Swords of the Exile (dreamshell & Fefe)
Ezakar Arrai woke before dawn and stared at the words chiseled into the stone above him;
NERO KRIZAKEK NERE BEZI
My life for my nestmates.
NERO TURAZARO NERE BEZI
My life for my empire.
GURO ASAGA NERE BEZI
My life for our Asaga.
He looked away and saw that ice-blue Zekel still ruled the sky outside the narrow slot of his apartment window. Though the sprawling megacity of Skaloi never slept, Zak could already hear it rousing from a languid growl to the roar of morning activity through his reinforced tritanium walls. By sunchange, he knew commute would be hell as a wave of bodies and vehicles choked the twisting narrow streets. Slaves would have it the worst as they crawled out of cramped ghettoes ill-fit to shelter their disparate shapes and sizes to once again serve the will of their Turaskel overlords. It was dangerous work avoiding the careless frenzy of hovercars and maglevs or the explosive scorn of their betters; traffic-related deaths alone numbered in the hundreds daily.
Zak remembered well the panicky self-preservation of that life, but those days were behind him now. While his room was little more than a cell or vault, it was his own (or partially), located within the labyrinthine inner ring of the palatial district. And even if he possessed the flimsy status of freeman in name only, he was Urreza Patak, an 'Honored Sword,' one of the few elite soldiers of the Empire handpicked to personally protect the life of the Asaga. Moreso, Zak was the first of all the human race who could claim such a privilege. It sure beat jumping around like a fool or fighting tooth-and-nail for his life to entertain the masses, that was for damn sure.
Rolling out of the small niche his bed was set in, Zak pushed open a small closet panel in the wall and changed into a new set of clothes before heading for the door. Flashing an ID at the room monitor, the magnetic lock of the door discharged and it opened slowly and mechanically. He stepped out to join the queue of other Patakek leaving their quarters and together they marched down the bronzy, sharp-cornered halls of their apartments to the training grounds outside.
The morning exercises and combat practice seemed to pass Zak by in a blur. Though he would readily admit that he was not the fastest or even the strongest of the guards, he knew he was better than them all the same. The other xenos were always trying to prove themselves by taking out the puny human; urduza, as they called one of his kind. They never succeeded. Zak had spilled blood in the arena; he was not about to be bested by some minor Turaskel noble's third son or a barbarian from the fringes of space who had been lucky enough not to get killed in battle. More than once, Zak had to be pulled off his opponent before he could do real damage. The number of fellow guards willing to practice with him grew less and less. Eventually, he would either be commended for his prowess and awarded command... or killed in his sleep by some envious peer or superior.
Afterwards, they cleaned themselves under sonic showers and broke fast in the mess with a small portion of doughy fabo and cups of vaguely sweet laka. Zak spoke to no one and finished his meal quickly, leaving the crockery behind to be collected and washed by slaves, then made his way with the others to the armory.
Inside, Zak passed his ID over another maglock and his locker opened, revealing armor made of a sleek, black para-aramid colloquially called "plasteel" that was light and flexible enough to move around in with ease, but durable enough to take most laserfire. As he did with so many other things, he equipped it with a casual efficiency honed by mindless (and relentless) training during the last Expansion. Though he couldn't remember the long and awkward name of the species the Empire had been conquering, it didn't much matter considering that they were all dead. His former master, a Djerbodan lanista named Deelo, had volunteered him for the war in an attempt to relieve Imperial debts and drum up some political clout, but the little pig-rat braggart had died a year later in a back-alley robbery. Zak heard it had been a bad death; he had been glad. When he returned to Turaskel, some insipid desk jockey had told him he was free. Zak's one and only act of freedom had been to sign right back up for the xenoid Marine corps and fight another war. That frankly thoughtless act had in turn led to his recruitment as a Royal Guard after some coldblood commander named Marazi had seen him in battle and apparently been impressed. The universe was a strange place sometimes.
