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The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

A board designed as an archive and repository for the legacies of Requiem characters.
Vernum
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The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#1 » Mon Mar 21, 2016 1:58 pm


Francis Avery Eston
"It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen."
- Aristotle


[[ Most spoilers redacted, but minor ones below - read at your own risk. DO NOT METAGAME! ]]


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Full Name: Francis Avery Eston
Birthdate: 14th day of Dewfall, circa year 1317.
Birthplace: unnamed community by the Goodsea, Ghaenthgrand, Midlands

Appearance:
Age: twenty-and-something
Height: 5'5"
Weight: 130lbs
Eyes: brown
Hair: dark brown, short, clean
Skin: light
Handedness: right-handed
Posture: good, if not exaggerated
Hygiene: decent for a commoner
Scent: faint musk and resin

Physical Description:
TBA

Personality Profile:
Physical health: injured
Mental health: debatable
Accent: faint Midlands, noticeable by anyone from Ghaenthgrand
Profession: patriot
Languages: Common, Yultish
RP Tools: A bluish-grey, smooth pebble that fits in his hand and that he picked up from the shallows of the Goodsea before leaving in his youth. He believes it helps him remember who he is and what he stands for.

Habits/Hobbies:
daydreaming, shedding manly tears of patriotism, silent praying inside his head, delusional internal dialogue

Strengths: enthusiastic, observant, optimistic, caring, serious, idealistic, friendly, determined, patient, orderly, ambitious, dedicated, independent, creative, calculating
Weaknesses: fearful, passive, moody, fanatical, prejudiced, vengeful, conflicted, insane
Last edited by Vernum on Sun Jul 24, 2016 6:22 pm, edited 6 times in total.

Vernum
Posts: 99
Contact:

Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#2 » Sun Apr 03, 2016 1:37 am

Francis felt a storm brewing inside his head. It had all been so simple when we had taken his first step in the First Province. Now, countless steps later, the tracks ran back and forth erratically. No matter how he tried, he could not trace his way back the tracks to the Francis he was before. That part of him was somewhere far behind, and if the tried going back he'd only get lost worse.

For he was lost. If there was anything he was sure of, it was that he was hopelessly lost somewhere he'd never been before. No, not hopelessly, he corrected himself in his head. There was still the way ahead. He had been led to a crossroads of many diverting paths, and he had taken a tremendous step, clearly marking one of the paths as his own. This path was perilous and could very well lead to his demise, but he smiled as he comforted himself by thinking of what awaited him if he made it to the end of it. And though he was still feeling around in the dark, at least he knew what he was looking for.

The Tower. He had heard of it from so many sources, yet always so little that he still wasn't sure what it was all about. They hated the Foundry, and for that it was hard to blame them. On the other hand, they were extremists, and though they seemed to have similar goals as Francis did, his methods were better. It didn't matter much in the end. He did know enough: the Tower was an enemy of the Venerated Republic of Decus. Giving one final glance to the Foundry keep he had just left over his shoulder, the cadet focused on his task and recalled the names he'd been given.
Alphonse Camora.
Clement Durai.
Selene Durai.


Francis knew he wasn't alone as he touched the faded tattoo of a flame on his chest.
Decus would be there to guide him.



- - -



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In a way Francis wanted to tell the templar. She was one of the few people that Francis admired and who surely were on his side. A fellow patriot, so to say, having come to the First Province not to grow rich on the suffering of others but to help the people and the Venerated Republic back on its feet. She was an ally he would need to rely on later. But as they stood there looking in the dark east and Francis listened to her speak, his mind became clearer and clearer. Her mind had been troubled enough, and even though she offered to share his burden, the burden wasn's hers.

Francis turned around and walked away. She was probably confused, but even the cryptic words they spoke had helped him. It gave him reassurance and made him realize that what he had been looking for was not someone to share his mission with, but rather someone who would help Francis to reflect on himself. It had helped. Previously the flame within him had flickered. Now there was a burning zeal.



- - -



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The first trek to Riverside proved fruitless. As Francis stood there, his eyes blankly regarding the ruins, his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of someone approaching. It was the Chapter aspirant. Francis smiled and welcomed the company. Perhaps it was time to return to Fort Praesidium, at least for now.

Francis stopped by the doorway to breathe in the air, to taste and smell it. For anyone else, the chapel in the Fort vibrated with serenity. As he watched Mogrand quietly pray, he felt there was another sensation, hidden beneath the surface. It was calling out to him.

He let his eyes linger on each of the tapestries in turn, looking for the source. Honor, humility, justice, sacrifice, spirituality, honesty, valor, compassion. After Mogrand left, Francis found himself in front of a particular tapestry. The sensation had dawned upon him. It was a cry out for justice.

He smiled and spoke the name softly, almost tasting it in his mouth. Salt and iron.
Justice.



- - -



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The constable's stare felt piercing and even a little doubting as he handed Francis the ledger with the operation details. Operation Lighthouse, Francis, recited in his head as he read it through, and couldn't help but smile with pride until his eyes set on the new information. The doctor, Alexander Deval, was one of the suspects. Francis turned to the constable for a confirmation just in case.

The doctor had felt like a good man. Now he was one of the suspected traitors, consort to terrorism and murder. Francis dreaded to think of the possibility. Looking at the constable's wily features, he wasn't always sure if what he had gotten himself into was purely a matter of the Venerated Republic or if the Foundry or its high-ranking members had their personal interests involved.

The constable noticed his doubt.
”Having second thoughts?”, he asked.
Francis closed the ledger and pushed it along the constable towards the constable.
”I said I'll do it”, he replied as their eyes met.
Those people need justice, he added quietly in his mind, thinking back to the chapel.

Francis wasn't sure if he had consolidated the constable, but they were interrupted by the drill instructor. The ledger was quickly tucked out of sight and Glass informed Ward of what he and Francis had discussed a few moments earlier: Francis would be posted in the Legion and Chapter camp in Tenebra to maintain the safety of all Foundry personnel while the wall was being built around the camp.

It was just an excuse to make Francis's presence near Riverside less dubious. Ward finally bought it, but added a condition of his own. Tyndarus would be coming along.
Shit.
Francis looked to Glass, hoping to hear a word of protest, but he didn't. He remained calm on the outside as he turned his eyes away from both men. Having Ty sneaking around wouldn't make the mission any easier.

He felt his suspicions confirmed when he sat with Tyndarus in the Tankard a while later, waiting for official orders from the drill instructor.
Ty was a shifty and undisciplined individual. Someone you'd expect to sit in the far corner speaking in a low voice of unlawful business. And he certainly didn't seem like the well-being of the Republic or other people were topics that often surfaced in his mind. Francis found himself wondering why Ty had even joined the gendarmerie. But still, even men like Ty could be useful under the right command, though Foundry probably couldn't cater to any of that. Francis had promised to keep Ty alive, but he was loath to put that priority in the background. This whole operation was just covering for Operation Lighthouse. He'd try to locate the Tower, and meanwhile Ty had better to try and stay alive.

Francis leaned back and forced himself to smile. At least he had the advantage here. He had worked hard to make most people think he was a simple-minded pawn. It seemed to work especially well on Ty, who seldom even took him seriously. He was the kind of person that played his cards too early and still liked to think he held them for an admirable time.
Keep it that way, Ty. Act like you're smarter. Make quippy remarks. Don't suspect a thing.
If the Foundry officers were worth their salt, they saw how Ty was as well and knew how to keep him in check. Francis was more worried of if they'd be morally inclined to do so. Francis was going to stay in the Foundry for only as long as he felt he could benefit the Republic there. Many recent events had made him doubt if he had made the right decision, and his mind kept wandering towards the kind people of the Chapter...

His chain of thought was interrupted when Ward walked in.
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- - -



The basement was dimly lit and ominous. There were imposing devices of torture, a few bloodstains and two men. Francis sat on a crate right next to the biggest puddle of blood, trying to ignore the smell of death, while Clement Durai sat on a stool opposite to him.

Clement and Francis had much in common. They were both born in Ghaenthgrand, Clement in the Mist Valley and Francis by the Goodsea. Both were idealists. They had lost much and fear of losing even more had eventually driven both to action and brought them to the First Province. What set them apart was that Clement was part of the Tower and Francis merely pretended to be.

In a way Clement was like a dark reflection of Francis, a man who was ready to sacrifice himself and others to one day see the Venerated Republic of Decus rise strong again. In a way the leader of the Tower was also more honest and straightforward. He took no qualms in saying what had to be done and doing so given the chance, while here Francis was, making friends with people he would later have to betray. Francis's swollen ankle ached, but the pain was drowned by the maelstrom of emotions hidden behind his stoic face.

The Tower had been so much bigger than Francis had expected. There were some people who seemed to be in just for themselves, but Clement and most others seemed like they genuinely had good intentions.
Can I say the same about Glass or the other Foundry officers? Are they in for the Republic or for themselves?
Francis thought he knew the answer, and it just made his conscience worse. He forced himself to focus. The Foundry didn't kill innocents. They were driven by selfishness but they realized that the Republic was necessary for their survival. And in a way this cold, calculated greed kept them from descending into blind fanaticism. Or was he just trying to reassure himself, forcibly trying to give his mission legitimacy?

When the conversation was over and Francis limped back to the camp, his mind was still hazy. There was one thing he recalled well, though. Request from Clement as they parted ways.
”If you betray us, give me the courtesy of forewarning. I have people I need to protect, innocent people.”
Francis knew he couldn't do that. When it was time for the Tower to collapse, no brick would be left standing. He sighed upon seeing the Legion tents ahead.
If he was on the right side, why did it feel so damn wrong?



- - -



It all felt better in the morning. He had went through the recent events over and over again in his head and slept only a few hours. He was tired, but there was a sense of order in his mind now. The vision Clement had, the Republic standing strong without any of the quarreling factions – it'd never come to pass. Even if they managed to wipe the factions out, they couldn't stop the resulting anarchy. They weren't strong enough to take the lead. Francis had infiltrated them, didn't that already prove they weren't incorruptible?

They claimed Decus had returned as a mortal. And he wasn't in the First Province. They had nothing to show for their legitimacy, even if Francis had believed them. They wanted to take out all the current structures and organizations of order, to be reborn stronger from the ruins.
We've seen enough ruin. My way is better.
Deep down, he felt the members of the Tower knew it would end badly for them. Their cause wasn't doomed, it would live on even stronger in Francis. He and the Tower were fighting towards the same goal, using different methods. They wanted to blindly destroy all they considered unjust, whereas Francis understood the concept of necessary evil. Some people would hate Francis for turning in people they considered friends, but he was ready to take that blow. If he wasn't ready to make personal sacrifices for the greater good, why bother at all?
Even you would forgive me if you understood how similar we are, Clement. As a fellow patriot you would embrace the chance to die for what you believe in.

He sought out the constable and told him everything.



- - -



The later hours of the afternoon were quietly passing by as Francis found himself brooding in his tent. The wall had been built, the Foundry was ordered back to Fort Praesidium. He would have to pack his things soon, though there was still much to do.

He sighed quietly and looked outside into the sunlight. He would have to do at least two things before leaving, no matter how suspicious it looked. They were necessary.

The first one was his contingency plan. It wasn't something that would save Francis, but at the very least he could get revenge, no, justice from beyond the grave if he wouldn't make it. He could do that here if he found the right people. And as it happened, there was but one person Francis knew he could trust, and she was in the camp.

The second was meeting with the Tower. He needed to inform them what was going on, lure them closer to the Fort. Perhaps even offer them a chance to strike at the Foundry, only to lead them into a trap.

His mind was resolute as he set his loving eyes at the pebble he'd taken from the Goodsea before leaving. No time to waste, only to gather proof, learn of others members. Perhaps even of the terrorist mastermind somewhere in the west, pulling strings that moved pawns in the First Province.

Selene Durai was now a confirmed member. He needed to find out about Alphonse Camora, find a way to get Clement to tell him.
I'd betray you a hundred times over if it helped the Republic.



- - -



Ten days was what Anvil had said. By ten days, Francis would have found out about Alphonse, lured the Tower into a trap, arrested them with the Foundry and withdrawn the contingency plan. Funnily enough, the only part of it he suspected might go differently was arresting the Tower. Francis had no proof. With no proof, could they arrest the Tower? Would Glass arrange a different, swift justice without any trials? It wasn't beyond him, nor the Foundry.

Nor Francis.

He walked out of the newly-built gates and set his eyes south, towards Riverside.



- - -



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The next evening, Francis found himself sitting in the Rusty Tankard, idly staring into the fireplace. The scent of Erinne was still present. He wanted to blame Clement for speaking of the Tower in Erinne's presence, but the fault was his alone. He was the infiltrator. He was supposed to keep innocents oblivious to it all. And now the Consortium might've known.

Francis stood up and pondered on his options. Erinne wouldn't tell, she cared for him. Or so he hoped. In the case she did, he'd stand no chance against Mace. Glass had to be informed. Glass would know what to do. And hopefully, Glass wouldn't want to hurt Erinne for her knowledge. The door shook in its hinges as the cadet stormed out into the rain.
Dammit Erinne, why you of all people?

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Glass, though displeased, understood.
”Women and work do not fit together, cadet. I will talk to Mace. I'll tell him not to murder you if Erinne speaks up.”

An hour later Mace was informed. At this point it began to feel like a good move. The battlemage could keep Erinne in check, and they now had a powerful Consortium member on their side against the Tower. Francis would only have to find Clement again, lure him into a trap.
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- - -



The warm light of the torch lit Francis's path as he patrolled the road just outside Fort Praesidium. The air was thick and brooding. It smelled of burned flesh and decay. And Francis was getting restless. Time was wasting. Every passing moment should have been used to tighten the noose around the Tower's neck but he would ideally need to find Clement first.
He could return to Riverside. That would be suspicious. To make the Tower want him, they would need to think he wasn't suspected within the Foundry.

A sudden noise in the darkness just off the road brought Francis's mind to the present. He turned his torch towards it and approached with caution. It was Roseline. Roseline of the Foundry, Roseline of the Tower. After a moment of cautious looks, Francis made up his mind. She would know how to find Clement. She was a sweet girl. Deluded and guilty just like the rest, but innocent in her own way. Francis softened his voice and greeted her. What came out of his mouth were mostly lies, but there was enough truth behind them to make it seem believable.
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To an outsider it would've looked easy enough. Inside Francis's head it was a mess of shame and disdain, but the flame of justice burned brighter than his conscience, consuming the other entirely. He was getting there.

Francis and Clement were whispering treasons in Roseline's wagon before the sun had properly gotten up. He told Clement what he wanted to hear, promised to do what needed to be done. All in the name of the Venerated Republic of Decus.

