Raptors of Evidran 1:
by Fur and Fantasy
PG-13 for Violence
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
"Kroth," the pilot of the small fighter gasped as the smoldering and shattered remains of one of the Trade Federation's outpost on the completely wild world of Evidran 3 far out in Wild Space. "What around here could do that kind of damage?"
"Reactor blowout," the red-skinned Nikto mercenary sitting next to him pointed out gruffly. "Thermal detonator some asshole smuggled in. Locals getting rowdy. I'm going to go suit up." The Nikto stood, having to duck in the fighter with its crew of Rodians and Duros working for the Federation. His thickly-skinned face didn't move enough to show his disgusted reaction to the cramped quarters, but nobody missed the muttered curses in Huttese as the warrior moved to start putting on his armor.
"There aren't supposed to be any natives." The pilot murmured nervously as he maneuvered to set down in a space big enough for them inside the facility remains.
"Yeah, but I think he's hoping for some," one of the Rodians whispered, moving up in his seat. "I don't know, I think I'd be more comfortable without the muscle here. We've handled things like this before."
"You're just lucky Nikto's don't have the best hearing," the other Rodian said softly. "Look, the boss said we bring him along, so we're bringing him along. Besides, I'd rather have him at point than one of us."
"No kidding," the pilot muttered and set them down.
"Time to move out." The unit leader barked out and stood to usher his mercs out of the fighter and into the outside world they were to investigate.
There was a brief flurry of activity as they all got the rest of their gear around, but before long they were ready and waiting outside the fighter. The Nikto was wearing heavy grey plates of armor over his torso, arms, and legs, a long metal staff in his hands, a small blaster cannon strapped to his back.
He wasn't the only one loaded for bear either. Most of the mercenaries were wearing the heaviest armor they could manage, and were carrying at blaster rifles and heavy pistols enough to take on a small military unit.
"Any signs of life?" The captain called to the two mercs with sensor units. "Or of explosives?"
"Negative, Sir," the first Duros said, checking their scanners.
"Wait," the second said, raising a broad-fingered hand. "I have life signs inside, not something on record."
"Native animals." The Nikto snorted. "No concern."
"Then let's get this survey out of the way. Move out!" The captain barked, splitting his unit up into three groups; one to set up a perimeter, one to investigate the grounds and one to explore what was left of the buildings.
The Nikto warrior, of course, was with the team heading into the ruined buildings along with one of the Duros with a scanner, and two heavily armed Rodians.
"Y'know, never thought we'd be working for the TF again," the Duros remaining with the team on the grounds muttered, watching his scanner for anything unusual as they made their way around. "Neimoidian degenerates. At least they pay well."
"They have to, to get anyone crazy enough to come here." A Rodian sneered. "Desperate enough to pay up front too, for once."
"Quit your bitching and earn that pay," the Wolf leading the squad barked. "We only get the second half when we figure out what the fuck happened here!"
"Yeah, yeah," the Rodian muttered, shaking his head and limbering up his blaster rifle as they began to secure the perimeter. "That Nikto was probably right the first time, a reactor overload or somethin'."
"Then we'll have an easy paycheck." His companion chuckled.
"Let's just hope that's all it was," the Duros murmured, setting his scanner down as he approached a pile of rubble. "You'd think we'd've found bodies by now if that was it though. Even with scavengers we'd find... nngh...." He grunted as he started to pull some of the duracrete chunks out of the way. "Body parts or something...."
"Phew!" The Rodian protested, backing away. "I think you found some, Winrel!"
The Wolf nearby turned his head away, snorting to get the smell of death out of his sensitive nostrils.
"Sweet fuck," he muttered as the blue-green skinned Duros continued to clear the small, impromptu cairn, revealing a crushed body being worked over by the local insects. "Days like this I wish you weren't the only one on this team without a fucking nose, Winrel."
"It wasn't just crushed." Winrel said simply. "It was pretty well cut up first."
"What by?" The Wolf asked, getting over his sinus' protests at staying so close to the decomposing body. "And if you can't tell, just cover that fucking thing up so we can get moving again."
"Something very sharp, fast moving and too irregular to be factory made." He answered and covered the body up. "Like nothing I've ever seen."
"So probably some native critter," the Rodian mused. "Weird."
"What's so weird about it, Farr?" The Wolf asked him.
"Pred'd usually take the body, even if it was dead. Must've been playing with him."
"Any sort of big cats on the records for this planet?"
"Not many life forms at all on the records for this planet, boss," Winrel pointed out. "Maybe the other teams have found something -" Just then, he was interrupted by a massive explosion from the direction they'd just come from.
"Shit, the fighter!" Farr shouted, ducking as pieces of debris were thrown clear over his head.
"Alien life signs approaching," Winrel warned his partners as he saw the indicators on his scanner blink. "Something's spotted us."
The Wolf pulled down his heavy blaster rifle, cable leading to the power pack on his back.
"Let's get ready for action," he growled, looking around for any sign of what was coming for them.
As the three mercenaries stood back-to-back, not leaving any area around them exposed, they heard a rattling from above.
Looking up, all three saw flashes of black and red. There wasn't even time to scream before they were dead.
Inside the compound, the Nikto held his staff defensively, looking around, his broad, pale eyes gathering in all the light they could from the flashlights mounted onto the weapons of the mercenaries behind him.
"I don't like this," the second Duros muttered under his breath. "The scanners just went dead again...."
"Would you stop that, Chidee?" A brown-furred Rat grumbled. "Just tell us if the scanners give us anything useful, it's not our fault if that piece of crap doesn't work right half the time."
"Hey, it's 1/100 the size of a regular scanner. You could have nothing." Chidee pointed out defensively.
"Shut up, the both of you." The Nikto snapped at the pair as they worked threw the ruined structure, their lamps providing the only light in the shattered expanse. "And move." He twisted his staff, triggering the switch inside and causing a short blade of energy to flare to life at the tip. One more bout of whining from either of them, and he swore they'd find out why you don't piss off a Morgukai Nikto.
There was a rattling from behind the unit, and the Rat, Duros, and as-yet-silent Rodian with them all turned, sweeping the darkness with their lights.
"False alarm," Chidee sighed in relief, turning around - and finding the Nikto's energy spear laying on the ground, tip burning away merrily, completely unattended. A wet, sickening sound came from the darkness along with the popping of a joint being wrenched apart, and a door slid shut with a hiss and groan of tortured metal silencing it.
"Some native." Chidee whispered, his gut turning into a solid rock as it sank in just what it took to sneak up on a Nikto, kill it and drag it off without a hint to anyone else only feet away.
Especially a Nikto mercenary that had come with its Hutt owner's highest recommendation.
"Hey guys?" The Duros murmured. "I'm thinking we should get out of here...." He turned around - only to find the Rat and Rodian missing too.
"Oh shit," he whispered, his green eyes wide as saucers. He heard the same soft rattling behind him, and turned, training his light on one of the creatures that had already killed his three companions and, unknown to him, everybody outside the ruins.
It let out a loud, ear-piercing shriek as the light shone on it, then lunged.
Chidee managed to scream, the sound echoing through the ruins before he was silenced, his throat shredded.
The hammer-headed Ithorian Jedi, Master Eewennn, examined her datapad as the Knight the Council had been speaking with finished his report and left. She nodded slightly as she saw the next appointment.
"Our next audience is with a representative of the Trade Federation," she informed the rest of the Council, her dual-voices harmonizing, leathery gray skin wrinkling as she settled back. "He will likely be less than pleased; Knight Camryn's debriefing ran longer than anticipated."
"He should know that times are approximate at best." Master Sharath said evenly, though the Lioness' mild amusement at irritating a Trade Federation representative was clear to the others on the Council.
"Not for the Federation," Master Noloth chuckled. The young Frilled Lizard had spent close to a year working with them shortly after he'd become a Knight. "Unless they're not getting paid to be on time."
"Well, according to our information, they are having difficulties on a planet out in Wild Space that they would like some help dealing with," Master Eewennn explained. "We'll at least hear their representative out."
