Blueblood

Taking the Bull by the Horns

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Gensh:
The final day of Walpurgis. It ends much as it begins, with much pomp and ceremony. In the end, all the champions of hell will parade to the outermost borders of the Demon City, where they go their seperate ways across the Endless Desert. For now, however, there are still speeches and pagentry to complete. The Holy Queen-Mother makes use of this time to brief each coven on their initial missions for the year to come. The newbies make a brief appearance as they are dismissed, and now, four seasoned asura have been called together. Each is well-known – Thaddeus, the Forest Bandit King; Maeve, the Rusted Tyrant of Linowa; Shu Lin, the death-touched swordsaint; and Lolat, the Mad Cow of the South. Yet until now, they had worked alone or in temporary alliances. For the Queen-Mother to call them together, there could only be one reason: the formation of a new coven to complete a grand task in the name of the Yozis.

  • Shu Lin nods to the others in greeting, a smile on her face. “I didn’t expect to run into you all again so close to Walpurgis’ end. How’s the cult going, Lolat? The war, Maeve? Adn your training, Thaddeus?”
    Avara:
    *and
  • Maeve looks at the rest of the arrivals idly. She nods after a moment to each of them. “Forming up in the west. More issues with the Deathlord’s tribes. Starting to create a wedge.” She drones on slightly in a neutral tone before looking at the doors. “Two Circlemates dead from one of the Bull’s.” And then she simply shrugs.
  • Thaddeus gives a small wave in response and in greeting to the others. “It goes… been slacking off too hard on it past all this busy work and well… I find it hard to train down here.” He laughed a bit. “How goes things with yourself? It’s been some time siince we last saw each other.”

Shu Lin:
“Dealing with people is its own kind of training, Thaddeus. Friendly faces waiting to stab you in the back, literally or metaphorically. I don’t like wasting that sort of opportunity.”

  • Shu Lin looks to Lolat expectantly, waiting for an answer.

Lolat:
Lords, what fools mortals are. It is only right that they worship their betters, and they are all-too-compliant in that – only the weak-minded things are incapable of grasping any nuance of divine politics. I was forced to purge an entire village when they began making sacrifices to the Yellow Sun.

Shu Lin:
“You couldn’t re-educate them, I guess? Just killing a village is wasteful, and it strengthens the black pits as much as you weakened the traitor sun.”

Maeve:
You have to cull now and then or else the herd grows weak.

  • Maeve tilts her head idly.
  • Shu Lin shrugged—she didn’t really care much, she was just offering some tactical advice.

Maeve:
Well. We’d better go in before Lil pouts at us.

  • Maeve opens the doors and heads inside.
  • Shu Lin holds the door open, waving to Lil before letting the others through first.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
Pouting has its uses, Maeve.

  • Thaddeus straightens himself up and steps through, taking a spot behind Maeve.
  • Shu Lin closes the door once everyone’s inside. “Good day, Lil-Lil. How’s Walpurgis treating you?”

Maeve:
I know. I still feel guilty about giving Mina those bad cookies.

  • Maeve disconcertingly ogles Lilun all the while.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
I am doing well as one might expect, Shu. And Maeve, do not be too freewheeling with Mina. She does enjoy lambchops as much as anything else.

  • Thaddeus takes the moment to actually nosey around the room, looking everywhere but at Lilun and in everyway but subtly.
    Gensh:
    The room is a relatively plain office, for a queen anyway. Everything is in perfect order, for anything less would make managing the akuma, asura, and their entourages untenable. The light of Ligier streams in from a skylight above, but the shadows seem to lay thick about the room. Since Ligier doesn’t cast shadows, the effect is quite poignant.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
In any case, I am as busy as ever, so let us get down to business.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
My dear children, I am sure you know why I called you here together. Yet, I think it will be a surprise as to why I have called you in particular. The Yozis have long sought to establish a presence in a theatres. In these long years, we, their servants, have done so. Now, we finally begin to move. I have been given the task of administering the Yozis’ war on rebellious Creation. To this end, we must relinquish some freedoms and focus on one objective at a time.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
I have decided after long consideration that the greatest threat is that of a Solar Empire. It will be difficult to tear down once fully established, and the first will inspire others to come. To this end, there is one obvious course of action. We must melt the Icewall with hellfire and slaughter the Bull of the North.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
I’m sure you all have questions, but make them brief.