”I have no desire to hurt anyone. There's few enough of us left as it is”, Clement said. He had no intentions to hurt anyone. He suggested no acts of murder or sabotage.
”I won't disappoint”, Francis promised. What was replied should've felt like a victory, but it gave Francis little joy. It ringed in his mind, echoing hollowly from the bleak walls sheltering his mind.
”I believe you.”

Deceiving the desperate and the well-intended was surprisingly easy. Clement was a caring man, naturally inclined to see the best in people. It was a vulnerability Francis would exploit until there was nothing left.

Neither Roseline nor Clement were wicked. They genuinely wanted to help others survive in this cruel world. They were prepared to sacrifice everything for the good they believed in.
Of course, none of this mattered when you were guilty.
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- - -



Balor put his shirt back on and hid his flaming red chest and swollen belly. The provost was elsewhere, his assistant unable to offer but educated guesses. Francis led Balor outside, walking him towards the south gates. Hopefully Jax and Ty would find some help in the Fort meanwhile.

There was something badly wrong with Balor. He had come all the way from Riverside to seek medical aid in Fort Praesidium. What drove a Tower member to seek help from the Foundry's base? Torment was unlikely, though Francis couldn't be sure: he had only met one live Tormented in the First Province. Whatever it was, it was bad. Balor was sweating, each step seemed to be an effort, a desperate push despite the pains.

They got outside the gates, and though Balor claimed to be able to go on, Francis sat him on a bench and pondered the possibilities. He couldn't torment Balor all the way to the general store in search of more help.

The pyres were near, the smell of burnt wood and flesh evident in the air. Balor would likely make it there. He was sick, not only spiritually as a follower of the false Decus, but now physically as well. If he was brought there, could he put up enough struggle to prevent Francis from pushing him into the fires? Would anyone see or hear? Could the act be shrugged off as a pre-emptive measure to prevent a Torment outbreak? Francis shook his head. It was too risky at this point.

Balor wasn't going anywhere on his own. If Francis could help him, he would gain trust among the Tower members. It wasn't like the terrorist couldn't be captured later. He decided to give Balor a chance.

It didn't take long for others to arrive. Eventually even the provost found his way there. Francis watched, standing beside Erinne. Both wore a gas mask. During the examination, Balor finally uttered two fateful words and Francis knew the man was done for.
Burning inside.
Weren't they the same words Francis had heard from a Tormented legionnaire in Aiwella? It shook him, not because of the realization of Balor's imminent demise, but rather because of the memories it brought up.
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The events quickly escalated from that moment. Balor's torso burst open, releasing at least a dozen red, large worm-like creatures. They immediately attacked the crowd, scattering it. Francis retreated from the immediate onslaught.

When it was over, they were gathered around a pyre. The provost gathered what remained of the man known as Balor and tossed them into the fire. His flesh fed the flames, the stench of burnt flesh strong in the Fort. The flames danced to Rosaline's sobs, and Francis wished they would be merciful with Balor. This wasn't the kind of death he had hoped for the man. This was the kind of death only the most wicked and depraved deserved.

He looked to Clement who stood the closest to the pyre. The leader of the Tower was overtaken by a fit of emotion that probably raged inside his head.

Francis didn't want to believe the gruesome scene was the work of fate, but perhaps Balor's death was a sign. One by one, the members of the Tower would fall. He wondered if Clement too had begun to realize what was about to happen.
Your time will come soon enough.
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Francis turned around and returned to the Fort. He had two reports to give. One as a cadet to the Foundry and the other as a spy to the constable.



- - -



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His co-conspirators were excited. They were almost drooling, feasting on the grisly details of their plans. They were ready, the trap set. Now they would simply wait for the mouse.

Clement would be arrested first. Then Roseline, then the others. Selene Durai would be captured along with the other people in Riverside tavern. Alphonse was nowhere to be found, but they would think of a way to deal with him later.

Meanwhile, the members of the Tower would be presented in public. Their crimes and heinousy revealed to all. The Foundry would make sure to show their trophy to the whole province before making them an example of those who would defy the Venerated Republic.
Execution will not bring any of their victims back or undo the damage they have caused. Instead it will bring justice. Won't it?



- - -



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The arrest was over with.

Francis had been through hell. It was supposed to be over now. He had cursed under his breath, endured long, circling arguments. Now he was just too tired to care.

”Everything I did was under the explicit orders of the church.”
Clement had said, and dropped the name of the Venerated Inquisition Corps.

Francis had infiltrated the Tower hoping to stabilize the region, to one day see the Foundry, the Chapter and the Legion stand united against the Torment, the real threat. Now it seemed like he had only made things worse. Even the inquisition was about to intervene.

Despite all this, he could no longer find any hint of guilt within himself. He had done what needed to be done. Perhaps it drove the Foundry into a political dilemma, gained them new enemies.

But what the heck.
He was alive. His mission was a success. Clement could go to hell. In fact, he most likely soon would. It was a shame about Roseline. But it had been a shame about Balor, a shame about the lost Foundry laborers, a shame about all the people who had perished in the past thirty years.

It wasn't his shame. He had done the right thing. He would watch Clement die and savour every moment of it.



- - -



The Tower was no more. Some people rejoiced, some were bitter. He was serene. There was one less threat to the Venerated Republic. They probably had more terrorist cells outside the First Province, but Francis was content. He had done his part. If the Tower ever returned to the First Province, he would be ready to do it again.

There was the matter of the inquisition, and the possible false Decus, but he couldn't be bothered with them right now.

As he turned to walk in the fortress, the morning sun greeted his face. The light was bleak and emotionless, but Francis thought it still felt brighter than ever before.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6ytSnVPSOc

Vernum
Posts: 99
Contact:

Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#3 » Sun Apr 03, 2016 7:01 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1vw15yOphc


- - -



There was a commotion just outside the inner keep's gates. Francis made his way past the marines, gave an acknowledging nod to Maerdyn standing on the side and looked upon the sight of an imposing legionnaire carrying a woman. Selene Durai.

She spat on Francis. The legionnaire slammed her on the bridge and Francis wiped his face, his expression unflinching.

He and Maerdyn took Selene below, searched her and shoved her in the cell.

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Listening to her was useless. Blinded by her iniquities, Selene was unable to see her own or Clement's fault in this. Clement had sealed her fate long ago by becoming a terrorist. She was no better. If she had not been guilty, she would've reported her brother to the authorities. Francis left her alone in the dark cell and returned upstairs to write down what Mogrand told him had happened.

Alphonse Camora and Selene Durai had come to their camp and attacked Mogrand. Torrick had slain Alphonse in combat while Mogrand had captured Selene. Francis leaned back on his chair and paused to think on what to say. What would Glass tell him?

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The words seemed to fit. It was what he would've wanted to hear himself.



- - -



With Maerdyn's approval, Francis travelled in Mogrand's company to the camp on the other side of the river, in Tenebra. Searching Alphonse's body confirmed the Foundry's suspicions. Alchemical equipment, grenades, small blades. Not something an honest man would carry, especially one suspected of creating a bomb. There were also two alarming documents which Francis took, but not after Mogrand had read them through.

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- - -



They returned to Fort Praesidium. Francis went to see the prisoner while constable Glass spoke with the templar upstairs. They would execute the lady like just the rest, but perhaps he could ease her confused mind, make her see the importance of her death...

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Somewhy it didn't really work out.
At least I tried, he thought as he heard Mogrand and the constable approach.
They questioned her, but got just as much information as Francis had. Selene simply didn't know anything. Her only crime was being Clement's sister. A crime she would pay for with her life.

The templar didn't care to show any sympathy. He walked away, leaving the prisoner in the hands of the Foundry. Glass looked at Francis, and he expected to hear of the execution. Instead, Glass spoke the words with a soft and sinister tone.
”I'll leave her to your hands. Do as you will once you've settled your.. accounts or whatever.”
The constable took one final look at the prisoner before turning and walking away calmly.
”Farewell, Selene.”

It was a test.
Do what you will?

Letting her go wasn't an option. She had nowhere to go. The Foundry would find her.
She had nothing left for her in this world. Her friends were dead, her brother was dead, her name tarnished.
Perhaps it is not always about justice. What if it now is about mercy?

Selene interrupted his thoughts.
”You could let me out right now. You'd never see me again.”
Francis turned the suggestions down as they kept coming.
”Just let me go. I don't want to die in a fucking Foundry cell! Please let me go! I'm not a terrorist! How could I be a terrorist if I didn't even do anything?”

It was all very confusing. He had a difficult decision to make, and the woman kept crying. Francis lifted his crossbow to aim at her between the bars.

She had said she wanted to die earlier, technically giving Francis the permission. She had even asked for a knife to end her life by her own hand. Now she was panicking, lost. She didn't know what she was saying. She wasn't controlling herself, each passing moment must've felt like agony to her. She--

He swore the crossbow acted on its own accord. There was a thud. Then a moment of silence, as Francis prepared another bolt. Another thud. Finally, third. Fourth. Fifth.

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Ten more thuds later Francis lowered the crossbow, his hands still trembling uncontrollably. Selene Durai's lifeless body slowly bled on the cell floor, painting it crimson.
I have finally set you free.



- - -



A while later the door to the constable's office was slowly pushed open. Both Maerdyn and Glass turned their attention to the cadet whose eyes shone with guilt and controlled madness. There were small bloodstains on his uniform. He'd clean them later.

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Last edited by Vernum on Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Vernum
Posts: 99
Contact:

Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#4 » Mon Apr 04, 2016 1:42 pm

There was a massive weight pressing on Francis's chest. It had no form, but he could sense it was caused by a great loss. He woke up covered in sweat and noticed he was safe within the gendarmerie barracks. He drew an anxious breath and stood up. It was still dark.

It had been just a dream, but the faces of the Tower members were still fresh in his mind, having stayed to haunt him for a while longer. Balor's visage had been in the background. He had died before Francis's wide eyes when his torso burst open, and he was thankful there was just the face. Clement's was there too, glaring him accusingly, but the faces that bothered Francis the most were those of Selene and Roseline.

He couldn't call them innocent, but there certainly were more guilty people around. Perhaps even Glass. Glass had made him kill Selene, though he couldn't blame him for it. Selene was meant to die. Francis had been naive to think someone else would execute her. No matter how it had felt, there was certain poetry to it: the final suspect Francis had confirmed perished by his hand. It was an act of mercy in a way, as he had saved the woman from a public humiliation. The message had already been sent by executing Clement and Rose, there had been no reason to prolong Selene Durai's suffering. He could not have let her go: no matter where she would have gone, the Foundry's agents would have found her and cut her throat.

Francis reached for his crossbow and held it close. It was the device he had used to relieve her. Using it had killed a part of him as well, but he would do it again, with all the loathsome dutifulness he could muster. His personal feelings were secondary to what was required.

So many people had suffered already. Francis would be a coward and a hypocrite to relent just because he could not force himself to suffer. He thought back to his failures in Ghaenthgrand and gained reassurance. He had gotten a hold of himself, entered the First Province and joined the Foundry with a specific purpose. A purpose he was yet to achieve.
The Tower crumbled for this. If I lay down and die, their sacrifice means nothing.
Francis put his uniform on and marched out into the early dawn.



- - -



Much like some of its officers, the Foundry was strong, independent and self-serving. It was far from perfect. But Foundry could bring order and peace. Even with all its flaws, the Foundry had the greatest chance of finally making it to Tor, ending the Torment and uniting the Venerated Republic of Decus. It didn't have to be perfect if it ended the spiral of death and suffering.

To serve this noble purpose, Francis would have to be just as strong. He wasn't even fighting the Torment yet. He was only getting started, laying the foundations for the better tomorrow the Tower died for. More sacrifices awaited along his path.

By revealing Francis's importance in destroying the Tower, Glass had made sure no-one but them would accept the cadet. This didn't bother Francis.
I am a man of the Republic. The colour of the uniforms matter little if there's no-one left to wear them.

To endure what was to come, Francis knew he would have to let a part of his humanity die. He would have become a force of nature; pure, primal and unforgiving. Selene had called him arrogant for thinking he could make a difference. Perhaps she had been right, but preferred to be arrogant over a coward who did nothing to stop the chaos. What he was doing was a grim task, but someone had to do it.
Once Francis had told himself he could return to his family when it was all over. Now he had to accept the facts: it would never be over in his lifetime. Sooner or later, he would die for his cause. Only his legacy would live on. It was a comforting thought because at least now he knew there was an end to his path.

Ever since operation Lighthouse he'd been looking for someone to trust. Not necessarily a confidant he'd tell everything to, but rather just someone innocent and good, someone whose presence would clear Francis's mind and strengthen him for his coming trials.

At first Francis had edged between Anvil and Erinne.

Erinne was a sweet woman. She had known Francis was a member of the Tower and told no-one. When she learned Francis had an agenda of his own she had ran straight to the Consortium and told them most of what she knew. Francis could understand and forgive it, but ultimately the Consortium would simply use her to gain information on his doings. That just wouldn't do. And since he was exposed as a spy, Erinne had felt cold and distant. Perhaps it was easier to let go.

Anvil then?
He had trusted the knight commander with the Tower members' identities, even though she might not have known it until it was too late. He still wanted to trust her, but the last conversation Francis had with Clement as a friend gave him reason to doubt Anvil's spiritual purity. Clement had told her of the Tower, to some extent. Just how much? Was Anvil simply a cautious, caring officer with an open mind or a corrupted soul who knew of the Tower and did nothing to stop them?
Or were you just weaving another desperate lie, Clement?

Francis really hoped the latter wasn't true. That's how Roseline and Selene had most likely been. Their only crime was to know and not tell. In the case of the Tower, it was a crime punishable by death, no matter your rank.

He had to find out. Operation Lighthouse was over, but Riverside still stood. Enemies of the Republic could still plot in the shadows. Justice reached beyond operations, orders, titles and political security. If the knight commander was guilty, justice would catch up to her. As her friend, Francis hoped this would not be the case, and even if it was, perhaps he could help her redeem herself.

The only way to know was finding out.



- - -




Image

Francis had carved the names of the Tower members on a piece of wood and thrown it into the pyre. It had been a symbolic gesture: perhaps their souls would find peace with the Flame.

It had helped. Their faces remained – Francis had vowed to remember those who died for the cause – but they no longer intimidated him the way they used to. This gave him the peace of mind he needed to prepare for a journey to Sylve Tenebra, to find out about the knight commander.

The Foundry didn't know. He was a Foundryman, but both the Foundry and Francis served the interests of the Venerated Republic, and they were equal in servitude.

There was just one thing he had to do before leaving. He headed west and entered the chapel. He kept coming to this place: when he was in doubt, having a quiet moment just by himself here helped him to clear his mind. He liked to think it was because of the virtues.
When he was still unsure of his success, he felt closest to the virtue of sacrifice. When they were about to end the Tower, it was justice. Now it was neither.
Francis's determined steps brought him in front of the tapestry.
I ask for strength, not for myself, but for my friend.

