A Science Fantasy Space Opera

  • Nobles of Null is a forum based roleplay site where sci-fi and magic collide. Here, Earth remains fractured and divided despite humanity reaching out to the stars. Worse still, the trans-human slaves of one major power have escaped, only to establish their own Empire, seething with resentment at abuses of the past. Even the discovery of aliens, though medieval in development, has failed to rally these squabbling children of Earth together with its far darker implications. Worse still, is the discovery of the impossible - magic. Practiced by the alien locals, nearly depleted and therefore rare, its reality warping abilities remains abstract and distant to the general populace. All the while, unseen in the darkness of space, forces from without threaten to press in. For those with eyes opened by insight, it is clear that an era is about to end, and that a new age will dawn.

Book 4: Where no Grawl has gone before (text)

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Chapter 1: Where no Grawl has gone before

Space Colony 34
Orbit of the Gas Giant Bruno
Hawking System


It had been a few weeks since the climactic battle aboard Azathoth. It seemed that Grawla everywhere could breathe easier, as the Aliyum planet had been deflected away from Hawking, and was now headed towards one of the inner planets instead. The fight with the Daqin had left the Zoomer’s ship destroyed, but there were liveable pockets of space on Azathoth for the crew. Saylas and Eedded had helped get a small Grawl-town setup there before rejoining the Ewmans.

These Ewmans had a plan.

They would take them further than any Grawla had ever gone before and lived to write home about: The Gas Giant Bruno. Here were Ewman space colonies, giant rotating cylinders with trees and grass on the inside. They had open fields for farming, artificial gravity, oxygen, light, everything an aspiring space-grawl might need to survive in space.

But Eedded wasn’t sold on the idea just yet.

“The Ewmans say we can just have this whole place.” Eedded said, the grawla still in her space-suit. Though over the past few days her arm had made great progress in healing up. “They’ll even help us get to and from the surface, and fly us around space, and even give us some space on their mega-explorer-ship-thing.” Eedded didn’t look happy about all of this, despite the seemingly generous offer. She’d check her suit’s wrist where a small mirror would let her see the dials and knobs on her suit’s chest. There were green lights of course… and the atmosphere of this ‘space colony’ seemed safe enough. With a slightly nervous ‘but trying to look determined’ grunt she’d slap the side of her helmet, opening it up and letting the fresh air rush in while taking a big breath.

… she didn’t die…

… that was a good sign…

Eedded would turn to Sylas, “But they want our help with the other Grawla on the surface. Ain’t no one like having the Ewmans around… except maybe the River-city grawl. ‘Course I bet everyone back home hates us for going into space. We’ll probably be blamed for bringing that Aliyum planet too.”

“Let ‘em think that! We fucked up those stupid aliyums!” Sylas laughs, their helmet sitting on the
floor as they sketch a large nuclear explosion on the side, with some stick figure daqin being launched from it. Also laid across the floor is a dozen or so disassembled Daqin rifles, and the entire left arm of their suit lying on the ground. “Hey Eedded! Where do you think I could find a targetin’ unit? I wanna hook one of these Ewman guns up to my shouldah, but I don't know if I’d be able to aim it too well…” Sylas collects all of their loose pieces onto a push cart as she waits for Eedded’s opinion.

Eedded frowned, “That Daqin tech isn’t familiar to me. We’ve taken apart a few of the Ewman computers but they looked different than these computers. Seems like one more thing we’re gonna have to have the Ewmans do for us.” She hated relying on the Ewmans as much as any Grawl but they had so much more stuff. “If we had a few more Grawl we could figure it out ourselves… maybe build ourselves a good lab. There’s tons and tons of precious metals out here in space to fund anything we wanna do assumin’ we can get it back down to the surface to sell it.”

Eedded would move in a bit closer, inspecting the disassembled weapons, “How do you think they work?” She asked, picking up one of the bullets and moving it around in her fingers, “Looks like a small camera-thing on the front of this? Some holes for rocket exhaust on the back. I bet it works like our missiles… must follow a laser or something right?” She would put the bullet back and start looking at the individual components, picking up a module from the gun itself that had a laser sight and some servos to move it around, “This then? I bet if you run power through it then it’ll light up and those ‘smart bullets’ will go where you tell them to.”

