Katrenn stopped as she approached the pool of crimson liquid that

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Katrenn stopped as she approached the pool of crimson liquid that Powered By Docstoc
					Internal Affairs

Post 1
Katrenn stopped as she approached the pool of crimson liquid that lay at her feet on
the black marble floor. Squatting down she dipped her finger into a small splash and
tasted it cautiously. Blood. Fresh blood.
Whilst pondering its meaning another, smaller, gathering slightly further down the
corridor became visible. As she closed towards it the trail became apparent. Small
flecks adorned the wall as well as the constant drippings beneath her feet. There was
only one conclusion that could be drawn from this. Somebody had been attacked and
wounded. By the loss of blood it seemed that the injury could be serious.
As the path was followed down the twisting corridors Katrenn considered the
possibilities. The attack, assuming that‟s what it was, had done outside the Hall of
Words. A vast meeting place for the citizens to meet and put forward suggestions to
be raised to the government, a debating ground so the peoples voice could be heard. It
was as tall as a three-story building; white walls were adorned with ancient works of
art. Hugh pillars kept the roof from collapsing and were carved out of the mountains
themselves. Of course the building was guarded at almost every turn when such a
gathering was taking place so any disturbance would have been noticed. Otherwise,
when not in use, the entrance was monitored and records taken of the comings and
goings of all who entered. If anyone spent more than an hour within the structure
without a letter of motion then they were searched for and checked upon.
The thoughts were lost as a junction was approached. A smear of red covering the
wall provided the victims choice of direction along with the clue that whatever
damage had been done was probably sustained to the upper arms or chest. With a
quickening pace Katrenn followed until, as suddenly as it had started, the trial
terminated.
A brief inspection provided no further traces of the fluids, or possible places where
the person could have left the building. This would need reporting. Once again she
had the horrible feeling that Tuzan‟oore would live up to its name as the City of
Sorrows.


Post 2
The journey had taken longer than expected. There had been a problem securing
passage through some of the villages that had, in the end, been circumnavigated. After
initially intending to report the matter to the local gunslingers Katrenn had decided to
take more drastic measures. It was true that the matter shouldn‟t be taken up by her
order, that the local enforces should be more that capable of investigating such a
matter. It was also true that the local agencies had a habit of declaring anything that
took them over three weeks to figure out as an „Unsolved Mystery‟ and then placed at
the bottom of a large pile of wood and set alight on cold days.
As the barge hit a submerged rock there was audible cursing from some of the
passengers who usually had private means of transport. The poor and homeless were
the only ones who used public transport, which was why anybody wanting to keep a
low profile found it ideal. A few more hours and the journey would be finally over.
Something just didn‟t make sense. Murders weren‟t committed any more since the
peacekeeping companies had received more funding and been penalised for each
crime committed in their area. Who, why, when, how? There were also some
disturbing rumours that had been circulating in the taverns as well and there‟s always
a little truth in the ones that recur.
Still, she‟d make a report then take a few days R&R before moving onto the next
assignment. It was no use trying to figure the puzzle out for herself. Not one of her
colleagues ever got the full picture of what was happening in any task they took part
in. At least not at the rating that they worked at, it was rumoured that those higher up
knew what was happening in every home across the entire nation, but she didn‟t
believe that for a second. No one person could wield that much power.
Closing her eyes Katrenn started to doze amidst the sounds of flies and the stench of
soiled clothes.

-----------

Wesley watched as the fool of a tiller failed to notice the sunken obstacle. He‟d been
following the floating cesspit for two weeks now, watching and waiting. The most
exciting thing that had happened was bumping into a Lady of the Night a few nights
ago and paying for her services. Company expenses would cover all that.
The brat sat within the jumble of bodies was his main concern. She had almost ruined
the whole operation and now his superiors wanted to know how much she knew. The
gods only knew how security hadn‟t noticed the bitch. A few seconds earlier and the
whole thing would have been ruined. Months of preparation, sweat and lives would
have been wasted.
His orders were clear, Follow and observe. If she knows anything then eliminate the
target and ensure any witnesses, friends, family or associates were also dealt with
appropriately. He looked forward to that bit. Even if she didn‟t know anything her life
would be his.
Climbing back down the bank Wesley mounted the horse and galloped towards the
only place that could possibly provide entertainment to match that he had experienced
a few nights ago. With any luck his target might be heading that way as well.
With a smile he rode on through the rolling hills towards where true civilisation
began.

Post 3

“Sir, remember that you have some reports to listen to before heading off to catch the
latest news down at the café.”
The white robed figure held out a wrinkled, aged hand out containing brief written
summaries of the upcoming verbal communications.
“Thank you old man. Anything interesting or just the usual intelligence reports from
the regions we‟re keeping an eye on at the moment? I wish that one of them would
make a move so we know what‟s going on.”
“Indeed, I fail to see why we invest so many resources in such matters. They could be
more beneficial to us here. Talking of which…”
The figure sat in his customary place at the back of the room in preparation for the
meetings ahead.
“There is one here about a rather mysterious trial of blood found in the Hall of Words
within Tuzan‟oore. Obviously a murder that the local law agency failed to cover up
fully. You know, since you introduced tho..”
“Yes, thank you for reminding me. All that‟s happened is that they fail to report them
and falsify video evidence. I refuse to be drawn into this discussion again. As long as
the public have what they want then I‟m happy. Besides, it‟s not as if we‟re unaware
of what they‟re doing.”
Bill was about to respond with the usual reply but the door opened and the first of the
days business walked through it. A Small, plump man with unkept hair. Quickly
consulting his document it was found that this individual had just arrived back from
the Pacific. Zephir to be exact. As the individual started to talk his mind wandered to
the possibility of retirement. He‟d held the title of High Priest for more years than he
cared to recall. Advice given from his own mouth was no longer heeded and his bones
grew weary with age. It was time to find a successor. The person left and the next
followed immediately after while Bills companion was still making notes on the
previous report. It was going to be a long day.

------

The lights! So many of them! Sky piercing towers were lined up one after another.
The sounds and smells! So many people! More automated personal transport than
she‟d seen at any other time previously in her life! Truly this was the Eternal City.
Katrenn had been enchanted by the sights since she had left the barge and preceded to
locate the place she was required to be in … well, an hour.
But this was her first visit to the capital and she could clearly see why it had stolen the
position from Tuzan‟oore. The sprawling metropolis seemed like it belonged in a
different time than the nation surrounding it. Nowhere else was there a collection of
such technological wonders, the tales she had heard didn‟t do the city justice.
Moving onwards she reprimanded herself. Her distraction could have cost her life in
other circumstances. Had the training taught her nothing? „Just accept the
environment you‟re in and ignore it‟ wasn‟t that one of the last things Draal had said
after the final initiation was over? Fifteen years of training and still getting it wrong.
The dream of becoming an instructor seemed further away than ever.
Katrenn pulled the map out from within the compartment hidden within the beggars
clothing. The building she needed was directly ahead of her and there was no way
anyone would permit entry for her while looking like this. Ducking into the cover of
an alleyway the clothing was removed and inversed. Donning them once more any
member of the public would recognise the traditional grey robes with green markings
that the apprentice priests wore. Rejoining the main street unnoticed, she continued.

------

Where the hell had she gone?
After arriving within the city Wesley had immediately visited his favourite brothel
safe in the knowledge that the barge wasn‟t going to arrive for the next few hours.
Upon arriving he was handed a scrap of paper with a few markings on it. Unless the
reader knew what they were looking at it would just appear to be a childs drawing. To
him it gave information that one of the verbal reports to be held was going to concern
his little „interest‟. The note concerned him, however it meant that he could spend
some extra time with Charlie safe in the knowledge of where the pesky kid was
heading for.
After he had grown bored with the entertainment, Wesley had left the establishment
and hung around on the street waiting for the teen to show. She needed a name. Kate
would do. From now on, as far as he was concerned, she was to be called Kate until
her real name could be discovered. Kate had walked past a few minutes later, easily
recognised by the beggars rags she still wore. She must be an amateur, any person
with experience in remaining hidden knew to change their appearance whenever
entering a new area.
Kate needed to be killed. It was that simple. The fact that a report was about to be
made strengthened the view that she had discovered something, the cleaners had
failed in their duty. The plan of action was fairly straightforward as well. It was
general knowledge that crime did happen, no matter what the government statistics
claimed. No one would miss a beggar, especially one new to the city that hadn‟t
declared her arrival. Just get her by herself and end her life. Nice and simple.
But now there was a problem. Wesley had entered the alley a few seconds after she
had done. But no one was there. Just the church on one side and a toy store on the
other. Another of the churches priests left the side door and made their way onto the
street. It was no use trying to figure out what had happened. Just that he‟d catch Kate
on the way out.

-----

“Well, I make it one more to go, keeping the best til last are we? I believe this is the
discovered murder….. hang on; this report says that no body was found, no evidence
besides blood and all of this inside a secure building. Why are you bothering me with
this?”
 The old man smiled as only he could
“This is the final piece of the puzzle, my young ruler.”
“I see. Pass me the meeting agendas as well as the reports for three weeks ago.
Where is she?”
It had been twenty minutes since the last person had left after reporting the mysterious
destruction of an entire region. They had been worthy allies at one time but power has
a way of slipping from ones grasp. They would be missed.
“Be patient, this is her first time in Yed'oore and you know that means she‟ll be a
little nervous. Luckily her training should help limit the effect these strange
surroundings have on her. “
Andrion nodded with his reply “Very true. Then again she could be in danger. If it is
concerning what you fear then she may have been followed, after all she only passed
her training a year ago. Still inexperienced and foolish.
Anyway, if it is the expected then how many are still loyal to you?”
The priest hung his head; a great sadness filled him along with disappointment like
that a parent would have for their child.
“Too few, five in total. The rest have been lost and will not listen to reason.”
A knock interrupted the conversation and the door swung open. In walked the 19-
year-old woman, dressed in the traditional uniform of her order: A black cloak, dark
blue moulded armour hidden beneath it along with concealed weapons and the usual
assortment of field aids. Her fiery red hair fell over her shoulders and ended half way
down her back. She stopped in front of the desk and knelt in respect.
“Greetings Entil'Zha, I bring you news.”
Bill smiled at the formality. He‟d not performed the greeting for years now, although
ceremony dictated that he should
The report followed of the discovery. No questions were asked about why she‟d been
there or how she‟d managed to gain access to a guarded building. It didn‟t matter, her
order were allowed to go where they liked, when they liked to do whatever they
wanted to. The freedom came at a price though; their lives were spent serving the
nation and the lives tended to be short. As she left Andrion immediately turned to his
old friend.
“It is what we suspected. Recall all of the Anla'shok who are away and prepare an
announcement for the rest of the region. Action must be taken before the matter
escalates any further.”
With a sigh and an almost audible creak of joints the robed priest left the room to
perform his tasks, leaving a troubled ruler studying reports and coming up with a way
to protect his citizens.

Post 4

The following message concerns any nation that cares to take heed:

„Certain reports have come to light that may suggest that one or more organisation
within our nation are acting suspiciously. We have no evidence of any specific law
breaking or threatening activity but are asking you to take the following action if
possible. We are starting an investigation into the matter and do not foresee any
possible action taking place against other nations or within our own.
If you have any of our priests or church members visiting you lands, especially if
accompanied with an escort, please detain them and keep them under guard at all
times. They pose a negligible threat and stress that this is only a precaution.

Your co-operation is greatly appreciated.

Thank You‟

Post 5

Franklin considered himself a genius. Everything was going according to „The Plan‟.
The child would have made her report due to the absolute incompetence of Wesley.
The weak needed to be weeded out. Survival of the fittest. „The Plan‟ had been
revised slightly since the discovery in the Hall of Words. He wasn‟t ready to make a
move yet, but there was plenty of time left. Franklin knew very well what was
happening. According to the memo on his screen the priests were going to receive the
blame. He‟d spent months meticulously spinning a web of deceit. One that would
discredit the church completely. It had been heavy on his limited resources but the
result had been worth it. It was common knowledge that the head priest refused to use
computers. That meant that any communication to him was done in person or written.
The fact that Bill spent his time around that incompetent leader meant that messengers
were seldom admitted into their presence. Intercepting the few communications that
had been sent was easy. The only problem had been coming up with realistic
replacements. But the obstacle had been overcome and now the fly was going to be
trapped.
He rose from the padded leather chair and moved across to the window that took up
the entire side of the room. Looking out from the one-way glass Franklin surveyed the
scene before him. A high-tech city going about its daily routine. The most advanced
IT industry in the region (or so the latest intelligence report stated) was going to
waste. It would be a glorious day for the nation when its potential was revealed. A
feeling of deep admiration and pride towards his nation swelled within him. He did
this for their good, because they couldn‟t do it for themselves.
Turning he took in his surroundings. His office. His home. This was where it had all
become clear. Maybe one of the many trophy heads from the wild game he‟d killed
throughout his life had whispered to him during sleep. Perhaps the large wooden desk,
said to be made from the very first tree to grow in his fair land, had communicated the
idea to him. Or the metal from the many medals kept in the display case had passed
their forbidden knowledge onto him since the metals were as old as the world itself.
What did it matter now that „The Plan‟ had bee realised and was coming to fruition?
Pausing only to pull on is leather jacket Franklin left his room.

