Through emotion, I gain passion;
Through passion, I gain mediation;
Through mediation, I gain harmony;
Through harmony, I gain serenity;
Through serenity, I gain peace;
While at peace, I shall cease;
When Ashla desires it, I shall inhere in it.
— Jo’Dai Code
The words of the code stuck to Dagerula Jar’Garth as he used the mantra to keep himself occupied in his chambers. Although he was more of a practitioner of moving meditation rather than sitting meditation, he’d wounded his right foot while running in the jungle of Trython. For now, he decided to try the methods of what the consulars and so called “wise” Jo’Dai Mashars preferred to utilize to achieve their inner peace. Dagerula was a true Jo’Dai Guardian at heart and believed that the Order should head out and fight injustice and his style of meditation reflected that. Preparing for the eventual rise in conflict and moving head on. Even though the Order had worked in the territories where the Tiyanki roam, for all the thousands of years, the Ch’Rattan and Devissian Cartels still spread out their illicit ways of life.
The silent mantra meditation began to work. He could feel himself getting closer to peace. Breathing calmly and soothingly. Perhaps there was some wisdom to this practice, but he knew that this on itself wouldn’t bring wisdom to him.
The door rang and calmingly he answered.
He hadn’t turned around, but he was immediately greeted by three younglings charging and playing around him. He tried to concentrate on the Code and its words, but quickly realized the youngsters were too persistent for him. They circled around him and asked him.
“Dagerula, will you come train with us?”
“Yeah, I’m convinced I can finally beat you at it!”
“Well then perhaps you should be knighted right away then.” He replied as he stood op from his static cross-legged meditation stance. Towering over the three younglings. A Thaigur, a Human and a Sassian. Though they weren’t alone as Dagerula’s friend, a young yellow skinned Nitolan male named Jageed Durjo, asked him while leaning against the doorway.
“Honestly, I didn’t take you for one to meditate silently. Are you quite alright, Jar’Garth?” Jageed sneered at him with a wide smile on his face and jet-black eyes glancing, a common characteristic of his species, at him.
“Oh quite the contrary, Jag. I’ve found that moving meditation is far more effective for me. Though this form of meditation has some merits, but I doubt even the Ta’Mashars would have enough patience when they are flanked by such energetic youngsters.”
He then started to tickle the children and the room was filled with laughter from all the different ages. The laughter even echoed down the hallway which largely remained silent this time of day. Or at least Dagerula’s quarters section. Jageed would however put an end to the younglings’ interruptions.
“Now you three, how about you prepare the training swords? I’ll bring Dagerula here along after we discuss a few things with Mashar Zarrel. Sounds good?”
“Yes, Jageed. No half an hour waiting this time!” Replied the Thaigur youngling.
“Well if it takes more than twenty minutes, you can come challenge Mashar Zarrel himself. Deal?”
Thus the children left the room with the same energy as they entered. Dagerula was relieved that for a few heartbeats, the room was silent again. But he was too curious to cherish it.
“Mashar Zarrel, eh? What does the wise man want us for?”
“Just to talk. Something about scouting out a possible new threat that’s arisen in the past few months.”
“Sounds like some real guardian job if I hear that correctly.”
“Wouldn’t really get your hopes up. Saw Chevulir Ki’loli visiting Zarrel the past few days, so my guts tell me we’ll surely have a diplomatic attaché.”
“Look at you Jageed. Embracing the espionage lifestyle, are we?”
“Oh please, I already know all I need to know. Maybe you’d pick up on some things if you weren’t too busy getting your feet broken.”
“Come now. We both know accidents can happen.”
“Still, I wouldn’t expect you to be so clumsy. What would Jaylil think about it?”
Jaylil Corren was Zarrel’s own Pad’Shar or apprentice. It seemed Jageed’s natural Nitolan ability to recognize social hints was unto him.
“I’m sure you can explain it to her another time. Now let’s get you to Mashar Zarrel.”
Dagerula followed Jageed into the hallway and up the stairs. His right foot still hurt a bit from the fall he’d endured on his run. Though he bit through it as a true Chevulir and did some small talk with Jageed. Jageed updated him on the recent activities of Zarrel and speculating on what they’d be asked for. There was some tension between Onil Zarrel and Dagerula as the men were near polar opposites when it came to approaching injustice. Onil was your textbook consular and Dagerula a true guardian. So Dagerula was quite perplexed by this whole ordeal. Finally, they reached the room that served as a small library within the temple. There Zarrel was accompanied by multiple Jo’Dai from all the different careers. Surprisingly enough Ta’Mashars Deh’ran and Firreln were there too. As was Jaylil Corren. To be expected of course, as her master had called for Dagerula. He kept pondering on what the two member of the High Council were doing here though.
“Ah, Chevulir Durjo and Jar’Garth. A pleasure of you to finally come.” Onil Zarrel welcomed the duo as they approached the large group of Jo’Dai.
“Mashar Zarrel, my fellow Chevulir and esteemed Ta’Mashar Deh’ran, Firreln.” Dagerula replied as he bowed slightly to each councillor. “How may we serve Ashla?”
