is requesting asylum."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Mon Feb 27, 2017 4:52 am

"Of course. Please come with me."

A few minutes later, they were seated around a lavish table laid out with a variety of delectable snacks.

"I do not wish to add to the hardship of your situation with this boon owed," the Archlord was speaking even as he drank freely from the wine poured by a circulating set of servants, "so I will err on the side of simplicity. I wish House Ducant's support against House Kyne in a small territorial dispute that will be coming up soon. The system of Jullisse has been in Kyne control for many generations, but some documents will soon be coming to light showing that it was taken from House Borrocor long ago. All I would ask is that House Ducant affirms this statement. You know, perhaps making a statement of how old star maps in Ducant archives show it as being a Borrocor controlled system. There would be no need to actually produce such a star map, I am merely looking for a little public support which will urge the Royal Court to lean in my favor. We all know how House Lathun favors popular choices."

The Archlord smiled, lifting his wine glass to be refilled even as his eyes drifted to his son Murrak, who did not eat or drink, but constantly looked about the room as though he were expecting assassins to drop from the ceiling and spring from the floor.

"I should think that should not put further strain on your House and still provide me with enough of a boon that I can declare this issue final and settled." He settled back, awaiting the response of the other Lord.

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

Lord Benedict frowned. He had an urgent call, a blood sample of the presumed ruler of an extinct House, and a woman who kept looking into the middle distance and occasionally muttering to herself. It was all a matter of prioritization.

"Ethan."

He called, and the steward entered gracefully. "My lord?"

Benedict almost asked Felicity to leave, but then thought better of it. It certainly was nothing secretive, and, in all honesty, it would be good for her to have a little exposure to the decision making processes of House politics.

"A man claiming to be Prince Gaius Ducant just arrived in our system, requesting asylum. I want him screened by security and brought to the palace. Where do we stand with House Ducant?"

"Not unfriendly, my lord. But to have an heir to a House request asylum comes with some significant ramifications. Since I know of no wars with other Houses, It is most likely he is requesting asylum from his father, so we may strain our relationship with House Ducant to grant his asylum. However, there should be no harm in granting it long enough to investigate the situation further. I will contact Intelligence and see what information they can glean on the subject."

Benedict nodded. "Good. I will want to see him as soon as he is here." He gave the blood sample to Ethan. "Send this to the scholars at the Library."

Ethan bowed, then left the room to ensure the lord's commands were followed.

Benedict drew a slow breath, pursing his lips thoughtfully for a second before looking back to Felicity. "I firmly hope if you decide to lead your House, you find a steward as loyal and effective as Ethan. A man like him is worth his weight in gold."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:21 am

Leland blinked twice at Farrid. A territorial dispute? He went through all that trouble to make an arrangement with my father for just a single planet? Leland wondered what was so important about this world that Farrid would want it so badly. Might be worth looking into. If he could somehow get ahold of the planet first then he could bargain for a much more favorable deal from Borrocor. Question was how to do it. He could usurp Farrid's plan and us it for his own means or simply just capture the world. Doing the latter, though, would undoubtedly invite war with House Kyne. A House with military strength comparable to their own and with half his fleet in disarray at the moment due to infighting between the Ducant and Anson halves of his House that would almost certainly spell doom for House Ducant. Still, it's a wonderful thought and if he could manage it the trouble he'd endure might actually prove with it.

"Of course, my Lord," he finally said aloud, "House Ducant would be honored to assist you in this endeavor."

**********

Felicity had watched Ethan and Benedict converse in confusion. Why would Prince Gaius come here and why would he request asylum? What Ethan said seemed to make sense but could a relationship between a father and son really become so strained that one would runaway and seek shelter from the other? Having lived for so long with no father of her own she found that idea almost impossible to believe. No, they'd have to love each other, wouldn't they?

