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Offline Lord Palatine

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Never Without Remorse
« on: March 21, 2009, 08:14:18 PM »
"You have so many scars," she commented, studying his back in the dim flickering light of a guttering candle.

He nodded and poured water in the basin and soaked a cloth briefly, wringing it out before he pressed it to his face.  "Soldier, remember?"

"You are part of the embassy," she countered.  "You wear a very pretty uniform but who would think that you've actually fought."

He wiped down his chest and armpits before wetting the cloth again and cleaning up lower as he looked to her in the mirror.  "More than once." He replied simply before digging through the pile of clothes beside the bed and finding his drawers, he pulled them up and tightened the drawstring and tied them.

"How many fights did it take to get that many?" she rose and laid her hand on his chest and let her fingertips touch the purplish scar tissue over his left pectoral.

"One," He replied and leaned forward and kissed her, more to shut her up than from any lingering passion.  She didn't seem to be too interested in his motives and happily accepted the kiss at face value.  "One really bad fight."

"You're lucky you didn't die," she said breathily, he eyes raising to his.

"I did," he replied quietly.  "Twice."

"You couldn't have!"

"That's not what the surgeons said," he shrugged and winked at her, he sat on the bed and slipped on his tall boot socks and reached for his trousers.  "But I'm too good of a soldier to die without orders."

"You're teasing!"

"Not at all," he assured her as he rose and pulled his pants up at the same time.  "I was commander of the guard of our embassy in Gamedian when war broke out, they attacked the embassy and I was carved like a goose as we fell back from the gates.  My men dragged me along with them and the surgeon did his best for most of a day to keep me alive.  Apparently he's a fine surgeon."

"Not that good," she scoffed.  "Look at these scars!"

He spread his arms and looked down.  "Not so bad, eleven wounds from spear and sword and here I stand," he pulled his shirt on over his head and smiled at her as his head popped back into view.  "And I don't think it impairs my performance."

"Oh no," she smiled boldly, but still managed to blush at his scandalous teasing.  "You are amazing!"

He shrugged modestly.  "Only when properly inspired," he assured her gallantly.  "You bring out the beast in me."

"There is nothing beastly about you in bed," she protested.

"Then I'll try harder next time," he grinned as he fastened the toggles of his jacket before wrapping his sash around his waist buckling his sword belt.

She blushed again as he bent to kiss her and watched his fluid grace as he wrapped the cloak around himself, hiding his uniform.  "Leave a light in the window if you miss me," he kissed her again before slipping out of the window and out onto the roof.  She found herself alone in the room, only the cool breeze over her heated skin reminded her that she'd done something deliciously wrong.  She rang for a bath to insure she was fresh and ready if her husband found his way to her room.



"Who goes there?" a voice challenged him from the gates of his own embassy.

"Brigadier Westland," he halted and identified himself.

"Advance and be recognized!"

Westland stepped into the circle of light from an oil lamp and halted again.  "I recognize you as Brigadier Westland."  One of the guards acknowledged from the darkness.

"Pass friend, and be welcome," the first greeted him.

"And a good night to you both," he brought his fist to his chest in a graceful but casual salute.

"And to you, My Lord," the replied together as the door closed behind him.



He retired to his office and stripped off his cloak and jacket and slipped several documents from the lining of his jacket and his boot tops and set them on the table.  He spread them out and looked them over again, his mind flicking over the irrelevant to those statements that were most relevant and troubling.

"One day you'll be hung," a voice chided him from the door.

"Ask the ladies and they'll tell you that's already happened," he replied in an ironic tone.  "But there'll be no noose for me this night."

"Did you find what you're looking for?"  Ambassador Tarleman asked curiously.

"Orders for the embassy to procure large quantities of goods for export to Balisere," he replied.  "Food stuffs, mainly dry goods, and raw iron and timber.  They are building stores for war."  He held up another sheet.  "And they are starting negotiations to marry off a Baliseran Prince to a princess of Cambreandt."

"So they are shopping for an alliance?"

"So it seems," he sighed.

"Put your report together quickly," Tarleman said thoughtfully.  "I'll have Vale kicked out of bed to send it off as soon as its ready."

Offline Lord Palatine

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2009, 10:20:36 AM »
It was nearly dawn when he finally closed the door to his small room behind him.  "Piss and blood," he swore and dropped into the wooden chair in the corner.  He looked at the bell rope and shook his head, he wasn't in the mood to be fussed over so he let his orderly sleep.  He used the toes of one foot to push push down and loosed the other boot and finally felt it slide off and worked off the other, feeling the eyes of his mother and sisters stare at him from the small portrait on the table beside him.  He'd joined the army at seventeen to escape a life of wenching and thievery and the flaming army was now paying him to do it and hanging medals and promotions on him when he did it well.

They were proud of their son in the army, the once troubled boy that climbed from being a common soldier in the Frontier to an officer that protected the embassies of the Realm.  Every day he wished they'd send him back to the regular army.  Command of five thousand men was the standard for his rank, not the fifty strong detachments of guards, elite though they may be.  It was a conflicting desire, he wouldn't have his rank, knighthoods and the small store of coin he could call his fortune without this duty, but he wanted more.  He was a good soldier damn it all!  Holding the embassy in Gamedian proved that.  But the dreams of daytime faded as the sun set and he carried out his primary assignment.  How exactly could one completely hate seducing women and slipping through the hardest security to ferret out the secrets of the enemies of his nation.  Grimly he reasoned that he'd probably killed more enemy soldiers with philandering and thievery than he could with the brigade he wished to command.

He slipped the ring holding his hair into the smooth queue, he did not braid his as many did and shook his hair out and sat back, sighing loudly.  Fate was a strange and fickle thing, and he had a sneaking suspicion that fate was doing with him what he was doing with a small army of women.  How many? He wondered.  Short of checking his journals he couldn't be sure, at least at this time of the morning.  Fortunately he could normally keep it all straight, it got tense quick when you murmured the wrong name at a very inappropriate time.  He shook his head and rose, letting the rest of his clothes fall away and dropping into the blessedly narrow bed, too small for two, and that was just how he wanted it.

He'd sleep till lunch, by then new orders should return through Vale and whatever arcane method he used to send his reports over thousands of miles in a flash of light.  Now he hid from from that light, and sunlight and sprawled out on his bed and felt the tension slowly leave his muscles, feeling them grow heavy with approaching sleep.  The strangest road brought him here, or village, he corrected, Fallman's Freeholding.  He was the youngest and most innocent-looking of the men in the cohort so he was sent for a 'soft look' at the place, no uniform or armor and only a pair of knives in case he ran into trouble.  His centurion wasn't in the mood for a prolonged fight that would cost him half of his men at least so he'd at least try guile first.

Two days later Grant Westland returned with the full defenses of the place mapped out and a rudimentary plan to get in and take the place before anyone was awake enough to utter a harsh word.  The centurion asked pointedly how he'd gotten such fine intelligence and he replied honestly that he had an eye for finding such weaknesses and he'd seduced the wife of the headman and found out the guard rotations and other vital information.  Centurion Quail hadn't thought much of it, but the sergeants pressed him and they followed the plan and the Freeholding fell without a man lost.

Quail was quick to write the report claiming credit but one of the sergeants was a Knight of the Palatine Order and his report, through decidedly back channels, and he found himself pushed into the Sergeant's Academy, and after a few missions like tonight and improving the security of a few embassies he found himself in the Officer's Academy at Talmaran.  He'd complained a few times about the army pushing him into the current life he lived, and its similarity to the one he'd run from but another sergeant fixed him with a condescending look that only sergeats of some experience can manage.

"You'll do more good with the weapon between your legs than the one at your hip, stop sniveling, there are men here that would give an arm to live your life."

That took all the fun out of sulking, he reflected as he rolled onto his side and sighed again as sleep began to extinguish his conscious thoughts and his heavy limbs grew weightless as consciousness and sulking left him.

 >:D More to come

Offline Lord Palatine

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2009, 06:52:17 PM »
Carnden, his orderly, roused him just before noon with a cup of steaming coffee passed close in front of his face a few times.  "Fine day, Sir," he reported.  "Warm but not hot but clouding up and threatening a rain this afternoon.  All normal with the guards and no defaulters found on morning parade."

Westland nodded and rose to a seated position and took two sips of his morning revival before his bladder made itself known.  "Midak's Teeth," Camden rolled his eyes skyward.  "You've a dozen fancy nightshirts give to you and you sprawl bareassed.  Damn it all, Sir, I have to see to laundering those sheets!"

"You farm it out to a laundress," Westland reminded him as he returned from the necessary, shrugging into a robe.  "And since you never ask for money to pay her I think you're getting as much compensation from it as she is."

Carnden loftily ignored this jibe and answered a tap at the door, he accepted a breakfast tray from one of the cook staff and noted curiously that there was a note placed on the tray.  He set the tray before Westland who took up the folded and sealed note as his coffee was topped off and his breakfast placed before him.  As he read Westland took up a slice of bacon and chewed it thoughtfully before turning holding it up to Carnden.  "Shouldn't bacon be crisp?"

He snatched it from his officer's hand.  "Bloody cooks," he growled.  "I'll rate them sound for this.  Lazy bastards can't even do women's work."

Westland let the top half of the note fall back toward him.  "I wish you had a wife to hear that," he flipped the note open again and finished reading before folding it and setting it off to the side.

"Not likely," Carnden scoffed.  "I ain't about to be snagged in no snare."

"It'll be a woman that ends you," Westland growled as he cracked the shell of a boiled egg in its little cup with his spoon.

"Me," Carnden scoffed.  "You are more likely to suffer that.  Much of them as you dally with, is it a dozen this week?"

"Eight," Westland corrected.  "Don't be daft, who could attend a dozen in a week not yet over?"

"You, two months ago."

