Preparations For Battle

Factories along the northern quarter of the city for the production of goods like cloth, brewed ale, and construction materials. An old water-wheel provides power for half the city.
Lightswords

Post by Lightswords » Sat Aug 11, 2007 5:23 pm

What she was going through did not matter one whit. Praiseworthy as compassion was, wasting a good man's life for the sake of someone's feelings was missing the entire blasted point.

Indeed, a hysterical woman was a liability, a helpless civilian in need of protecting, insisting on walking blindly into harm's way. "Is this how you plan to save your husband?" scolded Numidar unsympathetically, "By slowing us down with weeping and wailing?" Much of warrior training was control of emotions, to overcome fear, to retain a cool head, to avoid rash decisions that left one vulnerable.

If she placed herself at risk, the others would have to protect her... instead of finding her husband.

Gaelm was the more sensitive and caring, "You'll do more good for your husband by staying out of harm's way. Let us focus on finding him for you." As Fhoken, Gaelm was more willing to deal with noncombatants as equals, to acknowledge their worth as who and what they are, while retaining his own worth as a man under arms.

Making some effort to ease her fears, the dwarf approached Rosemary, closer than the rest, as if to be accessable rather than aloof. "This is our task lass, ye made yer husband some fine armour, now we make sure he gets ta wear it."

Ever soft-hearted and warm by nature, Numidar pressed his point. "We are not wasting time hand-walking her. We risk our lives to save her husband, why risk them twice when she does something stupid." When, not if but when, for Numidar already considered it a certainty.

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Lylessa Uluki
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Post by Lylessa Uluki » Sat Aug 11, 2007 10:23 pm

"Rosemary, if it were Rollick, I could heal him," Uluki said gently. "That's why it's important for me to go along-- so that if Julen is injured, there's someone with a knowledge of..."

She realized she had to be careful there. She'd seen Julen glance over at Rosemary before hinting about magic, and that made Uluki worry that Rosemary could not be trusted with such a secret.

"...Of medicine. If Julen is alive when we find him-- and I have no doubt he will be-- I can keep him that way. You are right that it will help him to see your face, but that is all the more reason to make sure he gets to do so, by keeping you safe here."

"If I weren't a healer, I would stay here too, but my skills may be needed. Otherwise I would not ask that energy that could be devoted to helping Julen be expended protecting me."

"What if Julen returned and you were gone? Think how that would worry him. What if you got hurt, or even killed? Surely that would be the end of Julen, too. I know how difficult it is, waiting in fear of losing the one you love."

Rosemary couldn't possibly guess how well Uluki knew that feeling, how personally she understood all of Rosemary's fears.

"I know it will be hard to stay, but I have to insist upon it for Julen's sake. I hope you can understand. I'm sorry, but it is necessary."

She feared she had destroyed any chance of friendship with Rosemary, but that was a risk she had to take, to protect both Julen and Rosemary as best she could.

Uluki smiled at the men who had volunteered to accompany her. "Thank you, all of you. I'm grateful for your willingness to help me, and to help Julen. I am also grateful, however, to have reliable and capable fighters to protect the base. For all we know, this could be a trap to draw all of us out, with Julen as the bait. If that is the case, it's important we are ready to defend this front as well. I'm grateful my family will be in such good hands." The words were spoken without fanfare, but sincerely.

"Darir, Gaelm, Numidar, and Triarius, you'll come to the shanty town with me. The rest of you have an equally important responsibility here."

Those four men moved to join her... as did Rollick, reflexively.

"Rollick will be in charge here," she said meaningfully.

Rollick's jaw dropped. It had never occurred to him he wouldn't be there, fighting for her if there was fighting to be done. He seemed about to protest.

"I trust Rollick with my life," she continued. "And I trust him with the lives and safety of others, as he must trust you to protect mine."

Rollick seemed to accept this. Her decision indicated her trust in him, not a lack of it, and he understood how important it was to protect the base too. "I ask that you guard Uluki like your own sister. In the meantime, I will look to the defence of this place," he said simply. Rollick had seen her brave far greater danger than this, and he trusted her judgment, as well as the warriors' devotion.

Dash brought her mother a tattered, stained shawl. "I borrowed it from Martha for you. I was coming back from the room, and I heard you say you needed it. She said you can use it if you want, but she's sorry it isn't nicer. She doesn't think it'll be good enough."

