A/N: Yo

You get another two fights, and a bit of a wrap-up.

Keep reading, and you'll get a surprise at the end.

Now to address reviewers I can't communicate with…

A little fart: Again, she was trying to avoid killing Kolyat, period. She didn't want to kill him when she wanted to question him.

As to the interaction between the Ancient Civilization and the Protheans, I would have to say wait and see.

In any case, do read and review, would you kindly?

And keep it classy!

[Armax Arsenal Praetorian-class Gunship Tonitrus-1]

It'd been two days since the rescue party had arrived on this planet.

Julius knew the stakes; time was of the essence if they were to rescue the Discovery survivors, but preparations were needed in the event they had any injured among them. For that reason, after setting up camp on the first day, two teams were formed: one would coordinate the groundside rescue with the Bravery while waiting for the second gunship with the medical team to be sent down; the other would investigate the first beacon and rescue any survivors they could find.

As their resident Asari Sentinel Misha knew her way around the comms unit, having worked as a spaceport traffic controller before taking up arms; because of this, she was to work with Nakmor Krug and Nakmor Megara to work the groundside operation. Meanwhile, the Bravery was going to coordinate things from where they were, sending recon drones to scout out the areas, leaving Julius with Garrus Vakarian, Nihlus Kryik, and Thane Krios, to act as air support for the mission. Luckily, the tracker was working, allowing Julius to see a ping on the continent.

"Initiating comms check," Julius said over the intercom, as he flipped every switch in his cockpit, "This is Julius Scipianus, pilot of the gunship Tonitrus-1, anyone reading me?"

"This is Misha T'elos," answered Misha, "Comms are working fine Julius, we're good to go."

"Tonitrus-1, this Targon Vas reporting from the Bravery, you're coming in five-by-five," answered a high-pitched Salarian voice, "Recon drones are in the air, rescue mission is a go."

"Roger that," announced the pilot, "Buckle up boys, we're going after the closest signal."

The gunship engines whined as Julius activated its vertical take-off system, before flying off towards the first signal they could find. Soaring over the canopy of the jungle, Julius took a moment to admire the greenery that was below him.

"Out of curiosity, what made you volunteer for this mission, Thane?" asked Nihlus over the comms.

Silence reigned in the hold, as the Drell in question said nothing.

"I've been assigned to partner up with you by the captain herself," added the SPECTRE, "If we're going to be working together, I need to know if there's anything on your end that'll compromise the rescue mission."

"My son," Thane answered. At this, Garrus took a break from calibrating and modifying his Pilum battle rifle to listen.

"Why was he a part of the expedition anyway?" Nihlus queried.

"He was my price to join," Thane responded, "The Rydia sisters searched everywhere to find Drell assassins who were not bonded to a Hanar…likely to serve as scouts and trackers. Eventually, they found me shortly after my last job, offering me a place on the expedition; I initially refused. I began to think on their offer when the younger twin Saria said that it could be an opportunity for a fresh start."

"How did they buy your services?" asked an interested Garrus.

"I called on them to help me stop my son from taking his first life."

"Your services can't be the only thing that you offered them," Nihlus noted, "What did you promise them to motivate them to work harder on your behalf?"

"That I would help them scout out Drell who could aid in the expedition. It wasn't easy, and I wasn't able to get many with the time I had available to me, but I ensured that each of the Books had a handful of Drell scouts and trackers on hand, among them being my son who was on the Discovery."

"If he were on the Discovery when it crashed, there is a chance that he could've died."

"Even so, I wish to see for myself if he's dead or alive. But until then, I'm holding out for hope that he still lives."

In all honesty, Julius didn't blame Krios for his decision to come along. While he was not a father himself, even he would've wanted confirmation if his son had gone missing. Motivated by Thane's story, he steeled himself for the task at hand; he had a father to reunite with his son. It was only after a good few minutes of flying that he noticed that the beacon they were closing in on, leading to their first rescue.

"Good news ladies and gents, we're nearing the beacon; we should be there within the hour…" Julius was interrupted when the Bravery's comms officer had sent an alert, "This is Tonitrus-1, go ahead, Bravery."

"Tonitrus-1, be advised, the recon drones have spotted something coming your way," Targon announced over the comms, "Something big."

Upon seeing a dark spot closing in on them quickly, Julius quickly pressed a few buttons on the dashboard, switching the interface screen to the BVR camera. "By the spirits…"

What he saw sent shivers up his spine: the thing was a massive creature covered in very large scales, and something that dangled under its body like some sort of beard. In defiance of the laws of physics, the thing was flying just fine, flapping its large wings periodically at a somewhat brisk pace, and he was speeding towards it.

