Log:A 'Forced' Step Into the Future
This is just a quick story detailing the end of Rheisa Dirleel's old life on Shili and her big step into the unknown.
The source of the smoke is at last visible after emerging from the protection of the forest rim. The swathe of land stretching to the horizon ahead of him is covered in turu grass, broken by intermittent patches of thorny, scrubby plants, and the occasional, withering tree. All in all, it’s not an incredibly protected area in which to camp, vulnerable to the elements and with few places to hide from those who stalk at night...or day.
The most dangerous predator he need be concerned with – the one responsible for scattering the remnants of his Order to the far corners of hidden places – would find him regardless of what cover the native terrain could offer, so perhaps it doesn’t matter. But his incapacitated ship – that does matter.
Mindful of this fact, Jarin proceeds with caution and creeps ever steadily onward toward the thin tendril rising from its grassy veil. It’d been a few hours since he’d keyed the distress beacon sequence on his fighter, but found his faith in its activation lacking. Some of the hardware looked as though it’d seen better days. So it is that the telltale signs of inhabitants brought relief, regardless of the long walk required. His senses tune to the environment best they can. Calm focus overrides the innate urge to flee from whatever hungry, unseen eyes have been tracking him thus far. Be one with the...
An arrow slices downward from its heavenly arc and embeds itself mere inches from where his next step would have fallen.
Frozen in place by respect more than fear, Jarin slowly lowers his foot to rest beside the quivering arrow and raises one hand. Clearly some territorial boundary has been crossed and it may be wise to identify himself. “I’m not food, nor enemy, I assure you,” he starts, finding breath again to speak.
He continues to hold that hand aloft while chancing another step forward. What looks to be a crude encampment remains no more than a hundred yards out. Sticks and grass mats lash together to form a rickety frame for what’s at best a one-man shelter. Half of it appears to be supported by a gnarled, almost leafless shrub.
The smell of death tickles his nostrils now, having moved in a few more steps without opposition. It grows stronger with every inch forward. Was this a remnant of some inter-tribal skirmish between packs? A hunting party’s leftovers?
Having halved his former distance, Jarin stops and stoops to one knee, all but disappearing from view and likewise losing some of his visual on the site. The Togruta were an intelligent people, well-versed in space travel and colonization as a species, but ancient beliefs and practices still possess a strong influence on modern culture.
It’s possible that what he’s stumbled across is one such element of those traditions. One that many other cultures find repulsive and incomprehensible.
Abandonment of the weak.
That, and likely that alone could explain this single dwelling - if it can be called such.
There’s a faint rustling from that general direction, followed by a thin, whistling sound. Jarin barely has time to bat the incoming arrow aside with a quick rap of his saber hilt, sending it harmlessly into the brush. A direct hit would have been most painful, if not debilitating, but this one would have merely grazed his arm. Accident?
“Please! Peace. I do not mean you harm or disturbance, I-I come as a friend.” Jarin announces and lifts both hands in the air this time, one clutching the saber hilt. Slowly, he stands and finds himself face-to-face with his assailant. Sort of.
She stands several meters away, maintaining a possessive nearness to her shelter while staring Jarin down. Her bow is lowered, hidden by the height of the grasses between them. Wide, frightened eyes watch his every move now as he resumes approach, step by step, hands still where she can plainly see them.
Her nose twitches, angling her face to catch better scent of the wind, blowing not in his favor. “Eeeye’? Yeh comrrro ca mi?” She calls, skeptically. Her paired headtails flex subtly at the tips while the third arcs out a bit further from her body.
“Mi...” Jarin whispers to himself as he takes another step, brain working hard to jog his memory of Togruti language basics. “Yyyes...Yes, ‘yeh’ – I – to yoo – ‘mi’,” he gestures from his chest to hers. A gesture that apparently costs him a bit of progress as she stumbles back a few steps before sinking out of sight.
An incoherent warning pierces the air.
Unsure of how to take that response, but no less concerned, Jarin hastens his guarded step. The full gravity of the situation settles in once he emerges from the cumbersome field and into the crudely hacked clearing. It puts a pain in his heart, but the sigh he breathes is without judgment. A Jedi must respect the ways of life, even when those rituals may not jive with his own system of belief.
Crouching slowly down a safe distance from the huddling Togruta – particularly mindful of her bared fangs - Jarin puts both palms in her direction and pats the air lightly. He steals a few glances about, taking in as many details as he can without turning his back or making sudden movement.
The conditions of the camp aren’t incredibly bad, all told. In closer proximity, the shelter appears sturdier than it did from afar, just drafty. Thin strips of meat drape over sticks angled into the dirt over a smoky fire. A second fire pit has been dug, and a flattish rock rests heavily o’er the smoldering embers. It’s still coated in flakes of baked clay – remnants of the dirt from which it birthed.
More intriguing though, is the carefully arranged assortment of effigies and offerings sheltered inside the tiny hut. Curious, he points one finger at them and another at her.
“Did you make these?” A brief pantomime follows.
