[TGG] 55 Days in Kalunda.

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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-01 04:25am

Tharna, Gilead
3 March 2163 AST
28 December 2841

(By Steve)

The city had many names. "Black Tharna". "Dread Tharna". "The City of Collars". "The Wailing City". The last, coined by a traveler, came after he made the mistake of renting a room near one of the Tharna's large "kayira training academies", non-descript buildings of Norman architecture where, within, the wails and screams of tortured, brutalized women went on through the day and night.

It was here, in this otherwise small city that was more of a town, that the Normans' dread science of breaking the spirits of their women slaves had become high art. The greatest masters trained apprentices in the black art as they themselves had been trained for the past two centuries, while thousands of women passed through their possession, enduring soul-shattering humiliation and pain in the process. The choice had been deliberate the instant the first Norman commission had opted to name the settlement "Tharna", for in the books that they had based their society on, the city of Tharna had been introduced as an "unnatural" matriarchy that had to be converted to natural male rule by the Normans' own Gilgamesh-esque epic hero Tarl Cabot.

But the agonized wails of tortured women were no longer to be heard in the walls of Dread Tharna's training centers. No collars remained upon human necks in the City of Collars. And Black Tharna was now festooned with color, and atop her highest structure, the Governor's Tower, the pennant of the Norman Empire was gone, replaced by that most notorious of symbols for the Normans: the symbol of the sword breaking the chain linking two shackles and the words Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere.

But for the Normans, the most fitting was a more obscure reference that some of the better-educated Amazon and Kalundan elites had for Sara's place concerning the Normans. She was not a Goddess of War, not the Hammer of the Normans, she was Nemesis. The personification of the Goddess of Vengeance, sent to punish the Normans for their hubris.

And now her flag flew over a second Norman city. A city that they had built specifically as a monument to the subservience of women to men, a place to fill every woman, free or slave, with absolute dread and terror. It had been their great cultural message, and now their dreaded Nemesis had taken it from them.

Sara was standing even now upon the Governor's Tower, looking out at the small city and seeing the throngs still in the streets, seeking to get a glimpse of her, or free persons or recently-freed slaves joining another procession of the city's Christians, some converting today that had not yet. Above Sara's head, where her flag flapped in the breeze, so did a simple flag of gold upon white, the gold being the embroidered, stylized Y-shaped Cross of Saint Magdalena, resembling sans embellishment the crude wooden cross that the saint had been crucified upon and tortured as part of her martyrdom, that cross becoming the symbol for the Catholic branch of the Underground Railroad.

It had been the local segments of the all-Catholic Underground Railroad that had joined with the secret converts of the city to rush the city's west gate that fateful Christmas Day, in coordination with a plan that had initially intended the use of the Devenshiran artillery that had then been diverted to Kalunda's desperate defense. Instead all Sara had been able to use had been her remaining Ducal Guards, buoyed by supplies from the Devenshiran forces in orbit, and a small contingent of dismounted Zhai light cavalry to force the gate and get into the city. From there, prevailing had taken a near miracle (which, given the day, had helped fan the flames of religious devotion for the secret converts in the city and the open converts in her army) and had been consolidated by the small band of Norman Christians who took the open south gate, attacked the rear of the Norman defense, and panicked them into fleeing the city.

Later that day, even as the Zhai put out the fires and the medics tended the wounded, Father Galinda had held a Christmas Mass for the jubilant converts, acting in stead for Father Gleeson, who had fallen in the battle for the west gate. The Mass soon turned into a mass conversion, as thousands of liberated slaves and other free-women of Tharna started participating in the ceremony (if not in line with the proper protocol of the Mass), having been convinced by the impressive victory, the flight of their menfolk and the Norman priests, and the date being holy that their age-old faith was wrong and this one, clearly, more powerful.

As Sara looked out over the horizon of the city, she could see the growing camp where the Amazon army was gathering, linking up with her finally so as to remain out of the way when the shattered but still numerous Norman Army returned from it's defeat and near-ruin at Kalunda. The Amazons themselves refused to enter the city, not out of fear but actually out of respect for Sara, as all Amazons swore a blood-oath at their adulthood rite to never enter "Black Tharna" alive unless they came "as conquerer to put it to torch". Sara would be riding out later to meet again with Leeasa and prepare for further raids and positioning of their armies to prevent individual Norman leaders from escaping into the countryside.

Behind her there was a sound, and Sara turned to see her laptop, newly retrieved from the Fabian, flashing and telling her she had an incoming call. She pressed a key and the face that popped up made her eyes well with tears. "Julio..."

Her husband-to-be looked back at her, well-dressed if still haggard. "Sara, I wanted to say hello to you, if only briefly, since it may yet be a while before we meet in person. Suffice to say, the palace is in no shape to receive you soon, so I can't follow through on my promise of more star-gazing yet."

"We can look at the stars I'm going to fly you by upon a blanket on the ground if necessary," Sara remarked, tears of joy in her eyes at her lover's survival and a happy smile on her face. "Like we did for so many weeks when we left Kalunda."

Julio smiled weakly at that. "As always, you show me an alternative I hadn't thought of. I hope you will excuse me on that." The smile thinned and vanished, and Julio's voice was somber as he added, "I thought you'd like to know that.... Amber didn't make it."

Sara's jaw lowered and her mouth hung open for a moment. The tears in her eyes changed from joy to grief as she thought of her old friend no longer being there. No more humorous jokes, or happy giggling. "Sarina..."

"Is as well as she can be," Julio said. "I'll tell you more later, when we meet. I don't want too much on your mind these next few days, as Tarl Ikmen approaches you with his army. Just.... take my advice this time and stay safe, please."

Sara nodded at that, and this time she intended to do exactly as he asked. Julio, clearly busy, cut the communication, and left Sara alone in her room. She sat upon the bed and began to weep softly, remembering her friend Amber and what they had gone through together.

Gilean Confederacy.
34 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
7 March 2163 AST
Local time – 31 December 2841

“Was your christmas meal a good one, Colonel Richter?” Catalina Rosario looked at the creature across from her with a cool sort of contempt. She had no intention of breaking her prior promises to the traitor, but she was certainly going to wring the greatest value out of her first.

“I appreciate that it happened at all,” Wendy Richter answered, and settled back a bit uncomfortably, eyeing the madeira that sat on the dictator's desk.

“I don't poison drinks, and I don't break promises.”

“Then why am I still being held, Caudilla?” Colonel Richter had been in military custody since the assassination she had committed on Catalina's behest, and had spent the entire time, no matter how gently held, expecting the Caudilla to renege in her promise and have her executed. I'm subhuman filth to her, after all.

“Because I have an humiliating task to assign to you. Effective immediately you are my chief of staff. That position is going to hold for the next twenty-four hours only, of course. And it is a mere technicality. I am going to use a natural traitor like you, a traitor to your patron and your nature, to engage in one final betrayal. A necessary one. You are going to sign the documents of surrender with the multinational powers. Tomorrow, at noon.”

“Do you think I'm any less of a patriot than you are!?”

For a moment Catalina was silent, almost surprised by the vehemence of that statement. “Did you serve Covington genuinely believing he could save Gilead?”


“Did you execute my orders believing he had failed, and I was the last hope left?”


“Then why did you accept my offers? Why did it even take all of them to motivate you?” Rosario leaned across, significantly, and took Wendy's glass of madeira, switching it with her own and drinking from it.

“I'm not perfect, not some nationalist hero, Caudilla. You damn well know I'm not perfect. I needed some prodding. Especially when I was betraying the trust of a man who put some very considerable trust in me. To avoid Grand Treason meant committing Lesser Treason.” Only now she drank. “Am I that despicable, when I've helped you so much already?”

“No. Not really. I could care less about you personally. Arguably, I could use any of Covington's more despicable minions. But let's see. You were responsible for the assassination of the hedonist dupes. So they hate you. Supporting Covington means my people hate you, as do the international powers. And you have a past you don't want me to even bring up in private to you. Which I have, I'll note, respected.

“Suffice to say, it's quite likely that whomever has their name on that document is going to be assassinated. If they stay. Your husband has the resources to flee. He would have done so already if he knew you were out of harm's way. The two of you will live whatever life you please; I will not interrupt your domestic harmony under assumed names and beneath the light of some distant star.

“So, Colonel Richter. I am agreeing to a document which will probably make it advisable for me to spend the rest of my life in exile in Hispania. I accept that choice. You are signing it, because I will not sully my hands doing that; and you are already going to flee. We will be the only two guilty parties alive, and we will both have our lives in the end. I am being merciful.”

“What.. What do the multinational forces want?”

“They will establish mandatory regimes over the primitive zone, the Langeist enclave, and the satanist enclave. All mandatory regimes in all the other occupied systems that they've established will be recognized. The army will be disarmed except for small arms and will be employed under the orders of the multinational forces as a gendarmie to control the populace. Martial law will be maintained in all areas still under our jurisdiction on Gilead, and at the instruction of the multinational powers elsewhere. A list of war criminals will be presented, and we must hand them over for trial—mostly small fry, men who shot when they shouldn't have, apparently the Talorans and Habsburgs thought it... Uncivilised to punish those of higher rank—and the government will be dissolved. I will be allowed to maintain under my direct control, ruling by decree, all the areas not under mandatory regimes, and maintain the basic infrastructure of a functional and stable state.

“However, the ultimate fate of Gilead is now in the hands of the multinational powers. And they can do whatever they want to us. They can dissolve the Confederacy and partition it, they can reconstitute it under any government they please, and so on. The one right I have secured for us is the right to be represented at the conference that will decide the future of Gilead. I will attend, along with the representatives of the multinational powers, or else my delegate... We are given one chance. That I can find a Talleyrand to save my nation at this Vienna Congress.

“And since that is the best hope we have, I accepted it.” It was only then she realized that she'd addressed Wendy as another Gilean. It humanized the intelligence colonel a bit. That, and that they both liked madeira.

“Then I'll do it. And wish you luck in saving the country. I really mean that, Caudilla. I don't know if you believe me. But I really, really do.”

“I do. There have been stranger patriots than you, and many, many far more mundane traitors.”

“Thank you for the vote of confidence.”

“It's meant sincerely,” Catalina answered, brushing back some graying hair and letting out a sound that might have been a sigh.. And might not have been. “Where do you plan to go when you leave?”

“Through the interuniversal gate system. Between my husband's wealth, and my skills, there are places that we will have a very comfortable life, indeed, in the Inner Sphere. In states where few questions are asked, and mercenary behaviours are customary and the norm, and nationalism has little hold.”

“Good luck. I'm sorry there isn't any New Year's party you can attend, but, of course, the combination of the violence, the defeat, and the city being under martial law... Has rather dampened the party atmosphere.” The sneer was a rare pleasure.

“Good. Under these circumstances, madeira is party enough.”

“I agree. Well, everything is set. You can have your old room in the palace for tonight. You'll be awoken late—0800 hours. No need to hurry.”

It was a dismissal. Colonel Richter finished her glass of madeira and stood. “Thank you, Caudilla. If you succeed in preserving Gilead I'll remember to toast your health with some madeira, every night, really. It will lessen some of the bitterness of never seeing home again.”

“We'll see if you do that, Colonel. What I intend to aim for... Is something that will make a lot of people upset. Including my own.”

“I find that refreshingly hopeful, actually. Care to tell me anything?”

“We're being punished for our sins. So I'm going to give this country to someone we sinned against, if I can manage to keep it in one piece.”

Colonel Richter raised an eyebrow. “Very interesting.”

“At any rate. Your uniforms and clothes are in your room. Goodnight, Colonel Richter.”

“Goodnight, Caudilla.”

After Colonel Richter had left, Rosario pensively stood up and paced. She did not sleeep through the whole night. She could not. She stayed up until the cold gray light of dawn banished any hope of sleep, and a vague headache forced her to go get some water, and when it had faded, coffee.

She waited until long after the Colonel had left on her appointed mission, and returned from the site just outside the city where the delegations had waited, at the small town of Colmar, after which the agreement would be named. As promised, Colonel Richter was released and given escort to the safe-house where her husband was staying, and then left alone. They left Gilead the same day on a small private ship, all their false documents in impeccable order, showing them to be British subjects trapped on the surface for the duration of hostilities.

Catalina Rosario stayed, out of duty, and out of hope, and out of necessity. And she read the document that Colonel Richter had signed. And hoped that her choice in delegates would indeed prove to be her Talleyrand.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-01 04:49pm

Gilead Orbit,
Gilean Confederacy.
35 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
8 March 2163 AST
Local time – 1 January 2842

“You look very well, Ilavna. The medical circles suit you very well,” she observed, looking at the three interlocking circles over a central sphere on the pin upon the girl—no, she really was a young woman now—with something else below it.... Good Lord! The uniform she bore, a pleasant one-piece which clung down to a bit below her knees and was vivid in splashed greens and reds on a cool cream white, also held another insignia. That of a Farzian acolyte of psionics. “Why did they give you that, Ilavna?”

“Because I was able to use a killing word when I was going to the Sackon warehouse to rescue you, Your Highness,” Ilavna answered simply. “It is not something I am terribly proud of, really, but it was confirmed by the brain-scans, and anyone who has that power is automatically an acolyte. I'll be going to the Temple of the Lord at Arkanish to study both xenobiology and to receive discipline training, within a few months of our returning home. I'll probably be there for a year, except the holidays, when I'll come visit if you wish.”

“Assuming I don't end up in very deep trouble for this,” Jhayka replied calmly. She was looking at Ilavna through stigmatic cybernetics—bulky things that covered entirely her old eyes and left nothing visible of them, seamlessly integrated into the flesh and quite permanent, and extending out of from the face like they had telescoped, though that feature was permanent, and they were a cool black. The sensors were better than what she'd had before, more effective in the normal range and also to see infrared and ultra-violet spectrums as well. But they were not as seamlessly integrated as they could be, on account of her having mutilated herself. So the laws of her religion required.

She had a leg where she hadn't before, but it was mechanical and simple as well. The stub had been cuffed off by the mechanical interlock and the permanent attachments fitted, and that was flawless work, but rather than make a custom leg to fit Jhayka's body perfectly, the Duchess of Medina had ordered them to use a battlefield replacement. She wasn't done with Jhayka, and Jhayka had figured that out by now. Her finger was still missing, though the stub was cuffed off by mechanical integration and ready for a finger, once it could be made for her. Her damaged ear was still held in place with a splint and thoroughly bandaged—with a waterproof outer layer so she could bathe--eaving her emotional expression cold and stunted, but it was necessary to restore full form and function to that critical expressive device of Taloran nature with the aide of skin grafts.

Otherwise, she was healed, although she was emaciated even by Taloran standards and very weak, tending toward tiredness. But her pink hair was still long and beautiful, combed and kept carefully behind her, the nurses having, in the custom of being very attentive and holistic in Taloran medicine, kept it that way the whole while. After all, to a Taloran, so much of their attractiveness was in their eyes and hair; Jhayka's eyes had never been attractive before, in fact, downright ugly. But her hair was silky perfect, vibrant and splashy, and so for the sake of her self-esteem and good spirits the nurses had taken good care of it.

She was also straight to the point. “How is Danielle, Ilavna? They've refused to tell me, and I haven't asked much. I don't want to start the idea that I'm still besotten with her.... For I am, but you know that.. I've learned my lesson. But how is she? Honour compels, and duty demands..”

“She hasn't woken up. I believe they are going to transfer her back to the Alliance—and may have already done so—on one of the departing ships. There is a very renowned clinic, the Mayo clinic, near her hometown, which has some of the most advanced specialist equipment in the world for correcting severe neurological damage. Though she may wake up without such intervention, they say that her only chance for a normal life is through sustained treatment there.”

“How is the treatment to be paid for? Such care will be very expensive, and she was not a soldier of her country when she was wounded... Nor does the Alliance have a system of charitable hospitals as the temples do.”

“I know they don't have a system of universal care, Your Highness, seeing as they have no religious orders to maintain it,” Ilavna answered, her look earnest and unapologetic. “So I promised in your name that you would assume full financial responsibility for her care. I wanted to make sure they took her as soon as possible, for the sake of her future.”

“A good show, Ilavna. It's better to ask forgiveness than permission. But we'll need to establish some kind of trust fund, then, to maintain her care in the long term... And I don't know anything about the Alliance legal or banking systems.”

“The Marchioness of Sapai has requested to dine with you before you return to the surface, Your Highness. She has developed extensive contacts with the Alliance forces, and might know something about who to contact on that matter.”

“I think I'm well enough for this evening, if she can come here. The Captain is invited, and you, of course.” A pause. “I'd heard that the documents of surrender are signed. Is there any further action to be had?

“The forces have been dispersed to three regions for the maintenance of Mandatory Regimes—the Primitive Zone, the Langeist Enclave, and the Satanist Enclave—the worshippers of the Deceiver, Your Highness. The foulest...”

“What's assigned to each expedition?”

“Alliance, British and French corps to the Langeists, who will prove the toughest opposition left. They're under heavy assault right now. The Habsburgs and both Spanish corps are to be used for what they're terming a strafexpedition against the Satanists. Punishment Expedition, if you're curious. You're getting the Kalunda Relief Expedition forces. The remaining corps are remaining in the Cranstonville area itself to protect the delegates and assure that the government doesn't attempt anything.”

“I'm...” Without eyes, it was hard to tell if Jhayka was staring or not, but the tips of the viewing sensors were now pointed, drilling, straight at Ilavna.

“The actual reason I came was to bring you the orders that the Duchess of Medina has cut for you to replace her. She's headed to Cranstonville to join the conference on the fate of Gilead, and wanted you to replace her. It will be your job, Your Highness, to suppress the primitive zone.” Ilavna stepped forward and handed the sealed document to Jhayka.

The Princess of the Lesser Intuit opened it and read it calmly, and then almost purred out a vicious delight. “My promise will be kept, then. I have full latitude. That means we return to Ar.. We bury our dead. And we break them all. We will have our own strafexpedition to Ar, my dear priestess. And...” She bowed her head abruptly. “Verdesmarn will be the name of the city when I am done with it.”

“I know you won't ever forget her, Your Highness. But try to remember there will be a life for you back home.”

“If the convocate does not recommend charges.”

“They will never do it. Your name is the watchword of the day. You're a hero.”

“I don't feel like one. I just want to punish those who did this to Danielle! To bring divine justice down on their heads.” She slumped back, the emotional exertion exhausting her for the moment, and mentally turned off the cybernetic eyes, for they were still tiring for her to use.

“Remember, Your Highness, my liege, that there are innocents in the primitive zone, too. Turn to Sara Proctor for guidance when you return to the surface. She will separate the good from the bad.”

“Yes.” Harshly. “Yes, yes I know. And I will respect her knowledge of this place. But, for the Normans, for the Stirlins... For the al-Farani. For the tribes which came with them to do battle... I will take everything from them.

“As for the oppressed slaves of all these peoples?” Ilavna asked quietly, tensely, as she shuddered at the vicious malice evident in Jhayka's voice. The primitive zone was surely about to suffer at her liege's hands.

“I will give them everything.” A faint smirk touched her ghostly lips. “I made a promise to the Amazons, which despite the refusal of some of them to accept it, I must, reasonably, keep. But they will not get their own world. I will, however, give their own territory... Commissurate in size with how many of them joined my cause. As for those who joined in the siege... Those who resisted Leeasa Avrila with arms.. They will remain here, exiles and outcasts. And the rest of this world I will settle? I'll open it to the slaves of the primitive zone. They can be freehold farmers in an autonomous colony of the principality, if they wish it. It will be a good, solid life for them, one that they can understand, unlike if they were thrust into the modernity of urban life outright. And by founding a new human colony in the Empire I'lll be contributing substantially, I do believe, to the integration of our own human population.

“But mostly it is for Danielle. When I create from them Barons and Baronets and watch the cities grow on their world, I will remember her... And recall that I can find in my heart no thought that humans and Talorans are different. We are all ensouled creatures standing naked and open to the Just eyes of God. So in her name I will shake up a little of the arrogance of my people.”

“And it will be right for you to do this, for what you say is the truth. Our position as the exemplars of redemption does not give us a right to chauvinism, which some of the lower-born take to, my liege, and even attempt to draw in your actions in the siege.”

“I heard the Epic of the Race—the symphony that little beast composed—being bandied about. As good as all her other music and equally outrageous. I will give her my reply, as to what I think of her comments, in the form of that colony.”

“Good.” A pause. “What of the women of the al-Farani and the Normans. What of the children? Are they not worthy of some sort of consideration?”

“Why do you ask? To an extent they are, and perhaps those who wish should also be allowed to leave. Certainly they'll be educated. But I doubt many will go. Slaves though they may be in fact, law and culture have brought them the arrogance and the derangement to accept their condition. Few will take such an offer, and it would be monstrous of me to separate children from their mothers. We will, of course, establish mandatory boarding schools throughout the land to guarantee the education of the children in a proper and civilized fashion.”

“I have a friend, a Norman girl, a free-woman. I met her on my excursions into the city of Ar while we were there, Jhayka. I promised to take her to the stars, to take her to the Empire and give her an education. I know I can't afford to support her like that myself, but.. I will try to get her what she needs regardless. Her appeal was to plaintive, her heart to right, for me to ignore on that strange night. Do not savage her city; do not kill the innocent. You know right from wrong. And now you will be tempted to do great wrongs.”

“Anyone in the primitive zone from a previously hostile state or tribe found bearing arms will be summarily executed, and you know it,” Jhayka answered. “Any slaveowner the same who engaged in cruelty toward one of their slaves will be executed after two witnesses provide testimony to that effect. I will execute all the headmen of Ar and the men of the Norman government for violating their own laws of hospitality in regard to Danielle. Can you say any of that is evil?”

Ilavna was silent for a while, and then sucked in a breath carefully. “No, Your Highness. That is all justified, if exceptionally stern. What of the other slaveowners?”

“Two sixteens of lashes across the back with a seven-tailed whip.” Her own pause. “But I will confiscate nothing and I will not impoverish them; and I will see that the innocent, and those who have paid their price for their crimes, are fed and properly housed, and given an education and a future, until such time as I am removed from my post. You have my word, Priestess... Because I know Danielle would not have it any other way.”

“If her memory is a force for Good in your life, then I will never try to take it from you.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you need any help getting ready for this evening?”

“Please. Inform the Marchioness of Sapai and the Captain, and then come back to aide me. I'll have to go in a mobility chair, of course.”

“Of course. I'll return in about thirty minutes.” Ilavna left, wondering how she could succeed in keeping Jhayka to a moral path when there would be so much temptation for her to behave as an abject tyrant over the prostate and helpless primitive zone. It would be a challenge only Farzbardor could sustain her in, and so she prayed.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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The Duchess of Zeon
Posts: 14566
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Location: Exiled in the Pale of Settlement.

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-02 12:33am

Gilead Orbit,
Gilean Confederacy.
36 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
9 March 2163 AST
Local time – 2 January 2842

It was after midnight by local time, but the Taloran fleet in orbit, running on Valerian Standard Time, it was early in the evening, time for a languid meal of the sort the nobility preferred for dinner. Rear Admiral Halsina the Marchioness of Sapai settled down uncomfortably before the Princess Jhayka, the woman whom a mere month go she had derisively called a pervert. The Captain of the hospital ship was a Baronet named Ristam, much pleased with the invitation he had been given to be around these notables; and modest Ilavna sat at her liege-lady's side.

The meal was started with dhpou to drink and Ulas soup, a seafood porridge of the northern coasts. Halsina started speaking. “Thank you, Your Highness, for agreeing to meet with me. I've been very interested, from a military standpoint, how you conducted your operations in the city of Kalunda.”

“Then I suppose this is the first chance I get to tell my story,” Jhayka replied, her food cut in advance for her by the liveried servants so that she could eat with one hand, reclining and tilted comfortably to the side in the mobility chair, dressed only in a vibrant red and blue spidersilk gown (woven from genetically enhanced spider's silk of a species of Taloran pseudoarachnid which grew to the size of a dog, but lacked venom, making cultivation possible, and of almost impossibly incredible fineness). “But, really, it was about a moral obligation.

“I brought the war down on Kalunda's head. King Julio refused to turn me over to the Normans, and I.. Promised to stay and help him at all costs. So I did. The costs just proved as steep as I had dreaded.”

“Was your report about Ar accurate?”

“Why wouldn't it be?” The dull cybernetics on Jhayka's face looked across the table. “My host... Took a woman I was protecting, and tortured her. I killed him for it, and then I had to fight my way out of the city. I am going to chastise Ar greatly for this, in a few days' time.”

“Many people have said many things about your actions,” Halsina replied. “How did you rescue Danielle, the human woman of whom you speak..”

“Woman. Her species is an irrelevant detail. Humans have souls just as we do.”

“An agreeable sentiment,” the Baronet added daringly.

“Yes, that is the case. A pity so many of them are obsessed with democracy,” Halsina replied, the wind taken from her sails for a moment.

“She had been searching for her friend Fayza,” Jhayka answered, “And was enslaved herself. She escaped from a slave-market before my eyes in the city of East Port, and perchance had by fortune or God's grace to hide under my armoured train, the General Faeria.

“A distant ancestor of mine on the paternal side,” Halsina noted without skipping a beat. It was a natural part of a Taloran dinner conversation of the high nobility.

They moved on to the main course, Jikarian forest-pig cooked sous-vide, and Jhayka continued her explanation. “So, I agreed to help her search for her friend. But that was it. By intention was to buy the poor woman out of slavery; I could meet any price, after all. Unfortunately, the last place she was traced to in the City of Ar happened to be a warehouse which was then being used for the storage of modern arms being smuggled into the city, so when Danielle went there to investigate...”

“She was captured and tortured by your host,” Halsina finished, eyes looking bright as if she was finally understanding, and somewhat pleased. “And you halted it with the knowledge of your far-seeing-eye of your priestess.”

“And a very brave man who was in the service of that host, whose name I will not speak, but on seeing his evil, came to warn me.” Jhayka paused for a moment. “He died in the same action where Danielle was crippled. His people were the clans of the Inner Sphere—I'm not sure of the Alliance universe designate—but I intend now to rescue as many of them as I can, give them asylum, as the Alliance now destroys their culture and leaves them sitting on reservations. It is my debt to the loyal service that for the better part of a month,” she used the Taloran standards now, of course, “without fail, right up to giving his own life.”

“Another potentially controversial issue on an international level...” Halsina mused for a moment. “I supported you in the Convocate, Your Highness.”

“Will you do it again, Marchioness?”

“...Did you stand your ground in Kalunda, truly, for Julio, or out of love for your paramour, and a desire to humour her and her desperate quest?”

“For Julio. For loyalty, and for honour,” Jhayka replied stiffly. “I could have easily left the city of Kalunda with Danielle. But then I would have been more damned. For after all the escape from Ar had already been effected. The war which I started... I would have fled from. I risked Danielle's life by staying, Marchioness...” Her voice fell away: “And I lost it. She is all but dead, and I have lost her even if she lives.”

“..I see you've paid a very steep price indeed.” Halsina murmured, ears flexed back, embarassed. “Forgive me. I've thought some harsh thoughts about you, before, but..”

“I've learned my lesson. I won't stop loving her, Marchioness, but.. I've learned my lesson through example. Love and duty cannot be allowed to be incompatible. Ever.”

“Then I can give you my answer. Yes, I will support you in the convocate. Your actions were legitimate and your heart is honest and pure. And I wish you happiness in the future, with someone of your own emanation, that you may drown these sorrows out with a new joy.”

“Thank you, Marchioness. But first, I have a task ahead of me.”

“Yes. The suppression of the primitive zone.” She glanced about. “Shall we have a round of gstaliano?”

The Baronet gave the order and the fruit-liquer was poured to all.

“To the chastisement of the wicked!”

As silence fell in the wake of the toast, Ilavna broke the line of conversation with a gentle question:

"Your Ladyship," she looked to Halsina, "Her Highness needs to establish--as a matter of duty--a fund for paying the costs of the extensive medical procedures which Danielle Verdes will require. We're given to understand that you have contacts among the Alliance. Might they be of service?"

Halsina brightened. "Why, as a matter of fact, Admiral MacCallister's husband is a lawyer in the Alliance of Democratic Nations; he could certainly arrange such an affair--and I have been perniciously putting off on account of duty a dinner engagement I have with the fine Admiral. I could broach it to her at table? Certainly her husband would, at the least, know the right people to talk to." She had been caught in the cool charm of the mangled Princess, and old insults were thus forgot as the night wore on in a light-hearted way; all save the Princess at least somewhat merry, and she, sustained from depression by that merriment.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-02 03:56am

Gilean Confederacy.
36 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
9 March 2163 AST
Local time – 2 January 2842

"Anauê!" "Anauê!" The famous old salute of the Brazilian Integralists echoed through the streets of Cranstonville. Hands raised high in casual and sundry variations on the Roman salute, the shout in Portugese was taken up by all the men of the paramilitaries—integrated on Catalina Rosario's order into the military so that she would not have to disarm her allies—of the sundry Catholic rights groups. It meant 'we are brothers' in the Tupi language of Brazil, a surprisingly tolerant sentiment from a group sometimes characterized as fascism, but then Brazilian Integralism had been quite distinct from European fascism, and it served yeoman work in the Gilean Confederacy as an example for unifying the distributivist catholic parties of the State into a single heterogenous but solid mass.

And it was, of course, being heard exclusively on the routes of advance by which the Hispanians, French, and Habsburgs—the Catholic nations of the expedition—were entering the city. Wobblies and hedonists who tried to protest their approach were dragged away and beaten with truncheons.

Elsewhere, the Integralists were not present—where the other allied troops were entering the city—and they let by inaction some bands of the hedonists and other rabble-rousers shower the troops with bottles and rocks, until they halted and demanded that regular gendarmie of the city arrive in riot gear to disperse them. The contrast between the arrival of the Catholic powers, feted by the Integralist militias who now dominated the city, and those of the other states, could not be more stark.

The Hispanian troops actively responded to the salutes and cheers of the Integralists. The salute was more often than not received, and they held up crucifixes and shouted “We have come to deliver you, cousins!” in a language oft-not understood by the recipients of the declaration. The Bonapartist French troops had a slightly cooler reaction to such overt religiousity; of the Habsburgs, they were, coming from such a distance, initially confused as to the reason for the delirious reception, and only later fell into meeting and greeting their co-religionists, though in generally a more relaxed and celebratory fashion (taking it like a party), more glad that their part of the operation, at least, had been accomplished without much bloodshed, and now seemed over. And more than a few, of course, fancying that this meant the women would be quite open with their charms in the nights to come.

What it told the commanders of the whole relief force, though, was a salient fact which couldn't be ignored. They were all, ultimately, allies of convenience. Allies of convenience who had succeeded in their goal, in almost every part. All that remained was a few strafexpeditions, and everyone could go home. The problem was that not everyone wished to go home with a simple moral victory and proof of “christian virtues” to the people waiting on their homeworlds. They wanted profit and success and national aggrandizement from the affair.

Forging a compromise amongst these feuding interests would be a delicate balancing act amongst the international powers, to say the least. It was also Catalina Rosario's best chance. United, the great powers of the universe could do anything they pleased to Gilead, and go ahead and justify it later. She would have been unable to stop that from happening, and might have seen the country dismembered easily enough. There certainly could have been no military opposition, and little diplomatic help in the coming.

With the multinational powers in three factions, Slavia, Britain, and Hispania and the Holy Roman Empire, and the other powers largely undecided, the tenor changed. A desperate effort at the negotiating table could prevail, perhaps, in one singular way. Rosario's only goal now, and every instruction acted toward bringing it about—preparing to undermine her allies even as she seemed to give them free reign in the city—was to preserve the unity of the Gilean state. In that sense, she was still very much a soldier, and still under oath in her heart, to preserve and defend her country. And now she was doing it in the last way that she could, by persuasion rather than by bullets.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-03 01:44am

City of Ar,
Gilean Confederacy.
38 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
11 March 2163 AST
Local time – 4 January 2842

Tarl Ikmen pushed aside his favourite kayira, Savini, in a playful fashion, as he rose that morning. He had not slept with her for several weeks and after a bitter confrontation with his robed wife had turned to her with an incredible violence in their lovemaking; but she was contented enough simply to be sated again. “How will you like it when we're out in the cold of the forest and I do that to you, slave?”

