[1 BBT - ?] The Ventures of a Prince

Treecuu Star Empire,
Thoov Mandate,
J.F.S.S. Relentless
17/05/1620 PD

Aurelian looked upon the stars from his ready room as it transferred its last supplies near spaceport to the galactic northwest of Thoov. He was partly happy with the current assignment, but he still felt sceptical about it. He wished to protect his people’s realm. Not to explore long dead and uncolonized worlds, while barbarian tribes lingered from the southern border. His father had transferred him to the Joint Fleet. The Joint Fleet had commenced Operation Farsight, a large scale exploration effort to assess the territories to the northern Treecuu border. Anarchist elements had already been discovered, but the Treecuu Empire was interested in what lay beyond these pirates. The scum and villainy of the sector as Aurelian put it. There was a strategic sense to it. If the governments wished to intervene, an attack on two front would prove useful. Even if only to divert large scale forces. It was this type of thinking that his father wanted to change in Aurelian. King Andrei had seen the cost of total war and he wished that the future generation of Stoinian royalty would find a new Golden Path for the Stoinian people. One where the Stoinians become the most important power in the Sector, though not solely by overt military actions.
Aurelian was sent to learn to cooperate with different species. The Stoinian government had taken steps to strengthen their bond with the Treecuu and it had been a month or so since the Kontauri had been officially annexed. To that end, Aurelian received a brand new ship. The J.F.S.S. Relentless, a new Gagarin-class Exploration Cruiser within the 11th Squadron of the 4th Joint Fleet Division under Command of Vice Admiral Cristina Lupei. Lupei was a kind lady who enjoyed the mentor role she had for the young royalty, however his closest mentor would be a Limavuan. To protect his son, Commodore Tuuc, was his immediate Commanding Officer. Tuuc was the Captain who welcomed the Stoinian King and has since proven an effective tool for the Joint Exploration Fleet. The Treecuu benefitted from this as well, as Tuuc served as an incredible propaganda tool for the Treecuu Committee of Expansion.
It was then that Aurelian heard the ring of his ready room. He reaffirmed his stern militaristic stance and lifted his chin up as he turned around to stand behind his desk. The young 19-year old Stoinian Officer was certain to always look at his best, but the person coming through the door as it entered was not someone he had expected.
A young and small Terran come through the door. Aurelian masked his confusion well, there was something odd on this fellow. He wore the uniform of the Stoinian Royal Navy, but his hair was something new. It was as if it had a small crescent around it. Similar to aura’s depicted on Saints in Sinaian churches, but barely noticeable. The young lad, seemingly no older than Aurelian, stood at attention as he spoke.
“Sire, Ensign Dius Virini. Reporting for duty.”
His name wasn’t Terran, but he was looking just like one. The confidence, the stance… It all looked so Terran to Aurelian. Yet… Sire. It was common knowledge for the Stoinian military to ignore noble titles address members of the royal family as either Sir or Ma’am. Aurelian decided to take this one step at a time. His accent was also quite unique. As if multiple Terran accents mashed together. He recognised Poltchkian and Elysian elements to it.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Terran with the name Dius Virini. Tell, do the outer colonies go by with new names now, Ensign?” The Ensign responded without a shed of confusion and with clarity.
“Sire. I think you are mistaken. I’m Kontauri. Here you can see the details of the transfer Sire. I’m to act as a liaison and your assistant.”
Ah… That explained it. I probably shouldn’t forget the newest addition to our realm. Aurelian looked at the datapad. He knew the Kontauri would be integrated, but so soon? After mere months? Aurelian looked at the datapad and then handed it back over to Dius. He had questions for the young Kontauri.
“Liaison you say? For the Kontauri military integration efforts I take it?”
“Yes, Sire.”
The way he says it. Sire… With such devotion. Not even the Shikokans said it with such tone. Yet… How did this Kontauri learn our language so easily?
“Well I’m glad to see things move to swiftly. Yet… I’m a bit perplexed, how did you learn our language so quickly?”
“Ah. Well Sire, the late Emperor Molari uncovered ancient scriptures which formed the basis of the translation between our languages. It seems the Prophecy of Kavu came with a few safeguards. During the late Emperor’s reign, a select few of us were allowed to learn this language. I was a tutor-adoptive. Meaning that the Emperor adopted me to educate me. My noble House Virini was deeply honoured. I can’t express the honour I feel in this assignment, Sire. To stand side by side with the Great Caretaker’s own son.”
Aurelian puzzled the pieces together. This Prophecy of Kavu was nothing but a machination by a rouge Stoinian infiltration agent. It also explained how some of the Kontauri so easily adopted the English language.
“I don’t suppose you were there when Emperor Molari challenged my father to a duel.”
“Ah yes… The Muroga. I wasn’t there, but I’m told it was a duel of great prowess. Emperor Molari was a great man, but Emperor Andrei has proven himself. By both your laws as ours. I had a private conversation with him. I must say, I’m looking forward to become your eide de camp.”
Aurelian wasn’t sure what to think of it. A xeno as his aide… Why father? Why oh why do you make my life so difficult? How hard was it to find one out of the trillions of Stoinians? Aurelian smiled as he concealed his true feelings. It was a perk he had being part of the royal family at attending all the ceremonies.
“It’s pronounce aide-de-camps. Perhaps you should have studied your Terrans languages more.”
“I’m sorry to displease you, Sire. I’ll do my best to better my tongue.”
“Another thing, Ensign. Don’t refer to me as Sire. In the Stoinian military we shed aside our noble titles, we’re all equals here. Do you understand?”
“Not quite, Sire… You are noble born. Born to rule and lead your subjects! We must acclaim you by your proper title, the laws demand it.”
“And Stoinian law prohibits from noble marrying each other. It’s in that spirit that the Stoinian military treats ALL of its members as equals. Stoinian law has now become Kontauri law and you will abide it.”
Aurelian was sure to set this straight. He was to serve the Stoinian Star Kingdom from now on. Not the Kontauri. Aurelian said it with a certain venonimity to scare to Kontauri, but he was full of surprises. Without remorse he had adapted.
“Yes, Sir! Of course, Sir!”
Aurelian was astonished at the Kontauri’s obedience. He enjoyed, but for now he would give Virini a chance. He had proven himself so far and if the Kontauri were to be finally integrated, then this must be the way.
“Now, Ensign Virini. If you are to be my aide-de-camps, I think we should get you to know our new home.”
The duo left the ready room and Aurelian presented the new ship to the young Kontauri. Virini was utterly amazed and even Aurelian still looked with a certain awe at newly integrated Treecuu technology. For now, Virini showed promise… For a xeno…

Unknown Space,
50 LY from the Treecuu Star Empire
J.F.S.S. Relentless
16/06/1620 PD

Dead… Dead space upon more dead space. Not just in one direction, but all of them! That’s what Aurelian thought when looking outside the window in his ready room. For about a month now, his squadron had charted uninhabited space. No civilization in sight. All there for the taking Aurelian thought. If only it had been near the Stoinian border, the Star Kingdom could expand and use its expansion as an economic boon. Aurelian personally agreed that the Star Kingdom should expand its manifest destiny to the stars. A destiny in which the Stoinians brought order to the Sector and the galaxy, either through subjugation or colonization. Although not the goal of Operation Farsight, Aurelian couldn’t help but see opportunities to expand his star nation’s realm. However, he was again interrupted as the door rang. Aurelian answered calmly and there appeared Virini.
“Ah Sire… Pardon me. Sir, but do you have some spare time. In involves recent politics on Kontaurius, Sir.”
The more time Aurelian spent with Virini, the more he began to enjoy the young Kontauri’s enthusiasm. Was this a trait of all Kontauri? Or is our friend Virini here an exception?
“Very well. At ease. Please sit down.”
Virini bowed slightly before sitting in the chair opposite to Aurelian. To this day, the respect Virini showed to him still surprised Aurelian. He was no political expert, but slowly he had begun to form his own opinions. Eventually, he would need to for he was to be the Viceroy of Stoinia one day. The role was reserved for the second born of the King. With Stoinian being the cradle of the Star Kingdom, House Stoian saw it as their duty to always guard it. While it still was far away in the future, Aurelian made his peace and started to inform himself on the dazzling world of politics. He still maintained his stern militaristic posture as if he was still on duty.
“So, what’s this about Ensign?”
“It’s about the recent political discourse on my homeworld. The supervisor of the integration of the Kontauri, Major Legate Lucius Avitus Aetius, has recently tried to bring the idea of female voting rights to the Kontauri Ascendancy. I find his ideas quite… How shall I put it… Out of the package? No… Ah! Repulsive.”
Aurelian frowned at the Kontauri. He knew the Kontauri had different roles for males and females, so had many Stoinian colonies, but to not grant them the same rights? The Kontauri had used unusual wording. There were even more peculiar things about him however…
“Please you can just refer to any official with just their last name.”
“But Kontauri customs require the full name to be spoken out loud. He is an official for the Sun’s sake. Especially since he is the head of the government of the Kontauri Ascendancy.”
“Stoinian customs Ensign, especially here in the military we prefer to keep things short. While it’s just a side note, I think it serves to illustrate the problem regarding the current political discourse on your homeworld.”
“Yes, I understand that we must accustom to your laws, but giving female voting rights is simply unprecedented. Throughout our history no female has done anything productive for our society!”
“Well… Ensign, don’t you think you might be a bit harsh on them?”
“Not at all! It’s the way of the Kontauri that the females serve the males. It is as the Sun wills it.”
Aurelian already dreaded the conversation. It was like he spoke to a fanatic, but instead of any Terran deities the Kontauri sun was now unavoidable.
“You mentioned they never did anything productive for society. But I can’t help to ask, were they ever allowed to do so?”
“Well… Not really… The dreaded Ko’ghyal forced us Kontauri to protect our females from early on in our history. The Sun guides us in this quest and has lead us to a path of victory.”
Aurelian couldn’t help but feel pity. How misguided the Kontauri were… Yet, there’s nothing I can do. If the son of their Emperor would shatter their religion, it would send shockwaves. Even Aurelian knew that, the task would prove more difficult.
“I see. Hmmm… But without the females, there wouldn’t be a Kontauri culture. So they are essential to maintain your society, yes?”
“Essential isn’t quite the word I would use. Required, yes. But essential?! No… The greatest Kontauri artists and Kings were all males. They made our culture and our species. Females should only provide offspring to the males.”
“So in the whole of your history, no female has contributed to art?”
“Well… We Kontauri might argue that dancing can be considered a form of art, but hardly an art that requires cognitive abilities.”
“You also mentioned that females should only provide offspring… But… Is there no love in your marriages?”
“HA! LOVE! What does love have to do with marriage? Kontauri marriages are determined by the heads of the family to strengthen bonds between houses. All sacrifices we must make for the greater glory of the Kontauri Empire!”
Aurelian didn’t know what to make of it. The Kontauri spoke with such certainty and pride. He couldn’t help but feel that the Stoinians were far superior to the Kontauri.
“But don’t the females protest it?”
“Why of course! It’s the natural way of things. They expect romance and a loving husband, but the world doesn’t work like that. Love will grow with time eventually as it does in all Kontauri marriages.”
“Well…” Remain polite, Aurelian. No point in making your aide-de-camps a hostile one. “That’s a way of looking at it. But we Terrans have had similar situations in our history. In the end, giving the same rights to females has allowed our society to grow exponentially.”
Virini looked sceptically at Aurelian. He didn’t see the logic in it.
“How so?”
Aurelian chuckled. He knew how to frame it now.
“Because… Every being, male and female has their to feel free. What is a predator animal on your homeworld?”
“Ah, the fiercest one would be the Chakar. Now that the Ko’ghyal are gone.”
“Cage a Chakar, Ensign, and he will strive to liberate himself. It’s in the nature of the universe for sapient species to strive for freedom and inhibiting it, will create a fierce retaliation.”
“But Sir, the majority of Kontauri protesting this measure are females!”
Aurelian didn’t expect that. Now he sees the predicament the Major Legate had found himself in. How peculiar… Was Kontauri society so oppressive against females? Aurelian leaned back in disbelief.
“Perhaps… Perhaps you didn’t instil a physical cage on your female, but a mental one? Does education between the sexes differ?”
“Why yes! Females don’t receive any education at all and are expected to maintain the house.”
Aurelian raised his eyebrows. None! Hadn’t the females longed for knowledge? To think about ideas? Aurelian let out a heavy sigh. He didn’t know where to begin with this.
“You seem displeased Sir. Is everything all right?”
“I just can’t quite fathom the idea of Terran females being reduced by society to menial housework. Haven’t any of them tried to rebel against your society?”
“Why yes, but that was along time ago. The punishment for it were quite severe and as soon as examples were made, the females followed suit. Thus it has been for centuries now.”
“Perhaps the power structure isn’t the only thing to change then…”
“I beg your pardon Sir?”
“Societies are ever changing Ensign… As much as you try, societies will change. Even if you maintained your culture until now, with the Kontauri being integrated into the Star Kingdom, only more interference will come. Don’t think it’s a question of IF your females wish voting, but rather WHEN.”
“Preposterous! It goes against the very foundation of Kontauri society.”
“And the discriminatory part against females is against the very foundation of Stoinian society. Look at our females now, they fight shoulder to shoulder with us, represent our people and make laws for them. Queen Elena is regarded by many as the most compassionate monarch, dying because of an infection while helping others.”
Virini for a change looked himself astonished at Aurelian.
“Yes, those are Terran females. But I don’t believe Kontauri females are capable of such feats…”
“How can you be certain? You haven’t allowed them.”
“I see your point, Sir. Perhaps it’s something worthwhile to study. I shall look into your Queen Elena and see if there’s anything applicable to our females. But I must say, the Major Legate Lucius Avi… Aetius, is moving too fast with such discourse.”
Aurelian smiled.
"I think everyone was a bit surprised. Some things seem so fundamental, that you forget others view it differently.
“Wise words indeed, Sir. Now… Might I be so bold to challenge you to a duel? At 19 hundred?”
“Well, better than just waiting around staring at the stars. A physical challenge might be good to change the scenery a bit. Though I hope it’s not a Muroga.”
“Why no… Just simply fencing of course. Besides, if I wanted to challenge someone to a Muroga, he would need to be a more worthy opponent.”
Virini put a sly smirk on his face. His challenge was without doubt now.
“Oh, now you’ll regret those words, Ensign. See you at 19 hundred. Dismissed.”