-----

The meal had been exquisite. The flavours had blended and the food had melted on
the tongue. That had been six hours ago and now the surroundings were starting to
bore Katrenn.
After the report she had been allowed to wander around the building at will. One thing
that she‟d noticed was how secure the place was. No obvious large vents, all doors
used a key card entry method combined with retinal scans. As far as she could assess
there wasn‟t a way in if you weren‟t supposed to be there. All of the walls were black
with both the floor and ceilings in some form of metal that had a strange green tint to
it that warped with the light. Soon after a porter had appeared to lead the way to her
room. It was small. Well, it was a lot larger than some of the rooms she‟d slept in but
when one was used to sleeping in the open when opportunity allowed then any room
appeared miniscule in comparison. Sure, it was decorated tastefully in bright colours.
It had a desk, four-poster bed, large windows and all the other fittings that would be
expected in a room reserved for a visiting diplomat. But it was too cramped and she
needed fresh air instead of this recycled crap.

Post 6
He had watched the sun set. He had witnessed the lights illuminate in unison. Then
the usual streetwalkers and drunkards had appeared. At the moment he was
experiencing great difficulties.
“ NO! I DO NOT WANT TO LEND YOU MONEY AND I AM NOT YOUR
„MATE‟! NOW GO AWAY!!”
The old drunk seemed to get the message and dejectedly turned away muttering
profanities beneath his breath.
Kate would be given another hour and if she didn‟t show then there was a bed waiting
with a warm body in it. For the countless time since Wesley had been waiting he
brought the flask to his lips and drank deeply. If there was one thing better than
women then it was drink. The amber nectar slid down his throat, burning it in the
process. Before all of its true flavour and sensation could be savoured the glass door
of the skyscraper slid open. Somebody stepped out. Wesley tried to make out whom it
was but the natural light had diminished and streetlamps didn‟t provide enough
coverage on the entrance. Tossing the empty container away, he started a steady pace
towards the individual. As the shadows retreated and the figure drew closer it became
clear that this was Kate. Judging by the amount of time that the slut had spent inside
she must have made some kind of report. But how much had she told them? That
brought up the question of „How much did she know?‟ again. If he didn‟t act now
then the punishment waiting for him would be unthinkable. If half of the stories were
true then suicide would be an easier way out.

-----

The sights were even more astonishing by night. All of the artificial lights made it like
day! In the villages and towns where she was used to staying it was considered a sign
of great wealth and power to own more than one of these devices. Mayors would
make a point of entertaining guests in the only room possessing a bulb so that when
the night inevitably arrived the discussion could be continued. So much treasure all in
one place. Once again she found herself so enthralled with her surroundings that when
the person collided and sent her sprawling down an alley it came as a complete shock.
Lying face down on the cold, hard floor she felt the mass that had fallen on top of her
rise. Still with reeling senses Katrenn attempted to push herself up and turn to face the
person who had bumped into her. A heavy boot connected, air exploded from her
lungs and her vision was once again filed with the wet floor.
Wesley smiled as his second kick hit against the ribs again. This time he was sure at
least one had broken. What a pathetic creature! Defenceless yet aware of its own,
predestined, demise. This time he allowed Kate the time to get into a crouching
position before the steel tipped boots hit her chest and a knee struck his victims nose
sending her backwards. Moving down and straddling her body Wesley grabbed the
delicate neck in front of him and roughly yanked it towards him.
Katrenn opened her eyes and knew instantly that she‟s only been unconscious for a
few seconds. There was a pair of grey globes staring straight back at her.

“Wh…. Who ..are you?”

Blood flowed into her mouth as she tried to speak, she could feel in trying to congeal
in the back of her throat. It seemed that her capture was revelling in her discomfort. If
only she could gain enough strength to cry out, surely one of the passer-bys would
hear and lend aid. The gods knew that their conversations were audible enough, as
was the heavy traffic.

“SHUT UP! I‟ll ask the questions. If they‟re satisfactory then I may kill you quickly.
But only if I‟m in a good mood.

Now, what‟s your name?”

“Katr ….. Katrenn.”

Kate, Katrenn. He‟d got that pretty close. They‟d have to run a background check on
that name later. The subject wasn‟t going to be around for much longer.

“How much did you tell them? What do you know?”

This was it. She knew her death was at hand. This wasn‟t the way that she‟d
envisaged it. Her life had been meaningless, none of her dreams fulfilled. So much for
turning into the heroine that her childhood dreams had been filled with. No one would
sing songs about her. No stories would be written and told to children as tales before
bed. Katrenn knew that her time was up.

“Nothing. I know nothing.”

“I‟m not a bad person really. I have my faults, as does everybody. So I‟m going to ask
you one more time. If I get the same answer then I‟ll kill you.
What do you know?”

“ Now, now. That‟s no way to treat a lady, is it?”

Wesley was taken off guard. The voice was coming from behind him, away from the
main road and towards the dead end. He would need to deal with this new problem
first. Giving the bitch below him a blow to the face so that her sense would be dulled
Wesley rose from his position.

“Whoever you are, if you‟re still there when I turn round then you‟re life will be
forfeit. Make no mistake, I intend to carry out my threat.”

Three slow seconds passed. Then he turned.
There was a shadowy figure standing towards to end of the alley. All that could be
made out was a large hooded cloak with a metal badge or clasp on the right hand
breast.

“What seems to be the problem here, friend? I see you harassing a woman and wish to
know the reason. It‟s clear from her attire that she does not come from within the city
itself. Simply a curious journeyer visiting the capital for he first time. What could
have she done to deserve this?”

Katrenn forced herself to her senses. This was no chance interruption. The stranger
knew her name, which meant that he was from the same order. A fellow ranger.
Although it had been spoken in the common tongue there was no doubt that this
newcomer recognised what she was. „Curious Journeyer‟ was the meaning of the
name she‟s adopted when joining. Her saviour had arrived.

“It‟s not your problem stranger. Nothing personal, but I can‟t let you live.”

Wesley and the cloaked alien rushed towards each other. A voice called out and it
wasn‟t Wesleys.

“Run you fool, I‟ll catch up with you later.”

As the two combatants met Katrenn stumbled into the street, ran into the road and
passed out.
Post 7

At least it was warm and dry. That was the first thought that Katrenn had as
consciousness found her again. Unfamiliar sounds were to be heard in the
background. Some sort f beeping, wheels on a hard surface and also whispers of
people in conversation. Something was holding her down! She tried to sit up but to no
avail, panic set in and a short battle with whatever was restraining her commenced.
Seconds later, with all her energy drained, Katrenn conceded defeat. Lying there
exhausted a realisation descended. It was only dark because her eyes were closed;
upon consideration it was probably a good idea to open them.
It took a couple of seconds for the various features of the room to clarify within the
dim light. A closed window to her left with a chair placed directly beneath it, bedside
table at the right side of her head. As for the restraints, it seemed like an over
enthusiastic attendant had made sure no one was going to fall out of bed on their shift.
With a sigh of relief, fatigue was gradually allowed to settle in. It was over. That was
her part in whatever was taking place over with. Relax here for a day or two and head
back „home‟. Of course they‟d be the request sent in a week or to for the results of the
investigation but until then it was back to the same old routine. Slowly her eyes forced
themselves closed again. The bed was so comfy, the pillow luxurious and the gentle
breeze was soothing. Breeze? Wasn‟t that window closed? Out of fear and curiosity
Katrenn sat up and looked at the half open windowpane; the curtains swaying steadily
in the nights wind. The chair was gone.

“So, your condition‟s improved then?”

A familiar voice, sitting on the chair that was now close to the cabinet was the
stranger encountered earlier.

“I was surprised that you managed to get yourself in such a vulnerable position. Who
is your supervisor? I‟ll go and report your incident to them.”

Who was he? What the hell was a „supervisor‟ and why should she have one?

“Erm…… I don‟t have one. Is that bad?”

There was a moment of silence.

“Excuse my manners. I go by many names depending on where I am. You would be
more comfortable calling me Vadenn. As for the other matter; tell me, how long have
you been a member and where are you usually assigned to?”

“Greetings Vadenn, I am Katrenn and owe you thanks for the aid during the prior
incident. I‟ve been a member for a full year now and am usually stationed at a large
village named „Hayfield‟. Although recently I have found my way to the second city.”

“A year. Then if you‟re as you appear that would mean you were adopted into the
order at three, trained and then released for internal duties at eighteen. Correct? By
any chance at the awards ceremony did you hear the phrase „Sleeper operative‟ used
in conjunction with your name?”
She was shocked that someone could tell so much about a person simply by guessing
their age. The tone of his voice along with inexperience made her uneasy.

“You are correct with your assumption and summary. Now that you mention it I did
overhear a particular conversation between my instructor and another person who did
mention my name with your phrase. Why do you ask, is it important?”

“Simply put, you are unimportant and your piers viewed you just about worthy of
your position but not for any actual responsibility. A „sleeper‟ is an operative who is
placed somewhere out of the way where nothing of any note is expected to occur. It
seems you stumbled into this matter by chance. Usually someone in your position
comes across a higher-ranking member and learns methods from them, which is how
many progress to levels of greater accountability.”

“So ….. I‟m worthless!?”

Katrenn couldn‟t believe what she was hearing. All the effort that had gone into
training. The tests, ordeals had been for what? To become a worthless number on
some report? It couldn‟t be true, could it? Why would they grant her a title if they
didn‟t need her?

“I can tell by your expression that you‟re having trouble dealing with this. You‟re far
from worthless. If you were a lost cause then the powers that be would never have let
you become one of us. You have potential. I‟ve noticed that you have areas in which
you excel. Combat doesn‟t seem to be one of them, but we can fix that.”

“You mean that you want to train me?”

“It is not a question of what I want. If we are to follow protocol, which you seem so
very fond of, then it is your choice on who to ask.”

She considered this. What if this was just some lowly ranking member who needed to
gain in rank themselves? She would benefit very little by asking if that was the case.
Then again could she afford to pass up the opportunity?

“Vadenn, I would be honoured if you were to accept me as your pupil. Teach me all I
wish to know and that which I do not.”

“Very well child, I accept the responsibility as your tutor. I will teach you the ways
that have been passed down through generations. About death and despair; life and
joy; the known and unknown. From now on you shall be my apprentice. Do you
accept to learn until the time I see fit to release you from my guidance?”

“I do.”

With a fluid movement the Vadenn lowered the hood to reveal his features for the
first time since they met. A smile greeted her.

“Then I suggest we depart with haste. Oh, and if you tire of Vadenn then you may call
me by my name I had before joining.”
With a deep bow accompanied with over exaggerated arm gestures the tutor
introduced himself once more.

“Marcus, at you service.”

Post 8

Bill entered the room just in time to see the last sheet of paper settle on the floor. The
desk was bare and Andrion was stood at the window looking at the city below. The
centre desk was void of all material as were a number of the shelves in the bookcase.
Judging by the reflection visible on the highly polished glass the stresses of recent
events were taking their toll on the young ruler. Joe would have to be called in to help
with the day to day running while these matters were attended to. Recent proceedings
had certainly been interesting and he‟d often found himself questioning whether his
actions were in the best interests within the last day or two. Communications had been
sent to the various churches and sub-religions within the region explaining that until
further notice the priests were not to stray from their current locations. The leader
himself had signed that message. What he didn‟t know was that Bill had also sent an
accompanying message asking that they comply for now. If anybody beside
themselves bothered to take a quick glance at the books concerning high law then
they‟d find that technically the church was above the law. If they decided that the
colour pink was offensive or they just didn‟t like it the church could place a ban on it.
Failure to obey would result in banishment or being forced to eat twelve large melons.
Obviously the view of melons as punishment had declined slightly over the millennia.
He would have given anything to discover what his friend was thinking.

-----

Why did the useless fool insist on standing in the doorway? Was he under the
misconception that his entrance had gone unnoticed?

“Tell me, old priest, what is it that I should do? I have a nation to rule, a bunch of
rumours to sieve some truth out of and a pile of paperwork to get through. If that
wasn‟t enough it appears that the rest of the region has its hands full with their own
problems. Huge explosions and mysterious letters are only the beginning. By the way,
it seems that a good majority of Lost Life is now missing. Send them a box of
chocolates or something.”

It was quite obvious that the inexperienced ruler was in a foul mood. The lack of sleep
combined with the frustration of being unable to uncover anything new about the
current situation was taking its toll.

“I‟ll call Joe in to take care of the daily running of the nation, if you wish. That will
give you time to sleep and let you concentrate on the religious issue. I think it would
be unwise to give any aid at this time. We have yet to find out exactly what the
problem is here not to mention the scale it could erupt into. Of course I‟ll pass on a
letter of condolence and try to find out as much as possible about that message you
mentioned; although with the Anla'shok now recalled there is very little we can
expose besides public announcements.”
“Maybe it was a bit hasty to recall them all. Then again until we know what we‟re
facing then there‟s a chance we might need them. I accept the help that you mention
in running this land. Keep your eye and ears open about any developments with the
message and you have my authorisation to take whatever action you see fit as long as
it does not affect the security of this or any other nation. The last thing we need right
now is to be pulled into any type of hostile event with anybody.
How many of the rangers have reported in?”

A pause while some mental arithmetic was hastily performed.

“Out of the five hundred active members only a hundred have yet to present
themselves. I would guess that at least fifty of those are within the capital lying low
until they know more. Are we to contact the sleepers as well?”

