Description: Behind closed doors within Castle Illyria, two leaders speak in private to shape the future of the newly conquered land and how their respective organizations move forward from here. Concessions, compromises, and risks abound as Commander Leo Whitefang makes a cautious deal with the devil.
It was too good to be true. The ancient texts were proven cprrect. There was indeed a castle hidden in the remote stretch of Europe, concealed by magical veils from the eyes of the world all these years.
And now... the magestic castle was taken. The creatures of the faewylde that had surged into the land to obstruct the mortal intrusion were defeated. The combined efforts of NOL and Sacred Order forces, augmented as they were by even third party mercenaries and independents, had overcome the trials of the unearthly creatures from the Unsealie Courts. Even the great dragon, awoken from time immortal to put a final end to the blight of humanity on the planet was felled by the brave warriors from both sides of the Joint Operations campaign into the land.
Now the castle was occupied by Librarium soldiers and Sacred Order forces alike. With no more mutual enemies to focus their power against, already questions were beginning to percolate among the troops of both sides - what happens now? It had been easy to direct all their energy toward the cause of cleansing the fae monsters, banshees, and undead horrors that stalked the land. But with those enemies gone, an anxious tension was starting to build.
There was much of the castle to explore, to be sure, and every room and corridor needed to be scouted out to verify that the hostile keepers of the ancient edifice were truly cleaned out. Living quarters, grand entrance halls, a great throne room, barracks, storage cellars... the scale of chambers to be inspected and declared safe was extensive.
There were also a great number of rooms for hosting groups, be it for dining, diplomatic meetings, or war councils. One such chamber was located higher in the structure - a large room with tapestries from the past covering the walls and one side opening out onto a balcony that overlooked much of the castle below.
It is there the Imperator Librarius waits. She had not been seen in the land of Illyria since the start of the operation. None of the Generals of NOL's Central Command took to the field for this, leaving it to the Colonels and Majors to lead the troops. In fact, the Imperator herself had never been seen by anyone outside of the Central Command center in Switzerland. Even foreign dignitaries were required to travel to her rather than the other way around.
Through the layers of regal robes conceal her frame to some degree, she is hardly an imposing figure at just a little over five feet tall and with narrow shoulders that suggest a slight stature. The elevated ponytail formed of her long, flowing violet hair adds a bit of height to the young looking woman, and the golden looping circlet that seems to hover about her brow gives her a royal bearing augmented by the white, gold, and crimson empress robes covering her body. A black cloak draped her attire is augmented with bands of what appear to be gold about her shoulders, and a purple headdress loops around her shoulders and low across her back.
The wind rushing along the balcony is enough to send the cloak billowing behind her back and her cascading long, white sleeves flapping to the side as she looks somberly over the damaged courtyard where the dragon had first landed.
A message by way of a small note within a white envelope would have been delivered by a sharp looking Lance Corporal of the NOL to Leo Whitefang, requesting his presence at the elevated meeting room.
Quietly, the Imperator turns away from the view, from the sun slipping low into the horizon, to glide back into the room itself. The wooden table and chairs have been immaculately preserved by whatever spellwork protected this magic fortress, such that rather than a room of rotted debris there is instead a meeting room fit for royalty. She choses to stand, however, waiting where she can observe the heavy wooden double doors that serve as the primary means of entrance.
"What now--?" is Commander Whitefang's first reaction upon being met by the Lance Corporal.
His next reaction, upon looking over the note would have been an expression of curiosity and quiet concern and wariness. Now, he finds himself just outside of the chamber, but not opening the doors just yet as he ponders matters. For the space of a heartbeat two he considers sending a summons - a message - something to Ky... To watch for him and wait for him.
But he changes his mind. Ky neither watches nor waits. He goes and 'Does' and it's possible that a critical moment is awaiting them which Ky's black and white view of matters would simply unravel into something that cannot be salvaged.
