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His sister is shaking minutely.

Despite his faint aversion to touch, the shakiness of his own composure, Nai reaches out and taps Aspen’s hand once, twice, then entwines his fingers around her wrist, where her pulse beats strong but erratic. He leads her forward to where the Prime Minister stands, a hand on her back to steady her as she boards the vehicle before following.

“Thank you,” Aspen whispers as they settle themselves in the jeep, her words almost lost to the wind if not for Nai sitting so close. He nods, turning his attention towards Redbridge, who discusses something about safety and leather braces around their bodies to keep themselves strapped to the seats in case of accidents and so on. Aspen’s cheeks color suddenly, her anxiety outweighed by sheer curiosity, and she leans forward as much as the seatbelt allows her to, eyes fixed on the stoic gentleman riding with them. “Are all these vehicles common in Norkotia, sir?”

Nai does not add to the query, choosing instead to lean back and observe in silence. He is brimming with questions just like his sister, but he’d rather let her do the talking here. Turning his face to the sky above, he blinks sunlight out of his eyes.

It could be compared to an open-air carriage, he thinks, though it is composed of metal instead of wood. His gaze locks on to the scenery beyond, familiar yet made anew by the unique platform from which to view them, and waits for the convoy to begin their excursion around the roads of the estate.

 

 

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Varda watches her siblings disappear into the jeep with the Prime Minister, a bit of reluctance churning in her gut. They are not known for their straightforward acclimatization with new physical oddities, especially Aspen. The feeling disperses when Jasper steps up to her side, arm outstretched with an easy smile playing on his lips. “We’d much prefer to sit together, Mister Tynes. Shall we, then, sister?”

“Hilarious,” she replies, but takes the proffered hand anyway, and together, they enter the backseat of the car. Her skin prickles at the sudden coolness in the vehicle, and she points a bemused look towards Executor Tynes. Jasper, the suave idiot that he is, seems unperturbed by the unexpected change in temperature.

“This is courtesy of your technology?” Varda asks the Norkotian, gesturing vaguely at the air around them. “It’s rather comforting, really. The heat in Ursa Madeum can become quite taxing on us all, especially when we are out working in the fields.” She turns her gaze out at the brilliant gleam of the sun in the sky, then back to the man. “Makes me wish that my other siblings could join us here,” she muses, giving her brother a mildly guilty look that he ignores in favor of studying the interior of the car. “Well. Where would you like to go, Mister Tynes? We’ve the greenhouses, the fields, the banks of the Symarron River, and so on; plentiful sights to see.”

 

 

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As always, Redbridge seemed unphased by anything those around him did or said, merely responding to Aspen in a matter-of-fact tone.

"Quite common, yes. The jeep is very popular among civilian and business users alike. It is also currently the most common vehicle in Norkotian military service."

And when you had a vehicle that was easy to jump in and out of, that moved quickly and was simple to drive, and relatively simple to maintenance, while providing a total open-air field of view, why wouldn't you make it your most popular vehicle? Whether it was a coal company needing to quickly move men and light equipment around a strip mine, a local police force on patrol, military officers needing to cross a camp, or even a civilian just looking for some off-road fun, the jeep filled the need. But on the downside, the ride was a bit bumping, as the two siblings found-out once the vehicle started moving. While few people actually used the seat belts in the rear seats, the Prime Minister wanted to ensure the two Hildebrand siblings were looked after, lest an unexpected accident cause very unfortunate injury.

Tynes, on the other hand, did not instruct Varda or Jasper to use their seat belts, either not thinking about it and assuming they'd know what to do, or just not finding it necessary for the people in the backseat. After all, if the vehicle were to make an impact, it was the front seat people who would go through the windshield, not the passengers in the back. Instead, he was focused on the conversation rather than safety technicalities.

"They probably would have had to ride in the back of the truck." Tynes chuckled, "I suppose we should have brought one more vehicle just to make sure we had enough seating. Oh well, maybe next time."

He was about to suggest something else when Varda inquired what he wanted to see first, so he held-off on that matter and instead answered her question.

"You know your way around the estate, my lady, perhaps you can suggest the best route? Whatever order you think would be best, it's fine with me. I'll radio the jeep to follow us, so you can direct our heading."