"Belt up," Westland growled.  "Uniform of the day for this afternoon, full ceremonials for tonight."  He thought a moment and smiled wickedly.  "And yourself as well.  We'll be attending a ball at the palace with the Ambassador and his wife."

The swearing of his orderly only improved his mood as he attended to his breakfast.

 :drinks: more to come
« Last Edit: March 23, 2009, 08:52:03 AM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2009, 10:34:52 PM »
"You have orders?" Ambassador Tarleman asked as he entered Westland's room that afternoon, "why are you eating, we're going to a banquet and ball."

"I won't be eating," he replied.  "Part of my orders, I'm to touch nothing offered to me by a slave."

"That won't be easy in this country," the Ambassador grimaced. "Never fear, my orders don't include you, you are to continue to be charming and ambassadorial, feel free to apologize for me, make sure to mention that I am surfeit with Palatine ideals, and I'll remain hidebound and obstreperous on the issue."

Tarleman thought for a moment.  "What do you know that I don't?  Besides an entire list of frilly words."

"Princess Jessa of Cambreandt has a romantic streak a league wide," he replied grimly.  "And I need to cut a dashing figure to nudge out a certain Baliseran prince in her interest.  An alliance between them could lead to war in the south, Balisere wants to recapture Aldoreane while its in civil war and them threaten Quarletz, and there are enough unreformed imperialists in Quarlets to tie down the Royal Army for months if they receive outside support."

"And what of the princess?"

"What of her?" Westland asked.  "She is an objective, both for Balisere and us.  She may have been born a girl but she was also born to be a political marker."

"So what will you do?"

"What I have to, I must do all I can to prevent this alliance," Westland said firmly.

"And what of her feelings?"

"Don't," Westland warned him.  "I can't afford the luxury of looking at her as a person, she's an objective, no more."

Tarleman studied him carefully, he knew that Grant disliked Cambreandt.  Slavery aside it harbored hundreds of imperial emigres, cast loose with the fall of the empire, and these men had the ears of the king.  "Very well, Grant, I won't cloud your thoughts, you have enough on your plate right now."

Westland nodded and looked to his uniform, carefully laid out for him.  Just an objective, he reminded himself.  Take the hill, take the princess, kill the man.  It was all the same.  He sighed and cut a large bite from is steak.  Knight of the bedchamber.  How in thunder did he come to this pass?  He wanted a horse, soldiers at his back and a clear field before him.  To charge under the colors, the thunder of hooves, the horns and drums declaring their defiance.  He'd fought his battles, but few since his commissioning were in the open, he'd fought to protect his embassies in three countries, and he'd been the first ashore at the Battle of Port Caris, jumped his mount over the gunwales of the landing barge leading a small force of cavalry to clear the landing beaches for the infantry.  Good clean war, blood and sweat, not wine and perfume.  He pushed back his empty plate and took up a glass of wine distastefully, he couldn't afford to smell of ale tonight.

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2009, 01:12:23 AM »
Corporal Carnden had turned his officer out immaculately, boots polished to a mirrored sheen, spurs polished, medals gleaming.  Westland wasn't fond of dress uniform, it was one more reminder that he was essentially a carpet night these days, but the mission delivered to him changed the uniform in his eyes somewhat, this would be as subtle as walking into the festivities in full armor.  He stepped into the room, ignoring the eyes that turned to him when he doffed his cloak and the deep gray of his jacket came into view, and the blood scarlet of his baldric, heavy with decorations showed that he'd seen blood and action in his time.  His left hand resting upon the hilt of a regulation military sword also garnered attention in a room full of men wearing rapiers or small swords.

Carnden walked the appropriate number of steps behind and to the left of him, the normally gruff soldier also turned out in his best and now icily formal as his duty required, and was conspicuously armed with a soldier's weapon as well.  Both walked past the servants bearing trays of drinks and crossed to the corner where the officers of Cambreant mixed with the military advisers to the various embassies of the world.  He was regarded warily, in the past twenty years Selnendrin had been at war with half of the world, and won.  To make it even more unpalatable to the assembled officers, their own countries had started these wars and brought the thrashings they received upon themselves.

"Were you aware," a fleet admiral of Cambreant inquired carefully, "that several hundred of your ships are in the Western Sea, some within a day's sail of our coasts?"

"Yes, I am," Westland replied as he declined another glass of wine offered to him.

"Might I as what they are doing?"

"Well," Westland said with exaggerate patience.  "They are ships, in water, so the obvious answer would be sailing.  Ships tend to do that, when properly operated, as I have every confidence that any Selnen fleet would be."

The neck of the admiral reddened, he wasn't happy to be so addressed by a foreign officer at least three steps in rank lower than himself.  "What I mean is what business do your ships have in the Western Sea."

"The oceans of the world are free to all," Wesland reminded him carefully.  "The Realm maintains its right to maintain itself in the free waters of the world, that includes the western seas where many of our merchant ships operate as well."

"But so many ships?"

"A fleet," he shrugged.  "The Realm has six fleets, it would be pointless to maintain them in port when our trade interests cover the world.  Your nation maintains a battle group in the Eastern Sea for the very reason we find ourselves in the western.  Maintaining the right of free passage."

"We have a mere hundred ships, you have at least twice that in the West."

Westland tugged at his ear and smiled in amusement.  "You have a hundred and thirty four in the Eastern Sea, we have five hundred and thirty six.  The difference would appear to be that our navy has more ships and can maintain a greater number at sea.  I fail to see what your complaint might be, we are doing nothing that you are not."

"We have a more symbolic than threatening force stationed in the Eastern Sea."

"To the contrary," Westland assured him.  "You have all that you can place there, our freedom of the seas is not hindered by your inability to project the same maritime power as my nation, and our fleet is spread across two hemispheres, in fact only sixty seven of our ships sail in the same surface area of sea as your force double that size does.  Glad to straighten that out for you old boy," he turned to greet the Valcastrian military advisor.

"It is good to see a friendly face," Brigadier Traedek of Valcastria greeted him.

"I'm happy to see you too," Westland greeted him warmly.  "You might not want to be seen to much with me tonight," he warned him in a quieter tone.  "I'm feeling a bit difficult today," he looked over the gathered officers with his eyes.  "I'm quite liable to offend many before the mood passes."

"Better and better," Traedek grinned conspiratorially.  "I need not remind you that our nations are allied, and we take that alliance quite seriously."

Westland turned his head slightly toward Traedek, his eyes twinkled mischievously.  "I do appreciate that, but you might want to confirm that with your ambassador before you commit yourself to supporting my play."

Traedek nodded and glanced across the room, I see that he is speaking with your ambassador now, if you will excuse me I'll pay my respects."  The bowed slightly and as he crossed the room Westland turned and surveyed the mood of the assemblage, already they knew there was tension between himself and the fleet admiral, and now all eyes studied him, watching to see what could be next and attempting to divine the meaning behind it, and he would let them wonder as his gaze stopped upon three uniformed men, wearing the livery of Imperial Knights Invincible.  Now they would get a show.

 >:D more to come  :diablo:
« Last Edit: March 28, 2009, 01:29:51 PM by Lord Palatine »

Offline Lord Palatine

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2009, 01:33:42 PM »
"Piss and blood," Corporal Carnden hissed at the sight of the uniforms.

"Indeed," Westland growled as he crossed the room.  Things could never be so complicated that fate couldn't find a way to diddle you, he reflected.  He could not ignore this, no matter how it might interfere with his current assignment, this was an order from the Crown itself, all Imperial Knights Invincible were considered criminals of the vilest order, they would be given one chance to surrender by any of the Palatine Order that should find them, and should they decline they were subject to summary justice.  Few were consigned to a kill where found order, some called it a "Yard of Justice" decree, a yard of steel a yard-long arrow or a one yard drop at the end of a rope.  It was an order to kill and license to commit murder.

He felt no regret over the possibility, these wore the crest of the Imperial Guard of Basdred II, they were the unrepentant murderers of a brutal regime.  Hundreds had surrendered, many tried and executed and many more cleared and released, but the Imperial Guard refused surrender to a man, many had died on both sides in the fight to bring them to justice and Westland really didn't like the odds now, but duty was duty.

"Palatine," one of them greeted him coldly.  Westland could feel the room chill and everyone grow silent.

"Pig," Westland replied amicably.  "Duty obliges me to give you the opportunity to surrender to justice," he said formally as he felt the royal guard shifting in the room.  "Should you decline I will have to postpone the justice you bastards so richly deserve."

"You have no authority here."

"My authority begins with the Sovereign of Selnendrin, extends through the Baron of Selnendrin and ends here in my scabbard," Westland replied.  "I will accept your refusal, and in the spirit of fair play I'll warn you that should you venture outside of the Palace, your lives are forfeit."

He turned and walked away, Carnden beside him.  "I'll slip word to the detail outside," the corporal said quietly.

"They don't engage," Westland ordered, "they pass the word to me and observe only.  And get word to the embassy immediately, have Vale send a report home immediately."

"Wasn't your life complicated enough?" Carnden wondered.

"Apparently not."

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2009, 01:26:37 AM »
"You live on the edge," Brigadier Traedek observed.

"Its better to live by the edge than die by it," Westland grinned tightly.  "Besides, those bastards don't have any reason to remain alive.  They waste air, food and water that would be best used by others."

"You'll get no argument from me, bastards like them executed my father, uncles and brothers.  Say the word and I'll wade through their guts with you."

"Good to know," Westland replied, a twinkle in his eye as a thought came to him.  "But remember, they have power.  We of the Palatine have counters to that power, you don't.  But if you or any of your friends see them out and about if they get word to me I'll let you in on the festivities."

"Deal," Traedek nodded briskly.  "In the meanwhile, I'll help watch your back, I don't trust those bastards not to try and take you from behind."

"Not even if they buy me dinner, they can just go pay for it if they are that desperate."

"Here is your next opportunity to spread sunshine," Traedek nodded toward the approaching King of Cambreant.