Image

He hid his uniform under a long coat, pulled up his hood and left.



- - -



He tugged on his hood to make sure it hid his face as Riverside appeared in his sight. A few ragged survivors eyed him warily as he passed through, but Francis kept to himself and hurriedly walked by.

Image

I'm sorry for how much you've suffered.
Francis couldn't help but frown as he passed the tavern. Supporters of the Tower were still inside, if nothing had been done to them.
You still may have to suffer before the end.



- - -



Image

The fire offered no warmth to Francis as he entered the camp in Tenebra. It was tense, the air so
thick with blame you could cut it with a knife.
These people despise me.
It was no surprise, but it hurt all the same. His path was rough but he gladly walked it if it led to results.

Anvil was there, as were Niamh, Mote and Mogrand. And to his worry, a member of the Foundry. Francis held back a sigh. He had come a long way, he would not turn back now. If the constable heard of his visit, then he would. The Foundry celebrated him now, the worst he could get was a stern talking-to.

He took the inevitable accusations and listened to their hateful lament. He tried to offer them consolidation, rationalization, answers, but he was turned down, only Niamh seemed even remotely interested in hearing him out. The knight commander did her best to remain polite just for the sake of conduct.
No wonder the constable grew to become emotionally distant.
He couldn't help but wonder if Glass had been like him once. Had he actually tried to do what was right before growing bitter of the resentment and distrust the righteous received in the First Province?
Likely not.

Eventually he and the knight commander got to speak in private. The anticipation for the truth was killing him, but he held back and decided to leave it for last. If Anvil admitted her guilt, Francis would hear it before leaving.

Instead he asked for his contingency plan. Anvil had it. The seal was still intact as she placed it on the counter. Francis broke the seal and opened the book, flipping through the pages.
Some people still considered me a friend when I wrote these words.
He wouldn't go back to that even if he could. Some people were awaiting their rightful punishment when he had written those words. He left the book open and stood up, looking to Anvil. It was time to ask about her involvement in the Tower.

Image

At least she is honest.
The more Anvil explained, the more sense it made. She still saw things in her own peculiar way, but so did the Foundry. Though human nature was forgivable, the stubbornness of both parties would make Francis's work difficult. He had erred too when he had suspected her. He felt ashamed for it.
There was a griping sense of loneliness as Francis left the tent.
You don't have an idea of the respect I hold for you.

Walking away through the camp, he saw Niamh sitting alone by the fire.
”I'm sorry. I really am.”
Not for destroying the Tower, but for the loss of trust and your friends.
He walked away before she could reply. Perhaps she wouldn't even want to. Francis didn't need to find out. He had been hurt enough.

He ran into Mote just as he left the camp. He tried to help her understand, but all he got in return was threats. He was numb to them by now.
”I'm sorry”, he said once more after Mote finally left him alone.
I'm sorry for your hatred and your ignorance.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ-a-CSO9G0

Vernum
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Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#5 » Sun Apr 17, 2016 4:49 am

Cadet Eston reached out to tear the leaflet off the bulletin board, rolled it up and tucked it inside his shirt. Lately sentiments against the Foundry had started to feel amusing more than anything else. Some people blamed everything on the Foundry. Within a few seconds, the remnants of Francis's guilt turned to resolution.
Nothing was being done to terrorists who operated from Sylve Tenebra? The Foundry was to blame. Said terrorists were finally caught and punished? The fault – not merit – was the Foundry's once again. He shook his head at the false entitlement.

The 23rd had met with an agent of the Tower months ago and failed to do anything to stop them. The organization had operated right under their noses in Riverside and when the Foundry had finally put an end to it, the Chapter had responded by throwing a tantrum.
We had to do your job because you were incapable of fulfilling your duty.
Now they acted like the terrorists had been great heroes. The leader of the Tower had been arrested in a chapel, yes, but someone with any semblance of rationality would have been glad to have the heretic exposed under the watchful eye of the virtues. Instead they complained, complained about a lack of trust. From all their whining, they never bothered to ask why they weren't trusted. You couldn't trust children nor people who acted in a like manner. He couldn't blame all of the Chapter, though: even the 23rd had members who understood how things were.
They had been really mad about the public execution. Then it was about the secretive treatment Selene received. And even Niamh, whom Francis considered a reasonable person, complained because she couldn't give Clement his last rites.
You had your time. Perhaps if you would've tried to do what you had come for instead of listening to a heretic mouth off, you could've actually got something done.
The 23rd templar chapter, as a whole, was a failure. At least the Legion still represented common sense in the area, even if it wasn't enough to stop the Tower.

Francis eagerly embraced the Tower's call to arms. Too long had the First Province been plagued by people who spent so much time complaining to others they themselves never got anything done. He was going to force them to take a side. It was either the Republic or the enemy, and the enemy would burn.

Riverside would have to go, Francis smiled, no longer the least bit sorry. If they wanted a war, he was prepared to grant it. He hoped they could rally, just so they could be crushed decisively.
He marched towards the inner keep, wearing his uniform proudly. It was time to report for duty.



- - -



Rain poured against the roof of the barracks. It always rains in the First Province, Francis thought as he tossed the Republic Sentinel onto the table.

The world outside continued the same as it had been before his quarantine visa was approved. Refugees, hate crimes and riots. In other words, the Republic was still dying, albeit slowly: it had been for the past thirty years. This was no excuse for sloth. No matter how slowly it happened, there was a noose tightening around the Republic's neck. That neck was Francis's just as well.

He paced around the room as he considered his options. Bureaucracy was painfully slow and sadly required before dealing with Riverside and whatever remained of the Tower's supporters there. If there was any other way that was faster and more efficient, he would take it.

Walking the thin line between justice and wrath was dangerous and he had fumbled before, but he was ready for it. A part of him always died when he did so, but what remained felt so much more alive than before.

Dying for a cause was one thing; you only had to come to terms with yourself. Sacrificing others for a cause took character.
It wasn't easy, but no good things in life came by themselves. The Foundry had been right all along, even if they didn't realize it themselves.
Prosperity is never free.



- - -



Image
It was surprising how easily Glass had convinced the primus to support his plan. A little too easily. A fool couldn't have risen to such a high rank within the Legion. This meant the man before his eyes was either fanatically driven to destroy the enemies of the Republic, had ulterior motives or was intentionally playing along with the constable. He said that he would have to hear the Chapter's side of the story, but they all knew that was unlikely to change anything.

It was difficult to read Glass's feelings, but Francis bet he was pleased. The constable was used to playing the game of words and get what he wanted. He knew what strings to pull to make people twitch. That was how he had gotten Francis in operation Lighthouse in the first place.
The primus and the constable were about to finish their business and then the legionnaire would head back to Sylve Tenebra to make his own conclusions, which undoubtedly would end just the way Glass wanted them to.

If only Francis could be sure that the outcome Glass wanted was the outcome he wanted as well. He had begun to question the constable's willingness to make a decisive move against the Tower. Ever since the key members had been executed and operation Lighthouse officially concluded, Glass had seemed content to merely sit in his office and twiddle his thumbs.

It was time to throw the constable off his game.
”Sir, with your permission I'd like to travel to the camp in Sylve Tenebra to act as a mediator on the Foundry's behalf. I feel responsible for this loss of trust. If anyone knows how this transpired or should make amends, it's me.”
Glass seemed surprised, perhaps even unpleasantly, but the primus immediately jumped on Francis's bandwagon. Glass had to relent, but he stated he wouldn't be responsible for the cadet if something happened. Interestingly, primus promised to take responsibility for him. Francis couldn't tell if the card Glass had just played was just a bitter last attempt to discourage his journey to the camp or if the primus's responsibility for his life was what Glass had really been after.
You wouldn't blame an ally like the primus for my death, but you could get him to have revenge on someone deemed guilty for it.
Francis shook his head as he left. He had made a move of his own, but Glass wouldn't sacrifice a pawn as long as the pawn remained at least somewhat loyal to him: the constable couldn't afford to lose any more allies.

The Foundry wanted to keep Francis close and it seemed like they had something in store for him. The Foundry wasn't going anywhere, whatever they had in store could wait. Sylve Tenebra on the other hand was still volatile, Riverside still standing and the relations between the factions that should've been working together festering.

If the Republic needed Francis anywhere right now, it was in Sylve Tenebra. He might have been stepping into a trap set by the Tower, the primus or even the constable, but as he often told people, he had not come to the First Province to sit on his arse.

He thought back on what he had said to the constable during an earlier, private conversation.
”Riverside is still filled to the brim with enemies of the state. I didn't join operation Lighthouse to leave the job halfway done.”



- - -



Things weren't good at the camp. Most people were polite if reserved, while others were openly hostile. Some clashes were inevitable, but Francis wasn't very worried about it.
These people can't see behind a smile.
The templars had spent so much time fighting evil that was twisted and grotesque that they had begun to view the opposite traits as equal to good. In a way it sickened him to see their stagnation.
Roseline had been young and shy, someone who needed protection from others and not the other way around, and they had been none the wiser.

All Francis had to do was to adopt the same strategy to survive and thrive here. He would act humble and naive, smile to them, let them have their say. Appeal to their pride.
He recalled what he had said to Anvil in Aiwella, showing a glimpse of his true nature, and wondered if even she would realize what was happening.
Never let people know how stupid or smart you are.
Francis wasn't particularly intelligent or strong, but he never had to be if others didn't even consider him a threat.

Image
James Draden was a new name to Francis, but he made a lasting impression. He had begun by shoving Francis, then gave him the classic moralizing speech before finishing with a challenging stare. Francis couldn't be bothered with a moody wretch who cried after some friendship Roseline's execution had ended, but he decided it was better to act like James's actions had hurt him.
Go with the strategy. He wants to scare and demean you. Let him sate his pride.
James had said he wasn't a murderer, but it never hurt to be careful. Francis made a mental note to investigate the man later just in case. If anything happened to Riverside, James would surely cross the line and become a murderer.

Feeling in need of an ally, Francis persuaded his way into speaking terms with Mote. There was a little bit of truth here and there, but overall the best route seemed like shifting blame on Glass and subtly hinting the constable was involved in something more sinister than upkeeping the law. It seemed to work.

Image
Even though Francis was relieved to stand on firmer ground, another thought was slowly forming in the back of his head. Perhaps Glass had allowed him to travel here because he didn't really believe anything was going to be done about Riverside. What if the whole public show about taking down the Tower had been for his own personal honour, and Francis had become a nuisance by demanding to finish the Tower in a way that would Glass in a difficult position? Had Glass played him and intentionally sent him to the camp just to die there?

These thoughts continued to bother him as he set his tent just outside the walls of the camp.



- - -



From time to time Francis was bothered by a feeling that took his focus from the mission and made him doubt himself and the righteousness of his cause. That feeling had become stronger after the Tower had been exposed, though it had still been manageable.
After seeing the the welcome he had received in the camp, Francis wasn't sure if he could manage it for much longer.

There were two personalities within Francis. One was the human aspect, with all the flaws and virtues a person could have. Fear, anger, love, longing. The other was the aspect of the patriot. The aspect that made Francis do what he had to, with an unerring, unbiased sense of right and wrong.
Or so Francis told himself to justify the things he did. The human aspect sometimes cried out in pain when he did so, but he had done his best to drown that aspect with dutifulness. It often helped, but the relief was only momentary. He couldn't entirely kill the humanity within, it always came back and brought conscience and doubt along.

Francis had tried to drive himself further and further into his zeal for justice, to get away from the human aspect, but it seemed that the further he got, the worse it became. Now he had to admit he was at a loss.

The late Selene Durai had called Francis arrogant. During operation lighthouse he had always tried to be self-critical to make sure he wouldn't descend into blind fanaticism, but the terrorist's words had been shrugged off as a mere insult. Now they returned to his mind, making him ponder on the possibility.

He thought to what Mote had said. She was biased, uninformed and acted on impulse but that didn't mean her words couldn't contain a seed of truth. She had forced Francis to adopt a new perspective. Could he be wrong? Could he be a fanatic himself?

He couldn't deny the facts that stood.
There were members or sympathizers of the Tower in Riverside. They could be a danger to the people of the Republic.
There were numerous people who would strongly object if anything harmful was done to Riverside or its denizens. Some of these people were crucial for the Republic's integrity in the First Province.

Francis had spent a long while sitting on the log and staring into the fire in the camp, and when he snuck outside the walls the flames continued their mocking dance in the back of his mind.

He was faced with a question: had killing the Tower members actually been about destroying the terrorist organization, or sending a message to anyone who opposed order in the region?
He had thought it was about the former. If so, the deaths of Clement, Selene, Roseline, Balor and Alphonse only served a purpose if the Tower would not rise again. Only way to be sure would be arresting the sympathizers in Riverside.
On the other hand, if it was simply about sending a message, it had been sent. Riverside could be left alone unless there was reason to suspect they were reassembling the Tower. Francis could concentrate on building relations between the factions again.

He continued to brood until he noticed he had made it in the inner keep, standing before the constable's office.
Image



- - -



It wasn't until when the primus repeated the constable's answer when Francis realized they might be right.

Punishing Riverside was secondary to the efforts of rebuilding the relationship between the factions. Taking action against the Tower sympathizers in Sylve Tenebra could only harm the fragile bonds that held the Republic together in the First Province. At least in the current situation.

If there was anything that Francis was learned, it was that the situation in the region changed as the wind blows. The current situation would not last forever, but as long as it did, he was content with leaving Riverside alone and focusing on the matter at hand – trust.

There was no absolution for the people who had assisted the Tower in Riverside: they were just as guilty as Roseline had been, and Roseline had paid for her actions with her life.
Francis strongly believed that justice was inescapable. It would eventually find the guilty no matter where they hid or how fast they ran. It was no work of fate either, but something just people actively did. People like Francis Avery Eston.

But justice was simply one of the eight virtues, and who was he to say which one of them, if any, held the greatest value? It was justice he had often sought guidance from, but perhaps it had narrowed his mind. There other virtues, virtues he couldn't ignore. Virtues like compassion.

Image
The words the primus had spoken brought him comfort. Justice was merely delayed, but it didn't necessarily spell death.



- - -



Fort Praesidium loomed in the distance, partially hidden by the occasional leaves and branches. In the First Province the sight of a fortress was imposing. To some it was threatening, though Francis had never understood why.

The First Province was a dangerous place. You didn't come there to have a comfortable retirement. You came there to stop the Torment or die trying. Safe havens like the Fort were few and far between. You didn't always get to choose exactly which of them you found, but if you did, you sure as hell should be grateful.

And despite that, some people complained about every little thing about the Fort. It was not perfect, far from it. But it was useful, essential, and what's more, safe. The Foundry kept it that way with silver and blood.

