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Katelle
Katelle
Posts: 27
Joined: March 24th, 2014, 7:44 pm
Katelle

Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Katelle » October 5th, 2014, 8:40 pm

"Captain Ronae’Serrar. You heard that which was spoken over the stone. You hear that which is, even now, spoken over the guild stone. Tinox knew we were coming. The General speaks with the one who is sought primarily by the military, without regard to the Military’s directive.” Her eyes blazed at the woman’s words, but she held her tongue. “The General is obviously not thinking clearly regarding this situation. As such, and so as to prevent further…mistakes…I ask that you remove the guild stone from Katelle.”

“What?! You-“ Her words cut off abruptly.

“For she does that which only two nights previous Rednaxela and Julianaz did.” Zakarnas, dumbstruck and horrified, turned slowly to look at her as he comprehended his Empress’s orders. Katelle refused to look at him until a few agonizing seconds had passed with no movement or sound; finally, she turned and snapped at him.


“Well?”

“I know that which I ask, Captain,” Aerana added quietly. “Yet I do it so that nothing else need be done.” She paused, looking between Zakarnas Ronae’Serrar and Myaka Winterborne. “Or do I err in my assessment?”

“You swore your vows to her,” Katelle told the elf, unable to hide the bitterness on her tongue. He had been a Guardian before, not once but twice, and even in their dealings with the military he had leaned towards Aerana’s wishes. “Now you had damn well better uphold them.” She offered her blue-haired elf her guild and Guardian stone.

Please.

Please do this.

Please don’t ruin your position for me. She needs to trust you implicitly…

“…No, Empress,” was the Captain’s dull reply, taking the guild stone from his lover’s small hand. She ignored his words and looked squarely back at Aerana as Zakarnas stepped away to hand her the small opaque stone with a frozen face and rigid movements.

“When all of this is over,” Katelle said quietly, “you will see that I remain your
friend. And you,” she murmured, gaze turning on sweet, silent Myaka, “will see that I did what I felt I had to do.”

But what had she done?


Katelle awoke as the sun lifted itself into the sky, dully turning her head to the side. Zakarnas’s half of the bed was cold and empty, but she had not expected him to sleep in their bed that night. Her head ached after the stress of the night before and yet she could not bring herself to move.

What had she done last night? She had violated her oaths to Aerana Dantay, but she felt she had kept those she took in service to the Empire.

I swore to defend the Empire and those under its banner at all costs. What was I to do when the opportunity presented itself?

I did the right thing. There is something wrong. I’ve known it for years.
But to admit as much to Tinox Smartgear, her own military’s most wanted man…

She had panicked when she saw him, in full Smartgear Regalia, knocking as calmly as could be on her front door. The door was opened only by virtue of incredulous adrenaline, and words left her mouth a stuttered mess.

”Senator—what—what the Fel are you—“ The aged gnome brought his hands up in a peaceful gesture, getting right to the point.

“General. I’m concerned about the Empress and I want to ask you some questions.” Sharp eyes frantically scanned the horizon. Had anybody seen him arrive? Did anybody know? Were there soldiers already on the way to apprehend him?

“Get in,” she snapped finally, stepping back from the door to allow him entrance. Even to her own ears, the words had less heat than they should have had.

“General, is all well?” Aerana Dantay’s voice, filtering in from the Guardian stone in her pocket, went unheard by Tinox as he stepped inside—but it echoed around in Katelle’s mind like a clarion call heralding her demise. They’d been speaking, mage and rogue, Empress and General, before the innocuous knock at her door. She’d said she’d be right back, but she couldn’t risk replying that everything was alright—or that it wasn’t—without alerting the erstwhile Senator of her efforts at communication.

The General, dressed in soft blue robes that did nothing to hide her pregnancy, shut the door and stepped back against its reassuring solidity. She stared down at the gnome with all the heat that should have gone into her words.

“I am calling the military. You have that long to talk and leave.”

“I’m sorry to pull you out of your bed, General, but this will only take five minutes. Can you give me that long?” Her hand was halfway to her guild stone when he took off his well-known hat and passed a hand through the matted clump of hair underneath.

She stared at him incredulously for what seemed like an eternity. The simple act seemed so achingly mortal as compared to the formidable force of will that was Tinox Smargear.
He’s genuinely concerned, she realized. He’s desperate.

“You pompous son of a bitch,” she hissed in reply, eyes blazing but voice fearful. “You come here out of the blue and expect me to—don’t you know what’s going to happen if I get caught?!”

“General?” There was Aerana’s voice again. “I grow concerned with your absence. Is all well?”

I’m ruined.

“I wouldn’t have come if I knew anybody else who could answer my question, General.” Tinox Smartgear, desperate and in need. She had no choice. It was for the good of the Empire.

“Fine. Five minutes.”

Wasn’t it?

“Thank you very much. I was out of options,” Tinox replied, sighing. “I think there’s something wrong with the Empress. But we don’t know what it is, and we don’t know what we can do.”


There had been a tight knot of dread unfurling in her gut at his words, and it hadn’t left twelve hours later. Katelle shifted to her side, curling inwards as much as her child-swollen stomach would allow. They all knew she was with child now, and those who didn’t would know soon enough—not that it mattered. Not anymore.

Something was not right with Aerana. Something hadn’t been right with Aerana for years. The Senate, as Tinox revealed, thought it had begun within the last year, but she knew it had been longer than that. Myaka, sweet, loyal Myaka, had told her in March that the Empress was slipping in and out of past memories, but it was years ago—two, three now?—that she’d asked Donnelly if Aerana was truly alright. Their empress had disappeared to assist refugees in the Twilight Highlands, as rumor had it, but to the rogue it stank of lies and cover-ups. The aged paladin she held so much esteem for had merely looked at her and said the Empress was fine and it was none of her concern…

Was I simply being paranoid? Was I right then, as it seems that we are right now? Was she more than simply overworked?

“Have you noticed anything? Something we’ve missed?” She looked nervously to the side, weighing her words.

“I’ve harbored suspicions of something being amiss since my days as Lieutenant,” she confessed with a breaking heart. There was no going back now. “These actions of hers recently were not rational. These past years have seen her…increasingly paranoid, I guess is the phrasing I’d use.”

Insisting on acting behind the Senate’s back, on more than one occasion…how many lies had she told to her superiors in the interest of attempting to soothe her friend’s frazzled nerves? How many stories had she weaved trying to protect her?