“Let them be. If this is as bad as I fear then they would be useless in any case. I‟m
going to get some rest. Could you get someone to tidy the room up, I seem to have
lost my temper earlier.”

The priest stood to one side to allow Andrion to pass. It was good that he‟d accepted
the offer of aid. It was only a matter of time before a new lead presented itself and
he‟d have to be ready to follow and act upon it. It was also a good thing that they were
not to get involved in external issues at this stage. While it may be desirable it would
thin out resources. Only if a large portion of the region were at risk would action have
to be taken. On his way down the corridor Andrion turned.

“Oh, one last thing. Don‟t try to fool me again old man. I know of the message you
sent to the church. I'm not quite as ignorant as you believe. I know of things you do
not as I‟m sure you have knowledge of things beyond me. Keep in mind it was I who
passed the trial. You have no idea what it does to a person. I hope you never have to
find out.”

With that Andrion continued on to his room, leaving a stunned priest behind to
rethink his actions.

Post 9

The smoke clung to the ceiling with trails leading down to the pipes that secreted the
foul substance. The wooden beams could barely be seen; the brass trappings were
indistinguishable from that which they were mounted on. Hushed conversation filled
the dingy tavern as if those sitting on the adjacent tables were not to be trusted. The
bartender kept his remaining eye scanning the room on the lookout for the next brawl
to erupt. His other one had been gouged out a few years ago during a particularly
heated debate. The rest of his face, accompanied by a well-toned body, was also
covered with scars from past scuffles. No one in the room trusted anybody else
present, not even the people whom they were conversing with.
The rays of light vanquished the shadows as the door opened. All went silent as the
silhouette stepped over the threshold and closed the door absently behind it. The
bartender placed a hand on the sword he kept under the bar in case of trouble. The rest
of his patrons shifted uneasily in their seats as the figure walked towards the bar. The
clunk of metal was heard as coins tumbled onto the timber surface. Without a word
the person leant over the bar and selected the best quality whiskey there was. Viewing
the quantity of the payment the tender decided that it wasn‟t worth the effort to stop
his new customer. In fact what he‟d just snatched from the bar would pay for three
bottles of the stuff with enough left over for a glass or two. After seeing the complete
lack of concern by the landlord the conversations began again only at a slightly lower
volume. With a scraping of wood on stone the person sat at an empty table and took a
deep swig of the golden liquid.

“Glad to see you could make it Morgan.”

Franklin stepped out of the shadows and took the place opposite. Morgan himself
didn‟t really like the man. He was too much like a police officer to be comfortable
around and in Morgan‟s line of work the last thing he needed was to be seen talking
with the law. But the pay was right. There had been a large cash advance with the
promise of wealth and power if the task was completed. The task was going to be
completed, if it wasn‟t then Morgan had been told he was finished; as in dead.

“As am I. What do you want from me this time then? I‟ve done all you‟ve asked so
far. Better not be any changes, everything‟s already in place for the next step.”

“Blunt as always. That‟s what I like about you, never scared to voice you opinion
although if I told you who I really was that may alter your perspective. There have
been no changes that affect you. But there has been a slight change in the situation
and a position of higher responsibility has become available. Interested?”

As if. More like that things were getting a little too hot at the top and he needed
somebody else to take command so that nothing could be traced back and blamed on
him. He‟d dealt with people like Franklin before, as soon as something wasn‟t going
exactly as intended they panicked, usually without the need to. A higher position
though would mean more pay and that was the language that Morgan understood
perfectly.

“As long as you understand that my time is a precious commodity and the price will
alter accordingly. Keep talking.”

So predictable. But as far as lowlife scum went Morgan was the elite. He alone had
been responsible for the school riots a decade ago. Quite a task and not one lead to
bring the blame back to him.

“I‟ll triple your pay. When completed we can talk about what else you desire. From
now on you‟ll be heading the entire operation as planned. Here is the extra
information you‟ll need to carry out you responsibilities. You will still report to me
but only when I choose to make contact with you. Start spreading the word. The time
will come and soon.”

Franklin stood and started to make his way over to the exit, leaving Morgan to read
over „The Plan‟. Halfway there a small scuffle started to break out. Irritated by the
fact this had just spoilt what was turning out to be quite a nice day he extended the fist
that was currently clasped around a dagger and inserted it into the nearest throat.
Blood gushed over the floor and patrons alike as the injured man stumbled wildly
around, trying to stem the flow t no avail. As the proprietor leapt over his bar the door
closed. The table that had been occupied just a minute ago now vacant.

-----

Andrion sat at his desk sorting through various e-mails and paperwork that had been
delivered to his room. The last thing that was going to happen soon was sleep. The
fact that the church hadn‟t actually taken any action yet was eating away at his mind.
The rumours had started a little over two months ago. The giveaway had been the
replies sent by messengers. At the end of each message was a microchip embedded
into the paper itself, invisible to the naked eye. Each church had a different signature
that was encoded into the chip along with other information, including the duration of
the journey after it left the church and arrived in this building. The church weren‟t
aware of the device; in fact he only people who did know were rangers. Two months
ago the time taken for a message to arrive drastically increased by about a day for
every one. Normally it would be a case of investigating the matter personally but this
was an exception. With it being of such high profile then his involvement would bring
suspicion from the public as well as the few advisors that were in office and an
investigation into a matter like this required stealth. The Anla'shok would have to take
care of the matter, but who? There were at least a score of suitable agents that could
be called upon to fulfil the task. With a few keystrokes the list appeared on the screen
in front of him. Twelve had reported in. It was typical for those with a higher ranking
to remain unknown until they could verify everything was in order and the call hadn‟t
been fraudulent. By letting one of them handle the situation he couldn‟t be held
responsible for the outcome and the less he knew about the investigation the less
could be extracted from him if things turned sour.
With quick reflexes honed through the initiation and training a scorpion dagger
(http://www.thebladesource.com/bkgh2009.jpg) was removed from the leg sheath as a
loud knock was heard at the window. Assassination was always a fear during such
times. The knock came again but louder. Whoever it was had managed to scale one of
the tallest buildings in the city to gain entry. It was quite possible that whoever was
out there was attempting to break the bulletproof glass and being met with stiff
resistance. Andrion walked across to the apparent source of the sound and prepared
himself. They had found one of the few windows that actually opened. The dark night
sky prevented him from being able to make out if anyone was on the other side or not.
Slowly and cautiously he started to open the pane. After an inch worth of movement
he relaxed slightly, maybe it had only been a bird colliding. Just then a force threw the
window open completely from the outside knocking him over and giving an unknown
assailant entry.

Post 10

Andrion rolled backwards and cam up in a defensive posture while scanning the room
for the intruder. The chill of steel against his throat soon informed him that the
invader was behind him. Then slowly it was pulled away.

“You‟ve obviously become lax recently. Lack of conflict dulling your senses?”

A smile spread across his face as he turned and embraced an old friend.
“Marcus, your back! Good to see you in one piece. Tell me, how goes things across
the ocean?”

Marcus took the seat indicated to him. Climbing the building and hanging onto the
ledge for am hour had tired him slightly. Usually the suction pads would have saved
him time and effort but Katrenn, who was busy trying to catch up, was currently using
those.

“The threat of war never materialised. But the pressure must have gotten to the
Knobgobbler government. It‟s expected that they‟ll disband within a day or two with
the citizens and land going to the surrounding nations. Oh, and next time you decide
to recall me you can provide better transport. Two days stuck in the cargo hold of a
live stock ship is hardly first class.”

“I‟ll take that into consideration then, but this is of the utmost importance..”

Andrion stopped as Marcus held up his hand and looked over to the still open
window. A second later an audible scraping noise could be heard.

“Before you continue let me introduce you to my new student. I found her around the
city and it seems there are plenty more of us out there as well. I count four hundred
and ninety-two. You probably have a number much less than that.”

Two hands grabbed onto the ledge and a glimpse of red hair was illuminated from the
light from the room.

“This is Katrenn. I suspect you have already met but I don‟t know if one of the lesser
officials took the meetings this morning. If so then I suggest you hear what she has to
say.”

An exhausted woman hauled herself into the building gasping for breath.

“That …. was ….. never a …….. twenty minute …… head start!”

She crawled along the floor before looking up into the room. Two smiling faces
welcomed her and then she remembered where that second face was from.

“Sorry sir! I didn‟t mean to intrude, I men break in, Erm …. Sorry.”

“That‟s quite alright Katrenn. You‟re welcome as my guest and since you two are
obviously in need of something to keep you from constantly pestering me I have a job
for you.”

Katrenn took the seat next to Marcus and accepted the glass of water handed to her.
After waiting for her to take a sip from it Andrion continued.

“It is my belief that someone is plotting something against our nation. While this is
not a new thing the fact that it‟s an internal faction or agency that are doing so is
something that I have not heard of happening before in our history.
I would normally assign the higher law enforcement agencies to investigate the
matter, or do so myself but due to the attention this would attract I have opted not to
do so. That will be your job. I want to know who‟s trying to disrupt my nation and for
you to stop them whatever the cost.
I gave the storage yards a visit earlier in the old town portion of the city. The
rumourmongers say that there‟s been a reduction in the number of bandits on the trade
routes. Some also told me that some form of recruiting had been going on but couldn‟t
give any details.
The only other information I have for you is that officially the church is the main
suspect. They‟ve been sending messages hinting at rebellion for a number of weeks
now. Unofficially, I doubt it‟s them. Since these messages started there‟s been a
suspicious increase in the amount of time each letter takes to reach us.
That‟s all I know.”

Marcus was obviously deep in thought and was surprised when Katrenn chose to rise
out of her chair to speak.

“Sir, what about the incident I reported to you. Aren‟t you going to take any action
about that? After all my life was endangered because of the information.”

“I believe that to be a diversionary tactic. We know that the last meeting held there
was concerning the military budget and the way it was being spent. With that in mind
it would have been almost impossible to carry out a murder with the high command
and their guard present. It can only be assumed that it occurred after that. Any
member of the public could have gone in and planted the blood. If you‟re that curious
about it then I‟ll let you look into it but only after you have completed this
assignment.”

She sat down again dejectedly. She knew it was more than that, couldn‟t he see it?
There had to be some kind of connection between the events. Woman‟s intuition told
her so.

“Marcus, all of the information you‟ll need has been uploaded to you Electronic Field
Assistant. The paper is on the desk if you need it. I wish you both the best of luck.
Katrenn you have a master as your tutor, I hope you learn well from him.
Now if you‟ll excuse me I have pressing matters to attend to.”

With that Andrion walked out of the room. It would be for the last time.

Post 11

The air was clean, the sun warm upon their skin and a cool breeze swept through hair
every now and again. It was good to be out of the city and back into the familiar
countryside. After the meeting with Andrion they had reviewed the information that
had been left for them and drawn up a plan. Katrenn was happy with it; she knew
what was happening and her part in it. Marcus though, as a more seasoned wanderer,
knew that as soon as a plan was drawn up it might as well be sand in the wind. Parts
that once lay next to each other would be parted, sometimes lost forever. Only the
weak of mind needed such things. Those and the uninitiated.
He disagreed with Andrion that Katrenns discovery was irrelevant. From what he
understood it had been a significant event that had caused everything subsequent and
the fact an ex-military service man had attempted to prevent a report to be made lent
weight to his opinion. It was almost a certainty that all of the evidence had been
removed by now but with a trained mind and a keen eye there was as much to be
learnt from what was absent. Besides that it had become apparent that his new student
had been rushed through the training programme. It astonished him how little she
knew of so many things, although she excelled in many other „subjects‟. It had
become routine that a training session was held every night. She was learning quickly
but the real experience was gained during missions. If you were alive by the end of it
then you had learnt something, if not then it didn‟t really matter. Their new employer
had questioned the event at first but was easily satisfied with the explanation that
mercenaries such as themselves needed to hone their skills constantly.
Mercenaries were becoming more common as merchants carried more and more
expensive wares across greater distances and in larger amounts. Most ex-military or
those who had been dismissed for whatever the reason ventured into this particular
service. Not only was it well paid but most of the time bandits were put off just by the
presence of a couple of guards. Those that still attempted to attack were desperate
men with no real training or weaponry. The coin they were earning would also help
out with provisions and any other costs that would be incurred along the way. The
journey had been bumpy but uneventful. They had gotten to know each other better
and developed a good working relationship, Marcus was certain that she would
become a dear friend and ally in the coming battles.
The small caravan of carts stopped. The lead merchant gave the order to start making
camp for the upcoming night. The ideal time for a test. It was curious that even the
bandits had a code of honour. They had shown time and time again that they refused
to attack a convoy such as this when they were sleeping or at rest. At any other time
the wares were fair game but is was viewed as cowardly to attack an unprepared
victim. Leaving the small camp behind, Marcus and Katrenn made their way to a
nearby cornfield out of site from the curious businessmen.

“More training? Can‟t we just have something to eat instead? I‟ll even cook.”

He smiled at the pleading face. She did look cute like that.

“I‟ve tasted your cooking on the first night, remember? Just before I spat it out and
pledged that I‟d cook from then onwards.
Yes, more training and this time I think that it‟s time for a test. I‟m going to count to
one hundred, after that time I‟m going to start hunting you. I expect you to use any
and all means at your disposal to stop me; this includes combat with standard
weapons. If you pass then there‟ll be no more lessons until we reach Tuzan‟oore.
Failure mean I get your share of the ale for the next three days.”

