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Saga - PT From the Mountain’s Heart (Zeb, OCs; pre-Rebels; action, military)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Findswoman, Aug 22, 2018.

  1. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Author: Findswoman
    Title: From the Mountain’s Heart
    Era: Saga–PT
    Characters: Zeb Orrelios (age 24), OCs (borrowed from @Raissa Baiard): Captain Halmarr Porifiros, Sr. Lt. Barogroz (Groz) Spargstaung, Mid. Lt. Gunvar Ankole, Jr. Lt. Velibor Ahenobarbus; mentions of other OCs of hers and mine
    Genre: Short multichapter (four chapters); mostly action, military
    Summary: A young Zeb, now a gifted Senior Lieutenant in the Lasan High Honor Guard, embarks on a side quest of his own during maneuvers.
    Contents: 1 (below) | 2 | 3 | 4
    Notes: Part of the Lasan Series by @Raissa Baiard and myself. Again, I am proud to count her as my capable and esteemed collaborator on the Lasat fanon upon which this series is built, and I thank her for letting me borrow from the wonderful array of Lasat OCs she has devised. @};-


    Hew hard the marble from the mountain’s heart
    Where hardest night holds fast in iron gloom
    Gems brighter than an April dawn in bloom . . .
    —A. C. Swinburne, “John Ford”


    * * *​

    One

    “Ahenobarbus!”

    “Sir, present, sir!”

    “Ankole!”

    “Sir, present, sir!”

    “Orrelios!”

    “Sir, present, sir!”

    Senior Lieutenant Garazeb Orrelios saluted crisply as his name was called. He and the eleven other members of his unit, the 8th Squadron of the Third Honor Guard Division, stood at attention outside Honor Guard Mountain Warfare Station Aurek, in the foothills of the the southern Basalt Mountains. It was the early hours of the morning and the air was icy, but Zeb was eager and alert. Once the roll call and workout were finished, Captain Porifiros—a grizzled, square-bearded Lasat who was built like a mountain himself—would assign them their first reconnaissance exercise in this region. The Basalt Mountains dominated Lasan’s Southern Hemisphere, and their southern reaches in particular were known for their immense mineral riches, their intricate networks of caves and pits, their majestically treacherous slopes, and the icy winds that howled constantly over them. Ever since the 8th had been deployed to the southern hemisphere over a year ago, Zeb had been looking forward to duty in this particular mountain range—naturally because he was eager for the thrill of action and challenge of the terrain, but there was another reason in his mind as well, one known to only a few of his comrades...

    “Spargstaung!”

    “Sir, present, sir!”

    “Stultzfoss!”

    “Sir, present, sir!”

    “Uballidees!”

    “Sir, present, sir!”

    “All right, Guards! Series of five, then twelve around the perimeter! Move it, you wimpy kits!”

    With that, the routine morning workout began: twenty each of push-ups, sit-ups, left side-bridge thrusts, right side-bridge thrusts, and squat thrusts, each set alternating with a fifteen-second sprint. This was followed immediately by twelve five-klick circuits around the perimeter of Station Aurek—a route that comprised not only uneven, rocky ground and treacherously steep grades but also several vertical or near-vertical cliff faces that would take all four prehensile appendages to scale. Zeb figured it would take him and his comrades at least a couple hours to complete the course—plenty of time to think up a plan of sorts. He was pretty sure he knew where the nicest specimens could be found; it was just a matter of whether Captain Porifiros would actually assign them there...

    “2:36:17.7!” the captain barked as soon as soon as the 8th had reassembled on the grounds of Station Aurek. “Hmphh! Not bad, not bad, but in my day we averaged 1:58:22.3! And that was in blizzard conditions with a headwind! I wonder if you pathetic milquetartes could beat that!” Some of the younger Guards shifted uncomfortably at this tirade, but Zeb just smiled to himself; Captain Porifiros always talked like this. “All right, now listen up! Today you’re gonna divide up into subunits and perform standard recon and charting on the eastern slopes of Mount Sketh! Monazro, your men got the southeastern ridges. Spargstaung, you got the central slopes and secondary peak. And Orrelios, central forest region through summit. I want a full preliminary report on topography and tactical viability by 1800 tonight! Think you stripeless sissies can manage all that?!”

    “SIR, YES, SIR!” twelve young male voices shouted. This was exactly the kind of mission Zeb had been hoping for, and he would almost certainly have enough time to find what he was hoping to find. He was eager to grab his gear and get started. But the captain continued.

    “Now since this is Mount Sketh, just a word to you young fellas about, er, hunting for, er, souvenirs of a certain kind. ’Cause I know at least a few of you are in the market for that.”

    He looked directly at Zeb as he spoke. Some of the others stifled snickers, but Zeb felt his face and ears turn warm. Aw karabast, the captain knew, didn’t he? Was this whole thing going to be a wash?

    “The ‘just a word’ is this: you can look for shiny rocks an’ such as long as it doesn’t distract you from your assignment. You’re Honor Guards an’ I trust ya. Somethin’ the matter, Orrelios?”

    A few snickers arose again. Zeb hadn’t even noticed that he had breathed a long and fully audible sigh of relief till the captain had spoken. He snapped to attention. “Sir, nothing at all, sir.”

    “Good to hear, Lieutenant. I was worried there for a sec.” There was yet more stifled laughter, but Zeb thought he saw a subtle wink from his commander. “All right, Guards, dismissed! Reassemble in full gear in fifteen minutes sharp!”

    The members of the 8th dispersed and headed to the barracks building to equip themselves. Zeb went to his gear locker, which stood directly across from his bunk area, where he buckled on his chest, back, and shoulder armor, then fastened on his wrist bracers and knee guards. Next he attached his belt pouch and checked that it contained all the necessary items: utility knife, grappling hook, spare ration packets, field scanner, portable medkit. He was on the point of taking his bo-rifle down from its rack when a sudden blow to his upper arm sent him reeling.

    “KARABAST!” Zeb spun around to face the stocky, burly form of his old Military Academy mate, Middle Lieutenant Gunvar Ankole, who was guffawing throatily. “The Bogan was that supposed to be, Gunvar?!”

    “Aw, it’s Senior Lieutenant Nuzzlecat himself! We know what you’re gonna be looking for during maneuvers, don’t we, Vel?”

    “Oh, yes, of course we do.” A debonair Junior Lieutenant, whose abundant facial hair was trimmed in a dandyish bantha-chop pattern, sidled up beside Gunvar: Velibor Ahenobarbus, another one of their academy mates. “It’s been a loooong time coming, hasn’t it?”

    “Yeah, and?” Zeb scowled, arms indignantly crossed. Just his rotten luck that both of these prize moof-milkers belonged to his subunit. “What’s it to you?”

    “Zeb, Zeb. My dear fellow.” Velibor put an arm around him; Zeb bristled. “Take a tip from an expert. Don’t bother with this whole hunting in the mountains business. We’re modern men now. Just order some pretty crystally thing from Suarovik’s and have done with it. Nine out of ten of ’em don’t know the difference anyway.”

    Zeb gnashed his teeth, too angry to form words. Part of him wanted to thrash Velibor to a pulp right then and there for even daring to make such a karabastical fool suggestion. But a true Honor Guard must keep calm in the face of adversity, and all that… “An’ just how many times have you done this, Vel?!” he managed at last.

    “Oh, wouldn’t you like to know!” Velibor emphasized this utterance with an elbow to Zeb’s ribs before swaggering off to his own gear locker. Gunvar followed him, still guffawing. Zeb swore under his breath as he rubbed the spot where he had been elbowed, then finished fastening his bracer around his wrist. It was then that he felt a hand on his shoulder.

    “Hey there, pal.”

    Zeb looked up to see that a third of his academy mates had come up beside him. Senior Lieutenant Barogroz Spargstaung, a lanky beanpole of a Lasat, was Zeb’s bunkmate and had a subunit of his own. “Don’t pay any attention to those two. I think they’re just jealous. Especially Junior Lieutenant Bantha Chops there.”

    “Ugh, Velibor!” Zeb growled, clenching his fists. “I wanna strangle him sometimes! The way he talks—”

    “I know, I know. But don’t let him get to ya. You’re doin’ everything right.” He slapped Zeb cordially on the back. “I just hope I’ll do half as good whenever it’s my turn.”

    “Thanks, Groz.” Zeb returned the gesture. “You will. I know it.”

