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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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Yalu 'Suumko


The quieter moments of the pursuit gave Yalu some moments to reflect. The mission was not going flawlessly. He did not know whether the enemy commander would still be at the landing pad by the time they reached him. It would not be over by then, he told himself. If the human rebels could fly through these tunnels as a routine, then he might...

He paused his thought before they opened the door to the landing pad.

There was little time else for Yalu to do than to take a shot alongside the others at the commander. "He has a gauntlet. Need more firepower-"

The grenade flew across them. Yalu reflexively ducked and covered his head as it went off. He grit his teeth at the shock that had blasted against his now EMP-drained shield. This breach was dead in the water.

But he did spot some other aircraft in the landing pad.

They had perhaps a few seconds before their quarry could load up another grenade and they could not push an assault without shields. That was the first concern. "Grenade out!" Yalu risked an arm out of cover to pitch a fragmentation grenade out ahead with plenty left on the timer. It bounced, slid, and coasted to a stop across the forerunner floor, spinning in place ahead of the pelican's ramp before detonating.

Yalu was already switching to his concussion rifle for the next stage. He had only six shots left to pin down the enemy while the rest of the team followed up.

"The quarry covers his allies' retreat," Yalu observed. "We are not hunting a coward."
"Something tells me Vile's goal is not to simply gift the Dominion back their tower," Fendros remarked, breathing heavily.

Sabine worried her brow looking up at the columns of power. "I cannot fathom what that magicka should be used for. If it is directed towards us..." She did not want to finish the thought. It would be terrifyingly instant, whatever end it would bring them. Everyone knew that.

Nevertheless, they pressed on. They had no other choice.

"Crystal Tower!" Janius growled. He was more lucid now, though still choleric from his transformation. "Does Vile think it some kind of symbol? Egotistical tyrant..."

Fendros thought for a moment. "Why that tower? What did it ever do?" He asked. "And why lycan souls to power it? If I guess it correctly."
The pack caught their breaths in the short time Meesei spoke with the others. Sabine passed around a few potions in the pause to restore their energy and heal any superficial wounds they had.

"We do not know what is in that tower," Sabine remarked.

Fendros lifted the visor of his helmet. "We don't have time to scout it out." He regarded everyone. "We all knew the plan coming into this," he said. "We'll all go home once Vile is defeated. If there's a good spot to hold out until then, we'll be counting on everyone."

"Tarna, Rhajul," Sabine addressed her subordinates. "What is ahead of us may be worse than what is behind us. If you want to stay behind and hold the line, you may do so."

Even though the last fight had tired her, Tarna tsked and wiped the blood off her dagger in the crook of her elbow. "No, I am not the kind to do better in a shieldwall. I will keep going with you."
Yalu 'Suumko


Yalu danced his feet back as fast as he could once his last bullet shot into the brute's shoulder. He got to the last punch of reloading in his final carbine magazine only to hear one more close gunshot aimed at the chieftain. The hulking alien fell heavily onto Tar, but she looked like she could handle it. Yalu briefly scanned for more enemies, finding none worth shooting, before turning an eye to their scarred human Corporal nearby. "A fine kill, Cohen."

Only now did Yalu take another look at the spartan Rex. He knew it was not his business to eavesdrop, but Yalu showed at least some relief to hear that the spartan still lived, based on Aviza's assessment.

But Rex was not the only one wounded. Yalu thought about his next words carefully while scavenging for another weapon. This Tar 'Mdalak was not to be underestimated if he impugned her honour by drawing attention to her bleeding leg. She was no minor under his command, after all.

Yalu rearmed with a few frag grenades, a fallen brute's plasma rifle, and a human marksman's rifle to replace his carbine; there was more ballistic ammunition than carbine magazines available.

The other team reunited with them, Yalu gave them a nod. They were about to set out when he decided to speak up. "Commander Aviza," Yalu said quietly over the comms. "As you are our medical specialist, your anaesthetics may help us Sangheili pursue our objective faster. Do you have spare doses we may hold?"

If they all could hold onto a shot of pain relievers, particularly Commander Vael, Yalu knew 'Mdalak was less likely to lose face if she used it for her leg. It was risky for Yalu to assume Aviza would understand the social nuance, but he hoped the AI could make up the difference.
Yalu 'Suumko


THUD! The chieftain's hammer slammed into the forerunner floor. Yalu rolled back to his feet in a low stance. A moment too late reading the brute's wide step around and he could have been crushed. Perhaps if the hammer was still powered it might have broken his bones anyway.

Yalu raised his carbine and took no shots. With 'Mdalak thrashing around on the brute's back, he didn't want to risk it. He shuffled around for just a moment, dancing around any errant one-handed swings of the hammer. Tar's situation presented Yalu's opening. He thrust the barrel of his carbine up into the cheiftain's armpit -- belonging to the arm that held Tar -- and pulled the trigger. It was the last slug in his magazine.
Meesei's roar drowned out every ache and numbed away all of their fatigue. Whether they were transformed or not, Janius, Sabine, Tarna, Fendros, and many more of their allies either side felt their chests instinctively breathe in and add their own voices to the call. The entire pack surged forward.

Daedra large and small fell before the momentum of the pack. Any creatures not convulsing and cooking with the energy of Meesei's lightning were engulfed by a icy wind laced with flying magical icicles tearing at the skin and slowing the arms they used to defend themselves. Those with the room to try and manoeuvre around the front of the pack found themselves up against Fendros' ward or Do'rhajul's shield, before they too were cut down by their opponent's sword.

Fendros focussed on defence, making sure no spells broke into the side of the pack. It was now, focussing on the path ahead rather than everything around them, that he could appreciate the ease at which his dragonbone sword cut through Skaafin armour and monstrous chitin. Some part of him was fooled into thinking they were past the worst. In that, he found himself energised, looking forward to the next challenge, and the next after that. He glanced ahead of the pack to search for a door or a gate to Vile's hideaway.
Sabine felt her awareness rush back to her as the pain of her wounds faded from her legs. She was not sure of it beforehand, but coming out of it, she realised she had expected to succumb to the spell and die. She took a shuddering breath and stood up, giving Meesei a confident nod. "We are not done yet," she responded. "Tarna! Rhajul! To me!"

Tarna reappeared out an invisibility spell a moment later, mouth open and catching her breath with a dagger held out in front of her, dripping with ichor. "The Dunmer Fendros, should we do as he says?" She asked, a little overwhelmed. "Our chances are less than..."

The hoofbeats of cavalry overwhelmed the sounds of battle and everyone turned their heads. Fendros, though he ordered as he did to keep their slim chances up and morale moderate, had not expected they would have much help. He found his own heart lifted by the sight of reinforcements.

Fendros' smile grew in relief. "It's Ri'vashi. Ri'vashi's here!"

With a moment to spare, Janius opted to lift his snout and howl into air. The responses they heard from all across the lines rang in all the Daedra's ears.

Sabine brought her staff up with both hands. She had never felt more motivated in her life. Mist poured off the end of the Staff of Magnus as she launched bursts of icicles in a fan pattern to punch into the enemies in front of her. "Heal yourself, Tarna," she said between spells, "Then push with us."
As Arinette's sword slowed to a stop, Sabine's neck felt warm and choked. She dabbed at her collar and brought her fingers before her, finding no blood. It had just been her imagination. Though, Arinette's next spell, a surprise to Sabine considering her state, was readily apparent.

Sabine tried to leap away, too late. A vine coiled around her ankle dug in its thorns. She cried out through her teeth. Having seen the spell a number of times already, however, she did not panic. She used what came to mind to deal with both problems at once as best as she could. She brought a ward up close to herself with her left hand, and in her right hand she used the Staff of Magnus to charge a bright flickering spell at its end. She lowered the spell onto Arinette's elbow where the gem hand connected to her ghostly body, closed her eyes, and blasted the area apart with an explosion of magical fire.

She fell to her knees in pain.

The corpses rising to join the battle made Fendros flinch with his sword when he saw them. In a moment, the terror of sensing Daedra behind him as if he was the last in their pack standing was replaced with unusual optimism when he sensed the undeath in the pits of their eyes. With a grin, he shrank his ward to allow them to charge in. Not a moment too soon, too. He would need to take a potion to cast such a ward again.

Janius' reaction was not as restrained. He reflexively struck down a reanimated Skaafin with his off hand before he realised what was going on. Fendros' next order made it perfectly clear.

