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May 19, 04 at 12:36am ^Vagrant Tactics: Legacy of the Dark (Story Rated Teen)
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The next post will begin the story. And if you are also interested you might check THIS THREAD We hope you enjoy.
This message was edited by Bloodsin on May 21 2004.
"Seek not the men of old. Seek ye what they sought."
"Cold, calculating and quite sinister. That's the Bloodsin we know and....hmm....well, know." Copyright Infernal
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May 19, 04 at 12:39am ^Valendia - VKP Headquarters
Inquisitor Callo Merlose had, in her own not so humble opinion, had better days.
She was woken early – before dawn, as a matter of fact, by the clapping of her landlady on her apartment door, and the nervous twittering of her voice as she spoke to people she obviously didn't want to risk offending. She had crawled out of bed, and put on her robe, and had opened her door to the not at all welcome sight of the excitable Goodwife Lins flanked by two coolly officious young men
wearing the tabards of the Valendia Knights of the Peace.
No one wanted to be dragged out of their house into the cold damp of a late winter morning by VKP officers, not even VKP Inquisitors. Perhaps especially not VKP Inquisitors, as such an occurrence usually meant that something was drastically wrong with the world, and she
would be expected to fix it long before she'd had her first cup of tea. Callo dressed quickly. She'd gone without questions or argument, and only paused for a moment to reassure Mrs. Lins that she wasn't being arrested, just called early to duty. A VKP carriage had
been waiting on the cobbled street outside, unheated, its only concessions to comfort being curtains to draw across the windows to lessen the chilly morning breeze and a handful of thin cushions laid over the hard wooden seats.
Callo sighed, and sat down, and clung to the leather straps provided as the carriage rocketed through the streets of the still mostly-sleeping capital at a speed it never would have managed in the middle of the day. And hoped that she'd still be able to walk once they got
wherever it was that they were going.
Morven Verstraeten woke, suddenly and completely. He had no idea why.
It was silent in his section of the VKP common barracks, or at least as silent as it ever was. The knights' cells had no doors, though he strongly suspected that Sir Verris' thunderous snores would be clearly audible through any amount of wood or stone. He lay, perfectly still, for a long moment, simply listening. Verris' snores rang down the hall. Between them came the sounds of breathing, some
shifting on pallets, no footsteps or anything other than normal night-sounds, which he'd long ago become accustomed to tuning out. Nor was it the absence of something he'd become used to hearing.
Unease vibrated inside him like a struck harp string, and he sat up slowly, letting it guide him. He shed his blankets, ignoring the prickle of gooseflesh that accompanied contact with the cool, damp air, and slipped into the clothing he'd laid out for the day, strapped on a bare handful of the weapons he usually carried and of
those nothing more obvious than a long dagger.
He slipped out of his cell and padded down the bare stone corridor on cat's feet, being careful not to disturb either anyone's slumber; they had just sent a week on night patrols, and deserved their rest. In the barracks, as far as he could see, there was no one stirring.
As he came out into the more public halls of the VKP headquarters complex, he encountered more people – guards stationed at intervals, knights coming in from late duty. He nodded courteously to them in passing and, in general, they nodded courteously back, and saved their whispers until he was a theoretically safe distance away. Despite living among them for nearly a decade, he was not one of
them, and he never would be; he had long since given up trying.
Riskbreakers did not normally live amongst the commoner run of Valendia Knights of the Peace – rank had its privileges and one of those was the right to live privately if they chose, a concession normally only granted married Knights. Riskbreakers were never rotated into normal duty positions; nine times out of ten,
Riskbreakers died in arms, and those that survived until age dulled their skills, or came home crippled, were usually retired to teaching positions, training the next generation of their kind. Riskbreakers were widely rumored to have hair-trigger kill reflexes, to know no pain nor weakness, to be able to go for days on a swallow of stale
water and a heel of bread...the list was lengthy and ridiculous, romantic, or envious, depending on the tone of the speaker. He was the only Riskbreaker in recent memory that had actually opted to live in the VKP barracks. His acquired skills and natural talents isolated him among half a hundred others even more efficiently than living alone somewhere else in the city. There was nothing he could do about it, and he rarely allowed it to concern him; for some reason, this very early morning, it irked him, and he made the extra effort necessary to go as unnoticed as possible.
It was still dark outside as he climbed the steps leading to the headquarters wall, standing fast over the main entrance to the headquarters courtyard. The sky overhead had paled from true darkness to the deepest of blues; only the brightest stars were still visible. The pre-dawn air held a bite that made his breath briefly visible as he walked, deliberately thinking of nothing.
Something, some unpredictable quirk of instinct, had woken him. As he reached the arch of the span over the main gates, the stonework rumbled, and the gates themselves swung open. A carriage was approaching at a rapid clip up the paved road leading to the VKP complex, hard against the walls of the royal residence. It rattled its way into the inner courtyard, and pulled up so quickly that he felt a momentary twinge of sympathy for anyone riding in it; he knew from personal experience that VKP carriages tended to be short on amenities such as shock absorbers and sufficient padding. It stood rocking for a moment, before the door opened, and a woman climbed out, clearly more than happy to have her feet on solid ground again. She was, in his estimation, a few years younger than himself, dark of hair and eyes, dressed in plain workaday clothing; she had a harried air about her that suggested she hadn't been pacing the floor waiting to be called on.
Something about her seemed familiar, though he couldn't put his finger on what. He sensed a presence forming just outside of his immediate reach, and glanced in that direction.
