Hello. I was sick for a week. and before I was obsessed with Satisfactory. But now I'm back to writing. yeeeeee
"Hey you. You're finally awake." That was the first thing Eddard heard as he started coming back to his senses. The journey back to the North had not been an easy one. And in a long line of struggles, capsizing just off the coast of Oldcastle was just the latest. "You were trying to cross the border, right? Walked right into that ambush, same as us and that smuggler over there."
"Uh… what is happening?" Eddard blinked a few times before looking around. He was tied and in a cart with several other men. One of which was the captain of the ship that had promised to get him back to White Harbor. The others looked like hunters, perhaps poachers considering they obviously criminals.
"The storm my lord, knocked my ship over and we washed ashore… if we survive this, I'll be expecting a new one." The captain grunted in annoyance, and the young Stark understood. He had been very insistent on traveling to White Harbor as soon as possible even though nearly all of the seamen he had come across had said a storm was coming and it was too dangerous. That hadn't mattered to Eddard as Robert needed the North as quickly as possible. "I have tried to tell them who you are but they don't believe me."
"That's not good." To be executed by his own bannermen over something as silly as this was one thing. But these were men of House Locke, his grandmother was a Locke so this could be construed as kinslaying on their part. Eddard could only hope that someone might listen to his claims once they arrived at Oldcastle.
The journey to one of the most ancient castles in all of Westeros was silent. Winter was still here in the North and the roads were a mess. Snow still covered the ground heavily and only by strong Northern horses was the cart even pulled at all. Eddard was thankfully greeted by the sight of Oldcastle soon enough though. It was one of the most basic castles out there, a simple stone with a basic hall at its center. Hugged by a few wooden structures and surrounded by Ironwood walls. Eddard once heard a story that this was the castle that the founder of his house Brandon Stark first got the inspiration to become a builder from.
They passed through the gates, men were already preparing for war and as such a chopping block was set quickly. Eddard and the other men were escorted out of the cart and into a line set to be executed. The young Stark was frantically looking for anyone that could possibly recognize him. If he claimed to be the son of the Warden of the North, no one but someone that had seen a Stark would believe him. The sounds of the soldiers jeers did not make the situation feel anymore hopeful for Eddard.
"What is this?!" I loud voice echoed across the small yard of Oldcastle. Everyone stopped what they were doing just as the first man to be executed was shoved onto the chopping block. All eyes looked to the gate to the keep and saw the lord of the castle, Lord Locke himself walking down to the courtyard. He was true northern built man though getting on in years. Walking down to the line of the condemned, he immediately went to Eddard with a cross look on his face.
"Son, why are you here and not in Winterfell. A Stark must always be in Winterfell and now it sits empty." It was like hearing this from a ghost. The words, the tone, and the absolute assurance in them all reminded Eddard of his father. So much so that Eddard ceased to be able to form a proper response. But Lord Locke didn't look to need one. "Get Lord Stark here out of those binds and into my solar, we have things to discuss."
"Y-yes milord!" One of the guards, just as shocked and now feel untold dread, sputtered as he moved to free the young wolf. Those that had taken him prisoner now feeling the executioner's blade hang over their necks.
"Wait, free the man that came with me, he was only trying to help me return to the North as fast as possible." The guards then looked to their lord who glanced over to the older smuggler whom to his credit didn't look phased one way or the other. But nevertheless, Lord Locke nodded in agreement. The old smuggler gave a gruff thank you to Eddard before the boy was escorted into Oldcastle proper.
It was small for a keep, only having a great hall and four adjacent rooms on the first floor, with the Lord's suite on the second, and the Maester's quarters on the third. Lord Locke's solar was more like a sectioned off aera of his bedroom than a proper office. It was infinitely better than the chopping block in Eddard's opinion so he said nothing about it.
"The North has been preparing for war my lord. Everyone and their uncle is outraged at what happened in the capital. We all stand with you to avenge your father and brother. To end the reign of Dragons." That was good, Eddard expected that the Northern Lords would start things without him. All they really needed from him was a authority to make the strategic choices and to inform them on Robert's plans. The North stood together, and all the fire and blood would be smothered in the white of winter snow.
"Good, if you could provide me with a horse I will leave to ride for White Harbor and there Winterfell." It would take a small bit of time if news of his arrival would pass on quickly. White Harbor would be expecting him and its even likely that the Manderlys would assist him in some war planning during his stop there.
"Stay the night my lord. I can't have you falling off that very horse halfway to White Harbor." He spoke with a calm yet fatherly voice that Eddard tried his best not to buckle at. But… he did have a point. Even before the storm that brought him here, he had little sleep or rest. Too much worrying over what was happening. That had made him reckless and caused this near disaster. So the young wolf nodded in agreement. "Good, I will have the servants prepare my finest guest tent for you. Sorry but Oldcastle wasn't built with guests in mind."
"It is no problem. I had always wished to see this fabled place, it may be simple but it reminds me of what the North should always be, steadfast and sturdy." Lord Locke chuckled warmly at Eddard's description of his home. While many in the south would take insult at such words being used, the North prided itself on honesty and humility in these matters.
"You have my sister's nose you know. That's how I recognized you." The older man said as he pulled out a bottle from under his desk. In it was a bright clear liquid and a very faded label across the glass. Eddard watched as the Lord of the keep poured himself a cup of the presumed booze and then one for Eddard. "It's some exotic drink from the far east, a merchant from there landed here instead of White Harbor… actually thought we were White Harbor they thought so little of us Westerosi. But they do have good drink for times like these."
"Thank you." Eddard wasn't much of a drinker, even being as close to Robert as he was. But he wasn't going to refuse a man's offer. They both drank, it was smoother than most he had tried before and sweeter than wine. He could get used to a drink like this. They continued to drink for a bit until finally Lord Locke sighed and gave Eddard a look that he had seen on Jon Arryn before. That, its time for politics look.
"I give you this my lord, to soften the blow of what I must tell you." The Boltons, it had to be them. They were probably fishing about for some way to profit from this war. But when Lord Locke continued, it was anything but that. "Brandon Stark never married his bride… and now Hoster Tully is demanding that you fulfill that agreement in his place."
"W-what?" Ashara. That's all who he could think of hearing that. Why? Why did all this have to happen now. Couldn't it have happened after he had even asked Ashara if she would have him.
