01.21.3014: Conversations in the Dark
Summary: Nitrim meets with Anabethe, and the two slip off to meet with Cedric to talk Hostile Theory
Date: Nov 10, 2013
Related: None
Nitrim Cedric Anabethe 

Public House
Tucked into a corner of the commercial district, this dive bar has low ceilings clouded with smoke, a collection of round tables, square booths, and a bar with stools along one wall. It can do greasy pub food, and has a fine selection of beers, whiskeys, and scotches, but not much more than that. The bar stools are the swiveling type that are bolted to the ground so they cannot be used as clubs in the event of a brawl, and the chairs are flimsy things that make poor clubs in their own right. At the back is a shuffleboard table, two pool tables, and a couple of dartboards, often with a good deal of side betting going on.
January 21, 3014

The war for Haven survival rages on. Constantly. There is always fighting somewhere, and as of current despite the patrols around Volkan, there is no fighting at Volkan, leaving Nitrim Khournas a night to himself after returning from the travesty at Beacon and a detour by Landing to meet with…the prisoner. Nitrim has been a busy, busy bee in a way that's kept him out of the tabloids, which for the moment is good.

The Public House is open, as always, with its dim lighting and its simple drinking atmosphere. With his new neck-scar and more gaunt features from the wear of war, he's found his way to the edge of the bar where he sits alone. Nodding his head softly to the music, he trades cigarette for beer, biding his time until the next conflict forces him to move.

Much as Anabethe would generally prefer to be out fighting, lately she's found herself limited to patrols in the city and a good deal of paperwork and organization. Some of that is going to culminate in the training exercises in a few days, but for the moment, she's managed to slip out of the Blackspyre and into the public house for a few minutes of distraction. Stepping inside, she takes a look around, grin flashing when she catches sight of her brother. "Hey there, stranger," she greets as she slides onto a stool next to him. "Long time no see."

Looking up from his beer, Nitrim cocks a brow to his sister, following it up with a broad grin as he leans his shoulder into hers like a hug. It's a fairly common greeting for the man. "Well hello back at you, sister of mine." He flashes his teeth, nodding upwards in a way that sends the puckered, dotted scar tissue on his neck to pull with the effort. He raises his arm to get the tender's attention and motions to Anabethe, holding up a finger to order her regular for her. "I was hoping I'd get to see you by the end of the night since we're running all over the Devil's back lately. How the fuck you been?"

"Sedentary," Anabethe answers ruefully, shaking her head. "Docs kept me shut down for a while with the busted ribs and the punctured lung, and then it's been more troop movements and supply sheets. I'm getting damned good at it, though," she admits, tilting her head. "But I'll be glad to stretch some muscles getting out for that training things. And maybe it'll get me a decent commission as a Knight Lieutenant, at least," she says hopefully.

"War keeps going and we keep getting uglier. We're gonna both look like skeletons by the time this is over." Nitrim laughs ruefully, saluting his sister with his cigarette before his tattooed arm stretches out and taps the ashes into a plastic tray. Head shaking, his face frames by the smoke as the bartender brings over Anabethe's drink, with no mention of payment, as Nitrim likely has a tab going. "Fact is you've been breaking your ass over all of this, Bethe, you'll get that commission sooner or later. If anyone's earned it, it's you." He pauses. "And, for the record, I'm sorry for not bugging out when you told me at Obsidia. I didn't want to leave you without someone at your back."

"Hey, who're you calling ugly?" Anabethe smirks, bumping her shoulder against his as she takes her drink. "I'm a freaking goddess of battle, thank you very much." She reaches up to push a hand through her hair, shrugging as she drinks. "You did what you thought was right. It was a bad choice, but your heart was in the right place, and yelling at you now isn't going to change what happened." She pauses, then smirks. "Besides, I'm sure Flint'll kick your ass for it eventually. Did you hear? He's almost ready to go in for the reconstructive surgery."

"Yeah! Yeah I heard, fucking good for him. I mean, I figured it wouldn't take forever before he got tired of sitting down, not fighting or fucking and wheeling around griping about getting hit hard." Nitrim smirks, rolling his eyes at the thought of it. "He's not the type to just keep down. To be fair, Bethe, it took a lot longer than I thought it would. I figured he'd want to get the back fixed right after it happened." With the edge of his thumbnail, Nitrim scratches at his eyesocket and brings the cigarette back to his lips. Smoke in, he holds it in his lungs while he downs the last of his beer, exhaling against the mouth of the bottle. When the empty bottle is set down, some of the left-over smoke roils around the tip. "You gonna hang around the hospital when he's getting it done?"

