• Published 23rd Apr 2013
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That Others May Live - CptBrony

Two USAF Pararescuemen must search through an unknown land to find their charge and make it back home alive.

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Foreign Relations

Foreign Relations

The remainder of the trip to the capital was uneventful, but everyone had their guard up just in case. They watched the hills as if they might come alive any second, like they were itching to devour the group and swallow it into the never ending wasteland of the desert.

In the last day, they had lost two stallions to wounds sustained in the battle. One had what seemed minor injuries, like small cuts and whatnot, but infection had evidently occurred, and he fell. The other had been stabbed in the chest and bled out over time. Through the remainder of the trip, he was talking in a raspy, resigned voice. “أذهب الآن إلى نهاية كل شيء.”, he kept saying.

Now, the men were told that they would be approaching the city by mid day. It was about 1000 hours.

“So, boss.” Frost initiated. “What do you think we’re gonna see in this city?” He looked up to the sky and put his hands out, like he was beholding some magnificent treasure. “Will we see a glorious city of gold and wonders? Of wealth and triumph?” He let his hands fall down unceremoniously to his lap. “Or will it be a city of poverty and despair?”

Duke chuckled a bit and looked forward. “I think we’ll find out real soon.” He pointed out in the direction that they were heading.

They could see a large city behind a large wall off in the distance. The wall was tall and looked extremely strong, and it loomed over the city as if trying to remind them of the dangers of the wasteland. Behind the wall Duke and Frost could see only a few very tall buildings with a very ornate one in the middle. Presumably, this was the palace. It was tall and white, with golden rings going all the way up the towers at increasingly short intervals. It soared over the buildings that surrounded it, casting shadows over them when the sun was in position. From outside, it seemed to be a glorious city indeed.

It took only a little more time for them to reach the gates to the city and the tall, overbearing sentry towers overhead. At various placements around the base of the wall there were small guard houses with stallions flowing in and out of them constantly. The wall itself was maybe fifty feet high and would block out the sun at any time other than noon, which was not far away. The hot sun bore down on the caravan as it stopped before the gates.

Afaf got out first, followed soon after by the rest of the stallions, and he approached the gate guards. Frost was looking up at the wall while Duke was observing the conversation between the guards and Afaf. The stallions clearly knew each other from the way they bantered, and when they finished Afaf pointed back at the humans. The guard looked and went wide-eyed.

He yelled, “فتح البوابات!” The gates began to open.

Afaf walked back over to the men and pointed into the gate. “Welcome to Akhal Teke. The greatest city in Saddle Arabia.” He turned around to leave, and the men glanced at each other.

“Well, let’s go. Shouldn’t keep a king waiting.” Duke stepped forward and Frost followed.

They fell in behind Afaf as they walked through the giant wall and into the city. When they emerged, the men had to admit that they were impressed. As soon as they got past the wall, there was a bustling city before them. Street markets abounded with all sorts of patrons, horses, little horses, and even griffons, haggling away at the little items that were offered by the vendors. The buildings were mostly two levels high, with rugs or clothes hanging outside most of the windows. They all wore garb that reminded the men of Saudi Arabia back home, and all the stallions were carrying weapons.

“Afaf,” Frost began, getting Afaf to turn around. “Why do all these guys have swords twice the size of my arms with them?”

Afaf laughed. “No need to worry, friend.” he said. “They do not carry them because they expect to fight. They carry them to defend the city against invaders. They will not harm you.” Frost nodded and went on scanning his surroundings.

They walked through the markets with little trouble. The only trouble that they got was from merchants trying to stop them to sell them their wares. Some sold jewelery, others clothes. Some sold food and water. “Boss, let’s get something decent to eat.” Frost suggested at one stand. Duke conceded with no regrets, and Afaf bought them some roasted beef, which they devoured voraciously, getting some looks from the horses around them.

They went on through the market unscathed and proceeded to the palace. When they got there, Duke and Frost stopped at the base of a set of stairs that led up to the front door.

Duke whistled. “Now THAT is a palace.”

The ornate building towered over them, reflecting the bright sunlight off of its gleaming walls and golden arches. The window frames seemed to be polished white marble, blinding and glorious to the eyes. At the base of the walls, there were murals of great battles, all with one stallion leading his soldiers from the front lines.

