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An RP in the World of Avernum in General
Shock Trooper
Member # 3022
Profile #213
OOC: Ah hell, sorry for disobeying the post a day rule, but this is too much to resist...

IC:

Linda's new job was rewarding, but also difficult. One particularly unenjoyable task was sorting out good intelligence from bad intelligence. In this case, however, things were easy.

"Anvils?" Linda raised an eyebrow.

"Flying ones, sir. They hit some ships out of port. Caused a few casualties." The messenger repeated, trying to maintain a serious expression. "It is rumored that they were sent by a wizard calling himself X."

It was with great effort that she dismissed the courier, with a note to be easy on the alcohol. Flying anvils and mysterious wizards indeed.

Looks like the pressure is taking a toll on our field agents.

---

To the east, the disorganised main battle column of the Eastern Populist Army arrived later than planned, finding their scouting troops already routed by alliance forces. Out of control, and desiring vengence, they spy another battle continuing, with plenty of hated imperialists bottled up in a confused melee.

They are stupid, but not stupid enough to miss this opportunity. Forgetting even to deploy into combat formation, they charge into the rear of the alliance army.

[ Sunday, January 04, 2004 14:02: Message edited by: FZ ]
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
Shock Trooper
Member # 3022
Profile #206
"Assassins, eh?"

In a way, Linda was proud of gaining such noteriety so quickly. And damn scared as well, of course.

"Yes, sir. Beta confirmed that four of them has been sent out, with a representative from Solaria magic school in tow."

Beta was a code name for a populist operative somewhere around Jehan Sol. That's what the western populists have instead of an army, these days. Still, Sol has misplayed his hand. A few assassins would be excellent at knocking out a number of leaders. But having a mage tag along would stand out like a sore thumb amongst people who had never seen a real, good mage in their lives. The only question was how to use it.

"We want to give no impression of how we got this information, ok? And if Sol thinks decapitation will work against us, it is only polite to reciprocate."

And on to other business. A few shipments of crossbows would be commandeered the moment they left SAFT hands. The bridge of Norden will suffer an accident. Nothing that would appear to be part of an overall plan. Nothing that would look any different from usual banditry.

"Why don't we attack? Like those in the East do?"

An idiot. Linda made a mental note for his demotion.

"Because attacking is what fools do, right now. The eastern rebels may do well for the time being, but they are overstretched, overarrogant and underdisciplined. They've already been corrupted by unneccessary ambition, which would lose them support. In the end, they'll lose, and we'll win."

When finally the subcommanders had filed out of the room, an extra piece of news.

"Kylen is dead."

"What?" That was a big surprise. The thugs in the east had accomplished something.

"The generals are being very busy trying to keep it secret, but one of our men was an eyewitness. Even the eastern populists don't know."

"Who does know this?"

"A few of the highest level commanders. Maybe the other faction leaders, depending on how in touch they are. Looks like it's going to be a silent takeover, with a smooth "transition" of power."

She thought a bit, and turning to Taron, gave out further instructions.

"This doesn't concern us, for now. Our propagandists can spread rumors, but it is unlikely the Kylenian army will believe us. Right now, I want you to do something about the doomguard. Intelligence states that they are trying to sneak it out into Solaran territory, where it would be much harder to trace. Pick a few trustworthy men, and make sure it has an accident."

Meanwhile, she'll remain here as assassin-bait.

---

When Jehan Sol woke up that morning, he had a nasty surprise. One can only guess at his expression when he found a small piece of note-paper next to his bed.

"You are dead. Ha. Ha. Ha."

[ Sunday, January 04, 2004 04:40: Message edited by: FZ ]
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
Shock Trooper
Member # 3022
Profile #200
His mistake, of course, was that Linda had no desire to leave.

Linda looked out over the balcony, paced nervously back and forth. Below and around, the largest crowd she had ever seen stood, stamped and muttered.

It was a very big crowd. It was not exactly what she had in mind when she told the old priest - Father Jose was his name - to gather as many people as he can. Populist support must be stronger here than most thought, even though Jehan Sol was reputed to have defeated most of their stronghold here.

She looked closer, examined their faces and realised the truth.

Sol had not killed all the populists. Most had simply run away from the battle, hid themselves in small towns or tried to return to the lives they left, waiting for an ounce of hope to lift them up. To the East, there may be victories and glory, but here there has only been death, slaughter, defeat. There was a lot of work to do if this was to be a real force.

So she spoke, almost shouting: "Hail! The people of Praglad!"

A muted movement passed through the crowd. Some more muttering too. Linda could guess - who is this woman, to address us?

