Philosophy Of The Guild
Night was falling, and the Zoah forest was unusually quiet and still. Further down inside the blanket of trees, heavily shielded from sight, stood motionless a large ship resembling an Imperial craft in all but the dark grey tone and white markings of its float engine.
Inside the flight deck, in a dimly lit room decorated with consoles and switches, two men sat on simple chairs around a chipped wooden table. Aside from their heavy beige coats, they wore fairly thin brown clothing considerably more informal than you would expect to see on such a vessel. However this apparel was appropriate for the scorching days and freezing nights which you could “enjoy” whilst visiting the forest.
One of the men was quietly reading in the light of a small lamp. The other was sitting beside a large console. He was looking at a small viewscreen towards its right hand side. Slumped down in his chair, he looked half asleep. He sat up slightly and gestured at the man opposite, who looked up from his book.
“Look at this place. It sure is a lot quieter now since the Tower Of Uru got it’s ass kicked and stopped pumping out monsters after us. Damn, I wish I could meet the folks who did that.”
“Yeah that’d be great, Miren. But don’t forget, those monsters wiped out the Empire for us.”
“Oh, I love your way of thinking. Not like they didn’t try to send us the same way enough times! Besides, everyone knew the Empire’s time would come. Taking out a whole defenceless town with their big boy cannon. At least the freaks did the hard work for us. I mean, come on. Could you see us taking on Grig and living!? Heck, we couldn’t even raise the courage to take on that gunship.”
His partner sighed and nodded. “It could just as easily have been us. It seems that luck was on our side the day the Empire and Tower went down. Actually, luck was on everyone’s side.” He looked down at the table for a moment, and then looked up, confused. “Gunship? What, the one at Shelcoof? Well, if you wanted to take it on so much, you should just have gone right ahead. Did you see the thing it was towing? What were we going to do, fire tracers at it until it died? That thing was covered in armour.”
Miren was quiet short, and very thin. He had a scruffy beard and medium length brown hair, sculpted into some kind of nonexistent style. “Okay. So we don’t have much of an armament. But what do you suggest we do? Pass the monster the peace pipes? Let the Empire wreak merry havoc on the world?! We’re lucky the dragon got rid of it. You know something Rihn, I can’t understand you sometimes.”
Rihn had fairly long hair, much tidier however, and was clean shaven. Despite his great strength of convictions and knack for speeches, Miren still managed to remain sarcastic and unaffected for the most part. It was a wonder that Miren held the higher rank. Rihn reached into his coat and produced in his hand the book he had been reading earlier. It was small, black with yellowed pages. He put it down on the table and pushed it across. On the front cover, in golden ink, were written the following words, barely readable in the dim light at Miren’s side of the room.
PHILOSOPHY OF THE GUILD
YOU ARE THE REVOLUTION
Miren gave a loud sigh and placed his head on the table exhaustedly. The night watch had got the best of him again. Coupled with his stubbornness, it made him the kind of person you really wouldn’t want to have to explain something to. “Oh, great.” he muttered. “The scripture. Don’t tell me all about this again. I think I’ve heard it enough… Is that all you ever read?”
“Of course not. Anyway, it’s not a scripture. It’s a guide and it’s why we’re both here, why the Guild is around. We’ve been working within the Empire for decades, hiding in the shadow of evil, literally. I don’t mean to sound preachy at all, but if we forget what we came for now, we might as well never have.” His mission meant a lot to him. “Look, just read it over again. Look for the parts you haven’t seen.”
There had been rumours. Internally, a great deal of fuss had been made about it, but it disappeared as quickly as it had came. There had been talk within Imperial ranks of some sort of rebellion, an uprising. But as time went by and events in the Empire remained, for the much part, as the Emperor had meticulously planned up in his golden armchair, suspicions vanished and “normality” returned.
“Of course I’ve read it. I know why I’m here, as you’d put it. Anyway it’s about time, don’t you think! Revolution!? We never dared!” Miren laughed. The doubt he felt about it all was obvious. “Craymen and the Blacks had been planning stuff for just a tiny fraction of the time we have, and here we are. Just making a name now that old Big Bro’s out of the way. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a great deal of injustice out there and yeah, someone needs to act. But extending a hand to people around here generally means getting it chopped off. No one wants to hear it. As long as I know what I believe, I’ll be okay.”
