The Starborn Knight: Part VI

Shekaree, Chevalier

One month ago — August 2016

After three earth years of trying to get me to come to the village with her, I finally agreed to follow Sikara into town. Everything in the human’s settlement was different from ours; the roads went as they pleased with no logical organization, the buildings were also haphazard with service establishment mixed among the housing, there was no central square or clear delimitation of districts. How humans could live in such chaos, I didn’t know.

Come on, we’re almost there.” Sikara declared as we walked through the town. Somehow she’d made sense of the chaos.

I was keenly aware of the stares of the humans as we moved around, Sikara and I’s hands laced together. One of the thing I’d learned about them was that they did not tolerate mates of the same gender.

Here we are!” She declared as we stopped in front of a building. The sign above said ‘La republicana tapas.’

At Sikara’s insistence, I had learned some of the humans’ languages, it had helped delay going out, as I learned but now that I spoke spanish well, she hadn’t taken no for an answer anymore.

A mess hall?

“Un restaurante” She corrected me in Spanish. “Mi favorito en el pueblo.” Her favorite restaurant in the village.

I thought we were meeting some humans.

“Si, pero más tarde.”

Later, fine. Now you can drop the spanish, I don’t need more practice.”

If you say so.

We went inside and a human female servant guided us to a table before taking our order. I let Sikara pick the food, not being familiar with human dishes or ingredients. I couldn’t stop myself staring at the human’s chest and the way its breast poked from under its clothes.

Shekaree?” Sikara asked once the servant turned away.

How do humans babies even drink milk?” I asked in a whisper. “Their teats are so big…

She burst out laughing at my comment. “They don’t have massive teats, Shekaree, they’re just like ours. They just have fatty tissue underneath.

Are you sure?

Very sure. You could say I’ve verified it myself with the help of a friend.

My ears folded back at the thought of her having been with a human… The food we’d ordered came only a moment later, composed of many small plates which the human servant placed down on our table along with utensils.

Although the other patrons tried to be quiet, I could hear them talking about us. I let out a growl at one of their word. “Damn space pigs shouldn’t be allowed here.” it said in spanish.

Ignore them.” Sikara ordered, putting a hand on mine. “They’re not worth our time.

I did my best to do it, focusing on the food. Some preparations were akin to our foods, such as sausages, fritters or stuffed pastries, but the tastes weren’t what I expected, being different ingredients. Once our meal was done, I thanked the servant who’d brought it to us and began walking for the door only for Sikara to take my hand and stop me.

Shekaree, wait.” She said.

What is it?

We haven’t paid yet.

Paid?

Compensated them for the meal.

We have to do that?” I blinked.

“Lo siento señora, mi amiga es nuevo.” She said, apologizing to the human. She opened her bag and took out some thin but long polymer strips, counting a few and giving them to the human. “Gracias.”

She came back to me and took my hand, leaving the establishment.

In the human world, you need to compensate establishments for their service. Humans receive money in exchange for their work and they trade it for services.

That seems very complicated for nothing.” I frowned. In our culture, we didn’t use money, services like mess halls or clothing were provided for free with the understanding that people contributed to society in exchange. “Where did you get that money?

I traded for it.” Was all she said.

We walked out of the restaurant and she guided us out of town, but in a different direction from our camp. Instead we found our way into a small valley in the hills where a few humans were waiting for us. They got up and greeted Sikara who introduced me, I stayed back, only listening to their conversation.

One of them, Migel, was late and supposed to bring the equipment, whatever that meant…

A few minutes later an old beaten truck  drove down the path and stopped a few feet from us. A few more humans got out of it.

“Hola Kara!” One of them shouted. I turned around and saw it was in full armor, a weapon in its hand. It raised the weapon, aiming for Sikara.

My heart stopped, it was as I’d feared. I didn’t think and rushing in. Before he could fire, I was on top of it savaging with my fists.

“Karee!” Sikara screamed.

“Migel!” The other screamed.

Someone tried to pull me off and I roared at them, ready to fight until I saw who it was; Sikara herself.