”Has she acted…erratic in your presence?”

“Not…specifically, no. But—“

“Senator Catori told me she talked to her like she had just left the Empire for the Keepers of the Glade.” That shut the rogue up. She’d never heard of the Keepers of the Glade before, but Myaka had told her Aerana was speaking as though living in a present several years gone by. She wasn’t about to share
that with anybody—let alone Tinox—as it would only serve to undermine the Empress’s trust in her closest Guardian.

“The Keepers of the Glade have not existed for at least
five years, General.”

If Aerana was still experiencing these living flashbacks, what else could she be suffering from? She’d been obsessed with the Vision for as long as Katelle had known her, but her paranoia seemed to skyrocket with every perceived threat to that Vision she encountered. What was going on?

“I won’t impose on you much longer, General. But I have no other leads.”

“I might be able to speak with her,” Katelle stated, staring hard at the gnome. “She still trusts me, Senator.” If she hadn’t heard this discussion already. “But I can’t do anything to compromise that trust, or my position on her council.” Empty promises, because she had already failed. But if not, perhaps there was still a chance…

“Nobody else knows the Empress. Nobody who would talk to me, at any rate. I was already taking a risk tonight, and bringing you one too.”

“You’re damn right you were!” One hand moved to clutch at her abdomen protectively. Her anger left her as quickly as it had resurfaced. “…but it was an understandable one. I know you care for the Vision. I know she’s done some things, like you and Donnelly, to possibly compromise it.”

Her thoughts were racing. She didn’t remember telling Tinox to leave, or making a desperate dash for her guild stone to call her military. It was all she could do to sit there, shaking like a leaf, and attempting to sort out the puzzle pieces before her.


The Senate had a right to be angry when they discovered that Aerana had reinstated the Royal Guard behind their back and without their permission. Every right.

From an outsider’s view, she’d always put such faith in her Senate and in the balance they brought to the Empire.

Aerana had summarily dismissed them, even the innocent ones like Pralea, from their post with claims that they had ceased to serve the Empire.

Had they really ceased serving the Empire and its Vision, or had they ceased serving her?

Donnelly was a fool if he thought Aerana would let him lead the military again, and Tinox was even more a fool for publically stating that he had the ability to listen to the happenings around a guild stone. They were only trying to serve as best they knew, however.

Donnelly crushed his guild stone. Tinox fled with his, rather than relinquish it.

Protective measures?

Was Aerana Dantay trying to consolidate power? Had she come to think of herself as the physical manifestation of the Vision? Were these dismissals her way of consolidating power?

Why else would she react so violently to perceived personal betrayal?

”Where was your Guardian stone, Katelle?” The question was asked after all other soldiers had left her residence, though the Empress’s voice was still quiet. Katelle met the woman’s gaze squarely.

“In my pockets. But don’t you think he’d
recognize someone trying to communicate mentally over such an item? I sure as Fel can tell with some people, and Fel knows I’ve been out of practice long enough that I knew it’d show. I wanted to keep him talking so I could maybe maneuver to my guild stone. I wasn’t about to become a plaring signal of the existence of another method of communication.”

“I see,” was Aerana’s quiet reply. Cold sapphire eyes watched her General with a mist of distance.

“Are you quite alright, Empress?” Zakarnas hadn’t yet understood the ramifications of Aerana’s demeanor, but Katelle was expecting it, could taste it in the air.

“You think I’ve betrayed you, don’t you.” Her words were flat and simple, a statement more than a question. The Captain looked from Empress to General with a faintly sick expression, and as the former’s pale face colored slightly before vanishing under her cool control, the latter’s fears were confirmed.

I did it for the good of the Vision,
she reminded herself. There is something wrong here, and I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner.

“I think you are no fool, General, for a fool would not have lead the military for as long as you have. I will not ascribe to you lesser intelligence than you possess.” Aerana paused before continuing, perhaps to gather her thoughts; Katelle rather thought it was for effect. “Had you wished to contact the Military or myself—or Zakarnas or Myaka—you would have.” As Zakarnas began to look physically ill, the mage continued with a raised hand. “Before you seek to defend yourself: Know this.”

Here it comes. I was right. I knew it.

I did it for the good of the Empire.

“I possess the ability to open up the Guardian stones so that
all might hear what the stone hears. I would not have you seek to make a fool of yourself by weaving more words.” Katelle’s response was immediate. She showed no signs of backing down.

“I never harbored the idea that you
couldn’t,” she shot back. “You’re right, I am no fool. But am I supposed to truly bank on Tinox Smartgear’s pity for a pregnant woman to ensure my safety, or that of my child, should I get caught trying to reach out to someone before I was certain I could do so safely? You know me better than that, Aerana. Do you think—do ANY of you think—I would truly try to subvert you?”

Nobody responded to her. Not her sister, not her lover. Silence reigned in the room until Aerana spoke again, sadness lacing her voice.

“Yet I was the one that opened up the stone. To do such would not have distracted you such that Tinox would have noticed. We would have noted such earlier, had you done so, rather than waiting on my concern to prompt me to do such.”

“You put too much faith in my ability to utilize the mental functions of
either stone in such a way after being so long out of practice.” Her gaze flattened. “I did not say anything to Tinox Smartgear that I would not have said straight to your face, Aerana.”

If she’d been given enough time before everything came to a head, she would have done so by now…

Aerana took a slow breath, the sound breaking the heavy silence of the room. Katelle raised her chin slightly, eyes locked yet again on her Empress without an ounce of weakness in her gaze.

“Yet does the fact that you would say such to my face authorize you to speak to one who seeks out my weaknesses? Who said only a few nights ago that he seeks those who
know me? Betrayal requires not only the betrayal of an Empress by a General, Katelle,” she concluded softly.

Something snapped in the rogue’s mind, and her thoughts filled with dawning horror. Aerana was not one prone to self-absorption, and yet everything that had happened until that point had been a direct result of individuals opposing her.

“He fears for your
safety, Aerana. Anything I told him could have been found out by anyone else if they’d paid enough attention.” Such was fact. She’d been intentionally vague in her words to Tinox, fearing stepping over the line a touch too far, but anybody who had been with the Empire as long as she had would have been sure to remember the differences between Aerana Dantay then and now.

And to let a common soldier overhear her calling Myaka “Guardian?” To dismiss the Senate in its entirety? She was slipping, hard and fast.

