"To revisit the memories which have lead to this moment in which I take the life of another sentient species may be more maddening than the atrocities I am destined to commit." - Yaji Swiftfoot Intro "So... I've been meaning to ask, are red eyes just really uncommon in Aurin?" "My eyes changed because I committed a sin against the trees." "A sin... against trees..?" Yorobashi sits back in his chair "You Aurin are a strange race you know that." "I could say the same of your species, you seem to enjoy killing your own kind." "Someone's a bit touchy today," yoro throws his arm around yaji, "maybe a drink will loosen you up. I'm dying to hear how you pissed off a tree" "Only if you're buying!" "You aurin might be a nice lot, but I guess that doesn't stop you from being cheap does it.." "Maybe if I was allowed to go on more than recons I'd have a bit more money for my own drinks" Yaji stands up and walks to the doorway, "So?" "Alright fine, but it better be a damned good story!" The two exit their personal quarters and begin to walk towards the chow hall. Even the corridors of the ship are beginning to show their age. "How much longer do you think it'll be until we arrive at this legendary planet of yours?" Yaji's ear perks and swivels towards Yoro. "You're worried about the ship aren't you.." "For a human you're quite perceptive, but yes I am quite worried about this ship if only for the fact that my entire race is aboard your fleet and the loss of even one ship would.." "Oh for the love of the Elden, if you go on another tangent about the safety of your species I swear I'll leave you with the tab tonight!" "Enough said." The two walk in silence for a short time. Turning down the central corridor of the ship, laughter can be heard echoing from the chow hall at the far end of the corridor. The smell of sweat and rum now potent enough for even a human to notice. "Ah yes, the smell of freedom!" "I envy your sense of smell, if only mine were so under developed." "Oh so now you've got jokes do you?" Yoro raises an eyebrow at Yaji. "Someone has to keep the atmosphere light around here!" "and you wonder why you're still on recon." "HEY WATCH IT!" a granok bellows as Yaji pushes the swinging door of the chow room open too far. "Sorry" "If you really want to apologize, do it with a nice cold beer my hand." "My good friend Yoro here will see to that!" "Why am I friends with you again?" The granok stands out of his chair, towering over the two softies. His physic greatly differing however from your typical granok, instead of being muscle bound the granok is rather slim with thick long vines growing out of his impossibly hard head. "The name's Slathe" "The pleasure is all mine, my names Yaji, and this rich man is Yoro" "I'm not rich.." "Not after tonight you wont be!" Chapter 1 - The Fires of Remorse The three sit at the bar. The bartender serves Yaji his usual veniberry Rum and Yoro a shot of his favorite whiskey. "A beer for our friend if you dont mind barkeep." The bartender pulls a beer out from under the counter and slides it to Slathe who peals the top of the can off as if it were paper and downs the beer in one gulp. "You're not a cheap date are you Slathe.." Yoro says taken back by the otherwise unintimidating granok. Slathe stares down the bar at Yoro with a slightly perplexed look "You offered" "I didn't offer.. Oh never mind" Yoro lets out a sigh, "Yaji this story best be a good one." "Right.. well this will be the first time I've ever shared the... event" Slathe leans in as if Yaji is about to spill the beans on a secret treasure location "An aurin with an unshared story? Here I thought your kind couldn't keep your mouths closed about your experiences in life" "Well, this isn't the kind of experience for an aurin to be proud of." Yaji leans back catching his balance by wrapping his tail around the leg of the stole. "I can still feel their pain, hear their screams, and see their silhouettes through the flames that engulfed the people of my village." "Whoa whoa whoa, I thought you fuzzballs don't talk about the reaping." Slathe said snapping his finger at the bartender to get him another beer all the while keeping his eyes glued to Yaji as if he would disappear if he looked away. "Go on." "It was late at night, Karin and I were preparing for bed" "Who's Karin?" "Slathe, if you don't shut up and let him tell his story I'll cut you off." "Sorry." "Well, I heard a commotion outside, and something that I guess you need to understand about Aurin is we were in harmony with our planet, we commune with all of the animals and plants of Arboria so for a commotion to occur after dark is unheard of." Yaji shifts uncomfortably. "I ignored the noise, until I noticed light filtering in through our windows. So I pulled myself from my bed and crossed our home to see what was going on." Yaji drops his tone to a mumble "If I had just checked before, Karin