The Starborn Knight: Part VI

Shekaree, Chevalier

One month ago — August 2016

After three earth years of trying to get me to come to the village with her, I finally agreed to follow Sikara into town. Everything in the human’s settlement was different from ours; the roads went as they pleased with no logical organization, the buildings were also haphazard with service establishment mixed among the housing, there was no central square or clear delimitation of districts. How humans could live in such chaos, I didn’t know.

Come on, we’re almost there.” Sikara declared as we walked through the town. Somehow she’d made sense of the chaos.

I was keenly aware of the stares of the humans as we moved around, Sikara and I’s hands laced together. One of the thing I’d learned about them was that they did not tolerate mates of the same gender.

Here we are!” She declared as we stopped in front of a building. The sign above said ‘La republicana tapas.’

At Sikara’s insistence, I had learned some of the humans’ languages, it had helped delay going out, as I learned but now that I spoke spanish well, she hadn’t taken no for an answer anymore.

A mess hall?

“Un restaurante” She corrected me in Spanish. “Mi favorito en el pueblo.” Her favorite restaurant in the village.

I thought we were meeting some humans.

“Si, pero más tarde.”

Later, fine. Now you can drop the spanish, I don’t need more practice.”

If you say so.

We went inside and a human female servant guided us to a table before taking our order. I let Sikara pick the food, not being familiar with human dishes or ingredients. I couldn’t stop myself staring at the human’s chest and the way its breast poked from under its clothes.

Shekaree?” Sikara asked once the servant turned away.

How do humans babies even drink milk?” I asked in a whisper. “Their teats are so big…

She burst out laughing at my comment. “They don’t have massive teats, Shekaree, they’re just like ours. They just have fatty tissue underneath.

Are you sure?

Very sure. You could say I’ve verified it myself with the help of a friend.

My ears folded back at the thought of her having been with a human… The food we’d ordered came only a moment later, composed of many small plates which the human servant placed down on our table along with utensils.

Although the other patrons tried to be quiet, I could hear them talking about us. I let out a growl at one of their word. “Damn space pigs shouldn’t be allowed here.” it said in spanish.

Ignore them.” Sikara ordered, putting a hand on mine. “They’re not worth our time.

I did my best to do it, focusing on the food. Some preparations were akin to our foods, such as sausages, fritters or stuffed pastries, but the tastes weren’t what I expected, being different ingredients. Once our meal was done, I thanked the servant who’d brought it to us and began walking for the door only for Sikara to take my hand and stop me.

Shekaree, wait.” She said.

What is it?

We haven’t paid yet.

Paid?

Compensated them for the meal.

We have to do that?” I blinked.

“Lo siento señora, mi amiga es nuevo.” She said, apologizing to the human. She opened her bag and took out some thin but long polymer strips, counting a few and giving them to the human. “Gracias.”

She came back to me and took my hand, leaving the establishment.

In the human world, you need to compensate establishments for their service. Humans receive money in exchange for their work and they trade it for services.

That seems very complicated for nothing.” I frowned. In our culture, we didn’t use money, services like mess halls or clothing were provided for free with the understanding that people contributed to society in exchange. “Where did you get that money?

I traded for it.” Was all she said.

We walked out of the restaurant and she guided us out of town, but in a different direction from our camp. Instead we found our way into a small valley in the hills where a few humans were waiting for us. They got up and greeted Sikara who introduced me, I stayed back, only listening to their conversation.

One of them, Migel, was late and supposed to bring the equipment, whatever that meant…

A few minutes later an old beaten truck  drove down the path and stopped a few feet from us. A few more humans got out of it.

“Hola Kara!” One of them shouted. I turned around and saw it was in full armor, a weapon in its hand. It raised the weapon, aiming for Sikara.

My heart stopped, it was as I’d feared. I didn’t think and rushing in. Before he could fire, I was on top of it savaging with my fists.

“Karee!” Sikara screamed.

