Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: The Aesthetics of Hate

  1. #1
    Der Geńchteter zerrissen
    EXP: 57,454, Level: 10
    Level completed: 32%, EXP required for next level: 7,546
    Level completed: 32%,
    EXP required for next level: 7,546

    AP
    0
    GP
    6,150
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Brown
    Eye Color
    Gold
    Build
    6'0", 155lbs
    Job
    "Executor" (Leader) of the Brotherhood

    View Profile

    The Aesthetics of Hate

    Out of Character:
    Closed to Mr Veritas, esq.


    The co-leader of the Brotherhood of the Castigars was tired. Since their liberation of Whitevale, Shinsou's and Storm's grip had tightened around their new organization and yet with each passing day the resistance against the change grew. Just under a third of their forces had slipped through their fingers in a couple of months. Osiris was so worn out from ducking, diving and fighting that his eyelids felt heavier than iron and when the waves of exhaustion swept over him, they threatened to pull the Telgradian down into an abyss of sleep. Beneath the long, unkempt bangs of chestnut hair, sodden eyes of gold glared out into the center of the room. The object of his ire before him, Osiris had been looking forward to this very much.

    It was time to play his part.

    There came a stressed groaning from the supports of his chair as Osiris sat his cloaked body further back into the upholstery. In the sultry air of his Whitevale office, a place one could only reach through either invitation or detention, a bloodied and beaten man was forced to his knees. The only communication was the gesture of a cold steel spear being pressed to his neck and a firm leather boot locking against his shoulder blade. Shinsou smiled an unseen smirk, when most ironically the situation held little to smile about.

    "What is your name?"

    The man looked up through a mass of blooded, knotted white hair. He had remembered that voice. It was the usurper Shinsou Vaan Osiris. He noticed, rather to his surprise, that his sword hadn’t been taken from him and still swung and clattered around his waist underneath his filthy greatcoat. He allowed himself a moment of satisfaction, knowing that the significance of it would at that very moment be irritating to one of Whitevale's new lords, whom without the smile-mask as a restraint would have dived from his ill gotten throne to tear it from him.

    "That depends," droned the weary warrior, altering the pitch and intonation of his voice not once from the first word to the last. “Do you want my real name or the name that the Brotherhood you stole bestowed on me?”

    The Telgradian huffed in the way only greatly powerful, self-absorbed leaders can do. He loved to hear this answer and felt more and more sure of himself every time its verse was sung flatly and in such dull tone by one of the Ducos insurrectionists.

    "Tell me, please. How many of your number do you believe have knelt where you now kneel? I have heard this kind of reply dozens of times. Your name is Ramsey Mthandria, son of Ducos. Don’t fool yourself into thinking I know nothing of you. It insults the image I grudgingly bear of you..."

    Ramsey sank once more with a disenchanted breath. He seemed to collapse entirely inside, not exactly at the words of his tormentor, but more at the implications of his question. Shinsou was right. Many of Ducos's men would have knelt here, or somewhere much less civilized. Oh how he begged now to be in some soaking wet, dark cell. How he begged to be away from this de-facto throne room of this new Brotherhood and its occupants. He pleaded in his mind for the thud of a heavy baton across his shoulder or face, the lash of a barbed whip upon his naked back; anything but this. It didn't draw this hateful spew of truth that began to surge into his consciousness. The truth did not make one truly see that hope was, in fact, nowhere in sight, but that it was truly, truly lost. He summoned some strength to talk, if only in order not to be silenced.

    "I am. My father named me. My mother was killed in one of your raids not long ago. You know this, and therefore know that I do not lie. Had I lied or told the truth, in any case, what difference would it make?"

    Some shape came to his voice as Ramsey posed his question for the Telgradian, who appeared to be devoid of any expression of emotion at all. He raised a chalice to his disheveled face. Ramsey was unsure if his captor was actually consuming the contents it or simply using it as a device to antagonize him further.

    "None whatsoever,” Came Shinsou's reply, “My mind is on more pressing matters than your family history. I want to know where your father is. The Brotherhood Council is now past-tense, as will soon be all that you and the rest of your insignificant rebellion cling to. Do yourself a favor and save yourself before its too late."