Unknown Space,
50 LY from the Treecuu Star Empire
J.F.S.S. Relentless
20:00 ship time

Aurelian had cleaned himself up after a fierce duel with Virini. The young Kontauri was a swift and elegant duellist, but Aurelian had proven to be the better sparring master.
“I must say Sir, you’re quite the swordsman. Perhaps one day my people will revere you as such.”
Aurelian wasn’t too comforrtable with being revered. The Shikokans did as they believed the Stoinian royal family had the Stoinian spirit in them. Being the second in line he still didn’t have to do all the ceremonies required by the Crown Prince. His elder brother, Carol, had grown accustomed to it. However, the young Aurelian still founded the whole revering a bit odd.
“Oh, I certainly hope not.”
“Now why’s that Paso Leati?”
“Well… Wait. Paso Leati? What’s that?”
“Ah, I believe the translation is “Brave Leati”. You see I believe it’s comparable to your Stoinian Lion.”
“Still, why the nickname?”
“Ah you see my friend, I may be young but I duelled a lot in the Kontauri royal courts. I know a real fighter from the amateurs. From your fighting technique, I figured you’d fight like a Leati. A brave one at that!”
“So were giving each other nicknames then eh?”
The Kontauri smiled with a wide grin and nodded his head as he opened his arms.
Aurelian was indeed surprised. It seemed to go so quickly. He normally wouldn’t allow it on duty, but they were not. He’d made friends during his childhood, but they all came second place to his royal duties and ever since he jumped classes and joined the military, his friendships had watered. Out here in unexplored space, the final frontier, friends would be in short supply.
“All right. But only off duty, we can’t diminish the chain after all.”
“Great, Paso Leati!”
Aurelian nodded and made a small smile when looking at Virini.
“Though don’t expect a nickname soon. I think I actually quite just calling you Virini. It has a nice ring to it.”
“Ring, what ring?”
“A Terran expression. A nice sound.”
Virini gasped in relief.
“Ah! Sire you honour my House.”
“Anytime Virini.” Aurelian jokingly replied.
“Paso Leati, why wouldn’t you like to be revered?” You still haven’t answered the question."
Aurelian gave Virini a stern but friendly look.
“You know, you can be quite sly at times.”
“Of course I do. I wouldn’t be a Kontauri otherwise!”
Virini smiled again and look at Aurelian. He wasn’t giving up so easy now that he had gotten a response. Doubt took over Aurelian as he wasn’t sure himself.
“Well… I don’t really know. It sort of makes me uncomfortable, being idolized for little reason. I’m… I’m just a mere Terran after all.”
“Tsk tsk tsk.”
Virini swayed his right hand left to right and turning his head left to right, indication clear disagreement.
“That’s where you’re wrong Paso Leati. You aren’t idolized for little reason. You represent something.”
“What then? Just the family of head of state?”
“No no.”
Virini stepped forward and pointed to Aurelian’s chest.
“While yes you are family to the monarch, you still do represent something. Yohr family carries a message with it. The name, the pride, the duties and the burden.”
“Oh yes. You’re the ruler’s family. Your family is seen all over the Star Kingdom for guidance. Someone they could look to and tell them it will be all right. For you carry a message in your heart. Imagine a grassfield with only one tree in it. A dark and terrible storm comes and shakes the ground and the grass. The grass is panicking and it doesn’t know what to do. Yet, there stands the mighty tree ever staunch and resolute. The blades of grass look towards the tree and are inspired by it. It standing there without fear sends a message that all will be well and the dark storm too will pass. You, Paso Leati, are but a branch of that tree. However, the tree is all alone by itself and has no one else to turn to but itself. That is what a royal family is to its people. A strong and old tree.”
“But Virini, you forget that trees do fall down during storms.”
“Don’t be such a pessimist, Paso Leati! Besides… Changes of dynasty do occur.”
Aurelian wanted to add something more to the conversation, but was interrupted by the ship’s PA.
“Captain Stoian, please report to the bridge.”
Aurelian turned to Virini.
“Well… Duty calls.”
“Where you go Paso Leati, I follow. You should know that by now.”

As the young duo reappeared in uniform on the bridge. The mixt crew of Terrans, Cheunh, Limavuans and Ict’t looked upon their commander woth great interest for they had discovered something extraordinary. The female Terran comms Lieutenant arose from her chair and saluted her superior.
“At ease, Lieutenant.”
“Sir, we’ve discovered traces of ship travel similar to that of the Ryccians in the region. It is all pointing to a certain star system just 6,7 LY away from our current position.”
Aurelian knew what this meant. Xenos.
“Very well. Helmsman lay in a course for the system. Maximum warp.”
Like his father before him, it was now Aurelian’s turn to initiate a first contact himself. Though would it end in bloodshed?

Unknown Space,
55 LY from the Treecuu Star Empire
J.F.S.S. Relentless
17/06/1620 PD

