Part 23: The Brothers Rasav, Part 1/3Hey everyone. As per poster suggestions I decided to try my hand at writing a side story while I waited for you to decide on mercenaries. I only intended it to be a paragraph or three, but I kind of got out of hand. It also isn't as funny as I wanted it to be, but after working on it seems like a waste not to post it. So enjoy the first part of the side story series.
Call me J. Rasav. Everybody does. I've been a professional soldier my whole adult life. That means I fight other people's wars for money. It can be a tough life, but it's one I have little choice about leading.
The first thing you should know about me is I'm a Rackgo. We're famous for being tall, and having horns. The land we live on isn't much good for farming, and there aren't any forests for lumber or hunting. There isn't any metal in the ground either we can't mine to make tools. To sum things up the Rackgo used to be poor, hungry, and isolated. More than a thousand years ago some brilliant elder had the idea to hire the services of our army to fight in a war between two neighboring tribes. It was a huge financial windfall for our people and a turning point in our history. Now we're known all over Lennus for producing some of the strongest mercenaries around. Rackgo mercenaries have fought in every war on both continents for a millennia now. For all that time people prospered.
A few years ago I worked for the official army of the Rackgo tribe. A lot of us work freelance for more money, but that's a lot more dangerous. My unit was deployed on a little recon mission in far western Saskuot when we got an urgent recall message. The Rockgo never issue a recall unless a customer won't pay or we're under attack. Even moving double time it still took a week to get across Saskuot.
By the time we got there it was over Zaygos, who'd already conquered two tribes. Decided to invade us next before we had a chance to become a factor in his plans. Our surrender was unconditional. As of this day we were no longer mercenaries in the army of Rackgo. We were conscripts in Zasygos' ever expanding army. For the most part we didn't have a problem with this. Mercenaries learn to shift loyalties quickly and not get attached. I would likely still be in his army if it weren't for my little brother G
My parents died when Zaygos attacked. Rackgo don't bear grudges for casualties of war. Zaygos beat us fairly and I have no quarrel with him for that. With them gone it fell to me to take care of my brother. G hasn't had an easy life. When he was born there was something wrong with his head. All the doctors we ever took him to couldn't tell us what it was, other than it was his head. When I say wrong I don't mean like he talks to himself, or just doesn't seem quite right. I mean he's nineteen and still has to wear a diaper, and he tends to drool so we keep a bib on him. He can talk but he sounds funny. At least to Rackgo ears. Most people from other races can't tell the difference.
When we were little I think I didn't like him much. Because of his condition he got a lot of attention from our parents. All the doctor visits cost a lot of money too and sometimes we missed Christmas as a result. That can build a lot of resentment in a kid.
An Pan is so cool she redefined absolute zero.
He's obedient though, and good natured. He always does what I tell him with unconditional trust. When we were kids he'd always try to help me with what I was doing. Whether that meant scribbling over my homework or messing up my room after I cleaned it he always wanted to help. For a while I think help was the only word he could say. I would always say "G what are you doing?" and he'd say "Help." In that odd, slightly dull tone of his. It doesn't take G long to grow on people despite his issues.
With my parents dead it fell to me to care for G. This was the first problem. I'd gladly take care of him, but I had an obligation to serve in Zaygos' army. As I said I didn't mind that, but even if I made arrangements to have someone else take care of him while I was gone things would end badly.
Under the rule of Zaygos G was an undesirable. A flawed dreg and nothing but a burden to his idealized society. Such burdens were to be cast off. His life was deemed not worth living anyway by Zaygos' medical experts. If nothing was done my brother would be executed for a new capitol crime: In ability to contribute to the society of Saskuot. One night with only a little money and G's favorite stuffed animal we left the city of the Rackgo. G was excited to be on a trip. It was his first time outside the little world he'd lived his whole life in. We took the rope network all the way to the throne of the immortals, then took a boat to Naskuot. I planned to work freelance there until we got enough money to retire somewhere.
