The view through hyperspace was reassuring in one way… It looked like the area of destruction was only spreading at lightspeed; given that it was… eight or nine light years to the nearest inhabited system, the place would surely reset before it got too far.
Still, it really shouldn’t have been possible for the realm to distort that way unless something was VERY wrong. Why would the Old Empire be under that much stress? Were too many people moving to the New Imperium?
Besides… If it was only spreading at lightspeed, most of the fleet that had been after them might have escaped as well; they’d know they were losing contact with the inner units and could see it though hyperspace just like they’d been able to. They might well have a problem; the fleet could have picked up on their course when they went closer to try and observe.
It really did make Kevin feel sort of uneasy.
(Kevin) “Marty? I could try to fix it. I’ve no idea what would happen though.”
(Marty) “Haven’t we done ENOUGH damage today?”
There wasn’t any more time for musing; the gravity well alarm was going off. They’d either mis-jumped (not at all unlikely) or they’d hit an interdictor.
Marty cut the drive moments ahead of the automatic system. The well would force them out of hyperspace anyway, and the further out the better. Unfortunately, travel in hyperspace was a straight line thing, the only way to maneuver was in normal space.
Back in normal space, they were almost on top of a gas giant, and were coming in fast…
Aw crud! Natural hazards weren’t nearly as much fun as arguing with Darth Vader! – or at least so Kevin had heard; he’d never actually gotten to meet the man!
Marty frantically thrust laterally to try for an atmospheric bounce, while Kevin got the shields up at maximum. Their forward momentum was pretty high… Evidently they’d picked up quite a bit of kinetic energy from that gravitational wavefront when they’d entered hyperspace. They dipped through the upper reaches of the atmosphere, and the shields flared red as the atmosphere of the gas giant went from minus a hundred or so to a couple of thousand on impact. They hurtled through the upper reaches of the atmosphere like a comet, wrapped in a ball on incandescent flame.
For several tense seconds as the ship twisted and lurched they were flying blind, unable to see past the incandescent gas surrounding them. It seemed a lot longer than it really was before they once again emerged in to vacuum, and left the gas giant behind…
Well, if anyone lived there, they’d just become a very impressive omen.
Hm… It looked like the shields were going to need a while to cool down. Otherwise there wasn’t any real damage.
(Marty) “We were LUCKY on that one.”
(Kevin) “I’m so glad we aren’t doing this in Core! It’s HARD to be that lucky there!”
Marty got himself a drink and tried to figure out where they were. “Off course” was obvious, but it would be nice to have a little more definite than THAT.
Hm… It looked like they were way off course – and that they’d traveled a lot further than they should have given the travel time… It looked like they were in the outer reaches of the galaxy, in the Vesperi system. Not too much information on the Vesperi, except that they were a species that regularly traded sizeable diamonds for various pieces of technology.
(Marty) “Do we need diamonds, Kevin?”
(Kevin) “Can’t think of any reason – except maybe as trade goods – and we’re stocked with food anyway, not tech.”
(Marty) “Ah well. Let’s remember that in case we need them later.”
(Kevin) “I think we’re a long ways off from the pesky tomb archive though”.
Marty had to agree there… At this point it looked like the fastest route to the Tomb Archive would be to jump along the rim of the galaxy for about a quarter of the way and then to track inwards along one of the spirals; there was more clutter there, but it was also a lot better charted. It’d take about two days. At least they probably hadn’t been followed through that.
Meanwhile, the Thralls had been manning the instruments and monitoring communications… There were reports going out about a major hyperspace, of rebel activity, and about two Jedi who’d been captured and scheduled for execution in a weeks time. Otherwise not much other than local rubbish.
Hm, Jedi… Well, they weren’t Thralls, but the Robots might want to help (it didn’t seem likely, but it was possible). Apparently a Jedi Knight – name of Shorlen – that had been in hiding for some time and his new padawan, Marlene. According to the reports, Marlene’s family (“loyal Imperial citizens” according to the news) had reported them to authorities when the knight had offered to train the girl. The pair had kept ahead of the hunt for four months, but had recently been caught by stormtroopers. Apparently they were being held at the Ghershwin Station in orbit around Kelsin. A prison station frequently used by the Empire for prisoners with a high potential to escape. Odd that they would broadcast the location like that.
