Raptors of Evidran 3:
Obsidian and Senate
by Fur and Fantasy
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
Once the ship was on autopilot, B'lyn relaxed and pressed record on a message for the Jedi Council.
"Masters, this is Padawan B'lyn. I am returning to Coruscant with a Night Raptor representative. ETA is 4 days. Master Standing-Bear has remained on Evidran 3 to assist in the resistance effort. Padawan B'lyn out."
She sent it and climbed out of the pilot's seat, starting back into the other small room on the fighter.
["They're gone, we're on our way,"] she reassured the shaken Night Raptor that greeted her.
["Is all flying this bouncy?"] He looked at her a bit indignantly.
["Most of it isn't,"] she reassured him. ["Only when they're shooting at us. Sorry about the flips, but it was better than getting killed."]
["Yes,"] he agreed reluctantly and settled his feathers and stood a bit straighter. ["This where you live?"] He looked around the room that served as sleeping quarters, meditation chamber, kitchen and dining room for the pair.
["Sometimes,"] she nodded. ["Master and I travel all over in this ship."]
She felt him shudder at the idea of being so confined for any length of time, and then the nervousness of what was coming.
["What I am to do at the] Senate?" He spoke the word carefully.
["You just have to speak to them, say what the outsiders have done. We will help you speak better] Basic [first. It won't be the instant you arrive.]"
Nose-in-Danger nodded and found a spot to settle down in. ["What we do until then?"]
["We have a few days,"] B'lyn said, considering their options. ["I could start teaching you more of our language, speed things up a bit. There's not too much else to do while we're on the ship."]
He considered her for a moment, and then nodded. ["Yes. I need to know it."]
["Let me set up what I'll need then,"] she nodded, moving to collect the holoprojectors she'd need. ["I'm not as good as this as Master,"] she admitted.
["Start with what I should say in greeting?"] Nose-in-Danger suggested helpfully. ["Then work on what I need to say to the law-makers?"]
["All right,"] she nodded. ["When you're greeting somebody, you usually would say something like] 'Hello,'" she started, knowing she'd have to help him with pronunciation.
If it weren't for the fact that their sentience was in question, this would be a lot easier.
Standing-Bear let out a grateful breath of relief when Kills-the-Sun finally slowed down to a trot. He'd kept up with the three Night Raptors, but it had not been easy. They were built not only for speed but endurance in this environment and they were out to make the trip as short as they could manage.
He could sense the majority of the Creeping Wind flock up ahead, and the deep reverberating beat he'd been feeling for the last several hours was almost painful now at this range.
Parts of the pattern pounded in time with his pulse, just a bit off the rhythm of his heart, the throbbing pulsing through his bones and body and tiring him out faster than even the nigh-on endless running did.
At least now he could slow down. Even here, it was a strain to use the Force so heavily for such a long period of time.
He focused on recovering his body as they walked at a more normal pace into the flock where Kills-the-Sun was greeted with an affectionate nuzzle on the muzzle by his mate.
It was here that he saw what was causing the thunder in the ground.
Drummer-of-Dawn was dancing on what looked like a fallen log.
He could feel it wasn't nearly so simple though. The 'log' was living, a reservoir of Force-energy that stretched out in a network of roots for miles around, carrying the message with it. It was possible it networked across the world.
He wondered, deep down, how it was that something like that could transmit the sound as far as it did, but it accomplished it nicely. The Night Raptors had learned to use everything at their disposal, though he had to admit to some surprise at finding it wasn't a crafted tool.
He closed his eyes briefly in relief when the universe fell silent, the pounding rhythm over with as Drummer-of-Dawn hopped down from the trunk.
["We rest, then move to the Gather."] Stronger-than-Feathers announced, creating an almost instant reaction in the flock of settling in for a well-needed rest.
He sighed slightly, leaning his aching body back against a tree, fighting the urge to close his eyes until he saw if any of the rest of the flock was preparing to sleep as well. The thought of what one of these people, strong in the Force and trained as a Jedi, could do was almost frightening.
At least three were positioning themselves as guards, but most settled and closed their eyes as soon as the announcement was made.
It made Standing-Bear feel a little better that he wasn't the only exhausted one here.
A part of him felt obligated to stay awake a few moments longer, taking everything in, but he would be grateful for even a few hours sleep after a solid day of constant exertion with little to no rest.
With several more coming, he expected. A gathering of many flocks was unlikely to be close.
He let out a small breath and closed his eyes, sinking into a deep sleep almost immediately.
Standing-Bear's body snapped into action even before his brain was truly cognizant of what was going on. His lightsaber flared to life to block a shot that nearly cut him in half as Night Raptor screeches of rage resounded in his ears with the screams of pain of those they caught.
His mind scrambled to put together what was happening, though much of it was obvious enough. The Trade Federation had followed them. He whirled around, bringing his lightsaber up to deflect another shot, jumping out of the way just in time as the tree he'd been leaning against was blown apart by a fighter that streaked through above them, massive energy bolts strafing the battlefield.
It occurred to him that this was the first battle in many years without a Padawan at his side.
He was not alone, however, and the tackle that sent him and a Night Raptor he couldn't identify out of the way of another blast from the fighter reminded him sharply that these people were protecting him as much as he was protecting them.
["Kill fliers!"] Stronger-than-Feathers screamed a command to anyone with an opening.
He took one that came to him, the fighter that had just attacked wheeling around for another run as he leaped into the trees, then onto the wing, driving his lightsaber into the wing and ripping a massive gash into the metal and wires within. He jumped back down as the fighter spun out of control, crashing into the second one with a massive explosion that rocked the massive trees.
He barely caught the Night Raptor take on the other out of the corner of his eye; two of them tackled the front of the fighter and shattered the cockpit window, dragging the pilot out and down to the ground with them. He twisted to deal with a merc bearing down on him in heavy armor that might do well against Night Raptors, but was nothing to his lightsaber.
He made a single, well-aimed thrust, burning through armor plate and the mercenary's heart at once, withdrawing his amber blade and making a seemingly effortless swirl of his wrist to cut through the vibroblade of another mercenary attacking him from behind.
Now that he had a moment to stop and gather his thoughts, the Force gathered around him, speeding his reactions and focusing his mind on the flow of the battle, one what needed to be done where and when to achieve the best outcome.
He fell into the flow of these strangers easily, almost as easily as with other Jedi. They were not sensitive to the Force as he knew it, but they were very in tune with it in their own way, simply by being completely at one with their world and its life.
Merc after merc fell, until only a Raccoon was left, cornered against a tree with a broken blaster and only one arm thanks to coming too close to Standing-Bear earlier on.
["Standing-Bear!"] Stronger-than-Feathers called him to her and the gathering intent on holding the prey in place while the wounded were tended further away.
He extinguished his lightsaber and moved to join her, fairly sure he knew what was coming.
Fortunately, he was certain that the Raccoon would be willing to talk, and talk fast.
"If you cooperate, you might get out of this alive," he said simply, nothing in his manner to indicate a threat.
This was a simple statement of fact.
The Raccoon nodded quickly, the fear radiating from him only served to excite the Night Raptor's prey-drive further.
"I'll talk." He faced the Jedi and clutched the stump of his arm, fully counting on the small hope that the Order's reputation of not killing unnecessarily was true. "Anything you want."
["What do you want him to tell you?"] Standing-Bear asked Stronger-than-Feathers, wanting to answer her questions first.
["How many do we face. How many strongholds do they have. Where are they."] She began with the most basic tactical information. ["Anything else of use you think he may know."] She added in a statement of support and trust that was not lost on her flock.
"How many troops has the Trade Federation brought here?" He asked, starting with the simplest. "And how long before they bring in more," he added, knowing that they wouldn't be stopping with the resources they had, especially once they got word that the Senate was opening a hearing regarding the Night Raptor's sentience.
"Several thousand. More are already coming. Two or three days before the first unit arrives." He gave the information up without hesitation.
"How many bases have the Federation established, and how many drop points?"
"Four bases on this continent, two on the other large one. A dozen drop points I know of." He answered nervously. He didn't want to give up this much, but he wanted the Jedi to leave him to these creatures much less.
"And how much do you know about the Federation's movements?" Standing-Bear asked. "If I were you, I wouldn't try to understate your knowledge."
"I'm just a merc, Jedi." He whimpered, glancing at the agitated Night Raptors all around him. "They've ordered patrols like this as far out as a half day can take us. Kill anything that moves. The army won't be ready for weeks. The bulk of the force is holed up in the bases until they're ready to strip the place clean. Call off your beasts. I'm no threat to you or them anymore." He pleaded.
"They're not beasts," Standing-Bear pointed out. "If they were, you wouldn't be having nearly the problems you are. For what it's worth, I agree with you, but I can't stop them if they don't."
["He's told me all he can. He's no threat to us anymore; we should let him go,"] he told Stronger-than-Feathers, sure that suggestion wouldn't go over well.
["To heal and kill again?"] She looked at him incredulously, her body feathers ruffled to make her seem even larger. ["What sense does that make?"]
["He won't heal in time to be any threat to us,"] Standing-Bear said firmly, fully aware that he was the center of attention. ["He only came here because he was told to. He won't be told to again."]
She glared at him for a long, tense moment, seriously considering attacking this threat to her authority.
["All killers die."] She retorted sharply, words that launched an instant flurry of activity even before she could move to do it herself. It was all Standing-Bear could do to get out of the way before the Raccoon screamed and was shredded.
He got a glare of pure protective hatred from Kills-the-Sun before everyone fell into the open ranks of a flock on the move. It really wasn't much different from the way they moved on the hunt.
["I didn't intend to challenge your authority,"] he told the flock-leader apologetically as they started to run again, getting close to her as he could, his manner submissive. ["I simply meant to answer your question, explain myself."]
She nodded, her manner relaxing fractionally as they ran. It was an exchange that wasn't missed by those around them and he could feel the approval from various members. That also helped sooth the literally ruffled feathers as it became clear he didn't have the social support to make a real bid for power.
Not that he'd want it if he made it. It was hard to remember, sometimes, that these people didn't realize that Jedi weren't supposed to be interested in that sort of power.
This was going to be a long war, no matter how short it was.
B'lyn opened her eyes to see Nose-in-Danger staring at her in absolute silence. Her meditation fascinated him, and he had a strong natural response to a request for silence. He also froze effortlessly for hours at a time.
"We are about to enter Coruscant's system." She explained in Basic and stood, the Night Raptor standing with her. After four days in the small fighter, he was very close to completely stir crazy and regularly trying not to pace.
"Good," he sounded more relieved than anything. His Basic was very good for only four days work focusing largely on the basics of greeting and parting and his speech to the Senate. She could feel his excitement at getting out to stretch his legs.
"Do you want to see Coruscant before we touch down?" She offered. There would be just enough space in the cockpit for him to look at the world, and it might be better to give him a little time to adjust.
He took a moment to work the translation of the more complicated question before he nodded. "Ees."
"Follow me," she said with a smile. "You're learning very nicely."
"Ank ou." He chirped in pleasure and followed her, keeping out of her way as she sat down to tend to their drop out of hyperspace.
The fascination and wonder was palpable to her, as was the trickle of fear at its edges at seeing so much outside his wildest thoughts only a week before.
"Grab on to something," she warned him, keying in the necessary sequence and bracing herself for the ship to lurch into realspace. As the stars went from streaks to dots a planet came into focus, hanging in the emptiness of space in a built up artificial construct surrounded by weather satellites and defense systems.
["Do all look that way?"] He fell back into his native language as he tried to grasp what he was looking at.
"No," she said reassuringly. "When we land, I'll show you others," she promised.
He nodded, his eyes wide as his gaze flicked from ships to the world to its satellites as they came in for an approach to the glistening five spires of the Jedi Temple. He wasn't all that afraid, but he wasn't taking his eyes off all the activity, his instincts on edge at being so far out of his natural habitat.
"You're safe here," she reassured him as they came in to land. "We'll get you inside somewhere a bit more manageable as quickly as we can." She brought the fighter in for a landing, Masters Eewenn and Qalmi there to meet her.
"'Ace to run?" He requested hopefully and backed into the main room so she could get out of the cockpit and to the hatch to walk down to the Ithorian and Arctic Fox waiting for them.
"Greetins." Nose-in-Danger bowed to them when he reached the platform.
"Greetings, [Nose-in-Danger], Padawan B'lyn," Master Eewenn said, her voices harmonizing as she bowed. "And yes, I believe we can arrange for somewhere you can run, though not to hunt. Some people around here have been mistaken for meals before."
That she answered a question she couldn't have heard startled him, but he took it in stride at this point. "Thank you, Raster Eewenn."
"You're learning our language well," she said approvingly and was pleased at the pleasure so clear in him at the small praise. "And I picked up the question from B'lyn's thoughts, not yours," she added.
"I am still a little loud," B'lyn admitted, bowing respectfully to the two Masters. "If it is acceptable, I would like to give my report to the Council after helping [Nose-in-Danger] to settle in to his quarters?"
"Of course," Master Eewenn accepted the request easily. "Perhaps show him to the Illiquar Garden as well."
"I will, Master," B'lyn nodded. "If I may ask, where are his quarters?"
"The diplomat's quarters in the Council Spire on level five." Master Qalmi told her easily and handed over a lightslate with the information.
"Thank you, Masters." B'lyn nodded, taking the slate and bowing again before starting to lead Nose-in-Danger to his rooms. The Night Raptor kept his eyes open and his entire body was animated as he tried to take in everything, especially the people.
"Ow tell that no 'ood?" He asked, pointing to a small white rabbit with a long lion-tufted tail. He kept his long, sharp claw folded back against his finger to show no aggression towards the Kushiban.
"Generally, you won't have to kill your own food around here," she explained. "We'll be able to provide enough for you, and most things around here that you might kill are probably either people, or being cared for by somebody."
"Just ust lu'rn." He nodded in acceptance that it just wasn't simple here.
"Yes," B'lyn nodded. "It's not very simple for a lot of newcomers. To be fair, if you were to try and hunt her, you'd probably end up picked up by your tail," she chuckled.
"Wawr?" His eyes widened as he stared at the small creature. "So small."
"That one is Jedi though," B'lyn pointed out with a chuckle. "She might be small, but she is strong in the Force, like Master Standing-Bear," she explained as the Kushiban chatted telepathically with some students.
"He look me in eye." Nose-in-Danger countered. He accepted that he shouldn't hunt here, but the idea of such a little creature being a challenge was a bit beyond him still.
"You'll understand in time," B'lyn reassured him. "But now isn't really the best time; she's giving a lesson, and we have to get to your quarters before I show you to the gardens."
"Right." He nodded and gave the lion-tailed white rabbit a last look over his shoulder as he followed her into the huge building. It was only moments before he was staring wide-eyed and open-jawed at the huge spaces, variety of races and smooth-lined architecture.
"It's a little overwhelming until you get used to it," B'lyn said understandingly, leading him towards a lift to the fifth level of the Council Spire.
"So any kinds o 'eople." He whispered in amazement. "So ig inside."
"Jedi come from all different races," B'lyn explained. "The architecture ... I always thought it was a bit much, myself, but I come from a planet where you live underground if you've got half an ounce of sense."
"Urrr?" He looked at her, trying to grasp that idea.
"Ryloth is either dark and cold, or sunny and hot," she explained. "We lived in caves, then in mines when we started to build our own places."
Nose-in-Danger nodded slightly. He was pushing his limits to understand her meaning, but he was getting used to taking things on her word.
He cocked his head slightly, reluctant to get into the small space that opened for them in the wall, but he stepped inside with her after a bit of an internal debate.
B'lyn realized just a moment too late that he probably wasn't ready for a lift, even after the trip on the fighter. He knew those moved in the air from watching them.
"The room's about to -"
It started moving just before she could warn him, running upwards rapidly.
He dropped to the floor, his long legs tucked under him and his clawed arms outstretched in a frantic attempt to grab something that wasn't moving without any visible movement.
B'lyn winced at his mental and physical scream of panic that would probably draw every sensitive in two floors to their location by the time the lift stopped. She had to admit, though, that if he was going to panic, he was at least being still about it. Gibbering in fear, but fairly still as she knelt next to him and tried to sooth him.
Fortunately, the room came to a stop, the door opening as she stroked his sharp feathers carefully and the soft skin on his muzzle.
"I forgot to warn you, I'm sorry," she apologized. "The room you'll be staying in doesn't do that. This is a lift, it's built to move."
Nose-in-Danger made the effort to pull himself together, silently grateful that the small crowd of brown-robed beings stayed outside the small room while he took several deep breaths and slowly stood to shake his feathers out.
["Good."] He mumbled and caressed the smooth skin of his muzzle along the side of her head. ["Just ... very unexpected."]
"Apologies, I should have warned you," B'lyn said. "*Native, primitive society, first time on a lift,*" she quickly explained telepathically to the Jedi waiting there, helping to lead him out.
She was quite grateful when the concerned crowd departed, and knew that Nose-in-Danger was. He was decidedly embarrassed by panicking over nothing but a surprise, and even more so to do it in front of a crowd.
"We're used to it," she reassured him, leading him the rest of the short distance to his rooms. "This whole area is yours, while you're here," she explained, the doors sliding open to her typed command. "If you'd like, I think they'll let me help you out while you're here."
["Yes, please."] He nodded and watched her actions carefully to learn how it was done. ["Where do we eat?"] He asked curiously.
"There's a kitchen here," she explained, indicating the room. "I can cook, or just make sure we're always stocked with meat for you. The diplomat's quarters have a few more creature comforts than either of us are used to."
["I like your] cooking."
She felt him start to relax a bit and step a bit further away as he began to explore the multi-room quarters with something very close to his natural curiosity.
["Anything I not to touch?"] He looked at her from near the clear double doors that opened to a large balcony.
"Don't break anything, and ask what something is before you start pressing buttons," she suggested with a smile, sure that it was something he'd do if not told not to. "And be careful on the balcony, though it's safe enough here. Just don't fall."
Though, that said, she wouldn't be too surprised to find out that he could take it. Five stories was a lot lower to the ground than the Council Chamber or most of the observation and meditation spots in other towers.
Whatever he landed on could be another matter, however.
Nose-in-Danger nodded and scanned the side of the door in a similar location to the pad that opened the door in the hallway.
"Opens?" He pointed to the subtly concealed pad, then the door.
"It does," she nodded. "The large button on the top."
He pressed it and almost managed not to startle slightly when the clear door slid open, but when he stepped out there was no fear in him, only wonder at being so high up with so much to look at.
She could feel how much better his vision was as he took in everything. He could focus on things she couldn't even see dots of, but it did take him some effort.
He also breathed deeply of Coruscant's air, taking in all the multitudes of scents that he had no idea what they went with.
"Pretty incredible, isn't it?" She asked him after he'd had a few moments to take it all in.
"Yes." Nose-in-Danger murmured. He was fascinated by what was out there, largely by all the movement. Almost reluctantly he turned around and came back into the living room of the suite and headed for the spot that looked out of place.
"Somehow, I figured you'd find your own way here," she chuckled, following him in. "Be careful with the things in here, a lot of the tools can hurt you if they're used wrong."
It earned her a curious look, but he nodded as he thought of the heater she used for cooking and the weapon Blood-Feathers had taken from his kill.
It didn't stop him from opening everything that opened and sticking his nose into most of them as he stiffed around.
It gave her a chance to check out the inventory; fortunately, the kitchen was stocked with a selection of assorted meats, a few other ingredients to add in along with. They'd known that the room was going to be occupied by a carnivore. It would still make much more flavorful and varied meals that she'd been able to create on Evidran.
"Are you hungry?" She asked him politely.
He paused, considering the question. He'd eaten small meals once or twice a day with her on the trip here, but many things smelled interesting here and he had definite room to eat.
"Yes, please." He nodded and stepped back a bit to give her room to work.
"After lunch, I'll show you the gardens they mentioned, if you'd like," she smiled, moving to pull out some things for a fairly simple meal but flavorful for the both of them. It was a bit of a homecoming to have a real kitchen for her. She could field cook with the best, but she never could forget that it was field cooking. The fighter was better, but supplies were still quite limited. This was a wonderful opportunity to show Nose-in-Danger that cooking was more than just heating meat to kill the parasites.
"Yes," he grinned as best he could and shifted in excitement.
"Something sweet, or spicy?" She asked, looking through what was available and realizing that both were quite possible. She just hoped he understood what she meant well enough.
"[Berries] sweet?" He asked uncertainly, repeating her first choice carefully.
"Yes, the [berries] would be sweet," B'lyn nodded.
"Spicy." He clicked in eagerness for something new to taste.
"All right," she chuckled, pulling down what she would need to make a mildly spicy meal. She didn't want to introduce him to it with the real strong things, given how strong his sense of taste probably was. She pulled out some meat and a knife, starting to cut it up, mentally running through recipes she could edit so they wouldn't need utensils to eat them.
Then she considered the trials that were coming in proving his kind were sentient. Learning to eat like most people did would not be a bad idea. He had the manual dexterity for it, even if he had no need for it.
She'd just make what she could, and work that out later. The red meat properly cubed, she pulled out a frying pan and started to mix up the mildly spicy sauce while the meat soaked up flavors from a pre-prepared marinade.
"Snell good." Nose-in-Danger crooned as he sniffed the air and edged a little closer to watch her work.
"Smells," she corrected him gently, smiling at the praise. "And thank you. This is fairly mild, but something too much stronger wouldn't be a good idea." She left the sauce to heat, moving over to the supplies to pull out a few vegetables to slice up along with the meal.
"Sn ... Snmell." He kind of slurred it out the side of his mouth as he finally got a 'm' out.
As difficult as it was she had to give him credit for still trying, and learning. Like Wookies and several other races, he understood far more than he could pronounce.
It was just a shame that they hadn't developed much in the way of their own technology. Wookies couldn't speak Basic, but it was hard to argue that a bowcaster was the product of a non-sentient race's tinkering. The pouches and such developed by the Night Raptors weren't quite as hard to explain away, especially given that Nose-in-Danger didn't have any examples to show.
"Much better," she said with a smile, adding the meat to the sauce along with the sliced vegetables.
"You eat like this aufen?" He asked, cocking his head a bit as she moved with an easy grace in the fine kitchen.
"I usually eat in the cafeteria," she explained. "Large place where everybody eats in the same room, others cook. Quarters for Jedi are much smaller than these."
She could feel him work that out in his head, the complex statement not easily translated, but he got at least most of it.
"It is," she nodded, thinking a few things over. "[Nose-in-Danger]? Do you know how to make any tools? Like [Tends-the-Wounded's] pouches?"
"Can." He nodded. "Not good 'ike her." He added with a small duck of his head. "Can do [pretties] too."
["Pretties?"] She asked, fairly sure he meant jewelry, but not certain. "If I brought you the supplies, would you be willing to make some to show to the Senate, and others who ask?"
"Yes." He nodded easily. "Need ...." he trailed off, not even remotely sure how to explain the crystals he usually used. ["Hard, shiny, like -strong- feathers, but from the ground. Some big,"] he motioned to a space larger than himself. ["Most smaller,"] he cupped his hands. ["Some tiny."] He marked off the tip of one claw. ["All colors, many hardness. Sometimes make out of great animal claw, teeth or hide too."]
"I can show you some later, we can pick them out then," she nodded. "We have many crystals here, all different sorts."
["You keep more than you need?"] He cocked his head curiously, his stomach getting very interested in the results of her work.
"We do," she nodded. "Sometimes we need them on short notice; we use them for the core of our lightsabers." She turned off the fry pan, sliding a small portion of the meat and vegetables off for herself, heavier on the vegetables than the larger portion that she served up for Nose-in-Danger. "But we can spare some for now, most likely."
He nodded, not quite getting it but more than happy to focus on the food for now. Still, he obeyed his social training and waited for her to indicate he could eat.
"Want to try using utensils with this meal?" She asked, pulling out some for herself.
"Urr, yes." He considered them and the strange idea and decided that his hands could do it. "Senate help thing?"
"It might, some," B'lyn nodded. "Not too much though, probably."
Nose-in-Danger nodded, accepted the set she handed him and followed her to the six-seat fine wood dinning table outside the kitchen where she put the plates down and took a chair to sit in.
She noticed that he was standing, simply out of difficulties with the chairs.
"Go ahead and eat," she smiled, indicating how to use the utensils carefully. "Might want to go slow at first, until you're sure about the flavor. And try not to bite the end off the silverware," she added.
He nodded seriously and carefully pressed the fork into a chunk of meat, spearing a slice of pepper under it as well. He carefully used his teeth to pull it off and happily ground it to bits between sharp, pointed teeth.
"How does it taste?" She asked, eating at her own pace. She normally would have added rice to it, but that was something a bit more complicated than she wanted to bother with tonight.
["Different,"] he got out between bites. "Good." He added in Basic, his eager eating backing up the statement as more than just being polite.
"Thank you," she smiled. "Do you have any questions that you've come up with, about what we're going to do here?"
["Where can I go?"] He started with the first thing his territorial mind came up with.
"Generally, just stay on the grounds and you won't be able to go anywhere you shouldn't be able to," she said, thinking it over. "I don't know if there are going to be any extra rules, but that's the main one. You shouldn't leave the Temple grounds either, without an escort; we don't want anybody to panic."
He nodded, accepting that easily.
["You show me how] lift [works?"] He asked after a couple more bites.
"Certainly," she nodded with a smile. "It shouldn't be too hard. Finding your way around will be harder, but you can probably ask for directions from anybody."
["Good memory too."] He grinned at her. ["What you do now, here?"]
"Show you around first," she said. "Then I'll have to make my report to the Council, and see what they want me to do from there."
Nose-in-Danger nodded. ["When is] Senate [meeting]"?
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "It should be soon, but it might be longer, especially before they make up their minds. Unfortunately, the Senate can be rather slow."
"Big?" He looked at her, a vague notion of it being like the multi-flock gathers when leaders tried to work something out. Much like the one Stronger-than-Feathers and the flock was headed for when they had left.
