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 Post subject: Tokaray does a number
PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:35 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:56 pm
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Jeanezville, Autonomous Republic of Mishalan, Ejere 11 Gevraquun 1645 (275 days after the Oustfest Massacre):

The Tribune's boots clacked loudly on the polished wooden floor. Legate Constantine Loup, followed in her wake along a corridor of aged stone slaked with whitewash – Amokolian tapestries, gas lamps hung in shallow recesses at intervals along the walls – until they came to a heavy cedar door. He obeyed the Tribune's gesture to wait there a moment. Then, when she moved aside with a perfunctory smile, he went into the chamber. Tokaray al-Osman was reclining on a red leather sofa, surveying the view out the window set to his right; the Gothic spires of the Luthorian cathedral, the haphazard jumble of warped lead-tile roofs and red brick chimney stacks, all silhouetted against the muted scarlet hues of a setting Atos at dusk. Loup couldn't help but notice, as he entered the room, the silver tray that had been set down on a vast mahogany desk at the end of the room. On it was sat the unmistakable ashen grey, hairless and horrifically scarred head of Laqi Hyrrion. Loup diligently persevered in pretending not to notice but could feel the lifeless eyes following him as he stepped further into the chamber. Tokaray glanced across and acknowledged Loup's existence.
“Legatus, welcome. Do sit down.”
“Thank you, Lord.”
It felt strange to still be addressing a condemned traitor and regicide in those terms. But the treasures of the sacred bounty could buy a lot in this world, whether it be the indulgence of certain small foibles, or protection for ostensibly the most hated man in Benacia.
“And how goes the hunt for me?”
The shaven headed brute appraised Loup as he sat down in the slightly distressed green leather armchair kept for visitors. The erstwhile Anti-Kaiser tilting his head slightly as Loup made himself comfortable, as though perceiving him from a different angle would reveal whether he had already betrayed him.
“As you requested, the Imperial Constabulary have been alerted to your presence here. The Mango Rangers are currently negotiating safe conduct with the Mishalan Garrison and the Soviet authorities.”
Tokaray smiled briefly.
“Why, its almost as though they don't trust each other.”
His voice could almost have been dripping acid as he spoke. Tokaray was about sixty-three. He was bald, carried a scar on his forehead that arced down to bisect his left eyebrow. His face was weather-tanned and aged but still seemed to possess a pent up energy, a fury more likely, that could be unleashed at a moments notice but was held in place by will alone. He had sharp, viciously darting little eyes that were heavily shadowed by his heavily set brows. His nose looked as though it had been broken and reset at least once in his life. To Loup it looked to be a face that had spent a lifetime studiously cultivating malevolence. His face was never entirely settled but would frequently alternate between a scowl, a smirk and a sneer, almost as though he could never entirely decide which was the most appropriate face to present to the world. Not for the first time Loup found himself wondering whether his benefactor was deranged, the revenant's head sat on a silver tray behind him lent some credence to that hypothesis after all. In the end Loup decided that it was more likely that Tokaray had been Tokaray for so long that he'd developed a morbid suspicion of humanity. After all, at least one of his last lives had been spent peering into the innermost recesses of the human psyche, and if that wouldn't send you slightly insane – what would?
“And if they reach an agreement ahead or schedule, or don't feel like waiting?”
Tokaray's question was the one he had been expecting, and he had an answer prepared for it.
“For the guests who arrive without an appointment, we have a Snaggletooth hidden under netting in the woods on the northern edge of the city. It can be in the air within five minutes of a warning, and overhead within three minutes of that. For yourself, we have a Novoz parked in side alley adjacent this building. It will then take you out of the city along Proletariat Avenue. We have a few men and women down at street level ready to deal with anyone who attempts to tail you.”
