09/15/367 C.O.R.E Command

Abantey Date: 9/15/367 AL*

Ra Jimena Slaar hesitated before the tent flap. The cold, light rain that had been falling around the Slaar Commander was sliding down the flap in tiny rivulets.

A coarse voice from within spoke: “Please, enter.  Have a seat.”

She lifted the flap and peered within. The furnishings were spartan – a cot, a table with two stools, a wash basin. A combat harness hung from a hook in the corner. This was the home of a warrior. Incongruously, his pack of pomeranians gazed at her expectantly.

Sitting at the table was an old Ta’as man. The table was covered with papers and a number of glinting pieces of metal – the base components of a magic item, some she recognized and others she did not.

Apprehensively, she moved in and carefully took a seat. “You wished to discuss something?”

Stryker did not look up from his work – his hair was greying and his face weathered, but he looked more fit than most of the callow youths she had passed on the way to his tent.

“Is it not obvious? Our mutual acquaintances.” his hand gestured toward the stack of papers.

“What of them?”

“I want to know what is your real appraisal of these adventurers.”

Taken aback, Jimena shifted in her seat: “They might make the difference between survival and death – just the information on the Engines of the World, on Ates and these… otherworlders, on these mysterious Seraphim, and many other things besides could… is there a problem?”

She had seen the dark look in his eyes – like storm clouds on the horizon.

“All that’s left of my people squat in those tents out there. Four centuries of work. Lore’s work. My work. The work of hundreds of others – gone in a few hours all because they wanted to escape the consequences of their lunacy.” Stryker’s hands tightened on his tools, Jimena wondered if they were going to snap apart. “To think they could bring hybrids out of that cesspool of a city directly to the enemy’s doorstep with impunity.”

“What transpired that day is… regretful. But they moved my people – and your’s – to safety when the time came. We might both be in the ground now if they hadn’t.”

Stryker snorted: “So we could die by Os’Plajet’s hands instead of the icy grip of winter? … No, I’m not ungrateful – but you must wonder if that was truly out of charity… or hunger for what we have left.”

Jimena’s face stiffened: “Why do you think one of my own is with them now on their latest endeavor? You sent one of yours with them with the very same idea. They’ll need our people’s knowledge if they are to have any hope in the Lands of Ta’as..”

“Ahh yes… my old homeland.” Stryker smiled sadly. “Os’Ta’as was never that welcoming of visitors – but hell, who knows if he even still lives. I’m sure whatever nightmare they find there will be just as terrible as the one we live in now.”

There was a click, a thrumming sound and the magic item in his hand began to glow with an eerie blue light. It spoke: “Mayday! We…” *crackling*

Jimena broke the silence, “Was that?”

“Them. Yes.” Stryker slid his finger over the surface of the magic item. “Blackbird do you copy?”

Even the pomeranians listened, waiting for a reply that never came.

-J. Albers

*After Lore – the time of the Rogue-ing and the beginning of the Rogue Culture – 1000 years from the creation of the World of Abantey.

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