Liery wants to sing you the song of his people.

Run.

Art!

Generic Vanguard ACS concept art–complete with AoM’s two major weapon choices available during list building at this time!

The Mobile Combat Specialist profile relies on ranged fire from a stock Model 3-A Iron-Class sub-machine gun.

The Elite Combat Specialist opts to charge into battle, wielding a zinc-edged panabas–a large sword on a stick–to cut through shields are armor like butter.

Being honest, I just really like saying “panabas.”

Google it.

“Panabas.”

Liery laughs at me. Bladed weapons mean nothing to the master of the goop.

Tragedy

When last we left off, the Bloody Groves had begun to move once more, trailing after battlefields, armies, towns, and cities–where blood stained the ground, the transmuted wildlife soon followed.

Let’s take a minute to remember the time-frame and setting. This is 1851 in a world changed by the Starfall events. Phones don’t exist; communication relies on old fashioned couriers and unreliable mercury-based alchemical wells. Horses and a few trains were the order of the day–and the rare, highly experimental alchemical land-craft. The telegraph was only used in localized areas. Due to the wide-spread and random nature of the yearly starfalls, trying to maintain telegraph lines cross-country proved futile.

So sure, the Groves were a known issue, but the true scope of what was happening in what we’d call the Midwest was inconceivable to either side of the continuing conflict. Information could not travel quickly enough to be consistent, keeping the military commanders largely in the dark about the growing danger.

By late summer of 1850, mass-tragedy was all but inevitable.

Their backs to the Mississippi, the continental army stood their ground against the endless raids of First Nations warriors–whose shamans worked night and day to combat the horrors unleashed by the U.S. alchemists. With alchemy still a relatively new addition to human existence, the depths of depravity deployed by both sides knew no bounds, no limitations, nor understanding of the impending consequences.

The red-tinged Groves sprung up around the encampments almost over night–infesting the triage centers, the battlefields, the workshops and laboratories of anyone experimenting too wildly with azothite. The roots and teeth of the earth struck back against being tampered with so negligently.

After a decade of war, the guns were silenced in a matter of days–there was no one left to pull the triggers. The First Nations evacuated across the plains, the continental leaders literally ordered their troops to start swimming. Now, much of modern day Missouri still stands as a no man’s land. The alchemical opportunities abound–but who would be that foolish?

The Birth of the N.A.A.

That winter, a dialogue was finally opened between the two leaderships. The Groves seemed to cease their activity in the cold, as any plant-based lifeform would; so, it was deemed safe enough to risk the couriers–mostly.

At first, they could only agree on one thing: that the alchemical weapons used by both sides were to blame–well, they blamed each other’s recklessness, not their own. Solutions were offered and denied. A formal ceasefire was put forth and rejected multiple times.

No additional conflicts of any notable scale occurred that winter, but neither side was willing to give up the fight. The continental armies wanted revenge for their fallen–and the cries of manifest destiny still rang strongly through the citizenry. The First Nations rightly-held that the land was their’s to begin-with, and they maintained that they would continue to defend it to the end.

Come spring, the armies were on the move again–quickly followed by overgrowth from the Groves. The two sides took the fields in Colorado–the continental army having secretly moved the main body of its forces through upper Canada throughout the winter. With the tainted animals of the Groves approaching from the south, everyone prepared for what they assumed would be the final chapter in the war.

History is a funny thing; it’s mutable, ever changing–much like human nature and alchemy itself. The actual events are quickly lost in story, exaggerations, flawed-recountings, and the imaginations of humankind the world over. Truth becomes subjective; fact becomes myth.

As the story goes, the Groves invaded the battlefield, as they had done time and time again. With both sides unwilling to relent, the massacre continued for days, spreading across modern-day Colorado. The more blood was spilled, the more the Groves flourished, preying on the dying and the weak with impunity. Then, on the morning of the sixth day, the trees, plants, and mutated animals just stopped. The fighting ended as the armies mutually rejoiced. Peace spread, weapons were abandoned, cats and dogs living together, blah blah, a peace treaty was signed and dancing was involved. A nice little fairy tale.

While factually accurate–something did happen on the sixth day to halt the hungry tendrils of root and claw–few people actually witnessed what was required to right a mistake of humanity’s own making. Fewer still lived to recount the truth–not that they got the chance. The peoples of the newly born N.A.A. had survived an apocalypse of their own making and were content to leave well-enough alone as they learned to live with their new brothers and sisters.

As for the heroes that brought about the end of the war and forever changed the Groves themselves, well, that’s a story for another time.

Wrapping-up

I hope you enjoyed today’s fluff! Next week, we’ll talk about the political structures of the N.A.A. and briefly touch on how the settles on the other side of the mountains are doing right about now.