“He was
worried for you! For the Vision!” Katelle stood abruptly, robes swirling about her legs. Zak stood with her, slow and silent, and she couldn’t determine—and couldn’t bring herself to care—if he was doing so to help her should she need it, or to protect his Empress should she attack. “I am worried! Terrified!”

“No. I have spoken to you as more than simply
anyone. You are not just another within the Empire, who knows nothing of me! He says such and you believe him? Have you learned so little that you will believe whatever anyone says, no matter what?”

“And have you been so blinded by your own fear that you refuse to?! Open your eyes, Aerana! The Empire is being torn apart by BOTH sides!”

“Such does not give you the
right, Katelle! I trusted you! I called you friend, once! And yet, as soon as one admits his intention of seeking out my friends, you seek to talk to him about me?!”
“He sought ME!” Katelle shouted back. “It is as your
friend that I tried to listen to him, to gain some insight as to whatever has been haunting you for—for—for YEARS, Aerana! And it is as your GENERAL that I listened to what the other side had to say, for I took my vows—“

“As soon as Tinox states explicitly that he’s going to deign to find out more about me, you talk to him? You don’t inform anyone that he’s here? Is that what friend sdo? Light forbid! Then I am thankful I have so few to call me such!”” Aerana interrupted, visibly angry. Katelle continued to talk over her.

“- I took my VOWS to defend the Empire to heart! That includes you, that includes them, that includes the entirety of those who stand under the Vision, and these actions by all of you are destroying them! Are you so unaware of your own self?! People have been worried about you for YEARS!”

“You have the strangest way of showing it.” Both women remained silent for a moment, Katelle trying to keep herself from panting with exertion. After a moment, Aerana swallowed and spoke with a tightly controlled voice.

“I see. You were not acting as my
friend,” she says, emphasizing the word. “You were acting as the General. Know then that I act as the Empress.”

“I…” Katelle paused, wincing slightly and resting a hand on her abdomen as if attempting to calm her child. “The two are not mutually exclusive,
Empress.” Aerana ignored her, turning to her Captain instead and ordering him to do his duty…

Their mockery of a shouting match had been the most emotion she’d seen Aerana show in years, and each word further confirmed what the rogue was beginning to expect. Aerana Dantay, her Empress—but more importantly, her friend—was not well, and it was tearing their Empire apart.

I needed to hear what Tinox had to say. He’s not a threat, not truly. I did it for the good of the Empire. For the Vision. For my friends. It was my duty…

Where had duty gotten her this time? She was a prisoner in her own home, cut off from all communication except her lover-turned-guard and her healer, with a handful of ideas about what may be plaguing her friend but incapable of doing anything about it. Aerana had left Zakarnas in place as her keeper; she would not do anything to jeopardize his position alongside her now. So too had Myaka had forsaken her, returning the key to her personal home—the home built brick by brick with Zakarnas’s own hands¬--before she left with the Empress, hurt and angry betrayal clouding her eyes.

She didn’t understand, but she will. Sweet, loyal Myaka. Stay true to Aerana, because before this is done she will need you more than ever. She will need both of you, as will the Empire. I just wish this were an act I could share with you.

Katelle sighed softly, caressing her stomach lightly as she’d taken to doing since the baby had begun to stir. “It’s just you and me now, little one,” the rogue murmured. She drew breath and began to sing a quiet tune, some loving lullaby she vaguely remembered Ketani singing her as a child.

I will bear this imprisonment with dignity. I will cloak myself in the safety of duty. I will continue to do right by my station, by my Empire, by my family. I will…I will…

The song shook as Katelle’s voice quavered, and tears salted their path down her cheeks.

Zakarnas
Zakarnas
Posts: 5
Joined: March 30th, 2014, 7:17 pm
Zakarnas

Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Zakarnas » October 6th, 2014, 4:30 pm

Gray, somber eyes stare back at him from across his desk. Captain Ronae’Serrar swirls his drink in its glass, ice clinking against the side. His present companion, the normally amiable Lucorone O’Conner, frowns at him and takes a sip from his own heavily watered down refreshment.

“So I saw Olson last night, Zak.” The druid’s tone implies disappointment and perhaps a hint of accusation.

Zakarnas takes a long drink, before refilling his glass with a rather potent variety of bourbon. “And?”

“And he had a really bad day yesterday. You know him, do you really think that he’s going to cause any trouble? He just wanted someone to talk to.” Luc sets his glass on the desk with a gentle thud, before folding his arms across his chest.

“Since when are you and DeLano bosom buddies?” Now the rogue’s tone is the one that holds a hint of accusation. “I think you went to find him after you saw him get run off from here.”

Luc unfolds his arms and leans forward. “What are you doing, Zak? Why are you doing this?”

“You know damn well why. I dunno why you’re asking stupid questions.”

“You’re drunk.”

“I’m not drunk. You’re just being dense.”

Lucorone leans back in his seat again and sighs. “How long are you going to keep this up?”

Zak takes another long drink, draining the glass again. He exhales sharply before he speaks. “You know my duties, Luc, you know my loyalties. It’s getting better. I told you that the restrictions are being lifted a little.”

“Yes, because it’s really going to alleviate people’s unspoken suspicion when a select two or three people are allowed to visit and Kate still doesn’t speak on the guild stone or respond to letters.” Laced with sarcasm, Lucorone’s voice now also holds an unusual trait for him – an underlying bitterness.

“What the fel do you want me to do, O’Conner?” Zak slams the glass down on the desk, hand shaking violently. “I told you that I have to do what I have to do. I’m trying to make it better, but it’s not going to get better with you stirring shit up.”

The Gilnean human sits silently, weighing his words before he speaks. “Fine, here’s a better question. How do you think this is going to end? Because the way I see it, there are only a few different scenarios, and precious few are favorable to you.” Met with only resentful silence, Luc continues. “First scenario: Tinox gets caught, slowly everything goes back to normal, no harm, no foul. Second scenario: Tinox doesn’t get caught, but you realize what a dolt you’re being and open your mouth to defend your partner, the mother of your firstborn child. And the third scenario: everything continues to fester, you do only what you’re told, and people realize that you’re essentially holding their beloved General hostage. How do you think that one will end, Zak? Because I’m pretty sure you will lose a lot of people’s loyalties.”

