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Clover Spear - Chapter Cover Art

Chapter 17[]

Clover Spear - The Story of the '56 War[]

Prologue, Book 2, The Hammer Falls


Interview with the Archon[]


Classified Location
Tharkad, Federated Commonwealth
October 7th, 3056


Colonel the Baroness Juliette von Strang, exiled ruler of Von Strang's World and commander of the mercenary unit Von Strang's Legion, sipped at her whisky glass, appreciating the smoky flavor as she studied the woman sitting across from her in the main sitting room of the Tharkad chalet. The fire crackled off to one side, throwing a little extra light over not only the two women, but the numerous security guards and soldiers trying to fade into the background along the walls. "If I had known that accepting Colonel Kell's invitation to attend the anti-Tanker conference here would have led to me being whisked away by Royal troops, only to wind up sitting across from the Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth ... I'm not sure if I would have agreed."

Melissa Steiner-Davion smiled over her glass of red wine. "Oh, so you didn't find the convention to be useful? I would think that the opportunity to pick the brains of mercenary and House regimental commanders regarding the fight against the Clans would be of great interest to you, given your history."

Juliette shrugged. "For the most part, they were rehashing over things that we have all known for years, and, in my opinion, stupidly reinforcing many of the same old attitudes about Clan 'tactical superiority' and how suicidal it is to actually fight them. Instead of finding ways to actually deal with them, most seem to be trying to find ways of working with them, or at least around them." She shook her head. "Oh, I appreciated Duke Morgan's lecture on the Battle of Luthien, and Colonel Greyson's panel on the defense of Sudeten was very interesting." Pausing to take a sip, she continued, "My own presentation on the proper technique for tying a hangman's noose was strangely lightly attended and poorly reviewed."

After all: what else do you deal with pirates and bandits than by decisive measures?

"I ... can understand why that was somewhat outputting. I understand Colonel Wolf's review was ... less than flattering."

Juliette blinked. "And the opinion of a crypto-Tanker should mean something to me ... why?"

Melissa nodded in acceptance of the point, then moved on. "Very well, to the point of this meeting. Your unit's efforts against Clan Jade Falcon has not gone unnoticed." She paused. "I would like to personally thank you for your attempts to warn the Commonwealth authorities on Here ... and to apologize for the way they treated you in return."

The Periphery-born mercenary shrugged. "There is no need, my family has always been aware of how the Inner Sphere regards our bloodline. But ..." she nodded slightly in recognition. "Thank you."

"In any case, the proven effectiveness of the Legion's tactics and raids has been noted at the highest levels ... including my dinner table." She smiled. "I might be forgiven for mentioning, in confidence, that Prince Victor is something of an admirer, and defends your position vigorously."

Juliette blinked again, this time in genuine surprise. "That ... I was not expecting." The blonde future ruler of the Federated Commonwealth was about her age, very handsome (if somewhat ... lacking in the height department), and a very accomplished warrior. Having like her, come of age in the time of the Clan onslaught. Most of his battles had been against Clan Jade Falcon, and she had studied his tactics and victories extensively. "I ... his exploits against the enemy are also very impressive."

Melissa smiled. "I understand that your unit is undergoing refit and retraining. After your latest expansion of six full wings of aerospace fighters, I believe?"

"Actually, only three. Our squadrons use a four-bird lance, just like our 'Mech and armor units," qualified Juliette. "But yes, we now have as many fighters as 'Mechs. We're also expanding our mechanized infantry command to a full battalion, and I'm investigating the possibility of deploying armored troopers ... which is another reason why I was willing to come along, to speak to several suppliers."

"Well, you will be happy to know that the AFFC is interested in extending your contract, and we are offering subsidies for units who specialize in anti-Clan operations."

Juliette smiled, her fangs sliding into view. "Ah, so this is in regards to the upcoming offensive." She downed her whisky, and reached for the bottle.

The Archon frowned. "I ... how did you know about that?"

"Oh, it's hardly common knowledge, but there have been a lot of reconnaissance raid contracts available of late. As well as delivering supplies and reinforcements to resistance groups," stated Juliette, pouring herself another drink. "and the Birds have become rather ... touchy about their flanks. Hell, entire regions of some worlds are becoming 'no go' zones for Tanker troops with the garrisons sticking close to the cities and industrial areas. True, they still stomp down hard on buildups of rebellion, but there are quite a few places where you can find FedCom flags flying openly." She sat back in her chair, and cradled her drink. "Combine that with the sudden rise in prices of artillery, ammunition, armor plate and a decrease in availability of JumpShip support, and the conclusion is ... not much of a leap."

"I see." Melissa didn't seem too put off by the mercenary noblewoman's deduction. "In any case, you are right. We are planning to take back our worlds from the Jade Falcons, and we would like you and your Legion to be a part of -"

"No."

The silence in the room was broken only by the crackle of the fire.

"I'm not sure you understand," said Melissa after a few moments, trying to regain her equilibrium. "the Commonwealth -"

"Wants help to establish control over the Periphery worlds currently occupied by the Clans, and you would like to help prop me up as the focal point for an 'independent' realm. Being the rightful ruler of the Barony, with a history in the region and a reputation for honest dealing and brutal tactics. I believe a similar offer was extended to a Colonel Pavel Ridzik, and your government helped create the 'Tikonov Free Republic.'" She paused. "That realm lasted, what, three years before it was absorbed wholesale into your Sarna March?"

"Highness, I am a ruler in exile, but a ruler nevertheless. I understand your goal is to restore control over the worlds and lost territory that ... no." she paused, noting the expression on Melissa's face, "You wish to liberate the people, your people who live on those worlds. It is a motivation I understand all too well. So please, try to understand that I have absolutely no interest in becoming the puppet ruler of a rump nation that will quickly be absorbed into the conglomeration that is the Federated Commonwealth. I am fighting to free my people from one set of alien overlords. Do you really think that I would welcome enslaving them to another, simply because your homeworld is closer to Terra?"

"Colonel, please. We have no interest in expanding into the Periphery. If nothing else, history teaches us that it has never been a good idea. The Reunification War were a bloody, expensive and ultimately pointless exercise ... which led to the Amaris Coup and all that followed."

"I am familiar with the history of the Periphery, Highness. My family features prominently in it, but I have never known Spheroids to be particularly amenable to listening to reason when it comes to 'Periphery scum who need to learn their place' ... or for paying attention to history, given the devastation of your Succession Wars over the centuries."

Melissa tilted her head in recognition. "True. However, requiring the scores of worlds taken from the Commonwealth by the Falcons, reintegrating them into the nation, healing the wounds of the occupation ... it will be the work of decades, and it would be irresponsible of us to simultaneously attempt to absorb a recalcitrant group of Periphery worlds and former pirate havens."

"However, an allied nation, ruled from Von Strang's World, supported by the Commonwealth but independent. It would be a useful buffer against further incursions by coreward invaders like the Clans, or the other Deep Periphery nations that may turn their attention towards the Commonwealth."

Juliette sat quietly for a few moments. "So, what you really want is a shield of ablative armor to protect your coreward flank, to act as a tripwire against repeat invasions, and to keep fighting away from your own worlds as much as possible."

Melissa paused. "There is an element of that. On the other hand, it would help to bring order to a region that borders our own nation, and provides safety and security to those who live there, as well as opening avenues of trade and exploration. Instead of having a pirate nation like the old Oberon Confederation threatening our border worlds, we would have an ally and friend."

Juliette cradled her glass, studying the co-ruler of the largest single Inner Sphere realm. "... You are honest, at least." She considered. "We would receive Commonwealth support?"

"Certainly. Not House troops, of course, but funding, surplus equipment, a few words in the ears of certain mercenary groups -"

"No Dragoons or Blue Stars," interjected Juliette, her mind whirring, "Anything with a Star League - or, gods forbid, a Clan heritage...would be worse than Lyran Regulars." Then she stopped. "There is, of course, a price."

"Of course," agreed Melissa. "this all hinges on your participating in the offensive, rather prominently. With a suitably impressive contribution, the less ... savory parts of your family history can be muffled over, and your preferred tactics can be ... put into perspective. We need to be able to show that the Commonwealth is doing the right thing by supporting your ... Reconquista. "

Juliette nodded, noting down the term in her mind. "So ... we need to offer ... a spectacle." She sighed. "The Legion is not a show unit, Highness, nor is it a beautiful instrument of graceful maneuver. We are a hammer."

The smile Melissa showed was clearly learned from her husband, the Fox. "Oh, I know that well enough. We would never waste your force in such a manner. We would like to hold your unit back, at least for the first wave, and choose a suitable target, so that you can make an impact ... and so that you can hurt the Jade Falcons." Her smile broadened, and for a moment, Juliette remembered the Steiner's claim to Viking heritage. "Tell me, my lady ... what do you think about Sudeten?"

If anything, Juliette's fanged smile became even more predatory. "Please, Archon Steiner-Davion," she said respectfully, "Tell me more ..."

  • Chapter written by Gladius

Warning of the Coming Storm[]


Imperial City
Luthien
October 7th, 3056
1100 Hours


Omiko Kurita knelt before her low writing desk and concentrated on the blank white sheet of mulberry paper in front of her as she breathed in and out to center herself. With slow, formal motions she tied the sleeve of her kimono back as her breathing fell into a steady pace. The embroidery of lotus flowers along the hem drew a secret smile for an instant at the multiple meanings of the flower that never reached her face then was gone for an instant as she picked up her inkstick and ground a small quantity of ink into the stone.

Finally one with what she meant to write, her brush dipped into the ink and glided across the paper. The polite cough of her door guard did not register until she lowered the brush to reveal a hand drawn cherry blossom next to her signature.

"Kurita-sama, there is a summons from the Dragon. It is of some urgency."

Omi stood and untied her sleeve, letting it hang free.. "So ka." Questions raced behind her calm face, yet she let nothing show as she carefully folded the drawing and then walked to the door.

Outside a familiar Afro-Asian woman waited in the black uniform of the Otomo, adorned only with the blue katakana of her rank and the Dragon set upon a gold shield showing her status as a bodyguard. She bowed to Omi, who in turn bowed slightly less in acknowledgement. "As summoned, so I obey the Dragon's will, Tai-i Tetsuhara."

Tetsuhara nodded once, and gestured. "Follow me, Kurita-sama"

Omi's heart skipped a beat as instead of heading to the parts of the palace where the Pillars of Ivory, Gold, Jade, or Teak held sway, instead she approached the security checkpoint for the command center. The Pillar of Steel, the heart of the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery.

After submitting to fingerprints and retina scan along with a search of her person for weapons and transmitters, the armored door opened for her and she entered at Tetsuhara's gesture. Inside, the atmosphere was visibly tense.

The room was dominated by a large holotank in the center currently showing Luthien's star system from a point centered on the planet. Most of the icons burned different shades of warm crimson with arcane codes that Omi only vaguely understood from speaking to her father, mother, and brothers rather than formal training. However, one set of icons appeared as white arrows pointing toward the planet from a pirate point as if a shinigami had fired a volley of them at a target fated to die.

At the far end of the room her father stood in consultation with several other officers, dominating the room with his presence despite his unadorned uniform. Unlike the other officers visibly showing tension in their posture and faces, Theodore was instead radiating quiet confidence, but his eyes were unreadable. The conversation ended and he gestured for Omi to approach.

"Coordinator Kurita-dono. Your servant awaits the will of the Coordinator." Her voice was controlled but she felt as if it was someone else speaking in her place.

She bowed low before her father-no the Dragon-as the room stilled then Theodore's lips quirked in the ghost of a smile as he spoke confidently. "Keeper of the House Honor. It seems that the Jaguars in their arrogance seek to face the Dragon's Claws once more. How kind of them to send him their pelts to keep us warm this winter! We shall prepare a warm reception for such unexpected and generous guests, my samurai. Walk with me for a moment."

Omi nodded, unwilling to risk her voice betraying her as her father escorted her to a writing desk prepared for him. For a moment he contemplated the blank white paper and then his brush moved across the paper with a fluidity and sureness at odds with his normally 'adequate' calligraphy. Omi's eyes burned with unshed tears as she read the characters of the poem he wrote as they took shape before her. "I leap from the depths/Of duty into the skies:/Autumn of the Dragon." A death haiku..the image of the Dragon at the end of its life ascending to the skies in a great pillar of clouds and rain...oh Father.

As Theodore finished and signed the poem with both his name and the circle representing enlightenment, a low stir ran through the room and conversation resumed. He leaned close to Omi and spoke quietly. "Our duty is clear, Omi-chan. See your brother, for time is short for us all."

She bowed her head and whispered back. "Hai, Otousan. I shall make you proud."

"You always did, Omi-chan. You always did."

With that he stood and walked back to speak to his staff. Omi watched him go then carefully folded the paper inscribed with her father's death poem before walking to her brother. She could see the pain in his eyes mirroring what she felt in her heart as she bowed her head. "Brother. The situation is that dire?"

He swallowed once, then handed over his own poem. "The Jaguars are coming with a force equal to last time. We shall fight them with our strength, but even the mightiest warrior will have trouble with many." His eyes searched hers as she nodded sadly.

"I understand. I shall take the Lady Fiona with me as a chaperone on my travels, it is not proper for one such as I to travel unescorted."

Hohiro nodded, some tension leaving him at the mention of the noblewoman that he had fallen in love with. "Indeed, Chu-sa Yodama awaits at the spaceport with your ship. Tell...he who you go to meet. Tell him that...." Hohiro's voice trailed off as he struggled for words.

Omi smiled wistfully. "He knows that you shall be present in spirit. Perhaps I shall get married in spring under the cherry blossoms, neh?" With that she handed him her own drawing of a cherry blossom. Hohiro took it and nodded sharply before the siblings exchanged bows of farewell.

"Sayonara."

  • Chapter Section written by Yellowhammer, Flight of Omi Kurita

Preparations for Unyielding Tide[]


Imperial City
Luthien
October 7th, 3056
1214 Hours


For a house that will endure one thousand years carve its beams from honor.

  • Haiku by Coordinator Siriwan McAllister-Kurita 2579

Omi walked through the halls of the Imperial Palace with a purposeful gait, her steely-blue eyes narrowed slightly in an expression that she had learned from her father's example. Rounding the corner, she came to an ornately carved teak door decorated with the Dragon insignia of House Kurita and guarded by a trio of Pillarine monks in their hooded brown robes. The clack of wood on wood sounded as two of the monks crossed their staves to halt her passage.

She halted, locking her eyes with the eyes of the third under the black armorplast visor that the monks wore to cover their faces. For long moments the corridor was silent, the four of them standing like statues before the monk bowed formally and the others returned to their guard position.

"Guard me on the path that I must walk now, Adept Gozen." Omi commanded in a very controlled voice. "Let no one enter the Sanctum until I am finished here."

The whisper of ballistic polymer fabric was her answer as the silent sentinels bowed in obedience to the command of the Keeper of House Honor and head of the Order of the Five Pillars. The door opened soundlessly, then closed behind Omi and Gozen as they entered the Sanctum Arcanum.

Inside the air was thick with incense and tradition. The room was dimly lit by indirect lighting from hanging braziers, each one shaped in the form of the Dragon wrapped around a pearl. Fragrant smoke issued from the nostrils and mouths of the symbols of the Combine as Omi walked beneath them then halted at the foot of a low platform that reached her knees and was covered by a Persian-style Azami carpet showing an ornate Oriental dragon . To either side of her knelt two more Pillarine monks on their heels in positions of deep meditation and guard. However Omi's focus was not on them, but what lay ahead.

The platform was dominated by a circle of five massive ivory pillars mounted in masterwork gold bases and capitals. Omi's eyes flickered first to the leftmost one from her perspective, a column as clear as glass from a hippopotamus on Thimphu. She knew that if struck with steel it would give off sparks, so hard and rigid it was. So too, was the honor codes that bound her in this endeavor.

The one behind it was a stark contrast, mottled brown, rough and unfinished...one of a pair of elephant tusks from distant Terra from a kill that Urizen Kurita I had made on humanity's home world in the days of the Star league. Just like the Combine's citizens, it was waiting the hand of a sculptor to guide it to a finished state.

Omi's eyes then flicked to the near one on the right. The matching tusk to the unfinished one, it had been carved into a pillar supporting the roof, both strong and flexible, it showed her that the code could adapt and change to handle circumstances like those that she-and the Combine-were faced with. Behind it was a vivid turquoise blue column formed from the ivory of a woolly mammoth from distant Terra which had leeched metallic salts into the ivory from it's resting place in humanity's home world to give such a striking color.

Finally the last column was a spiraling Asian dragon rising to the ceiling carved from the horn of the extinct Giant Narwhal of Labrea. None of those were the focus of Omi's attention, however.

That was the simple black lacquered sword stand resting in the exact center of the room. The katana there was ancient, with chips taken out of the blade from the clash of steel and the etching that the salt of blood had scored into the patterned steel forged by the hands of a master on her family's ancestral home of New Samarkand. Omi reverently approached the sword, then knelt with a whisper of fabric from her robes, prostrating her head onto the carpet before the sword carried by Shiro Kurita.

The First Egg. The Founder of House Kurita. The First Coordinator. Her Ancestor. The warlord who with cunning, blood, and steel had unified his planet, then raised his Dragon banner across the stars. The example that all the Sons and Daughters of the Dragon strove to model themselves after.

The immortal whose sword, whose soul, was now threatened by the barbarians storming the Black Pearl of the Combine. Omi clapped once to summon his spirit as she sank back from her prostration to rest her weight on her heels and knees. Beneath her the dragon on the tapestry writhed in the lighting as she drew breath.

Her reverent whisper filled the echoing silence of the room. "Kurita Shiro-dono, your child brings news. The Jaguars attack us now, and the Coordinator in his wisdom has decreed that even if Luthien falls, our Honor shall yet remain untainted by their unworthy hands. He has entrusted me to carry you to my brother Minoru Kurita so that your spirit may guide him as he rallies our forces from the Galedon District...if such is necessary in these evil times."

Silence filled the room after Omi's words, then the whispered hiss of oiled steel on bamboo ending in a click as the tsuba hand guard met the mouth of the scabbard. Another whisper of silk as the sheathed sword was placed in a black silk bag hand-embroidered with five dragons writhing around each other. Ivory white, steel-gray, jade green, teak-brown, and thread of gold flashed as they all chased each other endlessly to represent the Five Pillars of the Combine: Religion, Military, Economy, Culture, and Government.

The first part of her duty done, Omi turned and walked from the Sanctum Arcanum with a slow, dignified stride ahead of the monk guarding her. The other Pillarine monks prostrated themselves as she passed them, her spine straight and face calm and reverent, reflecting none of her thoughts at the duty assigned to her by the Coordinator, no, her doomed father.

After all, she was Kurita, as he was. For both of them, duty was heavier than mountains.

  • Chapter Section written by Yellowhammer, Flight of Omi Kurita


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