The Relentless had parked itself in orbit around a lush planet. Initial scans showed a promising world full of life, even a primitive civilization seemed to flourish on this planet. It showed great promise, but Stoinian policy dictated that primitive species to be left alone within their borders. Treecuu policy was much more repressing. Here in the wild frontier, who would check if they followed the rules correctly. For all Aurelian cared, if they were to be reprimanded, the sooner he’d get home. He saw no real problem with it. After hailing several times in both Stoinian, Limavuan and Teetac languages, there still wasn’t an answer from the planet. It would appear this was a primitive world and Aurelian was already contemplating to wander off. Unexpectedly a ship came down from the planet headed towards them. Aurelian sat in his command chair on the round bridge and touched a few buttons on his right console.
“Lieutenant, open a new channel hailing the incoming ship. Audio-visual communication. Also, get me a visual on that ship.”
“Aye, Sir. Channel open.”
The ship appeared in front of Aurelian on the viewscreen. It looked just as refined as the Gagarin-class starship he was commanding. It was roughly a tenth of the Relentless’ size and its form was reminiscing of a thick dagger with elegant spike protruding from it. It’s design was almost as elegant as that of Drakari ships, but more smoothened. In the blink of an eye another Terran appeared on the viewscreen, though something was clearly off. He appeared both young and old at the same time. The white hair conflicted with the smooth skin the Terran had. However, he looked as shocked as Aurelian upon the revelation of each other’s appearance.
“This is Captain Aurelian of the Relentless. We represent the Treecuu and Stoinian star nations. Please identify yourself.”
“Oe nizouke vekrepu. Kaoe’th inex jozno kaou xouxno.”
The language was spoken softly and elegantly with great care. It was obvious these Terrans emphasized great importance on their language. But… The crew of the Relentless still had to figure out what these Terrans were saying exactly.
“Lieutenant, send them our language files.”
“Aye, Sir.”
“Unknown vessel please send us your language files.”
The white haired Terran looked confused at Aurelian and raised an eyebrow. He then turned to his right and spoke yet again in his elegant language. He had nodded to his crew.
“Sir, they’re doing the same. They’re sending over their language files. Sending it to linguistics.”
“Good job Lieutenant. Now we have to keep talking to give them more data. Guess I’ll be entertaining them.”
He turned with his chair again to face the viewscreen again. Standing up now, he switched to his military posture straightening his dark blue uniform with white stripes. Giving an odd smile to the xenos, not sure where to start the conversation. He sighed and decided to give it a go.
“I’m Captain Aurelian Stoian of the Stoinian Star Kingdom. I am the Captain of this ship, which is a result from our joint effort with the Treecuu.” Aurelian became more expressive using his hands to clarify his message, pointing at himself, the ranks pins and the surrounding Treecuu. To him it looked dubious, but it would help the xeno crew to identify what each word meant and its grammatical meaning. He continued on with his visual expression.
“Now I know this looks a bit dubious and all, but we must help each other understand. And we’ll have to continue talking so our linguists can understand our languages. Will you do the same?” Aurelian now pointed at the Terran in front of him. As if a miracle had happened, the Terran understood what Aurelian was trying to do and nodded to him. Now he began to speak and used the same expressions as Aurelian to give data to the Relentless’ linguists. This circus continued back and forth for an hour until the Terrans on the facing ship activated their translators.
“Do you understand me now?”
Aurelian smiled as his crew cheered silently. Finally! Now we can talk proper.
“Aye, we understand you know.”
“Ah good, we’ve figured your language must be related to one of the humans in the Protected Realms. I must say, your expression certainly helped our linguists.”
Aurelian smiled at the kind remarks of the Terran in front of him. He certainly seemed friendly though his remarks made no sense as of now.
“Humans? Protected Realms? Wha-… I’m sure, let’s start over. I’m Captain Aurelian of the Relentless. My crew and I represent the Treecuu and Stoinian star nations, located south from this system roughly 150 lightyears away.”
“Oof, 150. You must have had quite a long journey. Alas, forgive me. I’m Captain Durkaj Mot of the Arkanian merchant vessel Uplethuxou xiu Thoxizi, Bringer of Fortune. I welcome you to the fringes of the regions where the Tiyanki roam. The planet below you is the Kihi Kingdom, we can help you settle in for the time if you wish.”
“That would be of great help Captain Mot. I look forward to meeting you in person.”

Kihi Kingdom,
55 LY from the Treecuu Star Empire
J.F.S.S. Relentless
17/06/1620 PD

[Image: Kihi-Planet-Post.jpg]
The planet Kihi, home of the Kihi and their Kingdom.

The Relentless was too big to actually land in the improvised spaceport planetside. It was therefore decided that 3 Pelican-class shuttles would transport the necessary officials alongside a compliment of Stoinian and Treecuu Marines. The Arkanian vessel guided them along through the atmosphere, cutting easily through the heavy winds which shook up some of the Stoinian Pelicans. Initial scans didn’t show much signs of civilizations so Aurelian really didn’t know what to expect. From the few glimpses he saw through the cockpit’s windows, it looked like the planet was green in every direction. Even the sky had a barely noticeable hue of green in it which wasn’t known to be possible. Or at least, not seen in the Star Kingdom. As the convoy sheared through the skies, its engines resonated through the vast valley. Flying in a diamond formation over a large river it was a sight to behold. One the pilots wished to share.
“Captain, you should come take a look.”
Aurelian stood up from his seat after disengaging the safety harness. Then he heard another hissing sound from another safety harness. He should have guessed it, for Dius Virini also stood up.
“And where do you think you’re going?”
“Ah, Sir. You forget I’m your liaison. Where you go, I go. It’s the King’s wish.”
Aurelian could have pressed the matter. But if he had learned something the last few days, it’s that the Kontauri were masters at changing perspective to fit their needs. Aurelian was already running possible answers. Even mimicking his sharp and fierce accent in his mind.
“AH, but Sir! As an OFFICIAL representative of the Kontauri Ascendancy, I MUST be present at EVERY instance in which YOU represent the Stoinian Star Kingdom. For the sake of further cooperation AND the full integration of my people, I suggest we continue with this, as you would say, inconvenience.”
Though annoying as was at times, everyone agreed that the Kontauri had a certain charm. Or at least the Stoinians thought so, even after spending a month traversing unknown space with the Treecuu, Aurelian still hadn’t learned as to how to read these people. For the few Cheunh on board he had actually given up and accepted their disciplined nature. The Treecuu seemed quite similar to them in that regard, but Virini more than compensated for their serious moods.
“By now I know not to try to convince you otherwise.”
“Ah, a wise lesson indeed. I hope that in the future you’d learn it quicker though, Paso Leati.”
Some of the Marines grinned, but a quick stern look from Aurelian was more than enough to convince them of their error. The duo then positioned themselves in the small gaps between the pilots’ seats and the rest of the cockpit. From there they admired the view which was similar and alien at once. The flora was similar to the galactic norm, but the geography of the valley was indeed otherworldly. The valley was located in-between two plateaus and in the far distance a large formation of waterfalls could be seen. Spanning across with a 5 km radius, a series of concave cascades would form the large river which cut through the valley.
“Great Maker…”
Virini was impressed too. Even the proud and paternalistic Kontauri would have to admit the beauty of the landscape. Aurelian looked at the river shore and saw small boats fishing on it. Then more and more blue-grey dots appeared on the shores. The mass began to wave their feathery hands at the incoming convoy. The resonating engines had undoubtedly alerted the inhabitants of their presence and so they wished to welcome them. Aurelian couldn’t help but feel a warm feeling in his chest.
“It even looks like the inhabitants are happy to see us coming. A happy change from all the dark void we’ve been seeing so much as of late.”
“Great Maker, Sir. Look in front of you!”
Then, it was revealed. The jewel of the planet, a city in between the cascade formation. With towers now blinking thanks to the suns’ angle, the elegance of the Kihi was revealed. Aurelian was expecting some small huts or perhaps a few stone houses, but never this. Despite the Kihi being a primitive species, they had learned to build majestic marble cities which now were known all over the Tiyanki Territories. The following 10 minutes were spent in silence as slowly the sound of the waterfalls became louder and louder and vibrated through the shuttle’s hull and windows. Then they parked on empty landing pads, hanging just over cliff at the edge of the city, located in front of a large marble palace. The Arkanian ship as well had joined them and parked on the left of Aurelian’s shuttle.

[Image: Star-City-Post.jpg]
Star City, the capital of the Kihi Kingdom, located in the Kikhogara Cascades.

Aurelian exited his shuttle alongside Virini and his complement of 12 Stoinian Marines. The Arkanian door opened as well and three Terrans with glazing white hair came forth. Dressed in elegantly long light grey robes detailed with intricate curved white pattern. They approached Aurelian and his men, ever so elegant, while the other Marines disembarked as well. Meanwhile the portable Arkanian translators began to translate after the Arkanians spoke in their soft soothing tongue.
“Welcome to Star City, Captain Aurelian. The crowning jewel of the planet and the Kihi. I take it you haven’t quite seen anything like it from where you’re coming from?”
“We do have wonders of our own, but nothing quite like this. I’m amazed these primitives are capable of building such a city.”
“Ah Captain. Primitiveness isn’t simply defined be technological advancement. The proper usage and mindset are what truly distinguishes us from non-sentients.”
The Arkanian had a point. The Mardakii had turned feral after the War at Home when they were forced into the hunting reserve in Atonement Valley. Perhaps this was the reason his father had sent him out here. To better understand the universe and to gain a better insight on its true nature. The Arkanian spoke wise words, but his appearance still allured Aurelian. He intended to find out through the proper greeting. He approached the lead Arkanian and gave out his hand. The Arkanian took his hand and both applied some force to show strength yet not harm to receiver. The Arkanian glanced at their shaking hands and then looked Aurelian in the eyes with a warm smile.
“A firm handshake. It seems our cultures are like in greeting each other. Perhaps even martial as well?”
“You are correct in that assessment. Though not really by choice.”
“Trust me, no one becomes a martial society because that’s what they want… Though perhaps the Cron are an exception.”
“Forgive me, it’s never happened in my lifetime that we met Treecuu or Stoinians. Or even outsiders from the regions roamed by the Tiyanki.”
Aurelian still was even more perplexed now. What were all these different terms the Terran kept using?
“What are these Tiyanki and what exactly do they roam?”
“You must be truly new here then. Well here in this part of space in-between the expanses, different civilizations have formed. The expanses are weird spatial phenomena and it seems they intersect with multiple dimensions at time. Making it quite difficult to travel through them, but more than suitable breeding ground for the Tiyanki. Spacewhales if you will. We Arkanians come from the Arkanian High Kingdom. 250 lightyears from here on a mission to restock some supplies. Perhaps you should come visit us one day.”
“That would be hard since I don’t know your nation’s location. Are there any other Terrans in these regions as well?”
“I’ll provide our ships charts to yours, that way you can find your way through the region. Though you might want to travel through the Great Expanse as to avoid any incidents south of the cross-section. Terrans? Perhaps you mean humans? Yes, there are quite a lot of them spread out. Though they have taken many different shapes.”
Aurelian still was amazed as to how the Arkanian didn’t believe he was a Terran. He looked just like them!
“I’m sorry, you aren’t Terran?”
“Well we believe ourselves to be distinct from your kind, though we can produce fertile off-spring with them.”
“But you certainly look just like us, surely there must be an explanation for that.”
“All in good time Captain. I’m sure we can discuss this with experts back on Arkania. Ah the Kihi delegation has arrived.”
Aurelian turned toward the direction the Arkanian Captain was looking at. A large mass of avianoids approached them. Dressed in golden jewellery and silken clothes, the Kihi inhabitants approached the visitors with great joy. The lead Kihi was escorted by other similarly blue skinned Kihi, which seemed to be a different caste from other more greyish mass. The Kihi had a large colourful assortments of feathers which formed a large crest around his head. Similar to Kontauri fashion, though much larger than Virini’s current crest. Clearly this individual was an important figure to the mass. He chirped something with great joy, but the Stoinian and Treecuu translators couldn’t decipher them.
Aurelian bowed respectfully and the Kihi crowd cheered. Uncertain of what he had done, he turned towards the Arkanians.
“I believe our translators aren’t quite so efficient. Perhaps you could act as our translator in the mean time, if it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle?”
The Arkanian smiled at both the Kihi and Stoinian and explained the situation to the Kihi. Then he turned to Aurelian again.
“We’ll help you out, don’t worry. Shaman Tibakh greets you in name of King Kiritos.”

Shaman Tibakh, the leader of the Kihi mass.