"I do not know what is happening in the Riverlands. But the South is not like us Lord Stark, I have no doubt that there are those that would side with the Crown even if the Tullys side with us. But that is at least better than having all of the Riverlands united against us because we shunned their first daughter." Politics, it had to be politics that kept him from Ashara. He was the second son, politics should have never been fated for him to suffer. All of this was Rhaegar's fault. That mad dragon dared to presume to have his sister's love, caused the death of his father and brother, and now his actions were robbing him of his love. "I know it is not what you want to hear, but I advise you my lord to take the Tully girl."
"I will… think on this on my way to White Harbor." It was a sinking feeling however. One that made what he just said feel like a lie. He already thought about it, what he knew he needed to do.
"King's Landing still smells like shit but now its also on fire." Mysa closed the window of the inn room that her and the rest of the Neophytes were using as their base of operation in the capital. Getting in had been relatively easy, they just joined the many people seeking shelter in the walls of the city. People were terrified of the coming fighting across the Seven Kingdoms. Already there were tales of small skirmishes in every kingdom. Petty lords deciding to break oaths or keep them.
"Still there is a majesty to it all, so old." Lusia commented though she too was holding a handkerchief to her nose, even with the window close the smell persisted. The men in the room were also affected having grown up in Barad-dûr, the smells of a city like this never hit them. Even as the city around the keep grew, thanks to proper planning sewers and other civic needs were met to keep such a smell away from the people.
"More like rotten. I think its time for a new capital to be put in place." Gruner said unashamed despite the glares the others gave him. He had been one of those that been there at Harren the Black's defeat and so was one of the most zealous among the new generation of Sith.
"Don't say things like that dumbass, not in this city." Mysa warned and Gruner waved her off but made a mental note to keep his opinions to himself. The Dornish bastard scared all of the newer Neophytes, though most of the first class of Neophytes did that as well. It was very clear to everyone that those among the first class were destined for greatness. They were the very best that that the Acolytes had to offer that first Crucible tithe. "I picked this inn because its one of the poorest and most run down, no one recommended it and told me to stay far away. I highly doubt any spy master will have plants here as no one of importance would dare come here."
"That's why we are sleeping on roach infested beds?" Both Luisa and Royn muttered though for vastly different reasons.
"Quiet, we all can suffer a bit of lack of luxury for the mission." Jarman chastised the two though mostly Lusia. Unlike many of the other Neophytes who had been working to prove themselves a title outside the comfort of Barad-dûr she had not. Granted she did do much work within the city itself, helping the common folk and furthering the reputation of the Sith in their home city. But many of her peers saw this as a less than stellar effort as already opinion of the Sith in Dol Guldur was impeccable. No local in that city would say a bad word of the Sith. Still, keeping that the case wasn't a worthless endeavor.
"Right. We need to find a way into the Red Keep and then swap out the Princess for Sand." Gruner leaned back in the chair he had found, looking like he was seriously pondering this question. Neither Jarman nor Mysa excepted him to be useful when it came to ideas. He was here only to provide backup in a fight or be a look out. His skill was loyalty, not brains.
"Is that what you are here for?" A silken voice came from the wall to the back of the room. A creek of wood later and small hole in the wall came to light. "My-my, Darth Nagash clearly has sights on all manners of plays here." Everyone but the resident Sith Spymaster in training pulled their blades and began feeling out the Force. But they were disarmed by Mysa calmly pulling over a chair to the small hole and sitting next to the person on the other side.
"Lord Varys, how was my choice in hideout?" Mysa could admit that Varys was a exceptional spymaster and someone to look up to just as she did with Darth Jadus. Darth Nagash confirmed to her as such, though for right now he warned that Varys would likely not be fully on board with all of their plans if he knew of them. That was her secret mission, to turn the Spider into a Cipher.
"Excellent, though expected for anyone of the game not of noble birth." He complimented and Mysa could sense very little but there was a controlled expression of sincerity from him. Varys was differently a person that could control their emotions much like a Jedi could. What emotions she could sense from him were all ones he allowed himself to feel at any given moment.
"Are we seriously just going to talk to the Master of Whispers like it's a teatime chat?" Gruner asked as he looked between Mysa and Jarman. He wasn't stupid like the others thought, he knew he was minion to the greater Sith. But Lord Rathari had taught him that not all were cut out to be leaders, but even the greatest leaders needed even better followers.
"But he's not the Master of Whispers right now, are you?" Jarman responded as he stared at the darkened hole while sheathing his blade, Royn following his example. The other younger Neophytes glanced to each other and followed the silent order to stand back.
"At the moment? No. I am but an interested party, one that only wishes to serve the realm in any manner it may need." They all listened to his words, all taking different meaning in them. But he continued on before they could think on it to far. "For now, I do not wish for that poor girl to be trapped in the Red Keep any longer. So if it truly is all you will be doing in this city, I have no intention of informing other interested parties."
"We are taking one of the King's most valuable hostages. It will change the entire outcome of the war." Royn pointed out but he didn't know why he was questioning this. Basic curiosity he supposed. But it was a stupid thing to say if it could change the outcome.
"He's already chosen a side; he just doesn't want to say it." There was a soft chuckle to Mysa's accusation but no true confirmation. Only the sound of a wood board covering up the hole followed and the tension in the room dissipated.
Jaster stood on the floor of his ship's hanger waiting for the gunship that held his key hostage. Already his son had been brought and was in a Bacta tank recovering from his wounds. Never before had the former patrol man now Mandalore felt so close both despair and rage at the same time. Torn between wanting to sit by his son's tube all days and nights and wanting to go down to the surface and burn every land and holding belonging to those responsible. But he was not some emotional pacifist or barbarous Death Watch member, he was better than both.
"Sir, the package has arrived." The sound of his attendant's voice broke him from his introspection. The Mandalore looked up to see the shuttle enter the hanger field and begin to decent down in front of him. There was a hope among his staff that this alone would be enough to end everything. That the plans begin made to crack open the New Mandalorian capital would not be needed. It was a hope born out of the restlessness to have this war end.
"Let us see her then." He righted himself as the landing gear touched down and the ramp lowered. Once it was set, there came Jaster's hostage and two Super-Commando guards. A young pre-teen girl in traditional Mandalorian robes, a hard set frown on her face that melted into awe once she saw the Mask of Mandalore.
"It really is real?" She asked in more of a whisper. The Mandalore himself was granted the grace of having the mask on and as such his amused smirk was hidden from sight.
"Yes it is, as is the title that comes with it." From the reports of those that captured this girl, she was very much against her father's ideology and respected the True Mandalorians. But she was a freer spirit than most and rebellious young lady still. "It's a shame that your grandfather did not live to see it himself. From what I have been told, he would have appreciated it greatly."
