[RP Episode][CANON] Land of the King


#1

CHAPTER 1: TO GAIN MUSCLE
August 22, 119 AE. 9 months after the Return

Marcellus walked the streets of his hometown of Campus Magnaearum, lost in thought. it was a small port on the eastern shore, recently settled after the end of the civil war. He had lived a hard life - his face was scarred, nose evidently broken many times. His hands bore the marks, the calloused hardness, of a man who had fought all his life. Now, however, rather than a blunted sword they carried a shopping bag, filled with bread, salt, fresh fruits and a few recent beef cuts from the butcher’s.

All around him, the clamour of Valkoran daily life filled the air. Children played and laughed. Merchants at the markets prized their wares. Recruiting sergeants made their boastful promises of glory and wealth. Citizens like him went about their business, all under the careful watch of several red-robed city guardsmen at the corner of the market. Seagulls flew overhead, adding their melancholic cries to the hubhub of the city, and the smell of food and the ocean’s salt hung thick in the air.

Marcellus loved that smell. The smell of water.

He could see his house in the distance, and imagined he could already smell the cooking of his wife, Lydia, as she went about preparing the evening meal. He was snapped out of his revelry by the man roughly bumping into his chest.

He was much smaller than a Valkoran - one of the foreigners, a Kavehan, marked such by his brown skin and exotic accent. “Oh, apologies! I must not’ve been looking. Humbly beg your pardon.” Marcellus grunted, somewhat appeased by the rapid apology offered by the foreigner. Then the man bent and grabbed a piece of parchment off the cobblestones. “Looks like you dropped something, sir. Now, if you’ll be so kind, I’ll be on my way”. Marcellus frowned down on the paper, one he was fairly sure he’d never seen in his life, but when he looked up, the man was gone. Frowning still, he put down the bag with groceries and folded it open.

The words written there were enough to chill even the seasoned fighter’s blood.

Marcellus,

Tonight. The docks. Come alone. Do not tell the guard.

We know where your house is.

@SirGeorgar


#2

The ex-soldier looked all about him, but nothing was to be seen of the man, or any other Kavehans. There had been a few more of the humans in Valkoria since the treaty had been signed between the Emperor and the Shah, but he had most certainly never seen this one before.

That night, Marcellus walked down the docks, a dagger in his belt. No civilian was allowed to carry swords in the city, and he had no intention of beginning his civilian life behind bars. It was 6 o clock, and still many hours until the curfew.

His booted sandals ringing ever so slightly on the stone and wood of the docks, he walked down to the edge of the water, breathing in the beautiful smell of the sea. It was quiet night, with no moon. Some hundreds of meters away, a guard paced, just out of sight of the Valkorian standing in the shadows cast by the flicking lights, dancing in their holders.


#3

From the shadows, three man-shaped figures emerged. All three were of human height, wore some sort of reflective goggles on their eyes, and two of them held heavy rifles in their hand. The third was emptyhanded, and just stood there, regarding the veteran.

The silence stretched, broken only by the hoot of an owl and the soft burning of the torches. The sound of the guard’s hobnailed sandals faded away into the distance. Finally, the man spoke. “I must apologize, Marcellus, for the way we approached you. We had no choice. To be discovered is to die, especially since we don’t know how much your government shares with ours.”

He stepped into the light, the flames casting flickering shadows on the man’s facial tattoos, who could just be seen beneath the rim of the goggles. “My name is Jahangir. I represent a group, let’s say, of men who feel a… change of government is needed in our nation. And to make this happen, we need strength. Such as yours. Maybe you feel our way of approaching you has killed any chance of cooperating, and in that case, you’re free to walk away and go on with your life, in silence. I must say, however, that if you betray our presence to anyone, I have put safeguards in place that may prove to be, well, unfortunate to several people close to you.”

Having said this, Jahangir closed his mouth, and waited for the Valkorian’s reaction.


#4

“What?” Marcellus was startled. “You are approaching me, a married man who just got OUT of 80 years in the Legions, to help you what, bring down the Shah? Why me? I just left the Eagles.”

Inside, he felt that little itch, the call to action. It had been some 8 months since Marcellus had been honorably discharged, and the longing for the camaraderie of army life had been gnawing at him. Inactivity, disorder, civilian life was a hectic mess compared to the rigid and uniform disciplines of the Legions.

*Eagles/RedCrests - slang for the Valkorian army.


#5

Jahangir took the man’s response as a good sign - after all, he could also have just walked away. He smiled and said “Well, yes. Pretty much. The Shah is a tyrant, an arrogant young fool who will stop at nothing to show his power and to dominate other nations such as yours. His lackeys commit crimes daily against the people, from arson, to murder, repression and torture. Worst of all, he corrupts our very flesh with his machinery and turns his servants and nobles into abominable parodies of human life.”"

