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~ The Morkt ~

A bitter breeze cut through the air, otherwise filled with light snow and screams. A wooden levithan passed the Ahti wharf, the matron wharf of Morkt. Its citizens, generally the visage of cool reserve were in utter panic. The boat before them nearly dwarfed the floating village itself. Glimpses of the vile creatures aboard showed a clear lack of collars, the garment which bonded land dwellers to the merfolk of their realm.

Ida, a woman in her thirties with broad arms and hair the color of lightning scrambled for a horse atop the floating wooden village. The peasant population flew around her in chaos. Some armed themselves, others hid their children and valuables, still others offered hushed prayers to various gods in spite of the gentle burn their collars produced at such heresy. With the springtime raid at hand, those land dwellers left in these isles were too old, too young, or too pregnant to fight. Ida flung herself onto the small, hardy pony whose dun coat mirrored her likeness. With a quick crack of heels the mare tore off through the clamoring crowd. A few daring souls recognized her as she flew by and were quick to follow, axes in hand.


Gnima, daughter of the shaman witch who ruled these lands, looked onward as the goliath vessel crashed into the black sanded shores before her. Their position was a short ways east of the wharf, which met with land only via a series of bridges and ferries. She sat perched on a wooden cask, her finely jeweled dreadlocks and warm dark skin shimmering in the feint wisps of sunlight.

Menacing laughter erupted as many gangplanks of superb craftsmanship were haphazardly thrown from the seamless vessel. The occupants funneled down from their ark, some massive, some not, all with pleased smiles on their faces.

In their arms they transported bundles of crude looking metal weapons and tools, and masterwork wooden furniture and bobbles. As they exited, a thick stench followed them, not unlike the marshes of the islands.

Gnima watched in muted horror as the beasts closed with her. She had perhaps heard stories of such creatures, but always in the context of mothers scaring their children from leaving home. She was indeed scared, and her mother nowhere to be found.

"Hail!" Gnima offered in a booming voice despite her concerns. Arms open, she stood atop her finely crafted barrel, though at combined height she was at nose height to many of the creatures. Even at distance she caught whifs of their scent but continued amiable all the same. "My welcomed guests! I have long awaited your arrival!" She proclaimed magnanimously, her arms open in welcoming gesture.

A being of about ten feet tall and three men wide turned to her, on its shoulder's it carried a barrel unseen outside of a noble's palace, with intricate wood burnings denoting it a liquor of some sort. The being itself was of long matted hair, a rugged wool cap, and a fur cloak that hid a rag covered body. It's skin was mottled grey's and dull blues, with thick stony patches of thickened skin. A bulbous and warty nose stood between Gnima and a yellow eyed stare.

Slowly a wicked grin of human-like teeth shone from its face, "Hail!" It replied in a booming, voice thick with a bouncing accent. One of the smaller creature's the size of a teenager also approached her. The skinny creature was dressed in loose fitting clothes the color of dirt, and smelt none the better. Moss was growing in it's long curly hair. With curiously long fingers, the smaller of the two reached out, fingertips playing with the jewels in her locks.

"Hail." The smaller one repeated in a whispering voice, something akin to an accented ghost.

Gnima smiled softly at the more handsy of her guests. She peered at the larger beast's cask before continuing slowly. "Perhaps the greatest of welcomes is in good drink." She bowed slightly as she warmly brushed away the hand fiddling in her hair. She unwrenched the cork lodged in barrel beneath her and filled a pair of simple hollowed horns with the murky brown liquid. She sipped her own to show its lack of tamper, the fiery trial of bourbon streaming down her throat. She produced the other horn between the two strange giants. "Who may I call a friend?"

The smaller of the two made a nasty face as his hand was smacked away, but lit up at the offered horn. He stretched his arm to snatch it but suddenly the mighty arm of the larger beast swung, smacking the smaller in the chest, and with a loud thud, the smaller of the two was sent flying through the air with such distance and velocity as if he was struck with a mighty tree. A hollow scream of pain played on its voice as it arched into the ocean with a loud splash.

The remaining beast roughly grabbed the horn and gulped it down with one wet swallow, letting the horn drop to the ground. With a satisfied smile, the beast shook its own barrel off its shoulders and ripped the cork from the bung hole. He held the barrel over Gnima, letting a spew of orange-brown liquid to fall over her head, "glug!" The beast roared. A few other beasts of various ugliness appeared behind the scene, settled with their unpacking, each snickering.

Gnima's tiny frame peered up at the torrent of foul liquid and attempted to guzzle as much of it as she could. The far greater portion of the brew crested about her head and shoulders, drenching her finley embroidered wool dress. It burned down her throat like any other alcohol, sending her head into a floating daze, but as she looked up at the barrel, her eyes caught something as the liquid began to slosh in her belly, giving her a fuzzy feeling. The big beast's index finger was in the way of the flow, the nail glowing a mossy green. Her eyes crossed as she felt the magic swirl in her gut, and the beast began to speak, as she began to lose herself to drunkenness.

"Hej där, har du drack tillräckligt?" The beast asked, the words slowly transforming from an alien language to one more familiar, as if she slowly began to understand, "hej där, har du- drink enough?"

The liquid pooled by her feet as the beast roared again, "understand me?"

"Yeah..." She said, slightly confused and more than slightly drunk. "What are y'all doing here?" she asked with a slightly less composed smile than before, her eyes with a well known shimmer.

A wide grin formed on the big beast's face and with an almost fatherly arm, he swung his mighty appendage over her shoulder pulling her into a conspiratory huddle, her nose nearly snuffed into his armpit. He began to walk her towards the ark, gesturing with his free hand, "you wish to know the story of Gjornenahabblestrjikn?"

A "medium" sized beast sneered and called out, "your village is ugly, but your hair is pretty."

The big beast lifted a finger as he criticized the other beast, "not all are blessed with the grace of the Gjornenahabblestrjikn!"

The big beast and Gnima stopped in front of the big ark, "shall I enlighten you?" the beast prodded with a bouncing voice.

"Please," She muttered, her face still firmly fastened to the moldy underarm.

The big beast held suddenly held her out at arms length, her head sloshing as much as her stomach, "I'll need something of equal value as this splendid story, as it would only do it justice!"

He pointed to her hair, "a bobble or two for many a word of mine, sounds pretty plain and fair to me, eh?"

She paused, questioning the fascination with her hair, but then appreciated the infested state of their own. With no excess of coordination, Gnima unlatched a silver pendant from her locks and flipped the trinket into the air like a challenge coin. "I think that's a worthy trade I think." She stumbled over her words.

The big beast watched as the trinket glittered in the air and then plopped onto the sandy beach. He looked at Gnima with a confused smile, "wh- why'd you throw it?"

"For good luck." She replied with a wink.

The big beast shoved a shushing finger in her face, slightly getting her left nostril with a ragged nail, "doesn't matter, it is time to regale you with the tantalizing tale of the great Gjornenahabblestrjikn."

"But which tale shall I spill?"

"Tell her of the giant Yurgjin!"
"Of the mossy grove of secrets!"
"Of the battle of Kerkinbjornyerdik and Gorathrensickle!"
"Tell her of the great empty!"

The big beast snapped its fingers and growled menacingly, "the great empty."

The big beast let its rump fall to the sandy floor of the beach, lifting its shoes (which were little more than sacks tied around the ankle), and as if on command, all the other beasts followed suit.

He patted the sand next to him "sit, and hear of the terrible tale of the great empty."

Gnima fell to the ground as bid. She propped herself with both arms, a vain attempt at keeping her from swaying. With a nod she gestured to the great troll her willingness to listen provided her body could remain in good standing.

The troll's voice boomed as it narrated, "Gjornenahabblestrjikn and the great empty is a tale of recent times, a tale of new, not of old. For we are the Gjornenahabblestrjikn and we have fled shamefully from the great empty."

"Our lands were sunny and snowy, of fjords and faucets, of mountains and wood, oh so much wood," The troll looked down at Gnima with a sadness, "In the west we felt it come, and our neighbors who long hated the Gjornenahabblestrjikn were silenced in their usual shouts of displeasure towards us, and so drew our curiosity. Out our best went to the west, to meet the cause of the silence, but only a few returned to the Gjornenahabblestrjikn to tell tale of what was seen. There, a great being roamed the lands of those who surrounded the Gjornenahabblestrjikn and there nothing was found. The dirt was all that remained of forested hills, steep grassy valley's and disgusting -- yet large -- cities of other people. It commanded the wind and stole all of the something, leaving nothing in its wake, not even the remains of people slain. So, fearing our own something, in three days we crafted the vessel you see before you, and in three more days we gathered all our somethings, and left, sailing east, following the tonnikala."

The troll cleared its throat, "and now we are here after many many moons of sailing, to create a new life, away from the great empty, where our somethings may be safe. The tonnikala now flip and swim in these waters, and we shall fish them. Woods stand on this land and we shall work them. Bear you the same feelings as our old neighbors, or bear you the heart of a Gjornenahabblestrjikn?"

"My heart is with you, friend. My people too have fled their old worlds," She gestured to the warf village, "but we have come from the East and the South. We too follow that which swims. We make our life on the seas and live at it's mercy. We are sworn to it and it provides for us. Do your people live in this way too?"