The door opened a moment later, and the Trade Federation representative rode in on his ornate walker-chair. Every member of the Council had to fight not to roll their eyes at the obvious display of gaudy wealth meant to impress. It never did any good to point out that the displays did little to endear the Neimoidians riding the chairs to whoever they were trying to deal with. They just left in a huff and showed up the next week in even gaudier examples of their lack of taste.
"Greetings, Jedi Council," the Neimoidian said, speaking heavily accented basic, his red eyes glittering in his grey-skinned face. "I am Third Prefect Eliv Tade of the Trade Federation. I have come to you to request assistance with a little... difficulty we are having."
Master Eewennn simply inclined her head slightly and waited for him to continue.
"Evidran 3 is a planet in Wild Space with rich mineral deposits and near-limitless ecological resources," the Third Prefect explained. "We recently acquired the rights to the planet's resources under Senate Ordinance Alpha-Three-Nine-Delta."
"*Open claim to the resources of uninhabited planets by the first group to settle them,*" Master Qalmi explained to the Council quickly in response to mental inquiries. The Arctic Fox had most of the Senate's legal code memorized, along with practically every case of Council precedent and Jedi lore for several generations.
"However, some manner of native creature has been interfering with our operations on the planet," Eliv explained, "and causing vast amounts of damage. Our losses at this point are measured in millions of credits in facilities, and hundreds of thousands in personnel. Three mercenary units brought in to investigate have disappeared completely and are presumed dead. Any attempt to settle or establish operations outside our main base have resulted in failure and death for the past year."
"The results of any attempts before that?" Master Kothi asked, the elder shewolf showed her full domineering nature of an Alpha.
"Success and moderate profit, until the attacks began," the Neimoidian said easily. "At which point our facilities were destroyed and personnel killed."
"What preceded the attacks?" She asked patiently.
"Logging, mining operations. We had recently cleared a cave complex and begun crystal mining operations," Eliv explained. "It is possible that whatever began the attacks was a migratory creature that returned to the area to find us there."
"You are asking for our help against an animal?" Master Sharath raised an eyebrow.
"Against whatever is causing this damage, yes," Eliv admitted to the Lioness, just a little sheepishly. "All measures we have taken have proven fatal for the agents taking them. The last team we sent in included a Morgukai," the Prefect had to slow down to pronounce the word properly, "mercenary hired from a Hutt with an interest in the planet's resources. To the best of our knowledge, he didn't even know what hit him."
Though he was unaware of it, the killing of a Morgukai so effectively was something that the entire Council considered an impressive feat even for a Jedi. For an animal to manage it warranted careful exploration.
"We see." Master Eewenn greeted the revelation evenly. "We will consider your request."
"Is there a timetable for when we can expect a decision?" The Third Prefect asked, trying to be polite despite the none-too-subtle prod.
Master Eewenn conferred quickly with the others; they had already decided to send help, but this was also the Trade Federation.
"Within two weeks." She told him.
"Very well," the bureaucrat nodded, hiding the sour tone verbally for all that every one of the Masters there could feel it. "I will await your decision."
He bowed politely, receiving polite responses from the Councilors before his chair started to back out of the room.
"There is more to this than he is telling us, whether he knows it or not," Master Noloth observed.
"That is all but a given with them," Master Qalmi reminded the youngest Council member smoothly. "Who we send will have to be carefully chosen. A fine warrior, but also one who knows the wilds and animal ways well."
"That doesn't narrow the list too drastically, dear," Master Thelm chuckled softly, the red-furred Vixen considering the list of possible candidates in her head.
"Perhaps Master Standing-Bear?" Master Keldan suggested. "He and his Padawan are on the Rim currently, it wouldn't take them long to reach Evidran 3, and his prior missions indicate that he would be amply prepared for a mission such as this."
"Padawan B'lyn also has reasonable survival skills of her own." Master Kothi added respectfully of the teenager. "She would likely be an asset to him in this."
"And their hunting skills together have proven most formidable," the aging Lion agreed. "That is, essentially, what this is."
"I can't see any objection to assigning him this task," Master Noloth nodded. "He is also likely to uncover what is really going on here, if it is more than we have been led to believe."
"Yes," Master Qalmi nodded. "He has a true gift for finding out if someone is sentient."
"It is decided then," Master Eewenn asked, looking around at the Councilors who hadn't yet commented on the decision and receiving assorted indications that they had no objections. "Very well. We will contact Master Standing-Bear and his Padawan at first opportunity. Once we have given them their orders, we will inform Third Prefect Tade of our decision."
B'lyn drew a deep breath and lit her rich purple lightsaber, only a few shades lighter than her skin. She hated it when her Master did mission briefings during practice. It made it incredibly difficult to concentrate on either one. That was, of course, the point.
The copper-skinned Ambrinthan ignited his own blade, a rich amber lightsaber, and shifted into a defensive stance. His chiseled features were mostly emotionless as he faced his Padawan for the duel, his broad, well-muscled body as centered as his mind.
"Are you ready to begin, Padawan?" He asked her easily.
"Yes, Master." The Twi'lek answered smoothly and settled into the defensive posture, ready for him.
The young Master, in his late thirties and barely two-decades her senior, shifted to the offense in an instant, testing her defenses with a number of skilled, deliberate blows.
"Our mission appears to be a simple search and destroy on Evidran 3," he explained easily, not breaking stride or stance for an instant as he spoke. "The Trade Federation is having trouble with some sort of native animal slaughtering their people during the last year, and they finally came to the Order for aid. The Council decided to send us, ostensibly because the Evidran system is barely a day's journey from here, even by ion drive alone, and merely hours by the Jennet."
"Their suspicions?" She asked, knowing she was expected to speak while they traded blows and he tested her skill.
"That there is something more than simple animal activity," Master Standing-Bear explained. "Krayt Dragon chases the Bantha," he announced, shifting instantly into the new dueling kata, his blows no longer testing, but directing her defenses. "The activity began in the last year, despite a lack of stated reasons. The Trade Federation seems to have entered an area or angered something beyond their ability to cope with."
"Threat level to us?" She asked, trying her best to shift to the offensive, even though she didn't have quite the skills needed yet against him.
He gave way slightly, letting her take the lead. This was practice, more than training; when he was doing the latter, he wouldn't give her the openings he did now.
"Uncertain. You remember the data files regarding the Morgukai Order?"
"Yes, Master." B'lyn split her focus again to drag up the information she knew better than he did and summarize it. "An armed one is considered a threat comparable to a seasoned Jedi Master. They frequently use cortosis weapons and armor, sometimes energized, and are as disciplined as we are, enabling them to resist most of our manipulative skills. They also have a strong code of honor despite their violent ways. While the Sith recruit many Nikto sensitives even they tend to remain loyal to the Morgukai Code and are the most dangerous of their kind."
"Very good," the Jedi nodded. "A Morgukai warrior was involved in the company, fully armed and armored, and was attacked and killed without his party being aware until after the attacking creature was gone," he explained. "Clearly, whatever we are dealing with is a significant combat threat. For several reasons, I would rather avoid this coming down to a question of martial skill."
"Yes, Master." She would have nodded if it hadn't been a Bad Idea right then. That was a very serious threat, the greatest of either of their lives in all likelihood. "Do the creatures operate in packs?"
"Uncertain, but likely," Master Standing-Bear said easily, continuing their duel. "At least at times. They seem to place importance on destroying structures, whether out of rage, to reclaim territory, or to discourage Trade Federation resettling. This is not going to be a simple mission, Padawan. You will have to rely on the skills we have been practicing these past weeks."
"Be it as hunted or hunter," B'lyn agreed, remembering the many pseudo-hunts they had been practicing out on the Rim. "Destroying facilities seems to indicate at least high animal intelligence when combined with hit and run tactics against people."
"Agreed," the copper-skinned Jedi nodded, parrying a distracted blow from his Padawan with ease. "The Council suspects that this may be at least a semi-sentient species, though they were not explicit about their theory. The Trade Federation is adamant that there are no signs of intelligent life on Evidran 3."
"That does not mean much towards determining the truth given their history of subverting such information." She replied. "They have been caught in that lie a dozen times or more. Who are we going to be working with, Master?"