“Guess that’s supposed to be the king.” Frost stated flatly, never being one to be impressed by those who need to catalogue their deeds so publicly. “Must be a real fighter.”

Duke nodded. “Yeah. I bet he-”

“Men!” Afaf called, already going up the steps. “Please, we must hurry. Even you should not keep the king waiting.” He turned around and trotted up the steps, and Duke and Frost cautiously followed behind.

They approached the front door of the palace, a massive set of double doors with more depictions of great battles on them, only now, they were carved into the door and frequently lined with either gold or gems. Frost continued to lose potential respect for the king as he took in the size of the doors and how much crap was on them. “That could be much better used to improve your kingdom” he thought.

Afaf stopped about sixteen meters before the doors. “Just follow my lead.” he said to the men, who simply nodded in reply. He nodded back, and they walked forward to the door. “تحياتي!” Afaf announced.

The guards at the door, there were two, got into battle stance instantly, almost drawing the same reaction from Duke and Frost. “من هو هذا؟ وما هي؟” they asked aggressively. “كنت قد أفضل إجابة بسرعة.” Afaf swallowed hard at their words, enticing the men to put their hands on their weapons.

“هم البشر، من أماكن بعيدة. يمكن أن تساعدنا وسوف تفعل ذلك في تبادل لمساعدتنا.” Afaf replied. The two guards turned their heads and looked at each other incredulously, then looked to the humans behind Afaf. There was a hint of recognition in their eyes, and they retracted their stances and stood at attention.

“شكرا لك.” Afaf said, walking past the guards. As Duke and Frost walked by, they observed the guards closely. Both looked extremely nervous, like they knew if they messed up, they would be beheaded. The men walked past and ignored it, seeing as it was none of their business.

The inside of the palace was even greater than the outside; everything was decorated. The tables had purple cloth draped over them with a silver chalice or candlesticks on each one. The pillars that held up the palace were wrapped in ornate golden ropes that went from the floor to the ceiling, almost a hundred feet above. From the ceiling, there were crystal chandeliers with bright, burning candles in them, odd for the daytime. The windows that let the light in were all stained glass depictions of either more battles or some ancient event, like the crowning of a king and queen.

The floor was unbelievable; it looked like the tiles were their equivalent to Pietra Firma, but obsidian tiles with dozens of diamonds placed into them. They sparkled and glistened in the light, giving the floor the look of the night sky, twinkling stars dominating black background. There were red and purple carpets everywhere, creating more of the feeling that this was the house of royalty, where peasants dared not traverse.

They quickly made their way through all the wide and lavish hallways to the throne room door, constantly under the nervous and ashamed eyes of the guards, who resided in every corner of every room. The door was large and gold, with emeralds and sapphires cut into patterns to resemble grass and water, two things that this region clearly had little of.

“Wait here.” Afaf ordered, and walked over to a guard in front of the door. They began to speak, and the men decided not to bother listening this time.

“What do you think they’re gonna want from us?” Frost asked in a normal voice. None of the horses around them would understand anyway. “We need to find OGA, and they might know where he is. They’ll want something in return.”

Duke grunted. “We already got involved in their war. That’s probably what they’ll want from us.” He looked over to Afaf and the guard, who were having a heated exchange for whatever reason. “But I can’t help but think that this isn’t how we want things to go.”

Frost chuckled. “When have things ever gone how people want them to go?” Duke chuckled back, and they ended their conversation.

Afaf returned, fuming, and stomped past the men. “What happened?” Frost asked, nervous about what they might have to deal with.

“سخيف الحمار. The king is ‘too busy’ to see us right now, even though we sent him a message explaining what is happening. We cannot see him today.”

Duke frowned. “Then where are we gonna put our stuff?” he asked. “We can’t just leave it outside to be stolen.”

“No worries about that.” Afaf replied, waving a hoof yet still walking. “Your other things will be sent to guest rooms in the palace. You will also be sleeping here tonight. But you will not see the king until tomorrow.” He was clearly not happy about this, but as long as they had their stuff, the men didn’t really care.

“Why the offense?” Frost asked. “Maybe something came up.”