"Agent Verstraeten." One of the younger Knights, whose name he hadn't yet picked up. "I've been asked to summon you to the Militia duty-hall, sir."
"Of course." That didn't surprise him. He glanced down into the courtyard and saw that the woman had already gone, as well.
Merlose could feel the bruises coming up and vowed silently to be as unpleasant as possible to whoever was responsible for dragging her in at this godless hour of the morning. She was hustled through the main corridors at a pace in no way considerate of the bone-jouncing ride she'd just enjoyed by her two escorts, past a number of gaping young Knights either just coming in or just going out to duty, and received so many appreciative looks along the way that she felt the urge to slap someone coming over her. She wasn't even dressed well, for the love of the Mother. It was with considerable apprehension that she realized they were approaching the entrance to the
Riskbreaker Militia's inner sanctum.
Her experience with Riskbreakers, thus far, had been something short of positive. The first Riskbreaker she'd ever worked with, Ashley Riot, had been apparently killed in the line of duty, during an investigation into the haunted city of Lea Monde, only to also apparently turn up later, quite alive, just in time to be accused of the assassination of Duke Aldous Bardorba. She herself had spent some time on the short list of suspects in that killing; despite the fact that she'd been asleep halfway across the city at the time, she had been sighted near the Duke's secondary residence on the night of his death. During that time, she had been suspended from her duties
and placed under house arrest, until the team of Inquisitors investigating the Duke's murder had cleared her of apparent involvement. Apparent involvement. She had remained under suspicion for some time afterwards, and had been repeatedly questioned about the events that had occurred in Lea Monde; she answered all queries truthfully, directly, and in the full knowledge that any answers she gave would no doubt be compared to other answers she had given, combed over for inconsistencies, and any such inconsistencies found would be likely used to hang her. Her career had never truly recovered; she remained a junior officer in the Inquisitorial division five years after the incident in Lea Monde, lagging behind
comrades with whom she'd graduated from the VKP academy, routinely denied the sorts of assignments that led to advancement, isolated in a position where she could be watched at all times.
At the tender age of twenty-two, Merlose had learned to regard the concept of truth rather cynically.
She was ushered into the duty-hall, a cavernous room in which countless members of the Riskbreaker Militia had received the last orders they had ever been given. That thought never failed to depress her, and to stifle some of the outrage she still cherished over the miserable wreck of her career.
Two of the VKP's three commanders sat at the end of the room, at the head of a long table; the only light emanated from a single lamp burning between them, casting a pale circle of illumination. Merlose resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the theatrics. She bowed instead, first to Chief Inquisitor Heldricht, head of her own division, and then to Commander LeSait, head of the Riskbreaker Militia.
"Chief Inquisitor. Grand Steward. How may I assist you?"
"Inquisitor Callo Merlose," Commander LeSait spoke first, his voice calm and smooth. He had changed little in the five years since she had last seen the man this close; a bit of grey in the pale brown hair at his temples, a few more lines across his brow. He remained almost unctuously smooth and well-polished; rumor in the Inquisitorial division cast him as the bastard son of a high noble family, who had taken the pittance his noble father had given him in place of acknowledgment and parleyed it into a power no less profound for its subtle influence. "Your expertise is required in a matter of the utmost urgency."
Merlose nodded, and waited for further explanation. Instead, the door at her back opened for the second time; she sensed, rather than saw, whoever was standing there hesitate fractionally, then step into the room, keeping to one side and behind her, where she couldn't see without craning her neck. She forced herself not to react, despite
an unease that raised the hair on the back of her neck.
"Agent Morven Verstraeten." Commander LeSait greeted the newcomer, and Merlose's heart sank. "My apologies for the abrupt summons, but your presence was urgently required."
"How may I be of service, Commandant?" Agent Morven Verstraeten had a smoky dark voice touched with the faintest trace of accent; he was almost certainly a Riskbreaker, since only they enjoyed the title `agent,' and only they actually referred to LeSait as `commandant.'
LeSait and Heldricht exchanged a brief, speaking glance. Heldricht reached into the darkness beyond the circle of light and drew out a thick, parchment-bound document, which she dropped on the table. "You are both familiar with the specifics of the investigation into the Lea Monde incident."
The prickle of unease wandering up and down Merlose's spine became a full-body shiver of the worst, most noticeable variety. She couldn't see Verstraeten's reaction, but assumed that he had made some gesture; he didn't speak.
"Agent Verstraeten, you were personally involved in the investigation into the apparent murder of Duke Aldous Bardorba by former Riskbreaker Ashley Riot – which remains, at this time, an unsolved case."
Merlose hadn't known that; she darted a quick look over her shoulder just in time to see Verstraeten nodding gravely. He was tall –taller than herself by more than a handspan – but wiry, where Ashley Riot had been quite evidently muscular, blade-slender, every inch covered, even his hands. His black hair was cut short and fit the
curve of his head like a gleaming dark skullcap; his features were fine and sharp. What pulled her up short and made her stare were his eyes – long and angular and golden, ringed in black. She was reminded, suddenly, of hawks and owls, wolves and cats, and other hunting beasts, and she turned away with a slight shudder.
"Reports have come in to us from remote agents in the western provinces." Heldricht tapped the file with the tip of one manicured finger. "There has been a recent, dramatic increase in occult activity in the west. Unsubstantiated rumor, for the most part, but some instances have stood out for their repetition. The dead, for example, have apparently been having some difficulty remaining in their graves." She smiled humorlessly. "More troubling, there have been sightings of a man who matches, in all particulars, the description of our former colleague, Ashley Riot."
