tagSci-Fi & FantasyKita'thalla Ch. 12

Kita'thalla Ch. 12

byBowoodstock©

Finally. I know I know, this thing is over half a year overdue, but school just wouldn't give me a rest. Anyone who tells you summer school is easier than the regular fall/winter terms is lying. Hope you enjoy.



"...What happened next...I almost couldn't believe. All of them, even Elder Niko...they joined me. Or rather, they tried to."

"Tried to?" Eric asked.

Kita nodded, pulling her knees closer to her chest. Strangely enough, the telling of her past had calmed her down considerably from when he'd first woken up. "The Prime Elder made sure that I was very alone. While they voluntarily went on the path of the rogue, and there was nothing he could do about that. But he was more than able to make sure they couldn't assist me in any way."

Eric frowned before wincing in pain as the motion stressed the injured side of his face. "Ow... okay, well maybe I'm not understanding what you mean by the path of the rogue. Didn't you say it was something like exile? If you're an outcast from your people, how can they tell you what to do, and why are you still serving in the military?

Kita sighed. "It's not quite like that. You see...our ancestors, back in the days of the first hunters, life was harsh. The struggle to get food, fights against neighboring cadres...I already explained that much to you. With things as they were, another strong back and a set of sharp claws was very valuable, even if they belonged to one who had lost all honor, through their crimes or any other means. We couldn't afford to have a death penalty in the traditional sense, just killing off an able body like that was wasteful. So, the ultimate punishment was death by the path of the rogue. They were outcast, yes. They didn't live with the rest of the cadre, in fact they were typically forbidden from coming within a certain distance of the settlement. But they were still in service of the cadre. They would hunt for new prey alone, as movement of many hunters could alert the herds. In cases of war with other cadres, they were the forward scouts, and would sometimes be used as infiltrators if need be. They would also be the ones to alert the cadre of any surprise attacks, and would fight off any rogues that might be in service to the other cadres. In essence, they were given the most hazardous jobs required, jobs that likely would result in their death. But they would die in service to the cadre, so their death would not be wasted."

"That makes sense..." Eric nodded "But, why would a rogue do all this, wouldn't they hold a grudge? What ensured that they would do everything asked of them?"

"Some didn't" Kita replied. "But...most would, for two main reasons. First of all, loyalty to their cadre or house. If you had family in the cadre, and by your actions you could help their survival even if you were exiled, you'd do it wouldn't you? Second..." Kita reached behind her head, pulling her long braided mane over her shoulder. "It was possible to be forgiven, if you survived long enough. When a ketral becomes rogue, they cut their mane if it is longer than shoulder length. If they then survived long enough for their mane to reach the end of their tail, then they would be deemed to be too valuable to risk death during exile, and could rejoin the cadre."

"They would be accepted back in, just like that?" Eric asked.

"Well actually, they would almost be revered." Kita said. "To survive that long as a rogue is very VERY rare. Those who did, it was like they'd passed the ultimate test of survival. It obviously depended on the individual as to whether or not people trusted them anymore after this time, but they almost always had a sway on the council of Elders, as they were bound to have gained a great amount of knowledge and skill in their time of exile. And of course, no one could ever doubt their ability as a warrior."

"So that's why you wear yours long?"

Kita nodded. "As you might guess, having a long mane is usually a disadvantage in a fight. Gives opponents something to grab, it can get caught on things, so most warriors wear theirs short. A long mane is typically only worn by elders or mated females, those who do not fight anymore. For rogues attempting to serve their sentence though, this obviously isn't an option. To keep it out of the way, rogues braid their mane, and many take measures to discourage an opponent from grabbing it." She nodded to the spiked metal bands lying against the wall. "And as for the reason you haven't seen any others...like many traditions, the path of the rogue is not very common any more. As our empire expanded and we became more prolific, we eventually did adopt the traditional death penalty as done by other races. But the old laws were never removed, so it is still an option, either as a sentence or as self imposed exile. And as I said, it's rare for a rogue to survive for long, so very few actually manage to grow theirs out to any noticeable length."