Stop it!” She begged and I did. “Why…

It had a weapon.

She leaned down and grabbed the human’s weapon, levelling it at me and firing. The projectile that had hit my belly lightly pinched but that was it. A few splotches of blue paint now stained my outfit.

It’s a toy! He was going to show me how to play with them.

I…” I muttered frozen. “I didn’t know…

Her lips parted about to say something but I didn’t listen, instead running away. She called out for me but I kept running. I didn’t stop until I reached our camp and was back in our room. I crumbled down on the ground, shaking…

What had I done?

My claws were still stained red with the alien’s blood.

I don’t know how long I stayed there, but eventually the door opened, Sikara coming through.

Miguel will be okay.” She said. “He will need surgery and will have scars but he’ll be well.

I’m sorry.” I answered, tears dripping down my face.

She offered me a hand and I took it. The dried blood caked on my claws contrasting with the pristine ivory tone of hers. The moment I was back on my feet, she wrapped her arms tightly around my torso.

I’ve told master Kiorga what happened and we both agree you need help.”

“It—”

She put a claw on my mouth.

Shekaree, you’re afraid of them. You constantly think the worst will happen, but humans aren’t our enemies anymore, the war is long over and this is our world now… I can’t count the number of times I knew you snuck out at night to stand watch on the wall, you think I don’t know, but I’ve known about the knife you keep hidden in our bed… I’ve heard you speaking in your nightmares.

I didn’t answer her.

I’ve been trying to help you, but it’s not working.” She said her ears folding in shame.

There was a knock at the door and I looked up. Master Kiorga stood in the doorway. I got up and she came toward me, giving me a tight hug.

I’m sorry, I did wrong and as your apprentice, I stained your honor.” I removed her emblem pin from my collar and handed  it to her. She however closed my hand tightly around it with her own.

Shekaree, stop. What you did was wrong, but it’s because you’re still hurt.” There was a pause and I stared at the ground. “I talked with the head chaplain and we both agree you need help we can’t provide.” The chaplains were responsible for the mental and spiritual well being of the empire’s citizen.

What does that mean?

You’ll be leaving, there is a place I believe could help you. You’ll be among powered humans, you’ll live with them, study with them and train with them.

She was getting rid of me, I knew it… Sending me away like those who had contested her rule and challenged the order of the camp.

I—” I began but the interrupted me.

It’s for the best. This is not an exile, we are not abandoning you, you will still be my apprentice. You will be free to come back when you can.

When do I leave?

At the start of the next human month.

Very well.

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The Starborn Knight: Part III

Shekaree, Chevalier

Four years ago — June 2012

Sometimes later, I woke up in a tiny cell, only a few steps across in width. I didn’t know where I was, I couldn’t see anything outside as the only entrance was barred by a heavy metal door. The aliens had taken the time to strip me as I no longer wore my apprentice’s uniform, instead they’d dressed me into some loose orange one-piece outfit.

I spent a few minutes trying to remember everything that had happened and take the layout of my cell, which featured two devices I wasn’t familiar with, although I guessed they were to obtain water and dispose of body wastes, and a mattress I was lying on…

“Oh my god, she’s awake.” I heard an alien say in its language just beyond my door, the sound muffled but clear enough that I could hear it. Still I came closer to the door and set my ear against it. “Jeez. How long has it been, Two days?”

“She must be starving. Dave, get us something for her.” Another alien said.

“What is she doing?”

“Obviously she’s trying to listen. Now go get the food.”

“Oh man, why do I always have to make the run?”

“It’s called I outrank your ass. Now skedaddle.”

I heard one of the alien run away, its position given away by the drumming of its feet against what had to be metal tiles. A few minutes later the alien returned and I heard the mechanism of the door open so I retreated to the corner of the room, looking for a weapon, but I couldn’t find anything. The only thing I stood a chance of moving was the mattress I’d woken up on.

