Frays in the Weave

By Yappo All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Scifi

Departure

Karia groaned. Not because he was saddle sore any longer. Eightdays of endless riding had taken care of that. This time he groaned because he remembered aching in muscles he'd forgotten he had.

He knew how to ride. Every nobleman learned, but he had never sat a horse for days at end. That the horses had only been half trained didn't make it any better. A suitable lesson in obedience. The very words of old Ricah. Suitable my arse! And literally so, he recalled when the horse nervously sidestepped a non-existent threat and reminded him that not all parts of his body had healed from those first aching, awful days.

There were advantages to being mounted though. He ruefully admitted that as he passed a column of marching infantry.

To Gaz, they were headed for Gaz.

Someone had arrived at the broken gates of Belgera only a day after outworlder weapons almost tore the capital apart. Someone with promises and demands.

I wonder which the council valued the most, the promises or the demands. If they can scrape together a full city watch of armed men I'll be surprised.

And now the city was all but disarmed and the caravan he'd been assigned to escorted by an army.

Karia cursed whatever god had gifted the council with an evil sense of humour and rode on. With some luck he'd learn who had interceded on his behalf, and his sworn men. No execution. A years worth of unpaid escort duty instead. Well, he was unpaid. Twenty sworn men would receive their due when they returned, from his personal allowance of course. In reality it translated into being expelled in disgrace for life. What a gherin spawned way of repaying someone for saving their capital!

But the sun shone, the wind flew brisk and clear in his face and he was young yet. Life was irresistible and he couldn't stay sour for long. Not his way and had never been. With some luck he would get a word or two with the captain from Ri Khi. The very female captain, and pleasant to look at as well. That she had refused his earlier attempts, frankly and with a laugh, bothered him not the least. He wanted pleasant talk, not a warm body.

Still what an idiot that master merchant must be. Winning a prize like her and then vanish from the city and leave her behind.


Major Heinrich Goldberger, TADAT, flicked on the scanner. From infra-red to ultraviolet. No, nothing out of the normal. Nothing, at least, that could be seen by means of federation technology. Here on Otherworld there were ways of hiding things that no scanner could reveal. Both aliens, and he could call them nothing but aliens, had showed him how the mind could be suggested to pay no heed to what was there. Heinrich drew a deep breath. That the giant ape and the beautiful, oh so beautiful, woman with the golden eyes shared professions was still a riddle to him.

Heinrich growled, flicked the scanners off and raised his visor. He didn't need any enhancers to see the endless train of primitive wagons slowly making their way to Keen, the far away nation where he could make contact with the launch port again. Primitive or not, the wagon train was an awesome sight anyway. Five hundred wagons drawn by horses, mules, oxen and a few by enormous six legged lizards he'd been told were tamed and safe. They had better be, Heinrich thought grimly. At over three meters in height and close to double that in length they looked like dinosaurs, dinosaurs shimmering in metallic blue and red. If he got caught under one of them it would crush him, body walker or not. The exoskeleton armour was not designed to handle having a cargo container thrown at it.

Heinrich willed himself into motion and hydraulic engines carried him on reinforced legs along the caravan. At least he could run faster than any of the monsters. He and his six men were the only ones who could make the distance between rearguard and vanguard in decent time, and so they'd become couriers more than anything else. By now only a few of the horses shied from the sound of the body walker as he passed them by. Heinrich chuckled. It had been different when they left Belgera, the capital of Braka, a few weeks earlier. Hundreds of horses stampeding with unhappy merchants running to catch them. An entire regiment of cavalry roaring with laughter while at the same time barely managing to keep their uneasy horses under control. Luckily no one had been hurt.

Heinrich ran on in the afternoon sun throwing light and melting snow on the fields. They were leaving Braka behind them and soon they'd be in unclaimed, more dangerous territory. He doubted the amount of danger though. The cavalry regiment rode in small groups all around the caravan. Infantry, two regiments or close to fifteen hundred men had joined them on their way here and now marched in columns closer to the wagons.

The most human looking alien, Neritan Hwain, had told him this was going to be a military operation as well as a trading expedition. A small neighbouring nation had committed some kind of atrocity and were to be punished. The caravan contained over three thousand barrels of poisonous minerals. Whatever else the hard faced inhabitants here were they were thorough. They intended to permanently wipe out a small town, and no matter what Heinrich thought about it it wasn't his decision to make. The planned operation struck a memory in him, but never the diligent student he only remembered it was part of his own history, not what part.