Shu Lin:
“So, to cut through formalities… We’re going to be the battering ram to break into some new territory for Hell’s warriors, to stop the yellow sun’s brats from making progress?”

Lillun Dragondaughter:
It is not a matter of territory, Shu Lin. It is a matter of preemptive action. Should the Bull permanently repel or make peace with his competing neighbors, there will be no one better poised to strike at the Isle. It is hell who must make that first blow.

Shu Lin:
“Alright. So I can see why you pulled Maeve, and I’ve worked with her before, and I’m guessing the rest of us have too on some level. Stopping Bull so Hell can make that strike?”

Thaddeus:
Aye, I’vea question. Do we need to do these things in any special way? I mean, incase we turn the guy to dust and we’re actually supposed to make a big travelling show about his body to show off WHY we don’t do as he did.

Thaddeus:
Or they.

Maeve:
Not just stopping the progress. We must sever the head of the Empire. The Bull must die. And I will do it. Nonetheless, there is also the matter of the Lover. She has been idle for years now, though her tribes are not. Are there any matters regarding her?
Avara:
should i make any draws for info on the deathlords’ actions, since that’s shu’s sort of area of expertise?
Gensh:
She would have knowledge on some of their preferences, motives, etc, but not any direct information on their movements.
Avara:
okay.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
You may use whatever methods necessary. We have not heard from any of the Deathlords in some time, so we must treat them as rivals at best. Our attempts at espionage are few due to the unsavory nature of the assignment and the loss of our best agent nearly two decades ago.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
Now, you are all here for a reason. Maeve has long prepared to fight the Bull. Shu Lin’s and Thaddeus’ territories will taken as well if the Linowan State falls. Lolat has be reassigned from the South to provide administrative assistance and to detract from the Bull’s own worship. If the peoples have grown used to a mighty bull god, then it will be simplest to win their hearts by providing one of our own.

  • Shu Lin growls, before she can really restrain that impulse—her territory, even if she hadn’t managed to reclaim it yet, was her territory. The idea of someone else taking it from her wasn’t something she’d tolerate. She nods, more restrained than before. “We’ll break the Bull. I’m not too familiar with running a cult, but Lolat, if there’s anything you need for your end of things, let me know. The help goes both ways.”

Lolat:
Aye, I’ll look forward to it, rankled though I be at the reassignment from my work back home.

  • Thaddeus frowns at the mentions of his lands being taken, scratching his cheek. “Maybe we could kill two birds with one stone, crush him with the wall as it goes down. Give us all a bit of… breathing room as we go back to work.” He audibly paused to search for the words there (and visibly struggled to find them.) His however smile returned just as quickly as it left regardless once he spoke again. “But enough dreaming and waiting, aye?”
  • Maeve continues to disconcertingly ogle at the Queen-Mother. Though in her mind, she is already formulating possible strategies.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
Indeed. It is finally time for action.

Lillun Dragondaughter:
All this in mind, the existing masters of the Northern theatre will have matters to discuss with you. I have taken the liberty of assembling them already. You will find then waiting in the Silver Gallery. You are dismissed.

Shu Lin:
“Sounds like fun. Good luck with the rest of the Asura, Lil.”

  • Maeve leaves without much of a word, staring straight ahead before suddenly looking over at Lolat. “Goddess or Lady? Or is there a special title you prefer for worship? I’ll start planting the seeds of it once I get back to Rubylak.”

Lolat:
Oh, come up with something grand. It only fans the fire if they argue over the proper manner of address.

Shu Lin:
“How do you go about with running a cult, anyway? I’ve never really tried the whole ‘WORSHIP ME’ route.”

Thaddeus:
I was always taught you just did stuff to get enough notice and then had the followers argue and fight to the death over how best to please you.
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Lolat:
It is a simple matter, as mortals are simple creatures. They wish for nothing more than to give up their free will. They want a parent, a king, a god, to take the fear of choice and consequence from them. You just have to teach them that it is better to serve you than the god down the street. The means can be fear, respect, bribery – anything – or more likely, all of those. All the greatest gods are monsters, I have seen firsthand. Mortals find the obvious hideousness of the Yozis a refreshing change from the wretchedness the gods hide behind a mask of righteousness and duty.

Shu Lin:
“Hm. Well, with a divine beauty like yours I guess it’d be hard for them to resist. Maybe you can give me a few lessons some time, so I can keep my territory better once I’ve got it back?”

