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City of Norshelm

The dull rumble and quake of the ground had the city residents closest to the source woken up from their sleep. They peered out from their windows and wondered what was happening. Those next to the buildings that collapsed down were shocked and they ran out of their houses in their sleepwear, staring dumbstruck at the destruction of their neighboring buildings.

The city guard raced down to the scene to sort out the confusion and fears of the citizens while checking around the ruins to see if there were any survivors. As the news of the collapse of the buildings slowly spread, several other quakes shook the city.

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Underground Stalker Guild

Tyrier swapped out his spent rifle magazine with a fresh mag, carefully keeping the emptied mag into his ammo pouches. They had to be careful with littering the place with any traces of technology. Stuff like spent brass casing was collected by brass catcher attachments strapped over the ejection ports of their rifles.

The bulky attachments made their carbines slightly unwieldy in the long narrow tunnels but it hardly mannered much as the assassin guild members were quickly dispatched when encountered.

Due to the number and scale of the tunnels, Mills had to send in two sections of Marines to help clear the place. They had given up of totally wiping out the entire Stalker Guild in the city as there were too many unknown exits leading out of the underground nest.

Their objectives changed to search and destroy. Search for any information and destroy any guild members and exits. The whole operation ran until the early hours of the morning before the last report came in that there was no more tunnels to explore and destroy.

The men set their last charges and retreated, following the chalk markings drawn on the stone walls to lead them back to their rendezvous location. Along the way, they double checked the area, making sure they did not miss anything and once they exited the tunnels, the remaining explosives planted underground were detonated, shaking the city, adding more confusion and fear.

The Marines and Claymore One all gathered inside the mansion with their prisoners. Trism looked at the men and smiled, "Good job! Despite having some members of the Stalkers escaping, but I am certain at least 90% of the Guild is destroyed here!"

The men gave a cheer at the news. "Now, we will return! But due to our actions, the city is in an alert state! So, here are some disguises!"

Two large chests filled with cloaks and helms were carried in. "Each man to wear a cloak and a helmet, this has the Rothschild's crest emblazoned on its back. You will now take the role of Rothschild's Household Guards!"

"The prisoners will be loaded into the two carriages waiting for us outside now," Trism said. "We will be acting as prisoner escorts. Our story will be due to the suddenly strange quaking of the earth to move our prisoners. Is that clear?"

"YES, SIR!"

"Good, grab your gear and form up outside!" Trism said.

"Sir," Mills asked when the men had left. "Can we get past the gate with these disguises?"

Trism smiled, "Don't worry. I got a letter from Knight Captain Judis that authorized me to move our prisoners."

"You had foreseen this?" Tyrier asked from the side in surprise.

"Well, we do need a way to move any prisoners were got even if the city wasn't alarmed by our actions," Trism replied. "What is a better excuse than to say these are our political enemies and we need to move them to another location?"

"Nice," Mills nodded. "So with the confusion, we boldly stand out to avoid suspicion?"

Trism nodded, "And if our enemies are watching, it will make them wonder about the identity of our prisoners too. Makes them sweat!"

"Haha," Mills grinned. "I like that!"

"Ok, gather your men," Trism said. "And burn this place down."

Two columns of soldiers escorting two carriages slowly marched away from the burning building behind them as they headed towards the city gate. Residents gossiped and speculated amongst themselves as they watched the soldiers departing, wondering what had happened at the building.

The skies were still dark with a slight hint of purple and red clouds yet the citizens of the city were out in full force. Most of them were dressed in their sleepwear, others clutched their most prized possessions, wondering should they run away from the city or not.

Guards and members of the City Watch were busy trying to calm the frightened masses, while priests and other religious figures were taking the opportunity to preach about their religions and offering divine protections for a small donation.

Other enterprising merchants started selling food, drinks, and charms that guaranteed to protect them. Some even claimed to be a Level 5 protection spells!

Mills eyed the ongoings nervously, his view of surroundings were greatly hampered by the heavy helm he wore. The eye slits of his helm narrowed his view to only what was in front of him and he forced himself to not jerk his head everywhere as the helm cut off his peripheral vision.

Luckily the crowd parted before them like waves, allowing them to move unhindered on the streets. Even the local guards and City Watch did not dare to stop them after seeing the Rothschild's crest.

Reaching the inner city gates, the guards quickly stopped them. "Halt! The gates are closed!"

Trism climbed down from the lead carriage and swaggered up to the guards and waved a scroll in the guard captain's face. "I got a letter here allowing me to move prisoners under the orders of Knight Captain Judis!"

The guard captain's expression changed and he quickly gave a salute before he checked the document. Finding no issues with the letter, he turned to his subordinates and quickly ordered. "Open the gates!"

Trism gave a triumphant grin and returned to the carriage. "Move out!"

