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Vincent Vangheiss, leader of the Iron Hogs’ infantry contingent, had dropped by the Republic Army’s infirmary to see if he could find the rapscallion who’d left the group two years ago, after Hell Gitt died. The Iron Hogs might’ve been famous for their tanks, but Vangheiss took pride in the fact that he’d led his group (often from the front) for so long and remained alive all through it. A tank could be a coffin as easily as it could be a fortress, and being outside of one toughened a man, he figured. Anya, the young lady he was looking for here, hadn’t been protected by tank armor. She’d worn a plate, at least. Good girl. At least remembering one thing he’d told her…or maybe it was just following the trends of the folk around here. He hoped for the former.

Vangheiss had come with a few of his boys, just for safety. If Anya was still awake he didn’t need her leaping up and tearing his throat out with her teeth, after all, not if he was going to badger her into coming back. The infirmary was crowded with wounded, and none of the aid workers cared who came to visit, so the Iron Hogs mercenaries were given a vague direction and told to look. It wasn’t hard to find the blonde headed little lady among all the dirty, blooded men, being minded by somebody who was almost certainly not of the Republic, or of Sosaldt at all.

Vangheiss explained who he and his men were, and in return, the minder told them about his patient. She’d been out like a light since yesterday, and probably wouldn’t wake up any time soon; severe blood loss would do that. Stupid, proud Anya, same as ever. Normally she’d spit so much venom that a viper would blush, but here, with a thick woolen cover pulled up to her chin, she looked far more innocent, if it wasn’t for the scar across her face. Her lip was split too; some punk must’ve punched her in the mouth. Not surprising, but it offended Vangheiss anyways. She was Hell’s little girl, after all, and some things didn’t change no matter how much a person grew.

“So should we just pick her up and cart her back?” one of Vangheiss’s men asked.

That’d be the easy way, but also inconsiderate. “Nah. We’ll wait ‘til she wakes up.” He looked to the person looking after her, “When’ll that be?”

“Probably another day. She shouldn’t even move for another past that, and even then she should avoid stress and exertion until the wound is healed completely.”

“We’ve gotta be outta here way before then,” one of Vangheiss’s men muttered.

“Yeah.” Vangheiss ruffled Anya’s fluffy blonde hair; something she had always hated having done, so he’d made sure to do it constantly in the past. “You’ll get away this time then, kid. Don’t you die, or Hell’ll have my fuckin’ head when I follow him down to whatever pit the Judge threw his ass in.”
>>
You are Lieutenant Richter Von Tracht, officer of Panzers for the army of the Archduchy of Strossvald, and recently retired Kommandant of the Republic of Vang’s 1st Armor Battalion. You’d been much looking forward to reunited with your crew after you had spent last night sleeping off the battle, and kissing Maddalyn whenever possible. More leisure still had been anticipated after the huge battle yesterday, but a follower from the city of Todesfelsen had tracked you back here. A soulbinder calling himself the Hound of the East; an Oblitares, enemies of the other sorcerers whose company you’d grown almost comfortable with.

Thankfully, this man didn’t even suspect that you might know as much as you did, and had presumed your ignorance. This had allowed you to deflect his questions and give him nothing, and when he prompted you to tell him anything helpful you might know, you easily thought of something that would not only not help him in the slightest, but would keep him occupied enough that he’d most likely lose your scent and be out of your hair, hopefully for good.

“I might remember something, actually,” you mused, as though recalling something distant, “When I was a child, I used to hear tall tales about colossal monsters that lived in the mountains to the east of here, specifically in the Union of Valstener States. That they congregated about people who used magic to control them, and they lived in a strange, magic land. All of that, I figured, was hogwash, but I passed through there recently and found that at least the part about the huge crabs was true. Giant Living Stones. The rest I’m still not too keen on, but if it’s as real as you say it is, they might know more than I what you’re looking for.”

“The Altossian range…” the soulbinder said pensively, “There are many mountains, passes. You speak of a specific one?”

“Through the northern part of East Valsten, there’s a mountain road. That part.”

“I see. And if I wish to repay my gratitude?”

“Look for somebody called…” another devilish thought, “…Liemanner.”

“Your aid will not be forgotten, Mister Liemanner. Should you require a favor, seek the Oblitares. We will find you, should you look for us.”

Like a flash, the soulbinder’s pressure, the feeling of being restrained by invisible threads taut against your body, vanished. You turned around, looked all about regardless, and saw nobody; as could be expected. What an ass hat, you thought but did not say, just in case he might have lingered about to listen. You started up the car you’d been sitting in for the past few minutes, and finally set out for your platoon’s camp once more to meet with your men, as well as the Iron Hogs repair detail that would be sent to them to try and fix your broken down tanks, not the least because they would be claiming a pair of them as part of a down payment for their assistance.
>>
You knew well the route through Wossehnalia to and from the 1st Armor Battalion’s encampment now, and with the benefit of being a much calmer driver than the valet from earlier, and driving a vehicle that had a proper shock absorbing suspension, this last trip was quite comfortable. It was well into morning at this point, but the city was still sleepy. The returning Republic soldiers must have had quite the night for it to remain so quiet, as the only people up that you saw thus far were a few commuting workers, heading towards the grand skyscraper that was the most uncharacteristic and out of place building in Wossehnalia, silhouetted against Lord Wossehn’s castle; an embodiment of his extravagance against an embodiment of his business empire.

When you arrived, the Iron Hogs mechanics still hadn’t arrived; they were likely to be around soon, at least. You wasted no time reunited with your crew, who were relaxing around the tank. Not gambling; gambling after a battle wasn’t seen as wise, since it was assumed that being able to gamble at all after one meant you’d already used your fair share of luck.

“Hoi, Commander,” Stein waved at you. “You all right?”

“Quite well,” you reassured your gunner. “How about the rest of you?”

“Mal was grumpy the whole evening cause the tank broke down under him,” Stein sighed, “Him and the Yaegir got drunk off the hooch he carries with ‘im and fought with some of the other tankers. Hans lost his jacket betting on whether they’d win or the six Republic people they pissed off would.”

“How could I have known they’d floor two with their first punches?” Hans grumbled, “You’d think two on six would be pretty predictable.”

“Deypyussies,” Malachi gurgled from near the turret, where he was perched, “Yooshajehned.”

“Not enough booze in my blood then. Maybe next time, rock runt.” Hans glanced at you and smirked a toothy grin. “So how’s the princess? You see her?”

“Of course.”

“You put a bun in the oven?”

You curled your lip. “No.”

Hans shrugged innocently. “’s what fellas do when they get back from deployment. Just saying.”

“Maddalyn doesn’t want children. Not for some time, it seems.”
>>
“That’s pretty strange, commander,” Stein cocked his head, “You’re just going to take her back home anyways, right? I’m not saying, you know, but usually when people get married they want to have kids.”

A loud snore from somewhere in the tank. Jorgen presumably, still sleeping off his intoxication from last night.

“Speaking of marriage,” you twisted the matter about, “I’ve heard your sister’s on her way here. You and Hans should be excited, no?”

Both their eyes almost bugged out of their heads, and they simultaneously demanded explanations; which you promptly gave. Surprisingly, while Stein seemed agitated, presumably thinking about giving the sister that left the family how he’d give her a piece of his mind, Hans was growing more and more uneasy.

“…Yeah, look, Boss?” Hans asked murkily, “Can you put me off somewhere else while Karla’s around? We, uh, I shouldn’t be around for that.”

“Really?” you asked, almost incredulous, “You, who preach to all who will listen about her breasts, don’t want to see her? I thought the two of you were lovers!”

“…Boss, it’s been a long time.” Hans shifted his cap over his eyes and he looked at the ground. “Way too long.”

“She wants to see you, the commander said,” Stein grumbled.

“Yeah, I bet she does. Don’t matter. I oughta be scarce.” Hans put one leg against the side of the tank, leaning against it, “Nothing good’ll come of it. You can do me a favor, yeah, boss?”

>Fine. I won’t ask any questions, but I’ll let you head off elsewhere.
>I’ll let you go, but you won’t be off doing nothing. I need you to take a very powerful warlord on a date.
>Unacceptable. How long has this woman been waiting to meet with you again? I’ve heard she even wanted to elope, and you won’t even see her? You might be a rake, but I won’t allow you to be that much a scoundrel.
>Other?

-----------

>https://pastebin.com/UagT0hnh
>past threads in pastebin. Twitter is @scheissfunker for announcements and some other bullshit

>https://pastebin.com/k8yuNeuS
>Miscellaneous information pastebin. None of this is need to know, and if you have questions then feel free to ask in thread.
>>
>>2557801
>>Unacceptable. How long has this woman been waiting to meet with you again? I’ve heard she even wanted to elope, and you won’t even see her? You might be a rake, but I won’t allow you to be that much a scoundrel.
>>
>>2557801
>>Unacceptable. How long has this woman been waiting to meet with you again? I’ve heard she even wanted to elope, and you won’t even see her? You might be a rake, but I won’t allow you to be that much a scoundrel.

Ask why the change of heart. We need to set this man up.
>>
>>2557801
>>Unacceptable. I can't abide any members of my crew displaying cowardice, before the enemy or before a woman. You've already shown more than enough courage during our recent fighting for me to know that you're perfectly capable of meeting this challenge. I won't let you let your fear get the better of you. Suck it up.
>>
>>2557801
>Unacceptable. How long has this woman been waiting to meet with you again? I’ve heard she even wanted to elope, and you won’t even see her? You might be a rake, but I won’t allow you to be that much a scoundrel.

Unless you can give me and Stein a damn good reason.
>>
>>2557801
>>Fine. I won’t ask any questions, but I’ll let you head off elsewhere.

Maybe he dosnt want to see her because they promised the next time they met they would be together, and he knows he cant keep that promise right now
>>
“Unacceptable,” you said firmly, “How long has this woman been waiting to meet with you again? I can’t abide any members of my crew displaying cowardice, before the enemy, or before a woman. You’ve already shown that you do not lack for courage in battle, so you’ve no excuse for not meeting this challenge. Unless you have a damn good reason for refusing, you had best suck it up.”

“Gee, boss, did I deserve that sort of lecture?” Hans whined, “Fine, fine. Here’s the deal. Right before she ran off, went to Sosaldt, she came over and told me she wanted me to come with her. I got cold feet. I wasn’t ready to make that decision. It was years ago, I figured she’d move on. You know what sort of guy I am, nobody waits four stinkin’ years for somebody like that, right? I moved on, and she should, too.”

“Fouhnnwaefmoffon, talkinnaher.” Malachi sad as matter of factly as somebody with his speech patterns could.

“Yeah, great,” Hans grumbled more, “Wake up the Yaegir and everybody can play dogpile on the radioman.”

“You could have kept her at home,” Stein said with no shortage of bitterness, “If she wanted to elope with you she could’ve been convinced to marry at home instead.”

“You’re kidding me, Stein. Marry? At sixteen? Crazy talk.” Hans looked up at you, no humor on his face. “I’ve known her for years. The way you say she’s talking, she’ll come to me and fully expect me to follow through with that promise I made. A promise I made cause I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t say no.”

“You could convince her to come back.” Stein pointed out, arms tightly wrapped over one another.

“God damnit Stein, enough with that.” Hans snapped irritably, “Karla came here, she got shacked up with a bunch of mercenaries, she’s their head mechanic. Judge knows what she’s doing, but I’ll bet she;s living her dream. I ain’t gonna try to drag your older sister back to a place she ran away from ‘cause she didn’t want to stay there.”
>>
“Also, boss,” Hans looked you in the eye, an unfamiliar gesture from a man that was usually rather lighthearted in his dealings. “If I stick with her, you’re down a crewman. This might sound like a surprise, but I don’t really want to leave the unit, or leave Strossvald. I also don’t want to meet Karla again after all these years only to throw this thing she’s waited for the whole time in her face. It’s better if we just don’t see each other. Stein can see her, it’s good for a brother and sister. I’ll be nothing but a heartbreaker and a waste of time. She’ll forget eventually. She’s gotta.” Hans’ voice was level, but you could tell that he wasn’t sure, possibly of anything he had said. He clicked his tongue and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I won’t refuse an order, though. I might’ve gone AWOL from my country, but nobody’ll ever say I was an insubordinate soldier. I can do at least one thing good, yeah?”

…Perhaps, you thought, he was asking you to decide for him? Possible, but perhaps vain, too.

>At least meet her. This charade has to end at some point, and it’s clear the longer it goes on the worse it is for the both of you.
>I don’t see why you can’t stay around here. If that’s what you want, who am I to stop you? We’re not in the army right now, we’ve already deserted. You don’t have to come back.
>If that’s the way it is, then alright, I’ll let you roam free. I just hope you won’t come to regret it.
>Other?
>>
>>2559570
>>At least meet her. This charade has to end at some point, and it’s clear the longer it goes on the worse it is for the both of you.
You're both adults now, not stupid teens. Man up and take responsibility. She is still waiting for you and will continue to do so until you make a firm decision. You're keeping her from living her life with this wishy-washy crap
>>
>>2559570
>>At least meet her. This charade has to end at some point, and it’s clear the longer it goes on the worse it is for the both of you.
>Whatever you decide to do you can decide after speaking with her. Maybe she'll have a new perspective that will make your decision easier?
>>
>>2559570
>>At least meet her. This charade has to end at some point, and it’s clear the longer it goes on the worse it is for the both of you.
>>
>>2559570
>At least meet her. This charade has to end at some point, and it’s clear the longer it goes on the worse it is for the both of you.
>>
“Are you still a teenager like you were then?” you asked.

Hans immediately grimaced. “Boss, look, it’s not like-”

“You’re both adults now. Man up and take responsibility. She’s not going to stop waiting, if what you’re saying is true, she’s waiting for you to make the decision. I don’t know how devoted she is to her new life here, but I can tell you right off that this wishy washy crap is keeping her from living her life even more than taking her back home would.”

“Commander’s right,” Stein chimed in once more.

“Yeah, bet he is, you yes-man motherfucker,” Hans was getting madder, “You used to get so bent out of shape over your big sis and me getting it on, what’s changed, huh?”

“’Cause she’s not the only one stuck to a ball and chain,” Stein said levelly, “You’re stuck too.”

Hans had nothing to say to that. In the sudden silence, the mountain gremlin lurking over top added, “Toppeingpyussie.”

“Fuuuuuuuck…” Hans wrung his head in his hands, “Fuck. Fine. Fine. This is a goddamn awful idea, though, and you better not bitch when I say I told you so.” Hans went to sullenly kick dust away from the rest of you, around behind the tank.

Stein groaned and stretched his arms out again. “Thanks, commander. Although I do hope she comes back, I don’t mind that greaseball marrying my sister if they take over the shop for father. It’d be a good outcome, after we finish up our service term. Speaking of, what’re you planning to do once you get out?”

“Get out?” you echoed. “I’m not planning on getting out at all.” The response was practically automatic; the Von Trachts were career warriors…save for your father. Even the women of the line felt the call of duty…which led to almost all of them perishing on the battlefield, the daughters sharing the same fate as many of the sons. Some of the false reports of your family’s extinction you’d seen even referred to the Von Trachts as a bloodline of suicidal fools who had wrought their own destruction; perhaps you were suicidal fools, if honorable service was now considered to be foolishness. You explained this to Stein.

“Huh. Are you thinking of becoming a general, then?” Stein asked, “No offense, but those rumors of your family all killing themselves sound like they’ll eventually end up being the honest truth, especially considering, y’know, we’re here now. I hear there’s plenty of easier jobs for officers than frontline duty, and nobles’ve got priority if they want them.”

“Unacceptable.” Again, the response was near reflexive.

Stein sighed, accepting, “If that’s what you want. If you ask me, though, the whole thing sounds like a curse…”

“Oh for heaven’s sake.” Though you couldn’t deny the possibility of being cursed, especially with all that had happened. Or perhaps you couldn’t rightfully call it such anymore.
>>
The maintenance detachment still had some time to come around, so you used the time to arrange a rendezvous for Signy; a refreshingly ordinary errand concerning the supreme leader of Sosaldt’s center. You had suggested Malachi, he was certainly manly enough, but apparently Signy didn’t like men shorter than her. The barrier of…you couldn’t even call it language, the gibberish barrier, was also admittedly near impossible to scale. The second, Krause, would have to do. He was an officer, and of common descent. There should be no hang ups, yes?...Even if he was a bit shorter than you.
Krause was sitting on an ammunition crate; you noticed a few bandage wraps on him still, presumably spall from the hit that had also (temporarily) severed his leg. His gunner had a few minor wounds too, but nothing bad; the most stricken thing in the end had been the tank. The m/28 that you’d taken all the way from the academy, to the Blumlands, to the Varbonnlands, and now here. A hole had been gouged right at the meeting of the turret and the hull; it was funny, really, how small the aperture was, for the harm it did.

Krause stood and saluted in short order when you stopped before him. “Lieutenant,” he greeted you, “Is something the matter?”

“No, nothing. Are you recovering still?”

Krause smiled; nothing to worry about, evidently. “It was an educational experience.”

“Are you up for a special mission?”

Krause seemed curious, as he maintained a humored expression. “Oh? Are you sure you want to trust a demimperi with such?”

“I could think of nobody better for it.” You decided to stop teasing, “You know of the leader of this Republic? Signy Vang? Who has gone from accompaniment to commander in chief in but a month? I want you to take her out in the city for a date.”

Krause squinted at you skeptically, “Be serious,” he admonished you.

“I am serious.”

Krause’s face remained static, locked in a transition between disbelief and laughter. “You know, it wasn’t long ago that you tried to set up Rondo with another woman. The one covered in scars. It went impressively poorly; he complained quite bitterly for a few days. Are you playing a prank on me as well, with this?”

“Signy and Hilda are very different. That won’t happen, I assure you.”

“I’ve also heard more than a few rumors,” the junior lieutenant went on, “that you are her paramour.”

“Completely untrue,” you said curtly to that.

“Even if I’m not treading in your territory, with so much time spent in the company of so many men, aren’t you concerned with her being thought of as a loose woman?”

“The masses can think what they may, if it is an untruth, that’s all there is to it.”
>>
“Very well, then. Though, presuming that we are leaving soon,” Krause followed on, “It’ll only be for fun, yes?”

“Of course.”

“Good. I’ll have a crack at it, then,” Krause said, now thoughtful. “Although, I wonder. Next will you be asking Von Igel to flirt with your fiancée?”

Judge above, the thought of the awkward Von Igel doing anything resembling that with anybody at all was unthinkable. “Certainly not.”

“Perhaps afterwards you’ll try and mate together Von Walen and that young woman you picked up in the middle of the fighting yesterday, before we went into the city. See if they can produce the most abrasive human being ever recorded. Or Von Neubaum and that Fie girl, perhaps? Mix apathy with naiveté, and expand his harem of mysterious female strangers?”

“Hilarious.” You said drily, “Perhaps the matriarch of this republic will share your sense of humor.”

“I’ve little else to rely upon, milord. So when do I start this dangerous mission?”

“Afternoon, perhaps into evening. Though I’m sure she wouldn’t mind starting early.”

“Well. Wish me luck then, commander. I’m afraid I’ll need it.”

-----

The maintenance detail finally came, and you were ready to greet it at the edge of camp. It must have been a dozen trucks and half-track cargo carriers; Stein’s sister must have been carrying her whole workshop with her. Of course, it wasn’t just her; the first truck that stopped had about ten to fifteen grease monkeys file out of it, all bitching and moaning about having to come out this far. They all wore black, canvas coveralls, belts clanking around their middles as they stretched their limbs. The much talked about Karla Smitt herself had come in her own vehicle, and she was…well.

It was clear that she was Stein’s older sister; Stein was rather tall, and Karla looked only slightly shorter than he; which meant that she was a good half a head taller than you, and her hair was the same blonde hue as her brother’s as well. This hair seemed…very long, for a mechanic’s, but certain parts of it seemed a slightly different color than the rest for some reason, namely the longest parts, at the sides of her head and the ponytail in back. Her and Stein also had the same slightly sleepy eyes, which shone blue in both siblings. It was clear that, as a mechanic, she was quite strong, and though she wore the same black coveralls as her crew, she’d tied the top of it around her waist instead of wearing it fully, a tightly fitted blue ribbed sleeveless shirt being worn above it, thick gloves tucked into her waistband. Gold flashed at her neck. On a small chain…was that a wedding band?
>>
Of course, you were dancing around the most discussed subject, and you wanted to ignore it in order to be polite, but to be honest…they were difficult to ignore. Hans hadn’t been underselling her, Karla was truly…impressive.

“Ay,” Karla called out to you, hands on her hips, “You the guy with the busted gear? Boss said you had tanks for me to play with.”

“Ah, yes,” you looked up sharply. “Right this way.”

“Oi, gits!” Karla shouted at her men milling about, “Quit screwing around and get a move on!” They grumbled as they followed along, and you led them to your platoon’s section of the camp.

“So, er,” you spoke to Karla along the way, “You are Miss Smitt?”

“Miss? Nah.” She laughed, “Everybody calls me Karla, or Smitty. I like the other more.”

“Smitty, then.”

“Ayup.”

