Author Topic: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]  (Read 709 times)

Minchandre

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The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« on: 21 May 2024, 14:50:00 »
Book One: Prince​
Chapter 1
Hi-5 Corridor, 15km east of Romul
Chateau, Tamar Pact, Federated Commonwealth
13 March 3050


Kommandant Victor Steiner-Davion planted his Mech’s feet firmly in the waterlogged grass that covered the highway’s median. Around him to either side flowed a constant stream of vehicles, military and civilian alike, all lanes flowing west towards the city and its illusion of safety - or perhaps the true safety of its DropPort for those lucky enough to find a berth.

Though I imagine they’ll have an easy time of it, he thought to himself grimly, considering the losses that the Tenth had taken. Auntie Sarah - Marshal Steiner, he corrected himself - had met the mysterious invaders on the plains 25 kilometers east of Romul. Rumor had it that the enemy had announced their numbers and allowed the FedCom forces to choose the site of the battle.

Sarah Steiner had chosen the broad, flat plain, the better to concentrate the firepower afforded by her superior numbers: a regiment of ‘Mechs, three of armor, and a few companies of infantry used for spotting and scouting, not to mention the two battalions of old but serviceable tanks provided by the Chateau militia weighed against a battalion of Mechs and a company of infantry. Despite her birth, the Marshal was no social general, but when you outnumber the enemy ten-to-one, there is little better than a wall of Lyran steel.

Or so they had all thought.

Instead, the enemy had used the plains to demonstrate their unbelievable speed and range, goading the defenders into breaking lines to rush forward to try and get off some reply, only for each foray to be defeated in detail. Still, the line had mostly held, the men and women of the Tenth Donegal demonstrating admirable discipline while those with LRMs and light autocannons provided what response they might without abandoning formation.

It had been working, too. Of the 30 ‘Mechs they’d started with, these “Wolves” had been down to 21, the weight of numbers slowly telling the tale.

And then the militia had broken.

The Marshal had placed the militia near but not at the left end of her line, presumably to keep them far from the fighting while still anchoring the flank itself with reliable forces; in this case, the Second Battalion of BattleMechs and the 437th Regiment of Armor. Neither Second Battalion nor the 437th were her heaviest formations, but they were the steadiest.

Once more, Victor silently cursed the political considerations he presumed had prevented her from simply setting the militia to garrison the city.

After several rounds of cat-and-mouse, the enemy forces had picked up on the militia’s poor equipment and inexperience, and had begun to hammer that part of the line. Still, the militia had remained surprisingly composed until they had appeared.

Victor had no words for the strange combatants, close in size to infantry but more similar in form to a miniature BattleMech. They certainly wielded weapons appropriate to a ‘Mech, firing what appeared to be ‘Mech-sized small lasers, and launching fusillades of short-range missiles. Even worse, they scrambled over tanks and up BattleMechs’ legs like elite infantry, thrusting wicked claws into joints, viewports, gun barrels, and any other vulnerable spot. They seemed to work in teams of five, and he had seen one such team scramble up the legs of a Rifleman and bring it to its knees in seconds.

Once the Rifleman was on the ground, a laser blast to the cockpit had ended things.

Pounded from the front and beset from within, the militia had broken and the enemy had quickly taken advantage. The left flank was isolated and its efficient destruction begun even as the other half of the enemy force began to roll up the main line.

Marshal Steiner had attempted an organized fighting retreat, but by the time she’d given the order to withdraw, things had been most of the way to a rout.

Victor had, of course, been ordered to retreat his royal self to safety, but an accident of location and his company being the heaviest in the regiment had led them to become the rear guard by default.

I bet they regret sticking me with an unofficial bodyguard now, he thought, a wry smile on his face.

What remained of Third Battalion had kept the enemy engaged, even as the Wolves had largely ignored the vehicles retreating from them like frightened cattle.

He was down to himself and 5 other ‘Mechs now, of the 36 that Third Battalion had begun with that morning. He could only hope that some of them had retreated successfully, but comms were such a mess he had no way of knowing.

Ammo stores running dangerously low, he had picked a likely-seeming spot to make his stand, where the highway was cut through a steep ridge with a slight bend in the road limiting sightlines and cliffs to either side protecting his flanks. The ridge itself made it difficult for the enemy to simply go around him. The lance that remained of his battalion were arrayed behind him.

It did not take long for the enemy to arrive. Painted in colors of blood and rust, 8 ‘Mechs came into view around the curve of the canyon wall. They were a mixture of the Marauders with Catapult missile pods and the hellishly fast ones that seemed far too large for their speed. One of the MAD-CATs was in the lead, and he noticed two stars painted by the cockpit. He fired his medium lasers, though they both knew it was an useless display at this range.

Suddenly, a light came on, indicating that the enemy was broadcasting on comms. He keyed the channel open.

“-aptain Katya Kerensky of Trinary First of the 279th Battle Cluster. You fight a hopeless battle, but you have fought it well, and you fight with some honor. Pilot of the Victor, I would meet you in combat to resolve this with honor and dignity.” It was a woman’s voice, low and pleasant. She spoke with perfect calm, in a hauntingly familiar accent that Victor couldn’t quite place.

He licked his lips as he pondered the situation. Had this woman, this Captain Katya Kerensky, just challenged him to a duel? At the edges of his thoughts, he wondered if she was related to the Black Widow somehow before dismissing the idea. After all, Kerensky might well be a common name some places for all he knew.

He needed information, and he needed to delay. He keyed his comm.

“This is Victor”, he said, intentionally omitting his last name and his rank. “I would like to clarify the situation. Are you challenging me to a duel?”

Aff,” she said, “Honorable combat. If you win, my trinary ceases pursuit along this road. I cannot speak for Supernova Command, and I will not make promises should your main force turn once more to fighting, but this engagement will be over.” If she’d noticed the omission, she said nothing.

“And if I lose?”

“You and your forces surrender, and we shall sweep up this road unopposed.”

Victor licked his lips again, a nervous habit he had never noticed before. Perhaps it was a new one.

This was a good opportunity. Just this talking was delaying things, allowing more people to make it to safety. While he had no illusions about winning the duel, every moment of it would be another troop transport, another private car, that many more soldiers and civilians that much more safe. But could he sacrifice what remained of his command?

“If I lose,” he said, “I stay. We cease opposition, but the rest of my forces withdraw too, as quickly as they can.”

Neg,” Captain Kerensky replied, and her meaning was obvious even if the word was not familiar. “You all surrender.”

Victor thought fast. He was happy to sacrifice himself, but his soldiers? Men and women who he had promised to lead, but also to keep safe. He would send them to their deaths if needed, but he was no Drac and these were no samurai. Glory was not its own end.

But neither was it the end here. What were six lives, in death or in captivity, when weighed against the throng of humanity that was passing by him? Every one of them had signed up to spend their lives in the defense of the Lyran people. And now the Lyran people needed defending. But he still would do what he could.

“I accept,” he said simply.

“Bargained well and done.”

The other Wolves moved back, creating an arc just this side of the bend, wide enough to stretch across the entire highway.