Finally the Captain speaks up, tone gruff. “You don’t just walk away from vowing to die for someone, Lucorone. I may have different duties now, but I swore that oath twice, swore to protect the woman whose vision formed the foundation of this very Empire. I might not have ever met Kate if it was not for the Empire. I might be alone. I might be dead. I might never have changed my ways and I might still be a less-than-honorable person. Do you really think that I can easily just turn my back on someone who made all this possible, especially when I have sworn oaths in the past not to? The Royal Guards may have died, but my vows never did.”

“Think about what you’re saying,” the druid cautions gently. “Loyalty is important, but I daresay who you’re loyal to is more important still. You’re isolating the mother of your child, your life partner, from her family. She cares about them so much, but you know what? She cares about you more. She could make a huge stink about this, and you’d be in deep shit. But she doesn’t want to get you in trouble. She is unwaveringly, unfailingly loyal to you, and she would rather die than see pain or harm come to you. That sounds like the sort of person you should return loyalty to, don’t you think?”

When Zak next makes eye contact with Luc, his amber eyes are dark and deeply wounded. “And suppose I do open my mouth and speak out against what’s happening. Did you think that through, Luc? Kate got her stone taken away. That has hurt her tremendously, because you’re right, she loves the Empire and the people in it are her family. But this is temporary. Sooner or later, one way or another, this will come to an end, and she will have her guild stone and her family back. But if I make a big deal out of it, what do you think will happen? This may not be so temporary then. I’m quite sure she’d rather endure this than potentially be exiled permanently.”

“Do you really think that’s going to happen? Do you really think people will allow Kate of all people to be exiled? I think you should be far more concerned about what happens when the people find out you’re keeping her hostage, not about what happens if you speak out against it.” His tone becomes more harsh, less forgiving. “What happens if this isn’t resolved by the time the baby is born? You’re going to keep the child that you made together, from a relationship formed within the Empire, secluded away from everyone else? That’s not going to work either. And Brewbies said that there’s maybe a month left. I don’t think you should count on this getting resolved within then.”

Silence is the pervasive quality in the room for what felt like hours. Finally, Zak speaks.

“I told her that I have no regrets, Luc. I told her that I would do whatever was necessary. And yeah, I’m going to protect Kate too. There’s no reason why this has to be such an extreme thing. I can make everyone happy.” He picks up the glass again and drains it in a few gulps, exhaling sharply from the burning sensation before refilling it again.

“… Zak. You’re drinking again. Heavily. Look at what this is doing to you,” Luc pleads.

“Go back outside, Luc. I’m busy right now. I’ll do what must be done.”

The druid stands slowly, maintaining eye contact with Zak. “You’re lucky that I think your heart’s in the right place, Zak. Because if I didn’t, I’d open up my guild stone and out you, right here and now.” He backs away, before exiting Zak’s office.

Zak watches him, a mixture of anger and sadness burning on his visage. He takes another long drink and lays his head on the cool, polished wood of his desk.

I have no regrets. I must keep telling myself that. I must not falter.

Aryanna
Aryanna
Posts: 8
Joined: March 24th, 2014, 2:27 pm
Aryanna

Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Aryanna » October 6th, 2014, 6:50 pm

Aryanna sat in her usual spot in the Stormwind City Cemetery, her back resting against one of the cold stone pillars that lined the entrance to the unknown memorial, marked only with a Lordaeron symbol. She kept her hands folded in her lap, her hood down, the long auburn hair let loose from its ponytail for now and cascading loosely down around her shoulders. She had sought this place tonight in an attempt to clear her mind, to drive out the thoughts that had been running through her head ever since her cousin had stood beside her in line at the meeting and whispered a soft question in the priestess’ ear.

“Have you spoken to Katelle lately?” Her cousin had whispered the question softly as the pair stood in line at the meeting.

“I spoke with her a week or so ago,” she had responded. “Why?” Aryanna had been confused, and also somewhat worried by the question. Her sister had been in poor health and it frightened her to think that Katelle had taken some sort of turn for the worse.

“I went by the house and Zakarnas wouldn’t let me in.”

Aryanna had blinked at those words. She had visited with Katelle just last week and Katelle had seemed fine. Maybe a bit pale, but otherwise she had seemed perfectly healthy. The conversation had drifted after that remark, with Red and Diplomat Skygazer, as well as one of her sister’s more… troublesome soldiers coming to speak with Ketani. Aryanna had stood in silence, keeping her hands folded in front of her, listening to the conversation around her.

It was to that conversation her thoughts now turned. Red had said that Tinox had visited her sister last Wednesday. And as Aryanna sat there, resting against the cold stone, she realized that it had been that long since she had last heard from her sister, even last heard her voice over the guildstone. As she thought about Aryanna felt her hand drifting down towards the small white stone she kept on a leather cord looped around her belt, ready to call out for her sister right then.

But surely nothing horrible could have happened to her. She would have been told if Tinox had injured her sister in some way. Fel, the whole Empire would have been informed had Tinox attacked one of them. No matter what, if Katelle had been harmed someone would have told her something. She was family. But… she hadn’t known what ‘illness’ had befallen her sister until just last week. No one had bothered to clue her in to the fact that her sister had been struggling day in and day out for her life for the better part of a year.

Suddenly the air around her felt oppressive. Aryanna grabbed her bag and hurried for the Cathedral. Tomorrow. She could wait one more day. But as soon as her obligations to the Cathedral had been fulfilled for the day she would make for her sister’s house. She would scorch the hair right off Zakarnas’ head if she needed to, but she was going to find out what was going on. She hadn’t heard from her sister in over a year, and had nearly lost Katelle in that time without even being told. Whatever her sister was going through now, Aryanna wasn’t going to let her go through it alone. They were family. And dammit, family stuck together, no matter what.

Tinox
Tinox
Global Moderator
Posts: 66
Joined: March 20th, 2014, 2:04 pm
Tinox

Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Tinox » October 6th, 2014, 8:42 pm

Tinox leaned back in his makeshift bunk, sorting through his thoughts. The visit to the General had not yielded all that much information in the short time he had, but it had confirmed his suspicions. And the whole expedition had yielded unexpected fruits.

He had paused at the sight. Someone had arrived before him, in the cramped tunnels used for maintenance of the Deeprun Tram, and was waiting for him. He drew himself up. "I seem to have underestimated the Military's resourcefulness for this manhunt."

The other Gnome had saluted. "Brewdin Steelslugs, here on behalf a' S.A.F.E. Can I take ya to a secure location? There's a couple things I'd like ta ask ya but, eh... this might not be the best place ta do it."


At the memory, a genuine smile added new creases to his weathered face. Always trust a Gnome.

