The Imperial Palace, Thenes.
Ferras of the Red waited impatiently. While each branch of the Thenesian Special Services was answerable only to Thenacus XII Himself, each of the Five knew Ferras’ summons were not to be ignored.
Ferras was second in power only to the Emperor, being the quiet hand who aided His rise to power to begin with, and he knew that these sort of things did not happen overnight. But, with the Orbs so nearly in their reach, the ghost of Impatience prodded him.
Finally they arrived, all separately, all with the pretense of being here at their pleasure.
Nemina arrived first of course. Noble, obedient Nemina. She sat at her place at the table, armour and ego all a-gleam. Her discovery of the White Orb had her currently in high favour with Thenacus (May He Live Forever).
Roltus and Camille Linin arrived next at the same time. If their respective agencies spent as much time fighting Thenes’ enemies as they did each other, the whole of Tevera would have been conquered years ago. Ferras heard rumours their rivalry was all a sham to further their own agenda, the two actually being lovers. He would not be surprised if this was true.
And last with all the pomp due his station was Grand Patriarch Argog. Once Thenacus achieved godhood, Argog was set to become his high-priest. His betrayal of the Order of Io was the catalyst which started this whole enterprise.
Ferras let them posture another moment before calling the meeting to order.
“I will be blunt, comrades,” he said. “There are other players in our game. Even now they may possess one or more of the Orbs.”
That got their attention. Argog and Nemina outraged, Roltus thoughful, Lady Camille as unreadable as ever. He pressed.
“What do we know of them?”
Nemina surprised him by speaking. Usually subterfuge and information-gathering was “beneath” her.
“We have an operative within their group. I cannot say how powerful they are, or how where their alliances run.”
It was Roltus’s turn to be outraged now.
“You have a line on other Orbs and withheld this information? Where truly are your loyaties, Marshal? To Thenes, or to yourself?”
Ferras waved a hand, holding both fast with magicks before their argument derailed the meeting. Both seethed at his power over them.
“That is the point of this meeting! While you each play your small game of intrigues, our enemies gather strength! Argog, Nemina! You were tasked with setting the Four Kingdoms at each other, but you waste time with your own personal agendas!”
He smiled at Nemina.
“Yes, Marshall, your risky venture paid off. But that success alone saved your life. Patriarch…”
“GRAND Patriarch,” the arrogant fool corrected.
“If you stop blessing roadside shines in His name and focus on your duties, three of the Orbs would now be ours.”
“You dare blaspheme…”
“Yes, I DARE,” his patience was very thin now. “We have the Black Orb and White Orb in our possession. Eight others still remain out of our grasp. Each minute we spent stabbing each others’ backs, forces move to thwart us! The time for these games is over! I made each of you, and I can ruin you each just as easily!”
Ferras omitted the fact Argog was the one who brought the Black Orb to Thenacus. The fallen paladin had a swollen-enough head without being reminded of his accolades. Both her and Nemina was in high favour with the Emperor, but they were still beneath him.
“We all serve the Emperor, Ferras,” Roltus said. Ingratiation as ever, all the while trying to undermine Ferras’ authority. “What is His Will?”
Clever little rodent, invoke His name to remind they were all His slaves in the end.
“His Will is as it ever was. Set the Four Kingdoms upon each other, then infiltrate and find the four Orbs we known of amidst the chaos. Then find the damnable Order of Io’s stronghold and discover the location of the other four.”
Each of the Five stood, the meeting over. As each left, Ferras bade Marshal Nemina remain.
“And Nemina, no more secrets. You are a terrible liar. Who is this contact in their group?”
She leaned in close, taking off her helmet. Once certain they were alone, she told him.
“What could offer to get such a betrayal?” Ferras was impressed.
“The traitor approached me. The terms were laughable.”
Ferras did laugh.
“Are people that naive in this age? You have done well. Work with that plumped fool Argog. These ‘Knights of Nubereg’ will probably lead us right to the Order.”
Nemina left. Ferras was in much better spirits now…