Uluki laughed. "Doesn't think it'll be good enough? Has she not seen what I wear? At least the shawl doesn't have arrow holes." Her own dress was no less worn than what Martha had lent her.

Uluki draped the shawl around her body... and felt the note in her pocket.

She'd forgotten it completely in her concern over Julen, but now she realized it might be a clue to his whereabouts. Perhaps someone wanted a ransom, and could be traced.

Much as she hated to open Aorle's private correspondence, Julen's disappearance took priority. If it was a personal letter, she'd stop reading. Either way, she'd apologize for opening it. Better for Aorle to be angry with her for opening his letter than to miss a vital clue about Julen for fear of offending him. She could handle a paladin's anger-- you just said how sorry you were, and dodged the fist if you could.

Uluki broke the seal and started to skim the contents... and turned so pale she was barely blue. Her hand shook as she handed Rollick the note. He read it, his brow creasing in a frown of concern.

"I'll make sure the children are protected," he said quietly. "Go find Julen."

"But what about Aorle... what are we going to do?" she whispered back.

"Talk to him. Someone knows about us, and is determined to share that information. Aorle will find out. It's best we tell him ourselves. Uluki, go help Julen now. Try not to worry about it."

"I'll try."

"Be careful," he said, his voice returning to its usual volume.

"I will." She kissed him, lingering a moment longer than she ordinarily would over a simple goodbye. He stared at her as she finally pulled away, as though he was trying to memorize her face, her shape.

Uluki tried not to consider the possibility that she would return to find him lying in a pool of blood, to find her children made slaves. No, she couldn't allow her mind to go that direction. She had to focus on her duty, on Julen.

"Shall we be off, then?" she asked her comrades, trying to keep her voice bright.

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Post by Falcon Bertille » Sun Aug 12, 2007 12:01 am

Slowly, Rosemary bowed her head -- partially to demonstrate her acquiescence, and partially to hide the tears trickling down her cheeks. Uluki’s words had been kind and sensible. But they were not the ones that rang in her ears. Instead, she heard the dark warrior’s curt comments. He thought she was useless. And, worst of all, he was right. Her husband might be in danger, might be hurt, and of everyone in the room, she was the least able to do anything about it. That wasn’t the way things were supposed to be. How had she and Julen come to this?

“Alright,” Rosemary whispered. Somehow, even that single word seemed to tear her throat as she forced it out, leaving her hoarse and short of breath. “Alright, I’ll stay here. Just find him. Bring him back safe. Please.”

Leaning closer to Uluki, Rosemary spoke to her alone. “Julen wears a silver locket on a cord around his throat. I gave it to him when he left for Marn, four months ago. If he’s badly hurt...if he’s badly hurt, take it off and give it to him to hold. Tell him not to let go of it.” Impulsively, Rosemary grasped Uluki’s hand, squeezing it tightly, as if she could give her strength to the fairy, who in turn could pass it on to Julen. “Tell him not to let go.”

Then, Rosemary stepped back, allowing Uluki to prepare the search party. As Rosemary watched Uluki and Rollick say their farewells, she couldn’t help but admire the couple’s strength. They obviously weren’t thrilled to be parted. Yet they handled it with calm, with dignity. Somehow, someday, she would be able to be that way with Julen. But not tonight. Tonight, she felt like she’d been ripped in half.

After the warriors had departed, Rosemary glanced around, searching for something to keep her occupied. And her eyes fell on the remains of her sewing project. Aorle had given her his gambeson to use as a model for Julen’s. Of course, it was torn. But she still had some fabric leftover that she could use to make new tubes. Then she could take it apart, replace the damaged tubes with new ones, and it would be nearly good as new. Yes, that was what she’d do. She would fix it. And then she could give it to Rollick, to help protect him, as Uluki was trying to help protect Julen.

With surprisingly steady hands, Rosemary settled back down her crate and began to sew.

Lightswords

Post by Lightswords » Sun Aug 12, 2007 1:00 am

From the moment that the matter was resolved, the warriors stepped back from the discussion, having no more to contribute in words. Gear was gathered, weapons readied and armour donned. "It'll be tight." advised Numidar to the others, "No room for spears."