Yet some people had the nerve to act all self-entitled about it. Safety in the First Province was not a right, it was a priviledge. A priviledge that could be taken away if you didn't adhere to the laws that still held the province loosely together.

Francis stopped to retrieve a rolled-up leaflet from his bag for another look, observing it carefully as if to learn something new hidden between the lines. The Tower had struck again. This was exactly what he had warned against. If they had finished the job in time and dealt with Riverside, this would never have happened.

But at least the Tower was out for blood now. Everyone would see how they truly were, and this killer clad in black armour was just an opportunity to cut down another extension of the Tower.
They had killed a mercenary in the Foundry's service. What the heck was that supposed to prove? The mercenaries were just people who were paid to keep order in Fort Praesidium. That guard had given their life for the Republic, and Francis was saddened to realize he didn't even know the guard's name.

Riverside was out of Francis's reach by orders. He was a marine now, bound to duty over his personal feelings even more than before. All he could do against the Tower now was to try and track down the killer. The man or woman who falsely covered themselves in virtues, disgracing each one of them with their actions.

You should come for me, Francis thought as he tucked the leaflet back in his bag.
I'll watch the virtues drown in your blood.

Vernum
Posts: 99
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Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#6 » Thu Apr 21, 2016 10:32 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-zH__q ... tml5=False



- - -



A light shone out of a window just outside the southern gates of Fort Praesidium. It was the dead of night, but Francis was up and at work, going through his equipment. Grenades, arrows, bolts, he'd need all of it.

When searching through the bags, he found his cadet sash. He smiled in bitter amusement.
Things had been so much simpler when he had been a cadet. And when he had been a cadet, he had thought things had been so much simpler before he had joined the Foundry.
Judging by the direction I'm going, it's only getting more complicated.

He shoved the sash carelessly back into one of the bags on the floor and sat on the floor, his posture unusually stooped. The person sitting there right then was a tired and lonely man with little resemblance to the proud marine that walked the streets of Fort Praesidium with a clean uniform during daytime.

Life had gone down a certain road really fast. He had entered the First Province to fight the Torment. So far he had only fought other people, and it seemed like he would be fighting even more people in the near future.

The inquisition was coming. This time it wasn't a lie spewed by Clement Durai, but a fact. Naum Alexandrov, a man – or a monster – whom Francis knew only by reputation, had made a declaration that turned most of the First Province against the remnants of the Venerated Inquisition Corps.

Image

It wasn't all bad. The legion, the foundry, the chapter, the consortium, the apothecary corps; all stood together against the VIC. A mutual enemy had united the factions, and though Francis knew it should've been the Torment and not the VIC, this was nevertheless a step ahead.

The thought of the deaconess bothered him. Supposedly recently reassigned from the 71st, she had been nice and understanding. She had wanted Francis to share his troubled mind with her, a priestess of the church. Francis had been ready to trust her, but when he had finally come to the Fort to find and tell her, her true nature had already been revealed.

Anvil had returned, for which Francis was thankful. She and Ellen had explained him that deaconess Beatrice Blanc had been an inquisitor. As ashamed as he was to admit it even to himself, Francis had never thought to suspect her. It was a lesson learned. The VIC knew what they were doing. Beatrice had seen that Francis needed approval, offered him just that and he would've fallen for it had others not seen through her.

He wondered if at least the stories the deaconess told were true. A city of screamers in the Blacklands.

Francis stood up and left, heading towards the Consortium. Strong women had always been his weakness, and he would find no peace from them just yet.



- - -



”I'm listening”, Erinne said.
Francis eyed her for a while before taking his hat off and placing it on the table. Erinne rested her fingertips on the table. Both stood straight, and there was tension in the air.

He glanced to the fireplace as though seeking courage from the flame before speaking.
”I feel.. I've treated you badly. Though I'm not sure how. I wanted to talk things through. Perhaps it'd help. Perhaps not. But it's worth a try.”
There was a small pause. Erinne's eyes were searching his face, though she stood stiff. Francis finally continued.
”We used to be friends. I miss that time. Perhaps it can't be brought back, I don't know. Currently it feels like every time we see there's a certain.. hatred in the air.”

Francis did his best to keep his expression neutral, but his tone was a little shaky and his eyes betrayed regret.

”It isn't hatred, Francis. It is distrust.”
When Erinne spoke, the words weren't friendly, but they brought him comfort nevertheless.

”Distrust.. because of the Tower?” he nodded faintly and uneasily rubbed his gloves together.
”I realized, during those certain events, that I know you very little. And I know even less what you are capable of.”
”I don't follow, Erinne..”
”Perhaps, even, you would use our friendship against me one day. I cannot risk that.”
It hurt, the way truth hurts. He wanted to tell her something comforting, but there was no way he could have done that without lying to her. It was all true. He would, for the Republic. He lowered his gaze with a pained expression.
”I wish I could tell you otherwise.”
”I know you cannot”, Erinne replied and laced her fingers together in front of herself.

By now Francis was looking at his hat. The piece of the marine stared right back and gave him strength. He gave it a nod and a heavy sigh before lifting his eyes to Erinne.
”Right now, I could never see myself working against you. But since I came here, I decided I'm a man of the Republic. Duty first, personal feelings second.” The words that came out were almost bitter.

”I understand. I don't hate you, Francis Avery Eston.”
She understands. She doesn't hate me, his mind echoed with relief.

The conversation continued its course, but Francis felt a little better.

”Can you promise to never betray me for the Republic? No matter what? I doubt that you can, and I wouldn't ask you to anyways.”
Erinne saw the answer from his expression.
”The Republic needs men like you, I suppose. I, however, do not.”

Eventually the marine left. He felt a little broken, but that feeling would have to pass. At least the uncertainty was gone.
And the Republic needs me.



- - -



Image
When Francis saw what had come of Riverside, compassion wasn't the first thing that sprung to his mind. It was satisfaction. A part of him, albeit small, was happy about the situation.

The VIC was brutally efficient if anything. They would most likely root out and eradicate what support heretics like the Tower had remaining there. Perhaps the Tower would be able return one day, but they would have to begin from scratch.

As he and Mogrand stood there keeping an eye on the inquisitors from a safe distance, something caught their attention. A civilian approached from Riverside. The inquisitors let him walk past safely.

As this civilian led Mogrand and Francis to a more remote location to share their knowledge, Francis realized this civilian would be what they needed. An informant on the opposite side.

He learned a lot from the informant. The numbers of the inquisitors, the placement of their cannons, some of their supporters, the mood in the village. As they parted ways, Francis felt he was finally making progress again.



- - -


Image
At first Francis couldn't believe what the informant told him. After a while, it all started falling into place.

Damnit, Mogrand.
He had been there when Alphonse was slain, even though there hadn't been an issued warrant of arrest on Alphonse. He had led Francis to Alphonse's body, and Francis had been sure he had seen something on Alphonse's body that had been gone when Mogrand had searched through it. And Mogrand could easily have planted the note incriminating the Foundry, right before telling Francis to burn the body.
He had been there when Selene Durai was brought to the Foundry. Why? Was it because Selene Durai didn't even believe in Decus reborn? Did Mogrand?

And finally, Francis remembered the words Mogrand and Beatrice had spoken in the chapel about the black knight.

”Mmh, it's just that armor lacquer is expensive. Anyone who goes to the trouble places an emphasis themselves”, Beatrice Blanc, the inquisitor spy, had said.
And what had Mogrand replied with a laugh?
”Hey, I had my armored lacquered, you trying to say something?”
Lacquered black.

Now the black knight was moving freely in Riverside and attacking the informant Francis and Mogrand had spoken with only a moment earlier.
Was the Tower in league with the VIC? Had the two inquisitors just laughed at everyone who didn't get their private joke in the chapel?

Francis wasn't sure whether to be amazed or angry. He was dumbstruck for sure. If only he had realized sooner. There were only so many religious platemail-clad juggernauts, and now he even had a written testimony.
Mogrand, you brilliant bastard.
You'll die for this.


It wasn't long until Francis found himself in a familiar location, the zeal reignited.
Image



- - -



Francis was returning from the legion camp. It had been a short trip, but he had had to sate his curiosity and check how the situation in Riverside had affected them. It was night, and Francis made sure not to stray too close to Riverside and give the inquisitors a reason to attack. He'd be an easy target with his torch.

Suddenly he became aware of another pair of footsteps, mirroring his own. He quickly stopped, extinguished his torch and squinted around in the darkness. The stranger approached from the direction of the river.

Image

Francis frowned. It was a she. And she wore the uniform of the gendarmerie, complete with Foundry colours, gloves and a hat.
A fellow gendarme, in the dead of night? In Sylve Tenebra?
No, there was something more sinister. She had covered her face with a gas mask and held a crossbow.

”Excuse me”, she began while Francis was still squinting at her uniform.
”Yes?”, Francis replied, his tone vary as he stood a small step back. Just in case.
”Are you the gendarme known as Francis Eston?”

The situation was unnerving. A masked gendarme in the least likely of places, at this hour, looking for him. Francis was still holding onto the torch with one hand, bringing the other behind his back as though to take a more formal posture as he replied.
”Yes”, he nodded faintly as his hand subtly felt under his jacket behind his back.
”Francis Avery Eston, gendarmerie marine”, he repeated the routine.

”And the hero who brought down the Tower... If the redacted reports are to be believed?”
Francis tilted his head slowly, becoming gradually even more alarmed.
What the hell is going on?
”You'd have to ask that from the constable”, he managed to reply.
”You are?”

”A marine. Like you. I hear you're the constable's right hand man, and cat's paw when he needs something done.”

Francis felt his suspicions becoming ever more confirmed. The tone she had taken implied something that he didn't like at all.
”I serve the Republic. If the constable has orders to give me, I obey them. As does any member of the gendarmerie.”
The hand behind his back finally found what it was looking for.
”Still didn't catch your name”, Francis said with a little more certainty.
”Didn't give it”, the muffled voice answered from within the mask.

His eyes regarded the crossbow cautiously, and he made a quick glance over his shoulder. He knew where this was going now.
She sighed, her breath rattling through the mask.
”How can I help you?”, he asked.
Play for time, play for time.

”You can't”, the hollow voice echoed.
”You're loyal. By all accounts a good man. But what's coming, being a good man isn't enough. And while Glass and Killian would make fine leaders, they're not my leader. Some men are greater than the Republic. You can help, by making this easy.”
Her grasp on the crossbow fastened. She tried to aim, but Francis had been waiting for it. Adrenaline surged through his veins. With a quick motion he brought his hand from behind his back, throwing the smoke bomb on the ground.

The distraction worked. As she squinted at the smoke, Francis legged it.
”Fuck”, he swore as he ran.
This spy game is getting too real.



- - -



Francis stopped to catch his breath. She had given chase, but he had lost her in the woods. He gave a quick look at his surroundings as beads of sweat formed on his forehead. Nothing.
The immediate danger was over, but he wouldn't be safe until he had made it back to the camp.

He tried to move quietly through the underbrush, avoiding branches as best as he could and covering himself behind trees. It was dark and treading silently was nigh impossible.
A branch snapped nearby. An animal or something worse?
He took another direction, away from where he thought the sound had come.

His heart was beating in his ears, working together with his heavy breathing to muffle everything else.
Was there a rustling in the ferns? Francis turned the other way.
Something in the grasses.. the wind?

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Small splinters of wood pinched Francis's face, and he sprung into motion once more. Trying to advance unseen clearly wasn't working in his favour.
All he could was try to run like hell and hope a stray bolt wouldn't catch him in the back.

He had his life on the line, and there was no better motivation. He made it to the palisades, furiously pounding on the heavy door. Every passing second was an agonizing wait for the bolt from the darkness to end him. It never came.
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- - -



After Francis had been safely escorted back to Fort Praesidium, his caution seemed to relent and his mind gave in before the flow of questions.
Who and why?

Had Mogrand told the VIC about him? Even if he had, the VIC wouldn't come after Francis in Foundry colours, would they?

It was more likely that someone had followed him when he had left Fort Praesidium, rented a horse to Sylve Tenebra after him and waited until he had finished his business in the camp.
That assassin had come specifically for him, wearing a uniform only accessible to the gendarmerie. She had said she was a fellow marine, and people who believed no-one would live to tell had no reason to lie. By that Francis knew that the only ones he had any chance of trusting were Killian and Glass, the two people the assassin was working against.

A fellow marine, using a crossbow. Couldn't have been anyone he knew.

Lately Foundry had brought more laborers to the province. Laborers that, according to the rumours, were kind of shifty and didn't do whatever laborers usually did. Laborers who had spoken with Jean de Lairenne. Jean de Lairenne who had brought the eastern Enclave with him.

Francis couldn't help but wonder if he had run into one of de Lairenne's 'laborers'.



- - -



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Trust was a great thing to hide behind before stabbing someone in the back. Mogrand must've known that. Francis certainly did.

He had led Mogrand out of the Fort, lured him into the ambush, and even then the thrones had granted Mogrand strength to drag his battered body all the way back to the chapel.

It was the end of his road. The show was over, the helm torn off his face. The sinner exposed before the virtues.
Or so Francis hoped. Innocent blood had flowed before.
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- - -



Mogrand's theme
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Vernum
Posts: 99
Contact:

Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#7 » Sun May 08, 2016 9:31 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOy_-Ou ... tml5=False

- - -



The scout and his two fellow legionnaires descended the shrub-covered hill. The few trees that tried to grow on the hillside gave them little cover, their leaves having fallen days ago in autumn colours.

They found themselves on a field. The neglected and dying crops gave them some cover and encouragement to sneak closer to the lonely farm. As they did, a single raven took flight from the vegetation. Its distant cry echoed through the skies, but there was no other sound. No chirping of crickets, no singing of birds.

The sun hadn't set just yet, but gray clouds were congregating above, wrapping the Midlands in an ominous twilight. It seemed as though time stood still, even the wind had stopped blowing a while ago.

This was the last place the three men would check before returning to their camp. They were like a poor man's Forward Operating Squad, missing their cultural expert and and demolitions expert. Instead they had a team leader, a scout and what you could call a weapons specialist, as well as orders to check the outlying areas for threats and supplies.

The scout was ordered on ahead into the farmhouse. The door was closed but unlocked, and gave a displeasing creak as he entered. He left it ajar and stepped into the the dim interior.

The air inside was oppressively thick. It had a slight, warm humidity that pushed against the scout's face and tingled in his eyes. His nose picked up the pungent smell that accompanied it.

It was difficult to see. Most of the features inside were wrapped in a cloak of darkness, with some bleak light pushing in through the windows and barely helping.

There was another creak, subtle and mocking. It came from another room. The scout treaded lightly on the wooden planks as he approached the open doorway. He stopped a few feet from it, alarmed by both his nose and his eyes discerning the vague outlines.