Maeve:
Fear is one way to lead an army. Religion is another. Speaking of which. One religion or multiple all worshipping a single figurehead that fills the criteria of them?

Lolat:
I will do as best I can, Shu Lin. Though much of my success is owed the strength of my arm. The mortals do not have a choice in the matter if the local gods lose their heads overnight. One faith, Maeve. Religion is optional. It does us no good if they truly fight amongst themselves. Make my name and lineage unmistakeable.

Maeve:
True, true. Though some competition can breed a stronger faith and soldiers.

Shu Lin:
“Yeah. Even if we set more than one of us up at religious figures, it’d be best to have a unified front. Multiple interpretations and religions is risky at best. Imposters, chances for people to splinter the cult for their own gain… Idiot followers killing each other instead of the enemy over which dogma is right.”

Maeve:
Speaking of. You won’t mind if I make use of your men as spies and raiders, will you Thaddeus? You’re good at what you do and I could use a hole in the Halta Republic’s defensive line if they try anything.

Shu Lin:
“Eventually you’d have to kill your own people just to make an example. Wasteful.”

Thaddeus:
No, not at all. Just don’t have them running off into certain death, they are still mortal after all. The more renegade ones would be good ‘prophets’ aye? Go and preach of all of Lolat’s good deeds and works she’s done for them.

Lolat:
I do not wish for you to think me a butcher. Unlike the gods, I am fair. I have summoned a Judge to each execution and enumerated the rebels’ crimes afore putting their heads to the block. Ah, but we arrive. We must hold this discussion.
Gensh:
The Silver Gallery is a large, open-air hallf of the Queen-Mother’s palace. In it are collected works of art (for a Yozi definition of art) selected by the titans with more dreamlike sensibilities. Ultimately, it looks like the nightmare of a surrealist painter.
Gensh:
Still, the five asura who had to this point commanded the Northern theatre without opposition stood waiting among the headache-inducing works. On seeing all of them together, it becomes very transparent how little the Yozis had thought of the North to this point. They all act in the North in name but practically speaking are hermits or move from place to place as needed.
Gensh:
The Giftlord, who had no desire for conflict. The Empyreal Chaplain, always bound up in her duties within the Demon City. The Explosive Maestro, who lived from day to day without planning ahead. The Dragon’s Doll, who did nothing without the command of her master. Cearr, who no longer had interest in conquest.
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Avara:
beep beep
Cliffjord:
Connection test.
Gensh:
you are there
Cliffjord:
Okay good, Skype is just being a gimp.
Avara:
lolat’s boobs are still the best in the brass city. we’re good to roll.

  • Maeve looks idly at the paintings. She thought they used too much red and not enough cyan. After a moment of staring though, she looked back down to see the ones that they were supposed to meet before going ‘topside’ as it were. She nodded to Caerr in particular, but otherwise stared at the rest. The only other slightly familiar face was Kris Klaus, though that stood more to the reason he was another exalt of Cecylene. Until now she had not interacted with him.
  • Shu Lin smiles and waves to everyone. “Good to see you Cearr, Gundyr. A pleasure, Kris Klaus, Black, Dragon’s Doll.”
  • Thaddeus let out a thunderous laugh and clapped once. “Black! It’s been a while. As to you Cearr.” He waved a more… impersonal greeting to the other gathered asura, not out of any disrespect but out of ignorance of what best to address them as. Though he took a note from Shu’s songsheet and added a small. “As to you, Gundyr, Klaus and Dragon’s Doll, how goes.”
  • Cearr grunts and raises a hand in welcome.
  • Dragon’s Doll bows low.

Black:
Yeah, hey!

Gunta Taldottr:
Pleased, I’m sure.

Kris Klaus:
Ho, ho, ho, what a gathering this is!

  • Lolat stands idle, arms crossed.

Lolat:
This is your show, Maeve. I’ll let you handle this however you want.

Shu Lin:
“If you’d prefer to sit back, Maeve, I can handle the talking.”

  • Maeve nods appreciatively. “Say your pieces if you have them. A ruler needs good advisors as well.” She then looks to the gathered grouping. “I am here to discuss the matter of the Bull’s Icewall in the North. As of today my campaign is taking priority according to the Yozi. However, I wish to hear if there is any clash of interests between us as well.”
  • Cearr shakes his head.

Dragon’s Doll:
My Lord supports this undertaking.

