”Sounds like a good idea, Poppi. Planning would be a goddess send and, seeing as we have the opportunity to do it for once, we should definitely take the opportunity”
The Grimleal Dialogsstarring Fox, Sectonia, Midna, Primrose, Poppi, and Big BandWord Count:
4812 (+5 EXP)
Minda agreed with the machine woman. It was a good out of the situation so they could discuss this without prying ears and also a sane course of action in general, even if that was something of a secondary concern to Midna.
Based on the numerous abilities the resistance members apparently had, she got the impression that they were closer to the kinds of people who’d enter the smash ring than your run of the mill fighters. And there two dozen of them who probably fit into that category. If they did do this it could wind up being the most dangerous thing they’d faced as a group so far. She felt like she should be writing their described abilities down, but, alas, didn't have a notebook. She added that to her ever growing shopping list.
Fox kept his eyes tracked on Azwel as he stepped away to have an entirely different conversation with his underlings. His scrutinizing gaze lingered on him for as long as the direction of the conversation and his attention to it allowed for while he tried to pick up what he could through simply observing them without hearing. He turned his attention back when Kan-Ra finished working down the list of crimes and abilities of the Resistance.“And casualties?”
he asked. “Any number on lives lost? If this is as serious as it sounds...”
For more reasons than what were obvious, Fox considered this a question of critical import in his evaluation of this domestic political war they were about to involve themselves in--besides where to find them, and who
they actually were.
Kan-Ra’s expression turned from one of anticipation to solemnity. “A handful,” he told Fox, his tone as grave as his looks. “When the Grimleal catch the enemy in the act, or their targets attempt to fight back. There have been a number of fights, and not one has ever de-escalated. All end badly, with debilitating wounds or lost consciousness, and a few in death. Their zeal is such that they fight to bitter ends in even minor quarrels.” His last few words he traced with a clinical disgust, in the manner of one confronted with a shameful waste of valuable resources.
Sectonia had her misgivings about this band as well. Not only did some of them look suspicious, others looked downright ugly and would need a serious redesign if they were going to be part of her kingdom. Seeing as the others had said their questions, she gave a few of her own. ”For these ‘crimes’ they’ve done, what are some examples of things they’ve done? For example, did they steal items of magical or strategic value, and what would they do?"
Sectonia said, rarely being able to give more than a glance at the mummified man, instead having her attention more on the others. ”In addition, while you have an idea of their powers, do you have any idea of what they look like?”
The insect received a mixed bag of curious and unkind expressions from the Grimleal lieutenants, as as it seemed that not only did Kan-Ra’s extensive list of charges not suffice for her, but she wanted minute details about both as many Resistance members as possible and their exact doings. Her requested specificity met more frustration than anything. “...They bear no standard or uniform,” Kan-Ra told her, pressing the matter of Sectonia’s distaste for him. “And vary in appearance. Mostly human, some artificially enhanced, a handful of unknown species. Quite the variety,” he told her, less than helpfully.”So essentially you have very little intel on them.”
Sectonia said, matter of factly. While she didn’t look at Kan-Ra, she still talked to him like she did everyone else. ”This isn’t my first time dealing with a ‘rebellion’. Intel is key. Otherwise they can throw unexpected things that cause far more issues than you would expect. ”
“Such condescension!” Azwel feigned a hurt expression, although his eyes were too knowing to be truly sorrowful. “Is this not a negotiation? You cannot expect us to lay all our cards on the table without so much as a word of assurance in return! We can’t have you running off to find them on your own now, now can we?”“It’s not.”
Fox cut in casually at the mention of ‘negotiations’. “We ‘negotiated’ before we got here. We take care of your problems, and get a fully-outfitted train out of here… with interest.”
With a subtle hint of smug emphasis, he tacked on the last element as a margin for error to be accounted for in their verbal contract.
The news that this exchange did not constitute a negotiation surprised and -for better or worse- elated Azwel. “Oh, so you’re already on board? Marvellous!” He moved forward and extended an open hand toward Fox to shake on it. “Then before we take another step let us seal the deal! With your word as your bond that your strength is ours, we can tell you all you need to begin!”
Fox beheld the hand offered to him, but then peered back at the eccentric lieutenant it belonged to rather than taking it outright, looking through him with a naturally sharp gaze. The narrative had clearly changed with a sudden turn, and Fox took the man’s point. “Alright...”
he scoffed lightly, crossing his arms to leave Azwel hanging with his open hand. “‘Cards on the table,’ then...”
