"Fire Blood's Story"
By Leah Wood
This is a telling of my past—a past I don't repeat to anyone. NO, this is not your favorite heroine Little Fighter narrating this tale. You Oomans would know me as Fire Blood, Second in Command of my clan—and most desirable male on my planet. Yes, you were expecting that innuendo weren't you? Typical Oomans— thinking you know everything. Well guess what? You little Hac'nikt don't know nearly as much as you THINK you do! I may have the libido of ten Predators and a blade-sharp wit but that is only half of the warrior I've become.
Most of you Oomans probably assume I have many offspring. Good for you—that's ONE thing you've got correct! I've made so many young ones I can barely remember how many. Yet, I care for each one of them and I try my damndest to transform each and every one of them into fit, fine warriors who follow the sacred honor of our clan. Whether they survive their First Hunt or not is up to fate. But adhering to our ways of honor is their decision. Dishonor is something I don't take lightly. I quell the smallest infraction before it can fester in the souls of my young. I'll tell you this much—if ever one of my offspring became a Bad Blood I would kill them without mercy or hesitance. Then I would place their skull next to my father's on my trophy wall.
Ah. I notice your shocked expression. That's right—my father's skull. I killed my own Sire. I assure you, I'm neither the first nor the last Predator to kill his own father—though it doesn't happen very often. But not every young Predator has a Bad Blood for a father either. Again you must be shocked—yes, my father was a Bad Blood. The worst kind of Predator—the one with no regard for life, for honor, or law. What turned my father into a Bad Blood you might wonder? I believe he always was a Bad Blood, born with the cursed seed of dishonor and insanity in his dark heart.
Little Fighter may have mentioned the scar on my back, the one that runs down the entire length of my spine? Let me tell you how I got that particular mark—
When I was three seasons old I had many brothers and sisters, close to twenty of them, all varying in age. I was one of the younger ones and as such had to endure many tests for my survival. Older siblings can be very brutal to the younger ones, sometimes killing them. I wasn't particularly big for my age—alright I was downright tiny. Being smaller made be a likely target for my larger siblings. Luckily, my eldest Blooded sister, Zuri of nineteen seasons, liked me well enough that she would stop some of my older blood and half blood brothers from killing me in their much rougher fighting bouts. But at my young age I remained closest to my Bearer, Ven'tia.
My mother was a beautiful huntress, probably the most gorgeous huntress in all our Clan. Her skin was softer than most females and speckled with nearly invisible light markings. Some would almost classify her as markless but upon a closer inspection one could distinguish the delicate speckles. I remember her dreadlocks most vividly. My mother Ven'tia always had the longest and most elaborately decorated head-dressings. Little skulls, bones, metal rings, and gems all added meticulously over her long dreadlocks, giving her walk a distinct sound as they swayed along her back. Ven'tia would spend hours with some of the other females in our family keeping her luxuriant head pieces new and sparkling. I always loved the way she kept herself beautiful no matter what the situation.
But that's not to say she was a pampered, non-combatant. My Bearer could fight as fiercely as any female and took great lengths to protect me and my siblings. Along with my mother were my three Half Bearers—the other females in our family. I had to treat each one of them with the same respect as my blood mother but there were times I rarely did. I only respected Ven'tia in those early years of my life.
Then, there was my Sire. I don't repeat his name anymore. He is unworthy of any distinction except Bad Blood. I don't know him as anything else. He was a big Predator, much like me with dark blotchy markings that highly contrasted my mother's nearly blank skin. I remember he only had half of his right arm which, according to my mother, he'd lost early in life during a battle with another member of the Clan. To replace the lost limb he'd undergone the surgical implant of a cybernetic prosthetic which hid many automated weapons and blades. Every time he moved the arm would make a high pitched whirring noise as it moved in sync with his natural musculature. It was a magnificent piece of our race's technology. But I think he hated it. If one of us was caught staring at the prosthetic for too long we'd receive a sound beating. I got beat once for touching it. The Bad Blood hit me so hard I thought my brain was going to shove the eyes right out of my skull. I suppose the only ones allowed to touch or even look at his arm were my mothers—course I could never be sure.
When I became three seasons old the Bad Blood started showing up more often and showing an interest in me and my siblings. Often he would arrive and want to take some of my older siblings out for training and hunting sessions as male Predators were expected to do for their older offspring. I wasn't allowed to go because I was too young. For a time I wanted nothing more than to be one of the lucky few who got to participate in a hunt conducted by—my father. To be finally acknowledged by your Sire as an accomplished hunter is one of the proudest moments a young Predator can possibly achieve.
