Respite for a Time
Janeth’s words rang with truth, as in just days since that controversial conversation, the Ma’guul began to withdraw their forces. Only a handful of them remained behind to recover their fallen and wounded.
The Nywanese defenders respected this, and thus only sent out the necessary number of medics and soldiers to look after their own casualties within the charred, derelict-ridden battlefield. They were not naive enough to sheathe their arms, but were also wary enough not to expend unnecessary energy by shooting at the Ma’guul. One thing both sides did find in common was exhaustion, and the sun accelerated that exhaustion regardless how well either of their peoples could handle the endless desert.
Nywanese vessels descended to collect their lost ones and gather whatever salvage they could. Nothing would be wasted in a desert world, not even by those fortunate enough to live with relative ease within the great walls of the Groaning Giants. Even in the burned husks of fallen airships and hovercraft, there would be perfectly functioning engines, batteries, weapon components or munitions, shield emitters, lifters, medical supplies, food supplies and more.
In those days after the sharp decline of the battle, the Skyreign crew made a home of the humble hovel allotted to them, one just paces away from a great greenhouse dome. Also nearby was a hangar large enough for the crippled Skyreign to hobble in and park for a long list of repairs.
Ejjar spent very little time at home, once he learned that there was public access to the biodomes nearby. Some were made as gardens and places of quiet and solitude, while also serving the purpose of drawing water from deep below the sands, and providing food to the numerous citizens of the city-state. Ejjar found himself drawn to these the most of all.
There, he noticed something that only any Khrynthoss would right away: those who tended the gardens and forest weren’t doing so with tools, primitive nor fantastical. The plants seemed to thrive off the very presence of these tenders, the very ground below them welcoming them and the energy they drew from the universe around them.
These were either druids, or variations thereof. Ejjar was well-aware that this was how the masses were fed on his own world, and on parts of Noregaa as well. But those worlds generally did not enjoy technologies of this level.
However, he had been wrong before, and he knew that Noregaa, while being a world upon which time literally passed slower than elsewhere, advanced in a strange blend of magical and scientific approach to technology—or technomancy--at a pace only few could keep up with.
Darrick and Rose worked around the clock to stop one system from shorting out or another from catching fire aboard their battle-scarred, beaten vessel. They couldn’t even get to working on the hull’s fragile skeleton, and so had to do everything in small steps, lest one circuit short and set off a plasma fire hot enough to sear the ship in half. Lacking Ejjar’s constant presence and expertise, they could only make stopgap measures until he came back to help.
Rose also taught the bare basics of the Suragaan tongue, namely of the Nywanese dialect. This allowed the crew to make basic conversation with the citizens there, but basic was the sheer limit for that time.
Olsein went into deep meditation within the same dome Ejjar visited, breaking down those thick mental walls he created to protect himself and his mind, those many years. For weeks, he remained.
For months still, there he largely remained, surfacing only from time to time to connect with the crew and make sure all was well, before he returned to his deep state of spiritual rediscovery.
Sam took part in some of the local militia tryouts, for those who would make spirited efforts to become soldiers. They varied in age, race and gender, but they all had that face: the face of one whose home, friends and families were at stake on a daily basis.
These tryouts started in rings, made of simple circles drawn into the sand by the feet of those competing. Whilst so easy to swipe the line away, it defined the area of trial for those sparring, wrestling and throwing. The circle in the sand was thus sacred, in a way, and had to be highly respected.
Sam did not speak their language, but quickly picked up on the goings of these tourneys, and joined them, not truly as a recruit—for his skills vastly surpassed theirs--but more as a teacher, a helper. He would gesture striking where it hurt more, what was more effective, and to keep their hands up and their backs straight.
Grace was always there to patch him up, seeing as he was the only one to receive any injuries out of the crew—and even out of his sparring partners. How could someone be so effective in combat, yet be so gentle at the same time? She could only wonder, but just the same, it proved to her that he not only had excellent self-control, but he had a good heart as well. And there was something about that that she found very endearing, indeed.
As for Laura, she wandered about, exploring the unending halls within the towers, the domes dotting the land, and the tops of the walls, minding her own business. Waiting.
Waiting for the next move to be made, by the unseen opponent that was her life.