Next, he took out his ion rifle, making sure that it was properly assembled and charged for the day. Finally, he attached the belt that held his prize sword, the urreza patak for which the Royal Guard were named. In ancient days they had been made from the refined bones of the Empire's enemies, or so the stories went. Now it was fashioned from a special alloy of tough but flexible design and capable of creating a field of energy that made the blade extremely sharp and extremely deadly, even to the user, who required a unique gel-insulated sheath to carry it in that would dull its charge.
Fully suited and armed, Zak and the rest of the Guard emptied the armory like automatons and headed towards the opulent splendor that was the Asaga's palace. Outside, fiery Tarak was rising to change places with Zekel, just as Zak's group was on their way to change shifts with their comrades. The twin suns passed one another by, creating an eerie magenta light, while pale and solitary Urazi fled to hide behind the horizon on the other end of the world. The Patakek marched up the steep, seemingly endless steps of the palace, immensely large banners hanging down and bearing the Crown of Stars surrounding the silhouette of a planet skewered by a sword; the Turaskel Empire’s mighty sigil.
As they entered His Excellency’s main audience chamber and moved into standing formation, their commander took lead, reciting the oath each of them knew by heart, the one carved into the ceilings of their beds. Without hesitation, every officer joined in, raising their swords to the heavens.
“Nero krizakek nere bezi!”
My life for my nestmates!
“Nero turazaro nere bezi!”
My life for my empire!
“Guro Asaga nere bezi!”
My life for our Asaga!
“Guro Asaga!" they chanted. "Guro Asaga! Guro Asaga!"
Last edited by dreamshell; 11-02-2013 at 07:11 PM.
Scyllia. This was a beautiful and peaceful planet filled with an exotic looking shark-like, female species. The all female race made it so that they were peaceful, because all the women were well educated and excelled in most areas. One area they did not excel in was fighting. Hand-to-hand combat was not their specialty, the art of war was not on the list of things to add to their resume. In fact, a noble Scyllian was on the counsel to the Asaga and would advise against fighting yet another country for dominance of the whole universe. However, most of her warnings were not heeded. Not even by her own daughter.
Maia was born to a wealthy, aristocratic, and noble Scyllian. She was raised as such by her mother and under the belief of the Punga the God of all the creatures and of serenity. She did as she was told, mostly by the actual woman that raised her. Her nanny. Maia believed in everything that her nanny Anahera told her. All the stories, all the beliefs, everything. It wasn't because she was young and gullible, it was because of the way Anahera would tell her these things. Her voice was soft, and sweet like an angel, much like the meaning of her name. Maia loved Anahera, unfortunately she was killed for supposedly leaking information on the highest member of the Scyllian society. Maia never forgave her mother after that, and from that moment forward she pursued a life of challenge. Maia was pushing herself to her limits and beyond. It wasn't the Scyllian way to be in combat, or want to train to be a part of a military but Maia made her choice to go rogue and stuck to it.
She was still young by Scyllian years, but Maia took to a life of piracy and was soon discovered by a general in the Asaga's army. She was taking bets for fights in an underground arena, and one Turaskel took her up on the fight and she won within two minutes. The general was so impressed he offered her a job as an Urreza Patak or Honored Sword. This job was of the utmost highest ranking in the military as the guards dealt with dignitaries of all sorts as well as the Asaga himself. Maia accepted. She needed someplace to make money other than fighting random men who thought they could best her. She also wanted someplace where she felt like she was a part of something. Felt more unified than travelling around with a bunch of misfits from all ends of the galaxy.