Two aliens came into my cell, wearing heavy armor on their body. Their faces were left visible behind clear helmets. One of them held a large baton while the other had a tray in its arms. They carefully advanced a few steps into the room and the tray carrying alien set it down on the floor before sliding it toward me. Although I didn’t recognize the content of the tray, the smell of it had my stomach growling within seconds. I wasn’t sure when I’d last eaten anything…

Hesitantly I sat beside the tray and my captors seemed pleased. On it was some strange white paste, something I presumed was a slice of grilled meat, orange-colored disks, tiny mushy-looking green balls and a sealed cup of white goop. Everything except the cup had this brown liquid dousing it.

“It’s food.” One of the alien told me.

I didn’t know their language but I wasn’t stupid and knew he wanted me to eat it. As strange and unappetizing as it looked, I was starving… I dipped a finger in the white mush and brought it closer to my face, smelling it. I brought it to my lips and tasted the mixture, licking it off my finger. It was odd, but edible.

I was about to try something else when I saw my captors’ expressions, satisfied grins. The hunger faded away. Replaced with disgust. I was doing what they wanted… Doing what the ones who’d murdered master Iren wanted.

So I grabbed the tray and threw it at them. Growling in defiance. I tried to advance but the alien with the stick poked me with it and I fell down, feeling a shock through my whole body which gave them the time to escape and close the door.

Through the few next days — or so I assumed, I couldn’t tell the time within my cell — The aliens kept bringing more food but every time I refused to even touch it. Sure, my stomach hurt from hunger and every hour was like torture, but at least I took comfort in knowing that the aliens couldn’t break me. Even in their captivity I was in control, I was a Tzari, I wasn’t going to stop fighting, no matter how it meant I had to.

One day I woke up to the sound of the door opening. But this time it wasn’t the aliens who came through the door. Rather another Tzari did. Although she didn’t wear her armor, I recognized her, having met her before on the Tzari flagship.

Lord Kiorga.” I painfully brought myself to stand and kneeled before her. “Have the aliens captured you too?

Stand up apprentice.” She said and I obeyed, although in my state I couldn’t stand straight. Thankfully she caught me before I fell. “What is your name?

Shekaree, daughter of Kirath of clan Izret.

The Humans tell me you haven’t been eating. Why?”

I refuse to bow down to the enemy. I said, snarling reflexively. “Apologies, I didn’t mean to be rude my lord.

Shekaree, the Humans aren’t our enemy anymore… The war is over.

But…

The fleet has retreated back to Resh.

We lost?

In a way… The dishonorable actions of High Lord Kuthal forced me to assume the position of high lord and I had to order the fleet and the remaining warriors to leave.

But we’re still here.

I’m sorry, I didn’t know of your presence in the human’s captivity until after the fleet departed. There are a few thousands of us who couldn’t make it back. I chose to remain behind to account for the actions of our kind.

What will happen to us?

For now, we’ll get you out of this cell and feed you. You’ll need all your strength for the trials ahead.

She turned toward the exit, which had been left open, and together we walked out of the cell. Although the alien guards were around, they didn’t react to us leaving. I didn’t understand why, but I went along with lord Kiorga. One of the alien guided us into a large room full of tables which I assumed was some form of mess hall.

Kiorga sat me down on one of the table before leaving to fetch food. She came back carrying a tray filled with alien foods and set it down before me.

Don’t worry, the food of Earth is safe for us to eat.” She said.

“Earth?”

It’s what some of the aliens call this world. They call themselves humans. One of them has been teaching me some of their words.

I nodded and with some initial reluctance dug into the food she’s given me. Although it was all so strange, I didn’t mind. I shoved it all down my mouth until the whole tray was clean.

Glad to see you didn’t lose your appetite.

Lord Kiorga, may I ask a question?”

“Of course.”

What will happen to me? I’ve lost my master… And we can’t go home…

I know our circumstances are not ideal, but if you’ll allow me, I’d like to take you as my own apprentice. There are many of us stranded on this world, they’ll need direction.

You’ll take me as your apprentice?

I’ll need someone at my side in the coming days and you have the fight within you that I need. Even if it could have been channelled a little less self-destructively. Will you be my apprentice?”

