Kita'thalla Ch. 12byBowoodstock©
"You're wondering about this" she indicated the necklace as she looped a strip of cloth around her back, knotting it in front of her chest.
Eric opened his mouth to speak, but lost the words from his mouth as she stood, wrapping a wide length of material around her naked lower half a few times and between her legs, looping it up through the waistband to hang in front of her. Standing there in her breast band and loin cloth with a necklace of claws at her throat, she evoked the savage image of an amazonian. Taking one last thin strip of fabric, she pulled her mane back, tying it off into a simple but very long pony tail before returning his knife to his bag and sitting back down to face Eric.
"Are those what I think they are?" Eric asked, finally finding his voice.
"Maybe" Kita replied. "They are, as you might have guessed, claws from my own kind. These particular ones though, do not belong to Turvan, if that's what you were guessing. At least, they don't anymore. These came from the remains of an ancestor of house Kental. I don't know the specific warrior, but if I ever return to Ketra it will be my responsibility to find out so that I may honor the ancestor properly. As for the why...you remember how I explained that we don't leave weapons in the hands of our dead?"
"Claws can be considered a form of weapon." she continued. "We don't take them from all our dead though. It is the strange irony of battle that the greatest warriors will have the most difficult time in achieving an honorable death. To die on your back, when your mane is silver and your fangs are falling out...you are undefeated, a legend on the battlefield, but in the end are cheated of a warriors death. To ease the spirit of a warrior that has been unable to find this death, we remove the very last attachment to their duty that they possess, so that there can be no doubt for the spirit that it is allowed to rest.
"So why was Turvan wearing those?" Eric asked
Kita snorted in contempt. "He shouldn't have been. We wear the claws of fallen heroes not only to remind us of their strength when they lived, and thus draw inspiration, but also to honor them. It also has the side effect that if a warrior wearing them falls in battle, then in a way the ancestor has finally found death on the battlefield, even if it's through the actions of another."
"So...what happened back there didn't count?" he nodded to the necklace. "You left behind several sets on your transport"
Kita shook her head. "No, it most definitely didn't. Turvan took these with him as a status tool, to boast of deeds in the past that were not his. And being killed while attacking an unwilling mate in a state of weakness is not an honorable death on the battlefield. Judging by the age of them, they have returned from the battlefield around the neck of one who still lived several times. These deserve a far better resting place."
Eric nodded. He'd certainly heard of stranger customs followed throughout Earth's history, so it wasn't that difficult to wrap his mind around the idea. There was however, still one nagging question on his mind, but he wasn't sure how to bring it up without sounding like an ass. Especially after she'd suddenly cut and run like that earlier. For now though, it seemed that talk of her traditions had calmed her down even more.
"So...what about your people?" Kita suddenly asked.
Eric blinked, not entirely certain what she was asking. "What about them?"
"You haven't told me anything about your ways...after everything I've told you about my peoples traditions, surely you'd be willing to share something about yours." She replied, settling back against the cave wall.
"Well.." Eric searched his mind, not really sure where or how to start. "What exactly did you want to know about?"
Kita shrugged. "Tell me about your history. How your people started."
Eric thought for a moment. "I don't know if there's a simple answer to that one. Pass me the canteen, this isn't a short story." Nodding in thanks as she slid the mostly full container to him, he took a sip before starting. "The first thing to remember when looking at us is that we're very diverse. Our planet has two major habitable land masses, and those are separated even further by varying climates, terrain, and environments, some of which were very hostile. One way or another, humans managed to spread out across almost the entire planet. Because of the differences in location, however, we had a multitude of separate civilizations develop before we truly had any modern technology. When civilizations finally started running into each other, you had humans that were actually physiologically different from one and other. Still the same species, mind you, but a whole variety of skin colors, statures, and other physical traits had developed. Different beliefs and ways of life too, so conflict was often a result of differing ideas rather than a fight over land or resources.
"So, more or less it was often for very stupid reasons." Kita replied.
Eric nodded grimly. "There's a reason it took us a while to get into space, never mind outside our solar system. I don't think there was a year in our history where a war of some kind wasn't going on. Several were massive, involving almost the entire planet. In the end, it was because we realized that we were running out of natural resources that we had to set aside everything and find common ground, or else we would have been stuck on a dead planet."
"Regardless," Kita gave a faint smile, "Your past stupidity is saving you now."
Eric blinked. "...what?"
Kita closed her eyes, although the smile remained. "Your kind are just as much a race of warriors as mine, although at first glance it's not obvious. Your history of conflict means that your race is no stranger to war. I doubt that we would have underestimated you so easily if you made it as obvious as we do."
"Maybe" he replied "What else did you want to know?" he asked, looking for a change in subject. Talking about how her side was slowly losing the war was somewhat awkward, and he didn't want a repeat of her earlier flight.
"Hmm..." she mulled, a mischievous glint finding its way into her eyes as she waited for him to take another drink. "What about mating?" she asked, and was rewarded with a fountain of water as he nearly inhaled the contents of the canteen.
"W...What?!" Eric gasped as he tried to clear his throat.
"How does it work?" she asked, a look of pure innocence on her face.