He took off his glasses. With shock, Marcellus saw the tattoos on the left side ringed an empty eye socket, and a mess of scar tissue. The other eye glared, so very coldly, like a flint of steel embedded into the man’s head. “We are aware of your… particular talents, and your affinity with explosives. We need your help for an operation - one of many that will strike blows to undermine the basis of the Shah’s power. We will topple him eventually, but only through years of hard work.”


#6

“I have a wife whom I love, a house. And this would take years? What do you have in mind? Your secret is safe with me, I spent some time as a SteelGuard, I know how to hold my tongue.” he said reassuringly.


#7

Jahangir spoke. “Not here. Follow me.” He turned around, and the two men who were with him quickly ushered Marcellus along. They moved rapidly, and Jahangir brought his hand to his earpiece to speak. “Rox, we’re clear. Come back to the holdfast. We’ve things to discuss with our new friend.”

They made their way through back alleys, avoiding the main patrol routes of the guard, to a warehouse, discreetly hidden on the edge of the port, and came in through a side entrance. Inside, the crates were stacked high to the ceiling. At the sixth crate to the left, Jahangir touched a hidden button and it swung open into some sort of tunnel through the mountain of wood and goods.

They emerged into a ‘clearing’ of sorts, an empty space in the middle of the pile of merchandise. There sat a fifth man, leg one over the other, polishing some kind of sword with grim relish written on his face. He looked up at the sound of men coming, brandishing his sword in precaution, but lowered it when he saw the leader’s face. “Jah, it’s you.” He shook Jahangir’s hand, then nodded at the other two before raising his eyes at their guest. “Who’s this? He looks to have banged his head a few times in there, Jah. Told you we should’ve made the tunnel taller.”

Jahangir snorted derisively. “Taller tunnels are a security risk.” Then he turned to Marcellus. 'Only one person left. She’ll be along in a few minute-" He was interrupted by the sixth and last figure, who dropped down from the top of the pile. Her hair was long and black, and she was by any regards quite beautiful. This beauty was roughly contrasted with the weapon she carried on her back. Marcellus was quite sure he’d never seen so big a sniper rifle before - not even in the hands of his old comrades.

Jahangir turned to her, smile turning wide and honest, and his one eye brightened considerably. “Rox”, he breathed, before kissing her full on the mouth. After a moment the kiss broke, and Jahangir turned back. 'Alright, so this is the crew. Rahim over there-", he pointed at the swordsman, “-is our mage and melee specialist. Roxana is our sniper, and will provide overwatch on our missions. Bahraz and Bahman-” he nodded at the two riflemen who’d put down their guns and goggles, and now joined the circle, “are general purpose soldiers. We’re all veterans from the war, back before that slime Gilgamesh betrayed our trust and corrupted himself.”


#8

Marcellus inclined his head in a small bow, one soldier to another.

”Well met. I take it you already know plenty about me. If not, my name is Marcellus, a former Centurion in first the 4th Legion, and then the SteelGuard.”

This was no rebel, but a solid Imperial. The 4th Legion had been on the Emperor’s side during the civil war.


#9

Jahangir inclined his head. “Welcome to our little hidey-hole, former Centurion Marcellus.” He turned to his crew. “Marcellus here has extensive experience with explosives and demolition - which we currently lack in the crew. With him, we will be able to strike much more effectively.”

He sat himself down on a crate, and the others followed his example. “We, and the rest of the crew back home, are but a small cell of a much larger group, numbering in the low thousands far as I am aware. We’re spread through the cities - mostly Kurshid, but also others and in the jungles overseas. Our main base is in Kurshid - we will take you there soon if you take our offer. But for now, let’s talk shop.”

Bahram shoved a crate into the circle, and Jahangir proceeded to unroll a map on it. “The Shah’s power is based on three elements. Our plan is to strike at these and weaken them, one at a time, until it is declined enough for some power-hungry noble to take advantage. In the ensuing chaos, we will then march on the palace, seize the government, and proclaim a free republic.”

He pointed at the military barracks just outside the city. “The military is our main problem. Its garrison is still, despite everything, fiercely loyal and they will fight very hard for their king. It currently holds one fully equipped brigade - 3,500 men, with all their guns and vehicles. Rather than face them head on, which is suicide, we should look for ways to distract or trap them instead when we make our strike. Once the Shah is dead, they will have no choice but to submit to the lawful government.” He looked up, in the Valkorian’s eyes. “Marcellus, you have been in the army. Do you have any ideas about distracting a force of this size?”