    Shinsou stopped, and sat forward in his creaking, straining chair. Ramsey said nothing, spitting to his right.

    "Defiant to the end? So be it. Stay on this course, however, and you'll be conveying a message to your father via the hangman's noose. If Ducos and his men do not surrender to the Brotherhood, then whatever they have salvaged from the wreckage of your former empire will be razed. Choose not to lie to yourself, Ramsey Mthandria, and accept that you will not be able save yourself or any of your people unless we deem it so. I could have you killed at a moment of my choosing and you could do nothing, and I am but one of two lords of Whitevale. So, i'm going to give you one last opportunity to think about your...situation."

    The Telgradian looked at Ramsey's defiant form with false, cowing eyes, as if appealing greatly to him, but the retort, predictably, came in the form of another wad of spit. His patience exhausted, Shinsou's fingers clicked. A prayer for the broken was answered at last as the heavy oak butt of the spear struck the back of Ramsey’s head, the force knocking his face into the thin carpet at his knees. The Telgradian, defiantly, whisked a hand in the air to order the warrior to be removed, with no hope of tracing his journey from the premises of the Whitevale complex. He beckoned for Ramsey's sword, inspecting it with interest as it was passed to him, whilst the guards dragged the limp body off into the intestines of the headquarters.

    Shinsou lolled his head back as the guards vacated the office, his weight forcing the chair to creak loudly once more. He was pleased with his little performance. The Telgradian was always so tired now, worn down by the relentlessness of Ducos's resistance, and perhaps his recent behavior in dealing with the rebellion signified that the end of his tether had finally been found.

    With a wave of his hand, he summoned one of his handmaidens to his side.

    "Tell Veritas we've captured that little shit, Ramsey. I think its time we made a statement of intent. Tell him he'll be swinging at dawn."

    Althanas Operations Administrator



    Mancunian and proud.


  2. #2
    Moderator
    EXP: 120,660, Level: 15
    Level completed: 11%, EXP required for next level: 14,340
    Level completed: 11%,
    EXP required for next level: 14,340

    AP
    69
    GP
    10,280
    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    38
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    More pepper than salt.
    Eye Color
    Grey or Blue
    Build
    6'1, 185 lbs
    Job
    Defiler.

    View Profile
    The fact that banks operated successfully in Althanas was no small miracle. The widespread corruption, uncertainty of global markets, and operating costs of such establishments were all very difficult pills to swallow. The fact that men like Storm Veritas roamed this plane made the security and conflated interest rates all the more difficult to manage. While running Whitevale, he felt the opportunity slap him across the face when, on any given day during the week, he knew how the dravemeat sausage was made. It would be entirely too easy for him to come in, overwhelm the place with his abilities, and walk out with scared men carrying large sacks of gold for him.

    So why, for f*cks sake, do these stooges give me a hard time when I merely wish to –skirt- the rules, and not break them as unabashedly as they know full well I am capable of?

    His counterpart was a familiar face today; Jacob Williamson was the same stodgy bookkeep that had helped him launder his own funds when Storm was establishing the new order of the Brotherhood in Whitevale. The doughy little clerk had proven himself bold in spite of his diminutive stature and abilities; he didn’t shy from pushing back from the electromancer after learning that the new sheriff in town wished to rule with at least a modicum of peace.

    “I’m sorry, sir, but the market fee for transference of goods is non-negotiable. We all roll up under Radasanth Central Bank; I don’t control the trade surcharge.” Pudgy hands scrambled to document notes on a large ledger, pale knuckles barely perceptible above a corpulent bulb of a hand.

    I should lift you by your lapel pin and throw you through the goddamned wall.

    Dapper and political, the more visible of Whitevale’s leadership team ran fingers through his hand as he leaned back in the seat, thinking long and tapping digits against his ribs through his spectacular navy pinstriped linen suit. His tie would not move from his perch, his own countenance unwavering as he considered the true goal and the options available to him. With easy port access, Whitevale would never starve, for the sea was plentiful and generous. What Whitevale would always need was ancillary goods – salt, cloth, wheat, and spirits. The latter good was of constant need, as the experienced imbiber had led to a Renaissance of hedonism in what was once a sleepy hamlet.

