Chapter XXXXIII: Battles of Mind and Body
"Jack, Jack, babe, wake up." Riddick said softly, shaking her bare shoulder. He wasn't sure when she had taken off her shirt, but she must've felt too warm during the night. She groaned, curling away from him. With a final shove off the bed, Jack sprang awake and rolled on the floor, jumping up, eyes angry and alert.
"The fuck, why did you do that?"
"Time to get up." He said simply, getting off the bed and walking into the bathroom as if nothing had happened. With a raised lip in a half-snarl, she stalked after him. But when she saw him shirtless, just about to take off his pants, her anger faded and she approached him as she would approach a wild stallion, calmly, yet with confidence.
Passing a hand over his back as she slipped by to turn on the shower, she felt his eyes watching her form. Leaning into the shower, she found the right temperature and when she shoved off the wall to stand, she stood back into his chest, his arms suddenly wrapped around her waist.
"Mornin', Riddick." She said softly, closing her eyes, lost in the sound of the shower and his heartbeat mixed together, lulling her back to sleep.
"Jack." He said, nuzzling her neck, his hands running up and down her bare sides, easily spanning the distance. "You know you'll have to undress to get into the shower…"
She opened her eyes in a glare and dug her nails into the back of his neck, where her hand had been resting. He winced slightly at this, deciding he wouldn't pull these sorts of things until Jack had her coffee.
"You want me undressed? Do it yourself. You know what they say, darling. You want a job done right, you do it yourself." She replied, smirking as she turned around and out and his grasp.
Laughing, he approached her, kissing her neck as he slipped the straps of her bra down. "Trust me, I'll be doin' this right." This earned him a beautiful laugh that he felt through her throat and a helluva good time in the shower.
"So, Riddick isn't captured?" Rian clarified again, looking over the small crew Liege had bought with her. Rick and Falc were sitting and Khan stood apart, wary of being around his lover's husband.
"No, 'e is with Jack, floatin' in space somewhere." Liege replied, standing near her father. They painted an imposing picture, especially standing in fighting garb.
"Ah, this makes things so much better. Alright, we attack tomorrow at dawn." He decided, pleased with the unexpected outcome of events. Walking out of the farmhouse with his daughter in tow, the door shut leaving Khan, Rick and Falc.
"Wouldn't want to be on his bad side." Rick said, turning to Falc who nodded quickly in agreement. Khan sighed, pulling his hand down over his face. This was going to be hard and by the cold-shoulder and looks Liege had been giving him so far, it was clear her father had told her of their dark past.
As Rian walked across the dirt path that led to the village, Liege watched him, wondering what was eating at him. After last night, she imagined he would be relieved to have finally told her. To her and his surprise, they had both taken the news and reaction rather well.
"Da, whas wrong?" She asked quietly, walking beside him.
"We're goin' into battle tomorrow, Aidan. Ye might be the last one of our blood alive by the end of the day. Khan may help ye, but how…" he trailed off, face deeply set in worry.
Liege didn't reply for she too had thought of that when she was told of the oncoming battle to take back the compound. It wasn't going to be easy, nor pretty. Yet, she knew somehow all would end well.
"Ye will be alive. Tha' much is certain." She stated, believing it firmly.
"How…" he asked, looking sharply at her.
"I 'ave nothin' to lose in this battle, so I can fight like hell's fury." She said. "I will protect ye if it comes to tha'."
"Just because Kell is dead doesn't mean-" he started, angry at his daughters lost look on life.
"It isn't just tha'." She snarled, turning on him. "Rick, Falc, Khan, yes they mean somethin' to me, but 'm not devastated without 'em. I know Jack 'n Riddick are safe, so they can't be touched 'n they 'ave each other, no need of me. 'n is been planned tha' one day I'd take over 'n if ye die…I've been prepared for it me entire life, da."
"That is all true, Aidan. That is true." He replied, his head hung in slight despair. For such a young woman to have nothing in life was painful to him. "Hell's fury, ye say?"
"Ten fold." She replied, looking straight in front of her. He nodded and pulled her off the path into the forest. They walked in silence, she not questioning where she was being taken to. Soon the forest ended and a small clearing appeared, only to drop off at a cliff.
"Then, ye must 'ave an army tha' will fight to serve yer hell's fury." He said, motioning down beneath him. Liege's eyes widened in amazement.
There, beneath her, camped an army so large she couldn't see the end of the tents that bedded them. Many were preparing for battle, while others had mock-fights. Some were freshening weapons that had been put away, in hope that they would never be needed. She glanced to her right, where a man stood with two snorting horses. Looking at her father, he nodded and with a small smile she walked to the man. He dipped his head in acknowledgement and gave her the reigns. Liege led them over to where she had been previously standing, looking at her father once again.
He took the reigns of the horse closer to him and turned to mount and Liege did the same. Soon, both father and daughter mounted, he led her down a mountain path that curved through the rocky crevices and down to the camp. He soon picked the pace up to a canter and they entered the camp in the same manner, the thudding of the hooves alerting the men. Liege's face hardened into that of a commander as thousands of men stood in respect and saluted both her and her father.