Then Ethan had left and Lord Benedict had turned to address her again. As soon as he mentioned leading her people she was suddenly reminded of the implications of what Rickard had said to her earlier. That the reason she was here was because of him. She thought it was the Force that had guided her here but instead it appeared as though it were her own ancestor who had guided her here for some purpose. Some purpose... That was why Lord Benedict had allowed her to stay, right? Seems he wasn't the only one who had tried to use her.

Is that what people do here in this sector? Use people? Treat them like tools? It certainly wasn't a very encouraging thought and not one she'd be willing to justify living her life here for. She thought about asking Benedict about it and see what his opinion was but then she decided that it would be too difficult to explain where her concern came from so she let it drop.

"I'm not sure I would want someone to serve me," she said aloud, "I think I would prefer a friend."

One doesn't order around friends and Felicity didn't really like handing out orders. If it was dangerous she preferred to do it herself. For anything else she would simply ask...

**********

Some time had passed since Gaius' arrival. By now his wounds had been treated and Kyne security had put him through a thorough screening. When they were satisfied he was finally allowed to stand in the presence of Lord Benedict. He was outside his office now with Ethan standing close by. Ethan entered first followed closely by Gaius. As soon as the doors had opened Gaius' eyes fell upon a familiar face. Seated near Lord Kyne and speaking softly to him was the woman who claimed to be Lady Sage. Gaius had not expected to see her again and he might have welcomed her if not for the fact he had more pressing concerns. He was now a fugitive from his own House for a crime he didn't commit. He walked into the center of the room and bowed respectfully in turn to both Benedict and Felicity. As he did so he couldn't help but notice that the gesture seemed to make the latter feel uncomfortable.

"I'm sorry, my Lord, my Lady," he began, "after what happened I didn't know where else to turn."

Benedict was the first to speak. "Calm down, young Prince, what has happened?"

Gaius straightened up and when he did there were tears standing at the corner of his eyes threatening to fall. "Leland's murdered my father and engineered it to make it look like it was my hand that delivered the poison, but I swear to you, Lord Kyne, it was not me. But the guards they...," he faltered, choking on his own words, "I didn't know what else to do so I ran and then I came here."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:49 pm

"Excellent." Farrid gave another half hearted attempt at a smile, though it was apparently too much of an effort to point any emotion behind. "Then I will be happy to call this matter settled once this small service has been rendered."

He finished the last of his wine, holding his cup out for more. "Now we should-"

Farrid never finished his sentence.

The man was a slave, not a professional assassin, thus as he dropped the wine carafe he was holding and drew a concealed knife, every eye in the room was already looking in his direction. Especially the guards who stood against the wall to provide security.

The man lunged towards the Archlord, his movements driven not by careful practice and repetition of a competent killer, but of a sheer desperation of a man who knew he was most likely to fail. He was not wrong in his estimation.

Even as he neared the Archlord with suicidal abandon and a murderous tool, the guards were reaching for pistols. But Murrak was there first.

Producing a wicked toothed knife seemingly from nowhere, he stabbed the would be assassin in the back, the blade entering behind his shoulder blade, aimed towards his trachea. The poisoned blade fell from a numb hand as the tendons and nerves in the shoulder severed, disabling the attacker.

The assailant barely managed to catch himself with his one good hand before colliding with the Archlord, stopping when they were mere inches apart. The man looked at the Archlord and coughed, a rivulet of blood flowing out of his mouth and on to the Archlord's clothing.

The Archlord's expression turned to one of disdain and annoyance. He was no stranger to attempts on his life, nor was he a stranger to seeing killing up close. With one hand, he pushed his attacker deeper on to Murrak's knife causing the man to convulse and twitch.

Murrak pulled the slave off of his father by the knife, tearing a chunk of flesh out of the man on the way. The would be assassin was little more than a corpse by the time he hit the ground, the guards swarming over him after the fact.

Farrid glared at the guards momentarily. "Remind me why it is that I pay you generous amounts of money. Because it does not seem to be for your timely intervention skills." The guards knew better than to try to respond, so they simply went about their task, sweeping the rest of the wait staff out of the room as a precaution.

