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Chronicles of a Sultansworn in (the) Heat [open]

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I'm using this thread to document some random RP interactions that Coatleque has while on duty around the city. Understand that some conversations may be embellished slightly based on my own memory of the event. I will try not to post interactions here that are directly related to other story arcs. This is just for the more interesting one-time encounters!


That being said, anyone who interacts with Coatleque and wants to post their own retelling, please feel free.


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Hot air blew against her face as the Knight exited the Quicksand. She sighed and looked up to the clear night sky over the Gate of Nald. These nights were the worst. Stepping forward she leaned over the railing and gazed down towards the fountain, wishing she could just dive in if even for a moment. Then, the sound of drunken laughter behind shook her thoughts back to reality.


Surveying the street it looked like the night would be quiet at least. The Chocobos at the stable quietly preened themselves as the porter leaned back in his chair against the lantern pole, dozing. A few straggling adventurers ran by, no doubt trying to make it to the last few markets to close their doors.


Coatleque shook her head. "Face of the Sworn indeed..." she muttered to herself. "Best get to it."


She rolled her shoulders in an attempt to shrug off the heat while adjusting the heavy spaulders before continuing on her way. Down the steps, to the left, it was the same circuit every night. Continuing down the road along the right side, a Brass Blade made his own patrol. Deciding it best not to invite his taunting, she turned on her heel to the left and took a few steps to the Ruby Exchange. She settled on the corner for her next observation point and stood at parade-rest with her hands upon her hips. Her tension was eased at least when the Blade across the street made an about-face and continued his way back up the road.


Standing under the lantern on the corner did not offer much reprieve, and soon she could feel beads of sweat forming upon her brow. Still, she remained vigilant and watched the few people who passed with as much interest as she could muster even as a tall Roegadyn woman in yellow casually swayed back-and-forth at the boulevard's center divide. Traffic being light at that hour, it didn't take long for the courtesan to saunter her way over to the Knight.


"Well hello, beautiful. Looking for a good time?", she said slyly. The woman's voice had a deep, sultry tone of one who had much experience beguiling others.


Not quite sure how to react to the woman's brazen attempt to seduce an active Sultansworn, Coatleque merely blinked at her. "I'm sorry, are you speaking to me?"


She laughed. "Well, I don't see anyone else here right now. Do you?"


The knight remained silent and simply looked away, scanning the road as was her duty. After a few moments of awkward silence, the woman tried again to ply her trade. Leaning a bit closer she intoned, "So... are you on... patrol or something?" The Knight straightened up, still looking out over the road, "Aye. I am indeed. We must needs stay vigilant and let our presence be known to the populace. The Blades are not the only power in this city."


The woman leaned even closer, now to the point of being uncomfortable. "Well... when you get off-duty, perhaps you'll remember me tonight." It may have been the woman's persistence, or perhaps her own past, but the words cut the Knight deep as she could feel nothing but sorrowful for her. Using all her strength to keep her composure, Coatleque shied away to gain some space and looked towards her, firmly replying "I'm sorry Ma'am. I'm not interested..."


Her look of both rejection and defeat was too much.


"Look... I... I'm sorry. But someone in my position just could not afford to be implicated in this sort of transaction. Please understand. I have to move on now, but... if anyone... ANYONE, harasses you, you find me. Understood?"


Towering Falcon seemed to look much more at ease with the Knight's words. "Well, good luck to you. Stay safe.", she replied. "And... thank you."

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Coatleque sat quietly in the small room. The dim light of a single lantern on the desk sent shadows dancing around the bookshelf-lined walls. It was cramped. Small, tight, more like a storage closet. She didn't know why they even bothered. This was the office she was afforded with her recent uplift of station. At least it was cool. With not even a window available, the room had the stagnant feel of a library's basement.


The flimsy wooden chair creaked as she leaned forward over the desk. It was already stressed enough with age, let alone the weight of her armor. Looking over the blank parchments before her she took the quill from its well on the far corner and began her first week's report...


Day 1, 6th evening bell,

- No report


Day 1, 9th evening bell,

- Forced to draw blade on would be assassin to protect girl in Quicksand. Suspect fled when confronted


Day 1, 11th evening bell,

- Publicly accused by prior suspect and victim both of ordering said contract. Suspect, Ishgardian, would not cooperate in joint investigation. No further leads at this time


Day 2, 9th evening bell,

- Found vagrant harassing pregnant woman in Quicksand. Stepped into assist woman and both quit the scene.


Day 2, 10th evening bell,

- Interesting conversation with Lady Hornet. May need to adjust public strategy going forward.


Day 3, 8th evening bell,

- Observed person of interest, Kage Kiryuu, from distance at Quicksand. Questioned one Miss Whiteraven of his general character. Did not pursue, as ordered not to.


Day 4, 6th evening bell,

- Met with person of interest, Master Krell, regarding matters of security. Must follow-up on lead, "Ruru". Possible free-paladin, or paladin-in-training. Also a Roegadyn and Hyur woman collaborating in Pearl Lane.


Day 4, 8th evening bell,

- Joint guard with Ser Castille in Quicksand. Observed lover's quarrel but did not get involved. Ser Castille reacted first.


Day 4, 11th evening bell,

- No report


Looking back over her words, she frowned. "What am I doing here?" she signed to herself. This isn't what she signed up for. Intrigue and investigative work? She was a Knight, trusted to stand at the side of the Sultana herself with blade in hand! Not some inspector! Dropping the paper and leaning back the chair creaked loudly again, almost cracking one of the rear spindles. Tomorrow was lightsday. Her one and only night of reprieve under her new duties. She was beginning to regret having signed up for outside work.

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The sun was barely halfway through the sky before the Knight had taken to her duties once more. She had slept deeper this last night than most before it, to her relief. It may have been the pumpkin ale, or that stew she had for dinner, but either way her dreams were welcomed. She wore her standard uniform today, not caring for the attention of her Sergeant's tabbard again so soon. Standing at the corner of the Ruby Exchange in full white and silver at noon must have been a hard thing for others to look at. Nobody would meet her gaze today. It felt... unwelcoming.


Her stirred from this muse by a voice from above.

"Just...standing around? Really? Really!"


She turned and lookd to the ledge above to find a man clad in leather. He wore a well-kept black beard and half of his face was concealed by the familiar fly-eye mask of the Blades. That alone was reason not to trust him.

"Apparently, it's what I do best." she replied with a tilt of her head.


"Well...you do know that you're just a deterrent like that, right?", he continued. "The scum'll just shift down an avenue."


The Knight sighed and surveyed the road once more. "That's why I move. Like a farmer places his scare-crows. Eventually the birds get used to them."


The man shrugged. "Eh. If you're just lookin' to make the place shine in the right place and the right time, mayhap that's best."


"I'm not looking for anything, Ser. I am merely following orders. But since you have such interest, did you need something?"


The man looked up from his position and checked the street.

"Aye. A loan."


Coatleque stared at him in temporary disbelief. Was he drunk? Why was he even up there?

"Do I look like a money lender?", she replied curtly.


He looked back to her with a rather serious expression.

"No. You look like Ser Crofte, whom, if I've heard correctly, is Jenlyn's new favorite. And I... need loan of a 'sworn."


Something was not right here. He seemed to know much of her, but she knew nothing of him.

"Well then... it appears you have quite the advantage over me. I would know who you serve before loaning such service."


At this the man deftly dropped from the ledge in front of her. A good twelve feet from above, he landed with grace that any feline would envy. Dusting himself off, he gestured to his Flame jerkin with a flourish. "By the Twelve, I do believe I serve the Hall. That or I stole some man's leathers in his sleep!"


"Or that you've fashioned a suitable replica, no doubt. But this still leaves me at the same disadvantage, Ser..."


To this he promptly saluted her as was custom to any Immortal Flame. "Chief Flame Sergeant Osric Melkire, under First Lieutenant Peak, under Commander Swift. At y'service, m'lady. And as I live, I'll serve!"


She blinked. So this was the Chief Melkire. He seemed smaller than she'd thought he would. And perhaps not as well kept as she imagined.

"Ah, so you are this Chief Melkire I've heard of."


"...eh? Not bad things, I hope."


Shaking her head, the knight crossed her arms and looked him over again.

"Quite the opposite. I know that you've worked with, and not against, the Sworn in the past. And that is enough for me to give you the requested loan. I do believe we may have traded words once before. If that was you in the Quicksand, then I apologize for my abruptness."


The man snorted and crossed his arms as well. He seemed to be sizing her up just the same, judging whether she could be trusted.

"No offense taken. I was just shocked that there were more of you out and about outside the palace. Lannis had given me a... different impression."


"Leaving the palace is of a more recent order, if you must know."

He grunted.

"So... you don't even want to know what this loan is for first?"


"I had assumed your loan request was to serve the interests of the Flame General, or her Grace. But now you've raised my curiosities. Pray tell you have nothing... dubious in mind."


He walked past her a step, looking out to the exchange, making sure nobody was close enough to hear.

"...I need men and women enough to bring a Garlean scag to justice for poisoning innocents, to rout out a certain corrupt inspector, and to bring Roen Deneith home"


The Knight paused at hearing Roen's name. She was one of the three, and her orders were not to involve herself in that affair.

"Now that is quite the task. Though I've been ordered not to be involved with the name you mentioned. If you can... change those orders, I would lend you my aid, for Ul'dah."


The man did not flinch. He belied no reaction at all. She waited, almost hoping he really could affect her orders, though she couldn't imagine why she would want that. He did not turn to face her.

"The name you've been ordered to not be involved with has been turned on by another name you've likely been ordered not to be involved with; Which, despite your orders, you have already been." He paused, letting his words carry weight. "Quicksand? Roughly this time last sun?"


She knew it alright. But that was a simple bar fight and she chose to step in to the defense of a Brass Blade no less.

"That disturbance?"


"Unrelated. I bring it up to make a point."


"Point taken."


Finally he turned to face her once again. He almost appeared to show genuine concern.

"You want a shining lamp to cast the shadows in relief? You want reform in the Blades? This is how we get it done. By bringing Deneith home."


"I was not aware she was away. What would you have me do then?"


"Free paladins."

He paused.

"Some are bound by oath to answer the Hall's call. Others aren't. I need every one I can get to bring down the Crimson Mountain. As for the Garlean..." He looked away once more. "I'll be filing my report shortly with the Hall."


Coatleque looked out towards the Exchange in thought. Who could she find? Who did she even know? She was still green and she knew it. Remembering her conversation with Lady Hornet a few nights prior, she decided to put the tactic to use. Appearance... yes, it was all about the appearance.

"Several names come to mind, though it will take time for me to contact them. When do you plan to strike, so that we may be ready?"


Turning back to her again,


"For Deneith? We storm the 'Mountain' at a moment's notice - aye, the sooner the better. For the Garlean? Three sun's time. I'm to meet him in person. 'Alone,' was the arrangement."


She straightened herself back to attention, as if given a new mandate.

"Understood. I shall do what I can in such little time as I have, but I would ask one favor in return."


"Name it."


"Information on the name 'Ruru'. Possible Lalafell, may be involved in matters of Ul'dahn security."


"...I've heard the name, though I don't know'm. Let me check in with my contacts that do. Might take a sun."


"My thanks."


Osric nodded all the while digging his hand through a pouch on his belt. He brings out a little green linkpearl.

"One last thing. I don't trust the official channel anymore. Your predecessor was a little too... open... with it."


"Oh. Right. Her."

He held out the marble

"Aye. This one goes with m'personal shell."


"I shall be sure to make use of it over the former then.", she said as she affixed the pearl.


"Ser..." he said with a final salute, and before she could respond he was halfway up the Exchange.

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(( Edit: I need to clarify here... this did actually happen, entirely in character. I hope I was able to transfer the shear confusion over to this post. It was extremely fun, very chaotic, and completely fit the mood of the night. Whether Otto and Witchbane new it or not, they were holding Coatleque back from official business that night. ))



Coatleque stood in the Quicksand, once again. Her back was to the front door as she listened to the three drone on in front of her, barely paying attention at this point. Something about pants... and possible coitus? It would have been amusing if not for the events already in motion this night. The bodyguard continued to argue, doing what she could to pressure the two to leave. Finally they began to relent as it was clear this discussion was not welcome around paying customers.


The girl, a blonde hyur, grumbled to herself with remarks of thieving merchants. "Fine! Outside it is then. If I'm not there in then minutes, start without me!". With that she crossed her arms in a pout and turned her back to continue her interrupted conversation with the man next to her.


The other man, bald, bearded, and half naked, stood there angrily tapping his foot and fuming at the guard. He pointed to her several times making his accusations. "You are coming with us!", he demanded.


The armored woman calmly shook her head now and grunted. "Not my jurisdiction." Pointing then to the Knight she said "Hers."


The man snapped back "Well, we'll just see about that tomorrow once I've consorted with Momodi!". With that he turned on his heels, and giving the Knight a scowl, continued out the door with a 'come hither' gesture. She watched him leave then turned back to the guard with her own scowl at having this dropped into her lap so suddenly. To make matters worse, the woman took up her harp witch had been cast aside, and began singing about bale merchants losing their wits (and their pants), while forced to walk like the poor do.


Still within earshot, the man came storming back. "You! Apprehend her, this instant!". The woman stopped her singing to laugh at the man. "Back already? Please... at least finish dressing yourself before you harass me again!". At this, his face turned three more shades of red within moments.


The Knight finally decided to speak up and defuse this situation. "Ma'am, please? I just need you to step outside for a moment so I can hear both sides of this."


The woman herself fumed, but set her harp down and made for the door. The man was close behind, with the Knight following after. The hot air of Thanalan's night did nothing to help tempers. As the three stood around the fountain, Coatleque quickly assessed the situation, then began her investigation. "Calmly now, please... I would like to hear the girl's side of these events. Ma'am, he claims you stole his... erm, pants?"


"And shoes! Together worth more than what most people in this city consdier a month's wage!"


"Ah... yes, and his shoes?"


"They were made by me in particular, too! She already admitted to selling my pants earlier, and as you can see she is wearing shoes too large for her own feet!"


The Knight sighed at his persistence and glanced down. Sure enough the woman was wearing what could only be a man's sized shoe.


"What more do you want to know? You see the evidence for yourself, Knight! Would you like to also investigate the depths of how she insulted me? Or how she impersonated a member of the Maelstrom? The men and women who mirror your selfsame status in Limsa Lominsa? Or perhaps I should explain how she left me... ME... in the middle of Thanalan!?"


Coatleque looked at the man incredulously. What was she doing here. How did she possibly get tangled in this, on tonight of all nights?

