The following is a collaboratively told story based on a roleplay live event. Dialog is taken directly from the event, edited into a narrative format with input from all parties. Special thank you to @Sahara_Jackal for their incredible editing and hosting the event. Additional thanks to @Attn_Thaddeus_Reynolds @Torvik_Ironsides and @Kranacoi_Halvora
Galm Eskola-Fae disembarked from his brushed steel transport dropship, wearing a simple dress shirt the color of Skarkoni dust, and clasping a plastisteel cargo trunk. He took a pouch of nicotine, fidgeting with his shirt collar as he waited for Thad to join him. Thaddeus “the Blackshield” Reynolds walked off the ramp shortly after wearing his standard formal attire, polished metal on an armored gorget with spaulders on top. A variation of an Imperial Command Dress Uniform, though free of direct religious symbols and in darker colors. Belted on to his waist was a simple sword and a large, silver handgun. Eyes scanning, he signaled for a group of four warclones in various suits to stand back as he proceeded further.
A message arrived blinking on the pair’s neocoms from Stribog Clade’s Executive Security department, inviting the pair to visit the official offices of the Paramount Executive Kybernaut of Stribog Clade-- that is, Sahara Jackal’s Office. A short trip via an inter-station transport was arranged; a glossy red station limo lying in wait for them. Galm squinted at the vehicle intently, unsure for a moment what to say next.
"They can do that? Why can’t we do that? ■■■■. . . Veles is so much nicer than Svarog. You’d be lucky to even get the station transit to stop for you in Skarkon,” he took a breath, spitting out his nicotine pouch and giving one last squint at the Veles dockworkers around him, completely different in their professional mannerisms to the Svarog warriors in Skarkon.
"The clades are very different in some ways,” Thaddeus mused, stepping forward.
The limo was lavishly appointed with a white leather interior and gold accents. There was no driver; everything was automated. A careful glance at the vehicle showed it is heavily fortified for security but also eminently comfortable and luxurious. Almost certainly imported from Amarr.
“Remind you of home, Thad?” Galm smirked.
“Some parts of it in any case. Though you’d rarely see these on a station. Or arriving anywhere close to a semi-public concourse.”
The office of the Paramount Executive Kybernaut was located at Wirashoda V - Veles Clade Extractive Terminus. The office was set up in the circular tower spire of the station, with a large exterior-facing window that slants at a 45-degree angle. The tripartite beams of Wirashoda’s liminal star glittered in the distance. Galm looked up at the spire as he stepped out of the limo and whistled, once more thoroughly impressed.
Stribog security personnel moved to greet Galm and Thad at the entrance of Stribog’s main offices and escorted them inside to the complex. The inner office space was a large, courtyard-style building with individual office areas around the perimeter. At the far back, in the center, sat the Paramount Executive’s suite. Galm remained respectfully at attention as the security staff brought the two visitors to the large black double doors of Sahara’s office, where she and Kranacoi Halvora were waiting. The room was furnished with a large desk with a task chair, surrounded by several sleek black couches. Another pair of identical couches, separated by a coffee table, sat on the opposite side of the room near the door adorned with pamphlets, brochures, and all varieties of novelty art books and diagrams placed out welcomingly. Galm set his trunk to the side and eyed the pamphlets lazily, quietly fidgeting and undoing the top button of his shirt. Thad was lucky he was able to talk him into wearing proper pants at all today, much less a well starched uniform.
Kranacoi Halvora and Sahara Jackal were waiting inside, talking.
“What’s the one-pager on these guys?” Kranacoi asked.
“Skarkon’s finest warriors,” Sahara said. “Proven allies when we were under attack. . . ah!”
Sahara noticed the doors open and stood up behind her desk. Kranacoi stood diligently at attention in jet-black combat armor. Sahara stood relaxed, but also clad in her pearl-white bioadaptive combat armor, polished to a mirror shine.
Galm looked at their impressive armor, then his own suit, then gave Thad a side glance before straightening his posture again. Thad gave a short, courtly bow after crossing the room’s threshold. He offered his own side glance to Galm, trying to reiterate that wearing full dropsuits into the office of effective head of state of an ally might not be as appropriate as what they have on.
“Greetings, I am Warden Reynolds of the Bosena Accords, I represent the Round Table Assembly. And I present Galm Fae, Head of the Varyazi Clade of Warclones, and the appointed representative to Stribog Clade.”
“Warden. Red Knight. Welcome,” Sahara said. “And welcome back to Wirashoda. My predecessor always spoke highly of you. It is an honor to make your acquaintance. Please, sit and be comfortable.”