"As you can see," Commander LeSait continued, "this is a matter of both urgency and delicacy. Ashley Riot has been accused of a high crime, the murder of a noble peer, treason against the crown of Valendia – the Church of St. Iocus would no doubt like to add heresy charges to the bill against him, for whatever his involvement actually was in the Lea Monde affair. If the individual repeatedly
described in these reports is our former colleague, he must be apprehended, he must be put to the question, and he must be brought back to stand trial for his crimes. If it is not him, we must still determine what is occurring in the western provinces and deal with it, decisively. You have both been selected for this task due to your
familiarity with the events surrounding the disaster in Lea Monde and for your individual skills. You will be dispatched later today to the West Country – your specific instructions are to investigate the incidents there and determine whether or not our former colleague,
Ashley Riot, is in any way involved in them. If he is," He paused slightly, "it is Agent Verstraeten's specific duty to apprehend him, by whatever means are necessary."
"Inquisitor Merlose, you will be acting as point in the
investigation. Agent Verstraeten will be in support of you at all times." Heldricht speared her with a look. "Unfortunately, due to the Church's involvement in the Lea Monde affair, they have insisted on involvement in this investigation, as well. Before you depart, you will be joining forces with a party led by a Church investigator, and supported by a small detachment of Crimson Blades."
To Merlose's surprise, Verstraeten voiced the protest that
immediately leapt into her own mouth. "That is...somewhat irregular, Commander."
"This entire situation is considerably more than `somewhat
irregular,' Agent Verstraeten." LeSait replied, flatly. "Adapt. The Church insists that they have an objective interest in determining why the Palings that protect the lands of the West Country have been failing; that they also have a less than objective interest in Ashley Riot cannot be helped. We must act quickly if we
intend to act at all, and this is a means to that end. The Church investigator that you will be meeting is one Dom Ignacio Lemaire; the commanders of the Crimson Blade detachment that will be accompanying you will be Captain Simone Montegue and Commander Neesa Delacroix. You have six hours to prepare, and you will be departing this city at midday. Copies of all extant pertinent information, as well as traveling papers, documents of introduction, and traveling funds will be provided you, as will a carriage and a limited number of supplies. I suggest you both make haste. Dismissed."
This message was edited by Bloodsin on May 21 2004.
May 19, 04 at 12:54am ^Ivailice - The Academy of Magic City Gariland
The polished stone of the Academy's walls shone brightly in the beating noonday sun. High and smoothed to a glass-like finish, countless battles, and bloody intents, had been fought before them. Each time, since their construction, they had held and lived on, always surviving in form as well as spirit. To their credit, there was not a man therein or about them who would not claim the latter to be the greater of the two. Even now that spirit reflected within their cool, assured, secure and confident face. Every surface scoured clean of all blemishes garnered in the battles they had beheld. The Academy had lived long enough to earn its survival even were it to be
taken. Institutions lived when most else died. Even should the whole of Magic City Gariland be raised to the ground, it's shining jewel, the Academy, would live on.
About the Academy's walls lay the great field. Forged in every direction over the memory of time, it had, like the walls, born witness to countless battles and the training of innumerable soldiers. Now nearly a mile lay open about the citadel. A veritable no-mans land. Unbroken flat expanses save for the occasional discontinuity of roads and trail leading either into the low lying hills in the distance or off towards Gariland's higher class centers.
Few foes would attempt to approach those the walls now. To do so was suicide. Other then the regiments of cadets rebirthing themselves as Squires or Chemists daily, it had seen no opposing forces for some time.
Today however stood in stark contrast to the norm, for the
battleplain was quite literally alive with the movement of men. Some few cadets who had dared to forgo their duties for a few seconds, to cast glances over the walls, watched with the awe of new apprentices, observing masters plying their trade. In every direction, men of arms were gathered in a sea of metal and cloth. Were it the goal of those assembled below, they could easily have began a siege that could have lasted months. By the observers best estimate there had to be the better of some 4000 men and women in
view alone below. Tents and cook fires stretched out in all
directions. Only one large pavilion breaking the pattern of smallish tents. This would be the resting area of the gathered leaders. Such a large tent making obvious the fact there was several forces here.
The men were doing as was customary whenever two or more forces met in peace. Several competitions were forming in smallish groups. Here games of skill, there tests of speed, and elsewhere impromptu conclaves of Chemists comparing information and notes. This thrilled the cadets. But also made them uncertain. Why would the Academy be
making the force leaders wait? ... unless there was still more coming?
Any thoughts the youths might have been forming suddenly vanished as a sharp rap of the rod crossed the backside of one closest to the approaching guards. They ran as one fleeing back to their duties. The guards remained, watching them run. their grim faces giving way to knowing smiles seasoned with memories from their own youth. They
would have done the same years earlier. As they looked down over the armies encamped below, they to felt a moments shiver.
"Five here.... one more to go. The OFC? I woulds wager that there ain't a single master is not a bit nervous with Tenossa returin'. Why in the world would they even invite him back anyways? He and his crew were enough o' trouble when they was here." The other guards nodded in agreement. Their words however fell short as the blast of war horns sounded in the distance.
Over the crest of the hills, clouds slowly began to rise. Great clouds of dust rising up slowly. Below the walls, all activity ceased and all heads turned, hands holding steel, just in case. The horns continue. Tension mounting as Blazons slowly came into view flying high and emblazed with the standard of the Oroborus Free Corps.
