Thread: [Fic] A Soul Adrift
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Old 09-14-2008, 10:44 PM   #16
Endorenna
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Chapter 2

The Same Path

Twi'leks were running, children screaming for their parents, women frantically trying to find their children, smoke, fire everywhere. Taisan'kye stumbled out of his home, choking and calling for his older sisters. He heard one of them scream, and he saw a slaver grab her by the wrist. She took a knife from her belt and viciously slashed at him. He pulled out a blaster and shot her in the face. She fell dead. As he ran off, Taisan'kye rushed to his sister's side, not hearing his own screams. What was left of her face was bloody and mutilated. He felt tears streaming down his cheeks. His father grabbed his hand and started running, dragging Taisan'kye behind him. Suddenly, he, too, fell dead as a blaster bolt tore through his chest. Taisan'kye ran from the body as a blaster bolt missed him by a fraction. He heard his mother's voice as she tried to get some of the children safely away, and he ran towards her. A volley of stun blasts cut through the air where she was, stunning her and the children. Taisan'kye saw his other sister kneel beside her and try to pick her up, but a stun blast felled her as well. Taisan'kye began running through the hellish ruins that were once his home, trying to find a way of escape, coughing and gasping for a breath of air. He heard another familiar voice, and he turned towards it. Sri'lo! What was she doing here! A slaver grabbed her--

Taisan'kye's eyes flew open, sweat pouring down his face, his heart pounding wildly and his breathing erratic. He leaped out of bed and ran into the next room. Sri'lo was sleeping peacefully in her own small bed.

Taisan'kye stared at her face for a few long moments, telling himself over and over again that she was safe. He swallowed hard and lurched into the small room that served as a kitchen.

Half an hour later, Taisan'kye's wife walked in, her eyes bleary from lack of sleep. Taisan'kye was staring moodily into a cup of hot tea. She asked quietly, "Was it the same dream?"

He nodded grimly. She sat down beside him. "I dreamed of the time you crawled into my village, bleeding and wounded, when you told the elders what had happened--and the time they came." Her eyes became hard.

Taisan'kye gave a shuddering sigh. "It's been over twenty years since I first came in contact with the slavers, but the nightmares bring it back as if it were yesterday."

Her deep brown eyes held sympathy as she replied, "Thirteen years have passed since my village--our village--was destroyed. My nightmares haven't faded either."

Taisan'kye asked quietly, "Atan'il, do you think we've done the right thing, teaching Sri'lo Basic?"

Atan'il asked in surprise, "What?"

"We've told her about the galaxy, about the thousands of planets and the many different aliens and the technology, and we've taught her how to speak with them. I'm afraid that when she's grown and she's leaving us, she'll go out there--and something will happen to her. What if she dies? Should we have just left her in the dark about the outside?"

The woman shook her head and replied gently, "As much as this pains us, we must realize that eventually, she might be captured and enslaved. It would be better for her not to be too overwhelmed by her surroundings."

"I know, but what if--"

"Taisan'kyekamala!" Atan'il exclaimed sharply. "Don't become enamoured with 'ifs'. Anything could happen. We can't control that."

"Can't we?" He raised his purple head, his face almost desperate. "There are other places to run, other holes to hide in! We can keep ahead of them!"

Atan'il replied kindly, "Taisan'kye, we can't do that; you know it. Sri'lo's too young for a life like that."

"I know how to keep the lyleks away. We could--"

"Taisan'kye, there's still a chance the slavers won't find us here. Would you rather Sri'lo stay here and have a chance to grow up, or face certain death out in the wild?"

Taisan'kye rose and began to fretfully pace the room. "You're right, of course, but--but she's so small, so fragile; if she fell into their hands--!" His voice trailed off as his jaw tensed in fury.

Atan'il smiled. "Taisan'kye, she's small, but I would hardly call her 'fragile'. In the past, she's broken her arm and had more bloody noses than I care to remember." She sighed resignedly. "Sri'lo can be a spitfire, at times. I do wish she didn't have such a temper! Sometime she might get into a fight she can't win. After all, she's only nine."