This was the first time G really saw what most of his family did for a living. He understood it was important. He asked what he would have to do to help me. I told him to be a mercenary like me you have to be strong. From then on I'm weak, I want to be strong became a mantra to him. He tries, he really does, but he lacks a warrior's instincts. He's too kind and too forgiving. I let him help me in small scale, less dangerous missions, but keep him out of bigger scraps.
We didn't last long in Naskuot though. People there recognize a Rackgo as a Saskuot race on sight. They don't trust us. Believe it or not trust is a very important part of a mercenary's job. If you can't prove to an employer you're trustworthy they'll assume you're going to stab them in the back once that leap is made they'll start planning to stab you first.
We had some close calls. Then some wiseacre Skuruu got the brilliant idea to take G hostage and make me return his deposit. Put a knife to my little brother's throat and started scream obscenities at me. I just stood there for a while. Eventually it got through to G this was not a nice man. He reached out with one hand and snapped his neck. I know he didn't mean to kill him. I don't think he even realized what he did, Skuruu are pretty fragile.
That was the end of life in Naskuot whatever the case. I used the little money I'd saved to charter a boat back to Saskuot. Zaygos conquered the entire place while we were gone. So once we got back we quickly fell in with the only group still hiring mercenaries on the continent, the resistance.
Ideology causes all war. Whether it's an elaborate explanation of your moral superiority, or a simple statement of your right to exist. Mercenaries learn that quick. It beats the hell out of the alternative, which is nobody anywhere believing in anything ever again. I bring it up because I've heard rants about every possible philosophy from every possible angle. When folks hire mercs to fight for them they look at it as an opportunity to convert someone to their cause. Or to put it another way, to get us to work for free. Rackgo soldiers get a lot of training in ignoring the ideological rants of their employers. This is why the Rasav brothers never officially joined the resistance even though we worked for them for years, which is how we met the kids.
We were waiting for orders in the southern resistance base when I get word from Grunt that two kids are heading our way. Nice guy Grunt. He understands about my situation with my brother, and makes accommodations for it. Namely giving me missions way below my skill level so I can take G with me. Light escorts, babysitting duty, that kind of thing. Anyway, grunt tells me a couple of Lafury kids from Naskuot are coming our direction and we should offer our services to them. He called it the mother of all babysitting missions in his letter, and he'd give us triple the normal fee. That's enough money to make a guy wonder what the catch is. Before I could get any information though, the kids arrived.
It wasn't hard to spot them coming in the base. One was a blonde boy named Johnny. He wore rusty armor he must have dug up somewhere, and a very odd hat. Strapped to his back was a sword a good three sizes too big for him. He looked like a child who was playing army with his father's hand me downs. The other was a Purple haired girl named Mindy. I don't know if it was her hair or her face or what, but G took a liking to her at once and started following her around like a puppy. She didn't know what to think
These kids seemed a little off. To begin with I've worked for Lafurys before and these kids didn't quite look like Lafurys. Lafurys have big eyebrows that extend off their heads almost like antennae. They've also got big pointed ears. These kids had reasonable eyebrows, and only slightly pointed ears. In fact everything about their faces was just a little off. If they were mixed breed on the other hand they'd have pronounced features from both their parent races. These kids just looked like nothing I'd seen before. It was easy to understand why they'd been classified as Lafury.
Breaking news! An Pan declared queen of the awesomeness.
While Mindy played with G. I introduced myself to Johnny and explained my brother's condition. He seemed pretty reasonable. I got the feeling a Rackgo mercenary and his cretinous brother didn't shock him. I was kind of surprised he agreed to let us work for him. Though the fact we were doing it for free likely helped. After we were under contract I found out what the catch was.
The base leader also got a message from Grunt. The worn out gear the kid was packing were supposedly legendary items of Kormu. Grunt said he could verify that claim. Our mission was to infiltrate Zaygos' temple during a parade and destroy the Noi Gren war machine he was about to complete. According to legend these Kormu items were the only things in creation that could destroy an active Gren. I don't know much about the Grens but all I've heard is bad. I assumed that the legend had some basis in reality. Maybe the sword was made from a special metal or had some other quality that allowed it to cut what other swords couldn't. I don't really know.
We took the ferry across the river and headed into Roki. It took some convincing, but eventually we got the mayor to not only let us join the parade, but to let us lead it. I don't think G's ever had more fun in his life. The march from Roki to Zaygos temple took a couple hours. I'd never seen his headquarters before that. It's an impressive series of sword shaped towers jutting out of an otherwise bare grey landscape. The parade marched into a large arena full of spectators. As per the planned route we moved forward and stopped in front of Zaygos himself. He smiled at us for a minute. The creepy predatory smile of someone who's about to pull a fast one. When somebody makes that smile I usually put the sharpest thing I can find in their throat as a matter of course. Before I could do that though he told Mindy and Johnny he knew what they were here for and sprung a trap door underneath us.
The Brothers Rasav, Part 2/3The Skuruu are race of bird people known for having bad senses of humor and weak bone structures. Unless you have wings they can't teach you how to fly. If you're nice to one, and spend enough time with them they might teach you how to land pretty good though. That's the kind of skill you don't realize you want until you need it. It's also a skill I've used to make a dramatic entrance a time or two. It's also why I was the only person to remain conscious when Zaygos dropped us through a trap door. Mindy told me Johnny is like a cat in reverse. If he falls from a height of more than a few feet he will land on his head. On landing his head did make a rather impressive dull thud on the dirt.
In the eventuality one of us wasn't knocked out by the impact, Zaygos posted guards to greet us. I thought about fighting my way out. Between having to drag my unconscious brother, and the fighting thousands of guards alone I decided it was better to surrender. They quickly went about confiscating our gear. Except for the Mindy's I'm not sure why. G would be devastated when he woke up and found Mr. Gubo, his stuffed Gubo missing.
G regained consciousness, as they dragged us off to a holding cell. He started crying and moaning miserably. This agitated the guards. Before they could make any threats against him I told them what I always tell jerks who try to pick on G. It's best to leave him alone, he's prone to unstoppable fits of berserker anger. His strength was nearly unstoppable in that state. It's the lie of the century, but it got them to lock us up in peace.
I spent the next few hours comforting G. Telling him everything was fine. I was thankful that he didn't have the wits to see how bad our situation was. Most likely we would face summary execution. Knowing Zaygos it would probably happen today. There was a large crowd already assembled for the festivities. What better time to remind everyone of the toll he exacted from the disloyal. A deserter and an invalid brought to justice. Would be a real crowd pleaser.
Zaygos loves flashy stuff like magic and technology. So rather than conventional bars our cell had a force field instead. The thing about a force field is that it works great as long as everything is going smoothly. As soon as something goes a little wrong, they're the first thing to fail. So I deduced when ours failed it was not just good luck, but part of some larger disaster.
I took G by the hand. He asked me where we were going. I told him to find Mr. Gubo which wasn't far from the truth. I would have killed to find the bin where they stored confiscated gear. As luck would have it I didn't need to. The prison area under Zaygos' headquarters was strangely abandoned. I came to the realization I hadn't seen a guard since we'd been locked up. After dressing myself and G I decided there was nothing for it but to charge brazenly upstairs.
The scene was more chaotic than I dared hope. People were screaming, I heard explosions from somewhere, and for some reason the guards weren't allowing people to exit. Looked like most of the guards were assigned to emergency containment duty. For some reason Zaygos really didn't want anyone getting out. That's when a glint caught my eye. Johnny was on a glass walkway hundreds of feet above it. I knew the unrecognizable dot was him because it was the source of the distant explosions I was hearing. That boy loved fire magic. Occasionally light would flash above us and the smouldering corpse of a soldier would fall from the sky. He'd somehow gotten loose and was really going to town up there. Still without any better ideas I made for the nearest tower.
The single guard at the tower door was no match for me. G's stamina is excellent so a brisk run up the stars was no problem either. By brisk I meant it took nearly an hour. Those towers are unnecessarily tall. When we got to the top Johnny had moved on. I was hoping his plan was to blast his way out of here. This was confirmed by the sound of a large explosion coming from the large central tower of Zaygos' temple. It took a bit of coaxing to get G out on the glass. The walkways all lead to where we wanted to go eventually so G's fear was our only hinderance. Once insde the central tower we saw and interesting sight, Fiery staring down Zaygos and his bodyguards.
Firey's a Doru and a nice girl. She even took care of G a couple times when I had to take one something a little too dangerous to bring him. She's kind, understanding and patient. I would have asked her out, but well, I like girls with horns. What can I say, it's just how I was raised
Zaygos and his cronies hadn't noticed us come in, and Fiery was trying to ignore is. She'd been in the middle of threatening to blow them all to kingdom come with a very large bomb. Did I mention Fiery was an explosives expert? I didn't have much time to think. So G made the decision for me. He charged Zaygos' group. If half the things I heard about Zaygos are half true he knows twelve ways to turn a person of G's considerable size to dust without moving a finger.
G didn't get that treatment though. He wasn't charging anyone in particular, and the one bodyguard in is way simply moved to the side when he heard G coming. G ran right past Fiery and off the broken bridge she was standing in front of. Now it was my turn to act without thinking.
Mimicking G I charged Zaygos' entourage. They were a bit more alert this time. I had to shove one out of my way. He was a spiritualist I think. He didn't try to pull a weapon on me. Much like my brother I careened off the edge behing fiery. Unlike my brother I grabber her first. She was so surprised she dropped her bomb.
We flew off the edge and I heard G laughing somewhere below us. I couldn't figure out why at first. Then I noticed we didn't seem to be falling all that fast. More like floating really. I don't know what phycal mechanism was behind it, but I appreciated it anyway.
After a few seconds of falling I asked Fiery if the bomb was going to explode. She told me that bomb was just an empty shell she didn't have time to load with powder. She'd been bluffing Zaygos to give the kid time to get away. Maybe I should reconsider my policy about horns.
An Pan's Kung Fu is superior!
The Brothers Rasav, Part 3/3We fell for a long time. When we did hit ground it was surprisingly gentle. G didn't complain at all. The area was surprisingly well lit, but unlike any place I'd ever seen before. Flashing lights and glowing displays were everywhere. Fiery and I had our hands full trying to keep G from touching anything.
Whatever that place was it was huge. Miles tunnels carved out of blue rock. Lit with the same oilless lamps Zaygos introduced to Saskuot before he started getting funny ideas about global domination.
We found a strange floating transport and rode it deeper into the complex. G thrilled at this. I was glad, as the other option was a drool intensive blind panic. After hours the transport brought us to a large room I'll call the transit center.
At this time we started to encounter light resistance in the form of attacking robots. I'd only heard rumors about robots before. Zaygos was very interested in them as a cost effective way to increase the size of his army. These robots looked better equipped to do household cleaning though. We worked through them pretty easy. As we wandered through the central area we bumped into Blades, another mercenary who worked for the resistance. Fiery was relieved to see him. It seemed she left the kids in his care.
Blades told us he was looking for a way out with the kids when they met Mouth. Mouth was a famous mercenary who wrote books about his exploits. He's gotten lost in the underground and offered to team up with them. A little after that they'd encountered a robot that didn't attack them. This robot also offered to travel with them. According to Blades Johnny was superstitious and didn't want more than four people in their group because it was unlucky. So Johnny insisted they split up. Fiery eyed him suspiciously and asked if that was what really happened. Blades looked nervous, but swore it was the truth.
After meeting up with Blades he told us he'd looked around a bit of the complex already. Some doors were locked some were not, and he was sure there was access to the surface somewhere. Being insistent he was a genius, Blades claimed he calculated the transport hub's approximate position, and then also figured in global geography to determine what direction an exit was most likely to be in.
We took a transport in a direction Blades insisted was east. We came out into an area in greater disrepair than any we'd seen thus far. Shattered glass tubes were everywhere. I guessed the shards of broken glass I expected to be on the floor were carried away by the cleaning machines. I didn't need Blades to tell me this meant we were likely near the surface. Exposure to the elements was wearing machines out at a rate faster then they could repair themselves.
