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Title: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 29 January 2011, 18:28:31


    Scattered amidst the collection of encrypted data files discovered aboard the star yacht Naughty Natasha following the disappearance of Darius Davion in 3050,  I have in my work editing the collection found several smaller file fragments that seem to either fall between other longer data files or describe relatively brief events in Darius's life.
     The following such file fragment is a, frankly scandalous, account of Darius's activities at the wedding of Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner in 3028. Darius was thirty four years old at the time of this story and a highly decorated Major in the AFFS. This account, as is typical of many of these file fragments, lacks any of Darius's usual preamble and begins with his appearance at Hilton Head Island in the company of none other than Colonel Jaime Wolf. To add to the mystery as to how this most unusual arrival came about Darius mentions he is dressed in the uniform of a Major of Wolf's Dragoons. It appears he accompanied Wolf directly from Harrow's Sun, and before that Misery where Darius famously, if rather mysteriously, fought alongside the Dragoons against the army of House Kurita. It should also be noted Darius was not in fact invited to the wedding.
     Experienced scholars of Darius's life will thus see this fragment stands between the Misery Campaign and his memoir recounting his exploits during the Fourth Succession War, files I have yet to have discovered through decryption.
     An interesting aside to historians is that this fragment presents a rare occasion where Darius's recollection of specific conversations can be checked against those of the foremost historical work detailing the events in question; in this case the historical novel Warrior:Riposte written by the eccentric Terran author Michael A. Stackpole (often thought in fact to be a pseudonym used by the controversial Davionist historian/propagandist Misha Auburn). At certain times the words and conversation of important historical figures, such as Justin Xiang-Allard, Romano Liao, Akira Brahe etc. etc. given in Stackpole match those in Darius's story to the letter. Though often Darius gives an entirely different perspective as to the actual intent or thrust of the conversation or words in question. The biggest and main discrepancy between the two accounts however, aside from the fact Stackpole clearly could never know much of what Darius himself was up to behind closed doors, is that Darius is not mentioned at all in Stackpole, even during conversations where he claims to have been a participant. Leading me to surmise that Stackpole/Auburn (?) either held a deep personal dislike for Darius, or perhaps did in fact know enough about Darius's bad behaviour that for reasons of national pride he/she excised Darius's presence entirely from their version.
     As is so often the case with history and the truth, we must weigh all available evidence and accounts, and ultimately make our own decision on what to believe.
Brandon Corey
New Avalon
17 April 3051


17th August 3028

     Jaime remained sternly silent as he marched ahead of me swiftly down that wide hall way while, despite my longer legs, I struggled to keep up and remain in step with him. The sound of our boot heels was harsh on the exquisite polished white marble floor and the echoes bounced jarringly off the glass walls. Beyond those window-walls was a stunning view of the great central heart of Hilton Head Island's enormous megaplex, where towering post Star League era monolithic Terran architecture soared out of sight into the cloudless blue sky, and to either side were lush stretches of the extensive gardens surrounding the complex. Orange and magnolia trees heavy with blossom stood amidst perfectly landscaped rockpools, fountains and flowerbeds.
     However I didn't take too much notice of these beautiful vistas at the time, as I was far too busy admiring my own reflection in the windows as we stamped along and if I do say so myself I wore my full dress uniform of a Major in Wolf's Dragoons most admirably, well I still hold that it's amongst the smartest of all the many uniforms I'm entitled to wear, especially with my tall slim figure; cropped black jacket belted at the waist, with a circular wolf's head Dragoon crest for a buckle in ruby and black jade, skin tight black dress pants with a red stripe running down each leg, gleaming black leather jackboots complete with my Fed Suns spurs, a black beret again bearing a ruby and black jade wolf's head crest, and finally a billowing, but in no way encumbering, calf length black and red piped cape-coat, cinched across the breast with a heavy silver chain. Usually one also carried or wore a basket hilted ceremonial broadsword as well, but both Jaime and I had had our swords confiscated by black and silver robed ROM Adepts at Savannah starport. Of course I had my medals buffed up and on display as well; the Silver and Gold Sunbursts, my Robinson Medal of Valour, the Crucis Cross and more unusually my rebel Crest of the Eagle with Kristofur's bullet scar still gouged across it.
    Jaime was also rigged out in his full dress blacks, which was the same as mine essentially, though his cape had the added extravagance of including an actual grey-white wolf pelt slung across his broad shoulders, complete with a wolf's head with rubies for eyes depending down his jacket's breast. Jaime's a good deal shorter and slighter than myself, though he's gristle tough you may be sure and he carried himself that afternoon with an angry arrogance I'd rarely seen in him. His somewhat untidy greying black hair was ruffled as usual, his beard barely concealing a twist of rage on his lips, his thick black eyebrows beetled into a scowl. Across his chest he carried the only item from our luggage which he'd refused to allow ComStar to forward on to our, presumably hastily assigned, quarters; a roughly one and a half meter long black silk bag, with a silver brocade cinching it along one end.
     We'd put down at Savannah in Wolf's personal DropShip, Chieftain, some hours before and there had been a minor scene when Jaime had refused to relinquish control of the package, or to even let the solicitous toaster worshippers have a look inside. Only after running presumably very thorough weapons checks did they finally nod reluctantly to us and escort us to a spotlessly clean and empty maglev train. We were somewhat late for the opening ceremony it seemed and Jaime muttered to me as we left the starport that he wanted to get there while all the guests were gathered in the one place for the Primus's welcome speech.
     The two week journey from Harrow's Sun, where I'd been in convalescence recovering from my wounds for the past month and a half, had been pretty grim. When we jumped out from Misery we'd left behind our dead; roughly half of the entire five regiments of the Dragoons, it was a staggering loss to all who'd ever known Wolf's band, myself included. Like most everyone else I'd thought them practically invulnerable, yet despite taking about double the number of Kuritans down with them, there'd seemed little doubt at the time that Wolf's losses might well be irreplaceable. The crew of the Chieftain had understandably been bitterly withdrawn and touchy throughout the journey to Terra and though actually very relieved to have artfully dodged orders directing me to the Liao Front for the Galahad '28 exercises, I'd felt it prudent to affect a similarly sombre and respectful attitude.
     Now though I was getting pretty excited, well I'd never been on Terra before that day and besides this little shindig was surely going to be one of the most memorable celebrations in history. Typical of Hanse to try to keep me away of course, but I had the perfect excuse in not having received his transfer order before I'd got off Harrow's Sun, also I was sure, once he saw I was there in the company and very good favour of Wolf, Hanse would be forced to be civil towards me and let me stay. Wolf had an invite of course and I was there, presumably without the knowledge of Hanse or anyone else, in the role of his guest.
     So it was that I turned up on Terra, at Hilton Head Island, on the first day of Hanse and Melissa's grand wedding celebration, the 'happy occasion' that would herald in the wider marriage of the vibrant and driving Lyran economy to our own massive and usually pretty efficient Fed Suns military machine. A union that was going to be the direct cause of tens of millions of deaths in future months, though we didn't know that then of course. There have been plenty of published works that touch upon various guest's recollections of their time at the wedding, from various points of view, you've probably read some of them yourselves; from romantic slush about Hanse and Melissa's 'fairytale romance', to spy stories about dirty dealings behind closed doors, there have been acres of print detailing the gossip of who courted who in the glittering balls, or along the romantic moonlit beaches, and later more serious historians have wisely pointed to the fact that it was actually during the celebrations that the Allies and their enemies first quietly learned that ComStar possessed not just an enormous army of Star League era 'Mechs, but the MechWarriors to pilot 'em too. My account touches upon some of these aspects, as you shall see, but I shall also simply lay down my own more personal memories, for at bottom I can only tell you what I saw, heard and did. For me it was going to be a bizarre, unique, sometimes pleasurable, sometimes lethally dangerous, four days ... over the course of which I would face certain death on ComStar's paradise island more than once, I would cross paths there with many old friends and old enemies too, and I would also meet for the first time a beauty who would become one of the great loves of my life ... yet whose name I never learnt.

* * *
     So it was with a spring in my step I marched along, doing my best to ignore the fact my black bearded friend seemed to be getting angrier and angrier on the quiet, until up ahead I saw a massive six meter high pair of gilded golden doors, the ComStar downward pointing clock crest set into the centre of each in what appeared to be mother of pearl and silver.
     A pair of white robed and hooded ComStar Adepts stood before the door watching us approach as my heart began beating in anticipation of making a grand entrance before the cream of the nobility of the entire Inner Sphere. Suddenly Wolf stopped in front of me and half turned, grabbing my right arm in a vice like grip causing me to jump with a start. I looked into his craggy scarred face, noting that his usually permanently coolly calm grey-blue eyes were now positively blazing with emotion.
     "Okay Darius, I need to do this alone. I want you to wait here until I finish speaking with Takashi. Do you understand?" He growled at me and I wanted to blurt out that I certainly didn't in protest, well he'd made no mention of wishing to speak with the Dragon himself until this point and I looked down at that black silk bag he was lugging about in sudden panic. My mind raced with a nameless fear that I might have in fact got myself into yet more trouble by accompanying Jaime here, but it struck me that we were in the heart of the pacifistic ComTech Order's domain, weapons were not allowed here. What real harm could Wolf possibly do to the Coordinator? Whatever, I didn't fancy arguing with the wiry little bugger so I simply nodded and hung back as he resumed his march of fury and stamped up towards the doors, flicking his right hand at the Adepts motioning them to open up, every inch a commander of men.
     As they did so a deep voice stopped speaking beyond and the strains of a sonata for flute and clavichord drifted through, then after a moment, while Wolf moved through the open doors, another male voice spoke up in the room beyond, talking over the beautiful almost angelic music.
     "We ask you to join us in an evening of music, dance, and food." I could make out, as Wolf was through the doors and into a huge seeming crowd beyond. So, feeling safe then in ignoring the Periphery weirdo's orders and not wanting to miss what might be an unforgettable show, I hurried up and through the doors myself. Craning my head to see beyond the crowd a tall bearded Precentor dressed in a scarlet robe, standing upon a raised platform set before a massive white silk banner emblazoned with the ComStar clock heraldry, gesturing expansively towards open equally tall glass and gold doors behind his platform.
     "All waits for you within..." He suddenly stopped in mid sentence and simply gaped down at what I guessed had to be the little black clad figure of Wolf. I quickly ducked back down behind the crowd, taking just a moment to risk standing upon tiptoe in order to get the lay of the land. It was a massive high ceilined hall, lined at it's walls with vases full of great sprays of fragrant orange blossom, an antechamber I suppose for the even more enormous and opulent looking ballroom beyond, and it was full to bursting with hundreds of fabulously dressed men and women from all corners of civilised space. I quickly spotted Wolf, who was stood in an open space that had cleared around him as shocked guests had spotted him and pulled back in surprise, his head was slowly moving as if he was scanning for someone ... which I suppose was exactly what he was in fact doing.
     Well, good luck to you Wolfie old lad, I thought and I turned my attention back to the guests around me, there seemed to be a lot of purple and deep blue in the gowns and suits so I quickly surmised I was behind the main Marik party. Yes, there just a short way down and further in from me stood a somewhat stoop shouldered fellow with a long thin mane of white hair, I'd know that almost palpable aura of suffering anywhere, even from behind ... it was my old mate Jinxed Janos Marik. Well I suppose I should have known better ... but hey when do I ever?
      "You are most welcome here, Colonel Wolf." Came a deep ringing voice from a bald, bespectacled, corpse of a man in gold and white robes, who was stood beside the red robed Precentor upon the platform. I glanced over, he had to be the Primus himself I realised, while I began to discretely slip through the crowd, who were so wrapped up in the unprecedented drama unfolding before them that they didn't even seem to look twice at me.
     There was a sudden susurration of drawn breath in the crowd as if in collective shock and I tried to make out what was going on, however my view was blocked by some big lug squeezed into what appeared to be the cream and pink tunic and lemon pants, of a Regulan Hussars dress uniform. Something about the fellow seemed familiar to me though, and I took a quick sideways squint at him as I went by.
     He was perhaps in his mid forties, his sandy brown hair was cropped short and his wide, somewhat bovine, features were positively sweating. Which was in fact what jogged my memory, it was my old chum Alan 'The Giant' Hill, a rebel Regulan officer with whom I'd served, and whose spanking little firecracker of a wife I'd spent some effort in trying to seduce, during the Marik Civil War fourteen years or so before. He was always uncomfortable at functions I recalled, which made me grin mischievously and prompted me to fire a shot across his bows so to speak.
     I first made sure I had a clear path away from Hill and further into the centre of the Marik crowd, then leaned over, jabbed him in the ribs pretty hard like and hissed at him.
     "Hey Hill you lumbering ape, Jaded Janos pardoned you then ... you bring the Mrs to this doo? I bet she remembers me." He turned quickly, his blinking eyes staring at me in sheer amazement as I was off into the throng with a wink; his mouth opened and closed several times in stunned shock, his face turned puce and the last I saw of him at that point he seemed torn between bellowing after me like a raxx in heat, or keeping his eyes on the astounding tableau unfolding at the centre of the hall.
     Oh this was too much fun.

Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 29 January 2011, 18:50:25

     I'd just reached Janos Marik's shoulder when Wolf's voice cracked like a bullwhip across the huge room as the little savage let rip with a deeply abusive torrent of Japanese insults aimed at Takashi himself, who stood there dressed for all the Sphere like the head waiter of a stuffy Avalon City restaurant. It was all about poor old Minobu of course, Wolf had just emptied out our late black Samurai friend's two pig-sticker swords onto the floor at Takashi's very feet, though I'd missed actually seeing it in my progress through the crowd. If you wonder how Wolf got those swords through ComStar's Star League era lostech scanners? Well so do I. Wolf never told me he was even carrying the swords, so to this day I don't have a clue.
     Janos's head was half bent down to his left I noted, as if straining to make out what Jaime was shouting, so I leaned up as casually as I could and out of pure wicked spite murmured;
     "How do Sir ... looks like Takashi's got a wolf by the tail there eh?" Janos visibly stiffened and slowly turned to look at me like I was something deeply unpleasant he'd just stepped in. Naturally I'm not easily offended however and I stuck out my hand friendly like, while noting that across the hall Takashi was trying to speak to Wolf in a calm and soothing manner, and the crowds were  quickly dispersing and filtering through into the main reception hall, perhaps scared a full scale brawl might break out between Jaime and Takashi, or the Dragon's cluster of seething guards and relatives.
     "Nice to see you again, how's tricks?" I beamed up at the Captain-General meanwhile.
     Janos looked down at my hand like I was offering him a turd-sandwich, then back up my uniform to my face. He was certainly showing his seventy odd strife filled years by then; his once impressive height was, as I say, now eroded by a pronounced stoop, as if he was carrying all his many failures and tragedies weighing around his shoulders, his once handsome features were a withered gaunt mass of wrinkles, his beard and hair were white, his thinned lips twisted bitterly, he wore a medal bedecked Marik dress uniform ... but everything about him seemed like it was fading away, even the vaguely ridiculous eagle tattoo at the centre of his forehead. When he finally spoke it was with such venom he actually hit me with a fleck or two of spital.
     "Uggh, Anton's treacherous Court Jester, and hiding behind Wolf again I see...what do you want vermin?" Which was harsh perhaps, but far from unexpected. Janos blamed me for convincing his brother Anton the Federated Suns were backing his bid for the Captain-Generalship and thereby being in part responsible for starting the Marik Civil War. Which was fair enough because that had in fact been why I ended up in Anton's service, however I personally always had a soft spot for Janos y'know. Irrationally perhaps, but he was the grand old man of the Inner Sphere for most of my life ... and yet a complete failure too ... and that was his opinion too not just mine. I don't know why I always warmed to his company to be honest, he certainly didn't take to mine, perhaps it was because I so relished winding him up, but there again I don't normally take such a risky line with Successor State Warlords, so perhaps it was that he never really seemed to be able to achieve anything he ever set out to that I found somehow endearing. Then again it's possible it was just that I'm a natural bully and I sensed in him a weak potential target for my finely honed brand of vindictiveness. It has cost me dear once or twice, my playful tormenting of Janos, but nevertheless right until his end I couldn't resist it.
     "Oh just thought I'd say hello, so who's here?" I crowed. "Oh look, both of your new friends and allies are here I see...there's Terrible Takashi of course, bickering with my good friend and comrade Jaime, oh and I see Mad Max Liao's over there watching the whole thing ... Jerome H Blake what is the skinny slant wearing? My word, what a mess, why he looks just like the owner of a Kittery brothel I used to frequent ..." I was cut off in mid ramble by a curse of loathing from Janos, as with a violent movement he tried to get away from me as quickly as possible. The throng of Marik officers, civies and their women surged at the struggling form of their leader as he flapped his arms, cursing and swearing at them to make way.
     "Father? What is it?" A deep, familiar voice cut through the questioning chatter, and old Janos's third and eldest surviving son stamped up, flanked by several elaborately uniformed chaps.
     "Dugg you old reprobate. Lovely to see you again." I grinned happily at him. I'd met and befriended Duggan Marik back on Atreus in '15, shortly after the end of Anton's War. He'd been a famous carouser back then and we'd hit it off in no time, carving a swath together through the fleshpots and bars of the City of Dreams for a few weeks, before Janos had roped me into that awful Germanium hunt nonsense. Dugg hadn't aged particularly well over the intervening thirteen years though I realised, he was about forty then, an MP for the Marik Commonwealth and Minister of Trade for the Free Worlds; a big man, just short of his father's height, but much broader, more muscular and frankly, fatter. However, despite his heavy jowls, full beard, somewhat greasy looking dark hair and a girth so considerable it was threatening to burst the buttons of his black and purple civilian suit, I didn't doubt he still did very well with the ladies. His bright blue eyes still twinkled with barely suppressed mischief at all times, laughter lines crinkled his well fed features, his large mouth fleshy but always smiling ... well, as you may know yourself, success with la femme ain't down to looks above half, it's often more about self confidence, charisma and sheer brass necked gall. Casanova himself was no male model I understand and like him, in my experience, Duggan Marik could charm the pants off practically any woman he ever set his mind to ... and his mind was always wandering in that direction.
     "Darius Davion? Oh Saint's preserve us, now I know we're all in the shit." He roared in merry greeting at me, feigning horror, to the shock and surprise of the dignitaries all around us, dowagers fluttered handkerchiefs and affected to swoon, military men scowled and looked all manly, and Janos made good his escape through the ballroom entrance. Meanwhile Dugg rushed me and swept me up into a crushing bear hug that proved his bulk still concealed a good deal of muscle.
     "Where've you been hiding yourself all these years you rogue?" He bellowed, then set me down, taking in my uniform and perhaps noting the scars that marred my handsome features. "No need to ask that I suppose, why I've followed your campaigns and voyages in the press, I always knew you were a bloodthirsty savage you hound, and would prosper in military service, but you've surprised even me.
     So you're back with Wolf again eh? We hear things have been hot for the Dragoons ... were you with 'em on the Kuritan border? Are the stories true? Have they been wiped out? Hey is that pretty Black Widow gal you were always chasing after like a dog with two dicks still alive?"             
     Dugg, despite knowing and sharing some of my vices, had never held my secret service on behalf of the MIIO as an agent provocateur during the Civil War, against me and believed me the ridiculously brave warmonger my reputation suggested, so knowing as ever less was more in this kind of conversation, I acted all bashful, made myself blush and muttered.
     "Oh I was barely involved, I just lent a hand on Misery when I heard Wolf and his mob were in the grinder. Old debts and all that. The Dragoons were pretty mauled I suppose ... fifty percent casualties I believe ... sad business, lost a lot of friends ... but take if from me they're ultimately still alive as a unit ... and soon to be kicking again I'd wager." He looked at me sideways, shook his head in obvious admiration and whistled softly, clearly deciding Dashing Darius was just being modest as usual and probably on little more than the strength of an old debt of honour had rushed into dreadful danger, against hopeless odds, and in all likelihood been instrumental in pulling the Dragoons' collective rears out of the Dragon's fire. Incredible ain't it, what folk can dream up with a small amount of facts and a few well chosen comments.
     Christ and Conrad only know what he'd have thought if he'd known the truth; that I'd only ended up in the hell of the fighting on Misery that year because a narcotics smuggling racket I'd been drawn into had blown up in my face, that my opposite number in our little cross-border trade agreement, Warlord Grieg Samsonov, had betrayed me, and I'd ended up a nameless slave in the Combine for a time ... that it had only been through a mixture of chance, cowardice, expert double dealing and my prized knack with women, that I'd reached the Dragoons just in time to be thrust into a 'Mech and thrown at half the DCMS as they hove over the horizon. 
     Anyway, Dugg changed the subject and rattled on about his work over the last few years and I quickly realised he'd grown to be perhaps the biggest crook in the Free Worlds, which was no mean feat, so perhaps he'd not have disaproved after all of my Kuritan-dust trading. Dugg believed in a favour for a favour and almost bragged to me about shovelling up enormous kickbacks, bribes, insider trading and Blake knew what else. I remember being a little surprised, perhaps I'd assumed he'd grown up from the rake I'd know back on post-Civil War Atreus. This presumably was the fellow who was going to become the next Captain-General remember, yet he was clearly every bit as debauched, greedy and self serving as I was.
     He changed the subject at the approach of a tall chap decked out in the purple, red and white chocolate box uniform of a senior officer in the Marik Militia. Medals crusted this fellow's breast, roped aiguilettes hung at his shoulders in thick bundles, while gold trim and tassles glittered at his epaulettes. He was a couple of years younger than Dugg, but was considerably fitter looking, with burly muscles, a course brutally handsome face, with dark eyebrows, deep set sharp looking pale blue eyes, very thick and suspiciously coiffured seeming hair, and a generally unpleasant look to him as he openly sized me up.
     "Who's this, Duggan? I hear he upset Uncle." I didn't like this one's manner at all, he was arrogant, rude and frankly I pegged him as trouble from that first moment I laid eyes upon him. Aside from clearly being a posturing power mad careerist, if you ask me he had the look of that particular type of tough military man who enjoys the company of his fellow soldiers a little too much, the kind of man's man who reads Homer and the like looking for poems about the pure love between comrades in arms ... if you catch my drift. It was there below the surface if you looked for it, or in his practically bouffant mop of golden hair, his tight uniform, the way his shifty eyes slid over me unpleasantly. I could have been wrong ... but as I was later to learn I wasn't, however that's a story for another time.   
     "Oh don't fret cuz, this is an old friend of mine. Allow me to introduce you to Major Darius Davion of the AFFS, and more lately it seems Wolf's Dragoons. Darius this is my cousin General Duncan Marik, the Supreme Commander of the Marik Militia."
     So this was Duncan Marik, the only child of Janos's younger sister, he was a famous MechWarrior and commander, and if gossip was to be believed a contender to be the next CG. Back then I barely knew of him, that would change in later years unfortunately and I would one day have to kill the bent bastard, but again that's another story.
     At hearing my name the blonde popinjay jumped in surprise and changed his manner towards me instantly from surly belligerence to greasy fawning pleasure to meet me 'finally'. He prattled on about his deep admiration for my exploits on the battle field, my legendary bravery, my heroism and so on. All in all I was deeply relieved when we were interrupted by a polite cough and I turned to find myself eye to eye with my old enemy Squinter Allard himself.
     "Major Davion, I wonder if the First Prince and I might have a moment of your time." I gratefully grabbed this lifeline from Duncan's dreadful conversation, and waving a cheery goodbye to Dugg and his awful queen of a cousin allowed Allard to steer me across the hall.
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 29 January 2011, 19:11:35