He increased his speed to a rumbling trot, fast enough to quickly leave any horse behind. Hell, fast enough to leave anyone but the hairy ape behind. She, because he'd come to know it was a she, had an amazing stamina, and to top it off she shared his practical view on life. Apart from her looks she could as well have been anyone of the hard-working miners in the belt, rigid sense of honour aside of course. Heinrich wondered about that. Apparently it was her own people who were to bear the brunt of the coming onslaught, but he'd never once heard her complain.

He shook his head, helmet swirling to adjust for his movements, and continued. Half an hour more and he'd reach the vanguard where Colonel Trindai de Laiden was usually to be found.


Trindai de Laiden swore long and bitter oaths as he rode in pursuit of the vanguard together with a few of his men. Being reduced to an armed guest was bad enough for the imperial colonel, but the city council of Belgera had acted in accordance with the fears he'd harboured on his way here close to a season earlier. They were all too happy to send out an army to punish the khraga for their part in almost killing a taleweaver. It wouldn't stop there. It never did. By now the Council of Twelve were sure to know about the incident, one they couldn't idly accept, and Trindai knew his superior, Mairild de Felder, well enough to understand what would happen later. Ramdar Garak, her counterpart from Khi would for once get all information he wanted for free, and so the two spy masters would set things into motion, like rings on water. Trindai painted a mental picture of troops from all over the world converging on Gaz for a final confrontation to end, once and for all, what had not been truly finished seven centuries earlier. Too many golden still living with memories and hatreds alive in their minds, memories for them -- a vaguely understood legend to humans. World War all over again.

Trindai spat in disgust. Demoted to colonel because he couldn't stand spending the rest of his active years behind a desk and in pointless meetings with greedy power mongers, yes he could accept that. Demoted for lack of understanding -- never! Had he truly been as guileless as some thought he would still be a general. Political machinations was not a job for a man and he was too old now to allow his clear sightedness to turn into cynicism. He hadn't come this far only to spend his waning years as a hateful man.

The smells of early spring lost their lustre to him, and not even the wind carrying a faint promise of warmer days to come could fully vanquish his fears. It mattered little. He had a caravan to bring safely back to Keen, and after tomorrow, when the army turned east in their pursuit of revenge, he'd be in sole command of the escort. Trindai pushed his horse harder and listened to the smattering of hooves as he put stretch after stretch of wet earth behind him. Now, for the first time, did he truly regret the ease with which he'd promised how eagerly Keen would join the quest of justice that faraway day when they learned what had befallen Arthur Wallman.


There it was again, a sweet scent carried by a gust of wind warmer than any she'd felt since they climbed the mountain pass. It caressed her with its promise of spring, more so than the bare splotches of dirt visible in the melting snow. Promises of greenery but also of just revenge brought by Braka to the khraga now when the icy hand of winter no longer gave the advantage to the hairy giants.

Nakora Weinak sighed with pleasure washing away the last of the disappointment she harboured knowing she'd be no part of the campaign launched at the khraga. Two days earlier the regiments had turned to the east and a full hundred of the wagons followed them, and all of the great gherin were with the troops.

It would have been good to teach the khragan monsters some fear, but she had a mission bringing the caravan back safely. She looked over her troops, or what was left of them. Safety could be dangerous. They had reasons to know that. After enduring the perils of coming to Belgera she'd been relieved enough to let her guard down, and close to half of her men died within the protection of the city walls as a result when the outworlder Christina Ulfsdotir let her thugs loose on the streets.

Nakora shrugged the memories away. Against outworlder weapons there wasn't much you could do, and now they were bolstered not only by twenty horsemen from Braka but also by seven outworlders in their hissing contraptions. Gring had told her they were the outworlder version of Colonel de Laiden's elite forces.

Taking the reins in both of her hands Nakora pulled her horse to a stop. She was closing to Madame Termend's tavern on wheels. A few merchants were already walking alongside it, but then some always were.

"Captain Weinak, join us!" one of them greeted her.

Nakora smiled at him. From Erkateren, and the jovial magecrafter, temporarily turned trader, had his wife at his side. In all honesty she handled most of their bartering. "I will, just let me tie my horse first," Nakora answered as she dismounted. She liked the couple. The people from Erkateren never frowned at her for being a military commander, not at all like her own.

Nakora tied her horse behind the wagon and returned to the patrons and their hostess. "What do you have to offer today?" she asked Lianin Termend.

