General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

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General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:15 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 857 (3357 T.A.)
Status: Mid-winter

General Quileth Durnen was a tyrant. Anyone who said so aloud was never heard from again, but it was a well-known fact. In the first weeks of his reign, he had his men round up all the adult males in the main city of Dekra. They were a threat to him: if they were to gather together, they would have the ability to rise against him and overthrow him, and he had no intention of allowing that to happen.

The Ruavia family had been a family of fools, the General thought. Too soft. No vision. They had been too easy to dispose of. He had already been in control of the country for three years by now, and he felt he was finally ready to implement the second phase of his plan.

For three years, the men of the city had been kept in the palace’s massive dungeons. Never had the dungeons been so full. Life down there was terrible, the General knew it. It served his purposes for it to be that way. After three years of misery, the men in there would be more willing to serve him, if it meant that they – and their family – would receive food and other necessities of life. Nothing extravagant, not until they had earned it by proving their worth.

Some of the prisoners had died in their cells, from starvation, disease, and torture. The General didn’t care. The loss of a few lives meant nothing to him. If anything it made the survivors more desperate to keep right on surviving, however they could. He would even help along those who spoke out against him, or showed any sign of rebellion or illness.

On this particular day he was wandering through the dungeons, followed by four bodyguards – just in case. There were many guards all through the dungeons, but he didn’t want to take the chance that one of them might have been bribed by a prisoner to do something to him. Paranoid perhaps, but that was the reason he was still alive.

“General Quileth,” a voice shouted from a level below where he was walking. The General paused, and he could hear the pounding of footsteps as someone ran towards him. He didn’t move, but his bodyguards surrounded him in case this was an attack. The General didn’t think it was; after all, if someone wanted to kill him, surprise would be the only advantage.

Sure enough, it was a guard that ran up to him and, just in front of him, fell to one knee and bowed his head respectfully.

“General,” the man panted, out of breath, “you must – come quickly. One of the prisoners – just a kid – bit by an asphinx – dying – says he has – information – for you …”

The General’s dark eyes flashed. “How did an asphinx find its way in here?” he asked the man coldly.

“I – I don’t know,” the man sputtered. “But – but this kid, he’s – he knows things – knows things no one ought to know! He says – says he’s got information for you!”

The General motioned for his bodyguards to fall back into position, then nodded at the guard. “Take me to him,” he ordered.

He kept his expression neutral as the man led him down through several levels of the dungeon, but he was burning with fury. How had an asphinx managed to get into the dungeons? The dungeons were, aside from the main part of the castle, the most secure place in the realm. He had made sure of that himself. And if it were a regular snake, that would be one thing, but an asphinx was another story entirely. The snakes rarely bit – it was truly their last resort as a defense. The bite of an asphinx was a death sentence. There was no antivenin … because there was no real venom to speak of. If you were bitten by an asphinx, then you – as well as it – would turn to stone.

At last they reached the very lowest level of the dungeon. There was a circular walk around a bottomless pit, and the cells were on the outside of the walk. The guard led the General to a cell furthest from the stair, and then moved aside so that the General could see what he had brought him to see.

In the cell, a young man, barely an adult, was kneeling. His raggedy hair fell in bunches and was dripping with sweat and slime, but even that could not hide the agony on his face. His clothes were little more than shreds, and it made it very easy for the General to see why he was in such pain. The asphinx was attached to his left hand, its tail wrapped around an iron ring that was attached to the ground. The snake and the hand in which its teeth had sunk were already stone, and as the General watched, the boy’s skin grew paler and slowly turned to grey stone working upwards from the bite.

“You have information for me,” he said flatly, as if he couldn’t see the boy’s suffering.

The boy looked through his matted hair up at the General. His brow was furrowed, his teeth clenched, and sweat dripped down his face. It was clear that he was in some incredible pain, and yet he did not groan or cry out from it.

“Sa-save me, my Lord,” he hissed through his teeth, his entire body shaking. “Free me from this fate – and I – I can help you!”

The General looked on unsympathetically. “Desperate words from a desperate man,” he said simply. “Convince me.”

“T-two days ago, y-your t-treasurer reported fi-five hundred gold c-coins missing from – from your stores,” the man whimpered through his pain. “It – it was stolen by your advisor, the man wh-who bears your personal mark of t-trust.”

The General stared at the man for a moment, then looked over at the jail keeper. He nodded for the man to open the cell door. The jailer fumbled with his keys, trying several of them before finding the one that fit the lock. He opened it and stepped out of the way, bowing low and avoiding eye contact with the General.

General Quileth stepped into the cell and drew his sword. His expression didn’t change as he raised the sword and with a single, powerful blow, severed the man’s arm at the shoulder. He ignored the scream that rent the air and made the other men in the area flinch and watched emotionlessly as the stone of the broken-off arm fell to the ground and shattered.

“Bind his shoulder,” he ordered his bodyguards abruptly, wiping the blood from his blade on the jailer’s shirt. He sheathed his sword and stepped out of the cell again, then turned to the prisoner who was writhing on the floor in agony. The prisoner stared at him, his eyes wild with pain and panic.

“I will investigate your claim,” said the General in a firm tone. “If I find it is true, I will return with the antidote to the poison that is still coursing through your body. If, on the other hand, I find that you have lied to me in an attempt to save your miserable life, no one will come to you again and your stone body will be left here as a memorial to those who think they can play me.”

“My-my lord!” the man gasped; but the General had already turned away, leaving him behind.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:16 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 857 (3357 T.A.)
Status: Mid-winter

Hours after the General left the doomed man in the cell, the man had been taken from the cell and to the medical ward of the castle. There he had been treated with magic to dispel the poison of the asphinx, though it had been another week before he had the strength to leave his bed. At that point, he was brought to a room in the castle, half-walking and half-carried by a guard on either side of him.

When the door was opened for him, the first thing he saw was the General, standing in the middle of the room. He was standing tall and erect, his dark eyes fixed on the prisoner, both hands resting on the pommel of his sword. The very sight of him made the man shudder, making his weak body shake violently.

“What is your name?” the General demanded.

“M-M-Maravel,” he replied, stuttering from weakness and fear. After all, the General had cut off his arm only the week before without hesitation.

The General nodded and drew his sword. Maravel flinched instinctively. The last of his strength left him, and he fell to his knees. The General raised his sword, held it in both hands … and set the point of it on Maravel’s shoulder.

“Maravel, I take you into my service,” he said seriously. “Serve me well, and you will be rewarded … cross me, and you will end as did your predecessor.”

Maravel looked up, hardly daring to believe his ears – until he followed the General’s gaze to one corner of the room. There, in a glass case, was a head – the head of the General’s previous advisor, his expression frozen with his eyes wide with terror, his mouth open in a permanent scream.

The General ignored the look of abject terror on Maravel’s face and sheathed his sword once more. Without another glance at Maravel, he ordered the guards: “Clean him up. He has one more night to rest. Tomorrow at breakfast I want him in my quarters.”

“Yes, General,” the guards chorused.

With that, the General swept past them, leaving them alone.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:16 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 857 (3357 T.A.)
Status: Mid-winter

When Maravel met the General the next morning for breakfast, he had to walk with a cane. He had been prepared the day before for his employment with the General: he had been washed, given new clothes, the cane, and writing materials, and his hair, long and matted from his imprisonment, had been shaved off completely, leaving him bald. Then he had been given a tattoo between his eyebrows, the mark of the General, which showed everyone who he served.

The General looked up from his meal when Maravel shuffled into the dining hall and appraised him silently, expressionlessly. It took Maravel a few minutes to make his way tediously to the end of the long table, where the General was sitting, and when he arrived the General nodded his approval.

“Good,” he grunted. “I see they’ve taken proper care of you.”

Maravel bowed his head respectfully. “Yes, my Lord.”

The General reached for his goblet and took a long drink. Maravel waited patiently, wondering what he was supposed to do. He had grown up as a silversmith’s son; he knew nothing of helping a ruler. He knew nothing of palace life, nothing of etiquette, of propriety, of … anything. Was he supposed to say something? Wait until the General first addressed him? Offer up some information?

He chose to wait in silence, mostly because he didn’t know what he might say, and didn’t have the energy to try. As it turned out, it was a wise idea.

“Maravel,” the General said at length, “I don’t know how you knew it, but you were right about my previous advisor. He was helping me even before I came to power. It was quite unexpected, him stealing my gold. It’s quite clear how he managed it – as the one person I trusted, he had free access to everywhere in the castle. The how is also obvious. Greed. What eludes me if your part in the affair. Tell me, Maravel. How did you know that he was the thief?”

He turned in his chair and looked at Maravel expectantly.

Maravel shifted his grip on the cane. His legs were tiring already, as was his good shoulder. He had no way to shift his weight because his other arm was missing, and he didn’t know how long he could stand. Still, he was afraid to try to sit.

He licked his lips and took a deep breath. “For as long as I can remember, my Lord, I have had this ability: to see things that no one else knows. Sometimes I know in advance, but other times I don’t know until after the fact.”

The General nodded, his eyes narrowing slightly as he examined Maravel a little more closely. “I see.” He picked up a napkin and dabbed at his lips, his eyes still fixed on Maravel. “Then tell me, Maravel. Is there now a rebellion in the works against me?”

Maravel closed his eyes and lowered his head. It wasn’t just that he was tired, but he also did his best thinking this way. Images raced through his mind. Some of it was nothing more than flashes of things he did not understand, while other images were clear. For several minutes, he allowed his mind to wander, until he thought he had enough information to satisfy the General.

“My Lord,” he began softly, “at present the people are too filled with fear to even consider rebelling. There are few, if any, men left in the city, and most work is ground to a halt. The women and children who remain are so focused on simply surviving, that the thought of rebellion has not entered their minds. However …”

The General had been smiling until this point, but when Maravel paused, his smile turned to a frown and he leaned forward slightly in his chair. “However …?” he pressed

Maravel’s brow furrowed slightly as he tried to focus his thoughts again. “In … in time, in a few years, when their lives once more become routine … then … then thoughts of rebellion will arise.”

He didn’t know who, or when exactly it would happen, and there were several images that didn’t make sense to him; he only knew that it would indeed happen.

“And your advice on what I should do about it?” the General asked, clearly looking for Maravel to prove himself again. So far, all that he’d said could be guessed with common sense – he wanted something solid.

Maravel closed his eyes once more. He was swaying slightly, he could feel it in his feet; but there was nothing he could do about it, he was simply exhausted, despite the early hour. He searched his mind again for the answer, and this time it was longer before he looked once again at the General.

“There is one man who will end the rebellion forever,” he told the General seriously. “But he has not yet been born. When the time is right – not before – you must release a certain man from your dungeons. He must marry a specific woman, who also has not yet been born, and they will give birth to the one person who can end all rebellions under your rule … permanently.”

He gripped the handle of his cane tightly, still swaying weakly. The General looked at him thoughtfully for so long that Maravel thought he’d gotten distracted with something else; but after a few minutes the General pulled out a chair near him and shoved Maravel into it. Then he snapped his fingers, and a servant stepped forward.

“Food for this man,” the General ordered, his eyes fixed on Maravel. “See that he gets all that he needs. Food, drink … the best. I need him in good health.”

The servant bowed low. “Yes, my Lord,” he murmured.

“Once you’ve brought him his meal, send for my physician,” the General went on. “Send him here.”

“Yes, my Lord,” the servant said again, bowing low once more.

“Once the physician has been sent for, fetch the tailor from the dungeon,” the General added.

“Yes, my Lord.”

“And the cobbler.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“This afternoon I shall want a physical trainer as well.”

“Your own, my Lord?”

“Yes. Send him to Maravel’s quarters.”

“As you wish, my Lord.” The servant was still bowing low.

After a moment, the General barked, “What are you waiting for?”

