Burning Empires: Boldaq


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    Burning Empires: Boldaq

    Hey All;

    I've been writing this up on other boards for a while now, so I figured I'd put it down here.

    Burning Empires is a neat little - or maybe not so little - game based on the Iron Empires graphic novels. It's got some interesting mechanics:

    • You start the game by going through a questionaire that defines the world. The questions start out vague: where in the galaxy is your world located? What's the atmosphere like? World government? And go into more detail: what's the primary industry? Level of quarantine? These questions are answered as a group, and everyone has input into it. Each answer has mechanical effects on the game.
    • The campaign is broken up into three Phases: Infiltration, Usurpation, and Invasion. Each side, the Humans and the Vaylen (mind-controlling alien worms who don't play much of a part in our game), start off with a number of "hit points", called Disposition, based on parameters set in World Burning.
    • Each session is broken up into one or two Maneuvers. A Maneuver is where you sit down and actually play. Each side (the players vs. the GM) picks an action with the intent of whittling down the enemy Disposition. When one side's Disposition hits 0, that side loses the Phase. When the Invasion Phase has been finished, game over man, game over!
    • Each Maneuver is broken down into Scenes. There are four types of Scenes: Colour, Interstitial, Building, and Conflict. Each player gets 1xColour and Interstitial, and 1 of either a Building or a Conflict Scene. The GM has the same for each of his main NPCs (the Figures of Note).
    • Colour Scenes are for detailing things - a character's internal monologue, describing landscape, etc. No dice are rolled!
    • Interstitial Scenes are when two or more characters get together and talk. No dice are rolled here, either!
    • Building Scenes are for getting stuff done. You can make up to three rolls.
    • Conflict Scenes are the climaxes, the big gunfights, the space battles. Lots of dice are rolled!


    Anyways, you probably didn't read all that. It doesn't matter. I haven't made many notes on the mechanics in the write-ups, so if you have questions, shoot.

    The set-up:

    Boldaq is a crummy little world in the no-man's land between the Iron Empires. Two centuries ago, it was infiltrated by the Vaylen. Anyone who had the means fled the planet, leaving only a rag-tag resistance. But they were able to defeat the Worm thanks to the use of Psychology (psychic powers) and great sacrifice.

    Now the nobles have come back to lay claims on the planet. They include:
    • [NPC, Figure of Note] Duke von Zagas, the Black Duke. A powerful Forged Lord (controls spaceships - Hammer - and ground forces - Anvil) and Arch Antistes (think Cardinal), he believes that Boldaq is the key to becoming Emperor and Primarch (think Pope).
    • [PC, Figure of Note] Hammer Lord Tovol von Zagas, son of the Black Duke. He is driven to conquer Boldaq and become Forged Lord. He's a Cotar Fomas, a general in the church, and wants to spread the word of the prophet Ahmilak.
    • [PC-NPC] Kaeli, Lord Tovol's consort. She's a mule - a psychologist without the Bright Mark, the scar that marks all psychics.
    • [NPC] Archcotare Sibil. He's the top Church figure on Boldaq. He wants to serve his Duke, discover the secrets that have been hidden on Boldaq for so long, and drive a wedge between Tovol and his father. Not a very religious man.
    • [NPC, Figure of Note] Margrave Chazovic, aka Fat Chaz. A nasty space pirate who climbed (and ate) his way up the ranks to become a Hammer Lord. He is busy setting up a smuggling ring while he gathers resources to win Boldaq, his last shot at legitimacy.
    • [NPC] Draz Tolo, aka the Butcher. Fat Chaz's right-hand-man. Assassin, deadly, not a very nice guy.
    • [PC, Figure of Note] The Pali Suren Vachir Edrene, a minor noble figure come to claim an ancient fief. He is a psychologist and Inquisitor and he believes that he's the prophet that can spark a new phase in galactic evolution.
    • [NPC, Figure of Note] Kofer Pyatt, Warlord of Boldaq. He is a native, half mountain-man, half city-dweller. Also a psychologist, he believes that he is the prophet that will lead Boldaq into a new golden age.


    That should be it... on with the story, then.
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

 

  • #2
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    Colour. Hammer Lord Tovol von Zagas.

    We see a rust-coloured planet in the background. A dark sliver of a space station orbits it.

    Enter: A hammer fleet from distortion. They set up orbit. Cargo vessels and assault shuttles head to the space station. Cut to: Lord Tovol on his bridge. His blue-blue eyes are like steel. Focused on his task, he commands his men to get the space station ready.

    In space, we see the station's lights flick on one-by-one. It begins a slow spin, turning faster and faster.

    Colour. Suren Vachir Edrene, psychologist Inquisitor.

    Establishing shot: On the planet, in an old Tibetan-like monestary high above the mountains. Cut to: A young child dressed in the functional wear of the Pakthas natives. She is tagged on the shoulder by the gentle Pali. "Tag, you're it." The child runs off giggling.

    Building. Kofer Pyatt, GM FoN.

    A smuggling vessel - all sleek lines and sharp angles - touches down on a small plateau deep in the mountains. Men pour forth, jack lasers at the ready. Out comes Fat Chaz [GM FoN], weapons covering his body. [On his character sheet under Physical Description it says: page 47.] "All right you dogs, let's get this Lazuli loaded up quick-like!"

    Suddenly, hidden men armed with old slug-throwing rifles appear, covering the plateau from the mountains. A single man clad in battle-scarred Index 4 Iron strides forth with strength of purpose. He takes off his helmet, and we see the scar of the Taab Assar - the Bright Mark that marks him as a psychologist.

    Fat Chaz challenges him. Kofer Pyatt, the half-Pakthas warlord offers a deal. "I will supply you with the Gul Janat, the flowers of paradise, to sell among the newcomers. This will weaken their resolve, and make it easier for you to smuggle."

    "And in return?"

    "You will harrass the fleet. To ensure you keep the bargain, you will open your mind to me."

    "I'll sell them the drugs, but I won't let you inside my head. Do you think me mad, weak?"

    "Very well. But I need some assurances."

    "An exchange of personnel. I'll give you some of my smugglers, and I'll train your boys to be good distortion monkeys like the rest of us."

    Kofer Pyatt looks over at a younger version of himself - Taab Assar not as deep - and nods. The young man heads over to Fat Chaz's ship.

    Fat Chaz turns to his own son. "Father, I'm not going with him, he's just a backwards-"

    SMACK! "Don't ever question me again, boy." Chazovic junior kowtows to his father. "Truly, father, I am an extension of your hand. If you but wish his death, I will have it done." Chaz hands him one of his many handguns.

    Interstitial. Lord Toval.

    A hammer shuttle lands in the Pali Suren Vachir Edrene's fortress. Monks are blowing their horns, banging the gongs, petals are thrown before the plank. Ghazi warriors stand at attention bearing curved swords and long halberds flowing with the colours of Edrene.

    Out steps the serious Lord Toval, dressed in full anvil. The Wheel of Fire on one epaulette, the insignia of von Kagas on the other.

    Pali Edrene greets him. They talk alliance. Neither will challenge the other's fief on planet. Both agree that the Gonzagin pirates - Fat Chaz, in name - are the biggest threat.

    Lord Toval heads back to the space station.

    Interstitial. Archcotare Sibil, in proxy for the Forged Lord and Arch Antistes Duke von Zagas.

    A silver-haired man in flowing robes enters Lord Toval's room. Lord Toval, ever the penitent, approaches him and bares his forehead. Archcotare Sibil touches his exposed flesh with his fire-tattooed hand.

    "I have been informed that you have spoken with the Karsan League heretic!"

    "We merely spoke of the need to strike at the pirates."

    "You are too concerned with the mundane and forget the soul! This man is a heretic, and as the the rightful Archcotare of Boldaq, only I have the authority to make this ruling. You must give me an audience with this man and let me judge him on the Wheel!"

    Cut To:

    Building. Same.

    Archcotare Sibil enters Pali Edrene's meeting hall under the watchful eye of Lord Toval.

    "Edrene," he says, giving the Karsan noble no deference, "you are a heretic. Under the Law of the Ahmilak you have no place here."

    The Bright Mark fires up. Edrene sees that this man is concerned with power above all. Venal, agnostic.

    "You dare scan me? The Prophet tells us that no man may question the judgement of his Archcotare!"

    "I am an Inquisitor of the Mundus Humanitus. As such, it is my duty to question all."

    "Aah! You will come with me now, to be judged on the Wheel of Fire, Karsan heretic."

    "Your Eminence, you forget your place. I have broken no laws, and yet you come in barking at me - noble born, granted this fief by virtue of my birth - calling for me to be judged? My claim is valid, my soul is pure, and until you can prove otherwise I shall not be moved."

    "Bah!" The Archcotare storms out.

    Lord Toval watches on, seeing, for the first time, an Archcotare schooled in etiquette and church law.

    They exit. Sibil turns to Lord Toval. "Now, can you not see how he is full of heresy? He speaks out against his right and proper Archcotare!"

    Lord Toval considers this, but he does not like the approach Sibil has taken. The office of the Archcotare deserves more than this.

    Building. Pali Edrene.

    We see a group of Ahmek Zai - Pakthas, by the layman's tongue - out in the mountains. They ride their I-as Patuns, great 8-legged mountain goats. One bears carefully wrapped bundles.

    A ship lights down. One of the Ahmek Zai signals the others. They wrap themselves in their desert cloaks and blend into the landscape. The leader, Hodi, removes his veil and bares his deep blue turban.