He glanced suspiciously over Leland. He knew well that the other man was not responsible for it, but it never hurt to establish that boundary of mistrust.

"Perhaps this would be an appropriate time to end our meeting. You have a House to run, and I have a traitor to find and flay. I will have you escorted back to your ship by some loyal staff. Although, given the incompetence of this attempt, I rather doubt any of us are in any sort of danger."

They stood and made ready to depart, Farrid giving Leland one last nod of his head. "If I could offer you a bit of advice from one who has stood in very similar circumstances to yours: invest heavily in personal security for the next while. One assassination begets another, and fills all sorts of people with all sorts of ideas." He looked pointedly at the dead man on the floor.


**********

Benedict smiled wistfully at Felicity's words. "Friends are a rare luxury when you have achieved lord or ladyship. I would count Ethan among one of my few friends, because he does what he does not out of obligation or requirement, but because he passionately cares about the well being of my family and my House."

It was a short while later that Gaius was brought into the room, explaining his situation.

Benedict was thoughtfully silent a moment. "Ethan, what are the chances that he was traced here?"

"If he were directly followed here, my lord, I would say we would already be dealing with a representative demanding his release. But, given that he left a capitol planet, I do not doubt they would have the sensor capability to track his last known direction. They may infer that he came here, but they will have no proof to make any formal requests. This is predicated on the assumption that the Royal Court will acknowledge Leland's ascension as legitimate, which they will in absence of other evidence."

This got a nod from Benedict. It was nothing he did not know, but hearing things out loud made them easier to conceptualize.

"If we are discovered hiding him, a presumed criminal, we will be seen as co-conspirators. On the other hand, if we announce that we have granted asylum to him, we will still look like co-conspirators, only more brazen ones." Ethan offered an additional thought. "The only way to be seen as truly innocent in this escapade would be to turn him over to House Ducant immediately. That, however, would be the doom of Prince Gaius."

There was a tense silence as they all waited for what Benedict would decide.

"I cannot endanger my House without evidence to support your claim." Benedict finally said. "However, I do believe you are not the one responsible for your father's death. You have three days to come up with a plan on how to gain evidence to help clear your name. If the plan is actionable and reasonable, I will provide the resources to help you execute it. If you cannot come up with a plan, I will let you flee somewhere remote. I cannot, however, endanger my House by granting you asylum without at least enough evidence to doubt the story your brother will tell. Understand?"

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:54 pm

Leland was still staring at the bloody corpse lying on the floor. This wasn't the first time he'd seen a dead body, of course. There was his sister and then his own father but this was the first time he'd seen such a brutal killing. All the blood oozing out of the man's back sent a wave of convulsion through his body. It was all he could do to keep himself from throwing up on Farrid's shoes. As the Archlord spoke Leland was only half paying attention. He completely missed the look of suspicion the other Lord had given him and the implication that it gave that he might have been somehow involved, but when Farrid mentioned that one assassination begets another he stopped and looked directly at the other man. Did he know that it wasn't Gaius who assassinated their father? No, that's impossible, he thought, resisting the urge to shake his head. The Archlord may be a cunning individual but he's not psychic. No, there's no way he could have gleaned the truth from such a short meeting so Leland was confident his secret was safe.

"I appreciate the advice, Archlord, and I shall be mindful of it," Leland said finally and then he half bowed to the other man as a sign of respect, "Have a safe journey."

He turned then and allowed Borrocor's men to accompany him back to his shuttle. He had been glad that the meeting was over now though he did not expect it to end so abruptly. One thing he couldn't shake, however, was the look of horror on the man's face as Lord Borrocor pushed him deeper onto the knife. That look of sheer terror at the knowledge of his ultimate fate stuck with Leland all through the night and even plagued him during his trip home. On one occasion he even awoke abruptly in the night only to wretch violently into a waste bin. All the while he couldn't help but wonder just how was it that Gaius could sleep so soundly after seeing the horrors he had witnessed on Emris. So much death and destruction yet somehow it didn't seem to bother him yet here he was haunted by the deathly gaze of a single man. He hated himself for his weakness and he hated Gaius even more because of it...

