Kul gave an inward sigh of relief as her final question relieved him from having to respond to the statement before. He wasn’t very good at personal things, not to mention that just being in the Togruta’s presence was somehow intoxicating in itself. The last time he had recognized a female for her potential had been in his fight with Blade the Zeltron, and it had been forced out of him when her pheromones had left him reeling. He still held feelings of resentment about that day, but he knew Tahiri had no such weapon of the sort at her disposal and thus knew what he felt was something else. Surely it wasn’t…
The electric current pulsed through his body again, dragging screams of torment from his already ravaged lungs.
‘You belong to Plagueis, slave! You are nothing unless the Dread Lord wills it!’
The electrified rod drove into his side, and his existence was fire.
‘You serve only the clan! You obey only the clan! You love. ONLY. The CLAN!’
Each word was seared into his memory as the arcing tendrils grasped at every inch of him.
“…Kul? Kul are you listening?”
Tahiri cocked her lead to give her a better view of his face. She almost gasped aloud when she saw that his eyes had become darker. The red that usually outlined his orange iris had enveloped it, giving him the appearance of a wild beast. The pressure of dark side energy he gave off was repressing and triggered her instincts to get away. Instead she hesitantly reached out a hand, but before she could make contact with him his gaze snapped to her. His eyes had returned to normal, though he appeared slightly confused. The dark side quickly began to diffuse from around him, though it’s presence within him remained.
“Kul, are you ok? What was that?”
The Zabrak’s eyebrows furrowed as he realized his mind had drifted off. Over time he had been able to rid himself of the brainwashing techniques used to initiate him into clan Plagueis, but every now and then certain triggers would pull him into some dark memory of that time. He could feel the remnants of his rage, and thanked the stars he had not directed it at Tahiri. He waved away the topic so as to avoid discussing it. Perhaps once he’d ensured he could trust her, but not yet.
“It’s…nothing. A small side effect of my training. It passes. Now. You said something about a plan? Ordinarily hunting a Reek is done by a Zabrak male alone on his Selenoren to prove his strength, but as I have already completed mine I am allowed to hunt the beast as I see fit. Since you’re new to Reek-hunting, we’ll keep it simple this time as one mistake can result in one becoming rather…well, flat.”
Kul waved a hand in the direction of their creature companions.
“Using our friends here we will flush out a Reek and they will drive it towards us. Done successfully, this will allow us to take a flank and hit it from two sides. A warning, though. Make your first strike count, as you may not have a chance for a second. Not that I doubt your prowess, of course, but the Reek is formidable when made to anger and their hides are thick.”
Tahiri nodded at every sentence, with wide eyes and a smile playing coyly at her lips. It wasn’t until Kul finished that he realized she was toying with him. He scoffed.
“You won’t think it’s funny when the Reek takes a few pounds off you with his horns.”
The Togruta placed her hands at her hips and feigned an insulted look.
“Are you insinuating I need to lose weight?”
Kul’s face almost visibly grew a darker shade of red as he attempted to speak while being taken aback completely.
“What…? No…I would never…”
As he struggled to re-establish his train of thought, Tahiri chuckled and pushed his shoulder playfully.
“I’m teasing, Kul. Come on, daylight’s wasting.”
With their companions in tow the two broke through the edge of the forest and embraced the smells and sounds around them, Kul muttering as they did so.
“Thinks she’s funny does she…Regular comedy master…”
He couldn’t fight off the smile that snuck its way across his face, however.
The small cadre of hunters stopped as they came to the edge of a small clearing. They had discovered multiple sets of heavy tracks snaking their way around towards one of the larger watering holes Kul had heard to be a popular gathering spot for the local herds. After a quick scan of the area and confirmation there were no other Zabraks (not that there should have been, the time for Selenoren was not yet approaching so the only other hunters would have been an entire clan seeking to replenish their mounts in preparation for the harvest season.), Kul focused his attentions on the group of Reek dipping their leathery mouths to the pool for refreshment. Most of the beasts were of moderate size, but the one that caught Kul’s attention was a hulking brute and obviously the herd’s alpha male. Seeing it sent a burst of adrenaline through Kul’s veins. A creature certainly worthy of the hunt. He turned to Tahiri, who was watching the powerful beasts with admiration. He hesitated as he took in the look of captivation on her face, distracted by her attractive features, but she noticed the movement and turned to face him. He quickly indicated the larger male Reek.
“See that one? If you like a challenge that’s the one we want.”
Tahiri nodded and measured the beast for herself. It certainly looked like it would make things interesting. A beast that large would probably be unable to sprint for long, or at all, so their advantage would be in mobility.
“How do you suggest we take it down?”
Kul gave her a sly look and nodded his head in her direction.
“What would you do?”
A test already, then? No. This is more likely an attempt to get an understanding of my hunting habits…
Tahiri looked back at the herd with a finger resting on her chin. “Well, a good start would be to get it separated from the pack. So we use Solan, Shor’kir, and Shar’kala to split it from the herd and lure it towards us. Since it is obviously the alpha male it won’t ignore a possible threat to its herd and should take the bait to chase them away. Once it gets close enough…we strike.”
She beamed at Kul while she pronounced her plan, and he nodded along with her.
“A good plan. Though there is a way to expedite the ending. You see, Reeks are not naturally over aggressive, but can be prodded into it when need be. You are correct that our pets could possibly draw its attention, but if it decides they are not a threat it will merely ignore them due to their size and assurance in the protection of their thick hides. My massifs for one could not do more than tickle its ankles. That’s a full-grown Reek, though…” He extended his finger in the direction of a couple of baby Reeks that were playing while the adults refreshed. “…whereas a young Reek has not fully matured its hide yet and is capable of harm from even a smaller predator.”
The Togruta nodded in understanding.
“And then the alpha will be forced to act regardless.”
“Then the fun begins.”