    Groz headed to his own locker. Zeb took down his bo-rifle, slung it behind him, and made his way back outside to the parade grounds, fully equipped and ready for action.

    to be continued

    The Basalt Mountains and Mt. Sketh are fanon locations on Lasan.

    Raissa created and named most of the Honor Guard personnel mentioned here, though I gave Groz his last name. Spargstaung is a portmanteau of two German words that both mean “beanpole,” as in, a tall, rangy person (Spargeltarzan and Bohnenstange).
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_dancing] Yes, I think I know what that side mission is for, ;) [face_love] Those two grousing at Zeb, you know they're jealous, because he's found a true "keeper" :) :D
     
  3. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Zeb! :zeb: [face_love] Yay! I’m always thrilled to see more purple prose featuring our favorite Lasat, and i’ve been looking forward to seeing this story for some time! It’s great to see our valiant Honor Guard “in his natural habitat’, so to speak, on his first deployment, answering roll call, doing morning exercises and getting his assignment. Boo-yah! And how fun to see Zeb’s mates from the Academy again, a little older, but not much wiser in some cases! :D Velibor has developed into even more of smug Don Juan with bantha-chops :p Oh yes, he’s so suave and modern with all his talk of buying mail order “crystlly things” from the GFFA’s Swarovski (couldn’t he at least have gone with Ty’Phani’s?:p) He’s a fine one to give advice on this particular matter, and Zeb’s right to wonder how many times Velibor has done this. My guess—zero
    because that would imply he was ready to make a commitment to someone.
    Gunvar’s the same sensitive :p elbowing, guffawing brick wall of Lasat he was as a cadet. I do love his:
    What a fabulously schmoopy term of endearment for a slightly feline species! Groz seems to be the only one who's matured and has some redeeming qualities; it's good that Zeb has at least one level-headed friend to remind him he's doing well.

    What a treat it is to meet Captain Porifiros here--he who almost gets his stripes blistered off by former Captain Herleva Orrelios. And, wow, after meeting the
    it really says something about Herleva's ability to intimidate :D She and the Captain are clearly two of a kind, that certain type of military commander who marched uphill both ways back in their day and expect no less of these sissy kits they've been charged with turning into Real Honor Guards. He's got Zeb's number, for sure, but it says something that he doesn't outright forbid his men from looking for pretty stones of a Certain Kind; I think he's got a fondness for this big purple lug underneath that crusty exterior :D (and really, who can blame him? )

    As always, you've done a great job painting a picture of the untamed mountain landscape
    and detailing the Guards' activities and environment--their work out, including those prehensile limb challenging vertical climbs :eek:, their assignments to the various zones, their gear and equipment--all the little things that really bring a world to life

    Here's wishing Zeb the best of luck as he searches for the prefect shiny souvenir; don't listen to Velibor...the extra effort in finding just the right one with be worth it --and no doubt noticed and appreciated by its recipient!
     
  4. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    This looks like the start of a fantastic adventure! I love the look at this earlier Zeb, clearly in his element. I am assuming he is looking for a Special Gift for a Special Someone [face_love] - I really have to catch up on this incredible Rebelverse that you and @Raissa Baiard have constructed!
    Your characters are all unique and that's a trick to pull off. Often when writing ensembles, the voices all seem to just echo each other. But I could tell the different men apart, not just from their visual descriptions but from their personalities.

    I liked the reference to "Lieutenant Nuzzlecat" and this exchange:
    Zeb did a great job holding his temper and still getting his point across. Velibor is a lot of talk. His comment about "nine out of ten of 'em don't know the difference anyway" just shows that 1.) he's a cheap son of a bo-rifle, and 2.) his lady friends do not have particularly discriminating taste -- and what does that say about them choosing him!?

    I am looking forward to seeing where this goes. :D
     
  5. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Once more I do not know if I can be a regular follower, but you got fun names for your soldiers and get a decent "You´re in the army now!" atmosphere. Thanks for the special pre-rebels Zeb treat.
     
  6. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and commenting! :)

    Ah, I'm not at all surprised that you managed to guess what he's after here! ;) And I think you're right about Gunvar and Velibor—especially Velibor, who's probably incapable of
    the kind of commitment necessary for such a thing—see Raissa's comment below.
    Thanks as always for being a follower and supporter of these stories! @};-

    Well, thanks so much, as always, for the support you've always given my attempts at "purple prose"! :D It was fun to write Zeb as a true-blue Honor Guard and military man (an aspect that, in a way, I think Rebels could have emphasized more than it did)—a bit of a challenge for me, since I haven't written much in a military vein, but I sure learned a lot along the way (about the character himself, too).

    Once again, I can't thank you enough for creating these guys to begin with, and for letting me bring them into this story. You made them such vibrant, differentiated characters in The Beginning of Honor that I immediately knew how they would fit into this story, too, and I also felt I immediately knew how a dandy like Velibor would approach, er, sensitive matters like these.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your guess. :p

    Aw, thanks! I was trying to think up a suitable synonym for "lovebird," and that did indeed just seem to fit so well with the feline characteristics of the Lasat. [face_love]

    I really liked Groz in BOH—he always did seem like the mellowest and most commonsensical of that bunch, which is why I gave him too a higher rank, a subunit of his own, and Zeb as a bunkmate. (I am guessing that Gunvar and Velibor are each other's bunkmates, too—and drive each other nuts in the process! :p )

    Oh, who can indeed? :D I have you to thank for creating him, too; it was so much fun to flesh him out here. I imagine that he might have been one of Herleva's cadets, or at least subordinates, back in the day, and that he owes a lot to her example—yes, he's Honor Guard tough, but he also cares for his men, trusts them, and wants to cultivate caring in them. (And those are values of the Honor Guard, too, closely related to honor itself.)

    Thans so much! These are areas where I had to do some extra research, since I don't know a lot about mountainous terrain and still less about military maneuvers in mountainous terrain. In addition to thinking back to my summer 2017 vacation to Colorado (which still informs the way I picture so much of Lasan's terrain), I remember looking up things like the Marine Corps Moutain Warfare Training Center and the Marine workout (yes, that's a link to Men's Health magazine! YKY...), and recalling the time I had to endure grueling, unbearable things like burpees and pushups at a martial arts training seminar the Findshusband and I went to one year. (In sum: I can't! :p ) Throwing in the climbing seemed like the perfect way to make it uniquely Lasat. And once again I have to acknowledge your help and counsel, because I am pretty sure you and I talked this all through while I was working on this. <3

    He and I both thank and salute you! :zeb: It will indeed be worth the effort—Zeb has never, ever been one to flinch from extra effort, especially in the service of those he cares for.

    Oh, thanks so much, diva—it's such a pleasure to have you here! We would of course love to have you catch up, on whatever schedule suits you; your insightful commentary is always a daymaker. :) And I believe you are onto something with your assumption—
    —I guess it wasn't hard to guess! :D

    Aw, well, shucks, thanks... again, the ultimate credit goes to Raissa for creating these guys and for depicting them so thoroughly and believably in BOH; I'm really just playing in the sandbox. But playing in such a well-done, fully realized sandbox is always a treat and a joy! @};-

    Oh, it speaks volumes! Your assessment of Velibor and any of his putative lady friends is spot on (and I love "cheap son of a bo-rifle," because I am sure that's exactly what he is :p ). Zeb's prone to temper even at this earlier stage of his life (I see it as becoming more pronounced later on, after the loss of his world and species), but he's thankfully got a heart of honor to balance it out and to ensure that his response fits the situation. Thrashing a fellow squadron member would be bad form, for sure (and would probably land him in the kitchen peeling topatoes, at very least), but Velibor does need something said to him at that moment, and Zeb characteristically (I hope) rises to the occasion.

    Oh, you shall, soon and very soon! Thank you once again for reading, commenting, and just being here. @};-

    Thank you, Azure, and I really appreciate your being here and checking this out. @};- Raissa was the one who came up with most of the Guardsmen's names, since she originally created them; I can't really take credit for anything other than "Spargstaung," but I really loved the opportunity to work with these characters. And I am glad the military atmosphere works well for you, because it was a very new kind of writing for me—but learning new things is part of what I love about writing fanfic. Thanks so much once again! :)
     
  7. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Once again, I thank @Raissa Baiard for beta reading. @};-


    Two

    For Zeb and his subunit, the recon exercises were going smoothly. The four Guardsmen—Zeb, Gunvar, Velibor, and one Corporal Tarbigron Stultzfoss, a fairly recent Military Academy graduate—had spent the entire morning in the central forest region of Mount Sketh scouting the terrain, taking sensor readings, practicing combat and rescue techniques, and assessing the tactical suitability of the area. With the forest region covered, they were now heading above the treeline to begin their reconnaissance of the summit area. Weather conditions so far were tolerable, with temperatures hovering just around the freezing point; there were a few clouds, and enough of a wind that the four had to grip with their toe-pads even while walking on flatter ground (causing Velibor to complain at several points about cramping), but at least visibility was generally good.