Well, that was too bad if true – but Kevin REALLY doubted they the Empire would be handing out information about where in the galaxy two Jedi knights were being held unless they were just bait (if they existed at all). Personally he’d bet that this bit of “news” started getting announced shortly after their little battle and escape… Of course, the Empire would probably think that they had a new superweapon, a new drive system, and rebel Sith or Jedi aboard.
Marty didn’t mind a rescue operation – but he had to agree with Kevin in this case. It was always fun to rescue anyone who was imprisoned – but in this case, they might not even exist, there were only two of them, they had millions or billions to rescue elsewhere, and they’d have to go WAY out of their way for it.
Besides; this was Star Wars. Holding Jedi captive was just asking for an unlikely escape anyway.
Perhaps they could make the Tomb Archive this time without a disaster… Marty hated to pass up an infiltration and fight, but he set a course for Korriban, the Sith Tomb Archive, and the Hoslin Moon. He’d kind of like to get the robots home first anyway.
The journey to Korriban was fairly peaceful – although they were glad they’d paid for the high-end maintenance package; it meant that the ship was well stocked with food and drinks. The trip was shaping up to be the longest time they’d spent in the ship thus far.
The interdictor alarms went off again as they well before they entered the Korriban system… It looked like a sphere of interdiction units spread around the entire system, along with a great many capital-class ships, mostly concentrated near the edge of the system and near Korriban itself.
Well, at least they had more time to react this time around, since there was no hyperspace disturbance hurling them along.
Marty voted to smash through the blockade!
Kevin voted for dropping out a little bit earlier this time.
Marty went with that one. The interdictors might have special tricks.
They dropped out of hyperspace outside the range of the interdictors and tried some passive scans… It looked like… a great number of interdictor automated defense platforms surrounding the system, with signs of very high speed ships bigger than fighters but smaller than capital ships running patrols, and what looked like a large concentration of capital ships around the moons of Korriban itself. The large concentration of warships near the edge looked to be derelict at the moment, although there appeared to be some sort of salvage operation going on… The derelicts near the edge seemed to be Imperial Star Destroyers, while the capital ships near the moon looked to be Clone Wars era.
(Marty) “What the? Have we had two universes merge, or is something else going on?”
(Kevin) “Somebody was attacking a place with an outmoded defense fleet here? The Hoslin may have been on the defensive – or may still be. We’re in an expanded-universe variant I think.”
(Marty) “Well, let’s see what’s going on.”
Well, it looked like the interdictor net was too tight to get past – at least with any reasonable plan – under most circumstances. On the other hand, there was a pretty significant gap in the shell near the location of the destroyed imperial fleet.
They coasted quietly through the gap, and through the defense net, on low power – and drifted up to the salvage operation. It looked like the defenders were working on clearing a path to tow the super star destroyer out while rushing medical teams around while also trying to recover three of their own ships. There were tugs bringing up more Interdictor defense nodes out to plug the hole in the net. Hm. It looked like they could probably get to the outermost planetary defensive layer of Korriban and the three moons before they’d be spotted.
On the communications traffic side, there was a lot of traffic on what might be salvaged and updates on when defensive shield repairs would be completed. Also lots of traffic from the patrols on no detection of Imperial stragglers.
They decided to go ahead and announce themselves. They needed to figure out how to get by the Korriban planetary shield anyway, for which they’d want some data.
“Ebon Hawk requesting safe passage. We’ve got some of your droids and would like to return them to you.”
They put the droids on. “Ebon Hawk” might have some troublesome associations – but the droids should have some recognition routines or something.
(Horatio) “This HFS090 reporting. Request authorization to return to base. HFS092 and HFS097 are onboard as well as a several force trained and one nonsensitive. Transmitting identification codes now. Over”.
(Comm) “Understood HFS090, please bring the craft to a halt, power off any weapons and lower your shields. An escort is on the way. Any deviation from this will result in a us opening fire.”
Oh well. A little paranoia on their part was probably in order at the moment.
A patrol group took up formation around them and escorted them to one of the Republic era star destroyers in a distant outer orbit around planet that has separated from the pack it was in. Hm… There were some active psychics (OK: “Force Users”) in each of the patrol ships escorting them. An unusually large number for the setting. Presumably the “Hoslin” methods actually had a fair success rate.
(Comm) “We are now sending over a shuttle to meet with you and perform inspections before you will be given docking clearance. Please standby.”
There were some pretty extensive scans, including some pretty unusual ones.
(Comm) “Alright, you are now cleared to dock with the Lasting Presence. Follow transmitted directions.”