Quickly she answered this silent question. "I was once one of the enemy. I once served an emperor, Jehan Sol, believing his path to be the right one. I believed that he can bring peace, that he loved the land. I was wrong!"

A roar of approval. That certainly struck a chord. She wondered how many of these people were once supporters of Sol.

"For I realised that in the end, he was just a man. A greedy ambitious man, too. A man who thinks nothing of starting a pointless war to further his gains, who would rule this land with injustice and inefficiency. And ultimately, terror."

They were entranced now, but for a brief commotion to her right. A small number of men appeared to be trying to force a way through the crowd, to no avail.

"Remember the heros of Bale! Remember the women ravished, the children murdered like dogs! Remember the flames, the smoke..."

They remembered. Taron shifted uncomfortably beside her. He had not heard of this. Little wonder, being stuck in a cell all the time.

"Remember the men of Gretal! They believed that Sol would deal with them fairly, but they were betrayed! They were slain, and their relatives left without homes, without fathers and husbands, sent to the slave-mines to the west. Where was imperial justice then?"

Somewhere in the crowd, a chant grew, too indistinct to make out. She continued regardless.

"What of the great imperial armies? Young men, torn from their families at the prime of their lives, sent on distant campaigns, to Aizo or kill their own countrymen. What honor is there in this?"

"And what of trade, of our industries? All turned to war now, to needless killing. Food will grow scarce. This needless war will consume us!"

The chant grew loud enough to be heard.
"Down with Sol!"
"Down with Kylen!"
"Down with Empire!"

But there was a dissenting voice. "But how can we fight them? They will kill us. Like they did at Bale."

Perfect timing. "Yes, that is true. Their armies are a grinding mill, tight with discipline and training. But they are not a perfect one, they can still be beaten. We must not fight like they do, for they are harder than us, and they can smash us to pieces. No, we must be as the water that flows between their toes, hit them when they are unready, flee them where they are strong. We shall show them the true meanings of terror, strike them wherever they hide. Hurt them, not directly, but at the bonds that make them strong, and their men will gladly join us. In the end, we are right, and we will wear them down. And we shall triumph!"

The crowd burst forth in a triumphant roar, as though they had already won.

Already, the word would be spreading, the idea planted. Those that follow will be bond to Linda, those that do not will die. The doomguard must have been taken by now, and Sol will strike soon. But we will be ready.

Drawing on dirty cloaks, Linda and Taron quickly disappeared into the cheering multitudes.

OOC: So Linda takes over the western populist faction. Her influence is initially pretty weak, and the eastern populists still act independently, attempting to attack anyone and everyone.
Firedrake: Wasn't that a bit too easy, just getting a scroll and fixing the doomguard like that? Linda thinks it is unfixable...
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
Shock Trooper
Member # 3022
Profile #198
OOC: Let's try to sort out the timescale, a bit.
Kylen was assassinated on the afternoon. Hugo et al's meeting occured on that evening.

On the same evening, Linda met with Ironclad, and then got shot. And rescued, and so on. She had gotten Taron out of SAFT early in the morning, and been intercepted around noon.

Sol's actions against the populists are spread out over a period of time prior to this evening, like a few weeks.

The Aizoan front was contacted at the start of Sol-vs-Populist actions. Presuming they are back, advanced elements should arrive within a week. But nobody knows this.

Pretoria et al are at some time after Kylen's death, when news had time to spread around the area.

Ok?
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
Shock Trooper
Member # 3022
Profile #192
Linda dreamed of white mountains, and a small stream. The grass soft under her feet. Picking up small pebbles. But there was something strange about one pebble. It grew arms, sharp talons. And the other pebbles began to change too. And she was running now, and then crawling... And falling, the taloned arms reaching grabbing.. ripping...

She awoke and groaned. There was a dull ache in her shoulder, but she couldn't remember why. Or for that matter, where she was.

She got up in her bed, and tried to shake the grogginess from her head, put her feet on the pine floor of the attic room where she appeared to be. Gradually, she remembered.

In the last day, she had managed to betray her former emperor, Jehan Sol, capture men belonging to SAFT and annoy the Ironcladist candidate. No wonder she ended up with a crossbow bolt in her shoulder.

Now that her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, she peeked under the bandage. No wound. How very curious...

Her headache abated enough to here voices from downstairs. Taron appeared to be having an argument with someone. Can't be too important. And then she remembered something.

The doomguard! Damn him!

But there was something else, something not right about this attic. She concentrated on the wall in front of her, and saw a sliver of light where no light should be.

A secret room! And the only people with secret rooms in this town would be...