"Ourselves, Padawan," he said easily, dropping to the cease stance as their duel ended, his amber blade burning off towards the right. "The Third Prefect has been assigned as our information contact, but that is all the support we're likely to get at this point."
"Good," B'lyn commented as she matched his stance, her purple blade on her right. "We work well together."
"That we do," he agreed with a slight smile, extinguishing his saber as she did the same. "So, tell me. What was the color of the bird that took flight just after we started?"
"I noticed no bird, Master." She answered simply, sure there hadn't been one, but not that sure of herself when faced by her Master.
"Are you saying that I am lying?" He asked her, raising an eyebrow slightly.
B'lyn hesitated, double-checking her own memories and familiar with the exercise they were in now. She was sure there had not been a bird, but she was not ready to call her Master, or any Jedi, a liar so bluntly.
"I would say you are testing me," she retorted evenly. "There was no bird, Master."
"Very good," he nodded, giving her a rare smile of approval. "You're learning well, B'lyn. Now, let's get to Evidran, see if this situation is going to be as difficult as it seems."
"Yes, Master." She put her lightsaber on her belt as they left the practice circle they'd been using, positively glowing from the praise.
B'lyn lifted the large hood of her robe when her Master did, just before the hatch to their ship opened to let in the fresh, thick air of Evidran 3's dense rain forests. She knew they wouldn't be playing 'Mysterious Jedi' too much, but it was expected to some extent. They had a hood for a reason, after all, and it wasn't really for the weather.
A protocol droid greeted them at the base of the Jennet's hatch, the small ship just large enough for the two Jedi to live in comfortably during their travels.
"Greetings, Master Jedi," the droid said easily. "Third Prefect Tade regrets to state that he is otherwise engaged currently. However, he has given me all available information that may be of use to you."
"I'm not surprised," Standing-Bear said easily. "The Third Prefect must be a very busy man." His features obscured by his hood, not much of his face was visible beyond his square jaw, the light embroidery on his robe saying more about him than anything visible of his body.
"*It seems somebody is making a subtle comment about the Council's busy schedule,*" he observed mentally to his Padawan as they started to follow the droid.
"Quite busy," the droid agreed. "Will you be requiring quarters during your stay?"
"*I'd rather sleep in the trees, Master.*" B'lyn kept her expression clear despite her distaste for the idea of sleeping in the facility, and the fact that she knew it wasn't at all visible. Only the pale violet tips of her lekku gave an indication of even her race, and those she kept very still.
"We will not," the older Jedi said easily. "We will remain in the field until this situation has been dealt with."
"Very well," the Droid agreed easily. "The last team that was sent out left roughly a month ago, and was lost in Zeta sector. A map has been uploaded to your datapad with the locations of the attacks marked."
"Thank you. Any information on known animal and plant life that we'll need to keep an eye out for?"
"Two species of poisonous plants, one carnivorous plant and several types of poisonous insects are known and in your datapad." It informed them. "There are the usual assortment of small and medium sized animal life, but nothing known is particularly dangerous. Our full geographical and biological data is included. There is not that much of interest."
"*Except a critter that can kill Morgukai almost instantly.*" B'lyn commented silently even as she began to memorize the contents of the datapad. The droid was right about one thing; there wasn't much on it.
"*Try not to fixate on what it has done; there may be issues we are unaware of at play,*" Standing-Bear pointed out to his Padawan.
"Thank you," he told the droid. "We will report back daily, if we are able. If a report is not made within a standard week, send word to the Temple on Coruscant."
"Understood, Master Jedi. It will be done." The droid answered automatically, just as it would automatically send the message should conditions be met.
"Very good." The Master nodded, turning and heading off for the access to the outside with his Padawan. They wouldn't need to pick up supplies before they left; best to get on the way as quickly as possible.
They both moved silently until they were well inside the dense, tropical jungle.
"This world is so alive, Master." B'lyn murmured in a kind of almost-drunken shock.
"Much stronger than Ryloth," Standing-Bear agreed, looking around. The world was similar to his own homeworld, a small colony of survivalists on Mantessa. Much more humid, but similarly accommodating to life. "Keep your senses sharp; I doubt anything will happen this close, but the creatures may be getting bolder."
"Yes, Master." She focused herself and her senses on their surroundings, particularly keyed into the Force-patterns of hunting, the intent of the hunter that could be felt rippling to them from far away.
The day was spent slowly making their way through the jungle, occasionally pausing to hunt, finding edible plants and animals and adding them to the list where their current database was incomplete. By darkness, they were up in the lower canopy near a clearing, resting among the branches and eating some local nuts they'd collected. They were a few hours from the first abandoned outpost, and didn't particularly want to explore it before morning.
"It's a pity the Trade Federation only sees the resources they can rip out of this planet," Standing-Bear mused.
"More a pity that we can't stop them from doing it." B'lyn added, sure she could be very happy on a world as rich in life as this one for a long time.
"Not without good cause," the older Jedi agreed. "My people would have very much liked to find this world, I think. So far it's safer than Mantessa by far, and even more alive."
"Beautiful too." B'lyn nodded and relaxed, sinking into a restful meditation that left her senses sharp for danger.
"That it is," the Ambrinthan murmured, entering a similar meditation with ease.
The next morning, B'lyn came out of her meditation, feeling more than a little peckish. As her violet eyes opened, she became aware of two great yellow orbs peering back into them. A moment later, and she realized that a young lemur was dangling from a branch in front of her, hanging upside down, its head turned around so it could look into her face with an expression of intense curiosity.
As her eyes opened, the lemur reached out with one long-fingered hand, poking her face as though it was wondering if her deep purple skin was something edible.
Her Master, one branch over, was only just containing his amusement at the sight.
"I am not food." She told the creature firmly.
"Eek!" Speaking seemed to startle the small lemur more than anything else, and he twisted to scramble back up his branch in a flash, chittering at her indignantly from the safety of a larger branch several yards away.
"Don't feel too bad," Standing-Bear chuckled. "One was using my breather for a hat when I noticed him."
"Well, that answers the question of whether or not this would is capable of supporting intelligent life." She shook her head, her lekku twitching in a mixture of amusement and irritation. "They may not be sentient, but they're getting there."
"They're not that close," her Master chuckled. "But it's true, they are very intelligent animals, especially as low as they are on the local food chain."
As the two of them stretched out from the night, the sounds of the jungle started to filter down to them. Lemurs chittering and squabbling over nuts and fruits, birds calling out to their neighbors, and an incessant chirping from a small brown snake on the next tree over that was practically crawling with others from its colony.
"Keep an eye out for airborne reptiles," Standing-Bear told B'lyn. "I saw one last night, a very efficient flying predator. I suspect that creatures like it fill in the top of the local biosystems."
"Not unusual," she nodded and put her gear back together from where the local creatures had scattered it. "At least everything is still here."
"If it wasn't edible, they don't seem to have been interested," her Master agreed. "Not uncommon. Now you see why I suggested you dull the finish on your lightsaber," he chuckled, his own dark grip still hanging from his hip, untouched.
"Yes, Master." She wanted to roll her eyes at the comment and got ready to make the few hours left to the base.
"It won't be too long before we're there," he continued, getting more serious as he gathered his own gear. "We should clear the surface area before investigating any remaining structures."
B'lyn nodded silently and fell in step with him as they began to move through the jungle once more. It wasn't even midmorning when they reached the site, but they had felt themselves being tracked for over two hours now. Not a single sighting, not even between them, but they could both feel the predators stalking them.
"The scavengers have been at work here for a long time," the elder Master observed, a few cracked bones left behind amid the rubble. "I suspect we're mostly alone."
"*Keep your 'saber handy,*" he warned his Padawan. "*Don't know if they're going to attack us or not.*"
"I expect so, Master." She nodded slightly. "*I am ready. I think there are at least four trailing us.*"
"*More, but four actual hunters,*" the older Jedi agreed.
"Let's stick together, just in case," he said, starting to make his way around the perimeter of the ruins with B'lyn next to him, as cautious as her Master.
The jungle had regrown to a large extent over the course of a year, leaving little by way of a clearing and a lot of cover for their trackers. It had also left almost nothing of the bodies that had been left on the ground all about. The two Jedi started to make their way for the ruins; it was clear that anything left would be through there.
