The Dragon Queens

Chapter 19

Citadel

“I beg your pardon?” Anatia Galeyal asked imperiously looking at Tevos with a hint of incredulity.
“It is a way to reduce tensions” the Asari counselor attempted to placate, Anatia waited, her face once again blank.

Tevos hurriedly explained “ever since the Batarian wars the citadel public have been leery of the empire at best, openly hostile at worst. This is an opportunity to show the people that we can cooperate. This exchange program is a perfect opening to begin fostering trust.” Anatia looked at the other councillors and tilted her head to the side as she read over their facial expressions.

Sparatus was tense, but then again he never relaxed around her, he had lost an uncle in the first contact war and was bitter about it to this day, she often wondered at his appointment. Valern was still, too still to her trained eyes, he was obviously trying to prevent her from reading any body language, but his sheer lack of movement in itself was telling to her, he wanted this deal to go through.

“What would the terms of this assignment be?” she asked seriously, her fingers lacing in front demurely.
Tevos smiled hopefully “We would send one of our best specters to one of your colonies and you would send one to one of ours. Then our agents would spend a set amount of time, perhaps a year getting to know the people and perhaps even serving as a liaison between our two nations.”

Anatia considered the option carefully before pursing her lips together. “This is beyond my level, I will need to consult with the council and Queens before I can give you a definitive answer. Write it up as a full proposal and I shall deliver it to Nirn.”

The councillors looked happy and nodded, leaving the room. As they left Anatia sat back down behind her desk and pressed her fingers to her temples for a moment before activating the com to her secretary. “Yes Lady Voice?” the young Cyrodillic asked.

“Please put a hold on all appointments and have the kitchen send me up a pot of spice tea. I need to make a call to Nirn” Anatia instructed and the young woman bowed her head. “To hear is to obey Lady Voice” she replied before deactivating the comm. Once alone again Anatia placed her elbows on her desk and began to massage her temples, trying to formulate a way to present this to her monarchs.


Parnack

Saren stared at the holo tank with barely hidden disgust. The three councillors didn’t seem to notice his tightening mandibles and narrowing eyes. “I fail to see how this will benefit the Citadel Councillors” he said coldly.

Tevos sighed and rubbed her eyes tiredly. “Look Saren it’s taken several weeks of intense negotiations with the empire even allow us near one of their colonies beyond Shanxi. You are our best specter and we need this to open the way for more relaxed relations. So this will be your next assignment. Understood” she explained, her voice growing hard as she stared at him.

He blinked and bowed his head “very well councillors I shall prepare to depart for the Citadel at once. It may take some time to finish up what I’m doing here but I will be there within the week.” He said in a voice void of emotion.

“Thank you Saren.” Sparatus said as the council logged off. Once he was alone Saren allowed a snarl to tar its way from his throat as he stalked back through the air lock of his shuttle and back into the dark perfection that was Sovereign.

“The Harvest draws near.” Sovereign blared and he nodded.

“We will never get a chance to enter Imperial space like this again” he mused before he shivered at the familiar burning that swept across his body.

“It is time. The pieces are set and the winds of change are stirring. Strike against those traitors that claim to follow the bitches” The deep voice of his master rumbled, the pressure in his head eased as the presence withdrew and he bowed his head again.

“Yes my lord. I will ready the troops” he murmured before he turned on his heel and strode swiftly to the control room.


Blackreach

Cortana blinked at the screen before her. “Come again?” she asked uncertainly and the grandmaster snorted.
“You heard me Shepard. You’re going into Citadel territory, to a colony by the name of Selania. There you will set up a roving patrol to keep away raiders and undesirables away.” He repeated and she blinked again before her made a realisation. “You’re serious” she realised and sat back in her chair heavily.

“Afraid so shepherd. You will have some Eyes boarding within the next twenty hours. So get your ship and crew ready for shake down. This will be your first mission. Grandmaster out” the holo screen went dark and Cortana pressed the heels of her palms against her face.

“Ava?” she asked without moving.

