Farside War Council
Off the throne room is another room, used for the Tower Lord's councils. It is much smaller in dimension but reflects the dignity and wealth of the throne room itself. The room is dominated by a long polished table and comfortable chairs. The chair at the head of the table is larger than the others and far more ornate - inlaid in its back is an onyx raven set within a field of amethyst. Along the sides of the room stand various tables replete with refreshments - both drink and fruit. As with the Throne Room, weapons of Gondorian origin decorate the walls
Already gathered are several of Farside's Corsair Captains and the Crusader Captain fresh from Harondor. A few silent servants provide drinks for the gathered men and women.
A note, delivered by a small courier, to the assassin of Farside. A great cloak, as always, is draped over the tweedy man. Unlike most Slik'koo's posture is laid back, as he sits at the head of the table. Several of the Farside Corsairs watching curiously. A small, ivory, goblet rests in the deadly hands of the Tower's assassin.
Su'ad arrives, bringing with her one of her aides, one might assume, as he seems to be often in her company these days. She is dressed as a War Captain might be, save for the armor. The clothing of Farside is decorated with a token of her office. Her hair, as always, is pulled tight to her head, giving her a severe look.
She pauses in the doorway, and after seeing how the members of the war council are situated, moves around the long way to find a seat at the table to face the door. But as she passes behind the chair at the head of the table, she stops and turns suddenly, pulling sideways at the high back with a jerk, then throwing the back of the unbalanced chair onto its side on the floor. She just stands there, prepared for Slik'koo when he gets up, fists clenched and mouth in a hard line.
That aide, a simply clad youth, wide-eyed and wholly alien to this place to this council, walks a pace behind Su'ad. He meets no glances with his own, but it roaming freely about the small room his interest caught often by the objects on the walls -- 'tis Yussef.
And yet, he too jerks back when the finely carved chair thunders to the floor -- a quick step or three, observing nervously, fingers fidgeting about the fringes of his scarf.
Dressed in red-dyed armor and a long silken skirt of a golden hue, Azradi strides into the council room. Her gray eyes sweep across the faces of the gathered and fall at last upon the lieutenant of the Farside guard - seated at the head of the table.
The Corsair Captain's eyes narrow and she walks down the length of the room, her boot heels ringing loudly. Even as she approaches, Su'ad has made her own opinion on the situation understood. Flashing a wicked smile at the other Corsair woman, she comes to a halt before the toppled chair and looks down upon the Master Assassin. "Get out of my brother's chair," she commands in a hard voice, her arms held akimbo from her hips.
"Hmm if you wanted to sit in my lap," Slik'koo says sardonically at Su'ad as she tugs on his chair. His legs rush out below him, to catch and hold his weight as he cracks a smile in her direction. "You could have just asked."
"Hmm, just keeping it warm." Slik'koo coos as Azradi speaks to him, his grin widens.
Once the chair is vacated, Su'ad stands it upright again, and puts it neatly in its place. She stands behind it, though, her arm resting on the chair back. "If you ever have designs on sitting in such a chair, you of all people should understand how easy it is to topple its occupant, especially without the backing of the Captains." she quips, but doesn't find her seat until Slik'koo picks another.
"A cruel lord would call that treason and have your head for it," Azradi replies, glowering at the Assassin. Leaving Su'ad to guard the high chair, Alphros' sister takes her seat in the vacant, right hand chair. "Now, if we could all be seated and attend to Lord Farside's orders..."
The youth's eyes each one of the three, the captains and the assassin -- and narrowing on Slik'koo at his speech -- very briefly, 'ere his gaze is downcast hands now clasped behind his back. What could possibly be his use here?
Yussef takes no seat, however, and remains on Su'ad's heel -- A pace, maybe two behind.
"A cruel lord would only allow such strumpets in his bed," Slik'koo replies, his tongue just as quick.
Spinning, Slik'koo's cloak turns in front of the faces of Azradi as well as Su'ad as he departs from the area of the high chair, and finds himself amongst the lesser chairs. A simple snicker comes from the pursed lips of the assassin.
Su'ad takes a deep breath and exhales. "For those who have not met him yet, this is Yussef, aide and sometime bodyguard." She looks at Yussef now, and with a discreet comealong motion of her hand, moves on to one of the lesser chairs as well, sitting next to Slik'koo. "It is your council, Lady, I believe."
Her face flushing with anger, Azradi curtly nods to Yussef - though clearly her anger is not directed toward the boy. "Thank you, Captain Su'ad," she says as the Corsair woman takes her seat, "We are here because Lord Alphros bade me convene the council. He himself is making other preparations in private and has asked me to relay his orders."
"He wishes us to take a more direct approach with the Emperor's staunchest supporters, even, possibly, to the point of armed confrontation if it is necessary."
"However," she says firmly, sweeping her eyes across the table, meeting those of each Captain and the lieutenant. "We are not to bring war to Black Tower or to alienate those who offer their traditional allegiance therein. But we are to apply pressure and confront those who publically still support Ajnabi."