The old troll held up a philosopher's finger, all eyes following it as he lifted it to the sky, as if about to propose the true meaning of all existence. With a stern face, and even sterner words he bellowed, "we live the way of the Gjornenahabblestrjikn." The entire beach burst into a cacophony of wicked laughter. Those furthest from the story circle ripped their instruments from the unloaded luggage and began the same exact song from their voyage. The old troll stood up and looked down at Gnima, "you are always welcome to ou- upptåg." He let out a crusty wink and began to sing along with the others, in their raspy, bouncing accents and strange pounding language.

Gnima's arms gave way. She toppled to the ground and stared up into the now swirling sky. Maniacal laughter erupted from her belly.

- The Morkt -8- Cetera-Matris -

The Morkt - Helios

Cetera-Matris - DracoLunaris

Beneath the Bay of Lights

Within the depths of the ocean, six-hundred meters below the surface, lay the temple city of Primus, home to the Rayneids, aquatic guardians of the resting place of the primordial know as the Burning Moon. The city started on the seabed, a ring of small stone structures that were littered around a series of large stepped pyramids. Several of the structures there and deeper down were coated in pykrete, a resilient alloy of ice and plant pulp that had the durability of concrete and was often referred to as true ice. All of the structures where interconnected or pressed wall to wall, resulting in few streets and giving the impression that the entire thing was one massive temple complex, as entrances were often found on the building's roofs. At the center of the city was a deep crevasse, from which at night a warm blue glow would emanate, like blue blood weeping from a gash in the earth. It was currently day however, and so the blue light filter down from above instead, smothering the city in a dull gloom that paled in comparison to the night’s light.

Down the crevasse structures were carved into or built out from the walls, forming what were effectively bunkers and pillboxes in which the sacred guards of the Burning moon lived and might one day fight if someone were so foolish as to challenge the divine gauntlet. Mounted atop these structures, gazing surfaceward, where statues of a six armed woman with a serpentine body. Other than this basic anatomy no two sculptures looked alike, particularly when it came to their faces. Generations of architects having drawn from their predecessor had resulted in a large amount of drift in how their primordial progenitor’s appearance was depicted. Though they loathed to admit it, none remembered which statues were the oldest or most accurate.

Finally at the bottom there was a massive temple that took up a whole third of the carvases three-hundred meter depth, a massive temple/labyrinth that had been slowly consuming the defensive fortifications as the Rayneids obsessively expanded the defenses of the gateway to the Burning Moon’s resting chamber. It featured a singular entrance bared by a massive gate of pure bronze that was surrounded by several dozen enormous serpentine statues, all staring and pointing their weapons upwards as if daring any intruder to come face them. The inside of the main temple was a mystery to all but the the moon kissed daughters who had painstakingly constructed it over the generations and a small number of high ranking military personnel who were privileged enough to either man the gateway or act as guards for the daughters. At the depths was a single chamber, the doors of which had remained shut tight since the Burning Moon had sealed herself inside thousands of years ago. The depths where only visited rarely by renowned Daughters seeking guidance and by lesser daughters performing maintenance.

Within one of the temples back up in the seafloor city surrounding the divine gauntlet a foreign delegation awaited the arrival of their hosts. The room they were in was made of finely carved stone, which had small holes in its ceilings and floors to allow the passage of light while still providing privacy to the occupants and protection from buffeting currents. Several small windows/doors on the far side of the room lead out to the craves, if any of the occupants looked out they could see down into the depths of the city as well as the guards and fortifications that existed to prevent any foreigners from ever going there. The room itself was large and featured a large central table, upon small bowls of various appetizers sat, and small fainting couches used instead of chairs. Several armored guards were posted around the room, centered around the doors and windows. They wore bronze armor that covered their chests and shoulders, while the rest of their body was coated in a thick shark skin leather. They were armed with partisans, spears with short sword length blades which had 2 prongs at the base that acted like a crossguard. They had been a permanent fixture for their entire visit, ensuring that the guests did not go anywhere or touch anything they were not supposed to.

In this room, a small party of Morj waited. They gingerly admired the room and helped themselves to hors d'oeuvres. One of them, however, stood at the window peering unceasingly at the sight of the holy city beneath. Her tendrils shimmered in metallic tattoos, her chest clasped in diamond studded platinum, a black laced shawl licked over her shoulders, and atop her head sat a cold iron crown finely smithed in gothic fashion. The crown extended down along the right cheek in a half masquerade mask. Around her neck and upper arms coiled a brilliant blue coral snake. She caressed its scales gingerly as she waited for her host.

The Queen of Morkt soon caught sight of those she would be speaking with. Deep down below a gate opened in the false bottom of the crevasse, allowing a small knot of Rayneids to exit the temple fortress. They ascended past the many fortifications and primordial statues that lined the sides of the cravess, heading for the room the Morj where in. After two minutes of ascending the leader of the group came level with the queen’s post. The lead figure was a warrior clad entirely in bronze, her face hidden behind a helmet. Not an inch of her scaly skin was visible, only her semi translucent fins free from plate or chain mail. The armor was coated in a thin skin of True Ice, the resilient material both protecting the precious metal with its easily replaceable durability and providing a carefully calculated buoyancy that allowed the warrior to fight as if she was unencumbered by her metal skin. At her side was a sword, a rarity underwater, its construction featuring amber runes along its hilt and blade.

“Please take a seat your majesty”

The Mistress, Queen and High Dictator of the Morj gave a gracefully flowing curtsey before she took her perch.

Entering behind the warrior where two others like dressed like her, armed with claw like piercing weapons instead of swords, and seven priestesses, all of whom took up positions opposite the Morj delegation. It might have come to the attention of the Morj that until now they had not seen a Rayneid’s face, followed and watched as they had been by anonymous helmeted warriors. The priestesses did not change that state of ignorance, for they all wore masks of various kinds, made in the likeness of the statues the queen had seen below, that covered their entire face. On their bodies they wore tight, form fitting robes of seasilk dyed a bright crimson. The priestesses took seats in the fainting chairs, their serpentine bodies resting against the long base while they propped their upper bodies against the armrest and back.

One priestess in particular took up position opposite the queen. She had two silver bands the size of shackles around her wrists and her mask was relatively plain compared to her peers, akin to a bleach white opera mask which featured on its forehead a stylized eye with a sun as its iris drawn in pale blue. White mesh covering the eye slits, making them almost invisible. Two long, thin, dark red goat horns curved up from the top of the mask. Her pale ghostly hair spooled out from behind her mask and was immaculately braided into a long ponytail.

The Morj retinue that mirrored the Reighneads in stance and disposition wore solid black armor forged from cold steel. It was a rare ore mined from the heart of Morkt’s matron volcano. They were covered in lamed plates with a similarly forged great helm. Each of their tentacles were bare save for the tips which were sheathed in short blades. These appendages stood coiled upwards so as to not damage the flooring beneath. Each guard clutched a long trident whose tips housed curious pale green crystals which seemed to smoke even in the sea’s depths.

The Mistress of Morkt smiled gently at the serpentine figure before her. “I am honored to finally make pilgrimage to this place. It is regrettably rare that I have such grand occasion to leave my waters, and it is a weight on my heart that our two peoples are so distant in this large sea. I beg you, tell me what name I may call a friend?” The coral snake slithered down her arm in a trancing motion.

Hidden though her face was, the reaction of the priestess to the queens greeting was still distinctly impassive. Silence hung in the air for a few moments after, just long enough become uncomfortable, before she replied.

“I am Daughter Alexix. Pray tell, for what reason, other than pilgrimage, do you enter the resting place of the Burning Moon, she who made us, she who now sleeps and she who shall awaken when this world is in its death throes.”

Her tone was passive, calm, serene, yet she managed to inject a fair amount of indignation into the world pilgrimage regardless.

“I will not play coy with you, sister. My journey is twofold, yet with both of these ends I endeavor to honor the Primordials of the deep. A blight perches itself on the edge of our world. It is a cancer which you have watched grow and suffocate the land of men. And yet still it grows. And like that vile curse which affects the bodies of mortals, it has molded itself to grow still further, still faster. Now it chokes at that which is of the deep. It swims amongst us and threatens to spread itself into the heart of your waters and next it will come to mine.” She spoke directly and with emphasis, yet her voice still tinkled in the water with a melodic tone. The movements of the snake seemed to mirror this curious inflection.

“The tumefaction of Yaval has cast itself into our holy sea. Thinking trees swim not only above our homeland, but among it. I will not see you bare the same fate as Shenra, nor will I see both land and sea fall to their scourge. That which is of the land must stay of the land lest we desecrate the sea and the deep primordials which have blessed it. As you are charged to protect the holy resting place below, I am charged with maintaining the balance of all waters. That scale is set when the ilk of land stay on that land. Penance for their exile from the sea.

“And so I move a great host to protect us both. A cure to this cancer of trees has emerged in the East. They seek to cut a path through the empire of Yaval. And once they have torn that menace to ash, they will scour its fields by restoring Shenra. The weak breaths of mortal men will once again be the only devil which haunts our shores. The Burning Moon will once again be safe from the shadow casting itself ever closer." She paused smiling gingerly as the snake smoothly weaved between her fingers.

“And yet I know your plight." the Mistress of Morj continued. "You have sworn yourselves to monastic isolation in order to protect your holy keep. Your pledge and purpose is admired by both my heart and my kins’. To engage in war against this looming threat cannot be asked of those with such a charge. And that is why I [/i]do not[/i] ask it of you. I ask only that you allow my forces passage, neither under safety of your arms nor led by your banner. But that we may take this necessary burden upon our own shoulders for the security of our shared generations.