It had been a week since she had accepted the job and was sworn into the Urreza Patak. Since then her guard duty shifts were in the morning, while, her roommate's schedule was during the night. They rarely if ever saw each other. This was good for Maia because he was a male and she was one of three female guards the other two being a different race than she. It was a one-in-a-million chance that a Scyllian went rogue, but when it did happen the one rogue Scyllian was tougher than most races and could withstand a lot more damage than other races as well. Except for maybe a tough human whom had been through a lot more than Maia could have even fathomed. She did not know much about the one human in the Urreza Patak, but she knew that he was tough enough to handle himself against even the toughest of races. She had seen him fight and had the urge to challenge him, herself, but decided against it after she saw his last match a few nights ago. He took down a full grown Ukko bare handed. The Ukko were a race of overgrown, warmongering dinosaur type creatures. The resembled what one would call a triceratops.
Since that day, Maia kept her eye on the human. She did not know his name, but she could tell that he had a story to tell. As most in the Urreza Patak did. This morning was the day of the assignments. And after the normal routine of exercise, food, shower, and suiting up it was time for the Urreza Patak to receive their assignments. Whether it was tailing a suspected traitor or guarding a certain dignitary; it didn't matter to Maia what she got just as long as it got her off their base a while. She was tired of the same routine and was itching for some action. As she knelt to recite the oath she had taken for the Asaga, she saw out of the corner of her left eye the human. She wondered what he must be thinking about all of this. Granted most humans were thought of as inferior to the other races, but Maia thought differently about this particular one. He was smart. Once the recitation was over, she looked up with her rare, bright, blue eyes and focused on the Asaga as he stood ready to give the assignments.
As their mindless words echoed off the walls of the throne room and on up to its vaulted ceiling, the Asaga sat on his dais still as a statue but for his piercing, slitted eyes that flitted back and forth over each Patak's face, studying them closely. He was adorned in a finely-spun silk robe dyed plum and pale gold harvested from the mammoth tundra spiders of a far and freezing world and coiling about his pebbly temple was a gilded diadem bedecked with iridescent gemstones symmetrical down to the atom. When the ritual reached its end, the guards rose to their feet, as did he.
"My distinguished Patakkreda," the Asaga said to Karsa, the on-duty commander. His voice was deep, though coarse and nasal reflecting his rugged origins, yet carrying great authority. Commander Karsa bowed and the Asaga looked once more to the officers. "My fearsome Urreza Patakek. Trying times are approaching for us all. Soon shall begin the Festival of the Union of the Clutches in which we celebrate three thousand years since the original Asaga, may he praised unto the cold rim of the void, completed the dream of a Turaskel seized and guided by a single iron fist. Three millenia since the zaros became turazaro; since transient petty kingdoms became an unflagging empire! A full cycle of jubilation and reverence for our long and awe-inspiring history."
The Asaga paused, eyes widened with intensity and bejeweled claws upraised after having been swept up in his enthusiasm. Letting them fall again to his sides, he glided back to the throne and reseated himself with fluid grace.
"Naturally, threats to our person will be at an unprecedented high, as will our business with the colonies and various client races," he continued at length, sitting more casually than before. "So open your eyes and put your ears to the ground. Tighten your muscles and hone your blades. Skaloi is a pernicious pit of vipers; indeed, as is all the universe. Be on your guard and serve as ours. Prove you are worthy to be called an Honorable Sword of the Asaga."
With a flick of the wrist, he dismissed them to their duties. Staid Commander Karsa bowed again and sprang to action, directing his subordinates to their stations with the same punctilious barks of a slave-driver before finally taking his own position beside the dais with a few select others as the Asaga's courtiers and advisers began to filter in. Zak moved without thought as if run by pistons, avoiding the traffic and crossing the sacrosanct expanse of the audience chamber like an automaton. He fell into place at his designated post before a monolithic pillar of stylishly-pitted gold encircled by twin rings of buzzing, suspended violet light. He had conjectured it to be part of some kind of alarm or defense system on his first day, but perhaps the draftsmen of the court, doubtless soft, impractical creatures more interested in pomp than efficacy, had just found the idea pleasing to the eye.
