Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » November 24th, 2017, 12:08 am

[Sorry this has been so slow in coming; I've had major health issues this year and have not been in a good spot to write. Those appear to be resolved now, so with any luck, things will pick up again. This one is quite short, but in the interest of starting that movement, I'm posting what I have while I write more.]

Chapter Ten: On the town

After Sister Rose and Argus recovered from the shock of hearing Dess Marson’s name again, they quickly got down to business. “Well, if it has to be Marson,” Rose observed, “then we’ll make it so.” A puckish smile passed quickly across her face as she considered how to tease Marson and her husband(?) as she had the previous times they’d met. It didn’t linger, however (although it would return soon enough), as this was serious business and they were going to be dealing with a known smuggler on his home turf (sort of). In situations like that, you played it straight.

It did take some time for the temple (or frontier outpost or whatever it was; Rose wondered sometimes) to make the arrangements with the harbor master (or chief smuggler, Rose thought cynically but probably accurately) to meet Marson when his ship came in. (Or was it two ships roped together? Rose wasn’t sure from the description and her memories of the vehicles up north.) However, that was the temple/compound’s business, not their own. There being little in the way of preparations that it made sense for the two of them to make while this was happening – after all, they were still basically packed up from the trip across the ocean -- Rose cast a wry smile at Argus and rolled her eyes. “Think Fayna would like a souvenir from this out-of-the-way corner of the world?” she asked.

Argus pondered for a moment, then produced his own wry grin, something that would have been out of character only a few short weeks earlier. “Yes, I doubt if my daughter’s travels, extensive as they have been, have ever brought her to a place quite like this.” The grin widened. “Her tastes run to bronzes.”

Somehow Rose found that amusing, just as Argus had known she would. “Then let’s go find one while we’re waiting for Marson to make landfall.” Argus shrugged and sighed – he’d been doing that ever since he and Rose met – and they set off to the marketplace to find souvenirs.

Which, however, were nowhere in sight. In fact, there was barely a marketplace at all. Anuba was not a large city, by any means, but it was no small, country village either, and Rose had seen more trade in the tiny towns of southern Veracia where she’d traveled (while starting to fall in love with Argus). No luxury goods were available, the clothes in the stalls were sparse and ragtag, even the food vendors had little on offer. Yet the people seemed well, or at least adequately, fed and clothed. Where was all the business done? She raised that question to Argus, who shrugged and sighed again. “Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer, my dear.” She had to admit, he had a point. They abandoned the shopping expedition and made their way back to the temple/compound, where they had a plain but adequate dinner and turned in early for a surprisingly restful night’s sleep; they’d been doing a lot of traveling, after all, and sleeping on the airship hadn’t been that restful.

:::::

As had been her custom for most of her adult life, Rose was up early the next morning to say her prayers; even though she was going to leave the Veracian Church shortly, she wasn’t abandoning her most basic spiritual compass. (Argus, also per custom, slept in.) To her surprise, Major Portiel was already in the small, grubby chapel when she entered to avoid disturbing Argus. She hadn’t pegged him as the spiritual (she preferred that to “religious”) type. She would discover she was right.

“Get your – husband up early,” he said without any preamble, and with a very obvious pause before “husband.” I no longer give a rat’s ass whether people like this guy approve of us or not, thought Rose, but she waited quietly for the elaboration that was coming. “We have to go meet this Marson before most of the harbor gets moving.”

“And why is that?” Rose asked.

“Some questions are better off not being asked, ma’am,” was the reply, and he would say no more. Appearances notwithstanding, he hadn't checked with Argus before giving this repetitive answer.
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » December 17th, 2017, 6:07 pm

[Once again, what happens here diverges considerably from canon, although it does help solve a problem of geography in Errant Story. Again, sorry this has been slow in coming; with health issues resolved, things will pick up now. Really. I promise.]

Chapter Eleven: Coastwatchers

Deep in the interior of the Eastern Wastes, a man named Noboyuki Aso was awakened from his customary restless sleep by a surprisingly gentle knock on the door of his little shack. “Nobby-sir?” an Outlander’s voice called in fragmentary Tsuirakuan; the deference in that voice would also have been surprising to Aso’s countrymen if they had known about it. “You come, please. Strange thing there-is.” Intrigued – nothing “strange” ever happened in this outpost forty kilometers from nowhere – Aso got quickly to his feet, dressed, and went out into the omnipresent murk of the interior.

: : : : : :

Only a handful of Tsuirakuans had ever heard of the old “Coastwatchers” program that Aso (Nobby to his few friends among the Outlanders, and even fewer friends among the Tsuirakuans) was nominally a part of, although he was a long way from any coast. Even fewer wanted anything to do with it; fewer still were actual members of it. Most of the first category, the group that had heard of the program, thought that anyone who would volunteer for service in such a cadre must be out of his (almost all Coastwatchers were male) mind. By the standards of Tsuirakushiti, to be sure, there was something to be said for that position.

Back in the days before long-distance airship fleets ranged the Errant World, after the Veracians had sent Luminosita to bother the elves but before the Mage/Priest War, it had dawned on some of the more far-sighted individuals in the government of Tsuiraku that, despite their island’s isolation, something like a border patrol was soon going to be needed. Much of their knowledge of the world’s geography had atrophied during the sky city’s long seclusion, but some general things remained known. They floated above a large, nearly uninhabited (completely so, except for occasional barbarians against whom the Cloaking spell was targeted) island, with smaller islands along its coasts; they could see that. The presence of a large landmass off to the east, beyond the horizon, had been deduced from the clouds occasionally seen peeping over that horizon, and would soon be confirmed.

What lay to the west was less clear. Clearly there was something out there; the world was known to be round, after all. The clouds, and sometimes storms, that washed over and above the sky city suggested that there was a landmass somewhere beyond the horizon, something different from, and much closer than, the elven lands and Veracia. However, if their distant ancestors had ever known exactly what that landmass was, the knowledge had disappeared over time.

Then came the Mage/Priest war, and Tsuiraku had to learn about the geography to the east in a very quick hurry. The west, however, remained unknown, at least at first. They mounted patrols along their western shores, and over the sea beyond, but no Veracian raiders came their way; indeed, nothing came their way except occasional odd, twisted snags of wood carried by the ocean currents and winds. That frontier remained almost weirdly peaceful until the end of the War, and beyond.