"Very," she nodded. "And one half doesn't really like the other half, on the best of days."
"Ugree hard." He nodded in a kind of understanding and set his fork down only to pick up the plate and lick it clean.
"Very hard," she nodded. "The Senate does a lot of good, but it's often very slow about doing it."
"This not sure 'ike you said." He said quietly. "'Aybe not in time."
"It is our best chance though," she said softly. "I suspect they will act in time, if for no other reason than because the Raptors will fight back, hard, and the Federation won't want to commit all its resources at once."
"Not fight by rules." Nose-in-Danger snorted angrily. "Kill [hatchlings. No where to go.]"
B'lyn reached over to him, putting a hand on his flank carefully, grateful that he wasn't moving much and his anger wasn't likely to shift towards violence.
"Please, try to calm down," she said softly. "I understand why you're angry, but it won't help anything. Master won't let them win that easily."
["Yes,"] he had to force himself to believe even as she realized another part of the problem; he was alone. Without other Night Raptors around, he was off-balance and starting to feel it.
It would probably only get worse as time went on and he felt more and more isolated.
"We'll get you back home just as soon as we can," she promised. "I know this is hard, but it's more valuable than you can imagine to your people."
["No think would be this empty. So many people here."] He sighed deeply. ["I do what I must."]
"Other people don't usually make up for the ones you miss," she nodded. "Not unless you've grown up with them. Maybe, if this keeps going, you can bring somebody else with you next time."
"Yes," he nodded sharply.
She got the distinct impression that he'd be insisting on it.
"Why don't we go visit the gardens?" She suggested. "You might feel a bit more at home there."
"Yes," he nodded and reached his long neck forward to touch her cheek with his soft, warm muzzle. "Place to run."
"It is nearby," she nodded with a smile, standing to lead him out. "Come on, I'll show you the way."
B'lyn took a deep breath, centering herself before she entered the Council chamber. It was the first time she'd faced them alone; she was just glad that the news was relatively good.
She walked into the circular room, bowing respectfully in the middle of the twelve senior Jedi.
"How is our guest doing?" Master Eewenn began.
"Fairly well, all things considered," B'lyn said easily. "He took well to the tropical gardens; I lost track of him when he went chasing after some butterflies," she smiled in memory of the pleasure she felt from him as he gave himself over completely to the hunt and playing. It was a pointed reminder that while an adult by his kind's standards, he was still quite young and not yet jaded by life as his leaders were.
"What are his main issues here?" Master Noloth asked evenly.
"Generally, he's lonely," she explained. "His people are highly social, and he hadn't been expecting to miss them as much as he is. On a practical level, his greatest issues are language-related," she added, making sure she covered all the possible versions of the question.
"Will he be ready to speak to the Senate Sentience Committee in five days?" Master Qalmi asked pointedly.
"Five... it will be close, but we will be able to arrange it, Master," B'lyn said, catching her initial response. "I will, however, likely need some help preparing him. My teaching skills are somewhat limited yet."
"Masters Thelm and Qalmi will assist you." Master Eewenn inclined her head slightly towards the Vulpine Councilors. "Will you require anything else to prepare him?"
"Access to some supplies of crystals and leather," B'lyn said easily. "He does have some skill at crafting small pouches they occasionally use, and jewelry. If possible, I imagine the Senate would be more inclined to agree that his race is sentient if they meet an example with hand-made tools and crafts."
"They will be," Master Qalmi nodded.
"The supplies will be made available." Master Eewenn agreed. "What has happened on Evidran to bring you here so quickly?"
"The Trade Federation has begun to attack the hatching grounds of other flocks," B'lyn explained softly. "And to act in force against roaming hunters. The decision was made that there was no choice but to send somebody back to get help as quickly as possible."
"Have they requested Jedi assistance?" Master Eewenn leaned forward a touch, several of the other Masters just as keenly interested.
"Not in as many words, but I'm sure that Nose-in-Danger can be considered to speak for his people, given that he was trusted to come here and address the Senate for them," B'lyn said, her meaning clear.
They hadn't asked yet, but they could as soon as somebody asked him.
"Between your knowledge of his language and his knowledge of Basic, would he be ready to speak to us tomorrow?" Master Kothi asked, her manner giving no doubt that she was the Alpha of the two Wolves on the Council.
"Easily," B'lyn nodded. "I imagine he would be able to speak to the Council as soon as we can find him again, honestly. He's eager to get help for his people as quickly as possible, and worried that the Senate might take too long."
There was a brief, silent conference between several of the Masters before Master Eewenn nodded fractionally.
"Several of us will meet him here after the dinner hour." She stated simply.
"Do you have a better estimate of the Night Raptor population than when you first reported?" Master Noloth asked.
"Not really, except for a minimum," B'lyn admitted. "All I know is that there are at least a hundred, at my best guess, in the general area of where we landed. Of course, in all likelihood, there are thousands or millions... but I only actually encountered one flock, considered large, with almost three dozen members."
"Any indication of Force-users among them?" Master Sharath asked, his voice deep even for the powerful Lion he was.
"Not among the flock we saw," B'lyn said, shaking her head. "They had no real concept of the Force, though that could be due to the language barrier. However, there are locations on their world that are incredibly rich in its energy."
"Do any of the flora or fauna exhibit Force sensitivity?" Master Qalmi asked.
"There is a species of native lemurs, highly intelligent, but not sentient. They seem to have a natural empathic sense that they use to communicate. Very friendly, actually," she added with a bit of a smile, remembering the one who'd followed her. "There do not seem to be any other actively sensitive species that we noticed, though the Valley we crossed was sufficiently dangerous that we were more worried about surviving the crossing than cataloguing the native flora and fauna that didn't want to eat us."
"How much of the world have you seen?" Master Qalmi asked curiously.
"Not much," she admitted easily. "We saw only what we encountered in the course of finding and running from the flock we stayed with. I would say the equivalent of a cursory exploration of the local mountains near my home-settlement."
"Is there anything else you wish to say?" Master Eewenn brought the report to an end.
"Not at the moment, Masters," B'lyn said easily, bowing respectfully. "If there is nothing more, I'll go make sure Nose-in-Danger is prepared to meet you after dinner."
"You are dismissed," Master Eewenn agreed. "We will see you in four hours."
Two hours later, B'lyn stopped meditating and decided to go check on Nose-in-Danger. It was close to dinner, and his following meeting with the Council, so she went down to the Illiquar Garden to look for him.
She wasn't sure how long it would take her, honestly. The gardens weren't large, but he was good at hiding.
He was also intensely curious and within minutes it was a little too easy to pick up where he was by following the startled bursts in the Force from Jedi he encountered and the occasional explosion of activity as he found wildlife to chase.
He wasn't trying to hide in the least.
She tracked him down quickly, careful not to get directly in his way.
["Nose-in-Danger?"] She called.
There was a rustle of leaves in the jungle near the path and the Night Raptor appeared next to her in a burst of motion. "Hi." He clicked in greeting.
"Hi," she smiled. "It's about time for dinner, and I have some good news."
"'Kay." He nodded. "News?"
"Yes," she nodded. "I'll explain while we go to your rooms?"
He nodded, a bit reluctant to leave the garden but willing to with only the intent to come back.
"You have a few days, you can come back later," she smiled, starting to lead the way back to the lift. "It'll be about five days before you can meet the Senate, but after dinner the Council would like to speak with you. If you request it, they'll probably send some help to Evidran even before the Senate acts."
"What I need to say?" He asked quickly, his full focus on her and the needs of his people.
"You'll only need to ask the Jedi to help your people against the Federation. Other names will do, as long as the point gets across; you need to ask the Jedi to help. We can't go to help without the Senate's approval unless somebody asks for us."
Nose-in-Danger nodded seriously. "Understood. Wrill be unuff?"
"Enough to stop the Federation?" B'lyn asked, hoping to make sure she was answering the right question.
"Yes, enough?" He nodded.
"I doubt it," B'lyn said honestly. "But it will be help, and probably slow the Federation enough to let the Senate act to stop them."
"I ask." He nodded as they left the tropical garden.
"Thank you," she nodded, leading him back into the buildings. "I should have gotten [Stronger-than-Feathers] to say if she wanted the help, but it never occurred to me," she admitted.
["Crazy time."] He said simply as they walked through the great halls. He hesitated at the lift again, but took a breath and stepped inside and braced himself mentally for the movement.
"It'll be okay," she reassured him, the lift starting up and quickly running to the fifth level. "And yes, it was pretty crazy," she admitted, proud of him when he remained calm on the trip, though he was eager to be out of the moving room and out the instant the doors opened far enough for him to slip through.
"How does a repeat of lunch for dinner sound?" She asked him as they went to his quarters and she let him handle the door this time.
"Good." He bobbed his head and carefully tapped out the pattern he'd seen her use to open the door.
She had a feeling he'd eat just about anything she put in front of him at this point, but she didn't comment as his claws clicked on the buttons and the door slid open.
"You're a fast learner," she smiled, going to start the food. Fortunately, it didn't take too long to cook. They only had a couple hours before the meeting with the Council and it wouldn't hurt to go over their plans for the meeting with the Senate Sentience Committee. She had a feeling the two Foxes would be asking to work on that shortly afterwards.
"Thank kou." He clicked happily and settled in a place to watch her work.
"Have you thought at all about what you're going to say to the Senate?" She asked him.
"Try. No know." He shook his head a bit. "Strange question."
"It is," she admitted. "And I'm afraid I don't know what they're likely to ask you. I've never dealt with this particular committee before."
"Whr know?" He cocked his head.
"The Council will have a better idea," she said easily, cooking dinner for them both. "From what I do know, I think the most important part will be showing them that you haven't been trained to answer their questions. If you can respond to what they say in a way that makes sense, it'll help a lot, especially with things you've made to show that you're capable of crafting objects."
"Hope they use snall words." Nose-in-Danger said softly.
"I can help translate for you, I'm sure," she said. "There are species in the Republic who have a harder time with Basic than you do, even."
"Good." He nodded sharply, then perked up and stared at the door a moment before the chime rang.
"Good senses," B'lyn chuckled, wondering who it could be. "Go ahead and call them in, if you'd like, or I can. Just say 'come in' or something to the effect."
"Caum in." Nose-in-Danger called out, fascinated by this idea of the door opening at a word.
It slid open a moment later, the pronunciation close enough for the door to recognize it and admit the pair of Foxes on the other side.
"Masters Qalmi, Thelm," B'lyn said quickly, turning towards the Red and Artic Vulpine pair and bowing respectfully.
"Ellow," Nose-in-Danger dipped his head respectfully.
"Hello, Nose-in-Danger, Padawan B'lyn," the two Jedi said, returning the bows with ones of their own.
"I hope we're not intruding?" Master Thelm asked.
"I was just about to finish dinner," B'lyn said easily. "Have the two of you eaten yet?"
"There is plenty." Nose-in-Danger told them surprisingly firmly.
All three Jedi quickly realized it was something he would have insisted upon even if it hadn't been true, though the why wasn't as clear.
"We would be honored to eat with you." Master Thelm inclined her slender, red and black furred head to him.
"I'll just make up a bit more then," B'lyn said easily, already having the ingredients handy. "Won't be but a few minutes."
"We thought it would be good to begin preparing for the Senate meeting." Master Thelm told them simply. "We have a great deal to go over and relatively little time to prepare."
"We were just talking about that," B'lyn nodded. "I'm afraid neither of us really knows what we're getting into with the Sentience committee."
"Do you?" Nose-in-Danger perked up, his sharp black eyes focused on the Foxes with all the intensity of a top predator.
"In general," Master Thelm told him. "I have guided several races through the process. This is on very short notice, but you have one of the hardest parts down well enough that it will not take up time needed for other tasks. You have learned Basic quite effectively."
"Thank 'ou." Nose-in-Danger clicked in pleasure.
"I wasn't sure how important that was, so we focused on it," B'lyn said. "How important will it be, and how bad would it look if I had to help translate for him?"
"Considering the timetable we can thank the Trade Federation for, it will look very good that he has as much down as he does." She said smoothly as the Foxes sat down. "The less you translate, the better it will be, but we did get the Wookies past and they required a translator for everything. If the translation is of a question they pose, it will be better if [Nose-in-Danger] requests that they reword it or asks you to explain the word. Keep as much in Basic as you can. It will help show that he is thinking and reacting beyond what an animal can be easily trained to do."
"Understood," B'lyn nodded. "What am I likely to be expected to do, if anything? A Padawan making a solo-presentation to a Senate committee is very unusual, after all."
"You will remain his primary translator and stand with us at the Senate meetings." Master Qalmi explained. "You are the one who discovered them and you know the Night Raptor language. Master Thelm and I will make the formal presentation and be on record as the petitioners for the Order. [Nose-in-Danger] will be the one who will do most of the speaking once we have made our presentation."
"Understood," B'lyn nodded easily, honestly grateful she wouldn't be primarily responsible for this.
"*This is far too important, and difficult, to have a Padawan do alone.*" Master Qalmi told her gently. "*His trust in you is also far too important to remove you from this mission.*"
"*I understand, Master,*" she agreed with the Arctic Fox, picking up the full skillet as he collected plates enough for the four of them. "*Frankly, I'm glad to not be the one leading this.*"
"What they ask?" Nose-in-Danger prompted the pair while the smells of dinner kept most of his attention on B'lyn.
"The questions vary, usually," Master Thelm admitted. "They try to keep the chances that we've trained an animal to respond to a standard list. Most likely, they'll want to know about your people, what you call yourselves, your history and culture."
Nose-in-Danger nodded slightly as he watched the food as it was plated and set down, eager to eat.
"*You should start first, Masters, then I do, then he does.*" B'lyn told the Foxes silently. "*It's a social order thing for him. He is giving us respect and acknowledging our relative rank in the Order.*"
Master Thelm nodded imperceptibly, starting to eat quietly, enjoying the food along with her mate as he started to eat, B'lyn following suit.
Despite starting last and using utensils he was still largely unfamiliar with, Nose-in-Danger was finished well before the others. Still, he waited politely for them to finish eating in silence.
It wasn't too long before they did, B'lyn collecting the dishes and going to put them in the wash.
"I understand you want to get some supplies for certain crafts you can make?" Master Qalmi asked him.
"Yes," Nose-in-Danger nodded easily. "Crystals, prepared hide, sinew."
"What type of crystals?" She asked. "If you know the words for them," she added as Master Qalmi reached into his robes and pulled out a small datapad.
"I can show you some of the ones we have on this," he offered.
"Good," Nose-in-Danger nodded. "Don't know Basic for them."
"All right," Qalmi nodded, punching a few buttons and bringing up displays of a number of basic crystals they had a surplus of. "We have a number of different colors in these as well, and some different sizes. Does the type of animal the hide and sinew come from matter?" He asked, fully aware that some cultures placed different importance on that sort of thing.
"Only that it strong enough." He shook his head and considered the display of crystals. "[Tends-the-Wounded] can be picky, but that only for special things. How hard are these?" He pointed at the crystals.
"Fairly hard," the Fox said easily. "We use them in our lightsabers. They can be broken with special tools we have, or with other stones, like the ones your feathers are made of," he explained. "If necessary, we may be able to make them harder for you."
"More likely softer." Nose-in-Danger told them. "Carve with claws." He held up the long, curved weapons at his fingertips. "Only soft crystals are used. Others too hard. Break claws."
"We might have some of the right sort, but if we don't we can purchase some easily enough," Qalmi said easily. "There's a market near here where we can get them."
"'Arket?" He glanced at B'lyn as she sat down at the table again.
"A place where we can trade for the crystals," B'lyn explained easily. "Some people gather lots of them, then they trade them for other things."
She just hoped that trade was a concept they had.
Nose-in-Danger nodded slowly as he pieced the idea together from what he did know.
"Can I see crystals?" He asked politely.
"As long as you go with somebody and don't do anything that will damage them before you buy them, yes," Qalmi nodded easily. "We should probably continue this at the Council meeting; the others would like to meet you."
"Yes," he nodded easily and willingly followed them out of his quarters.
"Have the two of you talked about what we intend to discuss?" Master Thelm asked the Night Raptor.
"Some," he nodded. "Ask Jedi Council for help. Maybe keep flock alive 'til Senate acts."
"Your people are strong warriors, by all that we've heard," Master Thelm reassured him. "As are the Jedi who will likely go to help, and Master Standing-Bear. I imagine that he is already making the Federation wish they hadn't heard of your planet," the Vixen smiled. "With the aid we send, your people will have the best chance they can, especially if they can make alliances with other flocks."
"'Ready done." Nose-in-Danger told her with a flicker of pride and fighting fire stirring inside him. "Leaders, flocks gather, prepare. 'Ederation not fight by rules. Kill eggs of many flocks. We take territory before. We take back now."
"Be sure to bring up that the Federation has done that," Master Thelm said softly. "The Senate will find that a good reason to act quickly. If the Force is with us, we may end this before they can begin a real war."
"I will tell." He nodded sharply and stepped into the lift with them with much less uneasiness than before. "They not going to win."
"No, they are not," the Vixen agreed, the lift carrying them further up, towards the Council chamber at the top of the massive spire.
Nose-in-Danger's curiosity increased as the doors opened to a circular room only large enough for the ten beings seated in a circle around the edge and the space in the middle large enough for petitioners to stand surrounded by them. Despite the quick glances he kept giving the windows that were at all angles, most of his attention was on those surrounding him and not sinking into a defensive posture at being so vulnerable.
"Don't worry," Master Noloth reassured him as Masters Thelm and Qalmi moved to take their seats in the circle, the Frilled Lizard's manner and posture reassuringly neutral. "You are among friends here."
Nose-in-Danger nodded slightly. He was still edgy, but settled on the outside. "Hello."
"Why have you come before this Council?" Master Eewenn asked, her voices soothing in their tone.
"They already know, they just have to ask," B'lyn explained quietly to Nose-in-Danger. "It's all right."
He nodded fractionally to her, then focused on the strange hammer-headed creature and stood straight as befitting a speaker of his people.
"To ask for help against those who try to take our homes from us." He said firmly and carefully, intent on speaking the words correctly. "The Trade Federation has killed our eggs, attacked our hunters, taken our prey and hatching grounds."
"Do you intend to seek aid from the Senate as well?" The Ithorian asked him.
"Yes, M'aster Jedi." He managed the title with a fair amount of difficulty. "I understand they can order the Trade Federation to leave." He continued slowly and carefully.
"They can," she nodded. "And I suspect they will, once you meet with them and they learn all that has happened. Very well; this Council will respect your petition. We have only a handful of Knights to send now, but more will be sent to aid your people as they become available."
"Thank you, Council." Nose-in-Danger bowed deeply in the Jedi tradition and doubled his neck underneath itself in his own. He unfolded after a moment and faced her again. "The gathering should know that Jedi are allies now."
"We will make sure that the Knights realize this," she nodded, bowing her own head. "Master Qalmi, I believe that Knights Kelarn and Tarsis are available, yes?"
"They are," the Fox nodded easily. "I will send them the information they will require along with their orders."
"I can tell them how best to approach a flock." Nose-in-Danger offered. "Not many will know a Jedi by sight."
"Thank you," Master Qalmi nodded. "It would be best if we knew how to approach them without a fight starting."
"Why don't you meet with the Knights who will be leaving, then meet with Masters Qalmi and Thelm again to discuss what you will be doing for the Senate?" Master Noloth suggested.
"Yes," Nose-in-Danger dipped his head in agreement, then flicked his gaze to the two Foxes. "I can show them how I make the pretties then too."
"*Jewelry,*" Qalmi explained to the Councilors silently. "*Objects he can make to help demonstrate his sentience, though his mastery of our language will likely be sufficient.*"
"Very well," Master Eewenn nodded. "Padawan B'lyn will show you to the Knights in question. Force be with you, Nose-in-Danger," she added, utterly incapable of properly pronouncing his name in his own language.
He paused a moment, then correlated the translation with his name and dipped his body into a bow. "Thank you, Master Eewenn." He managed before turning to follow B'lyn into the lift.
"So, what do you think of Knights Kelarn and Tarsis?" Master Qalmi asked as he, his mate, B'lyn, and Nose-in-Danger prepared to leave the Temple grounds for the market.
"Good hunters." He said with honest respect for the two Panthers he couldn't tell apart. "They will do well."
"Good to know you approve," the Fox smiled. "They're among the best warriors their age in the Order, I'm sure they'll be a good help. So, ready to go crystal-shopping?"
"Yes," he dipped his head slightly and clicked his toe-claws eagerly, his long sickle-claws held up against his ankle by relaxed muscles.
"Let's go then," Qalmi nodded, the three Jedi wearing their full robes, though their hoods were down as they climbed into an air-car, the driver looking back at Nose-in-Danger with a startled expression as the two hundred and some pound creature climbed in with them and snaked his long neck around to check out everything.
"Karlotan Crystals," Master Qalmi told the driver easily. "Shortest route possible, please."
"Yes, Sir." He said quickly, and for once had no thoughts of doing anything different. Not after he caught what the black feathers on the Night Raptor did to fabric. He was just glad they'd be out of his cab quickly.
The cab lifted off and pulled away from the Temple, B'lyn reaching out to put a reassuring hand on Nose-in-Danger's flank to keep him from panicking. She was pretty sure he'd be okay with it though; he'd handled the fighter well enough. It was just when he felt movement and couldn't see it that his instincts kicked in about it being very wrong.
As it was, he was whipping his head from one side to the other trying to catch everything moving by at high speed. It was pure excitement and all three Jedi felt it.
Only the driver didn't seem too convinced of Nose-in-Danger's harmless intent, but he wasn't too unsettled to land outside the crystal shop and take his fare, along with a bonus to cover any damage to the interior from Nose-in-Danger's feathers.
"I think we're going to have to look into some sort of clothing to protect anything you have to sit on," Master Qalmi observed, his mind already at work on the difficult issues of how to make something that would be comfortable and still withstand his feathers.
Nose-in-Danger blinked at him, then looked at B'lyn and ducked his head sheepishly. "The bedding not meant to be shredded, was it?"
"Not really," she admitted. "But it's seen far, far worse treatment. Generally, we don't make too many things to be shredded, but we aren't too surprised when it is. Night Raptors aren't the only species that's rough on furniture."
"What do you normally sleep in?" Thelm asked conversationally as the group walked into the shop and drew the attention of the proprietor in short order.
"Sand, dust, earth, plants sometimes." He tried to think of everything they usually slept on by choice. "Soft, loose things."
"We could arrange something more like that for you easily, if you'd like," she offered. "We've done stranger things, I assure you," she chuckled.
"That would be nice." He nodded to her.
"This is an unexpected ... ah ... pleasure," the proprietor said, the green-skinned Twi'lek looking at Nose-in-Danger a little worriedly as he greeted the Jedi. "Normally you order from the Temple."
"We have a special order today, Kar'lota," Qalmi explained. "Not lightsaber crystals today. Let's start out with your quartz samples?"
"Very well," the Twi'lek said easily, turning to lead them into one of the side rooms with shelf upon shelf of crystals intended for ornamentation rather than a practical use.
It was a display that instantly perked Nose-in-Danger's interest and recognition as he stepped carefully into the fairly tight space. A milky white one with many large spikes the size of his cupped hands was examined visually, then he tapped it with the side of his claw and nodded to himself.
"Careful not to damage them," the Twi'lek said worriedly.
"I be careful." Nose-in-Danger looked at him seriously before taking another careful step to check out a crystal in shades of green.
"If I might ask what these are for?" Kar'lota asked. "I am, of course, knowledgeable regarding my stock, I might have some suggestions for you...."
"Making pretties." Nose-in-Danger told him easily as a small piece of rosy quartz caught his attention and was subject to a critical examination. "Need to see something in it to carve."
"Ah," the Twi'lek said, not really able to say anything to that. "I do have some stones favored by artisans, if you'd like to look at those...."
"This kind just what I want." Nose-in-Danger told him politely, his pleased tone unmistakable as he continued his hunt in the small room. "Just right hardness, good shapes, good colors."
"Very well," Kar'lota shrugged slightly, his lekku making a gesture that B'lyn smiled at quietly, her own paired head-tails making a brief response.
The stone-seller stilled his own lekku with a somewhat apologetic gesture. He had to remember not to make comments about the customers when one of them could understand them.
"These three." Nose-in-Danger looked at the Masters for approval of his choices.
"Certainly," Master Qalmi nodded. "The fee will be applied to the Council's normal account?" He asked Kar'lota.
"Of course," the Twi'lek nodded. "I was going to be shipping a number of Opari crystals I just received shortly; I'll put it on that bill."
"Thank you," the Fox nodded. "Is there anything else you require while we're out?" He asked the Night Raptor.
"No." He shook his head a bit and carefully stacked the three crystals; a piece of rosy quartz piece half the size of his palm, a sizable piece of amethyst and the large milky white one he had first seen carefully stacked in his hands. "Thank you."
"If you'd like, I could put those in a bag," the Twi'lek offered. "Wrap them so they don't get damaged."
He nodded and handed them over. "Thank you."
The salesman quickly wrapped the three stones separately, putting them into a bag and handing them over.
"Thank you," Master Qalmi said respectfully, bowing his head slightly. "I'll be looking forward to that shipment of oparis; we have a number of knights who would be well served by them."
"You will have them in the morning." He promised easily and watched the four leave, once more wondering about just what Jedi got themselves into that created this shopping trip.
"I think Kar'lota has had more than a few artistic sorts being picky lately," B'lyn chuckled as they walked out and hailed another cab.
"Why?" Nose-in-Danger looked at her curiously, half his attention already on what he was going to do with the crystals he had.
"Oh, his comment in there," she chuckled. "He said something about 'artists.' Lekku-speak, I don't think he realized I was paying attention. The advantage of not being the one everybody pays attention to."
"Yes," Nose-in-Danger snickered with a clicking hiss. "Watching the dangerous ones."