"Hang on, boys! I'm taking evasive maneuvers!" With no time to waste, Julius quickly jerked the control stick to the left, veering off-course from the animal. As he passed the creature, he was able to see it up-close and personal; the thing was easily as large as the Praetorian he was flying at the very least, and the things that dangled beneath its neck and tail swayed with its every motion. As the things glowed a fiery orange, the animal reminded Julius of those flying fortresses and bombers that the Vol Protectorate's air force took pride in.

As he flew past the animal, he could let out a sigh of relief when he heard a loud, rumbling roar from behind.

[Coral Highlands, South Campsite]

Gaia went to work, breaking down her Bow into its major components while putting them into a case with her prisoner sitting at one of the makeshift tables as the kettle sat atop the stone oven. She was still getting used to life a few years outside of her post as a Guardian, though she felt she could've handled the situation a little better. That being said, handling someone's arrows without their permission was simply asking for trouble…assuming of course, they didn't get into an accident that would get them injured first.

The arrest wasn't difficult; with an arrow drawn and pointed at her face, the stranger was more than compliant, her hands raised slowly after being told to put her hands up. Though she could tell from her body language that she didn't understand a single word she'd said, she could detect the inflection of confusion and fear in the guest's voice. Still, the Guardian instincts in her remained, and so after Makoto managed to tie up the guest, she'd sent word to the Third Fleet to pick them up; they promptly responded by requesting that she sit tight and that they'd send a second Mernos as soon as they were in range to pick them both up. The fact that they were able to respond within the hour meant that they were fairly close; having nothing better to do, Gaia walked to the specialized case with her Palico Makoto standing watch as she brought out her ceramic tea kettle, her full water skin, three out of the four identical cups, and her cylinder of specially-blended tea. Luckily, the oven was at the prime temperature at the time, which allowed Gaia to simply fill the basket of the kettle with the herbal tea before pouring in the water and setting the pot on top of the hot surface. She needed a calm head if she was going to deal with the guest, and the best way to soothe her frazzled nerves on the job was a fresh cup of tea.

Surely enough, the hiss and rattling of the sputtering kettle told her that the tea was ready…and just in time for her to finish putting the tent away. Gaia's steps towards the oven were hurried, as she grabbed the bamboo and rattan handle of the kettle and set it on the tray with the tea cups set aside before walking towards her guest, and a waiting Makoto. Wordlessly, Gaia unsheathed her clip-point knife; after a moment of resistance, she used it to cut her bonds before pouring tea in a cup for their guest first.

"About time, Meowster!" said the palico, taking off his bone helmet to reveal amber eyes and straw-yellow fur with black rosettes, "I was getting parched."

"Well be careful," Gaia cautioned, pouring the second cup for him, "This is still pretty hot."

Makoto nodded, blowing his tea cool before sipping away with both paws on the cup. Settling down herself, she took off her helmet to reveal fair skin, frazzled, shoulder-length straw blonde hair, and a pair of blue eyes. Her features were somewhat hardened, but she would've had little trouble keeping a man with her face; she wore red lipstick, the slim lines of black eyeliner under her eyes while framing the bridge of her nose, and the two red spots on her forehead.

After pouring out her own tea, Gaia picked up her cup, noticing with amusement as the stranger stared at her for a moment before fumbling with the mouthpiece of her helmet. It was a good few seconds before the armored being was able to pull out a sort of straw from the jawline of her helmet, and dip one end into the cup, gingerly siphoning the tea. Whatever reason the guest had to not even take off the helmet before actually enjoying the tea was beyond Gaia, but her reaction to drinking the hot liquid was adorable in her eyes as she reflexively coughed and massaged her neck.

As soon as her guest settled down, Gaia took a sip of her tea, allowing the flavor of the nulberry and herb infusion to calm her nerves as she studied the strange being drinking the tea more carefully this time. The woman was covered head-to-toe in some kind of sealed suit of armor and a kind of purple, embroidered hood over her head, but Gaia could see that she had a gracile, humanoid form with a pear-shaped profile; two slender arms that ended in three-fingered hands, and two strong, digitigrade legs that terminated in two toes. Overall, she looked very much like a Wyverian, minus the long, pointed ears.

In terms of armaments, the guest may as well have been unarmed; she carried a knife strapped to her calf, and a fancy-looking pistol on a hip holster. In her time as a Guardian, Gaia had known of pistols being used effectively against human-sized targets; at best, the armored being would have been able to defend herself decently well against smaller animals like Shamos and Raphinos. On the other hand, when one approached the size of larger monsters like a Great Girros or -heavens forbid!- a Legiana, the size of one's gun most certainly mattered, regardless of how advanced her gun was.