But I never received such recognition—
I remember the day well. It was hot, even hotter than we were used to. But that meant a cool relaxing swim was in order for me and my siblings. As luck would have it we lived only a few hundred yards from a fresh jungle pool of water.
"Be back before the suns touch the horizon my Young Ones," my mother ordered. "Zuri, you are in command. Do not leave your siblings for a moment."
My sister nodded, "Yes, Bearer."
"Check the water carefully Zuri. Resh'skama hide in those pools." Ven'tia warned.
"I will Bearer." Zuri nodded again before herding fifteen of my older siblings out the door.
Eager I stepped after them but was immediately blocked by my mother's leg. "Where do you think YOU are going young one?"
"Swimming." I answered, trying to puff out my chest with confidence.
"Did I give you permission to go?" she inquired raising a delicate eye ridge.
I lowered my head, "No, Bearer. But I want to go!"
For a moment her expression told me to just keep quiet and obey. Then she looked out at my departing siblings. "I suppose you ARE old enough."
Becoming excited I made a dash for the door but Ven'tia caught me and turned me around, "You WILL do as your sister commands young one. If I hear you have not then you will not be allowed to go out with your siblings until you are seven seasons old! Do I make myself understood?"
She gave a light smile and touched her lower mandibles to mine. "Go on then."
I didn't waste much time and soon I was caught up with my cluster of blood and half blood siblings. Accidentally I brushed past a Half Blood sister who was eight seasons older than me. Snarling she swiped a leg out and tripped me. I fell hard and before I could get up she pinned my shoulder under her foot.
She hissed, "Well, well! Look who let the runt come along!"
I growled under my breath, trying to wriggle free. One of my older brothers stopped too and knelt down next to my fallen form, "It's fine. We can use him for Resh'skama bait!"
Snarling and snapping my teeth at them I replied, "Not if I drown you first!"
"Shut up you insolent little pup! You couldn't drown a legless Hyek'va cub!" my Half Blood sister rasped, digging her foot claws into my chest.
I snarled louder until Zuri showed up, head lowered in a dominant aggressive way, "Let him up. He has done nothing wrong."
Submitting to my much older, stronger sister the two harassers backed off and assumed their place among the ranks. I got up quickly, huffing. My eyes were burning with vengeful anger as I swayed.
Zuri cuffed me lightly, "Don't even try it young one. I can't protect you if you start a fight."
Crossing my arms I refused to look at her. True, I should have felt grateful for her intervention, but I knew true warriors were expected to fight their own battles. I guess I was just a bit humiliated.
"Come on. Stay close to me," she ordered.
At first I didn't want to but I remembered my Bearer's stern threat and decided it was best to obey. As we walked I couldn't help but ask, "Zuri, what does a Resh'skama look like?"
My older sister clicked and spanned her speckled arms, "Big swimming creatures that hide in large jungle pools. They have slimy plated bodies, a long fanned tail, and only two front legs. Resh'skama have huge funny shaped heads with two pointed protrusions near the back. Inside their heads they hide about six or eight gripping tongues coated with spines and slime that shoot out of their mouths."
"What are they for?" I asked naively.
She hissed playfully and jabbed her claws into my side, "For catching their dinner!"
I jumped, swatting back at her with a growl.
"When you go swimming you always check the water for Resh'skama. If they catch you with those tongues you won't escape without losing some flesh," she warned.
Brazenly I rapped my chest, "I'd just rip its tongues out and cut its head off!"
Zuri tapped her mandibles annoyed, "Yeah right. You'd be just a small bite for a Resh'skama."
Hissing quietly I kicked at a rock. I hated being constantly reminded I was too small or too young. However, I wasn't about to argue with my older sister and risk being confined to the dwelling for the rest of my childhood.
Very soon we all arrived at the pool. Two of my older brothers and Zuri circled the pool, carefully searching for any threat. The rest of us waited patiently, eyeing the water too. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of a V-shaped ripple and a fin near a rock.
Without even thinking about it I drew my dagger, leaped onto the rock, and stabbed ferociously into the water! I horrendous splashing ensued accompanied by dark blood in the water. Reaching down my hand clamped onto a boney protrusion and I pulled up.
Excited beyond measure I shouted, "I GOT ONE! I got a Resh'skama!"