“What if I injure you? Or kill you? What would I do then?”

“If you do then you pass and become a fully operational member. It will be up to you
to complete the mission.”

Marcus closed his eyes as Katrenn ran off.
“One.. two..”

-----

She peered out from behind the boulder. It had been an hour since the challenge had
been issued and so far there was no sign of her sparring partner. It had not crossed her
mind until now that it could be days before their paths crossed again. For all she knew
Marcus had gone in completely the wrong direction. From her vantage point she could
scrutinize the fields below and spot anyone attempting to close in on her, for now the
various plants and grasses were swaying in the wind.
There she was, sitting watching the fields he was moving through. No doubt his
student was feeling confident that she‟d spot any predator preying on her.
Overconfidence was one of the main weaknesses she had yet to acknowledge and that
was the purpose of today‟s lesson; it would be learnt the hard way. There was still so
much potential to be unlocked and it was becoming slow and tedious progress. One of
the biggest worries was that she wouldn‟t be ready in time. The wind blew again and
he inched forward.
Peripheral vision caught the slight disturbance in the far left field. It could have been
wildlife but under the circumstances it was best to assume the worst. Still, he didn‟t
know that he had been spotted and that was to her advantage. The question was what
to do with it. A voice seemed to come from within „Wait, a few more hours and he‟ll
be within range‟. Good advice.
She‟d seen him. It was obvious since she had stopped scanning the field he was in,
afraid that she‟d give away what she knew. He pressed on regardless; he knew that
she posed little threat. The one thing that did concern him was that in a few minutes
time he‟d be within range of her throw. During the journey Katrenn had chosen her
preferred weapon: throwing knives although she was adept with all throwing
instruments. Besides a good technique she also had uncanny accuracy. There had been
a large amount of money won on a wager with some of the merchants who bet against
her killing a small sparrow in flight with one of her instruments. Reflexes were still
slow though, which gave anybody who took her unaware a good advantage. A flash of
steel in the fading light was all he needed to see and a second later a blade whizzed
through the space his head had been a second before, the displaced air felt on his nose.
Another one followed in quick succession as Marcus rolled forward then came up in a
sprint to dive under the ledge she had moved to. She‟d been practicing, which was
good.
She had thrown the two as a distraction and then made the move down into a field
while her opponent had been preoccupied. The grass was at least a foot taller than
Marcus was, a foot and a half taller than her. She heard the sound of rapid breathing
approaching and, glancing behind her, managed to catch a glimpse of her tutor
gaining through the swards. She knew from previous incidents that trying to outrun
him was useless. It was time to hide or fight; it was an easy decision. With expert
timing Katrenn leapt out from her crouch and knocked Marcus over with a quick
blow. Shocked, but not injured, he rose to his feet and prepared for the barrage.

“Want to give up now or just get your ass kicked by your star pupil?”

She was a cocky little thing as well.
“As soon as we meet up with him I‟ll gladly give them the opportunity but for now
I‟m just going to have to put up with you.”

With a gleeful expression Katrenn charged. It was soon over. Marcus sidestepped,
grabbed a wrist and threw her over with a swift movement. Before the youngster
could recover he withdrew a blade and placed it against her bare neck.

“I think you‟ve learnt the lesson. Never overestimate your own, or the enemy‟s
abilities. If you do then you‟ll be killed. Now, unless you want to waste more of my
time lets head back to camp. I plan on getting quite merry tonight.”

She accepted the helping hand and then both started back.

Post 12

The remainder of the journey had been uneventful. Marcus was still recovering from
the previous night when he‟d finished off the cask of ale that was their share; not that
anyone could tell. The market was the usual hive of activity that it usually was. Petty
thieves could be seen moving from stall to stall, pickpockets were making a fortune
and a few of the stallholders weren‟t much better. The city of Sorrows was completely
different from the capital. Instead of the towering modern structures were ancient
halls, elegant masonry and more of a community. After graciously receiving their fee
the two robed wanderers made their way to the city centre.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the market the rest of the city was relatively quiet.
In fact the only person who could be seen at the hall was the guard. As they climbed
the steps Marcus motioned to Katrenn that she should lead the conversation. The fact
that a bit of cleavage could get them further than a few words from him didn‟t cross
her mind. The guard however had a bit of trouble maintaining eye contact.

“Excuse me sentry, we seek entrance to the hall. May we pass?”

It took the lookout a couple of seconds to register that a question had been asked and
to compose himself. Marcus smiled as the guard tore his gaze away to reply.

“Sorry Miss, there‟s a private meeting going on at the moment strictly an invitation
only affair.”

“But surely there‟s a way you could let just the two of us past. I mean, it‟s not like
we‟re going to start any trouble. We just want to have a quick look round and leave.
Ten minutes at the most. Please?”

The man took a minute or two to think about it and take in her body again. Vadenn
knew what to expect as an answer, some things never changed no matter where you
were.

“Well now. I don‟t know about the both of you but I‟m pretty sure that if your friend
there went for a walk „round the sights for a while then I could let you in. For a price
of course, know what I mean?”
Katrenn didn‟t know where to look. The redness of her face matched the hair flowing
down her back. Embarrassment quickly turned into anger though.

“DO YOU KNOW WHO WE ARE!?! WE‟RE RAN..”

Marcus quickly cut in.

“derers. What my companion is trying to say is that we are wanderers who are
unfamiliar with your customs and was wondering if you could explain what you
meant in more detail?”

When the sentry decided that he couldn‟t he was thanked and the pair walked back
down into the street. The guard was just as thankful for the rear view as the front.
That was to be the highlight of his day and later his mates would hear all about how
he‟d managed to seduce a vixen while on duty over a couple of ales.

“What did you think telling him we were Rangers would achieve? True, we would
have been let in but by the time we came back out the whole city would be waiting to
catch a glimpse of us. This is supposed to be a hushed operation; we can‟t afford the
risk of being discovered especially since we have no idea of what we‟re up against.
Be more careful in future.”

“I‟m sorry, I didn‟t think. What are we going to do now then? There‟s no other way in
than the door. No back door, no skylights and all the windows can only be opened
from the inside. I‟ve ruined our only chance haven‟t I? Please forgive me.”

Her expression confirmed the genuine sincerity in the words that were spoken.

She tries so hard, just like Gemma used to before…before the incident. It’s not her
fault that the training was flawed; no one could have foreseen that. At least she’s still
alive, unlike the hundreds of others who had gone through the same process to be
killed within weeks of being posted. The biggest mistake they had ever made. She must
not end up with the same fate.

Marcus forced the thoughts out of his head to concentrate on the task ahead. It was
true that both of them couldn‟t go in, she didn‟t have the experience to risk taking
along. There was one way.

“If there is any blame to place then it‟s upon me. I shouldn‟t have placed so much
responsibility on you. I‟ll find a way in but I‟ll need you to stay out here and warn me
if anyone comes along. Be careful and don‟t risk trying to find me if anything goes
wrong. I‟ll be back soon.”

“OK then, but don‟t treat me like a kid. I‟m the same as you just without as much
experience. Be careful.”

Marcus set off towards the back of the building while Katrenn found a place to hide.
At that moment a strange feeling overcame her. One of loss, sorrow and regret.

-----
It was a usual Sunday morning. Cold, wet and uninviting. The streets were virtually
deserted as people decided it was generally a much better idea to stay in and watch
TV rather than risk getting wet. This was to be a good thing for some, for others they
may have well been better off outside.
At 09:18 the first explosion was heard. Most mistook the sound for one of those damn
planes other nations had breaking the sound barrier. The only people who knew better
were either dead or screaming in terror. Shards of glass as tall as a man fell from the
sky, impaling some and ripping limbs off others. Blood mixed with water started
flowing through the drainage system.
Two minutes later further detonations took place in residential and commercial
locations to maximise casualties. Children screamed as their mothers were killed and
were silenced seconds later as they too were ripped in two by shrapnel. Buildings
were obliterated with whole families still inside watching morning cartoons.
The media were quick to arrive at the scenes; this had been anticipated as well. More
devastation followed as timed devices went off, killing reporters on live TV. Fire
spread unchecked through the city, the emergency services had been targeted as well.
The destruction continued until 10:00 when the final act of terrorism took place. At
the centre of the city, where most of the citizens had gathered for protection and
guidance, the government buildings top twelve floors burst apart. The glass killed
countless and even more were crushed to death in the stampede to evacuate the
surrounding area.
Amongst the lives taken were Joe and Mandy who were preparing the upcoming
weeks events. Bill was lost after trying to calm the crowds, the events surrounding his
death uncertain. The day would be forever remembered as „The Peoples Loss‟.

-----

Morgan watched the final plume of smoke join the rest. It had been too easy to plant
the devices. He would go down in history as the man who brought the Eternal City to
its knees. There was no time to bask in glory though; there were other things to attend
to.

Post 13

Andrion walked through his shattered city. He had heard the news while travelling
back from the nations border. At first he wouldn‟t believe it, now he couldn‟t. The
scale of damage was incomprehensible. Why would anyone do this and for what
reason. So many deaths, including those of his friends. There would be no mercy for
those responsible. Their lives were as good as over; they would be hunted down and
killed.
He stepped over the bodies of the fallen. Disease would soon spread to those still alive
and take yet more souls. The military would arrive in a few days to start cleaning up
but it would take time. No doubt there were those trapped under the rubble that would
perish before being found. How would they be disposed of? Mass burial or
cremation? Neither were desirable options, his people deserved better than that. As he
grew closer to the centre it didn‟t escape his notice that the density of bodies was
increasing. Slaughtered in their prime, all of them. Finally, mentally exhausted, he
witnessed the horror surrounding his offices. Hundreds of people lying on the floor;
some with limbs at impossible angles others without any. Dried blood led to the
drains, it has soaked into clothing and the smell was causing him to dry retch every so
often.

What? Why? Who would have done this? They had come here looking for help,
wanting someone, wanting ME to help them. I failed in my duty. I caused this .. this
massacre. It’s my fault. If I had stayed here instead of worrying about others.

A few of the more courageous of survivors were starting to come out of hiding and
approach their leader. His presence filled them with hope; he‟d know what to do.
They‟d be a big speech and then an „everything will be OK‟ before telling them what
to do. One from the growing crowd went up to Andrion.

“Entil'Zha, welcome back. It is a scared and crushed nation that you return to. We do
not know who did this, nor do we have any suspects. There has been a great loss and
if action isn‟t taken those numbers will grow three fold.
We have not counted everybody who is lost to us yet. Our estimates at the moment
are that at least a million or so are dead. We expect the true number to be much
higher.
I hate to be the one to break this to you but Ner'is vas'hana ter'es; those that you left in
charge are no longer with us. I am sorry.”

Andrion hadn‟t heard most of what was said. He was still trying to take in the scene
before him. The last sentence however seemed like it had been shouted.
They were dead as well. His friends, the few that could be trusted, were no more.
They had helped him from the start of his rule, been there to support him and criticise
when it was needed. Old friends whose only reason to be there was because of him.
Something snapped.

Other citizens, bolder now that they had seen someone else approach their saviour,
began to approach him. They may as well been spectres to him. Their voices fell upon
deaf ears as he slowly stumbled through the dead heading towards the outskirts. A
few approached him, grabbing an arm to try to gain his attention; they were pushed
aside and left lying amongst the lifeless bodies. One of the better-built men decided
that enough was enough, they had come here for answers and they were going to get
them. He stood directly in Andrions path with his feet planted apart and arms crossed.
He was later treated for broken ribs and arm after, in his words „being set upon by a
ruthless gang of at least five‟. Racine watched him leave; the situation had just
become serious, it was time to inform those who needed to know.

-----

The sound of dripping echoed through the sewer. Excrement floated past him, the
rancid smell infusing into the clothes he was wearing. It wasn‟t the most pleasant of
things that he‟d ever done, but neither was it anywhere near the worst. As Marcus
approached his destination he was forced into a crawl as the enclosure drew in around
him. The sound of voices in heated debate started to penetrate the thick brick walls
and bounce around, seeking for an escape. At last Marcus pushed open the entrance
panel in the floor of the building and climbed through it. The cloak he‟d been wearing
was tossed back down the trap door. The smell would be enough to inform even the
most incompetent guard that he hadn‟t entered through the front door. The first place
that needed visiting was the public baths. That way at least he‟d have a bit more of a
pleasant odour about himself.
With his hair still dripping Marcus approached the area that Katrenn had described to
him. As expected the blood had long been cleaned away so there was no clues as to
what had happened. That didn‟t matter, what he wanted to know was where had the
body, or injured, been taken? Slowly he retraced the step his student had taken.
Before long he reached where the trail had abruptly stopped. But was this where it had
stopped? Wasn‟t it perfectly possible that this could have been the start of the trail?
Slowly a series of events unravelled itself in his mind:

Somebody, from one of the private rooms, walking back towards the meeting hall. The
assassin coming up behind them, or maybe from a side door, stops and questions the
victim. The attack is swift, but doesn’t kill outright and the attacker flees before the
noise attracts any attention. The bleeding person, more than likely a man, stumbles
forward knowing that aid isn’t far away. With their vision becoming dimmer they
have to use the wall to press off against in order to turn the corner without falling into
an irrecoverable heap. Then something else had happened. A friend or passer-by had
seen them; somehow the flow of blood had been stemmed to a trickle. They had
walked on to where Katrenn had found the first hints of blood.