Gaia had no idea what had happened; for three days, she'd been in the higher altitudes of the Coral Highlands hunting Legiana when she'd heard a distant explosion to the south. At the time, she'd believed it was Laurence having yet another misadventure with barrel bombs…the presence of her guest proved otherwise. Still a strange turn of events as far as she was concerned.

All thoughts had come to a halt when the sound of Wingdrake wings approaching the campsite faded in. Within minutes, a Mernos flew in, landing on a nearby rock with a manacles attached to one foot and the other with a key in the lock. A look into the skyline showed her that the Third Fleet's base was in the distance; just close enough for the Mernos to meet them halfway, and still approaching.

"Time to go, Makoto," she said, downing the rest of her tea and putting it in the case.

Makoto did the same, collecting both his and the only remaining cup as the guest had already finished with her tea, the straw having already been put back. With her arrows and her bow stowed on the small of her back and her helmet back on, Gaia picked up her Insect Glaive and coaxed the kinsect off of it, allowing it to latch itself onto her forearm; it was an Empresswing that had served her well in the fight against Xeno'jiiva.

Once everything was ready to go, Gaia lowered herself to allow Makoto to step onto the case and grab onto her back before signalling for the guest to come forward. Once she came to a stop in front of her, she allowed the Mernos with the manacles onto her forearm, walking towards the armored being and coaxing it to perch on her forearm shortly before cuffing the guest's wrist quickly and pulling out the key and putting it in a pocket in her tunic.

"Good, now we're ready," she said, attaching one end of the slinger to her Mernos' leg, pointing in the direction of the gutted ship, "We're going there."

The guest said something in her own language…her tone suggesting a question, though there was also a smidgen of disbelief and reluctance.

Gaia walked towards the guest, patting her gently on the back. "You probably don't understand a word I'm saying, but I think you'll do just FINE!" With one forceful push, the guest was sent screaming over the edge, shortly before the sound of opening wings was heard. The Mernos she was attached to took to the sky, the guest's frightened screams and angered words fading into the distance as it flew towards the Third Fleet's base…Gaia laughing at the guest's apparent attempts to curse her.

Confident that the handcuff was holding strong, Gaia ran off the edge herself, her own Mernos working hard to build up momentum after takeoff, trying to catch up with their guest. As the Wingdrake neared the guest, she could hear that her screaming had already ceased; as soon as she was next to her, the guest pointed in her direction, the only word she shouted that the former Guardian could clearly make out was "bosh'tet" before being drowned in a sea of imprecations in a different language.

Gaia said nothing, laughing in amusement. Looking off in the distance, she noted that they still had time before they got to the Third Fleet's base; she looked to the guest, whistling and pointing downwards with her free hand. "Hey! Have a look."

The two of them had a look down, watching as the land below them was covered in splotches of pink and purple coral against a backdrop of blues and pale greens. It was a breathtaking scene that Gaia always looked forward to seeing, regardless of how many times she'd been to the Highlands; one that took her back to a one-time post in the vicinity of Moga, when she would sometimes take deep dives to look at the coral reefs on her off-hours.

"Meowster, something's wrong," Makoto said, shaking Gaia out of her reverie.

As she looked ahead, she could see that the Third Fleet Base was changing directions, heading southwards. The sound of a familiar, screeching roar could be heard in the distance, prompting Gaia to pull out a brass telescope from a holster in her tunic, extending it with a flick of her wrist before looking through it. Off in the distance, she could see a familiar streak of blue and creamy-white that could only be a Legiana, and it was attacking what looked like a camp filled with beings like her guest, along with a few that looked like horned lizards. Everyone was firing off their guns at the Flying Wyvern, their weapons doing nothing to deter the territorial animal from its rampage. The one thought in her mind was Oh, now you show up!

The guest was suddenly blabbering something in her own language, pointing in the direction of the camp that was under attack. In all honesty, Gaia couldn't blame her for being hysterical…that was her people down there after all. But the problem was that the guest was going to get herself killed if she went down there. In her mind, there was only one course of action.

"What're we gonna do, Meowster?" asked Makoto.

"We gotta drop her off with the Third Fleet," Gaia answered, collapsing her telescope to put it away, "Besides, if I'm gonna do this, I need to drop off my bow and get a fresh Mernos."

Makoto nodded in agreement, as his master guided the Mernos towards the Third Fleet Base, finding Third Fleet Master Saffioti waiting at her normal lookout post, a pair of binoculars in her hands as she looked in the direction of the camp that was under attack. Once they neared the airship, Gaia slowed down her Mernos enough to meet the guest's speed and grab her before unlatching her slinger, slowing their descent towards the makeshift balcony before unlocking the manacle and dropping both of them on deck.

