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EpicRome23

Some Assembly Required

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Zerand frowned to himself as he gazed out the window of the White Tower, his eyes focused on the factory site some distance away from Aligoria’s great port. The Baron of the Shadowed Kingdom had started the process of putting a factory there, the building mostly finished and just the internal workings left to establish. It was time to produce more of his great metallic warriors… now to be made with Uru, making them stronger than they ever had been before.

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And that was even not considering the drone designs recovered from the ruins of Talix-Engine he would also begin production on. Yes, he had held onto the secrets he had acquired of their creation, in the Whispernight-laden ruins of that gear-based town. And if nothing else? The Bullet Golem he had put to work there really needed something productive to be put toward, lest its great power was forever squandered. Also, it was just awesome to see in action. A good reason for anything, indeed.

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The factory was to be completed in the shadow of the White Tower, the abode of Baron Zerand Blacklong, vassal of Aligoria, along with his lover Araminta, High Engineer of Aligoria. Zerand thought the name to be rather humorous; a seemingly shining beacon in this dark land, this dark kingdom? Ha! But that was a moot point compared to the discontent the psyker warrior felt at the sight of the burgeoning construction. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t place what it could be, precisely.

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The lack of flow in and out? No, he had instructed the workers to be secretive in their approaches. He had built it so that it was not obvious that it was a factory, a fact that might save it from destruction in the midst of an enemy assault. It was very important to his future plans, after all. The shipments? No, they were coming as scheduled, and the waste was heading out just as he had directed. What the hell could be wrong, then, that he could possibly sense such as he did?

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After some more minutes of intense thought, Zerand shook his head. He wouldn’t find answers here. So, he turned away from the window and strode down the stairs of the tower, intent on inspecting the factory site himself. Araminta slipped quietly in behind him, though Zerand was too intent on his destination to notice her at this moment. The hustle and bustle of Aligoria’s grand port grew quieter as the Baron approached the factory site, to be replaced by the sounds of hammers and other construction tools within.

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Zerand approached the construction foreman. The foreman sighed deeply as he examined the blueprints laid before him, only speaking after some moments of awkward silence.

“Ah, Baron. You know those magitech engineers that came here as part of the mass exodus from Weland? They saw your designs for your metallic warriors and immediately locked themselves up in their office. I haven’t heard a peep out of there and they’ve repelled all attempts to force entry. Not sure if it’s an issue, but… thought you might want to know.”

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Zerand raised an inquiring eyebrow. Their behavior was definitely a bit odd. Either they were extremely eager, or what had they seen had immediately struck fear into their hearts. Only one way to find out, he supposed. But that was a task for later.

“Foreman. Is that really an issue? I’m inclined to believe they didn’t want distractions while they worked on implementing the design. Keep up the construction, I’ll force those engineers out if they’re not done be the time production is supposed to begin.”

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The foreman nodded hesitantly. He looked around before speaking again.

“There is… another issue. If you remember the reports of the saboteurs in Yh’mi tainting our Uru shipments there… the last couple of shipments that came here have been similarly tainted. We’ve got a good supply stocked so far, but we can’t sustain the production you need if this continues.”

Araminta frowned. “We can’t afford setbacks. The sooner the new force is operational, the better it is for all of Aligoria.”

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Zerand, however, simply smiled, drawing his battleax Willbreaker from his back, looking at the other two for a moment, and then strode out of the factory. Araminta and the foreman both stared at him with surprise. Was he not concerned? Worried? What could his reaction possibly be to this news? Zerand, finally, looked over his shoulder as he neared the factory entrance. Araminta and the foreman looked back at him silently, wondering.

“I will slaughter these saboteurs to the man.”

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Outside of the factory, Araminta approached Zerand with a determined look, speaking in a tone that brokered no argument.

“I’m coming with you to put a stop to the saboteurs, Zerand. Besides, I have an idea of where we might find them. The last shipments were held in the biggest warehouse in the southeast part of the port while construction finished on the factory building. If there’s any leads to be found, they’re there.”

Zerand smiled at Araminta.

“Then it is there that we shall go. Come on then, we have no time to waste.”

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Zerand couldn’t help but appreciate the hustle and bustle of Aligoria’s port as he and Araminta made their way toward the warehouse district. The Day River was a notable conduit of maritime commerce, the more leisurely activities that took place along it aside. Once, this trade had flowed into Weland. But Weland was empty now, a shell of a city that was in some ways open for the taking. Zerand speculated that Neque had some designs in that regard, and that he might be called in to support such an endeavor soon enough.

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But that was something for later. Now, trade flowed toward Béhods, just at the edge of what some cartographers had marked as a region of interest. Of course, they also thought that Chesterfield held the most influence over the region, as evidenced by the green dot they had marked with it. As if that held any semblance of truth! They must have been influenced by the news of Chesterfield’s ‘victory’ in the skirmish with Aligoria over the northwestern outpost. So be it, the truth would be evident in time.

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Finally, the duo reached the warehouse that Araminta had mentioned. Zerand turned towards her, gesturing for her to follow carefully as he readied Willbreaker. She nodded and drew her revolver as Zerand quietly opened the side door of the warehouse and stepped inside. The duo soon noticed, in the light streaming from the skylights above, four men with open crates containing Uru shipments bound for Yh’mi in front of them. They were in the uniforms of Aligorian dockworkers, no doubt the disguise they had used to slip in.

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Three of them were working on the first of the crates, taking chunks of plain iron and slipping them in-between pieces of raw Uru, where they would go unnoticed and taint the alloy when it was finally made, the smiths being none the wiser. With how much the Shadow King wanted to be processed, there was little time for a quality check, to carefully search for such metals that tainted the final product. But at least Zerand and Araminta would have the chance to quash such sabotage here on their home turf.

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Before examining the fourth man, Zerand took a few moments to scan the rest of the warehouse. No sign of traps. No sign of anybody else present. Just a quiet, silent operation that carried the potential to bring great ruin to the plans that Aligoria was currently undertaking. With any luck, Zerand and Araminta were in position to put a swift stop to that. Establishing that it simply only was four versus two as it seemed, Zerand looked toward the fourth man, the supposed leader.

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