might still be alive" "You ok buddy?" Yaji felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. "Ya sorry.. anyways.. as I reached for the door it moved off of its hinges and threw me to the ground. The creature that entered my home was worse than any nightmare I could ever conceive. It looked like an over grown tree gwig only its scales were crimson red and it had long black horns." "A draken." Slathe said in an impossibly deep voice, the concerned expression on his face was now replaced with that of remorse. "I pushed the door to the side, and it was then that the screams of my neighbors first reached my ears. The beasts were dragging my friends from their homes, tying them together and.." "You don't have to go any further, I didn't realize your red eyes were from the reaping." "No. It's fine," Yaji downs another shot of veniberry rum. "It just rings like a bad dream, you know I can't remember any of their faces now. My closest friends who I grew up with, and I can't see their faces anymore. But I can see them burning." Yaji grits his teeth and the hairs on his tail stand on end. "I'll kill them, every last one of those dominion scum. For what they did to my friends, my family, to Karin. I begged that demon. I got on my knees and begged him to spare Karin offering my own life as tribute. He laughed at me, can you imagine? How can someone have so little regard for another living being. He saw our plight as entertaining." "They'll pay in time. Don't you worry, you'll have your revenge little buddy" "He kicked me to the ground with such force that I slid back into our dining table and turned to Karin. 'Please, she's pregnant. Spare her' I sobbed. Pathetic." Yaji glanced up to notice the bartender had been watching him adamantly. "Tell me something barkeep, have you ever watched someone you love die?" Shifting uncomfortably "I lost my lily when I was a little girl, i don't know if she died, though I'm sure she has passed by now." "The dominion stole the one person in this universe who was made for me, and I for her. Aurin are matched early in life to their mate, and it is an unbreakable bond." Chapter 2 - The Endless Forest "Why do you spend so much time around those Granok? They're ruthless mercenaries you know." Karin said rolling on her side, her long hair like spider silk flowing gently in the wind. "Would you prefer me join in the festivities of the humans?" Yaji replied, a grin flashing across his face. "Certainly not, you come home smelling of their pungent drinks." Karin said sharply, "Not to mention that you are never yourself after indulging in their other world water, I think its poisonous." Yaji laughing heartily, "It's called rum my only, you should try it sometime it tastes like the rovia tree's dew" "I just don't trust those other worlders, they have no respect for our planet, did you know they were cutting down trees until Myala confronted them? Can you imagine the Queen having to confront someone about something that should be common sense?" "You should stop worrying so much, they are our friends, and they haven't felled a tree since Myala asked them not to." Yaji rolls over on his stomach. Yaji looked out across the endless forest that birthed him. The leaves of their home tree thick enough to hold both of the aurin a loft. "You know, I wouldn't mind going on an adventure with the exiles. I heard they discovered a planet that is unlike any other in the universe. It's home to an ancient race that just mysteriously disappeared." "You would leave me here alone?" Karin's eyes began to water. "Of course not, we'll go to Nexus together some day." "What of our children? Don't you want them to grow up on their home world among their own people?" "We don't have any children yet, so what would be the harm in waiting for a few years so we can see the world?" "I'm not quite sure that's an option at this point.." Karin says as she rolls into Yaji. "Wait, are you saying.." Karin nods as the words slowly roll off yaji's tongue. The two lay atop the tree talking about their future long into the night. The sun rises on another peaceful day, Yaji and Karin descend from the top of their tree and cross a low hanging branch into another home. Yaji creeps up on a chubby red haired aurin who's still fast asleep despite the fact that it's the first day of the harvest. "Inu are you going to sleep the entire harvest festival away?" Yaji kicks the lazy Aurin in his rump causing him to jump from his bed. "You know I have a door for a reason right Yaji?" Inu throws his pillow over his head, "It's to keep YOU out!" "That's not very nice, and here I was going to share my last bottle of veniberry rum with you." Inu throws his pillow to his side, "Well why didn't you say so! Lets get to work!" Karin rolls her eyes at her lazy friend. "Neither of you are drinking until Yaji has gathered the harvest. I have no intention of starving myself