She giggled, and then looked rather serious. “As long as there are blankets, Master, this girl will be fine in the woods.”

“Good. I have no plans of surrender or death for either of us. The evacuation of the city begins today, and you, my girl, will go with me in the rear-guard.”

“Of course, Master. It is very brave of you, this girl thinks...”

“Well, then, help me get dressed, for there's plenty of cowards to be dealt with in the council.”

The Ubar Ikmen left his home just a little while later, looking up nervously toward the sky. There had been nothing. Will they simply leave us alone? But, will the Gilean Army come after us, then? That bitch Rosario is no-one whom I can negotiate with.

He was more disturbed than he made out to be to his kayira. A combination of determination and fear met him. If we have another week, we can fully evacuate the city. If we don't...

On his arrival at the Ubar's palace, he fond the assembled to be cowering in abject fear, however, the representatives of all the castes, and he could only frown deeply at their behaviour. “What evil tidings have you heard to make you all seem, chattering and hiding, like useless old women?”

“The news broadcasts of the government, they say that the alien, Jhayka, is returning to the surface today to engage in 'the suppression of the primitive zone',” the head of the merchant's guild answered. “They will come for us first, and there isn't enough time to evacuate...”

Tarl felt himself trembling, and then clamped down on it. No! I will not panic. Not when the last hope dies, even! He steeled himself and walked to his place at the head of the meeting table.

“We will not surrender now!” His teeth showed as he snarled. “The Princess Jhayka has a taste for human women. I know from that damned fool bastard Altonas who brought her here in the first place. And she bought so many slave girls... The truth of her people is probably rather different from what they tell the outside...

“Would you like your kayira to be in the hands of an alien female? A cold intelligence of savage design and ruthless ability? We thought she was mortally wounded two weeks ago! And here she is, returned to the field. Those Talorans aren't humans, they're not like us; they're monsters, and they'll be here soon. They'll have their way with our women and slaves alike, they'll grind us under the heel of their foreign ways. If they don't simply eat us alive.” He pounded his fist into the table, never actually sitting down.

“Damn you cowards all. Are you not going to at least die like men? Disperse your women to the hills and the distant places as best we can, or else give them merciful ends—and I mean that, for every free-born woman of honour—and kill as many of these Catholic fanatics and merciless aliens who are coming to shoot us all for our sacred traditions?!”

He paused for a moment, and looked around the table. “The Nemesis is here. She took Tharna. We all know this. She took Tharna. They will combine their forces, the alien and the Nemse, both degenerate monsters in parody of female form, and by the time it is done, they will have ground up our whole country.

“I do not know about the rest of you. But if we cannot evacuate to the hills in time, we should have a strong covering force to protect all those being evacuated. For the free women we cannot take out of the city in time, let us kill them and preserve their honour. For the rest of us? Those who go, fight to the death. Those who are chosen to stay, die.

“I will, even if none of you agree, take the homestone of Ar from its sacred place. I will take it and surrounded with the priests and any who will follow, I will go up to the Heights of Ar. The Ar division will fight; all the men of the city who have any courage left will fight. We will fight, and we will die around our homestone. Or would you have it plucked from the Holy of Holies in this city WHILE YOU STILL LIVE!?

“I'm with you!” The head of the warriors, his position so much more ceremonial now, answered immediately—still an important vote. The head of the assassins followed suit.

“As for the rest of you? Are you going to give up? Are you going to be cowards under the rule of aliens and females? Or will we fight to the death on the smallest chance to preserve our ways, and failing that, go out defending our homestones to the last man? Our hope is gone, either way, but we will try, regardless, because it is courageous, and because I, at least, cannot imagine being a man when my city's homestone is the prize of the Nemesis. I will be a mere eunuch. And if you capitulate, then that, too, is what you will be. Before long even your kayira will stand higher than you, corrupted to walk the streets with their heads high, and point at you and mock.

“You will be less than women, like a young ram with it's balls snipped off! Mewing and braying like a sheep and unable to stop a single thing as the wolves tear into us. Fight, damn you! Fight or you have no honour!

They chose to fight.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-03 03:41am

Gilead Confederacy.
38 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
11 March 2163 AST
Local time – 4 January 2842

On the north bank of the river the long bulk of the General Faeria rested where she had crossed over and through the city on freshly laid track to the far side where the armies were now concentrating. It was here, in the muddy fields left over from the siege-fighting, that the Taloran assault shuttle landed and disgorged its two occupants, one of whom was in a gently hovering chair that the other pushed, up toward the big armoured length of the train.

Standing at the entrance to one of the cars was an immensely tall Taloran with green hair, dressed in ugly black. “Well, Jhayka, your eyes don't look that much worse, now.”

“And you haven't changed your atrocious taste in clothes since we were drinking in the regimental mess together.”

Frayuia laughed and stepped up to Jhayka along the freshly laid railbed, reaching down to gently put her hands on the other woman's, clasping them tightly. “I'm sorry about what's happened to your lover, Jhayka. It was immoral of you but I wouldn't wish that on anyone, and you know it.”

“I know it was immoral, too. And I'll never forget her, anyway. So let's concentrate on what is at hand, hmm? Or else perhaps I'll be distracted by your daughters, such a fine brood as you've had...”

One of the hands was lightly slapped. “Old friend or not..!”

“Careful. I have an excuse. I can't move one ear. It's obvious that I was joking. and you just couldn't tell because of it....”

“Ah... Ahhahah...” Frayuia half laughed and half choked. “You have me at a disadvantage, I fear. But then, I've been promising your money, so perhaps I deserve it.”

“Promising my money?”

“The reconstruction of Kalunda.”

“Well... I would have done that anyway. Sometimes I think these people don't realize who I am...”

Frayuia's ears flexed in merriment. “They didn't, actually. Your modesty, it seems, is more on account of your obliviousness.”

“Then I cede the field,” Jhayka answered, and sighed a bit. “The last time I looked at Kalunda from this spot we were heading toward the eastern bridge to cross the river and go into the main station along the cutoff line. Which isn't even intact anymore...”

“It will be in a few weeks.”

“Danielle was very badly hurt, then. But she recovered. She won't recover this time.”

“Have faith that justice will prevail, my friend...”

“Of that I have no doubt. I will bring justice to this whole land.”

“I wish I could look into your eyes right now,” Frayuia sighed, and her ears drooped. “I don't know your moods, between those ears bound up and the eyes gone. I hope you will be well.”

“You were the one who put me here.” The response was rather cold.

“Would you not that I had given you this chance for vengeance? To keep your promises? To defend yourself in the Convocate as having done so? To prove yourself still capable and competent?”

“Of course I'm grateful. But you put me here, so trust me, Frayuia.”

“I trust you.” A pause, and the tall green-haired woman looked away but began to speak again: “All my staff save my family is there for you; your's to command. I need diplomats now, not soldiers, for myself. I signed the transfer papers of command today, such as they were for such a very ad-hoc force... And of course you have the highest seniority of all the other brigadiers, so you'd command regardless. And I had your quarters fixed back up. There's a matter for you to review there that I've put on your desk, and the person it regards is in the suite just down the hall.”

“Now that is interesting. Thank you. And I see your daughters and husband are now sneaking off to the shuttle along with a few servants and luggage.”

“Well, I had to keep them safe from you somehow.”

Jhayka showed no malice to Frayuia's jokes at this point, and seemed resigned to accept the situation as it now stood. “See to the future of these people. The generations yet born are where your duty lies. Don't let them go astray...”

“I won't. God be with you, old friend.”

“And you. You'll need His help more, in that den of vipers.” She glanced back to Ilavna. “Push me inside, hmm?”

Frayuia bowed politely, and Jhayka tipped a salute; then the two parted, as close of friends as they had been in the mess, despite not having met in the past decade, but having corresponded regularly. It was the respect between them that mattered, and Jhayka seemed relieved as she settled into the train at her old desk, not yet going to meet her staff.

“Well, let's see what this is that Frayuia left for me...” She cut the seal and opened the formal document, reading it... And then seemed to go silent. For quite some time, though Ilavna realized that she was reading it over.

“Go down the hall and summon General Arshon for me, please.”

“Of course, Your Highness...” Ilavna frowned at the name, but did not attempt to read the document herself.

General and priestess returned together, and the General spoke first. “So, Your Highness, I see Her Grace the Duchess of Medina told you about me.”

“She did, Priscilla Laurentii. She did.” The dull dead look of the cybernetic eyes was expressionless, and unsettling... But her next words were anything but to the troubled soul before her. “Grand Duchess. By the inheritance laws of the country which seeks to arrest you.... I am sorry your title is denied so lowly. Please, Priscilla, if I may call you that. Sit with me. You're at very least my equal in right.”

To Priscilla Laurentii, it was a weight lifted off her shoulders and a shock at once. Settling down, she stared at Jhayka. “Your Highness? Surely.. The massacre.. And my father was a brute. I've never pressed the claim. I was a fool to believe him. To want to trust and love him.”

“But never renounced it, either. Your's by right, no doubt of it. And call me Jhayka.” She shook her head. “And nobody is a fool for loving their family, even when it brings them ill. Just caught in an unenviable, impossible situation.”

“But what shall become of me, regardless?”

“I will not turn you over, damn the consequences... You are a part of my household, now, loyal one.. No wonder you were more loyal than I could dream of from a mercenary! You, who suffer for loyalty to your father. Come. You are part of my household. I will maintain you in splendid form on Talora Prime, until your claim is uphold, or you can find some other way for yourself in the world suitable for a noblewoman of high place. I swear this....”

“And I accept it, Jhayka. But only if you provide the same for Fayza.”

“Fayza?” Jhayka sucked in a breath, forced; her eyes would have widened if she still had them, and it was to compensate for this that the gesture was affected. “As in, Danielle's friend?”

“Yes. She was serving under me, but she had a nervous breakdown on hearing.. Of Danielle's condition.”

“So did I, I'll confess amongst equals and friends. Yes, yes, of course we will care for her. Bring her here, Priscilla, and I will offer her what comfort I can before it is time for me to meet with the King.”
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Co-written with Marina

Post by Steve » 2007-06-03 02:22pm

City of Kalunda,
Gilean Confederacy.
38 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
11 March 2163 AST
Local time - 4 January 2842

Work still continued on interning the bodies of the dead and cleaning up the rubble of battle, but such duties had been delegated to subordinates as Julio stood with his senior commanders and those of the expeditionary force along where the rail tracks met the drawbridge over the Kalunda River. The General Faeria was faintly heard in the distance, rumbling back into the city with Jhayka on board for her to take her new command. An honor guard from the Kalundan Crimson Guard stood with their ceremonial uniforms of red armor and silk and their pike weapons, kept safe in the underground during the siege. Sarina was also dressed in ceremonial wear, much to her displeasure, and she appeared only barely in control of what must have certainly been a vengeful mood toward Jhayka.

Julio stood, in ceremonial uniform as well, and hid whatever emotions he felt so as to give Jhayka an appropriate greeting. He had with him his court chamberlain, a gray-haired older man who had spent most of the siege trying desperately to maintain some protocol in the chaos, and a young girl in the silks of a Crimson Guard trainee who held in her hands a velvet pillow of royal purple that had a beautiful sword resting upon it. It would be his final gift to Jhayka, a gift that he had planned for survival, though now Sarina angrily objected to it with all vehemence her wounded heart could muster. It was a sad thing to see the happy woman reduced to such impotent rage and anguish, and she was certainly pitiable, having lost everything. Her lover was dead and so was her sister, the d'Kellius line only continued by Prince Kevem.

The train rolled to a stop up close to the bank, backing into the city--though an engine did face the right direction--on the broad tracks running down the streets which had been the original rail line before a cutoff had been laid upstream. A few moments later two Taloran honour guards stepped out of the central car, Jhayka's private car, and took up positions on either side of the big door... While a device was pushed out. The hover-chair was gently manoeuvred by the standing Ilavna, who was dressed in uniform with strange adornments. In it slumped Jhayka slightly, her ears still bound up to each other for support and a splint between them. She had a collected look on her face, though, even as those cybernetic eyes gleamed dead and soulless on her face. The finger missing from one hand was noticeable; the leg, hidden along with all her lower body under a swathe of robe and blankets, was not. The more aware would notice the wire running into the interface jack in her neck, connecting her to the computer grid on the General Faeria and to the command banks in turn, so that she could receive information and send orders with instantaneous decision despite the fact that she couldn't leave the chair for long periods of time, yet. Ilavna pushed her over in Julio's direction, speaking first... "Your Royal Highness, please forgive Her Highness' inability to bow..."

"It is forgiven," Julio answered sincerely.

"Thank you, Your Royal Highness," Jhayka answered, herself. "I am able to fight, of course. That's why I'm here. But, there's other matters for us to attend to, I imagine. First of all, I apologize for being so brusque with you before the last attack, Your Royal Highness, and giving details out to Her Grace the Duchess of Medina behind your back... But... If I may justify myself, I was doing what had to be done to preserve the future autonomy of the Kingdom of Kalunda, as I judged it to the best of my ability. That is what you contracted me to do... And that was my intent."

Sarina was clearly champing at the bit to speak, but Julio kept that from happening by remarking, in disciplined tone, "That is understood. The fulfillment of your duty renders your apology unnecessary, Your Highness."

"Your Royal Highness is very generous to absolve me, and I can but humbly offer my thanks."
Ilavna, who had made a genuine effort to befriend Amber, could not help but look a bit distractedly at this moment with sympathy on her face toward Sarina. For her part, Sarina returned the look with only cold eyes, her anger frozen in her heart at the moment.

Julio nodded and turned to his chamberlain, who bid the girl step forward. She bowed on one knee before Jhayka, lowering her head in ritual and genuine respect to the Taloran princess as she raised up the pillow and presented the ceremonial sword with it's fine scabard bejeweled with red rubies and blue sapphires, the royal colors of Kalunda. The silence of the ceremony was broken by the chamberlain's loud voice. "By decree of His Majesty King Julio III Kevem Kalundius, Her Highness Princess Jhayka of the Lesser Intuit, holding His Majesty's royal commission as Marshal of the Kalundan Militia, is hereby awarded the title of Praetoress of Kalunda, the Sword and Shield of His Majesty and Grand-Knight of His Majesty's Crimson Guard, in recognition of Her Highness' legendary performance in Defense of the Kingdom of Kalunda in which by Her Highness' actions the Kingdom of Kalunda was preserved against the might of her foes."

"I thank you, Your Majesty," and again Jhayka very consciously used the fullest terms of respect. And meant it. Her voice was rich was inflection as she spoke, and her look was genuinely surprised. "You have a truly Kingly magnaminity, to honour me in this way when I am most unworthy. I accept, and gladly, Your Majesty... The title offered, and all responsibilities which it entails." The sword was taken from the girl's hands, which were brushed warmly in the reception of the sword as though to signify the life-force of the blade passing from one to another. "I will never forget nor tire in the defence of this city; the courage of its defenders will ring loud in the halls of history and I will speak only warmly of them until the end of my days."

"And as such, Your Highness, the Kingdom of Kalunda will never forget your deeds here," Julio said, speaking once more. "So long as a Kalundan heart beats, your name and deeds will be remembered, and you will stand tall and proud among the foremost rank of the Kingdom's most legendary and great defenders, and if you or your heirs so choose, upon the end of your mortal life you shall be buried alongside the other Praetoresses and Heroes of the Kingdom, your memory rendered immortal here just as assuredly as your God shall render your soul immortal in the life awaiting us beyond this one."
At that moment tears began pouring down Sarina's eyes. An observer might have thought her moved by the ceremony, but those who knew the circumstance, and most especially Illavna with her particular gift, knew that it was from her control over her emotions coming near to breaking. Rage filled her and it took every bit of her willpower to avoid chastising her own ruler for awarding this woman who, in her opinion, needlessly shed the blood of Kalundans for her own glory, including causing the death of Amber d'Kellius.

"Oh, no doubt there will be crypts fighting over pieces of me. The body proper must go, Your Majesty, to the family crypt." She smiled very sadly. "But it seems suitable to have my heart interred here, for reasons that we both know."
"Indeed." Julio lowered his eyes just a tad, enough to show his sympathy. In a lower voice, he added, "I will have you know that at the appropriate time, Admiral Verdes will be granted a rank suitable for her own accomplishments in defense of this city. I hope and pray she will recover from her injuries to be given them."

"No expense will be spared, for her... And also for your city. Tell me what you want Kalunda to be. And I will pay for it. If there is anything I can do for the sake of your people, also; say it, and I will do it. You are all my comrades, Your Majesty, all of your people... And I will see you through in good stead."

"Your selfeless devotion to your obligations recommends you further for the honors granted you, Your Highness. I am certain that with your aid Kalunda will be restored to her full glory before long. In the meantime, I believe we are due in Norman territory? A final reckoning with what remains of our enemy."

"The honour of the city has been upheld. Your fame is sealed to all the universe. If you insist, however, Your Majesty; then give me a corps for the reserve, and they can share in the triumphal entry of Ar. We shall leave tomorrow and arrive three days hence."

"A corps it is you shall have, General Arlisa's noble troops, and I believe the forces of Erik Berglund and his mercenaries have also pledged to follow you. This should be a suitable force to join the armies of the great powers."

"Thank you, Your Majesty. Then I fear I must continue my preparations at once, though... If I may address one of your generals for a moment?" Her face was very heavy, then.

"Very well." Julio nodded to the Crimson Guard's Sergeant-at-Arms, who bellowed a dispersal order, and the honor guard and other viewers began to leave.

"If you ever want to visit me, Sarina d'Kellius," Jhayka turned her head to consciously point her cybernetic eyes. "Do so. Speak your peace to me in private. However you wish. I won't debate you... I know what loss is. And I know you have a right to let me know what you think of me without malice or reprisal on my part."
Sarina's jaw and fists clenched. She merely nodded, not daring to speak lest she open the floodgates of her rage.
"Thank you, Your Majesty. Duchess. I must, by your leave, return to my duties now."
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-04 03:48am

On the Road to Ar.
39 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
12 March 2163 AST
Local time – 5 January 2842

“The Devenshirite troops have finished deploying to the Grand Duchess of Illustrious' position,” Priscilla Laurentii commented humorouslessly. They had pulled their regiment and battalion from Jhayka's command when her intent to provide asylum to Priscilla had been communicated to them, and placed them under the command of the Grand Duchess of Illustrious instead, using their own shipboard assets for it and breaking out of the established support chains. Which had, of course, led to shortages, which Jhayka had ignored and pushed forward with. One of the consequences of which would be that the army would arrive at Ar with less ammunition than it should have.

“And how do you feel about this, Priscilla?” Jhayka's words had a humourless amusement to them, though she'd made it clear her real anger was very much with the Devenshirites.

“Of course I regret it, Jhayka... Unfortunately I suppose none of us have a damned choice, do we?” Priscilla herself knew she had a choice; she could turn herself in. But she wasn't about to do that when she had been on the run for so long, and the result would be, inevitably, unpleasant, if not fatal. And the political situation, as Jhayka had reminded her, might change. Her father's money had granted her a singular gift, rejuv treatments which guaranteed she'd be around as long as any of the standing nobility, and the Grand Duchy of Pranton was a title and a position unfilled to this date in the new Devenshirite power structure.

“Not aboard this train of cripples, at any rate,” Jhayka answered. Her attention seemed to be directed into space, but she was actually processing reports and issuing orders via her direct neural interface as she rested comfortably in her mobility chair. The second individual so referened was Fayza; Ilavna divided her time between the two of them, while feeling woefully inadequate in dealing with severe human emotional trauma and stress shock. “I am quite sure that the Grand Duchess of Illustrious will not have a problem in operating with us. However, I want you there to explain yourself. You're my chief of staff as things stand, anyway.”

“Thank you, Jhayka.” For the past twenty-four hours Priscilla had been doing very little but a lot of staff work that she felt highly overwhelmed with. The level of organization involved was far greater than what she was used to; but Jhayka, as a Taloran noble, expected her as a fellow high noblewoman to be able to take up the position immediately and vigorously, and gave her no allowances. Somehow she had not collapsed yet...

“My work in that regard is acceptable, yes?” She asked, just to clarify...

“Oh, certainly. Indeed, I've been contemplating giving you a commission and placing you in charge of the planetary defence forces for the human colony I intend to found. I'd give you a title associated with it, but... I don't want to hinder your chances for restoration to much. And of course you will be accepted in high society as a pretender, regardless.” A pause. “But back to work for us.”

“There's the issue of ammunition to be dealt with, yes.”

“I'm trying to weaken the enemy in advance, since we can't reliably make up those shortages of stores in time,” Jhayka answered, and then seemed to slump a bit. Ilavna arrived a few moments later, as though she'd sensed it.

“Your Highness? Are you alright?”

“You know I'm fine.. Just a bit dizzy. And tired. Give me something for it.”

“I'm worried about your use of stimulants in such a weakened state.”

“You can't drive a Taloran body into shock, Ilavna, you've been treating to many humans of late. More stimulants.”

“You won't be getting another dose today if I give you one now. Just to make that very, very clear.”

“Fine. I'll retire early. But I'm coordinating certain air operations right now, and I need it. I need to dump the data to Priscilla so we can coordinate with the army and... Hhahhhh..” Jhayka sighed as she felt the drugs hitting her system from the transdermal injection Ilavna had just given her. “Thank you, Ilavna.”

“You're welcome,” the young woman answered quietly, and she did not stint from offering a look to Priscilla which conveyed her concern. The other woman nodded tightly, realizing that she was being asked, in a subtle Taloran way, to take up more of the slack for Jhayka.

She is my patron, and I suppose that is fair. Priscilla went immediately to check on the information of what Jhayka was planning. She saw that of the one-third of the aerospace assets available, which were allotted to the primitive zone, Jhayka was evenly dividing them between a strategic campaign against the Stirlins on one hand and an effort to destroy the fleeing columns of Normans from Ar.

“You realize you'll kill many civilians among those columns, don't you?”

“I can't let them start any guerrilla warfare. Annihilation of a few convoys may very well make them stop, at the least. Intimidation counts for more than anything else against the primitives. They've learned to fear our air arm. The orders have, at any rate, already been issued.”

“And what of your promise to Rodaka?” Ilavna pressed.

“Ah, that's her name? It's a very nice one. Well, Ilavna Lashila, I don't think a child of a well-to-do family will be evacuated first. Tarl will keep them as hostages to the good behaviour of the well-to-do men so they won't try to surrender the city until at least the very last minute. That sort of thing is common around here. The rest, is, I believe, the sort of risk that is shared by all. It is not like she is a prisoner; if she is led out of the city for the mountains and she is as smart and imaginative as you imply... She'll break for it. That is reasonable, yes?”

“Yes. I'm just worried about her. And you. You're still not well.”

“Not much longer. Then I can settle into the Ubar's bed in Ar and rest for quite some time,” Jhayka answered. “Tomorrow we combine with Proctor's force—and the Devenshirites, again, blast all—and by the evening of the day after we'll be standing below the Heights of Ar. I will keep my promise. We'll worry about things after that, later.” The word was very final.
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Post by Steve » 2007-06-04 05:54am

Co-written by myself and Marina.
Besnit, Norman-Kalundan Border
Gilean Confederacy.
40 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
13 March 2163 AST
Local time - 6 January 2842

The Norman border town of Besnit, just off the main rail-line, had in ages past been a way-station for the Norman tribute armies collecting girls, foodstuffs, and mineral tributes from the tribal groups and small towns of the south, as well as serving as the starting base for all of the Norman excursions against the Sedevacanticists.
But since the defeat at East Henley and the collapse of their empire under the arms of the Kalundans, Sedevacanticists, and al-Farani, Besnit had suffered from the end of empire. It's thriving slave market and bazaar were now a pale shadow of what they once had been, and many of it's people had ended up moving to other towns and cities in the empire, particularly Ar. The population of what was left was miniscule and certainly among the most depressive in the entire Norman Empire.

Almost all of the town's men were now dead, their bodies gassed, burned, or mutilated by gunfire in the trenches and bombed-out buildings of Kalunda. The handful left were the old or the too young, as well as about two dozen men of fighting age who, as Christian converts, were granted asylum in the catacombs by Father Seamus Finney, the Catholic Underground missionary in charge of the small church in Besnit. Even the town's mayor had been slain in the battle for Kalunda, leaving the town in the care of his wife.
With the tech-worlders' massive army coming up from the south, and the combined forces of the East Henley Valley, the Thantians, and the Amazons coming from her east, the proud woman had been granted no choice but to surrender her town, though in an act of defiance that proved Jhayka's words to Illavna so sadly correct, she buried the city's homestone in an attempt to hide it.
Furthermore, unwilling to surrender to the alien woman who had killed her husband, the woman had instead granted it to Sara Proctor, and so the dreaded flag of the Nemesis flew beside that of the Kingdom of the Devenshires over Besnit's rail station when the General Faeria arrived, finding the town well under occupation and garrisoned by Devenshiran and Valley troops, while the Amazons had consciously already sorted out all their former sisters who had been found in what was left of Besnit's slave markets and estates.

Jhayka's staff, for their parts, brought the train to a stop at the rail platform, and a door was opened, with two guards exiting and standing fast in front of it, while a third Taloran, a blonde Dalamarian with the rank-tables of a major and darker skin than the norm, headed inside, looking for the famed Grand Duchess of Illustrious. Certainly rumours of her fame had been spread even to the Talorans by this point, courtesy of the other peoples, and the Talorans took her rise in a poetic way, with the major in question more than a little curious at meeting this remarkable human for herself.

The major would find Sara inside the station, going over final orders with one of her Devenshiran subordinates. She was flanked by Leeasa, wearing "respectable" Amazon uniform so as to not offend sensibilities, and by General Dao Zi, who was adorned in the traditional golden threads of a royal Zhai officer but who had deigned to don a uniform jacket.
Sara herself was in a regal enough uniform, that of her official rank of Marshal of the Army of Illustrious, with her light blue uniform bearing broad shoulder epaulets of gold tassel and other fine adornment common to dress uniform.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to a neutral observer, when it came to Sara Proctor, was how plain she looked. Her face was wasn't quite round enough to be moon-faced, but wasn't narrow either. Her eyes were a common brown color, as was her short-cut hair. Her body had a pleasing shape for average human taste, but at the same time, she was hardly a woman of exquisite beauty or sexual attraction. Many who met her wondered why a man like King Julio, surrounded his entire young life by the most beautiful sex-addicted slave-girls of his city's Mediterrenean clime, could fall so intensely in love with such an average looking woman. Even Leeasa, standing to her side and looking a bit older, seemed far more attractive from a human male's perspective, and those of Jhayka's entourage soon to meet her would not help but contrast her to the stunning physical beauty of Jhayka's crippled lover Danielle or either of the d'Kellius sisters.
But there was more to Sara Proctor than physical attraction. An observant person could see it in how she carried herself. Her posture, the look in her eyes, the determined expression on her face, this was a woman born to fight and to lead. Willful, stubborn, and crafty, with a strength that had shamed Thantian war chieftess and Norman warrior alike and a charisma that had already charmed thousands of people and persuaded them to take up arms and march far from their homes in war against a once-powerful empire.

The Major came to attention and saluted, before bowing low to Sara with a flick of her long mane of hair and the click of her booted heels, doffing her helmet respectfully as she came up, dressed in khaki uniform blouse and black kilt down to the knees, a formal dress uniform for the Taloran Army. "Your August Grace the Grand Duchess of Illustrious, Sara Proctor, I presume?"

"I am she." Sara's response was formal and carefully-toned. "I was informed that Her Highness the Princess of the Lesser Intuit is currently recovering from a lost leg, so my entourage has agreed to meet her upon her train."

"Her Highness is deeply disabled at the moment and recovers only slowly. She sent me a message to give to you, Your August Grace, which I fear I don't understand, but at any rate: 'I am nonetheless still as capable as Jim Bowie at the Alamo.'" The Taloran's expression seemed a bit wry. "She is a far better student of human history than I, Your August Grace. I will, of course, conduct you and those whom you feel important for this discussion aboard at your convenience."

Sara chuckled wryly at that reference, having been in space long enough to pick up on such history. "Her Highness indeed has a solid grasp on Human history, even I wasn't fully aware of that story until somewhat recently," Sara said pleasantly. "Please, Major, I would like to visit Her Highness with Leeasa Avrila, Magestrix of the Amazon Confederacy, and Dao Zi, Commander-in-General of the Royal Zhai Armies and General of the Royal Horse Guard of the Zhai Kingdom."

"Of course." The major offered a passing glance to the two others, and bowed again. "If you will follow me, Your August Grace?"

Sara nodded at her and allowed the Taloran woman to lead them onto the armored train and to the chamber where Jhayka was staying. Upon their entry, the Major formally announced them as, "Her August Grace the Grand Duchess of Illustrious, Her Highness the Magestrix of the Amazons, and General Dao Zi of the Zhai Army, Your Highness."
This was it then. For the first time, these two heroines, vicious enemies of the Norman Empire, met face to face. Sara Proctor, known to the classically-educated Normans simply as Nemesis, who had in her youth escaped from their slave train, rallied the Eastern Region against them, and dismantled their Empire so long ago, and Jhayka itl dhin Intuit, who had fought her way out of their capital city with a small band, leaving ruin in her wake, and who had stymied their new alliance in the trenches and streets of battered yet triumphant Kalunda. These two powerful, eccentric women being in the same place at the same time was history in the making.
For her part, Sara did not recoil from the sight of Jhayka's stigmatic implants, or her alien form. She had heard only rumors so far of Jhayka having a love affair with a human woman from the Alliance, a woman who had suffered grievous brain damage from a near-drowning late in the siege and that Jhayka had mutilated herself in grief upon an errenous report of her lover's death, and despite her hoary old Puritan conservatism recoiling from homosexuality she had long learned to suppress such sentiments in favor of better ones. "Your Highness, it is an honor to meet you," Sara said kindly.

"And an honour to meet you, Sara Proctor. We're peers here. If I may be informal... And you may certainly call me Jhayka. I... I understand that I have caused quite a lot of damage to a place you find very beautiful." She smiled wryly, looking very frail in her chair at this point, and surely not healthy at all, but fully capable in her mental faculties, certainly. "A greetings to the Magestrix, as well, and congratulations--we have plenty to speak about among ourselves--and to the Zhai General, the reputation of his people proceeding him in a fine way." She turned, then, and gestured toward someone dressed, now, in the house-uniform of Jhayka's Principality, a field-green colour, and bearing the rank tabs of a general. "This fine young lady is, I fear, the cause of the recent dispute between our countries. Priscilla Laurentii, the sole surviving lawful heir of the House of Laurentii." A pause, while in the meantime Priscilla stood, staring toward Sara.. With some unquestionable embarrassment. "If you wish, she told me that she would explain her actions in those dark days to you." In the background, Ilavna arrived to begin silently putting out and filling a line of wine-glasses.

Sara smiled diplomatically, but the truth be told, she was uncomfortable with having in her presence the woman who allowed for the evil old Grand Duke to get away scot free, even if he had been a blood relation she'd never known about. "I'm not sure about the legality of that claim given proclaimations from Her Majesty about the status of.... certain lines," Sara replied diplomatically, "but everyone deserves a fair hearing in my opinion, and given that the General Laurentii could have fled long ago but chose to remain and risk death and capture to fulfill her service is an indicator that she is not the monster her father was. I would be willing to hear her explaination as to her actions in those days. But for now, I believe we have other matters to speak of?" Sara gestured toward the window and the direction of Besnit. "The town of Besnit surrendered to my forces late last night. My troops have all but finished removing slaves from households and ensuring public order, though we have not yet found where the late mayor's wife, that troublesome shrew, has hidden the city's homestone. I'm calling in sensor equipment from the fleet today to make the search."