Each Norkotian vehicle in the convoy was equipped with a radio transmitter, allowing communication between each vehicle while on the road. Tynes used this device to direct Redbridge to have the jeep follow the car, while Redbridge acknowledged the order, only to try once again to convince Tynes to bring more security along, in the form of the armored car. Tynes again denied the suggestion, reasoning that this was a diplomatic visit between allies, not a show of military force. Little did he know that the wheeled tank would prove to have been a nice thing to have with on this little tour.

In any case, the vehicles set-out in the direction Varda or Jasper instructed, the executive car in the front and the jeep trialing behind. Squire Dicken and the guards remained at the estate with the left-over Norkotian vehicles, supposedly not needed today. Oh, how wrong that assumption was.

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The Dead had a lot of money and a lot of resources but if money solved everything, they wouldn't need to hire him for the job. Lupin found himself very pleased by the fact that whatever little reputation he had had preceded him by enough measure that an organization like the Dead thought it wise to recruit him for this assassination. He didn't know why they wanted to get rid of this guy, or what this guy was doing so far from his home, but since when did that matter? A job was a job.

When he landed on Corinth with two other assassins, Lupin was quick to separate himself from them. One of them seemed a bit like a wild card (Rin). Which normally wouldn't be an issue at all. She was probably a lot of fun to go drinking with or mugging random people in the street. But this was job was of outsized proportion and it meant that he wanted to play things clean and straight which meant working with them, but not necessarily with them.

"I'll see you at the place."

Pulling the job off inside of Ravenel Manor would have been a suicide mission. Which is why Lupin would have preferred doing the job from the inside, because no one would expect an assassin to wager his life in the process of taking someone else's but that was precisely where Lupin exceled. But that took too much time, too much prep, to pull off right. He would have needed maybe half a year to setup a false identity in Corinth and then weasel his way onto the Hildebrand staff and wait for the right time and place to toss a poison pill into some broth or slip a thin, hard blade into someone's back. And even then, he could only have done that if he knew in advance that Joseph Tynes was planning to visit. That was the hardest part. Lupin didn't think even Joseph knew he was coming to visit until things fell in such a way that it was the most appealing choice for him.

Instead he got two days, and spent half of that doing research.

He'd have to pull the job from the outside. Better chance of him making out alive in direct proportion to his target making it out alive. Oh well, he would just have to hope and plan for the best. Ravenel was secure but the winding roads which led into it presented enough lynchpins and tight turns to slow down an emergency response and came complete with thick canopies and forest screens to hide them.

Lupin was in the branches of a tree in the Greywood right now, using binoculars to get a bird's eye view of the estate and the road, of the convoy just outside of the manor and the people loading into the automatic vehicles. He saw that Joseph Tynes took a seat in the enclosed car, easily identified by the cast around his arm. And saw that Joseph's most trusted advisor took a seat in an open-air jeep. The rest of the people were secondary to his main goal. He saw that the guards with the machine guns remained behind, as did the car with the canon and Lupin thought to himself 'Wow this is almost too easy . . don't let that throw you off your game'.

The jeep was a very common civilian class vehicle so he was able to get schematics on them pretty cheap. He knew what the jeeps were usually made of, their physical dimensions, and the placement of their engine block. The private car he didn't get any blueprints for but eyeballing the dimensions and assuming a similar layout, it shouldn't pose much of a problem. Lupin used predetermined markers in the trees, little flags up out of sight and spaced a known distance apart, so as the convoy passed his markers he knew how fast they were going. A regular tripwire would have tipped his hand too soon, might have blown up the ass of a jeep or horse-drawn carriage on the way to the manor, so he had to pull the trigger physically.

And he did, detonating a small line of landmines directly beneath the engine block of each, manually timed by eyeballing their speed and distance. The interesting part of the mines were their metal-tipped arrows and thermite payloads designed to punch through the car's carriage, release the thermite, and turn the engine block into a useless heap of scrap metal.

Lupin dropped down from the branch of the Greywood tree and landed in a crouch, then immediately took off running towards the cars. He would get there in less than a minute, which he hoped would give him enough time to take advantage of their anxiety and confusion to confirm his kill up close and personal.

When the cars and their passengers came into view, Lupin took out a metal ball the size of a baseball and threw it to his immediate right into the woods. Sight unseen the ball began pulsing like a heartbeat, generating an electromagnetic field meant to attract guns and sporadically cause radio interference with each pulse. They would still be able to radio for help but it would be difficult to make out what was being said at first and he hoped to thrive in that confusion. He'd have, maybe, two minutes in which to make the kill. He hoped the others were ready to act too.