"Ten in a week, remember that." Taisan'kye drank the last of his tea. "We'd better get back to bed. If Sri'lo wakes up and finds us in here, she'll want an explanation."

Atan'il stood and stretched stiffly. "Yes, you're right." She paused a moment as Taisan'kye added one more question.

"Atan'il, are you sure we should wait to tell her about the slavers?"

Atan'il nodded. "Yes, we should wait a few years. She's not ready to know about them yet." Taisan'kye and Atan'il returned to their bed and went to sleep without any further conversation.

The next day, Sri'lo woke early. She quickly dressed in her sturdy, light-weight clothes and crept into her parent’s bedroom. They were both still asleep. She pursed her lips in frustration. Didn’t grown-ups ever get up as early as she did?

Sri’lo quietly went back into the kitchen and ran outside. She stood at the edge of the cliff and smiled as the cool breeze blew against her face. The girl ran along the rough-cut path, not even thinking about fearing the long fall if she slipped. Her uncle, Gaeva’ib, would be up. He was always up early.

A minute later, Sri’lo reached his cave. She pushed through the heavy curtain that hung across the door and walked in. Sure enough, Gaeva’ib was up eating breakfast. A smile creased his green face when he saw her, and he exclaimed, “Sri’lo, come here!” She ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. He gave her a hearty hug in return and asked, “What are you doing here?”

Sri’lo replied, “Mama and Daddy are still asleep.”

“But you aren’t. I know how you feel, Sri’lo, the exact same thing used to happen to me. You know what always made me feel better?”

Sri’lo smiled. “What?”

“Breakfast.” He stood and walked over to the narrow shelves that made his cupboard and got out a plate. Sri’lo shook her head. “I’m not hungry, Uncle Gaeva’ib.”

“Really? A growing girl like you not hungry? That’s a first.” Gaeva’ib sat down again. “Well then, what are you here for?”

“I just wanted to come in.”

“Well, that’s as good a reason as any! How are your flute lessons with Nya’van coming?”

“She said I’m doing better. Today she might start me on a harder piece.”

“Good! You keep working hard on that, hear?” She smiled and sat down in a chair. Gaeva’ib watched her, a strange look on his face. It disappeared as she turned her head towards him.

“Uncle, the other day, Daddy told me about some important people out in the galaxy called Jedi.”

“What of them?”

“He said that they were good and powerful, and they could help me if I ever got into any trouble.”

“And?”

“Have you ever met a Jedi?”

Gaeva’ib smiled and shook his head. “Never! The Jedi are too few and far between for me to ever meet one.”

“Are they as good as Daddy says they are?”

“The Jedi are good, Sri’lo. In fact, some people even think they’re perfect.”

Sri’lo’s eyes sparkled with wonder. “Are they?”

“The Jedi aren’t perfect. No one is, it’s just that the Jedi are closer to it than most of us.” Gaeva’ib smiled to himself and started fixing a cup of tea. “Do you want some?”

“No, thanks. I’m not thirsty.”

“Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.” He chuckled at his own pun. “Anything happen with Oko’nas yet?”

Sri’lo shook her head. “No. I told Daddy what he said about being tougher than me, but Daddy still won’t let me hit him unless he hits me first.”

Gaeva’ib clucked his tongue. “Too bad, too bad. I wouldn’t mind seeing you take him down an inch or two.”

Sri’lo’s face brightened. “Maybe he will hit me!”

“Or maybe you could come home.” Taisan’kye stuck his head in the door. “I thought you’d be here. Come on, Sri’lo, your mother wants you.”

Sri’lo reluctantly got to her feet and started walking back to her home. Suddenly, she realized that her father had fallen back a few feet. She turned and saw him staring at the pass only a quarter of a mile away. His face was grim, his eyes almost frightened. Sri’lo pursed her lips. He always looked like that when he looked at the pass. She asked curiously, “Daddy, what’s wrong?”

Taisan’kye started as if she had woken him from a dream, and he smiled. “Nothing, Sri’lo. Run along, Mama’s waiting for you.”

