Tyraal’s jaw dropped as he whirled, seconds too late. He watched Aura’s body snap backward and sail gracefully to a hard ending a few meters away. His heart stopped, and his mind went blank. The Wookie lunged forward towards Aura’s unconscious and battered corpse. He brought up his fists to pummel her, when another Wookie charged. A grey male, swinging fists at the aggressor.
They fought for a minute, before another pair entered in, and started beating down on the grey male. As the three of them started fighting, the original attacker went back after Aura. Tyraal, without even directing his body, lunged. His lightsaber was in his hand, and ignited. The Wookie turned and swung a hairy arm towards him. Tyraal vaulted, forcing the Wookie’s attack to sweep under him; he landed, and swung the emerald blade.
A millisecond of a gurgle roared out from the Wookie in question before his two halves dropped to the forest floor. An overwhelming odor of burning fur swept out and swathed the nearby area with the reeking smell. The other Wookies abruptly stopped and stared at the apprentice. The Jedi glared at them, his hands quivering on the hilt of his lightsaber; his knuckles bled white, as he slowly, carefully, sank down to one knee beside Aura. The gray Wookie took advantage of the distraction and clapped the two Wookies’ heads together.
They clunked loudly, and they dropped like heavy sacks to the ground. He turned and roared at the other twosome, who slunk away into the night. Tyraal extinguished his blade, and sank to both knees beside Aura’s corpse. She moved with quaking breaths, thoroughly unconscious, blood trickling out from where her head smashed against the roots. He heard wild cries amongst the dark trees, and in that moment, he felt painfully alone.
Aura was out cold; he had no droid with him; his projector with his reminders of home was locked in his drawer back on Kiast. He jumped as he felt a presence behind him, twirling to his feet as he stumbled back. It was the grey Wookie. He squatted down beside Aura, and Tyraal pointed the tip of his blade at his throat. The Wookie snarled and pointed at Aura, thumping his chest.
Tyraal raised his eyebrow, and slowly retracted his blade. The Wookie leaned forward, and gently pressed a finger against Aura’s collarbone. She groaned sleepily, her body twitching. The Wookie gurgled and looked at Tyraal, grunting and pointing away to the trees.
“You want me to go deeper into the trees?” Tyraal queried, his blade still ignited at his side.
The Wookie growled, and swung his hands around, gesturing at Aura.
“You want me to take her into the woods??”
The Wookie thumped his chest. Tyraal got it.
“You want me to take Aura and follow you?”
The Wookie nodded, raising his head and roaring. He stood up, and Tyraal extinguished his blade. He turned towards Aura, but got swatted away by the Wookie. The grey carpet swung down and lifted her body. Her head sagged backward, and Tyraal winced at the sharp angle backwards. The Wookie snarled as he lurched forward. Tyraal’s blood froze at the sound of screeches in the direction the Wookie was headed. He ignited his lightsaber and rushed after the Wookie.
The two conscious and one unconscious made their way along the forest floor. Tyraal’s lightsaber glowed dangerously in the no-light, and his eyes began to burn from stress, pain, dust, and exhaustion, all coupled with staring at a green stick blazing in the darkness. The Wookie seemed to know what he was doing though, leading them off to a niche underneath a flock of low, cluster growing trees.
Well, to say they were low was a bit hasty; they folded into a sort of archway leading into a closed off area, about sixteen meters by five meters. And except for the gap they had just stepped through, and another arch on the 9 o’clock side, it was quarantined from the rest of the jungle. The bows of the trees stretched heaven ward, leaving plenty of space to light a fire with no danger of setting their hideaway on fire.
Aura was mumbling something, a frenzy-paced gibberish, interrupted by coughing from bruised lungs, and intermittent moans from pain punching through to her deactivated brain. The Wookie set her down gently, propped against one of the trees, and set about clearing a trench, roughly two by two meters. And after wrench a root aside and leveling the bottom, he set Aura down. He looked at Tyraal and patted his stomach before running off out the archway.
Tyraal set a fire, something he had always been kind of good at. The leaves of the low trees combusted like engine fuel; which wasn’t something Tyraal was overly fond of, given that he was standing at the center of a ring of them. But, beggars were not choosers, and given his situation, he would have preferred to be a beggar. He didn’t like this whole scenario, mostly revolving around the fact that somehow he was the one being continually forced be take lead, when all his attempts at doing well seemed to backfire in various degrees in his master’s eyes.
