Defeat

[OOC: “Defeat” takes place after the Hindered Resolution Arc]

The true scale of a defeat is not measured by ground lost, casualties, or even the loss of identity. It is measured by the ability of the losing side to stand again.

He was frustrated. More than frustrated. He was angry. For all of his attempts in the last few days to finally rid the Manor of Tiger once and for all, tonight–of all nights–demonstrated that was now an impossibility. Lady Lianne would never permit it. Even if the entirety of the Theology Council came crashing down on the alliance with the full weight of an Imperial fleet, she would be standing there, holding that monster’s hand, screaming for them to bring their naval might to bear. And Reginald, dutiful as he was, would be at the forefront. His men, the first casualties in the vanguard to protect a relationship between beast and beauty, while, in the meantime he bore Lady Lianne’s anger for courting Katerina.

He clenched his fists, seething at the thought, at the unfairness of it all. At his powerlessness.

He opened his neocom, tapping out a few lines to Kat, but closed the message before he completed. He couldn’t expect her to be there for him every time something poor happened. And since when was he so weak that he required a shoulder to cry upon? All the same, he wished she was there. What would she tell him to do at the moment?

“Calm.” 

He could feel his jaws jamming against one another, his muscles tensing, his eyes betraying rabid ferocity. Sometimes, humans failed to act logically. With years of training bred into him, he forced it all down, regaining a look of calm anger. The result was reserved, almost tranquil.

It was the sort of face he wore at shareholders’ meetings. The face he wore when he sent Vuld and Crofton to their deaths. It hinted disapproval, his eyes fiercely calculating, his expression intense by virtue of its minimal emotions. A dagger gaze behind a stoic face. He took a deep breath and reigned in his posture, smoothing back his hair. There was work to do and he might as well begin in earnest.

Defeat was an opportunity. It was a time for reflection, for after action reports, for the proper dismissals and promotions. And the perfect time to stoke the fires of vengeance. And yet justice was denied this night to the men who fell, their lives now only a needless sacrifice in an empty conflict. Lady Lianne may never budge, her position ossified with time and inertia. But change is the universe’s only constant, swirling in a quagmire of despairs, hopes, dreams, and lost causes. He refused to believe his cause was lost. This was not his Vak’Atioth. Not yet.

He needed to adjust back to a role of quiet observation. He had moved too quickly, with no allies, into a battle he could not win. He had turned what would have been a warning shot into a salvo, a skirmish into a pitched engagement. He would lick his wounds and rebuild from scratch–even if that meant apologizing to the monster himself.

With a wry smile he approached his regiment’s encampment at the base of the cathedral against the night sky. They were moving about rapidly, having been given less than twenty-four hours to vacate. It loomed and towered above their burdened forms, dauntless, imposing–an affront to a non-existent God. Constructed by the hands of a self-confessed murderer of women and children and equally strangely, the man Lady Lianne loved. He hated it. Every stone, every inch of mortar, every crack in the facade.

He still thought that it ought be burned down. But it would not be by his hand. At least, not unless she told him to.

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