(As it is STILL too large a file for livejournal to handle *grumbles*)
Rating: R, just to be safe. (or PG-16?)
Part Three below
As they walked through the arch leading to the outside, the brilliant light of dawn stabbed into his eyes. Unable to do more than squint against the brightness, Thrawn stumbled the last few feet to Komani's side, bound tightly and held even tighter. He had slept nearly straight through the night after another round of questions. It had taken longer to remember what had been happening this morning, to regain his bearings and time sense, a sign that his wounds were not healing, but getting worse. He felt like that sun in the east, hot and constrained by the ground… and by the hands that shook him roughly awake again.
"You will bring me much glory, my Silent Enemy," Komani purred in his ear, and stepped away, raising his hands to the growing crowd beneath them. "My allies, my friends!"
Parck inched the last few feet until he reached the one of the final trees before the clearing. Edging around it, he could see the leader of the rebels, Komani, addressing his followers, shouting a speech at them. Judging by the cheers, he must be a popular orator, Parck mused, glancing around the tree line. He spotted most his troops slowly getting into position, the hunters amongst them, evenly spread out.
"We were right," Senyca murmured in his ear. "Komani is dressed to kill. Those white robes he's wearing are ceremonial. The chest is kept bare to the gods, so that they may read a man's heart all the clearer. Practically, no sleeves to get in the way of the feast and the blood."
Parck snarled softly, "A feast I will not let them have." His communicator beeped softly. "Parck here," he answered.
"Vivisoma, sir. Troops are in position, but none have a clear shot at the leader. Orders?"
Parck narrowed his eyes, looking over the landscape. "Have the troops move up to the very last bit of cover, and spread out more. We need that shot, gentlemen, before that axe falls. Risk visual, even."
He supposed it was a priest or lesser prophet that brought out the overhand axe from within the temple. Before the guards had forced him to kneel at the large stone block, tying him securely to it, he caught glimpses of the weapon.
That thing is bigger than I am. Going for dramatic overkill, are we?
The axe was a two-handed executioner's weapon, with handholds two thirds of the way down the handle. The blade, scrollwork decorating the steel, was a good 3 feet in width. It would only take brute strength to lift the thing and aim it; gravity and momentum would provide the killing thrust.
Komani, it seemed, was a man of words and brawn, as he gave the axe a practice swing, making the blade sing.
Parck nearly swallowed his tongue when the rebel leader swung the great axe in a one handed grip. "You could slaughter a bantha with that thing," he muttered, glancing to Senyca – who was gone. Looking around, he spotted her a moment later, at the edge of the crowd, blaster hidden in the folds of her cloak.
No one was paying any attention to her. She was, to them, just another who had been taken in by Komani's vision. Moving along the edges, she looked nothing more like a small girl, trying to get a better view of the proceedings, standing on tip-toe here, bobbing on her toes there. Parck, from his vantage behind a scant bush, could see she was actually getting closer than any of troops to the altar, via the far edges of the group, nearest to the huts. Being one of them, she could blend in effortless, where the humans could not.
Parck twisted to look where the trooper was pointing. Komani had stepped up to the block, axe being raised as he chanted something in a booming voice. "Anyone with a shot?! Fire!" As his troops moved forward, he knew they didn't have that shot. Trees, pillars of stone, masses of beings stood in the way…
Komani could feel the power of Kasim within him, as he raised the ceremonial blade high above the sacrifice. A few more hand width's worth and the blade would be poised to bring glory to his, and Kasim's, cause of glorious rule…
Senyca, directly in front of Komani from within the crowd, raised her own blaster. She murmured an old prayer, aimed, and fired…
The axe, obeying the laws of gravity and motion, fell.
The axe vibrated slightly between the two stones it was lodged between. Thrawn watched it with idle curiosity for a moment before eyes slid shut once more… wondering how it felt, knowing that it had lost its prey by less a foot. Someone behind him, Komani presumably, had fallen to the lone shot, eliciting screams from the crowd. More shots were fired as the axe vibrated to a halt, embedded in the rock, never to be pulled out again…
He wondered vaguely if he would be living through this after all, or if friendly fire would do him in, as in so many tragedies…
As the forest troopers fired into the platform leaders, Parck began to breathe again. After Senyca had shot the leader, there had been a moment of stunned silence, Komani still standing above the intended sacrifice. He had wavered slightly, swaying as if in a slight breeze before falling backwards. Nerveless fingers had let go of the axe in mid-air. So close to the admiral, Parck had seen the hair on the alien's head ruffle in the breeze it had created as it slammed into the stone beside him.
Now, he shook himself a little, gesturing to four guards to follow him. Making his way as quickly as possible through the melee of natives and troopers, he kept his shots to a minimum. People, he had found, were less likely to shoot at you in confusing battles if you didn't shoot at them constantly. It was if they didn't see you, or thought you were on their side if they did.
In any case, he made it to the platform without being hit, which was all that mattered.
Confusing sounds flitted through him, making no sense taken together. As he struggled to tell what was going on around him, hands grabbed hold of his shoulders. He tried to shy away from them, but the ropes held him in place, tight to the block that was to be his death. One sound, (a word?), kept repeating. He focused on that one sound, finally hearing:
The hands were removing the cords, slicing through the ropes with speed and efficiency. A vibro-blade, most likely. Sharp, without pulling or snagging as a knife would.