Black:
Let’s kick evil empire ass!

Gunta Taldottr:
I will work as the Yozis will it.

Kris Klaus:
I cannot say I have any objections. The Bull, for all the good he did in civilizing the North, is not a kindly king, to say the least.

  • Shu Lin raises an eyebrow to Black’s attitude. Once everyone’s done, she clears her throat. “As you’ve guessed by now, the end goal is to melt the icewall and break the bull’s kingdom. Maeve wants Bull personally, but the rest? We’re working with Lolat’s cult. That means we do it right, we won’t have to kill everyone between us and him. We can convert and subvert. We do it right, we’ll only have to fight his most fiercely loyal and loyally fierce fighters, his circle, and him. That’d be best, so we can move up to the second objective and conslidate for it. We’re killing the Bull so that Hell can be the one to reclaim the center of Creation. We need our forces and our peoples properly prepared and ready for it. Land with good farms, people happy and loyal.”

Shu Lin:
“Once we’ve got all that, we can move up and be the force that ends the petty squabbling that’s keeping Creation out of good rule.”

  • Thaddeus remains oddly silently, rubbing his chin in thought, occassionally casting a sizing eye over the collected group. An unrestrained smirk growing on his face. “To be honest, looking at what we have, the most fierce part of the task is going to be putting the bull himself on ice so to speak. I doubt he’d be ready for anything we can drop on him, we’re not really the foes he’s looking out for.” He clapped once more. “So, no real hard job until the day of the big show, aye?” He seemed fairly happy but then again, that was Thaddeus. “Even if he goes the way of trying to put our little cult to the torch, he’s burning his own stuff. But we’ll try take it for ourselves anyway.”

Maeve:
Aptly put by both of you. Now, since there’s no objections. Tell me what you all specialize in. We need to start forming strategies now. I am also interested in cutting off the Halta Republic and the Lover’s barbarians. If you have any ideas on how to deal with either, I’m all ears.

Cearr:
A word of advice first. We’re playing with fire. The Bull’s cult is already under siege by the Bishop. We do have the advantage of surprise, but that’ll only last us so long. For my specialties, I’m sure you already know. I break things. For Halta, we need to deal with its Lunar architects. Might want to bring in Tigershark. For the Tear Eaters, bribery. We can’t afford to piss off the Deathbitch, or she’ll trip us up at the worst moment.
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Dragon’s Doll:
I know things forbidden, and may trespass in places sacred. I can assassinate, but that is a waste of my powers. My analysis on strategy is as follows. The dead are a matter for another time. Placate them for now. I agree too that Halta is no real danger – only the Lunars which may remember their duty is to protect monsters like the Bull from monsters like us. My Lord would destroy them all from within, but he understands that method may be too slow.

Black:
It’s simple, right? There’s nine of us, and what, five, six including the Bull? If we can just get enough guys to hold off his army, we can march right in and kick his ass! Hell, we could maybe get some of our guys on the inside and show his army how much cooler we are! And you know, I know we’re supposed to be fighting him, but maybe we shouldn’t at first? Work with him to take out the Deathlords first! Then his army will already KNOW how cool we are! Then we can make all of them our groupies in a good old fashioned battle of the bands! Same with those other guys!

  • Maeve disconcertingly ogles at Black.

Gunta Taldottr:
Honestly, I don’t know how the Bull got this far without catching the Queen’s attention. Provoke her. Imply the Bull is more respected than she is, and watch the fireworks. Easy, and barely any work for us. The Vicar can directly compete against the Bishop. That leaves Tigershark for the Lunars, and someone like the Doll over there for the Lover. Simple and clean.

Kris Klaus:
I find myself agreeing with the little one and that scamp, Black. We should take our time. Provide aid to the Bull against the Deathlords. Make him dependent upon our goodwill. Then add a price tag.

Shu Lin:
“The Lover and the Bishop… I’ll have to refresh myself on what I know about them. Black, we’re not here to make friends with the Bull. We’re here to kill him—the more work we do FOR him, the easier it is for him to stab us in the back and march on the Realm over our dead bodies. Gundyr, we’re supposed to do this, and we’re going to do this. The Queen’s got better to deal with, and the Vicar’s better focused on managing his other contacts. Klaus, we’re going on that sort of thing from a different angle—not as friends to the bull, but as the Superior Option. A better gift with a smaller price, at least at first.”