"How does...you mean, physically or...?" he stammered.
Kita gave a demure grin. "No, I think I might have some idea on how..." her eyes flicked downward for a moment "things work. I mean how does your kind go about choosing a mate."
Eric stared at her for a few moments, still a little shocked at the sudden turn of subject. Either way, this wasn't the easiest thing to describe. "I guess...it's really just a matter of mutual attraction" he said.
"Based on what?" Kita asked.
Eric shrugged. "Emotional compatibility, shared interests, physical attraction, people uh...mate for so many different reasons I doubt I could list them all. If you're talking about something that will last though, you have to be compatible in more than one way."
"Mmm." Kita made a kind of purring sound that sent a shiver up Eric's spine. "And who usually starts things off? The male or female?"
"I suppose that either can" Eric replied. "Traditionally it was the male who came forward, so that happens slightly more often than the other way around, but there's nothing that says a female can't. Most guys are pretty happy to know that someone uh...likes them, since they don't have to worry about rejection" As he spoke, Eric's heart was thumping heavily in his chest, though he wasn't sure why. "Why do you ask?" the words came out of his mouth before he realized what he was saying.
Kita was silent for a moment, though the same little smile remained. "Curiosity." she finally said. "It is interesting to see how our races are similar, and how they are different."
Eric nodded, his pulse calming down. "I take it that things work differently for your people? Something you said when you were telling me about your first fight with Turvan...there's some kind of ritual isn't there?"
Kita looked off to one side, the smile fading from her face. "Yes...there is." she replied slowly before looking back at him. "I don't know if 'ritual' is the right word though. We call it 'last hunt'. Simply put, the male has to prove himself a worthy mate to the female by defeating her."
"By...wait what?" The look of utter confusion on Eric's face made Kita laugh.
"Not what you were expecting?" she asked, her mood brightened a little.
"I don't know if I was expecting anything" Eric replied. "But how does that make sense, if it's the females last hunt, but the male has to defeat her?"
"Well, the reason behind it is a little depressing." Kita replied. "The last hunt for many of the ancient hunters was when they became the prey, rather than the predator, if you catch my meaning."
Eric nodded, cringing a little
"Anyways..." Kita continued. "when a female has young, it changes her role in the cadre. In the old days, she was no longer a hunter, but rather charged with defending the young, and everything else in the settlement. While this is still a warrior's job, the role of a hunter is crucial to the survival of a cadre, so we had to be certain that the offspring produced would justify the loss of a hunter. Thus, the males had to prove their prowess, which usually had a direct relationship to the strength of their offspring, by defeating the female they desired."
"So, what would happen if the female didn't feel the same way about the male?" Eric asked.
"Then she'd probably beat the fuzz off of him" Kita replied, a little smirk on her face. "The strength difference between males and females normally isn't enough to make up for the agility advantage a female holds. If a female felt that the male was skilled enough, or if she had desired him prior to the fight, then she would let him win."
"But if she lost..." Eric started, but stopped as he realized that he knew the answer.
Kita simply nodded, a grim expression on her face.
Eric shook his head. So a lot more had been at stake during the fight than he'd realized. His timing had been too close. Still...something didn't make sense.
"Something wrong?" Kita asked.
Eric glanced out the cave. "Turvan was horribly burned back there. I'm surprised that he survived the crash."
Kita nodded. "Those kind of burns would be lethal if not for the healing splicing. Even then, as you saw, burns are difficult to heal, they take longer than almost any kind of injury to heal completely."
"I figured as much." Eric replied. "And he probably would have been in too much pain to move around like that without it, right? There's no way it couldn't have activated."
Kita closed her eyes nodding. "You're wondering why he was able to defeat me, aren't you?"
Eric opened his mouth but nothing came out. She'd nailed it on the head. Honestly, he was shocked, as she'd shown great sensitivity in the past about any weakness on her part. "Well, yes" he finally replied. "You implied that the worse an injury is, the longer backlash takes to fade, but I know from personal experience with patients that burns are one of the most horrific injuries that one can endure. The ones he suffered would take months to heal completely. So just a few days after the crash, how was he as strong as he was?"
Kita gave him an enigmatic look that he couldn't read. "Turvan wasn't suffering backlash"
Eric stared at her. "How?"
"That is a long story in itself." she replied "One for another time. Now, shouldn't you be getting some rest? I know that you don't heal as fast as I do, you've already worried me enough today."
"Wait, you're the worried one?" Eric shook his head. "Rewind, you're the one who ran out of here without saying a word. Just what happened out there anyways?"
"I gained a new view on...certain things." she replied, a faint smile appearing on her face again.
"A new...what?" That didn't tell him anything at all!
"A new way of seeing things." she said, the smile still on her face. "Now, as I said before, you should rest. Or do I have to be more forceful?" She gave a smug look as one of the red syringes from his med-kit somehow appeared in her hand.
"Hey, how did you...!" Eric started, but then stopped as she raised an eyebrow. Finally giving an exasperated sigh, he laid back, using his pack as a pillow. "Don't forget what I told you about doctors being the worst patients." he grumbled
"As if you'd let me"