"Well, at least he had the decency to apologize," Master Qalmi chuckled. "To the ones who might be offended."
"I only reminded him that he wasn't the only person who spoke that way," B'lyn smiled as the cab came close. "Let's head back home."
"Yes," Nose-in-Danger nodded, eager to get back to something he understood.
B'lyn stretched in place after Masters Thelm and Qalmi left a few hours later, well after dark.
"About time to be going to bed," she observed. "You mind bedding for another night? We can get something different in tomorrow."
"All right," he nodded easily and stood to stretch out, leaving his partially finished creation of amethyst and rosy quartz on a short table he had been using as a staging area while the Jedi relaxed on pillows, watching and talking for hours.
"It's coming along nicely," B'lyn observed approvingly and felt him brighten at the praise. "Which room do you want to take?" She asked him.
He looked at her in confusion for a moment. "Bedroom?" He pointed to the correct door, uncertain if that was what she meant.
"Yes," she nodded. "There are two," she explained. "That one has a better view."
He nodded. "Work for me." He agreed easily and stepped off towards the door, fully expecting her to join him.
"Sleep well," she said easily, starting towards the other bedroom.
That earned her another uncertain look as he registered her movement. He paused and made an easy turn on one heel to follow her, still treating her as the ranking of the two of them as he had since stepping onto the fighter with her, and unlike on Evidran.
"Is there something wrong?" She asked him.
It stopped him in his tracks, the confusion written clearly on his face and in his body language. "No." He answered, at a loss as to what was going on.
It wasn't long before she grasped the problem; he hadn't realized that it was normal to sleep in your own room around the Temple.
"I'm sorry," she said easily. "You're not used to sleeping without somebody else in the room, are you?"
He shook his head submissively. "No."
She barely had to open herself to him a fraction to be reminded that sleeping in a room was a strange idea to him.
"We'll use the same room then," she said easily. "I'll just fetch some bedding for you from the other room," she added, stepping in to collect the more easily replaceable blankets and sheets that could be shredded without any real concern. She couldn't help but notice the happy thrum he made as she piled them into a heap and let him do his damage settling in for the night.
By the time he closed his eyes, she knew she would be having pleasant dreams just from what he was emanating so easily.
Standing-Bear felt ready to dissolve when the flock finally slowed down. They'd hunted and eaten on the run, stopped only to rest only twice when someone couldn't keep up anymore. His Padawan would be on Coruscant by now, and he truly wished to be there with her and not where he was.
He would do his best to protect these people, no matter the discomforts. It was a small consolation that the entire flock was tired too. He couldn't help but notice that the flock had shifted to put him near the middle.
As he saw guards start to approach through the forest of slender black necks around him, he realized the reason. They wanted to be sure he was seen as somebody who was with them, not one of the attackers. A silent statement more effective than any words could be in his defense.
It was good to know so solidly that he was forgiven whatever trespasses he'd made so far.
He watched as Stronger-than-Feathers and Kills-the-Sun exchanged a few words with the guards and the flock was allowed to pass. It wasn't long before Standing-Bear realized that the destination they were headed for was under the jungle as a low cavern mouth opened before him and he followed them inside, now keenly aware of the clicks and squawks of hundreds of Night Raptors.
He was devoutly grateful that the cave seemed to dampen most of the sounds fairly well.
As they continued on down into the cavern, he noticed some of the crystal formations and glitters of minerals that the Federation wanted so badly. Silver, crystals that had industrial and artistic uses ... and a deep, resounding connection to the Force. They'd strip this place clean, if they could.
As he walked with the Creeping Wind flock deeper he realized that this wasn't a cave, it was a network of caverns that likely stretched for dozens, if not hundreds, of miles. Stronger-than-Feathers knew where they were going too, and led them away from the sound of others into a cavern with a small pool of fresh water in it.
["All rest."] She announced wearily and checked that they were all settling down before leaving with Kills-the-Sun.
Standing-Bear joined the others in relaxing easily, approaching the pool along with some of the Raptors to get something to drink before leaning against one of the cavern walls and letting his aching muscles relax.
He had no real idea what was coming next, but he truly hoped he'd be able to get one solid night's sleep before it happened. Five days of running, battle, hunting and eating on the move was not the most exhausting thing he'd even been through, but it was definitely up there on the short list.
He had to assume that the two leaders were going to meet with the others. He had to wonder if he was going to see them at some point; there had to be dozens of groups there yet, if the flock he was with was unusually large.
At least down here they'd be safe enough to rest. He took a deep breath, starting to meditate quietly and rejuvenate his exhausted body before sinking into much-needed sleep for what meditation could not provide.
Nose-in-Danger regarded his creation even more seriously than the three Jedi in the room with him. It looked much like the five spires of the Jedi Temple, once you looked at the foundation form and past the swirling lines and spikes of crystal around it and took into account that it was artwork and not meant to be an exact replica.
Three days work, and he was quite proud of himself.
He cocked his head, studying it, seeking to put to words what he felt was wrong.
"Something to color it with?" He looked at Master Qalmi, then Master Thelm and B'lyn.
"What color?" The Arctic Fox asked easily, the holocamera in the room moving to record the exchange.
Nose-in-Danger shifted to hold it in one hand and began to trace the flowing pieces around the spires. "Dark blue. Light blue. Dark Green. Light Green. Gold." He looked up. "If possible. It good enough. Color would be better."
"We can provide colors," Qalmi said easily, pulling out a datapad and sending a requisition. "The gold is a little short, but this will be a good excuse to order some more anyways."
"One advantage of your mate being in charge of requisitions," Thelm smiled. "He knows more about what we have on hand than anybody else in the Order. Though it can be a little scary, sometimes."
Nose-in-Danger snickered outright, while B'lyn covered her mouth to help hide her reaction until she had herself under control.
"Thank you." Nose-in-Danger dipped his head in appreciation. "How long 'til here?" He asked politely.
"Just a few minutes," the Fox said easily, smirking at his mate. "And don't forget that I have just as many embarrassing stories about you, dear."
"Oh?" Nose-in-Danger prompted hopefully for stories.
"Oh no you don't," Thelm smirked, reaching over to tug her white-furred mate's tail lightly. "Besides, if we were doing it when we were Padawans, it doesn't count anymore."
"All right, all right," Qalmi chuckled, winking at the Padawan and Night Raptor watching the display and mouthing the word 'later' playfully.
"All Foxes so funny?" Nose-in-Danger snickered towards B'lyn.
"They tend to be," B'lyn giggled slightly, trying to make a straight face and failing utterly. "Or at least to think they are."
"Most leaders not nearly so fun." He clicked his tongue in approval and amusement, still rather proud of himself for having learned to say 'm' after many hours of intense work with the three Jedi. It didn't come easily, but he could manage without sputtering now.
"Well, it's good to know we're amusing at least," Thelm smirked slightly. "You'll find that most leaders are far more uptight about things, even us most of the time."
"Leadership hard." Nose-in-Danger nodded seriously. "Many lives in the balance to keep safe."
"Very true," the Jedi Masters agreed. "And more lives when you have larger groups, such as the Republic. There's something of that responsibility there as a diplomat as well, in a way."
"Diplomat?" Nose-in-Danger repeated the word carefully, uncertain of its meaning.
"Somebody who does what you are doing now for a living; who speaks to other leaders and represents their people," B'lyn explained easily. "Somebody who negotiates in the place of their people."
"Leaders do that. Usually." He said softly, abruptly uncomfortable with the reminder of just how much rank he had right now that he had no right to and hadn't earned. "Leaders do almost everything."
"Which is why, sometimes, they need help," Thelm pointed out gently. "Your leader had to stay there to help your people where she best could; she believes you can handle this, and so do we."
"I will." He nodded, firm in his resolve where he couldn't be so sure of his ability. "Not many curious enough to come here."
"New things can be frightening, especially this many new things," Qalmi nodded. "But you seem to be handling it well."
"I'm curious." He repeated, the expectation that it covered it clear in his mind. "Few are. We tend to be named to warn others of what we are." He ducked his head a little sheepishly.
"You'll find that you have a lot in common with many Jedi," Qalmi chuckled. "Is there any sort of stigma to the curiosity?"
Nose-in-Danger tapped his nose. "Curiosity kills. Sticking your nose where it shouldn't be can get you or the flock hurt. Climb too high and you fall, maybe on another. We find new ... resources ... so we are tolerated for the danger we bring. No one lets us forget what we are is dangerous to all."
"Over time, they'll come to recognize the real value of the curious," Qalmi said easily. "We've seen it before."
Nose-in-Danger nodded thoughtfully. "Not treated bad for it. Just who courts extra danger?"
"A reasonable response, given how dangerous your world is," the Master nodded. "But you know as well as we that sometimes the extra danger is worth what you get for it. When things get to be safer, it will change."
That earned him a cocked head and piercing look that went right through the Jedi Master from this youngling Night Raptor. Searched him, right down to his soul, for how that could exist, how it could be true. There was not doubt, no rejection of the statement, simply a completely determination to grasp its meaning and reality.
It was not the Force at work, merely a razor-sharp intellect intertwined with a social predator's instincts.
It was quite possibly the most unsettling thing the Fox had experienced in recent years.
When Nose-in-Danger's gaze seemed to focus back into physical reality, it was to lock eyes with the door and carefully call out "Come in!"
A young Fox came in, carrying a bundle of dyes and bowing politely to the Night Raptor and three senior Jedi that met him.
"Thank you." Nose-in-Danger Dipped his head politely.
"I am at your service, Sir." The youngster bowed to him, meaning every word.
"Back to your studies now," Qalmi said easily, shaking off the unsettling feeling Nose-in-Danger had managed to give him.
"Yes, Master." The young Fox bowed again and left them to their work.
"Cute," Nose-in-Danger snickered with a click of his tongue and took up the first color, a rich, dark blue, and began to apply it with the tip of a claw to select bits of the arcs and swirls around the five temple towers.
"He is," the Fox agreed, the three Jedi settling in to watch the artist at work and chat about small things to keep the flow of information going both ways without disturbing him.
Master Standing-Bear waited on the outer reaches of the Night Raptors gathered to view the leaders of various flocks. There wasn't enough room for all of them, but he'd managed to work his way in by virtue of being smaller.
This wasn't a closed meeting, but it was clear that the leaders were the only ones expected to speak unless there was something specific that had to be said.
As it was, even with just flock leaders in attendance with a few other specialists in the main circle, Standing-Bear was beginning to grasp just how little government they had. The Creeping Wind flock was quite large at thirty-two members, not counting him. There were several hundred leaders already in the meeting, with whispers that many were still to come in the coming months.
They didn't even seem to really have clans or tribes yet ... how they'd lasted as long as they had without developing some sort of governing network would undoubtedly fascinate the Order's anthropologists.
It was a train of thought that continued as reports were made by various leaders to bring everyone up to speed. Things were bad; most had been attacked at least once, most had suffered losses, the hatching ground losses were now counted at seven. Of those gathered, only two had eggs or new hatchlings left untouched. It was by far the worst losses any of them had ever heard of, something that the Past-Keepers were called on to confirm.
That had what they called 'war', but it was nothing like this. They had very strict rules on what was done, and the price of crossing those lines was retaliation from every flock that learned of it.
Hatching grounds ... eggs and the newly hatched ... were inviolate. Claiming them was often the point of the aggression.
The Trade Federation had broken every rule of behavior the Night Raptors had, and this was the result. A world government would network over the next few weeks. It would hold together no longer than the conflict in all likelihood, but it would form.
The fact that this was increasingly how primitive cultures found they needed a government these days was something that pained Standing-Bear deeply. The talk of war was woefully familiar to the young Master.
How ready and quickly this came about, a matter of mere hours and the basics had been hashed out and agreed to, was not something he was familiar with. It slowly began to sink in that these people had no use for greater governmental forms beyond the flock normally, but their natural social structure and mentality settled into it almost too easily.
The question was how effective it would be. They could settle into it, but the Federation had far more experience at mass combat.
And far more people to mass.
"Connor [come tell your story."] Stronger-than-Feather's voice rose above the general din as she looked directly at him.
He stepped forward, walking to a point where he could better address the leaders.
["The] Jedi [are a group of warriors where I come from,"] he explained, starting with the basic information. ["The] Federation [approached us to see why your people were attacking them, before they began their current attacks. When they found out that the Night Raptors were people, not animals, it seems they decided that they had to try to destroy you, and the Jedi they had contacted, before our lawmakers could stop them. That is why they began the ambushes, and large-scale attacks on hatching grounds."]
He felt, in the quiet murmurs and shifting, how difficult a set of concepts that was for them to grasp.
He waited patiently while they digested and worked that into something they could use without a complete learning of another culture.
["How many of them?"] An older leader with many scars on his muzzle and feathers beginning to turn translucent white demanded.
["More than there are Night Raptors here,"] Standing-Bear admitted. ["And more coming."]
That got everyone's attention as looks of difficult comprehension were exchanged.
["How?"] Someone managed to voice the question they all had.
["You have seen the] ships [they fly in?"] Standing-Bear asked, not sure if they were familiar with them or not.
Most shook their heads, but a few nodded.
["Only hold one or two."] Someone objected.
["Those are small ones,"] he explained. ["They have larger ones that can carry many, many warriors. That is how they first arrived."]
That stilled everyone for a long, painful movement as looks were exchanged but no words.
["Leader of the Lost,"] the old, graying warrior turned to Stronger-than-Feathers. ["You would lead a many-flock group against their creations?"]
["Yes,"] she dipped her head slightly.
["Crescent River will join you in the first strike."] He spoke for his flock, and then looked around expectantly at several others.
It was a moment before Standing-Bear realized that those were the leaders who had lost hatching grounds.
["Sun's Shadow joints."] A deep voice spoke up in response.
["North Great Lake joints this hunt."] A fiery young female hissed in defiance.
["Kittle Hills as well."] Another male nodded to them.
["Cleft Coast Runners agree."] A female that was all poetic grace chimed in.
A bit more reluctantly, the last one who had lost eggs nodded. ["Summer Marsh will join you as well."]
Standing-Bear remained silent, glad to see that so many flocks were agreeing to help.
As much as it pained him, a massive counterattack would be the best chance they had just now.
["Don't count Fire's Halo out of this."] An upstart male voice barked, drawing attention to him. He received a nod of acceptance from Stronger-than-Feathers anyway.
Then she turned to face Standing-Bear. ["You know them. That place they stay in. Enough to destroy it?"]
["If done right, it should be,"] he nodded. ["It will not be easy, take several steps."]
["How many more will make it work better?"] A somber male asked from among the leaders.
["To destroy the facility, or drive them away with one action?"] Standing-Bear asked, knowing very well that there likely weren't enough Night Raptors to do the second.
["To destroy a facility."] The male clarified after a moment of consideration.
The Jedi stopped to think it through. A frontal assault would be suicide. A handful of extra Jedi and he'd be happy to deal with this and the Raptors who had already volunteered. But as it was, he was the only person who knew exactly what to hit while diversions were being created.
It was possible, certainly, but far riskier than he liked, especially given the resources at a Federation core base.
["Ten more,"] he decided. ["Willing to go into the heart of their camp while the others draw their warriors away."]
The leaders of those already going exchanged looks and nodded to each other.
["We will find the ten best warriors here to go."] Stronger-than-Feathers told him before the leaders began to confer quietly among themselves, choosing from among their own and other flocks before turning their attention on two more flock leaders likely to go with them given the opening.
It took the better part of an hour, but when Standing-Bear finally followed Stronger-than-Feathers out of the cavern network he realized there were almost three hundred Night Raptors assembled into the strike force. Ten in particular came up from various flocks to him as he was assessing this increase in numbers.
["These are the ones going with you deep inside."] Stronger-than-Feathers told him and introduced the warriors one-by-one.
["Are we attacking now, or in some time?"] Standing-Bear asked as the introductions ensued.
["As soon as we can."] She told him. ["It is several days travel from here."]
["Very well,"] he nodded. ["Once we are close, we'll need some time to see what they have for defenses before we attack. We might be able to do this safely yet."]
Stronger-than-Feathers nodded seriously and looked out over the fourteen flocks she now lead. As nervous and out of her depth as she felt, nothing but determined confidence showed on the surface for her new flock to see.
["Move out!"] She called sharply to the small army and heard her order passed on by the flock leaders to make sure all heard and understood.
Tends-the-Young of the Crescent River flock snapped her head around at a glimmer of something far up in the sky.
Normally, this was nothing to care about.
These days, it was the only warning of a deadly attack as often as not.
She focused on the dot for a long moment, calculating its direction and location before whirling on her heel to dart for the main gathering to alert the leaders.
She found Standing-Bear there when she arrived, speaking to Stronger-than-Feathers.
["I have sensed more] Jedi [arriving,"] he explained. ["They are on their way to help us."]
["I have seen a ship coming."] Tends-the-Young pointed to the sky where the small dot could be seen by sharp eyes.
["That will be them,"] Standing-Bear nodded. ["I can feel them. We should go meet them, make sure nothing happens."]
Stronger-than-Feathers nodded to him and called to several others to join them. ["Show us where you see them landing."] She told Tends-the-Young.
["Yes, Leader."] She dipped her head and turned to move off towards the clearing at a fast clip.
Standing-Bear and the others all followed quickly; it was a location they knew fairly well, near the place where the Jedi's fighter had been when it had landed. Tends-the-Young just hoped the Federation didn't see them; they were so close to making their attack, just a day's rest and planning before they began the strategy that Standing-Bear and the leaders were discussing.
Now a new fighter was coming in, its form becoming more obvious as the distance closed quickly and the Night Raptors hid themselves in case this wasn't the Jedi Standing-Bear expected.
The vessel landed and Standing-Bear walked out to meet it as the hatch opened, revealing two dark-furred figures sitting in the cockpit.
"Good to see you, my friends," Standing-Bear grinned quickly as the new arrivals climbed out. "I thought it was you when you made it into the atmosphere, but I wasn't sure."
"It is good to see you doing so well, friend." Knight Kelarn leaped to the ground and bowed to the Master not that much older than he was. "I take it those in the trees are Night Raptors?"
"They are," he nodded.
["It's safe!"] He called back to them. ["I know them both!"]
"Please tell me that fighter is armed, heavily?" He asked Kelarn as his twin climbed out after him.
"A bit more than yours," Knight Tarsis answered as he landed. "What's up, besides a war?"
"Your Padawan does you credit on Coruscant." Kelarn added as Stronger-than-Feathers hopped over a fallen log and into view with two others. "Nose-in-Danger is ... interesting. Quite patient as well.
"Good to hear, on both counts," Standing-Bear nodded gratefully. "As for what's up, we're preparing to counter-attack against the primary Federation facility. You probably saw it on the way in?"
"Yes." Kelarn nodded and offered a datachip to the young Master. "Knight Syndol also sent us with a gift for you."
"Much more," the copper-skinned human chuckled. "Come, let's go back to the camp and I'll fill you and those involved in; I made the original plan without planning on a fighter being available, or having the schematics, assuming that's what these are."
"Of course, Master." The Knights bowed in unison and tapped the fighter's security system on before following Standing-Bear as the three Night Raptors became almost twenty inside the trees.
"Would you expect anything less from our best cracker?" Knight Kelarn smiled slightly.
Tarsis glanced at the three Night Raptors visible. "Hopefully more than the six of us will be going in."
"We actually have about three hundred warriors gathered for the assault," he explained quietly. "And after this, I'm going to have to work on teaching you to understand their language; some of them get nervous when I speak Basic around them. Can't really blame them, honestly."
"Quite understandable," Tarsis nodded. "Is it a complex language?"
"For the two of you, I imagine a very complex one," Standing-Bear said after a bit to consider it. "Especially to speak. It's both verbal and non-verbal in nature."
"Understood," the pair nodded in unison as they approached the Night Raptor gathering.
"If they are half as deadly as they seem, the Federation is going to have a bad day tomorrow." Kelarn nearly whistled under his breath as he got a sense of what three hundred of these people really meant. They may not be warriors in the pure sense of the word, but they were as combat ready as any warriors and eager for the coming battle.
"They tend to be just as deadly, if not moreso," Standing-Bear pointed out. "I don't suppose the two of you noticed if the Federation has a shield up around the facility on the way in?"
"Yes, though it's primarily anti-aircraft." Tarsis supplied easily. "Scanners indicated around four thousand beings and plenty of weaponry."
"I suspected about as much," Standing-Bear nodded. "With the fighter, we might be able to make this attack much easier, if the two of you are willing to provide air support." He led the Panthers towards the gathering of Night Raptor leaders, preparing to introduce them.
"We are at your service, Master." The pair said in unison, meaning every word honestly. "What is the plan of attack?"
Standing-Bear knelt and started clearing some leaves from the soft soil while Tarsis turned on the datachip for him to review.
"We'll be setting up a multi-pronged diversionary attack to make way for a smaller strike team to take out their shield generators so that you two can blow up their main generators," Standing-Bear summarized.
"Understood." The twin Panthers nodded.
["Can you call the other leaders?"] Standing-Bear asked Stronger-than-Feathers. ["I have the information I needed now."]
["Yes,"] she dipped her head slightly and disappeared into the crowd.
"So how many are here?" Kelarn asked, looking around at the mass of Night Raptors.
"Almost three hundred - fourteen flocks, and ten Raptors on my primary strike team," Standing-Bear explained. "I'd take the two of you along gladly, but I want to make use of the fighter while we can. The Federation won't give us too many opportunities once they know it's here to be used against them.
The twins glanced at each other.
"It only takes one of us to fly the fighter." Kelarn offered.
"Yes, but is the other comfortable with only me for Jedi backup going into a Federation shield generator?" Standing-Bear asked, looking back at the twins. "I know you two prefer to fight together. And they do have fighters of their own they'll probably send after you."
"We would rather stay together." Kelarn admitted. "It leaves you solo."
"But I will have nearly a dozen of the Night Raptor's best fighters with me," Standing-Bear pointed out. "Trust me, that should be enough to take out the shield generator. Only twice that many have taken out Federation outposts already."
The Panthers nodded. They fell silent and faded into the background as Stronger-than-Feathers returned with a dozen others.
["All right,"] Standing-Bear said, setting his datapad down and letting it project the basic map of the Federation base. ["Is everyone's flock ready to move after we get this sorted out?"]
["Yes,"] Stronger-than-Feathers nodded with general agreement from those gathered around them.
["Good,"] he nodded. ["The] Federation [has its supply lines running along this path,"] he explained, indicating the location on the holographic map. ["We'll need seven of the flocks to be involved in the attack on this point, preferably the larger ones. The other seven will attack first, moving to attack the outermost facilities here,"] he explained, indicating the new point. ["Two will attack, five wait to ambush the guards when they chase the first two. When the guards move from the supply lines to back up the ambushed guards, the remaining seven ambush the supply vehicles."] He paused, waiting for any questions or objections.
["Hit and run, turn to ambush."] The elder leader of the Crescent River flock nodded. ["We know this tactic."]
["Good, I was counting on it,"] Standing-Bear nodded approvingly. ["The second attack makes it look like the first one is the bait, so they'll move to defend the supply lines. At that point, I will go with the smaller group to destroy the machines in this building,"] he explained, indicating the place the shield generator would likely be. He had to admit, Bothans weren't common among the Jedi, but Syndol mixed the best parts of both his species and his calling into one very effective intelligence officer.
["After the] shield [is down, my friends will attack in their ship and destroy the base. When things start to explode, make sure you retreat from the base."]
The flock leaders nodded their understanding.
["Who are they?"] Stronger-than-Feathers pointed to the Panthers with her claws folded back politely.
"Kelarn [and] Tarsis," he explained, motioning for the two of them to come forward a bit. ["Two] Jedi [and brothers. This is Stronger-than-Feathers,"] he said, translating the introduction for both his Jedi friends and the Night Raptors.
The pair bowed to her in unison. ["Greetings from the] Jedi. [We come to help."] Kelarn spoke very carefully, just as Nose-in-Danger has taught them.
It earned a bit of surprise, then a pleased sound from several leaders.
["Welcome the aid is] Jedi." Stronger-than-Feathers dipped her head slightly in thanks. ["It is time to fight."] She turned to the other leaders and everyone scattered, gathering their flocks and alerting those who would go with Standing-Bear to go to him.
"Return to the fighter," he told the two Panthers quietly as the Night Raptors prepared to move out. "When the shields are down, give us a minute to get out and then hit the generators hard."
"Yes, Master." The pair bowed to him and disappeared silently, falling back on traditions as the battle neared.
"Okay, this set should hold up a bit better," B'lyn reassured Nose-in-Danger, three sets of robe liners already mostly shredded and sitting in a pile as they tried out the fourth set, made out of a low-grade ballistic cloth.
"I hope so." He murmured with an embarrassed sound and helped maneuver his bipedal but largely horizontal body into the Jedi creations with the assistance of B'lyn, Thelm and Qalmi. Nearby was the Jedi Artisan who had created the destroyed garments and the ones about to face his feathers.
He was starting to worry that they wouldn't find something that would work before they had to meet with the Senate representatives that were so important to impress.
"If it doesn't, there are even tougher materials." The elder Otter assured him easily.
"Master Keela, is there something we could do with some thin ballistic plastic, maybe?" B'lyn suggested, helping Nose-in-Danger to close the robes. "Try moving around in these."
She considered the damage done and the body that had done it before answering. "I believe I have been thinking along the wrong lines. The liner must be cut resistant, not simply tough. These materials are more impact resistant." She shifted her attention to Nose-in-Danger as he cautiously moved in a natural step and arc of arms to check this out. "How is it holding up?"
"Better, Master Keela." He forced the 'M' in the title out with less difficulty than his first day, but it was still a clear effort. "It will fray at the shoulder and hip fairly soon."
"Let me see it." She nodded to B'lyn to help him out of it before it was completely trashed so she could see exactly what needed to be specially reinforced.
B'lyn did so, carefully removing the tough fabric that was already starting to cut on the inside.