  • Maeve begins to stroke her chin in consideration. Two similiar ideas, but also key differences as well. Tigershark seemed like a must in general though. Another stop to be made before returning to Linowa. “No, he would not betray us. The Bull is many things, but an oathbreaker he’s not.” Still, she did not commit to the idea just yet.

Shu Lin:
“You’d have to be able to extract an oath from him first.”

Shu Lin:
“Still… I can’t say that ripping the pale shades out of the equation first isn’t tempting. Maeve, it’s your call here. I’ll do what I can to head whatever project you give me.”

Thaddeus:
I think… perhaps we are thinking too much like we have only option to take. There is ways to blend the ideas for… more sure results.

  • Maeve nods. “Correct. Even with bribery, we still cannot count out the Tear Eaters no matter what. The Deathwhored be at our asses even if she wasn’t so shameless already.” She crosses her arms. “I shall speak to Tigershark about the Halta matter regardless. And… a temporary measure to make peace with the Bull as well. If we are to lull him into a false sense of security, I will have to pretend to pay reverence to the fact he killed two of us already.” She doesn’t sound particularly happy, though she doesn’t sound angry either.

Shu Lin:
“That’s not a hard act to put on. You’re a warrior, you respect warriors on any side of a battlefield. South, in the Hundred Kingdoms, alliances and enemies could change day to day. You don’t hold a grudge, you celebrate your opponent’s skill as much as your own. And then when they’re the enemy again, you kill them knowing a worthy warrior took them down.”

  • Shu Lin shrugs again. “It’s not that different, except that you’ll be faking it.”

Maeve:
Quite. And while the front lines will face the Lover’s savages and undead, the back line shall be permeated with Lolat’s cult.

  • Shu Lin nods, cracking her knuckles.

Thaddeus:
And should either of the frontlines do too well… we can ‘adjust’ that. A draining war suits them just fine.

  • Maeve nods.

Maeve:
Our perceived focus will be the goal of eliminating the Lover, but our real goal shall be corrupting their spirits. To that end, we will need to be careful and take this slowly. A rushed victory will not get us anywhere that we need to be.

Shu Lin:
“Depending on how much Bull knows, having me on the team might sell that a bit better too, Maeve. Not sure how far news spreads, but I haven’t really made secret my grudge against the Underworld.”

Lolat:
A solid plan, ‘sfar as I can see. I don’t think Mama Lil would mind the diversion with the Deathlords. I can start laying the groundwork more easily if the Bull and myself are “together” against a common foe. If you try dealing with the ‘Shark, you’ll be stuck here a while. I’ll head to Creation as soon as the exit parade starts so we don’t lose any time.

  • Maeve nods. “Go ahead. Shu Lin, accompany her as well. The two of you together will prove good for selling our perceived goal.”

Shu Lin:
“I was just about to offer, Maeve.”

  • Shu Lin sounds a bit miffed. Just a tad. But shrugs again—it’s not important.

Shu Lin:
“I’ll come with you, Lolat, if you don’t mind.”

Lolat:
An extra blade is always welcome.

Shu Lin:
“Alright. I wish the rest of you the best of luck in your sides of things.”

Thaddeus:
Aye, nice to have it but not like we need it. Eh? We have this dealt with, we just need to put a plan into motion.

Shu Lin:
“Never scorn luck as a factor. And any plan’ll break once it hits the battlefield. Just be ready to pick up the pieces.”

  • Maeve nods. “All of you may do as you wish for the time being as well. I have some business with Vicar Murmur as well that I’ll need to attend to before I depart. Our meeting place shall be the capitol of the Linowan State, Rubylak.”
  • Lolat nods and gives a curt salute before heading off to the parade grounds.
  • Shu Lin gives a showier bow, more fit for a musician, before heading off. With her back visible, so to is the instrument strapped to her back. A long wooden rectangle, with a raised divider and numerous strings, the guzheng was fully functional… and perfectly sized to hide her favored weapon.

Thaddeus:
Oi, Black and Klaus? Don’t suppose I can borrow ya’s for a few minutes, sound out an idea.

Black:
Sure thing!

Kris Klaus:
Oho?

Maeve:
Caerr, would you mind accompanying me for a time as well?

  • Cearr grunts, using his axe to stand.
  • Maeve nods appreciatively and begins to walk off with her fellow Northern warrior.

Thaddeus:
I think I have a plan that’ll be more than enticing to you both.