Victor keyed his comms to the battalion channel. The conversation had been on an open channel, and he was sure that they’d all been listening.

“Rothkopf, if I fall - ” When I fall “ - you have command.”

He saw the woman in his mind, the fiery red hair that they’d all teased her about matching her name.

“While I’m dueling, see how far you can back away without them noticing. If I fall, see if you can book it. If you can’t, delay them as much as you can. Every second we’re here is another person safe.”

Ja,” she replied. After a pause, she added, “It’s been an honor, Your Highness. Viel Erfolg!” Victor was thankful she had not tried to talk him out of it, or perhaps to offer herself in his place.

Victor fought to win, but the duel proceeded as he’d known it would; as they’d both known. Victor tried to close with the enemy to bring his terrible autocannon to bear, and she tried to avoid him. Her Mech was faster than a Marauder or a Catapult, and she seemed to be able to backpedal almost as quickly as he could run forward. Still, constrained as they were by the canyon walls, he was able to make the odd hit count, the Pontiac 100 cannon tearing viciously into the MAD-CAT’s armor. Once, a hit on her right arm was followed by a miraculous fusillade of short-range missiles in the same spot that managed to tear the limb off just below the shoulder.

“Well done!” said Kerensky across the comm channel, her voice sounding sincere.

Victor considered his reply, but said nothing in the end.

In time, her superior range began to tell. As a barrage of missiles made its way towards him, he activated his jump jets, shooting up the canyon walls. Once there, he realized the folly of his action: from this location, she could hit him from anywhere along the stretch of highway, and he would not be able to close as quickly. He considered fleeing along the ridge, forcing her to backtrack along the highway to circle around to find him, buying whole minutes of extra time, but decided he could not risk her considering that a violation of their agreement. He feathered the jets as he jumped down, striking out with his lasers just for the sake of something to do.

And then it was over. A pair of lasers lanced into his already-damaged leg, and Victor noticed he was in freefall. He never remembered hitting the ground.

-----------

Hey! Welcome to The Wolf Prince, a bit of BT fanfiction which started as an exercise to improve my writing. I realized that I kept getting bogged down in characters, in settings, even in the precise details of planning a plot, and decided that I should just wholesale steal all of those things for practice. Thus, The Wolf Prince, a story where Victor Steiner-Davion gets captured by Clan Wolf instead of Phelan Kell. This entire story is major spoilers for Lethal Heritage, which it obviously follows pretty closely. Obviously things develop similarly, but Victor is not Phelan, and I decided to tap Katya Kerensky as a secondary character, since I always thought she was done dirty. The Wolf Clan sourcebook builds her up as Ulric's protégé, but then Stackpole's focus on Phelan and Ranna relegates the second-youngest Warrior ever to get a Bloodname to being some sort of bizarre loyal opposition after the Refusal War. Go figure.

I've actually written the entire thing (though I'll be doing constant edits and rewrites, as I have been for months even as I wrote new material), so the release schedule should be pretty consist, probably 1-2 a week.

At the risk of opening a can of worms I won't be able to close, the point of this was to be a writing exercise, so please let me know if you have comments about the structure, word choice, etc.

drakensis

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #1 on: 21 May 2024, 15:52:18 »
Interesting idea and I look forward to seeing how you develop this.

Katya is definitely under-used, and the scene works well to introduce the overall situation and Victor's character.
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Cannonshop

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #2 on: 22 May 2024, 10:24:21 »
locked for continued monitoring.  This shows promise.
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #3 on: 22 May 2024, 11:22:36 »
Fascinating idea, especially since I have a harder time seeing him be seduced by the Clan ways than Phelan was.  Looking forward to more.
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Minchandre

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #4 on: 22 May 2024, 15:01:03 »
Fascinating idea, especially since I have a harder time seeing him be seduced by the Clan ways than Phelan was.  Looking forward to more.

To some extent, I railroaded the plot and developed things a bit faster than they probably should have gone because the goal was to closely parallel Phelan's story, but there's some parts that get pretty heavy and philosophical and provide what I think is decent explanations (or at least Victor coming up with justifications to himself). If anything, things happen faster, because Victor is taken bondsman half a year later than Phelan (though he spends the first three or so months undergoing intensive interrogation, so his story "really" starts in January, while Victor's starts in March).

And while Phelan got very comfortable with the Clans very quickly because he's a violent hot-head, I always thought that Victor would too, since he's almost defined by his ridiculous sense of honor. When we see Victor dealing with Clanners in canon, he tends to get along well with them.

Plus, we see quite a few IS bonsdmen becoming taken with the Way of the Clans - Ragnar Magnusson comes to mind.

Victor's descent into Stockholm syndrome will be more self-aware, but it's not going to stop it from happening.

Hellraiser

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #5 on: 22 May 2024, 16:45:23 »
Interesting read.

Tagged
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3053: Star Colonel Rexor Kerensky: The Silver Wolves

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mikecj

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #6 on: 22 May 2024, 18:01:28 »
TAG!  This looks really interesting and you started with a bang!
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Dave Talley

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #7 on: 22 May 2024, 22:30:42 »
Tag!
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Zakharra

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #8 on: 23 May 2024, 14:47:48 »
Nice story. This is definitely going to have some interesting differences to the timeline. Victor falling for the Clan beliefs will have serious consequences. Chief among them is he will be seen as a traitor to the Federated Commonwealth and it's two halves. As the Crown Prince, it would be High Treason. I highly doubt he would be able to get Phelen's deal with the FC (he is a traitor after all) since he was the crown prince. Katherine will have legitimate reasons to loathe her older brother. I can see Victor being formally and legally stripped of any/all inheritance rights in the FC with Kathy possibly being selected as the new Crown Princess (and being forced to do all of the requirements, ie military service).
No matter what, it will make the Clan Wolf civil war go different ways if Victor can't get sanctuary in the FC. Neither Hanse or Melissa are sentimental enough to offer that without a lot of -heavy- strings attached. Both of them are far too much political to not see the consequences of allowing invading conquerors (lead by 2 known traitors) having a claim to the throne.

I do wonder how Victor will become Clan since the Clans worship 'might makes right' which is very much against the FC laws.

Hellraiser

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #9 on: 23 May 2024, 16:06:32 »
I can see Victor being formally and legally stripped of any/all inheritance rights in the FC with Kathy possibly being selected as the new Crown Princess (and being forced to do all of the requirements, ie military service).

.....

No matter what, it will make the Clan Wolf civil war go different ways if Victor can't get sanctuary in the FC. Neither Hanse or Melissa are sentimental enough to offer that without a lot of -heavy- strings attached. Both of them are far too much political to not see the consequences of allowing invading conquerors (lead by 2 known traitors) having a claim to the throne.

I do wonder how Victor will become Clan since the Clans worship 'might makes right' which is very much against the FC laws.

1.  This is IMHO actually deeper, think about the effects.
  A.  Hanse possibly has stress heart attack even earlier, or, maybe not at all.
  B.  Outreach conference goes differently.
  C.  Katie being the designated heir?  Maybe?  Means she doesn't pull the whole assassination plot which leaves Melissa alive longer.