They both braced to attention and bowed slightly toward him.  "Your highness," Westland greeted him.

One of his followers stepped forward.  "His Majesty is the soverign ruler of his hation and should be addressed so."

"His highness owes a fealty duty to the Emperor of Waldenberg, therefore he holds his crown at the sufferance of an overlord, as such he cannot be considered a sovereign ruler."

"His Majesty can have you removed," the pointed reply.

"Of course," Westland grinned.  "You can label me undesirable and my government replies in kind to your staff.  You can order me out, I'm sure I can summon at least one friendly ship in to carry me off, or you can try and have me killed and find your embassies carted off and dropped on a leaky barge for home.  You really need to work on your threats, dealing with slaves seems to have made you forget that a free man has little to fear from you.  Gentlemen," he bowed his head slightly and deliberately turned his back on them and walked away.

"Nicely played," Traedek murmured as they walked away.

"Thank you, but its purposeless bickering that distracts from what I need to do."

"Which is?"

"Nothing I can discuss," Westland sighed, Traedek took no offense, he knew the need for keeping one's plans to oneself.

"You seem to have the eye of all of the ladies," Carnden said as they returned to him.

"All?"

"Every last one, Sir."

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2009, 09:17:08 PM »
Westland grinned faintly, a ghost of a smile that came and went.  Carnden expression didn't change at all but it wasn't lost on Traedek that there was something significant happening.  Carnden's expression hardened and Westland's head turned slightly and from the periphery of his vision he could see the three invincible in deep consultation with a few officers of the royal guard.

"They want you tossed out," Carnden read their lips.  "But the Royal Guard say they can't, you have diplomatic credentials.  They also said if they want to have at you they need to take it away from the palace grounds."

Westland nodded slightly and slipped a flask from his jacket and took a slow pull from it as he thought.  "Keep an eye on them," he replied at last.  "Bastards will try something and I don't want them to have the last word on who dies."

"They have to die," Carnden said coldly.  "Its the law."

"Selnen Law," Traedek reminded them.

"By Selnen Law a Palatine is charged to bring justice to fugitives wherever they are found," Carnden replied.  "Bugger all other law."

"So, you're damned if you do or don't," Traedek said quietly.

"Only if I don't succeed," Westland corrected.

"We," Carnden corrected.  "I don't want to train a new officer."

They all glanced over and smiled at the group across the room and smiled impudently.  Westlake knew that a fight was coming, and that he was actually looking forward to the fight over the other part of his assignment.  A stand-up kill was better than skulking and conniving any day.  These would be a test, a hard test if two came for him at once, and a deadly one because the Invincible were the closet in stregth to a Palatine that they'd found yet in this world, with the possible exception of the Skyldan.  With one he was confident he'd win, but he'd bleed.  Two meant they would all probably die, three, one of them would live.  He'd have to cheat the odds. 

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2009, 12:16:58 PM »
"Brigadier Westland," a voice greeted him from behind, he turned to face her and made a polite bow.

"Lady Kershan, a pleasure to see you again, I thought you'd returned to Waldenberg."

She smiled wickedly at him.  "I see you are at your charming best."

"But of course," he smiled back, his eyes searching her for any sign of her agenda.  Wives of foreign diplomats commonly speak to members of other missions, but wives of diplomatically protected spies were normally less outgoing.  Even ones he'd slept with before.  Several times.  "There are many forms of diplomacy, and many kinds of diplomats.  I'm the more plainspoken sort that favors actions over words."

"Oh no," she disagreed sweetly.  "You have quite the honeyed tongue, its almost as sweet as your actions."

He grinned faintly as he waved off a servant with a try of drinks.  "I try to be well spoken in all things," he replied agreeably.  "A stumbling tongue opens no doors after all."

"And many other things," she agreed.

"One strives to be accommodating," he agreed.  "But one does find that it is easy to misunderstand a amiable nature.  Look at your husband's displeasure over our mutual amicability, he can be very closed-minded for a diplomat."

"And you are quite good at jumping out of windows for a diplomat," she giggled.

He nodded with a small smile of remembrance.  "Well, I do pride myself on being a soldier first.  We're supposed to be good at all things physical, and for our expertise in maneuvers."  He glanced across the room.  "And he's giving me the same look that sent me out the window."

"Good," she narrowed her eyes wickedly.  "He's been too complacent of late, I need to keep him on his toes."

"On his toes?  You've expanded your repertoire, I don't recall that one, curling toes, but never up on them," he pondered.  "How complacent is he these days?"

"Do you still keep that little room in the turret of the Angstron?"

"That complacent?"

"Tonight?"

"I'll be there after I leave here," he allowed.  "Its closer than the embassy and easier to relax there."

"Good," she replied as she turned to walk away, she walk back to her husband was slightly exaggerated, designed to draw the eyes of men, but his attention was elsewhere.  It was a nice walk, but he'd seen it before.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2009, 02:22:39 AM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2009, 03:06:57 AM »
Lady Kershan would do quite nicely, both tonight and later, for a formal introduction.  But, tonight called for a more informal introduction.  He circled the room, never staying in one place too long, but working his way out farther each time.  He checked on his quarry now and then and read her easily.  Bored and constrained, her expression was curious and longing as if she craved some excitement.  Interesting.  she'd retired to the upper gallery, there was a Royal; Box up there, he knew, where the glass doors opened to cool the royalty at need.  It was a simple matter to slip into a privy and out the window and up the wall.  He had some experience at getting in and out of places he wasn't supposed to be in after all.

Princess Jessa was a bit of a treat for the eyes, dark hair and eyes, pale skin, slim but nice figure.  He came to these conclusions quickly as he slipped over the rail to stand behind her.  "Highness," he greeted her, close enough that his breath was warm on her neck.  She tried to turn but any movement pressed her body against his and she stood demurely to prevent such improper contact.

"What do you want?"

"Such beauty from afar," he murmured. "Demanded I come closer to drink you in."

"Flattery," she scoffed.  "I've heard as much from any chaise lounge cavalier."

"But it took a soldier to overcome the obstacles to savor such a drink," his lips brushed her neck softly as he spoke, his warm breath never gone from her skin.  "I was never one to see life from afar, and what is life without a few risks?  What is life doing what I'm told or expected to do?  Could you live so constrained Highness?"

"I am so constrained," she admitted.  "But that is the nature of my life."

"Truly?" he sounded saddeded.  "You've never slipped from your window in the night and explored the city?"

"Of course not!"

"Never climbed up to the roof to look at the stars alone?  To look over the city and feel that thrill of being so high up?"

"And risk falling?"

"You fear a little risk?" he asked.  "How about now?  The risk of knowing that at any time someone might catch us here together.  It certainly warms my blood.  After all, I would have to climb down and run for my life I'm sure.  You of course would be trapped here then."

"It could happen any time," she said quietly.

"It could," he kissed her neck softly.  "And you aren't one to attempt such a climb, nervous girl that you are."

"Not in my gown," she protested.

He smiled and pecked her neck softly.  "So out of your gown you'd try?"

She blushed brightly.  "You take liberties, sir!"

His hands squeezed her hips softly.  "You can dress as you like for the climb, or could since this is all theoretical anyway.  Might I call on you some time?"

"It would never be allowed!"

"But, if I scratched at your window some night?"

"I'll cross no bridges till I reach them," she replied haughtily.

"Or open no windows," he murmured.  "But expect me one night.  To sit with you in the moonlight high above the city."

There was the sound of heavy feet on the stairs and he straddled the rail, his eyes holding hers for a moment before he impetuously kissed her and slipped down the wall as if it were nothing, leaving a glove on the rail as he passed.  Princess Jessa sawit, and the embroidered crest and wuickly hid it under her petticoats, tying it to her thigh with her garter, blushing furiously as she did.

"You look flushed, your Highness," Callie, her maid said with concern.  "Shall I get you a cool drink?"

"Yes," Jessa said.  "Quickly."  She looked over the rail, but there was no one below.

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2009, 04:56:54 AM »
"A late night," Ambassador Tarleman greeted Westland as he straggled through the embassy gate.

"Good morning to you as well," Grant yawned.

"Your mission went well?"

"I had a lovely chat with the Princess, and pronged the wife of Waldengerg's Ambassador," he shrugged.  "I'd call that a pair of wins."

Tarleman thought about that for a moment.  "Grant, don't you miss honorable service?"

Welstland may have entertained similar thoughts earlier, but damned if he would let a bureaucrat make such an implication.  "You find service to the Realm dishonorable?"

"Your orders have you making free with other men's wives and seducing and ruining a young woman."

"My orders have me disrupting governments that we'll be at war against in under two years.  Probably within a few months  if we have our way.  Waldenberg is looking for is one excuse and they'll start a war that'll cover half of the world," he accepted a mug of strong tea from his orderly.  "Too bloody right I'm willing to prong thew wives of half the world and humiliate their daughters in the process if that is the price of saving the lives of my brothers in arms."  He sat and held out his mug for a refill.  "Waldenberg needs three years to bring their armies up to the level it would take to beat us.  More than half are green as grass, local clodhoppers that wear uniforms to impress farm girls.  Give them three years and a few minor wars to consolidate Waldenberg over this entire continent and they'll be veterans.  If you combine the arms of the Realm, the standing armies anyway, not the militia, we can muster a million and a quarter fighting men, Waldenberg has five times that, and when they go to war Gamedian and Fortunel will join them, that's seven or eight to one, spread over thousands of miles.

"That's if we let them come to us.  We won't.  That means that three armies, six hundred thousand men, will come here, to stop them before they can some to us.  Add to that at least three fleets and their marines and we'll still be outnumbered nearly fifteen to one.  Breaking relations between Waldenberg and Cambreandt I'll keep a million men under arms from joining with the Empires and their granaries as well.  That cuts the odds down to ten or twelve to one.  There is nothing dishonorable about saving lives, what you consider distasteful seduction I see as a war that extends to the bedroom."