"About time you got here," she said calmly as they landed, "It seems there's a situation where we're headed."

"I know," Gaia responded, unlatching the case for her bow off her back, "And I'll get right to it, I just need a fresh Mernos right…"

Before Gaia could finish her request, she watched the guest run towards the edge of the balcony, hoping to catch the Mernos with the manacle before it flew off. She was stopped when the former Guardian grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled back, turning her around and grabbing both shoulders to fix her in place with a harsh gaze.

"You! Stay! Here!" she shouted, her gaze softening when it was clear that the guest was listening, "I'll go save them."

"You'd better hurry," Saffioti reminded, looking through her binoculars, "Nobody's died yet, but it's only a matter of time."

Gaia nodded, turning to regard a nearby Mernos and letting out a loud whistle before lowering herself to allow Makoto to climb back on her shoulders, and firing the grapnel of her slinger at the passing Wingdrake's leg. The momentum of the Mernos flying was enough to sweep her off her feet.

After nearly half an hour of flying, the Mernos flew close to the battle. Gaia watched from above as the suited people at the camp took cover from the Flying Wyvern's spinning dives and icy wingbeats, firing at it with their guns to no avail; their weapons may have sufficed for anti-personnel work, but they were deflected off. The only weapons that could have had any meaningful effect were the few lizard-men who were firing explosives, but they were trying to shoot down a fast and constantly moving target; what few hits that did manage to explode on the Legiana's hide simply caused discomfort to the creature.

Upon reaching the optimal safe distance to dive upon a monster, Gaia unlatched the grapnel from the Mernos' leg while unsheathing her Insect Glaive, and brought the blade down to cut a gash in the Flying Wyvern's back before landing. With its attention directed on her, the Legiana let out its characteristic screeching roar in challenge; as it dove upon her, Gaia took aim with her Insect Glaive, and fired a pellet at the Legiana, hitting it in the head before sending her kinsect out to attack it. The Empresswing soared through the air, biting and sucking out essence from its victim as Gaia avoided its kicks before recalling it back and taking in the fluids, feeling her strength increasing before rewarding the kinsect with a redpit she'd found upon landing.

With her target's unrelenting assault, Gaia kept on countering with pheromone pellets, sending her emboldened Empresswing to take more essence and leaving behind clouds of smaller insects with every strike while Makoto helped out by deploying his Shieldspire as a diversion. From time to time, she would use the Insect Glaive to propel her into the air, meeting the Flying Wyvern in its own element as she slashed viciously into its hide. After seeing enough dust clouds formed, Gaia recalled her kinsect and fired a pellet into one cloud of insects, setting off an explosive chain reaction that dropped the Legiana from the sky and flailing helplessly on the ground as it tried to regain its bearings. Emboldened by the opportunity and the essences she'd collected, Gaia rushed the Legiana, slashing with her Insect Glaive to leave behind a pheromone trail for her Empresswing and Makoto to continue with the attack, slashing, biting, and cutting into the thickened, rubbery hide aggressively. As the Legiana regained its bearings, it lashed out with its tail, breaking off the assault as it knocked everyone back.

The Flying Wyvern glared back at Gaia as her Empresswing flew back to her arm to rest. It was badly injured; with cuts in the webbing, it was unable to escape…and it was tired from the many cuts that criss-crossed its body. The Legiana opened its mouth just in time for Gaia to take aim at a nearby cluster of explosive insect clouds, detonating them before it could roar again, staggering the animal and further draining what little stamina it had left. With the Legiana tired out, Gaia rushed ahead, diving under a sluggish bite from its jaw to plant a shock trap at its feet; simply touching the mechanism with its tail was enough to send jolts of electricity up the Legiana's spine, paralyzing it long enough for Gaia to finish the fight by throwing two tranq bombs at its face in quick succession.

With its immunity compromised from the battle, the Legiana fell to sleep, allowing Gaia to heave a sigh of relief, ignoring the awed stares that were directed at her and Makoto. There was much work to be done, and she still needed to report the capture of a monster…but first, she had to bring the survivors back with her to Astera.

[Unknown Location]

The ambience of birdsong filled the air as Liara T'soni traversed the forest of titanic trees with her exploration team consisting of herself, Captain Rydia, and an Asari bridge security officer. She could see small birds flitting about, minding their own business as they searched the trees for seeds to eat, as well as the odd flower that bloomed against a backdrop of greens and browns. Through whatever gaps were seen through the trees, she could see the skyline was dominated by one tree that stood out from all others by virtue of being the biggest of them all.

