an EVO-based interactive chronicle
Written by Admiral Benden, asriel, BattleDoctor, Grunadulater, kauthor, SilverDragon, Solel, specops, Thunder, U.E. Admiral, Vice Admiral Ipvicus and CaptainCarnotaur.
Throne Of The Damned I
The Great Lord Avaron ek Maiador of House Maiador, intoned the heavyset Voinian who stood to the right of the immense double door, beating a tone on a drum equivalent to the visitors rank. The tone resounded around the room - it was a loud tone, although not as loud as some; but to one listener the tone seemed to echo too much, bouncing off the gargantuan onyx pillars of the throneroom and the high domed roof above. All of a sudden, his position on the throne seemed almost peripheral. Only twelve years of being trained by his father kept his face as calm and dignified as it should be, according to his rank. His rank. The highest among the Voinians, the highest in the galaxy by all intents and purposes. Emperor of the Voinian Grand Empire, ultimate ruler of the Voinian Imperial Navy. His position should have been unquestioned, but in recent times... House Maiador was not a problem directly, but almost a third of the Voinian Imperial Navy had been built and was maintained by Maiador. If Maiadors loyalties began to turn towards one of the rival Houses - Rauviak in particular - and a rite of challenge was called, his position could truly turn out to be as peripheral as it felt.
Your Imperial Majesty, Lord Avaron had begun, falling to one knee and slamming his left knuckle on the marble floor heavily, his face bowed. May I be permitted the honour of addressing your Imperial Majesty?
The emperor nodded sharply, and paused. Avaron had not risen. Quickly realising that his head was still bowed deeply, he spoke. You may rise, Avaron ek Maiador. Child of the Empire, he added smoothly. He was only eight months an emperor, ascending the imperial throne upon his fathers death, and he had not yet become used to all the aspects of his rule. His inexperience was most likely the reason that House Rauviak had become so openly hostile since his ascension, and before, when it was known that his father, Emperor Varkar ek Gaubach, was living his last year.
My eternal gratitude, your Imperial Majesty, Avaron responded respectfully. Too respectfully, almost. Almost as if he was hiding something. Youre getting paranoid now. If you let it show, youre dead before the days out.
Your gratitude is of no need to me, Avaron ek Maiador. I have it already.
Yes, your Imperial Majesty. Yes, of course you do. Once again, Avaron seemed to responded too easily. If I may speak freely? he asked, and there was an undertone in his voice which suggested he didnt expect the answer to be no.
You may, he answered carefully.
My generals are beginning to grow restless of the current situation, your Imperial Majesty. The...humans...have been given far too much chance to strengthen their borders and recover from our assault of the Sol system in previous years. It is becoming vastly apparent that they are advancing faster than we could hope, and- Avaron began, being cut off firmly by the emperor.
Are you suggesting that the Voinian Imperial Navy is becoming outdated in comparison to the vessels of these humans? he asked, keeping his face unreadable. But it is. Every year, we find ourselves fighting a more and more formidable force. The construction of bases in Vorik and Avann was designed to stop them, but every year, they push just a little harder, and their raids become just that bit heavier.
Yes, your Imperial Majesty, Avaron replied, his face also unreadable. Voinians who stood among the great pillars, advisors and the like, however, were unable to hold back their reaction, on the most part. Not a one of them failed to blink, and many muttered to themselves. Tekiyr e Bavael, an aging man who rumours spoke of upcoming retirement, even went so far to gasp. Such a reaction in such an unstable situation, and Tekiyr ek Bavael would be retiring earlier than he intended. It was beyond his control, for the most part. The Voinian at his right made no movement that anyone not on the dais could see, but the emperor noticed the slight flicker of anger, and noted it. For that Voinian, first general of the Voinian Elite Guard, a slight flicker of anger spoke death, and worse. The Voinians name was Haldir e Chiantos, and he was known everywhere in the Empire, and grudgingly respected by all rival Houses. Haldir was a disturbing person to have on your side, and no doubt an even more disturbing person to consider an enemy. All of Family Chiantos were said to be like that. Most of Chiantos served House Gaubach, the ruling house, although some broke tradition and served other Houses. No assassination attempt had ever succeeded when a member of Chiantos had been guarding the Lord or Great Lord. And amongst that family, Haldir was known to be the best. Not that anyone would ever attempt to assassinate the emperor, or any member of the ruling House. Not unless the situation was worse than he had believed. Yes, I believe that the Voinian Imperial Navy is beginning to lose its initiative. My deepest apologies for saying so, but I am bound to tell only the truth. Bound to tell only the truth. Its true - Haldir would have Avarons head removed right there if he was found lying - but no-one had even spoken the truth as plainly as that, not in an audience with the emperor. Not lied, either, but not told the truth.
