Disclaimer: The Mass Effect universe is the property of Bioware/Electronic Arts. No infringement of these copyrights is intended as this is a not for profit fan fiction work.

Author's Notes: Huntress Zora M'Tara is based upon LuckyFK's picture titled "Confidence" on DeviantArt. The duero flower blue mentioned in this chapter is very close to what humans would call cornflower blue.

Revision History: 07/19/2015; 01/30/2016 (several hundred additional words added to the end)

Serrice and Khurusa

Bazea, along with the other seven Huntresses in her peripolia, came to a halt as Senior Huntress Lira Sevos paused to let a heavily laden cart pulled by four tall, sturdy cervus to pass before crossing Arvala Way, the primary thoroughfare between the inland Eastern Gate and the seaward Western Gate which led to the docks upon Serrice Bay. Civilian foot traffic dressed in clothing dyed in all colors of the rainbow paused as well, though they gave the group of armored and armed Huntresses a respectful few feet of space to themselves. Bazea caught sight of one young child eyeing them intently from where she stood beside her mother; the maiden caught the young asari's gaze for a moment and received a shy smile which she briefly returned before refocusing her attention upon the Senior Huntress.

Her peripolia was almost at the end of their week long patrol around the border of Serrice, and had started out in the coolness of early dawn to reach the Southern Gate just after mid-day. They paused only long enough for a meal with the guards before proceeding into the massive city and now, almost two slow moving hours later, Bazea was more than ready to reach the barracks of the Forth Mora. The promise of a long cool shower and then relative softness of her bunk over a travel roll upon the ground drew her onward. They had begun their patrol in the mountainous region north of the city. It was difficult, hilly terrain for traveling, but the road ran through miles of forested land and thus was often shaded and cooler than the city. Beginning in the north however, meant that they finished their patrol south of the city. The great Aypiario Swamp was located far to the south of Serrice, but before you reached it you crossed miles of flat swampy marshland, which during the spring and summer was warm, humid and teeming with various winged, biting insects that, as far as the Messonian Huntress was concerned, seemed inordinately determined to taste her blood and were quite willing to burrow their way into her armor to get to it.

At least persistent insects were the only thing the patrol had run into instead of one of the several dangerous animals which dwelled within the marsh. The marsh sorat was one such creature, territorial and aggressive, the large reptile was both heavily-armored and biotically-resistant. An adult marsh sorat was approximately half an orgyia tall, or half as tall as an asari, and could grow to be well over two orgyia long. During the warmer parts of the year, the cold-blooded reptile was a very fast and deadly predator with long, needle-like teeth. If the patrol had detected signs of a marsh sorat near the roads they would have had to track the dangerous reptile down and kill it, for one of the primary duties of the patrols was ensuring that the trade roads in and around Serrice were safe for both merchants and citizens to travel. Guarding against bandits and thieves was their other primary duty, but since she had begun patrolling with the Forth Mora Bazea had fought against much fewer bandits than she had driven away or killed various dangerous animals encroaching too closely upon the roads or settled lands.

The maiden Huntress irritably shrugged her shoulders under her heavy leather armor as she waited for Senior Huntress Lira to motion them on; the first slow-moving cart had passed by, but there was another right behind it. In addition to fending off the persistent attacks from various insects for the past two days, today had grown to be unusually hot for springtime, adding to her general aggravation and discomfort and making the idea of a cool shower seem even more inviting. The leather armor with its riveted on metal plates might save her life in case of an attack, but that did not mean that it, along with the padding that went underneath it, was comfortable to wear during the warmer part of the year. At least the tall buildings on either side of the street kept it shaded and it felt cooler inside the thick city walls, despite the fact that it was early afternoon and in the hottest part of the day, than it had earlier outside them.

Finally, traffic along the Arvala Way cleared long enough for Senior Huntress Lira to motion them forward with a graceful movement of her gauntleted hand. Bazea stifled an impatient sigh; there were three more streets for them to cross which led to the docks and the heavy traffic here most likely meant that those three streets would also be congested with traffic. Her cool shower and nap in her comfortable bunk was farther away than she had hoped; not that she should be surprised the maiden reflected, Serrice was a very busy city compared to Messonia. She had thought her home city-state was large when she was younger, and it was compared to the other port settlements around the Galina Sea, but it was not that large when compared to the major port cities around the Ceripian Ocean.

Much had changed in the three years since Huntress Bazea Akoteas had arrived in Serrice as an angry and resentful hostage. Her presence, as well as the presence of ninety-nine other noble daughters of Messonia, ensuring the good treatment of the five hundred Alliance of the Prophecy Huntresses left behind to guard the newly conquered city-state and enforce the measures of the surrender between them. Initially, Bazea had been just as unwilling to believe the tales of the Shrine of the Prophecy as her mother, the former Potinia of the Akoteas Lineage. Matriarch Jatemea had angrily denounced the invitation of High Priestess of Athame, dismissing it as an obvious ruse to lure the Potiniini of Messonia from the safety of their acropolis walls so that they could be taken hostage against the surrender of the city-state. Seeing the equal numbers of Huntresses the Alliance of the Prophecy had fielded against them, Bazea's mother had believed that they could hold them off long enough for their supplies to run out and for the Huntresses still outside the acropolis walls to harry them into withdrawing.

