Returning and Regrouping

-Dalen Capital, The Royal Palace, Night, 2 DSTR-

Kalena was all smiles and had a spring in her step as she departed the Queen's study and headed down the broad, gilded marble stairs. Waiting at the bottom of the steps stood the towering form of Archer Crain, head of the elite palace guard.

“Miss Valade, I take it your meeting with Her Majesty went well?”

“You might say that, Archer. In fact, it could not have gone any better.” Kalena's gray-green eyes sparkled with excitement as she waved the rolled-up parchment in her hand that had been quickly drafted and signed by the Queen. “She gave me an official Royal Warrant. It empowers Baron Lowson to assemble a special taskforce to seek out and put down any internal threats to the realm as he sees fit, drawing on any resources necessary to do it. The Emerald Scarves, the Langford forest bandits, the Rising Star, whatever insidious elements responsible for the madness of this evening, are to be eliminated without mercy.”

“This internal unrest could not be happening at a worse time,” Crain said darkly.

“Yes.” Kalena nodded, her smile faltering a bit. “The Queen told me about the possibility of war with the Timber Crag Kingdom. That there are reports of them organizing a full-scale military expedition. I know that she has long anticipated hostilities with them, and it is her policy to delay it, if not wholly avoid it.”

“Diplomacy and statecraft in the Two Kingdoms has always been about delaying the inevitable as long as possible,” Crain remarked sagely.

Kalena sighed. “Well I've been to the Timber Crag lands, and they're an unsettling lot, I can tell you. But with all their endless stretches of rugged territory I don't understand just why they feel the need to conquer Dalen.”

“It's a matter of geography,” Crain explained. “Their northern territories have access to water, but other than that, their empire is mainly landlocked. And so as they expand east, they are noticing the world expands far beyond their reaches. Therefore, they need ports for economic and militaristic needs. If they want to expand their empire, they will need ports to help flank their neighbours. Or, on the other side, if they want to raid far away lands, they will need ports and an armada. They have the lumber to make this armada, but no ports to ship from. Separated by a mountain range, and with no real attractive natural resources to speak of, they would have ignored us for decades, but with the issue of ocean access, they have come to see us as a priority.”

Kalena nodded at this. “Interesting... so what you're basically telling me is that we fit into their long-term imperialistic plans?”

“There is also, of course, a matter of revenge,” the Queen's man added, giving her a knowing look.

Kalena furtively glanced around to make sure that nobody was in earshot, but her words were still guarded as she spoke. “Revenge? There is not a shred of proof that Dalen had anything to do with King Authen's assassination.” She lowered her voice even more. “I made careful sure of that.”

Crain raised a white eyebrow. “Did Her Majesty not tell you? We believe someone leaked to them our entire involvement in the plot.”

“What?” Kalena cried out in a whisper. “What lunatic did that? There was only so many who knew about it. Less than a handful.”

Crain walked beside her. “We obviously have dangerous traitors among us who will go to any lengths to oust Her Majesty from the throne; there are only a precious few whose loyalty we can be absolutely certain of, even at the highest levels. But the Queen clearly trusts Baron Lowson, at least enough to persecute a war on these disruptive individuals in our midst.”

“Rooting them out will take some doing. Significant doing.” Kalena hurried for the door. “I must return home and make sure the royal healer has taken care of Kline's injuries. I don't know what happened to him exactly. It was as though he was attacked by some great beast with claws and teeth.”

“A great beast, you say?” Crain looked like he was about to openly speculate about that, but then decided against it. Reports about Thierri, the Timber Crag Kingdom's crown prince's rampage through Dalen was being hushed up until it could be confirmed by the Black Witch, who had gone to personally investigate.

“Who are those two men?” Kalena asked as she noticed Draken and Shade's arrival.

“I don't know, but I intend to find out,” Crain said, a coldness entering his voice as he marched toward the two unsavoury looking characters.