Later that evening…

The Tiyanki Territories were full of surprises. Aurelian and his entourage had learned that lesson by now. Just yesterday they were still flying in the uninhabited dark void and now they were dining at the banquet of a feathered King in the middle of giant waterfalls. No, this definitely wasn’t what my father would have expected. As the Kihi band played cheerful music, servants brought food to the large elongated table in front of the King’s Throne. Captain Durkaj Mot and his Arkanians helped the Stoinians and Treecuu get accustomed. Despite the Kihi’s many dealings with outsiders, they hadn’t quite made the perfect furniture for outsiders. Their table was larger yes, but they were rather cramped. The Stoinians and Treecuu weren’t too shy about it, but the Arkanians remained calm and simply tried to make the best out of their stay. Their table was located directly in front of the King’s throne and closest to it were Aurelian and facing him the Arkanian Captain. On his left was the ever cheerful Virini.
“Sir, I must say these Kihi can learn quite a lot of basic carpentry. Even a crooked limp can see that the proportions are way off!”
Aurelian smiled as he embraced himself for a long night full of complaints by the loud Kontauri. Though the Arkanian Captain showed a curious interest in him.
“My friend, don’t take it so personally. Despite their friendliness they… Aren’t quite aware of the mishaps to their guests.”
“Ah, Captain. I understand that,” Virini then pressed his finger on the table multiple times as he continued to explain the shortcomings “But even the lowliest of Kontauri understands that the comfort of the guests is most important!” Virini then looked at the Arkanian with his arms wide open, but he merely raised a solid and calm eyebrow. “Fine all right. I just hope they don’t serve the spoo fresh.”
“I take it this man is from a more… Expressive species than you, Captain?” Durkaj Mot asked looking at Aurelian.
“Yes… Despite the superficial appearance, we Terrans and Kontauri are nothing alike. Did his hair crest give it away?”
Virini made a sharp turn and looked at his superior. “Sire, it’s called a Tersk. Perhaps you should grow one yourself to increase your popularity in the Kontauri Ascendancy. I’m sure it will be most needed if you continue to insult me culture.”
The Arkanian smiled back at Aurelian: “Definitely the crest.” The two laughed while Virini was continuing his rant against Aurelian until the young royal whispered in his ear. “If you don’t stop complaining I’ll make you wash the Teetac toilets.” With a short ultimatum, Virini started to behave again. Everyone was scared of the Teetac and the prospect of cleaning their toilets was most frightening.
“Sire, may I offer you some Kihi wine.” Mot offered his service. “Its quite good for this part of the Territories.”
“So far I’ve only seen dead space so I can’t say no. Though you shouldn’t call me that, Captain.”
“But you are royalty then? Why else would someone call you that?”
Aurelian gave a sharp look at Virini again. It was his fault after all and Aurelian clearly made it clear. Virini would however take the initiative again.
“Well… Now that truth must come out.” Virini stood up and raised his glass of wine and some of the Stoinians and Treecuu were already sighing. “Gentlemen and gentlebeings! May I have your attention please. We, the Stoinian delegation have an important announcement. Our Captain, Aurelian Stoian, isn’t merely a Captain. But a Prince and the second heir to the Stoinian throne. Now raise a glass to this fine royalty that has journeyed with us!” Surprisingly the Kihi cheered and the music changed to an even more festive tone! Mot looked back at Aurelian.
“Your majesty… Forgive me, but what is the second heir to the throne seek out in these territories.”
Aurelian tried to look away and ignore the question, but Mot was looking sternly at him with his pure white irises. “Well… My father sent me here to learn to cooperate with other species. Our dear friend Virini is such a gift from him. On the other hand, to assess these new territories to scout out the entire Sector.”
“A quest one wouldn’t take so hastily…”
“If you’ve been attacked four times by barbarian races, your species will try to prevent another round.”
“Ah I see. Perhaps you should evade the Dunedari Free-Standings then on your journey.”
“A red haired human race. Martial and territorial as well. Their arrival wasn’t too smooth and some of them turned to piracy. I’m sure you’d like to eva-”
“A human race? Just like you out there?”
“Well not quite like me, I’m Arkanian after all. There are plenty of other human races and species in the Territories.”
“My nation thought themselves to be the only Terrans out there. It’s been our driving motivation to find our brethren out there. Where would these Dunedari be located?”
“Very well, suit yourselves.” Captain Mot then opened his holoprojector and showed the map, pointing at the Dunedari Free-Standings. “This is the Dunedari Free-Standings. Since you’re so eager to meet them, I won’t stop you, but be careful when engaging them. Some of their Tribes have grown a taste for shooting outsiders. They’re also humans or Terrans as you put it in the Ch’Rattan Cartel, but as the name implies, you shouldn’t venture alone in there. Even the Jo’Dai Ord-”
The Arkanian was interrupted by the sounds of joyful trumpets, announcing the entrance of the Kihi King Kiritos…

King Kiritos, an old purple skinned Kihi appeared. Compared to the other Kihi, his feathers were even more colourful and formed a large crescent. Virini sure was jealous of the sapient bird. All the attention and status… He looked at Virini and he could just sea the jealousy in his eyes. At least the Kontauri knew what he wanted in life. The whole banquet then stood up to greet the King. Though the Arkanians, Stoinians and Treecuu largely towered above the Kihi. The King turned to Aurelian as he looked up to him.
“Welcome to my Kingdom. I hear you are of royal blood?”
“Captain Aurelian Stoian, your majesty, son of King Andrei III of Stoinia, Prince of Bloemfontein.”
“Ah the King sends his own son to greet us? Good…”
“I’m afraid you misunderstand your majesty. We’ve been sent here to explore these parts of the Sector. We’re working together with our Treecuu allies.” Aurelian said as he waved towards the Teetac and Limavu amongst his delegation.
“And welcome to you all. Are there perhaps any more royalty amidst us?”
The Kihi King smiled or at least his eyes seemed to give that impression. The room fell silent as the King looked around.
“Well then… Let us continue with the banquet of King Kiritos! Music please!”
The cheerful band of Kihi began to play on wooden and tribalistic instruments. Aurelian was again perplexed by how impressive the musical quality actually sounded. He wouldn’t have expected for it to be as good as some of the Stoinian musicians. Kihi music used higher tones however, likely a result of their own language consisting of high chirping. Kiritos then sat down between the two Captains. A special seat was made for him and it actually had a few stairs to ease the mounting of the chair.
“So Prince Aurelian, I haven’t heard of King of Stoinia around these parts?”
“We recently discovered this previously unexplored space. Captain Mot has informed me this space is called the Tiyanki Territories?”
“Yes yes, tell me have you seen a Tiyanki before?”
“I haven’t, your majesty.”
“Well I have and let me tell you they are quite majestic in their own weird way. Despite my people’s wish to preserve their way of life, I was once able to explore outer space. I imagine I was about the same age as you when I first saw a Tiyanki. It seems we both share a period of wonder, young Prince.”
“I’ll take your word for it, your majesty. Though, forgive me for asking, but why haven’t your people gone to outerspace? You have plenty of contact with outsiders is it not?”
“Ah… You underestimate the power of tradition and what it can do to a people, young Prince. My people are very stubborn and don’t wish to destroy the bubble of tradition. From our feathers to our faith, all are enshrined with traditions and the Kihi people can’t break that. Tradition is what are, to put it bluntly, keeping is down. But as one grows older, one learns the beauty of it all and can appreciate the lifestyle.”
This came as a shock to Aurelian. Tradition was important too in Stoinia, but they hadn’t inhibited Stoinian progress. Or did it? Perhaps there was both a warning and wisdom in the King’s words. Aurelian couldn’t help but question the King’s words.
“Your majesty, my people too value tradition. It’s the very core of our identity so perhaps your theory is wro-”
“No young Prince, it is as I say. My people have no wish to spread to the stars as yours does. To do so it would confuse my people and in their fear reinforce even older traditions. As for your people, I’m sure in some instances they inhibit your full capabilities. Captain Mot, didn’t your people have biological augmentation?”
The Arkanian Captain was surprised by the King. Arkanian GeneTech was common knowledge, but not what one would expect from a King of a primitive species. Just what exactly had King Kiritos seen in his lifespan? The Arkanian Captain responded with a keen smile.
“Yes, GeneTech as we call it. Though it only serves aid those with incurable or genetic diseases.”
“Well we certainly have similar standards in our Star Kingdom. Though there are heavy restrictions on augmentation.” Aurelian quickly replied.
“No doubt as the result of your people’s religion?” King Kiritos replied already knowing the answer.
Aurelian had truly underestimated the Kihi King who showed having great insights. One could however hear a bit of regret or disappointment in his tone. Perhaps the King’s dreams were still alive somewhere.
“One could view it that way. But it isn’t moral to change your genetic template just to make yourself better.”
“Not even in a war facing extinction?” Kiritos replied calmly examining the young Prince’s face.
Now there the King had Aurelian. The Spartans were augmented not only genetically but also cybernetically. Created as means to halt the Velutarian advance on Stoinian planets. Even the most religious zealots would agree that without them, the Star Kingdom would have fallen and even the Great Regent MacArthur couldn’t have stopped them. Aurelian however, couldn’t allow knowledge of these Terran superweapons to fall into the wrong hands. Though he feared King Kiritos was already unto his tail.
“Well, it would depend on the situation I guess.”
“Yes, young Prince. From what I’ve seen, change is the river of the universe. Despite my people quite literally living between falling and flowing waters, they still haven’t been able to learn that lesson. One can try to stand as a rock in it, but even rocks erode. So I wonder, isn’t it better to follow the current? Alas, let us not ponder on such sad thoughts. You are my guests after all! Have you tasted some of our Teali fruits yet, young Prince?”
The rest of the night, the Stoinians and Treecuu continued to celebrate with the Kihi and Arkanians. Kihi wine was drunken largely by the Kihi, Arkanians and of course Virini. Who more than loosened up after half a bottle. The Treecuu Limavu sticked to just water. From the few interactions Aurelian had with them later, they revealed that this Kihi water was quite tasteful to them. Something about the mineral composition of the water. Teali fruit was also a great success to both Treecuu species as they were vegetarians.
Aurelian would however get a short introduction on the astropolitics of the Tiyanki Territories by Captain Mot and even gained a few insights from King Kiritos. This region of space was in fact crawling with life and it wasn’t just some dark uninhabited space. Wars, trade and religion were just a common place as the rest of the Sector. Perhaps for even longer. Aurelian had gained valuable intel here and was looking forward to meet one of the Jo’Dai Knights that Captain Mot spoke of with great praise. Even his homeworld of Arkania was a must-see for Aurelian. For now though, he enjoyed the rest of the night with the fine company. The following days, he’d report to Commodore Tuuc and Vice Admiral Cristina Lupei to reassess their exploration efforts with their new data. Though Aurelian couldn’t help but ponder about King Kiritos’ insights and commentary when trying to fall asleep again…

