The trash bin clattered off to the side of the ill lit slums, the red skinned Yautja pausing to peer suspiciously into the gloom.
His broken mandible didn't hinder him as he scoffed, continuing on his way.
Well after he lumbered off, a blue skinned Yautja stepped out of the shadows, eyes trailing where the red one had gone, trilling to no one, "Curious..."
Jet was off into the wooded sector of the ship, trying to stay out of sights of a certain, pain in her hide Healer, when a shadow moved at the edge of her vision.
When the brown cloaked Yautja made his presence known, her jaw nearly hung slack.
"It can't be..." The female Yautja whispered.
"Jet, my little sain'ja... little warrior... how you have grown." The big Yautja clicked softly.
Jet was overwhelmed with a flood of emotion, not sure if she wanted to cry or scream. Her vocal chords constricted so tight she was afraid they'd snap. She wanted to throw a weapon at him. But she wanted to hug him. The conflicting emotions had her hands digging deep into the bark beneath her. She opted instead to drop from her branched perch, strolling over slowly to the taller figure.
"Gkaun-yte... father..." She clicked hesitantly.
But he wasted no time, large arms embracing her deeply. Her strong stance, always so sure, so firm, crumbled under his touch. She buried her face into his burly chest, body shaking as it shuddered with silent sobs.
She had searched so *long*.
Had waited for this moment so long.
His large paw stroked her braids, pressing her closer to his armored chest.
"It was not easy, little sain'ja, leaving you as I did. But there was a reason. And it has led me back here. The one place I had thought was safest." He murmured, letting her sob out her pain. Ever silent. Ever the brave front. But not in front of him. Never in front of him. He purred reassuringly, continuing petting her braids, the soothing motion calming her.
When she could finally speak, she looked up at his warm gaze, asking, "You mean-?"
"Yes, I am still chasing the pauk-de. And his trail has led me *here*..."
"And... then we ended up in the shuttle in the ceremonial chambers." Lex ended, glancing back up at the mostly silent Old One, his features hard to read. Would he disapprove? Cast her out?
Send her away?
These fears ate at her as she awaited a response.
But he laid them all to rest as he looked back at her with a smile, twinkle in his old eyes as he stated with amusement, "Such things had not been heard of since the dawn of time. You, my Young Blood, have not only survived the trial of putting on another's mask, but have aided in the defeat of a Queen and, I strongly believe, are the sole reason Scar stands before us today."
"What?" Lex couldn't stop the question from tumbling past her lips.
"Your bond, the mask. It sounds as though it may have linked you two. Was it not when you lay dying that he came back?" The Yautja asked with a quirk of his brow.
"It was..." Lex realized with a frown.
Standing, the Old One rumbled, "I must say... this meeting has been... enlightening."
Lex stood to follow him as he led the way back to the massive door.
"Our society is one that is imbued with honor and steeped in tradition. Your presence has... shaken the faith of some of our Clansmen. I have been hearing things. Rumors. It seems your Chiva is not yet done. It is very advisable to watch your back, on the days that lay before us." The Old One clicked ominously, reaching behind his cloak, Lex heard a shlink before his hand reappeared holding a deadly looking combistick in its compact form, still spanning longer than Lex's forearm.
Did he mean to kill her?
But his stance wasn't threatening. Rather, waiting. Watching her reaction.
Lex stood fearless, gaze strong as she met his. Too close for a fair fight, not against a Yautja of his caliber. She was vulnerable not taking a defensive stance. But the other mysterious Yautja's words drifted through her.
'M-di h'dlak. No fear. Conquer that, and you will have a place among us.'
Show no fear.
And she would not.
This Old One gave an approving nod, head tilting slightly as he offered the weapon. With a reverent touch, she took the weapon, watching as the beaded skulls and trinkets swayed from the transfer, the weapon heavier than she expected. Curved blades sprouting from the ends like wings, a deadly beauty to the currently shortened piece of alien metal.