“Migel!” The other screamed.

Someone tried to pull me off and I roared at them, ready to fight until I saw who it was; Sikara herself.

Stop it!” She begged and I did. “Why…

It had a weapon.

She leaned down and grabbed the human’s weapon, levelling it at me and firing. The projectile that had hit my belly lightly pinched but that was it. A few splotches of blue paint now stained my outfit.

It’s a toy! He was going to show me how to play with them.

I…” I muttered frozen. “I didn’t know…

Her lips parted about to say something but I didn’t listen, instead running away. She called out for me but I kept running. I didn’t stop until I reached our camp and was back in our room. I crumbled down on the ground, shaking…

What had I done?

My claws were still stained red with the alien’s blood.

I don’t know how long I stayed there, but eventually the door opened, Sikara coming through.

Miguel will be okay.” She said. “He will need surgery and will have scars but he’ll be well.

I’m sorry.” I answered, tears dripping down my face.

She offered me a hand and I took it. The dried blood caked on my claws contrasting with the pristine ivory tone of hers. The moment I was back on my feet, she wrapped her arms tightly around my torso.

I’ve told master Kiorga what happened and we both agree you need help.”

“It—”

She put a claw on my mouth.

Shekaree, you’re afraid of them. You constantly think the worst will happen, but humans aren’t our enemies anymore, the war is long over and this is our world now… I can’t count the number of times I knew you snuck out at night to stand watch on the wall, you think I don’t know, but I’ve known about the knife you keep hidden in our bed… I’ve heard you speaking in your nightmares.

I didn’t answer her.

I’ve been trying to help you, but it’s not working.” She said her ears folding in shame.

There was a knock at the door and I looked up. Master Kiorga stood in the doorway. I got up and she came toward me, giving me a tight hug.

I’m sorry, I did wrong and as your apprentice, I stained your honor.” I removed her emblem pin from my collar and handed  it to her. She however closed my hand tightly around it with her own.

Shekaree, stop. What you did was wrong, but it’s because you’re still hurt.” There was a pause and I stared at the ground. “I talked with the head chaplain and we both agree you need help we can’t provide.” The chaplains were responsible for the mental and spiritual well being of the empire’s citizen.

What does that mean?

You’ll be leaving, there is a place I believe could help you. You’ll be among powered humans, you’ll live with them, study with them and train with them.

She was getting rid of me, I knew it… Sending me away like those who had contested her rule and challenged the order of the camp.

I—” I began but the interrupted me.

It’s for the best. This is not an exile, we are not abandoning you, you will still be my apprentice. You will be free to come back when you can.

When do I leave?

At the start of the next human month.

Very well.

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The Starborn Knight: Part V

Shekaree, Chevalier

Three years ago — August 2013

After a chilling cold season, the comfortable warmth of summer came back again. Although the humans seemed to feel like the days were burning, it wasn’t much above the intermediate season of Resh. Despite my fears, the humans mainly left us alone, barring the handful who would camp at the gate of our city, protesting our existence. I hadn’t mastered any of their languages yet, but I’d learned to recognize their insults; Bone-faces, space pigs, low brows, alien scum, xeno freaks.

That day, I did what I did whenever I had free time; sit atop the wall, which had long since been moved to accommodate the growth of our camp. In the square, I passed a mother nursing her young. It was odd to think about it, children born on this world, who would never know Resh, but despite everything we’d gone through we carried on, rebuilt, reorganized.

When I arrived at the gate, the usual ruckus was stronger than average. I climbed atop the wall only to see Sikara walking among the crowd of humans who were yelling insults at her, or at least she tried as they were surrounding her, blocking the way.

I didn’t think. I jumped down and rushed to her side. Some of the humans tried to block me but I let out a roar and bared my claws and fangs which sent them cowering like the stupid cowards that they were. Dozens of them against us two adolescents and they were afraid of a fight. I grabbed Sikara by the arm and dragged her past the gate to the camp.

