Monday, 17 December 2012

Carmilla's Fall From Grace

She woke up, bleary eyed and groaned. The hangover ripped through her head and she curled into a foetal position moaning. As she pulled her self up, kicking through the bottles that scattered the floor and the various bodies in stages of undress and inebriation she performed her daily routine of standing infront of the mirror. Again, she could not look into it. Her tears ran as she staggered to the kitchen and pulled open the fridge, pulling out a bottle and raising it to her lips, eyes closed so she could not see any reflective surface. Curling up into a stained chair she sobbed into the bottle, the self pity and remorse filling her slowly being dulled by the fierce alcohol.

The forest estate she was residing in now was covered in snow. A brutal snow storm had hit the region and everything was under six feet of snow. Those staff who were here had left, uncomfortable with seeing her in such a state and unable to cope with it. Now, only three of her staff remained, that she'd let stay, and three of her husbands friends. Drunkards, the lot of them. As it was, only the three staff who were loyal to her noticed when the ship landed in the front of the estate, and by then it was too late.

The door to the house was opened and a woman walked in, wrapped in a thick black fur coat. Beside her six guards, also wearing black coats. She gestured to them and four of them spread out, the other two raising their weapons as the three geisha walked down the stairs. The shock on two of their faces registered for a moment, then they bowed. Only the blind one remained standing.
"I see you have returned. This was not expected, your highness."
"A slight pun, my dear. But yes. Where is she?"
The blind geisha tipped her head and listened.
"Your men will find her soon."
"Are you going to stop us?"
"You know we could... but no."
One of the guards laughed.
"What are you three against the pride of her security force."
"If you were brought here for a lesson in either combat or courtesy then you are in the right place. Any one of us would put you down without breaking a sweat."
The woman raised her hand and gestured back, the guard stiffening and backed away as the two geisha stood up and one walked away.

One of the Geisha opened a doorway and gestured in, the woman and her guards, followed by the other girls entered. The room was warm and comfortable and the woman divested herself of her coat to a guard and sat down. Wine was brought and offered to her in due obediance if not to her rank, than to who she was. 
"How has she been, Whisper?"
"I have only seen her like this once before.... I had not hoped to see her like it again. She needs structure in her life, to be a part of something again."
"So, being a Holder not turning out too well for her?"
Whisper sighed and sat down, Orchid and Rose standing behind her, both their hands on her shoulder giving her strength.
"No, I think it was the way her husband was eviscerated infront of her by invisible demons that broke her. All the pain and the torture in the world were nothing when she was with him, as she was once before with.... love does conquer all. Now, all she has is us three. And even we can't get through to her."
"Will you let me try?"
"Do you have a choice?"
She hesitated... " No."

Two guards walked in dragging a body and dropping it on the floor before her. It moaned softly and giggled then moaned louder and cluthed at it's head. The woman looked down at the figure on the floor and prodded it with her boot.
"My god, I didn't know it was that bad. I think you three had best go. Back to your island."
"You wont' kill her.. will you?"
"My dear Whisper, " she said, the Khanid sing song of her voice softening, "I... won't do anything. It's all up to her now. She has fallen from grace, perhaps futher than her dear sister."
The two little geisha looked to Whisper and the three of them left, heading to their quarters and coming back with heavy coats pulling a trunk on a portable grav platform.
"Whisper, it isn't right..."
"Rose, we have no choice. Anyway, if she lives she'll return to the island. Its been too long and I need the sunshine and the sea breeze."

From the chair she listened as the shuttle took off and sipped her wine and waited. When what she expected did not come she looked up.
"I was expecting...."
The guard listened to the comm in his helmet
"There were no life signs on the shuttle, they must have set it for automatic. Do you want us to send out scouts to hunt them down?"
"No. Burn the estate down, bring that with us. Let them freeze to death out there."

Carmilla awoke to pain and numbness and icy cold blackness. The howling blizzard had half covered her where she lay and already she was loosing the feeling in her arms and back. The thin dress she was wearing was not suitable for the weather, the blizzard and the sub zero temperature would kill her. Staggering to her feet she gasped as the icy wind took her breath away and she started moving, trying to find shelter. As she walked, in the snow, she screamed out in defiance, the tears on her cheeks frozen. Her refusal to just roll over and die pushed her on, but even that will only go so far. Just as she found herself closing her eyes she saw the diffused lights coming towards her and raised her hands.
"I'm coming... my husband...  I'm coming....."
And then, she mercifully blacked out.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Sleeper Has Awaken

The boat sped out across the blue sea, swinging around the various islands and through the occasional reefs before stopping at a great spire of rock. From the boat it seemed like it rose arrow straight into the air, the base of it lashed by the waves. On the lee side a small breakwater had been constructed, and a set of stairs wound their way up the side.

As Orchid and Rose set to securing the boat Carmilla and Lientus made their way to the top, their latest girl, Poppy struggling under the weight of a large basket. A light wind blew through the few trees that had made the top of the spire their home, and several dozen large sea birds flew up into the sky, their retreat disturbed by the presence of so many people.

Carm sat cross legged as she watched her husband.Without his jacket or shirt his tattoos were showing, and likewise she had removed her own, the breeze teasing her noticably. Poppy poured wine for the four of them and knelt beside the basket as she looked in at the contents, the strain on her young face apparent, and yet she made no complaint. Carm's eyes took in her husband again, and noticed what looked like four burn marks on his upper arm.
"Husband.... what are those marks? Upper arm?"
"Oh, these? I got these from my last mission.. the one...."
"The one where you destroyed a city?"
"Uuh.... yes."
"Want to tell me about it?"
"No. When the time is right, maybe. But..."
"Okay. I wont press you."
She looked at him and smiled, leaning back against Rose and closing her eyes. Roses hands slowly massaging her shoulders, a smile on her face as she watch Lientus lean back against Orchid. For a few moments, while Poppy just watched, the two girls continued their massage. Lientus's voice when it came, was quiet.
"There was a smuggler network, operating out of a wormhole cluster, we'd been on their trail for a few months, but never managed to catch any of them. We'd managed to plot most of the wormholes that appeared in the Homroon constellation and had a series of probes watching them. The most we got for three months work was the tagging of a known smuggler, and scans of several capsuleer frigates that left various sites. Blind luck caused the smuggler to be caught and arrested three jumps away, so I made my way there to pick him up."
He knocked back his wine and handed out the glass for a refill, it was shaking slightly.
"So I wasn't there when the freighter jumped out of the wormhole. Well, limped. And when it was boarded, you know what they found? Nothing, no contraband, no drugs, no slaves, nothing. Just a lone survivor. What we found on that wreck would turn your blood to ice. I didn't see it until I got back, and I regret going back."

The Neda System
A few months ago

The Khanid Navy Pilgrim docked at the station orbitting Kuhri III. Already it had been challenged by the local authorities about it's business in system. Police and Navy ships were alerted, the com-channels were burning with traffic and a sense of forboding filled Colonel Lientus. Standing on the bridge he looked over the traffic reports for the system. Something... was wrong. He could feel it.
"Keep the engines warm, I have a feeling we may need to leave here suddenly. Once we are on station no one gets on board this ship, even if they have orders from Fleet Command."
His adjutant nodded and made the relevant notes in the ships log. Lientus pulled on his officers jacket and slung his rifle.
"You not going armoured?"
"No, we're just picking up a smuggler who is in custody. I don't expect there to be any problems."
"Sir, what you expect and what happens... "
"I know. I have a bad feeling about this one. Keep an ear out for our other ships in Neda."
"Oh, one of those feelings again? Damn."
Lientus smiled, and slapped his adjutants arm.
"Come now Caius, you are becoming an old woman."
"Yes Lientus, and I'd like to live to be an old man!"
They both laughed, and it seemed to lighten the oppressive atmosphere on the bridge. All the crew knew that Lientus and Caius went back many years and had fought many battles. They were inseperable, and often the cause of trouble on shore leave. And all of the crew felt safer knowing they were in command.

