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#827375
Mon 21/09/15 23:18 UTC
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Sasha


The Baroness Xanthippe leaned slightly forward and concentrated intently on the head of House Decados as he expounded his tale.

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Jaxon

So this has been hatching for at least a couple of years and by the sound of the accord overriding House concerns, it must be something serious.

You could hear a pin drop in the silence whilst waiting for Duke Fedor to continue.

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“The first question was “is it your intention to make war upon my house?” says Gunter “the second question was “if not, do you know who is?”

“The answer to both questions was no” replies Fedor “comprehensively so because as it transpired much of what was then happening on each of our two respective worlds appeared at first as if the other was causing it. On my world there was an increasing surge of unrest among the citizenry and the lesser nobility, a veritable tinder box of rebellion just waiting for a spark, a spark that we were certain was being organised by an agent provocateur from House Hawkwood.”

“On this world
” continues Gunter “the Vuldrok had begun to stir and make greater and greater trouble on the borders of the lands they controlled. Something was provoking them to this action and likewise we were finding items and weaponry that could only have come from House Decados.”

“It was cleverly done – very cleverly done” replies Fedor “almost flawless in fact but as with all deceptions, if you begin to dig deep enough and peel back the shadows light will eventually fall on something that wishes to remain well hidden in the darkness. What ultimately stopped us from falling headlong into this deception was something we always had in secret – the dialogue of the Accord. It was in this instance our last safety net and had accomplished what it was established – in part at any rate.

It was thus that as the heads our respective and immediate houses we began to work in secret to identify who or what was behind a very real attempt to push both houses to brink of war. Over the period of that year we moved cautiously, as much undoing the damage being caused as identifying its source. The more we looks the more strangeness we were finding and this only complicated matters. What we first saw as a problem for our houses was anything but. It was pervasive – everywhere – yet formless and nameless despite all our efforts give it shape and identity.

This is where the Baroness Sasha begins her part in all this and unfortunately at the same time everything suddenly and very quickly -as the ancestors say - goes to hell in a hand cart.”

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Sasha


Her attention was on the two dukes as they spoke, but occasionally she did glance at Jaxon to see how he was reacting to these revelations.

"I did my best to do my Duke's bidding," Sasha said slowly, her gaze moving from one to another, her tone tight and her expression even more concerned than it had when they'd entered the room.

"Tell me who is behind all this subterfuge and I will see to their deaths."

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Tue 29/09/15 12:48 UTC
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Jaxon

It seems as though he still has a lot to learn. He mentally parks his mistrust of the Decados off to one side. Maybe it is a double deal by them but he does trust his Duke who seems to accept their innocence.

There is more to come yet he is sure. They have reached a point in the story where Sasha became involved, probably a way to go before it reaches him... though a thought crosses his mind that maybe it had involved his family much earlier?

The discipline he had learned painfully in some cases during his time with the Hazat, allowed him to remain quiet and show little in his expression. A boy no longer.

Last edited by Gypsy; Tue 29/09/15 12:50 UTC.
#828918
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Gunter gives a faint smile

“If only it was that easy Lady Sasha. This unfortunately was the problem we kept encountering, whatever or whoever we were following always managed to stay at least one step of us even against the vast resources of the Jakovian Agency of House Decados. All we could do was chase shadows and rumours – it was as if this quarry had a crystal ball and was able to look into the future with perfect clarity. All we could clarify by that time were two repeating fact – firstly that for reasons unknown there were more and more dead ends that ended up on one world – the planet Aylon of House Al-Malik. The second was that either knowingly or unknowingly the Scravers Guild were instrumental in the spread of this danger.

It is likely that even moving cautiously as we did at the time our efforts only served to accelerate what was going on. The first target so it would seem, was to be my world and my House but not before we were able initiate a counter play of my own even though the price to be paid was ultimately a heavy one in both dishonour and blood.”


He looks over to Fedor not so much a pause but a clear desire of not wanting to talk further on some point of that subject.

Fedor resumes the account

“To immediately assume that either the Al-Malik or the Scravers Guild was behind what was happening was to fall into another deception – not something I was prepared to tolerate. At that time small but increasingly noticeable changes were taking place on this world a shift in the nobility power base from the older families of House Hawkwood to a newer generation of lesser nobility or of younger lineage. In normal circumstances perhaps not that unusual but an increasing number of accidents and "natural" deaths made this anything other than usual. It was carefully and cleverly done of course no new elevation was earned or gained without justifiable merit on some level so for all outwards appearances the torch was being passed in the best traditions of that House.