What became quickly apparent as soon as the fighting began outside of the acropolis walls was that they had greatly underestimated the abilities of the Alliance Huntresses. The attackers utilized their biotics in devastatingly effective ways no Messonian Huntresses had seen before, tearing through their forces with ease and forcing them to retreat to the city acropolis far earlier than even the most pessimistic had anticipated. Bazea had thought the walls of the acropolis of Messonia were thick and tall and would protect them, but the unusually tall asari Huntresses of the Alliance, led by the tallest and most muscular asari the maiden had ever seen in her life, Commander Lidova, had used their biotics in previously unthought-of ways to literally tear apart the stone and wood and then rip the walls apart before Bazea's very eyes. Far from the days of conflict her mother had anticipated, the defenders of Messonia had only held out for six hours before the destruction of the acropolis walls and their losses compelled the surviving defenders to surrender.

Even after her mother's death and their defeat, Bazea had believed Commander Lidova's tales of the Shrine of the Prophecy to be only an artfully wrought lie designed to justify the powerful city-state's aggression and conquest of the weaker city-states surrounding it. She had held onto that belief until she had actually visited the Shrine of the Prophecy along with her aunt Matriarch Aislea, the new Potinia of the Akoteas, and Matriarch Pheella of the Morveas Lineage. What the maiden had witnessed there had finally persuaded her that the Alliance of the Prophecy truly believed that the Great Darkness would someday return from the Beyond and attack Thessia, and that the only way for the Asari to survive the attack was for them to fulfill the prophecy revealed upon the metal plaques within the Shrine. They must unite Thessia, ascend to the Heavens, find the other Younger Races and unite them under the leadership of the Asari, and then and only then with a truly unified force behind them would they be able to defeat the Great Darkness.

After three years of living, training, and yes, eventually even playing and sharing pleasure with the Huntresses of the Alliance, Bazea still wasn't certain if she believed the Prophecy or not, but she no longer held any doubt that the people of Serrice, Armali, Ulee and Cybean believed in it. Everywhere around her she saw evidence of how the asari of Serrice structured their entire society around fulfilling the Prophecy of Athame. Education was mandatory in the Alliance for every child, youth and young maiden: basic reading, writing, mathematics and science were taught along with training in both defensive and offensive biotic techniques and Tasia, a widely known martial art. When it came to acknowledging those that excelled, Bazea noticed that than the Matriarchs of Serrice praised academic skills no less than military skills among the young maidens, valuing both equally as necessary to fulfill the Prophecy.

As children grew into young maidenhood, classes in basic combat skills were added to their training, ensuring that every Alliance citizen had the fundamental skills necessary to serve in the military in case they were called to serve. If young maidens desired to become Huntresses, this was when they could first petition for admittance into one of the many Huntress Academies within or nearby the city. If they wished to study the sciences or mathematics, then young maidens could petition to join one of the many Scholastic Academies available to them. Bazea had trained hard to become a Huntress as a young maiden, but the young maidens of Serrice left their homes and went to live at the Academies, undergoing a focused learning experience that far outstripped the training she had received as a novice Huntress. Their devotion to training explained why the Alliance forces had so overwhelmed them, and meant that she and the other Huntresses from Messonia had spent their first two years undergoing hours of extra training in an effort to come closer to the skill level of the Alliance Huntresses before being fully integrated into their forces. Even after three years Bazea was still learning new biotic techniques. Besides continuing to perfect her basic throws and pulls, she was learning to master the warp, which had been used to such an effect against the acropolis walls of her city, and was learning how to create a singularity.

In the past few months, the maiden had privately questioned if she didn't believe in the Prophecy because she truly held doubts about the authenticity of the Shrine…or if the idea of the Prophecy being true was simply too overwhelming and frightening. Even more privately Bazea wondered if that hadn't been the real reason that her mother hadn't accepted the invitation of the High Priestess. She loved her mother, but she knew that the late Matriarch had not dealt well with any threat that she couldn't defeat in a direct fight, and the Great Darkness was something that not even all the Asari living today could hope to defeat together. The Prophecy of Athame made it clear that that not only would the battle take place several generations in the future, but that the Asari would need the other Younger Races fighting alongside them to have any hope of defeating the powerful enemy which had destroyed the Elder Races. Neither fact was something that Matriarch Jatemea would have accepted easily, and now Bazea had to wonder if her mother had died simply because she refused to consider that Commander Lidova was telling her the truth as the matron knew it.

