Operation story: 13-5

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Male Ambrosian Sarkaz A icon.png
Astute Sarkaz ("Shopkeep")
Sarkaz Mercenary B icon.png
Fierce Sarkaz ("Miner")
Male Londinier A icon.png
Norport Refugee
Male Victorian Soldier icon.png
Victorian Officer
Female Ambrosian Sarkaz B icon.png
Weary Sarkaz ("Driver")
Reedy Marshes
Sarkaz Witchcraft Altar
Battleship Deck
Londinium Battlefield
Camped Convoy

Before operation

Having saved the Doctor and Amiya, Logos's group encounter a mirage of their own. Logos finds the Convallis of the Banshees within, and recalls his oath to his mother as he became Lord of the Banshees. The group come across a logistical squad headed by Paprika, and commander its vehicle.
Background-Reedy Marshes.png
The fog grows thicker. The entire forest seems to swim in it.
I'll confess, I'm not so familiar with Kazdel at all. By the end of the Banshee's Court's part in the war two hundred years ago, I was gone from that city. It was in the Convallis of the Banshees I came of age.
I had asked my mother why, being one of our "Six Heroes", she would choose to leave Kazdel, the city she once fought to the bitter end for.
My mother issued no response at the time; she plucked a few reeds from the riverbank, and wove a necklace for me. Their stems twisted about each other, head to tail, tail to head.
It was beautiful, and I treasured it in the most genuine sense. Yet very soon, it withered and faded, and fell to scattered pieces.
My mother told me how this was the Banshees' most traditional artform. We weave song and incantation, just as we weave necklaces of grass.
But now, we had the entire Convallis.
They needed not be foraged, needed not be bothered, and so year after year, they grew forever.
We Banshees sang our elegies, but the elegies were no supplication of the end; rather, they were anticipation of new life.
There is the Sarkaz's need—not to hold a dead city standing, but to grow.
<Background 1>
[Logos looks around the swampy area.]
Logos This is a highly disconcerting environment, Doctor. We were in the thick of a forest only moments ago.
What laid before us became nothing alike as the fog settled in.
A... convallis.
[The Doctor asks Logos,]
Is this all an illusion, Logos?
The Doctor is considerably wounded, but their tone of voice is steadied once more.
Ascalon silently carries the still-unconscious Amiya, taking the very front.
She remains as ever, lips sealed. But I can sense that her current silence is a more... bleak one than before.
I remember, at the time of her hurried rendezvous with me, that flicker of an expression I found hard to discern.
Logos Mirages are spin from nothingness. Their scenes are mere fictions in the mind, bound to return to nihil no matter how lifelike.
But this place is not.
Everything here truly did exist, once upon a time.
Constructing a "mirage" like this requires not just intelligence and information, but time, and space.
It's too difficult.
[Logos blows his bone whistle.]
A bone whistle?
I know this Convallis.
I've always loved it.
Logos Yes, the whistle of the Banshees. It doesn't necessarily entail Originium Arts.
When we were young, we'd learn it by the riverside. We'd sit among the underbrush, and wait still. Until great fin gobbled small bug, until fowlbeast snatched up great fin.
That is when the bone whistle is played.
I'm trying.
Originium Arts hasn't this power. The power this is of can only be something more ancient.
But it shouldn't come about in this battlefield at this moment, not on Londinium's periphery.
Ascalon Everything we're seeing and hearing could pass for real. Our squad is not in good condition. We need to up our vigilance.
At the Convallis's other end, there seems to stand someone, dead still, silent.
[Logos recognizes the one standing ahead.]
Logos ...Mother.
Logos, what's wrong?
Logos ...Nothing.
I say try to tear this landscape apart directly. It carries some risk, but it's the best solution.
I don't know whether it'd be safe to leave this place, Ascalon.
Ascalon nods, handing Amiya over to the Doctor, who strains to hold her up by the arm that isn't hurt.
Ascalon, master assassin, vanishes in a blink into the mist.
I shut my eyes and prepare, conceiving of destruction, imagining reconstruction.
But the figure appears again, this time atop one of the Convallis's crests. She seems to be looking at me, but she is as if a thin slice of the past, stuck frozen in some older time.
I know that crest full well. When I was young, I would practice incanting there, until twilight fell, and she would show up behind me.
I would never know when exactly she had come, but she would just stand there, as she does now in this mirage.
And once I exhausted myself, we would go home together.