“Ooh! Let’s try dat!” Sylas quickly assembles one daqin rifle, slaps a battery and a switch on the back of a laser sight, and starts pointing it at a wall and firing a few shots. Much like expected, the bullets follow the laser, and Sylas gives an excited gasp. “Oh this is going to be a lot of fun!”

Sylas then assembles a fairly rudimentary shoulder-mounted rifle prototype, effectively just a stripped down rifle on a swivel that attaches to a helmet, so that the rifle points where the head points. The laser from the rifle is attached to the head as well, just above the eyeline. Sylas is stumped on how to where to put the trigger, and decides that can wait for later, simply attaching a button to a wire, and putting it all on. “Eedded! What can we use for target practice? I don’t want to shoot the walls anymore, I’m afraid they might be load bearing…”

“What about putting the trigger on your spear? You don’t really need to hold the gun or even point it if the bullets just go where you’re lookin’ with the laser,” Eedded said, looking about for ‘stuff to shoot’ and only really coming up with one answer. “And what about that tree as a target?” She asked, pointing off into the distance. There were a few of them in this ‘grawl space’ that the Ewmans were offering. It was a simple matter to get a piece of sheet metal from their stash of supplies and prop it up against the side of the tree for use as a target. Eedded even drew a stick-figure on the plate with a grease pen just to make it look more targety.
 

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“You’re so smart!” Sylas grabs a metal pole, not ready to disassemble their personalized weapon just yet, and attaches the button to it, before slowly walking towards the tree. They lift the pole, slowly adjusting to line up the laser with the stickman’s head. “First test run!!!” Sylas presses the button on the pole, and waits for a hole to be put through the stickman. All goes well, except for the terrible ringing in Sylas’ ear from a rocket firing inches from it. “EEDDED!!! IT WORKS!! I’M GONNA BE DAH RULER OF DAH BATTLEFIELD WITH THIS TECH!” after a short while, Sylas’ ear stops ringing. “One thing though, I’m gonna need some ear protection or somefin’, these bullets are loud.”

Eedded nodded, this wasn’t the kind of weapons they usually saw from the Ewmans… and it did seem like a big improvement over their standard equipment. “What about moving the gun somewhere else? You don’t really need it on your shoulder if the bullets are all wooshy like that. Or we could add some more padding to your helmet… OR we could use one of those headsets. The ones we make out of the Ewman tech filter out the overly-loud noises and make the soft noises louder. We uh… we’d have to get one from somewhere though. Either ask the Ewmans for one or go buy one from the Grawl back on the surface.”

“Ooh, good point! We could put the gun anywhere!” Sylas grabs a couple of the stripped down rifles and walks over to their suit, place the weapon against it to see where it would fit.

It was nice to talk about technology. Just about every Zoomer had come to the clan because of an affinity for it, for space, or for stories thereof. But there were other important things to discuss too, “The captain wants me to go back to the surface and try to recruit some more people. I’d also like you to come with me for that, we’ll have a few boys with us too in case someone tries to start a fight and we can force some of the Ewmans to come too… but still… its gonna be risky.”

Sylas quickly makes a stand out of some metal poles to hold up the prototype while they converse with them. “I get that it’s risky, but we’ll just tell these Grawl the tale of how we used our tech to defeat the combined forces of the Aliyums and the Daqin or whatever they call themselves, and I bet there’d be a giant line of grawl who’d want to join us in our mission!” Sylas finally finishes the stand with that note, and then stands up, getting into their actual suit. “But even if there isn’t, I’ll still head along! I’ve been meaning to get some spare parts from the mainland anyways.”

“You’re right, I should be as confident as you,” Eedded said, “They can’t argue with us. We DID wreck that Aliyum ship AND the Daqin ships AND we’ll wreck the Ewmans too if they step to us.” She would look at the rest of this space colony for just a moment longer before turning back to Sylas, “You need anything else while we’re out here? Or should we get going?”

“Let’s get going! I’ve got a bit of a shopping list for the surface though, so let’s bring some goods to trade with.” Sylas straps their spear on the back of their suit, and heads off with Eedded.

