[identity profile] ladyravena.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] starwarsficfest
Title: Guiding Prophet, Silent Enemy, Part Two (As it is too large a file for livejournal to handle *grumbles*)

Author: [profile] ladyravena 
Rating: R, just to be safe. (or PG-16?)
Warnings: Non-explicit death scenes of non-canon characters
Word Count: around 9,000
Summary: "Komani is demanding that off-worlders leave, and for the execution of the leaders of the local Imperial garrison and embassy." … And they had an Imperial Grand Admiral missing with an execution happy madman running loose.

A/N:
Instant promotion to the first cadet who recognizes who the shuttle party is in tribute to. Hint: think red.

P.S. I really hope I got the cut working this time...

Also, when researching this, I ran across a factiod: the Mayan people, to bring the life giving rain that is represented by the colour blue, would paint their victims blue. Just an FYI.

Part One
Part Two Below
Part Three

 

Chapter Six

 

The cords the hunters had tied him with  were finally starting to loosen around his wrists, after being worked every time they stopped to rest for the last 3 hours.. His attackers had been swift to bind him, twisting his injured arm behind his back, before force marching him deeper into the forest. As they passed back down the trail, he did not spot any of the bodies of his crew. Obviously the rebels were trying to hide their trail from pursuit.

The dampness on the cords was sweat, he hoped, but it could have just as easily have been blood. A few more good tugs, and they would be gone. All he could do was to wait for the best time to slip off.

It came an hour later, as they settled down in a grove of trees and rocks. Both of the tracker/guards had settled down a few trees away, passing a water skin between them. The archers were curled around a low-pitted fire, and the guide was off in the brush, scouting out their back trail, trying to erase it. No one was paying him any attention.

Slowly, he pulled the last of the cords loose, sliding them off his wrists. Even slower, he eased around the large trunk, watching for the slightest move on the guards part. His years of hunting during his exile may have been well over a decade ago, but he still remembered how to move silently through the forest. As it had rained recently, the forest floor was still damp, muffling sound well.

No one raised the alarm. He picked up his pace, silently cursing the white uniform of his rank. The olive would have been bad enough, but would not have stood out like a Jawa on the snow plains. He kept moving in one direction, directionally opposite of the fading sun. He didn't know the forest, or the terrain, so he was not about to take a more winding path and get completely lost with a head and shoulder wound. Moving slowly down a narrow incline, he inched around the next tree-

- to face the ancient barrel of a firearm, attached to one of the trackers. When he shifted slightly, testing the soil beneath his feet, the tracker shoved the barrel under his chin. Another stepped around the trees, leveled another weapon at him, and called out, "Komani!"

Both of the trackers kept their eyes and weapons aimed at him as an unknown alien walked up. Dressed in ceremonial white robes, he was as tall as Thrawn himself. It was as if the forest was a throne room, with the way he carried himself, regal and proud. The alien's feet were clad only in sandals, covered in gold leaf, the only ornament save a bronze pendant with some significant symbol he traced with a long finger.

"I," he stated clearly in Basic, "am Komani."

He waited for a response, and when none was forthcoming he smiled. "Silent defiance. A good trait for the leader of an army." He continued to smile, looking over the admiral. "Kasim will be pleased with you, but we cannot have you leaving our presence before you meet him in his elated court." Gesturing to the second tracker, he stepped aside. Both arms yanked back, Thrawn could feel new cords being wrapped around his crossed wrists tighter than before.

As the barrels of the weapons were dropped, Komani stepped close again and placed a hand on his injured shoulder. "Pain is a gift telling us we live on the mortal plane." He grasped the remnants of the arrow's shaft and swiftly twisted it further into the wound in the blue flesh. It went past the shattered bone pieces and poked out the back of the shoulder blade, the tip just pushing through the blue skin and white uniform.

Thrawn dropped to his knees, despite himself gasping in pain as fresh blood began to drip from the wound, the world spinning anew.

As the two trackers picked him up, wrenching the wound again, and started back toward the camp, Komani added, "Remember to bind his feet and gag him this time, my allies."