Marcus came out of the trance like state and looked around him; back where the
discovery had been made. So if this was where they had left the building the question
of how still remained. A brief inspection ensured that there wasn‟t a trapdoor nearby
and all of the doors led into small meeting rooms. This all meant that the only way
they could have gone was up. There was a ventilation shaft up towards the ceiling but
no ways of getting up to have a closer look.

Before he had the chance to delve into the mystery any deeper a discreet beep
informed him the EFA had something important to tell him. A quick inspection
revealed that the others wished to speak with him in council, which could only mean
something was wrong. With a sigh Marcus accepted that the assembly had precedence
over the current task.

Another journey. We should really get some form of private transport sorted out.
With any luck that damn guard won’t recognise me, or the shift will have changed.
Can’t be walking around smelling of a cesspit now can we?

He made his way to the main door and walked through it.
No challenge from guards. Marcus turned to thank the guard and inform him of his
departure; except he wasn‟t there. Neither was there anybody on his other side. With a
growing concern he raced down the flight of steps. Lying on the ground was the
guard, shot through the head. A few feet away were some of his colleagues, no doubt
the few that were kept in the hidden room below the steps. All had been slain with a
single bullet.

Guns. Which means either the black market has re-established itself or that this is far
more serious than I thought. Question is if they were police weapons or military.

A quick search provided no clues. Whoever had done this knew how to clean up after
them. Which meant professionals, almost ruling police out.
Katrenn was missing from the place he‟d left her. Which didn‟t cause much alarm,
after all she‟d probably followed whoever had caused the destruction to find out who
they were and why they did it.
But there wasn‟t any message. Even she would have known to leave some form of
indication of where she‟d gone. He widened his search. Time wore on and the bodies
were removed by the next shift. They‟d perform their own investigation which would
take months to come to the conclusion the men were dead.
He saw something gleam out of the corner of his eye. Trampled into the ground was a
broach. Not just any broach though, it was the Rangers broach. Katrenn was in
trouble.

-----

“So you‟re just going to let him jump?”

“Don‟t see you stopping him. Anyway, you saw what happened to Jonesy. I‟m not to
keen on taking early retirement thank you.”

The two priests had followed him down into the chamber. He‟d shown up and asked
for entry, which he was entitled to. When his intention had become clear Jones had
tried to stop him. Unfortunately he had been thrown down the chasm.
Andrion stood at the edge of the stone bridge looking down at the void below, only
darkness adorned with white pinpricks of light stared back.

We meet again old friend. Last time I survived you, escaped from your jaws that
clamped down on so many of my friends. You rewarded me for the sacrifices I made.
Now I return seeking the sentence you deemed fit for the others. Take your knowledge
back and grant it to another.

“Do you think we should tell someone about him being here? Maybe someone who
could talk him out of it?”

The nameless Priest turned in time to see Andrion swan dive over the edge.

“I‟d say it was a bit late for that. Must be some sort of procedure for this sort of thing.
Lets go find it.”

-----

They sat in a circle. Each member sat within a pool of light that did not overflow into
the next person‟s space. Everything else was black. All were aware of the screens on
the walls, of the projectors that had been restored and could now be used. There were
also the lesser members who stood in the darkness, waiting for any one of a myriad of
hand signals to be given that would indicate a task to be carried out. There was
complete silence while those gathered waited for the seventh light to show.

Marcus stood in the dark. There was much to tell and to be told. All of them had given
up some task to be present. He started walking around the outside of the circle to
make sure none had been replaced yet. Racine (Day Dreamer), Wyndan (Truth
Seeker), Mayan (Meaning Seeker), Barenn (World Roamer), Dhaliri (Watcher Of The
Seas), Mazik (New Strength) and himself; Vadenn (Dark Wanderer).
He stepped into his place and was illuminated.

“Greetings. I have come to this Jen‟ri as asked.
Speak and I will listen. Listen and I will pass on wisdom.”

His light, along with five other, dimmed whilst Racine‟s remained at the same
strength.

“Yed‟oore was attacked over a week ago. Terrorists did it from what we can tell. The
military are cleaning up and investigating the case further. There are no numbers for
those dead yet although a good estimate would be five million or so. The main
commercial areas were hit first along with a few residential sites before the centre was
destroyed after all the citizens had panicked and gathered there.
I stayed for a few days to help the wounded, to save what could be saved. Andrion
arrived back. The shock was too much for him. He attacked a citizen as he walked
away. I left and called you here.”

His light dimmed. They were given time to digest the information and formulate their
ideas. Mayan moved his hand slightly and his light strengthened.

“That is not all. I got a report two days ago from the Guardians. They informed us that
Andrion returned to the Pit Of Night. He cast himself into it but not before sending
one of the Priesthood to the same fate.”

Another gesture, this time made by Wyndan, changed Mayans light to a shade of blue
while his own brightened.

“Maybe we should call the Guardians to refresh our memories about this oddity. I
know that I could benefit from it.”

His light dimmed again and Mayans returned to its former state.

“I had already anticipated the request. The Guardians are here and have prepared a bit
of a presentation to remind us of the importance and detail of the feature. Although I
do suggest that we take a small rest to allow them to prepare. Dows the group agree?”

The vote was put. With a simple wave they either voted yes or no. There were five
green-lit and two red-lit figures. There would be a recess.

-----

He watched as her eyes slowly opened.

“Morning. No doubt you have many question but I‟m not really in the mood for
giving answers.
You are here because you risk what we are striving to achieve. You cannot be allowed
to interfere.
I will talk and you will listen. Then you will talk and I will listen. If you see this as a
problem then I will have to find some form of persuasion.”

Katrenn struggled against the bonds that secured her to the metal table. Her eyes had
become adjusted to the darkness but there was nothing to see except bare rock above.
She couldn‟t move.

“You may as well save your energy for our little discussions. There is much that I
wish to learn from you and no doubt much you can learn from myself. Of course
there‟s little chance you will be able to put the considerable information you gain
from me to any form of use. But we all have to make our sacrifices, don‟t we? You
don‟t need to answer, purely rhetorical.”

She tried to reply anyway only to discover that her mouth wouldn‟t open.

“Now, now. Don‟t panic. It‟s an experimental form of glue. Quite useful for this kind
of work wouldn‟t you say? Again, no need to answer, I said I would talk and you
would listen. What‟s the point of doing something if you can‟t brag about it to
someone?

My great nation is about to change. Like a caterpillar metamorphosing into a butterfly
this nation will become truly stunning. Too long have we sat back and watched,
waiting before involving ourselves. Look at us; look at the power the nation holds!
Just think, if a person was not afraid to take the reigns and use that power to create an
era of expansion, a time of growth where we would show the world the true meaning
of what it is to be one of us!
I am going to take that power. I shall lead our, my, people to their glorious future! We
shall become as we were before. We shall surpass even the Ancients in our
knowledge and power! Once again people will here our name and fear it!

Of course this does produce the problem of what I should d with you, or more
precisely your order. You see, no matter how hard I‟ve tried I could never find out
any information about your kind. Now I have been granted a gift and I intend to make
full use of it. I don‟t know who you are but I guess you aren‟t the most advanced
member, or else you wouldn‟t have been caught.
I need you to tell me what you do. I need to know if you will be any use to me when
the change is completed. And you will tell me.”

-----

As far as the Guardians were concerned they were giving a presentation to an empty
room. To make things worse they‟d been told that if one foot left the lighted area
before being instructed to do so they would be expelled.

“The Pit is not just a hole in the ground. We are unsure if it was created or whether it
is just some anomaly within nature itself. Past leaders and a few extracts from the
Ancients themselves have told us all that we know about it.

The Pit seems to be some kind of gateway to the stars. If you were look into it you
would see millions of stars, galaxies swirling below you. It contains the universe
itself, or rather it appears to. We have no idea how it works and, quite frankly, we‟re
not at the level of understanding to investigate the workings of it.

There are some vague references left by the Ancients themselves who seem to have
viewed it, amongst other things, as something only to be used when needed. A secret
that none most discover upon dire consequence. For this reason alone the Priesthood
created a role of Guardian so we may watch over it and learn all it reveals.

It is also recorded that the Pit was used to find outstanding leaders amongst them. The
candidates were led to it and then passed through into the universe. There is some
reference to something called a „Lintira‟ that was taken with them; we have yet to
discover what this is. Those that returned to their home were deemed to be
exceptional individuals, the strongest of fighters and the wisest of sages. The first of
these was Valen, as you are no doubt aware.

Since then we have continued this method. Since we no longer need as many talented
individuals as once was it is only used for the selection process of a new leader for the
nation. As before, we select the candidates. They are then taken to the Pit and given a
chance to opt out or to continue with the possibility of becoming a ruler. It is safe to
say that after witnessing the vastness of the void most select the former. Those that
continue cast themselves into the darkness. Only one will be seen again.

How they survive only the gods know. Some tell of being „rescued‟ by „crafts‟. Others
reveal nothing about their experience. Those that return are the ones that have
managed to navigate their way past countless worlds, seen innumerable wonders. Not
in your wildest dreams of fantasy could you even guess of the things that are out
there. However, it seems that the mind can only accept so much before it falls into
disbelief. It seems that those who do return forget much of what they have seen. The
mind just blocks it out. Occasionally a memory will resurface in a lifetime. It is
thought that those who do remember do not discuss their secrets.

When they reappear from the trip then they may do so anywhere in the world. That is
why we rely on yourselves to remain vigilant during such times, in their weakened
state they need to be protected and escorted back to their borders as soon as possible.
Once they have recovered from the shock they prove themselves worthy of the title.
Every leader knows more than everybody in this room put together. It appears that all
they have learnt and experienced has been absorbed by the subconscious. They have
superior reflexes, they instinctively know of the right thing to do. Do not doubt it,
even if it you best them once it is most likely due to them letting you.

There is also the case of this person becoming Ranger One. It shames me to say that
our order did some testing in our earlier days. We took those with the Ranger
bloodline and those without and thrust them into the Pit. It is with a heavy heart that I
tell you we did this a countless number of times. Not once did a child without the
Rangers blood return to us. It‟s safe to assume that every leader this nation has will
have to Ancients blood flowing through them.”

The robed figure fell into silence. His colleague continued with the report.
“I though that you may be interested in some small detail about Andrion the situation
around him. I appreciate most of you will already know it but hope that it will aid you
in some way.

Andrion completed the trial after the death of Ineseval. Of the twenty candidates
selected only twelve threw themselves into the Pit. Andrion was discovered in the
nation of Nianacio that is located in Armageddon. He was brought to us and we asked
him the usual questions. Unlike his predecessor Andrion seemed to remember some
small fragments of the event, although he kept the details to himself. When we asked
him for any advice to aid us he said, “Do not look into it for too long. When you stare
into the abyss, the abyss also stares back at you”.

During his two years in office so far he has gained the trust of the people. They look
to him for advice and they fear his wrath. He has managed to achieve the balance that
Ineseval could not. The mistakes that were made during his reign have been corrected
now. In such a short term the only other person that has been reported to have the
same impact was Valen herself.

The news of Andrion voluntarily casting himself into the pit worries us greatly. This
has never been done in recent times. No records exist of this happening so we are
unsure on what the result will be. What we suspect is that the repeated journey will
awaken some of the dormant memories. He will understand more on a conscious level
than he did do previously. Whether this is a good or a bad thing we do not know. It is
also believed that he will need time to come to terms with his new knowledge and
power. He will return, the journey should be easier the second time around, but we
ask you not to seek him out.”

The two Guardians stood side by side, their heads bowed to indicate that they had
finished. A path of light led them to the door and faded behind them as they travelled
along it. Once they had left the room remained in darkness.

-----

He‟d been talking for hours. The demented soul had been raging on about his plans
for ages. It was impossible for her to tell for how long, there was no natural light to
even tell if it was night or day.
He had finally stopped his speech and she had been moved into some form of cell.
The walls were natural rock; the door was some form or metal. There was no bed,
nothing except a dim light imbedded in the ceiling.

The man is mad. All he says will bring ruin to us. How can he talk of war knowing
that never in our history have we started a conflict? We have always fought when
needed but never unless there is no other way. We sit and we watch. He wants to
bring pain and suffering upon us but cannot see it.
There has to be a way out. The council need to know, it must be stopped before it truly
begins.

But there was no way out except for the door. She sighed and found that the adhesive
had worn off. After a lengthy search on her hands and knees a pool of water was
discovered in one of the corners. Thanking whatever deity was watching over her she
drank.

-----

The gathering had been going on for some time and Marcus was beginning to get both
bored and worried. Every second he sat in the chamber was another second that
Katrenn was in danger. The others were busy going back and forth between
themselves exchanging ideas and trying to sort out what to do. With a wave all of the
lights extinguished except his own.

“I have a solution and you will abide by it.
There is nothing we can do for Andrion except to wait and see when he returns. We
know that time has little meaning in the Pit. He could be in there for what seems, to
him, like countless years yet he may appear back within days or weeks. We will keep
a watch, but not as we usually do. Find five of us to perform the task.