During the past three years the Alliance of the Prophecy had persuaded, either though diplomacy or through a display of force, the smaller city-states and settlements bordering upon Messonia to join them. As a result, almost the Asari living on the northern part of the Galinea Sea closest to Serrice were now sworn to fulfilling the Prophecy of Athame. In two weeks approximately a fourth of the Forth Mora, specifically the lochos to which Bazea and the other Huntresses from Messonia were assigned, would be temporally attached to the Sixth Mora under Commander Lidova Saris. The combined Serrice forces would then travel to Armali, pick up a few more Huntresses from that city-state and then set sail for Koniosa, the largest of the Khurusan Islands. The Khurusan Islands were a long archipelago of seven islands located in the northwest Ceripian Ocean. They were inhabited by several tribes of asari nominally led by the descendants of a Follower of Lucen, Zemara M'Tara, a noted Huntresses and Araponia, or Mistress of the Seas. Bazea could only hope that meant that the asari living upon Konia would willingly join the Alliance instead of hopelessly fighting against them.

Three weeks later the Alliance forces left Armali in a massive flotilla of forty daumino, their way lit at first by only the brightness of the stars in the still dark sky and then by Kurinth as dawn approached. Daumino were ocean going sailing vessels whose oversized sails were manipulated by a skilled Araponia, or master navigator and mariner, to catch the slightest wind and send the ship surging forward across the waves. By the time the sun rose hours later, Bazea could not see anything but ocean all around them. The Messonian Huntress had gone for short sea voyages upon the Galinea Sea, but had never ventured as far as the Ceripian Ocean, and now she marveled as the hue of the waters around their swift moving vessel deepened into a dark blue as the depths beneath them grew. It was late afternoon when the lookouts stationed in the sails above sighted their destination. Almost an hour later everyone could just see the distinctive silhouette of Mount Koniosa, the dormant volcano which gave the island its name and an hour after that they were close enough to see the heavily forested slopes leading up to the volcano as well as the island's sandy shoreline. To the east, Bazea had heard, closer to the slopes of the volcano, there were beaches with sand that was black as night where the sea had pounded down the lava from the volcano's last eruption into fine grains.

As their ships drew close enough to shore for them to land a delegation of sixteen Huntresses, led by an elder matron, came out of the forest and waited upon the beach to greet them. Their appearance caused stir of curiosity among the Alliance Huntress onboard the ship due to the fact that they wore only loincloths to cover their nakedness instead of thick heavy armor. Necklaces dangling with stone and bone beads as well as bits of colorful shell adorned their necks while their wrists and ankles were adorned with similarly decorative bracelets. Despite their lack of armor, the sixteen asari assembled to greet them were as fit and muscular as any Alliance Huntress and carried themselves like capable warriors. They all bore wicked looking spears with hooked points on the end which seemed as if they could be used both for spear fishing and as a weapon and reminded Bazea of the Huntresses of the fishing tribes around the Galinea Sea whose ability to hunt their prey both above and underneath the waves was well known and respected. Several of the island Huntresses were noticeably as tall the average Serrican Huntress and Bazea was not surprised to note that those Huntresses all bore the white facial and body paint denoting that they belonged to the M'Tara Lineage. From what she had noticed, and was tacitly acknowledged among the Lineages of the Alliance as a gift of the Elder Race Priestesses, all of those asari descended directly from the original Followers of Athame and her Guides were taller and physically stronger than other asari, and their biotics were more powerful as well.

"I am Huntress Kaela M'Kive, in the name of our Matriarch, Nuilu M'Tara, I greet you travelers," the dark blue complexioned matron said formally as Commander Lidova and her guard approached the small group of island Huntresses, "and inquire as to your purpose for traveling across the waters to these shores."

The tall, muscular Huntresses, who was taller by far than any of those around her, bowed her head, "I am Commander Lidova Saris of the Alliance of the Prophecy of Athame, in the name of the High Priestess of Athame, Matriarch Oressia Ateos, I return your greeting Huntress Kaela M'Kive. As for my purpose here, I bear a message from the High Priestess of Athame to Matriarch Nuilu of the M'Tara Lineage."

Huntress Kaela inclined her head, "We welcome the messenger of the High Priestess of Athame. If you will follow us, we will take you to the Matriarch so that you may deliver your message to her." The matron turned her attention to the flotilla slowly unloading upon the shore, "There is a wide clearing," she turned and pointed toward the forest behind her, "a short distance in that direction with a stream along the eastern side which will provide fresh water for you. Your Huntresses may set up their camp there, though I hope you brought enough provisions with you for them for we cannot feed such a number."

Commander Lidova nodded even as she glanced uncertainly in the direction the other Huntress had indicated where the forest appeared almost impenetrable with lush undergrowth. "We have brought enough supplies with us for two weeks though we are not anticipating remaining with you for that length of time."