"Well, it's your's to do what you wish with. And that of Ar, for that matter. I may be the commander of the advance, but, truth be told, Sara Proctor, you have a better claim to it than I do. Your feud with the Normans is older than mine. As for the other home-stones we recover, let them be distributed as prizes to the conquering regiments. They will no doubt be a nice memory of this bloody excursion." She seemed rather reticent to explain more, but of course, Danielle was still very much on her mind, and Priscilla tended toward silence. "Ah, well--it's an excellent vintage of red, if you'd like anything to drink?" One of her hands shifted slightly to indicate the glasses, and Ilavna standing respectfully beside them.

Sara nodded and accepted the wine, as did Dao Zi and Leeasa. "A toast, then, Jhayka, to our conquest of Ar and the final destruction of the Norman Empire and all their wretched customs?"

"To the toppling of their capitol and the end of the Norman reign," she answered readily, adding, "I will go where I have been before," before drinking, Priscilla joining them though Ilavna not doing so, understandably, considering her own consciously modest role.

The toast was shared by the five, after which battle plans were laid. The Devenshiran officers had already made it clear to Sara that they did not want to be under Jhayka's command, so Sara opted to offer them for the purpose of keeping any Normans from retreating back into Ar from their growing position on the Heights to the west.
As for the rest, bombardment would soften the Normans and pave the way for the final attack. Jhayka insisted and Sara agreed that Arlisa's corps from Kalunda would be granted a position anchoring the left and center, a symbolical position from the last great battle Sara had waged on Gilead, given that the Janissaries of Kalunda had fought at Artemisia on the left flank and that the Army of Kalunda, upon going over to Julio, had charged up the broken center of the Valley Army to crush the Norman reserves and send their army into flight.

That said, Jhayka was cautious not to spend the Kalundans. Instead, the Berglunder mercenaries were stationed in the forefront of the attack lines, better-equipped and far more rested, with Arlisa's corps providing the mass to back them up; the honour would still be there, as the Berglunders were now serving technically as part of the Kalundan Army. Jhayka, however, preferred to see the mercenaries face the fire now instead of the troops she had commanded for so long, even while the honour went to the later. The main attack, however, would come with the armour on the right, which would drive through the enemy force with the--as far as the Normans were concerned--unbeatable strength of a mailed fist, and wheel around to cut off the retreat of the left and center of the enemy. The rest of Sara's army, along with certain detachments of power-armoured troops, formed the reserves.

This was acceptable, and so the battle planning came to an end. At that point, casual talk was what remained for them. "I have heard rumors, Jhayka, but nothing more, so I would like to know more about what brought you to conflict with the Normans, and about 'Admiral Verdes' as I have heard some call her. I heard from Julio that she was captured by the Normans and tortured, and you rescued her. How did this come about?"

"She was given that rank by Julio. She was a Commander in the Alliance navy," Jhayka answered. "Ahh... Suffice to say that she was captured twice. The first time she was looking for her friend Fayza--who is down the hall, and, well, she suffered much worse in captivity than poor Danielle did. We're caring for her, ourselves, personally--as a debt obligation. She had a nervous breakdown when she heard that Danielle had been so grieviously injured, and it's clear she's suffering from stress-shock on account of much worse..."

"I'm not a human psychiatrist, and I can only do so much," Ilavna interjected a bit impulsively, looking to Sara.. And then adding some kind words: "But General Laurentii has been very kind to her. She kept care of Fayza for nearly the past two weeks on her own in addition to her very extensive military duties. Anyway, uhm... I was the one who proposed to Her Highness that perhaps you could offer some reassurance to Fayza. She's been through the same sorts of experiences that you have... And I know it seems odd to spend so much attention on a single person when this whole continent is awash in blood, but we take debt-obligations very seriously..."

"And since the war started over Danielle looking for Fayza," Jhayka continued where Ilavna had left off quite smoothly, "and forgive me for not introducing my physician and confessor, Acolyte Ilavna Lashila, to you before--it was clearly only moral that in Danielle's name we take the best possible care of her, personally. We've ended up a strange sort of family, in a way." Jhayka propped herself up with her right arm gently, looking somewhat tired, though without the eyes it was always hard to tell. "Alas, for my tale. I promised to aide Danielle, after her escape from the slave-market in East Port, in finding Fayza. She thought that her friend had been taken to Ar by an Orion trader. She had, actually; but she wasn't sold there, as it turned out. I was traveling, as you know, for anthropological purposes, and had simply intended to buy her out.. But instead, Danielle had found the massive arms caches in the warehouses of the city while looking through them for Fayza, who had last been seen in that area--it turns out Olopanthro was smuggling arms as well as flesh--and was taken in and tortured by the very same man who had put up my entourage in his mansion, the trader Xueson. One of his men defected to me--a noble soul who died on the 50th day of the siege--and based on that I went and was able to rescue her.... And we fought our way out of the city. We were scarcely a platoon, but they had never fought a modern war before, and all our equipment was the best... With General Laurentii commanding the armoured train here outside the city to support our escape. She did marvelous work, and my soldiers fought like the possessed. We killed.. Perhaps thousands of them. But we left more behind, dead all, than I would have cared to, and I must at the least recover their bodies to have peace."

Sara sighed at the tale. "Do we know what happened to Fayza after this 'Olopanthro' left Ar, at least? As it is, I am quite certain that if she was in Ar, held as a slave, she was most certainly raped by any man this Orion trader had as a guest."

It was Priscilla who spoke up, then. "Yes. She was brutalized extensively by the mad brother of Erik Berglund, the leader and commander of the troops now serving with Arlisa's corps. His name was Ilian.. I've still not heard where he died, if he did at all. He may still be alive, though he is wanted by the government for extensive crimes during the period of chaos. I.. To call it merely rape is wrong." She had kept quite aware of the histories of the post-war nobility of Devenshire, and so she looked levelly, with eyes filled with sadness, toward Sara, and didn't mince words. "It was more like the things that went on in my father's household." She spoke the words, and especially 'my father', with an incredible, biting sort of bitterness, like someone gravely betrayed.

"I see," Sara said simply. "Unfortunately, the Gileans were very dishonest about the safety of their world after their reforms. Didn't want people to think they were unsafe, after all." Sara almost smirked, remembering how many nations in which her publishers were sued by the Gileans for the content of her memoirs. "My own experiences may yet pale compared to what was done to Fay. On my first night in East Port, I was raped by a Norman, and on the train trip to Ar I was strapped to an electric current table and tortured for half a day before escaping thanks to the bumbling of one of their slave girls. It haunts me to this day. But yet, what happened to her lasted over weeks, and I am not sure that I can help her cope with that."
"But even if I can't, there are those who can, and I will yet do any part you ask in helping her. There are psychiatrists, and support groups, and I bet there will be even more as we clean up this planet and find more girls like Fay who need recovery and support." Sara clenched a fist. "For too long was this wretched planet and it's idiotic tolerance allowed to ruin innocent lives. We're ending that now, and people like Fayza will be cared for, and I'll make sure the care is paid for, as much as possible, by the people responsible for hurting them."

"Thank you for your candid statements," Jhayka answered, adding.. "Psychiatrists were the hardest things for us to understand, as Talorans. We don't have something comparable. Save perhaps the priesthood, and... That is another matter entirely. Doctors deal with physical defects of the brain... Families deal with emotional issues, and the Farzian priests.. aide as necessary. I was frankly planning on bringing her with me back to Talora Prime. She will not be in a condition to travel on her own for quite some time... And I've already, by necessity, abandoned Danielle to the care of others. What happens on this planet--Well, for the primitive zone, I will try to accomadate all the customs and needs of humans in dealing with these matters that I can. Your recommendations will be invaluable."
"I will be glad to aid you."
"Thank you. That seems to conclude our business, Sara. And it has been an honour to meet you. Unfortunately... I need some rest before overseeing the next portion of the advance. I'm still healing, after all." The comments seem sparked by a certain look in Ilavna's eyes, and Jhayka hastily added to the Amazon: "Leeasa, all our agreements, in my view, remain intact. You have my work on that matter. I'll begin looking into suitable colonization sites the moment I return to Talora. Forgive me that I cannot speak about these matters in more detail right now, but...."
Ilavna, smiling slightly then, grasped onto the back of the mobility chair. "A doctor can override anyone when they are sick, and I fear it is time for Her Highness to rest."
"Of course," Sara agreed. "We shall meet again in the Ubar's palace at Ar."

With the meeting over, Leeasa and Dao Zi were led out of the train, but Sara remained to talk with Priscilla Laurentii. It was an odd meeting, Sara representing the new Devenshire and Priscilla, at least in the minds of many, a part of the old. "I have heard much about you, but I have always known some was undoubtedly embellishment," Sara said to her. "Queen Minerva values me highly and will listen to anything I say on this subject, so if you wish to give your defense you may do so now."

"The family I was raised in... Was abjectly impoverished. One step above slaves on Devenshire. Eching out an existence where the big slave-run farms made it nearly impossible to run a freehold. But, when you're so close to losing something, you cling to it all the more. Father had chosen carefully in having me raised by this family. I never knew who he was... But I knew I was fostered out, adopted, and I was desperately curious to know who my birth parents were. Well, that was always in the back of my mind. We got things, sometimes... Gifts that kept us going. I knew he had to be rich.... And I dreamed I was princess, of course. Girls always do. But I was raised rough-and-tumble on the farm. You can look at me right now and see that, damnit, I'm just not comfortable with Jhayka's "Ahh, we're peers now, greetings Priscilla," and promises of being recognized like a Grand Duchess back on Talora Prime." A pause was taken, with it, a deep sigh. "We both come from basically the same background. I was a tomboy, working my ass off like everyone else in the family, and I don't think any of us really believed it when my examinations placed me for officer's school. Soldiering was always an option, and I would have gone into it either way.... But I was to be the first officer. I loved my foster parents. They were really my family; I had no memories of my mother and no memories of my father, certainly. I just vaguely knew they existed. But they'd cared for me for years of my life, and I wanted to make that family proud."

"You can look in the records. I lived modestly, I worked hard, I graduated fifteenth in my class. And then I was in the military and damn proud of it. I sent half my pay back to the farm with every check, and on leave you'd find me straight back in the fields." She slumped her head, then, and couldn't hold back crying, though she didn't sob openly, just weeped softly in a bitterly sad way. "When it all came down I was acting commander of a battalion, as you well know. We were the only unit not yet deployed from the base to try and contain the uprisings. Then the situation went to hell, entirely, the Plymouthites were coming in... And the Grand Duke himself showed up. He went right up to me, as the senior officer on the base, I thought. But no. He got closer than that, and he kissed me on both cheeks, and said: 'Priscilla, your real last name is Laurentii. You are my daughter. And you are my only hope.' Here he was, the man I had wanted to meet for my whole life. Not the Grand Duke. Simply my father. And there was a mob licking hot on his heels, fifteen minutes out at most. How can you make a moral judgement about your father in fifteen minutes? How can you trust rumours when he comes up and kisses your cheeks and places all his trust in you?"

At that, Sara could only nod, thinking back to her own father whom she missed so terribly.

"It was straightforward, I thought. We'd just blast our way through to the spaceport. And we did. It was straightforward. They couldn't really oppose us, no matter how hard they tried. There was nothing in the mob to feel guilty about. Just chants of 'Allahuackbar!'. We cut through to a cruiser undergoing repairs... We probably killed lots of people not in the mob at the time. We didn't think about it. And we were trained to accept collateral damage as a matter of course. So we dismounted our vehicles and boarded the ship while fighting a rear-guard action... I was nicked in the hand then, because I stood my ground outside. I'd die for that man, come to it. We blasted off, were heavily damaged by the Plymouthite fleet already in orbit, and just barely got clear. I thought we would be heading in toward the capital. But the government collapsed so fast that we just ran. And up until that moment, I was a lawful officer of the Kingdom of Devenshire. I will attest to that. I did nothing but defend and survive and obey by orders. But then he was sought as a fugitive... And I stayed with him because I didn't have anywhere else to go. Because I didn't.. Because I didn't believe he was that bad, yet."

"We spent the next years bouncing around the galaxy, high-living off the immense bank accounts he had access to. A few hardened men stayed around for pay. They formed the basis of my mercenary unit. And slowly my father's true side came out. I ended up fighting with him constantly, seeing the continuous stream of prostitutes with whom he had kinky sex, the attempts he made to get his men--or ME--to go out and kidnap women for him to torture and amuse himself with. Or girls. We rebuffed him. I rebuffed him. He was dependent on us to avoid capture, the way he lived, and he responded by claiming it was uncontrollable, by turning to drugs and saying he wouldn't be on such risky indulgences if I'd bring him the women he wanted. He pawed on me when he was high like I was another girl for him to rape, when I had to hold him down. The great man I thought I could love when I saw him desperate and affectionate toward me in that barracks... Was indeed a monster."

"And I'm his spawn, with a slave-mother... Whom I don't even know if she's alive or dead. Who was brutalized and impregnated with me at the age of eleven. I know all of it, Your Highness. I know all of what he did. I saw all of what he desired to do to other people. But by that time I was already a fugitive. I was already a fugitive.. Who knew that her foster parents, the family she really loved, was dead. Ripped apart by those same mobs you've charged me for attacking. No, I wasn't going back, not after I heard about that, and I protected him out of habit. Deluding myself that it was moral because at least we kept him from forcing women. Finally we had even enough of that delusion to keep us going. We were discussing turning him loose and going our own way when Sergeant Kandred came in and said he'd found him with no pulse." She wiped her face, calmer, then. "We had the body buried in a quiet place, under a false name. By that point, we were all frankly relieved. He didn't even leave us the access numbers to the remaining money in the accounts, though; he had gone from kissing my cheeks to calling me his bitch-jailer. We knew one thing we could do while outlaws, and that was hire ourselves out as mercenaries. So we formed a free company, and we've been fighting for hire ever since. But I've never backed out of a contract, I've never taken the easy way out. I got a reputation. And that's why Jhayka hired me. It wasn't something in her which made me stay and fight here. It's the fact that I'm honest to my word. And I told my father, in whatever wide-eyed foolishness of youth, that I was going to get him out of Pranton at any cost. So I did. I'll be paying for it for long after any punishment you could mete out could hurt me, Your Highness. To know that you're the spawn of an inhuman monster is something which makes it hard to live with yourself at times."

"And the worst thing was that he ruined my chance of getting to know my mother. I wanted to know her just as badly. But he came there, because he knew that I would be the last reliable person on the planet, the moment he told me. And he was right. I was his girl, after all, and I suppose even watching me from a distance he knew me like a book. I never imagined, until he told me out of spite, just who and what my mother was to him and under what circumstances I'd been conceived. That the only reason I wasn't a slave off to be raped and brutalized myself is that he had a passing fancy for me, and decided to raise me a free-girl like some sort of pet project, a hobby to look over my life from afar and manipulate with gifts and with that academy appointment and top regimental positions. That's all I ever was to him, and he made it very, very clear. And now I know his gift, his honeyed words that night, were the most poisoned thing in the world. Because I can never go back home, and even if I did, what woman would want to meet the person who killed thousands to save the life of her rapist? Even if I am her daughter. I wouldn't blame her for spitting on me."

Sara nodded calmly at that. "I wish the truth about the Grand Duke had been more public. I'm already well familiar with what he was, because on occasion I ferried his victims out of Devenshire. But he was one of Mad King Michael's boot-lickers, and in those days even the nobility of Devenshire didn't dare say anything that would displease those in charge." Shifting in her seat, Sara added, "As far as I am concerned, you would deserve leniency, for you have already been punished enough. Unfortunately that is out of my hands. The Arabs of Pranton would revolt the moment you stepped on a Devenshiran world without chains. Some may already riot when news spreads that I stood in the same room with you. Injustice has only bred more injustice." Sara lowered her head. "I've spent my life fighting such things, but in this I am powerless. I am sorry, Priscilla Laurentii, for what has happened to you. And I wish you could return home, or that you had something to return to."

"I just wish I wasn't causing more problems. But at the moment, the only place I can go is the Taloran Empire... And, to be blunt, Sara, these people--whether it's by racial nature or by culture--have no concept of public opinion whatsoever. It simply doesn't factor into their situations. I respect the Princess Jhayka enormously for what she's done here, period, let alone to me; and I'm loyal to her. And this warning, therefore, is on her behalf. They will have no idea at all how the rest of the megaverse will react to news of me given positions by them and being feted as a Pretender. And if they did, they wouldn't care. They're good people, but they won't yield an inch on their customs. And I realize now how perfect the curse is. Because my only chance for freedom--is to accept what they want to make me be. And, really, Jhayka has given me some hope, which I will not abandon so easily. Hope that someday I can settle down, at last, and marry some provincial noble back on the Taloran universe's Earth and breed horses and ride the fence-line myself and have children. I'm afraid that I will end up causing problems back home, and thus the sour taste at all the priviliages now dumped in my lap."

Sara put a hand on her head. "Oh dear, you don't know the half of it. If the Talorans do this.... it's entirely possible that Devenshire will have no choice but to sever diplomatic relations, or at the very least keep them very thin. There will be constant demands for your extradition, and worst of all..." Sighing, Sara looked around and bent a little closer to Priscilla. "There is trouble in Pranton. The media hasn't caught wind of it yet, but it's spreading. The Arabs there are growing more and more militant with each passing day. Provocateurs, Islamic fundamentalist imams and clerics, have been claiming that the Christian majority of Devenshire is denying them aid, and this is fueling a religious fundamentalist movement not seen in this universe, I think, since the 24th Century during Terra's Fall." Sara need not mention the irony that it was the prior movement being spoken of, also centered in Pranton, that had resulted in Ian Devenshire conquering the region and enslaving it's Muslims in the first place.

"Maybe you need an external enemy to help keep the country together, then. If you can play up the threat of my restoration by outside force of arms as the ruler of Pranton, you might actually make them more willing to be conciliatory with the government," Priscilla answered delicately. "Look, I don't think the Talorans are going to announce it or anything. And I'll specifically ask Jhayka that they do not. But they don't understand how prying the media is, either. In the end... The best result may be for Minerva to demonize me and suggest that I am a figure around whom the remnants of the old order might coalesce. That might, just might, help in making it worthwhile for the Arabs to keep the peace, long enough for cooler heads to prevail. Please, tell Her Majesty that she has my blessing to slander and defame me and invent falsehoods about me however she wishes if it will be of any service to the harmony of the nation."

"I can only imagine the damage that will do, not just to our relations with Talora, but potentially to our allies if they do not treat Talora equally." Sara sighed at that. Priscilla's loyalty to her homeland was admirable in the face of what was happening, and in a way eclipsed Sara's own, given she had raised arms against Plymouth and had long been a rebel from it. "But I will convey that to Her Majesty. Maybe, in due time, a better solution can be raised."
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-06 01:29am

The Heights of Ar.
42 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
15 March 2163 AST
Local time – 8 January 2842

The setting sun drifted lower over the horizon, casting longer shadows and softening colours into a gentle pastel. The men on the ridge-line could not really see their enemy drawing up below them. They could just trust that their numbers would somehow serve to hold them off when they had nothing else left. A battalion of artillery, and infantry weapons. That was it. They were strongly fortified... But there was no more else to be done. Most of the men had resigned themselves to death.

They were very aware that Tarl Ikmen had taken the homestone of Ar and placed it in his fortified command bunker in the train station at the middle of the line running two-thirds of the way around the city on the high ridge. There was no retreating from their positions, that told them all. They'd die, or just maybe, hold.

170,000 troops were drawing up into positions directly below them, and hundreds of tanks. Two-thirds of these were armed with the most modern of weaponry; most of the other third were the Kalundans and the troops of Sara's forces. Another 5,000 Devenshirite troops were moving in to the rank flank of the Army of Ar, where the ridge was lower and less heavily defended just beyond where the rail-line began its rise on a 2.2% grad up toward the station and, after running the ridge, a vast viaduct which carried it further into the Norman Empire.

The remaining 40,000 troops of the approaching force were the Amazon contingent, which encircled the city on the points where the troops concentrating for the strong thrust the next day could not go. They cut off the last, pathetic attempts of the population to flee, indeed, they had done so already. It was now Ar that was besieged, not Kalunda, and all the people of Ar were certainly very, very aware of that fact. In all, 215,000 soldiers prepared to do battle with the defenders of the city. Some of the forward scouts were briefly engaged with Norman skirmishers, but they fled up the hill in short order with little fighting.

The problem was that the army before them was much larger than it was supposed to be, and back with the artillery positions on the General Faeria, Jhayka was pondering this issue now. “They only had one hundred and fourty thousand men left in their whole army. With the need to garrison the city against raiders like the Amazons from their flanks and keep order, they shouldn't be able to deploy more than one hundred and thirty thousand troops in those fortifications. But they've got two hundred and fourty-five thousand. We are again outnumbered, if barely.”

It was Priscilla who was handling the communications with Sara's forces; the two women were able to carry on with each other in a professional capacity comfortably, now. Jhayka was pleased at this, of course, and she did not pry. But then again, she had not been feeling well the past few days, even by the standards of someone recovering from serious injuries, and she thought about very little except for the campaign, eating in a brooding fashion while Ilavna urged her on, and generally ignoring everything else.

“The Grand Duchess of Illustrious asks if we can obtain intelligence closeups of the troops. She didn't specify why, but seemed to think there was a very bad possibility at work here, from what she said.”

“One moment.” Jhayka checked via her data-links, thankful for the implants provided so long ago. With that she would be utterly incapable of controlling the campaign in her current state.... And controlling the campaign was all that mattered. “Ah, yes, we do have them. I'll display them all.... And send them over to Sara.”

A holo-projector displayed the images, and Priscilla and Ilavna turned in interest, the few other staffers in the room—Jhayka could communicate electronically with the command car, after all—politely ignoring the matter to carry on their own tasks. Priscilla fell silent at once, and it was Ilavna who commented first.

“Those seem like very, very young humans.”

“Child soldiers,” Priscilla whispered. “You're right. God-damn those bastards. They look as young as eight in some of that footage.” It was ghostly to see the enemy, alive and peering over the parapets or conducting last-minute work on the prodiguous fortifications which had been extensively worked on for almost the past three weeks. Not like they would stand up to modern precision-guided munitions much better than the scratch fortifications on the banks of the river Kalunda had.

“That's less than three Taloran years.... We're not even sentient at that life-stage.” Ilavna's words were exceptionally mournful as she turned and looked over to Jhayka. “There isn't anything we can do, is there? They must have drawn all the male children from the towns around Ar...”

Priscilla quietly piped in Sara's grim voice: “We're looking through all the images over here, Your Highness—we brought up some of the satellite views as well. More than half of them aren't even armed, really. They're just 'equipped' with pipe-bombs and matches or a cigarette lighter, and machetes and dirks. There's at least ninety thousand of them—and fifteen thousand very old men as well. All white-bearded. Over sixty. The children... Probably none of them are over fifteen years of age.”

“It's the Hitler Youth all over again,” Priscilla added grimly.

“Barbaric...” Ilavna hissed. “Old men and very young boys. As if this could stop us. As if it could do anything except damn the innocent alongside the guilty.”

“Come now, Ilavna. Their culture is being annihilated. When a culture dies.. The people usually drink themselves to death, anyway. The suicide rate skyrockets and reproduction plunges. Individuals may try to survive... But the collective demographics fail. All comes to an end. Instinctually, they realize they are on the verge of this... And having human eight year olds throw pipe-bombs at power armoured veterans is part of their effort to hold back the inevitable.”

“But they're still children!”

“If you want to fight a civilized war, avoid fighting barbarians.”

“Then you'll do nothing....” Ilavna stared at Jhayka on the chair with surprisingly cold eyes. “At least make an attempt to get Ikmen to let the youths surrender.”

“I will. But that will simply give him the false hope that we fear his forces when augmented by the youths, and thereby allow him to flatter himself into thinking that he has a chance to defend the city. The news will be distributed to the whole force, it will fight vigorously and not be despirited, and more of our soldiers will die to overcome them.

“But I'll do it anyway, because it's still moral to try,” Jhayka finished.

“There may be a third option,” Sara interjected abruptly. “Let's just offer him a general surrender. He can't derive any false hope from that, and it's more likely, in my opinion, for him to either surrender completely or else fight on with the children in the ranks; he wouldn't weaken his forces and then continue to resist.”

“I can the see reason in that,” Ilavna replied... And looked to Jhayka. “But what of the terms?”

“Humans have a custom in wars like these,” Jhayka answered coolly. “I will use it here. Unconditional Surrender. No exceptions. Not a jot of leeway. No terms of mercy or honour. No preservation of a single iota of their culture and their civilization unless I decide to permit it. Unconditional Surrender.

Ilavna trembled. “You must know they won't accept that.”

“We're caught between the bulls of Herrian, Ilavna. We can't let their culture survive, and we have a moral duty to try and stop this madness with child-soldiers. I am trying to meet both obligations, and I know that they won't accept it. But at least they have made the choice, and we have given the opportunity... To live. Which is more than will be the case from the moment I order the aerospace fighters retargeted.”

“The Normans are refusing all attempts to communicate, General,” Priscilla reported cooly after a moment. “Should we send a party forward under flag of truce?”

“In a heavy tank, only. If they've already made up their minds not to accept any offers on our part, they're liable to be fired at, regardless. And hurry it up—soon it will not be visible enough for a white flag to be seen.” Jhayka lapsed off into silence. They all waited.

Finally Jhayka broke the silence again, and the words shocked Ilavna back to caring about more than the tense issue at hand. “I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to keep this up, my priestess. I am not really feeling well at all.”

“I've been getting concerned about your lack of healing and your body's sluggishness in adapting to the implants,” Ilavna answered. “Very concerned. You're extremely frail right now, my liege. But you will be able to rest after tomorrrow... General Laurentii can handle the details of the occupation until you've recovered. There's no reason to think you'll get worse. You're... Just get not getting better.”

“The truce party has been fired upon and is withdrawing,” Priscilla spoke coldly, and Ilavna's ears sagged at once.

“The last words of the Ubar Tarl Ikmen,” Jhayka remarked without emotion. “He has made his last argument, with the gun, and now it is time for mine. I'm retargeting the aerospace fighter-bombers to start hitting the fortification lines. We attack one hour after civil dawn, as planned.”
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-06 10:27pm

The City of Ar.
42 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
15 March 2163 AST
Local time – 8 January 2842

Rodaka clung to her mother's side as her father stood over them with a grave expression, having stepped into the women's quarters of their house, studying his wife and his daughter who had not yet been married enough. The other daughter—Rodaka's older sister Silverna--had been married to a prominent merchant in Tharna, and she was surely in the hands of the enemy. Of my only hope. I wish that you are well, sister. I don't doubt that the Nemesis is the opposite of all she is claimed to be, if the Talorans stand and fight with her. If all the star-people do.

“I'm afraid that you women must realize.... That the city is going to be destroyed soon,” Harold, her father, began. “The honour of the family is at stake... We may only hope that Silverna took her own life. I know, my wife, that you are quite prepared for this. I know the sorrows in your heart when you think of your two sons who are shades and the third,” he referred to Rodaka's 10-year old brother Marcus, “who is about to join them.”

“As for myself, I must return to my post at the walls watching over one of the child-battalions who stand between us and the Amazons on the enemy perimeter. But you know what to do when—not if, I am afraid—the enemy comes.” He thrust a flask into Rodaka's mother's hands abruptly. “Poison, my wife, enough for you and Rodaka, and plenty besides. It doesn't really matter, but if any of the slavegirls prefer to die rather than fall into the hands of the enemy, I have no objection.

“If I survive on the walls, I will return home and die on the plot of my ancestors' homestone, fighting here until they are forced to destroy us. Not like it will be hard for them, their space-weapons against mud brick, but I will do what honour demands, and my shade will rest on these haunts, guarding them as a ghost even in the afterlife, when there is no fame to preserve my memory to the gods of War and Death.”

Rodaka felt a burst of pure anger. You're asking us to commit suicide!? Do you really think the Talorans would dishonour us that much? But she held her tongue, fearful of her father's paddle and lash.

“Of course, my husband,” her mother answered quietly. “You know I would not bring shame to your house, nor to that of my own father, may his soul find peace on Kalundan ground.”

“Then all is settled. I've ordered the kayira and house-slaves to build a funeral pyre in the garden so your bodies will not be befoulled by the enemy in their rage. Goodbye, my dears... We will be reunited, one way or another, soon enough. And then with my lost sons, also.” He walked out quietly.

“When we hear the enemy entering the city, we'll drink the poison, Rodaka, and go before they can savage us, with the kayira to throw our bodies on a funeral pyre and preserve them from violation..”

“I will not!” Rodaka shrieked at last, wrenching away from her mother and looking at her with angry shock in her eyes. “I will not see my life ended like that when there is a prosperous future before me.”

Laughter greeted her. Shrieks of maniacal, crazed laughter from her mother, torn apart by the loss, effective or actual, of four of her five children already, and the promise of the death of her husband just as her father had died fighting the Kalundans. Rodaka could only stare at her mother like she was far, far more alien than her Taloran saviour had ever been.

“You will have nothing! You will be lucky, after having been violated so many times by the victorious in the sack, to be the slave of the lowliest and most contemptible of the enemy soldiers. Do you really think that all their moralizing makes them any different than any other men? You won't even have a master like a kayira--your fate will be worse than enslavement! You'll live your life is a prostitute, servicing soldiers, while they hypocritically abuse you for it because of their mad religion!

“The only path for you, Rodaka, is to die at my side.”

“Then kill me,” Rodaka screamed back, ripping the veils from her face and pulling away the headscarf that freed her long black hair. “Kill me! And my soul will curse and haunt your's forever, and pursue you in torment with the harpies at my side through the depths of Hel and Hades! I will not commit suicide, and if you lay a hand upon your own daughter, the spilling of your child's blood will haunt you for eternity!”

The words were true; her mother could not deny them. “You'd rather be the whore of ten thousand men and the shame of your family than take the peace of death? Do you realize the madness that you speak?”

“One of the aliens came to me! A woman, a young woman of their race like myself, one of the Princess Jhayka's retainers! She came to me at night in the garden when I was looking up at the stars and promised to take me to them!” Rodaka stood sternly and mustered all her willpower and poise as an educated member of the Norman upper classes, the haughty demeanour of the free woman with which she was well-bred. “She promised upon the God they worship to carry me out of this city and to the stars. I will not dishonour this family; I will bring to it more honour than it has ever had before, or could have.”

“Madness! Traitor to my sons! Traitor to our people and us all... You are as bad as a secret Christian, and deserve to be crucified. If I could lay hands upon you, I would!”

“But you cannot—and if you report me to the authorities I will not go meekly as a Christian, but recall the example of the Talorans outside the gates and fight with my teeth and nails if I have nothing else! I will die with the name Farzbardor on my lips worshipping the one God of Justice, who will protect me in the afterlife because I am wronged and innocent! Ar has brought this catastrophe down upon our heads through the hubris of our people, and I will not perish on its behalf.”

“Oh yes you will.” Her mother turned and rang the bell in the room to summon the servants in haste.

“You would not dare shed my blood!” Rodaka could not believe what her family had come to, torn apart by madness: But she was sure that her cause was just, and she stood her ground.

“Oh, I will not shed your blood. I will make you into a holy sacrifice for the well-being of my loyal sons, and Silverna, if she died well and honourably, so that their souls will not be uncomfortable in the afterlife...”

Eyes wide, Rodaka turned to flee, seeing some of the manservants of the house turning the corner...

“Seize and bind her!” Her mother shouted from behind.

Rodaka tried to charge past them like a thing possessed, but was caught in their strong arms; she was weak, never having really exercised in her whole life of luxuriant confinement, and could not escape, though her resistance was savage, teeth and nails ripping through the clothes of the servants and putting plenty of fine marks on them which drew blood.