     "Darius ... we weren't expecting you." Quintus muttered out of the side of his pursed mouth as we walked, and I glanced at him taking in the way his thick, usually mussed and unruly, white hair was for once neatly combed. That rather than his trademark faded, rumpled and oversized old green jacket and baggy trousers, he was actually wearing a very crisp double breasted grey suit of a stylish, though traditionally Terran, cut. Even those overgrown snowy privet hedges that passed for his eyebrows looked to have been recently trimmed. All in all, it struck me that I'd never seen him so smartly turned out and I was about to rib him for it when I caught a darting sideways flash from those chilling blue eyes of his and the mockery froze in my throat.
     "Oh ... uh ... Colonel Wolf insisted I should come as his guest." I stammered, mildly annoyed that the Squinter, my pet name for Allard ever since I first met him during that skulduggery he embroiled me in when the truth about Truffle-Hunter Truston had come to a head back in '23, had managed to unsettle me.
     "Hmm, well well. We must discuss how you came to be on Misery at some point. I've a few questions about that." He replied and I gulped as a shiver of fear ran through my body. Blake's Blood, but the Squinter was a bastard to fool, his trick y'see was that he never seemed to ask me a question without first being sure he already knew the answer ... often better even than I did myself. I should also point out here, in case you've not yet read my other secret memoirs, that I'm fairly certain Quintus Allard, like his master the Fox, was never fooled by my lifelong schoolboy hero act. Certain things he'd said to me down the years gave me good reason to assume he knew me for the coward, liar, scoundrel, womaniser, drunk, and sometime criminal I have actually always been. 
     Anyway, Quintus led me through the rapidly thinning crowd, towards a flight of stairs leading up to a side door. Before this stood First Prince Hanse, Archon Katrina, and her daughter Melissa, all surrounded by an adoring cluster of Fed Suns and Lyran officers and nobs. The little crowd all turned to watch us approach and suddenly I spotted Ardan Sortek's beaming, imbecile, features. He was togged up in the full blue and gold fig of a Guards Colonel, his Medal Excalibur and the sash of the Order of Davion proudly on display. As I was walked up by Allard, I was somewhat surprised when Sortek actually began to clap me and the other AFFS officers present quickly joined in ... to Hanse's obvious displeasure.
     As we reached the little group I was warmly embraced, my back was slapped and my flipper pumped, as the lads welcomed me like a returning hero. I looked blankly at them in surprise and Sortek, spotting my confusion, called out to me.
     "We've all heard about your little 'lone wolf' rescue mission to Misery Darius old fellow. Don't try to be modest about this one, we know you went to stand alongside Wolf and his people despite the odds. Well done old chap ... very well done." To which I was treated again to another round of congratulations from the crowd. Well, I thought, this was going better than I could have hoped, so I shook my head, did my best to look uncomfortable at all the attention and muttered some guff about not having really done much, that I'd barely fired a shot or two and ... well hang it all I didn't really do anything any one of them wouldn't have done. All rot of course, but just the kind of low key comments that make people believe the absolute opposite.
     "Get outa here Dee. We ain't buying that." Sure enough someone called cheerfully and I spotted Morgan Hasek-Davion grinning at Sortek's shoulder. So, playing my act as bluff, manly, Daring Darius Dogood to the hilt, I called back at him over the heads of the lower ranking chaps clustered around me;
     "Hoh Morgan old man, trust a Grinner to beat me to a bun fight like this ... did you bring your own cutlery? I'm frankly surprised you ain't got stuck into the buffet yet." There was a merry round of guffaws and manly laughter, then suddenly Hanse himself interrupted in a calm, polite, voice;
     "Gentlemen, ladies. Perhaps you might escort my beautiful bride-to-be into the reception hall, the Archon and I shall join you shortly, however I should like to speak privately with Darius here briefly." Morgan chirped up again at that.
     "Hey stay a moment Your Highness ... you ain't about to break your word are you?" He grinned playfully, hamming it up. "I'm attached to my role as your best man and I don't expect you to offer it to this crusty old warhorse." There was more laughter of course, which Hanse, smiling thinly, waved over.
     "Your role is safe Morgan, rest assured. Please if you could share my fiancé with Dan ..." So with that the demure Melissa, who was looking positively spanking in a sleeveless golden gown that hugged her svelte young body most divertingly, was led away into the reception hall escorted by about twenty AFFS and LCAF officers. Hanse was suddenly at my side watching her leave.
     "So Darius," His voice was steady but controlled. "Now perhaps you can explain to me why you're not with the Bane on the Capellan border?" I was ready for him though, and turned to take in his smart black and grey evening dress. He was forty two back then, imposingly tall, wide shouldered and bursting with strength. His broad features showed few lines of age, his short cropped ginger hair still had all it's coppery colour and his blue eyes lacked none of their piercing intensity. Perhaps I was still dangerously buoyed by my excitement at having effectively gatecrashed this incredible gathering, but I was absolutely flippant as I answered him.
     "Ahh, call me a bluff old traditionalist Sire, but I usually consider it the done thing to await orders before travelling halfway across the Suns." It was rare for Hanse to turn red with rage, but he did then and my stupid bravery evaporated as I quailed in horror at the expression that darkened his face.
     "What? What did you just say to me?" He hissed, and I stammered as he swung on me like he was about to attack me. "Lie to me Darius, just once, and I'll have you out of here before you can finish one drink."
     I gulped and screwed up all my dwindling reserves of courage.
     "Sire please, I would never dream..." His scowl deepened all the more at that and I quickly continued. "I have not received any transfer orders. I'm still officially on leave, so far as I know. When Colonel Wolf practically demanded I accompany him here as his guest ... well what could I do? Ask him, he'll confirm what I say." Hanse flicked a glance at Quintus, who I felt vanish from my side swiftly, presumably sent off to question or bring Wolf back with him. Spotting Archon Katrina hanging quietly back behind Hanse's glowering bulk I clutched at straws and doing my best to maintain the shaken remnants of my calm nodded politely to her.
     "Madame is an honour to see you again." I'd met Katrina last a year or so prior to the wedding, during the Silver Eagle affair, when she'd been very formal towards me ... much more so than the time previous to that, in 3017, when we'd been lovers for a short spell. She was still a striking woman at fifty one, tall, somewhat muscular of frame, with sharp angular features, clear grey eyes and long fine ash blonde hair. During the weeks of our amour, she'd always found me very funny and she stood there behind a fuming Hanse in that ComStar antechamber and perhaps enjoying my cheek suddenly laughed that pretty girlish chuckle once more. I had a brief flash of memory as I was suddenly transported back in my mind eleven years to a Tharkadian ski lodge, and a warm fur covered bed, tickling and wrestling with the then naked Archon.
     "You are, as ever, most galant Herr Major." She had the sweetest trace of a Lyran-German accent, pronouncing my rank 'My-orr', her voice purring softly and sending little shivers of half-forgotten pleasure up my spine. "It is good to see you again also," She continued. "I owe you a debt of gratitude for your actions last year."
     She was being playful, perhaps taking pity on me after seeing me squirm under Hanse's torrent of bile, but she certainly did believe she owed me. I'd come out of that Silver Eagle disaster smelling like roses as usual you see, mind you I still say, for once, I deserved more credit than that fool Sortek, for if he'd listened to me in the first place the whole mess would never have happened.
     Anyway I graciously accepted her thanks by stiffening my spine, clicking my boot heels together and saluting smartly Lyran fashion. Hanse watched all this balefully, Blake's Balls but he can be a sourpuss sometimes. Well, seeing as the Archon seemed to be in my corner, I decided to discreetly risk a jab at Hanse by reminding the swine just how close Katrina and I had been at one time.
     "I still sleep with a certain blue scarf under my pillow sometimes Highness." I said to her politely and was pleased to see a little colour rise in her fair skinned cheeks, Hanse shifted angrily beside me however and I thought he was about to go for me again, however fortunately at that moment Quintus came back with good old Jaime at his side.
     Hanse returned Wolf's salute and then shook the legendary merc commander's hand, while treating the tough little chap to one of his patented vulpine smiles.
     "Colonel Wolf, I'm happy to see you're safe and healthy at least. I was most distraut to learn of the severity of your admirable unit's losses on Misery, I trust you and yours have been well cared for and supplied on Harrow's Sun?" There followed a polite conversation between the two rulers and the mercenary officer, with Wolf a little reserved and sad seeming, but expressing gratitude to Hanse for his offer of indefinite employment and sanctuary. Katrina joined Hanse in offering her sympathies and medical aid to the Dragoons, while I stood there at the edge of their group shifting from foot to foot, nervously waiting for Hanse to get around to questioning old Blackbeard about my presence.
     "So Colonel, I understand you've brought my cousin Darius here along as your ... guest? I must confess to being somewhat surprised to see him, as I issued orders for him to report to Gene Drivers and the Fourth Guards for Galahad '28?" Hanse darted a suspicious look my way and Wolf, bless his broken heart, did sterling work on my behalf.
     "We didn't receive those orders Your Highness, I can only assume they arrived after we left Harrow's Sun." Wolf said briskly and Hanse nodded in decidedly grudging acceptance, I noticed Wolf's sharp eyes then narrowed just a tad; "Surely there is no urgent need for the Major to be with his RCT at the moment ... beyond the Galahad wargames that is?"
     "No, no ... of course not ... but none of us can afford to stop testing themselves eh?" Hanse muttered, his eyes upon Wolf's as if weighing up the little man, at that he suddenly swung back to me.
     "Well so be it seems you're here to stay." He said with a smile that far from reached his deadlights he dropped a hand heavily upon my shoulder and squeezed painfully, "So then cousin, I have a delicate and potentially dangerous job for you." My heart began to beat faster again, well if you've been given half as many lethally hazardous tasks by Hanse as I have then you can well imagine what kinds of horror I suddenly imagined I was going to be thrown into, what was it to be this time; assassinating the Primus? Seducing the Coordinator's wife? Giving Max Liao a wedgie? Hanse grinned viciously, doubtless knowing how my mind would be conjuring a thousand dreadful scenarios.
     "This mission will require you to probably have to deal with some of the most important of our guests here, potentially dozens of enemy officers and spies, to interrogate them, ultimately with a view to turning their loyalties toward either the Federated Suns or the Lyran Commonwealth. Are you prepared to accept such a, surely very chancy, assignment on behalf of myself and my bride-to-be?" He applied more pressure to my shoulder, to the extent I nearly mewled in pain and fear, as Wolf and Katrina watched blank faced, this all sounded truly awful but what else could I say?   
     "As ever I am at your service Sire." And d'you know even then, even when I was practically wetting myself at the merest thought of this new nightmare, I couldn't stop myself putting a little Dashing Darius spin on it; "Sounds like just my bag ... will I get to kill any Kuritans?"
     Wolf cracked the first real smile I'd seen from him in weeks, Katrina let out a peel of her pretty feminine giggles and Hanse shook his head in resigned good humour.
     "You ass." He leaned in and whispered to me quietly, then stood back, dropped his hand from my shoulder and held it out for me to shake, "Darius, dear cousin, I would personally consider it a signal ... honour ... if you would serve as one of our ushers at my wedding?"
     The crafty bastard had of course been yanking my chain, he'd just described the job of a wedding usher in a deuced dark light. Nevertheless a wash of blissful relief flooded my senses and it took all my acting talent to stamp on the nearly physical need to let out an enormous sigh of relief, but somehow I did it and even managed to assume an air of disappointment.
     "Well Your Highness, if I'm not going to get to see any real action on your behalf this trip, then I accept this job most happily." I smiled and shook his hand. Hanse couldn't just let it go at that though, another loaded grin spread slowly across his face.
     "Good that's decided then, you shall be under Ardan's orders of course." I groaned inwardly again, Jerome but that practically guaranteed disaster in my opinion. By then Sortek's bumbling schoolboy brand of simplistic chivalry and blind optimistic faith had landed me neck deep in Kuritan heavies at SandsEdge and facing ISF special unit commandos and the Genyosha during the Silver Eagle Affair ... Blake only knew what a hash he would make of this do?
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 29 January 2011, 19:40:09

     As you can imagine, I was highly relieved when Hanse then sent me off on my way and I was able to breath easy again, duck into the main reception hall, dodge my mother who I spotted at the centre of a gaggle of society hags, mingle and further appreciate this unique chance for mischief.
     The reception hall was simply vast, with yet more towering windows which ran up from the polished marble and onyx floor right to the two storey vaulted ceiling, where dozens of crystal chandeliers twinkled. Along the far wall, which faced out towards the distant Atlantic, ran a row of long tables groaning with food and drink. The hall was of course, by the time I got away from Hanse and Katrina, crowded with hundreds, perhaps thousands of guests, some dancing to the somewhat genteel music, others stuffing themselves at the buffet tables, still more standing in groups chattering and gossiping.
     How to describe the experience of walking through that crowd of literally hundreds of the 'great and good' ... the masters of creation? I must have been somewhat stunned by the experience for the memories only come back to me now in little flashes, disjointed yet clear. However I was not then drunk, for I hadn't yet managed to buttonhole one of the penguin-suited ComStar flunkies hurrying about with trays full of real Dom Perignon, so it must have been the sheer sense of unreality of it all. Well anyway I shall lay it down here in that same snap-snap-snap way I recall it, rather like little clips of trivid in my mind and it shall have to do;
     Walking and being mobbed by what must have been fifty or sixty AFFS officers, many retired or of high rank ... Morgan Hasek-Davion, splendid in his blue and silver Grinners full dress fig, forcing two flutes of shampoo into my hands and calling out a boisterous toast, which was then echoed by the others so loudly many of the foreign guests as far as half way down the hall turned round ... 'To Darius Davion, saviour of Wolf's Dragoons!' ... Sortek hugging me and cheering his heart out ... gulping back champagne while the lads started up a round of Broken Hearts and Dirty Boots, to the obvious horror of some nearby Crappies ... pulling myself free from them and stumbling half into a cigar puffing DCMS General, who blew his foul smelling ersatz cheroot smoke into my face, while demanding to know whether I believed mercenaries were 'better' than regular troops ... walking straight into my old flame Olivia Fenlon, the Duchess of Chesterton and one of the architects of the alliance that hinged upon this wedding, she looked good enough to eat in a slinky backless blue gown and after smiling at me in exasperated good humour and straightening my beret slightly she hugged me briefly, kissed me affectionately upon my cheek, then went back to a deep seeming conversation with that smooth swine Simon Johnson, the Archon's spymaster ... barging my way past a somehow familiar, but crusty seeming red bearded fella in a tan, brown and green Capellan dress uniform, and causing him to spill the beer he held onto his trousers, he span round with a vile curse as I ducked away smartish like and I suddenly realised he had been none other than Pavel Ridzik, the so called 'Butcher of Truth' and the master of the CCAF ... pausing to oggle at old Janos dancing creakingly with the tastiest chocolate skinned stunner you ever did see ... waving to another of my gals, Duchess Margaret Aten of the beautiful dark eyes and rough temper, who was merrily boozing with a pack of Skyesmen in medal bedecked Lyran dress uniforms complete with tartan kilts, and swearing away as usual at the top of her voice.
     It seemed that everywhere I looked I spotted wildly disparate and very important people I knew, or at least knew of. A most unusual experience to be sure. But the really strange scenes were those where you saw people chatting politely who would usually be at each other's throats trying to kill each other; for example stood at the edge of the dancefloor was tall, skinny, old Tiresome Ted Regis, Katrina's top General, apparently boring the pants off that merciless bugger Lefty Eastwick, Janos Marik's brutal Parliamentary Chief Whip and political hardman. Ted was murmuring in that shy Arcturan half-whisper of his, about the merits of various Free Worlder 'Mechs, while Lefty absolutely grimaced as he obviously cast about for an escape route and sank what looked like half a pint of scotch in as quick a time as it takes to say it.
     Or there by one of the buffet tables I spotted my great aunt Yvonne, Hanse's Champion if you can believe it despite looking for all the world like a school dinner lady in fancy dress, trying to make conversation with Takashi and his tiny seeming little wife. Christ alone knows what Yvonne was saying, knowing her she could either have been probing the Dragon about the strength of the DCMS on the Draconis March border, or on the other hand offering Mrs Takashi advice on how to cook Avalonian plum duff.
     My head span with the otherworldliness of it all and I decided some food would set me straight so I headed for the buffet, I avoided the nearest table because the monstrous McCorckendales were there filling their plates with all the manners and grace of Outback farmhands just in from the fields. Besides not wanting to listen to yet another of his interminable fables about his time with the Ceti Hussars, I'd not seen Aleksandr McC since the death of his wife in that same 'accident' that had finally rid me of the Truffle-Hunter five years previously, and as you can imagine I didn't fancy raking up that nasty business above half so, being sure to shield my face, I made for the next table along.
     This table was not too busy, having a bunch of Free Worlder officers clustered about it for the most part. However I was happy to find myself stood behind the prettiest little piece of stuff you ever did see; dressed in a deuced revealing blue silk gown, she was slender yet extremely shapely from behind, with soft looking black hair worn short in a gamin cut. I leaned in to pick up one of the plates, taking a peak at her face as I did so, and got the surprise of my life. I knew this gal, she was none other than the Squinter's daughter, Riva Allard.
     I'd met Allard's wife and daughter when dining at the bastard's home in Avalon City some years previously and little Riva had been a precocious child then ... now though ... my word but she'd filled out in all the right places, She was a strikingly beautiful young woman, I don't recall her age but I believe I'm correct when I say she was then in her late teens. Anyway she hadn't noticed me and was burbling away gushingly to a handsome young Marik Milita Captain who was stood beside her.
     "Oh isn't it just divine here Captain Hansen? I never dared hope I'd ever visit Terra, did you? It truly does seem to live up to it's reputation as the jewel of the Inner Sphere."
     Hansen was one of your dark haired, swarthy skinned, Marik lotharios; all formal handkissing, clicking heels, polished buttons and glittering black eyes. He was clearly an experienced hand at this game and a damned quick worker too. In short just the kind of greasy bugger you don't want getting between yourself and a prime bit of stuff like young Riva there; he replied in an easy charming manner, his voice accented and deep.
     "Indeed yes Miss Riva, though I must confess the beauty of the setting only serves to highlight your own ... ah but I shall embarrass myself. You must think me so gauche." Well, that's enough of that I thought, I'm not having a Fed Suns maiden seduced by some Marik beast ... especially not when I could be seducing her meself. So I leaned in and coughed politely;
     "Excuse me miss ... please could you pass those cucumber sandwiches?" Then as she obliged with a polite smile she looked me in the face and of course her marvellous long lashed blue-green eyes widened in somewhat stunned surprise as she recognised me. I smiled back and then hit my forehead with my palm; "Good lord, surely ... no it can't be ... you're not little Riva Allard are you?"
     "I am indeed ... Major Davion. Oh but it's so long since you visited, why it must be ..."
     "Five years, but I still remember you made me tell you about the NAIS all night, tell me did you ever get in?" I replied, enjoying seeing Hansen scowl as I cut across his bows, and Riva  practically jumped up and down in pleasure.
     "I did indeed, I've just been accepted into the NAIS Ph.D course in Neural-Cybernetic Interfaces." Well that was just nuts to me of course, as it enabled me to blather on to her for several minutes about my prosthetic left hand. Being sure to make her eyebrows rise even more in admiration, by mentioning casual like that my real flipper had been cut off, 'in a duel with Redjack Ryan'. All the while Hansen stood there like a pimp at a funeral, his eyes watching me with undisguised envy and dislike.
     He managed to draw young Riva back to him however by mentioning he'd attended the Allison Institute on New Olympia and bragging to her about his ambition to go into medicine when he 'got too old to fight'. So I thought 'right hoh my lad, the gloves are off'. Having clocked his unit patch earlier in the conversation I muttered as if to myself;
     "Medicine eh? Hmm, I just hope you don't take after your Regimental Colonel in that area." Riva asked me what I meant and Hansen positively welled up with anger and resentment. When he made no sign of explaining I dropped my voice conspiratorially and in a stage whisper filled her in;
     "The Commander of the Fourth Marik Militia Riva, one Colonel Cherenkov, is notorious across the Free Worlds League for conducting ... ahem ... medical experiments upon downed enemy MechWarriors ... dissections if rumour is to be believed." Hansen sputtered in outrage but didn't risk denying it, so stood there scarlet and fuming. Unfortunately, after her initial look of pure horror, Riva seemed to take pity upon him, for she patted his uniform sleeve soothingly and changed the subject to the mass of upcoming balls and events we guests could attend ... which was just the chink a man like Hansen needed to launch a renewed charm offensive.
     "Oh you must permit me to escort you Miss Riva to the Free Worlds Ball tomorrow night, I shall introduce you to the Captain-General himself. You have not danced until you have danced the Eaglestep." Damn him anyway I cursed to myself, as Riva accepted after barely a moments consideration, and as she gave Hansen her p-comp number it suddenly occurred to me he didn't actually know who she really was ... or that is who she was related to. He never used her last name and was way too relaxed around her, she was the daughter of the head of the dreaded Federated Suns MIIO after all and not someone an up and coming young blade like Hansen clearly would want to bring into the heart of the Marik fold. I grinned to myself and leaned in at Riva's shoulder.
     "Don't forget your name Riva dear." She shot me a look heavy with intense annoyance, as she'd clearly not been ready to reveal that to her young admirer, but sighing she scribbled her full name on the paper under her number.
     It worked a treat, Hansen took one look at the paper and then literally went as pale as an albino Arcturan, he gaped at Riva in appalled horror, then crumpled the paper into a ball and stuffed it into his pocket. Riva's whole demeanour changed, her head sank a little and her shoulders drooped sadly as she said softly to him;
     "Yes Captain Hansen, my father is indeed that Quintus Allard ... the Minister of Intelligence, Investigations and Operations of the Federated Suns." Hansen muttered something about being sorry, then remembered some urgent errand and was off like the Death Commandos were on his tail. I turned back from watching him steam past Duke Sandoval and a pair of DCMS generals who looked to be locked in a bitter squabble unsurprisingly, and noting Riva's downcast expression slid my arm testingly about her waist.
     "Oh let him go Riva old girl, you're too good for a foreigner like him anyway." She froze, then slid agilely from my pawing grip and shot daggers at me from her furious eyes.
     "Take your hands off of me you interfering ..." She looked like she was ready to say more, so I waved my hands and after another deep breath she just shook her head, glared at me again and stormed away. Well, perhaps she'd come round when she thought about it I decided to myself and began to load up my plate in earnest.

* * *

     "Ching zie lie ee-bay Champagne?" The Capellan voice was simply beautiful, like raindrops falling as ice onto crystal, as the Crappies themselves might say, and it drew my attention just as I was raising a  cream and shrimp canapé to my mouth. Turning I found myself gazing into one of the most arrestingly beautiful faces I'd ever laid eyes upon, she was simply perfect. Of perhaps a fine mixture of Caucasian and Chinese ancestry, her large liquid brown eyes were almond shaped, her skin was flawless and soft looking, her nose straight, her mouth pillow lipped and luscious, her thick glossy raven hair was piled atop her head and held with long diamond studded pins ... and her body, gads but it could have straightened even old Janos up. The blue and gold trimmed Capellan style gown she wore clung to her like someone had thrown it on her from a bucket and half missed. The canapé filled my mouth, but I was frozen gazing at her curves and she smiled at my obvious state of bedazzled adoration.
     I noted somewhere in my fevering brain that, as she swayed towards me, holding the flute of shampoo she'd just accepted from the clearly multi-lingual waiter behind the table, I could see she had a small butterfly tattoo upon the delicious looking upper curve of her right breast. Forcing myself to gulp back my mouthful of food, I gasped;
     "Who are you?" Not my best work you'll agree, but as I say I was bedazzled, happily she smiled again and replied;
     "No one important, who are you?"
     I was about to answer when a harsh and rasping, Japanese accented, male voice did the job for me;
     "Major Darius Davion. Latterly of the Fourth RCT, Davion Brigade of Guards." Suddenly I felt a fearful welling of paralysing terror, as I recognised that bitter dry voice from over a decade of nightmares, my mind reeling at the terrible realisation of who was standing behind me. Turning slowly I found myself face to face with one of the worst enemies I ever had the misfortune to cross; the DCMS officer who'd tried to kill me with poisonously carnivorous cockroaches back on Mallory's World fifteen years before ... Tendoru Zakahashi.
     I stood there, with a plate full of food shaking in my hand, while couples waltzed by behind him and that Capellan beauty stood gazing intently at us, and I struggled to find words.
     "Uhh hallo Zakahashi old chap ... err ... how've you been?" He was every inch the same pox-ravaged, savagely ugly swine, even though his buzz cut black hair was now liberally flecked with silver and that orange peel face of his was riven with even more scars and wrinkles. He'd been a Sword of Light Captain back in '13, now the apple green insignia upon the collar of his elegant white and grey DCMS officers uniform marked him to be a Sho-sa, or Major, the patch upon his sleeve was that of the Otomo, 'the Great Guard', Takashi's elite personal bodyguard formation.
     "I have prospered and enjoy the favour of the His Majesty the Coordinator." He replied, as a positively fiendish smile of pure evil joy split across his mush. "But I must confess I have long dreamed of this day. Many were the nights I spent imagining it."
     God I had to get away from this swine, I had to reach the safety of fellow AFFS officers. Zakahashi was just mad enough to try to strangle me with his bare hands or come at me with the cutlery or one of the plates. However a funny thing happened to break my panic, I felt a delicate hand slide into mine and the most amazing smelling perfume teased my nostrils. My Capellan stunner rubbed at my flank and I suddenly felt buoyed by a reckless sense of well being, call it the fortifying touch of a good woman, the easy courage of a rat who knows he's not really at danger, or just randified foolishness ... but suddenly I decided I wasn't going to take this from a murdering madman like Zakahashi. Besides, I reasoned rapidly in my mind, he'd never really dare actually risk breaking the wedding truce pact ... wouldn't he just though.
     Well whatever, I steadied my plate and grinned back at the filthy brute.
     "Really, well that's deuced civil of you old man, I tell you what I'll pass that on to the happy couple for you." He blinked, clearly annoyed that I wasn't cowering in terror of him, despite the fandango my guts were still doing at that moment.
     "So Zakahashi you must tell us, don't they have plastic surgeons in the Combine?" I said as breezily as I could manage and he took one step back from me, his black Snake eyes flickering dangerously. "No seriously, look there are probably some of our NAIS medicos here, I'm sure they could fix up that mess of a face you have ... might be able to put you in touch with a good shrink while they're at it."
     Well I've always been a dab hand at the sharply delivered needling insult and my jibes struck home like SRMs through a cockpit canopy. Zakahashi balled his fists and leaned in towards me, then spat on my boot tip.
     "This isn't finished Davion ... never forget I know your heart. I know you'll be begging me to spare you when we dance you and I." With that he span on his heel and marched off into the crowd. I shuddered and turned to my lovely new friend.
     "Listen, err Miss, I do apologise for that scene ... Kuritans ... what can one expect eh? No manners whatsoever." She smiled and I found myself sinking into those mesmerising deep eyes, as she leant in and kissed me lightly on my cheek.
     "It is of no import. I must be on my way however, for I'm not here for my own pleasure." With that she slipped out from my side and I grabbed her arm lightly.
     "Hey stay a while, at least tell me who are you, where are you from?" She smiled softly again and my ever susceptible heart did a little flip.
     "I've many names, and none. But here I am a Handmaiden to Her Ladyship Romano Liao, I am from the planet Elgin in the Capellan Confederation. Now I must be about my business. We will meet again soon na niou, never fear."
     With that she was away and I was left in a state of sweaty nervousness, jumping at shadows and scanning the crowds expecting Zakahashi to try something at any moment. Well thankfully good old Duggan Marik found me and we got drinking, gassing about the old times and our lives since, and pointing out our pick of the staggering variety of totty that paraded past us.
     The hours slipped by easily and I must have been getting progressively more plastered, as it all becomes somewhat of a haze in my mind. For example I recall bantering with a surly Justin Allard, about our famous 'Mech race of all things, and he ended up smashing a glass in that horror of a prosthetic fist of his before striding away. However whether that actually happened or was simply a drunk dream I had later that night I cannot say.
     I do recall with some clarity though nearly getting into a fist fight with four tartan clad Capellan uniformed Northwind Highlander officers, due to the fact I called 'em 'Sweaties', as in Sweaty Socks - Jocks, to their hard eyed faces ... Duggan had had to leap between them and me, waving them away merrily as they snarled insults at me in that disgusting gibberish argot they speak. Then ma'ma had found me, and stood there berating me hotly for quarter an hour or so, to Duggan's immense amusement, before stalking off with some of her sympathetic fellow harridans, knowing talking to me when I'm in my cups was pointless.           
     I really put my foot in it though with Duggan himself sadly, for in the early hours I'm told that I groped Janos Marik's paramour's arse ... without having been aware Dugg himself was also carrying on with the trollop behind his father's back and was clearly a tad possessive. He drunkenly threw a punch at me, fell as I staggered back, and smashed into a buffet table causing it to collapse, cascading smashing plates, food and glasses across half the dance floor.
     I have the vaguest memory of stumbling backwards roaring with laughter and being caught expertly by none other than Jaime Wolf and Morgan Kell, looking up into their placid, forebearing faces and giggling at the pair of 'em.
     "Hello boys, great party ain't it!" I must have then passed out for that's all I recall of that first night on Terra. Thankfully most of the politer guests were long gone off to their beds by the time I collapsed, so though the gossip doubtless circulated like wildfire the following day, that I'd got drunk and nearly into a fight with Duggan Marik, the few witnesses kept pretty mum and I managed to avoid too much stern condemnation from Hanse or mother, who were probably both relieved I'd not got into any worse trouble.
     If I'd known then that night I had just begun to enter into a relationship which would ultimately lead to my being kidnapped and held prisoner on Sian a year or so later, during the height of the Fourth Succession War, or that I would soon be facing near certain death several times over the next three days of the wedding, I'd have been packing my bags and heading for the Galahad manoeuvres first thing the next day. Hangover be damned.
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 29 January 2011, 19:57:55