It was on their way over to the supply crawler section that the two of them were confronted by an imposing sight, and the sound of something huge, bipedal and mechanical heading towards them. It must have been a ‘ewmie thing, but it was only recognisable as vaguely friendly because of it being too humanoid to be one of the Aliyums, and too beat-up looking to be a remaining Daqin straggler.
“Greetings, fleshy turquoise creatures. Because of your potential to accept a new colony near Yelton Veda, I have been sent to evaluate your species, and your potential for transcendence.” It spoke in a grating, electronic monotone. The thing had to be at least eight foot tall, solid metal, with an optimized ball-like torso and long limbs. The left arm was a huge fist, whilst the right simply terminated with a complex looking energy weapon. Looked like it had been painted midnight blue at some point, like those magnetic assembly boys, but it was distinctly faded and peeling away. “My designation is Exemplar Calabro. Advice is available on the construction and disassembly of armament technologies. However, do note that your relative technical ingenuity is the only reason why your case was chosen to be examined… Exemplar Powel finds your shoestring budget concepts… Amusing.”


The timing was a little convenient… Was it just waiting for them to leave town, in order to avoid approaching and looking like a threat?...
 

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“You’re Ewman man said we could have this place, just like they said we could have that Aliyum planet. You goin’ back on your word on this now too?” Eedded asked, not sure what to make of the new possibly-ewman-robot. She’d instinctively group up next to Sylas, half expecting him to need to make use of his new weapon. “And what are you trancindin? That sounds like some creepy cult stuff.” After all, Ewmans didn’t have a monopoly on weird religions, cults, and the like. The Grawla had their fair share of fringe groups that loved to use words like ‘transcendence’ to cover up for some other less desirable things.

“Shoestring Budget? It’s called engineering bot-man, and we’re good at it. What do you even want from us, huh?” Sylas puts a tentative hand on the hilt of their spear, prepared to strike against the robot in front of them in case things go poorly. Sylas also eyes the robot up and down, looking for a possible weak point in its design.

Eedded nodded sagely, “We’re really good at it. This is just a tube you filled with air and dirt, anyone could do that so don’t be getting too proud of it.”

“I agree with you on this concept. An easily fractured capsule, desperately attempting to convert the cosmos to accept a form of life only natural to one specific niche.” The machine-man spoke in the same dour monotone again. It lowered it’s gun-arm and raised a finger, but that might have been purely for Sylas and Eedded’s benefit. “But do not fret. I am not here to convert you to trans-planetary beings against your will. Anyone can make a remote control robot. Real transcendence requires freedom of the mind… I am here… Simply to offer you advice in reverse-engineering Daqin and Aliyum technology.”

The spear-wielding Grawla could identify just a few weak points in it’s tremendous metal frame, perhaps. The rubberized joints and tubing around the knees and lower torso didn’t look like they were designed to defend against close combat. There were those reflective red sensory devices, too.

“Tell me, native Hawking beings, how much do you know of computers? Automated systems?”

“We know all about the computers and the systems,” Eedded replied, looking skeptically at the robot in front of them. The grawla certainly had access to electronics, but it was nowhere near the ease of access to it that the ewmans did. Not everyone had a dozen devices to call their own, often there might just be one or two shared among a group, or a few mainframes used for megacalculation. Integrated circuits and chips were somewhat common… but many were scavenged from the ewmans. The ewman mastery of building semiconductors was certainly a sore spot. “We had a few in the ship for calculations and navigation.”

“That won’t do at all. Data… Knowledge, is the purest form of the soul! A species must expand their minds and grow their being, before a stronger body can take shape!” The machine began to ramble, raising its arms in the air. The bass-boosted effect of the voice was getting a little painful to the ears, and it might as well have been T-posing to assert dominance at this point. “You already pass stories from mind to mind, yes? You must let that knowledge stand alone! Or your species will remain in the stone age forever!”

“Ooooookay….” Sylas gives a few nods as the robot-man speaks, pretending as if they understand any of what they are saying before turning to eeded, whispering, “I think someone broke the robo’s brain, it’s saying nonsense!” Sylas then turns back to the Exemplar. “So, robo-man, how do we make the knowledge stand? Do we build a really big computer that holds a lot of knowledge all at once? Because we’ve tried that before and the computer caught fire.” Sylas removes the hand from their spear, believing that the robo-man doesn’t constitute much of a threat to them.