    A mean, scarred man leaves the ship. He hails Hodi. "Well, man, let's have it. Where are the goods?"

    The other Ahmek Zai [the Sons of Ahmilak] appear out of nowhere. The scarred smuggler is not fazed.

    The cargo is loaded. "Butcher," he says, calling the smuggler Draz Tolo by his well-earned nickname, "for what are you using these goods? You have not been concerned with the Gul Janat 'til now, only the sacred Lazuli."

    "Hmm. We're going to get the spacers hooked on this stuff. Make it easier to make our runs." He turns to his men. "Hurry up you slackers! Get this loaded! You don't want a Zagas crusier lighting us up, do you? Then get to work!"

    Bodi thinks about the Gul Janat, and how it will wreak terrors on those pul-wan butanah who take it. They will not want more after that.

    Scene. Colour - Fat Chaz, GM FoN. Gonzagin pirate.

    We see the sleek smuggling ship of Fat Chaz running silent in space. He watches the hammer fleet of Lord Toval in space, spreading out. Some shuttles are expelling zero-g repair teams to a cluster of orbital sattelites.

    "Now we know who the competition is."

    Scene. Interstitial - Pali Surene Vachir Edrene.

    Pali Edrene is holding court, in a Tibetan monk-Dali Lama sense. The Ahmek Zai are coming to pay tribute to this newcomer.

    Bodi approaches. "You look troubled, my son," Edrene says.

    "I have dealt with the off-worlders and become unclean." He fears the wrath of god.

    "Be still, my son. Let the soul of your Pali cleanse you." The Bright Mark - the Taab Assar - flares. The two men become as one. Edrene sees the meeting between the smuggler Draz Tolo and Bodi.

    "He is the legend!" Whispers and cries of ecstasy ring through the crowd.

    Scene. Interstitial. Fat Chaz.

    Lord Toval sits in his command chair on the bridge of his hammer. "Sir, incoming transmission."

    The holo-proj flares to life. It can barely contain the girth of Fat Chaz.

    "Lord Toval. So happy to see you again. It's been a long time since the Battle of Deep Nebula."

    "Fat Chaz," Lord Toval says, contempt dripping off his every word, "you pig. You are the one behind these pirates."

    "Pirates? These are men, working to better themselves. Not that you would know anything about that, being born into everything you have."

    "Yes, I am born into nobility. That gives me the right to call you filth."

    Fat Chaz grabs a pickled hammer rat and bites its head off, swallowing in one gulp. "Filth? Ha! I've been called worse. Let's see how you deal with filth destroying you."

    Alarm klaxons RING out on Lord Toval's bridge. Cut To: A small squad of hammer gunning it from the dark side of the moon.

    Firefight. Fat Chaz.

    "Did you get a lock on that transmission?"

    "...no, sir." Too caught up listening to the talk, Toval's sensor man ignored the faint signals on his screen. Now he fears the wrath of his Lord.

    But that will come later. Hammer assault shuttles SCREAM through space, launching a barrage of deadly missiles.

    "Evasive maneuvers! Bring us behind those sattelites!" Toval's hammer fleet - what's ready for action - jumps to life. They move away from the deadly missile fire and take cover behind the old pre-war sattelites.

    BOOM! Missiles rain down on the sattelites. "Get a lock on those ships!" But it's of no use - the explosions give off too much interference.

    Fat Chaz, co-ordinating via signals, orders his men. "Engage thrusters - get behind that space station." The ships race towards the space station.

    Lord Toval smiles. He takes the helm himself, grappling with the controls. "Not yet... hold your fire... not yet..." He knows from personal experience when the best firing solution will present itself. "Now!" Fusion beams light up the void. Pirate hammer flare and explode into dust.

    "Now, afterburners! Close on them! Point-blank!" Lord Toval's ships race towards the pirates, firing fusion cannons as they do so. Missiles explode in the melee, stripping armour from both sides. Point-blank fusors fire, ripping ships apart.

    Space is lit up for an eternity of seconds, and then all is calm.

    "Fat Chaz will think twice about confronting me again," Lord Toval thinks.

    On his own ship, Fat Chaz looks over the results of the conflict. "Toval hasn't lost his edge. But now I know where he's weak."

    Maneuver. Vaylen - Assess. Human - Assess.

    Fat Chaz, combining the data from his smuggling sorties, the firefight, and Kofer Pyatt's own sensor suite, sees the holes in the planetary security grid. "The drugs shall flow. Lord Koval will have his hammer cut out from underneath him."
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

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    Scene. Interstitial, GM FoN Kofer Pyatt.

    Open the new issue of the "graphic novel" and you'll see the first page is a splash of rust colours. A harsh land, arid mountains, forboding plateaus.

    We see a small figure moving through it.

    He climbs the mountain to the Pali Edrene's mountain demense. No armour, rifle strapped to his back. A thick Korean-ish man watches him through binoculars.

    The man reaches the monestary. He is strong and vital and not just in body. He has the Taab Assar and the Corvus and Crucius of ancient warlords.

    "Hand over you weapons," Bortei, the watcher, the Shield of the Pali, says. The man complies. Bortei escorts him to the Pali Edrene.

    Edrene waves away the Pakthas he is training to walk the Path of Fire. He greets the pilgrim.

    "Pali Edrene, I am Kofer Pyatt. I have been given rule over this planet by the right of my birth - by the blood of my ancestors spilt over this land and by the Taab Assar."

    "We embrace you. What do you seek here?"

    "I seek knowledge. I hear rumours among the Pakthas, the Ahmek Zai, that you are the prophet predicted by prophecy. But you are an outworlder. I would learn the truth of it."

    "I am as my ancestors made me."

    "As am I. But my ancestors ruled this planet, and you claim this land for yourself. It is mine by right. Swear fealty to me and I will embrace you among the righteous."

    "The Pali swears to none but the Tir-Kahn!" Bortei shouts.

    "My servant speaks the truth," Edrene says. "I have sworn an oath and I cannot swear another."

    "Then let this matter be settled by Petrus Shir Dil and the Jirga council. We shall both be tested in the Fire."

    Scene. Lord Tovol, Colour.

    Space. A hammer assault shuttle races through space. Plasma arcs trail the shuttle. A hit! The shuttle shudders. A massive hammer cruiser descends upon it.

    Cut to: The bridge of Lord Tovol. A door slides open. He spins in his captain's throne at the two pirates thrown before him.

    One bears the painted-on blue bright mark of the Pali Edrene's men.

    "I must speak with Edrene about this," he thinks. "He must stop the natives from aiding the Gonzagin pirates."

    Standing at his side, a beautiful woman, skin as white as burning fire, nods to his thoughts.

    Scene. Interstitial. Lord Tovol.

    A holographic image of the Hammer Lord springs to life in the Pali Surene Vachir Edrene's psychohistory lab.

    "Pali Edrene," he begins, "I have reason to believe your men are working for the Gonzagin pirates - for Fat Chaz."

    "It may be so. I have little control over these people of yet."

    "Put a stop to this!"

    "I will do what I can. And I may have access to people among these pirates."

    Scene. Colour. Fat Chaz, GM FoN.

    A yeoman sits wailing in a corner of the space station. "The eye, the web!"

    "What the is wrong with him? He's really messed up."

    "He took some of those Janat drugs the smugglers brought in."

    "Don't look like something I want to try."

    Scene. Colour. Surene Vachir Edrene.

    Edrene sits cross-legged amid a constant flow of holograms, a tattered parchment before him. Generations of faces flash by him. He reaches into his robes and pulls out a fist-sized chunk of Lazuli and places it into the projector.

    A blue light envelops him and he dissolves.

    Scene. Building. Fat Chaz, GM FoN.

    A smuggling vessel lights down on a dark plateau. Out comes Fat Chaz.

    Bodi, an Ahmek Zai and favoured of the Pali, greets him. Fat Chaz draws a CEBW and jams it into Bodi's temple.

    "Those drugs you sold us - they were . Are you trying to with me?"

    "They are the best we have." He subtlely waves off the other ghazi who have Fat Chaz in their rifle's sights.

    ". I know you have better quality. I want to speak with the man you supply with the good stuff."

    "Great sir, we have given you nothing but the best."

    Fat Chaz grunts. "Well, give me more of that Lazuli. I know that won't go bad." He turns back to his ship.

    Bodi walks off. "These pirates are no better than the pal-wan butanah of the city, weak and driven by avarice."

    Scene. Building. Surene Vachir Edrene.

    Fat Chaz appears in a thousand different holograms, every stage of his life laid bare. The battle at Deep Nebula, his rise to power in the battles against the Vaylen worms - Edrene takes all these in.

    He contacts Lord Tovol. "I have unlocked the desires of the Margrave Chazovic. He knows you, as you know him. The way to defeat him is to be what he does not know."

    Edrene heads out to a balcony and looks over his lands lit up by the stars. Cut to: Bodi, standing guard over a fire of softly glowing coals. Edrene's Bright Mark flares. "My Pali," Bodi whispers in the night.

    "Tell me, Bodi, are your men working with the smugglers?"

    "We are. They sell us the weapons we need to fight the pal-wan butanah in the marshes and the cities." Images flash through Bodi's mind and reach Edrene.

    "You are a good man, Bodi."

    "My Pali! I wish to be your shield, your death commando!"

    "You are my Arrow, Bodi, to be loosed into my foes."

    Bodi cuts the silences of the night with cries of ecstasy.