“Yes.” I got up and then back onto my knees, which had her smile. “Before the ancestors, I pledge my life and service onto you. I swear by my ancestors to be faithful, loyal and honorable in deed and words to you Master Kiorga.”

She got up, leaned down and kissed my head. “Shekaree, daughter of Kirath of clan Izret, I accept you as my apprentice. I swear before the ancestor to shelter you, to care for you and to teach you the way of our people so that you may one day stand among us as one of the lords. Now rise, apprentice.

As she commanded, I got up to my feet and faced her.

There is much work ahead of us. We better get started.

Yes master.” I said, bringing my fist to my chest.

The Starborn Knight: Part II

Shekaree, Chevalier

Four years ago — June 2012

It didn’t take long on the alien’s world for us to encounter the first sign of resistance. Thankfully the aliens were no match for us, their technology still relying on primitive chemical payload to propel metallic projectiles.

Master Iren and I however remained largely away from the worst of the engagements, although lords were formidable opponents, our duty was to oversee the operation on the regional scale and ensure the different corps were working together.

On the third day, we were on our way to meet with an assault division within one of the aliens’ cities when I heard a loud buzzing coming from around us.

What’s that sound?” I asked.

Drones. We should take cover before it sees us. There might be more.” Master Iren said.

Immediately one of the warriors following us opened the entrance of one of the nearby buildings and we took cover. It was some kind of mess hall, with tables all over and a large counter on one end.

Although the others remained on guard, curiosity got the better of me and I explored the area. In a corner I found a stack of plastified sheets which were covered in scribbles I didn’t know how to decypher along with pictures of meals. I continued my look around and stepped into another room at the back, this one holding equipment which I assumed served to prepare meals. I examined everything, some items were alien in designs but others similar enough to what we used on Resh. My search however was interrupted by a loud yell.

“Alien Scum!”

I turned around and saw one of the aliens, screaming at me as he held a weapon. I hadn’t seen him and somehow he’d sneaked up on me, seeing one so closely for the first time, I froze and he levelled the weapon at me and he was about to fire when Master Iren came to the rescue, slicing the alien’s arm off with his photonic saber before stabbing it in the chest.

Shekaree are you alright?

Yes Master.

He let out a breath of relief and put his gloved hand on my head.

“You had me worried there. Stay close to me and get your weapon out, there might be more.”

I nodded and took out my plasma handgun. I looked at the ground where the dead alien lied and once more curiosity got the better of me. I picked up his weapon and examined it. It was a simple design; when the trigger was pressed a pin would activate the cartridge.

Master?

What is it?

This weapon only holds one cartridge… He had to have heard there were many of us, why did he attack, he couldn’t have possibly won…

Maybe it was scared, it didn’t think straight.

I nodded and took the words in. I looked around and noticed a door that hadn’t been open when I’d first come in, leading to a large metal box, which now hung partially open. I notified one of the warriors and we investigated quickly.

A cry alerted us and at once both the warrior and I raised our weapons at the potential danger. But that wasn’t what we found. There in the box was one of the aliens, a female by the looks of it, clutching one of their juvenile in its arms which it tried to keep silent. Red splotches on its outfit betrayed the presence of a wound. Unlike us Tzaries, the aliens bleed red… Had the alien attacked us to protect its family?

Lower your weapons, they’re non-combatants.” Master Iren ordered, coming up behind us.

The warrior and I obeyed my the order and Master Iren walked closer to the aliens, which caused the adult one to try to crawl away, even if it was in a dead end but it couldn’t, letting out an injured cry.

Healer!” He snapped and one of the warriors with us came forward. “Give me your nano spray.” The healer didn’t protest and handed over the spray which we used to seal wounds.

Master Iren approached the aliens but once more it try to move away, fear clear in its expression. But he slowly raised his hands, trying to appear non-threatening to the alien. Once it calmed down ever so slightly, he motioned to the blood, then to his ribs, then to the alien and then to the spray.