When Kalena and Hemlock reached the Valade estate a short distance down the street, they smelled smoke and then saw the smouldering remains of the carriage, and the blackened trees and shrubbery that had been caught in the blast. “What the hell happened?” Kalena demanded as she was let in through the gates. “Was there some kind of fire?”

“The coach exploded,” one of the guards told her. “The force knocked me right off my feet. No one was killed, but the horses were torn to pieces, the poor things.”

“So that's why Sarx gave us the carriage to use!” Kalena's eyes bulged with rage. “She is a dead woman!”

“If I don't recover my pendant from Sarx, I will be one too,” Hemlock said.

Kalena waved a hand dismissively. “Yes, yes, one thing at time.” She turned urgently to her majordomo as he came out to greet them. “Perun! What on earth has been going on? Did the driver blow himself up? Has the healer arrived? Is Chiren still here? What about Eliza?”

Perun answered the questions one by one. “Mister Le Renard was interrogating the driver inside at the time of the explosion. The healer arrived a few minutes ago and is tending to the Baron now. I confess that I lost track of Count Soldor. He and his men may have left some time ago in all the chaos. Lady Telsana is here, as are a number of members of the City Watch who have been scouring the grounds for evidence. A few more came a bit later acting strangely and insisted on searching the main house.”

“Useless dullards,” Kalena murmured disparagingly, before turning to gesture at Hemlock. “Find quarters for this woman, and have Zaonna fashion some garments for her. Under my cloak she has nothing on...”

“I see,” Perun said. “This is yet another house guest?”

“There are rather a lot of them at the moment, aren't there?” Kalena chuckled tiredly. “And perhaps there will be even more still if we decide to use my home as a staging base of operations.”

“Base of operations for what?” Hemlock asked, interjecting.

“For our campaign of retribution of course,” Kalena said with conviction. “But how we best proceed will be up to His Excellency the baron, who the Queen has chosen to handle the matter. Once again Thalia's judgment is impeccable. Not only has Kline demonstrated ample cunning and ruthlessness on the battlefield, and is a seasoned leader of men, he has also been the main focus of many of the recent attacks, so beyond his patriotic duty he has a personal stake to get to the bottom of all this –as do I! Now come along, I must speak to Lafayette and check in on Kline.”

“I would speak to the Baron about my faerie friend,” Hemlock said, with an angry glint. “I have not forgotten what your slave told us in the carriage.”

“Well I suggest you do forget about it,” Kalena replied warningly.

Perun scurried behind the two women. “I have doubled the guards around the walls, and sent out word of the substantial reward offers for those responsible for the death of Mister Al'havin.”

“The poor lad,” Kalena said sadly. “Van's death and desecration will not go unpunished.” She turned to the necromancer. “Hemlock, I expect you to tell us everything you know about it. Every last detail.”

“I said I would, didn't I?” Hemlock replied tensely.

“Perun,” Kalena said, glancing back at the man. “I want you to dispatch a message to Chiren asking him if he would please come back here tomorrow morning. We need to have a strategy meeting-all of us-to discuss how we might go about safeguarding the realm, as well as piece together the mystery of our foes, who at the present time are more than several steps ahead of us it seems. In addition to Chiren, contact Commander Styliane for me down in Ragodast. I plan to recommend to Kline that he recruit her to the cause. Adisla is just the sort we need for this kind of work, and she's ambitious enough to jump at the chance, given the possible promotion for her it might bring. Also send a message to Radogast's Sheriff's office inquiring if Oruvand is available. The man is a top-notch bounty hunter who greatly impressed me when we crossed paths a few days ago, and he would certainly be a boon to any team that we put together. If we are to succeed we are going to need the very best.”

(OOC – Sorry for taking so long to jump back into things, or if I made any mistakes. Hopefully this gets me caught up with Kalena and moves us toward advancing to the next morning.)

< Prev : Yearn to Learn Next > : Darken Darkward 2