---

Taron was having a very fruitful discussion with the old man about how easy it is to have an accident when using a crossbow when Linda stormed down.

"Ok, we know your secret. Get as many people together here as soon as you can. I have something important to say..."
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
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Profile #182
Furious, Linda ran through the docks, trying to meet up with her remaining men. Gideon may have his nice words, but in the end, he is still too stubborn, too set in the old ways to realise how things must challenge. After a while, she reached where Taron was meant to be.

Nobody there, and no sign of the doomguard.

She paused, frozen in terror. There was one of those... things free in the city now, very likely in the hands of those who would abuse its power. It was certain now that it would be used, or worse copied and then employed in a mad endless war. She had failed. Taron seemed to have abandoned her - and perhaps he was smart to have done so.

Unless...

There was still hope. The populists... they still had power, and perhaps they can see sense. With good leaders, they can be a real force. She will go to them, alone and weak, and plead with the people of Praglad. The madness of the emperors, the madness of the war, and the doomguard, it can still be stopped.

She was unsure where she was now. A tavern nearby was filled with laughter and drunken song, but she did not know who frequented such places. A line of shops was in front, and the docks behind. A nearby potion shop caught her eye, but not for long.

A crossbow bolt thudded into her shoulder.

By the time her brain registered the hit, she was already on the slick cobbled street, feeling for the fletchings on her back. No way to guage the damage.

Gritting her teeth against the pain, she crawled forward, trying to get to safety.

One step, then another.

She slipped again, and fell once more to the ground.

The darkness of the streets gave way to another, engulfing one.

OOC: Ok, time for Taron's test of allegiance. I'm thinking he either saves her, fighting off the unnamed assailiant, or someone else does. Or the assailiant gets distracted or something. Or Taron could be the assailiant... Your choice...
Is Pretoria's shop meant to be anywhere around here? (If so, then that's the shop Linda notices)
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
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Profile #177
Hearing the struggle on the streets, Linda's mind raced through the ways to take advantage.

"My Liege... Listen to that... That is the sound of assassins, attempting to kill you, or to take from me the boon I was about to provide you with. Come with us quickly, or do not come with us at all!"
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
Shock Trooper
Member # 3022
Profile #166
There was a certain procedure for meeting heads of state, even ones fleeing for their lives, and Linda chose deliberately to flout it. It was clear from the moment she stepped into Gideon Ironclad's prescence that this was entirely successful. If anything, they certainly did have their full and undivided attention.

Lord Ironclad gave an expression of utter indignation, and Linda heard the sound of a dozen crossbows being cocked and aimed. Good start, then.

"Hail Gideon Ironclad, Emperor of no empire, Commander of no army, guest of a hostile power. I am Linda of Sol, and I offer you my service."

A few guards shifted their weaponary in a meaningful manner.

"Your council has betrayed you, as they had intended from the start. Your allies have abandoned you, for you no longer have any value for him. You live now only on the traditionalist whims of old men, and the old men are dying."

Gideon was livid now. "Speak quickly, for you are soon to die."

"I'll give you a free word of warning. The moment you set foot in SAFT HQ, your life expectancy shall be counted in hours. Vida will either hand you over to the Solarans, or put you in the hands of traitors. And you have nothing to offer her, no way to save your life."

"And why should I trust the word of a traitor?"

"I am no traitor. I do not betray this land, only serve it in ways nobody, perhaps not even I, know. You should trust me for you have no one else to trust."

"Lies!"

"Think on it. Your council was never on your side. You were only a tool for them, by which their petty desires could be reached. Your magi were concerned only with their own power - one had attempted to attack us enroute, a move that was calculated only to maintain your isolation and speed your doom. Your armies are mostly loyal to your treacherous council, and are on the most part broken and worthless now. Even if they are to win, you can never be an emperor of old - for no hero-emperor can have fallen as you have. Here, on this little dock in this cold night, our little band are the only friends you have."

At least the Emperor wasn't laughing anymore.

"I come to you, because I believe that only you can save this land. For only you have the ability to unite, only you have the humility that comes from defeat, and only you have nothing more to lose - except your life of course. I come to offer you a new army, and a new empire - the empire of the people."

Gideon Ironclad appeared too stunned to respond.

"For all the uproar, the populists do not hate you. They hate what you represented, the old empire, the empire of oppression. And they are right - too long has Praglad been ruled tby those afraid of change, of men isolated and unaccountable. They await you now, for you to be an Emperor not over the people, but an Emperor of the people. The other factions are unwise. They see the republicans as scum to be trodden down, to be crushed and destroyed - but this scum will not die. They are like the doomguard - harm them and they grow stronger, until they are a raging blaze."