    Scene. Conflict. Lord Tovol.

    "We have picked up a number of strong signatures from this asteroid, here." The Hammer lieutenant points to a hologram of a hollowed-out asteroid. "Missile silos are his main defense, here and here."

    Lord Tovol stares at the hologram with his cold blue eyes. His consort, Keili the White, questions the lieutenant for him. "You have deep scans of this base? We know what we are headed into?"

    "Yes, my Lord," he says to Lord Tovol. "We have them."

    Cut to: Fat Chaz, sitting at the control and command on the asteroid base. "Tovol, that idiot. He's walking right into my trap."

    We see blast doors open on the exterior of the asteroid and a hidden heavy plasma battery cycle up.

    Lord Tovol's hammer strike fleet, a near dozen destroyers providing picket for his flagship, advance from out of the sun. To his left, Edrene's landing craft race toward the asteroid.

    Missiles light up the void. They strike each other creating a great wall of flame. Some break through, destroying hammer and crashing into the pirate base.

    Edrene's shuttles race by, harrassing the asteroid, unable to close for fear of the destructive power of the missile salvos.

    Fat Chaz: "Lock on to them! Cycle up that cannon!"

    "Locked!"

    Another salvo of missiles from each side fire. They destroy naught but each other.

    "Reload those missiles! Where is my cannon!"

    "It will be up soon!"

    But it's too late. Edrene's shuttles rain fire on the missile silos. A blast of plasma cuts the cannon in half. Soon his men are among the pirate, vaporising them with their fusors.

    "Abandon base! Every man for himself!" Fat Chaz slips out on his private shuttle, watching his precious hammer be picked off by Lord Tovol's fleet and his asteroid base fall to Edrene's men.

    Scene. Colour. Duke von Zga.

    Empty space.

    A flash of light. A message becon appears from nowhere. It whines as it transmits data to Boldaq's space station.

    Scene. Intersitial. Duke von Zga.

    Archcotare Sibil rushes into his personal comm room. He tries to make himself presentable to his Duke.

    "You Eminence," he says as the Duke flickers in a hologram. "What may I do for you?"

    "Tell me, what has my son been up to?"

    "He has allied himself with the Karsan heretic Surene Vachir Edrene. He focuses all his efforts on the Gonzagin pirates and neglects his duties on-world. He has not even set up a proper church for the change!"

    "Edrene, that bastard. You must make sure that Edrene has no power over this world. I must take it - I must! The Primarchy and the Throne are in my reach. Drive a wedge between the two - ensure that Boldaq belongs to none but the Zga."

    Scene. Conflict. Kofer Pyatt.

    A full moon rises above the caves that house the Jirga council of Boldaq. Ahmek Zai gather to watch the trial of the Pali. Talk among the Ahmek Zai: Can Edrene be the one? Could it be Kofer Pyatt? Petrus Shir Dil will answer all.

    A ship lights down - the Chaz Bucket. Fat Chaz emerges.

    Cut to: the court of Petrus Shir Dil, Jigra and spiritual leader of the Ahmek Zai. The wizened man sits cross-legged on a simple cloth blanket, flanked by his Ghazi warriors.

    Kofer Pyatt enters, dressed in Iron, escorted by his wife, a woman who is all hard edges. Fat Chaz follows behind him.

    Edrene enters. Gongs ring out.

    Bodi cries out in ecstacy. "It is the legend! My Pali!" Petrus Shir Dil looks at Bodi - once a man, now a fanatic.

    "You see, my Lord," Kofer Pyatt says to Shir Dil, "this out-worlder has stirred up the legends. But why? To turn us all into meek pal-wan butanah to do his will. He is the false prophet."

    "Is not the sky blue, and the Lazuli green?" Edrene says, reciting the holy word.

    Shir Dil nods.

    "I know the holy words," Edrene says. "I know the face of the serpent. This man is the servant of the devil! He comes to steal all our souls!"

    "Remeber you place, outworlder!" the woman at Kofer Pyatt's side shouts.

    "Yes, my Lord," Kofer Pyatt says to Petrus Shir Dil, "you see how he disregards custom? He is an outworlder. He is unknown, untested. Until he submits to the Lar ta Largi, how can we know him?"

    "You speak of the Path of Fire. I walk it every day. Do you, who consorts with these smugglers and pirates?"

    "He tries to teach us our own ways? I have said what must be done. Decide, now." He crosses his arms and waits for the verdict.

    Petrus Shir Dil meditates. His bright mark flares. Two brutal ghazi warriors grab the Pali Surene Vachir Edrene.

    Shir Dil speaks, a rare thing: "Kofer Pyatt speaks truth. He is known to us. You are not. You must be tested in the Lar ta Largi. Steel yourself."

    Bodi screams and rushes out into the night. He draws his curved blade and makes a blood oath, witnessed by his clan. "The Pali is my prophet and I will die for him!" Men covered in shadow nod their heads.

    Maneuver. Human Assess vs. Vaylen Gambit.

    Montage: smugglers work alongside the Ahmek Zai. Bodi spreads the word of his Pali, the prophet, to a growing cult. Edrene meditates in his cell. Kofer Pyatt and Fat Chaz smile. The Pali's mountain fortress lies empty.

    Cut to: Edrene's psychohistory lab. Holograms of Fat Chaz in every stage of his life from skinny street-youth to obese Gonzagin pirate. A dossier on his ways and means lies waiting to be read.
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

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    Scene. Petrus Shir Dil, Building (by way of Kofer Pyatt):

    Surene Vachir Edrene sits cross-legged in a small cave. An oil lamp burns nearby, filling the cave with hazy smoke.

    Edrene senses the drug in each breath. He focuses his mind to convert it to a harmless substance. The drug opens his mind and he sees the world through his bright mark as though he were in a dream.

    He opens his eyes. Petrus Shir Dil sits across from him.

    "The Worm ravaged this world. It was the turning of the Wheel. We all walk along the Lar ta Largi. But as the Wheel turns, would you stop it once we reach Janat, Paradise?"

    "The Wheel turns and Paradise lies at its hub.

    "But dealings with men like Fat Chaz and his pirates threaten the integrity of your people. You must stop you dealings with these men."

    "Fat Chaz is too weak to endanger our souls. Your fear makes me think you are weak, like your pal-wan ancestors who fled after the Worm ravaged Boldaq. What now gives you the right to rule as Prophet over the Ahmek Zai?"

    "I am the Prophet reborn. I give myself that right."

    "You may well be. But you must be tested in the Fire."

    "What gives you the right to question me, if I am the prophet?"

    "If you are the Prophet, the Ahmilak reborn, you may judge my actions as you see fit."

    Petrus Shir Dil stands and leaves the room. "You will be prepared for the Test of Fire over the coming days. Steel yourself."

    Scene. Hammer Lord Tovol, Building.

    Open in a mess hall in Fat Chaz's hidden asteroid base. Pirates are watching a new show, propaganda prepared by Tovol's ministry. The program tries to put piracy and Fat Chaz in a bad light.

    The pirates love it. They laugh. They have gathered to watch the show and ridicule it.

    Cut to: Boldaq. Outside a new cathedral built by Archocotare Sibil. It stands out among the low, run-down buildings of the city.

    Keili, Lord Tovol's companion enters dressed in concealing robes. She sits next to a scarred man who mutters litanies to himself.

    "Blessed be those who are Devoted to Fire."

    He looks up. "We are all blessed in the fire."

    "I see you have lost your faith."

    The man is taken aback. "You see through me. I used to be a Cotar - but now, nothing more than a pirate."

    "You may still spread the word." She reaches out and touches his mind. No bright mark flares.

    "You - you've been sent by the prophet!"

    Keili walks out, leaving the man in awe.

    Scene. Building, Draz Tolo (Fat Chaz).

    In the void of space we see a single man dressed in black stealth anvil float silently. He moves towards the space station and lands at a maintenance hatch.

    He pops the hatch open. He moves through the deserted halls. A camera scans the hall, but sees nothing.

    He slides open a door. A young man, a younger version of Lord Tovol, sleeps peacefully in a soft bed.

    Draz Tolo pulls his CEBW and puts it to the young prince's head. There is a struggle; Draz chokes him into unconciousness.

    "I have him," Draz whispers into a communicator. "Get ready for pickup."

    Scene. Interstitial, Kofer Pyatt.

    Open on: A mountain fortress. Untouched by the worm. Soldiers drill with makeshift weapons.

    Cut to: Kofer Pyatt in his throne. Enter: Fat Chaz. Eating a thick, syrupy substance with a spoon the length of his arm.

    "Kofer! Why did you call me here!"

    "I am disappointed with you."

    "With me! you! Those drugs you got were for !" Fat Chaz dips his spoon into a powdery pouch at his crotch.

    "I have taken care of it - I have neutralized Edrene. But you have been unable to harm the outworlder's fleet. I will have to take matters into my own hands."

    "What do you want?"

    "Give me one of your ships. I need to scan the planet for the lost Vaylen atomics - with them, I can destroy Lord Tovol myself!"

    Scene. Colour. Brother Lintor (Pali Surene Vachir Edrene).

    A mountain of a man dressed in a monk's robes enters the Pali's demense. He walks to a stone plinth.

    Bortei watches.

    The monk strikes the plinth in an explosion of muscle. It shatters into pieces.

    "The Pali will be pleased," Bortei says.

    Scene. Building, Kofer Pyatt.