What were you doing outside?” I snapped. “Don’t you know it’s dangerous?

I went to the village.

Again, unarmed?

You know master Kiorga doesn’t allow weapons outside of camp. Speaking of her, have you seen her?

She left about a krut ago with one of those powered humans.” I answered with a sigh.

You do remember that she wants us to use earth terms now, right?

Right.” I sighed. “About an hour and a half ago. She’s spending more and more time with those humans, she seems to forget her duties here…

If it leaves us more time for ourselves, I won’t complain. Beside, everything is working well.” She answered with a grin. “You could come with me, visit the village. It’d help with your Spanish.

English then Spanish and then what was it the third one, Frank?

French.” She corrected me.

Why do humans have so many cursed languages.

That’s what makes them so charming. They’re so wild and strange. Beside, you know we used to be just like them.

They could learn some things from us.” I grumbled.

Where’s your sense of wonder and discovery? We’re the first Tzari to mingle with humanity

I must have left it in my other uniform back on the fleet.

Ha-ha.” She said, faking a laugh. “Very funny. Come on, I need to get changed and we can then skip over by the mess hall.

She grabbed my arm and dragged me along with her, like she’d so often done in the past few months. We went back to our quarters and she dropped her bag before changing out of her dusty uniform and putting on something more casual. Unlike me she had taken to wearing the native’s clothing.

I have something for you. I found it earlier.” She said before going to her bag.

She got the thing and then raised her arms, which held the thing covered for a moment before she revealed a pink colored flower, one I’d seen a thousand time before.

By the ancestors…” I muttered. “Where did you get a desnal?” I raised my hand and with the tip of my claws caressed the flower, which was all too real.

I didn’t. It’s a plant native to this world. I found it when walking to town and I asked one of the human which told me that it’s called a Peony or at least I think that’s what they said… Although the flower is almost identical, the plant it grows from is nothing like a stringy spikey desnal bush.” She said with a smile. “Since it was Lord Iren’s emblem, I thought you’d appreciate it.

Thank you.” I muttered, my throat feeling tighter than ever.

I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore and broke down in front of her. She brought me closer with one arm and I rested my face against her shoulder, crying until the tears stopped. When I let go she held my hand for a second and kept me close before taking the flower and tying it to my hair.

I know Lord Iren would be proud of you.

He’d be embarrassed, I keep breaking down and crying at nothing.” I said with a self-mocking growl before looking away.

Sikara wouldn’t have it that way however. Taking my hands in hers.

“You’ve never stopped fighting for our people Shekaree, you have been working harder than anyone else in the camp even the adults. That’s what it means to be Tzari. Although you still ache, you keep carrying on.

I dared to look up and back at her. She held her head proudly and met my gaze, I could see it in her eyes, she was proud of me, even if I wasn’t… I looked back down and saw our hands still entwined. I let go and looked back at her, her mouth had morphed into a smile.

It was then our lips met for the first time. Her hand moved up and caressed the back of my head as she pressed her tusks and upper teeth gently against my lower lip, sending shivers all over my body… Her other hand wandered, tracing the edge of my shapes, her touch lit fires all through my body. It all happened in a moment; we lost our clothes and found ourselves in bed.

The Starborn Knight: Part IV

Shekaree, Chevalier

Four years ago — June 2012

After spending the night in the human’s facility, we were brought to the south of the land and into the mountainous range. There stood a camp, a few dozen modular structures of Tzari design.

I recognize this place.” I said. “Master Iren and I landed around here. We spent some time in this camp.

The humans have agreed to let us stay here and use the surrounding lands. Although they’ve seized most of the weapons that were left behind. We’ll relocate all of our people here and build a home.

I considered her words for a moment.

Master?

What is it Shekaree?

Are we prisoners here?

It’s difficult to say.” She sighed. “Things are very unstable right now, the humans are scared of us and they have every reason to be. But for now, we have more urgent business to take care of. Are you ready to work?