"He would have appreciated wearing it instead. My grandfather was born and raised in the Creed, instead of just joining it after failing to be a patrolman." She shot back and Jaster didn't make any move to react to that insult. It was one he had heard from the purists clans early in his time as Mandalore of the True Mandalorians. Among his people it was no longer a issue as he had proved himself time and time again. But he supposed that once he conquered the home planet he would have to do it again.
"We are all Mandalorian by Creed, be it by Foundling or Youngling it does not matter. This is the way." With that he turned around and began walking to the command center with attendant, guards, and hostage behind him. Bo-Katan was taken to a holding cell near to the command center just in case proof was requested but Jaster wanted this conversion to involve her as little as possible. Just in case the worst of his fears were correct.
The walk to the command center itself was quiet all but for the many moving parts of the war effort. They were in the final stages of the siege and so people hurried back and forth in the halls, too busy to even acknowledge the Mandalore. As he had instructed, no need to bow when there was work to be done.
Stepping into the command center though, Jaster did not feel any sense of relief or one that this would end with the coming call. He wanted to believe that Chief Kryze would surrender if his daughter was returned to him but that familiar gut feel he had told him otherwise. Not a word was said as he stood in front of the holo-communicator while his staff was getting things ready. They only had one shot to get this call to go through, one last trick they had after taking the orbital defense station systems. After this, there was no way to insure that the New Mandalorians would take their calls. So Jaster waited as his men worked through the comms and eventually, the form of Chief Njox Kryze flickered to life.
"-Upstart, I do not know how you were able to cut through our systems but I will find out. Whatever traitor you have placed in my men will be found and punished.-" The pacifist spoke with undeserved authority in Jaster's mind. And if they wanted to perform a witch hunt among their own thinking they were searching for nonexistent spies so be it.
"I have come to call for your surrender Chief Kryze, and in exchange I promise the safe return of your family." Quick and to the point before the pacifist had the chance to end the communication. Kryze himself looked to Jaster first out of shock and then to smoldering anger. Then there was something spoken between him and someone off projection. The look of anger turned to more of annoyance than anything else.
"-Yes-yes, I have heard you have taken my family's holding on this planet. I assume you have my father locked up somewhere?-" The worry in the Mandalore's mind increased the man hadn't even asked about his own daughter. Perhaps that meant he didn't know that she was with her grandfather… that was the only hopeful thing that could explain that.
"No. Your father died honorably in single combat with my son Jango. We have his armor and will return it to Clan Kryze once hostilities are finished." It was as tradition dictated. The body had already been cremated and now all that was left was the ancestral armor.
"-Bah, melt that junk down for all I care.-" What. That was blaspheme to the Creed. How far had this man gone to abandon the tenants of their ways. "-If not my father than who? Oh yes… my disappointment of daughter. That wild brat that renounced her name and family all to chase after barbarism and the endless sorrows of war. You can have her for all I care, she is no child of mine. -"
"I knew it!" Everyone in the command center turned to see the very child of the discussion standing in the open doorframe to the room. Behind her were her two guards who just had sorry bewildered looks. On the girl's tears were trying and failing to be held back. "I knew you always preferred Satine. Good to know just how much."
"Remove her from the bridge immediately." One of the officers shouted as the two guards spoke their apologies while gently pulling Bo-Katan away, the girl a bit more animable though devastated. Jaster personally felt anger he had not felt in years, not since he had seen the slaughter of innocents at the hands of the Death Watch for the first time.
"Is that how a leader speaks of his kin?! Are so blinded by your ideals and dreams of a false peace that you would shun and abandon your child? You see now we hold your daughter hostage. And if you do not surrender than she will be executed." That was a bluff, Jaster would never kill a child but he already knew what was coming next. The threat was just to destroy whatever hesitation he had left by listening to this monster's answer.
"-Go ahead savage, prove to all of Mandalore that you are just what we always claimed you were. Sundari will never surrender and once the Republic arrives they will end you all.-" With that the communication cut out. The command center was silent. No one had expected Chief Kryze to be that cruel. Jaster meanwhile was shaking in anger, his hands clutched the rim of the holo-table as tight as humanly possible. He was right, his gut was right in that this would not be the end of the siege.
"Begin preparations, I want that shell broken and cracked open now!" Jaster shouted immediately people began moving to keep to his commands. It was a whirlwind of emotions hearing what that man said, but if it did one thing it made what had to be done all the more certain. He stared at the holo-table debating in his head what needed to be done. Honor and personal belief told him one thing, that needed to do was right the wrong of another man.
Without another word, not that anyone dared to disrupt the Mandalore once he was like this, he left the command center. It was so unusual to see their normally calm and practical leader so emotional, it terrified them all. Even those that saw him in the hallways and had not seen what happened stayed clear of him. But soon enough he stood outside the door to Bo-Katan's holding room.
"We're sorry Mandalore, we underestimated her and she escaped." One of her guards spoke and Jaster would not blame them. Even old veterans could be fooled by children at times, such was the benefit of youth. "She is not taking it well."
"No one would." Was his reply and both guards shut up after hearing his voice so cold. Jaster took a deep breath and then removed his helmet, handing to one of the guards. What was about to happen needed the face of a man and not a symbol.
He opened the door; the lights were not on. Only the muffled sound of a girl's crying could be heard. The room itself was sparely furnished as a holding room was supposed to be. Though not empty as a cell, a bed, a wall attached table and chair, and a adjacent restroom were the make of the room. Bo-Katan herself was on the bed, back to the door and face in the simple pillow given.
Despite everything, Jaster was not good with kids. He had raised Jango alone and it was not what many would call a complete or even good childhood by many standards. But he raised that boy by Creed and by his best. That did not prepare him for this however. Jaster took the extremely utilitarian chair and sat down in the middle of the room, not too close to the bed but not too far. And at first did nothing, just make enough noise so that he was sure she knew someone was in the room. Both to give him time to think and to let her feel ready. Eventually the sobs lessened and the girl sat up in the bed, not showing any reaction to his presence.
"Everyone is accepted in the Creed. When I was exiled from my homeworld, I was told this by the man who would induct me into the Creed." He had been at his lowest. Wandering from station to planet, all in the darkest pits possible. He had done right by justice and morality and killed a man that had been profiting off corruption and the murder of innocents. But all that gotten him was poverty and despair. The Mandalorian cared about nothing of that. "What that… man… said goes against that fundamental principle." His knuckles tightened in his gloves thinking about Njox Kryze said.
"I know. I've always known that he didn't want me. It's just… hearing is different than knowing." She didn't look at him, just at the floor with an unreadable expression. "But I've never known what it's like to live without family. Grandfather and my sister, they've always been there. And now there not, I've been disowned."
