Tarian sauntered through the forest with his detachment with no signs of any of his people that went missing during the assault. He reached for his radio and depressed the button calling out to Keldon. “Hey Kel, have you had any luck over there?”
“No love on our route.” Came the stoic response from Tarian’s friend. “I think we have to call the search.”
“Fine, you’re the boss Tarian.” Keldon said, but after a few moments added, “But I want to join up with you.”
“With this planet, you need all the extra personnel period.”
Tarian sighed but was resigned to the delay. “Fine, just hurry up and get over here.”
“Yes, boos,” Keldon said with a measure of cheer that Tarian felt shouldn’t be there.
Tarian turned around, switching to his team’s channel saying, “Everyone on me.” His command was echoed with a chorus of affirmations. While he waited for everyone to collapse on his position, Tarian flipped his microphone to Caleb’s detachment. “How’s the hunting going for your team?”
The radio chirped to life with Caleb’s always cheerful disposition. “We’ve had a good day, Tarian.”
“How good is good, Caleb?”
“We should have enough meat for about a month.”
“That is a good day.” Tarian replied when he noticed some of his men coming into sight and said, “Okay, Caleb secure the game and head back to the settlement.”
“Yes, sir,” Caleb responded.
One of his men looked over asking, “Keldon wanted to join us?”
“Yeah, we’ll take a few minutes until they get here.”
“Roger that, sir.”
Tarian sat and waited, after a few minutes his team had assembled around him, but they were still waiting for Keldon’s team. Tarian was getting even more nervous as the seconds continued to tick away, so he flicked switched his radio to Keldon’s channel and called out, “Kel where are you?”
After a few moments of silence, Keldon replied, “Tarian, you need to come to me, I’m not that far east of your location.”
“Just, bring the team and keep your weapons slung.”
Keldon kept silent for a few moments before adding, “Yeah keep them slung.”
Tarian looked at his team and said, “Alright guys we need to go find out what’s going on. Keep your heads on a swivel and your weapons trained on anything that moves other than our guys.”
Again Tarian was greeted with a chorus of affirmations before they went in search of Keldon’s team. Heading east they began to spread out and searching for their men. Just as Tarian was about to reach for his radio to alert Caleb that he might need his team’s help, he caught sight of Keldon and then felt something sharp pressing against his back.
“You were asked to come without your weapons leading the way.” A mysterious voice rang out behind Tarian.
“I don’t take kindly to my men being kidnapped,” Tarian answered flatly.
The blade was pulled away from his back, as the voice answered, “I can respect that, but why are you in our territory?”
Tarian turned around and saw a collection of people who looked human but were far too lean for his mind to process what he was seeing. Looking up into the strange eyes answered, “We’re looking for missing members of our contingent.”
“How’d they go missing?” The leader of these men asked.
“During an assault on our compound.”
“An assault?” One of those strange people asked from behind their leader.
Tarian looked upon these people with a more discerning eye and noticed a few more differences, their eyes were more tilted and just slightly too far apart, and their ears drew up to a point. Having registered the differences, Tarian answered the question, “Some of our people have taken to call them trolls and goblins.”
A collected hiss issued from these lanky creatures before the leader silenced them all with a single hand motion. “We know of these things, and we want nothing to do with them. Your people are not in these woods, leave and do not return.”
“Wait, can you help us?”
“No, there is nothing here that interests us. You have an hour to collect yourselves and your people and leave, or there will be bloodshed.” The creatures turned and vanished into the woods.
Tarian climbed to his feet and called out to everyone through the radio, “Everyone fall in on me double time.”
As both detachments left in silence both Tarian and Keldon had severe looks on their faces, both men knew these creatures could have been fantastic allies. When they walked far enough, Tarian reached for his radio and switched to Caleb’s frequency. “Caleb please tell me you’re on your way to the compound.”
“Nope, I met some people.”
“Were they lanky?”
“No these guys aren’t lanky. They’d like to talk to you.”
Tarian sighed and replied, “We’ll be there as soon as we can.” Tarian got all his men moving, and they jogged to Caleb’s location. When they reached Caleb’s position, Tarian saw the people talking with Caleb and in stark contrast to who he spoke with these were all stout and stocky. Caleb noticed Tarian and waived him over to the group.
When Tarian reached the group, Caleb provided the introductions. “Fitik, this is our leader Tarian, and Tarian this is Fitik. They are apparently fierce enemies of the trolls and goblins, and they are intrigued about becoming friends.”
Tarian smiled at the news and offered Fitik his hand, the stout man tilted his head up so he could look at Tarian and took the offered hand. “I think our people could become friends, but we have to get to know each other first.”
Tarian’s smile widened as he replied, “I agree. Though we have plenty of fresh meat and I think a feast is in order.”
“Excellent,” Fitik exclaimed through a broad smile.