"Let's push forward!" Fendros raised his dragonbone sword as he caught up with Ahnasha and the others. "By Hircine, our hunt goes on!"
Janius edged back and swung his axe hand in the air in an effort to make his two main assailants hesitate. A few spearheads clacked and cracked in the wake of it. He wanted to bite them all in two. He could not stop everyone, though, and he instead thrust at the dremora's chin to deflect its incoming mouth rather than open himself up by striking it more decisively. He braced for a hammerblow and instead heard it land on Kaleeth's armour.

"We...won't die here!" Janius roared. He impatiently ducked around the dremora to direct himself away from the pikes trying to hold him back, before leaping axe-first into the side of the dremora's maw. The dremora tried to snap shut on Janius' arm by quickly found its left jaw muscles cut through and running with blood. Janius then took the beard of his axe-hand and plunged it into the dremora's back like a pick axe. But he could only do so once before a spear was thrust under his arm. Let out a short, pained roar and grabbed the spear shaft, wrenching it out of the hands of the grinning skaafin that landed the thrust. Janius felt hot blood pouring down his arm already. He grit his teeth and pulled the barbed end of it with a dizzying wave of pain.

"We're past buying, Ahna," Fendros responded, turning around with his sword and ward spell at the ready. "But we'll steal some for you."

Janius and Kaleeth fought one way, Sabine's pack another, Meesei held the other way, and Lorag and Leaps were doing their best to contain what was left. Fendros could not help any one side without leaving another unaided. But, drinking down a couple of potions of his own, he could not do much sitting where he was.

He stepped up beside Meesei as she flung out spell after spell. "Meesei!" Fendros said. "Allow me!" He spread out his ward wide and brought a pulse through it that made it brighten nearly to the point of losing its transparency. "The pack needs help!" He shouted, and he paced forward. He could not go too fast or else risk the stability of his ward. Spears formed up and closed in. Fendros' ward brightened further. The points met the surface of the ward and made the shape of it divot against each spear, but it did not let them through. With nowhere to go but up and spells and arrows not faring any better, the spears left the Skaafin with no means of offence. Fendros drew back his sword, pointed it at a Skaafin sergeant dubious with Fendros' attempt at a stalemate, and thrust it through his ward. The dragonbone tore under the daedra's gorget and into its neck. It collapsed. Fendros picked another target.

The Skaafin were not so dull as to stay where they were, of course. They pulled away, out of range, and Fendros was forced to stay where he was or else be enveloped. He was not sure how long he could hold this fortified ward of his, but if there was any advantage to being born under the atronach, it was the time he could steal in situations such as these.

Sabine was no longer in control in that moment. She had a split second to do something. A clever trick was no longer possible in her mind. She brought the Staff of Magnus forward in both hands, fell into a fighting stance, twitched, and channelled magicka. A staff had a little more range than a sword, some memory of Lorag told her.

"Arinette! We are here to free everyone!" Sabine pleaded.

She sprung forward as soon as Arinette was in measure. A strong frost spell was ready to cast at the tip of her staff. A spell the likes of which would cause immediate thermal shock in a regular person. But she needed to touch it to Arinette for it to work. It might take a few attempts. There was no telling whether it would even have any effect.
Yalu 'Suumko


Good, clear from above, Yalu thought towards the dead brute that tumbled off the walkway above him. That was one way to signal that the high ground was taken.

Yalu reloaded his carbine. He was at his second-to-last magazine now. Unfortunately, just as his shields found a moment to hum back to full strength, the telltale stomps of the brute chieftain heralded the charge against Rex.

The spartan was struck deep into the chest. Yalu was in no position to do anything about it. He fell into hesitation, even as the invincibility module faded away. If it weren't for the ONI agents keeping the enemies suppressed, their flank might have been completely done in.

But he shook it off. He filled his lungs and charged. "Rrrraaaaaaah!" Yalu's warcry steeled his nerves as much as it was meant to catch the chieftain's attention. Any one ally would be in danger brawling against a brute with a hammer, but two against one tipped the scales. He fired scattered carbine rounds against the chieftain's shield on the way in. He feigned suicidal rage. However, he kept his footwork ready to void aside or back from a hammer swing in retribution. He did not intend to fight like a mad animal.
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