"Here, Master," she said, handing it over to the elderly Otter to be examined with a critical eye.
"[Nose-in-Danger], would you please repeat the movements that did this damage?" She said with gentle determination and watched as he complied. It was not the first time she had watched him move, he was beginning to doubt it would be the last.
"Mmmm, I think I know how to make it work now." She nodded firmly and turned for the door. "I will return shortly."
"We probably have it under control now," B'lyn said easily, gathering up the other, less intact remains to be disposed of.
"Explain again why all this needed?" He looked pleadingly at the Foxes who had been silent throughout the fitting.
"The Senate, unfortunately, is influenced by appearances as much as facts," Master Qalmi explained. "Unless there is a clear physical issue, not wearing clothes, particularly at a formal event, is generally considered something done by animals. Unfortunately, the closest we have to an easy way around that is to try and dress you."
Nose-in-Danger sighed deeply and nodded his acceptance of the necessity of this increasingly unpleasant event. "I will look like a shuropia. Who can hunt like this?"
"*Peacock-like bird on Evidran,*" B'lyn explained briefly.
"Most people don't do their own hunting, and certainly not dressed like this," Master Thelm explained. "This is more for occasions when you don't need to move too much."
"I think I will just have to be there to understand." The Night Raptor shook his head, accepting the bizarre behavior as the way things were. He reminded himself again that he had fought to be here and all his kind depended on his performance in these next days.
"Once we're done with the Senate, you won't have to bother," Master Qalmi reassured him, and then chuckled. "I'm sure it will be appreciated by the people in charge of clothing requisitions."
"I will too." He grinned at the Fox. "Feels weird to cover up like that."
"You get used to it, from what I've heard," Qalmi chuckled. "It's more common for most of our species, but for your people it's understandable."
Nose-in-Danger looked up and focused on the door for a moment before it opened for Master Keela. She was carrying a thickly padded under-robe in a plastic white.
"Let's try this one." She handed it to B'lyn to help Nose-in-Danger get in it. "It survived every sharp object in my lab."
"Well, that's a start," B'lyn observed, opening the slightly stiffer flaps and helping to fasten them properly.
"I also changed tactics on the joints. This folding should make movement easier on you and the fabric." She added and watched with a critical eye as it was put on and he began a simple series of movements to test it.
"Better." He nodded sharply. "Easier to move."
"How is it holding up at shoulder and hip?" Master Keela asked politely, eager to find out if she'd have to get really inventive.
"Much better." He nodded and shifted. "It slides, doesn't catch."
"Excellent. Then let us get the robes on and see if the entire package is presentable."
A few more moments, and they had the suitably fine robes put on properly, draped fairly attractively over the Night Raptor's unusually built body.
"I think it works nicely," B'lyn observed.
"That it does, Padawan." Master Keela nodded in agreement. "It gives quite a different first impression."
"Different in a good way," B'lyn pointed out, anticipating Nose-in-Danger's response, directing him towards a mirror. "What do you think?"
"I do look like a shuropia." He muttered, but looked carefully anyway and accepted their judgment that this would help. "So much language lost to this covering."
"Say something in your language," B'lyn suggested. "To make sure I can still understand you."
["Small things okay,"] he said. ["Big things, name, difficult."] He had to exaggerate the movements to get even that much out as clearly as he did. All the nuances and subtle elegance of the language were gone, even with what could be said.
"It is a bit of a problem," she admitted. "But I can make out what you mean to translate it. They won't know how much is lost ... and, really, that there is loss supports that you're speaking a language of your people's."
"And we not meant to wear clothes." He added with a bit of amusement. "Everything ready now?" He looked at the various Jedi, hoping to get to the Senate and start the process.
"Everything's ready now," Master Qalmi nodded. "It's a short trip to the Senate building, we'll be there shortly. We just need a certain Padawan to get her own formal outfit on ...." He trailed off as B'lyn ducked her head and hurried off to change into her formal garb; the longer, darker, more matching robes better suited for addressing the Senatorial council.
"Not much different." Nose-in-Danger commented when she reappeared.
"Not much, but enough in the ways that politicians care about," B'lyn observed. "Just consider yourself lucky you're coming in with Jedi, instead of with somebody from one of the really 'cultured' groups. Some of these people have formal wear that takes three people and most of a day to get into."
Nose-in-Danger shuddered at the idea. "This is quite enough, thank you."
"Agreed." Master Thelm smiled faintly and motioned the others to follow her. "An aircar is ready for us."
They walked out easily, meeting the aircar, the display of Nose-in-Danger's stonework already loaded into the back.
"To the Senate building, Subcommittee chamber 6A," Qalmi said easily, the driver droid nodding and picking up out of the open Temple grounds.
Nose-in-Danger watched in fascination as the buildings speed by and the true size and depth of the world-city came into view again, but there wasn't much time for him to watch it this time. The trip from the Temple to the Senate Building was incredibly short, only requiring the air car because of the large chasms between buildings at the outer-reaches of Coruscant's vertical construction.
After a few minutes, they touched down outside the building in question, the aircar settling on the large 'balcony' meant for it.
Nose-in-Danger followed the Jedi from the vehicle and watched as B'lyn gathered his carefully wrapped creations. He remained careful of his clothes despite the protective layer. It wasn't complete protection to them; his neck was bare, as were his hands. Plenty to do serious damage if he didn't may attention.
They started into the building, and he couldn't help but marvel at the architecture. It made the Temple look small, as B'lyn had said. Countless people and machines practically buzzed around, walking on various levels, using various small vehicles to get around, doing errands and taking care of the paperwork that kept the Republic running.
It was almost painfully active, really.
It was fascinating in the extreme to the Night Raptor. There were more people here than he had ever seen, not even at the greatest of gathers.
Granted, most of them were smaller, but....
He lost his train of thought as he saw a large, clear jar float by, filled with green gas and what looked like a floating brain.
He knew he wasn't supposed to stare, but it was by far the strangest thing he'd ever seen and kept his eyes even as they passed each other and kept going.
"Celegian," B'lyn said quietly as they walked by. "One of the stranger species around here ... he might be with the Committee, they don't usually leave their homeworld."
"Celegian." He repeated carefully with a nod and gave the floating brain a last look before focusing his mind back on what he had to do here.
Fortunately, compared to that, the rest of the people he saw were remarkably normal. Some that looked like walking bugs... some that were like B'lyn, or Qalmi, or the other Councilors... most of them were much more recognizable, really.
As they walked into the chamber they were looking for, he saw somebody who looked distinctly like one of the Federation's leaders he'd seen flying around, looking at the forests before the attacks had started. The grey-skinned, orange-eyed humanoid looked at him with an expression he really couldn't interpret.
He glared right back, only the presence of the Jedi he was with keeping the Neimoidian from a very messy death right then and there.
["That their leader-kind."] He hissed to B'lyn.
"He's not one of the people in charge of what they're doing there," she replied quietly and quickly.
Still, the Neimoidian was part of the Federation ... and would no doubt fight hardest to keep them from recognizing the Night Raptors. It was one of the greatest difficulties in bringing anyone before the Sentience Subcommittee. The Trade Federation did whatever it had to to keep its seat and were inevitably the most difficult thing to deal with.
Sometimes it was amazing anything was recognized as sentient anymore.
Fortunately, the Chandrilan senator, a white-furred Mouse, was neutral at worst, and the Coruscani and Alderaanian senators were both friendly ... given the mix, it was even odds at worst, barring something very unexpected happening.
Given her line of work, and the forces at play, that was almost expected.
It was just a question of what form the surprise came in, and when.
Her attention was quickly drawn to the room they stepped into; the Jedi Masters in front, her next to Nose-in-Danger behind them. She was very grateful for two decades of training at hiding her reactions. This wasn't a time to be anything less than a perfect Jedi.
"I understand that there is a question regarding the sentience of a species native to the planet of Evidran 3?" The silver-furred Fox from Alderaan asked, making sure that everybody was on the same page with what they'd found so far.
"Yes, Senator Vestran." Master Thelm bowed to the four-member committee. "The race calls themselves Ka-Karur, or Night Raptors. This is Nose-in-Danger." She motioned to him.
"I don't see why we are having this meeting," the Neimoidian said dismissively. "The Trade Federation has surveyed the planet thoroughly; there are no structures, no signs of civilization. The 'Night Raptors' don't wear clothes, don't use tools. There is no evidence to support this ridiculous claim."
"Given they did the survey and you are making the claim, that is about all the reason I need to keep an open mind here." Senator Vestran retorted in a perfectly civil tone.
"You know the rules. If a claim is made, it must be judged on the facts." Senator Odona of Chandrila reminded him.
"Proceed, Master Thelm." Senator Vestran nodded to her.
"Thank you, Senator Vestran," the Vixen said with a polite nod. "The mistake made by the Federation survey teams is an understandable one; as Representative Tomor said, the Raptors are very primitive, and a nomadic people. However, as has been previously established, there are other signs of sentience. One of our Jedi, Master Standing-Bear, is currently on Evidran 3, attempting to establish peaceful relations between the Night Raptors and the Republic. One of his talents is for recognizing and understanding other languages, including the Night Raptor's. Thanks to his efforts, and those of his Padawan, Nose-in-Danger is capable of understanding Basic."
Thelm had to admit to some level of satisfaction at the uneasy expression on Tomor's face; the Neimoidian knew that he had just called one of the Night Raptors and animal, and that it knew it.
She couldn't miss the amusement Nose-in-Danger felt at it either as he stepped forward to take center stage for the majority of the meeting. The young Night Raptor had a definite taste for having others off balance, and likely was fairly good at taking advantage of it.
"I can also speak your Basic." He began simply, his sharp eyes briefly meeting each of the four in turn even as his body remained neutral and his claws folded back in non-aggression. "I have brought two examples of the art of my people that I created here and several examples of more useful items I know how to put together."
"I assume they are the objects there?" A red-furred Wolf asked, indicating the covered examples.
"They are, Senator Fenar," Master Qalmi nodded. "Padawan B'lyn can bring them over for inspection, if you wish."
"Please," the Corellian nodded and the young Twi'lek moved to take the displays over where they were examined in detail with a fair amount of thoughtful and surprised sounds.
"How long did it take to make these?" Senator Shadon Tello of Coruscant leaned forward, locking dark blue avian eyes with the Night Raptors' black ones, her soft golden-brown feathers a marked contrast with his obsidian ones.
"Four days for the large one, several hours for the smaller one, Senator." Nose-in-Danger dipped his head.
"He must have had help." Representative Tomor snapped.
"Only in purchasing the raw, uncut crystals and supplying the dyes," Master Qalmi said smoothly. "If the Committee wishes, we anticipated such doubts, and recorded the process."
"I did warn you she'd done this before." Senator Tello clicked in real amusement and relaxed back, her feathers fluffing in amusement.
"We will view that once the testimony has been taken." Senator Vestran stopped any idea of a live viewing of the footage. He knew the Jedi would be quite willing to stand there, as serine and still as always, for the very long day it would require and be ready to pick up at the word they left off at. "Do you have any other recordings to enter into evidence?"
"Not of that variety," Master Qalmi shook her head fractionally.
"Then proceed with your presentation." The Silver Fox nodded his head to them.
"Nose-in-Danger can present an oral history of his people, culture and five hundred and sixteen generations of his maternal genealogy." Master Qalmi told them. "Padawan B'lyn is able to provide testimony regarding life with one of their flocks, albeit for a brief time."
"Then I believe we will start with his linage," Senator Fenar said easily.
Nose-in-Danger dipped his head slightly, closed his eyes to focus on his task and took a deep breath that made an audible rustle of tough fabric against obsidian feathers.
"I am Nose-in-Danger of the Creeping Wind, hatchling of Shimmer-of-Day, who is the daughter of Stronger-than-Feathers, the first hatched of Kills-at-Distance, daughter of Tends-the-Wounded," he began in a low, almost singsong voice as they all settled in for a long speech.
Standing-Bear could tell that his team of ten warriors was getting antsy; they'd been listening to the sound of battle for almost ten minutes now, watching guards run back and forth, vehicles moving to the assorted attack points.
They wanted to get involved, wanted to get some action. It had taken a few terse commands from Kills-the-Sun to keep them from breaking cover.
Still, the Jedi knew that if they didn't move soon, their pack-hunter's discipline wouldn't be enough to overcome their drive to get involved in the fighting and assist their kin and flock-mates.
Fortunately, all that was left outside of the shield facility now was a pair of automated turrets. The Jedi pulled out his collapsed bow, extending it and cautiously rising above the bushes as he drew a pair of energy-arrows. He took careful aim, and fired on first one of the turrets, then the other, in the space of time it took for the Night Raptors to draw a single breath for each shot. The turrets tried to fire on the projectiles, but they were moving too fast - two small explosions announced their destruction.
["Move!"] He said quickly, bolting from cover for the building, stowing his bow and drawling his lightsaber as his strike force rushed forward with him. They wouldn't have much time before somebody realized what was really going on now.
It took a fair amount of his own self-discipline to not allow the Night Raptor's excitement and bloodlust from rolling over his more centered approach to battle. He was grateful they didn't have far to go, and was very privately grateful that he didn't actually have to kill in this battle. The Night Raptors already knew that droids and metal was hard on their claws and feathers, so they left them to the Jedi whenever they had something softer to go after.
It was a much messier, bloodier kind of battle, but it was as fast as a lightsaber strike in ending a life.
The door took some time. Knight Syndol's program to hack the security codes taking about half the time a lightsaber would have to get through the heavy blast doors. On the other side, the battle started, mercenaries and droids quickly being reduced to scraps, just as he'd imagined the situation working out. He wasted no time carving his way through every droid and machine he saw, leaving sparking cables and computers in his wake.
He'd nearly forgotten that Blood-Feathers was armed with the Morgukai spear when he heard it cut through battle droids to one side of him while he dealt with the small army in front. It was only a moment before the Night Raptor was at his side, displaying a talent for pure destruction that was as unsettling as it was needed.
A few minutes later, and they had reached the shield core, humming loudly, components working hard as the device glowed bright blue.
["Blood-Feathers - destroy that console!"] Standing-Bear told him, indicating the control panel as he moved towards the power supply, not wanting to put any of the Raptors at risk when he carved through the energized box.
He was mildly gratified that his order was not questioned, not even in the privacy of the Night Raptor's mind, as Blood-Feathers obeyed and rushed for the computer controls.
The Morgukai spear hummed and crackled as it was driven into the electronics and Blood-Feathers ripped it out sideways, doing as much damage as possible with a single strike.
The hum of the shield generator changed pitch as it started to malfunction, then stopped as Standing-Bear hacked through the generator with all the strength he could bring to bear behind his lightsaber strike.
["Run, now!"] He shouted, turning to lead the Raptors out as the other generators started to overheat, getting ready to explode.
Not a word was said as they all focused their breath and energy on escaping before things got too hot.
Standing-Bear caught that Flies-in-Death had been injured rather badly in the battle, but two of the others helped her keep up despite a broken leg and bloody side.
It wouldn't be fast enough though, not before the primary explosion hit.
He fell back, behind the wounded Night-Raptor, and lashed out with his lightsaber, hacking a panel of the wall free and twisting it to the side to serve as a blast shield just before the first deafening roar hit them, followed shortly by a wave of heat that raised blisters on the Jedi's hands where he supported the metal panel. He bit his lip as the blast was deflected up and away from them, following the path of least resistance while Flies-in-Death and the others continued out of the main entrance.
He turned around to escape himself and nearly gasped in surprise as Kills-the-Sun and Blood-Feathers fell in at his sides without a word. They didn't need to to make their intent known.
He was flock. They wouldn't leave him here alone while he still breathed.
They got out just in time to hear the secondary explosion rip through the shield generator, giving them just enough time to get clear before his one-minute delay was up, a concussion missile whistling through the air and blowing up one of the larger buildings of the base, the twins destroying the main generators and streaking off through the sky to deal with the fighters chasing them, leaving the Night Raptors to swarm in to finish mopping up on the ground as all the droids, land-vehicles, and automatic defenses shut down.
["Go with Flies-in-Death."] Kills-the-Sun ordered evenly, motioning to the injured Night Raptor that was being helped off the field of battle and to the healers not far away. ["We fight more."]
Normally, he would have argued to join them, but the blisters on his palms and fingers were much pain just now for him to do that. He'd heal them later, once he was sure Flies-in-Death would be all right.
For now, he followed the limping warrior away, back towards their rendezvous point, hoping that the Federation would find this attack to be a big enough setback they'd up and leave.
Tends-the-Wounded of the Creeping Wind flock all but pounced on Standing-Bear when he got to the healers camp, where no less than eight went by the same name.
["What you do this time?"] She chastised him lightly even as she caught one wrist and turned his palm up to be slathered in a light green salve that took the pain away almost instantly.
["Flies-in-Death was injured, wouldn't have made it out in time even with help,"] he said, half-shrugging as he took advantage of the newly-lessened distraction of the pain to heal some of the deeper tissue damage. Fortunately, there wasn't much. ["I managed to get something in the way of the blast, but my hands were still on it when the fire hit."]
She looked over at the injured Night Raptor and nodded at the crystals being used to set her leg. ["She will be fine. Not hunt for some time, though. Legs heal slow."]
["My friends may be able to help,"] he offered. ["Like we tried to do with White-Feather."]
["After the battle."] She insisted firmly. ["You heal before you help others."] She added even more seriously.
["All right,"] he acquiesced, knowing better by now than to argue with a healer.
Besides, peeling the dead skin off once he was done healing his hands was going to be painful enough without having Tends-the-Wounded pissed at him already.
["Good."] She nodded. ["Try not to use your hands until they are healed."] She instructed before leaving to tend to the multitude of injured that were starting to come in from the battle that was all but over.
"*What happened?*" The twin's minds reached out to him even before they came in for a landing, responding to the pain they felt from the other Jedi.
"*Remember what your Masters told you about Jedi Masters not doing stupid things trying to be brave?*" Standing-Bear asked a little ruefully, earning a silent snicker from the pair.
"*Let us guess; someone was injured and you put yourself between them and harm's way.*"
"*That is so Jedi, Master.*" Kelarn grinned.
"*Just glad B'lyn wasn't there to see,*" Standing-Bear chuckled mentally. "*How far out are you?*"
"*Be down in a few minutes.*" Tarsis supplied. "*We can see about healing your wounds then.*"
"*Bring any extra supplies you have too,*" Standing-Bear told them. "*Looks like they'll be useful.*"
"*Understood, Master.*" Kelarn replied easily.
"*I'll be resting until you get here then,*" Standing-Bear told them, leaning back to meditate until the two Panthers arrived.
He knew the battle was over, the Trade Federation thoroughly trounced, and this was the last 'easy' battle anyone on this world would have. When this news got back, there would be hundreds of thousands of troops and drop ships to put them down anywhere they were needed.
It would only get worse as each base was raised in turn by these small armies and the black ops like teams he knew were being formed in his absence. These people were hunters, ambushers, and while not into suicide tactics, they were confident that they could wipe out the Trade Federation on their world once they'd been taught what to hit and how to make it go boom.
And, while there hadn't been any other choice, he'd just showed them that it could be done.
If things didn't hurry up on Coruscant, he wasn't sure how much would be left for them to save.
"*Is it really that bad?*" Kelarn asked silently as the pair appeared nearby, loaded down with medical supplies.
"The Jedi just attacked and destroyed a Trade Federation outpost with the aid of the local animals," Standing-Bear pointed out, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. It wasn't becoming of a Jedi Master, even a young one like himself. "It's not going to look good, and it will probably bring the Federation out to try and smash the resistance hard and fast."
"Do you think it might be worth trying to evacuate a viable population so they still exist when the Senate gets around to making judgment?" Knight Tarsis asked uncertainly. These didn't seem like the kind to take to the concept well, but one never knew.
"They'd die before they left," Standing-Bear said, shaking his head grimly. "Besides, where would we move them? Introducing a viable population of top-line, sentient predators into any world is irresponsible at best. Mantessa could support them, but it would still wreak havoc on the ecology to have a new large predator introduced."
"It's less irresponsible than allowing a sentient race become extinct." Kelarn shook his head. "But if they won't leave, there is nothing to be done but stopping the TF."
"Let's see to those hands before I have to explain this to your Padawan and her new friend." Tarsis directed the conversation away from the dangerous ground of challenging a Master's decisions.
"Blistered, but not much lower than the first few layers of skin," Standing-Bear said, turning his hands up for the Panther's inspection. "I've done the preliminary healing work, I'd appreciate it if one of you could make sure there's nothing more severe necessary before I go on to the next step."
"Do the healers here know about our medical supplies?" Kelarn asked, looking at the overworked local healers while his twin focused on Standing-Bear's hands.
"I wasn't sure what you had available," Standing-Bear admitted. "I've offered our help to her," he explained, indicating Tends-the-Wounded with a nod. "In a few minutes, I'll offer again, and explain what we can offer."
"It looks like a good start." Tarsis nodded. "The salve is something local?"
"It is," the Jedi nodded. "Effective pain killer, might be based on something similar to aloe based on what I can see."
"Are you up for playing interpreter for us, so we can get some of these supplies to the injured?" Tarsis asked very seriously.
"I'd be helping you heal them myself if I was better at it and Tends-the-Wounded wasn't likely to growl at me if I did," Standing-Bear chuckled slightly and stood up carefully under the scrutiny of two Knights that were quite unwilling to return him in anything less than good shape to his Padawan.
"You'd probably force us to take drastic action if you could." Kelarn smirked slightly. "You're too dedicated by half for your own good."
"I am Jedi," the older Master pointed out with a slight chuckle. "I'll probably get the damaged skin off in a few hours, but for now I can handle translating for you," he said as he led them towards the overworked healers.
["What pains?"] Tends-the-Wounded of the Creeping Wind looked up at them from where she was setting a shattered arm with ribbons of long plant leaves and straight rods of crystal.
["They're here to help,"] Standing-Bear explained. ["We have supplies from the ship."]
She glared at the Panthers for a long, cold moment, then nodded, all without hampering her treatment of the Night Raptor in her care. ["What are they good at?"]
["Good at healing,"] Standing-Bear answered honestly. It wasn't their best skill, but they were certainly better than he was.
["What kind of healing?"] She sounded a bit exasperated.
Standing-Bear paused for a moment, trying to think of how to explain general first aid.
["Bleeding, broken bones, deep wounds and flesh wounds - most different types."]
She blinked at the three of them, and then nodded to herself as she did a final inspection on the broken arm and stood. ["Help anywhere you can."] She told them, then squawked and signaled to the others healers to accept them.
To his credit, Representative Tomor hadn't fallen asleep during the several hours Nose-in-Danger spent reciting his genealogy and species history, in both Basic and his own language, translated by Padawan B'lyn.
A part of his mind had been kept occupied reviewing the last month's revenue reports, but he hadn't fallen asleep. The remaining Senators on the Committee, by contrast, had been much more interested in the history they'd been presented with ... something he didn't think boded particularly well for the Federation.
"Is there anything more?" He asked as he heard Nose-in-Danger finally wind down without picking back up again.
"Yes," Senator Vestran of Alderaan spoke up before anyone else could. "Why do you consider 'Mother-of-All' to be the first Night Raptor?"
"She was ... different. The first to desire a name. The first to ask questions with no answers." Nose-in-Danger answered carefully, translating in his head as he went. "The first to feel attachment to her hatchlings and give them names. She recognized that some of her hatchlings were smart like her, rather than smart like most."
"It makes sense," the Fox nodded. "So this works out to roughly ... five hundred generations of Night Raptors again?" He asked.
"Yes, Senator Vestran." Nose-in-Danger nodded.
"Does the race Mother-of-All hatched to still exist?" Senator Amila Roth of Camaas asked curiously as she did a bit of math in her head and put the first Night Raptor at less than 10,000 years ago.
"Yes, Senator Roth." He dipped his head slightly. "I have not met one, but several older members of my flock have. They look like us, but they do not act like us. Very dangerous creatures. Very territorial."
"How common are they, compared to your people?" Senator Vestran asked.
"I do not know. We do not share territory." He shook his head slightly.
"So how are we to know that these 'Night Raptors' are not a fluke, rather than a real species?" Representative Tomor demanded of the other Committee members. "Taking its word for it?"
"I am NOT an IT." Nose-in-Danger suddenly snarled with several more mutterings in his own language that B'lyn thought best to leave untranslated. His posture shifting from polite to aggressive in a heartbeat as he took a step forward and his body tensed for an attack. "Apologize. NOW."
He could see and smell the fear in the Neimoidian's response, turning to face him, stammering as B'lyn reached out to put a hand on Nose-in-Danger's shoulder to try and calm him down.
"I meant no offense," the Neimoidian said, resorting to the second oldest skill of any long-lived member of his species - lying through his teeth to survive.
It seemed enough though, and Nose-in-Danger fluffed his feathers to shake off the aggression before settling back into his previous place.
"Why don't we take a look at the various objects you created then," he said easily, eager to change the subject to something less potentially violent. "Along with the explanation of what, if anything, they are supposed to mean?"
"Yes, Senator." Nose-in-Danger dipped his head. "Which first?"
"Let's start with the larger display; I confess to being more curious about what it represents," the Fox said, his Alderaanian fascination with the arts showing through.
"The Jedi Temple." Nose-in-Danger answered easily with more than a bit of pride. "Its physical form, the scent and energy patterns around it. It is how I perceive it, with all my senses."
"Fascinating," Senator Roth of Camaas mused, bright yellow eyes examining the display and its swirled colors. "Could you explain your choices in the coloration? Clearly they are not intended literally, based on what I remember of the Temple's layout from my visits."
That gave him pause. He had known the question would be coming, but it was still a difficult one to find the words for.
"They are literal." He said hesitantly before he stepped forward to trace his claw along the various paths. "I see beyond your visual range. I see things, patterns of flow and energy, that do not seem common here. This is what I saw as we came in. Quite stylized and submitted to the whims of the crystal, but close.