    “Then let’s set import duties on people moving goods in, Jake. Am’aleh knows we get screwed six ways to the Harvest Moon trying to get lumber out to Salvar from here.” His own brilliance shined here, smiling from ear to ear at the concept. The increased revenue would more than offset the losses taken from moving in high spoilage wheat and returns on failed fish.

    “Can’t. The export rates are set by the Crown and Crown alone; you know that, m’Lord.” For a change, a hint of trepidation crept across the face of the coinmaster.

    I will use your blubber for lamp oil, you cowardly little shit.

    “Yes, of course…” leaning forward, the wizard whispered. ”That’s why we change them from ‘import duties’ to ‘port fees’, and keep it quiet.”

    The pen dropped across the ledger, the fat man breathing deeply at the request. Men like this, used to the straight and narrow… they didn’t understand where the lines could be blurred. Storm interrupted Williamson before the knowledgeable banker could rebut him.

    “We’re running a deficit here. We’ve got shit-heel rebels that have tripled the conscription cost for guards. I haven’t seen a Coronian ranger down here in a dog’s age, despite the legitimacy of operations and our escalating requests for military support. Worst case, the Crown sends emissaries here, and it gives me the platform to explain things. More likely, they look the other way, because they have their own problems, and Salvar traders still roll hog-high in their own wealth.”

    Jacob was defeated, laying his hands upon his belly. The bank would help establish the port fees and set the new market conditions internationally, using their network to add an air of authority and “transparency”. The tandem knew full well that Radasanth would likely NOT react well to this, particularly given the shaky footing that the leader stood upon. His assassination of two Senators had not been proven, but it was believed (and, for the record, fairly so). Even the Radsanthian Reader newspaper had a long enough memory to hold him in low regard.

    The oaken door to the bank swung open, a burst of light, noise, and dust from outside interrupting the ongoing negotiations and quiet discussions transpiring across the bank. One of Whitevale’s guardsmen clicked his heels to announce his presence, taking off a light armor helmet to unveil a spray of youthful blond hair. Handsome and marbled with muscle, he marched through with a nervous smile, his sword and shield perched across his left and right shoulderblades. parading royal blue dress leathers through the bank. He knew where to find the terrifying statesman.

    “M’Lord. A note from my liege.” The little paper was scrolled tight, adorable with a pinkie-sized wax seal and tied with a blue ribbon. Veritas smiled as he unrolled the little scroll between his fingertips, squinting to focus on the ink.

    We have Ramsey. Extracting details now; hanging tomorrow. Double the guards.


    S.V.O.
    “Well, shit.”

  3. #3
    Der Geńchteter zerrissen
    EXP: 57,454, Level: 10
    Level completed: 32%, EXP required for next level: 7,546
    Level completed: 32%,
    EXP required for next level: 7,546

    AP
    0
    GP
    6,150
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Brown
    Eye Color
    Gold
    Build
    6'0", 155lbs
    Job
    "Executor" (Leader) of the Brotherhood

    View Profile
    Out of Character:
    Prestatyn Heights, eighteen miles north of Whitevale

    Shinsou Vaan Osiris, on a damp spring day when a cold wind whipped around the hilltops a couple of miles north of Whitevale, stood on an ancient stone bridge and stared at the road which led southwards to a low pass in the rocky crest.

    The hills were dark with rain. Behind him, standing at ease, with their musket locks wrapped with rags and their muzzles plugged with corks to stop the rain soaking into the barrels, stood five companies of Brotherhood infantry. They were well drilled, well disciplined and almost completely useless as ceremonial detail, so much so that their commander nearly felt sorry for them. But, as circumstances dictated, they were the men who would bear witness to the execution and likely the men who would be deployed to counteract whatever retaliation came the Brotherhood's way.

    To Shinsou, it seemed only fair that they saw what he was going to do, as the consequences of these actions would be the ones that they were laying their lives down for.

    The crest, the Telgradian knew, was five hundred yards away. In a few moments, a specially assigned guard detail would haul Ramsey up the path and one part of his job was to escort the boy personally across the bridge and to the gallows that had been constructed overnight by his workmen. The other part was a simple job; a soldier's job. Word had gotten to Ducos's rebellion of the time and place of the hanging, and Shinsou knew that there was a risk Ramsey's men would try to spring him. This is why he had chosen this location for the execution, well out of the way of Whitevale's flat and predictable landscape. The spring had come late, the weather had brought these hills nothing but rain and the stream beneath the bridge was deep, fast and impassible.