“Well at least this assignment won’t be boring” the machine spirit snickered.

“But Eyes! Ava” Cortana whined and the spirit snorted “Oh grow up Tana. We’re all on the same side. Not to mention its standard procedure for a skald ship to be assigned an pair of Eyes” the spirit reminded her in an exasperated tone.

Cortana sighed and stood stretching and sighing in relief as her back popped. She was currently in the captain’s cabin on the crew deck of the Normandy, a small room containing a desk, a bunk and a pair of lockers, the blankets on the bunk were the deep forest green that had been assigned as the ships colour with standard black pillow case and sheets.

She was clad in her black underarmour that was now decorated with a green right sleeve and her rank on the collar. Her hood was retracted and her armour sat complacently on its stand in the corner. She smiled a little at the luxury of being able to keep her armour in her room as opposed to the armoury before she turned her mind to the task at hand. The ship was ready and stocked for her maiden flight.

All that was missing were orders. With those now issues the Victory of Normandy could now begin its service. She slumped her way over to the comm and toggled a shipwide announcement. “Attention crew of the Normandy this is Commander Shepard. We have recived our orders and are set to depart in twenty hours. Begin loading supplies for a long term deployment into Citadel space. Shepard out” there was an echoing
silence before the crew began to move with efficient purpose.

Orders were given and the cogs of the imperial war machine turned. Cortana could not hear any of this as she turned her attention to the screen before her, scrolling through the two dossiers. “Miranda law and Jaqueline Nought, codenames Ice Queen and Zero, team name Black Sisters. Among the best agents the eyes have at their disposal. They specialise in suicide missions. Abilities: extreme magika levels,
infiltration, espionage, hand to hand, weapon close quarter, negotiations, theft, assassination and
interrogations” she read out loud and leaned back with a whistle.

“Very impressive. The rest is so covered in black ink it may as well be one of Alduin’s scales.” She muttered, ever since her joining with Ava she had developed the habit of thinking out loud to voice her thoughts to her mental roommate.

“An accurate analogy.” Ava agreed, humming thoughtfully “I guess it’s because we will be on our own in citadel territory and all eyes will be on us not them. Pun intended” Ava mused and Cortana agreed shifting in her chair before she stood.

“Right, sleep for three hours and then welcome the Eyes onboard and then leave for Citadel space. Joy” she decided and shuffled over to her bed and collapsed face first onto the small bunk set into the wall. Her finely honed soldier abilities allowing her to fall asleep almost instantly.


Miranda and Jack stared at the ship that sat demurely in its cradle. Well as demurely as an eight hundred lengths of death dealing metal and magic could look. Jack turned to Miranda and raised an eyebrow. “Really?” she deadpanned “That’s where we will be spending the foreseeable future?” she added nodding her head at the ship.

Miranda sighed and hiked her duffle a little higher on her shoulder. “Yes Jack. That is where we will be living.” She told the mage wearily.

They had been traveling non-stop for the last forty-eight hours, having barely returned from a particularly nasty mission in the outer-rim planets dealing with a cult uprising before they had hopped around the mid-rim doing some fetch and carry missions until they were finally informed that they would be stationed on a Skald ship until further notice.

The pair had been taking naps in shifts and consuming coffee laced with stamina potions like Skooma addicts to try and remain alert, needless to say the crash was imminent.

“Fine let’s get on” Jack muttered taking a chug from a hipflask containing a distilled form of stamina potion called redwing and striding towards the air lock.

Miranda bit back a yawn and followed, they were halted at the hatch by a stiff looking Orismer male in medium armour who brusquely demanded their identification. Jack had snarled before producing the required data in triplicate and they were allowed onto the ship.

The interior was standard. Wall motifs, ceiling light strips and simple metal floor, neutral golds and greys with colour on the murals. The layout was also standard of imperial frigates so they had little trouble making their way to the bridge to report to their new commander.