I feel for my bone whistle. It's cold as bale ice. Just like the time I was first given it.
Not long ago, I sounded it to the closure of Damazti's Court.
But the time before that, that was back in this Convallis.
<Flashback starts here>
<Background fades out and in>
Logos I'll be leaving tomorrow, for Babel.
Banshee Yes.
You're master of the Elegiac Court now. Remember to send Her Highness Theresa my greetings.
Logos It still doesn't feel real to me, Mother.
I'm too young to be master of a Royal Court.
Banshee Now, now, what makes you say that? Anyone could see how remarkable you are.
[Logos' mother hands something to him.]
Banshee Keep this safe.
Logos Oh...
Banshee Your bone whistle. I've tuned it for you, and given it a Royal Court crest.
And of course, a kiss full of magic too.
Logos ...Alright.
Banshee Simply sound it, and all the Sarkaz will know it as the will of the Knell.
Logos ......
Mother, what should a Lord of the Banshees do?
Banshee Do what you believe you must.
Logos I once talked to you about those... ravings of mine.
The fettered Sarkaz have no escape, just as the necklaces you used to weave together for me became naught but pieces in the end.
Yet what fetters us is our identity, to what we belong.
The "Royal Court", and perhaps, "The King of Sarkaz".
Banshee ......
Logos But still you bestow this aspect on me.
Banshee Our rotting bones will never again be given new life, should annihilation reach its destination.
And yet... that is the rule.
We sound the Knell for all, for others, for ourselves.
But it is a necessary burden.
If you feel our timeworn inheritance has been reduced to naught but a stepping stone to new life, then it is for you to ascertain that yourself.
Supposing that does not change your mind—
—then "from death comes new life".
I rest the whistle to my lips.
Logos ...*exhale*.
Banshee My, my, now, well done.
Oh tender little Lord of the Banshees, for whom does your first fledgling Knell toll?
Logos ...For myself.
For the Royal Court that would rot, past and future all.
<Flashback ends here>
<Background fades out and in>
Logos ......
The Sarkaz must write a new verse.
[Logos prepares himself...]
Logos "What meaning is there in a stagnant landscape?"
[...and channels his oral Arts, suddenly causing the landscape to warp itself before...]
<Background 2>
Ascalon This is...
Logos The Vampire's witchcraft.
But the Vampire could never construct the landscape we were just in. I fear there's some other presence helping him.
What is the Vampire planning to do with these Arts Circles?
Laboring to keep Amiya supported, the Doctor lifts their head with some worry, taking in the giant, sanguine-colored crystals.
Logos The loop here isn't even complete. But... some of its symbols are legible.
It's trying to affect our blood somehow. Affect Sarkaz blood.
This Artistry... is tied to the Sarkaz's power.
The Doctor gives no response, seemingly lost in thought.
[A Sarkaz girl threw a rock at the Doctor.]
??? Hey!
Heh, they finally ran out of patience.
I detected them long ago; a handful of boorish wanderers. The derangement of our spacetime was masking their figures, and now, with the mist abated, they finally show themselves.
[Ascalon goes after the girl...]
Already, the silver glint in Ascalon's hand has cut across their necks, while bone-writ incantation blocks their attack.
A clump of dirt? It's crude as a child would be.
[Ascalon restrains the girl...]
??? I told you they were real!
[...who is revealed to be Paprika.]
Paprika Those ghosts were the real deal!
Ah, it is a child.
Is that you...?
Does the Doctor know this Sarkaz girl?
Paprika Uhh...
You're that, uh, "Doctor", right? I saw you once in the munitions factory in Highbury!
What are you doing here?
And the knocked-out Cautus, and... Sarkaz?
You were supplying goods to refugees in Norport.
Paprika How did you know that?!
Don't—Don't let it slip! I was just, uhh—
I don't think that Cautus girl is looking too good, is she? And your arm is all...
I, um, I'm gonna guess you guys are... fine hanging out with these Sarkaz?
Weary Sarkaz I think we ended up back where we came. But did we do it for real this time?
Fierce Sarkaz I've met enough haloed monster things for one day. This is out of whack.
Weary Sarkaz Paprika, what are you talking to the ghosts for?
Fierce Sarkaz One... in a hood, one unconscious bunny, and a Sarkaz?
Paprika No! Driver, they're real!
"Driver" As in real?
This Sarkaz steps up to me, skeptically looking me up and down.