She gestured at the couches in the office. After a moment, she moved from behind her desk to join their guests at the opposite couch, looking at Kranacoi to signal him to follow.
“This is Kranacoi Halvora. He joined us fairly recently but has already proven himself my most loyal and capable kybernaut."
“Saisa,” Galm greeted, “A pleasure to meet on proper terms, to the both of you. We have immense respect for your predecessor, and equal respect for the both of you as we move forward in building the region. It only seemed appropriate to present ourselves to congratulate your ascension. And more importantly, perhaps, celebrate our continued future victories as a community in Pochven.”
Kranacoi Halvora followed Sahara to the appropriate couch, taking a close look over the two visitors. It was far from invasive, but it was clear that it was incredibly thorough. Galm’s words put a small smile on his face, and he nodded to the pair as he sat. “It is a pleasure to meet both of you. The Paramount Executive has told me of your victories in Skarkon – and, I must say, the respect is most certainly mutual.”
“Thank you, sir. Varyazi Clade will always fight for the continued independence of Skarkon and Pochven from the imperialists in the core empires. Moreover, as I’m sure Thaddeus can attest, the Round Table Assembly will always work towards building stability in the region.”
Sahara Jackal broke into a broad smile. She crossed her legs in front of her and placed her hands in her lap. “Future victories in Pochven and stability long-term. I very much like the sound of that. We took a body blow from the EDENCOM-serving capsuleers and their pirate friends. But I’m happy to say that Stribog Clade is recovering very quickly.”
Reynolds adjusted his sword while he sat, ensuring it ended up in front of him in a practiced motion, before he acknowledged the statements and responded. “Our victories and strategies have been primarily oriented towards preservation of mortal lives to the greatest degree possible, our continued interest revolves around both preserving lives and promoting stability as much as possible. To our goals, our victories have not been as complete as desired, but it has been going somewhat well. I am pleased to hear that you and yours are recovering well from the attacks.”
Galm Eskola-Fae snickered briefly. “For what it’s worth ma’am, I wouldn’t call what happened here a failure from what our capsuleer retainers saw by the way. From what I saw, it was a powerful message. Pochven isn’t theirs to burn anymore. Your accommodations here among the Clades is proof of that. It’s something they can never have, and something we are immensely impressed by and aspire to emulate in Skarkon.”
Sahara Jackal smiled at Galm. “That is exceptionally kind of you to say. Thank you.” She turned and made eye contact with Thad; her face one of keen interest. “Would you share more about your work preserving narodnya lives? I can only imagine the challenges of doing so in Krai Svarog. But it is of great interest to me because of the billions of souls living close to us in Vale.”
Kranacoi Halvora looked to Thad with an equally great amount of interest when the mention of preserving lives was made. Kranacoi seemed to want to make a remark, but knew it was better to keep silent in any case – he had practice in a lot of fields, but he was a bit out of his depth in starting these kinds of conversations.
There was a knock at the door; a moment later security staff opened it and allowed Torvik Ironsides entry.
Sahara waved Torvik forward. “Mister Ironsides, come in. Warden, Red Knight, I hope you don’t mind. I invited Torvik to join us. I understand you are well-acquainted.”
“Not at all,” Galm grinned, “Always happy to share a space with the Scourge of Skarkon himself!”
Torvik walked into the room removing his hat as he entered. “Sorry for being late. Was stuck deep in the null regions. Hope I didn’t miss anything too important,” he nodded to Galm. “Pleasure as always, friend.”
"We were just starting,” Sahara replied warmly, “Perfect timing. Have a seat and make yourself comfortable.”
Kranacoi had recognized Torvik from images, but had yet to meet him until then. He greeted Torvik with a nod and a “Good evening.”
"Our primary issues have been related to the attacks of the Skarkon Tribal Resistance Army,” Thad breathed, returning to the topic. “Our general practice of having Warclones take the frontline and combat assignments have kept mortals out of the worst of it, but Valklear General Efrit’s forces continue firing at us. The majority of our non-combat issues have been related to some…as I understand it unusual behaviors of bioadaptive colonies deployed or modified on the planetary surface. Failed bioadaption from Skarkon’s…unique characteristics, and standard pestilence related to war, supply shortages and the like, are the major source of mortal casualties for those under our protection.” He trailed off as he looked over to the newcomer. “Ah, Torvik. Your CAS was much appreciated early in the conflict.”
“Of course Thaddeus,” Torvik said. “As I have stated in the past, you are free to call on my forces for any support you all need planetside. Especially with the situation as it is now.”
“I understand Efrit has been a particular pain in the ass,” Sahara said. “What aid can we offer to help, aside from Torvik’s continued assistance?”
