Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Las Vegas Nevada
Current Game: Dungeonseige series
Terakian Compound: Concordia
Riyal had to admit the Druhund kit was cute, except for those needle claws. The ramp dropped before the bag was half empty, and she still sucked greedily. Taarna took her bag, linking it to a clip on her vest. She unbuckled, stood, then looked at the man. She sighed, removing the carabiner clip opposite the one she had used, and after a moment, removed a strip of leather from her vest, tying it around his neck, then linked the clip through it and the bag. When he stood the feeding was uninterrupted. He walked down the ramp, and looked at the buildings around the pad. Half of a dozen children as young as the two with him came running out, picked up the remains of the druhund, and hurried it inside. One older boy came to Riyal, and spoke to him.
“Shema is going to take the kit.” Taarna told him. Riyal knelt, and the boy professionally transferred the clip to his own body suit, then cradled the kit in his arms as he carried it in. “Come with me.” Taarna told him.
He looked at the buildings. He wasn't sure, but it looked like it might hold two or three hundred people. But the compound was silent, almost eerily so. “Where are all the people?”
“Except for those out tending the fields, everyone is inside.”
She took him through the door into the building following the others. There was a narrow hall leading back to a larger room. He had expected some kind of throne room, maybe a military command center. What he got was a large room that looked like a mess hall with two men bent over what was obviously a map of the compound they were in. The older man was pointing. “The Calor will be ready to harvest in two weeks. The cahval of course has three more months.”
“We will take care of it for you.” The younger man agreed. “When you return, the food will have been harvested.”
“Yes.” The older man said softly. “When we return.” He looked up. “We're going to be preparing for a contract and have to depart tomorrow morning. If anything happens, you have the buildings.”
The younger man laughed. “No contract is that lethal.”
“There's always a first time.” They clasped hands, and the younger man left. The elder rolled up the map. “Bring him, Taarna. Call the clan to witness.”
“No, Taarna.” He corrected gently. “All of them.”
“Chu!” She nodded, and left.
“Come, Prince Riyal. I do not bite... often.” Riyal walked toward him, and the man clasped his hand. “I am Takad, Clan father of the Terakian. We have been waiting for you world's next call upon us.”
“After my grandfather had to put down the coup, he decided, as did my father, that your clan needed time to rebuild their numbers. I remember from the history classes than half of your clan died during that.”
Takad looked at him for a long moment. “Yes, they did. As soon as we have taken oath, we can discuss this further.”
There was a clattering of boots and dozens of people came running in. The one thing he noticed were their ages. Most were elderly, in their seventies to nineties like Takad. About ten were below 20 in age; Taarna falling into that group because she was perhaps nineteen. The rest, perhaps fifteen, were between those ages, but far fewer than would be normal according to demographics. There were more of the aged than anything else.
“The clan is gathered, clan-father.” Taarna told him.
Riyal looked, doing a quick count. There were only about sixty of them. Where were the others?
“Man of Naboo? You come to call us to battle once again?”
“Clan-father, this is madness!” One man in his forties snarled. “We are to die for them yet again?”
Takad looked at him. “My son, we knew it would happen. Every warrior knows that death is his lot. It's all a matter of when. It is our time.” He looked mildly at Riyal. “I have spoken the ritual words, Riyal of Naboo.”
Riyal sighed. He opened his hand. The signet of his house was up in his palm, and he held up his hand so all could see it. “By the pact agreed, I call you. Our people are in danger, and need our strong sword arm. I, Riyal of the house of Megrim call for you to march.”
“And by the change the Jettise negotiated when Sogan called us falsely?”
Riyal took hold of the signet, and twisted. The plate pulled free revealing a gold and green chip. He held out his hand. “The proof that I am the true messenger.”
Takad walked over, lifting the chip; barely the size of the nail of his little finger, and put it in the slot on his pad. He touched a button, and typed in a code. The screen flashed. “Accepted.” He set down the pad. “My clan brothers and sisters. The day is finally at hand. The last time we can be called.”
The younger man glared at Riyal. “If this one hasn't stolen the ring, father. What of when this one's brother arrives-”
“I swear on my honor-”
The man spun, his finger aimed like a weapon. “Don't use that word! No man of your clan knows the meaning of the word! Your entire line would not know what honor was if I spread it like soft cheese on crackers and fed it to you!”
“Sammel, calm. This one is a bit different.”
“Different?” Sammel looked him up and down. “He's from Naboo, of the house of Megrim. The same filth as all of his forebears.”
“Different enough.” Takad demurred. “He caused the death of a druhund-”
“And he is different?”
Takad looked at his son mildly. “Then he gathered the cubs that had been left for dead and brought them, vowing to raise them himself if need.”
Sammel looked at him sneering. “An easy promise, since he will not be here to do it.”
“I will take them home with me.” Riyal replied softly.
Sammel shook his head as if it didn't matter anymore. “As you have taken oath, father, so have we all. We will prep the ships.” He motioned and most of the older people and the children walked out along with all of the ones in the middle.