Westland sighed and leaned back.  "You never served, did you?"

"No," Tarleman admitted. "I went to the academy and then into diplomatic service."

Westland nodded and sipped his tea.  "Seduction, spying, assassination, and even war are all part and parcel of diplomacy.  An army is a diplomatic tool, a constraint that forces those you meet with over a polished table to listen and engage in diplomacy, diplomacy is the scabbard that the sword of the army rests in, and there comes a time when the sword must be freed in the interests and protection of the Realm.  I am a soldier, an instrument of Diplomacy, and I am Palatine, an instrument of justice.  Not law, justice.  The law is what is legal, justice is what is right, your treaties and talks are the law, my killing, seductions and spying are justice.  Its isn't pretty, but it is doing what is right on the larger stage.  You ask if seducing a young woman is honorable, I ask you if leaving her as a bargaining chip for an enemy that will kill all of yourt countrymen as they may that they can rule over the rest is honorable?"

He rose and looked irritated.  "Bugger your sense of honor, I am an instrument of justice and duty, and they are stern taskmasters that demand I do all that I must and may to end the abomination of slavery, and stop the drive to conquest.  I will do many things that you will consider dishonorable, and one day I will again stand under the Star, and it shall judge me for what I have done, as I have before.  And you shall shake your head and tisk tick at me, while those that know the horrors of war agree that I had to stand nick deep in the shit and dig for everything I could find to save their blood.  You'll be remembered as a diplomat that couldn't stop a war, I'll be remembered as a soldier that did everything I had to so we'd win it."

Tarleman looked at him, greatly displeased.  "You forget yourself Captain," he replied with great dignity.  "And your logic is backwards, and your moral stance is on the thinnest ice imaginable, and when it breaks you'll find its cold and deep beneath you."

Westland sighed and rubbed his eyes wearily.  "Stance my arse," he spoke through his palms.  "When one is on thin ice one doesn't stop moving.  Irrespective of the logic of my arguments, my orders trump yours.  And you are not in the proper state of mind to represent the interests of the Realm.  You are restricted to the Embassy, you will see no one.  You are suffering from food poisoning from the meal you've had this night."

"You have no right...."

"I don't need right, I have authority, orders from the Sovereign of the Realm, through the Baron of Selnendrin.  I will send my report within the hour, you may do the same, but you are under close guard from this moment forward."

Westland turned on his heel and walked away in icy fury, his report was quickly written and sent by the sour-faced little mage named Quail back to Handron Hall, he had no idea if the Ambassador had done the same.  He doubted the diplomat would be here much longer anyway.

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2009, 04:23:04 AM »
A heavy foot pushed repeatedly on the mattress beside him several times, rousing him from an exhausted sleep.  Westland let his eyes drift open and regarded the figure essentially kicking him out of bed.  When his eyes cleared he saw who it was and scrambled out of the bed.  Cecil Bragg, Lord Defender, hero of several wars, former Prime Minister and now Baron of Selnendrin was not one you kept waiting.

"You've been bloody busy," Bragg said as he crossed the room and sat at the small table, leaving the captain standing nude and braced to attention.  "Arresting a Royal Ambassador."

"My Lord, things are too tight here for me to trust a man wrestling with his conscience to back me up in the tasks I have before me."

"Besides deflowering a princess what have you on your plate just now?"  Bragg asked with a sour expression.

"I have to make sure the alliance doesn't happen, my Lord, Waldenberg has its fleets at sea now, as I reported, the opening move to war."

"Were you here for the last war?"

"Yes, My Lord, I held the Embassy In Waldane through the whole war."

"Good luck with that now, the Imperial Government has left Waldane to parts unknown.  In the last war the Emperor was killed and they won't risk that again, though this time they have an Empress."

"He was killed by your children, was he not?" Grant dared to ask.

"He was, apparently they all punched him at once, broke his skull six different ways," Bragg nodded but didn't allow his expression to change.  "We've skirmished at sea already, though they don't know it here, not left to make the report.  We'll soon be at war from the Northern Cap to Southern Waldenberg.  Most of my Family will be here Captain, my wife will cut Waldenberg off from the northern nations, I will have central Waldenberg, a valcastrian army in South Waldenberg and Fairegrove with an army to liberate the northern nations.  You know how badly we'll be outnumbered, you must drive a wedge between Cambreant and Waldenberg.  IUf they attaack south its into my wife, if its to the north its into Fairgrove.  They must be off balance and unable to act."

"That's a lot to find between one woman's legs."

"Don't I know it," he nodded.  "But there'll be more here with you.  I'm leaving a team with you, a very special team at that.  They are going to be removing problems and implicating both sides in the mix.  If they need help they'll come to you, but they'd better be in dire bloody straits or I'll know the reason why."

"And the Ambassador?"

"He is going home ill," Lord Bragg promised.  "With me.  I'm leaving you another, General Denschlep Tigre IX.  You'll need a good soldier here to watch your back, and I'll have a general to draw on if I need him later."

"I've met General Tigre, a formidable man," Westland said with relief.

"I'm sure he'll be overjoyed that you approve," Bragg let the sarcasm drip from his voice.

"Sorry, My Lord."

"And cover your pork, I don't need to see that."

Westland took up his trousers and pulled them on quickly.  "I'll work as quickly as I can, hopefully she's as pliant as my first meeting suggests.  I was planning to see her again tonight."

"Good, now get dressed and go see your ambassador, I have work to do," he rose and left without another word.

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2009, 04:11:10 AM »
"Captain Westland," a man standing before the widow facing the sun greeted him.  The shape was wide at the shoulders and narrowed toward his hips and turned slowly to face him.  "Not exactly keeping army hours are you?"

"Late duty, my lord," Westland stated, neither explaining or asking pardon, just stating a fact.

"You may not see the sun for some time to come," Tigre stated as he seated himself at the large desk, a rang a bell and two military orderlies entered bearing breakfast for them both.  "I've sent off the whole staff of the embassy," he answered the question Grant hadn't asked.  "Doubled the guard, replaced every clerk, secretary and aide, and we have two squads of hunters in the cellar sleeping the day away."

"Hell and night," Grant's fork full of eggs paused halfway from his plate to his mouth.  "How close to war are we?"

"Hours or weeks," General Tigre replied.  "So lets discuss what your part in this will be."

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2009, 11:50:18 AM »
Westland knew what his part would be, wreck the imperial marriage and hamper any alliances that the intended nuptials intended to forge.  It was easier to keep it at this level, because down deep he knew he was going to destroy the life of a young woman that had committed no harm save to be born into a royal family.  Fate was a fickle bitch he reflected for a moment before he tucked several things into a tiny little bag, its size was no measure of the amount of would hold ad he filled it with great care and preparation and tied it carefully to his belt and adjusted his jacket down over it.  Intellectually he knew that he was going to seduce a woman, but he knew he had to cross an unfriendly city to reach the quarry he sought.  Knives slid into his boots, long knives into sheathes at his belt.  He selected his main weapon, a short sword with some thought.  The men of the city mainly carried rapiers, he had a knight's disdain for it, but the fighter's respect for the deadly point.  To that end he had a sword breaker at one hip and the shortsword at the other, and over all the dark nondescript cloak.

General Tigre would soon make his social call upon the Minister of State, and the passing of an ambassadorial escort would provide the distraction that he needed to escape the embassy, and then wait for darkness in a comfortable room with Lady Kershan.  It wouldn't be entirely unpleasant, he reflected.  She knew how to make the hours fly by unnoticed.  He'd have to exercise some care with her, she was the wife of an enemy official after all, and her wanton behavior wasn't quite so much due to an amorous nature as a cunning intelligence and curiosity.  A lot to think about," he considered as he left his rooms.  So little time.  The escort left on time, several guards lined the road for it to pass and all but one returned quickly inside the embassy grounds, as as Tigre rode to the Palace Westlake walked casually through the crowd that gathered during such events, starting a wandering path through the city to lose any that might follow him on his way.



The arrival at the palace was seen through more ominous eyes.  Soldiers, and not soldiers as they'd seen before.  The uniforms of the Selnens weren't too difficult to decipher, the guard contingent normally all wore the blue formal uniforms of the army, but this time they all wore white surcoats over armor.  The white was reserved for the highest order of the Palatine, and the new ambassador was similarly attired, heavy white jacket, armed, and wearing a baldric dripping with military decorations.  This was a change, and one that did not bode well.  A single attendant followed him, following with martial stride and precision behind an 'ambassador' that wore general's stripes at his shoulder.

"A general as an ambassador?" Minister Taerlech asked curiously before he stepped into the meeting room.  

The man reached to a leather-wrapped roll of parchment at his belt and set it on a table.  "Minister," he bowed slightly.  "I am General Denschlep Tigre IX, Lord Defender of the Palatine Order and Ambassador of His Majesty King Ramon Telbrantil-Meldresse II, Sovereign of Selnendrin, to the Kingdom of Cambreandt."

"Ambassador," the minister bowed in turn.  "Your appearance surprises me."

Tigre smiled and set aside diplomatic platitudes.  "I'm certain it does," he replied, setting several items on the table, one a large bolt of folded cloth that he flipped open with a flick of his wrist.  "Three days ago the Second fleet of Waldenberg attacked the Sixth Squadron, Third Fleet of His Majesty's Third Fleet in the seas west of Crab island."

That put the Imperial fleet at a 2 to 1 advantage.  "My condolences for your losses," Minister Taerlech bowed slightly.  "Were they bad?"

"Losses are never good minister," Tigre assured him.  "The squadron entered the battle with a bit more than two hundred and fifty ships and lost nearly thirty."

"So many?" he asked, though was surprised the losses were actually so light.

"It is a stiff price, but Admiral Climel isn't one to take such losses without inflicting damage in return."

Taerlech nodded sagely.  "And how did the forces of Admiral Climel acquit themselves in this matter, what losses did they cause in return?"

