Kita'thalla Ch. 11byBowoodstock©
My apologies for the wait. School decided to kick me a few times, but as I've said before, don't worry, I fully intend on finishing this. I appreciate all the support you've given me in your comments on my previous chapter. On a related note, there was one comment regarding the science of the universe. I do appreciate the advice, but I have to make a few story teller allowances, so bear with me. Anyways, here's chapter 11. Enjoy.
Ten Human Years Earlier (Approx. 22 ket)
Child's play. Neither guard had a chance to even draw their weapons. Not that it would have mattered. She knew they'd stopped training with them over 20 ket prior. The ceremonial hunting weapons were considered outdated now. The plasma rifles they did carry at the ready weren't much help either, as it was nearly suicidal to fire one at melee ranges due to the back blast that larger plasma weapons produced. Ironic really, that the "primitive" blades would have been their best chance to stop her.
Well, she'd been in a good mood all day, so she'd left them alive. They'd wake up in the morning with a monster of a headache, stiff necks, and a few other little parting gifts. Not enough to trigger their healing splicing, but more than enough to make walking painful for a few days.
She glanced at the curved blades strapped to their backs, considering whether or not to take one, but decided against it. It would only weigh her down, and in any case, for this to work she had to go unnoticed, which meant anything potentially messy could sound an alarm sooner. Checking one last time that no one had seen her, she sprinted down the tunnel. By her estimate, she still had plenty of time, but for her plan to work, timing was everything.
She didn't run into any more guards. Shoddy work on their part, although, she honestly didn't expect any better. Against the other races of the galaxy, a Ketral was more than a match, even with the poor quality warriors the new regime was producing. They'd gotten lazy fighting other alien races, nothing more than pushovers. So they stood no chance against another Ketral who'd spent the last 20 ket training for this moment. Well, not just this moment. This was only a step in achieving retribution for everything that had been done.
She could hear the sound of roaring from somewhere, and she gritted her teeth. The ceremony had started, she'd better hurry. There, the ladder she knew would take her up to the roof. She made no sound as she climbed up several stories, finally reaching the level that had access to the rafters in the grand council chamber. Still wary of being discovered, she crept forward towards the door, easing it open slowly before peering in.
The grand council chamber was packed. The main floor, about 100 strides across was ringed by rows of tiered benches, and every available seat was taken up by lesser elders, dignitaries, and honored warriors from each cadre of the planet. Creeping along one of the rafters supporting the lighting globes that illuminated the chamber, she worked her way into the position she knew would be ideal. On one side of the chamber, the podium on which the rows of the silver maned War council sat overshadowed the entire room. The floor in front of it was clear, save for a single figure in full ceremonial war dress, a ceremonial war blade similar to those carried by the guards outside strapped across his back. Her timing was almost perfect, just a few more moments and the ceremony would be at the opportune time for her to move. Glancing at the completely filled seating sections, she noted the locations of several recorders broadcasting the ceremony. Almost everyone on Ketra would be watching. Perfect. What she was about to do would make that much more of an impact. Still keeping an eye on the progress, she wrapped the grapple line from her waist around a rafter, clipping it back to itself to secure the loop, solidly anchoring herself.
Taking a moment to calm herself, she took a deep breath, willing her racing heartbeat to slow down. It had been so long. So many ket of living under a false name and pretending to be weak, learning the ancient arts of warfare in secret, and hiding from the new regime. The time for hiding was done now though. Finally, she would have her chance to make house Kental pay for what they had done. Not just to her, no. She fought for all the ketrals that had suffered under their rule. For house Tekal. For her Father.
For her Mother.
The sound of roaring brought her back to reality and she tightened her grip on the line as listened to the speaker down below.
"And so, we the War Council of Ketra Prime declare this warrior, Turvan Kentalla of the Bakkal cadre, worthy of the title Executor of Ketra. If there are any who doubt this declaration, and wish to challenge the wisdom of the council and the might of this warrior, let them come forth now!" the Prime Elder of the council beckoned to the crowd with both hands.