“She has made a pact with the alien devils, to end up the whore of one of those hideous and unnatural creatures,” Rodaka's mother continued in a furious, bitter, pained sort of madness, brought on by the loss of her whole family, and Rodaka's perceived betrayal. “She must die. But there is no time to turn her over to the authorities or make the proper rites, and I wish her death to be a sacrifice on the behalf of my loyal children, besides!

“So take her to the end cell in the slave-pens of the cellar. You know the one well; it is the last, at the end of the corridor. Take her there and confine her in it, without food or water. And then, take up bricks and mortar, and wall off the door! None shall find my traitress daughter, and she will perish without the spilling of blood, her ghost denied the power of blood-vengeance! Hekate, Three-Faced Goddess of Death, will be pleased a human sacrifice delivered down into the bowels of the earth where She dwells, the Power of the cthonian deep, and will turn her hatred aside from the shades of my sons. Do it at once!”

The manservants were pleased to get back at the haughty woman; Rodaka was certainly not perfect, and had been raised to hold them in contempt. They knew better than to violate her while dragging her away and throwing her into the cell, her resistance vigorous the whole while, and instead simply had the pleasure of guaranteeing her doom as they sealed the door with strong chains and padlocks and then went to get a wheelbarrow from the garden to load with mud-bricks and mortar.

As they returned underground, a terrific series of explosions could be heard just beyond the walls of the city. The sounds continued without stopping, and the men shifted uncomfortably in their work as the ground shook around them and dust was loosened into the air. The enemy was attacking their prepared fortifications on the Heights of Ar with his air power, and continued to do so unceasingly throughout the night without a letup, utterly relentless.

At first there was a steady stream of horrible curses against them as they worked, and no mere swearing, either, not from a girl of refinement. She cursed them to an uncomfortable afterlife and to the misery of their descendants to the tenth generation; she cursed them to restless bodies which would rise from the grave and to souls which would never cease wandering.

There was genuine fear in their hearts at this words, which was held back only by the knowledge that the rights of vengeance in spilled blood would not be her's. But gradually the curses fell away. She had abandoned them, and fell to her knees, turning instead to prayers toward an alien god, which continued for hours in the pitch-black of the room as the work went on. Finally, there was no more sound from right outside, just the rumbling distant thunder of the bombers. She was trapped, and there was no way for those outside to tell that there had ever been a room here.

She wept bitterly, and prayed again, and then, finally, she drifted off to sleep, a good fortune.. Considering that her air was limited, and it remained to be seen if any might rescue her. Or even how the battles of the coming day would go.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-07 03:44am

The Battle of Ar.
43 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
16 March 2163 AST
Local time – 9 January 2842

Jhayka was not well. During the night she had slept fitfully and unbeknownst to anyone her body temperature had skyrocketed. Nobody had bothered to check: Gilead, after all, should have been virtually the same as a clean room as far as Talorans were concerned. Everyone in the fleet had been out of circulation with the normal disease pools for months, and no native bacteria could infect Talorans.

Except that Talorans and humans were not completely unrelated. Billions of years prior, they had shared single-celled progenitors, tiny organizations which had evolved in the Oort clouds, in the amino acids of the comets, of an early system of the universe and been spread, over billions billions of years, surviving in the vacuum of space off a diet of hard radiation and the nutrients of the comets. They had spread throughout a vast region of space, and on more than a few worlds they had landed and given forth life.

Due to the classified O-156 plague, early in the very long reign of Empress Intalasha III, the Taloran xenobiological and pathological communities had understood the need to be cautious about the possibility of cross-species infections. Bacteria from one world could ultimately adapt to infect the peoples of another world. No bacteria from the Earth of the Talorans' universe were understood to have done this, however, and might not for centuries.

But in other universes bacteria were utterly different. They had evolved under different circumstances, and infected other species, many of which were close to humans, but also very different. Talorans themselves were structurally and anatomically essentially a highly evolved form of a sort of pseudo-Allotheria, having evolved relatively quickly out of an era similar to the Permian on Talora Prime in its life-forms, without any intervening extinction events. If diseases could pass between Aves and humans, they could, ultimately, pass between humans and Talorans, on genetic grounds if nothing else, and the similarity of form caused by the similar demands of the environments which had yielded humans on one hand, and Talorans on the other, guaranteed a hospitable home for such bacteria.

Jhayka had picked them up, quite innocently, when she had first slept with Danielle. They had done no particular harm to her initially; in humans the bacteria in question was essentially harmless. Then Jhayka had nearly died of her injuries. The shock and weakness of her body had led to an opportunistic breeding ground for the bacteria, which adapted rapidly to a very weakened Taloran body, where in a healthy individual it would have remained harmless. The final key had been her assuming command of the relief force. As her stress levels had skyrocketed, adrenaline was released... Suppressing her immune system.

Now a deep systemic infection had a grip on her body, and of it, she told Ilavna absolutely nothing, her mind focused in the battle. Truly, the Taloran noblewoman cared about nothing other than planning for and executing this battle now that it was upon her. Jhayka mustered on incredible internal reserves of willpower and physical ability and concentrated it, studying carefully the damage which had been done in ten hours of heavy bombing to the highly prepared Norman lines. Concrete blasted to powder, trenches torn apart, surely thousands if not tens of thousands of the enemy now dead.

So she carefully drew up her boundary lines and her routes of attack, all mentally, sending them through the interfaces with a cool efficiency to each one of the commanders. The flag of the Ubar still flew from the now bombed-out and half collapsed hulk of the grand rail station, looking so very much like the Berlin Reichstag.

Finally she activated a comm, and the sound of her voice snapping to life startled Priscilla and Ilavna and the staff around her quietly, as she spoke in a low rasp, her throat burning wit each word:

“Today, soldiers of a dozen nations, we launch the attack which ends this blot, this stain on the civilized record of our races, and buries it in the dust for good! Today the Norman Empire falls!”

The artillery of the assault force fired like one single gun, lobbing shells into the already savaged defences. There was enough ammunition for just three hours of sustained firing, so that the advance started simultaneous to the beginning of the barrage from the artillery pieces, the guided shells proving their deadly worth from the very start.

Steadily, cautiously the soldiers advanced with the support of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, pushing up the slope and clearing the front screening points of the shattered Norman defences. They had proved entirely unable to build structures which could stand up to precision guided munitions, lacking the ability to produce ferrocrete and limited to more inferior concrete to reinforce the bunkers and pillboxes. The result was plenty of killing.

Only the right wing was involved, but the whole strength of the right wing was pushing up, advancing steadily and methodically to gain the heights, and it contained almost all of the heavy armour of the relief force. The Normans fought back manfully with every weapon they had, but their artillery was quickly silenced and the rest was terribly academic.

On the extreme right, Sara's troops began their advance, brushing aside a very weak resisting Norman force at the edge of their lines to begin positioning themselves, the Devenshirite regulars at the head, to intercept any attempt of the Normans on the Heights of Ar to fleet back to the city itself. In doing so they would be caught between two fires, nominally, but the lack of heavy weapons on the part of the Normans at this point rendered that consideration largely academic.

While the main attack took place the Berglunder militia, mercenaries in the fore, was pushing up to the base of the heights. They reached it around the same time that the main assault wave did, an hour into the attack, and cleared the defences along the base handily enough, though it was here that both flanks of the army encountered the first of the Norman suicide bombers—a group of nearly 2,000 widows of the dead soldiers of Ar, who, lacking families, had been allowed to take an honourable death by exploding themselves in the face of the enemy. Several hundred of these hopeless women were gunned down here while they tried to use improvised explosives to breach the shielding of the heavy assault vheicles.

The first casualties were suffered by the international force to these suicide bombers, however, and the enemy fire directly down upon them while they were briefly pinned down annihilating them. At that point, the armoured right flank continued to drive up the slopes, unhampered further by the resistance the enemy, and accordingly to was against the enemy's right that Tarl Ikmen concentrated all of his reserves including the remaining suicide bombers.

Most of the defenders of the outposts had been children ages 12 – 15 armed with regular weapons, boys led by old men. The sickening nature of this defence left some hardened troops physically ill at what they were doing, but the steady advance continued under Jhayka's feverish but unstinting direction. With the air attacks and artillery continuing to rip apart the defences along the military crest of the heights, tens of thousands of Normans were certainly dead: Dozens of international forces personnel had so far lost their lives in the methodical advance.

Jhayka's plans for the battle, in which her armoured right flank would smash the enemy line and turn it and the Devenshirite troops would make the annihilation of the Norman force total, therefore had little for the left flank to do except as a placeholder. Accordingly, the plans had been for the Berglunders to advance to the lower entrenchments and seize them, halting at the base of the slope with the Kalundans well back, just close enough to provide support to the Berglunders and no more.

This meant, however, that the Berglunders, occupying the trenches they had just driven the enemy troops out of in a short and nasty fight punctuated by the horrors of child soldiers and suicide bombers, now found themselves exposed to the fire of the surviving enemy directly above them on the military crest. Casualties quickly began to mount in the ranks of the mercenaries, who responded by digging the trench deeper and holding their position, forcing the Berglunder militia to do the same. They had no intention of pushing the enemy without the direct aide of the Kalundans behind them, who Jhayka would not directly commit to more than a distant supporting role.


Inside the city itself, Altonas Gunster had command of the internal garrison. This included the police force of 7,000 strong, not dissimilar in concept if very dissimilar in application from the Roman Vigiles, having had less discipline. 10,000 children with about 500 important civic leaders who'd been exempt from the drafts to lead them, comprised the wall garrison. The Vigiles could not have been sent out of the city; there was still the threat of mass civil disorder, Tarl had insisted.

Altonas thought the man a fool. There should have been no stand outside of the city at all. It would have been much more worthwhile to fight them here. But we can still look after the rest of our people. Only one in thirty Normans lives in this city, and homestones are more than there is to live; the damned alien was right. We have our whole society to consider. If we can mire the enemy down here...

“How's the stockpiling going?” He asked to one of his dubious lieutenants.

“We've got at least two thousand rifles and three magazines per rifle outside of the gates of the east prison, Prefect. There's more weapons being distributed around the streets, and all the sector heralds have been given the instructions, with the rocket-signal which they'll begin proclaiming them. It seems that you were right, Sir. Within an hour of the surrender... We'll have tens of thousands of armed slaves and criminals roaming the streets of the city.”

Altonas smirked. “Excellent. And all the kayira, released as well? I want the male slaves and the criminals to fight over them, you know.”

“I'm aware, Prefect. Yes, we've made sure to include the mass release of all the kayira in the city in the instructions. If it's mass chaos you desire...”

“That is precisely what I desire,” Altonas answered, turning away. He understood that he was a fundamentally more flexible man from exposure to the outside world than the rest of his compatriots ever could be. His next report was quick in coming, at any rate, another messenger arriving.

“We've positioned the ten-thousandth explosive and an equal number of nonexplosive booby traps in the city and we're rapidly working on deploying the rest, Sir,” the man reported. “we'll keep deploying them for as long as we can.. With the city under martial law there's been no accidental triggerings.”

“Make it clear that I want everything widely dispersed,” Altonas answered. “And the Vigiles themselves must be widely dispersed as well. Booby-traps will need to be augmented by snipers.”

“Of course, Sir!” The man called out to Altonas' retreating back.

Another of his lieutenants asked him: “But where you going now, Prefect?”

“To find out the status of the explosive charges on the hydrogen tanks at the power and steam plant. The damned fools haven't reported back yet—And I want the city burning! The enemy will get nothing from Ar but every part of Hell's inferno!”


(Written by Steve.)

The time for the attack came, and Erik Berglund seemed deceptively fearless as he led, from the front, the militia and mercenaries under his command against the Norman positions. The Kalundan troops were supporting them, but it was obvious to all that they had been chosen for this spot to preserve the nearly-exhausted Kalundans.

The firing from the surviving Normans was intense, and they fought ferociously, forcing Erik and his troops to act even more cautiously. The oncoming Kalundans provided sufficient covering fire for him to get his men into the first set of shattered fortifications, where dead men and children lay everywhere, slaughtered by the previous night's bombardment. It was a sad thing to see, but Erik only gave the children much of his mercy, for he could also think of their victims. Just like his brother's victims.

The psychological collapse of Fayza had re-opened the old wound, his shame at his brother Illian's actions. It brought back bitter old memories and drove Erik to fight ever more bravely, to prove that his brother's wickedness and cowardice was not from their family but his own evil, selfish heart. For Berglund, for his family name and the community it had been given to, he would fight to the last. For redemption.

The fire around them was harrowing, and Erik watched his men and women go down. A body struck him just as a roar of fire ripped toward him, and Erik could hear an agonized shriek as whoever had saved his life was struck. He turned and saw, to his horror, Yvette Lundsen on her back, blood pouring from her stomach and chest where the rounds from the Norman weapons had successfully penetrated the body armor she had been wearing.. He had long forgiven her for her treachery, as she had only been trying to spare her daughter further anguish, and he took her hand. "Yvette, think of your daughter..."

"I.... I can't face her.... I can't face any of you." She turned away from him. "I.... I would have let your brother win, I would have sacrificed you and Fayza and the Latzens.... for one person. I... I can't.... Please... forgive..." And like that she was gone.

Erik's jaw clenched and he turned back to the battle. They were pinned down. The mercs were not going to move until the Kalundans came up, he was sure, and as far as Erik was concerned, they had suffered enough in this war.

Pulling himself up, Erik pointed to the next Norman position and shouted. "Advance, all of you! We won't make the Kalundans win our battles for us! For your families, for your homes, for Berglund!" And he began moving forward again, bullets whizzing over his head.

Only some of the militia heeded his call, the others and the mercs being slower to move forward. The fire was murderous while the Normans fought like men possessed, and Erik knew that some of the brave souls who joined him were not going to survive this. He could only hope that their example would inspire the rest, and convince the powers to take mercy on his home for their refusal to halt his brother's crimes.

Erik thought of his brother only briefly, wondering where he had gone off too, before he went over the top of the next Norman position. Bombardment and return fire had already killed many, and most of the survivors were children. He hesitated for a moment, not wanting to kill children...

Then he saw one pull a grenade out and run toward him and his men, removing the pin as he had been told to. Erik jumped at the boy, forcing the grenade out of his hand and throwing him to the side . As he landed, the grenade went off, and the metal fragments within ripped through his armor and sliced it's way through Erik's torso. Pain filled his body at the merciless shredding of his stomach and intestines, and the fragments that made it into his lungs.

He turned over, wheezing blood and full of pain, looking toward the smoke-filled sky. In his heart he thought of his lover Damien, back in Berglund, and hoped that he would be forgiven for dying and leaving him alone. The sounds of battle, the screams and shouts of the dying and wounded and the thunder of guns, accompanied him to his last breath.


With Erik Berglund's bold sacrifice the Berglunders were now locked into close combat at the top of the Heights with the Normans. They were not well equipped enough to easily overwhelm the Normans here, and so the fighting was general and confused. Jhayka, for her part, was utterly outraged, and she hesitated in giving the necessary order.

“Those impetuous fools! Look, even now our armour is carrying the ridge, it is only two hours into the attack and everything is going as planned. Bold, brave, impetuous fools!” Jhayka, pallid and, to a Taloran, smelling rather off, which was a bad sign, nearly raved before slamming a fist down and slumping a bit. Then the radio crackled, Priscilla listened to it, and coolly turned toward her increasingly erratic commander, a fact which was starting to frighten them all.

“General Arlisa is requesting permission to move her corps forward to close support for the Berglunders. She says they're getting torn apart up there, Your Highness.”

“If she asks it, give it to her...” Jhayka replied.

Though it was conditional, Priscilla interpreted it, under the context, as being a direct order, and replied to Arlisa specifying it in such terms.

In the meanwhile, Ilavna quietly approached her liege and looked more closely at her. “Why, Your Highness, you're sweating...” And she at once felt the forehead and then the neck of the woman, and finally summarily thrust a hand down her shirt to feel her chest as well.

“I didn't know you cared—what by death, Ilavna?” Jhayka bit sarcastically, directing a gaze toward Ilavna that was as dead as those cybernetic eyes.

“You're extremely feverish,” Ilavna answered, and looked to Priscilla. “If there's anything that needs to be done, you do it for a moment. I have absolutely no idea why Her Highness would be in this condition. It doesn't make sense.” She quickly measured Jhayka's temperature, done from the mouth, and sighed in a bit of relief. “Fourty-three celsius. Only three degrees over Taloran normal. A moderate fever.” The comments were immediately followed up with an injection.

“Well, that should control it. Until I figure out what is causing it. There is something seriously wrong with you, Your Highness. Cannot General Laurentii take over the conduct of the battle? I'd like to perform a full medical exam on you.”

“Oh, Tolstoy, you would love this Army,” Priscilla sighed sarcastically, feeling utterly overwhelmed. She had never commanded anything larger than a battalion earlier than two months ago. Everything was proceeding according to plan, but beyond the plans there was really terribly little direction taking place at central headquarters.

“No. The battle is almost won—look, our line of advance is almost clear of the enemy defences and the survivors are being driven back toward the crest of the heights. The Devenshirite troops of the Grand Duchess' are engaging the first of the fleeing Normans. Do what you must to keep me intact, but I am not abandoning this battle.”

Ilavna sighed and shook her head, looking and feeling almost hopeless in this situation. I need to talk to an expert. It is utterly impossible that she has an infection but she's displayting most of the signs of one. This simply isn't good for someone whose body has been through much.

Up on the heights, the halt in the progress of the armoured columns was thanks to the vigorous effort of the Norman reserves, which consisted of the bulk of the survivors of the premier “Ar” division, and the suicide squads. The clash of arms was for a few tens of minutes fairly met, though the looks were deceptive. Instead the Normans had simply forced the infantry to be deployed, going pillbox to pillbox and silencing them, sweeping the trenches with flamethrowers and grenades, while the tanks and APC guns blasted every possible enemy defensive position that they could find.

Two hours and thirty minutes into the attack, half of the Norman defensive position on the Heights of Ar had been destroyed, for the cost of 156 fatalities in the main assault force, and 208 fatalities in the Berglunder forces. Sara's troops had not yet had a single man killed, and only twelve wounded. It was a far cry from the time she had fought the Normans with primitive weapons, and an untested army, and for that she could only be eternally thankful to God.

Below the heights on the far side toward the city the Devenshirite troops were chopping through the fleeing enemy... And more often than not simply capturing them by the thousands, mostly the children who didn't try, like the veteran units of the siege of Kalunda, to overwhelm the regiment and the battalion facing them. Soon enough the magnitude of the surrendering troops was such that she ordered the Devenshirite forces forward to cover the resisters and bitter-enders while bringing the Zhai forward to handle the surrender of the masses of fleeing soldiers who, in general, preferred to quit the battle rather than fight on bitterly to the death.

By the start time plus three hours the right flank of the attack was in motion again, swinging around behind the bulk of the ruined railroad station and the surrounding marshalling yards and transfer points to attack the rear of the Norman right flank (designed the left for the coalition), which was still holding against the Berglunders. At the same time, Arlisa's corps was coming into action after moving forward from the position it had been held back to, 20,500 Kalundans who were actually very eager to join the battle, right up to their commander.

As a result of Erik Berglund's action and Jhayka's snappish response to it, the total envelopment of the Norman left wing by attacking forces was now guaranteed. Forces were drawn from the remaining Ar division elements around the Ubar's position in the train station to hit the flank of the armour as it swept behind that natural fortress of rubble, but they were brushed aside in the open with the loss of six soldiers and a tank. Four hours into the attack, Arlisa's corps and the armoured mass of the brigades converged on the trapped Norman right flank.

What followed was simply a slaughter. Over the next thirty minutes the defensive line was pounded on every single side, until in many places the units on each side had punched through all the defensive layers and met up, reducing the “line” to a series of pockets. Many of the men fled toward the greater security of the train station which still held in the centre and was not under attack.

By this point, Jhayka had recovered enough as her fever declined to observe the retreat, however, and also the condition where the Zhai were now busily occupied in securing prisoners, leaving the Devenshirites (who'd broken up the last organized opposition trying to get back to the city) virtually unengaged. A brief conversation with Sara Proctor sent them up the reverse slope of the ridge, into the train station which was now the target of renewed artillery fire for the next fifteen minutes, until the batteries had exhausted themselves, and aircraft for anotehr twenty minutes after that.

Under this pounding reign of fire, the Ubar Ikmen was everwhere, rallying the troops who'd fled from his right flank and directing their positioning, encouraging the men still trapped on the right flank to fight on to the bitter end. The battle had now been proceeding for slightly more than five hours and it was just after noon. The Ubar's desperate efforts had not been able to prevent the capitulation of the fast majority of the survivors on his right flank, and the rapid annihilation of the bitter-enders by overwhelming force.

He was now faced with his position being the last, totally surrounded. But he felt confident that he could preserve the position, resist for hours, and give the city that much time, at least. Especially when the enemy seemed very hesitant to attack him. His position seemed strong, and his last stand here.. Perhaps it could last days?

Below the heights, Jhayka coolly counted down the time. Sara, too, waited, for the special delivery which the Taloran general had ordered to be deployed. It took time; the empty aerospace fighters had to be “bombed up” and then return to the target. It was fourty minutes after noon when they came in. This wave of aircraft didn't carry the regular smart-bombs, which was why the international forces were holding well back.

Instead, they dumped a massive load of heavy thermobaric weapons on the station and the surrounding defences. The air was turned to an explosive mist, which ignited, and tore apart the rubble and spread it around as men were shattered by the immense pressure caused by the weapons, and the atmosphere was sucked from their lungs. Tarl Ikmen died being suffocated and torn apart at the same time, along with more than one thousand of the soldiers of the Ar division.

The dazed and battered survivors were immediately set upon by the Devenshirite troops, eager to match the feats of the other star powers which had been engaged in the main assault, and pleased—most of them having at one time been slaves—to be fighting back so splendidly hard and putting in good blows against a hideous collection of slavers.

There were less than a thousand of the enemy left, and having just witnessed the atmosphere itself turned against them, and then to be set upon by the thousands of Devenshirite troops, was quite enough to finish them. The survivors began to lay down their arms. It was 1317 hours in the afternoon when the first Devenshirite troops, ignorantly stepping on the shattered, dead body of the Ubar, gazed upon the lead-and-silver lockbox in which he had placed the Homestone of Ar.

Recognizing its significance, a Lieutenant smashed open the lock and revealed the world the smoothly polished black stone. The find was immediately radioed in, and Sara herself went forward for it, the culmination of years of suffering and decades of advocacy, and many, many lives lost, or ruined. Ahead, the very last of the bitter-enders fought on, and were systematically annihilated, while even the widely dispersed Amazons moved in to help the Zhai finish cleaning up the remnants of the Norman Army.

Only sixteen thousand men and boys escaped back to Ar from the heights. Of the other 229,000 living bodies in that army, around 100,000 of them were in the hands of the international forces, nearly half of them children 15 or younger. Since the beginning of the massive bombing campaign the night before, 125,000 more Normans had perished in action; 31,000 of these had been children less than sixteen years of age.

As the survivors entered the city, they were ordered by the city's heralds (who were themselves now armed) to disperse back to their homes or to suitable hiding places and be prepared to fight individually. In the meanwhile, Altonas himself, having confirmed that contact had been lost with the Ubar's headquarters, contacted Jhayka himself.

“This is the Prefect of the City Walls....”

“Greetings, Altonas. I told you. I told you, and you didn't listen. You didn't understand. But now you surely do.” No more savage an expression could be imagined than what was on Jhayka's face at that moment.

“I suppose I do,” he answered, wishing to give nothing away. “Your Highness, I am prepared to surrender the city. What are your terms?”

“Unconditional surrender,” Jhayka rasped back flatly.

“Very well, you'll have it,” he answered, knowing it didn't matter for his plans. The chaos he was now setting into motion—the prison doors were open, the manservants being released and armed, the dispersal of the wall garrison and the survivors and the Vigiles with arms, the booby-trapping and mining of the city, it was all going according to plan. In another three hours the electrical plant's hydrogen tanks would start cooking off to the charges he'd had placed on timers, and fire would sweep through a city filled with looting criminals and freed slaves fighting each other over the prized kayira while explosives and booby-traps were set off by the occupiers randomly, and thirty-five thousand armed men fought back as individual snipers and grenadiers across every block of the city.

And he could legitimately claim, as his preparations had intended, that it was simply the inevitable chaos of the total collapse of Ar. There was nothing to be done for it, certainly, he had never planned it; his surrender would be valid, and the international forces would spend months restoring order to a city which had once held a million people and had rivaled the size and barbaric splendour of Abbasid Baghdad, but between the efforts at flight and the hideous military and civilian casualties beginning with Jhayka's breakout, now had perhaps half that number within its confines. Even now, many of the desperate upper-caste women were throwing themselves from the walls or taking poison or hanging themselves or jumping off buildings, and the high walkways which connected the buildings of a Norman city, while the more practical freewomen of the lower castes, not so obsessed with family honour, prepared themselves for rape and slavery, having no real idea of how difference their enemies could be from their own culture.

“I want your signature, Altonas. You effectively are the government of the Norman Empire right now. You'll come out of the city in a vehicle bearing a white flag, and you'lll be brought here to sign the instrument of unconditional surrender,” Jhayka answered.

Her voice left Altonas pleased that she was clearly, at least, unwell. “Certainly,” he answered in mock charity. “I will do so at once. The orders for surrender have already been transmitted, and the gates of the city are being opened.”

“I'll see you in an hour,” Jhayka replied, her mood seeming to flucuate back to conciliatory as, recalling their first meeting, she added: “There will be a bottle of port waiting.”

“My thanks, Your Highness.”

The communication was cut, and just in time, too, for Ilavna approached with an urgent look on her face. “I'm going forward, Your Highness, in a flyer-scout, to join with the advance forces of the Armintash Brigade. I've sent for one of the Brigade's doctor to be here for you—he should arrive in fifteen minutes. You'll be fine without supervision for that long.”

“Looking for your Rodaka?”

“Not mine—she is nobody's. But yes, I have a bad feeling, Your Highness... But I have faith, also, that she is alive. Yet I must hurry. I just.. Have a bad feeling about everything right now.” And with a desperate look, she fled the compartment in her haste.

Jhayka, feeling utterly awful, nonetheless surged with relaxation even as she sent all the modern brigades of her right flank, and Arlisa's corps of her left, surging forward to take possession of the city. Then she settled back, her orders for the occupation sent, and the battle seemingly won, and prepared to revel in her victory. Or so she thought she was to do, for the fever had come back with redoubled intensity and she was bordering on, if not outright, completely delusional.
Last edited by The Duchess of Zeon on 2007-06-07 04:47pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Steve » 2007-06-07 04:18am

Near Wrightville, Gilead
43 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
16 March 2163 AST
Local time - 9 January 2842

Wrightville was once one of the "swinging" cities of Gilead. Though not offiicially an enclave - it was too close to Cranstonville = it was a hotbed of "part-time" hedonist activities with active polyamorous and group marriage societies and a sizable BDSM one as well, to the point that Wrightville had sported one of the "slave auctions" of consenting adults in the older days (though, like all other such places, it had it's share of underworld activity with the non-consenting).
But now Wrightville was being emptied. The Integralist militias were moving in, and had made no secret of their intent to "set the sinful straight", which basically meant using martial law to dissolve the group marriages, break up the orgies, and viciously beat and likely imprison any who tried to do it anyway.
There was an aerospaceport in Wrightville, a small one admittedly, and under the provisions of the international powers such ports were to be patrolled in part by the intervening powers. In this case, Slavia had been given charge, and Slavian troops were running security checks on everyone passing through. Which was quite a lot, as much of the city's population, the group marriages and the polyamorous trios and quartets, tried to flee as fast as they could to get away from the Catholic fanatics whom, they presumed, were going to beat them into conversion and threaten to murder any who didn't convert. It was, for these people, their worst nightmare come true; the Moralists had taken power, and their very lives were at risk.

None of this worried Illian Berglund, for the moment. Having gone into hiding the month before at the announcement of the intervention, he was now traveling "lightly", which meant two suitcases, one with clothes and the other one stuffed with British pounds. He was dressed "inconspicuously", which to him meant a light blue collared t-shirt and brown slacks with sunglasses on his face.
At the moment he had a cute brunette holding his arm. The tan-skinned cutie was a Wiccan, and fleeing with her family to avoid persecution under the Catholic militias. Illian had wooed her with the promise of paying for tickets on his flight to exile in Providence, and he had long undressed her in his mind; currenlty he was imagining how she'd look in some of his more favorite bondage positions, enjoying the thought of her soprano voice's moans and yelps at the things he'd do to her helpless body.

Illian was jostled out of his sexual fantasy about the girl when it was his turn at the checkpoint. A Slavian man looked at him with a contempuous expression, muttered something in Russian to a nearby friend - causing him to chuckle - and ordered Illian to put his finger on a scanner for a fingerprint and geneprint. Illian did so without hesitation, having bribed an official with the government to have his prints changed to a new ID.
A sense of dread crept over him, however, when Illian saw the Slav look at him, look at the scanner, and look back. Then he smiled a little. "Come, Mister.... Weatherfield?"
Illian nodded, and some of the dread left as he was let through customs. He kissed the Wiccan girl on the cheek, looking forward to her moans when he eventually got her into bed and blackmailed her into doing the things he liked, and walked on while starting to whistle.
The girl stepped up next with her family and presented her ID. As the Slavian commander ran it through, he looked at her and shook his head. "Do not cling to that man, young lady, if you know what is good for you," he said in accented English, not bothering to hide his own lust for her hot body in his eyes.
"Why not?" the girl asked.
"Because, that man was the criminal Illian Berglund. He made some of his fortune taking girls like you and torturing them for amusement," the Slav replied before letting the ashen-faced girl through.

Just ahead of them, as Illian approached the terminal, three Slavian guards came up behind him and grabbed him. He had little time to do more than protest loudly as he was hefted off to the customs area.
Here, alone with them, the Slavs took his bags away and dumped them, looking through the money and blatantly pocketing it in front of Illian. His heart quailed with fear and tears came to his eyes. "Please, take... take it all! Just let me go!"
The leader of the gaggle chuckled and pointed a gun at him. "Take your clothes off, now!"
The sidearm's metal pressed against Illian's forehead. He lost control of his bladder and felt urine fill his underpants, and when the stain became visible the Slavs began roaring with laughter. At that point he received a belt across the mouth with the gun's butt that sent two teeth flying out of his mouth. Blood pouring out frombetween his lips, Illian fumbled with his clothes and soon stood naked save for the urine-stained underwear he had on. The Slav held a gun on him while his buddies rummaged through Illian's things, getting what little he had left in his pants pockets.

"Ha, you fucking rapist, pissing your pants now aren't you?" One of the Slavs slapped him on the head, forcing him onto his knees. "Little pissant, think your dick's so big when you've got it in a helpless girl's cunt, but now how does it feel?" He put a gun up against Illian's right temple. "I'll kill you, you little cunt hair. I'll blow your brains out..."
"Please don't," Illian wept. "Please... I'll do anything.... Just please don't kill me!"
"Ah, so you want to live eh? Will you suck my cock if I say I let you live? Will you suck our cocks, you little faggot?!" The Slav forced Illian's mouth open and put the barrel of his gun into his mouth while Illian trembled visibly, a stain of brown appearing at the rear of his underweat from where he lost all bowel and bladder control from the absolute terror.

When he brought the gun out of Illian's mouth, he received his response. "Yes!" Illian howled, tears of terror streaming down his face. "Yes! I'll suck all of your cocks if you'll let me go! I'll fucking do it!"
"And if we demand you swallow?"
"I'll swallow it! I'll swallow it all! I... I just want to live! I just want to FUCKING LIVE!"
The three men looked at each other and began roaring with laughter. "Too bad for you that we're not faggots! I guess you die!" He pressed the gun against Illian's neck and laughed as Illian began screaming in a very unmanly manner, such was his terror of death. The Slav pushed him and made him go to all fours. "Run away, faggot! Run out of here and show everyone what a little bitch you are, and we may let you live!"
The door opened, and Illian ran for it, tears streaming down his face as he sought to escape. For a moment, despite the shame, he thought he might have actually made it...