18th August 3028

     Despite my throbbing head that next day, I struggled out of bed early to use the p-comp in my chalet to request that the Hilton Head Megaplex tourist centre attach me to whichever of the numerous ComStar supervised tours Romano Liao and her attendants chose to go on. Then, after a shower and a light breakfast I'd dressed in casual cream slacks, deck shoes and an open necked cotton shirt, and was just mulling over the correct strategy for taking down a Capellan princess's handmaid when I heard a knock at my door. I opened up to find a tour group waiting ... consisting almost entirely of the worst bunch of decrepitly aged Fed Suns and Lyran Commonwealth nobles you could ever wish to see in one place.
     There were even a gaggle of my mother's awful fellow co-conspirators amongst them, including those three blue rinsed witches Pippa DeFire, Mimsie Brazeau and Georgiana Rand-Davion. For an awful moment I feared ma'ma herself was there with them too, however thankfully that at least I was to be spared, as I later learned the old battleaxe had gone on a boat trip up the coast. 
     To this day I strongly suspect that ComStar deliberately messed up my instructions, probably out of a perhaps somewhat justified fear of a repeat of the kind of scene I'd largely caused the previous night.
     After a moment of two of futile argument with the white robed Acolyte-guide, I felt robbed of any chance of beginning my chase of Romano's Elgin Handmaiden so I thought strongly about going back to bed ... however, just as I was about to send the blandly handsome and smiling young Acolyte off with a flea in his ear, I spotted Riva Allard amidst the crowd of wrinklies. She was as pretty as a picture, dressed up practically in a sailor suit; that is a blue and white striped jersey, white slacks that hugged her legs and butt beautifully, and a pair of soft soled deck shoes.
     Well, you know me, I ain't one to turn up a gift horse and all that. It was a sunny day on romantic old Terra, the birds were singing, well the seagulls were screeching anyway, there was a sea breeze softly coming in off the Atlantic and Darius had sighted tasty prey. What the hell, I thought, reminding myself that a chap should never get too set upon any one woman, and so I decided the Elgin Handmaiden could wait and I would chance my arm with Squinter Allard's pride and joy instead.
     Now the warier heads amongst you might well be wondering at this decision. I mean, as you know, the Squinter and I already detested each other, he was in charge of countless murderers and thugs, and he clearly adored his charming little filly of a daughter ... this could turn dangerous for Major D. Davion couldn't it? Well ... perhaps, but y'see the way I looked at it was that firstly there was the fact that I have a mighty high opinion of my seductive skills, secondly I was deuced randy what with having been out of the saddle for the best part of two months or so, thirdly I didn't think that Riva was stupid enough to succumb to my manly charms then go running back to her scruffy arsed pa'pa to tell him all about it, but fourthly and most importantly I knew Riva was what we chaps called a 'Naughty and Impish Strumpet', that is a female student of the NAIS ... and you yourself must know how bad a reputation they have for 'living life to the fullest' shall we say, so I assumed she might simply have been playing hard to get the night before.
     So it was I joined that particular tour group that sunny morning. Naturally my mother's cronies tried to monopolise my time, pestering me inordinately with endless questions about my campaigns and travels, and also why I hadn't yet married and how they each knew numerous 'suitable' girls for me, as we all strolled along hearing about this and that building, while some way to our right the sea shimmered and distant ComStar Latinate choral chanting drifted across grassy lawns.
     I noted that Riva was similarly snared within a cluster of nearly dead ancients, who likewise were clearly boring her rigid and interrogating her about her studies and the like.
     The only other member of the tour group who hadn't probably been alive during the dying days of the Star League was a quiet fair haired fellow, dressed in mirrored sunglasses and safari-style khaki slacks and shirt, who ambled along on his own at the back of the group. With a start I suddenly recognised him as Akira Brahe ... Yorinaga's bloody son and fellow Genyosha officer. My heart flipped, as it sunk in who he was, while Mimsie Brazeau was clawing my sleeve and rabbiting on about her bloody tall-house cookie recipe. Jesus and Jerome, I thought in sudden sweating fear ... was that sadistic madman Zakahashi with us too? Was I being set up? Would they bundle me into a bush somewhere and do me in? My mind raced, imagining all kinds of horrific scenarios.
     As discreetly as possible I craned my neck and scanned each and every member of the tour group until, with a sigh of relief, I decided Zakahashi was definitely not with us. Still I resolved to keep a good distance from that blonde-beast Brahe just to be on the safe side.
* * *

     The morning dragged to say the least, well when you've seen one enormous faux-classical ComStar building you've seen 'em all. But I kept my eye on the prize and at lunchtime I thought my chance had finally come.
     The Acolyte-guide had taken us up onto a sun-washed rooftop patio overlooking the sparkling ocean, with numerous benches and wooden tables set upon it. Packed lunch boxes were handed out to us by several quietly polite Acolytes and we were invited to eat whilst enjoying the view.
     I sauntered over to Riva, who was finally alone and leaning on a bar gazing out to sea. She glanced at me, her face hard to read, so I decided to take little steps so to speak.
     "Listen Riva, I want to apologise for last night." She seemed somewhat surprised, but still pretty damn suspicious, so I just carried on regardless; "Look, I've been around hairy arsed fighting men half my life, and well I suppose I've lost my polite courtly manners, if I ever had 'em that is." I gave a sad rueful grin, which she carefully ignored. I must say though it was good stuff I laid on her; the manly soldier, coarsened by war, but honest and straight speaking. Eventually she eased up a little and nodded.
     "Okay Darius, I'm sorry too. When I saw you'd joined this tour I thought the worst, but if you can behave like the gentleman I think you really are, of course we can be friends. I really would like to hear about your experiences with that prosthetic of yours ... it seems so much higher tech than ... well, than some I've seen." She was referring to her brother Justin's clunking great metal fin of course. So I nodded sagely and opened up my lunch box, Blake but it was a mess; a squashed quillar and peanut butter sandwich, with a purple fruit I didn't recognise on the side.
     "Urgh. You'd think that the richest interstellar organisation in existence would be able to lay on a better lunch for us than this crap." I swore fervently and she giggled despite herself, well this seemed to be going in the right direction, so I chatted for a few minutes about my prosthetic hand mainly. She asked me if Redjack had really been the one who cut it off and I assumed a frown and nodded, but briskly though, making out I didn't want to talk about it. Which was true and I didn't, though not for the reasons she thought.
     I took a bite of that beastly pap, gagging on the foul quillar, as Riva looked across at me and after thinking for a moment came out and asked what was clearly on her mind.
     "Darius...I heard a rumour last night, that you and Archon Katrina were once ... intimate. Is that true?" I tried to keep the grin from my face, well I always say when they're interested in your past loves you're halfway to bed. However I just frowned a bit more, looked pensive and replied;
     "I can't talk about that." Which pleased her, but I then went a step too quickly and it backfired on me badly, "I will say though she was always beautiful, but never as beautiful as you." Suddenly all her suspicions flooded back, she jumped up and swore at me.
     "Father warned me about you! You're disgusting!" With a sudden curse the firey wench slapped me across my face hard, I was so surprised I flinched back, my hands flying up and that horrid little sandwich fell apart, but not before one half slapped right onto my shirt. Yellow green quillar and peanut butter making the most appalling mess.
     "Hah, serves you right you old letch." The trollop gave a surprised little laugh, then scowled and was off away from me, headed for the next bench down ... upon with sat none other than Akira bloody Brahe.

* * *     

     "Excuse me, but may I join you?" I heard her simper at Brahe and the Kuritan bastard initially seemed actually put out to have been interrupted in his private moment. However as he squinted up at her the swine smiled warmly at her, stood and waved her to the bench opposite himself, murmuring at her to be seated, like the cat that got the bloody cream.
     Well I stood there furious and smarting, while the rest of the tour group did their best to avoid giving any impression of having noticed our bust up. I hovered very obviously in ear shot of Brahe's bench, dabbing furiously at the mess on my shirt and waving away a flapping Acolyte brutally. Brahe did his best not to notice me I think, but there was no way he missed Riva and my little scene. My eyes burned at the pair of them as Riva very pointedly thanked him and held out her hand to him with a smile.
     "My name is Riva." Brahe, still stood up, shook her hand formal like and bowed from the waist like a good little Samurai.
     "I am Akira." He replied, then as he slipped in opposite her, he very quickly shot a glance at me and then asked her cautiously;
     "You are from...?" I think y'know he was suggesting she should probably stay away from him, aware as he was of my angry shadow, Riva however simply answered she was from the Federated Suns, then the tart looked him full in the eyes.
     "I hope you don't mind that I came to sit with you." At that the cheeky little bitch absolutely turned and looking straight at me, stood there as I was mopping myself with a tissue, said loudly enough that there was no chance I'd not hear her;
     "I didn't realise this tour would be a geriatric convention." It was like a slap in the face. I think I even gasped aloud, stung to my quick as they say, well it was pretty raw of her you'll agree? I mean, she might have still been a teenager, but I was only thirty four for Blake's sake!
     Brahe did his worst not to stifle the grin that spread across his square jawed features and then lowered his voice conspiratorially and whispered something to her I didn't catch. It was certainly not complimentary about me though, for they both chortled away at each other happily.
     D'you know, believe it or not, this was a new and unpleasant experience for me; being turned down by a tasty bit of crackling because she thought I was positively an old man. It knocked me for six a little I'll own. So you'll forgive me for not immediately stamping over and hurling some witty come back into the Snake-loving slut's teeth. I simply went over to a bench nearby and sat heavily down, feeling most put out; my cheek was stinging, my clothes were terribly stained with peanut butter and quillar, my hangover had kicked in, in earnest, and for the first time in my life I realised I wasn't getting any younger.
     To add insult to injury, the object of my affection that morning was clearly getting on with Brahe like ammo on fire. They swapped lunches and were soon giggling with each other and making cracks about being careful not to get quillar on their clothes, while naturally shooting mockingly loaded glances my way. I have to say, the way Riva was behaving like a little tease with a DCMS officer would have driven her father insane, and it occurred to me that she might just be doing her damnedest to make me jealous.
     Well, they prattled on at each other, introducing themselves properly, with a pleasingly awkward moment when they both realised exactly who they each were related to. However, annoyingly, they simply smiled and seemed to decide to enjoy the afternoon together, so admitting defeat and deciding that I would pay them both back separately, each in their own way, when the opportunities presented themselves, I rejoined the tour group.
     The beamingly insincere Acolyte herded us together again and down a broad spiralling staircase. We tramped down quite a way, until we reached ground level, though the staircase carried on down under the ground. Our guide explained that the whole building we'd eaten our lunch upon the roof of was a training complex, that also included subterranean levels, describing classrooms and meditation cells. He led the group off down a corridor and I was about to follow when I realised Brahe and Riva had hung back behind us. It occurred that sneaky bastard Brahe might be about to chance his arm and that I should find out either way whether he had scored or not. Well if he did then it would be great gossip to sling Riva's way, if he didn't then I would be sure to mock him about it at the first safe opportunity.
     I could hear them whispering up the stairs a little way, so I ducked into a side corridor and waited. Riva wondered about how far down the stairs might go and Brahe muttered something I couldn't make out in reply. I could hear footsteps coming up the stairs from below and Brahe obviously chose that moment to make his move on ravishing Riva, for suddenly there came the unmistakable swack-smack of skin on skin of a brutal slap to the face. I patted my own sore cheek and winced in happy empathy. There followed a commotion as Brahe was clearly knocked bodily into whoever had been coming up the stairs and Riva flew past me on the trail of the tour group, her cheeks flushed and her eyes bright.
     I chuckled happily to myself. Brahe, who was apparently in conversation with sympathetic ComStar Acolytes up above me, had tried for a grope or kiss and been given the old Exituri-exit by the little tease. Well, it certainly made me feel a little better about my failure and I slipped away headed back to my chalet, eager to begin spreading it about a few prime gossips I knew were present for the wedding that Riva Allard had led on Yorinaga Kurita's son and had to slap away his vile attentions. I have read a few history books in later years that claim Brahe and Riva faked that kiss and slap-back in order that Brahe could get a feel of whether those Acolytes had been wearing cooling vests under their robes ... I suppose that's possible, but I must say I'm not convinced above half.
     Well whatever the truth as to that, the message I was to find waiting on my chalet's p-comp was to be so welcome I immediately forgot all about Riva and Brahe.
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 29 January 2011, 20:13:31

      "Darius, have you even listened to a word I've been saying!" Mother's strident shriek cut through my idle daydreaming about a certain Capellan lady's big exotic brown eyes, her smooth skin, those firm ... I struggled to wrench my mind back to reality.
     When I'd reached my chalet, after the unpleasant knock back of that day, I'd been most gratified to find a message waiting upon my p-comp. Though from a hidden address, and simply reading 'Meet me at ten tonight at Folly Field Beach ... from the Butterfly Lady', I'd instantly known there could only be one person it could be from; Romano Liao's lovely and mysterious Elgin Handmaiden. I'd been sure she'd fancied me too as soon as we'd laid eyes upon each other the previous night and this proved it, I reasoned happily. Frankly I was over the moon, however I'd unfortunately not had the chance to go straight to my tryst that evening.
     It was roughly sevenish, and I'd been drafted by a three line whip issued by my mother to grudgingly dine with her at a restaurant named the Palmetto Dunes, which was located at a picturesque corner of the megaplex overlooking the Atlantic shore, on the mid-eastern edge of the island. I'd fortunately purchased evening wear on Harrow's Sun, as mother would have absolutely killed me if I'd arrived in casual dress, or worse yet in 'military overalls', as she referred to any uniform short of full blue and golds.
     It was a chore to say the least, that I had to spend a couple of hours of torture in mother's company, but my big plans for later that night more than compensated for it and I'd arrived to find the Palmetto Dunes to be a three storey, typically outsized, faux-classical palace, of the style ComStar seems to use in everything from government buildings to public toilets. Strolling in under the three storey fluted columns of the front portico, I'd been glad handed by fawning lackeys dressed in trad-Terran penguin suits, then shown through several different dining rooms.
     I must say, after the disappointment of the standard of that day's packed lunch, I was quite relieved to find that the grandees, Precentors, Terran diplomats, ComStar apparatchiks, and their sundry guests, clearly did very nicely for themselves here and presumably in the other Hilton Head restaurants and clubs. The Dunes was vast, opulent, softly lit, with tasteful music, large ball rooms, and a wide choice of different dining rooms, where numerous types of Terran and Inner Sphere cuisine were available.
     I must say it had surprised me a little, I'd previously thought of the toaster worshippers as harmless but depressingly dull and dour religious kooks. With most of them previously seeming to me rather like a strange cross between Outback puritans, Exituri aesthetes and geeky comm-Techs, but seeing the luxury to which their leaders at least treated themselves I had to admit maybe they were onto something. I mean it was clear that if you were a big noise inside the ComTech Order, it's attendant 'Church of Blake', or it's subservient and strictly controlled Terran Government, you could live a deuced comfortable life of safety and ease here on Terra, perhaps like nowhere else in known space.   
     Anyway, Ma'ma had apparently opted for the 'Classic Local Room' on the ground floor, which was decorated with rough brick walls, several warm open fireplaces, polished redwood tables and chairs, and windows that opened out onto a slope leading down to a sandy beach and beyond that the lapping surf of the Atlantic.
     Mother had been already there, sitting at a table for two, in front of the patio windows, her hands crossed atop a lizard-skin purse, her back ramrod straight, her head turned and gazing out at the sea. She was wearing a very pricey pale blue Lyran made evening gown, and looked every inch the formidable Countess she has always been.
     What with one thing and another I'd avoided practically any contact with the miserable old bag for a year or so before then, and she was clearly missing having had me around to verbally flog, nag, belittle and viciously scold. For she'd launched into a merciless assault upon me within seconds of my sitting down, it had been her usual catalogue of subjects; what did I think I'd been playing at getting drunk and showing her and the family up? Why had I not yet settled down from my wastrel ways, found a steady job in the AFFS or the government, got married, and produced her a grandchild? Was I aware the Baroness de Gambier was here and available, if I must make a fool of myself chasing about after women like a sixteen year old couldn't I chase her? I should also stress these questions were liberally showered with savage insults, withering glares, and frightful indictments of my worth in any sense.
     Thankfully the food was every bit as excellent as the Dunes palatial scale promised. A waiter, wearing a ComStar clock-star emblem on a silver pendant over his black tie, explained that the Classic Local cuisine was based upon archaeological and historical records of food served in a restaurant from pre-Jump times, that had stood upon that very spot as far back as the Twentieth Century. Mother had started with chilled gulf shrimp with cocktail sauce, but bearing in mind my second appointment of that evening I'd opted for raw North American oysters, served upon the half shell, not that I expected to need any reputed aphrodisiac when it came down to it later. For main course, mother had gone for seared yellowfin tuna, with jasmine rice, and an oriental sauté of vegetables, finished with spicy soy ginger sauce. I, on the other hand, decided against more seafood and desiring something a little more substantial went for a dish the menu described as a 'New York Strip', which turned out to be a mouth-watering chargrilled steak, centre cut with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and rosemary. To drink we went with the waiter's suggestion of a Rusenstein Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, which had been easily the best wine I'd tasted in months.
     Well, I tuned mother out as best I could for the most part, savoured the meal itself, and thought eagerly about my coming date with the Elgin Handmaiden, until that is ma'ma's bellow dragged me back to reality.
     "Yes mother of course I've been paying attention to you. The Baroness de Gambier, lovely gal ... bit heavy though don't you think? I wouldn't have thought you'd want her breaking furniture all over the family pile back home." Ma'ma looked at me in what suddenly seemed like despair, shook her head and just said softly;
     "Oh Darius. Does it mean nothing to you being here? Terra ... Earth. Doesn't it touch your soul to finally be here?" Well it's a strange fact that being on Terra, the practically quarantined cradle of humanity, the blockaded lost heart of the Star League, does strange things to even very hard people. The toughest skinned realist, such as my mother, can come over misty eyed even at the thought of paying the old place a visit. I've no idea why, oh it's pretty enough, but to me it seems all to often just like a huge beautiful garden out the back of a massive monastery full of strict killjoy monks. Anyway d'you know quite out of the blue it occurred to me that the wicked witch was actually about to cry, well amazed as I was at this deeply uncharacteristic display of sentimentality emotion on her part, I was not about to hang around for it. So I dug out my wallet, tossed down a fat wedge of C-Bills, and cleared my throat.
     "Listen ma'ma, I must be off, I have a date if that makes you happy." Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
     "Oh ... is she of good family? What part of the Suns does she hale from? What's her background? Her name?" I grinned;
     "Not sure, she wouldn't tell me her name. She's Capellan, one of Romano Liao's handmaidens, quite the cracker." Mother's face went white with horror and as I turned and marched out I was pleased to hear her voice recover it's usual venom and bitingly harsh tone;
     "Darius! Darius Davion, get back here this instant! I forbid it, do you hear me, I forbid it!" I happily continued away, as mother's voice dwindled behind me and the night's promise stood before me. Little did I suspect what deadly peril truly was waiting for me at Folly Field Beach.