When peace returned to a victorious but still injured and disturbed Tsuiraku, the government sent out ships both on the sea and in the air to get a better sense of the world they’d awakened to. To the east were Veracia and the elven lands, and between them and the Tsuirakuan archipelago, another fair-sized continent that they would eventually know as Farrel. To the north was the Northern Confederacy, remote, forbidding and insular. To the north lay the Southern Continent, then, as now, a sparsely inhabited place of strange creatures; scary enough to the adventurers who landed there, but no threat to the sky city.

And to the west, it was finally discovered, was the continent that they would simply call the Wild Lands, as the Veracians called it the Eastern Wastes. At first, having discovered that it was all but uninhabited and the few Outlanders seen were barely human, the Tsuirakuans, like any other land-starved population, had visions of colonizing its coast. Those vanished quickly on further investigation; the unscalable sea cliffs were even more imposing on the east side of the continent than the west, making colonization via naval ship impossible, and even Tsuiraku couldn’t fit more than a few colonists on an airship at a time. Besides, conditions there were so unpleasant that it was obvious that no sane human, colonist or otherwise, would want to live there.

The “sane” part did cause some concern. Tsuiraku had already decided that the entire nation of Veracia didn’t seem to fit into that heading. Might they try to mount another attack on Tsuirakushiti by coming across the Eastern Wastes? It seemed unlikely; the continent was simply too large and inhospitable for that. But if they could somehow establish a foothold on the eastern shore, and solve the problems of getting from there down to the ocean or across the skies … well, that was something to worry about.

The Coastwatchers were the response to that possibility. A cadre of a few tens of Tsuirakuans who were crazy enough to live on that coast themselves was identified, equipped with communications and magical gadgetry to at least make life tolerable, and transported to the plateau above the coast. There they would eke out a semi-barbarous living, try to get along with the Outlanders (who, it was found, were too busy surviving to worry much about the aliens among them), and most importantly, report back to Tsuiraku if there were any signs of the Veracians establishing a presence there as well. Needless to say, there were no such signs. Within a generation, the number of Coastwatchers had fallen by half; in another generation, by another half. But there were always a very few who remained to do a duty that most Tsuirakuans had long forgotten about. Noboyuki Aso was one of them.

Truthfully, Aso didn’t consider the duty that onerous. He didn’t like crowds (which would qualify him in the minds of some of his countrymen as borderline mentally ill), the cold mists were strangely invigorating to him (same comment), and he had more than enough creature comforts courtesy of Tsuirakuan magic. And so, as the years went by with (of course) no Veracians, he moved his base inland, where non-magical food was easier to grow and he could trade with more Outlanders; his thaumatic expertise, particularly in healing magic, for what a different society might call their “consumer goods.” His superiors back on the home island didn’t particularly care where he sent his reports from; there was never anything to report, anyway, and everyone involved knew it. In time he established a base that he found comfortable in his own, highly eccentric way, and the Outlanders not only tolerated, but appreciated, what he could do for them. It was an arrangement satisfactory for all involved … more or less.

:-:-:-:

“Show me, please,” Aso said to the Outlander woman he’d come to know as Chief’s-Youngest-Daughter, or just Dot for short. They’d become friends (he’d deny that there was anything more to it than that, whether truthfully or not), and he’d learned enough of his hosts’ language to get by without Translation effects. Using the host land’s language was just one of those respectful things; the Tsuirakuans did it even with the fully human barbarians to their east and north, after all.

The young woman (for certain definitions of “woman”) nodded – that meant the same in both cultures – and showed him the same kind of respect by using the bits of Tsuirakuan he’d taught her. “Yes, Nobby. Dead men there-be, in the Demon Place.” She motioned him to follow her into the forest; without even thinking about it, she’d made sure there were no signs of an Eater about.

Well, that was certainly interesting, Aso thought; maybe not interesting enough to warrant a call home, but the “Demon Place” was off limits to all but a few specialized and important Outlanders. He’d never been allowed there alone. To him, it was just another of the weird religious things that the barbarians around the world indulged in, nothing to get excited about. The pair entered a small clearing that a specialist in such things might have recognized as a derelict elven travel platform. That same specialist might then have expressed puzzlement that that platform wasn’t overgrown or otherwise reclaimed by the elements. Not being such a specialist, Aso didn’t notice.

He did, however, notice something about the bodies that very definitely did catch his interest.

They lay face down on the long grass, not an obvious mark on them … but it was clear enough that one of the two was a human, not an Outlander.

“Your kind,” Dot said, regret in her voice. “Sorry I-be. But how get-here?”

“A very good question,” Aso replied in the Outlander language. “I wish to – look at this unfortunate pers—oh, my.”

Peeking out from under a typical Veracian tunic were underclothes that marked the body as that of a Tsuirakuan.

Shinichi’s (or, as the barbarians would know him, Shem's) body, to be precise.

Aso opened his mouth to speak, closed it again without speaking, repeated the process. “I – must contact others of my kind about this,” he said to his companion. “Please excuse me for a moment.” To Dot’s wonderment, a Pocket Dimension opened, and a highly modified, extremely high-gain crystal ball emerged, into which he began to speak in soft, fast-paced Tsuirakuan.
----
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » December 22nd, 2017, 8:18 pm

OK, Sister Rose and colleagues (can't really call most of the characters in this "friends" ...) will return after New Years -- I have the next chapter almost, but not quite entirely, written, but will be out of touch for most of the next week. Merry Christmas (and other holidays as applicable) to all, peace on earth, good will to all, even trolls.
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » January 3rd, 2018, 8:36 am

[OK, back in harness, hope everyone's holidays were happy...]

Chapter Twelve: Landfall


“All right, dammit, now what?” a very tired, very cranky elf asked a similarly out-of-sorts sea captain.

:=:=:=:

They both had ample reason to be in a bad mood. Lucy Kankaniel’s ship had survived the spill storm, but it had been a near thing, nearer than she’d thought when the winds suddenly lifted and the sky cleared. She’d been almost ready to return to her course, the sooner to drop the obnoxious Peregin Paukii off at her destination, when her helmsman reported that the rudder wasn’t responding to movements of the wheel. A quick check showed that the problem was somewhere between wheel and rudder, some linkage somewhere, and that was bad. “We’ve got trouble here,” she said to the overbearing elf, whose face had turned a curiously red-gray color. “I don’t know if we can –“

“Well, fix it then,” said Paukii crossly; the Sanguen weren’t a sea-faring race, and she’d been at least as seasick through the storm as any of the humans, and more than most. But she still had both her imperious demeanor and ability to use magic. That hadn’t stopped one of the crew from trying to get her “accidentally” washed overboard as one particularly potent wave broke over the ship, to his terminal disadvantage.