Instead they brought swords and axes, daggers and shields. Some, wore their shields on their back with the guige, those with the least armour carried their shields on their arms, as they were the ones with the greatest need of them in battle.

Almost instinctively, they formed a protective formation around Uluki, flanking her both in front and behind as if she were in the center of an X. No stranger could approach her without coming within reach of the warriors, and there was reasonable room for each to move.

None of the warriors passed comment, they simply let Uluki choose the directions, and moved to support her as the march began.

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Lylessa Uluki
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Post by Lylessa Uluki » Sun Aug 12, 2007 3:29 am

As they'd prepared to leave leave the base, after promising Rosemary she'd make sure Julen held the locket, Uluki had asked for and received from Ian very specific directions for how to find the shanty town.

Those directions proved quite accurate, and though it was a fair distance, they slowly but surely made their way to the outskirts of what clearly was indeed a district of run-down and improvised dwellings. The sheer misery of the place and its inhabitants hung over the area like a pall. Uluki was glad for her armed companions, and she couldn't help pitying anyone forced to live here... not so much because of the squalor, as the despair that seemed to have a choke hold.

Finding the shanty town had, thanks to Ian's directions, been quite easy. Now finding Julen in such a sea of people seemed likely to prove the difficult part. The only thing she could think of was to ask if anyone had seen him.

In spite of the uniqueness of Julen's description-- according to Uluki, "A tall man with dark hair, in armour with blue cloth under it, and blue feathers on his helmet," to which two of the Lightswords were able to add some more precise information-- no one seemed willing to admit having seen him. They shook their heads, eyes downcast, and scurried away.

Uluki knew they were afraid of something, and she didn't think it was just her. She was wrapped in the shawl, and no one was taking a good enough look at her to know she was Fae. But without knowing what they feared, there was little protection she could offer them. She was at a bit of a loss.

"Any suggestions?" She put the question out to her companions in general.

Lightswords

Post by Lightswords » Mon Aug 13, 2007 4:36 pm

For a moment, the square of defenders paused as one, each looking to contribute but unwilling to lapse in their vigilance.

"Stop asking so nicely." advised Numidar, his manner suggesting it was merely a practical solution, without any trace of irritation or urgency. "Remind them that we're looking for a comrade, and we'll fight to bring him home safely. If people want to be scared, let them, but they'll still answer." The mutter was darker than his southland flesh.

Darir was unsure why this Julen fellow would enter this dismal place to begin with, "If tha lad been here before, maybe tha locals owe him. We could go wit' that if ye wish." Duty was one thing taken seriously, hopefully the locals would take it seriously as well. "Why tha lad here anyway?"

Triarius ventured a thought, "We could bribe them. They need the money."

"And they will make up a story for a reward." commented Numidar.

At that the officer grimaced, "A chance we take. They could make up a story if we threatened them as well." he pointed out.

"We will run out of bishani before we run out of threats." promised Numidar with the assurance of one very creative.

From the largest of all present was a highly relevant point, "Aorle would not want us threatening streetwalkers." commented Gaelm.

Now the icy calm of the dark warrior broke, "He would not want us failing a comrade in danger either!" Of all the motivations for a draconian course, his was loyalty. After all, loyalty was one of the greatest psychopaths in existance, willing to harm anyone or anything for those he seeks to protect.

"Any thoughts about Julen we could say?" wonder Gaelm, thinking the man in question may have more relevance than was immediately apparent.

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Lylessa Uluki
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Post by Lylessa Uluki » Mon Aug 13, 2007 5:03 pm

Uluki considered their ideas. She was not above making threats when absolutely necessary, but she suspected that wouldn't be entirely effective in this case. The people already seemed scared, and threatening them with further harm could make them less likely to talk, not more so. Such threats against civilians could also, in the long run, do greater and more dangerous harm to the reputations of both Julen and Aorle, and incite anger against them, creating enemies. Besides, she felt sorry for these unfortunate people and had no desire to cause them more worry or fear.

Bribery might also work, but Numidar was right about the risks. People who lived in such straits would no doubt invent whatever information the newcomers seemed to expect, in hopes of being given a bishan or two. Uluki couldn't blame them. If her family were starving, she'd make up any story someone wanted to hear; she wouldn't be proud of it, but she understood well the need to survive. Speaking of which, she still didn't have a single coin, and she suspected the others didn't have enough between them to make a very effective bribe.