Linda paused. Gideon's expression was unreadable. Was he angered enough to order their deaths? Was he intrigued but held back by his inborn principles? Or did he truly trust in what she is saying?

"You must address the people. You must set fire to their hearts, and reforge the empire as whole again. You must accept the changes that must occur. Or else the bickering of the factions shall tear this land apart, to the ruin of all."

Her speech was complete. As she waited for the Emperor's response, she was acutely aware of the doomguard and Taron hidden carefully out of sight, with instructions to switch on the golem if anything went wrong.

Considering the array of firepower trained upon her, hidden inadequately in the shadows, if anything did go wrong, she probably wouldn't feel it.
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
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Profile #164
They couldn't get away fast enough. Not lugging a ton and a half of golem. A quick forcecage, and 2 of the raiders were down, and the others threw down their arms quickly when they realised how outnumbered they were. Good men. Not stupid. And there was a dire shortage of good men these days.

Linda did the only thing that was sensible. She offered them a job. A few grumbled, and the forcecaged duo were rather hostile as the spell wore off, but an offer of a thousand gold quietened most of their quibbles. After all, by coming with Linda, they were indeed assuring that the doomguard got returned to its owner - it will just take a little longer.

The single naive fool who didn't listen for sense was tied up and locked - for his own protection, of course - in a nearby cellar.

---

And then, a quick debrief of the remaining men brought the bad news, and the good news.

"Bad news?"

"Well yes. I always guessed that the doomguard was sent by the ironcladists as a trap deal sort of thing. But the fact that that group got sent specifically to retrieve it casts doubt on it. Since we know that the Ironclads are in a state of utter disarray, it is unlikely that they are simultaneously working on this doomguard scheme."

Taron wondered if that could ever make any sense. But Linda continued regardless.

"Consider what would happen if the doomguard was deployed now in the hands of the kylenians. Gideon Ironclad is nowhere in sight. The Ironclad faction as a whole cannot profit from it. But an independent agent, one of many newly freed ex-Ironcladists, will. It would be an awesome show of strength, and with that, there is no longer any need for an emperor as a figurehead. This whole land can be taken by force and terror in days. The doomguard, as a weapon, is very difficult to use in a real battle - people can just run away out of the 10 mile radius, and that's that. Its real effectiveness comes in destroying whole cities, annihilating innocent, and trapped citizens."

"So..."

"If there is, as I believe an independent mage around with a good supply of these things, we are in deep trouble. And that's we, as in everybody on Praglad."

Taron smiled in perverse triumph. So his paranoia was justified after all. "And the good news?"

"Well, it seems my forcecage spell works after all."

"Ah."

"Actually, the real good news is that Gideon Ironclad himself is coming to us. His ship will dock just southeast of here to restock sometime tonight. If we hurry, we can get an audience with him before he meets anyone else."

Taron did his best to be optimistic. "So an army of invincible doomguards are going to kill everybody, and the best thing you come up with is a visit to a man without a real army under his control, with hundreds of thousands of rebels baying for his blood, hates us utterly, and who never had any real power in the first place?"

"Oh, and one of the SAFT men brought a flask of ale."

Simply perfect.

OOC: Sam may or may not have joined Linda's little band. Up to you.

[ Tuesday, December 30, 2003 13:44: Message edited by: FZ ]
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
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Member # 3022
Profile #155
Taron was sleeping in his small cell when a sudden clamour took hold of SAFT headquarters. Looking outside through his (securely barred) windows, he could see a large number of men surrounding the SAFT compound.

A cry went out, piercing the noise of men rushing to their posts.

"Hail in the name of Kylen the emperor! We have evidence that SAFT had broken its contract of neutrality! Unless the Sol agent by the name of Taron is surrendered immediately to face imperial justice, we will be forced to take decisive action!"

A shaky voice came from the tallest watchtower. "This is neutral property. Kylen has no authority over what happens here!"

"As Vida has been officially convicted by the Kylenian law courts, Kylen reserves by article 156 of the new imperial charter the right to retract property rights."

Silence this time. Taron could guess that some frantic browsing through the archives was in progress.

"If action is not immediate, we would be forced to utilise our supplied magical constructs in a direct offensive. Like a doomguard."

This was too much for whoever was in charge of security. A few minutes later, a group of pale and trembling guards unlocked the door to his cell, dragged him through some corridors and ditched him outside.

"Aren't you going to say thank you?" Linda asked.

---

When he was sufficently recovered Taron had a look around the small band who were his rescuers. Close up, it now seemed that they were after all a mere half-dozen soldiers, and mostly poorly equipped.

"Who are these people?"