"Soldier, I cannot tell you how glad I am to hear that. What did you have in mind? And how are the reclamation efforts going? I haven't been able to do my regular check-in with all this."

Brewdin had answered crisply. "Good. New Tinker Town's safe as anywhere. I spoke with Captain Twistwrench and he agreed to shelter ya in one a' the bunkers." He scratched at his mustache. "But if you got somewhere else..."

He had nodded. "I am headed back to Ulduar. They expect me to hide among Gnomes."

"If you think that's best, it's my mission ta protect ya wherever ya are."

"Mission, hm?"

The warrior had grinned. "As a S.A.F.E. operative, and as a member a the imperial military, aye."

He had smiled back, he remembered. "Soldier, you are a sight for sore eyes. I had thought nobody would see as I see. If you will come along, I won't turn you away. Mimiron does not mind the Curse of Flesh, but he does expect his guests to put in some work."

"Work, I can do."


The following trip had been fairly simple. Both of them were well-versed in the use of wormholes, after all. Once safely past the gates of the lost Titan citadel, they had the leisure to debrief. Tinox had explained the situation and his doubts then.

"This might go without sayin', but they don't know I'm with ya. Left my stone behind, too."

"Will they suspect? Risking your status is a bad tactical move at this juncture."

"Not sure. They might know I spoke with Keithson privately when we first started lookin' for ya, but other than that I haven't been real vocal about my intent ta find ya without tossin' ya at the Empress' feet in chains."

"Well, let's keep things that way. I'll be safe here. Should I have to move again, I'll find a way to- ah, I know." He had stopped there, taken out his notebook and quill from his pack, ripped a page, and started writing. "Listen. In my laboratory, in the mage tower, there is an ultra-safe transporter station. The travel codes and coordinates are written on the back support, encrypted. I will give you the key for decryption. If you use those codes, you'll be able to see where I travel to next, should I do it with my transporter." He had handed over the piece of paper.

Brewdin had saluted again. "Understood. In the meantime, ya want me ta lead 'em down a false path?"

"Not if it would make them suspicious. You hold the key to finding me, Soldier. Do not give them cause to find it."

"I was thinkin' the same. I'll wait fer word."

"I expect nothing less from a fellow Gnome. Word should come soon. We're close to figuring it out. After that... we'll have to see. Stay safe, Soldier. And thank you."

Another salute, and then he was alone again.


Tinox shook his head. He had exhausted his options in the present, so he would have to turn to the past. And he only knew of one place significant in the Empress' past.

***

With enough practice and time, any spell can be modified to suit one's need. Size and shape, duration, intensity... it's all a matter of energy. Tinox channeled more mana into the casting, weaving the magic within the spell's pattern to make it more robust. With a final word of power and a flick of his wrist, the uncertain image in the circle before him swam into focus, showing a tranquil grass area in the shadow of two tall trees. He stepped through, and found himself in the dying sunlight of the Northshire Abbey grounds. He turned back to look at his work. The portal was behind the trees and invisible from the Abbey's entrance. The extra energy in the spell would keep it going for about an hour, he estimated. Best to hurry. A few minutes later, he had obtained an audience with Brother Neals, one of the caretakers.

"What can I do for you, sir?" he asked.

"Thank you for your time, Brother. I have a friend, Aerana Dantay. I've seen her here before. Do you know her?"

Neals smiled. "We have known her for a long time, and she visits us quite often, although now that you say it, I haven't seen her around much lately. Perhaps she is avoiding her chores!" His chuckle turned into a cough and he shook his head. "Ah, but no, she always had a good reason. She helped out more than a lot of others, I remember. Was never much fun to needle, though. If I said she was skipping on work she'd take me seriously."

The Gnome gave a small smile at that. "Is this where she grew up, then?"

"She didn't live here, but her mother lived nearby, and she spent so much time here that it's fair to say she was raised within our walls."

Tinox nodded absently, but soon frowned. "I've come because I'm concerned about her."

Now it was the priest who frowned. "Is it a health problem? I'm not too sure what we could do about that, but should she come visit us, we'll do what we can."

Tinox shook his head. "Not exactly. She's been... distant, lately. And she doesn't seem all there."

"Distant... how? Even as a child, she was never the most open or talkative."

"Yes, that's her alright. She keeps to herself. But she's different now than she used to be. She's become afraid of those she once relied on. And I didn't think her one for holding grudges, but she's been referencing events from years in the past."

Brother Neals gave a weak laugh. "No, little Aer was never one to hold grudges. Why, I remember once, when one of the other children--" He stopped and sighed, looking very uncomfortable. "You didn't come here for stories of her childhood. These behaviors are unusual for her, then? When did they start?"

"We're not sure, exactly. She spends most of her time alone. By our best guess, there's been signs since at least three years ago."

There was a long pause as the man seemed to have an internal debate. After a moment, he rose from his seat and invited the mage to follow him. They followed a corridor and went down a set of stairs before entering what looked like an office. He closed the door behind him.

The stars had started to come out when Tinox left the Abbey, half an hour later, carrying the journal the old man had given him. Stepping through the portal left him back in the steppes of the Borean Tundra, near the flying machine he had left there. With his thoughts still poking and prodding at the new possibilities opening up before him, he got in his seat and fired up the engine.

"Courses of action: wait, interfere, communicate. Wait? Not anymore, past safe point. Signs indicate constant escalation of threat from here. Search status still high, but it can't be helped. Interfere? Crucial lack of support. Can be remedied? Not without time. Communicate? Status interferes. Assets, Catori, Furyswipes, Keithson, Skygazer? Larmont, Steelslugs. Enough to buy time. Content? Need substantial proof. Need concise delivery. Both can be done. Personal risk great. Measures? Distance, shock, authority. Distance most likely. Two possible vectors, safety versus flexibility. Will decide after consulting."

Myaka
Myaka
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Joined: March 23rd, 2014, 4:06 pm
Myaka

Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Myaka » October 7th, 2014, 12:36 am

"What I think is you can't actually mean it."

Myaka was trying to keep the anger out of her voice as she spoke, but it was hard. Ketani Addison had done nothing more than look out for the well-being of her cousin. She did not deserve the dark path that the Fierce guardian had suggested.

Words were traded back and forth, as to how others would respond if the warlock disappeared after asking about her cousin, and then her heart stopped at one sentence.

"You've already established it’s been a difficult pregnancy. Complications happen."

Light, she didn't mean Ketani.