Three human shapes hung by their necks on ropes that probably extended to a ceiling beam he couldn't see. Judging by the features, they were a man, a woman and a child. The scout was relieved they all had their backs to him.

Most people had fled the area after rumours of the Torment started circulating. The scout wasn't sure if this was desperate act of a family that knew they couldn't go anywhere or if they had been visited by someone else.

As he stood there gathering his courage, he became aware of the corpses very slowly turning towards him. The wind must have picked up and blowed through the door he left ajar, even though he felt no breeze.

The scout tried to take a step back, but fear froze him on the spot. He couldn't help but watch with dread as the hanging man's face spun into view. It took several seconds, taking no hurry to show him the details bit by bit.

The morbid culmination came when the scout realized the man's eyes were still open. By then the corpse was facing his direction and it seemed like it was staring right in the scout's eyes. The smell of death was apparent, but the eyes still seemed aware if not alive.

There was a scream as the scout finally gained control of his legs. He was caught by his fellow legionnaires outside before he could get very far, but he was no longer certain the scream had been his.

The memories of the event kept him awake months later. Heavy drinking dulled the memories, but they never completely left.




- - -



The scout, now a marine, woke up in the middle of the night with a shiver. He had seen worse sights since then, some of them his own doing, but these old memories still kept coming back to him. It was because the scout had been a different Francis, a more naive man from another time.
What came of that Francis?
He looked at the marine uniform that was folded neatly on the side. He often found himself thinking of how much he looked like the constable while wearing it. The knight marshal had an unquestionable influence on him: day by day he was becoming more and more like Alban Glass, the man whose glasses reflected back all attempts to see into his soul and find any semblance of human emotion.

The assassin's words returned to mock him.
Francis Avery Eston – the constable's catspaw and right hand man.
There was no denying he was the constable's bitch.

Glass had executed Mogrand under the watchful eyes of the leaders of the chapter and the legion. The vote had been unanimous. Even Francis hadn't had any qualms with it, nor did he have any now. Mogrand's death didn't bother him, it just made him think.

Clearly Mogrand had been less guilty than they had originally expected. Good intentions, wrong means, just like the Tower. Unlike the Tower, he had seemed to realize and accept what was going to happen to him. He might've prettified his own guilt, but Francis was almost certain he hadn't lied about the inquisition.

”All that and not one asked the most important question: who is the grand inquisitor of the region?”, Mogrand had asked.
The legionnaires, the knight commander and even Glass had left Mogrand to his own devices. They had probably considered it Mogrand's desperate attempt to bargain for his own life.
”He thinks this knowledge will give him leverage. He's wrong”, Aldrich had noted before leaving with the others.

Francis had stayed. He had had no wounded pride that would have healed by turning his back on a condemned man's last words. Pride was a personal feeling that should never hinder his sense of duty.
Mogrand had saved his life in Aiwella when he had been a cadet. Betraying Mogrand had been a poor way of repaying the debt, but at least Mogrand's intel would pass on to him.
”I will hear you out.”

Now Mogrand was dead, but his cause had become a part of Francis's. Having donned his uniform, the marine headed out into the night, hoping he would live long enough to see the grand inquisitor punished.



- - -



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The smell of both burned and decaying flesh lingered strong in Riverside. The town had become a testament to the inquisition's methods. Mangled human remains littered the side of the road, feasted upon by crows. Their hungry cries accompanied Francis as he walked through the ruins.

This probably meant the end of all Tower sympathizers in Riverside as well, though Francis felt only bitter and disgusted. It shouldn't have been like this. Justice didn't sound like screams of torture, smell like bodies left to rot in the open or look like the travesty Riverside had become. Justice didn't wear the colours of the Venerated Inquisition Corps or use names like the Crimson Dae.

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By the time Francis made it to the inn he could taste pungent iron in the back of his mouth. Memories rushed back to him as his eyes swept across the room. In the very same inn Francis had first heard Clement confess being part of the Tower, revealing that most of the locals were aware if not supportive as well.

He laid his eyes on the blood-stained floor. Clearly he wouldn't need to worry about the locals any longer, even though it gave him little comfort. The Tower had been replaced by a much greater evil; the inquisition.
He wouldn't suffer any kind of moral struggle dealing with this evil.



- - -



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”The governor wanted me to tell you, so there you are”, Erinne said.

Francis's thoughts raced around the book she had just handed him.
The Grey Wolf, the Crocodile, the Brass, the Crimson Dae. These people sure love monikers.

He looked up to Erinne and offered a shrug. She seemed afraid. No matter how many rags the mages covered behind or how reality bent under their will, they were still mortal. You can conjure as many tricks as you want. It's all the same to death.

Eventually Francis walked out of the Rusty Tankard and looked to the skies. It was drizzling, the brooding clouds reflecting his current mindset.
Erinne had imparted a lot of new information to him. With this knowledge, he had only learned enough to realize how little he knew.



- - -



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The whole guild district was still smoldering. Pillars of smoke dominated the skies above Fort Praesidium and ash invaded Francis's lungs as his eyes searched the area for ... what?
The inquisition had been quicker than bureaucracy. The Foundry had failed. The attackers had probably used the tunnel.

Francis took a few steps back before turning his eyes from the sight and hurriedly walking away. It felt like fleeing.

He slipped through the barricades by the southern gates and traced his steps west along the wall. Debris littered the outskirts of the western wall.

The Consortium's guild hall had been right on the other side of the wall. Thoughts rushed back and forth in his head: frustration, anger, guilt, doubt. He tried not to think about the vault.

The camp confirmed his suspicions. Someone had left the iron gate ajar. Francis stopped right before it and hesitated for a second. Would it be safe?
Do I care at this point?

He slid through and entered the cave.

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It seemed abandoned. He searched and searched, failing to find anything. No tell-tale clues left behind, unless someone had already been there and taken them.

He assumed he was right below the guild district. He was no engineer, but tarrying under the burning streets couldn't be safe. All he'd have to do before leaving was taking a quick peek to where it all led.

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The basement was a mess. Wherever it led, the way to the surface was covered with debris. If only they had managed to block it in time. Francis scrounged through the crates but he had no real intent. Whatever had been there had been rummaged and taken away by now.

As he left, a single thought rose above the others.
Who will they blame for this?



- - -



Francis's face felt weary. Forcing yourself to smile out of habit and without a true intent had that effect on you. Occasions where he felt real joy, camaraderie or connection to another person had become fewer and fewer.

It had all begun with the Tower. First with the falsehood to gain their trust, then with the mistrust that exposing them had caused. Now he wasn't trusted, not as a person. Some might still trust him as a comrade, a fellow soldier of the cause, but as a friend?

Francis was losing the ability to trust as well. With the enemies he had made, who could he really rely on? If one day he would no longer be useful to the Republic, no-one would be left to comfort him. They would leave him in the dust. Perhaps someone would say a few words.
"He served the Republic." Served like an asset, not like a human being. Then he would be forgotten.

It was what Francis had expected before entering the First Province, but the severity of it hurt nonetheless.

He had lied and killed to achieve what the Republic needed. Ill measures to right results. The zeal of the cause kept him going, a flame that sometimes flickered and waned but never entirely died.
From time to time it burned bright: there was a delicate balance.

In a similar manner to the waning ability to trust, his naive benevolence was turning sour. Bitter, even. In the long run it didn't matter. He could fuel the flame even with bitterness. He was just one person, and when he thought of all the people who had suffered so far, the sufferings of a single man felt small.

Only a few friends remained who Francis could bond with, but all but one of them were expendable as long as he had the Venerated Republic.

Here I am with the only friend I can completely trust, he thought as his hand reached for the flame tattoo on his chest.

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The inquisition had hoped to bury this friend, but justice was a force of nature. No amount of rubble could hold it, no flame burned brighter than the one it stood for. Despite all the debris, there was a radiating beauty to the ideal. It felt cathartic.

As Francis stood among the wreckage, he made his friend a promise.
Whoever wins this war, whatever truces will be made, I will not forget. Everyone still involved with the Venerated Inquisition Corps deserves to die. I will exact justice even if no-one else will.



- - -



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It felt only strange, not sad or somber. Another patriot was gone, a gear fallen off a grand machine that had no choice but to keep on despite the loss.

There were no words to be said. Francis hadn't known the battlemage well personally. He wondered if anyone had.
He served the Republic, he thought bleakly.
But I won't forget.

Having sacrificed himself to the cause, CLDV was now another face Francis would make himself remember. He slid his hand into his backpack, softly grasping the fine gloves that had first belonged to Aetius, then to Mace.

”Good fuckin' swordsman; but death finds us all mate”, Mace had said when he had given the gloves to Francis.
It was amusingly cruel how good men died while the gloves they wore remained, continuing the fight with another pair of hands.

He almost chuckled to the mental image. Even though he wasn't keen on finding it out just yet, he kept himself entertained for a while by wondering whose hands the gloves would adorn next.



- - -



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Francis wasn't sure if the decanus possessed a sense of humour, even a sarcastic one. He sat still and listened as the legionnaire went through the recent events in the region and entrusted them with information, most of which they already knew.

The decanus's speech floated by Francis like a dull melody until Silvercrest mentioned the Consortium. The words prodded something in the back of his mind, piquing his interest.

The political setting in the province was shaky at best. Who was your ally today could be a suspect tomorrow and an enemy the day after. While it was unlikely in this case, it never hurt to be careful.
Once the decanus left him and Glass alone in the room, Francis voiced his own concerns.

Glass agreed with his suggestion of compiling the list. It was a secondary task, but Francis was glad to have something to do in case he failed to locate his mark.

Before Francis left, he turned to the constable one more time.
”I feel the time for silken gloves is past. Now it's kill or be killed.”

The constable replied with a chuckle.

Image

Vernum
Posts: 99
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Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#8 » Sun May 22, 2016 3:58 am

Francis let the his hand fall on the table, the letter sliping past his fingers. His heart was racing again and his hands were trembling, if only slightly. Several minutes passed by as Francis tried to figure out if that was because he was intimidated or excited. Probably more of the latter.

William's words repeated in his head. What was the phrase he had used?
Fingers in too many pies.
Fitting. He was supposedly the Foundry's head of intelligence, but it was just a title. Someone truly in charge of such matters wouldn't be as public as he was. He was just a pawn who talked to people, processed their information and relayed it on to others. He knew something was rippling beneath the surface, though waiting patiently instead of asking too many questions had seemed like the safest way in this particular matter.

Francis had tested his limits and gotten slapped on the wrist, but it felt good to be relevant again. It meant he was making a difference. He wasn't necessarily going to follow the letter's implications, but he would have to change his methods. It was a lesson learned, and with each mistake he would learn something new, slowly mastering the game. Provided those mistakes wouldn't kill him first.

If the letter was true, he would have to make a choice soon, but time was running out. He had let too much information leak and now the course of events was no longer in his control.
If he followed the letter's advice, he might catch an inquisitor spy. It might still not be enough to catch him off-guard, but taking a more discreet path would be even slower.
Either way he could be after an innocent man – if a mage could be called such a thing.

With some much to do and so little time to do it all, Francis returned to considering his possible allies. There were good people in the province, but none could be trusted with everything he knew. They either lacked the required subtlety or he couldn't be sure they were on the same side.
Trusting anyone would be a risk. Sometimes risks had great rewards, and occasionally you had to take a calculated risk.

He shook his head and looked at the letter once more. He hadn't been driven in a corner. His quarries were, if anyone. He might fail this once, but the failure would sever merely one of the dozen threads he held in his hands.
”It might be wise” was the structure the letter used to advice him. Might be wise. Initiating a manhunt would forgo all subtlety and narrow his options, but it would be safe for his career.
Do I even want to be wise? Or do I want to be right?

Francis tossed the letter into the fireplace, and as the flames consumed the mysterious warning, he knew the answer.

The Francis who had entered the province months ago would've cared for his career. Since then, the hardships he had been through had only strengthened his conviction. If he bent under letters like that, he would become just another Foundry drone. Francis was not serving only the Foundry, he was serving the Republic.

He couldn't let Daith Deas be punished for something he wasn't certain of. It was a matter of principle. Guilty or not, Francis wasn't sure, and he wasn't going to give in to fear and start persecuting people who could be innocent.

”No man is greater than the Republic”, he uttered defiantly as he headed out, even though no-one was present to hear him.


- - -



It was early morning. Francis found himself sitting in his office again.

He had wanted to start having a diary to collect his personal thoughts somewhere. He had been trying for the past thirty minutes. All he had managed to write down was the date.

No matter how he frowned and glared at the nearly blank page, it didn't relent. Eventually he had to admit his defeat. What could he write? His personal thoughts? He couldn't write of anything sensitive, so he didn't really have anything he could write about.

It rains again. I feel lonely. I worry about my family.
He pondered on writing it down. If someone saw, what would they think of him? That he was a sentimental little boy?

He slammed the book shut and pushed it over the edge of the table. The whole thing just irritated him.

He focused his attention to one of the few things that brought him peace of mind – his work. Papers lay on his table, some neatly stacked, others crumpled and lying around. He skimmed through several files on individual people, absent-mindedly rolled up the legion roster and held it in his hands for some time before letting it fall on the floor, resting his eyes on the list he had agreed on compiling with the constable.

Why am I investigating friends?
A little piece of Francis voiced its doubts, but he quelched it. No-one could be trusted. Enemies of the Republic could be lurking anywhere. Those who were openly hostile caused him the least worry. It was the enemies within the Fort that concerned him the most. Spies, heretics, seditionists, slaves to greed and fear.

Francis was keeping an eye on everyone he could, even friends.
It's for their own good.
The Foundry paid him for his services, but Francis was an officer who served the Republic, not its individual branches. Asher, Glass and everyone in the Foundry was just as suspect as anyone else. Francis couldn't police all of them, nor did he want to – sometimes you had to do things unofficially – but knowing what they were up to couldn't be harmful to the cause.

You're playing in dangerous waters, the letter had begun. Francis had already been aware, but having the fact shoved on his face made the danger seem more imminent than before.
He didn't know who the writer was or what they were capable of, but he was ready to take the consequences, whatever they were.

Principles and ideals had brought him here, kept the flame burning and supported him through all the hardships he had endured. Giving them up was not an option. If he had to die for them, so be it; there would be nothing left to live for if he abandoned the cause.

Every day he saw people scavenging the remains of an empire they didn't believe in, and it gnawed on him. All the thankless, self-entitled scum who witnessed the Republic's decline only to take advantage of it could join the likes of the Tower and the VIC in the pyre for all he cared.

Then there were others, good people, people who Francis hoped could open his heart to. While he couldn't, it was those people who kept the fire burning. Those people were the Republic. He did it all for them.

His thoughts drifted to the inquisitor spy whom the detective had asked a pardon for.
I don't think you're one of the good people, but I'll give you a chance to prove me otherwise. I'll keep the pyre burning should you fail to deliver.