Opposite him, past the arriving dignitaries, Zak noticed the supple form and artistically banded countenance of one of the female Patakek, her rigid posture and prominently displayed ion rifle mirroring his own. Her place parallel to him was a hiccup of protocol that had somehow escaped the notice of the precise Commander Karsa, but Zak found he did not mind. The alien woman was far easier to look at than the humorless, horny-nosed Ukko that usually stood across from him. With luck, the lumbering bastard had put in for a transfer after their sparring match, or perhaps even taken deathly ill.
From what scant education he had managed to glean of the other subservient peoples of the Empire, Zak knew her to be a Scyllian, a member of an all-female race descended from some sort of parthenogenic sea predator. The Scyllian womenfolk had seemingly put any primordial violence behind them long ago, however, and had been primarily a race of diplomats and artists for countless generations since.
It was surprising, then, to find one of them here standing guard for the Asaga. But perhaps no more so than it would be to find a lowly urduza doing the same, he reflected. He couldn't help but second-guess her ability, coming from a race of peacekeepers and philosophers as she did, but Zak knew the Empire didn't recruit just anyone for the position of Urreza Patak. Commander Marazi in particular had made Zak go to great lengths to prove his skill in battle was not merely circumstantial, but instead the result of vigorous training and discipline, as well as innate talent and a bloodlust cultivated over many years. Zak could not remember ever seeing her fight, but this was likely due to the intoxicating high of adrenaline pumping through his veins and the red rage that clouded his eyes during such times.
Zak's thoughts were distracted by the partial opening of the tall double doors leading into the throne room. A royal servant wearing the Imperial seal on the breast of his otherwise tastefully understated doublet entered with a tall, mechanized silver staff in hand. Switching it on, he croaked into the microphone set into its ornate head, his formal words booming out through hidden speakers that lined the throne room.
"The Baqeni Special Representative for the Ministry of Public Works requests permission to receive audience from His Most Imperial Majesty, Tau Yiskani the Second So Called, Asaga of the Turaskel Empire, Its Colonies and Protectorates."
"Permission is granted," the Asaga replied evenly.
The doors were opened fully and a squat, bug-eyed strigine stepped in wearing comparatively humble court attire and a capelet that terminated in long sleeves, as well as a large, colorfully plumed bycocket. At a gesture from his presenter, the Baqeni skittered in nervous bursts down the great golden hall and past judging eyes until he stood at the foot of the dais. He removed his gaudy hat, revealing a pinkly bald pate, and fell prostrate onto the sleek stone floor.
"May your nest withstand all turbulent winds, O Great and Gracious Asaga," he intoned with deep solemnity.
"Get your stunted beak off our floor and make your petition, Baqeni. We have things of actual import in need of attending."
Barely stifled laughter swept the court. The owlish Baqeni clucked a bit in mazed indignation, but rose to his spindly feet and bowed respectfully despite the humiliation. "But of course, Your Majesty. I don't mean to trouble you overlong. You see, as was announced, I represent my people's Ministry of Public Works. We seek your indulgence for a certain memorial project, but more than that, we seek to prove ourselves more loyal than our cousins — ahem, that is distant cousins — the Elekadenatheni."
"The creatures, my Asaga," spoke one of his advisers, a Turaskel grown cracked and hoary with age, "whose incessant defiance unfortunately necessitated their extinction in the last Expansion."
"Ah, yes. The hawk-men as lofty as their perches who thought nothing of abducting Turaskel brood and raising them up by their own perverted code. Neighbors of yours?"
"A most underhanded and irrational race, Highness, whom you justly saw fit to wipe clean from the universe. But to assuage any doubts you may harbor in regards to my own people, my emperor, I have been sent by our leaders to implore you for the honor of carving your illustrious likeness into the face of our largest and most holy mountain in which sits our most ancient eyrie so that you may be remembered — and worshipped! — by future generations of my kinsmen. Indeed, for all time."
The Asaga hissed lazily. "Do as you please with your little world. So long as you pay tribute, we are not much concerned."
"But of course, Your Majesty! We would never think to deny you that which is yours by rights!"