"For ten copper shields you can have an ale, and for nine Brakish Grüba I could give you -- an ale," Lianin answered laughing. It had become a ritual of sorts, but early on their way here it had been cider offered, and later a sweet, cloudy beer the until recently nomadic people on the Sea of Grass favoured

"Lianin, when we come back home again," Nakora said, breaking the tradition of non-committal chat, "what are you going to do?"

Lianin peered out from the darkness of her wagon. "If Master de Garak sets up a new caravan I'll return with it." She turned and vanished back beneath the tarpaulin covering the wagon. "An ale?" her muddled voice asked, and Nakora could hear her already filling a mug.

"Yes, thank you," Nakora answered. "And Chaijrild?" she asked, but her thoughts were far away. Harbend, where did you go? Are you safe? "Will she come with you?" Nakora continued in a a cheerful tone that didn't fully match the worries dancing in her mind.

"I'd think so," Lianin responded handing Nakora a mug of dark ale. "Shields or Grüba? Well you never know with the young."

"Shields, we were paid in advance." Nakora handed Lianin the coins.

Lianin lifted an eyebrow and shot Nakora a curious glance. "A season in advance?"

The icy wind that crept inside Nakora's clothes wasn't what chilled her. They hadn't been paid for the entire trek back. She was already paying her men with the advance money for those who had died in Belgera, and within an eightday it was time again. Two eightdays pay and most of it would come from her own private funds. Gods! Harbend, where are you? I need you! "No, but there is enough to last until we can get it sorted out," she lied.

"Ah, good news. I wouldn't want to end up on the Sea of Grass with a grumpy escort." The relief in Lianin's voice was all too clear.

Nakora gulped down the ale and went for her horse. Mounted again she threw her thanks to Lianin and another lie about lack of time to spend with the tavern. There wasn't much to do, but talking about payment to the troops made her more than just a little bit uneasy. Payment two eightdays in advance was the norm. Harbend had trusted her enough to give her funds for a full four eightdays, but the last time had been just after they reached Belgera and if she couldn't convince the three merchants commanding the caravan in his absence there would be problems all too soon.

She threw her horse into a brisk canter and rode for the rearguard. Riding was freedom, had been since childhood, and she needed something to bring back the satisfaction come from that warm gust of spring she smelled earlier.


Gring watched the mood of Nakora's troops deteriorate over the coming eightdays. It was money, as always the glittering coins meaning more to the halfmen than honour Whenever halfmen perceived a lack of money they immediately resorted to a total absence of honour -- would go to almost any length to grab the shiny metal that meant almost as much to them as the right to decide over the lives of their brethren.

Gring growled and ran. If the conversation she had overheard was anything to go by then things might get out of hand soon. The tribe Nakora belonged to had mastered the enslavement of their females to a degree where being female was in itself a reason to be abused. That, Gring once believed, was the case with all halfmen, but the men from Keen under command of Trindai thought otherwise, and so did the outworlders. They almost behaved honourably, something that was hard for her to accept, but so it was, and in the absence of Arthur she preferred to be among half decent halfmen as long as she was denied the company of proper humans.

The thought of her own made her wonder what had happened in the town from where they were jumped to Gaz when she was still a captive together with Arthur and the child, Chaijrild. Dishonour, a grave insult to anything proper had marked their forced visit there, and with thousands of armed halfmen descending on them they were probably all dead by now. That was, she admitted, in order, but she couldn't help worrying about the implications. Each decade saw fewer and fewer humans and with an army from Braka bent on revenging the injustice done to a taleweaver thousands more would die during the summer. One on one a human warrior was more than a match for any but the very best trained of the halfmen, but in large battle formations the cowardly oath breakers reigned superior, and Gring had no illusions about the outcome of the coming war. It would be slaughter unless aid from Gaz arrived in time. Such help, though, was unlikely to come, even if a truth seer from Gaz had been involved.

The memory made Gring growl again. Kharg, not Truth seer Vailinin, was behind the dishonourable act of trying to kill a taleweaver, and Kharg was as human as she. No, there would be no intervention from Gaz, not this time.

Gring ran on over wet, grassy ground, still hard and frozen where the ground frost hadn't thawed. Soon spring would be here for real, the ground would soften and trailing wagons were sure to be mired in mud before the heat of summer baked the ground hard enough again to bear the weight of hundreds of wagons. Maybe, just maybe, the warmth and greenery that was to come would lift the mood of the halfmen enough to make them withstand the ordeals, but halfmen were weak in body as well as in will, and she didn't dare to raise her hopes too much.