"Please, Ser, I would like her to speak. I believe you, verily, but your story may be colored by your anger right now."


"Indeed. She is lucky I haven't colored her FACE with my anger!"


The woman blushed innocently and looked away. "I-I don't know why this man claims I stole his stuff! Besides... he has gil enough to purchase more!" She looked down at his bare lower half. "Can he at least go buy something to wear NOW before we continue?"


Suddenly there was a buzzing in her ear.

"So... what happened to my plus one?"

"Sidetracked, apparently. Alexei? Or was it Crofte? Gods, I hate managing two conversations at once."


The man continued his ranting, snapping the Knight's attention back to the matter at hand. "Madam, I make my OWN clothing. I am a very Brand in this town!" "I didn't steal them! He gave them to me! And I had to sell them just to make my way here!" "I'm sorry? Ma'am, his affluence is not in question here..."


"This, this, this... harpee met me in the woods asking for directions."


"Ser? I'm sorry... so this apparent transaction took place on a previous night, alone, in a remote location?"


"There was no transaction!", he hissed. "Only lies and thievery! And it was earlier this very day!"

"What? You asked ME for directions, not me asking you for directions!"


More buzzing filled her ear, followed by the rustling of leaves.

"sounds like a good place to hit...."

"What was that?"

"Sorry. Vas busy. Am needed?"


The Knight shook her head. This was becoming more difficult to follow. She swallowed and tried to focus again on the facts.

"So you met earlier this day in a remote location, removed your pants, and she ran off with them?"

"I met her on the roads on my way here!"

"Kiryuu's saying we might have a location on Wolfsong."



Coatleque reached up with one hand and pinched the bridge of her nose with two fingers. A familiar ache was beginning to grow behind her eyes.

"Yes, the roads, very well. Still.. you removed your pants and she ran off with them?"

"He gave them to me!" The girl looked at the man in anger. "He wanted me for the night, but I refused. Yet he still gave them to me hoping for a second meeting!"


This was going nowhere. And now her time was being wasted...

"Alright... accusations of apparent affection aside... did you indeed give her the pants, Ser?"


"I did."

The mans expression glinted a hint of truth finally, only to turn back to its accusatory glare.

"At bow-point! I mean... sure I'd like to have her alright, but I'm a married man! I have no need for... loose women. She came to me under the pretense of being a simple Bard..."

"Belay the airship landing. If you're interested in singin' t'wolves, meet me at Scorpion's Crossing within the bell."

By all the hells, that was what she was waiting for. But she couldn't just turn and leave this situation now.



"Loose?!", the woman cried. "LOOSE!? You've never even been inside to be able to make such a comment! I should slap you, Ser!"

"Don't tempt me young woman to take you into a room and show you, its clear you get around wherever you come from"

"Mmmf... Ser, I care not for those details at this time.", the Knight said flatly. Turning to the woman and trying to regain control she asked "You held him at bowpoin?"

"Am to come?"


"Held? No! I use my bow for protection only. He's of an addled mind. Look at him. His stance is the only thing that's standing at attention! Why would I hold him at bow-point? And besides, I could do MUCH better than HIM if I were to take a man to bed!"


Now clearly distracted to those around her, Coatleque tugged upon her ear.

"My appologies. I am... delayed... looking for stolen... pants."

"...pfffffft. Alexei, if you're not otherwise occupied, yes."



The two continued to bicker and argue until she could take no more.

"ENOUGH! Please... Ser...How much were these items worth?"


The man did some quick calculations while muttering to him self about materials and other expenses.

"About eighteenn thousand gil total. My brand fetches a high price in this city"

"Alright, Eighte... EIGHTEEN THOUSAND?"

"Yes indeed. A fair price to be sure, but I can certainly work you into something nice later at a discount if you arrest her right now."

"I told you this man was a thief! Look at the outrageous price he's trying to charge me.!"


She sighed. There was no more time for this. The Knight dug through her gil purse and managed to scrape enough together. She quickly counted out the sum of eighteen thousand gil for the man. "In the name of her Grace, Sultana Nanamo Ul'Namo, I hereby make restitution for this apparent theft of property."

"I'm on my way, after I find my plus one."

"Now, Ser, I would ask that you do not bait her further. Your debt is settled, and she is my responsibility going forward."


At this point another bystander quipped "Is this really how the Sultansworn do things now?"

"Alexei. Nat's here. Don't give anythin' away."

"Vill say nothing."

"Should follow?"


"Should keep distance or not?"

"Your call."


The bystander continued, "Well, you've gotten your gill now. Perhaps you should go and replace your pants now, even with something temporary."

"Maybe buy yourself a wit too..."

"Vhat is role?"

"Ace in the hole. If anything goes wrong..."


"Since she is your responsibility, perhaps you will consider sending her to work for me at my estate. I assure you she will be scrubbing and cleaning non-stop until she can repay this debt to her Grace."

"I will consider it. No promises."

"Vill keep distance."


Finally the man seemed to be calming down. He turned to the third and said "Yes young man I could use a new pair of pants the last ones we're a few days old"


Her business now concluded, the Knight gave the woman a quick salute.



"Please take care of yourself."

"Yes, and thank you."


Tugging upon her earlobe again, the Knight was finally able to report in.

"Apologies for my temporary detainment...the problem is dealt with. Where do you need me, Ser?"

"Nice of you to join us, Crofte. Follow Alexei. Stay behind him a ways and watch our rear."

"Aye, Ser."


As the Knight turned and made her way to the Chocobo stables, she did not see the woman she just acquitted strolling away the opposite direction with the same bystander. She confidently tossed a gill bag into the air and caught it with her palm before pocketing the money.


"That BITCH stole my gil purse!"

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Coatleque stood pensive at what she was about to do. She found herself before the barracks of the Flame Yataghans as an emissary for the Sworn. It seemed her duties since promotion had taken her far and wide through Thanalan, and this was just another of many stops this day. "Bloody politics.", she muttered. Taking a deep breath, she shook off her personal feelings and focused on the task at hand. Standing at attention she gave a light wrap at the door. Moments later it swung back allowing her entry. She could hear murmuring from inside. "I'll go make myself scar..." - Wonderful... all eyes were on her now it seemed.


The Knight entered the barracks and all went dark momentarily. She had hoped this meeting would be rather personal, but as her eyes adjusted to the interior she found an office fully staffed. The Lieutenant sat behind her broad desk at the far end of the room. A grandiose portrait of her Grace hung from the wall behind. The Knight immediately felt comforted at that scene, though still regretted her need for this meeting. And then the woman looked up from her papers, smiling at her. "You were the one ah... over the shell?"


"Aye, I was. Lady Coatleque Crofte, of her Resplendence's royal guard. And you must be the Leftennant.", she said with a salute.


To this she stood and gave a respectful bow of her head. "I am.. Lieutenant Dweia Delacroix. Here with me is Lieutenant Chalahko my aetheric specialist, Sergeant Moengeim Wistyrmanwyn, Miss Vasha Engelbert, and Private Slagathor Delaph." she said, gesturing to each one respectively. "A pleasure", the Knight replied, bowing to each in turn. They each stood and also presented in their own fashion. Moengeim with her crooked smile commented, "A'yer service.", while Vasha simply appeared very stern and professional.


Lieutenant Delacroix then gestured to the chairs before her desk. "Please... sit if you would. I'm curious to know what it is you have for me." Coatleque relaxed her stance. "Aye, my thanks.", she said as she took the seat to the left. She crossed her legs and made sure her tabard was straight before leaning forward upon her arm. "I have asked to meet with you briefly...", she began, "to discuss a small matter of security between the Sultansworn and the Immortal Flames." She glanced about the room once more, letting her words carry what weight they could.


"I can assure you all here can be trusted.", the Lieutenant replied.

"I have no doubt. The matter of trust is not with them, to be blunt, but with my... erm.. predecessor. Certain channels of communique have been compromised by.. former.. sergeant McBeef." Her words caused a gentle stir of hushed murmuring through the room.

"Compromised how, if I may ask?", quipped Lieutenant Chalahko

"Former sergeant?", remarked Sergeant Wistyrmanwyn.

The Lieutenant spoke up after a moment. "The name is familiar, but I do not know this person."

It was then the Knight realized just how bad this state of affairs had become. Had communication broken down to the point that so many were in the dark of recent events? All eyes were on her now as she gently cleared her throat. "Perhaps I should start from the beginning then."

"Yes, please."

"That would be for the best."


"My predecessor, one Madam Natalie McBeef, has been implicated in matters regarding the safety of her Grace." As she began recounting the tale, her words were accompanied by the sound of determined writing at the side of the room. "I am not at liberty to discuss said matters in detail. However she has been long dismissed from her position. She, as well as two other Sultansworn beneath her. The present threat to her Grace has been dealt with. However McBeef is now working for the Brass Blades. Quite adequately it seems."


"Can you at least say if it was a dereliction of dutry, or corruption?", Chalahko chimed in.

"I'm not entirely sure of the details, sadly. I have not been allowed into that investigation. But it does involve a stolen cerulean core and the Ala'Mhigan resistance." She paused once more to allow the gravity of the situation to sink in, and allow response.


"Funny, 'eard naught o'this afore now.", Sergeant Wistyrmanwyn replied.

"This to do with the big bomb that was hidden all over the city?", asked Chalahko.

The Lieutenant simply sat back in her chair, nibbling at her lower lip in thought.


"Potentially, yes.", she continued. "But that is neither here nor there. All of this is to say, the woman can no longer be trusted."

"The reason I ask...", he continued, "is that ceruleum cores are typically used in explosives."

"Aye, and one is now missing. Or was at any rate. And the mine was set ablaze."

"Only ablaze? lucky."


"Good fit fer th'Blades. What be ye proposin' we do 'bout th'compromise? Meanin' McBeef'n 'er 'complices may still 'ave an 'ear on th'pearl?"

There was another pause. The room was silent save the sound of Vasha's frantic scribbling.


The Lieutenant shot glances to her seconds, then back to the Knight. "So we have the danger of an explosive set anywhere.. a woman who knows the inter-workings of the security of Ul'dah..."

"The events I have personally witnessed these past few nights convince me that McBeef is no longer herself. Or has fallen quite far from former graces. She and her lapdog have stooped to bribery, extortion, and even murder, all in the name of a coverup. It would be extremely unwise to tip her off that her actions are becoming public knowledge, else she react more violently as an animal recently caged."

"This seems to be happening a lot lately it seems..."


"And so I come to the ultimate purpose of this meeting. The Sultansworn cannot abide by the decreased security of the Immortal Flames Linkpearl. Yet we cannot afford to disrupt all communique with the Immortal Flames, as we are of like mind. I have commissioned a separate pearl for Sultansworn and Free Paladins only. In the interest of unification I would extend this to Leftennant Delacroix as well, and her alone, within the Yataghans. The ultimate intent of which is that orders and calls of aid may still be given between our respective organizations."


"An' iffn she be indisposed?"

"Moengeim has a point, there."

The Lieutenant arches a brow at the Knight's offer, then glances to her seconds once again before replying in a soft yet measured tone, "I would agree to this only if my officers were allowed methods of communications as well. For the very reason the Sergeant speaks of."


And there it was. More political bargaining chips. Why could nothing be simple? Why must everyone have their own demands? The Knight leaned back and crossed her arms. "I trust you, Madam. If they hold the same esteem with you, then I will allow it, but no more. We must keep this as tight sealed as possible. For the safety of her Grace, and to avoid further... embarrassment in the Sultansworn."

"I would trust them with my life... I have many times in fact."


"Then that is enough cause for me."

With that, she leaned forward and dropped a small bag on the desk.

"Will other members of the Immortal Flames have access to this or only the Yataghans?"

"The invitation is to all officers of the Flames. As I said, the intent is to remain secure yet available."


"Very well.. we will come to aid you when we can. But when that times comes.. I will bring who I deem most fit to help, security and embarrassment be damned. I will not endanger my soldiers lives for the sake of security."

"That is both understandable, and expected, Ser. The intent is not to limit resources, only to secure communique among higher ranking officials. I am not entirely familiar with all of those in the Flames, so I trust you can distribute more as needed, Leftennant."

To that the woman nodded.


"You should know also, that I've commissioned these at the behest of Chief Flame Sergeant Melkire. Twas his concern that moved me to action. I do not do this lightly. But the security of her Grace is paramount."

"I have yet to meet him personally. He is only a name I have heard over the Immortal Flames linkshell. I hope to meet him one day."

The Knight merely smiled knowingly in return.

"So it is."


Coatleque slowly rose from the chair. "My business is concluded then, unless you had any concerns?"

"We will answer when you call, Miss Croft. As soon as we are able to, with what we are able to."

"Her Grace thanks you for your loyalty, Ser."


They each gave a parting bow, and Flame salute. The rest of the room stood at attention as the Knight turned deftly on her heels and headed for the door.

"Twelve keep you, and Her Grace!"

"And you."

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Coatleque sat once again in her office. The lantern had been turned down low just enough for her to see the reports she had made. Her wrist ached at the shear amount of writing that was accomplished over the past two bells. It was late now - or early, depending on your outlook. The crickets had long since been silent, and the birds would begin to awaken within the next half bell. Quietly she poured over her words. Scrutinizing them to the last detail. Making sure everything, everyone, every angle had been covered.


She had started with the conversation she overheard of Kage's strange transformation. That was her beginning, her first true involvement. From there she moved to the disturbance in the Quicksand where she unknowingly had come to Natalie's aid. Paltry details for sure, but still relevant.


After this she noted her contact by Chief Flame Sergeant Melkire.

Being approached by Jameson on the street looking for McBeef - she knew nothing of the man, but still noted it as McBeef was involved.

How she followed Ser Melkire to the abandoned mine at the wells, watching his back while he conducted his own investigation.

Her witnessing of the slain Blades, the rage which wich Natalie had toppled those crates over the entrance.

The freeing of Gharen Wolfsong.

"She had Kage do it. Because she slipped and spoke his name."

"I'm accountable now.", though she left out some of the more grizzly details.


From there she moved on to the second rescue, noting the names of all present that she knew.

What she observed from her vantage point overseeing the docks.

What little she could make out from her Link to Osric.

The acquiring of both Roen, and Askier, as well as the state of each.

How she was ordered by Ser Melkire to let McBeef quit the scene.


"I want reform. I want change. I want this whole thing blown into the open. For that, we need her."

"Deneith is out of my reach while she is in Limsa."

"But not out of mine. Make ready."

"Aye, Ser. You bring her back, and I will see to her protection."


