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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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"Good hunting, General," Gro-Tagnud offered on Ri'vashi's way out.

As they watched her leave, the two remaining commanders on the bluff found themselves wordless for a moment. Gro-Tagnud, uncharacteristically, said something candid. "Hmph. Between you and I, commander, watching our ally get into the thick of it on a whim...I'm jealous."

Teroiah snorted and laughed darkly. "What's stopping you? Discipline? Rules?"

"Age," Gro-Tagnud responded, stone-faced.

Teroiah's smile disappeared. She sniffed and looked ahead again. She decided to leave the conversation there. There was still a battle to win.



Sabine gave Meesei a nod in response to her. They had both been looking at the swooping titan nearby with equal concern. Sabine reflected, impressed and overwhelmed, at Ahnasha's achievement. Her pride was well earned.

Sabine wondered what Ahnasha could do with the Staff of Magnus.

The tactical conversation involved Fendros' interest as well. Janius lurked nearby but was more focussed on sniffing at the wind.

"That's right," Fendros agreed. "Between the titan and the ghost of that woman with the staff, the push through suffered many casualties in the right-most passage. And I don't like their retreat. It suggests they have another layer of surprise defences."

"A ghost of a woman with a staff?" Sabine said, finding her attention drawn. "How do you mean?"

Fendros lowered his brow and sighed. "Just that. She was burnt all over and carried a staff like yours, but it seemed like it worked differently."

Sabine cast her eyes down, worried.

"Do you know something about it?" Fendros asked.

"No," Sabine immediately caught her tongue. "I-I mean to say...I cannot confirm. But I wonder how many others Vile has in reserve. We are not unique in having allied souls from the Hunting Grounds assisting in the battle."
In response to Ri'vashi, Teroiah gave Gro-Tagnud a sideways look, one eyebrow up. "We both have plenty that are eager to catch up with our bogged down soldiers in those narrow passages." she asked. "Yours or mine, Legate-General?"

"Yours," Gro-Tagnud answered immediately. "Legion cavalry are more effective in the open. I'm reserving them for the front line in case Hal-Neesa's anchors get too greedy. Your cavalry are used to deserts and heavy forest."

"As you say." Teroiah nodded upwards to a nearby messenger to bring them over. "You legionnaires are so adverse to adapting," she continued sarcastically. "But at least we are not acting with any lack of boldness...Messenger? Gather Captain Loren's company, they are under General Ri'vashi's command now." She flicked her head across to line of wordless guards she had kept along the entire time. "Welgren, Titania, I order you to ensure the General's safety. Summon mounts and attach yourselves to the company."

The two guards nodded and spoke in unison. "Yes, commander." They immediately went about casting spells to conjure each an ethereal horse to ride along with the sally.

Teroiah smiled hospitably, though with narrow, smug eyes. "You have my best bodyguard. Now go along and do not think you have any excuse to die or demote yourself from your role here, Ri'vashi."
Yalu 'Suumko


The flash of a slipspace portals in the sky drew Yalu's head to twist and look at the phantom hovering its way quickly to their mesa. The IFF and the friendly comms of the pilot prompted him to shuffle to his feet and move back from the edge.

"Affirmative, Prostrate Disciple," Yalu responded, before switching back to their team channel. "Commanders, our dropship has arrived. Preparing to insert."

Yalu snatched Vael's sentinel beam up from the ground along the way to the gravity lift and spoke over his shoulder, over the loud hum of the phantom's engines. "Brothers! Prepare for battle!"

With one more short leap, the grav lift tugged at Yalu's body in its entirety and he floated up into the hatch beneath the phantom. He quickly found a place to hold on in the crew compartment. "Hail, pilots! The south-western side will be clear of anti-ship weaponry on the signal!"
Rossarm sat clutching his broken limb, hoisting himself up to one knee. His reaction upon looking up at Ahnasha's new achievement was at first a hint of fear. But as he looked and saw Fendros relatively safe and the titan taking off to assist the fight, his jaw was slack with disbelief.

He did not respond to Ahnasha immediately. He took the potion with his good hand in a floating way, as if by habit, before biting off the stopper and downing its contents. "Gah...what on Nirn did you do?" he growled. "You do not seriously think you can take control of a Daedric titan so casually. Why did you not kill it?"

"Father," Fendros said with just a touch of warning in his voice. "We can quibble or we can fight the enemy. The others are depending on us."

Rossarm looked as he rolled his wrist. His broken arm took some of his own magical healing to get in shape, but the potion worked better than any he had taken before. He regarded Fendros with a high chin. There was nothing he could say to refute him that would preserve his pride. He sighed. "You thought quickly, both of you. You hold some skills. You saved our lives." He bitterly curled his lips in and turned away. "Let us recover, we advance onwards."

Fendros lifted the visor of his helmet and peered across at Ahnasha. "Looks like that's all we'll get for now," he remarked. "But I must ask as well for pure curiosity, what did you do? Some kind of illusion magic?"
Yalu 'Suumko


There were plenty in the team already equipped to go down into the enemy base. Yalu was rarely ever requisitioned with active camouflage like a spec ops elite, but at the very least he could be useful from a distance by taking Commander Vael's suggestion.

"I can guide you," Yalu said. "One of my primary talents is warding death away from my team."