Awestruck, she just stared at the beautiful piece of weaponry, afraid that perhaps the Yautja would take it back. She turned to glance at her very limited belt, which already had her Zazin strapped in. She chanced a look up at the Old One, and caught the sudden tensing of his form.
He turned slowly to her, eyes riveted to the black hilted weapon, "That dagger... how did you come across such a piece?"
There was a great interest that rumbled through that aged tone. He was almost hesitant in his inquiry.
"It was my trophy." Lex unclasped it to bring it closer to the Elder's sight, "It was forged without my knowledge, and given back to me."
He stared hard at it, glancing back at her, "May I...?"
"Of course." She replied, handing it over. While it was almost two feet in length, the Old One hefted it like it was a piece of hay.
"Light." He mused aloud, before immediately slashing outwards, Lex having to jump back or get sliced in half, "Well balanced."
Then before she could blink he tossed it to the side, the dagger splintering cleanly through the trunk of a tree, hilting deep into it with the blade sticking out the other end.
"Setg'-in." He clicked approvingly at her, before retrieving the blade and inspecting it once more. She saw his eyes trace the hidden mark near the hilt, his mandibles working thoughtfully. Head cocked to the side, he rumbled at her, "I have seen this kind of work only once before..."
He stepped up to her, his mood so terrifying she struggled to stop from stepping back. He did not quite brandish the blade, but the way he held it gave the indication that it could be poised at any given moment. The Old One exuded a quiet that filled the silence of the room, his question demanding, "He is here, is he not?"
"Yes." Lex answered, hand subconsciously tightening on the combistick in her hand.
The Old One's eyes narrowed as he caught the motion, flicking back to her as he growled, "You defend him?"
Lex thought of Jet. Thought of her meeting with the strange one in the clearing. Zeera. He tried to kill her.
But he truly helped her at her darkest hour. You could not strive to be accepted by the Clan if you could not even accept yourself. He taught her that, during his dangerous lesson. Her test, with her life and trophy hanging in the balance. Zeera had almost killed her. But in truth, he had saved her.
Her own doubts.
Lex's fist tightening in affirmation around the weapon.
Her voice steady, as she answered, "Yes."
The Old One's gaze darkened as he glowered down at her, "Show me."
That was her only warning.
Lex caught the whip of the red cloak as an afterthought to his movement. Eyes wide, her breath was knocked out of her as pain blossomed on her ribs, her body slamming against the wall. The Old One lowered his booted foot, Lex connecting the dots. He had kicked her so fast she had not even realized what happened until it already had.
She straightened, trying to jerk the combistick to its true form.
But the Old One was there.
"Too slow." His mandibles breathed next to her, then his large hand gripped her shoulder, the span of his fist spreading across her left collarbone. And suddenly she was airborne.
Her mind tried to panic. To wrap around the sudden shift in events. But instinct, and Scar's knowledge coursed through her, making her focus on the moment.
He was attacking her.
In midair, she righted herself, extending the combistick with a snap of her arm, plunging it downwards. As it struck vertically into the ground, dragging but slowing what should have been a painful impact, she used her momentum to swing horizontally over the expected attack -a dagger aiming for her vitals- to connect solidly with the Yautja body that followed.
He staggered back with a short roar, the Zazin falling to the ground as one of her feet had clipped his wrist, effectively dislodging the weapon. But that didn't deter the older warrior. With another battle cry, he barreled forward just as her toes touched the ground.
Feet grounded, Lex immediately wrenched the combistick free from its tiled confinement, swinging it full force before her to deflect the Old One's fisted blow.
The impact vibrated through the metal, nearly pushing her back as the Yautja stepped back with a hiss, blood dripping from his forearm, the parts unprotected by his gauntlets dripping green.
"Impressive." He clicked slowly, but charged in the blink of an eye, batting the elongated weapon out of the way as he grabbed her by her slender neck and slammed her breathless body to the ground. Hand still in place, he trilled next to her ear, dreads hanging to form a curtain around her scowling gaze, "But no match against a Yautja's brute strength superiority."