Breaking for a moment to consider his next words--the last of which were possibly the most honest spoken in the meeting thus far, for lack of technicalities or omissions--he decided to give a little. “If you need ‘assurances’, what if I told you we could get someone on the inside? That we even have prime candidates for it?”
About this, he wasn’t wrong, or lying. He specifically thought of the Thieves, with Sly for added potential, but that wasn’t to say there was no bluff element behind it. There was truth enough to his claim to lend credence to it one way or the other.
The sorcerer looked disappointed that Fox hadn't taken his hand, but he did not look surprised. He straightened back up without missing a beat. “Infiltration would be a fine tactic, were we not already in possession of everything we needed to cut to the chase. We have a time-limited opportunity before us, my good sir. Decisive action is necessary.” He peered deeply at Fox, as if whatever the pilot had in mind lay hidden somewhere in his features."And if they know you're coming…what then?"
he asked, peering back into the sorcerer in kind. “If it turned out that they were expecting you--waiting for you--wouldn’t you and your own liked to have known that ahead of time? Because I know I would.”
He was sure, short of absolute certainty, that he needn’t spell out the implications of such a scenario.
Azwel stroked his beard, a smile hovering around his lips as he took Fox’s meaning. “An astute observation, I daresay. We have not been without some loyalty issues, virulent enough to necessitate the need-to-know basis for disseminating information. To slip the backstabber’s knife, and pay him back in kind...would be sweet indeed.” He narrowed his eyes. “But there is no guarantee they’re ready for us, and to arm a stranger with the very details needed to orchestrate our own downfall would enable an even crueller betrayal, no?”
Fox lowered his head thoughtfully in a half-nod, seemingly in understanding, and in part agreement. Trust, it seemed, to be the hardest exchange to make thus far, but perhaps for good reason. It was worth entertaining the idea that they’ve had breaches of trust in the past, and have learned to expect it. He understood also why they couldn’t divulge anything on those same grounds. Even being discovered by an independent third force could tip off the Resistance to the very fact that they could be found. Although there was potential to play into that, it among other factors made acting on the lack of information all the more difficult. They would not, however, concede to going in blind on an unknown enemy with allies who mutually distrusted each other, as they established early on that they wouldn’t, which unfortunately put them at something of an impasse. How to break this barrier, he wondered.
If there was anything that Fox had learned, it’s that the situation in Al Mamoon was evidently more complicated and delicate than he thought, and certainly more than he was used to dealing with. There was just too much neither of them could share with each other; more still that none on either side of this smaller war would understand. All the more reason they didn’t need the complication. It would apparently take some show of faith on Yellow Team’s part to inspire confidence...
With Fox’s part done for now, the others could pose their own questions. ”I take it you're not expecting much out of the non core members resistance wise?”
Midna checked, just to be sure.
Ciella turned up her nose. “The surrounding rabble are of little consequence. They’re just troublemakers, vultures, hangers-on seldom paying lip service to the others’ self-deception. Neither would rise to the other’s defense.” She snorted in derision. “It would surprise me if we so much as encountered them.””Good to know”
Minda took that information with a grain of salt, but still filed it away. ”Anyone else got questions to add, or are we ready to meet up with the others to discuss our approach. Maybe over lunch?”
Primrose was about ready to leave as well. She still had her misgivings, and despite her familiarity with the stage she felt a little more uncomfortable every time Azwel alluded to actors, but she hid it all with her polite expression and words. "Thank you for answering our questions. I have just one more. What is to be done with the resistance once the... operation is carried out?"
Sectonia had an idea of what they’d say at Primrose’s question knowing what she would do to ‘rebels’ herself. She waited for their reply though to see if they’d surprise her.
A heavy question, but Ciella did not seem too concerned. “Validar will mete out their punishment,” she replied simply. “Those who howl of false justice but demand just treatment in turn will soon despair of their hypocrisy.”
Fox ceased his internal ruminations on what all had been discussed and returned his full attention to address them once more. “With any luck, none of you will have to do anything at all,”
he assured them, “...or we’ll meet you out there,”
provided theirs was truly a “time-sensitive” operation, that is. “We’ll take care of things on our own in the meantime.”
Such as he was accustomed to, and had come to prefer. What else were they there for, after all. If they wanted action, they would get it, but on the tentative terms they helped set.
With that parting declaration, Fox turned about to make his leave, signalling his comrades to follow. While walking out on them might not put them in the best of starting graces, a mutual understanding was in order for both sides. The Grimleal couldn’t divulge potentially vital information to an unproven third party, and similarly, they couldn’t rightly be expected to share sides on a battlefield with people who didn’t trust them in a war they didn’t know nearly enough about. Taking a job unconditionally was a good way to be taken advantage of. Maybe they would come to realise that, if nothing else (or whatever
else), and not to take their master’s hires for fools.
Regardless, they did still have a job to do, and he was still intent on doing it so they could move forward, only he wanted to be sure he did it right to the best of his ability. If he had to start from scratch to figure out the best course of action, so be it. He would just start by taking Kan-Ra’s recommendation to take to the field and see for himself. If they ended up ‘proving’ themselves through their actions thereafter, then just as well. For now, as far as Fox was concerned, they had learned all they could (or had to) from their meeting, as otherwise unproductive as it was.
“Hmm…” Band did not consider himself a member of this troop, but by now he’d taken his measure of the Grimleal, and it was as good a time as any to go. Seeing as he wanted the ominous trio as neither friends nor enemies at the moment, he opted to do so with a little more tact than Fox. “Good talk. Good enough to go on, while I get my own feel for things. So don’t count us out just yet; these were not stolen moments.” He mirrored the lieutenant’s slight bow of the head--when you’re a guest in someone else’s house, he reasoned, you ought have a little respect. Then he stomped on his way. “We’ll just have a little look-see, and at length the truth will out.”
Sectonia could only shake her head at how Fox handled this whole situation. Although she could understand a bit of what was going on. She would rather just annex this kingdom under her banner and get these problems fixed as soon as possible, with the upside of easily crafted stained glass as a reward. But since that wasn’t on the table now all she could do is shake her head. ”At the very least my minions can defeat a fake chest easily enough.”
She said, trying to salvage something from this.
Fox’s departure had left behind an ultimatum, and despite Big Band’s attempt to smooth things over the Grimleal did not hide their displeasure at both the vulpine and whoever he spoke for.
Azwel glowered at their backs. “My, my. However did our esteemed vizier take a chance on such willful, faithless candidates?”
“Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you can solve this without our aid,” Ciella warned. “If you sabotage this operation we will have no choice but to consider you in league with our enemies.”
It was as if they had yet to intuit that, in spite of the trust issues at hand, Fox still took pride in a job well done, as he had hoped they would, going by a pronounced exercise in caution. He supposed that point wouldn’t make itself, however. “Don’t worry. We’re still on the case,”
he clarified without stopping or looking back at them, for all the good that did for reassurances at this point. “We’ll just be doing things our way for now.”
The glowing eyes of Kan-Ra seemed filled with venom. “We had not failed to consider the possibility of a ploy like this,” he mused. ”We must accelerate our plans--and you, strangers, must choose your next actions...carefully.”
The echoes of the Lieutenants’ words sped the temple’s visitors on their way, and back into the noontime sunshine. Poppi, largely silent during the visit to the temple, looked worried. “It sound like they think we might be on other side. Maybe we could have handled that better.” Since Fox had grabbed most of the spotlight, he’d dictated most of the conversation on Yellow Team’s side, however that led them. Nobody had objected when he seemed to designate himself spokesperson, but was everyone still on board after all that? Even at their most polite the Grimleal cultivated an appearance of both danger and power, and by the time the heroes left they’d turned downright menacing. “Poppi not want make enemies if not need to,” she admitted.“Me either,”
Fox concurred, keeping wandering, cautious eyes and ears out for any ‘tails’ as they left the palace grounds, and then on thereafter. The door to Grima’s temple had remained open behind them, the darkness yawning within. “But they’re not making it easy.”
He waited until they were out of sight, mind and earshot to say more.”It would be a poor show, but overall if they didn’t need help they wouldn’t reach out to a third party. They really didn’t inspire confidence themselves.”
Sectonia said, saying a bit of what she gained from the whole conversation. ”A shame, as this is something I have dealt with before.”
Sectonia said, offhandedly. ”I suppose your infiltration idea will be the path forward, if we even bother with any of this. The world boss isn’t in this town, so what would we even gain helping them with this problem that we couldn’t do ourselves?”
She finished, irritated more at the loss of time and the general seeming incompetence on display they had just gone through more than anything.