 

***

            As the forest-troopers spread out further from the crash site, Parck was quietly dealing with the small part of his mind that was realizing just how large a forest could be. He had always had a good time on the survival trips at the academy, and enjoyed hiking as he had teased Niriz, but this was something entirely different. Lives were at risk, both the admiral's and his troops who were wandering around with no help from the regional government.

            Oh, they had been happy to let the Imperials search, but no guides were offered. Guidance to the realization that their commanding office was dead did not come from without, it came from within. Grief was best dealt with sooner, before walls could build around the best of men's souls…

            Parck had wanted to punch him. So, too, had troop leader Colonel Vivisoma who was searching to the south and west. Habanero was searching to the north, questioning towns folk as he went. Training kept the tight smile, the courteous words. The firing range on the ship would deal with the rest later.

            "Sir!" One of the forest-troopers called his attention to the far edge of the clearing they were in. Standing in front of the trees, a group of hunters watched them. All four of them were garbed in well-worn hunter's attire, greens and browns in contrast to the offensively bright city dwellers.

            "Good day," Parck called, slowly walking toward them. "I am Commander Parck, of the Admonitor. Do any of you speak Basic?"

            None of them responded, but the three males looked to the lone woman amongst them, as though in guidance.

            "Sy Bysti?" Parck tried, haltingly.  Despite Thrawn's excellent tutelage, he still wasn't that comfortable with the trade language of the Unknown Region. And to think, he mused, Thrawn has a fluent grasp of over 8 languages, and smatterings of several more. The man was a finely tuned sponge for knowledge of any kind.

            "Basic is fine," the woman said. "You don't speak Sy Bysti well." It was a statement, not a judgement.

            "I'm afraid not, no. We are looking for our shipmates who were in the crash and have gone missing. Would you know anything about that?"

            The oldest of the men nodded. "Saw the shot and the crash. Surprised there's still a ship left."

            "Good piloting, sir. Did you see anything that might help us in our search?"

            The other men nodded, not saying anything until the women spoke. "Tracks leading eastward, deeper into the forest," the young hunter said. She looked around the clearing, seeming to sneer slightly at the troopers moving noisily about the underbrush. "We could show you, if you wish."
            "I would like that very much, yes," Parck said, wondering just why she would do so, but knowing better than to refuse any aid in a strange place in a situation that had a time limit as sensitive as this one.

            "Gather your men, then, Commander." With that, she turned to her companions, muttering in her own language, shifting the contents of their packs amongst themselves.

            "Interesting," the troop commander muttered as they commed the troops.

            "Helpful," Parck corrected. "And the only help that we've received so far." Help, he thought, that was desperately needed. 

 

***

"You seem very comfortable out here," Parck commented, trying to draw the leader of the hunting party out. She had said all of 6 words to him in the last few hours. She had asked no questions, other than a description of the admiral, and where they had already looked.

            One of the other hunters laughed. "You would be, too, if this is where dinner came from." He smiled at Parck's half formed question. "The crops don't bring in enough money for feasts, Commander. We supplement our crops with the local wildlife. Senyca here is our village's best tracker and hunter. I'm Harryss, by the way."

            "Lucky," she said, moving ahead of the group to survey the broken shrubbery.

           "I'm grateful that they could spare you for our search, now that your winter is coming on in a few weeks," Parck said, catching up to her.

            "Your troops," she said, turning to face him, "have scared away 10 miles of prey.  As soon as you are gone, we'll be able to feed our families and stockpile for the winter again." She turned and continued down the path that only she seemed to be able to find in the deepening twilight. They continued on, stopping to make camp only when there wasn't enough light to see by.

 

Chapter Seven

 

Thrawn awoke from his half doze when the two guards dropped him heavily to the cobbled path. Since trying to escape the evening before, they had kept him bound hand and foot, choosing to carry him rather than having him walk or attempt to run. Much of the path was a blur, moving through darkened forests and ancient waterbeds that only a skilled tracker would be able to follow. After a time, blood loss and exhaustion, as well as dehydration, had slipped him into a half conscious state.

Komani knelt beside him, aiding him to kneel on the hard stones, gesturing grandly around. "The Temple of Kasim, the Shining One. It is here, Silent Enemy, that we learn the god's will and follow their teachings."