    But Zeb was disappointed in the vaunted mineral riches of Mount Sketh. With the exception of occasional small outcroppings of cloudy, brown-yellowish quartz—totally unsuitable for the purpose he had in mind—everything he had seen so far had been the same uninteresting gray mountain rock. Perhaps, he considered, more interesting mineral specimens were to found around the mountain’s base, closer to the ground. Once again, he wondered if Captain Porifiros’s decision to assign him to the summit was deliberate, done to keep him from becoming distracted or whatever such poodoo. But the Honor Guard topographical map of the mountain loaded onto his datapad showed a very likely looking cave or cavern or something on the north face of the the summit region, so perhaps there was still some hope… Whatever happened, he knew there was no way he was going to resort to ordering from Suarovik’s—not for something like this.

    At least Gunvar and Velibor, thank the Ashla, had not given him any more guff about it. Zeb found that they were decently tolerable as long as they were kept busy. He often would send the two of them off to scout and take readings together while he coached Corporal Stultzfoss on mountain survival techniques. The terrain had been somewhat of shock to the system of the young, homely Guardsman, who originally hailed from a quiet village on the northwestern shore of Lake Yabsh. He had started to feel the effects of the altitude even back in the lower parts of the forest region, but felt much better after Zeb shared a few of his oxygen tablets with him.

    “How’re you holdin’ up, Corporal?” Zeb asked him as they clambered along the jagged slopes. They were not far from the summit now, though the wind was picking up and the sky was becoming more overcast.

    “Sir, pretty good, sir,” came the response. “Though sir, if I may say so, sir…”

    “Yeah, go ahead.”

    “Sir, this is the funniest smelling mountain I’ve ever been on, sir.”

    Gunvar came up alongside the corporal and thumped his shoulder. “That’s ’cause you’re pickin’ up Ahenobarbus’s VibroAxe spray. ‘Purple Temptation.’” His barrel-like chest swelled as he declaimed those two words in an exaggerated and dramatic manner.

    “Shut up, Ankole,” Velibor retorted. “This ozone’s still better than your post-workout besh-osk. Karabast, a bantha’s hind end’s still better than your post-workout besh-osk.”

    “All right, cut the chatter, you two,” Zeb ordered. “Yup, Corporal, that’s ozone. An’ quite a bit of it, too.” His own face screwed up quizzically as he sniffed the air; the smell had become strong, and the sky was now almost solidly clouded. “Usually means a storm’s comin’. Ankole, check the radar.”

    “Sir, yes, sir.” Gunvar took a field scanner from his belt pouch and tapped on it for a few moments. “Yup. Level two, north by northeast, with winds at 16 kilometers per—”

    He was interrupted by a horrific craaack as a huge bolt of lighting struck a nearby outcropping, splitting it in two. Seconds later a loud clap of thunder followed, nearly bowling over the four Guardsmen, and rain poured down in a mighty cloudburst, driven by the building wind. Another lightning bolt hit the summit, and another, each followed by a roar of thunder, and soon lightning could be seen flashing wildly over the surrounding peaks.

    “All right, move it, Guards! We gotta get to shelter! This way!” Zeb shouted, clambering madly over the crags and gesturing to the others to follow him. He smiled to himself, even as he rushed to outrun and outclimb the storm—for he had studied that topographical map and knew exactly where he would take them...

    * * *​

    Several minutes later, four tired, soaked, breathless Honor Guards sat panting on the floor of the cave in the north face of Mount Sketh. For a while the only sounds that could be heard were panting, an occasional “karabast,” Velibor grumbling that his foot hurt, and the dull roar of the storm outside.

    “Sir, what do we do now, sir?” inquired Corporal Stultzfoss at last.

    “What we’ve been doing,” Zeb replied, standing up. Stultzfoss rose as well. “What Captain Porifiros ordered us to do. Scout the area. Take readings. Assess tactical viability. A cave like this can make a good temporary base of operations or a hiding place for a sniper or somethin’. Or not, if it’s inhabited by, say, giant Lasat-eating multi-leggers.” He shrugged. “Won’t know till we look. You two comin’?” he asked the other two Guardsmen, who remained seated timorously on the ground.

    “I-I can’t get up,” moaned Velibor, shaking his foot in an exaggerated manner. “My foot hurts. I think I broke it.”

    “Aw, nonsense,” Zeb grunted, arms crossed. “There’s no way it’s broken. You’re wigglin’ it around like you’re doin’ the Funky Quadduck Dance.”

    “But it really, really hurts.” Velibor’s voice was earnest.

    Zeb rolled his eyes. Trust Junior Lieutenant Bantha Chops to be totally useless under these circumstances. “Probably just sprained, then. Just put an Eca bandage on there or somethin’. Should have one in your—”

    “H-here, I-I’ll stay here and h-help him!” Gunvar piped up suddenly, then began fumbling madly in his belt pouch. “N-now, let’s s-see here… w-where’s that thing… oh k-karabast, I think I forgot to p-pack one… V-vel, mind if I—” He reached over and began fumbling in Velibor’s belt pouch, causing Velibor to tumble to the side with a shriek of pain and several curses.

    “Aw, for the Bogan’s sake, you two!” Zeb growled. “My little brother had more gumption than you when he was a fourteen-year-old kit! Fine. Ankole, you can stay here and get this useless nerfbrain bandaged up. Stultzfoss, with me.”

    “Sir, yes, sir.” The corporal saluted.

    “Field scanner at the ready. Set to alarm for lifeforms. Who knows what we’ll meet down there.”

    “Sir, yes, sir,” Stultzfoss said again, taking a small field scanner from his belt pouch, adjusted a few of settings, and clipped it to his belt before following Zeb deeper into the cave.

    They walked on for some time in silence, activating their glowrods as the last glimmers of light from the cave entrance dwindled away. The path grew narrower and began to spiral slowly downward, into the heart of the mountain. The air became close, and the jagged rock felt moist beneath their feet; more than once Zeb twitched at the sensation of some tiny, many-legged lifeform skittering over his toes. But all the while he kept his eyes steadily on the path ahead, looking out for obstacles or danger, while the corporal maintained a close watch on the scanner.

    “Sir, a question, sir,” Corporal Stultzfoss said at last.

    “What is it, Corporal?”

    “Sir, the younger brother you mentioned, sir… do you mean Cadet Garashai Orrelios, sir?”

    “Yeah, that would be him.” Zeb smiled with the pride at the thought of young Shai, who had recently entered the Royal Lasan Military Academy. “You know him?”

    “Sir, we all know him, sir. He told us all the story of the time you saved him from the dust storm five years ago, sir.”

    “Has he, now?” Sounds like Shai, all right...

    “Sir, yes, sir. And sir, when I told him I was going to be assigned to your subunit, he said, ‘Gron! You lucky Bogan, you! You get to serve under—’” He coughed nervously. “Er—um—”

    Zebby,” Zeb interposed, chuckling despite himself. “You can say it, Corporal.”

    “—‘you get to serve under, er, Zebby.’” Stultzfoss coughed again, then added, “Sir.”

    Zeb chuckled again. “Yeah, you’re quite the lucky Bogan indeed, Corporal. Clamberin’ up mountains in the freezin’ cold… trudgin’ through dark, dank, musty caves with little crawly things skitterin’ over your feet every thirty seconds… not to mention the ozone…” He paused for a moment, wondering to himself what Shai would think of the Basalt Mountains. Someday, once he graduated from the Military Academy, maybe he would come here for maneuvers with a subunit of his own. And someday he might even be searching for the same thing Zeb was searching for now...

    His thoughts were interrupted by strident beeping from Stultzfoss’s scanner. Both of the Guardsmen stopped in their tracks. Stultzfoss took the device from his belt and looked at its readout. “Sir, the scanner is picking up motion 256.6 meters ahead… and underground, sir.”