"Huntress Kaela," one of the younger Huntresses, who was almost as tall as Saris, volunteered, "If I may remain behind I will guide our guests to where they may set up camp."

Bazea, as she passed by burdened with a large sack of supplies perched upon her shoulder, glanced over curiously at the group upon hearing the tall maiden's pleasantly deep voice and found her attention caught by the attractive facial features and unusual complexion of the other maiden. Dark purple mottled markings were scattered across the lighter lavender blue skin of the island Huntress. The markings were especially dense and larger across the skin of the other asari's crest and face, forming almost a secondary set of facial paint in addition to the white lines upon the maiden's face, along the length of each crest frond, and down the maiden's torso which identified the maiden as a member of the of the M'Tara Lineage. The dark purple markings, though smaller in size than those on the maiden's face, were also present upon her muscular shoulders, the skin of her lavender blue arms and scattered along the long length of her legs. From what Bazea could see, the islander maiden's entire body was marked with them, for the leather loincloth and beaded necklaces hanging down to just above and in between the island Huntress's bared breasts left little to the imagination.

"Bazea," the annoyed voice of her friend Huntress Veyoste Danteas, a fellow Messonian, from directly behind her brought her back to awareness of her surroundings and the fact that she had actually stopped walking as she stared at the unusually marked maiden. Just then the purple eyed gaze of the island Huntress drifted her direction, their eyes met for second and then the other maiden's lips curved in a slightly challenging smirk as she was caught blatantly staring.

The Messonian maiden huffed in mingled annoyed and intrigued exasperation as she started walking up the beach once again. "Sorry," she quietly apologized to Veyoste before glancing once again toward the interestingly marked M'Tara maiden just in time to hear Huntress Kaela mention the younger island Huntress's name, Zora M'Tara, and for Commander Lidova politely accept the maiden's offer.

The other Messonian Huntress, who had skin a slightly darker shade that Bazea's own duero flower blue, laughed softly as she moved up and came close enough to whisper, "She is striking with those natural dark purple markings isn't she; I suspect you're going to have some competition in persuading her to share pleasures with you." Bazea frowned a bit at that as she glanced down in annoyance at the sand underfoot, farther up it was dry and shifted underneath her with each step making her footing difficult as she balanced the heavy sack on her shoulder. "At least she's still looking at you. That's hopeful."

Bazea almost turned around to look, but caught herself at the last moment; she didn't want to appear desperate for the attention. "She is?" she inquired quietly instead.

"Well she was," her friend confirmed, amusement clear in her voice, "I can't tell if she is now without turning around."

"No," Bazea hissed as she slowed down to come even with her friend and then cursed under her breath as the shifting sand underneath her booted feet made it difficult to keep her balance. "I'll try and talk with her later when we have set up camp," she commented in a more normal tone as they finally stepped into the shade of the forest line and found firmer footing as the sand beach gave way to sandy soil.

Two hours later, the Messonian Huntress finally had time to take a break from the various tasks associated with setting up camp and look around for Huntress Zora M'Tara, the interesting maiden who had led them to this clearing. It was actually not difficult to get to for there was a path in the forest leading here from the beach; they had just been unable to see it from where they had landed. To make unloading easier several of the vessels had rowed back out to deeper water and then come back into shore next to the pathway. It didn't take long for her grayish-blue eyes to locate the islander with the intriguing dark purple markings scattered across her skin for Huntress Zora was speaking in a rather animated fashion with both Commander Saris, who had obviously returned from her meeting with Matriarch Nuilu M'Tara, and the commander of Bazea's Mora, the Forth Mora of Serrice, Commander Jeis Kurin. The Messonia Huntress was too far away to hear what the maiden and two matrons were discussing, but whatever it was involved the beach…or ocean for Huntress Zora gestured repeatedly in that direction.

Not wanting to intrude on their conversation or to draw Commander Saris's attention to her Bazea walked over to the forest line where the trees cast a welcome deep shade and she could escape from the heat of the midday sun. Even though she knew that the muscular Huntress truly believed in the Prophecy of Athame and the necessity of the Asari to unite under one government, she still resented Saris's role in the death of her mother. Pensively, Bazea stared into the shaded depths of the forest. She was pleased that the islanders had peacefully accepted the High Priestess's invitation to join the Alliance instead of fighting - and dying - against them, that was not in doubt, still though she couldn't help but be reminded of how her own people had chosen to fight and had died at the hands of the same Huntresses whom she now trained and lived beside in peace. Bazea shook her head; she was tired of revisiting this in her head and didn't really want to think about it right now.

"You are from Messonia," the relatively deep voice, though she had heard it only briefly hours before, was familiar and Bazea turned around in surprise to see the very Huntress whom she had been hoping to meet.