Of course—I soon realized it wasn't a Resh'skama when I pulled it out of the water. My siblings all laughed derisively at me, pointing at the Tin'sii fish I was holding up. The big creature with its boney head spikes, twin sets of fanned tails, large slimy scales, and broad toothless mouth thrashed wildly, dripping frothy dark blood from its multiple gill slats.
"You stupid Hac'nikt! That's just a Tin'sii!" one of my sisters jibed.
"Poor little blind pup needs his eyes changed!" my eldest brother hissed.
My guts boiled with vengeful anger and embarrassment. Angrily I cast the dying Tin'sii back into the water where it floated, twitching. I tried my best to hold my head up and coddle my bruised ego as I waded back to shore. Of course the jeering of my siblings didn't help at all.
Zuri shook her head before calling out, "It's safe young ones!"
At her command my siblings rushed into the water, splashing and clicking happily. I sat on the bank, still trying to recover from my embarrassment. If there was one thing I couldn't and STILL can't handle is being humiliated. I wanted nothing more than to be bigger than my siblings and knock their heads together like they so righteously deserved.
"You beg to come out here and you just sit on the sand?" Zuri inquired.
I didn't look at her, turning my head away—though I watched her out of the corner of my eye.
Drawing a couple lines in the sand with her clawed toes she watched my siblings play. "Mistakes are funny things."
"No they're not." I muttered sourly.
My eldest sister clicked, "Everyone makes mistakes and they hurt sometimes—they can even get you killed. But most mistakes make us stronger. If you let a mistake eat at your heart THEN it becomes stronger than you. You don't want a mistake to be stronger than YOU do you?"
I shook my head, "No."
Zuri smiled lightly and walked out into the water, leaving me. I thought about her words—though I wouldn't understand her wisdom fully until I was much older. Somehow I felt less hurt and stood up, striding out into the water after her. Trilling with an ornery tone I kicked a blob of water at Zuri, soaking her backside. She shrieked and whirled around returning an even bigger stream of water with her foot. Without waiting I dove down toward the deeper end of the pool. I dove as deep as I could until my hand brushed the sandy bottom, then using my feet I propelled myself to the surface for air.
All at once a splash above me made me halt my ascent. The water was only partially clear but I could see the heat of one of my brothers floating above me—face down. I couldn't understand why until the heat began trailing off in small clouds and he began sinking. Swimming to the side I suddenly saw the gashes across his throat and the hole in his torso. My lungs were screaming for air but I reached out and grabbed my brother's chest sash, hauling him to the surface with me. It took a lot of struggling but I managed to break the surface with my brother. I rolled him over in the water but his heart was silent as blood gushed from his lacerated throat.
"Brother! Brother…" I hissed in vain.
Then movement across the pool made me forget my dead brother. Shrieks from my siblings and flashes of heat from a weapon discharge dominated my vision. Who was shooting? My eyes darted across the bank, in the trees, and across the water until I saw him—my father. His roar was unmistakable, as was the flash from the plasma caster and dart launcher in his prosthetic arm. I could see him leaping through the trees on the far bank, firing his weapons as he leaped and dropping my siblings where they stood!
I couldn't believe it. It was like some horrible nightmare brought to life. My father—my Sire—the Bad Blood—was mercilessly killing my brothers and sisters, starting with the youngest. Even from my position I could see the bodies of my fallen siblings floating on the water and thrashing on the shore.
Finally he landed on the ground meeting my eldest brother who was probably only seventeen seasons old. Without blinking my Sire's prosthetic arm rearranged itself, exchanging the plasma caster for a sword-like blade and he swung down at him. My brother bravely drew his daggers and tried to parry the strike but the Bad Blood was far too powerful for him. The sword blade snapped the daggers at the hilt and carved down through my brother's skull. His arms flopped to his sides and he dropped.
In that instant I felt true terror—had I not been so young I would be ashamed to admit it. I ducked low in the water behind my fallen brother's body, treading water gently as the Bad Blood continued his horrific rampage. Then I saw Zuri.
Without fear she charged the Bad Blood, spear drawn and dagger in hand. He blocked her first spear thrust and stepped back to get better footing. Zuri wasn't nearly close enough in size to him nor was she stronger, but she was fighting with the wrath of the fiercest huntresses. She spun around using her dagger as a shield from his blade and slashed her dagger for his neck. The Bad Blood ducked back just in time only receiving a minor scratch from the blade.
She kept roaring and shrieking with every dagger and spear slash, "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?"