“…Right,” you hadn’t been prepared for somebody so gregarious, “The vehicles are m/32 type tanks, modified ones. Have you worked on them before?”

“Yeh, one.” Karla, or Smitty, said. “Was some beaten up junker shipped all the way from God knows where. Couldn’t get jack from it, besides what it used to be. I know enough about what they’re made of to fix ‘em, though. Y’know what thirty twos use? Bootleg-ass HaMo Teakettles. The engine’s been around long enough that everybody who don’t got their head up their ass knows they have trouble running hot, but Handelwagen’s too stuck in for enough people to give a damn. Even worse, it’s a simple fix. Bad materials breaking down, too fragile as is, they get worse in heat, before you know it the coolant’s leaking, not getting where it needs, bam, HaMo shitbox’s kaput. Design’s fine, hell, it’s certainly got power, but if Strossvald cared about getting a proper cranker in those Naukland boxes, they’d license HonMo from Valsten. South states might be cut off, but that don’t mean they can’t buy off the global instead of keeping Handelwagen in the money for a shit job.”

“Er.” You made an agreeable, if uncertain sound. Smitty was leaving you behind with all this talk.
>>
“Illg said these things got more armor and bigger guns too? More weight, more problems, I tell ya. Might be strong but it’s got no fat. Harder the thing works the quicker it busts, shocked you made it this far without one catchin’ fire, they do they sometimes, y’know,”

You pretended to understand Smitty’s gripes as you led her onward. Hans was sullenly leaning against the tank when you arrived, and when Stein’s sister saw him, she froze up, and fell silent. A moment spent completely still, then she started forward once more; you had to quicken your pace to match her.

“Uh, hey,” Hans said uncomfortably. “Hi, Karla.”

“Sister!” Stein cried and advanced towards her, but she paid him no mind, and continued straight for your radioman.

“I know,” Hans kept talking to Karla’s feet instead of her face, “But I-“

Karla was uninterested in talking. She thrust her hands under Hans’s arms and lifted him so their heads were even, before pushing him over the m/32’s tread guard and kissing him full on the mouth.

“I can’t even say proper how…happy I am to see you, cuddle bear,” she kissed him again, forcibly. “I was never too good with words that didn’t come out of a manual, so the only way I can think of, to say proper how I feel, is doin’ this,” Karla pinned her old…you had presumed friend, but this was far too affectionate, onto the tank more. “Even this ain’t enough, but, yeah.”

“Karla…” Hans was still uncertain.

“I knew you wouldn't break your promise...Y’know, I heard from my old boss, he said love ages like wine. I don’t drink wine much, dunno if that’s true, I guess it makes it better? Be a cruddy phrase otherwise, considerin’ how this feels..” Karla shifted a hand down and groped Hans between his legs, “Ooo, yeah, love’s not the only thing that’s gotten better with time.” She licked her lips. This was quickly growing uncomfortable.

“Karla, c’mon,” Hans complained, ironically in a situation that most men like him should think was heaven.

“Shaddup,” Karla said lustily, “You’ve made me wait years, you get to shut up and listen, kay? We’re gonna go straight to the first bar we find, and after we get friggin’ blasted, we can…catch up.” She seemed to back off, only to take Hans around the waist and hoist him over her shoulder; which wasn’t very broad considering it had to bear a man, but she was strong enough to manage. “Hey, toon boss guy. I’m gonna borrow your man for a bit. Well, not a bit, the whole day. You get me, yeah? No big secret what’s goin’ on.”

“Sister, please!” Stein protested being ignored so.

“Stein, shut the hell up!” Karla snapped at him, “Wait your goddamn turn. We can talk…after I’m through with this fella.”
>>
Karla didn’t give you the chance to demand she work on your tanks first, as she already shouted a command to her crew to get to work, and that she’d be back whenever she felt like it. Having done little more than come and kidnap your radio operator, Karla Smitt stepped briskly away for the city.

Hans looked hopeless, but not altogether despairing, either. He couldn’t betray his true nature, after all.

“So er,” you asked the new leader of the maintenance crew after he had assumed command, “Is this…normal?”

“Hell nah. What can ye do, tho? I’d act the same way if I saw me wife again.”

You supposed you could sympathize.

-----

Some hours passed, and maintenance continued. Jorgen was finally woken by all the noise, and grumbled about being unable to sleep with the racket of the work being done, but refused to move somewhere else. Idle talk between your crew, minus Hans, of course (who was still not back), went on in the meantime. Stein was obviously sore that his sister had readily blown him off after how long they had been apart, but…he was willing to be distracted from it.

“It’s too early in the day to be drinking, but I still feel I need a few,” Stein grumbled. “This is a decent sized city. It’s bound to have a good variety, right?”

“Naut lek we’re getting rrrehdy fahr a feyt,” Jorgen said, rubbing his head, “Need a few drenks mesself. ‘N a vaaeu of guod gerlss.”

“Sheesh, like Hans never left,” Stein grouched once more.

It was getting to about lunchtime; before you checked your watch, one of the maintenance crews checked theirs and called for a break. Lunchtime it was, then. You may as well get something too, with your officers; it would be a good opportunity to plan out what to do when you headed out, as well. Honnrieg was supposed to be back about now, if not slightly before, but he still hadn’t returned; probably a completely mundane delay, since no concerning reports had been relayed to you. Perhaps there was a delay because they got food in Todesfelsen, even though it would hardly be a tourist trap at the moment.

>Take the officers out to a café; it was indeed too early for drinks, and it would be a good atmosphere.
>Too early for drinks? Apparently not. Take the crew and officers to a good bar, someplace you don’t have to sneak in and out of.
>Did you not win yesterday? The men had not been allowed to do anything but rest since yesterday, they need to let go a bit. Find a dive bar, the sort with immodestly dressed female company, and take the platoon to crash one.
>Other?

I do have Karla designed, and I thought about drawing her proper for this, but...well, this was already dragging the whole day, and I don't think I can do her justice anyways. Maybe later. Sorry if anybody expected it.
>>
>>2561571
>Too early for drinks? Apparently not. Take the crew and officers to a good bar, someplace you don’t have to sneak in and out of.
Never too early for a pint or three
>>
>>2561571
>>Too early for drinks? Apparently not. Take the crew and officers to a good bar, someplace you don’t have to sneak in and out of.

A social drink or two never hurt. "Somebody in Von Tracht's family had fought, and died, in every single Strossvald war" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9c8Rba5NVE
>>
>>2561571
>>Too early for drinks? Apparently not. Take the crew and officers to a good bar, someplace you don’t have to sneak in and out of.
>>
>>2561571
>Too early for drinks? Apparently not. Take the crew and officers to a good bar, someplace you don’t have to sneak in and out of.

See if the piss they have is worth the glasses.
>>
>>2561571
whos watching our gold?
>>
>>2561571
>>Too early for drinks? Apparently not. Take the crew and officers to a good bar, someplace you don’t have to sneak in and out of.
>>
>>2562481

I wouldn't worry about that, anon ;)
>>
Was it really too early for drinks? It was never to early for a pint, some said. Or three, depending on who you asked. You could take the crew and officers out to a good bar, well, good as far as, were it at home, you wouldn’t have to sneak in and out of it. This was Wossehnalia, after all; as far as you were concerned, a gem in the heap that was Strossvald. If there was a castle owned by one of the richest people in the country, why wouldn’t the surroundings at least slightly reflect that?

…Wait, somebody should be left behind to guard the gold, shouldn’t they? You’d hidden it well in the tank, such that somebody would not only have to be rummaging through it but also knowing that there was something worth looking for at all, but it was best to be careful.

Ultimately, Malachi volunteered to stay behind. From his mumblings, he claimed to have had more than enough the other night, which was fine by you, you supposed. All of your officers were invited, as was your crew, but the rest of the crews were merely let free; too many in one place, after all, probably wouldn’t be appreciated at these hours. One to two of each were directed to stay behind to rotate out later; it might have been suspicious if only one watchman was left for one tank, after all.

The party that was assembled walked its way from the camp down Wossehnalia, briskly towards the downtown; a street urchin had advised you that that was where they were, and pestered you for several blocks about only being given pfennings before he got bored and left to harass somebody else. He probably wasn’t a homeless child, anyways; the poor were quite sparse in Wossehnalia; there wasn’t a vagrant to be found, only runts who were skipping out on school, or perhaps couldn’t afford it; perhaps there was no school, but you thought Lord Wossehn to not be the sort to begrudge his subjects a place of learning, especially if he sought to emulate the nobility, for whom the prestige of their peoples was that of the ruler as well. The streets bustled more and more as you approached the main centers of everyday business; far from the skyscraper, still, but nearby more mundane establishments. Even incredibly out of place people, walking in the streets in suits as though they were lawyers and ministers (perhaps they very well were) popped into places abouts here; surely a sign that you were hardly in a seedy side of town. Promising.
>>
A good looking place was an establishment noticed through Von Igel’s spectacled eyes; a well painted place with large glass windows and a chingling chime on the door that rang merrily with the wind and with the movement of the door. It was called Die Brauhaus. Quite presumptuous, really; it surely wasn’t the only brewery, or perhaps this was a branch of another establishment? It wouldn’t surprise you, if Lord Wossehn was as much a global trader as he was rumored to be.

“Die Brauhaus is a brewing company in Strossvald, Lieutenant, haven’t you heard of it?” Von Igel said, sounding less meek than usual. “It was originally Die Brauhaus Messingplatz, after the city, but they branched out and now they’re Die Brauhaus. I don’t know what it’s doing here, but they’re supposed to sell their own brew at all locations, and I’m feeling like a take of home right now.”

Lord Wossehn, you thought, must have quite the systems set up to not only keep this place, but presumably many like it, in good supply and custom.

Few of the lights were on inside as the chimes jangled behind you; most of the illumination came from daylight streaming in the large glass windows, each made up of several squares with frosted décor upon them. A long bar stretched almost to the door, with rows of stools down each side, and high tables and chairs in two rows on each side of that. Dark green carpets invited the eye down each lane, and the orange stained wood combined with the natural light made the place feel warm, even if the fireplaces at each flank of the place were unlit. In one corner, there was a player piano; a quaint automaton, which used clockwork and a paper sheet with punches to play recorded music; quite a piece for a place such as this. There were a pair of women at the end, dressed in the fashion of classical Sosalian bar wenches talking with one of two bartenders.

One looked over to your group lazily, and sighed. “Aw, crud. Got an early crowd…” She adjusted her blouse and folded her skirt over, shortening it from above the knee to the middle of her thigh. She wasn’t dressed modestly, but neither of the two seemed to be prostitutes; if they were, this place would have an upstairs to do “business” in, you had learned. This establishment had only one floor. “’Fore you get any funny ideas,” the same one said to the lot of you, “We’re only paid to chat. Don’t need another mob of you like last night expectin’ anything.”

Oh. Bargirls, the tamer and far more socially acceptable brand of wenchery.
>>
“What’ll you be havin’?” the bartender who the women had been speaking with came down. She was a woman too, though she was broad and brawny, like a woodcutter’s wife, and had the deeper, tired voice of an old mother. “Today ain’t a day the baking’s done early for, so all we got are nuts and day old rolls. Plenty on tap, though.”

Von Igel spoke up quickly, and sharply. “You have PlatzerGold?”

The broad woman cocked an eyebrow at him. “Well, yeah. It’s Die Brauhaus, of course we do…”

“A tall mug of that for each of us.” Von Igel looked to you, “Trust me, we’ll all like it.”

“Who’s paying?” the woman bartender asked as she collected mugs, white with frost from a fridge.

“I will.” Von Metzeler, this time catching the initiative.

“Fehrrest wehder,” you heard Jorgen call for from down the line. When one of the bargirls had come close, the one who had spoken up, he had brusquely grabbed her and set her down next to him. “Geve des gerrrli the gahld wehdevva.”

“Forest…water?” the other bartender, a man, repeated. “…Oh, right, Yaegir Draught.”

“Yaegir draught?” you muttered to Von Walen, who you guessed would know more exotic brews.

“Ah, yeah,” Von Walen was happy to answer. “Way back when, Yaegirs got used to harder stuff than we’re used to. Stuff called Yaegir Draught’s this sort of fermented tree sap, concentrated, not like anything distilled of course but a lot harsher than our usual beers. They’re practically brought up on the stuff, and most people don’t have a taste for it, but some places still stock it. Yaegirs are famous, after all, and drinkin’ their stuff shows you’re as badass as they are, or so its said.”

Maybe you’d try one if you went for a second round.

It was already discussed beforehand that you would be talking about plans for your egress, but it was also deemed that that would come after a small period of casual conversation or other activities; this was meant to be a temporary recess, after all.

Your crews and officers had separated out some into smaller groups. Your crew (and the young woman Jorgen had snatched) were in one place, Von Metzeler and Krause were not joined by Von Igel, while Von Walen contented himself by hanging around Von Neubaum, who had caught the attention of the quieter, shyer bargirl, somehow. You could probably bounce around between the groups, at least until you’d all gone through enough drinks that you’d have to stop and start planning again.

>Talk with the crew and officers about things (Who, about what?)
>Try to get some info about goings on from the bartenders, perhaps?
>This was for them, not you; you could sit in a corner and listen to the automaton piano.
>Other?
>>
>>2562887
>>Try to get some info about goings on from the bartenders, perhaps?
Let's see what the common people think about this Republic business.
>>
>>2562887
>This was for them, not you; you could sit in a corner and listen to the automaton piano.

Lot to think about. Wizards, Desertion, Republic business, Wizards, Hell Gitt's "son", Glockenblume, Anya's derrier .
>>
>>2562887
>Try to get some info about goings on from the bartenders, perhaps?
Any rumors of the goings on in Strossvald filtered here from the main branch?
>>
I don't know about you guys but I'm feeling an old timey wild west shootout coming on. Keep an eye on the door and be ready to draw our six-gun in case any desperados show up.
>>
>>2562887
>This was for them, not you; you could sit in a corner and listen to the automaton piano.
>>
You remained where you were as the bartender came by to pass around the mugs. What was inside each was a golden, clear ale, with copious amounts of light froth, more than the typical drink. It appeared to even still be slowly growing...

“Well, drink a bit quick,” the female tender admonished you, “Else it’ll climb over and spill.”

There was only one way to attack this sort of drink in this sort of tall mug; by gulping it down like water. It was extremely smooth, and slightly fruity and spicy, with little weight that sat in the belly for long- you could down this whole thing and potentially not feel a thing, it was light enough, but the flavor was such that it was obviously not thinned. It was alright; perhaps something too easy to bolt down.

“May I ask you about a few things?” you said to the woman. You wanted to see if anything had possibly crawled down the grapevine about home, as well as to see what people outside of the Republic’s original territory thought about the whole idea.

“Gimme a minute,” she said, and after everybody was served, she returned, with a breadroll in hand. “’Aight. Don’t know what you think I could tell ya, but go on.” She popped the roll into her mouth with a single, huge bite.

“So, Wossehnalia’s in this new Republic of Vang, right?” you asked, sipping at your mug, “What do you think of that? Are people alright with that?”

“Name I heard was Mittelsosalia, but everybody’s got a different name right now anyways. Far as I’m concerned, life was always good in Wossehnalia, ‘s long as that don’t change, we could be lorded over by somebody from the moon. ‘Hear it’s different in a lot of other places, tho. I’d think they’d welcome the change, ‘s long as nobody’s toes are bein’ stepped on, but I couldn’t tell you about what’s outside here, other than what you prolly already know- that there’s plenty’a toes to be stepped on, and you prolly can’t take a step without stubbing one ‘a ‘em.”

Mittelsosalia, Vangland, whatever. The maps would be changing by year’s end regardless. “So this business is a branch off a place in Strossvald, yes? Have you heard anything, perhaps from the main branch?”

The barkeep crossed one thick arm over the other and sighed. “You’d have to talk to the owner ‘bout that, and he’s not in. Tho’ he probably doesn’t got much to say, anyways. I can guess what’s going on based off how the product’s coming in.”

“Oh?” you prompted idly.
>>
“Yeah, that stuff you’re drinking there, comes in by the crate. Some brewing’s done here, that’s company policy, but PlatzerGold comes from Messingplatz or it’s not allowed to be called that. Getting stuff from Strossvald to here means it’s got to come through a few countries, though that might change with the Republic n’ all. What I can say, is the price’s gone up. More than before, means product’s not going through the north or the east, has to be boated in from the south, my guess. Might have somethin’ to do with Strossvald signing on peace with Valsten, while East Valsten’s still beatin’ on their neighbor.”

“Strossvald made peace? When?”

“Big news that came in a few days ago. They signed terms with Valsten and called it a win, don’t know how the game works, but that’s what happened.”

Well, you supposed that at least meant you weren’t headed right back to the front when you got home. With East Valsten still fighting, though…what was the goal of the war? To just dive in and cause damage? Whatever it was, command had seen it fit to declare the operation a success to the international public, though if you were to be cynical, they would do that even if it wasn’t a massive success. Though you didn’t see it not being such; when you first attacked as well as when you infiltrated Valsten itself, it appeared to be quite unready for war with the north.

“You come from Strossvald?” the woman asked, “Most of you sound it, except for the funny talking guy with one of our girls.” You nodded in affirmation. “A long way from home, huh. Though not too far, I guess. Seen people come through that are from across the sea, both east and south. South fellas don’t get to go back, not the same way they came, at least.”

That much was true. There was little standing in the way of your return besides completion of your mission; not exactly a Great Gale at this point. You had little else to ask directly about, so you thanked the barkeep, who went to attend to somebody down the line, before going and sitting by the player piano and listening to it play a sorrowful, slow piece. You finished your beer before you even realized you were low in the glass, and even though it was only just past midday, you felt the strong need for another. What a devious brew; that one was not enough must have been a purposeful design.
>>
Loud voices were yammering loudly outside.

“Aye, boss, dis is a joint that’s a good one. Nobody oughta be in.”

“Fuck you talking about, look in the fuckin’ window, dumbshit.”

“So what,” another voice, more authoritative, “Let’s get. Need a few and a bit more if I’m gonna make deals with that little girl again.”

The door crashed open, and the chimes on it were torn off with the force, clattering onto the ground. All turned to look at the intruders. They were in varying states of rough dress, with torn sleeves and scarves and wrappings, but all had good combat boots, and were definitely mean as hell. Their leader was a head taller than all of them and built like a brick latrine, and wore no shirt even in this weather, instead having a fur draped about his shoulders that fell to his waist. Clean shaven save for a shaggy mop on the very crown of his head, and with a twisting scar that went from his lip to his ear, he would have looked like a barbarian of old if it wasn’t for the blotchy Netillian camouflage trousers and military boots he wore.

“Hey!” He shouted, voice loud enough to ring off all edges of the bar. “I’m Nash of the Night Beasts, and I’m here for grog! Serve me or my men any piss, and we’ll bust this place apart! All of you punks, all you at the bar and tables, especially that cunt by the piano, get the fuck out this instant before we beat you into the floor so hard that they’ll have to sand the imprint of your faces off the wood!”

It was you, Von Metzeler, Krause, Von Walen, Von Neubaum, Von Igel, Stein, and Jorgen; eight, against what you counted as ten. You looked to your men and they looked back. Your decision, apparently- they didn’t look in the mood to be told to leave by this bunch.

>Oh yeah? How about you go slam your head against the pavement outside for a few hours instead? It’ll save us the trouble.
>You kiss your mother with that mouth? Judge above knows your father couldn’t have known about it.
>You can’t tell us to get out. I am the Kommandant of the Republic’s 1st Armored Battalion, you’d best rethink who you’re talking to.
>We can coexist here, can’t we? Come on over, we can drink together.
>Fine. We don’t want any trouble. Come on men, we’ll find someplace else.
>Other?
>>
>>2565156

I knew there would be desperados.

Just ignore him. If we talk to him we'll be forced to tell him what a terrible name his little gang has, and that's sure to make him angry. If he starts shit it'll be entirely on his head.
>>
>>2565156
Oh Malachi, why aren't you here.

>>2565335
Works for me, maybe gesture to the others to be ready.

It would be better if we could intimidate them but the only one who could pull that off is maybe Jorgen.
>>
With a glance back to your officers and crew, you made a slight hand gesture, signing for Quiet and Wait. You hoped that was enough of a hint for what you wanted to happen. Besides that, you continued to look down, and purposefully ignored whoever this Nash person was. If there was going to be any trouble, you wouldn’t be the one who started it.

As could be expected, though, being ignored didn’t sit well with this brute.

“Tch. Walk into a bar fulla deaf mutes, have I? Or a buncha smartasses?” He stomped up towards, of course, you, followed by his crew, though a few broke off to jeer at your men. “Hey, hay. Piano man. I’m talkin’ ta ya. You know who I am?” He didn’t give you time to answer; just as well, since you weren’t going to anyways. “I’m Nash of the Night Beasts. I’ve fought the dogs of the Netillian army, my gang’s big enough that the queen bitch Cyclops has to meet with me. Ain’t no way some no name shit bird like you gonna just pretend I ain’t here.” This man was…much larger up close.

“Ey, boss,” one of the turds out back sneered, “Dis guy thinks he’s a badass, I bet.”