Eric glanced at the braid snaking over her shoulder as she said this, the length of her mane suddenly becoming much more impressive as he digested the new information. "So that means you...well...you're pretty good, aren't you?"

"You recognized my name, didn't you?" she asked, a shadow of her normal confidence returning to her expression."

Yes, he certainly had. Upon learning just who she was, he'd pushed that little fact to the side of his mind when she was telling her story. It was unreal though. Even as he thought about it now, he was having the hardest time in the world trying to convince himself that one of the most infamous ketrals known to man was sitting across from him in a cave. The fact that Chaska kitathala had turned out to be a "her" made it even more unbelievable! The past week also seemed impossible, as his mind just didn't want to connect the "Kita" he'd come to know with the ruthless assassin that had never left any survivors to tell the tale. It really wasn't something that he wanted to think about.

"I guess I did" he said, trying think of a way to move the conversation away from her supposedly murderous true nature. "So...you've managed to grow it out that long. How much longer do you think it will take? It doesn't look like you have long to go."

"Really?" she asked, thinking about it for a second before giving a small laugh. "I haven't looked in a while. Never seemed much point in constantly measuring." She seemed to contemplate something for a moment, looking at Eric out of the corner of her eye before doing something that made Eric forget about every single one of his injuries.

++++++

From her hunched sitting position, Kita gracefully uncoiled her body, rising to her feet. Flickering shadows danced across her naked body as she rose to her feet, the forest canopy outside the cave filtering the afternoon light into a gentle illuminating glow. Kita could almost feel the way his eyes roamed across her body, his eyes following the curves of her breasts, the lighter fur trailing down her body past her navel to the small cleft barely visible between her thighs. Swallowing and trying to ignore the pounding of her heart, she turned around to face away from him, watching him out of the corner of her eye over one shoulder.

"To measure properly..." she said, her voice snapping Eric's eyes away from their examination of her rear end, "Requires assistance. Another reason I've never really done it much. The reason being, the mane is measured when the head is held level. Even with a mirror, you can't see behind you and keep your head straight"

Eric dimly nodded, his mouth still hanging half open in shock.

"So then..." she continued, taking a few steps backwards until she was standing right in front of him. "Where is it?" she turned her head away, looking straight ahead. It took all of her self control to hold her tail straight towards the ground, as she was already having a hard enough time stopping her self from trembling with nervousness.

An eternity seemed to pass before she finally heard him speak. "It's...um...just a little past your tail."

"The top?" she asked.

She heard him swallow. "Yeah uh...maybe, like...mid-cheek?"

"Mid-cheek?" she gave a nervous laugh. That was a funny way of describing it. The length of her mane however, wasn't the most prominent thing on her mind right now. Ever since she'd stood up, she'd been paying attention to his body language. The way he watched her, the way his eyes followed the shape of her body. Even as she had turned to look away from him, she was still observing with her other senses. Her ears picked up his rate of breathing, the tone of his voice, and her nose picked up the subtle changes in his scent. Glancing at him over her shoulder again, she saw his eyes were again riveted on her hindquarters.

"Right. About there." he replied, his voice quavering a little. "So...you have to hold your tail down like that?"

"Yes." she nodded, her heartbeat racing as her next move made its way into her mind. Without giving herself the chance to get cold feet, she faced the wall before reaching behind with both hands, one grabbing her mane, the other reaching for the end of her tail. "As you can see..." she arched her back slightly, bringing the two ends together, "It's not that difficult to make the ends meet this way."

Even without hearing the sharp intake of breath from Eric, Kita knew exactly what she was showing him. The cool draft of air between her legs left no doubt on how visible her sex was to anyone sitting directly behind her. His breathing was shallow, but not in a way that suggested distress. No, quite the opposite, based on the alien but unmistakable way his scent had changed, just as it had a few days back when she'd taken off her body glove. The feeling of him watching, the evidence of his arousal, it all sent shivers down her spine, and she was also conscious of a strange warmth building in the area just beneath her navel that was slowly spreading downwards. She'd never felt anything like...wait, no, she had. That morning at the river, when he'd pulled her in and...whatever it was that he'd done. It had made her heartbeat quicken just as it was now, in a way that she had previously only experienced on the field of battle. It was exhilarating.