Being an archaeologist that specialized in the Protheans, Liara had to learn survival skills and keep fit in order to avoid being killed by the wildlife of the dig sites she'd been to, which enabled her to traverse the raised tree roots of the jungle with relative ease. It was also for this reason that setting up the camp was further expedited, as she'd sometimes needed to set up her own campsite for her own survival while investigating a site. It was also due to her investigation taking her to such places, that she'd sometimes taken the time in between dig sites to just sit back and appreciate the simple beauty of nature around her.

"Beautiful, ain't it, Doc?" Captain Rydia asked, lowering her Acolyte to admire her surroundings, "Reminds me of some of the prettier national parks on Sur'Kesh; and on that note, that's something I'm glad the Salarians wised up on fairly early. Let's just hope that if the Union decides to send their own expedition through the Relay, they'd leave this place alone."

"You really think we won't be able to go home, Captain?" asked the security officer, lowering her Pilum.

"It's a possibility Maka, one that we've always known would happen eventually," admitted the Captain, "But I wouldn't lose hope yet; it may take years before we're able to find a way home, but I don't believe that there's absolutely no way back. But since we're here, we may as well start up a settlement on this planet…or at least find a place to make into our new home in Sector X."

Maka remained silent, her disbelief at her situation slowly dissipating.

"Captain!" announced Liara, "I've found something!"

Captain Rydia and Maka looked towards the scientist, and walked towards her. It was one thing to know that civilization existed on this planet…it was a totally different matter to see it face-to-face. The younger Rydia twin was no expert on xenology, but the markings she saw on the bark of the tree were fairly crude; more like drawings with arrows than proper writing. It was totally different from the castles, villages, and forts she'd seen from the recon drones three days ago, and more like the work of a savage tribe.

"It looks like it's directions for something," said the archaeologist, "Should we follow them and see?"

"Might as well," answered Captain Rydia, stretching her neck. The three Asari followed the arrow, along with carvings in the bark depicting small beings with pointy ears. Wherever the trail led, it was obvious that the people that left them didn't want it to be found if they spaced the bands far apart from each other.

After thirty minutes of trekking carefully through the jungle, the three of them came to a stop in front of a bush next to a creek, a lowing was heard as they got closer. Looking through the branches, they could see a herd of large quadrupedal animals in a clearing, grazing and drinking at a nearby watering hole; some were sleeping, others were attending to their young. Their bodies were covered in gray, leathery skin, and their heads had a long, flat crest that ended in a fork; their only means of protection was an array of spikes at the end of a long, muscular tail.

"They remind me of Agelades back home on Thessia," noted Maka, her voice a whisper.

"Must be a hunting ground of some kind," added Liara.

Whatever else Captain Rydia had to say about their discovery had come to a halt when one of the babies had apparently separated from its mother in favor of finding something to munch on, bringing the youngster to the bushes they were hiding behind. It casually chewed on leaves, unaware of their appearance until it spotted them; it stood in place, its jaws frozen in place as it walked closer towards them, curiosity in its eyes as it seemingly appraised them. Liara carefully reached out so as not to scare the baby and potentially bring angry parents upon them and pet the thing on its nose.

There was a tense atmosphere when the herd looked in one direction, running away in a stampede as something crawled out of the dense forest. They were small, reptilian creatures with greenish-yellow scales and a splash of bluish-green stripes and an underbelly, and a small mane of spikes going midway down their back and their shoulders. Their sharp teeth and slitted yellow eyes made it clear that they were predators, and their size had indicated that they were pack hunters.

The baby agelada-creature ran off to catch up with its mother, hoping to stay with the pack, only to be cut off by another group of the smaller lizards. A large creature similar to the yellow lizards smashed through a log; the thing was easily as big as an air car; its spines dangled like a sort of mane on its head that ran along its back, even along its tail; compared to the smaller lizards it apparently led, it also had more developed forelimbs. There was a certain amount of authority as the smaller lizards stood aside from their apparent alpha.

What happened next had filled Liara with dread and revulsion as the giant reptile scooped the baby up in its gigantic maw, swallowing it headfirst in one gulp. There was horror in everyone's eyes as they noticed the bulge in the giant reptile's gullet, clearly from the baby struggling to get out; a fear that intensified when the alpha noticed them hiding behind the bush. The alpha let out a deep hissing roar, commanding its pack to attack.

"Run!" shouted Captain Rydia.

All three Asari ran out of the bushes and into the clearing; in their panic, they found themselves coming to a stop in front of the watering hole, and the pack of yellow lizards behind them. Captain Rydia and Maka raised their weapons as the pack closed in slowly, hunger in their yellow slit eyes, the grotesquely obese form of their alpha standing at the back.

