The Last Rose of May. (Closed, Started)

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Shadows and mist swirl over a pool of foul green liquid. A beautiful demon presides over the pool. Kith, the daughter of Khazhanbraagh. Raising her hands she calms the mists, they soon begin to flow together to create a view of another room with a horrid looking man in heavy plate armor. This man is known as The Betrayer, his name banished for all time to come by the gods above as punishment for his complete turn to chaos. "My servant, come to the mirror your master calls you".

The Betrayer did not hesitate to enter full view. "Yes my mistress"?

"All the pieces are nearly assembled. Ready your forces to press the lines. Their neck will be broken before they even realize". Kith let fly a wicked laugh, one of pure malice.

"Yes my mistress".

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"Thats the last of it". Calia set the final piece of a report onto a pile about a quarter foot thick. The greatest downside to being a general was the paperwork, well the kind you couldn't push off on your subordinates. She flexed her wrist. "Tilleth"! A small, nerdy looking man with a curling mustache entered the room.

"Uhh yes general"?

"This paperwork is done, run it over to the palace administry. I am also going for a walk, if anyone needs me, you know what to say". She couldn't wait to get outside to the fresh air. Much preferring being out in the field bringing the fight to the enemy, but rotation occurs in field command every 6 months so she was stuck in the capital for the most part. Sheathing her sword in the oversized belt, she departed to walk the city streets alone.

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The six days of gods. A traditional festival celebrating what the gods above have gifted man with. Many feel it a pious time and refrain from drinking, reveling and other such acts. Daily they go to church while spending the rest of their day working, disciplining or bettering themselves. Many more seek to revel and have fun. A festival is supposed to be. In all the squares around the capital their was celebrations, so most everyone was getting in on the good fun. Others had different plans.

Rez and his crew were spread out among the festival grounds, enjoying the festivities.

The Firebolt had docked in the Hyperion capital yesterday morning and the Scortchers had just finished getting their land-legs back. "Duke" Rez Tereth, the infamous royal runaway was traveling the streets of his childhood home for the first time in years. He was looking for something he could give as a gift to the whole crew when he caught a glance of a store advertising "Tereth Smith metal work".

A thought popped into his head that brought a sly grin to his face. He entered the store with a sirious look on his face.

"What's all this! You've laid out the merchandise all wrong!" He complained to the portly man that was obviously the manager.

"And just who do you think you are?" the manager replied.

"I'm Rez Tereth, which means this store belongs in part to me!" He put on the pompous impatient look he had seen on his older sister's face so many times when he was young.

"Sir you are either drunk or a terrible con artist. Everyone knows Rez Tereth is off in the sky somewhere with his band of degenerates afraid to come back and face his family. The very idea that you...I'm going to have to ask you to leave.

Rez held a straight face for a few moments before bellowing a deep laugh and exiting the shop, stil chuckling heartily.

So, no one even remembers what I look like anymore. This ought to be fun.

The 6 days of Gods. Under normal circumstances, Major Olivia LeMuire would be enjoying it. For a few short days, all she need worry about would be quiet contemplation and attending church. Simple, quiet, peaceful.

But not today. Today the festival had an edge to it, one that soured her palate for the entire affair. The war was getting closer, the terrorist attacks continued and all the while there was little for her to do but keep vigil, ready to heed orders from further up the chain of command.

In earlier days, before the war had started to sweep toward Hipereon, she had taken a leave of absence from the military, taking work as a consultant in regards to airship construction. But as the war spread she had returned to the military, shortly before the bombings had begun. It was only a matter of time now, she was sure, before the hipereon military entered the fray in force.

She sighed. Surely there were better things to think about than this. Especially immediately after church. Walking from the cathedral onto the streets, she purchased a newspaper and sat on a bench, attempting to find some news, however rare, that didn't revolve around the war.

The Airship's Wings was busy, most inns were around the time of the festivals. It was a large inn excellently situated near the city's air docks, and, therefore, got the first pick of most travelers to the city. Business had been good recently, so good that few people noticed the young man in the dark gray coat and bowler in the corner.

Zavier Martres had spent the last few hours in that same seat, doing little aside from reading a slim, leather-bound book he carried with him. In front of him was a small pot of tea he had ordered, though drank little from. He checked his silver pocket watch, more out of boredom than any other reason. He had left Uleth several days ago, and arrived in the Hipereon capital just the other day. It seemed that someone in the city had need of his services.

The meeting had been scheduled for the next day, but Zavier believed in punctuality in his line of work. He also believed in checking out potential ambushes, betrayals, and any other such underhanded behavior that might result in his inconvenience. So far, he hadn't found anything to suggest that his meeting would be an attempt against him, that didn't mean it still wasn't, but it boded well that things might just work out without much trouble.

Zavier finally got up from his table and decided to see the city proper. He might even go to church.

Ivan's head pounded as he awoke from a drunken stupor. It was dark, smelled like spiced rum and was quite a tight space. Tighter then a coffin, and with some random long wooden sticks all around him. Feeling a bit dizzy he went to moved his feet, but they weren't on the ground. In fact when he shifted his weight, he ended up kicking the door in front of him open a crack.