First, however, was the matter of the mage. With newfound resolution, Francis stood up and hurried off to find Asher. He'd know where to look next.



- - -



The mage lay on his back on a diagonal wooden board, tight ropes constraining him by his ankles, wrists and waist. Glass was just securing the final knot on his wrist, gleefully smiling as he tightened the strand to the mage's pained groans. Erinne had her hands on her lap, standing right behind the captive.

"Tell me about your accomplices. Give me their names", Francis demanded.
"Please! I don't know what you're talking about", the anxious mage begged.

Francis frowned and looked to Llareth, who was standing quietly in the dark corner of the room.
"There's a neat trick I saw the detective do to a body. He shoved his knife underneath its fingernail and twisted. Plucked the nail right off. Think you can do that?"

Llareth approached the bound prisoner and retrieved a dagger from his belt.
"Might as well try. Looks like I've got a few chances to practice."

Francis nodded, looking back to the mage. This would break his will.
"Feeling talkative, Daith?", he asked.

The mage just begged, begged as Llareth began his work.

With the first scream of pain, Francis felt a bead of cold sweat on his forehead. Daith was tough.
With the second, there was doubt. Had they been right? Of course they had, the spy just wasn't easily broken.
With the third, Francis shuddered. What if the mage was innocent? Damn. Francis had authorized this. Were they torturing an innocent man for crimes he didn't commit?
Francis fled the room as the fourth scream rung, marking one less fingernail on Daith's fingers. His shaky hands reached for the doorknob.

Daith didn't know anything. What had he done? How could he forgive himself? How could anyone forgive him?

Fresh air! He pushed the door open and stepped outside. The bright sun blurred his vision, but there were figures ahead, facing him.
Anvil, Faustine, Mote. They were all judging him with their eyes.


Francis started awake. His office was dark. Paperwork lay scattered about the table. He'd fallen asleep.

The nightmare was a vision of a path Francis had never taken. In reality, he had finally met Daith Deas just outside the gates, and not a second too late. Right after he had invited the man in his office for a friendly conversation, a member of the Consortium had arrived and requested Daith's presence in the spire.

Francis had managed to take Daith with him first. Their conversation had been interesting but had revealed little of Daith's hidden nature, if there was one. Daith was either a better liar or an innocent man.

Francis had chosen to accompany Daith back when they ran into the Consortium mages. By the way Erinne and her comrades had stood there blocking the gate, Francis had realized they had been about to make a move then.
With no substantial proof, he had refused to let that happen. Taking initiative, he had adressed Erinne and spoken of Daith as a trusted friend. It had been enough to throw Erinne off balance. She had taken him aside for a private conversation, and after a brief quarrel grudgingly accepted that arresting Daith wasn't an option.

Daith had walked free that day, but Francis had no regrets. He wasn't sure if the mage was guilty, but at least he hadn't set a precedent of arresting and interrogating people based on mere assumption.



- - -



There had been an uneasy relationship between Francis and the man posing as William Humphrey Cardigan through the whole investigation. The man was an intrusive lout.
Because of the crucial information he had gotten from William, Francis had tried to close his eyes from most of William's flaws, but enough was enough.
Perhaps he will learn his lesson this way.

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As much as the prisoner had played detective, in the end he was just a common street thug from Greatport. He didn't understand how the Fort worked, he just pretended to.

Francis appreciated information and those who were willing to part with it, but 'William' hadn't been careful enough to have just one confidant. Instead the would-be detective had shared Freya Hartford's involvement in the VIC with another soul, who had in turn passed the information on. There had been no stopping the word from spreading.

With so many people aware of the 'secret', some were putting significant pressure on Francis to act upon it. He couldn't blame those people, as the information would have reached the VIC itself eventually, nullifying all effort the Fort had put into the investigation.

Francis had tried to give the 'William' as much as time as possible before taking action. Then he had brought Freya in his office to be questioned and arrested.

True to his offensive behaviour, 'William' had entered Foundry premises unauthorized, barged in Francis's office mid-interrogation and disrupted it. It had been the last straw.

Look who's fucking who now, Francis thought as he left to attend Freya's trial, leaving the prisoner in the cell.



- - -



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The decision was a tough one for Francis to stomach. The inquisitor was to be spared.

This woman had supposedly lived with the VIC her entire life, and all she had supposedly been able to give them was a few names, ones they already knew. For siding with the enemy that burned down the guild district, razed Riverside and killed children, perhaps even partaking in the acts, Freya Hartford's punishment was to be escorted safely into Redholme where people who had little first-hand experience of her or the recent sorrows of the First Province would decide on her fate.

If she isn't punished here, why would they punish her there? Is this the message we want to send? Burn our homes down and we will escort you out of the quarantine zone?

The courtroom was full of people, but there was no justice. Behind Francis's displeased face, a plan was hatching. If they would return Freya underground while the decurion's men would prepare, Francis's responsibility would be to watch her.
Although it was unlikely, there was always the possibility that the caught spy would bitterly attack him. Francis would have no choice but to fight back. In the struggle she would take a lethal wound. He would be sorry, of course, but her death wouldn't really be his fault.

When they took the spy away from the court room, the Foundry and Francis, he felt like he had betrayed himself.



- - -



”Tools, tools and more tools!”
The merchant's booming voice carried to the street as Francis walked past.
Tools.
It was an accurate depiction of the Fort's inhabitants, and Francis if anyone was one of them.

He feared that he was becoming just another officer sitting behind a desk, slowly growing numb to all the atrocities happening in the province. Sometimes he wished someone would shake and slap him back to reality, strike some emotion into him.

He was supposed to fight the Torment, not the Venerated Inquisition Corps or a vindictive knight captain. In fact, both the VIC and the knight captain should have been fighting the Torment alongside him.
Yet here we all are, fighting each other while the Torment is left to fester on its own.

Ever since the three troublemakers had been caught snooping around in the graveyard, Francis had felt something slowly coming for him and his comrades. Even though he had misdirected Faustine and Dudley to believe it had been about a hidden stash of valuables, the truth was entirely different.
It wasn't about gold, at least not directly. He wasn't sure what it was exactly about in the end, but it mattered little. Even if he didn't know why, he knew who, and with the graveyard incident Francis knew this person was on to them.

This is why he headed out with the lantern in the dead of night. He had to check the graveyard one more time, to see if they were still safe.

It seemed quiet. He walked past the rows of graves, circling the graveyard, gave the mausoleums a shallow examination and turned to return the way he came. On the way back something caught his attention. The pile of coffins – had some of them been moved?

Francis carefully approached, lifting the lantern closer to the coffins and squinting at the darkness.

- - -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UliK8qOgmFE

- - -

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”You need to be prepared to do it yourself”, the masked figure finished.

Francis narrowed his eyes and took an instinctive step back, like recoiling from something unnatural and horrifying.
Jean de Lairenne?!
Holding the lantern in his left, Francis's right hand started moving behind his back. If he was quick enough, he could--

Jean fired the crossbow and the bolt hit Francis's right leg: he wasn't sure where. The pain arced through his entire body and the force sent him off-balance.
”Ah”, the assailant spoke with a pleased tone.
”I wouldn't”, he rebuked as Francis stumbled on the ground with a groan.

Francis let go of the lantern, trying to soften the fall with his hands. The effort made his eyes water, but he managed to push himself to a clumsy sitting position, facing the knight captain.

”What? Not going to scream? Good man”, Jean mocked him. It wasn't like screaming would save him. If anything, it would bring his death even closer.
”But there will be time for that”, the assailant continued.

Francis pressed his palms on the bleeding wound while helplessly trying to kick himself away with his uninjured leg. The clumsy attempt seemed to amuse Jean, who sighed and took his time reloading the crossbow.

”Don't worry. I'm not going to kill you. Yet.”

It was of little relief. Francis shot a quick glance back at the night. Fort Praesidium was somewhere out there. A safe haven wrapped in darkness.
The second bolt hit Francis's left shoulder. He fell on his back with a loud shriek of pain. It felt like the shoulder was aflame, but his right hand grabbed at it anyway, hoping to slow the bleeding despite the excruciating pain.
He saw Jean approach. The crossbow was now resting on the knight captain's shoulder, a cloth dripping with fluid on his other hand.
”Stop... Struggling Eston... Time for that later”, Jean uttered, sounding like he was savouring the moment.
Francis opened his mouth to draw breath and scream – perhaps someone in the Fort would hear him – but the cloth was violently pressed against his face before any sound could escape. Stunning fumes stinged his eyes and entered his mouth and nostrils.

It all became fuzzy. His vision was fading and blurring. All the sounds became distant, like he was somewhere else. Pain and adrenaline felt irrelevant. It was like he had become a spectator, watching the scene with soothing tranquillity.
”There now... Sleep. Good lad...”

Focus!
A momentary burst of willpower brought him back. His left leg jerked, a kick aimed between Jean's legs. There was a satisfying grunt and Jean's leg gave way enough for Francis to roll over on his stomach. Jean was speaking to him. The words were irrelevant, survival was all that mattered now.
Francis tried to crawl away, but his strength was gone. He reached out with his right arm to the darkness, hoping to grasp at the Fort. His vision faded again. The night surrounded him and drowned him within.
The last thing he saw was his arm uselessly collapsing on the ground.

Image

Vernum
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Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#9 » Fri Dec 30, 2016 1:19 pm

Footsteps?
Francis imagined the faint glow of a torchlight illuminating the cold, damp den. No light shined through the contraption on his head to bring the wretched creature any hope. The sound, provided the prisoner hadn't been hearing things, only spelled more agony for him. He reacted to it by writhing – in lingering pain from past torture or to the thought of what was still to come. The pain was not physical, which wasn't to say it hurt any less.
Yet the dread brought the prisoner to life. The approaching danger made blood surge into his head. Erratic thoughts raced across his mind, gradually becoming more and more organized and uniform as time ran shorter.

Think, Francis.
He was alive for a reason. They still had some use for him. Information? Or was this personal? No – not personal. The knight captain was petty and Francis had undermined his authority with the constable, but pettiness wasn't what had driven this.
Then why the hell was this happening? They hadn't even interrogated him yet. The man pulling the strings, Jean de Lairenne, hadn't bothered to come to him, at least to Francis's knowledge.
It was just the assassin, Key. She came to Francis time after time, to deprive him and play with him. Francis was hoping they would begin to interrogate him soon. Perhaps that would drive Key away.

At first Francis had thought to go with the strategy. To avoid pissing them off and to act stupid and harmless. He had wondered just how much he could've safely given away and weighed on his options. He had expected them to want information about Glass and Killian. Perhaps even the Enclave itself, though Francis couldn't have helped with that. There were line he had never crossed, because knowing certain the answers to certain questions would only made him a risk.
Francis had been planning to let something big slip. Something Glass would know only Francis knew. Something that would show Jean's involvement to them. Him. Whoever Glass worked with or for.

These people didn't care at all about the Foundry's secrets. They didn't even want to listen to him. Whatever information Francis had, none of it mattered here. He had hoped for a chance to barter with the little information he had, but it seemed like there was nothing his captors needed from him.
It was like most of the world had been swept away: the only law that applied here that Key would always return to torment him.

Francis had kept his hopes up by assuring himself that people were searching for him, but after the first few visits a darker thought struck him. Would Glass or anyone in the Foundry even care? Why would they? They already knew it was Jean de Lairenne. Francis had nothing new to give them, why risk anything trying to save him?

No, they'll come for me. I'd do the same for them. We're comrades.

The words lost impact each time he had to tell them to himself. Despair was slowly setting in. He couldn't keep it together for much longer.

He wriggled in his bonds, making a desperate effort to free himself.
”Francis Avery Eston”, Key's soft voice whispered playfully.
”You must've been so lonely without me.”



- - -



Even though Francis's throat and mouth were dry, he could taste iron through his coughs. He was alone. Initially the realization had felt like a respite. By now it had turned to another form of torture. He knew it would go on for a while; Key liked to play on the sense of isolation. If only she had let him keep his Goodsea pebble, then he would have had something to lean on.

How long had he been here? Days? Weeks? Months? Or had it only been a few hours? He couldn't tell. The shorter time he had been a prisoner, the more he would still have to endure. The longer it had been, the less likely it would ever end in anything but death.
Death was close to becoming an alluring notion. A final, sweet embrace. A release to end the suffering?
No.
Francis still had something to live for. Even when he was lying alone in a dark stupor, a flame burned inside him. His cause, his mission.
Sacrifice and justice. The Republic.
When it was pitch black, even a dying flicker of light felt blinding.

Francis knew it wouldn't last.



- - -



With nothing but the occasional visits in the dark, Francis had begun to rely on them. Key always appeared eventually, ending his loneliness and beginning his humiliation. Even though it nauseated him to think back on the deprivation, abuse and molestation he had been through, Francis had become morbidly dependent on Key's presence.

Memories of the visits surfaced again. She had made him her pet and a toy for her sick games. Frustration, anger, self-loathing and bitter resentment took Francis over. Inside his head, he made Key squeal for the wrongs she had committed on him. He flailed, spat and growled, but the bonds would not relent, and it fed his frustration.
He closed his eyes, pressing his eyelids together as hard as he could, as though he could dig so deep into his memories the pain couldn't find him.

The faces were distant, but he saw them again, hovering in the vast emptiness. He had sworn to always remember them, but even Clement's face seemed hazy. Francis had dealt with those people in another time, in a world that now seemed like a far-away dream. This world knew only degradation and ultimately, if Key would have mercy on him, death.

Amidst the agony, there was a flicker of hope from within. A small voice inside his head. It was scolding, but it was on his side. Francis knew the voice had always been there, but now it extended a hand to him and he had no choice but to take it, to seek refuge with the voice.
This is all your fault, Francis. You've been weak.

The words burned inside his head, scorching the shame into ashes. Francis tried to close his mind from the world, leaving him alone with the voice.
None of this would ever have happened had you been more rational, Francis. It's a cruel world that wants you dead. You must to hurt them before they hurt you.

The words were captivating, dominant. Even though Francis was still haunted by the visits, the voice Francis was locked in with felt safe and protective. It was like a portion of the pain was turned away by its mere presence.
You entered the province with a purpose. You got on the right track, but somewhere along the road you got tangled in their schemes. This world is only as complicated as you want it to be. With my help, we can make it all simple again, his inner flame promised.
From now on we will do things my way. You only have to listen.
There was a violent quality to the voice that Francis hadn't noticed before. He closed his mind from it and returned to his bleak, lonely existence as a prisoner. Listening to voices was for raving lunatics.