“This Ewman robot is weird.” Eedded said, still staying next to Sylas but also leaning in a bit so she could get a better look, “Do you think it's supposed to say those things? Maybe its malfunctioning...”
 

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Chapter 2: Where many Grawl have gone before
River City,
Planet Hawking


The Zoomers needed more Grawla.

The Ewmans had given them a whole space colony, and they had carved out a base on Azathoth. The remaining Zoomer ships were exploring the nearby planets… and in order to keep going they needed Grawla who were willing to work in space.

River City was the Grawla city closest to the Ewman city of Hawking. The sprawling city and the river itself were hidden under carefully grown tree canopies that made it impossible to see from space. Here the River-City Clan had made a deal with the Ewmans, keeping them safe from the other Grawla in exchange for free stuff. It was an uneasy truce, but also one that had survived hundreds of years.

It was here that the most progressive Grawla might be found,

It was here that the Zoomers had the best chance of recruiting help.

----

Eedded looked up from the back of their tracked Crawler as it reached the main road that serviced River City. There were dozens of other Crawlers in the immediate area, many bringing in raw materials and other more GRAWLA finished goods from the mountains, while others were taking semi-conductors and other processed ewman goods out to other Grawl. Some grawl were walking around with portable electronics, advanced tablets, and glossy trinkets, going to and from the various stores, bars, venues, and other locations along the river.

Other Grawl were more traditional. Some were standing ontop of boxes shouting, “THE EWMANS CONTROL YOU WITH THEIR GLOWING TABLETS! YOU MUST REJECT THEIR WAYS AND DESTROY THEM! THE EWMANS WANT ONLY TO DOMINATE YOUR MINDS!”

Eedded would slink down slightly upon seeing one of these preachers, hiding in the back of the Crawler with the rest of the Grawl, “I uh… heard there’s someone here who can help us. A small Grawl that’s captain of her own stolen space ship. She supposta meet us in a bar not too far from here…. Kiiiinda thinking we should ditch our suits for a little bit. Not every Grawl ‘round here might be too happy seeing Zoomers you know?”

Sylas looks very sad at the notion of ditching their suit, but does it regardless, putting on a trench coat and some slacks to cover up their pressure suit. They grab a tarp and quickly throw that over their armor. “So, we gotta meet the Grawl wit da ship, anything else? ‘Cause I need to buy some parts for some things im working on and,” they gesture to the dufflebag hanging on their shoulder with 7 scrapped Daqin guns and other miscellaneous scrap, “I have some stuff to trade for it.”

Eedded peaked her head out over the top of the crawler once again, eyes scanning around, “Yeah… we need to get some Grawl to follow us up. We don’t have the numbers to make use of all this space stuff…. Maybe keep the space stuff quiet. No one needs to know we’re zommers you know?” We should be able to find that all here. Lots of grawls tradin stuff too.” Wedded would get completely out of her suit, as did Dur. The two other Grawla switching into coats to cover up their pressure suits and Smeegees. As they switched it was easier to see just how badly they were injured. Eedded’s arm had healed up mostly… though her skin was still blistered and scarred on one side. Dur was much worse off, having taken a few shots to the chest and arms only a few months ago. There were bandages helping hold him together but full function still had not returned… but at least he was big and mean lookin.
 

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“Come on, lets go find this Grawl who’s got a ship.” Eedded said, banging her hand on the back panel of the crawler to signal the driver to stop, the Grawl climbing out the back of the tracked crawler and making their way into one of the buildings hidden just off the main road. The structure itself barely looked like anything, like with most Grawla structures it was built into earthworks, with thick dirt walls and lots of vegetation growing on it to better protect and disguise it.

But once inside, things were different.

The entire place was well lit, it had swept floors, and slightly tan walls made from some metal with poster boards all over the place where people were placing requests. There were plenty of Grawl here looking for things, and other Grawl looking to hook them up with those things.

“HEY! YOU GRAWL LOOK LIKE YOU NEED SOMETHIN!” A rather small grawl called out, climbing up onto a nearby table so that she was at eye-height with the new comers, “And I got ALL THE SOMETHINGS. Need someone to get you somewhere? Need to win a fight? Need some of those fancy Ewmanguns? I can get ALL OF THAT.”



“Ummm, do you have C12 Power Converters?” Sylas asks the aggressive Grawla. “Also, do you just have like a gun parts tote or somethin’?”