She passed the strange equipment wagon the outworlder soldiers called hovercraft and waved. They had captured it from the renegade outworlders in Belgera. The driver, a female halfman named Elizabeth Chang who never ceased describing the marvels of her home, the unimaginably vast city of Shanghai, whenever she had a chance, waved back. The halfmen were always prone to ridiculous embellishments of their own achievements, and the outworlders were worse than most. The driver was worst of them all, always boasting about the grandest building ever made housing more halfmen than any city existing here.

Gring ran on, spreading her hands in silent denial of the madness the outworlders said was everyday wonders where they came from, but she knew that at least some of it had to be true. Arthur had Woven while they were still captives of Kharg.

Now Gring needed to talk with Trindai. Nakora had helped save her and she was honour bound to help Harbend's mate. Gring knew that Trindai had received as many coins as Nakora, but he and his men spent very few of them. Maybe he could be convinced to help.


Trindai dismounted. He gave the reins to a groom and walked the last part to Harbend's private wagon where Nakora was already waiting.

"Captain Weinak, I want a word with you," Trindai said after they had exchanged greetings. Behind him Gring's looming shadow neared and he could feel the buzz around his ears announcing that the khraga was already employing her powers. With matters delicate as these he didn't dare relying on neither his own imperfect skills at Khi nor Nakora's mastery at De Vhatic. He was about to possibly insult one of his sub commanders and couldn't afford misunderstandings to worsen it further.

Nakora averted her eyes rather than obliging him. A bad sign. With a sign he forced her to walk with him out of earshot of the driver.

"I need to know about the payment of your troops," Trindai said when he was satisfied that they were out of range of any prying ears.

"Late, but under control, Colonel," she answered, still hiding her eyes behind strands of black hair that she usually kept tied to her back.

"They are mercenaries, Captain." Trindai shot her a dark glance, forcing her to meet his eyes. "As much as I dislike soldiers drinking I dislike a sudden change in habits even more. My men report that they no longer visit Madame Termend," he lied. If any of his soldiers had stayed often enough with the moving tavern to notice the continued absence of Nakora's men they'd be severely disciplined, but he had no reason to betray Gring's trust.

"They prefer cider to ale," Nakora tried haltingly.

"I said they were mercenaries. They'll drink any swill money can buy, and you know that."

"Payment is a little late, that is all. You handle your troops and I mine."

"Captain, you listen very carefully to what I say. Until we reach the Roadhouse I am in absolute command of the escort. I decide who does what, and that includes your troops as well as the contingent from Braka, and I decide when the men are paid. Is that understood?"

"Yes, but..."

"Is that understood?" Trindai repeated, deliberately adding a steely tone to his voice he knew the female captain didn't deserve.

"Yes, Colonel." Nakora came to rapt attention.

Trindai stretched his fingers with a sharp crack. "Then I suggest you pay them what they're due immediately."

Nakora fidgeted for a moment, but in the end she broke as he knew she would. "There is a small problem," she admitted when Trindai refused to leave her without an answer.

"A problem?"

"The merchants Master de Garak left in command in his absence are withholding the payment."

"For what reason?" Trindai asked. He more than guessed the answer. Ri Khi's insane attitude towards women left them with only half a population. One major reason they would never rise to become anything but an insignificant nation in the vicinity of Keen.

"They demand that I release command of the troops to an alternative commander first," Nakora whispered.

"A male alternative?" Trindai suggested.

"Yes." By now the voice was less than a whisper.

"And your men have agreed to this?"

Nakora hesitated. "Some have," she answered.

The irritation Trindai had felt at first slowly gave way to cold rage. "So be it," he said.

"What?"

"Effective immediately," he cut her short, "you're relieved of you command. Major Kalvar Terwin will command your troops in your place." Trindai received a look more filled with defeat than outrage. "However, I can't afford to lose one of my officers without some kind of compensation," he continued before he broke Nakora's spirit. "I order you to take command of my second squadron, and that order is not optional. You will also command the cavalry unit under Karia Graig. My overall command is too complex as it is anyway."

Nakora looked at him with an expression shifting from gratefulness to anger and back again. "I am not familiar with imperial troops," she said.

"You have a season to learn. Make the most of it," Trindai suggested gently. She was a good officer with the bad luck to be trained among idiots. Of course you never doubted your ability to command riders from Braka.

He smiled at that thought. Just because they looked very much like her own sad excuse for a military unit she assumed they behaved the same. He corrected that thought. Just because they looked like the unit she should have been given command of to begin with.