Prime Elder Duran Kentalla couldn't help the massive grin that crossed his face. Today his son would secure even more power for their house, and their cadre. Ever since the coup, they'd continuously had a hard time weeding out loyalists to the old ruling council. It had been a while since they'd been able to specifically pin the blame on anyone, and he still heard rumors of dissatisfaction despite their overwhelming victories against other alien races. This newest one they'd encountered...hoomans, was it? They'd only just declared hostilities against the pathetic bald skinned race, and he figured they'd quickly die like the rest of them, and that would increase his power even more. But this bestowal upon his son would make even greater strides in making their power absolute. With his position as prime elder, and his son holding the title of Executor, the voices doubting their authority would disappear very quickly, one way or another. If it was possible, his grin widened even more. No one could stand in their way now.
A gasp from the audience suddenly brought his reverie to an end.
The shadowsuit-clad figure landed deftly in the middle of the chamber, just a few strides length away from the other stunned Ketral whom everyone's attention had been focused on just moments ago. Detaching the grapple line from her belt, she allowed it to retract back into the ceiling. There was no reason to have an escape line. Either she'd succeed or fail, fleeing was not an option. Standing tall, she took what she hoped was a suitably defiant looking stance.
"I challenge this nomination!" she called out, the natural acoustics of the chamber amplifying her voice so that all present were able to hear. The crowd became a sea of furious whispering and muttering as she pulled off the hood that had concealed her features. Her shoulder length mane was tied back into a warriors topknot, and she had applied charcoal to her face in the traditional markings of a warrior about to enter battle.
The noise from the crowd escalated as the Prime elder stood wordlessly, a combination of anger and utter confusion crossing his features. Finally he waved his arms for silence, and when that didn't work he roared, finally bringing the audience under control.
"And just who are you?!" he bellowed down at her. "I don't recall inviting any weaklings to this ceremony!"
She gave a grim smile, ignoring the insult. "You imply that I required an invitation. One typically does not need an invitation into their own home to enter"
The Prime Elder gritted his fangs. "You dare...this is MY council chamber, and it is I who control..."
"IT IS NOT YOURS!" she snarled back at him. "It was never yours to begin with! You may stand in the position of Prime Elder, but you stand there in a pool of blood! THE BLOOD OF MATRIARCH SHAS'EL!" she turned to face the crowd. "I am Kita'tha Tekal Oreth Shas'el Ko Ketrali, and once again, I challenge this nomination!" Turning back to face the Prime Elder, she matched his glare.
"Your.." he stammered before finding his voice again, " You haven't earned your warriors name! And your house was deposed! You have no right to..."
"As long as one of a house stands alive and free, they are entitled the right to challenge, regardless of title!" she cut him off. "This is, and always has been our way! Either meet this challenge, or if you'd prefer..." she said, a wicked grin spreading across her face, "you may refuse the challenge of this nameless warrior, as is your right. In front of everyone here...and across Ketra!" she gestured to one of the recording stations, still diligently broadcasting the turn of events across the planet.
The council chamber was dead silent as the Prime Elder seethed, completely lost for words. Why hadn't he ordered the recorders shut off at the first notice of trouble?! Now that the little whelp had made a scene in front of everyone...he felt the blood drain from his face as he realized the implications of refusing the challenge. To refuse the challenge of a nameless warrior, one who had not earned that title...it would imply that they feared their champion would lose to someone who was by all intents and purposes an absolute nobody! And a female at that! He'd already have enough unrest to deal with after her little reminder of the coup that had secured house Bakkal its seat of power.
"What are your terms?" A voice from the floor suddenly spoke out.
Turvan had taken a step towards the intruder, and was eying her with a very peculiar look on his face.
"Turvan, what are you..." the Prime Elder hissed, but Turvan cut him off with a wave of his hand.
"Before a challenge can be accepted or refused, the challenger must state the terms." he said very casually. "This is, and always has been our way," he said, echoing Kita'tha's earlier words.
Kita'tha leveled her gaze at the new speaker in surprise. She hadn't heard much about the first son of house Kental, but what little she did know was very troubling. He was a dangerous ketral in more ways than one. So why was he playing along?"
"Well? We're waiting here." he cocked his head and crossed his arms, giving her a very odd grin.