  • Thaddeus laughed again and clapped his hands, wringing them with a growing excitement.

Thaddeus:
How does the notion of making the most appealing cult in all the land strike you both?

Kris Klaus:
Well, Lolat is a nice girl, but I hardly think she’ll best me.

Black:
You’re talking like I’m not already the hottest idol in all five directions!

Thaddeus:
And I have many good men for spreading even better word. But… aye… this plan comes with a price. We need a ‘practice’ go first. That is why I propose we use Lolat for that and kill two birds with one stone. We do our current job, we practice the technique and it’s only kept to the North.

Kris Klaus:
Primacy is an important factor in matters like this.

Black:
Ugh, it’s a pain to unseat old favorites, yeah.

Thaddeus:
Ahahaha, that’s why we do it now. Her’s will be a cult to replace the Bull’s. We won’t leave it enough time to settle roots. It just needs to be ‘good enough’ to overtake his and from there it’ll be easily outdone because we can do the repeat performance better. The hardest part will actually be the existing cults in Creation, Lolat’s will be but a passing gust.

Thaddeus:
Think of her’s as the gateway into ours.

Kris Klaus:
Hmph. Trying to tell us whatever you think we want to hear. You clearly haven’t heard what happened to the last men who tried to swindle Kris Klaus.

Black:
Come on, man, give him a chance!

Thaddeus:
I honestly am not trying to swindle you. What do I have to gain? If I wanted to set up some cult about me and screw you two out of it, I’d be stupid and send out my men for that. Lolat is a mere stepping stone but a stepping stone never the less that most be used, it’s why’s she’s here. Had I choice I skip but we have to work with what we are given. She is happily going to eat up the feast she is being given for so little work beyond ‘be like the bull’ whilst we would be the ones best suited and most likely will end up spreading the word and fixing the backline. I am instead trying to order a more fair deal that works in the long term as it suits having more wide-spreading cults under our own. If you really do not trust me, you can put a contract on it, so firm is my belief in this.

Kris Klaus:
Your beliefs may truly be firm, but you are yound and do not understand the hearts of men, much less the cold hearts of the North. But I fear your heart is all the colder, so ready to betray Lolat. I refuse your black gift.

Black:
Well, if my name’s already on it, Kris.

Black:
I’m in.

Thaddeus:
Very well. I hold it not against you if that is what you truly believe. Regardless these things look to the future beyond the death of the Bull and we shall not deviate from the plan until then, less we place the works and wills of the Yozi into danger. Black, our time will come, aye?

Black:
Just like the fans when I blast out a solo!

Kris Klaus:
Hmph.

  • Kris Klaus walks off and begins speaking to Gunta.
  • Maeve strides on along to Tigershark’s most likely location. Flakes of rust fall around her as usual, dissipating into dust as they touch the brass framework of the city. She hasn’t spoken yet, but after a moment more, she finally does. “My offer to the former Talinin territory is open as always. But that’s not why I wanted to speak to you. How goes your battles, Caerr?”

Cearr:
The offer is appreciated, but the Talinin have passed. The same for good fights. No matter how I handicap myself, I cannot be beaten. I almost miss those days when we were frantically trying to establish a foothold in hostile territory. I’m worried most of the fight against the Bull will be cowardly manipulations or the massacre of mortals.

  • Maeve contemplates his answer. “Hmm. Yes, I can agree. I would prefer to combat him myself, one-on-one with just the two of us. But that isn’t an option. I’ve tried.” She shakes her head a bit. “The goal to take out the Lover is no less of a real one either. The sooner she’s gone, the better for all of us no matter what color we identify with. So I must ask. When the time comes, will you stop me? You know that at the end of this, I don’t care about what the Yozi want. I want my fight. Win or lose. If the time comes and the Bull looks to slay me, let him. He will have earned it.”

Cearr:
Mm. If you wish a warrior’s death, I won’t take it from you. But there’s a difference between a warrior’s death and a youngling’s ideal of it. Do not make the mistake of throwing your life away for a disgrace of a fight.

  • Maeve grimaces at the vey thought. “No. I would accept nothing less than the Bull at his peak. Anything besides would be an embarassment to him and myself. He is the reason that I became an Asura. My failure to put up even a struggle against the most dominant Solar of the past generation.” She shakes her head again. “No. Anything lest than facing him at his best is not worth striving for.” Maeve stops after a moment more. Just short of her goal. She turns and looks at Caerr. “But I must ask. What fight did you seek this week of revelry?”