The last sound he ever heard was the barking of the pistol. The bullet ripped right through the back of Illian's head, penetrating his skull and tearing through his brain until it stopped almost to the opposite side. He fell lifeless to the ground, naked save for his stained underwear, and the Slavs laughed at him and contempously kicked his corpse.
And so Illian Berglund, self-proclaimed King of Berglund, who took pleasure in controlling helpless women in his power and pleasuring himself to their humiliation, met his end as a coward, fleeing for his life in shameful manner in the vain hope of remaining alive, and dying still unrepentent for the suffering he had caused.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-07 11:16pm

On the General Faeria.
43 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
16 March 2163 AST
Local time – 9 January 2842

Altonas was led in to the compartment which held Jhayka, Priscilla Laurentii, and a few other Talorans, guided quietly by several more Taloran guards. He was immensely pleased to see the condition of the woman: She looked near death, her skin translucent in its immense pallor and sickly all over, like the skin of a corpse. Her ears bandaged, a finger missing and capped in metal, the weird cybernetic replacements for her eyes, the blankets covering her lower body... She reclined, slumped to one side in the chair, virtually lifeless, and seeming shriveled and very ill. Even her bright pink hair had lost its usual sheen.

“You don't look well, Your Highness,” he commented soliticiously. It was only two thirty in the afternoon, but the day was already over for Ar, and quite possibly for the Norman Empire. He had his own designs in that regard, but only the Fates could tell about those, and now he would just wait to see how they unfolded.

“No, I'm not,” she agreed. “They don't really know what's wrong with me. But then again the Gilean bombs did a right number on me.. And things haven't been well since. We've wounded each other, Altonas. Wounded each other grieviously... Me against your whole people. Oh yes, you wounded me.

“No doubt about that.”

“I consider that a compliment,” he answered as he accepted a glass of port from General Laurentii, commenting to her: “A regular military uniform, I see. Your association with the Princess has served you well. Does such a position of power feel... Natural?”

“Don't push it,” Priscilla replied. “I have a far more intimate connection with the fallacies of what you consider 'natural' then you're likely to ever understand.”

“Hhah. Altonas, come now. She's the daughter of the old Grand Duke of Pranton. No surprise you hadn't heard about the fuss, but the whole diplomatic spat with Devenshire ultimately altered our plans of attack. I've made her a Divisional General in my state militia. A high honour, I might add—my militia does not exactly have many divisions.”

“Your staff has served you well. But it's also clear you were humouring me when we talked biology.” He sipped his port. “And, in retrospect, it seems difficult to justify when exposed to tech society.”

“My my, perhaps you will be good company at table, after all. A Norman who can think for himself...”

“Don't patronize me. It's unbecoming from a victor to a prostrate foe. Now where's your damned document?”

Priscilla presented it, while Jhayka seemed silenced and introspective from the comment. “Her Highness delegated me to sign.”

Calculated insults? How very unbecoming of you indeed. Not what I expected. Perhaps the bitch is as sick as I may hope. But he signed, nonetheless, and Priscilla signed her name below that. Then a second copy was produced, in Taloran, which he reluctantly signed just the same.

Then the green uniformed human woman stepped back coolly and returned to the status readouts. Altonas, for his part, could not help but admit curiousity:

“So, what do you plan to do with us, Your Highness?”

“Shoot every member of the government of Ar, shoot any man found carrying arms, hang any slaveholder of whom two people—slaves included—will give sworn testimony was abusive toward his slaves, give every other slaveholder two sixteens of lashes with a seven-tailed whip.. Shoot every village headman within a hundred miles of Ar. Give shelter to and relocate any woman and any freed manservant who wishes to leave the area. And hang all the commanders of those child soldier units by suffocation.”

Altonas paled as he heard the list. Jhayka's next words carried no reassurance:

“I assume around fifty thousand will be executed in all.”

“You'll be thought of as a bloody butcher throughout half the multiverse,” he managed to gasp out.

“Not my half.”

“And what of those who resist your tyranny?”

“After they've been shot, I'll demolish their family homes, distribute their homestones as souvenirs to my soldiers, slaughter their lifestock, burn their possessions, and turn their families out penniless with the clothes on their backs. I do not come from the Alliance, and the penalty for revolt from your rightful government—which the Mandatory Regime now is—is always Just; for the Lord of Justice metes out only justice even to betrayers. So you will get justice even you disobey the documents of surrender. Oh yes, you will get justice then. Exactly the kind of it that you will deserve if you dare my authority so.”

“It looks like he has,” Priscilla said abruptly and coldly. “Our troops entering the city are reporting that they're coming under heavy sniper fire, and some rocket fire as well..”

“WHAT!?” Jhayka bolted upright. “These reports... Are they confirmed, Priscilla?”

“Yes, they're confirmed, Your Highness.”

“But Ilavna is there!” Her gaze flun toward Altonas: “Why.... You bastard!

Altonas realized he was a dead man. He decided, in that heartbeat, to do something about more for his nation, and to gain his own vengeance, while he lived. Accordingly, he made his lunge toward Priscilla Laurentii, knocking her aside as he grabbed for her pistol.

He even got it from her, with the strength and weight of his body working to his advantage to knock her aside, just to have her coolly ram first an elbow and then a fist into the top of his head with all her strength, ignoring the immense pain which skyrocketed up her savaged arm from the shock of the double-blows. Staggered, he fell to the floor, and the shot he had intended to put into the crippled Jhayka went through the roof instead. A moment later, Priscilla's steel-toed left boot connected with the side of his head and he grunted heavily, his skull concussed, while the right boot slammed down onto the wrist of his gun arm and she dug into his flesh with the ceremonial spur until he dropped the pistol.

“You treacherous bastard! You foul thing—and so fittingly brought low, personally, by one of the human females you've been raised to despise... Curse you, curse you!” She turned to the guards in the room, who now had their weapons drawn. “Seize him and bind him at once,” she ordered; and this they were already doing, trodding over the spilled port and shattered glass that he'd thrown at them when he made his move. In short order the dazed man was bound up and presented to the furious Jhayka.

“I sentence you to die by hanging, like an honourless thief. And if I find out that Ilavna is dead, so help me by the Lord, I will have the head cut off your lifeless corpse and presented to your family—and your body fed to pigs! Take him from my sight!”

The Taloran soldiers obediently yanked away the barbarian, and with a shocking willingness to obey in such circumstances, obtained jump-cable and used it to improvise a noose from a nearby tree in only a few minutes. His neck was not broken, and already dazed and injured in his bid, he died slowly, confused and in pain, as he suffocated.

As he had been dragged away, Jhayka turned back to Priscilla, looking to make sure that she was alright, ignoring the shock of those around her at the sudden and violent summary execution that she had just ordered, and the barbarous threat which had followed the condemned to his death. “You have my thanks.. You saved my life, Priscilla.... And I will repay...” She stopped, convulsiving over in the chair, in a vicious, hacking cough which turned into vomiting. Vomiting blood.

The brigade doctor was over to her in a moment, hastily running scans and making checks as the command staff virtually panicked. It took him only a moment to determine what was wrong, though it made no sense. “She has a very severe systemic infection—which makes utterly no sense! She was released from a sterile environment directly to the surface of a human world. And it's no natural bacteria to a Taloran; this is an alien adaptation and that is very serious.”

“What do you need, then, doctor?” Priscilla snapped, rubbing her shoulder even as she tried to deal with this sudden development in the events of the day.

“She needs immediate evacuation to one of the hospital ships. Arrange it and inform them a quarantine is necessary.”

“Understood. Is there anything you can give for her here?”

“More fever reducers, and a powerful course of general antibiotics, which we may only hope to be effective.”

Priscilla punched on the log recorder. “Effectively immediately, I, General Priscilla Laurentii, Chief of Staff to Her Highness the Princess Jhayka, assume command of the expeditionary force due to the Princess' incapacitation by sickness...” And after the formal change was logged, she punched in the coordinates and, explaining the situation, arranged for immediate medical evacuation for the Princess.

As Jhayka was hastily taken away and prepped for transit by the responding medical team which was now trying to stabilize her from the infection that had crept up upon her, the culmination of the day's events had left the illegitimate daughter of one of the most depraved Devenshirite nobles, a wanted criminal in her homeland, in charge of the internationally famous relief expedition.

She was intelligent enough to realize it was a position that could not last long, and immediately contacted General Risim and Sara Proctor even as she worked to issue instructions, using her mercenary's experience and instincts, to the units which had now blundered into a situation in the city of Ar which was beset by utter chaos. There was nothing to do but try and muddle her way through...

Cranstonville, Gilead
43 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
16 March 2163 AST
Local time - 9 January 2842

The occupied capital was a strange melange of new and old, as the occupants cleaned up from the street fighting (the remaining hedonists carefully avoiding the violent and victorious Integralist forces, who themselves seemed to be unable of noticing that the troops of their own Catholic allies were greatly enjoying the local hedonist womenfolk and even sheltering them a bit from the Integralists). As in many similar cases, despite war and occupation, Life Goes On, and the restaurants and shops were open, the transit routes were opening up again, and things were slowly starting to normalize.
One of the fine establishments, Capretti's, was a restaurant in an area straddling the upper class areas of Cranstonville and the lower class majority-Catholic neighborhood. The owner and founder of Capretti's, Giancarlo Buttichi, was a stout, almost fat man, himself pro-Integralist, known in the past for firing or chasing out waitresses and waiters who openly professed their hedonism, yet he was not so devoted that he was fanatical, often sharing self-deprecating humor with others and tolerating hedonist or pagan employees so long as they did not irritate.
Because of his charming manor, the good quality of his food, and his discounts offered to all officers of the occupying forces (whether they were from "Catholic" powers or not), Capretti's was soon a popular spot for all of the outside powers' officers to wine and dine. And so it was chosen for the long-delayed meal between Halsina and MacCallister.

Halsina had arranged the table herself, and they were dressed, as she had archaically translated into English in her request, "in Mufti". The two of them had come down on separate shuttles, since MacCallister had had business with the council of the allied powers, of which she was the head of the Alliance section, so she would be spending increasingly more time on the surface, anyway. Halsina remained the chief of staff of the fleet; she hadn't set foot aboard the rest of the Taloran squadron in weeks, and feeling she had an image to maintain around the Alliance officers, this was her first chance to unwind. Notably, it probably resulted in a lot of chit-chat back up on the Condoleeza Rice when she had left, because Halsina was dressed in Taloran formal wear. In this case, it appeared that her dress was based on a First World War "Dazzle" paint scheme for a ship, the shoulders modestly concealed though there was plenty of back showing where the dress seemed to have a ceremonial series of laces--until one would realize, through the seizure-inducing colours of the dress, that it was a splashy red half-corset. And over this dress, with a sense of fashion that only a Taloran could describe sane, a fur-trimmed royal blue pelisse was thrown on her right shoulder. The belt and scabbard which were still worn around her waist at all times, were embossed with silverwork, and she wore red stockings with white diamonds on them, tapering down to leather shoes that looked like clogs, and seemed very out of place. Her vibrant blue hair, which largely matched the pelisse, was done up with several red sticks to form it into a bun, with still more falling down and draping everywhere in artful chaos. There was no makeup or jewelry. To say that Halsina attracted attention to herself... Was to put things mildly. At least if MacCallister had spent even the slightest bit of time studying Taloran social etiquette, a warning of some sort would have probably been provided.

MacCallister had gladly accepted Halsina's agreement to be in civilian wear, and she had chosen an evening gown given to her by her husband for their last anniversary, one that was flattering, if not totally immodest, upon her slight hourglass figure. Made of a rich blue silk material that glittered, the gown bared her shoulders save for the single strap that wrapped around her neck, a twist in it halfway between her partially visible and attractive cleavage and her neck, while the dress flowed down to her ankles where they showed off the matching blue high-heels.. A small pink blotch, a birthmark, was present on her left shoulder and entirely visible.
It was, in all, a peculiar sight, and it showed off the two cultures' concept of formal civilian wear and color fashion well; MacCallister's monochrome appearance versus the vibrant and multiple colors of Halsina.

The waitress who came up was a younger woman, a smiling and freckled redhead of about 20 from the way she carried herself, and MacCallister could see a necklace was hanging from her neck, though the fact that it was hidden by her uniform meant it was likely Wiccan or some other group that Buttichi tolerated to an extent. MacCallister gestured to Halsina, offering her the chance to order her drink first.

"A double-shot of Galliano, neat, and ginger ale--heated, please," Halsina ordered with some smoothness. The waitress, for her part, had already fielded several Taloran customers and wasn't remotely as perturbed at their tendency to come up with off the wall combinations as she had been. Just to be sure...
"Not mixed together, right," a quick guess, "Your Ladyship?"
"No, not mixed together at all," Halsina answered, and cast a sort of amused look toward MacCallister. "I heard that ginger ale was sort of like a cold dhpou, so I decided I'd make that comparison for myself."

"I've found it an acquired taste." MacCallister smiled in amusement and looked to the girl. "I'll have a bottle of Everson's Chardonnay, the oldest vintage you have," she said, referring to the moderately-well known New Californian wine.
The girl finished jotting it down on an old fashioned paper pad and walked off, allowing them to finish deciding on the meal they desired.

"Do you have any recommendations? I have not eaten, ah, Italian cuisine before. Unsurprisingly, no doubt." A slight smile was offered. "That, and--I don't know if you heard on the way down, but Ar has capitulated. The city where this whole mess started is now officially under our control."

"Oh, that's good," MacCallister commented, having not been informed yet and hiding her irritation at that. "A nice coincidene, since General Rothman reported to my office that Ko-ro-bar or whatever the hell the city's name is has been taken as well, and that the Langeists have been driven mostly into the mountains north of their official enclave holding. And, if I may, I've found a good entry into Italian eating to be a good, old-fashioned spaghetti dinner, though that chicken alfredo with tomatoes looks awfully appertizing.... maybe a lasagna, though, if you don't mind lots of cheese."

"Are lasagnas made with hard cheese or soft cheese? Human hard cheeses can contain molds which can be unpleasant for us. I'm actually of a mind to try it if it's soft cheese, however. And I'm glad that you've reduced Ko-ro-ba already, though the ability to hot-drop some of the forces certainly helped immensely." Staging the landings against the Langeists had been one of the last major things the fleet had been tasked with coordinating. It got boring for the shipboard officers from here on out, with the Habsburgs and Hispanics playing it slow and methodical against the Satanist colony.

"I, well, I don't think I know the difference. Here..." MacCallister waved for a waitress to come over, this one duskier in complexion and with a crucifix necklace very prominent around her neck. "Can you tell me is the lasagna has hard cheese or soft?"
"Let me go get Mister Buttichi for you, ma'am," the waitress said, moving along.
Turning back to Halsina, MacCallister remarked, "Hot-dropping is one of the things we train so often for." A wicked grin crossed MacCallister's face. "I couldn't resist arranging for General Rothman to command the expedition. She's one of those hardcore Marines, and against the Langeists, that's simply too much temptation for me to pass up."

"They will not like that during their surrender." Halsina looked rather pensive for a moment. "Though I must confess, Admiral, the tendency of barbarian humans to gravitate naturally toward the enslavement of women is utterly confounding to me. Crimes happen in the heat of the moment in war, which are very unpleasant, among unrestrained peoples and armies... And slaves in general are taken in primitive warfare. But the purpose, usually, is to break the military manpower of your enemy. What leads to these barbarian societies behaving as they do, then?"

"Human society was patriarchal for a long time," MacCallister replied. "Even today there are some people who think that the place of a woman is raising her husband's children, cooking his meals, and keeping the house cleaned. They generally believe in a woman's submission to a man, her father or her husband, even her eldest son in some societies. I guess it's not too much of a leap beyond that to the sexual submission of women to men as well."

"An unsettling contemplation. Ghastan Island and a few other remote locations on Talora Prime were patriarchal. Extremely weird by our cultural schema, you know? But we showed them with the revolving cannon. They still tend to inherit property down the male line, however."
At that moment, the fat, mustachioed form of Mister Buttichi himself arrived, laughing. "There's been plenty of people shown up by revolving cannon these past two months, my good Taloran Admiral, and all thanks to one of your's. So what can I get for you, hmm? You had a question?"
"Ah, yes," Halsina tapped an extremely elongated finger against the table as she looked to Battichi with a curious smile. "We have a dietary limitation toward..."
"Hard cheese," he finished her sentence, and her ears flexed in recognition. "Yah, I've had a few more of your people come in before. What dish were you asked about?"
"The sausage lasagna is the best variation I see," Halsina replied. "Do lasagnas use soft cheese?"

"All of them! Ricotta and mozzarella in that case... You'll like it more, I've found, heavier on oregano and garlic with less pepper." He smiled a broad and winning smile. "For that matter, I made sure your table would get pita bread. I try to be very accomodating... Even if the stuff is technically Greek. Any soup with that?"

"Yes, the spiced creamy tomato, please."
"Alright, then." He had an amused expression as he looked next over to MacCallister. "And what can I get you, good Admiral? I'll put the orders on myself since I came out here, anyway."
"I think that after your description of the sausage lasagna I have no choice but to try it out," MacCallister answered cheerfully. "And an order of breadsticks on the side with alfredo sauce for dipping will fulfill my craving for alfredo."
"Ahhh, well then, that will make things so much more convenient," he replied with a chuckle. "And I don't blame you for avoiding the unleavened bread. A pity, my good Taloran friend, that you will never get to try my garlic bread--but I'll make you a salad to compensate. You have such appetites for your frame!" He was still chuckling as he walked back into the kitchen.

"Charming guy, even if he's an Integralist from what I've heard," MacCallister said.

And Halsina, it appeared, was a bit guilty eating through a second load of the pita bread, buttered with a pinch of parsley. "We have a much higher metabolism," she explained, as though reassuring herself, before replying to MacCallister: "I don't really find anything wrong with the Integralists. They just want to restore Gilead to a normal society, even if their methods are by our standards very unorthodox."

"I understand if they want to end some of the frankly idiotic practices here. But my reports of what's happened don't paint a pretty picture of them. Attacking civilians simply because they were linked by family to the regime leaders. Attacking private clubs and moving into towns that didn't involve themselves in the fighting so they can attack or deface Wiccan or other non-Christian, even non-Catholic, religious buildings." MacCallister shook her head. "Frankly I think we should throw half of them into a brig right alongside the Langeists and the Covington cronies."

"Your opinions on the toleration of other sects, they're common throughout the Alliance?" Halsina seemed genuinely curious about that, and it might be, MacCallister could realize, that she was genuinely making an effort to wrap her head around an idea that was shockingly alien to her, enough so that she didn't even dismiss it out of hand. She sipped her hot ginger ale, red eyes peering curiously at her companion across the table.

"We generally have a 'live and let live' approach, not to mention constituionally-enshrined freedom of religion," MacCallister replied. "I'm not saying these groups would be liked in the Alliance. I happen to be a happily married woman and have no interest in swinging or polyamory or whatever other crazy, kinky things these people do. I'm not a Wiccan either, though I've served with a couple, and I've found them to be generally likable and, if you're concerned about it, moral."
"That's why I don't like the Integralists. Half of them have made it clear that wherever they go, they'll be driving out anyone who does not fit with their view of the world, by force and violence if necessary. That doesn't excuse the radicals who commit violence against them, of course, but I think a lot of the troubles we're going to have on this planet is going to be because the Integralists move into a town and start telling people how to live when they have, for centuries, lived otherwise. And so long as their way of life doesn't involve enslaving people or hurting people, I don't see why they can't be left alone. You don't have to like them, but you leave them alone."

"There are no more Taloran polytheists, you know," Halsina replied, working on her soup now, which had come along with salads for both of them, from which she'd immediately eaten the olives. "We... We don't believe that God tolerates well those of pure heart becoming enervated to the worship of such evil. The gods of the polytheist... Are servants of the Deceiver, Idenicamos. But we have always tolerated other monotheists, even when their practices are very obscure to us. Such as your Hindus--at first we thought we were dealing with a major population of polytheists, which would have been intractable, but they demonstrated to us that they simply believe that God manifests through infinite incarnations." A light shrug. "It is really hard for me to imagine living in a state without an established religion, Admiral. There is the society of the Just in what you'd call heaven, led by Valera, who did not die but was carried there by a chariot of fire. And there is the society of our people here in the world of the living. At the top of each pyramid is the blood of Valera; and uniting both pyramids is the Lord of Justice. That's how we conceive of a healthy society. I don't think the differences could be more drastic... And yet here we are."

MacCallister smiled and shrugged. "My Grandpa on my dad's side was an academic, a cultural historian. He used to tell me when I was little that if we were all the same, 'life would be so borin'.'" MacCallister sipped on her wine. "That's one of those things that's so different about our societies. We have a mixed one, religious and secular. We have our religious types, our true believers, and we have our stern rationalists, people who don't believe at all or who don't even think about it. Not everyone worships regularly, or even believes there is a God, but rather that we're in the universe alone and we have to make due for ourselves."

"Oh, there's many people like that among us also. They just go about their business, and that is quite fine. It isn't really about the people, Admiral. It's about the society. Society is... Much more important for us, I suppose, in religious matters. Individual beliefs aren't important to the health of the country. It's the collective expression." Halsina nursed her galliano as the lasagna was brought down before them, with italian sausage and the sauce very well seasoned.

"You mean as long as people pretend to follow the rules, you're perfectly fine with them thinking or believing differently in private?"

"It's more like that they shouldn't be establishing alternate sets of rules. We recognize that people are imperfect, and have numerous avenues to serve as.. social safety valves. Sin is never punished by the government; it is punished by God. We keep the system intact through.. Hmm. I think the best human word is shunning, in response to outrageous and blatant sins." Her eyes shifted uncomfortably for a moment. "There's a very prominent and recent example of that, which has some applicability to our current situation, though I hate bringing up petty dynastic politics."

"So for you it's more of 'live and let live, as long as you don't pretend you're right and you accept the consequences'?" MacCallister started another bite of her food, greatly enjoying the taste of it.

"That's sounding right," Halsina agreed, eating her own food in turn, with a quick, neat effort. "Suffice to say our social customs on such matters are very intricate. The consequences.. Are never of the sort which end someone's value to society."

Finishing a fork full of pasta, sauce, and cheese, MacCallister wiped her mouth with the napkin made available and gave her reply. "I can understand that." After sipping at her wine, MacCallister added, "Religion has been one of the major factors in the family squabbles my husband has to put up with. Half of his family is devoutly Catholic, the other half tends to not be religious at all, and that causes a lot of trouble whenever there's a family gathering. But, I suppose, family is different for your people as well, given your longer life spans."

Halsina looked a bit shy in response. "Well, that would be very impolite among Talorans, to squabble about religion. I... We all respect our mothers very dearly. The eldest woman of the household is unquestionably holding the final say over everything... I grew up with fourty relatives living in our manor at most times. My home back on Risalmba has twenty-three of my second cousins and other sundry relations in it. Technically, my grandmother should be ruling the Sapai March, but she declined her claim in favour of me because the March of Erlas is... In a sensitive area, and she did not want to have to rule two so extremely discontiguous territories; since my mother is the only daughter, but has two daughters, I was the natural choice. Several intermarriages a few centuries ago, you see, had set up a situation where my grandmother ended up with a stronger claim than the rest of the surviving family of the old Marchionesses. So effectively I'm the founder of a branch of the family, but as a practical matter I haven't fully separated from my mother's household until I've married. Acts like that--by which I mean splitting up inheritances for matters of practicality--are fairly common among the peoples of the Sea of Taliya, where my ancestors come from. It's a huge freshwater body on Talora Prime--I'm not sure if you're aware of our geography--about the size of the Terran Black Sea. At any rate, our families are much larger and more codependent than those of humans, I'm given to understand... It is very rare to find a Taloran household with less than twenty people living in it."

MacCallister kept eating as she heard the explaination, listening intently even if it made her brain work to fully contemplate the whole thing. "Families that large, living together, is rare for us. They might live in the same region, or city, or even neighborhood, but in the same actual household, even the wealthiest of people in the Alliance don't live like that. Our families tend to be more compact in living, with mostly parents and children, and depending on a family's financial situation, maybe a cousin or an aunt or a grandparent living in the house as well."

"It's so strange. I couldn't imagine living in such a lonely situation. I think most Talorans would go mad in a house of only four or five people." Halsina answered, and it seemed very sincere. But after a moment... "Speaking of which, there's a personal request I have for you on the behalf of the Princess Jhayka. I'm not sure if you're aware of the condition of Danielle Verdes...?"

"Ah, Commander Verdes. Yes, I heard about what happened to her." MacCallister nodded before taking a sip of wine.

"Her Highness the Princess Jhayka wishes to establish a trust fund for her continued care in the Alliance. This is a matter of great importance for her. She will need legal assistance in establishing this, I believe, especially considering the complexities of your banking laws with regard to foreign persons?"

"Ah." MacCallister nodded. "I should be able to call Roger when I get back to the ship tomorrow, I'll see what he can do. I don't know if your facilities have a contact number in our comm system, so I'll arrange for his return replies to be relayed through our messaging service to you or Princess Jhayka."

"Her comm. She has reliable people who will handle the matter for her," Halsina answered, smiling. "And thank you for being so obliging. It's important for Talorans to keep their own obligations... And that is a rather important one for her."

Delicately, MacCallister answered with "So I've heard."
"Well, we have our customs, Admiral." Halsina worked on finishing up her lasagna at that point.

"Of course." MacCallister moved her emptied plate away from her, half of her breadsticks also consumed by this time and a bit of wine left. "I'm glad I was able to have this dinner finally. For all that our people might be different, I'd like to think we have enough in common that we can work together more than we work against each other."

"The future will show us that," Halsina answered. "It was truly a marvelous evening, and..." Her words were cut off by an insistent chirping, and she flipped open a comm unit which proceeded to send some rapid-fire Taloran at her. She briefly inquired back, and after the reply, shut it, her expression abruptly grave and serious. "It appears that the Princess Jhayka has been taken to one of the hospital ships with an unknown bacterial infection. Anyone who has been to the surface from the Taloran fleet is quarantined until further notice. This is, of course, not relevant to us--I am separate from the rest of the fleet and can return to your flagship at your leisure, Admiral. They don't think it's contagious but because of the unknown nature of the pathogen it's being taken very seriously. We have had some... Prior bad experiences with biological warfare."

"We've had some of our own," MacCallister replied. "I hope it's not serious."

"We'll find out soon enough."
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-08 07:14pm

The City of Ar.
43 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
16 March 2163 AST
Local time – 9 January 2842

The ARI-578 support flyer that Ilavna was riding in had not been explicitly designed for combat. The weapons of a modern army could blast a slow-moving vehicle out of the sky with terrific ease. The days of combat helicopters and their equivalent were long gone. Therefore it was a multipurpose carryall for rapid movement of important items and people behind the lines, and evacuation of the wounded in secured areas only.

That didn't mean, however, that it wasn't designed without at least some combat capability. In this case it had multipurpose stub-wing attachments which were now profitably being used to carry six FAML-87 antitank missiles and six unguided rocket pods. The aft clamshell doors were folded inward and both the side doors were opened, allowing the mounting in flexible harnesses of a RET-212 ASR (automatic support railgun) in each with a belt feed. Most importantly, though unarmoured, the ARI-578 did have a shield generator.

It had kept them alive when they'd moved to drop Ilavna near one of the advancing Taloran tank columns, when suddenly RPG fire leapt from every direction at the tanks and at the flyer itself. Ilavna, strapped down in an acceleration harness, could feel the flyer spinning about as small-arms fire chattered on the ground below.

Fortunately, though they were all badly surprised, nobody hesitated once. They all knew what to do in a situation like this, an ambush by supposedly surrendered opponents. The fire tank swung its turret toward one of the buildings it was receiving fire from, and put a full-power powergun shot into it. As the thick mud-brick walls were vapourized by the shot, which had enough energy despite the fact its internal stability was decoupled and the energetic particles began to rapidly expand, the whole building simply collapsed. The next building in the block, separated from the first by a narrow alley, had one whole wall smashed in, and half of it toppled over as well.

Several of the other tanks were firing at perceived buildings they were taking fire from, and in a moment, half of the blocks on either side of the column were at least partially demolished. The flyer's gunners at let loose at a few targets further on, where dark shapes could be seen on the roofs of buildings. 400 round bursts from the 4.9mm railguns had an incredible effect; they were firing at 8,100 feet per second, more than mach seven at sea-level, with the burst at full power taking only 10 seconds before the railgun shut down to avoid overheating. The gravitic generator threw the tungsten slugs, which were 60mm in length, with awesome force, tiny pencil-like heavy darts which could punch through virtually anything.

They were actually 5mm in diameter; the 4.9mm measurement was the diameter from the bottom of the grooves in the surface which served to stabilize their flight after being ejected from the gravitic accelerator at such high velocity. An unprotected person struck by one in the torso would be inevitably killed; being hit in the limb guaranteed the loss of the limb. Of course, they were designed to punch through heavy body-armour, causing serious wounds through decoupled shrapnel from the armour even if they didn't penetrate, and the Normans' lack thereof just make the fire that much more lethal.

“We can't set you down in these conditions!” The flyer's pilot screamed over the screaming whine of the turbofans as they accelerated the flyer forward, trying to cut through both them and the immense ear protection the Talorans had to wear on such a vehicle to avoid damage to their sensitive ears.

“We're not turning back, sergeant,” Ilavna screamed back, finding herself not frightened at all, but rather just desperate to find Rodaka in the madness below. “Take us straight across the city!”

“Copy that.”

They rose and accelerated, antigrav systems keeping them afloat on the air while the turbofans brought them across the city in just a few minutes. Several times they were fired at, but the fire missed at that altitude. Ilavna watched carefully as they moved along, locating with her eyes what she needed to—the empty place in the city where several buildings had been demolished in a poorer quarter, where Jhayka had mad her first stand during the escape. She then followed that in a straight line back to.... Ah-hah! There it is! Xueson's palace!

“Bring us over that building, sergeant!”

With Xueson's death, the building had been converted into a hospital for the massive numbers of wounded coming back from Kalunda. Ironically that gave them some cover from the fire around them, as Altonas had not bothered to booby-trap the hospital out of, perhaps, some vague humanitarian senitment, but more likely a matter of practicality, and nobody had taken up positions in it.

Ilavna looked around until she found the Caravan Souk. “Bring us over that open space, that's very close to our ultimate destination, sergeant.”

Now as they headed over the Caravan Souk, however, they were exposed to the snipers in nearly every building around it, with clear fields of fire. RPG rounds flashed past and bullets bounced off the shields.

“Fire-free?” the sergeant querried.

“Negative... I..” She gestured over to the far side of the souk, to a large walled multilevel traditional manor. “There it is. That's our destination. Alright. You're fire-free against anything else.” The vehicle shuddered and skidded as an RPG round struck the shields, and the sergeant had a worried glance as be brought them over the building... The position of the heaviest fire shifted.

He brought up the rocket pods and swung to face it, salvoing off two of them. The terrific whoosh of the rockets salvoing and the burning column of smoke and flame resounded over the area as they struck with enough explosive force to simply flatten several of the mud-brick buildings. The RET-212's were up and firing again, driving back many of the men daring to fire at them.

“We're getting fire from the manor, too,” the sergeant reported crisply.

“No automatic fire—drop frag grenades on the bastard,” Ilavna answered, weary of injuring Rodaka, who must surely be somewhere inside.

The gunners at the doors of the flyer complied, ceasing their fire long enough to grab grenades from their belts, pulling the pins and throwing them out the open doors down onto the house. They exploded with a series of crackling effects, and the gunfire was momentarily silenced.