Tokaray nodded thoughtfully.
“A Novoz, you mean one of those lumps of crap they drive around in over in the Shrublands? Ahriman's septic arse, how did you get one of those?”
“A revenant made a wrong turning along the internal border in the Tellian Condominium. Actually stopped a Cedrocommando patrol to ask for directions to Romero. Local boys – the San Marco legion I think – so they set fire to the Lich using lighter fluid and the spare tyre, and kept the car. I subsequently won it in a game of cards.”
“Won't that be a bit conspicuous?”
“Not really. All the official cars out in this part of the world look broadly similar. You'll just be another one of the nomenklatura being chauffeured home from the office. Besides, the bio-diesel engine offers excellent fuel economy.”
Tokaray's scarred eyebrow twitched while his face underwent another brief moment of contortion. Loup wondered briefly whether perhaps he had just been too flippant. Tokaray's face however eventually settled on something a little like a sneery-smirk, if Loup could quite convince himself that there was such a thing.
“Well. It's a plan. It won't be necessary. Come. I have something to show you.”
With that, Tokaray abruptly stood up and walked across to a large oak panelled cabinet that was almost as tall as he was. He opened it with a tiny key on a silver chain pulled from his pocket and, to Loup's not inconsiderable surprise, drew out a broadsword, sheathed in a red leather scabbard. Loup was on his feet and walked across to where Tokaray stood. Reversing the blade so that the hilt faced towards Loup, Tokaray proffered him the sword.
“What do you think?”
Loup drew the sword from its sheath as carefully as if he were being handed a newborn baby.
“Is this...?”
“You may be assured that it is.”
Tokaray was smiling warmly. Genuine warmth, as though it were something he was genuinely proud of. This was novel and somewhat disconcerting based on Loup's acquaintance with the man thus far.
“It's... it's not as its usually pictured.”
Loup tentatively ventured.
“There were two blades. Both hideously ugly. So I had them both melted down and reforged under my supervision. This is now the one, the genuine article. But enough of you handling my sword, give that back here before this becomes any more awkward.”
Reluctantly, Loup complied. The Sword of Vengeance, itself a heirloom that would be worth the GDP of an Imperial State in ransom, taken by Tokaray from the murdered Dominus, and retained after his own ignominious flight into Mishalan.
“Why are you showing this to me?”
It was a legitimate question, Loup was not a member of the Crypteia after-all and had only been assigned to duty as a liaison officer because he was surplus to his Corps commander's requirements. His legion, the LXX, had been chewed up and spat out by the UDF at the Battle of Arandurcourt. Rostami, the Magister Militum of his corps, had redistributed the surviving regiments and had been frankly disgusted with Loup for blundering into Dravot's ambush. That he had been able to fight his way clear had been scant consolation, and now Loup had all the thankless tasks – including being nursemaid to a traitor for so long as the General Staff deem it fit to spin out the game of cat and mouse with the Imperial Government.
“Because you, Legatus, will be the one who will have to make a true and faithful accounting of what I have done today. First to the Magister Primum, and then, eventually, to that Froyalanish arse-rape whore Noor herself.”
“Lord, what have you done?”
“Come and see. The time is almost right.”
And with a certain amount of bemused curiosity, tinged with a slight sense of unease, Loup followed Tokaray as he walked across to the desk upon which was set the decapitated head of Laqi Hyrrion. Loup paused for a moment in alarm and dismay when he saw the dead man's vacant eyes roll upwards in their sockets. Tokaray merely scoffed.
“He does that from time to time. The worthless little bastard. Can't even die properly. I thought about sending him to Dravot as a thank-you present. Those two have history you know.”
Loup didn't and didn't want to know either.

