The man who ruled these red desert lands swaggered through the crowd with the casual arrogance that only a veteran mech pilot and a born lord could muster. All around him was beauty, light and music. This was a crowd of revelers, already drunk off the medley of fine brews the vendors had to offer ... and off the promise of the coming carnage. In some ways, it seemed human nature didn't change, nothing like the prospect of sanctioned violence to please a crowd. The lord of Falconhold's face twisted into a slight sneer. These same drunken fools wouldn't be so cheerful if it were the NTC's hordes raining hell down on their brightly clothed and painted heads. He made his way past the shouting vendors, the iridescent holograms and the veritable army of street performers without so much as batting an eye.
Blind to the organized chaos around him, his mind's eye filled with the smile and the dark green eyes of a woman long dead. Lost in thoughts of a love deader than his soul, he made his way to the registar's office. In fact, it almost took him by surprise when he looked up and saw the cloth-draped building. He stood there patiently as more old memories came rushing to the fore. It was here he'd entered in his first tournament. Mother had lived long enough to see that one. He hadn't earned his own mech then and so Father had let him borrow his. With Father's oldest, Aaron, at his back, they'd wreaked bloody havoc on other contenders. He'd felt like a god that day ...
He shook himself from his reverie and took in the lines of mechs and pilots waiting patiently to pass before the registrar. The crowd simply wove around the machines and their commanders. Merchants, human and robotic alike, sought to hawk their wares. A veritable legion of what the locals euphemistically referred to as "dancers," clad in little more than flashing holograms and glittering paint, swarmed around anyone that looked like they could afford it. It was anyone's guess which ones were real humans and which ones were machines. More fireworks flared and burst under the desert sun as translucent light danced over the crowded lane and wound its way around the bodies of those present.
The man who ruled Falconhold shrugged mentally, it certainly wasn't the first time he'd seen such pomp and pageantry. He frowned as he wondered just how much this little show was going to eat into his treasury. He was far from a poor lord, but he certainly wasn't able to foot the bill for something like this without sacrifice. Well, such things might have been allowed in his absence, especially with Aaron and Father dead, but now that he was back-
His frown deepened as he spied the main gun barrel of what was undeniably a tank, parked a safe distance from the town and the crowd within its limits. Most mechs were smart enough that they could step around someone without crashing into something else, but a tank was simply too large and had too many blind spots to move through a town like Falconhold ... unless you didn't care about crushing the inhabitants and those they loved. He forced back a memory of an NTC tank column making its way through the blasted rubble of a town much like Falconhold.
He eyed his counterparts for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. All around him were mechs of every lineage and type. Some old, some new. Many were painted in the brightest and flashiest heraldry, seeking to impress the casual viewer with its pilot's wealth and position. Others were seemingly cobbled together from a medley spare parts and carried the scars of old battles. Their pilots eschewing flashy displays as a point of pride or simply out of a lack of funds.
After a moment, the man motioned to his own night-black mech and it knelt with deceptive grace, extending its left arm. With an ease of motion that belied the dull pain of old injuries, he leapt onto his battle machine's weapon mount. At the same time the mech rose to lift its arm, and its master, high into the air. There was a slight pause as its computer accessed the town's systems.
Above the town, the hologram of a dancing woman rippled and then shifted into a facsimile of the Lord of Falcon Keep and his mech.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" his amplified voice boomed out for kilometers, "for those of that don't know me, I am Robert of Falcon Lord, your humble host and the Lord of these fine lands."
He paused, his sardonic grin captured perfectly by the hologram above him. "I invite you to fight, drink and fuck until you can't go on anymore!
"... Provided you pay for the last two and leave a nice tip of course!" He said, his grim chuckle echoing out through the red wasteland.
Robert stood for moment, looking down at the upturned faces of the crowd and other the mech pilots. "Of course, if the last two of my fine hold's pleasures don't appeal, my people have many others ways to keep you entertained and in good spirits. I certainly won't judge you.
"Finally," his holographic double's finger stabbed out towards the crowd of mech pilots in mimicry of his gesture, "I have an invitation."
He waited a moment, hoping to let the tension build. "I know you fine warriors have traveled far and wide to be hear. I would be deeply grieved if you were to sleep out here in the cold of the desert night, with only your mech for company
"So ... every single mech pilot ... and tank commander here for my wargame will allowed the honor of having dinner with me tonight and be given quarters within my own keep."
With that, his mech lowered him down and he made his past the line to enter his name in the lists. That done, he departed to his fortress. If his little spiel didn't stir things up a bit, nothing would.