Mercenaries par excellence. The sound of horns being complimented by drums echoing like thunder. It silenced those gathered and captured all ears. It continued only to suddenly be drowned out by a bellow so deep and feral as to see several of those gathered soldiers draw steel. Over the crest of the hill amid the blazons a large furred head rose into view. Even from the distance, it's huge size was
A great body rose up over the crest, long dark hair flowing in the breeze as it bellowed once more. Then, climbing atop the crest, turned, showing for all gathered the form of a tall man astride it's back. Long slivery hair blew in the winds. Black Armor gleamed in the noontime sun. He remain but for a moment as the beast beneath him pawed the ground then, turning it facing the Citadel once more slowly rode forward down off the hill, the rest of the Free Corps filing down over the hill in full military regalia. Each step measured as one, each marching towards the assembly.
"Kourin Tennosa." One of the other guards uttered matter-of-factly. "Speak of the devil and you will feel his fires. And if full formal dress, no less. Does he think he is proving a point, I wonders?
"I do believe they have noticed us Kira." Came the voice of Kourin as he glanced back at his second in command. "Do you think we've been missed?"
His smile was positively evil and Kira had seen it before. Kourin was enjoying this. One of the few times the commander ever showed emotion and it would have to be now.
"No," He replied quietly, grateful that the war-mask he wore beneath his helmet hid his own expression.
"Spoilsport. It wouldn't kill you to enjoy this just a little, you know." Kourin swung a glance out over the host assembled on both sides of their entry route. "Half the hired swords in East Lesalia must be here. Do you see any that might match us in sheer numbers?"
Kira followed the path of Kourin's glance, noted the several standards that he knew at a glance, a several more that he didn't. "The Black March. The Steel Circle. They didn't bring a whole force, their encampments are too small for that. They could match us in numbers. The Red Dragon Corps doesn't have our numbers but their commander is a Gariland graduate, and so are several of her lieutenants." He frowned. "Some of these are Gallionnais -- and that one...over there...the black standard with the red cruciform...those are the arms of St. Cyr of Ordalia. Valendian."
"Interesting. Either they took the long way around and sailed into a Gallionnais port or somehow managed to make it across Zeltennia without being chewed up by Limberry's army."
"I could make remarks about St. Cyr being the rock that the Hokuten and Nanten broke themselves against during the Fifty Years' War, but you know that already."
"And to think, Kira, that I used to believe you didn't have an ironic bone in your body." More softly. "Trouble?"
"I'll make that assessment once we've heard why we've all been summoned here."
This message was edited by Bloodsin on May 21 2004.
May 22, 04 at 12:34am ^Ivailice - Gariland Magic City
KDemios & Bloodsin
The sun shone brightly in the sky as the wind blew softly across Deimos' neck. His blonde hair flitted about his headpiece; it was his mark and what makes him a target. Deimos walked cautiously down the cobblestone path that eventually led back home to Gariland Magic City.
"Home?" Deimos thought. "Funny, in all my years at the Academy, I had never really thought of it as my home necessarily. I suppose you spend enough time anywhere and it becomes home eventually "
Over the horizon he found the first glint of the Citadel– shining like a beacon over the sky. In his eyes, the Citadel's brightness overshadowed the sun. The tower, like a lighthouse, was calling him, guiding him.
The wind spirit whistled and trilled.
"You're right Elli. I can't just walk in and expect to be greeted openly. Besides, I don't want them to think I'm coming back to apologize and admit any wrongdoing."
In ancient tones Deimos began to channel the powers he had fought so hard to learn and control. As he stood before the eclipsing Citadel, his power took on a markedly familiar shape. Smooth, defined strands of energy with faint shimmering runes flowing among them. Not as random and untamed as it had been as of late. The air crackled with energy as the magic swirled calmly around him, and changed him.
In a shimmer of light there was no longer Deimos. Now, simply a lowly Chemist, with a twittering swallow perched patiently on his shoulder. He felt rather enervated; the shift in his magical exercise from raw to refined and back again always made the first expenditure or so rather taxing. Undaunted, Deimos continued as the great Citadel climbed higher in the sky.
But there was something else in the air that day. Plumes of smoke rose from beyond the hills. These were no ordinary campfires, no. These were bonfires for companies of soldiers. If the amount of smoke was not a dead giveaway, certainly the sounds of great trumpets and battle drums brought to light the reality.
Certainly the Academy was not under siege? No one was foolhardy enough to attack from the plains outside. It would've been suicide. The battlements were always rife with archers, magicians, and knights to defend it. No, this was definitely something different. As the plains grew closer, the din of both commerce and battle filled the air. Accompanying it were the banners of 6 large battle corps.
Unsure of what exactly this was, Deimos was very careful as he approached. The sun sat atop the Citadel watching the display before it. In the heat of the sun's vision he began to burn, like a strip of fire down his back. There was something else here, but he was not sure what it was. It could not have been war that had called Deimos home. Whatever it was, neither siege nor bloodbath would stop him from finding the source of his calling.
None of the battalions would bat an eye at a mere Chemist wearing independent colors. So Deimos continued, walking tentatively into the fray. He tucked his book under his arm and clung to it as he walked forward.
"So, the battle corps are meeting together? I wonder what the stars have in mind for all of this pomp and show? What would destiny bring?" He surveyed the scene one last time.
"Let destiny come today," he said tossing his walking stick into the air and catching it. The little bird twirped in agreement as they waded in.