this winter again because you two would rather be off racing eachother on fey beetles." "That's so cold of you to think I would ever do that to you my only" Yaji says, mustering his best attempt at an innocent expression batting his large blue eyes at Karin. "Ya we all know that Yaji prefers to spend his time spooking the dorgens into a frenzy." "What? How could you ever be cruel to those kind hearted creatures?" Karin demands, glaring at Yaji. "It's not cruel, I'm just making sure they... uh. are on their toes!" "dorgen's dont have toes.." "You know what I mean!" "No i really don't" "It's a figure of speech" "A what?" "Something humans say" "Of course." Karin rolls her eyes. "Right, well me and Inu should get going! Lots of fruit to harvest!" Yaji grabs Inu by his tail and drags him out of bed. "Hey hold up! I'm not even dressed yet!" Chapter 3 - A Coward's Curse It was an commonly warm night. One who's temperature would only rise as the night progressed. The household of Yaji and Karin was constructed under the roots of one of the colossal grove trees which littered the landscape, each of which providing shelter to a different aurin family. Their tree was no different from any other, it had long narrow roots which branched out like an umbrella before plummeting into the soil. between the roots yaji had constructed walls made of the tuft harvested from the grove trees. Their door was a solid slab which he had carved from a fallen grove years prior after it was struck by lightening. Like most of aurin, Yaji and Karin were both deeply shamanistic and believed in the spiritual essence which they could feel flowing up from the ground through their tree who they had named Verd when it was just a sapling. Verd did have one unique aspect to him, and that was the great vines which hung from high atop his canopy and hung just a few feet above Yaji and Karin's heads. The locals said that the vines were Krel (the home tree of Yaji's parents) reassuring him that his parents were watching over him even though they had passed long before. "I was thinking, Veridia." Karin tilted her head towards Yaji. "Veridia is an old ladies name!" Karin scowled "It is not, it's a beautiful name!" crossing her arms, "besides you haven't come up with a better name." "I'm pretty sure anything I came up with would be better than Veridia." Yaji sticks his tongue out at Karin. "Prove it then, lets hear your oh so amazing name" "Ok, how about Jade?" "You want to give your daughter a human name?" "Jade is a brilliant green gem of the human world, I think it is a fitting name for our daughter" Yaji protests in a matter of fact tone. "I guess Jade has a good ring to it." Karin says coolly, not wanting to admit defeat. Several voices reach the ears of Yaji and Karin, too faint to make out what they are shouting, but the tone rings distress. "Maybe I should go see what's going on." Yaji states sitting up on his elbow and looking towards the door. "I'm sure it's just one of the children hiding from their parents," Karin says reassuringly "just let it be, we have a busy day tomorrow" Yaji lays back and closes his eyes, as he begins to fade off into Verd's embrace a piercing scream of agony fills the room. Yaji springs from his bed and makes for the door, orange lights can now be seen filtering through their windows. As Yaji reaches to open the door the light creeping in under the door turns a brilliant blue and Yaji is thrown to the ground as the door leaves its frame and flies across the room. "Yaji!" "I'm ok, don't worry" as Yaji's eyes adjust to the light he can see a tall Draken spellslinger standing in his doorway, his menacing eyes scanning the room. Behind the beast flames engulf everything. "Today's your lucky day fuzzball," the draken bellows "today you get to die at the hands of a great draken warrior." Yaji petrified by fear at the sight of this nightmarish creature can only stare on as the creatures gaze falls upon Karin. "I think I'll start with you, ladies first, that's what the cassians always say!" "Please, spare her, I'll offer my life as tribute." Yaji grabbed at the draken's claw. "Don't touch me you filthy lesser being." the draken snapped, grabbing yaji by the hair and lifting him off his feet. "Just for that, you can watch as I kill that vermin over there that you are so intent on saving." The draken throws Yaji at the wall and strides over to the bed where Karin had pressed herself tight against the corner. "Don't worry, I'll be sure to reunite you with that pathetic excuse for a man soon." The draken raises his gun and a spell seal begins to take form at the end of the barrel. Yaji realizing this is the same light that he saw before his door was removed from its hinges jumps to his feet and charges the draken, but too late. The seal quickly expands and Karin is engulfed in the pale blue light. As the light fades all that remains is a smoldering hole