He saw people sitting in pews, but they were upside down on the the ceiling... His feet came crashing down back onto this ceiling. Rum bottles and brooms went everywhere. Ivan stood; everything in the church stopped and stared at him.

"Well that ain't the bathroom."

He briskly walked out of the building wondering where in the blazes is he?

Like most of the inns, the 'Falling Man' was a busy place. Favourited by those who wished for a good time and a low profile, it'd become Marc's preferred place ever since he'd hit the capitol of Hipereon after he'd joined the 'Firebolt'. Currently he was sitting in a corner of the nosey and crowded main room with two girls. One was on his lap, her face against the left side of his neck moaning softly, this because his left hand was busy up her skirt; while he and the other girl where kissing madly, his right hand down the front of her blouse.

"It's not fair..." The second girl teased, pulling back from Marc. "Sammy's gettin' off an' all I get is a grope an' a kiss." Extracting his right hand, Marc grabbed his nearby ale, and took a pull. "Don't you worry none Cynthia, Sammy's about to pop, after that you can come sit on my lap." He replied, grinning broadly. "Now where were we?" His free hand burrowing back under Cynthia's blouse, much to her delight.

In the distance the you could hear the revelry, but it was muted in the small sidewalk. Kalley's boots clicked against the cobblestone path as she looked at the stalls with a soft nostalgic smile. A few children ran up and down the street whilst several lovers wandered meandered their way through the light crowd, and a few people had lined up to buy some festival food or some small contextual trinket. The warm, delicious smells of several fried foods invaded her senses. She happily surrendered and approached a stall and purchased some kind of bread covered sausage.

Kalley enjoyed the main festival, but these little side streets reminded of her of home. Her parents homestead was large enough to warrant a festival, soldiers would come down from the local outpost and purchase some food. In later years the soldiers would actually come down and help, giving Kalley some supplies to make some fireworks.

She wondered if she should scold herself for enjoying this, she who had actively decided to rebel against the gods who was enjoying a festival in their honour. A thought which she shrugged off; She was fine with being a hypocrite if it meant she got to eat festival food.

She walked out of the alley and saw a smithing store, 'Tereth Smith Metal Work'. The Duke's shop? I've got to have a look at this she thought inwardly as she approached the shop . She stopped herself after she heard the voice of Rez and watched, folding her arms with an amused smile as the scene unfolded.

"Want to go back to your holdings aye Duke? Had enough of playing pirate?" she said with a sardonic smile as he exited the store

Evangeline used to love the festival surrounding the six days of Gods. It had been nearly a full week of days with most of her chores excused; when the streets filled with games, dancing, and food the likes of which a street urchin would never see otherwise. It had used to be heaven in a hard life. Now...

In a single practiced motion Evangeline tossed the shot into her mouth and swallowed. The clear liquid burned all the way down though Evangeline barely winced. Evangeline tapped the glass back down and motioned for the man across from her to fill it again.

"Do you even know how many that's been now?" The bartender asked.

"Nope, but I know you're keeping a tab so I could ask you if I cared to. Just fill it again." She replied.

Evangeline was positive that none of the scorchers knew about this bolt hole of hers, she had always been very careful to make sure she wasn't followed when they rarely made port in the capitol. Besides, this wasn't anything like where you'd find a pirate; the bar was dark, quiet, and warm; a serious place full of serious people who only had a serious intention to get drunk. It was one of the only places Evangeline felt she could really be like this; flushed cheeks, lulling gaze, slumped posture; not at all her normal steely unphasable self. Then again, there was another reason why she came to this specific bar.

"So how's Randel doing?" Evangeline asked while her glass was refilled. "Did things ever work out with tha' girl... what was her name? Kara? Kate?"

"Katrina." The bartender corrected. "Actually they're currently in a state of marital bliss. Even got a little one on the way, things are really looking up for them these days."

"Ooh." Evangeline cooed with a smile. "Is he still got that foreman position?" She received a quick nod from the bartender, "Then good for him. Way better then there then the mill."

The pair fell silent for a few glum moments, they both knew the toll that working in the giant iron mills could take on a person. Evangeline took the opportunity to toss back another shot.

"You know," The bartender started, "you could go see them. Wish them..."

"Nope." Evangeline shook her head with a scowl. "This ain't my world anymore. For me there's no going back." Another few moments passed in silence. "Well, I bet Mom is happy at least." Evangeline suddenly said, her voice dead and bitter.

"Sometimes I think you judge her too much." The bartender said almost nonchalantly.

"She threw me out."

"In her defense you just proclaimed one day that you were going to run away to be a sky pirate."

"No. You were there Sev, she literally threw me out of the house." Evangeline responded curtly, emphasizing with a small tossing motion of her hands.

"She wasn't that bad. She really wasn't" He pleaded.

"She could have tried a bit harder at being good then." Evangeline was unmoved.

Another period of silence opened up between the two, but this time something was different. This wasn't just a pause in thinking of what to say next, it was an attempt to delay whatever was coming. Finally the bartender broke the silence.

"Mom's dead."

Suddenly the alcohol wasn't strong enough. Evangeline quickly tossed back another shot but it just didn't seem to have the impact that the previous ones did.