"Come. Come forth and find your fate. We are awaiting you, child...."
The voice came is quickly as a sudden gale. A voice at once sounding of strength and power and intelligence and wisdom. The very being of it, speaking into the young summoner's mind was enough to make his head swim.
"We are coming child."
While he had been feeling himself compelled to follow "something", Deimos had never heard such a voice. Never had it been more then a simple need to find the reason for the calling. But now, as he was addressed a wave of uncertainty flowed through him.
The blast of trumpets echoed over the hills as the Leader of the Oroborus Free Corps, began his decent to the battle plains, leading the forces willingly following him. The full regalia with which the Corps moved suggested a royal review. Protocol demanded no deviation. So it was that Kourin inwardly winced when he realized he had slowed and found himself scanning those assembled. Seeking but not finding. A sense of something strangely familiar was below. Be where he was not certain. Surely it could not be Cidetal itself? Most of the instructors there cared for Kourin only slightly more then would have a cuar in their private chambers. But still there was this generalized feel of something significant below. He would resolve to discover more if time allowed.
May 22, 04 at 3:55pm ^Valendia - Great Hall of St. Seraph
And a magic voice and verse
Hath baptiz'd thee with a curse;
And a spirit of the air
Hath begirt thee with a snare;
In the wind there is a voice
Shall forbid thee to rejoice;
And to thee shall night deny
All the quiet of her sky;
And the day shall have a sun,
Which shall make thee wish it done.
- George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
Known by way of rumor to many but actually seen by very few, even among the august Order of the Crimson Blades, the Aula or Great Hall of St. Seraph was a marvel of gold mosaic and gleaming marble. It was here that a Cardinal was elected; here that the most sensitive matters of Church governance were discussed and debated; and it was
from here that the very first Crusade was launched by St. Iocus himself nearly two millennia ago. Once the last refuge of a Kildean sorcerer and his minions, it was now the gilded heart of the Order and pulsed with the usual intrigue that surrounded the affairs of God.
Dom Ignacio contemplated such details as he quickly passed beneath the looming archway that opened into the Hall. Five checkpoints at five massive oaken doors beyond a postern gate had reinforced the aspect of dread secrecy -- if the visitor had any doubts beyond the gloominess of the corridor and the occasional gendarme who watched silently from the black maw of his death's head sallet.
The Dom slipped into the Great Hall, dutifully crossed himself and was quietly greeted by a bishop's attendant who gestured towards the center of the room. Ignacio squinted at the vast interior of hall. It was illuminated only by a few small braziers -- and by three candelabra which rested on an imposing table, behind which were seated three shadowy figures. Making his way across the span of intricate patterns of lapis lazuli and granite, Ignacio remarked the Kildean glyphs woven into the smooth surface of the floor, until eventually he was close enough to see if his summoners might be identified. One thing was certain: two of these men were bishops -- for, exactly three paces behind their chairs stood an hastatus, or pike-bearer, supporting this ceremonial instrument symbolic of the episcopal office. Upon his consecration each bishop
selects his motto and arms; and these are afterwards worked into the heraldric contours of the pike blade he is to carry.
One of the men seated there was clearly Archbishop Jean Paringaux, then. There was no mistaking his standard -- it's most prominent feature being a spike-collared bear. Ignacio's eyes strained as they struggled to focus upon the second standard -- was it Bishop Rodolfo's, perhaps? No... Rodolfo was a lean man, while this individual on the other hand had obviously not observed a fast in many a year...
Thus preoccupied, Dom Ignacio almost failed to notice the
fact that he had arrived at the respectful distance a Blade must observe when called before his superiors. Catching himself, he stopped short and genuflected -- even as he privately thanked God that the darkness of the room would conceal his obvious annoyance at the anonymity of his summoners.
With his head reverently lowered, Ignacio remained kneeling for what seemed like several minutes that were permeated only by a few coughs, the rustling of parchment, and one or two whispered exchanges. At length, one of the men spoke.
"Rise, Dom Ignacio Lemaire." Ignacio recognize the voice
immediately, and his heart sank. Bishop Annibale Bugnini. His presence here did not auger well. Bugnini's son had also been an exorcist, and was in Ignacio's class both at the Academy and later in the seminary. Sadly, Pietro Bugnini was a distracted student; and it was not long before the Dark had devoured him and drove the poor priest to madness. The duty had fallen to Ignacio to deal with
Pietro's compromised state -- this was according to the sacred Canons of the Church. Even so, Bishop Bugnini harbored a deep resentment against Ignacio ever since, and vocally dismissed him in conversation at any opportunity. It was good for Ignacio that as an exorcist and virtual eremite he had absolutely no political plans to move up in the rank of his Order -- for Bugnini would have struck him
down long ago.
"You took part in the investigation of the Lea Monde incident, and the murder of Duke Bardorba five years ago -- is this correct?" Bishop Bugnini spoke tersely, without looking up from the folios of parchment in front of him.
"Yes, Your Excellency," Ignacio replied. "Specifically, I was charged with determining the guilt or innocence of the Inquisitor, Callo Merlose, who had been an alleged accesory in Duke Bardorba's murder on the word of a single witness. I determined the evidence was circumstantial..."
Bugnini raised his hand. "Enough. Yes, we know the outcome.
Bardorba's fall was regrettable, but hardly surprising considering the fact that he was a cultist and surrounded himself with rogues and theives. At any rate, the murder investigation is not what brought you here this morning."
Ignacio was silent as he tried to divine where this inquiry was going. Archbishop Paringaux spoke next.