Sri’lo started running back to her home, but her mind was working. He was afraid of that pass, and whenever she asked him about it, he would just smile and say that it was nothing, but his eyes were never smiling. They were always—fearful. Many times, when he was watching her, his face would pale slightly, and he would get the same expression on his face as he did when he looked at that pass. Whenever she asked Mama about it, she would laugh and tell her to go play. But there was always a nervous ring to her voice. Sri’lo slowed to a walk as she entered their cave.

Atan’il looked up as Sri’lo entered the kitchen. “Where were you?”

Sri’lo replied, “I went to see Uncle Gaeva’ib.”

“Well, eat your breakfast.” She set a bowl of porridge on the table.

Sri’lo protested as she sat down, “But I’m not hungry!”

“You will be later, now eat it while it’s hot. Nya’van stopped by and asked if you could come for your lesson a little earlier than usual. She said she was going to start teaching you a new song today.”

Sri’lo started eating. “Should I go over there as soon as I finish this?”

“Probably. Don’t forget your flute!”

Sri’lo swallowed. “I won’t.” She hurriedly finished eating, ran to her room, grabbed her flute, and left. The little girl ran down a path to Nya’van’s cave. She stopped in front of the curtain door and knocked beside it politely.

Nya’van called, “Come in.” Sri’lo walked in and said, “Mama told me you said to come early today.”

The green teenage twi’lek smiled prettily and asked, “Have you been practicing every day like I told you to?”

“Yes.”

“Let me hear you play.” Nya’van sat and cupped her hands together under her chin expectantly. Sri’lo took her flute out of its box and put it to her lips. She blew into it hard.

“No, Sri’lo, not so hard. You have to be gentle with it.”

Sri’lo nodded and blew a little more softly. A few slightly wavering notes came out as her small fingers moved across the holes clumsily. Nya’van shook her head and took the flute from her. “You’re holding it wrong again.” She smoothly moved it into position and played the same notes, her long, slim fingers smoothly dancing over the instrument. The teenager held it out to Sri’lo. “Try again.”

Sri’lo took it from her and held it up to her mouth. She copied how Nya’van had been holding it and blew the same notes. This time, they were a lot smoother and didn’t shake. Nya’van grinned. “Very good, Sri’lo! You’re doing much better!”

Sri’lo sighed. “I’ll never play it as good as you do.”

“Sri’lo, I’ve known you ever since you were born. You’re far too stubborn to just give up because it’s hard. Remember when you were climbing up the cliff and fell?”

Sri’lo wrinkled her nose. “I broke my arm.”

“But as soon as it was healed, you were off climbing that cliff again. You’d figured out what you’d done wrong the first time and learned from it. It’s the same thing with the flute, though the consequences of a mistake aren’t nearly so painful.”

Sri’lo nodded thoughtfully and licked her lips. She lifted the small instrument to her mouth again and closed her eyes. The girl began to play it. The tune was short and simple, but the notes were clearer and prettier. As soon as she was done, she looked up at Nya’van and asked,“Was that okay?’

Nya’van smiled broadly. “Sri’lo, you’re progressing far more quickly than I did! That was beautiful!”

Sri’lo replied doubtfully, “I didn’t think so.”

“It was, believe me. Today I want to start you on a new piece. Are you ready to hear it?”

Sri’lo nodded eagerly as Nya’van took out her flute and put it to her lips. Some low, slow notes came from the flute, and then Nya’van’s fingers began to move faster, and the notes sped up. It reminded Sri’lo of hunters seeking their prey in the Shadow Lands, where no light penetrates the engulfing darkness. The tune became mournful, as if one of the hunters had fallen and could not rise. It finally faded into low breaths of never-ending sorrow, its cries echoing into the emptiness.

After the last note had faded, Sri’lo asked, “Does it have words?”

“It’s a very ancient song of the Twi’lek people called ‘The Song of the Lylek.’ Someday I’ll teach you the words, but for now, let’s get the tune.”

That night, Sri’lo had just finished getting ready for bed, and she went to say goodnight to Taisan’kye. She walked into his bedroom and saw him sitting on his bed, staring at the floor, deep in thought. His face was the same as it was when he had been staring at the pass. The girl silently padded up behind him and watched him for a moment. Suddenly she asked, “Daddy, what’s wrong?”