When on ships it was acknowledged that the captain or commander of the ship was just a step below the queens in terms of authority. The Eyes would report to the queens but follow the orders of the commanding officer while on missions. This ensured there was no conflict of interest. In the even the commanding officer went rogue then it was the duty of the crew to deliver the offender to the appropriate authorities for questioning. There were very specific rules that allowed this but it had rarely happened.

The bridge was a hive of activity, crew, dressed in black underarmour with a forest green right sleeve moved with the speed and efficiency that was expected of them as they prepared the ship for launch. In the center, slightly above on a dais sat a simple padded chair. A woman dressed in black and ice blue Skald armour occupied it now as she read over a data slate before handing it off to the Altmer male who bore the marks of the ships XO. As they drew nearer the woman looked up to notice them.

She was a Breton in her prime, with long ruby red hair braided and coiled into a neat bun as according to protocol, her eyes were a fierce and penetrating emerald green that seemed to almost stare into the soul and her pale skin was marred only by a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose and a scar on her chin. Around her neck sat a wide metal choker that held several glowing lights and motifs that also doubled as speakers, showing that she was a part of the Joined Spirits program.

“Commander Shepard” Miranda greeted as she and Jack saluted crisply. Shepard nodded and continued to scan them with her intense eyes “You’re the Eyes that are going to be assigned to my ship?” she asked calmly, her voice was a pleasant mezzo, clear, calm and with a subtle hint of command suggesting Cyrodillic ancestry. Her accent was standard Nirnian indicating a life onboard spaceships and stations or on the homeworld, though Miranda was leaning toward the former.

“That is correct” she confirmed and handed the rolled up light sheet. The Skald took the scroll and unfurled it, scanning through the orders quickly before nodding and returning them to Miranda.
“You’re bunks are in the Eye quarters to the left of the med bay on the crew deck. The rec area has yet to be dubbed so if you want a hand in the naming talk to Crew Master Gardener, that also goes for anything you need. Our Ship’s spirit is named Edi. To contact her just call her name, her sensors will pick it up and my XO and Navigator is Kaladalf Pressilion. We set sail in an hour and a half, any questions?” she informed them calmly and the pair shook their heads. “Good” With that she nodded in dismissal and turned back to the bridge, calling out orders and listening to their responses.

The Eyes turned and trudged to one of the lifts that were strategically placed as they had no desire to take the ladder tubes at the moment. The ways of moving through the ship were designed that there would always be a way between floors. Tubes with ladders ran the height of the ship and multiple lifts that could also double as accesses in an emergency. Added to the fact that the hallways and tubes were filled with bottle necks and sealable doors meant that trying to board a Nirnian ship was a costly endeavor to any who tried. This also meant that Nirnians were experts at boarding as they often practiced doing so on their own ships.

The Eye quarters were small, a medium sized mirror set into one wall next to the door and two bunks set into the wall opposite said door. The bunks each had an inset shelf, reading light and a deep green curtain for privacy, a pair of lockers and a weapons/armour locker each along with a pair of small desks completed the Spartan accommodations. “Eh this’ll do” Jack muttered, dropping her bag on the floor and claiming the lower bunk by falling face first into it with a low groan into the forest green blanket and black pillow.

Miranda sighed and unloaded her bag into her locker before grasping the ladder bars set into the wall and swinging up into her bunk. She then set her palm comp to wake her in an hour’s time and fell into a blissful sleep. That was brutally interrupted by her palm comp discharging a low powered sparks into her arm an hour later. She cracked open her eye hatefully and glared at the offending piece of tech before she shut it off and rolled out of her bunk, hitting the floor lightly.

She poked Jack roughly in the side and expertly jumped to the left to avoid the lightning that arced out of the Dunmer woman’s hand. She threw a shock of her own before turning away and yanking a brush through her dark hair to remove the static that made it wave around her face like a lion’s mane.

“Up Jack, we need to be there for launch.” She ordered and the elf groan out a curse. Miranda ignored her and yanked her hair into a ponytail with a little more force than necessary before unloading her weapons and armour into her locker. Jack sat up and scratched her nose before copying Miranda’s actions as well as unloading her previously abandoned duffle into her personal locker. Unpacked the pair left their quarters and strolled through the main common area. It was standard Nirnian fare with wooden floors and a simulated fireplace.