He had to choose his words carefully now. A wrong move now could ruin him. He took a deep breath - which he hoped no-one else in the throneroom noticed - and spoke. Your opinion shall be considered in due course, Avaron ek Maiador. Until that time comes, would you care to elaborate as to your plans to counter our loss of initiative? His voice was firm, and more than hinted of sarcasm, perhaps too far so. Right now, he didnt care if Avaron thought his behaviour strange, or anyone else, for that matter. For all his sarcasm, he wanted to hear Avarons reply. House Maiadors generals were noted tacticians, and he had heard very little of new plans lately. His own generals were above themselves, old and senile or young and still too impressed by their own rank to begin to deserve it.
I am but a humble servant of the Empire, your Imperial Majesty, and do not bear the intellect to understand half of my generals plans, Avaron began, and for all his talk of speaking the truth, the spark in his eye spoke it a lie, but as I understand it, it is so. The construction of Vengeances frame continues, although it is apparent that even the prototype dreadnought will not be functional for some time now. In the mean time, the vessels size suggests that a new style of armanent may be appropriate: although this has already been discussed, I am sure.
It has, Avaron ek Maiador, the emperor replied. It was only after he replied that he began to wonder whether Avaron had been testing him. He was shocked at the thought. I am the Emperor! Testing me? Who does he think he is? The calm of his face almost slipped, but he maintained it.
Yes, yes. Your Imperial Majesty, Avaron added almost hastily. Hastir, who had been studying him over one cupped hand, straightened slowly - a minor movement. Despite it, Avaron flinched slightly Hastir continued to study him, seeming unperturbed. After a moment to recover, Avaron continued. The humans fighters are dangerous, your Imperial Majesty. Our navy was quite sufficient until they began to utilise the fighter extensively, with its fighter-carrier providing long-range support. As I understand it, to wrest supremacy again, it would be beneficial for us to continue the Hellspawn project further. The Demon heavy fighter proved to be excellent at supporting our frigates, and the more manouevrable Devil interceptor is a worthy update, but... neither will win the war for us.
So your generals are suggesting we develop a new attack fighter? the emperor asked softly, trying to keep an unidentifiable overtone to his voice. Avaron had been caught offguard, and keeping him on edge could be to his advantage.
As I understand it, that is the idea. There was talk of constructing a light neutron cannon, with a more powerful linear accelerator, to make the weapon more effective at hitting the enemys fighters... Avaron continued. His attempts at sounding unknowledgeable were somewhat feeble, however. Why is he trying to pretend that he doesnt know what hes talking about? Does he think I dont either? The Voinian emperor understood every word Avaron was saying, and could have corrected every intentional slip he made. Is that what hes doing? Trying to get me to correct him?
Avaron ek Maiador, be at ease, a voice spoke from beside the emperor. Haldir had finally spoken up. Saving me from showing anything , he realised. I have already had the initiative to skim through the preliminary designs of the vessel sent by your generals. The project is already underway. It was the most Haldir had said in some time; he had not spoken aloud once during such a meeting in weeks.
Of course. I should have realised that you would have done. My sincerest apologies, Avaron replied. Despite the fixed, icy glare Haldir gave him, Avaron appeared surprisingly unruffled. Maybe Haldirs intervention made it worse? Its impossible to know just how much they see... Realising that his composure was on the verge of slipping, lost in his thoughts, the emperor spoke quickly.
You may depart now, Avaron et Maiador, he spoke firmly. Your presence is no longer required.