"Huntress Zora," she acknowledged the islander maiden with the natural dark purple markings, her tone betraying her surprise, "Yes I am, Huntress Bazea Akoteas." She inclined her head in respectful greeting, "I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak with you," she admitted frankly, seeing no reason to hide that fact. Now that they were closer Bazea could tell that the other maiden was near her age of nearly three centuries or perhaps a few decades older.

Zora gave her a warm smile in return, "And I you as well. Commander Lidova spoke of the Huntress exchange program between the city-states of the Alliance. It sounded interesting, but I wanted to get your opinion before volunteering." Bazea couldn't help but frown as she heard the reason for the other Huntress wanting to speak with her, but then the attractive maiden stepped much closer, her expression softening. Zora reached out to touch her shoulder before continuing, "Even though I am saddened to know the circumstances surrounding your being here and of you and your people's loss."

Between the sympathetic expression and the light pressure of the taller maiden's hand upon her shoulder, the Messonian Huntress's displeasure vanished between one breath and the next. "Thank you," Bazea responded after a moment, "I wish," she paused, sighed and then gestured toward the camp with one hand, "that my reasons for being here were different...less painful...but they are not," she finished with finality and a touch of determination. Somewhat changing the subject she continued, "To answer your question, I have enjoyed visiting Serrice and training with the Alliance Huntresses. Given that we began by trying to kill one another," she stared pensively at the activity in the camp, "they have treated me and my fellow Huntresses from Messonia with kindness and from my Potenia's messages to me the Alliance Huntresses left in the city have been treated well in return. Though there is still lingering anger and resentment over those killed, our people are impressed with their contributions to rebuilding the city and improving upon its defenses. Most have now accepted that we now are part of the Alliance of the Prophecy..." she paused contemplatively thinking about her aunt's most recent messages, "and see the benefits it is bringing us in the sharing of knowledge and increased trade."

Zora nodded even as she lightly squeezed Bazea's shoulder underneath her hand and then released her, her hand stroking lightly down the Messonian Huntress's arm before dropping back to her side; an act that filled Bazea with hope that the other maiden found her as attractive as she found the islander. "Beyond our shared heritage as descendants of the Followers of Athame, Matriarch Nuilu has much the same reasons to accept the High Priestess's offer of Alliance," the island Huntress commented. Lavender eyes met light blue, "And there is another reason, before she left us, Guide Lucen…or rather Priest Yvtl Mavir," Zora corrected herself with a brief frown, "urged my ancestress, Huntress Zemara, to never forget his teachings and to pass on what she had learned to her children for one day the Asari would need us to guide them through more than just Ocean…they would need us to guide them through the Heavens themselves to defend Thessia against a great enemy."

Bazea stared at the other Huntress in stunned surprise, her thoughts immediately going to the wording of the Prophecy of Athame. "Follower Zemara knew of the Prophecy," she asked, "before the Shrine was located?"

The other maiden immediately shook her head, "Not of the Prophecy or of the Shrine, but she knew that there was a threat somewhere to the Asari people and that the skills that Priest Yvtl taught her would be needed by her descendants to defeat it."

Bazea nodded thoughtfully, "So Priest Yvtl gave her forewarning ahead of the discovery of the Shrine." Her eyes narrowed as she shifted her gaze toward the tents that formed the camp of the Alliance Huntresses, her eyes seeking out one tent in particular which housed Commander Lidova and her new bondmate Senior Huntress Ceiya T'Soni. "I wonder if Priestess Xanabr, Athame, gave a similar warning to Huntress Pania T'Soni, for I have heard that the T'Soni Lineage is unusually skilled in biotic techniques."

Zora followed her gaze, "It is possible," she allowed, "I know that Priest Yvtl's warning is why my ancestress Zemara came to Koniosa. Here we cannot hug the coastline for guidance and safety as the ships that travel between Serrice and Armali do, but we must be able to navigate by our knowledge of the ocean currents, sun, the behaviors of the ocean animals, and of course the stars to guide us from the islands to the mainland." The islander maiden waved one hand toward the path that lead to the nearby beach, "Water surrounds us, we must learn to live with and respect it for not only its beauty and bounty, but also for its merciless deadliness should we forget its raw might and power."

The Messonian Huntress nodded in understanding; she had heard much the same from the seafarers who plied the waters of the Galinea Sea. They loved the waters as much as they warily respected them, for what gave forth so much bounty could quickly take everything into its depths as well. "So," she returned to the other maiden's question, "did I answer your question about the exchange program? I'm sure Commander Lidova and the others went over the specifics of how long and an outline of what you would be doing for the first few months. Did she mention what city-state or mora you would be sent to if you did volunteer?"