    “Hmmm. Details? Lifeform? Vehicle? Somethin’ else?”

    “Sir, indeterminate, sir.” Stultzfoss adjusted a control on the scanner, stopping the beeping. “But, sir, if I can get closer, I might be able to get better readings, sir… with your permission, sir.”

    “Sure, go right ahead.”

    “Sir, thanks, sir.” Stultzfoss saluted crisply, then marched on ahead down the passage ahead of his commander, holding both the scanner and the glowrod before him. Zeb followed, trying as best he could to keep the beam of his own glowrod trained on his subordinate, though it was difficult to keep up with the younger Guardsman’s swift, eager pace.

    He had gone about 150 meters when he heard the beeping of the scanner once again, this time more quickly and more urgently—and saw Stultzfoss round a bend in the passage up ahead. Zeb’s prehensile feet stole deftly over the crags of the cave floor as he picked up his pace. Whatever it was the scanner had picked up before was certainly very close now, and there was no way he was going to let the youngest member of his subunit out of his sight, out of his protection...

    “AAAGHHH!!” Stultzfoss’s sudden scream rent the air, followed at once by a gruesome thud-crack.

    “Hold on! I’m comin’!” Zeb drew his bo-rifle and ran as fast as he could down the passage and around the bend—then skidded to a halt in front of a large, dark pit blocking his path.

    Karabast, no…!

    to be continued

    Cpl. Tarbigron Stultzfoss: My full name for Gron, which I first used in entry 4 of Shaman, Traveler, Oracle (by that time he’s a lieutenant and Zeb is captain). Again, it’s based on the name Stoltzfuss, literally “proud foot.”

    Garashai “Shai” Orrelios is Raissa Baiard’s OC, borrowed with gratitude, and he appears in several other Lasan Series stories as well.

    VibroAxe spray is Raissa’s creation as well. Three guesses which RL product it’s based on. :p
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2018
    Raissa Baiard likes this.
  8. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_nail_biting] The endearing and earnest Stultzfoss [face_worried] Love that he knows Shai and how proud he is of his older brother, with reason. :) Totally on the edge of my seat for the next update!
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2018
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  9. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Zeb is a Lasat on a mission! Well, two missions—his official assignment and his own quest for something Sparkly and Crystally for a Certain Someone!! True Honor Guard that he is, though, he doesn’t let his side quest distract him from his primary mission, which is a good thing, because two-thirds of his unit are pretty much useless he rides herd on them (aw, poor Velibor and his crampy toes! The Galaxy’s tiniest violin is playing just for you, Vel!) At least the very eager Gron listens to him—and clearly looks up to him, maybe not quite as much as Shai, but close! Poor Zeb seems to be having a rough go of both missions, though, between useless subordinates who bicker about the way they smell (and I love VibroAxe “Purple Temptation”—-the smell of Lasat. Makes me wonder if Zeb also wears it and that’s why Ezra thinks he smells so funky:p) and the discouraging lack of interesting minerals. Yes, I think that brownish-yellow quartz probably means something uncomplimentary in the Language of Stones.

    And then the storm hit! And you really bring it to life with vivid sensory details—the deafening crack of thunder, the blinding flash of lightning, the pounding rain, even the smell of the ozone in the air! Luckily, there’s that conveniently located cave to shelter in.... Of course, Gunvar and Velibor continue to be a couple of useless drama gualamas. Now, Velibor’s foot isn’t just cramped, it’s broken! Or at least sprained! But totally injured! And it doesn’t surprise me that Gunvar is a bit of a coward—not after he basically suggested Zeb leave Shai in The Beginning of Honor. Zeb is completely right that Shai had more gumption as a kit—and his foot really was broken! Gron probably knows it, too, since Shai’s told everyone the story of how Zeb rescued him. It’s a mark of how much Zeb has matured in the five years since then that he has a sense of humor about Shai calling him “Zebby” rather than being embarrassed by it.

    Again, you do a fabulous job of setting the scene in this creepy cave, as Zeb and Gron travel downward into the mountain’s heart on a darkening path with crawly critters scrambling over their toes—eeek! :eek: And the scream and “gruesome thud-crack” when Gron runs ahead to see what’s causing that mysterious pinging on their sensors!!! I love how Zeb runs after him, considering Gron not just as a soldier in his unit, but a young person under his protection—-it’s so very Zeb. [face_love] We’ve seen him do the same with Shai, and of course, he’ll do the same with Ezra in the future. And when he finds only a gaping pit—oh, karabast, indeed! What a cliffhanger!

    Looking forward to seeing how out\r big purple hero saves the day and completes both his missions...and I know he will, because Zeb! :zeb:
     
  10. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oh! This is shaping up to be a wonderful story so far, and a more than worthy addition to your guys' series! [face_love] =D=


    Ooooh! Something sparkly and beautiful enough to match his lady, no doubt. Yep, between the military manouvers and the romantic side quest, we really do have the best of both worlds meeting here. :D

    [face_laugh][face_laugh]

    What a wonderful voice for their captain! I have to echo the above comments that commended just how unique each voice of this ensemble is. No character is left underdeveloped, and it truly makes for a rich, interesting read.

    Aww. I love how well the captain can manage his men. He truly wants the best for them, in true Honor Guard fashion, all the while still being in full non-nonsense captain mode! But Zeb won't give him anything to worry over in that regard, I'm sure! [face_mischief]

    I have to add my voice to the chorus who enjoyed 'nuzzlecat.' :p I really appreciate the attention to detail you put into even the smallest aspects of your worldbuilding, as always!

    I can't say I blame Zeb! Ordering cheap knock-off crystals to proclaim your love, no matter how beautiful, really misses the meaning of this tradition. Thankfully, Zeb is going to do things right!

    Exactly!! Groz is too right in his words - and such a sweetheart of an OC to boot. I'm really enjoying his character in this story. [face_love]

    Oh, what a bummer! Yep - yellowish quartz certainly doesn't seem like a romantic token, that's for sure. :p But I trust Zeb's tenacity to find just the right stone! [face_love]

    I loved seeing Zeb in a mentoring role in this story - he already has so much wisdom to share, and I wish that had been highlighted more in Rebels. He was a valueable command asset that really went underutilized, to a large degree. As much as I enjoyed his comedic value, the few episodes that gave him backstory and depth were some of the show's finest! (See my same complaints with Rex. [face_dunno])

    And he listens to his subordinates, too, and only benefits! Even when a few of his men are being whiny kits who're milking a few scrapes and bruises. Seriously. o_O :rolleyes: I loved the banter, though. Purple temptation. :p

    Ooooh, multitasking. [face_mischief] [face_love]

    Bwaha!! [face_laugh]

    I love how you managed to include more of Zeb and Shai's trademark, endearing banter. Just further on, Zeb's pride in his brother's growth was just as beautiful to read! [face_love]

    Ack!! What a cliffhanger!! Yikes!! :eek: [face_plain]
    I'm almost scared to find out what happened, and how they'll get out of their presicament. [face_worried]


    On that note, you certainly managed to emerse me in this story, and I truly can't wait for more! =D=
     
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    TBH, Shai isn't even an OC to me anymore =D= but an EC and Zeb is permanently "Zebby" to me, as well. [face_love] [face_laugh] [face_shhh]
     
  12. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thanks, as always, for reading, commenting, and following! :)

    I could totally see where someone as exuberant and ebullient as Shai would quickly become known to pretty much all his fellow cadets, even those like Gron who are a year or two above him. Especially since Zebby is a large part of the reason Shai joins the Honor Guard and enters its academy to begin with! :zeb: Stay tuned—the resolution of this cliffhanger is just around the corner. ;)

    Given that Zeb eventually becomes captain of the Honor Guard, I always imagined that he must have been a very gifted military man who did very well for himself in the Guard—hence giving him a subunit of his own here. (I think too that that the military aspect of his character could have gotten more attention in the Rebels series than it did, though that’s a discussion for another time. :p ) He’s got his hands full with Gunvar and Velibor for sure, but he’s a commanding presence and more than equal to the situation, and he’ll get results in spite of it all.

    Gron clearly remembers Zeb with fondness and respect in “Legends of the Lasat,” and this story provided me with a chance to explore where that may have come from. Of course, in that episode, given all that had happened since, Zeb was in not much condition to appreciate that fondness and respect—but back in his happier days in the Guard it no doubt meant a lot to him to have such a diligent and eager Guardsman under his command. And, as you and Mira both point out, there is the mentorship and protectorship aspect at work too. I’m so glad you liked “Purple Temptation”—it just seemed perfect for these strapping young purple striped giants, and I have no doubt Zeb used the stuff himself from time to time! :D

    That, or something very ordinary and boring, like, say, moderation or temperance or stability. :p

    Zeb definitely did his homework on this region before venturing out on maneuvers—sure sign that he takes both of his missions seriously, and aspects that set a good example for everyone in his subunit whatever they care to pay attention or not (I’m lookin’ at you, Gunvar and Velibor). Now that Zeb has matured into a real Honor Guard, he is secure enough in his toughness to know he needn’t be self-conscious about childhood nicknames like “Zebby” and can even laugh about it a bit—though I can see where Gron might be a bit uneasy about even indirectly referring to his commander that way! :p

    Thanks! I’m glad the scene came off well, since I haven’t done this kind of action/adventure type scene in a long time and had to put in a bit of research (there are a few similar scenes in The Book of Gand, and I guess there’s some kind of YKYAFFWW thing at work when one does fanfic writing research within one’s own oeuvre :p ). And of course he takes the motto of the Honor Guard seriously in all situations, with his subordinates as with his brothers (or brother figures): protecting those who cannot protect themselves is the beginning of honor. Again, another reason Gron surely remembers him with fondness down the line. And you know how I’ve come to appreciate the pleasure of a good cliffhanger! ;)

    He will, indeed, and in spades! Thanks as always for all you do to support my attempts at writing this big purple darling, and stay tuned for more eftsoons and right speedily...

    Thank you so much! I am so glad you are continuing to enjoy these stories; having you as a regular reader and reviewer is such a joy, and your reviews always make my day! @};-

    Verily, I think you may be onto something. ;) And thanks again, I do try—to me both sides of the quest kind of represent two different but equally integral sides of this character. I enjoyed branching out in a new direction to explore that side of Zeb. (Though see above for my thoughts on how it could have been brought out more in the official series.)

    Once again, I can only take so much credit (read: not much at all), since Raissa was the one who really created this group of characters in earnest; the fact that they were already so well-differentiated and distinctive in The Beginning of Honor made working with them here an especial treat!

    Since trust is such a big part of honor—that’s why it’s called “the honor system”—I figured the captain would allow his men a little leeway in matters of this sort. It’s a way of showing respect for them, really; he understands each of them individually, even within the larger context of a military organization. And Zeb, of course, is more than worthy of his commander’s trust. I can imagine Zeb very much taking Captain Porifiros’s example to heart later on when he becomes captain himself.

    Well, thanks so much! I’m so glad that little touch was enjoyed; again, it just fit. Details make the universe, I always say, so I definitely do try. :D

    Oh, for sure! He always goes the extra mile; there’s no cutting corners for him. (And perhaps that attitude is why he has someone to search for a gift for to begin with, and why Lt. Bantha Chops doesn’t. :p )

    I really liked how Raissa characterized Groz in Beginning of Honor too; in that story he seemed the closest to Zeb of that group of cadets (which is why I made the bunkmates here), and he always seemed like one of the more reasonable ones—which is why I figured he too would eventually be promoted to the point of commanding a subunit. Unfortunately that means he doesn’t get to accompany Zeb on this mission, but I am certain both Guardsmen have the example of each other's friendship always before them.

    Definitely not—see above about possible meanings for such an unremarkable, unpretty mineral. :p But you’re right, Zeb’s not giving up so easily, and has a plan of sorts in his mind...

    Oh, I’m absolutely right with you there, about both characters. That side of him could have been highlighted much more—and it would have been nice to see more done with his military experience too (though “Warhead” was a notable and very fine exception). Well, this is where we fanficcers come in, I suppose—and I’m so glad you found my little attempt at filling this gap effective! Thanks again. :)

    All are elements of being a good leader, and again, I was only too glad to give this character the chance to be a leader here. And apropos “temptation,” I couldn’t resist the temptation to riff a little on Raissa’s wonderful VibroAxe series of fragrances geared toward male sentients! (Which is almost certainly in regular use by a dandy like Velibor. :p )

    He’s a man with a plan… ;)

    I’ve loved Shai (and his fraternal dynamic with Zeb) from the moment Raissa first introduced him, and as a result he’s been finding his way—he won’t be silenced! :D Zeb’s pride in his brother’s growth comes out of his own growth: because he’s a real Honor Guard now, he is better positioned to appreciate that his little brother is one too.

    Dun dun DUN! Well, find out you shall, very soon… and Zeb being Zeb, he’s got this, yo! :D

    Well, thank you again (I keep saying that, and I really do mean it)—your support of these stories means a lot to me, and I’m only too happy to keep ‘em coming. More is on its way shortly!

    And I have to say...

    …yes, that pretty much sums up the situation for me too. :zeb: [face_love]
     
  13. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Once again, I thank @Raissa Baiard for beta-reading. :zeb:


    Three


    “Stultzfoss!” Zeb shouted into the depths of the pit. “You down there?! You all right?!”

    “Help! Help! Lieutenant Orr—” Stultzfoss’s muffled cry was immediately swallowed up in a grisly cacophony: a raucous clatter as of many giant chitinous appendages, the scrape of metal being dragged against rock, and a gut-churningly loud, wet, hungry snuffling noise.

    “I’m comin’!” Zeb pulled his grappling hook from his belt pouch and lowered himself into the pit. Again he ran forward with his bo-rifle drawn—then stopped suddenly when he saw what was before him.

    He was in a large, round cavern whose vaultlike ceiling shone with a faint greenish phosphorescence. The walls were were richly crusted with crystal deposits of all colors and shapes, but most of them were blanketed with sticky yellow-white gauze, and clusters of giant, gauze-covered whitish globules—probably some kind of egg sacs—were nestled between and around the deposits, partially covering them. A sickly-sweet smell hung in the air, and patches of the sticky gauze squelched underfoot. But most horrifying of all was the being at the center of the cavern: a large, segmented, wormlike creature with seemingly dozens of jointed chitinous legs. It was a crawler of some kind—and it had pinned a squirming, screaming Corporal Stultzfoss beneath its front appendages and was now snapping at him hungrily with giant, nasty-looking mandibles.

    Aw karabast, Zeb thought to himself. And here I thought I’d been just kidding about giant Lasat-eating multi-leggers...

    Reflexively he fired off several shots at the creature. A few hit between its segments, surprising it momentarily but not fazing it; most hit its chitinous carapace and had no effect. It continued its attack on Stultzfoss, slavering sticky ooze all over the young corporal as it wrenched off one plate of his chest armor and and gobbled it noisily up. Its jaws snapped threateningly as it lunged for the next plate; Stultzfoss writhed and struggled but could not free himself.

    All right, if that’s how it’s gonna be… In one swift motion Zeb swung his bo-rifle open into staff mode. He rushed at the crawler, growling and gnashing, and plunged the crackling purple plasma-blade into the soft tissue between its head and neck segments. The monster let out a bloodcurdling shriek as viscous black blood spurted from the wound. It lurched violently to one side, losing its grip on Stultzfoss—but then lunged toward Zeb, hissing angrily as it caught his bo-rifle in its jaws.

    “NO YA DON’T!!” Zeb yanked his weapon free and thrust its crackling tip down full force into one of the monster’s eyes, reducing the black orb to a sizzling, shriveled mass. It shrieked and lunged again; Zeb jumped backward from its reach onto one of the egg clusters but felt his back scrape one of the gauze-webbed crystal formations on the wall. The dripping jaws loomed nearer and nearer...

    Clink! From seemingly nowhere a concave, oval-shaped piece of gray-green metal hit one of the crawler’s mandibles and rattled to the floor. Turning suddenly away from Zeb, the monster shuffled toward it and probed at it with its numerous mouthparts and feelers. Another similar piece of metal followed, clinking onto the floor beside the first, and the creature probed it as well. After a few moments, a half-wet, half-metallic smacking sound could be heard as it started nibbling on one of the metal pieces.

    Taking advantage of the situation, Zeb hurried over toward Stultzfoss. The corporal had lifted himself to sitting; he was out of breath but other than a few cuts and scrapes seemed none the worse for wear. For some reason he seemed to be adjusting or refastening one of his knee guards. Zeb noticed that his shoulder armor was gone. Was that what had gone flying at the monster a moment ago? Not that there was any time to speculate—the main thing now was to get the both of them out of there, and quick.

    “You all right, Stultzfoss?” Zeb asked as he came up and crouched beside him.

    The younger Guardsman saluted in reply. “Sir, I’m fine, sir. Just a little worn out, sir.”

    “Good. Now c’mon, let’s getcha outta here before that thing eats us both.” Zeb offered a hand to raise Stultzfoss to his feet, but the corporal was still occupied with his knee armor.

    “What the Bogan’re you doin’, Corporal?! C’mon, we need to get out NOW!”

    “Sir… if you could please give me just another moment, sir… I’m distracting it, sir.”

    “Whaddaya mean, distracting it, Guardsman?!”

    “Sir, please, sir… you see, sir, it wasn’t trying to eat me, just my armor, sir… and my bo-rifle, too, sir, but of course I would never let that happen, sir.” He paused to pull off the knee guard and throw it in the direction of the crawler, which was still gnawing at the second shoulder plate. “Sir, this way we still have time to scout the area and assess tactical viability, sir.”

    “Corporal, this is the lair of a giant, multi-legged, metal-eating crawler. It is not, and never will be, tactically viable.” All those crystal formations, though… Zeb paused for a moment and looked around gauze-cocooned but still colorful deposits lining the walls. This might just be my chance to find somethin’...

    “Right,” he said at last. “If you think you can distract it long enough, we can at least take some readings. I’ll take the scanner. You cover me and get your other knee guard ready. Looks like it’s almost finished with your shoulder plate.”

    “Sir, yes, sir.” The corporal began unfastening his other knee guard. “I... guess I’ll have to explain this to Supply Sergeant Skaavatou, sir.”

    “Aw, he’ll understand. A Guard’s gotta do what a Guard’s gotta do. Now c’mon.”

    He lifted Stultzfoss to his feet, and together they made their way carefully around the edge of the cavern. Corporal Stultzfoss went first, keeping his eye on the crawler, which was now snarfing away at his first knee guard; he held the other at the ready to throw to it the moment it finished. Zeb followed with the scanner in hand, his eyes moving in a regular rotation from the scanner to his subordinate to the crystals that grew on the walls in patterns as erratic and beautiful as lifeforms. This is more like it, he thought to himself; this is the Mount Sketh we all know. There was flashing chrysoberyl, creamy rose quartz, lambent citrine, and brilliant white bladequartz—representing joy, purity, enlightenment, and beauty, if Zeb was remembering aright from that booklet he had checked out from the base library. Thing was, any of them would fit. Karabast, this was going to be a tough decision… and he was going to have to think quick, what with the crawler and all...

    The Guardsmen had made almost a full circuit of the cavern when Zeb came upon a narrow fissure-like opening in one wall, half-hidden among the rocky crags. It was big enough to admit a Lasat but much too small for the crawler. Warm air flowed from the opening; Zeb noticed that the egg clusters near it seemed slightly larger and darker than most of the others in the cavern. A faint reddish glow shone within. Any more crystals down this way? he wondered. Worth investigating, perhaps...

    He stopped and beckoned to his subordinate. “Stultzfoss. This way. Behind me.”

    “Sir, yes, sir.”

    Together they entered. Zeb double-checked the settings of the scanner as he noticed that a few of the eggs just inside had ruptured already. Karabast, not more of ’em… “An’ watch out. There may be… er… baby crawlers in here.”

    “Sir, er… yes, sir.”

    to be continued

    The crystal crawler is a fanon creature.

    Supply Sergeant Skaavatou: An OC and the quartermaster of the Lasan High Honor Guard. He is first mentioned in Raissa Baiard’s The Beginning of Honor, chapter 1, though this is the first time he’s named. (His full name is Droglak Skaavatou, for what it’s worth. :D )
     
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  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Stultzfoss was quick thinking and had a good plan for distracting the crawlers, it wanted something metal and shiny! [face_relieved] And [face_laugh] Zeb is still bent on collecting something "useful". ;)
     
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  15. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Zeb to the rescue! Of course our brave (though perhaps just a bit rash) hero lowers himself into a deep, dark pit full of unknown dangers to rescue Gron from whatever is making that awful “wet, hungry, snuffling noise”! :eek: And as usual, you do a stellar job describing the scene he finds himself in—lots of creepy sensory details in the sticky gauze-like stuff draping the walls, the sickly-sweet smell, and the translucent egg sacs...and of course, that giant centipede-like “crawler” that seems intent on munching Gron. Aw, karabast, indeed; Zeb hates it when he’s right. But he doesn’t let whatever revulsion he feels stop him, firing off a couple shots at it, and when that doesn’t work, puts his bo-rifle in staff mode and goes directly for the crawler. He hits it where it’s vulnerable—and that gets its attention. The good news: it stops attacking Gron. The bad news: now it wants to eat Zeb...or at least his no-rifle (and it says a lot about these two’s sense of honor that they are dead set against letting the crawler munch their rifles, in a way that seems to go,beyond the practical concerns of losing a weapon to a level of honoring the rifles and what they stand for.)

    Fortunately, Gron is clever and resourceful, and he’s figured out that the creature doesn’t want to snack on the Lasat, just the metal in their armor. He tossed a shoulder piece to distract it from Zeb, and the image of the crawler snuffling after it like some giant, chitinous puppy after a treat is half funny, half ewww :D Dear, earnest Gron is still intent on carrying out his mission to the best of his ability (a true Honor Guard!) even though, as Zeb points out:
    . But then he realizes this just might be the chance he needs to complete his Very Important Side Mission, and indeed, when they go deeper into the cave, they find
    What a gorgeous image! As he notes, any of these stones would be appropriate—and I love that he actually checked out a book from the library to make sure he gets this right. I’m imagining a Language of Stones for Moof-Milkers, complete with large, color pictures labeled YES! and KARABAST, NO! as appropriate. :D

    Hopefully, when and Gron go through that narrow fissure, Zeb will find exactly what he’s looking for (and not too many baby crawlers!). Good luck and Ashla speed, Zeb!
     
  16. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thanks to you all, as always. @};-

    He was definitely quick off the bat and resourceful there—a good skill for an Honor Guard to have, and of which we know he has a good model in his subunit commander. :zeb: And of course Zeb has not given up on his quest—he doesn’t give up, not nohow! He’ll see this through to the end.

    Our Zebby would never abandon one of his comrades, especially not a younger one, even if it means putting himself in danger—and even around multileggers! And he never has been one to back down from a direct confrontation, if that’s what it takes. I don’t have a lot of experience writing action/battle scenes like this, but I will say that it is much, much easier to do so when one admires the character in question! :zeb: And of course, the Lasat bo-rifle is not just any weapon, as we’ve seen in Rebels and in stories here; it only stands to reason that “the ancient weapon of honor” would receive special respect from those deemed worthy to wield it.

    I hope that’s “half ewww” in a good way! :p Yep, pretty much any place within about a mile of where giant, multi-legged, metal-eating crawlers hang out is not going to be tactically viable—people’s bo-rifles really and truly will get eaten that way, for one thing. But I think these two will still find something worth reporting on back to their captain… ;)

    Thanks! Zeb’s suddenly got an embarrassment of riches before him; it’s not going to be an easy choice. It was rather fun doing the research for this part of the story; the gem room at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History was always one of my favorite rooms in that museum, and a I also had the help of a huge Gems book published by the Smithsonian (if I remember aright) from my artist aunt’s endtable. The cavern I see as one of those places of great natural beauty that is hidden and semi-dangerous to reach, but very much worth it in in the end if one perseveres.

    Hah! [face_laugh] Yes, that is pretty much the size of it! Everything spelled out very clearly so that all those strapping young Guards don’t get THE WRONG STONE! :p Again, Zeb does nothing half-heartedly—karabast, he’s gonna do this right! :D

    In just a bit you and they shall both see what’s in there—and once again, Zeb’s got this, yo! :zeb: Thanks again, as always, for the wonderful comment and for all the support you’ve given these stories. <3 More right around the corner…!
     
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  17. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Here's the fourth and last chapter. Thanks again to all who have taken the time to read and comment! =D=


    Four

    The two Guardsmen proceeded singlefile down the passage, holding their glowrods before them. For several minutes they followed the winding, narrow path deeper and deeper into the mountain, hearing nothing except occasional drops of water and seeing nothing but the rocky walls and the strange dim, reddish glow. As they walked, Zeb began to see where it was coming from: the natural phosphorescence of the cave walls was filtering through tiny, faint, reddish mineral deposits. This could be promising… He walked on, and the corporal dutifully followed. The air grew warmer and warmer around them as they went.

    The scanner beeped. There was a faint clicking-clattering sound up ahead, the sound of chitinous feet skittering on rock. Zeb drew his bo-rifle and motioned for Stultzfoss to do the same. They picked up their pace; the red glow ahead of them shone brighter and brighter with each step, and the red deposits on the walls began to thicken and unite into veins.

    At last they halted at the edge of a deep, warm, bubbling mineral spring that filled the bottom of a tall, narrow, cylindrical cavern. The red crystal veins swirled lavishly over the jagged walls, with clusters of purple-red crystals occasionally blossoming from them like small flowers, till they all came together in a single huge, magnificent, glistening cluster high above the spring’s far side. Three baby crawlers—each about the length and thickness of a full-grown Lasat’s lower leg—sat at the edge of the water, lapping at it thirstily and taking no notice of the two newcomers.

    Zeb reset the scanner, then stowed his bo-rifle; Corporal Stultzfoss did so as well. For several moments both of them stood still, taking in their curious surroundings. Finally Zeb went up to one of the crystal growths on the wall and examined it carefully in the light of his glowrod. It was a striking deep red-purple in color, with brilliant gold flecks and streaks running through it. Zeb thought back to the booklet from the base library. He was pretty sure red meant love or something. And gold—that was eternity, wasn’t it? Love and eternity—karabast, that would be perfect! And it was awfully pretty stuff, one couldn’t deny that.

    But these little crusty bits on the walls were much too small. Zeb’s eyes wandered to the large, gleaming cluster at the other side of the spring, and he thought for a moment.

    “Excuse me for a moment, Corporal,” he said at last, handing Stultzfoss the scanner.

    “Sir, yes, sir, but…” The corporal trailed off. His commander was already clambering swiftly along the walls of the cavern, directly above the hot, bubbling waters of the spring, gripping the rocky outcroppings with both hands and both feet. Only a few times did he lose his grip, and each time he regained it. He did not stop until he reached the opposite wall of the cavern. Once there he paused for a moment, considering his next move. Just above and to the side of the crystal cluster was a narrow ledge of rock. Reaching up to it with one hand, then the other, Zeb managed to swing himself up onto it, then shifted himself with some difficulty into a crouch facing the cluster. Right, almost there...

    Steadying himself with his feet and one hand, Zeb used the other to unsheath his utility knife. Carefully he began to chisel away at the rock, working steadily until he had extracted an irregularly shaped but sizable chunk from the most brilliant part of the cluster.

    “Whew! Got it!” he exclaimed. He replaced his knife and looked for a moment at the piece of crystal he had hewn. Even in the dim light of the cavern it glittered like dancing flame.

    “Sir?” Stultzfoss inquired from below. With some difficulty Zeb looked over his shoulder at him. The younger Guardsman was standing stock-still at the edge of the spring, gazing up at his commander with wide, awed eyes. Zeb smiled down at him and held up the chunk of crystal in a friendly wave. All Stultzfoss could do was wave back and watch as Zeb tucked the crystal gently into his belt pouch, swung down from the ledge, and made his way back down along the walls.

    “Sir,” Stultzfoss said once Zeb joined him on the ground. “Er... if I may have permission to say so, sir...”

    “Yeah, go ahead.”

    “Sir... congratulations, sir.”

    “Thanks, Corporal.”

    Together they walked back through the passage and back through the lair where the crawler lay asleep, gorged and snuffling, and hoisted themselves with their grappling hooks back to the cave’s upper level.

    * * *​

    Gunvar and Velibor were waiting for them at the top of the pit. Zeb greeted them both with punches to the upper arm; Velibor wobbled exaggeratedly on his bandaged foot as he did so. “I see you two moof-milkers finally decided to show up.”

    “We were gettin’ worried!” Gunvar threw up his hands. “Where the Bogan were you two, anyway?”

    Zeb shrugged. “Just scoutin’ the area. Takin’ readings. Assessin’ tactical viability. That kinda thing. Now let’s get goin’. Storm’s probably over by now, and we still got the summit to do.”

    As they walked, Velibor eyed the bulge of the crystal in Zeb’s belt pouch. “So, did you find a nice shiny rock, or are you just happy to see us?”

    Gunvar shoved him. “It’s not in the right spot for that, you boulderbrain!”

    “Oh, but you know how things can sometimes move around—”

    “Glad to see you two are up on your basic anatomy.” Zeb’s voice cut him off. “Yes, Lieutenant, as a matter of fact, I did find somethin’. An’ it’s much nicer than any tacky knickknack from Suarovik’s, I might add.”

    “Do we get to see?”

    “Maybe,” Zeb chuckled, smirking. “If you promise me you won’t gripe about your foot anymore.”

    “Hey, why’s Gron only got one knee guard?” Gunvar piped up suddenly. “An’ where’d all his armor go?”

    “You can ask him that, y’know.”

    “Yeah, where’d all your armor go, Gron?”

    “Sir, it’s a long story, sir.”

    Velibor sniffed. “Supply Sergeant Skaavatou is going to hang you up for the convorees, you realize.”

    Stultzfoss just shrugged. “Sir, a Guard’s gotta do what a Guard’s gotta do, sir.”

    He cracked a smile as he spoke; Zeb turned and smiled back. The four Guardsmen walked on, and it was not long before they found themselves once again on the cold, clear slopes of Mount Sketh.

    * * *​

    That evening, as ordered, Zeb and his men presented Captain Porifiros with a full report on the topography, environmental conditions, and tactical viability of the summit region of Mount Sketh. They gave an account of all that had befallen them, from the storm to the cave to the crawler to Velibor’s foot. (“It really, really hurt,” the junior lieutenant was careful to add, whereupon the captain replied that he could tell that to Senior Lieutenant Esclepios once they got back to base.) On the whole, however, the captain commended them on their efforts, and went on to specially recognize Senior Lieutenant Orrelios and Corporal Stultzfoss for their valor and resourcefulness in the crawler’s lair. Furthermore, he said, he looked forward to communicating their findings to the geological ministry and to the ministry of the military. Then he dismissed them.

    On his way back to the barracks, Zeb felt a cordial punch to his shoulder as his bunkmate and fellow senior lieutenant, Groz Spargstaung, came up beside him. “Hey, pal. Glad to see you back and in one piece.”

    “Thanks, you too, Groz.”

    “How’d it all go?”

    “All right, all right… how ’bout you?”

    “Just fine… bit of a storm but no real trouble. Say, uh, Zeb…”

    “Yeah?”

    “Didja manage to find the… y’know, the, um… the thing?

    “Well, er…” Zeb glanced around, making sure there were no inquisitive comrades nearby to eavesdrop. “Yeah, but…”

    “So, let’s see it.”

    It was not Groz who spoke but Captain Porifiros, who now stood behind them, arms crossed. Zeb and Groz spun around and saluted nervously.

    “Sir! Well—er—” Aw karabast, I’m gonna get it now for sure, he thought. Shoulda known this is what would come of tryin’ to fit this in during recon maneuvers. “Well—er—you—see—sir—”

    The captain crossed his arms sternly. “Show us, Lieutenant. That’s a direct order.”

    “Sir… yes, sir.” Slowly and sheepishly, Zeb removed the red crystal from his belt pouch and held it up for the captain and Groz to see. Groz whistled admiringly; the captain’s face was still stern and set.

    “Hand it here.”

    “Sir-yes-sir….” Zeb did so. The captain spent several moments examining the stone, turning it over in his hands and squinting at it closely, all the while nodding and hemming thoughtfully.

    “Kreposkolite,” he said. “You mentioned that in your report. Malamut used it for the focusing crystals in the AB-70 back in the day, you know, before they merged with LasanCorp. Switched to sardite for the J-19… but I think they went back to kreposkolite in the AB-75s you boys have… that’d explain why they’ve got that spark, y’know.” He handed the stone back to Zeb with a brisk nod. “Yes, very nice, Orrelios. A fitting token indeed.” Then he added, leaning closer: “She’ll be most impressed.”