“Yeah, he do,” another mocked, “Him and alla these dorks. Thinkin’ they got brass balls. Think they’re all wid each other? They can match us?”

“Pretty funny. I'd laugh,” Nash growled, “If this punk wasn’t pissin’ me off.”

There was a blur, as Nash suddenly snatched for you…he was fast!

>Roll 1d100, roll under 30, to dodge
>>
Rolled 23 (1d100)

>>2565769
>h-he's fast!

Well I'm pretty sure assaulting the commander of the Republic's First Armor Battalion constitutes some sort of treason so if he hits us he's only screwing himself. Assuming we survive.
>>
You barely managed to jerk backwards, tumbling out of your chair and rolling clumsily into a crouching position; it was the only way to get away in time, even if it wasn’t graceful.

“You payin’ attention now, retard?” Nash straightened and cracked his knuckles, low and loud. “I’ll say it one more time. Get the fuck outta here, right now. I don’t know who you are, and I wouldn’t give a shit if I did, nobody treats a Lord o’ the North like dogshit. You’re dogshit. If you scram right now, though, I’ll forgive you.”

“Else we skin ya!” one of the excitable goons drew a knife.

“Put that shit away!” Nash turned and socked the goon in the gut, “There’s laws here, dick for brains. We ain’t gonna kill these people, even if they fuck with us anymore,” Nash looked back at you, “But we’ll sure as hell make ‘em wish we would.”

Your men had slowly risen, too; Von Igel looking very uncomfortable; he was smaller and softer than the rest of you, but none others seemed unwilling to fight, even if Krause and Von Walen weren’t as large as most of these people, and Von Neubaum was more slim than strong. You’d have to count on some of you pulling more weight than the others.

One of the other being you. You were physically fit, certainly, but you were wretched at fencing and just as bad at close quarters combat drill. Maybe you could take one of these people on- but probably not Nash, if you were to take him in a fair, straight up fight, not only because he was larger, but was undoubtedly more skilled.

“I don’t like your face, asshole,” Nash kept talking at you, “Reminds me of some shithead merc. Don’t like the way you’re looking at me, either. You think you can take me?” He looked at your men standing, “Better be that you’re all fixing to get the hell out.”

>*Attack*
>You are attacking an officer of the Army of the Republic. You’ll be jailed for this if you continue, for sure. You want to cool your head in prison?
>You keep saying that we’d better leave, how about you make us?
>Fine, fine. No need for violence. We were just leaving.
>Other?
>>
>>2565794
Good one
>>
>>2565820
>You are attacking an officer of the Army of the Republic and personal friend of miss Vang
>>
>>2565820
Well, he strangely has more restraint than I anticipated.

This response is both to see if he backs down because he respects some semblance of laws and he seems to value a strong negotiating position with Signy.
Some of this is from >>2565794

>Other?
At first I thought you were just a stupid dog, threatening the commander of the Republic's First Armor Battalion is a great way to get you and those mutts sniffing behind you beaten and thrown out of the city and the Republic for good.

But then we all found out that you aren't just stupid, you're a real shitheel; as in the heel of a shoe dragging in dog shit.

Now you went and attacked me and my men. Negotiate with Cyclops? You think a law would protect you now? You'd be lucky to get out of the city alive before she ordered every soldier to gun you down like the dog you bark like.

Get the hell out of here before I shoot you dead like I did Selgess the Skull and save Cyclops the trouble.
>>
>>2565885
This pls
>>
>>2565885
+1
>>
What you had to say next required a more different posture, so you stood up straight, and slouched slightly, thumbs in your pockets.
“At first, I thought you were just a stupid dog,” you started off.

“Keep talkin’,” Nash cracked his neck, “When you’re done, we’ll see how hard I kick your ass.”

A stupid dog. Threatening the commander of the Republic’s First Armor Battalion is a great way to get you and those mutts sniffing behind you beaten and thrown out of this city and the Republic for good. Then we all found out that you aren’t just stupid, you’re a real shitheel, dragging dogshit all around where you go. Now you’re attacking me, and my men. You’re here to negotiate with Cyclops, after all this? You pay lip service to the law, but do you think any laws here will protect you now? You’d be lucky to get out of the city alive before Cyclops ordered you to be shot on sight, like the dog you bark like.” A dismissive came out of your pocket to wave the intruding scum away, towards the door. “Now get the hell out before I shoot you dead, like I did to Selgess the Skull, and save Cyclops the trouble.”

Your sixshooter would preferably remain holstered and unshot; starting a gunfight in the city probably wouldn’t bode well for either Lord Wossehn or Signy’s opinion of you, but combining that with your claim of slaying a notable figure, you thought, would give you the edge and make this character think better of continuing to meddle with your break time.

Nash cocked an eyebrow. “You killed Selgess the Skull? You? If that’s true, you’re pretty nasty, but remember what I said just now? I don’t give a shit who you are. You ain’t Cyclops, you’re her chickenshit lackey. I’m not with the Republic, I’m a Lord of the North. We’re the ones who kicked the Netillians’ asses when they tried to take our land, and if you think your Republic can do what the Netillians couldn’t, you’re dead fuckin’ wrong. So Cyclops will let me do what I want. If I can squeeze her tit and get away with it, I can beat up some dumb punk and walk away whistlin’. If you try shooting me, I really will fuckin’ kill you, so you sit tight while I put your ass through that piano.”

That was an awfully specific threat, you thought just a flash before you realized Nash the Night Beast was dashing straight for you. You were on your feet this time, but you weren’t sure if you could avoid this…

>Try to dodge to the side.
>Meet his charge head on, and try and hit him first, using the momentum against him.
>Grab a chair to use against him.
>Other?
>>
>>2565989
>>Grab a chair to use against him.
>>
>>2565989
>Grab a chair to use against him.
>>
Dammit, anons. Ignoring someone is the best way to insult them. And now, when Nash is in full fight for dominance mode, you try to intimidate him with Signy, all the while calling him a shitheel?

If he backs down now his authority in his gang will take a very heavy blow, and he's rearing to fight now. I give it a 90% chance he'll try to kick our shit.
>>
>>2566014
Welp, forgot to update the page. Still, I was right.

>>2565989
>Other: kick the chair into his legs.
>>
With a quick duck to the side, you grabbed a chair and raised it; you knew you couldn’t outmatch Nash in terms of strength, but you were certainly cleverer, weren’t you?

A quick thought, and you swept your leg out to kick another chair into Nash’s path; an obstruction would give you more time to react.

As you brandished the furniture, Nash tumbled over the chair you kicked in front of him, but managed to keep upright as he dove forward and grabbed your improvised weapon.

Uh oh.

You were then wrestling for the chair, and it was clear Nash was stronger, though he was off balance. Maybe this could be an opening..?

>Yank backwards, then let Nash have the chair. You can try and attack while he’s reeling, if he doesn’t fall.
>If you let him have the chair the next thing that’ll happen is that he’ll smash it over your head. Fight for it! If he’s unsteady on his feet, you should be able to twist it out of his grip.
>Push forward, try to take the initiative, and get yourself further from the piano he said he’d put you through.
>Other?
>>
>>2566033
>Other
>He wants the chair? Fine. Throw it away in some direction while you crack his balls with your boot.
>>
>>2566033
Kick him in the balls
>>
>>2566033
>Yank backwards, then let Nash have the chair. You can try and attack while he’s reeling, if he doesn’t fall.
>>
If this fellow wanted this chair so badly, he could have it, you decided. You threw it upwards, leaving Nash’s guard open. An opportunity that you would exploit for all it was worth.

Perhaps it wasn’t the honorable thing to do. There was an unspoken rule between brawling men, a treaty known by all, that in a gentlemanly tussle, one would not attack the eggs. The family jewels. Crushing of testicles was forbidden. However, you weren’t in a gentlemanly tussle. You were just taking out the trash.

So you lifted your leg and put all your strength behind an earnest attempt to crush Nash the Night Beast’s balls into a fine powder. He was an experienced fighter, so he was already twisting…but would it be enough?

>Roll 1d100 to neuter the night beast, roll under DC 70
>>
Rolled 57 (1d100)

>>2566054

MAKE IT RAIN
>>
The point of your boot collided with Nash’s undercarriage, crumpling the camouflage pants, and crunching something underneath. Nash managed to twist away slightly, but you had still caught him, and hard.

He didn’t collapse like you thought he might, but he did stagger back, bent forward, teeth grinding together. “Fuckin’…really? You piece of shit.”

The man was definitely hurting, but he was far from being down for the count. The rest of the room, apparently not expecting this to last so long, was transfixed. Save for Nash, who crouched down, reached backwards, and retrieved the chair you’d tossed in his way…and winged it at you.

You barely managed to avoid it as it crashed into a table behind; you didn’t look at it, but from the sound it made both pieces of décor were shattered by the impact. You had barely recovered when Nash readied another chair to throw at you; it was airborne as he reached for a table!

>Roll 2 sets of 1d100, DC 50 for both.
>>
Rolled 54 (1d100)

>>2566071
Derp? Derp.
>>
Rolled 7 (1d100)

>>2566071
>>
>>2566077

Bloody nice
>>
The chair was too quick; it didn’t hit you full on, but it still slammed into your shoulder and yanked you backwards. The table flew at you directly after; but you had momentum. The involuntary step aside was turned into a roll, and you deftly avoided the table as is flew off and exploded behind you. With some pain in the side of your upper torso that had been whacked by the chair, you were still able to stand up back in a good stance, just in time to see Nash close the distance between you and cock his arm, readying a jab.

Damn, you had to put distance between you…but there was nowhere left to run to. Could you fight? You had to, even if all you could do was forget how bad you were at close combat sparring.

>Try and grapple; it would be better than taking punches.
>Throw up a guard and try and weather the punishment.
>Interrupt him with an attack of your own, even though it would be inexpert, and might throw you off.
>Jump forward and over; you needed to get behind him, you couldn’t handle a head on fight [Risky]
>Other?
>>
>>2566081
>>Try and grapple; it would be better than taking punches.
>>
>>2566081
>Try and grapple; it would be better than taking punches.
>>
At this range, Nash could just pummel with you; he was stronger, and probably faster; it would be a (very quickly) losing battle. At least if you tried to grapple with him, you would have time to think of something else, and he wouldn’t be able to hit you as hard.

You crouched low, and Nash’s jab lashed out, grazing the side of your cheek as you dove in and wrapped your arms around him. You’d tried to go under his shoulders, but…Nash was somewhat too tall for that.

You felt him grab at your back, and then an arm came under your shoulder. Then you were no longer touching the floor.
Crap. Somehow you knew where you were going next.

>Roll 1d100 to hang on- DC 20 roll under
>>
Rolled 36 (1d100)

>>2566089
>>
>>2566090
Sorry mate, I might be going too fast. Probably should have a minimum wait time.
>>
Rolled 99 (1d100)

>>2566089
Fight Fight Fight even when you're losing!
>>
You tried to hang on, but it was no use; you were peeled off like a kitten gripping an arm, before a hand grasped your jacket at your collar.
The player piano was nearing the end of its song, or so it sounded like, as you began rushing downwards.

KER-KRAASHH

Your whole body hurt, and you felt pieces of the piano’s interior dig up into you as you were smashed through the top and into the mess of the instrument’s guts; the song abruptly stopped as you unwillingly became a part of the percussion. You lay there in a daze for a few seconds, as the piano creaked and bent from the attack upon it, and you could do nothing but twitch, until feeling came back in your limbs and you could meekly draw them towards you. God damn, everything hurt, and you coughed out a few choked retches.

“Punk ass,” Nash groaned, “Come on, boys. Let’s find someplace else. This place’s piano’s broken.”

Muttering echoed throughout the place, as you heard the enemy retreat through the pounding in your ears.

>Where did they think they were going? This wasn’t over yet…
>Stay down. They’re leaving, and that was the goal anyways.
>Other?
>>
>>2566100
>>Other
Get a fucking drink
>>
>>2566100
>Stand up but do not pursue
>>
>>2566100
>>Stay down. They’re leaving, and that was the goal anyways.
>>
You tried once, then twice to pick yourself out of the wreckage of the piano as Nash and his thugs filed out, perhaps feeling like they had won, but they had come to a bar and gotten no drinks, so who had really won?

Damn it all, that sucked. You sat up and groaned, then coughed again. If the two of you were in tanks this wouldn’t have even been a contest. Hell, if this was a duel with guns, even.

“Are you alright, Lieutenant?” Von Metzeler pulled you out and brushed off your collar.

“Fine, I’m fine,” you coughed more, it felt good, but also terrible. “I just need another drink.” Crap, as long as the management wouldn’t blame you for the destruction that had been wrought.
“If it makes you feel better,” one of the bargirls came up to you, “Even though you got your ass kicked, that was pretty cool.”

A slight salve, you supposed. “I’m sure.” Sarcasm was a better one.

“It’s for the better,” the other barkeep, the man, was getting the drink you requested. “Those sorts hold grudges. He gets his little fight, you take a few hits, and he probably forgets it in a week. Just your bad luck.”

“Bah.” You took the mug as it was handed over to you, and drained half of it in one pull. The stuff tasted a thousand times better after getting beaten. “Sorry about your place getting busted up. I’m acquaintances with Lord Wossehn, I could ask-“

“It’s fine. He’d handle it either way.” The barkeep reassured you, “You said that you’re the commander of the 1st Republic Armor Battalion? You wouldn’t mind writing up a recommendation, would you? The more words from more celebrities the better.”

>I will once I get a few shots of something harder. A few meaning, a few pint sized shot glasses.
>Of course. “Come to Die Brauhaus, it’s the best place to have your ass handed to you.”
>I’d rather not be a celebrity, thank you. Not around here.
>Other?

Going to bed now, see you all tomorrow.
>>
>>2566114
>Of course. “Come to Die Brauhaus, it’s the best place to have your ass handed to you.”
Sleep well
>>
>>2566114
>"I'm the commander of the 1st Republic Armor Battalion, and this is my favorite bar in Wossehnalia"
No names though.
>>
>>2566173
THIS
>>
>>2566173
Supporting
>>
>>2566173
Fantastic
>>
>>2566173
You beautiful bastard
>>
>>2566114
Gotta get Malachi to teach Richter some Yaegir boxing or whatever they do.
>>
A recommendation? Alright.

“I’m the commander of the 1st Republic Armor Battalion, and this is my favorite bar in Wossehnalia.”

Let it not be mentioned that you hadn’t been to any of its other bars.

“Rather glowing recommendation from somebody who was just slammed through a piano,” the haughtier bargirl mused into her drink; Jorgen had given her his paler ale, preferring his native booze immensely.

Perhaps, but the last bar you’d drunk in, you had been drugged and assaulted by a pack of hookers. That would also go unmentioned. Frankly, it was nice to be able to not be leery of provocatively dressed females here. Though the lack of further mutilation to your fiancée was proof that you had been doing something right in Liemanner’s eyes, one couldn’t help but be wary of how much slack there was in the proverbial rope. Really, being beaten up by a random jackass and deposited into a piano was hardly the worst thing that could have happened. Would you surrender the right to be bitter just because of that? No, but it would help the drinks go down.

A bit over half an hour later, by your reckoning, the alcohol had had some time to swim about in all of your heads, and where there was once nervous tension was but casual conversation. A few drinks had also loosened Jorgen’s selected girl a bit, and she now chattered Jorgen’s head off about menial annoyances; the Yaegir was content to listen.

While you’d kept to yourself once more, you found yourself accosted nevertheless. Von Walen got up in a huff from Von Neubaum and the bargirl he’d attracted, and came over to you.
“Hey, Lieutenant,” he slid into the seat across from you, at the barrier of the destruction near the piano. He had another full mug with him, “How you doing.”

“Besides being smashed through a piano?” You asked wryly.

“Yeah. No. I mean other than that.”

“I can’t say I’m dissatisfied.”
>>
“Well, that’s great.” Von Walen said roughly. “I mean, hey. We all take a few lumps. I’m sure I didn’t look too good either when I got cold-cocked by Imperialists over in the Blumlands, then got caught like an asshole. I think I learned something. Thing being At least I’ve never drunk liquor that had a corpse floating in it.

“There’s always a deeper hole to fall in?” you asked, interpreting the metaphor.

“I’d say we’re in the deepest hole yet, but ‘s not so terrible, really. Tho’…” Von Walen jerked his head towards Von Neubaum, “Some of us are just getting royal flushes with every hand.”

“Are you jealous, Von Walen?”

“Damn straight I am.” Von Walen’s look went a bit less taut for a moment, “And hey. We’ve been around each other long enough, haven’t we? You know my first name? It’s Teobaldt. Teobaldt Von Walen.”

“Teobaldt,” you tested the name.

“Know what, just Teo. Shorter’s always better, far as names are concerned. If you have more than three sounds in your name you ought to cut the fat off it.”

You didn’t call anybody in your platoon by their first name save your crew, though, certainly not your officers. It seemed improper, to address nobility…other nobility, in the military, without also addressing them by their titles, if they had them. “Is it alright if I continue to address you by your family name?” you asked.
>>
“Yeah, yeah. Just keep it in mind.” Von Walen frowned only slightly; one would think he was angry, if they weren’t familiar with the seemingly ever present frustration he bore on his face. “Anyways, with Von Neubaum…look, do you think I’m good looking?” He leaned forward and pointed at his face energetically. What a question that was. Von Walen was rather typical looking, really, perhaps on the better side of average, but even his resting expression was one that made him look angry, or at least irritated. You said as much, and it only made the junior lieutenant scowl.

“Figured girls liked somebody who was rough and tough. Definitely not somebody who’s about to fall asleep like Neubaum is, but he’s covered in ‘em. Doesn’t even have to try. Goes off on that road trip you send him on, and comes back with a few just glued to ‘em. I mean, s’ not like I’ve never fooled around with girls, you’ve dated before your fiancée, didn’t you?”

“No.”

“…Huh. Well, anyways…ah, it’s all just crap anyhow. Don’t mind me.” Von Walen pulled at his beer, “Just feel that in fertile ground like this, I ought to at least have a bit of fun, yeah? Not like I’ve got any arrangements, not like Von Metzeler, and definitely not like Von Igel. Y’know that dumpy fucker’s married? Out of all of us, he’s the only one. The homeliest of us all. Life, I guess.”

It was a surprise to you too; not that Von Igel ever talked about it.

“Have you actually tried?” you asked. Though you hadn’t kept too close an eye on your officer’s use of free time, you hadn’t seen any actually go out seeking womenfolk.

“Well, nah, but,” Von Walen stammered, “You know, when they fall all over you without doing anything, you sort of have to wonder, you know?...nah, screw it.” Another drink. “Really though, you know about that harem Von Neubaum’s been collecting, yeah? How are we gonna deal with that?”

>It’s hardly my business. As long as it isn’t an intelligence risk or something that affects discipline, I’ll tolerate it.
>They’re suspicious. I haven’t had time to deal with it, but since we’re going back soon, it’s time he got rid of them.
>I can ask Von Neubaum to politely share, yes.
>Other?

>>2567998
Or the actual Yaegir.
>>
>>2568039
>It’s hardly my business. As long as it isn’t an intelligence risk or something that affects discipline, I’ll tolerate it.
>>
>>2568039
>>It’s hardly my business. As long as it isn’t an intelligence risk or something that affects discipline, I’ll tolerate it.

So this is what a harem looks like from the outside...
>>
>>2568039
>>It’s hardly my business. As long as it isn’t an intelligence risk or something that affects discipline, I’ll tolerate it.
>>
>>2568039
>>It’s hardly my business. As long as it isn’t an intelligence risk or something that affects discipline, I’ll tolerate it.

Though we may want to ask him what he's been telling them all this time.

>Other?
Von Walen, you have heard the phrase if you can't beat them? Join them? Why not tag alongside Von Neubaum then next time he takes his...companions for some fun somewhere.
>>
>>2568039
>>It’s hardly my business. As long as it isn’t an intelligence risk or something that affects discipline, I’ll tolerate it.
>>
“It’s hardly my business,” you muttered into your glass, which had found itself empty again. This stuff seemed to simply evaporate. “As long as it isn’t an intelligence risk, and discipline is unaffected, I’ll tolerate it.”

“Mrrgh,” Von Walen grumbled tonelessly, “Just seems we ought to do something about it, I don’t know.”

“I’ll ask him about it, though,” you added. “As for the other matter…have you heard of the phrase, if you can’t beat them then join them? Maybe you should tag alongside Von Neubaum next time he takes his…companions for some fun somewhere.”

Von Walen furrowed his brow at you and remained quiet for a moment. “I ain’t that desperate, I was just saying. Call me picky, but I don’t want to be somebody who’s being looked at because they’re second best. If you aren’t first in somebody’s eyes when you’re with them, what’s the point? Would suck, man. I’m not actually bothered by this, Von Tracht, I’m just bitching. It’s my favorite thing to do.”

“Of course.”

“Anyways,” he gestured toward the others behind him, “Should we get this planning thing going before we can’t see straight?”