I can tell with a glance that she's never taken the battlefield. Her hands are callused in the wrong places.
Just now, did the young Paprika girl call her Driver?
Logos Hello.
"Driver" Blaagh!
Miner, come check this out, it's real!
"Miner" Your... your clothes must've cost some money, didn't they?
[An astute Sarkaz joins in.]
Astute Sarkaz Maybe take a closer look! No, never mind, trust you Ursus bumpkins not to know.
"Miner" Quit it with the "ooh I'm from Kazdel" already, Shopkeep, like you matter! All you do there is run a grocery store!
Oh, wait, forgot, you sold your store so you come pick fights out here! Ha!
"Shopkeep" Shape UP a little! Stop getting carried away in front of people!
Hello, hahah... you may have met me in Kazdel before. My grocery store was a fairly popular one...
The man nicknamed Shopkeep rubs his hands, eyeing me with ingratiation.
His dagger is equipped with an auxiliary Originium Arts control apparatus; never an affordable piece of kit. A shame it's all-new, dagger itself included.
"Shopkeep" You... must be part of the Royal Court, yes? I can tell by your regalia... I take it you're the—Child of Soil and Stone?
So he hasn't the first clue about any Court at all.
Logos ...I am the Banshee.
"Driver" A boy Banshee? I thought Banshees were meant to be all girls?
Logos Correct.
"Driver" Huh. Never heard about any boy Banshee while I was in Kazimierz... uh, not that I mean to be impolite or, you know...
Paprika, you're friends with celebrities like him and you never told us?!
Paprika Uh... no, I dunno if we know each other...
Logos Are you moving things?
Inside their truck, I notice an uncovered spot, where a few blood-streaked crystals are poking out.
Logos Where are you transporting these goods to? Aren't these ritual materials?
Paprika Er... I don't really know how to explain. We're just patrolling along our route map, 'cause some Arts Circles might be a little damaged, and we need to repair them.
The Doctor makes brief eye contact with me. I have some inkling. A Sarkaz truck—a vehicle that can take us through the battlefield.
With Amiya's current condition, we won't be rendezvousing with the main unit on foot.
I can sense Ascalon all set to go in the shadows, ready to strike at the amateur squad before us.
But evidently, the Doctor already has a better idea.
Noble Banshee, sire, we won't cross the battlefield alive at this rate. I beg you, just let us go.
Logos ......
I can comprehend the Doctor's gist, but... I'm really not well-versed when it comes to this.
Logos ......
I commandeer your transport squadron. We are on a special mission of the utmost nature, but were assailed en route. For your assistance, I will memorialize you forevermore.
"Shopkeep" Haha, it'd be our honor to serve a member of the Royal Court, Your Highness!
It's just... being "memorialized" by a death-tolling Banshee... doesn't seem like much of a fortune. Could you...
[Logos threw a coin at the Shopkeep.]
Logos Here is your payment.
Thank you, coins that Mechanist stuffed in my bag.
"Shopkeep" Haha! Thank you, sire!
Paprika But our transport duty...
Logos I'll explain to your superiors afterwards.
"Miner" A special mission? Why bring these two outbloods along?
Logos ...They are my captives.
Paprika Captives? But you, um...
Okay... but once this is over, you guys are gonna come see General Manfred with me.
For now, we'll go sort out some positions.
The Doctor comes to my side, voice grave.
Logos, figure out a car for Ascalon too.
The Confessarii attack was no simple one. They and the Vampire were working together, but in the process, they estranged Amiya from the ship.
Logos Doctor, are you worrying?
Closure and the Self-Salvation Corps troops don't have any suitable combat personnel between them. Kal'tsit's wounded. Shining's powerful, but the Confessarii are sure to have methods prepared just for her.
Logos ...I understand.
The state Amiya's in may not be curable with medication. What she needs most right now, before she comes to, is not to fall into the Confessarii's line of sight.
Operating under this squad's support will be safer.
I'll get Ascalon to back up Kal'tsit. We've got you here.
The Doctor looks at the sanguine Arts Circles. A pit forms in their stomach.
Say no more. I know far too well.
Logos These crystals... aren't just simple Originium.

After operation

Siege and Delphine lead the abandoned Windermere troops and refugees across the battlefield. Shearer wants them to pick up the pace and catch up with the nomadic fortress, but Siege refuses. Trilby Asher finds them and leaves behind an SOS message.
Background-Battleship Deck.png
Do you know what the cruelest thing in the world is?