Shut it,” Lucy snarled back; she could be imperious herself, and to Paukii’s surprise, she found herself listening to the small, squat human. (Might she have somehow picked up the elven Command magic? Paukii would wonder about that later, and if she’d known that Lucy’s brother had had the ability to cause people to die just by telling them to, she’d have considerably more than just wondered.) “I don’t give a damn if you throw me over the side like you did Edric, because if you do, you aren’t making it home to wherever your kind live, and I’m not either. I was saying I don’t know if we can turn this thing, and in case you didn’t notice, our course is taking us straight away from our home continent, may your goddam Exitialis take the whole lot of ‘em.” That seemed to be getting through – Paukii’s face became more gray and less red – but Lucy wasn’t finished. “You, high and mighty magical bitch, are our only chance to get out of this alive.”

The ranger paused and retched; nothing came up – that had all happened early in the storm – but the act cleared her head slightly. “And how is that?” she asked, a little less imperiously than before.

“You’re an elf. You have detection magic, and you have magic to move things around. Now find out where the break is, and fix it.”

Paukii had to admit: this uppity human had a point. She did have some detection magic, and she did know how to mend things magically. She grunted and focused her attention on where the cable went down below the deck, sending probing tendrils of magic down the cable and reading them with eyes that saw more than mere light. Ah, there was the break, several feet below deck level. It would have required a fair bit of digging down with a shipwright’s tools … or one round of manipulative magic. The latter, she could do. An effort of will, a rallying of magic, and shredded cable strands came together in a flash that could be seen topside. Not only was that length of cable not broken any more; the mended part was probably stronger than the rest of it.

“All right, that’s done,” Paukii said. “So get on with –“

“Not so fast,” Lucy replied. “That fixes the steering. But there are about fifteen other things that need fixing before we can move this boat. For one, we can’t move it under – normal power until I can get to port and make repairs.” (She wasn’t going to explain to an elf about dwarven propulsion systems, which were acting up; she had a good idea of how to fix them, but they’d require an actual drydock.) “We’re going to have to run up the sails, and you just pitched overboard our deckhand for that. Got magic that can help unfurl and raise sails? Because if you don’t, we’re still not going anywhere, at least not very fast – and you’re the one who’s in the hurry.”

For a long moment, Paukii seriously considered simply using magic to start skinning this woman, a square inch at a time, until she screamed for mercy. However, once again, she appeared to have a point. The steady thrumming of a mechanical engine that had borne them across the sea (and into the storm) had turned into an irregular cough, then stopped altogether. She glared at the sea captain and nodded. “I’ll do what I can. But remember: I’m doing you a favor by letting you live.”

Lucy snorted. “Want to swim there?” And that ended that conversation for the moment.

:=:=:=:

They’d worked through the night and were exhausted, but Paukii had to admit, the ship seemed to be making good speed under sail. In fact, she fancied she could see a land mass on the eastern horizon in the first light of dawn, light that filtered up from the horizon not with the expected gray murk but with rosy, hopeful hues promising a better day. She’d been around long enough to know that this promise was deceptive; the old saying “red sky at morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight” had been coined, after all, by an elf. Probably.

She’d started to ask Lucy whether this apparition was Shield Island, but the response was “How the hell should I know? You damn elves are the only ones with accurate charts of this end.” Not that she was going to tell the human, but this wasn’t rigorously true; after all, she’d picked up the charts that her people had used for planning this operation somewhere in human territory. However, it was true enough, she had to admit. “Wait one,” she said, and teleported back to her niche in the hold – she still had enough energy for that – to retrieve that undeniably human map and then back to the bridge. “All right,” she said, unrolling it in front of a surprised skipper and navigator. “Here are your damn charts. Now where in Exitialis’ dark, damp pubic hair are we?”

Lucy had to admit: this imperious elf was actually trying to be helpful. Based on all the rumors she’d heard, she’d suspected they were congenitally incapable of that. “All right, then,” she muttered, and hung a patch over one eye so she could look at the map with a light globe with the other eye without ruining her night vision. People misunderstood, she reflected, why pirates used those patches. Most of them had two perfectly good eyes, but there were times when one of those eyes had to see in the dark while the other was squinting into bright sun abovedecks (unlike the dark holds) or at a light source on the bridge in the darkness, as now.

She looked up from the map. “Damn,” she said. “If I read this right, that’s your island alright. Probably. Hard to be sure.”

Paukii all but shoved her out of the way. “Let me see that.” She wasn’t a sailor, but she did know how to read a map; Anilis knew, she’d used enough of them to find and kill Errants. Satisfied, she stood to her full six-foot-plus height despite the fatigue. “So drop me there.”

Lucy looked at her like she’d lost her mind. “Are you crazy? You’re going to have to do the rest of it yourself.” And this was the cause of that “All right, dammit, now what?” explosion.

The sea captain held her ground. “Look at the charts.” She pointed out something that a landlubber like Paukii would miss: markers of soundings that had been taken, by whoever made this ancient map, to show the depth of the water around the island. “It’s tidal shallows all the way in from here. This ship draws too much water to get any closer. We’d risk grounding, and then, not only would I not get my own ass back to somewhere civilized again, your own precious ass would get marooned too.” And I am not getting marooned on a desert island with a crazy elf; I’ll try to shoot her if it comes to that.

Once again, Paukii retreated, sort of; she didn’t want to get marooned with these obnoxious humans either. “So how do I get there?” she asked, reasonably enough.

Lucy shrugged. “Your choice. Paddle one of our launches. Swim.” (Paukii’s face blanched at that, and not just because she wasn’t much of a swimmer; there were sharks out there, or so she’d heard. Probably. Maybe.) “Hell, if you’ve got the magic to walk on water, now’s the time to use it. Better be able to walk at least a quarter mile, though.”

Of these choices, Paukii reflected, there was only one real choice. “A launch it is. But I go alone. No humans are allowed on – sacred elf property.” No elf, of course, would call any of the land where Exitialis fell “sacred,” but she wasn’t going to say that.