And yet, she was more scared than she had ever been on any battlefield. Despite all the signs that suggested he was still...well, interested, she still couldn't bring herself to ask anything that would confirm it. Sooner or later, everything about her, who she was, the things she had done, all of it would finally sink in and she had no idea what he would do then. Hell, even without all of that, she was still a Ketral! The wall in front of her wavered, and she suddenly realized that she had been holding her breath. Letting go with both hands, she took a few steps back to her side of the cave, leaning against the wall for a moment to recover her senses. Finally daring to turn back, she found Eric still staring slack jawed at her. Was that reassuring? Then why didn't she feel any better?! Maybe he...ARGH! Had she just made an idiot out of herself? Glancing down at the cave floor, she made sure that the pistol was within Eric's reach before sprinting out into the forest without another word.

+++++++++

Well.

That was...

That was...

He didn't know what it was. One minute Kita had been standing in front of him in all her natural glory, the next she was gone. What exactly had been the point of that conversation again? Something about measuring her mane. But...okay, maybe she was just making a point. There was no way that she'd shown him her...everything on purpose, right? But then, why had she taken off like that, and where was she going? A crashing sound from outside the cave made him jump. Warily scanning the forest, his hand reflexively reached for the pistol on the ground, but he paused as he was unable to find the source. Must have been a loose tree branch or something of that nature. His eyes lingered though, searching for any sign of Kita. A seed of worry planted itself in his mind. She didn't have a weapon with her and she clearly wasn't thinking straight in one way or another. Wait, why was he worrying about her? He was the injured one here, it's not like he was going to be much help in his current condition! Besides, if she really is who she says she is...crap. Back to this again.

Her identity complicated things greatly. Yes, she'd said that she didn't want to kill him. But...if they ever got off this planet, would it stay that way? If they were found by Ketrals...well, he was gone anyways if that happened. If they were found by his people...how was he going to explain her to them? He had no doubt that most of the earth forces would want to shoot her on sight, if only for the notoriety of being the one to take down such an infamous enemy soldier. And even supposing they didn't just open fire, how would she react? Would she go peacefully or try to go out fighting?

What if they didn't know who she was? A light bulb went off in the back of his mind, though it was quickly dimmed. Hiding the identity of a known wanted enemy officer, how many regulations did that break? But she hadn't told him who she was at the start so...maybe they'd buy it that he'd never found out who she was? He'd been shocked as it was that this beautiful alien woman was a legendary assassin. Maybe it would be just as unbelievable to everyone else. But if they found out...ugh, it was giving him a headache, all the ways it could go wrong. Looking over to the disarray of his medical kit he let out an exasperated sigh. Another 2 hours to wait before he was allowed to take another painkiller. Well, in the mean time, he could clean up the mess she'd made. Testing the strength of his injured leg, he found it painful but bearable. Wincing as he was again reminded of his cracked ribs, he moved himself across the cave floor over to his supplies and set to the task of figuring out just exactly where everything had been.

++++++

Grinding to a halt, Kita stared at the river in frustration. At a time where she wanted to do nothing but run, why did something like this have to get in the way? Yes, she could swim across but...argh! It was too late, she'd stopped and now she had to deal with herself. Slumping to the ground, she tried to clear her mind but it just wouldn't shut up. Even the weather was throwing her off. The bright sunny afternoon just didn't belong with all the ugliness that had happened. And of all the places for her to arrive on the river, it was the inlet, the same place that earlier that day they'd had their water fight and...she touched her lips with one hand before screaming and slamming both fists into the ground. Squeezing her eyes shut to block out the scenery, she tried to make sense of the conflict in her mind.

It was just too much. She'd never felt the mating urge before. Not before today. And when she did, it was towards a human. It seemed wrong, after everything she'd learned about them, how they were weak, unworthy. It should have been towards a member of her own species, a warrior of some kind!