Band gave the oversized bug a strange look. All of a sudden it seemed as though he’d misevaluated the group’s intentions. “Hold up a minute. That makes it sound an awful lot like y’all don’t give a damn about what’s going on here, after all. I’m new in town myself, but something’s twisted here. More’n usual for politics, I mean.”“You’re not wrong,”
Fox assured the detective, in a manner of speaking. He looked specifically to his teammates who were privy to relevant worldly information in his following address. “I take it you all heard them right. If both sides have suffered losses, they’ve found out that people don’t just die here. Who knows what they’ve made of that by now,”
he mused. Surely, his allies had some idea of what to make of this. “I’d hesitate to trust either of them just yet. At least until we see what the other side looks like.”
“On that, we can agree.” Band told him. Contrary to Sectonia’s suggestion, it sounded like this group’s leadership planned to investigate this situation further, and that sat just fine with him. He did not pose any questions about the meaning of what Fox emphasized, assuming that he referred to the dissolvement of the dead, but instead volunteered himself. “I’ve chasin’ the bird a long time, and day by day I got a certain sense for what a city has to say. Put your ear to the ground and you’ll hear the whispers. So when we’re ready to boogie, I got a place in mind we can start.” At the moment, however, the team started with a trip back to the train station to reunite with the others.
As the group walked the streets of Al Mamoon, Primrose of course followed with them. She'd slipped out of the temple and into the middle of the party, staying silent for a while with her head tilted upward in thought. The Grimleal... they were intense. They also seemed extremely dedicated to their cause. The fact that the resistance would fight to the end wasn't all the surprising, considering they all were most likely gleaming. It was wishful thinking too that they would be captured or arrested instead, given Ciella's implication. And that other thing she'd mentioned, Grima's truth
... Primrose wondered if the Grima mentioned was the name of their idol, given that it wasn't the name of their vizier. Truth...
she heard that word echoed by Big Band a couple of times already. She frowned at the morning sun and then finally piped up."Sectonia does have a point. If we moved on, dealt with our own mission first, it may make this situation easier,"
she said. "If the people of this town are somehow in danger I would like to help them, whether that means supporting the Grimleal or... otherwise. However..."
She glanced at Big Band, and the hooded man that followed him like a living shadow. When she spoke again her voice was slightly softer, though their two latest additions would still be able to hear her. "If it was possible to free everyone all at once, the two groups would not be forced to fight until death."“Might not stop them...”
Fox speculated. Judging by their assessment of the Grimleal, that would likely be the case. That, more than anything, was what he didn’t like about them: their particular brand of ‘confidence’, being something of an authority on it himself. “...but you do have a point.”
he admitted to Primrose. “Problem is, if they’re really planning to act as quickly as they say, things may not look the same by the time we get back… and we may have just put pressure on them. I don’t know if this is something we can put off now,”
as much as he wished it were that simple. Loathe as he was to admit it, they had become involved now.
She sighed. "Regardless, if everyone thinks it best to meddle, I agree that getting the other side of the story would be wise. Although the Grimleal are... well. You all saw them. It seems they were not being deceitful when they said that the work they've done has been good for the city."
Band sighed into his mouthpiece, and somewhere inside him a brass instrument honked. “I get feeling I’m not in on some bigger picture,” he guessed. The detective knew when people were speaking around him. “World boss, settin’ people free? Suddenly this soft talk’s got me all curious ‘bout this ‘mission’ of yours. If there’s a better way to help people out than shufflin’ up and down the backstreets ‘round midnight, I’m in.”
The man was a quick study, Poppi realized, and someone she got the feeling the team could use. Something about his attitude, equal parts professional and poetic in a doubly unorthodox sense, suggested both strong character and storied experience--both hallmarks of the reliable veteran. In a way he reminded her of Vandham, and the comparison went beyond size. So she decided to go out on a limb and give a quick explanation. “Each part of world under dominion of big, strong boss. They all protect even bigger, badder boss with influence over whole world. Our group’s goal to find and beat all bosses and free everyone.”
To just about anyone it would have been a ridiculous notion, and it even struck Band as crazy, but he did not dismiss it outright. “Hmm...sort of like New Meridian. Sure the politicians are all up there, doin’ their dolphin dance, but the Mafia control things behind the scenes, nice and subtle.”
His analogy barely touched the surface of what Galeem was doing, but Poppi nodded along. “Yes, sort of like that!”“Close enough,”
Fox interjected once more, this time directly addressing the detective. “Sorry for not being entirely upfront with you. You might imagine it’s a hard sell,”
he told him, regarding the grand scheme. “We still have one lead with the Resistance I’d like to check before we move on either way..”
Taking him up on his offer, Fox added, “If you know how we can find them, we’ll go from there.”