Cearr:
I spent some time in the arena. Who doesn’t? My real fight is deeper. We barely age, but I would be nearly an elder of my people, now. So I fight the battle that all old warriors do. I war with the idea that strength of arms cannot solve what really matters.

  • Maeve shakes her head.

Maeve:
Your rage may be gone, but I can see it in your eyes. That fire never dies no matter how much we think we can put it aside. Regardless, if you do not wish to speak of it, then I shall not pry. I hope you found success in what you sought.

Cearr:
I found answers but also more questions. You are young. You will not come to understand unless years or a great tragedy weighs upon you. Enough of this. What did you wish of me as the commander of this operation?

  • Maeve nods, respectful of his words. No matter what his goal, Maeve held a great respect for the iconic warrior of the Asura.

Maeve:
I wish for you to do as you always have. Fight with me. Against the Lover first and foremost and then join me in the campaign upon the Bull himself. I shall not shy away from the front line. At any rate, that’s all I wished to speak with you about. I shall not take up any more of your time.

Cearr:
Very well. Good hunting.

  • Cearr nods and wanders off.

Maeve:
And to you.

  • Maeve continues on her way to Tigershark.

Tigershark:
Ah, the little lamb seeks the butcher of her own accord. How might we help you?

  • Tigershark is awaiting the beginning of the parade by eating a full-course meal. Entire benches otherwise reserved for seating are covered in countless dishes.

Maeve:
Goat.

Tigershark:
Do not be so harsh. You are still young and succulent.

  • Maeve chuckles a little.

Maeve:
At any rate, I was hoping to speak with you about the Lunars of Halta. I have been striving towards a peace with them, but it goes slowly. Too slowly given I’m now more pressured than ever to take down the Bull.
Cliffjord is disconnected.
Cliffjord has connected.

Tigershark:
Ah, so many fear to follow our recipies, though we are the Chef de Cuisine of that particular kitchen. We thank you for showing proper respect. Rain Deathflyer and Silver Python are not unreasonable. Yet, it will a bitter flavor for them. Long have they worked to perfect the dish of Halta, to season it just so. They will not believe we can properly keep you dish and theirs seperate. I will speak to my wife and wine to see what pressures she can apply from within the Silver Spoon. With luck, we may convince them Halta would be a delectable soup to sit beside a goat’s salad.

Maeve:
I see. And what price would you ask for your assistance?

Tigershark:
Only what we ourselves cooked. The Lunars will be but an aftertaste one day. When that day comes, we wish to take the long-cured Halta four ourselves. How delectable it is! It is almost what we would create, if we wished to cultivate a society instead of baking one from scratch.

Maeve:
Very well. I will offer you all due assistance in the matter as you have provided me. On the day you seek to make Halta yours, I shall aid you.

Tigershark:
That is all we ask. We enjoy the challenge of crafting new dishes from limited ingredients.

  • Maeve steps closer and removes a rusted gauntlet from her hand before offering it to Tigershark.
  • Tigershark accepts the handshake. His hand almost passes for human, but it begins to lather itself to clean away the rust and keep it sanitary for cooking.

Maeve:
Have a good meal, Tigershark. I shall bring you some Northern food when next we speak.

Maeve:
By the way, do you know where Vicar Murmur is? I have to speak to him about an order.

  • Tigershark wrinkles his nose.

Tigershark:
…like biting into our fork….

Tigershark:
The metal metropolitan is no doubt nearby. I can smell his lust.

Tigershark:
We would lead you to him, but we cannot abide that foul flavor. Even now, it threatens to ruin our appetite.

  • Tigershark shows no signs of stopping eating.

Maeve:
Mind pointing it out then?

Tigershark:
There is the origin of the stench.

  • Tigershark waves toward a building decorated with azure banners and marks of the priesthood.

Maeve:
Ah, thank you.

  • Maeve puts her gauntlet on again and nods her head to him before taking her leave.
  • Gabrien Murmur is seated behind an altar while serfs make last-minute decorations to his armor for the parade. He taps his foot anxiously and nods as Maeve enters.
  • Maeve heads towards Murmur, nodding her head in return. The man was anxious as ever when it came to Walpurgisnacht. “You know, you really need to figure out how to get some temproary fix when you have to be apart, Gabrien.”

Gabrien Murmur:
Look.

