Saturday, July 30, 2011

Loss - Part 7

Ha'ko'no crouched beside a rotted tree truck, his hind claws digging into the soft shards of blackish brown bark scattered on the ground. An arrow nocked and ready in his bow, his dark brown eyes peered intently through the jungle, anxiously watching for any signs of pursuit. Black nostrils flared on his dun furred face and he breathed deeply, scenting the wind. His ears twitched with relief, the warm, moist air bringing only the reassuring odors of the tropical forest's myriad of creatures, and plants in various stages of growth or decay. His whiskers twitched in satisfaction. This was Ra'van'ti territory, but there was no sign of Ra'van'ti ro'ats following their trail. Good. Ur'ruk would be pleased.

Or should be, Ha'ko'no amended to himself, flattening his ears uneasily. Ur'ruk, their small band's leader, had become unpredictable of late, his moods subject to change at any moment. He had been gifted with a short temper to begin with and the death of his mate, Var'shao, had only worsened matters. He lashed out at the group's few remaining members indiscriminately now. As a young, newly appointed weaker hunter, Ha'ko'no's shoulders bore many claw marks of his leader's rages.

The adolescent male snarled to himself. Things would not be so bad and Var'shao would not be dead if they had not foolishly intruded so close to the Na'lat encampment only a pawful of days ago. Even On'ru, Ur'ruk's second in command, had advised against it. They could have hunted for what they needed even trespassing on Na'lat territory. It was unlikely they would have been noticed, but no, Ur'ruk was in a hurry to reach the Gathering. Instead he decided for the group to sneak into the village during the night and simply take the food and supplies he desired. And so, Var'shao had been shot.

Ha'ko'no hung his head. Ur'ruk's mate had not died right away. They had all managed to flee the village, but the Na'lat arrow had pierced Var'shao's belly. She had struggled gamely on through the night and part of the next day, but finally collapsed. Yowling in great pain, she had died shortly thereafter, the small band of fugitives gathered helplessly about her.

Her presence was now sorely missed. On'ru's mate had died of illness the past winter. Var'shao had been the last remaining female in their small band of shay'orz, what the Tribes called little clusters of nomadic exiles trying to exist as best they could on the fringes of tribal territories. She had been the only one who could sometimes talk sense into Ur'ruk or calm his rages. She hadn't been very pretty, Ha'ko'no reflected, her scarred coat a dull, dingy beige, her small yellow eyes set too close together, but she had been a decent hunter, certainly the best tracker of the group, and she had, in her rough way, looked after him.

He shook his head sadly. He was not an exile himself but rather had been born to one. That group of shay'orz had been decimated during an attack from another outlaw band, leaving him to wander alone, trying to fend for himself. Ur'ruk's band had found him half-starved and taken him in. They had become his family, but with Var'shao's death and Ur'ruk's growing penchant for violence, Ha'ko'no found himself tempted more and more to desert the shay'orz and try to make it on his own. He feared if he did, however, that in his present state, Ur'ruk would track him down and kill him.

No, he thought, it would be better to wait until they got to the Gathering. There would be many shay'orz there. Maybe he could manage to join another group with a better leader and gain their protection. Perhaps, the young male dared hope, the band of the Anu'at of the Shay'orz. He was a giant of his kind, towering over even the tallest of the People by a good two feet or more. All the shay'orz paid his band tribute during the Gathering, either to curry favor or as protection from his wrath. Even Ur'ruk would not be so foolish as to challenge the Anu'at if he chose to take Ha'ko'no in!

The young hunter shook himself, coming back to the here and now, glancing up at the sky with a scowl. They needed to be on their way. No one was coming. They had committed a grave transgression against the Ra'van'ti, but they appeared to be safe for now. Staying low, Ha'ko'no slid deeper into the shadows, swiftly heading back to where his shay'orz and Ur'ruk no doubt impatiently waited...

To be continued.

Monday, July 4, 2011

R'iiilv Mrull - Part 7

Conversations ceased as the door slammed behind Sorzen. Every Weequay in the joint turned to look at Mrrowl, and an expectant feral smile spread across the big cat’s face. A swooper, full of liquid courage, leaned heavily on the back of his chair to push himself up from his table, responding to bolstering calls to action from his tablemates.

Drawing an oversized blaster from his hip, he staggered unsteadily across the bar; creating a wave of ducking heads as his wildly swinging muzzle promised a threat to anyone in its path. He cursed roundly as a hand on his chest stopped him cold. Looking blurrily to his right, he saw the Lieutenant restraining him. Angry, he twisted free of the restraining hand and stepped a little closer to the Togorian, shakily aiming his blaster.

A deep stillness of movement fell across the entire bar. Large jade eyes regarded the blaster wielding Swooper with utter contempt, and Mrrowl’s sleek pelt again rippled with muscles reorienting themselves for fast action.

Hand blurring, the Lieutenant’s blaster appeared behind the Swooper, the sound of a shot punctuated the cymbals and bass beat of the synthrock, and the blaster disappeared back into its holster in one fluid motion. Mrrowl chortled and gave a small nod of respect, as the nearly headless smoking body of his erstwhile attacker dropped to its knees, then crashed to the dirty floor. The Lieutenant swept the room with a hard look, then sat down at his own table, signalling the bar for another round.

Sour faces watched the Bith bartender hustle over to take care of the new mess. With the latest body headed for the dumpster, conversation slowly resumed, with an occasional sidelong look at the back table.