Silence.

"Eva?"

Silence.

"Sis?"

"Poor me another drink Sev."

Ahhhhh... The Six Days of the Gods.

Tara was disinterested in the festival, all she cared about was getting back to her homeland of Uleth. As long as she was under the thumb of the Republic, it might as be the blackest day ever. She followed the Scorchers around, near the leader, the so-called 'Duke', leaning againist the wall near the entrance of the shop he had entered. After seeing him exit and another one of the Sky Pirates appear with a sardonic remark, Tara just gave out another "hmphff" and waited for the Firebolt and its crew to take to the air again. She decided to do as she did while on the airship, stay quiet with no words but a very prominent scowl. They might take her for one of the pious types that refrained from revelry on this day. True, the Gods had given them much gifts, but always gave out storms and war. The way Tara saw it was that she may have been given magic by the Gods, but unlike the mages of Light and Dark, she didn't need worship to fuel her powers, they may have decided her elemental alignment but she could decide whether to worship them or not.

She folded her arms and lent against the cold stone wall again with a fierce patience, waiting for these Sky Pirates to move on.

The square was abuzz with activity. Even inside the little corner shop Zeke had found himself in the noise of the festival bled through the walls and windows, filling the shop with a steady drone, the kind that only huge crowds can make. The girl behind the counter looked a mixture of bored and resentful. No doubt she would rather be out enjoying the festivities instead of watching Zeke wrestle with indecision.

I shouldn't. I've been good for two weeks.He thought to himself, eyeing up the jars of tobacco just behind the shop assistant's head. The even had "Royal cut", an expensive brand but worth every penny.But I told Evangeline I'd quit. He clenched his fist and his knuckles tightened. He coulden't deny that the last two weeks were beginning to fray him around the edges. I told her I'd try and I did.[i]

"I'll have three ounces of Royal cut please." And with that the shop girl sighed and weighed out his order. It was a little under the request but he was fine with that. Along with the tobacco he got the supplies to role his own cigarettes and a few chocolate bars. enough to share with the crew members he was closer to. He questioned whether Marc would want one and decided to get him one anyway. [i]Who doesn't like chocolate?

Once he was done inside the store he haphazardly rolled himself a cigarette and lit it up, the glint in his eye matching the spark of the match. He sucked in the smoke and exhaled it in one, long, luxurious breath. "God's yes." He said out loud. He justified it to himself pretty easily. How often did he get a chance to have a smoke while The Scorchers were in the air? Not often. And he only got a small amount, it wasn't like it would last him long. He would cut back on the smoking, wean himself off it before he quit. Then with some difficulty he made his way through the crowd in search of the others, cigarette tightly gripped between his lips. Hopefully he would run into Kalley.

Marcus weaved through the bustling crowd of the city, a glass mug of beer in his hand. The streets around him were alive with glowing lanterns, shouting merchants, and a thousand people of varying nationality. If Marcus hadn't already spent a week in the grand city, he would likely have suffered from culture shock. The activity and cheer of the festival was such a contrast to the stillness and somber mood of the front, the only word to describe it was jarring. Marcus was glad that there was still a place in the world for such festivities.

Finding a bench to sit on, Marcus sipped on his drink and leaned back to relax. Well, relax as much as he could. He hated to admit it, but he couldn't stand being away from the front. If the choice had been his, he would still be there. His mind flashed back to a time that felt very long ago. One week ago, he had been laying in his cot when his Sargent had come up to him. The Sargent had offered Marcus 3 weeks of leave. He declined, but the Sargent demanded that Marcus take it. He said no, and the demand changed to an order. When asked why he wanted Marcus to go, the Sargent said "War is no place for a young man. Better you live your life before the Republic takes it."

But Marcus didn't want to live his life. Sure, he would prefer getting into a trade, maybe metalworking, but the Empire of Thund-Akreig and her allies needed him far more than he needed a break. Sitting there on that bench, Marcus felt helpless and useless.

Marcus smiled, amused by his own train of thought. We are indeed creatures of habit. he though. Even when that habit involves putting yourself at risk doing a job you hate. Marcus knew his company would get along just fine for a few weeks, even without the greatest sniper on the continent. With this though whisking away his worries, Marcus allowed himself to relax his body and enjoy the band that had started playing.

Tostundir enjoyed church services. He'd never really known why - perhaps because it was expected of him, given his class. Yet, he'd never liked the Gods. He just enjoyed to calmly sit in a corner and listen. Sure, the pews could be hideously uncomfortable to sit in at times, but there was an atmosphere created by the thousands of people that passed through there that simply couldn't be emulated in any way. As for the gods, well... He repected them immensely. They knew what they were doing - the steam men were evidence of that. Or, perhaps they didn't - he supposed that humans were evidence of that. Regardless, as the sermon finished he quietly left and left a coin for the collection.

Putting his hat on, he started walking to a very particular bar. While he was rarely drunk, he liked the place because it seemed to be solely dedicated to people silently incapacitating themselves, which meant that they rarely bothered him while he sketched down notes for inventions. It was also very secluded, so the chances of some irritating zealot charging in and interrupting his contemplations while accusing all the patrons of being heretics for drinking alcohol on these "sacred" days (as they sometimes did on this festival) were very small.