* * *

     It was still too early to head for my rendezvous just yet, so I ambled in generally the right direction northwards along a gravel path enjoying my growing sense of eager anticipation. It was a warm, sultry night and to my left, looming in the purple night sky beyond artfully landscaped lawns covered in wildflowers and stands of bayberry trees, I could see the soaring towers, and the huge arching domes and buildings of the central megaplex, all lit up by thousands of spotlights, and shining golden white like some kind of inconceivably vast fairytale castle.
     At one point a pair of blue herons, disturbed by my stopping to pee into a bush near their resting place, flapped their wings and beat their way off into the sky.
     Here and there I passed life sized formal statues of robed ComStar saints and leaders, even what appeared to be little memorial gardens, where flowers grew in plots in remembrance of past heroes of the Order.
     I sat down in the night's dark on a bench which had been set upon a low hill, and afforded a view to the west over distant Shelter Cove, which divides the megaplex, and across which several soaring bridges arch. Parties were clearly going on along the coveside plazas of the megaplex and on the bridges themselves, tiny figures span and danced, music very faintly wafted up to me and I breathed in deeply, contented, relaxed and happy to enjoy this moment of peace on old Earth.
     Rest assured I didn't tarry long enough to miss my date with the Handmaiden though, and it took me just under half an hour or so to make my way down to Folly Field Beach, arriving there somewhat earlier than necessary.
     Folly Field Beach was a fairly large area, with wide white and caramel coloured stretches of sandy beach, bordered on the landward side by an expansive string of blockish looking ferrocrete buildings. There were clusters of palmettos, oaks, loblolly pines and wildflowers around the undecorative bunker like structures and I noticed the lights of patrol boats out to sea, searchlights slowly flickering across the black waves.
     The sea breeze was somewhat cooler down there and I was grateful for my black, white cuffed, evening jacket as I strolled up the beach, beside the treeline, in search of my lovely date.
     Looking back this is one of those occasions where I'm amazed myself that my usually very sharp sixth sense for personal danger didn't kick in. But perhaps because I was so smitten with the Handmaiden, even after only our very brief first meeting the night before, or maybe because I'd not got laid in weeks, I must be honest and confess to you that I completely overlooked any possibility that the message which had brought me here was anything other than genuine.
     There's a lesson there for you young chaps who might be reading this, never let your John Thomas do the thinking for you that your brain and your lily-white liver should.
     It was darker than most of the island down there and passing the edge of one of the blockhouses I was suddenly sprang upon by a black clad man. He was savagely strong and had the drop on me completely, his fists hammered into first my jaw, then my stomach doubling me over, followed by a brutal kick into my sternum which nearly made me chuck up and laid me down into a foetal ball of agony.
     Struggling to breath I opened my eyes to see the black clad figure lean and swing me easily up across his shoulder, and to my complete horror I heard Zakahashi's gloating voice hissing in my ear triumphantly.
     "I'm glad you could make it Davion. Now is the Dragon's Time and at my hands you shall finally meet the end you so richly deserve."
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 29 January 2011, 20:33:19

     Zakahashi dumped me unceremoniously beside the featureless side of one of the blockhouses, amidst tangled sea grass and undergrowth. I landed face down and was treated firstly to a mouthful of sand, then to another sadistic kick, this time right in my groin.
     "Stay there for a moment Major Davion, and I shall prepare our dance floor." The psychotic Snake muttered, barely audibly over the crashing of the nearby surf. I rolled over to my side, struggling to breath and deciding that with the brutal pain in my pants he'd left me with, even were the Elgin Handmaiden now to turn up after all, I wouldn't be any use to her.
     Zakahashi had strode over to a pile of rocks in the sand and dropped to his knees, apparently uncovering something concealed there. He drew out two objects which I realised could only be sheathed pig-sticker swords and I groaned in horror. Ignoring me, save to glance briefly in my direction, Zakahashi drew each sword and drove them point downwards into the sand roughly four meters from each other.
     With that he stood, dusted himself off with a maddeningly relaxed attitude of satisfaction, then strode back over to me.
     "Look ... ahh ... Zakahashi old man ... uhh ... don't be a fool ... your own Coordinator will kill you ... ahh ... if he finds out you did this." I gasped out between twinges of stabbing pain each time I breathed. Zakahashi leaned down and I could see he was wearing a black sweater, pants and 'Mech boots, and had wrapped strips of black cloth over his forehead, cheeks and nose, so that only his dark eyes, twisted mouth and chin were visible.
     "I was expecting you to beg like you did before. But you've gone for reasoned argument first this time eh? Well continue please, we have all night and I mean to enjoy this final meeting with you."             
     Well it might have seemed futile bearing in mind Zakahashi's nature, but if I've learnt one thing it's that when a murderous villain who hates your guts has you at his mercy you absolutely must stall him for every second you can ... for you never know what might happen to turn the situation around.
     Oh yes, don't ever let pride get in the way of good sense and loose lips. If you're ever facing someone you are sure is about to kill you and you are completely without hope of beating them physically, take my advice and start talking, for your life often damn well depends upon it. If I'd listened to the boys-own holos I used to watch as a child, where the hero clams up and just gives his name, rank and number to his wicked captors then I'd have been long dead even by '28.
    Good examples of this were the time Vesar Kristofur had decided to finally do away with me and turned his gun on me, knowing the swine's obsession with the Dragoons I'd started babbling about everything I could recall about my time serving with them the previous year, and I mean everything ... even down to describing the little spider tattoo Natasha has upon her left tit. He'd wanted to kill me, but just couldn't while I was blurting it all out ... and eventually Anton had wandered in and saved me.
     Or there was when Justin Allard had been ordered by Max Liao to shoot me in that blasted Sianese throne room. I'd pleaded with Justin on my knees to remember our days at the Old Sak together and Max had become so curious he made me tell him all about it. By which time the lovely-if-lethal Romano arrived to bail me out.
     So it was that on that deserted Terran beach I tried everything, from wheedling appeals to his sense of honour and decency, to his duty to the Combine not to break the truce and risk interdiction against his homeland, and from pleading assurances our feud was long forgotten and there were no hard feelings upon my side, to simply squirming like a worm at his feet, kissing them and sobbing that I didn't want to die. You might be surprised how often that will work y'know, a lot of murderous types seem to only want to kill brave souls ... don't ask me why, they're mad y'see and rarely make sense to sane fellows like you and I.
     "Are you done?" Zakahashi asked, speaking for the first time since I'd began my repertoire before him, and I looked up into his cruel eyes through a blur of tears, continuing to plead. He cursed and kicked lightly at me again.
     "Get up, I promised you we'd dance, so now I'm going to give you a chance you don't deserve. You disgusting coward." He strode over to the swords standing up in the sand and stood behind the furthest from me.
     "I shall give you a lesson in kenjutsu, the art of the sword. And don't think to run you dog, I can throw this blade most accurately and I will skewer you with it should you try to." He said, drawing the blade before him and with a smooth flick-flick motion shook the grains of sand from it in a little shower.
     What else could I do? I stood and staggered over to the other sword, drawing it with my right hand, it had a blackened blade I realised and it's handle seemed perhaps shorter than most of this type of Kuritan style sword.
     "Where did these swords come from?" I asked trying to stall him again.
     "No Kuritan samurai worth the name would travel into a foreign realm unarmed. I am sure I am far from the only member of the Coordinator's party to have concealed weapons in his luggage. ComStar's vaunted weapon's detectors are easily fooled by old fashioned common sense in where you hide a weapon's component parts it seems." I cursed the toaster worshippers laxness in security, they'd landed me right in the shit and no mistake.
     "Zakahashi, just listen a moment. What exactly did I do to you, that has drawn you to this madness? You captured me, you tortured me. All I ever did to you was try to get away from you?" He paused and gazed hatred at me, as if considering whether to answer me, then eventually did so.
     "You're a stain on my honour Davion, an affront to everything that is right and proper in my life. You were my kill, but you escaped from me due to the interference of Tetsuhara. Then you were my prisoner and you were again snatched from me, this time by Yorinaga-ji. Then you were rescued by your own side and hailed as a hero. A hero! You! The loathsome mewling maggot who sold out his own comrades at the first hint of coercion.
     I vowed when I read those press reports on Mallory's World that one day I'd erase the stain of filth that you are. For my own honour's sake and for the Inner Sphere entire."
     Well I've heard some convoluted and obscure rationales for murder in my time, but this had to be one of the worst. Of course the truth was actually a good deal simpler and more to the point; Zakahashi was a killer who had long dreamed of killing a member of the Davion family, he seemed to see it as the pinnacle of his doubtless barbaric career, a sign of ultimate loyalty to House Kurita, and from the moment he'd met me in that cellar in Colterville on Mallory's World that murderous wish had become fixated upon me.   
     "Now coward, let us begin. I intend to take this slowly, you shall find no quick and easy stab through the heart from me." He drew the sword into a two handed grip, the hilt up beside his head. I stood right side on to him, crouched and assumed the sabre fighting stance I'd been cursorily taught at the Sak, my sword extended at arms length shakily ready to meet him. He grinned and dropped his stance to a double handed forward pose.
     I certainly wasn't going to go to him, that much was obvious, so he advanced quickly at me. He was good, and very confident, quite unlike myself. I tried a quick cut at him, which he deflected with a rapid parry, the swords met with a deadened clang, then he was in and we exchanged what for my part was a desperate volley of very fast blows.
     My feet slid in the sand, but so did his, our blows cut past each other, or jarringly met with a savagely fast clang-clang-clang. Then he slashed sideways and when I went to parry him, he changed his strike in mid-swing and sliced upward and to the right, I felt a sudden cold pain lance across my jaw line and Zakahashi padded back away from me grinning from ear to ear. I raised my balled left fist to my jaw and wiped it gently across the wound, it bled copiously, the wound burned like a bitch and I looked in horror at my blood dripping into the sand.
     "The first of many such wounds Darius. Now, shall we begin again." Right you bloody bastard, I thought, I for one have had enough of this insanity.
     I assumed my stance again with a deliberate air of resolve, Zakahashi promptly moved in at me once more and I feinted to his right, he moved to meet me ... just as my left fist let fly the handful of sand I'd been holding since laying in the brush pleading with the Snake bastard. It might be an old trick, but it had been my only chance as I'd seen it. He just about saw it coming and tried to close his eyes, but thankfully only succeeded in blinking down on blinding grains of sand, he bellowed in rage and cut savagely, tearing the sleeve of my jacket and missing my precious arm by the barest margin. But I was inside his guard and stabbed him hard in the thigh.
     Wrenching my sword viciously out of his leg, I didn't pause to gloat or to deliver any witty one liners, like the Immortal Warrior might have, but rather promptly turned on my heel and scarpered away into the undergrowth at the rear of the ferrocrete structures. I suppose I could have stayed and tried to kill him in his wounded and half-blinded state, but y'see that's where I differ from the heroes and madmen I've known; the likes of Zakahashi himself or Justin Allard, Kristofur or Hanse ... they'd all probably have killed him, whereas I was just happy to escape from him and not have to worry about concealing the corpse.
     I was also of course still very scared of him I'll own. Well he had the strength of the truly crazy and could still get me with a lucky hit.
     My heart thundered in my ears, my jaw pulsed with pain, my breath came in ragged gasps and my legs pistoned me through the trees and long grass. Behind me I heard him coming after me, but he was slowed by that leg wound and doubtless struggling to see clearly. Still I was not yet safe and I had no idea where I was running too.
     I could see no path, or landmarks, my bruises were aching badly and I quickly developed a stitch, so when I practically tripped over the grate covered cement pipe I stopped, gasping for air and glanced back the way I'd come. I could hear Zakahashi approaching surprisingly fast and cursed him, then dropped to my knees to study the pipe.
     It was about two meters in diameter and was pumping out moist air, the grill covering it was rusted and loose. I made a snap decision that I could lay within the pipe, pull the grill too and Zakahashi would almost certainly hurry past. If he didn't and stuck his nose in then he'd be an easy target for my sword.
     Making my snap decision, I quickly pried off the loose grill, without actually breaking it, and slid in feet first, so I could lay at the entrance and watch Zakahashi pass. As I was doing so and pulling the grill back on from the inside I came to the awful discovery that the pipe sloped nearly vertically down and I clumsily slipped, then actually slid very fast downwards, ultimately crashing painfully into a long tunnel of similar dimension. I struggled onto my knees in the dark and craned my neck to look up the ventilation shaft I'd just fallen down, the night sky was just visible up there, thankfully the grill was still in place ... however a shadow fell across it as I looked and panicking I began to crawl as fast as I could along the tunnel I was now in. I had no idea of what direction I was heading in, or where this tunnel might lead, all that was in my mind at that moment was to escape Zakahashi.

* * *

     Well I soon became thoroughly lost, the tunnel stretched away before me, with branching side tunnels and occasional smaller shafts heading off to the sides, leading either steeply up to the surface, or deeper down underground. I couldn't climb the shafts up and didn't fancy taking another slide further down, so simply kept crawling along, while whimpering to myself about the unfairness of life that I'd got into this kind of nightmare situation yet again.
     I don't know how far I crawled along that shaft, but eventually I was very relieved to spot light coming up from one of the downward angled side shafts. Deciding to risk it, in the desperate hope of getting out of the narrow confines of the tunnel, I carefully tried to edge down it on my bum. However the smooth sides and the rather steep angle got the better of me and I began to slip rapidly downwards once again.
     "Ooooohhhh crap." I cried out in fear, then speeding down the little shaft I hurtled into a grill, broke straight through it and landed with a painful crash in what appeared to be some kind of store room. I struggled to my feet with buckets, crates of cleaning fluids, mops and brooms falling onto and about me. The small room was thankfully lit, so I was able to see where I was and reach the door handle, and stepped out into a smooth walled ferrocrete corridor, strip lights ran along the ceiling, and there were two other metal doors in the wall opposite. Echoes of what appeared to be distant mechanical work, very faint voices and the like came from the head of the corridor.
    Remembering I was still dressed in the ruined remnants of my evening suit, which was liberally clotted with blood from the sword wound on my jaw, and had probably fallen straight into the heart of an underground ComStar building of some kind, I struggled to quell the terror I felt, at possible discovery, enough to think straight.
     Resolving to at least try to explore and get the lie of the land, I hugged the wall and edged up the corridor to where all the noise seemed to be coming from. D'you know I actually guessed something about what I was going to see before I actually reached the end of the corridor ... well you can't disguise the unique smell, that pungent reek of burnt ashqua, hot metal, grease and sweat. My brain registered it almost instinctively, 'oh I'm in a 'Mech hangar', just before my eyes fell upon the single largest 'Mech hangar I'd ever seen.
     It was a vast cavernous chamber, lit by hundreds of strip lights hanging down from the rocky roof high above, and within it, stretching beyond the limits of my sight, were line upon line of shining white painted BattleMechs.
     I stopped in my tracks as my brain caught up with my eyes and struggled to process what I was seeing; there had to be hundreds of them, all stood upright as if on parade, in ranks of rows that seemed to go on forever, with the lighter models nearest to the entrance to my corridor, and heavier models barely visible away in the far distance, and what 'Mechs they were ... there were designs that I'd only seen in history books and vids, some even I'd never seen and yet all looked absolutely brand new.
     Techs in yellow ComStar robes walked here and there along the vast avenues between the 'Mechs, others worked on mobile repair and maintenance gantries over some of the great machines. I think I actually spoke aloud to myself at that moment in sheer horrified surprise;
     "Good Christ ... ComStar has an army!"
     I stood there for at least a few minutes, stock still and just staring, gaping at the appalling vista struggling to come to terms with it's implications, but failing. I nearly collapsed to my knees at one point as I spotted a small group of distant MechWarriors in what had to be cooling suits as they ambled up to some of the 'Mechs, boarded them and then walked them off down the avenue into the distance. The distant 'thump, thump, thump' of their 'Mechs feet coming to my ears faintly.       
     It's hard to explain to younger readers amongst you, exactly how shocking it was to learn then that ComStar, the centuries old scrupulously neutral and pacifistic quasi-cult that controlled communications across the entire Inner Sphere and beyond, had obviously been lying to us all in the worst possible way. That it possessed not only a vast army of Star League era BattleMechs and presumably other weapons of war, but that it clearly also possessed trained MechWarriors to pilot 'em and almost certainly an army of soldiers and Techs to back them. The closest concept I can think of, in an attempt to convey the amazement I felt, would be for you to try to imagine if you were to sneak into your average country parish NAC Church and found the quiet and respectable priest had a company of tanks hidden in the back of the chapel ... or if you were to learn your ageing duffer of a history professor at secondary school had nerve gas secretly stored in hundreds of drums in his book cupboard.
     It was truly that staggering. No one in my experience considered ComStar to be a military threat, or even a military power at any level ... oh I myself had stumbled across a couple of ROM plots by then, there was Kristofur's involvement in Anton's War for a start, but one put that down to political scheming, intelligence double-dealing and the like. Or even the actions of rogue ROM agents. This was completely different, this was an army the like of which the Inner Sphere had not seen in generations. Back then in '28, depending upon the numbers of soldiers and MechWarriors ComStar had available, it was probably the single strongest force in the Inner Sphere ... and to the best of my knowledge no one outside of the toaster worshippers knew about it.
     Thankfully no one was close enough to my little corridor to notice me stood there gawking, and I eventually recovered enough of my wits to realise if I was caught down here I would never leave. ComStar were highly unlikely after all to simply send me back up to that night's Marik Reception with a stern; 'Please refrain from leaving the party next time sir'. I'd simply be made to disappear, or more likely be found as if having suffered a fatal fall from a roof edge or something. That ComStar would kill to protect these almighty skeletons in their collective closet seemed unquestionable.
     With my stomach queasily churning in mortal terror, I darted around into the corridor, and ducked back into my cleaners room, then tried to clamber anxiously back up into the ventilation shaft, however it was too high and I realised with a sinking feeling of despair that even if I could have reached it, I'd never have been able to clamber back up the shaft to my long tunnel. So thinking fast, I used a broom to lever the open grill back shut, so anyone who might enter this room wouldn't see that someone or something had come through the vent and then went back into the corridor.
     There I very cautiously tried the first of the other doors, opening it initially just a crack, then seeing it was empty of people dashing through. It was a locker room, or a wash room of some kind. With sinks running down one wall, and rows of yellow, white and red hooded robes hanging on racks.
     I grabbed the first robe I could lay my hands upon, one of the yellow ones which I recalled seemed to be the colour used by the Techs in the chamber beyond, and shrugged into it, buttoned it up and smoothed it out over my clothes. It was a heavy feeling canary yellow number, with what looked like occult glyphs, symbols, and equally arcane seeming mathematical equations and formulae stitched in black thread down it's front seams.
     I then hurried across to the sinks and ran some cold water with which I began to wash the dried and new blood from my face...just as I was doing so however the door to the room opened and I must have jumped three feet into the air in raw terror as someone came in.
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 29 January 2011, 20:54:25

     "Oh I'm sorry, did I startle you, brother?" The fellow asked. He was a tall very thin man, wearing similar yellow ComStar robes to those I was then wearing, his face was long and boney, with a large somewhat hooked nose, his eyes grey and friendly. I managed to mutter that I had been 'miles away' and waved off his apology hoping he'd just ignore me and change clothes or whatever and then bugger off, however he seemed to want to chat.
     "Phew what a day. If we continue to have problems with those Duoteck 195s I'm going to request we get the newer Blakeswerk models ... hey you're new aren't you?" I gulped and tried to avoid turning to face him fully or he'd see my bleeding wound.
     "Uhh yeah, just got in today from ... ahh ... London." I'd just pulled that from thin air, as it was one of the few Terran cities I'd remembered much history about, thankfully I'd struck lucky as he smiled warmly.
     "Oh really, the good ol'LTTC eh?" My hopelessly blank look clearly confused him a little, but he smiled again and prodded; "The London Technical and Theological College?" I nodded quickly and he whittered away for a minute or two about his own time there; his fond memories of long rides through the ancient streets in the quaint 'black cabs' the Order maintained as a historical curiosity, taking tea and buttered crumpets in cosy little Covent Garden cafes, and his love of the preserved millenia old architecture; Big Ben, the Buckingham Palace Museum, and ComStar's Temple Court Chantry Building. I cursed him silently as he rambled on, but suddenly he stopped and gasped.   
     "By the Word! You're bleeding brother, are you injured?" The blasted busybody asked in surprise and I instinctively put my hand to the painful cut along my jaw line. My mind raced for an excuse and I mumbled something about having fallen from a repair gantry ladder and grazed my face on a sheet of ceramite plate that had been waiting to be added to one of the 'Mechs.
     "That doesn't look like just a graze to me, come along let's take you to the nearest med-centre and get that patched up." I mentally cursed the thoughtful, interfering, swine and then relented and followed him out of the locker room and along the smooth ferrocrete walled corridor into the main hangar once more.
     "So brother, I trust the infestation of infidels we are presently enduring, for the furtherance of the Word and the Divine Plan, does not disturb you too greatly?" He asked in a conversational tone as we strode down one of the great avenues, my eyes wide with astounded awe at the countless pristine white painted BattleMechs, which stood as if to attention on either side of us, as we made our way along. I struggled to keep my mind on what he was saying, flabbergasted as I was by what I was seeing.
     "Oh ... err ... well no ... err brother ... that is ... well some of the women ain't bad." I realised with a start of fear his face had darkened immediately at that into a frown of what appeared to be annoyed distaste.
     "I wouldn't know brother, I'm a Toyamanite." I had no idea at the time what he meant by that, oh of course I was aware that Conrad Toyama had been Blake's fanatic disciple and successor, but beyond that I was in the dark. It occurred to me that not having heard of Toyama having taken a wife, or mistress, old Conrad might have been one of Duncan Marik's type, a pillow biter I mean, so all I could think to say was;
     "Oh I see, well each to their own. Consenting adults and all that." At which his frown changed to a baffled expression and he half missed his step, before shaking his head in confusion and then continuing on.
      Now, despite the widespread deployment of the ComGuards these days, I would imagine most of you chaps still might be surprised to learn that the ComTech Order, contrary to it's propaganda, is not one big happy family united in it's rituals and beliefs. There are in fact numerous different subsects, factions, cliques, societies and potential splinter groups within it's ranks, all of whom take a slightly, or even radically, different view of the proper interpretation and implementation of the Word of Blake. Some are secret, others open and proud of their beliefs, some tolerated, some persecuted and hunted by ROM. I only really found out about all this some years later, during my time as a member of ComStar during Operation Flush in the early forties. 'Toyamanites', I then learned, are an ultra conservative faction, that believe in strict accordance with the letter of the Word, advocate stern neutrality, a suffocating adherence to the religious rites and practices, and amongst other things complete chastity for it's members.
     Other ComStar subsects I later had some dealings with are 'the Shunners', who believe Blake's prophesied apocalypse is imminent and that ComStar should sever all contact with the Inner Sphere at large, retreat to the Sol System and isolate themselves completely from the rest of humanity, until the 'cleansing fires' of the final destruction have swept away the 'unrighteous', who are you and I of course. Then there are the liberal 'Reformists', who believe in a measured reviewing and re-writing, if necessary, of the Word and a softening of ComStar's religious regime generally. There's also the Terran Front, which believes only 'true-born Terrans', who can trace their ancestry four generations back, should be able to become initiated members of ComStar, and that only Terrans deserve to rule ComStar and the Inner Sphere at large. The TF is one of the forbidden sects and tends towards militarist radicalism, worryingly there are plenty of their members serving in the ComGuard across the Sphere today.
     Oh and of course there are the so called Knights of Sandhurst, also known as the Holy Order of Sandhurst, a more shadowy group of extreme militarists based as their name suggests in ComStar's foremost military training centre. They are perhaps the worst of all the radical sects, partly because they believe in outright ComStar military intervention across the Inner Sphere, but more importantly because, unknown to most, the present Grand Mistress of the Knights is none other than Primus Myndo Waterly herself. I had some fearsome run-ins with this bunch during my time on Terra during Flush and I can assure you they are a nasty lot, quite ready to kill and murder to forward their insane faux-religion.
     All that aside, as I say, back in '28 this was all unknown to me and the only thing was on my mind was getting away from this pompous bloody vicar turned grease-monkey, who was prattling away at me again.
     "I was speaking with a Gamma Adept of my acquaintance today," He began, trying once more to make conversation, "And he advised me that the Fundamental Branch have had to rewrite most of the seventh canticle, to cater for so many infidels treading upon the Sacred Heart at one time."
     I looked blankly at him and a slow grin spread across his features, I couldn't think why he was smiling, then it occured to me that he must be making some kind of deuced obscure joke, so doing my best I forced myself to laugh out loud. It must have sounded more like a cat being strangled, but he seemed pleased, so I suppose I must have been right...makes you wonder about ComStar humour if that's what they consider a rib-tickler don't it?
     I was itching of course to quiz the Tech Adept about the numbers of 'Mechs here, and whether ComStar had other such vast stockpiles, however it seemed very risky to confess not knowing that kind of thing, as it was presumably common knowledge to the Techs who worked here and just the sort of thing I would be expected to know.
    "So who did you study under at London?" He asked genially and my belly did a flip. Jerome, but this was the kind of thorny question I'd been dreading. Who knew how much this Tech Adept knew about the staff at this London college, it could be a little or a lot ... I decided to make up a name and pray this guy, who looked as I say to be middle aged and presumably a good way beyond his studying years, would accept it was a tutor who'd arrived recently. However suddenly, at that very moment, a loud male voice bellowed from behind us;
     "Hey you two, hold it."
     My heart stopped and my blood froze, as my companion and I turned to see three MechWarriors jogging up to us. They were wearing lightweight looking white torsotube cooling vests, over skin-tight blue-white uniforms of a silk like material, their soft-soled boots were apparently made of a composite cooling mesh of some kind, they had personal monitoring systems built into their belts and they carried very compact looking neurohelmets under their arms. All in all they looked to be decked out in at least Star League levels of lostech MechWarrior gear, and I'd have certainly paid very well for one of their helmets alone.
     "Here we go, arrogant Epsies I'm afraid, brother." My Toyamanite friend murmured to me as we waited for the trio to catch up to us, he was referring to the ComStar branch designation 'Epsilon' I believe, which is used by their MechWarriors. The three consisted of two young men and a woman, it was the woman, a handsome full breasted gal I registered despite my gut-churning state of terror at the possibility I was about to be revealed, who spoke first as they halted before us.
     "You two, we need two Guillotines and a Flashman prepped and ready to run in five minutes. We are due to try out in the Atlantis Grotto Gauntlet and we don't want to be late." She spoke in that typically high handed manner we MechWarriors reserve for slovenly Techs and I must say it stung me a bit to be on the receiving end of it for a change. To my suprise however my companion however bristled even more.
     "I apologise Acolyte, but as you can surely see our brother in the Mysteries here is injured and I am taking him to Med-Centre East. Duty Master Tech tonight is Adept Zeta IV Kransky, I suggest you consult him about your requirements. Now, we must be on our way. Blake be with you." With that he put his hand on my shoulder and started to steer me away from them, but the MechWarriors were unhappy with that.
     "Injured? That looks like just a scratch to me. Why you Techs need to toughen up, if the hallowed day ever comes then you'll likely have to put up with far worse wounds than that." Said one of the men in a French accented voice. His friend agreed;
     "That's right, come along now, jump to it and then you can take your casualty there over to the Med Centre." For a moment I thought I might have to try to prep the 'Mechs after all, which wasn't a happy prospect as it would have meant dredging up my very scant and rusty Tech knowledge, however thankfully ComStar military politics were in my favour and my trusty Toyamanite Tech rounded on the MechWarriors, whom I suddenly realised he outranked, and lashed into them;
     "Listen you posturing bucket-heads, you may think you're somehow above us in the scale of things, but let me assure you you're not. We are not infidel mechanics to be ordered around by you, we are ComTech Orderial Adepts, initiated into both the Outer and Inner Mysteries, we are proficient in the maintenance and care of these sanctified machines, and without us your most devout supplications and prayers would not rouse them to the furtherance of the Word or the pursuit of the Divine Plan.
      Now, if you don't stop pestering us, I'll report you to your commanding Precentor and see to it he gets you transferred to complete your training in the Australian desert ... do you understand me?" The trio looked mighty aggrieved, but the mention of Australia which judging by their appalled expressions must be a hell hole, seemed to give them pause and they muttered under their breath, but turned and stamped off.
     It struck me at the time that, even if a Tech strictly speaking outranked a MechWarrior in an Inner Sphere army they'd never have dared speak like that to the vaunted BattleMech pilots. I suppose it's not surprising a technology worshipping cult like ComStar values it's Techs more than the rest of us though.
     Anyway, after seeing off the MechWarriors my new friend chuntered away cheerfully, clearly most pleased with himself, until we reached a metal staircase running up the side of the cavern-hangar wall.
     "Here you go brother, follow this up to sublevel 1, the highest floor below ground level. I look forward to working with you. The peace of Blake be with you." I smiled back at him, shook his hand.
     "And with you brother." With that I was off, after about five minutes of quick progress up the seemingly endless stairs, and naturally having flown straight past the signs for 'sublevel 1', I was out through the ground floor door. The door swung and locked shut behind me, and I walked past two black uniformed security guards, who ignored me beyond a cursory glance ... they were presumably watching for people trying to break into that place, rather than out of it after all.
     I soon realised I was in the 'training building' we'd eaten lunch upon the roof of earlier that day, God that seemed like an age ago! I realised I could find my way back to my chalet from here, but first needed to ditch the ComStar robes somewhere they'd not be found any time soon. So I ducked around and down the side of the building and off into the wooded undergrowth to the south, keeping the sea to my left.