A collection of couches and armchairs were bolted to the floor on the starboard side while bow section was composed of the galley with long metal tables for meals. The med bay was set into the portside with the Eye Quarters set next to the Commanding officers near the door. The crew bunks were narrow rectangular rooms designed to hold five, each with a bunk and a locker, though there were more lockers per room than bunks and the crew ran on a three shift rotation so the room was the home of three Prolus, one sleeping, one off duty and one on duty.

These rooms were set in blocks the length of the ship and ended just before the communal bathrooms that contained shower stalls and toilets. The Eyes made their way to the foremost ladder and ascended quickly to the command level that held the bridge the tapered shape of the ship meaning that the top level was the smallest. Shepard looked up as they entered and nodded to them before returning to the needs of the bridge.

Miranda and Jack took up places along the back wall near the lift and watched as the bridge went through the final preparations. “Commander we are now ready to disengage” Pressilion informed his superior and she nodded.

“thank you Pressilion” she said formally before standing “Comm place me on shipwide speakers please” she commanded.

“Aye ma’am you now have shipwide” came the reply.

Shepard took a deep breath spoke “Crew of the Victory of Normandy, hear me. We are now about to disengage from Blackreach for our maiden voyage. May the Aedra and Deadra look kindly upon us. We have our mission, we are going to Citadel space to engage in an exchange program with the Citadel. As of today we leave the comforts of home and hearth behind, we leave the safety of Imperial space and enter into foreign territory. We will be alone, unsupported and isolated from all we know. I remind you all that on this ship and off it we are ambassadors and examples of our people. Our honour and the honour of our families will be under the eyes of the Citadel. Let us not bring shame upon our names, let us stand tall before our families when we return and claim truly without fear that we represented them well. In the name of our Family, in the name of our People, in the name of our Empire, in the name of our Monarchs and in the Name of our Queens let us go forth!” she declared, her eyes flashing proudly and her hands clenching in a fist.

The crew of the ship yelled in agreement and the comm activated the anthem, blaring it out over the ship. When the music finished Shepard took her seat with a regal air of a queen taking her throne. “Helm, bring us out of dock and set us on our course!” she commanded an affirmative came from the front. The ship disengaged smoothly from its cradle easing from its birthplace in a fluid maneuver.

The Normandy spun gracefully and joined the elegant dance that was the traffic around Blackreach, weaving and dodging with ease as her pilot made her dance. They soon left the clouds of vessels behind and entered into an acceptable distance to jump. “Ready for jump commander, by your order” came the call from the helm.

Shepard smirked and gripped the arms of her chair as she leaned forward slightly. “Onward!” she called and the bridge crew grinned at the term, it had become an unofficial custom that ship masters had their own calls for action, it was a famous Breton Captain by the name of Picard was known for starting the tradition with the term engage.

The bright lights of oblivion opened in front of the nose of the ship and with the ease of a hot blade through snow they slid though. Once the transition was complete there was a flash of light that passed leaving a golden armoured figure in its wake. “Who seeks to enter the coloured rooms?” the Daedra demanded. Shepard stood from her chair and stood before the messenger proudly.

“The ship Victory of Normandy asks to be allowed passage through the realm of Lady Meridia in accordance to the Pact between our Queens and your Prince.” She answered using the words required for a ships first travel through oblivion.

The figure cocked its head then nodded “Your ship has permission in accordance to the pact. Fly true Victory of Normandy” the guard replied eventually. Shepard and the rest of the bridge bowed and the creature vanished in another flash of light. Shepard smiled happily and settled back into her chair.

“Now that that is over with, full speed ahead!” she called and the helm obeyed. The rest of the journey passed in peace and normalcy, the challenged was a custom for a ships maiden voyage through oblivion, in this way Meridia was able to keep track of and funnel the traffic through her realm.


