The Spike
The Middle Realm
The God's Plane
The Bard's Corner
Richard Fenner
Gian Gero
Martin Laurie
Wesley Quadros
Herald's Cry
Cross Roads

Alkothi Tales
Deville's Tales
Krarn's Tale
Onslaught's Tales
Sheng Seleris' Tales

Settling In - Part 4

Deville glared at Onslaught as the man entered his rooms. His nose still felt like it was clogged with dung but he ignored it. He directed all his attention at the Humakti as he sat heavily on the chair provided for him. It creaked under his solidity. They stared at each other for a moment.

"Can you fight with weapons as well as you do without?" Asked Deville.

"Better." Said Onslaught flatly.

Deville smiled. "Trask tells me you are a man of your word?"

Onslaught nodded. "Aye, I've sworn to Humakt never to lie or break a bond of trust. I swore this both to my god and on the Styx herself."

Deville whistled. "A weighty oath! I will say no more about you biding by the terms of our agreement then. Tell me, what pleasures do you have other than war? A man of obvious intelligence such as yourself must have many diversions to fill the active mind." Deville let shine his most appeasing smile. Inside he wanted to cut this fellows heart out but he crushed such unworthy thoughts beneath the weight of decades of mental discipline.

"I have no interests other than war and death. I have forsworn alcohol, fornication with man, woman or beast, falsehoods, cowardly methods of killing and sleep in my commitment to their execution." His words echoed like chains in the hall of death.

Deville frowned. "What do you mean "forswore sleep"? How do you manage that?"

"Humakt sustains my body through my vow. I do not sleep, nor rest. I devote my life and everything in it to perfecting the death within me." His voice seemed to grow flatter, more chill as he spoke.

"You're telling me you do nothing, and I mean nothing, but fight, kill and train to do both?" When Onslaught nodded Deville shook his head. "That's sick! Its not normal. A man must have the luxury of some pleasures in life or he is no longer a man. You, you are no different from your sword, you are a weapon, not a man!"

Onslaught smiled, displaying those deadly teeth. "You have it right Lunar, I am the sword of my god, I wish only to be a weapon without compare and for that desire I am shunned within my own faith. They do not understand, not even the other Swords. To many of them it is a title, to me it is the whole reason for my being."

Deville sat in solemn silence for a while. Finally he smile once more, a big beautiful beam of a smile. "In that case I think you'll go down a treat at the Governors ball tonight! I absolutely insist you come and protect me, after all you're my bodyguard now."

Onslaught looked dubious but nodded. "I do not do well at public functions but if it is an order I will attend." He stood to leave.

"Excellent!" Deville contained his mirth until Onslaught left the room. Then he laughed openly. "Oh yes, they'll just love him! It'll be like putting a shark in a trout pond!" He couldn't wait for this evening.

The city of Mrin's Cross lay lit and splendid beneath the tower window of Derius Scalla's citadel office. He held a wine glass lightly as he pondered the infinite and the Glory of the Red Moon as she turned over the distant Crater.

Scalla kept his back to the three men waiting on his pleasure. They fidgeted impatiently around the lustrous antique RistOak table. All three men wore the latest fashions among the Lunar aristocracy but even the voluminous robes of such apparel did nothing to hide the immense corpulence of two of the men. Both of those men bore the marks of the Moonson. The other man of the three was slim and hawk-like, dark and somber. His eyes constantly flicked around the room.

The thin man spoke. His voice matched his face, sharp and murderous. "Are we going to sit here all evening Scalla? We need an answer."

Scalla turned and smiled, a benign expression he often used on his unruly children. "Gentlemen, gentlemen, one cannot rush these matters."

A heavily jowled, beady eyed Moonson named Titus wobbled his chins in agitation. "Our revenues are threatened Scalla and our masters revenues in turn yet you preach lassitude?" He bleated.

Scalla idled over, still smiling and leaned on the table in front of the fat man. He was still smiling as his ring covered hand slapped Titus hard across his podgy cheek, opening a serious of cuts and rocking his head back with the force.

Scalla ignored the blubbering Titus and sat down at the end of the table.

The thin man; Carius, spoke up angrily. "You want to try that on me Scalla?" He growled.

Scalla casually wiped a bit of blood and sticky skin of his hand with a napkin. He looked up at Carius, still smiling. "Oh dear me no Carius, you train for such things. I am above that but not above punishing the odd annoyance personally from time to time. With you, I'd bring in my Dart Champion, she's more your type I think." He stopped smiling. Enough small talk.

Carius squirmed a bit uncomfortably. He'd heard that Scalla's Dart Competitors were some of the best a non-Satrap could hire. Hazia money went a long way to make up for his lack of birth!

Scalla continued. "Now to business. Firstly, our profit margins are up. Since we started refining the raw Hazia with Germalicks new process we have increased demand by almost nine percent this Season alone. The widening in our margin has allowed our investments to grow apace and we have the market potential to be truly enormous." He paused to let their possible wealth sink in then continued. "The problem we face is one of supply."