"Is this common to your people?" The Caamasi asked.
"Yes, Senator." He nodded slightly.
"Are you willing to submit to a physical examination, to help us establish the baselines of your species' physical capabilities and conditioning?"
No one missed that this made him uncomfortable, but he nodded.
"B'lyn stays with me." He put a condition on it even as he agreed.
"This is acceptable," the Caamasi nodded easily. "Why don't we move on to the next piece?"
Nose-in-Danger nodded. "I saw a creature at the Jedi Temple. It was pretty. Those crystals reminded me of it. It ... is not very real looking. It is pretty."
"An Alderaanian peacock?" Senator Vestran asked, inspecting the hand-sized item.
"I believe so," Master Qalmi nodded, bringing up a display of the bird in question from his datapad. "This, Nose-in-Danger?"
"Yes," he nodded quickly.
"Stylized, but a good interpretation," the Fox mused. "I'm not much of a carver myself, of course, but it is recognizable when you know the intent."
"Thank you, Senator." Nose-in-Danger dipped his head politely.
"Is there anything else regarding this piece you would like to explain?" He asked politely.
"No, Senator." He shook his head a bit. "The crystals determine their final form. Most do not have anything in them. Some can be formed so most can see what is inside."
"Very well," he nodded. "I believe we can move on to...." They were interrupted by the sound of a datapad beeping with an urgent message. Tomor tapped a few buttons on his with long fingers, reading the message with a grave expression that was becoming increasingly agitated.
"The Jedi have attacked and destroyed our primary facility on Evidran Three," he said, glaring at the two Masters. "All personnel on the site have been killed and the facilities destroyed by a Jedi fighter!"
"Jedi assistance was requested after three hatching grounds and the young there were killed by the Trade Federation." Nose-in-Danger said simply, though his rage at the events was unmistakable and the tremor in his tone a warning of just how fragile his self-control really was. "They have attacked our hunters, killed our young, taken our hunting territory, destroyed our hatching grounds. They ignore every rule of war there is. Jedi help was needed to survive." His humiliation at the need colored the final words.
"This does not justify the Jedi making an attack against a Republic ally," Tomor insisted, clearly intent on deflecting the issue to the one he still had a chance of winning. "I insist on an investigation into this matter!"
"Worst timing possible," Master Thelm muttered to herself quietly. Tomor was right, he did have the right to request the investigation he was asking for.
And there was little they could do to really stop it, at least from slowing them down for a few days.
"This is a serious allegation," Senator Odona agreed, the white-furred Mouse's expression grim. "Even with a request for aid, that would not require the wholesale destruction of a base and its occupants."
"Did you hear a word I said?" Nose-in-Danger turned his full attention on the Mouse. "They destroyed hatching grounds. Slaughtered un-hatched babies! What people do that?" What else would stop their attacks but to end their presence in our lands?" He demanded heatedly, questioning the sentient status of the Neimoidian outright.
"We understand your outrage, Nose-in-Danger," Senator Roth reassured him. "However, as I am sure either Jedi would agree, there are other means to defend your people that don't involve wholesale slaughter. Particularly given certain agreements the Jedi and Senate have with each other."
"I assure you, Senators, that what was done on Evidran Three was done because the Jedi there felt they had no other choice, and without the prior consultation of the Council," Master Thelm said smoothly. "There will be an investigation into the matter, but it would be a mistake to allow this to cloud the issue at -"
"If the Jedi have taken it upon themselves to begin attacking the Republic's allies indiscriminately, with no concern for civilian personnel, I can think of no better reason to bring the issue before the entire Senate," Tomor interrupted, back into his element. "At least the mercenaries employed by the Trade Federation believed they were defending themselves against rampaging beasts, whether they believed correctly or otherwise. Your people have no such excuse!"
"With only three Jedi there, I doubt that they did much killing." Nose-in-Danger snorted. "The attack would have happened without them. The flocks were already gathering for this when we came here, before Jedi were asked for help. You declared the war. I will not allow you to sidetrack the question of my intelligence over what you brought on yourself. Investigate if you want. Interrupting this process for an unrelated one is not acceptable."
Unfortunately, what he was saying seemed to be largely missed by the now-arguing Senator.
A low growl and flash of pure desperation warned all three Jedi that Nose-in-Danger was fed up. It was just enough for B'lyn to put a hand on his cheek.
"We can't do anything more now," she said apologetically, keenly aware of just how close her hand was to his teeth and feathers but aware that nothing short of such a direct move would stop the lunge he was tensed for. "We need to give the Masters some time to sort this out... it shouldn't take long, but Tomor knows how to work the system as well as any of us."
["He doesn't deserve to exist."] The Night Raptor muttered mostly to himself. "What now?" He looked at her with reluctant acceptance.
B'lyn, frankly, wasn't in the mood to make a philosophical argument that she didn't agree with, so she just turned to the Fox next to her for his guidance.
"We return to the Temple, continue to work with them once things have calmed down more," Qalmi said softly, guiding the two of them out. "We'll take care of this, my friend."
"Thank you." He nodded to him, trying to calm down and focus on something besides the argument going on behind them that he so much wanted to interrupt and scare them into focusing on what they needed to.
B'lyn worked on formulating a plan to relax her charge the entire trip back to the Temple. She started with the tropical wonder of the Illiquar Garden, turning him loose to chase the butterflies and small flutterbirds until he wore himself out and warmed up from the relatively cool Coruscanti weather. She could tell from the first rush into the dense foliage that he'd be here for hours and grateful for every minute she had given him.
That reaction gave her plenty of time to set up everything for him in his quarters; the new bed filled with fine, soft sand, a traditional bed for her in the larger of the two bedrooms so they could sleep together, crystal polishing sand and cloth, fragrant oils and a variety of other supplies that Master Qalmi was invaluable in acquiring. None were expensive or that unusual to have in the Temple, but many of the herbs, extracts and oils she hadn't even heard of until he had suggested them as good for relaxing warm-blooded reptilian-avian people like the Night Raptor and instructions on how to put them to best use.
She wasn't about to question the Order's primary Loremaster and was grateful for the assistance and advice. She was grateful too for the huge shower that took only a moment and press of a button to convert into a deep pool with a showerhead well above. It was an arrangement, bathing in the hot rain while soaking in a hot spring that she had inadvertently picked up from his mind when he was thinking wistfully of things back home. It was a thought of such comfort and delight that she'd stored it away for use later.
This may not be home, but she could arrange for some of the pleasures of home for him and took a bit of private pleasure in it.
With that arranged, she went to cook up a meal for the two of them to share when he was ready. It should be done at just about the right time.
It was heavy in meat, of course, with a variety of fruits and vegetables, both cooked and raw, to go with it and the selection of other edibles such as cheese and breads to tantalize his taste buds and indulge his curiosity. He should rest very well tonight between it all, something he'd need to face the examinations tomorrow.
She was sure they wouldn't be easy, and he had no idea what he was in for.
When it was done, she set the table, and then started back out to the gardens. He should have had enough time to rest up and relax there by now.
It gave her a little time to muse, and wonder about how her Master was doing on Evidran Three. All she could tell from their bond was that he was alive and not badly injured. It was small comfort, but it was a comfort.
She just hoped it was all going better there than it was here. A Trade Federation facility wiped out... it couldn't have been easy, but with it done and him not badly injured, it meant it couldn't be going too badly. She knew her Master wouldn't have gotten out uninjured if it had. He cared too much for those around him to have done that.
The Illiquar Garden exploded heat and moisture and life onto her senses as soon as the door opened, giving her a brief reminder of both the terror and friendliness of Evidran as she began the search for her charge.
She took the occasional moment to drink it in as she hunted, tracing the sound of him splashing about occasionally through the facility, staying close to the waterways. It wasn't a long hunt. Like the last time, he wasn't trying to hide in the least.
"Hi!" He lifted his head from a pond where he was splashing on her approach.
"Hi," she smiled, kneeling by the edge of the pool. "Ready for dinner and a bath?"
"Yes." He grinned at her, his excitement reverberating in the Force between them as he leaped to solid ground and shook himself out, sending droplets of water flying everywhere.
She ducked and giggled as the water flew over her head, sprinkling the leaves around them.
"You're certainly in a better mood now," she smiled as she stood up again.
"Warm again. Lots of things to chase." He pranced in place before following her out into the cooler halls of the Temple.
"Well, you'll be able to keep warm in our quarters again. Oh, and we got a more comfortable bed in place for you," she added. "Sand filled."
"Thank you," he rumbled, very pleased with the idea of having a natural place to sleep again. "Eat soon?"
"Just as soon as we're back," she smiled as they climbed into the lift. "I made sure dinner would be ready for us right away, figured you'd want to eat after that meeting with the Senate."
"Yes," he nodded and managed to relax into the lift's movement this time. "Run was good too."
"That's good to know," she smiled, leading them back to the warmer room, opening the door to let out the heady, pleasant smells of dinner. "So you ought to be in great shape again after tonight."
"Yes," he rumbled in anticipation of the mouth-watering tastes the smells promised. "Smells good." He added as the door closed and he hurried to the table where the feast was laid out. He still remembered his manners from home and waited for her to sit and begin eating.
She did so, smiling across the table at him.
"I hope the bread and everything else suits your system," she said. "I can cut some of it for you, if you'd rather not do it yourself."
"Only one way to find out." He made the effort to remember to use the utensils, something he was learning to appreciate the use of to extend the taste-fest that was her cooking. "What is bread?"
"Dough made out of ground grains and other ingredients, baked until it's cooked through," she explained, cutting a slice for herself and one for Nose-in-Danger, buttering them both before offering him one that was taken with his typical lack of fear of the new.
The entire piece disappeared into his mouth, a bite-sized portion for the predator, and was crunched and examined by his tongue before he swallowed it.
"I like." Nose-in-Danger decided, watching curiously as B'lyn scooped some of the meat and vegetable mix onto her slice to eat.
"Good to know," she smiled, using the bread in lieu of utensils for some of it. "Unfortunately, I think I'd have to make a loaf about two, three times this size for it to be your size," she chuckled even as she cut another slice for him and offered it unbuttered.
He clicked in amusement and carefully buttered the bread like she had, then used it and his fork to scoop some of the meat and vegetable on top of half of it and bit half the slice off in the side of his mouth to check out the new flavor mix.
"Good?" She asked him, fairly sure he'd approve.
"Yes," he nodded and happily dug into the rest of the meal the same way, delighted by this new set of tastes and textures.
It didn't take too long for them to finish dinner like that. B'lyn gathered the dishes and took them to be cleaned.
"Would you like to share a bath?" She offered, once that was done, and felt as much as saw him perk up even more.
"I would like to." He clicked in delight and stepped forward to nuzzle her with his muzzle.
"I'll meet you in the bathroom then," she said easily. "I just have to collect the polishing sand I picked up earlier."
He crooned in definite anticipation and made short work of the distance to the lavish bathroom. One look at the deep pool of a bathtub and he was wet and up to his small crest with a humming delight.
B'lyn was back a few minutes later, smiling as she saw him relaxing, the small showerhead raining down over the deep pool. She undressed, then slipped in with him, her lekku twitching with amusement as she rested the pouch of polishing sand on the edge.
"This a little more comfortable?" She asked him when he lifted his head above the water, his dark eyes glittering in delight.
"Yes. Very much." He was nearly shivering in excitement when he moved close to her and picked up the soap and cloth he'd seen her use to clean herself. "["Delightful."]
"Glad you approve," she smiled. "So, want me to polish your feathers first, or you want to help me wash up first instead?"
"You should be groomed first, B'lyn." He said seriously and mimicked the actions she'd used to lather the soap with the cloth. "You are leader between us."
"All right," she consented, putting the sand back up on the edge and moving so he could wash her. "Though I'd say we're more equals, myself."
"These are your people, I am a visitor." He struggled to explain in her language and went to work very gently on the smooth skin of her head and lekku. "A visitor should respect their host as leaders. I would be a good guest, as you were with my flock."
"Understood, and thank you," she nodded slightly, careful to control her reactions to his touching her, knowing it was entirely social. That knowledge was reinforced by his presence in the Force. She could feel and know without a doubt that he had no sexual interest in her at all. "We tend to think of rank differently here is all."
"How?" He asked, an open question for her to give as little or as much information as she wished.
"It depends on your social group, really," she admitted. "Sometimes rank hardly matters, other times it's very important. Usually, among friends, it doesn't matter much. The Jedi tend to make a big deal of rank when in official functions, or formal meetings, but when push comes to shove a Padawan unofficially outranks a Master when her skills are better honed and more important to a situation. Not that that happens too often," she added with a chuckle.
"Good leaders defer to those who know more about something." He nodded in understanding as he worked towards the light violet tip of a lekku.
"Usually," she nodded. "Not with every species though. Some of them, even if you know what you're doing better, if you step out of line or do something different, you might as well just pack up and leave. Very strange people."
"Not good for survival." He said simply and went to work on her other lekku, his touch very gentle despite being a walking bundle of blades.
"They'd already conquered everything dangerous on their planet," she mused. "Thought everything was perfect the way it was. Can't imagine life like that, myself, intensely stifling. You're good at this," she said approvingly.
"Thank you." He clicked, the warmth of his reaction to the praise flowing over her in the silence the followed while he rinsed her head off and went to work on her shoulders, his touch light and massaging.
"Mmm ... thank you," she said, relaxing a bit finally after the long meeting with the Senate. "Guess I was more wound up than I thought."
"Not surprised. It was very long, very tense." He sort of chuckled and moved out along one of her arms.
"More for you," she pointed out even as she felt his intense curiosity at her complete lack of protective covering. "You have quite a family history behind you."
"All Ka-Karur do." He pointed out easily and nuzzled her cheek. "You do not know your parents from the beginning?"
"Only back to the last Great Walk, and that's not far back," she admitted. "Nothing official, but I think that's why I came to the Jedi. Not that unusual though, the Jedi don't usually encourage people to get too close to their families, especially not if they're powerful. It can be a conflict."
"Oh." He murmured, at a loss to say anything about that concept.
"It can be a little hard to understand," she nodded slightly. "But imagine that you had sworn to help a flock other than your own, that you were bound to? And then that you had to choose between doing what was best for the flock you had sworn to help, or the one you were born to. You might not be able to make the best choice in that case, which is why most Jedi are kept separate from their families."
"It is complicated out here." He said quietly while he paid special attention to cleaning her hands and fingers.
"It is," she agreed as he finished up. "I should probably handle the rest," she added apologetically, taking the cloth and making short work of cleaning up where it could be awkward to have him doing the work normally.
"Have you ever wished it wasn't?" He asked quietly, watching her carefully.
"I think everybody wishes it wasn't so complicated sometimes," she mused, thinking it over. "I have, but it can be worth it too."
"You like helping others." He only half guessed. "Complicated or not. It is what you know."
"It is," she admitted. "It's pretty well ingrained into any Jedi by the time you get to field work. We can't always help, but we do our best."
"That is why your Master stayed behind, while you are here with me." He nodded, understanding in his own way. "It is how you can each help the most."
"Exactly," she nodded, rinsing off. "Neither of us really likes it, but it's the best choice we had. Okay, your turn?"
He nodded and moved into the huge tub to stand in front of her, excited for the attention he didn't receive all that often.
She picked up the polishing sand from the edge, taking a handful of it and starting to scrub down his feathers carefully, watching her hands as she buffed them down. She realized quickly that a truly good polishing would take hours to work each of the thousands of feathers to perfection. While it was something he would likely not even blink at standing still for, she wasn't sure she wanted to stay awake that long.
Still, she knew that she could handle a less-thorough polishing, as much as a part of her was already reciting lessons about not starting a job you couldn't finish properly. Besides, she had other options available to her. It wasn't that late, after all.
"After I finish this, you mind if I try one of the polishing tools we have here?"
"I do not mind." He looked over his shoulder at her, curious to see what she had in mind.
"I'll still finish this first," she told him, smiling as she worked on giving him at least one thorough working over. The way it felt to be around him while she paid this kind of attention to him was wonderful. Such acceptance didn't seem to be something he got often, and it was definitely something he recognized the value of.
She had a feeling that he wasn't as at ease with being 'the curious one' as he let on, sometimes. Still, while he was here, she could help with that.
Nose-in-Danger looked out the window of the aircar as it sped through the government sector near the Jedi Temple, grateful he didn't have to wear his robes this time. The sheer difference of this place compared to his home still fascinated him to no end, though he did retreat to the various gardens regularly to feel normal in something close to his natural environment.
This time, rather than a regular aircab, it was a droid-piloted vehicle provided by the Senate.
Which meant it didn't mind the shredded upholstery as his passenger shifted.
"Master Thelm says that they should be able to sort everything out by tomorrow, maybe the next day," B'lyn said, interrupting Nose-in-Danger's attention to the surroundings as she put her datapad away. "So getting you in for this examination will be a show of good faith, if nothing else."
"Get it over with too." He nodded absently, watching the buildings and other vehicles as they moved. "Doesn't sound ... pleasant."
"It's certainly not enjoyable," B'lyn agreed. "Not painful, but not something you want to do more often than you have to. It should be a droid though, not a person."
"Less likely to get hurt by mistake." He nodded seriously. "Flesh gets cut so easily by feathers."
"Especially if you're not ready for what's about to happen," B'lyn nodded. "Your first physical can be ... interesting. Even if it's a Jedi giving it to you. A droid ... yeah."
"Why not a Jedi?" He looked at her curiously.
"Droids tend to have more reliable readings and sensors," she explained easily. "Jedi have the same instruments, but a droid can handle some calculations internally that get better species-wide readings and ranges."
He nodded slightly, only half understanding the section past 'more reliable' and accepting it as they slowed and the aircar settled down in front of a non-descript rectangular building many stories high.
They climbed out, B'lyn checking her datapad to make sure she was looking for the right room as they started through the halls.
"This should only take a few hours," she promised him. "If that."
"That is a long time." He commented with a murmur and followed her, fluffing his obsidian feathers after the ride in the aircar.
"They used to take longer," she said apologetically, leading the way to the lift they needed. "Now a lot of it can be done by scanners."
He nodded again and kept his senses open as they passed through largely deserted halls and rode the lift to the fifth floor and to one of the many non-descript doors.
"This should be the office," B'lyn said after checking some characters on the panel next to it. She opened the door, leading Nose-in-Danger into a chemical-smelling room with a blue metallic figure inside.
He wrinkled his nose. "Not smell healthy." He murmured uneasily.
"It's just the smell of some of the things used to keep things clean," B'lyn explained. "Different, not unhealthy."
"Welcome," the droid's mechanical voice said clearly.
"Hello," Nose-in-Danger replied on reflex, not sure how he was supposed to treat a 'droid' relative to a person.
"You are [Nose-in-Danger]?" The droid asked, its pronunciation of the Raptor's name surprisingly accurate, almost as if it had been recorded.
"Yes," he dipped his head slightly, pleased to have such an accurate rendition so far from home. ["You know my language?"]
"I am sorry, that does not compute," the droid apologized.
"Medical droids that the Senate uses have basic interpreter functions," B'lyn explained. "But not complex ones. He probably has a recording of your name, and he'll learn your language better over time."
"This is the case," the droid agreed. "I have very little knowledge of your language, but I am willing to learn."
"I know Basic fairly well." Nose-in-Danger said easily. "What will be first in this exam?"
"A few simple questions," the droid explained. "Are you in good health for your species? No illnesses, injuries, or nutritional problems?"
"Yes, correct, none, none." He answered each question carefully.
"No chronic health problems, such as allergies or congenital defects?" The droid asked, clearly ready to define what he meant if he had to.
Nose-in-Danger worked that through his memory for a bit. "Chronic ... long lasting or frequent?" He glanced between the droid and B'lyn.
"Yes," the droid confirmed. "Or a permanent condition."
"None." He shook his head a bit.
"Are you pregnant or in any sort of reproductive or hormonal cycle?" The droid asked easily.
"Pregnant?" He asked uncertainly, glancing between the two of them again. "I'm not old enough and no." He answered the two questions he understood.
"Pregnant, carrying young or eggs," the droid defined easily, earning a bewildered look from the Night Raptor.
"I'm male." He said quietly as he struggled with the idea of having a hatchling inside you.
"Understood. I take it then that females lay eggs which are then cared for externally?" The droid asked. "Rather than implanted into another?"
"Yes," he nodded, a bit off balance at the strange ideas being presented but doing his best to follow along and answer the questions.
"Very good," the droid nodded. "How old are you?"
"Five floods ... years." He answered after a moment. "The floodwaters come one a year."
"Are you physically mature, will you grow any more?"
"Yes, no." Nose-in-Danger guessed where this was going and preempted the next questions. "Sexual maturity is at seven years, but the first opportunity to mate is at nine and a half if you stay with the same flock, which most do. Most will not have eggs until they are nineteen or older and have enough rank to claim a place in the hatching grounds."
"How long do your people typically live, naturally?" The droid requested.
He had to think that one through for a while. "Most who survive fifteen years will survive thirty. Few survive fifty years, but those that die of age and not violence or sickness, the [White Ones], are said to live three hundred or more." He said with a the awe inherent to the idea of living so long and the incredible respect those that did rated in his society.
"Uncertain then," the droid nodded. "I assume that your feathers are natural, not a form of artificial armor or clothing?" It went on without a pause.
"They are natural." He nodded, not completely sure what all the words were, but picking up enough to answer with certainty.
"Would it be a problem to remove one for analysis?" The droid asked politely.
"Yes." Nose-in-Danger snapped to attention, his body tensing. "That hurts."
"Very well," the droid nodded. "How often do they molt, assuming they do?"
"Molt?" He asked.
"Shed, or fall out on their own?" The droid clarified.
"Sometimes," he nodded. "Badly damaged ones do."
"I see," the droid nodded. "If you would like, I could give you a chemical to eliminate the pain? One of your feathers could be invaluable for the information it gives."
He thought about it, then nodded slowly. "All right."
"Thank you," the droid nodded, extending a needle from a metallic finger. "This will prick, but that is all."
Nose-in-Danger nodded and shifted to show the lower section of his narrow breast, fluffed his feathers and held one out from the fairly hidden location. "This one."
The droid reached down, pressing the needle in near the base, waiting as the numbness settled in once the drug was in the Raptor's system. The generalized anesthetic wasn't poisonous to any known species, but there was always the chance with a new one and it was always a bad idea to hurt a representative.
A few moments later, and the area was numb, the droid carefully and painlessly removing a feather.
"Do you feel any discomfort?" It asked.
"No," he shook his head easily before turning his triangular head upside down and arching his long neck around to look at the spot. After fluffing his feathers again he decided it wasn't going to look bad and brought his gaze back up to the droid.
"Good. The numbness will fade shortly. I am afraid that your feathers interfere with some of my instruments; I will have to take some readings manually."
"All right." Nose-in-Danger watched the droid's actions carefully.
The droid considered its next act carefully, and then pulled out a thermometer.
"I will need you not to bite this, but to hold it in your mouth until I have a reading," it explained, setting it up to take the new species' readings.
"All right." He agreed and carefully held the slender stick-like object in his mouth, careful of his teeth even as he needed them to hold it in place without lips.
The droid waited a few moments, then took the instrument from the Raptor's mouth, inspecting it.
"Do you feel particularly warm or cold here?" It asked. "Compared to your homeworld?"
"It is colder here. Not too much." He answered.
"His area of Evidran Three averages twenty degrees warmer than Coruscant." B'lyn spoke for the first time.
"I believe it is safe to say you are endothermic then," the droid said, almost musing to itself. "I must now begin the primary examination. Will you step into the scanning booth so I can get some basic readings?" It motioned to an area of the room with a circle on the floor.
Nose-in-Danger nodded and stepped onto the slightly raised platform, a bit curious at it being large enough to contain him nose to tail when everyone he'd seen here was so much taller that long.
"Hmm ... this is awkward," the droid said after a few moments. "It seems your feathers are interfering with the scans; they're having difficulty picking up soft detail beneath them."
"You are not removing my feathers." He said pointedly.
"That will not be necessary," the droid said as B'lyn stifled a giggle at the mental image. "However, it means that portions of the examination will have to be more manual in nature."
"Acceptable." He nodded and relaxed again.
"I will have to begin by attempting to locate certain organs," the droid explained as Nose-in-Danger stepped out of the scanner. "Are you familiar with the anatomy of your species?"
"Anatomy?" He asked first.
"The way the organs and body parts of your people are positioned," the droid explained.
"It might be better if there's some sort of more powerful or effective scanner we could use," B'lyn cautioned them both.
"Unfortunately, the ultrasound would likely damage the crystal structure of his feathers," the medical droid said apologetically.
"Some, yes." Nose-in-Danger nodded, not sure what B'lyn was concerned about. "Not like [Tends-the-Wounded], my flock's healer."
"Then we'll begin with determining the placement of your heart?" The droid suggested.
"This will likely involve a fair amount of poking and prodding," B'lyn warned Nose-in-Danger.
The Night Raptor nodded in acceptance to them both. "What is that?"
"The heart is the organ which pumps blood through the body," the droid explained. "This... is likely going to be difficult. Perhaps we should start from the outside."
"Yes," he nodded, still not all that sure what the big deal was.
"Very well, we'll start back here. Raise your tail please?" The droid requested.
That earned it a bit of a look, but he dropped his upper body and shifted his tail out of the way. It was a maneuver as instinctive as it was suggestive to another Night Raptor, and stirred unfamiliar feelings in the youth.
"Thank you," the droid said easily, moving to start examining Nose-in-Danger's body, cold fingers exploring him, poking the single large slit he found.
"The purpose of this opening is?" The droid asked mechanically.
He did his best not to twitch and arched his long, slender neck to look up at B'lyn without moving his body. ["Bad stuff comes out. To make eggs. Eggs come out of females."]
"Waste, connected to reproductive organs," B'lyn explained quickly.
"One kind of waste, or two?" It asked as it continued to poke around, oblivious to Nose-in-Danger's sharp increase in discomfort.