Anabethe quirks a brow at one part of his words, but doesn't say anything, taking another drink instead. "Much as I'd like to be there, I don't think I can get away with hanging around," she answers, shaking her head and blowing a puff of air at his smoke. "People take note of that sort of thing. And while Dad's giving me some leeway here, I don't think he'd be thrilled if everyone thought there was something going on."

Nitrim tilts his head, casting a sidelong look to his sister that is one-part suspicion and one-part observation. There's plenty of questions about her and Flint, some he has answers to, others he doesn't. Instead, his perceptive, green eyes stare as he nods his head gently to her, then looks back to the ashtray. "Yeah, that's about the way of it, isn't it?" His brows loft, mouth hanging open as he presses his tongue to one of his molars. "All politics aside, though, it's nice that we're in good with Grantham. We've got Devon here now, things are calm inside of the house, and my shit is under control. All in all, I've got to say, we're not doing so bad at the moment."

"I'm glad to be good with Grantham." Anabethe trails a finger over the rim of her glass, distracted for a moment by something on the television over the bar. "Could wish we were in good with more people. Or that the Cindravales would quit their bitching," she adds with a roll of her eyes. "Had a visit from Niko about how we all need to cooperate more. I tried to point out that we weren't exactly known for not cooperating. But him and Erik both are touchy about their dad getting demoted."

"You know it's not exactly hard math." Nitrim starts, lowering his voice as he leans in a little. The cigarette is upended and stabbed against the ashtray, a good death for a bad thing. "Changing of the guard means new faces moved into old positions. I'm the conspiracy nut, but that sort of thing isn't hard to figure out. There were Janelle heavies, Emund heavies…" Nitrim huffs the last of the smoke from his lungs and gives another shake of his head. "And it's funny how sometimes cooperation comes out as what we want from you."

"Pretty much." Anabethe pulls her hair over her shoulder, absently running her fingers through the end of her ponytail as she leans over the bar. "So, I'm doing what I can. Maybe people'll just see this as another power grab, but maybe they'll see that we're looking to work with other people. And if that works, then it will have been worth it. I mean, they're pushing this massive assault thing, which I don't really agree with. But it can't hurt to try this first."

Once again, Nitrim gives a shake of his head and motions to a bottle at the bar. Getting the tender's attention, an iced glass is prepared, poured into, and delivered to the young drake. Nitrim flashes his teeth and nods upwards in thanks, waiting for the tender to scurry off before he replies. "Hundreds of years of breeding, an unquenchable hate for Haven society, untold numbers, a complete lack of diplomacy…" Nitrim lowers his voice. "Insiders on the Haven side helping them…" His brow twitches. "Seems like the sort of heavily visible move that would be tactically bad for getting us all clumped into one group. Can't say I disagree with you." Nitrim pauses. "What does Father think?"

Anabethe quirks a brow at her brother. "I was talking about the Valens," she points out, dry. "Whatever's going on with the Hostiles, I haven't been sticking my nose into it. I saw the video," she shrugs. "Didn't make much of a difference to me. I never thought they weren't at least partly human, and I never thought it mattered. Whoever or whatever they are, they show up here and try to kill us, so we kill them back. Maybe it's not the most enlightened way to look at things, but it seems pretty simple to me."

"This is going to shock you, trust me, but I have a different, yet similar, angle on it." Nitrim has a different angle? Shocking. Truly. He holds up three fingers to Anabethe. "They've adapted their entire society for this war and have no need for comfort." One finger lowers. "They have a supply line that as of current we cannot break." He lowers another finger. "And physically they are more adapted to survive wounds than we are, breeding faster and more efficiently than we are, all jokes about whether or not I have bastards aside." The last finger drops. "I paid Sarah 113 of 158 a few visits and I plan to pay her more. I'm…working something. Nothing that'll get me into trouble, but I'm trying to learn from her. Gain her confidence."

"I doubt you're the only one taking that route," Anabethe points out. "But I wish you luck of it. I can't say I much care what happens to her. She's a prisoner of war. If she's not useful, then there's no point in keeping her around, but if she's not giving any information to the enemy, there's nothing to be gained from killing her either." She drinks, tossing back what remains in her glass.

