Joined: 24 Aug 2006
Location: Rangstadt, Allied Europe, Earth, NEC
|Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 4:22 am Post subject: Interregnum Winter 1945 - Part One
|The tented cave was packed, noisy, chaotic – never before had Kellerton seen such a gathering! Indeed, it had been twenty years since the last Council of Seniors, and that was at the formation of the Jund. She hadn’t been in attendance, obviously, but she knew of the legendary event. Who in the Jund didn’t know the names of the great Atabeg, the prime movers of the Resistance in those early, dark days? Wick, Marriss, von Posen, Berkaine. And they were all here! Those who still lived at least. Henry Marriss was killed in a Corpserf raid on his safehouse, some two years ago, rumour had it. But the others were here, and with so many powerful leaders in one place, all moving in the same direction, she was sure only good could come of the council. How could it not?
Kellerton moved through the gathering Liberati, helping without thinking about it. Here, she was greeting a caravan from the Cora desert, blowing sand from their hardsuits and making them welcome. There she was spreading out a plate of aromatic fruits, a gift from an El-Hayar Clan. She spoke to everyone, smiled at even the grey and angry old men who wanted nothing to do with her. Nothing could upset the mood she was in, despite the urgency of the meeting.
Trucks arrived at all hours, many of them bungalows, but some of them squat and sleek waste rovers used by the more wealthy Western clans. They lined the deep cavern outside, visible through the clear tent wall filled with light and heat. The meeting had been arranged in the arm of an old mine, well away from any CEF stations and in wastes chaotic enough that no satellites could easily track the incoming Liberati. Here the Van Saar and what remained of the Maribold – who now fancied themselves the Frismaribold – had erected the tent and set up the facilities within. A squat cigar of a building to the side provided heat and power and air near one side of the pressurized bubble, and in the centre was a massive white pop-up tent. Ribbons were beginning to adorn the framework of that tent, first by the handful and now by the hundreds. The Liberati tied their ribbons, the ribbons of those who had died, the ribbons of their loved ones and their departed, onto the tent until it was a kaleidoscope of colour that rustled in the faint breeze from the physical plant. Kellerton smiled every time she walked by it. The tent would be adorned with Lady Luck’s robes.
She wandered out towards the meeting grounds with that thought in mind, looking over the colourful tents and pop-up buildings that were sprouting up around the main dome, like painted eggs around a rainbow-dyed hen. A festival mood was beginning to surface – in her at least, if her guess of everyone’s faces was wrong. More Liberati were streaming in by the hour it seemed, and the crowds thickened. Everyone was smiling, embracing old friends, talking. The mood was positive for most, and even the most dour were being caught up in the great reunion.
Terra Novans were beginning to appear, gaunt black shadows amidst the crimson skirts and washed blouses and vests. They seemed out of place, as if they were walking on a scree slope and feared tumbling down into a dark chasm. Kellerton went over to them in their little clusters, taking the closest by the hand – Talon 04, this is? Look forward to good home cooked meal? Oh, lots of good food here for the council. Come in, come in. It was a role she slipped into easily and well. Saying hello, making her guests welcome, offering some cheerful comments and news from the other Clans, then off to the next newcomers. She was busy, and she had rarely been more content.
The first night turned into a party, primarily. Everyone mingled, everyone shared the news from their corner of the world. The spacers – those that had braved the gravity well, at least – maintained a crowd of others around them as they told stories of the CEF patrols swarming the belts, attacking Liberati asteroid holds, stealing away with their goods and their impressionable youths. Kellerton could smell a tall story such as these, even from spacers, but she was fascinated nonetheless. They never stayed for long, though; weariness ate away at their endurance. It was sad. Children of Caprice who could never come home.
More came as the day drew on. First were the locals, obviously – Maribold (Frismaribold), Banjak, O’Reillay, MacAndister, more. Old friends, old workmates. They laughed and hugged and cried together, for they were being hit the hardest by the Keffs – they lived closest to the Trench and were receiving the brunt of the Earthers’ attacks. Still, fire burned brightly in their eyes. Each one of them, personally, had been wronged and hurt by these Earthers, and very recently at that. Their smiles were angry and full of vengeance.