Neither total darkness, nor endless torment, nor a dark alley filled with murderers.
It is when a gentle hand pulls you out of a nightmare, just as you thought it was over, and all the pain would come to an end.
Only for you to realize that salvation was just a cruel joke, a brief respite before falling further into the darkness.
Even greater suffering is gazing upon you, within a stone's throw.
And you are powerless before such mockery.
<Background 3>
Siege Delphine, do you want to... join us?
The Duke of Windermere's coffin is being transported to the approaching battleships. Some of the refugees have taken it upon themselves to organize a funeral procession, in their gratitude.
She keeps looking at the place where her mother had fallen, even though any trace of blood is long gone.
It may not be a good idea to invite her now...
I'm already starting to regret it.
Delphine Can you thank them for me, Vina? I... I want to stay here a while longer.
Siege What did they say to you?
Delphine Nothing, I'll just stay for a little longer and cool my head.
The Swordguards boarded the late-arriving escort fleet. Most of them kept silent while the nobles panicked.
A moment's weakness, when I tried to help that soldier...
The Vampire reached out his hand. Whether it was an obvious trap or not... mother was wounded because of it.
Broken formation and fallen soldiers. Swordguards do not defend their duke. Their only goal is to fulfill their mission—
—But they faced a foe powerful beyond their imagination.
Siege Delphine...
Delphine The staff officers think there was too much personal sentiment in this reckless operation. They never supported it.
They must believe... that I'm the reason Mother died.
"A hero should not die for the weak."
And they're right.
Siege ......
I gaze at the late-arriving battleships, their standards flying high.
For some reason, I am reminded of Allerdale.
Shearer I've cleaned your wounds as best I can, Lady Delphine. This is all I can do with the limited amount of medicine available.
Delphine Thank you, doctor.
Shearer I must go. The general staff have ordered all troops to report back.
I've left behind some things that belong to you.
These were the Duke's gifts to you... and you have her sword.
This may sound impudent, but I hope that you will come back to Irnclad Galavae with us.
Whatever the senior officers say, nothing can change the fact that you are the heir to the title of Duke Windermere.
Delphine ......
I'll think about it... right now, I just want some quiet.
<Background 4>
[Siege returns to the cargo hold.]
Siege How are things?
Indra They took a bunch of people, but many more remain.
So, that rough mum really...
Siege Yes.
Ironic, isn't it? The Duke has trained her officers well.
Even now, the general staff of Windermere continue to plot the next course of action according to the plan.
Morgan What about Delphine?
Siege It seems like the snobbish officers are planning to abandon her.
I don't know. I'm even worried what they might do to Delphine as the "heir".
Siege She... she's not ready.
Dagda Duke Windermere was a strong leader. Her Swordguards, her general staff, they all serve the greater good of Victoria alone.
But she herself...
She made an admirable, but reckless decision, for the sake of her daughter.
Indra That decision saved a bunch of lives, though, didnnit?
Dagda I'm not criticizing her! I respect her!
But it means that Delphine is being abandoned by what her mother, Duke Windermere, built on her own.
Indra Oh...
Morgan What do we do now?
They took some of the refugees. Can we really trust them? Do we follow the tails of the nobles in the coming battle?
Siege They didn't take everyone?
That's not right. If this one ship could take everyone, there's no reason that so many battleships couldn't—
[The battleship starts moving.]
Morgan What's that movement? I thought the ship's engines were out.
<Background black>
Dust rises from the escort fleet that has only just rendezvoused with us.
They're sailing away.
<Background 3>
Siege Delphine!
She stands on the deck, where her mother left this world, holding her mother's sword in her arms, as she did before I went below.
The wind sweeps at her short hair. Her solitude makes her look even smaller than she is.
Siege What's going on—
I grab her shoulder. Only then does she come out of her stupor.
I see none of the anger, fear, or sorrow that I expected to see. She's wearing barely any emotion at all.
Only calm, flat disappointment, and a quiet so deep it is painful to see.
Delphine They're gone.
Her voice trembles a little.
But it's still too calm.
Siege There are civilians down below waiting to see the Duke of Windermere's coffin off!
Those bastards didn't mind running innocent people over?!
Shearer What's going on?!
That's wasn't part of the orders! Maybe there was a miscommunication...
We still have a few good IFVs. We need to head back to Irnclad Galavae and get confirmation!