"Admiral, can you hear me?"
He knew the voice. Had heard it before, many times. But with the noise around him, it was hard to focus on any one thing. The pounding in his head would not allow him to. The hands had finished with the cords, and were turning his limp form onto his back, rolling him away from the block. The voice said something inaudible, and removed the coarse cloth from between his jaws.
The voice was fading as the pounding grew stronger, matching the noises around him. Eyes too heavy to open, he slipped beneath the waves once more….
Parck kept a tight hold of the admiral as four troopers made their way up to them, and lifted their injured commander. As they carried Thrawn toward the forest, Parck took a few quick scans with the hand scanner, frowning at the results. More cracks along the first fracture, swelling, along with multiple bruises, lacerations and chipped bones in the ribs and shoulder, it was amazing that he was still alive. Judging by the brief contact, a fever had set up housekeeping as well.
Back into the forest, he made sure that the troopers kept the admiral safe, returning to the battle. However, in the short time that pulling Thrawn out of the crossfire had taken, there wasn't much left to do. Many had fled as soon as Komani had dropped dead, and the rest had died quickly at his experienced trooper's fire.
Parck turned at the sound of his name being called. Senyca stepped to his side, blaster slung at her hip once more. "Is he alive?" she asked, gesturing to the admiral.
Parck nodded. "Barely. Excellent shot, by the way."
Senyca shrugged, but she seemed pleased.
Parck smiled slightly, turning his attention back to the battle at hand. His troops were running out of targets, and Senyca's fellow hunters had entered the temple itself to flush out any remaining rebels. They had experienced no casualties, either.
"It is the end."
Parck blinked. "Your pardon?"
"The rebellion. All the leaders were here. Komani, Kosumi, and Quaashie, the three leaders. The rest were local village elders and hunters being used as guards. No threat without the three." Senyca turned to face him. "You will not be here long, then. You will take your wounded and departed back to your ship?"
"Yes, very soon. The fatalities are already on their way back." Parck smiled and gestured to the forest. "You will have your forest back within 6 hours."
Senyca dipped her head, smiling slightly.
Parck was speaking to someone. That was who the voice belonged to. If he could just focus enough, he could make out a few words… he needed to know what was going on…someone else was with him…
"…grateful for your help…"
"…locals will take care of the hunters…"
"…reporting in, all clear…"
"…let her pass, it's alright…"
The voices blended again into the background, becoming a buzzing noise that he tuned out in preference to the calming darkness…
Parck raised a hand and repeated himself. "No, it's alright. Let the elder pass."
The old wise woman carried a large white bundle over one arm. Still shaking, she stepped slowly past the guard that had stopped her. Senyca stepped to her side, speaking softly in her own tongue to the woman. Words quickly passed between them, calming the elderly native down, ending with Senyca touching her forehead in an apparent traditional ending, as humans sometimes shook hands at the conclusion of a meeting.
The wise woman stepped to the admiral's side, seemingly clucking her tongue in disapproval. Unrolling the bundle, it was revealed to be a beautifully embroidered pelt of white fur. Shaking it slightly, she covered the admiral with it, touching fingers to forehead again before scurrying off into the forest.
"The pattern," Senyca said softly, "tells the story of Khaliq and Kekoa, brother gods. Khaliq the thinker, and Kekoa the warrior, victors over the monsters that plagued the village they grew up in, before taking their place amongst the stars to guard all the people of Ansi."
Parck bowed slightly. "How very fitting for him, then."
Commander Parck idly swirled the last of the brandy around in his tumbler, watching the ship's light refracting in the green-blue depths. "All in all," he said, picking up the dropped conversation, "everything worked out."
"Certainly not by the book," Thrawn voice floated back from the other room. "Or," he added, walking past the hanging embroidered pelt back into the room, "in any way that I would prefer."
Parck chuckled, downing the last sip. "Indeed not." Getting to his feet, he finished doing up the last of the neck clasps of his own dress uniform, while looking at the admiral.
While still on medical leave, Thrawn looked more alive than he had for the last week. Even after four days in the tanks, he was still not completely healed. His right arm and shoulder were still encased in bacta-laden bandages, with the arm trapped at his side by a sling. No doubt, Parck mused, the Command Cook had been trying to feed him up, too, to put something on the too-prominent bones. The old cook always complained that the admiral didn't eat nearly enough, and lost the weight too quickly after bacta sessions.
"Need a hand?" Parck inquired casually, motioning to the dress coat slung over the back of the chair. At the other's nod, Parck proceeded to slide the sling off and slip the large coat over top. "You know," he said, "Dagon is finally starting to loosen up a bit. Actually attempted humor on the bridge." He slipped the sling back over the uniform, settling the arm in it.
"Yes, although he still gets a bit snappish when things don't follow through as expected. A few more missions ought to take care of that, though." Finishing the last of the buttons, he stepped back. "Done."
Thrawn nodded his thanks, shifting the sling with his left hand. "Is the captain going to join us tonight?"
"Well, he can't exactly pull the sick card again, with you still in traction." Parck smiled. "Shall we head down to what will undoubtedly be a long, tedious evening of speeches and ill made food?" he said, holding the door open.
Thrawn smiled slightly. "Now, now, Commander. Think of it as informative," he said, stepping through.
Parck snorted, but refrained from commenting.