"The Second Fleet of Waldenberg," he replied.

"I beg your pardon?"

Tigre unrolled the remainder of the pennant, it was the standard of an Imperial Fleet Admiral.  "Of over five hundred imperial ships that entered the battle none shall return home.  More than two hundred sunk and three hundred captured and taken as prizes of His Majesty's government.  I will be arranging a cartel for the return of over twenty thousand prisoners of war with the Imperial Ambassador later today."

"So many dead and lost," Taerlech stammered.

"Yes," Tigre stared grimly.  "I do wonder how Admiral Climel reined in all of those captains when they had the bit in their teeth, I would have expected them to burn the rest and send them down, but he's a charitable man.  Still, the logistics of capturing a fleet larger than your own is more than I, a simple soldier, wish to contemplate."

Three hundred ships, and thirty thousand prisoners?  "But why do you tell me these things?  I do not represent His Imperial Majesty."

Tigre stared holes through him for a moment before replying.  "Don't let your King attach himself to Waldenberg in the disputes now rising, it would cause him no end of pain, I'm sure, to have the report detailing the bloated corpses of his navies feeding the sharks, and even less to see the Selnen flag raised over the ruins of his own palace.  When we go to war, Ambassador, we do not play at half measures.  And you will note that all who have underestimated my King had done so at a bloody cost.  Sit out the war, Ambassador.  You don't want to be part of the chastisement to come."

"I will give your message to His Majesty," Taerlech replied.

"Be convincing," Tigre said grimly as he turned to leave.  "Ministers receive no special treatment under the laws of war," he said as he walked across the room.  "They are as integral to war as generals."
« Last Edit: September 02, 2009, 06:55:55 PM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2009, 07:48:59 PM »
"They call that diplomacy?" King Baelek asked incredulously.  "That is a threat with hand on sword hilt."

"Majesty," Minister Taerlech said as carefully as he might.  "If we see the drawn blade it will be covered in blood.  The Selnens are good friends and bad enemies, and they don't make idle threats."

Baelek turned a contemptuous eye to his minister.  "That sword has thousands of miles of oceans to cross 'ere we see it.  Its a pale threat.  Waldenberg has twelve fleets at sea hunting the Selnen Navy which boasts but six."

"Eleven, Majesty," Taerlech replied carefully.  "They destroyed a fleet at the cost of thirty ships."



"Must you go?" Lady Kershan traced her fingers over his back as he sat on the edge of the bed.

"Busy times," he shrugged as he rose and walked to the basin and poured water over a cloth and wiped down his heated skin.  "If I have to make time where I may you can blame the inbred dog sitting on your throne."

He eyes widened and her skin paled at his words, her nostrils pinching slightly in outrage.  "Be civil!"

"I was," he shrugged.  "Fortunately his officers are no better than the crowned ruin," he said as he wiped his armpits, walking across the room toward her.  "Wasn't your brother with the Second Fleet?"

"What do you mean was?" she asked suspiciously.

"The Second Fleet attacked our Sixth Squadron, it was a blood bath," Garth studied her face.

"Did you lose friends?" she asked.

"None I'm aware of," he replied.  "But our squadron destroyed your entire fleet.  Well, two-fifths destroyed outright and the remaining three fifths captured.  I thought we'd proven once just how stupid it was to make war upon us, apparently your emperor needs a new lesson."

She swallowed nervously.  "Can you find the fate of my brother?"

"It will serve no purpose," he sighed, his hand moved in a blur and connected wetly with her throat.  He hopped onto the bed, holding down her thrashing limbs under the covers until her eyes glazed over as the last rattled breath escaped her chest through her shattered throat.  Westland sighed and put himself to work, carefully tying her wrists and ankles to the bed posts and placing a pillow under her rump, ignoring her grotesquely splayed body as he dressed himself.  "You were in over your head," he said regretfully as he slipped from the room on cat's feet withdrawing a rapier from his bag as he descended the stairs.

The landlord sat alone in his private room, the house was all but empty which was no surprise, his tenants were irregular and only used the rooms here when they needed to be discrete, which served him quite well, they rarely disturbed his time with his precious books.  The scratching at the door was a surprise, he only knew of one tenant here, and she was normally quite aloof.  He rose and opened the door, his eyes bulging as the rapier blade slid through his throat and out the back of his neck.  A twist of the strong wrist snapped the blade off in his spine, cutting off his body from his brain.  Westland let the remainder of the blade drop from his hand, the intricately carved hilt of Cambreandt's Royal Guard.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2009, 07:50:53 PM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2009, 12:55:13 AM »
Carnden poured a bucket of water over his head.  "Pull yourself together," Carnden chided him as he refilled the bucket and poured that as well, the last of the suds circled the round grate in the floor.  They were in a safe house now, Westland's night was far from over.  Carnden made no issue of it, he wasn't supposed to in fact, but he himself was a Knight of the Palatine Order, a step below his officer, but being of the Palatine Order did nor guarantee rank, and if you held to the ideals of the order then rank really didn't matter.  "She was a murdering whore," Carnden reminded him.  "You killed her in bed, she's killed at least a dozen that way, including two of the Order.  You used her as a weapon, and then the weapon was no longer of service you discarded it.  Nothing more."

"You cold bastard," Westland looked up, his eyes hard and his jaw set, his voice came from between clenched teeth.

"Bloody right I am," Carnden looked at him.  "We're soldiers, my Lord, and we're more than that.  We do not serve laws, remember the oath?  We serve justics and the Realm.  The Realm is at war, we are at war.  We don't get to follow the flags into battle, we don't get the nice clean war wading through blood, guts and shit to cut the next bastard down.  We get the filthy war, the snooping and sneaking and  knives in backs.  If Cambreant joins with Waldenberg then that's a half a million more swords to send at our own."

Westland looked down and shook his head.

"Look at me, my Lord," Carnden said firmly, the drill field was strong in his voice.  "I said look at me!"  He looked down into Westland's eyes.  "We have our orders.  Its not clean, its not pretty, but neither are bodies of our soldiers when they're dropped in their graves.  We can save lives, ours and theirs, and that is what we cannot ever forget."

"So whatever we do is right?"

Carnden snorted.  "Of course not, you know what the Star will never countenance, and you cannot lie to or make excuses to the Star.  If what you have done isn't just then you'll pay, and so will I, and I'm not scared a bit.  She was a spy and assassin, an agent of the Waldenberg Empire.  If we captured her during open war we'd hand her on the spot.  You have dispensed justice.  The man ran a house where agents of Waldenberg seduced information out of men, where bribes were paid and murders contracted, you've served honorably in a duty that not everyone is strong enough to serve."  He sighed.  "Now, get off your pretty arse and put your head in order.  You've a princess to see to, tonight."

"Why tonight?" Westland sighed.

"Because the Fifth Fleet destroyed the First Fleet of Waldenberg this morning, the word came to us after you'd left.  Marshall Bragg landed on the North Continent yesterday and is already fighting a mixed Army from Waldenberg and Cambracia in that frozen mess, and the Count of Selnendrin Landed in Waldenberg with the First and Fourth Fleets, he has the Third and Fourth Armies of the Realm and an army each from Valcaster and the Southern Clans.  the Baron of Selnendrin is fighting in Delforos to push the Imperial Army out of there with the Palatine and the Royal Marines.  And, the King and the Fifth and Sixth Armies are landing now along the border of Waldenberg and Cambreant, he can be here in a week if we have to fight Cambreant.  We're at war with Waldenberg, and if we can't prevent the alliance then they'll have to come north rather than attack south."

Grant felt his mouth hanging open.  "Has the world gone mad?"

"They attacked our fleets at sea, we're allied with the Northern Dwarves and Andrienne and they've attacked both of them, the declared war on Valcaster, another ally and we've destroyed their invasion fleet at sea," Carnden pulled him to his feet.  "We can swallow only so many insults, and the final one was a few weeks ago, they tried to assassinate Queen Elliese, they wanted the King but he was rumored to be in the Frontier, he was actually at sea with the fleet."

"So he was coming to war anyway then," Grant sighed.

"General Tigre said he was coming to speak with the Emperor, he had force with him, but that was going to go north to Andrienne to honor our alliance with them, things apparently changed quickly, and you know our King, he can move men faster than anyone I've ever seen, met or heard of," Carnden said admiringly.  "You don't have to sleep with her tonight, but you need to plant seeds of doubt in her.  Your seed would be nice, but we have to prepare her, show her what is going on and what will happen if she meekly agrees to this.  They didn't say it, but I'd expect to see the king here sometime soon, and what we do can make his work easier.  Besides," Carnden grinned, it could be worse."

"How?" Grant growled.

"It could be a prince."

"In that case they'd send you," Westland fixed him with a dirty look.

"I'm not pretty enough for a prince," Carnden shrugged.  "Royalty doesn't like men like me, I look like the son of a horse thief, which I am, so I'll just have to stick to grooms and servants."
« Last Edit: September 04, 2009, 03:04:48 AM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2009, 02:51:54 AM »
[smg id=1140 type=full align=left]For those of you reading and thinking "Holy CRAP LP, you're throwing a lot of names and places at us and we have no way to visualize all of this, fear not!

[smg id=1146 type=full align=left width=40]Corana, Capitol of Cambrant, where the story takes place.


[smg id=1144 type=full align=left width=40]Wallaran, capitol of the Waldenberg Empire, where the Emperor Lives.


[smg id=1143 type=full align=left width=40]Southwest Waldenberg, the Landing Site of Lord Karven Galberon, Count of Selnendrin, he has the Third and Fourth Armies of the Realm and a mixed army from Valcaster (not on the Map and neither is the Realm) and the Southern Clans.  The First and Fourth Fleets are at sea off the coast for now.


