Tepet Ejava, the Roseblack, has been granted access to the Graven Leviathan, a subsidiary manse of black jade located on the outskirts of Solaria. Thirteen journeys there to meet with her. The Solar journeys through the oddly dark manse towards the central office where she has taken residence. He turns a corner, leaving behind corridors filled with bas reliefs of strange, disturbing creatures from the ocean's depths. As he enters the office, Ejava stands, her back to the door, in front of a massive table. Upon it is a huge piece of parchment. A beautifully inked map of Creation fills its surface. Phantom images of mountains, forests -- and clashing soldiers -- rise out of it in many locations, and move as the Wood aspect directs them to with her hand. She seems to be considering various means of attack.
Thirteen "Absurd," Thirteen says offhandedly as he enters the room. "An attack on your right flank during a rainstorm will cost you three scales, opening the way for an assault on your command group. I am assured that you are attempting humor."
Tepet Ejava turns to face the visitor. "I sometimes find it useful to examine even flawed strategies in case they hold some grain of promise. Who are you?"
Thirteen "My name is Thirteen Blooming Flowers. I am the Supreme Commander of the Army of the Sunlands. I have come to examine my subordinates."
Thirteen "Thus far I have been disappointed."
Tepet Ejava "That is an interesting assertion," she says, her face never becoming less harsh. "I came here with the understanding that I would lead these men."
Thirteen "You will command the men. I will command you.
Thirteen "As long as you prove an adept commander, of course."
Tepet Ejava raises an eyebrow quizzically.
Tepet Ejava "Thus far, your demands do not reflect well upon you. You expect that I will serve as a skilled subordinate when you have given me no reason to trust /your/ abilities?"
Thirteen "I expect you to serve faithfully because defiance will result in your death."
Thirteen "Even a creature with your laughable tactical acumen should be able to decide the appropriate actions in such a situation."
Tepet Ejava raises that eyebrow a little higher.
Thirteen "Let us be frank, Ejava. You cannot imagine that we would allow you to govern our army without oversight. We are aware of your capabilities, after all."
Thirteen "We will apply your strengths, and pass over your weaknesses whenever possible. You can expect no better of any master."
Tepet Ejava "Indeed not. I remain concerned, however. I came here to lead this army. I know that I do so at the behest and the whim of Anathema, because I have no other choice." She examines Thirteen carefully as she says this.
Tepet Ejava "But I must be free to act. If you will oversee me as Zahara Zhan discussed with me, we have no quarrel. If you will micromanage my behavior in the field, my strengths -- which you surely know well -- will be wasted."
Tepet Ejava pauses for a moment.
Tepet Ejava "Have you stood in command of men in the field, Thirteen Blooming Flowers?"
Thirteen "I have led many an army against the Bone Dagger Kings."
Thirteen "What, precisely, did Zahara discuss with you?"
Tepet Ejava "An agreement of necessity. I would lead the Sunland's armies into battle, along with my own, to battle against the swarm of blasphemous Exalts who threaten to engulf Creation. I would be given command of all the Sunlands' forces. With oversight." She adds the last part for Thirteen's benefit.
Tepet Ejava "She has kept her end of the bargain admirably, treating my wounded and sick men and providing us with exceptional barracks and supplies."
Thirteen "It will be pleasing to you to learn that very little will change, in that case."
Thirteen "You will report directly to me henceforth. I intend to furnish you with a communications device, so that we can be in contact at all times."
Thirteen "I entrust you with the responsibility to lead our men in the field, with the duties such a position entails."
Tepet Ejava nods, clearly waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Thirteen "I relieve you, here and now, of any strategic duties. Instead, you will immediately begin preparing an drilling your men in the following maneuvers and formations."
Thirteen calmly horks up a few pieces of parchment.
Thirteen discourses, stepping to the map and running his hand rapidly over it as he moves his other hand over the parchment. "These techniques will require a level of communication and organization that you will not be able to fully achieve with the resouces you possess."
Thirteen "Nevertheless, I expect you and your men to master them within a month." Tiny figures dance in a violent pas de deux under his fingers.
Tepet Ejava "What new resources will I be provided to assist in this process?"
Thirteen "Primarily, you will be provided with further communications devices for all your officers, that you may direct them in person, wherever you may be. This will obviate the need for couriers, signal flags, and other such outmoded methods of coordination."
Tepet Ejava nods. "Then we will master these techniques within three weeks."
Thirteen "In two months, I will transfer all the God-Bloods in your army to the barbarian cadre for use in my small-unit project. Do not invest irreplaceable duties in them."
Thirteen "Your primary task at the moment is defensive. I expect a six-hour response time from first contact to any incursion on Sunlands soil."
Thirteen "There is another member of the Circle who will need to meet with you regarding training procedures. His name is Lucent Copper Haze. Expect his arrival."
Tepet Ejava nods again. "I can drill the Vermillion Legion effectively for only so many hours in the day. I wish to begin working with the Sunlands militia directly to begin integrating our forces."
Tepet Ejava "Is Lucent Copper Haze responsible for the warriors camped nearer to the Cascade?"
Thirteen snorts. "I had assumed that had already taken place. Please do so. I grant you command over them henceforth, with the exception of the barbarian cadre."
Tepet Ejava nods. "Tell him where I may be found."
Tepet Ejava "...I understand that there is also a detachment of automata soldiers held by the Sunlands."
Thirteen "Currently they are detailed as security for the Manse. What interests you in them?"
Tepet Ejava "Once this war moves onto the offense, they may prove useful. I wish to know their operation and field capabilities so that I might make use of them, when necessary."
Thirteen "And how do you suggest we defend the Manse in their absence? We require troops with absolute loyalty, incapacity for espionage, and obviated needs for food and sleep."
Tepet Ejava "I would expect to make use of them only for a tactical purpose held to be more important than home security, or if the Cascade should become... compromised. And, of course, not without your exrpress approval." This comment is not /precisely/ sarcastic....
Thirteen "I will procure this information."
Thirteen "Why are you called the Roseblack?"
Tepet Ejava stops to consider for a moment.
Thirteen "Perhaps I will rephrase the question."
Thirteen "Why do you style yourself the Roseblack?"
Tepet Ejava "There is a bush, in Lord's Crossing, planted in celebration of my birth, the first child of the highest line of House Tepet."
Tepet Ejava "When it first blossomed, it flowered in brilliant white."
Tepet Ejava "When I was 17, my uncle, Tepet Mosatu, plotted a coup with other members of my house, to strike in secret against the throne of the Realm, for their own gain."
Tepet Ejava "I caught wind of this matter and led other students at the academy against them, in a last-ditch attempt to halt their plan."
Tepet Ejava "Though many of those who followed me perished, we prevailed. I dueled my uncle upon the edge of the island and slew him, throwing his body down into the ocean. He was the first man I killed."
Tepet Ejava "I am told that at that very moment, the petals of that bush darkened to the deepest black."
Thirteen "And how many men have you killed since then?"
Tepet Ejava "Many. But fewer than I have yet to kill before I die."
Thirteen reaches up to lightly stroke Ejava's cheek. "What did you seek from this alliance, Ejava? What do you seek now?"
Tepet Ejava carefully avoids responding in any way to the unexpected physical gesture.
Tepet Ejava "When I left the Blessed Isle, my hope was to restore the glory of the Realm. But it has fallen further than I thought possible. The God-Exalt army will destroy whatever glory might someday be restored to the Blessed Isle, so I must protect Creation against it."
Thirteen "In your opinion, are the current leaders of the Realm sufficient to return it to glory?"
Tepet Ejava "The bickering scions who fight over scraps there are unworthy to lead. It is their efforts that have shattered that glory in the first place."
Thirteen "Who would you see ruling in their place?"
Tepet Ejava "..."
Thirteen smirks. "I do not expect modesty."
Tepet Ejava "At the moment, I am afraid I know of only one suitable candidate."
Thirteen "As the Sunlands expands, it will be in need of trustworthy governors. They will, no doubt, be selected from those who have demonstrated talent, dedication, and obedience in their service to us."
Tepet Ejava nods slowly.
Tepet Ejava "I would expect no less, if you wish for competent and loyal governance."
Thirteen "I would like to see that bush someday."
Thirteen "I must return to my duties; my plan of attack proceeds apace. If you wish to see me for some reason, before your communication ring is provided to you, come to the Cascade and ask for me, and I will receive you at my convenience."
Tepet Ejava allows the slightest hint of a smile to cross her face. "If your planning can capture Lord's Crossing, you shall do so."
Thirteen "Ah. Then it is settled."
Tepet Ejava nods.
Thirteen "Good luck, Roseblack. You seem capable. Do not fail me."
Thirteen taps the butt of his spear lightly against the floor, and leaves the room.
Tags: (:tags Graven Leviathan, Roseblack, Kashaen, Hematite Legion, Lord's Crossing :)