Lucy chortled, for the first time in hours. “We wouldn’t have that part any other way. Now get some sleep. We’re still two hours from having enough light for you to make landfall. Put it to good use.”

Paukii had to admit, there was wisdom to that too. She put on a false smile and administered one last barb. “Aye, aye … bitch.” Without waiting for a response, she teleported to her nest in the hold, and was asleep in seconds.
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » January 17th, 2018, 1:59 pm

Chapter Thirteen: A deal is struck, almost

As Paukii was getting her brief sleep, as Sister Rose and Argus were blearily negotiating with Dess Marson for the trip to the islands (of which the less said, the better, probably), and as Sister Marilyn was rising for her morning prayers before facing another round of questioning about the elf she’d smashed (same comment), two heavily disguised men were having a very late-night negotiation of their own in Isabel.

One of the men was used to operating in this fashion; he’d done it on enough assassination jobs, after all. His disguise was simple enough, a hood pulled over his face (like an elf, or so he’d been told, not inaccurately) and a sash “liberated” from a deceased member of a rival Farrelite guild. He’d also taken the precaution of tying a long stick to the inside of his pants – equipped with a knot that could be cut quickly in case of need, of course – to make it appear that he had a stiff leg and limp. If the very few patrons left in the bar could penetrate that disguise, none of them were going to say it, of course.

The other man’s disguise was more elaborate, considerably more magical, and more enduring; in fact, he’d been under cover ever since his departure from Lorenzel on an airship his church’s denomination would never admit to having. In addition to darkening his blond hair and trimming off his tidy mustache (he’d catch hell from the church elders when he got back for that, but it would grow back quickly), he’d made some modifications to his shoes so that he appeared to be of greater than regulation height. He’d also added some Illusion magic, not Tsuiraku-class but enough to make him appear considerably heavier and more wide-bodied than his actual lean physique. From all he’d heard, the guilds of Farrel avoided magic, but individual Farrelites might have enough aptitude to notice this illusion. Well, if they did, Luminosita would provide; it might not be a bad thing for his contacts to know they were dealing with someone magically adept anyway, although he didn’t want to tip his hand as to just how adept he was.

“What I’m still not getting,” the Farrelite said with a yawn – the hour was late, even for him – “is: what’s in it for us? I get what you want Fred for, you have some ass-kicking to do, but why should we be interested in loaning him to you?”

“And one hell of a large pile of silver pieces isn’t enough of an answer?” the Veracian snorted. “Don’t you trust me?”

It was the Farrelite’s turn to snort. “In my business, we don’t trust anybody. But yeah, I almost trust you for that. But we can make as much renting Fred out for jobs in our own country.” He didn’t say that one of those “jobs” was intimidating the local outfits to the point where the Schwarzhammer could take over Isabel; there were things this foreigner didn’t need to know. “So why should we take the chance on, ah, sending him overseas?”

The Veracian smiled; he’d anticipated this question, the Farrelite bumpkins were easy to read. “Here’s why.” He reached into his pocket and extracted a picture of his runaway wife, carefully doctored so that she appeared to be wearing an outfit that was half clerical, half military. He’d made minor alterations to her facial appearance too; minor and clumsy, which was part of the ploy.

The Farrelite responded with his own smile, more of a smirk. “Hey, as much of a dumb non-Luminosita-ass-kissing rube as I am, I can recognize a fixed picture when I see one. Is she really this much of a babe? And besides, what’s she got to do with it?” The smirk widened. “Offering me a night with this bitch, are you? A week?”

The Veracian started to bristle at this; estranged or not, Sister Annmarie was still his wife, and therefore, his property. However, this line of thinking he’d also anticipated and prepared mental defenses for. “Anything but,” he said smoothly. “What’s going to happen is that this woman is going to be the high priestess who rides your ‘Fred’ into battle, at least the first time, and hopefully also the last.” Her last time, anyway. “There are some points we want to make to the misogynists who run our country.” He’d specifically prepared that last sentence in advance so that he could say it with a straight face; the Millenarian attitude toward woman was … well, orthodox. “And yes, despite the alterations, she really is that much of a babe.” He could still say that without stretching the truth at all, or at least any more than necessary to accommodate the “babe’s” pregnancy.

“Go on,” the Farrelite prompted as he studied the picture; committing the features to memory, as the Veracian guessed, and indeed, had counted on.

“So when all is said and done,” the Veracian continued, “we anticipate that she will be willing to offer your – outfit, I think you say – certain trade concessions from her new position at the head of our government.” Needless to say, there wasn’t a word of truth to this part, but he’d learned to lie smoothly at a young age.

The Farrelite whistled softly. “You guys do think big, don’t you?” he said approvingly.

“We do.” Again, true, and not elaborated on.

The Farrelite yawned. “I’m getting tired, and there’s somebody I need to talk to about this, to get clearance. I’m not the big boss here.” One last snicker. “I’m just Fred’s best friend, shall we say?” The two men decided to call it a night, and a successful negotiation, on that note.

Carson Jeromiel headed off to his usual bed when he was in town … but as for Elgin Bindiel, he had a missed crystal-ball call (well, it wasn't exactly as "crystal ball," but close enough) from Sister Ardith that he had to return before turning in for the evening, or morning, or whatever.
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » January 30th, 2018, 6:33 pm

Chapter Fourteen: Landfall, again

It said much for the dwarven technology of the vessel that Dess Marson had somehow procured, Sister Rose thought, that her stomach discomfort appeared to be the last vestiges of the day’s morning sickness rather than seasickness from the choppy sea they’d been passing through. The trip down to so-called “Shield Island” – an informal name as far as she knew, and she’d have had an eyebrow raised if she’d known that was what the elves called it too – had been surprisingly smooth, as well as a great deal faster than any sea voyage she’d ever been on before. Almost like that flying ship that Blaise escaped on, she thought, by no means inaccurately. The herbs that she’d learned about from Lillith were helping with the morning sickness, too. Once again she smiled at the notion that she and her stepdaughter (sort of) were likely to give birth within a few months of each other. Had Lillith known about that when they’d discussed the subject up in the Northern Confederacy? Rose didn’t think so; she hadn’t been pregnant yet at that time. (Probably.) Another smile; maybe Lillith had had a hint from her “spirits” that she was going to have a half-brother (or –sister, Rose wasn’t sure yet) soon. Or maybe she’d just figured how desperately Rose wanted a child and predicted what would follow. Rose wasn’t the hardest person to read about such things, after all. Anyway, it was all going to make for some fun family gatherings … if the family ever managed to find themselves in the same place at the same time again.