"Alright then.." he rumbles to himself and then gathering his composure and his thoughts once again and placing both hands on the doors to open them.
The flash of a memory from a recent encounter enters his mind just before he pushes into the room.
"And one thing I learned about the NOL a long time ago was that a real easy way to tell when they're lyin' is when you see their mouths movin'." - Jubei
Grunting, Leo pushes and enters and begins to stride forward.
"As requested, I have come.." he begins, stating the obvious, only to pause and blink as he actually takes full sight of the regal robed figure awaiting him. He's seen her before, as has the world, through the broadcasts but to be in her presence is something else all together. She's..rather small.
"---Commander Leo Whitefang, at your service." He manages to grunt out before committing any faux pas commentary on her slightness.
The empress of the Librarium stands facing Commander Whitefang as he enters, filling the room with his own significant presence. Her hands are folded together in front of her, hidden beneath her draping white sleeves, and she regards Leo Whitefang with dispassionate, crimson eyes that seem unnatural for more reasons than simply their rare color.
The space is open between the two, with a great fireplace currently lacking of fire to his left, and the long wooden table that must have hosted dinners and meetings alike once upon a time to his right. This deep in the room, the wind from the balcony is barely more than a gentle stirring of the air - enough to cause stray stands of her lengthy hair to sway slightly and little more.
Her face is lowered slightly, causing her eyes to shift upward, somehow creating the impression that she's looking down on one in spite being towered over. It's clear that he sees her face to face, however, that the broadcasts have always been framed in such a way as to mislead the world as to the NOL supreme commander's stature, with smaller than usual furniture and props, and avoiding ever showing her standing alongside individuals of average or greater height.
It seems the NOL doesn't even need to move their mouth in order to lie.
Though her expression seems deadpan neutral, her voice is far from dead. Instead, there is an almost musical aloofness to her tone - one that has been heard in her public broadcasts as well yet seems to persist even at conversational volumes.
"The war is over," the woman known only by her title within the NOL declares, the words 'war' and 'over' receiving additional emphasis over the rest of her words.
"Congratulations. Your men and women fought valiantly."
She continues in her almost sing-song voice, eyes closing for a moment.
"But now, it is time to discuss terms."
To look upon the leader of the Librarium is to sense something more than just her eyes feels off. It may take a moment for the detail to be noticed, that nagging inconsistency that doesn't feel natural, until it might finally be realized - the way her shadow stretches along the floor toward the balcony and the golden sunset beyond rather than away from it is just one of a number of things that feel wrong about the umimposing looking figure standing before him.
Leo firmly closes the doors to the chamber, feeling them solidly set into place, firmly separating them from the outside hallway and any who might be inclined to dare to draw near to this conversation.
He steps forward at this point, heavy booted foot falls impacting solidly on the ground and creating a firm echo that vibrates through the chamber from the force of his considerable weight. Something...something about her pushes against his very spirit, his very sense of self confidence and personal awareness of himself..and as such he reacts by drawing himself further up physically leaning back slightly and hooding his gaze in a sub conscious attempt to add more weight to his presence despite the fact he's nearly two feet taller then her. But physical presence alone won't make the difference here.
"Terms." He repeats. "You say this as if there is a need to negotiate about anything, Imperator. I request that you elaborate. Precisely -what- are you interested in, regarding these 'terms' and 'negotiations'."
"He pauses to indicate the chamber, "Illyria is..taken and protected. The magic that threatened Eurasia and the rest of the world is dormant once again. The invaders have been pushed back. I'd say that..fits the basic charters of both of our organizations. We're both sworn to deal with dangerous arcane and spiritual threats to the world..." his voice trails off at that to let her answer and interject.
The still figure of the Imperator neither withdraws nor advances as powerfully built knight moves further into the room, closing the doors to allow the discourse to proceed in private. There is a sway of cloth about her as the doors are shut and the gentle zephyr that moved through the room while they were open is stifled now that there is no longer access for it to the halls beyond.