"What I am looking for is ideas for how we can accomplish this. I have an idea, but would like to hear from others too."
"Can't support'em if they dead." Comes the reply from a small man, donning the cloak almost exactly like Slik'koo's own. Who stands behind the chair of his leader.
A heavy sigh pushes from the Master Assassin's lips as he looks upwards to his apprentice assassin. "Next time you have a thought, write it down, and bury it in a hole. You speak out of turn again, and we'll have to see Taymullah for the pain I put you in by removing your tongue," Slik'koo growls loud enough for the others of the room to hear, his tone icy and dark as he looks back to Azradi. "Continue," the man purrs, flicking his tongue about his parched lips, before he signals for one of the servers to give him a drink.
Bodyguard, eh? Thin of limb and of no great height, such as he is, Yussef does not look the part. Not at all.
His cheeks are lightly blushed, all the same head bowed low in response to the captain Azradi's acknowledgement. But if he dares look at her, it is from the corner of his eyes. No, he does not look the part in the least unless there is some great subterfuge at work here.
Su'ad sighs, her eyes slipping sideways to witness Slik'koo's interaction with his man. She gives Yussef a quick glance to catch his reaction, then she turns her attention back to Azradi. "Attack the supporters without attacking the tower? It is basically fighting in the streets. Skirmishes. There is no strategy I can think of except to employ spies to inform us when his name is spoken with kindness."
"I assume, if aides were brought to this council," Azradi continues, "it was because their officers deem them trustworthy and so, though perhaps a bit out of the ordinary, I would welcome suggestions from them as well as the proper council members - a good idea is a good idea, after all." The Corsair Captain smiles at Yussef encouragingly a moment, then turns her attention to Su'ad.
"Indeed," she answers, "It is a strange war to fight it seems to me that words are as important as the sword."
"As I mentioned, my brother has closeted himself away to make preparations of another sort. So perhaps it is time another anAzulada spoke publically. I will speak in the Market - call for the Emperor's removal and the restoration of the Tower Lords. This will draw out those whom we need to identify."
Su'ad blinks once. "You...would mark yourself as a target to lure the enemy?" she speaks out of turn.
"However, it's rather curious, I say," the assassin begins as the assistant behind him removes himself by the room. "That you all seem to need an invisible hand to push the supporters of Ajnabi. What better way then to use an assassin, and his band? Masters of Disguise, putting themselves on the line where others need not hmm?" Slik'koo stands now, his not-overly-imposing form seemingly taller as Azradi makes her declaration.
The youth's blush deepens somewhat, then. But he remains silent for the nonce observing only.
"Yes," Azradi replies, looking at Su'ad placidly, "Why not? I am the perfect choice: Alphros' sister."
"I do not intend to be an -easy- target to hit, mind you, just a lure."
"What I suggest," she continues, now shifting her attention to the Assassin, "is that you arrange for my protection yourself, and attend me on the dais with a number of Farside's guards - you are, primarily their lieutenant after all. Su'ad and the other Captains can spread throughout the crowd with their corsairs. Perhaps some of the regulars could also be discreetly placed nearby in case things get out of hand."
"But if you would rather wear a dress, Slik'koo, and play my part - you are more than welcome, though you better be persuasive, for my plan is to sway those who have yet to decided as well as draw out our enemies. Or did you have something else in mind?"
"Now now, I don't believe the prettier of the two of us should be put in harms way." Slik'koo winks as he stands and walks towards Azradi. There is no way to discern any emotions from the Assassin's face. "You know, the former Steward of Farside was killed surrounded by his guards." The man mutters and letting his words hang in the air.
"Hmm." Su'ad says, thinking. "Might I suggest that the assassin and I change roles in your plan, as he would be more invisible in the crowd." Her voice is solemn to say the least.
"Yes," Azradi replies to Slik'koo, offering the man a dark look, "I do recall the tale."
She sighs and turns back to Su'ad, looking displeased with her own words: "You have the right of it, Su'ad. However, he is the Lieutenant and it is proper he should command the men who protect me."
"His men can prowl the crowds. And you, if it will make you feel better, can place yourself near the front of the crowd."
Su'ad's brow furrows. "I really do not see what one has to do with the other." she says, but says no more about it.
"Yes. Do let the big boys play on stage." Slik'koo interjects coyly his fingers slip about a small dagger. In a flash he holds it against Azradi. "However if you feel you're better suited on the stage, to intercept a flying dagger from an angry supporter, then by all means, go down in history as the fool who took a dagger throw. Tell me Su'ad," Slik'koo whispers loudly pulling the dagger away from Azradi. "How good can you catch?" He growls and prepares to throw the dagger.
"I catch very well." Su'ad answers challengingly, and half rises in her chair. She looks across the table one hand placed upon it, leaning toward the two, her face hard. "How fast can you throw?"
The youth's glance now turns of Slik'koo.