**********

Gaius was shocked. When he left Odessa he hadn't really thought about where he would go or what he would do he just did the first thing that came to mind. He knew he couldn't go to his uncle, his brother would find him there and he knew he couldn't stay within the borders of House Ducant because eventually someone would find him. He came to Oridin only because of what had happened on Emris. He trusted Autumn and House Kyne had helped him in the past so a part of him had hoped they'd be willing to help him now. Lord Kyne seemed opened to the idea but his request... Three days to come up with an actionable plan to gather the evidence needed to implicate his brother? Gaius had no idea where to even started. He had barely even made it this far in his planning, but Lord Kyne did say he would allow Gaius to flee quietly to somewhere safe so there was that. If nothing else he could find some place faraway to hide.

"I understand, my Lord, and thank you for the generous offer," Gaius said with a bow and at a gesture from Ethan he turned to leave.

"Wait," Felicity said suddenly, stopping him in his tracks.

Gaius turned back to look at her. "Yes, my Lady?"

"Please, call me Felicity," she said with a look of discomfort on her face.

"Alright--Felicity," Gaius replied with a slight hesitation. "You wanted to say something?"

"I wanted to ask you, how did your brother do it?"

Gaius looked surprised. Did she not believe him? Was she looking for signs of subterfuge? "He, um... He used poison," he answered finally, "There was a servant I didn't recognize leaving my father's room. He might have paid someone to deliver the poison."

"Couldn't you start there," she asked and Gaius stared at her.

He had not considered that before Felicity brought it up and he could see now that she was just trying to help. Whether she had intended to or not she had given him an idea of where to start his search and maybe, just maybe he might find that evidence after all. "Thank you, my la--Felicity," he corrected himself with another bow, "Thank you for your help."

Then he turned and followed Ethan out of the room leaving Felicity alone with Lord Kyne...

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Sun Mar 12, 2017 4:39 am

It was the first time Farrid and Seraphine had spoken in private since her release. She hadn't been expecting tears of concern or an outpouring of relief. And it turned out, she was completely justified in her lack of expectations.

"What do you know of this?" Farrid growled at Seraphine, making it rather ambiguous as to what he was referring to. He was still wearing his blood stained robes, apparently unbothered by the intimate nature of the killing in front of him.

Seraphine sought the answer he was looking for momentarily before finally speaking. "I had nothing to do with that. I was incarcerated, Father, and that assassin did not travel with us-"

Farrid waved a hand, silencing her. "I know that, girl, there is no way you could have been involved with this attempt any more than Leland could have been. It hardly takes a scholar to work out who was behind that awkward attempt. What do you know of Declan's assassination? Of the interplay between Leland and Gaius?"

Seraphine pondered the question for as long as she was allowed, which was about ten seconds before Farrid gestured impatiently.

"No one spoke to me directly on the subject." She started speaking, trying to think faster than she was speaking, but not making it appear that she was carefully considering each word. This was still a precarious situation, but perhaps there was a way to play it off. "I was in a cell next to Gaius, who had been imprisoned for defying his father. He might have had the motive for mistreatment and wanting to ascend, but Leland definitely had the mobility and freedom to work his will upon his father. Gaius is more motivated by issues of heart and emotion. Leland looks out for himself. If Gaius killed Declan, it was motivated by anger or to avoid something he thought was worse. If Leland killed him, it was for personal gain."

Farrid grunted. "You seem doubtful it was Gaius who killed him."

Seraphine tilted her head slightly. "Studying our family history has taught me much on assassinations. Violent bloody deaths are the work of passionate killings. Poisonings are for careful planners who want to remain anonymous. Gaius did not have long from the time he was released from the cell to the time he fled as a fugitive. Perhaps he just got lucky or already had the plan in place, but I do not feel he had enough time to plan a poisoning in time he was out. I feel if he were to murder, it would be an impulsive thing, with a blade."

