Day 61. 200 pages, 98,517 words. Post #996.
The son of notorious swindler Morigon Bazander and Molran Fleet Captain ChoraMae Ghenea Fastel, Grendel’s Grief was born Mora Fastel sometime in the Twenty-Fifth Century on a planet called Nebuchadnezzar, right on the boundary of the near-arm colonies. It was difficult to pinpoint exactly when he and his twin sister, Michalka Mae, were born, because once Mora passed First Prime and adopted his new name he also bade a fond farewell to any attempt at telling the truth about his age. He was aided in this by the secrecy and scandal that surrounded his and his sister’s birth, a scandal he did everything in his considerable power to promote and exaggerate.
Bazander was a Blaran, ChoraMae a Molran – and not just any Molran. Worldship Captains were among the Molrannest Molren in the galaxy, the meritocratic equivalent of royalty. The romance between Bazander and ChoraMae was a squalid and disgraceful indiscretion, or a glorious love affair that transcended the boundaries of culture and – yes – even species. It depended who you asked. But even leaving aside the genetic treatments required to permit interbreeding that made accidental impregnation all but impossible, there were some compelling aspects to the case.
Usually, when a Third-Prime Blaran fathered children with a First-Prime Molran, the breach of propriety and the accompanying condemnation went far beyond the already-horrendous taboo and the skinswitch to Blaran for the Molran involved. ChoraMae was, after all, a mere eighty-three-year-old slip of a girl when she fell pregnant, and Bazander was anywhere between forty-two and forty-four hundred years of age, in the dark bloom of his Final Prime and with the advantage of some four thousand, two hundred years’ life-experience. And yet, for all this, the outrage in Bazander and ChoraMae’s case seemed disproportionately mild. Yes, ChoraMae was cast out of the Molran species and never again commanded on a Fleet or AstroCorps starship, but the freshly-minted Blaran made a good life for herself on Nebuchadnezzar and was perfectly happy, a condition that seemed to be reflected in the opinion of Fleet society as a whole.
Bazander too lived on the little backwater planet for the first few decades of Mora and Michalka’s lives, enjoying an idyllic early retirement as he descended from his Third Prime and began, inevitably, to fade. He may or may not have conducted a few minor confidence tricks just to keep his hand in, but ChoraMae seemed to have kept him on the straight and narrow – just as Michalka appeared to do for her twin brother, in fact. Morigon Bazander boarded the wandering Worldship Odious Dullard in 2515 YM, and was never heard from again. Such was the lot of the Molranoid ancients.
Mora continued to live on ‘Neb’ for a short while, but was increasingly drawn into his father’s old habits despite his sister’s good influence. It’s uncertain whether it was one of Bazander’s old cons coming back to bite the blameless Mora Fastel, or one of Mora’s own less-polished swindles backfiring on the family, but the tragic result of the well-organised and brutal assault was that ChoraMae and Michalka, Mora’s mother and sister, were both killed. This catastrophe marked the end of Mora Fastel as history knows him, and the beginning of Grendel’s Grief.
It also marked the end of anything approaching moderation or limitation in the Blaran’s criminal exploits.
The master-thief was famed for his body modifications that were excessive even by Blaran standards, and his policy of … if not ‘no killing’, then at least erring on the side of pure – and extreme – larceny rather than assassination and other violent crimes many of his ilk veered into. Grendel’s Grief was exceptional in the field of theft, freelancing his way across Six Species space in an extravagant assortment of starships, none of which were his. His thefts-on-commission were nothing short of spectacular. Many larger worlds and unions came to informally consider it a mark of having ‘made it’ as a culture if Grendel’s Grief had stolen some great treasure from them.
His most famous theft was Gazor Major, a planet – and not a small one – about three thousand light years outside the central colonies. The theft was a drawn-out campaign involving Bunzolabe Incorporated settlement writs, Fleet and Zhraak Dome political manipulation, and a hundred other things that required massive re-evaluation of the legal system in its wake. What was done was done, however, and the ownership was entirely legitimate even if it had come about as a result of an impossibly convoluted series of barefaced robberies. Gazor Minor became – and remained – Michalka’s World, comparable to Coriel, Greater Castermaine and Unintended in size and influence. The map was officially re-drawn, indeed, to include the system within the central colonies umbrella. It required some skewing of the borders, but by that stage it had become a matter of political expediency.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his career, however, was the fact that a Blaran with molecular-augmented obsidian-black skin, covered from head to toe in silver symbols and with curled ram’s horns instead of ears, with a thieving ‘party trick’ repertoire that included the extrusion of dozens of filament-thin silver manipulators from his body, somehow managed to evade capture until the early 3340s. Well … he was actually arrested and imprisoned several times, but never for more than a month, and usually as a result of intentional surrender as part of a larger scheme. Breaking people out of prisons, in fact, became something of a speciality, provided his own personal code of ethics was observed. It wasn’t until he was sentenced and incarcerated in the Storm’s Eye penitentiary that he apparently found a prison he couldn’t escape. He remained there until 3350 YM, and although he was never surgically or genetically treated to remove his augmentations, the facilities there did prove capable of nullifying their functions.
His transfer from the Storm’s Eye, and the series of bureaucratic mishaps that surrounded his return to the prison and subsequent disappearance, were never adequately explained. Theories abounded as to whether it had been a covered-up escape attempt – or better yet, a covered-up escape – or an execution, botched or otherwise. The prevailing hypothesis was that the Storm’s Eye had simply been another step for him, a longer game than usual resulting in the jailbreak of someone or something that was simply too classified to see the light of day.
Whatever the explanation, and all tales of folklore and high adventure aside, no further confirmed sightings of Grendel’s Grief occurred after 3356 YM.
It was as though he had ceased to exist.