It seemed that any time the Empire began to flex its strength, misfortune happened on some far corner of the Imperial Family's domain. As war raged across the African continent, a severe drought plagued the western steppe causing riots in small villages where the people were beginning to starve. Fort Myrina, standing on the Dzungarian Gate oversaw much of the administration to its north, sending riders and merchants carrying aid to the villages, but it was never enough. Jaya reached into her pocket as she turned and found a small piece of bread she had horded since breakfast, hungry herself, the old man deserved it more and she yelled out in Hindi to get his attention. "Food?" She knew he didn't understand her, but he understood the motion and ran across the barren field to grab the bread out of her hand, eat it ravenously and then scamper back across the rocky hills. Sighing, the Indian woman turned back and pushed her black hair over her ears and began trudging to the fort.
Life was difficult outside the walls of the fort, though Jaya felt it was just as bad within the enclosed stone walls. Amazon fortresses formed the backbone of the west's defense, but as women will be, it was a complete nightmare to live in an ethnically diverse society with both men and women vying for influence. The Austrians and Chinese always received special treatment and made up the majority of the officer's corps. Tartars, Mongolians, Indochinese, Koreans, Japanese, and the Slavs formed the next tier of influence and then at the bottom were those of the far reaches of the Empire, Arabs and Hindus. Jaya reasoned herself that if she was given full knighthood by the time she was thirty five, it would be a miracle.
Walking into the bustling fort, the Hindu Squire dropped her head and thought about dinner before a hand grabbed her by the shoulder. She jumped and yelped for a moment as a tall Austrian woman chuckled. "Captain Schroeder, sorry Ma'am, I didn't see you there."
"It's no problem Jaya, I was looking for you actually, did you just come back from the north?"
She shook her head, "I walked, only about five miles to the hills, there was a man begging for food."
Schroeder nodded and pushed Jaya along with her as she walked deeper into the fort. "I need you to do something for me, Jaya, the Chief of Leopard Village came here today. The village needs all their hands for crop production right now, but there is an Apprentice Shaman who needs to get to the east coast to continue his studies. I cannot spare any of my guards right now do something, especially because the Chief cannot offer any repentance. However, we have to maintain good faith with the villagers and I figure since you are still an apprentice yourself, this might be a learning experience."
"Going off into the wilderness with just two people?"
The captain laughed, "Stick to the roads, Jaya, its not the wilderness. This is less dangerous than a road trip. I'll have horses given to you both, supplies to last two weeks, and a bit of coin in case something happens. But something, should not happen that makes this journey anymore difficult. Understood Ravipati?"
But the Indian had heard stories about the Tianxian countryside, especially the western edges where the traditions of the Steppe were kept very much alive. However, she didn't have a choice, she was a squire and a squire could never disobey a command by a superior, let alone an Amazon who had served for over ten years. "Of course, Captain, it won't be a problem."
Schroeder led her into the hall of the fortress where two Chinese men were tending the fire and another younger man sat alone at a table. "This is the Apprentice who will be in your charge," she said gesturing to the young man, "This is Jaya Ravipati, a Hindi Squire, she will be leading you across the Steppe." Said the Austrian as Jaya stared into the Nomad's eyes.
"Greetings," said the Indian, "And you are?"
Edited by Sarah Tintagyl, 24 December 2012 - 12:48 PM.