* * *

     After shedding and burying the yellow robes in a particularly scrubby little wood of oak trees, I darted from bush to bush, trying to keep as low and stealthy as possible, but I was so desperate to get away from that damn 'training building' I was pretty loud I guess. It was in a wooded area near to a low cliff bluff, not far from my chalet, that I hit trouble again, I was crossing a small clearing, desperately casting about for a landmark from which I could navigate my way safely back home, when there came the distinct sound of a twig cracking, as if someone had stood upon it, up ahead of me in the shadows of a stand of oak and pine trees.
     Stopping, I squinted desperately into the dark trying to see if anyone was there ... and at that moment a shadowy figure very skilfully swept my legs out from under me from behind and I smashed down onto my back. A boot came down pretty hard onto my throat pinning me painfully in place, the shadowy form of my attacker an ominous black outline against the night sky.
     Jesus and Jerome spare me, I sobbed to myself, would this terrible ordeal never end.
     "Darius?" My attacker suddenly gasped in a surprised and blessedly familiar voice.
     "Morgan? Morgan Kell? Yes Morgan old man, it's me, it's me!" I gasped over and over, as the boot came off me, and Morgan knelt down beside me. Lean, commanding and smiling, Morgan Kell eased me up, he was dressed all in black, his long hair loose, with what looked like black camo paint smeared across his face, though I think it was actually charcoal, his friendly eyes were bright and smiling at me in amazement.
     "Good lord Darius, what on Terra are you doing sneaking about out here?" I noted that two other shadowy, black clad, figures were gliding out of the wood where I'd heard the twig snap. Morgan caught my gaze and glanced over his shoulder at them too.
     "We've come across a friend, nothing to worry about." He called quietly to them and the two figures seemed to relax a little. I quickly recognised them amazingly to be Jaime Wolf and Yorinaga Kurita! Seeing Morgan was still waiting for me to explain my presence out there, looking beaten up and bleeding from a wound on my face, I took a deep breath to steady my voice and then answered carefully. I didn't think it would put me in good standing with Hanse if I blurted out my amazing intelligence about ComStar's secret 'Mech army in front of a beloved cousin of Takashi Kurita, so I decided to slip into my familiar acting role.
     "Ah, it's a little delicate actually Morgan, an affair of honour you might say. Here help me up there old fellow, gosh but that was a nasty move you hit me with, you'll have to teach me that one." Morgan helped me up to my feet, while Jaime leaned in and nodded to me, Yorinaga meanwhile hung back, but I could practically feel those blasted glass like black eyes of his on me.
     "Err, if you don't mind me saying so Morgan, Colonel Wolf, I'm more than a little surprised myself to run into you chaps out here ... especially with him." I jabbed a finger at Yorinaga. Morgan shrugged and smiled softly down at me.
     "You go first Darius, then I'll fill you in on our story." I affected to consider, then shot a beautifully acted belligerent glance at Yorinaga, before turning back to Morgan and Jaime.
     "Well Morgan, so long as it goes no further than us here?" They all nodded, though Yorinaga was watching me with thinly veiled contempt. "So be it, I'm out here, on my way home as it happens, after just having fought a duel against one of that bastard's war criminal comrades." I nodded in Yorinaga's direction and was gratified to see Morgan and Jaime adopt expressions of true surprise.
     "I know Morgan, I know, I risked violating the truce and bringing ComStar down upon us in retribution. But ... well blast it all, you don't know what the particular Kuritan savage in question did to me. I couldn't just let it stand, just sit still while Zak- ahh well his name don't factor-, just sit still while he sips champagne, makes small talk and dances with the ladies, like he was a civilised man like you or I.
     Besides he was as keen as I was, so the risk to the truce don't really stand. We were both guilty. Though naturally I'll understand if you report me to Hanse, I knew the risks when I arranged the affair. My honour has been satisfied. I'll happily face the music." Morgan and Jaime both shook their heads in what looked to me like amused resignation, Wolf spoke first;
     "Darius you're the damnedest hothead I ever met. I take it you won, with that new cut there to add to your romantic image?" I nodded, glancing at Yorinaga's black shape at the edge of the clearing.
     "Well I won yes, I suppose you could say that. Though the bugger ain't dead, he'll just be limping for some time to come." Morgan breathed in relief at that;
     "Good, then no real harm done. We shall say no more about having come across Darius out here. Agreed Tai-sa Kurita?" Yorinaga didn't stir, but his calm voice came out of the darkness he stood within in reply;
     "This man before us is known to me. Perhaps better even than he is to you. I have seen his heart. He is the Fox's Monkey, he is of no importance to me and is certainly not worth a moment of my thought or time to gossip about him. We should be on our way. The trail grows cold." Jaime and Morgan both looked pained to hear Yorinaga insult me so, but to be honest I was just glad that was all the Snake swine said ... let's face it he could honestly say a lot worse than that about me. However I was obliged, for my reputations sake in front of the lads, to make some response, so feeling pretty safe in the company of Kell and Wolf I piped up.
     "Coming from a man like you, a man who fires from the safety of his Warhammer at a chap carrying his wounded commander, you'll forgive me for not giving two pennies for your opinions." Yorinaga simply snorted, but Morgan came between Yorinaga and I, and waved me down in a placatory manner.
     "Easy gentlemen. Darius you've already been in one duel tonight, we can't afford to have you leaping into another. Tai-sa Kurita, please we are all allies here and now, for tonight at least.
     Okay Darius here it is, we're helping Tai-sa Kurita there find his son Akira. Akira has apparently set out on a foolhardy one man mission to break into a ComStar building which lies in the direction from which you've just come. He's putting himself at great risk and we need to catch up to him as soon as possible.
     Did you see any sign of him back there?"         
     "Not a sign." I answered honestly. "Why in the Sphere would he be so foolish as to break into a ComStar building?" I wondered aloud, while considering to myself the possibility Brahe might be on the trail of the secret I'd stumbled across a short while before, Morgan shrugged.
     "We're not sure, but it has to do with something he learnt earlier today. Okay Darius, look it's best you get home and get some kind of dressing on that wound." That was just what I wanted to hear from him of course, but I decided I should risk a little of my instinctive acting and affected a thoughtful stern expression.
     "You sure it wouldn't be better if I came along? You might need another man if you run into toaster trouble." Morgan shook his head quickly.
     "No Darius, you've had enough fun for one night by the sound of it." Little did he know I thought. But grinning inwardly, I grudgingly muttered agreement and they pointed me off on my way. The last I saw of that deuced odd trio was as they melted into the shadows, away on their mission to track down Brahe.
     A few minutes later I burst through my chalet door, collapsed onto a sofa and just lay there breathing deeply, my heartbeat slowing. It was then that I realised, despite all the horror and fear of that night, I was now in possession of the biggest secret in the galaxy and a slow smile spread across my face.
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: mikecj on 30 January 2011, 11:46:47
I've missed the old rogue!
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 30 January 2011, 13:31:03