"Perhaps we could appeal to their sense of duty," she said slowly. "I know Julen has helped them in the past, though I don't know exactly how, so it may be difficult to use that as a bargaining chip. I'm concerned, also, that whatever it is they're afraid of will outweigh anything they may feel they owe our friend. I also ask that no threats be made. These people mean no harm to us, and should not be treated as enemies."

"I don't think bribes of money will be very effective. A person can easily take the coins and slip off into the crowd after making up a story. I would suggest instead that we offer protection from whatever they're afraid of. They'll be less likely to invent an untruth if they know they'll see us again, and we'll know they were lying. Besides, if someone has been preying on them, we should do what we can to protect them anyway. I think Aorle would agree to that."

She hoped so. She was being awfully presumptuous, first opening the letter and now speaking for him, even though she was making clear it was her own hypothetical rather than anything he'd actually said. Uluki was ordinarily more polite and more careful, but now Julen's life might be at stake. She hoped Aorle would understand that she wasn't always so forward. In spite of her nervousness around him, she wanted him not just to tolerate her, but to like her.

"From now on, we will tell the people we ask for information that they do not need to fear retribution, because we will see no harm comes to them for helping us. We can take them back to the base with us-- along with their families-- and shelter them there. We will honour our word about this. Empty promises are no better than empty threats."

She hoped that would help, and that Aorle would understand.

((Continued here: http://www.tharshaddin.com/rp/viewtopic.php?t=1144))

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Post by Sir Karsimir » Wed Aug 15, 2007 10:47 pm

High above, the sky darkened. Shadows loomed and stretched overhead like a gauze blanket draped across the sky. Few souls sought to travel by night, least of all in such a dire region, thus those men seeking a new lord to accept their service would do well to cease in their journeys for now. Further troops intent on proving worthy could leave word at the household, for now was past time that a leader stood with his men.

So, he marched, through cobbled and later earthen strees, approaching the headquarters, in hope and trust and eagerness to stand beside his fellows. Time for actions that would earn their respect, for the lord too must prove worthy.

Across open ground, approaching was a simple matter. From afar he saw a fire glowing warmly, as fires are known to do. By this fire was a figure tending a pot, and few others gathered, with the occasional figure coming an going. Idly, and to try to train a good habit, Aorle tried guessing their identities at the distance. Rollick was easily recognised for his choice of armour, although Aorle sought to notice features of his movements to tell him apart in a more specific manner. Merohl was easily identified by his stocky shape and the bow kept with him constantly. Others in sight were unknown to him, and many of the fighters sent here were absent.

Strange.

Drawing near, he entered the edge of the firelight, his coming announced by the steely clinks of his armour. Many of those present truly were strangers, those whom he had no knowledge of.

Osaw approached, having by now been permitted to reclaim his spear. Even as he approached, Aorle spoke first. "Osaw." addressed the chevalier with a dipping nod, "Any more injured?"

Puzzlement answered that question, "No, lord. You'll not believe what has happened today-"

A leather-gauntleted palm was presented to pause him. "Tell me after I see to Metellus."

Striding through, nods acknowledged everyone who caught his eye, while Aorle made his way inside to grant healing to his loyal man.

Near a lantern was Rosemary sat hunched in a corner, sewing at a garment, probably a gambeson. By a glance she appeared extremely engrossed in her work, for reasons Aorle did not presume to guess. Sheltering her was the massive form of Krarug, sat near her, silent and motionless, in the manner of a fearsome and vigilant gargoyle set to ward against ill-tidings.

Passing by, neither seemed aware of the other, in part because of the position of the mountainous guardian.

Upstairs, there was Metellus with his leg wrapped and set and elevated, the ankle resting on folded aketons. Obvioulsy the fellow was itching to move, although his injured leg made that unwise.

"Allow me." began Aorle, making no fuss about laying his palm upon the man's forehead. After a few seconds, Metellus shifted his leg, bent and stretched it, to find it perfectly fine. Aorle extended a hand to help raise him to his feet, "If you are well, make ready and join us downstairs, so I can hear how all are together." It would be best to address the band together, before speaking to any seperately, a step to prevent factions or divisions forming. Best for the warriors to develop a sense of unity and allegiance with each other.

