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Proceedings of the Fortress Masters, Special Session on the Silent Thunder

No one is safe

The room is a silent one. Guards patrol the black stone fortress, their measured tread forming a sort of heart-beat, the life-blood of a high-security base of operations. The Fortress Masters generally didn’t convene in such an impromptu manner, but the Silent Thunder was not an unimportant matter. Indeed, it threatened the very foundations on which the Federation was built.
  HEAD STRATEGIC ADVISOR LILY ABAN: According to attendance, we have a quorum of members to begin a meeting. Thank you all for arriving after such short notice. (taps gavel) All Fortress Masters, please be seated. May I invite Sophia Kai Carlson to the floor, for a special presentation on the threat that faces us today.  
Sophia is a young commander, with piercing dark green eyes. It is said that at the age of seven, she already commanded the Sabdao coast guard, a testament to the young one's tactical skill. Standing at one and a half meters tall, with her long brown hair flowing down her shoulders, she rapidly ascends the podium, sword at her side.
  LEFT COMMANDER CARLSON: Thank you, Lily. Are there any preliminary questions from the Fortress Masters?   GOVERNOR NICEA: (looks around nervously, his hand on his loaded crossbow) Is the building secure?   LEFT COMMANDER CARLSON: Certainly. We have taken special precautions following the death of ██████████. We can reasonably assume the Thunder has at most a medium-level clearance, so the only ones that know about this meeting are you all, and the specially picked high-clearance personnel outside.   GOVERNOR NICEA: Thank you. (shudders, and grips his crossbow tighter)   GOVERNOR SHARPE: Before you begin, exactly what level threat do you think that the Silent Thunder presents? And could you give a brief summary of her motives?   LEFT COMMANDER CARLSON: Very well. First off, I would like to make it clear that my father’s life was saved by this assassin. Now that my potential conflicts of interest are out of the way, I believe that the Silent Thunder poses an existential threat to the House Aban and the Federation as a whole, if not for her motives. Based on primary evidence, I have established that her main interest is for the prosperity of the Federation, with a special emphasis on the merchant and farming classes.   [pause, looking around room]   LEFT COMMANDER CARLSON: Seeing no more questions, I shall give my short presentation about who the Thunder is, her specific skills, and her motivations and influence. At the end of my presentation, I shall present three alternative methods as to mitigate this threat to the Federation and my family. If anyone needs to take a break, I advise they take it now, as I want every Fortress Master to understand the gravity of the situation we are facing.  
The black-suited men and women leave the room for a moment. Sophia readies her notes and looks around the now-empty hall. The information that she presents will be disheartening at best and near-heretical at worst. But she cannot afford to keep her silence. The Thunder must be dealt with.
  HEAD STRATEGIC ADVISOR ABAN: All are seated. Please begin the presentation.   LEFT COMMANDER CARLSON: I’m certain the first thing you are wondering is who the Silent Thunder is. For that, I can give no proper answer. 85% of the people I interviewed did identify the Silent Thunder as a woman, but the ages, facial appearances, and heights that people reported were not consistent. As for myself, the Silent Thunder appeared at one hundred sixty-five centimeters, carried a scythe, and had long brown hair.   [audience gasps]   LEFT COMMANDER CARLSON: Yes, I too have encountered the Thunder, just as some of you have. At least she didn’t seem to be after my life. She wanted to deliver a message, but I immediately noticed that she was armed with an assortment of killing-devices and drew my sword. After a short duel, she fled, but through the duel, I can tell you how the Silent Thunder fights.  
The attendees flip through their agendas, looking at Sophia’s summary of the fight. A large table of weapon usages, fighting moves, and qualitative data is recorded on their page. Special block lettering indicates the fighter is one of the best in the Federation, topped by only a dozen or two of the top Federation duelists.
  LEFT COMMANDER CARLSON: As a duelist, I must admit, that the Silent Thunder is the toughest opponent I have ever faced, besides perhaps my younger sister and the current queen. She is no person of normal talent. I have never, never, in all the duels I’ve fought, seen such a good scythe-wielder. Besides that, she suspended the traditional rules of the duel and went all-out to create an opening for her escape. This made her twice as dangerous. She used poisons, and bombs, and an assortment of knives.   I would like now to move on to this person’s motivations. In the past few weeks, I have re-analyzed all the evidence I have gathered. She has consistently asked for reforms weakening the Aban family’s power, loosening regulations on trade, and lowering government taxation.   These requests align most closely with someone from the mercantile class, and specifically like a former or current spy from the Kingdom of Glamin, which is a merchant confederation. Their spy networks are second only to us, and they’ve been relatively active lately while we were rolling our troops through Mitrand, Colren, and the Barrier Kingdom.   If this person does happen to be under the employ of the Kingdom of Glamin, we are in quite a worrisome situation indeed. For her influence spans governments: over seventy percent of the parliament and ten percent of the governors of the Federation have been contacted by the Thunder. I repeat, this is organized. They have a substantial part of our government under their thumb.  
Many governors are now frantically scribbling on their papers. The reach of the Thunder is so large that it couldn’t have possibly been ignored. There is a loud yell from outside, as security attempts to apprehend some intruder. Several armed Fortress Masters, from the back, rise, and fire several times out the doors. A thud is heard outside, and the disturbance ends.
  COUNTERINTELLIGENCE ADVISOR BLAKE: (with a worried look on his face, searching for words and pointing on his map) Are we even sure this is one person?   LEFT COMMANDER CARLSON: That’s the issue. The information that I’ve been able to find on this is sparse. They’ve covered their tracks well. However, all the information I’ve gathered so far points to multiple people. Most describe different people; some even call her a man. This is big, and it’s dangerous.   In the next few months, we have three courses of action, of which we can pursue one or more of. The actions are to either authorize a full-scale counterintelligence campaign against this person, a full-scale diplomatic campaign towards this group, or a full-scale policy and military campaign to crush secret societies. Just thinking about what I have to say about the Society of Magisters... I digress. My ten minutes of presentation is up, I believe. I hope we decide to act on this menace.  
Sophia descends the podium, sword drawn, as a young woman, stunned by a glancing blow from a crossbow-bolt, is pulled into the room. She notices with chagrin that nearly every Master within the room is armed in some fashion: the first time all the Fortress Masters percieved a common threat. Perhaps this woman will give insight, she thinks.


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