Band shook his head. “Don’t know yet, but I bet I can figure it out.” He diverted his attention from the others as the group reached the train station, moving through its great arches and into the shade. The formidable Railway Gun remained just where the others saw it last, and given that arrived this way himself, it was nothing new to Band, either. When they spotted and approached Braum, however, they found only a few scattered tools and other telltale traces of mechanical work just being squared away by Tora.
From a distance the Nopon looked almost glum, but he brightened up when his team drew near. “Friends! And…” He had to crane his neck upward to look Big Band in the face and note the smile in his eyes. “New friend! Hello Biggypon, am Tora!”
“Nearly got it,” the giant chuckled. “Call me Big Band.” His glassy eyes noticed the grease on Tora’s wings and the wrench he tucked back into his overalls in a single practiced motion. “Whatcha been workin’ on, little guy?”
“This!” Tora pointed back at the train. An orange-feathered avian in smart attire stood in front of it., facing the newly-arrived crowd, but to say he was looking at them would be to preemptively confirm he had eyes. “Tora try to fix up super awesome train, but Mr. Conductor just now hear Tora not allowed and ask to stop.”
The Conductor shrugged, as if the choice wasn’t up to him. “Sorry lad. Can’t tool around with what i’n’t yers. Don’t like it, take it up with ol’ vizzy.””Yeah turns out people the local big man doesn't like the idea of a bunch of unknowns having access to a train covered in what I’m assuming are a load of those gun things. Especially when there's a low key civil war going on. Or an underground one.”
Minda informed their engineering friend. She’d sat out of most of the tail end of the negotiation because she wasn't particularly invested in the nitty gritty of this whole situation, but she was more than happy to relay her perspective on the situation to Tora, who seated himself to listen to all the news.”Basically there's a sinister vizier who’s good at bureaucracy and infrastructure stuff that is helping the town but, you know, he’s sinister as they get, and a resistance group who don't like him and his heavily armed cult very much. Also the local queen’s only able to wake up from a deep sleep if there's cheese about. And there's none about because she’s eaten it all. So the vizier’s in charge round here while she naps and he’s only going to let us have the train if we get in his good books. Which would involve helping him crush this resistance made up of some very strong sounding people.” ”Strong people that his people can’t deal with I should add.”
Sectonia said, with a bit of a chuckle. ”Such a shame negotiations broke down, but with no trust on either side it was expected.”
Sectonia said. ”Might as well get intel on these rebels ourselves at some point. Depending on who they are they could be useful one way or another.”
Primrose chuckled lightly, as she couldn't disagree with Sectonia's comment. "There you have it, more or less. A time sensitive political struggle. It seems we will have to choose a side here before we move on to the mountain..."
With the way things were going now, she had a pretty good idea which side they'd choose, but it still depended on the impression they got from the rebels. If they were truly just that would sway the group to their side, she was sure. If they weren't... then it didn't matter which skeevy faction they went with anyway.”Such a shame. Making a trade network by train here would solve the glass problem…”
Sectonia said, pinching the bridge of her ‘nose’ and shaking her head, trailing off more to herself than adding anything to the conversation. It was clear to everyone she just wanted to be done with this situation.
Poppi nodded to confirm what the others had said for the most part, although she added a couple details herself. “Also, queen not always way she is now, and rebels supposedly commit all sorts of crimes.”
Midna sighed and then rubbed her temples. ”What do you think we should do, orange feathered person who the vizier told to stop us from taking the train?”
she asked the conductor in front of which they’d just announced that they might side with the rebels instead of the vizier if they felt like it. ”What’s your name by the way?”
As the others spoke, the Conductor had just been standing by the whole time, feeling rather like he was invisible. Not everyone spoke this candidly, particularly when the conversation involved a choice of loyalty between the ruling body or violent insurrectionists. Until the woman with the helmet and impressive braids brought it up he’d been fully willing to accept that these people just had no idea he worked for the crown, although accepting that they just didn’t think much of him stung a little. “Uhh. Well, I’m just the peckin’ Conductor, and it’s not like he told me to stop
ya’s, just t’tell ya t’stop, see?” His shrug and the shake of his head told the heroes he wasn’t paid for this. “Since I work for Validar ‘n all I guess I’m supposed to tell ya t’trust ‘im, but the whole lot of ya’s can do whatever the peck ya like, ‘s long as ya don’t go breakin’ laws.””Good man. Let’s get moving and stop bothering the Conductor shall we?”
Midna said, before not so subtly shooing them out the yard and onto their next destination.