and a trail of fire leading away from where there once was a wall. "I love my job" the draken laughs as he turns to face Yaji. The image of terror crosses the drakens face however as he realizes he is face to face with a red eyed demon. The draken quickly raises his gun, but a powerful tail swats the gun from the spell slingers hand. "Why?" Yaji bellows at the draken, wrapping his tail around the throat of the shocked creature. "What did we do to deserve such scorn?" the draken feels his feet leaving the ground and quickly attempts to free himself of his bonds by swiping his claws at Yaji's tail, but to no avail. "What did Karin do? What did my unborn child do? TELL ME!" With a flick of his tail yaji throws the draken through the now burning hole that had once been Karin. The draken stumbles to his feet "since when does your race have any kind of combat prowess?" rubbing his throat the draken prepares himself for combat. Yaji does not respond, "What did you lose all that confidence already? Or maybe you're afraid of a little fire!" the draken laughs. A blue light shines from the house, realizing immediately what the light is the draken evades a devastatingly powerful blast from his own spellgun. "How the hell can you use my spellgun?!" Yaji crosses the burning threshold with the gun still pointed at the draken, "it told me how to use it" yaji says in a monotone voice. The draken makes to stand up straight but then falls forward. "My tail! Do you have any idea how long it's going to take to grow that back?" the draken shouts furiously. "An eternity" Yaji raises the gun again, this time there is no delay on the shot and it shreds the drakens left arm. "You won't leave here alive. You sealed your fate when you took my only and my child from me." "Child? What child?" the draken shouts, his voice now trembling with fear. I only killed the woman. The draken pulls a device from his pocket which he presses to his arm, instantly cauterizing his wound. "Your sin will be judged by the spirits of the forest monster." "Monster? I didn't toy with that girl like you toy with me! I gave her a clean death, how does that make me a monster? I ended her suffering in this world, you should thank me!" the drakens voice cracks as he attempts to justify his actions. "I'm only carrying out the orders of my god!" "Then you are a fool for worshipping blood thirsty gods." as the words leave Yaji's lips he fires once more at the draken, this time hitting point blank, the remains of the now lifeless draken corpse fall to the ground. Chapter 4 - Between a Rock and.. a Rock Emergency sirens began howling as holo boards lit up with a timid aurin looking at her desk, clearly having forgotten what the purpose of the entire ship seeing her hologram was. "This is not a drill." the aurin said in a monotone voice, clearly reading straight from her script "I repeat.." the aurin is cut off as the ship jolts and power is lost. The only light being emitted from the red sirens which had stopped their deafening howl. Yaji and Yoro clammer from their bunks and rush from their room down the corridor towards the cargo bay. Another explosion is heard from the cargo bay and the smell of molten metal reaches Yaji as they reach the cargo bay elevator. "Wait, don't go down there, the cargo bay has been blown open" Yaji shouts grabbing Yoro by his collar. "We should get to the bridge and inform the captain then" yoro turns on his heel and begins sprinting towards the bridge, yaji at his back. "Do you think it's the dominion?" "Doubtful, if it was we'd be dead already." "Then who?" "If I knew that do you think I wouldn't have told you?" The two enter the bridge, "The cargo bay has been breached" yaji shouts at a staunch granok. "Well what are you doing here then? Get out there! We're not here on vacation! We need supplies!" "Wait out there? In space?" "Are you drunk? We're on the planet Idrego IV it's a dominion loyalist planet. We're raiding their militaries supply catch!" "RIGHT!" Yoro bellows, patting Yaji's shoulder as he passes him informing him to follow. "You were asking to be more than recon weren't you? Now's your chance to show us what you got!" "I don't have a weapon though?" Yaji states as he chases after Yoro. "Don't worry about that, we'll get you fitted in the armory before we go out." " I didn't know the dominion allowed planets to become loyalists," Yaji said with a sense of optimism. "Don't get your hopes up, I know what you're thinking" Yoro's voice grew cold "a loyalist planet is nothing more than a planet that the dominion begun colonizing of after exterminating the native population." "WHERE THE ELDEN HAVE YOU TWO BEEN!?" Slathe's voice echos down the hall as he charges towards the two. "No one informed us that we were going to be invading a dominion planet!" Yoro snapped back at Slathe. "That's because it was a surprise attack!" Slathe said in his matter of