You agreed that that should happen, and all the officers were called together. After a short brief on what had happened and the current status (you all had experienced this together, but it was just procedure), you got to the current situation.
>>
“After Captain Honnrieg returns, we’ll have a final count on what hostages remain, and if we have to do anything further to retrieve them all. However, a significant portion remaining are in a place we cannot easily get at them. The city state of Glockenblume purchased ten prisoners, all children, and have transported them back to their settlement. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I intend to retrieve them, although the problem…” you looked all officers in the eye, one by one, “Is exactly how we go about doing that. Any ideas?”

“We tell them to give them back,” Von Walen said quickly, “Or else we get the Archduchy involved.”

“That would cause problems for the Republic,” Von Metzeler countered, “That would be a poor way to show our appreciation. Although a simple demand would at least inform us of their intentions.”

“I don’t suppose we could just buy them back?” Von Igel suggested uncertainly, “I mean, as a last resort. Who doesn’t want gold?”

“I’d prefer to not give them anything they don’t have any right to,” you said to that. “It would be the very last option. Now what if we want to force the issue?”

“We’re down two tanks soon,” Krause pointed out, “And I don’t suppose we’ll have the support of the Republic even if attacking the place itself was an option. Drawing them out and ambushing them could be an option, but I don’t see why they’d cooperate with that. They’d likely keep them inside the city until we did what they wished. I expect they’ll seek us out and make their demands soon enough.”

“Their demands of us?” Von Walen asked.

“These prisoners are of little value as just slaves, I expect. There’s no shortage of vagabond children, I would think. They’re almost certainly keeping them to parley with us,” Krause explained.

“If we had no intention of parleying in the first place,” Von Metzeler built off of that, “We could infiltrate the city. Von Tracht and I have done such before with the group of enemies in the Blumlands, though admittedly, we had less…celebrity status. It would be more of an option than attempting to recapture the objective through use of direct force.”

“What about an exchange,” Von Neubaum proposed.

“An exchange? Of what? We go and nab some of their soldiers?” Von Walen asked.

“Because Glockenblume would love to trade trash for treasure. No. When I was out in the past, I heard plenty of things about Glockenblume. I even met a person who used to inhabit the place…and they told me of what they trade. In some places, it is hardly as much a secret as it is in the Republic. To put it shortly, they groom children into various sorts of slaves. I would rather the less pragmatic of you prepare yourselves, before I make this suggestion.”
>>
“I dislike where this is going,” Von Metzeler growled.

“I’m sure you do, and you’ll like where it ends even less.” Von Neubaum was unphased, and still spoke in his usual, disinterested tone. “As Junior Lieutenant Krause pointed out, there are gangs of roving children, vagabonds and vagrants, in the countryside. These people profit off of the grooming of children, which are in notoriously short supply in the Republic.”

“You’re suggesting we exchange like for like,” you finished darkly.

“Not quite. These vagrant children have short lifespans, are malnourished, and live miserable existences. I do not know your values, fellows, but I think potential life as a slave is superior to that of near certain death.”

“Ridiculous.” Von Metzeler snapped.

“It is only an option. However, I think it would be the one that would entail the least risk to ourselves, and to the hostages. Whom we came to rescue.” Von Neubaum kept his hands loosely in his pockets, “If the Republic is successful, they may not ever even become slaves, and emerge smoothly in the middle of being spoilt. The children there, I have heard, are actually treated with incredible luxury…until they are sold, after which, the imagination cannot conjure the extent of how terrible the rumors are. Again, merely a consideration, in case any other plan becomes risky, or even unfeasible.”

“Hopefully we’ll never have to sink to that.” Von Neubaum might have considered one awful life more of a potential mercy than the other, but both were repugnant to you, and hardly soothed by any hope that the Republic would manage to convince Glockenblume to abolish its trade. It was, admittedly, the trade that Glockenblume would be most amenable to, depending on what they wanted to negotiate with you…

>We aren’t planning to parley with these monsters. I want us to begin preparations to infiltrate the city of Glockenblume.
>Let’s wait and see what happens. Maybe these people can be intimidated into submission at the negotiation table.
>Call me crazy, but I think we’ve got more force than our broken down tanks. Maybe we can comb through the ranks and find some support for our cause, perhaps even ask some mercenaries if they’re interested in some heroism?
>Other?
>>
>>2568666
Is it common knowledge that our tanks are mobility killed? If not, we could attempt to bluff them by going in and forcing cooperation should they think Strossvald's best might come knocking with armor. Or perhaps convince them that our assets are otherwise ready to go, since those Iron Hogs maintenance guys just showed up.
>>
>>2568679
I wouldn't say it's known outside of those who would need to know. It's more that you aren't going to be at former strength if you tried anything, rather than them being frightened of you having tanks.

Since let's be honest you only have a reinforced platoon of tanks, a city that can send off two battalions of troops and still have plenty of people sticking around at home aren't too scared of you by yourself.
>>
>>2568666
>>Let’s wait and see what happens. Maybe these people can be intimidated into submission at the negotiation table.

I want to know what terms they're asking for first before we make a move.
>>
>>2568683
Ah, I see. We could tell them we have a ghost tank, or that we are able to put a Von Tracht sized hole in a piano, might do something for us. Otherwise:

>Let’s wait and see what happens. Maybe these people can be intimidated into submission at the negotiation table.
>>
>>2568666
>>We aren’t planning to parley with these monsters. I want us to begin preparations to infiltrate the city of Glockenblume.

Sounds like a job for some Bat Company operators. Though maybe we could come along.
>>
>>2568666
>Let’s wait and see what happens. Maybe these people can be intimidated into submission at the negotiation table.
>But I want us to begin preparations to infiltrate the city of Glockenblume anyway.
>>
>>2568730
More like for Loch's Secret Service, though I'd like not to be indebted to him.
>>
>>2568666
>Let’s wait and see what happens. Maybe these people can be intimidated into submission at the negotiation table.
but in the meantime
>Call me crazy, but I think we’ve got more force than our broken down tanks. Maybe we can comb through the ranks and find some support for our cause, perhaps even ask some mercenaries if they’re interested in some heroism

We still have time to burn because of the need to repair our tanks. We need more info, also the odds that Signy/Loch will tableflip all of our plans with some new favor/extortion is very high.

What we can do while we wait is ask some friends to see their input and or interest. Viska of the White Eyes, any of the Iron Hogs, friendly commanders of the Guillotines, Emma will prove invaluable for any infiltrations, especially since that Oblitares wizard has hopefully fucked off.
>>
>>2568666
>Let’s wait and see what happens. Maybe these people can be intimidated into submission at the negotiation table.
>>2570091
Supportin'
>>
“Let’s wait and see what happens,” you decided, “Maybe these people can be intimidated into submission at the negotiation table, but until then, I think we should make at least some preparations.”

“They would have to be minimal,” Von Metzeler warned, “So that in case they are found out, the damage to our potential position is minimal. We are currently in a position of strength, and it is to our benefit if we maintain an appearance of being completely open to deals.”

“Right. Then I have missions for some of you. Von Neubaum, Von Walen. I want you two to go rumor hunting, see what you can find out about the Blue Barbs and Glockenblume. Don’t investigate too heavily, but if we’re forced to infiltrate, I want to start preparing for it immediately. Von Metzeler, Von Igel, I want you to see how our reputation is among the Republic troops. If there’s a possibility that we’re popular enough to throw more weight around than we look, I want to know it. Look firstly around the ranks of the White Eyes and our armor battalion.” Though you expected more out of looking for weak points in Glockenblume to exploit, it couldn’t hurt to poke about in the other direction.

“What about me?” Krause asked.

“Have you forgotten? You’re going to have a date with the most powerful woman in the country.” Signy didn’t know about this arrangement yet; she knew of the event, but not the person. Hopefully you’d picked well enough. “If you think she’s in the mood…suggest a few things, perhaps.”

Krause saluted dramatically, a display of sarcasm. “I will do my duty to my nation, in making my best effort to wrap this lady around my little finger.” He let his arm down, “Though I think I am ill-suited to this role.”

Maybe he was, but there weren’t many alternatives. Well, there were, but Krause appeared the most approachable.

“If everything is understood, you’ll all be set loose to those tasks when we break in…oh, half an hour. Let those drinks settle a bit more. Eat where you wish, perhaps some places where you think you’ll find things out, perhaps.” You yourself were quite intoxicated, though not terribly so. It would fade soon enough as long as you didn’t drink any more. PlatzerGold had more flavor than proof, it seemed. Your officers all saluted in affirmation, before returning to their places.

Half an hour later, you bid your temporary farewells to one another, and you got your crew up again, Krause coming with you.

“Nodyet,” Jorgen complained groggily, “I haffn’t beddihd her yiet,” he pawed at the bargirl who he’d hardly done more than wrap his arm around.

“Next time, next time,” Stein hurried him along. The bargirl seemed entertained at best; exactly where your loader thought he placed in terms of her favor, you had no clue, unless Yaegirs had a different interpretation of when a young woman considered herself seduced.
>>
A brisk walk later and you had returned your crew to the tanks and Krause to his. The tanks were still being noisily worked on; when you asked for an estimated time the mechanics would be finished, you were simply shooed away.

“Big work can’t start till Smitty’s back. Can’t say until then.”

“Er,” you thought about how long that could potentially be, “Do you know when that might be..?”

“Smitty’s a damn strong woman. Depends on how strong the guy she just carted off is.” How were you supposed to know something like that? Damn it all. You supposed there was naught to do but to wait for Signy to send a dispatch to you, letting you know that Schweinmann had come, and that you could meet him.

Captain Honnrieg returned while you were waiting, along with his crew.

“Afternoon, Lieutenant,” he greeted you as his men stopped and saluted, “Good news. Everybody who was missing was accounted for. Got a bit hairy for a couple of them, but nobody’s hurt. Not anybody we care about at least. They were easy to find with the right docs.”

“Excellent.” You smiled despite yourself. No further tragedies. “They are with the others, then?”

“Naturally.”

“I wouldn’t suppose you’d want some recreational time?” You asked Honnrieg.

“Nah, not yet.”

If that was what he wished then so be it. You spent time instead explaining the current situation to the Captain, who only asked for a few things to be specified as you went on. It didn’t take long, and he was scratching his chin thoughtfully by the end of it.

“Could be that they’ll delay, let us wriggle a bit. Gauging our response. What do you think, Madsen?”

One of Honnrieg’s soldiers piped up. “Only if they want a ransom instead of an agreement, I’d think.”

“Maybe. If they knew we wanted to leave quickly, though, they might try something on that. Or maybe they think we’re staying longer, in which case they’d try using it those kids as a leash. Can’t know for certain until they come to us.”

“They won’t want us to come to them?” another Bat Company man asked.

“Nah, I don’t think so,” Honnrieg replied, “No way the higher ups don’t know about this by now, not with the way that Fritz guy was slinging things around and digging dirt up. The longer they wait to make a move the worse they look; even getting aside from the nature of that trade, they made a deal with an enemy. Whatever they’re thinking of doing, they need to either come through with it or ready an explanation, quick.”
>>
The sound of a valet car, then quickly, somebody jogging up.

“Is Kommandant Von Tracht here?” a different valet from the other time, thank goodness. “Lady Vang has received mister Schweinmann. She said you wanted to meet with him.”

“Indeed. Captain?”

“No need to worry, Lieutenant.” Honnrieg smirked and jerked a thumb to point at himself, “Everything is handled here.”

“Great.” You waved goodbye, and collected Krause. Hopefully Signy would at least find him entertaining, though you doubted that she would be enchanted. Oh well; this was just for fun, anyways. Krause would be leaving with you in time too, after all.

-----

Signy was waiting at the gate for you and Krause, and you introduced your companion.

“I remember you,” Signy smiled slightly at Krause, politely, “…Sort of. Sorry.” Krause bowed deeply. “Oh, stop that,” Signy scoffed, “I don’t want to be treated like some ruler right now. I want to be treated like a girl.”

“My apologies,” Krause stood up straight again, “If that is the case…” Krause gave a mischievous look and grabbed Signy by the arm. Signy jumped at first, but went along with it as Krause led her away and down the street. Godspeed to both of them, you supposed, but…Signy was supposed to show you to Schweinmann.

“Over here.” The familiar voice of the rotund mercenary manager called you to the side; to a bench on the outside of the fence around Lord Wossehn’s castle grounds. Schweinmann wore round sunglasses, so dark you couldn’t see through them, and a long beige trench coat with the collar popped all the way up, masking most of him from anywhere but the front, where his belly pulled the coat tight. despite the fact that they almost disappeared into their sockets. A cigar smoldered in his teeth, smoke rising slowly in the new midday calm, the winds of yesterday gone. His hat from the party still crowned him, no less worse for wear.

“Hello,” you said to him, sitting next to the man on the bench. “I had a few questions for you.”

“Figured. Guess they’re not about another job, yeah? Heh heh. We do good work, don’t we?”

“You do,” you admitted. “As expected.”

“Well, spit it out, then,” Schweinmann prompted you, “Don’t look like that. I ain’t got anybody hiding in the shadows to come beat you or take you away, I’m only hopin’ you don’t have any of the same.”

>I heard Heller Von Tracht’s will was for you to take over the company. Yet you didn’t. Why?
>What’s the story with the new boss? People are saying he’s Hell’s son. You and I both know that isn’t true.
>I won’t pry too deeply. I just want to know if somebody bigger has their fingers in your company, and if I should be worried about that. As a favor to the relative of a friend.
>Other?
>>
>>2570520
>I heard Heller Von Tracht’s will was for you to take over the company. Yet you didn’t. Why?
>>What’s the story with the new boss? People are saying he’s Hell’s son. You and I both know that isn’t true.
>>
>>2570520
>I heard Heller Von Tracht’s will was for you to take over the company. Yet you didn’t. Why?
>What’s the story with the new boss? People are saying he’s Hell’s son. You and I both know that isn’t true.

Truth is more important. If it turns out to be that dangerous then we're not sticking around much longer anyway.
>>
>>2570520
>>I heard Heller Von Tracht’s will was for you to take over the company. Yet you didn’t. Why?
>>What’s the story with the new boss? People are saying he’s Hell’s son. You and I both know that isn’t true.
>>
>>2570520
>I heard Heller Von Tracht’s will was for you to take over the company. Yet you didn’t. Why?
>What’s the story with the new boss? People are saying he’s Hell’s son. You and I both know that isn’t true.

Now's not the time, but for a future vote I thing we should go and talk to the rescued hostages. To tell them all will be all right as the representative of Strossvald, and more importantly, to entrench ourselves in their minds as the guy who saved them. The more public opinion we have on our side when we return to Strossvald, the better.
>>
>>2571205
Yeah we should
>>
“Of course I don’t. All I want to know is the truth, really.” You started off, “I heard, when Heller Von Tracht died, everybody thought you would take over the company. That that would be Heller Von Tracht’s will for you to continue in his stead. Yet you didn’t. Why?”

Schweinmann took in smoke from the cigar, held it, and let it flow out his large, round nose, whose nostrils turned up to give him such a piglike appearance. “That’s a bit too long a story to tell all at once, and not one I ought to tell anybody, but you’ve got the right to know. Seems you already figured it out anyways, not that it’s hard to see if you’re lookin’ for it. Not a lot of people are. Yeah, Hell put it in his will, he wanted me to take over where he left off. Couldn’t do it. Your uncle was a good man, the Iron Hogs are the way they are because Hell was good. He was crude, rude, a womanizer, and he was so lazy you had to kick him to do anything, ‘cept when justice had to be served. That’s what the boss of the Iron Hogs has to be. He can’t be a pig. He’s got to be a man.”

“Come now,” you said to Schweinmann, “You speak as though you’re actually a pig and not a man. Though looks might be deceiving, I don’t think pigs can speak.”

Schweinmann snorted. “Around here, you’d be surprised. Point is, I can’t take his place. When Hell bit it, and time came to act, I was scared to take it, and I made up all sorts of excuses. That I had no right to profit off a friend’s death, when they lost everything helpin’ me out. That I was only fit for second fiddle. Things would’ve fallen apart whether I took the job or not, you see, but yeah, I could’ve held together a few things. After all that, though, I knew for sure I couldn’t do it. I had to find somebody with the right spirit to ‘em, the same sort of drive in hopeless times. Then I found the new boss, after a good hard search. Can’t say it didn’t end up well in the end ‘spite all of that. We’re doin’ good again, even though I messed up real bad for the second time in my life.”

“But this new boss,” you led on, “What’s his story? People are saying he’s Heller’s son. You and I both know that isn’t true, so what even is he?”
>>
“Hrm.” Schweinman’s cigar glowed hot as he blew through it, “A last ditch effort. Best I could find. He’s no Hell Gitt, but he could play the role well enough. Not as bombastic, not as much a star, but he’s got the character to be a leader. About the right age, too. He got screwed out of a huge deal, and he had to come here. Even a year after he was chomping at the bit, and I saw a place for all that drive to go. Dancing around the subject, I know. He’s Hell’s kid because people want him to be. There couldn’t be a further relation if I tried, but it was believable enough, since Hell slept around like he couldn’t be in a different bed two nights in a row. This might sound funny, but people wanted continuity from Hell, a sort I knew I couldn’t do. The company was in a bad way, most of the guys had gone with the wind and taken a lot of the gear with them. Everybody left was hopeless. So I had to pull a miracle out of my ass.”

“Well, that doesn’t really tell me who he was in the first place…” you said with disappointment.

“Who he was don’t matter. What matters is who he is now. Anything past that comes out on a need to know basis, and trust me kid,” Schweinmann spat out his cigar just as it burned to a stump, sending it into the cobblestone street. “Better for you to not be chasing ghosts out here. You ain’t like me or Hell, yeah? You got those hostages because you’re heading back home. You can go back. If it wasn’t that way, I’d be more open, but there’s no point in you knowing right now. Not if you want to go back.”

What an ominous closing, you thought as the fat man stood up.

“That about it, then?” he asked, a sudden gust blowing his coat about, and he threw his hand up to his hat to hold it down. “I don’t mean to scare ya or nothing. I just know this ain’t your place. No reason to chase ghosts in this wildland when the future’s back west. That said, if you want a small favor…I’m obligated, you know? Only a small one. Nothing like a free job or going back on payment, see.”

>I’ve got a few more questions, if they’re not too bothersome. [They might be, depending on what’s asked.]
>A small favor? Alright. You know Cyclops, Signy, she’s my friend. You wouldn’t mind getting on your boss’s case if anybody tries to mess up this Republic thing, would you? She’s a fan of Hell.
>Our unit has somebody your people have an interest in. You don’t mind if we keep her, do you?
>Other?

>>2571205
> for a future vote I thing we should go and talk to the rescued hostages.

This will be arranged.
>>
>>2571291
>A small favor? Alright. You know Cyclops, Signy, she’s my friend. You wouldn’t mind getting on your boss’s case if anybody tries to mess up this Republic thing, would you? She’s a fan of Hell.

Schweinmann is saying people left because he couldn't lead the Hogs as well, but Anya said she left because he wouldn't lead. Either Anya is an isolated case, or Schweinmann is bullshitting us.
I don't think there's a point in pressing him though. We can dig from another direction if we want.
>>
>>2571291
>>A small favor? Alright. You know Cyclops, Signy, she’s my friend. You wouldn’t mind getting on your boss’s case if anybody tries to mess up this Republic thing, would you? She’s a fan of Hell.

I'll choose this but isn't this a pretty big favour?
>>
>>2571291
>>A small favor? Alright. You know Cyclops, Signy, she’s my friend. You wouldn’t mind getting on your boss’s case if anybody tries to mess up this Republic thing, would you? She’s a fan of Hell.
>>
>>2571291
>A small favor? Alright. You know Cyclops, Signy, she’s my friend. You wouldn’t mind getting on your boss’s case if anybody tries to mess up this Republic thing, would you? She’s a fan of Hell.
Most bang for our buck.
(Plus Anya coming with us was a given)
>>
>>2571291
>A small favor? Alright. You know Cyclops, Signy, she’s my friend. You wouldn’t mind getting on your boss’s case if anybody tries to mess up this Republic thing, would you? She’s a fan of Hell.

>>2571430
I think Richter means Smitty in this case. Although I too am thrilled that Anya may come along and all the shenanigans that entails.

I was going to pick recruiting Smitty but we don't know how Hans and her "reunion" has gotten along. I figure we should learn that first.

Also considering the talk of legitimacy we are the obvious candidate but wouldn't they call us "That Rich Gitt"?
>>
>>2571892
I don't think that was about Smitty, since she'd be "one of your people", not "somebody your people have an interest in"
>>
Updating in a few hours or so.

>>2571329
To specify, they aren't contradicting one another. Piggy's justification is that he did wasn't fit for it because he didn't take it up when he needed to; he never actually nominally "led." The logic is rather circular but it's what he's saying.

>>2571359
It is!

>>2571892
Smitty is a bit too valuable to reasonably ask for, not that it isn't allowed to be attempted, if one would think they could pull her away from a dream job.
>>
>>2571291
>>A small favor? Alright. You know Cyclops, Signy, she’s my friend. You wouldn’t mind getting on your boss’s case if anybody tries to mess up this Republic thing, would you? She’s a fan of Hell.