    We see the Pali's monestary through a binocular lens. We see men armed with lasers standing guard. Numbers flit into view.

    A stout woman puts down the recon goggles. "I've got their positions," she says into a transmitter on her anvil armour.

    Cut to: Kofer Pyatt at the base of a mountain, dressed in his ancient Iron. Heavy artillery tower behind him.

    He dons his helmet and lifts his PaC. "Fire!" He says. Artillery shells ring out BOOM-BOOM-BOOM.

    The Pali's men run for cover. Kofer Pyatt sends a band of warriors - in cars, on huge shaggy six-legged goats, wielding rifles, swords, and patched-together lasers up the thousand and one steps of enlightenment to the Pali's monestary.

    Fusion beams RIP through them. Bortei directs the monks to fire from hidden vantage points. The first wave is destroyed.

    Kofer Pyatt leads the next charge himself. Laser fire deflects off his Iron. His men fall behind him. Soon he is alone in the fire. His PaC lights up cutting through ancient stone. He growls, pushing forward.

    A blast of fire explodes at his feet and he tumbles down the side of the mountain.

    Scene. Interstitial, Duke von Zga.

    Lord Tovol is conferring with his lieutenants when klaxons ring out. The Duke's precipitator has arrived. Lord Tovol adjournes his meeting and heads to the comm room, alone.

    An image of the Duke pulses to life. Lord Tovol bows.

    "Your grace, what do you wish of me?" Lord Tovol asks formally of his father.

    "Lord Tovol. I have heard reports that you have yet to set up a Church for the Change on Boldaq!"

    "I have done what I can-"

    "You have been chasing pirates and neglecting the faith! This planet and its spiritual well-being is your charge. I command you to carry out my orders - see that the natives are brought to the true faith."

    "I obey my lord," Tovol says.

    He bows and leaves as Archcotare Sibil enters. They stare daggers at each other.

    The door to the communications room slides shut as Lord Tovol leaves.

    Scene. Interstitial, Lord Tovol.

    Surene Vachir Edrene sits in his cell. Tribute from the Ahmek Zai - a bowl of fresh fruit - is before him.

    His Bright Mark flares. An image of Keili appears in his mind.

    "Pali," she says. "I speak on behalf of my Lord. He wishes to know if you are safe."

    "I am." The words travel the thousands of miles between them instantly.

    "Shall we send our fleet to break you free?"

    "Not yet. But be ready - I may need your help soon."

    Keili turns to Lord Tovol. Tovol nods.

    Scene. Lord Tovol, building.

    Cut to: On board a pirate hammer, twisting and turning in a skirmish with Tovol. The old, scarred ex-Cotar recruited by Keili is among the crew.

    The assault shuttle is rocked by a near miss. "The Prophet calls to us! The only thing that can save sinners like us is repentance - to cast down the name of Fat Chaz and take matters into our own hands!"

    Fat Chaz's discipline officer looks at the preacher. He draws his cutlass. He raises it up to strike.

    His hand is stopped before he can follow through with the blow. He struggles, but the entire crew jumps him. He falls. His sword rises and falls in the hands of another, spreading his blood on the walls.

    Scene. Colour, Archcotare Sibil. (Duke von Zga)

    The new cathedral on Boldaq burns, overrun by the wild men of the marshes. An orgy of violence grips the city.

    Scene. Conflict, Archcotare Sibil (Duke von Zga).

    Lord Tovol's hammer lands. Tovol steps out, still dressed in anvil, sweating from his recent engagement. He looks up at the open sky - so much open space - and trembles.

    Behind him, the cathedral burns.

    Archcotare Sibil stands in a ring of Sodalites. Around them the riots continue. He holds something large, draped in shadow.

    "Tovol!" he shouts. "You must answer for this!" He throws his burden at Tovol. We see a man's bloody head roll to Tovol's feet.

    "That was Cotar Marquand. I knew him when he took his first oaths! And now dead - dead thanks to you and your mad obsession with the Gonzagin pirates. You have abandoned the faithful. You are no longer fit to be Cotar Fomas!"

    Lord Tovol shakes. Outside of his hammer he is so vulnerable...

    "Nothing to say for yourself? Can you not even muster up a few words for the fallen? Do you care nothing for them?"

    "You will refer to me as Lord-"

    "I am the Archcotare! I don't care for your political appointments. All that matters to me is the faith!"

    "You pig. You don't care about anything except your base urges. I've heard about you on Bondurant-"

    "Bringing up old stories when the faithful burn around you? You see, my brothers? He is not fit to rule!"

    "-where you visited that prostitute. What was her name? How old was she? You only care about power, Sibil, not for the faith."

    "Baseless accusations! You speak slander - and I will not have it. As Archcotare of Boldaq I am stripping you of your rank. You are cast out. You shall command the faithful no more."

    Archcotare Sibil turns his back on Lord Tovol in the ritual denial. For one tense moment the sodalites stand, unsure what to do - then they turn, following Sibil's lead.

    Lord Tovol walks slowly back to his hammer, the fires of the cathedral burning in his eyes.

    Maneuver. Vaylen Flak vs. Human Pin.

    Months go by.

    Fat Chaz recalls his fleet to purge the mutinous element, unable to harrass Tovol's hammer or smuggle the Gul Janat or the Lazuli off-world.

    In the noble court, word spreads of Tovol's loss of rank. There are whispers - Is he the one to lead? The Duke will send another.

    Kofer Pyatt searches Boldaq for the lost Vaylen cache.

    Surene Vachir Edrene is questioned again and again by Petrus Shir Dil and the other Ahmek Zai. He learns their ways and is humbled by them.
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

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    Same session, next maneuver.

    Maneuver 2:

    Scene. Conflict, Petrus Shir Dil (Kofer Pyatt).

    The day of Suren Vachir Edrene's test has come. The Ahmek Zai gather in Shir Dil's hall, where the old psychologist sits meditating. Edrene is escorted in by armed Ghazi, loyal Bortei by his side.

    A gong rings. Bright Marks flare.

    Stars whirl and spin around a single point of light. Flames burst from the hub of the galactic wheel and spread out through space.

    Petrus Shir Dil stands on the Pali's balcony looking at the night sky dance. Edrene is chained to a great wheel which glows dimly.

    "These are my wishes - to spread the faith throughout the galaxy," Edrene says. "Boldaq will be the hub on which the wheel turns."

    "And if you are not the Prophet reborn, you will be spreading sin."

    "I am the Prophet."

    "You have not been tested."

    "Then test me!"

    The wheel glows brighter. Brighter. Edrene's skin burns and boils. Flames burst from his body.

    "The Prophet must be tried in the fire! More!" Edrene cries.

    His body bursts into flame. THe wheel burns. Edrene's chains burst - he becomes a man of living flame, towering over Petrus Shir Dil.

    Shir Dil covers his eyes. "More!" cries Edrene.

    In the grand hall, Petrus Shir Dil cries out. Flame explodes from his Bright Mark. "My prohpet!" he yells.

    Pali Suren Vachir Edrene's bright mark burns uncontrollably. It carves out a winding, twisting scar. Still burning.

    The Ahmek Zai cry out in ecstasy.

    Bortei rushes to his Pali. He douses the flame, but still the Bright Mark twists and burns.

    "What does this mean, Pali?"

    "I do not know."

    Scene. Building, Lord Kovol.

    Open in on the court of Lord Kovol von Zga. The noble court has gathered to scheme. Tovol dispenses feudal justice. His companion Keili works the room.

    She approaches a wigged Lord. "My Lord," she says, "I hear you have just returned from Boldaq. Tell me - what pleasures does it offer?"

    "Ah... pleasures." He winks at her. "Madame di B-- has just arrived from Rekit IV. She's opened a new house, bringing quality talent. Perhaps you know her?"

    "I have visited Rekit IV."

    "Ah. Then you know. But she has done something sublime here on Boldaq. The people from the mountains of Boldaq - strong and hard and beautiful - she has employed a number of them in her house. Not willingly, of course - they would rather die than work - but drugged. Making the body a prison. Ah, the pleasure of it-"

    Keili holds in a wince as she listens to the noble man tell his story.

    Cut to: A brothel on Boldaq. Keili enters, concealed in long robes. Half-naked veiled woman are paraded out for her.

    She makes her choice and is ushered to a private room.

    A woman enters. Dangerous smoky coal-blackened eyes look out from her veil.

    "It's been a long time, Keili," she says.

    "It has, Jinna."

    Jinna moves towards Keili. Keili stands. "I'm looking for your other services."

    "Hmmm?"

    "Archcotare Sibil. You know him, his haunts. I want him dead."

    "That's not a man you cross lightly." She stares at Keili, locking eyes. "But for you... I'll do it. Not for that pig Tovol of yours - for you." She places a hand on Keili's thigh.

    Keili removes her hand and leaves the room. "I'll keep in touch."

    Jinna smiles.

    Scene. Interstitial, Fat Chaz.

    The bridge of Lord Tovol's flagship. His holo-comm jumps to life. Fat Chaz appears, eating a metre-long cockroach, still squirming.

    "Tovol! Let's put an end to this. Stop the raids against me."

    "Chaz, you are as stupid as you are fat. I will hunt you down and kill you."

    "Someone wishes to speak with you." Fat Chaz breaks off a leg from the insect and sucks out the meat inside. "Bring him in."

    Tovol's son is dragged into frame. "You see, Tovol? Call a truce or I will break your son - I will make him love me as his father."

