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Isilme Turuphant of the Maelstrom

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“Isilme Rihan Turuphant.” Captain Varhloff flipped through the stack of papers that represented the whole of her career. “Born in Limsa Lominsa. Eligible for military service, but opted instead to be a sellsword. Member in good standing of the Blacksmith and Armorsmith Guilds... nothing of note, really, until the Alliance was restored. Opted again to forgo normal recruitment channels and sign on with the Maelstrom. Served with distinction, and was rapidly promoted, though promotions were cheap in the Maelstrom at that time... and eventually attained the rank of Second Lieutenant.”



He dropped the papers on the desk, folded his hands and leaned forward on his elbows, looking down at the miqo’te girl sitting across the desk from him. Her eyes were up, but unfocused, carefully staring at nothing as she sat at attention. There was obvious military in her upbringing, but no real indication where, aside from vague assertions that her father had been in the military.



Ms. Turuphant.” He stressed the use of the civilian title, earning a visible wince from her. “Your record becomes very interesting at this point to me. Do you know why?”



“Sir, no sir.” She said crisply, though he could see the lie in her eyes, the guilt.



“I think you do, Ms. Turuphant.” He replied, feeling some of his days as a drill sergeant coming back to him. “Because at this point in your record, every other Maelstrom soldier, from the most decorated officers down to the fresh recruits, are booked as boarding the Crimson Fleet and making for Mor Dhona. Except you.” That was an exaggeration, of course, there had been any number of exceptions, but most of those Varhloff had felt came by them honestly.



He carefully plucked a letter from the stack of papers, bearing the Commodore’s seal. “Very unusual for a second lieutenant to have special orders come down from the Commodore’s desk. More unusual is what’s IN the orders. Are you aware of what these orders say, Ms. Turuphant?”



“I’m aware.” She croaked, gritting her teeth.



“I’m sure you are, but let me refresh your memory.” He lifted up the letter, peering at it more intently than necessary. “‘Pursuant as of the date of the Admiralcy...’ I’m sure you know what the date was... ‘Second Lieutenant Isilme Turuphant is hereby re-assigned to supervise refugee relocation efforts of the Independent Trader Vessel Shining Hope, and attached to same as an autonomous agent of the Maelstrom for the duration of its voyage, and indefinitely remanded to supervision of any and all Alliance refugees on the Isle of Menphina’s Breath.’” He put down the paper and looked at her. “Signed by the Commodore himself, no less. Very very unusual orders, wouldn’t you say?”



“They were unusual times, sir.” She managed to croak out.



“Oh, undoubtedly, but one thing they were NOT, was a time for assigning sorely-needed officers to perpetual milk runs!” He slammed his hands on the desk and stood, looming over her and glaring, the full bulk of his highlander frame becoming apparent. “Your brothers and sisters in the Maelstrom went off to war. They went knowing they would likely not return. Foreigners and native born who fought for our country of their own choice, who took to the front lines. They fought and bled and died for us, and all the more tragic that whatever foul magicks released that day burned their names and faces from our memories so that we cannot even properly honor their memory. All of them heroes. Except you.”



He sat back down heavily. “You ran away. You soiled their memory with your cowardice...”



“My family needed me.” She said tightly, losing her composure.



YOUR NATION NEEDED YOU!” He roared. He bolted up and pointed to the painting on his wall, depicting the battle of Mor Dhona. “Did they not have families who needed them? Were they less important than you!? You are a coward Ms. Turuphant! And what is worse is you are a coward who cannot even own up to it!” He sat back down with a thump. “A deserter is at least honest about what he is. But you found a way around that. You pulled some strings, got someone to legitimize it.”



“I didn’t ask for those orders!” She suddenly barked, but it wasn’t fire or defiance in her eyes. Surprisingly, it was sorrow. “My father... ‘arranged’ for them. I was his only child.”



“And who, pray tell, is your father?” He asked, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms.



“You wouldn’t remember him.” She stared right at him, but for a moment, her eyes flicked to the painting.



Varhloff’s eyebrow tweaked, but his expression didn’t soften. “Do you know the worst part in all of this? Hm?” He asked, softly. When she didn’t reply, he pulled open his drawer, and fished out an insignia, and a pair of brass stripe pins. He dropped them carelessly on the table in front of her.



She stared at them, then looked up at him, eyes questioning.



“As much as I’d like to deny you, to call you the damn coward you are, to brand you a deserter and run you out of MY city... You technically have committed no crime.” He settled back in his chair. “Your orders, as blatantly favoritest as they are, are legitimate. You complied with them, and as an officer in good standing returning for re-assignment, I have no right to deny you. Those stripes, as tarnished as they are, remain yours.”



She blinked a moment, then dropped her eyes, and guiltily reached for them, hesitating a bit.



“It will not be pleasant.” He said, stopping her hand with his words. “You are not a recruit, not an applicant. You are a supplicant. The Maelstrom will all know your story. You will be less than nothing to them, a coward they will aid only as ordered, and speak ill of behind her back. You will find no glory here.”



“No.” She looked him in the eye, and took the insignia and rank pins. “But I might find a little redemption.” She stood, and saluted him smartly.



He didn’t bother to return the salute. “Get out of my office. Your new assignment will be delivered in the morning.”



She nodded, turned, and walked out of the room, slipping past his aide as the young elezen stood aside as the flame-haired miqo’te strode stoically out the door. She stepped inside and closed the door behind him, looking at him quizzically. “You actually reinstated her?”



“Regulations were clear. She followed her orders.” He opened another drawer, pulling out an ornate La Noscean cedar box, a humidor.



“I know you. There are at least twelve different regulations you could have used to delay or outright deny her request.” She started gathering the papers on his desk for re-filing.



“You’re lowballing. I count twenty-seven from memory. I have even narrowed it down to three best choices, depending if I just wanted her out of my office, out of Limsa, or to hang by the neck as a traitor.” He opened the humidor and selected a cigar from the dwindling supply within. “Do you smoke?”



She made a face. “No, I cannot abide the smell. Could I trouble you, sir, to not light it until I’ve left the room?”



He sighed. “I was instructed, when given this box, to avoid smoking these alone. Five years, and I’ve been unsuccessful in finding someone to share them with.” He took out a cigar cutter and carefully snipped off the end. “Not many with refined taste in tobacco in this city anymore.”



“You’re avoiding the question.”



He looked up at her and raised an eyebrow. “No, you’re merely interrupting the answer. I remember being given this cigar case by the man who trained me. I remember being trained. But I’ll be damned if I can remember his face. His name is on the inscription, though.”



She put down the papers a moment, and lifted the case, to read the inscription. “‘To Varhloff: Despite my best efforts to make a decent soldier out of you, you went all to hell and ended up an officer instead. Smoke in good health, and never alone if you can help it. - Hirilonde Turuphant.’” She blinked. “Turuphant. That’s...”


“An unusual last name.” He said, striking a wooden match, and lighting the end of his cigar, taking a few puffs to get it going. He blew out the smoke in a ring and watched it lazily rise to the ceiling. “The kind of strings a father would have to pull to get those orders cut would end a career. I wish I could tell you what kind of man he was, but all I remember of him is a silhouette, framed by a bright light.” He took another puff. “But I do want to know if his daughter was worth the price he paid in taking her place in the fire. Something tells me I owe him that much.”

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