"Oh, I know I'm not the only one taking that route, but truth be told there's another angle to attack on this one." Nitrim replies, swirling the dark liquor in his glass as his eyes lower to it, entering a washing-machine hypnotism. "That video that hit the Sphere? It got me thinking things. Controversial things." Nitrim looks over to his sister, trying to find her eyes. "Sarah said that hatred for the Inner Worlds, for them, is mostly a genetic trait. They're strangers. They're uneducated in who we are outside of their outside definition. That video on the Sphere will rock the people, but it occurs to me that they're so single minded in their approach that, if they've been lied to as well about what really happened in history, or what we are as people, then we might be able to propaganda them right back. Who knows? Given the right circumstances Sarah might be useful. Word spreads, you know?"

Anabethe raises a hand to the bartender, pointing to her glass, before she looks back to Nitrim. "Sure, it's a thought," she agrees, though she sounds unconvinced. "Thing is, 'Trim, if it's what they've believed all their lives, what they've been taught, the way they've been conditioned? Do you think they're going to believe anything we tell them? Or do you think it's more likely we'd send her back to them and they'd kill her themselves?"

Eyes sharpening, Nitrim nods again, following his sister's line of thinking. "I've thought the same thing. Right now, there are only marginal victories with her. I believe I can get her to trust me, to let me communicate with her in her head. If I can get there I can show her and ask her to show me her memories. She'll know I'm taking risks and maybe, just maybe…" Nitrim trails off as he brings his glass to his lips. "And maybe if she links back up with them again some day, if we're lucky that she's an important figure in their society, we'd gain some sort of emotional foothold. If not…they might just treat her like a tainted thing, lop her head off, and all of that work is for shit. All I'm saying is that hate comes from the capacity to love and if there's something she loves, she might learn something to love from us. If she can learn that, fuck, if they can learn that, you never know." He frowns, then shrugs. "Nothing worth easing up the war effort to try, though."

"We've got no reason to believe she's anything more than any other soldier," Anabethe shakes her head. "And if we're not getting anything from her, then she's not much of a resource." She raises her glass in thanks once the bartender refills it. "Look, we all know interrogation doesn't generally work by setting someone up in a nice, safe place with plenty of comforts and politely asking them questions. I know it's not pretty, but if we really want information, we're going to have to get it the hard way."

A chirp sounds from Nitrim's hip, where his tablet has been slipped into a pocket. Listening to Anabethe with a distant nod of his head, Nitrim pulls out the device, turns it on, and scrolls over his messages. With dextrous fingers, he taps out a quick message. "I think you're right about that. Sarah has been very direct about the fact that we are enemies, and they intend for all of us to die. I just want to know why, for truth, because if I don't survive this shit I would rather know why because we seem to have two different histories." Nitrim pauses, eyebrows tilting. "Cyrielle and Cedric. Cedric wants to talk, in private, and doesn't mind if someone I trust is there." Nitrim looks to Bethe, eyebrow quirking. "Do I trust my sister and does she have time for this tonight?"

"Well, I'd hope you trust me," Anabethe says with a wry smile for her brother, taking a drink and glancing toward his tablet. "He say what it was about? And are you going to that floating death trap to talk about it?"

"I know a place we can go." Nitrim replies, winking to his sister. "I've got all of the best hidey-holes, but really it's having the allowance that helps me in that regards. Hotel. It wouldn't be too strange since he's married to our cousin." Reaching out for his glass, Nitrim tips it and downs the contents, dropping some cash to cover his tab. "Shall we?"

"Let's," Anabethe nods, standing and tossing back the rest of her drink without pause. Luckily, she's never had any issue keeping her feet after slamming back a couple of drinks.

Public House
More penthouse than mere apartment, the floor plan for this abode involves open spaces and minimal dividers. A small foyer opens up into the main living room painted a soft, muted grey to give the impression of clean lines and simplicity. Holos in frames of Cedric, Lyrienne and their family adorn the walls of this exceptionally tidy space. Platinum disc awards for music granted to Lyrienne over the years have been given a place of honor on the wall opposing the entrance. Modest couches crowd around a coffee table upon which sits one of Cedric's model ships.

The other rooms within the home consist of a normal layout: a kitchenette and dining area are ajoined to the living room, a master bedroom, two seperate other bedrooms for their children, and an office that Cedric and Lyrienne both share containing his desk and her grand piano. A balcony from both the master bedroom and kitchen area lead onto a hanging patio that offers a sprawling view of the rest of the Ring from down below.