[smg id=1157 type=full align=left width=40]In North-East Waldenberg, the landing site of King Ramon Telbrantil-Meldresse II landed with the 5th and 6th Armies, The Fifth and Sixth Fleets are off shore, minus a squadron that has returned to Waldane to Support the Palatine and Royal Marines.


[smg id=1160 type=full align=left width=40]Waldane, Lord Cecil Bragg, Baron of Selnendrin, and the Second and Third Corps of the Palatine Order and a brigade of Royal Marines have invaded to capture the ports and supplies of the Imperial Navy in the Western Seas.


[smg id=1158 type=full align=left width=40]The North Continent, Marshall Miranda Bragg with the Royal Corps of Engineers and two Corps of Barden Knights crossed the North Sea from Selnendrin and with the Northern Dwarves are driving off a mixed Army from Waldenberg and Cambracia.

Feel caught up yet?
« Last Edit: September 05, 2009, 10:45:49 PM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #17 on: September 05, 2009, 11:42:02 PM »
His orders gave him a wide latitude, the actions he could use to prevent the alliance by marriage of Cambreant to Waldenberg only restricted him from committing acts of war.  He was going to use that latitude to the fullest, he determined as he studied the dark wall around the palace grounds.  It took him little effort to climb to the top, he crouched and studied the lay of the land.  He'd have had the commander flogged, well here he would, flogging was long illegal in his own country.  No dogs, and only stationary posts against the buildings themselves looking out toward the walls.  He watched and slipped along the wall and dropped inside, using the gardens for cover, and worked his way slowly through the gardens until the gap of ten yards separated him from the palace itself.

The disruption came in the form of the changing of the guard, the forms and ceremonies distracted the guards as they stepped out five paces from the wall and turned their eyes to the officer of the watch.  A stupid way of doing things, he reflected as he crept past the last guard, staying low and moving slowly in the shadows.  No light showed in the grounds, good for preserving the night vision of the guards, but it was silly in that it prevented the changing guard from seeing anything even if they looked in his direction.  The walls of the palace itself were also a security dilemma, large even blocks with wide seams that he climbed like a ladder, it didn't even slow him down.

He gained roof with little difficulty, and crossed it to the tower and climbed it with equal ease.  He studied her through the window as her hair was brushed out, Princess Jessa wasn't a great beauty, but she was pretty enough, and her eyes betrayed intelligence which was wasted on a woman in this country, where they were treated like property of fathers and husbands.  He checked to be sure that he wasn't watched and when le looked back through the window he saw that she was watching him in the mirror.  He grinned and waved impudently and made a shooing gesture.  After a few mionutes she spoke to her haid why curtsied and left her.

Jessa crossed to the window and stopped up onto a chair below it and slipped the latch and pushed it open.  "What are you doing?" she asked, amused a bit, scared a little, but definitely intrigued.

He smiled again.  "I told you I would climb up to see you, one night soon," he explained.  "Isn't this soon enough?"

She smiled a little despite herself.  "You are presumptuous, Sir Knight," she arched a brow at him.  "To think I would receive you."

"I don't expect to be received," he smiled.  "I came because you said you've never been on the roof in the middle of the night.  Remember, we both agreed that your gown would be a hindrance, but you're dressed much more comfortably now."

"Does my reputation mean so little to you that you'd expect me to crawl around the roof with you under the stars?"

He chuckled.  "Certainly not, first if I cared so little for your reputation I'd have visited formally and tried to talk you out onto the roof, I came discretely to visit you, and I don't plan on us crawling about, I thought we'd sit on my cloak, drink wine and try a selection of breads and cheeses that I brought, they came to me from home and I thought they'd be unique for your palate."

"And just how do you expect me to come out there?"  She asked.  "Here you will find ladies do not crawl out of windows."

Grant slowly slipped off his gloves.  "Actually, I was going to lift you through the window and out here onto the roof with me, it saves you any unladylike climbing and allows me to subtly display my strength."

"And are you so strong?" she asked.

"I like to think so," he smiled.  "But lifting you would be a small test," he extended his hands.  "May I?"

She thought long enough for the bounds of propriety and then raised her hands from her sides, he smiled and reached in and placed his hands just above her hips and lifted her out to stand beside him.  He removed his hands and bowed slightly and offered his arm.  We can see the stars a little better along the wall, away from the light of your window, he explained and showed her to the spot he meant.  He spread his cloak and seated her carefully, sitting next to her as he opened the bag at his side and laid out several items on a large lark napkin and poured wine in two small silver goblets.

"You travel well prepared, Sir Knight," she observed.

"I am a soldier," he explained.  "I prepare all of my campaigns well."

"And what is the purpose of your campaign, Sir Knight?"

"Grant," he said, "please call me Grant."

"And what is your purpose, Grant?" She restated the question.  "Or is your objective the same for every man that lures a lady into the darkness?"

"In part," he confessed.  "But, my purpose is also to carry a warning to you, from My King and diverse others of His Majesty's government."

She looked startled and sipped her wine to cover her surprise as she watched him spread a light cheese over a tiny slice of dark bread.  "A warning?  What sort of warning?"

He carefully held the morsel to her lips and watched with interest as she took a tiny bite, he took the rest and popped it into his mouth with obvious relish and chewed briefly and took a sip of wine before preparing another sample with different bread and cheese, this time topped with a thin slice of strawberry.  "My country, and many others are now at war with Waldenberg," he said as she bit carefully into the next offered morsel.  "Our navy has sank and captured a whole squadron in one battle and an entire fleet in another.  Our armies are in Southern Waldenberg and along the border of Cambreant and Waldenberg, just south of us, and two fleets command the seas of the eastern coast."

She swallowed and finished her wine and held out her cup for a refill.  "Shouldn't you tell my father this?"

"My Ambassador, General Tigre, has already fully explained the situation to your father's Minister of State, but I came to tell you, because you may soon be placed in a position to effect and expand the war, what happens to you could bring this war to your people."

She looked surprised at that.  "How?" she gasped.  "Women have no voice in the politics or wars of our country."

"By marrying you to an Imperial Prince it will seal an alliance that will commit the armies and navies of Cambreant to join with Waldenberg in any wars that may arise.  When your betrothal is signed Cambreant is at war with the Realm of Selnendrin and two of our armies cross the river and march on Corana," Grant explained carefully.  "My orders are to prevent your betrothal in any way that I can.  To prevent the arms of Cambreant from joining with Waldenberg and to prevent expanding the war into your nation."

She looked at him with large serious eyes.  "I can't stop the betrothal, my father will not even bother to consult me on the matter.  I am first born but princes inherit and princesses are married to cement alliances."  She thought a moment.  "How exactly would you stop my marriage?"

"There are any number of possibilities," he replied evasively.

"Details, Grant," the vaporish airs of the subservient princess were now gone.  "What were you supposed to come here to do before you decided to treat me like I had a brain in my pretty little head?"

She was too damned smart for her own good, or his comfort.  "To seduce you," he replied at last.  "It would be beneath the dignity of the Imperial family to link by betrothal and marriage to a princess who's virtue had been taken by a commoner.  I am called Lord as a Palatine only, my origins are humble to say the least."

She giggled, a quite girlish sound and quite surprising coming from her after the conversation to this point.  "You're a few years too late for that Grant, I already surrendered that commodity to a young soldier of the guard.  My father was a bit late in noticing my interest but sent him away, he died along the border a few weeks later in a skirmish.  My virtue is no longer mine to give, nor yours to take, but only you and I know this now."

[smg id=1161  type=full align=center]
« Last Edit: September 05, 2009, 11:44:55 PM by Lord Palatine »

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2009, 08:02:45 PM »
"That's unexpected," Grant admitted.  "You're hiding more than an active mind, Highness."

She refilled her own glass.  "Brains are seen as dangerous in women here, if you show too much of it then they work all the harder to break your will and spirit to make you obedient.  I don't care to be broken, so I stay vaporish and silly until it is safe to be otherwise."

"So you understand the position that your marriage places you in, your whole country with you as well?"

"I understand perfectly," she drank deeply.  "But you'd better give up hope of averting war.  My father will do nothing to earn the disfavor of the Emperor of Waldenberg.  Even the threat of another war with your country frightens him less.  Waldenberg sails in ships built in our yards, carry swords forges in our smithies and feed their bellies from our farms, they take gold and repay coin for coin in brass.  Its a small step to send our armies south to join in their war."

Grant considered this as he combined bread and cheese topped with a sweet olive.  "The won't have to come south, King Ramon will bring the war here.  My King is a good man, and a just ruler, but he does not make war on half measures.  War will cost your father his crown."

She laughed at that.  "My brothers will be no better, one is a weak-willed bully and the other an idiot.  Being married off to a foreign prince has quite a bit more appeal than living under the rule of one of them."

"Then perhaps we need to look at the third alternative?"

"Who would that be?"

"You," Grant replied seriously.  "You are a princess of the Royal House, and the eldest, if it does come to war your place on the throne might be the only condition my King would accept when he compels surrender."

"You expect us to be beaten so easily?"

"I do," he replied with complete seriousness.  "I know the army, I know my king, and I know that Cambreant cannot hope to muster the forces necessary to win this war, and it will be a fearful bloody lesson before your generals will face this inevitability."

"And," she added.  "Claiming my maidenhead will not dissuade any imperial prince when your armies stand on their soil.  They'll tell him to hold his nose and do his duty."

"Damn," Grant sighed.  "That was the only part of this mission that I looked forward to."

"Don't throw aside any options yet, Brigadier," she replied as she considered her options again.  "I don't want to be traded like a bauble to Waldenberg, and you look better than any of the inbred cretins in the imperial line.  So tell me, are you a good lover?"

"Quite good," he assured her.  "I've heard any number of approbations, normally quite loud and boisterous."

"Well then Grant, let us put your skills to the test, and trust to your King to retrieve us from this situation."

"All hail the king," Grant murmured as he leaned toward her and kissed her softly.



King Taenen of Cambreant liked none of the news from the dispatches.  "The King of the Selnens comes here?"