“I’M A POWERFUL SPACESHIP CAPTAIN WITH LOTSOGRAWL THAT LISTEN TO ME!” She shouted, causing Eedded to wince slightly from the sheer amount of loudness that this smallgrawl was able to put out. She took a step forward, closer to the edge of the table so that she could look even larger and more imposing, though it was pretty clear the table was getting close to toppling over at this point. “You should be asking for BIG THINGS like MISSILES or CANNONS or GUNCRAWLERS! I Can get you those you know… AND ALIYUM BLASTERS!...” The smallgrawl seemed frustrated, scowling at Sylas for a good few moments before pointing towards one of the Grawl off to the side who was standing by one of the job boards with another small group of Grawla, “That guy does sparky stuff. He’ll have your seetwelves or whatever…”

“We need more Grawls, and someone who can get us to that Aliyum planet from the surface.” Eedded added.

“Uuuhuuhh….” The small Grawl said, it was almost like you could see the gears clicking around in her head as she started to put things together. “WELL YOU CAME TO THE RIGHT PLACE! I can get you to the thing… I can even take you to some grawl that might be lookin to get gone from around here. Then you’re gonna pay me BIG for all that help!”

“Well we do have a lot of stuff to trade, so I’m sure it’ll be worth your while!” Sylas says, while looking through all the guns the Grawl Merchant has for sale, trying to find anything with a really interesting part or mechanism. “Plus, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of good scrap on the Aliyum planet, so there’s even more money for you to make!” Sylas puts their bag of scrapped daqin guns on the table, and opens it for the small grawl.

“This bag has all the parts you need to make 10 special ewmie guns. They're like smeegees that aim the bullet wherever you point a laser, and I'm sure we could trade these for safe passage, if you want some assurance that we have goods to trade.

“Special Ewmie guns?” The smallgrawl said, sounding extra-interested now that she knew there was something special to mess with, stepping forward and nearly causing the table to topple over before quickly taking a step back to steady herself. She realized she was kinda stuck standing on the table for the moment, “I’ll take your special guns, and uh… I need to look at ‘em first to make sure they are specialstuff. I’m also an expert in knowing whatswhat so if they AREN’T special guns then I’ll know.” The Grawl knelt down on the top of the table, and then scooted over to the side so she could get on a chair and then down onto the floor before walking over to Sylas to check out the weapons.


“Kinda battur-eez it got? Kompy-u-tahs?” A more gruff voice commented. A Grawl far more stout and robust in frame, but not all that much shorter; Perhaps it was to be expected that a member of the hill folk would see the value of the parts, over the gun’s use as actual guns… They were wearing a fancier shirt and skirt too, dangerously close to being a bit Ewime-ish, but the ridiculous amount of spikes and stuff added means they might have been important? “Us lot doesn’t do a lot of fightin’, but sounds like you lot got your heads kicked in… How come you sparing these sparky bits now? What’s wrong with ‘em?...”

Barely making eye contact and practically barging past Sylas, the stocky woman picked up a space-gun and just started turning it around in their hands. Trying and failing to find the battery compartment.
 

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Then they licked it, chewed on the upper casing a bunch, and gave their scraggly friend a disgruntled look.

“Tastes like crap... But I heard those high-space sparky anomul-guys don’ use metal, they use somethin’ else…” A trailing, annoyed gaze now, moving over to Eedded’s burnt arm, and then finally looking the blueish sea-Grawla in the eye. “What kinda tech dun’ use metal?”

“MY TECH! THEY ARE PAYING ME WITH IT!” The smallgrawl shouted out, running up to the new arrival and trying to reach for the weapon which was well out of her arm reach. She did seem to quiet up a little bit when she got that disgruntled look, “I mean, They are paying US with it! I’m makin a deal with them for their stuff and in exchange we just gotta fly ‘em around a little bit!”

Sylas stands there, trying to get a word in, before finally seeing their opening, “So, we gotta a deal or not? These ewmie guns are pretty expensive, and if you grawl don’t take ‘em, they’ll have to go to someone else who definitely gonna use the for scrap, and that would be a pretty sad sight.”