He insisted on telling us all that in a long winded way that made him sound smart anyhow. While he distracted me G wandered off.
Taking care of my brother requires a lot of vigilance, and I slipped up. I didn't even notice he'd gone off until I heard him screaming.
I tried to run toward the noise he was making. The place had so many small rooms that it was hard to locate him by sound because of the echoes. As I got closer his screams were interrupted by on occasional gurgle. I moved even faster. I found G in a small room writhing on a metal slab while robots the size of large spiders swarmed over him. I didn't realize he was there until I heard a him crying for help under the spider pile.
As I moved to help him I heard a high pitched whine behind me and turned to see the largest robot we'd seen smash Fiery aside like she was nothing. Torn for a moment I decided helping my brother had to come first. As I stepped into a room the large robot emitted a bolt of jagged blue lighting from its arm. I felt it raise the energy pass through me, and then I didn't feel anything.
I woke up on the floor I don't know how long later. I jumped up still feeling dizzy. G was on the table lying perfectly still. The spiders and other robots were no longer to be seen. Fiery and Blades were further down the hallway. Also rubbing their various wounds. I stood, and staggered with dizziness. The light was dim and I couldn't tell if he was still breathing. I called out to him. Quietly as first, but then louder and more desperately. Just as I started to consider he might be dead he opened his eyes. "Yes?" he enquired.
I asked if he was alright. G has a trained response to this question. He'll say "A-Okay big brother." He says this if I'm present or not, regardless of his condition, to whoever asks the question.
He didn't answer this time. He looked at me, and seemed to contemplate the question. He sighed before answering. "I feel, clear J."
Clear wasn't a word I thought G knew. He looked okay though, so I stood him up and we started moving again.
As we walked we started feeling warm air blowing in from somewhere. Blades piped in that this meant we were near the surface. I did not retort it could also mean we were so far under the earth we were about to walk headlong into a lava flow. Fiery did though. While they exchanged verbal barbs G spoke to me.
"I'm sorry J."
He'd been known to say this on occasions when he thought I was mad at him. I gave my practiced response.
"Don't worry G. It's going to be okay."
"I'm not so sure anymore." G replied
I stopped. That was the most complex sentence G ever said. Something wasn't right. I grabbed him by the shoulders.
"What did they do to you?"
I saw something in his eyes, something different. He wasn't just thinking about the words I asked and not understanding them in a meaningful way. The implication of what I said registered with him
"I, I think they fixed it J."
For the first time in his life he said something I didn't understand at first. The spiders hadn't been attacking him. They'd been changing him somehow. He was still my little brother, but he was different. Like he way he should have been from the start. We talked and he remembered things from years ago that he hadn't remembered five minutes after they happened.
I was overjoyed for him. He could finally be his own person and stand on his own. The thing about taking care of someone with my brother's ailments is people assume it's difficult for you. It's not really. Most people gladly look after family in bad circumstance. The hard part is thinking about all the things they'll never do, never understand, and never fully appriciate. No G has a chance to do all those things.
Shortly after that we found an exit. I could tell by the smell of the place it was in Naskuot. The weather was very warm. Outside the small surface structure plains and small hills rolled out in every direction. Beyond that tall mountains surrounded us. We spent a couple days hunting talking, and generally just surviving. Eventually Fiery and Blades came up with a plan.
"We've been talking, and we don't think those mountains are unclimbable. In fact a couple look downright traversable. We were thinking we should try before summer ends."
For once I didn't have to speak for us. G answered her question.
"Actually Fiery. J and I were thinking of staying here for a little while and taking it easy."
There you have it. To close out this post just let me say that the Rasav's are the clear winners in the lastest mercenary draft. They will be joining Johnny and Mindy for further adventures in the next update. Which should be up later today. Until then keep on truckin' everyone.
P.S. An Pan once rocked so hard she put all of DragonForce in a coma for three weeks.