When he was within 100 feet Lupin took a shot at Joseph with a ceramic blowgun and poison tipped glass needle. Then he took aim at Diric and did the same.

Edited by eggsinabasket

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Tynes seemed to be completely content and enjoying himself, being able to take-in the beauty of the Hildebrand estate while also being insulated from its heat within the car. His attitude seemed as enthusiastic and positive as ever, at least until a loud bang caused the vehicle to suddenly veer off the path and come to a halt in the ditch alongside. The jeep continued forward a ways, but rolled to a stop while still being in the middle of the trail. The windows had been shattered in the process, sending shards of glass onto the passengers, particularly in the enclosed car.

"What the devil just happened?" Tynes demanded, looking a bit shaken.

"I don't know!" the driver exclaimed, "It sounded like the motor blew!" 

Smoke was now seeping out from under the hood, meaning there was likely a fire inside. As motor vehicles could explode or fully catch flame, Tynes's first reaction was to get out, as was the driver's. The driver was quicker, and he left his door open as he rounded the front of the vehicle to try and get the hood open before it became too hot to touch. However, the open door left a wide-open view of Tynes's left flank, allowing Lupin's blow-dart an unimpeded path right into the Executor's arm.

"Ack!" 

Tynes was half-way out of the vehicle when the dart embedded itself in his upper arm, half-way between elbow and shoulder. He took a couple staggered steps out, turning himself to find a man charging right toward him. Another assassin? Here? How could this be...? Did the secularists really send someone all the way out here to kill him...?

"Sir!" the driver saw what happened and tried to circumvent the vehicle to reach Tynes.

"B-Behind you!" Tynes stuttered, his voice failing him in the heat of the moment.

The driver turned to face the approaching assassin, a hand reaching for his holstered handgun as he did so.

 

Meanwhile, Diric Redbridge had immediately identified the engine damage as a staged attack, having seen the mine detonate under the car from behind, with the detention under the jeep occurring soon after. This was no coincidence, and he concluded immediately that it must be an attack of some sort. 

"Get out of the vehicle, quickly." he ordered the two younger Hildebrands, getting out himself and drawing a revolver out from his suit jacket.

The Vulk spotted the assassin sooner than Tynes did, but a dart had already been sent in his direction as well. However, he had quicker reactions than the average human, and was able to raise his left forearm quickly enough to block the dart from striking his neck or face. While the poison needle still pierced his flesh, he knew it was better that it hit his arm than any part of his torso, neck or head. Still, he could not spare any time to act against the assassin, as he was forced to duck back behind the jeep.

"Protect the Grand Executor!" he directed the jeep driver with a sense of urgency, though one still somehow deprived of emotion.

Calculating that the two relatively untrained drivers would not be enough to hold back a professional assassin for long, but hopefully long enough to buy him time to treat his wound, Diric set his revolver on the ground, and instead drew out a knife from his suit. Moving with precision, he cut away his suit, then his skin, at the point of impact, allowing him access to the blood stream. Treating the incident much as one might treat a snake-bite, he then put his mouth to the wound and sucked out the poisoned blood, then spewed it into the grass beside him. Satisfied he had responded to the attack against him adequately, and confident his Vulkish physiology would be robust enough to handle whatever particles of toxin may be left behind, the prime minister now was free to act against the assassin, presuming he wasn't already too late.

"You see that radio there?" he looked toward Aspen and Nai, then pointed at the radio mounted in the jeep, "Use it as I did earlier and call for help from our men back at the estate. Direct them here as necessary, quickly."

And with that, he was gone, sprinting the distance between the jeep and car to reach his leader's side.

Edited by Tyler

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It happens so fast; she doesn’t even have time to think about it.

"You know your way around the estate, my lady, perhaps you can suggest the best route? Whatever order you think would be best, it's fine with me. I'll radio the jeep to follow us, so you can direct our heading."

Varda turns to Jasper, gives him a mischievous smile, gaze imploring in the way only siblings can manage when they want something done their way. He responds with a roll of his eyes, but otherwise does not move to challenge her. She counts this as a win.

“I suggest we go through the Symarron River first. The waters look especially lovely this time of year, and the wildlife is quite splendidly diverse.” They arrange the route to her suggestion, and then they spend a few moments in silence, enjoying the view from beyond the glass window. “I must admit to you; in all my years living in Ursa Madeum, I have never seen natural scenery as vibrant as those in the Hildebrand domain,” Varda laughs, bright and lively, and then, mouth falling open to continue—

—the world tilts, explodes with sudden violence.