“Don't take his animosity too badly, Prince. He had hoped he would be dead before the call came; a wish we all share.”
Riyal stared at him. “Everyone who meets me seems to think I am a plague carrier, could you explain that to me?”
“You mentioned history. Have you studied the history of the Pact?”
“Of course, I did.” Riyal commented. “If I am to eventually rule, I have to understand how and why our government works.”
“So tell me. Astound me with your acumen.”
“Your clan swore an oath to my house to defend us from aggressors 450 years ago. The clan chief then swore that half of the clan would come at our call at any time if we were under attack. You have bravely fought our enemies fifty times during that period. The last time you were called was when my Grandfather's younger brother Sogan brought a duplicate of the ring, causing not half, but all of your clan to be called to our service.”
“Like all history, self serving.” Takad commented. “The Jedi say, everything depends upon your point of view. Would you hear it from our end?”
“Four hundred fifty years ago, we had been hired by Megrim to put down a small rebellion. Your ancestor had dreams of uniting the planet under his rule, but his nation was small and could ill afford an army or such a long conflict. Also he wasn't foolish enough to think it would be within his lifetime, so he decided upon a plan. After our victory in that conflict, he invited our clan leaders and their sons to a banquet.
“Megrim's son Rothgar was instructed to goad one of our young men into a fight, and he chose the clan father's son Dayal. He did as instructed, assuring that Dayal threw the first punch. They were separated. Our people have always tried to avoid breaking local laws, but Dayal was charged with striking a member of the royal family, punishable by death by beheading. Our clan leader tried to negotiate, but Megrim was adamant; 'who raises his hand against my family threatens me'.”
Takad walked to a tea pot, holding it up in mute offering. He poured tea for them both, then walked over, setting it down as he sat across from Riyal. “Our clan-father offered to come at need. Megrim agreed to commute the sentence to exile provided the clan swore a pact to come at his call. Our clan-father was wise enough to assure that we could only be called if you were attacked or to be attacked, but Megrim only agreed if we did so for 'as long as my line exists, or your clan lives or until released'.
”The clan leader loved his son, yet if he had known what would happen to us, he would have killed the boy himself. Less than six months later, Megrim's largest neighbor attacked him. Of course we did not know then that he had goaded them by taking villages and incorporating them into his country until shots were fired and he had men dead. When we arrived half of your nation had been occupied and we had to go for their capital to defeat them. Hundreds of our clan died, and thousands of theirs, but we won handily.
And the instant we had, when we had taken their politicians into custody along with the leaders of their military, your father sent his men to take over, and shooed us on our way. And what did your 'history' say about that war?”
Riyal considered. “That after due process was observed, all of those who had orchestrated that heinous attack were executed.”
Takad chuckled sourly. “ 'Those who had orchestrated'. If nothing else, your line does have a grasp of how to make a bitter truth a sweet lie. The truth was that all members of their military down to the common soldier were executed. Their leaders both military and civil were also eliminated; down to the youngest child of their families. We may have killed thousand, but you family's 'police' killed hundreds of thousands. At least our victims had a chance to fight back.
“Then of course the next war. Your history probably records that 'terrorists' had fled across the border into the next largest neighbor, that the government there refused to turn them over, and your line swore they would hunt them where ever they went. The nation treated in such a manner had to fight back, again, starting a war you pushed.”
That was almost exactly how history had worded it. He nodded mutely. “By this time we realized what was happening; that your line was bent on conquering the entire planet with our arms and our blood. But our clans are used to poorly worded contracts. That war cost us almost a thousand more; cost those valiant people tens of thousands before they finally surrendered. Cost them hundreds of thousands more when your 'police' hunted down any who might think of fighting back.
“Attempts to renegotiate the pact were rebuffed. Why do you think your ancestor stated 'as long as my line exists, or your clan lives or until released'? As long as your line could show an actual attack by a neighbor, or prove that they had threatened you, we could not claim otherwise in a contract court. We were bound by our honor to fight for you. If we refused, we would be legally declared foresworn.
“We could not even argue against his extermination of all opposition. 'Who raises his hand against my family threatens me', remember? They acted in opposition of your ancestor's 'just claims' and your law also enshrines the idea that any member of the family of a traitor shares their guilt. We tried using our own laws, but they were also rebuffed. We take brave women as war brides, we adopt children of brave enemy warriors to raise.
“But we were told that if we took them, those who did would also be executed. Under our own laws that can be done by the contract partner unless it is negotiated first. Fifty of our people who used our laws to do so were executed 'legally' by you courts. So the wars came, our people died. Many went into honor death, killing themselves rather than continuing. Others merely hoped that some lucky man would kill the royal family and free us that way.”