"Mostly deserters, mercenaries, militiamen, ex-guardsmen, led by my good friend captain Jenneke here. People easily swayed by a larger offer. Like a thousand gold each."

"You don't have that much money!"

"I know. I calculate that most won't come back alive anyways, so it doesn't matter."

This was unexpected. "Where are we going?"

"East, to help Gideon Ironclad retake his empire. And remake the world."

Taron wondered quickly if she was joking, or simply speaking rather ambitious treason. "Are you mad?"

Linda rolled her eyes. "Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe I'm just a genius."

Taron shifted his hand stealthily towards the small crossbow hidden within his cloak. "And what do you want of me?"

Linda grinned. "Companionship, loving friendship, a meat shield and so on, of course. Would a thousand gold do?"

And with that, she gave a quick order and the little band mounted, and rode steadily towards the rising sun. Taron followed reluctantly.

Behind him, a small mule dragged a cart with a passenger too stiff, too tall to be a man.

Crystal eyes glared into empty space.

Linda never bluffs.

OOC: Linda's small band should make pretty rapid progress, being too small to face real military opposition. And though Taron considers Linda's actions to be traitorous, they may not neccessarily be so.

[ Monday, December 29, 2003 17:18: Message edited by: FZ ]
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
An RP in the World of Avernum in General
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Linda thought that this was getting rather repetitive.

There and back. There and back.

Again, she delivered Vida's reply.

Perhaps it is time to break the cycle. "My liege, I believe that on a strategic view, this offer is indeed beneficial."

"Consider recent dealings of the other factions towards SAFT. The Kylenians are on an offensive, I there are strong indications that they are taking agressive measures against SAFT. Ironcladists are similarly pressurising them to insert an additional layer of bureaucracy, which would be severely damaging."

"While they are pushing SAFT, we are the only side pulling them. I suggest we take their offer, and provide a further offer to relocate their headquarters from increasingly hostile kylenian land to Solaria or neutral land, and to help them against the ridiculous Kylenian piracy allegations. Thus we can best take advantage of the other factions' dealings."

Leaving Sol to ponder this, she rode to the Solaran military warehouses, stopping en route to pick up a few tomes from the library.

---

The Doomguard stood still, a glittering mass of plate and crystal. A few craftsmen surrounded it, taking various measurements.

A word to the guard in charge, and they left, leaving her alone in the room.

Linda had heard of such things only from rumours. Supposed created by various mad, or brilliant mages far to the east, it was a stroke of fortune that it fell into Solaran hands, now to stare coldly at her from within a pine crate.

Linda quickly browsed through her tome on "Magical Constructs and Their Uses". Though doomguards are too new to have been included, their makers are almost certain to follow some ancient and cherished production standards.

Finally, she paused, and said a brief spell.

A front plate popped up, revealing a big red button. Traditionally, this button would initialise the golem, making it follow its inbuilt commands, and then to be available for user orders.

She stopped. Too easy. High level combat constructs are never transported in simple pine crates by independent trading groups. There was too much risk of damage, too high stakes involved. Yet this one has, and was apparently packaged without any documents for use.

She spoke another word of command. Nothing.

Finding another spell in the tome, Linda incanted again, and slowly the Doomguard responded.

It spoke, in a hollow, metallic tone:

"Activation orders are as follows:
Initiate peripherial systems.
Lockdown command reception.
Activate combat mode.
Eliminate surrounding life forms and material assets to 10 mile radius.
Deactivate to await retrieval."

Linda snatched her hand from the initialisation button, and stepped backwards a few paces.

The Doomguard did not move.

---

Later, when she was sufficiently drunk, she managed to think clearly. It was plain enough now what the doomguard was - a trap, designed to strike a terrible blow into the heart of the Kylenian faction, as well as destroying SAFT's claims of neutrality by making them the deliverers of a deadly payload - thus opening them up to conquest.

It was an ingenious plan, really. The Solarans were all that got in the way, though if the doomguard was initialised her, it would still be to the senders' profit.

But since Taron had found out what was onboard, he may well have also known who sent it. That puts him as a witness, and a prime target for elimination.

And much as he was annoying, he was also useful, and may continue to be so.

Sol can send his negotiations by courier. Right now, she had to warn Vida, and save Taron from his own idiocy. Leaving a note on the doomguard's booby trap, she left by the fastest horse.

[ Sunday, December 28, 2003 12:45: Message edited by: FZ ]
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
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OOC: Well, anywhere. Simply that the Solarans shouldn't stand about while the kylenians clobber the ironclads. Perhaps send help secretly to the ironcladists (like the chinese did in the korean war), that we can deny the existence of if killed/captured, whilst maintaining the ceasefire on the west-central front. Deploying that doomguard would also be interesting.

