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War IV: Preparations Part I

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Meliantha woke the next morning with strange dreams she couldn't remember leaving cobwebs behind in her mind. Still, she had plans and things to do, so she stretched until she felt the night's stiffness leave, and then rose. Taking Chainbreaker, she went to the training yard and did her morning workout.

This morning was, thankfully, without incident, although she noticed some observers, in guard uniforms. She didn't show off, but she did push herself a little more, before she let herself wind down and prepare for the rest of the day.

As she returned to her room, she found two people standing in front of it. One of them was Sir Taralanth, the young paladin she'd known at the temple she'd grown up in; the other she didn't know, but wore the traditional garb of an Inquisitor of the temple – light mail, a hooded cloak, and gauntlets, coupled with a hard, dark expression. Taralanth's expression was part wary, part exasperated, and part regretful.

"Hail, Meliantha," Taralanth said. "I attempted the research we spoke about a few days ago, and that attracted the attention of this worthy." He moved, to stand just barely between the two. "May I present the most honorable Inquisitor of the Faith Melmach Tairborn," he continued, his tone indicating that he'd really rather not be making that introduction.

The Inquisitor, for his part, looked Meliantha up and down, his face drawing from a scowl into a sneer. "This one?" he said, disbelievingly. "This one claims to be Chosen by Helm?" He make a sound of dismissal. "Heresy," he said.

Meliantha raised her right hand, and called on Helm in silent prayer. In response, the Gauntlet formed around it, shone, and disappeared. "You speak heresy by your doubt," she shot back.

Tairborn's eyebrow raised a hair's-breadth. "Pff. Illusion. Easy enough for a corruption." He raised his own right hand, clad in a gauntlet, and his voice thundered. "Back unto the Abyss with you, corruption!" A flare of gold light came from the raised hand and did absolutely nothing at all to Meliantha.

"There is only one option here, then," she said, and her eyes narrowed. "Trial by combat."

"Actually," Sir Taralanth said, "Perhaps we might avoid that." He turned to the Inquisitor. "What would you require to prove that she has been touched and become a Chosen of the Gauntlet?"

Melmach Tairborn snorted. "She's got fiend's blood, so I'd expect she could not be cut by a knife, nor burned, so those aren't tests. Ha!" His brows folded, he drew a crossbow, and raised it, and aimed..

…not at Meliantha, but past her. She spun, seeing Cecil approaching. She reached out with the power inside her and wrapped him in a protective ward that displayed the gauntlet of Helm above him, then took a quick step, finishing the spin as she did. Chainbreaker appeared in her hand, as she kept riding that same silver flow she felt. It filled her eyes with that same fire, and she could see inside the hood of the inquisitor, as his eyebrows this time raised in surprise.

"Well," he said, lowering the crossbow and gesturing for a moment. "I find myself unable and unwilling to shoot the halfling through the obvious protection of Helm, and that maneuver is one only a person touched by the Gauntlet could use like that." He removed the bolt and unspanned the crossbow. "Chosen I cannot say for certain, but that power, indeed, that came from the hand of Helm." Then, suddenly, his face shifted from grim and dour to a smile. "I have heard from Taralanth, but I must hear it from you, and I must write it down for the archives. It has been many years since the power of the Gauntlet has touched the face of Faerun in this manner - not since the Time of Troubles." He bowed. "Permit an inquisitor his doubts, Chosen."

She allowed herself a smile. "You protect the faith against those who'd abuse it. Who am I to argue? I'm just as surprised about this."

Cecil approached, finally. "Guests for breakfast, Ornrion? Should I have it sent up?"

"I'd intended to go out, but I think so. This is a matter of some importance. Thank you, Cecil." The halfling gave a salute, and headed off.

"Ornrion? Another tale," Melmach said.

"Shall we enter and be seated? I'll need a moment to clean up, as I was preparing for the day," Meliantha said, "but it will be quick."

The three entered, and barely a moment had passed when Sima Wyvernspur dashed out of her room, fastening things, then stopped short. "Oh, blast, sorry, ma'am, thought you were going to breakfast." Then she noticed the others, eyes widening. "Do you need me to get anything?"

"I'm a very relaxed commander so far, Sima. Get your uniform in order, then get pen and paper and prepare for scribal duties. Cecil's getting breakfast. This is Sir Taralanth, a paladin of Helm, and the Inquisitor Melmach Tairborn of the Watchful Eyes, come for stories."

The three sat as Sima finished getting the little parts of her uniform - the ends of the belt, the collar, part of a boot – in order, then, her aplomb collected, she sat down with inkpen, inkwell, and paper, preparing to take notes.

It was to her credit that despite all she heard, she simply let it go in her ears and out her hands, writing in a clear, firm hand, without any personal commentary.

Once breakfast and the writing was over, and farewells were made, it was then that Sima fell over and took a bunch of deep breaths.

"Are you quite all right, Sima?" Meliantha asked.

"Just… I'd expected a bit of adventure, but this was far outside of what I expected. It's exciting!" Her eyes gleamed as she sat up. "I can't wait to see what happens next!"

Meliantha raised one eyebrow. "The staff meeting."

Sima's face fell. "I'm so very sorry, ma'am. Try not to slaughter anyone." Then she gave a saucy wink, and Meliantha found herself laughing. Shaking her head, she went into her room to prepare. She found that Cecil had laid out what he'd called her "duty" uniform, along with shining her boots and every bit of metal and leather shined. Even Chainbreaker's scabbard had been shined, the leather and brass gleaming.