"*Keep a close eye out; an ambush would be very easy down there,*" he warned B'lyn.
She didn't respond directly, but kept her senses very sharp, her awareness in the Force extended and alert for the predators that followed them inside.
"There is not much inside either, Master." She added by way of commentary, not sure if those tracking them understood Basic or not.
"Most likely not," he agreed, looking around and reaching into his belt to pull out a light. "Shield your eyes."
"Ready," she nodded and looked away, one hand dimming the beam until her eyes adjusted to the new level.
He swept the beam around, the jungle thick even in here after almost a year.
"*They're getting closer, and more aggressive.*" B'lyn commented to him silently, ready for a fight without showing it.
"*I sense them,*" he replied, making himself similarly ready. "*Turn your back towards me when it starts; we can't let them behind us in a fight.*"
"*Are they the flying predators you saw earlier?*" She asked as the predators came closer the deeper they went into the ruins. She could feel the anger rising in them, the lack of hunger despite the hunt in progress.
"*Negative. Light's going out, if they attack, I'll need a second,*" he warned her as she felt the Force gather around him. The light clicked out as her Master worked the Force around himself as quickly as he could to eliminate the need for the device in the coming battle.
She brought the Force into a telekinetic wall to slam an attacker back into the darkness and away from almost instantly. Then two were on her and she only just had time to shove them back. Even with her better vision in the dimness, all she could make out was flashes of glossy black in matte blackness of the building. They were fast and likely the size of a person, but that's all she could make out.
She heard a loud 'rawk' of dismay as one of them went for her Master in the darkness, the hilt of his lightsaber cracking against something that sounded for all the world like stone before it ignited, amber light glinting off the surfaces of their attackers as they retreated from the light.
"Leave us be," Master Standing-Bear ordered them, putting the full weight of the Force behind the command. They couldn't understand his words, but his intent was clear to their minds. "We do not wish to fight you."
The creatures shifted in the darkness beyond the two lightsabers' glow, a variety of snorts, rawks and growls coming from them, almost too softly to be heard.
They were uneasy. They were confused. One was afraid.
B'lyn caught the glint of one bolt at full speed towards the entrance while the others backed further off.
"*That was interesting.*" She murmured silently to her Master. "*Are they intelligent?*"
"*I can't be sure,*" he replied mentally.
"Louder?" He asked, increasing his volume as he said the word, hoping they would get the point. He couldn't make out what they had said, but he was fairly certain they had tried to say something. Unfortunately, his talent for languages only applied to understanding them, not speaking them.
The creatures fell completely silent and moved further back from the pair.
"*I don't think they liked that, Master.*" B'lyn commented silently.
"*I had to try something,*" he pointed out mentally. "*Extinguish your lightsaber. I can cover you as long as necessary.*"
"*Yes, Master.*" She clicked it off and watched the dimly glittering shapes in the distance. "I'm going to try to approach one, Master." She told him, giving ample time for him to object if he was going to.
"Be careful," he warned her, his senses keenly honed on any movement that might be aggressive towards his Padawan. "Stay within a pace of my reach."
"I will, Master." She put her lightsaber on her belt and spread her arms slightly, her hands open and facing them as her mind sought out the one that seemed calmest of the three remaining. "I mean no harm." She said, her voice soft and soothing. When no one moved she took a small step forward, her body language as open and non-threatening as she could manage.
There was a clicking rustling in the darkness as they shifted a bit, then one moved fractionally forward.
The young Master watched his Padawan and the reptiles cautiously, not acting aggressively, but keeping a protective eye on his ward.
She took another step forward and stopped only a couple paces away from one of the shadowy shapes before she spoke. "Can you understand us?"
Nothing moved for a moment, then the one she was approaching stepped closer to her and extended a slender, triangular head on a long neck towards her.
She let it sniff at her, then reached out to offer her hand the way she often had with other predators to make friends.
Without a single warning, one of the others screeched and lunged forward towards her; it's long, clawed arms stretched out and one great-clawed foot glittering in the lightsaber light.
Standing-Bear recognized the intent; the leader of the pack was reacting to protect his subordinate.
The Master reacted similarly. He moved up, within reach of B'lyn in case the weak telekinetic blow he tried to deflect the predator with wasn't enough. He didn't want to meet a defensive attack with one of his own, if he could help it.
It wasn't enough, but he bought B'lyn enough time to reinforce the blow and send the leader rolling some distance away. The other two darted away, distressed and obedient to the warning screech of the leader.
"*That almost worked, Master.*" B'lyn commented. "*The one was curious.*"
"*They are intelligent as well,*" he agreed, sure now that they did have a coherent language, albeit one he wasn't quite familiar with enough to understand yet. "*Now,*" he added, focusing on watching the trio to see if another attack was forthcoming, both of them backing away slightly, "*let's try and get out of here alive to make use of what we've learned.*"
She caught a bit of movement as the leader rolled to his feet with an airborne hop and went to check out the one who'd approached her. Now that the circle of creatures was broken, the Jedi had a way out and were allowed to back away.
"*They'll follow us, Master.*" B'lyn was certain of her assessment. "*They're just too unsettled right now.*"
"*Agreed,*" he nodded. "*Let's make sure they follow us to somewhere we can try and meet peacefully,*" he added, carefully making his way towards the nearest exit with her.
"*The clearing near the building entrance?*" She suggested. "*It's not big, but it's in the open and as neutral as territory gets right now.*"
"*Exactly what I'd been thinking,*" he nodded approvingly, the two of them making their way to the clearing. "*Enough walls remaining that we can't be ambushed from behind either.*"
"Now all we have to do it to get them to talk enough for you to understand them." She nodded and stood alert and ready for anything in the sunlit opening.
"Finding some way to respond would be useful too," he pointed out, both of their backs against a wall. "I hope their leader isn't too irritated at us for tossing him across the hallway."
"I hope that the one that took off isn't coming back with a small army of those things." B'lyn pointed out. "Whatever they are, they are not going to be easy to fight. I heard your hilt strike a glassy stone when you hit that one."
"Obsidian, from the look of it," Standing-Bear confirmed. "Unfortunately, I rather doubt this qualifies as a good first impression. I just hope your attempt, and the fact that we didn't respond with serious violence, will work in our favor when we see them next."
"I hope they realize we're sentient, and place some value on it." B'lyn sighed and rolled her shoulders. "Top predators don't always care until they are forced to."
"If necessary, we can arrange that," he pointed out. "I would much rather not have to, myself. But given the Trade Federation's typical business practices, I'm sure that they brought these attacks on themselves. If we can convince the locals that we're not the same sorts, it should work in our favor."
B'lyn blinked, then drew her datapad out. "We might just be able to figure out what that was. Time and place of attacks matching with their activities shortly before the first one. I'm sure they don't say anything directly, but there might be enough to correlate what happened."
"Assuming we have full records that haven't been scrubbed, that'll help," he nodded, pulling his own out, searching through the records as he kept his second hand on his lightsaber, just in case it proved necessary.
They were both aware of the three creatures keeping a careful, hidden distance from them and watching every move they made, but no attacks and no approaches came of the next hour.
"Master, I think this cave might have something to do with it. There are no real notes about what was in it, but shortly before the first attack they cleared a cavern out for mining. It may have been a sacred place for them, or something."
"Quite possible," he nodded. "B'lyn, would you cover me for a few moments? I'm going to try and see if I can see anything useful."
"Understood, Master." She nodded easily and shifted to stand watch over the older Jedi.
Fortunately, it wasn't that far to the cave, from the perspective of somebody trying to see it through the Force. Once he was there, the Jedi started to reach back, slowly bringing past, present and future all into focus.
It wasn't long before he found the likely point of dispute. Rage and hatred practically boiled in the periphery of his mind from the Raptors who found the site. Destruction ... death ... pain.
The Trade Federation hadn't defiled a sacred place.
They had unwittingly slaughtered much of the next generation with all the care of a rancor stepping on ants.
"Force protect us all," he murmured as he came out of his trance a few minutes later.
"Master?" B'lyn looked at him worriedly.