[ Sunday, December 28, 2003 04:36: Message edited by: FZ ]
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
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Linda did not wait for the courier service to hear of the new Kylenian offensive. The smoke and flames could be seen easily by telescope, and word of Kylenian naval activities had long been circulating around the SAFT guards.

It was unexpected for the Kylenians to go on an offensive - she had expected the Ironclads to defeat them easily. But now the the tide appears to have turned in the Central-East war, a change of plan would be required.

She quickly appended a suggestion to send a confidential envoy to the Ironcladists, to at least control their collapse, and to deploy "expendable resources" (mercenaries, auxillaries, adventurers, people of dubious loyalty or competence) to covertly aid the Ironclads against the Kylenians.
Posts: 269 | Registered: Saturday, May 24 2003 07:00
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After a swift journey, Linda duly relayed Sol's adjustments to Vida. She could see that they were not liked, but now that most of SAFT's sailors were Solaran loyalists, it would be hard for him to reject it - just as she planned. Again, it would be a wait before their decision came through, but Vida would have less wriggle room this time.

The SAFT guards were friendlier than before, though security seemed to have been beefed off following Taron's escapade. As she passed, she heard mutterings of "infiltrator", and suspicious glares in her direction.

Never trust an adventurer to do something quietly.

At the moment, most of the attention was focused on Taron. He had been moved to new quarters "for his comfort" - and no window access this time.

It was only later that she found the slip of vellum that Taron had put in a shadowy corner.

"Contents of Falcon: x1 Doomguard (active)"

She immediately hid the sheet in her robes, since already some guards had begun turning towards her. She had heard of such things in the past, and though she knew few details, the connection with danger was strong. She wondered if SAFT knew what was on the Falcon themselves.

She must act urgently. She needed to get the message out, while Taron acted as an almost adequate diversion.

Trailed by the inevitable platoon of guardsmen, she wandered in as random a fashion as possible toward her chambers.

---
OOC: Note to Drakefyre... Red robes are very fashionable this time of year, no? :D
Are any non-humans still around at this stage in the history of the empire?

[ Friday, December 26, 2003 14:28: Message edited by: FZ ]
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SAFT appeared to be following edition 14 of Lowe's Practical Guide to International Relations. Currently they were on chapter IV - let the captive fester.

This meant a number of things to Linda. The most likely was that something was up. There was a commotion at the gates earlier, which leads to the conclusion that reinforcements had arrived, and her hosts were determined to keep him/her from making contact.

She was unsurprised when there was a tap at her window a few minutes later. Probably they forgot to post adequate guards on the outside of the building. Never let nice people do jobs for which ruthlessness was required.

She quickly analysed the newcomer. Despite the courtly dress, there was an air of discomfort in these surroundings that declared him to be a soldier. He was too old to be a conscript, too old to be a veteran. A mercenary, then.

Linda was unsure whether she really trusted a mercenary - SAFT, or the Kylenians can easily outbid whatever Sol had paid him. Still, his mission check out - it sounded exactly like what the stuffy administers back in Solaria would do.

He should not have come. Her line of negotiation relied on her being too insignificant to bother killing, and a second "negotiator" contradicted that. However good he is, and she was sure that this Taron fellow was extremely good, he was bound to get in the way. Certainly he might protect her in case the other factions interfere, or SAFT was dumb enough to try something clever, but she didn't see much risk of that.

But still, she had to make the best of a bad job.

"I get a mission for you. There is a library on the second floor, and I think there is access to a secret room from there. Go in, and find out what was in the cargo of the Falcon, which was destined for the Kylenians. I've a hunch it is important somehow."

That got him off her hands, then. Maybe he'll be useful after all.
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Exiles: Pretty tough. But once you can summon a few ur-basilisks (their gaze seems to always hit), no problem.

Geneforge 2: The servile ones are easy. The humans are tougher. The gazers in certain places are very tough. You have to remember that you are *supposed* to kill some guards in GF 1/2 - they are probably harder then for being unavoidable.
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OOC: Ok, edit to be more sane. Also consider tonnage, instead of actual vessel number.
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OOC: I think that was referring to proffessional navies. I'm presuming Drakefyre's "Solaran navy concentrate in Jazen Gulf" refers to rapid building of ships. Actual training would be minimal. Most are barely cadets, and some of the ships would be running on skeleton crews. I'm guessing SAFT has all the best sailors. (I'm thinking that the Empire uses tactics like that of early europe. ie. ram or grapple, pelt with missile fire, and then fight as just another ground battle.) Linda may exaggerate a little, of course, but Solaria must have began with a significant blockade fleet.
Hurry up, Taron... And er... Is Vida male, or female? :eek:
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Linda was happy that she was still alive, after a night in SAFT's headquarters.