Yes master.” I said, bringing my fist to my chest.

The next few days became hectic and crazy as hundreds of other Tzari poured into our camp from all over the world as my new Master tried to organize the chaos and reform the corps into their new order. But thankfully it left me with very little time to think about our situation as I raced around, bringing my master’s orders to new members of the camp.

My new master and I claimed one of the larger building as our command center and living quarters. However despite apprenticeship tradition, Master Kiorga assigned me my own room. But that didn’t mean I remained alone as we were soon joined by two more apprentices who had lost their masters in the war. Karune son of Urak who had served under Lord Krenru and then there was Sikara daughter of Velka, who had been lord Ruathan’s apprentice and who also came to share the same room as I did.

***

August 2012

A few weeks later, I woke up before everyone else as I always did. Ever since the end of the war, my dreams wouldn’t let me sleep in peace anymore, instead I’d wake in the middle of the night, sweaty and on alert with the smell of burnt flesh and the sound of thunder still fresh in my memories…

The sun was still quite a way before it would rise. I didn’t try to sleep again, instead getting up and putting on my apprentice’s uniform. As I took it out of the rack, my finger traced the emblem that adorned the collar; two concentric circles, the twin moons of Resh. Master Kiorga’s heraldry, gone was the blooming desnal flower of Master Iren… Gone like he was…

I couldn’t think about it. I bit my lip, until I tasted blood, and focused on the pain. Anything not to think of what had happened. I had to be strong, I couldn’t break. I had to carry on, for master Iren…

I wiped my lip, leaving a green trail of blood on my claws. On the bed above mine Sikara still slept, letting out a heavy snore, so I decided to wake her up.

Kara, it’s time to wake up.” I said shaking her up which caused her to growl at me.

What time is it?

About a krut before sunrise.

She rose from her bunk and glared at me, her face half covered by her hair. “And you’re waking me now? We don’t have to report to Master Kiorga for another two krut...”

We have a lot of things to do. I thought we could take a head start.

In answer she threw a cushion at me.

Go back to sleep Karee.” She snarled before covering her head with her blanket.

I rolled my eyes but didn’t press the issue any further. Admittedly, we didn’t have to work for a while, but it was best not to be alone… I went back to preparing for the day ahead; cleaning my hair and drying it before braiding it.

Why do you always do your hair like this?” Sikara asked, coming up behind me. “Don’t you know any other way?” She then added with a chuckle.

You’re up now?

It’s not like I can sleep with you around. So, what’s with the hair?

It was how Master Iren would always braid it…” I admitted, feeling a tightness in my chest at the memory of him.

You liked him didn’t you?

Of course, he was strong and brave and—

What I meant was; you wanted to mate with him, didn’t you?” She clarified, a mischievous grin on her lips.

How can you suggest something so–” I asked, flustered at the question.

Oh please, show me an apprentice who didn’t want to mate with their master and I’ll show you a liar. I know I did…

But wasn’t master Ruathan…

Female? Yes, she was.”

Oh…” I felt the warm rush of blood to my face at the thought. Although I knew people who mated with others of their genders, the thought had never crossed my own mind before.

So, have you ever mated with someone before?

How can you ask me that?” I said, spinning around to face her.

I’m bored and you owe me for waking me up.

Only once…” I muttered, fiddling with my half finished braid.  

“Who was it with?”

“A boy who lived in my district before I was recruited. We were curious… What about you?

I had a few experience before being recruited as Master Ruathan’s apprentice. And then there were a few other apprentices I met along the way.

I nodded and there was a moment of silence that settled between us.

Alright, let me do your hair.” She said.

But-

You woke me up, let me at least have my fun.

I sighed. “Alright.

I turned my back to her and she took my hair in her hands, undoing my half finished braid. Rather than do the one like usually would, she made multiple ones.

Why do you always make your hair so complex?