"No you haven't." He made up his mind, he wouldn't allow this to continue. "If you truly have no family, then by Creed it is my responsibility to take you as a Foundling and as my own. You might have been born into Clan Kryze, but now I will make sure you are reborn into the Creed as you always should have been."
"A-are you sure?" Finally, she looked up and there was some emotion back into her eyes.
"Of course, this is the way."
"This is the way." But it was not Bo-Katan who said these words. Jaster and Bo-Katan both looked to the door to see Jango standing there. His face covered by his helmet but the father could tell what was under there. Betrayal. That wasn't what was happening, Jaster wasn't trying to replace Jango at all. "Squad Leader Fett reporting for duty sir." That was all that was said with a salute before he unceremoniously walked off. Jaster stood up and reached out but it was a useless gesture.
"By the Force… war is easier than this."
"We're almost there Cat." Her uncle spoke quietly through the window of her wheelhouse. She barely acknowledged anything. Instead she just looked down at the small sewing project she had started to try and take her mind off what had happened. It was pointless, the work was sloppy and about the worst thing she had ever made. She simply couldn't stop repeating the last hours she had at Riverrun in her head.
It all started a week ago when the news of what the king had done to her betrothed and his father came to the Riverlands. Catelyn had been devastated. That her northern wolf had been taken from her by the Mad King. Her father immediately began sending letters to his bannermen to call them to arms, claiming that they would join the North, Stormlands, and Vale in revolt. But then not all of the Riverlords answered. And as the days came, letters detailing Iron Born invaders came on dark wings.
Just before she and her uncle both left Riverrun to travel to the safety of the North, riders had spotted Grayjoy banners approaching the capital of the Riverlands. The iron Born hadn't officially declared for one side or the other just yet but it was clear to everyone just whom they were going to fight. It was only in the final moments that her father told her that she would going North to marry Eddard Stark, Brandon's younger brother. The quiet boy who was friends with Robert Baratheon who was now Lord of Winterfell. Everything was happening so fast for her that this last bit of change barely even pierced her mind.
The feeling of the wheelhouse coming to a stop shook Catelyn out of her gloom for a moment. Looking out of the window, she nearly paled at the sight of the Twins. House Frey was never one of the most respectable Houses under her father. It was however one of the strongest and it was undeniable that they would need to cross here if they were to make it North. The young lady of Riverrun tried ignore the looks and sense of foreboding as she stepped out of the wheelhouse and followed her uncle into the keep. The rest of her retinue and guard waiting outside.
"Welcome my lady, to my most humble of home." Walder Fray looked at her like a hungry weasel did a leg of lamb. She shivered under his gaze but thankfully her uncle stepped between them. "And to you Blackfish. I promise that we are working very hard to prepare for the coming conflict."
"I'm sure you are." Her uncle Brynden spoke through his teeth, there was little love between him and his brother's bannerman. "The Iron Born have begun their raids and have begun besieging Riverrun. They will wash across the Riverlands like a black tide if nothing is done. We will stay a few nights to restock and prepare for the travel to Winterfell."
"But of course, the Twins are most likely the safest place in all of the Riverlands right now. Not once has our keep fallen to Iron Born or whatever else may have tried." Catelyn couldn't deny that fact but this still felt wrong to her. There was a eerie sense urgency in her uncle's voice when he spoke on their stay here. "Perhaps it be best to wait here. Until Lady Tully's betrothed arrived in force, ready to take back our lands."
"No, thank you Lord Frey for offering your home but I have orders form my brother to deliver my niece to Winterfell." A shifting in the shadows had Catelyn notice that there were quite a few guards in the hall. Was this really happening? On top of everything else that was happening to her was she really about to be taken hostage by her father's own bannerman. Some silly ploy to hold her here as Lord Frey watches which side to play for. The indignity of it all nearly caused Catelyn to step forward and shame this man.
But the sound of the door opening stayed her. There, the Maester of the keep, walked quickly over to Lord Frey. A panicked look on his face had everyone that saw him worried. In his hand was a unfurled letter, did something happen that changed the war? Was news of what actually happened with Lyanna Stark finally coming to light, or perhaps the King had died or something as equally big. The Maester shuffled quickly over to the throne of Twins and handed the lord the letter and whispered into his ear.
"What?! What does that upstart sorcerer have to say?!" There was only one man that Lord Frey could be speaking of. Both Catelyn and the Blackfish watched Lord Frey read over the letter, first in anger, then slowly a quickly hidden dread. He shoved the letter back into the Maester's hand with the order to burn it before looking back to the Tullys. "Three nights. Then get out of my keep! Out!"
Immediately both Catelyn and her uncle moved to leave the now angered Lord Frey, neither wishing to be in his presence anyway. The two returned back to the safety of their own guards who seemed to have been having their own tense standoff with the Frey soldiers. Catelyn herself returned the wheelhouse, feeling it the most safe for her right now, as her uncle began directing their household guards. She pondered what had just happened, that an extremely well timed letter from Darth Nagash had just possibly saved her from being taken hostage. What could have that letter said to upset Lord Fray so much? It didn't matter in the end, only that it had saved her from being in his clutches.
"The Iron Born are ravaging our lands, you must do something!" Lysa flinched as Lord Vance ranted toward her and her husband. Him and several other ousted Lords and ladies of the Riverlands had all retreated back with their assembled levies to Dol Guldur. Cowards the lot of them, abandoning their lands and people just because they felt like they cower behind the shadow of the Sith. Now their admittedly small armies sat outside their walls waiting for anything to do.
"Riverrun is besieged, you must save Lord Tully at once." There was Lord Piper reminding her of just how dire the situation was. Lysa could only give a small prayer of thanks that she had gotten a letter from her father saying her sister had already been taken out of the castle and was now heading north.
"The Lannisters do nothing as the Iron Born cross their lands into ours. They have declared for the crown in all but official proclamation. This war has already been lost, our only hope is save what we can and hope the Targaryens do not blame us harshly." Lysa looked to her husband who looked absolutely bored listening to the many worries and fears of his fellow Riverlords. Though to group Darth Nagash among such a group was a gross mischaracterization. At this point the lands around the keep formerly known as Harrenhal were a kingdom within the Riverlands.