Glass shatters, sprays over them like a hailstorm. Varda’s scream is buried under the noise of the blast under the car, the screech of tires as they careen off the road and into a ditch.

"What the devil just happened?"

The driver responds back, and as the Norkotians quickly move to get out of the car, Varda and Jasper do the same. In the mad scramble to remove themselves from the vehicle, neither of the Hildebrands had any time to react when Tynes gets hit by the dart.

“Executor—!” Varda shouts, but she gets cut off when Jasper pulls her forward, tumbling out of the car door into the dirt, on the opposite side of the others and the unseen hostile in the woods. She struggles to get up and try to help, anything at all, when her brother stops her.

“Stay down, sister,” comes Jasper’s hiss in her ear, low and furious. She cannot find it in herself to disobey, not yet, not when she concedes the point; she knows nothing of the situation yet. A familiar hand squeezes her shoulder, and then the bulk of her brother’s body is gone, his footfalls quickly directed towards Tynes and the driver on the other side.

In the chaotic swirl of sensation fueled by fear, Varda breathes ragged. Suddenly, the world narrows down to that singular thought in her mind, jagged and ember-hot and screaming.

Aspen and Nai.

 

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Aspen hadn’t expected the ride to be quite so, well, bumpy, in a sense. She is fiercely glad for the leather devices keeping them strapped to the seats, for without them, she would have surely fallen off a few sharp turns ago.

"Quite common, yes. The jeep is very popular among civilian and business users alike. It is also currently the most common vehicle in Norkotian military service."

“Oh, I see; thank you, Mister Redbridge,” Aspen nods, takes note of the information for further research later. “Perhaps we could make it popular here as well?” She muses, a faint smile curling on her face. They continue on in silence for a while, and just as Aspen is about to ask another question, the explosions begin, and her heart climbs into her throat as their jeep shudders and comes to a stop.

"Get out of the vehicle, quickly."

Both siblings mindlessly snap to action, hazy panic crystallizing into focus. Aspen unbuckles herself from the seat, watching Nai do the same, and then follows her brother out to the other side of the jeep, opposite from where Redbridge had gotten out. She hears a projectile whiz through the air, and then a hiss of pain. Scrambling to peer around the corner of the jeep, she gasps at the sight of a dart pierced through the man’s skin, the blood stark against the uniform he wears.

“Mister Redbridge, are you alright?” Aspen whispers hoarsely, shooting Nai furtive glances as he frantically digs through the pockets of his coat, possibly looking for a herbal concoction he might have secreted away in the folds. She cannot put it past him to sometimes forget that he might have vials of antivenom or medication left forgotten amongst his clothing.

But it seems there is no need for such things, when the siblings watch the Prime Minister deal with his wound with brisk efficiency. He turns towards them and points to the device propped up on the jeep.

"You see that radio there? Use it as I did earlier and call for help from our men back at the estate. Direct them here as necessary, quickly."

He shifts, runs forward towards the other vehicle—oh gods, Aspen thinks, Varda and Jasper, oh gods—and she turns to follow her brother as he leaps towards the radio, fiddling the knobs with unsteady fingers for a moment before he finally gets it working. “Help, we’re under attack on the road to the Symarron River,” he states, voice steady but for a faint tremor along the edges, and Aspen can almost hear him grit his teeth before he continues, “unknown number of hostiles, Redbridge injured, the Executor,” he shifts his gaze to the enclosed car and bites his lip, “he’s been hit too; come quickly, please!”

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The letter came in the middle of the night, carried by a grinning skeleton — an entity who could only make his appearance in the shelter of darkness, lest he be mauled to death by self-righteous Terrans. Death? Re-death? Unanimation? The nuances of inexistence were pondered by Darah. The exact wording was important; on a contract, it could make a substantial difference. Mister Brecht had shown her the finer points of literature, but compared to him, she was still an amateur. What she excelled in was extending a helping hand for those in most dire straits, setting their lives back on track by virtue of a contract with Brecht & Undercroft. Miraclewoman. That was her official title.

Darah took the letter and tipped her hat to the skeleton, who turned to leave without saying a word. She opened the sealed envelope and read the folded paper. A job, addressed to her. It was signed by The Dead, an apt coincidence to her pondering just moments ago. They had identified her as a suitable individual to carry out an assassination. She doubted that it was because of her association with B&U, an upstanding law firm with an impeccably clean record. They must have found out about her relationship with the witch.

Mister Brecht and Madame Undercroft were both away on separate duties. They always emphasized autonomy for their employees, and so Darah made a decision. She packed a small bag and set off to the destination stated in the letter. Links to her past were best to be severed.

-

Darah found herself in the company of Esben and Lupin. It wasn’t immediately clear if they were meant to help each other, or to outdo each other. Compared to them, Darah didn’t look the part of a killer. She appeared to be a young woman in a formal black dress, a clothing choice that was more suited for business than subterfuge.

The other two didn’t talk much, and so Darah found no need to engage them in conversation. They would be approaching the targets with no coordination in advance, which was not a problem with her since there had been no explicit instructions for them to work as a team.

The one called Lupin made the first move, bringing the group’s sightseeing tour to a halt. Too bad it was his haste, inadequacy or just bad luck that caused him to waste his advantage of surprise. If he had gotten the dart into Tynes’ neck in the first try, at least one target would be down.

The Hildebrands’ love for vegetation provided luscious cover for Darah as she observed the action. Her own methods were much more subtle. From the pockets of her dress, she produced a palm-sized doll that looked no different from a child’s toy. ‘Life’ was surprisingly fragile, especially human life. A mere prick in the right place could cause a person’s death within minutes. That was why the witch had made her this way.

The doll sprung to life in her hand, and headed towards the car. In the chaos after Lupin’s attack, it had no problem sneaking under the car and attaching itself underneath. The doll was semi-autonomous, and could perform certain simple acts by itself. If found, it could easily be dismissed as a mere toy left behind by mistake, as long as its interior wasn’t examined too closely.

Darah was in no hurry. Let the help come.

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Esben was about to speak before it happened. One of the three, Lupin was it, he couldn't remember the name to be honest--well, he attacked. His eyes seeing Darah let loose a doll, he remained still for a moment in amazement. 

Though he hoped the sightseeing could go just a little longer. In all honesty it was his first assassination, for he liked to go the subtle approach. Here he knew it wouldn't go so easily. 

Shaking his head, he decided that creeping up to the car wasn't a good idea. Sure he could charm his way out of he got caught, lying through his teeth to escape should he have to. 

The elf pulled a crystal vial out of his coat pocket as he looked up at the car. Surely they called for help, surely someone was coming. Esben didn't mind, more to play with. The elf opened the vial and slowly pulled out a piece of ore. 

And then he covered the throwing darts into it as he said nothing. Silent as for the moment need not words. Putting the vial into his pockets, he raised the darts not towards the people but the car's tires and body. 

It would seem odd to most people that he would hit that than the people within but he was slow and calculating. He wanted to see how it affected the car since he had never seen them before. And he was pretty sure his companions were taking care of the people at the moment that he could do this.

He hoped so.

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Lupin couldn't be sure what they heard back at the manor but he knew that the device he used to interfere with their small arms interfered with the radio transmitter too. If Tynes's security detail were properly trained, and he assumed they were because it was safer to do so, there would be protocol in place to investigate garbled transmissions like that.

But realizing there was an error, then that the error could be on purpose, and then working through the proper protocol and clearances and communications, all that took time. Minutes at most but those minutes were precious and it was inside of that window that Lupin hoped to excel. By then the mercury bath he used to power his device would have evaporated anyway, leaving him without his safety net among a group of gunslingers, so he had twice the incentive to work quickly.

There was only 100 feet between him and his target when he blew the darts. Although not a world class sprinter because he had to devote parts of his training to other skills, Lupin was still very fast. He closed that 30-meter gap in just a few seconds, almost on top of the driver in the time that it took him to turn around and reach for his gun. Almost, but not quite. The driver saw Lupin too close for comfort and fired a few times from the hip rather than taking the time to extended his hand and steady his aim. But the bullets missed, every one of them tracking further and further to Lupin's side.

The driver looked down at his hand, disbelief shadowing his face when he noticed that his hand was aiming to one side those few crucial degrees that made all the difference, and looked back up just in time to see Lupin's nonferrous sword glimmer through the air and cut his hand off. The driver's hand and forearm flipped through the air and with no more strength to hold the gun, the firearm skipped on the ground towards the metal ball Lupin had thrown into the bush.  