The interestingly marked islander maiden's dark blue lips curved upward in a full smile that crinkled the corners of her eyes, "Yes, you did, thank you; and we would have our choice of what city-state we went to for the exchange. In the case we choose Serrice, we would join the Fourth Mora."

Though certainly pleased by the idea of Zora joining her mora, Bazea was surprised that the Fourth would receive another group of exchange Huntresses instead of them going to one of Serrice's six other mora. Upon further consideration however, she thought she understood the reasoning behind it. The Commander and Senior Huntresses of the Fourth already had experience with evaluating Huntresses who were not as advanced in either military skills or biotic skills as their normal recruits from Serrice's many Huntress Academies. They had already worked out methods of training with her and her fellow Messonian Huntresses to the point where they were sufficiently skilled enough to serve alongside the other Huntresses of the Fourth. Therefore, they were actually the mora best suited to evaluate and train the Huntresses from Khurusa, who also did not have Huntress Academies, and would likely be at a similar beginning skill level.

Bazea nodded her head, a thoughtful expression upon her face as she shared her thoughts, "That makes sense, the Fourth has the most experience with integrating non-Alliance trained Huntresses." She lifted her head and gazed directly at the maiden whose lavender skin was marked with darker purple until the other asari's lavender eyes met her own darker blue ones. Bazea smiled, letting her personal interest show in the tenor of her gaze, "If you do choose Serrice, I know you and your fellow Huntresses will be warmly welcomed by those of us from Messonia."

Zora's smile widened, "And by almost every other Huntress in the Fourth and Sixth if the looks we are getting are any indication," she commented with clear amusement.

The Messonian inclined her head in agreement. It was quite true; Zora and the other islander Huntresses that came into the camp were all subjects of intrigued interest. Considering the sheer amount of competition for Zora's companionship, Bazea was pleased that Zora had taken notice of her over all the other Alliance Huntresses. Given that the intriguingly marked maiden had sought her out instead of one of the many others openly seeking the islander's company, Zora apparently returned the Messonian's interest.

Deciding to act upon that apparent interest; Bazea stepped daringly closer to the other maiden, close enough that she could just sense the islander's aura. Her eyes closed for a moment as she focused upon what she felt from the other maiden - strength, discipline, calmness - intriguing and... very pleasant against her own aura. A matron would sense this from farther away, a matriarch even farther still, but she was a maiden and had to get almost within arm's reach to feel another's aura. Bazea opened her eyes; Zora had not shifted or moved away from her, that was both a relief and pleasure and she suspected that the islander had taken a moment to similarly sense her aura in return. "I'm interested in finding out how your training differs from how I was taught in Messonia," it was a change of subject, but having made her move and not been rejected, Bazea was now more interested in getting to know more about the other maiden.

"Quite a bit differently I'm sure," Zora said with a chuckle of amusement as she gazed down at the shorter maiden now standing almost beside her, "we are trained to use not only our spears and bows, but also the natural weapons that surround us such as water and sand."

"Really?" Bazea inquired, intrigued by the concept, "How exactly…?"

The islander jerked her head toward the shore. "If you want a demonstration," she offered, "I'd be pleased to show you."

"Yes I would," Bazea quickly accepted, "I just need to let Senior Huntress Lira know where I'm going and about for how long." Upon seeing the slight nod and understanding look from Zora, the Messonian immediately set off, hoping that the Senior Huntress would still be at the place she had seen her last, sitting reading beside her tent.

"Let her know it will be for a few hours," she heard Zora call out from behind her before she had taken more than a few steps, "I'd like to show you around some of the island afterward. There are some exceptionally beautiful places I'd like to share with you...which also happen to be very secluded and private."

Bazea's forward motion came to an abrupt halt as she stopped, twisted, and looked behind her, locking gazes with the other maiden. The islander's lavender eyed gaze held an intent directness which made very clear the other maiden's intent and Bazea couldn't help but feel a thrill of anticipation at the prospect. "I look forward to you showing me them, and am honored that you would share them," she left silent the 'and you' just in case she was being overly optimistic, "with me."

Zora slowly shook her head, "Do not underestimate yourself Bazea...there is something about you, a fierceness of spirit that I find very appealing. If you are honored, then I am as well at the prospect of your company."

A fierceness of spirit...upon hearing the reason for Zora's interest in her, the Messonian Huntress was both pleased and flattered by the complement. She smiled, her blue eyes lighting up with her pleasure, "Thank you, give me a moment to find the Senior Huntress and I'll be right back." Her footsteps light and swift, the maiden made her way through the maze of tents to the group of eight tents belonging to her peripolia. To her relief her immediate superior, Senior Huntress Lira, was still sitting on a camp stool just outside her tent reading a book containing the writings of the late Matriarch Valthya Iessaos, a noted tactician and strategist of Serrice.