Afaf sighed. “You are unfamiliar with our culture. This I forgot.” They stepped outside and back into the blazing sun, but this time, they were in a garden. “Here, courtesy and respect means much. We told him we would be here, so it is expected that we will be received. When we are not, it is clear that we are not worth his time. Considering who YOU two are, this is great offense to all of us.”

Duke shrugged as they entered the garden. “Well, you never know what might have come up.” he began to explain. “If the kingdom is under serious attack anywhere by those jerkoffs we met on the road, he might need to deal with that. That’s pretty important.”

Afaf put his hoof to his chin and stopped, considering this. “Maybe you are right.” he said. “But we will not know until tomorrow.”

They walked through the remainder of the garden in silence. It was a magnificent garden, with all kinds of amazing desert flowers and foreign plants growing in it. There was a big marble fountain in the middle, the water being spewed from the mouth of the statue of a well dressed stallion. “Is this the king?” Duke asked Afaf, who nodded. He nodded to himself and they continued.

The garden quickly ended, and they found themselves in the street. They were in the wealthier section of the city, clearly, as all the houses had at least three levels. There were very well dressed horses everywhere, often trailed by a less nicely dressed one. “I guess this is the wealthy district?” Frost asked.

Afaf nodded, now smiling big and waving his front leg around. “This is the best section of the city. There is never crime here, and the residents are the best you will meet.”

The men looked around more, taking in what they were surrounded by. The horses were all traveling around in small groups, accompanied by servants, and were laughing and having a good time. They seemed decent enough.

“No crime, huh?” Frost asked. He was looking at a servant mare who was being reamed at by her master. He struck her, causing Frost’s jaw to clench. “Then what do you call that?”

Afaf looked around, apparently confused. “Call what?” Frost pointed forward. “Oh, that? They’re just slaves being given discipline. No need to worry yourself about their masters.” Frost blinked twice, then looked at Duke, who was also speechless. They didn’t give half a damn about the masters; What about the slaves? “Come, let me show you the traditional ways of the markets.” Afaf lead the men out of the wealthy section, with Frost looking back at the abusive master and his mare-slave.

They walked on back to the markets, where Afaf was to show them how to haggle. He stopped at a jewelery and bauble stand that was selling mostly necklaces and wristbands that would barely fit most human wrists. Duke and Frost stood next to Afaf as he haggled away, trying to take in the ways of the country. “You speak Equish?” Afaf asked the stand owner. The owner nodded. “Good.”

They went at it in ‘Equish’, Afaf trying to buy two necklaces for one hundred fifty bits, apparently that was their currency, as opposed to the in hundred seventy-four that was written as their price tags. While he did that, Duke stopped paying particular attention and paid more attention to his surroundings, leaving Frost to listen to the haggling. He noticed that few in the marketplace were actually looking at them now, either not caring or being too afraid to. When he looked into the eyes of one of the small horses, it shied away, trying to hide itself in a crowd.

His scanning was interrupted when a voice cried out. “سرق أموالي!” Duke looked to his right where the source was; there was a mare yelling and pointing after some stallion that was running in Duke’s direction with a sack in his mouth. The others in the crowd also yelled, but none made a move to stop him.

When he got close, Duke stepped out and extended his arm out, causing the stallion to slam into his forearm and crash to the ground. Afaf and Frost turned around, stunned and smirking respectively, and watched as Duke walked over to the grounded stallion. “No.” he said, putting his foot on the stallion’s side. He tore the sack of money out of his mouth and turned around.

The victim had already run over to get her money back, but slowed down when she saw that it was Duke, and not a stallion or griffon. When she stopped in front of him, she swallowed hard and looked terrified.

“I believe this is yours.” Duke said, extending the sack out to the mare. She looked at it, then him, then back at it. Then she took it, muttered something, and turned and ran off. Duke was left to scratch his head. “Odd.”

Frost slapped him on the shoulder. “Nice work, man.” he complimented. They both looked around at the gathered crowd. “But maybe it’s time to split.” Duke nodded and they turned to Afaf.

“One moment.” Afaf turned back to the mare at the stand and said some things, which were quickly followed by him receiving the necklaces at a greatly discounted price. “Here.” he said, giving them to the men. “You earned a lot of respect just now.” The men took the necklaces and gave their thanks and the group walked back to the palace.