"My terms..." she said, finding the words again. "First, upon victory of the challenger in an honor duel of claw and fang, the nomination will be considered null and void, and the challenger will be considered for the title!" she called out, working to keep her voice steady.
"Yes, that goes without saying" Turvan replied. "But what else? Surely you didn't sneak in here just for that, it hardly seems worth the risk, seeing how many laws you've just broken..." he said, a dangerous glint in his eyes.
Kita'tha felt her hearbeat racing again. Yes, she'd broken several laws. Oppressive laws made by the new regime, headed by the father of the ketral she now sought to challenge. He'd brought this up, and yet was still listening to her? Something wasn't right.
"Once a challenge has been issued, it must be heard and honored" she shot back.
"Yes, so get on with it already." he gave a gesture of mock irritation, the smile on his face getting even wider.
She took a deep breath. "Also..." she continued. "upon victory of the challenger, Elder Jatal Tekalla Oreth Zeran Shas'el Ko Ketrali shall be released from prison. These are my terms. Does the defender have any objections?"
"I have only one objection." Turvan said, looking her up and down in a manner that sent chills down her spine right to the end of her tail. "An honor duel of claw and fang is, of course, fought unarmed. Thus, it is also the norm that neither fighter is attired in a manner that could conceal any hidden weapon. Especially..." he grinned. "in the case of those who have yet to prove their honor as a warrior. There's about a half dozen places you could be hiding a blade in that shadowsuit of yours. I demand proof that you stand unarmed."
She stared at him, stomach dropping as she realized what he was insinuating. Opening her mouth at first to protest, she quickly shut it as she realized there wasn't really any way out of this one. "You will have your proof." she said, somewhat shakily, glancing out of the corner of her eye at the all-male crowd gathered. Reaching behind her, she fumbled with the zip for a moment as her fingers trembled before getting hold of it. In a few seconds the garment was on the ground, and she did her best to retain a dignified pose as she stood in her breast band and shorts, chills running up her spine as her bare feet settled once more on the cold stone floor. "I stand unarmed, as you can see." she said in as strong a voice as she could manage, despite the way her heart was pounding.
"Ah, but you're not done." Turvan said, a cruel glint in his eyes. "There are still a number of places I can think of that you'd be hiding a weapon. You said I would have my proof that you are unarmed. Until that happens, I'm afraid we can't discuss this 'challenge' any further." he folded his arms, a viciously smug look on his face as he enjoyed the look of outrage that appeared on her face.
"You can't seriously mean..." she looked at him aghast, suddenly very self conscious of the recorders that she'd earlier been counting on to transmit her actions across the planet.
"What, you protest?" he said in mock offense. "You do realize that any refusal on this could indicate that you are indeed hiding something, in which case the challenge would be null and void..."
Ancestors curse him, she thought. This was getting way out of hand, not at all as she'd planned it. But with so much at stake... was she going to let her modesty get in the way of everything she was fighting for? She could still accomplish everything she needed to, and if that demanded more sacrifice on her part, so be it. It would be even more humiliating for him if he lost, anyways, after demanding so much of her.
"No, there is no protest." she said, suddenly a lot calmer. "As I said, you will have your proof that I am unarmed. If this small request is all the defender requires for the duel, then the challenger shall meet the demands." With that, she quickly pulled her breast band over her head. A few moments later, her shorts had also been kicked aside. Standing completely naked, she ignored the way his eyes lingered on the cleft between her legs as she stared him down. "The challenger has met your objections. Now, do you hear my terms?"
"I hear your terms..." Turvan said, then looking beyond her and to the rest of the chamber. "Now hear mine. Technically, you should not even be allowed to issue your challenge. If you've been paying attention to laws passed recently, you should know that it is illegal for females to travel the path of the warrior now. This is due to recently found weaknesses as fighters, and they are now required to ensure the continuation of the Ketrali race in these times of war by providing offspring for our people."
"One does not have to travel the path of the warrior to issue a challenge!" she retorted, feeling the anger rise inside her. After making her shed all traces of modesty in the name of the duel, what was he trying to pull? "This has not and never will change, unless you would give our ancestors cause to curse us!"