At the head of his guard of four he walked into the main security section on the station and flashed his credentials at the desk officer.
"I am here to see the smuggler brought in three hours ago. Name of  Desiua Quintus Maria, arrested for smuggling."
"Uuuh, that may be difficult...."
"I'm not interested in difficulties, I want to see him now."
"Sir, we have a detain and incinerate order being processed for him, and a confiscation order for his ship and contents. There is an Inquisitor coming in especially for it."
"Detain and incinerate? That hasn't been done for centuries! There are myths about that procedure."
"It shocked us too, son.  Come into my office."
Lientus turned and looked up at the uniform of a Fleet Commander and saluted. He was ushered into a large room, guards were stationed around the inside, weapons ready. Several tables were loaded down with what looked like artifacts and trade goods. Desiua was standing in a containment cell, two pistols held directly against his head.
"So son,  what is your interest in this man?"
"He is linked to a smuggling gang we are tracking down, sir. If you don't mind, sir, why the detain and incinerate? Isn't that a little extreme for a smuggler?"
The officer grunted, but smiled and walked over to a table and picked up a star shaped object.
"We picked him up because of this."
Lientus held out his hand and felt the weight of the object as it was placed on his palm. The soft soapstone looked like it had been polished by hand, it was star shaped and yet was off centre. In the middle of the star was what looked like a burning eye. It felt cold and he placed it back on the table.
"What is it? I've not seen anything like it before."
"I have no idea. But it was scanned during a routine cargo transfer. It took two hours but the computers eventually flagged it as an interdicted artifact and tried to close the jump gates."
"Is that possible?"
"Not any more, not for a long time I think. I dont even want to think about how old the programming was that caused this to be recognised. Memory storage is supposed to be instant access. To take that long it had to go into deep storage banks, we're talking old school, probably royal or ecclesiastical. Either way, it scares the hell out of me."
"Anything else that is strange about this?"
"Other than this?"
He walked over to another table and picked up a large bag and handed it over. Lientus looked inside then snapped his head up.
"You're kidding? How many?"
"One hundred and seven, not counting the ones he sold that we can't find. We're talking original and modified. We also found ship components, weapon systems. Its a veritable gold mine."
"Sansha. I hate damn Sansha. Any proof that he is a Sansha agent?"
"No. If anything he and all the crew have shown no allegiance to anything other than isk. But that still doesn't let us know how he came into possession of over a hundred damn sansha implants."
"Do you have his logs?"
"Yes, encrypted but we're working on it."
"You mind if I call my ship?"
"If there is a possible Sansha threat I want my team prepared. Smugglers is one thing, a Sansha incursion... Can I talk to him?"
"Yes, but it'll have to be here and quick."
Lientus pulled out his communit and looked over at Desiua. His eyes were fixed on the soapstone star, then they flickered up and looked locked on his own. Desiua started chanting, he looked at the Commander and frowned.
"Don't ask me son. We can't understand him either."
"Eeeyah? Did you check under ancient religions?"
"We did. That's when they said the Inquisitor was coming. Come on now son, we have about thirty minutes."
"Can we interview him here? I mean, it's not likely to make much difference in the end."
The commander shrugged and pulled two chairs over to the table by the and sat down before Desiua.

Desiua sat in the chair before the two officers, rubbing his wrists and looked at them both. The shadows in the room seemed to be growing and at the edge of his hearing he was sure he could hear the drums again. 
"So, from what I've been hearing from you guys chattering I'm not long for this world."
"If you can give us what we need, I'm sure I can work something out."
Desiua laughed dryly.
"Please. An Inquisitor is coming. For me. When was the last time you remember hearing about an inquisitor coming for someone who was later released. Alive, mind."
"You have a point."
"So what are you offering?"
"Talk. Tell us what you know and then we'll make you an offer.
"Okay. I suppose I will have to trust you."
"You are a smuggler working the Homroon constellation?"
He nodded his agreement.
"You were caught with a considerable amount of Sansha implants and equipment. Are you a supporter?"
"Ha, better to deal with the devil direct....."
"And you have this artifact that caused us to notice you...."
Desiua seemed to shiver as the star was brought closer to him and he looked around the room again, the shadows drawing closer.
"You brave men of the Amarr Navy. Much I dare say you have seen in the fulfillment of your ranks. But what do you know of the Gods who ruled before Man? Of the darkness that lurks beyond the keen of mans senses?"
"Hush yourself! I do not want to hear your heresy!"
 "No! It's not! It's the trust! And I say it even though my sentence is passed. Nothing you can do to save me from them, and I don't mean the Inquisitors. But I will tell you, both of you, for at least someone should have the knowledge to try and keep them back."
"You are making no sense..."
"Please, let him speak."
Lientus leaned forward, eager to listen.
"I found a wormhole, hidden in a gas cloud. It lead to a system with a single planet. I was the vanguard of our fleet, pirates and smugglers the lot of us, but we were cunning. Enough that you never found us, and deadly enough that not even the sleepers could stop us. When I explored I found there was a great battle underway between two great evils. If the vacuum could have caught fire it would have, with the energies that were being unleashed."
"What... great evil?"
"The Sleepers... and the Sansha."
The Commander snorted and shifted in his chair, noticing as if for the first time the growing darkness in the room.
"So you claim... a smugglers fancy."
"Hush your noise and try and learn something from a damned soul. The battle was long and hard, and the sleepers would have been victorious, were it not for their plantary defence satellites."
"I dont get you, what do you mean?"
"They were all pointing... towards the planet."

To be continued....

Sunday, 26 August 2012

I am Home

On the far side of the lake she watched as a khanid woman was playing with a small child. There was a happiness she could see in the two of them, even though she could not make out the details too clearly. The girl, only a few years old, and the woman, looked to be in her early twenties. Although it wasn't that apparent, there were guards surrounding the two of them, leaning against trees, hiding in bushes. Some of the other people in the park also looked to be wrong, their stances and the way they were paying attention to things set them aside as guards.

Carmilla sighed and sat down heavily on the bench. Orchid's hand rested on her shoulder
"What is it Carm? Who are they?"
"That, my dear sweet girl.... is my daughter and my ex-wife..."
The words came out almost as a sob, though it was restrained. She felt Orchids hand squeeze her shoulder involuntarily.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"It's okay, I didn't tell you. It's one of my failures, loosing them both."
"Why dont you go over there and...."
"Because I'd be shot before getting half way there."
"What, those guards?"
"Orchid... look at their position. Really look at it. It's very defensible, and they can see anyone coming from at least a mile away. Dont think they havn't already seen us and wondered if we are a threat."
"But she's your daughter!"
"And she's also her daughter to. And I can't go there... it's too painful."
Orchid sat down next to her and soon after Rose came and sat on her other side.
"Why are we here, Mistress?"
"Rose, we are here because I like to torture myself. And see what I can never have again."
"We all have families...."

Something of the way she said it made Carmilla turn to her. The look in her face softened and her eyes glistened.
"What have I done? What have I done to you both?"
The two geisha looked at her and shuffled closer.
"What do you mean? You rescued us both, took us both in and made us your girls."
"You are my slaves... it doesn't matter how I see you both, legally you are both slaves."
"And? You look after us..."
"She's right, you do. We could have been bought by anyone...and who knows what our fate could have been."
"But you have families?"
"Yes... we both do. Just as you do."
Carmilla looked once more at Ithiria and their daughter playing and saw her look up, look at her.
"We're going. Now. Take me away please?"