Fringes of the Dunedari Free-Standings
J.F.S.S. Relentless
24/06/1620 PD

The Relentless had gone a long way by now from the humble Kihi Kingdom. The map from the Arkanians had spearheaded the efforts of the 4th Fleet Division of the Joint Exploratory Fleet. Vice Admiral Lupei herself was most pleased and put the young royal in for a commendation. Aurelian’s career was indeed already full of colours having received an accelerated education and receiving quick promotions. He feared this was due to his royal status, but he excelled in the navy. That was a truth and his now young career seemed to prove it. Though he wished to captain a Stoinian ship, his father had decided for him to join the Exploratory Fleet. When he first took command, with a Limavu as his superior no less, he wasn’t sure what to think of his assignment. Now however, he realized there was plenty of opportunity in Operation Farsight. Terrans were out here and Stoinian doctrine dictated that they would form amiable relations with them. From Daonlathas to Pax Dracon this driving belief was made clear. Perhaps now that could become a form of stewardship with the Terran nations in the Territories.
Back home there was a major political shift, Ryan Adams had narrowly won the Chancellery elections. Once Aurelian was seriously considering supporting him, but now he had mixed feelings. Being out in the frontier and seeing primitive species, he began to question the need for Stoinian supremacy. King Kiritos was primitive yet wise and that combination was a real reality check for Aurelian. He began to realize that in their quest for dominance, they might become what the Mardakii were to them for other species like the Kihi. Was that really what he wished for his people? Perhaps this was the lesson his father wished him to learn. Aurelian continued to ponder while sitting in his chair viewing the Great Expanse on the viewscreen. It was quite a beauty to look at the giant clouds from ten of lightyears away from them. However, Virini exited the elevator.
“Sir, I must say. I believe these Arkanians are a lying group of people. They call this space the Tiyanki Territories, yet we haven’t seen a single one. One! Really we should start renaming this area. Here I have an excellent idea: Kontauri Free Space!”
Aurelian knew better than to demand seriousness from Virini in such situations, besides it helped change the landscape a bit from the dull and long space travel. Knowing Virini for a time, Aurelian was beginning to speculate Virini did this on purpose. To the detriment of the Cheunh, Limavu and Teetacs on board.
“Come now Virini, I was expecting a more vigorous suggestion. Wouldn’t you like one of the Expanses to be called the ‘Great Virini Expanse’?”
“Captain, that’s a really good suggestion. I’ll be sure to rename one of the smaller ones the ‘Paso Leati Expanse’!”
“Wonderful Virini.”
The Teetac science officer then interrupted their discussion.
“Captain, I’m getting an unknown signature. Its readings are unlike anything we’ve seen.”
“Is it one of the expanse clouds?”
“No, Sir. Wait… It’s moving.”
“Helm lay in a course. Virini you better pray to your Great Maker to make your wish come true.”
Virini chuckled at the thought. Meanwhile the Relentless changed course and went towards the strange readings. When they jumped out of warp, the viewscreen showed a faint red spot. After magnifying the image it soon became clear. It was a giant Tiyanki.

[Image: Evt-ancient-tiyanki.png]
The Tiyanki Matriarch.

All species from the crew stopped for a second and were utterly mesmerize by the creature. For many it was the first time they saw an actual spaceborne organism. As the glowing red organs revealed its many tendrils and round head, this creature became accustomed to the eyes of the crew. Phrases were thrown all over the bridge By God, By Candact and of course Great Maker.
“Lieutenant, is that a Tiyanki?”
“Getting sensory data, Sir… Odd.”
“Odd? Explain.”
“The data seems to match, but the dimensions are way off. Normally a Tiyanki is just 200 to 400 meters in length, but this one is is over 1.000!”
Aurelian and the crew didn’t know what to make of it. What were the chances they could stumble across such a monstrous Tiyanki? Finally Virini spoke up.
“I’m no priest, but I would consider this a blessing from the Great Maker.”
“I think I’ll take that. Lieutenant, keep scanning it. We might not get another chance like it.”
“Yes, Sir!”
The remaining hours or so, the crew of the Relentless continued to study the magnificent spaceborne creature. However this seeming moment of peace wasn’t to last. The tactical Cheunh officer recalled Aurelian back to the bridge. This wasn’t a good sign by any means.
“What is it Lieutenant Commander?”
“Sir, five incoming ships.”
“How far are they?”
“0,8 AU, Sir.”
“How long before they are within visual range?”
“Two minutes, Sir.”
“All right, go to yellow alert and maintain position. I want to know their every movement.”
“Aye, Sir.”
The Relentless waited for a couple of minutes and as soon as it entered visual range, the ships revealed their affiliation. The Dunedari Free-Standings. Aurelian was sent to investigate their borders before Commodore Tuuc and the rest of the 11th Squadron could catch up with him. They were to investigate the Dunedari together, but fate again had other plans for them…

A Dunedari warship.

Fringes of the Dunedari Free-Standings
J.F.S.S. Relentless
24/06/1620 PD

It took a little over half an hour for the universal translators to figure the message sent by the Dunedari. The Relentless was positioned between the two groups of vessels. The Tiyanki-Matriarch even “flew” away from incoming ships as if she already knew who they are. Luckily, the Dunedari ships showed remarkable patience as well. Aurelian knew something was afoot in this whole situation. He hoped now that the translators were working he would gain some information. Remarkably enough, it seemed their language was remarkably similar to Stoinian Skandian dialects. This of course was a good sign to Aurelian. It meant they shared some ancestry with these people, or so they speculated.
“This is Chief Captain Peldir Setiakar of the D.W. Song of Fire of the Dunedari Free-Standings. You are standing between us and the prize. We will assume you’re hostile if you don’t identify yourselves in one hour.”
Well, there he had it. Fate was smiling on Aurelian once again and he had plenty of time. There no longer was a need for the standard Cole Protocols when initiating first contact. It certainly might have made an impression, if the Mardakii skull wasn’t a clear sign on itself, but it clearly had backfired. While some Treecuu officials within Joint Exploratory Fleet Command admired this Stoinian initiative, both governments agreed that perhaps they should be more prudent with such vivid imagery. Aurelian would now respond kindly to his distant Terran brethren.
“This is Captain Aurelian Stoian of the J.F.S.S. Relentless representing the Stoinian Star Kingdom and the Treecuu Star Empire. We’re new to the Tiyanki Territories and are on a mission of exploration. We have no hostile intention towards you. I repeat, we have no hostile intentions.”
It took a few moments before the a live feed of the Dunedari Captain appeared. It seemed the language files sent by the Stoinians was compatible with their. A tall muscular pale Terran with red hair and blue facial tattoos. This combination, Aurelian didn’t anticipate. It proved how truly diverse Mankind could be.
“We haven’t heard of these Kingdoms. Why are you standing between us and the prize?” Setiakar said with an inquisitive and sharp tongue.
“We’re from at least 150 lightyears away and what is this prize you speak of?” Aurelian replied.
“The Tiyanki, it’s a hunting prize worthy of the coming of age of the Jarla! It’s a sign from the Gods and it will earn our place in Valshara!”
“Jarla? Valshara? Com, explain.” Aurelian turned to the female Lieutenant.
“A sort of Queen and Afterlife, Sir. Though we aren’t certain.”
“We will claim this prize worthy of the Jarla. Do not stand in-between us.” The Dunedari replied to Aurelian and then cut off communication.
Well then… No pleasantries I guess. Aurelian looked over at the Cheunh Tactical Officer who then displayed the battle map. The three Dunedari warships were fast approaching the Tiyanki-Matriarch and they were much larger than the Relentless. The creature was starting to move away from the incoming ships, but it was much slower. Aurelian didn’t know what to do. The creature had done nothing wrong, but risking a war with the Dunedari wasn’t an option either. Virini then spoke up.
“Captain! We must protect that Tiyanki, it’s a sign from the Great Maker!”
“Captain I must protest this action!” A Treecuu Officer spoke up from behind him. “We cannot jeopardize our relations with these Dunedari.”
“BY angering the Great Maker?! Clearly your infidel species is far too short sighted to comprehend the nature of the universe!”
“Perhaps that’s why we rule over other species unlike yours.”
“Shut up!” Aurelian silenced the bridge and stopped the pointless squabbling. They wanted a prize, Aurelian perhaps had one. It was a secret tradition within the Stoian family ever since Alexandru I and perhaps now it could help solve the dilemma he was facing. Though the Dunedari, now fully committed to their hunting fever, wouldn’t stop until they could claim their prize. Despite being outnumbered, Aurelian had a plan. “Battle stations.” The bridge flared red as the siren hauled through the entire room.
“Captain, who shall we target?” The Cheunh Tactical Officer asked for Aurelian’s orders.
“Target the Dunedari ships, but aim for their weapons systems. What’s their technology status?”
“Captain… We’re scanning through their shields.”
“Good, then targeting their weapons won’t be a problem. Helm, initiate attack manoeuvre delta.”
And so the Relentless and its crew set on for their first combat in the Tiyanki Territories and it was against Stoinian Brethren. Not what King Andrei III had expected his son to initiate when sending him on Operation Farsight.

Fringes of the Dunedari Free-Standings
J.F.S.S. Relentless
24/06/1620 PD

The Dunedari Warships were fast and agile, quickly travelling towards the large Tiyanki. Despite their manoeuvrability, their technological level seemed far less advanced compared to even the Stoinians. Aurelian even prohibited the usage of the MAC-Cannon as to not damage the Dunedari too much. The Treecuu Officers were perplexed, but when taking into calculation the Stoinian principle of Stoinian at heart, but Terran by blood it all became clear. To their Stoinian Commander, these were his people. As one of the heirs of the Stoinian King, who also wore the title of Protector of Mankind, it was his ancestral duty to protect all Terrans everywhere. Or at least that was the theory. In practice however, this proved much more difficult.
“Enemy ships in weapons range!” The Limavu Sensors Officer shouted. Aurelian doubted his orders for the next few heartbeats, but saw no other alternative.
“Fire, aim for their weapons.”
The phaser beam arrays of the Gagarin-class flared up the dark void as their beams hit the Dunedari with utter precision. These arrays were a joint innovation by the Stoinian and Treecuu Engineering Divisions of the Joint Fleet. The first shots fired against hostiles had the desired effect. The Dunedari shields took a decent hit, but as every Stoinian Captain know, a ship’s survivability was determined by its armour. The Dunedari fired back with autocannons and missiles. In essence, they were firing with bullets at high speeds at them. The bullets were caught by the gravitational shielding and the hauling Dunedari missiles exploded upon contact with the shields. Luckily the Stoinian shields held up without any problem as the phasers continued to disarm the Dunedari warships. It only took the Stoinians and Treecuu merely ten minutes to disarm the Dunedari as their shields couldn’t withstand the Relentless’ weaponry. The Dunedari ships however continued to circle around Relentless and Aurelian waited for them to hail him. The Dunedari vessels continued to circle closer and closer, provoking Aurelian into initiating a response.
“Dunedari Warships, stand down or face destruction. We don’t wish to harm you. The choice is yours.”
“Sir, Dunedari ships are gaining speed. They’re going for a ramming course.”
“Engage tractor beams.”
“Sir, we can’t toe them all.”
“Divert power from shields if you have to!”
As the Relentless now was put under strain. The Dunedari ships were halted, if not by mere tens of meters. It seemed that the technological supremacy had saved the day and the lives of the Dunedari. Though they weren’t too keen to share any gratitude. The lead Dunedari Captain reappeared on the screen with a temper worse than before and clearly wasn’t in a particularly kind mood.
“What is it you want? You deny our hunt and then our right to claim our place in Valshara?!”
Aurelian stood up from his chair and looked sternly right back into the eyes of the Dunedari Captain.
“Now listen here before I give you a dishonourable death. We want nothing but peace in this region and you will take us to your Jarla before I ensure you won’t be able to claim your place in Valshara.”