The Asaga looked down to the Patakkreda at his side. "Karsa, this groveling fool has grated on our nerves long enough. See him out before we decide to wipe out his people for the aggravation he's caused."
The Baqeni envoy squawked in utter horror, flapping his feathered arms in hysterics as he returned his belly to the floor. "Oh no, Your Grace, PLEASE HAVE MERCY!"
Karsa and another Patak grabbed the pathetic creature by his cape and pulled him upright. The court was in a mix of shock and cynical amusement.
The Asaga covered his face with a clawed hand. "Don't they have hyperbole on your world?" he asked irritably. "Or is that as foreign a concept to you as dignity?"
The courtiers could no longer contain themselves, bursting into howls of elitist delight and arrogant guffaws. The Baqeni's large eyes darted about self-consciously and he did his best to laugh along.
"Of-of course, Excellency, m-my apologies! I am indeed a fool, my Asaga, so you have proven! Ha-ha! Most side-splitting! A-HA-ha-ha-ha!"
The Baqeni Special Representative for the Ministry of Public Works was dragged out by his Patakek escorts to a chorus of cruel mirth in which he was an absurd participant. The rest of the petitioners made for dull spectacle in contrast, bringing various problems to lay at the Asaga's feet; crime, famine, poverty, pollution, plague, pirates, the feuds and betrothals of noble houses, client states asking for more money, pleading for more time to pay money, arguing that they should be exempt from paying as much money as they were, and on and on. Zak turned a deaf ear to it all, submerging his own personality and its boredom and disinterest with his surroundings with that of the stony or machinelike soldier standing ever patient and at the ready. After a time, he knew not how long, the courtiers began to disperse, leaving the Asaga and his advisers to convene over pressing business.
"My Honorable Swords may take their leave for now, Commander," Zak heard him tell Karsa as he stood from his throne, "save yourself and your lieutenants. I have much to address with my councilors in private and I suspect the palace grounds are in dire need of being wandered through pointlessly for a few hours."
Zak smirked. That was one thing he was quickly beginning to appreciate about his emperor; his humorous acknowledgment of bullshit. Karsa gave the order for the rest of the guards to make rounds and Zak stepped forward, did a half-turn to his right and marched his way out of the throne room, his Scyllian counterpart, now his partner in policing the palace, at his side.
Last edited by dreamshell; 3 Weeks Ago at 03:56 PM.
So she was paired with the human? Charming. Maia had not once been formally introduced to the man or even really spoke to him. In fact, Maia had not really spoken to anyone since she joined the Patakek. It was not the fact that she was unfriendly, it just was not in her nature to be so open to new people and new conversation. Since everything that had happened in her past, she pretty much closed herself off to much else. Most other races did not quite understand why the Scyllians are the way they are. Some races oppose the fact that they are so peaceful and so refined. Others wish to be more like them, but cannot give up the small part of their conscience that says "sometimes violence is the answer". Maia gave into that part of herself, she knew that even the most refined of the Scyllians (like her mother) had some anger and violence in them. She wished she knew where hers came from. All the Scyllians were taught to love, respect, and take care of one another. But after some political affairs, Maia had lost everything and decided to go rogue. She was told it was a shame because of her rare-colored eyes. However, she made no plans for a future beyond guarding the Asaga and remaining an Urreza Patak.
As she stood next to her new partner of watch, she stiffened a bit as if ready for anything. Being a pirate taught her never to trust anyone, except the guy who's got your back. In this case, it would be the human. She knew that if all else failed she had to trust him with her life because he was the closest thing she had to a partner. She kept him in her peripheral the entire time they were standing there. However, as the servant came into the room to announce the presence of a guest, her body stiffened more and her hand wrapped about her sabre in a grip ready to hack-and-slash anything that so much as looked at the Asaga funny. When the Baqeni walked up to the Asaga to speak, she held her position. She was not about to let the sniveling Baqeni throw her off of the scent of danger. However, the conversation between the Asaga and the Baqeni made it seem that he did not even need guards to defend him. He could do so with his words alone. And that gaze? Piercing. So much so that she almost shuddered at the thought of being that poor Baqeni. Luckily, she was one of the chosen few who defended and protected the Asaga and his court. She was proud to be an Urreza Patak.
