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Foreign Travel; Foreign Aid

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faunus

 

On the eastern side of the Ranthus River, through the drier part of the marshes along the banks a young man slowly made his way. Such a wilderness would be considered pure lunacy by way of any others who dared a chance to travel alone, but by his duty and class scheduling, he was obligated to take this trek on. Solely for the experience of being an emissary to a foreign land, Faunus hoofed his way through mountains and long-stretching deserts to find his way so far gone from Terrenus that the people here spoke a totally different dialect. The twang of a new world was upon him.

 

Fishing through the marshes, Faunus readied a spear overhead. Narrowed eyes and a tight grip upon the haft left little wake in the shallows beneath his feet as he threw out the barbed spear and stuck the fish through its side without a second splash. A clean in and out, and the fish wobbled wildly on the end of the stick and he stepped back out and beneath the shade of a bushy, stout palm.

 

His boots rested upon his rucksack that seemed to travel with him everywhere. His life was in the bag. Pants rolled up to his knees and a sleeveless ivory tunic fought off the desert sun overhead as he plopped down and began to filet the fish he'd just caught, tossing the bones into the waters next to him, and slicing off pieces of fish and gobbling them up. Slimey, yet full of protein and good flavor from such a fresh river.

 

Just across the water's edge, he watched the city of Morgana. A desert establishment. Bustling with life from all sides, but what Faunus spied was the outpost right on edge of the river, just due-west of him with two men coming across on a makeshift log ferry. He posed no threat, while eating a salty meal.

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The cadet waved with a fish in hand as the men landed ashore on his side and approached. One with a bow in hand and the other a blade on him, neither seemed threatening enough and marshed cautiously up the muddy hill to where the young man sat. 

"Gentlemen. Would you care for a slice of fish?"

The pair paused. One man shook his head and the other lofted a curious brow, taking a glance to his partner before nodding softly, "I talk a bite, sonny. What's your name?"

His partner offered a nudge, and as Faun sliced off a piece of fish for the man, he scowled and ribbed his partner back, "I missed my lunch break, oyie. Lay off."

 

The slice was handed up on the end of the filet knife and he humbly took it, raising it as a salute before snarfing it down and Faunus offered a handsome smile, "I'm Faunus. Faunus Marshall, of the Cadet Recruiting Academy in Terrenus."

"Terrenus?!" The man exclaimed, pausing with a mouthful of fish. His partner picked up where he'd left off.

 

"Boy! How did you get all the way out here alone, if you're from Terrenus? There's dangers in these sands! The likes of which a youth like you should not face alone!"

Faunus chuckled, slicing off another sliver of fish and taking a chew from the end of the blade before pointing to the west, "I walked from that direction. I've been in the sands for about two solid days."

The two men turned to one another, blinking. "You ... walked?"

 

"I walk everywhere. Horses are weak and not dependable. And airships and bikes are expensive. I don't rely on anything but myself. Money is no object when you can live off the land." Faunus sliced off another piece and offered it to the stunned guard who nodded slowly, totally blown away by the crazy-talk from the young man, but graciously took the next sliver of fish and stuffed it in his mouth.

"What brings you out this way?"

 

"An emissary class." Faunus said shortly.

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"What sort of cadet are you that you can make your way across these horrible lands?"

"Man, I wouldn't last a day out there... not with our troubles." The second guard sighed.

 

Faunus had tossed the spine of the fish into the waters to his right and began rolling down his pant legs as he answered the guards questions with polite reserve. Being an emissary to a foreign land took tact. Tact he understood, but the fear of divulging too much information to make him sound phoney is what he was worried about. Surely he had nothing in the way of falsehood in his voice or demeanor, as he was under the tutelage of a Holy Swordsman.

 

"Well. Advanced, you could say. I'm studying to be an Ark Knight beneath Major Jerrod Randall, the Holy Knight. In my studies though, I am to take a burden and quest upon myself to show justice and honor to a foreign nation. I'd read up on the maps of Genesaris and found that such a place like Morgana could be a grand place to begin an academy with the terrain features you possess for rudimentary challenges for our student body."

The pair seemed interested and baffled by this all at the same time. Obviously they didn't know who Randall was, and why should they? They were hundreds of miles from the Academy, but the look of curiosity upon their faces left a smile on the corner of Faunus' lips.

 

"I don't know anything about your academy, but our boss and one of the gate captains knows a lot about Terrenus and might know more about your teacher."

"He might also give him the desert task..." The second guard looked to the first, who threw another elbow at him.

"He's just a kid!"

 

"A kid that just traveled a week to find Morgana from Terrenus. Alone. With them out there already..."