What I had learned in that time was not in facts to be discovered but the noticeable absence of them in certain places. You see a lot of effort had been focused on all the major players in the known worlds – the 5 great houses, the Guilds, possibly even the Church but we quickly established that those houses considered of minor or little consequence had been largely left alone – uncorrupted if you will. This was the first real mistake made and it confirmed to me that they lacked an essential understanding of the Game we all play. On that basis I approached Duke Gunter with a new plan and essential to this was a very capable noble from a lesser house well know to us. A house who’s lands orbit my own world as a reclaimed moon. The House of Xanthippe."


He nods over to Lady Sasha.

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Sasha


"I can see where you... thought to avoid the wrong type or thrust of attention to the major houses by... using me rather as bait or perhaps as a goad to trigger a response."

Sasha spoke slowly, deliberately, as if figuring things out in her head as she went along.

"I do not mind being used, if the result of that use is worthwhile."

She paused another moment.

"But I would have appreciated your trust. You could have let me in instead of tricking me into being your puppet."

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Jaxon

He is also thinking fast, adding up what is being said and maybe making it more that it is.. but he has to ask the question. He looks at Duke Gunter.

"Has any of this contributed to the death of my parents or my brother's disappearance?"

It is a very direct question, something that may not be the wiest thing to ask right now.. but he has to know. His gaze is unwavering.

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“That was never the intent” replies Gunter with just a hint of annoyance in his voice “your appointment was always for the purpose you accepted it as – to act as tutor and protector to my grandchildren and broaden their horizons beyond the sometimes narrow confines of this world. That which came after only complicated and enhanced this role but it remained the same. I don’t think you quite understand the depth of your service to my House or you would not have said such a thing.”

He looks at Fedor

“Something that the architect of this plan has yet to fully clarity”


Fedor remains unmoved

“You see Lady Sasha the time had already come to fill such a position in any event, were things different one of Duke Gunters own would be in your place and we would not be having this discussion. When I discovered what had happened to Duke Gunter and just prior to the Vuldrok uprising everything changed and it was thusly vital that someone not of House Hawkwood take on this role. It was also essential that person knew nothing as to these hidden facts or their reaction would have been very different. We needed someone who’s path, purpose and duty would not be swayed or otherwise diverted by the influences of this world. Knowing what was ahead I recommended your name to Duke Gunter and made the arrangements for you to come here for that purpose. It was the impact of your presence thereafter that we did not expect to flower as fully as it did.”

He smiles to himself.

“You cannot imagine how incensed the nobility of this world were at your arrival. This was a role traditionally destined to be filled by a member of an old and trusted family from Duke Gunters line. To then appoint you in addition as a commander of Hawkwood forces during the greatest Vuldrok uprising in the last 500 years and have you succeed despite so many attempts to show you as incompetent was the catalyst we had never looked for. In short Lady Sasha you briefly became the healer of this world, drawing poison from the wound and causing the poisoner to reveal themselves in part. Alas even this was too late for your master although thanks largely to you His Grace’s grandchildren remain largely unaffected."


Gunters attention shifts to Jaxon and his question. He takes a deep breath trying to consider a measured answer.

“We don’t know conclusively that is the case or the current whereabouts of your brother Dominic...but....”

Fedor interrupts

“But I do not share Duke Gunters optimistic view of those circumstances. Your family is one of the oldest on this world and related to that of Duke Gunter. It is likely they were the first of many to fall to this creeping advance, which is why Duke Gunter in his wisdom made sure you stayed put & protected on Aragon by Count Pietro de Hazat. It is also the reason why you have now been returned.”

He swivels to face Gunter

“This is no time to sweeten the truth of things Gunter, that doesn’t help him or you. We agreed that in all things clarity and perspective must be maintained especially for what lies ahead”

“Yes – I did” says Gunter quietly rubbing his forehead with the tips of his fingers whilst looking down at the table "and it pains me to admit Fedor is correct"

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Sasha


She considered their words for several long moments and then ducked her head slightly as she saluted Duke Gunter with right fist crossed to her left breast.

"Force, my lord. I did not mean to overstep the bounds of propriety, but I come from a proud people and, when I swear fealty to a lord such as yourself, I take it seriously."

Again she paused, a shorter one this time.

"Only slightly less important to me than my oath and fealty to you, milord, is the affection which has grown between me and your grandchildren. When they were so... abruptly taken from my care, it... pained me."

#829371
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Jaxon

He lets the information percolate and ensures his emotions are under control before speaking.

"Thank you. I prefer to act with knowledge rather than in the dark. It gives voice to some of my suspicions. And I had thought that I had been 'gotten out of the way', at least I know why now. I trust that you acted in our best interests."