“We seek to temporarily restore the Bay of Lights to the fear it once held in the hearts of men, yet by the banner of Morkt. To tear asunder those who would impeded the march of the Eastfolk’s crusade. The vassals of Morkt, who have been chained in fealty to our gods, will take the fight to the shores and draw the Emerald forces away from your holy waters. It is imperative that we act now. The Primordial spirit of the sky punishes Yavals allies to the West. The Eastfolk have massacred Yaval’s forces in their opening bought. The vestige of Shenra has left its mountain perch and taken to the marshes. The tide of Yaval’s fate crashes at every border. Now is the time to act. If these forces of men are defeated, there will be no one left to root the tumor and once again it will regrow.

“And so I beseech you. Give us your blessing in this endeavour. Let us once again restore balance to the two realms of land and sea.”

After the queen's speech there was a flurry of muttered conversation between the six other priestesses: advice, speculation, and suspicions were all fed to Alexix who after a few moments raised her hand for them to stop.

“You have, it is clear, made some assumptions about the state of affairs in our lands. We have no hatred or fear of the Dreaming Forest, they are the children of a god like us, and have been nothing but respectful for our noble task and borders since we first met. The kingdom of Shenra meanwhile were a thorn in our side before hey were expelled, the restoration of their lands, along with the presence of their oathbreaker allies on our shores would not be the positive change you suggest it is. Do not assume your hopes and fears align with our own simply because we both dwell beneath the waves.”

There was a tense pause, the Rayneid warriors incase either the Morj reacted violently to this vitriol or the priestesses where about to order them to expel them. Alexix however quickly started speaking again at the sight of this, wishing only to let her displeasure to be known with words, rather than blades.

“That said, as you have noted, we do not meddle with the affairs of those beyond our sacred realm unless there is a dire, imminent, threat to us or our allies that must be quashed. The trees may fall as quickly as they rose, it is ultimately of little concern to us, our ancestors handled the threat of Shenra for hundreds of years and we to shall do the same. What is of concern is that you wish to camp an entire army in our waters. Small groups of pilgrims we can manage, but hundreds, thousands of outsiders? They all need to be watched lest they interfere” for the first time Alexix’s tranquil speech became unhinged slightly at the thought of the logistical and spiritual nightmare such a presence would bring “...and they all need to eat. An army swims on its stomach and any sizable force would need to forage from our waters. To have them do so risks inviting famine to our realm, which would be a tragedy for us both.”

The Mistress remained in eerily pleasant disposition, a soft smile drawn across her face. She nodded in approval almost as if to agree with the arguments against her. “I appreciate your concerns, and you are a just advocate to have them. I can promise you that not a single fin under my banner shall enter the holy circle of your temple mounts. The landbreathers cling to their shores, and so we will take to them as well. I assure you the grave priority my kin hold on these sacred waters and on the boudoir of the Burning Moon. I would invite your clergy among my throngs, to educate their souls and guide them from insult of your holy waters. What sustenance we cannot harvest from the northern channel, you will find compensation for. It is my word. Not only will fresh hauls be brought to all mouths, but also metals, jewels, protection, even a great gift which it pains me to part with. The bones of Moorrkut, the great wailord, first son of his primordial heir, Moojllikk. The legend, as you know, slain by land dwellers and a martyr of our waters. His remains have been painstakingly brought across the vast expanse of sea as an offering to your holy court. A divine reliquary to do with as you wish. I trust his sacrifice and his corpse will be honored here.

“But I pray these martyr’s bones will remind the devote of heart. Though the agents of Yaval have lulled you into pacification, their noose still tightens. Just like a lobster is cooked on land, they are slowly boiling sea from which you sit. Their plot is sinister. I cannot wait idly for this window of opportunity to be cast once more into shadow. I cannot swim by as they threaten all we hold dear. Yet perhaps your point of Shenra is valid. With time their slights against you have fallen to rust in the memories of my kin, and for that I apologize. Perhaps their ilk could be withered still more by the heavy hand of this great and murky war. Perhaps a new order, which rightfully reveres the seas and its kinfolk could find a home in that old empire’s footprint. I cannot temper my hand which must swing at the cancer of Yaval. But in that fell swoop, I can also smite those who oppose you and your holy charge, Daughter Alexix.”

“It is not our job to educate you, for we are caretakers not preachers.” Daughter Alexix responded. “To travel with your forces would take our sisters from their vital posts, put them at risk and could potentially violate our pact.” Who this pact was with was left unclear.

“As for the bones of Moojllikk: we guardians of the living, not the dead, yet we appreciate the weight of the gesture, the significance of this trust. Know that the martyr, if delivered, will be intomed with all due honers near our northernmost temple, where visitors can still come to pay respect without having to breach the circle.” it was as much a burden as it was a gift, but not one that could be rejected. “Your promise to both control the movement of your warriors and to reimburse us for hunting done in our waters are also appreciated, however we insist that you pay for the privilege when it is procured rather than with promises of spoils. If you win, the spoils implicate us with your war and make us oathbreakers. Should you fail then we will be left uncompensated. Engaging in a temporary trade agreement avoids our implication in your war, while still solving the issue of your peoples hunger.”

“Our greatest concern that remains then, is in what you cannot control. From our research in the records it is known that your kind are not as in control of your people as might be desired, you are the Queen of various factions who dance a turbulent ballet of allegiances and tolerances. You may order that your people stay away, that they respect our dominion, yet we can't be sure that they will all obey. Anyone who does not heed your words will be treated as intruders rather than guests. Please ensure that your subjects are aware of this so as to ensure they do not start conflict at the sight of our doling out of justice to those who betray you. Finally, there are these eastern forces who's form we do not know. You invite a devil to our borders, a devil we do not know. We know the treefolk, and are quite certain that your fears regarding them are unfounded, we know the Shenrans and shall deal with them if them come, yet we do not know your new ally, whose name you have not even spoken. Surely you do not speak of the threat from the east the ignorant Argenists believe is coming?“

The Mistress answered smoothly after a cooling pause. “The mystic threat you speak of has never been seen or heard of by my kin. As you say, it is likely a fable. The men under the banner of Andromache, which I make union with, are mere mortals. They treat their own land dwellers with whip and chain as they are rightfully due. They are malleable. You speak of the devil you know replaced by the one you don’t. Yet it is perhaps more fitting to choose the wolf with a leash than the two with bared fangs. The nation of which I speak has never felt the breeze of the sea, naive to its wants and needs. Their port will be singular along the shore and thus chokable should they choose to betray their oath.” This oath too was left unspoken.

“But as the High Queen of the Morj, I give you my word that riches and trade will proceed any armed body in your holy waters. Though the nobles of Morkt may be as tumultuous in their vices as you say, my control over my people's military is absolute. Their fealty is sworn to me alone. And I should hope you punish their deceit in your waters justly, less they bare a far worse fate at my hand.”

The priestess took a few moments to consider her options. It was not as if they could truly resist the Morj incursion even if they desired too, their warriors alone could not stand alone against the tentacled merfolk on an open ocean as they would be outnumbered. They had what they needed, the ability to punish trespassers and thieves without fear of retaliation.

“In light of your willingness to negotiate and the respect you have shown for our realm and duty I believe that…” Alexix briley looked away from the Queen to her sisters, the six other priestess and the armored warrior who had entered first, to ensure she was not making a decision that was against their will. Each of them, with various levels of certainty or hesitation, responded to her gaze with the gesture of their faith, a flat palm facing her with their clasped fingers pointing downwards and wrist exposed. The offering of blood to her righteous cause, be it spilled in the temples or in battle. “We shall welcome your forces into the Bay, to visit war upon her shores and to purchase our food to sustain your conquest.”

The Mistress rose from her seat in regal delight. A wide smile betrayed her crystal white fangs. “Blessed is the spirit which guides these beautiful words.” She propelled herself gracefully to Daughter Alexix and took her hand gingerly, careful to present this as a gesture of affection and nothing more. “A deal is struck between our two holy kingdoms. I hope more will come of this friendship, and I pray victory seals our fates in riches.” The blue coral snake, who shared the arm embracing Daughter Alexix’s hand, gave the Reighnead’s knuckle a fleeting lick as if to pay its respects in turn.

At this linking of hands the mood in the room seemed to calm a little, tension draining out as the real meat of the negotiations were completed, the threat of conflict put to rest for the time being.

“There are of course logistical concerns to discuss, the hows, wheres and whens of your arrival and subsequent trade. However I would like to suggest they be discussed during or after dinner? You have traveled far from home and are no doubt famished. Perhaps over the meal you could also tell us more about your chained... Wolf was it?”
Alive and plotting.
~ The Morkt ~

The black sand cut like shards. A withering man clung to it, sinking his fingers into the cold, dry earth. He wore tattered chainmail that had been bloodied and bent. His lips were cracked and pale, barely able to release the icy mist from his breath. But breathe was all he could do. Behind him gently rocked the remains of a longboat. Its inhabitants were freshly rotting and the heat of their bodies created a feint yet pungent steam. The man rested his head in the sand, listening longingly to the soft tides that broke against his legs. He wanted nothing more than to feel the sweet taste of fresh water. Yet the salt of the seas was a cruel mistress.

