“Steady, now. Steady. Damn your eyes, steady I say!” The last piece of the machine came to rest with a dull thump. “Capital. Check the alignment.”
Colonel Reese stood squinting in the eye of a storm of activity, a terrible frown doing far more for motivation than a whip ever could. All hands were at the moment riveted to a single marine running a hand held goniometer along the length of the machine, all cold dark stone assembled to a tapered point.
“Thirty-six and three-eighths degrees.” Came the reply.
“A touch high. Time?”
“Three and forty seconds.”
“That will never do. Run it out again-- did you blink? Did I just see an Emperor’s man pause? No, certainly not! Come along you wet sops, a foreigner’s soil is no excuse for a foreigner’s discipline! You left the Academy at five and thirty, I’ll be damned if you won’t get to it now.” One glower for emphasis at the black-clad infantrymen sent his boys flying into action. Reese was hardly a cruel taskmaster, far from it: He never issued beatings for petty things, but each to a man knew at this point that slovenly behavior was the fastest way to a cat o’ nine and a trip to be physicked.
“Colonel Reese?” A voice from behind made him spin, leaving the machine as its masters break it down to disjointed components and begin the cycle anew, as close as Reshalians ever came to the routine of holy ritual.
“Eh? What this, Gatemaster? I oughtn’t’ve expected your calling for an hour yet.” Reese snapped to a crisp salute which was returned lazily by the peacock feather’d marine. Though the Colonel technically outranked his fellow, the men who made the Gates were rather a thing unto themselves when it came to protocol, so rare was the capability of the required maths and magics.
“Aye, indeed. There’s been a change in docketing. The Marshall is transiting to the south. Your presence is requested.”
“Ah?” His ebon brow reflected his surprise. “Well! How uncanny. Of course, of course. Lay on.”
Howe’s party had already assembled long before Reese had made his way to the other edge of the field the Empire had set as a staging ground. A litter of tents and men made any direct path impossible and so they dodged sparring partners and blacksmith's anvils at every turn.
It was hard to miss the Marshall, however, even with his eyes closed Reese could feel the unsettling aura of the man intensifying. Howe was one of the few who could maintain an open Conduit for hours uninterrupted, and he frequently chose to do so in hostile terrain. The amount of raw energy being redirected through the so-called Iron Dragon was oppressive. It felt like gravity was actively competing for dominance—and losing. He swallowed down a rising nausea.
“Reese. Good of you to come. At ease, son. We’re pivoting over to the Southern Front.”
“Has there been a development, my lord?” Last he had been informed, Davis had been assigned south command, but that meant little. That Takana was inscrutable. They had already adjusted their alpha stratagem four times in the last two days to account for some unknown ‘variable.’
“No, no. Not t’all. This is a personal prerogative.” The Marshall was watching some invisible point along the horizon as he spoke, his thoughts thrumming across his projected aura as his concentration ebbed and flowed. “Perhaps I’m being an old fool, but I simply cannot adhere to Ka`ana`ana’s philosophy.” Howe’s focus swung onto him at last. “I doubt its need, but don your battle dress. We leave at quarter of.”
The dismissal left Reese rushing back to his tent with bare minutes to slap his lorica plumata over his shoulders-- and no time at all to ponder the crypticisms his commander spoke in.
Outside the city of Drache lies a number of cities, towns and provinces of varying size and populace. Most of the people living outside Drache are natives who speak Arangothian and observe the native customs and rituals. Click here for a list Arangoth's locales, and here to view a map.
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