"Enough." All the shouting and panicking that was going on in the meeting hall grew to a close. The Hall of a Hundred Hearths was to big for meetings such as this so a smaller more enclosed hall had been set aside. Here the various lords stood in front a simple raised dais and simpler throne for the lord. A chair had been brought for Lysa as since this was a meeting with her countrymen she had been invited to listen in. "My stance on this entire war has been made abundantly clear my lords. I have conflicting oaths to both Lord Tully and the Crown, not only that but the circumstances of this war's origin are murky at best."
"You still clinging to that excuse?" Lord Vance growled and others similarly glared at Darth Nagash who did not react in the slightest. But instead the Sith continued on.
"It is my advice is to wait. Catelyn Tully is at the Twins, I have confirmed this. Soon she will be in the North which has already begun mobilizing. Once she and Eddard Stark are married they will descend upon the Riverlands and drive back the Iron Born and all others that oppose them." The small threat was there, that this included any that wanted to join the loyalist. And by speaking in this absolute manner he was declaring his side without actually doing so. He then turned to Lysa who steeled herself for whatever he would ask of her. "Since my wife here is the only member of House Tully, formerly or otherwise, any and all concerns of her father should be handled through her. I have to remain absolutely neutral until the truth of Lyanna Stark comes to light. Good day gentlemen."
Mouths were agape as Darth Nagash stood up and started walking towards the side door to leave. But no one dared to stop him. Fear and awe was something that was felt for him in all of the nobility. He was a foreigner that had reached heights that not even landed knights ever dream of achieving. And so it took several more moments after the door shut behind him that anyone spoke up.
"Can you believe this, he's abandoning the Riverlands just to play both sides."
"He speaks like one side has already won but won't commit."
"Lady Lysa, what should we do? Your father and brother are in the middle of a siege and reinforcements could be months away?" They all looked to her and she couldn't help but shrink at the attention. In that moment the lords immediately wrote her off as weak and useless. She knew it, they knew it, and there was nothing to be done about it. She had no real authority outside this keep and city.
"I trust in my husband. His wisdom hasn't led anyone astray before." Still, she felt she needed to defend Darth Nagash. Even if it was a loveless marriage, it was still a marriage. Family, Duty, Honor. Those were her House's words and even if they felt so far away now she would still live by them. Those in the room however did not looked to be swayed by her words. Instead she was met with scowls and looks of disappointment.
"I had hoped that when the king had you married to that foreigner, it was to tie him to the realm. But it seems like you haven't even done the least bit to do so." Lord Blackwood, who Lysa had always known to be one of her father's most steadfast supporters, spoke for the first time since the meeting had begun. His tone was harsh and bit Lysa with every word. The look in his eyes emulating all the disappointment and anger in the room toward her. "I understand that he is a beast but the least you could have done was tame him enough to listen to his peers."
"I… t-that's not what-" Lysa started but was quickly cut off by Lord Blackwood as he started to approach the hall's dais.
"Your duty to this kingdom was one thing and one thing only, to make sure that the Sith played by the rules. You are failing at that." He snapped as he walked up the small steps to her spot next to her husband's seat. "Worthless, proving to everyone what we already knew. The best you can do is be as useful as serving girl and get the rest of us some refreshments." He laughed cruelly and the others joined in.
Something broke. All the abuse, uncertainty, years upon years of envy and being overlook built to this moment. Lysa had enough. She knew that she couldn't face many of those that had caused all these negative feelings for a number of reasons. But this man, who had cowered in her city while her father was stuck and in need of help… she could do something about him. As she remembered that even if she had no authority over them or anything else outside Barad-dûr and Dol Guldur, she had plenty of authority in them.
"No." Lysa barely whispered as the courage fueled by indignity and spite began to flame. But it was enough for Lord Blackwood to hear.
"What did you say woman?" He snarled as this failure of a piece in the Game of Thrones dared to talk back to him.
"No. I will not. And talking to the lady of the keep like that is unacceptable. If you feel so strongly about me Lord Blackwood, I'm sure you wouldn't want to sleep under the same roof as myself. You can sleep outside the keep." Sure, there were plenty of hotels in the city but once the rumor mills started about what happened this day, their service would either be nonexistent or extremely subpar for Lord Blackwood. Lysa stared up at the older man with a defiant look in her eyes that had so rarely ever been in them. It was a sudden burst of emotion, the kind that she would later be embarrassed and oddly proud over. But now it was strong and going nowhere.
"Who do you think you are?" Many of the other lords were just as aghast at this behavior as Lord Blackwood was. Such defiant behavior was unheard of in noble ladies who were expected to be subservient not only to their husbands but other lords. The Riverlands being one of the most puritanical when it came to these gender norms in all of the Seven Kingdoms.
"I am the lady of Barad-dûr, wife of the Grandmaster of the Sith. That's who I am. And If any of take issue with how my husband decides govern his land or what oaths he honors than it will be my pleasure to show you the door." Lysa never felt so righteous, so powerful knowing that she actually did have power.
"Why you little… how dare you speak to me like that? Your father would be nothing without the rest of us, show some respect!" At that Lord Blackwood raised a hand, the intent clear enough to sober Lysa out of her new found courage. But then the air took on a heavy pressure just as Lord Blackwood just barely started to bring his hand down. It never struck Lysa, instead the Riverlord struggled as his wrist was no in a vicelike grip. Looking behind, a felt the cold chill of death run over his spine to see Darth Nagash standing there.
"Get… out." Those were the only two words that he spoke. No joke, no sarcastic remark or thinly vailed threat. Two simple words anyone could understand. Immediately the other Riverlords began hurrying their way out of the room with the last being Lord Blackwood who was holding his wrist with a pained expression. Lysa watched as her husband glared at the door for a moment before taking a breath and looking at with the most positive face she had seen, one of pride and interest. "For the record, you were doing quite well until I had to step in."
"Thank you." It was so rare for her to get praise from not only him but anyone really. It had gotten better with all of those that helped her in the keep but hearing it from someone that mattered so much to her meant something more.
There was a small silence as Darth Nagash walked over to one of the no emptied seats and sat in it backward. Leaning forward on it with a look of contemplating before glancing back over to her.
"Let me tell you a story from my childhood." Lysa was shocked, this man had never once opened up to her about anything. And she very much doubted that he had opened up to anyone about his past before Westeros in any meaningful way, let alone his childhood. This… felt nice to the girl. Something he was entrusting to her. "Back when I was a youngling, my mother would always take me to balls, galas, dinners, the like. Show me off to all the others of Imperial nobility like most proud yet very narcissistic parents do. That was normal. But the point of the story is that among the regulars of these parties were these two twin sisters."
"Oh." There was a tiny bite to his words when he spoke of his mother. Some small hint that Lysa picked up on and filed away as more knowledge of her husband. But she continued to listen regardless.