He heard a groan and he was jerked out of his moody musing. He turned and found Aurora stirring. He started towards her and heard a gurgling hiss behind him. Tyraal’s lightsaber was in his hand in a second, and the blade ignited. A massive snake was squeezing between the gap that formed the entrance into the glade.
“Anakkona,” Tyraal hissed grimly. He twirled the green blade and crouched.
The predator shone a brilliant teal as the glow of Tyraal’s lightsaber glinted against the snake’s own blue scales. Its forked tongue flickered out, briefly towards Tyraal, but moreso towards Aura. Tyraal growled, more animal like than humanoid like. The snake started encroaching on Aura’s trench, and Tyraal swiped. The scales were not lightsaber resistant, but the creature evaded Tyraal’s attack, causing the blade to glance of its cheek. It hissed, rising up, towering over Tyraal’s head. He swallowed. It opened up its mouth, and instinctively, Tyraal lunged. He felt an abrupt wash of emotion flood through him, between angst, stress, and fear, and lightning crackled out from his fingers.
It blasted out, and the snake flickered as the lightning ricocheted around inside. It hissed, and toppled to the ground. The forest floor trembled as the Anakkona crashed heavily. Tyraal looked over towards Aura, who was stirring. He was on his knees at her side in a second.
“Don’t move!” He said quickly, laying his hands on her stirring shoulders.
“Ouch,” she mumbled drowsily, looking around.
She clearly was not abreast of the situation. She ignored his order and started to sit up.
“Stop!” He protested, but she ignored and sat up.
And gasped in pain. Her breathing abruptly became scores more difficult. She struggled for a moment, before letting Tyraal ease her back onto her back.
“Listen, damn it!” Tyraal snapped.
Aura considered arguing, and then realized he had told her to not move. She sighed.
“Sorry.” She muttered. She groaned, and shifted her weight.
“Just stop moving,” Tyraal returned, severely. “It’ll do you worse.”
“Alright, doctor,” quipped Aura, dryly. Tyraal eyed her. She cracked open an eye and peered at him. He snorted, and she laughed, jerkily. She immediately regretted it, feeling pain across her entire body.
“Laugh, apprentice,” she advised. “It’s the best medicine there is.”
He smiled tightly, more concerned with their situation than with humor.
“I’m sorry.” He said quietly, at length. She cracked open her eye again to survey him.
“Sorry?” She queried curiously.
He mumbled his answer so quietly that she couldn’t hear him. And she made sure to tell him.
“For failing,” he repeated.
“Failing?” She asked.
“I’m doing my best!” He snapped bitterly, more to the fire he was adding wood to than towards Aura.
She chose not to reply. She watched her apprentice stare moodily into the fire for a space, before he stood and straightened. He sighed, and breathed, and then turned back towards Aura.
“You need to recover.” He stated. “I guess we’ll hunker down here for awhile until you can get to the ship…. And then I guess I’ll look for the twosome myself?”
“Please. Don’t dismiss me.”
She shifted with a few grunts.
“I can use the Force,” she mused, “and probably patch myself up in a few days; I’ve never had to heal quite this degree of severity, but I can probably do it.”
Tyraal raised his eyebrow.
“Probably?” He asked. “What happens if probably turns into can’t?”
“Then I’ll just be in a coma like state until I naturally heal, or until you get me into a bacta tank.”
“Could be worse,” Aura said, with as much cheeriness as she could muster.
A roar split the night behind them, met with a pair of adjacent roars. Aura swallowed loudly.
“Guess I should wait and lend you–”
“No! Get started; the longer you delay, the more likely things will go wrong.”
“How about a safeword?”
“What the hell does THAT mean?”
“I’ll be unresponsive. But if you say a word, I’ll wake up.”
“So if I say ‘mustard’, you’ll wake up?”
“If you want my trigger word to be ‘mustard’, then yes.”
“Let’s go with that. Night night.”
Aura rolled her eyes, but settled further into her trench. Might as well get comfortable, she was going to go under for a long time. She folded her arms over her chest, and breathed.
Tyraal unhooked her lightsaber and clipped it to his belt, stepping away from his master’s body, now more corpse-like than ever before. Except for the constant, sluggish rise and fall of her belly and chest, she could have been dead. Tyraal looked towards the two entrances, and gripped his lightsaber tightly. It would be just like all those predictable games in the cantina arcades, he told himself; waves of enemies rushing him.