Marty did… Hm. Tractor beam, underbelly flight deck, internal shields to restrain the ship, a company of men with heavy weapons, a group with a loudspeaker… Well, they’d had friendlier welcomes.
(loudspeaker) “Welcome, I must ask you to please disembark and allow us to search your vessel.”
They got out with the droids.
(Kevin) “My they’re cranky. Oh very well.”
(Marty) “Can you blame them? They just finished repelling Imperials.”
(Kevin) “Well perhaps.”
(Lead Hoslin) “Sorry for the precautions. I am afraid the current situation is very tense right now and your timing couldn’t be worse. My name is Tethel Arans and welcome to the Korriban system. I hope our droids did not take you hostage and force you to come here?”
(Marty) “Well, technically…”
(Kevin) “Oh well, they wanted to come here, and it was on our route anyway.”
Hm… It looked like a fair number of the Hoslin had souls although – as usual – the bulk of them did not. Still, it must have been a reasonably popular variant at some point. Given the galactic population, even small groups of souls were notable – and it was unlikely that all of the ensouled people in the system were in this particular detachment.
(Tethel, the detachment leader) “Ah I suppose that is good, I was concerned there for a moment. Those models had issues from time to time on determining priorities. Since the droids were merely tagging along, may I ask what brings you here? I am afraid there is a war going on and outsiders coming in unannounced is met with a great deal of skepticism and paranoia.”
(Kevin) “Actually, we needed to pass through the Tomb Archive to reach Necropolis.”
(Tethel) “You wish to pass through that gateway? I must admit a certain concern for your sanity given the things that occasionally come through to this side. Whatever lies beyond is most certainly not going to be pleasant based on what we have managed to learn from those we capture.”
(Kevin) “Part of a chain of gates we need to pass I fear. And, since you are aware of gates – are you in need of an emergency evacuation route? And do any of you have the ability to control gates?”
(Tethel) “We are currently unable to use these gates although we have met travelers who could in the galaxy. With our cover blown, we are going to have to evacuate anyway. So much for the best laid plans I guess. Problem gets to be the sheer number of people we need to get out of here.”
(Kevin) “A lot in the system? Or are they concentrated in a particular area?”
Marty was considering that as well… Necropolis definitely wasn’t suitable for them – even if the gate had been big enough, and if it was in one of the tombs, it certainly wouldn’t be – and the Hawk wouldn’t be much help in an evacuation with capital-class ships available.
(Tethel) “Mainly concentrated on the three moons of Korriban, we do have some teams on Korriban itself trying to seal it off from the Emperor before he can get his hands on it’s secrets though, but not very many.”
(Kevin) “Well, if you had a gate that could handle capital-class ships, and a way to control it, how long would an evacuation take?”
(Tethel poked at a calculator in his wrist.) “Looks like we could finish the evacuation in under three days.”
(Kevin) “Sorry about the delay Marty, but it’s sort of obligatory… Comes with the job. (To Tethel) What sort of world would suit you?”
Blast it, this was going to be yet another hit on his power reserves – and dropping off Thralls to help with local problems was cutting down on how much they could gather and store for him far too quickly. Still, he couldn’t leave people who needed a gate without one.
(Marty) “Hmm… how much of a stir do you think they’d make in Ealor?”
(Tethel) “Preferably one compatible with our abilities, although this blasted Dark Side is highly frustrating to say the least. I am sure you understand, as it looks like you are force trained as well.”
(Kevin, to Marty) “I’d rather not put the Hoslin in the New Imperium. It’s likely to lead to conflicts.” (To Tethel) “Oh well, we cheat – and don’t spend much time here.”
(Marty) “How about the Old Imperium then? There’s enough Dark Side business going on there that they’ll have plenty to do! There’s got to be someplace they could use as a secret stronghold!”
(Kevin) “Hm. Most of the second circle should do… I wonder how they ‘d do on the fringes of the Battletech universe?”
(Marty) “How are you guys with exoskeletons and walkers? My friend and I know just the place!”
(Tethel) “Exoskeletons are rather useful if you lack the Force talents some of us have, and walkers are a major part of Republic and Imperial military armaments.”
Marty spent a few minutes telling the Hoslin about the Battletech universe.
(Tethel) “Sounds like a very backward place dearly in need of sanity and intelligence.”