The three of them stood outside of the hanger bay and she looked at them both.
"Rose. Orchid.... Where are you families?"
"Well.... "
"I think that mine are still in minmatar space, Gulfondi."
"Mine travelled around a lot, though I dare say I can find them."
Carmilla pulled out her comm and called the ship.
"Get the prowler ready, we're going to Gulfondi and then... somewhere else."
"Mistress, you dont' need to do this."
"Yes I do. And one day, you'll realise why I had to. Come on... we have some searching to do."

Carmilla and Orchid stood in the rain on the far side of the street from the door Rose was standing at knocking. The rain that was falling was light, casual and refreshing change from the hot and dusty city. Gulfondi, she mused, I'm standing here with two slaves in the middle of a city that would quite happily kill me for having one, let alone.....

The door to the house opened and a surprised looking woman and a handsome man looked at Rose and pulled her into their arms. Orchid squeezed Carm's hand.
"The good thing about the rain is you can't see the tears."
"I'm not crying," she sniffed.
"Yes you are. You think I don't know you?"
Rose said something to the people and ran across the street to Carm and Orchid
"How long can I stay? I mean... can I stay?"
"Rose..." Carm wiped her eyes, "If you want to stay I will free you. If you want to return to me, you know where I am."
"If I come back to you, will I still be your slave?"
"Of course."
Rose looked at her and flung her arms around her, then around Orchid and ran back to the house.
 "You know she'll come back, right?"
"I wouldn't blame her if she didn't."
"But you know she'll come back... right?"
"I hope so. Come on Orchid, time to get you to your family."
"And you'll offer me the same?"
Orchid slipped her arms around her Mistress and hugged her tightly.
"Carm... I am home."

 Three days later, sitting on the end of the pier with Whisper and Orchid Carmilla looked out over the sea when she heard the shuttle landing. She didn't look around, just kept looking out over the ocean.
She raised her head and turned around. Rose was standing there, dressed in her finest kimono. Carm stood up and looked at her.
"Rose... you came back?"
"Of course I did."
"But... you could be at home, with your family...."
Orchid and Whisper stood up and looked at Rose with knowing eyes and a kindred understanding.
"Carmilla.... I am home."

Meeting of Giants

Lientus, followed by Rose made their way into the lounge at the Geisha House. Carmilla and Orchid were instructing two guards to take a struggling figure away. Lientus looked for a moment at the bound gallente woman, then turned his attention back to his wife. Both of them were wearing the formal Holder garb, ready for the constellation convivium.
"Carmilla my dear, it seems we have.... an interesting occurance at out estate on Seshala III."
"Ooh, and what might that be?"
"Four slaves crashed a shuttle just outside the boundary fence and were followed by another shuttle filled with guards. It seems the overseer at the estate let them in as they asked for sanctuary. The guards demanded them back and he refused. He wants to know what to do."
"Tell him to do nothing...."
Carmilla looked at the mirror and straightened her hair then turned to him.
"Four slaves..... where did they come from?"
"They are refusing to talk, all they are saying is they are from Gehi and...."
"Console, now!"

The overseer of the Estate on Seshala III sat back in his chair and turned on the console when the transmission came through. He smiled at the screen, putting Carmilla on her guard almost immediately.
"All hail, my Lady."
"You have a situation I understand?"
"Nothing to concern you, my Lady. Just four slaves who are requesting sanctuary at your estate."
"They knew it was my estate?"
"Yes, I think..."
"Don't think! Know! Why have you not asked these questions?"
She didn't give him time to come up with a lame excuse.
"I am sending a shuttle over to you. You will put the slaves on the shuttle and after I have returned from my conference we will talk about your position there. Do you understand?"
His smile faltered momentarily.
"No, but I will obey, my Lady."
She cut the transmission and scowled. Lientus massaged her shoulders gently
"What is wrong? Slaves escape all the time..."
"Yes, but they dont come to my estates, they just... go."
"You suspect?"
"I suspect a trap. And I'm not falling into it. Girls, get ready, we're going to pickup some passengers for our journey."

Carm sat in the back with Lientus as the girls guided the shuttle in as soon as they had docked she was out and storming into the reception area. With a smile she saw that the guards had brought the four slaves with them to the area to be placed upon the transport. All of them jumped.
"My Lady, here are the slaves you requested. If we had known you were coming...."
"I was in the area. Now, you four. Where did you come from? Answer me quickly."
The talled slave, a bronze skinned caldari stepped forward and bowed slightly.
"We are escaped slaves from the tyrants estate in Gehi. You are well known to us, we request sanctuary. We wish to serve you."
"You do... do you? And how did you know about this estate?"
"We didn't, we just crashed here. I was not used to pilotting in storms."
"And who are these three that they should come with you?"
"Those that survived the escape. Originally there were ten, but the rest were captured or killed. Hence we throw our selves on your mercy."
"I see.... Guards.... Restrain them. I do not trust unbound slaves in my presence."
The three slaves did not utter a word as they were bound, but she noticed that two looked at the Caldari.
"Put them in the back of my shuttle, usual travel conditions for new slaves, please."
The guards nodded and as one slammed their weapons into the slaves heads, knocking the four of them out.
"Make sure they are securely bound. Have the guards from the other shuttle gone?"
"Yes, they left after the Overseer refused them admission."
"He did what? God, this just gets better and better."
She pushed the nearest slave over with her foot and beckoned to Lientus.
"See this? Shalia Gehi's personal stock. Do you know what would happen if I took these in?"
He was silent for a moment.
"Yes. I do."
"Shalia is on her way to the conference as well," she smiled, "So place a call to her major domo. Let her know we have four slaves we are returning them to Shalia at the conferences end. If I know Shalia, she is comms off at the conference. Now... lets get there, I dont want to be late."

For some time now the Seevadin constellation has held meetings of those Holders who live within it's borders. Invitations to the held conviviums are not requests, and those who are invited and do not turn up are often invited to leave the constellation, sometimes the region. Some, like Carmilla and Lientus, were Holder Minors. Others, like Shalia Gehi had entire systems as their holdings. A meeting of giants.

Outside the conference chamber Carmilla and Lientus, with Orchid and Rose behind ran straight into Shalia Gehi and her entourage. Both Carmilla and Lientus bowed formally, Orchid and Rose both knelt down and bowed, staying in that position. Shalia sneered at all of them.
"Vezila, I must say I almost forgot that I was looking at two Holders. For a moment I thought I was looking at four slaves and wondered why they were not wearing collars and licking my boots."
"Shalia, you are too much. Those two at the back are slaves, and they know their place. These two... well.... this one is one of us, and he looks the part. But her, she looks slave through and through. Maybe I should collar her and give her to you as a present."
Carmilla stood up and looks down on Shalia and the man standing with her. Garouna of Vezila, a fitting Holder to be with Shalia the Tyrant.
"My dear Shalia, were it not that my husband and I are loyal to the Kingdom and Holders Minor, I dare say we would possibly find ourselves in just such a position. Unfortunately, I do not see that changing any time soon."
Shalia scowled. The woman was young, and as beautiful as any Carmilla had seen, but she was no Ithiria, she mused. Power, yes, looks, yes, but the cold heart was well known amongst both slaves and freemen.
"Maybe I will see what I can do to get you on your knees before me."
"Well I know what to do when I'm on my knees before a Holder. Ever slave does."
"Yes, I had heard you were once slave stock. Heavens knows why you are one of us now. I'll have to take it up with the convivium, see if we can't revoke your holder status."
"Of course, my dear, you are entitled to do such. And indeed, if you had valid arguments why I should be removed from my status, and the court backed it, I would acquiese. But if you make an accusation and fail, well.... "
Carmilla just smiled. She was spared the retort by Shalia as the doors to the chamber opened and they were ushered in.
"By the moons, my wife, you play a dangerous game. She can make both of us dissapear."
"I know, and I could have her tit nailed to her bed chamber if I so wished it."
Vezila chuckled as he overheard as he passed and took his seat. Carmilla and Lientus took theirs.

