Trouble in Tega
Additional Notes: In the original work, Mixsen was more moderate in his views about the Order of Innena. As such he clashed a bit with his fellow captain in Tega. Changing Mixsen's opinions helps to make things smoother in Tega, as well as build his character more than it had been.
POV: Mixsen Sobakaro
The new village of Tega finally came into sight. Finally, Mixsen will be able to do his first difficult assignment since becoming a captain. And probably test the new Zougar leather armor he was given.
When he put it on this morning, he had marveled at the flexibility it gave him, yet it had strength. He knew little about the Sulendirl who are killed for their skins, but they must be tough. And rare. Only commanders and captains are granted such suits, and even then only a few are lucky.
All his men following him wore less effective armor. A few had the money to buy chain mail or a few steel plates. Most wore plain leather armor. A couple of them had nothing but the clothes they joined the army in. They were new recruits.
All his men, few as they are, followed him. His troop was not a large one by design; they traveled to supplement the troop already stationed in Tega. They all knew they faced death. The Dookeni were not happy that Tega was built in the heart of their lands. It could be considered folly to try to defend the fledgling village. And yet, they all followed him. He outwardly showed more confidence than he felt.
Spear in hand, and sword sheathed on his back, he led the men onward. One Innen walked with them, a translator and negotiator for if a miracle happened. Thumpet, a young man who had once been bonded to a Dooken. And his new partner, a Failer named Gloobu.
"Sir, I still think we should just evacuate the village," said Thumpet after a while.
Mixsen did not answer. They had discussed and argued this point already along the way. In the end, they agreed to disagree.
"I know, it is a solution the Order would most support, but it may save everyone's lives," the young man said.
"Dookeni are the most stubborn of Gendirlo," said Gloobu.
"They are," said Mixsen. "But so are the people of Tega. They have nothing to lose."
Just as he had when being interviewed for promotion, Mixsen had explained his views on the Innen Order and how they treated people to the Innen present. He mentioned that individuals were fine and only followed orders. But the power the whole Order had was used to favor Gendirlo, which caused people to suffer. Gloobu refused to acknowledge any of his reasoning, but Thumpet at least had an open mind despite disagreeing.
"Perhaps their views are why the Order chose them to join my troop," Mixsen thought. "Convince me to empty the town, to comply with the beasts. Since they can't do it themselves."
It would not have been hard for him to do so. His commander had taken him to see a bonded Dooken, just to know how deep in the mud his troop would be. Only the extinct Hahklemems could outgrow and rival a Dooken. How can mere men fight something as large as a house? Stifling his objections, he silently accepted the mission. Nothing was ever certain in life; perhaps a wonder could happen, and no blood would spill. But he still saw the look of sympathy in his superior's eyes. Such a promising captain, and a group of young, innocent men, sent on a death mission. But more proven men could not be sacrificed here.
More time passed as they marched, finally reaching the center of Tega. Another captain, an older man named Lesbatho, led a smaller troop of twenty men already stationed in the village. Mixsen approached the man, an equal to him in standing, who stood alone.
"Captain Lesbatho," Mixsen said in greeting while nodding his head.
"Captain Mixsen." The title still sent shivers down Mixsen's spine when he heard it. Him of all people, a captain.
"Welcome to the humble village of Tega. My men will show your men where to set up their tents. You and I shall share a dwelling to conduct our business. And your… Innen shall join us later."
"We each have a name," said Gloobu. "I'm Gloobu."
"And I'm Thumpet, sir. I have once been bonded to a Dooken, so I understand how they think."
Lesbatho waved his hand to silence them. "Enough. You will listen to the both of us and follow your orders. Ignore any you may already have. We are here to keep Tega standing against those monsters, not to run and hide. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," Thumpet said reluctantly.
"Good. Mixsen, follow me. We have things to discuss. Aloben, show these men where to go."
Just as the two captains walked away, a young man ran over to guide the men.
"Is Aloben a soldier," Mixsen asked out of curiosity.
"No, he is the son of one of Tega's founders," Lesbatho muttered. "I have to treat him like he is useful, or his father won't listen to my advice. The boy's a brat."
Mixsen nodded slowly. Some people are born lucky, but he hated it when they took advantage of their luck. A few of his men felt entitled to having their voices heard just because they are related to men of influence. Rarely did they offer anything intelligent, but he listened just to humor them. Then push their words right out of his mind. Just another thing he had to learn now that he was a leader.
