Nourbal System - Khanid Region - 0300 local time
The miners in the asteroid belts didn't realise they were being watched, even though their defensive ships were active. They knew someone was in the system with them, they didn't know where. But they were good enough to hold of any attackers until the barges retreated to their pos.
The anathema watched them and decided that they were no threat and powered away to one of the planets, waited a few more minutes for a final scan, then lowered it's cloak. Generators whined as they were charged, tanks began to empty as the fuel was devoured and the cynosaural field was activated.
"Sidewinder to Alpha and Bravo teams. All systems are green. Cyno deployed."
A Nidhoggur appeared in the space above the anathema, a worn corporation icon was partially obscured by battle damage. Fighters were launched instantly and it's own systems began scanning the system. Moments later two archons, both in the colours of the Khanid Navy jumped in flanking positions. For a moment there looked to be a standoff, then the fighters were recalled and a single shuttle departed the Nidhoggur, flanked by two combat shuttles that were dispatched from the Archons.
Lansez System - Khanid Region - 0330 local time
The three shuttles landed at an obscure holding on the outskirts of the port city of Riso'mar. The guards at the landing pad, watched impassively as the facility administrator himself walked out of the bunker to meet them. From the Khanid shuttles squads of paladins emerged and converged on the unmarked shuttle, from which walked three women. Two caldari and a minmatar.
"Carm, I'm having second thoughts. You do remember I'm still a wanted criminal?"
Angelina Ballentyne, wearing only a long shift dress which did nothing to hide her stature, and for once totally unarmed was more than a little nervous. But it was the only way the representatives would allow her into the region unmollested. As long as she had the escort of two squads, she would not be arrested. She was still unsure how this had been arranged. Or if two squads would be enough.
Carmilla, a wide smile on her face and a skip in her step ignored her for the moment. This was her time and what she was going to do was going to be public. Her Mistress would approve, she hoped, as everything was going to be done in the proper way. The third woman simply followed on behind, clad in the official robes of the Khanid Diplomatic corp. Unlike the other two, she was fully armed and carried a gun in shaky hands. She pushed past them and bowed to the Administrator and revealed a datatablet with instructions and orders, then a stamped and sealed set of orders on paper. All appeared to be in order.
"Carmilla Deritan and Angelina Ballentyne. I cannot say I am glad to have you at my holdings, but I understand what you are doing and for whom, and that opens a lot of doors here. Your reputations have preceeded you. Carmilla, for who you are married to and what you are. Angelina, for your crimes against the Amarr. Even if you are now fighting for our Militia, you still taint the ground you walk upon."
He sighed and smiled and gestured towards the bunker.
"But that is irrelevant as long as you comply with our requests, which it looks like you have. We have set up for the ceremony as requested. Ithiria will be here within the hour and you have until she arrives to....."
He stopped and turned to them, a look on his face that was unreadable.
"I understand you.... chose to serve as you are?"
"I did. I have never regretted my decision. Though there have been some complications, my position has ever been the same."
"Then why the ceremony?"
"Because I'm not the one who has changed."
Ithiria sat in her stateroom onboard the Imperial Khanid Navy Armageddon that was now burning towards the orbital station. The Lansez system was familiar to her, she used to have holdings here, but were sold many years ago. Why she was being summoned now was a mystery. The timing was suspect, and she was told to come alone. She wondered if she knew why she was being summoned, but had lost the knowledge after the time in the forest. Either way, she would soon find out. Looking in the mirror she checked her kimono and makeup for the nth time. As ever, perfection beyond necessity.
Carmilla and Angelina changed together under the watchful gazes of the paladins. Carmilla in her white kimono, Angelina choosing a pale pink.
"You know Ang, what she'll ask for."
Ang finished applying the last coat to her lips and sighed.
She straightened her belt again and slowly opened the fan, testing it's weight and it's ease of opening.
"Are you okay with it? I know you fought to get away from....."
"Carm, please. I'm doing this for you. We've been apart far too long, and that has to change."
Carmilla smiled and hugged her sister closely.
"He won't understand. You prepared for that?"
"He had his opportunity... he lost it."
They both looked at each other, then at the paladins. As one they both moved quickly into a combat stance, the fans snapping open.... before both standing up and laughing as the guards lowered their weapons.
"You remember all the moves?"
"Yes, I've been practicing a lot. A lot more than you."
"Remember, this is for Ithiria. If you put a foot wrong here.... well, I know you won't. Come on, we must be in position before she arrives."
By the time Ithiria had been brought to the outer doors of the chamber she knew something was up. Already she had seen a number of people she had known from before, servents with crests and insignia of corporations and holdings that rang warning bells. It was almost as if there was a gathering of which she knew nothing about. As two slaves opened the door to the chambers and she walked in she saw the throne at the end, which was for her. And before it two people who made her pause and gasp. Even from the back she knew them. Carmilla. Angelina. Here? Why... what was this for? When was this arranged, why was it. By the Maker why do I not know these things. Her face however, despite the turmoil inside was as carved from stone.