As she did, she learned over the days and weeks that every person in Nywan, from a young age, learned both how to use a tool and how to use a weapon. By adulthood, these boys and girls would have been both capable of doing something productive, as well as defending their lands and each other. Even the elderly or disabled were capable mentors in one fashion or another, and there was a place for everyone—with some degree of control by the people as to where that place was. The lines between military and civilians had blurred nearly beyond recognition. People simply emphasized more on one facet than the other at any one time, and the only thing that would signal that emphasis was a change of uniform.
Time ebbed and flowed with the days. In the varying points of time in a day, perhaps twice or thrice, the sun shone through the crystalline ring and displayed beauty in every color that a Suragaan or Behraanese alike might cherish--and every color that an Oasiian such as Rose could see that those others could not.
War did not return for a time. At first, only that sun, those rainbows and those stars would visit day by day over the Shelf.
Perhaps seven days after the last shot was fired, those that would seek protection or trade poured in and out of the grand gates of Nywan, from that winding path that once posed more harm than help to the Skyreign crew.
Once the supplies were available to them to make proper repairs, and refit numerous worn, decayed or irreparable parts, Rose left the repair work to Ejjar, the only one who could properly fix it—and Darrick, the only one who could properly fly it. Olsein surfaced a little more and did what he could to assist the two, mostly by hauling in new parts via a hovering barge granted by the Nywanese Military, to which the crew’s new loyalties were founded. Then, when his part was done, he would recede once more into the depths of the domes.
This alleviation of tasks gave Rose the time needed to reminisce the many years since she saw her foster mother. Almost half a century had passed since the two had seen one another. The numerous things spoken between the two were words between mother and daughter, and were unanimously left that way.
Naturally, for good measure, the two only spoke in the array languages they were both comfortable in, not Nywanese nor Behraanese.
She also found the time to properly teach the crew to get more than just the basics of the native tongue. Instead of a dialogue as simple as a hello and a gesture of gratitude, they were taught to speak of the land, the weather, the stars, the people, wishes, fears, and most importantly, their hearts.
Darrick had some difficulty grasping the syntax, and couldn’t handle the accent that softened on the R’s and stiffened on the K’s, rolled from one word to another when inquisitive, and was fiercely partitioned syllable for syllable when imperative, regardless the emotion conveyed in the speech.
Ejjar learned the language his own way, the slang in his speech strangely suiting to the nuances and protrusions of the language.
Laura, one who embraced everything as information to be consumed, also consumed the language just as technically. She spoke slowly, thinking well before she would construct a sentence—which in fact made her seem far more polite in Nywanese than she ever was in Behraanese. It was strange to her, but over time, she actually enjoyed the Nywanese tongue more than her native one.
Olsein, the oldest of them all, picked the language up within three days, and having learned everything he needed to know in his own mind, no longer attended Rose’s lessons.
Grace found the language very similar to her own on Kelvik, and as such grasped the tongue with little difficulty. As with any language she spoke, she always turned every single word into one of beauty--beauty commonly found in a carefully tended garden of all vibrant variety of roses, carnations, lilies and violets. She only spoke in honest kindnesses to other, even if at times that kindness came in the form of cruelty.
Sam, the most attentive of them all, also learned the language the slowest. It certainly was not for a lack of trying, as he took notes on his data pad, asked questions and truly tried to get it. It was as if he simply wasn’t meant to learn the words, or that he wasn’t of the personality to learn new languages. He was intelligent, and Rose knew it—just in other ways.
Rose did, however, take some comfort in that he already made more friends in Nywan than any of the rest, and clearly had no need to learn. Words were but one method of speaking, compared to the numerous others available between two or more sentient beings.
Three months passed, and the days became longer. Hotter. Drier. Yet even so, the Nywanese living within the Giants did not yield. In fact, they walked outside more; they came out of their houses, or stopped their vehicles, when the sun shone through the crystals; they traded their goods, being food, parts, a skill; they greeted those coming, and celebrated for those who would leave upon another journey, wishing them either a swift and safe journey, or a safe return.
They became more alive somehow.
As the Skyreign crew spent time there, either working on the ship or exploring, speaking to other citizens and learning something, they began to adorn the tans expected of any desert folk. They began to blend in with the people around them.
Much more than this: they began to forget they ever came from other planets.
And, for a time, Laura never slept so soundly.