The business of the convivium lasted three hours and in that time screaming arguments took place between Shalia and most of the rest of the Holders. The only person who did not feel the lash of her tongue was Carmilla, as she managed for the most part to agree with everything she put forward. As the tempers died down Vezila stood up.
"Now that we have the necessary busines finished, is there any new business that members wish to be brought forward?"
Shalia stood up, Vezila bowed to her.
"The chair recognises Shalia of Gehi."
"Thank you, my Lord. Many of you here no doubt recognise that we have two new Holders here today, the Lady Carmilla and the Lord Lientus."
She let the murmering die down before smiling a wicked smile and was about to start speaking again when the door to the chamber opened and a small slave scurried in, handing Shalia a message, cringing while she read. With flashing eyes she looked over at Carmilla and Lientus. Who both just nodded.
"I.... hope you will join me in raising our glasses to them. I hope we can expect their undying loyalty in the future. And their adherance to our laws."
Picking up her glass she downed the contents and threw the glass at the slave, storming out.
"It looks like her Major Domo has bigger balls then I suspected. Come, lets hand over the slaves then get the hell out of here.

On the shuttle ride back to their estate Lientus wrapped his arms around her.
"How did you know it was a trap?"
"Come on, oldest trick in the book. Her word against ours that we gave 'sanctuary' to her slaves. I dare say it would have been known that they had committed some crime against her, and we were blamed for it. Would give her she needed to send her troops in and kill or enslave us all."
"Is she that bad?"
"Maybe... but one thing I do know, I have seen her before. Though she didn't recognise me, though I thought she did for a moment."
"When was that?"
"When she was invited to a party my old Mistress held for her friends, when I was just her slave and nothing else. Long time ago."
Lientus laughed and hugged her tightly.
"You are a dark horse Carmilla, but I'm glad you are mine."
He leaned over and kissed her gently. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

You Don't Mess with my Girls

The note was simple. It had a planetary location, a city, a street, a number and a time. Three people had died to get her the note, two of theirs and one of hers. Crumpling the note in her hand she dropped it on the street outside of the address and pulled out a pair of old circular glasses, rose tinted lenses and sighed, squeezing the arm of the man beside her.
"You don't have to do this."
"You do, and that's enough for me. I'll wait til I get your signal."

There was music coming from inside, strong rhythmic undertones, the sound of the heels of the dancers, the clapping and a heavy singing voice. It was unlike any other Gallente music she had heard. Checking her weapons were secure she walked towards the door and into the taverna. The atmosphere inside was passionate and most of the people were watching the dancer, a tall thin woman who moved like she was possessed. But, she mused, another night to appreciate this. Business first. And with a smile that was almost a snarl she spotted the table with her prey.

Two geisha walked along the streets of an obscure border city. The heavy advertising of the Caldari interests flashed garish neon that cut through the driving rain and fog like a subdued nightmare. Under their umbrella's they looked small and petite, but as ever on the neon streets of caldari cities, looks can be deceiving. More than once a gang of youths had tried to stop them, it did not take long to disuade them. Together they stopped at a corner and look up and down.
"That last one bled on your kimono...."
Orchid looked down and stamped her foot.
"Why didn't they just turn around and run after we broke his arm? Why the bravado?"
"Maybe because for them to be beaten by women means more here than other places?"
Orchid hunched her shoulders and let her head roll, her neck cricking.
"How much futher? It's not bad enough that I'm drenched in blood but I'm getting soaked!"
"According to this, it's that blue door over there... come on... lets see how easy it is to get in."

Carm pushed her way through the crowd and fell into the empty seat at the round table full of minmatar. They looked up at her as she leant back in the chair, her hands deep in her duster pockets. Several stood up, hands going to holsters.
"Guys, not here. Sit."
The man at the opposite end of the table from her looked her up and down.
"You. I know you. Traitor to your people!"
He spat on the floor by his chair.
"Let me know why I shouldn't have my men drag you outside and execute you? I'd be well within my rights."
She chuckled.
"You dont have the cojones to do it. The blood in your veins is brutor piss, you do the sebiestor a disservice by being so weak and cowardly. Hiding at the back behind your big strong men. Yeah, all men. That it is it? You like men? Or boys?"
His pistol was out of it's holster and pointing at her.
"You dare sit there, slaver, and insult me?"
"I'm not a slaver, I'm a Holder, big difference. And you messed with one of my girls, trying to get her to turn against me. Loyalty obviously means nothing to you."
"Pah, what do you know of loyalty. Loyalty of the lash is no loyalty. Men are meant to be free. I am free, so are my men!"
"Free? You are all slaves to a decaying republic. You, you however are a punk, and a pretty second rate punk. The only real success you have had has been diverting slave transports. Six hundred rescued was it? Quite a coup, at least... it would have been...... They are on their way to.... Bei wasn't it? At your staging ground? Third moon?"
"How does she know this?"
"Quite, she is bluffing. Something she won't be able to do once I put a bullet in her head."
She smiled.
"You might want to call your boys."

The bestowers were old, but still usable as slave transports. In truth, though old not much had been done to make them any more comfortable. But, as some in the Amarr Empire thought, slaves are not used to comfort. The convoy had been six bestowers escorted by a dozen frigates and two cruisers. For such a transfer no more was needed. When the freedom fighters attacked it was over in minutes, their assault frigates tearing through the defence, and their own transports, large mastodons docking with the bestowers and troops boarded and secured each one. Six hundred slaves rescued, a minor coup for the freedom fighters, a feather in the cap of their sponsor. 

Once the slaves were aboard it was a short haul to low-sec and an escort, and then on to Bei, their secret staging grounds. However, almost immediately as the slaves were aboard things began to take a turn for the worse. On one of the mastodons guards and crew members began dissapearing and eventually the ship stopped broadcasting messages, claiming a systems error. The freedom fighters took no note, it was a minmatar ship after all, such things do happen. And anyway, the fleet was scheduled for repair at Bei.

One by one the ships landed and the slaves were released, the guards puzzled by the lack of movement from the last ship, which had docked hard, shattering one of the landing struts and tilting at an angle. Repair crews were despatched and the ranking officer came over and only realised the situation when the hatch opened and a rag tag bunch of slaves, all heavily armed stormed onto the landing field.  Behind them the golden armoured troops of Amarr, lashing the slave crowd forward with whips and threats. The vitoc staved slaves attacked everything that moved, desperate to show they were worthy  for their dose, desperate to asuage their pain.

Inside the warehouse one of the guards heard the desperate sound of knocking and went over to the door. Pulling back the vision panel he looked into the pleading eyes of two geisha who both started talking to him in frantic Khanid.
"Whoa, whoa! I dont understand you, can you speak Gallente?"
"Yes... uh.. a little. Please kind sir, we need to come in out of the rain!"
"Find a hotel, or a corner cafe. This is not a place for..."
For the first time his eyes took in the two geisha. Even with their kimono's he could see their curves as the wet material was clinging to them. The flimsy umbrella's they had seemed to have kept their makeup and hair neat and that was it. That natural yearning that all men have for women in distress acted and he pulled back the locks and opened the door.
"There now, come in and...."