Before the pack could begin the assault, something broke out of the treeline and into the clearing in one leap, landing behind the alpha and picking it up by the neck, while frightening off the smaller lizards. Taking advantage of the calamity, the Asari managed to get a safe enough distance away to get a look at their inadvertent rescuer: it was a tall, bipedal creature with comically small arms that was covered in pink scales and purple, downy feathers along its back and tail. Its tapered, elongated head was covered only in scales, but there was a thick tuft of feathers on its back where the neck met the shoulders that gave the appearance of a big, muscular Ornio. It had a slight underbite with a row of large, exposed teeth that made it look like a power shovel, and it viewed the world through a pair of small, yellow eyes.

The giant Ornio slammed the giant lizard into the ground, dragging its flailing body through the dirt; it would do this two more times before it raised its head and threw the gluttonous lizard to the floor. The giant lizard struggled, paralyzed from being manhandled by the Ornio, helpless as the predator stepped on its engorged belly, and bit onto its head before ending the creature's misery by snapping its neck. As the lizard's body lolled to the ground dead, the giant Ornio reared its head back to let out a triumphant roar, diving its head into its kill when a distant roar made itself known from the sky.

"What now?!" Maka asked herself.

Nothing more was said, as the Ornio looked around in the sky, fear in its eyes as it scanned for the intruder before grabbing its prey by the throat and running from the watering hole. Not long after the giant had vacated the clearing, the exploration team noted the broad leaves of the jungle swaying with a strong wind that picked up. What started as a mere gust gradually became the eye of a localized tornado that surrounded the entire area; as the whistling of the winds died down, silence reigned in the clearing until the sound of heavy footsteps could be heard.

As the three Asari turned to regard the newcomer, none of them could believe their eyes, nor could they find the words for what they were seeing: the quadrupedal creature they were seeing looked as though it leaped out of the pages of a Turian fairytale book. It had a long reptilian face with a set of horns behind its head, an elongated body with a pair of wide, webbed wings on its back, and it was covered head to claw-tipped toe in bands of metallic scales that reflected the sun. There was a certain majesty about the creature as it walked towards the watering hole, coming to a stop as stared at them with a pair of piercing, predatory blue eyes, causing both Captain Rydia and Maka to reflexively aim their weapons at it; their trigger discipline being the only thing stopping them from shooting and potentially angering the beast.

Apparently deciding they weren't worth its time, the creature ignored them in favor of drinking from the watering hole, allowing Captain Rydia to eyeball it at around the size of a Turian double-decker bus. After drinking its fill, the creature spread its wings and took to the sky, leaving the trio dumbfounded at what they'd just experienced in a short amount of time.

"Did we just see a Draco drinking water then fly away?" asked Liara.

"Your eyes didn't deceive you, Doc," Maka answered, "Looks like around these parts, creatures from folklore exist."

"Let's head back," Captain Rydia suggested, "The others back at camp are probably worried."

The trio walked back into the forest, following the path they'd taken to get here. Along the way, they'd spotted a crouching stranger in spiked armor with a hand to the ground, accompanied by a diminutive creature that resembled a bipedal feline in armor. The sound of a broken twig had drawn the native's attention to them, turning its helmeted head to regard them curiously, both sides locked in an awkward silence as they studied each other.

Almost on reflex, Captain Rydia and Maka drew a bead on the native, who was fast enough to leap to the side and throw something with enough force to muss up their aim before they could pull the trigger. The distraction bought the native enough time to draw a massive, seven-branched sword from its back, extending its grip before pressing the tines against the back of their necks with a strength disproportionate to his size. Nobody tried to fight back; clumsy, reflexive stroke of the blade was all it would take to kill them both, and everyone knew it.

"Dareda!?" barked the native, its masculine voice taking on a demanding tone.

A look of recognition flashed across Liara's face when she heard him speak. Almost reflexively, she raised her hands slowly, her tone slow and hesitant as she tried to think back on her lessons. "Uh, onegai, watashitachi wa anata o kyōgaku suru to iu imide wa arimasendeshita."

The native's eyes had widened in shock. "Anata wa watashi no gengo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu ka?"

"H-hai, gakkō de mananda," Liara replied.

"Doc, what's going on?" asked a panicked Maka, "Why can you talk to this guy?"

"He's speaking in Old Thessian," answered Liara, not breaking eye-contact with the guest, "Or at least, an approximation of it."

At this, Captain Rydia and the security officer looked at each other with surprise on their faces. "Mōichido kiite mimasu, anata dare desu ka?" asked the native.

"Watashitachiha chinbotsu-sen kara kimashita," answered the archaeologist, a little more confidently this time, "Tasuke ga hitsuyōna seizon-sha ga imasu."

At this, the native's eyes softened. "Sūjitsumae ni rakka shita ryūsei to nanika kankei ga arimashita ka?"