fact tone. "here I brought your blades from the armory Yoro, and I hope this will work for you Yaji." Yaji caught a tone of concern uncommon in all the granok he had met up until this point. Slathe unfolded his massive rocky fist to reveal a spellgun. "I didn't know anything else that you might be proficient with.." "It's fine, I've accepted this way of life, the dominion have brought this destruction to themselves." yaji's voice sharp and cold. "Don't stray too far from me, I've got you softies back." "Thanks! Glad to know you care so much about us" Yoro said cheerfully. "Well there aren't many others stupid enough to pay a granoks tab.." "I.." Yaji's laughter masked yoro retort. The three reach the elevator to the cargo bay, as they reach the ground level the scale of the battle unfolding before them leaves yaji awestrucken. "WATCH IT!" Slathe steps infront of Yaji. Several small pebbles break loose from Slathe's arm and a bronze liquid drips from the granok's arm falling through the elevator and melting a hole clean through the undercarriage of the cargo bay. "I've always been curious what courses through you granok. You alright?" Yoro questions. "Yaji, you need to stay focused, I might not be able to save you the next time" "Sorry" The elevator comes to a rest and the three rush to the battlefield. Even though it is only a dominion satellite system the planets defenses were still formidable. Mechari clashed against Granok in melee combat as cassian espers conjured impenetrable armor around their front defenders. "Alright Yaji, you're with me. Yoro do your thing." as if waiting for permission Yoro begins to disappear as if slowly fading from existence. "Yaji, I want you to clear an opening in their left flank think you can do that?" "We wont know until I try right?" Yaji holds his gun steady. A blue glyph expands outward from the barrel of the spellgun. "Just hold it, let it's power build" Slathe says as he grabs a draken stalker by the head crushing his skull. "Not happening!" Yaji does as Slathe says, the glyph turns purple and triples in size. "Now!" Yaji releases the spell and an energy wave erupts from the glyph that obliterates an entire battalion of dominion soldiers "HOLY HELL! I've never seen a spellgun fire a round that powerful! You're a natural!" Yaji directs his gun towards the central forces of the dominion and begins to charge a second glyph, "Whoa buddy, with a power like that, you'll wipe out all our forces too!" yaji continues to charge the blast "Did you hear me!?" Slathe grabs Yaji by the arm and raises it to the sky, brought back to his senses yaji loses control of the glyph and the blast is released obliterating an industrial building behind the dominion forces. "You gotta get it together yaji or your time on the battlefield will be short lived in our ranks." "I don't know what came over me." yaji says in a weak voice falling to his knees. "Well I cant' say I'm surprised that you're out of energy after two intense blasts like that." Slathe hoists yaji over his shoulder and turns to walk back to the ship. "Yoro can handle the rest if that force after the chaos you just sparked." Yaji lifts his head looking back at the carnage of the battleground. In the distance he see's a flicker, a hologram? No it looked to solid. "those poor <REDACTED>s don't know what's in store for them" The impenetrable armor that the cassians cast upon their mechari defenders began fading one by one. Seizing the opportunity the exile forces pushed forward decommissioning the killer robots. The dominion forces begin to withdraw as their front line is wiped out, however as they retreat their forces begin to fall prey to the invisible force of exile stalkers. "My money is on us being off this hellhole before midday." Slathe bellows confidently. "If we aren't off this rock by nightfall drinks are on you the rest of the month." Yaji laughs weakly. Chapter 5 - Blade for Hire "Do we have a deal then?" a well fed cassian stood before Yoro with a lockbox containing 10 million space creds. The plump cassian cocked his head rather annoyed at the lack of response, "well? Is it not enough money?" Yoro leans forward in his chair resting his head upon his right hand, while his left slipped back and forth on the smart pad that controlled his phase claws. "and how many targets did you say you want killed?" The wicked little cassian grinned wildly, "eight targets, they are protected by a small army of.. outlaws." "You mean the exile resistance? You expect me, to end a rebellion against the emperor for a mere 10 million?" Yoro motions towards the lock box. flicking the smart pad his phase claw impales the lock mechanism and the box lid flies open. "At least you are a man of your word, 10 million." The cassian taking note of the clear displeasure of the offer "My employer would see you paid double upon returning from your mission successful." noticing