“Take us down into the garden!” She unstrapped her harness as the flyer plunged sharply, nearly finding herself in the roof, before running and leaping through the clamshell doors, rolling behind some of the bushes. The gunfire started again, now coming down ontop of them, and the sergeant piloting the flyer brought it up abruptly. As it did, another RPG struck the shields, and the awesome sight of one of the hyperacceleration missiles taking off directly could be seen. When used from man-portable launchers, they had an anti-gravity charge to throw them clear of the person firing before the nitro rocket motor ignited. Here they were just dropped and ignited, and the missile became a burning blur of light which terminated in the annihilation of several buildings from sheer kinetic energy and the plasma burn-through sheet (for use against shields), the missile annihilating itself into a small crater, having accelerated at hundreds of gravities for the brief moment of its active existence.

Ilavna checked to make sure she had her human-oriented medical kit, breaching charges, and grenades all intact, and clenching her REQ-49B, rolled out and dashed for the next group of bushes. Bullets clattered into the ground around her and she wished that she had more than light body armour, herself. High above, the helicopter was letting loose with another salvo of unguided rockets, blasting apart more of the surrounding neighbourhood, while the railguns swept through the Caravan Souk where the canvas of the booths might make for perfect concealment, but provided absolutely no protection.

Ilavna picked herself up and made the last dash to the door of the house. She wasn't fired upon, and realized the sheer side of the house had prevented her opponent from firing directly down. The door was barricaded, but the first of her breaching charges made short work of it. She dashed through, into what was the women's quarters, just to find a hideous sight there, an older woman in her 50's, a pool of vomit and blood around her, dead from a rather nasty if highly effective poison. She was dressed in the clothes of a freewoman, and Ilavna shuddered, knowing who it must be, yet carried on.

Coming to the slave quarters, she heard sounds inside; moans of pleasure, to be precise, and they filled her with anger as she suspected what was going on. Kicking in the door she found the house's three manservants having their way with several of the kayira, the man in the upper stories of the big manor apparently having no idea what was happening. The manservants looked up in horror and went for the weapons they'd collected, mostly old single-shot blunderbuss.

They're too brainwashed to consent, damnit!” Ilavna shriked angrily, realizing she'd have to kill the freshly freed slaves: And that is exactly what she did, as they came clear of the kayira, who were indeed enjoying themselves with a desperate abandon; she fired two six-round bursts which left one dead and two wounded, and flicking the selector to semi-automatic stepped forward. crack-crack! The two rounds in short succession finished off the others.

But now the gunman on the roof knew where she was. Without a thought for the fate of the kayira, at the moment, she turned away and dashed through the house to find a different hiding place. Throwing herself into what had to be the parlour she heard footsteps, and tried firing through the wall at them. The silence that followed was broken by a man's voice, half in wonderment:

“So my traitress' daughter's Taloran came for her after all. You couldn't find some other human girl to amuse yourself with, you damn star-demon? You had to corrupt Rodaka, didn't you? Well, forget her now—because she's dead and soon you will be, too!”

What happened next, if it were not a desperate situation, would have broken every vow that Ilavna had ever made. Desperate for the truth, she concentrated all her abilities, and ripped into the mind of Rodaka's father. The man screamed in agony, shuddering and falling to his knees. His gun dropped, and Ilavna advanced even as she virtually mind-raped him, ripping from him every ounce of knowledge that she could, to kick the gun away from him, standing proudly over him. She saw the conversation he had with his wife before she poisoned herself, and from it, the story of Rodaka's refusal to commit suicide and his wife having her dragged into the basement and sealed up the night before. And she also found something else.

They're going to blow the hydrogen storage tanks—very soon! A shudder went through her; half the city would surely be engulfed, units near the explosions might be destroyed, and thousands of innocent slaves in the city would surely perish, while utter chaos reigned. They would have to stop it if they were to quickly regain control of the city... But first I must free Rodaka, if she still lives.

She could not leave the girl's father alive; and for that she whispered a brief prayer to Farzbardor, and as she left his mind and reestablished her defences, looking down on the simpering pile of flesh that she had reduced the man to. “I'm afraid that amongst my people, murder is murder, even if you are just forcing others into suicide. And to murder you have added the contemptible crime and horrid sin... Of leading children into battle and to their deaths. The Lord of Justice gives Just rewards to all... And I am his servant. The Just reward for your actions... Is death.” A single shot cracked out, and the man's skull was blasted through by the rifle shot.

Ilavna headed for the basement. Jumping down the stairs with her long legs at three steps a time she was to the bottom in a moment, and proceeded forward, searching, searching, until she found the slave pens, and proceeded down the line. Really, the concealment wasn't very good: It was obvious the bricks and mortar on the end were fresh, and it was in their desperation that they hadn't thought of that.

She reached out, searching for a living presence, and found one, thready but alive, sleeping. She gently prodded the girl awake.. Come, come, Rodaka, you must wake up...

“Am I dead? Who speaks to me? I can still only the black around...! I can't hear your voice....” The words came muffled from inside.

“It is I, Ilavna Lashila! I have come to get you out. Stand as far to the side of the room as you can—I'm going to blast it open!”

“Ah—alright!” A scuffling was heard.

Ilavna immediately set the charge and dived into one of the other open pens for cover, worried about the bricks dislodging violently on her. The wall was easily smashed open, though the door beyond it resisted the charge, with a pile of shattered mud-bricks half filling the door. She approached, and flipped on the vibro-bayonet on the rifle. It cut through the cheap iron of the lock like it was made out of butter, and then she kicked the door open. Light and fresh air flooded in, and Rodaka flung herself up and forward, unable to fully stand but flinging herself into Ilavna's arms.

“Oh... But Farzbardor has seen me through! The future... My God, my thanks Ilavna, you have truly become my saviour.”

“Your saviour is the Lord of Justice,” Ilavna answered gently, helping the girl down and handing her canteen over to her, though grabbing back after a bit to make sure she didn't over-hydrate after nearly a day without any water. Then she flipped a protein bar to the girl that she'd snagged off one of Priscilla's human mercenaries as she had left the General Faeria. “Eat that, and then we'll go.”

She stuffed her face with it, looking up, questioning, to Ilavna. “How shall we get out of the city?”

“I have a flyer waiting to airvac us,” Ilavna answered, though it just confused the girl. Ilavna let her have a bit more water to wash the protein bar down with, and then helped her up, the two of them starting up the stairs. She led Ilavna through the house in a direction to avoid her father's corpse....

“He's dead, isn't he?” Rodaka asked suddenly, with an abrupt sort of prescience that made Ilavna shudder. People could sense emotional pallors very well, at times...

“Yes,” Ilavna answered. “He fought back very hard, defending his home. I had to kill your manservants, also, as I burst on them.. Having their way with the kayira.”

“Then I'm head the household, for my youngest brother perished on the Heights...” Rodaka said coolly. “Which means I have a duty to the kayira--there's four—and the women of the house. Three female servants beyond the kayira. Seven in all. Can you evacuate them?”

“Yes. There's a capacity for sixteen in the flyer.”

“This way.” Rodaka started off into the women's quarters. “Girls! Girls! It is I, Rodaka; my father and my brothers are dead, and I am your mistress now. Come out! It is safe!”

The three older serving women and the four kayira in their sheer silks appeared, lining themselves up, wide and frightened eyes cast toward the immense stature of the alien. “This girl asks—what shall become of us...?”

“The Taloran, Ilavna, is our protector. By belief in Farzbardor I have joined their cause, and it is your duty to come with me, where I may protect you,” Rodaka explained calmly. “We will go out into the garden and there we will board one of the marvels of the tech-world to take us to safety.”

Rodaka let them, with Ilavna taking up the rear, dashing out to the garden. Even as she ran she was calling down the flyer. “To ground,” she shouted the moment they were outside, settling on one knee herself and bringing up her assault rifle. Bullets from a sniper on another building pattered against the ground nearby. She raised the rifle and fired on a high trajectory the below-barrel grenade launcher. The explosion briefly silenced the fire, and she reloaded it and fired again.

Then the flyer took over, descending and firing its automatic railguns very rapidly toward the target, too close to take out with rockets without risking injury to those in the garden of the manor. The moment the flyer was down, Ilavna leapt up. “Go! Go!” She and Rodaka herded the slavewomen aboard the flyer. Then Rodaka leaped onboard, and Ilavna made to follow her... Before she toppled over from an abrupt shock, Rodaka's facial expression turning to one of pure horror as the door gunner unlashed himself to leap down and drag Ilavna up and to safety, screaming for the sergeant at the controls to take off and reestablish the shielding.

Ilavna was lowered to the deck of the flyer and Rodaka, nervously, checked her chest over for blood as she lay there, gasping. There was none.

The Taloran girl looked over, a bit dazzed, and grasped Rodaka's hand reassuringly, which was rewarded with a slight gasp. “Don't worry. The armour stopped it. It just knocked my breath away for a moment. And hurts fierce. But we're safe. That's what matters.” Then she lifted her voice:

“We've got a very urgent situation, sergeant. Get me to the nearest battalion command station immediately.”

“No can do, ma'am. General Laurentii has ordered you back to the General Faeria immediately,” he answered.

“I demand, in the name of God, that you set me down at the nearest battalion command station. We have an urgent situation which will destroy half the city if it is not taken care of at once!”

Invoking a demand from the almighty was not something a Taloran would easily ignore from a priestess in such circumstances, and within another eight minutes they'd settled down in front of an established battalione headquarters which had two blocks around it leveled in every direction, the shattered and smoking remains of the mud-brick houses a testament to how the international forces had reacted to the teachery. There was no firing in the area.

The battalion Major, a short man from Ghastan Island, noticeably gray-skinned, looked very surprised. “Aren't you supposed to be with Her Highness?”

“I had urgent business to attend to in the city...”

“But the quarantine...”


“You didn't know? Her Highness has been evacuated to orbit, suffering the effects of a very severe and unknown infection. But what is amiss, Sister? You surely have some cause for arriving here.”

“You need to get a support mission over the power station's hydrogen tanks immediately and dump fire-suppressant foam over the whole area. They're rigged to explode.”

“Damn them to Idenicamos' harem,” the Major furiously ground out, taking the word of a psycher in such matters quite readily, and not questioning.. What methods she used to obtain it. “Someone should have thought of that by now. Of course. We've got fire-suppressing flights on standby. I'll order them in at once. But I must ask you to immediately return to the General Faeria as General Laurentii has ordered.”

“Very well,” Ilavna answered, turning away as the Major ran back into his command post to send the necessary orders and make his report. The relief she'd expected to feel at transferring the message was lost now in her fear for Jhayka's life. Oh, Lord, do not take her from me, when she has made so much progress...

Fifteen minutes later they were landing outside the General Faeria. Rodaka aided her in organizing the slavewomen and escorting them onto the armoured train. General Laurentii, for her part, was not at all surprised to see them. “I see you have found more humans than we expected, Ilavna Lashila.”

“Rodaka had her duties to them as I had duties to myself. They were her family's surviving slaves, and it is her obligation to care for them, in her view; which is a good and noble thing.”

“We scarcely have enough room for them onboard,” Priscilla answered. “But, of course. We must turn our attention to other matters, for I scarcely have any time to waste with this; I remain in effective command, though Sara is nominally so, until Major General Ylunesi itl Ereseme arrives from the Arajh Corps to replace Jhayka.”

A slight smile was allowed. “Good work with the initiative on ordering that suppression run, though. You have saved thousands of innocent lives, my good Priestess. But now you must save one more.”

“Jhayka?” The name was a question, asked very delicately.

“I have an assault lander waiting for you to take you directly into orbit. The doctors on the Ulanjoh need your knowledge of your prior activities and condition; she has a very serious infection of a type never seen before. There's an isolation suit for you aboard the lander, pressurized so you can travel through a vacuum interlock chamber, as the quarantine order applies to you, also. She's not responding well to the antibiotics being used and her condition is extremely critical.”

“Understood,” Ilavna answered. “Do you have someone to lead me there?”

“Private Usterjah? Show Ilavna the way.”

“Yes, Sir!” The Taloran soldier led the priestess outside, and left Priscilla Laurentii alone with Rodaka and the seven slavewomen.

She gently extended her hand to the girl. “Well, Rodaka, is it? I am General Laurentii, in the service of Her Highness the Princess Jhayka... And formerly of Devenshire. We are both people who, by today, have lost everything we have known. So I feel a certain kinship with you.”

Rodaka shook hands awkwardly, not familar with the gesture, and then bowed. “My sympathies to you as well,” she replied, her anger starting to give way to sadness at the way her family had destroyed itself. “What may I do to make myself useful?”

“Take care of those seven women of your family's. They're free now, but it will take them a long time to learn it. Keep the place clean, I suppose. But, also, there's two women back in the cabins of this car—two badly wounded women. One is named Fayza and one is named Julianna. I have been trying to take care of them, because Jhayka wanted me to, and Ilavna helped me—because I'm good at killing people, not helping the ones left over from the killing. But now that I am alone here I don't have the time for them. They need someone—and you fit the bill—strong and willing to listen. Can you do it?”

“Yes—yes of course, General,” Rodaka answered, wondering at the strange mixture of death and humanity from these people.

“Good. Then I will see to it that you're all well taken care of. Now, if you'll forgive me, I have work to do.” She turned around and went back to her duties without another word, leaving Rodaka to hesitantly lead the freed women down the corridor, and to search for the room which contained those two human lives, emotionally shattered by the horrors of her home-city, who represented just some of the grim deritus of the war. In a very personal sense, by helping them, Rodaka made amends for the deeds of her whole people, in a calm and innnocent way.

Ilavna, sealed into a pressurized containment suit, rode on an uncomfortable high-acceleration trip straight to the hospital ship Ulanjoh. There, she had to navigate a vacuum passage between two airlocks, before being processed onto the ship, and led at once to the isolation ward where Jhayka was being kept. Seeing her liege in such a grievous condition nearly left her in tears; it was clear that Jhayka was very, very ill.

But Ilavna had also figured out what the source of the disease had to be, and she spilled it without a beat, surprised at her own calm as she did so. “Doctors, my own belief is that, bluntly, she acquired the bacteria through interspecies sexual relations with a human. The bacteria was probably harmless in humans and only became serious in her due to the severity of her injuries and her weakness, along with the considerable immune suppression of regular infusions of articial and natural adrenaline. We can cross-reference our knowledge on recommended antibiotics for treating opportunistic human infections and attempt using a cocktail of those drugs.”

“Quite reasonable,” the head doctor answered. “We have almost all human antibiotics aboard in some quantities because we're operating in human space, and we can synthesize more. Thank you, Adept. This gives us our best chance of saving Her Highness' life.” Though many of them were priests also, they politely made no mention of the cause of the illness.

“It's unlikely to be serious in anyone else, and may not even be capable of transmission outside of body fluids,” Ilavna added.

“Hopefully. For the moment we'll have to send you to an isolation suite, of course.”

“Of course. May the Lord see Justice in saving her life...” Horribly afraid nonetheless, Ilavna let herself be led away.

Sitting in the isolation suite, she gradually realized that it was over. There was no more of the surface of Gilead. There was no more fighting. There was no more killing and no more violence.

Her body began to shudder and convulse. For a moment she was afraid, until she remembered that she'd been suffering this symptoms between bursts of combat often, since the first day on which they'd had to break out of Ar... When Jhayka had given her 'uppers' to make up for the psychic shock of contacting Danielle as she'd been tortured.

I'm a combat addict, she thought to herself, amazed that such a thing had come to pass with her, though it was scarcely uncommon. Weaning her body off the drugs would be exquisitely difficult, but at least she was in the right place for it. Crumbling down, Ilavna grasped onto the pillows on the bed and began to sob as Talorans sob, without tears, her body shuddering, eyes moist with fluid and blurry but never enough to make it run down her cheeks, which were flushed gray-green.

Nine hours later she was still awake when the call came in, her body in a cold sweat as it demanded an infusion of the combat drugs, which acted much like amphetamines to the Taloran system. Her mouth was painfully dry.

With utter dread in her heart, she activated the receiver. “Y-yes?”

It was the head doctor. “Good news. I thought you'd like to know, Adept. The antibiotics you recommended are working. Her Highness' fever has broken and the bacteria is being very efficiently eliminated.”

He was surprised at her silence. “Well, Adept, at any rate, I thought you should like to know.”

“Thank you,” Ilavna gasped at last. “I knew that she must live. Thank you so much.”

“Your advice saved her, Adept.”

“Then I shall praise Farzbardor.”

“Of course. Well, I'm back to work. Try and get some rest, Adept.” The channel was cut at the source.

Ilavna fell back against the bed, sobbing again. This time, though, it was with happiness, a happiness which lingered for many hours, until she had drifted to sleep. But the sleep was not a long one. She woke up, shuddering and sobbing once more, screaming a name. “Danielle!” She knew in her heart that she had failed the human woman in every way, and regreted it bitterly. How could it be that they were so happy together, but that it was all doomed? How will I find the strength in myself through these nightmares and addiction-convulsions to comfort Jhayka at her loss? She sobbed herself to sleep again, as she would do many times in the coming month. But they had survived, and Jhayka itl dhin Intuit had found the redemption she sought in a foreign field. It had just come at a steeper price than any of them had imagined, when they had first left Talora Prime. And so their “grand tour” of the primitive zone came to its final curtain, drenched blood red.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

User avatar
The Duchess of Zeon
Posts: 14566
Joined: 2002-09-18 01:06am
Location: Exiled in the Pale of Settlement.

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-08 08:59pm

Epilogue the First.

Port of Valeria,
40 Elis, I.Y. 617
19 October 2163 AST.

Talorans were a patient people. If goods did not need to be somewhere immediately, they sent them slowly. So shipping on the surface of worlds still had plenty of applications. The Port of Valeria, always blessed with an immensely perfect natural harbour, remained a very busy place. It was grimey and dingy and unlike most Taloran cities, Valeria was a spread-out, bloated mess. Though the usual massive high-rises went straight up right beyond the port, old wooden docks were still the rule down here, and it was in one of those that the woman who just called herself "Drish" leaned back against an elderly wooden wall, black-booted feet crossed on a high-backed chair and staring, fascinated, and enchanted, at her drinking partner.

She was short, six foot, by Taloran standards, and a bit on the curvacious side--she had a natural B-cup for her breasts, which was the largest a Taloran's breasts could possibly naturally get except when lactating--and had a devil-may-care, rakish attitude about her, dueling scars on her face which implied she had, at least at one point, been fairly well to do. But she was dressed like a common seafairer here, and when asked about the scars would demur and say she was the younger daughter of a minor Baroness. Since even such an individual would be slumming, it was accepted fairly readily.

The identification of the individual across from her was uncertain. She had artificial eyes of a stigmatic kind, that much was sure; if she had anymore artificial parts it was not apparent. Her hair was lavendar and her clothes just as old and worn, and she went by the fairly common name for someone of inland origin, of Herrinda. The two of them had met at the start of the last of the frigid months, Elis, ending up at the same table after finding their way into the bar at the start of the four-day workweek (of the five-day Taloran week) on a late evening when yet another blizzard had been pelting the capitol and the snowplows on the electric trams had been kept busy.

Drish herself had an unnaturally vibrant crimson head of hair, but still definitely red--fairly rare here but more common to the far east--and a veritably piratical bent and vaguely demonic air about her with her brilliant yellow eyes, or perhaps the attitude of an old hussar; not an arrogant officer, though, but a carefree drunk of a ranker. They both liked hard Ulashi liquors and told many stories to each other, most of which they knew to be false. It had come out at one point that Herrinda had been invalided back from the CON-5 universe, and Drish had pestered her with curious questions of the area.

They'd met each night, here, since the first night, and had grown closer in doing so. Drish had taken a fancy to the other woman in this process, but she hadn't approached her. There was a lurking sadness in her heart, and it was finally that night, when she had to return to duty in but a few days, that she asked. Thirty-two times they'd met, now, over fourty days, when the query was posed: "You've lost someone you love."

"Twice. And both times it was very much my fault."

"Was that why you put your eyes out?"


Drishalras--for that was her full name--smiled broadly and leaned in, a hand gently taking Herrinda's. "Were you inspired by the Princess Jhayka in that?"

The woman gave a short, amused laugh. "No. One can definitely not say that."

"Fair enough. Do you think she will be acquitted?"

"I suppose," came the answer after a long and strange silence. "But who really knows? The debates in the Convocate are kept secret. It doesn't matter much in the end."

"Perhaps, but I'd like to see her acquitted, and have justice done."

"You say you have to leave soon," Herrinda asked. "Where are going? I've... Become very needful of your company, Drish."

"I'm a crewer on the battlecruiser Slashahkimmar, leaving orbit for a patrol in another week," Drish explained, pronouncing the Jikari name of the ship delicately.

"What's your position?"

That piratical look returned, and Drish leaned in, smiling. "I'll tell you for a kiss."

"Thief," Herrinda whispered, but she didn't resist, and leaned in. It was altogether very passionate, and they lingered in each other's arms, drawing closer and closer, and kissing and rubbing up against each other, politely ignored by the patrons as the long embrace lasted until they both seemed exhausted by it, slumping away from each other.

"That was wonderfull..." Drish moaned softly. "Alright. If you must know--I'm the Captain."

"The Captain of a Kalammi-class battlecruiser?" Herrinda almost leaped up in surprise at the woman she had just kissed. "But there's only two in commission. It's the newest ship in the fleet."

"I know. I'm taking her out for gunnery trials." She smiled sadly. "I'd like something to come of this budding relationship, Herrinda... But I have a feeling from your thoughts, and your background... That nothing good could come of that. You wouldn't have even kept coming if you knew."

"You're probably right. But I don't care right now," Herrinda answered, and they kissed again, very desperately.

As they broke away, Drish confessed, quietly, "I've never had someone before. I've always remained faithful to the laws of the Church... And we surely couldn't be married. Forgive me. But it's better that I had to space now."

Herrinda was very quiet. "Perhaps so. It's getting very late for both of us, isn't it? And I have to report early tomorrow morning as usual."

"Of course. Take care of yourself, Herrinda. I'll see you tomorrow... Three more times, at least."

They rose, and after hugging each other, went their separate ways. But a cloaked figure left shortly after them, and got on a tram in another direction entirely. Toward the low-slung bulk of the South Head Fort, its heavy concrete and earthen walls concealing emplacements with massive 30cm disappearing guns which were still fired on ceremonial occasions.

The current residence of the Empress.

The cloaked figure went in through the servants' entrance, and after showing her pass to several guards finally got into the guest suites. There she knocked politely on a door, removed her cloak, and waited. A few minutes later, the door opened.

"Come in, Ilavna. How did it go between them?"

"Very well, Your Serene Grace. They kissed and embraced, and Drishalras revealed to Jhayka that she was the captain of the Slashahkimmar. I don't think it dissuaded Jhayka. I... I just don't think she's abandoned her fond memories of Danielle so quickly."

"They'll learn to love each other, I trust," the elder woman answered. "And Jhayka needs this, to avoid another scandal. We're going to read her acquittal tomorrow morning... As you know and she doesn't. But she's really worn her limits here, and a marriage alliance with the youngest daughter of her biggest supporter in the Convocate would be immensely wise. Fortunately for us, Drishalras of the Coasts likes to play the drunken lower-class woman as much as Jhayka likes to fall in love with them."

"You care about the Princess very much to be doing this, Your Serene Grace."

"She's a friend," the Archduchess Leluno answered. "I'm going to talk to the Empress and Drishalras' father and mother tomorrow and secure the permission of them all for the match. It's not like, after all, I dislike doing this or anything." She grinned. "In fact, it's been rather fun to play the matchmaker, my dear priestess."

Ilavna flushed. "I just feel honoured that you've simply taken an interest in Her Highness. I've always been very worried about the safety of her soul.. And to finally have her safely married will be a very good thing for her future."

"Well, the youngest daughter of the King of Kings of Rasilan is a very refined match for her, regardless of her personal behaviour... And Drishalras' personal morals, regardless of her bohemian attitude..."

"Are utterly impeccable, and a righteous standard to guide Jhayka," Ilavna agreed. "Very true, Your Serene Grace. So, if they all agree...?"

"I'll speak to them in the afternoon tomorrow, and if they all agree, I'll be waiting at Jhayka's suites tomorrow evening after she returns from her meeting with Drishalras then. She should be quite pleased to have been acquitted the day before... And we know Drishalras will accept, now. It is just up to Jhayka."

"I will pray for her, Your Serene Grace."

"Good. And then be on your way, priestess, so she does not grow suspicious," the Archduchess Leluno dismissed her, though she did so with a smile on her face. Tomorrow the whole matter, including the root cause, would be buried once and for all; and she could only be very happy that, more than two hundred long days after the siege, the matter could be finally laid to rest. If, of course, Jhayka can ever forget the human girl. But I suppose she doesn't have to; after all, Danielle Verdes... Is very much lost to this world. I just hope the heart of my dear misguided friend has not been to much damaged by it.
Last edited by The Duchess of Zeon on 2007-12-19 02:57am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-09 05:53am

Epilogue the Second.

41 Elis, I.Y. 617
20 October 2163 AST.

As Jhayka stepped up and into her suite, she faltered a bit in her stride, and had to lean against the wall. A soft whimper of pain was allowed, for the cybernetics had not fully nor easily integrated yet due to the immense damage her body had suffered, compounded by the infection which had nearly killed her. She resumed the walk, though, patient, and got to the door. Her access code was keyed in, and it opened.

Ilavna approached immediately, which surprised her, and bowed. "Your Highness. Her Serene Grace Jhastimia Rulandh, the Archduchess Leluno, arrived as a gues earlier this evening, and let her in and have hosted her until your return."

"The Archduchess Leluno?" Jhayka smiled tiredly, and brushed back her hair, which she'd coloured lavendar for going out incognito. It would easily wash off with the evening's hot bath. "Here to celebrate, I assume."

"After a fashion," Ilavna answered, and she led Jhayka into the parlour, where Jhastimia Rulandh, the Archduchess Leluno, sat in a relaxed fashion in one of the high-backed chairs, sipping dhpou.

"I don't know, Jhayka, how you can go traipsing about in this abominable weather riding the public trams and taking the elevated lines," Jhastimia began curteously. "Please, it's your home, sit."

"Just a rented suite, Your Serene Grace," Jhayka replied affiably as she moved to sit across from the Archduchess, crossing her legs. Which was a considerable understatement, seeing as how the suite in question was a penthouse suite at the top of one of the tallest buildings in Valeria, lofting one thousand stories into the sky, so much that it's highest levels had to be pressurized, and reaching to the very limits of Taloran materials science.

"What do you plan to do now that you've been cleared of any wrongdoing in the Ar Affair?" The Archduchess used the formal name for the event in the Taloran government.

"Work on purchasing a suitable colony world and arranging the transportation of select groups from the primitive zone, along with refugees from the Inner Sphere, to it."

"You're still set on that project for providing the Warrior Castes of the Clans of Kerensky with shelter in the Empire?"

"The Alliance would be base hypocrites to try and stop them from leaving, and I owe a debt to Trajan for his sacrifice," Jhayka replied. "Do you really think it would become a diplomatic fuss?"

"I sort of wish you'd discuss it with the Alliance first."

"Well, it will be several years before colonization can begin. We'll see what happens in that regard in the meantime... Unless "I" in this case means the Empress, Your Serene Grace?"

"You don't have the right to answer that question, Jhayka." When one was the friend of the Empress, one had to know the absolute limits to conversation it required.

"My apologies."

"It's quite alright. You've had a difficult time." A pause. "How is the recovery from the combat drugs doing?"

Jhayka looked down. "I can't really shake them right now. Ilavna has done much better than I have. She simply.. Stopped them for two months, and though she woke up sobbing with nightmares every single night, they've gradually faded away, and with them, the longing for the energy rush, the ability to hyperfocus. I, unfortunately..."

"Feel addicted to them for life," the Archduchess finished sympathetically. "Well, it happens. You control yourself very well for someone under their influence, and... By the time of your breakdown at Ar it was clear that your final instructions and actions were due to feverish delirium rather than the peculiar addiction."

"As the Convocate found." Jhayka smiled vaguely. "We found out, on that operation, you know, that the Alliance doesn't use them. That's one way we have a major advantage over them, our willingness to use chemical enhancements on a mass scale. And our reaction times are better thanks to direct neural interface wetware."

"You worry about them in the future?"

"I'd like to secure arrangements for a lasting peace. It remains to be seen if they'll agree."

Jhastimia smiled vaguely, her ears flexing up. "Well, on to the main reason for my arrival, then, Jhayka. There's a subject I'd like to raise with you. Marriage."

"You know my thoughts on the matter."

"Jhayka, you really need to show to high society that you've turned a new leaf. For all that you've been acquitted... Another flare-up of your social tendencies would push you toward banishment in the fashion of the unfortunate case of Tisara Urami."

Jhayka's ears flattened. "Don't compare me to that lavicious pervert. Especially not from a friend, like you, where they cut deep..."

"Half your enemies in the convocate use the same words to describe you."

"I still won't do it."

"I've already spoken to her parents and the Empress and they all approve of the match," Jhastimia continued smoothly. "Her name is Drishalras Retgariu, Princess itl Fisznal. The fourth daughter of the King of Kings of Rasilan."

If Jhayka still had normal eyes they would have widened in shock as she stared over at the Archduchess Leluno. "Drishalras? Drish? The woman I've been meeting for the whole of Elis in a dingy seaside bar in the Khania district is the daughter of the King of Kings of Rasilan?"

"Isn't it a remarkable coincidence?"

"It's not a coincidence, knowing you and Ilavna," Jhayka growled for a moment, but them seemed to relax, and sigh. "I was just there kissing her less than two hours ago. Does.. Does she know?"

"Her mother, the Grand Duchess of Ilumai, is bringing her over right now, to let the two of you talk in private. She is an exceptionally moral girl, who achieved the rank of Captain in the navy by considerable skill and effort, and seeing as her title is simply a courtesy title, she's professional military... And a suitable match for you as the head of a household like you are. Her moral rectitude is so extreme that she's never taken a lover once in all of her twenty years..."

"She's young enough to be my daughter...."

"So were both the other major lovers in your life."

Jhayka froze, and stood up. "I won't forget Danielle."

"Nobody is asking you to forget Danielle. Nobody is asking you to forget Lashila, and she tried to murder the Empress! We're just asking you to end the egregious behaviour which has turned you from one of the most respectable and noble members of the Convocate into the lead of a serial adventure in a tabloid. Drishalras is an extremely pious girl, a competent naval commander, and exclusively attracted to other women. Her father was the head of the faction in the Convocate which got you acquitted, and he likes you personally.

"And she's just your type, in terms of her body shape.. Which has left her unwanted by others to a certain extent. You've charmed her, and until tonight she fancied herself in some situation of hopeless, unrequited love which could never be morally consummated. More to the point, though, she'll be there for you. You're used up, Jhayka. You nearly destroyed yourself outside of Ar. You need someone who can nurse you back to health emotionally in the same way that Ilavna has done so physically. You need someone who can be there for you when you're crying and going mad for a while from finally getting off those drugs. You need someone who won't be angry if you wake up calling for the name of another lover, but instead understand where it comes from and embrace you."

"You set me up." Jhayka turned back. "Your Serene Grace, with all due respect... You set me up."

"Yes. I did." Jhastimia's look was entirely to cheerful. "And I'm sure the two of you will fall in love with each other very quickly after being married. Even if you don't, the relationship has far, far too many practical benefits. It is as likely as good a one as you shall ever get."

The door opened. A tall woman with purple hair and an old set to her face stepped in, dwarfing considerably the smaller and slightly plump younger Taloran woman, who, nonetheless, bore a slight familial resemblence. The younger woman was dressed in her naval uniform, and her eyes were very wide as she saw the Empress' close personal confidant and the woman she'd be calling Herrinda as she spoke with her earlier that eve talking to each other in the parlour.