"One." He answered before agony ripped through his body from his slit and he lurched forward, turning on his heel and striking out without thinking.
"I assume that was uncomfortable," the droid said calmly, its arm clattering across the floor from the blow, torn cables sparking slightly.
The contradictory reactions were enough to still Nose-in-Danger even as his body still ached.
"Very." He answered, a bit bewildered by this creature that could loose a limb with no apparent care.
"Hmm. Well, I believe that there is not going to be any particularly effective way to carry out the rest of the anatomical examination at this point in time," the droid decided as B'lyn picked up its arm and came back over, doing her best to hide her slightly distressed reaction to the same thing that confused Nose-in-Danger. No matter how often she saw things like this, it was still more than a little disturbing.
"I will report to maintenance, and have one of my counterparts finish the remaining scans. The parts of the examination that will have to wait will simply have to wait until one of your kind is available for autopsy. For what it's worth, I do hope it won't be particularly soon."
"I understand." He nodded and tried not to think about the way he hurt as the pain began to die down.
"Do you want some sort of painkiller before I go?" The droid asked politely, its reactions clearly programmed to favor the comfort of its patients over its own repairs.
"I don't think that would be a good idea," B'lyn said quickly. "We'll just move on to our next appointment... uhm... sorry about the... arm?"
"It isn't the first time," the droid shrugged slightly. "I had to treat one of the Senator's Gamorrean bodyguards for a rash once, it didn't stop at the arm."
"Uhm... right," B'lyn said, shrugging off her gut reaction to it.
"I will be fine." Nose-in-Danger confirmed B'lyn's response and extended his neck to sniff at the droid's damage. "You will be?"
"Oh certainly," the droid agreed. "This shouldn't take more than a few minutes to repair. Thank you for your concern. My replacement with be in shortly," it added, turning to leave with it's damaged arm.
"The scans shouldn't take too long, then we can go to the psych portion of the exam," B'lyn said easily, taking her seat and calming herself down quickly.
"Good." He nodded and did his best to relax as he settled on the floor, his legs tucked up under him and grateful that the 'poking and prodding' was over with.
["That was long."] Nose-in-Danger sighed deeply as he and B'lyn walked to the Senate aircar provided to them. He was too worn out to worry about speaking in Basic, and too eager to be in fresh air to conceal the deep breath he took just outside the doors. It wasn't clean or moist like home, but at least it was fresh-flowing.
"I know," B'lyn nodded. "Sorry about that, but they don't often go much faster. The next exam shouldn't be so rough," she reassured him as they climbed into the vehicle and took their seats.
["That one is just talk."] He half asked as he settled down to close his eyes briefly on the trip to the psychological evaluation.
"Yes, it is," she nodded easily. "And with a person, rather than a droid. So don't go taking any arms off," she added with a bit of a chuckle.
["I only reacted to the pain."] He objected quietly, his posture abruptly submissive.
"I know," she reassured him, reaching over to pat his flank lightly. "It was a joke, not serious."
He looked at her, not quite getting it beyond the fact that if he'd done anything wrong he had been forgiven. "Good." He nodded and turned his neck to nuzzle her with the relatively soft skin of his muzzle.
B'lyn smiled, sitting back for the trip. It occurred to her that it seemed to be surprisingly long.
"How far is it to the office?" She asked the droid driver.
"Not far now," he said simply.
"All right," the young Jedi nodded, still feeling like something wasn't quite right.
The aircar flew out over open air, above the chasms between buildings, starting to gain altitude. The niggling suspicion that something was wrong just kept getting stronger for B'lyn, and she reached over to take Nose-in-Danger's clawed hand.
"There'll be a bit of a delay," she said softly.
He tensed instantly, picking up on the tension in her body, and prepared for fight or flight at her discretion.
"Drop us off, driver, we'll walk the rest of the way," she told the droid.
The uneasy feeling turned into a crashing wave in the Force of deadly intent as it ignored her.
It wasn't from the droid, but it was definitely connected to it.
"Jump out after me!" She ordered Nose-in-Danger, drawing her lightsaber and cutting through the door, not sure if it would be safe to open it or not.
She hadn't had to say such things often, and was immensely grateful when he turned out to be one of the extremely rare cases that trusted her enough not to question the order.
"I can make it." He told her quietly and closed strong, slender hands around her waist as his body tensed for the long leap and fall to the nearest roadway.
She knew, instinctively, he wasn't very sure of the statement, but sure he had a better chance of the two of them to make it and keep them both alive on landing.
With her help, she was sure they'd be safe.
Powerful legs thrust just before they both heard the high-pitched beeping from the droid that indicated its power core was overheating. The droid exploded, destroying the aircar, as they hurtled through the air, B'lyn doing her best to enhance Nose-in-Danger's jump - but finding it well beyond her actual skills.
"Oh shit," she hissed to herself, frantically changing tactics and trying to slow their fall long enough for them to not splatter on impact.
She felt, through the Force and through her body, as he kept adjusting his body and muscle tension to compensate for her weight and the changing speed and angle of descent of their fall from her work. She closed her eyes, silently praying that the piece of walkway they were heading for was built to handle their impact. If it wasn't....
A subtle shift in Nose-in-Danger's body warned her that impact was imminent, the abrupt slowing of their descent coupled with the crack of the low-grade duracrete on contact sent her heart rate skyrocketing. Fear became a pounding in her ears even as she ignored it to do what she could as they launched again, bleeding off momentum in a series of angle-changing moves to make the final stop less painful.
She felt feathers cut through her robes and into her skin, but ignored the pain as she tried to redirect them towards a more stable landing spot. Pain, her own and Nose-in-Danger's, rushed through her senses as they finally impacted on stable ground. She felt his legs strain, but she didn't think they actually broke as he absorbed the majority of the impact, protecting her more fragile body as best he could.
His bones were certainly fractured though, and she knew a few of her own ribs cracked as his body landed on top of hers before he continued his roll, eventually skidding to a stop several yards of deeply gouged duracrete away from her.
She got to her feet and saw Nose-in-Danger was already on his, ignoring the pain in his legs as he expected a further attack.
She couldn't blame him; she wasn't entirely sure there wasn't another one coming. She looked around, and then holstered her lightsaber again, catching her breath painfully. There was a brief moment when it occurred to her that he must have very good control of how his feathers laid given how little cutting damage was involved in him rolling over her.
"It's safe," she said, grinding her teeth to get over the aching in her trunk, reaching into her belt to hit an emergency transponder that would signal the Temple that something had happened. "We need to get to cover if you can move."
"Yes." He nodded sharply and glanced around, looking for a suitable location to hide.
"There," she decided, finding an empty storefront and using her lightsaber to cut the protective bars from the entrance. The two painfully moved to cover, breathing heavily.
"The Jedi will be here for us soon," she reassured him.
"Good." He sighed and lowered himself on aching legs to put the bulk of his weight on his breastbone and ribs instead of his fracture-laced leg bones.
"Let me see if I can help those legs," she offered, knowing it would be more important in the short term for him to be able to move well than for her to be able to breathe more comfortably.
"Thank you." He nodded to her, the warmth of appreciation flowing over her.
She focused on healing him, repairing damaged bones and muscles while they waited for help to arrive.
"Better?" She asked, even though the deep sigh and relaxation in his body told her she'd helped, even if the healing wasn't complete.
"Yes. Thank you." He murmured gratefully.
"Good," she sighed gratefully, laying back against a wall and trying to work on her own injuries. "We'll have to get the Senate to move fast ... that wasn't an accident."
"They have no respect for law." He muttered darkly. "Need to be punished."
"The Trade Federation?" She asked, wanting to make sure things were clear.
"Yes," he nodded, glaring out into the empty space, still expecting another attack to some extent.
"It might not have been them," she pointed out and settled in to wait for help to arrive. "But you're probably right."
Standing-Bear and the Panthers worked with the wounded for some time while the Night Raptors who weren't badly injured gradually filtered back towards the gathering to say how well things had gone.
As a result, the three Jedi weren't surprised to hear the sounds of a celebration when they returned with the others. What was more troubling was the sound of a spirited debate going on throughout much of the gathering.
"*I think we're going to have to talk them out of further assaults,*" Standing-Bear warned the twins.
"*That doesn't sound good at all.*" They replied in unison. "*It is a logical next step, given the success here, even if it's the wrong one.*"
"*I know,*" he agreed. "*And I can sympathize with them. Hopefully they'll see the flipside of it.*"
"*I guess we get to find out how good an orator you are, Master.*" The pair said seriously, though there was a touch of humor in the background.
"*In a language I barely know, no less,*" Standing-Bear observed, approaching the Night Raptors, half-hoping they'd keep things under control themselves without him having to urge them towards caution.
He couldn't say he was surprised when he was sure it was otherwise. The relatively light casualties in taking the main facility, combined with the success of several flocks in taking out smaller ones in the previous few years and the swelling numbers of still-arriving flocks emboldened them with a war-intent that was not completely unreasonable.
He made his way towards the center of the group that was currently talking about it, pausing on the outside to hear some of the discussions, hoping for an opening that wouldn't ruffle any feathers.
["We have enough of their weapons to do it."] The deep male voice belonging to Races-the-Wind, leader of the Great Cliff flock insisted. ["They do not have many strongholds left. We have all destroyed at least one with our own flocks."]
["Safer to starve them out, attack those that come out."] Stronger-than-Feathers countered. ["The attack was not without death."]
["If they have no strongholds, they have no presence."] Another female, Crosses-Death said.
["Stronger-than-Feathers is right,"] Standing-Bear said, grateful that he had a ranking Alpha to be backing with the way several of those present turned to glare at him. ["It won't matter if they have no strongholds. If this does not make them leave, the next one will not change their minds, and we have already lost many warriors."]
["How can it not matter if they have no where to be here?"] Crosses-Death demanded.
["Have you seen their] ships?" Standing-Bear pointed out. ["The ones they have used were small ones. It won't be long before the larger ones come. They only have strongholds because it is convenient; they live on their ships in the sky otherwise."]
He knew he'd just made an argument that went right over their heads just from the looks, never mind the complete lack of comprehension that all but set the Force alive in the small gathering of leaders.
["How do you fight them?"] Races-the-Wind finally asked.
["A Night Raptor has gone to speak to our lawmakers. What they have done is against our laws as well as yours. Stronger-than-Feather's plan is good; we wait them out. We keep them from bringing down their war machines, and hold them off until they are forced to answer for their crimes."]
["Why not just wipe them out while we can?"] Crosses-Death snapped.
["Because we cannot,"] Standing-Bear answered firmly. ["They have ten times as many warriors as there are here to throw at us if they want to, and can bring more with ease."] He could see it too, in flashes of nightmares through the Force. Great machines trampling the pristine world, endless waves of Federation troops, human and otherwise, destroying everything in their path... he knew it was going to happen, some time and place. He wouldn't let it be here.
["How long would you have us wait?"] Stronger-than-Feathers asked cautiously, trying to grasp the numbers he was talking about.
["Unless something happens, two hand of days,"] Standing-Bear said. They were at Coruscant ... Force willing, already in front of the Senate and have a force on their way to stop the Federation. ["My people have already sent us help,"] he pointed out, indicating the twin Panthers. ["More will be coming soon."]
["What can they do that we can not?"] A more than insulted female snarled at him. ["Good warriors, yes. You have shown nothing more."]
["May we demonstrate?"] Standing-Bear asked Stronger-than-Feathers, unwilling to have the twins show what they were capable of without deferring to the alpha first. "*Be ready to do some damage to a tree,*" he warned the twins mentally.
"*Ready, Master,*" Tarsis nodded.
["Yes."] Stronger-than-Feathers nodded, suddenly very curious.
["First, those who will come will have the force of our lawmakers behind them, the right to pass judgment that the] Federation [will not want to face. Second, we have the] Force [at our side. It is a powerful ally, and with its use...."]
"*Now,*" he told the Panthers, Tarsis reaching up and pointing at a branch of the tree, focusing on it. It shook, trembling as the entire branch started to bend. Suddenly, the wood splintered and cracked, the end of the branch snapping off and flying directly to the Panther's hand to gasps and surprised movement from the audience.
["Gifts like this, and others, are at our disposal,"] Standing-Bear explained, ["along with the weapons you have seen, and] ships [like the outsiders use. If they force us to, our allies will destroy them with these weapons. They will leave before this is needed though."]
["Two hand of days is not long. It will take that long for warriors to reach the next nearest stronghold."] Stronger-than-Feathers pointed out. ["He has been right about many things."]
["He is their kind."] Someone argued.
["It gives him knowledge we do not."] She shot back. ["He has not betrayed us. Is it truly that long? The flocks can still move out, be ready to attack if he is wrong about his kind coming to stop them."]
["I am not the] Federations [kind,"] Standing-Bear said firmly. ["I am] Jedi. [My concern is helping your people, with as little death and pain as possibly. That is the only reason I suggest caution."]
["Two hands of days."] Stronger-than-Feathers repeated, locking onto the one point that they really had a chance to win with. ["Flocks can be in place to attack if he is wrong."]
["True."] One of the others consented slowly, setting off a raucous debate with no central focus again as flock leaders and members began to debate who was going where.
Standing-Bear let out a sigh of relief, fighting the urge to wipe his brow.
"*I've just bought us some time,*" he told the twins. "*Let's hope the Senate acts quickly enough to make good use of it.*"
Nose-in-Danger fluffed his hard feathers under the cut-proof lined robes in an effort to settle himself and not rip the Trade Federation's representative apart for the attempt on his and B'lyn's life the two days before. Her presence was a calming influence, as was his determination not to act like an animal of any kind in front of these people who could give or deny him the help he needed.
She had said that calling the meeting without bothering with the psychological exam was a good sign. That the proof they did have, even if it wasn't good enough for a court, was enough that the Senate Committee wasn't taking chances that it wouldn't go very wrong somehow.
He hadn't quite understood that, but any promise of fast action was a hope he held onto as they entered the meeting room with the six members of the Sentience Committee, the Jedi Masters at their side.
The Federation's representative was still arguing with the other Senators over the results of the debate about the Jedi's 'interference.' The grey-skinned Neimoidian clearly hadn't come out on the best side of that argument.
"I still say that when the Jedi used a fighter to destroy the base, they claimed full responsibility," he insisted.
"If you don't shut up about it, I will serve you to my hatchlings." Senator Shadon Tello of Coruscant snapped, her brown plumage fluffed in a display of irritation and aggression that was hard to mistake when taken with the way her sharp talon-hands rapped on the table.
"The debate is over, Representative Tomor." Senator Caster Vestran of Alderaan reminded him testily, not likely for the first time that day. "You were outvoted, five to one, on the subject."
The Neimoidian silenced himself quickly, though there was no mistaking that he was no more satisfied than before.
"I hope you are not badly injured, after your accident," the Sun Eagle said to Nose-in-Danger once a moment had passed in blessed silence.
"I was not, Senator Tello." He bowed to her politely. "The Jedi Healers dealt with what injuries we had."
"Very good," she nodded.
"Is there anything more you wish to say to the committee?" Senator Roth asked, the Caamasi's voice soothing.
Nose-in-Danger striated a bit before he spoke carefully. "I have come, representing my people, to ask you to stop one of your own from destroying mine and our world. I thank you for taking the time to listen to me and see my creations."
"I don't see why you think your people are in such danger," Tomor pointed out. "After all, they just destroyed a Federation outpost, and didn't even see fit to send a full adult, according to the report we received from the medical droid."
"I am the grandson of my flock's leader, the leader one of the most powerful flocks on Evidran." Nose-in-Danger looked at him with a lazy disregard that few missed intended insult in. "I am not surprised that you misinterpret the information you were given, Tomor, just as you did when you insisted we are not sentient. A full adult is too valuable a fighter to be sent away from such a battle."
The Neimoidian fumed, but didn't say anything in response.
"I believe it is clear what our decision is then," Senator Roth said easily. "By unanimous decision of this sub-committee, the Night Raptors are a sentient species. Our recommendation will be made to the Senate and the issue will be voted on swiftly. Assuming the vote goes as expected, the Trade Federation will be expected to leave post-haste, and conduct proper negotiations with the world's inhabitants."
"Thank you, Senators." Nose-in-Danger bowed deeply to them.
B'lyn and the Jedi turned, leaving with Nose-in-Danger.
"You did it," Master Thelm pointed out with a smile. "I've never seen the Senate go against this particular sub-committee; your people will be safe soon.
"What about between now and then?" He asked softly, keenly aware of just how much of a loosing battle the situation was.
"Between now and then will be a short enough time that there's no additional help we can give. But if you want, we will put you and B'lyn on the next transport to Evidran, along with a number of additional Jedi. With this decision, our hands are somewhat less tied," the Vixen reassured him.
"I would like that." He nodded slightly. "Thank you, Master Thelm."
"Not at all," she said easily. "We're glad to be of service here. And it gives us yet another reason to send Jedi assistance back. I only hope that things will work quickly enough they aren't needed."
"Those with healing skills will be, no matter what," he said very softly. "There will be many injuries from the attack we know about."
"That is one of the main qualifications for the volunteers," the Vixen nodded seriously. "The ship will be ready to leave in a few hours, and we want the two of you to spend it with some of the healers staying here, before sending you back into a potential combat zone."
"Yes, Master," B'lyn nodded.
"Thank you, Master Thelm." He dipped his head gratefully.
"*Connor, good news.*" Knight Kelarn reached out in the Force after he listened to the short message from Coruscant in the twin's fighter. "*The subcommittee has agreed that they are sentient. Nose-in-Danger and your Padawan are coming back, with more Jedi.*"
"*Good,*" Standing-Bear replied, his relief clear as he made his way towards Stronger-Than-Feathers as the ten flocks, over two hundred Night Raptors, settled in for a rest a half day away from the Trade Federation base they were to stack out and slowly whittle away at for the next few days.
["Nose-in-Danger was successful,"] he told her. ["More help is on the way, to send the outsiders away."]
["Good,"] she dipped her head in a nod. ["When will they arrive?"]
["In a few days, with luck. Before the week is out,"] he promised her. It would take an outright disaster for it to take longer than that.
["How do you know?"] She asked evenly, knowing she would have to explain it to the others.
["The twins have been told, and will meet us before you have to explain,"] he assured her. ["They are the ones who told me."]
She nodded thoughtfully. ["We will wait for them. No one is going to attack just now."]
["Good,"] he nodded. ["With any luck, there won't be any trouble until then."]
"*Connor!*" Knight Kelarn said to him mentally. "*I'm not sure what it is, but we've got Federation activity above us!*"
"Me and my big mouth," Standing-Bear muttered to himself. ["Stronger-than-Feathers, we need to get to -"] He was interrupted by a bright red glow that filled the sky, just before the forest seemed to explode on the impact of an orbital blast from one of the Federation's capital ships.
["Scatter!"] He heard her screech over and between the crackle of fire and screams of pain from Night Raptors and animals alike that hadn't been vaporized in the instant it hit.
He was honestly expecting another blast to hit; orbital bombardments usually continued until the target area was reduced to rubble. But that didn't factor in that the Federation didn't want rubble, they wanted the world's resources.
He could feel pain and death rippling through the Force as trees creaked, cracked, and fell, smashing anything unlucky enough to be caught in their path as several of the Federation's gargantuan tracked transports moved through, knocking over anything in their path, picking them up and pulling them into the crawler's bellies to be processed, 'defensive' blasters laying down withering swaths of fire as they moved towards the large group of Raptors.
Rage rippled through Standing-Bear before he got it under control, anger at the Federation for making such a blatant attempt to strip everything they could from the planet before they were forced to leave. He wasn't surprised, but it didn't help that he should have seen it coming.
His lightsaber flared to life as he fought to react to this development calmly. His amber blade blazed as he leaped between two falling trees, towards one of the crawlers, knowing that he had to disable the weapons as fast as he could, before taking out the offending vehicles themselves.
["Stop those blasters!"] Kills-the-Sun roared in his general direction as he became aware that the surviving Night Raptors were already marshaling around the surviving leaders, regardless of whose flock they belonged to. It didn't take him much as he blocked and dodged to figure out that the Night Raptors could take out the vehicles ... if they could get to them.
"*If you two aren't too busy, we have a set of crawlers here that would be really nice to have explode some time soon!*" He called to the twins mentally, landing on the first one and grabbing an edge as he started to hack off the blasters.
"*Already at it.*" Knight Kelarn replied much less calmly than he wished he could, but the Knight was just as outraged as the Master. "*The air support is being a problem.*"
"*Not surprised,*" the Ambrinthan admitted before focusing on the job at hand. Once all the blasters he could reach were down, he drove his lightsaber into the wall of the main cockpit, carving an opening in so he could get at the droid pilots.
He nearly turned the weapon on the large form that shot up from below before he realized it was Kills-the-Sun doing what he said he would; take out the vehicle.
["Kill weapons on other one."] The Night Raptor ordered even as he used the thick, long feathers on his arms to finish the opening and clawed his way in.
Standing-Bear leaped towards it, more attacks raining down on the Raptors below as the first crawler was swarmed. Its armor was sturdy enough that they needed to find weak points to start cutting through, but they had time to do that after the blasters were down.
He cringed inwardly as he heard a Raptor scream, caught in the whirling blades that were stripping and processing trees. He pushed it aside, focusing on disabling the other crawler's blasters and drawing their fire towards useful locations.
An explosion near the top of the behemoth drew his attention skyward to see the Jedi fighter escape the tangle of Trade Federation fighters for a moment to help out.
The more damage he did, the more the Night Raptors worked their way up, intent on the cockpit and the weapon turrets left now that he'd decreased the number of them to the point that swarming the second crawler was possible.
A pair of Trade Federation fighters swooped out of the fray to follow the twins below the tattered canopy of the forest - only to suddenly gain a pair of Raptors on top of each, forcing them into the trees and jumping free just before they exploded.
Standing-Bear leaped off the second crawler just as the first ground to a halt, and smaller speeders and swoops started to dart towards the battle, spraying weapons-fire even as the Jedi jumped from one to the next, hacking his way through their engines. He planted his foot in the face of one pilot, an unfortunate Duros whose leathery hide wasn't enough to save him from the high-speed impact with the ground that happened after Standing-Bear threw him out of the pilot seat.
Now in control of the vehicle, he spun it around, taking on some of the remaining craft on their own terms.
He could hear, now and then, Night Raptors calling for him to draw targets into their range, and the explosions below him of those who did so on their own without realizing that their small vehicles were easy prey for their targets.
He ground his teeth together as a lucky blaster shot caught his shoulder. Pain shot through the battered joint as he threw his lightsaber towards the offender with the other hand. He focused on keeping the speeder straight as his lightsaber carved through the pilot, then grabbed it with his meager telekinetic skills, still pulling it back through two more speeders before the hilt was back in his hand, the blade carving through a third.
As abruptly as it had started, the world stilled with only the twin's fighter and himself airborne and nothing mechanical moving on the ground.
The death there was unthinkable to those who called it home; he could feel their shock, pain, grief and blinding rage all the way from the ground.
The surviving Federation vehicles were on their way out, fleeing from what they had undoubtedly expected would be a total rout.
He was just afraid that the next wave would be.
"*We need to help the survivors,*" he told the twins, filtering out the pain still lancing through his shoulder. "*Make sure they're gone first.*"
"*You head down, we'll keep an eye on the TF.*" They replied easily. "*We'll be down soon.*"
He turned the speeder back towards the battle scene, bringing it towards the ground as he approached the collection of Night Raptors. He could already tell that this wasn't going to be pretty; the casualties had been incredible. Two hundred and some had been reduced by more than half. There wasn't anything he'd be able to do to keep this from turning into a full-scale war now. The drums had already begun to spread the news.
He just hoped that B'lyn and the others arrived quickly, before the war was over.
["You.] Jedi." Kills-the-Sun hit the ground from a half-standing tree with a thump that indicated both his injuries and his wracked state of mind. ["I lead the Creeping Wind now."] The grief in the statement was unmistakable, as was his rage. ["We are going to kill that place. Now. You come. Do what you did before."]
["Are there enough of us left anymore?"] Standing-Bear asked pointedly, knowing that he was on shaky ground at best here. Stronger-than-Feathers must have been killed in the battle, or badly injured; he wasn't about to question Kills-the-Sun about what had happened when it was that clear. The Federation wouldn't leave their bases lightly defended with something like this about to happen though; they would see that any survivors would want revenge, and be ready to rip them apart when they arrived.
Kills-the-Sun was planning a massacre. And that was exactly what the Federation wanted him to be doing. A tattered pack of exhausted, injured Night Raptors against everything they could be going up against ... Standing-Bear didn't have to be a Jedi to see how that fight would turn out.
He had to be one though and try his best to talk a grief-outraged mate named for killing the giver of all life from leading what was left of this gathering of flocks into a trap.
["You may lead the Creeping Wind, but you do not lead us."] A tired, pain-filled female voice reminded him sharply, earning the large male's ire and clearly not concerned by it. ["You know better than any that we are not enough. My Drummer has warned all of this. We must scatter and never give them this kind of target again."]
["She is right,"] Standing-Bear said. ["If we go, we all die. Would Stronger-than-Feathers have wanted that?"] He asked, praying that the reminder of his dead mate's desire to protect her people would be enough to talk him out of it.
["They can not live for this."] He growled, starting to realize the contradictory nature of two drives; protect the flock and avenge his mate.
["And if we attack them now, then we all die, and they still live,"] Standing-Bear pointed out. ["We lose both. They will be punished for this."]
That promise, finally, drew Kills-the-Sun's attention.
["That is not my place to say,"] Standing-Bear admitted. ["This is a war now though, in the eyes of our lawmakers, and one that they have broken many rules in fighting. They will not get away with this."]
["E ..."] Kills-the-Sun's eyes rolled back as he crumpled.
"Shit," Standing-Bear swore under his breath, getting down on his knees next to the falling Raptor to use his meager healing skills to at least assess the extent of the injuries. At this rate, the flock would lose two alphas in the space of a single day.