"My son, what do you know about Inquisitor Merlose? Surely in the course of your investigation, you discovered that she had been doing reconnaissance for the VKP the very day our Blades took Duke Bardorba's residence from the Mullenkamp cultists. You may further know, as we do, that she was later seen in Lea Monde itself -- both in the presence of Sydney Losstarot's men, as well as with Ashley
Riot, the Riskbreaker."
Ashley Riot -- the so-called "Vagrant" of popular legend. Ignacio knew little about the man (if any humanity remained in him), beyond the fact that this former VKP assassin had himself become a thrall of Mullenkamp -- and that, with the assistance of dozens of cultists, in the bowels of Lea Monde he had ambushed and killed Romeo Guildenstern along with several other Blades of high reputation for sanctity.
After a momentary pause, Ignacio managed to respond. "Yes, Your Grace. I had reviewed the accounts of those sightings. And Merlose openly admits to having befriended this villain, Riot; although she insists he is innocent of any crime."
Archbishop Paringaux shook his head slowly in resignation. "See how the Dark works its rot upon the mind and soul..." he muttered as to himself. "My dear son, you are about to learn why we have asked you here this morning, and why we have asked for your thoughts on the
Inquisitor. But first I must administer the oath of secrecy, to which as a member of the Order of the Crimson Blade and a disciple of St. Iocus you are obliged to willingly submit."
Ignacio nodded, and prostrated himself on the floor before his summoners.
"Dost thou promise me reverence and obedience?" asked the Archbishop.
"I do promise."
"And to me, likewise, as your Superior?" This voice was that of Abbe Bancel.
"I do promise."
The Archbishop concluded, "Then rise; and take thee upon thy conscience the burden of a holy silence; so that whatsoever is spoken or written before thee now will remain in thy breast only, and never upon thy tongue, save to those before whom you stand. May Almighty God grant thee the discipline to fulfill this oath, or strike thee
down in thy weakness. Amen."
Ignacio rose to his feet as a strange anxiety seemed to choke his breath and cloud his vision. His three summoners were no longer preoccupied with the dossiers and parchment before them; they now looked directly at the exorcist with a grave aspect. Bishop Bugnini was the first to speak.
May 23, 04 at 8:10pm ^re: Vagrant Tactics: Legacy of the Dark (Story Rated Teen)
I was able to read the first 20 or so posts from your group site on Yahoo, and it was definitely a very good read. Lots of water mouth detail, fits perfectly into the setting and mood of the two games, and keeps your attention. I applaud you guys for sticking to it for that long.
Anyone who has time and likes a good medieval story, check this one out, you won't be disappointed!
Jun 10, 04 at 4:44pm ^Valendia - Great Hall of St. Seraph
Bishop Annibale Bugnini leaned forward in his chair and scraped it closer to the table.
"The so-called 'Vagrant' has been spied in the West Country, Dom Ignacio. The evidence and reports we have received are credible enough to warrant action." Paging through what were evidently sworn testimonies of other ecclesiastics, he continued. "This sorcerer disrupts the palings; conjurs fantastical beasts and monsters of every description; and even disturbs the mouldering corpses of those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. All to harass the living -- as well as to feed the Dark."
Dom Ignacio was growing more uneasy with each flicker of the light. He did not know if, or how, he was expected to respond. Ignacio glanced at Abbe Bancel, his Superior General, whose reassuring, paternal smile seemed darkly incongruous with a face that otherwise betokened dread.
"And of late, His Eminence Cardinal Batistum has been plagued with visions... nightmares, really... which suggest that the vessel of the Dark is soon to be broken and remade -- its powers magnified tenfold."
"Remade, my Lord?" inquired Dom Ignacio, momentarily forgetting his place.
Bugnini savored this opportunity to upbraid the young exorcist in front of both the Archbishop and Ignacio's Superior, but he paused too long, and the Abbe intervened.
"Ashley Riot is soon to meet with a well-deserved death, Ignacio -- if indeed what His Eminence has seen is prophecy. But he has selected an heir; one who will be far more powerful than himself. The Cardinal fears lest Riot should foresee his own demise and name this successor, performing the diabolic rite of ascension before death has come and the infernal chain is forever broken."
"A successor...?" Ignacio wondered aloud. Then a name jumped to his lips almost instantaneously. "Joshua Bardorba. Where is the Duke's son?"
Abbe Bancel nodded gravely as Bishop Bugnini sat back in his chair and frowned.
"The VKP has heard these reports; and marry, they have even
discovered the tenor of the Cardinal's visions," Bugnini
seethed. "And now we have reason to believe that LeSait means to find Ashley Riot and *shield* him from God's justice -- as if such a foul endeavor can be imagined! But a will to frustrate justice perfectly befits one so highly born and so enamored of nobility. Hear and understand the sickness which is the downfall of Valendia, Dom Ignacio. The corrupt noblemen; the Parliament; and even these pretended guardians, these 'Knights of the Peace,' are become the slavish errand-men of arcane sorcery."
Archbishop Paringaux concurred in a much more reserved tone. "It is true, my son," he sighed as he regarded Dom Ignacio with an expression that seemed a mixture of despondency and resolve. "Now that we have confirmation of the VKP's designs in apprehending this Ashley Riot for themselves, I fear our suspicions of have been confirmed. With a vessel of the Dark under their direct protection and guidance, Parliament would be prepared for a major upheaval -- one which the Church of St. Iocus would not be permitted to survive. Even as we speak, the Academy at Gariland rises as from a blackened sea of sell-swords and war machines. Think you this is by chance?"