2.  Refusal War may or may not happen based on how the next 2 years goes & if Tukayyid happens.
  A.  Phelan may still be captured & can be bloodnamed giving you an IS born Khan
  B.  The settlement by WiE was agreed to by the Arch-Duke of Arc Royal, and the WiE didn't formally have a standing till a decade later in the wake of the Civil War, IIRC, so I'm see that as an option to still evolve that way.

3.  Victor is still a bondsman that can be adopted.
  A.  Victor may have claim to bloodname via the Steiner name instead of Ward.
  B.  Victor is a Noble Prize regardless & talented enough even if he CANT get a blood name via Steiner.

Lots of ways this could evolve.
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Red Pins

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #10 on: 23 May 2024, 17:51:16 »
Hmm.  Tagged.
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SulliMike23

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #11 on: 24 May 2024, 07:10:38 »
Hmmm…this story shows some promise.

Luciora

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #12 on: 24 May 2024, 10:22:58 »
Probably one of those possible plot points TPTB could have used, as it was a Cloud Cobra general use bloodname.  The War of Reaving seems to make this a non-issue as the Cloud Cobras are currently a Bastion faction locked up in the homeworlds.  Any Stieners there probably won't be pressing any claims as it would be against the Bastion beliefs.

Minchandre

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #13 on: 24 May 2024, 14:22:57 »
Chapter 2
Unknown
Unknown
Mid-March 3050?


Smell returned to Victor first. The sharp smell of disinfectant, and under it the smell of blood and stale sweat. The taste in his mouth was that of too much sleep. Eventually, sound came: the whirr of ventilation, the beep of indicators, and beneath it all a deep thrum, almost more felt than heard.

I am in a hospital, he thought. After a moment, memory began to return and he recalled the thrum. Or the infirmary on a DropShip. He tried to open his eyes, and failed. He felt numb and fuzzy; he idly hoped that he was just drugged and not brain-damaged. Probably both.

All of a sudden, he became aware that two people were speaking near him.

“-ot ready yet, Star Commander,” a man said in a high, pleading voice.

“I do not care, Technician,” replied an imperious-sounding woman. “The Khan commands and I obey. And now I command in the Khan’s name. Do you fail to obey?”

“Of course not, Star Commander. But to administer stimulants now could set back his recov-”

“I did not ask if it would set back his recovery, Technician,” the woman cut him off, “I ordered you to have him conscious, coherent, and ambulatory. Now, will you do this, or will you fail to heed the orders of the Khan?”

The man made no verbal response, though Victor heard movement, and then some rustling and a tapping noise before fire filled his veins.

The burning sensation began at his left wrist and sped swiftly up his arm, into his chest and across his body. When it reached his head, his thoughts shot into motion and his eyes flew open almost involuntarily, revealing a girl standing above him. Her pale, almost-white blonde hair was styled in a pixie cut above high cheekbones and a small, slightly up-turned nose. From her ear hung a red-lacquered pendant in the form of an 8-pointed star, the cardinal points extended and the bottom point stretching perhaps three times as long.

Wearing a loose gray jumpsuit and with no artifice of makeup or hair, she was still one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen.

The girl said nothing as the medtech moved around him, removing leads, wires, and the IV. When the process was finished, she spoke a single word: “Stand.”

Victor stood. Or, rather, he tried to. Ignoring a litany of pains across his body, he started to push himself up with his arms, but felt a flash of pain instead of a strain on his shoulders. He woke up on the floor a moment later, staring in horror at his left hand. Or rather at his left wrist, which ended in a white plastic cap.

The Star Commander was having none of it. She nudged him with the toe of her boot, “Get up. The Khan wanted you lucid, so I will not give you any painkillers. You may perhaps receive them after the meeting, but until then, you must act as the warrior you have claimed to be.”

Victor groaned and began to lever himself up, holding his left arm close to his chest protectively. His right wrist, he noticed idly, bore a bracelet he was sure he had not worn before: three simple cords, loosely braided together. Red, and brown, and gray.

The moment he was on his feet, she began to stride quickly out the door of the infirmary and down the corridor outside. A glance around him confirmed that he was in a DropShip, though not a design he recognized, as the corridor was far too wide. A Behemoth, perhaps? Or at least a Mammoth? He trotted to catch up, ignoring the wave of lightheadedness that overtook him, and soon was striding along in the woman’s wake.

The corridor wall was interrupted every so often by a door bearing an inscrutable image on it: a white-and-blue circle that might have been a stylized planet, a man holding a lightning bolt in each hand, a snarling wolf’s head. They walked long enough that Victor began to wonder if the stimulant or a possible head injury was interfering with his sense of space and time.

This speculation was put to rest as they entered a lift. The lift served 30 decks, more than almost any DropShip that Victor had heard of, and most lifts did not run the whole length of a ship for safety and security reasons. Indeed, the lift helpfully showed the schematic of an enormous ship, long and slender like a JumpShip, with over 150 decks labeled.

Realization set in: he was on a WarShip.

His father had told him stories of the gargantuan craft. They were the tools by which the Terran Hegemony had been formed and the real tools, the Fox had explained, with which the Star League had kept the rest of the Inner Sphere in line. Hanse Davion had described to his young heir how the SLDF had not maintained their grip on power with Regimental Combat Teams nor Royal units equipped with advanced technology, but with the vast logistics machine that was their navy. The SLDF could put unimaginable numbers of Mechs, Aerospace Fighters, vehicles, and infantry anywhere they wanted in the Inner Sphere remarkably quickly, and keep them supplied and repaired even in the most remote Periphery outpost.

It was the Navy that performed that Herculean feat, and whether patrolling the starlanes, escorting transports, or even carrying cargo in their own massive bays, WarShips were the cream of the SLDF Navy.

And there was always the last resort of orbital bombardment, that ultimate threat that had given James McKenna dominion over Terra and beyond.

The First Prince had never dreamed small, and Victor knew that even now there were secret teams on Galax poring over old Star League schematics and combing through records to see if there were any abandoned vessels that might be recovered. Victor was surprised to find himself smiling faintly at the thought of how his father might react to his current situation.

But while Victor was lost in thought and memory, the Star Commander was very much present in the lift, and she wrinkled her nose at his presence before giving him a look up and down. With a sharp nod, she pressed a different button on the lift, apparently having decided on a detour.

The lift doors opened almost immediately, revealing another deck that looked identical to the first, save for different symbols on the doors. They stopped at one, though the doors opened before Victor could get a good glance at the “label”.

As they opened, they revealed a gray inner wall that apparently served as a partition to keep passersby from looking directly inside. But the Star Commander pulled Victor in behind her, stepping around the wall to reveal a bright and shining inner room, white walls alternating with mirrors. The smell of cleaning supplies and soap made the room’s purpose clear. Several benches were scattered against the wall, and one further into the room was occupied by some of the strangest people Victor had ever seen.