She is quiet as he speaks, that somber expression lingering as she listens and watches without any outward expression. Only when his voice trails does the NOL leader reply, "Indeed, but the vanquished have left the mighty prize in which we now stand. Perhaps if circumstances were different, a method by which such a fortress could be... shared by our organizations might be explored."
She falls quiet, the right corner of her mouth tilting up just ever so slightly, the first hint of emotion in the violet-haired woman's expression since he set eyes on her.
"You need not be coy with me, Commander." Her tone has not shifted, voice still possessing that tonal lilt.
"You are a man renown for his directness... and his pragmatism. I know all about your enterprise into our Maximum Security Detention Center, of the smaller yet no less significant prize you reappropriated back into your fold... I do not know where you have concealed the abominations you released, Commander Whitefang, but I have no doubt that you intend to sequester them within your flock. A curious development for the Order in light of its... history. But your co-Commander lacks discretion and is possessed by a fondness for the weapon you invaded to steal. I do not understand what compels him, but I can admire the power of his struggle."
The barest hint of that grim smile fades away, a breath taken and released over a prolonged pause in her reply.
"And thus you see why we find ourselves where we are now." Her right hand unclasps to move out to her side, arm fully concealed within the folds of her sleeve in the sweeping gesture.
"Forced to discuss the unpleasant matter of consequences."
"Consequences for 'whom' precisely." Responds Leo. If she wanted direct, she's got it now.
"Come now, Imperator. You speak of pragmatism and perhaps you and I are similar in this regard." That old Leo Whitefang rears his head now, so provoked by the Imperator into doing so and he folds his arms and leans against a large pillar that creaks under us prodigious weight,
"The 'white lie' the Sacred Order told the UN regarding the command Gear pales in comparison to the intentions of the NOL with the Gears they had sequestered..intentions that are at present not public knowledge. Your 'authority' in this matter is tenuous at best and the NOL has nothing but the greed of some of its own leadership to blame for that. You were wise to beat us to the punch by making that press conference about the assault. I admit, that puts us on a different footing then had we gone public in the aftermath and were not distracted by events here..but we both know that things are not so cut and dry when it concerns these 'abominations' as you call them."
Leo's voice then becomes tight and full of steel as he leans forward, "And -none- of this would have happened had your people not engaged in subterfuge and a mission in Rome, damaging it, and taking matters into your own hands without simply coming directly to us to talk, in the first place."
There is indeed a certain bravado within Leo's talk as he eyes her with a steely gaze..but then he backs down deliberately and slightly as he acknowledges, "The NOL has..the support of its member nations and a superior military. The Order is but a paramilitary strike force with Interpol backing...but...I don't know that any sort of continued struggle on these issues would do both groups any good..no?"
She remains perfectly still, right arm folding back so that her hands can once more clasp beneath her sleeves, looking up at Leo Whitefang, face still tilted slightly forward, lending a certain brooding edge to her disposition while she listens.
Her face otherwise remains a mask, showing no sign of impatience, lack of interest, or smug bemusement in the response provided by the Sacred Order Commander. The only flicker of change he might notice as he speaks is at the mention of damage done to Rome, no doubt in reference to the explosions that took place around the time Dizzy was was tricked into surrendering herself. It's only there for a moment - a blink echoing a hint of surprise - then gone a moment later. Easy to miss.
"It is my understanding that you are in possession of a recording that would prove inconvenient to the Librarium's interests," the Imperator replies. "And damning for one Colonel Relius Clover."
Her eyes shift to the side as if considering for a moment, though Leo would have no doubt that the intuitive figure before him had planned out every element of this exchange long before the short note was delivered to him.
"Yet there must be a price paid for the intrusion. For the damage, in property and reputation, for the lives lost." Her focus shifts back to Leo then, lips pressed into a tight, thin line, her pale face now featuring a smile entirely lacking in warmth.
