Pensieve Dissan 1
FOUND IN A RUBBISH BIN IN D’ISSAN
The world disappears, shrinking, going off-white desaturated and limned with mist. It’s unclear whose memory this is, for the room the memory occurs in – the small amphitheatre at the back of D’issan – is packed to the gills with a crowd. And what a crowd it is. The word ‘eclectic’ might apply, but it would be more accurate to say it’s a motley carnival of dangerous-looking operators. Dwarves, elves, humans, orcs, and rarer specimens are represented, including two dragonborn (which, given their usual status as enemy combatants, is rare in this sort of crowd) and something that looks alarmingly like a kobold lich.
Some look like they haven’t cracked a smile in decades. Others look like they can barely restrain laughter just sitting still. One medusa, his hood pulled up to protect his neighbors, juggles knives in boredom. There’s a lot of idle chatter going on.
Every single one of them have the glint of wariness in their eyes that speaks of long experience in the more dangerous professions. Expensive-looking weapons at various levels of concealment confirm it.
Up to the lectern at the front steps a minor functionary, a squat, balding, slightly overweight human with Lieutenant’s pips hastily pinned to a well-worn suit. Immediately, a good third of the room’s lethal occupants hush, their attention focused like a maser on the speaker.
In a voice of quiet strength, he says, “Good evening. Some of you may have heard of me, given your professions. For this, you will not need to know my primary identity; you will only know me as Occult.”
“All of you will be wondering what the fuck you’re doing here. This is a tiny routing base and waste dump some distance from the main route to anywhere at all. You may have also seen the Ministry of Awesome logo hurriedly spray-painted on the side of the building.”
He smirks. “In fact, some of your would-be compatriots immediately saw the insignia of the do-nothing Ministry, the biggest waste of funding in the war effort, and immediately turned tail for more interesting prospects.”
He looks around. “Now, what we have here are the ones who took a risk. All of you were transferred in or invited for a reason. We have a goodly contingent from the King’s Dark Lanterns, the Royal Eyes of Aundair, and whatever Kaius is using these days. We have agents from the Aurum – don’t bother looking at the dwarves, you idiots, that’s too fucking obvious – and some from the Sisters of Sora Kell. We even have one agent who snuck in from the Inspired of Riedra, and yes, we do know about you… and your upstairs management,” he looks studiously at the wall.
Not a one of the gathered, motley throng so much as twitches.
“You’re all skilled, so you’re all coming to some conclusions by now. The Ministry of Awesome had you transferred in under assumed names and listed as low, piddling, ranks in your respective armies. Your orders said you would be guarding a low-priority supply dump and the future site of an airstrip. You’ve all had it confirmed by your command chain, which only adds to your suspicions.”
“After all, everyone knows Minister Ranni d’Lyrandar’s only contribution to the war effort has been the skyfighters that have proven adept at taking down dragons in the air. The Material of Loyalty she may be, but the rest of the Ministry of Awesome is a useless lump, a dumping ground for failed prototypes and last-chance soldiers looking for a hope for redemption. Absolutely nothing else of any true use to anyone. A failed Ministry, a black pit down which the Five Nations’ funding disappears into hopeless boondoggles.”
He pauses and the utterly nondescript, low-ranking, plain-dressed man with an oddly developed aura of command (for a middle manager) looks out into the gathered crowd of sneaks, infiltrators, and cold-blooded killers.
“Sapients, welcome to the Ministry of Awesome. This will be your home for the next few years. It will be a pleasure working with you.”