(Kevin) “If we stick to the fringe between Battletech and the New Imperium, it should be out of the way of either, still let their abilities work, and yet drastically weaken the whole dark side-light side thing.”
(Marty) “Which can’t be bad for any form of Star Wars…”
(Kevin) “All right, where would you like a gate set up?”
(Tethel) “Preferably in orbit around Korriban in the same plane as the moons, although not necessarily too close to the moons themselves.”
Interestingly enough, they didn’t seem to have any trouble accepting Kevin’s ability to open gates… Either they’d gotten a very high-speed report from the droids – and trusted them a lot – or they’d encountered an Opener before.
They also wasted no time in starting to haul stuff through… It looked like they were going to try to get as many of the derelict ships as they could – including the super star destroyer – through the gate for later repairs.
Well, that was sensible enough.
Kevin hated to be dropping off more Thralls – but he’d make sure that it was going well and then leave a couple of Thralls to operate things if the Hoslin didn’t think that they were going to need more help desperately. Still, he’d be that it would take the Empire more several days to get another fleet here anyway, especially with the chaos that would surround the hyperspace rift. Still, the Hoslin were the local precognitives; it would be simplest to ask.
The Hoslin were of the opinion that the Empire would take the time to gather two or three fleets together and then try to overwhelm the defenses by brute force. That would take time – although the fleets had proven difficult to track, likely due to the Inquisitors on board. They suspected that they had less than three days.
Blast it. That meant making ANOTHER gate.
That – and the pair of Thralls – cut the evacuation time down to a little under two days.
That still meant spending a day.
The Hoslin had quite a few inquiries about how the ability to open – or at least operate – gates was learned, as well as inquiries about any news of survivors of the Jedi purge or the Hoslin assassination attempt on Palpatine.
Kevin provided his usual explanation – that he provided the ability to operate gates along with a variety of other enhancements – but checked with Marty about the news inquiries. Should they show them the original movies and some of the “expanded universe” books and stuff? It would be turning their entire worldview upside down.
Marty’s basic vote was “Why not?”. After all, it would be enlightening, and it might even give them some useful intelligence.
Kevin and Marty explained rather extensively to a modest group of the higher-ups – while the Thralls explained to some of the local kids. The fact that the package included a full set of “Force Powers” was especially fascinating. In fact, thirty or so kids were really interested.
Unfortunately, their parents found the entire notion utterly unbelievable, and forbid them to have anything to do with it. They were going to be in for a shock when the kids that were REALLY interested – who badly wanted to have “Force Powers” – suddenly acquired them simply because they wanted to work for Kevin.
Meanwhile, quite a few of the higher-up ensouled types were watching the movies and looking at the novels. Quite a few of them were pretty exasperated over the idiocy shown at times – and lamented that they had lost so many to a cause that could not be won. Others mentioned that they suspected as much given what they had heard from travelers…
Kevin and Marty explained that much saner worlds existed, and could be created – but when you were dealing with an essentially-infinite multiverse, there would always be weird corners. The trick was that no one HAD to live there.
(One of the Hoslin) “It makes one wonder who comes here leaving ensouled offspring at times. And whether they consider the consequences to those they leave behind.”
(Kevin) “Well, souls do sometimes simply arrive – but yes, a lot of people are irresponsible that way.”
(The Hoslin Council) “Very well then, we shall allow you to land on Korriban and transit the gate there. And if you can slay some of the Sith spirits down there, so much the better. We will be activating the containment system once you are through though, so do not try to come back the way you came. Sorry, but we cannot allow the Emperor to have access to the secrets those tombs hold.”
Ah, that solved a problem; the HOSLIN had erected the negative-energy shield around Korriban, and it hadn’t yet been put into place here.
(Kevin) “It shouldn’t be a worry – but thank you for the warning.”
They had to leave yet another Thrall to pilot the Ebon Hawk elsewhere though, which took them down to six spare aides along.
They landed once again in the now-familiar Valley of the Lords. As always – if perhaps a little newer -massive statues of Sith lined the valley and monolithic tombs stretched for as far as the eye could see. The tomb they sought was the final resting place of Darth Nihilus, a major Sith Lord in the years following Revan’s disappearance. Darth Nihilus was said to have been a wound in the Force itself, having given himself over to the Dark Side so completely that little of his body remained save a black and partially-insubstantial mass in a vaguely humanoid shape. He was said to have eaten all the life force of a planet to sate his hunger for life energy.
Well that sounded like a fun guy. No wonder he’d wound up wandering over to the Necropolis.