    If any rescue party dared to try and intervene, they would have to come to the bridge where Shinsou waited, or not cross the watercourse at all. Osiris, and eventually Storm, would be all the security they would need.

    "Sir?"

    A captain of the light company, Shinsou's own detail, spoke. He sounded apprehensive.

    "Captain?"

    "Staff officers from Whitevale coming, sir. Ramsey's on his way up."

    Out of Character:
    Ourorov Castle, Corone. Thirty miles south of Whitevale.

    As the martins were busy making their nests in the old masonry of Ourorov Castle, Professor Ducos Mthandria looked down from the ramparts. The small westerly wind lifted his black hair as he stared into the castle courtyard, the last remaining stronghold of the former Brotherhood council. He was waiting for a very special arrival; someone who would help turn the tide of the conflict against the new Brotherhood and help get his son Ramsey back into the firm hands of his army.

    He didn't have to wait long at all. He fidgeted with the earpieces of his spectacles, wincing as the curved wire chaffed his sore skin, before gazing at the arriving convoy.

    Six wagons were being dragged over the cobbles. The wagons were huge, lumbering fourgons, each pulled by eight oxen. Black tarpaulins covered their loads, roped down and bulging with cargo. An escort flanked the freight; armed with bright bladed lances from which hung red and white pennants. The tired oxen were prodded over to the far end of the courtyard where the carts, with much shouting and effort, were packed against the keep's wall.

    The garrison of the castle watched the arrival with interest as the tri-colour of the old Council emblem flapped sullenly in the wind above them. The sentries stared out across the wild countryside, wondering whether the war against the usupers Shinsou Vaan Osiris and Storm Veritas would ever lap against this place; their final fortress. Before they could finish their ponderings, there was a sudden rattle of hooves in the gateway as a bright, gleaming carriage bursted into the courtyard. It was drawn by four white horses that were harnessed to the splinter bar with silver trace chains.

    The carriage was driven too fast but that, Ducos decided, was characteristic of its owner. She was known in Corone as Adarod Atup La Morde, or simply put, "the Beau of Wolves".

    A youngish man, the very image of a revolutionary hero, leapt down from the horse, his gaudy uniform stiffened to carry the weight of his medals, and let down the steps with a flourish. Ducos, like a predator watching his victim, stared at the emerging woman. She was beautiful, this Beau of Wolves. Men who saw her for the first time hardly dared believe that any woman could be this beautiful. Her skin was as white and clear as the pearl shells of Serentii's beaches. Her hair was caramel brown, and an accident of lip and bone, of eye and skin had given her a look of innocence that made men want to protect and love her the livelong day.

    Ducos could think of few women so little in need of protection. She was Lornian by birth, but had served the Brotherhood Council since her sixteenth birthday. She had slept in the beds of the powerful and brought from their pillows the secrets of their houses, and when the Council had attempted to install their own senators into the Imperial assembly before their fall, he had sent her as his weapon. She had pretended to be the daughter of victims of Xem'zund's conquests. She had even, on instructions from Ducos, married a man close to the usurpers of the Brotherhood. He was a man privy to some of the activities of the leadership, and as a result she both held the title of "Lady La Morde" and fair consideration from those of rank within the new Whitevale government.

    Lady La Morde was as lovely as a summer dream and as treacherous as sin.

    Ducos smiled. A hawk, high above it's victim, might have felt the same satisfaction that the former council member felt as he ordered an aide to send his compliments to the Beau of Wolves with a request which, from Professor Ducos, was tantamount to an order.

    She was to come to him without delay, for there was work to be done.

    Althanas Operations Administrator



    Mancunian and proud.


  4. #4
    Moderator
    EXP: 120,660, Level: 15
    Level completed: 11%, EXP required for next level: 14,340
    Level completed: 11%,
    EXP required for next level: 14,340

    AP
    69
    GP
    10,280
    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    38
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    More pepper than salt.
    Eye Color
    Grey or Blue
    Build
    6'1, 185 lbs
    Job
    Defiler.