The first that Victor noticed was a woman, her long red hair pulled into a tight braid that snaked to the floor. However, her hair was hardly the most remarkable thing about her: though she was sitting down, and Victor was a poor judge of heights regardless, she looked as though she must have been at least 230 centimeters tall, and perhaps more. This great height was matched by her build: she was a meter across the shoulders, and was heavily muscled. Her nudity showed Victor the complete extent of her musculature, and something about it told Victor that despite the immensity, she was not a bodybuilder: she had come by her body honestly, by using her body hard all day and every day.

With effort, he wrenched his gaze to the man sitting next to her. Looking to be about Victor’s own height or a little shorter, he was very slight and with eyes that seemed too large for his head set into a head that seemed too large for his body. Sitting next to the giantess, he had initially seemed a child, but the muscles on the body and lines on the face said that the prince was looking at a fully-grown man.

The third man was almost boringly ordinary in comparison, though Victor still did a double-take: aside from having a pronounced widow’s peak, the man might have been a double of his cousin Phelan Kell.

“What is this, Ranna?” asked the enormous woman in a surprisingly light soprano, “You are bringing scraps to our showers, quiaff?”

“My apologies, Evantha, but I am to take him to see the Khan. A sponge-bath in the infirmary did not seem appropriate.”

The woman - Evantha - made a moue of disapproval but did not further object.

Phelan’s doppelganger, however, did, “The Warriors’ showers are no place for such filth! Take him to the kitchens where he can be properly scrubbed down with the rest of the vegetables.”

Victor could practically see the Star Commander’s - Ranna’s - hackles rise. “I perform my duty to the Khan, Vlad, and through him to the Clan. Will you really gainsay me in this? We will need to meet in the Circle of Equals, quiaff?”

Vlad opened his mouth to respond, but the other man placed a hand on his chest. “Peace, Vlad, peace. Yes, what Ranna is doing is highly irregular, but every part of the situation is irregular. Our lives now are irregular, as are the lives of all Wolves now and for years to come.”

Vlad shut his mouth, gave a vicious glare, and stood, announcing, “I do not desire to waste any more of my time on this freebirth. Do as you wish.” At that, he practically flounced out of the room, only pausing to quickly don a jumpsuit taken from a rack by the door.

The small man spoke again, “Now, Star Commander, how may I aid in your task?”

Shortly, Victor was washed, shaved, and dressed in clean underwear, shirt, and jumpsuit. The suit was a little tight across the chest, but otherwise fit surprisingly well. He had also acquired a pair of strangely heavy slippers that he’d been told could magnetize in the event of acceleration loss.

Back to the lift they went, up several decks and down a few corridors before they came to a door with a wolf’s head emblazoned on it, 5 “stars” like Ranna’s earring stamped beneath it. Victor had been to the offices of enough General Officers to recognize one when he saw it, even if the symbols themselves were strange.

The door opened despite no one knocking. “Please enter,” said a pleasant baritone, and Victor followed his escort in.

The speaker was a tall man with closely-shorn white hair, standing near the door. He had pale blue eyes set in a heavily-lined face. Victor put his age somewhere between a prematurely-aged mid-40s and a well-preserved mid-60s. He had a faint smile on his face, as though he was thinking about a joke but knew it was not appropriate to laugh aloud.

Ranna came to attention before him, a hand snapping into a salute of such crispness that Victor was certain his instructors back at the Nagelring would have wept with joy to behold it. The man - the Khan, no doubt - returned her salute, if not quite as sharply. “Thank you, Star Commander; I know that you do not typically perform escort duty,” he said.

“It is my honor to serve the Khan in whatever capacity he feels appropriate,” she replied, textbook-correct but allowing the barest hint of annoyance to leak through. The Khan nodded, and she turned on her heel and left.

He moved further inside, gesturing for Victor to follow him. The room was surprisingly large for a spacecraft, even for a senior officer; but perhaps that was the nature of WarShips. Despite its size, the room was sparsely furnished: a rug, two couches facing each other with a coffee table between them, a few bookshelves built into the walls, a table. The furniture was all mismatched but of excellent quality;  to Victor it looked as though the Khan had furnished the room by simply walking through life and taking what he liked. With a start, he recognized a chair in the corner as having been taken from Marshal Steiner’s office.

The most remarkable object in the room was a large shield of what appeared to be Mech armor, blazoned with the same wolf’s head as the door had been, though the stars were replaced by a square balanced on one corner. Directly below sat a woman who peered at him curiously. She seemed about Victor’s own age or a little older and was also beautiful, with high cheekbones, full lips, and dirty blonde hair. Her bright blue eyes seemed to see through his skin, analyzing every part of him. There was a strong resemblance to the Khan - Victor suspected she was a daughter or at least a niece. Together with her air of easy confidence, he was all but certain that he was looking at an heir. Me, he thought wryly, At least in a few years.

He recalled his current circumstances. Or maybe not.

The third person in the room had been sitting on the couch facing away from the door, and as Victor made his way further in, he saw much to his shock that the man was wearing the robes of a ComStar precentor. Above the robes poked the head of an old man, his face deeply creased by decades of hard living. He revealed a patch over his right eye as he turned, which made his identity immediately apparent. The Precentor Martial of ComStar!

Victor saw his shock mirrored on the other man’s face: clearly the recognition was mutual. The Khan picked up on it too. “I see that the two of you are previously acquainted,” he said mildly.

The prince and the precentor looked at each other mutely, each caught out by the surprise of the encounter and by the recognition of their recognition.

After several tense moments, the Precentor Martial spoke. “I was at his parents’ wedding,” he said before hedging, “But then, so were a great many others. I recognize this boy but I would not say that we are acquainted.”

“Yes,” said the Khan thoughtfully, “I can see how a Precentor of ComStar might attend a royal wedding.”

And Victor’s stomach dropped through the floor. So much for keeping my identity secret, he thought to himself even as he acknowledged that it had always been a vain hope.

“And young Victor clearly recognizes you as well. I suppose you will say it is by reputation and not personal acquaintance?”

He looked at Victor at this last sentence, and the prince could only nod.

Smiling, he clapped his hands together. “That will save me the need to make introductions. We will move on to Star Captain Katya Kerensky, though I suppose you are already acquainted with her as well.” Captain Katya Kerensky! The voice on the radio, the pilot of that terrible Mech!

She had been watching the proceedings closely and now inclined her head slightly. “The two of us are indeed already acquainted, though this is our first in-person meeting where we are both conscious.” She redirected her gaze from the Khan towards Victor, giving a confident smile.  “It is good to see you walking. When the Scientists found that you had sustained a bad concussion, there was concern.”

After a pause, she added, “I am happy to see that the damage is not so great.” Strangely, she darted an uncertain glance at the Khan. Definitely an heir, and not quite certain how to act in a new situation. It was interesting to watch the familiar scenario from the outside.

“I have no doubt that you and the Star Captain will come to know each other very well,” said the Khan cryptically before gesturing towards himself, “And I am Ulric Kerensky, senior khan of Clan Wolf, whose forces have taken several worlds in the first wave of our assault, Chateau most recent among them.”