    Zeb felt warmth rise in his face. “Sir, er... yes, sir… I mean, er… thank you, sir.”

    “All right, you two are dismissed. And my heartiest congratulations to ya, Lieutenant.”

    “Sir, thank you, sir,” was Zeb’s hurried reply as his commander thumped him vigorously on the back. Then he and Groz snapped off one last quick salute before making their way as quickly as they could back to the barracks.

    * * *​

    Before he retired for the night, Zeb took the kreposkolite crystal from his gear locker once more. He held it, felt it, looked at it—its striking red-purple color, its thousand brilliant blade-facets, the way those facets burst into a million iridescent gleams even in the dull light of the barracks. It really was perfect, if he did say so himself.

    But nothing less than perfection would do for the one who was more precious and lovely than any gem hewn from the mountain’s heart...

    He sat on his bunk. Beside it, on a makeshift wooden bracket-shelf, a holoimage leaned against the wall. It showed a Lasat woman, young and beautiful, with long purple-black hair, eyes of deep emerald, and delicate, wine-colored stripes that glided gracefully over her lilac cheeks. Zeb’s leaf-green eyes widened with love and awe as he set his radiant treasure on the shelf, directly in front of the holo. It was to be this lovely lady’s betrothal stone, signifying his eternal love and promise to her according to ancient Lasat custom.

    “For you, darlin’,” he breathed. “Forever.”

    He kissed his fingertips and touched them gently to the beloved image. Then Senior Lieutenant Garazeb Orrelios, of the 8th Squadron of the Third Honor Guard Division, lay down to rest from his day’s toils, surrendering himself to peaceful sleep and tender dreams.

    the end

    Senior Lieutenant Esclepios is Raissa Baiard’s OC; he is the field medic who examines Zeb in chapter 4 of The Beginning of Honor.

    The AB-75 is the model of bo-rifle Zeb has; the J-19 is the one Kallus has (which he won in battle from another Lasat Honor Guard). Both were manufactured by the Lasan-Malamut Firearms Corporation (the exact nature of whose merger is fanon; it just sounded like a merger to me).

    On the custom of the betrothal stone, which is fanon, see the Lasat fanon post, as well as Raissa Baiard’s When the Time Is Right.

    Finally, anyone who has read other stories in the Lasan Series will likely recognize the woman in the holoimage. @};-
     
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  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    LOL, the Captain wasn't a "wet blanket" at all. ;) Groz and Gron - totally sympathetic.
    Gorgeous description of the cavern and the crystal! Perfect, like Zeb/Shulma and this entire addition to the series! (Have I thanked you for this OTP today?) [face_laugh] [face_dancing] SQUEE!
     
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  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Thanks so much, as always, for your readership and support! :) Yes, Zeb is fortunate to have a supportive commander and sympathetic comrades-in-arms—they all understand how important this is to him and how serious he is about his relationship, because they know that he's serious about whatever he sets out to do. And you are most welcome for your continued support of this little (well, technically not so little) couple of mine; it always warms my heart to see the canon/OC side of things getting some appreciation. @};- Many thanks once again!
     
  20. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    D’oh...I just realized this morning when you posted responses that I hadn’t commented. I apologize for being the Confused Beta Reader [:D]

    Our intrepid Honor Guard continues with both his missions! And as always, you do such an excellent job describing the setting that I felt like I’m there with Zeb and Gron, in the reddish glow of the phosphorescence. I could practically feel the warm, moist air in the passage, smell the minerals in it, and hear the drip drip drip of water from the cave ceiling! But of course it’s Zeb’s personal mission that’s uppermost in his thoughts here when he muses “This could be promising—“ And indeed it is!
    Wow! Another strikingly gorgeous image! It’s easy to see why Zeb would be so awed he’d overlook those Lasat-leg-sized baby crawlers (eek! :eek:) And good man, Zeb! You paid attention to The Language of Stones for Moof-Milkers! Yes, red does mean “love or something”—as well as being Shulma’s signature color (rather appropriate!). With gold for eternity, this stone is just perfect, and worth all the effort of scaling the wall to perch on a narrow ledge over a hot spring to get just the right piece. So much more heartfelt and beautiful than any knickknack from Suarovik’s!

    Of course when they return to the main cavern, those two moof-milkers, Gunvar and Velibor, are still acting like a couple of moof-milkers. Why does it not surprise me that Bantha-chopped Don-Wannabe makes off-color jokes about Zeb being “happy to see him” :p That whole exchange made me snerk. And I love it that when they are talking past Gron, Zeb tells them in no uncertain terms to ask Gron themselves...and that Gron displays more wit and aplomb than either of these two will ever have! Their group returns to well-deserved commendations—at least well-deserved by Zeb and Gron. Velibor hopefully gets a well-deserved trip to see Lt. Escleppios and some duty that will keep him off his feet—like peeling

    Zeb gets some hearty congratulations not just from his buddy, Groz, but from Captain Porifiros, who’s been onto him all along :D I love how the captain assesses Zeb’s choice in both practical and aesthetic terms—interesting that that kreposkolite is at the heart of the bo-rifle, what gives it its spark. Another way it’s the perfect choice for Shulma, who has that spark of the Ashla within her [face_love] Despite all his crustiness Captain P seems genuinely fond of Zeb as he dismisses him with customary shoulder-thumping well wishes. Well, why shouldn’t he be? He can see Zeb is a man of honor and a talented officer; no doubt he sees a bit of himself in Zeb, too.

    And SQUEE for Zeb setting the stone by Shulma’s holo!
    And he does :D Shulma will, too, I’m sure.

    Thanks for this fun story full of action, adventure, humor and even a little mush (don’t deny it, Zeb!). What a great addition to the continuing Lasan Series :zeb: [face_love]
     
  21. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    No worries, it happens to me with some regularity too! :p

    Thanks so much! It was fun to craft this setting—it’s kind of a new kind of setting for me, and I wanted to have a certain beauty in its way, given what Zeb is searching for there. And when I saw Crait and all its red rocks for the first time in TLJ (yes, this story was finished before I saw TLJ—one of those “long wait to post-itis” things :p ), one of my immediate thoughts was, "ooh, this looks awfully familiar!" :D

    (I toyed with the idea of Zeb bringing Shulma here at some later point to show her where he found her stone and for a dip in the hot spring, but with all those baby crawlers around that's not going to be such a pleasant getaway. :p )

    Thanks again! And the personal effort that he puts in to finding and securing this stone is as much part of the gifts as the stone itself, its colors, and its symbolism. I knew I had to have a climb involved in the process somehow, to put those strong, prehensile Lasat limbs to good use and to make this a specifically Lasat endeavor. As to the crawlers, Zeb knows by now that it’s not flesh they’re after but rather metal and crystal, and given that there’s crystal enough for them down there close to their level, he is confident they won’t give him much trouble.

    Moof milkers gonna moof-milk, yo, no matter what happens. :p I’m glad you found the “happy to see us” exchange cute and lighthearted enough; I’d been a bit worried about putting it in at first, though this is, of course, Velibor we’re talking about here, so it seemed to fit. :p It was fun to juxtapose the moof-milkerly members of Zeb’s subunit with Gron here, and it does reveal a lot about all three of their characters. And yes, I agree that some nice quality time in the mess hall peeling topatoes or rootabaggas (I’m guessing that’s what would have come next) would be just the thing for Velibor right about now. :p

    Yes, the captain is a perceptive and experienced leader who knows his men well and pays close attention to them. He's definitely had Zeb's number from the start about this whole engagement thing, and it's OK with him: "you're Guards and I trust ya." I thought too it would be fitting to have the stone chosen by Zeb as his beloved's betrothal token to also turn out to have a connection to his vocation as Honor Guard, since his commitments to both her and to the Guard come from the same deep sense of honor. And his respected commander—who I agree must see a lot of himself in this talented Sr. Lt.—seemed like the ideal person to point that out to him. I imagine him being someone Zeb looks up to a lot and whom he sees as a model when he later becomes captain himself.

    Oh yes, we've seen that she has! ;) I couldn't help but incorporate that little touch of mush. How could he not have her picture with him when he's away on assignments, maneuvers, etc.? She has his with her too, of course.

    Oh, he doesn’t deny it—“the strongest warrior has the tenderest heart,” after all! ;) You are very, very welcome; it is always my great pleasure to continue with this series and this world we’ve developed together. :zeb: @};-
     
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