 

Faunus seemed confused by this, but in the stint of the conversation, he'd dusted and dried off his feet, socked and booted them and was standing, gearing himself back up with lofted brows, "What are you two going on about?"

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"Nothing, nothing. Let's take him to see Felnor."

"Alright then... but when he sees this kid and hears this tale..."

"Don't say a damn thing. You let him be the judge. I'll not be the executioner of a boy."

 

Faunus paused a moment, listening to the curious inflections and tones that were passing between them before gathering a bit of hear-say details on his own and assuming that there was something far more troublesome about this area than just being an ambassador from a school.

 

The trio boarded the small skiff and rode it across the heavy stream with the help of a draw-rope and left the other side off of a small dock and up the hill. Waiting at the base of the outlook were three men, one more ornately dressed than his counterparts, and sternly tapping a foot upon the ground with a scowl upon his face as he stared at the roving guards moving up the hill.

 

"I come to check and you're away from your post?"

 

"Sir. We crossed Ranthus to pick this kid up from the desert..."

Felnor cocked his head slightly to the side to peer around a guard and spy young Faunus wielding a pack twice his width and a solid head above his own and blinked several times. Passing the pair with a dismissing hand, the captain strode up to the young man and put out a hand. In kind, it was gripped with a strength that told a different story than the one the man was cradling in his head and a wry smile peeled across his face.

 

"Impressive. Where are you from, son?"

 

"North of Patia, in Terrenus."

 

"Oh? The only thing that I know that is north of Patia is an Academy."

 

"The Cadet Academy."

 

"You're from the CRA?"

 

"I am, sir."

 

"What's your name?" Felnor asked.

 

"Faunus Marshall."

 

"Marshall? As in ..." He stared, narrowing his eyes slowly. "... General Sheila Marshall?"

 

A cord was struck and the young man's face turned away toward the ground. His mother. He hadn't seen or heard from her in over a year now and the subject was sore upon his tough exterior; a tender spot within the links of his armor. "My mother." He said, tersely.

 

"I see she leaves that taste with everyone, to include her own kin. So tell me, Faunus—how is Jerrod and Serge?"

 

The conversation took an immediately U-turn, which brought a smirk to Faun's face as it lifted once more. There wasn't a day that his mother wasn't on his mind, but that didn't mean he had to love her every day. She was the only family he had left. He had to love her. No one else surely could.

"They're well. The Captain was promoted to Major about six months back and the Sergeant Major is still a pain in everyone's ass."

"Haha! He always was. I am Felnor Collins, Gate Captain to Morgana. I studied with Serge a long, long time ago. A good friend and mentor at times. Come inside for a bit and talk with me?"

"I hope to repay your kindness." Faunus smiled and the six entered the outpost base level.

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The base of the outpost was more like a storage unit for military weaponry. Coats of chainmail and armor hung from various body-hooks and weapons stacked neatly against the walls, from spears and javelin types to crossbows and long bows with quivered stacks of arrows for sieging efforts. In the center was a round table and beyond that was a round stairwell that arose through the dusky interior, which smelled of musk and cedar, to the outlook overhead.

They seated at the table and Faunus unmounted the pack while the guards moved into various positions. The two he'd met moved up the stairs to reclaim their position while the pair that followed their captain took stances out of the way, against a wall to chat amongst themselves noticing that the pair had commonality to chat about and left them to a bit of peace.

 

Felnor removed a flask from the hook on the wall and poured two clean cups of water for he and Faunus and handed it to the boy. Who would turn down water in a desert? Certainly not he. The cup pulled to his lips and Faunus drank deep, enjoying the refreshing liquid with a soft coo. 

 

"So tell me, Faunus. What brings you out this far?"

 

"I'm gathering pieces, honestly." Faunus started, "Cap—Major Randall never mentioned you, so I'm assuming that his quest was to send me out this way and I'd figure out the rest with you as a guide rail. I'm on a personal quest for training, but also to enhance a class experience as an emissary to a foreign nation."

"Haha... and you picked Morgana?"

"Randall helped, honestly. I wanted Genesaris. He said this would be a challenge."

 

"Seems like you got in good with him. What are you studying?"

"Geomancy and Ark Knight, right now."

Felnor pushed back in his chair with both of his brows raised and a whistle escaped his lips. "Two classes? There's no way."

 

"I mastered Knight without ever attending the classes. I took a self-pushed class to the Gaian Academy for Adventuring. Fought a troll and goblins last year with only two other kids... and we survived." Faunus chuckled. Regardless of his skills and demeanor, the knight was still a young man at heart and talking to someone after not for weeks was a bit of an emotional, exciting verbal dump. "I still have scars to prove that. I mastered Samurai within six months and the Major's help."

 

"That's awesome. Ark Knight is a hard class. Will you take the Divine path that follows?"

 

"I'm not entirely sure yet. It will put me in a solid line for Holy Knight, for sure... but I feel like I need to be more rounded before I progress beyond Ark Knight. I don't want to regress, you know...? But I need a few other skills before I go any further."

 

"You're too smart for your own good, Faunus. I hate to say this, but your mother would be proud of you right now."

"I wouldn't know." Faunus sighed.

 

"I would." Felcor quickly responded.

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They'd talked for a while longer and had a bit more water before Felcor nodded slowly and chuckled, "So. I have a request of you. It's not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, I'm worried for my people and I'm even hesitant to talk to you about this, but if Randall trusts you and has trained you, I believe you are what we need. None of us are trained to take out a Suujali. They don't exist ... or rather, haven't existed in this region ever before."

 

Faunus' brows narrowed slowly and he leaned against the table with a concerned sound in his voice, "Suujali? There's no way they ever should have come this far? There's mountains between here and Terrenus—they'd have never passed through them. From what I know and have read about them, they've never even pushed beyond Hell's Gate, and I heard the Watchmen slaughter them like dogs, but not without mass casualties..."

 

"Exactly. You know already more than we do. They've been spotted here. Where you were at on the other side of the river. They don't ever seem to come over the water or even close to it, but they're pretty big."

 

"How big are we talking?" Faunus questioned curiously. 

 

"I can't be certain, but with the markers we've been placing on the other side during the day, I'd say about ten feet at the shoulder. Why?" Felcor questioned before leaning over his shoulder and waving to one of the men, "Go into town and seek Velius. Tell him I request his presence." 

"Sir." And the man left with haste.

 

"I ask because they have varied ranges and at ten feet at the shoulder, they're probably still juveniles. They get bigger... that or they're males, but it doesn't seem likely that a full grown male made his way out to your desert... it doesn't make sense. It doesn't add up."

 

"What do you mean, it doesn't add up?"

 

"Perhaps someone trapped them and brought them out here... does Morgana have enemies...?" Faunus prodded questioningly.

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Ten minutes later, Felnor was outside of the outpost edifice and Faunus remained inside, gathering himself and things that he would need in order to accomplish such a crazy task. Surely this is what he was sent to do; the reason he was here couldn't have been so obvious, right?

 

Cinching up the chitin armor from the landshark of last month and sliding on the pauldrons he'd created to offer a bit more protection amid the desert heat and vicious battle to come, Faun took a faint moment to examine his hand, stroking the Sunbrand upon his forehand. With a dagger at his hip, a hatchet in the back of his pants, and a set of stone nerves, Faunus exited the room and into the brilliant sunlight to find four men standing there.

 

Three he'd already met, to include Felnor and another man, with teal vibrant eyes and dusty blond hair. Faunus looked to him and the gaze was returned into his heterochromic eyes.

"So you're the one going after the Suujali alone? You think that wise?"

"I think the people of Morgana need help and I am willing to offer what I can. I'm Faunus Marshall." The young knight said, extending a hand. It was taken by a much larger hand and the man nodded slowly, "I see what you mean, Felnor. A very strong soul. I've been seeking aid to battle the Suujali, as I cannot do it myself. Not alone anyways, but I believe together we can take these beasts."

"What makes you so sure?" Faunus questioned straightly.

 

"Because I'm a retired Wasteland Border Patrol. Have you ever fought a Suujali and lived to talk about it later?"

Faunus knew immediately what the man was, what they did, and what they were capable of. He grinned an eager smile and nodded heavily, "I haven't, but I'd be honored to fight beside you."

"Elijah Velius, is the name. Felnor says you've got skills."

"I hope so..."

"Kid, this battle will fortify any experience you need for whatever classes you're currently in. You'll go back to Jerrod a master..."

 

elijah

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Across the river by way of ferry once more, they traveled alone into the desert. The Suujali would have to be sought early in the day, because by nightfall their advantage would landslide any hope of a victory by the darkness of their flesh. Even with the accolades the pair possessed, there would be no way to defeat a pair of desert death at night. It was considered impossible.

 

"How did you find yourself out in Morgana, Elijah?"

"Call me Eli."

 

"You can call me Faun."

 

"Alright. I suppose we can chat. Who knows how long we've got... a few hours out and we'll have to head back because there wont be any point to roam. I was apart of the Border patrol. Saw a lot of my friends slaughtered by Suujali and decided to get out. Pulled a job here and there in Terrenus, but nothing tickled my fancy to stick around."