January 21, 3014

Lyrienne has gone to stay with her parents for the night, taking the horde with them. Cedric told her had some matter to deal with pretaining about work and that he would meet up with her after. This was, actually, a lie. Which he can count all the times he's lied to his wife probably on one hand. But this is important. Or could be important. But information he's read and watched has driven him to a particular mindest. This is why he's called Nitrim Khournas to his home. And they are related, if marginally. At the moment, he's in his office, continuing his work on a highly intricate model of older Havenite warship, the kind where glue and very small paintbrushes are involved. He's waiting, obviously.

Sending a quick message that he, and his sister, would be arriving quietly, Nitrim walks alongside Anabethe through the corridors of the Ring (also known as a floating death trap) in the direction of Cedric and Lyrienne Orelle's home. Arriving just as one of the maids is getting off of her shift, she recognizes the Khourni, and directs them to Cedric's study. With dark coattails brushing the floor, Nitrim quietly steps to the thresshold of the study and peers inside, catching sight of the man working on his model ship. With a glance of mischief to his sister, he quirks his brow, bites his lip, as if saying should I?. Instead, Nitrim's heart grows an extra size and he gently taps on the doorframe. "Lord Cedric? We're here."

Anabethe never looks entirely comfortable when she's on the Ring. There's always a vague, underlying suspicion that something isn't what it seems. Or the walls are going to be flimsy. Or something. Never mind that she lives next to an active volcano. Hands in her pockets, she follows her brother in, looking around the apartment with a quirk of her brow. "Awful quiet in here," she observes, offering a small smile toward Cedric and an upward tick of her chin.

Cedric holds up a hand at the voices, urging them both to be silent for a moment. Standing up, he wordlessly goes to bookshelf that keep odd momentos like particular shards of metal and twisted peices of stone, wroung in possibly unnatural ways. Reaching behind one of these items is a small electrical device, which might pass for a wireless earpeice. Bringing it back to the table, he presses on one side, a small antenae flipping up. A fingerpress, and a small green light blinks to life. There's then a harsh, shrill electronic whine until it passes the range of human hearing. The green flashes twice, then another green light appears under it. "Alright." he says. "We can talk now. Lord Nitrim." He raises a brow at Bethe, and for a moment, he pauses. "Young Lady Anabethe. You'll excuse my precaution. But odd times cause for odd measures."

Nitrim looks to his sister while Cedric prepares the room. It's Nitrim's element; conspiracy, and it always looks and sounds the same way as it is being prepared. The youngest Khourni male always gets that excited look in his eye as it forms, flashing to his sister that he's rather happy they came. "No, it's quite alright, Lord Cedric, these are things that I understand well. Eyes and ears are everywhere." Nitrim motions for Anabethe to go in first, moving to close the door behind them. "Everything's a little crazy these days."

Anabethe arches a brow when Cedric pulls out the device, but she remains quiet until everything is set up. "All right," she drawls slowly. "I'll admit it, I'm curious. What in seven hells do we have going on that we need to watch out for bugs in your own home?" Conspiracy is not her usual bag, and it shows in her bluntness. She crosses her arms loosely over her chest, looking for something to lean against as she looks between the others."

"There is a saying from history books. 'People should not fear their governments. Governments should fear their people'. We live in…complicated times." Cedric remarks. There's a look over at Bethe. "I thought much the same, until I've started to learn that there is information that I'm not allowed access to. And when you're the Master of Ship's favored grandson, you begin to wonder what exactly is being hidden. Let's just say that I serve my country, but I'm not totally trusting of it." He pauses again. "No, that's wrong. I ponder their skeletons in the closet. Nitrim," he turn to the younger Khourni. "What's your opinion of Sarah?"

"I think she's too much of a soldier to play the con-game." Nitrim replies, off of the bat, as he pulls a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. Waving them in the air with lifted brows in an unspoken question, permission first, he drops into a chair in a lazy lean. "And since she doesn't have a knack for deception, I think she's thoroughly in the belief that Haven abandoned the Cantosans, left them to die, and we're fully deserving of this blood feud." He pauses. "Strange we've got no record of ever doing that in our history books, right?"

"Why would we?" Anabethe finds a bookshelf to lean against, shrugging slightly to her brother's words. "Come on, 'Trim. You know better than that. What goes on the official record definitely isn't what always happens. And maybe we did leave them. Maybe we left them for a very good reason. Like, I don't know. Disease. Crazy sects of people who thought being human wasn't enough. Mechanical failures."