"Herrinda?!" She ran to the edge of the room but stopped, bowed, and murmured an apology: "Forgive me, Your Serene Grace..."

"No need to worry, Drishalras. Some emotion is needed right now..."

Jhayka looked up, taking in the scene with her cybernetic eyes. "Ah.. Sorry, Drish. But I couldn't tell anyone. I needed to be away from.. Everything, after the long days of the hearings."

"And I've never wanted it," Drishalras replied. "It feels so strange for someone who lives in a transient apartment to be... In love with one of the six richest women in the Empire."

"So it is love on your part."

"Oh yes. I just thought you were common-born, an enlisted soldier, and...."

Jhayka strode over to the younger, shorter woman, and reached out to put an arm on her shoulder. "Let's go talk in private for a moment," a pause.. "If the illustrious presences would allow it?"

Mother and matchmaker alike nodded their assent, and the two left for the kitchen, where, leaning back against a counter, Jhayka looked very intently at Drishalras for a long, silent moment. Then she spoke:

"I'll never forget Danielle Verdes. I have forgotten Lashila. She betrayed me. Danielle... Was permanently crippled, her mind destroyed, fighting for the cause I had chosen, out of love for me. I--she will always be more important in my heart than you will be Drishalras. But I want you anyway... And I'm not sure how I can possibly expect anything from you in return now that I've said that."

"Will you make love to me? Will you contribute your genes for our children? When you cry and think about her, will you let me hold you and comfort you? Will you be faithful? Will you let me heal the wounds I saw in your soul already? Will we ride the hunt together, and be as lovers before the world, and do good by your people?"

"Yes, I can do that."

Drishalras stepped forward, clasping her hands over Jhayka's, crying in the tearless way of a Taloran, and then grabbed the other woman and pulled her in tightly against herself. "I'm tired of being alone. As long as you swear to never leave me alone, not for all eternity, I will give myself to you knowing full well I shall always have second place in your heart. Marriage is about more than being soulmates, that's irrelveant. It's about... Correcting deficiencies in two families and two individuals, Jhayka. And that's what you do for me; can I do that for you?"

The hoarse whisper that came back was in the affirmative. Jhayka, as the head of the household, forced herself on, though. "Will you marry me, Drishalras?"

"Yes, of course."

"Then it's settled."

Arm in arm they returned. Drishalras' mother saw it first, and stopped them, looking for a long time with accusing red eyes toward Jhayka, studying her intently and thoroughly. At last, she spoke: "I don't really trust you, Jhayka of the Lesser Intuit. But you're likely the only suitable match to ever live in my daughter's time who will make her happy, so eccentric and free a spirit as she has. So I will take it on faith. But never fail her."

"I swear it, good lady." She faced them all. "It is settled. We are engaged. Let the contracts be drawn up, for a wedding in the coming spring."

Ilavna, watching in the background, turned away and began to sob in relief, and with the immense pent-up stress of the last three months, of trying to cope, and hoping to see her liege through the hearings in the Convocate. She wondered if now that the past was wholly buried and laid to rest... If Jhayka's chance for a normal life... Meant that the nightmares would stop. She doubted it; but for the humble and brave girl, Jhayka's happiness made it worthwhile to bear through them, and hold a steady course. Someday the path ahead would clear, and the future would be bright for them all.
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Post by Steve » 2007-06-09 11:41am

Epilogue the Third

Kalunda, Gilead
50 Ojhwa, I.Y. 617
23 March 2163 AST
Local time – 16 January 2842

It was quiet around the ruins of the Royal Palace, with rebuilding not yet scheduled and most of the population living in the emerging city of tents and prefab buildings that the intervening powers had moved in.
Quiet save for the quiet giggling coming from the small patch of surviving grass placed in the garden, where a sole sleeping bag had been placed. Inside the sleeping bag, Sara Proctor and King Julio were kissing warmly, years of solitude already expended in intense, passionate love-making under the stars that they loved so much. Their bodies were covered by the bag, save from the shoulders and arms up, and as their kissing ended and the giggling resumed, Sara pointed her bare arm upward. "And that," she said, indicating a twinkling star far to the west, "is Scathford. It's a pretty planet, really..."
"Mmhmm," Julio said, kissing Sara on the neck as she looked upward, a contented smile on both their faces.
"I think that is Illustrious," Sara continued while feeling Julio's hand creeping around her hip. "Mmm, Julio, I'm really tired. Please don't do that."
"Do what?"
"Touch me there," Sara giggled.
"Ahhhh...." Julio brought his arm back up and kept his arms embraced around Sara's ribs, his hands holding her just below her breasts. "And you're going to fly me to them?"
"Every single one," Sara promised.

After a moment of silence, Sara turned and the two lovers looked each other eye to eye. "Do you know what I have realized, Sara?"
"Love is what saved Kalunda."
"Really?" Sara kissed him on the cheek. "Well, please explain."
"Our love saved it, and Princess Jhayka and Danielle's love for each other saved it again. The love of two people, bound by souls and not physical lust, saved Kalunda, a city and people that, I will admit, are very big on lust."
"Oh, you can say that," Sara replied. "But, that is interesting. Are you becoming a poet on me, Julio?"
"I try, my dear, I try..."
The two lovers held onto one another closely until they fell asleep, the starlight shining down upon them.

A few hundred miles away, in the territory of the Zhai, a bedroom in their palace remained lit under romantic candlelight as William Heresford and Mei Li held onto one another tightly, their young bodies pressed together in lovemaking every bit as intense, as passionate, as that shared by William's grandmother and her lover in far away Kalunda. The two teenagers reveled in their love, moaning softly at the pleasure until it ended, as it always must.
Fatigued, but not exhausted, they laid upon Mei Li's bed and kissed closely. "I must return home soon, you know," William said to her as his lips met her's again, his palm gently rubbing one of her pert breasts. "I have obligations."
"And I have my own," Mei Li admitted after another kiss. "But obligation does not mean we must remain apart, William. There will be times we can see each other again."
"Yes, and I intend to make use of them."
"Then, one day, when we are certain, we can go further." Mei Li smiled at him. "I will bear children by you, and they will be healthy and strong, beautiful daughters and handsome boys all."
William nodded at that. "I would like that."
"Until then, William, for every moment we will be apart, let us make our moments together more enjoyable." Mei Li kissed him closely, and with the scents in the air still sweet, they began to make love again.

Kalunda, Gilead
40 Elis, I.Y. 617
19 October 2163 AST
26 August 2842 CON-5 Calendar

The shattered, triumphant city was healing itself slowly, rubble and corpses cleared away to make room for the rising towers and buildings of the new Kalunda, being built almost entirely by Princess Jhayka's fortune as a point of honor, with most of the aid money granted Kalunda from external sources going toward her citizens.
Kalunda was still to be the mix of old and new. Old Kalunda was swiftly becoming an island of classical beauty, the Greco-Roman architecture of the Royal Palace and the environs being restored with the restoration of the art works that had been kept underground during the siege.
Around Old Kalunda, towering skyscrapers were being built as massive, Taloran-style apartment complexes for the tremendous population of Kalunda, much of which was living in bland prefab housing just outside the city beyond the old battle sites of the siege, and which had in fact grown with the influx of people from the devastated countryside and freed women and slaves from the Norman territories. Factories and other commercial buildings were being restored by constant labor, which aided in employing the people of Kalunda in the cause of restoring their home.

Alongside the river, the surviving boats of Danielle Verdes' triumphant fleet were kept in berths of honor, to act as memorials for their lost sisters and the crews who died upon the river, which was now clean again and safe for leisure swimming, as many locals and visitors alike did every day.
The bridges were intact again, allowing for easy travel between the two halves of the city, and one in particular was being held back from opening as architects sought final approval for a suitable memorial to Trajan Osis and his final stand. Another memorial, commemorating the siege and the arrival of the relief forces, was being planned, and already the flags of the relieving powers flew proudly over the planned site, the flag of Kalunda flying beside them at equal dignity, a testament to the success of the Kalundans in proving their place to the rest of the Multiverse.
In some of the streets, there was still chatter, and cleanup was finishing from the previous day's festivities, the royal marriage of Prince Kevem Kalundius, grandnephew of King Julio and his designated heir, to the beautiful young Queen of the Zhai, Sen Xiao Li. The newlyweds had no sooner retired to their marriage bed than King Julio had departed, being given a seat of honor at the forthcoming Worcesterville Summit where his wife-to-be, Sara Proctor, would be hosting the representatives of the intervening powers as they negotiated the final settlement of the Gilead Confederacy and the government it was to be led by.

Far away from these considerations, on a pleasure yacht quietly floating upon the Kalunda River's pristine waters, Sarina d'Kellius awoke from a deep pleasing sleep and stretched out to feel the body of her lover, Helen Carver. The young, tremendously beautiful girl was a veteran of Danielle's river boat fleet, and Sarina was greatly attracted to her.
She let her lover lay asleep, admiring for a moment Helen's nude body before getting up and looking out upon the river and the towers in the distance, allowing the sun to glint off her own unclothed body. Her heart grew cold at the sight of the towers, so alien to her, and a definite sign that Kalunda was changing away from what she had known. The cold also came from thinking of who was paying for those ghastly, soulless abominations.
It was blood money. Kalunda had spent her blood for Princess Jhayka. Harboring her, protecting her, humoring her, and she had cashed in every bloody drop for her own glory, throwing away a mere portion of her massive fortune to appease the people she had put through such pain. Sarina's hate for the woman grew stronger every day, every time she heard her praised, every time she thought to speak to Amber about something and realized that her older sister was still dead, still a victim of Jhayka's ambitions.

But there was yet hope for the d'Kellius line, one that Sarina had not allowed herself to after her sister's death. She reached down to her belly and forced herself to smile, knowing that within her a baby was already growing, created by the artificial processes used for so long by the Amazons, a baby with the DNA of her lover Helen to go with her's. A daughter, a wonderful daughter who would be gorgeous and stun the men and women of Kalunda with her beauty, this was what Sarina knew would come. Her family line would continue, and her sister would be remembered, by the little Amber d'Kellius growing in Sarina's belly.
And perhaps, in time, when the wound grew old and scarred.... Sarina would yet forgive the Princess Jhayka. But for now, that would not be forthcoming.

Near Lootera, Huntress
Kerensky Territories
Universe Designate MWB-32

The farm homestead was bountiful and prosperous, the oats and grains growing here feeding people universes and light years away, the fruits of now-President Robert Dale's policies when he had ruled the former Clan worlds as Military Governor. Ro'takh, son of Kregoh, of the House of Lorakh, walked along the dirt road leading to the Tristan farm, admiring the scenery as he went. Warriors were made strong by physical labor, and what labor was harder than that of good farmwork? Ro'takh was, after all, a man of Boreth, a man who appreciated hardy peasant living and it's ability to produce fine, hardy warriors for the Klingon Empire.
Dressed in a brown monk's robe, Ro'takh stepped up to the central farmhouse, ignoring the looks from the dark and tan-skinned giants around him; Trajan's trothkin, whom he had spoken of so fondly. At the door he was met by an older giant, a man with an artificial arm and leg and only one eye with hair grayer than Ro'takh's and skin darker than Trajan's had been. "You are Tristan of the House of Osis?" asked Ro'takh.

"I am," the old Smoke Jaguar answered. "What is it you want, Klingon? I have many chores to do."
"I was a friend of Trajan Osis, I met him in the great siege of Kalunda," Ro'takh answered. "After all these months I came to see you, because he spoke very highly of you."
An expression crossed the old Elemental's face, and he gingerly motioned Ro'takh to come in. Once inside he was offered a seat at the table, and Tristan brought him a cup of tea. "Trajan left us upon his coming of age, as soon as he had the money to afford his first fare," Tristan remarked. "I bid him farewell because I knew that, out of all my sibko trainees, he was the most hungry to learn the ways of the warrior, and here I could no longer teach him those. Tell me, did he fare well?"

"He met many challenges along the way, Master Tristan, and at one point he believed himself hopelessly disgraced, but I am pleased to say that he found his way. When I met him his confidence was already returning, and he had met the enemies who had disgraced him in victorious battle on many days."
"I see." Tristan nursed his cup. "If only the Clan had lived on.... he would have won his Trial of Position and, I know, would have had a Bloodname by now. If only... But I am rude to let my old mind wander in front of you, Ro'takh son of Kregoh. Tell me..... how did Trajan die? I am told his death was in combat, but little else came in the dispatch I received."

Ro'takh gave a teethy grin. "He died in glorious battle, breathing his last upon a river boat from the wounds he had taken before my very eyes, having slain dozens, perhaps hundreds, of savage Stirlins in a glorious stand at the southern bank of the Kalunda River. He held out until his men had escaped to safety, drawn as any great warrior into the heat of battle, slaying a Stirlin with every movement of his arms! And to save the boat and the men on board from a Stirlin rocket, he leapt upon the Stirlin and took the fatal blow for himself!" His voice rising in crescendo, Ro'takh forced himself to hold back his enthusiasm. "The tale of Trajan is that of a great warrior epic, Master Tristan, and that is another reason I have come to you. As I speak, the greatest opera composer of the Klingon Homeworld eagerly composes a masterpiece worthy of Trajan's epic, and I wish to aid him in every manner possible by recording every detail of Trajan, from his childhood onward. With your aid, Master Tristan, young warriors from around the Klingon Empire will sing of Trajan's life long after you and I have joined him in Sto'Vo'Kor."

There was silence from Tristan for the moment, and a number of his trainees now entered the room, having waited outside with curiosity as to why their old sibko instructor had admitted the strange alien. "My children, this Klingon bears news and witness of your trothkin Trajan," Tristan said. "We shall listen to him, and honor your fallen sibkin, together."
Ro'takh began to recite the full length of Trajan's epic as he had it, and as he did so, a sparkle came to Tristan's sole organic eye. It was not an entry in the Remembrance, but it would be enough; the Clan Smoke Jaguar may be dead, but it's spirit was living on, and in another warrior people the Clan, and Trajan, would find the immortal glory they deserved.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-09 06:32pm

Epilogue the Fourth.

The Lesser Intuit,
48 Elis, I.Y. 617
27 October 2163 AST.

“Are you used to it, now, Rodaka?” The older woman asked to the girl, who was now near to womanhood herself. “Living in this big manor as we have for these past months, surrounded by an alien people?”

“It's hard to get used to. They are all noble-born, this family, all of them the Princess Jhayka's relatives. They accept me... As a Patrician. And that by Ilavna's influence. But it is an unusual position to learn my place, especially because I am between the servants and the family. Though they mostly treat me as they do the priestesses. It's sad that I've not seen much of Ilavna of late.” Rodaka smiled, though. “Yet it is so much better. I'm glad my family's girls are happy here, and have mostly settled in, in the servant's quuarters, and.. I suppose the tutoring has gone better than I feared.”

“Learning the High Tongue is the hardest part, isn't it?” Priscilla Laurentii's experiences there over most of the course of the year had not been tremendously pleasant for her, either. The tonal language which outsiders called High Taloran, but which among Talorans was called the High Tongue or the Imperial Tongue was a derivative of the Ta'ertan dialects of the Imperial family. Despite the best tutors that money could pay for, it was not easy going for them at all.

“Yes. But it's very important for getting used to living normally here. We're... Eleven humans on a world of eighty billion Talorans. A drop of ink in a glass of milk, Priscilla. But I'm comfortable with the place. It isn't as dramatically built up as I'd imagined the tech-worlds to be. Everyone would say that they were soulless and material places, and yet, here we are, living in a manor which was first built before humans grew grain...” Rodaka had already learned quite alot. “No, I don't regret this at all.”

“If you're lonely now, I'm sure that it won't last. There's always traveling to Quesadia or Valeria; both the cities have large human populations. Boys there, perhaps...” She laughed vaguely. “I'm far more constrained in that regard than you. Practically, the Bureau of Titiulary considers me as a pretender to a Devenshirite Grand Duchy to be, in Taloran terms, a Duchess, and that means...”

“Lacking any recognized laws from your own people to be accepted by the Imperial court, you'll limited to marriages of similar emanation just as if you were a Taloran, yes. That's covered extensively in the tutoring lessons that I've been given. You don't much like it, do you?”

“I'm quite happy being General Laurentii of the Lesser Intuitan Army, officer commanding, third reserve of the home corps, and Lieutenant Colonel of the Regular Reserve, ITA. Honestly, I am, Rodaka. The Pretender to the ducal throne of Pranton? No, I'll never be comfortable with that.”

“And I'm not comfortable with my past, either. But it seems strange to be living in this luxurious idle, even if I'm learning. I certainly didn't expect to virtually resume the life I had before, just.. With everything around me shifted and different.”

“Well, both you and Fayza are considered gentry here. With so many servants around it would be scarcely considered appropriate for you to do household chores.” Priscilla grinned, standing up to push at the fire in the fireplace with a poker, and, more flames revealed, added a log to it. Technically she could have rung a bell for a servant to accomplish even that... “Me, I've had to tell serving girls why I didn't need them dressing and undressing me.” A pause. “Speaking of which, how is Fayza doing?”

“Better, actually. She's been studying the Taloran engineering books Ilavna sent to her, and Jhayka's gift of the Dynastic Histories. She doesn't have... Episodes... As often.”

“It's a pity there's no professionals available for her here, but she really has come a long way regardless. Spring will make her mostly better, I think; these long winters aren't something humans are meant for. They prolong depression, if you suffer from it.”

Outside, the rain splattered on the windows. It was a usual stormy night in late Elis. The Intu'itan states were Mediterranean and nearly subtropical in their climate, the warmest region in the whole of Talora Prime—which mean that for nearly a whole human year, there was a very little happening except windstorms with plenty of rain and lots of cool, damp weather in general. They had arrived in the midst of it, and it could get brutally depressing. The occasional snow had actually become a welcome break from the routine, and the prospect of a beautiful spring was heartening.

“Read the news to me, Priscilla?”

“Surely,” the General answered. She brought up a portable datalink and began to peruse what was available, then raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Oh, it apppears that the multinational forces in Gilead have finally come to a settlement. It will be announced in three days.”


“Yes. It's taken them more than half of a year, but they've come to an arrangement. In fact, considering the timestamp on this report, the announcement may have already been made; but we'll get it later.”

“Do be sure to tell when it arrives.”

“Of course.” She switched over to domestic news... After Jhayka's acquittal less than two Taloran weeks ago there'd been a party in the manor, which also doubled as the seat of government for the whole Principality (though the parliament and the regional assembly were 50km's away in the town of Ulasti), an interstellary polity of a tiny slice of Talora Prime, and six colony worlds. It still amazed Priscilla that the government of such a state was so small that everything was housed in this single sprawling building, the courtiers, retainers, and service professionals all living close to the ancestral lands of Jhayka's family, of whom the 32 members counting the Princess who lived here occupied many of the positions in the 'government', which was handled so casually that sometimes tenants would trudge up in muddy boots, straight off the tram which stopped here, and before that, their farms, to file a complaint. Or freeholders coming to have border disputes settled. It was something out of another time.

The Talorans themselves thought nothing of it; but then Priscilla had been amazed to hear that they actually received few cases. Most of them wenty to the minor nobility of the principality, and only in certain circumstances was the authority of the ruling house invoked. It seems that all government here is conducted on the basis of personal relations, she mused for the upteenth time.

What caught her eye next was an announcement being prepared for release by the principality's government. “Uhm.


“The Princess Jhayka is formally engaged the youngest daughter of the King of Kings of Rasilan. Her name is Drishalras. Princess Drishalras of the Coasts.”

“The Coasts?”

“The mainland cities along the eastern coast held by Rasilan. It's a courtesy title.”

“Ohhh. What's her position, then?”

“She's professional military. A navy captain. The marriage will be after she returns from the trials of her new command, a Kalammi-class battlecruiser. She just left to start them... Which I suspect means that the Princess Jhayka is coming home soon.”

“Well, wonderful! I hope she can be happy. It must be very hard for her to do this while remembering Danielle...” Rodaka sighed. “That was such a tragedy for her.”

“The Talorans seem to think it made her into a better person.”

“I know. And that's strange. It hurt her terribly.”

“They're a very funny people, at times. And she seems less hurt than first glance would suggest. Or, at the least, she's found succor. Well, enough of that. Would you like to hear the results of the Quesadia counselor elections?”

“Surely.” A pause. “Though I certainly hope we'll meet this Drishalras soon. I should like to know what she is like.”

“Knowing Her Highness? Very interesting, indeed. We'll see in a few months...”
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-09 06:59pm

Epilogue the Fifth

Central Military District,
Interior Taloran Space.
22 Istarli, I.Y. 618
12 December 2163 AST.

“Admiral on the bridge!”


The crisp whites of the Dreadnought Rikamblid's bridge crew tensed and creased as the youthful Rear Admiral the Lady Halsina, Marchioness of Sapai, stepped onto the bridge and exchanged salutes with the captain. “Captain Ulambric, let your crew be at ease.”

“At ease.”

A moment's pause, and Ulambric offered to the freshly minted Rear Admiral, promoted up to her brevet rank for her actions around Gilead: “Welcome aboard, Your Ladyship.”

“Thank you, Captain. As you know,” she began, pacing the bridge, inspecting it, even as she spoke with the commander. “I've been chosen to command the Red Force for the special Fleet Problem we're holding to digest the lessons of the intervention. And based on her performance record I've chosen the Rikamblid for that task. Our job is to show the line Admirals of the Home Fleet just how much they need to learn about the tactics of the extrauniversal powers.”

She grinned. “And that means this very extended preparation period is the time during which I get to teach you, and all the other Captains and Admirals of the fleet, how to think like they do. We'll be paying special attention to starfighter operations, which the Alliance relies heavily on, so we can replicate essentially a melange of the tactics that were seen in use by the various powers, to.. Inoculate us against surprises.

“Though in theory I should hope that my efforts are quickly countered, as a practical and a personal matter, I intend to teach a sharp lesson, and when the Fleet Problem actually begins, I fully intend for it to be a Red Force victory. We're not just learning lessons, here, we're going to be implementing the best knowledge and abilities of our enemies based on all we studied around Gilead, and seeing to it that the fleet uses this knowledge to make our future operations as efficient as possible.”

“We're ready for it, Your Ladyship. We'll be glad to show up the Home Fleet in more than gunnery and manoeuvre practice, that's for sure. My crew is rearing for the chance to go, and...” A slight laugh. “It will be good fun to play the bad guys for a change.”

“Won't it?” Halsina tipped back, before running a crisp white glove over the edge of a console in a gesture as old as it was stereotypical. But she was gleefully reveling, for the moment, in the role of being appointed the youngest commander of one of the forces in the Fleet Problem in the last hundred years. Whatever else the Ar Incident and Kalunda Relief Expedition had been, it had been very much a boon to her personally, and she was going to use the opportunity to the best of her ability to establish her reputation before the inevitable period of half-pay while she accrued seniority before receiving a proper assignment as Rear Admiral. Going home for that period would be nice—but only with the feather of having beaten Home Fleet in a special Fleet Problem beforehand. And that's what she intended to achieve in the next month and a half. Thank you, Admiral MacCallister, and may you no doubt be repeating the same success on your side of the fence.
Last edited by The Duchess of Zeon on 2007-06-09 08:27pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-09 07:17pm

Epilogue the Sixth

New Avalon,
Federated Suns Capitol.
20 December 2163 AST.

"Just in time for Christmas, our own house," Christopher Richter commented, as he settled onto the sofa and wrapped an arm around his wife's shoulders. Wendy Richter did not look so pleased as her husband as she settled down, staring off into space.

"How are things settling in with your job prospects, Chris?" She asked after a moment.

"It looks like I'll be able to reinvest my money into the opening of another superconductor factory here. The Federated Suns are industrializing very rapidly..."

"That's good, at least." She sighed and leaned up against her husband, eyes closing. "I was given a job offer during cryptography for a private firm in the capitol. It's actually run by an expatriot of the Earth Alliance; there's plenty of foreign investment here in the past few years..."

"Which is why we chose it."

"Yes. I'd honestly like to get back into military work, though. They're fairly accepting of mercenary tendencies, here, and... Well, you know I liked it."

"But there's some guilt there, isn't there, Wendy."

"Damned straight, my love. My own folly damn near destroyed Gilead. And that was my home..."

"Well, the settlement has been struck. Gilead shall remain intact."

"Yes. General Rosario did her bit. I'm amazed she was even able to accomplish it, even with such a.. Humiliating new government. But she knew where to compromise, and where to stand firm. If only I'd never supported Covington in the first place."

"He had to much power for the defection of his Chief of Staff to slow him down. We would have just ended up in hot water. At least Catalina kept her end of the deal..."

"At least."

"You've got to think of the future, dear, that this new world offers us. A new country, where we'll make a home for ourselves long into the future. A future which is growing up around us, bright and prosperous."

"Perhaps. But I'm only used to operating in the shadows and defending the prosperity. And the last time I tried that, I failed; but I'm not sure if I'll really be happy doing anything else."

"With time, you might find employment with the military here." Christopher started rubbing her shoulders lightly. "Come on. Let's break out one of the bottles of champagne and celebrate. No more apartment living, at least!"

Wendy smiled tiredly, and nodded. "But don't get me too drunk. I need some madeira, later on."

"Oh, you and your madeira."

"I made a promise, love. And the least I can do is keep that."
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Post by Steve » 2007-06-11 05:55am

Epilogue the Seventh

Worcesterville, Illustrious
Kingdom of the Devenshires
40 Elis, I.Y. 617
24 October 2163 AST
31 August 2842 CON-5 Calendar

The negotiations for the fate of Gilead had already been finished in Cranstonville, and the decision had been made, somewhat controversially for some, to create a monarchy on the planet Gilead itself and make it the hereditary titular head of state for the new Gilean Commonwealth, a slightly centralized answer to the decentralized mess of the old Confederacy even as it preserved autonomy for most of the old, positive governments and enclaves.

But only most, for the negotiations had also been marred and even placed in danger by such things as disagreements over territorial influences to the vicious Hispanic and Habsburg occupation of the LaVeyist Satanist enclave of central Atlantica, involving deliberate attempts to compel either conversion or flight, with most cases being flight to the Alliance and British zones (where they weren't particularly liked either, but were at least treated better). A handful of crises had actually broken out, both from Alliance refusal to cease war crimes investigations against some Gilean general officers to the Hispanic and Habsburg-backed refusal to require the Integralists to cease harrassment of non-Christian groups in their zones, as well as fights and tensions between Integralists and Alliance and British occupation forces for their forceful defense of Wiccan temples and the like and their arrests of Integralists for violence and other acts and threats against the non-Christians. The negotiations had only been kept alive by the recognized sword of Damocles over the heads of the intervening powers, the fact that the only politically viable alterantive to any of them would be partition of Gilead, which could only cause massive political instability and greatly increase the risk of further incident and even war.

Now that the negotiations were tentatively over, only their ratification remained, and the issue of who was to be granted the new throne. The venue changed with professional diplomats from the intervening powers meeting now in the Ducal Palace of Worcesterville, where Sara Proctor's ballrooms remained active; one held the negotiation table for the day, the other the dinner table for the nightly banquets or dinners where unofficial negotiations and wheeling and dealing took place.

The candidate list was large. Nobles across the Holy Roman Empire, the Taloran Star Empire, CON-5 itself, Universes AGC-1 and MWB-32, many had been considered. Plans were varied, ranging from offering the throne to Kuan Yin Allard-Liao (quashed because of her irreligious beliefs) to a German duke from the Taloran Empire (quashed for numerous reasons, including said duke's hasty message through the rift, upon learning of his name being popped up in the talks, that he had no intention of giving up his home for a "collection of sodomites and heretics"). And after all this time, no suitable candidate had yet to be found.

Now a banquet was being held to honor the arrival of Emperor Alejandro of Hispania after his state visit to Devenshire itself, who acted gracefully and charming to his hostess and to the assembled, even proposing a toast at the beginning to the attendant King Julio and insisting on the toast being attended by the Kalundan slogan and battle-cry "Kalunda Invictus".
The handsome young Emperor now stood with his country's ambassador, Marquis Magarino of Sierra Marietta, getting the ambassador's description of the present notables. The politicking of the assembled amused him greatly.

His attention was soon turned to a surprising sight in this banquet. Standing beside the well-uniformed, handsome Duke William, eldest grandchild of Sara Proctor by the illegitimate daughter she had as a teenager, was a young girl, already becoming lovely at her adolescent age and looking so very much like her grandmother save for her thinner face and blue eyes. "She is rather young for this gathering, Marquis. She doesn't look a day over fourteen."
"She is actually twelve, I'm told, Your Majesty," Magarino replied. "And you would be surprised. That is the young Duchess Sara-Marie, the second eldest of Her Highness' grandchildren from her only daughter. She is a rather exceptional girl, very mature for her age and bright in intelligence, and perhaps the most pious person in this room. She actually reminds me a bit of your blessed grandmother, Majesty."
Alejandro showed no response to the mention of the late Empress Maria Lucia, who would probably disapprove of his lifestyle and his policies given her overriding concern had been to the spiritual and not the temporal. But he did nod at the description of Sara-Marie. At that point, he continued asking about others, and Magarino spoke of the recent decision to shelve the plan to offer the throne to the Spanish Bourbons, one of the old royal families of CON-5 Europe that were still without a full kingdom.
At the moment, an idea occurred to him, and he awaited the next day to bring it to fruition.

The negotiations got off to a fresh, nine o'clock start the next morning, the palace staff serving a variety of breakfast pastries as the morning meal was prepared and the delegates got to work. As always, Sara Proctor sat at the main table serving as the Chairwoman for the negotiations. Around her were mostly aides, with King Julio on her right side and Sara-Marie on her left, at Sara-Marie's request, to fulfill her curiosity as to the progress of the proceedings. At present Sara had given the floor to the British delegate, her comrade Dame Tessa Stuart.
Tessa's Scots accent was refined and carefully toned from her years in Parliament, and Sara smirked at the thought of how she'd used to talk and how it would have effected the people here, but thought no more on the subject, simply listening as Tessa harangued the assembled for shooting down every choice made for the new throne.

When she was done, Sara was prepared to call Marqués Amaviscia, the Habsburg Ambassador to the Hispanic Empire and their senior negotiator, but he merely requested that Emperor Alejandro get to speak. Her eyes narrowed at the development, Sara nevertheless called upon the Emperor to address the assembled.

"We stand in accord with Her Excellency Dame Stuart," Alejandro began, speaking in refined, accented English. "Dozens of names have been considered here and none of them universally acceptable, and this must cease. The peace of Gilead and it's neighbors depends on finding a worthy ruler to inhabit the new throne."
Alejandro's eyes moved over the table. "There is, in fact, a suitable number of qualified candidates in this very palace, and one in particular I have in mind, from a family that has a decades old interest in Gilead. I have in mind a person to satisfy all of our concerns. Our concerns for the peace of Gilead, for the freedom of Gilead, and for the state of the souls of Gilead, all to be settled by one figure. Even those here wedded to mere cynical national interest will find this candidate acceptable."
"And what candidate do We speak of, you ask? Why, it should be obvious." Alejandro's hand stretched out to the main table. For a moment, it looked like he was indicating Sara herself, despite her prior announcement that she would not accept the new throne.

But it was soon clear, as he spoke, that he wasn't pointing at Sara.
"We propose that the rule of Gilead be granted to Her Grace Sara-Marie Proctor Heresford, the Duchess of Illustrious."
There were stunned looks around the room. Sara's mouth started to hang open at the announcement, and even Ambassador Amaviscia looked a little shocked at his ally's proposal.

Movement came from nearby, however, and very swiftly a voice called out, "The provisional government of General Rosario seconds His Majesty's proposal!" Eyes turned to see the Gilean "government" delegate, Ferdinand Marcos de la Gama y Velasquez, standing as well. The thin man was notorious as being responsible for the maintainance of the Integralist Coalition that was the secondary source of Rosario's power, the primary source being the remnants of the Gilean military and thus her actual legal legitimacy.