 

"No family to keep you grounded?"

"Nope. You?"

"Not really. Got a mom, if you can call her that."

 

"I know General Marshall. I've had the pleasure at least twice. A cold woman. Surprising that she bore a child."

 

"You're tellin' me..." 

They laughed for a bit and walked quiet for a bit more before Elijah took the turn to initiate and looked over at the young man with a sense of pride and dignity about his traveling companion. "Felnor said you were training to be an Ark Knight. Is that right?"

"And Geomancer, yes. Those are my two classes right now."

 

"A pair is hard. I'm surprised Jerrod allowed that. He's a stickler for the rules."

 

"He's tough. Pushed hard for Samurai training. Finished that quick and moved onto these two classes. He said I wasn't a true Terran if I couldn't control the land beneath my feet. And I wasn't a real Knight unless I had formal training from a real Knight with advanced skills. So here I am. Dual classing."

 

"Hahah ... that sounds like Jerrod. We went to school together, he and I. I decided to take the less-paying route though and he took his skill and wanted to teach. I got out of Terran service and he stayed in. Perhaps I'll teach you a few things while we're out here."

 

"Oh yeah? Are you a knight?"

 

"I am. A master class Lune Knight..."

Faunus gawked.

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The heat raised off the sands, wavering across the crested, dusting hills and down through the valleys. Not a tree, water, or shade in sight, but the pair marched along without worry or care for the atmosphere. Faunus was exercising his control of the terrain to ensure their footing and bring about a light breeze around them, soaking up the faint moisture in the air and that from their own flesh to provide some semblance of air conditioning in such an arid climate.

 

"So let me get this straight; you and the Major were kids together? Went to school together, and you're both world-class knights?"

 

Elijah laughed, "Something like that. Minus the world-class bit. We just studied hard, much like yourself. This generation of leaders and defenders are weak and spineless. They lack resolve."

 

He hesitated for a moment atop the next hill, squinting and Faunus laid out a hand, parallel to the ground and nodded slowly, "Did you feel that?"

 

A slowly rolling sand dune moved ominously, more than anything else in the desert. The sand humped and sank quickly as it darted along the far hill, not having sensed them yet apparently... or it was a trap. A tail emerged and the obsidian harshly contrasted against the vibrant sands before slithering beneath again.

 

"Are you ready for this...?" Elijah said. The song of a blade emerged that Faunus hadn't ever heard before. In the sunlight, it glittered of amethyst and starlight, bringing the boy's eyes to widen slowly.

"That's vakar..."

 

"All Border patrol have them for this exact reason, lurking beneath the sands now... Enhance Weapon!" Eli growled. The vakar blade erupted into an ivory shade, which only seemed to magnify the brightness of the desert sands surrounding.

 

And then it happened... a surprise attack.

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The one before them circled up and over the crest, out of view while they watched with a curious lack of understanding as to where it was going and why. Faunus however felt the trembling sensation from the sands and was the first to respond accordingly; his past interaction with a landshark left him leary of the earth beneath his feet and this was exactly why. From their right, the sands exploded in a frenzy of sable and violence.

 

Territorially speaking, they had tread right into where the Suujali had been nesting and this was the first, without its companion to strike at them and as unaware as they were, Faunus' reaction was primed as a veteran of combat, where as Elijah hadn't been on the ball, spending more of his later years and time relaxing among the companionship of courtesans.

 

"Sandstorm!" The young knight cried out, with a wave of his hand which grappled Elijah's sleeve and pulled with enough force to send the man backwards and off balance. Elijah tripped and rolled, sending sprawling sands in all direct. The wind whipped about the massive beast and no sooner had it emerged than it swept off the side of the crest by strong winds and flailing in the opposite direction of Elijah, feet over head the other direction. And the Hero's Arm exposed immediately, gleaming vibrantly in the wake of the sun overhead.

 

"Good save, kid..." Eli sand, gaining his bearings on the sandy hill and shaking the excess from his clothing before charging back up to the crest to watch a squall of sand hurl the beast several feet before it vanished into the sands once more.

 

The second sand-lump emerged and the pair began to circle from opposite directions once more.

"They're coming back! Accumulate!" Faunus growled, pointing the ethereal blade toward the movements. Elijah stared more at the glowing blade than the sand-movement and nodded, "Where did you get that?!" The crimson glow illuminate the young man's frame for a moment and his potency increased drastically.

 

"A quest. Head in the game, Eli!"

 

For a young knight, the youth snapped angrily and the man's attention panned back into the game with a frank nod.

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