"Curious, isn't that?" Cedric replies, sounding, perhaps, mildly humored. "I've looked up likewise information. And what I've found is interesting. I should say at first, we did do just that. Not on purpose, I believe, but there you have it. Whatever ships we sent never returned." Eyes slides over to Anabethe. "Possibly, but why are the records and personell files of those colonists sealed? If they were mentally unstable or criminals, why hide that kind of information? Perhaps to the public, so there's not an outcry of human mistreatment, but to a naval officer like myself? I had never been stonewalled by Naval Intelligence my entire life up until now. But no," he goes back to Nitrim. "Little to no mention, and certainly not the word abandonment. I'd like to think it was some kind of mechanical or technical error with the Waygate, but I can never be sure of that. Again, there's a lack of evidence." His expression suddenly becomes pensive. "Do you believe there is anything more to gained from Sarah? All these conversations…I think we have learned all that we can. Nor do I believe we are suddenly going to make her see the 'light' and 'error of her ways'. Would find that somewhat correct?"

"I think she has a purpose, just a purpose we haven't seen yet. When you read in betweeen the lines, she gives a lot of good information." Nitrim replies to the two of them, his green eyes shifting between Cedric and Anabethe's faces. "We know that the ships got there and that they sent requests for help that were never answered, and that they believe we abandoned them. They've built a near-religion around us bearing this mark of the Abandoner. Naturally, if those records are sealed, it's for a reason, and I've seen evidence all over the place that some sort of cover-up happened." Leaning back in his chair, Nitrim crosses one leg over the other and folds his arms into his lap. "We have insiders, traitors, whatever you call them, and before long I think there's going to be some pretty bad propaganda problems, if you ask me."

"I think if we want more out of her, we're going to have to move to actual, unpleasant interrogation," Anabethe answers Cedric dryly. "And I don't think most of the bleeding hearts in charge have the stomach for it. To be fair, there's scientific significance. It's not like we've had a lot of chances to capture a Hostile before. But at the same time, it isn't as though they're putting our people up in five star hotels when they capture them either." Her fingers tap against her arm, a sign of thought. "What's the mark of the Abandoner?" she asks Nitrim, looking back toward her brother. "Seems like if there's an actual mark or sign or sigil they're talking about, that might be a good place to start looking for clues about what actually happened."

"So it wasn't good enough that it was a war with our ancestors, but their descendants. I've always found this train of thought to be a bit…shortsighted." Cedric ponders aloud. "But I think that's the majority of people's opinion." He shakes his head at Bethe. "That is the last thing we wish to do. Were we to, we'd be deserving of the hate we have been given. It's so…easy to just think 'they did it to us, why shouldn't we do it back to them?'. If there is not at least an attempt at something different, something better, then we're nothing more than animals with better methods of killing each other. I'll not turn Cantos' surface to glassed ash unless I have to." His focus is on Nitrim, however. "What indeed. What did our ancestors do? Was the Waygate simply defective due to such a distance or was it purposely sabotaged? There were a number of colonists from Imperius that were also trapped there, not just the Cantos settlers. If those on Cantos were so bad, were they so bad that we'd knowingly damn those who had nothing to do with it?" He leaves that question for another. "And why has there been no statement from Emund pretaining to the leaked video? There has been utterly no damage control. As for Sarah, I think the best thing we can do is do exactly what she wants. She should be given back to her own people."

"I think all of this skinning and torture is in response to our dissections." Nitrim offers as he slips a cigarette out, guides it between his lips, and then uses the power of his Awakened self to light the tip of it. The thin stream of cigarette sucks in and is exhaled with the first drag, and as the cigarette is plucked away he points at Cedric with it in agreement. "I think they believe we are evil. If we show them evil, we're fanning the flames. Don't get me wrong, sister, I'm not the greatest tactical mind this century has produced, but I know emotion. They've got emotion. I've also seen plenty of evidence that we've got internal trouble within and some of it is reaching out to the Hostile, meeting with them in secret. This is going to get really fucked, really quick."

With a pause, Nitrim slips the cigarette back between his lips and lets it dangle. "The mark of the Abandoner is a…spiritual thing. We were born here. We all have it. I believe that Sarah has the capacity never to forgive but to believe that there are people that are trying to be different. I believe they can be convinced that some of us are worth saving, and that's a start." Nitrim's teeth flare, brow twitching. "She…told me that if I wished for an ally that I should release her. Set her free. It might be bullshit but…it could either just set another soldier free to kill more of our people or…could start rumblings in their camp."