One of the two geisha, who before looked so helpless now held a large silenced pistol in her hand. She put one finger to her lips as the other frisked him then slammed her own pistol onto his neck, knocking him out. Orchid shook her head and lowered her pistol at him.
"You know what she said, no witnesses."
The sound of the ejected case on the floor was louder than the shot and a voice came from down the corridor.
"Hey, is that the delivery girl?"
"Why yes it is," Rose called out,"Where do you want it?"
A smiling face poked out of a corridor and she raised her pistol and fired, tearing his face away. A cry from inside the room as his companion saw his body fall. Orchid closed and locked the door and pulled out a second pistol.
"Come now Sister, time to go to work!"
On a whim, Orchid turned and looked up at the security camera and smiled before pumping a round into it.

The Leader gestured to one of his men, keeping his pistol trianed on the woman before him. Her state of relax was annoying, her utter calm. It was unnerving.
"Boss, the landing field is under attack. One of the slave transports... the slaves are attacking... I dont..."
"Give me that...."
He took his eyes off of her, it was all she needed. She kicked out at the table legs, pushing her chair backwards, her hands coming out of her pockets with heavy pistols in each, her thumbs already selecting full auto as she pulled the triggers and sprayed left and right.

Outside Lientus swore as he heard the sound of full auto pistols firing and dropped his cigarette and ran into the building. Bloody wife, he thought as he pushed past the screaming patrons trying to flee and watched as his wife was shot down before his eyes.  The heavy barrel of the combat shotgun came up and as the red mists descended he began to fire, his whole body shaking with each blast. 

As the trigger clicked on an empty barrel and the last shell casing pinged across the floor took a breath. The smoke in the air was mingled now with the screams of the wounded and the heavy smell of blood and spilt drinks. Slinging his weapon over his shoulder he pulled out a smaller pistol and walked over to the wounded. One shot each, then knelt down next to his wife and punched her in the chest. She gasped, her eyes flying open.
"You are one crazy woman."
"You hit me!"
"I woke you up is all. And to think you wanted to leave the armour behind this time."
"Okay, you were right.... " she grunted as he helped her up,"This time."
"They are all dead."
"It was just one cell anyway. Have the others reported in?"
"Orchid and Rose have swept the safe house, they have documents, money transfers, no survivors."
"And the landing platform?"
"I dont like using Amarr Mercenaries, their methods are...."
"They have their uses. I dont agree with their methods, which is why I dont want to know their methods, only that they succeeded."
"They did. The staging area was taken after a heavy firefight. They just said losses were within acceptable perameters for the job and documents would be forthcoming after final payment."
She sighed and nodded.
"Acceptable parameters... what the hell is that."
Picking up a bottle she looped her arm through her husbands.
"Come on, back way. I think we'll be too hot here for a while. Tell the girls we'll meet them at the backup site."
"Oh... and don't forget there is a Council Meeting tomorrow. You will have to attend."
"Gah, political nonsense.... but... it's my political nonsense. We'll have to change as well then."

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


Rose sat at the bar and listened to her Mistress talking with the clubs owner. Her eyes and ears roamed, looking for threats, familiarity, and.... just waiting. Already she had spotted the plants in the club, those who were security, those who had something to hide. And those who were hiding in plain sight.

She sipped her quaffe and talked softly to Hana, the girl behind the bar. Something about her brought a kinship to mind, they were both after all of the same status it seemed. She wished, above all else, that Orchid was here. The bond she shared with her, once they both had been bought from the slavers pit was forged in love and respect, and a necessity to fight. Whisper too, shared that bond. And their Mistress, after a fashion.

Watching and listening she observed her Mistress and smiled. It was rare to see some happiness in her these days, and the Corvidae Club seemed to make her smile. It even seemed to make her forget her addiction. Pulling a small datatablet from her pocket she messaged both Orchid and Whisper and excused herself and headed to the toilets.

Her instincts served her well. She was already moving before the shadow detached itself from the wall, and before two of them had her pinned against it, two more were down on the floor, the scuffle deadened by the music nearby. Strong hands pulled her into the corridor to the slaves quarters while another hand covered her mouth.

"Stop struggling, sister. We mean you no harm!"
The voice was thick sebiestor, male and a familiar trace she couldn't place. His face, when it appeared infront of hers was handsome, once. Now it was scarred, broken, but the eyes were bright and hopeful. She had seen such hope before, seen it crushed. But, she stopped struggling.
"I know you. I knew you from before. I was there when you were taken, bought like cattle."
"Impossible, only slaves were there."
"Do I look like I am not? I swore on my clan, those that live still, that I would make it strong again. But for that I need women to join me."
She laughed softly at him, with no ire.
"You want me for your bed? There are ways to do that without trying to abduct me."
"I want you free. Do you not want to be free again? To once more walk on our homeworld and feel the wind in our hair?"
"You are freedom fighters?"
"And what makes you think I want to be free?"
He looked at her, a strange look in his eyes.
"We know well your Mistress," he spat the word out,"A pariah and a traitor to our people, a slaver and a murder. Her crimes are too long to list. We would see her dead. We want you to help us."

There are moments of clarity when we can see the future with an accuracy that is profound. She saw the Geisha House burning, the patrons executed on the beach, or dying from the fires that tore through the buildings. The gardens one large mass grave and above all Him standing there, directing the massacre from atop the matari landing craft. Carmilla and the geisha bound and gagged, captured awaiting a trial back in the republic that would be a farse, and a fate worse than death.

This man, was no freed slave, she thought.
"Tell me what you need,"she said cautiously, already knowing the answer.
"We need the codes to land on your whore house. And we need to know when she will be there so we can capture her."
"You dont want to kill her?"
"No," the look in his eyes however said something different.
"Rose?" The voice echoed down the corridor and the people blended back into the shadows
"We will be in touch.... depend on it."

Rose leant back against the wall, shuddering slightly and looked up. Hana was standing by her, looking up into her eyes with a kindly smile.
"Your Mistress is expecting you, you must come.... Are you allright?"
"I'll be fine. I just need..."
Hana held out her hand and took Roses and kissed it gently and held it to her cheek.
"I know, don't worry. You will be fine."
Rose walked back to the bar with her, but at the back of her mind was the talk with the strange Matari. Things were happening. Pieces were being moved into position. She had to be ready when they made their final move. They all did.
"Orchid... where are you my sister?"

Carmilla looked on as Hana and Rose came back and patted the seat next to her, concern on her face.
"Rose, is everything okay?"
"Mistress, we need to leave here. Please."
Carm looked at her girls expression and nodded. She knew her girls, depended on them. Now, more than ever.
"Don't worry, we'll go get Orchid. I know you are missing her, I am too. But she is doing a vital job for me with my husband. But yes, we'll go home."
As they walked out Rose noticed a face looking at her from the crowd of people. She shuddered as she saw the matari, his knowing smile and then it was gone in the throng.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Lady Carmilla, Khanid Holder

Fifteen days ago, Khanid space - Kihtaled IV

Carmilla sat on top of the skyscraper and looked out over the city below. The architecture of most Khanid cities she found interesting. The deviations from the traditional Amarr, subtle in some places, obvious in others. Watching the sun as it gleamed from gold and black chrome sides of the building a few blocks from her brought a lump to her throat.

Soon she would be inside, with the man who might yet be her husband, a handful of her supporters and her mother. Although she had planned much of what was going on today, there was still a large margin for error. At best, she'd get everything she had worked for for years. At worst, well, they might not give her a choice about wearing the chrome. Hell.... it was always possible she wouldn't walk out alive....

