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Dear Mr Curly,
I have done little travelling lately because I have been so dreadfully weary. Can it be true as the old Ecclesiastes said; that all things lead to weariness? Surely not. Perhaps the opposite is true: that all nothings lead to weariness. I have a peculiar feeling, Curly, that I am worn out from something I haven't yet done and the more I don't do it, the more exhausted I become. How strange. Could it be something I haven't realised? Perhaps it's something I haven't said? Something I haven't finished! It must be very large and true whatever it is and a lively struggle in the doing but I look forward to it immensely. I know I need it. First, however, I must curl up in my chair and sleep deeply with the duck. Perhaps I'll dream of this thing and wake up refreshed and do it. My fond wishes to you Mr. Curly, and to all Curly Flat.
Yours sleepily,
Vasco Pyjama
xxx
P.S. Not having breakfast can make you weary. That's for sure!
Michael Leunig. The Curly Pyjama Letters.

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The appearance of the leaping magical traps the Daedra had set made Fendros suddenly appreciate the Dominion's slower and more methodical means of advance. If Ahnasha, Leaps, and he were scouting ahead before Meesei could ward such a device, they might have been seriously hurt. And that was mentioning nothing of the casualties they would have faced marching a formation into them.

Not that their current situation was good. Fendros loosed a dark chitin arrow across to lodge in the neck of a Skaafin mage, though he could not stop to fell any more under the enemy retaliation. They could not afford to be bogged down here.

"Ahna!" Fendros said over his shoulder. "Could you summon something tough to run through these traps?"

Over in the central path, Janius, Kaleeth, Sabine, and their force made quicker time. Janius was the one who triggered the first trap. He smelled a whiff of magical fire coming to his nose right before Sabine cried out warning. He covered his face as a reflex and the blast forced him back.

The smoke cleared as Janius regained his balance. He shook his snout and growled ahead.

"Wait! There are more of them!" Sabine said, holding a spell in one hand that helped her at least see that there were illusions ahead. "They are hidden!"

The Skaafin they faced saw fit to let loose on them with similar arrows and spells from behind their barricades. Sabine brought up a ward to help cover herself and some of those behind her. She tried to figure a way through, looking past the shimmer of her ward. She did not have the time or space to set up a portal to bypass the traps. She did not have the ability to ward everyone against them. She barely had a few potions that could effectively protect against magical fire. Most of all, she was not used to being any leader in this battle.

"Do'rhajul!" She called over to the one with experience as a general. "I cannot protect everyone from these traps. How do we advance?"
Yalu 'Suumko


The most eager allies took point ahead of Yalu. He made sure to find a place after Commander 'Virisusai so as not to steal unearned glory, though he was not hesitant.

Morgenstern threw herself out of the pelican, then 'Virisusai, then Tasuma, then Ryker, and then Yalu loped out with the momentum of his human machine gun. He followed Ryker until just under the tail of the pelican, ducked across to the right of the pelican's rear, and lowered himself. He the spin of his weapons barrels required a bit of correction as he levelled his aim, and then...

Shields flashed on the sentinels. They banked from the gale of high calibre rounds as bright flashes lit up the underside of the dropship tail. Sparks flew at the first two bullets that broke through the instant before a sentinel burst and fell with a heavy clatter.

Yalu stopped firing to line up with another cluster of targets. "One down!" he shouted.

More noise and tracers leapt out of Yalu's weapon. Another sentinel directed its beam across his energy shield a moment before it was overwhelmed by rapid fire.

He had an arc of beside Tasuma and Ryker covered for now. A couple more beams and he would have to withdraw to recharge.
The Dominion Commander's response was almost strangely confident. "They will work in tandem," he said, hands clasped behind his back. "My second is capable enough to direct them. Not to mention, fighting alongside their former enemies has discouraged them to show weakness."

"Let's get on with it then!" Janius pushed himself back up onto his feet and loped ahead. He stopped at the front of the formations and let out a roar that reverberated through the valley.

Sabine looked to Tarna and Do'rhajul. "I will need you both with me. This will not be easy."

"Of course, Alpha," Tarna replied with a cautious smile. "Small crowded spaces are not ideal for me, though I can still protect you two."

All the while, it took barely half a minute for the Dominion troops to split and form up in twin columns.
Yalu 'Suumko


Yalu's hands tightened on his seat. If there was any downside to human flight technology, it made Yalu feel the sudden lack of weight as they descended. He recited a mantra courage in his mind that kept his emotions level and cut off for every moment out of his control.

They landed, roughly. They were jostled. The screaming metal ran out of momentum. One second passed before Yalu unbuckled himself in a precise flurry. He pulled his carbine out from his back when he joined the others scanning the exits, but had an idea when Vael gave his orders.

"Noted, commander!" Yalu said, slinking over to the tripod-mounted machine gun secured to the loading ramp. While his comrades-in-arms before Aegis were content to tear such weapons from their swivels, Yalu took the extra second to squat and pull the quick release loose to slide it free. He hefted the three barrelled weapon around to stride heavily towards the door. "Ready."

All Yalu needed was a moment to spin up while the hovering sentinels were distracted.
Perhaps it was the excitement of the ongoing battle riling him up, but Janius' suggestion was more like an outburst. "Send Kaleeth and I down the middle path while others punch through the left and right. If we lure them into the middle path, we can occupy them so the rest of the forces can focus on the other two approaches!"

"You will need support," Sabine said. "I can provide it."

Fendros looked from Janius to Meesei. "Rossarm's mages are a spearhead, as are the rest of our pack. Hjergir, whatever elites we have in our formations...Any pressure off them makes them sharper."
Yalu 'Suumko


Practice with one of his new Spartan teammates was just what Yalu needed. Ryker did not go easy on him, and even for a sangheili like himself it was a challenge staying ahead of where the shorter-armed human would strike next. He gathered Ryker had plenty of experience going for a quick kill rather than preserving himself for fighting in prolonged melees like Yalu was. While he was not sure how much Ryker had to learn from him, Yalu had plenty to learn from the humans.

Teaming up for firefight simulations was far more even between the two of them. Yalu struggled with Ryker's battlefield slang -- as he had been with most human warriors he had encountered -- though the two of them fought with surprisingly little friction between them.

After roughly an hour and a half, Yalu withdrew to study the files for their upcoming mission. The physical activity had sharpened his mind for the reading. Sequestered in his cabin, he got through plenty of dossiers before being summoned to the hanger.



Everything was double-checked on Yalu's harness. His loadout gave him the tools he needed to fight on the move or dug in. Everything else was left to fate, as always.

"Reporting for duty." Yalu addressed Major Robinson with human formalities. He fought with great willpower not to gawk at the colossal wheeled vehicle.

Before the end of the war, Yalu had a low view of human technology. However, he grew to admire the size and sophistication of their ground vehicles knowing they were largely without plasma power and boosted gravity propulsion.

Yalu gestured to their 'Mammoth'. "With permission to ask, how many crew are required to operate that?"
"A conventional advance is suicide." Rossarm was the first to respond. "They have too many replacements. We would be buried underneath their corpses before we were let through." He looked at the others. "My men could rush one path, but we cannot punch through the converged defences alone."

The Dominion commander sniffed. "At least three strong spearheads are required."

"At least?" Janius asked.

"I have enough magicka to send a handful of people through a portal," Sabine answered. "I just need to see it and concentrate for long enough."

Fendros nodded. "We will need as many approaches as we can bring to bear. Are there any further ways to take on our enemies here? How many werevultures to we have available to cover our advance from above?"
Yalu 'Suumko


"Major Yalu 'Suumko." Yalu answered, looking forward as they walked. "And if you know the rudiments already, I have only two motions of advice." He turned an eye to Lucas. "First, do not underestimate the gesture in that gift. Whoever gave it did so knowing you well. Second, there is no ancient sangheili art form and tradition to a dagger like there is in a sword. One only becomes better with an energy dagger by finding greater opponents to teach them."

Yalu left the question of which of them was the greater to the arena.

Looking up to think, Yalu curiously sniffed. "I do not presume you to want to teach," he continued. "But I am also curious to see how Spartans fight more generally...from beside their weapons rather than in front of them."
Yalu 'Suumko


Yalu could say plenty about the team's more expressive members by the way they received the meeting. Grikgar in particular shone clearest as an unggoy that betrayed quite the raft of experience. If he served on Thel 'Vadam's fleet at the holy ring, he was either skilled, impossibly lucky, or both. Yalu did not dismiss him for his antics.

As for the mission, Yalu did not expect it to be straightforward. With the amount of unknowns they would be contending with, there was little he could expect for sure. Putting down a rebellious strike was vague, and that was to mention nothing of the possible areas they could be lurking. The sarcophagus, while an awesome construct, was just as big a maze to hide in by the looks of it.

And that was that. Yalu mused to himself that he would have plenty of reading to do of the mission files. However, he realised how stiff his legs felt when he stood up to follow the team to the drop ship...



Yalu was not at all hungry by the time they reached the cruiser. He was getting drowsy, and he did not like it. Ryker's energy dagger drew his eye when it lit up.

"Spartan Lucas Ryker," Yalu addressed the human as he had introduced himself beforehand. "My journey to Earth has left me sluggish. Does your War Games module accommodate sparring? If you carry that dagger, you must have learnt how to use it."
Fendros swung himself back up onto Leaps-On-Elves' saddle while Meesei explained their discoveries. He nodded at each point, but had one more question before he set off. "Are we certain they're pairs only?" He looked into the mirror again. "We don't want any enemies spying our plans."

The portal to Cold Harbour interrupted any answer. Everyone's heads turned to the sight.

"Azura's light..." Fendros breathed.

"All the more reason to move!" Janius barked as he slammed his affixed dragon bone axe against the soil. "She'll have an endless amount of those Daedra!"

Fendros reined Leaps around while looking back. "I'll find a messenger!"
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