Sadly, as he entered, he realised he would have to wait a respectful amount of time to get his drink. He immediately detected the tense atmosphere, especially in the tone of the folorn woman at the bar, who said, "pour me another drink, Sev" with astounding solemnity. Realising the gravity of the situation for thoes involved, he stealthily removed his hat again and flowed into his favourite booth beside the door without checking for occupants, to his great dismay, as, after a few seconds of sitting there he noticed a very drunk and very aggressive-looking man staring at him with impressive passion. Tostundir was so happy that he'd managed to slip in without disrupting the conversation at the bar. He'd been looking forward to finding out what it was about. But even as he thought this, he could see the man beside him beginning to boil over in his peripheral vision, and in a very creative stream of abuse he was evicted from the booth, deciding to flee the building for fear of embarrassment. Casting a cursory glance behind him as he once more replaced his hat, his eyes met those of the woman at the bar (who had turned to see what the commotion was about), and he saw into her soul for a fraction of a second. Those were the eyes of a troubled woman indeed. She had seen a lot of blood spilt.

And then he turned and strode away.

"Want to go back to your holdings aye Duke? Had enough of playing pirate?"

Rez laughed and said, " Haven't you heard? Pirating is out of style!"

He gave her his trademark winning grin and drew her in close.

"I'm looking for something I can get as a gift to the whole crew. Do you have any suggestions?"

"I'm looking for something I can get as a gift to the whole crew. Do you have any suggestions?"

Kalley made a face as the Duke invaded her personal space.

"I don't know" she started awkwardly "For everyone? I guess something alcohol related"

She pushed off him before looking off thoughtfully as she considered the question.

"A still" she said finally; turning back "We need a distillery; why don't we have a distillery Duke? I mean I can make one but I never have enough copper tubing."

She dove into her pocket and pulled out a small piece of parchment and a pencil. She then proceeded to scribble down a list of things she needed.

"Get me these" Kalley said forcefully; thrusting the list in Rez's face "I could make drink that we could sell."

"I could make drink that we could sell."

Rez shook his head.

"It would take too much up-keep on a ship as busy as the Firebolt. It isn't a bad idea though, maybe we should look into running liquor. By the way, have you seen Eva? I want to talk to her about something."

He had found the old warehouse that they had used as a "hide out" in their childhood. He figured she would enjoy the nostalgic sight.

Zavier walked by the docks, inspecting the ships. Most were typical merchant vessels, great barges bringing vast amounts of resources to the cities, keeping the empires alive. Interspersed with these were a significant amount of military ships docking at the capital, awaiting refitting and orders, preparing for their eventual departure to the front to be blown out of the sky. Near the end of the docks were a series of large, gaudy craft belonging the Hipereon elite, the only people who could afford to maintain things like that. Out of the entire array, however, there was only one that caught Zavier's eye.

It was smaller than most of the rest, more sleekly designed too. The engines were larger than one would expect for so small a craft, allowing for great speeds. It was durable too, or so the patched skin implied. It took no great amount of wit, at least not for Zavier, to realize he was looking at an air pirate's ship. Air pirates were not, in and of themselves, particularly rare or interesting, however, most stayed of the radar, far from ports where any kind of strong authority was asserted. Seeing one in the capital of one of the empires, even with the war as it was going, was a rare occurrence indeed. Either its captain was possessed of of extreme audacity or remarkable stupidity. Zavier was betting strongly on the latter. Still, it was worth investigating, at least it would kill some time.

Zavier got close enough to see the name engraved on the ship. The Firebolt.

"By the way, have you seen Eva? I want to talk to her about something."

"Normally if I need her I just yell-" Kalley cupped her hands over shouted."Eva!" She looked around the rooftops and into the crowd; lifting her finger up to Rez implying that they wait.

"Nope" Kalley said finally looking back at Rez "I'd try the bars; I caught Marc wandering in the 'Falling Man', maybe she meet up with him."

"OH GODS!!!"

The scream burst from Sammy's mouth as she clung shaking to Marc. "By the gods that was good!" She gasped, not daring to move until her strength returned. "I'll say...Sammy dearest you shook the whole damned bar with that scream." Cynthia replied, sliding a hand across Marc's trousers. "Now love..." She said, addressing the man. "How 'bout instead of just a little finger play, we take this upstairs and you show us what you car really do?"

Marc had been just sitting there, basking in the response he'd gotten from Sammy. At Cynthia's suggestion his face lit with a rather lewd grin. "Why my dear that is positively the best idea I've heard all day." With that he gathered Sammy up in his arms, and the three of them headed for the stairs, laughing.

Evangeline took note of the small disturbance in the bar, it was rare enough in this quiet place but she was quite surprised to see that it looked like some kind of toff who was one of the party involved. It wasn't often that one of there kind ended up in a place like this. In her moment of morbid curiosity Evangeline accidentally met the man's eyes as he made to scurry out and regretted it immediately. In that solitary second she knew that she had let her guard down, that he had seen way to much; it was clear enough in his judging gaze.