    View Profile
    Storm sneered as he crumbled the small note within his bony hand, long and twisted fingers crumbling the parcel as his eyes squinted into a piercing line of blue. The fury in his face quickly passed as he tried to keep some stoicism in his demeanor, but the die had been cast. Almost automatically, the employees of the bank took action averting their eyes from the wizard, creating a larger natural distance between the powerful mage for their own protection. An angry god was not a good one, after all.

    Sweet Thayne’s nutsack, Shin, you’re f*cking killing me. You grab Ramsey and parade him off on excursion while I’m back here washing cash? These rock-headed simpletons will think we’re ripe for the taking!

    “Jacob, we’re done here. Give other shipments ten days warning to allow a last transit before port fees are imposed. Send word up to Concordia not to accept distress shipments without tariff inclusion.”

    With a gentle boot, Storm toed the door open, light flooding into the room as he defied the natural wince. The salty air greeted him a reminder of the port’s criticality, but it didn’t matter to him. The town could afford some losses, he just needed to show transactions that could plausibly generate cash. Besides, Shinsou had introduced a whole new problem to his universe.

    How do I find guards without recruiting my own assassin?

    The undercurrent of rebellion hadn’t escaped Storm, although it presented itself in a furtive sort of way. Both Veritas and Osiris had proven themselves for their considerable abilities, so none were so foolish as to attempt a straightforward coup. That didn’t change the discontent that created whispers in town. His head was a valued one; these fools needed protection and guidance, but defied leadership in spite of their best interests.

    Driving a pinch of tobacco into the side of his cheek, the wizard inhaled deeply and expectorated a thick stream of brown and red onto the whitewashed cobblestone. It was time to sit and write, he had work to do.

    Out of Character:
    Whitevale Brookings Tavern

    Writing had proven itself a futile passage, and the bottom of his whiskey glass offered far more in the way of epiphany for the experienced traveler. More, every man worth half his salt would be in the bar, and there was no truer method to extract real intentions than to get a man rip-roaring drunk and compliment him. Here, regaling the masses with stories of dragons felled and opponents bested, the mighty magician had found himself less than half as drunk as he let on.

    “You f*cking guys! I love this city! It’s a city of men, you see, not like those fancy-boy pussies up in Radasanth. I need some men; who here needs work and knows how to handle themselves?”

    With a flourish, he unsheathed his knife, spinning the thing across his fingertips in the low light of the large, clean bar. There were at least ten men around him at some depth, and quite a few humored the half-hearted blade dance with applause. They were either sycophantic or simply scared to death of the skinny death machine; either way he wouldn’t hold it against them. Carelessly, Storm drove the dagger into the table behind him, pivoting back to finish his whiskey.

    Cheese on the plate, spring wound tight. Which one of you stupid assholes is feeling brave?

    “Whitevale needs protectors; I need at least a dozen good young men. We can train you up… see, ten crown a week; although between the men here that handle the mead well enough, play your cards right and I’ll swing you fiftee…”

    The eyes of the man before him betrayed the impromptu assassins, two men closing behind him with a clumsy march. They were coming with his own knife, and very drunk. With a deft spin, Storm elegantly sidestepped the kris dagger he has used so many times, clutching the man by the wrist with his left hand and firing a concise blast of electric energy into his chest. The smell of burnt flesh exploded in the room as the man fell limp, the electromancer holding aloft the wrist and dagger in a ceremonial fashion. Terrified, the accomplice, a short, older man, stood wide eyed and slowly backpedaled.

    “Sorry there, Old Man Winter. No second chances in my administration.”

    The crowd stepped backwards as the man attempted to run, but the metallic dagger found purchase between rib bones before he could finish turning. Grown men looked away, terrified of the killer before them but acquiescing to his right to execute. With a raised hand, Storm lifted the sixty-something drunk by the blade between his ribs, angling the blade so the man’s flailing, screaming body fell down deeply upon the pointed dagger. With a circle of his finger, the wizard directed the blade in a similar dance, and the weapon dutifully danced through soft, critical organ tissue.

    Kidney, liver, and some miscellaneous guts. That’s a wrap on the old prick.