"Hai, sore ga watashi tachi no fune no chinbotsudeshita."

The native sighed. "Min'na daijōbu desu ka?"

"Hai, kyūmei-sen ni notte kita juhachi-ri no seizon-sha zen'in ga koko ni imasu."

"Doctor, can you please ask him to put the sword down so we can talk?" asked Captain Rydia.

Liara gulped, hoping that the native was the agreeable sort. "Watashi no senchō wa anata ga hanasu koto ga dekiru yō ni anata ni anata no ken o oroshite hoshīdesu."

Calming down, the native released his sword from his hostages, pushing the handle of his sword back into the blade before holstering it on his back. Before any words could be exchanged, a loud roar from above was heard, followed by a loud whine and a loud explosion. The native looked up into the sky, and sure enough, the Asari trio could see the distinctive form of a Praetorian gunship flying overhead, being pursued by what looked like a giant bird. "Kuso! Bazelgeuse!"

"It's heading for our camp!" Maka noted.

"We need to get back!" Captain Rydia agreed.

"Watashitachi wa anata to issho ni kite imasu!"

"He's coming with us!" Liara translated.

There was no room for discussion. Captain Rydia and Maka led the way, with Liara and their guest in tow. They were cut off when they ran into a group that intercepted them along the way; they consisted of an Asari and two Krogan.

"Captain Rydia?" asked the asari.

"We have an emergency!" replied the captain curtly, "We need to get back to camp, now!"

"What about them?" asked one of the Krogan, apparently a female.

"He's with us!" Maka said, defending him, "Now let's go! The camp's in trouble!"

Wasting no time, the seven of them ran down the path with Captain Rydia and Maka in the lead. Within half an hour, they came upon the campsite with fifteen people running about as the Praetorian careened in the air before crashing. Before long, three individuals crawled out of the wreckage, alive, but shaken before running aside as something massive dove into the Praetorian, finishing it off in a fiery explosion.

Walking out of the flames was a large, winged creature with an almost leonine face. It had a long, fat neck, and a sturdy-looking body, and walked on two legs like a bird. Something dangled under its neck and tail like a beard, and it had large scales covering the back of its neck. Overall, it gave the impression of a gigantic frag grenade with wings.

The three people that crawled out of the wreckage took aim with their rifles, shooting at the animal, followed by anyone else that was armed. Their efforts had come to no avail; the only one that was doing any sort of damage were the ones that were shooting explosives at the living grenade, but all they apparently did was make the thing angrier as the scales dangling below glowed a fiery orange. Every time it slammed its head to the ground, explosions rang out, cratering the floor; thankfully, nobody had died yet.

The guest strode forward with a hand on his massive blade. The female Krogan raised her arm to stop him. "Where do you think you're going?" she asked, as Liara translated for her.

"Watashitachiha kono jōkyō ni taisho shimasu. Anata ga koko ni taizai shimasu."

"He's telling us to stay here, and that he'll take care of this," Liara translated.

"Let him go," advised Captain Rydia, cutting the Krogan off, "He may know how to deal with that beast."

The Krogan lowered her arm, allowing the armored guest to run towards the battle, drawing the seven-branched sword from his back as he neared the beast, bringing the blade down on its armored neck, and drawing its attention on him just in time to smash the flat of the blade in its face. The animal roared in rage, but was unable to stagger the swordsman as he'd rolled away before getting back up to tackle the animal, then transition into a stance, holding his position for a moment before bringing the blade down hard on its face. He would weave in and out of the fight, taking every opportunity to continue the assault; whenever he wasn't blocking a strike with the flat of the blade, he was making wide swings at the bird's legs while keeping an eye opened for opportunities to deliver heavy blows upon the bird. Throughout the fight, the diminutive feline pulled out a large trumpet of some sort, and blew tunes through it that seemed to invigorate its partner.

The grenade-bird took to the sky, flying away before returning to drop a line of black scales into the floor around the swordsman in one pass like cluster bombs, then making a second pass to drop another line. The swordsman chose not to stand his ground, running from the thick line of explosives and diving out of the way as the giant bird came diving from the air, crash-landing on the line of scales, an explosive wall of fire upon impact. Not even phased by the attempt to obliterate him, the swordsman ran up the hull of the lifeboat, drawing his sword and bringing the blade down with a heavy chop, the added momentum behind the falling blade severed the bird's tail in one go. Weary from the fight and furious at the humiliation of losing its tail, the bird glared at the swordsman, letting out an angered roar before flying away.

With the threat dealt with, the swordsman went to work, drawing a large knife from the small of his back, leaving the predominantly Asari survivors to stare in speechless awe at their rescuer as he carved up the severed tail.