Once in a very long while, I actually get to do something I’m going to enjoy.

The thought drifted through the Twi’lek’s mind, leaving a little trail of warm sparks. Her days had been a haze of emptiness and misery since she had been sold to the markets at the age of 16. Now, the 18 year-old spent her time satisfying the whims of that bastard Sorzen and whomever else he drug in through the door.

Clutching absentmindedly at the collar around her throat, she shuddered, hearing her own screams as she was dragged out of her father’s arms, replaced with a credit stick that he pocketed as he turned away and left the room without even a backwards glance. The call of the auctioneer, leering men who ran their hands over her and checked her teeth as if she was an animal in the market, the filthy lizard-thing that loaded her into a cage on a ship and flew her away from the only home she ever knew...

You’re Ree’Sara, you’re better than this....” she chastised herself. Releasing her nervous grip on the small eyebolt at the throat of her collar, she firmly placed her hands on the bar and regarded the Togorian at the back table. She’d been told, “Keep his glass full and make sure he finds his guest room down the street.” She’d been frightened when he’d entered, however, something in the way he tossed the nasty Weequay about, and that purr when she’d taken the drinks over, well, maybe there was something more than violence in the hulking creature. “Besides,” she thought, “the way his ear jumped when I touched it was kind of cute...

Ree’s thoughts were interrupted in a fog of terrible breath, as a body reeking of sweat, fresh blood, and cleaning chemicals pressed against her from behind, trapping her against the edge of the bar.

A voice belonging to one of the Bith bartenders rasped in her ear, “You should get to it girl, or Sorzen will be most upset.”

A fresh gust of nastiness blew past her face as she struggled futilely against his weight for a moment. “Don’t you have something to clean Jinian?” she snapped.

Jinian’s fingers grabbed the end of one of her headtails, simultaneously twisting and pulling backwards. Hot tears sprang to Ree’s eyes and she cried out, her chin rising higher and higher in a futile attempt to lessen the searing pain.

“Sorzen should beat that insolent streak out of you whelp. You’re window dressing that should be seen and not heard. In fact, “ Jinian mused, a cruel edge appearing in his voice, “I should probably just save him the effort and take care of it my...”

Jinian’s voice ended in a cut off shriek as a large paw snaked around his neck. He froze as he felt the tips of barely extended razor sharp claws shallowly piercing his skin of his throat, very near an artery.

“Mrrowl new here, not know much. Know not treat female that way...” a very deep voice rumbled from a short distance behind him.

The Bith’s nerveless fingers released Ree’s headtail, and a sudden backwards pressure on his throat forced him to take a couple of quick steps back to avoid a lethal wounding. Relieved of the pressure, Ree bent forward over the bar, gently gathering up the organ and cradling it for a moment. Anger quickly replacing pain, she whirled, slamming her fist into the side of the Bith’s jaw. Mrrowl loosened his paw and let Jinian slump to the floor, making that odd, deep chortling sound again.

The bar erupted in laughter, accompanied by hungry looks at Ree. Other Weequay elbowed each other jovially, glad to see someone else getting the wrong end of the big cat.

Jinian sat up groggily. He swiped quickly at his neck with his hand, which came away slick with blood. His awareness expanded slightly to include two large, furry legs, and he cowered from the big Togorian, who was looming over him, a murderous glint in his eyes.

“Bighead ssssmart, bighead apologize to female. Mrrowl hear more bad thingsss ‘bout Bighead, beat Bighead with own armsss.” The big cat’s inch long claws sprung fully out, glinting wickedly in the neon lights of the bar.

Vision still swimming, hand tightly clasped to his injured neck, the Bith stammered out an apology.

Snatching one of the nicer bottles of Alderaanian Whiskey and an extra glass, Ree took Mrrowl’s arm and was surprised when, instead of leading, he meekly followed her back to his table. Oddly enough, no one dared to make a grab for Ree as she passed by.

Arriving at the table, Mrrowl reached out, his ears intently forward, and gently cupped the headtail that Jinian had a hold of. Leaning down, he looked closely for damage. “Head thing ok?” he rumbled quietly.

Ree reflexively shuddered in pleasure at his touch, then sighed in regret as Mrrowl, thinking he was causing her more pain, carefully let go. Her eyes widened in surprise as he bent over the table, and poured three fingers of whiskey into her glass, then six into his own. “Whissskey make head thing better.” he said, then showed his sharp teeth as he resumed his crouch near the wall.

“I, umm, think I’m supposed to do that for you.” Ree said softly, with a smile of her own. Looking around defensively for a moment to assure herself that no one was going to interfere, she finally sat down heavily in the chair that Sorzen had vacated.

“Female ssserve male?” Mrrowl replied in surprise, his ears canting in opposite directions for a moment before refocusing on the Twi’lek, “Mrrowl and female not mated, Mrrowl pour drink for pretty female.”

Carefully moving her injured headtail out of the way, Ree leaned back in her chair, incredibly puzzled. She’d seen a lot of creatures come through the bar over the prior two years, smugglers, swoopers, lowlifes, even the occasional well-dressed client to see Sorzen. Never had she seen a male of any species act this way. She even had a sneaking suspicion that the drink offering wasn’t designed to get her drunk and make her more pliable. Besides, she’d always wanted to try some of the “good stuff”, as Sorzen called it.