"*I need you two down here now!*" He told the twins mentally.
"*Coming,*" they replied, the echoes of a high-speed turn coming across the single word.
He did what he could as they approached, trying to stabilize some of the Raptor's wounds, but he knew from working with White-Feather that he wasn't skilled enough on his own. The fighter touched down, and he moved back as the two Panthers got out.
"Serious internal injuries," he explained briefly. "Lucky he didn't collapse before. You have to get him stable, I don't know what losing him might do to the flock after losing Stronger-than-Feathers already."
"Damn." Tarsis muttered as they went to work; him with the Force and Kelarn with more traditional supplies. "Just how many of them are left?"
"I'm not sure," Standing-Bear admitted. "But I'd be surprised if we lost less than a quarter of the force we had. The initial blast hit hard, the attack harder."
"And these people don't go for the 'let the Jedi do the fighting' end of things." Kelarn nodded as a mature female came up with a painful leg and many broken feathers from a long fall through thick trees.
["Will he live?"] She asked Standing-Bear.
["He may,"] Standing-Bear said. ["We can't promise though. You're... you were Stronger-than-Feather's mother, correct?"] He asked softly, wanting to be sure he recognized the Night Raptor.
["Yes,"] she dipped her head slightly. ["I am Kills-at-Distance. Tends-the-Wounded also died today."] Her tone was even, but none of the Jedi missed the intense grief of close family lost. There was a pause as she gathered herself again. ["We have none left to care for injuries but one hatchling in training."]
["We will do what we can,"] Standing-Bear promised. ["But it may not be much ... there are more coming who can offer more help."]
"*We have to stop the Federation. Cold, here and now,*" he told the twins mentally. "*I'm going to need the fighter.*"
"*Take it,*" Kelarn said without hesitation. "*Just be careful. You've got a Padawan to return to.*"
["With the warriors who join you."] She nodded and moved off a few steps to settle and wait her turn by preening her damaged feathers, removing the crushed ones and setting the less damaged ones back in place to heal.
["Do you know any who would be willing to join me?"] He asked her, not entirely sure if she was referring to the same thing, though he had no idea how she could be. ["With your permission, I think we have an opportunity... myself, with one or two warriors or alone, going after the ship their leaders are on. If I can capture them, this all ends."]
He caught her surprise and realized that he must be more tired that he had thought, confusing spoken and silent conversations like that.
["Killers or ambushers?"] She asked simply. ["Trouble will be keeping it to that few."]
["Ambushers,"] he said softly. ["Though willing to not kill when told not to. We need their leaders alive, for now. We'll have to leave in the morning,"] he added, realizing all too well that he was, frankly, not in a shape to lead an infiltration mission on a Federation capital ship just now.
["I will find the two best left."] She nodded seriously. ["Rest. We will be ready with the dawn."]
["Thank you,"] he said gratefully, bowing to her before kneeling by the twins and Kills-the-Sun.
"He's stable, though it'll be a long time before he should be in a fight again," Kelarn explained quietly.
"I understand," Standing-Bear nodded, reaching down to run his hand along the Raptor's brow lightly, tired eyes opening and looking up towards his.
["I'm going to take two warriors and go to stop their leaders at dawn,"] he explained softly. ["You get better; your people are going to need you if this doesn't work."]
["We need our hatching ground."] He said softly, not really countering the Jedi's statement. ["I understand as well."] He looked at the twins. ["We will remember you for this."]
["We'll see it reclaimed for you soon,"] Standing-Bear nodded. ["I hope to see you on your feet again soon,"] he added, before standing up and moving off to find a place to rest quietly for the night.
The next day was going to be ... interesting.
Standing-Bear woke up after a dreamless, yet largely restless night of much-needed sleep. Physically, he was in much better shape. Mentally, the impressions he'd gathered from the battered, demoralized Raptors hadn't helped his own peace of mind in the least.
He'd meditated before going to sleep the night before. That was about the only thing that had helped; he'd received visions, albeit blurry ones, that had indicated that he was finally on the right path.
It was enough to make him wish, desperately, that he'd stopped to do it before. He might have been able to come up with this plan in time to save dozens of lives.
["Awake. Good."] Kills-at-Distance drew him completely into the waking world to look at the elder Night Raptor and the two warriors slightly behind her. ["Silence-of-Death and Whisper-of-the-Wind will join you. Every flock-group has been attacked like we were. Many more died in those attacks than this one. There are not enough for twenty flocks left."]
["In this land, or in total?"] He asked, praying that he wasn't about to find out he was too late already.
["We have not spread to other lands."] She said softly. ["Mother-of-All was not that long ago."]
["Understood,"] he said, doing some quick mental math, and really hoping that they counted 'enough for a flock' at a large number. ["The two of you are coming with me then, to the Federation ship?"]
["Yes,] Jedi." Whisper-of-the-Wind dipped her head slightly to him in respect that her partner mimicked. ["We are ready."]
["We should be going then. Please, make sure my friends don't overwork themselves too much,"] he said, looking at Kills-from-a-Distance. ["They'll try to, I'm sure. With any luck, this will all be over soon, and they'll be able to take their time."]
["I will try. They are needed. I remember needing to get my mother to rest. I will see to them as well."] She promised.
"Force [be with you all,"] he said, bowing to the acting leader before leading his two new partners to the fighter, hoping they'd have space enough to sit comfortably for the trip. He could sense their excitement and anticipation easily, along with an undercurrent of death expected and accepted with the steely determination to live that marked most seasoned warriors.
When they reached the fighter, he opened the cockpit, climbing up onto the wing and into the pilot's seat.
["There's room back here,"] he explained, indicating where they should sit. ["We're going to go to their ship and capture their leaders, make them leave."]
The pair nodded in silence and leaped up to squeeze and wiggle into the tight confines, trying to do as little damage as they could to the interior in the process.
Fortunately, while the fighter wasn't exactly built for roominess and comfort, it was larger than most intended for short-term travel, so there was room enough for them to fit in after a bit of maneuvering.
Standing-Bear closed the cockpit and started the launch sequence.
["Getting to them will be the hardest part, particularly getting to the place. This isn't going to be a fun ride,"] he warned them, picking up off the ground as the engines started. He just hoped that he was a good enough pilot to pull this off ... though, if most of their troops were attacking the Raptors, he probably would be.
["The battle was not fun."] One told him seriously. ["This can not be worse."]
["Not as long as we get there,"] he agreed, keying up the transceiver to send a message back to the Jedi.
"Master Standing-Bear reporting. Massive attacks on Night Raptors by Federation, many killed. Healer assistance needed desperately. Attempting to infiltrate Federation flagship, capture prefects, and force them to withdraw. If we can pull this off, then it'll be easy to move in and provide aid. If not ... well, we'll need more than Healer aid. It's looking pretty good so far though. As an aside for the Council's consideration, I think B'lyn's about ready to start her Trials. When I get back, I hope you'll agree. Standing-Bear out."
He quickly encrypted the message, then sent it off to Coruscant. He couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever get back to have that discussion with the Council.
He shook his unease off though; he needed to be confident, as prepared as possible for the coming battle. Sure enough, the sensors started to beep, indicating that some of the fighters were moving towards his location.
["What that about?"] Silence-of-Death asked. She didn't understand the words, but his tone made her interested.
["Sending word to my leaders,"] he explained briefly, bringing the shields online and angling them towards the rear of the fighter. ["Brace yourselves,"] he added grimly, powering up its weapons and gunning the engine, making tracks for space as quickly as he could. He'd need to conserve as much firepower as possible for getting onto the capital ship.
He couldn't help a moment of gratitude that his companions seemed rather unflappable. Their first ride in a vehicle of any kind and neither were particularly afraid of the rapid shifts in momentum or the dozens of other new sensations they were exposed to in this flight.
It was a calmness he was intensely grateful for as he dove to the side to avoid a stream of blaster fire from one of the fighters chasing after him. He flipped the switch to activate the rear guns, dropping a concussive missile and streaking away as the explosives-filled projectile impacted on the stronger shields of his pursuer.
"Of course," he muttered, twisting the fighter around to dodge several streams of fire and adjusting his shields to better protect the fighter from all angles. He'd have to take a couple of them out, and the missiles weren't enough to handle the doubled shields of the Federation vehicles.
Fortunately, as one of them quickly found out, his blasters were more than enough to take them out if he could get around to their unprotected rear arc. A squeeze of the trigger, and he blew through the debris left behind by the rear fighter, launching two missiles to take out two more as he streaked past them. The ship shook as a blaster hit struck his wing, but the shields took most of the impact. The sky darkened as they rose through the atmosphere, dodging weapons fire and occasionally returning it, the stars becoming visible as he made it into space.
"Rrrawww," one of the Night Raptors whispered in awe as she took in the stars from above her world.
He took a deep breath and surrendered completely to the Force, allowing it to guide his actions and make up for his less-than-perfect skills in the fighter. Explosions were breezed through, barely seen, as he dove into the ring shaped capitol ship and disappeared into its mass.
He distantly heard explosions as the fighters still pursuing him were blown apart by the point defenses of the ship, the reminder that he was at his destination all it took to snap his senses back into the here and now. He rapidly hit every firing trigger he had, launching everything the fighter carried at the docking bay and blowing open the outer door.
["Get ready to jump out fast!"] He warned the two Night Raptors, popping open the cockpit even as they flew through the massive ship, his blasters firing periodically to take out groups of droids that massed to defend their mothership. ["We're going to need to find cover!"]
He located the perfect spot, and moved to come close to it, still angling the fighter for what he hoped was a reasonably important room.
["Now!"] He shouted, waiting for them to move before jumping clear himself, landing on the edge of a large ventilation system as the fighter continued to its fate against the blast doors at the end of the corridor.
["How do we get back down?"] Whisper-of-the-Wind asked very quietly, all her senses on edge in this alien and hostile environment.
["Through here,"] he said, kneeling to remove a portion of the access panel to the shaft. ["Leads to smaller paths, more important ones."]
The pair glanced at each other before following him down with a pair of thumps as they landed.
["How do we get back home?"] She tried again.
["Ah, sorry,"] he apologized a little sheepishly. ["We use one of their fighters to get back. Or wait for my people, make sure they do what they're supposed to until then."]
The pair nodded and fell silent, following him and guarding his flanks and back as they worked through the great ship.
They approached one of the main corridors, a unit of guards approaching.
["Don't kill unless needed,"] he warned them as quietly as he could. ["Attracts guards."]
The pair nodded in acceptance of the order and became even more silent, showing the first true hints of where their names had come from. They were not sensitives, but they were extraordinary for their kind, even on a world of silent hunters.
The guards approached, and started to walk by. One of them hesitated briefly.
"Hey guys, think we should check these side corridors? Jedi manage to live through some crazy things, might not've gotten toasted." Standing-Bear focused on the Fox keenly for a moment as the patrol paused.
"*You have to complete your patrol,*" he said firmly, pulling the Fox's mind along into the suggestion. The Fox shrugged, then shook his head.
"On second thought, let's just get this over with; I have a sabacc match to get back to." His partners shrugged, then all continued, leaving the Jedi and Raptors to continue silently behind them.
When they were out of earshot, the Night Raptors looked at their leader.
["You did something."] Whisper-of-the-Wind said.
["A] Jedi [mind trick,"] he explained quietly. ["We only use it when it's necessary. I haven't used it on any Night Raptors since you stopped trying to kill me,"] he reassured them.
They nodded in acceptance and the threesome continued to work their way into the heart of the gigantic ship.
There were a few more tense moments as other patrols passed them by, the trio sometimes having to struggle to find hiding places. Finally, they found a main terminal.
["I need to find their leaders from here,"] Standing-Bear explained, pulling out a datapad with codes he hoped were still accurate. ["Keep watch."]
He received a nod from the pair and saw them take up positions to give them the best views without being seen, hunkering down to wait for trouble that all three rather hoped wouldn't come.
He settled in at the terminal, plugging his datapad in and trying to download the layout of the ship. The passwords he had were rejected immediately, not much to his surprise. Of course they would have changed them after the debacle on-planet.
He started the built-in routine to crack the passwords, focusing on doing what he could to help it. After a few minutes, the password was accepted, and he downloaded the layout.
["I have what I -"] He stopped, blinking as he looked back at the two bodies stacked neatly in the corner by the Raptors who'd been covering for him. He hadn't even heard them come in, but they'd been taken down without a sound.
["Good work,"] he said, clearly impressed.
The pair sort of grinned at him.
["You wanted silent hunters."] Silence-of-Death reminded with a happy click.
["Hadn't expected it so literally,"] he chuckled slightly. ["Come on, let's get out of here before -"] He was cut off by the sound of the doors opening, revealing a unit of droids on the other side.
"Shit," he swore under his breath, igniting his lightsaber and lunging into the waiting battle. Apparently, somebody had been watching when the passwords failed.
If it wasn't for the absence of the droids in the Force, he'd have been hard-pressed to know that his companions were still alive. Absolute silence reigned from the pair, except when they tore into a droid and couldn't help the crash of metal and tearing of electrical parts. His lightsaber made far more noise, but even so, it wasn't long before the droids were destroyed.
["Hide!"] He ordered them, jumping over and cutting an access panel loose, grateful to find the area behind it large enough for all three of them and the Night Raptors were instantly and instinctively obedient to his order. If they could be under cover before the next set of guards arrived, they just might avoid being spotted....
"Search everywhere." A deep, curt male voice ordered. "That Jedi is here somewhere."
He held still, holding the metal plate in place, not even breathing as he waited to see whether or not they would be detected.
Leaning back, he let his weight hold the panel in place, reaching out through the Force to give them the impression of a sound from the ventilation shaft, moving further away from the room.
If this didn't work, they were sitting ducks.
"He's in the ventilation shaft!" Someone shouted.
"Cret, Parpa, get in there and follow him." The leader ordered sharply. "We'll be ready when he comes out."
Standing-Bear waited there, maintaining the illusion, and praying that they'd leave to find 'where they were going.'
If they didn't, they'd have to act hard and fast when the time came.
The sounds of movement and the door opening gave him a breath of relief, and a moment to realize that his companions were as still as statues, literally. Not a single muscle appeared to twitch, not even as they breathed.
After a few moments, he knew that as many of the guards had left as were going to. Hoping that any left were watching the shaft, he carefully moved the panel to the side a little to peek out.
Three guards were left, well armed and nervous, and focused on the ventilation shaft, leaving their backs largely unprotected.
"*I won't be coming out here, I'd have to get past Cret and Parpa. You should go make sure the others have enough backup,*" the Jedi said, picking one of them and hoping the suggestion would get through.
The heavy-set mixed-breed canine shifted uneasily. "You really think he'll get past Cret and Parpa?"
"Orders are orders, Jabrin." A giant Mastiff retorted. "We stay here."
Standing-Bear focused his attention on the Mastiff, trying to turn him next.
"*They'll need more backup to deal with a Jedi,*" he told him. "*If you two aren't there, they'll probably be slaughtered.*"
The big canine shook his head sharply, aware that he wasn't thinking right but not so sure of why as he rejected the suggestion.
Standing-Bear sighed inwardly; he would have much preferred to end this without any more violence than necessary. Unfortunately, they were making it necessary.
The Jedi burst out of his hiding place, using the access panel to slam into the first of the canines, knocking him down as the Raptors were given space to get through and went to work with a relish that turned Standing-Bear's stomach when he had a moment to think about it. Not a sound was made other than the crash of the metal plate and the surprised shout of the Mastiff before he was cut in half.
The third guard had just enough time to turn before he was treated to the same fate as the Mastiff; only the one beneath Standing-Bear was still alive, and even then he was having a hard time breathing beneath the weight of the human and the metal on top of him.
"If you want out of this alive, you aren't going to say a word," Standing-Bear said seriously. "You're just going to stay here, in that hole, nice and quietly. If you don't, I doubt anything I could say will keep them from killing you," he said, nodding towards the two Night Raptors who were shaking the blood from their glistening feathers.
The mixed-breed canine nodded, fear overriding any loyalty he had to his employers as he watched the pair begin a quick grooming to lick the blood off each other so they wouldn't leave a trail.
"Get in there then," Standing-Bear said, standing and jerking his head towards the alcove he'd been hiding in just moments before.
With only one nervous look at the Night Raptors, who paused to stare right back at him, he scrambled into the small space and huddled there as Standing-Bear set the cover back on and used his lightsaber to seal it, leaving a small air hole so he wouldn't suffocate.
["All right, let's get going before they come back to check on things,"] he said, quickly checking his datapad and hoping it was right about what room the Prefects would be in.
["We are ready."] They nodded to him and fell into silent hunting mode again.
The trio returned to stalking quickly through the corridors, making their way to progressively larger, more important pathways and rooms. They managed to avoid much more trouble, a few droids here and there that were quickly dispatched, until they reached a large set of blast doors with numerous guards in front of it.
["They are in there,"] he told the Raptors quietly, mind working to try and figure out how he would get in without this having to turn into a bloodbath. More guards would undoubtedly be there swiftly if this turned into an open fight, enough to make the fight nearly impossible.
"*Sleep,*" he commanded the guards, deciding to at least whittle down the resistance, starting with the guards closest to the alarm and intercom. He couldn't help the small breath of relief when the nearest pair, standing on his side of the blast doors, sank down against the wall.
He continued the command to the other guards, telling himself that this was going to work, trying to put them to sleep one by one, starting at he back and working his way through to avoid the others noticing their somnolent companions.
He felt one more succumb, but the next one, a nervous-looking Weasel, was too keyed up to give in.
["Get ready,"] he said quietly. ["We have to drop them fast."]
The pair didn't make a sound, but he could feel their readiness and willingness the instant he moved forward. Four guards against the three of them was no contest by any stretch.
The first two fell to his lightsaber before they could act, but the third managed to hit the alarm before the Raptors had dropped them completely. Falling bodies roused the sleeping guards as the klaxon started blaring.
["Take care of the guards!"] Standing-Bear ordered the Raptors sharply, driving his lightsaber into the blast door, starting to carve through it as they quickly picked up and piled the bodies out of the way.
Half way through the heavy doors, he was aware that the pair had settled into guarding him again. He worked as fast as he could, but the metal was inches thick, and of a heavier grade than even most starfighters. It was going to take him a while.
Long enough, he found quickly, for the guards to catch them. An entire unit ran towards them, but he had to focus too much on getting through the door to fight them.
With the first blaster shot the Night Raptors abandoned their silence with whooping squawks and dove into the fray, taking guarding their leader with the seriousness of any Jedi partner he had worked with. He head screams of pain from guards, the occasional grunt as someone was body-slammed by a shredding machine and twice the cries of pain from his companions as blasters got through their defenses.
Finally, he got through the door, kicking a massive chunk of metal down and bursting into the room, deflecting a flurry of blaster shots from droid guards inside. His expression was grim as he fought he way through, trying to reach the three Prefects cowering at the back of the room.
The only warning he got that the living guards were dealt with was the even more terrified look on the Prefects' faces when the Night Raptors entered the room and began dispatching droids with a vengeance.
"Order the guards to stand down," Standing-Bear ordered them. "I don't care which one of you does it, but you'd best do it before my friends are through with the droids."
The Neimoidian of the group was the first to decide that it was a good idea to not make them any angrier than they already were and the droids and guards weren't really helping.
"Stand down." He ordered, watching as their defense stilled to the confusion of the Night Raptors, but a sound from the Jedi and they stilled as well to watch the Prefects with an eagerness to kill that wasn't hidden, only contained.
"Well, Third Prefect Thade," Standing-Bear said, recognizing the Neimoidian. "I see you did consider our reports about the Night Raptors being sentient. Now, which of the three of you is going to issue the order to leave this sector of space? Or am I going to explain to my friends that you all issued the order to have their hatching grounds smashed?"
He felt as much as saw the terror that instilled in the Neimoidian, his companions not far behind that state. Survival came first, and survival meant keeping this Jedi happy. Personal arguments could wait until they were not in immediate threat of a nasty death.
Still, it didn't stop them from trying to deflect the blame to some extent as they went into pointing at each other and throwing insults and accusations.
Whisper-of-the-Wind shifted in agitation. While silent, the movement caught their attention and silenced the debate.
"We will do it." Third Prefect Thade consented, not willing to move with the Night Raptors glaring at him.
"Now," Standing-Bear ordered. "Whichever one of you is highest ranked, give the order to withdraw, and to move to the edge of the Evidran system. Tell them that they are only to move back in on order from you, or from a Jedi representative."
The three exchanged looks before the human among them stood and walked over to a control panel, nervously watching the Night Raptors and Jedi as he began giving the orders to abandon the world.
"That's better," Standing-Bear said, listening as the orders were given. "Now, knowing the Federation, this should be the primary broadcast console for this ship?"
"Yes, Jedi." The human Prefect nodded uneasily.
"Good," Standing-Bear nodded. "You might want to step back from it a bit."
He looked at him oddly for a moment, but complied without a word.
Standing-Bear promptly demonstrated just why standing back would be a good idea, driving his lightsaber into the communications console, disabling it and making it impossible to send a countermanding order.
Prefect Thade trembled inwardly as everything fell apart. Evidran 3 was supposed to be his greatest business achievement yet, and it was turning into an unmitigated disaster.
["We'll return you to Evidran as soon as it's safe to,"] the Jedi promised his partners. ["But it's over now. They can't send their forces after your people anymore."]
["Thank you,] Jedi." Whisper-of-the-Wind said softly. ["Will you be staying with us?"]
["For a while, but not long,"] he said apologetically, extinguishing his lightsaber. The Prefects seemed to be under control, and the guards wouldn't try anything with their meal tickets at stake. ["There will be other people who need my help."]
The pair exchanged glances, uncertain of the validity of that but not about to question it either.
Prefect Thade watched the exchange, and then glanced at the other two Prefects, before slowly, carefully shifting so he faced the Jedi's side.
The Neimoidian's hands were inside his robes, as usual. What wasn't usual was the carefully concealed weight he was reaching for.
["Are either of you injured?"] Standing-Bear asked the Raptors with him, aware of Thade's movement around him, but not realizing what he was up to as years of experience surviving in the lethal environment of a Neimoidian crèche were put to use.
["Not badly."] Whisper-of-the-Wind answered, her eyes going wide and her deadly form already in motion as energy erupted between Thade and Standing-Bear.
Deep in meditation, trying to shake or find the cause of her incredible unease despite the success of her mission, B'lyn suddenly cried out and clutched her head, screaming as pain more intense than anything she'd known erupted in her mind. She was distantly aware of Nose-in-Danger's cries in both Basic and his own language, then his sudden absence, but all she could focus on was trying to survive the agony in her mind.
She couldn't tell what had happened, but she knew it was connected to her Master. Something had gone horribly, terribly wrong on Evidran, she was clear on that much.
"In here!" Nose-in-Danger said, hurrying back with one of the Healers, his voice becoming stronger as the door opened. "She in here! She screamed. Grabbed head. Nothing is here to hurt her."
The Healer, a green-skinned Twi'lek, hurried to B'lyn and knelt beside her. He could feel the pain practically pouring off of her, and knew almost immediately that her bond with her Master had broken, violently.
"B'lyn, whatever you're feeling, it isn't here," he said, reaching out towards her mind, his lekku touching hers.
"It's Master." She managed to cry out, her lekku twisting around his in a desperate hold onto reality.
"Nose-in-Danger, go to the front of the ship," the Master said quickly. "Tell them there's an emergency, and they should do whatever it takes to speed the ship up." He found B'lyn's mind, the ragged edges of the shattered bond.
"Yes." The Night Raptor nodded sharply and bolted towards the cockpit to give his message.
"Who are you?" He asked her, working to soothe those edges as he assessed the deeper damage that had been done.
"Padawan B'lyn." She managed to answer through the pain and conflicting information in her mind.
"And who am I?" He asked, picking what he hoped was an easier question as he sensed the strain on her mind from that one.
"Master Kethlya." She said, more sure of that one. "Where is Master Standing-Bear?" She asked, desperate to be wrong about what she felt.
"You can't tell me?" The Twi'lek asked cautiously, knowing that Standing-Bear wouldn't have broken a bond like this if he'd had any choice in the matter. Either the Federation had developed something very strange as a weapon, or he wasn't anywhere they could reach him in time to save him anymore.
The counter question stilled her for a long moment, her training at war with everything else that made her live. Finally she looked up, her violet eyes hollow with loss' agony.
"With the Force." She tried not to sob, knowing it wasn't a bad place where he was now.
Master Kethlya nodded slightly, sure of it himself, unconsciously wrapping his arms around her to hold her as he worked on the tattered bond. It was always delicate work, healing a bond like this. At least it had been quick, whatever had happened. It made the breaking more painful, but it made the healing and recovery more certain.
"Where are you?" He asked her softly, wanting to be sure she was completely in the here and now at the moment, not still at the other end of the broken bond.
"Safe." She half answered, searching for the one the Master actually wanted; it was an answer that was difficult to come by. Memories blurred; old missions, Coruscant, ships of a dozen kinds, rooms like this ... Evidran ... her Master.
"Where are you?" He repeated gently, but firmly. "Focus, Padawan. I know it hurts, but I need you here before I finish this."
"Yes, Master." Training more than real willingness brought her compliance, though it still took her time to shift through the jumble in her mind to put things in order and trace her way fully into the present and her self. "On board the Kon-Koon, en route to Evidran Three."
"Thank you," he nodded slightly, searching for the remains of the bond and working to sever them carefully, now that her mind was reasonably intact here. It wasn't entirely unlike severing a limb, and probably would have hurt just as badly if it weren't for the fact that she was still reeling from the pain of the initial damage.
"It's cold." She whispered, at a loss to explain being without her Master for the first time in seven years any other way. Then she looked up at the Master Healer, frightened on another level. She was a Padawan without a Master. "What happens to me after the mission, Master Kethlya?"