Nau Valterra
Capital of the Dunedari Free-Standings
J.F.S.S. Relentless
26/06/1620 PD

The Relentless had finally arrived in orbit around Nau Valterra, the supposed capital of the Terran Dunedari Free-Standings. When Aurelian looked at if thousands of miles from above, he couldn’t help but see its resemblance to Stoinia. The homeworld of the Stoinians was filled with mountain ranges and dense forests. Though the continent on which the Stoinians had settled, Cascanna, had a large section which hosted the planet’s largest savannah biome. The Great Plains of Virtue it was called, but Nau Valterra seemed to be far colder than Stoinia as most of it was covered in snow with an occasional green dot in-between the white coat. Aurelian pondered as Virini stood next to him and contemplated.
“Ah, I guess it will be a bit chilly on this planet, eh? Let’s hope their Jarla won’t have such characteristics.”
“Be careful what you wish for Virini. You might just get what that.”
“Gah, that would be quite unfortunate and a bad way to do diplomacy. Though from what I’ve seen so far, these people can learn a bit on the matter from us.”
“I’ll be sure to recommend you on a post on this planet once we establish formal relations with them.” Aurelian then tried to emulate Virini’s accent “Show them the finer arts of diplomacy eh?”
“Ah, you’re getting the hang of it I hear.”
The duo laughed as they took a last view of the planet. It was time now for them to actually visit it in person. Chief Captain Setiakar had arranged for Aurelian and his escort to meet the Jarla directly along the Arbiter and the Council of Chieftains. Normally they would be spread out on each of the domains or Free-Standing, but given the coming of age of the Jarla, they had come to Nau Valterra. It seemed that fate once again was smiling on Aurelian.

Commodore Tuuc, Aurelian’s direct superior, had also arrived from his stand-in diplomatic mission on Salkaan. Aurelian had read the reports from this mission. The Salketh had a unique substance, Koultho, which served as medicinal liquid that could heal severe wounds. The Treecuu Star Empire and the Stoinian Star Kingdom had each received a small dosage as a gift. Scientists aboard Tuuc’s ship were already examining the capabilities of the liquid to send the preliminary testing results back home. Further testing would be needed, but the Salketh Sociocracy for now had proven to be a great potential trading partner. With the Dunedari being a Terran star nation right next door to the Sociocracy, it seemed this region of the Territories was becoming a foothold for Treecuu and especially Stoinian interests. His father’s plans for a Golden Path where Stoinia would become the dominant power in the Sector began to show great promise to the young Prince.
Aurelian’s Pelican had just landed after twirling around. The door hissed and Marines exited the shuttle to form two lines. Aurelian was accompanied by Virini and Tuuc. Tuuc would lead the talks for now. He was the superior officer and was still a proud Treecuu Officer who wished to take the glory for his star nation. Despite the two star nations being allies, there were still some tensions between the officers. Slowly talks began about which star nation did the most for the exploration effort. Both Aurelian and Tuuc had accomplished great achievements for this joint cause. The Treecuu Commodore walked forth with the same pride as when he met Aurelian’s father little over a year ago. As Aurelian followed Tuuc outside into the chilling city of Valtham, he could hear a low tone played by enormous horns made from sort of animal. The snowflakes took Aurelian by surprise as did the chilling cold wind. Tuuc, being a Limavu, would have felt even more of a shock, but his discipline had prevailed over the shivering elements of Nau Valterra.
In front of them were bearded men, easily towering over both Stoinians and Treecuu. Their pale white skin was entuned with the cold weather and their braided beards no doubt helped them keep themselves warm. Though their padded and furred clothing would accomplish that by themselves. The Dunedari entourage wasn’t all muscled ginger brutes, tall muscled women with the same blue facial patterns were there as well and then… He saw her. A girl about the same height as him without any facial marks. Her fire-red hair was knotted at the back of her head as she was covered in layers of fur. This gave her a certain roundness which could trick anyone into believing her to be of a more rotund build, but Aurelian gazed at her and noticed that her face was too sharp to suggest that. No, she was astonishing and quite fit indeed. Aurelian smiled at her between the reverbing horns and she reciproked the gesture. Though the glares between the two were interrupted as the horns stopped playing and the grey haired man next to her spoke.
“I’m Arbiter Jeggur Telgeir of the Dunedari Free-Standings. Regent of Jarla Tyri Gelnir and Warden of Nau Valterra. I welcome you outsiders to our world.”
“I’m Commodore Tuuc of the Treecuu Star Empire, here on a joint exploration effort together with the Stoinian Star Kingdom. I accept your welcome.”
“I was told Captain Stoian was the one who interrupted the Tiyanki hunt. Are you here to apologize for him?”
Aurelian then stepped forward and spoke before Tuuc could answer.
“I’m Captain Aurelian Stoian. I’m here to converse not apologize.”
“You shouldn’t have interfered, you have brought great dishonour to the Jarla.” The Arbiter gestured at the red haired girl. “A Tiyanki-Matriarch would have been a great omen for her coming of age.”
“I can offer her a better omen. One that will resonate throughout history.”
“What might that be?”
Aurelian strode forward as both Virini and Tuuc looking on to him with surprise. The Dunedari guards crossed their axes to close off Aurelian’s path. Aurelian had no intention to give up so easily and continued to press on with the same tempo. As the guards prepared to halt Aurelian, the Jarla uttered a word with her soft voice. The guards then sheathed their axes, allowing Aurelian to pass through them. Slowing down Aurelian took a careful look at the towering Dunedari who looked sceptical at him. He was still armed with his sword, but he knew that his sword would stand no chance against ten of the giant Dunedari axes. Aurelian speculated they knew that too and that’s why they let him so close to the Jarla. He then stopped half a meter in front of her.
“God be my witness, as I, Aurelian Stoian, son of King Andrei Stoian, Protector of Mankind, with the authority bestowed unto me as the Prince of Bloemfontein and Captain in the Stoinian Royal Navy, hand out my hand as a sign of friendship from the Stoinian people and its Star Kingdom. Though we Terrans may be separated by stars, our veins still are of the same blood. You are my brethren and I greet you as such. May God stand as our witness, as we shake our hands as a sign of a new era of eternal friendship.”
The girl hesitated for a moment. She looked at the old Arbiter who smiled back at her. Aurelian sure was confident and it had payed off. The Arbiter nodded at her and she turned to Aurelian. She gave him a warm smile and took Aurelian’s hand. Both of them giving equal strength and not faltering to the other. This was no pompous Ryccian Princess, but a real Dunedari girl which was to tame mountains and slay wolves. Aurelian realized she was like no girl he had met before and felt a weird tingeling in his stomach.
“I accept your offer of eternal friendship. Though your people should prove themselves first. Fate has perhaps brought us together as I have yet to choose a Vinir for my Valsharens Trulai. As a show of eternal friendship between our people, will you stand to my aid during my trials?”
“I will.”
Aurelian spoke before he thought it true. He had spoken decisively without thought as if under a spell. Was it that smile of hers? Just to what did I agree to? Aurelian thought of the consequences, but he couldn’t help but feel the tingeling in his stomach growing.

Nau Valterra
Valtham Royal Complex
29/06/1620 PD

The Relentless had been parked in orbit around the cold planet of Nau Valterra. Aurelian however enjoyed the warm halls of the Valtham Royal Complex built from wood and stone. Commodore Tuuc had given him a reprimand about the whole situation as Aurelian had boycotted the chain of command in Tuuc’s eyes. However, Tuuc had forgotten the astute Stoinian nature to befriend their Terran brethren. Wherever they may be. Aurelian was offered traditional Dunedari clothes made from fur, not too dissimilar to the Mardakii cloak his father wore during certain ceremonies. Nonetheless he chose to represent his Stoinian people at all times. It was his duty. Despite some of the cultural clashes that were yet to come, he had chosen to improve the relations with these people. These people were warlike and would prove a great source to gain a foothold in these Territories. The Star Kingdom was reaching out its influence and claiming its destiny as the lion of Sector A1-0. Or at least that was what Aurelian thought of the whole situation. Being out her on the frontier, he started more and more to disagree with the likes of Chancellor Adams.
The door opened as he fitted his uniform on his body. It was the Jarla escorted by two of her honour guard carrying great axes. They were the Sikkerhält, bound by blood and honour to protect the Jarla until their death. They wore the facial markings of Clan Agulvar which the Jarla will receive after completing her trials just before the feast in her honour. All the clans were looking on this momentous moment and Aurelian realized the pressure the girl felt on her shoulders. She hid it quite well, but being a royalty himself, his eye was trained for the subtleties. The spoke softly which made his ears relax.
“Haven’t you gotten cold by now? Just wearing your uniform?”
“Ah, your grace. My homeworld too is of a colder climate than most. Our winters too are cold.”
“Than perhaps you’re lucky that spring is coming.”
“It would seem that I have some impeccable timing as of late.”
The Jarla chuckled at Aurelian’s remarks. He too smiled as he couldn’t help but grimace at the sight of her smile.
“Perhaps you’d like to prove your ‘impeccable’ timing in combat as well?”
“Your grace… I’d be honoured to demonstrate the skills from our people.”
“Good, I understand your people once fought giant bears? And that you still hunt them every year.”
“Aye, we did and do.”
“I also heard that your ancestor slew the greatest of their warriors. A certain Colossus known by your people?”
“Aye, that too. Our first King Alexandru slew the great Colossus himself in the final battle of Sinaia. To commemorate his memory a giant statue was raised depicting him climbing the beast as he slit its throat at King’s Square. Its fur was made into a cloak worn by our monarch ever since. I imagine your own cloaks have their own stories.”
“Skåggard bear hide, though not quite as legendary as yours.”
“Your grace, your words touch me. But I’m sure your people have more than earned their legendary reputation.”
“Have they now? Outsiders still calls us ginger pirates. What will your people call us?”
“Terran brethren.”
The Jarla let the moment sink in for a minute. Aurelian showed great promise with his words. He knew he was more of a man of action rather than words by the looks of him. It was finally time to test that assessment.
“Well then… You must first prove if you’re worthy yourselves. Follow me.”