"I was told you were shown a bonded Dooken before your trip. What do you know about killing Dookeni?"
"Not as much as I probably need to know," Mixsen admitted. "Dookeni have hard outer shells like some bugs, but they have weaknesses too. I just don't know where they are and how accessible they are."
"Then our Innen could be of some use. Assuming it is true he had once bonded to one of these monstrosities. He would know their weaknesses and could teach your men. And you."
Mixsen nodded. "That will help, though hopefully it won't come to killing. I'm not sure either Thumpet or Gloobu would be willing to fight. Officially their only duty is translation and negotiation."
"Is that it? I expected they would try to talk us into leaving."
"I did too. And unofficially that may be their goal."
They reached a small single room wooden building that looked hastily built and full of holes. Even the thatching, the most important part of a structure, looked thrown together with little thought.
"Sorry if this house looks ready to fall. We haven't gotten many shipments of stone yet, and those we have gotten have gone towards making a makeshift wall," Lesbatho said with an apologetic voice.
"What wall?" Mixsen asked. He did not remember seeing a wall or even a fence on his way into Tega.
Lesbatho scratched his short beard. "There is part of one on the north side. A few feet tall but with gaps. It surrounds the farmlands, so we need a lot. More than we have."
"Oh, I see. Have you set up sharpened sticks or something for the gaps?"
Lesbatho shook his head. "Hadn't thought of that. May not be enough trees to do so. But trees are closer and easier to gather than stone. We barely had enough to build homes, as you can see."
Mixsen did not follow Lesbatho's hand, now pointed at their dwelling. "I can send some of my men east to bring some wood. Perhaps a one-week expedition or something. But only if we can afford to send them out. How bad are the Dookeni?"
"Come on in, first."
The older captain opened the unsecured door and gestured inward. A lit lantern already sat on a table made mostly of packed earth. Straw directly on the ground was Lesbatho's bed. Mixsen knew that would be what his bed was as well. Better than bare ground, but not by much.
Following him inside, Lesbatho grabbed a leather pouch hanging on a loose wall board. Flipping up the cover, he grabbed some dirty papers and set them on the table.
"These are scouting reports of Dookeni activity. We have yet to receive word directly from the monsters themselves, but we can infer that they are wanting us gone."
Mixsen carefully picked up the topmost sheet, noting how recent these entries are. One scout reported two days ago that three Dookeni stood just outside the incomplete stone wall, merely staring for several hours. Another report from a week ago noted a whole clan's worth of Dookeni off in the distance. More reports mentioned similar things, as if the creatures wanted to survey the village before acting.
"We will not, however, be abandoning the village," Lesbatho said in a solemn voice. "These people are adamant that they will stay here. They have little else to return to. You know this."
He nodded. He understood well.
"If we get a warning of an attack, we will try to evacuate the women and the children. If not, we protect them to our deaths. Whether we have to hide them somewhere, or use our bodies as a shield, that is our duty. Ideally it won't come to that. The more men we get, the less likely they will attack. In two months, another troop will arrive."
Carefully to not disturb anything, Mixsen put the paper down onto the stack. "I'm not going to lie here. I am scared for our men and for the villagers. I know this needs to be done but facing a clan of Dookeni is certain death."
Lesbatho slowly replaced the papers in their bag and put it back on the wall. He said nothing the entire time, leaving Mixsen to his thoughts.
It all had to be done. Guard this fledgling village. Face the Dookeni. Hope for anything but violence. But whether it could be done was another thing. He was prepared to die if things went as expected. But seeing the threat, the situation up close, did nothing but amplify his fears.
"You're not scared for yourself?" Lesbatho finally asked.
"I am. But I fear for the others more. I have the power to save or condemn them. They only follow."
The older captain shook his head. "No, you don't have that power. Not really. You have an order to save Tega. So do I. But we do not have the power to just leave. Only to determine how to go about things."
Mixsen sighed. "Well then, I still fear for them more than myself."
"But you still fear for your own life."
He nodded. It was true, after all. But he would not hesitate to give it up to save someone. One of the responsibilities of leadership.
"Then you won't do anything stupid and throw yourself away. Fear is healthy in small amounts. You are young and inexperienced; let me, over the next few days, help you become the captain Tega needs."
"Aren't you scared too that we all might die in our sleep?"
"Yes. We all are. This mission is folly, but the people here need to be protected as well as possible. And for them we give what we can, for the people of Dosjorya are the reason the army exists."
As always, if you have any questions or comments about the story, just let me know.