“Well…” Onil tapped on the holoprojector and ships of previous unknown configuration appeared as well as a map with highlighted systems and regions. The two ships seemingly had no similar characteristics as one was more elegant in style with a saucer section and two rear pointed protruding nacelles, while the other could only be described as a rounded beam. “Ta’Mashar Firreln has received reports of a new spacefaring faction in these territories. Our contacts report a large exploration mission has been held by this faction and as of recently, it formalized in astropolitical pacts with both the Dunedari Free-Standings and the Kezimite Kingdom.”
“Mashar Kintea Moffisa, Watchman of the Kezimite Kingdom, has reported that these so-called Stoinians and Treecuu are well on their way to exert their influence. A so-called Prince Aurelian has been leaving quite a mark where he’s been. Let’s hope he won’t throw the Territories into disarray. For by Ashla’s whims, my guts have a bad feeling about these troublemakers.” The Arkanian Ta’Mashar Tuthras Firreln added. He was the Watchman of the Order, the one who oversaw all Watchman operations and took a close eye on any astropolitical developments. A new unknown faction could have major ramifications to the balance of the territories, and this put the Ta’Mashar into his grumpy mood. Though the more enthusiastic Ta’Mashar Deh’ran had a different view.
“We’ve already gathered that the Stoinians are a human civilization. There’s no need to panic as they’ve always been among the more reasonable species. They’re no Wheepad after all. Though perhaps a bit of caution won’t hurt as we have nearly nothing on their Treecuu allies. Regardless of those facts, these civilizations are vaster than what we’ve seen in recent history. I speculate they would be more akin in size like the Zelvan Regime which the Owette once encountered.” Deh’ran practiced both promise and carefulness. Traits that fitted the Benthar well as the Historian of the Order.
“While I wish I could share Ta’Mashar Deh’ran’s enthusiasm, the Stoinians have already exerted more than enough influence to cause a potential war and shift the balance of power. Making non-aggression pacts and guaranteing the independence of the Kezimite Kingdom and the Dunedari Free-Standings. They’re setting up a clear foothold for expansion and the fact that they claimed the Meridian system for themselves doesn’t show them as the most amiable of factions.” Ta’Mashar Firreln replied begrudgingly to his fellow Ta’Mashar.
“The Meridian System?” Jicelli Vagana interjected, a young female Panuri with purple hair. She was a historian and clearly understood the implication of the Meridian System which Dagerula strugled to comprehend. It must have been an obscure historical legend. “But wasn’t that system cut off from hyperlanes? How did they find it and claim is so easily? Who knows what they can do with the potential knowledge from the Galree.”
“As you can see the situation is quite delicate. These Stoinians have caused quite the development in the southern regions. Their intentions are yet unclear, though their actions are invasive. The High Council has approved a scouting mission to find out what these Stoinians want in this region. That’s why I’ve assembled you all here, I want you all to be part of the scouting team.” Onil Zarrel looked around, even at Dagerula trying to ease off the tension between them. “I’ve selected you all for your qualities. I don’t know how long our mission will take, but we’ll have to prepare for a long trip. For our mission is to also discover what’s out there beyond Zelvan, Treecuu and Stoinian realms. The Stoinians will be our gateway to whatever lies beyond the expanses.”
“I see you’ve assorted quite the bunch of different specializations. When do we leave?” Dagerula asked, getting straight to the point.
“In two days. We better prepare well, for it will be a long and exhausting trip.” Onil replied. “Unless there are any objections?”
All looked around but they were in agreement. Some were curious about these Stoinians, others were more than willing to get out there and spread Ashla’s will. Dagerula and Jageed fell into the latter category and were more than happy to get their piece of the action. Dagerula looked around and slowly began to recognize everyone from past meetings or by reputation. Jicelli Vagana was a bit younger than him and had earned quite a reputation as an excellent student of history. Dagerula even heard she might even become the Historian of the Order one day, though Deh’ran was still in his prime. Next was the Xalarian Xuman Finex. A fellow Jo’Dai Guardian who had beaten Dagerula in a Mutai duel thanks to his species’ supernatural strength. A gift from their planet’s higher gravity. Other than that, he was quite an enjoyable fellow. Yaeth Ki’loli was also a Benthar like Borerc Deh’ran, but the female had a darker fur compared to the Ta’Mashar. She was a young consular with some experience with religious Jhadorans and Vurk. Eshrenic In’Ten was an Enthrallan and despite his species’ affinity for diplomacy, Eshrenic decided that negotiating more aggressively would get the desired results quicker. Thus making him an excellent Jo’Dai Guardian and giving a whole new meaning to their so called “diplomatic snout”. Next were the people Dagerula already knew like Jageed and Onil. However, not only was Onil’s apprentice present, but his younger sister, Kritha Zarrel, as well. She too was renowned for her white Arkanian beauty and prowess in combat, though Dagerula still favoured the red haired Jaylil Corren who was Onil’s own Pad’Shar. It wasn’t just a diverse group of specializations, but a wide variety of personalities as well. While it might prove effective to scout these Stoinians, Dagerula pondered how this group could actually function together. Their ideological approaches were, too put it mildly, vastly different.
As the silence continued and the group seemingly came to a consensus, Ta’Mashar Firreln stepped forward with the elegance notable to his Arkanian species.
“Well then Mashar Zarrel… It would appear you have your fellowship. In name of the High Council, I appoint you all to this mission lead by Mashar Onil Zarrel. Henceforth to be known as the Circle of Nine. Sent out to discover the true intentions of the Stoinians who’ve entered our sphere of operations. May Ashla guide you well on this journey.”