Blown open indeed. Her involvement was minimal except as a witness. At this point she had not been required to draw steel. Hopefully that would be enough. This report was going to make waves, she was sure. What she did not know was if she was ready to weather this storm.

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Coatleque sat in the Quicksand. Alone. The day had been so slow for her. She had nowhere to go, nothing to do, just drifting without purpose these past two days. She watched Miss Rhea dance in the middle of the bar. It was all she could do to avoid going insane at this point. Then it came, over the private link. "Ser Crofte. The Captain would have words with you now."


She hesitated. "... Aye, Ser. I am on my way."


Quietly she made her way to his office. She wore no armor or uniform that day, as the day before. It must have been an odd sight to see. Lady Crofte dressed in a formal white dress with black trim and gold accents, flanked by who armed Sworn in full regalia. She gently wrapped her gloved hand against the door. "Crofte, inside." His voice came with a bit more sharpness than usual.


She slowly allowed herself in, moving to the side quickly as the door latched behind her. Captain Jenlyns sat behind his desk, fingers laced, not looking pleased. The Lady Knight stood at attention just the same, with obvious angst. She could not meet his gaze. Not yet. Instead she tried her best to focus on the wall behind him.


"Ser!", she replied awaiting his command.

He took a long breath in, his blue eyes cooler in its hue this day, his brows bent. "Step forward, Crofte. I wish not to yell at you from across the room."


The Knight immediately took two long strides forward and stopped with a click of her dress heels. She held her hands behind her back and remained focused on the wall behind him. "Aye, Ser!"


Jenlyns stared at her for a moment longer, then slowly his eyes lowered to the documents before him. "I have read your report. Thrice. Who else knows about this report, Crofte?" The Knight swallowed hard, still unable to meet his gaze. "No one, Ser. My reports are strictly confidential, for you alone."


A long pause fell between them.


"Are you certain Crofte? Because Sergreant Osric came to me shortly after, to defend your actions. Saying you were lured, under false pretenses." She paused, frantically searching for words. Damn the Sergeant to all the hells! She reviewed in her mind everything she had documented once more, unsure of what she could have missed, what she may have worded wrongly.

"Ser... He knows of them, but not what is in them. My actions were my own, Ser."


"Exactly... what does he think is in these reports, Crofte?", he said, choosing his words carefully. He studied her responses expectantly. "I could not presume to know the man, or what he thinks, Ser. I have never disclosed the contents of any of my reports. I would assume he believes I made no mention of any of these happenings." He taps his thumbs together slowly, his fingers still laced.


"Do you see my dilemma here? You have been witnessed to those who are accessory to certain crimes. Dead Blades are accounted for. You made a report, of your awareness of their fates, and yet no arrests were made. Then you bring that report to me. What am I supposed to do with this, Crofte?"

Her face flushed as she realized the glaring mistake. Of course the information was worthless at this point. What did she expect him to do? Again her mind raced back to the events, trying to piece together some kind of defense.


"Ser, an arrest would have complicated the second mission. As these were Ser Melkire's operations, I was ordered not to jeopardize them." His eyes narrow into slits, as if to drive the point home further. "Then you carry out the second mission, arrest the perpetrators, then make the report to me, Crofte."

"A-aye... Ser."

"You are still green, I can see that. And perhaps your promotion was a bit hasty, but you are supposed to represent the new face of the Sworns on the streets. If the word of this gets out that you had any part in execution of Brass Blades... You will do even MORE harm to our order than the three demoted Sworns combined. DO you see that?"

"I do... Ser."

"... and you disobeyed a direct order. From me. For the Sultana's safety, that misdeed I am willing to forgive. Only once. But jeopardizing the Sworns, is precisely why the three you mentioned in your report are not serving as Sworns currently. Do you wish to join them in their fate?"

The Knight looked as if she was on the verge of tears by this point. Somehow she held them back.

"NO, Ser!."


He exhaled long through his nose, leaning back on his thick, large chair. He regarded her a long moment, letting the silence fall like a dead weight between them. She swallowed hard once again, but maintained her attention while still focusing on the wall behind them. It was getting harder not to look him in the eye. "What am I to do with you, Crofte?"

"I would expect it is back to guard duty on the Strip, Ser."

"Perhaps. That would only leave people to wonder why you are no longer on the streets. Questions would arise."

"What would you have me do, Ser?"


"If no one is aware of this report, it can disappear." He waved a hand into the air. "But if even one person is aware of what you reported, then you are jeopardizing the entire Order with your inaction. And in turn, my inaction, if I do nothing."

Her heart fells at these words more than anyone would think. She had hoped her witness would have made a difference in the end. Some kind of ripple as Osric had wanted.


".... Aye, Ser. No one is aware, Ser."


"Sergeant Melkire certainly gives me doubt." He leaned forward, lacing his fingers again on the desk, his eyes showing their intent. "You serve under the Sultansworn Order, Crofte. You are not one of Melkire's men. Nor are you to serve as an accessory to what he does. His actions are answerable to Swift. But I will not have one of mine be thrown into the mess that is Melkire's history with the Syndicate."

"What of Deneith, Ser?"


He narrowed his eyes, and a different expression passes at the mention of that name. "...I read your report on that." He sighed, the sharpness in his tone giving way. "How is she?"

"Unclear. From what I saw... she may have scars. Not just physical." The knight seems to bristle at her own words, knowingly.

Jenlyns's gaze drifted downward, although he did not seem to be looking at any particular document in front of him. He frowned. "What a mess this turned out to be."

"Ser? I told Melkire I would keep her safe if he brought her back. If you order me against that... I shall comply."

He shook his head and looked back up to her. Taking in a long breath he arched a brow at her.

"Melkire is bringing Deneith back?"

"That is his intention."

"You reported she was..." He scaned the documents again. "She was leaving or some sort. What is Melkire's intention?"

"He needs her for something. I know not what. He wants to bring her back to Ul'dah from where she is now to keep her safe."


He exhaled again, his eyes narrowing. "Crofte. Deneith was.. is... still one of ours. As is Mcbeef and Kiryuu. Even as Blades, if they are persecuted, Monetarists will brand them as ex-Sworns rather than Blades." He trained his gaze onto her, trying to force her to finally meet it back. "Melkire is conducting this investigation, and as I understand it, going after Mcbeef." He set his jaw. "I need to know that what he has is solid. I need one of my own eyes on this matter. That would be you, Crofte."

The sudden change of tone in his words caught her ear. She finally worked up the courage to meet his gaze and straightened herself as best she could.

"Orders, Ser!"


"I've known Mcbeef... for years now. Since the Calamity. She is a rough one, some call her the bad apple. But her loyalty to the Sultana was never in question. No matter how she carried them out, her intentions were always true." He shook his head. "It seems she has fallen off that path, perhaps the Blades have gotten to her. I don't know." He pinched his nose. "And I know wherever she goes, Kiryuu will follow." His voice lowered. "But I need to know that she has truly fallen off this path. Because if Melkire arrests her, this will fall back on us. I need to know it is justified."

"Understood, Ser."


"Your Orders, Crofte, are now exact opposite of the one I gave you when you were promoted. You are to make it your business to see to the affairs of the three demoted Sworns. Their fates it seems will reflect back on us. Find the truths. See if Melkire's wrath towards Mcbeef is justified. And what his intentions are towards Deneith. Blade or no, they were once our own. See that justices is served. No blinders."

"And to what capacity shall I follow Chief Melkire's commands? He thinks me pliable right now, I fear. If I hesitate often he will be suspicious."

He narrowed his eyes on her, but there is a small upward curl to his lips. "Not as... green as I thought, Crofte."

She holds his gaze, but keeps a straight face. "I do learn, Ser."

"Very well. Carry out his orders to the best of your ability, but you are not working under him, Crofte. You are a Sworn. You are to be my eyes and ears, and ultimately my hand in this investigation. Make him believe you are still... pliable. But gain his confidence."

The Knight took a deep breath. "Ser, Aye Ser!"

"And make certain that justice is served to one of our own. Can you do that, Crofte?"

"For her Grace, for Ul'dah. I can, Ser!"

"That is exactly why you are doing this, Crofte. We are the Sultana's Elite. Her cloak of safety. Her watchers. If we are tainted, the Monetarists gain more shadows around her. This we cannot allow. Maneuver this situation carefully, Crofte. We must bring those to justice that deserve it. But always... always be mindful of how it tips the scales. Because THAT ... is Ul'Dah."

"Aye Ser. I shall, Ser!"

"Alright. Dismissed."


Coatleque saluted him as is customary of the Flames, turned about with seemingly renewed vigor, and headed for the door. She quietly allowing herself out. Captain Jenlyns watched her go and let out a long sigh. It is awhile before he returns to the documents at hand.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Coatleque rode towards Highbridge on a standard patrol of the road to Gridania. She only just returned to Ul'dah within a sun and had already been beset by duties after her absence. She had hoped to be done her travelling for a few days at least, but the dry winds and sun of Thanalan were more welcoming after the cold climes of Coerthas. The route so far had been uneventful as usual, so she had little to complain of today.


Unknown to Crofte, yellow eyes watched her approach from the rock overlooking the pass. The humanoid shaped creature wore what looked to be simple shepherd’s clothes, torn here and there in places, but its face was shadowed. As she passed under, the creature rose and leaped at the woman, seeking to knock her from her chocobo!


Startled at the sudden presence of something flying through the air at her, she pulled hard on the reigns and the bird reared back and to the right, just narrowly being missed by the creature. The creature’s cloak spread open almost as if it were wings upon its back as it landed. It paused momentarily to stare at her face before muttering something incomprehensible. After quickly regaining her bearings, she stared at this new visage before her, narrowing her eyes.


"Was that meant to be some sort of ambush?", she quipped as she urged her bird to back up a few steps. Scanning the area she was now on guard for any assistance this one may have with it. “Who are you, and what business do you have stopping me here?”


The thing drew itself up straight. Its face was covered and shadowed, but the skin around its eyes looks dark, and it spoke with a voice not its own. "Crofte. Take. Now." With that, it lunged forward again, arms outstretched.


Still having the advantage of being mounted, she reared the bird once more and forced it to jump sideways to avoid the creature’s lunge. Its purpose now clear, she quickly dismounted and pushes the bird away; It ran off away into the field to wait whatever outcome. She drew her blade and turned to face the creature. "It is a crime to keep a Sultansworn from their duty, though I don't feel you particularly care at this point, Ser."


The creature responded once again in a guttural, unnatural voice. "Duty. Take Crofte. It is commanded!" It raised its arm above its head and a shadowy halberd seemed to grow from its hand as it swung downward! While put off by the sudden appearance of the weapon, she easily anticipated its slower movement and sidestepped the swing while raising her sword parallel to the ground. "If you will not be swayed, then so be it!"


She wielded her sword with both hands and moved in with a quick spin to her right, sweeping the blade down in an effort to sweep its leg with the flat of her sword. The attack connected easily, and the creature is dropped to one knee as she broke its leg with her blade. It howled a shrill alien scream that echoed across Thanalan. After a moment it looked at her direction and vomited void pitch at her face.


Diving to the side, she avoiding whatever the thing had spit towards her. The pitch landed on the ground a few feet behind her and bubbled as it ate a hole in the sand. She let her sword drop to one hand by her side as she moved towards the creature once more. Raising one leg, she kicked it square in the chest, pushing the creature over.


As the creature toppled it swung out with one last attempt against its quarry. Not prepared that time, she could not avoid it as the halberd smashed into her chest, pushing her backwards and momentarily knocking the breath from her lungs. Her scale and chain took the brunt of the impact, but the force behind the impact was still astonishing.


Looking down at the creature with a smirk, she gave it one last chance to surrender.

"Any last words before I send you back to the void?"

It did not reply, but only made a gurgling sound as it tried to rise on its remaining good leg.

“So be it.”


She spun hard to the right again, with her sword outstretched in a wide arch, cleaving the creature diagonally across its torso. Thee blade easily cut through the shepherd’s robes and its flesh. It gurgled as it quivered and died in front of her. However, though dead it did not stop moving as it began to writhe and contort on the ground before her. Stepping back, sword still at the ready, she watched its struggles.


Before long it had changed shape. Looked like a young highlander man, bleeding quite a natural red over the sand.


"By the Twelve!" Her sword fell to the ground as she rushed forward to attend to the man. She quickly looked over the body, trying to find any hope of saving him or bringing him back from the brink. Unfortunately it was far to late for the him. His pulse was gone and torrents of blood gushed out from where she cleaved him across the chest. The shadowy halberd vanished with all other traces of the voidsent.


She stayed like that for a good few minutes, cursing herself for the life she had taken. Afterwards she simply rose, and pulling his body to the side of the road, left him under the shade of the rock. Retrieving her sword she went find her bird. Thankfully it had not run off far, only to the plains beyond the bend in the road. A properly trained War Steed. Turning the mount about, she headed back to Drybone to report his death to the local Brass Blades.

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Natalie walks through the plush carpets of the royal court, attracting sidelong glances in her rusty red armor. Finally she finds the one she came here for, Captain Jenlyns, taking his daily inspection.


"Sir." She salutes, "I have a message for you."


"Natalie..." he says with wide eyes, "What are you doing up here?"


"Official business sir, Sergeant Osric of the Flames, he left me something, before he disappeared, a letter, addressed to you." She hands him a sealed envelope, "I do not know it's contents, but I believe it to be of grave importance."


He takes it frowning, "I see..."


"If there is nothing else Sir, I must get back to my patrol."


"You're dismissed..." he says and absentmindedly returns her salute as he turns the letter over in his hands. He opens after she leaves, and reads the contents with shaking hands.


To Captain Jenlyns,


It is to my utmost regret to report a case of vile corruption and malfiesiance among your ranks. It is my belief that the death of two Brass Blades in Western Thanalan can be laid at the feet of Sultansworn Crofte. Not only did she kill them, she conspired to have Lieutenant Kiryuu of the blades, and myself to file false reports. To Kiryuu she promised a return to the Order, if he would take responsibility for the deed. I was seduced and pleaded with to take responsibility for her actions myself, saying it would be a blow to the Royalist cause if she was found responsible. I do not wish to besmirch the reputation of the Order publicly, but I felt you should know the true story of what happened. Hopefully you can handle this internally, but I believe she should be made respnsible for her crimes. I would bring this letter to you myself, but it is my belief Ser Crofte plans to blackmail and control me. If you are reading this, I may be dead, disgraced or both, but I wish the truth to be known.



Osric Melkire

(dated two weeks ago)


He puts it down and rubs his forehead, "By the twelve, what is happening to this city."

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The Knight returned to her office once more. It was now late and she looked forward to some rest after the events of the day. Her armor would be repaired by noon the next day and in the meantime she would be able to follow-up on other leads.