She looked over to where Orchid and Rose were standing looking over the edge. Both were in their usual geisha attire and she smiled, thinking back on their first days with her. Happier days? Not necessarily, but days to remember. Happiness was something illusive these days. Turning to the girls she picked up her datatablet and answered a flashing message and smiled. 
"The last of the prelates are here. Come on, time to get this sorted."
She turned her head and looked over at Lientus, sitting on the edge dangling his legs over the drop.
"You coming?"
"It's not too late for you to stop doing this you know?"
"Yes it is. I've come too far and burnt too many bridges to go back now."
"Actually, my dear.... I think you'll find I understand better than you think."
He stood up and held out his hand, she took it, looking at him with a smile.
"Come on... lets go get married."
Walking over to the girls she poked them playfully.
"Is everyone assembled?"
"We can't get hold of Alizabeth."
"What? I need her here! Where is she?"
"Null Sec. Fighting. Every time I contact her I get a reply that she is in a warzone."
"Goddam! I wanted her to be here."
"Who is this Alizabeth?"
"Oh... you'll find out. Come on... before there are any other surprises."

 Flanked by her geisha Carmilla clad in her long serpentis cut suit walked into the lounge of the hotel. Before her there was a screen of guards. She stopped before them and bowed graciously, her girls taking one step backwards. Eyes and scanning rays covered her from top to toe and with a grunt the guards parted and gestured her in. Walking towards those inside she smiled.
"Gentlemen, Prelates, Governor. I think you for your support."
"Aaah, Carmilla, I hope you know what you are doing?"
"Why do people keep asking me that?"
"Maybe because you will shortly have more enemies that even you can handle?"
"Hated as a slave, hated as a Holder. It's all just names when someone is trying to kill you. Now, as per my request I have constructed Houses for each of you and some of my girls will run them until your own people learn how to do it properly. That means, how I want it done. Each of you knows the pleasure of my House," that brought laughter and nods from all of them, "And all of you know I am obliged to all of you regardless. So I had the deeds transfered this morning."
"You know I could walk away now and leave you without my support."
"Yes, My Lord. All of you could. You would all be richer for it, and I stand by my obligations."
"Because it's who I am, My Lord."
The Prelate looked at her, his hand caressing his steel gray beard.
"I also understand we are to be witnesses to your rather informal wedding?"
"Who is the lucky man?"
"His name is Lientus of Rixhes."
They all looked at each other.
"Carmilla... you really need to pay more attention to current events. I hope when you are a Holder Minor you will do that."
Confused she frowned and just nodded.

The Royal Khanid Courthouse in the capital city of Kithaled IV is a surprising structure of black chrome and glass. Towering above the nearby buildings it is a bastion of law and order. And to this place Carmilla, her girls, her soon to be husband and her supporters went. Ushered in to one of the main chambers she looked around as she made her way to the dias, standing before the assembled judges. She felt nervous. Behind her, the throng took their seats.
"Carmilla Deritan. You are here today to perform a decree absolute on your divorce?"
"Yes, your honour. And to marry the man who will be my husband. Unfortunately I could not do this until we were both sure it was what we wanted."
"I see.... Your wife I see is not present?"
"No, your honour. It is not required as she was the one who pushed for the divorce."
"And your matriarch blocked the divorce?"
"She did. As is her right as the matriarch of my House."
"But you are Deritan. Surely that is all that is required? Have you wasted our time here today?"
"No, sir. My house... is House Jobias, a house of some... repute that goes back many years."
There was silence as documents were handed around.

"Carmilla Deritan. Are you aware of what you are saying?"
"I am. The Matriach of my House can be verified by genetic testing. Such was performed by a Doctor of the Court and matched against records. It proves I am who I am. And she is here, should you require to speak to her."
"Speak? We should lock her up and throw away the key! She is a wanted criminal and...."
"Not by the Khanid."
Silence again.
"Do you dare to speak against the Kingdom?"
"I speak only against the Empire. Not the Kingdom. By revealing my position, and by the honours bestowed upon my by my wife, Ithiria Deritan I put myself forward to become a Holder Minor. My loyalty is towards the Laws of the Khanid."
"And the man you wish to marry? What has he to do with this?"
"We are in love. And the merging of his house and mine will make us stronger, and more loyal."
"Bring him forward. Let us see this man of yours."

Lientus, clad in the traditional robes of a Khanid Holder stood next to her and stood defiant. He whispered to her softly and squeezed her hand.
"I hope you know what you are doing."
"Ssssh my darling."
They both looked on as the Judges began reading the documents before them. A whispered argument was taking place before the judge spoke again.
"Carmilla Deritan, I will honour your request. The divorce is now decree absolute. You are no longer Carmilla Deritan, instead you are now known to us as Carmilla Jobias. Though that is no honour that I can see."
"My Lord..."
"I am not finished. While in your position as Wife and Slave to Holder Deritan you committed more crimes than I can care to read and take in. You have served our enemies, you have fought against us and our allies and your family is not much better. Your sister is still a wanted pirate, your mother is a genocidal maniac and your husband is a war criminal! This is not the best way to attempt to start a life as a Holder Minor in the Kingdom!"
Carmilla turned her head slowly and looked at Lientus.
"A war criminal? May I remind the court that he has fought valiently for all of us and is a hero. What care we if our enemies call him a war criminal?"
"You mistake me, Carmilla. His crimes were against the Amarr! He personally lead the attack that wiped out a major city complex on a planet in the warzone. The death toll was in the millions. They captured him and sold him into slavery!"
"Where I rescued him."
She whispered low to Lientus.
"You are so dead when we get home."
"I am not at liberty to say, My Lords, what the Amarr conisder to be a crime. I put it before you that the Amarr are not worthy enough to try a man such as Lientus. That is for a Khanid court to decide. I only know that to me, my soon to be husband is as much a patriot as I am. Yes, more Khanid blood runs in his veins than mine, but our children will be brought up properly, as loyal and patriotic as we are."
"We, the assembled Judges of the Court do not believe that you are able to fulfil the duties of what you are after. Yes, you can probably make a good wife to this man, heaven knows you are both a good match for each other, and as familes go you are all the same. But I have yet to see that you are worthy of such a title and role in our Kingdom."
Carmilla nodded and turned aside and looked at those who had come to support her.
"In that case, My Lords. I offer testamony from a council of my peers. Prelates and Governors who stand by me."
She stood back as one by one they came and spoke on her behalf, her hand a steel band on Lientus wrist. She hissed to him.
"A war criminal? You might have told me!"
"I tried to tell you you were making a mistake! What was I supposed to say?"
"God damn, Lientus! Do you know how much I have sacrificed to get here?"
With pleading eyes she looked at his face and pulled him into her arms and held him. He held her tight and comforted her, surprising himself that he meant it.
"Carm, we are both outcasts without homes. If you can make this work...  then you will have a man who will be proud to have you as his wife."
"You are just saying that... without me you'd be dead on an arena floor...."
"And with you, maybe I have a reason to go on living..."

There was a clearing of throats. Carm, wiping her eyes and pulling Lientus with her returned to the dias.
"It seems, that you are an impossible woman. But, I can think of no one more suited to being the wife to this man. Your marriage is accepted and has been registered as legally binding."
"Thank you, My Lord."
"Also, it seems that although your House, Jobias, was originally an Amarr House, your husbands house is an old Khanid House, as old as your own. And given that technically you have been a Holder for the past couple of years, I have no hesitation in adding your name to the list of Holders of the Khanid. Lady Carmilla, of the House of Jobias, we welcome you."
There was cheering from her supporters and she turned to Lientus. There was a smile on her face that mirrored his.
She kissed him and melted into his arms. Now, at least, she had the power she needed.
"Dont think you are not going to get your ass kicked... But lets get out of here. Once the news hits the nets I dont know what sort of reaction we'll have."
"So where are we going?"
"Seshala. I'm taking you home."