Bazea eyed it curiously, bound books were not new, but until a year ago they had all been hand written and very rare, never to be taken out of the house library. The book Lira was reading was one of the new books which was printed using ink and lines of small stamping blocks to form the letters, and thus could be produced in great numbers compared to hand written ones. The inspiration for it came from one of the High Priestesses at the Temple Scholastic Academy, one of the largest scholastic academies within Serrice, who lamented that there was not a way to make books widely available for teaching and training. It had taken a few years for the idea to bear fruit, but just a year ago the Academy had developed a method of using very small stamping blocks inset in rows upon a plate. Printed books were still rare and expensive, but not as nearly rare or expensive as hand written ones and from what Bazea had heard they were expected to become commonplace in the next few decades as the invention made its way around the Alliance and more printing presses were made and distributed to the city-states.

"Senior Huntress," Bazea addressed her as soon as the matron looked up from her book, "Huntress Zora M'Tara has requested my company for a demonstration of biotic techniques and then offered to show me around the island, would it be alright for me to be absent from the camp for a few hours?" As far as she knew their peripolia hadn't been assigned any duties for the afternoon, so she was hopeful that the Senior Huntress would grant her request.

"Show you around the island," Lira echoed, giving the maiden a knowing look as an amused smirk curved her lips. She remained silent for what seemed like a worryingly long moment to Bazea before finally giving her permission, "Yes, you may accompany her so long as you come back by dusk. We will probably be assigned one of the guard rotations for tonight so you need to get some rest before then," the matron said with a meaningful emphasis on the word.

The Messonian Huntress grinned in response, "I will make sure I am back by dusk." A few minutes later, she joined Zora and they began heading toward the pathway that lead to the beach. Bazea feeling rather smug at the envious looks she had received when it became clear she was leaving with the beautiful and intriguingly marked islander.

"You've been taught to constantly evaluate your surroundings so that you know what can be lifted and thrown as a weapon in case of attack?" Zora queried when they reached the edge of the forest and could see the beach.

"Yes," Bazea nodded toward a fallen log a few feet away from them, "I could use that and," she gave an uncertain look toward the sandy beach, "apparently the sand as well? Would that be used as a diversion and to blind the enemy?"

The islander Huntress inclined her head, "It is very effective as a diversion and to blind your enemies…it is also very effective and deadly as a weapon in its own right." Zora's body lit up with bluish-white energy and she waved her hand using her biotics to lift some of the nearby sand into the air. The islander made a pulling gesture with her hand, causing the sand to form into a globe as it floated over to them.

As Bazea watched curiously, an intense expression of concentration formed on the islanders face and then with a precise motion of her hands Zora shaped the sand into a narrow stream and directed it toward the fallen log. Bazea watched in shock as the accelerated stream of sand stripped away the log's bark in mere seconds and then started boring into the wood. She could easily imagine how it could strip though her leather armor just as quickly.

"That is the way to use sand as a weapon," Zora commented as she ran through the last of the sand. "We also use it to simply shape both wood and stone," she motioned toward the log, "or just smooth out planks in moments. Stone is harder and takes longer, but even it can be carved thus with a swift stream of sand and some patience."

Bazea's eyes narrowed thoughtfully as she crossed over to the log and bent down to brush her hand over the carved out section. The exposed wood was smooth to the touch as it had quite literally been sanded down, she could see how that would be very useful indeed and resolved to mention it in her next letter to her Aunt. "Yes, I can see how useful it would be," she commented as she rose and turned back to Zora, "how do you accelerate the sand like that? It's so small."

Almost thirty minutes later Bazea was able to almost copy the effect that the other Huntress was demonstrating to her, more to the point she was certain that with more practice she would be able to duplicate it. At its core, it was another form of throw. Only the objects she was throwing were tiny grains instead of logs or rocks, thus the biotic field needed to be a difficult combination of smaller and more powerful. Bazea was confident her biotics were strong enough, she just needed to hone the mental discipline required to create the proper effect.

"You've got the technique you just need to practice more," Zora echoed her thoughts as the taller maiden examined the shallow depression in the log that Bazea had just created with her latest effort. This time she had managed to bore through the bark and into the wood itself, unlike her previous attempts. She turned around and gave the Messonian an approving look, "That didn't take you very long at all to learn," the islander complemented Bazea. "I was honestly expecting it to take longer to teach you," Zora admitted, obviously pleased at having been proven wrong in her assumption.

Bazea chuckled a bit ruefully, "I've learned quite a few new biotic techniques these past few years. I guess I've gotten better…and quicker at it." She looked up at the taller maiden, "So water?"