"As you say, we need not be at odds on this matter. Commander Ky Kiske may not have been the one to kill those soldiers in securing the Command Gear's escape, but he was responsible that it was free to unleash its power in a lethal way."
Her right hand unfolds once more so that her right arm can sweep out, the volume of her voice raised slightly as she talks a slight bit more quickly, almost cajoling as she continues. "Come now. Let the gravity of this offense fall solely on his shoulders. Deliver him to me and all will be forgiven. I think that is reasonable." Is this why she sought audience with Leo alone? Is this why his co-Commander was not included? The Imperator pauses for only a heartbeat before continuing, "And if that is not enough, I will also deliver you the head of Colonel Relius Clover. A fair exchange, I do believe." Her smile is wider then, eyes nearly closed with unsettling mirth in light of the morbid subject at hand.
"Out of the question."
Well that didn't' take long. Directness again. Though perhaps to direct.
"You mean to charge us for the lives of soldiers who were in danger as a direct result of decisions -your- people made and do so in the nearly the same breath that you speak to me about 'consequences'?"
Leo's eyes narrow now, an almost incredulous look on his face before his expression becomes more neutral as he continues, "I will not go behind the back of my fellow commander and sacrifice him to satisfy your personal need to cover for the wicked intentions that were in the heart of -your- Colonel, Imperator."
That smile about Colonel Clover did not go missed either. Is she looking for an excuse to get rid of both? Trying to wash her hands of Relius while also appeasing a sense of an eye for an eye.
"...What you're asking..is not realistic.." he says after a pause, "I will not sacrifice Commander Kiske for a false sense of having false-sins washed away and I do not -want- the head of Relius. And even if I did, would you even really hand him over? He's at the very heart of your operations. I've heard from members of your leaderships regarding him. Intrigue upon intrigue. Would you even be able to control him and deliver him or simply get caught up in another of his schemes?"
Her smile fades at the immediate answer given, the crimson-eyed Imperator's expression returning to the same brooding glowering from before as she looks up at Leo Whitefang. Once more, her hands clasp back together beneath her sleeves. She is quiet as he speaks and her mien betrays no hint as to whether she expected Leo to be difficult in this matter or not. Was it just a stab in the dark? Did she really expect him to betray his comrade in arms? Or was she testing his reactions, to better understand the Sacred Order knight's hard lines.
She takes in a breath then exhales with a soft 'Hmnnn...', offering nothing else by way of reply for a long moment as the Commander makes his stance on this issue clear and follows it up with an interesting question of his own. Just how much control does the NOL leader have to hand over the Mad Architect on a whim? If circumstances are so tenuous among the NOL leadership, it is likely Relius Clover, demented genius as he may be, would have likely anticipated this very possibility ahead of time!
"One man does not prop up the Librarium. Colonel Relius Clover's service has been exemplary but he is expendable." Perhaps she would have handed the madman over, or, as the feline samurai warned, this could just be another one of the NOL mouthpiece's lies.
"Very well." She lifts her right arm, her sleeve slipping down to her wrist as she waves her hand back and forth slightly as if to dismiss the first offer out of hand.
"But I believe you are not without blood on your hands either. Our investigators found the broken chain of the Lieutenant dispatched to... invite you in for questioning."
Her crimson eyes blink once, no hint of being bothered at the euphemism of her word choice. "The evidence may be circumstantial, but I do wonder how many individuals in this front possessed the power to shatter Second Lieutenant Clio St. Jeanne's magically reinforced weapon like that. It only seems logical to pin her demise on you, Commander Whitefang. Or do you deny you broke her weapon with your sword?"
The Imperator's head tilts to the side slightly, none of the bemusement from before present now.
"I demand a reasonable weregild to be paid to the families of the Detention Center guards and to Second Lieutenant Clio St. Jeanne's living relative. I will not relent on this matter."
Ooooh. Ouch. Yes, well.