The servant jumped and looked at the General fearfully. “I’m sorry, my Lord – I was not sure if you were finished.”

“I was,” the General scowled. “Now go. This man needs nourishment.”

The servant scurried away as quickly as his legs would take him without running. The General looked back over at Maravel. The sage was already asleep in his chair.

The General let him sleep. He wanted Maravel at his best as quickly as possible.

He needed him.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:16 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 857 (3357 T.A.)
Status: Late Stirring

Maravel had been working for the General now for a month and a half – fifteen weeks – and at long last, he had healed. He was still rather thin, but thanks to the efforts of the physician and physical trainer, his body had regained its former health. The poison from the asphinx was completely gone from his system, he was strong enough to walk without the cane, and he had learned to get along with only one arm. The General had given him a personal attendant to help him dress and do other menial chores, but aside from that he had grown accustomed to doing most things on his own.

On this particular morning, however, he felt quite tired. He had not slept well the night before. Visions had disturbed his sleep and left him afraid. He had learned something very important … but something that would only cause grief, if the General were to find it out.

The royal family had not been all killed in the coup. One of them had survived.

Of course, there was always the question of what one could call surviving. She was barely alive: wrapped in bandages, spending all her time lying in bed and staring at the ceiling … was she truly a threat to the General? To be honest, Maravel wasn’t sure. Was it worth mentioning?

Well, what would happen if he did tell the General? The man would probably declare war against a country that would be absolutely suicide to go to war against. No, that wasn’t really an option.

But if he didn’t tell him? The princess would live, probably return … and if the General ever found out, Maravel would die.

That wasn’t a viable option either.

So what did that leave? Not much.

He was disrupted from his thoughts by a knock at his door. He had just cleared his face of any emotion when his attendant entered his room.

“Master, the General awaits you in the conservatory,” he announced, bowing his head slightly.

Maravel knew better than to keep the General waiting. “I will be there presently,” he told the attendant. “Thank you.”

He moved across the room and picked up his notebook. The General always insisted that he record any visions he might have, and keep detailed records of the possible results of any move the General might make. He had not recorded his visions of the night before, and he was as yet unsure if he ever would.

He made his way up to the palace conservatory. He wasn’t sure why the General wanted to meet him there: all the plants that had once grown there were dead, and no one left in the palace now knew how to play any of the instruments that had been left behind after the royal family had been killed. He supposed there was a good view of the city – after all, the conservatory was in a tower that overlooked the city – but aside from that, it was not a pleasant room.

He knocked before entering, though he didn’t wait for an answer. The General was standing, as he had predicted, by the door to the balcony, and Maravel bowed low in greeting.

“You sent for me, my Lord?” he asked, straightening up again.

The General turned to face him. He seemed to be in a bad mood, something that made Maravel afraid.

“Yes, Maravel,” he said, his words short and clipped. He motioned for the sage to join him. “Look outside.”

Maravel passed by the dust-covered instruments and pots of dead plants to join the General at the balcony door. At the General’s command, he stepped outside into the cool air and looked around at the city below him. Despite the low temperatures, only a very few chimneys had smoke rising from them, and the streets were empty. Not a soul was in sight. What startled Maravel the most, however, was the silence. He had grown up in the streets of that city, and they had never been this silent, even in the early morning or late evening … and it was now about the time of day when the market was usually the busiest. It was the first glimpse of the outside world that Maravel had obtained since his release from prison, and it made him sick.

“The city … is dead,” he whispered in shock.

“What an astounding observation, Maravel,” the General snapped. “I can see that for myself. Yes, the city is dead. A dead city means no business, no business means no revenue, no revenue means no taxes. Which means that in order for me to receive taxes, I must begin to release the men in my dungeons. But before I can do that, I must know that it is safe, that those people who will bring about the end of any rebellion are in the right places, and with the right people.”

Maravel took an unconscious step backwards, away from the General, afraid. “I … my Lord, give me one day to ascertain this information,” he pleaded. “I will have to go through the dungeons and the city and see the people to find out who they are precisely.”

The General frowned. “That will take at least two days,” he muttered. “But at this point, two days will make no difference. I’ll take you myself. Today the dungeons, tomorrow the city. Do you have any preparations to make?”

Maravel swallowed hard. “No, my Lord.”

The General nodded and turned to head back inside. “Then let’s go.”
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:16 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 857 (3357 T.A.)
Status: Late Stirring

Before entering into the dungeons, Maravel asked the General to wait a moment so that he could prepare himself.

“You said you didn’t have any preparations to make,” the General scowled.

“None before coming here, my Lord,” Maravel replied as respectfully as he could and bowing low, “but I must prepare my mind to see.”

The General grunted impatiently. “Do it.”

Maravel closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. He cleared his mind, focusing only on finding the two people who would give birth to the woman who would in turn eventually give birth to the one person who would bring an end to the rebellion against the General. When he opened his eyes again, he saw nothing but shadows, silhouettes of black in a swirling gray mist.

Silently, he stepped forward. All of his senses were focused on finding the right person, and so his ears were blissfully stopped from hearing the shouts that met him when he entered into the dungeons. It was like being underwater, where everything was dulled to a gentle pulse, and he knew nothing but the shadows before his eyes.

At each swarm of shadows he stopped, staring at them for several long minutes, searching for a sign that one of them might be the person for whom he was searching. Frequently, he saw shadows darting in front of him, coming between him and the swarms, but they were no distraction to him. Once he was satisfied that he had not found the person for whom he was searching, he simply moved on to the next swarm.

Meanwhile, the General and his bodyguards were doing what they could to keep Maravel safe without breaking his concentration. From the moment the first prisoner had recognized him, riots had broken out in all of the cells. Shouts of “Traitor!” and “Murderer!” along with threats to the man’s life were unceasing, and many of the prisoners were pushing past each other, stampeding each other in their attempts to reach through the bars of their cells and harm Maravel. A few times the bodyguards had to step forward with their blades, dealing out cuts, gashes, and removing a few fingers and hands in the process. Maravel didn’t seem to even know that this was going on, and for a while the General feared his advisor would get himself killed.

In this manner they made their way through the first three levels of the dungeons, deeper beneath the earth. Beyond that, conditions were worse: there were more people in each of the cells, making it difficult for them to even move; and the damp and cold meant that despite the hardiness of the elves, many were ill. This, coupled with the less than meagre rations that the prisoners were dealt, meant that the prisoners down here did not have the strength or energy to even really notice Maravel.

Here, Maravel needed more time to properly examine each shadow. These shadows were thinner, had less substance … these people were barely alive. Again, Maravel moved from one cell to the next, until at last he found what he was looking for.

Still in his foggy state, he stepped towards the cell. The General snapped his fingers at the jailer, who had been following them, and the man jumped forward and fumbled with his keys, searching for the right one to put into the lock. He got it just as Maravel reached the cell door, and he had just barely enough time to swing the door open so that Maravel could step inside.

Even inside the cell, Maravel remained unmolested. The men inside were simply too weak to do anything. Their eyes followed him, however, and when at last he stopped beside a man who seemed to be asleep, their eyes filled with suspicion.

Maravel blinked and his vision returned to normal. He looked down at the man next to him, then looked back at the General.

Without a word, the General nodded to his bodyguards, and two of them stepped forward and took the man by his arms. Maravel left the cell, and the guards hauled the man after him.

“And what of the woman?” the General asked as he led Maravel up towards the door that would take them to the rest of the palace.

Maravel looked back at the General. “Somewhere in the city, my Lord,” he said tiredly. “That is all I can say.”

The General nodded. “Tomorrow, then.” He ordered the guards to take the man to a place where he would be away from anyone else. The last Maravel saw as the man was hauled away was that he had still not opened his eyes.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:17 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 858 (3358 T.A.)
Status: Early Spring

The conservatory balcony had become Maravel’s seat of preference of late, so that he could keep an eye on his handiwork in the city below him in safety. He had seen, the week previous, on their way out of the dungeon, just how dangerous his position now was. If he in any way disappointed the General, his life would be forfeit; but the people to whom he had once belonged would eagerly kill him the first chance they saw, for his perceived betrayal of them and loyalty to the General, the man who had caused so much suffering and death. Had there been any men in the city when he and the General had gone down to search for the woman they needed, he would almost certainly have died.

Fortunately, it had not taken very long to find the woman they sought, and even more fortunately, she was an apothecary. To be more specific, she had been an apothecary’s wife, but her husband had taught her much of his trade before he had been one of the first to be killed after the coup. Widow, apothecary … the conditions could not have been better to throw her and the man from the dungeon together.

A few days after the visit to the city, the General had had some of his men take the prisoner, who by this point was barely alive, and leave him on the woman’s doorstep in the middle of the night. When, the next morning, the woman had opened her door and seen him lying there, she had taken him inside. Maravel had watched them for a short while in his mind: she had assumed he had escaped the dungeons somehow, and of course, seeing how much he needed healing, she had determined to take care of him.

Time would do the rest, Maravel mused. He and the General had already begun the next stage of their plan as well. Healing up the men before letting them go – at least, enough that they would not seek out the apothecary and divert her attention from the man she’d taken in – was essential. In another week or two, they would release scores of men at a time, and within the month the city would be alive again.

In a way, Maravel felt sorry for the couple that he had helped to set up together. People ought to be free to choose their own loved ones: that was something he believed. But in this case, he sincerely thought that it could not be helped.

He only hoped that in the long run, he would be forgiven.

If he survived.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:17 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 950 (15 F.A.)
Status: Early Spring

It had been nearly a century since Maravel had been enlisted into the General’s service, and the General was growing impatient. The rebellions had begun shortly after he had released the men from prison. They were small, always small enough to be quickly crushed by the General’s forces – which were now patrolling the city twenty four hours a day, six days a week – but nevertheless, the General was growing tired of all of this, and he was beginning to question Maravel’s loyalty.

On this morning, Maravel was waiting in the dining hall for the General to arrive for his breakfast. If he did not arrive first, he found that the General always suspected him of plotting against him. It was not true, of course, but Maravel found it much safer when the General was in a good mood.

Today, it seemed, even being in the dining hall before the General was not going to help.

Maravel!” the General shouted as he threw the dining hall doors wide.

Maravel jumped. “Yes, my Lord?” he asked, his entire body going cold with terror. He had never seen the General this angry – ever. And what frightened him the most was that he had no idea what had brought this on.

“Maravel, how long is this going to take?” the General growled, striding swiftly through the room. “You promised me decades ago that if we got those two people together, their daughter would give birth to the man who would stop these damned rebellions! Do you know how much these rebellions are costing me? Manpower, economy, loyalty – it has to end already!”

Maravel tried his best not to shake, though he wasn’t sure how successful he was being. “My Lord, these things can’t be rushed,” he sputtered. “Not without raising suspicion – to force matters would cause them not to work out at all! It is a delicate matter!”

The General pushed Maravel aside before he sat down in his chair, nearly knocking Maravel to the floor. “I need these rebellions to end, Maravel,” he snarled. “I have put up with them for long enough!”

“My Lord, the woman is almost of age.” Maravel tried desperately to placate the irate ruler. “It’s just a matter of-”

“What of the man?” the General interrupted. A servant brought in the General’s breakfast, but the General ignored it for the moment. His stare was fixed on Maravel.

The sage had to force himself to keep his hand at his side. His instinct was to wipe at his brow, but if he did that he would be showing weakness, and that was one thing that the General would always take advantage of.

“My Lord, all I know is that it is one of the men in your palace,” he replied respectfully.

The General nodded. “Ideas then on how they should meet? If we have to let things go … naturally … it will never happen, as the men in the palace stay in the palace.”

“Perhaps find a reason to have her come here,” Maravel suggested. “As cook, perhaps … or domestic …”

“Too risky.” The General shook his head. “Too many other men around. No, I have a better idea.”