Finally the rows of tents ended and Rian turned his horse quickly and Liege did the same, looking back on their army. She had known many men were loyal to them, but never to this extent. Liege asked her father in her eyes if she could view the camp herself and with a terse nod, he turned his horse again and galloped to what she thought was the tent where he would be staying. Vowing not to dally too long, Liege kicked her mount into a canter and headed back towards the center.
As men stood she waved them back down, she felt no need for them to stand for her. In confusion some trailed her while others returned back to their work, eager for battle. Liege continued at a canter until she heard a voice call.
Pulling her mount to a halt, it skidded on his hind legs then turned, snorting at the abrupt change. Walking back towards the man who had called her, Liege looked to specifically who it was.
"Pardon, me lady, but it was I." A young man, obviously able to wield any weapon and still be kind and gentle, approached her cautiously.
"What is yer name?" She asked, turning her mount so she could look down at him and get a clear view.
She nodded and waited.
"I…tis me wife, she was very sick when I left 'n I wanted to know if she still lived but I 'aven't-" he stopped when she held her hand up.
"Ye will 'ave news of her by this evening. I promise it." She said, making sure she remembered every detail she could about him. "Run to my father, tell 'im 'm goin' to the farmhouse 'n I'll return as soon as possible."
He gratefully nodded and sprinted off towards the main tent, Liege following his movement. Satisfied, she looked to the cliff where the semi-hidden passage lay. Turning her mount, she kicked it into a full gallop, glad that no one stepped in her way. Faces and tents blurred as she thundered towards the looming cliff that she easily turned her mount up onto and in a quick trot, made it up. Easily finding and following the path she had used to walk there with her father, she broke out into a gallop on the open road, the dust kicked up behind her.
To her surprise, Rick, Falc and Khan stood outside of the farmhouse, waiting with their gear packed. Whistling to her dogs, who eagerly stood and carefully approached her horse, she gave a sharp look to the other three men and turned back around. In silence, she led them to the passage and in a few quick commands, told them how to get to the camp.
Watching them disappear into the forest, she spurred her horse on ahead, in search of this Michael's wife. Sighing as she trotted into the next town, Liege almost wished that Jack was there with her. Calling a nearby townsperson to her, she asked the whereabouts of Michael's home.
As Liege dismounted, walking towards the main tent, she instructed a nearby messenger to find Michael and tell him his wife was alive and well. Pushing back the flap of the tent, she was met with a tense scene.
Khan and her father stood across the table from one another, deep in argument while Rick and Falc were unsuccessfully trying to sleep on the canvas-covered floor. Her face twisted into quiet rage as she walked towards the two adult men in the tent.
"Do not think ye can make decisions for my daughter!" Her father yelled, his eyes flashing.
"I'm just trying to protect her, something you could have done better on Hellion Prime!" Khan shot back, not caring how far he went.
"How dare ye of all people accuse me! She was safe until I was captured! Don't ye even think about caring for her, ye useless dog. I will not let ye go after her the same way ye did my wife." He snarled, his voice quieting to an even wrath at the last statement.
"You will not let me care for her and feel for her when she has lost her love? You are more cruel and heartless than the disease that took her mother's life!"
Liege was bristling at this and just as Khan saw her, she viciously kicked him, making him double over in pain. Kneeing his face in the same fashion she had done to one of O'Calhern's men on the ship, she felt no compassion as he fell to the floor. An animalistic roar was her voice as she yelled at him.
"How dare ye speak to me father like that, ye whoresons spawn. We are goin' into battle and ye fight like this! Ye disgust me, Khan. Get out of this tent. Now." Her body shook with anger as he stumbled out of the tent, gasping for air.
Rian's eyes were widened in amazement. He had no idea that his own daughter could take on a full-grown man, even blinded with anger. She was much more a fighter then he had previously judged.
"Why were ye arguin' over me?" She asked, looking at her father.
"He came to me, askin' if ye would be put out of battle. 'e didn't want ye fightin'. Things…progressed from there." He informed, taking note of the now wide-awake Rick and Falc. "Yer friends, perhaps they should stay out of battle."
"Rick, Falc." She called, watching at they stood with grace, awaiting orders. "This be not a bad idea. Ye good with blood?"
"Ye were both decent in emergency aid class. Da, we could put 'em in the med bays." She suggested, looking back at her father who nodded in agreement. "So be it, report there now." And with that, both shouldered their packs and left the tent.
At dawn, thousands of readied armed men stood in the clearing mist, looking at their target. A seemingly unpentrable compound stood before them, frenzied watch guards running to get backup, although they too realized the end was near.