And yet on the same day she'd been beaten and nearly taken by one of her own race. The rites of last hunt even said that it was proper that she take him as her mate, as he'd technically proven his worthiness by beating her. But the thought of being with him, it wasn't just a lack of the mating urge, she was flat out disgusted, and at the moment he had been about to take her...she didn't want to think about it.

And then Eric, he'd almost been killed. She remembered how frantic she'd been, how afraid she was that she'd never be able to say to him how she felt, and yet now she was too much of a coward to do just that! Even if he did respond favorably...would he then want to...she shuddered. After getting beaten to within an inch of her life and almost forcibly taken, was she just going to turn around and give herself to a human?! What were the chances of him responding that way anyways?! She was Chas'ka Kita'thalla! Standing to run again, she tripped on a tree root and landed roughly on her knees at the waters edge, nearly going face first into the water as she sprawled onto her hands. Cursing loudly and moving to stand again, she caught sight of a reflection in the water.

She didn't recognize herself.

The uniform was gone. The perfectly groomed, braided mane...it wasn't there. The hard killer's eyes were missing, and the proud posture of a warrior was absent. She was naked. Her mane and parts of her fur were still matted with dirt, dried blood, and bits of debris from the fight. The rogue's braid, a mark of strength and shame was loose, close to coming undone. There were also several scars showing, a result of the fact that even as flesh repaired itself, it took a while for the fur to grow back. Running her fingers through her own mane, she saw the figure in the water mirror the action. It was her...and yet...

Staring for a few more moments, she finally closed her eyes. Reaching behind, she untied the knot holding the braid together. Separating out the plaits, she slowly combed through it with her claws, removing the various twigs and debris that had accumulated during the fight. Standing, she stepped into the water and washed herself, leaving only her scars as evidence of the fight. Finishing, she paused as she considered waiting a while to let her mane dry, but decided against it. In her sudden flight, she'd nearly forgotten about Eric's injuries. Stupid of her really, even if he did have the gun. While he hadn't seemed to think they were overly severe during his self examination, the planet had shown an annoying ability to produce trouble out of no where on an almost daily basis. It was probably best if she returned as soon as possible. Starting out into the forest, she stopped as a scent on the wind hit her. A few memories from the fight surfaced and she changed her course slightly. It was more or less on the way back anyways,

++++++++

Eric nodded in approval as he placed the last vial into it's proper place. It had taken a little longer than he'd thought it would, but thankfully nothing was missing or broken.

"Are you sure you should be moving around?"

Eric jumped at the voice behind him, though there was no mistaking who it was. A wave of relief washed over him as he turned to see Kita settling into her normal spot. The wave of relief was quickly replaced by a shortness of breath as he realized that not only was she still naked, but she looked different. Her mane was undone, cascading around her in waves after being bound up in the braid for so long. It was then that he registered that she'd asked him a question.

"Oh, uh...yeah, I'm fine" he replied, thankfully finding his voice before he made a fool of himself again. "It obviously would have been a bad idea for me to run after you, but...." he shrugged

Kita simply nodded and dropped something on the cave floor in front of her wrapped in a tattered black cloth. It took a moment for Eric to realize that it was the remains of the top she'd been wearing prior. Unwrapping it, she revealed his combat knife, her plasma pistol, and what appeared to be some kind of necklace. It wasn't until she tied it around her neck that he recognized it as a string of claws. Setting the two weapons aside, she examined the cloth for a moment before shaking her head. "Mind if I borrow this for a moment?" she asked, holding up his knife.

Eric shrugged, though several questions were on his mind. "No, go ahead"

Kita nodded in thanks. Taking the body glove she'd been wearing under her armor on the first day, she set to work with the knife. "Since my other things were completely ruined..." she said by way of explaination as she worked. "This is is all I have left. It's not ideal for this climate."

"I see." replied Eric. Her behavior was confusing the hell out of him. She'd seemed upset about something when she dashed out of the cave. The way she was acting now though, it was as if nothing had happened. As if nothing had happened at all, actually, the way she was talking about the clothing ruined in the fight.

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