Well what the hell did he know? The posh dandy didn't look like he'd done a decent days work in his entire life. It disgusted Evangeline to even watch him just back down from a few drunken grumblings. Didn't the man have any dignity? Any pride?

Evangeline quickly slid of her seat and took only a moment to steady herself. The world around her wavered a little bit, but it was nothing compared to the an airship hitting a patch of bad weather. With steady strides she quickly stomped her way over to the door in pursuit of the well dressed man.

"Hey!" She called out to him in a rough voice. "Where do you think you're going?"

The pirates were busy talking among themselves and with that, Tara just faded into the background. Her patience worn thin, she walked out of the little alley back to the airship docks. Surely someone should be guarding the Firebolt? Some curious onlooker could just jump in that ship and no-one would notice. Such a thing would be typical of a Sky Pirate crew headed by a royalist playing at pirate. Now there was a story that often repeated itself. A rich royalist gets bored, buys an airship, not just any civilian airship, one with guns bolted into it and a fast engine for good measure. Bored royalist then runs away on the airship, tired of the constant talk of the legacy they must uphold.

Tara though on as she walked. Apparently with the occupied of Uleth, this occurrence had only increased. But the aristocrats were actually doing something over there, the Returners had plenty of people with the money to fund the resistance movement. Tara wondered want the Six Days of the Gods would be like over there and quickly came to the conclusion that it would be like the festivities here, but with even more of an edge. Still the pious ones would still bow to the Gods in their churches, even if they were under Republican rule.

Tara stopped, she had arrived at the airship docks where the Firebolt was docked in all its crimson glory and already there was a curious onlooker on the scene. Letting her hand rest on her sword, she walked over to him and tapped him on the shoulder.

"Admiring the view?" Tara asked, in her signature blunt fashion.

"Admiring the view?" Came a voice over Zavier's shoulder. He turned to find the owner of the voice. It was a woman with messy, dark hair and a strange eye patch. She adopted an aggressive pose with her hand resting casually on her blade. It was meant to be intimidating only succeeded in making her look somewhat silly to Zavier. He figured that he could take a half step to his right and be in her blind spot if anything started. More likely than not, he reasoned, this was one of the pirates.

"Inasmuch as there is a view to admire." Zavier replied with his signature wit. He stopped himself from going on to make a rude, sarcastic comment on the woman's appearance, and not only because she looked like she would have no problems with attempting to kill him in a public place. "I must admit, I am somewhat curious about this ship. I don't suppose you know who this vessel belongs to?" In all likelihood this would turn into nothing short of a massive waste of time, but then, he had time to kill.

The man turned to reveal himself as someone who considered himself a gentlemen of class with a well-armed gentlemen to boot. Pistols, swords, daggers and probably oodles of communication to boot. The man looked like he found this amusing somehow. Greenhorns had this look, as if they were looking forward to war, they still had this look as she cut them down. She thought of the possibly that her appearance amused him, the very caricature of a Sky Pirate. Good, he'll probably underestimate me, all the better for me then. She watched as his eyes wandered over to the eye patch, not doubt to stare at it. Tara hoped the message it said was clear enough: I am a mage. I have seem battle. I can make you combust in a blink with a ready tome.

"Inasmuch as there is a view to admire."

This was clearly someone with a stellar wit. Tara was one of those people who had no patience for wise guys. She folded her arms and huffed.

"I must admit, I am somewhat curious about this ship. I don't suppose you know who this vessel belongs to?"

Definitely a curious onlooker, she was unsure whether to reveal who the owners of the airship were to this man, but seeing as they were being so blatant to being with, she supposed it couldn't hurt.

"Sky Pirates known as the Scorchers." She said, short and swift. Then decided that she might as well got some information out of this one as so much he had got information out of her, "I must admit I'm curious about a man who stares at pirate vessels. Who are you?"

"I'll see you later." Rez said as he turned away.

He began walking through the streets and taking in the sights. It had been years since he had seen the festival. It was one of the few time when he could go and play with his friends without getting in trouble.

The pirate Duke lit up a cigaret and took a long drag. After letting him mind wander, his train of thought landed on fire, as if always did. He heard the roar of the flames that consumed one of his family's holdings from his boyhood. The smell of the burning wood, the feeling of smoke coming in and out of his lungs. Such fond memories.

He began asking around after Evangeline, but didn't seem to have any luck. He was walking away from a wine stand when he bumped into a boy that couldn't have been older than 12. Suddenly a man the size of a gorilla was between them.

"Watch yourself around the young master." The ape said in a voice like a hammer striking an anvil.

"I'm okay Dalton. You don't have to be so worried all the time." The boy said, straightening his shirt.

"Sorry about that young man." Rez said with a lighthearted grin.

"It's okay, I shouldn't have been running. G'by now!" And then the boy hurried on ahead.

Cute kid Rez thought as he took another drag and walked on.

"Sky Pirates known as the Scorchers." Scorchers, eh? No one he was familiar with, not that that was particularly surprising. He still wanted to know why they would come to the Hipereon capital, though. "I must admit I'm curious about a man who stares at pirate vessels. Who are you?" The woman asked.