Taisan’kye leaped to his feet with the hasty exclamation, “Nothing, Sri’lo!” She crossed her arms. “Daddy, it is too something. You looked just like you do when you look at the north pass.”

Taisan’kye managed a smile and asked briskly, “Are you ready for bed?”

Sri’lo gave an exasperated sigh. “Daddy, why won’t you tell me what’s wrong?”

Taisan’kye turned and started walking into her room. She said resolutely, “Tomorrow I’m going to ask one of the Elders what’s wrong with that pass.”

Taisan’kye stopped stock-still and closed his eyes. Those Elders were crotchety old men. They would bluntly tell her everything about the slavers and the fate of those taken by them! It would be far better for her to learn about the slavers from him. He walked back to his bed and sat down, motioning for Sri’lo to sit beside him. She climbed up onto the bed and sat down, hugging her knees to her.

Taisan’kye quickly began working out his explanation in his mind. “Sri’lo, do you know the reason we live so far from other villages?” The little girl shook her head and rested her chin on her knees. “Sri’lo, we’re hiding.”

“Hiding from what?”

“Slavers.” He held up his hand before Sri’lo could interrupt. “Slavers are greedy men. They capture Twi’leks and they sell them to other people out in the galaxy like animals.”

Sri’lo’s eyes got big. “They sell Twi’leks! That’s horrible!”

“Yes, Sri’lo, it is.”

Sri’lo interrupted again, “Why would they do that! How could anyone—“

“It’s hard to understand how any beings could be so evil, but they are. Unfortunately, Twi’leks are worth a lot of money, and that’s why they hunt us.”

Sri’lo shivered. “Daddy, what if they find us? Are they going to sell me, too?”

Taisan’kye hugged her tightly and replied firmly, “No. I won’t ever let them sell you, not while there’s a breath left in me!”

Sri’lo wrapped her arms around him and snuggled up against his side. After a minute, she stood up and started towards her room. Impulsively, she turned back and hugged his arm as she whispered, “It’s okay, Daddy. Nothing’s going to happen to me. I’m safe here with you.” Taisan’kye pulled her into another embrace and held her tightly for a few moments. “Go on to bed, Sri’lo, it’s late.” She nodded and walked into her room. The girl let the curtain fall behind her, cutting her off from Taisan’kye’s view.

Taisan’kye stood and slowly walked into the kitchen. He sat down at the table and put his head in his hands.

Atan’il came in from outside and saw him. Her eyes melted into pure concern, and she asked softly, “Taisan’kye, what’s wrong?”

Taisan’kye replied in a husky voice, “I told her.”

“Told her what?”

“I told Sri’lo about the slavers.”

“What!” Atan’il exploded. “I thought we agreed to wait a few years!”

“I had no choice! She said she was going to ask the Elders!”

“You should’ve told her not to!”

“She would’ve asked them anyway! She would’ve thought she was helping me!”

“Enough! What’s done is done!” Atan’il spun on her heel and stomped into the bedroom, closing the curtain behind her. Taisan’kye remained seated at the table for the rest of the night.


                                 


A week later, Sri’lo’s birthday came. There had been a small celebration, with Nya’van giving her a flute case, Gaeva’ib giving her a small bracelet of smooth black stones, and her parents giving her a necklace with a pendant of a faceted crystal her father had found. In the mid-afternoon, Taisan’kye decided to go foraging in the valley below, and Sri’lo wanted to come with him.

Taisan’kye took up a shoulderbag, his knife and his bow and set out. They descended the winding path down into the basin and set to the task of searching under the rocks for mushrooms. Sri’lo soon lost interest in the tedious task, however, and wandered off to collect some pretty stones.

There was a sound from somewhere behind her, and she heard a furtive whisper. Her eyes narrowed. That didn’t sound like any of the Twi’leks...

Suddenly, there was a sound right behind her. Sri’lo glanced back, and her mouth dropped open, letting out a scream.