From there, he made his way downstairs and outside towards the fire. "Rollick. Ladies." he greeted, with a courteous nod towards both him and the girls. Already sure of an interesting day, he asked, "Have you all been well? Anything to report?"
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

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Lylessa Uluki
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Post by Lylessa Uluki » Thu Aug 16, 2007 1:56 am

((NPC Post))

Rollick and Martha had been filling and handing out bowls of stew-- no sense waiting for Uluki and the others, who could be hours-- and he nodded to her to continue without him when he saw Aorle approach speak to him and the girls.

Rollick picked up the baby. He didn't want to leave Martin unattended that close to the fire. Anticipating the conversation, he wished Uluki was with him. She always knew what to say.

Rollick and his daughters greeted Aorle briefly, then Rollick suggested, "Go help Martha, will you, girls?" With quick goodbyes, they returned to the others at the fireside.

"Things have become a bit complicated. This evening Rosemary approached Uluki and told her that Julen had gone to the shanty town hours earlier. Uluki took four of the men and went to search for any sign of Julen. They have not returned, so I assume they are still looking." Rollick's own voice betrayed slight worry, both about Julen and the search party, particularly his wife.

"There is one other matter." This was it. This was the dangerous part.

"A letter arrived for you today. We opened it because we thought it might have to do with Julen’s disappearance."

Rollick handed over the note.

"There is some truth in it. Uluki is a magical healer; she doesn’t hurt anybody. Dash and Zee were created to be weapons and have certain abilities, but their hearts and their feelings are quite human. Ten years ago an evil god inhabited my body against my will. That... thing... used me as its host for nearly four months, but I assure you I did not serve it then and do not serve it now."

"So it comes to this: I must make a request of you. I ask that you continue to show mercy and compassion to my wife and children, in spite of what must be a shocking revelation about them. I ask that you allow them all to remain under the protection of your sword, so the ruthless can't prey upon them."

Rollick was painfully aware he had no bargaining position, nothing to trade for his family’s safety. He had no money, no possessions, no influence—and he suspected none of those things would mean much to Aorle anyway. Only one thing remained for him to offer...

"If you will promise this, I will accept any fate you deem appropriate for me. I will surrender my own life willingly."

That sounded pathetic. If Aorle wished him to die, he would die, and there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Rollick knew his skill with a blade... and it was not sufficient to fight off not only Aorle himself but all the warriors loyal to him, should Aorle give that order. Surely Aorle would laugh at his attempt at a sacrifice, but Rollick had to try, for his family's sake. He pressed on.

"You need not decide my fate yet. I will wait while you consider. I know you are a good man, one who will not tolerate the presence of evil, but I beg you to continue to protect the innocents whose only crime was loving me. I swear to you, they do not deserve to die."

Rollick wished he'd sent the baby off with the girls. A man shouldn't speak such words in front of his child, even if that child was far too young to understand. But now the words were said, and it was up to Aorle to make his choice.

"I look forward to Julen's safe return. Our thoughts are with him."

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Post by Sir Karsimir » Thu Aug 16, 2007 6:17 am

Moral guidance was always welcome, for Prudence was a knightly virtue, best demonstrated through reasoned consideration of the rightness of each act. Accepting advice was to choose Prudence over Pride, yet this did not land upon the ear as would moral guidance, this was the voice of a father's fears. Even so, he would have much rather not hear someone refer to him as a good man and in the same breath try to persuade him to spare their children from harm.

"Enough. You have no need to bargain for this. You and your family are under my protection. On my Oath, no evil will befall them within my power to prevent." Ink on paper could never justify an innocent coming to harm, and Aorle was privately stung that Rollick could expect such a thing from him. "Collect any gear you wish from the armory, for as long as you have need." With enemies after his family, best that Rollick be as well-armed and armoured as possible. Glancing for a moment at the letter, Aorle realised what he had hoped to learn from it and shared his thoughts. "We need you to think of who has access to this information." He presented the note meaningfully. "Perhaps 'twill help us find who is after your family."