In a shout of anticipation, the army parted and two riders thundered forward, their horses breath clouding the air. When they reached the front, the army meshed together behind them, quiet once more. The two mounts stamped their hooves, impatient and angry. In the clearing morning, it was clear that one rider was male, the other female. Both had fiery red hair that shone like rubies in the light. They stood in control of their army, oblivious to their nervous mounts that skittered and danced in front of the men who were anticipating a bloody battle as well.
As the riders kicked their mounts into gallop once again, the army roared as one beast as they ran behind their leaders, yelling battle cries as they tore head-on into what was to be a
vicious, yet quick fight.
Jack slept lightly in Riddick's lap, who was massaging her leg with one hand while setting course with the other. She happily purred into his neck, pushing against his body with hers, waking at the growl he replied with.
"Sorry 'bout that." She said, blushing.
Pulling her into a forgiving kiss, he closed his eyes, relishing the fact that Jack had become accustomed to almost no light on in the ship, allowing Riddick to walk around without goggles. Just as she opened her mouth to him, an incessant beeping began, making a light flash on the keyboard. Groaning he reluctantly broke the kiss and saw that it was an incoming call.
Jack pouted as she turned to straddle Riddick, making it slightly more comfortable for her. Looking at the annoying blinking light, he swore she could have glared at it hard enough that it would shut-off in mid-beep.
Receiving the message, he sat back, hoping this was worth it. Last time it had been Imam checking to see if Jack was pregnant yet and she had cursed him out with more vile and crude curses then Riddick had ever heard put together. Instead they were greeted with the tired, gravelly voice of an Irishwoman.
"Jack, Riddick, ye be there?" the disembodied voice rang out through the cabin.
"LIEGE!" Jack realized, hoping she hadn't been too loud.
"Aye, tis me. How be ye two?"
"Nothing's happened. Screw that, how are you? What happened?" Jack said, subconsciously gripping Riddick's hands with both of hers. It was relief enough to both of them that Liege was alive.
"We got the compound back. Me da's recoverin' but he'll be back 'n helpin' me before we know it. Rick 'n Falc are doin' fine, quite cozy, actually." A hint of amusement leaking in the exhausted voice.
"You mean…" Jack went quiet for a moment then emitted the most ear-piercing squeal that made Riddick twitch for a few minutes afterwards. "YOU MEAN THEY…!"
"Yes, Jackie, yes they did."
"Oh, that is so cute!" She squealed again, making Riddick groan as in excitement tightened her legs around him. His eyes rolled back into his head as she relaxed her vice grip from his legs. "How is Khan?"
A silence met her question and when Liege replied, her tone was dark and stony. "Khan is still with us, although 'e is bein' sent out as a merchant again."
"Oh." Jack said, wondering what had happened for Khan to be exiled again. Shrugging it off, Jack rattled off dozens of other of questions, some met with laughter and others met with pure boredom. The conversation continued and soon Riddick drifted into sleep, only to be awakened by a squeal or tightening of Jack's legs. He wished she would really stop.
A figure dressed in clothes of a mourner stood at the base of a cliff, the black contrasting sharply with the soft white sand that surrounded the mourner. Waves whispered their way up and down the beach with the wind, the white surf bubbling and then twisting apart into smoky snowy tendrils that decorated the waves as they were pulled back into the ocean.
Soft slippers were removed and set by the quiet horse that was tied to the cliff. The shawl that was wrapped around the head of the figure was whipped away by the wind to reveal the tired face of Rian's daughter. Her hair still shone in the sun, her golden eyes equally fiery as the pulsating energy of nature around her. As she walked into the water, she gripped tight the ceremonial jar that held her loves ashes.
Kneeling in the waves she found a sharp rock that fit easily into her hand. Setting the jar into the wet sand, she stood back just far enough so she could still reach it. In a quick movement and startling shatter, the jar split open and the ashes sprung forth, some caught in the wind, others in the oncoming wave. The shattered pieces of the jar were swept away by the sea, forever lost to it's vast domain.
As she lost track of the wisps of ashes her lips moved in silent prayer, similar to what she had sung when she cremated the body of her lover not so long ago. The salty spray mixed with the tears that fell from her eyes, never to be caught by another love. She closed her eyes, knowing that never would she be comforted by another either.
Calling her mount, the gentle horse picked up the slippers in its mouth and trotted to the water's edge, letting her pack them in the small leather pouch behind the saddle. Pulling herself up into the well-worn seat, she softly talked to her mount, letting it break into a canter. As the blue water and soft sand rushed by them, a small smile alighted her face as the gentle winds fingers weaved through her hair, exactly as he had done nights ago.
With a sharp laugh she snapped the reigns and the pair galloped down the beach to where her father was mounted, waiting for his daughter to finish her mourning. He broke into a gallop as she passed him and the two thundered through the water, determined to defeat anything in their path.
---Thanks to everyone who reviewed. Whether it was once or every. Single. Chapter. I still love it and the critique was very helpful. For my first story I'm amazed at the turnout and what happened, never thought it would turn into this but I'm so happy it did. Hope you all are happy too.
P.S. – I'm thinking of a few stories already, so don't think you've seen the last of me.