Amelianius, the other fat Moonson frowned. He ignored the quietly crying Titus completely, as if he weren't there. "Where is the problem? We just bring more in from our provincial sources."

"I wish it were that simple my dear Amelianius. Alas it is not. The Hazia needed in the Germalick process has to be of a particular type, Gemalick assures me it has something to do with the process though his Dwarfish terminology was lost on me. He made it very clear that one type of Hazia alone can be used. A coarse-grain, broad-leaf apparently, found only in Prax. Something to do with the weather and soil content, whatever that means."

"So? We bring in more from Prax." Said Amelianius.

"Not too easy my friend, would you like to explain Carius?"

Carius looked a bit uncomfortable, then cleared his throat with a cough. "Well, our problems are due to the decision we made last year to motivate our agents in Prax by despatching an agent provocateur to stir things up."

"What decision, I don't remember that!" Bleated Titus.

"You should, you fat bastard you suggested the bloody stupid idea!" Roared Carius.

Scalla placed a restraining hand upon the thin man. "We were all there Carius, we all agreed. Calm down, we want results, not recriminations."

Carius calmed down with a visible effort of will. He carried on, a look of pain on his face. "We agreed the policy together and Amelianius presented a report to the Overseer indicating the need for some action in Prax. Naturally we stacked the Brief with misleading information to influence his decision but we didn't expect Deville."

"Who?" Asked Titus.

"Morthander Deville, free range fanatic and psychopath who the Overseer seems to enjoy sending into quiet places to make sure they don't stay quiet long. He executed the entire 3rd Logistics company in Alda-Chur for stealing from the Arsenal and selling the weapons to the trolls."

"He executed them? Why? What had they done wrong?"

Scalla spoke up. "Titus, Deville is a _fanatic_, he doesn't understand or more likely, doesn't want too, that feathering your own nest is normal behaviour. He's obsessed with "serving the Empire" or something like that which means in his book no bribes, blackmail, kick-backs, forgery, assassination or anything else we need to keep the Empire running smoothly!"

Enlightenment dawned on Titus's face. "Oh, that Deville! The one they call "the Devil"?"

"Thats him." nodded Carius.

"And our report influenced the Overseer to send him to Prax?"

"Yes indeed." Drawled Scalla.

"Oh Sheng!" Said Titus, aghast.

"He's only been there a few weeks, we received a Wyvern Rider report from our agent there that he's tried to kill him twice already and that several dozen of his men have been caught and executed but as yet, the main Hazia routes are untouched." Reported Carius.

"The question is, what do we do about him? Our man on the spot seems to think he can implicate him in treasonous activities which would be rather ironic but it'll be difficult to make the Overseer believe that." Said Scalla.

"We must separate him from the Overseers support, he can be dealt with more easily then. I have a strategum that may work." Said Amelianius.

"Lets hear it then." Said Scalla.

It didn't take Amelianius long to have them nodding and smiling at his plan. With such a strategy, Devilles neutralisation was assured.

Onslaught had vetted the men. Trask had been helping him, Hrothmir had stayed away after bluntly being told his company wasn't wanted around the Humakti. Onslaught said he smelt funny, whatever that meant.

Using his god-given ability to sniff out falsehoods, Onslaught threw out half a dozen men. The rest that were left he proclaimed reliable. He then threw out half of them, considering them too lacking in potential and too unruly.

Trask sidled over while Onslaught was buckling on his Iron platemail, clearly a purchase made in the Empire. "Tell me Onslaught, when I send word about this contract, I didn't expect you to answer. Your a patriot of Sartar, why serve my master? He is a Lunar after all." He asked, puzzled.

Onslaught grinned a mouth full of metal at Trask. "Yep, he's a brushie all right but he's honourable, truthful and not afraid of a good fight. Plus he understands my honour and trusts me. That goes a long way with me. Most of all, he's a challenge. Any man who is attacked regularly by assassins, Krarshti, chaos and Thanatari is a man I want to be around! Think of all the chances for fighting!"

Trask shook his head. "Your mad! To think, I once lusted after combat like you!"

Onslaught looked deadly serious for a moment. "No Trask, never like me. Never." Abruptly he grinned again and stood, marching over to the large collection of applicants in the training square. "Right you miserable bunch of whoresons! I want five hundred press-ups on your knuckles, with me." He dropped to the ground and began moving mechanically up and down in his armour. Trask got the feeling he could do that all day. Then fight at the end of it.

Grudgingly the fifty or so applicants began to drop down and do the same. After one hundred many began to groan and these men were all fit. Onslaught yelled out, never breaking his motion once. "After these, we do five hundred on your finger-tips!" The assembled groans of dismay followed Trask out as he discretely left, wincing as he did at their misfortune.

<< Part 3 | The Deville page | Part 5 >>

May 31, 2000

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