Then, more arrived, from across all Caprice. The Van Daar, their ancient patrons and allies, came in a single truck that seemed to strain under the weight of a dozen Liberati Clan representatives hanging off from it, waving and laughing over their radios, and joking haphazardly, as they always did. “An Amir, a Corporate, a Spacer and a Keff walk into a Jund meeting! The Keff says, ‘Everyone’s hands up!’ The spacer says, ‘I can’t, spin down the planet first!’ The Corp says, ‘I never consented to this!’” “And what did the Amir say?” “What Amir’s gonna be fuckin’ dumb enough to stick around with a Keff?” Kellerton grinned despite herself. The jokes were always terrible, but delivered with such gusto, and each one was completely off the cuff.
The Roy Clans and many of the So Doura showed up together, their trucks linked together as a train. Apparently they had met up further away and had spent the last two days travelling together. They had forged contract papers and were piggy-backing along with a legitimate Roy convoy to avoid detection, and apparently they hadn’t encountered any Keffs at all on the journey. They weren’t as jovial – the So Doura Clans as a whole tended to be somewhat dour – but they smiled and laughed as the other did, and eagerly came inside to talk of the changing world outside.
When the enigmatic El-Hayar representatives arrived, the conversations in the tent quickly became more hushed and surprised. They hadn’t any bungalows with them – they arrived in sleek, angular black Reubeni, looking as if they had just come from a Hakkar factory line. The tall men and women seemed smug, grinning their mysterious grins behind their scarves and ribbons. Friendly as always, but also rather distant – as always. The Clans of the El-Hayar were insular, even to the other Liberati. That coolness was often turned back upon them, for they also had some of the wealthiest clans, and held permanent bases –cities in their own rights. They spread out to give gifts to the hosts, gifts of fine silverware, and handguns, and ammunition, and mining contracts.
The night crew long. Fiddles and drums came out from trucks, jugs of bitter kourva circulated. The throat-tightening alcohol made most youngsters gag, but Kellerton was old enough to choke it back yet young enough to do so rashly – The little hidden festival-tent swirled in bright red clothing and amber lights and the great tent a white streak dappled with rainbows. She danced, and sang badly, and ate little sweet pastries made by the old ladies who couldn’t dance anymore. For that night, at least, the Liberati lived the life they had for generations, Earthers be damned.
The second day was more productive. The Liberati arose with headaches and hangovers, drank coffee together, chatted in quiet, somber tones. Now that the joy had been squeezed from the air in last nights’ revelry the gravity of the situation seemed to come down on them all, just as it forced the Spacers to stay seated and wheezing for breath. Without any announcements they gathered in the great white tent (not nearly great enough for the crowd, she noted), sat in the folding chairs or on pillows and rugs and mattresses, waited. Small cups of coffee with shots of kourva circulated, and Kellerton took one, feeling very much a grown-up amidst these old warriors.
One of the oldest amongst them stood, and the quiet conversations grew silent. Wick, a heavy, broad shouldered bear of a man. He wasn’t as she had seen in the pictures. She recalled an angry, handsome man with a winning smile and proud stance. This man in front of her was hunched and looked down at the floor, as if embarrassed to meet their eyes. This was the leader of the Jund? She looked about and could see the same thoughts passing through the eyes of the younger Liberati here.
He spoke, and her head swivelled back to look at the aging tiger. He still looked down at the floor, his words spilling out onto the rocks about him, but they rang like bells when they hit the basalt. He was speaking of recent events, of the tragedy that the Maribold endured, the plight of her own Clan, of the cancer that spread from Gomorrah. He seemed to almost be ad-libbing, making it up as he went along. He would even glance up occasionally, and when he did that he would look at whoever he was talking about – He looked at Dorchester when speaking of the Van Saars, he looked at Gennedy when talking of the Maribolds. He talked, and everyone listened.