She paused a moment, then added. "Plus... You saw Leland's reaction to the killing today. Poison is the work of one who does not want to watch the death, does not want to get his hands bloody."

This brought a frown to Farrid's face. It hardly mattered to him who had killed the old man, other than how to play his hand. "Yes... Hardly conclusive, but interesting. I want you to do a little more research into the Ducant family. If I recall correctly, there is something of a familial divide between Leland and Gaius. If we can get our hands on Gaius, then perhaps we can sell him back to his brother, or even use him to break House Ducant apart. There could be some rich pickings there."

Seraphine nodded her acceptance of the task. "Of course, Father."

"Do you have anything else to tell me?" Farrid asked, and Seraphine hesitated.

She hated herself for hesitating, knowing instantly her father had seen it.

Think of something...

"It is possible that Leland has taken something of a fancy to me." It was the best she could come up with, and not entirely untrue. She hadn't quite had a chance to explore it more, but she felt there was at least a base interest there.

The Archlord quirked an eyebrow. "Oh really. Well, that may prove useful later if I decide Leland should be a closer friend."

Seraphine said nothing to this, but simply put a smile on her face. She had no illusions that she was anything but a piece in her father's game. She didn't have to like it, but she wasn't going to hide from the truth.

For now, at least.

"Well, be about your research. I expect an in depth report on Ducant and how deep their divide runs."

"Of course, Father." She agreed readily, happy that her father had not seen fit to plumb the depths of Leland's interest in her. The window to tell her father the full nature of her relationship with Leland had come and gone, and now it was simply something she felt it better to never speak of.

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

Benedict waited until Ethan had left to get Gaius settled before he exhaled slowly. "I do not giving such hard ultimatums to people in distress, but I cannot afford to let the conflict in his own House spill out needlessly on to my people."

He turned his attention back to Felicity, looking her in the eye. "You have good instincts, and compassion towards those in need. That is a very good place to start from for a leader. Perhaps once he has the preliminary of a plan worked up, you can help him with the details. As I understand, you have been involved in some military operations in the past."

**

Autumn frowned, seeing Ethan walking down the corridor with Gaius Ducant in tow. She had not heard of any official Ducant visit, and, in fact, was actually a little embarrassed by the fact that she was wearing only some plain pants and a embroidered top instead of something more stylish.

"Ethan... Do we have guests?" She spoke as they approached her.

"Indeed, my lady." Ethan stopped, giving her a light bow. "The Prince Gaius will be staying with us a short while. I am merely escorting him to the guest quarters. "

Autumn could instantly sense something was amiss. There was no official retinue, nor did Gaius look particularly dressed up himself. In fact, he looked tired, clad only in clothes that looked to be like generic House Kyne garb. She had not received any notice of guests, which was unusual too. This was no official visit.

"I will take him, Ethan. You are dismissed." Autumn said to the Steward, who looked as though he were doing to countermand that order, but eventually gave a bow.

"As you wish, my lady." He turned and left the two alone.

"I am surprised to see you here, Gaius. There was no communique of your arrival." She spoke quietly as she began walking him towards the guest quarters.

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Pryde
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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Pryde » Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:38 am

Gaius was still somewhat reeling from his meeting with Lord Kyne so when Autumn appeared somewhat suddenly and addressed them he was taken by surprise. It took him almost a full minute to recover his wits and by that time she had already dismissed Ethan and turned to him. As they walked Gaius wondered what he should tell her. The truth? That seemed fair, after all he had no reason to lie to her but he couldn't deny that there was a part of him that didn't want to talk about it. The fact that his brother could even conceive of such a plan was still a wound too fresh to ignore. Still, she had asked and he owed her an explanation. Then there was the fact that she would find out about it eventually.