    "CHAZ!" Tovol yells. He cuts off the communication.

    Scene. Building, Fat Chaz.

    Tovol's son is strapped to a table. A vat of grease bubbles and boils next to him.

    Fat Chaz enters. He looks at Tovol's son, locking eyes. Then he grabs his hand and thrusts it into the deep fryer.

    The young man screams. Fat Chaz takes his hand out from the fryer and bites a chunk of flesh out of it.

    "The pain will end when you denounce your father's name. You will give up the von Zga name and become my own son."

    Cries and screams fill the narrow halls of Fat Chaz's hideout as Lord Tovol's son is tortured mercilessly.

    "What is your name?" Fat Chaz demands.

    "von Zga!" his victim yells.

    Fat Chaz grabs his head and plunges it into the boiling grease, drowning him.

    I forget what happened for the maneuver here. Could look it up on the sheet...
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

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    Scene. Building, Fat Chaz.

    Space. Heavy freighters and cargo ships slip out of distortion.

    A sensors operator looks at his screen, suddenly filled with blips. "Sir, is Lord Tovol meeting us out here?"

    "No. What have you got?"

    "I'm picking up all sorts of hammer contacts."

    "Evasive maneuvers! It's the pirates!" The captain turns to his signals man. "Get me a line to Lord Tovol!"

    Cut to: The Blue Sky room, Lord Tovol's abouretum. Filtered glass turns black space into clear skies. Lord Tovol, grim faced, sits playing chess with his consort Keili.

    His corvis blinks and flashes. Garbled communications come through. "...Tovol... here... ships..." The signal cuts out.

    Keili looks at Tovol.

    "You're right," he says. "Better send the CAP out to meet them."

    Cut to: Space. Ships dance in fire.

    Tovol's hammer approach the scene of the conflict - too late. All that is left is debris. Both pirate and cargo.

    Scene. Building, Lord Tovol.

    Archcotare Sibil greets Lord Tovol in the small chapel he uses as his office.

    "Lord Tovol, how nice of you to greet me. I trust you've heard about the supply convoy's problems?"

    "Of course."

    "Those ships were bringing in the supplies to build a new cathedral on Boldaq! Once again you've let the faith down. You've let your father down!

    But I'm sure you only care that your operations are crippled now. You won't be able to make another assault on those pirates until you rearm and refuel."

    "I'm here to make it right. I am planning an assault on the Pali."

    "The heretic?" A wide grin covers his face. "Yes. Take my sodalites. Teach him a lesson."

    Scene. Intersitial, Lord Tovol.

    "The scramblers are on, then?" Lord Tovol asks.

    "Yes, my Lord," the sig man answers.

    Lord Tovol commands him to leave with a glance, one look from those cold blue eyes. He is left alone.

    An image flickers to life. The Pali Vachir Suren Edrene appears.

    "Pali. I may be coming to see you soon. And I'll be bringing some friends."

    "I was thinking the same thing. And if the Margrave Chazovic was there with us, we could accomplish much."

    "Exactly."

    "The universe is a wondrous thing. Two minds, as different as could be, coming up with the same plan. It is a thing that must be."

    Scene. Interstitial, Pali Suren Vachir Edrene.

    Brother Lintor: a mutant of massive size. He sits at a communications panel.

    Fat Chaz appears lounging on a couch. He inhales the smoke coming from a large frog roasting alive over hot coals. He blows the smoke into the screen.

    "Fat Chaz. The Pali wants to deal."

    "I'm listening."

    "He needs some smugglers - bring stuff down here so we can fight. We don't want those nobles getting in our way."

    "If you could get me access to the drugs and the lazuli, I think we could work it out."

    "No problem."

    "I'll come down and talk to the Pali about the specifics of our deal."

    "Looking forward to it."

    Scene. Building, Kofer Pyatt.

    We see Lord Tovol's flagship descend through the green filter of recon lenses. It lands in the Anvil garrison, the von Zga' only foothold on the planet itself.

    Numbers appear as the lenses focus on each hammer landing there. A heavy female voice reads off the coordinates.

    Cut to: Kofer Pyatt dressed in Iron. Heavy artillery cars roll up around him. He turns to his operator, who nods. Kofer Pyatt lifts his PaC and heads into the city as the artillery begin to BOOM BOOM BOOM raining fire on the garrison, blowing the noses off the hammer stranded there.

    A great gouge is blown in the garrison's fortifications. Kofer Pyatt's men, dressed in peicemeal armour, wielding whatever weapons they can get their hands on - swords, rifles, machine guns, lasers - rush through the gap. The Anvil beyond flee before the onslaught.

    Kofer Pyatt himself leads a charge, his PaC strafing squads of anvil. Men die screaming and those who live flee.

    When the smoke clears, Kofer Pyatt walks triumphantly into the garrison, Lord of Boldaq.

    Scene. Building, Lord Tovol.

    The Pali's mountain fortress. Monks and servants prepare to welcome Fat Chaz and his men. Animals roast, drinks are prepared, drugs readied. Carvans ascend the pilgrim's path to the ancient gates.

    Fat Chaz circles above in his hammer. He pores over the sensors. He picks up heavy heat signatures coming up along the road.

    Draz Tolo, his deadly assassin, looks over Chaz's massive frame. "Looks like they have a surprise for us."

    "Suit up the men. We'll have a surprise of our own if this 'Pali' tries anything."

    The ships land in the fortress. Gongs ring out. Chaz walks to the Pali, grabbing what food is offered to him. Draz follows with hand-picked bodyguards.

    "Edrene. Let's make a deal. What do you want?"

    "I want you to denounce your ways and submit to me so I might cleanse your soul."

    "Wha-?" Chaz spits food from his mouth.

    "If you will not, then embrace your destiny."

    Chaz draws his sword and swings at Edrene, who drops to the floor. This is the signal the monks were waiting for. The combat begins.

    Scene. Firefight, Edrene.

    Brother Lintor and his monks pour out of a temple.

    Bortei draws his assault gun and screams 'Bonzai!' His men throw down their robes and reveal their weapons, anvil shining in the sun.

    Lord Tovol, standing on the wall encircling the courtyard, takes off a worker's robe and raises his blazing force sword. He looks at Keili, who nods. Behind them two squads of Sodalis raise their jack lasers and draw down on Fat Chaz.

    A group of Ahmek Zai, new converts to the Pali, draw their curved swords and scream ancient battle cries.

    Fat Chaz and his bodyguards open fire as his marines, ready in anvil, pour from his ships.

    The courtyard is filled with bullets and laser beams. Fat Chaz screams, "Get back! Pull back to the ships!" But he is pinned down, unable to move. One of his bodyguards is caught by a laser and dies.

    Tovol looks down at Fat Chaz. "There he is, men - you can't miss him! I want all of you to open fire on him!"

    Laser beams scorch the courtyard grounds, but somehow miss Fat Chaz. He scrambles backward.

    Chaz yells to his men. "Cover us!" They pull back slowly under a blanket of fire and make it to the arachnid legs of their ships. Time enough to take a breath. "All right men, dig in. We'll let them come to us."

    Monks scream and yell and rush the pirates - only to be met by a withering stream of fire. They are pushed back.

    Lord Tovol moves to the front. "Again! Follow me! Don't stop, push forward!" Following the Hammer Lord with his force sword drawn high, they rush in again.

    The Ahmek Zai lead the charge and are cut down by laser fire. But others follow. Bortei screams and his men let out withering fire from their assault rifles. Pirates die. Lasers rip out and scorch anvil. Men scream and bodies break.

    Tovol carves a path through pirates to Fat Chaz. "Face me, Chaz!"

    Chaz draws his own sword and the two meet. He lowers his guard for a moment, drawing Tovol in - but Tovol is prepared for this feint and slashes out. Fat Chaz barely dodges and stumbles back, running.

    The hulk that is Brother Lintor picks up anvil-kitted pirates like paper dolls, breaking them against the landing gear of the ship. From behind, Draz Tolo drops out of a hidden compartment silently. He aims his CEBW but it blinks red - out of ammo. He strikes Lintor in the neck with the butt of his pistol - and only succeeds in drawing the mutant monk's attention. Draz rolls out and joins Chaz in his retreat.

    "Follow me, men!" Chaz screams. The pirates press forth and break through the monks. Lintor yells, "Coward! Running again!"

    Chaz barks out orders. "You men - lay down covering fire! You - follow me, we'll flank them from here where we can get a clear shot!" His marines obey. The monks and sodalis are pinned down under the ship.

    Tovol takes stock. "Men! Follow me!" They rush forward. Sodalis are cut down but the charge is not stopped. Men swirl in a bloody melee. Cries of the dying and wounded cry out.

    Fat Chaz finds himself alone with Lord Tovol, his bodyguards dead around him. He spots the back of Draz Tolo making for the ships, jets still running, with what forces remain.

    Fat Chaz drops his sword and falls to his knees. "Mercy," he pleads. Lord Tovol stands over him. Sodalites bind Fat Chaz and strip him down.

    Pirate hammer roars away. Brother Lintor and Bortei look around frantically.

    "The Pali - he's gone! They've taken him!"

    Scene. Building, Archcotare Sibil.

    At the sun sets on this violent day, Kofer Pyatt stands on a balcony overlooking the crowds gathered in the streets of his city. His men and the city-dwellers alike. He is lit up by bright lights, regal in his Iron. Cameras roll, broadcasting his image around the world.

    "My people! I have seen the fire! We will bring it to change this world and make it Paradise!"

