Chapter 5 "The Coming of the Needles"

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In the years before the        great cataclysm the City of Detroit, Michigan experienced a renaissance of culture and prosperity. After collapse and near destruction at the beginning of the twenty first century, the city rebounded and was revitalized as a center of trade, transportation, and manufacturing. At the dawn of the twenty-second century, Detroit was poised to regain its place as one of the great North American cities. But like every other city the great cataclysm ended that.


        - University of New Lazlo Database (Updated 100 PA)

The Black Needle Compound

        “My Lord,” the fan man said prostrating himself in front of the winged figure on the large dark throne. “I have news of the academics and farmers to the west.”

        “I hear derision and contempt in your voice Walter,” Marku, First Lord of the Black Needle Clan, said. His voice matched his appearance—dark and filled with a refined menace.

        “M-my Lord,” the man named Walter stammered, “t-they are weak.”

        “No, Walter,” Marku replied silkily, “they are educated. They care for their old, their sick, and their helpless and that all serves to make them vulnerable Water. But never mistake that for weakness.”

        Rising to his full height of seven feet, Marku continued sounding more like a school teacher than a conquering warlord. “Ask the various war leaders and bandit clans who thought the little city would be an easy target. Oh wait, you can’t. Because you see, along with scholars, scientists, and farmers they are also a bastion of sorcerers, psychics, and warriors!” Marku pronounced in a thundering roar.

        “Yes, Lord Marku,” Walter said pressing himself even closer to the floor presenting the back of his neck to the Clan Lord in the traditional pose of supplication.

        Marku Nightstorm nodded and continued, “Now, rise Walter and tell me what you and your men have learned in these last few weeks.”

        “Yes, my Lord,” Walter Jenningson, captain of the clan’s intelligence service, replied rising to his feet. The man was a native of one of the villages grown within the ruins of the fallen city over the ages. When Lord Marku had arrived and claimed the tower on the river as his citadel, a young Walter had been one of the very first to pilgrimage and offer his fealty. He’d served the D-Bee warrior faithfully since that day fifty years earlier and had risen to become one of the highest in the clan. “I bring news both good and bad my Lord.”

        “Speak freely old friend,” Marku said dropping the formal tone of command when speaking to Walter as the trusted comrade he was. “You know the law, no messenger will ever be punished for delivering news that is not welcomed. An unpleasant truth is preferable to a placating lie.”

        “Yes, Lord Marku,” Walter replied.

        Marku snapped his clawed fingers and a servant, dressed in the standard armor of a clan warrior, brought a pitcher or fermented apple cider and two mugs. Then he left the chamber leaving the Lord and the Captain in privacy. Marku and Walter took seats at a table set in a small nook and the Lord of the Black Needle poured for both of them.

        “Their defenses are tight. Much tighter than we feared,” Walter said after taking a long hard drink of the icy-tart drink. “The only way to subdue them would be to smash them into the ground and I’m not sure we’d be able to do it and even if we did we’d be left crippled in the process.”

        Marku nodded, darkly draining his mug before speaking, “We are caught between two powerful forces my friend. The Thorns have driven us from the tower and the riverfront. Every ambassador we’ve sent to New Lazlo has been rebuffed.” Marku sighed and rubbed his dark scaly brow. “We have two choices—either we turn and attack the Thorns in an attempt to retake our home.”

        “They’ll slaughter us Marku,” Walter said sadly.

        Marku nodded and continued, “Then our other option is the people of New Lazlo. We’ve begged for sanctuary and they’ve denied it which leaves us with force.”

        “There is a third option,” Walter said hesitantly.

        “That is not an option,” Marku growled. “I will allow my people to fall under a benign societies control as opposed to being slaughtered and made into slaves, but we will never sell our souls for safety. I’d rather we die fighting for our freedom.”

        “My great great grandfather was still alive when I was young and he used to talk of what the world was like when he was young, in the years before the fall.” Walter sipped his drink and stared at the dark amber liquid in contemplation. “He said Detroit was a great city, it was a wonder to behold. I’ve seen the images and videos and I agree it was an amazing place, it was a better place.”

        “What is your point old friend?” Marku asked pouring them both more cider.

        “I want a better world for my grandchildren,” Walter said. “I want a better world for all of the children of the clan. We were building something we could all be proud of before the Thorns came and destroyed it all.”

        Marku nodded but said nothing. He wanted to hear his right hand man’s thoughts without interrupting him. The reason he’d accepted Walter into his inner circle so many decades earlier had been the sharp intelligence and keen observation skills he possessed. Those attributes had been honed and turned into deadly weapons over the years.

        “If our only option is to force an understanding with New Lazlo then I say we take it. Even if they demand the deaths or imprisonment of our leadership in order to take in everyone else, it will be worth it to secure the future of our people.”

        The room filled with a deep silence as both of the men, one human and one not, considered the impact of the words. The frustration they felt in the refusal of the cities leadership to see they’d be stronger together was eclipsed only by their collective fear of the monster’s who’d taken their homes.

        “You realize if I authorize this there is a very good chance neither of us will survive this,” Marku finally said.

        “I would rather die trying than lay down and give up,” Walter answered.

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