<Background black>
I've never gazed upon the tail of a battleship so intently.
How ridiculous.
<Background 5>
The marks that the rain of blood left on our clothes is a lingering reminder of that cruel attack.
Several hours have passed since we left the Duke of Windermere's flagship.
Bad news keeps coming. We did a head count as we left the ship. The Doctor, Amiya and Ascalon were not there.
We only had time to do a brief search, which came up empty.
All I can do is keep faith in their strength. But for some reason, I think back to Amiya's lean shoulders.
Sorrow and helplessness are luxuries that this group can no longer afford.
Victorian Officer Stop dawdling!
Norport Refugee I... I really can't go any further...
Victorian Officer I'll whip you if I have to!
Get up! Stay with the armor if you want to live!
Norport Refugee I... I need to catch my breath, sir... I have a condition...
Victorian Officer ......
No dawdling. This isn't just about your life—
[Siege grabs the officer.]
Victorian Officer Hands off, Norport hoodlum. I'm just carrying out my orders.
Siege They're not trained soldiers. They've been at a forced march for five straight hours. They don't have any strength left.
Victorian Officer Then they can lie down and die.
We're trying to save their lives! Everything can still be salvaged, if we make it back to Irnclad Galavae.
Siege They need to stop and rest.
Victorian Officer I said—
Siege It's not just for them. It's for you too, Ensign. I know your condition.
Not many soldiers were left behind, but I know almost all of you are Infected
Victorian Officer Shut up!
[The officer tries to slash Siege, who easily parries it with her warhammer.]
Siege I'll let that slide... this once.
You're Duke Windermere's man. Do not let your actions defile her memory.
Victorian Officer I—
Infection, a curse they fear more than any other.
Catch up to the ship that abandoned them. Hide the growing black crystals under the bandage.
Fool yourself.
Victorian Officer I'm sorry... It's just, don't say that blasted word!
I'm fine... I'm fine!
[Shearer joins in.]
Shearer I said to keep a low profile on the barrens and avoid drawing Sarkaz attention.
Victorian Officer Sir, I...
Siege It's getting dark. The civilians trying to keep up with you need to rest, Lieutenant.
Shearer No. We continue the march as planned.
We can reach Hill 31 by midnight at our current pace.
We'll reestablish communication with Irnclad Galavae there. Only once we're in touch with the nomadic fortress are we truly safe.
If we wait until morning, I doubt this group is ready to face the Sarkaz and—
Siege You're the ranking officer and de facto commander here, and the ship's doctor.
You know as well as I do that we're trying to catch a fast battleship with our own feet and a few tanks.
Shearer ......
Siege I respect your decision, Lieutenant, but we don't even know why those battleships left.
If they didn't respond to your hails at the time, why do you think the fortress will open its gates to us?
I checked on the group. We have less than three companies of combat-effective soldiers, and nearly a thousand refugees following in tow.
By the time the march that you had in mind is done, there will be less than twenty percent left.
Shearer Vina, right? Listen—
He avoids my gaze.
Siege I mean twenty percent of your soldiers.
And none of the refugees.
Victorian Officer Sir... (whisper)
I need not hear what they're saying. I saw what happened.
Someone bled his last in the long, silent wall of people.
He left behind a long trail of blood, mixed in with the mud.
The Lieutenant's silence hardly lasts two breaths.
Shearer Slow down a little...
We'll keep going—
[Siege clenches her fist, and...]
My fist leaves its mark on his face.
I heard a crisp sound. I think I dislocated his jaw.
Shearer ...Argh...
He quickly puts his jaw back in place. Must have dealt with this sort of thing a lot.
Shearer You assaulted a soldier, hooligan.
I could have you executed, according to Victorian Service Law.
[Siege punches Shearer again, knocking him to the ground.]
Siege Stand up.
You could try to execute me. Or we can keep going.
The fist is a solution that can only be used once in a while.
Dagda, Morgan, and Indra stand in front of the soldiers on edge.
The civilians surround us silently.
It reminds me of how we used to fight turf wars on the streets.
Shearer Stand down! Do NOT open fire!
Siege ......
Shearer They called you Siege, didn't they? They were telling stories that you're actually highborn or something, and with that accent...
Siege I'm a hooligan... leader of the Glasgow Gang.
Shearer Fine, I don't care. Listen, I'm a soldier who has pledged his loyalty to the Duke of Windermere...
My duty is to fulfill the mission handed down by my commander!