    Behind him, a great iron wheel erupts into flame.

    Archcotare Sibil steps onto the balcony. "I have judged this man and found him worthy! Let all men know that Duke von Zga has appointed Lord Kofer Pyatt as Cotar Fomas of Boldaq, he who will carry out the will of the faith!

    "Let us rejoice in this new age! We shall bring enlightenment back to Boldaq!"

    The crowd screams. But among Tovol's noble court, in the taverns and public houses, people grumble. "Does the Duke think this native is worthy of a title?" "More off-worlder nonsense."

    Maneuver. Flak vs. Gambit.

    Around the worldand in the court of Lord Tovol, word spreads. Fat Chaz has been captured! The relentless piracy is going to come to an end.

    But at what cost? Lord Tovol has spent so much time on the warpath he's ignored the faith of the people. Thankfully, Archcotare Sibil has found a diamond in the rough in Kofer Pyatt. He will bring peace and prosperity to Boldaq where Lord Tovol failed.
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

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    I didn't do a write-up of this session, so here is something from a player.

    #1
    Pali imprisoned by Draz Tolo. Turns out that a distant cousin has turned up to contest my claim to the Edrene lands on Boldaq. I figure the pirates want to put him in my place and use my holy mountain compound for their filthy smuggling. So I propose this: he gets possession of the land, its revenues, and serfs, but I retain access to the Potala Palace, and the dojo with its Zen gardens. Edrus goes for it. So he arranges to have me exchanged for Fat Chaz.

    Meanwhile, Duke von Zagash is demanding that Chaz be taken offworld to be punished. So I am stuck in prison with nothing to exchange for my freedom! Lord Torvol goes nuts on the Chaz and tries to gut him as Sybil and his father's forces try to load Chaz in a ship.

    #2
    Pali is still in a prison -- in a fortified cave zone like the kind the Taliban had built into the mountains of Afghanistan. My allies try to get Torvol and Kopher Pyatt to free me. Archcotare Sybil wonders why a heretic should be saved. Lintor says that the Pali must be tried publicly if this is so, and that if Pyatt feels he should be the Cotar Fomas of this world, he should crush the bandits. Pyatt goes for it.

    On their mission to break the Pali out, Bortei asks why Pyatt has changed from being the man who tried to bombard the Potala. "I haven't" replies Pyatt, who then tries to Particle Accelerator Bortei into the next life. Bortei gets off a few shots, but Pyatt continues to his rendevous. Draz Tolo stands at the entrance to let him in. Yes, the Pali is to be "accidentally" killed during the rescue attempt.

    A psychic duel forces Pyatt to run screaming from the Pali, who treads lightly out of his prison and collapses into the arms of his trusted retainer, Bortei.

    And a bunch of stuff happened to the other characters!

    Torval's mistress, Kaelie, has fallen for Kopher Pyatt and wants to keep him on as Archcotare. Bortei knows this, but Torval does not. Things are getting schizo because Mark Mueller plays both the main PC Torval and the support NPC Kaelie. Bortei was willing to back off from questions of right and wrong in order to get the guns out and free the Pali. Now all bets are off.
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

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    Scene. Archcotare Sibil, Colour.

    Alone in a posh suite in the city of Ahodyia (Erik came up with this name - +1D advantage die for doing so next time he makes a roll in the city), the Archcotare writes in his journal. "Lord Tovol must pay for his crimes. He's been a blight on the church for far too long. Something must be done about him. I will see him pay for all the pain he's put me through!"

    A knock on the door. "Send her in."

    In walks Jinna - the prostitute that has agreed to assassinate Sibil.

    Scene. Pali Edrene, Colour.

    Children play in the streets of Ahodyia. They spin stones and bet on the results.

    A dark, brown, withered hand reaches out and spins a stone. It spins and spins.

    "How do you do it?" the children ask.

    "When you walk the Lar ta Largi, the stone spins itself," the Pali answers.

    Scene. Kofer Pyatt, Colour.

    A lone figure walks on a broken plain, red sky in the background. He is dressed in pilgrim's robes.

    "The Pali Edrene has bested me each time I confronted him. I thought I was the Prophet, the second coming of the Ahmilak. Am I wrong? I must learn how the Pali defeated me - it is the only way I can best him."

    Scene. Kofer Pyatt, Interstitial.

    Kofer Pyatt arrives at the gates of the Podalah Palace. Bortai greets him.

    "I seek knowledge from the Pali. Knowledge and forgiveness."

    "The Pali is not here, but you may enter, Seeker."

    Kofer Pyatt enters the palace and sits, cross-legged.

    "You know the way of the Lar ta Largi."

    "I seek to learn."

    Scene. Hammer Lord Tovol, Building.

    Lord Tovol sits on the bridge of his Hammer. An image flickers before him, grainy and distorted. A signals operator gives him the thumbs up. It jumps into focus.

    We see Archcotare Sibil and Jinna move his bed.

    Lord Tovol watches. Groans of pleasure come from the Archcotare.

    "The Scarbara leaf we gave Jinna will take effect soon," Tovol thinks. "Sibil will be disgraced."

    Scene. Kofer Pyatt, Interstitial. (ooh, we screwed up!)

    In the square before the Archcotare's palace, the Pali sits, dressed in beggar's robes.

    "A coin for a prayer," he says, reciting the beggar's litany.

    A man approaches. The Pali knows it is Kofer Pyatt.

    "What do you want?" The Pali asks.

    "I want to drink from the well of your wisdom."

    "You me to teach you, but you have taught me. You have taught me that I am a vain man. I must go back to my beginnings."

    "I, too, am vain. I thought I was the reincarnation of the Ahmilak. But how could that be, when I submitted to your will? I know now that I have much to learn."

    "Then we will learn together. You will be my eyes and ears, keep me grounded in this temporal world."

    Scene. Colour, Draz Tolo.

    Fat Chaz's apartment. Draz Tolo sits, looking out the window to space, drinking space coffee.

    "Lord Tovol must pay for killing Chaz. I will have my revenge."

    He fingers an ounce of the tainted Gul Janat.

    Scene. Kaelei, Interstial.

    Kofer Pyatt and the Pali Edrene. Walking the streets of Ahodyia.

    A street urchin approaches. Ragged epaulettes show that he is devoted to the Fire. He hands the Pali a message.

    "It appears you are to be feted," the Pali says to Kofer Pyatt. "And I am invited."

    Enter Kaelie. "Lord Tovol wishes your presence to fete the newly appointed Kofer Pyatt as Cotar Fomas." She nods at Pyatt, who returns the gesture.

    The Pali's Bright Mark flares, and the two of them are joined.

    "I will be there."

    Scene. Draz Tolo, Interstitial.

    In his dressing quarters, Kofer Pyatt casts aside his pilgrim's robes for the uniform of an Anvil Lord and Cotar Fomas.

    His communicator buzzes. Draz Tolo appears.

    "Pirate. What do you want."

    "I speak of alliance."

    "Why would I want to ally with a pirate? We have seen what happened to Fat Chaz."

    "Turn against Tovol! Side with me, and I will remove him for you!"

    "I have no need for that. Tovol is a strong man, a warrior. And what are you? A pal-wan pirate, preying on others."

    "I will have my revenge, with you or without!"

    Scene. Archcotare Sibil, Interstitial.

    Kofer Pyatt's fete is an impressive affair. Drink, food, dancers.

    Sibil enters the room with a mask, covering his face. He sits next to Lord Tovol.

    "Sibil. A strange fashion choice."

    "It represents the masking of the Ahmilak - the words are more important than the man who speaks them."

    "Ah. I had hoped that was the case, not some local virus. I have heard of a disease that scars the face - a disease that is spread by sexual conduct."

    Sibil raises his goblet. White knuckles grip it. "To your health."

    Scene. Draz Tolo, building.

    Tovol's goblet is filled by Fat Chaz's son, amongst the crowd with Kofer Pyatt's retinue. He drinks.

    His pupils dilate and he leans back. "Demons," he says. "Demons amonst the crowd!"

    The Gul Janat has taken effect.

    Scene. Pali Edrene, Conflict.

    The doors to the feast hall burst open and children mix among the precise movements of the dancers. Restrained gasps of surprise call out amongst the nobles.

    The children sing a song:

    "" (I forget. Related to Sibil's disease, pointing it out.)

    Sibil stands. "These urchins are the last straw. Does the Pali have no respect? If we allow this heretic among us, we stand on the slippery slope. We will all become heretics ourselves!"

    The Pali rises, full of fury. "You are nothing but a venal man, who cares for the pleasures of flesh above all!"

    Sibil sputters and chokes.

    A child reaches up and pulls the mask from his face. We see the scarred flesh, the result of Scarbara leaf. Everyone knows what this means. The Archcotare is disgraced.

    Tovol screams. "Demons!" He draws his force sword. He swings. Children fall. He runs, screaming.

    Archcotare Sibil uses this cover to flee.

    The Pali Surene Vachir Edrene sits on the throne of the Archcotare. "There will be an Inquisition," he states.

    Scene. Archcotare Sibil. Conflict.

    Lord Tovol sits in the Hall of Trials. A burning wheel in the middle of the hall casts shadows of demons against statues of the Ahmilak. Each shadow represents a new sin.

    "Demons," he mutters, lost in the stupor of the Gul Janat.

    Archcotare Sibil enters the hall. His eyes are shot with violence.