She was obviously not very impressed by Zavier, and he had no desire to challenge her belief, too much a waste of time and effort. By her posture, it was clear that she was quite annoyed with him already. Zavier flashed a smile, sometimes he just had a knack for aggravating people, "I'm afraid that's a question much less easily answered. As to why I am inspecting a pirate's vessel, it's because I am curious about these pirates. For instance, what sort of pirates dock in an imperial capital? And why dock so blatantly in the open? Quite curious."

He wondered whether he should give his real name or a fake name, after quick consideration, he determined that he was far enough away from Uleth to be unknown. He decided to play the gentleman, and put his hand forward, "But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. I'm Zavier Martres, whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?"

The music stopped and the people in the square burst out in applause, Marcus included. The band bowed and marched away, and the people resumed socializing with one another. Marcus took another sip of his beer, now about half empty, and decided that he would call it a night. The night was still young, but the festival wasn't really worth experiencing without any friends. And all of Marcus' friends were long since dead. Marcus took another swig of the drink. He didn't often think about his old life in Thurmond, but when he did it only brought tears and sorrow.

Marcus wiped the few tear drops from his eyes and got up. No use worrying about it now. he though. It would be better to save his feelings for the battlefield, where they could be converted into righteous furry against the Republic. With that, he set off towards his apartment on the south side of the city.

Marcus quickly realized he had no idea where he was going. Every brick building looked the same to him, and the crowd made it difficult to see any other land marks. As he walked, Marcus noticed a confrontation between a hulk of a man and another, more average man wearing a peculiar face mask. It looked like it would erupt in a brawl for a moment before a young boy, apparently the larger man's master, stepped in and broke things up. Marcus couldn't help notice how diplomatic the smaller man had been about it. He seems polite. he thought. Maybe I can ask him for directions. "Excuse me, good sir." Marcus said, approaching the man in question. "Could you direct me to Clifford Avenue?" Marcus was painfully aware of how much his Thund-Akrieg accent stood out.

Zeke managed to get clear of the main body of the crowd and wandered along the pavement. He managed to find a cluster of food and snack stands but of course he had bought his own. No, the real attraction was the band playing in the middle of the street. A small crowd had gathered around them, making it hard to get a good look at them and the noise of the crowd drowned out most of their music. Credit where it was due though, they were pretty good.

It was while listening to a rustic country tune that Zeke spied a young couple, locked in each others arms get up from a bench that they had been hogging. He managed to slip in before anyone else could claim it. Probably slipping in a little too soon as he almost barged the young man out of the way, earning him a dirty look. Zeke just gave a bashful smile in return. Personal space be damned!

Zeke just let himself zone out for a while, he couldn't remember the last time he had just sat and listened to some music. An smile snuck its way onto his face while he wasn't paying attention. He was broken out of his daydreaming by the sound of a familiar voice. Duke looked like was about to get himself into a spot of trouble. Or out of it. It was hard to tell with him. Zeke half stood out of his seat, keeping one hand on the arm rest of the bench so no elderly people got any ideas about taking his spot.

"Duke! Duuuuuke! Over here!" He called out, waiving his free hand over his head.

After the embarrassing run-in at the bar, Tostundir decided to head back home. His house was quite high up in Hipereion, in such a position that he could lean over his balcony and observe the city beneath him. Despite his curiosity about the woman at the bar, he thought better of it and hung up his top-hat and coat beside his door, approaching the balcony and turning his astronomy telescope towards the city. There was always an interesting bunch in the city, especially during the six days of Gods. He coldly wondered if Hipereon would see another. Perhaps a few. But not many, he thought. Surely it could not be long before Uleth fell, and then it would only be a matter of time before-

He stopped abruptly.

A pair at the docks had caught his attention. A most peculiar pair, indeed... A pirate, that was obvious, and a gentleman (though he didn't quite hold himself as one should) stood together, chatting, and there was no doubt that they were hostile, if their posture was anything to go on. And the subject of their talk...

His lens followed the area the man was gesturing to, and eventually rested on a ship. It was truly magnificent. From a distance it had seemed totally unremarkable, but now that he was seeing it close-up, it was clearly a pirate ship and the modifications to its original design were both minimalist and brilliant. There was no question that other ships of its class would be outmatched in a straight-up fight. And, given that the crew were obviously pirates, they would make sure that the scales were tipped in their favour anyway...

It was obvious that one of the two was connected to it somehow. He took a quick sketch and returned the lens to them. The man was now offering his hand to the woman. Judging that they could be talking for a while longer, he hastily donned his hat and coat and rushed out again, notepad and pencil in his coat. He had already identified a good bench to draw it from. Hopefully, the people in the conversation would refrain from killing each other long enough for him to get a good drawing of the boat. That way he could get out of there fast enough that he wouldn't have to act surprised when they inevitably did clash. He did wonder what was going on, though. He supposed it was another thing that he would never learn, like the identity of the woman at the bar. Oh, how these things fascinated him, yet, he knew from experience that curiosity very often ended in serious injury. Like that one festival a few years back, when he tried to figure out how to ride a Barro-cycle. That did not end well...

