[Mock-Fiction] III - In Amore et Bellum

Note: Please read the Formal Notice movella. It should be on the list on the right hand side.

Protest piece. Third in the series after 'I - Requiescat in Pace' & 'II - Memento Mori'. Enjoy x

Cover by Secrets Unfold

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3. One - The Personal Matter

“So, this campaign to Bengal…” said Richard, leaving his food untouched, “Why is it you’re going?”
He hated having dinner with Rogue. In his opinion, the woman ate like a savage. She sat cross-legged on her chair with the ceramic plate in her lap, completely ignoring the desk in front of her, and ate with her right hand. She licked her fingers and said, “I have a bone to pick with the queen. And the pay is quite good – ten percent of the booty.”
Richard cringed, “The queen…? You mean Prithy Choudary?”

“Yes. Recently got married to Smith. His seventh wife, I think. From what I hear anyway.”
“But that could be dangerous. What if il bastardo decides to attack Masyaf at the same time?”

“That’s covered. I’ll only be away for two and a half months. Three months at the most. And my contractor only wants 500 soldiers. I can leave the other 300 under your command, in addition to your 650 Masyaf soldiers,” Rogue paused, “Besides, if Smith attacks, I’m breaking my contract – I told the contractor that. I’m heading straight back here, and hopefully combined we’ll be able to bring down his forces and–” Rogue noticed the look on Richard’s face, “Will you quit looking at me like that?”

“I’m sorry, signora,” said Richard, “but we have manners back in Masyaf. We’re a tad bit more civilized.”

Rogue stared at him, a grin breaking across her face, “So, finally joined the century and picked up on sarcasm, have you?” she swallowed and took a sip from her glass, “Glad to see it finally happen.”

 

“Actually… um… I was being serious… kind of,” Richard smiled and pushed away his plate of food, though it looked delectable, watching Rogue eat made his appetite evaporate.

Rogue ate another morsel, considering the comment thoughtfully, “Savagery and civilization are subjective to culture, but it’s a fair point. Everyone eats with cutlery, whilst seated on chairs, at tables nowadays. But that’s not how my soldiers are eating. They sit on the floor and eat with their hands. It’s a good practice for them, because the outside world doesn’t always provide cutlery and civilized seats. They make-do with the minimum and learn to live without luxury,” she paused, “Does that make any sense?”
Richard nodded.

“Besides,” continued Rogue, “I have no use for civilization. Man was more peaceful as a savage. More noble. Civilization brought about some good, yes, but it also brought nationalism, tyranny and bloodshed,” she regarded Richard, “thousands of years of it.”

“This is why I love you,” said Richard, using Rogue’s trademark sarcastic tone, “Always happy thoughts.”

“I’m sorry, who was it again that was against Blow the Man Down?”
They both laughed.

 

Rogue finished her meal and went out to clean her dish and her glass for a moment, and then scurried back in wiping her hands on a towel. She was wearing her white robes now, and seemed more comfortable with it.

“But anyway,” she said, “What was it you wanted to discuss?”
Richard flushed red, “What’s your deal with Queen Choudary?”
Rogue stared at him, “You’re terrible at changing subjects. You’d better start work on that,” she smiled, “But if you must know, she sanctioned the genocide on the Burmese – all of them, not just the Rohinga. They’ve destroyed it all and salted the ground. Nothing will grow there for years. It was awful. And the worst part of it is – the whole idea reeks of Smith! I’ve been moaning about it for ages, and now someone’s finally given me the chance to march right up to Her Majesty’s palace and punch her square in her good-for-nothing Bengali face.”

Richard was silent for a while, wondering why the removal of Burma would aggravate Rogue so much… and then he remembered – Rogue was an eighth Burmese.

“You forgot, didn’t you?” said Rogue.
Richard grinned sheepishly, “It’s almost nothing, an eighth…”
“It’s seven-eighths of my heritage destroying the one-eighth. Though, technically, I inherited more from my small Burmese side,” Rogue sniffed, “Bengalis are way too flowery for my taste. Only Smith would give Choudary the gut to attack Burma. Won’t be long before she’s… removed, and Bengal is sucked into the UAF,” Rogue shook her head, “I hate politics.”