He snapped his fingers, and one of the guards by the door approached and stood sharply at attention. “My Lord.”

The General looked up at the guard. “The apothecary and her husband have a daughter, about …”

He looked across at Maravel, who supplied, “Fifteen.”

“Fifteen years old. Bring her to the palace.”

The guard bowed deeply. “As you wish, my Lord.” He turned and left the dining hall.

The General turned his attention back to his food and finally began to eat. “After breakfast, Maravel, we are going to look for the man we need to bring this dilemma to a close. Then you wait. We’ll quash these rebellions soon enough.”

Maravel felt a tug of fear in the pit of his stomach. He didn’t like the way that sounded. Once again, he pitied the people whose lives he was manipulating. He only hoped it wouldn’t bring much more suffering than he had already caused.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:17 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 950 (15 F.A.)
Status: Early Spring

By the time Maravel and the General found the man they needed, the guard that had been sent out to the city had returned with the girl in question. They were waiting in a small receiving room next to the throne room, and had been for quite a long while. The girl was growing quite impatient by this time.

The General headed straight for the throne room and told Maravel to fetch the girl to him.

When Maravel opened the door to the receiving room, the girl was pacing by the window. The door clicked behind Maravel, and she turned to face him, her eyes filled with fury. She was very pretty, Maravel thought: hair blacker than night, straight and shining with health, falling to the middle of her back; warm brown eyes, filled with a fire that gave them life; a slim body, with the gentle curves that showed that she was very close to blossoming into womanhood: she was the kind of girl that could turn any man’s head.

“It’s about time!” she snapped angrily. “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting here? I have work to do! My parents need me!”

“The General has need of you,” Maravel replied calmly, keeping his face expressionless, though inwardly his stomach was churning. He hated himself. To continue interfering in peoples’ lives like this … but he knew what was at stake. He did not have a choice. “Follow me. And - a bit of advice - do not let the General know that you are impatient or angry. He will not take it.”

He turned and opened the door once more, then held it open with his back and used his hand to motion for the girl to follow him. She did so without hesitation, clearly eager to get this over with so that she could get back home.

Guards opened the double doors to the throne room, since they were too heavy for Maravel to open with his single hand, but they remained beside the doors while Maravel led the girl forward. His mouth was dry, his eyes burning, and the walk along the red carpet to the large throne where the General sat had never seemed so long. But there was no backing out for him now: he had come this far with the plan; to give up when so little remained would be both murder and suicide.

“My Lord,” he announced, stopping and bowing low before the General, “here she is.”

He straightened and stepped to the side so that the girl would be the General’s only focus. After a quick glance up at the General, he looked at the girl. She had dipped low in a respectful curtsey, her head lowered as well.

“My Lord,” she greeted the General.

The General stared at her, but his gaze was almost disinterested. As if she really didn’t matter to him. He was looking her over, judging her somehow in his mind, though Maravel had no idea what sort of standards the General had for women. The fact that he had neither wife nor mistress told Maravel something, but it wasn’t something he liked.

The girl began to fidget, and Maravel could see her impatience returning. Still, it was clear that she was trying to heed Maravel’s advice and not let it show.

Finally, at length, the General spoke.

“Somehow … I expected more,” he mused aloud.

The girl looked up indignantly, her eyes flashing. “Well, considering that I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing here, I can’t very well give you what you’re expecting, can I?” she snapped.

“Mind your tone, girl,” the General warned her. “It’s a dangerous game you’re playing.” He was silent for a moment longer as he looked her over again. “What’s your name, girl?”

The girl swallowed down her anger to keep it out of her voice, though her eyes were still flashing dangerously. “Dae’er, my Lord.”

Traces of a smile danced around the corners of the General’s mouth, and he shifted his position on the throne, resting his chin on one palm. “Well, Dae’er,” he murmured, “I must bid you congratulations, and welcome to your new home.”

The girl blinked, and her jaw dropped in shock. “My – what?!” she exclaimed. “You’re mad! I’m not staying here, I have a family who needs my help!”

She turned to storm out, but two guards stepped in front of her, blocking her way out.

“Move,” she ordered them, her expression furious. “Get out of my way!”

When they didn’t move, she tried to push past them.

“Stop her!” the General ordered; and the guards each grabbed one of her arms tightly so that she could go no further. They turned her around to face the General once more. He seemed almost amused by her attempt to leave, as the trace of a smile had turned into a real smile – quite probably the first real smile Maravel had ever seen on his face.

“I think I like her,” he murmured to Maravel as an aside. Then he turned his attention back to the girl. “Throw her in solitary,” he ordered the guards. “We’ll see if some time in there changes her mind.”

Maravel was just about in shock. The isolation cell was a death sentence – the prisoners brought there received less food and water than regular prisoners, and had absolutely no interaction with anyone, which drove many of them mad – if they survived that long. But he knew better than to object. He would simply have to try to find a way to help her out without the General’s knowledge.

“Let me go!” the girl shrieked as the guards took her away. “Let go of me! This is ridiculous! You have no reason to hold me! Let – me – go!

“You there,” the General snapped, startling the guard that he and Maravel had spent the entire morning tracking down.

“Yes, my Lord?” the guard asked, snapping to attention.

“You will be her guard,” the General ordered. “Go.”

The guard bowed and hurried after the others. The girl’s shouts were still echoing down the corridor, but Maravel was numb to them. He had to hold himself together … for his own sake … for everyone’s sake …

He looked up as the General stood and stepped down from the throne. The General was still smiling, and now he looked quite smug.

“You see, Maravel?” he grinned. “That is how it’s done.”

Maravel felt sick, but he forced a smile and bowed his head. “A stroke of brilliance, my Lord,” he murmured.

The General strode from the room. As he followed, Maravel wondered how he could possibly make this easier for the poor, unfortunate girl.

Sometimes, Maravel hated his gift.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:18 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 950 (15 F.A.)
Status: Late Spring

It had been weeks since Dae’er had been put in solitary confinement, and at different times each day, the General himself would go to visit her in the cell and ask her if she had changed her mind about staying in the castle. Every day, her response was the same.

“If I can’t go back to my family, then I will stay here,” she told him calmly, though her stance was defiant.

And so she stayed in the cell.

It wasn’t terribly small – there was room enough to pace, to sit, to lie down … there was nothing to lie on, but after her guard had smuggled her an old shirt to use as a pillow – which she stuffed under her skirt to hide it whenever the General came to talk to her – she found that she was able to rest on the cold stone floor. She had very little appetite, but she forced herself to eat what little food was brought to her just for the sake of keeping up her strength. She had no illusions about trying to escape. The only time the door was opened was the one time a day when the General came to speak with her. With the many scrapes and clunks she heard when the door was being opened and closed, she knew there was no way she could break through any of the many locks – even if she knew how to pick a lock. No, she was stuck there.

On the other hand, it did give her time to think. At first she wondered why the General wanted her to live in the castle so badly. She could think of no reason. She was no one important. There was nothing remarkable about her. She had no valuable information, no special skills, and no talents worth mentioning.

Eventually the General stopped coming every day, and for a while Dae’er dared to hope that he had given up on her, realized that she would never do what he wanted, and that eventually she would be allowed to return home.

It had now been five days since the General had come. Dae’er was dozing lightly, more to pass the time than any other reason. She was lying flat on her back, the ragged shirt balled up beneath her head, her eyes closed, hands folded over her stomach, ankles crossed, when suddenly she heard faint voices outside her cell. She sat up quickly and shoved the shirt under her skirt. She had no intention of standing up for the General; it would show him a respect which she did not feel for him.

But after only a few minutes, the voices stopped, and she heard soft footsteps leading away. She blinked in surprise and got to her feet. There were no windows in her cell, not even in the door, but she pressed her ear against the door to see if she could hear anything.

Nothing.

She sighed and turned around and began to pace the cell. If only she knew what she was wanted for … why she was here … what she had done …

Suddenly she heard the locks being opened, and she whirled to face the door. It was her guard – and this was the first time she had seen him. He had always remained outside her cell, and when the General had visited, he had remained out of her line of sight.

She looked at him now without speaking. He had short, dark hair, and despite his position and his master, his eyes were kind. She wasn’t sure if she should trust him, though – he was after all a servant of the General, sworn to do his bidding. Whatever his reason for entering her cell, it couldn’t be good. He was wearing light armour, but it was smooth and silent, and suited him well.

“Your name is Dae’er, yes?” he asked softly, his voice warm and kind.

She frowned suspiciously, her eyes narrowing slightly. Without speaking, she inclined her head forward slightly.

He smiled gently. “I am Sir Arphenion. I have been assigned to be your guard.”

Dae’er’s eyes flicked past Sir Arphenion to the open cell door. The guard saw the glance and smiled at her. “I recommend against trying to escape. You’ll never find your way out of here. I would just have to chase you down. There is no one to help you, but plenty of people to help me. And if the General catches you, you won’t be brought back here – you’ll be killed.”

Dae’er’s shoulders slumped in defeat, and she turned away from the guard.

“Why am I here?” she asked in a whisper, her rusty voice refusing to go any louder. “What have I done?”

The guard shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t know. No one does but the general and his advisor, and neither of them is saying anything.”

Dae’er took a deep, shaky breath and looked up at the ceiling, trying to hold back tears. She could feel them pooling in her eyes, but she couldn’t let her guard see. She refused to let him see. She had to be strong, not let them know that they were getting to her …

Sir Arphenion rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. “I … just wanted to make sure you were … doing okay … I … I’ll just … go …”

He turned and left the cell, closing the door behind him. As the latch caught, Dae’er turned again. She listened as the locks were replaced. She was furious with herself. The first time in weeks she’d had someone to talk to, her first chance to get some answers, and she had squandered it.

Filled with anger, despair, and loneliness, she sank to the floor and gave herself over to her emotions for the first time since she had been brought into the cell. She buried her face in her hands and wept bitterly.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:18 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 950 (15 F.A.)
Status: Mid-Summer

Time lost meaning for Dae’er. There was no night or day for her. With no windows, even in the hall outside her cell, there was no sun or moon, no light or dark, nothing to indicate the passage of hours. She spent more and more of her time dozing, waking with a start on the rare occasions that there was any noise outside her cell door. Sometimes there were voices; twice a day food was thrust through a small slot in the base of her solid door that was usually covered with a sliding door. Of course, she couldn’t open the slot from the inside – but even if she could, it would do her no good: she would not be able to put more than a hand through it.

The longer she was in the cell, the more despondent she became. Her guard had not spoken to her in several weeks, nor had the General come to either question or threaten her. The loneliness was harder than the hunger, the darkness, or the discomfort. To have no one to speak with, no news of her family, and still – after more than a month in prison – no idea what was going on …

She was momentarily distracted by the sound of the tiny sliding slot cover opening, and she looked over disinterestedly. She wasn’t hungry. She didn’t care about food anymore. She just wanted out.

After a moment, she realized that this time, there wasn’t any food coming, and she was momentarily surprised, which was followed quickly by curiosity. She was lying on her back, but she rolled onto her stomach and crawled over to the slot, trying to peer out. All she could see was the brick wall opposite her cell door and the flickering torchlight that was the only light she ever saw.

“Dae’er?” she heard suddenly.

She didn’t have the energy to be startled, and she simply lay there, staring out of the slot in the door. After a moment, the voice repeated.

“Dae’er?”

She tried to speak, tried to let her guard know that she heard him, but when she opened her mouth, no sound came out. She cleared her throat and tried again, and this time a scratchy whisper made it past her lips. “-es?”

She heard a sigh, and then Sir Arphenion spoke again.

“How are you holding up in there?”

For several seconds, she could only stare at the brick wall in incredulity. What kind of a question was that? “What do you think?” she asked at last, still in a whisper.

“I’m sorry.” She was satisfied to hear that he sounded somewhat abashed. “I just … it’s just that I know you really shouldn’t be in there, and I … I wish there were something I could do to help you. Somehow. Anything.”

Dae’er’s eyes flickered towards the ragged shirt that was lying in a heap on the floor next to her, and a part of the wall that she had put up around herself fell away. “You already have,” she told him softly. “It may not seem like much to you, but … the shirt you gave me … at least now I can rest.”

There was a brief pause. Then: “I’m glad.”

The conversation – if such it could be called – fell flat as both of them tried to think of what they might say next. Dae’er had no idea: she was a prisoner, what could she possibly say to the man who was her guard? How could she be friendly to him? And Arphenion wanted to give her some comfort, if he could, but what could he offer her that would not be cruel or insensitive?

At last, he asked, “Is there anything you would like to know? I know, I spend most of my time here, but … if there is anything … I … when I … when my relief comes, I mean … I could see what information I could get for you.”

For the first time since her imprisonment, Dae’er perked up slightly. “Really?” she murmured. “You would do that for me? But … you would be risking your own life …”

“I know. But I just feel that it’s the least I could do.”

He seemed less like a guard, and more like a guardian, Dae’er thought briefly. As if, rather than watching her, he was watching over her.

“Are you my only guard?” she asked him at last.

“Mostly, yes. The only other person I ever see down here is the General’s advisor, Maravel. Sometimes he watches while I go get a few hours’ sleep now and then.”

Dae’er was slightly surprised by that. “His advisor? No one else comes down here at all?”

She heard some movement, but couldn’t see what Arphenion was doing. “We’re rather hidden away down here,” he confided to her. “No chance anyone could come down here by accident. This place was well designed, though honestly right now I think its purpose is really being abused.”

His disapproval and distaste for the General was clear in his tone, and Dae’er, for the first time since her captivity began, felt some hope that she might not truly be alone down here.

“Then … then you don’t … support the General?” she asked, closing her eyes as she waited for the response.

“Not in the least.” There was a small pause before he continued. “My father was one of the royal family’s most loyal soldiers … even before they vanished, the General had no respect for him. Once the General was in charge, my father was tortured to death. One of the first of many. The only reason I wear this armour, the only reason I bear that man’s crest, is because … if I don’t … if I fail in my duty in any way …”

He trailed off, and Dae’er could hear that he was breathing heavily, as if he could not force himself to complete his sentence.

“… your family?” she asked softly.

There was another brief pause, and then Arphenion answered her, a soft whispered, “Yes.”

He took a deep breath. “My mother and sisters are out there, fighting to survive … if I fail in my duty, they will be killed.”

“But you’re helping me,” Dae’er said, puzzled. “You gave me that shirt, and you’re … you’re speaking with me …”

“Don’t ever let the General find out,” Arphenion said quickly. “I beg of you.”

Dae’er allowed herself to smile weakly. “He will never find out from me, that I promise you,” she vowed. She shuffled forward and slid one hand through the slot in the door. She heard the gentle chinking of metal on metal, and then she saw Arphenion’s bare hand appear. He set his hand in hers and gave it a gentle squeeze, and gentle warmth spread through Dae’er.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:19 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 951 (16 F.A.)
Status: Early Spring

A year to the day after the General had ordered Dae’er to be put in solitary confinement, he once again called Maravel to his side and made the trek with his advisor to the depths of the palace to see her.

The guard was standing at full attention when the two men turned down the corridor that led to the isolated cell, and he raised one arm in a salute as the General approached, lowering his arm only when the General nodded at him.

“Open it,” he ordered crisply.

The guard turned obediently and began opening the series of locks that kept the door so securely closed. When the last one opened, he pulled the door open and stepped aside so that the General could enter.

The girl had risen to her feet when she’d heard the voices and the locks being opened, and now she was standing and facing the door. The General took a moment to examine her silently before he spoke. She was pale – almost white, the result of a year with no sunlight; her hair, once so fine and beautiful, was straggly and uneven; her face had grown thin, her cheeks sunken, and though now but sixteen years old, she had the look of an ancient: filled with lines and wrinkles, very unhealthy. Gone were the gentle curves of womanhood, lost to a year of immobility and malnourishment. She looked nothing like the young beauty that had been brought to the palace the year before.

One thing remained the same, however, and this the General noted with amusement, though of course he hid it: the fire was still in her eyes, defiance that showed that though her body was succumbing to the torture of solitude, her spirit was still intact.

“You have been here a year now,” he said abruptly. “Have you changed your mind?”

The girl looked at him, undisguised hatred radiating from her very being. “What possible purpose could you have for me here?” she asked him in a low tone. “Just to live here? Not to work?”

The General allowed himself a small smile, and before he could speak the girl added, “I will not be your mistress, if that is what you have in mind. I would rather rot down here than belong to you.”

Behind the General, the guard closed his eyes and smiled ever so faintly. Fortunately, no one saw it but Maravel.

“My reasons do not concern you,” the General told the girl emotionlessly. “The only thing that matters is that I have made a decision concerning you and you must obey it.”

She told him in no uncertain terms her opinion of that.

“It most certainly does concern me, and I will not agree to anything without knowing first why you require it,” she told him angrily. “And since you’re so obviously not going to tell me what this is about, you’re wasting your time. I will not live in the castle.”

“Then you will remain here in this cell,” the General said as if he didn’t care, turning to leave.

“Fine!” Dae’er’s eyes were just about glowing with fury. She lifted one hand and made a fist, shaking it threateningly at the General. Maravel’s eyes grew wide, and he held his breath, hoping – praying – that the General would not turn around and see the gesture. At the same time, he saw something white and ragged fall from where the girl had been holding it behind her back. The girl didn’t notice it, but a glance at the guard told Maravel that he had seen it: he froze, his eyes fixed on the item, whatever it was.

Fortunately, the General did not look back into the cell again. He simply started down the corridor, motioning for Maravel to follow.

“We shall see if another year’s confinement changes your attitude,” he said as he left.

Maravel exchanged a glance with the guard before hurrying after his master.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:19 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 955 (20 F.A.)
Status: Mid-Winter

Over the course of the months and years that Dae’er spent in that small cell, with none but Arphenion to speak to, the two of them grew quite close. They were careful not to be caught conversing – the only thing Dae’er now dreaded, aside from the General taking her by force, was Arphenion being replaced as her guard. Arphenion did what he could to make it easier for her in there – brought her news of her family, of the city, stories of the outside world, rumours of what was going on in other countries; he brought her extra food whenever he could manage it; kept the slot in the door open as much as possible to give her light and to let in a bit of warmth; and, when he was absolutely certain that no one would be coming down for a long time, would even occasionally open the cell door and spend some time in there with her.

He was past caring about himself. Yes, he worried about what would happen to his family if he was caught, but he cared far more about Dae’er, the young woman who had been still a child when she had been thrown into this cell for no apparent reason.

Winters were the hardest for both of them: for Dae’er, because of the sheer coldness of the cell; and for Arphenion, to know that she was suffering so miserably and that there was so little he could do about it.

One morning, Arphenion opened her cell door to bring her food in for her. It was a bowl of hot porridge: nothing special to most people, but for her, in the cold cell, it was probably one of the best things she could have, and he wanted to make sure she would eat it. She had been growing thinner and thinner lately, as if she was beginning to give up on life, and Arphenion was worried about her.

“Dae’er,” he murmured softly, seeing that she was lying down with the ragged shirt (by now nothing but a torn rag) over her arms in an effort to keep warm. He didn’t want to startle her out of her sleep, but he did need to wake her up for her food if she was to eat it warm. But she didn’t respond to his voice. Nor did she stir when he called her name a second time.

Frowning, he knelt down and shook her shoulder gently. Her skin was like ice. He sucked in his breath and set the bowl down, then turned her onto her back and cupped her sunken cheeks in his hands. He caressed her face lightly with his thumbs, calling her name softly, insistently. After a moment, her eyelids fluttered, and she opened her eyes just a slit.

“A-Ar …”

She couldn’t even say his name, and the recognition that had registered in her eyes was fading. Almost panicking, Arphenion picked her up and held her close, rubbing her body to force her blood to circulate and spread warmth.

“Come on, Dae’er,” he said through gritted teeth. “You’ve lasted this many years already – don’t die on me now!”

Dae’er moaned softly. Her fingers twitched slightly, and her breathing grew slightly stronger. Arphenion kept his arms around her and continued to rub. Suddenly he heard someone clearing their throat at the door, behind him. He turned his head and continued working on warming up Dae’er.

It was Maravel.

“Am I too late?” the sage asked anxiously. He had blankets – several of them – bunched under his arm, as well as a rolled-up mattress and a pillow.

Arphenion grew suddenly very angry. “What do you mean, too late?” he demanded. “Of course you’re too late! You were too late when you didn’t stop the General bringing her down here in the first place! She’s done nothing – nothing! – to deserve being locked up at all, let alone being brought down here!”

Maravel paled. “Then she-”

He cut himself off as Dae’er herself turned to look at him. Gone was the fire in her eyes, gone was any sign of her former will to live, to leave this place, and the fact that she was moving made Maravel think of her as a moving corpse. But for Maravel, it was enough.

He let out a sigh of relief and stepped forward.

“Here,” he said, kneeling and setting the items onto the cold stone floor. “I only realized this morning how bad it was getting. I wanted to bring this sooner, but … Sir Arphenion, you know how dangerous it is. But for her sake – for all our sakes – she must not die!

“Then she has to get out of here,” Arphenion retorted, though his anger had dissipated after Maravel’s speech. As he watched, the General’s advisor set out the mattress and tucked a blanket around it. He left the other blankets – three more of them – next to the mattress, then stood up.

“I will see if I can find some medicine that won’t be missed,” he told Arphenion seriously. “But before I go … there is something I want you to consider.”

“And what is that?” Arphenion asked cautiously, not sure if he trusted Maravel. Yes, it had been Maravel who had approached him five years ago to tell him to take care of Dae’er as best he could, but since that time – until now – the man had done nothing else to make himself worthy of trust.

Maravel looked miserable enough now, though, that Arphenion was at least willing to listen to what he had to say.

“There is a way for the two of you to get out of this place,” he said quietly. “A way for both of you to escape this cell … to live.”

“And how is that?” Arphenion demanded. “When I’m not here, I’m followed – and how on Arda could I possibly sneak her out? There’s no way to hide her, and the General keeps special tabs on-”

“If you were to marry her,” Maravel interrupted, silencing the guard. He waited a moment to make sure Arphenion was listening properly. “As husband and wife, you could both leave this cell and still fulfil the General’s requirements, without fear of him taking retribution against either of you. You would remain in his employ here at the palace. She, as your wife, would live here with you, and she would be untouchable. Even the General will not touch or even look at a woman who is married.”

Arphenion looked down at Dae’er. She was asleep again – or passed out, both of which worried him.

“If she stays here much longer, she will die,” Maravel added softly, gazing down at the woman. “And not because of the conditions. She simply has lost her will to fight it.”

“But to force her into marrying me … I could never do it,” Arphenion said, his voice pained.

“It is that or her death,” Maravel said simply. “And the death of others.” He paused. “You have no idea how important this woman is. She must live. And I know you care for her. Could you let her die simply because you don’t wish to impose upon her a life with you? Noble, but foolish.”

Arphenion closed his eyes and held Dae’er just a little bit closer. “Enough,” he whispered. “I will.”

Maravel nodded. “I will fetch the medicines she needs. When she is strong enough, I will take you both to see the General.”

And he vanished, leaving Arphenion alone with Dae’er once more.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:19 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 956 (21 F.A.)
Status: Early Spring

It had taken more than a month for Dae’er to regain any strength. It had taken all of Arphenion’s persuasive abilities to convince Dae’er to take the medicine she did not want and to eat the food for which she was not hungry. But he had seen how quickly she had grown stronger once she was sleeping on a mattress instead of a cold stone floor, with blankets to keep her from freezing.