The alien seemed to understand as it didn’t react when he came a little closer. It even raised the side of its stained outfit and revealed the hole within her flesh which was covered with soaked bandages. I could tell it hadn’t been done by one of our weapons but rather by the aliens’ own primitive projectiles, victims of friendly fire… Master Iren applied the nano spray to the alien’s side, which likely helped her, although nothing was certain; the spray wasn’t made for aliens, but should have sealed the wound and sterilized it regardless.

We should go.” Master Iren said, solemnly once his operation was done.

What about the aliens?

We’ll leave them be.

I didn’t question his orders and left the kitchen of the alien building. A few minutes later we were given the all clear and left, resuming our route to meet with the 764th assault company.

Once our business concluded, Master Iren opted to camp with the 764th for the night, taking refuge in one of the buildings the 76th had secured for their operations. Although I tried to sleep, the event of the day kept playing through my mind on repeat… And how I’d failed given my first chance at real combat…

Master Iren, are you still awake?

What is it Shekaree?” He replied a moment later. I apparently wasn’t the only one who couldn’t find sleep…

I got up and went to his side, sitting down by his sleeping cot.

I’m sorry I froze earlier…” I said, looking down at the ground in shame.

It’s alright, these things happen.

But…

Shekaree you are the youngest apprentice on the battlefield, you’ve only had a few months of training before you were thrown into the Svren’s den. Many in your position would have panicked, ran away or disobeyed orders, but you haven’t.”

“You’ve done exceptionally well, I couldn’t have asked for a better apprentice.” He said, gently running his claws through my hair before bringing me closer against him. “Now we better catch some rest. We have to move at first light.” He extended his blanket over the two of us and closed his eyes. 

I laid against him, my head resting against the protective mesh of his under armor garment. I could feel his plates through the fabric. His body was warm and moved softly to the rhythm of his breathing. And I caught myself thinking of thoughts that weren’t appropriate… Of things improper for an apprentice to want of their master…

***

I was awoken by the crashing sound of thunder, my brain snapped awake and just outside the building we’d taken shelter in I saw an explosion of lights soon followed by screams. I shook my master awake, but he was already on alert. We hopped to our feet and began arming ourselves.

My master was only halfway armored up when the doors of our shelter exploded open. One of the aliens stepped through, dressed in a strange white and gold costume and wreathed in lightning. It was one of the aliens’ powered being.

Shekaree. Stay behind me.” Master Iren snarled, clutching his weapon.

My heart started beating faster than ever and what then happened did so simultaneous mind bogglingly fast and yet horrifyingly slow… The Alien charged at us, only to be intercepted by my master, using his blade to keep it at bay. But that didn’t work as lightning erupted from the alien’s fingers and struck the blade, which exploded in Master Iren’s hand. He didn’t have time to recover that the alien punched him, sending him flying away to crash against the wall.

“Master!” I screamed rushing to his side.

But I didn’t reach him before another streak of lightning hit him. Soon followed by the smell of burning flesh… Around him the ground had been blackened only to be then stained by the green tint of his blood… When I reached him only a second later, he wasn’t moving and I couldn’t hear his breath either…

“Master…”

A shadow formed over me and I looked up, seeing the thunder-alien standing above me with its towering height. I didn’t think. I took out my knife and aimed at his guts, only for the blade to harmlessly slide over it. It answered with a backhanded strike which sent me down on my back. It readied another charge of its lightning and I closed my eyes, muttering a prayer to the ancestors. I knew I was about to die and that there was nothing I could do about it…

The lightning bolt never hit me although the thundering clap of it did. I opened my eye only to see another of the aliens, standing between the thunder-alien and I, a shimmering barrier between the two of us.

“Mais putain Thunder, C’est juste un enfant!” The alien who’d saved me said in its language.

“I don’t fucking speak French, mate.” The thunder-powered alien answered.

I didn’t know what they were saying. I knew I had to do something, but I couldn’t think of anything, as my body just froze once more… beside had I done anything, I’d have been fried by the thunder-alien…

Another alien came toward me, this one in an indigo colored suit. She raised a hand toward me. I tried to resist but found my body numb.

“I’m sorry, child. You shouldn’t have been involved in this…” It said. “But for now, just sleep.”

My eyes felt heavy and I couldn’t keep them open. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for everything to go blank in my mind.