"We've already established that." he waved his hand at her. "But it has also never changed that one must be a warrior in order to enter the grand council chamber. So again, technically you should not be here. However..." he turned back to her, making no effort to hide the way his eyes traveled across her body. "I will accept your challenge, provided that this honor duel will also be considered as your Last Hunt!" he gave a wicked grin before turning back to the Prime Elder. "These are my terms!"
Prime Elder Duran had been silent since Turvan had spoken, and in the short amount of time that had passed his mood had improved considerably. His son had not only humiliated the little brat, but had also found a way to turn the situation around! A union between the first daughter of the late Matriarch Shas'el, and the first son of the Prime elder...if anything would seal his place as ruler of Ketra, that would certainly do it! Also, as was made clear by her state of dress, or lack thereof, she was a magnificent female specimen of the Ketral race, and any offspring she would produce would be of excellent breeding.
"The council hears the challenge. As a direct blood relative of the defender I am unable to serve as arbitrator in this duel. Thus, I call forth others in my stead." he announced, not entirely masking the pleasure in his voice as he thought of the much brighter future ahead of him. A pity he couldn't judge the duel himself, but he had to make sure there was no way others could imply he'd show favoritism towards his son. That didn't mean he couldn't tilt things in his favor though.
Turning to the war council behind him, he surveyed the elders present. They were a combination of those who had assisted him in his rise to power, and those who had been from the previous war council and had submitted to the authority of the new Prime Elder. The latter of course held much less power than before the coup. As a matter of fact they were little more than puppets, only kept around to maintain the illusion that some of the old council had a say in things. The imprisonment of several key house members also ensured that they stayed in line. This helped placate those in the populace who still had feelings of loyalty to the old regime. That didn't mean he could trust them though, so the Elders that would serve as arbitrators would be drawn from those he knew to be loyal, and would favor his son in the duel. Receiving eye contact and silent nods from several of them, he turned back to the assembly.
"The duel shall be judged by Elders Niko, of the Bakkal, Salluk, of the Oran, Riggel, of the Telu, Farral, of the Votha, and Mirvak, of the Pakka." he announced, knowing that each elder behind him stood as their name was called before making their way down to the floor. "The duel will commence upon the readiness of the challenger and defender, provided there are no further objections." he said, leering down at the unclothed female standing across from his son.
Kita'tha's gaze flicked between the Prime Elder and Turvan as she wrestled with the terms he'd set forth. If she won, yes, she'd get everything she came here for. If she lost...she'd come completely prepared to die when she started out. But now, it was different. If she lost now, she'd be stuck in what would amount to a life of near-slavery. One of those few things she had heard about Turvan was that he was reputed to be very rough on the females he'd mated with. It was rumored that some had even resorted to taking their own lives. As high profile as she was though, she doubted he'd let her have that chance.
Well. It wasn't as if she'd come here with the intention of losing anyways.
"I have no objections." she replied. "I stand ready for the challenge, and await the defender."
Turvan gave her a strange look. "What do you mean, you await the defender? I'm right here."
She smirked, mirroring the look he'd worn just moments earlier. "You are indeed present for the honor duel, but you are not ready. An honor duel is fought with both combatants armed and armored equally." She raised an eyebrow expectantly as he took a step backwards, taken completely aback. "Didn't think that one all the way through, did you?" she said in a very low voice so that only he could hear it. If he was going to embarrass her, she'd drag him down with her.
Turvan opened his mouth to say something, but upon glancing at the stern looks of the five silver-maned elders now in position at the edge of the floor, he thought better of it. Shrugging as he pretended to not care, he threw his war blade to the side, a clatter echoing across the chamber as the venerable weapon was roughly discarded. Quickly stripping himself of the ornate ceremonial war gear, he threw each piece off to the side of the ring with little regard, and soon he too was standing naked before all. His mating organs were retracted into his body, so he was not nearly as exposed as she was, but she still caught herself examining him. Had he been anyone else, she actually might have been attracted to him. Even through the dark tan fur covering his body, she could see the well defined musculature. He was undoubtedly stronger than she was, and the long fangs he possessed were a weapon that she did not have. She had to admit he was a very striking example of a ketral male.