Written by Nero Shade
Edited by Chesterfield Taft
Sister Doreen took a deep breath before she knocked on the large wooden door to Matriarch Clara’s office. There was a quiet pause, during which Sister Doreen took a few more deep breaths and calmed herself down. She had never been asked to visit with the Matriarch personally in her office, but she knew it was going to happen sooner or later once she had been asked to organize the outreach programs. What worried her was that the request had only arrived an hour ago.
“Come in,” Matriarch Clara said from inside her office. Doreen took her last deep breath and opened the door. Stepping into the bright office, Doreen noticed the sparse feel of the room. The walls were bare, and the furniture was plain. The only decoration was a small sculpture of a tree that Doreen did not recognize. The desk was large and made of a dark wood. The seat Matriarch Clara sat in was plain red wood, and surprisingly not as large as was expected. There were several plain chairs, made of metal, and a few of them were already filled.
“Welcome Sister, please have a seat,” Matriarch Clara said without standing. She motioned to the four others in the room as she asked, “I trust you know Reverend Standfast, but have you met the others?”
Sister Doreen sat down, setting a briefcase down next to her as she looked around. Reverend Standfast was indeed there, looking even more serious and gray than ever before, but the three others were strangers to her. Each of them were dressed in simple, brown robes, which showed some signs of recent washing. One of them was a boar with a bandage over one eye, and the other two (a horse and an ape) both had small cuts and bruises.
“Sorry, but I don’t believe we have met.” Sister Doreen said as she looked at Matriarch Clara with a worried look.
“They are special messengers from the Barrens who have managed to reach us. In the Barrens they were charged to guard and deliver important information, and have now managed to reach us.”
“Aye, a service much appreciated. Your work and sacrifice will be rewarded, mark my words.” Reverend Standfast commented softly.
“Sister Doreen, how are the outreach efforts moving along?” Matriarch Clara asked directly. There was a pause as all eyes went to Sister Doreen, who calmly opened her briefcase and pulled out some papers. She flipped through them and separated out a few, which she passed to Matriarch Clara.
“After we finished the full inventory and worked out the logistics, we have been able to provide services of various kinds to many skylands in need. We have projected that we can continue our outreach for a period of one year, allowing for one major event, like the evacuation of one of our skylands.”
“I see,” Matriarch Clara said, “We may have that major event then.”
Sister Doreen looked around in surprise and confusion. The three messengers showed no sign of emotion as the ape stood up at a signal from Matriarch Clara. Clara looked at Doreen, “As I said, these are messengers from the Barrens, but they are not the only messengers that have been sent. They are just the only messengers who have managed to reach Skytopia alive.”
The blood drained from Doreen’s face, and the room suddenly felt very cold. The messenger who had stood pulled a letter from his robe and opened it.
“Matriarch Clara and the council of the Skytopia sector of the Holy Earthen Order of Magus,” he read, “It is most distressful to the Council of The Twelve High Priests that the world has been under siege by an unknown enemy. This group you have referred to as the Hidden Fleet has attacked not just your part of the kingdom but all parts. We in the Barrens, as you know, have been preparing for all future possibilities, and have defenses set for all types of attacks. What we did not prepare for was for an enemy to be as numerous, tenacious, and technologically advanced as this Hidden Fleet. We are under siege, and Alcuin’s Citadel is in terrible danger. We, the Council of Twelve, are calling out to our many colonies to send resources and pilots to defend the Barrens. We know that the Hidden Fleet is attacking all, so know that this is not a command. If you cannot send resources and pilots, then the peace of Magnus be with you. Know only that this is our darkest hour, and the temple of the Prophet is direly threatened. Please, respond quickly. We send our prayers and faith to all in this time. May the breath of Magnus carry you.”
The ape sat down, Matriarch Clara moved her hands from her face and looked gravely from person to person.