“This is fine,” he muttered through clenched teeth.
No, it was not fine. And he knew it. He was too emotionally involved. Too emotionally involved to be accurately upholding the Jedi way, and code. Well, the Jedi code was going to have to accept that Tyraal WAS emotionally involved, and would STAY emotionally involved. And if they couldn’t accept that, he could just walk away. Besides, who cared about following codes exactly these days? Adherence to the Jedi code evaporated with the conclusion of the Jedi order at the end of the Clone Wars, everybody knew that.
Another pair of roars loosed, one nearing each entrance. Tyraal swallowed, and loosened his pistol in its holster. Another roar at 3 o’clock. Another two at 12 o’clock. Something thudded against the entrance to the right. Tyraal moved to the left, keeping distance between himself and the archway. Something pushed through, something that towered over Tyraal. It stood on four legs and flailed wildly for a moment. It seemed to zero in on Tyraal, and charged.
A Kinrath, as it turned out, not that Tyraal would learn that until he was safely off the forsaken surface of Ullyr. Tyraal drew his blaster and fired. Four shots, before diving aside to the right. The Kinrath screeched and stumbled about before toppling to the side. Another entered through the 3 o’clock entrance, and another two down at 12 o’clock. Tyraal swore and pulled off a handful more shots, until his clip expired, at which point he tossed the useless weapon aside. One Kinrath joined its brother in the afterlife, while the other two converged on Tyraal.
However, despite the very apparent threat before him, Tyraal’s senses tingled dangerously; a flicker he felt through the Force. He leapt backwards, ducking without quite knowing why. Something shot past him to where he had been standing. He whirled, igniting his lightsaber, and found himself staring down a hideous arachnid that was perched over Aura’s body.
Instinct reacted faster than Tyraal’s brain as the emerald blade swung upwards, cleaving the monster in two, and soaking Aura’s trench with its green blood.
“Sorry,” spat Tyraal quickly, not envying Aura’s position whatsoever. He turned back toward the two Kinrath that were stomping towards him. One got tangled on the web the arachnid had fired at Tyraal, and the other attempted to crush Tyraal. He cut out a leg and thrust forward. He called on the Force, and felt himself blast the Kinrath away. It sailed neatly through the far entrance into the night.
At this moment, the final Kinrath had discovered Aura. Just like everything else had so far. It lunged towards her, and Tyraal pushed it away. It stumbled to the side when met with the Force wave, but recovered quickly. It rushed Aura, but was met by a white-blue blade from the left and an emerald blade from the right. They sliced the creature’s head, and it fell to the ground. Tyraal landed and whirled, ready for more. Something hit him.
And he knew it was bad. He swung Aura’s lightsaber, but he felt dizzy. The world, already dark, was exploding into bubbles of color, spinning out of control.
“Spider,” he slurred. He knew it was the same… thing… from before…
It was painfully hard to focus. Literally. The harder he tried, the more it hurt. He dropped both lightsabers. Something whimpered approximately 45 kilometers to his right, but it was enough. He whirled, tipsily, and pushed out a barrage of lightning. Something wailed in front of him, and he could vaguely make out a shape, black, white, and red, contorted by blue lightning… but not much… else…
He heard something roar to the side, as he fell forward. He felt something hard hit his head, like he was hitting the ground, but he kept spinning forward, head over heels, again, and again. He reached numbly for his arm, and it was like pushing through a forcefield.
He felt his arm. It was soaked. Probably with blood? Probably.
He had to… get… up…
He reached blindly, still falling. Blackness flooding around him, floating around in bubbles.
His arm hurt. A lot. Like, really… really…
The world shifted. Something hit his face and he jerked up. It was light. He was wet. Everything was spinning still. His arm was entirely numb. He was aware of shaking; him; shaking. Quaking more like. And panting. He was gasping for breath. He looked around. The world was a little more back to its original state, but there were still some bubbles. He looked up and found a grey blob near him.
A blob. It seemed to flicker and then form a roughly rectangular shape. Something wet hit his face again.
“What?” He asked.
Or tried to ask. It didn’t come out quite right.
What the hell was wrong? He couldn’t see. He couldn’t talk. Damn it, he could THINK! What was going on?