Suddenly he was yanked. His hair, cut in the standard fashion of a braided top with shaved sides, became a rope to the rough hand which snared it. He could feel himself being drug by his head. However he was too weak to fight. His limp legs cast a trail in his wake. He was being drug to a small gathering of flickering lights. It was soon that he could see these lights were torches held by a mob which had collected on the beach. He could hear hushed voices. They started as sporadic whispers but their melody grew into a haunting unison. They were singing a low and solemn song that he had heard many times before. Amongst the chorus was the shrieking cries of a shaman. The witch danced around a now lit pyre, so bright that the crippled man could only see flickering shadows as the figure danced like a beast possessed.

The figure approached and pressed its face up to his. She licked his cracked lips with a sadistically gentle touch. Then he felt it. The splitting pain of a knife plunging into his bowels. The shaman rent the knife up his abdomen and sent an ear splitting scream into the night sky. With two quick strokes she flayed his abdomen and hollowed out his entrails. The refuse of his guts were thrown into the fire. In their place was placed a bundle of thatch which had been soaked in seal pitch. The man mustered his strength to remain propped at the knees. His arms were outstretched and he could feel the gentle lift of his neighbor’s hands keeping him aloft, but doing so of his own will. Whether it was honor or exhaustion, the man gave no screams. Even in his failure, he was making his people proud.

The shaman set the straw alight. With his last breath he uttered a sigh of relief. The flames tore into his chest and soon licked out of his open mouth pointed to the stars and the night sky.


Ida’s icy blue eyes looked onward. Her muscled fingers dug into the arm of her friend. Gnima, daughter of the shaman, stood arm in arm against the cutting breeze. Though their skin betrayed their heritage, they were nothing short of sisters. They shared the fates and realities of this cruel world. Ida and Gnima had been born on this desolate rock, but to vastly different casts. Ida was a smith, the finest this wharf had ever known. Her thick blond hair blustered about her seal skin parka. Gnima was the blood of a primordial, a minor caster destined to be the leader of the wharf when her mother passed. Her skin was a pale caramel, her dreaded locks adorned with the shimmering winnings of suitors.

“Do you look forward to doing this thing?” Ida asked, staring onward at the flickering carcass. The muffled cries of the raider’s family had traded itself for the ceremonial canter. The man’s son, perhaps five or six, shreaked into the folds of his mothers cloak.

“Ida, this is not our land. You know this is not about want, it is about necessity. The Primordials save us from the Deep Ones. It is not our place to judge the morality of the gods. The fault lies not in them, but in ourselves.”

“And do we do these things for the gods or do we do them for the Morj? Do we not cull the herd of our cowards and failures to sharpen the Mistress’s ax?”

“Perhaps. But perhaps that is the will of the gods.” The tone of her voice was soft, uncommitted. It was the words she had been raised to say, but still they itched her throat. “Where does your man Trygve raid to this season?”

“He would not say. He does not say much to me of late. Something troubles his horizon, but I do not think even he understands what it is. He said the world is changing; it’s edges grow darker and close.”

“If there is an edge to this world, he will find it.”

“And if he fails, you will be the one to stuff his gut...”

A desperate cry split the tension that had been rising between the friends' embrace. The young son of the executed warrior had made a bolt for the frozen bay. The mob watched on as he scrambled to escape this place. They stood silent as he sprinted over the black sand and onto the frozen waters of the bay. For a moment they all envied him. A daring escape. But at the edge of the water, not even his mother dared to follow.

A trident thrust through the thin ice from below and gored the child mid-stride. The Morj had been watching, they were always watching. His body perched as a monument to false hope. Still many onlookers envied him.

@Nerevarine Sorry mate,I've had a nation cooked up in PMs for those north west isles for a hot minute.

Corusca Sector (L-9)
Sergi Dio's Private Quarters

Sergi’s cheeks burned with a dull fire. He had been smiling incessantly for the past 5 hours during an interview and he was feeling the effects. His undershirt was dripping with sweat beneath his pristine, stylish robes. All he wanted in this life was a cool glass of water and a nap.

As he sat in a lounge chair massaging his cheeks the familiar footsteps of Sophia, his body guard, could be heard pacing toward him. He groaned to himself knowing that the emphasis in her foot fall could only mean she was bearing bad news.

“Dr. Dio, we have a situation.”

Sergi’s hands wrenched at his hair in frustration. He looked up and saw both Sophia and Kayleigh standing side by side. Their body positioning suggested there was still tension but they both seemed completely transfixed on the burgeoning politician. Whatever it was they had to say must have been important to garner such cooperation from the two.

Sophia continued to speak, briefly checking the datapad in her arms as she did so. “Our techs near Kuat have gotten intel that several ranking R&D scientists from Balmoran Arms are quietly looking for a way out. It seems that they have become disenchanted with the CIS and have no wish to continue designing and building war droids for them. Problem is the CIS would likely imprison them as they have worked on several of the more experimental designs produced for the CIS war machine over the past year. To top it off Balmorra has a fleet of luckrehulks protecting it from Republic assaults.”

“—those are the big fuckers right?” Sergi interjected. His mental exhaustion was still apparent but he seemed much more engaged in the conversation than originally.

“Yessir, very big. The Isangoma would last a half hour at best against a single one. They have more droid fighters than a bantha has fleas. However, we do know the complex that the VIPs are being held in and that they are all Balmorra natives. One by the name of Tellex Sigor appears to be a senior operator with 30 years under his belt. These guys are big timers. Unfortunately that’s all the information we have.”

“That’s it? I’m expected to extract 3 random pencil pushers who are discontent with the color of their cubicles?” Sergi sounded more disappointed than frustrated. It was going to be a risky operation but he knew this could be a major play for the Republic. Knocking out a handful of lead R&D specialists would not only cripple their respective programs but give the GAR valuable information that could save thousands of lives. At least Republic lives.

Sergi continued to sift his fingers through his hair, a tell-tale sign of his stress. Suddenly the outstretched hand of Kayleigh Walsh nudged his shoulder. She was offering him her canteen. She remained silent and simply nodded. Her characteristic smirk was replaced with a hardened gaze which Sergi mirrored back. Sergi quickly unscrewed the bottle and took a long sip. The cold water in his mouth was a miniature paradise. He poured some on the top of his head and swept his hand through the soaked hairs. Instantly he felt like a new man. His mind raced into action and his words followed in swift pursuit.

“Put all appropriate hands on deck in the Isangoma. Karns, Barr, Quain, and Shalla have 4 hours to be on station and their subordinates accounted for. I want the shuttle with all the doo-dads and sensors off of the Galipot and onto my vessel, Miss Valencia doesn’t need it. Tell her to stay here on Coruscant and kiss any bare ass she comes across. Scramble Glaxtus from Uyter and have him meet us in our holding pattern outside the Balmorra system. Kayleigh, get your ground team ready, they’re your pick by hand. I want as much intel on that planet and complex that we can muster and I want to know everything about Tellex Sigor; where he’s from, who his family is, what hand he wipes his ass with. Dangle a couple thousand credits over the heads of the techs that got us this intel and see what else they can scrape up before we go topside. And get me a glass of water.”

Within the hour, the Isangoma was enroute to the Balmorra system just outside of where the crew suspected the CIS holding fleet could make sensor contact.


Outer Rim Territories (S-18)
Lamaro System

*Cchhhhhhh* “Uhh, all operators be advised, Which Doctor 2.2 has eyes on a mosquito the size of a midget. Over” *Cchhhhhh*

The small taskforce of Twi’leks bounced through the rough jungles of Lamaredd on their skimpy light-armored vehicles. Four of the warriors rode on top of the vehicles while the other half were forced to endure the sea-sickening ride from inside. Were they hit by a mine or ambush this would relatively ensure the survival of half the crew but many inside would argue that they would rather be dead then endure navigating story tall root systems for much longer.

The crews on the outside were enjoying themselves as much as one could in the situation. They wore all wore black body suits and camouflaged torso armor but that was where the similarities ended. Each of the Twi’lek operators had a different signature style about his garb. Whether it was tribal paintings, intricate lekku tattoos, or talismans hanging from random parts of their uniforms, they were all a unique group of very grungy men. What united their looks were the gallons of sweat and mud that clung to each of their bodies.

This particular mission was one along the list of many like it. Their vessel, the Shaman, had received an unknown distress signal while on “general patrol” as their commander Sergi Dio liked to call it. What it really meant was to wait around said area and do nice things for people. Help damaged vessels, ward off any meandering pirates, and if anyone crashed into a shithole like the one they were in now, be the first one to help and make sure someone was filming. Though this planet was inhabited by a small colony, the locals were deathly afraid of the far north jungles where the distress beacon of a crashed shuttle emanated. It fell upon this motley crew to check it out. Naturally the story was running 24 hour coverage on local news.

The convoy of four light vehicles came to a sudden stop. Almost instantly a large, dark human leaped from the passenger side of his second to rear vehicle and coolly strode up to the front. He was puffing on a fat spice joint that was clearly out of regulation. It was Paccu Xcubu, the eccentric and universally loved leader of the Witch Doctor unit. He was an intimidating figure with long, mangy dreadlocks that seemed to have something growing in them at all times. He was at best unkempt but he had a fierce intuition and knew his way around even the most backwater of worlds.