"She's not a fucking butterfly," Anabethe snorts at the men. "She's a soldier. You're not releasing her back to the wild to sip nectar out of flowers, you're letting her go so she can get back to killing our people. They started it. Whatever happened thousand of years ago, they started the Second System War, and they started this one. They show up, they start killing. If they think we're evil, then they knew the risks of coming here to kill people who haven't gone to them in millennia. They knew the price. Come on, 'Trim," she rolls her eyes, shaking her head at her brother. "Would you say anything else if the Hostiles were holding you?"

Cedric shakes his head. "She wouldn't be given that chance. She'd be put on a ship, in chains, shoved into a worksuit and jettisoned out of the airlock at the sight of the nearest Cantosian ship." he says plainly. "I would realse her, but she would not stay on Imperius or anywhere else." He levels a frown at Bethe. "So it's that easy, isn't it? That's exactly why we'll be here for another forty years. Because nobody wants to think of another solution besides mutually assured destruction. Because hate is easy, far too easy, but anything else is more or less an abboration to us." He sighs. "I disagree with you, Anabethe. If I had my way, I would take a fleet of ships and burn their planet from orbit. I would aim an asteroid the size of Ignis at the planet. Were that within my power, I'd do it. We're so focused on killing each other that it's…" he is unable to find the words. "It's the difference between forty years and thousands of years. Because for all our bravado, nothing has changed. And our descendants will be doing the exact same thing we're doing. We're continuing a perpetual cycle of hate and ignorance, because no one willing to do something different."

"Bethe, I know she's not a butterfly. There's a 9-in-10 chance she'd slit my throat and laugh at me if I were dumb enough to try to jail break her. Not that I would." Nitrim points out to the two of them with a cigarette-laden finger than swivels from left to right. "But fuckin' Bethe, she and all of her people have been raised and taught in a vacuum over shit that our own religious customs, histories, and whatnot have hidden from us. SOMETHING is wrong here. I shook hands with this girl. I believe I can get through to her, I just need the time, space, and enough people giving her evidence that I'm different." Nitrim looks to Cedric. "I know I can do this, and the truth, Bethe, is that I'd say the same shit in her position but while we've got her we've got an opportunity to learn what to dig for, where to look, where to understand our enemy. She's fucking invaluable, and she's a human being. She's a key, but she isn't going to give up a damn thing if she believes it's going to just result in the death of her comrades."

Anabethe rubs a hand at her brow, letting out a slow breath. "I'm not saying that they might not have some grounds for what they're doing. Maybe whatever story they've been told is a great reason for going out and hunting us down when we haven't gone anywhere near their planet. And it's not easy to change the way an entire race thinks. Look at Arboren," she gestures with one hand. "We're not even talking about wholesale slaughter, but the way they look at anything we do in Volkan? I can tell them all again and again and again that we're not hurting anything, but they still think mining and the geothermal control are…I don't know, gross or something. How much harder do you think it'll be to change the Hostiles' minds? Even if we found incontrovertible truth that they were wrong? And that's assuming that they aren't the ones who are right about whatever happened."

"The offer is there, such as it is." Cedric says simply, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I have littel faith in our people at this point. The likeihood that we'll be going down the same -preordained- path is farily likely and I find myself questioning if my actions will have any impact at all. Not whenever is too easily lured to just fight and die over what possibly a large mistake or misunderstanding. But, there's no decent alternative." Moving to his desk, he looks at the small device upon it. "I plan on speaking with my grandfather soon, perhaps he will be more willing to speak about things I'm apparently not supposed to know." There's a glance at a small family picture on his desk. "I'm doing this because I don't want my children to be just more combatants in a war they didn't want. But I wonder…" he absently waves it off. "I need to meet up with my wife and children. I just thought to let you know specifically, Lord Nitrim, should you require my assistance, ask. And if I find anything relevant from my grandfather, I'll share that with you as well. I'll see the two of you out."

"It's a hard call, Bethe. It's a really hard call. Please understand I'm not looking through this with rose-colored glasses, and that bad decisions here are going to literally end lives. It's all in the book of shit not worth gambling over." Nitrim nods quietly to Cedric, a silent acceptance of his over as he turns his eyes to the floor, stealing another drag from his cigarette. He shifts in his chair, planting both feet on the floor as he exhales a plume of smoke to the side. "I just…keep coming to this place in my head that this other place has options. They have allies in our midst. I promise you this, and we have no allies in theirs. If we could put a crack in this religious-like fervor, just a crack, and they start questioning…" Nitrim shakes his head vacantly. "…then maybe if we could direct their attention to our military rather than civilians, or open a dialogue, or something to slow this effort down just a little bit. I'm willing to risk that." He turns to look into his sister's eyes.