SAFT wasn't playing ball, of course. They can hardly be expected to do so, at least not immediately. But it did not really matter.

The trade sanctions were unexpected, but simply an indicator that SAFT had misjudged her offer. Sol simply did not need a monopoly on economic terms. Holding the mines and so the major iron ore reserves of the Empire, they already had a stranglehold on much of the economy, whilst being mostly self-sufficient themselves. Any sanctions will harm SAFT more than it harms Sol.

The Solarans were in an unique position, and she was unsure SAFT was aware of that. The key part of the Solaran naval strategy is to guarantee the safe movement of Solaran land troops to Eastern Praglad, and to prevent any of the other factions from acheiving full supremacy of the sea. Being officially not at war with the Kylenians, and not in direct conflict with the Ironclads, it is in fact beneficial to allow free trade of arms, since they will not be used against Solaran assets. Such a position will also help Sol swing over some peace-minded officials on the Ironclad side, which will no doubt to useful. The trade monopoly was an added extra that was not significant on the short term. Strengthening opposition to Ironclad/Kylenian plans, and gaining a foothold in SAFT's internal politics was.

Linda also knew that Vida had miscalculated, neglecting to consider a number of factors that will soon come into play. SAFT, she knew, was much looser than their high command wanted to make out. It was essentially a simple conglomerate of merchants and sailors for the sake of mutual profit. They have no particular loyalty towards their leaders, only trust that what will happen is for their common benefit. And with each additional day that Solaran ships lie open in their harbours, that trust will be tested. Much as Vida may feel that independence must in principle be continued, her underlings will vote with their feet. Time was on her side - the longer she takes, the more her organisation will be filled with Solaran sympathisers, and the less effective control she will have.

She also wasn't stupid. She had talked to the men who had briefly captured the Falcon, heard from them of SAFT's secret fleet of pirate vessels. She had read up too of the pasts of their captains, knew their reputations. The Hind, the Inexorable - such were warships of legend. Their captains do not simply forget their skills.

She also knew that the Kylenians and Ironclads were bound to make a move soon. Since they are still in desperate conflict with each other, they unlike the Solarans will desire full control. In that context, the Solaran offer will inevitably be the best one, and SAFT will soon be caught between a rock and a hard place.

She quickly sent off another letter to the fleet. Stand firm. Be a nuisance. Do not fight unless attacked. Success is near.

The sunrise was a bright one.

OOC: Ironclads seem to be running out of PCs...

[ Tuesday, December 23, 2003 12:03: Message edited by: FZ ]
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The general order to the fleet was difficult to forge, but Linda hoped now, as rain battered against the barred windows of her room, that it was worth it. It was unfortunate that she did not, for all her charms, get the answers she was really interested in.

Of all the ships that Solaria commandeered, SAFT was only spurred to act the case of one - the ship called the Falcon. A simple supply ship, carrying a cargo that was quickly hurried into storage before anyone - even the troops which captured the ship - could see it.

[ Friday, December 26, 2003 14:17: Message edited by: FZ ]
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OOC: I must have missed something, or the roster on page 1 hasn't been updated, but how did Red Warlock (supposedly an Ironcladist) end up at the same place as Seiji, on the Aizoan front?
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Linda rather enjoyed SAFT's hospitality. The wine they stocked was quite good, and food was delicious. Unlike the soldiers she had dine with, her host had excellent manners, and provided good conversation.

When eventually they got around to the actual negotiation, it was clear who had the upper hand here. All the niceties amounted to a show of strength, to demonstate that continued blockades were futile. She was well aware that the other factions had probably been allowed to make their deals before her, and there was a good chance of certain accidents befalling her.

She quickly went through her checklist of things to offer.

"Money?" Not interested. Unsurprisingly, since Sol had previously attempted deals, and failed ultimately to deliver. SAFT had plenty of cash.

"Land?" A waste of time. She was not enabled to offer mines etc, which was what SAFT really wanted.

"Honor?" A joke. SAFT probably no longer considered Solarans to be capable of honor.

Well, that's it. Unless... Well, her commanders never told her not to offer it...

"I offer you the Solaran navy."

That certainly got their attention.

"Don't deny it. SAFT has the best sailors in the entire empire. Perfect admirals, waiting for a fleet. Pirate vessels that rival the strength of imperial battleships. A knowledge of real naval strategies. We on the other hand have a huge fleet, twice the size of yours - and growing, and no decent seamen to command them."