>Anya
wouldnt we be dragging her sister around to then? Also shes somewhere here, she must be worried about her sister, we should probably tell her shes fineish. And ask why they left the hogs. Another perspective might help.
>>
“A small favor?” you thought a bit, “Alright. You know Signy…Cyclops, she’s my friend. You wouldn’t mind getting on your boss’s case if anybody tries to mess up this Republic thing, would you? She’s a fan of Hell.”

Schweinmann looked at you, then to the sky, eyes invisible under his dark round glasses, and sighed heavily. “That’s the opposite of a small favor, you know. This battle changed a lotta things. Sosaldt won’t be the way it used to for much longer, and with Ellowie getting torn to pieces over east, we’re looking at something huge coming up, a thing you won’t want to be on the losing side for.”

“Is that a no?”

“It’s a we’ll see what happens. The Iron Hogs profited a lot from this, and company policy is that we do right by those who help us. You get it?”

That was about as roundabout a “yes, but,” as you could think of there being, but it would have to do. “Thank you, then.”

Schweinmann gave a discomforted grumble. “Don’t cross your fingers. The Republic is young and the world’s more dangerous now than it’s been in a while. It’s not a good time for dreams, or promises. Soon enough we’ll be wishing for the days of the Kaiser, I reckon.” Schweinmann stood up with a groan, and without looking, spoke more. “I hear you found Anya, somehow. She was important to ol’ Hell. If she’s going with you, don’t let anything bad happen to her. Hell was awfully fond of the little creature. Had a few plans that…eh, I shouldn’t say. Though Hell did have something that he told me, if you or any other family came around looking for him and he wasn’t around anymore, to tell you. Slipped from my mind til after the party, see.” He rummaged in his pocket and retrieved a wrinkled old envelope, and held it out to you without looking. Once you grabbed it, Schweinman paced off without another word.
>>
Could you wait to read it? A final epitaph from Heller Von Tracht? Of course you couldn’t. The envelope was peeled open and you retrieved the note inside; it was a torn half of a typewriter paper page, with a short message scrawled in the middle in ink, and a red wax seal stamped at the bottom; the Von Tracht seal, the Silver Lance and Stallion’s head.

-----


Hey.

If you’re reading this, then I’m dead. I haven’t left anything worth looking for, so go the hell back home. Make sure the runt screws a lot of fine women cause I haven’t given him any cousins. Good luck, bro, or runt, depending on who came here first.

Haven’t used this seal in a long time. It’s our past, and our future. Lot of history in this stamp, huh? Make sure I’m only a footnote and not the end.

See you on Judgment Day

Heller Von Tracht, Helmut Gitt, and a lot of names only pretty girls can call me.


-----

The man was never much for words. You put it back in the envelope and slipped it carefully into your pocket. When you looked up Schweinmann was nowhere to be found.

You went back to camp, then to the makeshift camp that held the Strossvalders you’d rescued. Thankfully, the issues of feeding, sheltering, and other essential procedures had been taken care of by some responsible soul while you had been resting; it must have been a nightmare to produce out of nowhere. The people walking around still appeared forlorn, blank and dazed, a community that had stepped out of a dream almost. They could hardly be blamed; they had been in captivity for a long time (albeit, apparently, not left wanting for food or shelter), with no news of rescue, and some even having accepted a new life in Todesfelsen, only to be swept back up again. You noticed these characters; they appeared to have been ostracized by the rest of the group, a few looked scuffed up, as though they had been in a fight quite recently. Honnrieg had returned the rest of the estranged hostages recently, but he had reported no problems with his people or those they rescued; had fighting broken out between these rescued prisoners?

You asked this of one of the Bat Company guards.

“Yeah, almost definitely. First time we broke it up, but they just do it out of sight, now. Even if we had enough people to watch everywhere, we probably couldn’t stop it.”
>>
“I’ll see about getting you reinforcements, then,” you reassured the Bat Company enlisted man with a pat on the back. “Good work. Have your men gather these people around, I’ve an announcement to make to them.”

The soldier complied, and soon enough, word had spread, and a half ring of spectators had gathered about you. When the numbers looked like a good majority of the total, you began.

“People of Strossvald! The Archduchy has not forgotten you! I, Lieutenant Richter Von Tracht, with the aid of my platoon and fellow officers, including Captain Honnrieg and his Holtenberger Bat Company, have been dispatched by his majesty to rescue you. The journey was long, and arduous, as I am sure your captivity was, but we have come. Worry not, for you are now returning home.”

You expected more shouts of approval than the scattered few that replied. A round of applause would have been appreciated; the response, however, was that of uncertainty. People looked to one another, if they didn’t simply stare at you.

“All of us?” shouted somebody. Somebody you chose to respond to.

“We were unfortunately too late to save all of you,” you took off your cap in reverence, “But, mark my words, I will escort all whom I can safely home, and I will save those remaining imprisoned, who are-“

“No!” another voice shouted from the middle of the crowd. “What about the traitors?”

“Traitors?”

“Aye, traitors,” a man up front stumbled up, “Thems over theres, the whores who screwed their kidnappers, the scum who served them. They’ve got a new home,” he turned and shouted over to the huddled group, “Haven’t ye!? Go back to that burned city, the Archduke doesn’t want your kind!”

A wave of approval went through the crowd, and more protests erupted.

“They didn’t come to rescue you!”

“Go back to your new masters, filth!”

“Scram, scram!”

This was getting bad. You had to do something about this…

>Admonish the crowd. You are all citizens of Strossvald, are you not? What matters is that they are all here now.
>Try to quell the disorder by agreeing, and opening an investigation. Some interviews and isolation from the rest should keep tensions at a manageable, if uncivil level.
>Order silence. The Archduchy’s orders were to rescue them, no exceptions. If any resistance to this judgment by the Archduchy is seen, then the perpetrators will be punished. You would not let these people rip each other apart, even if you had to become a new jailer for the time being.
>Other?
>>
>>2572744
>>Admonish the crowd. You are all citizens of Strossvald, are you not? What matters is that they are all here now.

Let The Judge and their own families deal with them when we get back.
>>
>>2572744
>>Try to quell the disorder by agreeing, and opening an investigation. Some interviews and isolation from the rest should keep tensions at a manageable, if uncivil level.
>>
>>2572744
>>Admonish the crowd. You are all citizens of Strossvald, are you not? What matters is that they are all here now.

But add in language about how our mission was to bring everyone back and if justice needs to be done it will be once we're back in our own land where our laws are rightfully enforced.
>>
>>2572744
>By lowering themselves to colluding with their captors, those people have hurt only themselves, no? In any case, the ones to judge them should be the proper authorities in Strossvald
>Keep them separate from the rest though.
>>
>>2573058
Supporting, also imply that those same authorities will severely punish them in due time if they are proven to deserve it.

Whether or not we follow though that is for later, just to keep the peace for now.
>>
“Are we not all citizens of Strossvald?” you asked with surprise, “What is all of this? What matters is that you are all here now, not what has happened since you were taken. Any justice that must be done will wait until we have completed our mission, and brought you all back home, where the laws of the Archduchy rule, and not the chaos of this land.” Chaos didn’t technically rule Sosaldt, but the mix between true legal code, mob rule, and frontier justice was such that the laws themselves, even taken from a smallish collection of differing settlements, may as well been chaos incarnate. “Did these people gain anything from their choice? It seems to me that they were only hurt by what you condemn them for. In time, the proper authorities will judge if they require any more punishment, but for now, I ask that you calm yourselves.”

The crowd stayed quiet, but they didn’t seem very pleased by that decision. Emotions and energy was still running high.

“If you can, separate the two groups further,” you instructed one of the Bat Company men keeping guard, “Perhaps even devote a greater portion to watching them. They are not to mingle, no matter the circumstance.”

“Of course, milord.”

After making your way back to camp, and finding Honnrieg and his men finishing up on wolfing down dry rations; the tasteless biscuits and tinned or jarred vegetable compote that was standard for long range patrols by the Republic’s constituent territories, apparently. They were just in time for you to relay the situation to the Captain, who assured you he would solve this problem, and departed with all of his men. That left you wondering what there was left for you to do; the mechanics still labored at your tanks, though apparently parts of it had to wait for Smitty to return; she still hadn’t, of course. She did say she’d be occupied with Hans all day, but you hadn’t actually thought they’d just disappear. Oh well, you supposed you could be delayed from moving out for a single day. Your unit had been assured of having no further duties aside from emergencies, and to be honest, you felt you had the right idea of things in thinking no emergencies would pop up in only a day after the battle.

In the afternoon, the now veterans of the 1st Republic Armor Battalion began to trickle back in from their horseplay of last night, still looking drowsy and collapsing among their equipment to look around vacantly, doing any tasks slowly and inefficiently. A sense of ennui was shared among the Republic tankers, as though rebounding from the tension and release of the past day. You wondered what would be next for the 1st Battalion; would they become the elite of a new, growing army, or would a focus on peace and integration of new territories, organization of the disparate states, and other red tape mean that expensive formations such as mechanized troops would cause them to be disbanded?
>>
There was so much you didn’t know about Sosaldt that you would need to find out for that question to be answered. As Schweinmann had said, times were about to massively change in this land, perhaps throughout the continent; after all, Sosaldt had been wild ever since the Kaiser’s reign had been driven out of Sosalia. With the collapse of Ellowie and the growing might of eastern states, would the Republic be allowed to develop in peace? Would its neighbors to the north and south, perhaps even east and west, allow it? The most likely outcomes didn’t seem fair to all these men who had fought so hard for it, but little could be done about that. All you could hope for was that it would end well for Strossvald, and whatever storm was about to ravage the east would not spread home.

While they were about, you spent a little time asking about, probing to see if maybe, a few would be up for assembling against Glockenblume. The answers you got were mixed; everybody you asked was fine with their position, their role, they had a certain pride in both their equipment and the part they played in the battle the other day, but almost to a man they said they’d “rather not go through another fight like that anytime soon.” Though one man asked you something that took you off guard.

“You gonna keep on being Kommandant, Kommandant?” they asked briskly. “Hear you’re heading off soon. Taking those people back home. You gonna come back?”

“I’ll be staying home, I’m afraid,” you answered. “Back in Strossvald.”

“Huh.” The tanker accepted that, though he didn’t seem happy with that. It was fair; even if it was for but a week and a day after, you had trained them, drilled them, and led them into battle; some attachment was natural, though staying here would be an impossibility. This was not your land.

Really you were waiting to retrieve your ghost, and then promptly stuff her in her can in case the Hound of the East was still sniffing around here. Was it ethical to use a fourteen year old girl as a tactical asset? Probably not, not that Maddalyn would agree that Emma was a girl at all and was, rather, a lump of presence energy masquerading as a person. Such was the logic that soulbinders followed in destroying things like Emma.

Oh, but what to do in the meantime, you thought as you watched the Iron Hogs mechanics yank something out of your tank’s engine that looked important. You’d dispatched all your officers on tasks, maybe it was best that you wait in a place where they could find you, but damn it if you didn’t feel like you needed to be doing something.

>Go and grab Maddalyn. You could occupy each other well enough.
>Take your crew and go and visit Anya’s village. You could talk with her sister and inform her you hadn’t gotten her sibling killed, at least, even if you heard she was still bedridden.
>Find Loch and pester him about helping you with Glockenblume. Maybe you were due another favor.
>Other?
>>
>>2574574
>Take your crew and go and visit Anya’s village. You could talk with her sister and inform her you hadn’t gotten her sibling killed, at least, even if you heard she was still bedridden.

Not biased at all no sir.

But to at least [i] pretend [/i] I'm thinking about this reasonably:
If we confront Loch he's just going to weasel about and either bargain or force our hand in helping him in the next trouble the Republic is having. And while we're likely to do it anyways no need to make it easy for him.

As for Maddy, we're going to have plenty of time to get even more re-acquainted whereas now I feel we have a small duty to Anya for her near-suicidal help in threatening the Golds negotiations and making our occupation fairly easy compared to what it could have been. We may not have been able to do it without her.
>>
>>2574574
>>Take your crew and go and visit Anya’s village. You could talk with her sister and inform her you hadn’t gotten her sibling killed, at least, even if you heard she was still bedridden.

This sounds interesting, we can kiss the lips off Maddy later.
>>
>>2574574
>Take your crew and go and visit Anya’s village. You could talk with her sister and inform her you hadn’t gotten her sibling killed, at least, even if you heard she was still bedridden.

I love me some consensus, and who cares about hostages anyways?
>>
I feel like there's something more important we should be doing but I can't think of what it is.
>>
It was time to clear up a few loose ends concerning Anya, and go and visit the village she was evidently from, or at least, it was where her sister lived. The level of connection between the two was unclear- both did care for one another, since the militant sibling could be controlled if the other was threatened, and the one who was less warlike in attitude had the commitment to disguise herself to throw any pursuers off her sister’s trail. It had failed, since no disguise could fool Maddalyn’s eyes, but the effort spoke volumes.

In hindsight, the battle that had happened there yesterday might have been rather silly, considering that your force and Anya’s small command had technically been on the same side (part of the rebellion in Todesfelsen had been supported by the Home Guard, Todesfelsen’s garrison and troop reserve). They had fired the first shot, though; any wasteful fighting was at least partially their fault, though they hadn’t known the Republic was coming. Ultimately the blame could likely mostly be laid upon lacking coordination and premediated interference between the factions, if Gold Group was any indication.

Malachi and Jorgen were chosen to accompany you this time; being thrown through a piano had made you a bit more conscious of your lack of formidability outside of a tank, and if anybody in the village was still upset about yesterday, you wouldn’t take any chances. So you took along your two strongest, fiercest crew members, and told yourself that anybody with a bone to pick with you would have to go through these two first. Impossible, as far as you could imagine. It would have been a nice, sentimental gesture to bring Anya along too, but you’d gotten an update on her earlier at your request, during idle time, and she was sleeping off her wounds. With the medical personnel not estimating her even waking up until tomorrow, it would be best to leave the fiery tomboy to rest.
>>
After telling your crewmen where you were going, and leaving Stein to both watch over the tank and to relay where you were to anybody who came looking, you (begrudgingly) appropriated some of the courier unit’s motorcycles and raced off towards the village. It must have had a name, but you never bothered learning it; there were many like it in Sosaldt, speckling the landscape between large settlements. Not like the rural territories in the Republic and between the Republic and Wossehnalia, where there were vast expanses of space between towns, though the density wasn’t like that of, say, Blumsburg and its surrounding towns. Despite the horrible seats the motorcycles had, they were somehow no worse to drive over worse terrain, and you soon were coming upon the place. A red flag flew above the town hall structure, the standard of the Guillotines, in lieu of an actual Republic standard that you didn’t think even existed yet. As expected, the village had been occupied, a stop along a fresh supply route to the garrison now stationed in Todesfelsen. That was a relief. Friends wouldn’t be hard to find in case of trouble, if the village even had any to give.

The soldier that greeted you seemed surprised. “Oh. Wow, it’s uh, been a while, huh.”

“Do I know you?” you asked, as you put down the motorcycle’s kickstand and propped it on dusty clay.

“…Guess I’m pretty forgettable. You know, I was at the checkpoint? When you first came into Rostig?”

“Oh.” You peered closer at the man. You certainly didn’t remember him. “Well, it’s good to see that you’re…alive?”

“I’d hope I was alive. Pretty much the only way I could’ve been killed in the last couple days is if I fell over and somehow broke my neck. Kommandant, though, I hear. Is there, well, anything I can do for you?”

“I’m just here to see somebody,” you explained, “How many men do you have here?”

“Ten. The people here haven’t been any trouble, so we’ve just been sitting around playing cards.” The Republic trooper slouched and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Pretty boring, really. Been boring since this whole Republic thing started. Guess that’s a good thing at least.” Things wouldn’t be boring for long by your reckoning, but today was peaceful at least. You saluted the man, and he stared at you, so you left with a cough.
>>
A brief questioning about the place, that is, when the villagers were caught off guard and couldn’t shuffle away or retreat indoors, told you that Anya’s sister was a servant of the mayor, so she would be in the town hall; also known as the mayor’s house. Since Anya could visit this place without much hubbub, you guessed that the Death Heads and Wossehnalia combined provided unusual stability to the region. There were no gangsters or armed militia like there was everywhere else, no enforcement mechanism for the mentioned mayor to secure his rule. Sosaldt was an odd place; only a bit of distance and you may as well have been in a different country.

Naturally, when you went up to the mayor’s house, the sister answered the door, only to disappear immediately. Then, when your intent was made clear to the elder who appeared afterwards, the girl was pushed out once more. She was clearly terrified of the lot of you, especially considering what had happened the last time you had been around. She was also extremely cute.

She was a brunette, unlike her sister, but they had similar faces, albeit not exactly the same. Without the long slash across her face, she looked intensely girlish and innocent, and the frilly dress she wore, styling herself a maid, only added to that. It was a much more appropriate look for her than the ill-fitting uniform from earlier. From how she looked, she must have been a younger sister.

“W-what do you want?” she asked, trembling, eyes wide. “What have you done with Anya?”

“She’s safe,” you said quickly, “She was wounded fighting, but she’s getting better.”

“Wounded? Fighting?” Anya’s sister was baffled. Anya’s sister. You really ought to ask her name. “I don’t understand…I thought you took her prisoner. Where is she? What’s happened?”

“We ah,” you scratched the back of your head. This would be the awkward part. “We both had issues with Todesfelsen, so she joined up with us, and we took over the city with the Army of the Republic of Vang. She was wounded in the fighting, and she lost a lot of blood, but I don’t think the wounds are disfiguring. She’ll be fine. What’s your name?”

“How hurt is she?” she pressed.

“She almost died. But she’ll be fine.”

“…Take me to see her,” the girl demanded, “Please. I’ll do anything, just let me see her.”

“Yes, yes, but your name, please.”

“Alina. My name is Alina.”

“Ehnnnytheng, boss?” Jorgen elbowed you.

“She’s sleeping right now,” you told Alina, “So I wouldn’t expect much, but I’ll take you over.”

Alina bowed deeply, stooping so far over she faced the ground. “Thank you..! I don’t know what’s going on, or why you came back, but thank you…”

>Ask Alina some questions? [Write In]
>See if you can get some news from somebody else.
>Other?
>Anything, you said..?
Also
>Take the motorcycles back
>Appropriate a car from the garrison
>>
>>2575775
>>See if you can get some news from somebody else.
>Appropriate a car from the garrison
>>
>>2575775

We could use the "Anything, you say?" prompt to get her to convince Anya to come with us. But that's assuming we want Anya to come with us, and that she wouldn't be willing to on her own, and that we would still want her to come with us even if she didn't want to.

>>Take the motorcycles back

They aren't our motorcycles so I think it would be pretty irresponsible to just leave them here.
>>
>>2575775
>See if you can get some news from somebody else.

>Take the motorcycles back
>>
>>2575775
>Ask Alina some questions? [Write In]
How long have you and Anya lived here?
Were you with her among the Iron Hogs?
Why the hell is she such a... Combatitve person?

>See if you can get some news from somebody else.
I can't think of much to ask a quiet place like this, but maybe if any more Death Heads have been seen fleeing through here?

That spoiler though, I can only assume this is a result of Richter's mental foundation being compromised. And if that's the case.

>Take the motorcycles back
Weeeeell she would have to cling onto us to get back. I suppose it can't be helped...
>>
>>2576115
>That spoiler though,

Well, it wasn't really meant to be taken seriously, which isn't to say it's verboten or anything but it was more meant there as a jest, or along the lines >>2575835 maybe.

Didn't convey that well I know but eh.

Anyways I'll be around later today after my game session.
>>
>>2576588
Or it's Heller's ghost possessing us from the letter.
That randy old goat was a wizard all along!
>>
“It’s only common courtesy,” you told Alina as she rose up again, “Though I have some questions, about you and your sister.” Alina nodded. “Right, then, first off, how long have you and Anya lived here?”

“Anya didn’t live here, hasn’t for a long time. She lived in Todesfelsen. I’ve lived here…well, since I was born, I guess. Our mother was a slave, kidnapped from Ellowie. I don’t know who our father was, or if we even have the same father, but mother was alone, until she died only a couple of years after having me. She was in an occupation that tended towards disputes, alone, with men, and she was killed in one. I didn’t understand for a long time. Anya didn’t either, but she did when she came back.”

“Your mother was a prostitute.”

“Yes, what of it?” Alina bristled.

“Nothing. I didn’t mean to imply anything.” You half apologized, “How old was Anya when she left here?”

“Around eleven, and I was eight. We were taken care of, unlike many children, but Anya didn’t like sitting still, she always was getting into trouble, and one day she just ran away.”

“She said she was captured by bandits who enslaved her,” you recalled.

“Only because I went to look for her, and she rescued me. That was ten years ago, and I thought she was gone forever, only for her to appear again almost two years ago.” Soon after Hell Gitt died, then. “Just like her, I suppose. Always doing what you don’t expect.”

That answered your other question about if Alina lived with the Iron Hogs; she evidently hadn’t. Your other question, then, as you were walking back towards the Republic outpost. “Why is Anya so…combative?

“Because you punched her in the face, maybe?” Alina suggested tonelessly. Of course that had to be brought up.