The entrance to the tomb was surrounded by war droids facing inwards behind several layers of defensive barriers. The lead droid noticed their approach and saluted them.
(Droid) “Greetings. I have been informed that you are to be allowed to enter the tomb of Darth Nihilus. Is this correct?”
(Kevin) “Yep! I take it you’re preventing things from coming out?”
(Droid) “Indeed that is correct, all sorts of nasty things come out of the tomb with a certain degree of regularity. The Hoslin find their… existence difficult to tolerate and thereby have left a division of us droids here to fortify the area until the wards can be completed and the Emperor kept at bay.”
(Kevin) “Well, I hope that turns out well. We probably won’t meet again, so good luck.”
(Droid) “Thank you sir and while I also agree that we will probably never meet again, I shall wish you luck.”
(Marty) “And off we go… So, Kevin, how long before things go pear-shaped?”
(Kevin) “Oh, probably about five minutes. When we walk though the door and run into whatever doesn’t want to come out and face the Droids.”
The inside of the tomb was utterly dark. The air was heavy and oppressive, it felt hard to breathe, and their lights seemed to grow dimmer with every step, doing little or nothing to illuminate. They could see where the granite and obsidian used in constructing the place had begun to crumble – apparently due to the aura of corruption and negative energy that filled the place.
Marty voted for heading for wherever the aura felt the strongest. That would be a sure way to Necropolis!
That led them into the depths of the catacombs – where they heard the sounds of something awakening in the depths and ran across numerous corpses – mostly dismembered or partially incinerated – along with remains of a great number of droids, similarly mangled. Some even looked to have been destroyed by lightsabers.
As they left the entrance behind entirely, masses of undead seemingly came out of darkness itself to surround them – and started moving in to attack.
Well, they certainly didn’t look very bright.
Kevin had the Thralls spin a small illusion – of all of them being just more undead – and released a burst of negative energy. He should be able to dominate quite a few of such minor unintelligent creatures – and that would lend some credibility to the illusion. Marty could hold his ability to enhance the others in reserve in case things went to combat.
Hm… It looked like the aura in the tomb provided a pretty hefty boost to the powers of darkness. That probably said some nasty things about Necropolis. Still, it made it awfully easy to compel a lot of the minor undead.
They had them take the perimeter and kept moving. Fortunately they had some directions; the Hoslin had had a pretty good scan of the place – and knew the rough location of the gate.
That is if it hadn’t been buried entirely. As they went deeper, the stone itself was crumbling into dust and sand as the aura of decay chewed away at it’s structure. By the time they reached the second level of the tomb, the aura was so oppressive that it was starting to drain them, despite their resistance…
It couldn’t possibly just be leakover from Necropolis. After all, normal human beings lived there – and this would kill any normal human being in moments. Either it was force-based, something that came from all the caskets – apparently belonging to numerous minor Sith – that lined the walls like some sort of honor guard for Darth Nihilus, or it might be something that only happened with undead Sith in a dimensional overlay zone.
Of course, the fact that most of those caskets appeared to have been forced open from the inside was a bit disquieting (or would have been if they hadn’t fully expected it).
It looked like the gate had quite an overlay zone around it. It had been open for a very long time. (Marty) “Perhaps since the beginning of this universe?”
(Unseen voice) “I sense intruders, foolish ones indeed if they think a little illusion and some dark side energies are going to fool true Sith.”
(Kevin) “Entirely possible. This may well be an unstable version; the Hoslin were part of a later attempt by the owners of the properties to bring a level of sanity to the EU through a series of movies, books, and games called the Secret History of the Republic that were published in the 2050’s… Other than that, I can’t recall many references to the Hoslin anywhere, so this is a secondary continuity… Oh, we have company.”
Hm. They were currently on the second floor, and the gate was supposed to be on the third; it might have expanded – and it looked like some of the lower levels had collapsed anyway. It might be accessible not too far away… Ahead about 25 feet and down. There was a section of the floor about two feet across where the gate overlapped onto the second level.
Marty was pleased; he’d been working on learning to sense the things – and that agreed with what he was feeling.
Kevin figured that he could easily push that a bit and get them through – but you never knew what you might learn from a bit of conversation.
(Kevin) “Hello there! Would you be Mr Nihilus?”
Meanwhile, he ushered the Thralls up to the gate and set up protection from negative energy charms, since they were going to the Necropolis.
