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Subterfuge - A House Feud


Emperor’s Chambers
Imperial Palace
Ohmen, Judecca
Cocytus system

Ja’ak. Vexok savaka.

Xen’Mordin’s eyes snapped open.

“My lord, the files you requested,” the courier repeated timidly. It was his first time even being in the presence of the Emperor. Beads of sweat rolled down the boy’s soft and youthful features.

“Put them down and leave. This request never happened,” Xen commanded, his voice sharp and threatening. The courier jumped slightly and threw the physical copies of the files onto the nearest table. The boy turned and bolted without so much as another glance. The pathetic lad already forgotten about, the Emperor reached for the pile of papers. He paused just short of them, hand hovering.

He recalled no such request. He was surprised to even see paper was still in use for anything more than those ancient, dusty tomes that lay forgotten by time itself.

He slowly lowered his hand to the cover page of the report. Curiosity getting the better of him, he flipped the page.

His brow furrowed, eyes moving rapidly along the page. For a the briefest moment, his eyes went wide. Then came the clenched jaw and intense gaze of deep and urgent thinking. He knew what had to be done.

Imperium Headquarters
March Isle, Judecca

The Quarren, lost deep in thought, stroked one of the many tentacles protruding from his chin. Settling into his new role as Quaestor of House Imperium had been easier than anticipated. Surely there was nothing that could stop the Battlemaster’s relentless push forward for greater power.

“Ah yes this will do nicely,” Lexiconus said to himself, plopping up one of the many delicacies set before him. His thin tongue watered at the thought of indulging himself with such a tasty morsel, mind contemplating what other perks he would discover as Quaestor.

The door to his office swished open, and an intelligence officer came bounding breathlessly into the room. The intrusion caused the Quarren to drop his meal to the ground. Before he could lash out over this annoyance from the officer, she spoke.

“Priority 1 message coming in, sir. It’s…” the woman trailed off for a second before continuing, “It’s the Emperor.”

Lexiconus dismissed her with a quick wave of his hand. He straightened himself up, not about to look the full before the Emperor himself. Even he knew better than to simply dismiss a message like this. Lunch would have to wait.

Undisclosed Location
Cocytus system

Somewhere in the middle of the Emperor’s message, Lucyeth had stood abruptly, his chair toppling over. Now that the message had ended he stood still, staring into the blue haze of the hologram’s projector.

The message had ended five minutes ago.

Orders such as this came rarely, and rarer yet concerning issues within the clan itself. Lucyeth knew all too well the disreputable nature of his subordinates in House Excidium. Yet, not even they would tolerate betrayal. They would not sit idly by, and neither could he. He drew his cloak tight around him and turned to leave the small safehouse.

He tapped several commands into his comm as he angled the device to shield his face as best he could from the biting cold winds of Caina.

And with that the news was sent. Within seconds, every member of House Excidium would receive it. It would be be answered without question, and in a matter of hours, they would be in position to strike.

Emperor’s Chambers
Imperial Palace
Ohmen, Judecca
Cocytus system

Xen’s eyes were heavy, his mind fogged. Maybe he had grown too cocky. So certain was he of himself, of his Clan, of his Empire. But he was the Emperor, and even he could not argue with what he had read. Though it bordered on incredulous, he was confident with the ploy he had set in motion.There was more that threatened the very existence of Clan Scholae Palatinae than mere monsters or insurgents. Threats from within were equally real, and there was only one way that he could gaugehis followers’ resolve, and most importantly, their loyalty. One final test would yield the answer he sought.

His eyes fell on the open holocron that lay idle on his desk. He had seen the truth. All that he could do was wait and watch.

Priority 1
All Members of House Imperium
Direct from the Emperor

Attention members of House Imperium,

Today, the order and stability you have helped bring to the Cocytus system is threatened. Not by some ancient evil, or bold outsider, but from within. These men and women you so deemed to call brothers and sisters, they have plotted against you.

House Excidium, those honorless, anarchistic curs, have been sowing the seeds needed to supplant we loyal followers of the Empire. They perceive our government as weak. Indeed, they seek to exert a far more brutal, relentless form of control and rule over the populace in a regime of bloodshed and terror. Through their secret networks, control of the black market, and decentralized facilities, they seek to tear apart everything that we have built and protected and bled for.

Your orders are to rout out these renegades and bring them to justice. Order must be maintained, for the Empire!

Priority 1
All Members of House Excidium
Direct from the Emperor

Attention members of House Excidium,

Today, the networks and power which you have established throughout the Cocytus system faces opposition. An opposition the likes of which we have never faced before. Those we so deemed to call brothers and sisters now seek to overthrow us.

House Imperium, seeks to insure they are the only ones left standing, they seek to overthrow our control of the Empire. Feeling that we grant population too much freedom, they wish to crack down upon those whom we rule over. This ploy has not been sanctioned by my will. Indeed they intended to force the rest of the Clan out of the system, and securely rule alone and uninhibited. Headquartered on the March Isles, they wish to flush Excidium out of your safehouses and into their trap.

Your orders are to rip the foundation out from beneath these two-faced betrayers. Break them and bring them to justice. For the Empire!