“I’m sorry, I told her I was sorry. No. I don’t think that’s it, there’s something beyond that.”
>>
“She’s always been like that. I don’t know why.” The tone of Alina’s voice indicated she was hiding something; a poor liar. “Maybe it happened when she was with one of the mercenary groups, either the Iron Hogs or the Death Heads. With the latter, she was always fighting with somebody, but because of the former she never got thrown down from her position because of it. She was always complaining about it, and about how she wanted things to be like they were before. Anya liked the leader of the Iron Hogs, maybe even loved him, and she…I suppose she just wanted to make him proud of her, or be the sort of person he’d see as an equal, even after he had died, and it annoyed her that people didn’t understand that, or so she tries to put it. It’s her way of seeing the world. She looks for adversity, for opponents, rivals.”

That might not have been much the answer you were seeking, but it was enlightening nevertheless; why Anya had undertaken what very well could have been a suicide mission for a cause she’d been with less than a day, her desire to not look weak. “Thank you, then,” you said, “Malachi, watch over her. Jorgen and I are going to ask around a little while we’re here.”

What you asked about for was news; not any of a specific sort, and perhaps that was why you found disappointingly little. Mostly when you asked for general news, you were told things you already knew about, from angles that weren’t particularly interesting. Largely the concerns were about continuity, concerns that were rather assuaged by the garrison setting up their own camp instead of taking over the village. One interesting bit, though; rumor had it that Ellowian army units had retreated into Sosaldt after the collapse of their lines under the pressure of a combined Twaryian and Netillian assault. Not much was known, not even if they were around for sure, but it was a curious morsel. There was little concern about threats, perhaps because of the security Wossehnalia and Todesfelsen’s overlap gave, but there was one man who spoke of rumors that the North, rather than the South, was the main threat, and certainly not the East. Why the Northern Lords would be more a threat, you couldn’t think, considering they had Netilland to their north, growing in strength and plenty vengeful. Unless the thought was that the Netillians would try and take out the Twaryians first? Curious.
>>
Not willing to spend more time with the vague answers you got from few, you went back with Jorgen, unsatisfied but not feeling that you had really wasted much time either. The motorcycles were given a spiteful glare for the assault upon your thighs they were about to commence; hopefully it wouldn’t hurt Alina as much, as she got onto the rear of your bike, after being beckoned, and clung to you as you kicked over the engine.

“We’re going to see your sister, not,” you told her. “It’ll be a bumpy ride, though.”

-----

“A bumpy ride,” Alina staggered off the bike and leaned against a pole, “Might have been an understatement.”

It was true, going out and back on these piles of junk had reignited pains old and new on your legs, and they were stiffening into awful cramps. Thankfully they were short term, and you were soon walking once more instead of waddling.

Short too was the time spent looking around among the wounded; one of the Bat Company medics tending to the lot noticed you, and informed you that the wounded of your group were doing well; they would not impede the march back. When you asked after Anya, he waved for you to follow, while informing you of her condition; stable, but unchanged, naturally. It wasn’t as if she would magically wake up in the short time since you’d last asked, and better if she didn’t.

“I’ll leave you with her,” the medic said, “She’s past the point of greatest risk.”

Anya looked far too peaceful to be recognizable. With how round and youthful her face was, she bore more than a passing resemblance to Maddalyn- while she was asleep, at least. Besides her face having been mutilated in a different way. Alina sat in the chair beside the bed, and reached out a hand to touch Anya’s hair.

“She’d hate this if she was awake,” Alina said solemnly as she threaded the straw colored fluff through her fingers, “We used to do each other’s hair when we were younger. Hers used to be so long and lovely, it’s too bad she keeps it short now.”

>I’ll leave you to her, then. I have other business to attend to.
>Can I ask you a few other things?
>Fondle the fluff
>Other?
>>
>>2578353
>>I’ll leave you to her, then. I have other business to attend to.

Not sure what we can do in Todesfelsen, I'd still consider it hostile territory so we should take whatever precautions we have to.
>>
>>2578353
>>I’ll leave you to her, then. I have other business to attend to.
>>
>>2578353
>>I’ll leave you to her, then. I have other business to attend to.
>>
“I’ll leave you to her, then,” you turned right back and headed for the exit. “If you need help, ask one of the medics here. The ones that look like that, not the other ones.” The Republic may have been understaffed as far as professional medical help went, but away from the front, the unlicensed practitioners, folk healers, and curious clinicians suddenly had a wealth of wounded men to experiment upon. Nobody you’d trust aside from Bat Company’s medics (though their level of skill made them seem more field surgeons than mere granters of first aid), but certainly better than nobody, considering the scale of injury being dealt with. Most gangs, you had come to learn, had some form of medical help for treating those hurt in skirmishes but battles like yesterday were near unheard of in the lands the Republic inhabited.

Ah, what now, though. Still afternoon, your tanks were still being fixed slowly in Smitty’s absence…maybe you could expediate the process by making them repair only yours for the time being, since they were getting the other two m/32s anyways.

“Hey, dingus, some people in the white cloaks are looking for you.”

You almost jumped out of your skin.

“Boo! Ooo, I’m haunting you, forever...” The pale blue sprite that was speaking to you floated back from behind your ear and in front of you. “Where the hell were you? If hiding from the weirdo wizard wasn’t bad enough, nobody knew where the hell you were! It’s annoying enough not being able to talk to anybody but a few people, it’s even more that when none of them can answer simple questions!”

You pointed outwards, making a face at Emma indicating your thoughts at the moment.

“Hey, don’t say anything if you’ve ever stalked a schoolgirl.”

“Jorgen, Malachi,” you said steadily, “How long has this pest been near me?”

“Jaastes menute.” Jorgen garbled.

“Alright. Go ahead and head back to camp, I need to discuss some things with myself.”
>>
“I would have rather you appear again with some sort of well wishing, maybe showing some appreciation for the fact that I’m still alive,” you hissed to Emma once you’d found a suitable alleyway to speak to her in.

“Dying isn’t so bad once you’re used to it,” Emma muttered dismissively, “…Fine, sorry. I’m happy you aren’t dead. I’m also happy that you brought back Hilda. I don’t know if it was hard or not, but…I appreciate it. When I went to see her, she was all…I don’t know, she got all mad that I wanted to see, if she was alright after all that happened, and…” Emma settled onto the wall and dimmed, “I don’t know, I’m really jealous right now. I want to be her friend, and she just goes all cold, when she’d probably spill everything to you, and you don’t even…never mind.” The little ghost sank down and twirled a bit, alighting on your shoulder. “I guess you need me to spy on people, or fly around and tell somebody something, or I need to get jammed into a can again. Whatever. I’m just the right kind of feeling like shit that I don’t really care. I thought I had a neat idea for something, but, that’s not happening. Nobody would want it but me, and I’ve just been sitting around with my thumb in my ass while everybody else fights. Even your girlfriend was fighting, and she’s a little goddamn girl-Oh, for fuck’s sake, quit listening to me and stuff me in that stupid can already!”

“Kommandant?” You looked up and to the side; there was a funny looking man in a deep blue suit and a blue flower in his collar, escorted by a single slouching Blue Barb soldier. He appeared unarmed; merely a guide for whoever this envoy was. “We wanted to talk with you, Kommandant. We’d like to make a deal, a very simple deal, where everybody would come out happy. We just need to clear up a few matters, perhaps correct some presumptions, and we can all be right as rain. Does that sound satisfactory, or should I…”

>Nah, piss off, you. I’ll come to you when I’m ready, I have a meeting scheduled somewhere else.
>Fine, I’ll come along. We certainly have much to discuss, and a massive amount of “misunderstandings” to make right, especially concerning trade of sovereign citizens of Strossvald.
>Make a deal? No, nobody’s making any deals. You know what I want, you give it to me, or I do my best to ruin your place in the Republic, if it isn’t spoilt already. Move along, child slaver.
>Other?
>>
>>2578980
>>Fine, I’ll come along. We certainly have much to discuss, and a massive amount of “misunderstandings” to make right, especially concerning trade of sovereign citizens of Strossvald.

See what they're asking for first then discuss with the rest.
>>
>>2578980
>>Fine, I’ll come along. We certainly have much to discuss, and a massive amount of “misunderstandings” to make right, especially concerning trade of sovereign citizens of Strossvald.
>>
>>2578980
Also if Jorgen and Malachi aren't too far away call them back here; no way are we going alone.
>>
>>2578980
>I'm grateful for your offer, but I happen to have a meeting sheduled somewhere right now. Let's set a time and place and meet in a couple hours.
Position of power, guys. The one who controls the time and place of the dialog already has a psychological advantage.
>>
>>2579105
This. Supporting
>>
>>2579105

This
>>
>>2579105
Might as well, we still have time to kill and it might be helpful to have an officer or Ally join us during the meeting.
>>
Your teeth gritted together, but your tone towards these new strangers was the portrait of restraint. “I’m grateful for your offer, but I happen to have a meeting scheduled somewhere right now. Let’s set up a time and place to meet, perhaps in a couple of hours.”

The small, strange man frowned, and his escort coughed loudly, “If that is what you want, then we will accommodate. In two hours, but where?”

The place where you had the most power, of course. “At my place in the 1st Armor Battalion’s camp.”

“Very well, Kommandant,” the strange man said calmly, adjusting his collar slightly, “I must remind you that this is of mutual benefit. Perhaps you have been led to believe we are your enemy, but we harbor no such presuppositions towards you, so do keep all of that in mind, until we do meet properly. Good day.” With a flick of a finger, he led his Blue Barb away.

“Who the hell was that?” Emma demanded as they left.

“Bad people. Who did you say was looking for me? People in white cloaks, White Eyes?”

“Yeah, that sounds right.”

“I’d better go find out what they want, then,” you thought about seeing Viska at some point; she wasn’t at the field hospital, despite having lost an arm in the fighting; presumably a White Eye could lead you to wherever they were headquartered, not that there were many of them left after the battle yesterday; out of all of the Army of the Republic’s constituents, they had suffered the most losses of all, and had been nearly destroyed delaying the Death Heads until the storm blew in proper.

“Hey. Aren’t you going to put me in the can?” Emma was promptly put in the can. Maybe it wasn’t the best decision, but dealing with a moody ember wasn’t what you needed on the mind at the moment.

-----

It didn’t take long to find a White Eye, given their distinctive dress, and you were quickly spirited to the White Eyes’ camp, and then to a rather meek looking tent structure, where within was the “Hostmaster” of the fighting unit, Viska. She looked terrible; aside from the stump of her right forearm being clearly visible with her cloak off, she somehow looked even paler, exhausted, and was sweating in spite of the autumn chill. Whether this was because of the wound or another development wasn’t clear, though she was obviously distressed; an emotion that passed on to her bodyguards, who must have been used to the small woman being completely level at even critical times.

“Kommandant,” Viska addressed you, her soft, comforting voice now wracked with frailty, “Something terrible has happened. I feared it, because of how many of the fighting men were away, but I had hoped that they would not act…so quickly. Glockenblume has sent their elite to reclaim those who fled from their territories, and has taken back…many.”
>>
“Cyclops must be informed at once,” you said firmly in response, “She has, hasn’t she?”

“No. Because they are legally in the right.” Viska wheezed; she reached a hand to clutch around her throat, and she signaled for somebody else to speak for her.

“Legally in the right?” you repeated stupidly, “What?” The concept of anything is Sosaldt, even beyond enslaving people and kidnapping them being in the legal right, was baffling.

“They are debtors,” one of the bodyguards explained gravely, “They owe substantial debts to the city, and the only way most can waive this debt, is through giving their progeny up. Those behind on payments can have their children seized. It is in “exchange” for the good life they live being brought up, groomed, before they are sold to the whims of visiting “patrons.” You’d think that would pay for it plenty, but no.”

“If you have favorable traits,” Viska choked out, her voice growing raspy, “You are treated as royalty, but your debt becomes enormous. Even after I was adjusted…before I was thrown away, I have had…two children…cut from me…”

“I don’t see how that makes a difference,” you remained resolute in that at least, “Signy will have something done about it. That will not stand.”

“We don’t doubt that she would want to,” a White Eye advisor replied, “But we doubt that she will be able to. Her role is now one of bringing unity to this Republic, and Glockenblume is hardly the only place of corruption, with the expansion that has come about. We doubt that Cyclops has the capacity, nor the cruelty, to enact a purge. She is softhearted, and would rather negotiate, use diplomacy.”

“This is an insult to us from the Blue Barbs,” said another, “And we will not drag the Republic into this personal affair, or we might render the deaths of all who sacrificed their lives here, pointless. Glockenblume may remain. The Blue Barbs may become part of the Republic. But we will see the perpetrators of this suffer…if you would give us your help.”

“We’ve no right to ask this of you, as we are already in your debt…” Viska said through clenched teeth. “I’ve no idea what you could want in return, or if I could even give it, but I ask for your help regardless. If you refuse, I will understand why, but…”

>I will not refuse. If you have a plan to make the Blue Barbs bleed, I will help however I can.
>I can’t help. My forces are too depleted, too tired, and I don’t think your people can fight anymore either. I think it would be best if we all tried to just talk it out. I’m meeting with a party of theirs to talk, maybe we can work out an actual deal, and not a one sided debt payment.
>Don’t do anything; you are part of the Republic too. Any mischief will be my responsibility, if you’ll tell me what you were planning on doing.
>Other?
>>
>>2580481
>>I will not refuse. If you have a plan to make the Blue Barbs bleed, I will help however I can. But you should know, I’m meeting with a party of theirs to talk, maybe we can work out an actual deal, and not a one sided debt payment.

I dont think my vote went through on going to meet blue barbs
>>
>>2580481
>>I can’t help. My forces are too depleted, too tired, and I don’t think your people can fight anymore either. I think it would be best if we all tried to just talk it out. I’m meeting with a party of theirs to talk, maybe we can work out an actual deal, and not a one sided debt payment.

Most of our tanks are busted so I'm not sure how much we could help even if we wanted to. And it would be unfair to risk the lives of our men once again so soon for something that doesn't effect them in the slightest. Plus any infighting in the Republic will harm its very fragile cohesion, whether it's officially condoned or not. I think we should just try and talk it out. Besides it seems like Viska is dying so she probably won't be around to be troubled by it much longer anyway.

We should probably ask her if she's dying.
>>
>>2580481
>>2580589
Supporting, Glockenblume must been checked one way or another. If they don’t submit to the Republic, they can’t be trusted as a constituent member. This is their chance to walk away with the money they’ve made so far or lose it all trying to perpetuate slavery.

>>2580629
I doubt they will sit idly by and let their business slowly rot on the vine. My guess would be they’ll try to subtly expand to other cities within Sosaldt, or worse, try to export their “product” outside the country.

Tell Viska to take it easy before she exacerbate her wounds.
>>
>>2580481
>Don’t do anything; you are part of the Republic too. Any mischief will be my responsibility, if you’ll tell me what you were planning on doing.

Need more info. It's likely that this also ties into what Glockenblume seeks to extract from us for the Strossvald kids.

Also backing that we should ask if she's dying, this is not good signs from her that she's doing well.

>Other?
Are the reclaimed people in immediate danger? If we try and free them before we are prepared then we will fail.

I want to help best girl but we need to do this right.
>>
“Are you alright?” you asked Viska, staring at the bandaged stump of her arm, “You should be resting with a wound such as that.”

Viska’s grasp left her throat, and went to a hand that was no longer there. “I cannot rest, not when my people are depending upon me, not when my sisters suffer to the north. If my wound becomes gangrenous, if I die, then so be it. I will not go to my grave regretting that I grew lax in my duty.”

“Lady Viska,” one of the guards said to the Hostmaster, “The Kommandant is right, you should rest, especially with how weak you have already become. You will not die.”
“I will rest,” Viska said thinly, “If others can take my place.” She looked to you expectantly, and there was something about the desperation in those wide, green eyes that touched you, despite you already knowing the answer you wanted to give.

“I will not refuse. If you have a plan to make the Blue Barbs bleed, I will help however I can. Glockenblume must be checked, and if they do not submit to the ideals of the Republic, legal niceties or no, they cannot be trusted. But, you should know, I was approached for a meeting with a representative of theirs. Maybe a deal could be worked out, one in our favor, and we might not need to come to blows with them.”

“The rulers of Glockenblume, as well as their “diplomats,” are fork tongued vipers. Even our alliance with them to win over the Guillotines was a hard pressed deal,” one of the guards said warily.

“It is true that we do not have the strength to take them on in a proper battle,” Viska admitted with no shortage of weariness, her eyes growing heavier by the moment, “If, for whatever reason, Glockenblume will return all whom they have retaken, then they will be forgiven this transgression.”

“Are these people in any immediate danger?” you asked. “Would they be punished, or…adjusted because they fled?”

“…No, they would be assigned less favorable work in their repayment of debts, or have their things taken. Killing or mutilating somebody wouldn’t be profitable.” The tallest trusted guard, likely the second in command from a few items of decoration, stated. “Or so we learned from the Lady Hostmaster.”
>>
You faintly remembered a conversation with a Blue Barb, back in Rostig, and how he mentioned the conscription around there worked. Co-debtors, as he called them, worked off of personal loyalty, so that if one person abandoned their agreement to pay back their debt, the remaining person was sold into slavery. You wondered if that sort of deal worked for other debts, or if it was different outside of militia service. If it was the same, there was the very real possibility that by fleeing their captors…all the more reason to intervene, you supposed.

“So what is the plan, then?” You asked the White Eyes, “Or are we not that far yet?”

“We are not, if you can still negotiate with the Blue Barbs,” one of the guards said, evidently one less skeptical of any dealings with Glockenblume, “We might not even need a plan, depending.”

Plenty of weight on your shoulders, then. You thought about how you would go about this deal.

>Deal with the Representative alone; they would feel the most secure, and you could put on an air of compliance.
>Take Viska along. Even though she was ill, her status as a former slave or whatever could let her cross check any falsehoods the Representative might try and slip past.
>Get Signy back after her date. The pressure of the leader of the Republic could work for you.
>Find Loch and have him appear with you. Who knows how he could help, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing to try and test his moral fibers.
>Other?
The more people in attendance, the more stressed the Representative might get. Considering that multiple people can be chosen, anybody left out of a vote will be considered to have been voted against.
>>
>>2581533
>>Deal with the Representative alone; they would feel the most secure, and you could put on an air of compliance.

Bringing anyone else sounds like a bad idea.
>>
>>2581533
>>Deal with the Representative alone; they would feel the most secure, and you could put on an air of compliance.

If we're able to, hide Viska in a place where she can overhear the conversation.
>>
>>2581533

Viska would be both furthered strained coming along and likely antagonize the Rep.
Signy would like to help but if Glockenblume already disrespects her authority the most we can have her do is make him nervous and put her in a tighter spot.
I'm tempted to bring Loch, disguised or not but he likely already knows about all of this and was key in getting their support.

I'm torn between
>Deal with the Representative alone; they would feel the most secure, and you could put on an air of compliance.
and
>Find Loch and have him appear with you. Who knows how he could help, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing to try and test his moral fibers.

If we want to do this without Loch knowing we should bring Capt. Honnreig instead. If we need Loch's help then bring him of course. I just don't know if we want to put ourselves under further debt with Loch and let him in on the situation or go it our own way with just the White Eyes and maybe Signy later.
>>
>>2581589
Yeah Honnreig would also be a good choice.
>>
>>2581533
>First of all, consult with people in the know on the actual legal status of Glockenblume's efforts
>Take Viska along. Even though she was ill, her status as a former slave or whatever could let her cross check any falsehoods the Representative might try and slip past.
But hide her.
>Take Honnrieg along as well
>Also take Jorgen and Malachi for the intimidation factor.
>Actually, take a few scary looking people from the Bat Company
>Meet them sitting atop a tank, but not a one currently under repairs.
Let's stack every minor advantage we can.
>>
>>2581533
>>Deal with the Representative alone; they would feel the most secure, and you could put on an air of compliance.

Just Honnreig and Metzeler
>>
>>2581575
>>2581587
>>2581589
>>2582021
Why are you deliberately weakening our position anons?
>>
I'm >>2581589

I think what we all collectively haven't decided is our approach to this negotiation. The Rep himself seems dismissive of us, like he has all the cards.

If we're trying to intimidate the Rep into giving us better terms, we should use >>2581781
methods. Show him that we aren't to be threatened and that we are in a strong position to make his life much harder despite them holding hostages.

If we're trying to (at least appear) that we want to make a deal then we should have only our most perceptive and cleverest with us so as to not tip our actual hostility to Glockenblume.
Just to make it appear to our enemies as if this is just another small concern among our many concerns as Kommandant.

I've of the mind that we're not overall in a great spot. Loch clearly works with these people and would demand more from us to turn on them, Signy would have to sacrifice a great deal of her political clout to force them to give us the kids back, and no Republic commanders appeared interested in helping.