Takad drained his cup, then walked over, taking down a dusty bottle. “Tihaar. Bottled the year of my birth. The year of Infamy. Something to drink when having bitter thoughts.” He took down two thimble sized glasses, poured for himself, then for Riyal. “Oya Manda!” He knocked back the drink, then watched until Riyal followed suit. The boy gasped, coughing. “It is an acquired taste.” He poured anew.
“Then, with no more enemies upon Naboo, Sogan became greedy. His father was old, and his brother Seagrim would take the throne. So Sogan had a duplicate of the ring made, and came to Manda'lor where we still lived. He led half of our clan, merely 200 to 'take back' his throne.
“Of course his duplicity was discovered, and Seagrim came bearing the true ring less than a week later. When asked by our clan-father how we could tell which was the truth? His reply? 'I swear on my honor that my brother is false, that he wants my father dead, and that he will take the throne and his crown over the bodies of my own sons'.” He smiled sadly at Riyal's wince. “Yes. That is why we do not take the words of your line when speaking of honor as truth.
“The 'coup' lasted mere days; the amount of time it took for us to board ship and come to Naboo. From orbit we told our brothers what had happened, and the fighting stopped as they handed their weapons to the police. By then your great-grandfather was already dead, and most of your house. Only Sogan's children and his concubines still lived. Your grandfather had them executed. Then he turned to our clan-father and demanded the lives of every one of our people who had come at Sogan's call. He declared them foresworn.
“Our clan-father refused, and he threatened to declare our entire clan foresworn, so our people in their hands killed themselves, going into honor death rather than let your ancestor destroy our honor. When Seagrim tried to merely send us on our way, our clan-father refused. He argued before the throne that if it had happened once, it could happen again, and that he was not willing to slaughter half of what remained every time you family had a squabble. When Seargim refused and began the words of dismisal, that brave man, in front of his entire court, and a witness cut his own throat on the steps to the throne.”
“I drink to your father's honor.” Riyal knocked back the second shot.
“That clan-father was not my father.” Takad leaned on the table. “He had already ordered his followers in the hands of your police to go into death with honor. That man was my uncle.
“There was a witness as I said. A Jedi who had come to Naboo on other business. You see, we had already filed protests in the contract court here, and when we won them and were technically free, Seagrim's great grandfather had filed counter suit in the Republic court which held the pact valid until it decided. They will be heard any day now.”
Riyal shook his head wearily. The Republic's courts had backlogs spanning decades. But Takad claimed one almost two centuries long!
“Oh it is true. After all when a Senator wants his case heard, it can be moved up, and if the Senator of Naboo offers to let another case be heard first, why any senator is happy for that chance. Anyway, the Jedi suggested that since there was proof of duplicity in your line's dealing with us, that he would program a chip to hold the Pact, one that with the help of some of the best programmers in the galaxy assisted by the Force could not be duplicated. Seagrim agreed, provided that from that day, our people were not allowed honor death. There is precedent for that; Before the Jedi Civil war of two millennia ago, the Jedi Revan denied our entire race that when their honor was stripped from them for a time.
“So we were patted on the head like loyal hounds, and shooed back to our kennels; no doubt because he believed we would run home, and go at it like Gizka. He might not be able to call us again, but his son, or perhaps you could call upon a clan rebuilt. But we were not so willing.
“When we returned home, our clan-father moved us here, to Concordia. Few of our people live here, not since the Mandalorian wars. Only outcasts, and those who believe they should be live here. The clan council and the Manda'lor were informed why we had taken this step to divorce ourselves from our own race. Then, as a clan, we decided that we would not have more children. That we would die because of the passage of time if it was the only way to free us.
“While your 'history' no doubt covers this last eighty odd years as a golden age of peace, we of the Mando'a know better. Attempts by Seagrim and your father to hire other clans of our people have been rebuffed. They would not act as his bodyguard, nor serve as soldiers. You have had peace because the Mando'a themselves will not serve such a line of monsters again. After all, they have lost most of a clan to them.”
“But you must have had children! Sammel is your own son!”
“Yes, but that was when we were going to other clans, and giving up our parental rights to that clan. Women would marry into the clan rather than stay, and no, I will not tell you how many. Some clans accepted, but sometimes the mothers would refuse to stay with their clan. Also, as I said, we adopt children, for our races loves them. Over half of them you saw today had become family in that manner. Taarna is the last of the Terakian born.” He touched a button on his comlink, and Taarna seemed to appear from the shadows. “At dawn the day after tomorrow, the Terakian will board our ships. We will go into our last battle and die. It will end then.”
“And how many will come? How many hundreds will you bring?” Riyal asked.
Takad looked at him, and for a moment, he gave wry grin. “You do not understand. I told Taarna to gather all of our people. You saw them when I took oath.”
Riyal stared at him in dawning horror. “There were barely sixty of you!” Takad nodded. “What will you do with so few?”
“Do?” Takad gave him the gentle smile again. “We will die, and finally be at peace.”
Last edited by machievelli; 07-10-2012 at 09:20 AM.
Reason: Shortened time line to leave the next day