He was about to fall asleep when the voice caught up to him.
You know what's going to happen, Francis. Cast away your illusions. No-one's coming to save you. I'm the only friend you have. No-one else cares.
He could only lay half-awake on the floor. This time the voice was soothing and pleasant in spite of the raw truths it spoke.
Key has made you her bitch. Is getting violated by a lowlife scum until you waste away really what you want?
It took a while to decide, but no. It wasn't.
Good, Francis. Now what do you want?
The Republic. A safe tomorrow.
No, that's old you. Naïveté gets you killed. You want to escape, at any cost. You can't have your revenge while you're imprisoned. The gruel they feed you isn't making you any stronger.
Francis wanted to disagree, but he was alone and helpless. He wasn't sure if it was wrath or justice his inner fire burned with, but in the current situation it was the only ally he could have and there was no spitting on its face. He was ready to die for the Republic, but what would dying here achieve? Here he could only die for his own pride, unwilling to bend and face his own iniquities.
Do you think Glass would die for you?
No, Francis knew. Pawns are meant to be sacrificed. You didn't sacrifice yourself for them.
It's time to quit being a pawn, Francis.



- - -



”Who is he?”
”Is he important?”
”We've got you.”
”Eston, it's Stardane. You're going to be okay.”
”Orders, Primus?”
”At least he isn't a large man.”
”Glass is gone.”
”Listen to me Francis. She's not here. It's me, sport. Me.”
”Use your fewkin' magic!”
”He dead..?”

Image

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgr-ZSZSSwA

Freedom after such a long time was an amazing thing. As weak as Francis's body was, there was a sense of euphoria for having finally been freed. It was fleeting, followed by an empty, hollow sensation: what now?

The inner flame was quick to fill the emptiness. Francis had potential. He had not yet recovered, but it didn't stop him. He made his way out of the confining hospital room and into the Fort. There was a light drizzle that danced on Francis's face as he looked up to the vast, cloud-marked skies. Despite the rain, Francis thought he could still smell ash and burnt flesh. It was nostalgic, like returning home. For the first time in months, Francis could breathe freely.

A darker thought immediately echoed: it wasn't home. Home was in Ghaenthgrand by the Goodsea. He knew he would never return there and the memories had partially faded, replaced by a sense of approaching calamity. He would have to be careful, or he might well forget why he had come in the first place.

He had sacrificed a finger and his face for the Venerated Republic. For such a great cause, the sacrifices were next to nothing. Much more would still be given for a better tomorrow. Francis might have to partake, but it was now others' time to make sacrifices, whether they wanted it or not.
They shouldn't have entered the province if they weren't ready to die for the Republic.

What was ahead of him should've felt overwhelming, but he was ecstatic to return to it. He embraced the chance to fight for what he believed in. Months of containment hadn't taken the fight out of him: it had festered, swollen and now ready to be released upon the wicked.
He limped along the street, with all the determination of someone who had months' worth of work to make up for.



- - -



Francis sat in the dark. He was on the edge of the seat, his back hunched and his elbows leaning on his thighs. The candle had burn out a moment ago, leaving him to brood alone.
He still held the crumpled copy of Maerdyn's death report. A single sentence had caused Francis to get lost in his thoughts, something doctor Sacasa had written.
There is a tattoo on the cadaver's mostly intact left wrist. It appears to be a letter, "V".

It had brought back the letter Francis had received about Daith Deas and Erinne. That had been signed by 'Y', a supposed trade officer.
Even though Francis was not at all surprised of the prospect of Maerdyn being a member, the way the organization came back to haunt the Foundry annoyed him.
Francis felt transition was in the air. If he couldn't bring Glass back after taking Jean out, the Enclave would sense the situation and wither away or stand back and make way for Francis and Dudley.
Times changed and it was only natural that new people would step in to replace the old. The next generation.

He took a quill and gently brushed the feather along his lips. His hold of the pen tightened, and he started tapping the end of the quill on the table almost violently. Like holding a dagger.
His face turned into a brooding frown.
Jacqueline Holden was still sitting on Glass's seat. It felt like sacrilege.
Francis let the quill slip past his fingers and pushed himself to his feet. You couldn't carve your way to the constable's seat with a pen.



- - -



Even though Francis hadn't expected it to happen so soon, the news of Dudley's death hardly surprised him. He had always been a stubborn one, a bright flame that burned out too quick.
Dudley Rexrode had been a strong person who had tempted fate, whereas Francis knew when to swallow his pride and back away.

Now looking at the late knight marshall, Francis felt the impending dread that was closing in on him. He stared at the bloodied corpse and his eyes became unfocused as he thought back to what Dudley had said earlier that day.
With Jean de Lairenne back in the Fort, Llareth had been supposed to move Augie, the witness who would testify against the new constable, to safety the previous night. When the sun rose, there was no trace of either Llareth or Augie except for Llareth's knife that Dudley had found in the evidence locker. It had set all of Francis's plans back.

Yesterday it was John Llareth, today it was Dudley Rexrode. Would it be his turn tomorrow?
Hunting down the former associates of Glass was not beyond Jean, but a risky move like this at the present sounded unlike him. He had already gotten what he wanted – the constable's seat.

Francis approached the corpse and dropped to one knee. Something, perhaps a spear, had punctured through Dudley's chest, or so it seemed. From experience Francis knew the signature weapon of Jean's assassins was a crossbow.

He stood up and turned to Leandra to accept the curiosities she had gathered from the deceased. A tremor ran through Francis as he took one of them in his hands. Alban's glasses.

Alban Glass had, in some ways, been like a father to Francis. He had took him in, showed him how the province worked. Glass had been – was no saint, and had never claimed to be. He had showed Francis the world like it was, a cruel but honest act.
Glass had always been one of the people Francis had distrusted the least, because unlike most others, Glass never claimed he had anything to hide. He had been honestly untrustworthy.

Glass would never have let emotions slow him down. Glass had been mentoring him, fostering him for something and at the same time protecting him from it until he'd be ready.

You're ready now, Francis. In time, you could even become the constable. You're above all these quarreling fools. Imagine how much you could do. For the Republic.. for yourself.

The inner flame was right. He was ready.
He was ready for a lot of things. Something the inner flame didn't seem to understand that being ready for something didn't mean you had to do it.

The inner flame was the aspect of him that saw clearly, albeit mercilessly.
As he felt the Goodsea pebble in his pocket through the uniform, he realized the inner flame lacked certain traits that had kept Francis's head above the water despite all he'd been through.
Patience. Self-control. Humanity.

Despite acknowledging the inner flame's flaws, Francis had to admit that the path was enticing.
Fifteen minutes later Francis he sat in Alban's former office in the Republic keep and watched the room through the lenses. They distorted nothing.

Confusion turned to admiration towards the genius of the first constable Francis had known. Glasses had helped Alban see, not enhancing his physical sight but showing him how the world truly was.
When Glass fled the Fort, he had left the glasses for others to be found. And now, beginning to see what was to be done himself, Francis wondered if this had been Glass's plan all along.



- - -



"Welcome to my office", Francis said, spreading his arms around the bleak stone room before sitting down, taking Alban's glasses off his face and placing them on the table.
Faustine rubbed the back off her neck in an uneasy gesture.
"Ah. Ye've reclaimed it." She looked aside and moved to sit down.
"Ye see well enough without 'em now?"

Francis winced, though Faustine likely didn't notice. He took the glasses and put them on again. His tone was matter-of-fact.
"What did you want to talk about?"

Faustine leaned forward to stare at Francis.
"Ye look a lot like him."
He couldn't help but break into a smile. The words weren't intended to be flattering, but they were.
"That's not what you came here to say, though", Francis steered the conversation back.
"Are ye going to be coming to Dudley's pyre?"
"When?"
"I'm nae sure. I've left it up to Lea to make the announcement."
"I'll be there if I can."
Faustine nodded. Several seconds passed in silence before she continued.
"Ye seem to be taking his death well."
Her eyes searched over Francis, who sat stiffly in the chair.
"He wasn't the first gendarme I've seen dying."
"Nae... But you and him seemed closer. Closer than your typical comrades, eh?"
"Don't let that impression fool you. All men in the gendarmerie are simply comrades."
"Simply?"
"Glass used to say that we all knew how this'd end up when we signed up."
Faustine looked down at her lap, letting out an unsure "mm"-sound. But Francis wasn't done; he leaned closer, keeping his eyes fixed on her face.
"We're all just resources. You, me. Rexrode. The constable."
"He warned me nae to love a gendarme."
She rolled her shoulder weakly and looked up as Francis leaned back against his chair.
"Love nothing in this province. Everything is expendable. No love lasts but love for your Republic: that's the only love you know you can take to your grave. Rexrode and Llareth knew it well."
"Love everything in this province. It's the only way you'll fight properly to save it – and them – all", Faustine retorted, squinting at him. Her tone was unbelieving.
"Knew? Llareth's..."

Francis sighed soundlessly. He was getting frustrated with this.
"While at first it was adorable, your naivete is giving me a headache now."
"What're ye on about?"
"Ah. I seem to have.. Hm."
Faustine narrowed her eyes as Francis stood up.
"Wait there. I will show you something."
She pressed her lips together and stood up to watch Francis leave the room. When he returned with Llareth's knife, she moved her hand to the pommel of her sword. Francis returned to his seat and let the knife clang on the table.
"What's that?", Faustine asked while she approached and sat down.
"Llareth was supposed to perform a duty with certains risks involved last night." He took a pause and watched the words sink in.
"What're ye talking about, Francis?"
"Rexrode came to me today, he had found his knife in the prisoner belongings locker."
He watched Faustine's lips purse and brows furrow.
"I'm not implying anything. But I haven't seen Llareth since." His tone was just as calm as it had been throughout the conversation.
"What was John supposed to do last night, Francis?"
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"Yes."
"I will tell you. Llareth had a witness. Someone the constable had hired back in the day, to deliver me in his hands. He was caught, and ready to testify against de Lairenne. With de Lairenne taking the constable's seat here, Llareth was to take the witness elsewhere for safekeeping so the constable couldn't kill him – so. If my fears are confirmed. We lost Llareth yesterday, Rexrode today and tomorrow it could be my turn."
Faustine paled and sunk back in her seat. She searched over Francis face for any indication of falsehood, but Francis had never found the templar girl particularly difficult to manipulate. Her eyes were welling up with tears and her face twists into something of a pained grimace. Francis did his best to keep his face weary and dourly stoic, like that of a man who's accepted his fate. Deep inside his head, he was triumphant.
She's buying into all you tell her, Francis. You make me proud.

"Nae.. Nae, it can't be.. He.. Not him too.. Not.. He cannae be dead, Francis.."
Francis watched her plight from behind the glasses. Faustine looked crushed, the weight of the world caving her chest in. Her voice was uneven, eyes spilling over.
"What about the w-witness? Someone has to know something.."
"Disappeared with Llareth."
"He..."
"Gone."
"No..."
While the scene was intriguing to watch, Francis knew he had to deliver the final blow. Drive her over the edge. Someone had to rally against Jean de Lairenne, and he wasn't going to risk his own skin. He stood up and dusted off his coat. Faustine's face grew red.
"Francis..."
He approached Faustine, appearing on her side. When he spoke, his tone was mockingly gentle.
"Should've left your naivete in the Rumbling Pass, Faustine. I can't comfort you. I have no proof of Llareth's demise, but always expect the worst."
"How can you support this constable, Francis?", she blurted out, sounding downright offended. Tears were rolling down her cheeks.
"I'm not supporting him personally. But I'm doing my duty here. Welcome to the world we live in, Faustine Bystrand."
"The world does nae have to stay as it is, Francis! And it should nae be allowed to grow darker still!" Her voice was desperate, but Francis brought his hands together behind his back as he kept listening with a weary expression.
"It can be fixed. It can be saved."
"So save it."
"Then why won't you help me?!"
Francis shook his head softly. She just didn't get it.
"Help you how? What do you want me to do? You're just crying at me right now."

Faustine sniffed and wiped away her tears hopelessly. New ones formed almost instantly despite her attempts to get herself composed again.
Francis took off his glasses and offered Faustine a forced, comforting smile while he rested a hand on her shoulder. Faustine trembled under his hand.
"We have to stop this, Francis.."
"There is no happy way to end this, Faustine. You can forget your 'maybe he can still be redeemed' bullshit. Confront him about this, especially looking like that, and he will laugh you off."
"Then it will end with the death of one man. And it will be the one whose only redemption can be in his death. It will be his. You said you have no evidence, but there must be, Francis. There must be. Somewhere."
She was getting on the right track. It was time to strike.
"See", Francis began with a disappointed tone.
"The truth has broken you, and you still cling to your childish beliefs."
He inhaled and exhaled before screaming to Faustine's face.
"WAKE THE FUCK UP!"
He straightened his back and shook his head, moving next to his seat.
"This man runs the Fort now. You're not gonna do shit with proof, not that you could find any at this point."
He huffed in frustration, putting the glasses back on. She had stiffened and stopped crying, and Francis hoped he hadn't overdone it.
"Unless someone runs him through with a sword, it won't end. He will never face trial in the Fort he runs. He even brought his own gendarmerie here."
"I don't need a trial. I need evidence. It's nae for the jury."
"That's what you need, and I wish you luck in finding it", Francis announced with a calmed tone.
"Jean de Lairenne was the one who captured me. Jean de Lairenne tried to have me and Jax assassinated before that. Jean de Lairenne's goal all along was to kill Alban Glass and even Killian if they stood in his way."
"And what will you do? You'll wait for him to try again?"
"I've got a lot of experience in the field of surviving, Faustine. You need evidence. I don't. I've got all I need. If you keep suffering, then you will."
"I need evidence to bring an army against him. And that's what's fewkin' needed."

Francis resisted the urge to sigh on her face. She was so close to getting there, and now she started all over again with this evidence bitching.
"I can't help you unless you help yourself. The door is behind you. The evidence won't be found in this room."
Faustine avoided his gaze and lowered her eyes to her lap. She curled her arms loosely around herself and looked back to Francis, who spoke.
"I really don't see how I can help you if mine and Llareth's disappearances aren't enough. Perhaps you should ask Jean himself. I wouldn't be surprised if he was arrogant enough to admit it."
"I've taken your advice. I've sent word to request a meeting."
"Sounds like you got it, girl", Francis quipped and brought his hands together behind his back again.
"You're nae him, Francis.. But ye've nae been yourself either ever since ye came back.."
Faustine pressed up to stand and a flash of emotion raged through Francis. What the heck did she expect? That after months of what he had to go through with Key, he'd be the same?! Faustine stood up, and Francis forced himself to calm down.
"Regrettable, if true. You don't see me crying either."