Dom Ignacio shook his head slowly in disbelief. A swarm of questions began to crowd his mind -- but one question most prominently. "My Lords, what has any of this to do with me?"
"More than you might wish," his Abbe replied. "Quite simply, Dom Ignacio, the Church has urgent need of your talents. Through an intermediary, we have arranged for you to accompany the VKP mission into the Western Provinces. If this vessel be found, you are to frustrate the VKP's designs -- and shatter it."
Ignacio was rendered speechless. Bishop Bugnini continued.
"You are a Crimson Blade, Dom Ignacio; like us, you were ordained to fight and die for the Church at the Cardinal's good pleasure. But you are also an exorcist -- and the Vagrant cannot be felled by mere steel. This is where I own LeSait has gravely miscalculated. He sends the Inquisitor, Callo Merlose, and a Riskbreaker by the name
of..." Bugnini held a slip of parchment up to the light. "Morven Verstraeten. A Riskbreaker! Would that it were possible to subdue the Dark by mere force of arms -- however efficient. But it is well for us that the VKP entertains such delusions."
"We would feign send you on so dangerous an assignment without helps, however," noted Abbe Bancel, "if only to prevent the Knights from apprehending Riot when the time comes. The distinguished Commander Neesa Delacroix, already known to you for some time, and Captain Simone Montegue will be part of your company -- along with a number of our more doughty Blades."
"But should I destroy the vessel, " Ignacio uttered, hardly believing he was able to form the words, "should I unmake the vessel of the Dark, then I become his heir; I inherit his sin, and the bloody mark of desolation. What is to become of me then?"
"You will be brought back here," the Archbishop answered
hesitatingly, "where... there is much good that can be done, before you fall asleep in the Lord and the line is peacefully sundered for all time."
"Forgive me, Your Grace, but I do not understand." Dom Ignacio lied, wishing he had not heard what was just said. But Paringaux pressed on.
"You will not be a slave to the Dark like all the others, Ignacio. Your soul will be its warden; and the holy fortress that is your mind will be its gaol."
"Few exorcists in recent memory have survived the Dark as you have, Ignacio," Abbe Bancel reminded him. "Yet you walk into the very furnace and are not even singed. Please understand that I was obliged by the sacred oaths of this Order to recommend you to His Grace as the only candidate worthy of this assignment. And I beg forgiveness, my son, for now as your lawful Superior I must put this assignment to you as an obedience. You may refuse... but know you the penalty."
"You would be hanged, until you should die the death; and your corpse dismembered and thrown to the dogs," Bugnini pointed out through an unsettling smile.
"I do not fear death," Ignacio calmly replied, "but rather do I fear men of ambition."
Bugnini thundered, "And have you no fear of dishonor? Are you not afraid to break the oaths you have freely made before God and man? Speak!"
Dom Ignacio could manage no response.
"If we are ambitious, my son, it is only for the cleansing of this realm from the corruption that so encumbers it," Paringaux said at length. "It is as my brother in God, Bishop Bugnini, has said -- the nobility, the Parliament, the Knights, and yea, even the Church and this sacred Order must be purged. Is it treason to be desirous of so
holy a counsel? We seek not to hand Valendia over to her enemies -- but to consecrate her, unblemished, to Almighty God."
These words found their way into Dom Ignacio's heart. Did he not pray daily for the reestablishment of the Iocian religion? Would it be better that this people be sacrificed to the Dark in the name of a false "liberty"? And indeed, what would become of us all should the VKP preside over a political solution that surely would make the destruction of the Church one of its first priorities? His summoners were right. There seemed to be no other course of action than the one they had proposed -- as unbelievable as it was.
The exorcist reflected upon these things; then sighed heavily and sunk to one knee. "I will accept this obedience; and I ask for your blessing. The demoniac called Ashley Riot shall die by my hand. Jube Domne, benedicere."
Jun 10, 04 at 5:26pm ^Valendia - VKP Headquarters
From the shadows, Jonaton watched the Chief Inquisitor leave before appearing round the pillar. The other two, both the Riskbreaker and Inquisitor had left some moments before.
"So those are the ones you wish babysat is that it Commandant?" Jonaton asked, a thought occurring to him as to why it was LeSait alone that was here. Moreover, why only Commander LeSait and Heldricht had been there for his predecessors. This "assignment" was getting stranger and stranger.
"Yes and dealt with if the events we discussed take place, Agent Felesti" LeSait replied, slightly taken aback as Jonaton seemingly detached from the wall. "If the Blades interfere do as you see fit, but bear in mind where your actual objective lies. Also, do not eliminate anyone needlessly, I know you enjoy your trade but this is neither the time nor place. Verstraeten is a Riskbreaker just as you are and as such... a brother and comrade-in-arms."
Jonaton could see the Commandant's adamant resolve in this and shrugged. "As you order Commandant, but I detest being used to mind whelps."
LeSait did not so much seem to move as flow from his chair, he blade drawn and held taught to Jonaton's throat.
"Agent Felesti it is not your place to question my orders", the Commandant replied angrily.
Jonaton swallowed, marveling inwardly how the Commandant had moved. Clearly he underestimated this man. "So I ask, If I am watching the hunters, who is watching the watcher, Commandant? You seem to trust your own men so little" As Jonaton finished he began to clear his throat, oblivious to the cold steel against him.
