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The Book of Thursby: Scions of Numenor

Chapter Text

On The Book of Thursby.

The Book of Thursby (BoT) is a long running work of fan fiction rooted in several major Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games.  It chronicles the history and adventures of Benjimir Thursby and the lore of the gaming guild I founded in 2008 as part of The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO).  Now that story has reached FFXIV. The work has grown to envelope many characters, most my own, others included with the blessing of their creators.

In every game I play there is a Benjimir.  I take my inspiration from Gen. George Patton’s poem “Through a looking Glass, darkly.” Many face, many names, but always me.  In this way the Lore behind each game has ties to that of the next game and coming of Benjimir.  Thus in my gaming and role playing I enjoy the personal fun of always being rooted in a grand never ending adventure.

For each game I play there is a new Volume of the BoT.  

Read long enough and you will notice the links connecting the worlds and story together.  The connecting lore is personal headcanon of course.  I don’t hold anybody to it in RP or for guild membership.  I have carefully written the BoT to keep the nods to headcanon out of sight and not a part of in-game RP.  And within a single volume the story is essentially self contained.

So when interacting in-game you would never know or hear of anything but compliant FFXIV lore for example.  I dislike doing things that ever require people to bend their IC foundations.  

It is a topic I handle carefully as there are some that recoil at even the concept of headcanon that isn’t entirely orthodox.  I am always happy to answer questions.

On characters.

Since 2008 I have occasionally written characters I RP with, with their permission, into my stories.  With FFXIV that practice has expanded and there are several characters are or were actual player characters not my own.  I wouldn’t mind ghost writing for more characters but my plate is full at the moment.

 

Timelines.

The BoT timeline bounces all over the place.  To give some context to it all I created these tags, starting with FFXIV.

Eras-

1.0 - FFXIV 1.0

RR - A Realm Reborn.

HS - Heavensword.

SB - Stormblood.

SBr - Shadowbringers

P [Post] - (prefix denoting after released MSQ. Meaning all MSQ content in-game at release of an expansion.  All MSQ afterward is deemed Post MSQ and a build-up to the next expansion)

Example:

PSB: chapter takes place in the time after Stormblood's release MSQ and before the start of Shadowbringers.

Mainline story - The Book of Thursby: Scions of Numenor

Epigraphs, anecdotes, and items not tied to a chapter.  Intended for adding insights and context to mainline chapters - The Appendices of the Book of Thursby

Special chapters of the BoT intended to be read together for effect.  Also chapters written by or from the perspectives if antagonists.  - The Codicies of The Book of Thursby

www.BookOfThursby.com - BenjimirThursby.tumblr.com 

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The Analects and Collected Journals of Benjimir

and 

A History of the 

Deeds and Contributions

Of 

Thursby Family.

Volume Two.

"The Scions of Numenor." 

[1.0]

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Preface.

The journey of the Thursby family through the ages and beyond has been committed to written word longer than any record we now possess.

Through calamity, war and neglect not all of that long record has survived to our great loss.  Where journals and recorded tales fail we have legends.  Where the legends have been forgotten we have myths.  Usually where myths reach their limits, we have supposition drawn from what wise minds can conjure from the patterns that are replete through all of time.  

Unfailingly one is tasked with the duty of compiling what is known, can be determined, and what informed speculation can reason to be true.  When I was called to the service of my family in the role of high lore keeper of the Thursby family, the honor was mine.  Like many of my kindred the history of our family was largely scattered through tales told in the Imperial halls, books of well known stories, art portraying now mythical moments from ages, years, and worlds whose names are little known and even less understood.

The duty fell to me after my father’s passing.  He for years would take me by the hand through far flung lands, battlefields, halls of ancient lords.  He would pass by spoken word tales I hardly understood.  Whole spring days were spent being shown relics which I could not understand.  Often he would turn to me and tell me that it was not important that I understood then the names or meaning of the stories.  One day he told me I would realize what it all meant.  As I took up the mantle he left behind the words he spoke to me so many times would slowly come to hold profound and unnerving truth.  

“All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.”

And so it is.

~Victoria Thursby, Matron of Lore for the Thursby Family, Scions of Numenor.

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Introduction to the Appendices of Second Book of Thursby [RR]

From my brother to my every instructor, I was warned in preparing to write this history that I would be disappointed.  I fancied myself a person seeking the answers to questions often asked among our family, it’s friends and allies.  For however much I did know or could learn there were constantly deeper questions.  Ones less often asked.  Sometimes discouraged from being asked.  Who were the Scions of Numenor.  Where did we come from.  Why are we here?  Or most directly to my efforts, why, again and again over so many years are swaths of our history lost, retold and lost once more.

The truth to many of these questions is not mine to share.  But in writings to follow you may find some illumination to guide you in your own quest for truth.

This Book of Thursby, so we have come to call our histories, will be the third of those we have.  It is compiled from the journals, writings, spoken anecdotes and such which remain after the Seventh Umbral Age of Eorzea.  Selections for other books and records are included to give context and elaboration where I think it of value.  Supposition and liberty to decide the records view of the truth bonds this work together.  In the appendices you will find a collection of notes, dispatches and anecdotes as well as tales which have no grander tales to contain them.  They are all the same what give richness to the history you are about to learn.

May these words guide you to your own truth.

Tinfalas Thursby, 

Historian, Scions of Numenor

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Chapter Text

As the White Fleet reaches its mid-point of its journey and involvement in the goings-on of Arda 922 it has been deemed wise to generate a succinct overview of the history that precedes it.

This cursory review serves to introduce the reader to the ancient events and souls which bridge the Fourth and what we now call the Latter Ages of Middle-earth, ending finally in our own times for which we have no title.

The Fourth Age saw the Line of Kings take root and thrive.  The unified kingdom powered the purge of ancient remnants of fell people and beasts.  The old strongholds of men of High Blood were revitalized, yet around them were walls.  It was with and among their own that the peoples of the old Kingdoms held fast.  

The Fare Folk with but a few exceptions left the shores of the world. 

The Halflings held fast to their lands and were little disturbed under the protection of the King.  The Dwarves revisited the highests of past ages within their halls and were rarely found beyond them.  

The Middle-men of the free world for their part resumed their ways from the past ages.  Memory of the past wars and enemies were quickly lost to days beyond their lives span.  The keeping of Ages themselves fell out of practice and indeed it was an era of remarkable peace so far as we now know.  

Yet as the keeping of ages passed, so did the traditions which kept alive knowledge and wisdom which made it possible.  Relations between Middle-men and those of High Blood became, if still amiable, rarer.  The walls about great cities of the Kingdom were boundaries as much as defenses. 

Within them, men of High Blood kept the writings, relics and wisdom of the past ages.  Outside of the walls, to Middle-men, their skills and wisdom fostered suspicion of things they could not understand.  This sundered the race of men on Middle-earth.  

It is only now known that after the equal of several ages of the old era the paths of the race of men had diverged both in the skill of crafts and wisdom beyond mending.  Near this time several events are written as having come to pass.  The Beacon of Andunie awoke.  The Dagger of Warding took on a sheen unknown from the past.  The remaining seeing stones took on new life but displayed only stars in the night sky.  Finally, the King called a great council in the White City, to which only the patriarchs of several families, the Steward of the Realm and several of the free races of Middle-earth. 

Following this council a great work began that spanned several life ages of Middle-men.  When it had ended the strongholds of the free peoples across Middle-earth were emptied.  

On the command of the last King on Middle-earth, those of High Blood took flight aboard great vessels, wrought true to their historical role by the shipwrights of House Thursby.  Save for caretakers the men of High Blood were not seen on their native shores again.  Those who remained behind whose hearts could not endure being severed from the lands of their blood, what is known of their days is not written here nor known to those of us who sallied forth.

The destiny the King had called forth the men of High Blood to make manifest was a journey to the stars.  Seen in seeing stones and dreams like, were calls to answer threat of shadows on distant shores not yet risen.  The "Curious Gift" or "Doom of Men"  after ages of mystery finally took-on meaning and purpose.  This purpose gave focus and mandate to the sons of the Kingdom.  Scions of lost Numenor yet unborn would be called to stand against evils yet unknown.

How many precise ages by the old reckoning have past is not known and in truth not relevant now.  In the time since the Latter Ages began the Line of Kings and then that of the Stewards waned and ended.  The peoples of High Blood, their kindred peoples from their home shores, took to their purpose and heritage with ever stronger focus.  

The people turned to the eldest kindred, shipwrights whose craft spanned through time to the days of the lost isle, whose ships now carried all of them through the stars.  From among their blood was appointed a leader, Taladine Thursby, eldest of the Sons of Numenor.

So the Latter Ages began and have come to their conclusion now without name.  A new chapter in a new volume of the Book of Thursby begins as a new era starts.

Benjimir Thursby - 

 

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"The coming of the adventure could have been foreseen by looking out of a portal anytime in the previous lifetime.  But Arda 922 only took on significance when the Beacon of Andunie began to shimmer in the dark of Benjimir's quarters."

- Loxonica Omber, "Through the Crystal, Darkly."

Benjimir’s quarters afforded him a wide porthole that stood deck to ceiling. He spent untold hours there, pondering the endless stars and journey now ages old and bound to last for many more beyond his own life.  For a year now he had looked to the red and blue points of light.  A planet and moon it seemed.  The ships of the fleet were to pass by it en-route to their intended destination.  He no longer needed the visually enhanced projection on the porthole to pick them out.  His own ship, the Entulesse would be the third of seven ships to pass through.  The first, Andustar was less than a  year from its encounter.  The Meneltarmir a year after and his own remained some five years away.

Benjimir’s quarters on Entulesse were also more office space than a stateroom, a perk of his role as patriarch of the Thursby family.  A modest bed and personal care space were attached.  He came to his rank by promotion through provost marshal, regent and finally election as the steward of the monarchy.  It was the now defunct bloodlines of the Kings and Stewards which had set its people into the stars, leaving behind their world to other races.  A wall of relics near sacred to the people aboard the seven ships gave material testament to the reality of the mythic tales of their history.

Chief among these relics were the Silithar, a gem which once was used in forging a sword wielded by kings.  The sword had remained on its homeworld in the keep of a being known only as the Blue Lady.  Should it or one able to wield it be needed again the Lady would provide it to another.  

Near to the sword were other items of metal, daggers, including one passed for many generations to the matriarch of the Thursby family.  One dagger was said to shimmer in different hues when danger approached it's owner.  

On a small tripod on the shelf was a dark, marbled crystal.  It was the Beacon of Andunie.  It was kindred to the seeing stones of the past ages.  However rather than give the holder means to see through the span of time and space it provided personal Revelations.  

The Beacon of Andunie would shimmer and glow it was thought to signify to it's guardian of the impending approach of momentous moments.  In this way the crystals guardian customarily meditated while holding or gazing into the Crystal.  Indeed, it was precisely in this way that a seeing stone akin to the beacon itself had prompted the High King to set his people assail in the stars, seemingly directing them to the point in the sky the seven white ships were even now approaching.  This quest had become the mandate of the Thursby family with the end of the line of Kings and old line of Stewards.

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Chapter Text

"Written details and instructions become as vague and uncertain as myths given enough time."
- Ossimira Meigs, "Technospectives."

The legendary weapons and crystals of the old forge masters continued to glow and sparkle for many years after the white ships left their home world.  To the dismay of all however the imbued qualities faded over time and for ages they remained stunning but static examples of craftwork seemingly beyond the people’s skill.  

Or at least it seemed.  

Many attempts were made to forge new weapons, often using gems and metals from lesser ancient examples.  The techniques were well documented and often practiced.  But to no avail.  New and ancient blade and gem sat dark. 

The dark was how best Benjimir preferred to keep his quarters at night with his gaze and mind cast toward the stars ahead.  Of late the blue world and it's moons along the fleets course were foremost on his mind.  One pale and white, the other red and luminous.  As was customary the fleet was deep into study of the bodies orbiting the star ahead.  The fleets intended destination was directly past this system in the center of a constellation, at least from the perspective of their forefathers.  

There were many whose task it already was to determine plans to navigate the system, take advantage of the opportunity to obtain resources before the fleets journey continued.  This did not prevent Benjimir from pondering the same things for himself.  

It was a faint shimmer from his case of relics which drew his attention away from the starscape outside his porthole.  The Beacon of Andunie had awakened.

 

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"The Forge Masters were true in every way to their lore and traditions.  Still, what their efforts produced remained dark and inert.  What old and new alike was lacking ancient lore did not prescribe. Purpose."
- Benjimir Thursby, "The Analects."

Six years removed before Benjimir’s footfall on the Sagolii, the Andustar reported a variety of observations of the red moon which lay ahead of the fleet.  Observations had demonstrated that this moon had begun to shift in its orbit.  Caution dictated closer monitoring that thus led to unnerving revelations.  

The corps of craft and making studied images, prepared briefings to advise the Command Advocate General (CAG)-the term given to replace that of Steward-and fleet commanders as to what the findings could mean.  The most accomplished, the Master Keepers, had not completed those reports before Benjimir briefed them all to awaking the night before of the long vanished glow of ancient weapons and the Silithar seeming to sing with a resonance to an unseen connection.

Word of the ancient relics taking on new life was not widely disseminated within the fleet.  However study of the blue world and its moon intensified.  Soon signs of the Dossimir or "Dossi" Effect were observed from the Andustar and correlated with findings from the Meneltarmir and Entullesse.  

The “Dossi’ effect was named for the alchemist Obrick Dossimir who first learned how to tie crystals into resonance across vast distances.  The discovery became the foundation of many technocrafts.  It was the basis on which the means to communicate through Commstones without the loss of time between each became possible.  

The Craft and Lore "Master Keepers" were only able to touch on the depths of the 'Dossi' Effect' but the possibilities seemed without limits.  After an age, the craft seemed nearly as magic even to those who were well practiced in its works.  It was deeply unnerving, generations after sailing from their home, for the near mythical relics to spring to life seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  Whatever the red moon was as well as its presumed parent world, it had a resonance with craft and lore from ages and a hundred thousand light years away.

 

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"Obrick held that if you quantified all the eventualities which might manifest ill, than by the precepts of Dossimir's Statute it would be so.  

Obrick was an optimist."

-Benjimir Thursby, The Analects.

The Silithar was attached to a mount suspended within a spherical cage made of a metal mesh.  Benjimir watched as the Craft Master Keeper, Osimira Miegs, activated a computator cycle.  A pulse of energy surged into the bottom of the Silithar and at once a ribbon of light burst through the top of the crystal with a snap and hiss.  The ribbon remained rooted at the tip of the crystal and undulated.  

"The cage is unnecessary so far as we've observed.  The energy never extends beyond this length at this setting."  

Benjimir nodded, glancing down at the gauges measuring how much power had been input through the crystal.  

"It's an amplified arc...or ribbon.  Hows it contained?" he asked.  

Miegs nodded and replied, "Not contained, there is no field effect being used.  The energy flows out, then back to the crystal.  No thermal energy loss.  No radiant electron field emitted."  

Benjimir flared his brow, 

"Dossimir?" he asked.  

"No sir, this is something different we have not yet given name too.  Whatever the force is, the initial energy surge triggers the ribbon, but virtually all of it remains in a sort of cycle we think.  It requires a slight negative energy draw to deactivate the ribbon.  But there is no correlating link to another crystal, so far as we can tell."  

Benjimir looked impressed and asked.  

"And the other ancient weapons, the shimmer and glow?"  

Miegs hedged with a tip of her head but nodded.  "We think it is the same effect if by means and origins we haven't determined yet.  We can observe and possibly measure the force guiding the energy, adding to it, but there is something beyond it which we cannot quantify."  Benjimir nodded slowly in response.  

The ribbon had seemed to slow it's movement, projecting largely straight and away from the leading tip of the crystal.  Fixated on the image he asked, 

"Can we replicate this, with new forged weapons, devices?"  

Miegs drew a breath and answered slowly having gone over records of past crafting efforts dating to the century after the original effects such as this had diminished then ceased.  

"Yes.  In a fashion.  Already some lesser artifacts from weapon crafting during the decline and end of the past recorded .....manifestations of the effect are showing similar qualities to this. If less efficient.  We don't dare use the eldar crystals, so our past and new efforts use rited derivatives."  Benjimir continued to focus on the ribbon which was nearly steady.  

"Rited?"  

Miegs silently forgave Benjimir his study of history over the crafting lore and explained.  

"-ite, a suffix to the core substance, meaning created or derived from synthetic or natural materials.  Dossimirite, Dolimite, Kyberite, Etherite, etc."  

Benjimir pinched his lips and nodded, 

"Aye, forgot, I studied...."

"...history...." Miegs echoed, finishing his reply.  Miegs answered his next question as she continued.  

"Yes sir, a noble and underappreciated field of the liberal arts.  As you can see, the ribbon seems to stabilize under observation.  We've noticed the stability varies depending on whom or what is observing, but it appears to be a proof of "Obrick's Blind."  Where the figurative trump card in a persons hand can be high or low at the same time, but you don't know which until you turn the card."  

"I never realized Dossimir played at cards."  Benjimir glanced away and as he did the ribbon swayed again.  

"Obrick's Blind holds that it requires an act of observation for the Dossimir Effect to take hold." Miegs added.  

"So you are saying a person can control the ribbon?"  Benjimir asked.  

"Or possibly the crystal, maybe both, we aren't sure." Miegs said. 

Benjimir broke his attention away from the ribbon which began to sway freely as it had before.  He pressed the viewer symbol for shut-down and the ribbon withdrew into the Silithar which flared bright blue before resuming a soft glow.  

"Very well.  Secure the Silithar in my quarters.  And immediately have your team begin to check our comms systems, look for any off-nominal performance, especially anything correlated to the observations tied to Arda and its moon."  

He turned and with a courtesy nod as Miegs bowed slightly he walked to his quarters.  The Andustar's telemetry report had arrived with high resolution images of the surfaces of the moon and Arda 922.

 

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Chapter Text

"For some it was akin to something out a scary story from our youth.  As if old toys had come to life and would only find rest if some super natural feat appeased a spirit of some sort." 

- Bondermir Exidines, "Stuff I Saw Too."

Ancient icons of their past coming to life after millennia.  A world and moon clearly inhabited and rich with resources not seen beyond their home.  Or at least for the moment.  Andustar's latest track of it pointed to the red moon being drawn deeper into Arda's gravity well and for no reason that could be attributed to natural explanations.  There were the great mysteries of existence and there were these.  Nothing about these mysteries could be happenstance.  Nothing about the fall of the red moon could be natural.  The precision with which all things were occurring as the White Fleet came to this place itself could only be purposeful.

Benjimir sat back in his reclining chair in front of his quarters generous viewing panel.  His eyes immediately caught the red moon.  He knew crews throughout the White Fleet had given names to it, all of ill omen and foreboding from beyond living memory.  He had his own preferred term for the moon he did not give voice too but he shared the consensus feeling about the angry dot in space.  He looked at a viewer and accessed the latest metrics status from Andustar.  "Moon holding CBDR relative to Arda 922 track point of intercept, 05:14:3291 GR.  Dossimir disturbances consistent and growing."

Shifting the viewers screen Benjimir began to tap out outlines of orders.  He knew the rumors running through the Keepers divisions.  He knew the anecdotal comments passed onto him from off-watch officers and station minders.  By mid-watch the next day Keeper Miegs would have a well formed report she had been writing in parts few days compiled into a full report.  It would detail disturbances in their communication systems, which were based on Dossimir Effect crafting, that kindred signals were detectable but undecipherable at that time.  The structure would make it leave no question of the crafting skills of whomever the peoples were giving life to the lights, roads and settlements on Arda 922.

All of these details would make the orders he drafted and immediately ordered seem prophetic and impactful.

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Chapter Text

The ships of the White Fleet departed their home as a group. 

However in making a generations long voyage close formations were deemed unwise.  There were practical considerations as well. Over time, slight differences in velocity and trajectory created great distances spanning from the lead vessel to the last.   This was purposeful.  As rogue worlds or whole systems of planets and stars came and were passed, the lead vessel would often use slight assertions of propulsion to enter and orbit.  Expeditionary ships and landers would explore worlds and survey them for whatever purpose.  

As the fleet passed through, if required other vessels would similarly orbit and harvest resources before using gravity wells to sling themselves free of the system.  Each vessel would follow a carefully laid out plan and timing.  The first vessel to enter was usually the last to leave.  And as this cycle repeated periodically over time, each vessel would in its time be the first and last to visit a world, star or stellar object.  It was in this manner that the White Fleet arrived

In the system they labelled Arda 922 the Scions of Numenor reached their middle way point on their long journey.  Years hence some but not all would venture forth as they had before after visiting a new system.

 

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Chapter Text

"Note the pattern of the striations of the surface.  They seem on close observation to be random, yet they are uniformly angular, 90 degrees and perpendicular at each junction point.  

Additionally, analyzed at a higher level they are not random but a repeating pattern which spans the visible surface.  Notably there are also these crystalline structures at precise points along longitudinal and latitudinal points.  Which a crystalline lattice might create such precise appearances, the statistical odds of this occurring on such a scale are unfathomable.  

It can only be surmised that what we have deemed a moon is in fact a structure of intelligent engineering and construction.  The purpose of its movement and means of locomotion is yet indeterminal.” ~ Corps of Craft, Alchemy and Engineering notes to CAG.  99.5.44.201

 

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Chapter Text

The red moon entered the blue worlds upper atmosphere and lingered for some weeks.  Reports were drafted and circulated at a furious pace seeking to log the most minute changes.  The Andustar, already too close to easily shift her course continued to close of Arda 922 despite the unease and risk in doing so.  It was by now inescapable to the White Fleet that there was ill purpose to the moon’s purpose and fall.  More unnerving was the resemblance to ancient symbols of dread and evil from wars and enemies.  Such symbolic images and portents were at the heart of the great awakening and leaving the shores of the homeworld ages past.  Now the Relics were alive again and each day brought more indecipherable comms from the planet.  Now, only half way to the end of the expected journey some, including Benjimir questioned if perhaps they had arrived ahead of their time.

~Unattributed Personal Log, 97.4.87.989

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Chapter Text

“The moon demonstrated pronounced illumination along the striations extending out from the symmetrical crystalline structures.  This continued until open rifts appeared along with shedding of shards from the moon.  These shards rained down within the atmosphere too low to burn away before impacting the surface.  See attached report on projected surface damage and radiological signatures.  

Four hours after the appearance of the rifts the northern hemisphere of the moon exploded.  Communications with SNS Andustar were lost at 09:22:00 Fleet Standard Bell due to off-scale high Dossimir interference.  

~After Incident Report on case "Zodiarks Hammer." Section 0241

 

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Visual tracking from SNS Entulesse confirms the remaining bulk of the moon exploded at 09:24:00 Fleet Standard Bell.  Communication with SNS Meneltarmir was lost two hours later.  Considerable Dossimir echo was observed and out of phase comm traffic recorded at this time.

The exploded moon cast significant quantities of crystalline debris and shards into both sub-orbital and local space accompanied by a shock wave.  SNS Andustar was lost to visual contact 02:10:34 after the moons explosion.  

Final observations indicated no signs of operational systems [see subsection 3.132.00 for visual survey of Andustar prior to and during shock wave encounter.]  

Additional visual observations of the planet indicate the substantial portion of the red mood was reduced to minor shards and impacted the planet over the next 19:20:00, during which a large scale nexus of energy release was seen in the air and moving across the surface.  The pattern indicated guided movement and directed thermal energy releases.  

Spectrographic analysis matched thermal and energy signatures in Password Gated historical archive [Files Topics Arch Nemesis Drake and Balrogath]  

~ After Incident  Report, "Zodiark's Hammer" High Password Gated Sub Report "Nemesis Scyth." 

08.7.90.000

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“Dossimir interference peaked at 01:20:00 Fleet Standard Bell.  Visual contact with SNS Andustar and Meneltarmir was restored at 01:22:00.  Dossimir comms were restored with Meneltarmir at 01:28:00.  No contact with Andustar has been achieved since the break in communications.  

On orders from CAG, SNS Meneltarmir and Entulesse have commenced breaking burns for synchronized solar orbit above the planet, [designated Arda 922 per Fleet Ops Communique 7683.2.]  Arrival will occur over several years.  SNS Forostar, per orders has engaged at full burn along an intercept track and determine Andustar’s condition, render aid as required and pull her into a solar orbit until the remainder of the fleet can assemble.  

Landers and expeditionary teams are dispatching from Meneltarmir with orders to make landfall and report on Arda 922 during the 48 months leading to Entulesse’s arrival.” 

~Fleet Operations Communique for Open and Free Dispatch.  

01.0.10.000

 

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“SNS Andustar has suffered major Dossimir system damage and drive failure.  There were considerable casualties suffered.  On its masters orders civilian crew and passengers evacuated for landfall on Arda 922, their disposition is unknown and no communications occurred since the landers departure.  SNS Forostar has restored power and is proceeding with Andustar in tow for a Gravity Holding point in synchronized solar orbit until the fleet is fully assembled.  SNS Entulesse has completed breaking burns and is near rendezvous with SNS Meneltarmir in solar orbit.  Expeditionary reports are being processed to aid preparations for a sustained garrison planetside.”  

~Fleet Operations Communique for Open and Free Dispatch.  

01.2.11.002

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Chapter Text

“Portents drove our White Ships and kin to the stars, they have drawn us to this system and these worlds.  We cannot ignore and glide through local space past what we have seen and dismiss the inexplicable truths we are only starting to realize.  Nor can we forget our mandate to reach our journey's end.  

Accordingly on my orders Forostar, Andustar, Meneltarmir and Entulesse will take station over Arda 922, which we now know by it's given name of Hydalen.  The remainder of the fleet will assume high orbits about the local primary as they arrive in the system.  All vessels will begin a deep cycle of refurbishment and replenishment of stores which are in ample supply.  Operations will extend an additional 36 fort nights.  During this time it will be determined if the fleet or our kin will continue it's journey in total or in part.  

In the interim we will continue our works on the world which is at the root of our being here.  During the past 48 months we have learned much which has served to illuminate ancient truths yet deepen as many more mysteries.  We have learned names we now call this blue world and it's many peoples by.  We have discovered names and writings true to our bloodlines and native tongue which ought not exist among people if Hydalen. We have taken up trade and relations with these people.  We have joined in their struggles as our forefathers did for the free peoples of our own home.  Some of Hydalen I have commissioned with taking up our name in struggles these many fort nights. 

It is possible we are seeing shadows we are sworn to oppose manifest here in Hydalen.  It maybe Hydalen is simply a waypoint on our longer collective journey.  It may prove our collective destinies have reached a fork which carries us forward along two paths.  I will make planetfall personally and determine if our mandate will hold us honor bound to remain here to continue to stand with these people as one or as two Kinships.

Numenor Prevails.”  

~ CAG Fleet Communique for Open Distribution.

01.209.312.

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Chapter Text

“In seeking answers, we seek the truth in the study of history. Yet history changes. It is mutable however we record it. Be it in written words, in the spoken word, or in art, what history says inevitably changes. Because over time languages evolve, perspectives change, interpretations, translation, and context alter what we know. In our quest we fail to to realize it is not the answers in which truth lays, rather it is the question. A question means now what it meant in the past and will mean in the future. The truth of our history laid in asking the right questions.”

Benjimir Thursby - “The Analects”

 

“Spill sails, engines to station keeping.” Katryn Vaunter, captain of the airship Andustar ordered quietly.

 

"Hands, spill sail!" the bosman echoed to the crew on the main deck as he actuated a signal telegraph on the conning bridge. It was only a symbolic order, the vessel no longer featured the enormous "bags" of corelium infused gas, nor sails. But the order set in motion actions desired.

 

“Con, engines answering station keeping.” The bosman responded sharply, reading the bright brass telegraph dial shifting in response to his order.

 

“Con Aye.” Vaunter turned to a dark clad ensign, short and bare of foot.

 

“Ensign, rig man ropes over the forecastle and pull in the launch." Katryn ordered the runner.

 

“Righty O sir!” the Lalafell chirped and scurried off to comply.

 

Vaunter stood watching for a moment but disregarded the utter lack of protocol, the little people were beyond making it hold. She turned to the stairs leading to the officers quarters calling out as she went, “Mister Briceln has navigational control, and the Con.”

 

The Andustar came to rest a league high in the night sky above the Sea of Ash within sight of Cape Deadwind. No moon gave silhouette or shadow to betray vessels mass looming over the lands below. A craft, akin to a festival luminary rose below the airship passing below it’s bow. There its passengers extended a long pole with which the lines Andustar’s crew extended could be sized and made fast to the gondola. Shrouded in a cunning design, the launch powered its firebox lifting it up until the gondola could be pulled close enough for a boarding plank to bridge the gap between the vessels. Silently in the dark of the night air a group of people, boarded the launch. They were clad alike, each with a hefty pack carrying field gear on its back. A man, Bondermir Exidines, debarked the launch and passed onto the airship and moving with haste over the main deck to the officers quarters where the captain Vaunter was waiting. They exchanged nods and the captain knocked sharply on the door. From within a voice replied, “Where away?”

 

“Launch secured sir, the Commander is here.” replied Vaunter.

 

“Very well,” the room’s occupant said. Presently the door opened and the officers snapped to attention, then Bondermir spoke.

 

“Sir, gear and team are aboard and secure on the launch. Our point of arrival has been reconnoitered and is secure but I do not think it wise to chance holding it long.”

 

“Noted.” Benjimir Thursby said and then turned to the captain and handed her a pair of envelopes along with a paper and self inking quill.

 

“Captain, on our departure you are to take the Andustar and rendezvous with the Entulesse at The Crown. Deliver these letters to her and take down these orders for her commander” Benjimir spoke to Vaunter.

 

Vaunter took the quill and paper as the Admiral dictated

 

“To Commodore T'subaki, Entulesse, from Command Advocate General, Andustar. On station Cape Deadwind. Proceeding with landing. On receipt of this communique and dispatches, return to fleet station Kugane and await orders.” Finished Benjimir, patriarch of the Thursby family and commander of it's business and services in arms nodded in dismissal of the captain, turned to the hatch leading to the main deck. Bondermir fell into step close behind.

 

The deck crew was assembled informally on the main deck anticipating his departure. This was a moment five years in coming. They stood to attention lining the path to the launch as he passed. Each making their obedience n their own fashion as he passed. Some with a respectful greeting, others with a reserved smile and touch of their hand to their foreheads. A few Benjimir clapped shoulders of, a few others a thumb of fist on chest. In the moment they had before boarding the Bondermir spoke.

 

“The letters sir?”

 

“The usual and customary. Rights of heirs, succession orders, so forth. I wanted to send them notes before making landfall.” said Benjimir.

 

“A bit soon to worry about that though?” Bondermir said.

 

“Fate doesn’t always afford us the luxury of waiting.” replied Benjimir matter of factly.

 

Bondermir shook his head as they walked, amazed at the years that had passed so seemingly fast.

 

“My apologies sir.” he said.

 

“None required." Benjimir said as they reached the boarding plank to the launch and turned. “Are we ready?” he asked.

 

“Aye sir.” Bondimir said confidently.

 

“Six years now and we still do not know how?” He entreated on the younger man's judgement, not as much to an officer than to the half brother he was. He was also in truth asking several unspoken questions at once. Bondimir nodded slowly.

 

“You are seeking an answer, you really need to find and ask the right question.” he said.

 

“Ask her a question you mean.” Benjimir said as he crossed the plank onto the launch.

 

“Yes sir.” Bondermir stated as he stepped into the launch.

 

“She accepted the commission. Raised the banner. The reports have been consistent and very plain.” Benjimir nodded slowly.

 

Benjimir looked out as the lines were dropped and the launch began to drift and sink toward the shore below. He cast his eyes back and looked at the undefinable mass of Andustar retreated behind them. Looking below again he could see the twinkle of lights among a scattering of settlements near to the shore. Lifting his eyes up he looked into the dark in the desert beyond, leading to the city leagues further. Bondermir looked at the men and women assembled on the launch, each also looking out on the land below. All were pondering what it was that was about to happen once they reached the land below. However Bondermir felt for a moment he understood and leaning over the railing next to Benjimir and began.

 

“As Commodore T'subaki would say. ‘All of this has happened before….”

 

“And all of this is happening again.” Benjimir said, finishing his sentence.

 

The launch continued in silence to the beach below.

 

*******

Chapter Text

"Terms differed, my name carried no currency or reputation.  But you find that true historians recognize one another by the questions they ask.  You can gain access to almost anything, it is just knowing how to ask."
- Tinifalas Thursby, "Stranger  in a Strange Land." 

The caravan from the north had arrived the day after Benjimir as his party made landfall.  The air sloop which carried them to the ground from the Andustar had continued with some of its passengers to the city state of Ul'Dah directly.  Each day of the seven since, a wagon broke-away to differing routes to the city or elsewhere.  Each in turn bore a few newcomers to these shores.  In this way all melted into the bustle and traffic of the roads without drawing notice.

 

The wagon held Benjimir's attention this morning.  Held aloft by bags of gas, the ride was agreeably smooth.  Graceful.  Slightly less graceful but even more interesting was the enormous fowl drawing the wagon.  Accompanying him were his brothers Bondermir and Tinifalas asleep next to him, as well as an older man who seemed blissfully serene simply watching the road pass.

 

"Chocobo." The grey bearded fella sitting across from Benjimir said.  He snapped Benjimir out if his stare over the great bird at the looming citadel of Ul’Dah, still hours away.  He was a keeper of the beasts and on the Gil roll of the Thursby Company.  Benjimir nodded.  A pair of riders flanked the wagon, mounted on these Chocobos.  These giant fowl were adorned in dark feathers and leather cladding over their chests.  Company men Benjimir knew.

 

"Not many at sea eh, but I suppose if there where you'd not need all them bags and twirlies." The man said.  He had a curious accent that differed from the few he had heard so far.

 

Benjimir smiled and nodded again.  “I suppose not.  Docile creatures.  Hardly seem to need direction.”  Bondermir, roused from a light sleep beside the men looked to the distance as the wagon neared a small village straddling the road.  Wooden palisades surrounded the village save for some small farm and paddocks.  

 

“We’ll be stopping soon sir, breakfast, a trade of Chocos, then onto Ul’Dah.” Bondermir said as he rose and leaning over the side of the carriage gestured at the flanking riders.  The riders tipped their heads in acknowledgement, spurred their mounts and galloped ahead into the village.  

 

“Good, how long to the city from here?” Benjimir asked as the wagon neared the outer palisade gate.  Bondermir resumed his seat and looked to the old man.

 

“Mmm, five hours at our pace, what say Brendt?” Bondermir speculated, differing to the keepers wisdom.  

 

“Mhap, sun’s out, might tucker the old girls if they can’t water along the way.” Brendt offered.

 

“The girls will have their water, no need for haste I think.”  Benjimir assured him.

 

The wagon halted outside a small cafe alongside a livery stable.  Tinifalas finally woke from his snooze and looked about.  The escorting riders had already tied off their mounts and were returning from the inside with egg and bacon filled biscuits along with cups of a hot drink which they consumed happily as they leaned back along the cafe porch.

 

The men exited the carriage and stable Lalafells saw to taking the wagon to the stables.  “I’ll take my leave of yas sirs.  Another wagon is due southbound here and a bit.”  Brendt said.

 

“Always on the move my friend.”  Bondermir said, clasping Brendt’s hand to shake.  Bondermir did the same.”

 

“Well you knows, always some traveler showing up, half asleep, not knowing the lay of things.  Bit less exciting here than up north.  Be well sirs.”  And with that Brendt smiled and turned toward the stable.  Benjimir and his brothers walked up the steps to the cafe.  The escort riders snapped to their feet, awkwardly lowering their biscuits and cups to their sides.

Benjimir tipped his head to the men and sought a seat at one of the tables outside.  A woman, one of the small folk, the Lalafells, in a perky white and red checked dress and apron took their orders.  Another accent, chirpy, happy.

 

“Happy peoples.” Benjimir mused as the Lalafell returned with drinks.  “Great variety in dialects but uniform in language.” He continued.  Tinifalas, the historian at large for the House of Thursby and it’s companies nodded.

 

“Extraordinary really.  But that is the reason why we are here in the end.” Tinifalas said, pulling a book from his rucksack out of habit.

 

“I’ve never understood how, so far from our shores, so many years traveling from them, we arrive here….” Bondermir said, gesturing with his hands as the surrounding area “...and find peoples and races speaking our own language.  You’d think it absurdly impossible.” he finished.

 

“Improbable, not impossible.” Benjimir said, thanking the Lalafell as she place a plate of biscuits and topped off the drinks.  Tinifalas nodded.

 

“Yes.  There are a number of theories about how such things could occur.” Tinifalas said, taking a biscuit.

 

“Et Ominis Lingua Resurgemus, the concept that with enough time, all tongues shall rise.” Benjimir said, taking his own biscuit an especially large one, slapping Bondermirs hand as it reached over the nearest to him for it.

 

“Pan Lingua Spermia, the idea some fragment of thought can eventually spread and give rise to identical languages.  Tinifalas offered, mouth half full but eyes bright as topics dear to him were in play.

 

Benjimir, mouth also full, pointed a finger at his brother and nodded sharply.  “That.  But how.  And again, the real crux of this is your finding her name and those books.  A language we no longer speak commonly, here, among people who do not know it or speak it in the memory of anybody.”  He finished, most of his biscuit managing not to land on the table.

 

“Marde.” Bondermir said unconvinced.  “‘C’demics in the wild.” he mocked,  “Her name could be the product of slurred speech after a night of celebrating her birth at a pub.  Or meshing family member names together.  And your theorizing?  It could work as well in reverse.  Whose to know.”  He finished.

 

“No one maybe.  Tini’s friends on the island,” Benjimir said, nodding to his brother, “...they looked to you to answer the same questions, they didn’t know.  But I think finding out is one of the questions we need to resolve.”

 

“Where to start then?” Bondermir asked.

 

“Refills, another biscuit.” Bondermir remarked then mid-bite cast his eyes toward each brother.

 

“Then to Ul’Dah.  Of course.  Breakfast first.  But I want to see our interests there, these book of yours Tini.” Benjimir said.


“Not to the Company Hall to….” Tinifalas started but Benjimir shook his head. 

“Not yet.  But soon.  First though, biscuits.” Benjimir said, slapping Bondermir’s hand again as he reached for the fresh plate of biscuits.

Chapter Text

“Crystals have always had a captivating power over the living.  They transmute light into rainbows, vibrations into sound and seemingly exist as totems of some non-corporeal presence or energy.  They are endlessly repeating mirrors of the mineral lattacies they take root in, influenced by the energies that impact them as they build themselves.  Light, heat, lightning, these energies we know and can measure.  Something beyond sight and measure, non-corporeal, lent a hand in the creation of the Aetheryte crystals of Eorzea and gave them their purpose and light.”  

~Exedorous Thursby, “Alchemy and Quintessence.”  

“We have finished stamping the shipment into Gil.  It would be better done aboard ship but our location is secure enough here we are able to move without much scrutiny now.”  Bondermir said, as his older brother sat inspecting the coin over the tops of his glasses.  

“Not terribly much gold actually in these.  Universally accepted.  We should settle here and retire.”  Benjimir mused.  

Five years prior, the initial expeditions of the Scions sorties from their camps in hills above the outskirts of the city state of Ul’dah, they had initially spread out to take common jobs, learn terms and the manner of trade in the area as instructed in orders from Benjimir.  

Quickly they learned of Gil, the coin of the realm.  Made from gold and stamped into wafers, the initial teams were able to soon stamp their own from the gold brought with them.  Then as now when a new cargo if metals, arrived the resulting Gil produced would find its way into banks, payroll and capitalizing the Thursby family interests

From those roots old family savvy and skill quickly established a native legitimacy which became all the growing cadre in their employ cared about.  It was a process long perfected for entering new lands unfamiliar to their kindred.   

Combined with income pooled from work as sell swords and crafting, means enough were secured to support several more teams making landfall on the shores near the Sagolii desert.  These teams were scholars and those skilled in the sciences.  Their given orders were to investigate, observe and report.  Curriers would make their way about the land with dispatches and reports to the ports.  

From there, otherwise unremarkable vessels would further sortie to relay all lines of communication to Benjimir.  In was in this manner Benjimir absorbed much from afar.  He sent his brothers and most trusted aid to take charge of families interests.  Bondermir’s charge was to ensure security over all Thursby company affairs.  Tinifalas, the Thursby family historian traveled north to the island of Sharlayan to seek information per Benjimir’s wishes.  The others scattered across Eorzea on duties as assigned by their elder brothers.  

It was a book found by Tinifalas in Sharlayan which now occupied Benjimir’s attention.  As he knuckle-rolled a Gil in his left hand, he thumbed through the book as Bondermir poured tea and propped his feet on the edge of the table between them.  

“They allowed Tinif’ to send the book south to us. It was bought by their chief librarian from a traveler in Ul’dah some twenty or more years ago.  The language is unknown to the any in Sharlayan.”  Bondermir explained, as he had years before in a report.  Benjimir nodded passively.  The words were native to him as they had been Tinifalas years earlier.  They and specifically a name were what drew Benjimir to these shores at long last.

Benjimir nodded slowly as he effortlessly read each line in detail.  “And the traveler?”  Benjimir asked, still reading.  

“Tinif never met him.  However the librarian noted he was with a newborn baby girl.  It was in his review of birth records in city's house of healing he found a name given to a newborn girl.  Tessariel.”  The gil in Benjimir’s hand stopped in mid-roll.  He closed the book and restored his glasses to their proper position on his nose.

The name.  Unknown to the native peoples.  Steeped in an ancient lore equal to a beacon as impossible to ignore as the fall of Dalamud.  Bondermir sought out the woman on Benjimir’s orders and offered commission to lead a Free Company under the banner of Scions of Numenor.  The banner was an icon of the Thursby family history.  Tessariel, the Captain, had lead the growing band with distinction. 

“I think it is time that I finally meet this woman.” Benjimir resolved as he reached for a sheet of paper to draft a communique.  Tinifalas entered the room and spoke.

“The Admirals have arrived.  They are coming down from the airship dock and we will meet with them in the “Dapper Mariner.”  The Dapper Mariner was a private dinning room and lounge open to traveling officers in Grand Companies and well placed members of the

Benjimir continued drafting his communique as he spoke.  “We’ll break bread with Admiral T’subaki’s colleague with Maelstrom, then make plans to visit the Scions’ Company Hall up in Gridania.”  He folded the communique into thirds and affixed a self adhesive seal over the folds.  He rose and handed the communique to Tinifals, who had already drawn a leather couriers pouch from a shelf.  “Send this to captain Aerlinn, post haste.  Meet us up in the dinning room.  I want your read on things after the meeting.” Benjimir instructed his brother who nodded and left the room for the courier stable as the others walked for the mechanical lift up to the Dapper Mariner.

 

*******

Chapter Text

To - Tessariel Aerlinn, Gridania

From - Benjimir Thursby, Ul'dah, Quicksand Inn

Disposition - Pending transit to the Lavender Beds.

Communique Begins -

My Lady Tessariel, I have followed with satisfaction the leadership you have exercised since accepting leadership of the Scions these five years past.  The guidance of my trusted business agent in Gridania was well founded as shown by your strength of character and conduct in all matters undertaken in our kindred's name.  For that time I have had to content myself in knowing you by communique and through the support the Thursby family has provided from afar.  It is my pleasure to advise you that my journey has brought me to these shores and I will soon be arriving in Gridania.  It is my hope and wish should your travels allow, that we have opportunity to take counsel together.

In the interim however I would value knowing and being known to any whom in your trusted judgment I can be of assistance too.

For the time being I will be staging myself out of the city of Ul'dah, you may direct any communications to me by name there.

Witness my hand and seal. ~Benjimir Thursby 

Benjimir’s first dispatch to Tessariel after arriving in Eorzea.

From the Thursby Archival Library, Sharlayan

*******

Chapter Text

“Truth is a sacrament of lies, proffered by ministers of fear.  It is an exercise in asserting control, not the betterment of the soul or wisdom.  People seek truth to gain comfort and in doing so drive away fear from uncertainty.  Control gives comfort of an insidious sort.  Control breeds a craving to flee the fear of losing control which comes with it.  Those who hold sway over one will seek many and ever greater comfort to sate this fear.” 
~Loxonica Omber, “Observations through the Dark Crystal.”

A mechanical lift in Ul’Dah seemed almost out of place to Benjimir.  It was one of many things that seemed utterly in contradiction to each other.  An ancient citadel illuminated by flame and wick with lifts such as this.  Airships hoisted aloft by bags of gas docked alongside others of high craft using forces of nature to defy gravity.  Winged beasts of burdon toting people and goods hither and yon along roads traveled by flying mounts of metal and technocraft.  No singular craft held sway over these lands.  There was a seamless, unlikely harmony to all of it however.  

From the Dapper Mainer these details were rendered unnoticeable by the height the dinning room held above the lower levels of the city.  Brightly decorated with white painted alls and tapestries of airships, it evoked the theme of travel by the vessels which docked and departed from the port a few levels above it.  Even as Benjimir and his brothers were taken to their table from the maitre’d station a rotund airship, slung under great beige bags of Ceruleum infused gas descended across the view of the main bay of windows.  The ship cast a shadow which for a moment left the room to the light of candles and lamps already lit about the tables and walls. For this moment the room shifted from the light orange hue of the setting sun to white.  The trim from black to a rich green hue.  Even the tapestries seemed to change as if they were created in matching palettes.  As the ship continued on and unsheathed the sunsets light again the room resumed the richer color scheme.

“Brilliant.”  Benjimir said as he took his seat.  

Tinifalas looked about and smiled.  “Unique in Ul’Dah, pity it is not open to all.” he said as he picked up the single panel menu.

“Whom has access?” Benjimir asked.

“Select passengers aboard airships, officers of Grand Companies, select Free Companies and those with ties to airship industry and trade.”  Bondermir said and looked about the room.  As yet it was early for the dinner hour, no passengers vessels were docked, and their guests were only now debarking the large airship-of-the-line which they arrived aboard.  As such the room was unoccupied as yet.  Soft orchestral music played over a device near the kitchen door.  

“So you’ve both met our guest before, tell me something of what to expect.” Benjimir asked towards his brothers as the lift’s works stirred to life.

“The admiral is no diplomat but has a practical and even handed approach.  She has a seafarers eloquence but speaks plainly as a rule.” Bondermir offered.  Tinifalas agreed.  “She and T’Subaki are surely kindred spirits, if cut from different cloth.”

“Not much of Aubreen’s sort of cloth to cut from anymore.” Benjimir lamented.  The lift’s works paused their action.  Aubreen T’subaki was of the long lived races and the most trusted source of council to the House of Thursby since time out of memory.  She had taught generations of Thursby’s and fleet officers over ages as the eldest authority on nautical traditions and warfare.  She was Benjimir’s oldest friend and mentor “up well.” Her race bore time well, scarcely suggesting their age in appearance.  Her sharp sloping ears suggested she was of the Elezan race native to Eorzea, though she was well shorter and femininely curved than any example to be found.  

Aubreen had gone “down well” at Benjimir’s behest after the first reports from Tinifalas arrived five years earlier.  Bondermir was sent to take on the role of master of spies and business, it became clear freedom of movement and commerce across Hydalen would require more than wagons.  Her task was to lay roots for a merchant marine, along with protection for ships, crewing needs, and at sea, a means to guard against threats on it.

Maelstrom being as near to a formal authority at sea as could be found, had common interests with the Thursby Company.  These were in restoring commerce, checking raiders at sea and shore, and an economy of scale of having common services made an effective partnership.  Aubreen parlayed a single ship’s service into friendly relations and eventually alliance between Maelstrom and the Thursby Company.  Much had been bore of that relationship.

Aubreen brought with her a cadre of promising officers to her task.  Now, most were commanding their own ships or stations.  Training Maelstrom officers had itself become a means to furthering favors and relations with the Grand Company.

The previous years saw Aubreen lead Maelstrom and Thursby ships alike in combat and to victory.  With victory came trust.  Old tonnage bought and leased from the Grand Company, a concept new to them.  Calamity wrecked ship yards were negotiated into the fold of the Thursby Company.  Much of this was guided by Benjimir from afar.  His name and seal near even as he was years from Ul'dah.  

The lift’s works stirred again and soon stopped.  The doors parted and out of it emerged a pair of crimson uniformed guards who took posts on either side of the doors.  Next came forth a tall, stately, fetching woman, with silver hair and porcelain hued skin.  Her red epaulets displayed her rank insignia on a pitch black uniform jacket which bore a modest sum of chest and cleavage.  Knee high polished leather boots and twin pistols left no question of her identity.  Admiral Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn of Maelstrom.  

From behind Bloefhiswyn emerged Aubreen, clad in a deep navy blue uniform jacket akin to the admirals.  This, to Benjimir’s surprise, shared the display of cleavage new to any who knew her before coming to these shores.  The jacket skirted higher on her legs however, exposing traditional white slacks tucked into matt black cavalier style boots.  Her skin bore a traditional hue of flesh that did not reflect the suns hours on it.  Her snow white hair made and few slight lines on her face gave the only hints of age. 

“A most striking couple.” Benjimir thought aloud and unintentionally.  Bondermir suppressed a grin.  “Strikely surely, but not a couple.  The commodore has taken up with another.” he said to Benjimir as Aubreen led the admiral across the room.

“Eh?” Benjimir said.  Tinifalas tipped his head toward his brother and whispered.

“Captain Vaunter.”  Benjimir’s eyes flared and head turned involuntarily.

“No...really?” he said, extending the last syllabi, almost unable to contain his voice.  He smiled and shook his head.  “Wouldn’t have thought it, but these are new days we live in.”  Aubreen had not taken a partner in anybody's lifetime and Katryn Vaunter was an unlikely pairing, especially being an officer under her and as Benjimir's protege.  But these were not past days.

Aubreen and Bloefhiswyn stood before the Thursby brothers.  As a flag officer here at Aubreen's invitation Benjimir greeted the admiral first and offered seats to them. 

Orders place and drinks in hand it was Bloefhiswyn who opened the discussion.  “Five years, much blood and gil, what brings you to shore now?”  she asked.

“I row slow,” Benjimir replied prompting a smile from Bloehiswyn.  “More an inspection tour I think it is best described as.  I think it is becoming prudent council to take-up a presence in the flesh, guide our families works nearer than at sea.”  He concluded.

Bloefhiswyn nodded slowly in acknowledgement and sipped the wine she ordered.  “And of matters of mutual concern and the future?  What comes next?” she asked.

Benjimir sat back in his chair and drank.  “It is our way to ply our trade and seek the betterment of those whom we can aid.  And the safe keep of our people and interests, that means having an eye on the future, preparing for dangers unseen.  For now, we will see through to the completion our joint work”  He explained to Bloefhiswyn.  She absorbed it all.

“But what comes next and what dangers do you foresee?  The sea lanes are soon to be secure, the fighting at large has abated for now.  Do you have plans for the fleet you have assembled, men you are training?”  Bloefhiswyn pressed.

“We’ve no ambitious to statehood or governance if that weighs on you mind.  Not our way as I know the Commodore and master Exidines have made clear.”  Benjimir remained relaxed in his chair, sipped his drink again.  “There are answers important to me, to our people, which we must devine.  As well as our mandate to stand against shadows where ever they show themselves. As it happens, they’ve shown themselves here.  As to future dangers?” Benjimir started, unconsciously slipping his hand to the Dagger of Warding on his belt.  “They’ll make themselves apparent in due course.  I believe our victories aside they’ve not abated since before the fall of Dalamud and their greatest challenge has yet to present itself.”  

Bloefhiswyn assumed a relaxed posture in her own chair, listening intently and nodding as Benjimir spoke.  “You suggest we are only seeing the start of troubles then?”  She said, lending forward.  Benjimir nodded.  “What course shall we set them mister Thursby?” She asked.

Benjimir sipped once more.  “Prepare in what ways we can to oppose what we are able too.  For now, you and I alike can only speculate what that might be.”  With that all at the table drew themselves up as the meal arrived.

Aubreen looked on silently.  Her gift of foresight was of no use to her on these shores.  She could only sense an approaching destiny with no shape or hue and a need to make peace with it.  In such times her thoughts turned to the young captain aboard the Andustar. 

*******

Chapter Text

“Ser Benjimir Thursby,

I have received your letter and will make proper arrangements for a meeting at a time to suits both of our schedules. As you may have assumed being a leader has been a full time job where my attention is needed in many places at once be it with contracts sent in from those needing some form of aid or running the respective businesses to fund some efforts beyond the scope of our mandate. I can recommend meeting with allies/friends and those who are within the company as even if they do not wear the symbol they are an extension of our company. Yvaine is one of our healers and field scouts that happens to run a shop not far from Ul’dah called White Tree Beauty.

She may be of some help navigating the areas you will be traveling in or wish to see. Yvaine is a native of Gridania and can help with knowledge of the Shroud. She is young and still learning so forgive her if they have any awkward moments where they seem puzzled. If there is anything you need they will be able to help in my stead until we are able to meet.


May the light of the Crystal guide your path.

Tessariel Aerlinn”
~Excerpts from Captain Aerlinn to CAG shortly after his arrival in Ul’Dah. 

55.1.15.780

 

*******

Chapter Text

"Patterns can be observed across many disparate things. Quiet and the later storm.  Moments of pronounced calm and subsequent turmoil. Purists in academics may contend no possibility of commonality between them exists.  A more expansive view less constrained by convention however would recognize portents in and between all things." - Wang'Chunt Tun'nyht, "On the Operational Arts." 

The sum of the meal with Bloehiswyn met the purpose Aubreen had for it.  To connect the Admiral with Benjimir.  She, as much as Bloehiswyn was unsure of his mind as to what lay ahead for the Thursby Company.  The quickly concluding work at sea made her all the more aware of being unable to divine the future and it engendered an uncertainty she was not accustomed too.

Bloehiswyn took her leave after an hour brandy and cigars following dinner.  Benjimir had managed to milk a sniffer of top shelf brandy for the full hour without taking a sip.  A skill he was famous for.  A good sign Aubreen judged.  It meant the meeting, Benjimir and sustaining the alliance with the Thursby Company was seen of long term value to Maelstrom.  For what use or purpose to be determined still.  Also that Benjimir had not lost his ability to linger about liquor without imbibing.  Rather than return to Limsa Limosa aboard Bloehiswyn’s ship, she would travel with Benjimir by Aetheryte, a first for him.  Common enough for the rest of the Company officers but something Benjimir was fascinated with. 

Benjimir exited the list on the main level of tower with his brothers.  They departed for the Company quarters and he approached her, a warm smile building as he neared.

"Golodh." Benjimir said in the old words.

"Ionneg." the commodore said, returning the smile.  The friends hugged and Benjimir stepped back, making a point to exaggerate an inspecting look over her. “THIS is an auspicious look for you.”

Aubreen smirked.  “Do as is done when in a strange land.  Besides, I rather enjoy change.”  She gestured towards the promenade and they began to walk towards the Aetheryte plaza.  “It has been good to be in open air, striving, and if I may allow myself to taste victory after so much time.”

Benjimir nodded, “You’ve earned a reputation in the field.  But never mind that, tell me.  Katryn Vaunter?  You fox. In an age I’d never thought it.”  he said, to which Aubreen paused a moment.  “Little stays private on fleet.  Yes, maybe four years now.  Tinifalas swooned, and wouldn't stop writing about it for a month.  Nothing escapes that book of his.”  she said and continued walking.  “I’m aware it wouldn’t be above board were we up well, on fleet.” Aubreen added.  

“But we aren’t nor is it my place to have say. I could not be happier for you, or her.  After a lifetime taking after you as the template for formality, prim and properness, it’s exciting to see you now like this.” Benjimir said.

Aubreen smile and then took on a chastising tone.  “I think it would be well to unstiffen your collar some yourself my boy.” Benjimir took it in stride and shaking his head.

He slipped into a rehearsed response he’d given before.  “I’m not sure anything has been or remains further from my mind Aubreen.  I’ve been buried in briefings, formalities, the trappings of my work for so long, I have gotten….”

“Uptight.” Aubreen interrupted, having heard the speech often enough.  She pointed toward the end of the bazaar they reached at the end of the promenade and they continued walking.

“Uptight is a strong word, rather I think of it as being a fidelius adherent to austere personal interactions.” Benjimir mockingly retorted.  

“Practicing an economy of words is a virtue. Your uptight.”  Aubreen replied and turned to him as they reached the aetheryte plaza.  “Take counsel from me on this Ben.  As one whom is practicing what she is teaching you.  These are new shores second only those of home to me in the beauty they possess.  There is work to be done here, I know not what, but this world is new.  Allow for yourself here.  You’ll feel reborn.”  She said, patting him on the cheek maternally.  

As they spoke, a woman walking towards the plaza paused, taking stock not of Benjimir but of Aubreen.  The keen eyed observer would have noted her eyes taking stock of the Commodor’s rank insignia on her epaulet and the seal of House Thursby on her shoulder.  Her dress was a clumsy attempt at appearing as one of standing but in effect struck those that knew her as garish.  She stepped aside from the pathway to appear to tend her purse.

“I will do my best to unstiffen.  But to the moment.  I’ve seen these giant crystals at waypoints all the way to Ul’Dah.  This is going to……” Benjimir paused as a Miqo’Te rose off the ground and seemed to fade from view amidst a swirl of blue light.  “....that….to this muster in Limsa?” he finished.  Aubreen smirked.

“Yes.  I’ve done it my fair share.  Perfectly safe as long as moons aren’t exploding in the sky.” She replied looking over the levitating crystal before them.  “It is actually a rather peaceful experience, worse ways to go if it ever does go ill.”  

Benjimir shook his head and shrugged in acceptance.  “New shores.  Is Maelstroms muster normal, for special purpose?”  he asked Aubreen.

“Holdover from less ethically constrained times.  A pirate tradition of sorts.  Divvy the fleets prize swag, consume ale, make judgmental comments about their gender of choice.  Might do well to work on that unstiffining before tomorrow.”  She explained with a grin.  

“What in the almighty are you getting me into.  Let’s get about it though.” Benjimir lamented and gestured ahead to the inner chamber of the plaza.  

The woman watched them proceed ahead before turning about and returning to her business’ office.  

*******

Chapter Text

“The Quicksands is the only pub I’ve been too whose local city health wardens felt it wise to put signs suggesting the washing of hands outside the exits.”

-Cawnjin Trilberly, “Stuff I Saw Too.”

 

Momo read over the list from the bar keep and placed it in the wooden cart.  It stood nearly her full height, which was not saying much for an adult Lalafel.  The cart was painted off white with a flat light pink trim.  Letters in a whimsical typeset spelled out 'Momo's Go Go!' on one side. On the other side was painted "Drinky Lala!"

Momo pushed her rolling stool past the bar towards the bottles she needed.  Two Hyurs were progressing through a round of Mahjong.  The silver haired male made its move and grinned at his red furred partner.  "That's game," Momo thought, "he has it clinched." She checked off the bottles and drinks and set off with her cart.  

First stop, she read her list.  "The Dapper Mariner, four Crystal glasses, champagne. (Twinkinryker & Trwinkinryker tab.)" Up the service lift, down a hall and to the private dining room.  A pair of dapper Lalafels were standing…..on chairs….before a pair of uniformed Hyurs as they signed papers.  The Lalas counter signed and saw Momo.  "And now, we toast it being made final!" Momo pushed her cart in the room and served the table.  As she started back to the lift, Tinifalas Thursby turned to Benjimir, his elder brother. "Are you sure?" he asked.  Benjimir looked at his brother and shrugged.  "They're good with numbers." 

Second stop on her list.  “Inn, Room 167, 2 Icy Ale Epic Suds Bucket-Savage. (E. Sauntering tab.)”  Momo rolled her eyes.  "Oh Chocopoo." She muttered.  She made her way down the lift, through another service entrance and down to the first floor hall.  Momo made a gesture of warding across her chest, drew her Moogle charm out and kissed it, and proceeded with her cart.  She mentally filtered out the gutteral sounds resounding louder as she approached.  People sounded like they were preparing to vault a wall.  She rapped her knuckles on the door to no avail.  "Whooa! Watch with the clinch there damnit…." A female voice shouted.  A vaguely male voice muffled a response.  "No, not you, HIM!"  Momo took a bottle of ale and beat it on the door.  “Ale’s here, getoff a second.” somebody said.  A series of grunts and the sound of a body hitting the floor ensued.  The door unlatched and an arm reached out. Momo extended her arms out and handed the buckets to it and the buckets vanished inside, the door closed and latched.  Momo made it back to the service lift before the hall resounded with sounds akin the operating room of unethical surgeon.

Third stop. “Promenade craps, 1 bottle, straight grain, 4th shelf. 1 bag. Carbuncle Eddie, (Gil on delivery.)” Momo pushed her cart over the bumpy stone path on her way down the Promenade.  Near a nook up from the Golden Court she paused.  She walked up the nook toward the sounds rattling an stones bouncing.  She arrived at a clandestine game of Die and Lies.  Lalas, Hyurs and a mangy Miqo'te were hunched over a box slam cups with dice onto it.  They lifted the cups and one groaned in pain. "That seals it. I’d have’ta sell my shirt ta keep go’n.  Ga'night boys." he tossed his Gil on the box.  Momo extended the bottle out along with an open hand.  "Tough night Eddie. Git’em next time." she said. He grunted, drop his Gil in her hand and took the bag wrapped bottle in the other as he passed.

Momo checked the last stop on her list and pushed on.  “Golden Court fountain, 1 bottle (unopened), chilled champagne. 2 glasses.  Pre-paid.”  She reached the court as the moon peeked over the city towers and made the fountain and pool sparkle.  She pushed her cart toward a couple standing together at the pools edge.  The male, a Miqo'te saw her and said something to the young girl with him.  He kneeled quickly and pulled a ring out of his pocket.  The gem glinted in the moonlight and the girl squealed.  Momo lifted the ice bucket and glasses off the cart and walked up to the male.  He took them and thanked her.  

Momo left the couple and pushed her cart back to the Quicksand.  The Inns desk clerk waved as she entered.  "How's the night Momo?" she asked.  

"Same old same old." Momo said.

 

*******

Chapter Text

“One of my instructors held that your focus determines your reality.  Of course she was a philosophy professor not a Keeper of Dossimir mechanics and physics.  In Jaunting from place to place using Aetheryte crystals however it was literal reality.  To initiate a jaunt required a moment of concentration and usually visualization.  While there were methods and short-cuts to aid those need to travel to a place never visited, the best practice was to travel to a place first.  The thought was if you somehow dropped out of the Aether somehow, it would be to a place along the route you took in real space.” 

-Benjimir Thursby, “The Analects.”

 

Looking squarely at the meters tall Aetheryte crystal in the plaza of Limsa Lominsa, Benjimir shifted his thoughts to the counterpart in Ul’Dah.  He then augmented his mind's eye to include the form of Aubreen T’Subaki before him under the crystal.  As a few hours before, the plaza about him appeared to grow dim, the crystal before him more vivid and across his field of vision   a rapidly rising haze of soft light rose, punctuated by streaks of bright streams and glints of sparks.  The haze seemed to peak as a soft white cloud across his vision before fading to black in an instant.  For a moment, how long he could not tell as there was no sense of time, his vision perceived only blackness, he thought, before the process reversed itself and revealed the plaza in Ul’Dah ending in the sense he was sliding off his bed in the morning onto the group.

Benjimir let his eyes sweep back and forth before reminding himself to hear, feel and think again.  Freeing himself to move the rest of his body he looked about and did not see Aubreen in the plaza.  Before he could crane his neck to look up the hallway leading to the outer promenade, a sparkling glow manifested near him and into it the image of Aubreen took on reality and remained as the Aetherial light show ended.  She had jaunted away fully minutes before him yet arrived after him.  Some sort of lag he noticed before.  This method of travel would have limitations for anything tactical or requiring keen precision.  Perhaps that was by design.  

“Getting slow or does drinking impact jaunting about like this?” Benjimir asked as Aubreen turned and smiled.  She shook her head.  “I’ve no idea, nor any I have asked.” Aubreen said.  They started the walk from the plaza back to quarters on the floor of the Quicksand Inn which the Thursby Company had let out for considerable Gil years prior.  

Passing out of the plaza Benjimir made a passing note of a leather clad Chocobo being fed small green vegetables by a cloaked rider.  His attention not aroused not did he observe the riders interest peaked as he and Aubreen walked past.  The cloaked head watched Aubreen pass and took note of her companion.  Once the two had passed he recovered the reigns of his mount and walked apace to the city gate and departed in haste.

Benjimir was in high spirits if near exhausted from the evenings revelry in Limsa.  Captains and commodores from a healthy portion of Maelstrom’s fleet and several of the Thursby Company’s growing squadrons as well.  Benjimir felt like extending the night some and enjoying a quiet end to the night.  “Join me for a night cap in the Dapper Mariner?” He asked Aubreen as they entered the lift to the upper floors of the Inn.

“Certainly.”  Aubreen peered at him closely, curiosity aroused.  Keen eyes, minty breath, not a hint of flush in his cheeks and a growing, smug smile.  “Did you actually manage to spend hours in a swarray, a pirate's conclave no less, and NOT drink?”  She asked incredulously.  “Even for you that surely is not possible.”  she said, one eye wide and eyebrow flared high.

Benjimir’s smug smile escalated to a wanton smirk.  “Matter of fact, yes.”  The lift doors opened and they walked into the small bar where the barkeep was wiping and hanging glasses.  The lounge had a few late  diners, a well-to-do couple sitting at the table near the bay window looking out over the city lights.  Aubreen order a drink as Benjimir leaned on the side the bar and ordered a Fizbin effervescent fruit drink.  

“Not one?” Aubreen asked.  “What of the flagon Captain Vanderyker thrust in your hand when we arrived?”  Benjimir sipped his Fizbin.  “I poured it into your empty stine when you joined me a few minutes later and made a point of showing off mine being empty.” he replied.

“And the bottles of ale from the Doma brewer?” She asked?   “Traded up with empties as the servers passed by for about an hour.”  Benjimir said matter of factly and sipped his drink.

“What of all the sparkling wine at the high-top with Captain Rienheart and Commodore Hayes?  I saw you with empty glasses?” Aubreen said, mystified.  Benjimir raised his brows to add a bit of mocking arrogance to his face as he replied.  “I traded my full glasses for their near empty ones.  By that point both had consumed enough drink to embalm an Oliphant’s liver.”

Aubreen shook her head, amused but resigned.  “So thusly is defeated another attempt to breach the legendary reserve of Benjimir.”  Benjimir’s smirk reached a crescendo for the night and he held his hands out in a mock gesture of a prophet.  “My uptightness is mighty.  Harken unto it.  Accept it and know peace, defy it and wander eternally!”  Benjimir said breaking into a hardly laugh as he did and which he shared with his friend.

*******

Chapter Text

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*******

Chapter Text

"By the reckoning of years on home shores the fleet had been in flight thousands of years.  There were as many years ahead of the fleet before reaching the intended galaxy.  From the beginning, if there is such a thing, it was resolved not to compromise the mission in vain hope of finding a way to shorten or speed the journey.  Few temptations to break faith with their mandate were greater than that in Arda 922." 

- Tinifalas Thursby, "Seven Stars in the Horizon."

The jaunt to the Company Hall was a different process than that to Limsa the day before.  Aubreen provided Benjimir with a tiny crystal which he palmed before she departed ahead of him.  As instructed, he gripped the crystal and internally focused his thoughts on where it was he wanted to go, void of images as he had not been there.  He augmented his focus with, as his friend instructed, “happy thoughts” and as the memory of the laughter from the previously nights night cap filled his mind, sure as enough he felt himself able to fly.  Again his vision filled with soft light and flares, faded to black and returned.  

Benjimir’s vision resumed from the black interlude with the vivid light of a small, man-sized crystal, then a pathway, which he noticed was blockaded by an assembly of people.  As he felt himself “slide off the bed” to the ground he emerged into the clamor of the mass of people clapping and making assorted cat calls.  The culprits for the welcoming committee were Bondermir and Aubree who gestured to the crowd which Benjimir took stock of.  Captains Riehnheart, Hayes, Vaunter, his brother Tinifalas, Osmira Miegs the master of keepers, alchemy and craft as well as assorted officers previously from “up well assignments.  Friends all, if usually through Benjimir’s usual formality.  Never the less he laughed and smiled and approached his friends.  

Captain Hayes kicked off the friendly ribbing.  “Did he heave too?”  she said. 

 
“No I most certainly did not.” Benjimir said in mock indignation.

Hayes passed a few gil to Rienheart.

“Did he drink?”  Vaunter asked skeptically.

“No.  He most certainly didn’t.” Aubreen announced, to which most assembled including the commodore began tossing gil at Vaunter.

Benjimir laughed and pointed at his protege, “I expect a cut out of that Captain, after all, it was my sacrifice.”   

Tinifalas cupped a hand over his mouth and cried “Cough, Chocopoo, cough cough.”

Benjimir whipped a finger at his brother, “Your out of the will.  Now lets be about this show to tell of Miegs’ and have a look around this place.”  All filed into the Hall and up the stairs.  Bondermir paused to speak to a ginger headed young woman with a stroller and taking a box from her tipped his head and gave a pouch of gil to her.  

Benjimir asked his brother as they walked up the stairs. “Something I ought to know?” gesturing with his head back down the stairs where the woman was leaving and Bondermir turning to join them.  Tiniffalas looked back and quickly shook his head.  “Oh, no.  That is miss Yvaine, she is a local baker and shop-keep.  She’s just started offering services here by Captain Tessariel’s leave.”

“I see,” Benjimir said.  “What’s she bake?” he asked as he entered the second floor’s open space of tables, a bar and small stage.

“Find out.” Bondermir said, walking around Benjimir’s left side and pressing the small box into his chest.  “Finest to be had courtesy of the White Tree.” he finished with a smile.

“Not near my demonstration however.” Miegs said approaching.  “This way sir.”  She led them to the small stage where a long table was setup.  The table had two seemingly identical setups.  The first had a sliver of crystal in a setting.  Behind the setting was a small miners lamp burning brightly.  The light shown through the crystal and cast a glimmer onto a small board which stood between it and another crystal in an identical setting.  This crystal also gleamed and illuminated the other side of this board.

“This is a simplified version of the experiment sir, but it will suffice to demonstrate what we have found.” Miegs said in her usual precise, measured pace.  “Note the second crystal here, “ she pointed to the crystal without a lamp.  “No obvious source of light.”

Benjimir nodded.  It was an experiment most early academy students were taught  in their youngest years.  Gifts were made of sets to replicate it in home quarters for birthdays.  “Photon Dossimir Translocation.” He said.  Miegs nodded affirmatively.  Benjimir smiled.  “I did learn something of it while I was a student of….”

“History.” most all those present said as one.

Benjimir took liberty to glare around himself a moment.  “I feel judged.” he mocked.  “Continue please.”  

Miegs placed another board between the crystal next to the lamp and waved it between the light and setting several times, interrupting the light, then extinguishing the lamp.  The gleam from the first crystal ended with a flicker.  Immediately all eyes were fixed on the second crystal.  Luminous as before.

Miegs continued.  “These shards were taken from the hull of the SNS Aundustar,” she carefully noted it as the Sons of Numenorl Ship which differentiated it from the more recently commissioned Scions Air Ship of the same name. “Each was half a hull length from the other and were lodged by impacts following the fall of Dalamud.”

“Could the second crystal be in resonance with another?” Bondermir asked.  As he did, the second crystal flickered and went dark, mirroring Miegs’ steps moments before.

“No.”  Miegs said plainly.  The first crystal then flared to life again, flashing before taking on a steady gleam.  

“We’ve long been unable to determine the cause of a growing number of discontinuities these past five years.  Chrono sync issues, delayed Dossi coms, inconsistent system and hull fatigues, and so forth.  We think this may pose a partial explanation and suggest new questions.”  Miegs concluded.  

Miegs then moved the lamp from the first crystal and placed it next to the second and relit the flame and waved her hand in front of the flame, duplicating the flicker in the first crystal perfectly.  The light from the first crystal went dark again.

“We are continuing to consult with lore keepers down well and are exploring the full meaning and possible applications.  However we cannot offer any conclusions at this time.”  Miegs then extinguished the lamp once more.  

“We’re going to need more crystals.” Benjimir said quietly.

 

*******

Chapter Text

“There are many bits of profound wisdom common to the world.  The first bit is never to get into a land war in Garlemead.  But only slightly less well known is to never wager death when a Twinkinryker is involved!  Let us help you find security for you and your family!” 

 ~From a leaflet found in Ul’Dah “Calamity Insurance and You, Being Financially Prepared for the Next Umbral Calamity!” 

Benjimir invested several weeks into perfecting his jaunting skills between locations.  Despite not expecting too, he setup quarters in the company hall of Scions of Numenor.  The company had been chartered by Benjimir though his aid de camp and half-brother, Bondermir.  Bondermir had sought out Tessariel Aerlinn at Benjimir’s explicit orders following the discovery of her name by Tinifalas in several books and records.  These books were written in a language known seemingly only to House Thursby and it’s own Free Company’s members.  Tessariel’s name held a place of high esteem in the history of Benjimir’s company.  

As Tessariel’s reputation became known to Benjimir she and some of her associates wished to form a free company with an aim to assist local merchants and others in profitable by altruistic spirit.  Such was an ancient and deeply rooted practice of House Thursby’s which led it to naturally form it’s own company some years before.  Thus the Thursby Company, in the name of Benjimir, became the benefactor to these Scions of Numenor.  

Benjimir had spent years communicating by written word but had only now come to know each other in person as they took counsel frequently in the company hall.  Always within the proprieties of business and duty.  Despite Aubreen’s oft repeated advice, Benjimir had constrained his social activities to formal events, usually with keen value to the companies.  

Business however was for a change distant from Benjimir’s mind as he sat In the common room of the Free Company’s hall.  Ben sipped his morning tea, licking the tip of a finder and sliding a page of the local journal across as he reads.  

Bondermir entered from the rooms downstairs.  "Morning." he says as he sits down to pour his own tea.

"Where away?" Ben asks, looking over the top of his glasses.

"A soak and sup.  Mornings here are good for that." he replies, munching on a scone.

"The local journal is amusing.  A mix of news of note and amusing color stories.  The sketchings are funny.  I especially like the one about the bald Lala boy with the ziggy zig hauberk being tormented by the bitter girl with dark hair." Ben smiles sliding to another page.  Bondermir nods and smiles at the reference.  

"Kupo Nuts,’ I really like that one.   Did the Captain see you since last week?  She wanted me to relay a message."  Bondermir said.

"What do I need to know?" Ben asked.

"Tessariel would like to introduce you to some leaders from a few Free Companies that are sympathetic to our work here.  I've met them in my time.  She feels it would advance relations to meet them personally." Bondermir explained.

"Where and when?" Ben folded the paper down and asked.

"The club you have been frequenting the last few weeks.  The Drunken Moogle."

"Oh.....joy.  Tell me it is not another gala or formal affair.  If I have to starch another collar on my dress whites it may snap."  lamented Ben, not relishing another night of stiff introductions to strangers.

"Very much the opposite sir, if I know the Captains mind.  More a chance to meet these people more personally without presenting credentials, her presence will take care of that.  And if I might say so sir, you could do with less starch in the collar and opportunities to put rank and title aside among folks."  Bondermir pressed delicately which his lifelong friendship allowed despite his rank.

Ben paused and glanced aside for a moment.  His mouth pinched back some, his instinct to avoid purely social affairs and reluctance to allow a breech in the shield his practiced formality provided was legend among the Thursbys and fast becoming the assumed norm among the Scions.  This, not without purpose either.

"You know I hate these kinds of things." Ben replied, drawing out the word hate a fraction of a second longer for emphasis.

"Because you have not mastered them." Bondermir immediately responded but as quickly raised his hands up and out in response to what he knew would be Ben's response.  

"The Gala's, business affairs, yes, they are your element, you control the room, have presence without needing to even speak.  You are actually more relaxed despite disliking the events and acting formal because it is a game you are so good at.  But that won’t hold here.”  Bondermir said as he lowered his hand and leaned forward toward Benjimir who was now deeper into thought than before.

“Formality and decorum have their place.” Ben asked, leaning back on the couch, looking at the ceiling.”

“Yes sir,” Bondermir answered.

“But these are not relations between nations, armies or city states.” Ben asked to the air.

“No sir,” Bondermir replied, tipping his head as he recognized Ben’s working to a conclusion.

“We are talking about, individual relationships and trust, not entities and treaties.” Ben surmised rhetorically.

“Precisely sir,” Bondermir said, his head nodding downward a hair more punctuating Ben’s progression through the logic.

“And Tessarial intends to conduct me through this, she’s adapt at such...gatherings?” asked Ben.

“This is my understanding sir, and yes she is, though most would agree she does not take time enough to attend for herself.” Bondermir nodded and spoke.

“She did not strike me as the type last week, I stand so advised though.  If I see her I’ll talk to her about going, meanwhile cover the backside and make sure word gets to her promptly that I’ll attend with her.” Ben resolved.

“Very well sir, I’ll see to it presently.” Bondermir said and rose.
Benjimir sat back and contemplated the coming weeks end and was stirred by a chilling thought.

“What in gods name am I going to wear?”

 

*******

Chapter Text

Though the Scions and Thursby companies were formally their own entities, as often as not Benjimir drew from the formers ranks for tasks and quests.  As the Scions had need for Gil, grain or spirits, a supply unfailingly was forthcoming from the Thursby Company.

Through the Scions of Numenor, Benjimir expressed an ancient traditional mandate the Thursby Company held tightly too.  The Scions embodied what Benjimir described as winning the “hearts and minds” of Eorzea.  It was the happy, warm, fuzzy Moogle face people trusted.  The Scions secured trade, doing the work of a good and humane people when aid or service could be rendered.  The members were drawn to the Scions by its reputation and captain, Tessariel.  By sword and soup Tessariel carved a deep reputation for respect and trust.  Scions were not lightly challenged on the roads and welcomed in town and country.

The Thursby Company was a different sort of creature.  It was what Benjimir, the “Benefactor” as he was called within the Scions’, attributed his ability to fund efforts which the Scions undertook.  It was a silent partner.  In the fog of memory and scorched records following the Calamity, none wished nor sought to know more of the well provisioned family.  The Thursby Company freely, if shrewdly leveraged its seemingly limitless Gil and in uncertain times that was ample.  It also freed and secured the Scions name from the sort of knife work and clandestine tasks Benjimir saw too.  

The companies were as two sides of the same Gil.  You could never see both sides at once.  As Benjimir liked it.  More ill acts were subverted before their conspirators could undertake them than could be accomplished in charitable donations and caravan escorts alone.  Good deeds could not defend or protect the interests of the common good as well as with a sharp blade.

~Xyncalla Dus’karie, “Dossimir’s Razor.”

09.220.99D

 

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Chapter Text

“For the peace and beauty of Haydaelyn there was a persistent cycle of conflict.  The figures in each cycle varied but at some point and to varying degrees the Garlean Empire was usually involved.”

-Aubreen T’Subaki, “Qalvanda.”

The Thursby Company was largely a faceless entity to Haydaelyn.  Benign, as far as most knew.  Good for aid in times of need, usually arriving in wagons driven by members of the Scions of Numenor.  But to keen eyed observers the House of Thursby’s crest, an anchor with flukes made of swan wings, a stem resembling a white tree adorned with seven stars, could be seen from time to time.  

Bondermir served as his elder brothers agent during the five years now past.  He negotiated in Benjimir’s name in the recruiting of the Scion’s captain and charter members.  As an ordered rule of thumb he funded and encouraged the group but not lead or challenge Tessariel.  It had thrived under her leadership.  The well appointed but humble company hall not only served as a refuge and conclave center for the Thursby Company, the barracks for the Scions and even a spa and offices for several entrepreneurs.  This mix met with Benjimir’s approval.  One could in his words, “win the war and lose the peace” and the comfort and refuge the hall brought to the area was precisely in keeping with how the House of Thursby had operated in the past.

Tending to it’s own business under the Thursby Company, Aubreen T’subaki led the early negotiations with the Maelstrom grand company which provided for obtaining ships and alliance with it.  Her success in combat for and alongside the Maelstrom fleet made it possible to sail and then escort others ships through waters and air to Hingashi and open trade with the reclusive island.  Maelstrom was grateful for not needing to engage the Confederacy pirates directly and imply a stance against them.  The Thursby Company provided a controlled flow of goods which suited many parties and provided leverage to the lease of graving yards and portage in Kugane.

By the time of his arrival in Ul’Dah Benjimir recognized it to be best to assimilate with the peoples and ways of Haydaelyn.  Whatever the sum of the House of Thursby’s work may prove to be, it would be done in the manner and fashion of the peoples of Haydaelyn.  To which he avoided any advantages he might have had at his disposal “up well.”  He also sought to employ native talent and resources to every extent possible.  From tailors and bar keeps to eccentric Lalafell accountants with dubious connections.

*******

Chapter Text

“The logic of avoiding “up well” leverage proved valid enough.  The doctrine of Three Degrees was Benjimir’s most basic tenant.  You never, ever present in battle or prior to it a means which you do not already have the ability to detect, defend against and defeat.  Similarly the intent was also to avoid tipping our hand to foes we had not identified or assessed as yet.  That did not mean however we weren’t observed for other reasons which would cost us dearly later on.”  ~Bondermir Exidines, “Seven Stars to the Horizon.”

“So she pushes that antique cart all about the city serving drinks?” Benjimir asked Bondermir as they road the elevator down from the Dapper Mariner.

“Nightly, twice on Saturday’s and festival weeks.  She may or may not own the bar, I honestly don’t know.  But it is sure as Chocopoo her cart.” Bondermir said as they stepped off the elevator.  As they did, a disheveled Miqo’te stumbled past nearly running into them.  “Business must be good for that.” Benjimir said as the Miqo’te took a long swig from a bottle in a paper bag.  “What a lush.” Bondermir remarked.

As they passed the Quicksand bar, Benjimir paused for a moment.  Looking at the large doors, Benjimir turned to his brother.  “You heading to quarters?” he asked.

“Yes, an hour talking contract terms with the Twinkinrykers takes a lot out of you.  You thinking of getting a night cap? Bondermir asked curiously.  “An actual drink?”  He probed.  “Of, you know, liquor?” He ribbed.

Benjimir adjusted his glasses with his middle finger.  “People watching, maybe something to wash that down.  I’ll see you in the morning.” Benjimir told his brother.  Bondermir smirked, clapped his brother on the shoulder and said “Good luck in there.”  

As he approached the doors to the Quicksand they popped open. A Hyur exited with a auburn haired…..or furred, he was still unsure which term to use, Miqo'te woman draped on his side strolled out.  Both were oblivious to everything but themselves.  Benjimir side stepped them passed through the doors as they began to swing closed.  Pausing inside he surveyed the bar.

The Quicksand was like theater in the round.  The room was bordered by an elevated concourse along the outside edge of which was hosted the hotel and services desks, bar, and innumerable people perched along a marble railing.  The concourse sloped down to the level of a seating area in the middle.   

What Benjimir noticed first however was the smell.  Pungent.  Deeply perfumed from the assembled innebrating masses.  The masses were made up of a self mocking mix of extremes vying for one another's attention.  There was a rich variety in modes of dress.  Scantily clad females of several races, individuals and in groups. Entirely unsubtle males unconvincingly confidant clad in their leather or other machismo garb.  Benjimir instantly recognized the patterns of people watching and being watched, the mating rituals, and the scattering of those present for none of it.

He made  his way to the entry to the seating area, amused at the sights.  The Lalafell woman with her drink cart, painted and inscribed like a childs toy chest with “Super Momo’s Cart!” passed him as she returned for her evenings drink run.  Benjimir turned his mind to finding a place to sit.

Benjimir observed most of the other tables hosted more than one party.  A couple of people appeared to be alone or apart from the group they sat near.  He singled out a female of the Xaela race alone at a large round table, stirring a drink absent mindedly as she gazed around the room Benjimir approached and made a classic if dated gesture of touching his fingers to his chest, lips and forehead.

“May I trouble you to take one of these seat?” Benjimir asked.  The Xaela looked up at him impassively but finally offered a polite smile and made a sweeping gesture with the drink mixer.  

“They are free to be taken.”

Benjimir sat and looked around a moment.  “Is there table service here?” He asked.

“New here?” the Xaela said, ‘Usually you are better served going up to the bar, but wave at Momodi long enough, she’ll get you setup.”  she finished.

“The one with the cart, I see.” Benjimir replied turning around and looking for the Lalafell who was returned to her stool at the bar.  He began to wave but his attention was drawn back to the Xaela.  “So are ya?” the woman said.

“Oh, yes, I am.  Never been here before.” Benjimir said.  The Xaela allowed for a shallow smile, taking stock of her tablemate seriously now.

“Not a drinker either, are ya?” she asked rhetorically.  Benjimir considered for a moment the possibility that this truth might actually be written on his forehead.  “No actually.”  He offered.

“Yeah, drinkers here know to get a drink before sitting, otherwise you seat goes away.  You got a name mister sobriety?”  the woman said smirking a bit as she resumed stirring her drink with the mixing stick.  

Benjimir was unsure if he was entertainment to his tablemate or being preemptively setup to be shot down. The thought restored his focus as he realized the woman was a Xaela, few here in Ul’Dah and he knew very little of their race.  

“I apologize, I’m Benjimir Thursby.” He said.

“Orbei.” Benjimir’s tablemate replied mater of factly and continued on without pause.  “So where you from Benjimir originally, beyond ‘not here.  What brings ya here?” Orbei asked.

At the table next to Benjimir and Orbei sat an auburn hued Miqo’te woman.  Either from Orbei’s voice carrying or the momentary lull in chatter about the room she took notice of the conversation.

“Good to know you Orbei.  I’m new to these shores, not really from anywhere really, I was….” he paused a fraction of a second, “born at sea.”  Momodi passed and came to the table.  She took a drink order from Benjimir for what essentially was a mineral water with fruit punch mixed in, Orbei ordered “her usual.” 

“I am the chief of a trade and mercantile company.  Business brings me to Eorzea.  Curiosity to the Quicksand.  I feared I’d miss something if I didn’t come here at least once.” He said.

Orbei nodded.  “I see.  So tell me Benjimir,” she leaned forward, “do ya fear death?”  She said.  Benjimir paused but responded.  “Death is but a new lifes dawn.”  Orbei smiled and nodded approvingly.  

“Touche, very nice.  Usually that scares people, but they normally have a few drinks in them.  Not gonna pull that off with you I think.”  Orbei said, amused and pleased she was not in the company of another dreg seeking what she was not offering.  Benjimir, feeling the banter being on an even basis now took a discreet look over Orbei.  Black horns, dark blue skin.  She was a follower of the Dusk Mother, which was maybe as much as he knew with certainty.  They could be found only sparingly, along with the kindred race, the Raen.  The passenger manifests had shown him few were traveling by way of air or sail ship either with Maelstrom or the company fleet.

Orbei was quick to pounce on the minor pause and Benjimir’s look, more inquisitive than salacious she noted.  “I’ma Thaumaturge , we do stuff and things, worship Thal. They have Thaumaturges at sea?” she asked.

“Maybe by another name.  Do all of you people worship Thal?” Benjimir asked.  The red Miqo’te at the adjacent table perked her ears as he spoke.  Now she edged her chair about some to see the man she was eavesdropping on.  

“Oh, pity.  I study at the Arrzaneth Ossuary.  Everybody there honors Thal.  So you were born at sea, that make you a Hy-sea or something?”

“I don’t know really, just a man, of the race of men.  Your one of those Xaela, are all your people hued as you are?  I’ve not met one before.”  Benjimir said.

The Miqo’te’s ears twitched.

“Not a lot of us here so far.  I knew a few when I first came.  Some of us are this color, others not.  Lots of different people at the Ossuary though.”  Orbei answered and continued.  “Thal is the god of death and darkness. Ya didn’t really answer my question though, do ya fear it?”

“I don’t see reason to fear it.  Regret it maybe.  Every people have their myths and faiths about life, death, gods.  People are entitled to what they choose to believe.”  Benjimir said.  The Miqo’te rose from her seat and as she walked toward the table.  Orbei chuckled at her approach.  The female whipped the chair between Benjimir and Orbei around and saddle rode it she put her drink on the table.  With a stern glare she spoke to Benjimir.

“You people, those people, all you people.  What makes you ‘ayfaluten’ Hyur-at-sea-or-whatever types blow into Ul’Dah and start riding down anybody with a tale or whose under the table tall?”  the Miqo’te laid into Benjimir. Orbei suppressed a snicker.  

Benjimir smiled politely if with a slight of sarcasm and with slightly portion of it asked the Miqo’te, “I’m anything but rich, thank you, I have never met any of Orbei here’s race, or your own, whom I’m honoring by acknowledging as a people.  And whom in whatever your own people call hell are you by name to presume it is your affair?”  The nearby tables and people lounging on the concourse rails above discreetly took notice and gave ear to exchange.  

The Miqo’te was taken aback for a moment.  Orbei took the opportunity to introduce her friend.  “This is Smathlyn.  She’s a Miqo’te…...no horns.” she said and pointed to her own black horns.  

Benjimir nodded in acknowledgement.  Smanthlyn continued, if with a hair more restraint.  “We get enough Hyurs coming into Ul’Dah, all rich from cashing in on the calamity, taking over farms, selling stuffs and things for a months pay.  They come about here, treating Lalas, Miqo’te, all of us that aren’t all cute skinned and super-boobed like bad waiters.  Poke’n fun at our gods.”  She finished and took a sip of her drink.  Orbei leaned forward and spoke.

“Smathlyn’s sorta our mother hen here.  She doesn’t suffer fools in nice cloths.”  she said.  Orbei looked at Smathlyn “He wasn’t offending just asking.  And his cloths aren’t that nice.”  Smathlyn listened but continued to cast a skeptical eye on Benjimir.

Benjimir looked down at his clothes.  “Thanks.  And I’ve spent my life at sea and far from this place.  I wouldn’t know a Miqo’te from a Xaela until it was pointed out to me.  As for your god, I honor it.  Never get between a person and their faith, nothing good can come of it.  And I’ve my own spirituality. Orbei and I were just talking and she was being nice enough to teach me a thing or two.  Learning about other ways adds to my appreciation of my own”  Smathlyn looked over to Orbei who nodded and stared back at her friend.

“Well alright then.  If Orbei says so.  If you are wanting to learn something then you should visit the Ossuary, it is a place of peace and meditation.” Smathlyn said.  “You going tonight Orbei?” she asked her friend.

“Figuring’n too.  You want to come Benjimir the non-aflu’nt?” Orbei said and asked, turning to Benjimir.

“Ladies.  It would be my honor, pleasure and education.” Benjimir said.

*******

Chapter Text

“I never expected that our work would evade notice, rather I hoped to effect some measure of control over how it was observed, assessed, judged.”

-Benjimir Thursby, “Seven Stars to the Horizon.”

Officially it had no formal title, but in communique and common speech it was referred to as Company Hall.  Among the officers of the Thursby Company it was often named Tondera Hall, for reasons none would explain when asked.  Among the Scions company it was called the White Tree after the first sub-level which had been arranged into a spa by the same name.  The spa was open to the public and frequently served recuperating company members.  The first level held a service desk at which members of all companies, guests, and customers of the spa conducted business.  A crafting, engineering space, which Ossimira Miegs seemed to dwell in all hours the night and day was behind the service desk.  Scattered through the hall, in sublevels under the main building, were quarters and rooms.  Most were in the hill abutting the hall, others in the sublevels along the ridge overlooking the nearby streams and lake.  This afforded many rooms windows.  Collectively the design also made the hall seem deceptively small as seen from it’s courtyard.

Benjimir kept personal quarters in Company Hall.  Also, there were offices for the newly appointed business management gurus the Twinkinryker twins.  A few rooms served as backups to their Thursby Company counterparts in Ul’Dah.  Benjimir was in conference with his younger brother Bondermir in one such room.  A plaque on the door identified it as AUXFLTOPS.  The Auxiliary Fleet Operations room.  There was next to it a similar room whose focus was caravans and warehousing related.

In the far end of the room was a large map on the wall.  On the map were color coded paper icons representing company ships, convoys, anchorages and port slips.  Each was pinned to the map with a small slip of paper naming it.  Ships were labelled by class, origin, destination, mission and commander.  Strings from the icons led to each ships destination on the map.  

Two clerks, “up wellers,” Sammie and Adler, sat at the Watch Desk next to the map.  They had a small Linkpearl box in front of them.  The box was of Eorzean craft, intended to channel many links to it.  Those paired links were in boxes aboard each of the ships on the map.  As updates were received, the maps, ledgers, schedules and other information were updated there.  In Ul’Dah an identical room, larger and more elaborate, replicated the effort.  Which room actively took responsibility for “the watch” rotated.  Today “Tondera” had the watch.  Another set of rooms nearby and in Ul’Dah were similarly appointed and focused on caravans.

“Watch, Baxter.  Arriving, Kugane slip 3, FSB 1251.” a voice said over the link box.  Adler marked a log and spoke into the box.  “Baxter, Watch aye.  Time in, Fleet Standard Bell 1251.”  Adler walked to a short step ladder in front of the main map and updated the marker for the ship and moved it to Kugane.

Benjimir returned his eyes from the Watch desk to the map he and Bondermir were standing in front of.  His attention was drawn repeatedly to the older map on the opposite wall.  A few years prior it tracked Company and Maelstrom vessels and points where battles had been fought in the Dragonsong War.  None involved Company ships at that point.  In the years since the current map in front of him traced points of contact and combat, mostly with pirates and the initial engagements with the Confederacy to the present day.  Points of contact with Garlean ships were highlighted.  There had not been any fighting since the previous war and little even then.  The Imperial fleet had been scattered and unable to mass during the conflict.  

“The Alliance wants nothing to do with it, but the sentiment in the ranks isn’t solidly behind their leadership.” Bondermir said.  He pointed up at several places on the map.  “There are skirmishes all along these Imperial zones of control, Ala Mihgo, and such.” he added.  Each zone had one or more ports and shipping lanes traveled by Company ships.

“And we have business interests, caravans and Scions all over those places.” Benjimir lamented.  “If this escalates and the Alliance is drawn into a fight involving the Empire we may have a difficult time avoiding contact this time.  Our footprint is bigger now.” he said rhetorically as Bondermir knew this as well as any in the Company.

“Aye.  It is aligned with our intents and interests to oppose the Imperials.  If this continues to track along its current path the Alliance will get drawn into it.  If they are pulled into a shooting war I don’t foresee how we avoid it either.”  Bondermir said.  Benjimir nodded his head and pointed to the areas nearest to the Imperials.  The conversation paused.

At the duty desk the clerk picked up a small card and reached to another device next to the Linkbox.  It resembled a childs toy, a small keyboard with six keys and a small speaker, set in a wooden box with gold painted decorative details.  The clerk pressed a button on the linkbox which locked the transmission open then began to tap the keys on the new device. She pressed two keys like playing a musical instrument, each resulted in a different tones playing.  She repeated this six times with two different keys each then spoke into the Linkbox.  “Watch testing with Forrostar, Andustar, Baxter, Fairstar, Fairsea, Entulesse. FSB 1300.”

“We need eyes and ears out there.  And everywhere else really.  This is happening weather we or the Alliance wants it or not and we’re still treating this like a research project writ large.” Benjimir said, turning to his brother.  

“Business ledgers, passenger manifests, field reports from the Scions don’t tell us enough of what we need to know.  We have more shipping agents than intelligence agents.  We won’t avail ourselves anything by being passive here.  With the Twinkinrykers onboard now I’m naming you our Director of Strategic Information.  I need spies Bondermir, a lot of them.” Benjimir said.

At the Watch desk the Linkbox squawked with a long three tone signal, which was assigned to the Company Hall.  A voiced followed up as Sammie and Adler began to mark entries into their logs and close them.  “Tondera, Ul’Dah.  Tondera we stand ready to relieve  you.”  the voice said.  Sammie leaned forward and pressed the key to talk on the Linkbox.  “Ul’Dah, Tondera, we stand relieved.”  A moment later the voice from Ul’Dah spoke again.  “Tondera aye.  All players, all players, Ul’dah has the Watch, FSB 1305, good day!”

Bondermir cringed at the identical twin Lalafells taking up much of his work over the Thursby Company but it was something long planned.  “For both companies?” He asked.  Benjimir shook his head.  “No, only the TC.  Keep this clear of the Scions of Numenor.  We need them to keep their hands clean.  Variance from that is at my sole discretion, is that understood?” Benjimir said with a stern look.  

“Understood sir.  When should I begin?” Bondermir asked.

“At once and with haste.  I already feel a draft on our backside.  Like we are missing something.  Right now, we are the fly on the web Bondermir.  The Empire is a ruthless but professional organization.  An unambiguous risk to already know we are here or to endanger our people.  We need to know not only what is happening but to guard ourselves from those that maybe watching”  Benjimir said.

“It will be done.” Bondermir said.  He looked at the center of the room.  There sat the wargaming table.  A prized possession and training tool of commodore T’subaki.  It was a map of Haydaelyn’s Ruby Sea with an overlapping grid.  Along the side of the table, arranged in neat rows were small model ships of unique design, presented from the waterline up.  It was used to model possible engagement scenarios, plan and test responses.

“I wish there was a game for planning this sort of thing out.” Bondermir thought to himself.

*******

Chapter Text

“Maelstrom had obligations to the Alliance and Grand Companies.  Such were taxing its means to support the stifling presence Commodore T’Subaki had established against the Confederacy.  Indeed, the slowly escalating conflicts ashore were forcing the Company fleet to stretch thinner and revert to tactics more prevalent in our first years. The risks were not what we remembered."  - Katryn Vaunter, Personal Log.

The Scion Air Ships (SAS) Fairstar, Fairwind, Fairsea and Andustar (ex-Fairsky) comprised the four Saxton class airships in Company service.  Andustar, Fairstar and Fairwind  were escorting a long convoy of surface and air ships toward Kugane.  Ex-baggers, over several refits by the Thursby Company, the Saxtons had forsaken their lifting “air bags.”  Replacing them were greatly enhanced Garlean style Corulium wheels amidships and lift plates along her conventional waterline.  The class retained the masts support lines which added a grace while underway and utility in close action.  Their profiles allowed them to pass for merchant vessels at a distance.  Aesthetically the Saxtons resembled fat paddlewheel passenger boats in some respects.  Only with gun casemates studding the sides rather than the passenger verandas.

The assorted gun mounts housed a mix of new and somewhat antiquated mid-caliber naval guns.  Her main deck offered swivel guns and arms intended for use in boarding and repelling of boarders.  Comfortable, well equipped and immaculately kept, the Saxton class were antique improvised compromises all the same.  Leadership, tactics and the skill of crews made them into effective warships and Commodore T’Subaki had been at the root of that.  

“Continuous bearing, decreasing range, time to track inception five minutes.” the ensign at the plot table said aboard Andustar.  Her captain, Katryn Vaunter and Commodore Aubreen T'Subaki listened.  "Azimuthal quad screws, wheels, no bags.  Two gun decks."  Vaunter reported as she used her hand scopes to view the contact.

Open piracy had not known a more miserable time at sea.  Able to check the Confederacy and pirates on the open ocean for years, such had not prevented the would-be toll keepers and pirate lords from convincing privateers to challenge them.  This was the third such challenge of the journey.

"Designate Privateer One." Vaunter instructed the ensign.  The designation was passed to fire control.  

T'Subaki glanced over the plot table.  "I have him captain."   

"Commodore has the con." Vaunter said in turn.  

"Signal Fairwind to proceed 15 points to port and advance to emergency ahead.  Then bring us to a direct course abeam." T'Subaki ordered, peering at the makeshift commerce raider hardly more than a small dark silhouette.

Andustar and Fairwind turned from their positions within and among the convoy ships.    The Confederacy had presented a barrier to most trade until Maelstrom pressed independent pirates into compliance with it and the Thursby Company Fleet pushed the rest aside.  Free trade was not the wish of the ruling men of Hingashi, but it was powerless to enforce tribute or prevent escorted vessels from making port in Kugane.  The Thursby Company had done much by way of creating jobs and patronizing business' that curried favor that made their work palatable to Hingashi's shogunate.  

"Pennant flying."  Captain Vaunter said over her shoulder to the commodore whose attention was now on the opposite side of the convoy.  "Aye, Sunrise and sword on a purple background.  I saw it."  T'Subaki said.  

"Plot, report all contacts." T'Subaki ordered, her gaze to the distance unbroken.  The ensign glanced at his chart.  "My only contacts are convoy and Privateer One." he replied, looking up and seeing the direction of the commodore's attention.  As he did the sound phone buzzed.  He picked the handset up and answered. "Plot.......right then" replacing the headset on its hook.  He began to update his chart and announced "Con, new contact, starboard bow, unknown vessel type, range 18 kilometers.  Bearing and speed undetermined." the ensign reported.  "Con aye.  Designate Ghost One.  Mister Vaunter the con is yours, Take us in."  T'Subaki acknowledged.

"Those eyes." Vaunter thought to herself as she snapped her hand scope toward a small dot just above the line of the horizon.  "Signal Fairstar to increase angels to fifteen hundred and maintain speed.  Helm, advance to flank. Signals, send all ships to stand to quarters. XO, rig for boarding action." Vaunter ordered in a flurry that sent still more orders along their chains of command and duty. The increased altitude Fairstar gained would make it clear to the new contact that the convoy was escorted if the new contact was hostile.  The Andustar and Fairwind would still be obscured from it for a time.  But the privateer would know also.  All the more reason to close the shrinking distance with it quickly.  

The Andustar rumbled as her corilum powered generators surged and the power shunted to her thrusters. As her speed increated the inverted, or ramming bow created pressure which depressed it.  Small thrusters in the bow and increased power to the Garlean designed lift wheels evened its pitch.

The Fairwind made her best speed away from the convoy.  As Andustar closed within a kilometer of the privateer T'Subaki retook the con.

"Signal Fairwind to begin her run and pull the hook in.  Plot report changes, contact Ghost One?" T'Subaki asked.

The ensign replied, sounding surprised,  "Unchanged, holding at original position, now fourteen kilometers off starboard bow."

T'Subaki nodded and leered at the dark shape in the distance.  The faint look of misgiving did not escape Vaunters attention. 

"Trouble?" she asked.  T'Subaki shook her head and turned toward the contact abeam.  

"No, the Garleans are not disposed to raid commerce." she said.

Vaunter's look of concern was followed by a quick look with her scopes.  

"Garlean?"

 "Yes, oversized, incoherent design.  Gaudy, gilded details like a flying house of ill repute. " T'Subaki said with a tone of derision.

"But lets be about the business at hand." 

The matter of contact Ghost One was subordinated to after action discussion.  The women both turned to the plot table.  Seeing Fairwinds position, T'Subaki raised her voice.

"Signals, send Privateer One, issue hostile challenge and order them to stand away from the convoy or it will be fired upon.  Helm, reduce speed to ahead dead slow, come to starboard and present port broadside.  All mounts to global control.  And raise my colors.  Execute."  T'Subaki ordered.  

Twice already this cruise from Limsa to Kugane, a motley assortment of vessels, some bearing no weapon more threatening than the smell below decks had challenged the convoy.  As before T'Subaki deployed her ships to ensure their lack of speed and numbers did not allow for the privateer's escape.

"Action on the decks."  Vaunter observed as the privateer waivered in her course as its crew scurried about.  "They are preparing to fight." she added.  T'Subaki nodded and shook her head.  

"Their effort would be flattering were it not so ill advised and the methods amateur." T'Subaki said.  It was not the futility of this would be raider but the unseen parties that must be driving them to try that were of concern.  Consulting the plot, she nodded again. "Signal Fairwind to engage.  Then signal Privateer One to strike colors and prepare to be boarded."  

As in the previous two encounters Fairwind's course formed a hook shape on the plot chart.  Like a fisher the company escort would effectively catch and release the raider after a short fight, boarding and dropping ordinance over the side.  None had actually attempted to fight.  

"Fairwind engaging." Vaunter said a few minutes later as from the ships forward most casemates flashes and delayed cracks of thunder announced a warning volley over the privateers bow.  "Response from Privateer One?" T'Subaki asked.

"Negative, only latent coms noise on the link." the signals bosun replied.  T'Subaki furled a brow.  "The new link pearls or upwell set?" she asked.

The bosun shook his head. "New."

"Very well, log the issue after action.  Signal, clear Fairwind to engage hostile, route ship-to-ship channel to the plot handset, link two." T'Subaki said.  Vaunter spared a look. "Not worried we might miss a reply?" she asked.  T'Subaki shook her head. 

Aboard the privateer the scattered efforts of its crew finally produced a deck of loaded cannons. Either a fire order or fearful gun captain led to one firing, which led then immediately to the decks entire division to discharge.  The rounds largely failed to strike save a few shells which burst against the improvised armor plates.  These plates were used for protection and emergency ballast aboard the Saxton class.

"Not worried at all.  The new links have not failed yet, if the quality leaves much to be desired." she T’Subaki told Vaunter as the vibration from the ad hoc barrage calmed. "Helm, ahead full."  She ordered.

Picking up the handset at the plot table T'Subaki flipped a switch, "Control, Con, current track, Kill Gun, all mounts.  Commence firing, fire continuous."  T'Subaki flipped the channel selector to the next setting which connected it to the ship-to-ship Linkpearl box at the signals station.  "Fairwind, Flag, weapons free, nav free, mind our solution and prevent Privateer One from egressing the engagement."  

Within a moment, the full port side armement of Andustar fired.  As quickly as each could reload the guns fired again.  The vibration and noise merged into the engines surging to their full power thrusting the ship forward.  Fairwind turned hard to starboard and released her own broadside.

Fairwind and Andustar circled the ship slowly.  Their combined fire ripped through the air and into the privateer relentlessly. The engagement that followed was as lopsided as the contrast in combatants. In a matter of minutes the return fire had ceased, deck fires were prevalent and the ships propulsion and lift screws were destroyed.  

Falling from the sky, the burning hulk shed crew into the water before drawling too much water the capsizing.  Fairwind held station to recover survivors before rejoining the convoy.  Andustar sprinted to resume her place near the front of the flock it escorted.  

The convoy itself never stopped moving nor changed course.  Fairstar resumed her cruising altitude and position within the convoy.  Kugane was now a half days sail.  "Fairsea, Orrostar and Cutlass put to sea this morning with the convoy to Limsa.  Watch Tondera was advised of the downing and the Garlean contact.  All ships are proceeding as before"  Vaunter summed the watch notes in the officer galley.  

The freshly offwatch officers were celebrating around them.  No prize to be had, the privateer was not captured.  All the same, after confronting and subduing two earlier assailants there was satisfaction in sounding hammering the third.

"Whatever the new Garlean ship was it never moved until the convoy passed.  Then it drew east bearing toward Limsa." Vaunter added.  T'Subaki sipped at her glass of a wine from Ul'Dah.  And thoughtfully looked at her friend, lover and protege.  "In your written after action report, note the performance issues with the Linkpearl gear."  She said, catching Vaunters eyes long gaze for a deliberately long moment before a mutual knowing laugh broke punctuated the moment. "Early morning dear, convoy putting into port.  Shall we retire?"  T'Subaki asked rising from her seat beside Vaunter.

"Very well.  We can….debrief more then I hope."  Vaunter said with a smirk tucking and arm about T'Subaki's waist as they walk to the exit.

*******

Chapter Text

“There is no peace without a threat of war.  There is no war without the promise of peace.  All else is tyranny.” 

- Aubreen T'Subaki, "Qalvanda"

In the pre-dawn hours the Andustar and her sister ships checked their speed and held station as the convoy proceeded on to the outer bay of Kugane.  As the last vessel picked up a harbor pilot and made their way up the channel cut to the harbor they turned themselves for the Thursby Company shipyard. 

Kugane featured a large port and anchorage.  It was the gateway for trade and commerce on Higoshi.  The city reflected the complexities of diplomatic and internal considerations of the time.  The lords of the archipelago outwardly kept a policy of neutrality.  Pirates, Grand Companies, the Alliance and the Garlean Empire surrounded Higoshi.  Within Higoshi there was but one port officially open for trade, Kugane. This served several purposes.  It contained foreign trade to transiting a single destination.  This normally kept diplomatic, commerce and foreign influence near to the city where it could be contained and more efficiently influenced or taxed.  This aided in appeasing Garlean interests after the invasion of Othard.  The situation was conducive to monitoring any rhetorical or material danger to their disputed sovereignty in the region.  

Confederacy, pirates, local tribute demands made the flow of visiting ships sparse for years. This impacted the demand for shipwrights, refits and new builds.  The two yards in Kugane had ceased operating for all but rare work.  The arrival of the Thursby company six years prior went unnoticed to most for most of this time.  As T’Subaki built her fleet elsewhere from the purchase of surplus tonnage and took to securing the sea lanes, it was presumed to be Malestrom which was, for whatever reason, asserting itself in the Ruby Sea.  

Concurrently Bondermir effected orders from Benjimir to procure ownership of the dormant ship yards.  Gil greased wheels, and kept transactions out of sight and mind especially since little transpired in the yards at first.  Subsequent work at the yards were the assumed to be a function of Malestrom’s skirmishes and improving commerce.  

By the time any might have concluded a pitched effort to open trade to Higoshi was under way, any means to challenge it was neither possible nor desirable.  Tribute flowed was flowing from every direction to the lords of Hiboshi.  Merchants through Kugane thrived more richly than in an age and were the envy of the islands.  Even beyond the port city, Higoshi merchants found their wares in growing demand across Eorzea.  Even then, Thursby company interests were obscured by the alliance with Malestrom and the flow of independent merchant vessels making port in Kugane.  

The airships passed the western graving docks.  They were mirrors of three newer ones built in an annex east of Kugane’s main piers.  All were filled.  The nearest dock in view held an unremarkable merchant airship nearing completion.  The other two appeared unremarkable but to the experienced eye.  Underway for over a year the lines of these ships prompted little reason to question vague descriptions of the projects as merchantmen of large size.  Their owners were not known, save for rumors of rich Lalafells from Ul’Dah whose means to pay was unsecure and thus the lengthy construction process.  

For its part, the Garlean gunships and tactical combatants were being widely engaged and remained scattered.  Matters at sea were the interest of few in the Empire.  The Imperial fleet was occupied supporting its forces ashore with smoldering conflicts across its territories.  These conflicts fueled suffering which for some years the Scions of Numenor and Thursby Company had each, in their own way, been involving themselves in.

The convoy ships were debarking passengers into Kugane as the escort squadron tied-off.  Longshoremen manhandled goods from ships to waiting wagons.  The largest vessels boasted their own crains.  From these pallets of goods were lowered off the ships onto wagons.  Members of the Scions of Numenor sat at the reigns of some of the wagons.  Others awaited on all manner of mounts.  As the wagons filled they made their way to the service streets past the merchant district and onto their destinations.

Caravans under the Scions of Numenor banner or protection made their way deep into territory across the map.  Goods or occasionally simply food and medicinal needs flowed into shop and stalls amidst the conflicts across the map.  The Thursby Company fleet ensured those efforts were supplied and protected in ways that would not fit in the former's altruistic and honorable reputation.  

Increasingly in the past year caravans debarked company ships at Kugane and made for whereabouts unknown.  More so than the convoys at sea, the array of dangers on land was more varied and commonly encountered.  The sum and success of the caravans were closely monitored in Tondera Hall.  Beast and people encountered by caravans were categorized assessed continuously.  When beasts were at issue, the Scions would send teams to hut.  When the danger was people posing more persistent dangers the Thursby Company would engage but rarely to the knowledge of any but the Scions captain general.

Flooding the piers between the wagons, the crews on shore leave and passengers pressed their way around the organized chaos into the district beyond.  Merchants with carts and trinkets awaited passengers and crews as they made their way into the city.  Shop keeps had posted placards welcoming all and enticing them with specials and deals.  Street performers were strumming instruments and the smell of food wafted thick through the air.  Spa workers sought to draw customers with the newest treatments.  Other women and men solicited clients with more timeless offers.  To the crews enjoying shore leave it was an exciting visit to a favorite place.  To the uninitiated it was an overwhelming bombardment on the senses.  

A woman, dimly lit but imposing in a hooded cloak stood in front of a rickshaw outside the central path from the Harbor masters tower.  She locked her eyes on a confused looking woman whose pace was slowed as she seemed to stop every second step to occasionally ask a question to somebody which drew confused looks in response.  Or at least it could have been her comments the cloaked woman thought.  This person's mode of dress bordered on the absurd.  Garish colored couture cobbled together in an effort to assemble a coherent style, masking ill kept physical conditioning.  Worthy she thought of the lesser districts in Garlemead where new money strove with more refined old money expressions of fashion, and usually lost.  Just another lesser bastard of the Sulistian family she resolved. 

Advancing on the woman Tatania Uberbreaker drew enough attention to lock eyes with the woman and extending an arm from under her cloak she gestured to the rickshaw. 

“Mad’am Sulistian, welcome to Kugane.”  she said.

*******

Chapter Text

“Our focus was always to secure specific details related to the Company.  To that end I think we succeeded remarkably well.  It was our downwell domestic activities that proved vulnerable to overlapping blood feuds and vendettas we had no knowledge of.”

- Bondermir Exidines, “Seven Stars to the Horizon.”

 

Bandia Sulistian looked at the rickshaw with the degree of indignation a child presented a strange unappetizing meal.  “And I am to do what with this?” she said incredulously to Tatania Umberbreaker who impassively returned the woman’s glare and replied.  “It is our means of transportation and our business is not suited for speaking of in open crowds.  Please be aboard and let us tend to matters.” she said, her eyes tensing as she gestured again to the three wheeled rickshaw, its driver, a cloaked Xeala waiting astride the cart.

Awkwardly Bandia climbed into the seat with an effort and Tatania sat beside her and pulled the carts overhead cover forward, affording them a modicum of privacy.  With a click of her heel on the carriage seats foot rest the driver stood on her pedals.  With a creak of strained metal the rickshaw edged forward.  The driver turned the wheel and narrowly avoided collision with the innumerable people as she started out for the inner merchants district.

 

“The junction crystals?”  Tatania asked tersely as the rickshaw move forward. Annoyed, Bandia pulled a long black container, which given her disposition might have been easily mistaken for a box of chocolates and thrust it to Tatania who tucked it under her cloak.  Striking a firm business tone she look at Bandia.

 

“My liege approves of the result of your effort.”  she said.

 

“Thank you, I am glad he values my contribution” replied Bandia.

 

“Do not thank me.  The result of your effort met with approval.  You contributed nothing but willing betrayal of a rival, to your own gain, and compliance with instructions.”  Tatania said in a dismissive tone.

 

“Why I never!  Do you treat all of your partners thusly?”

 

“You are not a partner, you are a tool.  This was made very clear when we met.  Continue to comply and produce acceptable results and you will continue to be remunerated appropriately.”

 

“Humph.”  Bandia snorted, turning her nose up and leering at Tatania out of the corner of her eye.  Unmoved Tatania sarcastically shot back.  “I am sorry Ms. Sulistian, do you find the Gil insufficient?  Do you feel aggrieved?”  

 

“No.” Bandia said, backing down.  Shrinking some into her seat.

 

“I should think not.”  Tatania said, taking a moment to adjust her hood.  Bandia was left with no eyes to look into as she asked, “Who are you people?”

 

“Your future, in success or failure, make your peace with that.”  Tatania said, leaning closer to Bandia and sharpened her tone. “Success brings you the justice you seek against those whom you hate.”  

 

“What will it bring you?”  Asked Bandia.  “It will avenge our blood and deliver recompense for an age of injustice.”  Tatania said.

 

“And what exactly would that be.”

 

Tatania looked at Bandia and said simply, “An empire.”

 

Bandia’s expression went blank and turned her eyes fixed ahead on the driver.  The sudden chill she felt working up her back overrode her customary incredulity for the moment.

 

Aubreen stepped aside from the oncoming rickshaw, pressing Katryn out of it’s turning radius.  For the briefest of moments the driver's eyes met Aubreen’s before she peddled on as her passengers.  “Rickshaw drivers, more dangerous than pirates.”  Katryn said.

 

“Frequently, yes, but second only to hair stylists and bar tenders for information if you know a good one.  Where do you want to eat Meldanya ?”  

 

“A steakhouse this time.”  Katryn said confidently.

 

“Continental or Higoshi?”  Aubreen asked.

 

“Teppanyaki.”

 

“Table or grill?”

 

“Grill.”

 

“Sushi?”

“Cocktails.”  Katryn said a bit too eagerly.  

 

“The Fire Bowl or Benny Lala?”

 

“Which one does the fire trick with onion?”

“Any of them.  However you seemed most impressed with Benny Lala’s chef.”

 

“We have a decision then!”  Katryn declared and the pair continued afoot towards the heart of the merchants district.

 

A flash of lighting silhouetted the mountains beyond Kugane.  It was a sight easy on the eyes.  Both Aubreen and Katryn shared a fondness for watching storms at sea.  The morning was now little more than a slate grey sky promising some sort of rain.  Thunder rumbled down the foothills at last, suggesting a few hours of peace before rain arrived.

 

The flash was hardly noticeable near the Aetheryte crystal in Kugane.  It did not enjoy the same sort of elaborate courtyard as did those in some other major cities.  The rickshaw slowed to a stop near a modest flagstone path leading to the base of the crystal.  Tatania paid the driver in Gil while Bandia fumbled out of the back of the rickshaw.  The driver peddled away without awaiting another customer.

 

Recovering her wits from Tatania’s absurd belief of what her people would gain, Bandia stared up at the crystal and broke her silence.  “Where are we going?”  She asked.

 

“To meet my courier who will return with you to Ul’Dah tonight.”  Tatania told her.  “I’m going back to sea tonight?  I had expected to be able to tour Kugane?” Bandia whined.

 

“You are taking the Aetheryte along with your next set of master crystals.”

 

“But I’m afraid of that sort of travel.”

 

“You are not being offered a choice.  These crystals must be on-hand to be consumed when you receive the order for new devices.“  Tatania said, growing annoyed with the woman.

 

“How do you know when I am going to get another contract?”

 

“The same way I retained your effort.”  Bandia’s resentful glare could not conceal a hint of hurt in her eyes.  Tatania put aside her growing personal disdain for the women for a moment.  Tool or not Bandia took time to find and efforts she would rather not repeat to secure as a resource.  

 

“Do not be resentful, this is about business.  For both of us.  It is not personal.  I’ll understand if that is cold comfort.”  Bandia seemed unmoved.  Tatania grasped her shoulder and put more sincerity into her effort.  “Hear me.  They are taking your business away.  One contract at a time.  Like they take everything.  We know.  We understand.”

 

Bandia nodded reluctantly, focused again on her reason for going along with all this trouble.  The pair walked on to the base of the crystal’s pedestal.

 

“Where is this man of yours, I want to be done with this.”  Bandia asked.

 

“He comes now.” Tatania said.

 

“Ms. Sulistian.” a voice said.  Bandia turned and another cloaked figure thrust a thick box like that she had given to Tatania earlier.  

 

“Your delivery for the next order.” the man said.  She turned to speak to Tatania but she had vanished.

 

Before Bandia could turn around, she felt a firm push in the small of her back and arm reach over her shoulder towards the crystal.  The world seemed to vanish in a light blue haze.  All she heard was the fading voice of the man.

 

“We go home now.”

 

From the entrance to a nearby alley the rickshaw driver reflected on the coming storm and drew her own hood higher over her pitch black horns.  She contemplated the intersection of people and places as she watched her fare slip around the garish clothed woman and into a crowd as the man they met shoved her toward the Aetheryte and reaching for it himself jaunted them both away.  She set out across the court and followed the cloaked woman’s path towards an onsen overlooking the port.  

 

The port district in Kugane featured one of the richest selections of street food and cuisine in Eorzea. Yatai carts in neat lines sat in squares and streets.  From late afternoon until the early hours of the morning the sizzle from grills, exotic smells of spices and sauces scarcely conceivable to those not native to Higoshi filled the air.  A favorite for visitors, especially those on a budget was the “Promenade of Plenty.”  A long and wide but gated ally it required several Gil per person to enter, for which patrons were given tokens.  These tokens could be exchanged for all manner of street food.  Rice cakes, flavored mashed potatoes pressed into hand-pies, sushi, Small kabobs of spiced meat on a stick adorned the hands of many, often couples which enjoyed the promenade as a walking banquet of appetizers. 

 

At the end of this promenade was a favorite of Katryn Vaunter.

 

“Benny Lala, Teppanyaki Steakhouse and Bakery” did not fit into any particular culinary orthodoxy.  An old style silver nitrate image of the founding patriarch graced the wall above the maitre d station.  A mustached Lalafell stared out holding a knife and onion like a scepter and orb.  The back of the menus told the story of Philbers Doeburry, who in the sixth astral age established the first Teppanyaki style steakhouse and bakery.  It could safely lay claim as the only restaurant to offer a sushi cupcake and Flaming Onion soju.

 

Aubreen offered Katryn the last of the kabob from the Promenade as they entered the restaurant.  The restaurant was empty, having only just opened and the surge of mid-day diners had not yet arrived.  The maitre’d, a young female Lalafell with a cheery smile stood on a set of wood boxes, at the station just inside the door.  Philbers Doeburry looked down from the picture on the wall behind her.  She smiled and thrust her hands into the air and cried out, “HAPPY FOOD GO!”  At once the servers as well as the Itamae and teppanyaki chef’s all followed suite and the restaurant echoed with “HAPPY FOOD GO!” in response.  Katryn was gleeful, even Aubreen’s ordinary self constrained nature allowed for a smile.

“Welcome to Benny Lala’s! How many in your party?”


“Two.”  Katryn replied.

 

“Table or Grill?”

 

“Grill.”

 

“A name for the reservation?”

 

“Vaunter.”

 

“Very well, if you like you may sit at the sushi bar.  It should only be a few minutes!“

 

Off of the main floor there was a long bar with stool seating.  The bar had a narrow ledge suitable for only small plates and drinks in front of a glass protected refrigerated area in which sushi was prepared.  Aubreen and Katryn took seats and took a moment to review the small menu.  A Namasu waddled along the elevated floor behind the bar, bowed and in a gurggly, slightly sullen voice.  “Happy food go.  Welcome to Benny Lala’s.  Would you like a drink or appetizer while you wait?  Our Flaming Onions are on special.”  The chef sounded as excited as a fish drying out on a beach.

“A Flaming Onion.” Vaunter said.  “Maki rolls please, and a soju.” Aubreen added.

 

Aubreen settled onto her stool.  She took a moment to shift her personal sword from her right to left hip as she perched on the stool.  Long, slender and curved, it was of a style native to her people which she had carried for ages.  

 

“I have noticed the light swords warriors in Higoshi carry have hilt guards.  I have yet to see one like your own in our time here.”  Katryn noted.  

 

“There are none I expect.  Though that is no reflection on the smiths here.  The Elezen people produce weapons nearly worthy of my own Kin, however that should be expected.” Aubreen said.

 

The Namasu delivered the bottles of soju and Aubreen’s sushi.

 

“Have you been able to spar much with it since the boardings trailed off last year?”

 

“Sparingly.  Benjimir and I had occasion to renew our old lessons.  However his preference tended to be the bow, but he still holds his on I have found.”  Aubreen said.

 

She continued, “His technique is unrefined but you would be hard pressed to find somebody more challenging to best.  He can stalemate you indefinitely.”

 

“I’ve never had a particular proclivity for the tactical arts.  The operational arts, command, control, that was what I wanted to study.  I was honored to become a protege of you and Benjimir.”  Katryn said.

 

“Student dear.  Protege speaks to something different.”  Aubreen explained.

 

Katryn looked disappointed.  “In what way do you mean?”

 

“A student and a protege are not one and the same.  The former learns from you and what you teach.  The latter is something more intimate, personal.  It is someone you teach, surely.  However a protege has a natural resonance with you, carries a bit of who you are with them, makes it part of themselves.”

 

“Vaunter, party of two!”  The maitre’d announced.  Aubreen and Katryn carried their soju bottles to the nearest grill.  Taking time to place their orders with the Lalafell waitress, they resumed their conversation.

 

“So not I am not a protege, eh?”  Katrwn said.

Aubreen leaned toward Katrwn and lowered her tone for emphasis.  “You are as fine a student as any Benjimir and I have ever taught.  But Benjimir is a protege and the best of them.  He always is.” 

 

Katryn furled a brow.

“Always?” she said.

 

Aubreen nodded.  “He comes by it honestly.  I have guided and trained the Thursby line for nearly all of its generations.  Benjimir is always my favorite protege.”  she said.  Katryn shook her head. “I mean rather how does one protege more than once?”

 

“Live long enough and you see everything once and again.”  Aubreen said.

 

“You mean to say you have taught more than one Thursby named Benjimir?”

 

Aubreen paused and considered the question.  “No.  Rather I have taught many Thursbys named Benjimir, but only ever one.”  she said.

 

Katryn smirked.  “It is true what they say about asking questions of an El…..”

 

“Happy Food Go!”  The Lalafell chef said loudly pausing their conversation for the moment.  Visible by only the top of his toque as he approached the grill and climbed atop the wooden stand behind it.  The waitress followed with a cart full of the chicken, shrimp, fish, rice and such to produce the orders.  The chef began the classic typikaniki dinner by pour a goodly amount of oil on the already hot grill and setting it aflame.  The patrons starting to be seated exclaimed their impressions even if most has frequently seen it.  The chef continued to spin eggs and toss bits of shrimp and chicken around playfully as the meal cooked and assembled before Aubreen and Katryn.  The meal complete and plated the chef retired to applause from Aubreen, Katryn and excited patrons seated nearby.  With time to start their dishes Katryn revived the conversations along new lines.  

 

“There was a considerable amount of talk in Tondera Hall about if the arrival of Benjimir and decline of opposition at sea were portents we may depart these shores and resume our journey.  What do you see coming?”  Katryn asked.

 

“I do not know more about tomorrow than the sun will rise in the east and set in the west.  What foresight I had before we came to these shores has left me.  And do not think I say that lightly.”  Aubreen said.  Katryn looked alarmed.  “For how long?”  She asked.

“Since before the fall of the moon and ever since.  Unnerving at first it did have some qualities I would not trade.” Aubreen said.  Katryn tilted her head and asked.  “Such as?” 

 

Aubreen smiled warmly.  “I would never have broken faith with my duty as I knew it and given into your advances.  Nor pondered experiencing this ages long life more freely.”  Katryn returned the smile and raised it with a pair of flush cheeks.