”We must send aid,” Reverend Standfast croaked out, his voice hoarse with emotion. His gold topped cane was clasped firmly in his hands, and though his back was straight and proper, his head seemed to hang lower than normal.
“I… I don’t think we can.” Sister Doreen blurted out in surprise and shock. “I mean, not right away.” She began digging into her briefcase, but fumbled and papers spilled out all over the floor.
“What do you mean?” Matriarch Clara asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I mean, I know I said one major event, but I didn’t plan for the Barrens having a major need. We would have to cut back, or even stop our outreach here to send help to the Barrens! Even then, we would be limiting ourselves here severely and might not be able to properly defend ourselves!”
Reverend Standfast asked sternly, “Do you know this? Or is this merely an estimate? Are you certain? Or are you just going off of memory? Besides, if the Barrens falls we will fall. We must send help, and we must send our best. The Council of Twelve High Priests may have said this is not a commandment, but mark my words, we better treat like one. It’s the will of Magnus that we do this. ‘Gaurdians of the Truth, Protectors of the Way, Army of Righteousness. These are the titles of those who fight in my name.’ and Magnus had said that the very spot the Prophet of Alcuin is now praying is sacred and needs our protection. If it was commanded, we should not hesitate to abandon Skytopia to fight in the Barrens!”
Doreen took a deep breath, “I’ve attempted to analyze it as best I can. I have inventory and pilot reports right here. We have 75% of our pilots flying at any given moment, the remaining 25% are resting, with rest times being around eight hours. The ones flying are running combat, escort, or delivery. Very few, if any are flying for personal reasons. As for supplies, without taking too much time, if we just go with that ‘One Big Event’ plan, we can cut our outreach program to six months and for a couple of months half of forces will be diverted to deliver and protect those supplies. I am certain that once the people working with me do the numbers, we are going to have severely limit our outreach, and our skyland protection flights are going to need to be reduced.”
Standfast looked deeply into Doreen’s eyes. Gradually, the hard lines of his face softened and he shook his head sadly, “I know it is difficult for you to understand; you are a Skytopian. You have never seen the Barrens, or had the chance to stand in the great shadow of Alcuin’s temple. The Barrens is the birthplace and home of the Order. It is where Magnus descended from the heavens to give us a vision of hope and wonder in this tainted world. You speak of numbers and estimates and how far you can push the endurance of a pilot. I will ask you, Sister, do you have a number for the will of an individual? I have studied and seen the different Factions of Skytopia. We do not have strength of arms, nor clever ingenuity, no. What we have is our faith and our will. If the Barrens falls, the people will have lost the only strength they have. For years, Alcuin taught us that we must seek out the world to bring the light of Magnus to those who could not find the strength to stand up against those who surrounded them. Year after year, like a benevolent father, the Barrens gave and gave of itself, never asking anything in return.”
Standfast shook his head again, looking down at the stone floor of the chamber, “Until now.”
Those in the room were silent, as the weight of the situation fell upon them like a heavy shroud. Matriarch Clara stood up and moved to the windows, looking out over Lhasa, she took some time thinking before addressing those in her office.
“As Matriarch, it is my responsibility to protect and look after the people of Skytopia. I am also bound to the Order to answer their call for help. If it was a matter of sending our surplus, I would just make this choice for our part of the Order, but I must follow my oath to look after the people. In cases like this I cannot ask them to sacrifice without first giving them voice. We must see if they can bear more sacrifice to send aid to the Barrens, or we must decide if all we can offer is our prayers and hope.”
She turned around, concern in her eyes. “May Magnus guide us.”
The Earthen Order must now come to a decision.
A: Send forces out to defend the Barrens. The Earthen Order in Skytopia will have a penalty to Supply/Workforce/Influence gathering.
B: Do not send help to the Barrens, risking its fall.
Faction leaders should discuss with their faction and then private message the final decision to Lord Gilbert by 11:00 AM Central on June 13th
You may use this thread for discussion if you wish.