There was a tall human man standing behind her. He cursed and dove for her. Sri’lo was up and running, but his hand grasped her arm. She tried to pull away and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Daddy, help! He’s got me!”

Taisan’kye came running, unslinging his bow from his shoulder. The slaver turned and saw him just as he loosed an arrow straight at him. The slaver dropped Sri’lo and darted to one side, letting the arrow plunge into the throat of another slaver. Another man leaped down onto Taisan’kye from a rock, breaking his bow. Taisan’kye whipped out a dagger and stabbed it into the man’s heart, all the while shouting, “Sri’lo, run! Hide, now!” The brave Twi’lek threw the dead slaver off of himself and leaped to his feet. Another slaver ran at him with knife upraised, but Taisan’kye ducked under it and slashed his throat open. Sri’lo ran past him, and Taisan’kye whirled to follow, pulling out a hunting horn and blowing an alarm blast to the rest of the village. Suddenly, the first slaver Sri’lo had seen grabbed Taisan’kye from behind. Sri’lo dove behind a boulder and peeked out from behind it, watching her father in terror. Taisan’kye managed to break free and turned to stab the slaver. The slaver caught his wrist and twisted it sharply, wrenching the knife out of his hand. There was a short struggle between the two, ending with the slaver flat on his back on the ground, Taisan’kye lunging for his throat. The slaver threw out his hand and caught Taisan’kye by the throat, and he squeezed. His other hand felt the ground for something sharp and happened upon the knife Taisan’kye had dropped.

Sri’lo’s eyes widened in horror as the slaver stabbed Taisan’kye to the heart.

Blood spilled from the dead Twi’lek’s chest. The slaver disgustedly threw the body off of himself and pointed down towards where Sri’lo had gone as several other slavers ran up. He exclaimed, “The Lethan went that way! Get her!” Sri’lo shrank further behind the boulder as they passed. Once they were gone, Sri’lo crept out from behind the rock and ran to her father’s body. She turned it over with shaking hands and stared at his face, her own face paling under her red skin. His eyes were dull and lifeless, his body limp. Sri’lo felt something wet cover her hands, her breath coming unevenly as the magnitude of what had just happened dawned on her. Taisan’kye’s blood covered her hands. Her eyes filled with tears, and she stood, backing away from the body in shock.

Suddenly, screams echoed towards her from the direction of the cliff! Sri’lo’s eyes widened as she realized that her mother was there. She whipped around and ran back towards the cliff, a strangled cry tearing from her throat.

Sri’lo started climbing up the cliff, ignoring the path. She heard more screams from above her and started climbing even faster. Smoke was pouring out of the caves above her, and she heard strange sounds as flashes of red and green light flashed on top of the cliff. Sri’lo pulled herself over the edge. Slavers were everywhere. Twi’leks she had known from early childhood were lying dead and stunned on the ground. Atan’il stumbled out of the smoke and saw Sri’lo. Her eyes widened when she saw her daughter, and she screamed, “Sri’lo, climb down! Quickly!” Sri’lo stood stunned for a moment, and Atan’il ran towards her, intending to help her down. Just as she reached Sri’lo, a stray blaster shot found its way over to her. Atan’il fell over the edge with a horrible scream as the energy bolt hit her in the back. Sri’lo grabbed at her hand. She, too, was pulled over the edge.

They landed at the bottom of the cliff, Sri’lo landing right on top of her mother. The little girl staggered to her feet and shook Atan’il’s shoulder. She was dead. Sri’lo felt more sticky, wet blood flowing onto her hands as she hugged her mother’s body, tears streaming down her face.

Suddenly, Gaeva’ib appeared from behind a rock a few yards away. Sri’lo raised her tear-streaked face.

“Gaeva’ib, they killed Mama and Daddy!” Impulsively, she leaped up and ran for the security of her uncle’s arms.

He took a blaster out from behind his back, aimed it at her, and fired. Sri’lo fell to the ground, stunned.



__________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ _______________________

Okay, guys, here it is!!!!!!!

I think I should have put that before the chapter...

Last edited by Endorenna; 09-23-2008 at 12:53 AM. Reason: fixing several typos
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