By this point, Metellus had rounded up the other troops, who were waiting courteously out of earshot while the two men finished their discussion. Aorle waved them over, and immediately assumed the voice of command while addressing the group. "Men! We have two matters to deal with. First, as you know, is the search for Julen. Second, we have word of an enemy, one who means harm for Rollick, Uluki, even their child." he glanced meaningfully towards the infant when making this announcement. "This enemy has sent us a letter," which he held before the troops while speaking, "attempting to negotiate with us to claim the lives of man, wife and child. Does anyone here plan on bargaining with a child-killer?"

Silence all around. Horrified silence.

"Right then." Aorle announced, considering the matter settled. "Keep weapons and armour with you at all times. Organise watches amongst yourselves. I will head into the shantytown to seek Julen, the rest of you will stay here, because we have innocent lives present that we cannot leave undefended. Understood?"

"Understood." answered the men, each nodding and tensing. Clearly this was not a comfortable subject for them. If they were outraged, that was good, that would make them very welcome in the warband.

"Good. Thank you." Normally a commander did not thank his troops, but not all present were sworn to him just yet. After reading through the letter in silence, he handed it back to Rollick before turning on his heel to depart.

Striding away from them all, he then addressed the civilians. "Greetings good folk. I am Aorle. 'Tis my wish to speak to you further, but 'twill have to wait. One of my men is missing, likely in peril, and his risk takes priority. We shall meet again soon."

Without further word, he gathered up Arjen's saddle and marched into the night, warhorse following unbidden.
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Lylessa Uluki
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Post by Lylessa Uluki » Thu Aug 16, 2007 5:30 pm

((NPC Post))

Rollick could not have hoped for better. His family would not be harmed. They would be safe. Not only that, but he would be with them.

He'd known that if Aorle knew the full truth about his family, Aorle would show them mercy. It was the knowing the truth Rollick had been concerned about. Would Aorle believe the letter, the lies twisted together with the truth? Would he see only the cold facts, which looked so bad for the family, or consider the people they were?

Aorle was apparently a wiser man than Rollick had feared he would be, and Rollick found his understanding deeply reassuring.

"Thank you." Rollick said simply. What more was there to say? He wasn't sure Aorle would even hear that, as he turned to address his troops.

The speech impressed him even more. Aorle was taking great pains to see the family was safe, and Rollick felt vaguely guilty for bringing this trouble down upon all of them. There was little Rollick could have done to prevent that, however, and he was grateful to have a safe place for his family, to have allies.

Rollick said nothing after the speech, waiting to see how the others would react. Would they be angry with him, with Uluki and the children, for putting them in danger? Would they think him weak, unable to defend his own family?

There was silence for a moment after Aorle left, as though the words needed time to sink in. Rollick regarded the men, prepared to offer further explanations should they be demanded, further justification that the family was worth protecting.

No questions were asked.

Instead there was a hand patting his back, a little roughly but clearly a gesture of friendship and solidarity, then another hand joined it. There were murmurs of "We're with you," and "We'll get the bastards," and "No one touches Uluki or your kids."

"Thank you," Rollick said again. There was so much this evening to be grateful for, and Rollick didn't have the words to express it more eloquently.

Sean, Ian, and Martha already seemed to be prepared to defend Zee and Dash, unaware that the two they sought to protect were born to be weapons themselves. Sean and Ian looked quite fierce, and Martha was wielding the soup spoon rather menacingly. "Don't worry, Rollick," she said bravely. "Everything'll be alright."

Up till recently she'd called him "sir" and had refused to stop in spite of his repeated protestations. Finally he'd realized he was fighting a losing battle, and had decreed that every time she called him "sir," he would in return be addressing her as "your ladyship." The sheer absurdity of this had persuaded her to call him by his given name.

"Yes, Martha, it will. I am grateful for your family's friendship with mine."

Dash and Zee ran to their father, throwing their arms around him, and he kissed each of their foreheads.

Then, with his daughters' arms still around him, he addressed everyone. "I know we're all anxious, both about Julen and about... our family's situation. However, there is little we can do about either at the moment. We'll finish our meal, then set watches and get some rest. There will be no arguing about that. We have much to do tomorrow. I hope to begin some training in the morning, and we have more work yet to do on the base itself. I will not have us waste tomorrow, should we be exhausted from staying up half the night."

Rollick himself, of course, would not sleep until Uluki was safely home.

"I am very grateful to all of you. I could not ask for better comrades."

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