As she passed them they both bowed, in unison, in perfection. She took her seat and the Administrator appeared and slammed a staff into the ground three times.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Holders, honoured guests. You have been summoned here to witness the Dance and Ceremony of a Tranquil Winter. This is being performed by Carmilla Deritan, wife to Ithiria Deritan of the Noble House Deritan."
Ithiria sat and listened. Yes, this was who she was, who she should be now. So much had changed, but Carmilla knew who she was. Carmilla, clad in the perfection of white, head still bowed. Oh Carmilla, what have I done.
"Carmilla Deritan.... come forward. Present yourself."
"I am Carmilla, wife of Ithiria, servant to the Noble House Deritan. I come to perform the Ceremony of Winter. I come to rededicate myself to my Mistress....."
Don't say it, Ithiria said in her mind, don't say it.
"and to offer my obeisance to her, on my knees as her slave."
There was silence in the room and a heavy pounding, which she soon realised was her heart. She had done it, told everyone here. Which was as good as telling the whole universe. All eyes were now on her.
"Are you aware, Carmilla, servant of House Deritan what you have said? What must happen?"
"I am aware. And I accept that before all here."
He slammed the staff three times and she returned to where she was kneeling. Time passed, what seemed like an eternity before the words came, from Ithiria's lips, almost without her speaking them.
Carmilla D'Morenta slowly went though the moves of the Khanid Dance of a Tranquil Winter with a quiet perfection. Her face a mask of painted beauty she moved through the dance to the accompanyment of the music which was piped in via the speakers. The music pushed her towards each position, timed the pauses and the movement to the next, all had to be done with exquisite timing, with flawless perfection, and absolute dedication. The flicking open of the fans had to be done correctly, the distances exact, the angles just right. Any failure in any of the moves could be fatal.
As the last note sounded she paused in the final pose, the one known as winters end, both fans extended upwards, on arms already tired and exerted, balanced on legs that would have shaken with fatigue were they not hidden behind the silken skirts of the kimono. Her face looking directly forward at those she danced for. She held her pose.
Ithiria looked on, no emotion on her face. Inside, her heart was pounding with pride. Carmilla had danced for her before in private. But this, before all these people. She could see the look on the faces of some of them, the awe and understanding of what she had done. Carmilla knew what was coming next, she mused. She hoped she had the stamina for it.
"Both of you. Begin."
A gasp went up from the crowd as both sisters went through the dance. Mirror images in perfection. As they saw the dedication, the obedience, the perfection people started cheering and clapping. This was something not seen every day. Many of them knew the strains that both of them would be under, especially Carmilla. People looking on wondered how they could obtain such a prize, knowing it would be impossible, given what was coming. But still they watched and applauded.
When they finished, when Ithiria had nodded they returned to their position, on their knees. From both sides of the floor guards appeared. Two behind Carmilla, two behind Angelina. Ithiria looked at Angelina. Carm, she knew, understood what was coming. Angelina...... aaaah, sweet Angelina, do you understand what is going to happen? Yes, I think you do. Otherwise you wouldn't have come. Not here, to the depths of Khanid, surrounded by people who want you dead. And yet, you are in for a surprise. A slave appeared, holding a box and took it to the guards. Carmilla knelt up, head still looking down.
The guards pulled Carmilla to her feet and litterally ripped the kimono from her body and continued until she was naked. The Administrator walked up to her and opened the box.
"Carmilla, servant of House Deritan. Do you understand what is going to happen?"
She did not reply, this was rote, and no reply was needed. Saying anything at this point would be a waste of breath she would need. He pulled a chrome collar from the box and fastened it around her neck.
"In the name of House Deritan, Noble of the Khanid Empire, you Carmilla Deritan are claimed by Ithiria Deritan as her slave. All your rights and responsibilities are forfeit, your assets and your life now belong to your Mistress."
Ithiria looked on from her throne, her face impassive.
"Slave, though in the future you will be punished by your Mistress, here in Khanid, the first punishment is always delivered in public."
He attached cuffs to each of her wrists and the guards attached chains and spread her arms apart and forced her to her knees. He took an electo whip and stood behind her, looking up at Ithiria. She smiled and nodded.
Angelina watched through the corner of her eye as Carmilla was released and she fell to the floor, her back bleeding and her eyes wide. All through she had not uttered a word, not a cry, not a whimper. As was tradition. But is it what I want? Do I have a choice? Oh Carmilla, say something, let me know I'm not going crazy.....
"Angelina," Ithiria's voice rang out over the silence of the hall,"You will leave this hall. I do not belive that you want what your sister has given willingly. And until the day I believe, truly believe it.... I do not want you in my sight. I understand why you did what you did, even if you do not. Redeem yourself if you can, be penitant, or whatever you are really after. But never darken my house again until the time you are ready to take your place here. Guards, remove her."
From her throne she watched the look of disbelief on Angelinas face as she was dragged away. They both knew that two guards were not enough, but she was too shocked to resist. Carmilla however, sweet Carmilla. Punished in the traditional Khanid had kept silent and not uttered a moan, or cry. Angelina.... would be hers again, in time. Carmilla though, was hers now, officially. The final touch she would apply herself later when she had healed. For now she was centre of attention. Ithiria Deritan smiled for the first time since she arrived.