Poison. The answer was stupidly obvious, and as soon as he paused for a second, he knew that was the answer. Something must have poisoned him last night. One of those arachnids must’ve bitten him. Yes, he could remember shooting something with Force lightning last night. And he remember the pain in his arm. So he was bitten, or stabbed, or something, on his arm. And with it being the point of origin, of course it would be numb. And the bubbles. And the inability to move or speak.
Alright; problem one was solved. He knew what was wrong with him. Problem two: what was that grey thing near him? Because if it was another spider, or something else trying to eat him, or Aura, he was toast. Aura! She was probably still out cold.
“Blast it!” He snapped, again, not resembling the actual words he spoke. She was probably actually dead. He blacked out, and she had probably been eaten. And he, being still alive and kicking, was probably dragged away for a nice lunchtime snack.
Which begged the question, why was he alive? And also, the original question, what the hell was that grey thing?
He heard a roar. And then he knew.
A Wookie. Of course. That grey one who had run off last night. He must have returned not long after Tyraal went down. That made sense. He must have returned soon, otherwise how was Tyraal still alive?
The Wookie roared again. Tyraal opened his mouth to speak, and decided better not; nothing he said was comprehensive anyway. Something gripped his collar, and pulled him backward.
“Easy!” Called Tyraal; well, at least that one sounded like a word: “theee-theee!”
Not speaking was going to be a pain. Not being able to move or see was also going to be a pain. This whole mission was a mess. He waved his arm.
“Oh good, at least there’s movement,” he thought to himself. At least his thoughts weren’t gibberish. He rubbed his face with less coordination than he would have liked, but accomplished the goal: his face was relatively dry.
And he could see a bit more clearly now. A lot more, actually, he could made out a shape in the ground near him. Aura’s corpse, possibly an actual corpse now. He felt the Wookie tilting him, and he waved his arm frantically.
“Wait wait wait!”
He pushed away, onto his hands and knees. He could feel the pressure of his weight on the shoulder of his numb arm. He froze, feeling the ground. He breathed deeply, and focused on a pebble directly beneath him. With an effort, he managed to call on the Force to lift it an inch. He let it drop, and the bubbles swirled around in his vision.
He rolled onto his back, and stared up at the trees. And then sat up. He could see the Wookie much more clearly now. He was holding something resembling a bowl. Food? Tyraal nodded weakly, and the Wookie handed the bowl to him. It was unexpectedly heavy. And unexpectedly tasteless, as he sipped at it.
Then again, one couldn’t rely on tasteless stuff to be safe, he recalled as he lurched to the side, vomiting it back up. It came up inexplicably blue. He blinked weakly and found the bubbles were further to the edges of his vision. He sat back gently, his stomach still queasy, and stared at the Wookie; yes, he was definitely clearer now. Tyraal took another sip, a bigger one. And again, almost without his own choice of motion, he lurched to the side and threw up; and again, it was a deep azure. The poison, he realized, was being ripped up with the brew he was drinking.
It was going to be a long day…
It was a few hours until he could stand and operate on his own. And while his arm was pins-and-needles, he could at least use it. It was a bit past midday, and Aura was still out cold. He had butchered, or had attempted to, the Kinrath and had cooked some of it over the fire. And while it wasn’t particularly delicious, it wasn’t particularly unpleasant either.
“Just sort of ‘bleh’,” he muttered to himself, taking a handful of it, and his canteen of water, and kneeling beside Aura.
She didn’t move. He frowned.
No reaction. He swore. Safeword. THIS was what she had meant. What had they decided?
It was almost comedic: her eyes fluttered open and she inhaled deeply before exhaling it with an almost happy sigh. And then the comedy was over, as she blinked and frowned.
Her eyes snapped to him. They analyzed his face for a moment, and then closed. Her body relaxed slightly.
“It’s alright,” he grunted, shifting his weight and sliding his hand under her head.
“I’m going to ease you up; you need to drink and eat.”
She started to protest, but he had already lowered the canteen to her lips. She drank, slowly, spluttering initially before settling into the water’s flow. She grunted, and Tyraal tilted the water away, and it sloshed deeply in the container. She laid for a moment, feeling the water trickle down her throat, and she realized, yes she did need to drink and eat. She felt weak, and sick.
“Alright, you win,” she murmured easily, coughing. “I do need it.”
“You’ve been out for hours, you’d better believe you need it,” returned Tyraal, with a slight edge in his voice. She frowned and eyed him. He smirked. And she laughed.