"The Trade Federation destroyed at least a clutch of their eggs," he explained. "Quite possibly more, it's not easy to be certain of the magnitude. They've basically declared war on them since then."
"Understandably so," she controlled a shiver. "That is quite a hurdle to peace."
"Quite," he agreed. "And they are sentient, I'm sure of it. I strongly suspect that the best resolution to this will include getting the Trade Federation off of this planet."
"I'm sure they will never agree easily to that." B'lyn pressed her lips together, her lekku twitching in distress. "So much for this being a simple mission."
"Easily, no," Standing-Bear agreed. "Not without Senate intervention or being convinced that it won't be worth their while. And I think we all know that the Trade Federation could mass their mercenaries and wipe them out before the Senate bothered to do more than slap their wrists in this climate."
"Which, as usual, leaves it to us to work out." She nodded with an easy understanding of what the mission had become. "Do you know a good way to convince them that this is not worth the price?"
"I have ideas, but the first step is to make contact with the Council, inform them of what we've discovered. After we try to make peaceful contact with the locals again."
B'lyn nodded. "I think it will be soon, peaceful or otherwise. A small army is coming."
"If necessary, we flee through the trees," he nodded. "I don't think they're all that good at climbing. I hope."
"Understood, Master." She nodded. "Force speed will help if nothing else."
"Yes," he nodded. "Times like this I wish I'd paid more attention to my Master when he was trying to teach me telepathy," he muttered to himself. "Though with our luck, they'd probably react negatively to it."
"It is always a chance when dealing with a non-telepathic race," she nodded slightly, her gaze in the direction of the approaching force. "I think the new ones are even more angry than the first."
"Wonderful," he muttered softly. "Though I'm not surprised, they've probably been told some very interesting stories about us based on what they saw."
"Particularly if they do not understand the Force," B'lyn nodded.
"Incoming!" She twisted abruptly and dived out of the way, her lightsaber flaring to life as an obsidian-feathered Raptor hit the ground hard where she had been standing. It wasted no time in using the momentum to continue its lunge for her.
Her Master wasted no time in countering the attack either, slamming his shoulder into the creature's shoulder, obsidian feathers ripping his robes as he knocked it out of the way. Given the opportunity, he hoped to keep this non-lethal.
To judge by the fact that they were outnumbered at least ten to one, he seriously doubted that they'd be able to avoid doing serious damage to some of them. His lightsaber was burning already, but he was using it defensively for now, feinting to keep the amber blade between him and any attackers.
"*Clear area a leap away, think we can make the trees from there,*" he told B'lyn, indicating the direction with his eyes.
"*Understood.*" She answered and gathered the Force to aid her leap and the bolt into the trees immediately afterwards, her Master on her heels as they leaped from tree to tree, their pursuers not far behind on the ground. Their screeches and squawks echoed in the dim light of the dense growth, the two Jedi fleeing deeper into the woods between the ruins and the Federation settlement.
"I'm open to suggestions for how to calm them down," he pointed out, occasionally pausing as they ran to try and give one of the Raptors beneath them a suggestion to break off the pursuit or to sleep.
They weren't particularly effective at this point.
"I don't have one yet, Master." She admitted. "Just try to lose them."
"Sounds good to me," he nodded slightly, heading up higher into the branches. "Dropping a smoke grenade," he added, pulling the aforementioned weapon out of his bag and arming it, dropping the small canister and letting the sulfurous smoke within out to confound sight and smell as they tried to escape by changing direction sharply while their location was concealed.
"*That seemed to work,*" B'lyn let out a small breath as they put some real distance between themselves and their pursuers.
"*Let's just hope they don't take serious offense,*" Standing-Bear observed, the two of them making their way higher into the trees where they could hide quietly.
"*At this point, I think being humanoid qualifies as a 'serious offense' in these parts, Master.*" B'lyn shook her head a bit, maintaining the silence in hopes that their pursuers wouldn't find them again. "*I'm rather short on ideas for what next.*"
"*A peace offering, preferably after they've calmed down?*" He suggested silently.
"*Almost every race, sentient or not, understands the offering of food as a sign of respect and desire not to fight.*" She suggested thoughtfully.
"*I'd been thinking the same,*" he nodded, his mental voice approving of her suggestion. "*Something they wouldn't have easy access to down below, preferably. Let's get clear, then do some hunting.*"
"*And hope we don't manage to catch some sacred beast.*" She added with both amusement and real concern.
"*And let's try to leave the lemurs alone,*" Standing-Bear agreed as they made their way through the trees. "*Actually, once they calm down, we'll start to track some of them, see what they eat and how they eat it,*" he informed her.
"*It might be worth trying to follow the one that was curious before. It seems one that might not instantly attack if it senses us.*"
"*Agreed,*" the older Master nodded fractionally. He stilled and found a hiding place, wrapping a Force suggestion around the two of them to overlook them. "*Let's wait until they're ready.*"
B'lyn went perfectly still with him, watching as several of the Raptors rushed by below them, then came back much more slowly when they realized they had lost the trail.
"*That one, Master.*" She pointed out the curious one with her mind. "*I recognize his Force-aura.*"
"*Good,*" he nodded imperceptibly, focusing on the Raptor in question as they waited for the attack force to disperse, leaving him with another patrol team. "*Impeccably organized,*" he observed mentally.
"*A fairly large organizational structure too,*" She added silently as they very carefully followed the patrol with the curious one on the rest of its rounds. "*I wonder if they have cities yet.*"
"*Not as we think of them, I'm sure,*" he mused as they followed, noting that even when they had the opportunity for prey, this group did not take it. "*They don't seem to have bothered with tool use ... probably much more like what my people attempted. Gatherings that blend in with the world around them.*"
"*Makes sense. It will be interesting to see how they live. I doubt the land could support so many large predators in such a concentration without some kind of domestication or farming.*"
"*They may not concentrate the same way,*" he pointed out. "*And we haven't encountered all the available prey, I'm sure. Slow metabolism and spreading out except in cases of danger would do quite a bit.*"
"*Quite true,*" she admitted, a fair amount of her attention on the Raptors they were tracking, the rest on the jungle they were in. "*They may not even be the top predators.*"
Master Standing-Bear agreed silently, but soon the two focused entirely on tracking and stalking their target, careful to watch for others who might notice them.
It was nearly dark and a large quarter circle later the Raptor party returned home to a partially cleared spot in the jungle, only remarkable for the two dozen of their kind, all full grown from their size and none showing signs of age that the Jedi could notice. If it wasn't for those in residence, it wouldn't have seemed to be anything but natural. It also wasn't used enough to be a long-standing residence.
They watched from the edge as the patrol leader walked up to the Raptor that stood and came towards them and ducked his head in a quick, serpentine motion before the chatter began.
"*That is one body-language heavy language.*" B'lyn commented, watching the exchange.
"*I'm not surprised,*" Standing-Bear nodded. "*Infinitely more sophistication is possible when they're combined well, as you know.*"
"*Quite true,*" she agreed. "*What are they saying?*"
"*Patrol report,*" he explained. "*Food sources... changes... a reasonable amount about us, other changes. The leader is female, the one reporting is male, the curious one is also male.*"
The two leaders nodded to each other again, the patrol leader moving into the main 'camp' with two of his patrol members while the female leader went up to the curious one, who dipped his head submissively to her.
"*I believe her name is 'Strength-Beyond-Feathers' and the curious one is 'Nose-in-Danger'.*" Standing-Bear relayed to his Padawan. "*Apparently his curiosity has gotten him into trouble, and danger, many times before. She is irritated with him, but not surprised. Not truly angry either, I don't think.*"
"*Sounds familiar,*" B'lyn observed with a mental chuckle. "*Do you think you'll be able to pick up enough to communicate with them?*"
"*Only on a very limited level,*" he admitted. "*My gift doesn't convey an ability to use a language, only to understand a spoken one. If they are very patient with me, I could probably make it work.*"
"*Better than nothing, Master,*" she observed. "*Have you been able to make anything out that would help us with our peace offering?*"
"*I have half-names of a few things, but until they show me in context what a 'shraa' is,*" he added in an image of the body language half of the thing's name to his mental speech, "*for example, it won't be of much help. If we manage to stay and watch long enough for them to hunt, I will.*"
B'lyn just nodded, keeping quiet and focusing on watching them, not understanding things as well as her Master did, but observing them all the same, picking up the general postures and what they seemed to imply. At least the rudimentary body language did match up with her experience with social predatory races, sentient and not. At the very least, she could manage to not pick a fight over rank by accident.