She was gazing out toward Shield Island along the rail as her husband(?) emerged from the more-or-less cabin, looking rather green. Argus wasn’t a great fan of travel by boat. (Most Tsuirakuans weren’t.) Earlier in the voyage, she’d half-jokingly offered him some of Lillith’s herbs, and received a typical Argus sigh in response, but not an acceptance of the offer. Well, he doesn’t have anyone to blame for the seasickness but himself, then, she thought peckishly, but then had a twinge of guilt for the feeling, of course. She laid a consoling hand on his arm. “Almost there,” she said, mustering as much reassurance as she could under the circumstances.

“Urrgh,” Argus gurgled in reply. “Dess says the water should get quieter as we get close to shore. Assuming I don’t just die first, I should feel better then.” This earned him a quick, apologetic kiss, and they settled in at the railing (it had been just part of the trim when the “ship” had been a road vehicle) to check out the scenery.

They were coming in on the east, lee side of the island; despite the rudimentary charts, Marson knew enough to take that basic precaution. Lucy Kankaniel, now hurrying away from the island after launching Peregin Paukii through the chop in her smaller boat, had not taken this step on her approach to shore. This was by design; Marson had every hope and intention of recovering his paying passengers when their work was done, Lucy … not so much.

Shield Island would probably have been quite beautiful if it hadn’t been for the fog, Rose suggested, getting groggy agreement from Argus. It certainly was green enough (even more than Argus' face), apart from one little swatch of brown-gray on the starboard shore; a rocky section of coast, probably, although it was too distant for them to be sure. The hill that had borne the now-destroyed travel platform was shrouded in the mists, giving it a bit of an air of mystery – ominous mystery, but mystery all the same. One thing that was lacking, however, was a beach. How were they going to make landfall?

As if reading Rose’s mind, Dess Marson bustled cheerfully up to the pair; apparently he wasn’t bothered by seasickness. “We’re about ten minutes out,” he said. “Better start gettin’ yourselves ready to wade the last hundred yards or so.” He nudged Argus in the ribs and chortled. “That’ll cure your seasickness for sure.”

“Huh?” two voices responded as one, surprise and suspicion in both.

“Oh, we’re not gonna be able to land,” Marson continued, as though stating the obvious. “This thing don’t draw but about five feet or so, but that’s still too much if these damn charts are any good. We’ll run aground if we get too close in. You’re just gonna have to walk the last little bit.” Another chortle. “Hey, Argie, look on the bright side. A little cold water on the ankles will knock that green right out of ya, and it ain’t gonna be more than knee-deep when I let down the landing ramp.” Another one. “Probably.”

True to his words, Marson brought the landing craft (for so it was now; he'd found the stud that retracted the bowsprit that got him run out of the Northern Confederacy) to a halt a short distance off shore ten minutes later; ten minutes that Rose had spent recoiling from the thought of wading in (I know I trained for that back in my Special Forces days, she thought, but that was a long time ago, and I didn’t like even then…). Argus, however, had spent the same ten minutes doing some thinking, and some gathering of magical energy, and now he had a little surprise in store. “All ashore that’s goin’ ashore,” Marson called cheerfully. “Try not to get too wet.”

Argus produced the first smile he’d worn in quite some time. “Actually, if I can do this right, we shouldn’t get wet at all. Give me fifteen minutes.”

Marson looked quizzically at him, and for a moment, so did Rose, but then she remembered: Argus had arch-mage-level thaumatic skills at inorganic manipulation. “Just watch,” she beamed at Marson, as any wife would when her husband was about to pull a rabbit out of his hat. (Or vice versa.) Argus said nothing; he was already deep in magical concentration. He made a series of elaborate motions with his hands, and magic flared …

…. And little by little, a spit of land rose from the shallow water and stretched out toward the boat. The promised fifteen minutes later, it stopped just short of where the ramp at the bow would be lowered.

Marson let out a low whistle. “Dayum. Argie, I didn’t know you had that kind of magic in ya.”

Argus smiled again at the merchant, this time ruefully. “Back when we—knew each other in Kiyoka, I didn’t. Or rather, I guess I did, since I learned all that back in the – old country. But I’d forgotten it during all the drinking.” He smiled at Rose, this time considerably more affectionately. “You helped me remember. And I love you for it.” For Argus, Rose knew this was an extraordinarily impassioned statement.

Marson left the couple to their moment and went back to the helm (or steering wheel or whatever). Only a minute or two later, he had maneuvered the craft so that it could drop its ramp onto the newly raised land, and Rose and Argus ventured forth to Shield Island, feet dry.
----
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » February 3rd, 2018, 10:28 am

Chapter Fifteen: Lore-Keeper


Neither Sister Rose and Argus, starting to get their bearings on the unfamiliar island, nor Peregin Paukii, struggling through the west-side swamps and swearing a blue streak, were aware that the Outlanders were preparing their own expedition to Shield Island. If they had been, they’d probably have been impressed, even the elf, at the sheer audacity of the project.

The sea cliffs separating the interior of the Eastern Wastes from the ocean were so imposing, and so continuous for the entire length of the western coast, that no Outlander had reached their bottom in any of the indigenes’ living memory. However, oral history is a durable thing, and the old timers of the tribes knew the stories of the past when it had been done, by means certain to terrify most sentient beings (particularly Rose, with her acrophobia). One of those keepers of the past was a very old man with the descriptive title that had become his name for the last twenty years of his life: Lore-Keeper. He lived in the same village as Haddak-Carer and the late Speaker-to-Demons, a venerated elder of the tribe who was brought food and other goods (he was much too decrepit to hunt for himself) in exchange for occasional bits of wisdom. One of those bits of wisdom was being needed, and heeded, now.

