Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Shipping Out

    So as it turns out, Cilo was not quite as chockablock with bodily waste as I had previously estimated. Teracron met me outside of my tent, when I got up this morning. "I've got your orders, Quinn," he informed me. "You're heading about a hundred miles or so to the North-East, to the other side of that narrow gulf over there."
    "More sand in my fur. Understood, sir," I replied.
    He gave me a stern look, and ruffled a leathery wing at me. I can never decide if his eyes came from the panther-resemblance from his Mammalian half, or his gargorlforme Reptilian half. "We all deal with it, Quinn. Besides that, the humans rather like the fertile regions that the deserts border. There's a caravan preparing to cross the sands, and trade with the humans on the other side. We've had reports of activity from one of the belligerent demon factions, so we're sending you and your patrol to investigate ahead. We'll send a formal escort a few days behind you, after the humans have left camp."
    Among demons, there are factions which are belligerent, and there are factions that are more of a pain to deal with. The belligerent factions are generally rageful and will give you a straight-out fight. Personally, I don't like handling that sort of demon, as I've never ranked among the most combat-skilled of my compatriots. That's actually why I'm part of a tactical patrol-- mostly I organize traps and do a bit of reconnaissance. The other sorts of factions are more to my variety of skills, since they also rely more on tactical advantage than on brute force, but they're still a big pain. For example, I had an encounter with a few minions of Alogian several years ago, and by the time the ordeal was over, I was convinced that black was orange, and that white was a thing that I could eat.
    "Just what sort of belligerent demons are we talking about?" I inquired. It was necessary.
    "The scouting parties believe that they may be either minions of Amon or Tyran," Teracron explained, "Best case scenario, they're minions of Amon."
    "Yeah, best case," I replied. If they're minions of Amon, they might just be lost and upset (Amon's principal power being Wrath, his minions are typically ill-tempered, and prone to wandering off from their groups in irrational fits of rage), in which case, we just get an infantry patrol out there and wipe them out. If they're minions of Tyran, on the other hand, they could be doing something as innocuous as preparing a new lair, or as nefarious as planning to 'recruit' new minions from amongst the humans. Tyran is a tyrant in the purest sense, in that he rules over his minions by stripping them of their free will, and forcing them all to think as one. It's a telepathic form of demonic possession, and guardian, demon or human, no one is safe. Humans under Tyran's control are especially dangerous to guardians, due to our inability to deliberately attack a human, even in self defense.
    "You are to head out one hour after sunrise, Quinn. My aid will see to it that you have proper directions."
    "Yes, sir. An hour after. I'll inform Cilo and Lamellar."
    We exchanged salutes, and he returned to the tent he'd been using as an office. I fiddled with my hat, and walked over to the tent that Cilo and Lamellar were sharing, next to my own. I ducked in through the flap, and announced myself, "Hey, guys."
    Cilo was eyeing Lamellar suspiciously. They had a bowl between them, containing a few gold bits, with a few other gold bits around it. A gambling game that is occasionally practised among the lower ranks, the purpose is to take turns tossing money into the bowl, without your opponent snatching it out of the air. "I saw what you did there," Cilo accused the bear.
    Lamellar grinned, "What? Me? You must be mistaken." No doubt, Lamellar was cheating.
    Cilo glared back at him. "You're sucking those bits off course!"
    I interceded, saying, "You should know better than to play this game with a vacuum elemental, Cilo." I sat down on a chair near them. "Looks like you were right, Cilo. I've got our orders."
    Cilo's look of cheated abandon shifted abruptly to a joyful gaze. "Ah-ha!" he exclaimed. It was only fuel for his ego, and I should really know better, myself. He gestured obnoxiously at Lamellar and shouted, "In your face! I was right!"
    "We're talking about either Amonian or Tyranian demons in the desert. We're being sent to investigate."
    Cilo was already jamming a tap into a barrel. For reasons beyond me, he has recklessly crafted a tradition of making certain that he feels as horrible as possible, when we set out on a mission. The barrel he was tapping into, just a few weeks prior, he had stuffed with malted wheat and whatever fruit he could find and crush. He was saving it for this specific occasion. Lamellar and I were watching him, and he knew exactly why. "Hey!" he shouted, trying desperately to vindicate himself, "It's good luck! Get all of the bad out of the way, first!"