Victor felt shocked to his very soul. Several worlds? The first wave of the assault? He thought to how easily a battalion of these Wolves had defeated a full Regimental Combat Team. The 10th Donegal Guards were hardly the 10th Lyran Guards, but they were no planetary militia either. And these Wolves had WarShips…

“You were captured in battle by Katya,” he nodded towards her, “And in the aftermath brought here to the Dire Wolf.” He paused, then continued, “I apologize if you already know this, but I was informed that you may have minor memory loss from injuries sustained. Regardless, Star Captain Kerensky will be discussing your status with you as you recuperate.”

Victor was at a loss for words, but felt that a simple nod was unlikely to suffice. “I…see,” he said after a beat. He then turned to Focht, “Precentor, I do not know the nature of your relationship with Clan Wolf,” Has ComStar been in touch with them for decades and facilitated this invasion, or are you simply opportunists trying to work the angles? “But I wonder if you might carry word of my survival to my parents? I would not ask you to reveal any military secrets, but surely the survival of a single prisoner of war is not critical intelligence.”

The old man shook his head, “Unfortunately, My P - Victor, I have been forbidden by the Primus from revealing our contact with these Clans. And to be honest, I suspect that your survival does constitute vital intelligence.” He did, at least, sound genuinely regretful.

Victor gave a slow nod, feeling his eyes water slightly. “I understand,” he said in a low voice, “I would not ask you to violate your orders.”

Ulric gestured for Victor to sit on the couch by Katya, and so he did. The Khan and the Precentor Martial began to make conversation, discussing what sounded like meaningless details about Chateau’s weather and cuisine. Katya held herself primly and made the occasional comment, but each time only after a pointed look from her mentor. The Precentor tried to include Victor, but he was too dazed to give more than one-word responses.

Just as Victor was beginning to wonder about his purpose in the room, Ulric looked at Victor and said, “It looks as though your stimulant may be wearing off. Katya, I know that as a Star Captain you are not accustomed to such duties, but I ask you to escort your bondsman back to the medical bay.”

“Yes, my Khan,” the woman said as she rose gracefully to her feet, and grabbed Victor's arm when he did not rise quickly enough, yanking him up none too gently. She did not salute as she left, but returned a nod to the Khan as she opened the door to the corridor.

The Star Captain kept a slower pace than the Star Commander had, so that Victor could walk easily instead of hurrying to keep up. They walked in silence, the prince thinking over the encounter, trying to decide if there had been any point to it aside from displaying him to the Precentor Martial, as the discussion had apparently included nothing of substance.

Or perhaps the point had been to display the Precentor Martial to him?

He stared at his new bracelet as he thought, and idly moved his left hand over to toy with it before abruptly remembering and jerking it back. His escort caught the motion, and explained, “I suppose that you must not be familiar. That is your bondcord. It indicates that you are a bondsman.” She paused a moment before continuing, “In fact, that you are my bondsman.”

Victor did not want to admit ignorance, but he thought that proceeding unaware might be more dangerous. “So I’m your prisoner of war?”

She gave a slight wince and then stopped walking and looked straight at him, a thoughtful expression on her face. “You are not a prisoner,” she said slowly. “You are…isorla. I suppose you might say that your status is closest to that of salvage.”

“Salvage?!” Victor couldn’t help raising his voice in incredulity and indignity.

“Yes. You were recovered from the battlefield, and one day may be repurposed to serve the Clan.” Seemingly very pleased with herself for that answer, she turned back to the corridor and resumed walking, faster now.

He took the hint and kept his silence. What does it mean that I’m salvage? Am I a slave? Being ‘repurposed’ does not sound very pleasant.

Soon, they reached the sick bay. His escort left without a word, and the medtech eased him back into the same bed he’d been on before.

He didn’t remember falling asleep.

------------

Chapter 2! I don't think much needs to be said here. I wasn't thrilled about ripping off the bath scene so closely from Stackpole, but as I said the goal is to closely parallel Blood of Kerensky. There's only a couple scenes like this that are so closely drawn, but I think that even here I did an okay job individualizing it, though keeping the same goal of introducing Victor to Elementals and Pilots. And Vlad! (Seriously, though, Vlad isn't an important character; ultimately he might be important as a prominent Crusader ristar, but he's not going to be a primary antagonist or anything).

As far as speculation over Katherine...even though this work will only follow "Phelan's" story, and not switch between three PoVs like in Stackpole's novel, there are several "interludes", which will mostly be tracking Katherine.

And regarding further speculation...while I certainly invite people to discuss whatever implications they like, I don't plan on pursuing this story beyond Tukayyid; it's distinctly possible that I'll stop at Radstadt. I've been wrestling with how to adapt Blood Legacy, since so much of what we see from Phelan's PoV is politics that he is 100% not involved in. I'll probably just summarize those passages rather than copy+paste, but that leaves me with significantly less material; I might try to back-fill with backroom politicking with Ulric.

As far as whether or not Victor would be as quickly seduced by the Way of the Clans as Phelan was...probably not. I think that he'd likely become a convert to the Clans eventually; he'll like their honor and straightforwardness, even if not necessarily their might-makes-right attitude; remember how much he liked the whole samurai thing in canon, and while he had an additional motivation there, he has one here as well. He also did seem to like Clan culture a bit once he learned more about it from a different perspective than the end of a barrel.

But the point of this exercise was to follow a particular story closely more than to make a change and explore the implications properly, so I'm going to just go with it. We can just say that Ulric pushed things through a little fast because he really wanted to have an Inner Sphere adoptee to piss off Crusaders with.

Red Pins

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #14 on: 24 May 2024, 14:34:08 »
Well.

Dang good so far.  Now comes the hard part - keep going.  And come talk to me if you decide to release it as a PDF.  I could use something else to read during breaks at work.
...Visit the Legacy Cluster...
The New Clans:Volume One
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Hellraiser

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #15 on: 24 May 2024, 14:58:51 »
My only suggestion really would have been to mix up the people.

Instead of having the original sib-kin "Genetic-Trio" of Ranna's in the showers, change it up so that you have some members of the 279th in there.
If Vlad isn't important since he's not the captor then he doesn't need to be there. 
Mix in Ranna for Vlad as the Mechwarrior, change up who has what attitude so its the Elemental that is helpful & Pilot that is indignant, etc etc.
Maybe have Katya doing the escort there & have the "Ward-lookalike" connection be having her CO-Lara Ward already seated w/ Ulric when they arrive.

Just some thoughts/ideas.

Similar but different journey to get to the Khan's quarters, not the same one.
3041: General Lance Hawkins: The Equalizers
3053: Star Colonel Rexor Kerensky: The Silver Wolves

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SulliMike23

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #16 on: 24 May 2024, 16:05:12 »
This is getting tense for Victor. I'm curious though, what happened to Phelan? Was he killed on The Rock?

The Wobbly Guy

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #17 on: 24 May 2024, 19:29:11 »
Gonna be a bit difficult to get Victor's bloodname from the Cloud Cobras...

Red Pins

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #18 on: 24 May 2024, 21:55:51 »
Gonna be a bit difficult to get Victor's bloodname from the Cloud Cobras...