“What’s on the menu?” She asked, trying to readjust to sitting up, which Tyraal refused to let her.
“Something I killed last night. Don’t know the name. Don’t particularly care at the moment.”
She raised her eyebrow.
“Is it going to kill me?” Tyraal laughed.
“I already killed IT.”
“I mean can I actually EAT it without dying.”
“I haven’t died yet.”
“You’re not half dead like me, apprentice.”
Tyraal chuckled; it came out more like an amused series of growls.
“Oh, you might be surprised.”
“Don’t ask. I’ll tell you when you’re intact.”
“… if it wasn’t important, I’d say I don’t want to know. But I’m very concerned, and therefore, MUST know.”
“Later, Ta’var. First you eat.”
“Didn’t your mother teach you it’s impolite to talk with your mouth full?”
Minutes passed in the space of hours, after Aura went back into her coma. Night came on eventually, after years of anxious foraging, gathering, killing, and guarding. The Wookie came and went; he was currently guarding the fire, tossing massive hulks of wood onto it when it seemed that maybe it might need a log in the near future. Tyraal sat wrapped in his two cloaks, one physical, and one Forceful.
His knees were pulled tight against his chest, his hands wrapped around between thigh and calf. He stared unseeing towards Aura, who had gone into her coma closer to the fire. He was silently fingering Jestille’s Harmony, passing the braid between his hands. A breeze was blowing, cold that sank through one’s bones into one’s very soul. Tyraal sat against the tree, unmoving. He watched the Wookie feed the fire.
Home. That had always been the meaning behind Jestille’s Harmony. A reminder of home. And if not, the cord was to remind one to find one’s harmony. The wind bit into Tyraal’s chest. His eyes became more glazed. He shook his head bitterly, and rubbed his wet eyes.
He stood up, and looked around. The Wookie glanced at his appearance as his movement disturbed his invisibility. He looked at Aura’s body, lying helpless in a trench beside the fire. The night was unnaturally quiet, and as such Tyraal felt very uncomfortable. He didn’t like this. At all.
Then he heard a snap.
He jerked backwards towards the fire, drawing his lightsaber. He looked up. Something large was perched on the tree above him. Another arachnid.
“Get down here, damn you,” he growled. He drew his pistol and fired. It leaned aside and fired a web at him. He ducked, but the web sailed too far overhead. It sailed neatly onto Aura’s chest. Tyraal whirled, lightsaber igniting. Too late. Aura’s corpse was jerked towards the tree. Tyraal’s heart leapt into his throat. And his life flashed before his eyes.
He vaulted after her, and smacked into a web. His head snapped backward, and he fell back to the floor. He groaned and hopped back to his feet. Aura was gone, and the arachnid was fleeing. Arachnids, he saw now, there was at least a quartet of them. He swore, and leapt upward, swiping his lightsaber up to slice any more webs hindering his path. He landed on the tree, and bolted after the sounds of spider scuttlings. He heard thudding below him, and noticing the Wookie running along.
In fact, the Wookie was running faster on the ground pursuing than Tyraal was in the tree. And the Wookie was passing the spiders too. Tyraal vaulted into another tree, and set himself as he landed. Getting his emotions churning was no hassle, they were stirred to frothing within him. He reached his hand forward, and before he even focused, deep azure lightning was crackling around his digits. A stream of bolts snapped out, and engulfed the two rear arachnids. They squealed hideously, and died on the spot, curling into balls and tumbling down, down, down to the ground.
Tyraal launched himself forward. He had to catch up to the other two, before they decided to just eat Aura on the run. And as he sailed forward again, the night tension was shattered by a terrifying roar, and a series of shrieks. He landed on the next tree, and launched himself towards the next one; and as he landed, he found a thoroughly dismembered spider, oozing various fluids, scattered across the tree. And the second spider was being crushed by the Wookie. Aura was dangling, half cocooned, below the pair of them. Tyraal sailed in, and slammed into the Wookie. The two of them tumbled towards the next branch; they caught on, and Tyraal snapped around. He sailed down and impaled the spider through the skull with his lightsaber. His chest shuddered with strained breathing as the hunt resolved.
He extinguished his lightsaber, and kicked the corpse off the limb. It sailed limply and disappeared into the fog. He heard a satisfying thump, and he reached down to pull away some of the webbing around Aura.
She was stirring. She blinked and looked at him, frowned for a second, and then mumbled, dry both physically and in humoresque: