Chaos Calls 04: Behind the Lines
Chapter 1

Preparations

Many of the projects for helping my people on Chaos are starting to come together in a more meaningful way. Soon after buying the kennels and establishing the horse breeding company I spoke with Maggie and Frank about me needing people who want to live in a no-tech country I know of where the most advanced weapon is a crossbow and the only way to communicate at a distance is by a hand delivered letter. Although I don’t think they believed me about it being that no-tech, they did refer a number of people to me to help with the dogs and horses I want to send there to establish breeding and training groups there.

Frank also ships me ten of the older horses he sees as being near the end of their good breeding life when I ask for ten horses to send over to my no-tech compound. Their names convince me Frank is a romantic. The stallions are Jericho, Scimitar, and Damascus, while the mares are named Krithia, Sharon, Sheria, Nazareth, Arara, Deraa, and Musa. I had to do some research to confirm my guess of all the horses being named after places where the Australian Light Horse fought during the First World War, the only sort of oddity is Musa is named after Wadi Musa.

Maggie sends me ten older dogs I ask for, along with four handlers who want to live in a no-tech world. Six of the dogs are three breeding pairs near the end of their breeding life while the other four are two pairs of dogs trained to work with soldiers in the field. The two pairs of military trained dogs are two pairs of siblings trained by the two men handling them to be search and guard units of a man and two dogs each. The other two handlers are experienced trainers wanting a new life.

Both Frank and Maggie are surprised I’m sending older animals as breeding pairs. However, one thing I learned on my last trip is the way the system is set up on Crossroads the animals are given a full health check to limit disease transfers. It results in the animals being as healthy as when they were in their prime, so they have a well extended life after being shipped through Crossroads. This means animals near the end of their life here have a longer life on Chaos. Thus I’m able to take proven quality breeders to Chaos. I had Frank ship me ten horses because ten is the most people I want to take across at any one time, and I want them all on horses of the same quality. I may not take as many horses in future, but I’ll decide on taking more horses, or not, when I prepare for each trip.

Sharon introduces me to a man well trained in the older blacksmith skills, and a woman who’s a skilled maker of both pottery and ceramics. Both of them want out of modern life, and their skills will be very useful to the Grassy Meadows community. I never do learn how Sharon found these two people; one is from Maine while the other is from Arizona. They both show an interest in the other from the moment they meet.

Having set a limit of ten people for the trip, and now having six of the slots filled by new specialists, I need to select the rest of the team. I decide to have Tora travel with me this trip. Bridget is also ready to go, and so are another two of my guards who’ve expressed an interest. The two guards are of equal measure due to having matching experience and skills, so we choose between them by tossing a coin, and Victor is the one who is chosen to go with us on this trip.

The weekend after my trip to establish the accord with the Kukulka I’ve all the people going on the next trip gather at the residence to talk about what they can expect without giving away we’re going to another planet. I start by saying, “I’ve established a developing community in another place where the most advanced technology is a crossbow, and long distance communication is by hand delivered mail. There is none of the modern technology there at all, nor can it sustain any of it. This also applies to medical technology. You’ve all expressed an interest in going there. Some of you wish to permanently move there, and have skills I see as being useful to the community. I’ll give you five minutes to decide to go there or to leave this meeting.” With that I leave them to think.

Several minutes later I return to the small podium set up for today’s meeting, and say, “I’m glad to see you’re all still here. Those of you going there to stay need to write any letters or documents to enable you to permanently leave the country, and to close out all of your affairs here. Soon a woman will arrive to measure you to make you strong clothing suitable to wear there, because most modern clothes aren’t suitable. For the next week you’ll be learning any of the following skills you don’t yet know: riding, use of a crossbow, use of a sword, starting a fire with a flint, first aid, and basic herbal medicine. Please try to become as good as you can, but don’t worry if you aren’t perfect, the training will continue after we arrive at the colony. Now spend some time getting to know each other.” After the short speech we spend two hours chatting and snacking. The lady who makes my bamboo armour and Chaos clothes arrives to measure everyone for their clothing, and then she leaves.

Hardware

Other than the individual clothing there’s a lot of hardware we need to take on this trip. Every horse needs a saddle and tack made without metal. They’re made from leather and wood with small hardwood pins to hold them together, plus ceramic components where metal is usually used for rings and such. The buckles are old style loop-back buckles of ceramic without any tines. The horses are trained to work without a bit, so we don’t need them, either. Huge leather saddlebags for the dogs to ride in are made with large flaps on the inside we can roll up so the dogs have a physical contact with the horses for the travel through the portals, while the other five sets of saddlebags are just big bags for gear.

Part of the load is two rolls of high quality half inch hemp rope a half a mile long filling both of a horse’s saddlebags. A lot of ceramic kitchen gear is included, as well as a large number of very strong ceramic rings of varying sizes. Lots of useful plant seeds are most of the rest of the load, along with four telescopes of the same size as the ones I already have on Chaos, and four monoculars with a very limited viewing area which are almost as powerful as the telescopes while being as small as my hand. The scopes have wood and leather cases with the lenses already in them, because the lenses are within the allowed size.

Site Surprise

One day soon after my return from dealing with the dragons I’ve a few surprising emails. One is from Mac telling me about a website I should join, and the other is from one of the website administrators to offer me an Invitation Only Membership to Mistress Eva de Glorvia’s Mansion of Mayhem, so I go to the website. Due to the name I’m not at all surprised by what I see there. The email from Mac saying I should join the site is the only reason I don’t ignore it. I accept the invitation, and then I have to go through a short personalised security questionnaire which clearly includes a few restricted information questions like:

What do you call a leading Chaotic Dragon?

a. Hey you.

b. Kukulka.

c. Morning Breeze.

d. Quetzalcoatl.

What is the name of a man in Washington you don’t know?

a. Fred.

b. General.

c. Johnson.

d. John.

There are other questions which shows me whoever put this together had to have access to sources no one but Mac or John should have. I work on the assumption the questionnaire was created by Mac, because only he has the full cross-access information. When I finish answering all of the questions I receive an offer to chat from a Kyle Alexander.

During our chat I learn he owns the site and he manages the Invitation Only area of it, because it’s for a select few Heroes chosen by Mac. I also learn the Invitation Only part of the website includes current data on the situation on Chaos while it also allows for communications with a select group on Crossroads as well as the other invited Heroes on Earth.

At one point Kyle says, “I love the map your Caretaker is creating. You’ll find all of the Heroes here have their Caretakers helping her with the map, and it has a lot of details of the areas they operate in, so it has a lot more information and details on other areas than it did before.”

We spend a lot of time talking about our campaigns on Earth and on Chaos dealing with our enemies on both planets. One thing we arrange is for Frank and Kyle to contact each other about trained cavalry horses and breeding stock so we can both expand our herds on both planets.

After talking with Kyle I log out, go to the main site, and sign up for a Premium Membership in Sharon’s name. I note the details down, along with the URL. She’s surprised when I hand her the information and she logs in. However, when I have her follow the links to the page where they have their rates for volunteer models she smiles before downloading copies of the forms to fill in. I’m sure I’ll soon see some of our eligible young ladies appear on their site.

I also spend some time on the site chatting with Sid Jones. He tells me about his rescue missions and I tell him about mine. He tells me of the report he got about me from one of his Special Agents on the trip through Summer Ford, and how he likes what I’m doing in that area.


Note: In the following weeks Sharon arranges a number of images of Utako, Tora, Sugi, Setsuko, Mai, Koemi, Hideko, Haruko, El, Dawn, Dee, and herself in swimwear to be sold to the site managers for a large fee for each of them. Some of them sell a few topless photos as well. Although my ladies aren’t as good looking as most of those on the site there aren’t many Asian women on it. Thus Japanese models are in demand by the site’s management, and they’re very welcome.

Crossroads

All the gear is checked for unapproved materials, and it’s ready. The horses have their tack with full saddlebags, including bamboo armoured horse blankets which we roll up and tie to their saddles with the armour for the dogs. All of the travellers have basic clothing with bamboo armour and backpacks of gear. I check the dogs are in physical contact with the horses through the large hole on the inside of their saddlebags they’re in. Everyone is waiting in the main vault area, because there’s not enough room in the portal vault, again. We form up in a continuous chain of contact with each of us having an arm over the neck of the horse we’re leading, and those behind have a good hold on the tail of the horse in front with their hand resting on that horse’s rump, like we did on the last visit. Sharon will lock the vault behind us. I smile at her, and approach the portal while those waiting behind me wonder about my sanity.

On arriving in the portal room of my quarters at Crossroads I find Merry holding open the door to the stable. With a large grin I lead my horse, Jericho, through the door. A few minutes later all of the horses are comfortable. Their tack and packs are on tables set on the other side of the stable. The dogs are happy walking about on the floor sniffing at everything, especially the dog beds and litter trays set out. Merry leads us through into the main lounge of my Hero’s suite, which I see now has a dog-door in it to allow the dogs free access around the suite.

After introducing everyone to Merry I leave them watching a film on what life on Chaos is like while Merry and I renew our relationship.

Ninety minutes later Merry and I arrive back in the main room a little before the film ends. When it does we deal with a lot of questions, and some surprised comments about being on another planet. It takes time, but we cover everything until everyone is soon happy with the situation. Very surprised, a little shocked, but happy.

While Merry examines the available rescues to see which I should do we all spend some time in the training rooms. I also spend a lot of time examining the enlarged map project. A lot of areas that used to be blank or only lightly covered now have a lot of detail.

Hero Lands

What I do find of great interest in examining the map is the number of longer term Heroes who have areas of control contiguous with other Heroes. However, after some research I learn it’s more a case of the areas of control around the area a Hero establishes being expanded at the request of the locals, more than any actual expansion program of the Heroes concerned. There are a few areas which are due to the conquest of the Slavers by the Heroes involved in the Slaver War, but they’re the only real exceptions to the rule. It does make sense, when you look at it.

The Hero sets up a small base to operate from. He provides them with security from most of the bad guys, better training to fight the bad guys, and improved ways of making a living. Thus the base expands due to the improved economy, and their ability to defend themselves. Others in the surrounding area see this, and want to be part of it, so they ally with the people in the Hero’s base area. When the Hero wanders further afield he has to establish more bases or sub-bases, and the process repeats until the areas of influence merge to make one large area under his control.

The saddest part of all this is only a small percentage of Heroes are at work doing this, far too many don’t bother with establishing a base or helping the people on the planet. The only good part of the involvement of these Heroes is it does reduce the number of the worst troublemakers while it improves the gene pool on Cassandra along with its population. That gets me to wondering how long this project has been operating, and how much longer it will continue. Naturally, that causes me to wonder about what will happen when the project is a proven success.

Talk Time

A little later I go to the computer room, and ask to speak with Mac. I no sooner ask the question than the box on the wall shows he’s present, and he asks, “What’s up, Al?” I like the way he’s becoming informal with his speech.

I respond, “Mac, I’ve just been looking at the map, and I’ve got some questions and concerns for you. Can you organise some population stats for me, please?” After being assured he will I add, “First, evaluate the land to come up with a figure of useable land where people live, and the number of people living in it. Places like the fens where only animals live and the ocean are to be left out, and where you have people moving in those areas calculate them as being in their home locations where you can. Then I want you to recalculate all that by splitting it into two groups: the first is the areas under the control of Heroes with strong bases like the Jones, Alexander, Samuels areas; with the second area being the rest of the inhabited land. Include the islands in this too, please. What I’d like to see are comparative population figures per square mile, the number of Damsels per one thousand people living in each area, and the percentage of the Damsels in each area that are in need of rescue.”

Mac replies, “I’ve got some computers working on that. However, I can tell you we distribute the Damsels across the planet on an equal rate of the population density in an area, so they’re evenly distributed. Why do you want his information?”

“While looking at the map I started wondering how long it will take for the project to meet its aims of repopulation of Cassandra, and that got me to wondering if Heroes like Sid, Kyle, myself, and others like us are actually adversely affecting the project and the Cassandran population.”

“Al, before we go further with this I want to bring some other in on the discussion. Please wait a moment.” A few minutes later Mac says, “I now have Mistress Eva with several of the senior administrators and staff listening on this conversation, Al. I won’t take the time to introduce them all, but I do want everyone to speak up if they have a question. Al, I’ve already relayed the start of this conversation, so just go ahead.”

After having a sip of the drink I brought in I say, “Before I go too far I’d like to see the statistics I asked for, Mac.” They appear on the screen in front of me, along with a note everyone else is seeing them too. I look them over, and ask, “Mac, can you get some statistics on the time lengths for a Damsel to be on planet before her status changes to warrant a rescue, but split into the same two groups. You need only cover the last few decades for them to be useful. But it would be good to have the older figures if you can get them without too much of a delay.”

“I’ve got that started, Al. While we wait can you talk about what it is you’re concerned about, please? You’ve already proven to have some very deep insights none of us have seen before, so I worry about what you may be seeing now that we’ve missed.”

“OK. Everybody please bear with me, and write down your questions so I can say this without any interruptions. I’m a new Hero who’s also establishing a strong base to operate from on Chaos. Joe, the Hero who recruited me, has a couple of small bases he operates from. Each of his bases are a single farm in an area where he has no authority or control of the area, but he does influence those on the farms and a few neighbours. I also have contact with a couple of Heroes who have similar operations. I recently came into contact with Kyle Alexander, and I learned a lot more about Heroes with larger areas of control. Due to that I started looking at the more recent history of Chaos. What I’ve learned is most Heroes either didn’t have a secure base of operation or they had small bases like Joe has. A few like Gerald Jones and Jonas Alexander had larger bases, but they were still single farms or citadels with a zone of influence and not a zone of outright control. All the Heroes with bases improved the standard of living and the methods of operation for the people living at their bases, and some of the changes slowly spread out. However, the Slaver War resulted in major changes to the way those Heroes operated in order for them to respond to the actions of the Slavers and the forces behind them. A few Heroes raised armies to fight the Slavers, and beat them. In doing so they ended up in control of the lands they took from the Slavers, thus they greatly increased their power base. I realise this wasn’t what they wanted, but they had to take control or let the Slavers take back control. This has resulted in large areas now under the direct control and influence of a few Heroes who want to improve life there.”

I stop for another drink, then add, “Since then those spheres of control have expanded a little to eliminate large groups of bandits on their edges. A classic example of this is when Kyle Alexander asked Sid Jones’ local administrators to extend their area of control up to the mountains on the northern edge of their border, and they did. Thus the whole of the Shiloh eastern border is contiguous with the Jones Kingdom. When I looked into this further I find most of the Chaos Midlands is now under direct Hero control with a large sphere of influence beyond that. When you add in all of the Hero controlled lands contiguous with the Jones Kingdom you have the lands of the other Slaver War Heroes, the Samuels Citadel lands, Shiloh, and my lands. There are other areas of direct Hero control not part of that one large group, but this group takes up most of the centre of the main continent. Mac, can you show us a map of these lands?”

I wait a moment for the image of a basic Chaos map to appear to show the lands in question, each is marked with the Hero’s name. The extra statistics I asked for also appear on the screen with the other statistics.

After a deep breath I dive in with, “Now we come to the hard part of the statistics Mac has just made available to us. They show us that the population density of the Hero controlled lands, especially the large area around the Jones’ Kingdom is, on average, nearly triple that of the other areas. Also, while the number of Damsels is evenly distributed on the basis of population density the number of Damsels needing rescue in the Hero controlled lands is about a seventh of that of Damsels in the other areas, and the time between landing and the need to be rescued is longer in the Hero controlled lands, plus it’s growing longer. I was concerned this was the case.”

I’m interrupted by a woman saying, “There’s no logical reason for it.”

I smile, and says, “I did ask not to be interrupted, but I’ll answer that. When you think about it the situation is a direct result of the lands being in the control of Heroes like Gerald Jones, Jonas Alexander, Sid Jones and Kyle Alexander. They quickly deal with the bad people within their area of control and influence. This encourages those wanting to rob and steal to move to other areas outside of their control. So when their control zone expands the robbers move on again, or die. This is a normal part of the pattern I’m seeing. Thus I wonder how that pattern is affecting the project overall. Also, the Heroes with a good solid base have more resources to deal with the bad guys and make the rescues, thus they tend to survive longer to conduct a lot more rescues. Mac it might be a good idea to see some statistics on when Heroes die on rescue missions broken up into the number of successful missions completed prior to their death.” They must already have those, because they instantly appear with the stats.

I take a moment to examine them before saying, “It looks like most of the Heroes die in their first ten missions, and the ones who get past that tend to continue rescuing for decades. The natural results of that will be the small pool of long-term Heroes like Gerald and Jonas have to be the few to supply most of the human genes to the Cassandran gene base. I’m not sure it’s good to have such a large influence from such a small group. It may be worthwhile to see how wide spread their genes are in the full population by now. You should also start having geneticists looking for any problems due to the level of inbreeding from their descendants.” I wait for a few shocked gasps I hear before I continue with, “The bigger worries are: How close to completion of repopulating Cassandra is this project? What will happen to this project when the target is met? Will it close down or will it be allowed to continue? While the biggest worry of all is: Will the large areas of control by Heroes adversely affect the Damsel rate of rescues due to them taking longer to need rescuing? Now for all of your concerns and questions.”

A voice says, “Mistress Eva, here, Al. Why do you see the rescue rate dropping significantly?”

“It’s a natural response to the increasing area of control and influence by the Heroes improving the lives of those they interact with on Chaos. What you’re beginning to see right now is the results of those Heroes, including me, civilising the planet. By making the lives of those we like a lot better and easier they’re able to accumulate more, and that spreads. So when someone comes along to steal what they have they’re now more able to fight them, and are more prepared to fight hard to keep what they have. So you have a growing cycle of the locals eliminating the worst bandits and thieves, and thus improving the lifestyle of the area. You can already see it happening in the Hero controlled lands. The other thing is we wouldn’t be Heroes if we didn’t want to help them, so it’ll continue.”

Mac says, “You’ve raised some interesting points, Al. I think you just gave most of the people listening in a lot of headaches, due to the amount of research work they now have to do in order to evaluate the points you raise. The statistics you had me gather support what you say, but to what level do they support it, and what are the longer term effects? At least we can now start to look into these matters, and to plan for what they will do in the future, instead of waiting until they jump out at us. I think we now need to reconsider where we place new Damsels on Chaos, and we may have to look at moving some about, as well. If you’ve nothing else to add on these issues, Al, I think we’ll take you out of these talks, and let all of the experts discuss their parts of the concerns you raise.

Updates

In a moment only Mac is talking to me to brief me on the outcomes of my previous visits. He starts with, “Al, we finally found some files with the information on the other portals. They’re legacy portals from when the system was first established. They use an older technology, and part of it is lost, so they can’t build any more portals of that type. The worry about them is the controlling software can be changed to allow anything to be carried through them. Originally they had no restrictions because they were used to put the current portals in place on all of the planets, then the software was amended to restrict most of the things restricted in the main system. The system is further limited in they only work in pairs, plus the loss of one portal destroys the ability to use that pair and all of the rings linked to them. There’s also a limit of ten portal pairs they can use made under that system, with only twenty-five rings per pair. So far we haven’t found out how many actual pairs and ring sets were made in the first place. I’m sure those records exist somewhere, but not where we can find them, yet. What does worry me is when we started tracking the older portals we found only three in use on Earth and on Chaos. Kyle did destroy one to disable that system. Within weeks another pair was shown to be operating between Earth and Chaos, we suspect it replaces the pair Kyle disabled.” I sigh about that knowledge. “Since we know the older portals can’t be moved through the new portals, we suspect they’ve been in place since they were first established, and they were found by those who now use them, but they’re being careful in how many they use at one time. Also, some must be on Cassandra as well.”

While Mac talks I think on this, and I wait for an opportunity to say, “If I understand this right they have a maximum of ten portal pairs with a limit of twenty-five rings per pair for two hundred and fifty rings. Kyle has disabled one set, so they now have only nine sets. There has to be at least one pair to link Earth to Crossroads, one pair to link Cassandra to Crossroads, and one pair to link Crossroads to Chaos, because they have to exist to establish the current system. You need to start monitoring all of the planets to try and find the portals. The least you’ll do is get some idea of the traffic on them. With them having only ten to start with I’d expect them to set up two pair sets for each route to have some redundancy.”

“Al, I think the original builders set up three pairs on the routes of Crossroads to Cassandra, and Crossroads to Earth, with four pairs on the Crossroads to Chaos route. They can move both new and old portals through the pairs, and I suspect they did just that to establish the current network. The only good news is if anyone activates a new style portal it immediately registers on our control system, then it sends all of the people who enter it to the new portal meeting room, which is secured. The new style portals won’t let you move the old portals through them, so they can’t use the Hero network to shift them. While the old system will let them use the portals to move portals, the rebels have to leave one set of links in place to move between the planets, because the moment they close one end off they can no longer use that pair or go to that planet. It matters not which planet they use as their central hub, they have to dedicate one pair to each planet for the administrative use. That limits their other uses to seven pairs, now six pairs. Once we can locate and destroy a portal on any planet we reduce their network capabilities.”

“That’s good, Mac. How are things with the Kukulka?”

“Although we still haven’t got a reply from their government the ones on Chaos were happy to have their ancient legends proven and to see the ship they arrived on the planet in. The ship’s log wasn’t found, but we did find the ship’s name and placed a request to their government for the names of those on it during it’s last known flight. We await an answer.”

“That’s good, news.” We chat some more before we end the talk.

Mission Choice

The morning after my talk with Mac I have a long talk with Merry about the possible missions. She has several, but isn’t sure which one I should go on, because none of the available missions have a high risk assessment at all. The other active Heroes have picked all of the high risk rescues currently in the system.

Merry says, “Al, there are no high risk rescues deserving of priority over the others. However, the one with the highest risk is on an island, and there’s no easy way for you to get to Grassy Meadows from there after the rescue. It looks like it can be safely left until your next visit. The next three missions are the same risk level, and none of them are urgent. The only mission within the Brotherhood’s area is for five Damsels who are being held in a prison deep within their control zone. It seems they’re no longer trying to trap Heroes, but are simply finding the Damsels and putting them into a prison to secure them in the one place for a later use.”

“Let’s go look at it on the map,” is my response.

In the room we now have for the map Merry brings up the area to show what is clearly a prison backed up against a very high sheer cliff while she says, “The cliff behind the prison is over a mile high with no way to get to the top of it to climb down into the prison.” Looking at the image of the cliff I’m not so sure of the last statement, but I wait for the rest of the briefing. “There’s two hundred troops in the prison, and the next two towns to the prison have large forces around them, but no bank. They did have banks, but the Brotherhood forced people out of town to lower the population below the size for a bank. They live in villages a bit further out now. Due to the topography you would have to go through one of the towns to reach the prison after having arrived in a town further away with a larger force present there.” She expands the map to show the section of the coast while pointing to the important places. The nearest bank is actually in the city known as Seaside Citadel which is where the main headquarters of the Brotherhood is, and is north of the prison with another bank in the nearby town of Citadel Port a few miles from the Citadel, and on the actual coast. The next bank to the south is about double that distance south of the prison in port of Southport.

I really don’t like the idea of leaving any Damsels in the hands of the Brotherhood for a second longer than necessary, but this requires more study if I take it on. I know the troops in the area will increase once I log on for the mission, because the Brotherhood will be told by their spy. So I glance at the AI indicator to see it’s Mac and Jeeves, so I ask, “Mac, can you limit the map to show the contiguous coastal area the Brotherhood controls with the troop locations and number, please?”

The map changes to show the strip of the coast from the fens down to where the mountains cut off the end of the coastal plain plus the area inland from that to just short of Marley. It shows large numbers of troops at Seaside Citadel, Southport, Citadel Port, the fen pass, the mountain pass east of Marley, with smaller forces at the prison plus the locations just to the north and south of the prison, and only a handful of troops in any other locations. I ask, “Please show where the banks are in the area.” The map has some blue dots appear to show the banks still in use in the cities and towns previously mentioned as well as a few places south of South Port and well to the north of Seaside Citadel.

Mac says, “Other than the troops securing the prison area, and near the Citadel, the bulk of the remaining troops in the area are defending the pass in the mountains just east of Marley, and guarding the forced labour working on the road through the fen. The rest are small garrisons.”

I smile while saying, “Would it be fair to say the hardcore troops are all around the prison or the citadel with only a few hardcore officers and senior non-commissioned officers controlling conscripts elsewhere?”

“I think that’s a good assumption, except I’d also expect a couple of hardcore groups as the key troops with the fen guards, as well. Why?”

I wave Mac to silence while I look at the map more before saying, “I want three copies of good cloth maps of this whole area please. Plus a cloth plan of the prison.” Then I move to expand and examine the area around the prison, especially the cliff behind it. It is a very formidable cliff, but not impossible for a good climber with long ropes. It’s a good thing I decided to take huge rolls of rope to cut up as needed instead of pre-made lengths of rope. They’ll be very hard to carry around, but very useful on that cliff if we go that way. I’ll have to see what it’s like there.

The prison design looks wrong to me. The cliff is the west wall, a three-story stone wall has its only entrance on the north wall a quarter of the way in from the east wall, with four-story high towers on each side of the gate and the east wall corners. Inside the wall is a courtyard around another rectangular structure like a square ‘eight’ around two courtyards. The east wall has no towers and a single entrance in its middle, while the middle wall has a tower on each end as well as one in the middle of it. The walls and towers are much wider than the outer wall. It’s very odd.

A little later I turn to Merry to say, “Leave registering the mission until right before we leave, but we’ll take the prison group operation, and enter through the bank in Deep Valley,” while I touch the spot marking the town deep into the hills two thirds of the way between the Seaside Citadel and the fens. It’s the northern most bank, but, more importantly, the one with the smallest garrison force near it.

Merry says, “That means you’ll have to travel almost the length of the Brotherhood’s area to get to the prison!”

“I know. Which is why they won’t expects us to use that bank. Also, if we leave in the same hour as we register for it they may not get told until after we arrive there.”

Mac says, “Then you best start packing, Al, because you want to get going before someone else chooses the mission.” I nod my agreement, turn, and leave to get people packing up to go.

On the Way

Normally there’s a couple of days between the mission selection and the departure on the mission, but we’ve studied this one a lot, so we’re off as soon as we can pack up to go. Within the hour we’re ready to leave.

Merry enters the mission acceptance into the system, initiates the portal for us, we’re on our way while most of my group are still bemused by the speed of the departure. We enter the portal the same as we did on the way here from Earth.

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