Good to know she probably hadn't insulted anybody earlier, just earned a defensive response. That she could deal with in the future, explain it away easily enough. Watching the Raptors, she hoped they would be able to reach a peaceful settlement, hopefully get the Trade Federation off of Evidran 3 before they could be exploited. They weren't like any intelligent species she'd seen before.
Really, if her Master wasn't so positive that they were intelligent because he could understand them and he could only understand sentient speech, she wouldn't have even thought of it. They didn't have buildings, or tools, or seem to use fire or any other hallmark that was expected. They were simply very dangerous predators whose highly social ways had led to high animal intelligence and at some point made to leap to sentience.
It was possible they didn't even recognize the difference in themselves yet.
It was a culture that was practically forming before their eyes, from the look of things. Letting the Trade Federation interfere would be the worst possible outcome; the various species running the galactic cartel would be sure to coax them towards some sort of cultural construct that would serve them. They'd done it before, and would again.
But right now, on this world, for this race, they could stop it from happening here.
"*Master, it looks like Nose-in-Danger is heading off on his own.*" She silently pointed to the Raptor moving off in one direction.
"*Then we'll follow him,*" Master Standing-Bear nodded, moving from his hiding place and carefully tracking the younger Raptor. "*We might be able to make contact.*"
B'lyn moved cautiously through the high tree branches, following the Raptor below them to a sizeable creek out of visual range of the clearing with the others.
He paused at the water's edge, scanning both the forest and the water cautiously before stepping into the clear water that reached up to his knees and dipped his head under it, sending a splash of water along his glimmering obsidian-like feathers.
B'lyn and Standing-Bear watched quietly, taking a moment to realize he was bathing and backing off slightly to give him some privacy. They kept a mental eye on him for when he was finished, and where he might go afterwards if not back to the group.
It wasn't long before the splashing ended and Nose-in-Danger headed off again, making an easy walk westward with the Jedi following in the trees. It was the better part of an hour before he stopped at the edge of a clearing, his attention keenly focused on something ... a small ground animal ... in the thick grass of the jungle opening.
Standing-Bear enhanced his senses so he could see it; a small ground bird, and memorized its appearance in the Force.
After a moment of intense concentration Nose-in-Danger darted forward with a burst of speed that startled the Jedi watching and snatched the bird in his slender jaws, crushing it before it knew what hit it. He didn't move at Force-speed by any means, but at short range, they understood what had happened to the previous parties. A group of these creature, able to dart in and out that fast, could make someone disappear almost in front of their companions eyes.
If possible, he'd try to contact the curious Raptor here. If not, the bird would be a good possibility for their offering later.
"*He's settling down, Master.*" B'lyn pointed to the Raptor as he ruffled his glimmering feathers and tucked his long legs under him. His long, stiff tail laid in the grass behind him as he held the bird in slender-fingered hands and pulled the feathers off with his jaws.
"*Let's move around to the other side, let him finish eating before we attempt contact,*" he decided, not wanting to make Nose-in-Danger feel like he needed to defend his meal.
"*Yes, Master.*" She nodded, agreeing with his assessment of not approaching while the Raptor was eating. As much as offering food could be a way to make friends, any appearance of threatening to take food away was one of the fastest ways to gain a violent reaction in a predatory creature. "*If they cook, it's clearly not required to make meat edible to them.*"
"*Clearly,*" he agreed. "*I doubt they do, except for special events. Raw will likely be sufficient now; we won't be treating them like animals from their perspective.*"
"*Which will make it easier to make the offering. I'd be surprised if they missed something like cooking meat or a fire in their territory.*" She nodded, watching as Nose-in-Danger finished cleaning the inedible parts from his snack and downed the plucked bird in one well-crunched bite.
"*Not if they don't do it,*" he agreed. "*Let's approach now, he seems to be settling down nicely.*"
"*It might be best if only one of us does, Master.*" B'lyn commented, not sure which of them would do the approaching. "*Two against one can be threatening on its own. He doesn't have his leader here to protect him.*"
"*Agreed,*" Standing-Bear nodded. "*At least at first. You approach him, I'll keep watch. He already associates you with something he's curious about.*"
She nodded and slowly climbed down from the tree, about half way down shifting her careful climb to make a bit of noise and motion to draw Nose-in-Danger's attention while she was still a fair distance away.
The Raptor looked up almost instantly, his sharp black eyes locked on her after the first scan. He stood and approached slowly, his curiosity mixed with the caution from two separate lectures in one day.
"I don't want to hurt you," she said soothingly, slowly moving forward, making sure not to meet his eyes for long enough to seem threatening, though she tried not to behave too submissively by keeping her body upright and back strait. She didn't particularly want him to decide she was a potential second course.
She knew he didn't understand a single word she said; she could feel that much in the Force. Not for the first time she wished she had her Master's gift with language when Nose-in-Danger ruffled his feathers and cocked his triangular head to one side with a couple rawking clickls.
"*He said 'not like others'. A comment about you. I think he actually expects you to understand to some extent.*" Standing-Bear translated for her.
"No, I'm not," she said, shaking her head slightly, hoping he would recognize the intent even if he didn't understand the words or all her body language. Her lekku subconsciously emphasized the gesture, waving a negative.
It drew a cocked head, this time to the other side, and a few more steps forward towards the shorter biped before he paused and made a few more sounds, this time with obvious body gestures.
Even knowing in the Force that he wasn't being aggressive, it was difficult not to feel a touch threatened by the impressive predator.
"*He just introduced himself. Nose-in-Danger of the Creeping Wind flock. Spread your arms like he did, and motion upwards instead of down when you say your name.*"
"B'lyn, of the Jedi," the Twi'lek introduced herself, making the gestures she was instructed to.
It earned her a curious rawk, a reaction she understood without knowing the words. He hadn't understood her, but he had recognized the mimicry and it made him all the more curious.
It was also the first time she saw the glimmer of true sentience for herself in the Force and his actions. This wasn't the curiosity of the lemur-like creatures. This was the curiosity of one sentient mind upon encountering what might be another sentient race.
She truly fascinated him.
He took one step to the right and serpentined his neck to lower and lift his head, his gaze never leaving the purple-skinned woman a few arms' lengths away.
"*Not sure if that said anything, but I am sure he's trying to figure out how you are choosing your mimicry.*"
"*I don't doubt it, Master,*" she agreed, not even quite sure how to mimic that act, confusion that showed on her face. "*Though I don't think we're quite far enough along to explain it.*"
Nose-in-Danger considered her and the expression his kind didn't have the musculature to create. He sniffed the air and looked her up and down before tipping his head to the left and stepping back the other way, his long-feathered arms extended forward.
"*Let me know if he gives you any indication what that means, Master,*" B'lyn requested, mimicking the motion as well as she could and stepped to the left.
"*I will, Padawan.*" He promised.
Nose-in-Danger watched her carefully as she moved. Then he pointed with both slender, strong hands to his right and made a clicking sound.
"*That was 'North'.*" Standing-Bear supplied.
"North," she said carefully, indicating the direction, then trying to repeat the sound he made carefully, undoubtedly mangling it, but doing her best.
Both Jedi felt how startled he was when he jumped back slightly at a word in context he recognized from this alien. He looked ready to bolt for a moment, completely unsettled by a game that had suddenly turned very real to him.
A slender tongue slipped from his mouth to wipe his muzzle, then he straightened his posture and motioned down with one hand and made a low, trilling rurrrll.
"*He's asking you to sit.*" Standing-Bear translated, his excitement at the shift in tactics evident in his mind.
"*Definitely glad that you're covering me, Master,*" B'lyn observed, sitting down cross-legged, though no less excited than her Master was.
Nose-in-Danger seemed no less excited, but much more nervous. He made a sharp dip and up with his head and clicked softly, taking a step back.