19th August 3028

     "Major Darius Davion, of the Fourth Davion Guards, the Seventh Crucis Lancers, and Wolf's Dragoons." The Capellan Maitre'D announced me in a loud somewhat amazed sounding voice as, proudly togged up in my Brigade walking out dress uniform, I strolled nonchalantly into the central courtyard of the quadruplex that had been given over to the Liao family for the duration of the wedding celebrations.
     The quadruplex was a sprawling glass and durasteel palace complex, filled with sparkling crystal fountains, abstract myomer art, holo and plas-sculptures, and more traditional ancient Chinese water-colours and terracotta statues. Angelic harp music drifted above the hum of polite conversation, and there was the most mouth watering scent of an expansive spread of Hong Kong cuisine being prepared by white suited Capellan servitors. The central courtyard, an open air enclosed garden space roughly the size of a Skye football pitch, was the venue for the Chancellor's Lunch that afternoon and was therefore full of guests, many of whom looked up clearly startled at hearing my name.
     I couldn't spot many friends amongst their number unsurprisingly, as most of the Davion and Steiner guests had pointedly snubbed Max Liao by not even bothering to reply to his invitations and even Liao's theoretical allies the Mariks didn't seem overly keen to fraternise with their historical archenemies. For myself, Mother had sent me a p-mail that morning ordering me not to attend, 'for the good name of our family', however it should go without saying my hopeless infatuation with the Elgin Handmaiden had made my presence at Max's doo an outright certainty.
     Judging from the surprised stares and raised eyebrows I quickly realised I was generally speaking about as welcome there as a fart in a vaac suit. I even spotted Mad Max himself grabbing one of his retainers, an evil looking slant with shifty eyes and a thin fu-manchu moustache and beard, and rattling questions at him clearly angrily, while gesturing in my general direction. I suppose Max thought I was there as a spy for cousin Hanse, or perhaps that I was simply trouble making.
     I hurried in amongst the staring guests, eager to mingle and cease being the centre of attention, grabbed a schooner of Capellan lager from a passing flunky, then ambled about, pretending to study the beautiful setting, while in fact discreetly scanning faces for the butterfly I was hunting that day.
     Stopping at a table to pile a selection of dim sum onto a porcelain dish, I was somewhat alarmed to spot Justin Allard and Candace Liao walking arm in arm towards me. Fearing Justin was going to make a scene, or perhaps even cave my skull in as retribution for my having been heavily involved on behalf of the prosecution in the trial which had seen him exiled the previous year, I cast hurridly about for an escape route. However before I could dart away Candace absolutely called out to me, her somewhat husky, though intensely feminine voice halting me in my steps.
     "Oh Major Davion! How nice of you to come." Now, this was the first time I'd met Candace Liao you understand and I have to say, back then, you may take my word for it that she was a rare cracker. She was wearing skin tight red Sianese leather trousers and boots, a white cotton blouse which strained to contain her abundant charms, and a net of diamonds, each of which were about the size of a marble, over her cascading back length raven hair, thin strands of which fell artfully down forward across her shoulders on either side of her face and framed the exotic beauty of her vivacious Capellan features. Her almond shaped eyes were hooded and mischievous seeming then, as I waited to see how this was going to play out and watched that dangerous little bastard Allard for any sign of trouble.
     Not that I was underestimating the very real risks Candace herself represented to a simple fellow like myself either by the way. Oh don't you fall for the propaganda the government have been trumpeting about her in the years since she jumped ships to our side at the end of the Fourth Succession War, this woman was and probably still is, trouble with a capital 'T'. In my opinion, and judging by intelligence reports I've read on her from pre-Fourth War days, Candace has always been and remains as greedy as Midas, as deceitful as Machiavelli, as arrogant as Lucifer, and as randy as Messalina. She was also smarter than the rest of her family, as is evidenced by the fact that she now enjoys a life of ease and relative safety sat upon the main part of the Liao Hoard, rather than having to endure the murderous mayhem of the Sian Court scene.
     Back in '28 she was the Duchess and Prefect of St. Ives, and in charge of the Capellan Treasury and the Capellan Commonality Bank, which I'd say was like placing a hungry wolf in charge of a chicken coop. She was also at that time Max's presumed heir, as she was four years older than Romano. Justin's rumoured amour with her was common knowledge and not for the first time it struck me that the runty little half-blood was a surprisingly successful hand with the ladies.
     "It was an honour I felt I could not turn down, Your Grace." I bowed, noting Justin's sour expression at my somewhat exaggerated display of chivalry. "Though I must confess my main reason was that I became somewhat addicted to dim sum during my time on Kittery." I then winked broadly, and popped a steamed pork bun into my mouth. Candace laughed easily, but Justin's expression darkened all the more at my deliberate mention of the scene of his disgrace.
     Now you must remember, that like the rest of the Inner Sphere I had no idea then that Justin was in fact still a spy working for our side right in the heart of the Liao family. Even the very idea would have seemed simply impossible to me back then, indeed I still struggle to comprehend the enormity of the whole plot. No, Justin Allard, or rather Justin Xiang as he was then calling himself, was an infamous traitor to our nation and perhaps the most hated man alive to Fed Suns patriots. Not that I've ever really been one of those of course. He was a 'half-breed' who had sold out his own men, a murderer who'd brutally assassinated the cream of our émigré MechWarrior heroes on Solaris, and worst of all an AFFS exile who had made his way to Sian and signed on with the dreaded Maskirovka, the despised secret police of the Liaoist tyranny. Many of our press organs regularly called for our intelligence chaps to have Justin kidnapped or even killed, and I'd recently been quoted in the press hinting that my famous Mech Race with Justin back in '13 at Sakhara had actually been caused by my getting wind of his 'Liaoist attitudes' even that far back. So then you can see why I would be somewhat chary of the fellow I think.
     "Well then, you must try the pan-fried squid, the salt is cut with four different spices." Candace continued, and I shovelled some of the squid dutifully onto my already over-full plate.
     "Did you know Darius," Justin suddenly spoke up in a flat voice. "That your family ancestors were once part of the Imperialist British oppression of Hong Kong, the home of this variety of cuisine? That there was at least one Davion who captained an opium trading company based from there in the Nineteenth Century? That the likes of that long ago Davion addicted millions to that vile drug. Ironic don't you think, that your kind were exploiting and plundering ours centuries ago?" He sneered hatred at me and my back went up, however Candace shot a warning glare at him, so I decided not to push the matter. Besides Candace launched into a conversation with me about Justin and my time at the Old Sak, so I did my best to stick it to Allard by making him sound like the tiresome busybody he'd been back then, and of course lingered upon his defeat in our race. At which he snorted;
     "You were drunk and only won because you cheated, you wretched creature." I grinned at that and leaned in closer to Candace, savouring the light scent of her perfume.
     "Methinks I detect sour grapes there Your Grace." She laughed again and patted Justin's arm in a placatory fashion.   
     "So Your Grace, it seems quite a good crowd." I said and she turned and looked around at my comment.
     "Yes, I just wish more of your fellow Federated Suns guests had decided to attend. Since meeting Citizen Xiang here, I find myself most interested in the men of the Federated Suns." Do you know I'd swear the saucy bint was actually sizing me up as she'd murmured that, her big eyes lingering most divertingly upon my hard muscled frame. Justin affected to not notice, which I would imagine he would have to have gotten used to doing with an infamous wanton like Candace for a paramour.
     Anyway, she rambled on a bit about my service with Wolf's Dragoons recently, asking me some pretty sharp questions about the Misery campaign, and I remembered at that moment a rumour that Candace had practically driven the Dragoons out of Capellan service, by her rampant and shameless pursuit of Jaime Wolf himself. Deciding not to bring that old gossip up however I answered her questions as best I could, then changed the subject and asked her to point out who was who there.
     "Ah, very well let me see. There is my dear father, speaking with Major Sung, the commander of his personal bodyguard formation." Candace gestured towards Max and the evil looking officer I'd seen him speaking with earlier. I knew then of course that Sung was the head of the Death Commandos and one of the most feared men in the Inner Sphere, so I naturally made a mental note to steer well clear of them.
     "There amidst that group of Kuritan officers I think you can just make out the Strategic Military Director, His Grace Colonel Pavel Ridzik, the Duke of Thomas. No doubt either refighting their old campaigns, or perhaps debating on the proper tactics for the massacre of civilians." She smiled dryly at me and I goggled back at her in surprise, well you don't expect to hear casual honesty of that magnitude at that kind of function, especially not coming out of the lips of Max Liao's eldest daughter. I think I probably half spat out the shrimp dumpling I was munching upon at the time, and even Justin looked sharply at his girlfriend in surprise.
     "Oh please Darius, may I call you that? Please don't assume we all are of the ilk of Colonel Ridzik, I am well aware of the crimes he has committed in my family's name. Despite his undoubted bravery and amazing variety of skills, for example besides being one of the best MechWarriors in the Confederation he's a trained aerospace pilot and even flew test planes for a time, he is however a truly loathsome man, whose ambition is limitless." She was right about Ridzik being slime of course, he was known across the free Sphere as the Terrorist of Truth after all, for personally leading a raid on a dissident pacifistic religious sect, and overseeing what quickly became a full scale massacre where thousands of unarmed civilians were murdered by BattleMechs. I came to personally know him very well in the coming year and I never got over the urge to take a shower after shaking his hand ... so strong did that cloying aura of bloody criminality seem stamped upon him.
     "Then let us see ... why that short burly old cove with the fine white handlebar moustaches is Victor Hargreaves, the Duke in Exile of Chesterton. Oh dear I believe he's about to begin one of his arguments over the merits of Terran wines over those of his long lost homeworld." I peared at the jocular looking Duke and wished for a moment my old love Olivia Fenlon, the Federated Suns Duchess of Chesterton, had been present. It would have tickled me immensely to see how they got on and said as much to Candace, she smiled politely and made a comment that perhaps that wouldn't be politically correct or sensible.
      "So, I don't see your brother anywhere Your Grace?" I asked politely, planning to move on to questioning Candace where Romano might be next. To my surprise Candace looked saddened by my question, then shook her head.
     "No, Tormana has been unable to accompany the rest of us here to Terra, he has been ... detained by official duties back home." D'you know I've heard it said more than once, that Candace and Tormana were actually lovers at one time, well while it wouldn't surprise me, knowing Candace's loose morals when it comes to her many affairs, I can't say though if there's any truth to that particular piece of tittle-tattle and I certainly never saw any evidence of it on the occasions I was to meet her over the following year, during my bestial captivity on Sian as a prisoner of war.
     Anyway, I asked where her sister was and she looked about, then pointed to a stone bench in front of a glass statue of a water nymph, from which a sparkling fountain chuckled. Sat upon the bench, amidst a cluster of retainers, uniformed CCAF officers and guests was Romano, holding court every inch like a queen and talking to a scrawny brown skinned wisp of a chap with long black hair and beard, who was dressed in a sliver and black Capellan silk robe.
     "There she is, talking with her pet 'Prophet' Bowhani Ali." I barely registered Candace's words as I had spotted my favourite Handmaiden stood at the rear of the group, eager to be away I suddenly pulled myself up in curiosity and asked;
     "Sorry, did you say her ... Prophet?" Candace chuckled, nodding.
     "Indeed, my sister is very ... religious. I know of at least one cult that even worships her, which of course she simply adores. She assures me that Bowhani Ali, a crank from Highspire's boondocks according to my sources, successfully predicted not only every one of Justin here's victories on Solaris, but that he would come to serve the Chancellor as a valued aide and would even one day found a great noble family with a daughter of the Liaos." At which she smiled charmingly at Allard, who softened his stony features just a tad.
     Well, I had no intention in wasting time on Romano, who it seemed was indeed as insane as our propaganda bods were always claiming, so I simply bowed and made to leave citing an urgent errand. However, Candace laid her immaculately manicured hand upon my uniform sleeve to halt me briefly, then asked in a soft low voice;
     "Major, I understand you are a valued and trusted member of your First Prince's inner circle?" I nearly laughed out loud at that, but never one to disabuse a pretty gal of my largely mythical high standing with cousin Foxy I simply looked sternly embarrassed and muttered that I was sure I was no more important than any other AFFS officer, but then grudgingly conceded that I had in the past enjoyed the honour of serving Prince Hanse personally on special duties several times. Justin rolled his eyes at that, but Candace's face gleamed with what appeared to me to be excitement.
     "Good then, clearly you are trusted implicitly by the Prince. Please would you agree to carry a personal message to him from me?" Naturally I wasn't about to say no to her, but I looked thoughtful and chewed my lip. Playing my role as ever faultlessly.
     "With all due respect, I'm not sure I'm your man for that kind of thing Your Grace. I'm just an unsubtle fighting man, who's more at home in a fox hole or bivouac than this sort of place, perhaps another more courtly wise chap might be more suitable?" Justin glared at me all the more of course, but his mistress smiled charmingly and nodded.
     "No Darius, that you are honest enough to say that, to turn down a simple diplomatic chore that could bring you favour with your Prince, tells me you are just the right man for the task." I accepted her compliments with a deliberately awkward shuffle of modest embarrassment, and she continued.
     "Please inform Prince Hanse that I feel I owe him a debt, for not striking back against my St. Ives Commonality after the unfortunate 'terrorist attack' upon Kittery two years ago. Please assure your cousin the Prince that my passions do not run so hot, nor my blood so cold, as they do for certain other members of my family, at the merest mention of his name.
     Please stress to him I admire him greatly and wish only peace between us."
     Well, this was almost as amazing to me as my discovery of ComStar's secret army the previous night. Candace Liao, the heir apparent to the Capellan Chancellor, was practically offering a unilateral olive branch to the leader of the Federated Suns, the sworn ancestral enemy of her nation and family. She was committing treason just by passing such a vague message to me and Conrad alone could guess what Max would do to her if he learnt of it. Looking back she was already beginning to cover her tight little ass of course, she was clearly no fool and even then, before we'd yet begun to slaughter the CCAF and swallow Capellan worlds like they were snacks, she was laying the groundwork for an escape route from Sian. At the time it occurred to me the treacherous bitch might be in some twisted way trying to set me up, certainly Justin was standing there at her shoulder watching me balefully like a cat would a mouse, so I glanced nervously about to check no one was close enough to eaves drop and Candace let a light trill of laughter out at my doubtless stunned and jittery expression.
     "Oh Major. Your face. I dare say you've stared down true horrors, advancing hordes of Kuritan 'Mechs, deadly foes and murderous pirates, with barely a flicker of fear ... yet a daughter of the Liao offers her friendship to your leader, and yourself, and you look like you've seen a ghost." I mumbled some confused nonsense about carrying her words to Hanse's ears, for which she thanked me and with that I practically flew off into the midst of the crowd.
     I understand by the way, the next day in the very Cathedral where the wedding was then underway Candace put the same treasonable offer of friendship, almost to the word, to Sortek as well. It seemed staggeringly brazen and daring to me, she almost appeared to be flaunting her disloyalty to her father and state. Well, as I've said before, the rulers of nations are baffling and perilous creatures, and are best avoided by the likes of you and I.
     Happy to leave Justin and Candace's proximity I made my way through the crowd, dodging past Capellan senior officers, dressed in dark green and silver piped uniform bodysuits, with polished black plasteel chest plates and helmets, and gleaming black jackboots. Some wore the light green flak jackets that denoted them as members of the dreaded monastic Lorix Orderial Warrior Houses, and there were several groups of Northwind Sweaties, togged out in tartan kilts and sashes over dark green bodysuits. I'd never been so close to so many Capellan soldiers before and they looked a deuced handy bunch I have to admit; tough, belligerent seeming, smartly turned out and taciturn as they watched me struggle through their midst, dressed up like I was about to attend a ball at the Mount on New Avalon. Some of them spat on the ground as I stepped by, others growled insulting comments at me in Chinese, Sweaty, Anglic, or a mixture of all three tongues.
     I was almost relieved to pass by a pack of Snake MechWarriors and Aerojocks from the Sword of Light, wearing their white, grey and orange dress uniforms. I flicked a casual Guards salute to 'em  and most of them responded, though with the fascist clenched fist to breast salute of the DCMS.
     I've seen service, of sorts, in both the Liao and Kuritan armies you know, and I have to say if I must be made to choose a lesser of the two evils, then give me Kurita any day. The Snakes may be psychotic, murderous, sadistic, brutal, selflessly brave and somewhat masochistic ... but the Crappie army can be all those things combined, as well as all too often also badly led, badly fed, badly equipped and worst of all, like almost all Capellans regardless of caste or position, can seem unanimously possessed of a maddening and absurdly inflated opinion of their own abilities.
     An example of this is how rare it is to ever meet a Capellan who can hold a rational debate, be they soldier or civilian, they all seem to think they know more than you about every subject, even when they are patently in error, and their arguments are always simply based upon whatever tosh the Maskirovka are pumping out on the subject in question at the time. It's a fact I assure you that during and after the Fourth War many conquered Crappie planetary populations refused to believe and accept they were now under Davion rule and it has taken years to convince them otherwise ... even today I've heard the old caste system, with all it's inequities and blatant inefficiencies, still exists across many Sarna March worlds just below the surface.
     Anyway, I made my way around the main body of the crowd, being sure to avoid a braying pack of Andurien nobles who looked drunk already and were drawing black looks from some of the Crappies, until I eventually reached the rear of Romano's party. I moved in closer to the group, listening to the reedy sound of Romano's Prophet's voice raised in pompous declaration.
     "I say again here before you and your loyal subjects my Lady, Pangu and Núwa have both made it clear to I, their humble Prophet, that the wedding between the Fox and the daughter of the Fists will go ahead, that it will be consummated, and the seed of their union will be hard years of death and destruction for the true servants of enlightenment and the heavens.
     However after the hard years will one day arise a reborn, renewed Capellan state and people. Led by the coming man, who will carry both the proven sacred strengths of the blessed Liao and the deadly cunning of our greatest foes in his very heart. The coming man will right all the wrongs we shall have endured and shall restore the Star League, with House Liao at it's helm, as it was of old."
     The blowhard crank was just finishing his little idiotic speech when I reached the slender, shapely, rear of the Elgin Handmaiden. She was wearing a deuced fetching figure hugging jade-green silk gown and I couldn't resist placing my hand upon her shapely butt with a playful squeeze and whispering in her ear;
     "Never fear, the 'coming man's' arrived." She stiffened, but turned slowly and smiled at me in a damned promising manner. I was struck once again by her gorgeous beauty and it was all I could do not to ravish her there and then when she leant in towards me and her perfume fogged my dazzled senses.
     "Hello again na niou. I have been awaiting you. Visit me here tonight. I promise you, it will be worth your while. Here is my p-comp number. Send me a p-mail when you are at the edge of the building's perimeter and I shall come fetch you in." With that she thrust a little piece of scented rice paper in my hand and slid away deeper into Romano's crowd of sycophants, protectors, bodyguards, handmaidens, and by the look of it fortune tellers and kooks.
     Well I couldn't remember the last time I'd been so hot for a gal, I was practically panting for the Crappie strumpet, but I forced myself to be sensible and head off out of the Liao building back to my chalet. I was due to attend a practise run of the next days wedding ceremony later that afternoon, in my role as one of the six ushers, however I couldn't be bothered with that and spent the rest of the day in my quarters stewing in a state of overwrought anticipation for the coming evening.
     This time the invite was from the Handmaiden's own lips, this time there could be no mistake, no trap. It was a little off putting perhaps that our meeting was to be inside the Liao quadruplex of all places, but she was clearly part of Romano's clique I reasoned to myself, and from what I'd heard about the debauchery of the Liao court I presumed it was probably like a giant Canopian swingers party in there by night.
     So it was that I once more allowed my randy chase of the Elgin Handmaiden to overcome my natural caution, and what was to follow was to be one of the most terrifying and bizarrely farcical nights of my life.
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 30 January 2011, 13:51:44
     I had one important thing I had to do that evening before making my way over again to the Liao quadruplex, which was to pay a social call.
     "Hallo Minister, mind if I come in ... I have some information I think you're going to be very interested in." Quintus Allard stood barefoot in the doorway of his Driessen Beach bungalow, dressed in grey pants and a white shirt, the light behind him creating a halo around his mess of thick white hair. For once he was obviously surprised and I grinned to have caught him out, even if only for a moment.
     "Ah, very well Darius. But I must say after speaking with my daughter earlier today, short of Max Liao, you're the last person I was expecting to come visiting." His rumpled face shifted back into it's usual mask-like blankness, but his tone was angry and I inwardly crowed at this time holding a hand which would surely trump his righteous indignation at whatever that tart Riva had blabbed to him about me. I was dressed in casual civies, had avoided the crowds which had generally been headed that night for the Archon's Reception at the main Megaplex, and had made my way to Allard's bungalow to arrive there shortly after dark.
     The Squinter waved me grudgingly in off of the wooden deck and into the bungalow's spacious parlour. He'd clearly been allocated a VIP residence as it was plush and comfortable to say the least; the central third of the entire far wall was a large window, which afforded an excellent view out across the white sand of the beach and the rippling ocean beyond. The window also extended up into the roof, creating a partial skylight through which was visible mankind's first moon, a silvery crescent that fairly shone in the blackness.
     The walls and thick shag carpet of the room were cream coloured, giving the parlour a light, airy atmosphere. A wooden fan chopped slowly at the centre of the high ceiling, a large fireplace lined with rough, unfinished bricks dominated the outer wall, and opposite it I could make out a hallway running apparently deeper into the bungalow. The walls were decorated with neo-cubist paintings, and at the centre of the big room stood a glass topped table, surrounded by a stuffed leather couch, arm chairs and a loveseat.
     "Well Darius out with it. What do you have for me that will make me forget what you tried to do to my daughter yesterday?" He was clearly still smarting from learning about my bid to woo his precious Snake-teasing slut of a daughter, so it gave me great pleasure to play with him for once. I sauntered over to the hall entrance and glanced through the nearest side door into a large kitchen. 
     "Hmm, that looks like a fully stocked bar you have in there Minister. Might I trouble you for a drink. I favour Bismarck malt whiskey if you have any?" Allard scowled, then walked quickly up to me and stuck his face right up close to mine.
     "You'd better have something good Darius, or I'll see to it your reputation collapses inside a month ... and don't think I can't or won't do it." With that the miserable sod stumped into his kitchen and soon returned holding a half filled crystal tumbler. "I only have Northwind Glentaggart." He grouched and thrust the glass at me.
     "It'll do." I said in a gleefully high handed tone and took a swig, enjoying Allard's frustrated impatience as much as the burn of the scotch. "Not joining me?" I asked him cheekily and he barked back at me;
     "I detest scotch, almost as much as I detest you Darius. Now spill it, what new sordid scandal, or dirty secret have you stumbled into this time?"
     So it was I told Allard a relatively true account of my duel with Zakahashi, though naturally I played it that I'd gone down to that beach deliberately intending to fight the Kuritan swine, and that I'd been ambushed and chased by four or five of Zakahashi's backstabbing Otomo comrades after I'd wounded my old enemy in the leg. Lord knows if the Squinter bought that mind you, for he made no comment at all. I then told him everything I'd seen and heard down underneath Hilton Head Island; my claustrophobic crawl along the ventilation shaft, my fall into the broom closet, my first sight of ComStar's 'Mechs, my later conversation with that ComStar Adept, and then finally my encounter with Kell, Wolf and Yorinaga. Throughout my story I was sat down on Allard's sofa, while he paced backwards and forwards across the other side of the room, making no visible sign of surprise throughout my account. Then when I finished he stopped, and said softly under his breath;
     "My God ... my God." With that he dived into the hallway and quickly returned with files and sheaths of paper and slicksheets, then spilling them across the glass topped table he crouched at my side and pulled out several maps of Hilton Head.
     "Very well Major, I want you to show me precisely where this facility would be." There followed possibly thirty minutes to an hour of Allard grilling me thoroughly upon the location and layout of the vast 'Mech hangar, the models and numbers of the BattleMechs, my impression of the relative experience of the MechWarriors I'd seen, and sundry other such points, until he finally sat back on his heels and grunted in a decidedly grudging voice.
     "Good work Darius, you did the right thing not admitting anything to Wolf and the others. This information is for the Fox and I only, until we can better decide how to react to it. As you are the only other person who knows I must warn you if this should leak Hanse and I will know it was from you and you will face imprisonment for breach of official secrets ... do you understand?
     Very well, then it's best you get on your way out of here and-" I interrupted him by dropping my next bomb with a big smile at that.
     "Oh Sir, there is ... one more thing. I have a secret message from Duchess Candace Liao, for the ears of Hanse. A message of friendship." The Squinter's jaw dropped at that and he ran his hand through his ragged mop of hair in bemused amazement. So I just talked on, advising him of my meeting with Candace and his own rogue son earlier that day, while enjoying watching the conflicting emotions pass across his normally impassive mug.
     "Darius, again this is to be regarded as top secret." He breathed after I finally finished talking. "I will of course pass it on to the First Prince, but you are to say nothing of it to anyone else. Rest assured the Prince will know what you've done for him here over the last couple of days and nights." I relaxed at that, Blake's balls but it must have stung the Squinter to offer me praise after the ill turn I'd tried to do his pride and joy. He was about to go on when there came a knock at the deck door and a male voice called from outside;
     "It's Dan, dad." Dan Allard was a mercenary serving with the Kell Hounds, as you may be aware, and was one of that peculiar breed of clean limbed young Fed Suns paladins who seemed to find no moral qualms about fighting and killing for foreign nations in exchange for money. I didn't know him well, but what I had seen of him I'd not liked, he was another of Sortek's type and I wanted nothing to do with him. The Squinter darted a look to the door, then back at me, and gestured towards the hallway, whispering at me barely audibly;
     "Get into the bathroom, the next door along after the kitchen. It would raise questions for you to be seen by Dan here tonight." Which was an indication if you like of the importance Allard was placing upon the intelligence I'd brought him that night; he wasn't even prepared to risk his own son learning of it.
     Well anyway, I lightly dashed across the hall and through into the unlit bathroom, pulling the door half too behind me, leaving just a crack to peep through. I then settled down to listen in on Allard's conversation with his son, it felt kind of like playing hide and seek as a kid I recall, stood there in the dark with the sound of my own breathing in my ears.
     Initially Quintus and his son's voices were distant and barely audible, but as they walked back into the parlour I froze as I heard Dan Allard ask curiously;
     "I hope I didn't interrupt anything?" Christ what had given us away? I wondered in a surprising state of panic and looking back I'm not sure why I was scared exactly, I mean Dan Allard posed no threat to me after all. I think it was simply the instinctive fear of being discovered when you're hiding. Whatever, Quintus quickly replied;
     "Not at all, son. I had just poured myself a drink when you knocked." My drink! Damnit I'd left my tumbler on the table and clever young Dan clearly knew his dad's views of scotch! Quintus tried to cover further by offering Dan himself a drink, but the shrewd merc was having none of it, he chuckled lightly;
     "You know, you're a lousy liar."
     "Taken to calling your father a liar now, Danny? I guess it must be true that serving as a mercenary really does sap the moral fibre of a MechWarrior." Quintus's voice was playful and I relaxed a little as it became clear father and son were simply sparring with each other.
     "Touché dad. You know you don't have to finish it to convince me." Dan laughed back and Quintus breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief.
     "Thank God. Scotch is awful." It was at that moment there came a deuced heavy sounding scrape from above me, spinning I looked up at the ceiling, while back in the parlour I heard Quintus say something about racoons, presumably in explanation to a query from his son about what had caused the noise. Perhaps it was because I was nearer to the origin of the sound than the Allards, but I personally had no doubt that whatever had made that sound it was not a small Terran mammal. My blood froze, my knees began to knock together and my heart was pounding ... for I at least had realised that somebody was clambering along the roof of the Davion Intelligence Minister's bungalow and that surely couldn't be a good thing.
     Though not knowing precisely what was about to go down, I was immediately filled with an urgent desire to get the hell out of the place and span about searching for an exit. The bathroom was almost as spacious as the bungalow's parlour, with a sunken Jacuzzi bathtub, gleaming sink and toilet, and gold fittings and taps. There was a largish window opposite me and handily there was a sturdy wicker clothes basket propped directly under it, allowing me to dash over and jump up upon it.
     Meanwhile I could still hear Allard senior and junior chatting in the parlour, though I was no longer able to discern their exact words, as I was straining to hear any further scrapes or creaks from the roof above.
     Just as I was opening the window and preparing to pull myself up I froze, as there came a thudding crash from the parlour, the sound of scrambling feet in the hallway outside the bathroom door and the sudden rattling thunder of automatic weapons fire and breaking glass.
     I had no idea who was doing the shooting, and I didn't care, all I was concerned about was getting myself safely out and away, so I swore to myself in windy panic, then without a backwards glance to see how the Squinter and his son were faring I was up and through the bathroom window. I landed lightly in the darkness at the side of the bungalow, turned and began running quietly off, the sound of further gunfire coming again from within the bungalow.
     I didn't actually see the second assassin until I ran straight into him. He'd been advancing around the corner of the house I think and colliding with him at full pelt, I literally bowled him over and crashed down myself on top of him. I can still recall laying there looking down into his startled face to this day, our noses separated by bare centimetres; he was brown skinned, but had clear blue eyes, his cheeks bore the unmistakable marks of a divers mask and he stank of the sea. D'you know I think I started to blurt out an apology out of instinct at that moment, before we both sprang into action. He rolled me forcefully to the side and leapt into a crouch, struggling in his haste to bring the nasty little T&K submachine gun slung across his chest to bear upon me.
     Meanwhile I mewled in pure horror, as I realised if I ran he'd certainly gun me down, so squeezing my eyes shut I did the only thing I could. I jumped at him and grabbed the barrel of his weapon with my prosthetic left hand.
     It's a trick I'd hoped never to have to use, but in that split second I'd known it was that or death. The assassin's gun went off with a muffled flash as I wrenched at it, I was aware of an impact in my hand, but of course felt no pain beyond a numb ripple in my arm. Snarling I threw as savage a punch into his brown face with my right fist as I could and managed to wrestle the sub gun from him with my left, however he was no slouch and cursing bitterly in a language I didn't recognise he headbutted me, sending me reeling backwards, the gun flying from my damaged prosthetic hand into a thick stand of bushes.
     Thank Conrad I didn't actually fall, and I recovered quickly enough to see the wiry thin bastard quickly draw a long sash-like garrotte from his belt. His face assuming a terrifying look of grim determination as he sprang towards me, giving me all the motivation I needed to turn and sprint in the opposite direction, blubbing and weeping in fear.
      I pounded as fast as I could across the grass, hurdling a low hedge and dodging through a small copse of magnolia trees. I was moving with all the not inconsiderable speed I can muster when I have a murderous assassin hot on my trail and it was a testament to the athletic power of that damned killer that he caught me within a minute of my leaving Allard's bungalow.
     I didn't initially know what hit me, but suddenly it was as if I'd been caught about my neck in a great, utterly unbreakable grip. I was painfully pulled backwards and slammed down onto my back, I grunted in agony and the moonlit sky span above me through the branches of the magnolias. Stunned, I was rolled onto my stomach and suddenly there was a great weight bearing forcefully down upon my back, then with a fiercely violent jerk my head was yanked back and up. Time seemed to slow to a crawl and I realised the assassin was kneeling upon the small of my back, pulling upon his blasted garrotte around my throat; I knew without question I was about to die, as an unbearable pressure crushed immediately upon my windpipe with such force that I couldn't even scream, my vision instantly began to swim and my ears literally popped. All I could do was flap my hands ineffectually against the grass and rue the cruel fate that had led me to this pitiful end.
     A practised assassin of the type who was on my back that night can kill with his beastly weighted cloth-garrotte in a matter of seconds, so I would have to say this was amongst the times where I've been closest to shuffling off this proverbial coil; on a par perhaps with the occasion when Zakahashi was about to cave in the cockpit of my Enforcer in Colterville, or when Natasha Kerensky smashed through the wall of Anton's Cienfuegos fortress with Black Lady's particle cannons raised to fire, or when I was stung by a deadly poisonous Tortugan yellowstripe scorpion during Paula Trevaline's insane 'truth test', or when Lysidas's central fusion plant went up like a nuke thanks to my riddling it drunkenly with cannon fire ... Christ and Conrad but I've felt the breath of Death more times than anyone should, haven't I though.
     Well I've been saved by many things down the years; blind luck, the whims of libidinous wenches, my false reputation, bribery, blackmail, the timely arrival of allies, and even the rabid paranoia of my mother ... on this particular occasion, though I didn't know it at first, it was however to be by crazy religious superstition.
     "Ahh - Gon'ee'ate!" The bastard aboard of me had suddenly grabbed my left wrist, then grunted in what sounded to me, through the fog of pain and bone breaking pressure, like surprised annoyance. As soon as I heard the strange words, that ghastly noose was gone with a whip like motion from my neck, the weight of my attacker was suddenly no longer present and beautiful blessedly cool, magnolia scented, night air flooded somewhat painfully down my badly bruised throat. I rolled onto my side in time to see a shadowy figure scamper away through the trees and bushes in the direction of the beach.
     Well, I really needed to rest, but I had no idea what had caused the killer to spare me and run off, so there seemed every chance he might change his mind and come back. Not wanting to risk that awful possibility I forced myself to stagger to my feet and after quickly getting my bearings run on in the direction of the Liao quadruplex at Burkes Beach. I glanced down at my left hand and noted the little finger and a chunk of the palm had been shot away, and I could clearly see the delicate plasteel bones, the tiny wires, and even some leaking oil. The hand still moved and worked, but I would obviously have to see about getting it fixed.
     I wondered at the thought that the assassin had seemed to stop when he'd seen this damage. It was then that he'd grunted that strange word; 'Gon'ee'ate'. I wondered who the killers had been working for, my man had looked to possibly have been Hindi, and he'd definitely come in from the sea. The number of potential enemies who might have sent assassins to kill Quintus Allard were of course limitless, and it occured to me then, that for all I then knew Quintus Allard might have been dead.
     Baffled, bruised and sore, but very relieved to still be alive, I shrugged away my many questions, picked up my feet and began to jog for what I prayed would be safety. Unaware that my night was only going to get worse.
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 30 January 2011, 14:08:45

     It can only have been a few minutes run from Allard's bungalow to the Liao complex, but it seemed like it took hours, as I was forever jumping at shadows and imagining there were more assassins about to leap out at me from behind every tree and shrub along the way. However eventually the lights of the expansive quadruplex building appeared before me and I fumbled in my pocket for my little p-comp, terrified I might have lost or broken it during that awful chase. I breathed easier as I turned it on, sent a message to the Handmaiden and crouched just outside the edge of the lights, watching plain clothes Capellan security guards, presumably Maskirovka goons, patrolling the perimeter of the compound.
     After a couple of minutes a slender figure slid out from one of the side doors, she said something in a soft voice to the nearby couple of guards, who promptly hurried on and out of sight, then stood there in the shadows at the edge of the perimeter waiting.
     My heart began to slow a little and I rubbed gingerly at my throbbing throat. Well, I mused, if I could now finally get to grips with this stunner then perhaps it would all have been almost worth it ... which just goes to show the fever with which I was then suffering for this gal. Standing cautiously I jogged across the open grass to her; she was like a vision, svelte and lovely, with her thick black hair piled atop her head, a little blue silk minidress showing off her shapely pins a treat, and a hand raised in welcome to me.
     I was beyond waiting or decorum and grabbed her, pulled her to me and planted a deep kiss on her there and then, relishing the feel of her crushed against me, her mouth opening under mine hungrily for a long moment, she tasted like peaches and cream, she smelt of orange blossom and soft exciting spices. Finally she struggled back from me, her delicate little hands pushing me away.
     "So fast my handsome HuLi? Come inside first, out of the night." She was panting a little, then smiled wickedly at me and turned back into the quadruplex. So I swiftly followed after her, grabbing eagerly at her tight little rump.
     I hurried along fumbling at her rear-end and several times tried to pin her back into an embrace, as we progressed through what appeared to be servants quarters and back corridors. Thankfully we met no one along the way and eventually reached a solid seeming plasteel door, at which she pushed me lightly to one side and knocked three quick and one longer rap. The door quickly opened and another of Romano Liao's Handmaidens, a voluptuous coffee-brown skinned Venus dressed in a fetching red silk number, which entirely failed to contain a pair of bouncers that were like great proudly swaying blancmanges, waved us through with a long, unashamedly appraising stare at me and a giggle to La Elgin, before nodding her head to both of us, then leaving through the plasteel door and closing it behind her.
     I took a quick look around the room we were now in, it was as palatial as the rest of the quadruplex, with comfortable leather couches, a top flight tri-vid player, Chinese water colours on the walls and several doors leading off to other rooms of what was clearly a suite. I turned around and pulled my gal to me, loving the sensation of her body against mine again, and we munched away at each other once more. She only pulled her head back just a little from mine after what seemed a very long time, and I gazed into those huge exotic, almost golden-brown eyes as she breathed;
     "Ah, divine." With that she slipped out of my clutches and gestured to one of the doors behind us.
     "Go into the bedroom HuLi bao bay. I will bring us food and drink." She seemed a little sad suddenly and I grabbed at her again.
     "Bugger the food you gorgeous thing you, come here and I'll show you divine." She laughed and squealed then practically pushed me through the door into the bedroom beyond, laughing too I made to grab at her again and pull her in after me, only to suddenly realise Romano Liao herself was stood three feet to my right. I froze, my mouth hanging open in shocked horror, then fell into a ridiculous shaking bow and muttered some rot about being sorry to disturb her.
     Christ and Conrad, the silly bint had led us to her mistress's own bloody sleeping quarters! How idiotic was she? I wondered to myself in utter incomprehension and braced myself for the inevitable tirade the Harpy of Highspire was sure now to launch at us. 

* * *

     "Thankyou my servant. You may go now." Romano's voice was a soft whisper, as she addressed her Elgin Handmaiden, which startled me to say the least. I snapped my head up and for the first time studied Romano Liao up close.
     She was certainly deuced attractive, of that you may take my word, slender and shapely, with smooth pale skin, feline almond shaped green eyes, and a cascade of long flowing red-brown hair. That night she was wearing only a golden bed robe, with clung to her in damned distracting ways and revealed a healthy degree of perky cleavage. She was not, I quickly decided, quite as beautiful as her sister Candace, but I certainly wouldn't have kicked her out of my bed on a wet Wednesday afternoon.
     These days of course she probably deservedly has a worse reputation even than Stefan Amaris, her near twenty years of rule over the Capellan Confederation have seen horrors unknown even in that, much reduced, rogue state for hundreds of years. I myself saw the rotting bodies of important military and governmental officials impaled upon the Chancellery Palace fences, victims of one of her many purges in '30, during my second stint as a prisoner on Sian. Stories you will have heard and read about her towering megalomania, her murderous paranoia, her insane God-complex, her spiteful pettiness, all these are true to one degree or another. She is undoubtedly the worst tyrant alive in the Inner Sphere today. However you must remember, before I continue the story of that strange and potentially deadly night, that back in '28 she simply wasn't widely regarded as being that important and certainly wasn't anywhere near as infamous as she now is.
     She was the younger of Mad Max's two daughters, Lady of Highspire and the commander of the Capellan Reserve Cavalry. I'd heard a few bits and bobs by then that she was eccentric, to put it mildly, especially when it came to religion. Some of our yellow press enjoyed telling stretchers about her scandalous love life and string of lovers, though to be honest back then Candace was thought to outdo Romano in that department. I'd also heard that she had ordered a few atrocities against Marik prisoners, supposedly in revenge for a lover who died during a Marik raid. But really she was just thought to be Max's spoilt little gal, a pretty poor military officer and a typically debauched Liao royal daughter ... certainly she was not regarded as the demonic monster she's now typically thought to be.
     Still, she wasn't the kind of lady whose bedroom you wanted to be barging into uninvited, so my heart was going like a triphammer, my guts were dissolving into jelly and I was probably shaking like a drunk with a bad case of the deetees.
     The Elgin Handmaiden turned and quietly left, though I'm sure only after shooting me a final reluctant and sorrowful look, pulling the bedroom door shut upon Romano and I. Romano's bedroom was softly lit with scented candles, and dominated by a huge king sized bed. I stared in bemused confusion at the Lady of Highspire, as she glanced briefly at me, then gracefully walked across the room to a makeup table with a large triptych mirror set atop it.
    "You are a famous MechWarrior." She said to me in that almost seductively soft voice, watching me in the left of the three mirrors. I wasn't sure if she was asking me a question, or perhaps paying me a compliment, so I simply nodded mutely, while struggling to wonder where all this was heading.
     "And you are a cousin to your Prince, and of the royal Davion bloodline?" Again I nodded, but felt obliged to speak up;
     "Well I'm quite a way down the list ... err ... Your Ladyship." However, I couldn't resist puffing my own importance up a little. "Though I was almost First Prince once." She span at that, her eyes wide with interest, as well as a frightening little flash of anger.
     "You are jesting?" She hissed and I shook my head solemnly.
     "No. A group of Cabalist traitors wanted to use me as a figurehead First Prince, back when I was a younger man. I can't abide turncoats though and saw to it they were all put down like the dogs they were." Pretty macho and manly stuff eh? True too after a fashion, as you'll know if you've read my other secret memoirs. Anyway she seemed most interested, and sat on the edge her bed, across from where I was kneeling.
     "I too hate traitors. Like this man Xiang, you know him I believe?" She said and I nodded, then took great pleasure in telling her briefly how I'd been at the Sak with Justin, and how I'd famously bested him there. She seemed delighted and even clapped at that, so I relaxed a little. Well she seemed to be being deuced friendly and not at all the crazy bitch I had expected her to be. She then asked me something that thoroughly knocked me for six;
     "Do you have a wife?"
     Well that was pretty direct of her wasn't it? I was taken quite aback for a moment, but my natural instincts kicked in and I must say with some pride I didn't let her exalted rank and identity faze me. Well, you mustn't, for they're all the same y'know, gals I mean, they may or may not admit it, but whether farm girl, MechWarrior, or spoiled Capellan princess, they all like the attention of a handsome beau sabreur like my good self and can't resist a bluff, brave, soldierly type sweeping 'em off their feet.
     I was now sure the randy tart had taken quite the shine to me, which of course no one could blame her for, and had clearly had her tease of a Handmaiden bring me here so Romano herself could get a taste of some good honest Fed Suns beef and potatoes. So, feeling obliged to satisfy the Liao trollop for the sake of the honour and good name of my nation and fellow countrymen, I rose and stood over her, hesitating only a moment, before sitting down beside her and taking her cool, slender, hands in mine, looking her in the eyes and giving her a taste of my patented patter.
     "No, I always felt it would be cruel of me to marry and then have to leave my true love at home, while I was off fighting." Which was a line I'd used several times before by the way. Good eh? Well Romano just gazed at me, her face blank, then she laughed and laughed for what seemed like several long minutes. It was a little off putting, but suddenly she stopped, then promptly leaned in and kissed me on my mouth. Her tongue darting between my lips most pleasantly. Well, my mother would have had a heart attack if she could have seen me, and the night had certainly taken a turn that I hadn't been expecting, but what else could a gentleman do?
     I plunged in, as they say, with a gusto. Pulling her to me we engaged in some pretty passionate petting. I'd scored with a few women of high noble birth by then, and just like most of the rest of 'em Romano was no shrinking violet.   
     Anyway, after some time, she paused suddenly, her breath catching in a gasp, I realised she was running her delicately tapered fingers lightly over my damaged prosthetic hand as if in awe. Well I blithely assumed that perhaps the talk about technological shortages in the Confederation were on the nail after all and that presumably the Liaos didn't have access to top of the range replacement body parts like my false flipper. However I nearly jumped out of my skin when she breathed softly an incomprehensible, but all too familiar word;
     "Gon'ee'ate." It was that same gibberish word the assassin had said before releasing me and letting me live. I looked at her sharply and asked her what she meant by it, for a moment she paused as if weighing up what to say, then she shrugged causing her lustrous red-brown hair to shift with a ripple across the now somewhat dishevelled shoulders of her golden bed robe.
     "There are those who would kill you for knowing the meaning of that word. And kill whoever told you what it means, for breaking their codes of secrecy. However I am above such rules, for I am the Avatar and if I chose to speak who would dare stop me?" She looked at me as if expecting an answer, Conrad alone knew what she was babbling about, but I shrugged and decided to try to coax her a little, so I pushed her back onto the bed, slid my hands down to her trim butt cheeks and nuzzled her neck, while mumbling she was indeed 'a most lovely and avid tart'. Not exactly official Fed Suns diplomatic protocol when dealing with an important foreign dignitary I'll own, but as I say she took to it like a natural and while planting fluttering kisses upon my cheeks, she panted out to me;
     "The followers of the great goddess Kali, who are amongst the wisest of all people, call a man who has lost a hand 'goneeait'. It is known as a sign that the goddess has touched that man and he is under Her protection. They know therefore it would bring great bad luck to kill or harm a man who is goneeait."
     Well, it was all stuff to me and at the time I barely listened, beyond thinking what a bit of luck it had been firstly that I'd damaged my prosthetic grabbing the assassin's gun, thereby making it much noticeable than normal, and secondly that my attacker had clearly been a follower of whatever crackpot religion Romano was referring to.         
     However, my mind was then focused on other things, such as hurriedly jumping up off the huge bed, tearing my clothes off, throwing them down onto the floor, then diving back aboard with a sturdy 'tally-ho' and promptly stripping Romano down.
     Just as I was about to consummate our tryst, so to speak, we both froze for at that moment from beyond the bedroom came the most awful racket. Doors were slammed, a male voice was bellowing for Romano and loud footsteps thundered towards the closed bedroom door.
     Well I recognised that voice and so did Romano, naked and quaking then with raw panic I looked down at her under me on the bed and I think I even said aloud under my breath;
     "Oh bloody hell ... that's Justin Allard."
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 30 January 2011, 14:29:34