The Starborn Knight: Part I

Shekaree, Chevalier

Four years ago — June 2012

One moment I was in the sky over Resh, trying to resist the urge to panic as the hypersleep chamber filled with liquid as my consciousness slowly drifted away and the next, I was was waking up covered in sticky residue, my entire body feeling numb and taking my first breath in only the ancestors knew how long.

In what had felt like a split second, I’d traversed hundreds of light years, a journey that had taken us half a Reshi year.

I tried to open my eyes but they were covered in the same filth as the rest of my body. It took forever to wipe it off, my limbs still being dull after having spent so long in hypersleep. As soon as I was done, the door of my chamber opened, producing a whistling sound as the pressure was relieved.

“It’s time to rise, apprentice.” Master Iren said, gripping the handle of the chamber to stabilize himself. The Hypersleep compartment didn’t feature gravity, it wasn’t like we needed it.

“Are we there?” I asked, my throat feeling dry.

“Almost. The armada will arrive in a few days. We’re now beginning the last stage of the mission.” My master gave me a hand, not that I needed it to get up in this weightlessness. Still I took it and got out of my chamber.

Around us in the cylindrical module, hundreds of other chambers were lined up on every bit of available surface. Technicians hurried about, waking up the other warriors.

In a few days, we’d arrive on the alien’s planet. It didn’t really have a name; the aliens had never unified and were still fragmented into thousands of people who conflicted with each other. The same had been true for the Tzari long ago. Until the immortal Raskhan had showed us the way and unified us, taught us the way of Ren-Ta, the way of unity, duty and honor.

It was our mission to bring the Ren-Ta to the aliens, show them a better way. Of course we knew they wouldn’t accept easily, their leader would never renege their power. And so we had come prepared to force them.

“How do you feel?” My master asked.

“Like I haven’t eaten in half a year.”

My comment made my Master let out a snorting laugh.

“We better feed you then. I can’t have my apprentice starve. What will the other lords think of me?”

He went toward the module’s exit and I followed him. Just like I’d been taught, I propelled myself across the microgravity module with my legs, arriving close enough to the exit I only had to climb a few handle to reach it. Changing from microgravity to Reshi gravity is an odd sensation. One second you are floating, the next something pushes you down and you fall. Master Iren however seemed amused at my less than graceful recovery. Together, we headed straight for the mess hall where the servants were already working hard to feed the crew. We entered the line and soon enough received our meal.

“Thank you for your service.” I said to the servant, putting a fist over my chest, much to Master Iren’s approval.

One of the first lesson he’d taught me was that a warrior was nothing without the farmer that feed him, the craftsman who forged his weapon or the servant who gave him the time to train.

“Do you believe yourself ready for the mission?” Master Iren said as we ate.

“Yes, master.”

“Courage is remarkable, but remember not to get over yourself. Stay by my side at all time and only take an initiative of your own as a last resort. Glory is for the ancestors, not the living.”

I nodded, taking the lesson in.

“What’s the alien’s planet like?” I asked.

“It’s different. Much more hospitable than Resh. The years are much shorter, there’s so much more water, about seventy percent of their world is covered by it. But the seasons are strong, in many places, it snows during the cold season.”

Although Resh was our home, it was a harsh place to live; dry and hot with the cold season the only time when the outside was nice. Unlike the alien’s planet, on Resh it only snowed at the poles.

The locals are also interesting…” He then mused. “They look rather like us in a way. Or like over grown newborns.”

I’d seen pictures of the aliens; they were tzarinoids; bipedal mammals with some hair. However unlike us, they had no plates to protect them, their skin being smooth all over.

“The information core showed us some of their entertainment, it was rather odd. It was a silent piece with music where an actor played tricks on passer-bys.”

I frowned. I didn’t get how harassing others was entertainment.

“Why do they still war with each other?”

“Because they haven’t learned a better way than the one they know now. Remember that it took the Tzari centuries to unify. I believe that given time, they would naturally unify.”

“But then why are we going?”

Master Iren went silent for a moment.