For a bare moment, Avaron simply looked at the emperor, seeming to see through him for a moment, seeking something. The moment seemed to drag out. Then, he spoke as calmly as ever. By your leave, I will do so, your Imperial Majesty. Then, bowing again, he turned around. Two elite guards quickly appeared at his shoulders and escorted him through the great doors, which slowly closed as he faded out of sight.
There was a long pause after Avaron left, no-one speaking or moving. The emperor, lost in his thoughts, was surprised when he looked up and saw Haldirs study had turned to him. What is it? he asked irritably. Haldir e Chiantos may have been a skilled guardsman, but his advice was irritating. Haldir treated him like a child in some areas, and in others assumed knowledge he did not have. And his advice was never to be taken on only one layer, and rarely was what it seemed. In some ways he was not as bad as Delphar e Toruas, an imperial advisor who always spoke in riddles, but in others he was worse, because one always knew when they had figured out one of Delphars riddles.
For once, however, Haldirs words were not - or did not seem to be - intended to deceive. Illiunas, Maiador does not justify your concern. Avaron ek Maiador is searching for weakness, and has not allied with Tranakos ek Rauviak. He spoke plainly, and left little room for misinterpretation. Or did he? Tranakos ek Rauviak...the puppet ruler of House Rauviak. Could Haldir mean to say Avaron may already have an alliance with Rauviaks true leader? And he referred to me as Illiunas. He Who Illumines. The ancient title of the emperor. Why? What hidden meaning lies there?
I understand, the emperor replied slowly, wondering what Haldirs eyes were searching for within him. Everyone is testing me. Even Haldir. Guardsman, send out the order for Maiadors generals, and the lead scientists involved in the Hellspawn project, to be on Borb Station within ten days. A new attack fighter will in no means hinder the Empire, and considering how the situation is unravelling, it would be to our advantage if Maiador was on our side.
Be warned that acceptance may be a sign of weakness also, Illiunas, Haldir said without expression, but he was still studying the emperor carefully, his black eyes unreadable.
Anything is a sign of weakness, the emperor replied firmly, his mind facing despite himself. Never take anything Haldir says at face value, or youll be dead. Hell die in my defence, but if he thinks I do not deserve this rank... And anyone who views my actions of a sign of weakness will spend their last moments trying to puzzle out how their disembodied head is so. His reply was as cold as he could make it, and Haldir nodded to himself, satisfied.
I will arrange the summons immediately, Haldir half murmured, his thoughts obviously also elsewhere. Will Illuinare Styrada sek Tanus allow me to be dismissed? Illiunas Styrada sek Tanus. He Who Illuminates the Path of the Gods. Ive not heard that spoken since the coronation.
You may. Do you know who is next? he questioned the Voinian.
Lord Chiana ek Tuala, Haldir replied quickly, already rising from his seat on the dais. A legality involving House Tuala and House Emondar, Illiunas. The emperor nodded, both in acceptance of his reply and in formal dismission, and Haldir stepped down from the dais and left the throneroom by a side door. The emperor watched him go, a graceful yet somehow deadly stride. His face barely turned left and right, but there was the undeniable feeling that he saw everything. Two imperial advisors stepped back as he walked by, one of them Tekiyr e Bavael. From the panic apparent on his face, he was afraid that Haldir would not forgot his slip earlier. For Tanus sake, the Voinian only gasped. And now his life is forfeit, as surely as if he called rite of challenge.
The emperor firmly pushed thoughts of the rite of challenge out of his mind. That was what he feared; that we what he grimly thought Haldir was looking forward to. The rite of challenge, where one noble House acting on the behalf of another would declare a War of the Houses. Every house would be forced to take sides: either with the ruling House, or with the challengers. Even if House Gaubach could survive and defeat Rauviak in the rite of challenge - which they could never do if Maiador sided against them - the humans would take the opportunity to strike, and the Empire would be lost. Rauviak apparently didnt realise this. Surely Avaron ek Maiador understands. He tries to hide his knowledge, but hes almost as good as tactician as his generals...he cant truly support the rite being called? The emperor shivered slightly despite himself, and once again pushed the thoughts out of his mind.