Thrawn raised tired eyes to look at his surroundings in the morning light, noticing the raised stone temple, and temporary huts, as hunters would make on their journeys. The most telling feature, to his eyes, was the lack of a wall around the temple grounds. The plain grasses, cut short or trampled in places, blended seamlessly into the forest a few hundred feet away. The stone path that he was on also disappeared into the forest. Easy enough, he mused, to mount an attack from the safety of the trees, first taking out the patrol of sentries that guarded the edges. 

"You will learn much, Silent Enemy," Komani added, gesturing for two new attendants to lift him up. "I will show the way."

 

***

           

"They stopped here."

            Parck moved up to her side, looking around the small clearing, noting the multitude of prints. "How far ahead are they?"

            "They were hear last evening, as the sun set. They are not travelling that quickly. There was rain before then." She motioned to the base of the largest tree. "Your admiral was injured."

            Instead of asking how she had deduced that, Parck crouched down. He instantly saw what had caught her practiced eye: dried blood caked the lower bark and the ground around the roots was liberally sprinkled with dried crimson droplets. "There'd be a lot more blood if it was from a fatal wound," Harryss commented, leaning down. "There are droplets scattered for a few hundred feet off in that direction," he added, gesturing eastward. "So he must have been moved…."

            "Or tried to escape and was brought back," Parck said, picking up a piece of frayed cord. "Either way, corpses don't continue to drip that long. He was alive."

 

***

The questions were over for the moment. He had no doubt that the rebel leader would be back. Komani seemed like a man who could worry a stone into dust, should the need arise. A silent Chiss admiral, while frustrating, would be a challenge to crack, and a threat to his authority amongst his followers.

The topics were predictable. Tactics, plans, army statistics, the usual questions that he expected, and would not be answering. Even as Komani became quieter, and his second in command, Quaashie, became more frustrated with his inability to pummel a response out of the alien, Thrawn simply refused to speak.

The second phase had begun, when you left the prisoner alone, in his case re-gagged and still bound tightly, to contemplate his fate and reflect on the issue of living through the experience. Left leaning against the wall of the room they had locked him in, he kept his eyes closed against the lantern light. The medications had worn off several hours before they had arrived at the temple, judging by the way the room swirled around him…

The hand, fleeting against the fabric of his left shoulder, bolted him awake. Eyes snapping open, he saw an elderly being shrink back from him. He brought his breathing back under control, not moving an inch. They stayed that way, staring at each other, both as startled as the other. Looking at her, she seemed the proverbial old wise woman of the village; a servant and, in some ways, a burden to the old-fashioned villagers. Kept for her knowledge, and to do tasks that no one else would do.

After a few moments, she inched back toward him. Trembling hands reached around his head, fumbled with the cloth ends, until they loosened and slipped from between his jaws. He remained frozen, watching as she laid the cloth neatly in her lap. She twisted around to lift a bowl of liquid closer, pulling a ladle out of a pouch that hung from around her waist. Dipping it into the bowl, she lifted it toward him.

For a moment, he thought of refusing. The chance of poison, when he was to be sacrificed, was slim. He doubted that Komani had access to truth drugs, but there was always local variations…plants that, once dissolved, worked similarly…would they work on a Chiss…

Overriding it all was the simple equation: you can survive weeks with no food, days without water.

Letting the cold liquid slide down his throat, he could taste nothing in the clear fluid, only the metallic stoniness of a stone well or spring river. Each swallow ripped his throat even farther, but eased the throbbing in his veins. Trying to remember when he had last swallowed anything save screams threatened to bring the throbbing back.

All too soon, she had emptied the bowl, and replaced the ladle in her pouch. Her hands, having steadied as he did nothing but accept the water, now began to shake again as she lifted the cloth to replace it. 

There was no point in fighting it. Still bound hand and foot, unable to even loosen these cords, with the world spinning and guards no doubt outside the door, there was nothing to be gained. Even if he was free, he wouldn't get more than 20 feet before being captured again. Better to behave, and wait for the best time than ruin all on hopelessness. He opened his mouth enough so that she could slide the cloth back, lowering his head slightly for her to retie the edges. She bowed slightly, touching her fingers to her forehead, then shuffled out of the cell.

Closing his eyes again, he slipped back into unconscious dreams.

