BattleTech Fanon Wiki
The Other War (Cover)

Chapter 71 - The Other War
Black River Canyonlands
Valence, Babylon
Pentagon Worlds, Clan Space
August 10th, 3063

Rebekah arrived at the Shrine she had heard so much about but had never seen despite traveling up the river several times during her scouting missions. Its entrance was sheltered in a narrow ravine with a ramshackle metal walkway bolted into the rock around it. Ajmal and crew secured their ship carefully facing the vessel outward in a space that seemed far too small to be safe for the aluminum hull. “We have to transfer the vessels to the other side of the shrine; our boat cannot navigate further upriver. It is both too wide and its draft to deep.”

She shouldered her pack and some of the excess equipment they would need for the mission. The Elemental porters easily carried the smaller metal boats overhead, careful to avoid banging them on the narrow ravine. Each of the raiding craft could comfortably fit four people and carried a complement of telescoping poles and oars with a small layer of Hargel sandwiched between the double hull. Small electric outboard motors would be used in deeper channels, but the Black River’s headwaters were typically shallow, narrow, and importantly completely shadowed. Their presence would not be easily detected from the overhead surveillance drones that Rebekah knew would be watching the perimeter of the Valence Shell facility.

The Shrine itself was cool and dry with colorful ‘primitive’ mosaics on the rock walls depicting scenes from KLONDIKE. Sumral Cartas had fought valiantly against the proto-Clans from their fortified towns before being conquered. Many however escaped up the Black River hiding among its caverns before returning to live in the badlands. Their children eventually constructed this shrine in their place of sanctuary as a memorial to all those lost to the Clans.

When she entered a large cathedral style cavern she stopped and was awestruck. The vaulted chamber was filled with ornate carvings represented Clan Totem Animals. She knew some Dark Caste had a peculiar worship practice to placate angry ‘sky gods’ (Battlemechs in dropships) that occasionally came and destroyed their settlements with offerings. Clan Burrock had been the lead perpetrator and beneficiary of this suspicion, using these outcasts as slaves and coming back regularly to loot them of valuables. Ten of their Warrior Bloodhouses had been Annihilated by the Star Adders following a Tribunal post-Absorption. Their members given the choice of suicide for Surkai or Reaving by firing squad, no leniency was offered even for those unaware of this Dezgra behavior.

Objects hung from tiny posts upon the totems, she got closer and in the filtered light from above it became obvious what they were, Warrior codices, some of which were very old. Most belonged to Goliath Scorpions and Cloud Cobras, the two most common Clans on Valence. A fair number of newer ones belonged to Smoke Jaguar or Ghost Bear which was not surprising considering she had been traveling with four of their former Elementals. Interspersed were many others all the way back to the Widowmakers, Mongoose, and Not Named. How they arrived in this location was unknown as none of those Clans had a presence on Babylon during their relatively short existence.

Rebekah stopped and looked over to Ajmal as he oversaw the line of porters, “Why are all these Codices here?”

The Vaga leader looked over, “They were not taken like one would take scalps of defeated enemies if that is what you fear. All were surrendered by Warriors that joined us. More victims of the uncaring wasteland that their Clans felt were not worth looking for."

"Symbolic death, leaving your old life behind to live a different way.”

She looked at her own codex, the intricately crafted object contained her entire tragically short life story and she could not imagine giving it up. To Clan Coyotes she was already dead so Ajmal’s statement seemed to confirm Leo’s that death was the only way to escape her caste with any freedom.

That was not her intention when setting out and thus her nature continued to rebel against it. She still was risking her ‘unlife’ to save her fellow Clans people from a similar fate to those Burrocks that had paid the ultimate price for their leader’s choices. If what Cara’s comm-pad revealed was true it would fall on their heads like a guillotine at the worst time.

After transferring everything to the other docks they walked around the remainder of the Shrine complex. The Vaga tribespeople used it as a storehouse and shelter in the event of emergency and waystation for the less navigable headwaters canyons. Everything was kept in good repair, but it was much like the undercity of Sumra. An all-around standard SLDF layout for a defensible subterranean bunker adapted to local tastes.

They stopped and ate from their carried rations in the mess hall enjoying access to superior water, warm and cold, for tea and food preparation. Since it was already late, they stayed overnight, filling the night with music and poetry alongside visiting ascetics. Her guide stated that these shamans acted as vessels for lost spirits (‘Jinn’) that supposedly wandered the wastelands above. It was thus a great honor to be in their presence, yet it left her baffled as she still didn’t have a firm grasp of the Vaga’s complex mythos, an odd combination of at least four divergent faiths adapted to a hostile alien world.

In the morning she was well-rested her mattress was the same type used in the Nova Cat house she was a guest in, and very comfortable compared to her ship’s berth. It would be their last comfortable sleep for the next three days and a filling breakfast of fresh bread and vegetables was ready for them upon waking prepared by the other visitors. Before departing to paddle upriver they received a blessing of spicy incense, fragrant water, and an elaborate dance from the shamans grateful for the few items gifted to them by her party. As the canyons closed eclipsing the sun, rocks of varying size fell around them, whitecaps grew on the water, and the winds howled above she was glad for any help regardless of origin, because her world suddenly felt very small and dangerous.

Previous Chapter - Return to Story Index - Next Chapter