 

Richard sat back in his seat, not knowing how to introduce the subject of his concern. He could tell her anything – he always ended up doing it anyway – and even if she laughed at him, Rogue was an amazing secret-keeper. All these years, and he still didn’t know when her birthday was.

“Richard,” said Rogue, “You don’t have to discuss this, er, matter if you don’t want to.”

“How do you know it’s not something important?”

“Because I know your priorities – if Masyaf or the Brotherhood was at stake, you’d say it no matter how embarrassing it is.”

“It’s about… Sartor.”

Rogue smiled, sympathetically this time, “Still not quite hitting it off with her, eh?”

Richard scowled, “She’s so stubborn!”

“It’s odd… Last time I checked, you were quite popular with the women.”

Richard flushed again, “What about you? You’re nearly 38!”

 

“Richard, calm down! I wasn’t trying to offend you and–” Richard’s words had just sunk in, “What are you, my mother?” said Rogue angrily.

Richard took a few deep breathes, and then said, “Mi dispaice, it’s just been bothering me for some time. But, really, though – don’t you want someone that special?”

“No.”

Richard raised his eyebrows, “Scusi?”

“What are you, my father? I haven’t got room for that. There are already too many people I care about for my line of work.”

Richard snorted, “You only have two brothers.”

“You mean, excluding the 1000 people I live with here and the additional few hundred who live back in Masyaf?”

Richard paused, verbally slapped in the face for a moment, “...Surely all of us aren’t level with…?”

“Of course you are,” said Rogue, “After my parents went away to live in the UAF to stay out of trouble, and I’d married off both of my sisters; I’ve been living here with the mercenaries. I haven’t got the time or the energy for some sloppy romance that would only result in multiple other responsibilities. And I’m done with a want for children – I have about 800 of them running around this barracks,” Rogue paused, “And I think I’m looking at a pining teenager right now.”

“But everyone wants…”

“Not me,” said Rogue, then a thought stuck her so hard she nearly fell off her seat, “Oh, hell! I’m not Sartor, am I?”

 

Richard laughed hysterically.

 

“That was a joke, right?” he said, wiping the tears out of his eyes.

Rogue grinned, “Nope, I was being serious. But I’m glad that I am not Sartor.”

“Why not?” Richard said, looking hurt all of a sudden.

“What? You don’t think I step on your nerves enough already?”

“You care?”

Rogue smacked her forehead, “Of course I care! If I didn’t you’d be deader than the WD!”

“It’s seems so long since we got rid of them.”

“Are you done changing the subject?”

 

Richard paused, “Uh… fine. Do you know Myra?”

Rogue’s mouth parted in shock, “Myra? Myra Castelle? The Myra Castelle?”

“Are you hard of hearing?”

“Of course I know her,” said Rogue, ignoring the comment, “I recently made her a centurion around here.”

“We got off on the wrong foot…”

Myra is Sartor?!”

“You make it sound like a bad thing.”

“That’s because it is! That girl is more stubborn than me, and she’s looking to live solitary. Oh, hell, Richard, don’t tell me you pulled that classic Bollywood stuff on her?”

Richard remained silent.

“What did you do? Chase her around a tree?”

Richard’s continued silence gave her an affirmative answer.

“I can’t believe you!”

“I told you, we got off on the wrong foot!”

 

Rogue sighed, “So what exactly do you want me to do? Be a mediator for the two of you?”

The affirmative silence again.

“Richard… I can’t do that. She’s as strong as mule, stubborn as a donkey, lean as an eel and smart as a fox. And she holds grudges. If she’s given you the thumbs down already… I really don’t know, Richard…” Rogue looked up thoughtfully, “Myra is a hardened soldier, through and through. Nothing short of saving her life will get you her gratitude. And even then, there’s a doubt. Plus… I don’t really know where her loyalties lie… She’s sort of psychotic… sadistic, like she fights wars for the fun of it. She’s dangerous.” Rogue paused, running a finger along the line of her mask, “Though… I can do one thing for you.”

Richard sat up, though he felt a little hopeless, “What?”

“I’ll leave her hundred here. She’ll stay within Masyaf’s borders. Myra will be disappointed as hell, but she won’t go against me. I’m sorry, amico, but that’s about as much as I can do.”

Richard smiled appreciatively, “It’s enough.”

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