    Lowering his hand, Storm watched without emotion as the man and his blade fell like rocks to the floor, bone and meat buckling in random directions. With an open palm, the wizard “called” his dagger, which spun through the air back into his waiting hand. Running the fingers of his left hand through his graying hair, the villain shouted at the room.

    “Oh, calm the f*ck down, the lot of ya’s! The other eight of you proved yourselves trustworthy! Help me clean the body and you can start tomorrow.”

    Strolling calmly to the edge of the bar, the politician rapidly pilfered coin from his satchel and dropped several golden crowns upon the table top.

    “For damages and trouble. Tonight, the bar drinks on me.”

    A very nervous applause erupted; Whitevale’s sentry staff had just grown significantly with the addition of fear-strangled men.

  5. #5
    Der Geńchteter zerrissen
    EXP: 57,454, Level: 10
    Level completed: 32%, EXP required for next level: 7,546
    Level completed: 32%,
    EXP required for next level: 7,546

    AP
    0
    GP
    6,150
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Hair Color
    Brown
    Eye Color
    Gold
    Build
    6'0", 155lbs
    Job
    "Executor" (Leader) of the Brotherhood

    View Profile
    Lady La Morde, smelling of rosewater and smiling sweetly, was ushered into Ducos Mthandria's bare room an hour later. He looked up from the table.

    "You're late."

    She blew a kiss from her lace-gloved hand and walked past him to the bastion. "The country looks very pretty today. I asked your deliciously timid Lieutenant to fetch me some wine and grapes. We could eat out here, Ducos. Your skin needs the sun." She shaded her face with a parasol and smiled at him. "How are you? Dancing the night away as ever?"

    He ignored her mockery, standing in the doorway with his hands clasped firmly behind his back. His deep voice was harsh. "You have six wagons in this fortress."

    The beau of wolves feigned awe, wafting a hand across her face to cool down. "Has the new Council made you wagonmaster, Ducos? I must congratulate you."

    Ducos took a folded piece of paper from his waistcoat pocket and slipped his forefinger between the crease, opening it deliberately and slowly. "These wagons are loaded with gold and silver plate, paintings, coins, tapestries, statues, carvings and a wine cellar packed in sawdust. The total value is put at three hundred thousand gold pieces." He stared at her in silent triumph.

    "Don't forget the furniture, too, Ducos," Lady La Morde retorted with a sly grin. "Or did your spy not find the furniture? Some of it is rather valuable. A very fine couch hand woven in Irrakram, inlaid with ivory, an escritoire that you'd rather like, and even a mirrored bed."

    Ducos raised an eyebrow, fiddling with his cufflinks. "Doubtless the bed in which you persuaded your then fiance to guard your stolen property?"

    "Stolen, Ducos?" La Morde queried, feigning offence, "It all belongs to me and my dear husband. I merely thought that while the new Brotherhood government threatens to defeat us I would remove a few 'household belongings' of theirs, or should I say 'yours', and take them to a safer place. Just think of me as a simple refugee. Ah!" She smiled at Ducos's aide who had brought a tray on which stood an open bottle of champagne, a single glass, and a dish of white grapes. "Put it on the parapet, Lieutenant."

    Scowling, Ducos waited until his aide had gone.

    "This property, belonging to the Council, is loaded on Council wagons."

    "Condemned wagons, Ducos."

    "Condemned," The professor paused, gesturing outside to the courtyard, "by your husband."

    "True." She smiled. "He's a dear man."

    Ducos frowned, his face screwing up in irritation. "And I will countermand his condemnation."

    La Morde stared at him. She feared Ducos Mthandria, though she would not give him the satisfaction of showing her fear. She recognised the threat that he offered her. She was running from Whitevale, running from the victory that Shinsou Vaan Osiris and Storm Veritas threatened, and she was taking the wealth with her that would make her independant of whatever tragedies befell either side in this conflict. Now both Ducos and the Brotherhood's new leaders menaced that independence. She plucked a grape from the bunch. "Tell me, Ducos, do you order your breakfast with a threat? If you want something of me, why don't you just ask? Or is it that you want your plunder back, the plunder, I would point out, that you lost to those ragtag mercenaries back in Whitevale?"