As they returned to the Rothschild's Estate, Knight Captain Judis was waiting for them at the door. "Let's go to the chancery now."

Mills was surprised when he saw Titanna sitting at the head of the desk waiting for them inside the room when they all entered. "Should you be up at this time?"

Titanna gave a smile and a shake of her head, gesturing them to be seated. Judis stood beside Titanna and said, "How was the... mission? The commotions in the city were caused by you?"

Trism smiled and said, "The mission was highly successful and yes, we caused those disturbances."

"We managed to capture two high ranking Stalker members and also killed an estimated forty of their people and destroyed their base of operations. The disturbances in the city were us destroying their nest."

"We also gleaned some idea of how their hierarchy works," Trism added. "Leading from the top is the Council Members, which has seven seats followed by Adjuncators than Branch Masters who govern a city's branch."

"Their low leveled members consist of four levels, from the most senior Executioners to Enforcers, who carry out the killings," Trism explained. "The other two levels are Initiates and gets promoted from newly inducted Apprentices, who mostly does all the groundwork of collecting intelligence and other layman duties."

"We managed to capture the Branch Master and an Adjuncator," Trism proudly declared. "Also documents and books which we have yet to decipher their contents yet."

"We can surely say that what presence of the Stalkers here in Norshelm, is effectively destroyed," Trism said. "With the Stalkers gone, there shouldn't be a second attempt at your life, Lady Titanna."

Titanna nodded and Judis said, "Please inform us immediately should you find any information regarding who paid to kill our Ladyship."

"That is a given," Trism replied. "Now next thing we need to settle is to weaken the forces against you."

"Your troops are frankly too demoralized for another battle," Trism said. "I will not be surprised if more than half of them defects over to the other faction."

Both Titanna and Judis's face turned ugly at the statement but they too knew there was truth in his words. "I have been trying to gather as many soldiers loyal to Lady Titanna as possible," Judis said. "But you are right, a defeated army is easier to be seduced over, especially with the rumors been spread by our enemies!"

Trism nodded, "We will need detailed information on their resources and property. If we can disrupt their businesses and revenue, we can buy more time for you to reestablish your authority over the city and the army."

Titanna bobbed her head vigorously. She had the exact same idea as what Trism was saying.

"Once we identify their importance businesses and facilities," Trism grinned. "We can create several accidents in these areas, which will greatly damage their resources in the city."

"Burn their business down? Destroy their storehouses?" Judis frowned. "Norshelm is still a city governed by law and if things like that happen, what will become of our Lady's reputation?"

"Than find a legal reason to shut down their businesses!" Trism replied. "Anything outside the city will be fair game!"

Judis gave a bark of laughter, "That is clever! I can think of dozens of ways to impound their storehouses and cargos!"

"Good," Trism said. "I am sure they have some hidden places to station their mercenaries and soldiers they are recruiting. Find where their gold and food is going, and we will find where their forces are camped."

"But at the same time," Trism added. "We need to double the guards on your businesses and properties. We are in the light while they are in the dark, meaning they can strike at us in the shadows while we can only act in the light..."

"They will not stop at only spreading rumors," Trism said. "If they can create trouble to discredit you, they will do it."

Titanna nodded at Trism's advice and a strained voice, she said to Judis, "Do it. Make sure to prevent any unwanted incidents by our enemies."

"And now, with your Ladyship's absence from region affairs at the Citadel," Trism said. "I am sure the other faction suspects something should have happened to you by now. Hopefully, it will make them reveal their plans while thinking you are... indisposed... Making them show off their cards in their hands before they are ready."

"So these three days before the Gala will be crucial to our plans," Trism said. "When they think they have all the cards in their hands, we will burn the house down around them!"

"Thank you..." Titanna whispered softly. "Judis will assist you with anything you need."

Trism and the rest stood up and bowed as they made their exit. "We will start by interrogating the prisoners we got."

Mills lingered behind and eyed Titanna a few times before she gestured Judis to leave the room and for Mills to stay behind. Judis gave a glare and a huff at Mills as he passed by him, "You better behave yourself... barbarian!"

Mills struck his tongue at the departing back of Judis making Titanna giggle before she lapsed into a coughing fit. Mills quickly pour her some water and pat her back gently before her coughs subsided.

"Sorry... for making you laugh..." Mills smiled, taking a seat next to her. "Are you feeling better?"

Titanna nodded and replied in a soft whisper, "My throat is still slightly sore, but I feel a lot better than before..."

"Good!" Mills said. "But still you should rest more!"

"I... I want to thank you... for saving me!" Titanna blushed. "But... you saw me... naked..."

"Oh..." Mills looked away in embarrassment. "Well, saving you was more important at that time..."

"You... need to take responsibility!" Titanna glared at Mills.

"Wa- what?!" Mills blinked his eyes rapidly in confusion. "What did you say?"

"I said, you need to take full responsibility!!!"

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