Mazik, I agree that the people should not be left without a leader. I also believe that
they should not be told, as the region should have no knowledge of the event. Since I
am the next in the chain of command I will take responsibility for the nation. I will,
however, leave its running in your collective hands.

We shall leave the military to clean up the city and start the process of rebuilding. We
will do this ourselves without outside assistance. Our borders will remain open so that
others do get become suspicious. I do have some reservations about letting the
military handling this matter but do not have any real reason as to why. If I learn
anything then I will tell you.

Have all those still within the nation to tend to those affected by the events. Reassure
them with our presence and do not give them a reason to know fear. I will look into
the matter and have already found a place to start. If I need assistance then I will call
for it.

I thank you all for attending.”

The members left the room in darkness. Once outside Marcus threw the ceremonial
robe in a corner and headed for the door.

“Vadenn, do you tire of our company so soon? I was hoping we could exchange tales
over a drink.”

“Barenn, I would love to old friend but there is a pressing matter I must attend to
which may be connected to the event in the capital. I‟ve already wasted two days
sitting in that room listening to you all when I could be bringing these people to
justice.
I‟ll see you around.”

As Marcus left Barenn decided that he‟d have the drink after all. It was only then he
wondered where Katrenn had been.
Marcus was walking. He wasn‟t sure where to but that wouldn‟t be for long.

They wouldn’t have taken her far. Wherever it is it would have to be secluded.
Anybody who saw them would have known she wasn’t going willingly; if she was in
sight.
Where?

There was little information to go on and the answer refused to present itself. There
was only one thing that he could do. Travel to Tuzan‟oore and try to track them.

-----

Morgan sat carving wood. It was difficult to say when he had first discovered the
talent but he was glad of it. Especially when he was as bored as he was at the moment.
Franklin had contacted him a day ago telling him that he was to gather a few of the
loyal men and come to this spot. They were waiting for a man to pass who was
supposed to be both important and dangerous. The only other thing he had been told
was that failure wasn‟t an option.

They‟d been waiting for over two days now and Morgan was beginning to wonder if
the Old Man had made a mistake. There were other things that he could be attending
to instead, things that needed to be done for The Plan. Still, if Franklin said jump you
did it and worried about how far it was to the ground afterwards.

The dozen people he could count on were hidden from view. The crossroads were
being watched by every one of them. If the stranger passed then each path would be
blocked and his capture ensured. Nothing was going to be left to chance if he was
important enough to produce this sort of disruption to the scheme.

A birdcall sounded. Nothing to cause concern to the normal traveller except bird that
this particular sound belonged to wasn‟t native to this region of the nation. In fact it
was only found on the other side. Morgan tossed the wood to one side and waited. His
patience was soon rewarded as a minute or two later a figure approached along the
path. It was him.

Marcus would have usually noticed the strange birdcall. The silence of any other
sound would also have warned him to the impending danger. Many other, smaller,
things would also have caused some form of concern. As it was there was only one
thing on his mind: Katrenn. For some reason he just couldn‟t get her out of his head.
She had grown on him to the stage where her absence was sorely noticed. So he was
caught completely unawares when his hidden assailants emerged around him.

“Now gentlemen, I‟m sure we can come to some sort of understanding.”

Four of Morgan‟s men made a dash towards him. Reflexes took over and the
Denn‟bok was drawn. The first attacker was knocked to one side as Marcus turned
and delivered a skull-crushing blow to the second. The other two decided that a
simultaneous attack from the front and back would be a much wiser plan of action.
Vadenn retracted his weapon and waited until the men were close enough. Hold the
weapon at chest height he pressed the button. The weapon expanded again ahead and
behind him. Both rib cages were shattered, sending shards of bone into their lungs.

Morgan was watching all of this with great interest. So this is what the fuss was about.
Trust these lackeys not to have the common sense they were born with. He loaded his
weapon, took aim and fired. The dart struck Marcus in the neck and injected its
payload of tranquillisers. He walked down and stood in front of the defender.

“I think you should have a little bit of a sleep. You‟ll need the rest for whatever we
have in store for you.”

His vision blurred and legs started to buckle.

That’ll teach me to fa ..

Morgan knew he had to work quickly; rumours were that his kind built up a kind of
resistance to most of the commonly used tranqs. Still, at least they weren‟t immune.
His remaining men bound the prisoner and they started back to base.

-----

He had been trying to get her to talk for days. At first it had just been a polite enquiry.
He asked the questions and had expected her to answer. So when she had refused to
tell him anything but her name he had become a little frustrated. Things had remained
quite civil until yesterday, if there was such a thing as time in this place. Instead of the
usual punches there had been torture.

It had been agonising. She didn‟t know how long she had endured it. Her head had
been restrained so that only the top of the cave had been visible. They had cut her,
violated her body. At the time it seemed like a dream. Her mind disassociated itself
with the body. She had heard a distant voice screaming, pleading for it to stop. A
voice of reason had told her that all she had to do to make it stop was answer some
questions. Katrenn had felt sorry for the woman on the table. Why didn‟t she just do
what was asked of her? So it came as a great relief as she began talking. Eventually
the questioner must have grown bored or decided that his captive needed rest.

She was back in her cell. The cuts were still bleeding but would heal in time, scars
would remain but thankfully they would be out of sight. Katrenn had cleaned them the
best she could with what little water remained. It seemed that she was using more than
was finding its way to add to the existing pool. Broken, tired and frightened she
curled up and began to cry.

-----

His eyes remained closed. He could tell that the terrain was rough and stony. The air
was cooler than it should have been for the amount of sun that was beating down on
his face. They had tied him to a pole and were carrying him as a hunter would carry
large game. They were still unaware of his consciousness, which was exactly how
Marcus wanted it. Since his captors thought that they were free from prying eyes and
ears they were speaking freely. The chatter was cryptic, simply because what they
talked about was unknown to the Ranger. Some sort of plan being carried out by
somebody named Morgan; obviously their leader. It seemed like a small, elite,
section of the military was involved in implementing this person orders.

After a while they slowed and passed from the face of the sun. The air was cold,
damp. Voices echoed through what must have been tunnels. They came to a halt
numerous times once they had entered, security checks by the sounds of it. The path
continued on a slow decline in a wide circle. They eventually came to a stop a number
of minutes later. One of the voices mentioned about going speaking to the boss and
that the prisoner should be thrown into a cell. Unceremoniously his bonds were cut.
Still playing dead Marcus allowed himself to be carried and flung into a room. When
the door slammed shut he got to his feet, opened his eyes and waited for them to
adjust to his new environment.

Some form of cavern. It looked natural except for the where the door had been placed.
There was evidence of water erosion that meant water was nearby; probably from a
stream on the surface. Which, along with everything else he‟d experienced, led to the
belief that they were in one of the mountains.

Wow. That’s really narrowed it down then. So all I know is that I’m not in any of the
fields. At least I have one up over Morgan. I know his name, some useless information
that could be used in bluffing and that I must be needed alive. Now to escape.

His cell was pretty much the same as Katrenns. No escape, little water and nothing
else. And his light wasn‟t working; not that he knew there was supposed to be one.
With nothing else to do Marcus sat down and began to tend to a few cuts he‟d
managed to acquire along the way.

-----

“Well done. Even I must congratulate you on your feat. I don‟t expect you to know
why I‟m offering you praise but to bask in it none the less. Wallow in its warm glow.
But not for too long. I have been informed by a trusted source that beneficial actions
have taken place and that we will be able to strike soon. Prepare the men, ready the
dogs of war. We shall reclaim our heritage and the world shall cower beneath us!”

There was little time to wonder why Franklin was in such a good mood. A dossier
was passed across to him, that he accepted out of the madmans hand, and then his
superior left.

If the pay weren’t so good I’d leave now. No doubt I’ll get a little bonus for pleasing
the fool. Why does he think that everybody shares his little delusion? Half of the men
do it for the cash, some out of fear and the rest because they have families to feed. At
least he doesn’t mess around.

Pouring himself a large coffee, Morgan sat ad began reading the new orders, ignoring
the screams coming from the next room.

-----
The light that exploded through the doorway was quickly eclipsed by a figure being
thrown into his cell. The exit was swiftly locked again with the words „Maybe
comparing notes will help you‟. There was a glow coming from the fixed light; they
must have done it whilst he was sleeping.

His new companion was in a crumpled heap where they had been thrown in.
Cautiously Marcus approached the body, ready to move out of the way and defend
himself if needed. He‟d seen this trick before. Send in another „prisoner‟ to get along
with and hopefully they‟d gain some information from you. Of course they never
were captives but the captors. As he grew closer there was something familiar about
the breathing. He crouched down next to the form.

“Who are you?”

The head lifted. Their eyes made contact. The woman in front of him was trying to
speak but no sound came. Even in the dim light and through the blood-matted hair he
recognised her.

“Katrenn.. Oh God, what have I done?”

He attended to her wounds as best he could. By the end his cloak was made into
bandages, what little water was around had been used and infection had set into a
couple of the deeper incisions. Katrenn had found her voice and had begun explaining
what had happened. The conversation would occasionally stop as she flinched or,
once or twice, screamed in pain.

“I‟m sorry. I don‟t know what I told him. It didn‟t seem like it was me, it was
somebody else lying there telling him those things. Sorry…”

“Don‟t cry and don‟t say sorry. You haven‟t been shown how to cope with such
things. You should never have needed to know how to cope. The things you said you
did so because of fear, you did well. There are others I know who would have talked
before harm was inflicted upon them.
Rest. Rest and as soon as we find a way out we‟ll make them pay.”

She tried to get comfy on the cold floor, seeking a position in which her abrasions
would cause her the least pain.

“I scared. Please hold me.”

He did as she asked and looked down upon her. If they could do that to her then
they‟d eventually kill him or break him, depending on their ability.

“I‟m scared too. Tell me who did this to you.”

“It was the one who caught me. Tell me you‟ll still be here in the morning.”

Morgan! The bastard! As soon as I see him he’s going to know what pain really is.

“Like I‟m going to be going anywhere soon.”
-----

Newsflash!

A new radical organisation has announced its existence today. They call themselves
‘The True Order Of The Ancients’ and have simultaneously contacted all
broadcasting and media groups as well as the government as of nine this morning.

Believed to be a military faction, TTOTA announced that it wants Andrion to step
down from office and let it rule the nation in his place. They claim to be in a
position to bring back the empire that the Ancients once had, to abolish disease and
famine.

Already hundreds of thousands of citizens are flocking to their cause, signing up at
the many town headquarters that have appeared overnight. Many who were
interviewed said it was about time somebody began thinking about expansion and
that we, as a nation, have sat in the back seat for long enough; now it’s our turn to
drive.

Andrion himself has not made any comment on the situation. In fact, he has not
been seen in public for some time now. This had led to rumours of military action
against TTOTA to the extreme view that our beloved leader has been assassinated
by the cult.

Government officials have denied all these claims and made a statement concerning
the new group.

‘We ask the people not to believe what these people say. They are seeking to cause
instability into the nation so that outside sources can take advantage of our
weakened state.

They make outrageous claims that they cannot show any proof of. As with all
groups, they have a right to be heard and heard they will be. However, they have
also threatened us with violent action if we do not comply with their desires.

We shall no strike first. But if we are forced to defend ourselves we will eradicate
any and all trace of this TTOTA and whomever are a part of it.”

We will, as always, keep you posted.

This newsflash has been brought to you by Mandys Memorial Media Messengers.

-----

It was hot. Hot and bright.
And sandy.

The naked man picked a direction and started walking. He‟d always liked walking. Or
at least he thought he had.
It was a long way home.

-----

Days must have passed. Katrenn was reckoning in weeks but Marcus, who was more
used to this sort of situation than his student, knew better. She had been healing well,
far faster than anticipated. The infection was still there but with frequent bathing and
cleaning it was being kept under control, which was far different than being
contained. It had become apparent that she was having difficulty coming to terms with
the atrocities carried out on her. Many times in her sleep she had called out before
waking in a sweat. He had tried to comfort her and she had responded to a certain
degree.

They had spent a day searching for cracks or some form of fault in the walls. Marcus
didn‟t expect to find any but the mind had to be kept busy. It was every prisoners duty
to escape and he was going to make sure he followed his. Katrenn had actually smiled
on that day for the first time since they had been reunited. He missed that smile so
much.

He didn‟t know why he had accepted her as his student. Pity? Need for
companionship? Ever since his family had died he‟s been seeking someone to relate
to. His job caused enough problems without the need of a social life to complicate
things as well. It was a no-win situation but knowing it didn‟t ease the yearning for
another.

“Marcus, what‟s going to happen?”

He snapped out of his thoughts and went over to the student.

“Death more than likely. We‟ve both looked for some way to escape and look what‟s
been found. No way out. No gap in their security. They‟ll keep us as long as they need
us and then we‟ll be disposed of.
It‟s what we do with our prisoners. It makes sense.”

“I don‟t want to.”

“It‟s inevitable. Death is not to be feared, it‟s simply the final stage of life. We all get
give a finite period to make our impact. Everything anybody ever does has been
predetermined and it all has its reason. They may not be good reasons, they may not
be big events and they may not be a part of anything earth shattering but it all fits into
the big scheme of things that only the universe itself can appreciate. Who are we to
question it?”

“That‟s not what I meant. I don‟t to die …. as I am.
I look at you and I see somebody who has lived, who has experienced all they wish
and has tales to tell. Then I consider myself, who knows nothing of the world.”

