At Odds Ch. 01byGinaeEvans©
Author's Note: Hey guys! Hope you enjoy the beginning to my little ramble. I'm actually not a newcomer to Lit, and my previous tale was very, very well-received.
But, as usually happens, unfortunate circumstances prevented me from posting the completed story and I wanted to make a fresh start with a new pen name. I'm actually a little curious if any of my former fans will recognize my style of writing. Hmm, we shall have to see, won't we? Anyhow, happy reading and please review! Comments are very rewarding to writers, and they give us the necessary fuel to continue.
Post Script: One; I'm a fan of long, well-written, plot-driven stories and that is the way I try to write as well. For those of you who are just looking for a quick bit of fun, this might not be your sort of tale.
And two; some of the words, especially from Jaril's perspective, are purposely misspelled to better give you an understanding of how he hears and interprets our language. You'll see when you get there. ;)
~ ~ ~
The year is 3520. Traveling at light speed was a technological triumph that was finally breached by the human race three-hundred years prior. After swift exploratory actions were taken, it was obvious that the surrounding galaxies and planets were not only inhabited, they'd been watching the human race's advances towards unfettered space travel with increasing apprehension.
As negotiations, treaties, bargains, and boundaries were struck, it soon became evident that the human species was regarded as little more than a type of insane primate with innate homicidal tendencies. As a result, their progress in space travel was not well-received by many surrounding planets of people.
Moreover, the latest in human technology was considered primitive to the more advanced races, and put them at a severe disadvantage. A distinct difference than what they were accustomed to. As such, the humans were no longer at the top of command, and were put on non-negotiable restrictions wrought with endless limitations.
They were eventually allowed to expand but were left to build their own settlements when and where they were able. Furthermore, any attempts to branch out would not be aided.
Planet Saris, as it came to be known, was a huge red sphere that lay on the outer edge of the Lunari Galaxy and was fourth away from two small, twin orange suns. It was an exciting find for the humans to say the least. This large, newly discovered planet, seemed wholly unexplored, unclaimed and almost immediately became the target of an intense, enthusiastic study.
As more and more data was recovered, it soon became evident that despite the majority of it being covered in dense jungle, this planet was rich in fertile ground, well-hydrated, and the atmosphere was comparable to Earth's. The climate was a bit warmer, much more humid and, instead of the usual greens, the foliage ranged from an odd crimson to a burgundy so dark it was almost black. But these small differences were entirely negligible.
All in all, it seemed Saris would make a splendid site for a new human settlement and select few were chosen to be left behind to populate. This group would establish a claim, defend it, research the new territory and all its lifeforms, build, and attempt to cultivate the land.
Annually, however, a supply ship would be sent back to drop off needed provisions, and to do a wellness report on the society's condition as a whole. The findings were sent directly to the main intelligence sector of the human government as a basis for further expansion into the universe.
For the first year or two, all went according to plan. Things changed, however, when first contact was made. It seemed there was a multitude of indigenous peoples after all, and the native inhabitants were not as welcoming as the planet itself. Mostly, they seemed to be nothing more than scattered villages of primitive tribal-like races.
None were human and none seemed to enjoy having them around, but they did not try to run the newcomers off. Rather, these beings initially went out of their way to avoid contact.
However, as more and more land was cleared to make room for the visitors, accidental meetings occurred fairly often. As time passed, reluctant communication was learned, hesitant agreements were made and, after a bit of negotiating, it seemed that mingling and trading with the jungle people would actually work out rather well.
It wasn't to be, though. Soon, the more peaceful tribes became the target of harassment and cruel pranks. Groups of the more rowdy younger men were the culprits in many of these so-called games. And, as they were apprehended, they were duly punished.
The damage had been done, however, and the humans were now branded "dangerous", and all contact, friendly or otherwise, ceased quite abruptly.
Shrugging the setback off, the determined group of humans continued to build and thrive on their new planet, unaware that another tribe was keeping a very close watch on them; observing and learning. This species knew the jungle well and they knew how to stay out of sight until just the right moment.