"Cyrielle has asked me if I think Cantosan-supporters are responsible for the leaked feeds, and…" Nitrim frowns. "…there's evidence to suggest the Chantry has been meeting with the Cantosans. In private. Hiding bodies. I've seen these bodies, sister. It's happening whether you like it or not we have got to do something maneuverable that isn't the expected response."

"I'm all for figuring out what happened," Bethe says as she pushes off the bookshelf, following the others toward the door. "It'll give us a better idea what we're working with. I'm just not holding out hope that we can explain to an entire planet full of people who've spent their whole lives preparing to destroy us that this has all been a big misunderstanding. Or that our own people wouldn't fuck it up in the meantime. So." She shrugs, looking away. "Let me know if there's anything I can do."

Rising, Nitrim turns to follow Anabethe to the door. "Well, the major fucking problem is that it's not like we're the royal family and can make the calls. Anything that isn't what Emund signs off to with Sarah is going to be considered treason, and what the ruling party says, the ruling party gets, and anyone pulling any sort of chaotic shit is going to bring their entire family down with him." Nitrim comments grimly, trailing cigarette smoke as he walks. "I just feel like we're waiting to get stabbed in the fucking neck by the plan the Cantosans had coming in, which I fear is because they expect us to just war, fight, and not try anything else." A rush of cool air over Nitrim's fingers extinguishes his cigarette. Lyrienne would likely hate the smell of smoke in the main living area. "I think this time they might just win, Bethe."

"They're not going to win." Anabethe sounds certain of that, in the way she is about these sorts of things. "They're not the only ones with new tricks up their sleeves. Maybe they have an edge, but we have something to fight for. There's strength in desperation. In having nothing to lose like it seems they do. Hell, it's not so different from the Ash Legion, when it comes down to it. Already dead, nothing to lose. And that's well and good for shock troops. But not for the long term. Not for winning a war."

"Bethe." Nitrim's arm snares out, planting against the door with a barred arm, holding it closed before she can open it. It isn't often that Nitrim takes this tone with his sister, rarely ever. His arm bends as he slides into view beside her, standing close with his voice lowered. Lips hovering in close, his words come out a very private whisper. "If they have the Chantry, and the Chantry has the King Regnant…" He whispers, a conspirator in her ear. "…then they are seeding any of our war efforts with a bedrock of explosives and Khournas is the largest chunk of military. Please. Just…be very cautious, okay? Father doesn't trust what's going on in Landing. This bloody marriage with Janelle, someone directing Emund's decisions. I've got a bad feeling here, and every time I dig…it just looks worse. It feels like they're going after a linchpin."

Anabethe stops, looking back to her brother with a steady gaze. "If the war were as simple as a singly lynchpin, Nitrim, I would be afraid too. But it's not. We're none of us so important that we can't be repl-" She pauses, mind racing ahead of her words and color draining from her features. "Replaced," she repeats quietly. "Replaced." As though there's something significant about the word.

"Talk to me, Bethe." Nitrim whispers. His head tilts, and his brows quirk. NOW she's getting the conspiracy urge and is speaking his language. "What is it?"

Anabethe shakes her head, looking away and rubbing a hand at her brow. "Emund. There's only one thing I can think of that Emund would risk everything for." She takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly before turning back to her brother. "Ever since Ysabella died, he's been so broken. Because he can't replace her. But what if someone promised him he could?"

"….Fuck. The only way to confirm that this might be true is by opening up the slab and seeing if genetic material has been taken and that's not the sort of thing you want to be wrong about." Nitrim whispers, his head lowering to whisper at the floor, as if saying it sideways will cause all of Haven to hear. "But they do play with genetics, and I showed you that picture. They have been meeting with the Chantry. The Chantry took Ysabella after she died." Nitrim pauses. "Emund isn't leading the charge right now."

Anabethe's shoulders hunch almost protectively, the discomfort of the thought crawling over her skin. "I have to talk to him," she says quietly. "Maybe it's nothing. Maybe this is all in my head. There's nothing to support. I've got no proof of anything except my faith that Emund shouldn't be screwing around here, but something is off. Maybe if I talk to him I'll be able to get a feel for what it might be."