Arphenion had waited about three weeks before telling Dae’er about Maravel’s idea to get her out of the prison. For a while, she had been silent, and he had feared that she was going to reject him outright, or accuse him of wanting to take advantage of her; but when she spoke, her tone was quite serious and calm, perhaps the calmest he had ever heard her speak.

“If I marry you,” she told him, her eyes fixed on his, “it will only be because you truly want me to be your wife, because you love me. Not because you feel sorry for me.”

It had taken Arphenion a while to convince her that that was indeed the case.

And it was.

Now, only a week before they expected the General to come again and ask if Dae’er had changed her mind, Arphenion had taken advantage of the fact that it was Maravel’s turn to watch over Dae’er for a while and, rather than going to his quarters to rest, had sought out the General to make his request.

He found the General in the fourth floor corridor, heading to his own bedchamber for the night, and hurried to catch up with him.

“My lord,” he called out just as the General put his hand on his door.

The General stopped and looked back at Arphenion. It took a moment for him to recognize who it was who had called him, and then he lowered his hand.

“Has something happened to the prisoner?” he asked gruffly.

Arphenion stopped just before the General and knelt to one knee, bowing his head respectfully. “My lord, she has made a decision,” he told him. “She has agreed to live here in the palace … on one condition.”

The General frowned. He didn’t like that she was putting a condition on her release; but given how important she was for his plan, he supposed he would at least have to listen to it. “What is it?”

Arphenion was amazed that he had gotten even this far without reprisal, and that alone gave him the courage to continue. “She consents to remain in the palace, living under your watch, on the condition that she be given to me in marriage. She wishes to know that she will be safe from you, that she will come to no harm.”

To his surprise, the General laughed. “If she wants to be your wife, I’ll marry the two of you myself and send you both into the city.”

Arphenion blinked up at the General, uncertain whether the man was being sarcastic or not. “My lord?”

The General’s smile faded, and he glared at Arphenion. “Do you think I have any use in my guard for a man who turns his prisoner into a mistress?”

Arphenion’s face flushed at the injustice of the accusation, but he was wise enough to keep silent.

“Go, bring her to my throne room,” the General ordered. “Bring Maravel back with you, too. And quickly, if you don’t mind. I’d like to sleep soon.”

Arphenion bowed deeply. “Thank you, my lord,” he said sincerely. “I shall be there as quickly as I am able.”

And he turned and hurried back to the cell, many floors below, where Dae’er and Maravel awaited his return.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:19 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 956 (21 F.A.)
Status: Early Spring

By the time Arphenion and Dae’er left the castle, it was the middle of the night. It was quite a cool night, and a cool breeze made even Arphenion shiver lightly. He could only imagine how Dae’er felt: he had given her some of his clothes to wear, since the clothes in which she had been imprisoned had nearly worn away, but they did not fit her well as she was now so thin, and she was still incredibly weak, despite the recovery she had been making. He was carrying her now because he knew she could never make it, walking, to their destination.

“Just stay awake long enough to show me the way to your parents’ home,” he urged her, holding her close to try to shield her from the cold, “and then I promise you can sleep.”

Dae’er was shivering almost violently, but she managed to point a shaky finger down one of the streets that led away from the castle plaza. Arphenion followed it quickly and prayed that they would not meet any of the soldiers that were patrolling the streets. It was well past curfew, and even though the General had ejected them from the castle just now, he had a feeling the soldiers would not be sympathetic to him.

Every once in a while, Arphenion had to wake Dae’er to make sure that they were still on course, but eventually they arrived at the apothecary’s shop. Arphenion hesitated only a moment before pounding on the door. He hoped there would be someone awake, though he doubted that would be the case; and if not, then he hoped that someone would hear him quickly.

Sure enough, within a minute, a light appeared in a window above the shop.

Arphenion continued to pound on the door until he heard a voice coming through the door, “Cut it out, already! I’m coming!”

He stopped banging on the door and focused on holding onto Dae’er so that he wouldn’t drop her. The shouts through the door stopped, though now Arphenion could hear muttering in its place.

Middle of the night. If it’s one of those soldiers, I’ll have something to say to them! Curfew – why don’t they have to follow it, I ask you.” He heard the door latch being fiddled with, and the door opened slowly. “This had better be impor-”

The man who had answered the door cut himself off when he saw Arphenion and Dae’er standing there, shivering in the cold.

“Are you Dae’er’s father?” Arphenion asked the man quickly.

The man nodded, still speechless, and opened the door further before gesturing for the two to enter. Arphenion carried Dae’er inside. Immediately, he felt warmer, but she still shivered on. Arphenion looked around to see if he could set her down anywhere, but there was nowhere. He turned back to Dae’er’s father.

“We need a fire so she can get warm,” he told him. “Somewhere she can lie down.”

The man was still staring, shocked by the sudden reappearance of his daughter as well as the state she was in. Arphenion felt himself growing angry.

“Come on, man, snap out of it!” he snapped. “She needs to warm up!”

The man blinked as though startled from a trance. “This way,” he said, beckoning for Arphenion to follow him through a doorway in the back of the shop. They went through another room and ended up in a large room with several unoccupied beds and a large fireplace in the northern wall. Arphenion laid Dae’er on the bed nearest the fireplace while her father lit a fire and built it up.

“Gaelin,” said a female voice from a doorway to the left. “Who …”

“It’s Dae’er,” said Dae’er’s father, his tone halfway between joy and grief.

The woman gasped and raced forward to her daughter’s side. “Dae’er,” she murmured, taking her daughter’s hand in hers. Dae’er didn’t respond, having passed out once more.

“What do you need, Tsara?” asked Gaelin grimly.

The woman rattled off a list of items, and her husband ran to fetch them quickly. While he was gone, Tsara began looking after Dae’er, checking her pulse, her temperature, pulling blankets up over her, fussing with the pillows behind her head, and rechecking everything. Gaelin was back quickly, and Tsara took a cloth and basin of water from him and began to bathe Dae’er’s forehead. Arphenion held back, but watched anxiously.

“It figures, the General would send her back once she was too weak to be of any use to him anymore,” Gaelin muttered darkly. “If he’d take better care of his servants, they wouldn’t end up like this.”

“Actually-” Arphenion broke in; then hesitated. If Dae’er’s parents were under the impression that she had been forced into servitude, it would not be as bad as learning that she had been imprisoned for no reason. But how could he not be honest?

“Yes?” Tsara and Gaelin asked together, patient but curious.

Arphenion grimaced. They were his parents now, too, and he could not expect them to accept him if he was not honest with them. They would find out eventually from Dae’er herself where she had been.

“She was not a servant in the palace,” he told them quietly.

Gaelin frowned, and Tsara kept fussing over Dae’er. “What then?” her father demanded.

Arphenion forced himself to continue to look at them, though it was difficult. “She was a prisoner,” he said finally. Both of Dae’er’s parents stared at him in shock, and he explained how abruptly it had come to pass, and how he had been, for the most part, her only guard, and how he had fought to keep her alive and well.

“So what happened, that the General let her go?” Gaelin asked suspiciously. “Are you supposed to make sure she’s healed and then take her back again?” There was a look in his eye that indicated very clearly that if that were indeed the case, he would kill Arphenion on the spot.

Arphenion shook his head. “I can’t say for certain, but I believe the General wished to keep her as a mistress. She refused him. Every time he asked her if she would consent to live in the palace, she refused him. Her health grew steadily worse, as with every refusal he took away something else from her. A few weeks ago, she nearly died. The thought occurred to me – perhaps there was a way out of it for her.”

He explained to them what Maravel’s idea had been, though for some reason unknown to him he did not say that it had indeed been the General’s advisor’s idea. Somehow he thought that it might not go over very well if he revealed that information.

“Clearly the General thought that I had defiled her,” he concluded, well aware of the fury smouldering in his in-laws’ eyes, “but I can only assure you that is not the case. I care for Dae’er – I genuinely do – and I would never dishonour her in any way.”

There was a long silence as Dae’er’s parents thought about what Arphenion had told them. They both looked close to tears.

At length, Gaelin said quietly, “I don’t know if I can believe it. The General doesn’t just let his prisoners go. Nor his soldiers. There has to be a catch.”

Arphenion had no answer to that. He agreed wholeheartedly – but for the life of him, he could not think of what the price of their escape might end up being.

“All I can say is, the catch had better not have anything to do with Dae’er returning to that place,” Tsara snapped angrily. “To have her vanish on us like that once was bad enough, and we never dreamed it would have been for such a reason as that! But if she has to go back again, I-”

She was cut off but Dae’er, who was rousing from her deep sleep. She moaned softly, and then her eyes opened slightly and she looked around. She stared up at Tsara for a long moment, then murmured, “Mama?”

Tsara burst into tears and hugged her daughter tightly, and Gaelin stepped closer.

“Papa?” Dae’er murmured when she spotted her father. “Where … where is … Arphenion?” Her brow furrowed, deepening the lines that wrinkled her face. “Where-”

“I’m here, Dae’er,” Arphenion spoke up, stepping closer to Dae’er’s side. Her eyes flickered over to him, and he smiled warmly at her. She relaxed and held one hand weakly out to him. He knelt next to her and took her hand and held it tightly to comfort her.

Tsara and Gaelin watched the interaction silently, aside from Tsara’s tears, and both of them had the same thought running through their heads.

Perhaps Dae’er marrying this man to escape from prison was not the worst way to get out after all.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:20 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 28 956 (21 F.A.)
Status: Mid Spring

The day following Dae’er’s release from prison and Arphenion’s release from service, Maravel once more resumed his observational post on the balcony of the former conservatory. He had a feeling that he was slightly more concerned about the girl than the General was – though that didn’t surprise him, to be honest – and he wanted to make sure she was all right. It had been the General who had wanted her to marry Arphenion, but Maravel was the one who knew the true value of the child that the couple would eventually bear.

It had been four weeks since the two had been set free from the palace, and Maravel had yet to catch sight of either of them. He hoped that they would still be in the city – and considering the shape Dae’er had been in when they’d left, he knew they wouldn’t have been able to go far. But he did not want to begin to make enquiries; that would be too suspicious.

“Don’t waste your time, Maravel,” the General’s voice came from the doorway behind the sage.

He jumped, startled by the General’s sudden and unexpected arrival. “Waste my time, my lord?” he repeated, turning to face his master.

“Looking for the girl.” The General turned dismissively. “It’s not worth your time.”

Maravel blinked and rose to his feet. “But my lord,” he protested, “if she has died, then all will have been for nothing!”

The General laughed. “Don’t worry so much!” he chided his advisor. “After all, it will happen. You have Seen it, have you not?”

Maravel was not reassured. “My lord, I saw only the possibility,” he said cautiously. “There is never a guarantee. The future is not set in stone. If her time in prison has been too hard on her, she could be too far damaged to have any children, or perhaps even die. She nearly did, about a month ago.”

“But you told me she would mother the man who would stop the rebellions for good,” the General said slowly, turning to face Maravel once more. His eyes were narrow, suspicious. “Are you telling me that you lied?”

Maravel swallowed hard, remembering once more the severed head that still sat in its glass container in the corner of his bedchamber. “No, my lord, I did not lie. But what I see is only a possibility – in this case, only she and the man to whom she is now married have the possibility of bringing into this world the man who can stop forever the rebellions against you. But if something happens to prevent this … it is also a possibility that the child will never be born.”

The General’s eyes flashed dangerously. “Are you telling me that I ought to have killed the man’s family after all?”