Saris was big. Nearly three times the size of Earth. And, as such, a large portion of it still remained unexplored. Having not run into anyone other than the tribes that they'd already encountered and traded with, the human settlement foolishly thought that there were none other.
How very, very wrong they were.
The first raid struck in the middle of the night; swift, brutal and merciless. People were killed, livestock and supplies were stolen, as well as a good amount of much needed weapons and ammunition. And, as an added hardship, they also burned a substantial number of crops that the humans had managed to start growing.
The second attack happened a fortnight later, only they struck at dawn. This time around, however, the invaders had learned how to use their own weapons against them. Barring those two inconsistencies, it was a complete repeat of the first raid and left behind many more casualties. Witnesses could only speak of blurry recollections of large, dark-red beings charging out of the thick foliage and swarming into the unaware human population, leaving destruction in their wake.
However, after several more violent meetings, the humans managed to collect themselves and prepare an adequate defense. It proved formidable enough that they captured several of the alien warriors alive for study.
As time passed and research was done, the humans had gathered enough information about this new threat to make general assumptions based on their behaviors and appearances, and acquire a loose understanding of their language.
They were the dakreeth and, until the humans had landed, they were the unchallenged, dominating race of Saris. This war-like society populated the deep inner jungle, where the other, gentler clans generally didn't venture. The dakreeth, it seemed, were spread out in large sections all over the planet and made a habit of raiding and conquering the weaker species that they surrounded.
Fully suited to jungle living, they were a tall, humanoid, leanly muscled, agile race; able to jump from tree to tree and move through the dense thicket with a silent, fluid-like ease.
Their coloring mainly ranged from crimson to burgundy, just like the surrounding trees and plants, and their bodies were criss crossed with tiger-like black stripes. Completing the camouflage; their hair was thick and black, usually held back in long, vine-like plaits.
Never backing down from a challenge however, the human settlement fought fiercely for their claim and managed to hold their own against the hostile aliens. Nevertheless, the war waged on endlessly. Each side seeking to conquer the other and, thus, the planet as a whole.
As a result, most often whenever a human and dakreeth were to unexpectedly meet outside the confines of their territory, the outcome was commonly violent and fatal.
Years passed without much change. The surrounding planets knew of the small war that waged on Saris, but did little to either heed or hinder it. As long as it didn't spread out onto the neighboring planets, most just kept a wary watch on the proceedings.
The human settlement had grown in spite of the conflict and had claimed a permanent hold on a sizeable part of the planet. Suffice to say, warring with another type of people for land wasn't entirely out of the ordinary for them.
As such, life within the large compound was surprisingly normal. The general population left the fighting to the soldiers and warriors and, aside from the sporadic raids and wall breaches, the war was mostly forgotten.
~ ~ ~
"Where're you goin', Max?"
She paused in mid-step, and turned to glance down at her little brother. "I'm going to go and tend to my goats, Wormie. Where else would I be going at this hour?"
"I wanna come too," the boy pouted, sticking his lower lip out.
"You know you can't," Max said, smiling fondly at him and jerking a thumb towards the window, "Mama would have a bitch-fit if I took you to the boundary wall this close to the setting of the suns."
The boy was unable to hold back a giggle at the word "bitch-fit" but managed to somehow frown at the same time. "So how come you get to?"
"Because." She began to count on her fingers. "I'm older, I live in my own home where I make the rules, and I know how to herd the goats quickly and properly. Whereas you, Jake, like to chase the goats. It just wouldn't work, you see." Max grinned down at the boy and impatiently shrugged her curly auburn hair back over her shoulders.
"Oh," Jake replied, shuffling his small feet in the dirt. "Maybe I could come if I promise not to chase them?"
The girl sighed dramatically and laid the back of her hand against her forehead in a gesture of exaggerated exasperation. "Ach! Fine. I can't say no to you, can I, Wormie. But go run next door and ask mama first."
Jake grinned in triumph, showing his missing front teeth, and nodded. "OK, Max! Don't leave 'til I get back though, kay?" He scampered out the front door, almost tripping over his own feet in his eagerness.