"Yes!" Zora commented turning toward the beach and setting out toward the shoreline. She stopped knee deep in the water while Bazea, not wanting to get her boots wet again, stopped just short of the waterline. "Water can be used in many ways; we use it to primarily capsize enemy ships." The islander maiden's body lit with energy as she lifted her hands, raising an impressive wall of water taller than she in front of her and then thrust her arms forward, sending the wall of water crashing down against an imaginary enemy. "It can also be lifted and hurled like anything else," Zora lifted one hand, raising a large globule of water and then sending it in a soaring arch to splash several feet away with a wave of her arm. This Bazea did not need any instruction for, she knew how the islander had done what she did…she had just never before considered using water as a possible weapon.

"So, would you like to see more of the island?" Zora walked out of the water toward her, her hips taking on a slight extra sway that immediately caught the Messonian's full attention. "You must be hot in that armor; I know of a freshwater stream deep enough to swim in not very far from here."

Blue eyes met lavender, "That does sound very inviting," Bazea allowed as the islander came up to her. Zora smiled, reached down and grasp her hand before stepping away and pulling her along behind her. They reached the stream less than fifteen or so minutes later and then followed it inland until they reached a grassy clearing. Bazea smiled as she saw it, it was beautiful and the clear water with its sandy bottom looked refreshingly cool. As she began stripping out of her armor, the Messonian had only a moment to note that Zora's darker purple markings did indeed cover her entire body as the islander removed her loincloth and necklaces before slipping into the water.

The two of them swam in the stream for quite some time, brushing teasingly against one another as they dove and played in the water. Eventually they decided to leave the water to both dry off and warm up by lying upon the grass of the sunlit clearing. One inviting glance from Bazea was all it took for Zora to shift from lying beside the Messonian to kneeling above her and then the islander's body was a pleasingly warm weight upon her, pressing her down against the soft grass. She pulled Zora closer as their lips met in a passionate kiss, lips parting to allow a deeper exploration. Moments later Bazea's hand began a stroking exploration of the islanders back, enjoying the smoothness of the other maiden's lavender skin and the feel of taunt muscles underneath and then wandered upward to gently stroke the sensitive folds along Zora's neck and the back of her scalp.

It wasn't long before her own need and the rising scent of her new lover's arousal had Bazea parting her thighs to allow Zora to lie in between them. She groaned in pleasure as she felt the other maiden press intimately against her and felt how swollen, firm, and slick with arousal was other maiden's kunaja. Wanting to experience what Zora felt Bazea reached out, her eyes darkening as initiated a light meld and waited for the other maiden to respond to her invitation. The islander immediately accepted, allowing their minds to brush lightly against one another, sharing a hint of both their physical pleasure and their emotions.

As the meld deepened became more intimate, Zora angled her hips and pressed down more firmly against Bazea so that there was increased contact between them, then she began moving her hips in a tightly controlled slow, steady rhythm. First up to the fore of the kunaja where the sensations were most exquisite as the swollen flesh was very sensitive there, and then all the way down to where the swollen tissues parted to either side of the birth canal opening in one arousal slickened motion and then back again to repeat the motion. It felt wonderful to both maidens, especially with each mirroring the sensations they felt to other in the meld, doubling the pleasure experienced by both.

The mingled scent of their arousal was now very noticeable upon the nearly still air within the sheltered clearing. Bazea drew in a long, deep breath, drawing in the deep and rich aroma which marked them with each other's scent and told a silent tale of the intensity of their shared pleasure both to themselves and to any other nearby asari. Through the meld she felt Zora do the same; and then the other maiden's lips pressed urgently against her own, parting them and demanding entry, even as the meld between them abruptly strengthened in both depth and intensity. Inflamed by the scent of their mutual pleasure, the islander maiden pushed into her mind, forcefully, commandingly - certainly not seeking to hurt, for even with the forcefulness there was gentleness and protective reassurance, but definitely seeking to dominate the connection between them and take control of the meld - if Bazea permitted it.

Unfortunately for them both, as the Messonian maiden had heard that such a meld was an intense and deeply pleasurable experience for both partners, Bazea knew she was no akertira to let Zora become the akero in their mutual pleasuring. It was not in her to yield and submit to the taller maiden so that Zora could flow through her and lead them in the dance of pleasure; consequently, the Messonian maiden pushed back, not to end the meld between them, but to firmly define what was without, where Zora was welcome, and what was still within and her own space only. For a few seconds their minds strove against one another, testing each other's mental strength and resolve before Bazea felt the dominance pressure against her own mind lighten as Zora accepted that she would not yield to her. They would be equals in this, not leader and follower.

The islander maiden's hips, which had stilled during their mental struggle, resumed their steady motion with the resolution of it. Bazea let out a muted sound of pleasure at the feel of it, the steady perfect pressure through the entire stroke, firm enough to create a delicious friction yet not too firm, through enough for her to savor the difference in how the intimate contact felt at the head of her kunaja to the very root of it. Zora was obviously well experienced in the art of pleasuring and the Messonian maiden was well pleased…meant in every way…to be the beneficiary of the islander's expertise.

Bazea did make it back to camp before dusk…barely.