When the large figure reached the front of the convoy he saw what had stopped them. Before the rescue team was a large lake covered in a tick film of algae and various floating flora. At the other edge of the shore were the outlines of small huts with the faint imprint of campfire smoke smudging the sky.

“My boyyys, why it is that you stopping, eh? Tell me which one of you can’t swim; they get to go first.” Paccu spoke with an almost indiscernible accent that was made even more difficult by his rumbling laughter. The Twi’lek warriors seemed to understand as they chucked morbidly at the colonel’s joke. Without further dialogue the convoy lurched forward into the unwelcoming swamp and Paccu jumped atop the lead vehicle.
“All units, this is Which Doctor 1.1. Be advised, we have eyes on a native hamlet 2 clicks north east of our pos. Break. Maintain defensive posture… Please keep your hands and feet in the ride at all times. I’d bet my next leave that there is an Opee waiting for every toe that goes in this water. 1.1 Out.”

The team that sat atop the point vehicle with Paccu shook their heads in subtle laughter. Their A280’s were clinically trained on the water surrounding their amphibious craft as they putted across the filthy water at incredibly slow speed. It wasn’t clear if their rate of attack was intentional so as not to disturb anything that might be lurking beneath or if their kit really was as subpar as they always lead themselves to believe.

“Any bets on how fine the ass is in this little town were rolling into?”

“I’d say if the creatures in that hamlet even have accommodating parts they are probably shaped like a sarlacc pit. I doubt these things even stand on two legs.”

“That has never stopped him before.”

“I don’t care if they look like a damn verpine, I’ve got 20 credits and a liberty pass when were stationed at the Estate that I can nail the brains out of one of them by the time we exfil.”

“You are aware you literally condoning yourself to a night licking Lieutenant Dan’s boots instead of hitting Lilly town, right? Like you realize you are the stupidest thing floating on this truck right?”

“I’m making an alphabetical list of every species I’ve done the deed to and I’m already in the U’s. I don’t care if these things don’t even speak basic, home-girl is gonna make an uhhh sound and I’m scratching U off the list.”

Paccu interjected into the all Twi’lek conversation, his lack of Basic making him miss most of the childish punchlines his troops threw about. “Dese guys speakin dat Menahu shiit. Dat’s some bad shiit to be speakin too. They sound like they talkin to da devil when they sayin the hello.”

The team aboard Paccu’s APC stifled their laughter. Their commanding officer was like one of the people you saw on the Holonews and wondered if they were even speaking the same language as you. Admittedly, Basic was Paccu’s 4th language so the troops gave him some slack. He hadn’t even begun to learn it until a year before he entered Sergi’s services. How Colonel Paccu Xcubu (a name only pronounceable with a tongue click) really communicated was through body language. His slightly jaundiced eyes, sun beaten forehead, and coarse scarred hands gestured in any way he needed to speak. But for now, while his men’s sights were trained on their respective sectors, he was practically a mute.

As the convoy approached the small village, the planets natives began to appear. They were only rudimentary cloths made of animal skins. Though unattractive by any means, many of the race’s females were topless. Having not seen women for almost a month now, many of the Twi’lek marines exchanged subtle fist bumps.

The natives crowded the shoreline. It appeared that many were drawing bows and preparing to fire on the floating armored beasts. Immediately the four vehicles fanned out to laterally take the beach in force if necessary. Marines atop the roofs scrambled to present a 75% frontal firing arc, picking out targets of opportunity. But before a shot could be fired, Paccu stood up on his craft and waved slowly at the on looking crowd. Perhaps he was trying to show that these were sentient beings riding the armored beasts and not some sort of spinney creature trying to attack them. Whatever it was, it worked.

As the APC’s took to the beachhead they were met by cheering children and slightly bewildered but pacified adults. The top-side marines had dropped their defensive posturing and were mingling with the natives. Within minutes the APC’s were emptied of troops who were playing with children and handing out humanitarian rations. The Menahuun seemed enthralled with the vehicles, believing them to be great beasts that the warriors had tamed and ridden to their town. Clearly this lot had not been the ones assaulting the colonists thousands of miles to the south.

As the squad leaders of the 40 men tried to maintain order and security over the bustling scene, Paccu had begun looking for the village elder. He had strapped the upper body of a protocol droid to his back. It was to act as a translator for when they did find someone who might know about the crashed vessel the team had received a distress signal from. The bottom half of the droid had been bitten off by a nexu on a previous operation and they had never received funds to replace it. Though it was only a talking torso, C4-PK received an inordinate amount of adoration from the populace.

“Colonel, how do you say ‘vote Loyalist’ in Menahu?”

“I think it sounds something like, *click* *gulp* watch your *click* fucking *purr* sector.” Replied Paccu with a crystal white smile. However his face clearly showed he was also quite disturbed by the clamoring situation. “I don’t like these people. They smile with daemons behind their eyes.”

Suddenly a flare ripped into the sky from inside the village. The Twi’lek marines immediately drew their weapons to bare and scrambled into defensive positions. The turrets of the APCs swiveled quickly to train their ordinance on the origin of the red smoke streak. Natives dispersed in all directions. Paccu quickly shot up a one fingered hand signal and began moving at pace into the town. Team one’s operators began following him before the order was even relayed by their squad leader over comms.

The 11 men moved quickly through the town, only stopping to clear sporadic alleyways between the thatched huts. They moved deeper and deeper into the primitive village until they came to a central courtyard. In it were crowded a number of Menahuun natives and a thrashing Muun female hog-tied to a beam. The team quickly took up a defensive half circle arcing at the 30 or so natives standing around the figure and began to advance. The APC that had transported the team soon rolled in behind with five more marines from team three as its escort. All the Twi’leks had their weapons fixed on the mob that was accumulating around the captive Muun.

A shrieking chant reverberated as the mob joined in one after another. Sticks were being assembled at the base of the Muun’s feet and her piercing cries drowned into the chorus of the natives. Her face was badly bloodied and her long nose was visibly broken. All around her tattered body, the natives were whipping themselves up into a frenzy. Pieces of her equipment and clothing, and what appeared to be scraps from a space shuttle were all being tossed about the horde that bolstered in size every minute. This prisoner of theirs had stolen all the attention that had been given to the landing party minutes before.

It was as if the presence of the 15 marines and APC poised to slaughter the gathering wholesale were of no importance. Paccu’s screams at the crowd to disperse fell upon the turned backs of the dancing villagers. The crowd had now quadrupled in size. Paccu finally lowered his weapon and began to push through the crowd toward the captive. Naturally his men thought this a brash move but they maintained their posture and took up kneeling and prone positions to provide support. The elements of team three that had joined the fray began to take up sniper positions on the thatched roof tops.

When Paccu had finally elbowed his way to the center of the crowd there was a man clad in feathered regalia holding a flaming torch aloft feet from the well fueled pyre of the prisoner. His hands were stretched out upward and so too climbed the horrendous chanting of the mob. Paccu brandished the barrel of his A280 inches from the chieftain’s face and yelled desperately at the droid on his back to interpret what he was saying. But it was to no avail. The crowd was deafening and the chieftain couldn’t have heard the protocol droid even if he wanted to.

The chieftain instead slowly lowered his torch toward the pyre, his stare transfixed on that of Paccu’s. The creature was in a trance. The eyes that had appeared like daemons to Paccu were now soulless, glazed with white. The colonel’s ears were ringing from the steady, unrelenting wail.

With a swift jab, Paccu sent the muzzle of his rifle into the mouth from which the earsplitting wail was emanating. The blow dashed out most of the chieftain’s teeth and he fell to the dusty ground. The torch in his hand toppled harmlessly into the dirt. All of the noise stopped. It was as if someone had pressed mute on the whole world…

“Tell him she is mine!” Paccu yelled at the droid strapped to his back, his voice booming in the eerily silent courtyard. The droid did not respond. The dreadlocked warrior had no idea why of all times the protocol droid was dead now, but it was. He was alone in the midst of some 200 crazed Menahuun all staring at him with sealed lips and unrelenting eyes.

Paccu kept his composure, or at least tried too as a cocktail of sweat and adrenaline dripped from every pore of his face. He pointed at the broken Muun girl whose muffled whimpers now filled the silence—much to Paccu’s relief. He then pointed sternly at himself.

The gesture was understood immediately and the chieftain arose to his feet filled with the greatest rage the grizzled ranger had ever seen in a creature. The Menahuun lunged at him with white furry. Paccu grappled with his assailant’s weight before plummeting to the ground with the beast. The deranged chieftain bit into his face before Paccu could draw his knife and slice the creature’s abdomen. The Menahuun lurched off in surprise as much as pain. As he did so, Paccu sent a head shake toward his troops eager to flay his attacker with blaster rounds. Paccu knew he would have to speak a universal language to these people: trial by combat.

The chieftain was thrown a crude spear from the crowd which he expertly caught without looking. The man paced back and forth in front of Paccu as he unlatched his defunct protocol droid and tossed down his blaster. He even peeled off his drenched fatigues and tactical vest, allowing his tattooed, rippling muscles to gleam in the searing light of the sun. All the while the chieftain waited longingly, the daemon in his eyes growing in strength with every passing second.

Finally Paccu outstretched his barrel-like arms and gestured a “come hither” sign to his opponent. Without further ado, the chieftain lunged at him with an outstretched spear. Paccu cleanly parried the attack with the chop of his Ryyk machete. Howling in rage the chieftain pivoted and sent the blunt end of his spear crashing into the side of Paccu’s ribs. The blow made Paccu crescent his body but his bearlike frame contained the blow.