Kate, she meant Kate.

Battlerage surged, so completely and utterly that her heart beat double-time from adrenaline. It roared angrily, fiercely calling for the blood of the one who had spoken the damning words. She snapped out words when the other guardian who had been listening warned the Fierce One from the path he suggested. And the other's response that it was ultimately the Empress's choice.

Light brown eyes now tinted dark turned to regard her Empress, and her friend, the battlerage fumed against the terms. At this moment, the mage was an enemy, a threat to family.

The scales are tipping, you can either balance them, she thought as she watched the woman, or you can let them fall.

The mage was obviously shocked and taken aback by the suggestion and she held up a hand to ask them for silence. The warrior forced herself to be calm—or at the very least to appear calm on the outside. If the order was given… she needed a plan.

She didn't know if she could trust the other who had spoken out against it, how far did his own loyalty go? Her mind flickered as she tried to decide.

Ketani? discard, no way of contact. Combat? Two to two at best, three to one at worst, discard. Pretend to agree? Get there the same time, crossfire dangerous. Could injure the one protecting... consider. Fight, one to protect would be unable to assist if cornered, prime objective. Door is bottleneck, Leon outfly? Possible. Time to cut off entrance if beat them there.

She wondered if Aerana realized that at this very moment Myaka was deciding how best to disable the mage before moving on to the others. She was their main mode of fast travel. All thoughts happened in the space of a few heart beats, long enough for the mage to lower her hand and start to speak. Mya waited, listening to her talk.

I will not cross this line with you. If you choose this path I will break all oaths, all promises, to make sure you do not see this through to its terrible conclusion.

Battlerage simmered at the words spoken, dying down and coiling itself back in her stomach. The scales had balanced, a line will not be crossed, and a dark path decided blocked for good. The Empress had told them on no uncertain terms that no matter what Katelle Larmont had done—or not done in the case of Smartgear—it did not mean her blood, and the blood of her unborn child, need stain their hands.

There are lines that should never be crossed, and paths that should not be explored.

There are orders that can break any oath.
Battletag: Myaka#1873 feel free to add me! If your tag is different then your character name say you are from the sanctum.
Alliance: Myaka(Main), Mervic, Surina, Dundhane(Emerys Dundhane)
Horde: Fleetmane, Kirand.

Resileaf
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Resileaf

Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Resileaf » October 7th, 2014, 8:06 am

*An anonymous message has been posted in several areas in the guild hall.*

When all you have is a hammer, all problems start looking like a nail.
When all you have are Guardians, what do problems start looking like?

Aerana
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Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Aerana » October 7th, 2014, 6:03 pm

When all you have is a hammer, all problems start looking like a nail.
When all you have are Guardians, what do problems start looking like?


Aerana stared at the words until they blurred and swirled together, slithering like black-fanged snakes across the cream-colored parchment. Eventually, she set the note aside, her movement weighted by weariness and laced with despondency. The insidious words heralded mounting unrest and did nothing but further the agitation that had distracted the Empire for too long already. Such was the undoubtedly the intent; had resolution been the goal, anonymous messages would not have been the delivery. Dull blue eyes wandered aimlessly around the empty chambers as she became lost in a labyrinth of vexing questions.

Since when had it become only the Guardians who stood by her side? Did she not also seek the counsel of others? Had not others, pushed away and alienated by the Senate’s smugness, also sworn to stand by her? These past weeks were little but an endless parade of audiences, speaking and seeking others…was she really so alone? Why were the Guardians brought into the light now? Myaka was the only known Guardian and she had done nothing but stand silently by Aerana’s side for several weeks. It was the Military as a whole that approached Tinox and Donnelly, was it not? It was the Military that searched for them. So why attack the Guardians? Why now?

Despite the litany of questions, answers were not forthcoming. Aerana raised her hands, rubbing her eyes tiredly. The timing of the messages was particularly ominous. There were only a few reasons why these anonymous notices may have surfaced now, after all these weeks since the revelation of the Guardians.

Aerana reached for a nearby quill, holding it motionless in her hand for a long moment while she gathered her thoughts. Slowly, she dipped its end in the black ink and, after only a slight hesitation, scratched it lightly against the parchment. She began to delineate her thoughts, carefully noting each possibility and its attendant implications.

First: The Senate.

It was no accident that the inner turmoil of the Empire had not settled over the past weeks. The Senate’s intrigue ran deep throughout the Empire, stirred in part by Rednaxela’s relentless dissidence and Tinox’s disquieting machinations. The revelation of the Guardians had been the catalyst for the Senate’s disbanding and this message was a sharp reminder, trying to drive the knife of division further. The recent restlessness over Katelle’s relatively short absence only made this explanation more plausible. After all, Katelle Larmont had been silent and secluded for the better part of a year, with hardly a word coming from her cozy Stormwind residence. Aerana had ensured that she and the Zakarnas had the leave and privacy necessary in order to deal with Katelle’s dangerous pregnancy. And throughout the long silence, the Empire had easily endured, continuing its daily functions with hardly an issue. Yet now, Katelle had been silent for less than a week and already questions wafted up, stirred by those who worked to keep tensions high in the Empire.

Such tactics likely signaled that the Senate’s preparations were culminating into whatever plan they sought to implement.

Aerana pressed her lips together at the thought, her eyes lingering on the other list of names nearby. Yet, despite the probability of this explanation, there were others that warranted notation.

Second: Malcontents opposing the Guardians.

It was not impossible that there were those un-aligned with the Senate who simply did not care for the institution of the Guardians and sought to discredit them by underhanded means. Why now, though? Simply because the Guardians persisted in their duties? Or were these messages seeking to use the current unrest as a means to stir up sentiments against the Guardians, furthered by the Senate’s incidental agitation? It was deeply concerning that these individuals would seek to use anonymity and the shadows instead of communicating their concerns. Had she not welcomed conversation and indeed solicited those of the Empire to seek her out after meetings or during the week, to answer questions and address their concerns?

She sighed softly, undeniably feeling every hour she had spent standing behind the Cathedral this past week. She meticulously dipped the quill’s end in the ink once more.

Third: …

The tip of the quill hovered above the parchment, slowly dripping dots of black ink that fell to mar the surface of the paper.

The Fierce One had been clearly unhappy. “There is no easy way out of this predicament. There is a security risk on all paths out. Ultimately, the easiest way to deal with it is to make it disappear.”