Galm Eskola-Fae twitched his face, getting a sudden headache knowing it was his turn to talk about the bastard that had been living in his head rent free for the last three years. “Its funny you mention that. Varyazi Clade continues to launch direct operations on Skarkon alongside Triglavian forces. Not necessarily embedded, Svarog is… Not big talkers. It seems we have an understanding at this time, but the interclade war complicates matters. Even moreso as we try to determine how to balance Svarog and Veles. In the meantime, however, the situation in space remains more or less stable thanks in no small part to Stribog. As essentially the only organized Kybernaut force with a persistent presence in Skarkon, just the proximity to Stribog has been enough to keep Skarkon free. In that regard, we commend that work and hope to keep our status as a pseudo-protectorate intact. Not to speak for our warden, but it certainly is to the benefit of the warclones there.”
“General Efrit represents a significant difficulty in removal,” Thaddeus added. “He’s tenacious, an excellent strategist, and he’s survived multiple attempts on his life. Additionally, he’s a political figure within the Republic as a whole. Killing him outright will only rally additional support to him, solidifying him as a Hero to the Republic and make him a martyr in their eyes. Rather he needs to be…discredited or politically embarrassed.”
Kranacoi leaned forward, the state of the conversation piquing Kran’s direct interest. “What is the amount of information we have on Efrit? If a character assassination is necessary, perhaps we can find some sort of moral weakness. Everyone loves a good sin…”
Galm Eskola-Fae placed a large chunk of metal scrap on the executive desk, very proud of himself. “Varyazi has made some headway on that. This is a piece of the RSS Megasub fleet foundered on Skarkon. Thought you might like it as a paperweight. Shame it couldn’t be Efrits bones but… You know.”
“Fascinating,” Sahara replied, “I see no reason to change the relationship between our organizations-- except of course, for strengthening it further.” She looked at Galm’s metal scraps and laughed with appreciation, beaming happily, “Is this really part of the sub? Ha! I love it. Thank you.”
"Of course,” Galm said. “And sir, I like the way you think regarding character assassination. Stribog’s relationship with Intriguerre impresses me especially. Its a relationship we haven’t had the opportunity to explore as of yet but can be explored to resolve the issue.”
Sahara arched an eyebrow. “I hadn’t thought about that,” she admitted. “But you’re right. Maldavius handed over some key information from the EoM incident directly to Intriguerre.” She looks at Kranacoi. “It may be time we reach out to make contact again.”
Torvik Ironsides chuckled. “The hole I burned in my wallet to get that data log to hand over to them as a way to start relations with Intriguerre during the EoM Incidents was well worth it. Shame that they don’t speak more on what they want us to do to help the collective.”
"It seems the natural course of action for getting rid of someone you can’t kill,” Kranacoi concluded, careful not to sound arrogant but his tone clearly hinting at the obvious answer.
“In terms of embarrassment, we have a few strategies that could potentially work, depending on how much it would inconvenience Svarog, and how much Svarog’s local forces would play along or respect the outcome,” Thad explained. “ A Trial of Possession for the remains of Skarkon’s capital would represent a significant a potential morale victory, showing Efrit as being incompetent in their inability to seize it, especially if it falls under Avalon jurisdiction.”
“Describe to me the details of a Trial of Possession.” A slight smile creeped on to Kran’s lips – the gears were clearly turning. It was clear that the idea had captured Sahara’s interest no less; she listened intently.
“It involves the issuing of a declaration of intent, a setting of rules, and a setting of battlefield. Most commonly, such Trials between Warclones have been combatants in groups of 16 fighting one another in an unimportant section of a district. There’s set parameters, access to limited reinforcements, usually no more than 500 blanks. The goal is to allow the two groups to display their respective skills in a controlled, minimally destructive method to the infrastructure and occupants of a region. Once terms are agreed upon the battle is fought, and the victor determined based on the terms. How Svarog might interpret these rules, and if they would commit to it is the real question.”
Kranacoi’s grin suddenly grew a fair bit wider. “Do you have any underdogs lying around? It could be a crushing morale blow if we have an underdog that can upset the best of Efrit’s troops. Show that even our ‘worst’” – he made sure he had his fingers up in air quotes – “can outmatch their best. Show that he’s hardly capable of putting together a half-decent army, and all the good fighters will think they’re working under an incompetent mess of a leader. Unless they’re blindly loyal or have no sense of direction, they will get up and leave without a second thought.”
“The problem with that Mr Halvora,” Torvik offered, “Is that we are dealing with my people. Matari are a stubborn lot. Even with an inept leader, they will still hold and fight to the last man, woman, and child in some situations. This would likely be seen as one of those situations.”
