Absaroka's membership in the Arctic Pact has been confirmed. Welcome to our illustrious ranks neighbor! edit: Storytime Playing with Fire Spoiler : It was a most interesting party thought Diane, the High Priestess’s sole accommodation to the demands of her guards. There were seldom few times when she’d seen the Priestess and the Governors seem so at ease, so very relaxed. Amongst people that practically were enemies of the state at that! The governors and the Strange Men officers were mingling like they’d been friends for life. She could swear she’d even heard Brian, the taciturn governor of Vancouver, crack a joke to Kyra, apparently the Stranger’s executive officer. Only the governor of North Rockies, one Zachary Zandbergen, seemed to be uncomfortable. She glanced over at the Priestess, she was chatting animatedly with the Stranger and some woman Diane didn’t recognize. Thus reassured she sidled over to Zachary, one eye on her charge. “Sir, you feelin’ alright?” He looked up, startled. “Huh? Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little out of place. You’re her Holiness’s bodyguard, right? One of the Slender Men?” Diane nodded “Indeed I am. I’d have thought that you’d be perfectly at home. These are your fellow governors” Zach laughed “Hah! I don’t belong with them.” Diane focused on him “What do you mean?” “They were all part of the ‘grand revolution’, I was just a follower. They’ve fought alongside her. What am I? Just some gorram replacement. I only got this job because she disappeared” Diane turned back to check on Rachel again. She was gone. She repressed her initial panic and scanned the room. The Stranger was also missing, that could be a bad sign. Her mind spun, constructing what could have happened. The Stranger and his consort talked Rachel into going outside where... no, he would know that Slender Men were watching outside. She’s still in the building then, or possibly there’s a hidden passageway to the outside that they hadn’t found when they searched the building. Zachary looked at her curiously “Something wrong?” She looked at him. He provided the distraction, he could be in on it. But then again he’s far more likely an innocent bystander. For him to be in on it the conspiracy would have to go all the way to the top “Did you happen to see where her Holiness went?” Zachary looked around, “Huh, no. Last I saw she was talking with Anne” “Anne?” “The Stranger’s consort.” He leaned in conspiratorially “You know he doesn’t even have the decency to marry her.” he leaned back again “I entered the Priesthood hoping to be like the inestimable governors, to be closer to the High Priestess. Now I’ve achieved my dream and I learned what they’re really like.” “I think that you’re drunk, sir” “Hey, I’m not drunk. I’ve only had 3... 4, 5, 6 drinks! And the champagne. Okay, I’m a little drunk.” He suddenly focused on her “You’ve got very pretty eyes. Has anyone ever told you that?” “Sir, you should go sit down. I have to go find her Holiness” Diane rushed off before he could entangle her again. Ten minutes later she was running outside. Rachel was nowhere to be found in the house, same with the Stranger. A full scale search would be required. Rachel laughed as they pulled themselves up through the trapdoor. “I swear, this is getting more difficult every year. Whats this, the sixth way out we’ve had to use?” The Stranger smiled “Seventh, if you count that time we tried chimney” “Good gods, I’d almost forgotten about that. You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?” “Nope” he ripped a sand-colored tarp from the ground, uncovering an electric motorcycle “Viola! One ride out of here” “Its voilà, numbskull. Viola’s the instrument.” The Stranger smirked “Funny you should mention that...” A look of horror passed across her face “Forget I said anything” “Oh no, you started us down this path.” The Stranger mounted the motorcycle and offered Rachel a hand. Rachel ignored it and clambered on behind him. They took off into the night. Five minutes later the Stranger ground to a halt next to a large sand-colored bag. He opened it and pulled out a pair of long bundles as Rachel continued right where they had left off “Then I’ll end it, Swamp corndogs” “Now that’s just low, but I’ll never admit defeat, as you should know my dear Nallasariel” Rachel facepalmed, “Let’s just get this over with” and she unwrapped one of the bundles, revealing a long sword. She hefted it thoughtfully “Certainly better quality then last year. This doesn’t seem to be stainless, is it some new alloy?” “Its titanium. I found a couple strips back in one of bases and thought it was time to try something new” “Forged or ground?” Rachel tried a few thrusts and slashes “Ground, you know I’m too lazy for forging” “Heh, remember Weeper?” “Please don’t remind me, that was simply embarrassing how utterly pathetic that was.” “Hey, it worked fine” She ran a finger down the back of the blade, feeling the long strip of kevlar. “After we got Jim to fix the bloody thing. And even then the steel was shiser” “You got the white gas?” “Specially smuggled from Canada” The Stranger pulled an unmarked jug from the bag and poured gas down the lengths of both blades. One match later and the blades were ablaze, lighting up the night for a hundred feet. Rachel watched the flames with fascination, swinging her sword a couple times experimentally. “Very nicely bala-” and she spun, sword flying at the Stranger. There was a bright flash as their blades collided.