Mar 30, 2020 8:30 AM
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I really hadn't noticed how well King Caiphus kept things peaceful until he wasn't around to do it. Far as I'm concerned, one king's as good as another, and fighting over which is which just makes things messy. Sometimes jacks up the price of bounties, which can be nice, but that's usually the type of job that the law doesn't approve of unless the client wins. But despite the plague making the outlands angry and the city scared, things were steady. Then one morning we woke up to the Old Palace half-collapsed, with Caiphus's armor fallen, burned and scattered, in front of the throne. Way I heard it, they never found a trace of his body, or his spooky advisor's, but no one had much doubt that he was dead.

And within a month, all hell was breaking loose. The minotaurs were locking down their caravans and not helping any other merchants, the crooks were making more trouble, and all the angry sword-arms in all of Myria were making noise about revolution. I was in a trading house, looking at doing some work as a guard for a human-run caravan, when an angel walked in. I didn't spend all my time in Argenport, but everyone but tourists recognizes the First Captain of the Valkyrie. And she came right my way.

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"Hello, sirs. Sorry to interrupt your negotiation, but are you Suke, the hired gun?"

The merchant didn't look pleased, but held his tongue.

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"That's my name, Captain. Don't wear it out."

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"Well, your reputation precedes you; you're requested at the Spire, to do some work for the Crown," she said, giving the caravan-master an apologetic nod, "And it's somewhat urgent; you don't have to be there within the hour but you should present yourself before sundown."

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"Well, if you're asking so nicely, how can I turn ya down? Sorry, Clev, I expect y'll need to find another shepherd. I'll be along soon, Captain."

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Honestly, this was a bit concerning. Getting involved with royalty is frequently hazardous to your health. But refusing the requests of royalty is one of the primary causes of that hazard, so, eh, what could you do? So an hour later I'm at the gates of the Spire, headquarters of the Crownwatch and Valkyrie.

"Hello. Captain Igweni said I was requested to come here. Name's Suke."

 

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"Ah, yes, the bounty hunter. The First Captain and Lord Commander are awaiting your arrival on the second floor."

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"I'll head up."

This looks more dangerous every minute.

But I went up anyway.

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When I did, I saw the young, pretty Captain and the old, severe Lord Commander Rolant, uncle of the dead king, sponsor of the creation of the first valkyrie. I glanced down to his left hand, never having seen his prothesis up close. Sure enough, there was his Iron Fist. I didn't think he was sensitive about it, but better to look up anyway.

"Lord Commander, sir. The Captain tells me you want to hire me?"

 

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"Indeed. Your reputation with our sheriffs and with the Elysians is quite impressive. Both for effectiveness and for discretion. I have a job which will require both."

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"Well, thank you kindly, but I'll need to know specifics before I can take the job."

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"Very well. You are of course aware that my nephew Caiphus has been missing, presumed dead for a month. What I hope you are not aware of is that his daughter Vara, his legal heir, has not been seen in Argenport since the day after his death. Myria needs stability, but without an official coronation of the new queen, stability will not be believable. Your task is to find her and bring her back to the capital for her coronation."

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"If she's been kidnapped, why have you waited this long to get a hunter on her trail?"

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"All signs indicate she left Argenport voluntarily. She has not sent any correspondence since, neither to inform us of her return nor to abdicate and make clear that she is shirking her duty. What is keeping her I do not know, but whatever her feelings on the matter, she is needed here."

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"So I bring home the princess, future queen, pretty likely by force. Not sure I'm interested; this seems too likely to get me killed."

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"You will have the thanks of the Crown for the future, and be paid well."

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"Sir, it's the thanks of the Crown I'm worried about. Unless you're going to keep her as a figurehead, in which case I don't see the angle where this is good for you."

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Rolant's teeth and his right fist clenched. "Do not push me, boy. She is needed here. If she wants to abdicate formally, then she will be free to leave. But we must have her here in person. The safety of Argenport and stability of Myria depends on it."

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Shitshitshitshitshit, need to get out of here alive. What can I say... oh!

"Commander, I still can't accept if I'm not confident I can get her back unharmed. And I'm not sure it can be done. I'll at least need a plan, and a partner. I can come up with the best I can of each in a week and get back to you. Acceptable?"

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"Sundown in three days, not an hour later. And be grateful you're not spending it in a cell."

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"Then I'll get right on it now, sir. If I can leave?"

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"Go."

I left. But much later, I heard what he said next.

"Captain? Spread the word to our sky patrols; he's to be watched. I don't want him leaving the city until he's met with me again." 

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"As you say, Lord."

She left the office, leaving Rolant to his desk. On the ground floor, she tasked a guard with spreading the watch order and headed out after me. Valkyrie move fast; she caught up easy.

"Suke! Could you wait a moment? Please?"

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I looked up, skeptically. "Got extra orders for me, then?"

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"No, I... Rolant's a good man, but not a nice one. And I think he's right about Princess Vara. And I knew her; we sparred regularly.

This, leaving and not giving any word even when asked... it isn't like her. I'm worried."

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"If Rolant's really nervous about having a stable succession, why hasn't he crowned Kaleb? No one really doubts he's Caiphus's son, even if his mother is a secret."

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