11/24/367 War Room

Abantey Date: 11/24/367 A.L.

Sheriff’s Residence – Gil, CORE Territories

The rays of sunlight cast long shadows from the windows into the musty office. Jimena Slaar was one of these shadows, looking dispassionately through the glass. The office itself was paneled in fine dark woods, offering an imposing atmosphere: a matching set of hard-backed leather sofas adjacent to a brick fireplace, and a sitting room table that could double for meetings and meals. Jimena’s gaze was transfixed upon the group of figures below, readying a stage coach to depart Gil.

“What’s taking them so long?” A voice broke the silence behind her.

Jimena closed her eyes in annoyance. She sighed, “They’re leaving now.”

“I still can’t believe we’re not apprehending them. Considering what they know, and what they’re trying to do – we’re gonna just let them walk into enemy territory?”

Jimena turned to address the speaker. Lotka Caravaggio: until recently he had been Director of ARA Special Operations, but now he was leader of the entire Agency… at least, what little was left of it. He was dressed in plain ARA combat fatigues, a smoldering scatter cigarette in hand. The fumes were cloying in the enclosed office.

“That would be foolish” Jimena responded patiently. “If Stryker’s right about what this Aziphor is capable of – I doubt we would’ve been able to take them in alive or without consequence.”

Jimena peered through coils of smoke at the man lounging on the couch. He was the second director in as many years since Ash’s removal – a role he was clearly still getting used to when the world was met with catastrophe and the Agency was splintered to the four winds. He’s a skilled operative and more than capable warrior, but not a man to lead an army.

“Even considering their family ties to the top of our new coalition? They could compromise everything.”

“I’m not sure your predecessor would agree.” Jimena did not know how much Caravaggio knew of the origins of the Agency… but that was the least of her worries at the moment.

Before he could respond, the door to the office swung open and they were joined by their two fellow leaders in CORE’s efforts to fight Os’Plajet.

Dressed in a dark blue bespoke uniform signaling an officer of the Guards Guild, Montesquieu Bahadur was the spitting image of Rogue law. Until the Star Fall, the Feeshan had been the Chief Justice of Katman – and in the aftermath he had helped shepherd the thousands of survivors from the city to refuge.

Right behind Montesquieu stood another Feeshan; if not for what they were wearing, the two of them would have looked nearly indistinguishable. The other man wore a duster over a functional, savannah tan uniform, always with a set of duty belt suspenders. Amos Bahadur, the Sheriff of Gil and brother of Montesquieu, set his hat down on his desk and took a seat at the conference table.

“Now I realize we don’t have much time before our next set of guests arrive… ”, Amos said quickly “ …but we should review our latest intelligence.”

The others sat down at the table.

Amos slid his hand underneath the table and there was a sharp click. A center portion of the table flipped over and revealed a map of the surrounding areas around Gil.

Since the Creators had fallen, Gil had turned from a sleepy, backwater town into a bustling hive of activity. Scarcely any commoners could be seen moving around the town now – every inn, store, and home was now occupied by Core troops. Instead of merchants, the main thoroughfare through the town was filled with guards, adventurers, and her own Slaar warriors destined for the front. Wagons full of food, supplies, and weapons lined the side of the road – drivers babbling impatiently with quartermasters to get on the road.

Everything the Slaar Commander saw and heard spoke of inevitable battle. The moment as two combatants eyed each other across the arena… gauging each other’s stance and footwork… who would strike first? It has been so many years since I stood triumphant in the Nar Ram Mar arena, under her watchful gaze…

“Any change at the front, Commander?” Amos questioned.

Jimena snapped out of her reverie. “Os’Plajet’s forces continue to patrol their border positions – we estimate over two thousand cavalry and foot units, along with a few hundred support staff.”

“Roughly equivalent in number to how many Slaar troops we have stationed in Vermor.” Montesquieu quipped.

Jimena inspected the map of the area. It was trisected into roughly three different areas – a swath of blue that covered the southern cities under the control of CORE, the northern cities under the sickening yellow of Plajet, and the no man’s land between – the lawless nightmare lands of the Tabur Zone and the neutral territory between Plajet and CORE.

“With trainloads arriving from the north every day…” Caravaggio interjected. “…we simply can’t afford to wait any longer – “

Montesquieu spoke up: “You can’t be suggesting – “

“I am suggesting. Our position grows weaker by the day. Every day the Plajets outnumber our troops a little more. Every day our food and supplies get stretched a little thinner. We can’t wait.”

“Any frontal assault would cost hundreds of lives. We don’t even have intelligence on the extent of Plajet’s forces – we only just got eyes into Century Point.” responded Montesquieu.

The first blood spilled would be Slaar blood.

Before Caravaggio could start, Amos interceded. “What are your thoughts Jimena?”

“Caravaggio is right… we must act now. However a frontal attack would be foolish – there may be another way.” Jimena turned around and began to explain her plan.

The room was completely enclosed, lit by the cold, blue lights the Slaar used everywhere. New warriors called the space the War Room – not because you fought others there, but your own pre-combat anxiety. The young Jimena breathed slowly as she affixed the blades to her forearms – dulled, but still deadly. There was a hum and the ceiling above her opened into the frigid evening. The platform she stood upon rose up until it was level with the outside world. She stood on a flat, black field of obsidian that formed the top of the massive cube that was the center of the Slaar compound in Nar Ram Mar.

Across from her she could see her opponent – another Slaar youth much as herself. Three other figures stood on the platform: Shara Slaar and two of her lieutenants. Whomever won this contest would join their ranks as future leaders of their people…

Once finished explaining her plan, Jimena stood up. “I’ll go greet our guests.”

The walk out through the Sheriff’s house was a long one, her boots clattering on the hardwood. Shara rebuilt our clan from nothing. If only Mara was here to advise me… Jimena winced to think of her old comrade lying dead in the tundras of Ta’as – a frozen corpse among a sea of frozen corpses, where the only voice heard would be that of the howling wind.

Now it falls to me to decide if the Slaar have a place in this new world…

She stepped out into the town square of Gil, acknowledging a squad of her troops that stood at a tension. The tension was palpable in the silent square.The Marked Sakeet delegation marched resolutely into the square – over three dozen warriors, clan pins gleaming. The two lead priesten moved forward to greet Jimena. Singa and Shaad…

“I am Commander Jimena of the Slaar Clan, I greet you both with honor.” Jimena spoke so everyone in the square could easily hear.

The Singa priesten registered no emotion, but Jimena could see the slightest blanching of color in the Shaad priesten’s face.

The Singa spoke in perfect, accentless common with no emotions attached: “I am Ra Halcyon Lar Shukla Singa. We greet you with honor.”

“We have much to discuss.” Jimena declared, concealing her own elation. This delegation was undoubtedly some gambit of Os’Sakeet’s – to gain intelligence or power… but that did not mean they weren’t – perhaps unwittingly – going to help CORE achieve victory.

Jimena raised her hand to welcome the two high priesten towards the Sheriff’s house. It was time to preparer for war!

 – J. Albers

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