    He scowled at that. No one could accuse Ducos Mthandria of negligence. He changed the subject. "I wanted to know how you felt about you and your husband returning to Whitevale."

    The beau of wolves laughed, placing a gloved hand to her mouth. "You want me to go back to his bed in that awful place, Ducos? Don't you think I've suffered enough for the Council?"

    "Do they still trust you, the usurpers?"

    "Trust? What an odd word from you, Ducos." She stared up at the tricolour of the Brotherhood. "I suppose they do, or at least men close to them. I never got to meet either Shinsou or Veritas personallly."

    "Then I want you to get to know Mr Veritas a little better, if you follow me." The corners of his usually stoic lips turned upwards momentarily. "His lust exceeds his patriotism, whereas you would be wasted on the likes of Osiris. I want you to find out where Ramsey is and I want to know his condition." La Morde watched him, suspecting a bargain was fast approaching the direction of this conversation. "If you do this for me, the wagons that you 'liberated' from Whitevale will be yours and I shall grant them safe passage to a Council sponsored refuge."

    She shrugged. "You'll give me papers?"

    Ducos smiled. "Of course."

    She sipped the champagne. "When do I leave?"

    ***

    Shinsou's men had come for Ramsey at eight on the same morning. Through the rusting bars of his dank cell, Ducos's son watched as the Telgradian's personal battalion paraded and the companies marched off to their tasks. He was in a bad mood. His mouth had the thick sourness of stale water the night before, and Ramsey was not looking forward to whatever would constitute breakfast. A flitch of undercooked bacon? A piece of mouldy, crusty bread? The poor bastard could almost taste the rot already. For once, this morning, he didn't feel hungry enough to want to force the 'food' into him. Instead, Ramsey decided he was going to continue thinking upon his plan of escape and divert his attention away from the culinary horrors of the Brotherhood's jail wing.

    As the handle on the cell door dropped, creaking as rusty metal ground against wood, the young, beaten man turned and expected to see some awful morsel of food be thrown haphazardly onto the grimy floor. Instead, what he saw was a provost; the Brotherhood's military police. Strangely, there were two and they were led by what appeared to be a major, according to the rank on his new green and silver uniform.

    The man was no policeman. If anything, he looked more the intelligence type as he reigned in by Ramsey's side. His voice was bleak, un-natural and somewhat forced.

    "Ramsey Mthandria, I must ask you to come with me."

    Ramsey's expression changed to puzzlement, but he said nothing and complied, falling into line. It seemed bizarre that he be given such an escort by a high ranking official. Would the provosts not suffice?

    Suddenly, the world around him went dark as a black hood was dashed over his head, a piece of cord tightening the collar just enough to let the man breathe whilst securing the cloth about his head. The provosts, blank faced men in green jackets and black hats, stared with hostility at Ramsey Mthandria as he was shackled and led forth from his cell. Further down the corridor a commotion suddenly burst into life as another cellmate was hauled from his slumber. Ramsey could just hear the sickening thumps of a provost baton against bare skin accompanying cries of pain, before a dragging noise consistant with a dead weight being pulled across a stone floor echoed throughout the tunnel.

    As the noise faded to black, Ramsey realised he was walking into more trouble than he would have dreamed possible. He was a prisoner of war, the son of the enemy, and he was probably being led to a torture chamber, a trial and whatever lay beyond.

    ***

    Captain Stokely, one of Shinsou's aides-de-camp, wondered whether the men should be served tea to the men who had come to witness the execution. Shinsoou stared at him through the rain with cold, golden eyes.

    "This is an execution, Captain, not a fucking fete."

    Stokely decided it would be best not to mention that in his family refreshments were served at such events. He had decided he had never seen the Telgradian in such a bad mood. Nor had he, indeed. The damage that could be done should this calculated gamble fail to pay off was immense. No Brotherhood soldier or citizen of Whitevale who still remained in the town, so far as Shinsou Vaan Osiris knew, had any love for Ramsey Mthandria, but there was a danger that outside these walls the son of Ducos would be transformed into a martyr of the Council's cause. The damned priests had been quick off the mark as usual, spouting their anti-capital punishment diatribes, but Osiris had been just as quick. The second most senior figurehead in the rebellion had been detained, a hanging would take place, and all before the sun that had risen on Ramsey''s capture would set. The Brotherhood Council, ready to mount an all out assault against Whitevale with Ramsey at the tip of the spear, had found the wind taken from their sails.