“I have tales. They sound like those you would tell children to make them sleep.
Stories of heroes and villains, good and evil, some so dark they would scare you every
time you closed your eyes and others that would wash away all your doubts of human
nature. They are a burden and if telling them could rid me of their presence then I
would be talking for the rest of my life. However it would not and I would not inflict
them upon others.

As for experience, all I can tell you is to think back. Treasure each and every one you
have and those that may still be yet to come. They make us what we are and without
them we are nothing.”

Katrenn moved and sat closer to him.

“Then I wish to experience and to treasure one last thing with you.”

She leaned over and kissed him. At first Marcus was shocked but quickly gave into
what he had been yearning for weeks. The quickly undressed each other, letting their
lips part only when necessary. Using their discarded clothing to soften the floor they
entwined themselves together exploring each other‟s bodies for the first time.
The exploration was brief and their love making hurried as they both took greedily
what they wanted from the other. After a short respite they repeated the act, this time
taking time to indulge themselves.

-----

Something was happening outside. A commotion had awoken him and now all that
was present was silence accompanied by the almost inaudible breathing of the figure
still undisturbed on the pile of fabrics. From the shouting he had managed to hear
through the walls there seemed to be some sort of security problem. That had been
around ten minutes ago, since then his head had been considering the previous nights
events. Maybe he shouldn‟t have taken advantage of her, that he should have just
pushed her away. Then again if, as he suspected, they were coming to the end of their
usefulness it couldn‟t do any harm to find pleasure for one last time.

A crash came from outside and footsteps echoed through the cavernous hallway.
Without hesitation Marcus pressed himself against the wall to one side of the door.
Whatever was going on and no matter what fate intended for him there was no way he
was going without a fight. Stood as he was Katrenns naked form lay across the room
in front of him. There was a brief flash of remorse of using her as bait, but since she
was asleep and if things went badly then it would be to late for either of them to worry
about it. Survival was all that mattered.

The steps stopped outside the door. With a clunk the door was unlocked and slowly
moved outwards. Silence.

“Vadenn, if you don‟t step out where I can see you then I‟ll just pack and leave.”

With complete disbelief Marcus stood out from his place. The man in front of him
was leaning on a staff, cuts were fresh on his face as well as slashes through what he
was wearing. The arm not attached to the weapon was in a hurriedly made sling.
Obviously out of breath he stood there waiting for some unknown event to transpire.
“Barenn!! What? How did you find us? And why?”

“I know how you teach. When I realised that your student was not accompanying you
at the council then that could only mean there was something wrong.

How did I find you? Do not think that you are so perfect as not to leave a trail. If you
know what to look for, as well as realise what isn‟t there that should be it becomes as
clear as spring water.

Why? You know as well as I do there are those both within and without the council
who would take delight in seeing you either thrown from your position or destroyed
completely. They are short sighted enough to think they could do a better job. Know
that you have friends. More than you know.”

-----

He‟d managed to steal some clothes from a tramp. At least he was relatively warm.
The desert had come to an end and civilisation had begun. It was cold.
He had a rough notion of where he was heading. The dreams had told him. He‟d
dreamt a lot lately of things that seemed to have happened a lifetime ago.
But dreams were only dreams.

He was closer now, but still a long way to go.

-----

Barenn finished explaining about the media announcement.

“Our intelligence indicates that they have a sizable portion of the military backing
them up. They could strike at the major towns and cities in a matter of minutes.”

Katrenn had got dressed and was listening to the conversation from the door. Barenn
thought that he‟d managed to take care of most of the guards but there was no use in
taking risks. If there were more it was best not to be caught napping. Marcus was
trying to come up with some form of plan.

“So the priesthood weren‟t involved? Just used as a cover to blind us. We should have
known that sooner.

If the military are out there we can‟t let it escalate into a full-blown conflict. We
wouldn‟t stand a chance and there‟s no way we could let outsiders get involved in the
matter; the people would lose all faith in us. If we eliminate those at the top then the
rest should crumble with little resistance. Did you run into anybody with the name of
Morgan on your incursion? He‟s the one we‟re after. If he falls then so will the rest.”

“I didn‟t really stop and ask for names Vadenn. They really weren‟t too happy about
me knocking on the door and insisting on a cup of tea. If you say he‟s the top guy
around here then I suspect he‟d be protected and there was certainly nobody who
looked like they were a commander on my way down.”
Katrenn turned and faced them.

“Can‟t we leave this place? Please? I don‟t want to be here any longer than I have to.”

Barenn knew something had happened in this place, no doubt something unpleasant,
but he also knew that now was not the time to discuss it. Whatever her reasons she
had one thing right. They could not afford to stay in this place any longer. There
would have bee some that had managed to escape or raise the alarm. I was only a
matter of time before they regrouped and got reinforcements.

As if to prove the point the metal door where he‟d come from burst open and half a
dozen soldiers poured through it.

“Vadenn, take her and get out of here! Here, I believe this is yours.”

Marcus accepted his weapon and started to jog down the passageway.

“Are you sure you‟ll be alright?”

Barenn let out a laugh.

“You know me, never could say no to a good fight! Be careful and I‟ll meet up with
you in the chambers.”

Without pausing to look back he led his student out from the complex, revenge the
only thing on his mind.

-----

Marcus and Katrenn had reached the council hall with only the slightest of delays. It
had now been a number of days since they had escaped from their captivity and there
was still no news from their rescuer. There had also been a great many lengthily
discussions about what they had shared in the cell. Both were either unwilling to
reveal their true feelings to the other. She had recovered from her physical injuries
and good progress was being made with her mental state.

There was a knock at her door. When she opened it the hallway outside was in
complete darkness. There was no sign of the person who had disturbed her. Just as the
door was about to be swung shut again a light flashed on. As she looked to her left a
passage of light faded away and turned a corner, to her right was a wall of darkness.
She knew what to do. Slowly, nervously she made her way down the lit passageway.

Eventually the path led to a double door with attendants on either side. Without a
word the opened it and watched as she wandered into the blackness. After a few steps
into the room the doors were closed and the darkness swallowed her. Long seconds
passed before a strong bright spotlight blinked into existence in front of her. Unsure
of what to do she went and stood in it.

No sooner had she done so then she found herself surrounded by similar pools of
light, each on occupied by a hooded robed figure. Seven of them in total; the council.
Suitably awe struck Katrenn bowed to each of the elders in turn. As she completed the
action a voice spoke out.

“Thank you, we shall not be observing the traditional rituals during this meeting.
You are here to simply answer some questions and account for your actions.”

Somebody else spoke.

“We have heard of your capture and your behaviour as a prisoner. The reason you are
here is to justify your betrayal and breaking your oath. We shall then judge you and
decided on a suitable punishment. Do you understand so far?”

She nodded.

“Very well, we understand that during your imprisonment you revealed secrets and
details of the Anla‟Shok that should not have been told. Is this correct?”

“Yes. I told all that I know.”

There was a slight murmur from a couple of those gathered.

“Then you admit that you broke your oath and have endangered not only our
organisation but the very nation itself. We keep ourselves secret for a reason; the
people should not know what our purpose is but only that we are here to protect them.
You realise what the penalty is for breaking oath do you not?”

Katrenn swallowed hard. This was happening quicker than she had thought. Where
was the chance to defend herself? What they said was true, but it wasn‟t fair.

“I am aware. The penalty it to become an Ver‟Kaff, as written in the ancient law.”

A third voice joined in.

“You are correct. Before we pass sentence is there anything that you wish to say?”

“I am but human. I broke under torture and I cannot change that. I realise I failed my
training and my fellow members. I ask for forgiveness.”

The voice continued.

“The law is there to be followed. We shall now vote. We have heard the admission of
failure and of breaking oath. The punishment is outcast. Those on favour.”

The lights surrounding her went out. One by one, moving clockwise they started to
light once more. Green, green, red, green, green, green … the final one remained
dark. Minutes passed without incident. Minutes turned into an hour. After two had
passed the first voice she heard spoke once more.

“There is a vote to be cast. You may not like it and it will ot make any difference to
the girls fate but you MUST vote.”
The light came on. It was not green, nor was it red. It remained white.

“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS … THIS REFUSAL!?!”

The figure bathed in white remained silent. Then the hood was thrown back. Katrenn
fell to her knees in shock. It couldn‟t be.

Vadenn stepped forward.

“She shall not be punished. We, the council, have failed her before. We shall not
punish her for our own mistakes. The training she received was barely enough to
make her more effective than some of the military‟s own units. Do you think they
would have fared any better?”

He walked across to his student and picked her up.

“I believe we are all agreed that there will be no further action on this. You will
answer to me if anything should happen.”

Four of the lights abruptly extinguished, their owners clearly showing the discontent
at the proceedings.

“She shall remain in my protection until she has passed the trial.”

He took Katrenn out through the door and set her down.

“You must have questions. They must wait. I have to go back in there and try to
pacify those whom I have just insulted. Plus we have a much greater threat to the
nation at the moment than you.

I‟ll call in on you later.”

He turned and went back into the council chamber.

-----

Morgan was not in a good mood. Not only had Franklin taken most of his anger out
on him (and he had the wounds to prove it) but also he was now having to dash
around the nation making last minute adjustments to deployment and attack details.
There still hadn‟t been any news that Andrion was willing to step down from power, it
would have been a shock if he had. According to Franklin the military investigation
forces had been employed to find out all they could about the situation. Of course
Franklin himself controlled them so they were currently looking into outside sources.
An amusing result had been the suggestion that Houde was responsible.

What remained of the plan was simple. As soon as the deadline passed, in about 30
hours according to his watch, the four groups would assault their targets. They would
fall and Andrion, with little of worth left to his nation, would relinquish control and
all would be well. There would be no resistance of any significance to hinder them.
Sure there would be the loyalist troops and a few citizens who would take up arms to
protect their lands but nothing that couldn‟t be ignored or crushed.

Even though the changes were annoying everything seemed to be going according to
plan. Nothing could prevent the inevitable victory.

-----

The dreams had been increasing in frequency and intensity. Memories were flooding
back. They terrified him. Horrors swept over him when his eyes closed. Euphoria
would either prelude or follow it.

He knew his name. He knew his purpose. Most of all, he knew the danger.

He would not sit back and let it happen.

-----

Marcus sighed under the weight that had been placed upon him. They knew about the
four task forces that were waiting. They knew that they couldn‟t match them in
numbers. He hoped that their skill would make up for that. But even if they managed
to defeated the force that wouldn‟t solve the problem. The command had to be taken
out. Morgan was the target and the task had fallen upon Katrenn. That would be her
test, she had to find and defeat the person who held the whole thing together. Failure
would mean the destruction of the nature; success would mean its salvation. The
Rangers would be in place with 24 hours. Two hours after that the battle would
commence on his terms. Morgan, ideally, would have to be dead within 24 hours to
prove to the localised forces there was nothing worth fighting for.

Katrenn opened the door as soon as he had landed the first knock.

“Why didn‟t you tell me? You‟re a member of the council!?! Why didn‟t you banish
me?”

Marcus pushed his way past and sat on the nearest chair. Questions. He was hoping
that they would have ended when he‟d left the chambers.

“You think that we want the fact published? Our identities should never be known, or
spoke about. If you let slip who I am then I will personally end your life. I wouldn‟t
want to but it would be necessary. I‟ve been a member for a long time. As you saw,
not all approve of my position but they can do nothing about it, although many have
tried.

The reason I let you stay is simple. I cannot let my life slip by without you in it.”

There was silence.

Great, just gone and said completely the wrong thing. When will I learn; THINK
BEFORE YOU TALK.
“You can‟t live without me? Does that mean … you feel for me?”

“I feel for you Katrenn. As lovers feel for each other. I want to be with you. Since I
started training you I started becoming attached. I‟d like for us to try and make a
relationship work. I‟ll tell you want you need to know of me. I don‟t know what else
to tell you.”

“How about that you‟ll always be there for me?

I feel the same way Marcus; for a very long time. You‟re not perfect but who is? I‟m
willing to give this a go if you start telling me the truth. The councils business is for it
to know and nobody else.”

How can I tell her that her life is being measured in hours? The whole point in
sending her is so that she’ll fail and the council will get its way.

“I‟ll be with you for the rest of your life.
After you‟ve completed your full training then perhaps we can take this further but
I‟ve already wasted enough time as it is. There has been a task set for you. You are to
find and kill Morgan so that we may prevent the nation from falling. You are to do
this alone and there is no choice in the matter. Fail and we all die.”

The expression on her face said more than words. Without waiting to see what she
would do Vadenn turned and left. He had his own plans to implement.

-----

Franklin liked his bunker. It was laid out exactly how it should be. He knew that
somewhere above him forces were gathering and soon he would be restoring his
nation to its rightful place in the history books. Today would be a good day.

There had been the slight aggravation of his guests escaping but he‟d already got all
the information he needed out of the girl. She had been surprisingly resistant to his
methods, but not immune. They would need swatting at the earliest opportunity even
if they didn‟t know who he was.

The map was looking good. The four forces were exactly where they should be and
even Morgan hadn‟t managed to cock-up his simple instructions. Of course a good
general never put all his eggs in one basket, which was why he had another two
groups awaiting his personal command. Even if Morgan failed then his personal guard
would succeed in finishing the job.