"He is a few miles from the city gates, with a thousand picked guardsmen," Minister Taerlek replied somberly.

"Kill him," Ambassador Kliesse snapped.  "What is a thousand?  You have armies, High King, why suffer impudence?"

"He has four hundred thousand men and a thousand ships waiting at our borders and off our shores," Taerlech reminded them both.  "If we raise a hand against him we risk a war that nothing save our extermination, or theirs would stop."

"You forget that those troops are on Imperial soil," Kliesse stared imperiously at the minister.  "They are barbarians and invaders, fight them now with us, or risk fighting them alone."

"From where they stand they march on Walleran or Corana with little to stop them," Taerlech further reminded them.  "Of course if we provoke them it would give you time to change the disposition of your forces to try and block them.  But at what cost to Cambreant who has offered no offense to the Selnen King but a possible alliance?"

"The Selnens will return home in time, no matter the outcome of the war, and we'll still be here, and we will remember who stood with us and who are our enemies."

A message arrived in time to cut off discussion.  "The Selnen King has entered the city, he has passed by his embassy and approaches the Palace," Taerlech reported after skimming the document.  "He moves fast, this King.  He wasn't expected for two more days, but his escort has no baggage train, no servants and nothing which might encumber it on the road."

"Raise the city!" Kliesse demanded.  "Kill him here and now!"

Both blanched at that prospect.  There was no path but war should a king be struck down, and no chance that the Selnens would stop so long as two stones were stacked anywhere within Cambreant.  "We shall hear what he has to say, he is a brother King and I must receive him with the courtesy that demands."



The court was assembled in some haste, ministers and generals to greet the arrival of a foreign monarch who entered the hall alone, the only sound the ringing of his spurs and the creaking of leather.  He arrived clad for battle, brilliant armor burnished to a silver gleam, his snow white surcoat bore the silver embroidered Star of Selnendrin at his throat and an eagle in brilliant scarlet at his left shoulder.  The only other decoration he wore was a brilliant scarlet sash beneath his sword belt.  He paused only to set his helmet on a small table next to an empty chair.  He dropped his travel cloak into the chair and slid it aside with his foot.

"Greetings to his Highness and the Court of King Taenen of Cambreant," he looked over the assembled nobles.  His eyes rested for a moment upon Abbassador Kliesse.  I see also the representative of the backstabbing cretin that you call a neighbor to the south.  Goode manners compel me to leave him alive after this meeting of nations still enjoying peace and amity, but should he open his mouth he will find that having his tongue nailed to the floor isn't fatal."  He stood, feet slightly spread and hand on the pommel of his sword.  "Were these times different I would take great lengths to express my joy at this my fiirst visit to these beautiful lands, but my time is brief and the demands upon me are great.

"The Realm of Selnendrin is at war, agents and forces owing fealty to the Emperor of Waldenberg have committed assassinations of many within my government and even attempted upon my own life and that of my Queen.  They have attacked our shipping and made raids upon our own shores, further they have made war upon my allies and friends.  I will not countenance such behavior, where I am shown blood and disdain so shall I visit it upon the heads of my enemies.

"I'll be brief, and I'll be blunt.  If the Crown of Cambreant does not repudiate the actions of Waldenberg, cast its agents from her borders and sign a treaty of peace with the Realm of Selnendrin swearing that it will offer no aid or comfort to Waldenberg then we are at war.  The moment you refuse to sign this treaty, or I lose patience and walk out the door my forces begin their march north to this city.  The Moment that any of the servants of the Realm are harassed or threatened my armies march north."

He looked around for a moment.  "Call Brigadier Westland," he said in a firm voice back toward the closed doors.  Moments later Grant walked the same carpet to shand just behind and to the left of his King.  "I do offer my regrets on one matter, a soldier and officer of the Realm has committed an indiscretion within your borders and has had carnal knowledge of your Daughter, the Princess Jessa.  They have expressed their love and I have been petitioned to undertake negotiations toward their betrothal.  I bring this to your attention as a matter of state, and will not countenance any action that would interfere with this suit before I can complete my duties in the south.  And I will add that to my list of actions I will deem hostile toward my nation and the dignity of my crown."

"He violated a princess?" Kliesse shouted and you expect him to live?"

Ramon looked at the ambassador coldly.  "I have given you no leave to address me in any fashion, remedy your impertinence or I'll send for hammer and nails."

"He raises an excellent point," Taerlech cut off any response from the foreign ambassador who was looking for any excuse to muck up these discussions.  "He has violated our laws and should be surrendered to us."

"He bears diplomatic credentials from my own hand," Ramon replied.  "The laws of international amity prevent you from any action but demanding his removal from Cambreant, which would break my stipulation that nothing be done to interfere with this suit until I can return to undertake negotiations.  However, he stands here ready should the King of Cambreant and her father wish to make a personal challenge to Brigadier Westland I will allow him, and only him to face the Brigadier in personal combat.  Here and now or never."

"The King cannot engage in personal combat, its forbidden," Taerlech replied.

"Well then, this matter is resolved until I hand the crowned idiot of Waldenberg," Ramon concluded.  "And I further remind you that the Princess is now intertwined in my demands for peace between us, you will take no action to harass or harm her, nor will you entertain any counter proposals until this is resolved."  His gaze was stern and unbending.  "So, Your Highness, do I withdraw as friend and ally, or are we at war?"

There was a long and silent pause.  "Until I hear the words of the Emperor of Waldenberg I cannot examine the merit of both cases and render a just decision." King Taernan replied.

"Then we are at war," Ramon replied coldly.  "Until I accept your surrender or you are overthrown."  He took up his Helmet and cloak and walked back down the aisle, there were now two sets of spurs jingling.  "My armies are crossing the river even now."

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Re: Never Without Remorse
« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2009, 09:55:30 PM »
"You whored yourself to a lowborn Selnen soldier?"  King Taenen raged.

"I slept with a man I care for, Father," Jessa replied calmly.  "Surely you should find some solace in my happiness?"

Taenen roard incoherently and raised his hand to strike her.  "Careful father, I know the bonds that you've been placed under.  If you lay a hand on me you've forfeited your life to the Selnen King, and he strikes me as a man very capable of backing up his threats.  Besides, I am late for the flood of the moon, I may be carrying your grandson."  All eyes were now on her and she regarded them with unconcealed contempt.  "I would take him quite seriously, didn't he come to Waldenberg and lay waste to its armies before?  These weaklings start wars they cannot finish and look to us for their succor, and this court treats them as if they deserve something more than our contempt.  You should have secured peace father, you've bungled a simple opportunity for peace through weakness father.  If you don't have the courage to stand up for what is right you could have at least had the courage to protect your people.  Now how many of our soldiers will die, how many farms will become battlefields, and how much of this city will survive?"

"Impudence!" Kliesse snapped at her.  "Whore and traitor!" He turned on King Taenen.  "And you, weakling!  You have betrayed us, you should have captured or killed the Selnen mongrel and hung the bodies of his men on your walls, but you crawled before him like a craven..."

His words were cut off by an exclamation of pain as Jessa stabbed deeply into his neck with a long and thick hairpin and twisted it viciously.  "You foreign dog!  You dare spek to me like that?  To the sovereign King of Cambreant?  You mistake your place servant, you do not dare speak to our blood as if you were our equal."  She looked to the generals standing to one side.  "Are you loyal enough to remove this wretch from the palace?"

A few of them looked to the gasping Ambassador.  "Oh, I see," Jessa said in a chill tone.  "Waiting for your master to regain his voice?"

"We're loyal," General Aetana replied.

"But this cur still bleeds on our floor, so your words seems to lack conviction," she replied.

And at his gesture the guards came forward and removed the stricken Ambassador.  "You have doomed us father," Jessa replied.  "You sat silent and condemed countless of your subjects to death.  We have only the mercy of a nation you made an enemy to rely upon."

"Shut up!" Prince Kalen grumbled as he grabbed her arm and twisted it savagely, forgetting she had the bloody hairpin until she turned and drove it through his wrist.  It was basically a silver spike four inches long and a quarter of an inch thick.  "Bitch!" He cried out as he cradled his wounded arm. and started toward her. 

Jessa pulled a knife from her father's belt sheath and brandished it at her brother.  "I'm not a chambermaid or the dauther of some soldier or nobleman for you to manhandle with impunity," she hissed at him.  "Did I inherit all of the nerve in this family?" She asked contemptuously, then turned her back and walked away.  "I will find a way to end this war father, so sit on your throne and have somebody bring you soup, something to thicken your blood."

And quite surprisingly General Aetana followed her, then Generals Farise and Yardan.  Then the blood of King Taenen ran cold.





The Selnen Embassy was closed, all within rode from the city with King Ramon but to the surprise of those watching from the walls he didn't ride back to join his armies to the south, he rode east toward the sea ports.  He had a thousand very tough soldiers with him and saw no need to wait to get things started.  By nightfall the smoke of burning wagons and fields made a long line toward the horizon.



"Highness," General Aetana greeted her in her sitting room that evening.  "The Selnen King has closed off the east road to us, there are hundreds of wagons and thousands of acres burning even now."

"I saw from the window," she nodded sadly.  "It was not without warning, or opportunity for my father to prevent."

"You cannot sympathize with an invader?" He asked carefully.

"Of course not," she glared at him venomously.  "But I can also not support my father when he meekly submits to the Emperor of Waldenberg, he has placed his throne in thrall to foreigners.  We are not facing attack from an enemy that seeks conquest, we are suffering from a spurned offer of friendship because we are allied with and subordinate to a bully that suddenly can't fight his own battles, he demands our blood to fight his war.  We can stop this General, with no more loss of life or property."

"How?"  He asked carefully.

"King Ramon will speak with me, he has already said as much.  But I need the power to speak for our people."