After Arphenion and Dae’er had been set free, the General had wanted to kill Arphenion’s mother and sisters – his last remaining family – to warn others that disobedience (even if it meant that the person was doing what the General secretly wanted) would not be tolerated; it had been Maravel who had convinced the General that if he had done so, he would not have been able to rightfully, in the eyes of the people, take the child that would (could) someday be born to the arranged couple. This alone had saved the lives of the women.

Maravel lowered his eyes, avoiding the General’s gaze. “No, my lord,” he said quietly. “I do not believe that it would have given you an advantage. If the girl is damaged or dead, then that would also be a grave warning to those who seek to defy you. If she is not, then you are still able to take the child to raise it yourself. If you were to kill the soldier’s family now, there would only be greater repercussions.”

The General stared coldly at Maravel, silent for several long moments. At last, he spoke.

“I will require your services this afternoon,” he said in a tone that hinted at a severe punishment, should Maravel fail to appear. “Until then, how you waste your time is your own business.”

And with that, he turned and strode away.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:20 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 29 023 (88 F.A.)
Status: Mid-Summer

One hundred and sixty six years had passed since General Quileth Durnen had taken over Garnelia. In the first few years of his reign, the country had nearly died because of his rule, and since that time, it had not improved very much. People still vanished off the streets. The land was still struggling to recover from the years when it had not been taken care of. Rebellions were still taking place, and they were still as ineffective as ever. Most of the people were still doing what they could to resist the interference of the General, though of course there were the few who had resigned themselves to life under his rule and tried to encourage others to do the same.

One of the many households who still did what they could to avoid the General and his men was the house where Arphenion and Dae’er had made their life together. It had taken Dae’er a full year to recover physically from her imprisonment, and soon afterwards she and Arphenion had taken a house of their own so as not to infringe on Gaelin and Tsara’s space more than they needed. But Dae’er’s mind had never recovered, and even now, sixty seven years after she had been released, she still had nightmares about her time in the isolation cell and the General. They had been lessening in the past decade or so, but she knew that she would never be fully free from the terror the General had instilled in her.

The damage to her body had been more than external, however; and for a long time she and Arphenion had feared that they might be unable to have children. At length, their fears were allayed: earlier this week, Dae’er had given birth to a healthy baby boy. It had been a difficult pregnancy, to be sure, and a few times they had been afraid that they might lose the baby; but in the end, it had all worked out.

Arphenion was overjoyed and as fussy as a mother hen. He positively doted on Dae’er, getting her everything she needed and always asking how he could help out. Tsara of course stopped by regularly to check on the baby – Caelamondorion, or Cael for short – and to supply whatever herbs or medicines any of them might need. She and Gaelin had long since come to terms with their daughter’s marriage, and now loved Arphenion as if they had approved of him through an entire courtship.

On this particular evening, Gaelin and Tsara were again visiting Dae’er and Arphenion. They had brought dinner for them, and of course loved to see their brand new grandson (even if he did spend most of his time fast asleep). Cael was asleep in a small cradle in one corner of the dining room while the adults ate and chatted together, for once feeling as though they hadn’t a care in the world.

Then came the knock at the door.

“Are we expecting anyone?” Arphenion asked Dae’er curiously, wiping his mouth with a napkin as he rose from his seat.

Dae’er was just as confused. “No …”

Arphenion shrugged and went to answer the door. He opened it to a very unpleasant surprise.

“Good evening, Arphenion,” the General smiled slyly from between two bodyguards. He brushed past Arphenion into the house, revealing his advisor, Maravel, behind him. “Mind if we come in?”

Of course, no one could refuse the General anything, and he was already in the house, so Arphenion really had no choice but to move aside and bow as the rest of the men entered the house after the General.

“To what do we owe this honour, my lord?” he asked quietly, closing the door behind the men. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the look on Maravel’s face: sorrow and pity. He didn’t have time to wonder about it, though.

“I hear you’ve had a son,” the General said to Arphenion, getting straight to the point. He was smiling, but it wasn’t a pleasant smile. “Congratulations.”

Arphenion smiled uncomfortably. “Thank you, my lord.”

The General’s smile widened. “I’d like very much to see him,” he said.

Arphenion knew that it was a command. He bowed his head again. “This way, my lord.”

He led the way into the small dining room, where all conversation had stopped. Tsara, Gaelin and Dae’er were all staring, and Dae’er had gone quite pale when she’d heard the General’s voice. The General ignored those at the table and instead focused his attention on the sleeping infant.

“What’s his name?” he asked, looking at Arphenion.

Arphenion cleared his throat. “Caelamondorion, my lord.”

The General continued to stare at the child. “Quite the mouthful for such a little thing.” He stepped towards the infant, and Dae’er rose to her feet. A glare from the General froze her where she stood, though her muscles were taut and she stood poised, ready to fling herself between the General and her child. After a moment, though, he smiled – the same smile she remembered from so long ago, and which still haunted her dreams.

“Well,” he murmured in a tone that sent chills down her spine. “Now this is what I expected the first time we met.”

Of course, after years of proper care and nourishment, she had regained her former beauty – and then some. But maternal instinct had also given her something new: the selfless desire and need to protect her child at any cost.

“What do you want?” she demanded though clenched teeth, not even bothering to hide her fury or show any respect.

“Careful, Dae’er,” the General warned her as his bodyguards stepped forward and drew their weapons. “I’ve no need of you anymore. It’s quite safe for you to die now.”

Gaelin made a sudden movement as if he wanted to attack the General, but his wife’s hand on his arm made him stay in his seat. She was upset as he was, but she was better at hiding it.

Dae’er’s eyes were flashing dangerously, but the threat meant more to her now than it had back when she had been imprisoned. Now she had a family to take care of, a family who needed her. A son who needed her. She couldn’t risk her life just because the General wanted to look at him.

The General smirked and made his way over to the sleeping child. He stared down at him in silence for a long time, simply staring at him, seeming almost enthralled by him.

“Who knew?” he murmured to himself. Without warning, he knelt down and picked up Caelamondorion. The infant was startled awake by the rough handling, and immediately he began to wail loudly.

Dae’er glared at the General, burning with fury. “Give me my son,” she demanded harshly, holding out her arms.

The General seemed amused more than anything. “Oh, I think not,” he grinned, tucking the infant close to his body. He turned to leave, but found that his way was blocked by Arphenion, who was now every bit as angry as his wife.

“Hand him over,” he said quietly but angrily, his own arms outstretched.

“Stop while you’re still ahead,” the General told Arphenion carelessly. Arphenion took a step towards the General, but his bodyguards were ready: one put his sword to Tsara’s back and the other grabbed Dae’er from behind and put his blade to her throat.

The General smiled at the look on Arphenion’s face. “You see, Arphenion, there is no way out for you. Oh, you could fight me, if you had a weapon, and I’m sure that you’re so filled with a righteous anger that you might even be able to hurt me. But before you could lay a finger on me, your wife and your mother-in-law would be dead.”

Arphenion’s eyes flickered towards his family, and he clenched his jaw tightly.

“By the way,” the General added maliciously, “how is your mother? And your sisters? They’re been doing remarkably well since your termination. I would hate for something to happen to them now.”

Arphenion grew cold, and he swallowed hard, avoiding Dae’er’s eye. What was he supposed to do? Everything inside him wanted to protect his son, take him back from the General, but if he did he would be sacrificing the lives of all the other people in his life that he loved.

Suddenly Gaelin darted forward, but before he could take two steps, he let out a cry and fell to the floor, blood spurting from a deep wound on the back of his neck. Tsara cried out but was stopped from rushing to his side by the bodyguard who had killed her husband, who now pointed his sword back at her.

Dae'er was shaking. She had the same dilemma as Arphenion with the added pressure of having just watched her father being killed.

“You see I am quite serious,” the General said coldly. He stepped over Gaelin’s dead body, past Arphenion, and towards the other room again. “Don’t worry about your son,” he said as he left the dining room, smiling sinisterly. “I’ll take good care of him. I’ll raise him as if he were my own.”

And as abruptly as he had appeared, he was gone.

The two bodyguards followed after the General was gone, leaving only Maravel behind. The advisor looks quite miserable, and he backed slowly towards the door, keeping his eyes nervously on the three people left in the room.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice breaking. “So very, very sorry … there was no other way …”

And with that, he was gone.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:21 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 29 023 (88 F.A.)
Status: Late Summer

Dae’er was inconsolable after the death of her father and the kidnapping of her son, and Tsara was only slightly better because her daughter needed her so badly. Arphenion had to numb himself against the fury that threatened to overflow at any given moment and it was only in that way that he was able to force himself to deal with his father-in-law’s funeral. Once that was finished, he sat down to think long and hard about what he and his family could do from there. It was clear that they would not be able to stay where they were. No matter what he did, it was impossible to clean the spot on the dining room floor where Gaelin had been murdered.

Now, however, he had come to a decision. It was the only thing that he could think of that would keep his family from falling apart completely. His decision made, he rose from where he had been sitting in the dining room and strode purposefully up the stairs to present it to his wife and mother-in-law.

As she had been for the past several weeks, Dae’er was lying in bed, her red eyes fixed blankly on the wall. Tsara sat on a chair next to her, her own eyes red, though she was holding together better than her daughter. It was she who made the meals for the three of them, who could on occasion coax Dae’er from her bed to the living room just for a change of scenery.

Only Tsara looked up at Arphenion as he entered the room, and Dae’er responded only when Arphenion called her name the third time. Then she turned her head, and both women looked at him expectantly.

“Pack your things,” he told them firmly. “We’re getting out of here.”

He expected protest, and he was not disappointed.

“How can you abandon our son?” Dae’er demanded quietly, spirit returning to her eyes. “To leave him behind, do nothing to get him back?”

“What have we done here since it happened?” Arphenion replied calmly. “We have sat here and done nothing. That is no argument, Dae’er. I don’t know what we can do about that, at least not right now. We’re too closely watched here, and we haven’t any strength. I will not let it happen again. The General has our son. I will not lose you as well, or any other children we might have.”

“But we can’t abandon him!” Dae’er threw back the blanket and moved to stand, but her mother pushed her gently back to the bed.

“Don’t strain yourself,” she chided her. “I’m sure that’s not what Arphenion is suggesting.” She looked up at her son-in-law and gave him a severe look, almost threatening.

Dae’er’s eyes blazed as she looked up at her husband, waiting for him to explain.

Arphenion strode forward and knelt in front of the two women. “We will leave the city, but not the area,” he told them. “In the forest, we will not be under the eye of the General, which will free us to do many things. He will believe that we have given up, that we have let him win. We can have our own home, raise a family in at least partial freedom …”

He saw Dae’er open her mouth to protest and held up one hand to stop her.

“And out there,” he said, more quietly now, glancing about as if he were afraid of being overheard, “I can train you in the use of weapons so that the next time something happens, we can all defend ourselves. And, Valar willing, someday we may have the strength and opportunity to sneak back into the city and take our son back.”

He could see that both Dae’er and Tsara were thinking hard, and for a moment, there was silence.

Then Tsara spoke up. “You will need eyes and ears in the city, in case anything happens,” she said quietly. “I will return to my shop. I can still help the people in the city, and if anything happens, I can send word to you, to warn you. Dae’er knows as much as I do about herbs and medicines, she will be able to help you with any medical needs you might have.”

A frightened look appeared in Dae’er’s eyes, and she turned to Tsara. “Mama-”

Tsara shook her head. “No, Arphenion is right. If you remain here, the General will always watch you to make sure that you do nothing to retake your son. If you have any hope of finding Caelamondorion back, this is it.”

She rose and kissed Arphenion on the forehead. “Bless you, my son. You and Dae’er pack and leave. I will worry about the sale of the house. Send me word when you settle, I will keep your location as secret as I can.”

Arphenion smiled. “Thank you. Come, Dae’er. If we’re to have a home by winter, we must go.”