    He moves to the shadows, creeping up on Tovol. But when he comes round the pillar, Tovol has gone, fled to the darkness.

    Sibil pounds his fists to a bloody pulp on the Burning Wheel.

    Scene. Building, Kofer Pyatt.

    Days have passed. The Pali has been accepted as Archcotare of Boldaq. First among his duties is to spend 101 days among the people, listening to their plight. He travels by foot across the broken plains of Boldaq.

    Kofer Pyatt is next to him, his newly-appointed herald.

    "The Lar ta Largi is beset on all sides by pain. But as my herald, you shall walk it with me."

    "I shall do as the Pali - did you see that?"

    "My son, your eyes are brighter than mine. What do you see?"

    "A marsh rat, hiding on the salt pans. It is ready to strike-"

    A ten-foot long rat, back covered in thick white fungus to hide among the salts and mud, leaps from its hiding spot.

    "Pali! Get back!" Kofer Pyatt beats at it with his beggar's stick. It slams him aside, and he collapses in the mud.

    The Pali's Bright Mark flares - but too late, as the rat clamps down on his shoulder, sending him into unconciousness.

    They are dragged across the mud plains to a hidden cave. Reinforced by steel, a relic of the war with the Worm.

    The marsh rat stares at them - unsettling intelligence in its eyes - and a door slides open. A hideous alien steps out.

    "You who are blessed, be still. For you are to be brought into the whole, to serve the destiny that awaits the galaxy.

    "You are to be Vaylen."

    Maneuver. Vaylen Gambit, Human Inundate.

    Across the planet, the people hear of the disgrace of Archcotare Sibil. They know that Kofer Pyatt, one of their own, is the only man who can lead them out of this - and if he has accepted Pali Edrene as Archcotare, then they will as well.

    The noble houses also look to Kofer Pyatt. He is an Anvil Lord and worthy of the title the Black Duke Zagas has bestowed upon him.

    Next: It all ends.
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

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    This is the second maneuver in the session - the Human side failed to win the Phase with their Inundate, which left them Hesitating. I of course followed up with an Inundate of my own, which ended the Phase in victory for the Vaylen side.

    Scene. Archcotare Sibil, Colour.

    A man dressed in beggar's robes squats in an alley, tearing pieces of flesh off a rat with blood-caked fingers.

    A street urchin approaches him. "Can you spare a bite?"

    The man lets out a feral growl and shoves the boy back. The hood falls from his face and the boy recoils in horror at the beggar's scarred visage.

    "Tovol... Tovol... Tovol..." Archcotare Sibil recites under his breath.

    Scene. Conflict, Lord Tovol.

    Lord Tovol enters the communications room. A hologram of his father, the Black Duke, flickers to life.

    "Lord Tovol, your Grace," his father says formally. "I called for the Archcotare, not you."

    "The Archcotare has been disgraced, and will be removed from his position."

    "Lord Tovol! Under what authority do you make this statement? I am your liege lord, your Metropolitan. The office of Archcotare is appointed by me and none other."

    "I have earned the right by executing my command on Boldaq. I deserve to make this ruling as Forged Lord."

    "You wish me to make you a Forged Lord? Why should I, when you have disobeyed my commands, letting that heretic Edrene run free while you hunt after pirates on some vendetta?"

    "Have you heard of the asteroid belt that encircles Boldaq?"

    "There! Lord Tovol, you let your mind drift into the void when you should be focused on Boldaq. I must have complete control of the ground and the treasures it holds!"

    "Those asteroids are safe now, Your Majesty, free of pirates. The Gozagin threat has been neutralized by my hand. Now that I have secured Boldaq from above, we are free to proceed unfettered on the ground. I must be made Forged Lord to execute your wishes on land as I have in space."

    Duke von Zagas pauses. "Very well, my son. You have shown initiative and proven yourself to be a leader of men. I cannot be in all places at once. A Forged Lord must make his own choices and live with the consequences.

    "I shall make you Forged Lord. Come back to Zagas, your home, and I will appoint upon you the lineaments of office in the proper manner."

    "Thank you, Your Majesty."

    The hologram blinks out.

    Cut to the Duke.

    "Tovol will pursue his own agenda. I cannot trust him to obey me. Best to have him near at hand, where I can control him. He will be Forged in name only."

    Scene. Conflict, Pali Edrene.

    Cut to: A dark cave, full of bones from the former victims of the marsh rats. A steel door cut into the raw stone lies open, electric light spilling out. In it stands an utterly inhuman Vaishyen sculptor (pg. 186).

    It looks over the Pali and his herald Kofer Pyatt. "You are blessed, for you shall be the next hosts for the Vaylen. Embrace the gift that we bring to the universe."

    The Pali's bright mark flares, along with Kofer Pyatt's. The two flashes light up the dark cave.

    Time and space bend, and the cave melts away to encompass the whole of Boldaq. Two points of fire burn on the world. They engulf the darkness that is the Vaishyen Vaylen.

    Throughout the world, more dark shapes stir. Boldaq is riddled with billions upon billions of naiven worms.

    "Embrace the destiny that awaits the galaxy," the worms all cry out at once.

    The two points of light burn away the darkness of the Vaylen.

    Boldaq becomes the focal point of the entire galaxy. Countless hordes of worms shout in unison. "Embrace the destiny that awaits the galaxy."

    Boldaq flares. From it, fire spreads in circles, twisting, turning across the endless expanse. The darkness is burned away, and everything becomes fire.

    In the cave, the Vaishyen sculptor stands still, mindless. A worm silently drops from the base of its skull.

    Scene. Interstitial, Kofer Pyatt.

    "We must search out the treasures of the Vaylen, my Pali," Kofer Pyatt says.

    "No. We must take our time, gather our strength, before we can remove this threat."

    "A warrior would not hesitate, even if it means his doom."

    "Then prove yourself to be that warrior and my herald. Go. I shall await your return."

    Kofer Pyatt steps into the doorway leading to the Vaylen cache. He turns to look over his shoulder at his Pali. The Pali Edrene walks out of the cave into the daylight.

    Scene. Interstitial, Archcotare Sibil.

    The Archcotare walks with mad purpose through the tight, twisting halls of the space station. Guards turn away from his scarred face.

    He enters the communications room. The Black Duke von Zagas appears in a hologram.

    "Sibil," the Duke says, calmly. "What do you want?"

    "My liege," the Archcotare says, "I have been disgraced! I want only one thing - revenge upon your son!"

    "And why should I give it? You have shown yourself unable to exert my will. Why should I care what you want now?"

    "My lord," Sibil says, kneeling, begging. "I have served you my whole life - my only wish has been to do your will! Please, grant me this one thing!"

    "No," the Duke says casually, "I think not.

    "Fare well, Sibil. We shall not speak again."

    Sibil screams with fury and smashes the holo-projector. He grabs a shard of glass in his bloodied hands. Insane murderous rage burns in his eyes.

    Scene. Conflict, Sibil.

    Tovol's bedchambers. Lord Tovol and his companion Kaelie are preparing to sleep. Tovol's anvil lies off to the side.

    The door slides open. Sibil stands, hunched over, growling. The shard of glass in his hands drips with blood. At his feet, Tovol's guard lies in a red pool.

    "This is your end, Sibil," Tovol says, staring at Sibil with his cold blue eyes.

    Sibil screams and pounces at Tovol.

    In one smooth motion, Tovol grabs his force sword and swings.

    Sibil's body reaches Tovol and slumps to the ground. His face, bisected, slides off.

    Maneuver. Vaylen Inundate vs. Human hesitate. Phase Epilogue.

    Under the setting red sky of Boldaq, a pair of peasant farmers head back home after a long day's toil. They smile, at peace with the world, looking for well-deserved rest. Over their modest home a flag flies, bearing the standard of Duke von Zga.

    A pair of marsh rats moving with uncanny intelligence leaps on them from the shadows and drags them away.

    Cut to: Kofer Pyatt in the cave. He steps out of sight into the hidden Vaylen stronghold.

    Cut to: The Pali stands in the desert, at the mouth of the cave. He looks back into darkness.

    Cut to: Lord Tovol in full-dress standing at the hatch of his flagship. An honour guard at full attention stands alert, bearing his standard.

    Lord Tovol embraces Kaelie and heads up into his ship. He stops mid-way and turns to look back at Kaelie, who walks away without turning back.

    Cut to: Bortei, staring at Kaelie as she walks away, eyes fixed on her figure.

    Cut to: The Black Duke. A door opens and sickly green light pours over him. He looks at something off-frame.

    "Yes, he is almost ready."

    Next time, we begin Usurpation. Almost caught up; we've only played 2 sessions of that Phase, and will play the third this Thursday.
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

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    Phase Goals:
    Human: Eliminate FON Duke von Zga - reduce his influence on Boldaq
    Vaylen: Change government to Rebel Line - Kofer Pyatt will rule

    Human Prequel: Pali Suren Vachir Edrene (9 successes)

    Boldaq, within the Podala Palace. The Pali meditates in his psychohistory chamber. A blue glow covers him. He reaches out with his mind, scanning Boldaq for hidden allies and enemies. Landscapes and faces flash by: marsh rats stalking their prey in the flood plain; children in the streets hearing the word of the Prophet; a scarred man, sitting in a cave, speaking out against the weakness the Pali is spreading; and Kofer Pyatt, the Pali's herald, deep within the Vaylen cave...