"Krug?" asked the female Krogan, getting her colleague's attention, "I. Want. One of those!"

[Guild Galleon Enduring Will, en-route to the New World]

A bearded old man stood at the helm of the galleon Enduring Will, dressed in a blue uniform under a specially-tailored suit of ceremonial, but fully-functional armor. His armaments were a curved, one-handed sword with a brass knuckle bow hanging in one holster, and a revolver in the other. The body underneath was once the well-muscled form of a Hunter with scars from numerous battles with monsters, but time and the responsibilities of leadership had taken their toll. In all fairness, while Admiral Steven Hackett was still more than capable of fighting humans if need be, his biggest assets would always be his bravery and piercing blue eyes that exuded an air of authority.

"Can't sleep, Admiral?" asked a younger, man behind him. He had dark brown skin and red eyes that were contrasted by the mop of white hair on his head, adding to the savage appearance of his ripped torso that was marked with red lines that framed his eyes and his well-built abs and pectorals, and two parallel golden lines around his sternum. He was barefoot, but wore a pair of pants with red fire motifs that ballooned around his knees, his only protection being of gilded greaves, and his armored arms, all made of some intricately-carved and gilded material.

He was accompanied by another man around his age, with a more civilized air about him. He had long, black hair that was done up in a bun, and he looked through the world with amber eyes, and he had medium-brown skin stretched over an equally muscular body with white tattoos on his body. Unlike the darker-skinned savage, this one was more moderately-dressed in a dogi that he'd heard were worn by martial artists from the Kamura Village area; his attire was all black, and except for the embroidered golden lines in the shape of clouds, he wore a white sash around his waist. Like his colleague however, he simply wore armor instead of carrying weapons, wearing a pair of silvery greaves under his pants, gauntlets with finger protection, and pauldrons over his gi.

Both men were in their late twenties, the man in black apparently being a year older than his colleague, and each of them studied under the same teacher. He also knew they were both highly competent hunters, taking on the toughest prey and the worst criminals with their bare hands as masters of the dual blades…which was ironic, since their master was a known longsword master. It wasn't a surprise to Hackett that these two would be assigned to him as bodyguards.

"It's been a long time," answered the old admiral, "Much has changed, ever since we've got that report about the falling stars coming to the New World."

"I wouldn't worry about that, sir," replied the man in black, "We'll deal with things as they come. Hopefully, Commander Price will have everything in order by the time we arrive."

Hackett smirked. "Be glad we didn't bring your master; I'm not sure how long Astera will last when Augus and Epcar throw down."

"You and me both, Admiral," replied the savage man.

Codex

Armax Arsenal Praetorian Heavy Gunship

Having served in various conflict zones, the Armax Arsenal Praetorian is the latest Turian mainstay in troop transport and support actions.

The Praetorian is a VTOL aircraft with enough space to transport 10 passengers at a time (15 if they're standing), and double that number if an extension were added. Its armor is a special composite designed to withstand five seconds of sustained mass accelerator fire, and it is always equipped with a chin-mounted machine gun to help provide cover for the troops it is carrying.

The Praetorians that are given to the Athame Initiative are heavily modular for whatever missions the explorers are to undertake, but one of them comes with an experimental extension that allows it to serve as a MEDEVAC vehicle.

A/N: …and now we're done!

Let's see who remembers the guys that got the cameo.

Anyway, as usual, give a warm round of applause to ravenking64 for being the beta-reader for this story.

Please PM or review to me if you have a character you want to show up with the following info:

Name:

Race: Human or Wyverian (They're the only races we see doing any active hunting)

Gender: No transgenders, please! I doubt Monster Hunter-verse has the materials necessary to even have transgenders.

Sexual Identity: Gay? Straight? Bi? Omni?

Age:

Height: In centimeters (please make it believable)

Weight: In kilograms

Body Type: Slim, Muscular?

Skin Color:

Eye Color:

Hair Color:

Notable Features: Tattoos, scars, amputations, etc.

Personality:

History: Just a little of what they've done before going to the New World, like what was the biggest monster they killed, or where they come from. That, and what they've been doing while in the New World.

Guild Status: Are they still active? If not, then what do they do now? Are they Guild Knights?

Handler: Do they answer to a Handler, or to a receptionist? If they answer to a Handler, give a brief description of them; name, gender, personality.

Hunter Rank: Are they Low- or High-ranked?

Equipment: Just what weapon they normally use, and the armor they're wearing

Knife: Describe the knife they carry (this is optional)

Palico Name: Name your Hunter's Palico

Palico Description: Describe the physical appearance; tail length, fur thickness, eye color, etc.

Palico Equipment: Describe the Palico's weapon, gear, and armor

Palico Personality: Describe the Palico's demeanor