[Siege punches Shearer.]
Siege I'm waiting for you to wipe the blood from your mouth.
Give up. Your elbow is about to dislocate.
Shearer Some... sacrifices are acceptable in order to protect the many.
[Siege punches Shearer again.]
Siege And just who are the many?
Have you taken a good look at who you're leading?!
Shearer I...
Frightened soldiers, silent civilians, the Infected, the wounded.
The people standing around us.
Siege ......
I'd had enough.
I want to tell them, those who escaped hell in Norport...
I'm still looking out for them. There's still someone who cares about them.
Might makes right. Law of the streets, Lieutenant.
Shearer ......
Siege I'm telling you now that they're going to make camp here, and they're going to rest. We must reconsider our course of action.
Shearer If we're cut off from the main force at Irnclad Galavae, everyone is going to die when we run into the Sarkaz. Every last one—
Delphine Enough.
Don't insult the memory of the Duke of Windermere any more, Lieutenant Shearer, if you still think you're part of her army.
Shearer How could you—
Delphine clutches the hilt of her sword.
It surprises me. Even more than it surprises Lieutenant Shearer. He's surprised, and angry.
I'm suddenly reminded that he had provided medical aid to everyone on the ship, before Irnclad Galavae abandoned us.
Siege Delphine. Your clothes, and the sword...
[Delphine, now donning an officer's attire and carrying the late Duke of Windermere's sword, joins in.]
Delphine A little big for me, is it?
But I need you all to hear me out.
<Background fades out and in>
Siege Is the Lieutenant leaving?
Delphine Yes. They formed a small squad and picked the tank in best condition. He can leave at any time.
That squad will travel light and quick. They can reach the marked location before dawn.
Siege You put those clothes on.
Delphine Maybe what they represent still means something to someone.
[Shearer walks toward Delphine.]
Shearer I've spoken to my troops, Lady Delphine. They will follow your orders until I return.
For the last time, my lady, you're the heir to Windermere. No matter what happens, you should come with us—
Delphine Sorry, but I must stay.
This was my promise to the people. They need to know that Victoria has not abandoned them.
They need this hope to keep going... we can only trust each other now. We must trust each other.
If the departure of the escorts was just a misunderstanding or a mutiny by a few, then Irnclad Galavae will welcome us, whether I'm there or not.
And if not...
The Lieutenant's eyelid twitches. Delphine's words are certainly subversive.
Delphine My presence will only make things worse. At least you'll live.
Shearer My lady! It's not my own hide that I'm concerned—
Delphine They let me go the first time, perhaps out of respect for my mother, perhaps out of a sense of... pity. But they won't give me a second chance.
Shearer ......
I trust my comrades, and the officers' loyalty to the Duke.
Please take this locating beacon, Lady Delphine. I promise to bring back good news.
As for you...
The man gazes calmly at me. I clench my fist, preparing for a sucker punch.
Shearer ...You've got some hard knuckles. Take care of Lady Delphine.
Siege Cheers, Lieutenant.
[Shearer leaves.]
<Background 6>
Dagda Siege, we checked up on the refugees from Norport.
Perhaps the Duke of Windermere had given orders behind our backs... things were chaotic when we boarded the ship, and we couldn't find the one who executed the order.
Regardless, their screening was impeccable. There is no sign of Infection amongst the refugees in the group.
But now...
I look in the direction where the Lieutenant departed.
Of course.
Dagda Many soldiers who fought amidst Sarkaz witchcraft are showing acute Infection symptoms.
Siege These soldiers got Oripathy fighting the Sarkaz. How could their comrades just abandon them like that?
Delphine It's an old military tradition. And not a strictly Victorian one; it's the same in Kazimierz, Ursus, Gaul.
The Infected are not allowed in camps. More conscientious commanders might put the Infected in their own unit, and send them on the most dangerous missions.
But for the military, there's far too much uncertainty in the Infected and their uncontrolled Arts.
Siege Some must have resisted.
Delphine No one ever succeeded. Looking back on history, the Infected make up a relatively small portion of armies in times of war. Acceptable losses in exchange for stability on the front lines.
It's even in the textbooks of the Royal Military Academy.
It's just—
??? "The honorable martyrs who died for the glorious foundation."
[Delphine and Siege raised their weapons as a Trilby Asher reveals himself.]
"Trilby Asher" Now, now, no need to get violent, ladies.
I'm here to talk.