When the conversation was over, they were dismissed by Karsa to wander the grounds. She mirrored Zak's steps and marched out of the throne room with him. It was difficult for her to remain stiff when walking because of the way her feet were built. Essentially, they were fin-like in nature and even in heavy boots, it was difficult for her not to be graceful. Her steps were in perfect cadence with that of Zak's as they walked through the vast hallway and out through the immense double doors onto the grounds. Another shift was changing in front of them as two soldiers walked past them, and into the palace to walk the halls. Zak and Maia were headed to the gardens to wander around them a while.
The gardens were beautiful and a vast maze. One they had to learn within an hour. If the hour had passed and you had not made it through the garden back to where you started from, then you would be deducted points and your chance of becoming a Patakek would drastically decrease. She and Zak had the best times. Maia had navigated the maze in about twenty minutes give-or-take. Zak had made about the same time from what she heard, she still didn't remember what time he was told as she was catching her breath a bit after running the maze like a madwoman. It was funny that she and Zak seemed to be the best Patakeks out of the group, and yet here they were paired together. She wondered if this was done on purpose? Or if some sort of guard shuffling was done to see which would be best paired together? She half-smiled at the thought for a moment and then straightened her face once more to resume her duties of walking through the maze of a garden. She personally loved the garden more than anything about the castle because it was vast and within this vastness was a great beauty. Flora from all over the various planets and galaxies were located here in this garden.
Even flowers from her home planet! This part was her favorite. When they reached the section with flowers and plants from her world, she loved the scent and color. It always brought a smile to her face, even if it was the faintest hint of one. As they approached this section, her face turned to Zak and that small smile was there as she pointed to a particular flower. It was in the shape of star, but within a smaller star and within an even smaller star. This flower was special, not only to her but her people in general. It is said that if the flower blooms while in your presence you will have good luck for the rest of your life. Each petal was a different color and it made a cascade of rainbows. The flower was also translucent so when the suns shone in the right position it would immerse you in a world of color. She couldn't pass up the opportunity to talk about this flower, mostly because of the stories she was told as a child. And the fact that she was sure the human would be interested in something like this.
"That is called the Rengarenga, it is a flower of both great beauty and great mystery." she lowered her hand after she pointed it out to Zak. "This flower is said to bring good luck to anyone who witnesses it blooming. It is also said that when it bears a small amount of the purest and most sweet liquid called Kohia, that if drunk by two people their lives become entwined forever. And if lovers drink this liquid it is said they stay in love for as long as their lives shall last."
Maia didn't know why she spoke of this to the human, but she found her knowledge needed to be shared because she enjoyed talking about the flower. It was a safe conversation. One that could not be muddled by politics or battle. She also found that her smile had grown for a moment as she examined Zak while she spoke about the Rengarenga. A slight flush graced her high cheek bones, and she turned back to look ahead of them while they continued through that particular area, leaving behind her beloved flower. For someone who has never heard a Scyllian speak, it is like music to their ears. Imagine the soft and gentle voice of angel, combined with the whispy and whimsical voice of a fairy, with a hint of the sound a bubble makes when it pops, and the sing-song and high-pitched regal voice of royalty. Another reason most other species would envy the Scyllians. Their looks were graceful, their voices pleasing to the ears, and they were kind-hearted lovely creatures. Maia was different, she was fierce, passionate, strong, and stubborn. Quite the opposite of a normal Scyllian. Most likely the reason she was chosen to be part of the Honor Guard. Her thoughts slowed and stopped as she turned her attention back to Zak.
Last edited by Fefe; 1 Week Ago at 03:35 PM.