They went back through the wealthy district, Afaf saying how, “It is safer this way.” the whole time. The men were unhappy about going back through the pretentious section of the city, but obliged in an effort to avoid being rude.

They walked through the area with little happening. The residents occasionally gave them passing glances, but always kept their eyes off the men, like looking at them would give them eye cancer or herpes or something. They seemed to have no desire to associate with anyone who wore working clothes. “Pompous jerkoffs.” Duke muttered out of Afaf’s earshot. Frost had to agree.

Pretty soon, they were back to approaching the palace gardens. They were about to enter when Frost heard something nearby. “كيف تجرؤ أنت تنظر لي في تيه العين!” It was followed by the sound of a body hitting the ground like a brick and a cry of pain.

“You guys head on,” Frost said, intent on investigating. “I need to check something.” As he walked away, Duke and Afaf exchanged glances, then quickly followed behind Frost.

They didn’t talk, but they knew where Frost was going. They followed him all the way to the source of the scuttle, a mare lying on the ground with a very unhappy stallion over her. “لقد حان الوقت الذي تعلمته مكانك!” the stallion yelled, raising his hoof.

Before anyone but Duke could say anything, and he didn’t, Frost was next to the stallion, holding his hoof in place in the air. “I think not, buddy.” The stallion turned and looked at his aggressor, and paled as soon as he laid eyes on him. “You speak Eng- Equish?” The stallion nodded. “Good. Now, hear this; you aren’t ever going to hit anyone ever again. Got it?”

The stallion swallowed. “No, I do what I want.” Frost squeezed the stallion’s leg hard, making him fall. Afaf yelled something in the background, but Duke was holding him back. “No, you don’t. It’s guys like YOU that I hate, who make the world suck.” He out his hand on the handle of his FE9. “Now, are you going to hit anyone ever again?”

“Hah!” a male voice shouted. Frost looked up at a stallion who had burst out of the house. He was quite large. “Release my son.”

Frost smiled. “Sure.” He tossed the son to the side and stepped in front of the mare, getting between her and the new guy. “So to whom do I owe the lack of care?”

The stallion snarled. “You have attacked my son.” Frost shrugged. “You show us great disrespect with this.”

Now it was Frost’s turn to frown. “Well, you showed her great disrespect. So why should I show you any?”
“She is a slave. She-”

“You know, I’m getting really tired of your crap. Now I’m gonna tell you the same thing that I told your rotten apple.” He pointed at the mare. “You can either never hurt anyone like her again, or I can make sure you don’t.”

The stallion growled. “You want to stop me from treating my property how I wish?” he asked. He pulled out a five inch knife and held it in his teeth. “Then take it.”

Frost turned around and looked at his companions; Afaf looked horrified, but Duke just looked impatient. “You can do this now or you can keep wasting time.” he said. “Just do something.”

Frost turned to the stallion, a wide smile splayed out across his face. “Alright.”

The stallion, still growling and snarling, moved the knife so that he could speak. “Here are the rules; we fight to the death, unless one of us yields. The winner gets any three things from the other that they want. Such is our way in this city. Do you accept?”

Frost nodded, hand on his knife. “Yes.”

The mare and son got away from the action, leaving Frost and the stallion alone in the street. The stallion held his knife out, smiling confidently. Frost had been waiting to say this for a long time. “That’s not a knife.” he said in his best Crocodile Dundee voice, pulling out his FE9. “THAT’s a knife.”

The stallion gaped at the nine inch blade and dropped his own knife on the ground. Frost took the chance and got right up in there, holding the knife firmly against the neck of the stallion. “Submit?” The stallion nodded, slowly, to avoid cutting himself, and stepped back.

Frost stepped back, satisfied at a job well done, and thought about his demands. It didn’t take much thought. “I want her.” he said, pointing at the mare. She walked right over to him. “I want...” he forgot what he was asking for. Lost, he looked to Duke.

“Some beers.” Frost nodded and repeated that to the stallion, who grumbled the whole time he had his slaves get the things.