"These two were the perfect picture of noble ladies in training. Graceful, meek, courteous, submissive… all the things that one would expect out of a bargaining chip used to secure favors and alliances. They are all raised like this from birth." That sounded very familiar. And while she felt it should, Lysa didn't feel any better knowing that things were very much the same elsewhere. That girls like her where found in all noble societies and were doomed to lives in the shadows of their husbands. But then he continued to speak. "In Imperial society, girls like these are considered utterly nothing more than trash."
"What?" There was this savage smile on his lips as he said this last part that was a mix of pride and satisfaction.
"They are traded off in parts of larger deals to disappointing sons with no prospects. A weak member of the House is seen as a burden that can not pull their own weight. Power, cunning, and discipline, these are things that my people value above all else. Especially the first two among the nobility. And the moment that a child starts showing signs that they are in fact strong enough to be strong, they are lavished with praise and attention." That was everything opposite that she was told growing up. Her tutors and septums always told her that a proper lady was one that supported her husband, ran his household, and birthed sons and daughters. Everything else was just in service of finding a means to appeal to that prospective husband. Aspiring to your own power and developing a sharp enough mind to be called cunning and being a girl at the same time? That was borderline heretical in the Riverlands.
"But back to my story. The two twins in question, it's been so long I forget their names. But I can recall what happened to them clearly as it a perfect lesson in Imperial society. One day, one of the twins simply had enough. She snapped. She didn't want to be weak anymore." Lysa felt her hands clutch in her lap. She didn't want to be weak anyone. Swinging from mood to mood, between hope and despair. She wanted to be able to say she was proud of herself and not feel so jealous of what could be. "It started of with abusing those she could. Servants and commoners. Little acts of cruelty here and there to test the waters. Then once she got away with it… it moved to her sister. And escalated further with those under her."
"Oh no." Lysa didn't want that. She loved the servants of Barad-dûr, even more than those of Riverrun. There was never a moment since her time here that could fuel a cruel act toward any of them.
"Her parents were so proud when they caught her ordering a serving girl to be flogged for bringing her the wrong plate of food. That was when that girl turned to a total bitch that am glad to say did not have the gift of the Force. I think I would have targeted her in the Academy if that was the case." His face turned from warm appreciation to disgust at the turn of the words. It was a emotional whiplash for Lysa to be sure and he seemed to sense that. He stood up from the chair and walked up to her, a more even look on his face but not nearly as cold as she had been used to. "The moral of the story is often people reach breaking points when they don't like who they are. And that what constitutes a proper noble lady differs from place to place."
"But I… I'm not sure I can be anything different." All those whispers about how much better Catelyn was compared to her came crawling back into her ear at the prospect of change. Even if she could be something different, would ever be better.
"You said it yourself, I am the lady of Barad-dûr, wife of the Grandmaster of the Sith. That's who I am. But remember, you always can be more than that if you want." With that he turned and walked out of the room, leaving Lysa to pounder the wisdom of her own words.
"The day has finally come." Jaster held his helmet with the attached artifact of his people in his arm. Standing on the mobile command center of the siege of Sundari, he was still some distance from the battle. The orbital dropship that carried the mining laser was too big not to be noticed. The moment it breached the atmosphere the New Mandalorians started buzzing about. It wasn't soon after that they likely figured out just what Jaster's men found on Concordia.
"They will sing songs of this day Mandalore. The day when we finally put a end to the division of our Creed." The Communications Officer said as they both looked at the tactical map of the siege. Right now it was all about getting the mining laser set so it could fire at the front gate of the domed city. The New Mandalorians were throwing everything they had at destroying the one threat to their impenetrable shield. The skies swarmed with dog fighting with all sorts of fighter craft firing at each other. The pacifists had numbers and home field advantage but the invaders had orbital superiority and far better pilots. Meanwhile on land, the trenches and shield domes that had been the main focus of the siege for now were lit up with all the firepower that both sides could bring to bear. A change of pace had happened and now the True Mandalorians were the ones repelling off attackers instead of the other way around.
"Unfortunately this is only the beginning of that." The Mandalore sighed before putting on his helmet and opening the comms channel to all of his Super-Commando teams. They had been pulled from every on planet mission for this battle. They worked together with his sappers for this moment, the mining laser was nearly in place and now it just needed a distraction so that the pacifists didn't stand a chance of pulling off some desperate move to disrupt it.
"-All squads hearing you Mandalore.-" The image of the leaders of his Super-Commando squads, all but one. Despite the last thing he had said to Jaster being he was reporting in, his son hadn't been seen since. Jaster wasn't going to make a big deal of it. He knew his son, even though this he trusted Jango to do the right thing even outside of his view.
"The operation is a go, begin your orders." Each of them gave a salute and cut off. Jaster and those in the mobile command center all watched with a mix of anticipation and fear. This was going to be the shining moment to prove the effectiveness of the Super-Commando doctrine. There had been countless other examples, but this would be the one that everyone would speak of for years and decades to come.
They waited, the battle raging with only small flickers in the fighting to indicate that something had changed. Then, explosions behind the enemy lines thundered and entire sections of the shield line fell. But the True Mandalorians did not charge and instead just continued to bombard the capital in dueling artillery battles and more dogfights. That all however waned as the low hum of the mining laser began to power up.
It was a monster of a thing, a half a mile long and as big as four-story building. There was a crackle of electricity in the air as the various parts began to rotate and build up power. Those that had been moving it into position were getting as far from the blast radius as possible, disposable droids were all that were left to operate the machine. The True Mandalorians had overclocked the laser to unsafe degrees and so no one was stupid enough to stay near the thing when it fired.
Jaster watched as the enemy seemed to understand what was about to happen but with his Super-Commandos running rampant behind their battle lines, they could not organize an effective counter attack. He stepped off the overlooking platform of the command center and began walking toward the ramp to the attached shuttle. He would be the first one through the breach and he would be heading straight for Kryze. The deafening sound of the laser entering into its final stages echoed across the desert surrounding Sundari. The Mandalore was already in the shuttle once it fired.
It was like a sonic charge exploded; a bright red beam shot across the sands turning a straight line on the surface to glass. Slamming into he main gate of the domed city, literal tons of metal was beaten, bent, and ripped apart before the heat of the laser melted so much of it to molten slag. But the laser continued on, eating away at the dome's surface and burrowing a hole straight through it. Those on the inside could do nothing but try to get far away from the glowing white spot forming on the interior of the dome. Soon enough however even that was gone and the laser punctured the walls of Sundari, not stopping there. The laser fired into the city itself straight across its entire circumference. The effect was lessened due to much of the power being drained and the increased distance but the damage was done. Entire district blocks were destroyed and inner wall on the other side of the dome was heavily damaged but not broken.
