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Reclamation of the South-Bank

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-inside the cedar-log palisade of the Entwaidemeilu Elder's Tuyuld-

Partially crouched, and gliding silently through the green-amber coloured bright-leafed tobacco of the Elder's personal field, Arpad Goroz caught sight of the first of the Lowlander guards long before the other man spotted him. Throughout Arpad's studies at the Beau-re-Gard Academy, the memory of the savage cunning of these far southerners, who were totally unrelated to the Cussians (unlike their northern Duna neighbours) had been deeply imprinted upon him. Three generations of Cussian warriors had thrown their lives into the futile struggle to retain the Duchy of the South-Bank, forced to finally give up the dream of Beautancus on both sides of the River. To the Marmakite turn-coat, they seemed lazy and little better than amateurish.

The tobacco here grew taller than in Beautancus, providing more than adequate cover for Arpad's approach- and the approach of the other four men with him, hand-picked from amongst his own guard. The clap of thunder in the distance forced Arpad to stock-stillness, foot hovering above the field beneath. Monsoons came in from the Ocean of Storm every few weeks now, and one had spawned a chain of thunderstorms reaching as far east as here...that might hamper Arpad's erstwhile Lord's greater troop movements, but it would only aid Arpad in his task...or in retreating after completing his task rather.

Drawing nearer and nearer to the Lowlander guard, close enough to take note of the man's laboured breathing (as the humidity was almost unbearable), Arpad inched his sword-arm out, blade and elbow creating a wicked arch. Waiting a moment more, and judging the time perfectly, the Marmakite turned mercenary lashed out, ancestral war-blade licking up into the Lowlander's jawbone. There was an instantaneous bone-cracking followed by a slight sucking resistance as Arpad yanked his blade free, and kicked the thrashing man to the ground. A final almost black sprawl of arterial blood rose from the man's gaping throat, and Arpad dismissed him completely. If all of the Lowlanders were as easy to kill as this, then there would be no need for Kephmois to send troops here...Arpad could cover this alone.

The low bird-call of Arpad's second-in-command signalled that the other guard had been similarly dispatched, freeing the way to the Elder's manor itself. There, Arpad would slay the Elder and his sons, cutting the heart from the Warlord of Haulbrikteh's Lowland problems. Kephmois had promised Arpad the choice of lands and titles here, and the lion's share of the poppy-income generated from the surrounding foothills. That made this assassination attempt personal for Arpad in a way that few had been before. He would be a Duke in his own right, free to rule as he saw fit within his borders- if he could but slit the throat of one troublesome old man. Rumor had it that the Dynamocracy had agents here as well, to buy off the Lowlanders with the promise of autonomy and wealth...much as the Cussians had done to the Marmakites almost nine hundred years prior...

The lights from within the manor-house were easily distinguishable now, as were the light and airy scents and sounds of the Entwaidemeilu Elder's luxurious abode. A few more guards were visible now, their eyes keen on the perimeter- and their rifles up and waiting for an enemy that thus far had never come. These were the grandsons of them who'd struck fear in the Dynamocracy's warriors almost a century ago...tall and built as if they'd been carved from ebony wood, with skin of a hue slightly lighter than coal, faces broad and strong-featured. In this heat and humidity, their skin glistened further adding to the impression of being carved.

There was little but open ground between Arpad (still in the tobacco field) and the guards patrolling the manor house's perimeter. Things would have to be done the hard way from here it seemed. Glancing over his shoulder, Arpad took account of where his men were- all closing in on his position quickly, having recognized the situation as well. Once they'd all arrived, they crouched together there, at the edge of the tobacco field. Motioning quickly and seemingly erratically in the sign-language invented by the Beau-re-Gard for such use, Arpad laid out his plan. Each of his men nodded their understanding, and as silently and quickly as they'd arrived, they dispersed again, moving down the edge of the tobacco field in two pairs. Arpad remained alone, masked eyes fixated on the Elder's window. Counting down the seconds, Arpad was in motion as the first of the smoke grenades bounced against the lawn almost perfectly between the tobacco and the tribal guards.

The Entwaidemeilu militiamen kicked up a wall of fire instantly, though their aim was wild- and the fact that they had no clue where the grenades came from evident. Arpad was able to keep track of at least three of the dark-skinned warriors through the smoke, as their glistening skin was illuminated with each muzzle-flash. Working mechanically with each bound, Arpad's own Haru-made (HAIAR-1) rifle chattered. Death rained from Arpad's weapon, however, and all three men he'd kept in sight dropped to the ground split seconds apart.

There were more guards than that gathered around the house, but Arpad's men did their work nearly so well as he had, dropping each of the tribesmen that they fired upon. Arpad raced through their blood-hazed midst, freehand closing on the ornate stone-work sweeping up one of the house's columns- leading to the Elder's window.

The carnage was absolute, and in the span of a few seconds, the entire manor-house had come to life with motion and sound. Even as Arpad drew to the Elder's window, he could hear the commotion inside the room. Smashing through the glass with little concern for who waited inside the room, Arpad landed on his feet and firing. Not particularly concerned with how the Elder died, Arpad would have been satisfied with slaying the man then and there. It was no so, however. Four men did fall, all of them laying in wait for just such a move. The spray of bullets caught them all off guard, sending one sprawling over the Elder's massive bed, one toppling through the open doorway, and the other two head over heels around the door-way. Their death-gurgles filled the room, almost drowning the frantic clatter of feet against the stair-well outside the open doorway.

Racing against all time, the Marmakite was more cautious this time- tossing a small-charge frag grenade through the door. Curling back a second later, Arpad was rewarded with a low thump, and the span of the wall a few feet wide on both sides around the door simply disintegrated. One man had waited there for him- and waited still, though now slumped to the floor and leaking the last of his life's precious blood. And through the gap, Arpad spotted the Elder's white-haired head. Without a thought, Arpad worked the action of his rifle and tugged at the trigger. The armour piercing bullets sawed through the ancient Entwaidemeilu's skull, painting his grey matter on the wall behind. With a smile of savage satisfaction, Arpad drew forward, laying eyes on the Elder's son.

Arpad would have liked to have slain that man without having to reload, but it would not be the case. The tribal warriors were berserk now, in a true blood-rage at the loss of their Elder. They raced back up the stairs, heedless of the ruin that awaited them. Without compunction Arpad shattered the kneecap of the first with a single shot, adjusting his aim as the man fell, and sending a shot into the bridge of the fallen man's nose. The next died without the same artistry that the first had, taking three shots in the gut and falling back through the gap in the blown-out bannister.

Arpad met the next, a titanic warrior armed only with a machete as he came rushing through the gaping former door-way. The polished steel of the tribesman's blade swept through the air over Arpad's head and was in the process of sweeping back when the Marmakite bashed the stock of his rifle up- into the man's face. Bone crumpled under the brute force of the blow, and that final son of the Entwaidemeilu fell dead.

Almost as an afterthought at this point, Arpad marched out of the room and pumped the rest of his magazine into the back of the fleeing Elder's son. As the man dropped to his knees, clutching at the jagged holes now opened in his chest, Arpad was already heading back out the window.

On the ground, the situation was much as it had been when he'd gone into the house. Choas reigned, and Arpad's team was still intact. "Job's done, bug-out," Arpad spoke simply, and sharply. Racing back towards the tobacco field, the Marmakite traitor almost missed the thunder of hoof-beats, a sound he had grown altogether unaccustomed to...

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