It was only moments later that the drum was ringing again, and to the emperors relief the tone was quieter. Not as quiet as the two taps that followed, representing Chianas escorts, but still too soft to worry him. Realising that hed allowed himself to drift away while Chiana ek Tuala entered, the emperor quickly smoothed his face and looked directly at Chiana. Hes not here to manipulate me. No, not him. Hes just a minor lord of House Tuala...no concern to me...or is he?(/i)
It was hours before the emperor was able to retire from the throneroom. There had been many more people requesting an audience, and despite spending most of the day accepting audiences from various lords and great lords, thrice that were left waiting. Finally, however, he had just stood up, told one lord that he was dismissed, and left the throneroom for his personal chambers. Some of the looks he had received: puzzled, wary, even irritated, should have put him on edge, but he was too tired to care at that stage. After Avaron ek Maiador, there had been two more individuals who he had reason to be concerned about. Iathar ek Katharon, the Great Lord and ruler of his House, had come from the planet Dieram after investigating what remained of the Dieran slaves. He had laid down a case - not the first - against the emperors new edict concerning the treatment of slaves. It was all very well said and thought out, but it amounted to satisfying his slave masters sadistic needs. Keeping the higher classes contented, was how he phrased, by; giving them visual evidence of the boundaries between the higher and lower classes. There was a hint in it, also, that Iathar ek Katharon would not be at all displeased if the higher classes were frightened into obedience by public displays of slaughter. The emperor listened to it all, and then told Iathar to leave. Iathar had been on the point of refusing when Haldir stepped down from the dais, reaching for his rifle and axe - which, the emperor was not entirely sure. Iathar had left the throneroom at almost a run. Despite the victory, it was obvious that Gaubach had made a powerful enemy in Katharon. Another House on Rauviaks side if it comes to the rite of challenge , he had thought grimly.
The second character was not a great lord, or even a lord. Grycalis e Vaerkar was his name. Family Vaerkar had almost as much of a reputation as Family Chiantos, as political meddlers and shameless liars. Even they would not lie to the emperor, but there was no doubting that their every word was not quite the truth. Family Vaerkar was always manoeuvring for power, and with their current wealth, they could easily establish their own House. They hadnt, however, and that was a matter many of the Houses had begun to wonder about. If the emperor had been short-tempered with Iathar ek Katharon, with Grycalis he was brutal. The Voinian had not been there five minutes when the emperor dismissed him. Those five minutes had been bad enough, however, his mind working faster than it ever had to keep up with all of Grycalis plots.
He had been looking forward to some rest, but he soon remembered that he had promised his first general a talk in the warroom. Haldir e Chiantos would also be present, as always - even now, Haldir or one of the guards under his command would be outside his chambers - and a number of other generals. Gaubachs first general, Terrael e Kovoda, had also requested the presence of a cruiser captain situated on Avann Outpost, and a high scientist involved in the construction of the Vengeance.
Stripping off his chainmail robes in his chambers and replacing them with an indigo coloured cloak, and clipping a handgun onto his belt, he began to go through the names of those who Terrael had asked be present. Of the eight generals in House Gaubach, the best three had been asked to attend - and the others would no doubt complain at one point or another. The risk was worth taking, however, and no-one would disobey an order supported by the emperor. I am not going to have one more meeting with those incompetents. All they're interested in is their pay; and all they want that for is drink and young slaves. Shaking his read ruefully, he shifted the handgun so it would not be apparent when he closed his cloak. No need letting people get any ideas about security.