"Well," he began albeit a bit uncertainly, "to be honest I didn't really know I would be arriving. I just--I had no idea where to go and this was the first place I could think of."

Autumn watched him with those keen eyes of hers, swiftly picking up every detail from the way he avoided her gaze and the edges of wild panic that still lingered in his eyes. "Gaius, what happened," she asked.

Gaius closed his eyes and turned away from her. "My father is dead," he told her, "I think Leland did it. He manipulated me into confronting my father just after a poisoned wine bottle was sent to his room. He lied to me about what was going to happen to Lady Seraphine in order to put me into a position to frame me for my father's death. Now the whole sector is going to think I killed him and I... I just... I don't know what to do."

**********

Felicity made a face at that. 'Involved' might have actually been too strong a word. "I don't know if I would call them military operations," she said, "It was really more of a guerrilla thing."

Benedict stared at her for a moment leaving Felicity puzzled. "What? Did I not say that right? It's what Gabriel had called it."

"I believe the term you're looking for is guerrilla warfare," he told her.

"Oh right," she said, her cheeks turning a slight red, "but anyway Gabriel was actually the leader. He planned out all the missions and chose our targets for us. I was just a figurehead."

"A figurehead," Benedict asked and Felicity nodded.

"Our group was small at first," she explained, "There were only five of us and we needed help. Then Gabriel found out about what I can do and decided to use that. He made it look like I was the leader and in every battle he insisted on putting me out in front of everyone so I could help inspire people to fight. He had said that the mere sight of my father's lightsaber could instill hope in people."

Benedict seemed confused, "I'm sorry, I don't quite follow. A lightsaber?"

"It was with me when I crashed," she said, "Or what was left of it. The blade emitter was cut clean off during my duel with Kylo Ren... He's, um... He's an enforcer for the First Order. He's also a--sorcerer, I guess, but more powerful than me."

"And this weapon, it inspired hope?"

"Sort of, it's--kind of difficult to explain. The lightsaber was a weapon used by a group of people called Jedi, people who had the same powers as me. Where I come from there are stories of the Jedi being the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. So when people saw my lightsaber they naturally thought I was a Jedi and they believed that by following me they could fight back against the First Order. They were wrong," in that moment her expression became crestfallen as talking about it reminded her of the fear and panic she saw in the eyes of those who died during the final battle at the mine. They accomplished their goal and caused irreparable damage to the FIrst Order's operation on Ord Mantell, but the First Order still had a presence on the planet and as a consequence of their actions their tiny resistanced was practically crushed. "We lost so many--the day I left, I mean. Maybe if I was an actual leader I could have saved them, but I didn't have any experience. All I know how to do is fight. I don't know anything about how to lead."

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Re: Concord's End: Calm Before the Storm

Post by Xalsin » Fri Mar 17, 2017 3:35 am

Autumn looked around cautiously, but did not say anything until they had reached the privacy of the guest quarters. The estate was the most secure space on Oridin, but there were simply some tasks that shouldn't be discussed in the hallways.

She did not remember her mother much, but she still keenly remembered the sadness of her mother's death when she had been just a little girl. Now Gaius had lost both his mother and father.

But what about his brother? Had he died too?

The door shut behind them as they entered the lavishly appointed room. "Gaius..." Autumn addressed him informally, the veneer of noble etiquette dropping. "I am so sorry. What happened? Is your brother...?" She trailed off, not quite wanting to finish the question.

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

Benedict gave a slow nod, digesting everything she had told him. "Being a leader is no easy task, and even the best make mistakes. I can tell you have seen first hand what the cost of those mistakes can be."

Benedict crossed over to the window of the study, staring out at the manicured grounds, mulling silently over the countless people who had died in service while he held the title of Lord.

"I am not here to persuade you to take up leadership or to forsake it. That is your decision, and yours alone. I can tell you, however, that there are a people out there who want to follow you. You may find that walking away from that is a weight your conscience cannot carry."

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