"I.." Leo hadn't considered this. She got him with a curve ball there. If he relents and reveals additional information then suddenly Clio will have a bounty on her head. If he goes along with this, he's a murderer so far as her family is concerned...
Leo holds the Imperator's gaze for a long time while working his mouth slightly, tense and stressed. The Order is no nation with a bottomless pit of finances either. At least not yet.
And what's she's demanding isn't ignoble either.
"I am surprised Imperator. The actions and attitudes of your subordinates would lead one to believe that you would not be so personally invested in the well being of the families of those who have fallen in battle."
The comment is to give him a little more time to think but really there's only one answer he can give, "Though I am sure the NOL has provisions in place to attend to those who fall in service of their charter..I have some personal stake in this. As you've requested..I will see to it that our accounts are paid in full on such matters."
The NOL leader appears particularly focused as Leo ruminates on her demand. Is she waiting to see if he slips up? If he divulges information that either corroborate or contradicts her accusation? In the end, his answer does neither and whatever it is the crimson-eyed woman was hoping to glean from his words, she will have to do without.
As he speaks of her personal investment in the lives of the NOL soldiers, the Imperator's focus loses several degrees of its intensity. "The Librarium is a large organization. There are perhaps a precious few among our number that become... rather zealous in their efforts to protect mankind. At times, this can lead to mistaken impressions."
Her shoulders rise then fall with another quiet breath, "But yes, those who dedicate their lives to furthering our just cause must know that they and theirs will be taken care of, no matter their fate. It is one small thing among many that gives meaning to their lives, that helps them be at peace with the struggle that awaits them..."
He agrees to the weregild in the end and the Imperator nods her head slightly. "Now then. I am not unreasonable. What do you want, Commander Leo Whitefang? What is it that a leader of the Sacred Order's cause desires out of all these trials and tribulations?"
"My aught against the NOL is not against your basic charter, Imperator, but rather the behavior of some of your leaders and some of your viewpoints on the value of life and death if the entity in question happens to not be human. We can wrestle all night long about existential aspects of it all but the fact remains that we have evidence of Gears expressing free will and a desire to not live a life as weaponry but as individuals who want to pursue life to its fullest and what is the hand we've shown most of them? Imprisonment, kidnapping, assertations that they are abominations and not human."
Leo pinches his nose in thought, "What do you -expect- will happen? That they'll simply stop developing self awareness and fall in line? Or do we get ready to just make a slave race and be done with it?"
The Great Knight falls quiet at this and then stares at the Imperator, seeking to make eye contact - for better or for worse..
"The Sacred Order has no wish to 'war' with the NOL but we will defend a persons right to choose and exert free will. I want you to release any claim and bounty on the Command Gear and the other freed Gears and leave them to their own devices to be dealt with based on their future actions and not the source of their origins. Similarly, any aggressions towards Sacred Order members, including efforts to recruit from the Order and disband it - which I have evidence to suggest that this was part of the NOl's standing orders during the mission - will cease. We will wipe the slate clean and begin a new. What rights or wrongs we do to each other or the world going forward...we will deal with accordingly.."
Leo speaks of the Gears and their expressions of traits that would cause many to reconsider their viewpoint on the man-made constructs and the Imperator stares up at him in silence. As before, she doesn't press him in his thoughts, or seem impatient to hurry him along.
Other than the occasional blink, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of reactions from the small but regal empress of the NOL. She meets his eyes without reservation as he fixes his own stare and begins to cut to the point of what she had asked of him.
"Such insolent requests," she replies, but there is no invective to her voice. "To ask so much." But perhaps she expected as much from the Lion of the Sacred Order.
"It is not my mind you need change concerning such matters, but that of the entire world, Commander Leo Whitefang. The Novus Orbis Librarium affords full protection and rights to the darkstalkers that join our ranks pursuant to the treaties we have in effect with participating nations. Outside of our ranks, or in any nation we have no such treaty with, they are in possession of no rights under any existing regime. But our commission to root out the Gears unleashed by the rogue United Nations elements comes from the nations we serve. I will not rescind the bounties on any Gears presently unaccounted for. Our pursuit of them is in accordance with the international agreements we have made."