Wearing the white dress she was now used to being seen in, she sat down. Opening the drawer below her she produced half a bottle of wine and a glass. It was odd, she had never been one to drink before - but this seemed to help her relax on those longer nights. Pouring a glass she returned the bottle to the drawer and closed it.


She leaned back in the chair while sipping it, then eyed that folder on her desk once again. Everything was falling into place, it seemed. She had met with each of her 'fallen' comrades and said her piece. Her words had been chosen carefully for each one of them, telling them what she thought they needed to hear.


Kage Kiryuu - so eager to fall in line, follow, cast aside his own convictions for the perceived good of others.

"Of the two of us, Ser Kiryuu, I am not an admitted murderer..."

She had called his conscience into question in the hopes he would remember his oath and begin to lead his own life rather than the one others chose for him.


Natalie McBeef - headstrong, arrogant, yet dim-witted. She did what she wanted without worry of the consequences to her own actions.

"Twice have I stepped in to assist you now. I hope you see where my loyalties lie."

"Think carefully on what color you wish your armor to be in the future...Ser McBeef"

She had called her honor into question in the hopes Natalie would understand that victory need not come at such a high cost to others.


Roen Deneith - Kind, gentle, but perhaps too soft. She was dragged through the hells, but could she return from them?

"You are surrounded by those who seem to know what is best for you. The question is, do YOU know what is best for you?"

She had called her convictions into question in the hopes that the girl would remember who and what she is, to rise above the dark cloud cast over her life.


Ah, Ser Deneith. She was still the enigma of the three. Enough time had passed since her ordeal, she should be ready to move on now. But Coatleque knew far too well that the scars would remain her entire life.


"You make me remember why I wore that armor..."

"And you make me remember why I still do..."


Yes, she may yet pull through this after all.


Coatleque placed the empty glass on her desk. Its effects were just starting to be known. She stood and stretched, ready to retire for the night. She took the envelope and was about to lock it away for safety when she heard Jenlyns's voice over the official channel...


"Ser Crofte? My office, now please."


She blinked. What had happened now? At this hour? Shaking her head she decided to make this an opportunity instead...

"Aye, Ser!", she replied.

Tucking the parcel under one arm, she left the room and locked the door.

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Jenlyns sat at his desk, as always, parchments flanking him on both sides. He glared at them balefully, his usual patience having been spent earlier in the day. Too many missives and letters. He sighed and laced his hands together, bringing his forehead to rest against them. He frowned as he reflected over the contents of the most trouble missives. Then there came a light knock at the door.




Coatleque let herself in as she was now accustomed to doing. The door closed quietly behind her as she stepped to the side. Her heels clicked together at attention. She was once again not wearing her armor, but her white dress and beret, and looking very much like an inspector than a knight. She held a leather wrapped file under her left arm.


"You wished to see me, Ser?"

"Ah. Yes. Crofte." He lowered his hand, his blue eyes a cooler hue. He let out a long exhale through his nostrils before he spoke again.

"How goes your investigation?"


Her eyes seemed to light up immediately at the question.

"Very well, I believe Ser. I am prepared to take on more of a direct approach with it now. I had hoped to speak to you about it since you have called me here."

"Is that so." He said dryly. "Have you been working with Melkire in this?"


Her expression flattened at the mention of the Flame Sergeant.

"No Ser, I was assisting Ser Melkire with his own matter of inquiry. Alas that has... fallen to the side as he has now been compromised."

"Ah. So you have learned of that as well."


He exhaled again, this one long and drawn out, as if in frustration. Leaned back in his chair, he regarded her.

"I have just received the most curious letter with his name on it. Regarding ... you."

An eyebrow raised. "Regarding... Me, Ser?"

There was a pause

"When last I contacted Ser Melkire he said we could not speak because of his condition. He refused to have any contact with me."


Jenlyns pushed off from the chair and pressed a finger on one parchment that was in front of him. He pushed it across the desk towards her, then leaned back in his chair again. "Read for yourself." Walking up to his desk, she took the parchment and read it slowly, her expression turning to a frown with each accusation. She couldn't help but snicker at the 'seduction' part, as if she would bother. Once finished she placed it back down for him to retrieve.


"I do not know what to say Ser. It is a blatant lie. An attempt to silence me from my duties."

"Considering this was delivered -after- the Sergeant was compromised... I find it highly suspect." Jenlyns waved a hand vaguely into the air. But the scowl on his brow did not abate. "But it is by his hand. And unless he can come forth to corroborate or declare himself of this falsehood... I cannot simply ignore this." There was another pause. "You understand."

"O-of course... Ser.", she said while trying to ignore the knot growing in her stomach.


"So. Tell me how you have followed my explicit orders since we have talked last." He laced his fingers and rested him on the edge of his thick desk. "Because I need some good news while I consider this."



She seems more at ease with this command, as if thankful the accusations were being set aside that she may speak.

"I have met with and spoken to each of the three in turn, appealing to them as I saw fit to try and sway their course. Only time will tell if I had any impact on them. But furthermore, I have found Ser Deneith is to be brought in for desertion charges. She has been away from her post for far too long. She cannot help her current situation, and I do not blame her for wanting to remain away. She will need more time than the rest to recover from her recent ordeals, but... I have a plan to at least save HER, while I continue to evaluate the other two. But I need official sanction to proceed, Ser. Which is why I need to speak with you first."


He arched a brow at Crofte, still listening. "Go on."


The Knight nodded to him and continued her plea.

"There was a certain amount of ... evidence that had been previously brought forward. This evidence was used to damn them at the time. I believe you know of what I speak. It just so happens that I now have that evidence in my possession."

With that, she unwrapped the file and laid it on his desk.

"I believe what was once used to convict may now be used, in the proper hands, to acquit."


One brow still remained lofted, as his gaze lowered to the file now newly joining the rest of the stack of papers on his desk. He let out an inaudible sigh.


"Ser, the contents of this file convict Ser Deneith of something greater than just desertion. With this, and your orders, I may officially assume full responsibility for this investigation. It would no longer be an issue for the Brass Blades. Ser Deneith would be discharged, and at least safe for the time being."


He gave the file another baleful glare before glancing back to Crofte. "Deneith?" There was clear question in his expression and he reached across the desk for the file. He opened the file, blue eyes quickly scanning over the documents. One after another. He set them aside, then poured through the next. The frown on his brows deepened with each page. "This accuses her of treason. A Garlean spy."


She watched him for a moment as he pours through the documentation, trying to gauge his reception to the idea.

"Aye, Ser, but the charges are false. It is damning enough to bring the matter into our jurisdiction, though."


He paused mid-page, then glanced up at him. "I see. Are you certain they are false?"


The Knight looked away for a moment in thought, trying to to show her own concern over the matter.

"Ser, I cannot say for certain. However, I intend to find out." She paused. "That is, if you give the order, Ser."


"Mm. Indeed. True or not, it does fall under our jurisdiction." He set his jaw, his eyes narrowing in thought.

"Very well, Crofte." He said after a pause. "You are to proceed. If Deneith is innocent, then we have a Sworn cleared. If not, we caught ourselves a spy." His blue gaze is sharp and icy as he gave her a pointed look. "I pray to the Twelve that you find her innocent, Crofte. Else it is execution for the girl."


Coatleque looked both relieved, yet concerned as she meet his gaze.

"Ser, you made sure that I think of them as our own. I will not rest until I prove otherwise. And if I fail, I have already given my life in exchange to another. I shall not."


He arched another brow, not quite understanding all of her meaning.

"Well, let us hope you are successful in this. How did you come by this document?"

"Ser Deneith herself, Ser. It was passed from one Jameson Taeros to Ser Mcbeef, given to Gharen Wolfsong, then to his sister for safekeeping. I would not have come to you with it if these were not her wishes themselves."

"... did you say Taeros?"

She tilted her head at his expression. "A-aye Ser?"


The muscles of his neck tightened and he steepled his fingers in front of him as he leaned forward on his desk. He fell silent, his eyes narrowed in thought. After a pause, he flicked a glance her way. "So. You know where Deneith is. You realize you will have to bring her in."


She stiffened at this notion. "I do not know where she is directly, I do know she is somewhere in La Noscea. I also know people who can find her. The question, Ser, is how long I am able to delay before she must needs be brought in. It would besmirch my honor to detain her without verifying the evidence..."


He arched a brow at her, almost incredulous. "Did you just not say you got this document from Deneith herself? I understand we do not make false arrests, but the charges of treason are serious as they can get, Crofte. We cannot just simply let her be..." he waved in the air, "while we suspect or clear her of being a spy."


"Other Sworns have arrested, detained, and even questioned using forcible means for less. All for the Sultana's safety." There was a hint of distaste that undercut his words.

"Ser, I was not aware of the full extent of said charges myself, Ser. And my meeting left me at the disadvantage to use force, Ser."

"Then bring whoever you will as reinforcement. But..." he frowned as he himself did not want to say what he had to say. "We are for the Sultana's safety first and foremost. If there is an accusation of a spy, a -Garlean- spy no less, it needs to be seen through. She needs to be brought in and questioned. Even as you carry out your investigation." He shook his head. "Of all the times... with these new threats looming over Ul'Dah,with a Flame already compromised... this is the -worst- time to let Garlean threats slip through our fingers, Crofte."


She continues to meet his gaze, refusing to waver this time as she had during their last meeting. "Ser, it was my understanding that her evaluation was to be left to me. Unless I had misunderstood the intention... I had to make certain concessions just to be allowed to see Ser Deneith. After speaking with her, it is of my opinion that she is no threat in her current state. I must have time Ser, to evaluate my findings further, before I can detain her. To do otherwise may bring about a bloodbath. Unlike my predecessor, I am not prone to shed blood unnecessarily..."


There was a pause.

"With respect, Ser!"


He arched a brow at her. "A bloodbath?"

"Aye, she is well cared for."

"... I see." He clenched his jaws and a long silence fell between them.


"Please do not take my insubordination lightly, as I would not protest without proper cause. But she has many close to her that would willingly fight to keep her out of the gaol."


He tapped a finger against the oaken desk. "Crofte. Who are we."

"We are the Sultansworn, Ser. The Royal Guard of Her Resplendence."

"That is correct. And if a threat is posed to Her Grace, we do not falter. We do all that is necessary to ensure her safety. And if a bloodbath must be had to ensure that very safety, then we do not waver. Understood?"


"A... Aye, Ser."

He let his words hang in the air for a moment, before letting out a long sigh. He leaned back against his chair, looking more weary than he had when she had first entered. "That being said... I will give you a few suns to explore your options. But a charge of treason is as grave a charge as it gets against the Sultana short of a blatant assasination attempt." He took a long breath in, looking up at the woman. "Things are afoot, Ser Crofte. Grim tidings and more of our own being compromised. In light of Melkire's situation, I cannot allow one of my own to come under the same suspicion and ... their whereabouts unknown. You have suns to arrange this. But you will have to bring her in for questioning. I will let you carry out the interrogation of course. As a few in our Order can get overzealous in that line of duty."


Her growing tension gave way to at least a little relief at his words.

"Understood, Ser. I shall make the necessary preparations."


He regarded her for a moment, the icy countenance giving way to a pensive reluctance. "It is not an easy thing we do, Crofte. Putting Her Eminence above all else... means we sometimes need to put her welfare above other good people. Deneith will not suffer hardship here. She will be given a respectable quarters to be detained in. We do not forget our own. But the charges are grave. Had she or Mcbeef enlightened me of her heritage from the start... some of this might have been avoided."


"I understand, Ser. I said I would protect her, even if that means I am to be her personal guard and gaoler while she is here."

He nodded. "If you wish that responsibility, then it is yours."

"I could do nothing else, Ser."

"Very well." He straightened. "You clearing or convicting a spy, I consider of more importance than an accusation of murder by a Sergeant who could have been compromised before or after the missive was written."

"Thank you, Ser!"

"Prove me right in my faith in you, Crofte. Make sure this is not a threat. And..." he glared at the letter. "Be prepared Crofte. Something is headed our way. And Melkire is in the middle of it. And the Empire behind him. We need to secure our own and stand ready when it comes."

She gave him a quick salute. "Aye, Ser, we shall be ready. And I shall not fail."

He regarded her for a long moment, before exhaling, as if admitting his own worry on the matter. "Very well. Dismissed."


"Oh and Crofte?"


"If you are to go and apprehend her, I suggest bringing people you trust with you. I read that her brother is a terrorist, and a known fighter."


She gathered the documents together again as he spoke, ordering them in the file, then wrapping it back in the leather sleeve and tieing it shut.

"Aye, Ser. I shall be prepared should... should force be necessary." She almost choked on the word.


His gaze remained on her for a moment longer, before he returned back to the tower of parchment to his right, his jaw set and his expression a forced calm. Turning about with the file under her arm again, she let herself quietly out of his office and returned to her own. She locked the evidence in her strongbox, then secured the door as she left to finally get some rest.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The sound of boots echoed through the halls. Each step grew louder, and the sound did not die away but lingered as time slowed. She saw the two guards at the bottom of the stairs. Her shield brothers, carrying out their duty as always. Coatleque turned to face the group she had escorted.


"... You cannot serve two masters, and mine has been chosen long before ... "

"My life... FOR THE SULTANA!"


Vision blurred in a biting white flash of pain as the sword slid through her mid-section. She slumped to her knees as the sound of battle echoed through the halls.


"F-forgive... me...", she stammered through pain and tears as she collapsed onto her side.


The Knight awoke and sat up in a cold sweat, desperately clutching at her stomach. The wound had been healed two days prior already, but the lingering trauma would not abate so easily. She felt sick.


Turning to the side of the bed she let her feet touch the floor and leaned forward. She breathed slowly to try and calm the knot in her stomach. She was alive. This was the Hourglass. Ul'dah had been spared once again. But was she free once more?


A hand slowly raised to feel the base of her neck. Rather than a steel vice she felt flesh. Her own neck once again. She rubbed herself almost in disbelief. It was over.


Or was it? Was there truly any rest for the city's defenders? The end of one misery, the beginning of another. Another friend was now in the gaols. And he would have to answer.


Coatleque rose and looked towards the window. It was daylight already, though she did not know what bell. She would need to be debriefed by the Captain eventually, and had to be ready when he called for her. In the mean time, she had other investigations to continue before her leads got any colder.


She went through her typical morning ritual, pausing to examine her scar. She had been unmarred up to that day. This would now serve as a constant reminder of her failings. No. She had kept her oath, given her life. If not for the timely arrival of the Coral Sea she would be dead. Shaking off these thoughts she finished getting ready, wearing her white dress rather than armor. It was time to find Natalie. There was unfinished business to discuss.