Shortly after, the two of them made their way past the towns square towards the less populated farm lands and grazing pastures. Max's small herd of prized, imported, five-horned Hanto goats grazed contentedly on cherry-red blades of grass and deep crimson hay-like roughage stacks.
Having been born on this planet nineteen years earlier, Max found nothing at all unusual about the color. As far as she was concerned, all grass was red. Why wouldn't it be?
True to his word, Jake didn't chase the goats. Merely eyeing them longingly, he satisfied himself with exploring the various nooks and crannies of the boarder.
Max was so intent on herding her stubborn flock into their nearby surround, she didn't notice the six-year-old slip into a crumbling crevasse in the territory wall and into an outcropping of shiny obsidian boulders and caves on the other side.
This imperfection in the wall had been all but hidden by thick black tree trunks and reddish jungle brush, but not much was missed by the sharp eyes of a curious boy. By the time Max realized she'd lost track of him, Jake had already made his way quite far into an interesting stone tunnel he'd found.
"Jake? ... Jake!" She cried, panic rising with each call. "Jake!" Oh no, oh no, she thought desperately. Where is he? Oh please, oh please, oh please-
After several more frightened calls, Max finally heard a faint response, "Here, Max. I'm in here."
Jake's voice was coming from far beyond the boundary line and sounded strangely hollow. Relief tinged with anger began to churn in her stomach as she sprinted towards the trees and rock formations.
After some difficulty, Max managed to figure out where he'd escaped, which tunnel his voice was coming from, and began to make her way down the twisting passage.
She finally saw her younger sibling ahead, just visible in a fading orange light. The boy was crouching and peering around a corner at something on the cave floor. Maneuvering her small frame around her brother, -no easy feat in the narrow tunnel- she placed herself in front of him, craned her neck forward and took a peek around a sharp bend to see what had him so fascinated.
The glittering black, stone passageway opened up into a small alcove a short way ahead. A soft orange glow from a small, smokeless fire outlined the prone figure of a very large, reddish colored, lean looking-
"What is it, Max?" Jake whispered, eyes wide.
The girl jumped and whirled around, heart thudding in her chest. "Quiet," she hissed, wincing as her voice carried in the small space. "Out. Now. Quickly."
Ushering the little boy out none too gently, Max snapped several frightened glances back over her shoulder. He wasn't following. Perhaps he'd really been unconscious then. Good.
"But why, Max? What was-"
"Hush, Jake. Not another word until we're inside and safe or I'll thrash you myself." She spat, dragging him along by a hand.
She picked up the pace until they were nearly running back towards her home. Stung, the boy complied. Max only ever snapped at him when it was really important and he very much wanted to please his kind, older sister. He didn't utter another word until he was back at her home and behind a securely locked door.
"Go home and go straight to bed," Max told him afterward. "And not a word to mama about how you breached the barrier or she'll never let you go out there with me again. Got it?" At Jake's unhappy cringe, the girl's blue-green eyes softened, and she affectionately tousled his gingery hair. "Don't look so upset, Wormie, these things happen."
She, however, neglected to mention that she would also be in a goodish amount of trouble were he to tell. After all, she was supposed to be keeping an eye on him.
"But Max," he began again, "what was that thing in the cave? Was-" He swallowed nervously, "Was it a monster?"
"I'm not really sure what it was," she lied.
Max knew full well what it'd been, but Jake had never been witness to a raid. Every time one happened, she'd race next door and shove him into the crawlspace to hide, with instructions to not come out or make a sound no matter what he might hear. As a result, he'd never seen what the enemy actually looked like.
"But I don't think it saw or heard us. Just to be safe, though, I'll tell one of the guards what we saw, alright? And about that gap in the wall as well."
Jake appeared doubtful, but he nodded in agreement. "Ok, Max."
"Good. Now go to bed. And remember; not a word to mama. Promise me."
The boy reluctantly headed towards the front door, before turning to nod again. "I promise."
~ ~ ~
This is so stupid, she thought, thoroughly disgusted with herself. What am I doing? He's probably not even there anymore anyway.