#829877
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Gunter looks towards Jaxon

"I'm sorry you had to find out this way. It had been my hope for it be otherwise. There are others like you who for their own sake and the future of our House have been removed far from the influence of this world and there is a reason I have asked for your return now"



He then addresses Sasha


“The original visit to Aylon and the subsequent care of my grandchildren there was supposed to be part of your continuing duties off this world and because it was plain to me that you were above reproach and would give your own life to protect them if necessary. In short you were supposed to be going with them however two recent events changed all this. The first concerns Sir Thomas, your aide de camp assigned to you when you first arrived and who subsequently served under you thereafter for the entirety of the campaign against the Voldrok and up to today”.

He reaches into his tunic and pulls out a small object some 2 inches in length that had the appearance of a transparent six sided cylinder. To those with a technological understanding it looks like a data crystal.


“Sir Thomas was found in his quarters earlier this evening wrapped in a House Hawkwood flag and clasping this in his hand. He has taken his own life - a single blaster shot to the head.”

He hands the crystal to Sasha

“It is my...failing....that has allowed this to happen Lady Sasha. If you must be angry with anyone once you see the contents you should direct this anger to me because in this respect I have failed you.”


A brief paused follows as he draws a breath. Fedor’s attention during this is more focused on part of the desk and the controls in front of each seating position. He produces a data crystal of almost identical design and slots it into a receiving port at the edge of his part of the desk.

“The second reason is urgency. It has now become necessary to separate the children from this world as quickly as humanly possible because...”

He looks over at Fedor as if he doesn’t want to say the next part himself

“Because Duke Gunter has been poisoned” says Fedor dryly only stopping to look up as he activates a large holographic system that fills the centre ring of the table.

The room is stained red as the image fully forms


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Sasha


She leaned forward, following the discussion with an intensity that was nearly palpable.

"Sir Thomas?" Her eyes widened but before she could go any further, the next bombshell exploded on her.

"Poisoned?"

#829902
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Jaxon

He is largely unaffected by the news of Sir Thomas as he does not know the man but he does glance at Sasha to see how she is taking this news. However the next announcement rocks him.

"By whom? With what? Can it be neutralised?"

His thoughts tumble out of his mouth.

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Fedor nods towards the image in answer to both questions.

“It was discovered quite by accident following a medical scan that I encouraged his Grace to take for precisely that reason. It is utterly unique - some of the best minds of both my house and the Supreme Order of Engineers have studied it. All we really know is that this beyond anything that could be created and used now, even during the height of the 2nd Republic this would have been on the very limits of their understanding."

He reaches into the hologram and “grabs” one of the spiky red objects and rotates it

“What I can tell you is all that is currently known. It is a highly complex and artificially engineered life form. It is also a cooperative organism, that is to say it works collectively with the host and exhibits very similar properties to another very rare technology – nano robotics. What you are looking therefore is a technological apex, an artificial bio-mechanical life form that can be programmed for a task and which adapts to its changing surroundings."


He releases the image again.

“This particular example has been designed to accumulate and concentrate a very rare element within the body of its host. Duke Gunter currently has at least 3 times the fatal level of this element within his system but for reasons yet unknown it is being kept in check by the same mechanism that put it there.

To assist his Grace we have explored every possibility and considered every treatment. There is no known method to remove this poison it has permeated to a cellular level.”


He looks over to Sasha.

“There is a distinct possibility that others in the palace, possibly a great number are carrying this poison too, although to anyone other than Duke Gunter the substance is harmless because it has been dsigned to work only with him. At present the grandchildren are not infected – why we do not know. Best evidence suggests the most likely mechanism for introducing this poison is via food or drink. I have been informed it has been engineered this way.”

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Sasha


"And do we have reason to suspect any one individual or another of this deed," the baroness said, her hands clenched into white-knuckled fists.

"And what can we do about it?"

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Jaxon

He is trying to work out what could be achieved by doing this, his mind already struggling with acceptance that this 'poison' is something that has been created.

Could it be designed to kill but only when an instruction is given? That could be used for blackmail? Is the Duke's body being prepared for something, maybe to create an environment for a parasite or something? It all seems a bit thin.

"What is this rare element?"

He is not expecting a revelation that he might understand but it is a logical question and provides thinking time.

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“That is the correct question" replies Fedor to Jaxon with a tight wolfish smile

He brings up one section of the holo-display, pointing to part of it

“There – the substance is a metal isotope called Iridium 193. It is very rare and very expensive my sources tell me you can only find it in significant quantities in the depths of space. There is some significance or meaning there although what that is eludes me for the present. Once you know what to look for it is also relatively easy to track – with the right technology of course. I have commissioned a number of discrete sensing devices for just that purpose.”