She affixed her beret and adjusted it, then turned to leave only to stop once more.


There was a knock at the door...

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From the desk of Ser Crofte, Sgt,

To Jenlyns, Cpt. - of Her Resplendence's Royal Guard

To Taeros, Jameson - requester of incident report


Regarding the inspection of high-level political prisoner, Ser Roen Deneith.

Sgt Crofte, inspecting officer on record.


I. Cell Conditions

- Cell has been kept clean. No moisture, cracks, or breaks in any foundations, walls, bars, windows, or locking mechanisms. Cell portal hinges are well oiled and swing free with no friction or noise.

- Bedding is changed no less than twice weekly, or as requested.

- Additional lighting requested by inmate. Provided in the form of matigek powered lantern with internal power source. Considered safe for use. Not a fire hazard, but could be used as blunt weapon if thrown.


II. Visitation

- Friends and acquaintances have been allowed during normal visiting bells through the day. All visitors are searched upon entering Gaols at the start. Personal guard has overseen all meetings, locking the cell promptly upon enter and exit of third party.

- Conversations are held at a tone loud enough to be heard by all, including guards on duty. If any silence is held for longer than thirty seconds, visual contact is promptly re-established.


III. Personal Effects

- No contraband, weapons, or items of malicious intent allowed on or around inmate's personage.

- Changes of clothes, writing materials, books, and flowers provided by friends.

- All letters sent personally inspected by officiating guard on duty, then sealed and delivered once secured. All replies inspected in same manner before delivered to inmate as required to preserve Palace security.


IV. Rights and Privileges

- Inmate is personally attended to by Ser Crofte upon each morning, and again every evening.

- Meals are received thrice daily at scheduled times.

- Privacy screen provided for matters of more personal nature.

- Inmate is to be treated at all times with respect. Violations to be reported to Ser Crofte for appropriate disciplinary action.

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  • 3 weeks later...

She swirled the remaining wine in her glass. The red liquid lapped at the sides of the clear cup and slowly retreated back to a pool. The Knight sighed and leaned back from her desk, flimsy chair creaking loudly once more under the weight of her armor. Even she was amazed that it still held. She gripped an arm of the chair with one hand while rubbing her forehead with the other.


Another member of the Order was leaving. Pursuing his own code, as it were. The realization of just what it was the Order was made for had been too much for him, and the more she discussed it the more of a strain it left on the others as well. She had gone over it all with Sers Sadowyn and Filangieri, but the two had been of like mind and set against her. Blind zealotry. That is what they called her loyalty. And now, in her heart, she began to realize why she received this promotion; Why she was now in charge of the trial.


It was the separation of Paladin from Sultansworn. This was the problem... one that Captain Jenlyns should have considered more before opening the Order's training to random adventurers. Too many now were wandering Eorzea calling themselves Paladins, following their own codes and ideals. Too few now realize why the Order even existed. To serve and protect the line of Ul. It is what they had done for centuries now, and it is what those true Paladins would continue to do so long as Ul'dah continued to stand.


The question had arisen over the popularity of their current charge, Sultana Nanamo Ul'Namo. She seemed to follow a much gentler and just path than those of her predecessors, and many Paladins of today had been bolstered and encouraged by her spirit. But what if her dispositions soured? What if, Coatleque had argued, Her Grace became as ruthless as say, Sultan Sasagan Ul'Sisigan. The man who razed Sil'dih to the ground for a mere drink of water? Would they still remain with the Order? Could they still perform their duties?


Ser Filangieri could not. And true to his word, he decided to preempt ever having to make this choice by leaving the Order now. A knee-jerk reaction if ever she had seen. He was gone now though, remaining a Free-Paladin and able to live by his own code once more. He had placed the honor of his family's name over the duty of the Oath he had sworn. Still, Coatleque could not fault the man. If she still had family of her own she may be tempted. In her case, however, she had no one to hold her back.


Ser Sadowyn's ideals were much more disturbing to her. The woman had, in no uncertain words, stated that she would protect the city from any form of corrupting influence no matter what form that took. While Ser Filangieri's views were too narrow in Coatleque's eyes, Ser Sadowyn's were too broad. She knew now that if Nymeia intended for things to take that turn, their swords would be at each others necks. She shivered uncomfortably. The prospect of meeting the Azure Falcon in battle was not something she cared to visit.


Her thoughts drifted between the others. Would they be able to hold to their Oaths as well? Natalie? No question, or at least Coatleque had felt she would remain loyal. Kage? Possibly. He would follow whoever was stronger. Roen? No, she would leave as Bartolomeo had. Captain Mynheir? Unknown. And what of the others? So many faces she knew from the Palace. Could she turn her blade upon them in the name of her liege?


Coatleque leaned forward and took up her glass once more, downing what remained. These were not thoughts she should be dwelling on. Nanamo Ul'Namo was a right and just ruler, and the chances were they would all be dead or long retired before her heir would take the throne. She rose and took up her sword once more, strapping the scabbard around her waist. She had not a city, but a dynasty to defend.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The sun was hanging low in the afternoon as Coatleque finally emerged from the inn. Dressed entirely in black, she stood at the rail just beyond the front door looking up to the sky. Almost as if on queue, her comrade found her once more. It almost made her crack a smile. It seems she could always depend on Natalie.




"What's with the color?"

"Is black not appropriate for mourning?"


She shruged. "Black is fine, I think it's the late Mr Tane who isn't really appropriate for mourning." She tapped her jaw, "Though I hardly knew him, perhaps there was more to him than I saw."


"Perhaps not. Nobody deserves his fate though." She paused. "He was there at my request. He died on my watch. I feel partially responsible."


"Partially maybe..." she gave her a tired smile, "But the smallest of part Mr. Tane didn't have the most agreeable of personalities. Not everyone is as patient as you Ser. If he wasn't with you he would have just been attacked wherever he was instead."


"Be that as it may, he deserves at least one person to ... acknowledge his absence... I assume he has been interred at the Lich yard?"


"I took him to the Ossuary, Lieutenant Khan went with me, he'll be properly dealt this.", she said with a tilt of her head. Her eyes then rolled with some measure of annoyance. "Despite the people who wanted to bury him outside the city like some sort of leper."


"Then that is where I shall be if I am needed."

Natalie sighed. "Very well..."


The Knight turned to head towards the crypt when Natalie stopped her with another word. "Oh..."


"I heard they may have captured the killer?"

"I heard rumor of that, but no confirmation for sure. I shall have to look into it later...", to which Natalie nodded.



The Miqo'te walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder, "Coatleque..." She gave it a reassuring squeeze, "Not your fault."

Coatleque nodded quietly to her in return. "Thank you."


Natalie suddenly averted her eyes after the unexpected outpouring of emotion. She felt... embarrassed? Her hand quickly dropped away. "A-anyway...", she started before clearing her throat. "I better get back to work."

"Y-yes, of course. If you need me...well... you know."

She nodded once more before they both turned and departed.




She sat kneeling before the statue in the Ossuary. Her prayers had been uttered to Nald'thal seeking this one's safe passing into the realm that awaited him. So intent was she that she did not hear her friend enter behind and quietly stand watching her. He could tell plainly what she was there for from her dress, and did not want to interrupt.


When she had finished she made a few motions with her hands then wiped a tear from her face. She stood and turned then noticed the familiar colored armor of the Knight behind her.


"Ser Filangieri."

"Miss Crofte. My condolences for your loss..."

"Not mine. Per say. But thank you. Someone I knew from my past."

"I see. A close friend?"

"Neither close, nor a friend. But he had nobody else who would mourn him."

"Understood... Tis why you are dressed so...dimly then."

"Aye. He was killed in front of me and I could not react. I feel ... responsible."

"So I've heard... Do you know who and...why?"

"I do not. But it could have been almost anyone in this case. He was not... well liked. Still, he would not have been there if I hadn't asked him to meet with me."

"Do not fall into despair m'lady. I too have endured similar losses in the past..."

"I do not think it is despair... I... I din'nae know what I feel right now. Conflicted. Perhaps responsible... we had... history together. Bad as it was. I knew his other... acquaintances would not be here."

"Strange...appears as if that person meant something to you. I would tell you elaborate, but my heart tells me that you would not feel at ease in doing so."

She averted her eyes downward with a slow shake of her head.

"Do you want to talk somewhere else?"

"It is nae here nor there. Suffice tae say I knew him more than most. I... should be fine, thank you. I just... would like a little more time alone."

"Twelve watch over you then Miss Crofte."

"And you..."

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  • 2 weeks later...

The door to the barracks flung open wide, startling some of the soldiers who had not yet passed to slumber. Silhouetted in the dim torchlight from beyond was Ser Crofte, still in full regalia, and back from the bar. Three nights this week the same pattern was repeated, though this was the first she actually had made it back to the Palace. The Knight stumbled forward, not even bothering to close the door, and staggered to the first available bed. Barely even able to climb inside, she was comatose with one armored leg still touching the floor.


Ser Travanchet rose from his own bunk and moved to close the door. Without a word he went to her and pulled the covers over so she would at least remain decent should day break. She did not stir. He merely stood and watched her while deep in his own thoughts. He understood her pain for what that was worth. She had taken a risk and lost much recently. Was there no one to stand in her defense?


Her slow deterioration was completely unexpected. So unlike her, it was becoming noticed now. If something was not done surely the Captain would have words with her. Ser Travanchet did not want to see that happen. None of them did. She was well respected among the Gallants, but this depression was starting to affect overall morale. His mind was made up.


Twenty minutes later the Elezen was fully dressed once more in his own regalia. As he left the palace he motioned for two of his shield brothers to accompany him. Not Gallants, but novices. Men who had still proved their own worth to serve and had taken their oaths. Their goal was to find the man. He liked to frequent the Quicksand - that is where the two had met - that is where they would begin their search. For their shield sister's sake, they would not relent this night until recompense had been made.




Coatleque sat the next morning in the mess hall. A cup of strong coffee was at the table before her, and a half-eaten breakfast of sausages and eggs to the side. Her head throbbed and she found herself holding her temples on more than one occasion.


It was odd, really. She had not even tasted alcohol till only a few months ago when Jancis's betrothed had given her a cup of wine. There was plenty of it in the brothel, for sure, but that was specifically for clients. For someone such as her to touch it would have met harsh punishment at the hand of the Master. But now... now she began to understand the appeal of it to some. It dulled the pain in her heart. For a few hours at least it made her think of other things besides Warren's face. It made her forget the sweet words spoken in private, the promises unfulfilled, the stupid mistake she made of daring to fall in love again.


She shook her head. It was not even mid-morning and once again she felt the urge to go back to the Quicksand.

Just make it stop...


She tried to focus on her work. There were papers in front of her, a report by Ser Mcbeef regarding the interrogation of some prisoner or another. It may have been the one taken from the raid on Taeros's Somnus shipment. Despite her best efforts she could not muster enough care to worry over it. Flipping through the report she barely skimmed over the informative parts. The last bit mentioned the prisoner's execution at the end of the session. She sighed. This was too much, and she just could not deal with it now.


Lowering the papers she happened to look up and noticed Ser Travanchet at the far wall speaking to two others and looking directly at her. She rolled her eyes and stood to walk over. She knew the signs of being spoken about behind one's back. The Elezen quickly looked to the others he was with as she made her way across the room.


"Ser Travanchet.", she said with a salute. "If you have words for me, I prefer you say them directly. There is no room here for rumors and hearsay among the ranks."


"Ser Crofte.", he replied while returning the salute. His head held high, she never realized just how long his neck was. "I just want you to know that your shield brothers are here for you. We know what transpired between yourself and Ser Castille. He shall not be bothering you again."


The Elezen and his comrades bowed and left together. She stood and watched them leave, unsure of what to make of all this. She did not have time to think on it more as Ser Sadowyn's voice broke through on the Sworn's linkpearl.


"Ser Crofte, are you busy?"

"No, Ser."

"Please meet me in the airship landing's lounge. We must needs discuss Natalie."

"... Aye, Ser."

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Coatleque sat clutching the ring as she quietly watched the rain. She had returned to her room for its safe-keeping but found it hard to leave now. The chair had been moved closer to the balcony and the doors were open. Outside was raging one of Thanalan's storms that seemed to come and go without a moment's notice.


The best part of the rain is that no one can distinguish it from your own tears. If only she was outside.


The ring had been damaged in some way, and repaired afterword. Not that she did not appreciate the attempt made. It was unclear to her what she was more upset about. That the break had occurred, or that Warren had been in that much danger to begin with. But also that woman.


It infuriated her that he had chosen the other over herself. She did her best to ignore them at the Grindstone. But the way the other woman seemed so disinterested. So... nonchalant over everything going on. Warren himself had also changed, she could tell. He seemed tired, haggard even; He looked beat, and not just emotionally. Fighting a losing battle perhaps. He looked nothing like the Paladin she had known. Coatleque knew she would never have treated him that way. It vexed her beyond words.


The half bottle of cinnamon whiskey still sat on the dresser. She pondered it briefly but turned back to the window. Too much time was already wasted that way. She had decided as much while away in La Noscea. A fool, she was, to let her guard down so easily. Things would be different going forward, she told herself, no more unnecessary distractions.


A slight buzzing sound came from the small pouch of linkpearls she carried. With a sigh she reached in and found the one that had activated, quickly switching it with the one at her ear.

"Ser Crofte?", came Osric's voice.


"I have an update for you..."

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  • 2 weeks later...

The night had progressed relatively pain-free for the Paladin so far. After the events of the the moon prior where the maniacal Mistress Meli attempted to charm the Sultana herself into the Cult of Pink, this night had been rather dull.


The sky was clear and the stars shown brightly amidst the dry air. Fiona Arasgain stood leaning against the high wall of a dirty building in an alley adjacent Pearl Lane. A lantern flickered above, casting long shadows across the road. Opposite her stood Coatleque with hands on her hips. She had followed the other from the Quicksand to find somewhere more fitting to exchange words.


"I have news regarding the accused smuggler. He's entrusted me with the location of his next hideaway. It's in Coerthas."

"Coerthas... that is quite the distance."

"But away from prying eyes."

"Indeed... and have you informed Natalie?"

Fiona pushed her glasses up and sighed.

"It'll be one hell of a job. And no, I haven't. I was hoping you would for me, actually."


Coatleque breathed a quiet sigh of momentary relieve at that last bit of news.

"Is he there now then?"

"I have reason to believe so, Miss. I don't doubt that it'll be dangerous, either. So if anybody is running down this lead, they best be prepared."