Kranacoi looked intently at Torvik. “You can get the enemy to throw away the rest of their resources, but this is expensive and time-consuming. A people might be stubborn, but can it ever be entirely selfless? There is a point where everyone gives up on a cause.”
“Something more political, then?” Sahara suggested. “Some… dishonorable associations?”
Thaddeus Reynolds smiled. "We’ll have the newly trained Skarkoni Legion ascended from the ranks of the Avalon Skarkoni Militia Forces into Warclones once their questing is complete. Beyond that we also have the Freed Legion, not underdogs per say but they having a number of freed Kameiras take it might also work.”
Galm picked at the calluses on his hand, chewing on his tongue for a moment before shutting his eyes. It was time to let the cat out of the bag for everyone, Thaddeus included.
“Varyazi Clade has a unit of new recruits that proved themselves in the combat against the Megasub but otherwise have no prior career as warclones. Some are militiamen from Wirashoda that I recruited among the planetary populations, others are former Angels Cartel members who have proven their loyalty. Namely one Ayda Abecassis has shown quite a bit of promise following and has adapted well to our tactical troika program. It’s… not as clean as the Triglavian equivalent, but it shows promise. I’d dare say a legion helmed by former Angels Cartel and militiamen might fit the bill.”
Kranacoi listened to Thad and Galm as they laid out the troop availabilities, taking a moment to think about what could be the best underdog. It would take some time to evaluate all of the options on the table.
“We can send you dossiers on options and logistical support, even organize routes should any Stribog observers wish to be present.” Galm’s eyes widened. “Present. Pr-- OH SHI-- YES. Warden, I believe we got so caught up in this conversation we forgot why we came here in the first place. I assure you ladies and gentlemen it wasn’t to blow smoke up your ass or bog you down with support requests. As I said, this is about celebration.”
Sahara chuckled with amusement. “I certainly don’t feel like I have a smoky ass,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed the conversation greatly.”
Thaddeus shifted in his chair, mindful of his saber. “Ah yes, in addition to some choice beverages from my personal stores are being offloaded from our arrival shuttle…or we could have it brought here quickly if you so desired. I also would present you with two additional gifts.” He pulled from a belt pouch a crystalline rod, inscribed with writing in a language related to the Amarr written language.
“First, a Diamond Rod of Takmahl origin, inscribed with writing from their own dialect and language. An Item I’m sure you, Paramount Executive, will find of interest.”
Sahara’s eyes widened in delight. “My God, that is beautiful. Thank you!”
Kranacoi eyed the item as Thad signalled in additional gifts, his expression turning curious. “Fascinating artifact you’ve found here…”
“Additionally, from me, I offer this…” Thad unholstered the silver handgun from his waist, never touching the grip, grabbing it slowly by the receiver only. “This is a Prototype Breach Scrambler Pistol made by Khanid Innovations, an electrolaser weapon with similar fire power to the Kaalakiota Stahl Bolt Pistol, but with 11 rounds per charge pack. These were not available on the open market, but I have collected a number of them. I am also supplying a crate of these, approximately 475 with three rechargeable packs each.”
Sahara accepted the pistol with both hands, turning it over in her palms with reverence. “I have never seen one of these in the flesh, Warden. This… this is too fine a gift to give. Even a single one! And you say… four hundred?” The astonishment was plain on her face.
Galm rose from his place, not to be outdone; he was, after all, the technical diplomat there on behalf of their forces. "Well… No need to use them all at once I imagine. But they’ll serve an honor guard nicely. Which, by the way, brings me to our second offering, this time as Varyazi Clade. Forgive me if I don’t kneel. . . we don’t really do that. But I do hope to offer Stribog our pledge as your infantry honor guard whenever it is needed in defense of Pochven.”
He made a few swift motions on his datapad, clearing the transfer before speaking. “I hope you please accept this gift of your own reserve of Warclone Blanks should you ever need us. As well as something more unique."
He hurriedly moved back to the corner of the room, retrieving the trunk he brought with him and setting it attop the coffee table in the center of the sleek couches. The latches clicked open, and the casing opened with an airtight pop. As he opened it, an embossed crimson and gold plated mask stared back at the room attop armor segments anointed in immaculate bas-reliefs.
“I hope you can accept, as a symbol to all of Stribog, this piece of dropsuit armor from my personal collection from the days before even Molden Heath. Other than the few within our ranks, it remains one of the last remnants of the original Templars, the first of our kind. Let it be a reminder of our kind, from our achievements to our failures, and our inevitable return each time.”