Lupin took advantage of the driver's shock to punch him in the throat while he moved past him to Tynes, leaving the man on his knees gasping for air. He could have stabbed him in the chest but that was precious seconds lost, and besides it didn't make fiscal sense to start throwing in freebies just because the opportunity presented itself.

So now Lupin turned his skeletal masked face towards Tynes, raised his sword to chest level, and lunged at his center mass.

A part of all of this flash and bang was an honest attempt to execute his target by blitzkrieg. Lupin still hoped to succeed. But a successful man plans for failure too and he knows that his strategy can also serve as a smokescreen for the strategies of the others on the job. Every pair of eyes that were on him was a pair that was not on Darah or Esben.

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With his right arm still impeded by a cast, Tynes could not reach the dart embedded in his left to remove it, nor could he draw out his gun with it. Instead, as he watched the car driver get disarmed in the most literal sense, Tynes clumsily tried to pull out his revolver with his left hand. The poison was already spreading into his blood stream, but that would not matter if the assassin ran him through first. By the time Lupin had either gone around the car, jumped over it, or crawled through it, the Grand Executor had managed to get his weapon out and click back the hammer. He was about to fire when the jeep driver arrived by his side, quickly pulling the dart out of his arm and putting Tynes behind him.

"Run, sir! Go!" the driver urged, leveling his weapon at the advancing assassin and firing a shot.

Tynes stumbled back, not waiting to let the other man die for his sake, but at the same time, not wanting to die himself. Certainly he didn't want to die in such a pathetic state as he was in now, in the middle of a disastrous scenario that was the result of his own blunder. That blunder had already cost one man his hand, but a moment later, it cost another man his life, as Lupin's sword, meant for Tynes's chest, instead found the chest of the jeep driver.

"No..." he croaked, barely able to speak.

As the assassin removed his blade from the dead driver, Tynes continued to back away, trying vainly to pull the trigger of his revolver. But his arm was growing weak as the poison began to filter through his body, and no shot was fired. Were he alone, he would have died mere seconds later, but as luck would have it, Diric arrived right at that moment, quickly interposing himself between the assassin and his intended victim.

"Go to the jeep. Nairne Hildebrand may be able to neutralize the poison. Make them bind your arm to cut off circulation. Move with haste." the Vulk directed, not even looking at Tynes as he leveled his revolver at the hostile individual.

Unlike the others, Diric Redbridge had taken note of the magnetic force interfering with their weapons. He had spotted the first driver's gun being drawn into the woods, and he felt the tug on his revolver from the first moment he pulled the weapon. But since he had time secure both hands on the grip, and was conscious of the interference, his aim was not compromised the way the other three had been. No, he was deliberate and precise as he stood his ground in the face of their assailant. He wouldn't move or dodge, but rather he would hold himself steady and firm as he took aim and fired.


*static* "--epeat mess--" *static* "--this is--" *static* "--please, repe--" *static*

The radio didn't seem to be working the same way it had before, though the man on the other end had at least heard part of what Nai tried to tell him. Even as they were calling for clarification, the men back at the manor were warming up the vehicles and loading up the guards into the truck. They would not have a guide to lead them to the site of the ambush, but luckily the mines that had blown up the engines of the jeep and car had also resulted in a couple of smoke columns that soon became visible above the trees. Regardless of the message, the site of smoke demanded investigation.

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When it comes to assassination attempts and other underhanded actions, Jasper rather feels he’s become well-accustomed to such things.

Leaving his eldest sister crouched low and hidden by the side of the car, he makes his way over to the other side of the car where Tynes is situated, placing one hand on the hidden dagger sheath buried under his long coat. He keeps his body low, covered by the occasional tall patch of grass, cursing under his breath at the distinct lack of a sword on his waist. The idyllic lifestyle since the death of his father has made him ill-prepared.

An assassin sent to dispatch an assembly of nobles and a foreign ruler would not be acting on their own. If there are other nefarious individuals hidden in the greenery, it makes no sense to throw himself into the fray without first observing whether or not the assassin is alone. Keeping one wary eye on the dark woods that surround them, Jasper keeps his approach tight and measured as he nears the skirmish, watching as the first driver is attacked by the assassin’s hand, then the other driver as he takes the strike intended for the Prime Minister’s chest, then Diric himself as he positions himself between the assassin and Tynes.