For a moment, silence reigned as those present fought in their minds to find some reason to reject the new candidate, but none could. A minor meant a Regent, or a Regency Council, that could ensure national interests could be present. Everyone present knew of Sara-Marie's piety, mollifying those concerned about ensuring Gilead's new government was "moral". And she came from a sect of New Plymouth's Church known for it's devotion to civil liberties and even religious freedom, with parents who were murdered by the Leewood regime for their dissent, meaning it unlikely that she would oppose freedom of religion or other freedoms. She was, as Alejandro had said, satisfaction to all their concerns.
For her part, Sara-Marie was looking blankly, stoically, at the assembled as they watched her intently. Forcing herself to find her voice, she only said, with humility, "I am a humble servant of the Lord God. I will follow where He leads me."

After Sara-Marie spoke, the next voice to be raised was an alien one, that of Teralundh, Count of Erasindi, a deputy in the service of the Taloran Foreign Secretary. "With the proposal of His Majesty the Hispanic Emperor seconded, I believe a vote is in order, Your Highness?" He looked to Sara.
For a moment Sara was frozen, shocked by the turn the negotiations has taken. She felt Julio's hand take her right hand, and this movement brought her out of shock long enough to make her fulfill her responsibilities by nodding. "Yes, a vote, then, on His Majesty's proposal to make my grandaught... to make Her Grace the Duchess of Illustrious Queen of Gilead."
Sara's heart sunk when she saw all of the hands at the tables go up.

That night, with the negotiations having ended and the treaty signing approaching, Sara made her way up through the halls of the upper floors and living quarters to the room she knew that Sara-Marie would be in.
It was a spacious bedroom, with two beds in it. The comfortable, luxurious one was occupied by the comatose figure of Danielle Verdes, dressed in a fine silken robe with Sara's family crest embroidered on the right breast.
The second bed was nearby, a simple thing literally brought back from Giles Township. Abigail Proctor sat upon the bed she had used since she was newly-wed, having chosen to sleep here to watch over the innocent woman being kept in the palace while surgeons prepared for the next expansive surgery to repair her damaged brain. In her arms was Sara-Marie, being comforted by her great-grandmother, the supportive authority figure she had known for much of her young life.
"She told me," Abigail said plainly.
"I knew as much," Sara said. "I'm sorry, Momma, that I haven't been around for them as much as I wished?"
"You have your duties now, as do we all," Abigail said, her withered hand gently carressing her great-granddaughter's head as she held it close to Abigail's heart. "Sara-Marie wanted to be a teacher at the school in Giles. She wanted to teach young children how to read the Holy Scripture and to add and subtract, to grow up and marry a carpenter, to bear him many children, and to live simply to the end of her days in Giles. She was the only one who loved Giles that deeply. And now these people want to make her a ruler of billions of people, condemning her to a life under a microscope."

"The burden is great, but she was the first choice everyone agreed upon, Momma. People are impatient, and...." Sara noticed the look on her mother's face and sighed. "I'll talk to them. I'll try to convince them that she's too young, that we have to find someone...."
"No," Sara-Marie said, looking up. She was not crying, looking scared but calmly so, and there was a clear acceptance in her voice as she added, "I know in my heart that this is what God has chosen for me. I am afraid, but God will be with me in this, I know it. I... I'll do this, Grandma Sara."
The statement was simple, but it carried much weight. Sara could do nothing but look down on her granddaughter with pride. "Then we should go tell the others that you are willing," Sara said looking with sadness at Abigail, who affectionally hugged Sara-Marie before releasing her into Sara's arm. They left the room together, leaving Abigail to the silence save for the monitoring machines watching over Dani as she slept nearby.

Kalunda, Gilead
Gilean Commonwealth
42 Istarli, I.Y. 618
1 March 2164 AST
1 Januar 2843 CON-5 Calendar

It had been almost one year to the day that the siege of Kalunda had been lifted. The city's recovery was nearly complete, after months of feverish building, with towering spires built between the residential areas outside of the city core and the Classical buildings and architecture of the rebuilt Kalundan Palace in the core of Old Kalunda.
On the south bank, not far from where Trajan Osis made his heroic last stand or from the infamous Sackon warehouse - still standing as a testament to the ferocious courage of it's defenders during the siege, was the new Royal Palace of Gilead itself, where the monarch being established by the intervening powers would rule over the planet Gilead and, somewhat less directly, over the entire Gilean Commonwealth that had arisen out of the ashes of the Gilean Confederacy.

The structure had been built to house most of the governments of both Gilead and the Commonwealth, though the planetary parliament would meet in another nearby structure being built over the ruins of one of the destroyed factories from the siege, and the Commonwealth Assembly and Senate would be meeting across the river in Old Kalunda in the classically-architectured Commonwealth Building. It had a lovely pair of courtyards, a chapel for the soveregn, and facilities to house the battalion-sized Royal Lifeguard and it's tanks and power armor. Underneath the palace a labyrinth connected it to the Palace of Kalunda and to other facilities and structures across the city, as well as an (incomplete) underground railroad that, when completed, would take it to the Planetary Defense Command bunker being constructed deep under the Henley Mountains.
Within it, in the living quarters almost directly above the spacious throne chamber where a crowd of dignitaries began to gather to witness the coming coronation, Sara Proctor walked through the splendid halls and toward the Royal Living Chambers where her granddaughter was being prepared for her great moment. She found the room, with two young Kalundan girls of Sara-Marie's age serving as handmaidens to help dress her in the regal attire she was to wear for the ceremony.
The girls were in the receiving chamber, a well-furnished living room, in their own formal wear and looking very carefully toward the actual bedchamber. They saw Sara and cowed a little, out of respect and a bit of fear that they had messed up somehow. She smiled at them and nodded, moving past them and into the bedchamber.

Sara-Marie was only half-dressed, in the silken vest and trousers over which would go the layers of formal robes. She was on her knees at the bed, her hands clasped together as if in fervent prayer with her head bowed and her face not visible. Her weeping filled the room. Sara walked quietly up to her and sat on the floor beside her. "Sara-Marie?"
When the thirteen year old's face looked at her, Sara could see the plentiful tear streaks on her eyes and the forlorn, terrified expression on her face. Here, in private, with the moment upon them, she had shed the stoic and humble quietness toward her new position and revealed what was within; a frightened girl, just now a teenager, who's heart was set upon a quiet and happy farmhouse in Giles and not a grandiose palace in the majestic metropolis that Kalunda was becoming. She had come to this final step, and here her step had finally faltered before the enormity of what was about to happen.
Sara allowed Sara-Marie to embrace her and bury her face against her left shoulder, her sobs drawing tears from Sara's eyes as she embraced her homesick granddaughter tightly. "Shh, it's okay Sara-Marie.... It's okay..." Her right hand felt the back of Sara-Marie's head, mussing up her carefully-prepared hair.
"I want to go home," Sara-Marie cried. "I don't want this, I want to go home...."
She continued to sob in Sara's arms. "I know," she said quietly, even as she knew that time was growing short for the coronation, and in these matters, even the slightest delay could be taken the wrong way. "It isn't fair, what they've done to you, my dear Sara-Marie. It isn't in the slightest fair."
"Oh God, please let me go home. Please, Lord, have mercy." Sara-Marie's cries became a bit louder now, given she had someone to hear them other than the Almighty she believed in with all her heart. "I want to go back to Giles. I want to go back to the farm. I don't want to do this, I can't do this, I can't do this Grandma..."

Finally, the anguished sobs drove Sara to pull her head back and look Sara-Marie face to face. As tears streamed down her own eyes, she wept, "I used to cry that every night, Sara-Marie. For years, all I wanted to do was go home." Putting a hand on Sara-Marie's tear-streaked left cheek, she said, "I don't want you to be unhappy like I was. If you want it, I'll end this. I'll go right now and tell them that you're not going to sit in that throne, that you're going home, and then I'll take you straight to the Fabian and fly you and Momma right back to Giles." Knowing full well what trouble that would cause, the scandal, the political crisis, Sara found that when measuring it against her love for this sweet girl, her failure to come back for her mother and their entire family, she didn't give a damn at all about what would happen. In her heart, she rejected whatever duties others might have claimed she had to make her granddaughter take this throne handed over to her, and opted to wisk Sara-Marie away to Giles where she would be happy for the rest of her life.

And there was a look in Sara-Marie's eye as her sobbing subsided, if only slightly, while the tears kept coming. "You... what would they..."
"They can all burn for all I care, all of them. You are what is important to me, you and our family. I.... " At this moment of truth, Sara's sobs matched those of her granddaughter. "If you ask me to do anything, Sara-Marie, I will. If you want to go home to Giles, I'll take you. If you want all of us to go home, I'll bring the children and I'll relinquish the titles they gave me. I'll even get rid of the Fabian, and we'll live for the rest of our lives back in Giles, going on picnics on the Sundays after Church is over and the chores are done, swimming in the river..."
Sara-Marie shook her head. "I... I can't do that to you, Grandma Sara, it's not right..."
"You deserve to be happy, Sara-Marie, and I will give up everything to make you happy. Everything."

Though the tears remained in her eyes, something seemed to come over Sara-Marie. Her face grew calm and her fear, her terror, gave way to a strange serenity, a peace that seemed heavenly as she stood to her feet before her sobbing grandmother, torn by her own guilt and pain of loss and wanting to end the suffering of her family. "Thank you, Grandma, thank you. But... I.... God has chosen me for this duty. I cannot forsake it."
Sara just looked at her granddaughter, her heart's burden lifted at seeing how well Sara-Marie was recovering, and accepted Sara-Marie's new embrace. The girl continued to speak. "I will take this burden, Grandma. God wouldn't give it to me if I couldn't carry it. He wants me to have it."
"Then.... I suppose we should get you ready," Sara said. She whistled for the Kalundan hand-maidens to return and went to work helping them to get Sara-Marie ready.

At the appointed hour, at the appointed second, the band in the audience chamber of the new Palace began to strike up a somber, regal tune. The trumpeteers played and the crowd of notables and dignitaries remained standing in their places, looking toward the great doors.
They were pulled open by men dressed in the new uniform of the Gilean Royal Lifeguard, and through the doors stepped Sara-Marie Proctor Heresford. She was adorned regally in a long coat of ermine and fur colored with royal purple, the robe covering a smaller velvet robe and trousers with her silken pants and tunic under that. A prominent cross of gold and latinum hung from her neck as a visible reinforcement of her noted piety.
Behind her in the procession was a figure performing a rare exercise of his office. Wearing the simple black dress of a Puritan Minister, save for the traditional vestments of Church leadership, Presiding Bishop Henry Martyn of New Plymouth followed Sara-Marie toward her waiting throne. His part was derived from the fact that Sara-Marie was still, officially, a minor in the Church of New Plymouth, the Church that he was the head of, and given the religious foundation of her position it would fall upon him to place the crown upon her head and proclaim her rule.
Behind him walked Sara and Julio, representing her family, though they would move to the side when they arrived at the front and stand with the other Heresfords and Abigail Proctor as the coronation proceeded.

The attendants were placed according to rank, save for the space reserved for her family, with the front rank including Queen Xiao Li of the Zhai and her husband Prince Kevem, and most prominently among the figures, Emperor Alejandro I of Hispania, who had come feeling honorbound to witness the coronation of the girl he had thrust the new crown upon. Beside him stood, in full uniform, Catalina Rosario, who would chair the Regency Council that would rule Gilead in Sara-Marie's name until she turned eighteen. In effect, she would actually be Regent, but her autonomy in the position would not be complete and, in a year's time, it would rotate to another on the Council, a businessman with Slavian connections, and so on every year.
All eyes were on Sara-Marie, who with rigid discipline walked forward, her eyes barely blinking at times and focused forward upon the golden throne, a cross placed upon it's velvet-lined back. In time to the music, every step deliberate as she had been trained in for months, Sara-Marie arrived at the throne and sat upon it carefully. It was actually not very comfortable, and could only give comfort if she sat with back rigid, which had been the purpose of the design.
The procession having ended, Henry Martyn stood to the side and asked the assembled to bow their heads in prayer. He recited the Lord's Prayer, and then added to it with his own, asking the usual by imploring God to bless Sara-Marie and her reign with longevity, wisdom, happiness, and health.
When the prayer was over, a teenage girl stepped forward. Sara looked in some surprise as she recognized her; it was Magdalena, the slave-girl she had found crucified in Thentis, having fully recovered and with her body healed from the Norman abuses against her. Clad in formal silks and robes and with a cross as equally prominent as Sara-Marie's, Magdalena bowed before the throne and presented the crown and sceptre fashioned for the new monarch upon the velvet pillows she had been carrying.
Henry Martyn took up the crown carefully, a hand on each side in carefully rehearsed fashion. It was golden, with inset rubies, amythests, and sapphires, with latinum crosses inlaid at the four cardinal points. The sceptre was similarly adorned with crosses and Chi-Rhos, the designers having clearly gone a little too far in reinforcing the religious foundation of the monarchy being established here.

Henry Martyn stepped up with the crown to the throne, and Sara--Marie remained still as the crown slid down almost to her temples, it's weight uncomfortable upon her head. With a booming voice, the war hero of New Plymouth - ironically as the enemy of a number of the nations represented amongst the assembled - declared, "With the authority of the Church, granted by Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Heavenly Father, I proclaim you to be Queen of Gilead."
He stepped away and looked outward at the assembled, proclaiming in loud voice, "All hail Her Majesty Queen Sara-Marie, By the Grace of God Queen of Gilead, Sovereign of the Gilean Commonwealth!"
"Long life and health to Her Majesty!" a voice boomed first, and the crowd took up the cheer.
Few could see as a lone tear appeared at Sara-Marie's face, her heart and soul heavy with the great weight upon her shoulders, but she sat perfectly still, and allowed for the ceremony to continue to it's inevitable conclusion.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-13 06:14am

Jinimani Bay, Ytalla Island,
World Ocean of Talora Prime.
42 Istarli, I.Y. 618
31 December 2163 AST
(note-to synch slightly differing day-lengths the Taloran calendar "skips" ahead one day per each Taloran year viz. the human calendars.)

Left off of traditional Taloran maps for a vast length of time, Ytalla Island had a mysterious past. The continents of Talora Prime were clustered together, only fairly recently having separated. The great sub-continents of Ghastan Island, the size of India and immensely fertile, and the low-lying "Great Reef"--a jagged subcontinent which had once been formed by an aggregation of volcanic islands at the very beginning of the planet, but were now worn into a great desert of volcanic sand which the early Talorans had colonized with incredible tenacity--were the most distant lands imaginable; because of the insularity of the great powers, they were not discovered until the very edge of the steam age, when simple, coast-bound galleys gave way to true sailing ships. Kavarae's Ring had only been discovered decades later, in response to piracy; but it was Ytalla Island which awaited the longest discovery.

Talorans were drawn to efforts at records, like others. The Honaki Islands, for instance, were discovered during a series of expeditions which ultimately also found the southern polar continent. They had actually discovered the islands which would yield to Ytalla in an incredible expedition of hardy north-sea fishing boats, more suited than the thin galleys of the great fleets to voyages of exploration, long before the steam age. Touching at the island of Ulstan in Kavarae's Ring without exploring the extent of the Ring, they had sailed ever westward, through an immense ocean dotted by coral reefs and atolls, and the occasional immensely volcanic island chain rising from a hotspot. The commander, a seawoman of humble origin from Lelola Colenta named Mrinia, pushed her crew on relentlessly until, at last, they sighted, north of the equator, an immense chain of volcanic islands stretching north for as far as they could press. Mrinia would never know it, but if she had turned to the south she would have discovered another subcontinent.

It was an immensely long and narrow continent, slightly smaller than Earth's Australia, and strangely similar in shape and size to Zealandia, the submerged continent of which the North and South Islands of New Zealand are vast plateaus. Likewise, thanks to continental drift, this little chunk of a continental plate was torn between the two vast oceanic plates which made up the great eastern ocean, and thereby featured immense volcanism. To the north and south along the meeting-place of the two oceanic plates a chain of islands had been thrown up.

These had been colonized by the lifeforms of Ytalla itself, which were separated from the beginnings of life on Talora Prime almost immediately. They resembled nothing of the rest of the life on the planet; their evolution had favoured six-limbed creatures rather than quadrapeds on the higher orders, and much of the flora and fauna was quite poisonous. Ytalla itself, though, had been colonized by Talorans in ages past, moving on simple reed boats from atoll to atoll until they had arrived at the verdant yet often lethal paradise of Ytalla. Unlike in many similar periods in human history, on Talora Prime, this lone outpost of another evolutionary path fought back, and fought back hard. Hexapedal pseudoreptiles twice the size of Komodo dragons found Talorans an acceptable prey, and it is a testament to Intelligence that the stone-age peoples who found the great island-continent did not simply survive, but ultimately thrived in constant conflict with the land, and spread up and down the Rift chains as well.

Mrinia, her crews having several disastrous encounters with cunning natives and strange beasts alike, named them unflatteringly the "Islands of Deception", and sailed on to complete the first circumnavigation of the globe.

All things come to an end. The Lelolan branch, stuck with the minor prize of Kavarae's Ring while the Midelans claimed the gravely misnamed Great Reef and warred with Dalamar for control of the Honaki islands, and the Grenyans grew rich off the great fishing runs of the far northern polar seas, and built a second southeastern fleet to vie with Rasilan (anciently Rasilar) for control of Ghastan Island, which they ultimately won, sought out the islands of the Great Ocean as a consolation prize. Following the charts of the great explorer Mrinia, they seized countless minor islands; they reached the clashing of the tectonic plates, the volcanic islands above them, and attempted with revolving-cannon and steamship what Mrinia had not bothered.

It proved profitless until one day a steam sloop-of-war blown south in the midst of a tremendous storm sighted mountains and mountains rising up and out of the sea. No mere island, it stretched on into the mists, and tacking to the east they skirted it until landing at a small bay, they were able to trade with the natives for wood to replace the coal exhausted from the bunkers by the battle with the storm, and erected a cairn claiming the land in the name of the Great Queen of Lelola Colenta. They named the island Ytalla, which in the genesis tongue of Lelola Colenta meant a high land plunging down to the sea, a true enough description.

This had not stopped Rasilan from seizing about half the island; one of the two great north-south Fjords where the volcanic action had sundered the northern part of the continent into three mountain chains with deep water between them, with their exit-points on the northern shore, served as the boundary line; the westerly of the two was entirely in the hands of Rasilan. The native wild-life and the natives themselves fought back with incredible hardiness, the natives, used to fortifying their villages against the hexaped predators of the island, quickly learning how to modify their earthenworks for the maximum effectiveness against cannon and dig trenches in which they could take cover while sending flights of obsidian-tipped arrows on high trajectories at any attackers.

Ultimately the fighting had ceased; the creatures were preserved for the sake of the Hunt, the peoples were overwhelmed and converted as the others had been, the last resisting pagans on Talora Prime. Settlers had flooded in and cultivation had begun. But most of the land was preserved in a premieval state.

At the very end of the westerly Great Fjord, to be navigated with exceptional care as volcanoes might thrust themselves in violent eruptions out of the water at any time with the speed of Young Krakatoa, or annihilate themselves the same, the fjord terminated in a vast escarpment, a volcanic upthrust straight out of the ground, mixing the bizarre basalt formations of Devil's Tower with the shape and magnitude of Table Mountain. It had eroded enough that it was covered in verdant wildlife, and at the top, the King of Kings of Rasilan had built an immense hunting lodge, connected by three cog railroads which had to ascend at up to 48% grades to the top. One reached the verdant valleys to the south, an immense hunting preserve; one went to the east, to the harbour of Ilurani, and one went to the north, plunging straight down to the sea where a private cove of deep and pure water, with a great waterfall crashing down into the turquoise sea, held an extension of the lodge, a series of bungalows dipping into the water.

And it had all been a gift to the battered war hero, Jhayka, and her wife Drishalras, by Drishalras' father the reigning King of Kings. To be held in common between them for their lifespans, before it would revert to the Retgariu, as a sign of his esteem for Jhayka and the fact that he dotted over his youthful and eccentric daughter.

It was here, in a small and private ceremony, that they had been married, the moment that Drishalras returned from her command's gunnery trials. And it was here that they had spent the sixteen days of their honeymoon, which now came to an end. They had ridden in hunt against Kralish-beasts and swum naked under the light of the Distant Sun and the little moons in the depths of the night. They had made love in a dozen different beds all within the same palatial complex; they had dined on the meat of their kills, which had to be cut and prepared in special ways to avoid poisoning the diners; and generally, Jhayka had flung herself to Drishalras with the need of the drowning.

Despite all the perfection, each night, Jhayka had woke up sobbing at least once. Drishalras knew why; Jhayka had promised not to use the combat drugs to which she was addicted during the honeymoon. And the loyal girl held and comforted Jhayka through it all, understanding. But there was more than that, she had come to realize. She had guilt. Guilt over their relationship. They had both been pushed into it, and fast; the arrangements and the contract stipulated permanency, and there was a definite air about it.. That Drishalras' role as Jhayka's wife was really to be her keeper, to make sure no dramatic political escapades took place again.

But she was going to love the woman, too, as she had promised; and Drishalras spent those sixteen days piecing together the bits of Jhayka's soul. It was like a rush job with some superglue, all things said, though it was expressed from the very depths of her heart. At last, on the evening of their last full day together--late the next evening she would leave to report for her first tour of duty as a Battlecruiser Captain--Drishalras approached, dressed immodestly in a short robe, and wrapped her arm around Jhayka, who rested against the railing, looking up at the sky where the towering mountains obscured the sunset and the clouds in the air lent it a wild tinge, the greenwhite of the Near Sun or Great Sun fading into a myriad prism of colour.

She had to ask the question. "You still miss her very much, don't you, Jhayka? You... You wish she was here."

"I told you, back in Valeria," Jhayka answered, though a tad evasively. "I know my place, though, and my duty; but... At the very least..." It was clear that only Jhayka's immense ingrained self-control, just as Drish had herself been taught, held back the sobs. If she had been suffering more of the detox process, she would not have been able to resist. And Drish could not help but muse if her wife... Really used the need to detox as an excuse to cry. To admit the weakness in that acceptable form that, from the first moment of sentient, a Taloran noble was rigorously disciplined to never show.

"...At the very least," Jhayka continued, "I want to see her recovered, to see her happily with some beautiful human woman... And to loan them this lodge for their own honeymoon."

"Jhayka.." Drishalras ran her hands through the once-again vibrant pink hair. "You know that it is only the will of the Lord as to if she comes back or not. But for what I can help... I promise you that I would have no problem, in such a case, with letting Danielle stay here for months. Even a human year. That will be shorter than my upcoming deployment, after all..."

"Six months," Jhayka sighed vaguely. "I'm going to miss you, too, Drish... Make no mistake of it. I find it far too easy these days to miss everyone."

"I will write you a letter every day, and send it, telling you what I did that day."

"I can't promise the same. I'm horrible about keeping up with such things."

"Well, then, you will get to know me very well... And I will just have to read court documents to get to know you."

Jhayka's laugh was tinged with nervousness. It was true, most of the records of her that existed, beyond the wall-to-wall coverage of the Siege of Kalunda, were from her two great hearings before the Convocate. "Don't worry. I shall write fairly often. Just in an irregular fashion."

"That's more than good enough. You won't stay off the drugs, will you?"


"Well, we'll have ten months next time. I'll deal with it then."

"Thank you, Drish. I was all used up before you gave yourself so selflessly to me."

A rakish smile was offered in return, a familar one which made Jhayka happy. "That's why I'm here. To give you succor. Just as you are here.... To banish my loneliness. And you surely have done so."

"Fly back with me to the Lesser Intuit tomorrow, Drish? I... Don't want to stay in this place while I'm alone. We'll have a grand supper with the family before you leave."

"Agreed." She squeezed Jhayka's hand, and Jhayka squeezed back, before murmuring: "It's not just Danielle. Sometimes I see the ghosts of others. Of the clansman, Trajan, whose memory I shall only give respect to through the salvation of his people; of Amber, forgiving me for her own death... But so sad that her sister is consumed with bitter hate. For me, and for what I have wrought for their people and their lands. One I can alleviate. The other will change only if Sarina forgives me. And standing behind them a parade of faces which like all those before will be buried only with time.

"I owe debts. And sometimes I fear... Sometimes when we've been together, here, in this paradise, that Justice is simply setting me up for my own fall."

"I will suffer, I swear it, Jhayka, before I let you fall. That is the essence of love, and the essence of what I feel toward you." She wrapped herself against her wife. "Now let us not speak of such things. If sacrifices must be made in the future, we will make them together."
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-14 04:10am

(written by Steve.)
Epilogue the Ninth.

Linfield Islands, Illustrious
Kingdom of the Devenshires
40 Rissah I.Y. 618
11 March 2164 AST
11 January 2843 CON-5 Calendar

When Sara Proctor had accepted the mantle of Grand Duchess of Illustrious, that was not the sole title she had been given possesion of, since the rulers of all of Devenshire's component Grand Duchies tended to have many subordinate titles. Sara herself had been granted no less than seventeen, counties and baronies mostly with two marquessa titles.
One of her lesser titles was that of Countess of the Linfield Islands. They were a tropical chain straddling Illustrious' equator, popular for their beauty and bounty of tropical flowers and fruits. The largest island of Charles was actually the size of Wales on Earth, and included a beautiful multi-tiered waterfall - though short - that had been added to the Grand Ducal estate built there centuries beforehand by the third Grand Duke of Illustrious under the old, now dispossessed Repucci line. And it was this gorgeous, expansive estate that Sara Proctor and her newlywed husband, Julio Kalundius, King Julio III of Kalunda and now Grand Duke of Illustrious by right of marriage, had opted to take their honeymoon.

Their wedding in Kalunda had been held only two days after Sara-Marie's coronation, in the confines of the rebuilt Kalundan Palace. Sara-Marie's younger sister Bethany had been their flower-girl, while Carlis stood as best man for Julio, and the service provided by Henry Martyn, who had asked for and received permission to marry them - as he had put it to Sara, "just one act of many we of the Church owe to you for the harm we've caused you".
The attendees had been numerous. Queen Minerva had come, unable to leave early enough to see Sara-Marie's coronation but not wanting to miss Sara's wedding, and Emperor Alejandro had opted to remain on Gilead for the extra two days to attend the event. Foreign ambassadors and dignitaries, as well as the many local people who had been wanting to see it. Sara had gotten to see Sarina again and learn she was happily involved, her belly swelled with the baby girl growing quietly inside of it. It had been a loving, remarkable experience.

They spent their wedding night in the bed that, so many years ago, they had first made love together, and afterward left for Illustrious and the Ducal estate on Charles. The estate was sparsely staffed, which was to their delight as they spent their time always together, making up for the decades of almost constant seperation with impassioned love-making and quiet embracing in the moonlight of the estate's upper floor moondeck.

Their day's activities of swimming in the river playing in the waterfall had ended, and the sun was starting to go down. They sat upon the sun-deck, clad only in white robes, with margueritas on the table between them as they watched the sun go down again. "I'll miss them" Sara said to Julio finally, speaking of her grandchildren and of her mother. All of them save for William had moved to live with their sister in Gilead, accorded Princely rank due to their familial ties and Samuel Heresford, now ten years old, standing as the immediate heir to Sara-Marie.
"They'll be fine. Your mother is watching over them." Julio looked over to her. "Did she sell the farm?"
Sara nodded her head. "She sold it to the Riley brothers. They've sworn that they'll never take the Proctor name off the farm, though, and have promised to sell it back to Sara-Marie if she ever wants to return one day."
Julio nodded at that. "Your grandchildren have that quality of your's. That inherent sense of rightness, of sacrifice. I am proud that I can call Sara-Marie my granddaughter now. She is... remarkable. Did you hear what she said to that Integralist who came to her about Kalunda's people?"

Sara smiled fondly. "Yes, I did. She told him bluntly that if he wanted to 'win souls for God, he and his followers should convert by example and not threats'." Sighing, Sara added, "I'm glad that I could introduce you to my mother, Julio."
"As am I." Julio smiled back. "After all, isn't that how serious relationships start? Introduction to the parents?"
At that, both laughed. They each sipped at their drinks before being distracted by the arrival of a formally-attired butler. "Your Highness, I have a call for you from Doctor Lutman in Worcesterville."
Sara's smile disappeared a little, and Julio knew why; Doctor Lutman was the neurosurgeon monitoring Danielle Verdes' treatments. "Give me the phone, Lewis."
The butler handed her the small phone unit and she brought it up to her ear. "Doctor?"
"Greetings, Your Highness. I called to tell you that the patient's condition has changed."
"In what way?"
There was a few seconds before Lutman answered. "She's awake, Highness. Miss Verdes has naturally awakened from her coma."
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2007-06-14 04:41am

Epilogue the Tenth.

Cranstonville, Gilead
Gilean Commonwealth
44 Rissah I.Y. 618
15 March 2164 AST
15 January 2843 CON-5 Calendar

Catalina Rosario had been dictator of the Gilean Confederacy for slightly more than one year. That was suitable: The term of the Roman dictators had been exactly one year, and she had not desired to make it a life appointment when she had proclaimed it.

The formal transfer of power had taken place the day after the coronation. It was then that the Regency Council took over the reigns of the government, and Catalina had put them down. That had been three days ago, and she had spent the time packing up her belongings from the old Presidential mansion in Cranstonville.

Nobody really wanted her. She had betrayed the Integralists by not directly enshrining distributivist principles in the constitution, as if the free trade powers like the British and the Alliance would have allowed it; she had betrayed them also by letting a Calvinist rather than a Catholic sit on the throne. She had betrayed half the population of Gilead by allowing a monarch at all instead of maintaining a Republic.

But she had not betrayed the nation itself. She had kept it in one piece, and they had muddled their way through, to ultimately place the nation, as she had hoped, in the hands of a family which had done more for it than any of its citizens. She had originally planned on making Sara Proctor herself the Queen; but better than that, her granddaughter, who would in time see herself only as a Gilean, and not so much share her mother's bad memories, while recalling her special ties to the people and the land.

It didn't matter to Catalina Rosario. She was, like so many of the officers of the old Gilean Army, what the Japanese would call ronin. Oh, she was welcome to stay, but it would be politically inexpedient for the new government to give her any post, military or civil, after the record of her efforts and her actions. A comfortable exile in Hispania had initially been her plan.

Catalina, however, was a soldier, and Hispania with its long military traditions had little need of a woman like herself, lacking in titles and with a blighted political legacy. Not like she had much taste for them, anyway, after reading the news:

-- So read the Cranstonville Times, declaring that the Hispanians and the Habsburgs had, in the negotiations, secured control of a vital lane of commerce which nobody realized they'd be handing over to them at the time. A lane which they could use for direct and secure communication betrween their territories, among other things.

The whole affair had turned into a diplomatic masterpiece of cynical cunning for the two nations, and it left a bitter taste in her mouth. How much they had manipulated the events, rather than just seized the opportunity, she did not know, but her plans for exile in Hispania were abandoned.

She would have to leave fast, however; the bodyguards the new government gave to her after she stepped down would only be around for the rest of that month. It was then that, laughing, fate intervened.

The other message she held was a printout of a note:
Governor-General Katherine Davion, head of government here in the Federated Suns, is looking for officers willing to take work in the military forces of the Draconis Special Governate. Consider yourself recommended--you did what you promised, after all--through what power and contacts I have here.

You may think me degenerate scum, but we're both maligned Gilean patriots, and I need company that likes madeira.

Smirkingly Your's,
You know who it is

P.S. General Rulos sends his regards. I am to understand you're old friends.
"Colonel Richter's sense of humour is distinctly bloody-minded, but a job's a job for an old soldier, and mercenaries are accorded far more respect there than here." Catalina sighed, finished talking to herself. Her mind was made up. She'd be drinking madeira with the Colonel again. The tables weren't turned.. But it was safe to say the odds were evened.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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