My name is Tryule Mitharl. When I was born on the colony world of Anobis, they placed a coin in one hand and a knife in the other as is the way of my clan. We are Zabrack, We were also a family of traveling merchants. Times were tough but we were happy. We had a good life traveling from city to city in our loop. We were established and known, the Mitharl Free Trading Company. I learned early that I had a knack for fixing things; tools seemed to come alive in my hands. I could see how the pieces should fit in my head. It usually seemed obvious what was wrong to me and how to fix it. I was never good with people but beasts seemed to like me. I felt comfortable with them and they, in turn, seemed to like me. I was taught how to take care of them and the wagons. We rode in. I was not a good merchant. I couldn’t seem to “feel the deal”, as my father would say. He would talk to me about pace and how to close but it just didn’t work for me. My brothers and sisters all seemed to fit but I always felt like an outsider looking in. I would go off by myself and wander. I know I was loved but the wild places called to me. I would pretend that I was a great explorer discovering new lands. My grandmother started to have me look for plants that she would use in her medicine, to make my absence more palatable to my parents, who said “He has things he should be doing at home. He doesn’t need to go galavanting around when there is work to be done.” Grandmother would tell them to give me space, that I walked a different path. It made me feel special when she said it but it also made me more of an outsider.
When I was five, our caravan was attacked by bandits. They were driven off but many of my aunts and uncles and cousins were injured and two were killed. Two more eventually died of their wounds, from that point on things were different. Grandfather said that we had things too easy and had forgotten our heritage. We picked up the knife again and began to practice daily; men, women and children learning the dance of blades.
When I was ten I was sent to the home world, Iridonia, to learn to fight, defend and take care of myself. It is a harsh world with harsh people and it teaches harsh lessons. I was taught how to take a beating by my class mates, who didn’t like off-world scum being better than them. So I started to fall behind in all my classes; I learned to hate learning from books. But in any practical class where we were taught hands on I just couldn’t seem to help myself. I learned to dance the Menefrett and soon the ones that picked on me learned that if they wanted to dance with me they better do it in groups of three or more. Most of them decided to find other dance partners that wouldn’t step on their face so much.
When I was eighteen, we were taken for our final wilderness survival test. If we passed we would be given our accreditation and go forward into the world almost assured of jobs as scouts. The graduates of the school are highly sought after it is a mark of distinction to graduate such that a third of the students are from wealthy houses that just want the social standing of having a graduate or at least attending the school. We were dropped on a desert planet and left to survive for a month. We were given a beacon that we could use at anytime; of course, if we used it before the time was up, we failed the test. There were 100 students in my class and about a third of them won’t take the final test, either they don’t have confidence in themselves or their parents forbade it, of those left one in seven will die. This is not a children’s game, as I have said our planet teaches harsh lessons. About half of those remaining will pass. We are told that we should survive on our own merits. Some of those dropped form teams of two, three, sometimes four. The rules don’t forbid it they just encourage you to do it on your own. Each person is also given a token. You are awarded more points if you can capture or steal them. The record before my class was 15. I was nowhere near the record.
The first week, I spent establishing my camp just trying to make sure I walked out with life, let alone my token. I buried it a mile from my camp. I figured that if someone did jump me they wouldn’t profit from it. I was out scavenging for food when I came across a cache from one of the previous year’s students. If it had been more than a year I don’t know if there would have been anything left. The way it was created made me think of my training and how we were taught to do things. It was just a guess but it was a good guess. It made me feel closer to that other student and not as alone. I liked the idea it seemed good to me, so I set up three caches just in case something happened to my main camp. I had found a drip spring of water it was enough to supply what I needed for the day but not much more. I got some clay and made a catch basin so that the water wouldn’t just keep disappearing into the ground. I found some obsidian and made some knives and was rough tanning some hides. I was just sun drying the meat. I wanted to show the school that I learned my lessons well and that I could survive as long as I needed to do so.
At the start of my second week I was jumped by four of my class mates. They decided that my spot was too good for off-world scum. When I pointed out that on this planet we were all off-world scum. They didn’t seem to think it was funny. They roughed me up and took my best knives and broke the rest then as I lay there barely conscious they ate all my supplies, broke my catch basin and left me to my fate. I think they thought I would give up and die or quit but I was not going to let them win.