He could always be 'wolf'.  Or 'focht', I suppose.   :cool:
...Visit the Legacy Cluster...
The New Clans:Volume One
Clan Devil Wasp * Clan Carnoraptor * Clan Frost Ape * Clan Surf Dragon * Clan Tundra Leopard
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Minchandre

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #19 on: 25 May 2024, 03:39:21 »
Well.

Dang good so far.  Now comes the hard part - keep going.  And come talk to me if you decide to release it as a PDF.  I could use something else to read during breaks at work.

I've actually written the entire work, which comes out at 19 chapters and 32000 words for Book One, which goes until Radstadt.

I can't give it to you, though, since I'm constantly revising things, and I may insert another chapter or two. But there's no risk of me leaving the story undone.

My only suggestion really would have been to mix up the people.

Instead of having the original sib-kin "Genetic-Trio" of Ranna's in the showers, change it up so that you have some members of the 279th in there.
If Vlad isn't important since he's not the captor then he doesn't need to be there. 
Mix in Ranna for Vlad as the Mechwarrior, change up who has what attitude so its the Elemental that is helpful & Pilot that is indignant, etc etc.
Maybe have Katya doing the escort there & have the "Ward-lookalike" connection be having her CO-Lara Ward already seated w/ Ulric when they arrive.

Just some thoughts/ideas.

Similar but different journey to get to the Khan's quarters, not the same one.

I thought about that, and I started writing that a few times. In the end, I ripped off Stackpole for a couple reasons. The first is that I didn't want Katya picking Victor up; I definitely wanted him to meet her the first time in Ulric's presence. The second was that the bathroom scene quickly and efficiently introduces the phenotypes and the scorn that some Clanners hold for the Inner Sphere. It also makes sense as a thing to do between waking up and going to the khan, which I like; it doesn't make sense to go eat a meal or exercise or something. And it's fun to have a little interlude to introduce Victor to some aspects of Clan society before he meets Ulric.

Still, I think I'll work on an alternate chapter and post it. I like Evantha, since she's the commander of the Golden Keshik's Elemental contingent, and I end up using her a tad later. I also use Star Captain Rotheran, commander of the 279th's aerospace contingent a scoonch. I decided deliberately not to introduce a cast of Katya's sibkin, since I want to emphasize her role as a member of Ulric's posse. I also like the idea that she doesn't have many friends; she's the ultimate ristar, and the Wolf Clan sourcebook calls her "stern". In my mind, she's too ambitious to bother with peers, and even in the sibko she probably felt immense pressure.

The problem now becomes, how do I get the two of those into the same room at the same time, and how do I invent a Crusader to join them? Though I suppose I can always just use a Elemental from the 279th, and grab some other officer from it, and have them hang out as fellow officers in a unit.

Still, the Evantha-Carew-Vlad scene is just very convenient. It's structurally good writing!

But please don't take my "rebuttal" to mean you should stop pointing things out. I'm sure that the infinite eyes of the Internet will find other good things  azn

This is getting tense for Victor. I'm curious though, what happened to Phelan? Was he killed on The Rock?

This probably won't ever come up in the story, but Phelan died during chemical interrogation after capture on The Rock.
« Last Edit: 25 May 2024, 03:53:27 by Minchandre »

Red Pins

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #20 on: 25 May 2024, 10:19:15 »
Don't worry - just write.  Simple but hard as it is.
...Visit the Legacy Cluster...
The New Clans:Volume One
Clan Devil Wasp * Clan Carnoraptor * Clan Frost Ape * Clan Surf Dragon * Clan Tundra Leopard
Work-in-progress; The Blake Threat File
Now with MORE GROGNARD!  ...I think I'm done.  I've played long enough to earn a pension, fer cryin' out loud!  IlClan and out in <REDACTED>!
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Minchandre

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #21 on: 25 May 2024, 17:15:46 »
Here's an alternative version of Chapter 2 that I whipped up which varies a bit more from the "original text". If you want to skip to the changed part, search for "assembly of children"

Chapter 2 Alternate
Unknown
Unknown
Mid-March 3050?


Smell returned to Victor first. The sharp smell of disinfectant, and under it the smell of blood and stale sweat. The taste in his mouth was that of too much sleep. Eventually, sound came: the whirr of ventilation, the beep of indicators, and beneath it all a deep thrum, almost more felt than heard.

I am in a hospital, he thought. After a moment, memory began to return and he recalled the thrum. Or the infirmary on a DropShip. He tried to open his eyes, and failed. He felt numb and fuzzy; he idly hoped that he was just drugged and not brain-damaged. Probably both.

All of a sudden, he became aware that two people were speaking near him.

“-ot ready yet, Star Commander,” a man said in a high, pleading voice.

“I do not care, Technician,” replied an imperious-sounding woman. “The Khan commands and I obey. And now I command in the Khan’s name. Do you fail to obey?”

“Of course not, Star Commander. But to administer stimulants now could set back his recov-”

“I did not ask if it would set back his recovery, Technician,” the woman cut him off, “I ordered you to have him conscious, coherent, and ambulatory. Now, will you do this, or will you fail to heed the orders of the Khan?”

The man made no verbal response, though Victor heard movement, and then some rustling and a tapping noise before fire filled his veins.

The burning sensation began at his left wrist and sped swiftly up his arm, into his chest and across his body. When it reached his head, his thoughts shot into motion and his eyes flew open almost involuntarily, revealing a girl standing above him. Her pale, almost-white blonde hair was styled in a pixie cut above high cheekbones and a small, slightly up-turned nose. From her ear hung a red-lacquered pendant in the form of an 8-pointed star, the cardinal points extended and the bottom point stretching perhaps three times as long.

Wearing a loose gray jumpsuit and with no artifice of makeup or hair, she was still one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen.

The girl said nothing as the medtech moved around him, removing leads, wires, and the IV. When the process was finished, she spoke a single word: “Stand.”

Victor stood. Or, rather, he tried to. Ignoring a litany of pains across his body, he started to push himself up with his arms, but felt a flash of pain instead of a strain on his shoulders. He woke up on the floor a moment later, staring in horror at his left hand. Or rather at his left wrist, which ended in a white plastic cap.

The Star Commander was having none of it. She nudged him with the toe of her boot, “Get up. The Khan wanted you lucid, so I will not give you any painkillers. You may perhaps receive them after the meeting, but until then, you must act as the warrior you have claimed to be.”

Victor groaned and began to lever himself up, holding his left arm close to his chest protectively. His right wrist, he noticed idly, bore a bracelet he was sure he had not worn before: three simple cords, loosely braided together. Red, and brown, and gray.

The moment he was on his feet, she began to stride quickly out the door of the infirmary and down the corridor outside. A glance around him confirmed that he was in a DropShip, though not a design he recognized, as the corridor was far too wide. A Behemoth, perhaps? Or at least a Mammoth? He trotted to catch up, ignoring the wave of lightheadedness that overtook him, and soon was striding along in the woman’s wake.

The corridor wall was interrupted every so often by a door bearing an inscrutable image on it: a white-and-blue circle that might have been a stylized planet, a man holding a lightning bolt in each hand, a snarling wolf’s head. They walked long enough that Victor began to wonder if the stimulant or a possible head injury was interfering with his sense of space and time.