A whistling noise filled the cavernous room.

Ah, good. A cup of tea is exactly what I need

While he was delivered a cup the coloured specks on his screen began to move.

And so it begins.
-----

She saw the command tent.
She saw the force surrounding it. A quick count gave a good estimate of around five
hundred.

Always enjoy a challenge.

As she lay there formulating some from of plan a figure approached from behind.

“Looks busy down there”

Startled she rolled over and brandished a dagger.

“Vadenn!?! Why? I thought you were needed elsewhere and aren‟t I supposed to
working alone?”

“I said I‟d be there for you. Looks like your going to need the hand as well.
I‟ve got somebody covering for me.”

“Thank you. Any ideas?”

Marcus looked over the ridge.

“Yeh, wait until they‟ve finished moving out and then go and take a look”

As they watched the force leave one thing was on both of their minds:

Why are they leaving this early?

-----

Home.

All of this was his, if he could keep it.

His recovery was complete. All of his memories had been restored; events previously
locked away were roaming free through his mind. All of them were ignored for now.
There was still one thing that needed to be done.

Step by painful step the weather beaten ruler made his way towards part of his fate.

Andrion was determined to eradicate the problem.

-----

Newsflash!

With only three hours left until the deadline reaches us there is still no word from
Andrion on the issue of TTOTA.
Reports have been confirmed that combined forces of over 2,500 are currently
marching toward key national locations. The military is insistent that the forces do
not belong to them and are scrambling to mobilise in case of hostile action.

Most of those marching to, what we can only speculate to be, war are citizens
turned rebels. They believe that our nation should stir from the centuries of relative
peace and contentment and reclaim lands, they say, rightfully belong to us.

In the major cities tension is rising and many are trying to flee the capitals in fear.
As yet there is no firm evidence that the group will instigate violent actions but the
question is being asked ‘What do the need these armed groups for then?’.

The government is remaining silent with the only communication claiming ‘It’s all
in hand’.

If he is listening this station, and The People, urge Andrion to come forth and solve
this in any way he can.

Thank You and good luck to you all.

This newsflash has been brought to you by Mandys Memorial Media Messengers.

-----

Across the nation Rangers were shadowing four groups of military deserters. Each
group of Rangers was outnumbered five to one but that didn‟t really bother them.
What was worrying them was what was going on. They weren‟t supposed to be
moving, they were supposed to be sitting around campfires boasting of what they
were about to do.

It had been agreed that until there was confirmation of Morgan‟s death then no action
would be take. Of course if they were getting dangerously close to their targets then
they‟d have to be stopped and at any cost.

Of course neither Vadenn nor Katrenn knew this. Vadenn had decided it would be a
wise move if he were to stay put while his companion went to carry out her task. Both
had agreed that they couldn‟t risk the chance that they may come back from what may
be a short warm up exercise before making the real move.

Vadenn was watching her slim figure crawl to the back of the tent.

Using cover well, not raising a profile, seems to be acting quietly and that outfit
really does hug the figure nicely. Just hope she can fight as well as she sneaks.

There were voices coming from inside. As she drew closer it became apparent that on
of them was coming through a speaker, the distortion was quite bad and made her
wonder if it was deliberate. She reached the green canvas and took a few seconds to
relax. The fact that Vadenn (My lover) was out there watching her every mood didn‟t
help calm her considerable nerves.
The conversation was quickly becoming a heated debate. As it intensified Katrenn
released her dagger from its sheath and started to dig herself a small hole underneath.
It was hastily done and by the time she had made a decent amount of progress the
voices had calmed once more. Still, at least she now had enough room to poke her
head through without disturbing the fabric too much.

The single person in the tent had their back to her and was still talking into the
speakerphone.

That isn’t him! This isn’t the person who crushed me. What’s going on?
Does it matter? I have a job to do, if he needs killing then who am I to argue with
them?

Slowly and deliberately she inched her way through the gap. In one fluid movement a
knife was drawn and thrown. The aiming was perfect, the flight straight.

Morgan moved.

Instead of imbedding itself in the back of his head it sliced an ear off and continued to
the other side and ripped its way out of the structure. In a howling rage Morgan
swung around holding a hand to the flowing wound.

“YOU BITCH!”

A split second later gunfire filled the air. She rolled and took cover behind what
looked like a very expensive computer system. The shells piled themselves into the
electronics as Morgan start walking casually forward, his injury forgotten and
replaced with a white-hot rage. Sparks flew and Katrenn knew that it wouldn‟t take
long for her protection to fail. Moving into a crouch she did the only thing she could
think of.

Launching herself into the air she somersaulted; collided with Morgan feet first,
knocking him to the ground, and then vaulted once more to the other side. This would
have worked perfectly if Morgan had stopped shooting once hit. Instead he managed
to send a projectile straight through Katrenns leg. When she landed it wasn‟t with the
grace that she‟d planned but rather in a crumpled heap. Knowing that if she didn‟t her
life would soon be over Katrenn quickly recovered and threw another knife.

Morgan wasn‟t quite as lucky this time. The blade cut deep into his wrist sending the
weapon he was holding flying backwards. Taking advantage of his weakened position
she advanced and drew a dagger from its sheath strapped to her leg. Morgan,
however, had been in worse situations before facing much worse odds. He made a
similar movement as the two bloody combatants faced each other.

Morgan was the first to move, making a slash towards her throat. As he did so
Katrenn went into a duck resulting in a slashed cheek. Her dagger made a sweep for
the belly but he managed to take a step back to evade as she bad a backwards roll
away from any attack.
“Who are you whore?”

There was a second of silence.

“I am a Ranger.
We walk in the dark places no other will enter;
We do not break away from combat;
We stand on the bridge and no one may pass;
We do not retreat whatever the reason;
We live for The One, We die for The One.”

“Oh, you‟re one of those self righteous do-gooders then. It will be a pleasure to end
your life.”

Catching Katrenn off guard he lunged forward and stuck the blade into her chest.
With her vision swimming and legs giving way she struck out wildly, only dimly
aware of hitting something. As the light faded she could make out a dark shape by the
entrance. Then the darkness took her.

Throughout all of this, neither had become aware that the sounds from the speaker
had silenced.

-----

Franklin was getting pissed off at his subordinate. He had just had to use threats to get
Morgan to recall the troops and now the little maggot wasn‟t answering him. There
seemed t be some commotion in the background. No doubt he was having one of his
fits and throwing some very expensive stuff around. He would have to have a chat
about that with him.

“Franklin, stop now.”

Enraged, he turned to see which one of the pieces of dirt he surrounded himself with
had dared talk to him. Then he would kill them. The view that greeted him made his
jaw drop. All of those around him that had been running the computers and doing
whatever menial tasks they did had stopped. More accurately, they were lying in
pools of their own blood. Only one other person was standing.

“Andrion, so glad you could make it to my little party. I take it you‟re here to stand
down and this little display is just to vent your frustration?”

As the ruler took step forward he cast aside the blood soaked sword. The clang of
metal on the stone floor echoed through the empty shelter. Franklin started stepping
back.

“No. You have betrayed me Franklin. When you failed your training you were let go.
You were a most promising student but your greed was overwhelming. Still, my
predecessor saw wisdom in allowing you to remain. He was right in doing so.
You have no idea of your destiny do you? No idea of what part you play in the history
of the nation? You dream of playing a large role, of leading the nation to a new age of
rediscovery and might. Your dream will come true, but not now and not as you
envisage it. Stop what you‟re doing and I will not harm you.”

Franklin couldn‟t contain his laughter.

“Why should I believe you? You simply want to stay in power yourself. You talk of
dreams and destiny but what do you know? You have power. I was going to be in
your shoes. The council agreed that once I had completed training I would rule. You
took that away from me! Instead I was thrown out, saved only because my tutor had
the power to overrule their decision.

I will never bow down to you, impostor! Your words cannot stop me!”

Franklin charged. As he reached his nemesis Andrion simply stepped to one side and
used Franklins own momentum to hurl him to the floor. As the traitor rose a blow was
delivered to his chest and sent him flying across to the other side of the large room
where he hit the wall.

“Morgan is dead. As I speak your main forces are being destroyed. I know about your
loyalists and they shall meet the same fate if you do not recall them.

Another would slay you now. But I know that you still have work to do. You do not
know it but your actions will bring peace to the nation and unite those who would
wish to destroy us. You are a fool Franklin. You are hereby stripped of your
command and citizenship. If we find you in our borders again you will be killed.

Remember what has been said. The nation depends on it.”

With a final blow the former military leader was rendered unconscious. Andrion left,
he had a nation to address.

-----

“.. lucky it wasn‟t an inch higher. You‟ll be in bed for a couple of weeks.”

It took an enormous effort to open her eyes to see Marcus looking down on her.

“Is this .. heaven?”

There was laughter.

“No my love, not in the sense you mean. You did well, Morgan is dead and reports
are coming in that the TTOTA members are either giving up or providing minimum
difficulty in eradicating them.

Your wound‟s dressed and doesn‟t look too bad. You‟ll survive. Fancy a walk?”
As he let her lead the way out he stooped and yanked a white hilted dagger from out
of Morgans back. Placing it back into its sheath he hurried to provide some support as
she stumbled.

-----

The main headlines again:

Andrion addresses the nation earlier today to reassure the nation he was alive and
well. He also brought news that an agreement had been reached with TTOTA and
that they posed no threat to the nation.

The Peoples Weapon has unexpectedly gone missing and is suspected to have died
on an undercover mission. There is no news yet on a possible successor but a
memorial service will be held next Wednesday for all to pay their respect to a
national figurehead.

Unofficial figures and rumours suggest that a record number of Rangers are
leaving the organisation and becoming outcasts, as always there is no response
from the government.

The pineapple harvest has been declared the best for thirty years with the weather
being the major contributing factor. Analysts are predicting that soon the nation
will be wealthy enough to provide a payout to all citizens as a thank you to all their
efforts.

The rebuilding of the capital is well underway with the completion date estimated to
be a year away. A national memorial day is yet to be set.

This report has been brought to you by Mandys Memorial Media Messengers.

-----

The incense filled the room as she sat in the centre of the circle. Katrenn sat in the
dark and found herself reflecting on the resent events.

The four military groups had disbanded with the news of Morgans death with only a
few loyal to the cause fighting to their death. After a bit of digging around personal
files it had been revealed that the Priesthood were never involved, unfortunately
details of how they were manipulated had been destroyed in the firefight. The nation
had accepted the explanation given by their leader and life had, for the most part,
returned to normal. The scar would be on the nation for some time but it would
eventually heal.

The council had agreed that she had fulfilled the task set for her and so had shown
that she was ready to become a full member of the Anla‟Shok. She would no longer
require a tutor or be accompanied on missions. She would be granted full access to
their resources and enter at a mid level rank. Before this though she had to complete
the Navak Chal ceremony that was about to begin.
A single chime pierced the silence an the room was dimly lit. The doors opened and
two hooded figures walked in and sat at either side of her. The doors silently closed
themselves.

“Katrenn, whose name means Curious Journeyer, you have proven yourself to the
council and are ready to become a member of our order. Before you are fully admitted
you must complete this ceremony.

Begin when you are ready.”

She took a deep breath.

“I am ready to join. I announce that I willingly give up my status as a citizen of
Bowker in order to be free of its restrictions. I am now an Anla‟Shok whom the law
places above all others. I renounce my ties to my family, my friends and all those who
would stand against us. I am nothing.”

The figure on her left stood as the first half of the task was completed. The person on
her right spoke.

“Well done child. Now you must complete the Navak Chal.”

“My secret, the one that remains untold until now.

When I was a child I only knew my mother. We were not poor but she never worked.
I was later told by here that her lover provided us with all we needed. Her lover was a
powerful man and a wealthy one. Naturally he had enemies but we did not know this.

One day we had a telephone call, since my mother was in the shower I answered. The
person on the other end asked to speak to my mothers‟ lover. Of course he wasn‟t
with us, it was a weekend and so there was no business trip he could be on so he was
spending time at home with his family. Not knowing any different I told the person
this.

My mother waited for three weeks and not once did her love visit during that time.
Then there was a report on the news. The owner of one of the largest computer
manufacturers had been killed along with all his family except his son. My mother
was devastated. She questioned me in her grief and I told her about the telephone call.
She threw me out of the house in her rage, shouting that I had killed my own father, I
never saw her again.

I give you this, it‟s the only photo I have of my father. I need it no more.”

The person sitting accepted the offered paper and stood. As he spoke it seemed like he
was ill or at least having trouble talking.

“Child, you are now one of us. Go and meditate on what you have learnt and prepare
for the future.”
The chime sounded again and Katrenn slowly walked out of the room. Once she had
left Barenn threw his hood back.

“What‟s wrong old friend?”

Vadenn revealed his face, tears streaming down his cheeks.

“The man in the photo. It is not just her father whom she has killed; it is mine. This is
a photograph of the person who created me and raised me. The same father I saw
tortured and murdered with my own eyes.

Now I am told that the one I love, the person I feel for is not only responsible for that
but is my sister too.”

Barenn sighed.

“You know that you cannot have a relationship with her if she is your sister. It is not
allowed under any circumstances. Keep is secret Marcus and look into it. Surely it is
too much of a coincidence to be true.”

“You speak of things you do not understand World Roamer. But I shall not give her
up over this.”

				
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