The knowledge obtained from the captured Others raised concern among the leadership of the human and draco communities. If the Others had found a way to harvest life-energy that didn’t require the death of the host it made it much more likely that some of the other communities of Otherwhere might consider dealing with them. Not every group liked the draco, some viewing them with deep suspicion going back millennia. The elves in particular (another humanoid race) deeply distrusted them. The fear was that they might make common cause with the Others. Some form of embassy was needed.
“I’m not at all against the idea,” Rory said to Leela when they discussed it one on one over tea, “but why us? We haven’t been here all that long, especially compared to the other humans and we don’t know anything about the elves or the other races, and elves? Really?” she said skeptically.
“Well we had to call them something,” Leela said matter-of-fact, “and that’s exactly what they look like. The last big influx of humans came from the 18thCentury, when I arrived, and stories about the fae folk were very popular. The name stuck. In fact, we theorize that contact between the world-lines was more frequent in the past and ran both ways. Likely the source of many of earth’s legends and mythos. Contact is much less frequent now. You’re the first new arrivals in over two hundred years.”
“That makes sense I guess, but back to the question, why us? I would think that you would be a much better choice.”
“You underestimate yourself,” Leela said. “You’re already one of my strongest adepts and your understanding of physical science from your 21st Century education allows you to apply it in ways others may not think of. I can’t go because I’m needed here. None of the council members can afford to go. Besides, with what you and your friends went through, you can make the strongest case of any of us why siding with the Others is a bad bargain.”
“I guess I’m just suffering from imposter syndrome,” Rory said.
Leela cocked her head to one side in question.
“It’s the feeling that you’ve been given responsibility you’re not qualified to have,” Rory explained.
“More 21st Century stuff,” Leela dismissed. “In my day you did what needed to be done or you failed. There was no point worrying about it. Your newness will benefit you. You won’t have the preconceptions someone who has been here longer will have. Enough. Let’s enjoy our tea and get back to your lessons. If you’re feeling like an imposter, than the best cure for that is more training!.”
The fact of the matter was that while the group was relatively new, they had taken to the experience well. The girls were mostly healed. Changed though. Dee was still wild, but had channeled her wildness. She was adept with a bow before they crossed over, hunting since she was a child with her dad, and had sought out a bowyer as soon as she was able. She practiced almost obsessively and was easily now the best shot in the settlement. Colin doubled down on his efforts with the sword for much the same reasons. He was more than competent. Technology in Otherwhere was a bit of a mish-mash but overall at a late renaissance level. The low population densities meant there was little competition for resource so warfare as know on earth didn’t exist. There was brigandage so there were weapons and warriors, but technique hadn’t advanced past early medieval. Astra had become quieter, more reserved. Not with her friends but with others. She lost interest in the stars. Too many associations she would prefer to forget. She had a voracious intellect and turned that to the physical sciences of this world-line, studying the history and geography of Otherwhere. She was easily the most observant of the group and seemed to be developing a talent for ‘reading people’. Rock thought it might be a bit of ‘spill over’ from her contact with the draco. Speaking of Rock, he was doing what he could to learn about humans. They were his course of study. Aside from occasionally hitting his forehead on low doorways he was fitting in quite well. He and Colin deepened the bond they forged on the rescue mission and were borderline annoying to the rest in the way a pair of over-active puppies might be. Astra explained ‘testosterone’ to Leela. She agreed it explained a great many things.
“I swear to God if those two high five over my back one more time I’m cutting them both off,” Rory fumed, “I never thought I’d miss Colin being jealous.”
“Oh poor princess, the two strong males like to double team me, waaa, waaa, waa,” Dee mocked.
“Oh like you have any problems getting laid,” Rory scoffed back.
“Jesus it’s blonde in here,” Astra rolled her eyes.
They both threw pillows at her. Of course the three were naked at the time and the two blondes ‘punished’ the brunette severely, much to her delight.
It was decided. The five of them would go as an embassy to the elven settlement to the west and possibly further. Their goal was to determine the alignment of the elves, neutral or with The Others, and possibly any other groups they were to encounter as well as finding out what they could about Other activity along their way. Rory was to be in charge as an adept. Colin and Dee would go as guards. Astra as Rory’s second and advisor. Rock would go in human guise and, as much as possible, keep his draco-ness hidden.
“Cause no one is going to suspect a seven foot tall hairless red guy is anything other than your basic run-of-the-mill human,” Colin smirked.
“Isn’t he cute?” Rock said, messing up Colin’s hair, Colin hated that. “He’s so fuzzy. Humans make such good pets, they’re soooo cuddly.”
“Get stuffed you overgrown Gila Monster,” Colin laughed, “Go sit on a rock in the sun and I’ll feed you bugs.”
“Crickets please,” Rock said. “They crunch nicely. If you paid any attention at all in the briefings, you would know that I can disguise that. I’ll still appear tall but to the rest of the world my skin will match your own.”
Rock would masquerade as a general laborer and assistant. His size supporting his seemingly menial role. Joining the party was another draco. The four friends met him a few days before they were to leave.
“This is my nest mate,” Rock introduced him, “His name is…” Rock sent an image of a vale of fragrant evergreen trees.
“Forest,” Dee said, appraising him speculatively. “I think we’ll call you Forest.”
He was about the same size as Rock, possibly more muscular. He appeared to be a little bit older and, instead of deep red, he was green, befitting his name.
“My mama told me…” Colin started.
“We will stop that right now, thank you very much,” Rory cut him off.
Rock raised a brow and looked questioningly at Colin. Colin cocked his head in their short hand for ‘I’ll tell you later’. Rory sighed. Forest would pose as a menial the same as Rock. Given their much greater natural strength, it wouldn’t be entirely a pose as they would be hauling the majority of the groups supplies. They would dress as the locals. Their 21st Century clothing was pretty much worn out from constant wear anyway. This meant pants for Forest too.
“They itch!” he complained.
“You get used to it,” Rock sighed.
Dee drew the line at wearing a dress.
“I have no objections to dresses or skirts, I have great legs, but I’m not wearing one while trying to fight.”
She made good sense and they didn’t think pants would be an issue with the elves. Dee had no issue with a bodice however.
“It makes my tits look huge!” she enthused.
“I feel like I'm going to Oktoberfest,” Astra said.
“We kinda live in Oktoberfest,” Rory agreed.
Rory was presented with the armbands of an adept. She already had a staff.
They gathered in the hall, ready to leave. Leela saw them off and wished them well.
“Support one-another. Keep alert, keep safe and remember to keep your staff charged with life energy,” she advised.
Forest yelped as Dee pinched his ass.
“Though with this group, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” Leela added to the general laughter.