“Well, if we can show them a better way now, then we can avert the many years of horrors it would take for them to learn on their own.”

I wasn’t really convinced but I didn’t get the chance to question it as a messenger arrived, telling us we were needed in the war-room soon. We quickly finished our meals and then hurried to our quarters.

Being on a ship, we didn’t have the usual accommodations, our quarters being minimal. Most of it was intended for my master’s use, with only a small nook for me to sleep in. Still, I didn’t mind, before I’d been selected as Master Iren’s apprentice, I’d lived with my family in sector 22-7, in a tiny lodging above my parent’s workshop along with my siblings.

My master’s armor awaited him in it’s display, still clean and intact like I’d last seen it. Just like I’d been taught, I helped him don his armor. A lord’s armor was their only true possession; wonders of technology that were passed down from master to apprentice, begin retrofitted every generation so they would remain the best one could have. With it and the genetic enhancements given to a Lord, they could fight a small army and prevail.

It wasn’t that the armor was hard to put on, but it was an apprentice’s duty to help their master don it as well as clean their quarters. An old tradition remaining from even before the time of the Supreme Lord Raskhan, which was meant to teach humility. Once he was armored, it was my turn to get dressed. As an apprentice, my equipment was far less complex; a simple gray protective suit that symbolized my position.

“How do I look?” I asked, turning around so he could see.

“Your hair is a mess.” He said seriously. “I can’t have my apprentice look unkempt.”

I let out an annoyed growl but sat down on the nearest chair. My master combing my hair before tying it into a thick braid that reached the middle of my back. Master Iren was very pointy on the importance of appearances, sometimes spending hours grooming, time I would have preferred spent training, but he was my master and I had to obey him. When that was done, we hurried about to the command deck.

The war-room was tense, all officers gathered up there. I recognized several of the lords; such as Kiorga, Ruathan, Vitak, Krenru and high lord Kuthal along with a few others I didn’t recognize. Some of them even had apprentices, standing at the ready just behind them. It was our job to help our masters however they required us to and in exchange they taught us the way of Ren-Ta and of command, so we would one day be lords ourselves.

“Finally lord Iren, you’ve done us the pleasure of your presence.” Lord Vitak said, snarling his displeasure.

“Apologies, my apprentice and I had urgent matters to attend to.”

“More urgent than our mission?”

“Enough.” High Lord Kuthal snapped, calling everyone to order. “Let’s proceed with the briefing. There have been some last minute changes we have to discuss.”

The meeting went on for quite a while, detailing which lord was responsible for what, what the troop allocation were, strategic targets and the opposition we’d face. The aliens were strange; some of them possessing powers beyond our understanding, which would make them dangerous foes, but worthy allies once they assimilated into the Tzari empire.

“Force Xa will be commanded by Lord Iren and will land here.” High Lord Kuthal said, pointing at a peninsula surrounded by the ocean on most side. “The locals call it ‘España’ you will be in charge of pressing the assault north-east through this nation.” He then pointed at the nearby nation, called France which held several key military targets we had to disable.

The briefing eventually came to an end and we were dismissed. My master taking me to train for the coming days like he’d done for half a year before we’d begun the journey. We were heading to war and I’d have to handle myself to survive…

And so, eight days later, I was in a dropship heading to the ground. The whole thing shook at it hit the planet’s atmosphere and my heart beat like crazy. I tried my best not to show fear, It wasn’t proper for someone of my station to do so…

Still, I was terrified of going in and out of space. Of being powerless while another had your life in their hand.

I felt Master Iren’s hand grab mine, holding on strongly so I’d knew he was there. Inside, I felt ashamed that he’d seen my fear.

“May your ancestors watch over you.” He said, reciting the traditional warrior’s blessing.

“May yours do as well.” I answered, feeling the dread building up in my guts.

I closed my eyes and muttered every prayer I’d ever memorized, pleading the ancestors to watch over me during my baptism of blood. A few minutes later, the ship stopped, producing a loud ‘thunk’ as it did. The ramp lowered and the first of the troopers sprang to action.

That was it; we were on another world.