    I, for one, don't know when this has really worked. When things have gone horribly wrong in the past, he's attempted to make light of the situation by pointing out that things would've been much, much worse if he hadn't been hungover when the mission started. Sometimes when things have gone horribly wrong in the past, it was because he was hungover. He's incorrigible. I'm not sure why I tolerate it.
    "Be up by sunrise, guys," I ordered them. "We're scheduled to leave the camp an hour afterward." I stood as I spoke, and left the tent. The last I saw of them, Cilo was trying to convince Lamellar that the alcohol made his breath flammable, and Lamellar was patiently explaining to Cilo that his breath was flammable, because he was a Fire elemental, and his breath would therefore be flammable, regardless of his state of intoxication. That Cilo's other element was Plasma doesn't really solve the flammability issue, either.
    Tangentially, and for this record, while Cilo's elements are Plasma and Fire, and Lamellar's element is Vacuum, my element is Electricity.
    Since then, I've been given a list of landmarks to follow. These sorts of directions are always a bit of a puzzle. The world's topography has changed drastically since The Rain, so a lot of the new-ish locations and landmarks haven't really been given names, yet. It's very much as though you've been given a list of definitions, instead of a list of words. "Angle Eastward and walk toward the rock shaped like Hicarno's nose," for example. It makes the whole process into a series of riddles. Instructions like, "Follow the snake's heels," always seem cryptic, and it'll confuse you the entire trip, up until you're walking along and encounter a geographical feature, which you can really, only describe as appearing like a snake's heels. In an instant, it all makes sense, and you can't help but admire the original navigator's cleverness.
    So, come morning, we'll venture out and see what's out there.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Introduction

    I suppose that I should begin this with an explanation of who I am, and what I'm doing. My name is Quinn Shammet, and I'm writing this document as a record of what's happening in these exciting times. By the Guardian calendar, the year is 16 A.T., which, if anyone is wondering, stands for, "After Thaw". It's been 181 years since the gods came to make us destroy the world, and the recovery is coming along quite nicely.  Our climate has gotten much warmer in the last few years, and though the loss of ice has caused the death of our previous leader, Zocarno, the heat has made it much easier for fauna to multiply and thrive. Zocarno's son, Vicarno Delfine, has taken over his father's position of authority, and he's seen to re-locating our holy landmark, the Five Stones. With that location secured, he's ordered the re-construction of our capitol city. It was curious to discover that the Five Stones now point North by North-West, instead of due South, but we suppose that this sort of shift is to be expected, after the massive tectonic shifts that occurred, under the massive weight of water and ice.
    When Zocarno's command of the ice broke the Water Elementals among us that brought the Seven Years Rain, there were only around 400 humans still living. It's been speculated that those 400 humans were specifically chosen by the Creator Himself, to be the new seeds of the human race. They've bred prodigiously over the last 174 years, and there is now in excess of 3000 of them. Instead of living among them, as we did in the past, we've adopted a new tactic for protecting the humans. The new tactic is modeled after Eschard Zeta's method for caring for his childhood pet. Eschard wasn't very keen on chasing his guardi around, and leaping to its aid whenever it engaged its habit of obsequiously provoking danger, so he'd lock it in an inert room where it could not possibly bring harm to itself. He'd see to the guardi's biological needs, and make certain that there was always something adequately shiny or noisy to keep it interested, and he'd be otherwise free to see to his other business. Based on that concept of isolation and perimeter defense, we've simply kept the demons out of the humans' living space, and let the humans expand their territory however they so choose. Thus far, it's working well.
    As for myself, I am the Field Lieutenant in charge of the 1st (and only) Tactical Patrol of Mobile Battalion No. 42, under the command of Base Lieutenant Teracron Zeta. Right now, we're stationed in a large tent, erected a few hundred yards West of the Five Stones. Under my command, is Tactical Positioner Cilo Aifinon VIII, and Meatshield Lamellar Kazz. Together, we are al(most)mighty and veritably stoppable. We do what we're told though, and usually end up with the job done. Fortunately, since we're a Tactical patrol, most of our action comes in the form of setting traps or herding demon attacks to an infantry patrol, or some such arrangement.
    At present, there are rumors that our battalion will be soon be sent to fortify a human encampment to the North-East. I guess I'll find out for certain, soon enough.