Citadel

Tevos shifted from foot to foot slightly trying to work her nerves out through the movement. This was it, the moment that had taken nearly twenty years of political maneuvering to achieve. After the destruction of the Batarian hegemony the citadel public had retreated from the empire like they were contagious, the brutality of their retaliation had left the members of the citadel reeling. It had taken years to get relationships back to a tolerable level and it seemed to have been up to her alone to try and mend the relationship.

The Turians had taken up a simmering hostility towards everything imperial while the Salarians were all but foaming at the mouth trying to gain access to the inner workings of imperial technology and trying to figure out exactly what they had done to the Batarian people. Her own people had become torn between fascination and fear and it was not uncommon no to find salacious romance novels involving Nirnians among the younger Asari. The Nirnians had in fact become the ultimate forbidden fruit to the Asari populace, a race they could not be with and who exuded mystery and danger.

Those fortunate few who had been deep into Nirnian territory were considered lucky beyond imagining, and brought back tales that had only fueled the public imagination. Stories of wild and perilous wilds of their homeworld, carefully preserved, the feral blind elves who still yet lurked in the depths. The floating mountains and other wonders of their colony worlds, the walking forests of Valenwood, the scores of other races who never advanced or wanted to leave their homeworld.

Tevos closed her eyes for a moment before returning to her vigil, watching the Nirnian entrance point that had become the entrance point for Nirnian ships entering the Widow system. There was a telltale flash of multicolored light and a Nirnian frigate made of the usual golden metal but with a pattern of scales in place of the typical feathers re-entered regular space. She squinted and read the glyphs along the bow read Victory of Normandy. She relaxed a little and strode back to her desk, unlike her colleagues she had made an effort to learn Dovahzul and Nirnian Common in order to not be left out of the conversation. A message beeped on her Omni-tool from the embassy informing her that the Skald had arrived.

She stood and began to walk to the conference room joining her fellow councillors and the Specter Saren Arterius before she began to ponder the name for Nirnian special agents. The Name Skald was not an acronym like SpecTer it was based off the Nord term for bard of traveling musician. Apparently several thousand years ago the bard was a perfect spy and assassin in Highrock, everyone welcomed bards into their homes and they were a main staple of power in Breton politics. When the queens took the throne they took the idea of the lone adventurer and crafted a guild for them. They were the best of the best of the best. The invincible hero the wandering knight, the bringers of justice in the darkness. All very poetic but they had rules that they had to follow unlike the specter corp.

This corps was so secret that she had only heard about it after the proposal had been made, she had actually expected to be dealing with a Nirnian Justicar or Eye of the Queens.

The door opened and Voice Galeyal glided in followed by three figures. The central figure was around six feet in height and dressed in heavy black armour under lit with an icy blue light. The helmet came forward in a blunt wedge shape and adorned with two curving black horns while the eye visors glowed with the same blue light.

To the figure’s left was a female of unknown race dressed in a white and black body suit that showed every curve but her face was hidden by a simple face mask that was part of the suit, only the dark eye slits broke the flat white surface.

The third figure was also female again of unknown race in a slate grey body suit and hood with a black leather jack overtop. Voice Galeyal sat with her usual grace and poise while the three unknowns took up a position behind her.

“Voice Galeyal I’m very glad this program is going forward” she greeted and smiled winningly at the Nirnian delegation. Anatia smiled coolly at her and Tevos had the feeling that none of the Nirnians were happy with the proposal but were merely going through it for the sake of peace.

“Let me remind you all that the terms of the treaty is merely that of non-interference and cooperation. Before you leave you will meet with your liaison. Skald Commander, you will be leaving with Specter Nihlus Kryic and SpecTer Saren you will leave with Eye Illusive man.” Galeyal told the assembled succinctly she handed a citadel data slate to Tevos, her face blank and her eyes cool, before she handed a Nirnian data slate to the Skald commander.

She then stood and smoothed out her skirts. “I am sure there will be no issues” she said, running her eyes over the Citadel contingent who felt a little shell shocked over how abrupt the whole briefing had been. The skald passed the slate to the female in black and white who glanced over it before handing it too the grey suited female.