Before leaving, the emperor looked around his personal chambers, with its crimson carpets embroidered with golden and silver thread, covered in front of a massive onyx fireplace by a rug made out of the hide of a now extinct species. The room could only be described as the very image of grandeur, although it was for the most part bare aside from the finery that could not be taken out, either because it was built into the chambers, or because removing it would be potentially dangerous to the political situation. There was no painting above the fireplace, the beautiful glass tables were entirely bare, and a huge high-backed chair with a carving of a dragon and a phoenix making each arm rest sat in a corner, with a length of cloth thrown over it. Where it would have been was a much more simple chair, facing the fireplace, with a small pile of large leather-bound books at the side. The signs of technology in the room - and indeed, in the imperial palace itself - were limited considerably. A control node was built into the wall, and a circular data-pad lay casually on another chair. Ten times as bare would still be too much. How much money has the Empire wasted on all this finery? Surely enough for several cruisers. With a quick glance to an adjoining door which led into his bedchambers - which were even more disgustingly ornate - he stepped out of his chambers into a long corridor. I'd rid myself of half of the furnishings, if it wasn't for Cienara, he thought ruefully. Cienara, the empress, and his wife. Not his choice, of course; Lords have little to no choice in their wives, and emperors even less so. The marriage had been arranged when he was only four years of age, and once again he wished his father had chosen someone who didn't have quite such a temper.
Haldir quickly intercepted him as he made his way across the corridor. As usual, the Voinian had been waiting outside, replacing the usual elite guard. "Illiunas," Haldir nodded respectfully, moving as to walk by his side. "Captain Jaemnor arrived on the V.S.S. Instigator two hours ago, from Avann Outpost. He's been admitted to the warroom, and Terrael sent for the others." The emperor nodded; the scientist from Isled, Cartharos ek Rodeyr, had arrived days ago in a heavy fighter. Jaemnor's later arrival was due, no doubt, to his decision to travel in his own personal vessel. It grated at him that "come with all haste" apparently did not have the desired effect. Jaemnor could haved arrived in a third of the time in a heavy fighter. Jaemnor of Family Taevanos, a family within House Santonan. Santonan would never disobey an emperor, but they were known for walking the edge coolly. Almost as bad as Rauviak, he mused to himself, and at the same time, probably less of a threat than Maiador.
"Let us go then," the emperor replied, nodding to Haldir. Without pause, or another word, Haldir began to head for the warroom in long, purposeful strides. Keeping by his side easily, the emperor followed along the long, straight corridors. After a minute or two, they came up to their destination - a large, semi-circular door guarded by two Voinian elite guards. The fanciful patterns on the door did not hide the fact that it was designed to last against any type of explosives. A thin coating of more expensive, aesthetical materials covered ten inches of high quality Bronev plating - the door was as well armoured as a heavy fighter, if not more. All of the doors in the palace were defendable, but only the warroom and armoury had such plating.
Without waiting for the guards to decide he needed to be introduced to those waiting, the emperor pushed the doors back easily. Despite the weight of them, they were designed to require little effort to open, after an emperor who had ruled five hundred years ago had found himself unable to enter his own warroom. He had not been taken seriously after that point, and became a puppet emperor after not much longer. And if they thought he would resist that, he would have been a dead emperor.
The warroom was refreshingly bare, with no draperies and only one tapestry on the wall, above another fireplace. The tapestry always depicted the greatest victory of the current emperor: the one that stood above the fireplace now showed a human armada moving into the Pokoren system, preparing for an assualt on Vorik. The Voinians had beaten back the human armada although outnumbered three to one, refusing to retreat and wait for reinforcements. At that point, he had been heir to the imperial throne, and like all imperial heirs in the history of the Empire, he was placed in the most difficult commands on the frontier. He could remember that battle vividly, when he had ordered the fleet's heavy fighters to follow him into a flanking movement. That was another catch to being an imperial heir; by imperial law, the heirs were only allowed to command a fighter into battle. Those lot had fought I was mad when I told them to flank the enemy position. They nearly turned around and left - ha! It had been the first battle in recorded history when heavy fighters had done more than provide support, and it was the reason that he had supported the suggestion of the new fighter when Haldir had mentioned it several days ago - Avaron was not as up-to-date as he believed.
Six Voinians sat on high-backed chairs in a circle, three in officers' uniforms with five knots of rank, one with a single knot, and the fifth Voinian in a long grey coat. The sixth was Terrael e Kovoda, and he sat at one of the two more ornate chairs, with sixth knots of rank over his breast. The other seat, more ornate than anyone else's, was empty. The emperor took it without pause, while Haldir moved through behind him, closed the door, and leant on it casually. He rarely sat at more informal meetings.