(Unseen Voice) “Lord Nihilus cannot be bothered by by simple flies such as yourselves. And we are most bored with fighting droids. We shall vent our frustrations over our entrapment upon you.”
(Marty) “No need to get grouchy, just passing through… sheesh.”
(Kevin) “Ah well. Too bad; there might have been some useful information to be had.”
(Marty) “And what information were you expecting to find in a tomb of a vampiric sith lord capable of eating planetary biospheres? Or dare I ask? How to do just that?”
Somehow Marty didn’t think that learning to devour entire biospheres was going to help his court case to allow child visitation. The courts tended to frown on that sort of thing. It probably wouldn’t be of any help to Kevin either – even if he DID show occasional flashes of darkness and ruthlessness, he could just hear him now “And what would be the point of that?”. He almost hated to say it – but the Core really had something in their educational program. Destroying things just because you could, and pure ego-gratification, seemed to be pretty much foreign notions to the Core Kids. They even seemed to understand themselves too well for even basic stuff like reproductive urges or sexual jealousy to really take control.
(Kevin) “Who knows? Maybe he ate someone who knew something about the war, or was acquainted with the prior death, or used to hang out with famine or something… Ah well.”
Kevin sighed… There was no point at all to staying to fight some random phantasmal undead in a crumbling tomb surrounded by guards, on a world that was about to be sealed off, in a universe that would almost certainly soon reset – and spiritual negative energy attacks could inflict some pretty nasty injuries.
Blast it! At this rate he’d soon have to start tapping into his personal reserves. He’d made the gate to the New Imperium, tweaked it to borrow some gravity, and then closed it in a rush (a good thing the realms were so closely related). He’d then had to make two gates for the Hoslin to escape through. Of course, with better than a dozen Thralls in the initial group there’d been plenty of mana – but then he’d had to keep dropping them off! Too bad he hadn’t found any recruits on this trip so far… And the Thralls had said there were some real possibilities among the Hoslin kids too; evidently the ones who DIDN’T inherit force powers often wanted them really really badly – and signing up with him would be one hell of a short cut even for a kid who was sensitive to begin with.
Oh well. He drew on the remaining Thralls, fed a bit of Mana to the gate, and pulled at it a bit. It was already open, all he needed to do was shift it twenty feet or so…
The gate opened up in a expanding sphere of blackness that swallowed up the floor of the tomb. A thwarted cry of rage faded away as they found themselves in the middle of a field with a stone fence around it. The grass was yellow and dead, the moon above was a thin crescent, and the wind blew the dead branches of a nearby tree against each other in a quiet rattle. It was cold, and dank, and thin and narrow streamers of cloud were strung across the heavens.
Hopefully they would NOT be meeting the Baron. Voodoo was a slightly different tradition than gothic horror.
The next gate was supposed to be in the lands of the DemiLich Necrosis. Of course, in a place like the Necropolis, it might well be harder to cross a few hundred miles of “civilized” territory than it had been to cross the Star Wars galaxy… They’d have to make some inquiries. Still, it looked like there was a glow of city lights to the North and – beyond the low stone wall – there was a cobblestone road headed in that general direction. The fences continued along the sides of the road; they looked like the classic “stack of stones removed from the field” that could still be seen all across Europe – even if it was mostly as intentionally-preserved scenery these days.
The repulsor-sleds they’d been using to move their trade goods in the tomb had become carts. Large and heavy ones… Hm. Magic was very strong locally, although holy and positive energy spells would obviously require a lot of power to function correctly. Gray and black magic, however, looked to be quite easy – which suited Kevin just fine. Still, it looked like there would be a tinge of darkness or necromancy to almost any summoning spell, so calling up some horses directly wouldn’t exactly be ideal.
A bit of massed TK got the carts over the fence and onto the road easily enough.
(Kevin) “Marty? Do you think it would be better for the Thralls to be disguised as horses and such?”
(Marty) “Yeah, otherwise we might get offers to buy the fresh meat, and I think you value them more than that!”
(Kevin) “Fair enough. Daniel, Gerald, Bard – neodog forms, but don’t talk unless it’s really urgent or you’re sure no one’s watching or they already know. You six, cart-horses. The girls can stay in ferret-form for the moment.”
The Thralls shapeshifted – and they got them harnessed up and set out.
Sadly, Kevin didn’t realize offhand how exceptional the Thralls were as horses; he was used to the steeds of faerie anyway…