 

Chapter Eight

 

            They had been standing at the campsite for well over half an hour, waiting for Senyca to find the trail again. It seemed, to Parck at least, that their quarry had realized that covering their tracks would hinder their pursuer's, which made their job that much harder. The blood trail was also gone, as were the admiral's distinctive military boot prints. "They were probably carrying him to speed up their travel time," Senyca had said.

Their growing lead was preying heavily on his mind, unbidden images of what the wounds could have been flitting past his guard in technicolor. Shaking his head, Parck moved around the site, trying to pick up something that would help, knowing that he didn't know what to look for, or how to look for it, but needing to do something vaguely useful. Crisis on a Star Destroyer he knew how to deal with; forests were out of his range.

            Senyca bounded suddenly into their mist. She looked at Harryss and asked quickly, "What's the month?"

            Harryss frowned, "Which one?"

            "The deity, not the standard one."

            "Oh," he said, thinking creating lines in his forehead. "We just ended Kaori, so we're entering Kamau. Why?"

            She ignored his question. "So Kasim is rising tomorrow night, high at the next dawn after that, right?"

            "Yes," the old hunter said, coming up behind them, leaning on his bow.

            Parck looked at each of them, but no one seemed willing to explain.

            "Where's Kasim's alter?" she asked, pulling her pack back on. The other hunters  quickly followed, the Imperials a step behind them.

            "5 miles north by northwest, as flies the ahtaygio," the hunter said, taking the lead with Senyca right behind him. Parck motioned for his troops to follow as he did the two hunters. He tried to get close to their guides, but they were moving too fast to keep up, speaking in their own language, gesturing at an ancient map that the old hunter pulled out of one of his pouches.

            Harryss moved closer to Parck, noticing the puzzled frown on the Imperial's face. "Kaori, Kamau, and the others were the old deity's of the area. The calendar was broken into the 18 major deities before we switched to the standard calendar."

            "It based on astrology, then?" Parck said, thinking of the "rising" comment.

            Harryss nodded. "The lower deities constellations. It was a confusing system, one  I never fully understood, but some of the old timers still use it," he said, gesturing ahead to their guides.

            "Komani wants to bring the planet back to those times. Renounce modern ideas and customs, 'return to the gods'," Senyca called back, falling back enough to see that all were keeping up with the pace she was setting. "I think, Commander, that that is where is your Admiral is. The old ways demanded sacrifice, and who better to appease than the Chief amongst the Gods: Kasim, the Shinning One."

            Parck swallowed. "Who better, indeed."

 

****

Two sets of strong hands kept his feet from touching the ground, making him float it place. They grasped hold tightly, as though afraid that if they did not, he would float away from their grasp, toward the faint light that he could just see…

He wasn't dead. He could feel the pounding in his head, and the sharp stabbing pain from the arrow in his right shoulder. Dead, he should feel nothing. Dead, with pain? Not possible. Not fair, a small voice muttered in his head, stubborn.

Beside which, the dead did not hear things, and someone was talking, making a speech, by the cheering. The cheering that did nothing for his pounding head…

With a sharp intake of breath, memory returned to him. The forest crash, the travelling with the remaining troops, loosing troops every half mile, the shot, capture and questions every time he tried to recover his strength. Slowly opening sensitive eyes, Thrawn caught glimpses of the stone temple, and several of the temporary huts before the leader was suddenly in front of him, blocking his view.

Komani lifted the captive's head with his hand, meeting the alien's eyes with his own. "At dawn you will be given," he said, "an honorable execution by beheading, as befits a commander of your rank and station amongst your people. To Kasim, the Shinning One, your spirit will tell of the glory that we reap in his name."

Not likely, Thrawn thought.  No matter where he traveled, most cultures had some sort of afterlife mythology, and all had one common factor: we don't share. His own people had over 20 myths describing what would happen once last breath was drawn, none of which involved sightseeing around the mythical cosmos. He kept his face as impassive as he could. Covered in blood and gagged made that difficult, admittedly.

"Your death," the rebel continued, "will bring my generals and I much strength in the coming battle against your oppressive army of deceit." He leaned in closely. "I will learn much from you," he added, hunger lighting his eyes.

Part One
Part Two above
Part Three

 

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