Dae’er looked around at all of the things they would need to pack, already separating in her mind what they would take and what would have to stay behind. Slowly, thoughtfully, she nodded her head.

“Yes,” she murmured softly. “Yes … we must …”
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 9:21 am

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 29 023 (88 F.A.)
Status: Early Autumn

Arphenion and Dae’er sold what possessions they would not need to take with them, and used that money, along with a donation from Tsara, to buy a horse and a small cart to help them in their journey. Tsara also helped them to buy tools for cutting down trees and working the land and weapons for hunting, which were the only type of weapons available for purchase by the laypeople. Then they packed what belongings they were taking – things that were necessary to start a new life – into their new cart, and left.

For a few days, they’d wandered the forest around the city, looking for a good place that was not too close but not too far, until one day they came across a small cottage. It seemed quite cozy. It had several windows, shutters open to let in the fresh air; and on many of the window ledges there were small bowls with flowers growing in them. Smoke rose lazily from the chimney, as well as from a small smoke house a short distance from the cottage, before the closest line of trees.

“What do you think?” Arphenion asked Dae’er quietly as the two of them surveyed the cottage.

Dae’er was uncertain. “We first have to find out who lives there,” she murmured back. “Find out whether they’re trustworthy. I do like the idea of neighbours, someone who can help us out … but if they’re going to inform the General on us …”

“All we can do is meet them,” her husband replied, pressing a light kiss against her forehead. “Come. At the least, we might receive something warm to eat.”

He tied the horse’s rope to the branch of a tree and, taking Dae’er’s hand, he led her to the door of the cottage. He smiled at his wife reassuringly and knocked at the door. For a moment there was no reply, and he knocked a second time.

Be right there,” a voice called from the other side of the door. Dae’er suddenly felt anxious, and she tightened her grip on Arphenion’s hand.

Then the door opened, and in the doorway stood a tall man dressed in forest garb. His dark eyes were filled with suspicion, and he seemed to be blocking the doorway without trying to make it look deliberate. “Yes?”

Arphenion could sense Dae’er panicking, and he put one arm around her and drew her close. “My wife and I have been traveling for several days,” he told the man quietly, “and we saw your cottage … we wondered if we might have something warm to eat and perhaps ask some advice.”

The man’s eyes narrowed slightly. “You look familiar … do I know you?”

“If you’ve been in the capital any time in the past century, you must have at least heard of me,” Arphenion replied sadly. “I am Arphenion.”

“Arphenion?” the man repeated, blinking. “Son of Arondron?”

Arphenion was stunned. “You knew my father?”

The man straightened and nodded. “A more noble man, or loyal, I never knew,” he said. He stepped aside and bowed low. “You are indeed welcome here, sir. I know what the General did to your father, and that therefore you must not be any friend of his. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Therefore, friend, enter.”

Arphenion wasn’t quite sure what to make of this, and though he partially wondered if it might be a trap, he smiled and bowed in return. “Thank you,” he said warmly. “Thank you very much.”

He let Dae’er enter first and followed directly after her.

The room they entered was a comfortable-looking sitting room, with two chairs and a small couch surrounding a small table. Two doors led off from the room, one to a kitchen, the other to what appeared to be a narrow hallway.

“Please, sit,” the man invited them, motioning towards the chairs in the living room. “I will bring something to drink. Dinner is soon, I do hope you will stay with us. My name is Chesnet.”

“As I said, I am Arphenion,” Arphenion introduced himself once more. “My wife’s name is Dae’er.”

A second man appeared from the kitchen, this one more muscularly built, also dressed for the forest.

“This is Mathias,” Chesnet introduced the man.

“You’re certain we can trust them?” Mathias interrupted, eying the newcomers suspiciously. “You know what happened to his father, sure, but others have turned before.”

“The General murdered my father and took our son from us!” Dae’er burst out angrily, rising from where she had sat down only a moment before. “Don’t you dare imply that we would ever do anything to support him!”

Arphenion rose and put his arms around her again. “Calm yourself, love,” he murmured. “They just have to be sure.”

“And so should we!” Dae’er seethed. “How do we know we can trust them? Just because this is their home? Because they were suspicious of us first?”

“No, no, you’re quite right,” Chesnet spoke up, stepping between Mathias and their guests. “No one should trust anyone easily. But I do believe that we can allay your fears, madam, if you will give me but a moment.”

“They needn’t wait that long,” came a soft female voice from behind Mathias in the kitchen. Mathias didn’t look happy, but he stepped aside and let the woman pass by him into the living room. She was shorter than the men, but taller than Dae’er, her thick black hair pulled back into a long braid. A scar peeked out of the top of her tunic, but aside from that she was the very image of health. Except that she was older, she was exactly as Arphenion remembered her.

“Your Highness,” he breathed in shock, sinking slowly to one knee. “But … you … you’re dead …”

Dae’er was confused. “But the royal family was all assassinated before I was born … long before I was born …”

The princess smiled. “I am glad that is still what is being told. If it were known that I had survived, I would not be able to do the work that I am.” She turned to Arphenion and sighed ever so softly. “Rise, Arphenion, son of Arondron. Once, I was the daughter of the king. Now I am nobody, and it is only by being nobody that I live still. Treat me as such.”

Arphenion rose again. “Your Highness-”

“Mari,” the princess interrupted. “My name is Mari, and I wish to be called nothing else.”

She smiled. “Now. You are not here for no reason. Tell me, what can we do to help you?”

She motioned for Arphenion and Dae’er to sit, which they did, and she also took one of the chairs and listened as Arphenion explained what had led them here – from his father’s murder, to Dae’er being thrown in prison for no reason and his position as her guard; their marriage, their hopes for a child that had taken so many years to come to fruition; and the day that the General had killed Gaelin and stolen their son away from them.

“We are searching for somewhere to live, near the city but not too near, where we will be out from under the General’s eye, so that we may start a new family as well as work towards saving our son,” he concluded.

Mari nodded. She had been silent, thoughtful, throughout the entire explanation, and from time to time she would glance out the window to where they had left the horse and cart. When Arphenion finished, she spoke.

“I see that you have brought implements for working the land,” she murmured. “That is something we have always wished to do, both for more variety of food and also to convince General Quileth’s men that we are only here to work and to live, not to work against the General.”

She looked back at the couple and smiled gently. “We would be honoured if you would settle near us. We will help you build your home and work the land, if in return you will allow us to share your yields. We will help you hunt as well, and protect you.”

Dae’er was touched. “Thank you,” she said warmly. She looked to her husband. “Arphenion?”

He chuckled softly and hugged her with the arm that was already around her. “Yes,” he agreed. “The honour would be ours.”

Mari’s smile widened. “Good. Then there is but one more condition, though I hope it will not be a burden. Each year when the General’s men come to collect our taxes, they search the entire place to make sure that no one is hiding from them, and that we are not hiding from them. However, they have not yet discovered my presence, and to this day they believe that only Chesnet and Mathias live here. The only other condition for living here is that you do nothing to indicate to anyone that I am alive, or that I am here. Ever.”

Arphenion and Dae’er exchanged a glance. “Do you not plan to help your people?” Dae’er asked, her hopes sinking slightly.

“I am, and I do,” Mari replied steadily. “But when the time is right. At the moment we would be crushed. When we make our move, surprise will be the difference between victory and defeat. If my survival becomes known, the General will stop at nothing to track me down and will torture and murder anyone who he even suspects of having any knowledge of me. To save these people and to destroy the General, my life must be kept secret.”

Arphenion bowed his head. “I swear on my soul that I will never betray your presence,” he vowed.

Dae’er nodded slowly. “As do I.”

Mari smiled again. “Then welcome. I look forward to our time together.”
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:56 pm

Location: Dekra Outskirts, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 29 051 (116 F.A.)
Status: Early Winter

MARAVEL!

The seer was about to push himself away from his desk and stand up when the door to the conservatory opened and Caelamondorion stepped in. His face was expressionless, and he looked tiredly at Maravel.

“You’d better come,” he sighed. “He’s in a foul temper. There was another theft last night that no one can explain.”

“And he wants me to explain it,” Maravel said anxiously as he stood. “And what shall I tell him? There has been so little to tell him in these past few years that he will kill me.”

MARAVEL!” the General’s voice came again, angrier than before.

“Have you nothing to tell him?” Cael asked desperately. “I’ve never seen him in such a temper!”

Maravel winced and hurried after the prince. “I’ll think of something,” he muttered, though it was more a hope than a certainty.

It took them a few minutes to reach the conference room where the General had taken to spending his time of late, and the General had continued to shout for Maravel, each time getting louder and sounding more irritated. When at last the seer entered the room, before he could even bow or say anything the General grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the wall.

Fifteen!” he shouted, his face a deep shade of red, eyes narrow with rage. “Fifteen times this year alone, the armoury has been emptied! And from you – nothing! No warning! No information! Nothing to explain who is doing this, how they are doing it, or when they are going to strike again!”

Maravel was struggling to breathe, and he was beginning to see spots swirling around him. Just as his vision began to darken, the grip around his throat slackened, and he gasped in precious, life-giving oxygen.

“My- my Lord,” he gasped; but before he could say anything else, he felt a blinding pain on the side of his head and he was slammed against the wall.

“Do you know how much we’ve lost?” the General shouted, reaching down and picking up the seer by the front of his shirt. “Hundreds of pieces of armour, hundreds of weapons – gone! And what can you tell me this time? Eh?” He shook the seer violently. “Tell me, what can you tell me? Who’s doing it? And how? Even when we move everything – gone!”

Maravel felt a falling sensation … and then blissful nothingness.

Two figures. One dark. One white. Not just white: light. Like a star.

Blinding.

“… see the continent …”

“… all of us …”

“… there is much to be learned …”

“… much to do …”

A winged being. Different races. Cat-like people. A vixen.

A shift. Forest. The princess. With the odd group.

Another shift. Cael. Prison. The General.

A celebration …


Pain roused him from his vision, brought him back to the moment, and he opened his eyes and found himself looking at the floor. He rolled onto his back and looked up to see the General standing over him, fists clenched, his face contorted with rage. Nearby, Caelamondorion was looking on, his face impassive – which Maravel knew meant that he was holding his true emotions back.

“You saw something,” the General snarled down at the seer. “What was it?”

Maravel blinked slowly up at the General, his mind still working through what he had Seen. He glanced aside at Caelamondorion very briefly before looking back at the General. “My Lord, I believe it is best kept for your ears alone,” he said quietly.

The General glared at the prince, who nodded and left without question. When the door had closed, he looked back at Maravel, who had pushed himself into a sitting position against the wall. “Well?”

Maravel lowered his gaze. “I am sorry, my Lord, it is not about the thefts … but it is about Prince Cael. About the end of the rebellions.”

A greedy light appeared in the General’s eyes, and he reached down and yanked Maravel to his feet by the front of his tunic. “Tell me,” he growled.

“The time is approaching,” Maravel murmured, forcing himself to look into the General’s eyes, though he would much rather have looked away. “The final piece of the puzzle is on its way. Prince Cael will indeed end the rebellions once and for all, but he will not do so alone. The one who will help him is coming … it will yet be some time, perhaps even some years … but the final approach has begun. And …”

He trailed off as if he were hesitant to continue, baiting the General with the last bit of information he had to offer.

“And?” the General pressed, just as the Seer had predicted he would.

Maravel forced a faint smile. “Your fears for him succeeding you are unnecessary. He will indeed end the rebellions … but he will never ascend the throne.”

As he had hoped, General Quileth took the news as he’d hoped he would. He was gloating, assuming that he would live forever and never be displaced. For that, Maravel was glad. He would never see the truth until it was too late.
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:57 pm

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 29 052 (117 F.A.)
Status: Early Spring

Maravel had a lot on his mind when he left Prince Eärendil’s cell. He had done a lot of reading during his time in the palace, and in the few days that the prince had been in captivity there, he had realized that the General had never read most of what was in the library or the archives. If he had, he would not be so eager to keep the prince in his cell.