He shuddered at the thought as he ran.

She simply stood there as a flurry of questions assaulted her, this man seemed to be the type that muttered and mused about with his arms waving in the air, giving the impression of sometime who thought that their thoughts were more important that everyone else's. This man clearly had no idea how to act when the dour Tara Rhosyne was in the room. She simply waited for the self-proclaimed gentlemen to finish flashing smiles and get on with his business as there was plenty to do doing the festival. But then again with that reasoning backfired as she had spent hours just trailing the Sky Pirates. Pity he had simply assumed her to be one of them, as she couldn't give answers to the questions he was asking, she could only give him her assumptions. The smiling gentlemen finished and extended his hand.

"But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. I'm Zavier Martres, whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?"

She took the hand and replied almost automatically giving a good solid handshake, "Tara Rhosyne."

Hadn't she heard that name somewhere in Uleth. Something about a cold-hearted killer contracted by the government during war-time, there were whispers of that among both the upper and higher ranks of the Uleth Army. The whispers also talked that the man worshiped the Dark Ones, one of ones who with ambition to hold great power and desperate enough to ask the deities of the deepest hells to get it. The thought that this was that man sent shivers up her spine, but she did the best to conceal her fear. She took a deep swallow and asked the man yet another question in this series of exchange.

"A fellow Ulethian then?" She asked, tilting her head slightly, "Or are you from one of the other nations?"

"I do as you command". A tall brown haired figure had received the order. Falcon Torris was the mans name, a high ranking member of the administry. He stepped out from his office, no one else was bustling around. They'd all long gone off to the celebrations. The orders were clear, and he'd now carry them out to the tee, with account for unexpected possibilities. "Solontair, you may reveal yourself now.

A dark robed man stepped forth from around the corner. "Torris".

"I have received word. We are to enact our plan beginning tonight. Spread word to your lieutenants that the curtain is to be raised and act one is to start without delay.

Solontair smiled beneath his mask, a snakes smile. "I do hope that it shall be an amazing show".

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Calia walked through the paved streets of the lower city. Thankfully most of the populace were gathered so a crowd wouldn't be forming around, cheering and praising her. Not that the attention wasn't opposed. The last rays of light shone over the great wall that ringed the city, twilight permeated everything to a beautiful purple blue. An ominous beauty.

For a good five minutes Calia just stared towards the wall from the middle of the street. A stray dogs bark brought her back to reality.

Down the hill there were a good number of people partaking in drinks, the tavern must of been quite crowded, especially because it was next to one of the largest squares in the city. "Perhaps this needs, investigating". A poor excuse she gave herself to go have a drink or two.

Ivan doesn't remember how he got to this Capital or why he is here. But, he is enjoying the scene. People being pious, degenerates running a muck, bands playing and apparently ape-men having children break-up fights. All for the same reasons; six days of gods.

"Duke! Duuuuuke! Over here!" A man standing on a bench called out, waiving his free hand over his head.

"PpppFFFffffTTt.... Thats not how ya get someone's attention. Hold this."

Ivan handed off a full bottle of imported rum to the man on the bench. Then pulled out a musty half burnt tome out from under his long coat. Flicking his goggles down over his eyes that seemed to have been not drifting in unison. And, finally kissing his mummified human hand that dangled around his neck for luck.

" This may singe some eyebrows... unless i aim high enough. Or, we could ... just go over there and have a drink with whats-his-face.... hope it isn't the Ape-man." Letting out a creepy broken smile as he slurred.

"A fellow Ulethian then? Or are you from one of the other nations?" Tara asked. To most there would have been little to note in Tara's behavior, other than she seemed slightly more distant. Zavier, however, was not most people, and he didn't get so far in his line of work without being able to read people. The woman was scared, and she was from Uleth, that meant only one thing, she knew who he was, at the very least she suspected. I should have just used a pseudonym, Zavier thought as he maintained his own smile with some effort.

He did, indeed, have some degree of notoriety, even enjoyed it a bit, but that was back in Uleth, where his work was sanctioned and the right people were willing to turn a blind eye to it. Here in Hipereon, however, he had no such protection, and if he were tied to any crimes here, there would be severe consequences. Zavier briefly entertained the thought of killing the woman before she could inform anyone, but quickly tossed the plan aside. He had no doubt of his ability to best this Tara Rhosyne, but from the looks of her, she wouldn't go down easily and the trouble of disposing bodies in a foreign city was almost always more than it was worth. He'd just have to keep an eye on her, he decided.

"I should have recognized one of my countrymen." Zavier said, doing his best to seem oblivious to any changes in the woman, "I'm surprised to see someone from Uleth so far abroad it is a bit...unusual. That aside, how do you know about these sky pirates?"

It was... later.

Evangeline had spent some time wandering the streets looking for the guy she had seen at the bar. Of course she didn't find him, but now a lot of the fumes had burnt off and it didn't seem nearly as important. Things weren't necessarily better, but they weren't... quite as bad.

Evangeline now wandered the streets aimlessly sharing a quick nod with passing revelers, a bow with worshipers, and a salute with a few soldiers. Suddenly though she stopped.