    Vaylen Prequel: Kofer Pyatt (1 success)

    Kofer Pyatt stands surrounded by marsh rats and genetically engineered Vaylen experiments. He lets loose with his PaC and vaporizes scores of them. The beasts retreat into shadow. Red eyes watch the warrior psychologist from the darkness.

    Kofer Pyatt opens a door. A green light floods over him. He sees the Vaylen Controller - a creature with ten arms, each ending in sixteen fingers - performing surgery on a wide-eyed human victim. The Controller turns to face Kofer Pyatt. Its compound eyes scan him.

    "I am here for your secrets, Worm," Kofer Pyatt says.

    A small humanoid creature walks over to the Controller. The Controller opens its slit mouth and screeches into the back of the humanoid, who translates the whine into language. "Not many who seek the secrets of the Vaylen survive," the Controller says through its translator.

    A marsh rat leaps from the darkness, only to be cut down by Pyatt's PaC. Another comes from his flank and knocks the PaC out of his hands. Pyatt breaks its neck and reaches for the PaC, but more pile on top of him, pinning him against a wall.

    The Controller approaches him and caresses his face with its sixteen-fingered hand. "Now I will discover your secrets."

    Scene. Kaeli, Building.

    A grav sled speeds over the surface of Boldaq, kicking up red dust in its wake.

    Inside the cockpit: Kaeli scans the planet through her macrobinoculars.

    "Any sign, Wedge?" she asks the pilot.

    "No, sir," Wedge replies. "The signal's too old and weak - two men don't leave much trace. We were lucky to pick up any trail at all."

    "Put us down over there."

    The grav sled lands in a small basin. Kaeli gets out and scans the terrain.

    She does not find any trace of her love, Kofer Pyatt. Nor does she see the marsh rats spying on her from above.

    Scene. Pali, Building.

    In the streets of Ahoydia. A group of kids are sitting in a circle. Bezun the Unmasker, the 9-year old who tore the mask from the old Archcotare Sibil, preaches to them. All listen, even the older kids.

    A runner with the Pali's painted blue Taab Assar cuts across the circle. He whispers into the ear of Bezun.

    "The Pali needs me again!" He runs through the streets. The other kids are hushed in awe.

    Bezun arrives in a cramped square. Men are crowded in, watching a tightrope walker try to make his way from one rooftop to the next on a thin wire. They shout and scream: "Fall! Fall!" "Hang on! Hang on!"

    The man falls, and everyone screams. Money changes hands as wagers are resolved. No one notices an old beggar approach the fallen man.

    Bezun runs to the beggar's side. He looks at the fallen man, wheezing and gasping for breath. The beggar places a wizened hand on the injured man. "Be well, my son," he says.

    A blue light erputs from under the beggar's hood. The whole square is bathed in it. Men turn and stare, forgetting about their winnings.

    Bezun leaps on a crate. "Witness the blessing of the Pali!" he says. The fallen tightrope walker stands, healed. "Come, and accept his blessing!"

    Men crowd around the Pali, who stains each one's face with the blue Taab Assar.

    "Go forth, and serve your Pali!" Bezun cries.

    Scene. Duke von Zga, Color.

    On Zga. The Duke stands at the top of a long stair, dressed in ceremonial iron. His black cape with gold trim whips in the wind. He looks down the stair to the long processional path, bounded on either side by throngs of cheering peasants.

    Hammer shuttles scream by overhead. One shuttle, marked with Tovol's flag, breaks away and lands. The hatch opens and Tovol steps out in his ceremonial uniform.

    The sky is torn open by explosions of colour and sound. Red and gold petals fall from the sky like rain. The crowd cheers.

    Scene. Duke von Zga, Building.

    Lord Tovol ascends to the top of stair and kneels before his father.

    "I have come as ordered, your Majesty," Lord Tovol says.

    The Duke draws his sword. "Do you swear to serve me in all things?"

    "I so swear."

    "Though it may cost you your life?"

    "Yet, I swear."

    "Then rise, Lord Tovol von Zga, Forged Lord."

    "I swear to execute your every will on Boldaq - to return and rid it of all dangers."

    The Duke's subjects 'round the world see, on their liege lord, no sign of discontent with his son's improvised words.

    "Lord Tovol, I have a gift for you." He waves his hand, and a hologram appears in the sky above them, showing rows of soldiers standing at attention. They bear Tovol's standard.

    "Your first Anvil. Taken from Lord Goss. May you manage these troops better than he."

    "Thank you, father."

    "I have also had all the paperwork necessary for your new command delivered to your chambers." He smiles. "Do not overly enjoy yourself at the fete tonight! You will find the responsibilities of a Forged Lord demanding. I will make myself available to guide you through your new duties."

    "I am in your debt, your Majesty."

    Scene. Lord Tovol, Building.

    In the massive dining hall of Duke von Zga. Court Lords and courtiers gossip about politics. Lord Tovol's bare head stands out among the crowd of powdered and wigged men.

    "Ah hmmm, Lord Tovol, your Grace. Let me congratulate you on your new promotion. Lord Goss won't - seeing as how you've taken his beloved Anvil!"

    "Lord Goss is a fool and a coward. If he was any sort of leader his Anvil would still be with him."

    "Ah yes, hmmm hah hmmm. I do fear that you have made yourself an enemy for life!"

    "If only all my enemies were as capable as Lord Goss."

    "Hah hah, yes, quite! Lord Tovol, you have the cutting wit that befits a man of your position. Ah, look who it is - Lord Goss!"

    Lord Goss - in the formal dress of an Inquisitor, the scar of the Bright Mark clearly visible on his face - pushes his way past the effeminate courtiers.

    "Lord Tovol, your Grace. I hope you can hold onto your new title longer than you did your title of Cotar Fomas. We all know how you executed the Church's will on Boldaq, chasing after pirates."

    "Where is Fat Chaz now? Boldaq is safe, thanks to me. More than you can say, having your Anvil decimated on Gordin's Reach. And where were you? Commanding from the rear?"

    "Lies! Gossip spread to defame me."

    "Ask your fallen soldiers if it's just gossip."

    Lord Goss storms away.

    "Hmmm hah hah hah! Well done, Lord Tovol, well done!"

    Scene. Lord Tovol, Building.

    Lord Tovol enters his chambers, bare of any comfort. Months worth of paperwork lie in stacks on his desk.

    He sits down and turns on a computer. Scanning through the personnel database, he finds an accountant who can deal with all this work for him. The price, though - his funds are being sorely tapped. He rubs his eyes.

    Scene. Lady Neer Krishmurly, Building (Pali).

    A knock at the door. Lord Tovol answers and finds a servant there, who hands him a card. A card marked with the blue eye of the Pali. He reads it:

    "Lord Tovol, I am Lady Neer Krishmurly. I believe that you are familiar with a distant cousin of mine - Suren Vachir Edrene? He has spoken to me of you, and has nothing but good to say. The Duke's court can be intimidating at times, so know that you have a friend who can guide you."

    Scene. Interstitial, Kofer Pyatt.

    Deep within the Vaylen caves. Kofer Pyatt is strapped to a surgical table, the Vaylen Controller working on him. He screams. His bright mark flares.

    "Let me free, Worm!"

    The Controller stops. "We have experience with your kind," he says through the translator. "We will not waste any Naiven on you. But we want to make a deal with you."

    "What do you want?"

    "We want to be free! Off this dangerous rock, away from those with the burning scar. We want to rejoin with our brothers in space, to tell them what we have learned of your kind - you psychologists. They must know!

    "You have allies in space. Get us off-world and we will teach you all our secrets."

    Kofer Pyatt thinks it over. His bright mark dies down, goes out. "You have a deal, Worm."

    Scene. Interstitial, Draz Tolo (Fat Chaz).

    A square in the streets of Ahoydia. The Pali sits cross-legged in the centre of a circle of children. They listen to his holy words with reverence.

    Draz Tolo watches, smoking a cheroot in an alley. He throws the cheroot to the ground and breaks through the circle.

    He draws his pistol and places it on the Pali's temple. The Pali remains calm.

    "I know you work with Tovol," Draz says, spitting at the Forged Lord's name. "I want you to bring him to me."

    "It will take time - space is vast."

    "You'll find a way." Draz Tolo grabs one of the children and leaves for his ship. "Or else."


    Scene. Colour, Fat Chaz.

    We see a vat of thick green ooze. Fat Chaz's head is just above it. His eyes flash open - one glowing red with a mechanical light - and he screams in agony.

    Maneuver. Vaylen Flak vs. Human Assess (factions). 0s defense/2s offense vs. 4s. Human success.

    The Pali Suren Vachir Edrene sits in his psychohistory chambers, mentally computing reports from all over Boldaq and those sent from his agents on Zga. Important groups on Boldaq reveal themselves: Draz Tolo and the pirates, feuding among themselves. Lord Tovol's Hammer waiting restlessly without their leader. Cotars on Boldaq teaching the ways of the Mundus Humanitus to new converts, and the old native priests that stubbornly resist. The destitute among the streets of Ahoydia and the peasants of the flood plains and marshes, the backbone of Boldaq. The old warlords in the hills and plains, Kofer Pyatt foremost among them, chafing under the rule of their new masters. The Pakthas among the mountains, listening to the words of Petrus Shir Dil and the new teachings of the Pali. The marsh rats and the worm that moves within them.

    And from Zga, the Duke's own forces and his levies and the lines of friction between them.
    "If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
    -- Ernest Hemingway, "A Farewell to Arms"
    Burning Empires: Boldaq
    Keep on the Shadowfell

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