     From beyond the door, over the sound of dear old Justin's rapidly approaching footsteps and his shouting, there came the sound of Romano's trusty Maskirovka lackey and many times cuckolded lover Tsen Shang, whom I'd not even realised must have been elsewhere in the suite, trying to stop my old academy chum before he reached the bedroom door.
     As I'm sure you can imagine, I'm a pretty experienced hand at surviving the old coitus interruptus, well I've been barged in on while on the job by some true horrors in my time; for example Ran Felsner once caught me while I was banging Cordy Spencer six ways from Sunday in the Lexington Lumberjack's own bed at the Mount Barracks, Ol' Never Ran went bright red I recall and shook so hard with rage his monocle flew off. Sounds funny now don't it? Well at the time I was terrified for my life, for Felsner came after me with a Lexington felling axe that had been mounted on the bedroom wall and I did well to get away alive. Then there was the time I had been putting Vanessa Bisla over the jumps on a holomap table in the Fox's Den and the entire General Staff walked into the damned briefing room with Hanse at their head. I'd tried my best to make light of it and made some damn fool crack about how 'I'd been apprising her of AFFS deep penetration maneuvers' ... but Hanse had not seen the funny side I'm sorry to say and Vanessa's career was under quite a cloud for some time thereafter, while I ended up in unofficial exile for the best part of the following three years.
     Well anyway, on this occasion at least, I didn't hesitate, I sprang off Romano and the bed, spinning about gathering up my discarded clothes while looking around urgently for a handy window. Romano likewise was not dilly-dallying, she lithely rolled up and off her bed, and after a split second of consideration hissed at me to get under the bed. I'd actually reached the same conclusion an instant before; the footsteps were hammering faster then towards the door and there was no time to struggle with the narrow, high set windows, besides we were on the third floor I think. So I threw myself to the floor, just as Romano's bedroom door was smashed in by what must have been a shockingly powerful blow. As I dropped behind the other side of the large bed I absolutely saw splinters fly and the door banged loudly into the wall. Thank Christ there was just barely enough room under that giant bed for me and I scooted under it just in the nick of time. Romano I think was simply stood in front of her candlelit triptych mirror, stark naked and flushed from our rudely curtailed pleasures.
     I froze in pure terror, my God, but Justin had just kicked in the bedroom door of Max Liao's favourite daughter. What brazen confidence! Peering up at Romano's three reflections from my vantage point under the end of the bed, I was surprised to note though that the brave little trooper was affecting a deuced cool, aristocratic, air of aloof indifference and was positively glaring at the small but intensely threatening black figure I could just make out in the doorway. With a damned pretty little lift of her chin, her cat-like eyes hooded, she murmured in a voice dripping with contempt;
     "I assume Citizen Xiang, that you have a reason for this ... visit." I think at that moment I actually fell a little in love with the crazy, brave, slattern. Well anyone who could face down Xiang-Allard in a fury like she was trying to, whilst stood there as naked as a Canopian news-reader, was certainly a most unusual and singular person. Indeed I actually thought Justin might come over abashed, apologise for making a mess and quickly back out ... I certainly would have if Romano had been looking at me like that. Not Justin though ... never him.
     "Oh yes, Lady Romano, a most urgent reason." He positively growled with what appeared to be uncontrollable anger, then he shook his head and met her withering stare. "How could you have been so utterly stupid?"
     I had to stifle a gasp of shock, watching as Romano's eyes narrowed in what had to be murderous rage, however she then took me at least by surprise. For, rather than screaming insults and anger at Justin, she slowly brushed her glossy hair off of her shapely shoulder and teasingly turned to half face him. Doing my best to peer up at her from under her bed, I could just make out a coy smile spread over her pretty rosebud lips, then she absolutely gushed in that same delightfully soft and seductive tone she'd used on me just a few minutes before.
     "Am I not more desirable than Candace?" I nearly banged my head in further surprise at that, Good Christ! I thought in raw panic, surely the mad slut wasn't going to try to get Justin into her bed for a spot of Capellan callisthenics with yours truly quaking with fear underneath it? What would Justin do if he did the deed with Romano, then rolled over to spot my bare arse crawling out from under the mattress and making for the door? It didn't bear thinking about ... well I would hardly have been able to smile warmly and say 'Hallo Justin, old chap, fancy meeting you here.'!
     Once again, I wondered how in the Sphere I got into these kinds of spots. It can't be the sort of situation that happens to everyone after all. However thankfully Justin was clearly not the least bit in the mood for rumpy-pumpy;
     "Chur yu bun duh, this is no time for your games, jien hwo!" He barked, slipping into Capellan-Chinese in his anger, then there was a splintering cracking sound from the doorway, I struggled to see what was going on, unable to clearly make out Justin, however as I turned my head I saw his soft soled black shoes coming into the room as he continued verbally ripping into her;
     "Nee shr sagwa! Do you have any idea what you risked? Little matter if it worked ... which it didn't ... the advantages you sought were phantoms!" Registering that Justin must have been talking about the attempt on the Squinter's life and that it had failed, I suddenly saw Romano's feet dart to one side and there followed an enormous heart-stopping crash as something was thrown very hard into the triple mirror's centre panel, shattering it into a thousand shards. Romano however immediately snarled back at Justin, seeming far from scared of him, despite his clearly unstable temper of that moment;
     "How dare you call me an idiot, you halfling whelp! You lack the fortitude to carry out the actions that must be taken! Don't fault me for your lack of courage."
     Well that did it. Justin's feet sped forwards, and I caught a flash in the unbroken right hand side mirror of him lashing out viciously in a backhanded slap that smashed forcefully into Romano's cheek and sent her reeling away from him. She swayed and then fell bodily down across the bed with such force that the mattress knocked hard down upon my head and drove my chin into the carpet, causing me to bite my tongue painfully. As Justin's feet moved to the end of the bed  I swore silently at this staggering breach of respect for a member of the Liao royal family by a retainer. He was then stood so close to me that I actually had a mad moment when it crossed my mind that I could have reached out from under that bed only a short way and tied his shoelaces together.
     "Yes, Lady Romano. I dared strike you. How fitting it is for you to lie there naked before me, for you are a nothing more than a babe ... hardly as innocent maybe, but just as naive and just as unquestionably self centred." Well Justin had clearly come along since his cadet days at the Sak hadn't he though, I mused, before with a jerk of horror I noticed another shadow fall across the doorway and a familiar voice rapped out in angry query.
     "What is the meaning of this, Xiang?" My blood seemed to literally congeal in my veins as I instantly recognised the newcomer's deep, if somewhat perplexed sounding, silken voice as that of the Psycho of Sian himself; Mad Max Liao, the Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation. I nearly passed out in funk ... this was going from bad to worse; all I'd wanted was a spot of slap and tickle with Romano's maid, now I was trapped, starkers under Romano's own bed, while Romano equally in her nude was sprawled on top of it, and Justin Xiang Allard was smashing her and the place up ... and now ... now to cap it all Papa Max had arrived. I literally chewed at the carpet to stop myself from whimpering out loud.
     "The meaning of this Highness," Justin practically spat at Max, "is to teach your daughter a lesson in restraint. This half-wit arranged for an assassin to make an attempt on Quintus Allard, here, tonight not but an hour ago!" Justin's tone became even more mocking yet as he continued, "Yes, Romano, this little game of doing the things you believe your father would wish ordered has done more harm than good. You alone saw the wisdom of killing Davion's Intelligence Minister. Did you strike at him because he capitalised on your mistake of ordering the attack on Kittery last year, or did you have some other brilliant plan in mind?" I felt a shift in the weight on the bed above me and Romano answered in a somewhat more desperate tone.
     "Killing Quintus Allard would deal a crippling blow to the Federated Suns."
     "Yes, perhaps it would, but not here. Not now. Don't you see what you risked?" Justin asked her incredulously.
     "The risk was insignificant compared to the gain." Romano threw back at him and I heard Justin sigh.
     "But the loss, my Lady, the loss could yet mean the end of House Liao."
     "How? What loss?" She replied, clearly baffled. Justin snorted a laugh of disbelief.
     "ComStar guaranteed the safety of everyone here, Romano. They vowed no harm would come to any guest. Our security is in their hands."
     "They would never dare harm us." Romano spat back at him.
     "Maybe not," Justin replied in a growl. "But they would issue an edict against anyone violating their precious peace. Yes, my Lady, you have risked House Liao being placed under a total Interdiction!" There was a long pregnant pause as the three of them obviously considered the sheer ruin that a ComStar Interdiction would mean to their nation, then Justin spoke again.
     "Yes, Lady Romano, Hanse Davion could gobble up our worlds and we'd have no way to allocate reinforcements. Our agents, who use ComStar to send us confidential dispatches, could no longer communicate with us. If ComStar places us under Interdiction, the only thing we could do would be to make wagers on which House would capture Sian first." I glimpsed sight of Justin leaning in across the bed at that point and gripping Romano's face, before dropping his voice to a dangerously low pitch.
     "And one more thing, my Lady, something I never want you to forget. The man you tried to have killed tonight is my father. He may be a thorn in our side, but it is not yet time for him to die." Romano began trying to squirm away from Justin's obviously hard grip, the bed pressing my left cheek down into the carpet as I strained to hear Justin's threatening hiss of a voice.
     "I want to humiliate him as deeply as he humiliated me. I want him to know his efforts have been thwarted by the son he betrayed. When I think he's been frustrated, when I think he's been humiliated, when I think his spirit has been broken ... that will be the time for him to die ... not a second sooner." He shoved her back onto the bed and I was yet again ground into the carpet beneath it.
     "And when that time comes, I will kill him. He is my father. That is my right! Don't get in my way Romano." With that he just turned and stalked out, right past Max himself who was still stood presumably dumb with shock at the singular scene he'd just been witness too. Now I should state here that of course these days, twenty odd years after the truth about Justin's loyalties became public knowledge, there may be some among you who question whether Justin wasn't laying it on here just a little too thickly. That he came across as just a moustache twirling arch villain, and surely it was obvious he was faking ... well I was there, quaking under that bed, throughout the whole thing and speaking for myself, at the time I can honestly say I was terrified of him and was petrified of being discovered, for after hearing that speech I was sure if he'd known I was there he'd have killed me in an instant.
     I could hear Justin and Tsen in the next room, Justin was ordering Tsen to walk with him, Tsen seemed hesitant at first, so much so in fact I wondered whether he jealously suspected Romano of having someone hidden in her room and that he wanted to try to catch his unfaithful lover out, but eventually he relented and they both left. So then there we were, Romano naked and abused atop her bed, me nude and terrified under it, and Chancellor Max Liao just beginning to find his tongue in the doorway. I prayed he'd just turn and leave ... no such luck, he stepped in and barked at Romano.
     "Is this true daughter? Have you done this thing?" Romano began to sob at that, and I saw the gold trimmed bottom of Max's black silk robe come across to the bed and he sat down on the edge of it. I stifled another grunt of pain as my right side was pressed into the floor. "Who did you use daughter? One of your Maskirovka 'Handmaidens'? A member of the Setting Sun?"
     "My Phransigar." Romano said between sobs. Max cursed in Chinese.
     "Then there are more on the island? How many are there daughter? Don't tell me a Thuggee would ever work alone ... I think I am wiser than that." Romano whimpered, her voice shaking when she replied.
     "Three father. The lowest number that a Phransigar hit-team will work in. But the other two would flee back into the sea if one was killed and the target alerted and defended." So, my attacker had been one of the dreaded Thuggee then I realised with an involuntary shudder, I didn't know much about them back then, just that they were an ancient Terran death cult that had survived to expand into the stars along with the rest of mankind, and that they had been and remained as bad as some of the worst religious killers of history; up there for sheer insane murderous fanaticism with the Catholic Inquisition of medieval Spain, the Neo-Pagan racists of twentieth century Germany, or the suicidal Muslim Jihadists of the early twenty-first century.
     I've always held a particular personal dislike of people who kill for perceived religious reasons, in my opinion anyone who murders someone else because they think a supernatural deity wishes it is no better than a drooling imbecile madman who kills because 'the voices in his head made him', or his invisible friend asked him to. So the news that the lovely strumpet I'd been about to shag was clearly in command of such a group, and had admittedly unknowingly been behind the assassin who'd very nearly killed me that night, made me itch to put as much space between her and myself as quickly as possible. 
     "Father," Romano whined like a small girl. "Father I did it for you, everything I ever do is for your glory." Max stood and paced the room.
     "Enough child, I need to think. Get dressed and accompany me back to my suite. We must prepare for the worst." With that he turned to go, but just as he was walking out the door he suddenly stopped and turned. For some reason I froze yet again in fear, I wasn't sure why, it just felt like he'd seen something, that I might be about to be caught.
     "Daughter, Major Sung reported to me that a man was seen by one of my Death Commandos positioned on the roof being admitted by one of your Handmaidens into this building. Who was this man?" Oh mother, I bit my tongue to keep from moaning out loud in horror, would Romano reveal my presence? There was a seemingly endless pause, then Romano absolutely blurted it out;
     "A Davion officer father. Seduced by my Elgin Handmaiden, at my instruction." Max grunted and spoke again softly, his voice dangerous.
     "And where is this Davion officer now daughter?" My fingers dug into the carpet and I desperately struggled to come up with a plausible excuse for my being naked under his daughter's bed, to use if Max suddenly was tipped off to my being there. Thankfully Romano saved me, though she seemed unhappy about it judging by the tone of her voice;
     "Being entertained by my Handmaiden as we speak I would imagine. Bowhani Ali has predicted this officer, Darius Davion, a cousin by blood to the Fox himself, is destined in the future to save the Confederation father. I did not understand how this could be, so ordered him to be studied by my maid." Max tutted at that.
     "You place too much faith in your pet Prophet daughter. The future and continued prosperity of our nation is to be found in my plans, not the delusions of a fakir or the whims of fate, and certainly not in a Davion who I have it on good authority is the basest of cowards, a drunk, a womaniser and a worse trickster even than most of his corrupt bloodline. You will ensure your maid makes no further moves towards this Davion, do you understand?" There was no answer, but I assume Romano nodded as Max turned and left. Well, I must say my fear rapidly transmuted then into affronted rage at Max's annoyingly accurate description of me, so accurate in fact had it been I fairly burned with curiosity to know who he or his spies had been talking to.
     Once I was sure we weren't going to be walked in on again, I dragged myself out from under the bed and dressed possibly quicker than I ever have in my life before that moment. Meanwhile Romano simply lay there on the bed, her face throbbing red from the savage blow Justin had dealt her, weeping and watching me through her tears.
     "So, ah, listen old girl. I can see this is a bad time. Perhaps you could summon your maid and I'll get out of your hair." Thankfully she didn't argue, perhaps as keen to see me gone as I was, and merely leaned over and pressed a button on her bedside table. Within what seemed like seconds the Elgin Handmaiden was into the bedroom, her eyes wide with amazement at the scene, bearing in mind Max had mentioned Romano's maids were also Maskirovka members I was more than a little concerned she might think I'd attacked Romano. I needn't have worried however as Romano spoke up in a soft voice.
     "See this one safely away, my servant." Then as I was moving for the door the Lady of Highspire called out to me; "What I told my father was true Davion. You are destined to save the Confederation, Bowhani Ali's predictions are never wrong. He told me you and I will save my nation together in future years."
     I looked down at her pityingly, I always find superstition absurd and a poor substitute for reason. In this case particularly so, why or how in Terra or the Sphere would I save the Capellan state? The idea was patently ridiculous, but I knew well enough not tell her that of course.
     "Well, uhh, whatever you say My Lady. Good night and let's keep this whole business to ourselves eh?"
     She rolled over so she was facing away from me and the Handmaiden and I took that as a clear gesture of dismissal, so we left. I was so keen to get out of there and back to the relative safety of my chalet I didn't even make any further plays for my gal as she led us out the way we'd come in. As we reached the door to the perimeter she stopped me though and quickly drew me to her, kissing me lightly upon my lips.
     "I wanted you my HuLi, but I must obey my mistress when she demands. But please remember that and know it. Perhaps the fates may give us our own time one day?" With that she kissed me again and then pushed me out, motioning at several shadowy guards to make way and let me go. I scarpered into the dark and didn't stop until once again I smashed quivering and blubbing with relief back into my chalet.
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 30 January 2011, 14:49:08
20th August 3028