Office of the Emperor
Imperial Palace
Ohmen, Judecca
Cocytus system

The man’s mask had dropped to the floor some time ago. Had he so much as blinked in the last hour? Judging by the ache in bones, it had been long enough. He blinked hard, relief flowing over the dry, gelatinous orbs he had been neglecting.

His eyes darted from one datafeed to the next, strained against the darkness of the ill-lit office. Each feed played and replayed instances of the utter chaos that was the feud. On every single available screen, he witnessed as the great Houses of Clan Scholae Palatinae clashed. A voice buzzed in the back of his mind.

Loyal to the last.

That one last word hung in Xen’s conciousness—so familiar yet so foreign.

A buzz on his comm brought the world back into focus.

“Let him in.”

The words fell automatically out of his mouth. The door swished open on his command.

Light spilled into the room, outlining the tall, ghastly figure that stood in the doorway. The figure shambled forward before straightening itself. Light from the datafeed lit his grotesque, disfigured features. The man known as the Black Hand moved carefully. The repertoire the two men had been involved in for the last six months was a slow one. Indeed, the Emperor himself had visited this ghost from the past on more occasions than he cared to count. The newly appointed Proconsul was not about to look the fool before the man with a petty misstep despite his weakened state. Cyris Oscura turned his attention to the action on the datafeeds.

“Why?” Cyris asked, his deep, hoarse voice barely more than a whisper. The monosyllabic word hung in the air.

“There are the strong, and there are the weak. Those who hesitate, who waver… They threaten the security of what we hold,” Xen anwered slowly. Cyris let out what could almost be interpreted as a pensive, amused grunt.

Xen nodded.

“Yes… Yes, you are right. Enough for now.” Xen said voice trailing off.

Jormungand Quarry

The Zeltron poured herself another shot of Rancor Tequila. The skies above the quarry had faded from a dazzling display of color to a grey haze as smoke billowed out of a half dozen mineshafts. Somewhere through the billowing smoke lay the smoldering remains of a communication hub.

It wasn’t one she was familiar with from her time in House Excidium. Now an Aedile in Imperium, she felt something akin to regret that she had to face her former Housemates as a traitor. Or was it not anger that she felt? Shame? To think she shared a link, even a broken one, to these traitorous curs!

“Excellent work.” Lexiconus said, striding up to stand beside Blade. The sound of prideful greed dripped from the Quarren’s words. Yet another victory that secured his grip over this infallible web of power.

“It won’t stop them. They have a dozen contingency plans for communication, not to mention the data backups,” Blade said swishing the little remaining liquor around in the bottle.

“No, but if you want to bring out a pack of rats you light a fire and let them come to you,” Lexic stated, beady eyes reflecting the plumes of smoke.

Then came a sudden flash of static pain, followed but a strong buzz on their comm links. All around the system, every single clan member, man or woman, human or ewok was simultaneously given one unequivocal command.

Stand Down. Palace. Now.

Clan Meeting Hall
Below the Imperial Palace

The tension in the room was so palpable you could have cut it with a knife. Which was something that, by all appearances, many clansmen were ready to do. Silent glares and bared teeth were plentiful in each group lining the walls of the chamber.

Silence fell as Xen, shadowed by a hooded Cyris walked through the middle of the room to the elevated stage in the front. Those who had been part of the team that had captured Cyris in the festering stench of a nightmare that was Vanir II kept their eyes locked on the old man.

Xen took the steps up the platform two at a time. The Emperor pulled the mask from his face as he spun to face the crowds with open arms and a wide smile.

“Did you enjoy the game? It’s okay to admit it. All those years of doubt finally unleashed,” he began. The room remained silent. Xen’s expression changed.

“There can be no doubt!” he exploded, face red, fist beating to his chest with each syllable.

“We’ve all grown soft. Trusting. Friendly. Have you not seen what the Grand Master has done to the Jedi of Odan-Urr?! That is strength. That is POWER! The Empire stands only as long as we are strong. Trust. Friendship. Sentimental emotions have NO place here!”

Xen paused, sucking in air through clenched teeth as he scanned the room.

“But not all is lost… Look how quickly you acted. No hesitation. No questions. No lingering doubt. You heard betrayal. You believed. You acted without mercy.”

His eyes paused on the mass of House Excidium members. “Yet I must wonder if you really put all your heart into it…”

Without warning, Xen threw one hand forward and ripped one member out from the crowd.

“Did you not fear what would happen should you lose?”

There was a crackle followed by screams. Lightning all but swallowed Lucyeth as the man fell to his knees.

“Maybe the shadows are too comfortable?” Xen pried. There was another crackle followed by more screaming. The rest of the room remained silent, eyes locked on the Quaestor as he buckled and writhed in agony.

“But I am merciful,” Xen stressed as he lowered his arm to his side.

“Our enemies may hide within these very walls… But there are more out there! Of THAT you can be certain!” Xen screamed pointing up at an angle.

“We are at war. Every day. Every FUCKING moment. Never forget that!”

Without another word, he jumped off the platform and marched straight down the chamber.

He paused before exiting. He did not turn. He did not so much as glimpse over his shoulder.

His words echoed through the hall once more as he roared at the top of his lungs, “NEVER FORGET THAT.”