“YEAH WE GOT A DEAL!” The small grawl shouted, still trying to find a way to both be infront of the larger Grawl that had taken over AND also be taller than that Grawl which required a bit of struggling to get that gun back and then some additional work to run back to the table and grab a chair to stand on which involved her both grabbing a chair, putting it down on the floor, and then climbing up on top of it, “ALl your special ewman guns are now mine! ANd I’ll… uh, what’d you want again?”

“Transportation. Up to Space.” Eedded reminded the small grawl, “Some hardware for our weapons, and we need a place to hire some more Grawl to help us.”

“OH! What are you doin up there in space anyways? Its just full of Ewmans and stuff.” The Small Grawl’s eyes went wide as she put two and two together, “YOU’RE GOING UP THERE TO…” She squinted, then looked around, then lowered her voice so that just they could hear it, “You’re goin up there to get some of this good Ewman stuff and Aliyum stuff and stuff? And you need some people to fight some space-Ewmans or whatever and I know exactly who you should be talking to if you want to get some Grawl looking to kill spaceguys. We can takeya to those warrior-monks in the mountains. I bet they’d jump at the chance to go fight some space ewmans!”

The larger of the two bar greenies just shrugged, making a point of flexing their muscles whilst passive aggressively pretending to be disinterested in all of this.

“...You know these crispy folks are Zoomers, don’cha?” She just grunted towards the smaller one. “The last time we met these guys, they tried to crash our gun deal… Then we got roped into helpin’ em’ just cause I only had that nuke on me to stop ‘em from blowin’ us away…”
The boss Grawl took another moment to just absorb Sylas and Eedded’s reactions, making a point of unbuttoning the holster to a very nice cobalt-plated smeegee… It wasn’t that they were prejudice against Zoomers or Ewmans, then- The sprawling, thorny flower tattoos said they were probably going for a ‘foreigner’ sort of look themselves- but being forced into a one-sided deal in the past, that kind of put a chip on their shoulder.

“Last thing I want is a bunch of fellers looking to steal spacey-tech, in my spacey-tech ship… You understan’ that Taykk?... If these creeps are after that kinda thing, lettin’ inside is like the worst thing we could do…”

Sylas butts into the conversation,“We don’t need to steal your space-tech anymore! We have our own space tech at our destination, so you don’t have to worry about yours!”

Taykk look hurt, or at least sad, maybe upset in general? About to cry? Why’d she have to remind her that the ship didn’t belong to her? Taykk quickly pushed past that. After all if the ship listened to Yilga and Yilga listened to Taykk then it was like Taykk owned the ship anyways! “See! They want their own spaceytech! Its not like our spaceytech will even listen to them. We can just lock ‘em in the cargo area until we get where needs getting. Then we can get them to give us MORE Spacey stuff! I could be the OWNER OF SPACE because I’D HAVE ALL THE SPACETECH! Then you’d be rich too because you’d know me and I’d be rich. It’s great!”

Yilga just grunted again, looking like they had been dealing with this for months. To be fair, it was literally a low key mutiny. And it wasn’t like these Zoomers were just going to let them walk in, and take the good space tech...

“Whatever. I’m going to talk to Binska and find out what hard boys he knows.” Yilga finally responded, breaking out a cigar and lighting it. “...But they ain’t your lads. This is my lads… Some dinky pistols ain’t enough to be putting mine unique-like spechul ship at risk, but that big ol’ Aliyum ball has gotta be made outta some nice spechul metal, right?... We can do you transport for five ton of the stuff… Per trip… You can pick what my breaker boys mine out. How’s that sound? An appre- a honu-ra-b- A good long-term relatuiynship? We can take you other places, talk to other lads for other deals, too...”

Sylas turns to Eedded, just waiting for her to give them a show of approval, and, upon receiving it, nods their head. “Well it looks like everything’s in order now, huh? Let’s get going!” Sylas begins to head back to where they hid their armor, not keen on leaving it unattended for much longer, considering all the time they put into it.

Eedded nodded, “It sounds like we a proper relationship now. We need to get our stuff. Where’s your ship at? We can meet you wherever it is landed.”

Taykk practically jumped forward, “I’LL SHOW YOU! I’ll just come with you and make sure everything goes all proper like. Can point out the best places to get you all the best things while we’re goin through the market! Things will be all ready for you once we get there and you’re ready to hand over all those fancyguns for me to have!”
 
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