As the shuttle landed on the pads at the Geisha House she waited til the girls had gotten out before stepping out with her new husband.
"Darling, go with the girls, let them show you around your new home. I have something I need to do first?"
He looked at her and nodded, kissing her forehead as she made her way to the beach and to the end of the pier. As she thought, Whisper was waiting there.
"I hear you are now Lady Carmilla?"
"I am Whisper."
"To me you will always be Carmilla."
"I dont want to be anything else to you, or my girls."
She sighed and wiped her eyes.
"Do you think he'll understand? Or will she?"
"My child, Ithiria will understand. Though she may rant and rave, she loves you still. And part of me thinks you would run to her if she came back. But he will understand. One day, you will return to him, but you have many years of life yet."
"He was a good husband, he treated me well."
"So will this one, you two are alike."
"You know of him?"
"You mean did I do more research on your husband than you did? Yes. But I also know that like Samual, he is a patriot, a loyalist and more like you than you realise."
Carmilla took a necklace from her neck and held it up. The small piece of twisted metal of her necklace she poured into Whispers hand and closed it.
"Take it to his grave please?"
"Carmilla, you know he was proud of you, every day you were together. And I know how much you loved him."
"I kept his name, as I said I would, til I got what we both dreamed of. I'm a Holder now, and my Mothers house has been resurected. But I will never forget him, Samual D'morenta... my husband, executed for treason. I will now make them pay, Whisper."
Whisper smiled and walked her Mistress back to the Geisha House and found the girls and Lientus. How people change, she mused.

Three days ago - Secret Training Facility - Essence

Carmilla Jobias walked up to the balcony of the building and looked out. Before here troops were assembled in ranks awaiting her inspection.  Hundreds now, soon to be thousands. Looking over them, her cloak swept behind her she smiled. A judgement was coming. Those who stood against her would fall, one by one. She was no powerhouse, like Ithiria or Esna with their fleets and power. She had loyalty, devotion and hatred. And she had time to plot, time to scheme, time to win.

Walking down the stairs she was flanked almost silently by Rose and Orchid and went out to inspect the troops. In her mind a tune she had heard once before came back to her memory and she started to smile as row after row of troops stood to attention as she passed. All this was hers now, she smiled again, then laughed, a laugh that echoed around the training facility and sent shivers down the spine.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

This is how I feel sometimes

You know, I've been playing MMO's for a long time. I cant' remember half the characters I have created on everquest, Wow, Star Wars Galaxies, CIty of Villians, LotRo....

But I do remember that when I played Final Fantasy XI back in the day I had a Mithra named Shamsara.

It's remembering the old games and how we enjoyed them that made me look for something I remembered. And I found it.... I always find watching this sad, because it reminds me that all the MMO's out there, including those that have now fallen by the wayside and even been closed were created for us to explore and appreciate, not just to destroy and kill.

So, I give you, A little FFXI story


The Search...

Thirty Five Days Ago.... Khanid Space - Keberz System

The two women walked away from the building behind them that was burning fiercly.  The younger of the two, clad in a smart business suit in the Serpentis style had the soft features of a Sebiestor, but the imperious sneer of an Amarrian. Stopping by the gravcar she turned at looked, watching as those nearby came to see what was happening and to gawk at the fire.
"I know what you are going to say, Mother. But insults like that just cannot be ignored."

The older woman removed the black mask that covered her face and shook her hair. Her tight fitting combat suit hidden behind an ankle length duster, a wide brimmed hat in her other hand. Though they looked Gallente, her ancestory was something different, older and more sinister. Doctor Kim Leannder looked on and sighed, replacing her hat.
"I just wish you didn't have to burn the house down. And I wish you would be more submissive to them, we have limited time left until you have to give your say to the divorce. We must find you a suitable husband."
"I know," she spat, "I just wish they didn't have to be such assholes."

 Thirty Three Days Ago, Gallente Space - Auvergne System

Two guards, clad in powered armour and followed by a third, heavily armed dragged a man between them. He was stuggling feebly, his hands bound, a hood over his head. They walked down a tunnel in plain sight of everyone. On either side of them, down the marble clad pavements that led away from the Palace of Expected Merchandise and the great open bazaar people in their hundreds had congregated to explore the stalls and enjoy their lives. The tunnel however, though the guards and the prisoner, had he been able to look up, could see out onto the throng, but they could not see back in. Some things they liked to be private.

Behind them the weekly slave auctions were well underway. The prisoner between them had been bought, his fate sealed. His general physique and what little clothing he wore indicated he was a solider, possibly Khanid. But to the guards he was just so much meat. One of many who had gone down this route. Such, they mused, was the fate of those who dared stand against the Federation.

At a junction in the tunnel they handed him over to a woman clad in a heavy robe and bundled him into the back of the speeder she was standing beside. The prisoner was in no state to try and resist as he was chained to the seat. Through his hood he could only hear the sound of the bazaar fade away, the sounds of other traffic and eventually the sounds of the sea before he was uncermoniously dragged out of the speeder and literally, pushed into a hole. He fell and hit hard, blacking out.

He awoke slowly, groggily to a damp cloth wiping his face. Instinct lashed out his arm and his hand clasped around a throat. His eyes opened and he looked into the shadows of a hooded cloak. The woman he held calmly dropped the cloth and reached up and clutched his wrist, squeezing a pressure point. He gasped in pain and let go.
"Where am I? Speak woman!"
She coughed gently and rubbed her throat and puts the cloth back in the bowl beside her.
"You are in.... a training facility. Or maybe, a gateway to your freedom."
"You... speak Khanid. But with a trace of slave. Is that what you are? Slave?"
"Like you, you mean? In a way. And yes, I speak Khanid."
"Hah! I am no slave. I will find a way out of here and come back with my troops and wipe this place clean of the taint."
She laughed softly and handed him the cloth. He took it and after looking in a mirror she held up for him with a smile he started to sigh and clean himself of the prison filth. Around them both he could see the huddled shapes of other people. Slaves, he sneered, this is not my place. But he could see the looks in their eyes. They recognised him, or if not who he was, then definately what he was. So did she, he thought.

"Why do you show me such friendship?"
"Because I show everyone the same mercy who comes here. Be they slave or holder, soldier or criminal. All deserve to face their fate clean and proud."
"My fate is not to be determined within these walls. I am Lientus of the House Rixhes, my fate is my own, in the hands of...."
He paused for a moment, his face hardening and screaming, leaping to his feet and grasping the bars on the cell wall infront of him. Those sitting around the walls just watched, shaking their heads as he ranted. The cloaked woman backed away for a moment and seemed to whisper something into the darkness. Moments later three heavily armed guards kicked open a door to the cells and walked in. For a moment, Lientus was silent then he spat through the bars at them.
"Open these doors! If you are man enough to face me. Even with your weapons I can take all three of you."
One of the guards looked on impassively as he raised a stun gun and fired it. As Lientus slumped to the floor they looked to the woman in the hooded cloak and she just nodded.

Lientus awoke as the bucket of water splashed into his face and spluttered as she pulled himself up. Looking around he saw himself in a circular arena. The sandy floor stretching all around him, walls raising up into a dome. All around were screens, they were slowly filling with faces. Standing and stretching to shrug off the stun he looked around. The woman was there, holding a bucket. Beyond her there were three men, three brutor by the looks of them. All were armed.
"What is this place, woman?"
"I told you. A place of training. Where people fight and die for money, and glory. And for your Mistress, she who now owns you."
"No one owns me, I am my own man."
"And yet you are here."
She said it simply and he looked over to her. Still she was hooded and he snarled and walked over to her and ripped the hood from her. Under the hood he saw a sebiestor woman, with red hair and look of quite contemplation.
"You quite happy now, Lientus?"
"I dont know you."
A voice boomed out over the arena, a loud voice in the Gallente language, female and alluring. He listened, but did not like what he heard.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Holders and Slavers, Politicians and Pirates. Welcome to the Games of the Heavenly Flower! For your amusement I give you first a taste of what we can offer you before the warriors come in and fight for you. Here, a slave, once of the Khanid Army, sold as a slave and now here... meerly to get the crowd going. Against him, three more slaves, each guaranteed his freedom if he survives. And, maybe with your blessing, they will. I give you, the Khanid Tiger version the barbarian wolves!