‘Tis a pity, watching the men fall, but they have served their purpose well, if not in a rather underwhelming fashion.

"Go to the jeep. Nairne Hildebrand may be able to neutralize the poison. Make them bind your arm to cut off circulation. Move with haste."

“We must get you to my brother, Prime Minister,” Jasper says, placing a hand on Tynes’ shoulder to steady him, covering his retreating back as they point themselves in the direction of the jeep, where his siblings must be waiting. He makes sure to angle their path away from the view of the car, lest his sister see them and—well.

Varda would be much safer where she is now, Jasper muses, a manic spark in his eyes.

 

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Aspen just barely manages to resist biting her nails in wordless anxiety—an unfortunate habit she had developed in childhood—as she watches Nai fiddle with the radio, listening to static that may or may not be a good thing. “Did they receive the message?”

Her brother looks to her with unreadable eyes and a clueless, helpless shrug, before he goes through the motions of calling for help again, repeating the words over and over in the hopes that somehow, at least something will make it through to Tynes’ guards.

She does not look over in the direction of the car, even when the screams of the dying fill the air—Nai just looks up and shakes his head at her with a wild look in his eyes, wordlessly dissuading her from even turning around—and so Aspen jolts when a sudden hand lands on her shoulder, and her elder brother’s face comes into view.

“Brother, Mister Tynes requires some assistance,” Jasper says, handing over a knife to Nai and smoothly taking his brother’s place at the radio as the stoic sibling’s confusion quickly segues into focused action, going over to Tynes to see what he can do with the wound the dart had dealt the Norkotian.

“Where is Varda?” Aspen asks, worried eyes boring into Jasper’s skull, but he simply waves her concerns away.

“Safe,” is all he replies.

 

Edited by vielle

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Keeping her eyes on the car where her puppet was, Darah easily noticed the subtle dip of the vehicle as its tyres went flat from Esben’s dart. If their transportation hadn’t already been rendered unmovable by Lupin’s mines, they were surely useless now.

Darah’s eyes flickered to Diric when he gave his commands. This man was the only one who seemed brave enough or capable enough to face Lupin. She found no need to give any direct assistance to the other assassin. He had not requested for any backup, and the distraction he gave would be better used for a chance to act against their targets.

The group gathered around like frightened lambs. They had elected to risk all their lives to save Tynes, rather than take the more economical route by leaving him behind and attempting to escape. Emotions and irrational thoughts were a strange thing, and caused inefficient decisions.

Jasper’s eyes scanned past Darah’s hiding spot as he led Tynes away. She made no movement, and so it was very difficult to spot her by sight alone. He had left Varda alone at the car with the driver, who could no longer even fend for himself. Darah could kill her quickly and silently without anyone knowing what had happened, but that would not have as much an impact on the rest. It was best to make her scream. It was almost impossible not to panic when someone in front of you was dying, especially a loved one, and that would fragment the focus of the rest of the targets further.

Her lips parted and closed around a small whistle shaped like the blade of a leaf. Controlled by the speed of airflow she blew into the instrument, Darah played a melody that was far higher than the range of hearing of those who were present. Her marionette, however, heard it loud and clear. From under the car, the doll made its way to the side. Emerging behind Varda, it scrunched up its body and then sprung upwards. A blade hidden in the length of its body slid out and briefly glinted in the sun, before being plunged into her neck. The blade wasn’t long enough to kill her instantly, but if it severed the carotid artery, blood would gush out and grant her a messy death within minutes. Darah gave the puppet explicit instructions to leave her voice box intact so that the target could frighten the rest with a hearty scream.

Spoiler

@vielle: Attempted assassination on Varda

 

Edited by jaistlyn

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Esben said nothing still as words wouldn't help. He eyed the doll Darah produced outwards as he slinked his way towards Varda should she avoid the mariette. He also decided to help attack the woman. 

Unsheathing the ore coated bow, Catastrophe Edge, he placed a ore coated arrow into the bow. He aimed it towards Varda. Should she be attacked by Darah, he wanted to make sure the corpse could be saved. 

He was a scientist after all. 

And then he fired at Varda's heart. Not sure if it would hit, he still fired. Loading up another arrow should the first miss. It was his first assassination to be honest. And then, he fired another arrow towards the woman. 

And another arrow as Esben lowered the bow. He didn't mind attacking from a range since the other two were close up.