“And last, I want you to release your slaves.” The stallion clenched his jaw and didn’t do anything for a moment. “Well?” He sighed a frustrated sigh, and called his slaves before him. When he released them, they all cheered and ran off, except for the mare by Frost’s side. “Good.”

He turned to her and extended his hand. “Are you alright?” She just looked up at him, scared, and he knelt down, still extending his hand. “Can you speak... Equish?”

“Yes.” she responded automatically. She put her hoof in his hand and stood, though wobbly.

“You’re free to go now.” Frost explained, turning around and going back to his companions. “Do as you like.”

The group of three walked off towards the gardens, leaving behind many elated slaves and a very angry family. “Well, Frost. You just made us plenty of nice friends but one probably powerful enemy.” Duke shrugged. “But I doubt that it’ll come back to us. You know, things going how we want them to and all.”

Frost shook his head, sighing a happy sigh. “Well, it’s no different now than when we were operating in places like Kandahar or the Triangle of Death. At least we know how to operate.” Duke chuckled a little at this and they continued on.

They walked through the garden gates, and right after, they heard a clatter of metal on metal right behind them. “ماذا؟” Afaf shouted, spinning around to see what was going on. The men turned with less gusto, not as caring about what was going on. There were the two guards at the entrance stopping the passage of a mare in rags. “نخرجها من هنا!”

The two guards started moving to grab the mare, but Duke and Frost stepped forward. “Stop!” they both shouted. The action halted instantly, the two guards looking back curiously and Afaf looking confused. The men stepped forward to get a look at the mare.

It was the mare that Frost had gotten away from that stallion. She was held back by the gate guards, apparently having tried to follow them into the garden. The men took a better look at her; she was an alabaster mare, short, more like a pony. She had a blonde mane that looked like it had been scuffed up daily and a messy blonde tail. Her eyes were a striking blue, like those of a Husky.

“Are you following us?” Duke asked. The mare nodded. “Well, you deal with this,” he ordered, turning to Frost. “I didn’t cause this.”

Frost sighed. “What is your name, mare?”

She shrunk away, getting as small as possible, and replied, “I am Amel of Kyrg.”

“Why are you following us, Amel? We don’t like being followed.” He moved closer as he finished his statement to emphasize his point.

She looked up at the two guards, nervously, then turned her head to face Frost. “I want serve you. It is all I know, ever since I was little. I not do anything else.”

Frost knelt and put his arm on his knee. “You know, we can’t really take any servants or slaves. That’s not what we do or what we need.”

“Let me go with you!” she said, catching herself right after shouting. She quieted down considerably, almost whispering, “Please. They will hurt me if I don’t have someone who protects me...”

Frost inwardly sighed and looked to Duke. Duke looked at him flatly, his expression saying, If you don’t choose now, I’ll choose for you. He glanced back at the mare, contemplating his options. She wanted to travel with them, but she didn’t understand what they did.

“Tell you what.” he said, standing back up. “You can travel with us; but there are some rules that’ll come with this.” He looked down at her, trying to be intimidating to dissuade her from wanting to go with them. “One: we will be busy A LOT. We won’t always be around, so you can’t expect us to be. Two: What we do is dangerous, more than you will know. You have to be able to handle yourself and do exactly as we say in the event that danger comes to us. Three: Whenever we stop in a town or city, you will remain in the town or city.” He turned to Duke, who was looking on with his own contemplative look. “Anything else?”

“Yeah.” he said. He stepped forward and walked between the guards, making a clearing. “You absolutely will not touch any of our things without us giving you the okay.”

The mare swallowed hard again and looked between the two humans for a time. She could see the hardness in their expressions, their faces conveying to her just how dangerous it would be to go with them. She could tell that there would be a lot going on with these two in the near future.

“Okay.” she said. Duke nodded and Frost took in a deep breath. The guards moved aside for the mare to move in and the men turned to walk to the palace. Afaf looked at her with disdain before turning around and walking away. She followed quickly, fearful of the royal guards at either side of her.

As she caught up to her savior and his friend, she couldn’t help but wonder about just how much change and excitement would come with the arrival of these two beings of legend. She wondered if they would bring as much excitement as the last one, if they would be able to do as much as he had. She wondered if they were as strange as the last one had been.

But most of all; she wondered if going with them was the right choice.

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