Prologue 9 [Sheva, Baron Gorey]

The Forge is perhaps the most exclusive club on Xuria, it's membership consisting entirely of the pilotry of Hammer and Anvil. The walls are a beautifully polished wood. The furniture is extravagant. The food is excellent, and it is populated wall to wall with the noble warriors of this world.

It's a gambling night, of course. The members are together to drink and talk, to rub elbows, and make wagers of preposterous amounts against each other.

Is this a usual haunt for you, or did it used to be? In any case, tonight you're here to locate, and talk to, Lord Kles, and in fact you've found him. He's at a gambling table, of course, and there, next to him is Gorey. Kles is wigged in the current fashion of course, as are most of the people here. Gorey likes to play the brute, and wears the corvus as a badge of honor.

Gorey takes the cigar from between his lips, offering a smile, before bringing a glass of expensive liqour to his lips. "Kanishka! It's been an age since I saw you in here. I remember you being rather good, not too surprising since we both learned from the same man, eh? Sit, we'll deal you in." The other Lords-pilot shift their eyes between you, him and each other, interested in the subtle tension in the air.


  • I've always hated these nights. I'm all for camaraderie, but the idea that soldiers should be encouraged to compete against one another — whether their peers or their commanding officers — does nothing good for morale. Of course, that's all moot — soldiers are human, and they are not without their vices. I came here much more often when I was working my way through the ranks. Networking is an essential part of moving up in the world if you don't have an inheritance to lean on. I have less reason to come now that I'm at the top...

    Of course Kles would be sitting next to Gorey. Of course Gorey would be standing between me and my objective, wagging his privileged ancestral lineage around like it's his dick in a pissing competition. Normally, I would have none of this. Normally, I would politely decline and ask to speak to Lord Kles for a moment in private... But a baser part of me wouldn't mind taking Gorey down a peg, so I sit. "Lord-Pilots. Good to see you, fine gentlemen, again. What's buy-in?"
  • The open chair was on the other side of Kles. Gorey's smile sharpens to something more predetory

    "A modest 10,000, old boy, just a friendly game at this stage after all." Gorey says, "and nothing to a man with such good contracts. Unless you're looking for a more interesting venture." The eyebrow raise says it's more bait. He's more or less called you a merchant. The leagues may style themselves like nobility, but no one forgets that a noble gentleman doesn't earn his living.

    Again, glittering eyes around the table move to you, like the other player in a tark match. Some expressions lean toward smirks, others are carefully blank.
  • I loathe this idiot, and it's all I can do not to punch him here and now — well, with my fists, anyhow. I turn to him and smile with crocodile teeth. "The burden of an impeccable reputation," I quip, "everybody wants a piece of you." I put my chits on the table, and motion to Lord Kles. "Lord Kles, could you deal me in? It's good fortune I should find you here."
  • You see the jibe about reputation land on Gorey. It's barely the flicker of an eye, the tensing of muscle in the face, but it was there.

    Kles deals your tiles, raising a cool eyebrow and a lazy smirk as he does. "Is it then? For me or for you? Why were you looking Kanishka?"

    One of the club staff asks you if you want a drink.

    How good are you at this game? Do you play the people, or the tiles?
  • I am decent at this game. I was a pilgrim in my youth, and gambling is the national pass-time on the pilgrimage. The only real difference are the numbers on the chits — it took me quite some time to get used to the fact that blinds here are basically a month's rations. The trick is to pretend the chits aren't worth anything. If you do that, then you can focus your attention on the other people at the table, where it belongs.

    I take my tiles and make note of them. "Come now, Kles — who do you take me for? A sensitive contract came across my desk, and I thought you might be interested in putting your iron to good use!"
  • Kles grunts, pretending to evaluate his own tiles, but his eyes gave away his interest. Gorey shifts his eyes between you as he arranges his own tiles in the classic pattern, he's nothing if not predictable. "Gone into business then, Kles? Kanishka, I do believe you've started a trend... but then maybe I would do the same, just to relieve the boredom. Don't know how you ground-pounders stand it."

    He slides out three tiles as a bid. He's trying to flush you out, certainly.
  • I match his bet with casual disdain, and lean back in my chair. I don't play gambling games to win — I play it to lure people into a false sense of security, and make them overshare on matters other than the tiles. It's basically a sleight-of-hand trick. "We all have to keep ourselves busy, Gorey — at least on planet there's a never-ending list of tasks to be done. I could say the same about you space-heads — I would go insane trapped in a tin-can in space all the time."
  • Gorey ups his bet. Kles folds. Only Hearst is still in with the two of you.

    "Well, you groundhogs are better for that kind of labour." He says it mildly examining his tiles."But it's a shame it never seems to pay off. By the dreamer, if you'd taken up Tarrack's service, maybe you'd have a Princess on your estate, helping you carry the Kanishka name into the future." He looks up, meet your eyes. "Of course if you'd let us, my wife and I could have you a suitable bride in a month. The old man would've liked that."
  • The thought of Gorey setting me up with his sister is the first thing that crosses my mind. I wouldn't put it past him to have eyes on my Father's estate. That he'd even suggest marrying me off to a princess is interesting... I haven't had my eye on many royal women, and the few I've gotten on with have been taken — by assholes named Gorey.

    Still, Alvega does have a rather unique perspective on life. I'd be interested to see who she'd pair me off with.

    "It's not a soldier's lot in life to marry," I raise my bet, "it's irresponsible to father children when your life is spent staring down the barrel of enemy fire..." The irony of this statement doesn't escape me — but it was the argument my father used when I told him about Corrine and I. That said, he always did impress upon me the importance of a loving relationship. "But who knows what the future will hold once this business gamble is through..."
  • Gorey meets the bet though you saw the hesitation, however brief. Then he shakes his head. "It's the first duty of solider, even more a nobleman. If he dies in battle, what use is his sacrifice, the honor he brings to the family name, if there is no family to recieve it? I'll talk to Alvega, and we'll have you to dinner with someone suitable. If you wait too long you'll be stuck marrying that second of yours. That woldn't do at all."

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