The Aldrich name was one with which Maravel was familiar. The first of the Firstborn, leaders of the elves, respected by all – at least, those who knew of them … Maravel wanted to believe that if the General had known ahead of time who this man was, he would never have thrown him in prison, but he knew better. He himself had explained to the General many times since the man’s capture, but it seemed as if the more he protested, the more adamant the General became that he would remain locked up.

The man was a raving paranoid.

But the vision he’d had while he’d been in the cell had given him even more to think about. There were people coming for the prince, all right – more people than he had expected, in a way. Arphenion and Dae’er were coming back to the city, and they were not alone: Princess Mari was accompanying them, along with five dark elven men and a young girl; and then there were several people of different races: light elves, a very pale woman whose race he couldn’t quite pin down; the vixen he’d seen before, and the woman with wings.

What were these people? Who were they? And he knew that one of them – he didn’t know which one, but one of them – would be the trigger that would mark the beginning of the end.

But why? Cael had never seen any of them in his life – not since he was only a day old, anyways – so how would any of them cause him to finish off the General?

Or was that how it would go?

He was really starting to get confused. He had not seen a lot over the past century, and all of a sudden he was seeing quite a bit. Bits and pieces, most of it, but …

“Maravel, you’ve been to see the man?” Caelamondorion’s voice interrupted his thoughts when Maravel joined him in his study. “How is he?”

Maravel sighed and put the now-empty food bag into the desk. “I’m afraid for him, my lord,” he said quietly as he sat down. “He will not talk, and you know what happens to those who do not answer the General’s questions …”

Cael sighed and lowered his gaze. “I know.” He looked up at Maravel again. “You’re going to keep bringing him food, though, right?”

“Yes.” Maravel smiled. “What I can.”

“Good.” Cael smiled back at him. “Don’t get caught.”

Both men chuckled, and then Maravel reached for his journal to do some writing. Cael eyed him from over the top of his own book. “Another vision?” he asked quietly.

Maravel nodded. “Yes.” He had made a habit, starting about fifty years back, of writing down his visions, but using runes he had invented himself to keep the General from finding out exactly what he was seeing. “I’d like to get the details down before I see the General.”

“Mm. He’s been asking for you again.” Cael looked back at his book. “Best not make him wait too long.”

Maravel sighed and set his journal down. “I might as well go immediately,” he murmured, pushing his chair back again. “I have no idea what this one meant anyways.”

“You never do,” Cael quipped as Maravel left the room again.

It didn’t take Maravel long to find the General. As was usual for him, he was in the throne room, where he had set up his own work table. He had long since ceased to use his study.

Maravel knelt to one knee when he entered the room and bowed his head respectfully. “My lord, Prince Cael told me that you were searching for me,” he said quietly.

The General looked up from his work and nodded curtly. “Yes. Come here.”

Maravel rose and approached the General. “Yes, my lord?”

“The captain tells me that you went to visit our new prisoner.” The General sounded almost bored, and he leaned back in his chair comfortably. While his pose might have put some people at ease, Maravel knew better.

“Yes, my lord,” he said, standing next to the desk. “I thought I might try to ask him some more questions.”

The General nodded. “And did you get anything new from him?”

Maravel shook his head. “No, my lord.” He hesitated a moment, then ventured, “My lord … if I may …”

“Yes?”

Maravel hesitated again. “My lord … knowing who he is … you know that he is no threat to your reign and that the end of the rebellions is soon … what information he has is ultimately unimportant in that light, is it not?”

The General exhaled forcefully and turned away. “Maravel …”

“My lord, is it worth a war with another country?” Maravel protested, as he had done before. “Even with the rebellion ending, we are not ready for open conflict.”

“They won’t attack from halfway around the world,” the General said firmly. “Their man takes a while coming home, they’ll never know what happened to him. For all they know, his ship went down. Not concerned.”

“But my lord, he’s not even doing anything against you!”

“He broke the law and he’s hiding information, and that’s enough.” The General rose from his seat and stretched. “Maybe it’s time to find out what information that is.”

“My lord?” Maravel’s brow furrowed anxiously.

“Stay here, Maravel,” the General ordered him, brushing past him. “I think it’s time that I spoke with him again.”
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:57 pm

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 29 052 (117 F.A.)
Status: Early Spring

Caelamondorion watched Maravel’s receding back as he left the study. He knew what the General – Quileth, as only Cael could ever get away with calling him, and only in private – wanted with the sage, and he suspected what the results would be. The prisoner, who shouldn’t be a prisoner at all, in Cael’s opinion, had not given Maravel any more information, which meant that Quileth would lose his temper and probably go off to ask questions himself.

And he knew what the results of that would be.

It bothered him, more than he would ever admit aloud. He had learned over the years never to question the General. Not only would it do no good, but it would often irritate him to the point of going straight back to the person he had just finished interrogating and work him over again. Maravel was his only confidante, the only person he could trust with his true emotions and thoughts.

He felt sorry for Maravel, too. He knew the man’s story. Plucked out of prison, coerced into working for the General … Cael knew there was something going on with the man, something keeping him going despite the life he was living, but he had no idea what it was. Maravel had been the one to really raise him. The General had been too busy for the most part. Cael wasn’t afraid of the man who claimed to be his father. He knew there had to be a reason he’d been taken to live with him, though what it might be was beyond him.

He sighed and put away the history book he was reading, making sure to tuck it into the back of a drawer and stack several others on top of it. He wanted to know what the country was supposed to be like. He knew it hadn’t always been the way it was now, and his wish was that someday it would return to the way it had been. But he had been caught once with a history book by Quileth, when he had been very young, and that had been the first time the General had laid a hand on him.

Now he wanted to see the result of Maravel’s talk with the General. It had been a while, and they should have finished by now. He headed towards the throne room. Quileth could usually be found there.

On his way, he ran into Maravel, who was headed in the opposite direction.

“My lord,” Maravel greeted him, bowing his head respectfully.

Cael smiled at him. “Hello, Maravel. How did your talk with the General go?”

Maravel grimaced, which came as no surprise to Cael. The prince sighed. “Not so well.”

Maravel shook his head. “Not so well,” he agreed. “I believe the General has taken the prince down to the interrogation chamber.”

Cael knew what that meant, and he didn’t like it.

“How long?” he asked quietly.

Maravel shrugged his shoulder. “Quarter hour?”

Cael passed one hand over his face and sighed heavily. “Do you know where he’ll be taken afterwards?” he asked in a murmur. “Not back to his cell, I’m sure.”

He looked at Maravel pointedly, and the sage nodded. He understood what the prince meant.

“I’ll find out and let you know as soon as I can, my lord,” he said quietly. “And I will see what I can do about his conditions.”

Cael smiled and put one hand on Maravel’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he murmured. “I’ll give it an hour or so and then I’ll go see him myself.”
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Re: General Takeover (The Dekra Coup) | 28 857 / 3357 3A +

Post by Nara-pyon on Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:58 pm

Location: Dekra, Garnelia, Arkandia
Year: 29 052 (117 F.A.)
Status: Early Spring

As he had proposed to Maravel, Caelamondorion waited an hour before he left his rooms to look for the new prisoner. He stuck a few small cloths in his pockets, just in case they would be needed. Then he left the comfortable halls of the residential wing and headed towards the dungeons.

Halfway there, he ran into the General.

“Ah, Cael,” the General smiled. “There you are. Where are you heading?”

Cael glanced down at the General’s hands and wasn’t surprised to see blood on them. “Thought I’d get in a bit of sword practice,” he lied, looking back up at the General’s face. “There’s time before dinner, isn’t there?”

It was an excuse he had used before, and one that always worked. His trainer lived in the barracks with the other soldiers, and the entrance to the barracks was right next to the entrance to the dungeons. As he had predicted, the General didn’t press any further.

“Good for you,” he approved with a smile. “Plenty of time, get a good workout. I’m going to wash up. I’ll see you at dinner.”

They went their separate ways, and Cael started for the dungeons once more. He found Maravel near the entrance, and the sage quietly told the prince where the prisoner had been moved to. Cael thanked him and entered the dungeon. He headed down two flights of stairs, down a hallway, and another flight of stairs, and then he headed to the door at the end of the short hall. It was the only cell down there, so there was no fear of getting the wrong one.

There was one guard at the door, but at Cael’s request he unlocked the cell and opened it up for him before stepping aside. The guards were accustomed to his visits, and since the General would never stoop to speaking with someone of such low rank, Cael was in no danger of being found out.

Despite the fact that it was mid-afternoon, Cael couldn’t help but shiver when he entered the cell. This far below ground, it was always cold, no matter the time of day or year. He hated the isolation cell. It was cruel to put even someone in good health in here; but to put someone in poor health in here was just about a death sentence.

The moment he saw the prisoner, he knew his fears had been correct. Half the man’s face was little more than a bloody pulp, and he was lying on his side on the cold stone floor. Not that he had much choice: there were no other surfaces than the floor, walls and ceiling.

“You poor man,” Cael murmured, his brow furrowing as he sat next to him. He turned the man to lie on his back and cradled his head in his lap. Then he pulled the pieces of cloth out of his pockets.

“Water,” he called to the guard outside the door as he pressed a cloth to the prisoner’s cheek. As the guard hurried off, Cael sighed and turned his attention back to the prisoner.

“Always the innocents,” he murmured sadly. “You’re a foreigner, how could you possibly know about the no-weapons law? And a traveler at that.” He clicked his tongue. “Quileth is out of his mind. If he keeps this up, one of the countries around us, if not more than one of them, is going to make our problems their business.”

The prisoner’s eyes fluttered open, and he looked up at Cael.

“You’re awake,” Cael murmured sympathetically. “I’m sorry. I do wish I could spare you from all of this. You don’t deserve it, of that I am certain.” He checked underneath the cloth. “I’ll do what I can to get you cleaned up, but I’m afraid I can’t promise anything.”

“Mm.” The prisoner winced and tried to speak. He choked, coughed, and tried again. “Where … where am I?”

Cael smiled sadly. “Still imprisoned, I’m sorry to say. You’ve been moved from your original cell down to solitary, though. Not good for you.”

The guard returned with water, and Cael wet the cloth before putting it back to the prisoner’s cheek. The man winced, then sighed and relaxed slightly.

“Now I only met you briefly when you first arrived,” Cael went on, speaking out of a sincere desire to soothe the man, but also because he wanted to know more about him. “You’re a prince in your land, right? An Aldrich, Maravel tells me.”

The prisoner closed his eyes. “Mm. Yes. Eärendil. My name is Eärendil.”

Cael smiled softly. “Well, Prince Eärendil, despite the situation, I am pleased to meet you. I am Prince Caelamondorion – and I know it’s a mouthful, so feel free to call me Cael.” He set the cloth he was using aside, wet another one, and pressed the new one to Eärendil’s cheek. “I’ll do what I can to help you, though I’m afraid it won’t be enough. Hopefully you’ll have a few days at least before the General comes back to see you again. He usually forgets about the prisoners down here, at least for a few days.”

Eärendil didn’t reply. Cael suspected the man just didn’t have the energy. Rather than waiting for an answer, he just kept talking, something he’d done with a lot of prisoners with fairly consistently good results.

“Whatever you came here for, I do hope it was worth all of this,” he murmured, still treating Eärendil’s face. “I’m sure you weren’t expecting it. Traveling through the country, minding your own business … what a welcome. I just hope your traveling companions, whoever they are, wherever they are, are doing all right without you. And … I know this doesn’t mean much, but … I hope you return to them soon.” He sighed. “I really hope so.”
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