Aurelian was brought inside a pit where he was invited to fight some of the Sikkerhält guards of the Jarla. Armed with only a wooden sword, Aurelian proved more than capable. Being trained by one of the greatest sword masters in the Star Kingdom, Salar Sehat, his skill had proven to stand even against the axe wielding Sikkerhält guards. The Jarla was impressed as was the Arbiter. Drenched in mud Aurelian looked up from where the Dunedari councillors were looking on him.
“Has the lion proven himself?”
He could see the Jarla smile. The Arbiter however kept stern face.
“For now he has. You have proven to be worthy to stand as Vinir during the Jarla’s Valsharens Trulai’s final phase. Are you ready to stand as Vinir to Jarla Tyri, young Prince?”
These Dunedari Trials were harsh and the Jarla had recently completed the first two phases. A period of fasting and night watch which she had completed just a day or so before the arrival of the Joint Fleet. For five days Tyri had prayed and fasted in front of her God Ådar, the Father-God of the Dunedari, as was tradition for each heir. Next was the trial of combat where she’d have to make a 10 mile hike and after it she must overwhelm an opponent without any rest. Each Dunedari had the right to a companion or Vinir during this hike. Aurelian could only speculate as to why the Jarla had chosen him instead of one of her Sikkerhält guardsmen. He intended to find out.
“The Jarla need only say the word.”
“Then it is time.” Tyri replied with her soft voice.

The mountain they were to hike was Sentraltind. A smaller mountain from the region, but one of the most iconic ones of the planet. It had a large cliff which protruded from the mountain and served as a large balcony where the Jarla would be face her opponent. It was early when the duo geared up with fur clothing, ready to hike across the frozen mountain. There would be no paths that would lead them nor any markings to guide them. It was expected that each Dunedari could read a mountain. The Jarla had been born here and already climbed the Sentraltind. The way she saw it, this wasn’t a test for her, but rather for Aurelian and the Stoinian people.
“So Aurelian. You ready for the hike?”
“I’ll follow you, Jarla. Whatever that mountain will bring to us, we’ll overcome it.”
“Good thing that you have a positive spirit. I would expect our mountains would brake off-worlders.”
“Stoinia has mighty mountains of her own, your majesty.”
“So you’re trained to climb them then?”
“Well enough to know that the descent is far more tiring than the climbing.”
“You’re knowledgeable about mountains. It will serve us well. Perhaps I’ll even let you go ahead on our hike.”
“Your majesty, I believe it would be proper if you’d do that. After all, you are about to lead a whole nation.”
“Indeed. We shall see if we can use your knowledge then.”
The two left to hike on the treacherous mountain. Soon it became quite clear that the seemingly simple task of climbing the mountain would prove far more difficult than initially believed. Tyri had chosen a more treacherous path to test the endurance of the young prince. The two discussed their upbringings and their people during the hike. They spoke of the ancient legendary figures from their history and tales of old Terra and Valterra and how their peoples parted from it. It soon became clear that the two people were much alike to each other. Aurelian knew how rare these similarities were compared to the other Terrans the Stoinians had discovered in the Sector. After hours of hiking, the two had decided to eat their lunch halfway through their voyage. They stopped at a cliff with a beautiful view over Valtham. Aurelian continued to converse with Tyri as they chipped away from the now cold salted bear meat they had taken with them.
“Your majesty, might I ask you a question?”
“Please, Aurelian. Just call me Tyri, you’ve earned that right by now. As one royalty to another. Go ahead ask your question.” She smirked at Aurelian.
“Well… I was wondering why exactly you chose me as your Vinir instead of one of your guards?”
“Ah… You are under the impression that this hike is a test for me.”
“I’m sorry, but isn’t it the whole point to test you?”
“I know for a fact that I will succeed. I took you along to test your people. You seemed so eager to represent yours after all.”
“As is required of my status.”
“Good, perhaps you’d like to carry my bags as well. To show my people your people’s strength?”
“Tyri… I wouldn’t dream of diminishing your Valsharens Trulai.” Aurelian took another bite from the salted meat. “Even so, you are to become the Jarla of your people. What kind of a leader would you be, if you didn’t bear your own weight on your shoulders?”
“Spoken like a true Stoinian and Dunedari!” She smiled again at Aurelian. He had passed her test. “So your people do know strength.”
“If we didn’t, we would long be dead.”
The next half of their hike would be far less treacherous and Tyri let Aurelian decide which way to go. Aurelian was no fool and chose the most traversable path for he knew how to traverse mountains. By the time they were at their destination, the sun had began to set. It was a mighty view they could behold as they were greeted by the Arbiter and a small escort of Sikkerhält guardsmen. The duo stood before the Arbiter who watched over Valtham.
“It took you long enough.” The Arbiter replied without turning around.
“Oh you know how I like to keep you waiting, Old Axe.”
“Perhaps it’s time you finally met the Old Axe.”
Tyri looked stunned. He couldn’t possibly mean it. Aurelian watched her as she looked around in despair.
“You can’t possibly mean it.”
“Jarla… Huh, you must first prove to be worthy of that title. What better way to claim your birth right than to defeat the one who ruled it in your stead.”
“This is the way I choose it to be done. Jarla Tyri Gelnir, I, Regent Jeggur Telgeir, proclaim myself as your challenge for the Valsharens Trulai.”
“Then let us be quick about it old man.”
Tyri dropped her bags and took her shield and axe. Jeggur too picked up his shield from one of the guardsmen and grabbed his axe which had been attached to his belt. The two stared at each other preparing for the battle while Aurelian stood on the sides. Tyri jumped towards Jeggur and fierce pounding of shield and axe followed. It seemed that Tyri was winning the duel until she made a mistake which Aurelian saw. She had plunged herself in an attack lowering her guard, allowing for Jeggur to disarm her axe. Jeguur followed it by ramming her over and over until she dropped her shield too. It seemed like the battle was over for her.
“It seems you have failed your trials.”
“The Jarla doesn’t stand alone.”
Aurelian marched forward towards Jeggur, but was stopped by two guardsmen. However, he was able to toss his Stoinian honour sword over them towards Tyri. As the blade clattered on the ice and rock, Tyri ran towards it and picked it up.
“The lion has come to serve the eagle.” Aurelian cried out before being put to the ground by the two guardsmen. “Dammit Tyri, watch his legs!”
With that advice Tyri stood again in front of Jeggur. More determined than ever to claim what was hers. Jeggur ran towards her, though she evaded him just as his axe was to clatter with Aurelian’s sword. Turning around him and cutting in his hand with which he held the axe. Tyri may have been told to use an axe, but she had always been more proficient with a sword as she now had demonstrated. Jeggur’s axe fell and he dropped his shield. It was over.
“Then the time has come. My regency has ended then. All hail the new Jarla.”
The guardsmen cheered on Tyri as she held Aurelian’s sword high towards the sky for her gods to witness her achievement. Aurelian too stood up as he was released. Tyri approached him too and leaped towards him to give him a hug.
“Thank you, Aurelian for aiding me.”
“The honour was all mine, Tyri.”
“I didn’t expect you to try something so foolish as to come to my aid.”
“My sword is yours, Tyr…” Aurelian couldn’t finish her name as she gave him a kiss on the cheek. Both of them tried to hide it, but they blushed at the same time. Gazing in each other’s eyes and souls as their hearts pounded faster and faster. The cold winds had seemingly disappeared with Tyri’s embrace. Jeggur then interrupted them as he stood up again.
“Jarla, it is time to receive your Taðovingr. You’ll have more than enough time to celebrate afterwards.”
“Very well then Old Axe. As the new Jarla, my first act will be to proclaim you as the Hand of the Jarla. You have proven your loyalty and wisdom during your regency. I’d like to take your advice still during my reign.”
“Jarla, you honour me.”
“It’s what you deserve, old friend.” Tyri then turned back to Aurelian. “Take a good look Aurelian… For it will be the last time you’ll see my pure white face.”

Nau Valterra,
Valtham Royal Complex,
Hall of Jarls,
30/06/1620 PD

Aurelian entered the Hall of Jarls. It was a large hall of stone in which could fit an entire church. Thousands of Dunedari noblemen had come to the banquet of the Jarla’s Valsharens Trulai. He was greeted by many towering ginger people with various blue facial markings. They looked differently at him now, as if he had earned their respect. He enjoyed the attention, but knew all too well that this feast was for Tyri. Not long after he had chosen a place accompanied by Virini and the senior staff of the Relentless, Tyri entered the room in an elegant brown and green robe. On her face she had the blue facial markings of Tribe Agulvar and now wore the mark of the Jarla on her forehead between the two stripes’ connection. The Dunedari, man and woman alike, stood up and began singing a chant while hitting the table with their cups filled with ale. When she arrived at her seat, the singing changed to a cheer which only tempered when the Jarla lowered her hand.
“My Dunedari brethren, my Valsharens Trulai has been completed.” Again the Dunedari cheered “I now stand as your proven Jarla and await you all for my coming coronation. I especially wish to accept the friendship of the Stoinian Star Kingdom and the Treecuu Star Empire so eagerly offered by the Prince of Bloemfontein, Aurelian Stoian, who stood next to me as my Vinir. May my reign bring peace and prosperity among our people! Let the feast commence!”
The drums began to rumble and the young Dunedari women began to go to the floor, dancing as the men sang from deep within their throats. Ales were served and spilled until the floor reeked of the beverage. Virini had perhaps enjoyed a little too much of the ale. He initially had complained over it, but grew to like it the more he drank from it. Eventually when the party began to settle, Tyri made her way to Aurelian.
“Aurelian, am I glad to see you still standing.”
“As am I. How does her majesty fare after such a roaring feast?”
“Oh stop it already. Just call me Tyri, for now. I’m not crowned yet.”
“Oh I look forward to it. Be sure to not make any blunders.”
“Hard to do so with the Old Axe looking at every detail.”
“I’m sure he’ll be most helpful the coming days.”
She smirked again at him while her eyes flared up.
“I was actually thinking… What gift should I offer your people as a show of friendship?”
Aurelian smiled at her. He knew just the thing.
“A Skaggard bear cloak will do.”
“Skåggard. You still have to work on your pronunciation a bit. But your father already has cloak made from the Mardakii, has he not?”
“Aye, but perhaps the cloak could become the symbol of the Prince of Bloemfontein.”
The two laughed at the idea and Tyri embraced Aurelian again and lowered her head on his shoulder.
“Yes, Tyri.”
“Is there any woman you fancy.”
Tyri took a step back in disbelief and was shocked as she expected him to tell her of a girl in some Stoinian royal court.
“She’s standing right in front of me.”
Tyri gave Aurelian a kiss and embraced him more tightly than ever. From the first glance they shared to this very moment, Aurelian knew Tyri would hold a special place in his heart. He would make her a promise.
“I’m yours. From now until the dusk of my life. Right here and across the stars.”