It was strange that the anonymous messages had surfaced so shortly after the somber conversation Aerana held with her Guardians, where emotions had laced their usually succinct reports and assessments. The confidentiality of conversations between the Guardians and Empress was sacrosanct – a part of the vow that those chosen as Guardians must understand. It would be unthinkable that a hint of it would leak, so that the Guardians’ perspective or input on issues was questioned. As those who witnessed much of what Aerana saw, their opinions and insights were invaluable. She relied on their observations and invited their opinions, as grim as they might be.

And yet…

When all you have is a hammer, all problems start looking like a nail.
When all you have are Guardians, what do problems start looking like?


Was the message a criticism of the Guardians by one of their very own, maligning the discussion held on the snowy slopes? Why else would such appear now, when all whispers of the Guardians had been quiet for weeks?

“What if you did not even have the Guardians?”

Aerana closed her eyes and dropped the quill to the desk. Ink pooled around it but she cradled her head in her hands, suddenly too tired to even blot up the mess.
"It is all a balance."
~Aerana Dantay, Empress of the Twilight Empire~

Aerana
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Aerana

Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Aerana » October 9th, 2014, 10:03 pm

(( Posted for Dracila. ))

Dracila walked up the familiar path, bathed in moonlight, leading to her home. As the death knight opened the door she paused, hearing hooves running up the path behind her, one hand reaching unconsciously towards her sword. She raised an eyebrow as the source of the noise became apparent: a goofy-looking stag rushing up the path behind her, a letter clamped in its mouth. It paused in front of her, waiting expectantly, until the death knight extended her hand and the stag could drop the letter into it.

As she entered her living room she noticed Sarah meditating in front of the fire place, floating a few feet off the ground, the light from the fire giving her cloud a soft, amber-like glow. Dracila quietly sat in an arm chair off to the side, trying not to disturb Sarah. Dracila allowed a small smile to creep across her face as she watched Sarah bobbing up and down slowly. Dracila couldn’t help but respect the woman floating in front of her fireplace, having overcome so much and so quickly. The fact she was able to attain the inner peace needed to practice her healing arts was astounding, and a strong driving force for Dracila whenever she felt herself faltering in her convictions.

Dracila looked at the letter still held in her hand, and taking a single claw she broke the seal, unfolded the parchment and read. It was short and to the point, but still she scanned the letter twice over, her brow furrowing in frustration as she read.

“After much thought and observation, I must decline the use of any of the tactics we discussed at the previous meeting. Such would not be befitting of the enactor's position and stature, and would likely invoke only mistrust.”

“Damned coward,” Dracila muttered as she crushed the paper up and threw it into the fire, watching as the fire crept over the paper, giving it a life of its own for a few brief moments before it crumbled under its own weight and turned to ash. The death knight leaned her back against the chair as she thought back to the night just a few days past when she had spoken with the man. It had been friendly enough, especially given the topic, but she had warned that this might happen. It seemed he was not expecting it, however, given his sudden change of heart. Dracila ran her claw through the groove she had carved in the arm of the chair, a groove that grew deeper and longer any time the death knight’s mind felt troubled. It had grown a great deal in the past few months. This situation required a new approach before it could devolve any further, but she was at a loss to think of one. She was tailor-made for battle, not this shadow game of politics.

She sat there for a long while, jumping from one situation to another in her head, and after a time it became clear what the best path forward was. But she needed intel first. And while she gathered it, she would try to nudge here and there and try to make her open eyes a bit.

Her course decided, Dracila rose silently and climbed the stairs to her room, letting the door fall quietly shut behind her. Now alone, the death knight began to pull off pieces of her plate armor, exchanging the heavy metal for a more casual garb. Once changed she stepped over to her mirror, rubbing at her chest as she moved, the area still sore from the wound she had suffered there recently.

Despite having decided on a course of action the death knight’s mind still raced, identifying problems that would need solved to implement this new course. How best to acquire the intelligence she would require? The obvious avenues were closed to her, leaving precious few for her to choose from. But as she stood there, looking more vulnerable than many often saw her with her pieces of plate mail scattered around behind her, clad only in a simple pair of cloth pants and a linen shirt, the solution became clear: to get vulnerable information, she must make herself vulnerable.

And so, for the first time in a long time Dracila allowed the beast to recede, to allow her human form to take over. It was always an odd experience, and this form was not one that Dracila enjoyed, but the situation warranted it. As the transition passed Dracila stared at herself in the mirror, her eyes immediately drawn to the wound that had slain her the first time, a nasty, jagged scar running from side of her neck to the other. The wound was something that many might view as unsettling, but in this case Dracila found herself hoping that it might add to that vulnerable image, giving her an in.

She nodded, satisfied, and let the beast overtake her again, the weak human vanishing and being replaced by the vicious worgen. She padded to her bed, lying down and attempting something that approximated sleep. It was a long time coming, with her mind running like a gnome that had gorged himself on Fizzy Faire Drinks. As she lay there one thought kept racing through her head: tomorrow, everything was going to change.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


As Dracila returned home, she stormed through the door into the house, slamming it shut behind her with far more force than was required. Sarah, to her credit, didn't flinch as she lounged on her cloud eating some candies, her only response being a simple question: “Didn't go as planned, then?” Ignoring the woman, Dracila continued up the stairs and down the hall, paws thudding heavily, to her room. She slammed the door shut with enough force that the sound of wood cracking filled the room.

Having long ago abandoned her human form, she ripped off the white cowl that had slid down to her neck, throwing it on her bed. She wildly paced back and forth in the room, muttering darkly to herself. The night had not gone as planned. Between being interrupted and not being the most affable person, she didn't think she had learned anything of value tonight. If anything, this blunder may have put more distance between her and what she was seeking.

Stopping in front of her mirror, she looked at her face, disgusted with her failing. She felt a deep growl beginning deep in her chest. It quickly became a snarl, and then a feral roar, bits of saliva flying out in thick tendrils. As her roar finished she launched a fist into the mirror, shattering it, sending all the pieces cascading unto the floor.

As she looked down at the pieces, breathing heavily, a single piece faced her, showing only her glowing azure eye in it. Dracila suddenly realized it had been too long since she had last sated her Hunger. Undoubtedly, that was partially to blame for her current self hatred and heightened state of fury. She would need to sate it before her mind was clear enough to evaluate anything accurately.

Still having the presence of mind to do so, she removed her tabard and placed her guildstone on top of it. The one time she had forgotten to leave it behind, she had made several people uneasy. Locking the door to her room before she began, she turned around and summoned forth the unholy gateway that would take her to the Hold.