LeSait resheathed his blade and reclaimed his seat. "Agent Felesti, I have already told you...", but fell silent for a moment, his eyes locked on Jonaton. "Are you well?"
Jonaton's soft cough went from a mild clearing of the throat to a hacking wheeze. An all consumeing need to maintain his breath.
"Damn, not now!" Jonaton screamed inwardly at his body. His coughing fit nearly knocking from his feet.
"Tis nothing...Commandant...nothing, it shall be as you asked" Jonaton spat out through the last of the coughs that wracked his body and slowly began to walk out. A smile making its way to his face.
"You shall know if I succeed, Commandant"
Jul 05, 04 at 3:50pm ^Valendia - Silvas Manor, Port Naetha, west of the Graylands.
Nit_the_Mad & Bloodsin
5:20 a.m. - Kildas Vathis sat in his study, looking at reports from his best spies. What he saw did not please him. He eyes glanced over to Lucien, his black Sabre Cat, and spoke.
"Lucien, why do I pay these idiots to do a job, and they can not do nothing but inevitably fail in that. I pay these people great funds to keep watch and track one
person, Just ONE PERSON and they mock that up!" Kildas yelled in frustration.
Lucien stared up at Kildas momentarily then lay his large head back down, drifting off to sleep.
Kildas settled down, crestfallen at his "pet's" seeming lack of interest. He considered for a moment then called for a servant. Within moments a goblet of Lea Monde's few remaining vintage's was presented to the young mystic. He took it up with his left hand, which at the moment, and as ever, was encased in a Hagane gauntlet, never to be taken off. He took a sip, savoring the flavor for a moment, then swallowed.
"Hmm," Kildas purred approvingly, " A good year."
He turned back to the stack of papers upon his desk, now content to perruse their contents. Financial reports, servent rosters and larder orders were all checked and, set aside as matters for another day.
The following sheaf however, caught his eye. The stroke of the quill and the style of penmenship. Fine and perfect despite the several layers of coding used to hide truer meanings. These was from a carefully placed agent he had set within the powerful Church of Iocus. For a moment he was silent... totally consumed with the print's wording. It's message nearly made him choke on a draught of wine. He grasped the page crumbling it's edge in his fist, re-reading it again.
The words were not misread. Kildas screamed as he threw his goblet against the wall, shattering it and awakening the dispassionate Lucien awoke with a start. The big cat simply yawned.
"Oh no, my dear Ashley Riot," Kildas spat through clenched teeth, "you shall not pass it away again. It is meant for ME!"
Kildas threw the sheaf of papers against the wall and strode over to where Lucien lay.
"My dear Lucien, ready yourself for travel," Kildas snarled, "for tonight, we hunt. Our dear Vagrant Riot has made his mistake, and I intend to collect on what is owed me. I will not be turned away again. The Dark will be MINE. This I swear. Tonight and hereafter, I shall track the Vagrant personally and to hell with the consequences."
Kildas then barked out commands. One to a servant to clean up the broken glassware, and another to seeming thin air itself to make ready a carriage.
At his words, the slightest of shadows detached itself from the wall at the sorcerer's command and appeared before him, coalescing into the small, lithe frame of a raven haired woman. Her left eye sparkling green in stark contrast to the black leather Rood adorned patch resting over where her right had been. Her clothes were fashion in the dark lightweight armors of assassins and she moved with a silence and grace that only Lucien could rival. The
motion of one who truly was master of their own body and used it to it's full deadly potential.
"A carriage, Kildas? Are you certain it wise to move so openly?" Her voice was a husky contralto and seemed to bare the familiarity of one unmoved by the sorcerers's moods. However, a glance from the both Kildas and the Sabre Cat was enough to see argument would be for naught.
"Very well then. Have it your way." The raven hair woman seemed to be consumed once more by shadows as she turn on her booted heel and strode through the portal of the room and set ways towards the carriage house.
Viridian had long since learned the pointlessness of arguing with Kildas. He could be remarkable pigheaded at times. Even to the point of folly. Now, with his newest bit of knowledge to enamor him, he would be like a horse with the bit in his teeth, charging headlong. And like so many times in the past five years, she would try to reign in the insanity and keep them on track. She had to admit, she respected his tenacity.., it was just his stubbornness
that bore her ire and made her wish to, at times, throttle him. She smiled inwardly at the paradox. A smile that to some would have been as frightening as a ghost smiling at them.
The door of the carriage house opened with a with a slight "rr-rr-rrrrttt" of heavy wood and iron hinges, revelling several carriages. She eyed them all and pulled what seemed the best suited, for the hurried traveling she expected would make up the following weeks, forward. Next four fine strong horses were chosen and, one by one, led to the carriage hitch. Scant seconds later found them tethered in place. They whinnied softly as the chill dampness of the moonrise and the fog teased their muscles
causing them to twitch superficially. She soothed them as a mother might her child. Some few seconds later another servant approached with supplies and provisions, lashing them to the roof.
When all was in readiness, she turned to see Kildas approaching, with Lucien at his side. The great cat's attentions locked in a deadly gaze at the four large meals before it. A gaze cut suddenly short but a dark clad leg slamming down in front of him.
"Don't even consider it, CAT! Not even for a second." Lucien's eyes gazed up at her angrily, but she peered back just as darkly, unmoved by the challenge in his. For a moment all was still before Lucien finally lowered his gaze. (The Horse's could wait till later.)
"Kildas, you'd best reign in your pet lest he learn the hard way..." Her words carried on the wind as she turned and opened the carriage door. "Let's go!"
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