"Bethe." Nitrim says it again, the same tone, the same warning manner. "Thomas Sextus was murdered and left in a slab in the Grand Necropoli. The Chantry covered it up. If you play your hand, and you find a hint of a thread even if it's wrong but they're warned to you looking, you put yourself in danger. You're the heir, Bethe. The murder, the Chantry, these are things that I can prove. They did happen. I'm not half as crazy as they say I am but…" Nitrim's lips flatten, his eyebrows bunching together in the center. "Let me take the risks. Not you. Fuck, everyone expects me to do things wrong anyway, Father loves you more."

"Mikhail's the heir, Nitrim." Anabethe reaches out to gently move her brother's arm away from the door, starting out into the hallway. "I'm here to fight and die so that others can live. And Emund is my friend. Yssy was my friend. I doubt there's anyone else in Haven with the right to talk to him about her. She died on my watch, Nitrim. It's my conversation to have."

"Mikhail will always be safe, Anabethe." Nitrim says quietly as she leads the way out, his eyes lifting to her back as her hair sways and her face obscures from view. "Always. You have my word." Nitrim adds, head turning to look back to Cedric, then to the doorjamb as he has to will one foot to follow after the other. "Anabetttthe…." Nitrim drolls out after her as he waves to Cedric and leaves, following her into the hallway. "All of this shit is curing me of my ability to do crazy shit. Not my want. My ability."

Anabethe goes a few more paces down the hall before she looks over her shoulder at her brother, one brow arching in a vaguely disgusted expression. "Are you seriously going to try to talk to me about spending so much time being serious and doing important things that you can't get it up?" she drawls, hooking a thumb in her belt loop as she walks. "Because I like being close and all, but I think that might be where I have to draw a line."

"Fucking Six Bethe…" Nitrim's face turns a dark red, hand clasping over his forehead as he walks behind her. His laugh echoes through the hallway, framed by the cadence of their booted footsteps. "…has it gotten so bad that when I say crazy shit everyone automatically thinks that's what I mean? NO. I meant crazy shit like…putting my neck on the line." His hands drag over his face with a low, zombie-like groan that is half of a laugh, half dread. "We don't talk about my sex life, you and I. Besides, I'm saving the crazy for marriage."

Anabethe's expression turns to a grin, and she waits long enough for him to catch up before bumping her shoulder against his. "You could stand to be cured of a little crazy shit, baby brother. Life happens that way, you know. You start out doing everything, and then you start to learn when you get burned."

Nitrim grits his teeth and gives a little bit more bang into Anabethe's shoulder, like two drakes butting heads to establish dominance. The Khournas children never play gentle. "I got something I want to wait for now, Bethe." Nitrim growls, getting a hand up to try to grind a knuckle into her shoulder, all but slap-boxing his way towards the door with her. "But I'm glad I caught myself before everything for me was ruined. I'm still an idiot, I assure you, but…I want meaning now, you know? All that ex-husband love-doesn't-matter shit you warned me about."

"He learns!" Anabethe crows triumphantly at her brother's words, and when he tries to poke her, she reaches out to try to catch his finger and twist it in a neat hold. Bethe has always cheated at the rough housing. "So did you decide to squire up with Flint again? Or what's the plan on that front?"

Finger caught, Nitrim bares his teeth at her, mouthing the words mother fucker but doesn't make a peep of pain, knowing from experience that if he cries out, the punches are going to start coming. His lips flatten, baring a thin line of teeth to gather his resolve before replying to her. "MMmmmmmI'm fucking staying in house. I want to squire Khourni. I don't wanna leave Volkan and I want to back my family up." He growls his words out, wincing in pain as he tries to get a boot at Anabethe's knee.

Anabethe hops to the side when she gets kicked, but at least she lets go of his finger, grinning. "Sticking around is good," she agrees contentedly. "I'm sure Dad can find a knight for you. Worked out well enough for me," she points out. "Ugh. I should get back, though. I've got to plan more things for the whole…" She sighs, making a face. "Joint exercises. It needs to go well."

"Yeah, I should get back too I'm fucking tired and I've got to feed the girl." Nitrim whips his hand out to the side, shaking it like he's just pressed it to a hot stove. To say that he gives his sister the angry brother eyes is an understatement as he shoves her towards the door. "I'll talk to Vic about it and see if he's up for the task. Not being allowed to snoop, though, might kill me. We'll see. Maybe I can get Vic on board, you never know." He quiets, flexing his fingers out. As they near the door, he tugs it open and leads her out into the crowded walkways of the Ring, and back towards the Waygate, where home, sweet home beckons.

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