Duke Gunter continues in answer to Sasha, almost mentally tuning out Fedor’s analytical discussion

“There is nothing that can be done now Lady Sasha” he replies “the fatal thrust has already been made. All that remains now is to await the withdrawal of the blade. There are so many unanswered questions in this matter that I have chosen to rely on those few left that I can still trust to continue in my absence.”

He looks towards Fedor

“We are running out of time. We should move to the plan and quickly”


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Jaxon

"If nothing can be done why are we trying to find more of this stuff?"

It might be noted that the use of 'we' has indicated that he has already bought in to this venture. Had there ever been doubt he would?

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Sasha


She saluted Duke Gunter with right fist to left side of her chest, murmuring Force in sad tones.

"I have heard of iridium being found in meteorites. What can we do?"

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Fedor frowns at Jaxon

“That is the wrong question. Increase the depth of your tactical thinking young Baron”

He looks over at Sasha and nods before Gunter speaks

“There will be plenty of time to discover a meaning to this after we leave. Now is not the best of times”

“Which leads me to my first command” replies Gunter “Lady Sasha you must leave this world as soon as possible, your life here is now in great danger. For this purpose His Grace Duke Fedor has made arrangements for both you and Baron Jaxon to leave as soon as this gathering is concluded. It has been decided that Baron Jaxon will also speak for House Hawkwood of Leminkainen in these matters and in my absence.”

He stands to face both Jaxon and Sasha. Fedor nods in agreement with just the slightest of smiles.

“What I ask of you now is my last command for in all likelihood this will be the last time we will meet. Lady Sasha, you came here with loyalty and honour for which those lesser creatures of my House have repaid you with betrayal and the sullying of your good name. Baron Jaxon, you are my blood relative and one of those remaining few that I can trust with the tasks ahead because you remain untarnished by recent events on this world. The honour of House Hawkwood as well as that of your own will soon be questioned, even cast aside in the eyes of the known worlds. This is the fire which you both must now endure and pass through.

I therefore charge you both with my last request. When the last lights in the known worlds are about to go out become a beacon to which others can rally – there will be others of this world also untouched by this insipid betrayal. Find them and let them know the truth of things. Restore your honour and mine and find those who are responsible for its loss. When you find them hold them to account so all the worlds will see the injustice that has been done and the deceit that has been wrought here. Remember always this is not about revenge. This is a restoration of what has been lost.”


He sits back down again slowly an air of fatigue now present on his greying face.

“And now it begins” remarks Fedor.

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Jaxon

And he had been concerned about his own reputation! For a moment the task laid upon him seems too heavy and he is unsure of his own strength of character to undertake this mission, one that is more important that anything he might have even perceived. But his time with the Hazat had not been wasted.

Jaxon draws on his inner strength, his shoulders straighten, he draws himself tall and looks directly at Duke Gunter.

"I will do this or die trying."

It is spoken like an oath and this is how he means it. He stands to attention and gives his Duke the House Hawkwood salute.

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Sasha


She was not at all sure she fully understood the mission which had been put upon her shoulders and those of the young Baron Jaxon and she was even less sure how to go about fulfilling the task... where to start.

But Baroness Sasha Xanthippe was nothing if not loyal and confident in her abilities. She copied Jaxon's Hawkwood salute and said Force louder and firmer this time.

"We will not fail you, milord," she said as she reached out a hand to grasp that of the young baron.

"You can depend on me."

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Gunter stands up again straightening his uniform tunic and returning the salutes given

Fedor jumps in on the conversation quickly before Gunter has a chance to.

“I believe that some parting words to say to His Grace Duke Gunter in private may now be in order. This after all is also a private matter between House Hawkwood and House Xanthippe. I will therefore take my leave and return to my chambers. Duke Gunters High Senechal will be no doubt know the way to guide you both back. Unfortunately some unforeseen elements in our planned departure need to be resolved beforehand a task best attended to by myself."

He de-activates the holo display and strides purposefully towards the sealed door, turning round as he reaches it.

“Don’t be late”

He looks first to Sash, then to Jaxon and final a longer more thoughtful lingering look towards Gunter.

“It has been an honour Your Grace. I will very much miss our conversations and our game. You are and have been a most worthy opponent and ally. The questing torch you pass here will not be forgotten. I will ensure it is upheld”

He bows, formally and low.Gunter turns to face him across the table

“It’s down to you now Fedor” Gunter says firmly “the honour of my house rides with them and you. It has been uniquely interesting and an honour to call you my friend. I will be sure to prepare tea again for the time when you come to visit me for then we will both be in the same boat.”

He smiles slightly and returns the bow.

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Baroness Sasha Xanthippe


Sasha bowed formally, returning Duke Fedor's bow with more feeling than she'd felt for the head of House Decados before.

"Your Grace," she murmured and then turned back to face the Duke to whom she'd promised her fealty.

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