The creases on his brow, though few and shallow on that smooth skin, the narrowed level gaze and the reddish hue that remains still about his slightly sunken cheeks all these tell of the same thing. Yussef moves forward a few steps coming to a halt close by Su'ad's side his mien dark, like his eyes on the assassin over yonder.
The boy might have some teeth after all, eh?
Rising swiftly from her chair in a great ire, Azradi reaches out to grab the Assassin's arm. In manner, aspect and reflex - it is possible to remember that this lady, is indeed, a corsair and warrior. "Enough!"
"Hmm, catch," Slik'koo whispers and throws the dagger towards Su'ad's hand, the one not on the table. He steps away from Azradi and smiles, "It proves a point doesn't it?" he says with such venom as to turn the heads of the captain's back to him.
The dagger strikes Su'ad's hand alright, though it was turned the other way at the time, and finds its way into the fleshy meat of her thumb. She cries out at the pain, a wordless primal noise, and hot tears fill her eyes right away. But she clenches her jaw to bite the pain, and with the other hand draws the weapon from the flesh. The relief seems infinite. Blood gushes from the wound, however, and drips onto the table. "Yes. /Thank you/ for making it." she says with a hoarse, forced voice. Then she looks at Azradi and points at Slik'koo with her good hand, which still happens to be holding the bloody dagger. "/That/ is why you should not have him on stage with you for 'protection'" Now she turns away toward Yussef. "Yussef..." she says, cradling her hand as well as she can while still holding the instrument that caused it.
The door is opened and through it walks Yildirim, his composure lost in thought he closes the door behind him and takes several steps towards the table before the Su'ad's growls reach his ears. He blinks thrice at the table before him, his eyes focusing each person in turn, "This... What...," he hand falls on the pommel of his blade, "What has happened here?"
"Su'ad said she could catch my blade. And proves that Su'ad shouldn't be on the stage and that I should be." Slik'koo purrs and looks at the wound from a distance. "Be sure not to suckle your thumb in public, makes you look bad."
Those other Captains rise from their seats as well But they look to Azradi and Su'ad as their seniors before laying hands on the Master Assassin.
For a long moment, it looks as if Azradi might loose them on Slik'koo. Her rage flashes in her eyes and causes her body to go taught as a bow string. Her hand rests on the pommel of her scimitar - though the lady does not seem to notice it.
"The moment passes. She shakes her head at the other Captains and returns her burning gaze to assassin. "Sit! We know your skills."
"But know this, Assassin If my brother did not value you, I would kill you right now where you stand."
Yussef forgets Slik'koo, then. The youth kneels wide-eyed gaze turning to Su'ad.
"Cap'n," He but whispers, Rags come in short supply here but he finds one none the less -- the rending, sharp sound of cloth torn asunder rising -- as he reaches for Su'ad's bled hand with both his own draping about it what was once a sleeve, or some such.
Su'ad holds her hand still for Yussef's attentions. After a moment, she gives him the knife to help him do his job better, and to free up her hand for holding, as the injured one begins to tremble a bit. She just grits her teeth, and as Slik'koo speaks, she offers no retort at all. She just looks at him with angry eyes...and yet there is a sort of wild, joyful look as well. Then she looks at Azradi. "Captain, are we about finished here?"
"I hope we are," Slik'koo mutters and moves back towards his chair, and Su'ad. His fingers search inside the folds of his cloak pulling another dagger.
The bloodied short blade isn't returned. With it fast in hand, knuckles whitened about the hilts, Yussef stands then as his unschooled work is finished, and backs away a step from Su'ad's seat his glance following the assassin's approach closely.
"We are finished," Azradi announces, "The plan goes forward, as discussed. Slik'koo and the Farside guards will protect me from the stage - my brother's Squire, Yildirim too. Su'ad and her corsairs will disperse in the crowd."
"Come with me, Yildirim," she says next and turns on her heels to stride angrily from the room.
"But... but..." Yildirim stammers, "What that part of the plan?" He says, arm pointing towards Su'ad. "What foolhardy action caused this? Injury to one of our swordsmen on the eve of a coup? It is folly!"
Su'ad nods, and says, "I have something I need to do, then." Then, holding her bad hand in a tangle of bloody rags, she makes to depart right away. As she passes close by Slik'koo, she murmurs, "Thanks." and then she's hurrying to the door before she can drip blood on the floor.
"Hmm, come find me when the plans are finalized," Slik'koo purrs and disappears through a different exit.
Yussef scurries past his captain then, pushing open the door to clear her passage. And then he too goes away.
"Is no one listening to me?" Yildirim says, turning to Azradi, "Finalizing plans, is that not what we came here to do? What... why..." he pleads agitatedly.
Half-way to the door, Azradi appears to notice her shadow is missing. She turns, and anger is still quite evident in her eyes. "I said to follow me, Yildirim. You will know all in time."
And with that she leaves the room.
"Though I wish I could find solace in your words," the squire says, turning to follow Azradi, "I fear, Captain, there is none to be hard when faced with this queer scene." His hand does stray from his pommel though as he speaks and soon he too moves for the exit.