The female relaxes her lips, mouth still ajar with heavy breathing. Her eyes - a very startling myriad of lilac and green – flick this way and that, entrapping every movement, every syllable to leave his tongue within her hawkish stare. Only one eye seems to be actually processing visual feed, though. The other is fogged by old injury.
That emotion reads through plain as day.
Hesitantly, she shakes her head and points to the northeast – vaguely behind her. “Ahway.”
Jarin takes notice that the bow is no longer in her grasp, but sleeps mere inches away. He can see no more arrows. Taking this to be a sign that she wasn’t keen on killing him outright, he slowly lowers his hands and sits back on one heel. One hand braces into the dirt, the other arm drapes over his knee.
“You are hurt,” Jarin airs the obvious, nodding a glance to the spots of blood staining the loamy soil around the encampment. Not to mention the copious amount staining her clothes and right leg. She goes on the defensive again, following the direction his eyes take with her own, and tries to stand. Her hobbling and posturing with a knife procured from somewhere inside her skirt is less than threatening. It is sad.
The Togruta’s heels scuff little clouds of dust as she staggers, losing balance and stumbling to a knee.
Jarin makes his move, interrupting her fall. He guides her knife-wielding hand into a harmless dance, spinning her gently around and folding her arms to her torso, snug against his own. “I can help you, but you mustn’t-AH!”
Jarin jerks his hand away, releasing her immediately. Two deep punctures well up before his eyes, small pin pricks bruising the space between them, across his wrist.
“Nah!” She shouts hoarsely, swiping her blade meaningfully through the air, in case the bite wasn’t enough of a deterrent. With a heart thudding faster and more irregular than it should, and lungs unable to keep pace, screaming isn’t an option for her. Clutching at her chest with her other hand, she slumps against the now-swaying wall of her shelter. One foot tucks in beneath her rump, prepared to launch if necessary. The other remains splayed out, and with her skirt spread asunder, it’s easy to see why.
A jagged fragment of wood – probably a shaved branch – impales her calf muscle, emerging from her inner thigh just inches above the knee. The torn flesh is grotesquely swollen, joint discolored with patches of green and yellow. /That/, not the smoking meat, is the source of the pungent smell he’d scented earlier.
“Nah,” she says more softly, lids drooping heavily.
Jarin tears a piece of fabric from the sleeve of his robes, using it to quickly bind his hand then creeps closer to her again, this time adopting a more submissive stance. “You are hurt,” he points deliberately to her leg, then gestures the finger about the rest of her, noting some smaller punctures on one headtail and shallow gashes that disappear over the rounding of her left shoulder. “I’m sorry. I can help you. I can heal you. Medicine.”
The female says nothing, following his gestures with lazier eyes this time around. For several minutes, the pair stares at each other, unrelenting, until finally she lowers the knife and lets it roll from her fingers. It seems the rush of excitement and anxiety experienced over the last few minutes has overloaded her weakened system. And heart. Her whole body starts to sag, succumbing to fever and murmur.
“Ahway.” She whispers, a few tears spilling over dusty cheeks.
Her eyes turn upwards, looking to the thinning trail of smoke as it spreads into the heavens. Soon she would follow that path. If this stranger did not interfere, did not frighten away the spirits guiding her.
When her glassy-eyed stare has fallen still and no longer strays to watch his movements, Jarin gathers her again into his arms. Her breath comes faintly, ribcage twitching shallowly and without good rhythm.
Death comes for all. For some, it comes too soon.
Jarin finds himself questioning his authority to act. Should he endeavor to preserve life, or to respect the customs of the one who’s soon to leave it?
While conflicting thoughts storm around his brain, Jarin’s legs continue to move on their own accord, bearing both himself and the limp Togruta into the shade of her shelter.
The effigies are scooted gently aside, clustered into a far corner so he may lay her flat. There is no more debate. The Jedi unfastens one of the many utility pouches belted to his waist and shakes a small med kit onto the ground. He takes stock of what’s there and looks to the potential of objects already in the camp. The fire will most certainly come in handy. Water? He thinks he remembers seeing some bladders hanging from the weakling tree supporting this hut. Placing a finger beneath her jaw to check her pulse, Jarin calculates how much time he has – how much time she has.
Not much, but he’s worked under more stressful timelines. Without wasting another second, he sets to work.
When she comes to, it is dark. Traces of firelight dance through the shadowy space, winking between shelter sticks and shreds of hide. Currently, one of these ongoing ‘winks’ has created a bright enough glare across the ridge of her brow that it lures her back to the world of the waking. Jarin senses her stirring before he hears it, but remains silent and motionless at her side. The Togruta opens her eyes, blinking against the comparatively harsh glare of the campfire. The smoke still rises, and it travels without her.
Feeling numb with sleep and strong medicine, she wonders if maybe she did pass into the stars, and was in the waiting place. The pain seems like such a distant thing – lingering there still, but too far away to be real.
