It begins

12/19 – 20/380 A.L.*

Sergeant Ar Rashid scrutinized the list of his subordinates again. A sigh. A careful sip of tea, savoring the sublime taste. Who should he send on this mission? It required some finesse and skill, so the Privates wouldn’t do. The boat trip would take two to three months each way, so sending critical staff would be irresponsible.

That left two pages of Corporals.

Pen’s name lept off the page. Pen. Ar Rashid could feel a headache lurking in the background at thought of Pen. Hmm. It would be good to get Pen out of his fur. The incessant questioning…  Yes. He’d send Pen. Perhaps actual experience out in the wider world would teach him to do things instead of just asking questions, and who knows, he might even get a story out of it to satisfy his Bard’s Guild Sempai.

Now, to find balance, someone to keep Pen to the Code of Honor… Ah Ha! Wolf Starsplitter, a Ranger well trained for any occasion, and a devout follower of the Code. And Achala Jabez would also do, a Guard’s Guard, devoted to duty and the Code. The two of them should be able to keep an eye on Pen. … and it would be very good to get Achala out of town, now that she’d turned down Chief Major Marshall Kenyon’s proposition.

Just two more for the team. Feeran and Umbra, both could use some time out in the world as well. Traveling with Wolf and Achala might help Umbra with her doubts and fatalism about fighting, never a good thing for a Combat Mage. And Feeran’s skills as a scout could be needed, the journey may even pull him from his shell, certainly getting away from the constant reminder of the horrors of the Hybrid War would do him good.

Ar Rashid had his team. He quickly drafted orders and called in a messenger to deliver them. Within the hour, a knock on the door from his Kohai heralded their arrival. The sergeant looked the team over, at least they’d worked to get presentable.

“I’m sending you to New Hope,” Ar Rashid barked. “You’re delivering this package to Adjutant General Puskarinikis Kindral. Take good care of it.” He thrust the box and a pile of platinum rings across the desk. “Spending money, NOT for frivolity. Your ship leaves at 0800. The Makini, dock three. Your cabins are reserved. Bring Honor to the Clan.”

“Sir!” Wolf snapped a salute. “Are there any special precautions we should take, any potential threats to the box?”

“Why not a Dirigible or teleport?” Pen asked without looking up from his note taking, paying no heed to Wolf’s question.

“The contents are fragile. No threats we are aware of. Classified.”

“What’s in the box?”

“Classified.”

Achala stepped to the desk, scooping up the box and rings. “Yes Sir. Understood Sir.” With a pointed look at the others, she turned to leave the room. Ferran and Umbra quickly followed while Wolf pulled Pen along.

“No! But we… how about…” Pen’s voice echoed through the hall as they left.

The Sergeant sighed. It sure would be good to have them out on a mission. A simple one. The box with the emerald and amethyst message stones was securely sealed, they wouldn’t be able to open it. No one would suspect such an awkward and naive group of Slaar Corporals of carrying such an important message, and the ship and crew were a reliable and regularly traveled the route north to New Hope. What could possibly go wrong?

———————

“Finally a chance to see the world outside the Clan walls!” Pen was nearly skipping as they headed out of the building. “I can’t wait!”

“Go. Get your gear packed. Only one bag! We’ll meet at the dock at 0730.” Achala scowled at Pen and the others. “Get a good night’s sleep! No screwing around!” With serious expressions – except for Pen – the group headed to their various barracks.

———————

It was a beautiful morning, heralding a warm summer’s day, perhaps even a rare shower, as the team met at dock three. They were not the only passengers, a group of five Marked Plajet raucously joked and laughed waiting to board. Their outfits were, of course, outrageous, brightly colored and impractical, and their luggage filled the dock.

The ship’s purser directed two crew members to load the Plajet’s gear and then called to the Slaar team, “Are you the one’s sent by Sergeant Ar Rashid?” At the shouted affirmative from Wolf, she continued, “Come aboard! Let’s get you checked in and settled in your cabins.”

The Slaar Team followed the cabin boy, Varagner, to their cabins. After a heated discussion about who went where, and which cabin was the safest for the box, they headed back up to the deck to watch the departure. Pen was first, and straightaway headed to the cluster of Marked Plajet at the bow.

A flurry of introductions ensued, reluctant on the part of all but Pen and the Plajets. Hayaam and Mahish were both mid-level Priesten with a trio of guards, Gituki, Sasmita and Nitnam. They were all travelling home after a one year posting in Nar Ram Mar, and were taking the boat because ‘they had already seen the journey from a dirigible’.

As the Makini set sail to Sabo, the Slaar team and the Plajets stood at the bow, looking northward toward their destination. Pen was already taking notes and excitedly discussing ways to fill the time during the one month journey with Hayaam and Mahish. Umbra listened, studying the Priesten, they were not fighters, how would they fare on this journey? Ferran perched, nearly hidden, at the base of the forward mast, watching everyone. Achala, Wolf, and the Plajet guards watched one another and the crew warily, each taking measure of the other.

The journey begins.

– B. Thomas

*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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