"That will depend on you, Padawan," he said softly, backing up a bit both physically and mentally; she'd be likely to want to try and connect with any mind she could just now. "But they will try to find another Master for you. Likely somebody you were already close to, along with Connor. Do you have any injuries?" He asked her, knowing that she likely wouldn't have noticed them yet if she did.
The question, again, brought obedience and she turned her attention herself.
"No, Master Kethlya."
"Good," he nodded slightly. "Padawan, I know this is going to be hard, but is there anything you can tell us about what happened?" He hated this part of dealing with a Padawan who'd lost a Master, but it was important to know what they were getting into if they could.
"He planned something to stop the Trade Federation. Something incredibly bad happened on Evidran that he couldn't wait for us. D-Death surprised him." She faltered for a moment before regaining her composure as Nose-in-Danger slipped into the room to settle as close to her as he dared. "I do not know more, Master Kethlya." She admitted and closed her eyes for a moment.
"Rest then, Padawan," the Twi'lek said softly. "But before I go, I have to ask you for your lightsaber. It will be returned to you before we disembark, but ... I'm sure you understand."
He caught the fear from Nose-in-Danger, and quickly realized it wasn't fear for his friend, but fear for her status. The young Night Raptor understood little of Jedi ways, but did associate the weapon with being one. Something deeper, a cultural issue all his own fueled it even as B'lyn got over her own confusion and unclipped the weapon to hand it over.
"Just a safety precaution," the older Twi'lek explained to them both. "We've lost too many Padawans not long after their Masters, and not always because they weren't any better equipped to handle the threat."
"The loss of a Master is a kind of pain that drives some to take their own life." She said more plainly to Nose-in-Danger, who only managed to look more confused. "I do not know how to explain it better." She apologized to him even as she stood shakily. "I would like to go to my quarters and rest now, Master Kethlya."
"Do so," he nodded slightly. "The pain shouldn't be as sharp when you wake up; I'll let you know when we reach the Evidran system. You can consider yourself off-duty until then."
"Yes, Master." She bowed and walked to the door, her outward manner nearly flawless despite only just holding herself together on the inside.
Nose-in-Danger looked at her, then the Master, questions echoing in his mind even as he leapt to his feet to follow her, his questions put on hold for his concern for his friend.
The Kon-Koon came out of hyperspace near Evidran 3, only to find a most unusual scene. A capital ship was adrift, no signs of life at all, and there was no other sign of ships in the area. Recent hyperspace signatures, but no signs of other ships.
"Master Kethlya, you wanted to know when we were in orbit," the pilot said into the intercom. "We're there... but I have no clue what's happened here."
"Understood," the Healer called back, before standing from his meditation to go wake up B'lyn. They'd have a mostly full report soon, he was sure.
Reaching the Padawan's quarters, he pressed the signaler lightly, the chime on the other side saying that somebody was there.
To little surprise, it was Nose-in-Danger who answered the door. The pair had been inseparable to begin with, but now he was very protective of her as well. He understood little more than before, but he understood she was in pain and cared for her as best he could.
"We are at Evidran." The Night Raptor said softly to the Master Healer. "I was about to fetch you. She is hurting again." He explained the grief-crying as best he could. "I can not help her." He added miserably.
"I'm not surprised," the Healer said softly. "It's a part of the loss," he explained. "There is a bond between Master and Padawan. When it breaks violently, like this one did, the pain is intense, even beyond grieving for the death of somebody that close to you."
The young Night Raptor nodded and stepped back so the Healer could enter, though he understood no better than the last time it was explained to him. Grief simply did not last long among his kind.
"Master Kethlya," B'lyn struggled to stand and bow to him. While she lacked her normal grace, that she tried despite the tear-tracks running down her purple skin and the redness in her violet eyes pleased the Healer.
"We're there," he said simply. "We received a message from Coruscant, Master Standing-Bear's last report before whatever happened. I'm afraid we have to check the situation on the planet first; the Federation attacked, hard, and they need Healers badly. Once we have assessed the situation, we'll see what happened on the Federation ship that's still in the system. Whatever it was, it was enough that they abandoned a capital ship."
"Knowing my Master, he infiltrated it, tried to force the Prefects to leave, or at least stop doing whatever they did." She barely whispered and stood, focusing her will to not tremble as she faced him squarely. There was work to be done and likely a great deal of it. "Will I still be allowed to assist, Master Kethlya?"
"That will depend on how much there is that needs to be done," he admitted. "I'd want you on light duty longer, but we may need you soon. I want the both of you along with us when we arrive on the planet; we'll need help with translation, if nothing else. Can you be ready to leave in a half-hour?"
"Yes, Master." She bowed with a little more grace, grateful to have something, anything, to do besides meditate on her lost Master and try to come to terms with her future with him gone. Half an hour would be more than enough time for a thorough round in the fresher that she knew she desperately needed by now and pack her largely still-packed belongings that would be useful on the trip.
"Report to the landing bay when you're ready then," he nodded. "I'll see you soon, Padawan."
"Thank you, Master Kethlya." She bowed again and watched as he left, holding herself together until the door closed. Before she could even strip her rumpled robes, the tears began to stream down her face again. She knew it distressed Nose-in-Danger to no end, and regretted that. Still, he had never faltered in his support of her and was a solid presence in the room, willingly accepted it when she told him that just being there was a help.
Knight Astel closed her eyes briefly and smiled when she felt her distant cousins approach.
"They are close." She turned to the other Jedi assembled on the ramp of their transport ship.
"Good," Master Kethlya murmured, focusing his attention on the matters at hand as he nodded to the Panther. "Hopefully, the work to do will help her cope with the loss of the bond. You can sense them both?"
"Yes," Astel nodded easily. "There are three others with them, I believe. Likely Night Raptors."
"Greetings!" A deep, very tired voice called out from the edge of the clearing as Knight Kelarn appeared, his partner at his side and three very wary and somewhat injured Night Raptors behind them. "Your skills are needed badly."
"We can see that," the green-skinned Twi'lek said seriously as B'lyn approached from further onto the ship. "Show us the way, then come back to the ship for some rest, you need it badly."
"Yes, Master." The pair agreed without question.
Nose-in-Danger all but danced in place as he waited his turn in the greetings, then moved forward quickly to nuzzle and talk quickly and quietly with the three Night Raptors there when everyone walked into the jungle to find what was left of the Creeping Wind flock.
All the Jedi were struck by the obvious damage to the jungle, still burnt and seared by the bombardment, trees laying about haphazardly, mixed in with chunks of metal from the vehicles that had crashed or exploded there. It didn't take long for them to realize that the battle that had led to Standing-Bear's last attack on the Federation had been devastating.
B'lyn swallowed hard as she realized, from what she could hear, that the three Raptors they had met were about half of the flock left and that they were the only ones who could still move around on their own. It didn't take a healer's skill to know that they were far from uninjured, but someone had to hunt, and these three were fit enough to hunt small, relatively slow game.
Her heart all but froze as the news of recent days, of the bombardment from space, the huge vehicles that ate the trees, the slaughter that had reduced the number of Night Raptors to fewer than five hundred. Then they moved on to the reorganization of flocks that would come in the following year as territories were restructured and the shattered remains of several flocks would gather to form a new one strong enough to hold it's own and raise the large number of hatchlings that were expected to be around in coming years.
What it said about how few were left in general was, frankly, terrifying. The Raptors likely bordered on extinction, especially given that there were few, if any, eggs left just now.
["What can we do to help?"] She asked as they returned, the Healers quickly performing a practiced spot triage on two Raptors who were there and most injured. B'lyn could see that Kills-the-Sun was one; he was alive at least. The other she didn't recognize. Both were horribly injured and had already seen a good deal of help given there were no healers here.
That thought made her look around at the survivors again and realized that Tends-the-Wounded, and all her knowledge, was absent.
["Help hunt,"] Nose-in-Danger said quietly, his grief and anger held in check by a kind of numb shock she could relate to. ["Let the injured rest. We do not even have a drummer left."]
"Master, if it would be acceptable, I'd probably be of most use finding food for the survivors," she offered. "My healing skills aren't very well honed, and they'll need more food with the large number of injured."
"All right," Master Kethlya nodded after a moment. "Take your friend with you, of course."
["Should we go to hunt then?"] She asked Nose-in-Danger. ["Get what we can, be back soon."]
He nodded quickly and sniffed the wind, hoping for a hint on where to head in the wrecked jungle. ["Fruit too."] He added as he stepped off. ["Dances-in-the-Sun has broken jaw. Hard to eat."]
["Understood,"] B'lyn nodded. ["Any word on if there are others, lost in the battle instead of killed?"] She asked softly as they started to move away from the small camp towards some standing trees that would still have fruit.
["Enough for a few flocks are left."] He nodded and sank into a hunting posture, his senses open for any sign of prey. ["Not so sure of who."]
["There's that much at least,"] she murmured softly, slipping into silence as the two of them hunted... and she tried not to think about whom it was that had taught her to do this.
The next morning, and the Night Raptors on the ground had been well-supplied with various small animals, and an ample store of the local fruit for the ones too injured to chew meat. B'lyn was just wiping her brow after hauling in the latest catch with Nose-in-Danger when she was approached by Knight Tarsis.
"We have to get to the Federation ship," he said softly. "Sensors picked up the signature of a Federation salvage crew entering the system, if we aren't on the ship to tell them to wait, we'll never find out what happened up there. You want to come with us?"
There was something about his tone as he asked that said Master Kethlya had already confirmed that they'd lost Standing-Bear on board.
It was a choice that tore her. She wanted to see for herself, to say goodbye where he fell before he was prettied up for the funeral. She had a hard time walking away from these people who still needed her help, even just for the day.
Her internal debate was sidelined by a slender muzzle nuzzling her arm and she looked down at Nose-in-Danger standing there with his head held low.
"Go. We have enough meat for now." He told her quietly but firmly. "See what you need to see."
She almost bit her lip, but nodded a silent thank you to him. "I would like to come, Master Kethlya."
She almost bit her lip, but nodded a silent thank you to him. "I would like to come, Master Kethlya," she said, turning to the Twi'lek Healer.
"Go ahead," he nodded. "We'll have to stay here for now, help the wounded. Just be careful; the ship's abandoned, but it may still have functional security."
"Understood, Master." She bowed and hurried back to the small freighter that had brought them all here, wondering who was going to be going, if the healers were staying here.
The two Panthers were there, along with the other two warriors who'd been with them, Masters Krem and Nylla, a Wolf and Cougar. Master Nylla looked over at B'lyn as she boarded, bowing her head in respect of the young Twi'lek's pain and uncertainty about whether or not to come with them.
"We'll be there soon," she said softly as the Panthers went into the cockpit and started to take off.
"Thank you, Masters." She bowed to them and found a seat in the small lounge near the entrance ramp to settle in for the short, uneventful journey into orbit and an unchallenged landing on the abandoned capital ship. Her mind wandered from the intensity of the mission to the intensity of a bond lost between one heartbeat and the next to just what she was looking for in seeing her Master's body that couldn't wait for the warriors to retrieve him and the funeral ... what would his funeral be? Jedi, or did he wish for something from his people?
She had to choke back a sob to realize she didn't know such a fundamental thing about her own Master.
Nylla reached over, gently putting a hand on B'lyn's shoulder, offering her support. She had lost her own Master, years before, and knew what B'lyn was dealing with.
"It will get easier," she promised, quietly proud that the young woman was as steady as she was. An honor not only to the strength her Master had brought out in her, but an asset to the Jedi for years to come. "We'll find out what he wanted."
"Thank you, Master Nylla," she looked at the Cougar with a mixture of gratitude and silent determination.
"We're on board." Knight Kelarn called back before the pair emerged to join the others near the ramp. "What is the plan?" He looked to Krem as the senior Jedi present.
The Wolf was quiet for a moment as he reached out through the Force, confirming that there weren't any survivors on board.
"Assuming the security is off-line and the life support isn't, we need to look for the center of what happened, why they abandoned the ship. I suspect that if we can find the command center, we'll find what happened, so we start for there."
"I've seen the schematics for this class of ship; I believe I know the way." Master Nylla spoke with a tight focus on her center against the memories of how she had acquired the knowledge. It wasn't what B'lyn was facing here, but it had taken her years to be calm when facing a Trade Federation Prefect again.
She was just intensely grateful that this mission had gone better than that one had, despite the loss at the end of it.
"You lead then," Master Krem nodded, double-checking the scans of the ship to make sure that everything indicated the ship was safe. "Padawan, if you could take the second position; we may need your help to identify some of the casualties."
"Yes, Master." She bowed slightly and fell into position as they moved through the massive ship and quickly found a working lift to take them towards the center of the ghostly quiet ship.
It wasn't hard to find the signs of violence; they could smell death, see the blood. Whatever had happened, it hadn't just been the Jedi and his helpers who'd been killed.
"It doesn't look like they went down by surprise." Kelarn observed, slightly disconcerted by the extent of the carnage.
"That is one of the Night Raptors." B'lyn pointed to a bit of a glint among the bodies.
"Blaster fire, concentrated," Nylla said, kneeling to check the body out quickly. "But it took a lot to put her down. I imagine that after things went sour, she and her partner started killing anything that moved."
"How can you be sure Standing-Bear was the first to go down?" Tarsis asked her, not wanting to believe it personally.
"Padawan, would Standing-Bear have allowed slaughter on this scale if he was in a condition to stop it?" Nylla asked B'lyn, knowing the answer already ... or at least thinking she did. He might have changed, on Evidran, but she didn't think it was that bad.
"No, Master Nylla." B'lyn answered softly. "A battle like this would never have happened."
"There were no bodies where they came in, only here." Master Krem added. "Only after something happened."
"The Night Raptors don't view death like we do. If Master Standing-Bear was still alive, not even the death of one would set the other off if he ordered otherwise." B'lyn added.
"All right," the Panther nodded, still less than thrilled to admit that his friend had been blindsided before things had really gone poorly.
"Come, let's find out the rest of what happened here," Krem said, putting together the events in his mind as the patterns all came into place.
"The control center is this way." Master Nylla indication further into the battle zone and the group moved, careful of the blood and gore that was everywhere.
It quietly sunk in for most that the death all around them had been created by two beings with no weapons but themselves. They had had two advantages - relatively tight quarters and likely packed enemies. Still, while messier, they had done more actual damage than a pair of Jedi in the same situation. They had dedicated themselves wholly to their work, and done it well while they still could.
"Here's the second Raptor," Tarsis said quietly, looking ahead to damaged blast doors. "And that's where we'll find the rest, I assume."
B'lyn drew a low, deep breath and followed the older Jedi into the room with little blood but an incredible level damage and droid parts everywhere. Beyond the entrance there were only four bodies. One intact and three that were clearly the targets of the Night Raptor's response to what had happened.
She was grateful, honestly, that the intact one was her Master's.
"The Prefects didn't last long after their attack," Nylla observed quietly, stepping aside to let B'lyn through to her Master's body. A Neimoidian hand was still grasping a hold-out blaster, near the remains of the Prefects. The side indicator said that only one shot had been fired before its wielder had been killed, but the one shot had been enough.
It had ended a Jedi Master's life. Not the first, and likely not the last, to have such a fate.
Only this Jedi had help that made his killers pay dearly for their choice.
"It was as I felt." B'lyn said softly, almost to herself. "He barely saw it coming."
"Which means he didn't suffer," Nylla pointed out softly as the others took what notes they had to, Krem looking at the eviscerated comm console.
"He made sure they couldn't order their forces back to the planet ... he probably thought the threat was dealt with and over when it happened."
"That would have been the only way one could do anything without him noticing, Master." B'lyn pointed out quietly as she gently closed her Master's eyes and settled him on his back, ready for the funeral. A more determined look around found his lightsaber, splattered with blood from the Prefects. It, too, was soon put in place before B'lyn stood and looked down at her fallen Master.
Suddenly she was at a loss again. Her last duty to him done, the mission complete, she had nothing more to focus on outside of her own mind.
"Come on," Tarsis said softly, putting a hand on her shoulder as his partner picked up the stiff body. "We'll get him back to the ship."
"Thank you," She whispered and closed her eyes briefly before focusing on the present and moving forward.
Padawan B'lyn stood in the front row to watch her Master's body reduced to ash. She expected the other Jedi to be there, standing in their formal robes like she was. She was surprised at the number of Night Raptors who had come to witness this utterly alien ceremony for a man who had given his life for them.
She knew they respected and were thankful of his aid, but to come to pay respect to him the way his people did was more than she expected of such a primitive society. Every able-bodied member was likely there. It was only a score or so, but it was a significant turnout.
As the pyre of local hardwoods was lit, silence fell across the gathering. It would last for hours, to dawn at least, and while no one but B'lyn was required to stay, she had little doubt that they would all be there when the pyre was ashes and she turned to leave.
The Night Raptors hadn't been quite sure what to make of the fact that the bodies were brought back, let alone the mound of wood the Jedi gathered for this ritual, once they had found the information they needed. They'd helped though, even though she was sure they didn't quite understand the explanation.
There was a light breeze; not enough that the fire risked spreading beyond the funeral pyre, but enough that the smell was blown away from the clearing as the flames started to wreath the Jedi on top of it. B'lyn took a deep breath, trying to keep her breathing steady and herself under control.
A lifetime of training hadn't prepared her for this, but it had prepared her to stand in silent, still respect for the life given for others. To grieve silently here without tears, only to let them fall in the solitude of her quarters on the way back to Coruscant to learn her fate, who her new Master would be, from the Council.
A soft touch of skin against her cheek drew her back to the funeral, the body and pyre all but gone and the light long fled from the Jungle.
He didn't make a sound; he only stood there next to her and physically reminded her that she was not alone, not without friends loyal to her.
She put a hand on Nose-in-Danger's neck lightly, grateful for the support. She hadn't even really noticed the passage of time as the fire had burned. She could almost feel Standing-Bear's presence there, nearby in the Force that surrounded her. It helped, being able to feel that, even if it was only a fleeting sense of him.
As the fire started to burn down, she was started to feel the touch of another mind, supportive and almost understanding from above her ... and vaguely familiar.
She glanced away from the pyre, into the shattered remains of the great canopy, and spotted the source easily. It brought a small smile to her lips to realize that the little creature that had followed her from her first day here had survived. Curious too, that it was here, apparently alone and so near so many large predators.
She reached out gently with her mind with a touch of gratitude and appreciation for his presence.
She could feel its returned concern for her, for the pain it could still feel from her mind. It was clear that the small primate had felt her, and wanted to make sure she was all right. She couldn't help but be a little impressed with its reaction.
["The leaders are going to talk,"] Nose-in-Danger told her quietly. ["Rebuilding the flocks. Are you staying here, or want to go listen?"]
She had to pause at that. She didn't want to leave, but duty came first.
["Would it be ... not good ... if I did not come?"] She asked quietly, sure the other Jedi would be there. The funeral was basically over with now.
["No one would think bad of you."] He nuzzled her. ["They all see how bad this hurts you."]
["Perhaps I will join them later."] She nodded. ["I would like some time ... just to myself ... with this. To say goodbye."]
["I will tell you what you miss."] He promised with a nuzzle and disappeared into the deep greens, leaving her to think and reflect in the small privacy of the glade.
Knight Tarsis turned to look at Nose-in-Danger as he approached, alone, from the pyre. He wasn't surprised that B'lyn was staying behind; she needed some time to herself.
He was just glad somebody was there who could translate for them now. The Raptors were clearly discussing something, likely something important, but the six Jedi present hadn't a clue what.
The young Night Raptor noticed his look and moved to join the small group.
"B'lyn staying at fire for a time." Nose-in-Danger told them quietly.
"We understand," the Panther nodded. "Can you help translate for us?" He asked.
Nose-in-Danger nodded and focused on the conversation for a while. "They are deciding who is going to be with which flocks, and which flocks will continue to exist. We do not have the numbers left for all the flocks that were, so several flocks will have to join under a single leader and territory to survive and protect the hatchlings that will come."
"How are they going to decide?" Master Kethlya asked, concerned for some of the possibilities.
"Debate now. Might fight later, if they can not pick. Fights rarely hurt much." He added for the Healer's benefit. "Too many dead for such fights now."
"Good," the Twi'lek mused. It didn't sound like they needed to step in just now. "Is there anything being discussed we should be aware of?"
"Who is going to lead, where the injured will be." The young Night Raptor said uncertainly. "What are you interested in?"
"Anything about outsiders like us, other Jedi," the Healer said, thinking about what would be most crucial to know. "If they are willing to accept our help with their wounded; there are more of our healers coming, now that we know about the situation."
"Most will." He said simply with a small dip of his head. "All know what Jedi did for us. Other outsiders not very welcome. Jedi always will be."
"We're honored," Master Kethlya said with a polite bow. "If you can, tell them that we want to help however we can, and several Healers will be willing to stay here for a prolonged time."
"I need to wait until there is an opening in the talk to say anything." He looked at the Twi'lek seriously. "I am not a leader. I must wait for my time to speak. I will tell them when I can."
"I understand," the Jedi nodded. "That is why I asked."
Nose-in-Danger started to say something when his senses caught something on the edge of his perception and focused on it. He doubted danger, but he wasn't about to ignore anything right now.
The Jedi turned to look at what he was focused on, equally on-edge, though they sensed no danger just now. The Federation was gone, but there was no telling what predators might be attracted to the wounded Raptors in the area and the general commotion that the meeting was.
"It is a Night Raptor." Knight Kelarn said after a moment.
"Climbs-High!" Nose-in-Danger added a moment later, his voice almost a squeak of delight as he rushed into the foliage to greet his flock mate and lifelong co-conspirator.
The Jedi all smiled, seeing the pair reunited. It was a pleasure to see some happiness here, to feel it as well.
The two Raptors greeted each other enthusiastically, rubbing sleek muzzles and making a quick go at grooming while clicking and making other sounds of greeting, pleasure and relief that were not even words as the pair assured each other that they were alive and here and not intended to be parted again.
After long, lingering moments of touching and crooning, Nose-in-Danger turned back to the Jedi and led his friend forward.
"Jedi, this is Climbs-High, my flock and clutch-mate." He motioned to the slightly smaller Night Raptor before looking at her and introduced them, names and rank clear among the clicks and rawks of their language.
"Hi." She spoke one of the few words she knew in Basic.
"Hello," Master Kethlya nodded politely, smiling at her. "It's good to see you are safe."
A quick exchange as Nose-in-Danger translated and she dipped her head as he spoke. "Thank you. It is good to have survived."
He tensed fractionally and dipped his entire body in submission, almost like a bow, to the powerfully built female with a broken arm who now stood in front of the other leaders with a distinct intent on the Jedi.
She looked at him sharply, a rapid spat of words between them before he nodded and turned his head to the Jedi.
"Shatters-Machines wishes to ask you questions. I will translate." He explained quietly, carefully keeping his body language and tone submissive.
"I will answer the best I can," Master Kethlya nodded. "Thank you."
The leader nodded at the translation and began with an intensity that rather frightened Nose-in-Danger despite the fact that she only had one good arm left. One word the Jedi understood even before he translated. 'Ship'.
"How long would it take your ship to travel from one great water to the other?" He asked after working the question out as well as its intent. "How many Night Raptors can it hold?"
"How far is it between them?" The Twi'lek asked, not sure if they were referring to the planet's two oceans or something else.
"*If it's the oceans, it should be a half-hour or so at comfortable speeds, and we should be able to load fifty of them if we pack the transport fairly tight,*" Master Krem told the Healer, recognizing that he'd taken the role of alpha for the conversation by being the one Nose-in-Danger was speaking to.
"A season of walking." Nose-in-Danger struggled to answer. "Very far. We have no one further apart. The leaders are considering moving all the injured to the great gathering caverns so the few healers there are can care for them better. Ship is needed to move them, and move meat from far away. There is not enough prey in that area to support everyone for as long as needed."
"We can move them," Master Kethlya nodded, running the calculations in his head. "It would take several trips, but we should be able to move them in a day or two."
Nose-in-Danger blinked, still not accustomed to such an ability. He recovered quickly though, and turned to Shatters-Machines to explain the offer and timing in full with several pauses to answer questions from her and others before he turned back to the Jedi.
"How long will Jedi be staying with us?" He asked.
"It depends on how long we are needed, and what our Council decides," Master Kethlya explained. "We may be interested in trying to establish a place here, for our people. Your planet has many things that interest us greatly."
He nodded and turned to explain that to the leaders, who almost overwhelmed him in return.
"You would be ..." he paused, searching for the right word. "*Very welcome. Leaders want Jedi here. Want to learn more of Jedi ways and people." He dipped his head in embarrassment. "I have been given a new name for what I am doing. Speaks-with-Jedi. B'lyn is flock to me. She has a home here for life. We will not forget what was done for us."
"B'lyn will not be able to stay here for too long, I'm afraid," Master Kethlya explained. "She will have to return to Coruscant, complete her training. Though after that, I imagine she will return here, at least for a time. I suspect that there will be Jedi who stay here for a long time, but it is not my place to promise it."
"I understand." The young Night Raptor nodded and turned to the leaders to endure another round of questions he answered while picking up what to ask the Jedi.
"They would like to begin moving the injured as soon as possible."
"Lead the way; we'll bring the ship and start loading them as soon as we can," the Twi'lek said easily, the twins turning to go fetch the transport.
Raptors of Evidran 3: Obsidian and Senate
269 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written October 2, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann
Setting: Star Wars (Furry)
Primary Races: Human, Ka-Karur (Night Raptor), Panther, Twi'lek
Contents: Furry. Gen. Death, Violence
Blurb: While Nose-in-Danger and Padawan B'lyn work on the Senate Sentience Committee on Coruscant to evict the Trade Federation from Evidran, Master Standing Bear stays with the Night Raptors there and works on convincing them that this is a planet not worth the price it will demand to strip. The only real question is how much of Evidran and the Night Raptor race will be left when the Senate finally acts.
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 October 2, 2005