The fallen Zazin flashed deadly in her hand, appearing out of nowhere as she stopped short of gutting him, edge moving to press at his own throat, "Strength isn't everything."
After her breathless growl, the Old One glanced at her in surprise. It had been a while since he had been bested. Seems overconfidence was still a dangerous foe.
He barked in laughter, catching Lex off guard as she suddenly found herself free and unpinned, the older warrior standing with a whirl of his crimson cloak. He stood over her with a large hand extended.
As she clasped it firmly, he pulled her swiftly to her feet, still chuckling, "It has been a while, Ooman, since someone has taken me by surprise. You fight well. I see how Zeera must have taken a shine to you, and wonder how it was you had bested him."
"Luck." Lex stated as she brushed herself off, tucking her treasured Zazin behind her belted loincloth, "And planning."
"I was wrong to have worried for you. You will do well against any they send to spill your lifeblood." The Old One clicked gratifyingly.
Lex felt a swell of pride at his confidence. He had been skilled. His body a fluid motion of muscle and energy. She still could not believe how the tables had turned to her favor. She hadn't been thinking. Just reacting.
"If only I had your skill, Old One. Then I really wouldn't have anything to worry about." She said with a grin, returning the combistick to its shortened form with a pressed twist, holding it out at her side to keep the scythe like blades at a safe distance.
"You have absorbed much in a short time. While I see some of Scar's quick thinking, as well as your own battle forms working quite well for you, you still have much to learn. If you have the time, I see no reason you should not stop by for some lessons." He clicked thoughtfully, milky eyes taking in her slender form. There was much potential in her. Such a small, yet fierce contender. Her size and the immediate judgement to believe she was hardly a threat, would work greatly in her favor for any upcoming battles.
Lex nearly gaped, hardly believing, "Really?"
He had given her a weapon. Had tested her mettle. And now he offered this?
"If you so choose." His tone deepened as he warned, "But know this, I will not go easy on you."
"I prefer it that way." Lex flashed a white smile.
The Old One huffed approvingly, dismissing her with a nod of his head towards the door, "Until next time, Young Blood."
"Of course, Old One." Lex gave a short bow, which seemed appropriate, before turning to leave.
Just as she reached the door, the Old One's voice stopped her, "And Ooman?"
She paused, turning to look back.
He remained with his back to her, hands clasped behind his billowing cloak, "Should you see that pauk-de Zeera again, tell the s-yuite'de hult'ah to stop hiding and come greet an old mei'hswei."
"I will." Lex promised. Though his words were harsh, she detected a fondness under his hardened tone.
As she stepped out of the room, nodding at the Honor Guards at either side, she wondered to herself.
Who was Zeera? And why was he on the ship?
Lex had barely stepped away from the hall leading to the Old One's large chamber, when a familiar amber green Yautja made an appearance. She smirked as he dragged her away, his voice low as he demanded what happened.
His eyes fell curiously to her newly acquired combistick as she explained everything.
"So this is all... because you stole my mask." He grunted, trying to ignore the anger of not one, but TWO Old Ones fighting the Ooman. The only thing that softened the rage was the fact that she had won. She had been challenged, tested, and came out as the victor. He tried not to have his pride inflate too much.
"I did NOT steal it." Lex hissed.
"Really?" He inquired with cocked brow, as he continued leading them through the maze of the ship.
"Yes, *really*." Lex stressed, giving him a playful shove, "I borrowed it."
"Borrowed?" He trilled disbelievingly.
"Unless your willing to admit a little girl took your mask during one of the most important trials of your life." Lex grinned.
Scar was about to say a smart retort when he paused. Thought about it. Then took back whatever statement he was about to make. He smirked with a relenting grunt, "Borrowed it is."
"Knew you'd agree with me." Lex smiled, stopping to fully appreciate the moment.
"Really?" He trilled deeply, stopping as well with a smug smirk on his mandibles as he mentioned, "There are a few *other* things I know we would agree on as well."