"It is plain that the aims of the Solarans and SAFT are the same - we both want the war to continue for the time being, for profits or political power, and eventually to end favourably, to rebuild this land and its trade structure."

"Tommorrow, I have ordered all vessels of the Solaran navy to gather at each one of your trading stations, docks, and so on, to put them under your leadership. If you do not take command, and so join the Solaran navy, they will get bored. Certainly, they were ordered NOT to pillage, but you are all familar with how discipline falls down without good leaders... The crew of these ships are intensely loyal to Sol, and so will ensure you do not attempt to misuse them. I hope you see the value of making the Solaran faction a member of SAFT. Either you let us surrender to you, or we will accidentally make you surrender to us."

With that, she retired to the quarters they provided.

Sol is going to kill me, she thought... Or promote me.

[ Tuesday, December 23, 2003 13:47: Message edited by: FZ ]
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Linda reflected that part of her plan did go successfully. But on a personal level, it was the worst possible part of the plan.

Certainly, the high command appear to have heard of her ideas, and taken up on Kylen's offer of a treaty. If they had any sanity, they would keep the treaty, at least for the time being. The Aizoan Expeditionary Force had however failed her expectations - whether that is Sol, Warderson, or a mysterious third party's fault is anybody's guess. But on the whole, the land war appeared to be substantially safer.

But she was not part of the land war.

She was promoted, yes. But to the position of an officer on an hastily build ship of the new Solaran Northern Navy, trying to secure naval superiority over the Jazen Gulf. And the naval war definitely did not appear safe.

She did protest over the decision, of course. But the commander pointed out that none of the other crewmen had any theoretical experience at all, let alone real work on the sea. Looking at the incompetent farmhands, half-seasick, and half quivering in fear, his argument did make sense. Battle plan was simplistic at best - grapple, board, and slug it out.

But she had an even crazier task. She was supposed to contact SAFT and enlist their support. They were testy at best, and now they are presumeably rather uncooperative following months of blockades, and that incident with the Falcon. But their help would be a great advantage in controlling the sea, and thus the merchants, and thus tearing the Ironcladists apart internally.

Which is why she is currently in a tiny rowing boat, praying to whatever God she had read about.

---
OOC: Whatever happened to SAFT anyways?
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OOC: Where is the gulf of Jazen?

I'll IC later when I work out WTH is going on...
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Between ale, and more ale, Linda chatted to one of the dirty, lowborn men that comprised her comrades.

"You know, I think we are going at this all wrong..." She said, half to herself.

"Really." Her companion muttered, plainly disinterested.

"The way I figure it, the key component of this whole war thing is the Imperial Army in Aizo. Nothing else matters - whoever gets their support wins."

"Really."

"Seriously. Warderson isn't particularly loyal to any of the factions, and in fact, all he cares about is his army. When he gets home - and the Aizoans should be about finished by now - he'll just pick the most impressive side, and they'll sweep to an overwhelming victory. So the result of obvious."

Her companion was obviously too drunk to respond, but she continued anyways.

"Fortifying and hunkering down is the worst thing we can do. We need to give the impression, however superficial, that we are on the verge of winning, crushing our enemies underfoot, that sort of thing. We need to attack, hard and unreservedly.

Which leads me to the other possibility. That this whole fortifying thing is a ruse, to make the Kylenians think we're scared, and expose their western front."

She was pretty sure her companion was asleep now. But it didn't matter. He didn't come here for an interactive conversation. In part, talking to brick walls helped her think.

"But even that is stupid. The Kylenians aren't a threat - their position is overexposed and ultimately undefendable. The Ironcladists are. If we waste all our energy fighting the Kylenians, then the Ironcladists win by default. After all, they hold the best positions from the start. The obvious thing is to aid the kylenians, let them take the brunt of the wall, and then crush them."

A smirking man on the next table spoke up. "And you'll be the heroic girl that would forge the treaty then?"

Linda ignored him. "But that brings us to the third possibility. Our exalted leader, if he is as good as we are told he is, should have realised that the Praglad battle doesn't matter at all. What matters is who gets cosiest with the Azioan expeditionary force, and then can swing the rest of the old army into line. So maybe that's what he is doing with all these recent naval things, suppressing SAFT and all. Hell, our ships are probably just about to arrive."

Pausing to pay for the drink, Linda left the tavern. Hopefully some agent was around to hear that, and recommend her for a promotion. Clearly the faction needed geniuses of her calibur, especially with her great modesty.

A simple rule in all the books she read. Higher means safer in the storm ahead.
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