Paccu quickly grabbed the rear end of the spear that was jabbed into his side before his opponent could fully retract it. With the dull side of his blade, Paccu backhanded a blow onto the Menahuun’s elbow and heard it shatter with glorious effect. The creature shrieked a pitch that made Paccu retract from further attacks.

The chieftain took advantage of this and once again lunged at the dark heap of muscle. This time the creature was off balance, hindered by his limp right arm. The spear thrust was aimed downward at Paccu’s right leg. It was a slow strike and easily juked; leaving the spear tip plunged into the soft ground.

Paccu hacked at the lodged weapon and it split in two. He harnessed the same circular force of his strike back around and careened the blade into the shin of his opponent’s leg which had been outstretched supporting the earlier thrust. The slash cleanly severed through the anterior portion of the shin and sent splintered bone hailing out of its opening.

The creature was silent this time but still attacked again in frenzy. The chieftain grabbed at Paccu’s hair with his only usable arm and went again to bite the man’s face. But this time Paccu easily pivoted him off-balance. The crippled native still clung fanatically onto Paccu’s dreadlocks and wrenched his head toward the ground with the falling beast. Paccu loomed over the silent creature as it writhed about the floor trying to pull him downward.

With an upward swoop Paccu severed the chieftain’s left arm just below the shoulder. The cleaved arm still clung to its first full of dreadlocks as Paccu descended down on his maimed prey. He tossed his weapon to the side and it splashed gently in the dark blood pooling around the victim’s severed, squirming shoulder.

As he straddled the man’s heaving chest Paccu looked one last time into those soulless eyes. For a moment he felt like he had lost himself in them… Without thinking, Paccu’s hands felt their way up the Menahuun’s face. He was still lost in those eyes, those unrelenting white eyes that looked into him and yet through him to another, darker world. He felt his thumbs slowly slip over the empty vessels. And then they squeezed. They squeezed with a force that Paccu had never known he had. They delved deeper and deeper into the silent skull like wells frothing with red, gelatinous liquid. He wanted to tear the entire head asunder and cast its brains over the village for all the crazed citizens to see. But he did not. He could not… Mostly because that’s a really fucking hard thing to do.

As Paccu slowly drew his bruised body off the slain animal he saw that the crowd around him had dispersed. Only stragglers remained now and they seemed completely unenthused by the whole scene. They hung their heads and went on about their daily lives as if nothing had happened; as if they had never even known the man whose mangled body lay ashen in a pond of his own bodily fluids.

Amongst the dispersing natives were the familiar frames of team one. They appeared still very leery of the situation but now had their weapons pointed softly at the ground. A disbelieving smile crept across many of their faces as they secured a perimeter around Paccu and the still bound prisoner.

“Seems like they weren’t very impressed with your display, colonel. You would think that they were pretty keen on seeing people die beforehand.”

“—it is because you killed the hunter.” The Munn prisoner interjected weakly. “He was the one who captured me…” She sputtered for breath and spit out a clump of congealed blood. “You could tell they thought nothing of him until they saw he had me. Now he is dead, there is no strength. Their people crumble at the feet of the next warrior from a different tribe. I am yours now and I owe you my life.”

“You pretty wise, yeah? I’m sorry to say that wouldn’t be the case if we had gotten here sooner. You would not have seen these things for what they were and we’d have all much betta for dat,” Paccu whispered as he untied the crude ropes holding the girl prisoner. “Speaking of tribes, which one do you work for?”

The Muun woman looked pensively at her rescuer before answering, perhaps trying to assume what side of the galactic conflict this motley crew served. “I am an envoy of the Galactic Banking Clan on behalf of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Return me and you will be rewarded handsomely.”

“Oops, wrong answer,” whispered one of the Twi’lek marines. His joking comment was met with general laughter. However, the Muun found it less funny to suddenly realize she was probably moving from the hands of one captor to another. Her face soured in panic to what it had been atop the sacrificial pyre.

“You have nothing to fear, love. I will not see you return to the torture you just escaped. Dis is not something one person does to another but what only a creature can do. When I ask what tribe you are for, I see in your eyes that you are for the tribe of light. In the end we are the same tribe… I will see dat you are sent home. You will be treated as or flesh aboard our boat and when we part, I will wish you all the grace under the stars.”


“Muun… That starts with an M doesn’t it. Well when Pacco pronounces it, it starts with a U so that’s just how well have to spell it…”

Corusca Sector
Pantoran Senate Affairs Chamber

A freshly poured glass of fine Uyter wine stood half emptied at either figure’s end of the table. For the past hour they had been using it to chase down their hollow words of small talk.

“The longer this war progresses, the more obvious it is that the Republic will not win. When you look at the books, we simply do not have the funds to continue such a charade. The longer we draw out this conflict into a war of attrition we will surely begin to crumble from within both financially and morally. Already my planet is slipping into the poverty of a backwater colony. The power supplies cut off at night, countless goods rationed for the war effort, even the very crop yields that my people survive off of are being forcefully “sold” to the clone armies for pennies on the credit. The bacta shipments my people desperately need are constantly being rerouted in transit to Republic fleets nearby.”

Sergi sat across from Senator Riyo Chuchi in one of her private council rooms, a polished chrome table spanning the distance between them. It was a barrier that mirrored the pair’s relationship as well. The two figures were on friendly terms when it came to galas or other public venues but in the office, Sergi was just other lobbiest in a political system crawling with people wanting to be heard. He was the guest and she was the senator and everything from the guards to the seat cushions reiterated that.

“Mind you, these fleets lurking around our systems are not the “protection” we are told to hail them as; those crafts of war are magnets to their own purpose. They beckon in chaos and destruction like a beacon. And what do we gain in their wake? We move forward a meter on one front only to lose that same distance on another. It is a dance of metal and blood to the tune of our credits evaporating into thin air.” Sergi spoke with a calm fire, moving his hands to the motion of his words almost seamlessly. He had practiced his monologue beforehand and it probably showed. But there was still an air of genuineness about it, because Sergi did still truly believe everything he had said. He was careful not to sound too radical though.

“Your words are beginning to sound a lot like treason Dr. Dio.” Senator Riyo Chuchi replied with an eyebrow slightly raised in an air of accusation.

“Far from it I should think. I am a true patriot; one who will not risk the institution of the Republic on a vapid dream that we can win this war without dialog between us and the Confederates. As I have said, financially this war will ruin us. Hundreds of systems have removed themselves from our sinking vessel and declared neutrality because they see this too. If we continue to wage this war we will destroy ourselves from within and we will have fought for nothing!”

“You would disgrace the sacrifices of countless millions who have fought for this cause!?” Senator Riyo Chuchi appeared genuinely upset now. Her body was raised slightly out of her seat as her pristine blue fingers perched onto the top of the table.

“I would honor them by making something of their sacrifice before the dream that they strove for becomes thin air! We must broker for peace between our factions now before the pendulum of attrition switches into the Confederates favor. They are blind fanatics because they feel they are fighting for their own freedom; a freedom from the bureaucracy and centralization of a government which for centuries has paid them no attention. We must reason with them as equals now, perhaps negotiate and improve our senate before countless more are needlessly slaughtered.” Sergi gently stood up from his seat and strode over towards the senator. The guards were a put slightly on edge by this gesture given its seemingly Separatist context.

“…This war is not white and black.” Sergi gently said looking placidly at the beautiful, young senator. He sat down casually on the side of the table mere feet away from the senator. “Scholars will argue for ages on who started it, but the truth is that the Republic started it when we politically alienated the needs of the Outer Rim; the needs of so many systems capable of understanding and governing themselves far better than a council in Coruscant. But what is worse, we have continued to defame our values as this war has dragged on. When the Republic occupies a planet we treat their people no better than the CIS. While we search house by house and capture without warrant we create a terrorist for every one we destroy. We are not liberators. We are harbingers of martial law and the promise that war will come to their people’s doorstep. A war that these people did not choose, that they do not fight for, and that they cannot hope to escape.”

Sergi’s eyes remained locked into those of the Pantoran senator. He gazed into the pools of iridescent gold looking for some semblance of empathy in them. Without looking away, he calmly grabbed one of the ornamental fruits placed in the middle of the table. It was a strange blue sphere with purple dots and a leathery bloom at the top. The fruit was a native of the senator’s home world. Very rare, very tasty. Sergi expertly began peeling the alien food in a way that only someone who had been to its home world would know how.

“I assure you, Pantora will be next, as will Uryter, as will every planet in the Mid Rim. We will be caught in the ebb and flow of destruction. Our people will burn in the invasions of the CIS and their still smoldering ashes will be spread by the boots of the Republic when they reoccupy. Your constituency will become dust in the wind—that is if you remain a senator to see it. These Core-world militants will take any excuse to depose a senator of an occupied system. The screams of your people will no-longer be heard in the senate. The forum’s numbers will grow smaller and smaller, ever more centralized and ever more disassociated with the suffering on the fronts it wages its crusade. The Republic is not what it once was and if we do not change our course I fear it will never hope to be the same again.”