"At least tell me your name, if I am to die, I would die with the name of someone who showed me kindness on my lips."
"You may call me... Orchid."
"Well Orchid. I have no weapon."
She handed him the bucket and smiled, backing away to the wall.
"Fight and live, my Tiger."
Lientus held the bucket in his left hand and breathed deeply, his booted feet apart, a chill breeze ruffling his hair and his shirt tight over his muscled chest. Turning his head to the right he watched the three as a gong sounded. A smile crept over his lips.

Two of the slaves hefted the swords they held and charged howling like the wolves they had been described as. The third hefted his spear and watched. Lientus waited until they were almost upon him before he struck, bringing the bucket around and throwing it at the slave on the left. It struck him directly in the face, sending him flying backwards. The second slave making the mistake to turn his head and look, giving him the entrance he needed, running and leaping towards him, his foot slamming into his arm, knocking the sword out of it and onto the floor, where his momentum rolled over it. Standing up he swung the blade in a circle in his hand and walked around the two brutors. With two screams his sword slashed out twice, two head rolling on the arena floor. Turning he looked at the third and started to walk towards him.

No, Orchid thought, that's not walking. That's stalking. Yes, this one is a Tiger. And just was her Mistress needed. She looked around the screens and found her Mistresses image and smiled, bowing towards it.

Several regions away Carmilla and Kim watched the fight again. They both looked at each other and nodded. Carm clicked her fingers and a geisha slipped up beside her and handed over a datatablet.
"What do we know of this man?"
"From Orchids message his name is Lientus of the House Rixhes."
"That House sounds familiar....."
"That's because it was in the news recently. His wife died under mysterious circumstances and he was lost fighting  against Gallente special forces who were infiltrating various planets according to this."
"Set course for the Auvergne system. We need to meet this... Lientus. And pull up all information on his wife, that needs to be looked into."

Seventeen Ago, Gallente Space - Auvergne System

From the cells Lientus listened. He could tell from the sounds when the fights started and finished, when the guards were coming. Quietly he spoke with the other prisoners, tried to glean all the information he could. When he had the time, he spoke to Orchid. Twenty times taken out to fight. Twenty! Like a slave, he mused. The bitter irony of the times he sat and watched his own slaves fight and die for his pleasure. Now he fought for others. None he faced could stand agaisnt him but it still fired his hatred for those who had bought him and used him as chattle.

"Tiger, your owner summons you. Move."
He looked up at the guards and scowled, but stood up. It wasn't time for any of the scheduled fighting that he was aware of. Most of the others who were with him the first day he arrived had gone, most to the fighting, others.... never to return. The only person who seemed to come and go as she pleased was Orchid. He could tell she was a slave, the demeanour, the attitude... just everything about her screamed it. But she had a power here. Flexing he walked towards the gate and waited while they opened it.

As they walked down a well lit corridor Orchid appeared from nowhere, walking beside him. He had been so intently looking at everything for a hint of a chance to escape that he hadn't heard her.
"Good afternoon Tiger. How are you?"
"As well as a prisoner can be, considering. Have you been watching my matches?"
"Yes. There is room for improvement, but you are good. I hope you will behave today, this is most important for you."
He stopped walking and the guard behind him bounced off of him and cursed. The others turned and leveled their weapons. Lientus looked at her with a frown.
"Behave? By the sacred teats Orchid, I was thrown in prison, forced to fight for my life and these damn guards keep me under such a close watch they could tell you what I didn't digest for breakfast! Why should I care what the hell is beyond that door?"
Orchid simply smiled and looped her arm through his and pulled him towards the door, he followed grudgingly.
"Aren't you afraid I might take you hostage?"
"No. You are an honorable man."
"In a dishonorable place.... maybe it will change me."
"No. Not you," she smiled.

The double doors were opened into the main audience chamber and the Tiger and the Orchid walked in and stopped before a raised dias. Orchid bowed, Tiger stood defiant. Three women were standing on the dias, two matari and a gallente that he could see. The tall matari, a sebiestor it seemed, but one unlike any he had seen before. He looked between Orchid and the woman, wondering if there was a family link there. Both were similar build and shape, with striking red hair and looks that quite frankly stirred him.

Clad in a long formal black business suit she walked towards him, her heels clicking in the silence and stood before him. Slowly she walked around him and stopped infront of him.
"What happened to your wife, Lientus of Rixhes?"
Of all the questions he was expecting, this was not one and he was unprepared for it.
"What? Do you seek to wound me further than the slaves in the arena or the guards tender mercies?"
"Your wife, Analiva Rixhes, was murdered during an apparent break in of your estate. Several slaves were murdered during the break in and also your datafiles were ransacked. Shortly after sums of money were seen to me covertly moved from various accounts. Looks to me like you are being blackmailed, neh?"
"I am saying nothing."
He folded his arms and looked directly ahead. How had she known? What did she know? Who was this woman?
"I dare say a lot of questions are running through your mind now, Tiger. Tiger, I like that. My girl says it is the name you have been given during your time here. Well Tiger, you are being blackmailed, or at least. You were."
She snapped her fingers and four guards appeared out of the shadows pulling two bound and gagged figures. He looked at them, recognising one of them and looking between them.
"I take it you know your previous superior officer and his wife? We found all the evidence we needed, silly of her to keep your wifes gems and necklaces, but stupidity is breed in some people."
"That can't be possible. He was my.... I mean...."
"He wanted your money and estates. Your wife caught them and she paid the price. Orchid, take them into the arena and get them ready. Five minutes I think?"

Lientus looked on with growing confusion and anger.
"Why are you doing this? What do you want?"
"You. I want you."
"Fuck off!"
"Not the language I expect to hear from the Holder Minor of the House of Rixhes. I'm going to give you a datatablet with the confession of those two on it and a sword. When you come back we can talk about your future."
He took the datatablet she held out, noticing the Serpentis sigil and opened the file and started listening to the confession and checking the attached files. When he looked up she was holding a sword out to him. He took it and walked towards the arena. It took them both a long time to die.

An hour later Lientus was escorted back into the audience chamber and over to the woman and Orchid. He dropped the sword on the floor before them and crossed his arms.
"Okay. I'm listening. What do you want?"
"Like I said before. I want you. As my husband."
"Well, I own you already. I bought your contract from the woman who runs this place, who is actually a close friend of mine. This place, is actually mine, but I dont have time to run everything. It was a stroke of luck that you were found when you were. For me and you."
"Well, you could have been sold to someone who just wanted a slave for the mines or dosed you up with vitoc crap. What I want is infinitely more enjoyable."
He looked at her, as a man looks at a woman and nodded his head.
"I want my freedom...."
"Granted the moment we are married."
"My house will be the primus."
"No, I need my house to be the primus. Any children we have will be primus of your house."
"Your house? You are Sebiestor, what house could you have."
"I am the daughter of Marika Jobias of the House of Jobias."
"No. That house has long since been...."
"I have all the backing I need to resurect my house. All I need is a husband of the Khanid, a Holder Minor and someone.... who quite frankly knows how to handle a woman."
"If you think I will be some submissive husband, you do not know who I am."
"You are here, you are mine and you are a Holder Minor. Yes or no."
"Yes..... though I hope you know what you are getting yourself into."
"I do. Orchid, get him ready I'll meet you both on the ship in ten."
"Hey, wait. If I am to be your husband, dont' I get to know your name?"
"Carmilla. Now hurry darling, we have a busy couple of days ahead of us."
Carm blew her soon to be husband a kiss and walked towards one of the doors.