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Re: Never Without Remorse - The End
« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2009, 02:10:57 AM »
[smg id=1162 type=full align=left]What to do next proved a vexing problem over the next few days, King Taenen sent frantic orders for armies to move by forced march to Carana and what forces he did have he ordered to prepare the city for a siege.  Their initial hoped lay in the fortifications that secured the bridges on their side of the border, but they had not reckoned on the prowess of the Royal Engineers, and the Royal Navy, they ferried barges up the river and quickly assembled them into bridges leaving the 17th and 20th Corps, configured as Raiding forces, to plunge straight at Carana while the 18th and 19th Corps set to work on the bypassed fortifications.  The 19th had little time to get set for a siege when the garrison surrendered, they secured the structure, disarmed the troops and marched them as prisoners with them to reduce the coast fort securing the southern road's east and.  The 18th met sterner resistance but made short work of the structure, the walls were too low and thin for adequate resistance and were battered down in little time.  King Ramon and his forces circled the fort between Carana and the port and when they closed up in anticipation of being besieged Ramon led them to the port and in a night attack left most of the city in flames, as well as the ships at anchor.  At Waldane the results were very similar, the Palatine and Royal Marines hammered down and burned everything they could find, the pitched battles were quick and bloody and decisive.



There were facts that Marshall Danagan laid out with no joy to a surly and out of sorts monarch.  There were many tables empty at the table and this too bothered him.  General Aetana and his cohorts were still consulting with his daughter in a problem he knew he couldn't avoid for long,  The uppity brat was going to lead a palace revolt, he just knew it.

"Were you able to speak with General Aetana?" the King asked.

"He has a theory, Your Majesty," Daenargan replied.

"What is his theory?"

"King Ramon crushed Waldenberg ten tears ago, they have had to raise new armies since then, but King Ramon has been forced to fight three more land wars and five at sea in those ten years.  He has corporals and sergeants with more battlefield experience than Waldenberg's captains and generals.  Many of the officers of warrant and commission in his armies fought in the last war, so they remember the ground and share this knowledge with younger comrades.  Also, many of their officers started from the ranks up, so they aren't aloof from their men as the officers of the imperial army.  Reports come to us that those with King Ramon say they are 'Living like kings,' because King Ramon eats the same rations and sleeps on the same cold ground as they do.  They have greater morale and loyalty than their enemies and will exert themselves by choice to accomplish what their enemy can through orders and coercion."

"Its a bastard army of mongrels," Kliesse croaked, his voice still not recovered from the Princess' irritation.

"Its an army that wins," Daenargan disagreed.  "I'm sure if you'd care to share reports of your own army's standing in the south it would look quite similar."

"What of the surrender at the east bridge," King Taenen pressed.  "What losses did they take and inflict?"

"None, Your Majesty," Marshall Daenargan replied.  "They surrendered en masse at the first challenge, they didn't even make a token defense."

"Find the traitor's family and put them to the sword!" Kliesse growled.

"The commander was a Captain Oras Aetana, Your Majesty," Daenargan sighed.  "You'll have a hard time finding anyone to move against that family."

"Aetana," Taenen groaned.  "Why does he turn on us?  Why do they?"

"I have no answer, Your Majesty" Daenargan replied.

"I do," Kliesse snapped.  "Arrest and execute the bastard while you still have the army."

"Do I?" Taenen asked.

"I do," Prince Kalen slammed his left fist on the table, his right was still bandaged and aching.  "Give me a hundred men and I'll clean them all out, including your bitch daughter!" He said to his father.

"Gather all you can," Taenen agreed at last.  "Clean out the east wing.  Clean them all out."





"We have but thirty good men to hold if they come for us," General Aetana informed her.  "We'll be hard-pressed to hold."

"I know," she sighed.  "And I know that you'd like to move to the empty embassy, but if we leave the palace we surrender our moral authority."

"The palace is a symbol," Aetana replied again.  "We're vulnerable here."

"Then we'll have to hope that Grant is a man of his word."

"Three days ago they were on the east coast," Aetana replied.  "That's a long way to extend hope."





"Red is a stupid color for uniforms," Ramon seethed as they rode toward the north gate of Carana, they wore cloaks and helmets of the Royal Army of Cambreant and rode in a slovenly column.

"Hold!" a voice called from the wall, "advance your officer to be recognized."

"Brigadier Deale Atana," one of them shouted back.  "Eights and Ninth Legions, reporting as ordered to the Capitol on His Majasty's order to bolster the defenses."

There was a bit of consultation that ended with an officer falling over the wall, leaving a bloody streak on the stones as the gates opened.  Ramon smiled and at his curt signal the formation tightened up.  "You'll ride with the brigadier to the palace while we prevent mischief," Ramon ordered Westland.  "You stoked this rebellion, I leave it to you to see to its success."

"I thank Your Majesty," Westland bowed his head lightly.

Ramon rolled his eyes and raised his voice, through a bit of little known Palatine ability his voice raised to levels that would rattle windows a hundred yards away.  "Palatine, By twos, advance!"  He raised his sword over his head as the horses led off at a trot.  "Palatine, at the charge," his sword swept down.  "CHARGE!"

Spurs were not necessary, these were among the best trained horses in the world.  The rode in a rolling sound of thunder down the cobbled streets, the steel hooves raising the occasional spark as they broke off into groups of fifty in a prearranged plan, clattering through the streets and disrupting all they could.  Doors slammed shut and people screamed and ran, even when it dawned on them they weren't actually being chased.

Brigadier Aetana's legion remained together riding hard and fast for the palace, there was little time to waste.  Westland and several others led the way leaping from horseback to pull themselves over the wall and open the gates for the rest.  Corporal Carnden was close on his officer's heels as they dropped to the other side.  This was so clean, Grant exulted as his sword bit through mail and bone.  Free at last from skulking and conniving, finally again to serve as a soldier and no more as cuckold or diplomat.  Work he actually found amazingly similar.  They won the gate and shouldered off the bar but Westland didn't wait, he was off in a sprint toward the eastern doors of the palace, but saw that fighting raged there already.  He set himself upon those at the rear and slashed and hacked his way into the mass of men stopped by something he could not see ahead.

Carnden was still at his officer's back, a short sword in one hand, a hand axe in the other, using them with deadly skill he helped carve a path through the living barricade, followed by the red-cloaked soldiers, so garbed to set them apart from other soldiers not involved in this insurrection.  He saw that Westland was nearly berserk, the rage of battle had all but claimed him.  "The Palatine!" Carnden roared in a voice louder than men should be capable of drowned out the sounds of battle.  "The wrath of the Palatine is upon you!"

Pandemonium ensued but Carnden stuck to his hard and fast rule, he would not leave his officer.  Together they fought through to the barricade as the remainder of the legion joined them, but Westland was already engaged with Prince Kalen and another, his sword work was brilliant Carnden noted as he took on a giant of a man looking to be the third of the enemy to face his officer.  They'd come forward too quickly, he cursed his he deflected several hard blows with his own weapons before an opening presented itself and he castrated his opponent with his axe.  He turned again toward Westland who fought only the Prince now, his other opponent was dead, as was a third behind him with a split skull leaking brains on the floor.  But Grant was sorely wounded, a broken spear lodged in hius back dangerously near his heart, and other wounds on his shoulders as well.  Carnden cursed and sent his axe spinning viciously toward another looking to flank Westland, he followed the axe into the fight.

With every beat Grant could feel his heart shredding on the blade, but he would not relinquish the fight.  He would see this to its end, he would stop a needless war.  He would kill this bastard.  He was weakening so it would have to be soon, and finally he saw a duplicated maneuver, he knew how the series of moves would end, and he knew it was his chance and as he dropped to one knee his bloody sword angled upward and pierced the seam at the side of the Prince's armor as the sword cleft his own helmet, and his vision went black but he knew even as life left him that he'd won his own fight.  He would leave this world with his honor, but not without remorse.  He died as he lived, never without remorse.





Brigadier Westland's wounds were covered when Princess Jessa was brought to view his body.  She saw Carnden and recognized him as his attendant at the ball that seemed forever ago now.  She knelt and took his hand and stripped the gantlet from it, seeing his ring upon the hand, the odd half moon shaped scar that he could recall getting.  The strong, masterful hand, warm and gentle, was now slack and cool and growing cold.  She reached for the bloody cloak that covered his head but Carnden laid his bare hand over hers to stop her.  She saw the pain in his eyes and knew that if such a hard man suffered from the sight it concealed it would tear at her heart.  She nodded and allowed him to raise her up, but her fingers did not release the ring, and she clutched it in her fist as General Aetana and his brother walked with her between them to the throne room.




Aftermath

Within the hour Queen Jessa of Cambreant sued for peace and signed a treaty of neutrality with King Ramon II of Selnendrin.  Marshall Daenargan stepped down, replaced by the able General Aetana.  Brigadier Deale Aetana was promoted to captain for now and soon after was joined to his queen as Prince Consort.  Queen Jessa was right, she was indeed pregnant.  Her child, a son, was born with the same golden brown eyes of his father.  Promoted posthumously, Captain Grant Westland, Lord of the Palatine Order, was laid to rest in the royal crypt beneath the capitol and a statue of him raised in the Queen's private garden.  Sergeant Carnden was assigned permanently to the embassy in Corana and would serve as mentor, protector and sword master to Crown Prince Westan.

King Ramon turned his armies around the moment that he reached the palace and found the crown had transferred with the death of the King by General Aetana's hand.  He would meet Ambassador Kliesse one last time, the arrogant tirade at this meeting was the final straw, the irritated king rendered a backhanded slap that shattered the neck of the bothersome diplomat.  He led the drive south, leading a brilliant campaign that shattered the imperial army, they could never muster their forces to deploy them to effectively block his relentless drive to Waldran.  Lord Karven Galbaran led an equally skilled drive from the south and it was the Palatine Order that led the final assault upon the Imperial capitol, but these are other tales to tell.

 

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