With his last word Sergi took a bite of the small piece of fruit, playfully raising his eyebrows as he did so. It had peeled cleanly into two separate halves and the other portion lied in Sergi’s outstretched hand as an offering to the young senator. A slight smile crept across her face that betrayed her coy amusement. The senator gingerly took the piece of fruit from Sergi’s hand and he felt it, the slight touch of one of her fingers brushing up against his. To anyone else it would have been nothing but to him it was the greatest achievement of the night.

“I will take your words under consideration, Dr. Dio.” She said with a renewed poise. The senator stood up as a clear sign that it was time for Sergi to retire. He too gracefully took to his feet and bowed toward the senator respectfully.

“That is all I ask, milady. Do keep the wine. I hope you enjoyed it. However if your saabac face is better than I could detect, feel free to throw it out. I am afraid that the journey from Uryter did bland it a bit. I fear I do not have the connections my aunt does in that department. If you ever do wish to visit the senator I will put in a word for the best bottle I can find. I assure you though, if you ever visit Uryter a fresh brew will truly sweep you off your feet. Senator Dio would welcome your company any time, as would I.”


As Sergi smoothly exited the Pantoran senator’s office he was followed at heel by his bodyguard. She was an attractive woman but in a way that had to grow on you first like the taste of a strong whiskey. It was if she had all the basic requirements for being pretty but they didn’t all add up. Perhaps it was how her complexion was slightly dimpled from various childhood diseases, or how she held herself like she was constantly ready for a fight. Perhaps the final blow to this flower that never fully bloomed was her cybernetic eye. It was of fine quality, sure, but it was just a sad reminder that this girl had to fight for everything she was and everything she had.

“I don’t think she fell for it,” the bodyguard said still matching Sergi’s brisk stride. “I’d dare say it would be hard for anyone to see you walk in there with your fine robes and say that anything in life was hard for you.” Sergi stopped in his tracks and looked down agitatedly at the short young woman. She quickly continued before he could rebuttal. “Not that that’s a bad thing. A person dressed like a refugee would never have even gotten an audience in the senator’s office.” Sergi reassumed his walk, allowing the bodyguard to speak her mind despite the reluctance smeared across his face. “Perhaps you would have better luck wooing her out in the field, covered in mud and gore. Get your hands dirty together and bond over actually doing something, actually seeing hardship. Your heart is in the right place but she needs to see you’re not just another smooth talking conman.”

Sergi prayed that someone else would walk by and interrupt the meanderings of this woman. She was beginning to sound like his aunt. But alas, the pair were chronically alone as they strode through the sunlit corridors of the senate building. It was dusk now and the smog of Courescant dashed every hue of orange and red across the halls like water colors. The pair walked in quiet sync for a while before the bodyguard could not handle the silence anymore and piped up playfully.

“You know, you and Senator Chuchi would make a smart match. She’s as high born as they come and a smart girl at that. I think she’s quite nice myself. A bit shy, but a politician that can actually hold their tongue is a maverick in her own right. I like the way she smiles at people, like she knows they’re ugly and yet she loves them in spite of themselves. She’s genuine. And I bet shed make some genuinely cute kids too—“

“And how do you suppose I do that, Sophia? Show up at her door with flowers? ‘Oh hello senator, I’m that guy you talked to once. I’m here to marry and fertilize you.’ I’ll just give her a big genuine smile and she with genuinely disrobe and present me a ring finger.” Sergi’s words were frustrated, much more so than he should have liked. He immediately regretted their tone. In an attempt to lighten the obviously hurt mood he continued to play along much warmer. “Don’t pretend like you could give me advice on how to woo her. I would imagine your ideal date be competing in a bench-press competition with gundarks.” His quip was met with a warm smile. Sergi patted his hand gently on the nape of her neck. At times she felt like a little sister to him. Sophia always managed to be completely on his side. She had his best interest at heart even when they weren’t on his heart.

As the two approached his chamber, the doors slid open with a hiss. This immediately threw up warning signs to Sophia, the bodyguard, as Sergi’s chambers should have been locked. Someone or something must have deactivated them. Before Sergi could move another step, the stalky girl crossed her body in front of his with her weapon trained on whoever was in the room. It was a single figure standing coolly, arms crossed as she looked out at the sunset which now faded into the bleakest of purple shades. The silhouette turned slowly to look at Sergi and his human shield. The pale lavender light clearly shone on half of the woman’s face. It was Sergi’s right-hand, Kayleigh Walsh.

It was an awkward amount of time before anyone moved. Sophia still had her weapon trained on Kayleigh and for a moment Sergi suspected she was half-likely to pull the trigger. Sophia hated Kayleigh, Kayleigh hated Sophia, and Sergi was a dangling toy in a cat fight. He quickly went for the lights. As they illuminated the room he could feel the drama of the situation subsiding.

“I assume talks went well?” Said the once shadowy figure. In the broad light her beauty was very clear. She was a woman of presence. Everything from her stance to the way she delivered her words was brimming with a composed confidence. This confident posture was even more the case with Sophia in the room as Kayleigh attempted to drown her in an alpha-female aura. Sergi pretended not to notice in an attempt to cope with the tension in the room. He turned to Sophia whose gaze was still locked on Kayleigh and whose hand remained perched on her now holstered blaster. Sergi gently took the back of her neck and pulled her into his peck on her forehead. He mouthed the words “thank you” but they had no voice to carry. He knew Sophia’s dislike for Kayleigh and their “unprofessional and unbecoming” relationship and in that moment he was slightly embarrassed by it. It was he knew this woman was a dangerous addiction but chose to keep rolling the dice. Sophia shot him a disappointed look before walking off down the hall with a furious pace. The chamber doors hissed closed behind her, leaving Sergi’s hand still hovering where it had been on her neck.

“In the game of politics, talking is quite irrelevant; perhaps the most irrelevant thing a senator can do.” Sergi spoke his words with slight hint of annoyance as he rounded on brunette. “It is perhaps the only thing more irrelevant than actions of senators. What matters from that naïve young girl is her vote. I dare say we don’t have it yet, but soon she may see our side of things…”

Sergi realized he was being all too serious. It had been a long day and he knew taking it out on Kayleigh would only make matters much worse. His previous statement of hollow political platitudes was sure to have pissed her off already. He knew this to be the case from the look she gave him. He smiled to himself, sadistically amused by the annoyance he had aroused. He kept his eyes and smirk aimed at the ground as he strode into the room and poured two glasses of wine. The glare he knew he was receiving the whole way only fueled his childlike giddiness. “I mean, why would she not..” sip ”see my side of things that is. How do you say no to these eyes?” Sergi shot the smoothest smolder he could muster. It was devastatingly pathetic.

“It’s easier than you think.”

“Perhaps for the grizzled warrior, all primp and proper in her cute little uniform.” Sergi, smiling ear to ear, grabbed Kayleigh’s blue uniform beret as he walked over towards the couches. He tossed the headgear onto the couch opposite him as a gesture for her to join him. She reluctantly followed him to the lounge.

“Excuse me, this is the uniform of a Senate Security Officer, the proudest tradition in the galaxy.” The comment was blatant sarcasm. She rather hated the senate guards with all their pomp and circumstance. The only reason she wore the blasted thing was to get around easier in the senate complex.

“Well you have done an excellent and noble day’s work. I hereby relieve you of duty for the night!” mocked Sergi as he gave the girl a fake salute. He then handed her a brimming glass of wine, careful not to wiggle it an inch lest some spill. The two exchanged a smile before Sergi threw himself onto the couch behind him. He sunk deep into its overstuffed cushioning one foot propped on the table before him. He spilled more than a dribble of wine as he did so but exhaustion clung to him too hard to show any sign of notice.

“Excellent! Then you can stop talking to me like I’m a droid and tell me how the negotiations really went.” Quiped Kayleigh.

Sergi threw his head back and moaned. As he careened it back to answer her statement he was taken aback by how gorgeous she looked. She had cuddled herself onto the opposite couch with her legs tucked up under her, a half empty wineglass in hand. Sergi rarely ever got to see her look like a true girl. This was a rare moment she was not covered in armor and dirt. She was just a young beautiful woman completely relaxed in all the comforts of privileged life. Her smile was so uncommonly polished as well; its lips weren’t cut from a “lucky hit” nor dried and withered from days without water. They didn’t even have their characteristic burden of sadness tucked behind the corners of her cheeks from months of deployment. It was as if every time he took her off the front lines she underwent a chrysalis and became the last thing he wanted to send into harm’s way.

Sergi caught himself before his mind wandered farther. “I told you,” he spoke with a fake haughtiness,”I seduced her-“

“Shut up.” Kayleigh interjected, her eyes rolling clean into the back of her head.

“-no I'm serious. A Pantoran girl like her is use to her only options being walking carpets like the Talz. She was just blatantly objectifying me—I felt like an animal in there!”

“I’m sure she gets her fill of attractive senators. I know I saw a pretty cute one pass me in the hall a few minutes ago. Shew, if only I could land a senator; a bonafide Representative even… But maybe it’s different when you’re the senator though. Maybe you play down to men of lower rank who have to make backroom deals. Maybe its cute.” She spoke with a vicious smile, knowing her words would take their mark.

Sergi was playfully upset but the pair both knew it to be somewhat genuine. He took the offensive. Placing his foot up on the table in his best captain stance, Sergi reached down and grabbed one of the scattered holo-mags. “Oh, what’s this?” He said with a rhetorical air. “Who is that stunning figure on the cover there?.. The galaxy’s most eligible bachelors, more on page… seven-” Kayleigh snatched the mag from him and gave a slightly conceding smile.