    The men had declared themselves satisfied with Shinsou's swift retribution. That said, the Telgradian was unaware of the big pile of manure he had landed his compatriot Veritas in during his 'business errands'.

    The gallows were made from a Brotherhood wagon that was parked against the limewashed wall of an abandoned outpost building on the ridge. There was a convenient hook high up on the wall. A Sergeant, sweating in his provost's uniform, climbed a ladder with the rope that he looped onto the hook. The hillside was thick with Brotherhood men amidst continued rumours that the men fighting for the Council would try and spring Ramsey from his escort. It sounded an unlikely threat, but it was taken seriously. The provosts carried their short muskets tipped with bayonets and watched the hillsides and valleys below that led to the execution grounds.

    A murmur came from the throng of soldiers who packed the crest. It rose, became an excited shout, and the noise co-incided with the emergence of a grim-faced Shinsou towards the gallows pole. He frowned at the assembled men, nodded coldly, then looked up at the wooden contraption with its noose swinging loosely in the wind. His aides crowded close to him as the hooded prisoner behind him was marched through the narrow corridor that carved a company of men in two, right up the hill until they reached the building at the peak. He was pushed up the makeshift steps to the wagon bed. He was taller than his green jacketed guards, and seemed to be wearing a grubby white shirt and baggy white trousers of the Council infantry, a uniform that fittingly seemed more penitent than anything.

    Some of the gathered men looked to Shinsou for signs of emotion, but there were none.

    "Ramsey Mthandria, son of the exiled Ducos Mthadria and oppressor of Whitevale," An office read from a prepared statement in a voice that carried itself heavily over the wind and driving rain, "You are condemned to die by hanging by the grace of Executors Shinsou Vaan Osiris and Storm Veritas. Your request to die in your Brotherhood Council officer's uniform has been denied. However, in accordance with your last request, your body will be returned to Ducos Mthandria at a time and place to be agreed between both parties, upon satisfaction of certain conditions. Do you have any last words?"

    The condemned man stood precariously on a ladder, the rope about his neck looping downwards. The provost Sergeant looked at his officer and then looked up to the man standing on the ladder, his body leaning against the wall. He imagined that underneath that hood were a pair of dark eyes filled with fear and regret.

    "Drop him." The words came out as a croak as the crowd gasped and then cheered.

    The provosts pulled the ladder from beneath the doomed man. For a second, the booted feet stayed on the falling rung, then they slipped off, he dropped, and the rope jerked tight. He bounced, dropped again, and then was swaying and turning from the high hook. His body seemed to arch as he dangled. His feet flailed in the air, kicked the wall, and he twisted so that his hooded face stared at the packed hillside. Underneath that cloth, the eyes bulged, the tongue pushed at the lips, the neck was grotesquely stretched to the tilted head. The men watched in fascination. He jerked again, fighting upwards as if for air, and then the provost Sergeant jumped up, caught one of the man's ankles, and jerked his weight down.

    The extra weight snapped his neck. The Sergeant let go of the man's ankles and slowly, as the body swung, the legs drew themselves up a few inches.

    The prisoner was dead.

    A coffin waited on the wagon bed; pine boards, rough planed, nailed together. The body was cut down.

    Shinsou stared at the whole affair with cold indifference, turning his gold eyes on the assembled officers. "It's over, gentlemen. Now, we wait. In the meantime, convene a special meeting of officers, including Storm, back at headquarters. We have some urgent business to attend to."

    The men filed silently and obediantly from the hills and back to Whitevale. The blood sacrifice had been made, and now it was all about waiting for the inevitable reaction. Shinsou wondered whether Ducos would play his game, or do something completely unpredictable. Either way, the Telgradian was sure of himself. Though it was anyone's guess what the Council's rebellion would do next, it wouldn't matter. This complicated game was like poker, and Shinsou knew he had at least one more ace up his sleeve and the face to match.

    The burning question, though, was what hand did Ducos have?

    Althanas Operations Administrator



    Mancunian and proud.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •