Dynasty of Dovak

BY : JohnDoe
Category: +A through F > Exalted RPG
Dragon prints: 2113
Disclaimer: White Wolf, Exalted and Exalted 3rd Edition are all trademarks of White Wolf Publishing AB, and official characters, names, places and text are copyrighted by White Wolf. I do not own Exalted and I'm not making money from this fiction.

Session 24 – Reya (70XP 56DX, 67/47 spent) and Melody – A Family Affair

 

As Reya and Nanals return to Dovak, they find Melody waiting for them.

 

“Did you find the tunnels?” Reya asks.

 

“We did. Bekara has a full report,” She turns to Nanals, “Your daughters would like to consult with you.”

 

Nanals speeds away with a nod and a shrug as Reya dissipates her Stormwind Rider.

 

“She doesn’t want to talk to me?” Reya questions, a note of playfulness in her voice.

 

“No, she does.” Melody seems very serious, “But I need to speak with you first. Can we talk in private. In confidence.” Reya lets Melody lead her to a secluded spot, and Melody continues, “I’m pregnant, sister.”

 

Reya beams, “That’s fantastic news!”
 

Melody looks at her seriously, “I don’t think my husband is going to share your enthusiasm.”

 

“Oh Melody, what have you done?” Reya puts her head in her hands.

 

“I know. I’ve… I made a mistake. A big mistake. I love your brother, Reya, I do. I need your help.”

 

“Why me?” Reya moans into her hands.

 

“When I was pregnant with Jorod, Ferad said that, in the Realm, the Matriarch was the one who dealt with these sorts of problems.” She offers Reya a weak smile.

 

“Don’t try to flatter me. But you’re right, we’ll take this to mother.”

 

“NO!” Melody grabs at Reya, “You can’t do that to me. You know what she did last time. Listen… you’ve always accepted me, but she hasn’t. Ever. She won’t forgive this. Please.”

 

Reya takes her hands away and stands tall, “Fine. I’ll fix this. First I need you,” She screws up her face in disgust, “To sleep with your husband.”

 

“Done. I’m not an idiot. Already done.”

 

Reya graciously lets the idiot remark slip, “Who else have you told?”

 

“No-one.”

 

“Good. You don’t tell anyone. Not Ferad. Not the father. You don’t talk about this with me. This conversation never happened. It’s Ferad’s baby.” When Melody doesn’t look reassured, Reya sighs, “By the Dragons I am going to regret asking this: who is the father?”

 

Tomonas.” Melody coughs out under her breath.

 

“Oh I know that I misheard that. I definitely misheard that.” Reya rages, barely constraining the volume of her voice to normal speaking volume.

 

“It’s Tomonas, okay? The past month, Ganan and I have been sneaking out to go spar with him. He’s lonely.”

 

“He has a harem!” Melody is silent and just looks at the ground, Reya continues, “This… complicates things. For me. You… just stay quiet. I’ll fix this. But I’m serious, you never talk about this again. You don’t thank me. You don’t come looking for vengeance against me. Not tomorrow. Not in two hundred years. You’ll keep the baby: it’s yours and Ferad’s. And I’ll make sure this doesn’t blow up in our faces.”

 

“What are you going to do?”

Reya looks at Melody seriously, “You are my sister, and I love you. And I love my brother. I am going to protect the both of you, and the less you know, the happier you and your husband will be. So do your duty to your Matriarch, and keep your mouth shut and don’t go looking for trouble. Understood?”

 

Melody nods, and Reya hugs her.

 

“Good.” Reya continues, “Then we have the joyous news of two pregnancies to share.”

 

****

 

Reya and Melody ride back to the Wall on Clapper as twilight turns to night. Muli and Jorod welcome them, they make their way to the makeshift salon. All the Dragons are assembled, apart from Ganan.

 

“See, someone can follow the instructions to travel in pairs!” Muli says pointedly, casting disparaging looks at Agoram and Nanals as Reya and Melody enter.

 

In the brief space between joke and insult, Reya claps her hands for everyone’s attention, “My dear family. Mnemon Gracious Pealing Melody and I each have some excellent news in this trying time. You’ll forgive Melody’s pallor: it’s early days for her yet,” She settles her eyes pointedly on Mnemon Jorod, “And she’s not as experienced in to how we makes these announcements as I am.”

 

A look of shocked realization settles on Alinos’ and Bekara’s faces, Nanals looks smug. The men look suitably bewildered.


Reya gently puts a hand on Melody’s back and pushes her forward to speak, “We’re pregnant.” She blurts out.

 

In a flash, Ferad is at his wife’s side, beaming.

 

Nanals approaches the trio and smiles approvingly at Melody (who grids herself against making a scene), she turns to Ferad, “I always suspected you were capable of siring a child in wedlock.” Ferad flushes but says nothing, and Nanals moves on to Reya, laying a withered hand on her stomach, “Let’s hope it’s not twins again.”

 

The other Dragons fall in, Alinos and Johon are next. In a rare display of affection, the Matriarch embraces the three in turn as she offers her congratulations, and Johon clasps his son mightily.

 

Bekara approaches with Jorod and they offer their stiff congratulations, until Ferad pulls his illegitimate son in close for a tight embrace in front of the whole family.

 

Nula then approaches, Muli rising to go with her, but she waves him back. She bows formally to her elders in turn and expresses delight at having a new little brother or sister and a new cousin. Then Muli and Tepet Agoram approach with a similar formal stiffness to Bekara and Jorod, but no tender embrace is forthcoming from Reya who remains formal.

 

“It’s a shame father isn’t here.” Muli offers pointedly.

 

Reya smiles the perfect smile of the unflappable matriarch, “I had intended to keep my good news for my husband’s return,” She lays her hands on Melody’s shoulders, “But when my dear sister confided that she was nervous of breaking the news, I agreed to share the spotlight and I reassured her that none of the family would be so crass as to draw attention to indiscretions that might make her uncomfortable. That if we simply announced we – two happily married Dynasts – were pregnant, then only the most socially inept oaf would attempt to cast a pall on that happiness. And I’m sure your father would be happy to join me in support and love for our sister-in-law.”

 

Melody lowers her voice and her eyes, “I am very sorry Mnemon Alinos Muli, that Cynis Ganan is not here to join our celebrations. It was selfish of me to exclude him and I meant no disrespect.”

 

Johon chimes in, “Nonsense. I was on campaign when Ferad was born! I didn’t even know I had another son until he was nearly three!”

 

“Indeed,” Bekrara adds, “It doesn’t do to be overly attached to ones children or parents.”

 

Somehow, Alinos has managed to subtly work her way around the room and everyone is now holding a charged glass, before anyone else can say anything Alinos raises a toast, “Well said sister. Family and the House comes first. This is a joyous occasion: two new Mnemon children. To the Dynasty!”

 

The assembled Dragons toast, Nanals drains her wine in a single gulp then relieves the pregnant women of their glasses with the inebriated grace of an old letcher.

 

Reya turns to Muli and lowers her voice, “You do understand, don’t you? Your father and I wanted to tell you and your sister when he returned, then break the news as a family. But with the scandal around your cousin…”

 

Muli nods in mute understanding as Ferad noisily clasps Reya by the shoulder, “Where is my brother-in-law anyway? Secret mission, I’ve heard – very hush, hush.”

 

“Oh you know my husband: he always says he does his best work on his own.”

 

Muli’s face turns from happy to back sour, and Nula ruffles indignantly.

 

“Still,” Ferad pushes, “With an Anathema on the loose? We’re stronger together.”

 

“Ganan is far from here by now. He’ll be back soon enough and his success will be evident. Or he’ll be dead, and we’ll all learn a valuable lesson about what happens when you go off on your own without the support of your family.” She looks pointed at Nanals.

 

“Ganan will be fine,” Melody smiles at her husband and her sister-in-law, “Stop needling your sister. How are our Guild contacts? We’ll need resources to rebuild.”

 

Ferad gives a shrug, “We’ve sent word to Brightsky and set the peasants to clearing the rubble. We’re short on everything: food, building materials… mercenaries.”

 

“Mercenaries?” Reya questions.

 

“Of course,” Melody replies, “I was serious about pushing the attack. The Anathema heal quickly: we should be in those tunnels right now.”

 

Reya motions Nula over, “Then let’s go.”

 

****

 

Reya, Melody, Nula and Crown of Laurels arrive at the tunnel entrance.

 

Moonlight illuminates them in the darkness as Melody reveals the hidden passage, and they make their way inside.

 

The underground tunnels are pitch-black, the Dragon’s light torches and gaze at their surroundings: the tunnels are wide enough to walk three abreast, but not quite wide enough for Clapper. They are perfectly cylindrical, the walls are smooth and round: Reya touches them to find they feel like glass.

 

“We haven’t gone any further than this.” Melody confesses, “It’d be miles of tunnel from here to Ursa Arcus. I suspect it’s all part of an interlinked network.”

“Well… only one way to find out.” Reya intrepidly heads down the tunnel, Laurels padding along at her side. Nula and Melody follow after.

 

“How are your wounds?” Melody asks Nula after a while.

 

“I’m fine. Thank you for rescuing me.”

 

“Don’t mention it. What are family for?” Melody gives her an encouraging smile.

 

“Ah-ha!” Reya cries as the path branches into a fork. One branch seems to head into the mountains and the other toward Dovak – but it’s hard to be sure. “Nula, take Laurels and see where this fork lets out, then call in the soldiers to collapse that part of the tunnel.”

 

“Sure, not like I have anything better to do. Might as well get eaten alive by an Anathema.” Nula grumbles as she heads down the tunnel with the Elemental plodding after her.

 

Reya and Melody continue on. Their part of the tunnel starts to get wider after the fork, until it gets to large enough that it would accommodate Clapper.

 

“We’re definitely heading towards the mountains,” Melody confirms, “But we’re not heading uphill.”

 

“Yet.” Reya states simply.

 

The pair continue on, and start to notice drawings on the walls of the tunnels.

 

“Freaky. What do you think Rey?” Melody holds her torch up to the wall to get a better look.

 

Reya looks at the design, the glass has been stained with an image of vast and almost incomprehensible violence. She runs her fingers against the design to find the wall as smooth as any of the others. Reya and Melody walk some distance down the tunnel as Reya takes in more of the design before offering her opinion, “It’s the River of All Torments. One of the ancient enemies of the gods and the Elemental Dragons.”

 

Melody shudders, “And it’s been dead for thousands of years, right? Tell me we’re not walking into its lair here!”

 

Reya shakes her head, still absorbed in the imagery, “Not dead. Imprisoned. Long ago. These tunnels must predate the Realm Before.”

 

“That doesn’t make sense… the Tower of Air, and the bear-folk city, you said they were clearly of Shogunate design. Why would these tunnels be older than the settlement?”

 

“Why indeed.” Reya crosses the tunnel to look at the opposite wall. She does not recognize the beings depicted there, but they don’t appear overly dissimilar to demons. “Do you think Tomonas might know?”

 

“I… I’m not sure. He definitely knows more about Dovak than he’s letting on. He’s not a fool: he knows the bear-folk worship him openly. I’d be surprised if he didn’t know about Lame Louve. I’d like to think he’d tell us about tunnels that could be used to burn the city to the ground decorated with ancient enemies to the Dragons.”

 

Reya twitches irritably, “The bear-folk put out the fires, sister. The dead were the ones who tried to burn the city to the ground.”

 

“And the bearfolk loaded my husband and child into the back of a cart and sent them off into the wilderness to die after breaking our peace accord and siding with the dead. So you’ll forgive me for misspeaking.”

 

“I heard that mother finished off Shriek.” Reya changes the subject.

 

“Yes. Chopped the bitch’s head off and sent her screaming into the Void.” Melody pauses, “What happened with Gan? I know you left to stop Nanals summoning a demon. And I know you and Nanals came back, but Gan didn’t.”

 

“Daimother sent Ganan to Malfeas so she could free a demon. It’s… complicated magic, well beyond what I believed to be possible. Come the new moon, they should swap places again. If Nanals was telling the truth. And if the magic works as it should.”

 

“You’re worried he’ll be stuck?”

 

“Would you trust daimother sending Ferad to hell?”

 

“No.” Melody says simply, “I don’t trust her at all.”


Reya snorts in acknowledgment, “How do you think these tunnels are aerated?” She changes the subject, noticing the smoke from her torch seems to rise up to the glass ceiling, then slowly fade away.

 

Melody shakes her head, “How do you think these tunnels were made?”

 

Reya winces, “Hopefully? A long dead behemoth.”

 

“How is that the best option?” Melody grips her bow tightly in her left hand, ready to drop her torch at a moment’s notice.

 

Reya stops to examine the glass wall. She strikes it hard with her axe: it doesn’t so much as leave a scratch.

 

Reya hears Nula’s voice, “I’m out. South side of the city. Collapsing now.” Reya relays this information to Melody.

 

“Well that’s one tunnel down. Do we press on?”

 

Reya shakes her head, “If we carry on we’ll be walking until morning. Let’s turn back.” She begins summoning a Stormwind Rider.

 

Melody hears a skittering noise in the distance, “Uh… Rey?”

 

“I’m working on it!” Reya barks, trying to summon the Stormwind one-handed as she holds her torch high, using her Essence to speed the casting.

 

Melody drops her torch to the floor and draws an arrow. The gathering winds cause her light to gutter and die, reducing visibility. The skittering noises grow louder, quicker and more numerous.

 

“Seriously Rey!”

 

Reya ignores her and keeps working as Melody takes aim into the darkness. The skittering is now a clashing thunder – like a phalanx of armored troops marching on loose stone. And insectoid keening, chittering underscores the noise.

 

Melody takes a breath to steady herself, ready to let fly… just as Reya’s Stormwind whips into life, lifting them up as Reya guns it hard back to the entrance of the tunnel.

 

“Maybe your mother had a point...” Melody confesses as they speed back to Dovak.

 

“Did you get a good look at whatever it was?”

 

“No, it was too dark. What do you think it was?”

 

“If we’re unlucky? Whatever made the tunnel. If we’re very lucky? Maybe an illusion of some kind.”

 

“An illusion?”

 

“Those walls were basically impregnable, we didn’t exactly see a lot of plant and animal life in those tunnels, clearly the bearfolk can march through them with impunity… it could be some kind of demon that doesn’t need food, and that’d match with the imagery we found. But it could be an auditory illusion designed to scare off intruders: it would be a fairly simple piece of sorcery. I’ll ask mother in the morning.”

 

They ride back to the Wall and Reya leads Melody back to her quarters with Ferad. Ferad is glad to see them, and takes Reya into the corridor to speak out of Melody’s earshot. Melody presses an ear to the door and listens in.

 

“Thank you.” Ferad says earnestly.

 

Reya curtsies formally, “We’re family. I’d do anything for Melody.”

 

“Including fake a pregnancy?” Ferad asks matter-of-fact, “I know she told you about Nanals taking Jorod. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for you softening the blow… but people are going to notice if you’re not pregnant.”

 

“I am pregnant, brother. So is Melody.” Reya looks at Ferad askance.

 

Ferad looks at Reya, studying the Loquacious Courtier hard, “Something is off about this. We’re on the same side. You’re my sister, Melody is my wife. Tell me.”

 

Reya leans in conspiratorially, “I will. Come to my room tomorrow night. We have… a problem… Don’t tell Melody, you’ll only upset her but… I need you to do something… distasteful. For the House.”

 

Ferad makes a grimace but nods stiffly, “Is this about...” He trails off vaguely, gesturing towards the Tower of Air.

 

“It’s for the House.” Reya says firmly, “Tomorrow night.” She turns and goes back to her room.

 

Ferad returns to Melody and they retire for the night.

 

*****

 

Next morning Ferad, Melody, Nula and Reya assemble for breakfast. Laurels lazily lollops back to Reya, who affectionately scratches the carnivorous plant-beast behind the maw.

 

“Did you manage to collapse the tunnel?” Melody asks Nula.

 

Nula shakes her head, “Turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. I put a couple of Fangs on it and turned in for the night. Either they’ve collapsed it in by now or we might have a problem.”

 

“We definitely have a problem.” Reya shares, “Melody and I went deeper into the tunnel – it got a lot wider, pictures of Yozi were baked into the walls, then we heard a sound like an army of giant insects advancing on us from the darkness?”

 

“Giant insects?” Ferad queries, looking at Melody.

 

“We don’t know what it was.” Melody confesses, “But it sounded like one huge monster or an army of little monsters.”

“It could have been an illusion,” Nula offers, “Maybe set off by me trying to collapse the tunnel? I didn’t hear anything though.”

 

“That’s what I said.” Reya nods sagaciously, looking at Nula with approval, “We should go back in force.”

 

Ferad shifts uncomfortably, “The Guild merchants should be sending a caravan today. I was hoping you might speak with them. You know how mother and the Satrap can be… with outsiders.”

 

Nula mocks weighing options on her hands: “Get eaten alive by insectoid demons… barter with the Guild...”

 

“Sign me up for demon-duty!” Melody thumps the table with enthusiasm.

 

“Oh no! He’s your husband! If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me!” Reya fires back, just as quickly.

 

“Then it’s settled. Nula and I will pick up Muli and Agoram and check out the tunnels in force, and the two of you can save Dovak.” Ferad beams.

 

Fine.” Melody grumbles.

 

“See if you can’t copy down some of the… pictures on the walls of the tunnel. I want to cross-reference them with Haseti’s library.” Reya adds.

 

“Wait...” Says Melody confused, “You actually have Haseti’s demonology library?”

 

“No,” Reya admits, “But I think we both know who does.” With feigned casualness, she adds to Ferad, “Stop by my chambers at the end of the day Ferad and catch me up on what you find – I’d ask Nula to keep me briefed, but if you stumble on some lost occult secrets then she’ll be too absorbed to remember her poor, suffering mother.”

 

“Great, I’ll come too!” Melody adds.

 

Ferad looks at her askance, the same way Reya looked at him the night before, “So after a day of negotiation with a Guild Merchant… you want to come listen to my sister and I debate architecture and demonology?”

 

“I will meet you back in our quarters when you are done!”

 

“Hmm… architecture…” Reya muses, “That gives me an idea. If we can’t collapse the tunnels, maybe we can fill them with rubble from the burned buildings? Stop them up and clear up the land so we can rebuild?”

 

“Good idea,” Melody agrees and turns to Ferad, “Take Clapper. He’s too big to go into the tunnels, but he can drag a lot of rubble.”

 

“Drag a lot of rubble where?” Jorod wanders into the room, he’s clearly been up for hours, long having breakfasted and immaculately groomed. Ferad quickly catches him up, and Jorod speaks again, “Sahar and I can help you with Brightsky if you want? She says he’s an ‘acquired taste’ but clearly I haven’t been here long enough to acquire it.”

 

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t trust that girl’s judgment of character.” Reya jokes.

 

Jorod appears impassive, but there’s just a hint of deliberate self restraint in his mannerisms, “I grew up with Mnemon Sahar. She might be mortal, but she’s a good judge of character. And she’s been in Dovak longer than any of us except her mother: she knows how to deal with Brightsky and what we need to rebuild. But if you don’t want us...”

 

“Of course we want you.” Melody lays a hand on her son’s arm, “We are very grateful for the offer. We were just joking about the Guild before you arrived.”

 

Reya nods carefully, “I hear she studied at the Spiral Academy?”

 

Jorod responds with his own careful nod and settles into a seat between Melody and Danireya, “Yes, she’s quite a talented governor.”

 

“Of course we’d be happy to have your help. From our meetings, I always had the impression that Sahar couldn’t wait to leave Dovak and I wouldn’t want to impose. But we are in crisis, and as you rightly say she is a great ‘talent’: we all must do our part and it would be foolish of me not to use your sister’s expertise.”

 

Melody obviously bristles at that remark, “Is it really necessary to continue the polite fiction that-”

 

Ferad thumps the table with his fist, cutting her off mid-sentence, “You… should take Laurels. Guildsmen love exotic creatures, and I’m not sure how well Clapper and Laurels will get along with neither of their mistresses present.”

 

Jorod smiles warmly at Melody, and she and Reya share a look.

 

Jorod and Laurels plod off to fetch Laurels, and Melody and Reya set off for the Royal Market to meet with Brightsky Vandertunt.

 

“Guild merchants really do love exotic creatures.” Reya confides, “The deliveries we received at the Heptagram… they’d fawn over the least interesting creatures: I think a domesticated Greenmaw will hold us in good stead.”

 

The entry-way market in the tower is practically deserted. Mnemon troops perfunctorily wave Reya and Melody through security and they ascend to the Royal Market. There are few traders, even here: nobles hoarding their resources, and making themselves seen by the people during the crisis; traders will little to trade. The Dragons take the chamber allocated for negotiating with Brightsky: it is well appointed with nuts, figs, and fine imported wines. Reya uncorks a V’neef vintage to let it breathe before the Merchant Prince arrives.

 

Jorod and Sahar soon arrive, and Crown of Laurels curls up at Reya’s feet.

 

Moments later Brightsky arrives, flanked by a large man wearing hotoke dō armor in the style of Lookshy. Brightsky seems to be dressed exclusively in dozens of overlapping silk scarves, the Lookshyan’s armor is plain black, not jade but exquisitely wrought.

 

Sahar pours the wine, everyone takes a glass but the large man who demurs as Brightsky speaks, “Dear Sahar-chan, where is Tinkara Denka? Jorod-san, it pleases this one to see you again.” He theatrically falters as he looks to Melody and Danireya.

 

“Princess Tinkara is resting. She was wounded in combat with an Anathema, but she will make a full recovery soon enough. This is Mnemon Alinos Danireya, my cousin and fellow advisor to the Satrap. She is an honored matriarch of House Mnemon and companion to the Princess. And this is her sister, Mnemon Alinos Gracious Pealing Melody.”

 

Melody cuts in, “Melody is fine.”

 

Brightsky still pauses, prompting Sahar to continue, “They are both enlightened Dragon-Blooded.” She intones pleasantly without a hint of envy.

 

Brightsky clasps his hands together with joy, “Yes, Danireya Hidenka! Tinkara Denka speaks highly of you! I believe I met your honored husband, Ganan-sama the Man of Bronze. Melody-sama, I your husband is well known to me – please give my regards to Ferad-sama.” He bows deeply, “This is my honored companion Amilar Jinsuc-Kazei of Lookshy.”

 

Melody cuts in again, “Kazei? You’re a Dragon-lord?”

 

Jinsuc nods stiffly, “Second Field Force,” He intones in flawless High Realm, “My grandfather… knows your grandmother.”

Brightsky’s eyes fall on Crown of Laurels, “What a magnificent creature!” He exclaims, mannerisms already starting to grate on Reya.

 

“Laurels,” Reya calls, and the elemental approaches Brightsky, “My Greenmaw. Don’t worry, he’s well fed.”

 

Jinsuc’s eyes narrow and he shifts slightly. The Dynasts note the flame piece at his side and the halberd on his back. The Merchant Prince fusses over the elemental killing machine as if it were a large dog.

 

“Fabulous creature! Now… shall we to business Danireya Hidenka. I notice several of my businesses have been… burned?”

 

“And your town-house,” Reya graciously concedes, “We were attacked by a Deathknight who set the city ablaze, and a Lunar Anathema.” She turns to Amilar Jinsuc, “We sent word to raise a Wyld Hunt, of course, and this is the consequence of meeting the Anathema with insufficient force.”

 

“Indeed.” Jinsuc intones.

 

“House Mnemon will, of course, rebuild your destroyed buildings. But we need supplies. And troops to hunt the Anathema down.”

 

Sahar pro-offers a slate listing the various requirements to rebuild to Brightsky, who glances at it perfunctorily.

 

Brightsky finishes his glass, “Is there more wine?” He inquires offhandedly.

 

Melody refreshes his drink herself and addresses Jinsuc, “Can we assume that your troops are for hire in this matter, Kazei?”

 

Jinsuc speaks carefully, “Brightsky is… an ally of the Seventh Legion. And given recent… tensions, with reports of Anathema, my grandfather saw prudent to arrange an escort into these dangerous lands. We are hired by the Guild, to protect Guild interests.”

 

“Which doesn’t preclude you from helping to burn these vipers from their nests.” Reya states, it is not a question.

 

“Nor does it compel me to commit my men to cover for the failures of the Realm.” Jinsuc shoots back, his demeanor unfailing polite.

 

Reya leans back casually to take the measure of the man. She deduces that he will commit his troops for the right incentive.

 

“Can the Guild meet our needs?” Melody inquires sweetly, gesturing at the slate list.

 

“Of course Melody-sama. The Guild is honored by the patronage of the Dragon-Blooded. There are only the matters of credit and delivery.” He spreads his hands in an open shrug, “A devastated kingdom, even a Satrapy of the Realm, is not an ideal investment. Few of my contracts will honor credit… it will take time to find the materials and mercenaries you need. Unless...”

 

“Unless we pay you upfront?” Reya insinuates.

 

Brightsky bows apologetically and pops a fig in his mouth, “I know, of course, that Darios Kakka is a man of honor. And the Realm – may it stand ten thousand years – would not default on a bad debt. But there is great uncertainty here: war, fire, the dead, Anathema. My trading partners will not be swayed as quickly by my vouching for you as they will be by hard silver.”

 

“For the supplies, we will pay half now, in hard silver and the remainder on delivery.” Reya offers. Sahar visibly balks but does not openly dissent.

 

“And for the mercenaries?” Brightsky smiles: warmly with his mouth but with the cold light of greed behind his eyes.

 

Don’t be coy, Brightsky No Kimi.” Melody falls into easy Riverspeak, “You didn’t bring five hundred warriors at the behest of Gens Amilar to haggle like a common peasant.” She turns to Jinsuc, “What do you want Kazei?

 

“One talent.” Jinsuc says simply in High Realm, looking at Danireya.

 

“My Riverspeak is… shaky. I take it you’ll serve as our mercenaries for a talent of silver?”

 

“Of Jade.” Jinsuc clarifies.

 

“And a mina for my commission.” Brightsky casually slips in.

 

Jorod and Sahar openly laugh.

 

“No.” Reya says simply, “You could have five hundred Dragon-Blooded out there. We are not sitting on a talent of jade. You may as well ask for ten thousand daiklaves.”

 

“I thought we were above haggling like common peasants?” Jinsuc casts a disparaging look at Melody, who shrugs.

 

“If Gens Amilar has paid you to protect Brightsky, then I sincerely wish you the best of luck. Because the beast-folk are not above attacking Guild convoys. I’m giving you an opportunity to do your duty to Creation and fight by our side: for honor, for glory and to make the world safer. But if you’d rather ask for Unicorn Horns and the Tears of the Empress, then I have no authority or ability to countermand you. You may leave, Amilar Jinsuc, and again: best of luck.”

 

“Do you have any idea who you are speaking to!” Jinsuc strikes his breastplate with a fist.

 

Danireya tents her fingers and peers over them, “Do you, Dragon-lord?”

 

Melody cuts in as smooth as buttermilk, “Brightsky is perfectly safe in our care Kazei. If we are not contracting for your mercenaries, then there’s no need for you to waste your time here – I know I would rather be with my own troops. And, frankly, we are discussing the security of a Realm Satrapy: if Lookshy will not ally with us against the Deathknight threat, then we cannot allow you to sit-in on our business transactions as we negotiate for cheaper soldiers. No disrespect is intended.” She gives a sincere-looking salute.

 

Jinsuc considers his options and speaks slowly, “Given that Brightsky-san vouches for your honor, and the pressing danger the Deathknight Anathema pose to all of us… we are willing to extend a line of credit to you, Mnemon Alinos Danireya.” He gives the short bow of one unsure of their station, “The price is unchanged, but it can wait until the region is secure and… uncertainties on the Blessed Isle are resolved.”

 

Reya nods, “In the spirit of enlightened co-operation between the Princes of the Earth, I graciously accept your terms.”

 

Mercenaries secured, the Dragon-Blooded (with Sahar’s expert advice) haggle with the Guild over delivery and price of the goods needed, before paying Brightsky with a wagon of silver intended as tribute to the Realm.

 

Melody rides out with the mercenaries to show them the tunnel and join up with Nula and Ferad, whilst Reya hangs back in the Tower.

 

“You did well Sahar. I’ll admit it, you’re better at this than I am.” Reya dips her head graciously.

 

Sahar returns the nod, “I’ve worked hard to become so. You’re a quick study: I spent seven years in one of the most prestigious schools in the Realm to learn my trade, and you’ve caught me up in a month. The Deliberative would be foolish not to appoint you as the next Satrap.”

 

Reya smiles, “I think we both know that’s not exactly how that works. You are a fine asset to the House: how are you not married?”

 

Jorod visibly tenses. Sahar bows, “Fresh from school, all I knew were Exalted who resented that I was able to graduate alongside them. Then I’ve been here with my mother for years: not many eligible suitors in Dovak.”

 

“Indeed,” Reya nods, “Not even House Cynis weds sister to brother.” Jorod flushes bright-red and even Sahar’s smile falters for a moment, “Cousins, on the other hand...”

 

“Half-cousin, once removed.” Sahar notes Reya’s look of surprise, “Mother and I can’t ride the agata you were parading in the gardens. But, as you say, the Dynasty doesn’t wed sister to brother.”

 

“Stay.” Reya continues, “I know your mother wants to return to Dynastic society: it’s not what it was. War is coming to the Blessed Isle. Stay here. Lend me your expertise in building Dovak, forget about brothers and cousins and marry the bastard son of an Outcaste.”

 

“Are you trying to blackmail me?” Sahar’s countenance darkens.

 

Reya looks shocked, “I’m trying to help you.”

Sahar shakes her head in disgust, “You know nothing about me, cousin. The second this situation is resolved, I’m going back to the Blessed Isle. Stay out of my life.” She warns, then shoots an unfathomable look at Jorod before storming out.

 

“Go with her.” Reya sighs and Jorod makes for the door, “I swear I was trying to help.”

 

Jorod says nothing as he leaves. Reya tidies up and heads up the Tower to see Tinkara.

 

****


Reya buys a Presence Specialty in “Imperious Matriarch” for 3XP.



You need to be logged in to leave a review for this story.
Report Story