"*Be still, Padawan. He wants you to stay put.*"
She did as he said, suspecting that there were about to be several more Raptors there to meet her shortly.
Nose-in-Danger waited a long moment, wanting to be sure she'd understood before he turned and moved quickly without running into the jungle.
B'lyn waited, meditating quietly to see if she was about to pick up on a brief vision of herself becoming dinner.
That didn't come, but when she opened her eyes at the faint sounds of a Raptor entering the clearing she saw Nose-in-Danger, alone, and with a still-struggling fish in one hand and a large, orange-red fruit in the other.
"*Something tells me he had our idea, Master,*" she observed with an amused mental tone. "*Can you tell if he's saying anything?*"
"*Not yet.*" He kept a sharp eye on the Raptor as it came within a pace of B'lyn and offered both items to her with a low chitter, watching her intently. "*He's asking you to choose one.*"
"*Are either in the database?*" She asked, considering the both of them. If necessary, her metabolism could probably handle either one, toxic or not, but she really didn't want to test it.
"*Both are common and listed as non-poisonous.*"
"*I'm leaning towards the fruit, for obvious reasons. Can you think of any reason not to?*"
"*It would likely mark you as a herbivore,*" Standing-Bear pointed out. "*Or at best an omnivore. Those would be things they eat. A predator, may be competition, but at least isn't food.*"
"*Understood,*" she said mentally and reached out a hand to take the now-dead fish from Nose-in-Danger's slender, powerful hands. It probably wouldn't be the most stomach-churning thing she'd eaten.
Probably be close, though.
When she realized he was still waiting for her to make the next move, she reached into one of her belt pouches to pull out a small knife. She might not be planning on cooking it, but she was at least going to clean it. Making sure she didn't do anything to upset her host, she started to scale and gut the fish.
The entire procedure was watched with intense interest, especially the knife she used and how she used it.
B'lyn and her Master realized at nearly the same moment that Nose-in-Danger may not use tools himself, but he understood their nature and place in the rise of intelligence.
"*I think that if I cooked this, I'd find a very interested audience,*" she observed mentally, finishing the cleaning process, setting the thinly-sliced hide off to the side. "*Should I take the chance, Master?*"
"*You have chosen well to this point, Padawan, follow what you feel is best.*"
She reached into her belt-pouches again, pulling out the small field-kit and setting things up, keeping an eye on Nose-in-Danger as she started to cook the fish and he watched in rapt fascination tinged with an instinctive fear of fire.
"*Any thoughts on how to ask if he'd like some?*" She asked her Master.
"*Copy what he did in offering it to you,*" He suggested simply. "*The gesture is fairly similar, and he's clearly in the mood to try to understand.*"
She finished cooking the fish quickly, not doing anything fancy, simply heating it until it was done before cutting it in half. She set the two halves on the small plates that came with the field kit, then picked up the one and mimicked the gestures and sounds Nose-in-Danger had used as well as she could.
He looked at her intensely, then the plates of cooked fish, then the small cooking setup. There was some hesitation, uncertainty in what to do, but he made up his mind fairly quickly. He settled down across from her at his arms length plus most of hers and tucked his legs under his body before taking one of the plates and began to watch her very closely for what was going on.
B'lyn took her knife, cutting her half into more manageable portions for her mouth, realizing that Nose-in-Danger would be likely to try and mimic what she was doing. As she cut off a bite-sized portion, she speared it with the end of the knife, bringing it to her mouth and eating it.
Not half-bad, for a quick cooking job.
Nose-in-Danger carefully used a long, obsidian-sharp claw to cut his portion into almost exactly the same sized pieces and copied her approach to eating by spearing a chunk on a claw before taking the small bite to his much larger mouth. He could have easily eaten the entire fish in one bite, but he was eating at her pace.
She smiled at him as she ate, finishing fairly quickly. Once more the mobile expression on her face fascinated him.
"Thank you," she said, her lekku twitching slightly.
He cocked his head slightly, not understanding her words but understanding the tone and chirped back.
"*Master, I think this is a good time for you to approach,*" she said.
"*Very well.*" He agreed easily.
"I'm going to call for my Master," she said, hoping the tone would get across as she stood and pointed towards the part of the woods he could come from.
Nose-in-Danger looked in the direction, his sharp, large black eyes taking in every detail until he locked onto the movement. A moment later he recognized what was coming down from the trees and leaped to his feet uneasily. He didn't move any further, but being outnumbered brought the situation into sharp focus again.
B'lyn sat again, acting calmly, and making her body language clearly submissive as Standing-Bear slowly moved into the clearing, his hands open and empty, spread out to show that he wasn't carrying his lightsaber. It was beneath his robes, B'lyn was sure, but not in his hands just now. They were both trying to be as non-threatening as they could, regardless of their superior numbers.
Nose-in-Danger continued to stand, shifting his feet nervously as he watched Standing-Bear approach slowly. Despite both the Jedi's best attempts at looking non-threatening, at ten paces, Nose-in-Danger gave something of a squawk and bolted off.
"Too much," the Master murmured, taking a seat next to B'lyn. "Hopefully he'll return without bringing the entire flock with him. Or if he does, hopefully they'll be in a better mood about things. You did well, B'lyn."
"Thank you, Master." She inclined her head slightly. "I do believe we made a great deal of progress with this."
"Agreed," he nodded. "I think next time I'll take the lead, try to show them that I can be trusted too, if possible."
"I don't see a reason they wouldn't accept you." B'lyn nodded, keeping her attention on the surrounding jungle. "You are larger than I am, but smaller than they are, they have male and female leaders after they figure much out. I would hope that they wouldn't hold that shove you gave one against you that much."
"Just glad that we weren't forced to harm any of them seriously before," he mused. "Why don't we get those dishes clean before they come back?" He asked, sure it would happen eventually, and equally sure they should be there when they were.
"That would make things much more difficult." She nodded and used a wipe included in the kit to clean things up before she stowed them away again. "Did he say he was coming back, Master?"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "This is where you reach the point where you play your hunches," he chuckled slightly. "The reason he fled was because he was nervous about being outnumbered. Curious sorts rarely exist on their own, especially in a society like this one. I suspect he'll be returning with one or two of his friends who would be similarly interested in us."
"That would be the best result," she nodded thoughtfully. "Unless he brings Stronger-than-Feathers in a good mood."
"That would be a surprisingly pleasant outcome, as long as she stayed in a good mood," Standing-Bear agreed. "And now we know that they will eat cooked food, even if it's unusual for them. Just have to get a feel for whether or not he preferred it to raw; if he did, we might cook what we catch as a gift anyways."
B'lyn was about to answer when an unusually noisy bit of movement and Raptor noises caught her attention from the jungle in the direction Nose-in-Danger had taken off to.
"*Calm, Padawan,*" Standing-Bear reassured her as they waited patiently, quietly, sitting and waiting for their contact to approach this time. A little closer and he could understand the majority of what they were saying verbally.
["Do think still there?"] A new voice, one he thought might be female asked, half her words missing by the lack of her body language.
["Not, have snack."] Nose-in-Danger replied. ["Was not gone long."]
"*They're not sure if we'll still be here,*" he translated, filling in the remaining words with what made the most sense. "*I think.*"
"They really do rely on body language." B'lyn commented out loud, intentionally giving the Raptors an indication that they were still present.
["That was,"] Nose-in-Danger told his companion as their steps hurried a bit.
"Yes, they do," Standing-Bear agreed with a slight chuckle.
The Jedi watched calmly from where they were sitting as a pair of Raptors came out of the jungle across the clearing.
Nose-in-Danger looked at the pair and nodded his head slightly before turning to his companion and motioning towards them. ["See."]
She nodded, a good-sized bird still dripping blood in her claws. She shifted nervously before accepting Nose-in-Danger's encouragement and stepped within arm's reach and settled down, her friend at her side. She extended slender arms to Standing-Bear, offering her kill.
The older Jedi reached out with copper-skinned hands to accept it, making the appropriate motions and sounds as he did so to thank her. Once he had, he pulled out his own cooking tools. He didn't know enough about the local fauna to really trust it not to have something his system wouldn't agree with, and he wouldn't be surprised if they expected him to eat it either way.