When I woke up it was night, they were long gone. I dragged myself to my first cache and found that one of the mice-like creatures had broken into it. There was a little left but not much. I didn’t begrudge the animal its mean, it his planet after all. I can’t say I was happy but I still wasn’t ready to quit. I was too sore to go farther so I passed out where I was lying.
I drifted in and out of consciousness and finally came to as evening spread its cloak over the earth. I staggered to my feet and made my way to my second cache. I remembered my training and tried to be careful and stay to rock and not leave a trail. Thankfully it was still intact. I ate some food and covered myself with some of the raw hides that were there. It’s funny but it gets cold in the desert at night. The next day I was feeling better, I was thinking about repairing the catch basin when I heard voices. It was them. I seem to remember them wondering if I had learned my lesson, wondering where I was and most frequently them wondering if I had more food. They had found the drag marks and the remains of my first cache. They seemed angry that the water basin hadn’t miraculously fixed itself. The leader of their little group, Saven Kotan, slapped one of his minions and told him how stupid he was for destroying it. He of course failed to mention the fact that he told him to do it in the first place and laughed while it was being broken. Suddenly, he sniffed the air and said, “I know he is alive and close but I don’t know where. I can feel it.” The others stared around but I stayed still and they didn’t see me.
I crawled back to my cache and started thinking hard. I still felt weak but I was getting stronger. This cache would last a day maybe two and I would have to move onto my next one and pray that it was still whole. I ate and slept and ate and slept.
Saven’s little group had taken over my camp. They kept looking for me and judging by what they were saying it was not to see if I was ok or needed any help. I headed for my last cache, a little unsteady on my feet, trying to be quiet and stay out of site. I had just gotten to my last cache when I heard the scrap on the rook behind me.
It was Kaal Koth , Saven’s chief lieutenant. He was big and strong, a good tactical thinker but not a strategist. He said “I was hoping I would be the one to find you. I knew you had more food than what was in your camp. Saven thinks he’s so smart. But I knew, I knew a merchant’s brat would bring me what I wanted.” He grinned at me and it didn’t seem like a happy grin to me or at least not a happy grin for me. Then he said, ”Well, I guess one of us is going to eat well tonight.” I said “Well I guess one of us is,” then I let the the sling stone drop from my hand in its pocket, gave it a quick whirl and shot him in the balls. I was aiming for his head but I was sore and tired and never very good with a sling in the first place. He went down hard, so I guess it counts as a good shot. I walked over to him and hit him just as hard as I could with the rock in my hand. He went out like a light.
I tied him up and gagged him for good measure. I heard his friends looking for him. Saven was screaming that when he found him he better have found food and not eaten it all or he was going to kick his ass. They had spread out to search. Jayeth Agod was closest to me, he’s was follower, willing to do whatever the others wanted, least they decide pick on him. He was tall, thin, and the weakest of the bunch. I was able to grab him and knock him out with a sleeper hold one of my brothers had taught me. I dragged him over to Kaal, tied, and gagged him.
I could still hear the other 2 calling. Saven was starting to sound, worried, mad, and scared. I could tell the anger was winning. Finally, Saven told Dulf Koey to go find them he was going back to camp.
When Dulf was close, I called out to him and asked him if he was looking for someone. He started. He never was very good at his alertness. I told him it was his last chance to just walk away. He looked upset and said that he didn’t think he would be able to make it without Saven’s help. He was really sorry but that was the way it was. I don’t know what alerted me but I turned just in time to see Saven flying through the air toward me with my best knife in his hands and a crazed look on his face. I threw myself to one side and flung a leg up. He tripped on it and landed hard. Dulf was heading my way but didn’t seem eager. He seemed to be waiting for Saven to get up. When that didn’t happen he sort of scooted over to him. He called his name and then turned him over only to find my knife in shattered and part of the blade embedded in his chest. He gave me the “oh fuck what do I do now” look. I told him to drop his token and leave before I got angry. He did. I dragged Saven back to where the others were tied up. I dropped his body in front of them took all their tokens and told them if I saw them again before the month was up I would be triggering their beacons too, then I cut them loose and activated Saven’s beacon. I don’t know if they took it to heart or if they went back with Saven. I didn’t see them again.
I did hear that Saven’s kin tried to get me convicted of murder but for some reason Dulf told them pretty much what I told them and it was determined to be death by misadventure. I passed, graduated, and get a job as a scout. My first mission was to scout a find of Phrik ore and report back on the feasibility of commercially mining it. But that is another story.