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 Spoiler: Notes 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).