The soft sound she made he was sure wasn't a word, but between it and the Force, everyone was sure she was very pleased.
["Climbs-High."] She motioned to herself, her claws carefully folded back along her fingers in an unrelaxed position. ["Nose-in-Danger."] She motioned to her companion. "Brawlyn." She mangled the Twi'lek's name, but the motion to the purple-skinned woman made the intent clear. The Force had her apology at what she knew was a very poor rendition in an honest attempt to say it.
"Connor," the Jedi Master said, indicating himself, choosing the less-commonly used name that would be easier for them to say.
It didn't take too long for him to clean the bird, and he started to remove the feathers after that, the process much slower than cleaning the fish B'lyn had worked with. It was watched with rapt fascination. This was a process they both understood and did, if in a different way.
He finished the cleaning, setting the feathers in a small pile next to the bird out of habit as much as anything else. That done, he started to separate the meat from the bones, heating the plate slowly as he did so.
That was something new and both Raptors seemed fascinated by the idea, their subtle shifts and almost-sounds clearly communication of some kind, but nothing Standing-Bear could make sense of yet beyond that the pair were interested and not offended.
He took a brief moment to offer a silent prayer of thanks as he deboned the bird, filleting it out and putting portions of the meat onto the cooking plate, where they sizzled and cooked while he set parts that wouldn't yet fit off to the side on B'lyn's plate. Once he was done, he pressed the two sides of the blade onto the heating surface out of habit, sterilizing it for when the meat was ready.
["Why burn?"] Nose-in-Trouble motioned to the cooking bird.
For a moment, Standing-Bear was at a loss for how to explain the fairly complex - and probably alien to the obsidian-feathered raptors - concept of the various parasites that fowl occasionally harbored. Even if they did have words for the concept, he had no clue what they were.
After a moment, before he actually did burn the meat that was on the hot plate, he reached out through the Force to sense if any of the bird actually was infected, and reached over with his knife to pick up a length of the bird's entrails. He cut open the side, revealing a small tapeworm inside it, still not mature enough to be trouble for the raptors, but an irritant at best for him if any eggs had remained in the bird.
"Kills these," he said, fairly sure they wouldn't understand his words, but hoping that they'd get the point.
The curious looks they got from the Raptors made it doubtful, but at least they didn't object to the cooking.
"*Any ideas on how to teach them a bit of Basic, Master? This one-sided communication could be a problem.*"
"*The way we've been doing it so far,*" he explained as he divided up the meat four ways. "*Find a common object and get the words from both sides.*"
She considered that as the four ate. Between this and the fish earlier, she'd be stuffed, but it was all in the name of diplomacy.
Frankly, it was the least of the sacrifices she'd had to make in that particular name in a long time.
When finished, she picked up a feather from the bird and held it up. "Feather."
The Raptors looked at it, then her, then each other.
["Qualtil body feather." ] Climbs-High told her.
["Feather."] Nose-in-Danger added, sure B'lyn wasn't going for that specific.
Standing-Bear repeated what they'd said, and then the Basic words for the same. It would at least work for nouns and some verbs.
B'lyn picked up a wing feather and pointed to an obvious obsidian feather on Nose-in-Danger's arm. "Feathers."
That caused a bit of confusion for a moment, and a lot of low clicks and squawks between the pair, before they eventually nodded to each other.
["Feather."] Climbs-High pointed to the body feather that had been used first. ["Feather."] She pointed to the one B'lyn was holding. ["Sharp Feather."] She pointed to one of her own, then around the circle of objects again. "Feathers." She repeated in very careful and somewhat mangled Basic.
"Feathers," Standing-Bear agreed. "Body feather," he said, repeating it in Basic and their own as he indicated the first one. "Wing feather, and sharp feather," he continued, indicating the appropriate objects in their turn.
The Jedi could feel a real rush of excitement in their hosts at making the connection.
["Nose-in-Danger,"] he pointed to himself. ["Climbs-High,"] he pointed to his companion. ["Are Night Raptors."] He indicated them both.
"Night Raptors," Standing-Bear nodded, repeating the sound in their language - sounding more like 'ka-karur' - then the literal translation in Basic. "Nose-in-Danger," he said, indicating the male, "and Climbs-High. Connor," he continued, indicating himself. "Ambrinthan. B'lyn, Twi'lek," he finished, indicating his Padawan.
"Connor," Climbs-High pointed to him, her claws carefully tucked back. It sounded more like 'Cronnor', but it was a pretty good rendition for a race that didn't have lips. "Ubr -- Umbr ..." She growled in frustration as such a difficult word, took a deep breath and tried again very slowly. "Umbernthin." She paused, looking at Standing-Bear and knowing she'd completely mangled it.
"Ambrinthan," he repeated. He shook his head a bit, smiling as he decided to move off to a word that, while it might not be easier, at least would be shorter. "Human," he supplied. "Ambrinthan, Human, same," he explained, making a hand-gesture he hoped would indicate that both worked.
"Ahman ... Urman ..." Climbs-High snorted in frustration. "Hum..." she almost choked on her tongue trying to contort her throat and vocal cords into getting it right.
"Urman ..." Nose-in-Danger had no better luck pronouncing it, but didn't let that stop him. "Trwilek ... Trwi'lik," he motioned to B'lyn. ["Same?"]
"No," B'lyn said, shaking her head slightly. "Human, Twi'lek, not the same," she said, making Standing-Bear's hand gesture, then shifting her hands to different levels to clarify. "Different."
["Urman, Trwi'lik ... not same kind?"]/ Nose-in-Danger looked to Standing-Bear, having recognized the bronze-skinned one as having a better understanding of both languages.
["Not the same,"] he agreed, mimicking the appropriate sounds and gestures in Night Raptor's language. ["Different kinds, like Qualtil and shraa, not same kind."]
Both Night Raptors nodded slightly just as a screeching roar echoed in the jungle from the direction they had come. Abruptly they both looked over their shoulders and ruffled their feathers, making the unique rattle of glassy stone.
["Must."] Nose-in-Danger indicated himself and Climbs-High, and then pointed in the direction of the roar. ["Meet,"] he motioned to the ground, ["sun?"] He motioned eastward.
["Yes,"] Standing-Bear nodded. ["Meet here, in the morning."]
With that, the pair leaped to their feet and bolted off in the direction they came from.
"That went incredibly well, Master." B'lyn murmured, still a little in shock at that had transpired in the past few hours.
"Agreed," he nodded. "Well, think we'll be able to make it to the central base, confirm that the Trade Federation isn't going to be reasonable about this, and then return in time to make our meeting?"
"I expect so, Master." She nodded. "It is not that far and I doubt it will take long to confirm their take on the news."
"If it weren't for policy, I wouldn't bother," the Ambrinthan human muttered, shaking his head as he gathered their things and stood. "But best to make sure; you never know, Prefect Tade's superiors might actually care about the legal technicalities before the Senate makes them care about them. Come on, let's get this over with."
"Yes, Master." She nodded and followed him quickly and easily. "How do we make them leave if they don't agree to it?"
"An excellent question, B'lyn, but one I'm sure we'll be able to find an answer to. There will be ways to make this planet unprofitable for them."
"Yes, I am sure, Master." She nodded, already sure it would amount to what the Night Raptors were already doing, but more focused.
And, with any luck, less bloody.
Raptors of Evidran 1: Daylight Terrors
PG-13 for Violence
82 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written August 13, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann
Setting: Star Wars (Furry)
Primary Races: Human, Ka-Karur (Night Raptor), Twi'lek
Contents: Furry. Gen. Death, Violence
Notes: Set in the same universe as A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story, but 300 years earlier.
Blurb: The world is Evidran 3, far out in Wild Space and unknown to all but the most dedicated to galactic geography. It is a world that is quickly earning an even more fearsome reputation than Kashyyyk's forest depths for the way most visitors end up looking like chopped meat, at least when they aren't eaten and the skeletons left to dangle. Despite this, the Trade Federation is determined to stake its claim, to the extent of requesting Jedi help in finding out what is causing such massive destruction to their facilities.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
Page Hit Count from August 13, 2005