 

*******

Chapter Text

“Fate takes a deposit against one’s life.  You get the deposit back afterward, or apply it to the next one.” 
- Katryn Vaunter, “Personal Logs.”


The all consuming glow faded.  The ground met Bandia’s feet.  But the hand pressing on the small of her back remained.  As the Aetheryte plaza in Ul’Dah came into full focus she instinctively turned to the right looking for this errand boy of Tatania brought her too, only he wasn’t there.

“Madam Sulistian.” her escort said curtly to her left, startling Bandia enough that she jumped in fright. Recovering her indignity cast a baleful glare at the middleman.   “Will you please.  I have had quite enough of this.” She spat at the man.  “Have you now?  My heart bleeds.  I weep for your inconvenience, and could you demonstrate more tact in speaking aloud than you do your mode of dress.  Let us away from here and it’s many eyes and ears.”  The man gripped Bandia’s arm with enough force to brook no resistance from Bandia.  He lead her out of the Aetheryte plaza and towards the city gate beyond.  

As they neared the gate their progress was halted by a caravan from the merchants' district  departing under escort.  The escort consisted of a pair of riders at the front and others interspersed between wagons, all making open show of the arms the bore.  Many of these riders wore patches of a white tree on a black field.   Volunteers and militia from the Scions of Numenor. Others displayed the more stylized winged sword and tree icon of the Thursby Company.  The courier became agitated as the riders and wagons kept him from the Chocobo porter beyond.  Bandia took no pleasure at the sight either.  Her rivals had gained greatly as caravans escorted such as this and for her part she could not manage to secure contracts for escorting or the goods being transported.  It was maybe the chief reason she had consented to working with the Umberbreakers. 

“Twinkinrykers.”  Bandia muttered.  To her surprise the courier nodded and his expression hardened at her saying the name.  “Best not forget that either.”  The caravan having passed, he continued with Bandia to the porter.  “Where are you absconding with me to now?”  She asked bitterly. 

“Noplace thankfully.  I am returning to my duties.  You however are to return to your business and make ready to assemble the next shipment of Linkpearl sets.  I will return with to exchange the companies pearls for our own in a week.  Good day miss Sulistian.”  With that the courier turned for the porter from whom he rented a Chocobo and he rode away.  Bandia considered if she had made a mistake in becoming part of these peoples plotting.  But spying the lingering end of the caravan her resentment of her rivals in business was stoked again and she cast those reservations aside and returned to her quarters.


*******

Thirty miles north of Kugane and by design the caravans from the port split into several sections and rode toward different destinations.  Each retained a mounted escort.  Pitched attempts to extort the caravans, much less overt attacks, had almost ceased over the past year thanks to the efforts of contract escorts.  The largest of the groups from the convoy to Kugane was escorted by the Sons of Numenor.  The guards were newer, less seasoned and most felt their purpose had largely been filled when attacks by people had ceased.  As such the normal routine of scouts and guards riding on ridgelines had fallen out of practice.  Drunken Garleans were the most dangerous thing seen in months and easy to see coming.  Sober raiders keeping discipline went unobserved.  Such was the case again tonight.  A pair of riders concealed themselfs, making careful notes of the composition of the escorts.  They would break-off once the convoy reached the village ahead and report to their commander in Kugane.

*******

Following dinner, Aubreen forsook the Bokaisen Onsen for the more exclusive, traditional Crystal Spring.  A considerable walk beyond Bokaisen, it was still segregated by gender.  Private suites afforded couples and the working men and women space for rendezvous.  The springs themselves were cultured stone and built decades prior by a retiring warlord.  The men and women’s springs each had views of the port miles below.  The distance ensured the cliente were not the average sailors and relationships of situational convenience.  

For the uninitiated an Onsen could be a condensed and unnerving experience. There were kindred experiences in other regions, and anyone serving in uniform learned to lose modest quickly enough.  But the tradition steeped details and freedom from distractions could focus people on their insecurities.   This began with bathing in a traditional open room with the female patrons.  Katryn was far from a prude by any measure, but she never failed to feel more self conscious as she and Aubreen disrobed and placed their cloths in the small baskets which would sit in the dressing space outside the bathing room.  

Women were similarly unclad and using the flow of hot water spigots to bathe before and after entering the hot springs themselves sitting on the small stools around the edge of the room.  Aubreen and Katryn occupied two of these and as was common enough between them, washed each others hair.  The Crystal Sky provided the customary towels to its patrons.  The towels were little more than washcloths in size.  Not large enough to fully wrap around a waist much less also cover one’s upper body.  Each patron had their own traditions of using these towels according to their sense of modesty.  Those senses ranged from preserving some modest with wrapping some of one’s body, to folding the town and placing it on ones head to keep it from falling in the water.  

Aubreen and Katryn shared the practice of walking their towels in-hand, rolled.  They took their time and selected a quite corner of the least occupied springs in the women’s half.  Half or more of the women bathing moments ago had proceeded to couples suites.  Only a few women had taken to the other spring pools.   Aubreen observed Katryn looking around as they sunk into the water.  “Were all of those women leaving?  I did not think there were many suites here?”  Katryn asked. 

“Guild women mostly, a few women of independent standing.”  Aubreen explained.  Katryn looked surprised.  “Working women you mean, they have a guild?” she asked.  Aubreen nodded.  “I do not use the term but yes and there is a guild.  They have considerable influence in the merchant and hospitality trade here.”  Katryn pondered and shook her head.  “I’ve never considered such work in the sense of being business, I couldn’t see myself doing that.” She said.

“Of course not.” Aubreen said.  “Because you have had a path laid before you since you were born.  Mind your thoughts though.  When you unjustly judge another's station in life, fate has a habit of booking a ticket to the same place.”  she finished.

Katryn nodded, her eyes focused on her lover as she spoke.  But Aubreen’s eyes were affixed on something on the dark horizon.  A great shape was dimly backlit by the crescent moon’s light.  The airship was a massive, nonsensical mass in the shadows.  “There is our mystery contact from yesterday.”  Aubreen said.  Katryn rose some in the water and looked out.  “He’s not alone” She added.  Aubreen stood and walked to the end of the spring pool.  Like all of her blood, her sight was manyfold better than Katryn’s.  “Gunships.  The Garlean variety we have been seeing.  Also, four smaller vessels, walker skifts.”  Aubreen reported.  Katryn could not see the could not see the smaller vessels and so sat back into the water her own eyes fixing on Aubreen as she turned and walked back to her.  Intimate activities were expressly not allowed in onsens but she allowed herself the privilege of observation for the moment. Aubreen smirked and sat near her.”  “Log and report it tomorrow.  Where were we?”  She said.

“You are saying we are fated to be what we are?” Katryn asked.  Aubreen shook her head.  “Sometimes, yes.  I think we choose to live.  In doing so we make a covenant with the great mystery and its sovereign.”   Aubreen said.   “So some have purpose but not all?”  Katryn asked.  Aubreen shrugged.  “Some find their purpose, or make it.  Others have it thrust upon them. Be it by happenstance or design.”

“So we live more than once?” Katryn asked.

“We can, but do we?  That again is a choice.  In my races’ tradition it is possible but not obligatory. “   She looked at Katryn inquisitively, wondering what was pressing on her mind to be on about this now.  “Your own race does too.  Many faces, many names but always them.”  Aubreen said. 

“By that do you mean Benjimir?” Katryn asked Aubreen.

“It does.” She said.

“Does he know?” Katryn followed-up.

“Not that he has demonstrated but I believe he has begun to suspect.  He had despaired for years before Haydaelyn.  No sense he would have a chance to contribute a chapter to the long Thursby story.  That sat ill with him.  But Dalamud.  And over these past six years he senses his purpose for this life.”  Aubreen said.  

*******

Xyncalla approached Wayng Chun’Chunyt.at the ally near her rickshaw.  “The tacky woman was taken.  Ul’Dah if I had to guess but that is not my department.”  She said.  In his even and almost expressionless tone Wang nodded and commented.  “Too many elements to reconcile.  We need a primer to be able to read these tea leafs.” 

“I was able to learn the entire Onsen was secured for this evening.” Xyncalla reported.

“Umberbreaker?”  Wayng asked.

“Scheer.”  She told Wayng.  He nodded. 

“Very well.  It would suggest he commands the beast, it is putting into port as we speak.” He paused.  “Return to the Onsen.  Find favorable means to know whom is there tonight and what business is conducted.  I am off to present my card to the Commodore.   We may not have chance to meet again for a time.”  Wayng ordered.  Xyncalla nodded.  “At once.  Light’s path Wayng.” She said.

“See with the Crystal’s eyes my friend.”  Wayng said, bowing his head slightly.

*******

The rented Chocobo trailed the caravan from Ul’Dah until it reached  the first village beyond.  Leaving it with the porter he withdrew his own mount from the village stables he resumed following the caravan studying it and the escorts protecting it until satisfied. He turned back for the village and by it’s Aetheryte plaza jaunted to Umberbreaker compound many miles away.

*******

Wayng sat quietly in the lobby space of the Onsen.  As Aubreen and Katryn emerged from the change rooms he stood up and approached the women.  With a slight bow he presented a small card with his name to Aubreen.  “Well met mister Chu’chunyt.  Captain Vaunter of the SNS Andustar.”  she said to Wayng.  Katryn clicked her boot heels with a smile and bowed.  “Your servant captain.” Wayng said.

“The beast has returned mister Chu’chunyt.” Aubreen said.

“Yes commodore.  My observer has made me aware of a gathering of officers and a member of the Umberbreaker clan in Kugane this night.” He reported.

“Miss Duskarie?” she asked Wayng.  And paused in thought and continued.  “I would ask you to have her join us in Tondera Hall, but first may I ask you to have her see what more she can learn of this meeting?” 

“It has already been so ordered Commodore.”  Wayng answered.  

“Excellent.  We sail for Ul’Dah at dawn, report to me aboard Andustar.  We will await you there.”  Aubreen said.

*******


Tatania Umberbreaker favored making her briefs with a certain amount of professional decorum and subty.  An onsen bought-out for his officers were neither professional nor proper.  If she knew he would not overstep his boundaries given her family name, Fleet Legatus Lucium Scheer was a creature who insisted on the full measure of entitlement his rank afforded him.  Her orders were to return the Umberbreaker compound which had the function of ensuring she would not linger. However she did not have time to maneuver around this. Knowing this Scheer had ensured the customary separation of genders in the onsens did not apply as he held court  in the main spring pool with his officers. 

Tatania strood from the bathing room to the steps of the spring pool without any sign of self consciousness.  Scheer and the commanders of the escorts accompanying the airship Ascendancy were already soaking in the pool awaiting her arrival. 

The officers managed to suppress crass comments and cat calls but their lingering eyes conveyed their sentiments.

“We are graced with your presence Lady Umberbreaker.” Scheer said with a smile.

“Can your men breathe under water or do you stand periodically so they may kiss your arse Lucium?”  Tatania said and walked into the spring pool to and sunk into the water to mid-chest depth, leaving her towel at the ledge.

Tatania ignored the officers entirely and locked eyes with Scheer.  She fenced with Scheer, arching her back or rising in the water daring him to shift his focus.  Above them in an ornamental balcony feature, concealed by shadow and the night, Xyncalla looked listened intently the next two hours as Tatania and Scheer traded crass barbs between discussing dispatches and orders for the Ascendancy.  She found it excellent theater.

*******

Some forty miles outside of Kugane the largest of the caravans escorted by the Scions of Numenor reached  its destination.  A small village, hit hard by the actions of the off duty Garlean troops from the consulate guard in Kugane.  Merchants had only begun to restock their wares, trusting in the Scions to protect their orders.  The eldars saw to the distribution of food stuffs sent gratis by the Thursby Company.  The escorts remained mounted, circulating up and down the wagons.  This had the effect of keeping off-duty Garlean troopers from nearing the caravan save for two whom newly arrived were sauntering toward a wagon when the hands of their sargent gripped their shoulders.  A stern look and shake of his head sent them back to the pub entrance where several others chastised them as they approach, making off-handed gestures to the Chocobos and their riders.  

*******

“Wayng is not a veteran of uniformed service and has not led a naval battle before.  However his analytical prowess is extraordinary. “  Aubreen said to Katryn as she drew a large finely crafted wooden box from her sea chest.  “He is to be commissioned then?”  Katryn asked carrying the courier envelope  to the chart table.  “Yes,” she replied, taking the envelope and placing it atop of the box. “He has several bright prospects that could serve us well at need and Benjimir is adamant that we improve our intelligence stance.”  A knock on the stateroom door concluded their discussion.  Answering the knocks Katryn opened the door and welcomed Wayng Chun’nyte into the quarters.  

“Good day captain,” said as he stepped in.  Bowing his head he greeted Aubreen.  “Commodore T’Subaki.  Reporting as ordered.”

“Enter, welcome aboard the Andustar.  Tea?”  Aubreen offered as Wayng joined her at the chart table.

“Please.  “ He answered.

Katryn stepped to the serving table near the main chart table.  “Sugar?” she asked

“Yes, one lump please.”

Handing Wayng his tea Katryn joined them at the chart table.

“Xyncalla has resumed observations in Kugane, she will report as she learns more about the Garlean.”

“Very well.  It is well you are able to join us for this crossing to Ul’Dah there is work to be done.”

“Orders?” Wayng asked.  Aubreen gestured to the box and courier envelope.

“Take these dispatches and report to Admiral Thursby at Tondera Hall.  For yourself, take these. This is my personal set of wargaming pieces and such.”  Wayng seemed surprised.  He took a moment to open the hinged lid to the box and viewed the contents.  Placing his open hand over his chest he bowed his head. 

“You honor me with this.” Wayng said.

“You may thank me by making good use of them.  From among your dispatches you will have returned to you scenarios which I want you to begin to work through.  Report your results to the admiral, he will review them and complete your training as we have discussed.”

“By your command.”

Katryn flared her brow but chooses to discount the comment.

"Anything further commodore?" Wayng asked.

"Not at this time, we will speak further during the crossing." Aubreen replied. 

"I will take my leave of you then ma’am.” He said and bowed his head to Katryn.  “Excellent tea.”

“Good journey Wayng.”

“Safe journey commodore. Good night.”  Wayng bowed slightly and carried the box and dispatches to his quarters.

Katryn replaced the tea cups for the cabin steward to take from the serving cart.

“You will not be training him further?”  She asked Aubreen.

“Not directly, I am aligned with Benjimir in that we need to build our own domestic source of skilled war and strategic planners.  Wayng is part of that plan.” Aubreen replied.  

Aubreen sensed the uncertainty in Katryn, another rising star within the chain of command might cause that.  “Peace my dear.  As we spoke of today. Yours is a different path and true to only you.  Let us make ours for tonight to bed.”  Aubreen kissed Katryn and led  her to their quarters.  

*******

Aubreen’s personal journal would later reflect that she fell into a deep sleep that night.  In the early watches aboard Andustar her mind was filled with a dream.  As her vision began she found herself walking down a green slope below a great hall of white stone.  The grass was cool on her feet and moist with morning dew.  The hall seemed to stretch beyond the horizon to the north and south.

The slope led her through trees and down into a morning haze until the great hall seemed to loom above her as if set on a cloud.  Finally she came through the mists to the edge of a narrow stream.  Beyond and high above the fog on the opposite bank was a hall of very great size but entirely different form.  On the opposing bank a shadow grew in the fog.  Slowly it emerged from the vail. The form was of a woman, dark long hair, limp in posture and head seemingly looking about.  The face was yet undefined in Aubreen’s vision and if she thought she felt she recognized it, clearly it knew her.  As form came free of the fog it’s shoulder stiffened and head rose at once.  A hand rose, palm extended.  It began to wave as the vision ended.

Aubreen rose in bed.  Choosing not to disturb Katryn beside her, she drew her legs up and wrapped her arms around them.  A gentle, contented smile formed on her lips, but also a slight tear in her eye.  The dreams were visions of peace and beauty.  However with the beauty came sadness.  It meant her gift of foresight had returned.

 

*******

Chapter Text

“Boredom is the birthmother of frivolity.  Given enough time a sufficiently unengaged people will give rise to the same trinkets and distractions as any other in history.  As well as the craft which makes them possible.”

-Osimira Miegs, “Technospectives.”

Ches sifted through the dirt with a soft brush from her kit until reaching solidly packed soil, hardened for a millenia or longer.  She replaced the brush to her leather dig kit.  Packed tools made for a quicker retreat if circumstances required.  Ches withdrew a small rock hammer.  The head was new to the handle, made of pure Mythril from the east.  It was a gift of sorts from a close associate who was bound to a pack of private mariner soldiers for hire. They were foster children to a venerated woman known as Mother Maxwell. There was a story, even a song about the broken hammer heads his kindred wore.  The unexpecting occasionally learned they were also not purely symbolic.  

The hammer made short work of the condensed dirt and a short while she came upon her quarry.  The soil had formed a pocket that protected it for until her arrival.  she packed wrapped the strange object in an oil rag and placed it in her long leather duster.  Satisfied her work was done, she adjusted the rim of her leather fedora and turned to leave.  Ches was confronted by a ring of men in the hall between her and the exit.

“Chocopoo.” she muttered.

Baxter Twinkinryker IV, “The Quad,” as his kindred Lalafel dubbed him, favored a tweed jacket with leather elbow pads and a rust hued fedora favored by his compatriots.  His broom like mustache was not common but seemed to complete the quasi academic look he favored.  

He awaited Ches’ return quietly outside the archway to the ruins.  The fat chocobo he rented from the porter in Ul’Dah cooed and pecked upward at the bait at the end stick riders would use to direct it along, hoping for a random bite.

Ches emerged in a sprint from the entrance.  As she passed Baxter and began to mount the Chocobo he asked, “Was it there?  Did you get it there?”

Not stopping, Ches reached down and in one motion grasped Baxter by his tastefully matched tweed vest and flung him into the rumble seat behind her.  “Yes it was, yes I did. We go home now.” Ches said, pulling the direction stick from it’s mount, spurring the Chocobo and reeling it to the left.  Baxter could hear the report of weapons and feet rising from the entrance to the ruins again as the great and fat bird lunged forward and away.  At once there was a sharp crack, then another, and the arch of the entrance collapsed.  Standing in his little seat behind Ches Baxter looked aghast at the runs all about seeming to fall pel mel. 

“What did you do?” he asked.

“Made friends and influenced people.” Ches replied.

*******