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Posted on Thu Oct 29th, 2015 @ 11:09am by Lieutenant Commander Vanora Stele

Mission: Heart of Stele
Location: Vanora's Childhood Home, Elas
Timeline: After "The Expected"

Vanora and her mother circled each other slowly, each carefully inching closer to the other. The sitting room was arranged with furniture against the walls, as if the need for space for a duel was a frequent occurrence. Livia spun the daggers expertly in her hands. She was the first dueling teacher for all of her children, Vanora included. It was an advantage for Vanora; she knew well her mother's style, her preferences and fighting philosophy. Livia, on the other hand, had not seen Vanora fight since her daughter was a teenager. She may have had Vanora monitored and spied on in the interim years, but hearing that her daughter had begun practicing kung fu was very different from seeing her in action.

The long dagger was a mainstay of dueling on Elas. Every adult Elasian woman carried at least one on her person at all times, either worn proudly on a knife belt or concealed against the body. Six to ten inches long, they were by design lightweight, maximizing speed as its main attribute. The design of such knives varied, and it was common for great clans to employ their own knivesmiths. This was the case for the Augusta, and so Livia and Vanora's blades--now turning and cutting through the air, testing the reach and strikes of the combatants--were identical. They were flat and double beveled, meant for both thrusting and with two slicing sides. A single piece of polished metal, the hollow grip itself was uncovered and flowed without marking into the blade, rounding at the end into an extended pommel, which served both as counterweight and a non-lethal option for subduing an opponent.

With her pair of these weapons, Vanora, spurred on by adrenaline and wrath, made the first attack. Feinting with her left hand, she swiped upward with her right as she charged forward with three rapid strides. Her knife sliced an arc toward Livia's chin, missing it by inches as the older woman instinctively leaned backward and dropped to the ground. With her own palms and knives flattened to the ground, Livia used the momentum of the drop to swing her legs up, kicking hard and planting the heels of both sandals solidly into Vanora's gut.

Vanora stumbled backwards but recovered after a few feet. As Livia was popping back up to a standing stance, Vanora rushed forward at an angle, flanking her mother and with a window a fraction of a second wide, swinging her left arm long, pommel first. The pommel fell short of its target, but that was intended; a flick of the wrist at the last moment extended the blade, slicing deep into Livia's upper arm. Livia's red blood flowed quickly, and a dark stain on her white gown grew large.

Crying out in pain and involuntarily dropping her left dagger, Livia gritted her teeth and spun toward her daughter with a strong right hook. Between the pommel and the knife's handle, the punch landed with the force of a brass knuckle. Vanora was herself spun around and she dropped to the floor face first. Livia did not hesitate as she pounced upon her daughter, driving her remaining blade halfway into Vanora's right shoulder.

It was Vanora's turn to scream in pain, though the scream was doubly a battle-cry. Heat enveloped her entire right side and she felt the weight of her mother trying to pin her down. Still shaking from the blow to her jaw, Vanora nonetheless snapped her neck and head back as hard as she could, pushing up at the same time. Her right arm collapsed under the pressure, causing the reverse headbutt to skew right and smash into Livia's right eye. It was enough to cause Livia to begin spinning to her left, only to collapse again to her hands and knees where Vanora had previously been.

For her part, Vanora followed through with the momentum of her headbutt and rolled away to the right. Once out of her mother's reach, she came up to her knees, her left arm helping prop her up. She was panting and still had a knife sticking out of her back, hot blood trickling down to the floor. She dropped her right blade and stared at her mother through red-tinted vision. "Is it worth it, Livia?" she said in a low voice as she caught her breath. "Destroying lives just to try to control everything?"

"I do what is necessary for the Augusta," Livia replied. She had taken advantage of the momentary respite to pick up her fallen blade and to pull a black powder from her garter and rub it into the open wound on her arm. The powder mixed with the blood and sped up the coagulation, reducing the bleeding dramatically. "The Augusta requires strength, and strength comes from a strong leader," she said as she stood. "You are destined to be that strong leader, my daughter. That you are still alive right now is proof enough."

Vanora growled as she pushed herself up. Still wobbly from the two blows to her head, she preferred to kneel, but every fiber of her ego refused to kneel before Livia. "That is what all of this was for?" she asked, furious. "A scheme to make me Chief? Have you completely lost your mind, Livia? Are you going senile; did you forget about the Law of Primogeniture? Helen is your heir, she always has been."

"Helen is weak. She has always been weak. Your Human father made sure of that." Livia began walking toward Vanora, her knife hanging by her side.

"Helen has always been stronger than you have given her credit for." Vanora could not believe that she was defending her haughty older sister, but it was true that Helen was, despite her mysterious tendency for fragility, everything that an Elasian clan could ask for in a leader. She had dedicated her life since childhood to overcoming her weaknesses and proving herself a worthy successor.

"She is not what the Augusta need. You are. She lacks the fire, the flame of the warrior. That is why I had to free you from your mistakes, from that rust bucket you played captain in and from that Human you allowed in your bed. The Augusta need no more pathetic, filthy alien males to dilute our bloodline."

"Never. Never speak of my husband again, you murdering monster!" Vanora lunged forward. Predicting her mother's quick reaction, she spun left, letting her momentum carry her forward and sacrificing her disabled right side to absorb the counterstrike. She ignored the burning of Livia's blade slashing through her bicep and completed the rotation, bringing her full body weight behind her knife's pommel and smashing it into her mother's neck. Livia gurgled and fell onto her back, dropping her weapon and clutching at her neck and her bracelets clinked noisily against the hard floor.

Vanora fell upon Livia, roughly pulling and pinning arms under her knees, and then pressing her blade firmly against Livia's throat. "I'm not going to let you hurt Tang, or anyone else, any longer," she screamed.

Livia was panting now as well, and swallowed repeatedly, feeling the razor sharp edge dig into and threaten to break through her skin. "Do it," she said hoarsely, as her daughter's open wounds dripped blood down onto her tarnished gown. "Do not hesitate. Do it. If you do not, no Federation prison will ever keep me from guiding the destiny of the Augusta, as I have been. I will keep guiding your destiny, unless you accept your own now. Do it."

"Stop, Vanora." Blinded and deafened by rage, Vanora had neither seen nor heard the transporter beam that had brought Tang directly into the sitting room. He was sitting on his side, awkwardly propped up by his left hand, a phaser in his right, thought it was currently also at rest on the ground in front of him. "This is not what you want, or who you are."

Vanora did not move her gaze from Livia. "She is a monster. She deserves nothing more than this. This is the only way to make sure she no longer plays with our lives. The only way to keep you safe."

"There is a better way, my Heart," he said with measured pace, as if the tone of his voice could pierce through Vanora's anger. "There is Federation law. She will be tried by a jury and brought to true justice. Federation rehabilitation camps are not so lax to allow her manipulations to continue."

"No," Vanora shook her head, not looking up at Tang. "I wish that were true, but you and I both know there is no guarantee of that. This is the only way. She broke all her promises, all her oaths, as a leader... and as a mother."

Tang stared hard at his wife. "You have taken oaths as well, Vanora," he said. "You have made promises to me, as a wife, and to the Federation, as a Starfleet officer. If you do this..." he shook his own head. "I do not know what will become of you next, but it is not something you will ever be able to take back."

Vanora opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted. "Listen to your husband," came the voice of a woman from just outside the sitting room. "He speaks more truth than you know." A pale woman turned the corner, revealing herself as Helen. Vanora's sister entered with a pair of armored guards behind her. "Strike down our mother now," she continued, "and you will become the Chief of the Augusta."


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