"I don't suppose he would parley with me then. Hmm."

"Natalie may be the best option, unfortunately. She'd charge right in, though. Still, it's an option to consider."


Yes, Natalie would charge right in. Without thought or concern. The Knight knew if she alerted Natalie of this information now, she would take the resources required and flush him out like a cornered Rat. And if Roen was there...


"Depending on the desired results. There is a reason I asked you to keep me informed as well."

"Oh? And what would that be, Miss?"

"Because Natalie has a penchant for misusing the information she has. She would simply take a platoon and march in the front door to accomplish her goal."

"Of course. She nearly got me killed in Limsa Lominsa because of it, actually. Due to a happy coincidence and a few lies, I'm no longer in danger. Also, he's asking me to bring him Ceruleum."


Ceruleum. She was becoming so very weary of hearing that word. It seemed as if it were some priceless commodity these days. All the wrong people wanted it, and none of the right people had it. But where Ceruleum is involved, large, violent holes in the ground soon follow in her experience. She decided to overlook this for now.


"So he expects you to meet him there?"

"No, he expects me to place it at a dead drop and camouflage it."

"Smart man."

"Can't have life getting easy, either. I even tried seducing him, but that didn't work, mostly because he has a significant other. Of who it is, I cannot say. Otherwise, we could capture him or her and use them as a hostage."


Coatleque blinked. She knew exactly what Fiona did not. She silently said a prayer to the Twelve that Roen would not be in Coerthas.


"No. She is of no consequence. Probably some silly school-girl with a crush on the first handsome face to bat an eye at her."

"Why not? If she's of emotional significance, it's a weakness to be exploited against your foe. After all, the only thing that really matters is power. Who is strong, who is weak. And he spoke well of her, actually. So I have my doubts that it's a passing dalliance."

"Because that is how Natalie works, not how I work. We can do what needs be done while involving as few as possible."

"Natalie lacks subtlety. She'd kill the target before she had a chance to use said target."


She needed to change this subject again, fast...


"So then do you know the actual location, or only the meeting site?"

"The base is located in Providence Point. Likely in a crag or cave."

"When is he expecting the delivery?"

"I'm not sure. But he'll get it soon. Why do you ask?"

"We need to know exactly where we are going, what we are dealing with. I could observe it from a distance, then trail the proxy back to their base."

"The drop off point is in Limsa Lominsa, so there's going to be some shipping. Plus, I board a boat in a few bells to go back and make the delivery."


Ah, finally something she could work with. She knew she had to reach Nero before Natalie. If anything else to warn Roen at the very least. If they really cared so much for each other, perhaps she could convince them to give up this mad crusade and leave Eorzea. Roen still had family after all, no matter how distant...


"And I suppose no way for me to stow-away. Providence Point is a large area to search, and very mountainous. My only other option, if not to trail them myself, is to hope I find a familiar face in Dragonhead."

"You could, if you wanted to. The only stipulation would be that you stay far away when I make the drop. I'd rather not see you hurt, Miss Crofte. Ceruleum is volatile stuff."

"And I would prefer to keep my limbs intact."

Fiona nodded once.

"Is there anything else you might want to know, Miss Crofte?"

"Aye, do you think me a fool for this?"

"Why would I think you a fool, Miss? I only think we have differences on how we operate, but we desire to see the same end result. I hope."


Coatleque swallowed at this. She knew full well her own goals no longer aligned with Natalies, nor Fiona's. Did she even have a goal in mind? No. She had determined long ago that this whole matter was not the Sultansworn's business. Her Grace's hand was not yet forced. They had no reason to intervene. This was between the Syndicate and the Admiral. The Flames would be called before the Sworn were.


"Of course. Very well... let me know when the drop is to be made. I shall travel back to Limsa with you and prepare to stow away. I must needs find out where they are hiding and see for myself before informing Natalie. We share a Palace linkpearl, so they will all know where I am once I report in."

"Meet me near the docks in two bells. I need to deal with a few things. And by the way, I didn't know that about the Sultansworn, actually. Thanks for the tip.", she said, smiling jokingly.

Coatleque gave her a half-smile in return.

"As if such a prominent organization would be mute?"

"True, but you could have used carrier birds for all I know."

"Eorzea is not -that- primitive, Miss. Two bells, near the docks. I shall be there." "Didn't mean to imply it. Just that some people are traditional. And I'll see you there, Miss Crofte. Be careful."

"Am I ever not?"


The Knight spun on her heel and made back towards the Hourglass.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Darkness. Thunder. Then rain. Driving, pelting rain. It gave the deck of the ship the appearance of glass between lightning strikes. Her body laid at the stern of the ship leaning against the rail in a pool of blood.


{Jana} "She's... DEAD!"


Coatleque turned slowly from the bow and began to move towards her. Cloaked figures with dark faces flanked her on either side. Through all the cacophony was a deafening silence that made her own heart beat rise to her ears in protest. She wanted to bolt, to run to her side, but her feet would not move. Slowly she glided the length of the deck.


{Brynnalia} "I'm gonna get it for this..."


It was cold. So cold. Her skin had lost its usual tan already, traded for the sickly ashen colour of death. Coatleque found herself kneeling, arms spread over her. Her pitiful attempts at conjury were forefront in her mind as she poured forth all her strength. She could see her. Feel her. Natalie's soul, departing.


She clutched at it and pulled, drawing her back. With all her might she tried...


Like trying to make a rock stick to meat, she simply would not come back. For a brief moment, Coatleque thought she felt... perhaps she did not want to.


{Coatleque} "Damn... You... "


Her strength faltered as she reached the limit of her endurance, and her Aether field began to dissipate over the body. Blinking away her tears she looked down as darkness began to overtake her. For all the woman's troubles, for all the weights and burdens she had carried, finally... finally... she looked at peace.


Coatleque woke from the dream but did not sit. She laid there pondering the night's events. There was no rain, there were no figures. But Natalie... was gone. She rolled over and pulled the covers tight. There would be much to answer for in the days ahead.

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Coatleque stepped into the Captain's office quietly and closed the door behind her. She was sure to step lightly the entire time, as if everything here was made of delicate porcelain. Turning to face him, she stepped to the side at attention per her usual style. There was obvious tension in the air, and perhaps some fear as well. "You summoned me, Ser?" Jenlyns looked...displeased. His light blonde brows were drawn deeply downward, as the edge of his lips. His eyes however looked wearied. His hands folded in front of him on the desk, and the pile of parchments on both sides of him seemed taller than ever. "Ser Crofte."


"I need your account of events that led to Ser Mcbeef's death. And I need to know everything. What may not even be put into writing." His tone was cold but even. She swallowed hard unsure of where to begin. Her report had been as detailed as she could bear to make it. With every attempt made not to stammer before him, she began to recount that night from the beginning. Jenlyns waved his hand once with a shake of his head. "I have read your report. All of it. What I want are your impressions, Crofte. Because what the entire affair amounted to... could lead La Noscea into war with us. Or at least demand arrests, retributions and executions for the attack on their sovereignty. Without due cause." His eyes bore into the woman, his jaw was set.


Her eye darted around the room in thought as the night replayed in her mind once more. "I can see no other recourse, Ser. I have tried to, but... I cannot deny what Natalie has done. I only assisted her because I had thought I could prevent just that."

"But you didn't."

"No... I did not. And now my shield sister lies dead because of it."

"An explosive was set, and property on a foreign soil was destroyed. By the members of THIS Order." He exhaled sharply, closing his eyes. The displeasure on his face was obvious. "Her death was tragic and needless, Crofte. But the cause of it...she left a potential political disaster on our hands."

She noded slowly in agreement. "Aye, Ser. I had tried to tell her from the start to leave this to the politicians."

"I have yet to hear from Maelstorm accusing us. Whatever Maelstorm you ran into have not reported or identified the lot yet."

She sighed, perhaps in a little relief.

His eyes narrowed as if to extinguish whatever relief he saw surface on her visage. "It is only a matter of time, Crofte. Questions are already being raised about Mcbeef's death. Your report has not made the rounds yet, but when Swift and the Immortal Flames get a hold of it..."

It certainly worked as her brows turned upwards once more. "Aye Ser..."

He shook his head. "You tell me how this should end, Crofte."


Coatleque looked momentarily taken aback at the command. It certainly was not expected.

"I... I do not understand. I thought... was I not summoned to answer for this?"

"You are." The captain's voice remained calm. "But I have seen you grow in your role, Crofte. I have come to see you take initiative. Your intent on trying to stop Mcbeef from committing this fiasco...was a right one. But you failed to execute. So I am asking you now. What do you think your fate is now. It is not your decision. But you are still an officer in this Order. I want to hear your thoughts before I make my decision. Do you see any other way of righting this wrong?"

Her eyes fluttered as she glanced around the room, still unsure of herself. "I... I was complicit... I had thought to do what was honourable and turn myself over... but... I still do not see this as a matter for her Grace's guard... the Flames should be involved. I do have the letter Natalie retrieved from the warehouse before... before..." Her brows furrow in thought again.


"The way I see it, if this does come back to us, we need to have justification, even a hint of it, to answer to Maelstrom's accusations."

"I could not imagine how to address the Maelstrom. Perhaps Master Taeros would know how to smooth things over. You mean to prove the Pirate was also a threat to La Noscea?"

The crease upon his browns visibly deepened at the Monetarists' name.

"Taeros. I knew of Mcbeef's involvement with his agenda. But I had thought it an investigation on her free time and nothing more." His voice lowered. "But he is a civilian. A noble. He has no authority in this matter. When it comes down to it, the responsibility of our actions falls upon the Order."

"Of course, Ser."

"If I then have to seek his aid in rectifying the damage done to our Order..." he closed his hands into a fist. "I will do what must be done." He shot her a hard look. "Do not mistake that for me agreeing with the man's agenda."

"Never, Ser. I have worked with him as required myself, but he has not bought me yet."

After a pause, Jenlyn's expression cooled back to semblance of neutrality. "But aye. Should this come back to us, I need some proof that supports Mcbeef's claim to even look into that warehouse. This pirate. If we can prove that he is a valid threat to us, then we may be able to justify this raid. If an immediate threat to La Noscea as well, they MAY not seek your head on a pike."

She closed her eyes and swallowed again at that thought.


"So my question to you is. IS this Pirate a threat?"

"I aim to find out, Ser. And I will start where Ser Mcbeef left off. Rest assured I do not work with bombs."

"Speaking of bombs." Jenlyns looked more displeased, as if that was possible. "Mergrey. Foolish."

"Agreed, Ser."

"Some of this blame will fall back on the Red Wings."

"Captain Mynheir is already aware."

"I had not called Melkire on it when he brought me Mcbeef's...relations to visit her body. But..." He flicked her a glance. "If they want to clear their name, I suggest you work with Melkire on this as well. If they can also prove that this Pirate is a danger to both sovereignties, then all the better for both our organizations."

"Aye Ser. As chance would have it, I had already intended to. I am scheduled to have drinks with the Sergeant, assuming I had survived this meeting."

"If they were already asking for your head, I would have no choice."

"Understood, Ser."

"As the Spinner would have it, they have not yet identified you."

The Knight looked up and makes some vague hand gesture in reverence to Nymeia at his words.

"I know Mcbeef's involvement with Taeros led her on this foolish quest. Although I would be a fool to to think that he was pulling her strings like a puppet. And as suspect as he may be in these matters, I have yet to have any proof that he intends the Sultanate any ill will. Despite Melkire's thoughts on the matter."

"Aye, Ser. I am in agreement."

"If Taeros is proven treacherous, then it will sully us as well, for Mcbeef allied with him. But I will not condone treachery. That will be a burden we will bear if that is the truth of things. But if Taeros and Mcbeef were right about this pirate, then proving him as a threat, will bode will for the Order, Sultanate, and this political fiasco Mcbeef has left behind. Understood?"

"Aye, Ser."


Jenlyns let out a long exhale, leaning back. "Think of this as a temporary reprieve, Crofte. You are running out of time. This will...come out, I fear."

"It seems my investigations are always on a tight schedule."

"That is our lot in life, Crofte. The scales always must be balanced, and things weigh them daily."

She nodded once more in agreement, looking towards the floor.

"Am I dismissed, Ser?"

"I do not wish to hand you over as the scapegoat, Crofte. Not if there is valid case. So your fate is in your hands." He exhaled. "Dismissed."


She saluted him as best she could under the circumstances before turning and letting herself out just as quietly as she came.

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Coatleque stepped into the door of the estate wearing her white dress after a long afternoon at Bronze Lake. Her previous clothes had been drenched as three rain storms had come and gone in the course of two hours. "This feels much better already.", she remarked as she scanned the ground floor of Coral's house. "We...have much to discuss? Perhaps in some degree of privacy I'd hope?", a large Roegadyn asked rather amused that they were both so nicely dressed. It was the voice of Iron Sea. Having put aside his mourning long enough to sober up, he decided to take her up on the offer of work. She had the mind to keep him busy to distract him from Natalie's absence. They did indeed have much to discuss. She nodded in agreement. "Yes, of course. Either upstairs at the table, or here should suffice, unless you desire more security. I am afraid I have no room of mine own here. I spend most of my nights in the Hourglass, or the Palace's barracks."


"Depends on the flow of conversation; There are things I hold extremely sensitive. That may or may not actually come up... but I trust this home thus far. Those who live here have treated me well for no reason beyond their own kindness." He paused as if to consider their options versus necessity. "Upstairs would suffice. I could find you something to drink... lady." He opted not to use the title Ser for the time being. The choice was made, however, and she nodded once more in agreement. "That sounds lovely. Shall we then?", she replied. The Knight had come bearing two items of interest as well. A wrapped bottle of something or other, and an opened letter as well. The man regarded her for a moment before motioning to the stairs first. He would not take it upon himself to take the stairs before her. She smiled at his gesture before walking to the stairs.


"I note you carry something that looks like a bottle. Should I only retrieve glasses then?" She shook her head as they continued onward. "Unfortunately, this is not for drinking tonight." "Fair enough...", he nodded before stepping off to the cabinet beside him at the top of the stairs. She continued to the next room and took her seat at the table, placing the bottle and letter in front of the chair beside her. "Red or white...?", came Iron's voice from around the corner. "Shall I be so daring in this dress?", she said with a hint of playfulness to lighten the mood. "Red it is." Iron Sea laughed lightly, glad he had such large hands now, as two glasses were more than easy to hold by the stems. The bottle he tucked under his other arm, before heading off to the next room to join her. Placing both glasses down, he removed the cork and carefully filled her glass first, then his own. The bottle he then placed between them, cork slipped back within, before taking a seat himself.