"Illiunas," Terrael nodded respectfully. Not a bow, just a slight inclination of the head. Terrael wasn't far behind him in rank, and like Haldir, wasn't one who held much store in rank, even that of emperor. Terrael was a veteran, however, and greatly deserved his position. Since the emperor had been raised to his position, Terrael, Haldir and himself had been planning the beginning of a wider plan to defeat both the humans and the Emalgha, which had not even extended to the warroom.
"What news on the new fighter?" he asked bluntly, foregoing the usual greetings.
"News? Ah - yes," Terrael replied slowly. Terrael was brilliant, in some ways, but he had a very short attention span - or seemed to. Taking anything at face value was not a good idea. "As you requested, it will be classified as the Wraith attack fighter. About its weapon complement, two forward-firing neutron cannons will provide it with sufficient firepower, I believe. We've looked into various design specifications, and its quite impossible to outfit it with the same turrets we employ on our capital warships."
"I have been considering that, Terrael e Kovoda. We've all seen our enemy's high velocity primary weaponry - blaze weaponry, I believe they have dubbed it - and how effective it is at hitting faster targets. Meanwhile, the speed and manouevrability of our enemy's fighters means that our own are becoming obsolete, and mainly because their weaponry cannot hit them. I want you to see to the development of a light neutron cannon, with a more effective accelerator, and a much more reasonably size. The Wraith will have six seperate engines, each built into a heavily supported wing. I want four such light neutron cannons to be built into four of the six wings, and the other two are to support rocket launchers."
Terrael paused. He had obviously not been expecting such a reply. He was obviously thinking it through. "Your ideas are certainly interesting. A lighter cannon could provide us with all the advantage we need. The intended specifications may be difficult, however - the weight will counteract the number of engines somewhat, and it may not be as fast as we had intended."
"Use light compound materials wherever it is possible. I want you to explain to every single engineer involved in this program that not everything has to be made out of dospect plating. Titanium - or plastic - will be more reasonable. I have no doubt that the weight will not be much higher than the heavy fighter, perhaps even less," he replied coolly. He had planned this all before.
Terrael simply nodded. "The Vengeance prototype is continuing alongside the final stages of development for the enhanced neutron turret. Engineers working on enhancing the turret had to rush their work slightly for it to be incorporated into the Vengeance, but I have no doubt that the final production version of the dreadnought will employ much more effective turrets. The Wraith is on the drawing board, and will remain so for the time being, I understand. At your command, I will set several engineering teams to speculate upon and construct a lighter neutron cannon."
"That all sounds reasonable, Terrael," the emperor commented approvingly. "Also, I'd like you to infirm Carshada e Zsantiir that he will receive adequate funding to look into improving our current rockets, but that the Empire will not support any such projects at the moment."
"If I may speak, your Imperial Majesty?" piped up the voice of the scientist, looking somewhat nervous.
"Go ahead," the emperor replied, keeping his voice level and forcing himself not to remind the scientist that such formality was not required in the warroom.
"The human's guided rockets - hunter missiles, I believe they are called - are beginning to become quite a difficulty. It may be to our advantage to develop a... guided rocket... to counter their own. The Isled research and development group wishes funding to research into... guided... weaponry. The Empire may be able to develop a greatly superior rocket if we are able to equip it with guided systems."
"Consider it done," the emperor replied after a pause. "You'll have everything you need for such a project. But once you're done, the Empire shall begin to see about satisfying my father's dream. If Riden is to be left without the necessary funding to continue their operation for much longer, we may have more than slaves to deal with internally."
"On the matter of slaves..." one of the three other generals began.
The warroom conference continued for some hours, but all the important decisions were made in the first half an hour. With the Vengeance operational, and the new fighter, the Empire will be unstoppable.
Project Update: Thread 1, Post 0
Vengeance Dreadnought: 60 Total, Started at 0, Completed at 60
Enhanced Neutron Turret: 30 Total, Started at 0, Completed at 30
Light Neutron Cannon: 45 Total, Started at 0, Completed at 45
(This message has been edited by SilverDragon (edited 08-19-2002).)