The grass mat rustles beneath her as she lifts a hand skyward then lowers it, trembling, to feel where the akul slashed at her head in his death throws. Her montrals had thankfully taken the brunt of the strike, and she can feel the marks gouged into the horn.
She is not yet made whole. She is not in the waiting place.
“Yeh…” she grunts, knowing /he/ was here, hiding in the dark. As her mind better grasps the conscious realm, she can smell him there. Hear his silent breaths.
“Try to be still,” Jarin advises softly, shifting in his squat to pass between shadows and let the wavering light illuminate one side of his face. “You should not move your leg.”
She stiffly turns her head, neck bending at an awkward angle to accommodate the bulky appendages sprouting from her skull as she tries to get a better look at her uninvited guest. Defiantly, her hand slips away from her montrals and creeps its way down her face, along the length of her body to reach for the festering injury turning her muscles to mush.
The Jedi does not stop her.
Her fingers probe blindly in the darkness, grazing nothing but air when she grasps for where the stake had been. There now is a papery-feeling thing, leaves perhaps. The scent of the herb is unlike anything she’s tried before, however.
“Bacta,” Jarin explains. “Two patches, one to cover entrance and exit wounds. I had to make a new cut though – a small one, so the infection can drain.”
She doesn’t seem to hear him, or at least doesn’t give a sign of comprehending. He can see her brows knit together with confusion.
The man’s lips moved, but his words were strange. Risking losing him from her sights, she tucks her chin and rolls her shoulders forward in attempts to sit up.
Fire jets through her flesh; the deep lacerations in her shoulder and back threaten to tear anew. A mewling cry sounds from her throat before she has the wherewithal to stop it. She does not object when he lays his hands gently over her shoulders and pushes her back to the ground. Or did he? Suddenly, he seems too far away to have been hovering over her.
Was this magic? Is he one of those they call ‘Jedi’? The concept isn’t too far-fetched to believe. Ones such as he have come before, many times. But none had come for her. “They left you because of this?” Jarin asks, walking his fingers through the dirt towards the northeast while pointing at her leg with his other hand.
Another long pause from the female, then she nods timidly.
“How did this happen? How did you get hurt?”
Her lips tremble, struggling to form half-known words that drift around in her memory. Finally, she reaches forward, touching a fingertip into the dirt between them, and starts to draw.
A wide oval. A stick figure to the immediate left of that oval, and then a smaller oval with stick legs and head immediately behind that. Five, even lines slash perpendicularly beneath the wide oval, pointing up with a barbed tip.
Already, Jarin can see where this is going and he grimaces, but does not interrupt.
She touches the stick figure lightly then draws an arc over the wide oval, towards the other side, where it clears the shape. After waggling that finger in the air, she brushes away the last portion of the arcing line and redirects the route straight down, through the wide oval, to the perpendicular lines below. She draws a second stick figure there, positioned on its side atop the 5 lines. Lastly, she lightly touches the animal-shaped figure and arcs a line in similar fashion, dropping neatly into the center of the wide oval.
An animal hunt gone wrong, perhaps.
“What is your name?”
She remains silent.
“You don’t have a name? Or you won’t tell me?”
More silence, then a very slight nod of acknowledgment, her eyes averted. They gaze skyward again, watching the smoke.
Jarin sits quietly a bit then scratches behind an ear. It’s quite possible he’s picked up a flea from the bits of fresh pelt outside. “I’m sure it’s a lovely name,” he coaxes, averting his own eyes to examine dirt beneath his fingernails. “They say to hear the Togruti language is to hear music.” He mimics a little flute and brushes a finger upwards with a smiling gesture from lips to point at his ears. “Mine’s not. It’s Jarin.”
His native host snaps her eyes back to focus on her savior. Music. How did he know? “Rrrheisa,” she trills softly and points to her forehead. The headtails tremor just faintly and one retracts with slithering glide over her chest to disappear behind her back as she rolls stiffly onto one elbow.
There. She’d done it. Her name was spoken, to an outlander no less, thereby reinstating her existence here among the living. Subtle expressions speak what he cannot read, and she follows it up with “Not what call mi.”
Jarin quirks a brow, keeping his satisfied smile at bay. Instead, he feigns surprise. “No? What do they call you? What is your other name?”
“…Tazi.” Her lips clamp tightly closed with a bit of lower lip protrusion. Seems she doesn’t like her nickname.
“Tazi? What means, Tazi?”
Rheisa finally overcomes her fear of the pain and sits up, wrapping her arms protectively around her. She shivers. “Leettle wah…” a brief pause, as her eyelids flutter closed, searching memory again. “one.”
“Little one?” Jarin nods. “That does not seem like a bad name, but is in the way they say it?”
Rheisa nods, after some time spent deciphering his question, and rubs her right eye over her bent, good knee.
“Well, then I shall call you Rheisa. If you like?”
After a long minute, Rheisa consents by shrugging a headtail. “I like,” she whispers.
And so it was that the following day, Rheisa was mobile enough to follow the Jedi to the safety of trees, and the shelter of his crash landing. Albeit slowly.