"Thank you.", she said as she took up her glass. She swirled it before taking a sip and placing it back down. "I had said that I had work you may wish consider.", she began once they were both settled. "Indeed you did, which I can only presume has something to do with this whole... mess?", he asked, taking up his own glass. Though he idly stared at his reflection in it for a moment before also drinking. "It is, yes. The letter before you is one of two remaining leads I have on the whereabouts of the Pirate Lazarov." The man inhaled deeply in thought. "Nero...", he said at length. "Roen's beloved..." Coatleque tilted her head with some measure of amusement at how fast news seemed to travel these days. "I was not aware this was common knowledge." "It's not.", he replied curtly. "When Nat went to Limsa, I was contracted to follow and seek our Roen. I stalked until I located her, and forced my way into her table at the Bismark. I had eyes on her ever since, but called it off. I was asked to keep her safe, despite whatever else was going on, but I let it go; Another lapse in my judgement..." His voice trailed off forlornly. "As far as I know she still is safe.", Coatleque interjected trying to keep his thoughts from bringing him down once more. "She did not believe Nero was capable of the claims brought against him, and sought to figure it out herself. As for that contract... I've dropped it. Her security is not my concern. " The man made no eye contact now. Iron had far too much information, and had acted on nothing all of this time. For his inaction he had lost someone dear. He lifted his glass, taking a long, slow drink of that wine.


Coatleque turned to him, trying to meet his gaze. "No, t'is not.", she replied in a firm voice. "I believe at this point it is mine, though. Which is why I need others for a more hands-on approach.", she continued. "I can see to Roen while others are seeing to things I cannot." He was hesitant to agree. "Following orders like that got Nat killed, did it not? Is this also part of what that man named Jameson is directing? The one who made her go about this all?", he asked. His voice took on a more sinister tone. "I'd sooner find my hands around his throat as I would some two-bit pirate and weapon smuggler..." She shook her head trying to reassure him. "Leave Taeros to me." This caught his interest once more. "Just what is it you are planning?"


Coatleque turned back to her wine and took a sip before continuing. "Right now, our chief concern is to be damned sure the pirate really is harmless. If he is not, I hope to also prove he is a threat to Limsa Lominsa. It would go a long way to smoothing over relations after the warehouse incident, as well as keeping my neck from the hangman's noose." He nearly recoiled at the thought. "Your neck will see no such fate." She knew he only spoke out of his reaction to her suggesting it. In all reality, the matter was not yet in his hands to decide her fate. "It may yet if the Admiral presses this issue.", she continued. "Which is why we must prove our actions... Natalie's actions, were justified." Again his words seemed to come before his thoughts. "If the Admiral presses the issue, I will draw so much blood through these streets that your name will be a distant memory.", he said frowning in anger.


She shook her head once more before turning her gaze back to him. "A foolish notion, even if your heart is in the right place." "I've had many a victory on a foolish notion.", Iron sighed softly as he tilted his head back to drain what was left in his glass. "I jest though. Surely during the course of this conversation it's clear I am far from a brute." She paused for a moment, recounting every meeting she had had with the man before. "Considering I have not seen you be anything but cordial, I would only have rumors to go on if you were otherwise." She gestured to the letter as she turned back to her glass, signalling for him to read it when ready. "Under my command I have a small force, all of different skills, all not part of any faction or public eye. They work for me, to do what I need. They are my eyes, my ears. A bow, a lance, poison; Whatever it is that a situation will require. If I am to be brought into this, I would cast a net wide enough for your pray to not realize he is even ensnared.", he remarked. His voice lowered to a mutter as he took the letter into his hands. Flipping it open he began to read. She paused for a few moments letting him finish and consider the short notice within, as well as its implications.


"Of course I would expect you to make use of them as needed.", she said as she sipped her wine again. "This letter was all of interest that Natalie recovered from the warehouse. That and the bottle. I do not know where she found them as I was outside at the time." He stared at the letter while considering her words. "Hmm... So the belief then is this letter will lead either to Nero, or to someone who was working with him? This is what she ran out... smiling holding as she died? The proof she gave her life for?" Coatleque sighed and turned to face him once more, her expression stern to draw his thoughts once again to the matter at hand. "Regardless of how it sounds, Master Sea, this is all we have. I wouldst prefer NOT to let her sacrifice to go waste."


"I do not hold back my words. That reality will sting. It will hurt... and it will be the drive to make us march forward in what must be done. I'll go, I'll follow the instructions... and take this bottle with me. I'll walk into what may or may not be a trap myself... but not for the sake of a dead woman Crofte. For your sake... and do not forget that." She nodded, admittedly touched at his determined words. "Thank you.", she replied softly. "For that, I require something..."


In the months since her promotion, Coatleque had grown used to the political posturing. The back-room deals and favors called in exchange for more favors. She had been forced to make enough of them herself, despite the sickening rock it always left in her stomach. Still, hearing this from Iron Sea was a surprise. She was in no position to argue the point, however, so she swallowed her pride once more. "And that is?" He began to plead his own case then. "One of the people I need at my side... What is the situation regarding Miss Leanne?" She leaned back in her chair with her arms folded as she recounted the official order once more. "She is wanted by the Brass Blades for assaulting an officer. Let me guess, you need her charges dropped?" "I need her.", Iron stated bluntly. There was no room for question about it in his tone of voice. This was not something to be debated. "I'll give the Blades bribery if need be.", he continued. The Sworn held up one hand as if to stop his thoughts in protest. "I have dinner plans, as it were, with Master Jameson Taeros. I will make mention of her plight. He has some pull with the Brass Blades via his employer. His cost may be steep in other ways than mere gil, however." Iron Sea shook his head in disgusted protest. "Many people are assaulted in the streets of Ul'dah. Many more can be too if need be. There are a lot of people who wear fancy hats." Coatleque shook her head as well, though slower and in more disgust at what he was implying. "T'is my job to avoid needless bloodshed. Do keep that in mind."


He sighed. "These political games sicken me. Jameson deserves a knife in his gut for playing this game. And yet we are to fool around and beg and plead? Leanne is a hero. Leanne fought at my side, helped me save the damned city from a cult that your walls were NEVER breached by, due to OUR sacrifice. We received no thanks, no reward... we did it because we cared." His voice was growing deeper, angrier as he continued. She stopped him once more trying to keep control of his emotions. "You need not plead her case to me, Sir. Please, simply allow me to do my part and be content." He grumbled under his breath, nodding on concession. "Second thing.", he continued. "Aye?"


"Lady Edda is to be taken care of in the event anything befalls me. This... all has taken a toll on her. I've not seen her, and the only time I did our words were pained and harsh... I worry for her sake. As I've made clear, she is my utmost priority." She had no reply to this request. After thinking for a moment she finally responded as best she could on the matter. "I believe that is more a matter to set to your will. I will do what I can, though." He continued, "The void is not so deep... should something befall her and I have to come back to this realm, I'd be worried for you all." He smirked and laughed lightly. "When should I go to this meet? I'll need a small amount of time to assemble what I need."


Demands and promises aside, Coatleque nodded to him. "Per the letter, you, or someone else, will need to pose as this Master Redgrave. I do not know who he was to meet.", she said with some frustration behind her voice. She was certainly not keen on having him walk into a complete unknown. "The bottle of wine was included with the letter, most likely to smooth things over from the start." "Would I not stand out?", he asked. "That would depend on how well known you are.", she replied. "T'is the same reason I cannot go myself. Other than the fact I am not male. My face is known in Ul'dah and would be recognized in the Goblet." "Hmm... I've never met Nero or his men. Only Roen, and I doubt she would have spoken of me... Even in a worst case scenario, I can forgo diplomacy and deception for the sake of getting what we need by force. I do hope it would not come to that though." Something she had already considered. The possibility of violence erupting. "If it does, you had best keep people close by to call upon. I can be stationed nearby at the time as well." "I always do.", he nodded, "I'll get back to you... I'll need to head out now and send some word out to my people."


"This mission is an infiltration, pure and simple. We must needs get in, find what information we can, and leave alive. The meeting is already nearly three weeks late, so pray do not take much more time to gather people.", she interjected once more. "While you do, I will check with my one other lead in the Maelstrom. Let me know when you are ready and I will return post haste." He turned back to her for a moment. "Sounsyy Mirke is part of the Malestrom. If you need information or help regarding working with them, then drop my name to her. I have faith she will do whatever she can for me."

"I shall keep her in mind then."

"I'm going to head off now lady. I've got much to do... much on my dance card beyond fighting for sport it seems."

"As you say, Sir. Thank you for meeting with me. I shall inform you as soon as my dinner with Master Taeros is complete, as to the state of the charges against Miss Delphium."

"I appreciate that. Without her, I am far less capable."

"Twelvespeed to you, Master Sea. Do keep well until then."

"Be well lady... this promise I will make sure to keep."

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  • 4 weeks later...

Coatleque leaned against the railing of the landing outside the Quicksand. The sound of the fountain beside her seemed to drown out the random noise of the plaza below. She had come outside to clear her head and attempt to gain her bearings on recent happenings.


She did not notice when the man came up to stand next to her. He looked out to the view of the gate in front of them both. "Cooler day than usual, is it not?" She almost started at the sudden sound of his voice, standing upright and turning towards him. "Oh... Master Taeros... yes, it is.", she replied with the slightest of shivers. She hadn't noticed it at first, but now she wished she had worn something not so low cut. He glanced to her with his usual smile and bowed. She curtsied politely in response before her expression turned to one of annoyance at his presence. "I'd expected to see you sooner..."


Jameson's hazel eyes narrowed slightly, noting her tone. "Ah, my apologies, good Lady. Business has kept me away longer than I had anticipated. I pray you will forgive my lack of correspondence." She sighed to herself but seemed to relax at his sentiments. "Of course. We are both rather busy in our professions. Me even more so with that heretical woman spouting her drivel in the streets." He regarded her pensively for a moment. "I trust my man Mister North took care of your needs after I had left?"


Coatleque blinked slowly and looked away. Mister North was probably the only one among them all with any sense lately. At least he knew his place and did not stray from it. "He did. Mister North is a good man.", she replied. Jameson nodded to her, his smile lingering. At length he continued. "I know it was all about business. Favor for favor." "Yes... yes, of course.", she said while trying to mask any disappointment. "I do not expect ... more than cordiality. But..." His expression seemed to warm then. An unexpected change. "I daresay I may have come out on top that eve. The favor granted to me was splendid."


The chill of the evening seemed to fade away as the blood rushed to her face. While her mind raced with potential responses, she decided to play along and see how far she could push him. "... perhaps. Though I may have more favors to request soon." His brow raised with a slow grin. "Oh?" "Alas I've no more friends in need of gaming the system just yet. Perhaps I shall have to think of some of a more personal nature.", she said with a hint of playful sarcasm. His head tilted just slightly as the feather on his hat bobbed in the breeze. "Perhaps. More favors certainly are... welcome.", he said carefully though with a slight twinkle in his eyes.


She gave him a coy smile as her head turned away, her tone suddenly becoming a little more serious. "Another day though. I am sure you are here for business once more." He did not move though, merely regarded her. "I actually came to pay a visit, that is all, dear lady. I fear I have been terribly rude departing as I did. Even if it was a business transaction, I oft leave my associates in better form." She smirked and turned back to him. "I had no complaints of your form, I assure you."


Jameson inhaled slowly, his look was... odd as he regards her. "I dare not say what I think of your form, dear lady. It would not be polite.", he remarked with an ever widening grin. "Mmm, now that is a dangerous thought."


Just then the sound of familiar voices behind brought her back to attention. It was Otto Vann speaking to one of his many associates. She cleared her throat softly and looked back out towards the gate of the city. "I've learned nothing more of the name 'Redgrave' yet, though I have put out feelers with my contacts." Noticing her discomfort Jameson also turned to look over the plaza. He nodded, but his eyes remained forward. "I appreciate your diligence in the matter, Ser Crofte."


"I am now only waiting for your own agent to contact me when she is ready for us to investigate that address. But how has business been, Master Taeros?"

"Ah. Brynn. I will get her on that. She has been ... a wandering soul of late as well." He paused, his brows narrowing just slightly though it was not noticable from his profile. "Business can be trying at times. But that is the nature of things, is it not?"

"Aye, I've heard it can be rather stressful. Perhaps I have scared her away. Apologies."


Jameson exhaled at that. There was a hint of mirth in the tone of his voice. Something Coatleque had never heard before in her dealings with him. She continued to stand where she was though, admiring the view of the plaza. Her impatience at the group behind her was wearing thin though and she began to tap her foot lightly upon the stone floor. He continued, "I accept, nay, anticipate such challenges eagerly, Lady Crofte. Without risks, life would be dull. Without surprises, it would be unbearably predictable."


"Yes, I am discovering that myself recently.", she replied though not entirely sure of her own meaning. He shot her a sly grin. "I hope you are not disappointed."

"And why should I be? As you continue to remind me, t'was naught but business. A beneficial... transaction for the both of us."


He regarded her for a moment longer, there was an odd expression that flited across his face. "Indeed. I wonder." His eyes narrowed at her own profile before he looked back out towards the Gate of Nald. "Ah, of no import." She turned back towards him with half amusement and annoyance. "Come now, I am sure you've no need to be shy in front of me at this point." He turned to face her once more with an amused curl of his lips.


"Have we shed what apprehensions then? I would like to think that mysteries still remain."

"Mysteries? I would say there are still many of them, yes. Though you certainly had your fill of answers. Perhaps next time I shall be the one to ask the questions."

"I was wondering, aloud, lady Crofte, and pardon my curiosities... but oft my agreements and dealings do not leave me pondering on it days later. It is not something I allow. Hazards of the business I do."

"You are still pondering our transaction this long after the fact?"

"And what if I were, lady Crofte."


Again her mind began to race. This was not going entirely as she had planned. Either he was leading her on now, or she had genuinely left an impression on him that night. She tried to shake off her thoughts but just could not rebuke him. "Then I should openly deride you for letting yourself become so enamored with one pretty face, while also denying that I have also been thinking as well." His expression split once more into a wide grin. "But it is such a fair face."


To that she tisked and rolled her eyes. She had heard such things many times though usually called at her from across the bar in the Quicksand as she left the Hourglass at night. Jameson looked amused all the same. "Indulge a man his lovely views, Lady Crofte. And the fact that I hold you in much esteem. The exalted Sultansworn. Whlie I am never the one to boast, such a thing... would swell a man's pride. A bit."