Faustine searched over him miserably, and he answered her gaze with impatient weariness.
"Do you have keys for the whole of the Foundry building?", she finally asked.
"Not the treasury. The undercroft, the barracks, the warehouse – yes."
"Is that where his office is?"
"I don't know where he keeps his office. He's been laying low."
"Glass said he's smart enough to do that, aye.."
"Mm. We would've taken him out earlier if he hadn't."
"I'd like copies of what ye do have."
"Two what purpose?"
"Evidence. And failing that, to be able to move more freely if I need to be fewkin' running for my life when he catches on."
"Very well", Francis lied.
"I'll find someone to make more keys. Just understand what happens to you if his men catch you sneaking about here."
The templars against Jean de Lairenne's goons. Now that was a juicy thought.

"Aye. I die. There's a shite ton of ways to die, aren't there?"
"Yep", Francis agreed. He wasn't going to find out, but if he had played his cards right, Faustine might force Jean to.
"Pick your favourite."
"Well it sure as fewk won't be while I'm sitting on my hands."
"Glad to hear it."
"I've got some blank keys back at the cathedral's office", Faustine gestured aside.
"Bring them to me", Francis urged.
"Aye."
She sniffed again, trying to pull herself together before stepping out into the hall.

"I'll wait here", Francis said to her back. He hoped he had set enough wood beneath Jean's feet to light a pyre.



- - -



With the necessary groundwork done, Francis was relieved to move on to the next stage: his own death.
He packed what he needed and climbed over the wall of Aiwella, well out of sight from the horde pushing against the gate. The light steps that showed no trace of the limp he displayed publicly led him inside the ruined chapel, then up the stairs to the top of the tower.

It was there where he began his work. He withdrew a small knife from his belt. He had taken special care to keep it clean on the way through the festering ruins. Now it cut into his palm, which then smeared the blood on his hat and the spare glasses he had gotten from Dudley along with Alban's.
He idly dropped the hat on the stairs, brought his boot down on the glasses and dropped some blood on the ground from the wound of his palm as he listened to the crackling.

It was time for the culmination. He wrapped his hand in a bandage and reached for his Goodsea pebble, casting a final glance at it. In the past he might've taken a moment to reminisce, but he was a different Francis now. Today he would give up the act. There was no Ghaenthgrand, no home by the Goodsea. The First Province was his home. During his time there he had grown to become alike it.

His glove grasped the stone firmly as it hit the floor. There was a thud. Then a moment of silence, as Francis prepared to hit again. Another thud. Each time he struck the pebble on the floor, he shot another bolt at Selene Durai's corpse, watched Roseline and Clement bleed to death one more time.

Image

When it was done, Francis cast one final look at the scene. It was through the glasses Alban had worn.

As he turned to walk down the stairs, the morning sun greeted his face. The light was bleak and emotionless, just like him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfeNFTIneQA

Vernum
Posts: 99
Contact:

Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#10 » Mon Feb 06, 2017 7:23 pm

Image
It had been months since he had returned from the dead. Weeks since he had seen the true face of the rebels. Days since he had made up his mind. Seconds since he had cut his first victim's throat.

Blood trickled down along Francis's gloves and sleeves, staining his clothes red. When the body no longer twitched and Francis was drenched in the colour of the Republic, he let the dead man collapse on the ground. It was morbidly intriguing how everything had led to this.

At first he had been happy and relieved to hear they had killed Jean de Lairenne. The constable had been rotten to the core, and even if his death stained the names of Fort Praesidium's inhabitants as well as its streets with blood, it was worth it. You gave corruption no quarter.
The people who had done it – they had made a great personal sacrifice to help the Venerated Republic. That is what Francis had thought, until he had joined them in Tenebra and seen how they truly were.

It had appalled him. It was as though de Lairenne's corruption had had been a mere prelude to what was to come. Those who brought the constable to justice had shown their true colours, and the colours were far from those of the Republic.
The people who had fled to Tenebra were not people at all. They were animals. On a daily basis they murdered troops of the Republic who had done nothing but their duty. There were a minority who didn't, but they accepted those who did among their midst as brothers and that made them just as guilty. Little did anyone seem to remember of the time they had been like those Republic soldiers, easy to condemn anyone they deemed traitors and savages. Now it was as though those times had never existed, not for the traitors.
For Francis they did. He knew his purpose. The fact that the Republic wanted him dead didn't change his mind. He knew that everyone who had entered the First Province had given their life to the Republic and become an asset, and, if it came to that, the Republic had all the right to end that life.
The traitors spoke and acted like they themselves were the Republic. They didn't see how the reality was: the first province was a warzone. You no longer were the part of the Republic that needed to be protected once you came here, you were the part that was sacrificed to protect others. The men and women in the First Province were to fight and die so that the men and women in Ghaenthgrand would not have to.
But the traitors didn't feel this way. They felt entitled, like the Republic had been their ideal only until it actually required them to make a personal sacrifice. The same went for faith: when the filthy animals could no longer benefit of it, they abandoned it and turned to the false gods of the woods.
Their hubris and hypocrisy had disgusted Francis to the point of making him retch, and while he had tried not to think about it when he had walked among them, it had been easier to leave.

His gloves clenched in anger he so often kept repressed while he went through the people he had damned: his own gallery of hatred.
Jeremold Buttshaw, Eisali, Rheyne Lathbane and Virgle, for being pawns of the wicked hags.
Jacqueline Holden, Georg Aethalbald and Aldrich Eckhardt, for being hypocrites who proudly sided with sin.
Alastair Guilman, for failing his duty as an inquisitor and letting it all happen. And of course, for the promise Francis had made to Ecaterina's cadre long ago. Turn your back on the Republic and I will hunt you down.
And lastly, Leandra Wolfe. Francis had warned her not to take a side in this without his consent, and she had sided with the hags. Earlier he had planned to kill her eventually, although last, because she had seemed useful in service to the cause despite being marked by the Resolve. Now she was just a liability, and like with all of his enemies, he would end her life given the opportunity.


He returned to the camp occasionally, but only to prowl. Once he had followed Eisali into the woods and attempted to kill him. He had failed, but both men had walked away with their own legs. He knew he would have to keep trying until the traitors were no longer a threat.
Today he had come again to find one of the traitors setting a tent on fire. Francis had urged him on, of course, but when he had started to tell people of Francis's inclinations, Francis had put the animal down.

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It had been a hasty decision, but he had time to reflect on it while he stared into the flames of the pyre. He felt surprised how little guilt he felt standing before his work. Condemning another man to death should always be a hard choice, yet when he had felt the warm blood trickle on his gloves, Francis had felt fulfillment.
When the victim's last sigh had marked the end of a traitor, he had realized something: he was justice incarnate.

Well done Francis, the inner flame appraised him.
You have plenty of more work to do.


- - -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G792DKUMfjk

- - -



”We must be pretty damn far from the village, don't you think?”, Francis asked. Every passing moment he spent in Jeremold's company made him feel more and more guilty, like he was doing something wrong. But he knew he was right. It wasn't about his personal feelings, it was about justice. And if he delayed the inevitable any longer, he feared he wouldn't be able to do what's necessary.
”You could kill a man and no-one'd ever hear them scream.”
What are you doing, Francis? Just do it.

The inner flame was right. What was he doing? Just kill the man and be done with it. Was he subconsciously trying to warn Jeremold, to drive him away before he could attack? Francis snorted and made himself concentrate.

”The trees would hear”, Jeremold replied in his usual, innocent way. It wrenched Francis's heart, and he knew he hardly had one if he went through with his plan.

”They got hearing?”, Francis asked curiously. At least he could humour Jeremold before the end.
”Some of 'em do.”
”Any of these?”
Francis looked to the trees behind them. It was a beautiful day, and they were standing on the riverbank. An innocent foraging trip.

Jeremold gave a tree a kick and there was a dull thud. Then he shrugged.
”Hm. You know trees well?”, Francis asked.
”Not sure...”
”'least you got along with those Hags damn well.” It was supposed to sound like a justification for Francis's own confirmation, but it echoed hollowly. Murder was murder, there was no way around it.
”I'm sorry, Buttshaw..”

He nocked an arrow. Jeremold gave him a puzzled look, and began with a questioning ”hm”.
Francis's arrow hit its target. Jeremold ran.
Panic was giving Francis more determination. It was too late to let the target flee. Jeremold fell.

He approached the man with a coil of rope and began to tie it around him, but stopped. Jeremold mumbled something about his books. Of course, spellbooks!
Francis stood up, kicked Jeremold's bag away and nocked another arrow.
”Jeremold, easy. Shit..”
His breathing was heavy and his face anxious.

”I really didn't wanna do this, Jeremold, dammit.”

Jeremold was staring somewhere to the sky now, and Francis hoped he wasn't completely there in the present. It would be easier for Jeremold if he was somewhere in his happy mind. It would have been easier for Francis to pretend he was, but there were questions to answer.

”Why'd you turn against the Republic, mate? And the Hags.. they're evil.”
It wasn't what he had meant to ask. He was making excuses again, trying to justify his cause. He knew somewhere deep within that it was just, but currently emotions were drowning that little piece of him. He wasn't in control.

”I wanna know what the Hags're planning, alright? You gotta tell me, Buttshaw, Jeremold.”
”Planning?”
”Yeah! What's their next move against the Republic. I wanna know so I can prevent it.. prevent 'em from killing folks.. gotta kill 'em and their lackeys first.”
Pathetic, Francis.
Now he was trying to justify it to Jeremold as well.

His victim tried to sit up, but blood was trickling from his wounds.
”It... doesn't answer me”, Jeremold coughed.
”Don't answer you? Dammit Jeremold, I shot you down for a reason! I need -information-!”
”I asked it for guidance, and it left me to rot in my tent.”

Francis felt his heart sink further into shame. Jeremold had been let down even by the Hags, and now he was dying for them.

”Oh yeah”, Francis sighed, his tone lacking drive and determination. He looked down, and his eyes found the tongs he had dropped in case he needed to squeeze the truth out. He hoped it wouldn't go to that. He was already a monster.
”Think you'll talk if you persuade you?”
”Talking... now...”

Francis crouched beside Jeremold and leaned over him.
”Aye?”
”Please.. the books.. see they go to the church.”

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”The church? The books in the backpack?”

Jeremold managed a nod. He was still staring at the clouds above.
”Books.. for those who will care for them.”

”You're not making it easier for me, dammit.. Why can't you laugh at my cause and anger me, Jeremold?!”
It would've been easier that way, killing someone you hated, not someone you looked up to. Someone you realized was morally so much above you, someone you should've strived to protect.

”I already damn near killed some bypasser when I thought it was you..”
He had assaulted a mage on the island just the day before, but had realized his mistake in time and ran. The mage had survived with some wounds, to his relief.

Jeremold's chuckle was cut short by a wheeze.
”Not.. not.. at your cause.”
His eyes closed, and Francis quieted to listen, leaning closer. He was afraid this great man and friend, who Francis was about to slay, would die before having said what he wanted to say.

”Jeremold? Come on..”
”Hag doesn't..”
”I don't want you to die to die, not yet anyway.. we've got things to discuss.”
”-- tell me anything.”

Francis sighed. Jeremold was dying. There was just one thing left to do. He looked down at Jeremold apologetically while reaching for his dagger.

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Jeremold's eyes flickered open and he looked to the wound in his chest. Francis hesitated.
”You were one of the best.. just not good enough”, he said to Jeremold with a broken voice.
”Why.. only helped.. republic.. built tools.. fed yo-”
Jeremold was cut short by a coughing fit.

”You're a mage, Jeremold, and you followed the Hags.. I know..”
”I have.. a writ.”
”But you're too damn difficult to control, and I am going to control the shit out of everyone, for their best. See, we folk in the province, we suffer so that people in Ghaenthgrand could live. We suffer for 'em, and we accept it 'cause we came here in the province.. I'll send others after you. Georg, Leandra, Eisali..”
”Don't.. understand.”
”Already tried on Eisali, but the damn bastard lived.”
Francis raised his dagger above Jeremold.
”Don't even know him.”
”Shh. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.”

Francis's hand twitched, but Jeremold kept trying to say something. He just couldn't strike. He frowned as he tried to make out the word.
”Fa.. fa.. fac..”
”What?”
”Facio!”
”No, you don't!” Francis struck down at Jeremold with his dagger, but too slow; Jeremold rolled out of the way and managed to get on his feet. Francis leaped after him, tackled him on the ground and stabbed him, time after time, the wound on Jeremold's chest growing larger and larger while Francis was drenched in Jeremold's blood.

There was no sensation of justice. The guilt was overwhelming, and Francis let the dagger slip off his hand as he crawled away from Jeremold. He cursed, and crawled back to check Jeremold's belongings. Blood was forming a puddle around Jeremold's body.
Finally Francis stood up, hobbled a few steps, vomited and disappeared into the woods.



- - -



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Some time later Francis peeked from behind the palisade at the village. He had taken the books along, just like Jeremold had asked. Seeing the priest approach them gave Francis some much-needed respite, and though he could never make up for what he had done to Jeremold, he could at least give the body to the Flame.


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This time Francis's hand didn't reach for his chest, where the flame tattoo lay. There was no justice in Jeremold's death. Only necessity. His heart was heavy, and he knew it'd grow heavier still. More necessity awaited in the near future. Anything it took for the Republic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UJOl1P4KQw

Vernum
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Re: The Legacy of Francis Avery Eston

Post#11 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:22 pm

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The path through the cavern was a perilous one. Creatures Francis had never seen until that day emerged from the fleshy growths and charged at him and his fellow man. When the two of them finally emerged, to the mining shaft, battered and bruised, Francis knew they were safe.

It was that assumption that made him careless. A grenade clanged at his feet. Suddenly the world collapsed on him.
Francis, you we can make it through this, the inner flame told him.
Get on your feet, yes, like that. Your work is not done.

He sprinted along the caverns and finally stopped when he saw the man he'd come with. It didn't feel so bad any longer, but when he shook his head at the man and chuckled, he started choking on blood. In a stupor, he looked down at himself.

His robes were tattered. There were burnmarks all over, slowly hidden under red as his robe was becoming more and more drenched in what was pouring from inside him. He faintly recalled a pickaxe digging into his stomach no more than a minute ago. How was he still on his feet?

He tried to open his mouth to manage at least a whisper, his final words to the other man, but his open mouth made no sound. The cavern was getting ever darker, like the night itself was engulfing Francis. The back of his head crunched against the uneven cavern floor, and he realized he fell, just like the Republic.

In his final moment, there was no justice or pride. There was a strange, bleak sensation as he thought to all the people he had failed to protect, but it turned to conclusion when he reminded himself of home and Ghaenthgrand. His loving family, and the families of many others. People worth dying for. His cause.

The faces of the dead appeared to him again, but it only felt nostalgic. They were welcoming him in their midst, but made way for someone who approached with a steady pace, finally halting before him. It had been one hell of a journey, but he had made it to the end. Francis nodded gratefully to his old friend and reached up to grab Alban's extended hand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfVkU-UMXtM&

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