A familiar scent, a space, a certain ring to the echos. Evangeline almost couldn't believe that her randomly wandering feet had brought her to this place, but there was no mistake. New graffiti was over a different coat of none-the-less peeling paint; detritus betrayed the existence of a new gang of children, probably all off enjoying the festival at the moment; the old unlockable window that had served as an entrance to a climbing child was boarded up; but Evangeline would never forget this place.

Evangeline felt a wave of memories washing over her as she stood in front of the old warehouse that had served a a hide out back when she had been a child. Of course to her it had almost been more; a hideout, a fort, a second home almost. The many many hours she had spent there. This place was even where she had met Rez for the first time.

Evangeline couldn't help but smile as the memories all came back. It had been a simpler time, when life was filled with nothing but staying out of the grasp of a town guard and working hard as could be just to get some decent grub. Evangeline giggled a little as she thought that maybe it wasn't so different after all.

Evangeline wondered for a moment if Rez even remembered this place at all. It seemed like he never looked back from being a pirate at all sometimes. Suddenly feeling very tired, Evangeline sat down on a solid looking crate and leaned back against the old cheep brickwork. Perhaps she would rest her eyes for just a few minutes in this old familiar place.

Zavier was deciding whether to be honest with his nationality or not, the gentlemen's smile wavering as he though about the serious manner. Tara unfolded her arms in and let her sword-arm grip the hilt more tightly than ever now. The docks are strangely empty compared to the other parts of the city, no doubt others went into the heart of the city to where all the grand establishments lay, whether it was the grand cathedral or the pubs that claimed to be grand. The Firebolt stuck out like a sore thumb as it was docked between numerous civilian and merchant craft.

An onlooker from afar would see this as some sort of stand off between a Sky Pirate and some other stranger. She sighed, what was that made everyone think that she was part of the motley crew? Perhaps the eye patch, her strange demeanor and the fact had she had arrived on a pirate vessel might be it. Better for people to think that she is a ragamuffin Sky Pirate than a murderous member of the Uleth military. Or a turncoat that killed those on the side she once worked for. The man made up his mind and decided, well Tara didn't know whether Zavier was being totally honest or not.

"I should have recognized one of my countrymen." Zavier said, "I'm surprised to see someone from Uleth so far abroad it is a bit...unusual. That aside, how do you know about these sky pirates?"

"It's a long story." Tara replied, crossing her arms to indicate that branch of conversation was closed, "I paid them for passage to this land. Do you have any business here?"

"It's a long story. I paid them for passage to this land. Do you have any business here?" Tara replied. Paid them passage? Zavier considered, But why? Why not simply take a civilian transport? Why take such a risky route? He wanted to ask those questions, but the woman's manner clearly indicated that she would answer no more on the subject. There was something more here, he knew, something worth uncovering. He'd just have to take a more subtle approach. There still was the possibility that she was one of the pirates and was using a weak cover story, but Zavier didn't think so. Her posture, her response, her inflection, it all rang genuine.

Zavier thought about her question. People said, honesty was the best policy, he called those people idiots. "I don't have any particular business in the city, no." Zavier lied smoothly, "I decided to spend the Six Days of the Gods somewhere less thickly congested with fear and misery than Uleth." Overall that wasn't entirely untrue. Staying in Uleth too long tended to make people miserable, despondent wrecks, Zavier took every chance he could to leave the city. The bonus on this assignment was seeing a new place, he had never been to Hipereon before.

He brushed some non-existent dust of the sleeves of his coat before turning back to Tara. "And what of you?" He asked, "Do you have any particular business in the city?"

Sure, her answer didn't have the whole truth, after all, Tara was on route to Uleth as soon as the Sky Pirates stopped mucking about with this festival and took to the skies. There was enough truth in the lie for Zavier to buy it. At least he knew she wasn't a pirate but something else. Her choice of transport would surely ring alarm bells in his mind but if Zavier was so inclined to ask her about it, Tara would simply answer that she was on the run from the Republic, as many rebels in Uleth were. Yet another half-truth, she was particularity fond of them.

"I don't have any particular business in the city, no." Zavier replied, "I decided to spend the Six Days of the Gods somewhere less thickly congested with fear and misery than Uleth."

Seems like this gentleman was fond of half-truths as well. A contract killer would go whenever the target was, not that Tara cared. She guessed that ever since the fall of the Uleth, the government had been sparse with the pay checks, seeing as the Republic seized all of their assets. The festival was in full bloom here, Tara wondered whether another care-free one would come again, as Hipereon's days looked to be numbered as the Republic marched on.

"And what of you?" He asked, "Do you have any particular business in the city?"

Zavier brushed some non-existant dust off his coat as he flung yet another question at her. This guy was answering few and asking many. Tara scowled, it was pretty that she had a hint of who he was and what he did, so why didn't Zavier tell her that? Well, a lie would be returned with another lie. The stony facade remained on Tara's face as she remembered how her father would fool people into thinking his goods were a fair price and the bitterness of him having to abandon the business as the battlemages took her away to learn the art of magic.

"None. Just here for the lack of Glorinst oppression." She replied, mimicking his previous gesture, but this time as a simple dismissal of the subject in question.

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