“There will be no problem Lady Voice” the Skalds voice was harsh and mechanical, impossible to tell gender and no definitive accent or speech pattern.

“The Normandy is ready to ship out by your command” the white added in a similar voice that was heavily at odds with her sensual figure. Galeyal nodded and turned back to Saren and cocked an eyebrow.

“There will be no problem” the Turian assured in a voice that was only a semitone above hostile. Galeyal’s eyes narrowed a fraction before she nodded and strode from the room. The skald spared a moment to run their eyes over Saren before turning smartly on their heel and following their superior.

Tevos let out a breath and turned to level a glare at the specter “Are you trying to start a war” she demanded harshly while her colleagues nodded. Saren returned her glare with a haughty expression.

“I know how to speak to brutes like them, you must show them you are stronger than them or they will walk all over you. As they have with you” he replied with a sneer. Tevos stared at him in blatant disbelief. What hole had he been living in that he thought such a tactic would work? She closed her eyes and prayed to all that was holy to not let his be a colossal mistake


“I call first dibs on that Turian’s ass when he slips up” Shepard declared over the team comms as they strode back through the halls.

Miranda swallowed a chuckle but Jack had no such restrictions. She cackled “fine, but I get next swing” she called and Miranda stifled the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose and settled merely for a sigh.
“Oh cheer up princess” Jack laughed and she heard Shepard give a small chuckle “it wouldn’t kill you to smile once in a while you know!” Jack informed her vehemently.

“Not in front of the enemy” she told her partner firmly as she stalked on after voice Galeyal.
They took the Voice’s personal shuttle back to the docks and paused at the sight of a Turian in Armour with extensive white colony marking waiting for them, a duffle slung over his shoulder. “Skald Commander?” he asked uncertainly as they came into view and Shepard stepped forward.

“You specter Nihlus Kryic?” she asked and the specter nodded .

“I’ve been assigned to be your liaison during this exchange” he reported. Shepard nodded and gestured for him to follow.

“Welcome aboard the Victory of Normandy. I assume you were issued a transfer suit?” she asked as she led him onboard.

The specter’s eyes widened as he looked over the elaborate wall motifs and nodded “Yes, though I am not wearing it currently” he informed her.

Shepard gave a minor snort “Go do so, we are leaving at once, and unless you want to end up stuck in the Coloured rooms, then I suggest you go put it on.” She commanded before turning to Miranda and Jack. “Will you two show him to the crew deck and then assign lieutenant Alenko to him” she requested and Miranda nodded.

Shepard bowed her head in gratitude and strode away toward the bridge.

Miranda turned back to the Turian and ran her eyes over him coolly “I’m Eye Law and this is Eye Nought” she gestured to jack who crossed her arms and snorted, the train shifted and her training told her he was uncomfortable by their attitudes. She nodded and turned, leading him through the halls to one of the lifts.

“This is the command deck” she told him “the conference room, bridge and airlock are on this level, below us is the crew deck followed by the artificer deck, that holds the armory, gym, labs and engineering, followed by the hold, self-explanatory really.” She informed Nihlus as they walked.

“So where will I be bunking?” Nihlus asked and Jack sniffed.

“There’s an empty room enough to fit five people, that’s where you’ll be.” Nihlus nodded and the lift was quiet as it descended. Once he was situated in his room they handed him off to Lieutenant Alenko, a rather stiff looking Argonian male; then headed back to their bunks.


Edenus Primus

Saren looked down at the colony of Edenus Primus, it was a pretty enough world he supposed, but that was not what interested him. The colony of Quartz had been established near where Sovereign had declared the beacon to be. He would have it, the time was fast approaching. “Specter Saren, you are too close to our colony, please withdraw back to the agreed upon distance” Quartz control demanded over the comm. Saren smirked as the ship announced that the cloaked Yahg ships had entered the system. “I think not” he declared, a sneer forming.

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