"You should keep him," the sword informed her. "He used a bit of magic to do the cleaning, but then he finished it by hand, as if it wasn't good enough. You could use someone to take care of things. Like me."

"Yes, yes," she replied, "I don't keep your vanity as propped up as you'd prefer. We'll see about that sometime." She shook her head, stripped, used the cleansing-stone, and dressed. A few moments after she'd finished, Cecil appeared at the door with a small stepladder.

"One moment, ma'am," he said, and then proceeded to set up the stepladder, and then climb it to put everything on her uniform in order. "First staff meeting, after the first formal officer's dinner. Must be better than their best, impress them, ma'am."

She submitted to his ministrations, and then, when he was done, said, "Is this standard service?"

"Ma'am," he replied, very seriously, "I have heard more than a few unpleasant words bandied about you, and frankly, as a veteran, I am dismayed to hear them from officers who should really know better. It's a matter of personal pride for me to insure you look your best. And…" he trailed off, then cleared his throat. "Without knowing me, you showed exceptional trust in me by giving me that gem. I know it was for efficiency, but ma'am, that was two thousand gold! You could lay out weapons and armor and camping gear for a company for that!"

She nodded slowly. "The First Irregulars... I have no idea what we'll need, nor even how many of us there will eventually be. We might need for a company, or a squad, or even a large adventuring band. I know that Sima requested a valet, and I would expect that from what you said, there's someone who's ill graces you're in. But there's a saying that you can only find out if someone is trustworthy by trusting them and seeing what happens. It's served me well. Mostly." Her face clouded, then cleared, at a memory still painful.

"All right, ma'am. You're quite ready for the staff meeting." He got down off his stool and saluted. "Tymora's blessing on you."

She returned the salute. "Thank you, I'll need it."


Meliantha's entrance into the staff room, followed by Sima, was greeted by a cold silence. She found her seat, took it, and heard Sima sit down into hers. Sima had given her some tips for getting through the meeting, and Meliantha had taken them to heart. A few moments later, Loran, in his duty uniform, and the Lord of the City, Myrmeen Llal, entered, and the command staff rose, then sat at a gesture.

Lord Llal began the meeting. "We'll try to keep this short. First, for those who haven't met, Ornrion Meliantha will be joining us as the leader of the First Irregulars. Registered adventurers will fall under her command, and we'll be also assigning her a five-squad for support. She should be given every possible aid, so that none of you need to worry about these things. Now, Oversword Durtharr?"

Loran cleared his throat. "We're not saying it's war yet, but it's looking like it. The lot that tried to occupy the city is heading for the Hullack. We've got a few tracking them – they're going down the East Way, and we've pulled troops to warn and divert caravans on either side of the Immerflow. Some are suggesting breaking the bridge, but that's going to cause a lot of trade problems if we do that. At the same time, it'll be a devil of a time clearing them out of the Hullack if they make it in there, so there's debate going on. We're going to be sending out Constal Warburton and his brigade to chase them down and set up a stopping point at the bridge." One of the officers – apparently Warburton – frowned, and started to make notes, as did his adjustant.

"I don't have all the supplies together," he said. "I can do a five day march right now, but we'll have problems past that."

"We've got the quartermaster corps working on that. We'll send wagons with a light guard out after you; you should have them before you run out."

"Oversword," Meliantha heard herself say, "do we have maps of the river? I traveled there a few years ago, and there were places marked as fordable on the Immerflow that didn't rank as that, so I'm wondering if there might be places they could come up behind the camp, either by unmarked fords, or simply swimming. I'm sure the Constal has considered that," she said, nodding to him, "but better safe if we have the knowledge."

Warburton had appeared to be about to object, but seemed mollified by her conciliatory words. "She's got a point, Loran – we know where the river goes, but not what lies beneath. That's something to make sure we scout out when we have the chance."

"I can start putting together what we have for the Irregulars," Meliantha interjected, "and take care of that so none of the front-line units need to be used for that. And if we come across something, we can take care of it should it be small, and if it's too large for us, at least we can make sure everyone else is made aware."

General nodding went around the table.

"Good, make that happen, then. The rest of you, be prepared; the quartermaster corps is preparing gear for your troops in case we need to march." Loran glanced over at Myrmeen Llal. "Ma'am, have you more to add?"

"No. Let the meeting be closed." She tapped her rod on the table. "Go forth."

The officers rose, bowed, and then began their discussions. As Meliantha took a moment to confer with Sima, she noticed Constal Warburton coming over to her. She turned, and saluted. He returned it.

"Ornrion Meliantha," he said, then paused, and looked around. A number of the other officers loitering in the room made their way out quickly. He returned his attention to you. "I would like to say I had thought about the rivers, but your viewpoint and offer is quite appreciated." His face, up until then serious, softened. "Some of the others are of the opinion that you've gotten your position purely through your personal relationship with Loran, but I've got a few former adventurers in my brigade, and often they think of things the academy-raised types don't even consider. Thank you for taking the point on this; I do appreciate it."

"The First Irregulars are going to need to prove themselves, so we need to get into action soon. I'm still getting up to speed with being an officer, much less being in command."

He chuckled. "It can be interesting the first time. Good luck to you." He saluted again, she returned it, and he walked out.

"That was good, ma'am," Sima said.

"Let's go look for the Irregulars," Meliantha replied. "We'll have to get ready."