#10

”Yes. If you create a problem for them, but outside the walls, they will be forced to march out and deal with it. A large scale riot perhaps, if one can be triggered. Even better would be an assault upon something absolutely necessary for the army to function, say their armory or the garage where they keep their vehicles. THAT would draw them out, and let you sneak in. Another option could be to attack the palace, then withdraw back into the city, hopefully drawing the guard into attempting to hunt you down. Then, you simply lure them into a plaza, and…” Marcellus spread his hands, ”Eliminate them.”


#11

Jahangir smirked, and wrote several things on the paper in flowing Kavehan script. “Garrison: distract, lure, eliminate. Let’s hope it will be so easy, as the soldiers are heavily armed and battle-hardened.”

He continued, writing all the while. 'The second source of his power is control over infrastructure - used by people, by traders, by everyone. It is a means of social control, as space itself becomes a weapon. This is something physical, something we can attack and sabotage. Plans to do this are already in motion. The third, and the reason we’re bringing in Marcellus, is finance. The Shah’s noble family, the House of Meztlitototl, are the foremost bankers of the nation. If we undermine the banks, we undermine the Shah’s economic control."

'If we strike, with enough force, each of these three pillars of the Shah’s strength, the whole rotten edifice will come down.".

He rolled up the sheet and passed it on to Roxana, who negligently tossed it over her shoulder. After a long-suffering sigh, Jahangir looked straight at the Valkorian. 'We need you to help us rob banks, Valkorian. Doing so will liberate our people. it is about damaging the Shah, not about getting money, so while the Rebellion will reserve a portion for its own expenses, we are willing to pay you one fifth of what we procure in this way. Does that sound acceptable?"


#12

The ex-Centurion thought for a moment. “Give me a day or two, if you wouldn’t mind.” He had never stolen from a friend, although he had had appropriated goods from enemies to feed his men on occasion. The idea of action appealed to him, the idea of thievery, did not.


#13

Jahangir looked at the centurion’s frown, and knew he had to approach this carefully. 'Centurion, from what info we have been able to glean, you’re an honourable man. The thought of stealing must discomfort you. But this is not theft. We are liberating funds from a tyrant, and in the process, contribute to a people’s liberation. Besides, do you honestly thing that it is in Valkoria’s best interest to have Gilgamesh as ruler of Kaveh?"


#14

”He is arrogant, and hypocritical in the extreme. But if you wanted aid in overthrowing him, why approach me, a mere Centurion? Why not the Emperor? He has far more power than either of us.”


#15

'The Emperor?" Jahangir shook his head. “With all due respect, but he would turn us into a colony or a protectorate if we let him. We will not slip the tyrant’s leash merely to instead submit to a Valkorian one. This revolt must come from within Kaveh, if only to show the world not everyone has submitted to this deranged corruption. We approached you because you served with distinction and honour, but are now also free to make your own decisions. You are your own man. Besides-” He eyed the Valkorian’s large frame. “-Some extra muscle in a fight never hurt anyone.”


#16

Marcellus nodded. The Valkorians loved their Emperor, but it was no secret of his far-reaching designs.

”Let me speak to my wife. If she agrees, I will aid you. I’d not, I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.” He grinned. ”I’d rather not abandon her for several months or years with no warning.”


#17

Jahangir nodded. 'Bahram will see you out. If you are on board, be here no later than three nights from now. Make sure you are not followed. If you do not appear, we will assume you are uninterested and leave."


#18

Marcellus thanked them, and left, ducking underneath the small tunnel. The docks were silent once again, and nobody was the wiser of the events that would transpire.

3 days later

It was day, and the crowds bustled about, a man with a soldierly bearing pushing through them, carrying a long bundle. After being stopped and questioned, a small chink of coins passed between hands, and Marcellus pushed on, disappearing into the tunnel. He walked down it, and passed into the chamber where he had spoken with the Kavehans 3 days before, half expecting them to not be there.


#19

August 25, 119 AE

Only Bahraz awaited him inside. He motioned the Valkorian to sit and pointed at his watch in a clear gesture to wait.

Time dragged on. Marcellus tried to make conversation, but the Kavehan did not say a thing. He just kept pointing insistently at his watch. And as time progressed, Marcellus could feel his frustration mounting.

After about an hour, Jahangir swept into the room, putting on a cheerful face - one made all the more disconcerting by his missing eye. 'Marcellus! I half expected you would not come. Rahim owes me twenty denars. Bahraz, note it down." The other man nodded before taking a notebook from his chest pocket.


#20

He laughed. “I almost didn’t think I would either. Turns out the wife was all for it. She lost a nephew in the cohort that held Kaveh against the Danheimers, instead of Kavehans defending their own turf.” he explained. “It was my son I had to make arrangements for.”