     "Good afternoon Chancellor...Lady Romano." I gave a polite little nod of my head to Max Liao and Romano, as they reached the top of the steps and the huge oaken cathedral doors. The warm midday air was filled with the peeling of the Cathedral bells and the chatter of the gathered throng, but Max clearly heard me, narrowing his eyes, and taking me in with a frighteningly cold stare, while his daughter affected complete indifference to my existence. Neither of them replied to my salutation, so I decided to give them a little pepper, whilst doing the job I was meant to be about.
     "As an usher at this most happy occasion, it would be my distinct ... pleasure, to lead you both to a seat. However, I'll need to know whether I should consider you friends of the bride ... or the groom?" I couldn't resist allowing the merest trace of a mocking grin to show on my face and in my tone, and Max visibly bristled, indeed he seemed about to explode, so feeling relatively safe at the entrance to Hilton Head's incongruous Catholic Cathedral which was that day after all surrounded by thousands, I resolved to strike a blow back at Mad Max for the base slurs he'd attached to my name the previous night. 
     "I'm going to have to hurry you I'm afraid." I said, then dropped my voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "You never know, depending upon which side of the Cathedral you choose might ultimately decide which nation's troops will get to occupy Sian. Which would you prefer, the Fed Suns or the Lyran Commonwealth?" He blinked, but there were guests beginning to cluster behind them, so he simply fixed me with his blazing eyes and said in a deep, dangerously silken voice;
     "Then my daughter and I shall be seated as friends of the Bride." However, as I turned to lead them in, he too breathed a whisper back at me. "As, in the unlikely event what you say should come to pass, the loathsome stench of Lyran corruption would still be easier to cleanse from Sian than the rancid aroma of the decadence and dishonour of your kind."
     "Charming, and we're in a church too." I chuckled softly, enjoying his simmering fury as we strolled up the central aisle of the great vaulted Cathedral, past towering pillars of gleaming white Terran marble, and rows and rows of pews, which were then filling with the cream of the guests. The Cathedral was lit with a rainbow of colours, as sunlight poured both from ahead of us through the great rose window behind the altar, as well as from a vast stained glass mural above the aisle itself, depicting what appeared to be various Biblical scenes. As we were about half way along the aisle the cathedral bells stopped and somewhere an organist began belting out a sturdy rendition of the old hymn Glory to Thee, O Lord.
     I very deliberately stopped roughly three quarters of the way down the central aisle and gestured, with exaggerated manners and a broad grin, for Max and Romano to slide in next to Sizeable Ceasar Steiner and a clique of LCAF Social Generals. Caesar fairly leapt to his feet and cried at me in an offended sounding voice that he didn't cotton to having to sit next to the Liaos, I shot him a quick grin and wagged my finger, then hurried off leaving them to it.
     Falling in step with Ardan Sortek, who'd just been escorting several Marik guests to the Davion side and was now hurrying back towards the doors to fetch in more guests, I realised at that moment we two must have looked the very image of Fed Suns military nobility. Both, theoretically at least, fine figures of fighting men, done up to the nines in full blue and golds, and veritably dripping with medals. As were the other four ushers, who I could see at various points along the spacious aisle. Sortek grinned at me excitedly and patted my shoulder in an annoyingly companionable manner.
     "What a day, eh Darius? I sometimes thought we'd never get here, but now it's upon us it seems like it was fated." Oh Christ I thought to myself, Sortek was at his absolute worst when he started to get philosophical, so I affected a casual grin and tried to make a joke.
     "Aye, right enough old chap, and I certainly never thought I'd be showing Max Liao to a seat, unless it was to an electric chair of course!" Sortek allowed himself a guilty grin at that, then assumed his usual pompously pensive attitude.
     "Now, now Darius old fellow, we're ambassador's for Hanse and the Suns here, we must keep up a properly diplomatic appearance." By this point we were at the door where I noticed Justin Allard and Candace, stood waiting, Sortek stepped forward to greet them, so I stood to the other side and come face to face with none other than Takashi Kurita and his tiny little doll of a wife.
     Now, despite having spent more than half my career desperately trying not to be killed by terrible Takashi's minions, I only ever met him to speak to this one time. He was wearing his headwaiters outfit again, that is formal black and grey pinstripe tail jacket and trousers, white dress shirt, black bow tie, shining shoes, and even white gloves. It struck me that while not a tall man, he possessed a formidable physical presence, a sense of tautly controlled power hidden within his wiry muscled frame. His somewhat scarred and lined face was immobile, Oriental of feature, with a strong jaw, black eyebrows, and frightening eyes of the most arresting steel blue.
     He fixed me with a long appraising stare, while I stammered out my welcome, suddenly terrified at finally being stood before this monster. The man who throughout my entire life I'd been raised to dread and hate in equal measure. The mass murdering tyrant whose secret police had killed tens of thousands of his own people over the previous thirty odd years, and whose armies had slaughtered millions of Fed Suns citizens. Oh don't you believe these cultural relativists who would hoodwink you with their stories about noble Samurai duelling one on one with our side ... Takashi's armies had slaughtered countless numbers during his reign as Coordinator, why his bloody handed attempt to hold onto Galtor III in 3022 alone cost over ten million civilian lives. Don't believe me, check your history books, it's there in black and white, and I saw the fields of bones and the emptied cities three years later during the Muffett debacle of '25. Put simply he was The Dragon. A beast who devoured people, consumed them in fire, spilled their blood by the gallon, and doubtless all without a flicker of emotion in his unflinching gaze.
     So then, there I was welcoming this megalomaniac psychopath into my cousin's wedding as if he were a slightly eccentric friend of the family. At the time I must admit I was, to put it mildly, a little thrown off my stride.
     "My wife and I will sit with the friends of the groom." Takashi said calmly to me and I nodded promptly and deciding not to risk taking the arm of Mrs Kurita, lest Takashi took offence, I led them along the central aisle. It was a deuced uncomfortable moment I can assure you, many of the guests who were already seated turned curiously to watch me lead the Coordinator of the Draconis Combine and his wife to their seats, and fool that I was I tried to make quiet conversation as we walked, in a vain attempt to ease the tension somewhat.
     "I must say it's quite something to finally meet you Sir." To which the Snake swine glanced at me.
     "... Quite something?" He asked, an eyebrow raised in query.
     "Well yes, that is to say ... ahh ... quite the ... ahh ... oh listen if you wouldn't mind, could I request a favour of you? If you wouldn't mind most awfully?" I had been babbling, but as we walked up that dazzlingly lit aisle it had struck me that I might both change the subject and pay back an old enemy here. Takashi seemed so surprised about what I had suddenly said he absolutely stopped, as it happens almost directly on a line with Janos Marik and his close family, who were sat on the Steiner side if you can believe that. Janos glared at me, then quickly turned away to talk to his brown skinned strumpet.
     "A favour?" Takashi repeated incredulously. I nodded amiably, and motioned for him to keep walking, as people were staring all the more at us and I noticed the Squinter scowling over at me from the groom's side.
     "Yes, if you would. Well it's like this y'see, I'm owed quite a large sum of money by Grievous Grieg Samsonov, one of your Warlords. In exchange for some cross-border trade he and I were involved in. Now, I don't expect to be seeing him soon and wondered whether I might ask you to remind him of the fact, and perhaps if you could see your way to persuading him to honour his debts ... ?" Takashi had gone as white as a sheet as I'd been rattling on, as I stopped we'd reached seats behind some blue rinsed Fed Suns matrons, which seemed just the place to drop off the Lout from Luthien. Turning from the pews Takashi fixed me with a withering stare and murmured in a low voice.
     "I am afraid the next time I plan to see Warlord Samsonov I feel certain he will not be in a position to pay this debt you say he owes you Major." There was no mistaking the bitter venom in Takashi's voice and I felt satisfied that Grieg was clearly going to finally get his, the cheating bastard. However Takashi wasn't finished.
     "I have heard you were seen fighting with Wolf's Dragoons on Misery Major. I therefore feel it only correct to warn you that your name has been added to the lists of known 'mercenary bandits' which all my field commanders keep. If you should fall again into the ... care of my DCMS then I am afraid you will face the same fate your friend Wolf and his comrades will meet." With that the vicious Snake sod sat with his wife, faced forward and ignoring me.
     Well it shook me up a little I'll own, I'd been captured by the DCMS several times by then, and besides had served time in a Combine prison, been sold as a Draconis state slave, and had even seen service as a lowly foot soldier in the Arm of the Dragon, so the possibility of falling into the Dragon's claws some time in the future seemed distinctly possible to me. Mind you Takashi's open threat was not really that shocking when I thought about it, the Dictum Honorium ordered Snake commanders to murder prisoners of war most of the time anyway.
     Still, it didn't do to poke a dangerous man like Takashi in the eye too much, so I hurried off back in the direction of the Cathedral doors, taking time out to lean over in Janos's direction as I passed him and hiss;
     "Hey wake up old fella, they're due to start in a moment." Janos gave a little jump and cursed me under his breath, causing a few of the other guests in his area to stare, by which time I was well away, grinning to myself and feeling a little better.
     Sortek was just escorting Archon Katrina in as I reached the door, she smiled at me as they passed and I couldn't resist giving her a quick wink in reply. My grin died on my lips however as I stopped short before an old enemy; His Grace, Field Marshal Michael Hasek-Davion, Duke of New Syrtis and Minister of the Capellan March. Dressed in a green suit with black tie and cuffs, his long raven hair looped across his breast, he did his best to look down his nose at me, despite my having nearly a head's height upon him, his mouth was down-turned and his brow wrinkled as if he caught a whiff of something unpleasant. His wife, my aunt, the pretty but in my experience bubble-brained Duchess Marie Davion, stood as ever in his shadow, silent and smiling vacantly. 
     "Good afternoon and welcome Sir, Duchess Marie. " I bowed smartly, guessing this occasion must have been at least as galling to him as it would be for Hanse's foreign foes. Michael and I had crossed paths several times by then, as far back as '13, when I'd first met him shortly before Hanse's coronation. I'd nearly killed him on La Blanc four years before the wedding and he was not the type to forgive and forget.
     "Good afternoon Darius. So Hanse invited you, after all ... I had heard he wasn't going to?" His trademark deep and powerful voice was liberally laced with sardonic humour, though as ever his frozen expression and glassy eyes gave nothing away. I remembered why I hated this power mad sod and resolved to do him some wrong if I could. However, stood in the cathedral doorway I just smiled and nodded.
     "Well, I was somewhat held up by the DCMS on Misery, but it'd take all the 'Mechs in the Combine to make me miss Hanse's wedding." Michael stared through me for a long moment, then flicked an imperious gesture of his right hand.
     "We are friends of the groom ... today." He said and I raised an eyebrow deliberately as if in surprise, then made a point of taking Marie's arm and bantering with her along the aisle, playing my act of the chivalric boy scout. I noted that Michael was scanning each aisle as we passed, clearly missing nothing and no one. He walked with his head up, his dark eyes lidded, with an arrogant sneer of self importance plastered across his face. Damn but I itched to take him down a peg or two.
     Due to his wife's connection to Hanse, she being his half sister, I had to take them right up to the front row, where on the other side of the aisle Sortek was seating Katrina. I knew we were probably being watched by most of the congregation, and I was suddenly struck by a wicked idea ... it came to me in a flash. It would be risky, but I quickly decided it would be worth it to get one back at Michael.
     I helped Duchess Marie down, so that she was seated, then turned as if to allow Michael past so he could sit down next to her, being very careful to keep myself partially screened by the pew in front of me, I stuck my foot out at the last second. Michael walked right into it, tripping as I'd intended and half falling onto his wife, his hands flying out instinctively to stop himself and landing right upon her breasts. A ripple of laughter burst from the pews directly surrounding the front of the church and I made great show of trying to 'catch' Michael, while he struggled and swore at me under his breath ... his usual mask changed deliciously into a vision of humiliated fury, his emotions plain to see for once.
     "Oh I say, watch your step sir." I said loudly. "There's a deuced tricky raised stone there. Not your fault."
     Michael cursed under his breath, then snarled at me in a harsh whisper. "Get off of me you dog." To which I beamed and again in a raised voice that fairly echoed in the vaulted space of the cathedral, even under the loud organ music;
     "No thanks necessary sir ... it's why I'm here." Then I turned and marched away, aware of admiring glances from both sides of the church. Sortek gave me a subtle nod to our seats as I passed him, and I realised the first part of our job was done. So I dutifully filed behind him and the other ushers to our places further up the first row of pews on the groom's side.
     I sat next to Sortek, who whispered to me something about Michael having made an ass of himself to me with a grin, which I returned then craned around to be rewarded with a glimpse of Justin Allard across the aisle staring right at me. He had a strangely wistful look upon his half-breed face, and it struck me the little runt was envious of us, sat there all handsome and smartly togged up in blue and golds like toy soldiers as we were, so I gave him my best evil grin and he looked away sharply.

* * *

     At that very moment the organ music changed to the wedding march and I realised Hanse and his best man Morgan Hasek-Davion, both wearing the blue and silver full dress of the Grinners, were already stood about a third of the way down the aisle. Two little girls walked in through the huge main doors, scattering rose petals as they walked, then behind them came six of the prettiest bridesmaids you could ever wish to see. Dressed in identical figure hugging deep green gowns and carrying bouquets of flowers of the same hue, they were all absolute peaches, each as tall, slender, and beautiful as the next.
     "I'd luck to get stuck into plucking some of those flowers." I muttered to myself, positively slathering to get at 'em ... well, bear in mind that despite my best efforts over the past three days and nights I'd still not successfully broken my drout. Sortek glanced sharply at me with a reproving and offended glare, so I affected a blankly innocent expression and he looked away.
     By that point Morgan, as best man, was taking the arm of Melissa's maid of honour, that awful brown-nosing little moral-miss Misha Auburn. While I ogled the bridesmaids as they took seats along from the Archon, Morgan led Walruss-Face Auburn's pious cretin of a daughter up to the altar, where they both knelt to genuflect like the good little God-botherers they both are. Then they assumed positions stood next to the Cardinals of New Avalon and Tharkad respectively behind the altar.
     An excited murmur then ran through the congregation and I turned to watch my old pal Morgan Kell, wearing smart civies for a change and with his long slightly greying black hair pulled back into a ponytail, leading Melissa up the aisle. I suppose Melissa looked pretty enough, she was certainly a spanking looking piece of crackling back then, and remains so even to this day it must be said, but personally I've never liked the woman. I've always found her annoying, pompous, winsome, all too often dreadfully naive, and as moralistic as a Backwater Bible-thumper, from the very first time I met her, when as a precocious seven year old she spilled my drink and then declared that it had been my fault for bumping into her if you please, right up until more recent times. Such as the occasion she nearly had me up on court martial charges and ruined my comfortable little reign as Governor of Wei, or when her conspiracy with my mother to see me wed led to my horrific Tortugan adventure.
     Anyway, after first giving Melissa a paternal looking hug, Kell shook Hanse's hand, then placed my cousin's paw on Melissa's arm, before scurrying over to sit next to the clearly proud and maternal Archon. Meanwhile Hanse and Melissa slowly walked up to the altar, as the wedding march drew to it's close and the couple faced their future together.
     I won't go further into the long, drawn out tedium of the wedding ceremony itself, you can find that if you want in the accounts of other guests, who clearly paid more attention than I did and didn't spend most of the service staring across at the bridesmaids and drooling. However I do recall, as clear as if it were just yesterday, that after what seemed like hours of sermons, hymns and formal vows, Morgan Hasek-Davion turned to us all, his face positively glowing with happiness and pointed at Hanse and his new wife, then in a echoing stentorian parade ground roar proclaimed;
     "It is my great honour and distinct pleasure to introduce to you Prince Hanse Davion of the Federated Suns and his wife, Princess Melissa Arthur Steiner-Davion!"
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 30 January 2011, 15:03:00
    The grand reception following the wedding ceremony itself was held in the same ball room as the welcoming party three days before. However five very long tables now enclosed the room, each of which was allocated to the most important guests from one of the five great noble Houses. The head table was set upon a raised dais at the far end of the hall, while directly opposite was House Liao's table, with House Marik to their right, House Kurita to their left, and House Steiner opposite Marik. In the large space between these five great tables were dozens of smaller tables wherein the lower ranking guests were mixed together.
     It was part of the job of the ushers to escort around the champagne waiters to the more important guests before the meal was due to start, and it was just my luck that I got lumbered with the Capellan table. Max thankfully seemed quite happy however for me to keep my distance as he sat down and accepted a flute of Dom Perignon from one of the white robed ComStar waiters.
     It happened therefore that I was stood further down the table as Candace and Justin made their way in, Candace beamed a charming smile at me, she was looking damned tasty at the time in a shoulder-less blue silk gown and it was all I could to do not to blatantly leer hungrily at her barely concealed bouncers.
     "Oh Major it's lovely to see you again. You must send our congratulations to the happy couple." She gushed, while Justin favoured me with a glare and a surly nod. "I saw you in the guard of honour Major, outside the Cathedral." Candace went on, standing before me while Justin drew a chair out from the table for her, she then took her seat, but sat half turned so she could address both myself and her dangerous bloody beau.
     "However Major I'm a little unclear about this tradition you were part of, where Hanse and Melissa walked under those raised swords. Is this a normal custom for your people?" I shook my head, pleased to play the knowledgeable knight.
     "No indeed Your Grace, only at the more down market academies." Candace raised her eyebrows, but at that Justin butted in, probably hating me having the undivided attention of his bit of stuff.
     "Y'see walking beneath the crossed swords is an old tradition among those who have graduated from some of the Fed Suns military academies. Almost all the groomsmen had graduated from Albion, as had the Prince." Then too my surprise he glanced up at me with a sly smile. "I imagine ComStar was nervous about those ceremonial swords. They collected them rather quickly after the bride and groom had passed under."
     I nodded at that, then noticed that nasty little Maskirovka tick Tsen Shang leaning around Candace, from where he was sat next to Romano further down the table.
     "What are you talking about?" Tsen asked me harshly in a suspicious tone, glaring daggers at me which made me worry he'd got wind that I'd been paying court to his girlfriend the night before. Thankfully Candace quickly jumped in, waving her hands soothingly.
     "You recall, as the newlyweds left the church, how the groomsmen performed that little ceremony with the swords. Each of the three pairs lowered the swords to bar passage until the groom kissed his bride. The pair would then raise the swords, and the couple would pass on." She then turned back to Justin and I, both stood then behind her chair. "What I really wanted to know is why Ardan Sortek, being the last man on the bride's side, slapped her posterior, albeit lightly, with his sword as she went past?"
     For once Justin allowed an easy smile to crack his mush and beat me to the punchline; "That's to ensure many children, or so the superstition goes."
     Candace assumed a saucy expression, her eyes gleamed with mischief and she raised an eyebrow artfully. "And do the graduates of the Sakhara Academy subscribe to the same superstition?" She asked us both playfully. Justin glanced at me with a black look, perhaps thinking back to that night when we'd nearly fought over that tart Sarah Nealson. Deciding to trump Justin one more time I quickly answered Candace's question with a playful grin;
     "Most of those of us at Sakhara were smart enough to figure out where children came from," I enjoyed Justin's stung expression as I went on in a loud voice. "And we had other ideas about how to be sure there'd be plenty of them." Candace gave a little giggle, Justin pushed past me and sat, and I was jolted from my fun by the sudden sound of Mad Max's raised voice.
    "Let us hope no one from Sakhara advises Prince Davion about having many children." He paused for effect while staring directly at me. "The last thing the Successor States need is a plague of Davion's hungry for conquest." Well a nod is as good as a wink from that quarter and I beat a hasty retreat, bowing to Candace and hurrying off round the great roughly hexagonal ring of the five main outer tables which surrounded the veritable sea of smaller tables reserved for less important guests.
     My seat was right at the left hand end of the main Davion table up on the raised dais, next to my bloody mother to my intense annoyance. I took my seat with a sigh, ready for the inevitable nagging.
     "Did I just see you talking to that dreadful traitor Justin Xiang?" Mother snapped at me under her breath, whilst maintaining a rictus grin as she raised her glass to a couple of grandees across on one of the middle tables.
     "That's my job here ma'ma. I'm one of the ushers. What did you expect me to do, throw a drink in his face and challenge him to a fracking duel for the good of the nation?" I responded angrily, but she wasn't having it.
     "You could have politely shown him your contempt. And don't swear at me." She went on in this theme for some minutes during which time I tuned out and gazed longingly over at the Elgin Handmaiden, who I had spotted sat with Romano's other maids just in front of the Liao great table.
     Now, any historians or antique dealers amongst you will probably know that each guest at the wedding reception was provided with specially made dishes and plates, which they were allowed to retain as souvenirs. My mother saved ours and they usually now hang in the kitchen here at Killarney Manor, however I have mine in front of me here now as I write.
     They are fine bone china, rimmed with real gold, and inscribed again in gold with the date of the wedding, Hanse and Melissa's full names, and my starter plate has a familiar crown and shield crest upon it ... that of Mallory's World. I remember clearing away the pretty limp salad I'd been served and assuming it was simply a nod to my famous heroics on that pestilential border world. My main course was roast beef in a red wine sauce, it was again nothing to write home about, and I once more pondered the mystery of why the richest organisation in known space seemed incapable of cooking decently for a few hundred people.
     Anyway, once I'd half heartedly cleared my plate of food I found myself looking down at the crest and legend of the Capellan planet Tikonov. At the time I couldn't imagine why I'd received a plate with that particular world upon it ... now of course I know it was because that bastard Hanse had plans to involve me most deeply in the coming invasion of that planet.
* * *

     Two robed ComStar Acolytes wheeled a massive four-tiered wedding cake up before our main table, and somewhat bored by this point I watched idly as Hanse assisted his teenage bride down the steps of the dais. Huthrin Vandel, Precentor New Avalon, had followed the cake and with great solemnity handed Hanse one of the ceremonial swords we groomsmen had used earlier that afternoon. Grasping the sword hilt together, the happy couple cut the first two slices from the cake, to a ripple of applause from the crowd.
     "Oh isn't she lovely?" Ma'ma whispered to me.
     "Yes, poor thing, what a terrible fate being married off to an ageing politician like dear old cuz there." I grunted back, venting my spleen as they say. Mother went white and absolutely stabbed me in my thigh with a fork.
     "If you can't be civil, at least remain silent. I won't have you showing us up here before all these dreadful foreigners." She then hissed at me as a dour faced toaster worshipper handed us both slices of the cake, it was a sponge with marzipan icing by the way. I noticed no one else was touching theirs, waiting as they all were for the man and woman of the hour.
     "Husband," I strained to hear Melissa's voice from further along the table, but couldn't actually see her or Hanse clearly from where I was sat. "In honour of our marriage, in addition to this cake, I give to you a regiment of BattleMechs and the means to support them in perpetuity."
     Hanse then responded in a calm, clear voice. "I thank you for the gift, beloved." 'Beloved' indeed, I sneered to myself, why the duplicitous sod barely knew her at that point!
     "Wife, in honour of our marriage, in addition to this morsel, I give you a vast prize." Everyone sat up straighter at that moment I can assure you, a sudden expectant energy seemed to crackle through the ball room, even I found myself holding my breath and felt goose bumps raise on my arms in a sudden instinctive nervous fear. I didn't know what Hanse was about to say or do, but I assure you I knew it was going to be momentous and bad news for yours truly.
     "Here my love, I give you the Capellan Confederation!"
     A complete stunned silence fell across the huge room, somewhere a piece of cutlery dropped onto a plate with a ringing clatter, breath caught in throats, a chair scraped and some scoundrel let slip a startled; "Jesus and Jerome!" At the top of his voice. Well okay that last was myself, and it's a sign of my mother's surprise that she didn't even seem to notice me swear.
     It seemed unreal at the time, time seemed to slow for me, a sensation I've sometimes experienced in battle or times of real immediate danger. I remember watching old Janos Marik across the room half stand, turn and look down to his tasty squeeze of the time and saw his face turn as purple as the trim on his uniform, when he found her blatantly leering up at Happy Hanse. On the other side of the Liao table Takashi just sat there open mouthed in what appeared to be total baffled shock. However it was good old Mad Max who broke the spell.
     The silly slant suddenly shot upright from his seat at the centre of the Liao table, made a bizarre croaking sound which carried across the stunned room, somewhat like an angry frog, then grabbed at the plates nearest to himself, clutching them to his chest and spilling cold gravy down his formal gown in the process.
     "Quick wife, Romano, Candace, gather all the plates." He bellowed in a frantic manner. "They show the worlds he means to conquer!"
     Now, as you will all probably know, it's at this point all hell broke loose, however I can assure you with some pride that I was the person who actually started the great Wedding Foodfight, or the Battle of the Wedding Reception as it's sometimes called. I've heard some claim it was Morgan Hasek-Davion, or even Sortek, who set it off. Some even claim it was in fact a Marik officer who did the deed. Well I can assure you that's all rubbish, it was me.
     I don't know what came over me, perhaps my dazed state was to blame, but I started to laugh at the ridiculous scene Max was creating and suddenly I was a young cadet sensing mischief and right back in the dining hall of the Old Sak. I couldn't resist it, the malicious glee coursed through me, I siezed my slice of cake and with a beautifully aimed lob sent it sailing through the air.
     I can still see it arcing above the guests, then almost gracefully plummeting down towards my target. It hit Max slap in the forehead and broke across his face, crumbs sticking to his hair and beard, he reeled and bellowed incoherently, and for just a second I was terrified I might have misjudged things.
     I needn't have worried, our chaps were roaring with laughter at Max and the Capellans were already beginning to rally to their leader and starting to return fire so to speak. I ducked as a lump of cheese whizzed by my head and as ma'ma hurried back from the front lines to join a huddle of civies sheltering at the back of the room, I joined some of the chaps in cheering;
     "Eat this you Crappies!" We were soon throwing every bit of food we could lay our hands to, even Hanse and Sortek were laughing out loud, while launching great clumps of the wedding cake across at the chaos that had engulfed the Liaos. At one point ComStar Acolytes weathered a storm of missiles as they tried to reach the cake in order to wheel it away from us, but Morgan Hasek-Davion organised such a fierce volley upon them, they eventually turned and fled. Across the central area, where tables and chairs had been upending, Kuritan and Liao guests grappled with Steiner and Davion guests for plates, or just in happily savage fist fights. While Marik guests seemed to be chucking their food at anyone and everyone, even sometimes each other. Notably that big lug Hill, his cream, pink and lemon uniform liberally splattered with food, had an Andurien nobleman, wearing a splendid white and buff uniform, by the neck and was shaking the poor chap to within an inch of his life.
     It was just as I was launching more cake down aimed at Hill that I felt a tug on my trouser leg and startled looked down to see a delicate feminine hand reaching out from beneath the table. Startled at first, with a jolt of excitement realised who it had to be under the table, and after darting a quick glance around to make sure no one was taking any notice of me in the general anarchy, I ducked down, lifted the heavy floor length table cloth and slid under the table as quickly as I could.
     It was dark under there but I could easily make out the Elgin Handmaiden's gorgeous features, the scent her intoxicating aroma, as she drew me to her, I started to say something but she was suddenly in my arms and we were kissing. The din of the Battle of the Wedding Reception faded then for me and let's just say that for the next ten minutes or so Romano's Elgin Handmaiden and I buckled too with a passion that doubtless made the cutlery on that huge table rattle and chink. Looking back it was one of the most surreal encounters of my life, plunging away there amidst the chair legs, concealed only by the heavy table cloth, while just a few metres from us the great and the good of the entire Inner Sphere hurled food at each other, waged bloody fist fights, wrestled over dishes and plates, and generally ignored the dozens of frantic ComStar Acolytes who were rushing about trying to break it all up and restore order.
     I've heard it said since by serious philosophers that the chaos of the reception was a perfect microcosm of Inner Sphere politics of that time, if that's true then I'm not sure what it says about my contribution to the course of history that I started the disgraceful mess and then spent most of the rest of it banging a Capellan tart under one of the dining tables?
     Anyway, the Handmaiden and I parted from each other with a final lingering kiss, as I realised the noise was beginning to ease up, then with that she slid away and was gone. I wasn't to see her again until the following year when our paths crossed once more, but that's a tale for another time, and unusually for me I was a little sad for the rest of that day and the next at the thought I'd never see her again.
     I consoled myself with booze and the resigned thought that at least we'd always have Terra, as I packed my bags and prepared to leave.
     It began to sink in that the Fourth Succession War had of course begun with that insane food fight, that mad scrummage I'd started at Hilton Head, and this time Hanse had been very sure to have me sign for the formal orders he sent me to report to the Mira system and the Crucis Lancers HQ there. Distracted by my emotional state it wasn't until I was actually aboard the DropShip and headed out from Terra, watching that shining blue green planet grow smaller and smaller, that the fear began to build within me. I didn't know for certain what role I was destined to play in Hanse's War, but I kept thinking about my dinner plate, with the crest and name of Tikonov, arguably the greatest fortress world of the entire Capellan Confederation, ominously engraved in gold upon it.

Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: mikecj on 30 January 2011, 16:56:06
Darius for First Prince!
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Dave Talley on 31 January 2011, 00:32:57
holy crap!!

this is great, funny as hell and yet completely fits into canon

how many copies of the stackpole books did you wear out matching this page by page?
Title: Re: The Misadventures of Darius Davion - Darius and the Happy Occasion
Post by: Tokage on 31 January 2011, 13:51:15
holy crap!!

this is great, funny as hell and yet completely fits into canon

how many copies of the stackpole books did you wear out matching this page by page?

Haha, nope still got my rumpled old original copy intact. Just about.

Glad you enjoyed it. :)

Sticking within canon was always my aim with all the Darius stories, other than the existence of Darius himself of course. I liked how that gave me the chance to plumb forgotten and obscure canon events and make them my own. With this particular story it was a rare event that I had a novel detailing the events, which actually only made it easier to slip Darius in out of shot, or under the bed. I always wanted readers to believe Darius was in fact there under Romano's bed if they ever went back and read the Stackpole novel.

Where I slightly bend canon is really a matter of interpretation and tone. In the novels Hanse and Ardan are heroes ... but their actions are in fact often pretty questionable. It's all about point of view, and I have the excuse at the end of the day 'it's not my fault, this is just Darius's own opinions, not necessarily facts'.