Today’s short story introduces the third member of the Cloak’s Squad 1–and our last named character for all 12 Squad 1 characters! Woo! We’ll start with Squad 2 soon.

Don’t make deals with trees. Enjoy!

The Show

Written by Amanda Vernon

“Forget the fight. Win with a show,” came the murmur from across the room. It seemed his outfit was loud enough to catch everyone’s attention, even if his voice might have been missed. A slow grin appeared as expectant eyes focused on him. “I have ideas if no one else does. No?”

“Perhaps a discussion of your proposal before you begin, Farrah,” his captain interjected. The Aidlean had both sets of arms crossed, though it was something of a long-suffering smile on Silvalinus’s lips.

Shouldn’t there always be a show?

A show could improve even the most dire of circumstances, and he knew it could bring down the potential death toll of impending battles. Today, they would finally hear him.

In the brief fall of silence among the gathered New Carthaginian committee, Farrah pushed from the wall and leapt upon the table they encircled. His arms spread, showing off the iridescent quality of every article of clothing hanging from him loosely. “Distraction, friends! The heart of every good trick, and properly done, could save thousands.”

“Lieutenant Saygh, I do not see what a show has to do with the Cloak’s combat strategy.” The staunch nay-sayer of his work and New Carthage’s magistrate stayed seated, struggling to keep maps and wells of ink across the table and out from under Farrah’s boots.

Farrah’s eyebrows jumped, the slow smile returning to his lips. “Certainly—”

“Saygh, you are a performer,” the magistrate interrupted. “Leave this to those of us who understand combat.”

A chair screeched back along the floor. The room silenced in the presence of the towering Aidlean now standing as he preferred not to do off ship. “Consider it, magistrate,” Silvalinus said, “His strategies, though unorthodox, have worked. More could benefit from his innovations.”

“Captain,” Farrah murmured, inclining his head, before he swept out his arms. “It does take imagination, magistrate, but we are New Carthage!” In the wake of the severe frowns, Farrah decided it was time to relive his days upon a stage before adoring fans…and show them a man could be more than his mask.

He moved with a flourish down the table, commanding the attention first of one committee member and then the next. “Tell me! What is it we believe in?”

“…Trade?” came one tentative answer.

“Freedom!”

“All this and more,” Farrah approved. “But it is unification. We stand together. We call others to us, welcome them to sanctuary. We are…” He raised both arms and called forth an answer from the crowd. “New Carthage! So let us entertain…” he lingered on the word with singular pleasure while his voice retreated to the soft murmur, “…the idea of distraction before violence.”

He allowed a hush once more, and then from one pocket, he retrieved a small mine. Fit perfectly into his palm, it engaged with a click while watching eyes widened in alarm. Cries of “Are you mad?” went ignored. A second mine pulled from the other pocket, he triggered it and then flicked both wrists out, sending the miniature weapons spinning until they landed at the base of each wall.

The committee always met at the center of the Tower of Brysa, New Carthage’s crown jewel and the pinnacle of its intergalactic trade. Farrah could understand the terrified scrambling of the committee beneath the table, even as some hesitated, afraid to miss the trick.

But while they huddled—all but his captain, who offered a grin and a tired shake of his head at his lieutenant’s antics—a small pop echoed against the mosaic of the walls. Color exploded out from the two mines. It spun on a whirlwind, an iridescent cloud that filtered through the entire hall.

“Lieutenant Saygh!”

Farrah hopped down from the table, stretching out an arm and helping committee members back to their feet, while many began to laugh and wonder over why he didn’t go back to performing at Sufetes Hall. Since last they’d torn down the banners of his final show, there had been a lack of the magicked art form within the city.

“This is a solemn place to be respected. It is the lifeblood of our great city!” the magistrate blathered on, brushing the colorful dust from his shirt like it was a stain on his fine reputation.

“Of course,” Farrah relented, inclining his head to the magistrate. “Though I hope you will consider my point. My mines can be manufactured to do more than maim, and given the funding, I believe they would serve our mission beyond my own team. I need very little when compared to the demands of alchemical development.”

The magistrate cleared his throat and took his seat with the dignity of a bird with ruffled feathers. “Lieutenant Saygh, we will consider your request, but out of respect, we must be clear, the Cloak is dependent upon alchemy as every other mercenary company is. As every planet in the galaxy is.” He nodded to the other members of the committee, while Silvalinus looked to Farrah. “It’s a matter of practicality. Combat is not a show. It is real.

A soft hush followed as the performer took his seat at the table. Silvalinus spoke when they all stilled, “Then let us consider what we hope our reality becomes.”

The remnants of Farrah’s show glittered across the table, brushed away so the committee could view the next proposal: more alchemical weapons.

The stage had changed but little else.

Leave a comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: