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Chapter 33[]

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

Prologue, Book 2, The Hammer Falls

Archduke Receives Unpleasant Message[]

Palace of Spreading Harmony
Galedon V, Galedon Military District
Draconis Combine
March 15th, 3057

Duke Hassad Ricol studied the holodisplay showing the current state of the Combine.

The battered husk of Luthien still glowed the dull gray of a Smoke Jaguar world, now joined by Chatham, Leiston, and Bicester. Yumesta glowed the orange of conflict as the DCMS Sixth and Seventh Ghost bled and died to plug the hole that the 'shift' of the Seventh Sword of Light had opened. His ally "Agate" led the Teak Dragon to Dover to secure the critical shipyards there for Coordinator Franklin Kurita.

Let the eta and burakumin die to slow down the barbarian Jaguars. Once the enemies had exhausted each other, then the true samurai would perform an iaido strike to slay the Jaguar and reclaim Luthien for the Dragon.

Sadly, some of the units that he was hoping to rely on had launched independent actions to strike the Jaguars upon hearing the news of Luthien. Their casualties would need to be made good first....

A chime interrupted Ricol's musings. "My Lord Archduke, a messenger from ComStar."

Ricol blanked the display with a silent snarl of annoyance, "Then send them in!"

The red-robed Adept entered, escorted by a pair of his personal guards, and knelt before the Red Duke. "The Peace of Blake upon you, Archduke Ricol. I have a message for you."

He placed a hard sided metal document case on the table. "As directed, I am to bring this directly to you and place it in your hands for your eyes only."

Ricol glanced at the guard who nodded confirmation that the case had been scanned and was not a bomb. "Ordered, by whom?"

His eyes then were drawn to the white wax seal holding the case closed and he felt a pit of ice form in his stomach. The seal was the familiar Dragon of House Kurita with a sakura flower between the Dragon's open jaws. The seal of the Keeper of the House Honor. "Out, and I am not to be disturbed!"

Ricol opened the latch with a hiss as the seal broke on the case once the room had been cleared. Then he looked at the contents. Inside the case, several of the fluid filled shock absorbing elements had sprung a minor leak, but the contents were clearly undamaged.

A verigraphed sheet of the near-indestructible plastic that had taken the place of paper early in the 25th century had his name in hand-written kanji neatly above the security thumb strip to verify his identity. The other object was a message disk marked with the Dragon and sakura of the Keeper.

Ricol wiped some of the fluid from the sheet of paper to clean it off. As he did, the holoimage of Omi Kurita as part of the verigraph of the paper seemed to track him with a knowing smile. He then pressed his thumb to the offered security strip and a poem formed like magic.

A parting word?
The melting snow
is odorless.

He frowned. The message of the Keeper's poem was unclear. Clearly the statement was about the transience of existence, but....

With the question lingering in his mind, he wiped more packing fluid off the holodisk and inserted it into the terminal.

The display fuzzed and reformed into the image of Omi Kurita kneeling in seiza. Dressed in a pure white formal kimono embroidered with the five scarlet dragon kamon of House Kurita and a black obi that had subtle gray threading suggesting the Dragon's scales, she was the image of feminine demure beauty.

"Konban-wa, Duke Ricol-san. Please forgive my tardiness in speaking to you. I was unable to accord you the proper courtesies when our paths crossed on Benjamin last October."

Her voice was melodic and her smile pleasant, but there was something lurking in her blue eyes that caused him to shiver slightly.

"I wish to tell you a story for your instruction, my lord Duke. Once the Dragon laid a single egg, and guarded it closely, for it held his Prince who would one day take his father's place as the Dragon. The Dragon knew that the Yellow Bird, the enemy of the Dragon would fear this Prince and took precautions, but despite his wisdom, the Dragon underestimated the Yellow Bird's cunning. As the Dragon traveled among his realm, the Yellow Bird struck, wounding the Dragon and nearly slaying the Prince. Only the honor and loyalty of a little blue Dove saved the Dragon and his Prince from the Yellow Bird's strike and the Dragon raised the Dove to among his courtiers and took the Dove's advice for all subjects of the Dragon have their own parts to pay to insure the Harmony of the Realm."

Ricol rubbed his hands nervously, and blinked.

"This is the story that I was told by my father's father as a girl, My Lord Duke. Truly Takashi-Dono was a wise and powerful Dragon to trust one as you who saved him and his son from the rebels of Rasalhague who nearly killed them both before my birth. Your actions on that day...."

The image panned back to reveal that Omi was flanked by vases containing bright orange tiger lilies and blood-red spider lilies. Ricol recoiled as if physically struck at the symbolism of the hanakotoba flower arrangements presented.

Hatred and Death.

Omi's eyes flared a icy steel-blue and her expression hardened, making Ricol's heart race as he trembled uncontrollably. He had seen that expression as a young boy sixty years before. Her eyes were the same as Takashi's father Hohiro I as he laughed at the sight of a noble flogged to death in public court for disrespect to the Dragon.

"....were well hidden, but not hidden enough. You fooled my grandfather. You fooled my father. Your treachery killed my brother and uncle."

Omi's voice was terse and controlled and her terrible eyes bored into him. Ricol gulped, trying to work his numb hands to life.

"My Lord Duke, let me tell you the true story. The Yellow Bird bribed the Dove with a supply of precious stones such as rubies to worm his way into the Dragon's confidence. The attack on the Dragon and his Prince was concealment for the Dove to get close to the Dragon and steal away the Prince's firstborn, conceived out of wedlock, to warp into a foe to be used against the Dragon. Through his treachery the Dove abandoned the Prince to die to the Dragon's enemies, and two of the three children of the Prince died honorable deaths in defense of the realm."

Ricol felt dozens of insects travel up and down his spine, and he blinked away spots in his vision.

"That leaves the last true egg of the Dragon...and the Traitor Dove. My brother Minoru swore to me that no man may live under the same sky as the slayer of his kin when I gave him the sword of Shiro Kurita as Coordinator. Know that I will not stop until your line and your allies' lines are exterminated from the face of the stars and human memory!" Omi snarled, her face flushing with wrath as her control cracked.

Ricol stumbled and collapsed as Omi continued in a hatred-filled inexorable voice filled with grief and fury. "I declare Vendetta upon you and yours, Duke Hassad Ricol, Ruby of the Black Dragon Society. Your treachery will be avenged a hundredfold for each tear that I have wept for my kin. But as for you...I have something special planned for you."

Ricol began to howl in agony as his nerves exploded in fire.

"Even now the Dragon's Breath works on you, Ricol. No quick or honorable death for you, lowest of the low, traitor and conspirator. Just the agony of knowing that the Dragon! Will! Have! Her! Vengeance!"

Coordinator Franklin Kurita receives a News[]

March 18th, 3057

The palace physician bowed before Franklin Kurita. "Coordinator-dono, the Duke's condition worsens."

Franklin nodded slowly. "The cause?"

"Severe mercury poisoning. Incurable. The symptoms are agony, madness and then death as the body consumes its own nerves uncontrollably. Our diagnosis is that he is strong and he might...linger...for days, weeks, perhaps even months."

In the distance the screams of the dying man could be faintly heard.

"How was he poisoned?" Franklin asked

"The message that was sent through ComStar was packed with dimethylmercury in the packing materials inside a sealed case. One drop on bare skin is lethal and he absorbed it through his hands. The DCMS has been called to attempt to make the room safe for human entrance from the poison that evaporated and accumulates on the furnishings, but...." An eloquent shrug.

"I see. Leave me, I must consider the implications of such action by my half-sister."

Chapter by Yellowhammer

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