She bit her lip and turned her head away once more, at a loss for words. His eyes narrowed but he continued to study her profile. "Ah, fear not, good lady. I would never speak of such things as if it is something to be shared. Our transaction, as are... all of my transactions, are considered utmost private. Need not worry yourself with sullying your honorable reputation."


That she did not expect. There was a pause before she managed to speak again, though in a much softer tone. "Thank you, Jameson..." His voice, however, remained light with amusement while he tipped his cap in her direction and nodded in welcome. "I have also afforded you the same privacy in your affairs, lest you suspect.", she continued. "I suspect you of many things, dear lady. But that does not stop me from seeking you out."


"Do you? And what do you suspect of me?", she asked with genuine interest. "I suspect that you do not see me in the most favorable light. I suspect, as many others do, that dear Natalie's passing and its blame is laid upon me. And you, may see some truth in it. I suspect others see you to uphold the law, and that may mean working against me. I suspect that you think I have an ulterior motive. And perhaps even work for someone that I should not be. And you seek a way to find them, through me."


"You presume almost as much as you suspect, Master Taeros." He continued to regard her carefully, his amused grin giving way to a more sober expression. His voice had quieted. "Do I? I find that if I suspect the worst case scenario, things do not surprise me." "Yes, as I have heard others say before.", she said flatly. "Although I confess, I have reserved in suspecting the -worst- things. At least where you are concerned." He exhaled after his confession with an amused grin.


Coatleque blinked, her expression turned sour. What should she have expected from a monetarist though? Especially one so shady. "Well... for one who says he holds me in such high regard, I am glad to also hear the worse is suspected of me." "It is because I hold you in high esteem that I suspect you of these things. Because you hold on to your honor." "Is that such a bad thing to do?" "And you serve the Sultana. And yet, here you are, speaking with me. A monetarist. Some may dare call you a traitor. They saw dear Natalie in the wrong for it."


"Natalie crossed a line in her dealings. One I have yet to do. That is why you suspect me? Because I follow my orders over your schemes?"

"She did what she believed was right.", he replied shaking his head. His eyes narrowing pensively at her. "Schemes. Plots. Devious plans. All are suspected me I am certain."


"That is where her and I differ. I do not follow what I believe. I follow what I know.", she said with a hint of pride. His expression slowly turned to a smile once more. "Perhaps you are the wiser woman then. You know this city-state for what it is. She believed me to serve Ul'dah's best interest. What do you know Ser Crofte?"


"What I know is that Jameson Taeros has not yet done anything which blatantly places the sovereignty of Thanalan at risk."

"And that day will never come, I assure you."

"I do believe you, for what that is worth."


His head tilted at that. He actually looked surprised. A new show of emotion she had never seen from him before. "Do you? Truly?" She only looked at him directly in the eyes with a stern expression at first. "Yes. I do." She relaxed after saying it though. "But that does not mean I answer to you. We shall never have the same understanding that you and Natalie did." He met her gaze steadily as she spoke and his light hazel eyes remained on her for some time, his expression softening just slightly. "I would not expect any less from you, Ser Crofte. You are... certainly not Natalie."


That almost hurt. "Are you sure that you do not wish I was?" He shook his head slowly, and there was another odd expression that flited over his eyes. It is only a moment's darkness before it is dismissed. "Nay. I do not ever think there will be another Natalie. She was ... one of a kind.", he said as his expression shifted once more into a warmer smile. "But I would say the same for you. In an entirely different manner."


At that her coy smile returned. "Perhaps another night you can tell me exactly what manner you would say it in then."

"Ah. Would there be more favors then?"

"That would depend on what, or whom, needs done."

He hummed, looking quite amused once more.

"Of course, we need not resort to only exchanging favors."



She nodded in brief thought before continuing. "You are no different than any other busy man in this city. I am sure the stress of work can wear on you heavier than most." "And you are but another courage and steadfast Sultansworn. I am certain your duties can be a heavy burden to bare." She laughed at him. Not derisively but out of sheer amusement at the change of thought. "Should we find a small reprieve then, from our duties without exchanging favors?" "Hmm... that would depend on what reprieve you suggest, Master Taeros."


"Only the Spinner knows, mayhap. I dare not presume now, where you are concerned. I have been rightfully chided.", he replied, though he did not sound sorry or chagrined. His smile never left his face. She tisked at him. "Honestly, must I be the one to say it? Dinner, Master Taeros." He chuckled at her. "Dinner. I would be most honored." She sighed lightly. "You are not very practised in this are you?"


Jameson shook his head, and there was a hint of sheepishness about him as he adjusted his hat. "It has been... a long time since I've... well. I am far more at ease with business as it were." "Well, if it helps for this once, think of it as business again." He narrowed his eyes, that familiar twinkle coming back to them. "Mayhap."


She could not help but feel slightly amused at having gained the upper hand. "My, my, but where has the confident man gone, Master Taeros? Perhaps I have overdone it?", she said with a smile. "You are nothing like dear Natalie, good lady. Things were... easier where she and I were concerned. I fear I am treading more carefully this time around. Remember my suspicions. Or as you say ... presumptions. And yet here I am."


"Aye, here you are. I am merely trying to figure out your intentions.", she said blinking slowly. Her gaze not leaving his. "I hope you know, Lady Crofte. Despite my promise to keep our dealings as private as possible... I am fully aware of the various eyes that wander our way whenever I speak to you in public." He gestured between the two of them. "This. I wish no back alley talks, no secret schemes, no dishonesty or underhanded dealings between us. I do not want others to think of you as they did of dear Natalie. I would not want that stain upon your reputation."


That was completely unexpected. She stood there and blinked in a sort of stunned silence. She slowly turned away to look out over the plaza once more. "That is... kind of you. Moreso than I expected, I admit.", she said at length. He smirked though she could not see it where she was facing. "Mysteries remain, but I do believe we are getting to know each other. A little."


"I've felt only eyes upon me since I returned from Limsa Lominsa that last night. I think for the first time I feel somewhat lighter."

"Putting another burden upon your shoulders was never my intent."


She simply stared out at the Gate of Nald in thought. This was getting so much more complicated than she intended now. Did he really think that highly of her? If so, could she still have the stomach to do what she eventually intended to? "I must think on this more." He nodded and bowed. "As you wish, good lady."


"I am... I am still interested to know your intent though... when you decide on that... you know how to reach me." His amused look returned at her words. "I have many intentions. I would be willing to share some of them, but not all. Mayhap over dinner." She felt the blood returning to her cheeks as the chill of the now night air faded away once more. "Then be sure to remember them.", she replied. "I look forward to it, Lady Crofte."


She smiled and agreed. "I accept."

"Most, excellent."

"And perhaps after dinner you will share the rest."

"Only the Spinner knows.", he said with a bow. "Until then, my fair lady."

"Indeed she does. Nymeia guide your steps, Master Taeros. And a pleasant evening.", she said in parting with a low bow.

"You as well, pleasure as always."

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Paladin stood in the back corner of her office, leaning against the wall. The events of the day were replaying through her mind as she scowled at the floor. A copy of the Lantern was sitting on her desk a few fulms away. She did not notice the woman standing at her door till she decided to call out. There was a quiet knock and a meek "H-hello?" as she straightened herself.


Coatleque looked up momentarily startled and cleared her throat. She scrambled to the desk as she had not been expecting anyone this evening. "Oh, yes? Apologies... one moment!" Quickly taking the paper from in front of her she crumbled it and dropped it into the waste basket to the side. She then sat down abruptly and scooted forward to address the newcomer.


"May I help you?"

"A-ah? Yes. Hello, um, Miss Crofte. My name is Anita. Anita Aezantia, and I'm a trainee under Captain Jenlyns...!", she began with a salute which Coatleque returned quickly.

"Oh, another new initiate? A pleasure to meet you Miss Aezantia."


With that she gestured to the chair before her small desk.

"Did you need something? Please come in."

"Y-yes, ma'am.", the woman nodded before proceeding to walk in. Her posture was straight, perfectly rigid as she had been taught. "I was here to... um, inquire about the Trials?"

"Ah, the initiate's Trials? Your sword training has been completed and you wish to move up to the Gallantry then?"


Anita squeezed herself into the small cubicle-like room, her heart slamming against her breastplate. She did not let her nervousness show through. She responded with a small nod before sitting.

"I've had both training from the Captain himself, and my own private tutoring."


Coatleque smiled.

"I should first congratulate you then, for coming so far! Have you already sworn your oath of fealty to her Grace?"

"I... yes, yes!", she replied enthusiastically.

"I do apologize for not being there. I know how important the ceremony is, however... the Captain typically has me attending other business so that he may be present himself. So... have you bee told anything about the Trials before?"

She leaned back in her chair in an attempt to relax the mood settling over the room. It snapped and creaked under the weight of her armor - a miracle it still has not broken yet.


"I understand the Sultansworn are quite bus-- um, no, I haven't... my wife is also something of a Sultansworn, but she's more of a, um... a diplomat..." She trailed off at this, realize she had not mentioned such before. "Anyway, she told me of the trials."

"I see."

Anita stood then, the metallic fingers of her gauntlets crossed together. She looked over the room quietly before settling her eyes on the veteran Sworn before her once more.


"Well, the first thing you should know is that the Trials in no way impact your current status as a Sultansworn. You have completed the training. You have sworn your Oath. You are a full-fledged member. We are all equals under one banner."


She nodded softly. "Yessir. Captain Jenlyns taught me as much. And I am glad for it."

"Aye, good. Good. Some have placed too much weight on them in the past, declaring themselves failures based on their own performance without me ever having cast such judgement. The Trials are not a test of usefulness to our cause. They are more a test of self worth. What you gain from them is different from what someone else may."


Anita closed her eyes for a minute, thinking back to her own performance.

"I've made my mistakes, but I won't let that stop me. I am prepared..."

Coatleque nodded once before continuing.

"While your training to date has been more martial than anything else, the Trials teach the finer points of morality. Service, brotherhood, loyalty, justice, courage, meekness, humility. In essence, what it means to be a Paladin. You may learn much of yourself in the process. Is that something you are prepared for?"


"Yes, sir. I'm confident that I've already found myself... and I believe the Trial a test to further my convictions."

"As you say, Ser Aezantia. Hold to those convictions, to that purpose, and I believe you shall do well."

Anita cracked a soft smile at that, her emerald eyes lidding. "Yes, sir."


At that, the Paladin opened the top drawer of her desk and reached in to retrieve something. She slid a linkpearl across the desk to Anita. It was white with a swirling blue pearlescent color.

"This is the Sultansworn's own pearl. It is held by those of us in the Order, as well as Free Paladins who have left to pursue their own goals. We use this to relay orders, news, in effect - any business that we Sworn should be privy to. It is often quiet, but rather useful when it needs to be."


The woman took it from the desk, metallic fingers dancing across its surface.

"I understand. Thank you for this.", she said with a nod before inserting it to her ear.


Coatleque leaned forward and folded her hands on the desk in front of her. "Congratulations once again, Ser Aezantia. Your Trial of Purpose is now complete. With this you now have a goal. I pray the Twelve give you the strength to see it through.


Her look of surprise was evident. "...ah! Sorry?"

There was a light chuckle from across the desk.


"... honestly, yes. It is a good surprise though."

"Allow me to explain then, as I am wont to do at these times...

You sought me out, Ser Aezantia. Or your own initiative and desire. It was your own interest in the Trials that brought you here. You set yourself to a task, and saw it carried out, simple as it was. So should you approach everything you do as a Paladin. We perform our service with purpose behind each of our actions. And even now, I would imagine you begin to understand the Trials more than when you started."

"A bit, I suppose." She rubbed the back of her head, face flushing in embarrassment.


"Do not worry, they will not all be so easy. In fact..."

The Paladin held a hand to her ear for a moment before continuing.

"To all current initiates. I am preparing us for the Trial of Service and Brotherhood. This is a group Trial for all who are interested. Not tonight, mind you, but soon. It was a favorite of the late Ser Mcbeef. I aim to carry it on in her memory as well."

Her hand lowered with a smile to the woman across from her.


The pair conversed for a few more minutes before Coatleque stood to bow.

"Thank you, Miss Crofte. I have some business to attend to, but I hope to speak with you more in the future."

"Of course, I look forward to it. May Nymeia guide your path until then."

"You as well.", she replied with a final salute before turning to leave.


Coatleque sighed as she retook her seat. Once Anita was out of site she retrieved the crumpled paper from the waste bin and flattened it back out.

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  • 3 months later...

The sun once again rose on the city of Ul'dah making its sandstone towers blaze bright white on the horizon of Thanalan. Such a clear morning it was that only thick drawn curtains would keep the sun's rays from creeping through the windows. Coatleque stirred as the warmth of the sunlight trailed slowly across her face. With a deep waking breath she rolled over in the bed to face the other side and found she was alone that morning. It was not unexpected, but she huffed all the same.


The curtains had been purposefully drawn open that morning, and the adjacent half of the blankets were replaced and laid flat as if nobody had been there. Jameson had left early on another business trip so it seemed she would have a few nights to herself. Rubbing her eyes, she rolled herself out of the bed and folded the covers up once more.


The temptation to make the bed herself passed more easily than it had before. She was becoming accustomed to the servants taking care of such things, and James always scowled at her when she tried to help or made any fuss. So she crossed the room immediately to the vanity and took up a brush to untangle her hair. Her nightgown was left draped over the corner of the bed as she finished preparing for the day.


Rounding the corner to the front of the office she stopped to adjust her beret. Her thoughts turned to Roen who was not so fortunate now to see the sun. Did she even know it was morning now? Coatleque was vaguely aware she was transferred from the Blade's gaol to a private cell. She should find out where and see that she was alright, even if they had nothing to say to one another.


Then she saw an elongated box sitting across the desk. Nearly five fulms in length, and one across, it was made of thin wood painted flat black with red stencilling tracing the edges. A note was left on the top.


[align=center]~Be my Sword~[/align]


Curious now, she removed her gauntlets and set them aside in order to lift open the box. Folding back a cloth covering revealed a beautiful gilded sword with a blue anodized blade and ornate golden cross guard. Another note was laid on top to be clearly visible.


[align=center]~Stop belittling yourself~[/align]


She smiled quietly and hesitantly lifted the gift from the box. It was surprisingly light for its size, clearly not iron nor steel. In the next moment she had replaced the winglet at her side with the larger blade. The former arm was left in the opened box and moved to the side for later.


Taking a deep breath she pushed all thoughts of pity from her mind for the day. Roen was, after all, guilty by obstructing justice now. Coatleque had a duty to the Sultanate to protect their shipping interests.


"Forgive me, Roen" she thought to herself as she made for the door. "But you will have to wait a few days longer."

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