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Lupin was not very happy at all about how things were unfolding. He knew they could be a lot worse. He could be dead in a ditch right now with all his targets standing over him and laughing at how bad he was at his job. Instead he knew that Tynes had some of the poison in his body and that his heart would stop in a few minutes if he didn't get proper attention. He knew that the time it would take to ferry Tynes back to the estate or to a proper hospital and the time it would take to identify the poison and fabricate an antidote would take too much time. Very like Joseph Tynes was a very dead man, just one with a mirage of life that could still walk and talk.

Things could be better too though. If Tynes caught that needle in the neck Lupin wouldn't have to worry about someone sucking the poison out or chopping off his arm. He had to worry about that with his second target, Diric, who was strong enough after the crash, after the poison, to rush to Tynes's aid, bark orders, and aim a very steady gun down his center mass. If Diric caught it in the neck too that would have been twice as good.

Tynes took off and Lupin looked at Diric. He wanted to get a final confirmation on his primary target but with that bit of poison and with his arm in a cast he was less of a concern than the healthy gunslinging Diric. Diric was a target too. If Lupin couldn't take out the head he was reasonably sure that taking out a limb, Tynes's right hand man, would be at least a major inconvenience. It would make Tynes weaker and with any luck angry enough to dive into full on stupidity too. If he could take Diric out now, like now now, then he might still have time to go after Tynes or maybe one of the other assassins could draw a bead on him from a distance.

So Lupin charged at Diric. Diric posted up real pretty like, the kind of by-the-book, technically-correct pose you would never take in a real rip-roaring gunfight, the kind that you see in the firing range when you only have to worry about taking a shot straight down the line at a target that's right ahead of you. Which described their situation to a T. Diric fired his shots right at Lupin's center mass.

And missed.

By a very narrow, almost painful, margin. Diric could see the hole in Lupin's shirt and the growing spot of blood, so he hadn't missed all that much, but he could also see that Lupin hadn't stopped, was quite fast, was almost on him now, and that the arm he hurt wasn't the arm with the sword, the sword that Lupin was trying to use to make Diric a hollow man.

The mercury bath was all but evaporated now, so there would be no more magnetic pull on the Norkotian guns.

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Most illogical. His stance and delivery had been flawless, yet his bullet did not strike the target square in the chest as it should have. Instead, the projectile merely glanced off the assassin, drawing a minute amount of blood, but doing nothing that would hinder a professional fighter or killer. Diric Redbridge could not detect any flaw on his part, which meant that either another force had interfered with the bullet, or his gun had, in-fact, malfunctioned. But while he could spend untold amounts of time attempting to study, hypothesis and eventually deduce the cause of this phenomena, the Vulkish man realized he had no time to do that now, nor did he even have enough time to fire again. Rather than waste further effort trying to desperately pull back the hammer and shoot, when it likely would already be too late by the time he did, the Prime Minister instead dodged aside as Lupin's strike eviscerated the thin air where he had been standing a moment before.

Using the opening, Diric launched a palm-strike at the assassin's face, intending to daze him a moment to enable a more powerful finish attack. Even if he failed, the Vulkish man calculated his reflexes would be adequate to avoid being killed by the assassin's blade. Like many of his people, he had been brought up in a simple, but effect form of martial art that his people had developed over the centuries. Vastly superior to the barroom brawler style of combat that most Norkotians resorted to when forced into a hand-to-hand fight, the Vulks had long been forced to deal with the superior weaponry of their enemies. Even if the Norkotian-Vulkish wars were a thing of the distant past, the lessons learned from those conflicts were still taught to young tribesmen as they made their passage from childhood to adulthood.

"Who are you?" he inquired in his dull, dry voice, hoping the assassin was the braggadocios type who wanted his name known to his victims.

 

As for Tynes, he stumbled over to the jeep and sat down, already unable to feel his own arm. The poison had spread too far for Diric's method of treating it to work, meaning that the only way to stop it was to either produce an antidote, or cut the infected limb off entirely. The thought of the latter crossed Tynes's mind too, but he hoped and prayed it wouldn't have to come to that. But if it was his arm or his life, then he supposed the sacrifice had to be made. He just hoped the Hildebrand kids were up to this, regardless of which path had to be taken.

"Take my gun." he urged Jasper and Aspen, "I can't use it now..."

Unfortunately, his gun had been dropped on the way over, though it was not far. One of the two would be able to recover it fairly quickly, though whether they'd know how to use it or not would be another thing entirely.

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