Yalu peered down at his carbine. "And we will all be ready to head an assault on your order. These rebels and brutes will not have any time to think. I think the shock will be spiced if we fire on the brutes with human firearms and then the humans with covenant weaponry."
The telekinetic wave sent Fendros and Leaps tumbling. He had only just processed Rossarm flying off in another direction. They landed hard, Fendros especially so coming down from a saddle height. It was fortunate his armour did not buckle under Leaps' immense weight on his legs, even when the panicked beast wriggled up and off Fendros in short order.

"Leaps! Back!" Fendros shouted not long after he angled his head up to see the Breton. Seeing the lightning spell take shape even as the ethereal flesh making up her body steamed and boiled was something of a nightmare. Still, through winded lungs, he rolled up to his feet and broke into a run that made his chest ache. He pulled out his sword for the first time in the battle -- the dragonbone longsword specially crafted for him -- and with his other hand he cast aside his bow to form a ward. With a roar, he sprinted to keep the Breton's attention. He did not need his ward to hold forever, even as it absorbed what it received. He just needed to close the distance.

Nearby, Rossarm struggled up dizzily. He had been flung into a spin, being as close as he was to the spell. As he had numbed his pain back when the vines wrapped around his arm, it was with his eyes that he noticed that same arm was broken.
Rossarm had to dodge his arm away and stop his spell, but his next move was not quite as instinctual. He snapped his arm forward and snatched the vines in his hand. They immediately coiled and tightened around his wrist, but by then his next spell was already coursing through the otherworldly plant. In a dull, sinister light, the vines shrivelled and dried as Rossarm clutched them tighter and tighter. By the time the ghost came from its portal behind him, he spun and tore the desiccated vine from the cracks in the ground, having drained it of its life force. His hand dripped with blood from the thorns piercing his skin.

"You failed in life, you will fail here," Rossarm taunted. "Your little wand is no substitute for discipline." He flicked his eyes over to one side briefly, and then made movements for a powerful fire spell. It was a spell that would clearly take too long to cast before the Breton ghost could retaliate. But no sooner had Rossarm began than an arrow flew straight for the Breton ghost from its side.

Fendros drew another arrow before the previous had even hit. He recognised what his father was doing and made sure to keep up the pressure now that the Breton was in position. He loosed arrow after arrow while pacing forward. Each one was sharp ebony launched from a war bow. Sufferable for the Breton's magic, but impossible to ignore when fired as rapidly.

Fendros' pace quickened as he approached. He needed to keep the ghost occupied, and more if Rossarm's next move did not end the ghost outright.
Yalu 'Suumko


And so they were to move out. The information that trickled in was welcome as far as Yalu was concerned. The enemy was not heading for them, neither were they heading anywhere they could not follow.

Yalu approached the only human he was properly acquainted with to pair up. "Ryker. Now is the time to put our practice to the test."

* * *

Yalu strode along in the line his allies created to advance, carbine in his hands. He stopped very occasionally to zoom his harness optics to scan the distance but found no reason to speak up through the radio while they moved.

After enough time, Yalu spoke up gently enough for Lucas to hear. "I have a question. Which of the humans is most likely to charge ahead for glory, in your opinion? Or the one who would...I believe the phrase is 'getting tunnel vision'." Yalu kept his eyes on the surrounding environment. "There is always one in sangheili fireteams. Good tactical information to have."
"This cannot be right," Fendros murmured to himself. "Who is this ghost?"

Through a frustrated roar, Rossarm attempted to order the Dominion soldiers to back down. It was too late. Whatever callous shouts he had to put the soldiers down, they could not be so easily heard through their screams, but Fendros could hear it.

"Numb yourselves, you fools! Do you not see a mage beyond your capabilities?!" He brought up both of his elbows. Purple magic crackled all the way around his arms. "You are all unworthy!" He struck a spell into the ground. A blast of radiant energy shocked out around him and just as quickly sucked its way back into the void they left behind. With it, the plants grasping the ankles of the soldiers blackened and rotted, as did the ankles themselves.

In horror, the soldiers dragged away their wounded, necrosis-inflicted legs and all.

Fendros was agape. "He's hurting our own men..." He said so Ahnasha could hear.

He could hear the cruel justifications of his father after he regained his temper. Probably something along the lines of considering the wounded men as combat ineffective anyway.

"Father!" Fendros called out. "Enough!"

Rossarm did not respond. He poured more power into a narrow white ray of magic that struck the ghost's ward like a battering ram.

All around him, Rossarm's mages rallied and drew up in pairs, one ahead holding a ward in both hands while another behind struck the oncoming Daedra with torrents of lightning.

A small thought died in the back of Fendros' mind as to why Rossarm was concentrating as much power into that particular spell. He pulled another arrow and drew it. His aim slowly edged to Rossarm's neck. If his father would spend more allied lives for his anger, Fendros would make sure to stop him.
Yalu 'Suumko


Yalu was in no mood to avoid his teammates during the ride. He tried to at least speak to his fellow former-covenant contemporaries about their path leading up to this mission. He was quietly embarrassed to find he was consistently outranked and at times prying on business best kept a secret. Nevertheless, he kept himself well drilled for whatever lay ahead.

When the call came to wake up, whatever casual air Yalu tried to offer was gone. He was up and arming himself partway through the driver's announcement.

"Running the Mammoth silent may make them overlook us." Yalu snapped a fully green magazine into his carbine after checking it. "But if it is no patrol, we are no longer safe. We are not expecting a rendezvous."
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