Kezimite Kingdom,
Konshi Royal Palace
16/07/1620 PD

Aurelian stepped outside the Konshi Royal Palace on Keffiz, the capital world of the Kezimite Kingdom. It had been two weeks since Tyri’s coronation and he now found himself on a tropical and warm planet not too far from Dunedari space. The Kezimite Kingdom was another Terran star nation within the Tiyanki Territories. The Kingdom was in fact a planetary state consisting of two dual planets: Keffiz and Keffix. The planets too was ruled over by a King. Shigar IV Konshi had requested the presence of Aurelian as Kezimite customs required a noble born to sign any agreements, a custom which the Treecuu abhored. The Treecuu were growing more and more frustrated by the Stoinian prince who had taken much of the glory of initiating contact. However, his successful streak would come to an end with one holocall. His father appeared and Aurelian immediately knew by the looks of his father that it was earnest. As he found a quiet spot he spoke with his father.
“Yes, father. What is it?”
“You know my mood, good. I hear you’re becoming quite a diplomat.”
“With the Terrans out here at least.”
“Leave some of the glory to the Treecuu. You must know how they work by now.”
“True, especially Commodore Tuuc.”
“A good soldier, though I never expected him to be a fitting diplomat.”
“Oh, it’s quite clear he won’t ever quite his military attitude.”
“A true shield and sword of the Empire eh.”
“That he is… But this isn’t just a social call to ask about my CO.”
“No, it isn’t. I have grave news for you which I wanted to give you personally before the news spreads like wildfire.”
“What could it possibly be?”
“Son… We’re at war.”
“With whom? How? When?”
“A wormhole was discovered in the Cornucopia system. Grand Admiral Corvousier led an expedition to the other side and found a militant star nation who we expect to come in full force. They… They seem to be Terrans as well.”
“What? How come they would attack us? We’re their brethren!”
“These are no simple Terrans, son. They are out for blood for their Venterran Federation and we must take arms. You’ll finally have a war to fight in.”
“But father… We have so much to do in these territories. The Kezimites, Dunedari, Kihi and Salkethi are just the tip of the mountain. We need to press on and seek out our Terran brethren.”
“And who will protect them if we are to fall?” Aurelian fell silent “I was wondering when the day would come when you’d stop dreaming of fighting in a war and instead look for peaceful opportunities. It seems fate has some irony to it. Now that a war has come, you wish to seek peaceful solutions. You know we have no choice in the matter. We must protect what is ours. The dream mustn’t fade. Stoinia is calling on its horn.”
“And we Stoians must answer.”
“I’ll be giving you the Invictus. A fine ship to command a squadron from.”
“But that would require a Commodore rank!”
“Which you’ll have once you take command of Wrath Squadron. Just make sure you arrive in time to join the fight.”
“But I haven’t earned the stripes!”
“Make sure that you do in the coming storm. Operation Farsight will continue, but the question remains whether you will still be part of it?”
“I’ll join the fight home, father.”
“Good, Aurelian. Make sure you don’t lose any more time than need be.”
With that single remark, his father cut off the coms. Aurelian hated it when he did that, but now he had no other choice. He had proven to be a diplomat in the Territories, but the Lion called for his service and he has no choice but to answer. He had reasons to stay, but really couldn’t do so. So know the war he so wished for had come at the wrong time. The time for words had seemingly passed and Aurelian put his hand on his sword as he entered the room of King Shagir IV again. For he intended to return at the war front back home… But not alone.

8:25 shiptime, 25/10/1620 PD
Bridge, HMS Invictus, Élysée, Elysium Sector
Wrath Squadron

Aurelian looked through the window of his ready room. The Invictus was a state of the art warship and had proven so in recent patrols against Venterran forces. As a Bellator-class command battleship, the Invictus was a true warship aimed to command multiple ships while being in the heat of battle. Finally after months on transport and hearing dreadful reports from the frontlines, he’d made it to a rendezvous point with Grand Admiral Roger III Winton. Grand Admiral Roger III Winton was the Grand Duke of Elysium, but now that the military had taken over the complete governance of the Star Kingdom, he was more useful on the frontlines. The Wintons were close friends of the Stoians from even before Virtue’s colonization and the War at home further cemented that relationship.
“Skipper, incoming message from Grand Admiral Winton. Shall I pass it through?” Lieutenant Kyriake Molaki asked over the comms, a cheerful young Hellenic Officer a little older than Aurelian in fact.
“Thank you. Pass it through.” Aurelian smiled as he turned around to face the Grand Admiral.
He straightened his uniform and then clicked on the computer to project the Grand Admiral. In true military tradition, Aurelian saluted his superior Officer.
“At ease, son. No need for formalities now.” Winton replied with his deep voice as he looked down at the young Stoian.
Aurelian immediately eased off the tension, but still stood straight as an arrow. His young aptitude hadn’t changed on the exploration mission in the Tiyanki territories."
“To what do I owe the please, Sir?”
“Well…” Winton let out a short sigh. “You’re new recruits from the Territories are quite stubborn. They refuse to be serve in units that aren’t attached to yours. Given the actual numbers of ships, that’s quite a difficult task.”
“I wasn’t aware they were putting up so much trouble.”
“I don’t blame you. We’re still in a first protocol phase with them as a matter of fact.”
“Perhaps I should have left them in the Territories… This is our war after all…”
“Don’t blame yourself, son. What you were able to do is nothing short of a political feat. How many people at your age were able to bring other star nations under one banner?”
“I… Well not many get the chance to do that, now do they?”
“True, but still… Take the compliment when you get it, Aurelian. Especially when it’s from your superior officer.” Winton smiled. “I can guarantee you that doesn’t happen very often.”
Aurelian grinned at Winton’s comment. He still was as supportive as he’d remembered him.
“All right then, Sir. Thank you.”
“Good. Though we’re still entangled with your new allies. Fleetmaster Moffisa has shown some concessions, but Commandant Opir remains adamant that he must escort you in battle.”
“That’s Dunedari stubbornness right there.”
Fleetmaster Kurros Moffisa was the Kezimite commander that was sent to aid Aurelian. The Kezimite Kingdom was gracious in its offer to aid the Stoinians so soon after barely signing a defensive pact with the Star Kingdom. While their 23 ships were not like Stoinian vessels, they still formed a sizeable patrol force. The Kezimite commander had in fact volunteered for the job and was what some pacifist Kezimites might consider a warhawk. The Venterran Incursion was a perfect opportunity for all sides to appease on the Stoinians’ war.
Then there were the 32 ships from the Dunedari Free-Standings under Commandant Arehan Opir’s leadership. They were noisy and a seemingly brutish bunch compared to the disciplined Stoinians. Aurelian was surprised when Tyri gave him that many ships from her own Royal Defence Fleet. The Dunedari were tribalistic at first, but once you peeled off their deterrent layer, they were among your best friends. Or in Aurelian and Tyri’s case, lovers. Commandant Opir was an elderly man who’d seen plenty of combat already against pirates. The man was a cynic from growing so old, but he still was a respectable man. If not a bit vulgar.
“We can’t spend any more weeks with such useless bickering however. The victory at Cappadocia is rallying cry with just the right timing. Our forces are mobilized and in position now. We’re going to retake our stars.”
“So I hear. We’re in a Crusade now, last I heard.”
“Indeed, that’s why I’ve come up with a solution to the entanglement with the Tiyankians. A Taskforce.”
“Flexible enough for a command structure. A wise solution, Sir.”
“Now that they’re ships have been retrofitted with up to date technology to face the Venterrans at Acarro. They’re ready now and I’ve got to say that their damn hyperspace drives are damn quick.”
“Sir… Won’t giving them new technology disturb the balance in the Tiyanki Territories?”
“Perhaps, but your father has more planned for the Territories.”
“How so?”
“You might be royalty, but I can’t discuss classified information with you.”
“I understand, Sir. Who’ll lead the Tiyanki Taskforce then?”
“I’ve made my choice. You’ll lead the Taskforce. Taskforce Razgriz will be placed under your command and you’ll help out the 3rd Fleet Section of the 11th Fleet under Admiral Lysander Andreides. Athos’ Fair Duke has also re-joined the Navy. Are you up for the task?”
“I’d be honoured, Sir.”
“Half of my admiralty wants them gone, but if they wish to spend their blood in our war, I’ll let them. Though I don’t see another solution to combine arms.”
“I see, Sir.”
“Wrath Squadron will still be yours to command and will be part of the Taskforce. The Invictus should prove a capable command ship for your operations.”
“Aye, Sir. Though… I don’t think I’m familiar with the term Razgriz.”
“Ah that… Commandant Arehan Opir boasted that he’ll bring Roathorak, some sort of Dunedari world’s ending, to the Venterrans and that his ships will be like the Razgriz. From what I’ve gathered, they are some kind of furies. I liked the brute’s poetic side, so the name stuck.”
“Interesting, well… I think Commandant Opir’ll be delighted to hear his recommendation had some effect.”
“That I’m convinced off. I’ll leave it up to you to contact them and form up with them. Admiral Andreides we’ll brief you in the coming days.”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Well you better get to it then. Winton, out.”
Winton’s image then disappeared before Aurelian could properly salute his superior. Though his attention then turned back at the door as the bell chimed.
“Come in.”
Then Aurelian’s friend Virini entered the ready room with the same flamboyancy the day they met.
“Ah, Aurelian. Do you know that these Dunedari still won’t acknowledge that Bravari is superior to their drinks?”
“We’ll convince them otherwise, Virini. I hope you have a bottle to celebrate.”
“Of course! But ah… What’s the occasion?”
“We’re going to kick some Venterran ass.”
“Ah, perhaps we should use two bottle then…”
“Maybe four, Opir and Moffisa will join us.”
“Now that’s absurd! We can’t waste that much Bravari to the barbarians!” Virini replied jokingly with an angry tone that could have been heard on the bridge.