Sahara looked genuinely touched at the gesture. When she next spoke, her voice was quieter, but filled with emotion. “I consider it a singular honor to receive soldiers of your calibre and reputation as an honor guard. Yes, on behalf of Stribog Clade, I gratefully accept. And as for this armor-- my God. I am humbled.”
She paused briefly. “Let me return to something you said a moment ago,” she said. “About kneeling. You do not kneel. Nor would I ever wish you to do so. I have seen, and still see now, Varyazi Clade not as subservient, but as equals. Not as a lesser caste,” she said the last word with obvious distaste. “But as colleagues. That is the Pochven I believe in, gentlemen. The Pochven in which all are equal pilgrims upon the Path of Glorification. That is the future of Pochven to which I will dedicate my last breath.”
Ironsides stood clapping his hand once and walked over to Galm. “Good words. And in return for these gifts, I have one to hand out myself to you Red Knight,” Torvik pulled out a datapad; he unlocked it and handed it to Galm. “On this datapad is information that should be for your eyes only. It contains access codes and security clearance to access and use my carrier during Orbital Operations for training your new local trainees. Her refit just finished, and we have enough extra space for Two Platoons onboard for extended training operations.”
Galm nodded respectfully at first, then adjusted his demeanor entirely as Torvik’s words sank in. “Gods and Spirits FUCKIN A’. . . I mean… I… Thank you. I cannot wait for the battles of the future.”
Kranacoi couldn’t help but be a bit humored at the two sides of Galm that seemed to show themselves throughout the conversation. The soldier and the diplomat. He smiled a bit at the interaction, but felt a bit foolish for showing up empty-handed to a gift exchange.
“As always, Torvik knows just what is most wanted,” Sahara smiled, “I thank you for these incredibly thoughtful tokens. I would love an opportunity to return the favor, should you allow me to come visit your operations in Skarkon someday soon?”
The Warden nodded. “The ports of our stations are open to you and yours of course. A state visit may need to be arranged, Round Table Sessions can be…lively to say the least.”
"And as always my bridge will welcome a visit during my operations,” Torvik added.
Galm sank back into his chair, savoring the moment among friends. “If nothing else we throw a pretty good pre-game party before diplomatic summits. And I’m certain we could take you for a stroll on the beaches and show you the fireworks from the frontlines. Any time. For now though, we thank you for your consideration. Unless there is anything else, we won’t take any more of your time.”
Kranacoi kept a smile on his face as Galm remarked about throwing a pretty good pregame. The grin was certainly friendly, but a bit of him was clearly saying that he took that as a bit of a challenge.
“Thank you both very much for meeting with us,” Sahara said. “I am truly humbled. You have my neocom information. Please call upon me at any time if you are in need of Stribog Clade’s assistance, or simply to say hello. It would please me greatly to call you both friends. And I look forward to taking you up on that offer of a tour.”
She stood and offered a hand to the Warden first, and then to the Red Knight. Thaddeus Reynolds stood and took her hand in a firm but not crushing grip, stopping himself for a second, then shaking her hand.
“I thank you for your hospitality today, Paramount Executive. You know how to reach me, and my appointed representative. Tour of our space facilities would be easy enough, though ground facilities advised we have had…numerous indirect fire alarms as of late. I thank you for your continued support of Avalon, of The Accords, and of The Round Table.”
Galm offered a firm handshake and another slight bow, then continued on to shake hands with Kranacoi and Torvik. “Moitte, friends. To fair winds and following seas.”
The group continued to exchange pleasantries for a moment, until Stribog’s security staff appeared at the doors to escort their guests to the limo for a short ride back to the docks.
“See you on the ship later friend,” Torvik called on their way out “Got some more surprises for you once you get settled in!”
Sahara turned to Kranacoi. “I think that went well,” she said. She nodded at the door. “Those are some scary ■■■■■■■■■■■■■ and we are very fortunate they are on our side.”
“You see why I worked so hard to get us officially affiliated,” Torvik said.
“I do, Torvik,” Sahara said. “And I’m grateful that you did. Well done.”
“I agree – but it’s good to maintain constant, strong relationships with allies,” Kranacoi said. “They do seem to have a wealth of units for this Efrit takedown…”
“Both of you–any support you can give to them on the Efrit front, I want you to do it,” Sahara said. “Worthy cause.”
Back down at the concourse, Galm exited the limo and reentered the dropship, turning to Thaddeus. “Well that went well. Now if you’ll excuse me… The garters on this shirt are riding far, far too high. Well done, Warden, I’m glad you were here.”
“Good to be back working together instead of against each other, eh Buddy?” Thad said.
“Every day, brother,” Galm replied. “Every day.”