“Yes, it can be done,” he was telling People-Leader’s-Son and Young-Magic-Man around puffs on a pipe. “They say that in the time of my father’s grandfather’s grandmother, brave ones would make small boats from the trunk of the blann tree.” Young-Magic-Man recognized this as a tall, pine-like tree of the coastal forest; his people knew it mainly for the pine nuts it produced … and the predators it sheltered. It was relatively rare compared to the scruffy trees that surrounded their village, but he could find some. “Then they would fashion long, thick ropes from liana vines. These they would use to lower the boats down to the sea, and then they would lower themselves. Off they would go, to catch great fish that the people would eat.” He paused to cough. “They say that not all of those people would come back. But the ones who did, they would get pulled back up the vines. The mightiest men would simply climb them.” He coughed again, for long enough that the two younger men would have been concerned had they not heard it before. “But we are dwarves today, midgets.” He shook his grizzled head. Then he yawned, as though the speaking, the pipe, and the head shake together had been too much for him.

“And how does one do these things, grandfather?” Young-Magic-Man asked.

“You cut down a blann tree, and cut some liana vines. Other than that, I do not know.” The old man smiled. “Use your magic.” And before the younger men could reply, he was fast asleep, in the way of the very old.

The two young men looked at each other and shrugged; the interview was over, and Lore-Keeper might not awaken for hours, if he did awaken at all. (He always had, obviously, but clearly the time of his final sleep was not far away.) In the way of their band, they left an offering of mashed blann nuts that the old, nearly toothless man could eat, and backed out of the hut.

It would be almost accurate, but not quite, to say they’d gotten what they came for. In fact, they had received tacit confirmation that what they had hoped to get did not exist. The use of blann tree trunks for making canoes was well known on the plateau; canoes plied the waters of the lakes and streams connecting Outlander villages. (Where did the water from those go? Into the ground, apparently; despite the heavy rainfall, no waterfalls cascading over the sea cliffs were known. Young-Magic-Man pondered that on occasion and wondered why. The answer would have surprised him.) The use of liana vines for rope making was also known from antiquity. The people had tried to make stronger lines from other things that grew in the forest, even to use their basic magical skills to make the ropes stronger. Nothing worked as well as the time-honored lianas, though. Sometimes the wisdom of the past was best; most of the time, in fact.

Rather, it was what Lore-Keeper did not say that set the two men into action. They’d gone to him hoping that his capacious, and still remarkably healthy, memory might include something about a secret cave passage down to the water (in reality, there were such passages, carrying the water from the surface – the dwarves had seen to that -- but no Outlander yet had the technology to find and enter them), or a flying red dragon that might carry a brave warrior down if it could be subdued or bribed, or something – anything. There was no such thing; if there had been, Lore-Keeper would have known about it. There would be no substitute for basic construction and hard work.

Hard work, at least, was nothing unfamiliar to the Outlanders of the coastal plateau. Young-Magic-Man and People-Leader’s-Son carried the results of this interview back to their tribe. There were no voices dissenting from the plan that People-Leader decreed: the village would just have to pull together and do what had to be done. It was only minutes, not even hours, later that the strong men and women found their axes and saws, strode into the forest, and went to work.
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » February 20th, 2018, 5:12 pm

Chapter Sixteen: Interrupted crystal-ball call

Isabel:

Elgin Bindiel awoke with a roaring hangover and a feeling of guilt, not for the drinking he’d done – there were some things you just had to do in the line of duty – but for a crystal-ball connection he’d missed.

Magical technology was beginning to invade the Farrelian capital. That observation certainly would not have come as a surprise to any Farrelite; the desire to play nicely with Tsuiraku would have had that result even if some of the more progressive “guilds” (to give them their polite, euphemistic name) hadn’t seen the advantage of it. However, very few Farrelites would have expected any of that invasion to be coming from the Church of Luminosita. The priests at the main Isabel temple were from the “traditional” – or hidebound, depending on one’s views – wing of the church and looked askance on any magic not specifically blessed by the Patriarch. The Reformed denomination, the Luminositans most willing to embrace thaumato-tech, was all but absent in town, and the Mechanists, whose acceptance of thaumato-tech was – selective but still greater than the Orthodox Church’s, were absent entirely, of course. And as for the Millenarians … well, some subjects were best not investigated.

He hadn’t even realized he had a message from Sister Ardith until he checked his ball (not exactly a “crystal ball” in the literal, Tsuirakuan sense, but close enough) before going out drinking – and negotiating – with the Schwarzhammer man. Apparently the call had come while he was out at what he was whimsically calling the “Western Test Area” with the other man, seeing what “Fred” (what a curious name for a war golem!) could do. Maybe the infidel, whether elves or Tsuirakuans, had crystal balls that could reach that far into the hinterlands; the Millenarians did not.

Well, what would be would be. The instructions he’d given Ardith were that if she was unable to reach him, she should call his second wife, Sister Allison. Ali was one of only two or three women who knew what was being planned for Luminosita’s Redemption Army; that was why he’d married her, after all. That, and of course, the fact that she had exactly the right genes; they would produce plenty of muscular, blond, blue-eyed sons for the next generation of the Redemption Army, although Bindiel now had hope that that army would be put to victorious use in his own time. The second of those sons was now a month or two from putting in his appearance, and Ali would be house-bound, or rather castle-bound, until then. Good; that would mean she’d be in a position to receive a call in privacy, and security.

First things first, however. A hangover was really a mild, simple case of poisoning. Strange, he thought; he hadn’t had that much to drink. Had the infidel spiked one of his drinks? Probably. As long as there wasn’t anything to the stronger-than-expected drink other than alcohol, it wouldn’t matter, the hangover would be treatable. The poisons themselves would be out of his system by now, if the drinking had stopped when he thought it had. The aftereffects, at a functional level, would be all he needed to deal with, and Elgin Bindiel was a proficient Healer, among other things.

He took a deep breath to try to clear his throbbing head, started a chanting prayer to Luminosita, and rallied magic. When he was ready, he gently touched his forehead, pulling the residual toxins out of the sinuses and replacing them with magical warmth. Instantly, he felt better. His mouth felt like the inside of a birdcage; magic eased that as well. Getting the more systemic ill effects under control would be harder, but he’d leave those to time and Luminosita’s own healing. For now, he’d be up to a call to Ali. He took out his carefully secured “crystal ball” that was neither and called a secure number that few in Provatiel had.

“Y-yes?” his second wife answered, surprised. That “phone” didn’t “ring” very often.

Bindiel smiled, wishing she could see it. “Hi, sweetheart, it’s me.” Several exchanges of endearments followed; although it was by no means required in a Millenarian marriage like theirs, Elgin and Allison Bindiel truly did love each other.