Trindai coughed and continued: "Major Terwin will see to it his men are paid. I can fund them for a full six eightdays, including any back pay due, and darkness, I'll personally make certain the greedy whore sons of merchants make good on their obligations before this kind of problem returns."

Captain Weinak met his look. There was one more question there.

"Karia Graig has his own agreement with his men," Trindai said. "You need to talk with him about it."

Trindai glared along the line of wagons before he turned. He slowly marched back to his horse, Nakora silent at his side and Gring plodding on behind them trying to be as unobtrusive as a towering, furry giant could possibly be.

He glanced at Nakora sending a silent greeting of gratefulness to the khraga. I thank you for your brave diplomacy, Mindwalker. I wonder if you can hear my thoughts, but even if you don't I'll make you know I'm in your debt. Then his thoughts wandered to Nakora again. Take care, my girl. Use the coming season well. There's no home in Ri Khi for you, but you don't need to know that yet. I'll see you in the yellow and black when we come home. May the gods bless you with Harbend's love, because I can't teach you how to make a home in Keen. Trindai muttered some well chosen curses under his breath, and when Nakora looked up at him, querying him for the reason, he stared straight ahead pretending to measure the distance they had yet to cover before making camp for the night.

It was late in the afternoon, just before the caravan started making ready for a night's rest, when Trindai's anger finally subsided and he turned to Gring who'd followed beside his horse the entire day, resting only when he remounted. They were closing to the hissing outworlder wagon where the renegade, Christina Ulfsdotir, and her surviving mercenaries lay drugged by means of medications he didn't understand. He needed Gring for one more thing. Major Goldberger had to be told about the change in command. Information was vital, and at Trindai's behest Gring had already sent the golden mindwalker, Neritan Hwain, a message and asked her to tell the Brakish troops, who viewed any mage with an unhealthy respect. Well, anything that made his command easier was a blessing.

"Mindwalker Khat, I want you know I'm in your debt," Trindai said, facing the khraga.

"I know," Gring said, "you sent me earlier."

"So you were eavesdropping after all," Trindai said smiling. He righted himself in the saddle when the horse misstepped on a tuft of grass.

"No. You sent. I don't walk minds uninvited. That is unethical as well as dishonourable"

"I don't understand."

"You have the spark, halfman."

A coldness crawled down Trindai's back. "I'm not!"

"No, and nor will you ever be. You're too old to be trained, but you still have the spark, as do all who can ever be trained. In a different life you would have been a mindwalker or a magehealer. Does that disturb you?"

Trindai heard the barb in her voice, but he was already used to her harsh sense of humour. He smiled and realized he didn't care, not about her jokes and nor about the different life he could have lived. "I'm an imperial colonel. It's been a good life and it's not over yet. Now, if you would use the training you did receive to help me tell Major Goldberger the news."

"As is proper. I will."

Trindai grinned and saw they were within speaking distance of a woman in a body walker. "Soldier, I'll guard the prisoners. I need you to find Major Goldberger and bring him here."

The woman saluted and with heavy thumps she started racing back along the caravan in the direction of the rearguard. Trindai watched her disappear, throwing mud and grass behind her with every step.

"Mindwalker Khat, what will you do after we return?" Trindai asked when the sound of the vanishing trooper was muted by the steady roar of the floating wagon they had promised to guard.

"I don't know, halfman. I'm honour bound to Gaz, but mage Hwain made me see how Truth seer Rhigrat broke that bond when he condemned the taleweaver to death together with my own people in doing so. No matter his attempt at delaying the executions by calling a meeting of minds."

Trindai could see Gring was uncomfortable. There were subtle changes to how she licked her tusks he had come to recognize even if he'd never be able to read her expressions the way he saw his soldiers' needs and wants. "I don't mean to pry," he said.

"I'm not offended. Your question is in order. Gaz is an enemy to Braka, and Keen is allied with Braka. I know as much. You show honour in your precaution."

Trindai shook his head. Honour, always honour "I don't see how one mindwalker could pose a threat with the Inquisition close at all times. That was not my question. You know as well as I do you'll never be allowed to cross our borders."

"I didn't intend to," Gring responded, and Trindai could see her good humour returning again. "Maybe I'll make my living in Ri Kordari. Mage Hwain told me there are humans living there as well."