<Background fades out and in>
"Trilby Asher" First, let me make clear that the death of Her Grace Duke Windermere has nothing to do with the part of Victoria that I serve.
In fact, I bring my sincerest condolences, Lady Delphine. My own position aside, I believe she glowed brighter than any hero in the Battle of the Four Emperors.
But now, who will fill the gap that her death leaves behind? Who can step up to take her place in the grand strategic theater?
Duke Wellington is an accomplished soldier, but we all know he has no intention of giving his all.
Duke Caster has her hands full coordinating everything. Frankly, the death of Duke Windermere is a big, big problem.
Delphine You sure got the news quickly, didn't you?
"Trilby Asher" Well, it's my business to know. You'd be familiar... with our line of work.
Delphine What are you here for?
I suggest you think carefully about the next words coming out of your mouth.
"Trilby Asher" ......
Flowers for the hero, Lady Windermere, and a gift of rations and ammunition.
Siege In exchange for?
"Trilby Asher" You know full well, Your Royal Highness.
Siege The scrap of metal known as the Sighs of Kings.
To be honest, I have no use for this sword, personally.
You want to trade, sure.
My conditions are simple—
Take that damnable Stone of the Sword of yours, and bring it to the front lines, where the storm blows the fiercest, where fire falls the hardest.
"Trilby Asher" ......
Siege You can get lost if your plan is to keep this sword safely in the rear, to prop up a tent for kings and nobles to drink tea beneath.
If you really will bring this thing to the lines, and provide shelter for Victoria's warriors, citizens, and the poor souls who have lost their homes...
If it is a shelter for all, whether the son of a blacksmith or the daughter of a teacher, whether they take pay in the name of Victoria or carry weapons of their own making...
Then, by all means, you can have this piece of metal.
Come to me with the Stone of the Sword, Trilby Asher. I promise that I will never fall behind you on the front lines, not by a single step.
"Trilby Asher" Oh my.
This is beyond my discretion. I'm just an envoy, after all. Her Grace the Duke of Caster has the final decision.
Siege Then go to your master. Come back to me once you have an answer from my dear aunt.
"Trilby Asher" I'll do my best, Your Royal Highness Alexandrina.
But... this is just a promise on a personal level.
What follows now is off the record. Some personal opinions, not of Trilby Asher, but of Sir Suffolk, Bellingham.
A new voice is not necessarily a bad thing.
Siege ......
"Trilby Asher" You've taken in Infected soldiers... well, and many more civilians, but the point stands... that's all good and fine. But it's not enough. You need an army. Your own army.
An army with a place for them.
Siege You...
I'm surprised. Perhaps it's a Caster trick...
But he is encouraging me to form my own Reunion.
Siege Looks like you really did turn off your sound recorder.
"Trilby Asher" Can't do it for too long. Colleagues start getting suspicious, you know.
...My grandmother was executed after getting Infected in the War of the Four Nations.
When she left, she told me with a laugh that there was less than a three percent chance of getting Oripathy in battle. It was only when I inherited the title and looked through the records in the archives that I learned...
The three percent figure has been in use for centuries.
It has never changed, even though we're using more Originium machines and more complex Originium Arts in modern warfare.
Perhaps you haven't noticed because all you can see is a small corner of the battlefield. Certainly the dukes haven't noticed, because they have their sights set way too far away. But I have.
The Infection problem in the Victorian Army is serious. Serious on an unprecedented scale.
Everyone exercises restraint in a conflict between 'civilized' nations.
No one wants their camp to be filled with ticking, living time bombs, or seize a dirty city covered in Originium dust.
But now... our enemy is the Sarkaz.
If you really mean to do this, Siege, then it has the potential to be a good thing for your reputation, for my career... perhaps, even for our country.
Siege Thanks for the concern, but my friends and I know the Infected better than you do. We'll be fine.
"Trilby Asher" Very well.
Oh, by the way, I have some scrap equipment here that nobody wants or cares about. Leftovers, you know.
You can have them. It's all trash, after all.
Farewell, then.
[The Asher, who reveals himself to be Bellingham of Suffolk, leaves.]
Delphine How much do you believe him?
Siege I would rather believe that even someone like him could not stay out of this conflict.
What did he leave behind? A recording and coordinates?
[Siege turns on the terminal.]
Siege This sound—
<Background black>
"Need... support... Chetleigh..."
"Surrounded... Tempest Platoon..."
"Requesting aid!"