They got down to business soon enough. Bindiel cleared his throat. “Honey, I think I’ll be back late tonight or tomorrow, but there may be something to deal with before I get there. Sister Ardith, up in Emerylon, tried to reach me. I have standing orders that if she can’t reach me, she should try you.” Ali knew that; she’d beamed with pride, after all, when she’d been entrusted with the contact information for one of the Millenarian Church’s more important sleeper agents in the apostate city. “Did she?”

“She did,” Ali replied. “She just said to give you a real short message. I didn’t understand it but she said I didn’t need to.” Both of them knew why that was. “She said to tell you: ‘they took the Artifact.’ That was all.”

Suddenly Elgin Bindiel’s blood ran cold, and the spots that formed in front of his eyes didn’t have anything to do with the hangover. “You’re sure – she said the Artifact?” he said, stalling for time as he digested this information.

“The Artifact,” Ali confirmed. “I asked her to repeat it, and she did. That was all she would say.”

Bindiel’s heart was starting to pound, never mind that his blood was still running cold. “Did she say who took it? What they did with it? Anything else?”

“Not that she would tell me.” Ali’s own voice was beginning to waver as she sensed her husband’s concern … or at least that was probably it.

Bindiel rubbed his forehead again, but there was no magic to fix the alarm bells now going off in his brain. “Damn.” That was remarkable; he rarely swore, except as needed to preserve his cover, and never swore at his second wife. “Did she say whether she talked to any of the Elders about it?”

“No, sir,” his subordinate in the Redemption Army answered; the fact that she was also his wife was taking second place now. “She said not to tell anybody but you. Did I do wrong?” The last with a tremor in her voice.

Luminosita was pounding away in Bindiel’s head now, trying to get out. “No, no, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m the one who did something wrong, leaving somebody in charge and no instructions on what to do if something like this happens, because something like this never happens. And I should have given Ardith plans for a backup too. Damn,” he swore again, completely startling, and terrifying, his wife.

However, that terror was nothing to what happened next.

“Honey” – back to husband and wife talking again, the fear in Ali’s voice told him he’d better play that role now – “there’s something I need you to do. I want you to go find Elder Tsarvik if he’s in the castle, and if he’s not, Elder Manabiel, and tell him exactly what you told me. And then take our family and get the hell out of there. Go out to the village, you know there’s always a place at Reginald’s inn for us, and stay there until I get home. This is important, extremely important.”

“E-Elgie?” Ali almost whispered into the phone. “What’s this all about? Y-you’re scaring me, and –“

But she didn’t get to finish the sentence. There were loud voices and crashes of thunder … and then what sounded, even over the crystal-ball link, like the voice of an angry god, as it was, even if a synthetic one.

”HERETICS! NOW YOU FALL! FEEL THE RIGHTEOUS WRATH OF THE ONE TRUE LIGHT OF THIS WORLD!”

There was screaming, not all of it Ali’s; and then there was a noise as of great walls being torn asunder and huge stones crashing down; and then the line went dead.

Bishop Carlo, and Father Roderick and a certain general, and above all, the Artifact of Absonial had made it to Lorenzel.
----
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » March 6th, 2018, 3:50 pm

Chapter Seventeen: Swamp beast, again

“Okay, now what?” Argus asked, never afraid to pose the obvious question.

He and Sister Rose stood at the end of the artificial promontory he’d raised on the coast of Shield Island. There was a break in the sea cliffs here, not nearly enough to amount to a real beach, but at least affording a way into the forest (no, might as well call it was it was: jungle) of the interior. The island was not large, maybe three or four miles across based on what they’d seen of it from the ship, and not too much longer. They both knew that that was more than enough real estate for whatever they were searching for to get lost in for days, more time than they’d have.

For roughly the two hundredth time in the last few months, Rose was startled by a response from the general vicinity of her right knee. “Whaddya think, Boss?” Harker piped up. “We explore.” He snickered. “’Nless, o’ course, you an’ Rosie would rather –“

“Not the time, Harker,” Rose said, more gently than she’d have imagined possible when she’d first met the familiar. Remarkably, Harker subsided without another comment. That, Rose realized, was both a compliment, and recognition of the way the bipedal beaver had accepted his owner’s new – well, mate, and skip the details. “At the risk of belaboring the obvious,” she went on, “yes, we explore. It looks like some tough going to get into the interior, though.”

“No prob,” Harker shrugged. (A year ago, I would never have imagined a beaver could shrug, Rose thought.) “Want me to make a trail for you?” Rose and Argus exchanged wry grins, and a telepathic message that was the same going in both directions: <”This, I can’t wait to see.”> Argus nodded, and Harker took off up the cleft in the sea cliff. Only two or three minutes later, sounds reaching the spit of land suggested that there was a small army wielding saws up there somewhere. Rose thought about asking Argus how Harker was doing it, then decided she didn’t really want to know. “I don’t know either,” Argus shrugged in his own turn, as though reading her mind.

It took a little hands-on climbing to get up to the plateau, not much, not even enough to trigger Rose’s acrophobia. Argus could probably have smoothed out the route, Rose thought; he was a master of inorganic manipulation, after all. It seemed prudent, though, to save his personal energy in case they ran into something up top that they’d want to handle magically …

… And it wasn’t long before something happened that showed that this caution was wise.

They had just started down the Harker-made trail through the jungle when there was a loud GRONK! from somewhere ahead of them. The construction sounds stopped immediately, to be replaced by animal sounds – very big animal sounds. Harker appeared momentarily, sprinting back up the trail in their directions. “Trouble, guys!” he said, and shinnied up the tallest tree he could reach.

What happened next would be a source of embarrassment for Rose for years afterward.

Colonel (Acting) Rose Nuria-Lucas, Sister Rose of the Reformed Veracian Church, was arguably one of the most capable women in the entire country of Veracia, and she’d been raised in an unusually – enlightened household as regards gender roles – but she was still a Veracian woman, and had been conditioned as one (very much against her will) from birth. So it was that, when a huge Anuban swamp beast poked its tusk-filled head around a bend in the trail, spied them, and grunted again as it lumbered in their direction, Rose instinctively took a step backward, putting the man in the lead position of dealing with the thing. This only lasted for a second or two before she pulled herself together and stepped back up to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Argus; but her mortification would go on and on and on.

