A fierce wind whipped up by the landing drop ship blew sand about in a frenzy as a small platoon of soldiers and four hooded figures leapt onto the beach. As the soldiers arranged themselves into perfect rows one of the robed beings leapt onto a nearby fallen log to address them, hands clasped and head bowed.
Sanarai, or Syn as she had chosen to be called since her arrival in Sadowan space, kept her dismay to herself as she observed her charges through lowered eyes. Though by no means the oldest of the group, she had been designated the leader and now felt all too responsible for them.The reality of the situation was that her group was altogether too inexperienced, and that posed a threat to their survival.
If only I hadn’t wandered into the depths of Antei’s ruins, she thought bitterly. If only…if only…
What she’d found on what was left of Antei she would never be able to forget, and sometimes the image of a skeletal Bpfasshi with a mouth half-opened in a silent scream would haunt her dreams.
A year previously a Sadowan by the name of Syntari Bastiayn had vanished with no explanation, having delved so far into her own insanity that she was left as nothing more than a shell upon her death. Quite by accident her Force-ghost had imprinted itself upon Sanarai when she’d gotten lost in the ruins on Antei, and when finally she had found the Brotherhood it had been Syntari’s memory who had given the Kiffar her new name.
Now, several months later, Syn found herself infected with hallucinations of the deceased Sadowan’s past that interfered with her reality; it troubled her to know that if she did suffer an attack from the ghost there wouldn’t be anything she could do to stop it.
Still, she was reluctant to put an end to it, for if she did she knew she would be left with the grief of her son’s murder and Syn knew she was not prepared to face that. In fact, had she not been placed in charge of a team of inexperienced initiates, she would have been content to deal with the problem that the Other, as she called the Force-ghost, represented.
Unfortunately things had changed. It made sense, of course, to place the highest ranking member of the team in charge, and as a Krath Priestess the responsibility naturally fell to Syn. As a member of Devil’s Shroud she was already under obligation to be here, yet she felt too broken to be saddled with this much.
Though by no means the oldest of the group, Syn couldn’t help but think of her team as young as she looked at them. She had to remind herself that she was barely twenty-six standard years of age.
I should not feel so ancient.
The problem lay in their inexperience. In Syn’s opinion, they were too eager to die for rewards promised but as of yet unseen.
Despite their vulnerability as targets, there was no doubt in the Krath Priestess’s mind that they would all return from this mission alive. The three Sadowans before her were a part of her House; they were her family now, and she wanted them to succeed.
How else can they hope to raise through the ranks of the Brotherhood if they aren’t willing to sacrifice themselves?
She allowed a few moments to pass in silence, merely taking stock. It didn’t escape her attention that the cocky smile the Anzat flashed her way wasn’t just a cover up, or that the most aloof of them all was the silent, hooded Echani, or that on the Bpfasshi’s hip there hung a katana that looked extremely well-used and well made.
The irony that there was a Bpfasshi on her team didn’t escape her, and it amused the Other to no end. Syntari Bastiayn had been a Bpfasshi as well.
Now isn’t the time for that. She shook her head and the Other retreated as she cleared her throat; she knew enough about their ambitions to make an educated guess about where their loyalties lay. There was no need to doubt them.
They have names, she chastised herself when she realized how impersonal she’d been. Tellos, Darkblade, Scarlet. They are more than just the dossier numbers on your datapad.
Aware that the silence had grown uncomfortable, Syn cleared her throat and raised her head to finally look at them with her mismatched eyes. “You all should have received my message,” she said, her voice loud enough to carry clearly despite the wind. “I will watch over you as I can, but that only extends so far. If you get yourself killed, that’s on you.”
Memories that belonged to the Other surfaced with no warning, infecting her thoughts, and for a moment Syn watched through the eyes of the deranged ex-Sadowan as countless initiates lost their lives in the last War.
They don’t need to know that I won’t let them die.