his offer had not even perked the assassins interest "Not to mention you would be regarded as a hero for having ended the rebellion against our god!" "A hero, will I get a statue, right beside our wonderful emperor" Yoro said in a snide tone, gliding his finger back across his smart pad. "Perhaps the emperor would see me paid 20 million now, and 20 million after. I'll erect my own statue in the garden of my new manor" "I will see to it," the cassian snaps his finger and a mechari steps out from the shadows and places another lockbox on the table. "So we have a deal?" After a moment of consideration, "so do tell me, how did the emperor find out about my services I offer. I've always prided myself in my secrecy. "Yoro leans back in his chair his face fading into the shadows." "I do not know these things, I am merely a representative of our great god emperor. Please, I only wish to ensure this transaction is completed" the cassian shifts uneasily in his seat glancing over his shoulder at the mechari. "How many bodyguards did you say you had again?" Yoro pried venomously. "four royal guard," the cassian chokes, his voice cracking with fear. A wild grin crosses Yoro's face as his silhouette fades from his chair. The cassian can feel the warmth of Yoro's body as the two lockboxes lift from the table and each disappear. "We have a deal" the door to the room slides open,"Know though if you betray me, you will be the first I kill, and an army of mechari will not protect you." It was far from the ideal lifestyle for Yoro, but he had finally reached the big leagues and this would be his last job as an assassin, this his opus magnum. The high society in which he was born a member of had left him to rot after his father disgraced his family name by providing a safe haven to rebels. Yoro had met several of the leaders of the exile resistance growing up, but after being discovered as a traitor his father was sentenced to life in prison. Yoro's mother fell into a deep depression and became ill, the wife of a traitor was branded a traitor herself. With no one willing to risk their well being by helping a traitor Yoro was forced to watch as his mother was slowly drained of energy, the day of her funeral no one attended her wake, not even any of the exiles who had taken her husband from her and left her to die. Yoro may never have had any love for the emperor who took his parents from him, but his hatred for the exiles far exceeded that of his loathing of the emperor. The night was still, there was rarely weather on Cassus, every minute detail of the planet had been regulated by Elden/Cassian hybrid technology. The streets were uncommonly baren for it being so early in the evening. Perhaps one of the noble luminai were hosting a ball. turning a corner into an alleyway Yoro slid his hand across the wall. *click* A door slid open from where Yoro's hand had just been. Entering into a bar the door closing quickly behind him, Yoro deactivated his stealth and held one of the lockboxes high above his head. "Drinks are on me tonight boys!" the room erupted in cheer! "I can't believe you actually did it, we'll own the city at this rate boss!" a young draken stalker raised a glass in toast to Yoro. "So what's the next step boss?" a muscle bound cassian shouts from the bar. "I mean, we obviously aren't going to kill the exiles are we? With them gone the nobles will surely turn on us, labeling us a gang of cutthroats." "You're wise beyond your days Cradius." Yoro says dropping onto the barstool next to his close friend. "Of course we won't kill the exiles, they're our ticket off of this rock" lifting one of the lockboxes and placing it onto the table, "and this will be our fee." "All of it?" Cradius questions,"do you really think they'll require that much from you considering your families past involvement?" "I've killed countless exile rebels since then Cradius. There is a strong chance they won't even hear me out." Yoro leans over the bar and grabs a bottle of whiskey from the shelf. "So their fate rests in their own hands then is that what you're saying?" Cradius grins wickedly. That smile always unnerved Yoro, ever since they were children whenever Cradius grinned in such a manner it always meant trouble was soon to follow. "Tell me, how many years have we known eachother Cradius?" "About 20, ever since our first day of acadamy." Cradius said in a remonscent voice. "It's been a life time, quite literally." "It's a shame that we may never see each other after tonight." Yoro drops a handful of platinum coin on the bar and closes the lockbox. "That should cover you and the boys lodging for the next month." "Until we meet again." Cradius pats Yoro on the shoulder. "Until we meet again," Yoro rises from the chair and walks toward the exit,"take care of the boys would ya? Keep them out of trouble." Yoro cloaks as the bar door jolts open and closes a moment later.