“I don’t know what’s more embarrassing, the fact that you have one of these in your chambers or that you paid someone to put your face in this tabloid. Were you attempting to secure the vote of a pre-teen girl? I didn’t think that the Lantilian sector allowed that age group a say in galactic maters, or even the ability to determine what a desirable man is made of.” She shook her head as she flipped though page after page of he-said she-said garbage on the way to the article in question.

“The funny thing is that I didn’t even pay them. In fact, they’re paying me tomorrow for a prime time interview.”

By now Kayleigh was on his page and scouring it inches from her nose. “I find it odd then that they got ahold of this picture of you working in a ‘destitute village on Ryloth’ without some intervention by you and a fair bit of photo-editing software to boot.” She quoted the tabloids words with a coy gag. The picture was one of him tenderly holding a withered Twi’lek child on one of his infamous humanitarian ventures. In this picture in particular, the sun sat perfectly in eyes and gave his natural tan a highly artificial glow. The next page was a full centerfold of singer-song writer ‘Erik’ shirtless with brimming abs lying sprawled on a beach. He was a suspected force user due to his ability to drop panties out of seemingly thin air. “Bahaha. You could have at least taken off your shirt like this nerf-herder. The man even died ages ago from a spice over-dose.”

“And that is exactly why I refrain from competing with such specimens. He has his abs, I have my ability to save children and support a family on realistic moral values. Don’t be fooled by my good looks and massive amounts of money, I’m actually quite a nice guy. Probably the best around-“

“Oh gag!” Bellowed Kayleigh. She got up from her seat and began to walk away.

Sergi quickly jumped full onto the table, chest puffed out like a gundark. “As Chancellor Sergi I decree that gaging shall have no place under my rule!”

Kayleigh shot her signature a glare over her shoulder. She had a half-wicked half-playful smile on. “You’re making a Separatist out of me every second, you’re high-ness.

Kayleigh lunged at Sergi playfully knocking him off the table and into the couch.

“An assault on the crown!” Sergi howled amidst laughter. Kayleigh effortlessly flipped down her hair and a waterfall of brunette locks swam over her shoulders. She began throwing muffled punches at the playfully cowering boy.

“Oh, are you a king now!?” She giggled as he began to mockingly wince at every blow.

“I am the king of the galaxy!” Sergi managed to cry between swings from the girl who had him in a full guard mount.

Sergi grabbed out at both of her forearms. She allowed his pathetic counter to take hold and the couple still in the moment. Sergi pulled in on Kayleigh’s firmly grasped arms and her hair dangled about his face. It smelled like fresh mint strawberry. For a second Sergi was lost in its aroma. The scent made his hands loosen their hold. He could feel her body dropping closer onto his.

“I am the greatest king there ever was.” Sergi whispered to her, their faces inches apart. Suddenly his eyes widened with a fiery glare. He tossed her body over in a pivot move she herself had taught him. It was sloppy but Kayleigh allowed it to happen and giggled all the way to the floor. Sergi now was perched over her at half-guard, her muscular legs wrapped tightly around his waist. He pinned her out stretched arms onto the floor. Her hair cascaded over the ground like warm chocolate, eyes like emeralds, her perfect smile welcoming him in.

“And as a king I must punish my traitors…”

Lantillian Sector
The Estate

Rain lashed against Glaxtus Vile's hardened face. The torrent of water traced his many scars and waterfalled off his soaked auburn beard. He and a handful of equally barbaric commandos strode behind across the open landing pad. They had arrived from a long, cramped journey aboard the shuttle perched behind them on the cliff-like airfield. To the team's right they could see the night-time glow of a small, quiet city many thousand feet below their position. The small village was called Lilly town and it had become the infamous retreat of troops stationed to the Estate. It was what made this posting a dream job: good beds, great food, and unforgettable women.

As Glaxtus and his men approached one of the Estate's many gleaming walls, he was met by a small armored vehicle screaming towards his position. The wheeled vehicle took a sharp turn in front of the team and drifted drastically on the waterlogged surface. Before the vehicle had even stopped a man strode out of the passenger's side with a synthetic cool. Glaxtus chortled to himself at the unprofessional display. Most of the security were just trigger-happy firemen and first responders who saw more action responding to local medical emergencies and hover-craft wrecks in the small underlying town than any combat. Unprofessional at best and country dumbasses by default.

"Top of the evening to you, Master Sergeant. I'm Lieutenant Dan." The overweight security officer gave a half-assed salute that seamlessly turned into an out-stretched hand prompting to be shook. Glaxtus Simply nodded and grasped the hand in front of him. His gruff features towered over the officer's with his gargantuan chest at level with the pudgy man’s nose. Glaxtus allowed his presence to loom without a word spoken.

"Fine Uyter weather we're having today ain't it?" the officer finally quibbled, gesturing an open palm to the monsoon rain. There was no response but the man played off the awkwardness well and patted Glaxtus on the back like the father of a dim-witted child. "Y'all go ahead and jump in the back," the officer said now gesturing at the micro-APC. "It's another mile till you'll be inside the Estate and that just ain't worth it with the sky pissin like this."

"We'll walk." Glaxtus replied.

And walk they did, but before doing so the 11 commandos hoisted the entire light armored car onto their shoulders like a casket. The driver of the vehicle soon leaped out in disbelief and quickly scurried to the side of his lieutenant who was equally shocked by the unorthodox display. “Now I say, I’m mighty impressed with this little charade—mighty impressed. But as I said, it’s a mean 2 miles yonder to where I was going to park that. None the less, I admire—“

“Fuck what you admire. Just keep up.” Blasted Glaxtus as he and his team of oversized brutes began trotting forward at pace with their hefty cargo. Soon all that could be heard above the galling winds was the deep cadences of the team as they strode off toward Sergi’s crown jewel, the Estate.

When the team finally arrived at their destination exhaustion was a thread weaved into every movement of their bodies. Many of the men lounged themselves onto the ornate ivory walls that surrounded the Estates entrance. As they unsealed their distinctive mandalorian helmets, their exposed skulls steamed with the onset of the still pouring rain. However on each of the men’s faces were the distinct markings of a smile. They quietly exchanged fist-bumps and “oorahs” to each other as they waited for the officer sent to greet them to finally catch up.

The hulking mass of Glaxtus was among these small exchanges. The grizzled figure finally came up to his sergeant, a similarly immense zabrak, and playfully grabbed the back of his neck. “Vikus, I felt something dragging us back. I knew it must have been your sorry ass.” He prodded playfully, giving his old friend a hard smack on the chest as he did so.

“I guess I was too busy thinking of all the deflowering I’m going to do in Lilly town when I get the chance.” The zebrak spoke with a vicious smile; half-joking, half beyond serious.

“You think I’m going to let you dogs get a chance? You start spreading your seed in this galaxy and were all fucked.” Glaxtus’s joking was interrupted by the feint sound of panting over his shoulder. The officer who had met them stood doubled over, with his hands on his knees just behind the pair. Glaxtus turned to the man and again loomed his presence over him like a disappointed father.

“A fine… display… gentlemen,” the officer blubbered between gasps. “Quite a fine display. Now what say we all sit down in the great hall for some chow; peel out of these clothes too while we’re at it?”

“Sorry lieutenant. We’re on direct orders from General Karns to report to the training deck immediately upon arrival.”

“Ahh, well if you insist. I assume my services end here if you are capable of seeing yourself to the facility… I’ll just take my vehicle back, which I assume you lot have not yet broken. Alas a fine rib-eye awaits. I bid you adieu gentlemen.”

“Sorry sir, that’s coming with us as well. General Karns informed us a man he referred to as a ‘fat fuck’ would be delivering us a light armored car for our use within the training deck.” Glaxtus casually gestured to his men to start boarding the vehicle before returning his emotionless gaze onto the security officer.

The lieutenant was almost too appalled by the crass remark to even reply; however, he managed to do so in a sputtering, disgruntled manner. “I…I… seem to recall that you are practicing VBSS. How exactly does one use a vehicle to interdict a space vessel?”

“We intend to find out.”

“Well I don’t intend to let you.”

“Generals orders sir. We were told to disregard any superior officers acting like a ‘toydarian bitch’ as well.. General’s orders.”

As the lieutenant stood dumbfounded, Glaxtus simply gave him a curt head nod and turned to the armored car now bejeweled by commandos hanging off of every hard point. The heavily armored commando quickly hopped a seat onto the rear fender next to his sergeant who gave the hull a double thump to signal it was clear to go. Even as the vehicle began to speed away, the same slack-jawed expression was becoming stale on the lieutenant’s face. As they sped off into the fog of the rain Glaxtus coolly shot the officer a last gesture with his middle finger before they disappeared from sight.

“You’re a lunatic.” The zebrak sergeant muttered between disbelieving laughter.

“Well at least there’s a slim chance of any of us getting leave while were here. Maybe I’ll spare the female race of you yet.”

Finally slugged my way though the complex rules and I'm sure there will be lots of lovely little miscalculations along the way. In spite of Gat's views on the matter, I tried to keep the Shuttles/strike craft easily labeled and cost-listed. :P I figure I can fluff them with names etc. once you chaps have torn my work to shreds as usual. Cheers mates.

Sergi Dio: The left-winged political ladder-climber.
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