This speculation was put to rest as they entered a lift. The lift served 30 decks, more than almost any DropShip that Victor had heard of, and most lifts did not run the whole length of a ship for safety and security reasons. Indeed, the lift helpfully showed the schematic of an enormous ship, long and slender like a JumpShip, with over 150 decks labeled.

Realization set in: he was on a WarShip.

His father had told him stories of the gargantuan craft. They were the tools by which the Terran Hegemony had been formed and the real tools, the Fox had explained, with which the Star League had kept the rest of the Inner Sphere in line. Hanse Davion had described to his young heir how the SLDF had not maintained their grip on power with Regimental Combat Teams nor Royal units equipped with advanced technology, but with the vast logistics machine that was their navy. The SLDF could put unimaginable numbers of Mechs, Aerospace Fighters, vehicles, and infantry anywhere they wanted in the Inner Sphere remarkably quickly, and keep them supplied and repaired even in the most remote Periphery outpost.

It was the Navy that performed that Herculean feat, and whether patrolling the starlanes, escorting transports, or even carrying cargo in their own massive bays, WarShips were the cream of the SLDF Navy.

And there was always the last resort of orbital bombardment, that ultimate threat that had given James McKenna dominion over Terra and beyond.

The First Prince had never dreamed small, and Victor knew that even now there were secret teams on Galax poring over old Star League schematics and combing through records to see if there were any abandoned vessels that might be recovered. Victor was surprised to find himself smiling faintly at the thought of how his father might react to his current situation.

But while Victor was lost in thought and memory, the Star Commander was very much present in the lift, and she wrinkled her nose at his presence before giving him a look up and down. With a sharp nod, she pressed a different button on the lift, apparently having decided on a detour.

The lift doors opened almost immediately, revealing another deck that looked identical to the first, save for different symbols on the doors. They stopped at one, though the doors opened before Victor could get a good glance at the “label”.

As the doors opened, they revealed a gray inner wall that seemed to serve as a partition to keep passersby from looking directly inside. But the Star Commander pulled Victor in behind her, stepping around the wall to reveal a bright and shining inner room, white walls alternating with mirrors. The smell of cleaning supplies and soap made the room’s purpose clear. Several benches were scattered against the wall, and most of them were full.

At first, Victor thought that he was looking at an assembly of children of all different ages, but after taking a closer look, he realized that they were all adults, just adults of an amazing spectrum of sizes and shapes.

The ones that stood out most were the giants. All of them looking at least 220cm tall, with the tallest exceeding two and a half meters. Each was also “an axe handle across the shoulders” as his grandmother had liked to say, and layered with thick muscle. One man looked wider than Victor was tall, which was impressive even if Victor wasn’t that tall himself.

And it turned out that he wasn’t the shortest man in the room, not by a long shot. What the prince had thought were the smallest children turned out to be large numbers of men and women who were small and slight, the tallest shorter than the prince’s own 160cm. Despite too-large eyes set into a too-large head, lined faces and scarred bodies covered in whipcord muscle attested that these were all grown men and women.

So engrossed was he in these bizzarities that he almost didn’t notice the ordinary people who filled the room. Compared to the giants and the dwarves, the collection of mostly-young people had barely registered, even though most were attractive and all were in excellent shape. For a moment, Victor thought that he saw his cousin Phelan out of the corner of his eye, but when he looked back, there was nothing.

As he followed the Star Commander further into the room, they drew stares and whispers. One woman moved to stand in their way, bright blue eyes incongruous against dark brown skin.

“Ranna, what do you mean by this?”

“I am afraid that I do not understand your question, Traci Radick.”

“This,” she said with contempt, gesturing towards Victor. “I do not ask why you are cleaning and feeding someone else’s animal, but I take issue with you bringing it here to interrupt our wash.”

“I am on the Khan’s business, Star Commander, and no business of yours.”

“So the Khan now orders you to wash and change invalids?”

The Star Commander - Ranna - looked about ready to throw a punch when an enormous hand fell on her shoulder.

The hand was connected to one of the giants, a woman whose long red braid hung to the ground.

“Peace, sister,” she said to the Star Commander before looking at Traci Radick. “And peace to you as well, Star Commander. Do you deny that you are a Warrior of Alpha Galaxy?”

Radick’s response was a surly look.

The woman continued, “And do you deny that even were you not in Alpha Galaxy, you would still be a Wolf?”

The look turned surlier.

“And do you deny that it is the duty of every Wolf to obey the orders of the Khan?”

Now, it was Traci Radick who looked ready to throw the punch.

The giant smiled as though she didn’t notice her interlocutor’s attitude. “So you see that Ranna may be acting in a manner that you find unusual, but she merely does her duty to the Clan. While I understand that you may have your own duties that preclude you lending your fellow aid, I am certain that you would never seek to interfere in a Warrior carrying out her duty. Or do we need to form a Circle?” She put an odd emphasis on the last word; Victor could practically hear the capital letter.

Traci Radicks’ face flushed even darker, and then she stalked off without another word. The crowd, every member of which had been watching the encounter closely, returned to their earlier business, even if many kept a surreptitious eye on Victor and his escort.

“My thanks, Evantha,” said Star Commander Ranna.

“Think nothing of it. Serve me by serving the Clan - quickly, before any more trouble comes.”

After that, one of the small men (Carew?) came to join them, and Victor was washed and shaved and dressed in clean clothing. The jumpsuit provided was a little tight across the chest, but otherwise fit surprisingly well. He had also acquired a pair of strangely heavy slippers that he’d been told could magnetize in the event of acceleration loss.

Back to the lift they went, up several decks and down a few corridors before they came to a door with a wolf’s head emblazoned on it, 5 “stars” like Ranna’s earring stamped beneath it. Victor had been to the offices of enough General Officers to recognize one when he saw it, even if the symbols themselves were strange.

The door opened despite no one knocking. “Please enter,” said a pleasant baritone, and Victor followed his escort in.

The speaker was a tall man with closely-shorn white hair, standing near the door. He had pale blue eyes set in a heavily-lined face. Victor put his age somewhere between a prematurely-aged mid-40s and a well-preserved mid-60s. He had a faint smile on his face, as though he was thinking about a joke but knew it was not appropriate to laugh aloud.

Ranna came to attention before him, a hand snapping into a salute of such crispness that Victor was certain his instructors back at the Nagelring would have wept with joy to behold it. The man - the Khan, no doubt - returned her salute, if not quite as sharply. “Thank you, Star Commander; I know that you do not typically perform escort duty,” he said.

“It is my honor to serve the Khan in whatever capacity he feels appropriate,” she replied, textbook-correct but allowing the barest hint of annoyance to leak through. The Khan nodded, and she turned on her heel and left.

He moved further inside, gesturing for Victor to follow him. The room was surprisingly large for a spacecraft, even for a senior officer; but perhaps that was the nature of WarShips. Despite its size, the room was sparsely furnished: a rug, two couches facing each other with a coffee table between them, a few bookshelves built into the walls, a table. The furniture was all mismatched but of excellent quality; to Victor it looked as though the Khan had furnished the room by simply walking through life and taking what he liked. With a start, he recognized a chair in the corner as having been taken from Marshal Steiner’s office.

The most remarkable object in the room was a large shield of what appeared to be Mech armor, blazoned with the same wolf’s head as the door had been, though the stars were replaced by a square balanced on one corner. Directly below sat a woman who peered at him curiously. She seemed about Victor’s own age or a little older and was also beautiful, with high cheekbones, full lips, and dirty blonde hair. Her bright blue eyes seemed to see through his skin, analyzing every part of him. There was a strong resemblance to the Khan - Victor suspected she was a daughter or at least a niece. Together with her air of easy confidence, he was all but certain that he was looking at an heir. Me, he thought wryly, At least in a few years.

He recalled his current circumstances. Or maybe not.

The third person in the room had been sitting on the couch facing away from the door, and as Victor made his way further in, he saw much to his shock that the man was wearing the robes of a ComStar precentor. Above the robes poked the head of an old man, his face deeply creased by decades of hard living. He revealed a patch over his right eye as he turned, which made his identity immediately apparent. The Precentor Martial of ComStar!

Victor saw his shock mirrored on the other man’s face: clearly the recognition was mutual. The Khan picked up on it too. “I see that the two of you are previously acquainted,” he said mildly.

The prince and the precentor looked at each other mutely, each caught out by the surprise of the encounter and by the recognition of their recognition.

After several tense moments, the Precentor Martial spoke. “I was at his parents’ wedding,” he said before hedging, “But then, so were a great many others. I recognize this boy but I would not say that we are acquainted.”

“Yes,” said the Khan thoughtfully, “I can see how a Precentor of ComStar might attend a royal wedding.”

And Victor’s stomach dropped through the floor. So much for keeping my identity secret, he thought to himself even as he acknowledged that it had always been a vain hope.

“And young Victor clearly recognizes you as well. I suppose you will say it is by reputation and not personal acquaintance?”

He looked at Victor at this last sentence, and the prince could only nod.

Smiling, he clapped his hands together. “That will save me the need to make introductions. We will move on to Star Captain Katya Kerensky, though I suppose you are already acquainted with her as well.” Captain Katya Kerensky! The voice on the radio, the pilot of that terrible Mech!

She had been watching the proceedings closely and now inclined her head slightly. “The two of us are indeed already acquainted, though this is our first in-person meeting where we are both conscious.” She redirected her gaze from the Khan towards Victor, giving a confident smile.  “It is good to see you walking. When the Scientists found that you had sustained a bad concussion, there was concern.”

After a pause, she added, “I am happy to see that the damage is not so great.” Strangely, she darted an uncertain glance at the Khan. Definitely an heir, and not quite certain how to act in a new situation. It was interesting to watch the familiar scenario from the outside.

“I have no doubt that you and the Star Captain will come to know each other very well,” said the Khan cryptically before gesturing towards himself, “And I am Ulric Kerensky, senior Khan of Clan Wolf, whose forces have taken several worlds in the first wave of our assault, Chateau most recent among them.”

Victor felt shocked to his very soul. Several worlds? The first wave of the assault? He thought to how easily a battalion of these Wolves had defeated a full Regimental Combat Team. The 10th Donegal Guards were hardly the 10th Lyran Guards, but they were no planetary militia either. And these Wolves had WarShips…

“You were captured in battle by Katya,” he nodded towards her, “And in the aftermath brought here to the Dire Wolf.” He paused, then continued, “I apologize if you already know this, but I was informed that you may have minor memory loss from injuries sustained. Regardless, Star Captain Kerensky will be discussing your status with you as you recuperate.”

Victor was at a loss for words, but felt that a simple nod was unlikely to suffice. “I…see,” he said after a beat. He then turned to Focht, “Precentor, I do not know the nature of your relationship with Clan Wolf,” Has ComStar been in touch with them for decades and facilitated this invasion, or are you simply opportunists trying to work the angles? “But I wonder if you might carry word of my survival to my parents? I would not ask you to reveal any military secrets, but surely the survival of a single prisoner of war is not critical intelligence.”

The old man shook his head, “Unfortunately, My P - Victor, I have been forbidden by the Primus from revealing our contact with these Clans. And to be honest, I suspect that your survival does constitute vital intelligence.” He did, at least, sound genuinely regretful.

Victor gave a slow nod, feeling his eyes water slightly. “I understand,” he said in a low voice, “I would not ask you to violate your orders.”

Ulric gestured for Victor to sit on the couch by Katya, and so he did. The Khan and the Precentor Martial began to make conversation, discussing what sounded like meaningless details about Chateau’s weather and cuisine. Katya held herself primly and made the occasional comment, but each time only after a pointed look from her mentor. The Precentor tried to include Victor, but he was too dazed to give more than one-word responses.

Just as Victor was beginning to wonder about his purpose in the room, Ulric looked at Victor and said, “It looks as though your stimulant may be wearing off. Katya, I know that as a Star Captain you are not accustomed to such duties, but I ask you to escort your bondsman back to the medical bay.”

“Yes, my Khan,” the woman said as she rose gracefully to her feet, and grabbed Victor's arm when he did not rise quickly enough, yanking him up none too gently. She did not salute as she left, but returned a nod to the Khan as she opened the door to the corridor.

The Star Captain kept a slower pace than the Star Commander had, so that Victor could walk easily instead of hurrying to keep up. They walked in silence, the prince thinking over the encounter, trying to decide if there had been any point to it aside from displaying him to the Precentor Martial, as the discussion had apparently included nothing of substance.

Or perhaps the point had been to display the Precentor Martial to him?

He stared at his new bracelet as he thought, and idly moved his left hand over to toy with it before abruptly remembering and jerking it back. His escort caught the motion, and explained, “I suppose that you must not be familiar. That is your bondcord. It indicates that you are a bondsman.” She paused a moment before continuing, “In fact, that you are my bondsman.”

Victor did not want to admit ignorance, but he thought that proceeding unaware might be more dangerous. “So I’m your prisoner of war?”

She gave a slight wince and then stopped walking and looked straight at him, a thoughtful expression on her face. “You are not a prisoner,” she said slowly. “You are…isorla. I suppose you might say that your status is closest to that of salvage.”

“Salvage?!” Victor couldn’t help raising his voice in incredulity and indignity.

“Yes. You were recovered from the battlefield, and one day may be repurposed to serve the Clan.” Seemingly very pleased with herself for that answer, she turned back to the corridor and resumed walking, faster now.

He took the hint and kept his silence. What does it mean that I’m salvage? Am I a slave? Being ‘repurposed’ does not sound very pleasant.

Soon, they reached the sick bay. His escort left without a word, and the medtech eased him back into the same bed he’d been on before.

He didn’t remember falling asleep.

SulliMike23

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Re: The Wolf Prince [Victor instead of Phelan]
« Reply #22 on: 25 May 2024, 18:12:18 »
I think this one makes a bit more sense. But that's just me.

 

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