It’s something my mom taught me as a girl. My ancestors, the Qurhal, had an art, a language even. Not with words but with hair; every braid, every twist, every matte, every piece of jewelry had a meaning.” She explained as she braided and twisted strands of hair into shape, sometimes adding in a bead or ring from her own belongings. “With it the tribe proudly spoke of who they were so that all could know.

What do you think?” She asked once she was done, her operation having taken about half a krut.

It’s different. But what does it mean?

That you are Karee, warrior without rest.

Very funny.

But appropriate.” She answered with a grin.

She quickly prepared herself and we left the command center. We didn’t bother waking Karune. Outside, a cool night breeze blew over the hills. In the weeks since we’d settled there, the camp had grown exponentially. A mix of tents, cargo containers and prefabricated modular structures salvaged from other camps had sprouted everywhere to shelter the influx of stranded Tzaries who had joined us.

Sikara didn’t question me when I headed for the perimeter wall of the camp and climbed atop the rampart, beginning to patrol, looking for signs of trouble in the darkness.

Can you even believe it’s the warm season?” Sikara asked. “I shudder to think what the cold season will be like.

Master Iren said that at this latitude it shouldn’t get too cold but apparently it snows in the northern regions during the cold season.

Did he know a lot about this world?

I nodded. “He used to read me intelligence reports every night. Said it was important to know the land and the people…” I felt a tightness in my throat. Rather than think about it, I recited what Master Iren had taught me “The locals call this region ‘Andalusia.’ Do you see the mountains behind us? They’re called the Sierra Morena.” I said pointing toward them.

You miss him, don’t you?” She asked, putting a hand on my arm.

Of course…

She let go of my arm only to take my finger in hers.

Karee, have you visited the shrine to pay your respect?

I’ve had other things to do…

Like patrolling the walls in the dead of the night? Or cleaning Master Kiorga’s armor over and over?

I’ve—

Been trying to avoid it, have you?

Maybe…” I answered, my ears folding down and back in shame.

We still have some time before we need to report to our master. Why don’t we go pay our respect?

I didn’t protest and still holding my hand she lead us toward the shrine to the ancestor that had been established in one of the largest and nicest structure. The inside still smelled like incense and smoke, the fire pit at the center of the room still held glowing embers.

She walked to the altar and took the pitcher, pouring three tiny cups of alcohol, giving one to me and took the other two before sitting down before the fire with me.

Hear us Ancestors.” Sikara began. “We remember; Iren, Son of–” She stopped, looking at me.

Son of Rakisa, of clan Viok.” I continued. “Honorable lord and dutiful master. We—” The words didn’t leave my throat so Sikara picked up once more.

We commend his spirit to the Creator, so that he may join the honored ancestors in guiding us. We pray for his spirit, so that it may find deserved rest in the plains of light.

She raised her cup and so did I. Together we drank, the alcohol bringing a burning sensation to my throat as it went down. She then took the last cup and raised it to me. I took it and slowly poured its content over the still burning embers, which went up in a puff of blue flames.

Blessed is the Creator who gave us life.” Sikara began and I followed just a second after her. “Blessed are the ancestors who watch over us. May their light and memory never fade.

It’s done.” Sikara said, getting up. “How do you feel?

I thought it would be harder… Thank you for doing this with me, I don’t think I could have done it alone.

It was no problem, Karee.

There’s still time before we have to report.

Maybe you should try to commune with him?” She walked to the altar and picked up the jar of kirun resin, the smoke of which brought for visions of the ancestors, and opened it, taking one of the pungent cube and bringing it to my hand.

I’m sure it would help you, I’ll be by your side if you’d like. I’m sure Master Kiorga would understand if we’re late for this.

I can’t…

Karee…” She put an arm on my shoulder.

I don’t think I can handle seeing him. Not yet.

She didn’t say a word. Instead she wrapped her arms around me, holding me tight. I couldn’t hold it in anymore, I cried in her arms. Letting out weeks worth of feelings I’d bottled down and did my best to ignore.