Tokaray meanwhile had set the sword down on the desk beside the severed head, and opened up one of the draws. From it he produced several sheaves of aged yellow paper, of the sort used in expensive notebooks, that looked as though they had been hurriedly torn out. As Tokaray laid the papers out on the desk, Loup could see that they were journal entries of some-kind written in an elegant recursive longhand script. On top of this elegant text had been added an extra layer of barbarous doodlings, of drawings and underlinings and strange gnostic markings that looked as though they had escaped from a Yastreb fever-dream. Some of the pages looked as though they had been splattered with candle wax. One even looked as though it had been stained by a coffee mug... Loup glanced across, concerned, at Tokaray who now, as he placed a gold bracelet and a silver ring on the desk, had a look of single-minded intensity on his face.
“The journal of Aiomide Oqtavion. His account of passing through the underworld. I have meditated on this possibility for a long time. A long, long time. A gateway to Balgurd was just one possibility. The possibility that Aiomide was interest in, so it took him there. But I knew the Sword was key. I have tried all the rituals and drawn a blank. Every single one. All a failure. It vexed me. Vexed me greatly. But then, when I heard that the Mage I'd left in Shirekeep to cover my tracks had been able to vanish as if into thin air. I knew what had to be done. All it requires is will, and a threefold sacrifice.”
“A sacrifice?”
Loup asked incredulously, whilst contemplating the best way to quietly back out of the room while Tokaray was fixated. Too late. Tokaray picked up the sword once more.
“The bracelet belonged to my mother. Though I love her, I renounce her. The ring belongs to by first wife – assuredly not to my second – and though I love her, I renounce her. Laqi, though I have no fondness for him, has been bound in my service, though he knew it not, and I renounce his soul. Ahriman, Lest, Lord of the Lie. Sleepless Guardian, proud and wise. Killer of the Unworthy. Guardian of the Lost Word. The Serpent Swallows the Seal. The Serpent Swallows its Tail. The Serpent Becomes the Seal. THE SERPENT BECOMES THE SEAL.”
Loup, by now was thoroughly alarmed.
“Sir, put the sword down. Sir, my Lord. Please put the sword down. There's no need to get upset. I can... I can fetch your aide, if you like, yes, that's it. I'll call for help.”
Tokaray however was oblivious to this and was continuing to hoarsely bellow.
“THE SERPENT HAS BECOME THE SEAL AND I HAVE BECOME THE SERPENT!”
At that moment he raised the broadsword up and swung it savagely downwards, embedding it in the head of Laqi Hyrrion with a dull thud and a crack followed by a sickening squelch that made Loup wince. For a moment he just stood there in appalled silence watching Tokaray who seemed inordinately pleased with what he had just done.
“Sir. Let go of the sword. You're not well, Sir. It doesn't have to be like this. We can clear this up. We can get you help.”
Tokaray turned to face Loup. It wasn't the face of a madman. Above the feverish smile was distant expression, devoid of curiosity and seemingly lost in a world of its own.
“Help? Oh my dear Agha Loup. It is not I who will need help. Tell your masters. Tell that whore in Shirekeep. Tell them what you are about to see. Then you can decide who needs the help.”
Loup was stupefied. How do you reason with a lunatic with a sword. It was then that he noticed that the sword was dripping blood. At first glance this didn't surprise him, the sword was embedded in a dead man's head after all, yet Laqi had been dismembered months ago, and had been a revenant for decades before that. Whatever blood once coursed through his veins should have dried to dust long ago, yet fresh blood was oozing from the shattered skull and, drip by drip, was beginning to pool in the tray. Tokaray, noticing that Loup's attention had drifted towards the shattered ruin of Laqi's face, turned to glance down at the desk and, as he did so, chortled in triumph.
“It's begun. You see? It's begun.”
The room had still been lit by the fading glimmering of a setting Atos when Loup had first entered, yet now a darkness seemed to be all-pervading, as if shadows were passing over every surface in the room. The silver tray was now overflowing with blood. Loup instinctively began to back away towards the door and was about to turn and flee when he saw Tokaray grip the Sword of Vengeance by its hilt and wrench it free of the skull of what had once been Laqi Hyrrion. In that moment there was a ghostly sigh and the split head crumbled into a heap of dust floating on the congealing tray of blood. Loup was by now past being surprised when Tokaray, with one hand, picked up the silver tray and pressed it to his lips and began to drink down its grisly contents with a gusto and relish that revolted him to his core. Disdainfully, Tokaray cast the tray aside and grasped the sword once more with both hands.
Instead of attacking a defenceless Loup as he had half expected, Tokaray instead raised the blade to a point level with his face and turned towards the nearest wall, into which he began to carve first a horizontal line and then two vertical lines. Loup had had enough by this point and made a desperate bolt towards the door. He fumbled the handle at the first attempt but was able to wrench it open at the second. As he fled, Tokaray's voice echoed behind him.
“No, stay. You'll miss the best part.”
The tone was unmistakably sarcastic. Even to the very last. As Loup rushed down the calling out for the Tribune who had led him in to come to his assistance he was interrupted by a sudden cry. A piercing scream, full of horror and despair, that ceased to be recognisably human long before it had finished. When Loup and the Tribune returned to the chamber, all the furniture had been smashed, the windows shattered, the walls smeared with blood and Tokaray had vanished.

_________________
His Imperial Magnificence Aurangzeb II Steffki, Kaiser of the Imperial Republic of Shireroth, Thane of the Shirelands, Keeper of the Apollo Legacy, Wielder of the Sword of Vengeance, Grand Master of the Orders of the Dragon, Griffin, Phoenix, and Chimera, Sovereign of the Golden Mango Throne.

Dr Tokaray al-Osman KBH, Commissioner of the Chamber of the Crypteia, Emir of Jadid Khaz Modan, Annexer of Yardistan


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 Post subject: Re: Tokaray does a number
PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 10:28 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:26 pm
Posts: 64
*sustained applause*

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Royana S.D. Dolordotch
Viscountess of Karymovka
Third State Arborist of the Empire of Minarboria
(Krasniy)


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