Her eyes slide closed for a moment of seemingly further contemplation. "There is one way forward for you to obtain what it is you desire." she finally speaks, eyes opening half-lidded. "Take this castle and the lands surrounding it." Her right hand sweeps out to gesture toward the open balcony at the other end of the chamber, her head turning to follow the motion to stare off to the sun just now beginning to caress the tips of distant mountain tops.
"Sever your ties with the Vatican and become an independent nation and the NOL will withdraw. The Librarium does not operate on sovereign territory with which it has no treaty. Gears that gather here under your banner will not be pursued. Indeed, it is your prerogative to take in anyone with a Librarium bounty should you so desire." She looks back toward Leo, her right arm dropping back to the front of her to clasp with her left beneath her sleeves, her bemused smile from earlier returning though it doesn't quite reach her eyes this time. "Though I must warn you that not every target on the NOL boards is so deserving of sanctuary as the Gears you are so protective of."
Her advice is sound, considering the intricate international laws in play, but as Jubei warned, Whitefang needs to keep his guard up on any 'truth' coming from the Librarium leader.. The Imperator's smile fades, the somber mask that replaces it showing no evidence any emotion at all had ever existed.
"The Librarium is neutral in international conflicts and will not be a part of any sanctions against you from the world powers, those within your borders will not be our concern."
All this she offers without any overt sign of deception, which should certainly be cause for suspicion.
"And we will not interfere with or recruit from within your Order's ranks."
She pauses for a moment before continuing, "But there must be a price paid for all this consideration, and it is necessary for the Librarium to keep up appearances in light of the... aggressive action you will have to take in securing this land for the Order. In exchange for my generous offer, I must instate a bounty for unspecified crimes against one of the Sacred Order leaders. Failure to do so will make the Librarium seem complicit in your future actions, which I cannot allow." Her eyes lock on Leo's face then and she leans forward slightly in spite her much smaller stature. Her shadow has stretched long into the path of the setting sun and seems to expand over the wall behind her back with a shade of black that seems exceptionally dark.
"In recognition your boldness in treating with me, Commander Leo Whitefang, I will allow you to designate whether it is you or Commander Ky Kiske who will bear the burden of a Novus Orbis Librarium bounty..."
To his credit, Leo manages to avoid making any sort of overt reaction or expression as The Imperator speaks. He maintains his poker face aside from the slightest of tightening of his lips as they press together into a thin line of whitening flesh as he bites down on them.
He listens for untruths and half truths..but she reveals nothing he does not already know and had not already presumed in regards to the international situation and the delicate state of world affairs.
"Rather difficult to demonstrate ones desire to live in peace with the rest of the world when there's an official sanctioned group gunning for you with stated intention of using you for their own purposes.." he does growl out after she finishes but that seems to be the extent of his animosity on the matter there.
He takes half a moment to survey the meeting room while placing his large hands behind his back and walking a few steps towards the unlit fireplace. "You give up much.." he acknowledges aloud, "The NOL, no doubt, would like an opportunity to further investigate what magic lies lost, buried here in Illyria.."
Again his voice fades and then he states, "A bounty on one of the commanders you say.." Ky would be all over that. It's just like him. Self sacrificing. The good of the many. The poster boy for the Sacred Order in all ways. Noble, powerful..even religious, though such a requirement is not necessary for all members. Devoted to God and the Holy work. He wouldn't hesitate to put himself in harms way for the good of the order..
"I will take the bounty on my shoulders then." grunts the massive lion-man. Ky Kiske is needed just as he is. Pure, unsullied and squeaky clean in the public eye. Not with a bounty on his head. "But I also reserve the right to work to prove to the world that the bounty is unwarranted and that I am no threat. I can hardly do my duty as a leader of the Sacred Order if people refuse to work with me due to being a criminal nor will others just sit to allow me to be besmirched knowing the truth. If I get taken down in the mean time then so be it."
"Indeed," the violet-haired woman replies concerning the Catch 22 that is the state of the Gears, but her response carries no expression of sympathy to it. "I do." she then agrees regarding giving up Illyria and its buried secrets. At that, she closes her eyes, and her voice softened slightly.
She remains that way, eyes closed, leaving the Commander to muse through the choice the NOL leader has laid upon him, the toll she demands in exchange for the offer of a chance at holding onto sovereign territory.
It's only when he answers that those crimson eyes open and the Imperator looks up once more, hands still clasped in front of her. Once more, her expression reveals no sign of satisfaction nor surprise at the answer given and she offers merely a slight nod of her head to verify that she has processed his decision in the slightest.
She doesn't interrupt as he continues to speak, expressly reserving right to struggle to prove the bounty is falsely placed, that he is a man who deserves no such sanction.
"Your request is reasonable," comes her voice, that musical lilt there as ever. "It is admirable to fight against the circumstances that would cage you. I find your drive interesting, Commander Leo Whitefang."
Of course, he must recognize by now, that for each new condition, a counter condition will be levied by the empress of the Librarium.
"In exchange, I request the opportunity to dispatch an emissary of my choosing from within NOL to be welcome in your land. I guarantee that they will not be a high ranking member of the Librarium, nor will they be here to sit in Sacred Order matters. I merely wish to remain apprised of matters developing within a land we will not operate in. Think of them as... an ambassador between our organizations, a potential conduit of communication should the need arise."
The Imperator pauses then, eyes lowering as if in thought, before she looks back up into the face of the Sacred Order commander.
"If all these terms are agreeable to you, Commander Leo Whitefang, then your word to abide by them is sufficient for me. In turn, I will offer my own oath to uphold the matters of which we spoke this day..."
"I don't' know what the future if Illyria holds but I if The NOL and the Sacred Order are not in direct conflict, I see no issue with members of the NOL visiting or otherwise dropping in to review what they observe.." notes Leo. He hesitates, though...and then:
"But before I am comfortable conceding these points, I am curious and must ask..what -do- you plan to do with Relius Clover. You offered me his head earlier. What if I had of agreed then and there?"
Leo arcs an eyebrow and inclines his head slightly, "You are asking for concessions from me and for me to place myself in harms way to make -you- look good but the intentions of Relius Clover, the harm he was doing to Dizzy ..and perhaps the larger issue of just -what- the NOL would have done had we never intervened to begin with..remains unanswered...and I expect the NOl -to- answer for that as you continue to try and spread your influence from nation to nation...."
His arms fold slightly, fully aware he may have thrown a wrench into everything that has just been discussed but to sweep this under the rug would fly against everything sacrificed so far.
"Well?" he rumbles, "What will you do?"
There is a blink as he declares there is one last thing underpinning his concessions. But otherwise, there is no reaction from the stone faced woman as Leo brings up the fate of the Mad Architect.
At his first question, she answers without hesitation, however. "If you had agreed, we would have traded one life for another. An equivalent exchange. Commander Ky Kiske is a man of great value to the future of the Sacred Order, just as Colonel Relius Clover is one of the Librarium's greatest minds. All matters would have been put to rest with that."
She is quiet then as he speaks of the atrocities unanswered for, lips forming a slight frown. There is otherwise no sign of tension or concern in her demeanor as she listens to context of the pending, important question from the Sacred Order leader.
For a moment following the final inquiry, her eyes lower, the faint frown persisting as the young looking leader of the Novus Orbis Librarium seems to consider.
Eventually, however, she looks up, eyes settling on his.
The word is uttered with a tone of finality. But she continues.
"Or so it will seem. The research of Colonel Relius Clover into Gears will be henceforth limited to matters concerning their safe destruction in line with our commission with our treaty nations. His other... academic pursuits concerning them are of no value."