The defenders didn't have a moment to react as immediately the True Mandalorians took the initiative. A swarm of attack shuttles and their escorts flew into the hole created by their improvised siege weapon. Meanwhile the ground forces began their charge forward to secure the breach and make sure that their moment of tactical victory was not lost. Holding the break in the battle line would be the task of the Super-Commandos until both infantry and armor arrived to fortify it and capitalize on the breach.
Inside the dome was a different story. The New Mandalorians had little to no internal automated or heavy defenses, so sure that their dome walls would keep any invader out. Landing shuttles dropped across the city and began eliminating local points of defense. Bastions and garrison houses were overrun by True Mandalorian troops in a matter of minutes. The forces that had been manning the walls attempted to regroup but they too were also devastated by rearward flanks. The taking of Sundari after the breach had been made was always going to be quick, and Jaster had made sure each and every one of his men knew their place in making sure that happened.
"Approaching the pacifist's capital building Mandalore." The pilot informed him. Here he was, with his squad, those that had first followed his Super-Commando Codex. Men and women that had earned their place by his side. And tonight their faith in him would be validated.
Sounds of explosions greeted Jaster as the ramp opened, likely his fighter escorts destroying the heavy guns placed outside the capital building. Didn't matter. He jumped into he air, jetpack firing to life as he and his squad flew through the air and landed at the feet of the New Mandalorians' seat of government. In Jaster's opinion it wasn't as bad as he had pictured it, at the very least the pacifists didn't divert too much from Mandalorian aesthetic.
The guards outside were nothing compared to him and his squad. The marched up the stairs and through the doors like it was nothing. Those soldiers that lived retreated back to the throne room where Chief Kryze waited. Jaster walked into the hall with only the sounds of battle in the distance accompanying him. At the end he saw Chief Kryze sitting on the throne of Mandalore, which had been ripped from its place at their ancestral home, with his first daughter with him. But they were not alone. Along with about thirty of their household guards, stood two Jedi. That complicated things.
"The Republic has no business here; this is an internal matter." That was his great shield against the Republic that Jaster knew was paper thin. The Republic meddled in the affairs of countless internal matters. To secure national security they said. But the last thing Jaster wanted to do was to kill a Jedi… that would truly be a greater threat than the New Mandalorians ever were.
"The Republic has yet to recognize either side of this conflict as legitimate. However, what you are doing is not the way to settle a matter like this." The Jedi, a man long brown hair and a voice of a mediator spoke calmly. Good, this seemed like a sensible Jedi and not one hungry for war.
"Master Jinn, the Republic sent you here to protect me and my daughter! This savage clearly intends to kill me, stop him!" Njox Kryze shouted as he stood up from his seat. The Jedi seemed to sigh in exasperation and nodded that yes those were his orders. The Jedi master started walk out in front of the rest of the soldiers, ready to defend the leader of the New Mandalorians.
"Sword." Jaster called as he held his hand out, one of his squad was a sword master and held a nice collection of Beskar blades. This looked to be an honorable man and so he would fight him in a honorable duel. Jaster caught the Mandalorian longsword by the hilt, a simple design of a one sided blade with a sharp cutoff tip and two diagonals serrated slits near the base. "No one is to interfere."
"Yes Mandalore." His squad responded though they did not pull their guns down. Already the pacifists proved themselves to traitors when it came to the sanctity of the honor duel. What happened to Jango would not happen here.
"Yes. Let us end this properly and with as little bloodshed as possible. If he dies then his whole cause dies as well." Chief Kryze grunted angrily as he sat back down in his throne. His daughter looked concerned and worried as did the younger Jedi boy next to her.
"I am Mand'alor Jaster Mereel, I have come to claim my rightful spot as leader of all of our Creed. This duel shall decide the fate of our people. To the victor goes the Mask of Mandalore and the Right to Rule the Creed." Jaster spoke as both he and the Jedi stood apart from each other. It was fitting, to have this civil war end with a duel. Though it should be between the leaders of each side but a champion was nothing not to be remembered for.
No further words were spoken. The Jedi ignited his lightsaber, green… that meant to watch out for Force powers. The Jedi were ancient enemies of the Mandalorians and so Jaster knew just what their titles, symbols, and tactics were. And just as expected, the Jedi opened with a Force Push. Invisible as it was, Jaster fired his jetpack flying up and out of the way of the wave of power. With the momentum of gravity he landed back down, swinging his sword down onto the Jedi.
Sparks flew as metal hit plasma, the Beskar glowing hot but not breaking. The onlookers watched as the two struck blow after blow at each other. The hall sang of the odd sound of the two blades hitting one another. The Jedi master moving with all the grace and skill of his craft, to normal men they would be nothing to his ability but his foe was no normal man. Jaster Mereel was the Mand'alor, one the deadliest warriors in the entire galaxy. He had no Force powers but instead had unrivaled skill and training. Even still, the duel felt one sided to him.
As they traded blows Jaster could not help but feel something was off. That this was far too even between them. As he parried another large swing from the Jedi, Jaster began to recognize the Lightsaber Form the Jedi used, that of Form four. Few outside the Jedi Order could recognize a Lightsaber form but veteran Mandalorians are one of the few. It wasn't exactly Form Four, the man avoided much of the acrobatics of the style but the moves were still there. It was Form that should be far more effective than it actually was. Which told Jaster something important… the Jedi didn't have his heart in the fight.
Once again the blades locked with each other after a barrage of blows between the two duelists. This time it was the Jedi who pulled back, but with faster reflexes moved to swing before the Mandalorian could seize the moment. From above and then from below, two sweeping blows came with second cutting into the lower plate of Jaster's chest. Pain struck deep but immediately internal dispensers began injecting various drugs to counter it. Along with the pain killers, Stimulants flowed into the Mandalore's blood.
A risky move, but one that would pay off. Jaster leaned back into the force of the blow that wounded him, landing on his hands and with all his strength pushed back and double kicked the Jedi in his upper chest. Back on his feet, the Mandalorian ran to catch the Jedi before he could fall back down and grabbed ahold of his robes. With a strong headbutt, felt he could have finished the fight… if not for the fact the Mask of Mandalore was less hard than a Beskar helmet. But before he could have delivered another blow that could have finished this fight he was pushed off by the Jedi's sorcery. Flung into the air, the suddenness did not dampen his own reflexes and righted himself midair, flipping and skidding to a crouched landing.
Not a second was wasted as the Jedi master attempted to closed the distance once again But as blindsided when he had to immediately dodge out of the way of the Mandalorian's blade, thrown. Master Jinn stepped to the side as to avoid being impaled by the longsword, but in the next second he found his saber arm gripped tight and then a hard blow to his side delivered by a kick from his opponent. Jaster had to retreat once again before the Jedi could maneuver his caught hand to take a messy swipe at his head. The Mandalorian jumped back before a decapitating swing came for his neck and both warriors stood apart, a lull came to the duel as the Jedi Master took a moment to breath.
"You… you are not what I expected when I first came to this world." Jaster paused, this Jedi had a spark of honor and sincerity to him. And not only that, but the Mandalore was sure that he had been holding back during the fight. Maybe this was his attempt to resolve this a different way.
"When you first came to this world? Did assume that I was some beast, bloodthirsty for sport and war?" What lies had Kryze told the Republic about him and his True Mandalorians? Likely he painted them as the same as the Death Watch. Savage barbarians that wanted nothing more than to pillage and raid everyone in the galaxy or perhaps return to their warmongering ways of old.
"Yes. History between our Orders is not the best I'm afraid, and that colored my expectation. But then I read your work, your Super-Commando Codex. That was not written by monster seeking to enslave and murder the innocent." The Jedi master glanced back to Chief Kryze who looked increasingly angry and concerned as to the direction of this conversation and duel. Jaster would add slander upon the list of reasons he despised the pacifist, though it was low on that list. "But I not just let you kill everyone in this room to secure your victory. There are innocents in danger."
"I see." A plan began to form in Jaster's mind. If it did not work, then the duel would be finished and he would take full advantage in the Jedi's half hearted fight. "When two warriors fight in single combat, an unspoken dialog takes place. They know each other in ways that can not be explained. I can see you Master Jedi are a honorable man, one that will die defending the innocent. A man I can respect."
"I sense the much the same in you Mand'alor. It would be a great shame for your people if you were to die today. Few others I could see healing your people as you could." There was the sound of a indignant sputtering from behind but both men ignored it. Slowly, Jaster moved to his belt and the Jedi made no move to stop him. He pulled out a holo-communicator, one pre loaded with the transmission between Jaster and Chief Kryze.
"And what sort of man do you fight for Master Jedi, one like this." And then he played the entire conversation. The looks on the faces of Kryze's own men and his very own daughter recoiled at the words spoken. It would seem that the pacifist's leader was alone in his opinions on his own kin and the traditions of the Creed. By the end, Jaster could see the tone in the room had changed dramatically. "For the record, Bo-Katan is alive. Since you have disowned her as your daughter, I have taken her in as a Foundling of the Creed and as my own. This is the way."
"This is the way." Every single household guard of Clan Kryze spoke the words before throwing down their weapons. Jaster was stunned, perhaps Chief Kryze had placed only his most ardent supporters in his guards at his hold, to insure that his father had no allies among his jailors.
"Master Jedi, leave this place. Let this matter be settled by those it involves. What happens afterward between the Creed and the Republic will be on my shoulders alone." Master Jinn looked back to Chief Kryze, a look of disappointment and contained anger smoldering on his face. Yes, Jaster did hope that he would not need to kill this man. Too few in the Jedi were as respectable as this one. But then the Jedi looked to his apprentice and the young Kryze heiress.
"We will leave, so long as you have my word that no more die this day and the life of Satine Kryze." That was not possible. Njox Kryze had done too much to escape with his life. And Jaster had learned with Vizsla, letting a rival live only created problems down the road. "Has the man committed any crime, and if so then he must be given a trial."
"His crimes are treason against his rightful Mandalore." The Republic used the excuse of treason and terrorism all the time to justify military action on internal parties. Refuting that would be blatant hypocrisy. However, Jaster would not be a tyrant. "He will be given a trial, the outcome is decided already. On the matter of his daughter, that I can grant. I promise she will not be harmed and not be charged for the crimes of her father." Silence filled the hall as the battle outside was waning. What broke it was the sound of the Jedi's lightsaber deactivating.
"Come Obi-wan, our job here is finished." Master Jinn started toward the exit, the super-commandos parting way for him. Jaster's gaze never left Chief Kryze but out of the corner of his eye he saw the younger Jedi speak to the heiress before finally following his master out. The man on the throne was sweating and breathing heavy now that his best hope to survive had abandoned him.
"Arrest that man on the crimes of treason and sedition." Jaster ordered to no one in particular as a test. And to his continued surprised, several of Kryze's own guards walked up the steps to do as ordered. Whether they were doing this out of genuine loyalty or they saw how the tides had turned it did not matter.
"What are you doing? You are my men, I pay you! None of you will ever work again if you do this." The pacifist continued to rant and rave as he was taken out of the hall. Meanwhile Jaster walked up the steps and sat down where Chief Kryze had been just a moment ago. The remaining Mandalorians in the room all kneeled before their Mand'alor.
"Send word to all on this world and to all of the Creed across the galaxy, the Mandalorian Civil War has come to a close. We are once again united and our Creed will live on by my will now."
I did plan for there to be a lemon in this chapter but I've kinda decided to not do them unless they are either story relevant, I really feel like it fits the moment, I need just a extra 500 - 750 more words to get me to that 10k mark. Eh, I've grown as a person and not as horni anymore. Still a degenerate pervert but just not as horny.
Oh, also I've started getting closer to finishing my first original novel so that's cool. Once I do finish it, I will be likely giving away some sweet discount codes on my stories.
Also if it hasn't become clear by now, now that this story has gotten pretty big, I have begun to ignore reviews to my earlier chapters as that's where the trolls now lurk. Past experiences have taught me that reading that shit causes delays in chapters so now i only read the reviews to the latest chapter. Sorry to say but its for ma mental health.
Ahtu - same buddy, so many Followed Stories that are now dead. Because he was stupid. People make mistakes when they are emotional. In hindsight yeah that was not the way to go but Naraiz can at times fuck up. The collars is simply because I'm a pervert who's into BDSM, I'm just smart enough to gave a plausible reason behind them.
ZhaWarudo - I saw that too, I want to believe it is the great monke but I doubt. I'm not that lucky. As to adding more Milfs... the current harem has been set and has for a long time. The number is nine, because I'm obsessed with the number three and multiples of three. Though I guess if you count semi-members it might be higher. Whatever, this is power fantasy I can do what I want.
Monkeylikespie - there will be a scene like that once the Empire shows up.