Lex put up a finger, "THAT was a one time deal."
"Is that so?" He clicked questioningly, stepping closer, his body language changing from playful, to something more.
He could see the effect his presence had on her. Saw her body temperature increase, her heart quicken, and though she tried to hide it -which she did impressively well- Scar was not fooled.
And she knew it if that irritated scowl in response to his sly smirk had anything to say about it.
Before she could tell him off, another large Yautja made his presence known.
"Alexa." The orange Honored Warrior clicked in greeting.
Having caught sight of them, he had lumbered up. But after his gaze darted between the two, he slowed, smirk faltering. The way they stood next to each other. Their mixed scents. Something had changed.
Disregarding Scar, Dalantu turned to the Pyode Amedha, almost a hint of pleading to his tone as he growled, "Tell me this is not true..."
Scar stepped closer to Lex, trilling smugly, "Seems I speak for her after all."
Dalantu blinked, looking at Scar as though he had grown two heads.
He took Lex by the shoulder, guiding her off to the side as he clicked disapprovingly, "You chose *him*?"
Not appreciating being manhandled, Lex snapped, "What do you think you're-"
"I can smell his stench all over you." Dalantu growled, cutting her off.
Jerking her shoulder out of his unwelcome grasp, Lex stated, "Yes. I chose *him*. He was always my First Choice."
Shouldering roughly past the large Yautja to stand by her side once more, Scar clicked, "And I did not have to trick her to do so."
Dalantu growled, but Scar snarled back, mandibles flaring dangerously. Dalantu may be an honored warrior. But Lex did NOT belong to him. She had made that abundantly clear, though the pauk-de refused to acknowledge it.
Lex thought there would be a full blown throw down in the middle of the hall between the two. But thankfully there were no others around to witness.
Dalantu was able to save face as he backed down, trilling dangerously, "You will regret this, Scar."
"Doubt it." The greenish-yellowish warrior grunted with narrowed eyes, tracking the other's movements down to the smallest twitch of his overgrown muscles.
"Alexa… I can overlook this small slight if you choose the better warrior now." Dalantu said, hand outstretched.
Scar rumbled a warning growl that bubbled up from his chest.
But Lex shook her head clearly, "I already have." Her hand resting on the tense bicep of the warrior beside her, Scar toning down a notch in his battle stance, but still glaring fiercely at the orange Yautja before them.
"May you live to not regret the decisions you have made." Dalantu clicked ominously.
"And may you live long enough to stop insulting my battle mei'hswei with that s'yuit-de tongue of yours." Rave snarled, stepping up silently behind the other large warrior.
Dalantu turned with a whirl of his dreads.
Jet trailed up behind Rave, snarking, "Honestly, Honored warrior Dalantu. She does not want you. C'jit, how thick is that skull of yours?"
Those orange eyes flicked between the two newcomers, and the battle ready Scar between him and Alexa. He did not like his odds.
"You better learn to curb your tongue, unblooded pup." Dalantu verbally lashed out at the youngest of them all, shoving his way past Rave, who merely growled at him, "Never know when you'll learn a harsh lesson in respect for higher warriors."
Jet stopped Rave by stepping in front of the bigger Yautja, arms crossed and clearly unimpressed as she dryly stated, "Shaking in my boots. Really."
With a snort, Dalantu walked away from all four, eyes seeking Lex's before finally turning to depart.
When the orange warrior had finally disappeared around the bend, Rave growled at the other three, "Pauk-de…"
To which Jet smirked, "Understatement of the century, big guy."
mei'hswei - Brother
m-di h'dlak - No fear
Pauk-de F..ker, f..king
sain'ja - Warrior
S'yuit-de Coward, pathetic, low and demeaning description
hult'ah - Observer/Watcher
Setg'-in Quick and deadly
A/N: annnnnnd cut! Sorry it ended so abruptly, hoping to get back to writing soon, but just give it some time. Gotta step away for a while, but hopefully you've enjoyed the story so far.