  • Gabrien Murmur ’s voice drops.

Gabrien Murmur:
I am wearing her thong right now, and it is riding me like Kyrie rides Ligier, but it’s not helping.

  • Maeve disconcertingly ogles Murmur.
  • Maeve pats him on the shoulder.

Maeve:
Well, the parade’s soon at least. Just have to hang in there for the trip across Cecylene and then you’re good.

Gabrien Murmur:
Oh, nonono! I FULLY exercise my rights as her favorite. She doesn’t cut the time for anyone, but she does smuggle Tris all the way to the border of the City without telling Malfeas.

  • Maeve chuckles.

Gabrien Murmur:
So, what’s up?

  • Gabrien Murmur shifts uncomfortably, trying to find relief from the thong.

Maeve:
Ah, right. I’d almost forgotten.

Maeve:
Out of curiosity, where are you due to set the city after Walpurgis?

Gabrien Murmur:
I don’t even keep track of where they roam anymore. Did you want me to wheel it around to Rubylak?

Maeve:
I’d appreciate it. The Yozis are hounding after me to finish the job with the Bull. But I’d also like to use him to take out the Lover while I’m at it. A two for one deal would be best. I was hoping to have an order completed for the campaign as well.

Gabrien Murmur:
Sure, whatever you need. Pull Annie aside for the details, and I’ll go over them with Tris.

  • Maeve nods. “I’ll let you get back to this then. Also, your right armguard is missing the decals the left has.” With that bit of constructive critique done, she pulls Aniastora aside to discuss her plans.

Gabrien Murmur:
Argh! Why is any of this necessary?!

  • Aniastora bows respectfully.

Aniastora:
As always, forgive my master’s lack of manners. Now, how may I help you?

  • Maeve brushes it aside with a wave of the hand. “It’s fine. I prefer blunt as you might imagine. Anyways.” Maeve takes a moment to pause and put together the details in her mind.

Maeve:
I am looking for a Warstrider. Any material will do. But I want it equipped with a special piece of equipment as well. I’m looking to kill a Deathlord and they don’t die easily. In that vein, I was contemplating something like a ‘soulcatcher’. Similar to that Soulsteel the Black Exalts work with. Something that could capture and contain the soul of the Lover to make sure that she troubles us no more.

Aniastora:
This is a wicked art. Cecelyne is capable of it in her hypocrisy, of course.

  • Aniastora sighs.

Aniastora:
But it will be difficult. We will need to reach out to our Underworld contacts.

  • Maeve nods. “I understand if this is no short order. I didn’t expect it to be. But I can assure you it shall be worth it.”

Aniastora:
I will record your wishes and list the steps my master must take in order to fulfill them, but I fear this is a trivial solution. Ah, I mean trivial in the Autochthonian sense. It is altogether too easy and so will hide fatal flaws. The Vicar will begin on the warstrider immediately, but I pray you reconsider you choice in weapon.

  • Maeve makes a gesture for Aniastora to go on, paying heed to her words.

Aniastora:
The Deathlords are already in bondage. To capture the spirit of one would surely require a greater power than the-

  • Aniastora coughs.

Aniastora:
Great Dead Ones.

Maeve:
I see. Then it would really just be a waste of time. Hmm.

Maeve:
Or rather, too dangerous to toy with. At any rate, if not that, then I’d request an array of weaponry instead. I shall simply have to go the route of overkill to make certain she stays down.

Aniastora:
I shall the Vicar apply some thought to it. If not him, then perhaps the second or third princesses would have ideas. You shall have a fine warstrider come the time of battle, have no doubt.

Maeve:
Thank you, Aniastora. For your advice and wisdom as well.

Aniastora:
It was my pleasure, Lady Maeve.

Maeve:
Ah, come to think of it. Isn’t one of their birthdays soon?

Aniastora:
Ah, I am afraid you missed it. The young lady Trishula just turned fifteen.

Maeve:
Ah, tsk. I’ll have to arrange a late gift. Do you know what she’d like?

Aniastora:
Well, she already received a new direlance, so perhaps something of a more utilitarian nature.

Maeve:
Hmm. Well, anyways. I shall leave you to helping Gabrien. Have a good day, Aniastora.

Aniastora:
And a pleasant day to you as well, Lady Maeve.

  • Maeve bids goodbye to Aniastor and Gabrien both before taking her leave. With little else to do, she simply decides to wait and watch the parade.

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