The unpleasant sensation of a thousand corrupt tendrils running over her was over as quickly as it had begun, ending with her standing in the dim light of the Hold. Turning and heading down a side hall, she made her way down to the torture chambers. She had a rule she followed, though. She would never use the races of higher intelligence to sate her needs. Which left her fewer that usual rooms to pick from. As luck would have it, she found a chamber with three gnolls, in chains and ready to go.


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Still lost in the daze of all the work she had done tonight she made her way back home, barely aware of her surroundings. Climbing the stairs to her room, she tried to open it but it wouldn't budge. She cursed silently, having forgotten that she locked it when she left from the other side. In no mood for this, she threw out a leg and kicked the door in, breaking it off its hinges and onto the floor.

By now, Sarah and Zek-Zek would be out somewhere, so she wasn’t worried about waking anyone. Instead of taking her armor off, she opted to keep it on, knowing what was about to happen...what always happened after she was sated. Flopping down onto the bed heavily, she bounced a few times until coming to rest, staring at the ceiling.

She still needed to figure out what to do next. That was the secondary reason for tonight. Closing her eyes, she let her mind wander freely to the path available. She still needed intel. But her last attempt went terribly. Every lead she learned about was dead or lost. She had next to no one to turn to. She couldn't just speak up about it, either. Last time that happened, it-

That was it. She knew what had to be done. No idea how to go about it, but having a destination was all she needed for now. It was going to be incredibly difficult and risky. But it could pay off, ultimately.

The faces of the three gnolls flashed across her mind, as well as the sound of her crazy laughter, causing her to flinch. “Here it comes” Dracila thought to herself. She turned to her side and curled up as best she could, as wave after wave of the fresh memories from tonight assaulted her. The sickening smell of cooked flesh stung her nose and made her want to hurl. She looked at her hands, at her claws, that had been used to rip off his skin. The same hands she used to tuck in her child. Dracila scrunched her eyes shut as hard as she could until colors danced in front of her vision. Feeling so vulnerable, she involuntarily took her human form, and as a result she felt tears roll down her face and freeze in place.

She hated herself more than ever at that moment. What she was, and what she had to do. The fact she took pleasure and satisfaction from being inhumane made her feel vile and less than human. As she sat there sobbing into her pillow, her only thought was: “How much longer until I can be released?”
"It is all a balance."
~Aerana Dantay, Empress of the Twilight Empire~

Sieln
Sieln
Posts: 8
Joined: August 23rd, 2014, 4:09 pm
Sieln

Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Sieln » October 9th, 2014, 10:06 pm

Ezraeil sat in a room illuminated partially by a single candle and a low burning fireplace. Shadows danced around the corners of the room and Ezraeil was partially aware of the fact that the burning candle was barely a stub of what it should be. The melted wax was already reaching the floor from the desk it rested upon.

He leaned back and smiled as his chair cushioned his back. He had made minor repairs to his chair and it had been restuffed thanks to his new friend that stood shaking by the fire. Looking over he smiled at the now bald sheep. The sheep seemed to glare back.

Events from days ago replayed in his mind.

He had stood in front of the Empress and a silent guardian that was oddly familiar yet unplaceable. For the first time years he was vowing to take a stand in a brewing conflict and pledging loyalty to a person.

The thought of the actions he took left him feeling simultaneously exhilarated and hollow. Almost as though it was not him that did it.

He had for longer than he rightly knew stayed neutral in most things. Politics, war, and most anything that didn't directly affect him. He ignored laws that inconvenienced him. He ignored norms that he found silly. He frankly ignored most of the world. It was, after all, filled with narrow minded idiots that believed he whom screamed the loudest was correct.

So why now? Why did he care now?

Looking down at the now vacant stand that once held an item of extreme importance to him he knew.

Everyone had to stand for something eventually. He had chosen to stand with someone he could respect.

Tarashan
Tarashan
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Joined: March 24th, 2014, 2:28 pm
Tarashan

Re: A Rising Disquiet ((Open RP))

Postby Tarashan » October 9th, 2014, 10:08 pm

It had been nearly three days now since the anonymous postings had appeared in the guild hall, and still three days after the words seemed to taunt Tarashan as she sat hunched over them at her desk.

When all you have is a hammer, all problems start looking like a nail.
When all you have are Guardians, what do problems start looking like?


The mage sighed and sat back in her chair, staring at her formerly-neat desk, now covered in stacks of parchments. For two days now she had spent most of her time at this desk, ringed by missives, reports, and documents either sent to her—or acquired by her—from members of the Empire’s military and citizens. Every person had their own style of writing. If she could just find one piece of parchment buried in this mess of reports and missives and event announcements, just one piece of parchment that seemed similar to those taunting words… but no answer was presenting itself.

She didn’t even know what she would do the answer when she had it, thought. The poster of the messages had not done anything wrong, but their actions had set the mage on edge. The Empire was hardly stable, no matter what words of comfort the Empress gave them during meetings, and such anonymous messages were hardly helping the matter.

When all you have is a hammer, all problems start looking like a nail.
When all you have are Guardians, what do problems start looking like?


The implication of the words was clear. Someone in the Empire felt the Empress was exercising her powers too broadly, or perhaps letting emotions rule her judgments. Was this writing some sort of manifesto? The beginnings of further dissension in the ranks? Tarashan needed to know who had written these words.

For the hundredth time in the last two days she reached out, grabbing a stack of old reports that had been sent to her by various soldiers, attempting to match the handwriting, and for the hundredth time finding no success. The same was said of the Citizens. Even postings by the former Senators yielded no results. Tarashan growled angrily and slammed her fists into her desk. This was getting her nowhere. But she had to keep trying, at least doing something to make herself feel useful while the hunt for Smartgear stagnated.

As she reached once more for the stack of reports and postings, hoping that perhaps this review might show her something more, a small device resting on her desk flickered to life. A spectral image appeared on the device, humanoid in appearance, though not quite a man.

“Ms. Flamewind. We have something for you.”

Its message delivered, the image of the ghostly figure flickered out, the device once again powering down.

Tarashan grinned from ear to ear. The anonymous words would wait. A new lead had presented itself, and for the first time Tarashan truly felt like the Empire might have the upper hand in the search for Tinox Smartgear. As she left her home the words were still ringing around and around in her head.

Ms. Flamewind. We have something for you.

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