Argus didn’t seem to notice, however. “Not to worry,” he said. “I’ve got this.” There was a rapid rallying of magical energy as he mumbled something under his breath.

The swamp beast was still twenty yards away when a huge spike of rock rose violently from the earth and impaled it like an insect on a specimen pin. It squealed in pain, a sound even more jarring than the grunts; thrashed for a few seconds; and then was still.

Rose realized that she hadn’t exhaled since she moved back up beside Argus, and let out a loud, long sigh of relief. Argus, for his part, produced his own loud exhalation. “Whew,” he said. “Hadn’t done that in – well, since my battlemage days.”

“Actually, you did," Rose corrected him. "To that bear back in the Southern Continent. And before that, when we met Lillith. Only took about a tenth as much spike for those, though. So that’s all there is to it?”

Argus looked mildly offended and switched into "lecture mode," getting another snicker from Harker that he apparently did not hear, which was just as well. “Well, compared to the others, that was actually a fairly complicated bit of spellcasting. You see, this is a different, much more brittle rock, harder to work with. I had to do some preliminary thaumatic shaping of the substrate, then liquefy the –“

Rose cut him off, and demonstrated that she'd acquired something of Argus' tendency to lecture; married couples eventually start to adopt each other's mannerisms, or so they say. (At least that was what she would tell herself later, the next time the question of whether they were actually married bubbled up in her mind.) “No, what you did was great, that isn’t what I meant. I thought swamp beasts were nigh-impossible to kill, almost requiring dwarven weaponry. In fact, I read once –“ in the Heretic Knowledge Vault, but I don’t think I’m supposed to say that, even to Argus – “that there’s a theory that the dwarves actually created them, to give them a challenge when they went out hunting. Only a theory, since to know that you’d have to –“

Right on cue, the swamp beast squealed and twitched one more time, but this time it expired for good. That last twitch, however, exposed something that Rose hadn’t noticed before.

“Luminosita’s Sacred Sweatband. Is that thing wearing a collar?”
----
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Re: Sister Rose, v.2: Expecting the Unexpected

Postby Graybeard » March 23rd, 2018, 11:14 pm

Chapter Eighteen: Tentacle monster

The swamp beast’s death throes did not go unnoticed by Peregin Paukii, laboriously paddling her way (or trying) through the coastal swamps on the opposite side of Shield Island.

It was accidental that she heard them at all. She’d cranked her detection magic up as high as she could make it and still have the energy to paddle. That had seemed prudent from the first time she saw an alligator staring coldly at her from atop a log on the outer edge of the swamp. Or was it a crocodile? The Sanguen weren’t sea-faring people, and she couldn’t tell the difference. Crocodile, probably; they had more of a reputation as man (or more to the point, potentially elf) eaters, and she didn’t like the way it was looking at her. A swift Force Bolt dispatched the beast, but she was now on her guard.

Not being a sea-farer, it didn’t occur to her that Shield Island had a climate too cool for a crocodile to survive in, and that what she’d just incinerated not only was only about four feet long, but might have just been a particularly large lizard. This was in fact the case. But fears of the unknown can turn a harmless lizard into an elf eater in one’s mind – and another illustration of that was coming mere minutes after she heard the swamp beast’s screams.

The swamp had been getting thicker as she approached the shore, such as it was. In fact, it seemed as though the water itself was getting thicker, harder to move with the paddle. (The possibility that that resistance was all in her head, a side effect of the energy she was expending on the detection magic, never entered her mind, of course.) Finally, she decided she needed to take a break for a few minutes. Swearing mighty oaths by Senilis (she wouldn’t defame Anilis that way), she pulled the paddle out of the water one last time …

… And something was hanging onto it as she pulled it into the boat.

She’d never seen an octopus before, in all her two-thousand-plus years. Not having seen one, she had no idea of the way a relatively small octopus can make itself look very large by the simple expedient of flattening itself out, which was precisely what this one did as it released its hold on the paddle and plopped into the bottom of the launch. The fact that its tentacles were waving furiously as it tried to negotiate a path back into the water made it look larger than life as well. Finally, there was that fear factor; the swamp beast's death agonies had seen to that.

This innocent beast couldn’t have weighed more than twenty pounds or so, and its arms spanned no more than Paukii’s height at full extension … but in her mind, it was something else entirely.

”AAAA! TENTACLE MONSTER!”

----

Paukii wasn’t the only one whose senses were magically enhanced at that moment. On the far side of the island, Argus and Sister Rose were trying to make sense out of the swamp beast’s improbable collar, using whatever detection magic they could muster; and at the same time, they were on the alert for the beast’s “master” (surely the collar would imply the existence of one, they reasoned, not unsoundly, although that master was hundreds of miles away beyond a broken travel-platform connection). It was Rose’s sense-enhancement spell, modest though it was, that picked up Paukii’s scream as she concentrated on thaumatically hearing approaching footfalls. It was faint and muffled by distance, and Rose did not speak the Sanguen language well enough to distinguish words anyway, so she had no idea what the screamer was saying … but the knowledge that there was someone out there to scream was enough to get her and Argus’ full attention.

What was coming next wouldn’t require any sensory enhancement to decode.

----

Paukii couldn’t really be blamed for the next step. Peregin Drusia’s description of a ”tentacled monstrosity” when she reported on the strange goings-on in Goriel had not been received quite as indifferently as she thought at the time. At the very least, Commander Numilo had thought enough of the report to pass on the “tentacled monstrosity” part of it when he briefed Paukii on the mission. The fact that Numilo (and Drusia) had described a terrestrial tentacled monstrosity, rather than a sea-going one, was understandably overlooked in the heat of the moment.

Part of a warrior’s training, Paukii had had drummed into her head millennia ago, was that sometimes you just had to let reflexes take over. That training resurfaced now, as the confused, terrified octopus extended a probing arm in her direction – a probing, sucker-covered arm dripping with the vileness of the swamp. Without even thinking, she rallied energy for a second, mighty Force Bolt, and cast it at the hapless animal …

… Not merely incinerating the octopus, but also blowing the front end off the launch, which rapidly filled with water.

Paukii took to the waves and began to swim ashore, never noticing that she could easily have reached the bottom standing flat-footed and kept her head and shoulders dry.

----

”What was THAT?” Rose and Argus exclaimed to each other, as the KRAAAK of the Force Bolt reached their ears.
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