It was two days later and, contrary to what she'd assured her brother, Max had not let anyone know about the unconscious dakreeth she'd seen in the cave. Yep. It'd definitely been one.
But she was almost certain that he'd been badly injured, if not dead. Just the way he'd been laying there, sprawled out face-down on the cave floor had been indication enough. If she told and he was alive, he'd likely be taken into custody and then the soldiers would-
Max cringed and clamped down hard on that thought. Dakreeth that had been caught alive were usually taken in for questioning. Agonized screaming was often heard throughout the settlement during these interrogations, and Max just couldn't bring herself to lead them to someone who was already injured and weak. It just didn't seem fair, somehow.
She was among a growing group of individuals who just wanted peace, and were entirely against torture, or war, of any kind. And really, hadn't the dakreeth had been here first?
Slowly, quietly, the girl eased her way into the same stone passageway that she had a couple of nights previously. As she rounded the bend before the cave opened up, she could no longer see any indication of a fire burning. But, to her intense dismay, the creature still lay on the rock floor, in exactly the same position.
Nearby, Max saw evidence of a small, hastily-made fire, but it had long since burned out. Cautiously, the girl used the tip of a long branch she'd brought with her to poke the prone figure.
Poke. Poke. Poke.
Hrm. Max's brow creased slightly and she tilted her head a little. Perhaps he was dead. She'd jab him a few more times, just to make certain.
Finally, a faint growl-like groan issued from the wounded male. Slowly, he lifted large clawed hand attached to a thickly muscled arm in an apathetic attempt to ward off whatever was disturbing him.
Gasping in shocked surprise, Max scrambled backward and nearly fell on her arse. She watched as the creature shifted once, twice, before finally managing to heft his head up towards the sound of her frantic footsteps.
Having never seen one up close, Max couldn't help but stare. After a quick initial study, she found that his species was hardly a hideous one.
His features were lean, angular, well-proportioned, and distinctly humanoid; which matched the rest of his overall physique. His large, slanted eyes were a curious molten-gold color surrounded by a black sclera, and had elongated, black slits for pupils.
Long, black rope-like braids were held away from his face by leather cords and, as she examined his hair a bit closer, she could see small, carved bone ornaments woven through some of them. Almost like trophies.
Jagged black stripes stippled his dark red flesh, lending to his wild, otherwordly appearance. And, looking on, she saw that he was barefoot and only sported a long, dark, leathery-looking breech cloth.
For several tense moments they stared at one another. Max, with apprehensive awe. The dakreeth, with pained hostility. When Max shifted slightly, the male snarled and bared a mouthful of wickedly sharp, white teeth at her. Startled, the girl let out a yelp and jerked backwards, smacking the back of her head on a low hanging outcrop of stone.
"Gah!" She cried, automatically raising a hand to rub at the sore spot.
The dakreeth's eyes widened slightly at her ungraceful outburst, then narrowed in sharp observation as he tilted his head in a quizzical manner. For a long while, he held his piercing gaze steady on her before another pained expression flitted across his features. Max heard another labored gasp and watched as his eyes rolled back into his head before he lost consciousness once again.
She knew she should leave. Straight away. Directly back to the General and let him know about the breach in the wall, and certainly about the enemy in a cave so close to their home. Yes, she really, really should.
So why wasn't she moving?
Why did she merely continue to sit and watch him, eyes wide in fascination? Why was there this overwhelming urge to help him?
The girl had no idea, but the impulse to lend aid was strong. Creeping over, she jabbed him with the stick several more times before she dared go within arm's reach. Only when she was satisfied that he was completely out, did she scuttle a bit closer. Then a bit more. And more. Until, finally, she was crouching directly beside him.
Gingerly, she laid a pale, creamy hand on his back and couldn't help but stare for a moment at the stark contrast between the colors of their flesh. His skin felt tough and durable, like thick leather, but was also weirdly smooth and pleasantly warm. Hard, defined back muscles contracted fluidly under her palm with each shallow breath he took, and Max felt an odd thrill shoot through her.