Her frown fades slowly, her expression brooding as she continues, "If you wish to save Gears from the fate in store for them, change the mind of the world in which both you and they must live. Otherwise, the fate of Colonel Relius Clover is in your hands. If you release the recording you have, he will appear to be guilty of researching Gear reproduction, which is a crime in every civilized land. He will be excised from the NOL and left to face the punishment for his crimes in the courts."
The room chills. It could almost be dismissed as the last vestiges of the sun setting behind distant mountains were it not so sudden. The darkness of all the shadows of the meeting chamber deepens to inky black and the crimson eyes of the Imperator seem to glimmer with an inner light all their own.
"But the Novus Orbis Librarium would survive the scandal surrounding a single Colonel. And on that day, we will be at war. So should that be your course, Commander Leo Whitefang, I commend you to chose your moment wisely."
The chill receeds slightly, the shadows retreating, losing a few degrees of their pitch blackness as the Imperator of the NOL continues.
"I hope to bear witness to the mighty struggle for you and yours that would follow such a choice."
She closes her eyes for a moment and when they open again, the ruby glow is gone. "My offer still stands." she states with a quiet calm.
"Perhaps." says Leo. He senses the chill..he sees..or perhaps feels that soft ruby glow..
But Leo did not obtain his rank in the Sacred Order on word of mouth alone and conviction can be a strong shield against otherworldly intimidation.
"Yes, Imperator...but even The NOL needs a Sword of Damocles. As you mentioned earlier..sucn a release to the public would be an inconvience to the NOL and in this day and age of competing powers and global forces jostling for dominance..an inconviennce can lead to the toppling of even the mightiest of forces. I will consider your warning.." That he hopes she reads between the lines to consider his..goes unsaid.
He just looks at her and then nods his head.
"I will accept your offer then. Consider it agreed upon."
"I accept your word," the Imperator replies, a faint smile visible only at the corners of her lips. "And extend my oath in return to abide by the terms we discussed this day."
There is a nod of her head, a brief closing of her eyes. There would be no ink on any paper, no handshake to seal the deal, simply the declared promises between two leaders with what would appear to be mutual interest in seeing the agreement hold for as long as possible.
The empress turns toward the balcony then, the room growing dim now by way of the natural reduction of lingering sunlight, the golden orange orb just now barely peaking over the distant peaks. "It is quite the marvel, this castle of yours. I am pleased to have seen it for myself."
When she moves toward the opening, it is with smooth, silent steps, giving her almost an appearance of gliding rather than walking, her feet fully concealed by the lengthy robes that cover her body.
"The NOL will begin withdrawing in the morning. Be prepared... the nations of this continent may not take kindly to you claiming your own sovereign territory. But they will not be swift to act, uncertain as to the capabilities of this castle and unsure of how to proceed into a land that has just recently been beset by the creatures from another realm. So there is a period of time for you to entrench yourselves properly."
She stops once she has stepped out onto the open platform guarded only by the waist height stone railing. Leaning her head back, the Imperator Librarius gazes up into the night sky, her back toward the Sacred Order leader.
"I imagine we will eventually meet again, Commander Leo Whitefang. I look forward to that day."
"You as well, Imperator.." responds Leo, watching stoically as she turns her back to him and steps back onto the outside balcony. He nods his head and then turns, stalking heavily for the exit of the room and leaving it with a flourish of his great coat.
Once back in the main hallway he firmly shuts the door and then slowly releases a tension in his body that he hadn't realized he was keeping that whole time. Like a cat in a state of perpetual alarm and just not quite noticing it until he was actually able to focus on himself for the moment.
"...No rush though." Leo grumbles under his breath as he starts to make his way down the hallway. It's going to take him awhile to come up with an entry in his personal dictionary for this one.
Log created on 19:18:27 06/09/2018 by Izanami, and last modified on 02:42:37 06/10/2018.