Bring Capt. Honnreig and ask Viska if she is strong enough to hide and listen in on the deal is my vote.
>>
>>2582134

The deal with >>2581781 is not a demonstration of hostility, it's a demonstration of dominance. It's an attempt to harness as many as possible of the factors that imperceptibly sway human opinion. Just a simple thing like sitting higher that them can give us a small advantage.
On the other hand, coming from a position of compliance will cause them to think they can extract anything they want out of us.
>>
>>2582041

If we bring Loch along he has virtually no reason to help us or the White Eyes at all and for all we know he's more likely to work to ensure that the slaves stay with the Blue Barbs in order to avoid upsetting the Republic's balance of power, which is the opposite of what we want.

If we bring Signy along then her main concern will also be maintaining the peace and her presence will simply serve to tie our hands since the Blue Barb representative knows that we won't be able to take any sort of forceful action with Signy's approval, forcing us to bargain on his terms.

If we bring Viska along shes's liable to drop dead in the middle of the negotiation, which hardly improves out bargaining position.

I think it's a bit petty to accuse people of deliberately weakening our position just because they have ideas that you disagree with. In my opinion bringing any of these people along would weaken our position and leave us worse off than if we went alone. Clearly there are people who disagree with that but that doesn't mean that they're deliberately trying to sabotage us. They just have different ideas, which in this case all seem perfectly reasonable to me.
>>
>>2582631
First of all, those people aren't the only option.
Second, many anons are voting to bring Viska, so they don't disagree with it.
Third, the most voted option clearly states we're putting up an air of compliance. I can't see what it could do except weakening our position. Can you?
>>
>>2582713

Yes, I can. Generally it's a useful negotiation tactic to be pleasant and cooperative rather than hostile and antagonistic, because it's easier to get people to agree with you when you aren't actively pissing them off. Regardless of whether or not you think that's actually a good idea in the present situation, it's an incredible leap to suggest that no one could possibly genuinely believe in this tactic and they must instead be deliberately sabotaging our efforts. Similarly, the fact that people may or may not agree about voting to bring Viska or that it might be a good idea to bring other characters I didn't mention doesn't have any bearing on the fact that those are all perfectly reasonable subjective opinions that people can genuinely hold. I'm not trying to convince you that my suggested input is the objectively absolutely correct one, just that it's possible for people to have differing opinions about how to do something without deliberately trying to harm our efforts. You seem to be consistently missing that point, however.
>>
Hey guys, writing here, plans for the update might have ballooned a bit beyond initial expectations. I'll post again when I'm close to finishing, but I may have set my sights a bit...high, with this next one, so expect a significant delay. Sorry about that, hope it'll be worth it.
>>
>>2583439
I'm fully aware that it's possible for people to have different opinions. I'm just pointing out that their choice will weaken our position.

Being pleasant and cooperative doesn't mean being compliant. Not being compliant doesn't mean being hostile and antagonistic. You treat those as the only options, but they are not.

Human opinion can be swayed by a lot of factors usually imperceptible to consicousness, and I'm trying to make use of as many of them as my limited knowledge of such matters allows. There is a big difference between being pleasant and cooperative while alone and showing compliance, and being pleasant and cooperative while sitting on a tank surrounded by people. Sitting higher gives us an advantage. Outnumbering the other party gives us an advantadge. Demonstrating military equipment gives us an advantage. All without being openly antagonistic.
>>
>>2581533
>>Deal with the Representative alone; they would feel the most secure, and you could put on an air of compliance.

We don't need the whole circus with us, I'm fine with taking just Honnreig
>>
>>2581533
>Honnrieg and Von Metzeler if he isn’t busy overseeing the camp. We don’t need to be overtly intimidating, just remind the representative where he is.
>Viska can come, but I’d suggest following what the earlier anon said and just keep her hidden as a bullshit detector.
>>
>>2582041
I dunno man, I just have a mental picture of us surrounded by bat company in a horse shoe formation and flanked by Jorgen and Malachi, with Viska sticking out of the turret side hatch, while we sit on the tanks cupola looking down at their representative like some sort of Seglass the Skull wannabe.

Its far more comical then intimidating, atleast the way I envisage it.
>>
>>2584630
That's because your mental picture is comical.
It's not what I proposed though.
>>
Update in around an hour. Sorry about the delay and all that, not sure why doing the things took so long, I guess I was, maybe still am in a funk.
>>
And lo, the QM did say "Update in about an hour." Ten thousand years later, the ancestors of the audience had long since forgotten about the mythical update, when the QM awoke again. A good thing, since forgotten as well was that the QM was a hack.

Sorry.

-----

“When I meet with the representative,” you asked Viska, “do you feel healthy enough to listen in on our talk, perhaps say if anything was wrong after the fact? I want you hiding nearby.”

“I will do it, if it will help.”

That wasn’t the answer to what you asked. “But are you feeling like you can do it?”

“Milady,” the head bodyguard bent down next to Viska, “At least agree that after this, you will rest properly. You can barely stand…”

“I will be fine.” It was easy to notice that Viska never really showed irritation, even when being defiant, though the strain in her voice could have been mistaken for anger if one hadn’t been looking at the softnes in her expression. “If I die because I did not rest for a day, then my time was finished regardless of what could have been done.”

“Do not speak like that,” the same guard chastised the young woman, “Kommandant, if she takes a turn for the worse…I am sure you know what we would want.”

“We should waste no time…” Viska hobbled forward, “If rest is so important, the sooner we reach the place, the more time I can…”

“Milady,” the guard scooped up the little woman in his arms; as tall as he was, it was like a child being picked up by a father, and judging by the grey in the man’s facial hair, you wondered if their relation was similar.

“A Hostmaster should not have to be carried…” Viska objected, but she could not do anything about her current situation physically, and her guardian was set in his ways. You couldn’t help but scowl a little that you hadn’t thought of that idea first, however.
>>
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There was still more an hour and a half until the meeting was to take place, so the White Eye left Viska with you at the camp (though he as well as another who had followed continued to hover nearby, and they could not be convinced to leave entirely), and the Hostmaster herself was found a bedroll in a tent to lie upon, for now. You were about to leave, when Viska called you back. Rather than laying down, she was sitting up, though her eyes said plenty about how much she should have been napping.

“Wait, Kommandant,” she said, trying not to strain her voice; you barely heard her over the sound of the mechanics still banging about with your gear. “I want to talk a little.” Never one to turn down a request from a lady, you went back into the tent and sat down, flap still open, and waited expectantly. Viska raised her wounded arm, its end bound up in a cast, a bit shortened, likely due to amputation procedure to clean up the end.

“I still feel it,” Viska said distantly, ever so softly, as she looked mournfully at the stump. “I wish I could say the feeling was unfamiliar. It reminds me of the time my children were taken from me…both times. I was put to sleep when I went into labor, and when I woke up each time, it was over.” She lifted her shirt and pulled her trousers down; a semicircular scar was present at the bottom of her belly; it was rather low, but looking away seemed ironically impolite. “I never saw either of them, never got to hold them, or even know if they were a boy or girl. I may not have wanted them to be conceived, but…it’s a strange thing about being a mother, you don’t mind really, after nine months.” It was still difficult to believe that Viska, as small and young looking as she was, was a mother of two.

“How old were you?” you were compelled to ask because of that thought.

“Fourteen, and sixteen, I think.” Viska said, “In some parts of my…slavery, it was difficult to tell when what happened. I tell you all of this, so that you understand well…not that I do not think you understand, but when they come, they will have all manner of explanations, and justifications, because they are not the ones who feel this agony.” Viska’s gaze returned to her arm, which she held up before her, “I have told myself that I cannot die before I see my children again. It would bring closure that I have sought ever since I clawed my way out of that oubliette. I have tried to move on, to live my life normally, but whenever time has come that a man would want to be intimate,” Viska gazed sadly at the stump, as though she were trying to open and close an invisible hand, “I would be terrified. I would return to the pit in my mind, and even an embrace would unease me.”
>>
“This is all very personal.” You couldn’t help but point out.

“It is. It must be known, though.” Viska slid back down onto her back, “It also feels good, to tell somebody. It all whirls about in my mind, and if it remains trapped inside, I cannot perform my duties. The shame of failure is worse than that of letting my past out to breathe. I will rest, now. Thank you, for listening to me.”

Viska’s eyes slammed shut, as though whatever was holding them up suddenly splintered and collapsed. You put a finger to her neck to make sure she hadn’t just died, it was so shocking, but no; she breathed, albeit unevenly, so you felt comfortable leaving her alone, though not without covering her body with a sheet first.

-----

You spent half hour of loitering and pestering the Iron Hog mechanics about whatever you could parse from their conversations, some occurring in Caelussian of all things and thus utterly unintelligible. Twaryians a long way from home, it could only be presumed, or maybe even men of Caelus from across the eastern sea, even further away. After that, though, a welcome sight came back. Karla Smitt, or rather, Smitty, had returned, sans Hans and perfectly clean, as opposed to the spots of oil and grease stains she had on her earlier.

“Phew,” she breathed out, “Oi, crew! What’s the news?”

“Excuse me,” you tried to interject, but Smitty held up a hand and shooshed you. Infuriating.

“Fooked,” one mechanic shouted over, “Beerly wahrken, naed totehk one apuhrt, at laest!” Old Nauk, twisting itself into New.

Smitty put a finger on her chin and thought, but only for a second. “So? We have the Mark Two at camp?” An affirmative answer. “Go get it, and the crane. Have it back when I return!”

“You’re trading the Mark Two for a fuckin’ booty call?” one of the mechanics called over incredulously.

A flash of frustration. “It’s my engine, it’s made for an thirty-two type, we have the prototype, and Mark Three coming together, go and goddamn get it!

“Er,” you tried again, “When you return? Aren’t you returning, well, now?”
>>
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“I’m just checking up on things,” Smitty said offhandedly, returning to her more genial expression. “Cuddle bear had to take a bit of a rest, after the, uh,” Smitty counted off on her fingers, “uhh, ehhh” she turned her hands up in the slightest shrug. “Not going to let him have too much time off. We still have a lot of catching up to do, you know?”

“I, er, see,” a suggestion to abridge whatever further plans for the reuniting party seemed to be a bad idea, but you had to try anyways. “Maybe you could let him…rest, for a bit longer, and-“

“Tsk, tsk,” Smitty waved a finger at you, “Wait your turn, Lieutenant. I’m a busy girl, my schedule’s full up, and break’s almost over. Not like you’d be getting out of here til tomorrow anyways.” Then, to the mechanics, “You’d better not leave anything that’ll waste my time when I get back, you hear!” a grouchy murmur of understanding. “Good!” She looked at you and winked slyly, “Toodles, then.” She turned on her heel and strode away, thumbs hooked in her folded coveralls.

-----

Near another half hour of fervent checks to your watch later, Viska was woken up and hidden in a tank; one of the m/28s, that wasn’t having its engine checked. Still damaged, but it was the sort that was easy to miss, being a shot right in joint in the turret. You planned on having her listen from within, while you sat atop it, at least for when you first met with the representative of the Blue Barbs. Captain Honnrieg was also recalled from his place at the Strossvalder hostage camp; he wasn’t very pleased when he came back.

“They’re being real pains in the ass,” he groaned, “Way back when they’d just cooperate, this bunch has been stewing too long. Nothing a few throwdowns with the worst characters isn’t solving, but damn, makes you feel that much less heroic. Petty fuckers.”

“Is it manageable? Do you need reinforcements?” you asked.

“Nah. It’s just annoying, I’m sure it’ll pass when they smell the barn.” Captain Honnrieg leaned on the tank next to you, “So we’re here to deal with those Blue Barb people, yeah? Am I just here to be a scary face?”

“Among other things.” You had thought about taking every “scary face” you had for this, but in hindsight, more than just one match to the diplomat’s single escort might have seemed overbearing. An air of openness was still to be given, after all. You briefed Honnrieg on the particulars of the situation, and by the end he was nodding and thinking.
>>
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“So they say they’ve got legal precedent for this? That’ll be a pain, right in the taint. Especially considering what passes for law in the Republic. Only a state by state, Judge above couldn’t tell you what’s the deal with the whole country, such as it is.” Honnrieg's mouth turned up, his mood lightened, "Paperwork must be a cinch."

You had tried asking around about what the legality truly was, but even the scant Blue Barbs you met really couldn’t tell you, for lack of actually knowing. Law in the Republic was as bizarre as that of the country, and different substates had different laws, differing concepts of ownership, the lot. As far as could be parsed, what Glockenblume was doing was, by its own reckoning, completely legal; and no laws appeared to be in place saying that they couldn’t enforce their will on its former citizens. One thing that everybody appeared to agree upon was that a person was still from a place, and seen as a stranger to wherever they went, until they had stayed an imprecise amount of time. One thing universal to all of Sosaldt was the importance of built up relationships, and mistrust towards vagrants in said communities. Both from your stay in Sosaldt and from asking about, not only now but in general, you easily got the feeling that, while petty conflicts were common in Sosaldt, having one over who belonged to who was not often seen as worth it. Sosaldt had no shortage of people with scores to settle, and if an unprofitable conflict could be avoided by handing over a mere stranger? Well, the choice was obvious.

Suffice it to say, even your well-practiced father, an experienced lawyer used to strange cases taken up by and against nobility, would have had nightmares about this place.

“And the little lady’s sitting in the driver’s seat,” Honnrieg gestured backwards, “To review after this?”

“Indeed.”

“I suppose we’re as ready for this as we’ll ever be, then,” Honnrieg stretched his hands behind his head, “When will they get here?”

“Ten minutes.”

“Exactly?”

You didn’t imagine Glockenblume’s diplomats being imprecise with times, and you said as such.

“So five minutes, you mean.” Honnrieg sighed, “May as well run through some practice in the meantime, then. Go on and get on top of the tank there.”

-----

The funny man appeared in four minutes, with his escort, though was polite enough to ask one of the other people around the camp to alert you to his presence before actually approaching. He walked with his hands tight behind his back, while his escort sauntered about, peering curiously at the equipment strewn about, and the mechanics laboring at their craft. The representative made his way straight to you, and stopped a few paces away, looking up at you.

“Good afternoon, Kommandant,” he rolled off of his tongue, “We are here, as discussed.”
>>
“So you are,” you said confidently, feeling quite secure in your position above the strange little man; he was even shorter from up here. “So what did you want to discuss?” The initiative was important to take in any battle; dictating the flow of conversation was much like a lunge with a blade in such a case.

“We take this matter quite seriously, Kommandant.” The diplomat seemed utterly unimpressed. “Let us stand and speak as men. I speak with the voice of Glockenblume and all of her territories, and we demand to at least be recognized as equals when we come before you intending to grant you a favor.”

An unexpected riposte, which you had nothing to say to. In fact, you felt compelled to dismount the tank, almost embarrassed, for reasons you could hardly fathom at the time.

“Woah, friend,” Honnrieg defused things, “We’re just relaxing. No need for this to not be a casual affair, right? We can all be comfortable. Just talking, after all. No need to get your panties in a bunch.”

“…Of course.” the diplomat allowed levelly.

“Great.” Honnrieg did his best to be charming; not really scary at all, but you could admit that his deflection of the little man’s attempt to dismount you from the tank had been a good save.
>>
“We are here to discuss the return of the hostages you sought in Todesfelsen.” The diplomat carried right on, “Knowing the dangers of a city falling into chaos, we purchased as many of your people as could be reasonably expected. These young ones have not been harmed, nor is there any plan, despite any presumptions you have from hearing of any businesses we engage in, to do anything that could even be conceived as malevolent to these children. They have been, and will continue to be, cared for with the utmost attention to their needs and wants. For now, we are keeping them safe, but we will gladly return them, so long as our favor is repaid with a small favor of your own.” The little man lifted a hand and pulled on his cufflinks, his eyes remaining hard as the edge of his sharp nose, beaked like a bird of prey. “If you refuse, we will continue to care for them, until such as the cost of their rescue, and care, is reimbursed by a third party.”

Damnnation. The man hadn’t even let you, let alone Honnrieg, get a word in edgewise. There had been no chance to put pressure upon him, lay out terms of your own, and the tone of his words had made it seem like he was doing you a favor, rather than holding your people hostage. You had been put entirely on the back foot.

The negotiator turned a hand out while keeping the other at his side as it fell away. “This is the agreement we have thought up. Are you interested in hearing the favor that we would request of you?”

>An agreement has been thought up by you, but I don’t recall making it. How about I define to you what our actual agreement will be? [Define]
>A mere favor? Fine. State your wish, but mind what you ask for.
>I will guess what favor you have, as well as what I think of it, and if I am willing to do it. [Guess]
>Other?

The QM's return was, despite the promises to the contrary, quite disappointing, but not unexpectedly so.
>>
>>2586797
>>A mere favor? Fine. State your wish, but mind what you ask for.
>>
>>2586797
They probably want us to use Signy to maintain their privileges either by gaining more Parliament seats, formalize it into law or extort Signy herself. None of which we want to do. But until we actually hear it we can't be certain.

And if we guess wrong we just look stupid.

The problem here is that Richter is utterly outclassed by this guy when he takes the lead. So to counter this we have to directly dictate the conversation and keep him from steering us, which would run counter to our current stance of at least faking compliance. At least until we don't need to act compliant.

>Other?
Before this favor though, how much in credit did you pay the Death Heads for the kids?

Quantifying it gives us another angle to use against him because if he asks for more then it sounds less like a favor and more like a straight business deal.

>A mere favor? Fine. State your wish, but mind what you ask for.

>>2586792
Honnreig you dishy roughneck, stop staring at us with those smoldering eyes~.

also tanq, are those scars on Viska's face or something else?
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>>2586959
>also tanq, are those scars on Viska's face or something else?

They're scars running up and down her face, yes. They're old.
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>>2586959
actually shit to add on to this because I have to sleep, ((and only use any of this if we all agree to reject their offer)) if they "paid" the Death Heads in credit, the Death Heads are no more so they don't need to pay a thing. Transportation, food and living expenses for the kids can be remunerated in gold by us.

Maybe a possible counter offer would be a grand opportunity for Glockenblume to generate some good PR if they claim they saved some kids lives for the Republic on top of the goodwill they garnered for donating so many troops to liberate Todesfelsen.

If they don't want goodwill from this act then they want to profit off of the hostages which makes this less a favor and more a threat. And threatening the Kommandant of the Republic makes everyone's lives worse. All this grief for ten kids? Defining it as such gives us a little leverage I hope I dunno.
>>
>>2586785
Smitty a hot!
Though the shoulders seem a bit too high

>>2586797
I think what we need to do here is to reframe the conversation. This guy is being antagonistic, we need to kick him out of this frame and into ours.

>Offer the ambassador to have a drink with us
The more expensive and tempting, the better, but even just coffee will do.
Don't ask him though, don't give him an explicit option to refuse, just give him the drink. Frame it as a gesture of hospitality to make it awkward for him to refuse.

>Invite the ambassador up onto the tank to sit with us
This gesture looks like it would improve his position, so it should be tempting for him, but sitting alongside each other makes people feel they are on the same side.

>Make a joke
Jokes defuse hostility. Just be careful not to offend him. A joke at our own expense would be best. Or a stupid pun.
Maybe something in the spirit of "My ass has been beaten flat by riding in tanks so now I can only sit comfortably _on_ a tank"

>Make the ambassador talk about himself. Make small talk, ask how his trip was, whether he run into any Death Head remnants, how much did they pay to the Death Heads for the kids, wasn't that too expensive, etc.
The point here is to find out what the ambassador wants, and what Glockenblume wants. Not about the "favor" they demand, but their high-level priorities and desires. Money, power, women, recognition, political influence, economical favors, legal security, not being crushed under the threads of Republican tanks, things like that. If we know what the ambassador wants, we'll know how to make an offer that would give him what he wants while giving us what we want. Maybe we could even incite him to betray Glockenblume, if we're lucky.
I don't know if any of this'll work, but this is all I have.

Actually, one more thought: is Glockenblume's military all composed of debtors? If so, their ability to collect debts is dependent on other debtors. What could a Republic-wide debt amnesty do to that?
>>
>>2587120
You can't exactly negotiate with someone who believes he has all the cards.
>>
>>2586797
>>A mere favor? Fine. State your wish, but mind what you ask for.
>>
>>2587142
The point of my vote is not to negotiate.
The ambassador arrived prepared for a harsh negotiation, so we should reframe the dialog as something than is not a harsh negotiation.

The "name your favor" option IS negotiation, btw. Unless we just agree to the favor immediately.
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>>2587183
The guy isn't here to negotiate in the first place; more like to see what our response is. Look at it from his perspective:
-If we say yes to whatever he's asking for, then the Barbs get what they want.
If we tell him to piss off, Glockenbume can just shrug their shoulders and sell off those kids like they usually do.
-They're not worried about us militarily due to their numerical advantage, plus whatever we may do to intimidate him now, he's knows we're unlikely to serious harm in any way.
-Finally, if these guys are as skilled as the White Eyes claim they are, there's no way in hell trying to sweet talk him given (from their PoV) his far stronger bargaining position.

Anyway this is all a moot point since we should find out what the heck the BBB wants out of this before we make any informed decisions, so let him name their price first.
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>>2587216
The thing is as far as they're concerned they'll definitely get something out of it, unless whatever favour they want is vital to their survival or something.
And I don't see any point of chit-chatting with him because in the end its not like we have anything on him that will make significantly change his position. Better to find out what his masters wants and then we can work it out from there.
>>
>>2587194
For a guy who's not here for negotiation, the ambassador came at us a bit too forcefully. They need that favor.