The Bad Blood didn't seem to be fighting very hard, as if he were holding off. Zuri leaped into him, kicking his shin just before jamming the dagger into his chest. He flinched. Zuri retracted the dagger but the second she did the Bad Blood's prosthetic lifted and shifted back to the plasma caster. Even from the distance I could see Zuri's shocked expression as the weapon fired into her gut, showering the ground and the Bad Blood with sparks and charred blood droplets. Zuri dropped to the ground.
I couldn't move—I couldn't blink. Even at my young age I knew that was one of the most dishonorable acts a warrior could commit in hand to hand combat—coupled with the fact that a father was slaughtering his own offspring.
Suddenly, the Bad Blood turned and I knew in an instant he saw my heat signature in the water. Desperate, I dove deep and swam as fast as I could. But—I couldn't swim fast enough. Before I got very far I felt a very powerful hand clamp down on my leg and throw me bodily out of the water. I was temporarily stunned, but I somehow managed to touch bottom and run for the shore. Then, it felt like a ship hit me in the back as the Bad Blood pounced on top of me. His foot pressed me down in the shallow water to hold me still. He didn't say anything. There was no explanation—not even a threat—just the deep enraged breathing. I choked on the murky water filling my mandibles as I tried to keep my head out of the water. It was my turn to die.
For no reason other than panic I shrieked, "WHY Sire? Why?"
I still curse myself for asking him that. A Bad Blood has no explanation. He never answered me.
The only response I got was the most excruciating pain I'd ever felt in my entire life ripping down the length of my spine. I couldn't see him but I knew two of his claws were in my back, gouging on either side of my vertebrae. A tortured shriek ripped through my throat. He was filleting me out while I was still alive. I clawed at the muddy water, trying to crawl out of his grasp but he held me firm. When he finally removed his claws he grasped the back of my neck and lifted me out of the water. My whole backside felt hot and sticky with blood—I could see it plopping into the water. I know now he was positioning me to rip my spine out but at the time I was in too much pain to realize it.
Then without warning a heard a blade hit flesh and the Bad Blood threw me into the water a few meters away. I fell but I don't remember feeling it. All I could feel was my back, aflame and crackling with pain. I don't remember anything after that because I blacked out.
I don't know why I didn't just die right there in the shallows or what prompted me to awake but I did. My whole body was stiff, throbbing with pain. It was dark now but that was the least of my worries. Like some broken carcass on a string I sat up and struggled to my feet. The entire act of standing was too much and I collapsed again. Then I heard clicking, soft soothing clicking. Before I knew it several dark forms were surrounding me.
The voice of an adult male asked, "Is he salvageable?"
A soft clawed hand stroked across my forehead, "He is badly maimed—but he is not permanently damaged."
I managed to hiss, "Mother—Ven'tia."
Another male rattled, "Ven'tia was his mother. He doesn't know…"
Then the jingling of metal and bone came accompanied by the coarse voice of a female who was not my mother, "WHO did this to you young one?"
"Ven'tia's mate." I managed to click. "My Sire."
The female's voice rasped with barely contained rage, "Find him—NOW!"
Many of the adult Predators surrounding me backed away and I could hear them running into the jungle beyond, leaving only three with me.
I turned my head to see the female who had been speaking and suddenly recognized her as the High Eldress Ku'ranya, the High Eldress whom Renata replaced after her death.
Ku'ranya was a legendary Eldress of our Clan, living well into 350 Earth years. Her dreadlocks were nearly down to her ankles and were as white as bone. Though she walked somewhat slower than the younger Predators her health and vitality had not fleeted from her. She was decorated with so many charms, bones, and jewelry her every movement could be heard no matter where she went. If I hadn't been in so much pain I would've been utterly stunned by her close proximity. Ku'ranya was a female who was widely respected by all warriors all across our galaxy and she was talking to me!
"Rest young one," she hissed, leaning on her magnificent bone spear.
"Mother, Ven'tia!" I repeated in a pleading way.
Very calmly she replied, "Young one. You will never see your Bearer again. She and the rest were slain in the dwelling."
My heart chilled, "No—Ven'tia would fight! She would not lose!"
"Young one. She was killed in her sleep. She didn't have time to react." Ku'ranya said in a very soft tone.
The rage and grief was so strong I couldn't contain it any longer. I shrieked, clenching my fists until my claws cut my palms. My mind became engulfed with horrific images of pain and death upon the Bad Blood who had slain my entire family and left me to die. I wanted his death to be long and torturous, something befitting of the scum he was. I wanted him writhing on the ground in a pool of his own guts, begging for mercy. But I would show him the same mercy he showed me and my family—NONE.