The khraga referring to her own kind as humans was confusing as always, but Trindai was slowly getting used to the peculiar effects of her magic. Besides, she was right. There was a small khragan tribe living in the mountains controlled by Ri Kordari, and they were held in very high esteem by the followers of Cor, the only people as rigidly honour bound as the khraga themselves, those living in Ri Kordari only a little less so than the High Kordic knights, but then Kordar only had their honour left. Any vestige of power was forever lost in the aftermath of World War, and Trindai wasn't certain if the ancient legends held much truth to them. Neritan had told him, repeatedly, how Kordic knights had broken the empire of Gaz during the early battles on the Sea of Grass. That was the end of an era when Braka was only a fortress Keen desperately clung to with the help of magecrafters, transport mages and and endless stream of soldiers and battle mages sent there to bolster the defences of a perpetual siege. Back then Belgera had been their only eye deep inside enemy territory, but that was before World War.

Trindai shuddered. He was a soldier, and imperial officer serving the most powerful nation north of the southern plains. In his world Keen would continue to train the best armies in the world in an ongoing quest to enforce peace on anyone bent on warfare. Keen ruthlessly quenched any attempt to start a war before it grew out of hand, and with the exception of their insufficient navy they had done a very good job at it. The last mishap was a movement of fanatics that had put large parts of Erkateren and Vimarin to the torch before the Free Inquisition were formed. After that the haphazard armies had been slaughtered in a campaign that lasted less than two years. Cleaning up had been dirty and taken longer.

"Memories?" Gring's voice brought him back from his thoughts.

"Walking my mind?"

"There was no need. Your mind was elsewhere from the look of your eyes," she answered with a deep growl that was her version of a laugh.

Trindai looked at her black fur before responding. "Yes, memories of history lessons, and questions," he admitted.

"Questions?"

"Yes," Trindai answered, squinting at the setting sun, "someone must have sent a message to Chach and the Roadhouse about what happened." Gring gave him a questioning look, and he felt compelled to continue. "I expect us to meet soldiers accompanied by the Holy Inquisition. On this side of the mountain pass or the other I'm not certain, but they'll be there."

"The taleweaver?" Gring asked.

Trindai nodded. "We have to be there before they attack the town we passed on our way here. I believe that the horsemen who attacked us were only young idiots."

"And my dishonourable kinsman, Kharg, paid them with promises of glory and riches. We don't carry money they way you halfmen do. He'd never be able to pay them in coins unless he was bought himself."

Trindai threw her an uncomfortable glance. "We had a hearing after you were rescued. I believe they were bought, but no, you're probably right about the payment. Glory would be appealing to half grown boys. They compare stories told by their grandparents to the sedate lives their parents are building now."

Gring growled again. "You think a lot for a warrior."

"That's because I am no warrior," Trindai smiled without mirth. "I'm a soldier, as are my men, and," he pointed at the driver on the outworlder wagon, "I believe they as well."

Gring was very silent for a long time and the hissing from the wagon silenced as it slowly sank to the ground, the sun behind it painting the plains and the sky in gold, or blood, Trindai thought when they saw Heinrich Goldberger approaching with his men in perfect formation.

Gring followed his look and sighed. "Halfman, you scare me. You are a very dangerous man."

"Yes, yes I'm afraid I am," Trindai agreed unhappily.


"If I'm willing to? Of course, but there is a cost," Karia added.

I should have guessed. Not my body! I'll share it with Harbend, no one else. "And that would be?" she asked forcing her lips to a grin she hoped wasn't too predatory.

Karia stared at her. She apparently hadn't been very successful. "Why, to learn all my commanding officer has to teach me."

You're a good man, and you didn't have to be half as charming for me to find few reasons to dislike you. "I wouldn't know what you needed learning."

"Well in bed, nothing. Already fully trained there," he grinned back at her.

Behind her she could hear Gring growl in her unmistakable way of laughing.

You little... No he actually means it. Nakora let out a long breath of relief understanding he wouldn't make any attempts to share her night quarters.

"As for the rest, I have no idea," he said and then his face lit up in a grin that made him look like a boy half his age. Pure mischief shone through his eyes. "I'm a very slow learner sometimes. I'm afraid you'll have to spend quite some times at teaching me."

Maybe not some serious attempts, at least, she changed her mind. Oh well, if he wants company I won't be misery. And he is quite charming, but no Harbend. There is only one Harbend.

Thinking of him and missing him clouded her day, but she suspected she at least was gaining a friend for the long days home in return. Life could be worse.

Nakora thanked Gring for lending the aid of her gift. Without it there would be no talking with Karia. Brakish and Khi was too different. She knew she could have asked Neritan as well, but the thought of disturbing the golden mindwalker was, well, disturbing.


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