Anyway, a straightfroward "name price - accept or refuse" kind of dialog is what the ambassador came prepared for, so that's what we shouldn't give to him. If the guy's here not for a negotiation, then we should make him negotiate. If he's here for a negotiation from a superior position, we should make him speak with as as an equal.

Note that I haven't proposed making any decisions yet. The point of my vote was 1) changing the psychological context of the dialog and 2) getting more information out of the ambassador. Once he actually names the price, we'll have to accept or refuse and the window of opportunity to influence the ambassador will close.
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>>2587220
>its not like we have anything on him that will make significantly change his position
Not anything in the way of rational arguments. We still can work on him psychologically, and we don't lose anything by trying.
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>>2587220
Look at it like this: we don't have anything on him and unless we, as you put it, chit-chat, we'll _never have_.
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>>2586797
>>A mere favor? Fine. State your wish, but mind what you ask for.

Let's find out what they want
>>
>>2587221
>>2587222
>>2587224
I can understand where you're coming from but in the end he's just a pawn of his masters. Heck, we don't even know how much authority this guy has to negotiate outside of his given terms. We definitely should allow him to expand or clarify on things later but trying to influence him through small talk with this guy's attitude is a lost cause. All it does is make us look desperate enough to try such cheap tricks and hope something works.
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>>2587244
He also resorted to cheap tricks, trying to get us off the tank.
In any case, I believe you're giving up too easily. The ambassador surely would want to look like we can't influence his position, but I think we can and should try to poke a hole in this projected image
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>>2587256
In any case, I'd rather listen to what their offer is first before trying anything, so lets just agree to disagree on this part.
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>>2586797
>>A mere favor? Fine. State your wish, but mind what you ask for.
>>
“Before we get to that,” you led off, “How much did you pay to secure these kids? Also, wasn’t it paid in credit? Credit, as in, you don’t actually have to pay it back, since we occupy Todesfelsen?”

“Credit was handled by a third party, as usual. One we do not have influence over. As for the amount, I know not,” Glockenblume’s representative said blankly, “and the amount is unimportant. From where we stand, however, it would be much simpler for you to do us this small favor than to try and recompense in another way.”

“Fine,” you would have to accept being blown off like that, “A mere favor, then? Fine. State your wish, but mind what you ask for.”

“As Kommandant, you have the ear of Cyclops. Before that even, perhaps. Our fair warlord has made no secret of her contempt for us, and our trade; we can hardly expect to try and bargain with her, without impressions and misunderstandings muddying the waters. Were our request to also come from a trusted advisor, it would be much better received. Likely followed. We know how closely the young lady keeps her counsel, few as they may be. So you are able to reason from an angle that we cannot.” The man pulled on his other cuff, “We are willing to put an end to our services, in order to better fit into the new Republic. All programs will be canceled at the earliest possible date, and no further ones will be begun. Contracts with foreign consumers concerning said services will be annulled. We think this to be reasonable, even generous, despite the losses in profit and face we will take. However, our demand in exchange.”

The representative was setting a stage. Making himself look even more generous. You would have been taken, had your suspicion for the Blue Barbs not been as it was. To you, even a bit of garbage dropped by this man would have been triple checked for an ulterior motive.

“The Republic will leave financial arrangements with our citizens intact, in exchange. We have recently seized the persons of a large quantity of debtors who tried to take advantage of free travel in order to escape their obligations. We demand the right to do this, otherwise, in order to recoup losses, we will be forced to made good on the exchange that all of these debtors agreed to make, in the event that they attempted to avoid payments. I refer to co-debtorship, a similar concept to that our volunteer militias function. The debts are made more manageable, in exchange, the plan to pay itself is more secure for us. By entering into the agreement with one or more others, they and all who sign the contract give up the right to their persons, should their co debtor flee from payments. The difference is made through sale of their person into slavery to the northern markets. Of course, in retaking these escaped debtors, we have made it so that such action will not have to be taken, for a great many people…it is good, no?”
>>
Good? Perhaps from his perspective, maybe from that of the people who had supposedly been at risk. He could have very well been lying, though, but that was why you had Viska in hiding to check with later.

“In short,” the diplomat summarized curtly, “We return your hostages to you, free of any obligations. We also cancel our long-term child rearing programs, as well as any arrangements with outside parties with regards to said programs. In exchange, we merely request that we be allowed to exert our influence over those who owe us financial obligations, and for them to be allowed to repay said obligations however they wish, if their actions do not infringe upon other citizens of the Republic. Suggest this to Cyclops, convince her to take up this agreement with us, and as soon as it is all in writing and approved, we will return your hostages to you at once.”

At last, this unpleasant fellow was through talking. An opening he was forced to let you have…if there was anything to grab at, that is. The way the diplomat had put things hadn’t been like that of child slavery and human trafficking; he had put it like mere business arrangements, like all parties had agreed to exactly what was going on, and that accepting Signy’s will was like making amends for somebody who wasn’t educated or intelligent enough to understand said normal and justified business; a deal made begrudgingly. That was ridiculous though, wasn’t it?

The ambassador must have been expecting a yes or no at this point, but there were a few ways you could delay this; maybe get more of an upper hand. Letting the door shut in your face would be acceptable if there were no other option, but if you could haggle, ask for specification, or even try and distract to an aside…so long as the man didn’t see what you were up to, though you had a feeling that any attempt you made would be completely transparent to somebody who must have had a great deal of experience with these matters. Unless he was willing to let you try and draw something else out to toy with him…

>Now hold on, what if I can’t convince Cyclops? Am I just out of luck? I’d like a bit more security here.
>That seems…tolerable. I’ll ask Cyclops about it. Have those hostages ready next time we meet.
>No deal. I’ll make a few suggestions, and if we agree to those, I’ll do you your favor, after it’s been properly revised.
>Ask about something else; to better understand the deal, of course, perhaps the context, or the stakes of those involved? (Write In)
>Other?

There was a lot of neat discussion about how to take things, I see, and though I didn't see too much opportunity for it with this, I figure it would be more relevant in this update, so the things about discussion tone, going another route, and such, I'm presenting as an option here to take, since you all have the information of the demand now.
>>
>>2587120
>Actually, one more thought: is Glockenblume's military all composed of debtors? If so, their ability to collect debts is dependent on other debtors. What could a Republic-wide debt amnesty do to that?

Not all of them; the team leaders, also minders of a sort, do not have debts, and from what Richter knows the elite of Glockenblume's armed militias are probably made up of such people who are not motivated by debt. That said, a Republic-wide debt amnesty would do quite a bit of damage, theoretically, since the militia are far from the only debtors.
>>
>>2588257
>>Now hold on, what if I can’t convince Cyclops? Am I just out of luck? I’d like a bit more security here.
>>
>>2588257
>>Now hold on, what if I can’t convince Cyclops? Am I just out of luck? I’d like a bit more security here.
>>
>>2588257
>Now hold on, what if I can’t convince Cyclops? Am I just out of luck? I’d like a bit more security here.
Both to buy a little time and get him in the wranglin' mood.

Two points I wanted to bring up with him:

One: Turn this quickly away from talk of "favors". Favors are vague, vague is his forte, he mentions a lot about repaying and purchasing and that's where we chase him.

>“If you refuse, we will continue to care for them, until such as the *cost* of their rescue, and care, is reimbursed by a third party.”
>As for the amount, I know not,” Glockenblume’s representative said blankly, “and the amount is unimportant. From where we stand, however, it would be much simpler for you to do us this small favor than to try and recompense in another way.”

Two: Grab. Hard. Specifics. We want to know what this cost them. If he is so eager to point out that'd it be much easier (ie cheaper) for us to go along with this then he has to prove it. His 'favor' from us amounts to perhaps underscoring the entirety of Glockenblumes new business income. This seems entirely out of depth for the return, no, payment of 10 foreign children. If he tries to weasel out of it then we point out that this sounds less like a friendly arrangement and more like threatening children to extort us in order to put him on the back foot.

If we are to handle this as a business then he provides proof in numbers. Hell, we can even make it seem like we really want him to sweeten the pot to bribe us on top of it just to get him to go along with it, regardless of whether or not we'd take a bribe just to throw him even more off balance. He deals with corrupt fucks all the time why would this surprise him?

And if he skews the numbers too exorbitant to try and weigh us back to the Favor deals, we have multiple credible sources to prove ten kids worth. Wossehn's fake slave company, Viskas experiences, the Death Heads own ledgers are all ammo for our evidence.

Maybe he won't care and just straight up say that it's his deal or nothing but it gets him away from his built up stage.

Buying him out is what I want, but if we can't then the only way I could see us agreeing to this currently as it stands is to tack on that if he returns the kids and clears all current debtors, but the debtor/ co-debtor practice remains viable and put into law with Signy.
>>
“Now, hold on,” you held your hands up, “Wait a moment. What if I can’t convince Cyclops of this sagely wisdom? Am I just out of luck then? I’d like a bit more security here.”
The ambassador’s mouth tightened; you had taken a step, gotten some initiative, but the man had a perfect poker face- you couldn’t tell if he had been taken off guard, or merely annoyed. Likely the latter, if you could quench your pride a moment; only a fool would have not thought of the possibility of Signy simply saying “no”…unless this man thought you were that sort of character.

“I do not see why she would refuse.” The man answered simply after a thought, “We would be addressing her greatest concerns with our dealings with others. If she is entirely unwilling to negotiate in any way, even from one of her confidants, then that tells us plenty too. That, and if you were to mention what you got from doing your part…we would practically expect it. If she seems hesitant, she will consider your goals, as proper exchange for your service, no?”

It was rather noticeable that the ambassador was squirming now, to dodge around any implication that his employers were using the children as leverage over you. So you went for the throat, while you still had the floor.

“Another thing. You keep talking about favors big and small, unimportant amounts, relatives with no reference point. It isn’t too hard to remember specific amounts, is it? How much are you getting, compared to what you say you’re generously giving me? How much did those children cost to buy? You say you don’t know, but you can give me an estimate, if you don’t actually know. You keep saying this is such a great deal for me and everybody, but give me something specific instead of just vague assurances. How much did it cost to buy these hostages? I have several ways of checking if you’re right, so don’t worry about guessing wrong. The Death Heads keep good ledgers, you know.”

The diplomat had been nailed, and you both knew it, as his face set like a rock. “Approximately eight thousand union marks, along with another one thousand to hasten procedures.” A terrific sum of money to a normal person, of course, but not actually beyond your current means, let alone that of a rich city state. “Although, they are worth much more to you, are they not, Kommandant?”

There it was. The carrot hadn’t been to your taste, so out came that big, gnarled stick.
>>
“Even if they were not worth half that, you must admit, merely suggesting that this idea is of mutual benefit to Cyclops isn’t truly so intolerable, is it? Unless you have special spite for us?” The little man’s shoulders remained relaxed, his arms at his sides, but his eyes were glaring crystals. “I would rather not resort to anything so petty or base as threats of harm towards your precious children, Kommandant, however, rest assured, if you in fact do not wish to cooperate, while not a single hair upon their heads will be harmed in any way, they will absolutely not be leaving Glockenblume. If that is acceptable to you, then so be it. I have little interest in bandying about trying to make deals you refuse to accept. However, know that I am quite restrained, and the present conditions, quite calm. If Glockenblume does not receive an answer they like should a time of tumult suddenly rear its head, they will almost certainly send one who is not me. One who will make different promises than I, and I myself will find it difficult to keep the promise I made.”

A rather roundabout one, but that last sentence was indeed a threat; deal with me, or somebody with a more colorful imagination comes up with ways to convince you, using this card in our hands. Somehow, you guessed that this said “time of tumult” would be engineered to happen anyways, if the Blue Barbs didn’t get their way.

“So it’s your deal or nothing.” You let fall out of your mouth with low contempt.

“Not precisely, though I doubt you could come up with anything that is more generous that would not also be ridiculous. We do wish to move forwards, after all. But yes. My deal, or the deal of the future that will not be as good. Or nothing, I suppose.”

How arrogant.

>My answer to you is no. I am not your pawn, and you are not so invincible as you think. Release those kids to me, or you will regret it. Those are my “generous terms.”
>I can’t exactly refuse that, if you put it that way. Fine, if all I have to do is talk to Cyclops about it and it doesn’t matter if she accepts or refuses, then I’ll do it.
>They’re worth so much to me? Fine, fine. Could I convince you to accept a trade, perhaps?
>Other?

I don't think it needs to be said that trading somebody away wouldn't be something Richter would do permanently, or in good faith at all.
>>
>>2589192
>What kind of tumultous time are we talking about?
He's trying to put us on a spot and force us to answer right now, so that's exactly what we shouldn't do.
>>
>>2589192
>>They’re worth so much to me? Fine, fine. Could I convince you to accept a trade, perhaps?
If we can pay for it fine. If not I'm sure that anything that isn't "yes" out of ours mouths will be taken as a negative reply.
>>
>>2589192
>What kind of tumultous time are we talking about?
>I can’t exactly refuse that, if you put it that way. Fine, if all I have to do is talk to Cyclops about it and it doesn’t matter if she accepts or refuses, then I’ll do it.

Ha, pinned the fucker.
They won't get more reasonable so the game is up. Let's tell them what they want to hear, report to Signy and Loch that Glockenblume intends to betray them and gear up for another barnstorming.

If we actually tried toconvince Signy to give them what they want both her inner morality and the Republic exterior virtue would be forever tarnished. Plus having an ally like Glockenblume would eventually bettay her. Like now.

If we talk to her and she says no and we report that to them then that likely will be civil war or assassination the moment Loch and his Merry Men leave.

The most likely outcome is they don't bring the kids even if we did do their dirty work or at least the right kids to the exchange so we are going to need some way of verifying their identity beyond "do you love the Archduke" Yes I do. besides we bring their parents or something.
>>
>>2589192
>>What kind of tumultous time are we talking about?
>>I can’t exactly refuse that, if you put it that way. Fine, if all I have to do is talk to Cyclops about it and it doesn’t matter if she accepts or refuses, then I’ll do it.
>>
>>2589192
>>I can’t exactly refuse that, if you put it that way. Fine, if all I have to do is talk to Cyclops about it and it doesn’t matter if she accepts or refuses, then I’ll do it.
>>
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Ideally, an answer would not be granted to this gentleman so easily, but you were admittedly cornered here…though you would try and drag whatever you could out before you were forced to admit defeat.

“A time of tumult, you say?” you pondered aloud, then asked directly, “What kind of tumultuous time are we talking about?”

“Have you not heard of the recent international events?” the Blue Barb ambassador inquired coolly, rhetorically. “The Netillians to the north and the Twaryians to the east are busy demolishing the Ellowian army. The war is estimated by many to end in a month, if that, should the Ellowians not capitulate sooner. That leaves two greatly empowered foes, engorged upon newly gained territory and drunk on victory, to these sides. There will be little time to tell if they turn upon one another first, seeking to strike out one before the other grows more powerful…or turn their eyes here, a place of many resources yet hostile beyond all measure, and decide they now have the might to try and conquer it. Worst of all, they may unite once again, and overwhelm even the fiercest resistance. The northern lords and the southern cities know this well, and many eyes will be upon this Republic. Cyclops has a dire lack of friends, and unless this changes, Glockenblume and our Blue Barbs might reevaluate the advantages of being within the Republic, unless at least a little favor is shown.”

You had a feeling he was overstating the value of the Blue Barbs, but whether or not it was purposeful, you didn’t know. It was true enough that Netilland and Twaryi combined, after taking out Ellowie, would be more than capable of rolling over all of Sosaldt; though the likelihood of them working together was nil. Twaryians were more Caelussian than Sosalian, and were notoriously belligerent in their foreign policy, even moreso than the Military Council that currently held sway over their puppet elected officials in Netilland.

“That, Kommandant, is the time of tumult. This mysterious, utterly unpredictable time where the world will form anew in uneasy peace, or if it will crack apart as a great war begins. It is not an ideal time for a twenty year old woman to take power over a significant amount of untamed territory, and everybody knows it. Sees the risks, but also the opportunity. I do not envy Cyclops’s position.”

That was an understatement. Though he discounted the possible position the Archduchy might take, and though you had incredible suspicions over why you were even here…maybe the Intelligence Office had come by some foresight, but even then…

Ugh, your head felt like it would split open, all of a sudden.

“Kommandant?” the ambassador pressed.
>>
“Yes, yes,” you rubbed your head, “Well.” You were out of ideas that would give you more leverage, though you very much wanted to keep delaying. “I can’t exactly refuse your proposal then, especially if my charges would be put at risk, in spite of any promises you make. Fine, if all I have to do is talk to Cyclops about it and it doesn’t matter if she accepts or refuses, then I’ll do it.”

“I am glad that the Republic’s armies have such a sensible man in their leadership,” the ambassador bowed, “When I meet with Cyclops in three hours’ time, I will inquire after this. If she mentions your influence when I ask, or if she does not, but I have good reason to suspect it regardless, your hostages will be delivered to you on the morrow, with all haste.”

“We done here?” the Blue Barb bodyguard yawned.

“We are,” the diplomat did not let you try and chisel out another crack, “Good day, Kommandant.”

“Slippery bastard,” Honnrieg said far before the little Glockenblume representative could have been out of earshot, “Though if what he says is true, might be that the little lady doesn’t have much a choice either. Though they said they’d quit it with the selling kids. Baby steps, Lieutenant. Can’t win every fight.”

“Forgive me for thinking that these people are much less intimidating than the Death Heads,” you grumbled back. “I’m going to find Signy. Cyclops. The sooner she knows about this, the better.”

-----

It was rather simple to find where Signy was, especially when you asked the right people; she had a trail of Loch’s men, though only shadowing her, at the moment; since she was on a date. Evidently some courtesy was shown for this. You were told it was at a relatively high end café in the city; all places would hardly hesitate to give special deals to a friend of the ruler of the city, after all. Though, if Signy were enjoying herself, when you hunted her down and dumped this new deal upon her, that would probably ruin her afternoon…though she was the lord. Queen? President? A better title would have to be identified.

A further inquiry revealed that she planned to be back to Wossehn’s palace a half hour before the scheduled meetings began, with those who had gathered; some Northern Lords and the Glockenblume representative, among others, presumably. You could wait for her back at the palace and not mess up her date, though that would give her less time to think about this…and perhaps that would been better.

>Crash Signy’s date and tell her what she needs to know; the earlier this bandage is ripped off, the better.
>Wait back at the palace for Signy; all you had to do was tell her at all, and possibly advise her.
>You could be back at the palace in two and a half hours; take care of something else. [Write in?]
>Other?
>>
>>2590675
>Other: remember we forgot to consult with Viska and return back from halfway.
>>
>>2590694
Derp.

Right, it wouldn't have made sense for Richter to forget that; hold on a bit, I'll write an addendum.
>>
Before you had gone, you checked back with Viska in the tank; waiting til the ambassador was well and out of sight.

“Are you alright in there?” you asked.

“Yes…” Viska didn’t sound alright, but it would do.

“Did he try to blur any lines? Tell any lies?”

“…No, he told no lies, though he didn’t tell all of the truth in places, either,” Viska said weakly, “Nothing that could have helped you, had he told everything, but…he paints a false picture. Something that implies…” She shivered, “I’m sorry, I’m very tired…”

“I’ll ask you about it later, if he didn’t lie.” Though you would have liked to know now, if it was only to satisfy your curiosity, Viska could rest more. “Honnrieg,” you said to the captain, “Take Viska here to the medics.”

“I have already been seen by a healer,” Viska, always trying to make less trouble for others.

“I want a second opinion,” you had countered. “I’ll be back.”

Not much, I know, but eh.
>>
>>2590675
>>Wait back at the palace for Signy; all you had to do was tell her at all, and possibly advise her.
>>
>>2590675
>>2590716
In the meantime let's discuss with our officers again and maybe send a message to Loch for his information.
>>
>>2590698
>You could be back at the palace in two and a half hours; take care of something else.
>Talk with Loch. If he wants our continuing assistance, he'll have to help us.

Also, did you notice, anons, that the deal was explicitly with us and not with the Republic as a whole? I wonder what would happen if Signy were to raise the question of the hostages and the White Eyes slaves herself. Ask Loch about this. Also about the possible effects of debt amnesty.
>>
>>2590675
>You could be back at the palace in two and a half hours; take care of something else.
>Talk with Loch. If he wants our continuing assistance, he'll have to help us

You raise a good point anon that we have more influence to damage Glockenblume than he thinks. Part of me wanted to raise up the idea of threatening him with her issuing a general amnesty while half of the Blue Barb's are here, but I had a feeling he'd either laugh it off or break negotiations. And if we want to both save the Republic and Viskas prisoners then we can't be too bold in front of her before they can come up with a counter to it.

If we were to pull something on them, better to surprise him with it.
>>
>>2590791
Bold in front of the Rep*
>>
A few things went on today that've sort of murdered my motivation, so I won't be updating tonight. Sorry, I'll have an update tomorrow afternoon.




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