“We all knew that we couldn’t overthrow anyone with the number we have. We had to wait for the perfect opportunity, and it was a miracle that it came. We don’t know if we’re out of the woods yet.” Realizing what he had just said, he sighed. “You know what I mean.” Miren nodded with a sarcastic smile. Rihn spoke of the Guild’s long standing reluctance to defy Imperial command. He continued. “As for the people, they’re just out for themselves, to find what they need to get by and provide for themselves. Sad thing is, they can’t be happy with the little they need when they do get it. They go off in pursuit of a lot and end up fighting each other for whatever is left. Eventually, everyone’s left with nothing and the cycle goes on.” He looked down at the blackened wooden floor.
The Guild’s founding principles had been noble, high hopes of an end to war and equal opportunities for all. But the harsh reality of life within the Empire had led them to work behind the scenes for decades. You had to watch who you talked to in the Empire, if you wanted to stay alive. No one was entirely sure who had written the Handbook, the Guild’s only real defining literature, and equal mystery surrounded how the whole thing had remained secret. It was widely supposed that the author had been discovered by the Empire and punished. However, the Imperials were not thorough enough in their investigations and copies of the book had already been made and given to those whom it concerned, and of course were guarded with utmost secrecy. Sadly, achieving these great hopes would not come easily to such a small band of people.
“Small” seemed to be the operative word throughout the Guild’s fleet. The crew stationed on this ship, the Surveyor Aurora, reached only a humble eleven. But the Surveyor fleet’s main goals were exploration and the gathering of information about the environment, so this number would have to do. It was probably the largest crew they could have assigned to such a ship. It was estimated that the Guild itself numbered only about 470 people, but a complete count had yet to be made. Only now were they really beginning to get things together.
Captain of the Aurora, a reconditioned Imperial Battlecruiser equipped with the best of the fleet’s geological instruments, was a man called Bahc. He was middle aged but with fitness belying his years. Possessing a strong will, he was doubtless the best possible captain for the crew. He held their own safety parallel to his own, but this often meant making decisions they did not like until they saw the benefit. At this moment, he was reading quietly in his quarters. As he had the only proper quarters on board, the rest of the crew slept in a large room at the back of the ship. The remainder of the vessel was devoted to instruments for the ship’s research.
The ship had recently received new comm systems, allowing communication between rooms and other ships in the fleet, should they be in range. Bahc could not see a better alternative to face to face conversation with his crew, but he decided to give the new system a chance. A burst of static pierced the room, making the two nightwatchmen look sharply towards the console beside Miren.
“Commander?” His voice sounded grainy through the system, but this was the height of technology!
“Yes, sir?” Miren answered, trying desperately to sound as though he was fully awake and ready for anything.
“I think I heard a noise out there. It’s probably nothing, but you should stay alert just in case.”
“Yes sir. I’ll notify the crew if anything develops.” He had known Bahc for quite some time, and there was a good deal of trust between them.
“Thank you, Commander. Out of interest, is anyone besides you and Lieutenant Rihn up and about just now?”
The two nightwatchmen looked at each other, then turned to look behind Rihn. Miren chuckled. “Well… Almar came to talk for a while, but he drank some of that illuminating stuff. Must have had something in it, because he’s out cold in the corner, I’m afraid. We thought it best to let him sleep it off. Should teach him though, huh?”
“Hmm… I’ll have to have a word. See that the two of you stay awake! Enjoy the night watch, over.” The comm fizzed again and then was silent.
Rihn sighed again and sinking down in his chair, was about to resign himself to another night of arguing with his comrade over the finer points of war and peace, when he heard a faint crash. The Commander had heard it also and looking up from the contents page of the Handbook, turned round and pushed a large blue button on the command console.
A shrill ring came from the directions of the three doors exiting the bridge. That was the crew notification signal, alternatively known as the “wake up, you lazy morons” signal. Miren spoke into the comm unit. “All crew, be advised. There has been an unidentified disturbance nearby. Proceed to operational status.” He deactivated the comm and turned back to the table. “It’s great, speaking with authority to the crew. Puts them in their place, y’know?” Rihn gave a small grin and shook his head.