Once A Warrior, Part I
Yes ... it’s another McEwok ‘missing moment’.
This one falls somewhere in the last two chapters of "The Unifying Force" ... inspired, I suppose, by a hoojib that bit me while I was reading Tahiri’s encounter with Kunra in "The Final Prophecy" ...
The usual disclaimers apply: STAR WARS is owned by George; this is just a personal, not-for-profit artistic response and critical commentary; and we’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the sea of stars ...
And ... Tahiri/Kunra?!
Um, yeah you’ll see!
My name is Kunra.
I am, for want of a better definition, a Yuuzhan Vong of the warrior caste.
Few Yuuzhan Vong warriors would seek my company, however. Even now, now that the old certainties of caste and honour are dead, old prejudices die hard, and certain crimes retain their stigma.
Not least for those who have committed them.
Coward. Traitor. Heretic.
I am all these things.
So perhaps it is understandable that I prefer to walk my own path.
Or perhaps I just ran away again.
I have made my eyrie in what was once a penthouse apartment, high in the upperworks of one of Coruscant’s ruined skyscrapers. Before the war, it was home to a prosperous human family typical members, I suppose, of the New Republic’s administrative élite. Framed holos of them still hang on the wall above the hearth. I have wiped away the dust and cobwebs from them.
Part of me thinks that they might come back one day.
I do not think anyone will mind me being here, though. In my heart of hearts, I doubt, that anyone else will ever return to claim this place. I have discouraged the wild animals who moved into the block after the conquest, and marked out my own personal space. I have claimed the main living area, part of the kitchen area, and one of the bedrooms.
This is my home.
This is enough for me.
Now, I am crouched over the fire I have built in one end of the room. A simple hunter’s hearth, a circle of stones or, in this case, fragments of duracrete aggregate around a fire of salvaged wood, dried wrack, and charcoal.
I am cooking.
A fire-blackened pot of bubbling stew is bedded down at an angle on one side of the heap of coals. On the opposite side, two eggs that I scavenged from the nests in the rooftop hangar, frying on a broken slate. I squat beside the hearth, watching my eggs and my stew, using my knife to gut and skin a hawk-bat from one of my snares. With a little seasoning, it is surprisingly palatable.
First, catch your hawk-bat, as the proverb goes.
I am, I have to confess, enjoying myself.
It is approaching sunset I long ago stopped living by the precise rule of chronometers and the air is warm and balmy, in the pleasant way of a summer afternoon as the midday heat cools. Golden sunlight still falls through the vine-framed windows behind my back, warming my shoulders and the nape of my neck, and casting mottled patterns across the floorboards around me.
But the sunlight only reaches so far. At the far end of the main space, framed by shadows, a rank of windows stretches the width of the wall, reaching from floor to ceiling. If I cock my head to the side, and look along that way, I can see the first stars of the night shining through the blue-grey veil of the evening sky.
I stand there, sometimes, in front of the shattered panes surveying the view out across the abandonned city. Conquest, desolation, and liberation have only added to the stark grandeur of the skyscrapers, emphasising their strength. I like this wilderness of broken glass, chipped ferrocrete, scarred durasteel, and intermittent undergrowth. I feel as though I belong here.
I was never a terribly good Yuuzhan Vong.
I have seen the slow-burning sunrise, the colours of flowing blood and molten bronze seeping across the sky. I have seen the midday heat, the dead city shimmering beneath the empty blue sky. But as the day darkens and the air cools, the skyscrapers will become black silhouettes against the star-strewn sky, and beyond them, red-gold shimmers will appear in the darkness, marking the scattered settlements that now populate the urban wasteland around the old government area infidel reconstruction bases and Yuuzhan Vong villages.
In the night, as I lie in my bed upstairs, and watch the stars overhead, I can hear the distant cry of hunting hawk-bats, and smell the scent of ripeness and summer rain.
It is peaceful. Beautiful. I do not think that Coruscant has ever been this beautiful not in the few years that the Yuuzhan Vong ruled it, and not before. But there is a fragility to the beauty that I see in the empty city, the fragility of a tinder-flame or a baited breath.
I do not know how long it will last.
I sense a movement behid me, and I turn, rising slowly to my feet. The honed impulse of a warrior suggests that I should reach for the knife tucked into the belt of my tunic, but a deeper instinct tells me not to.
Instead, I stand with one hand on the hilt at my hip, watching my visitor swing herself down through the shattered space where the windopanes should be and drop neatly to the deck amid the shadows at the far end of the room. Her boot-heels thump hard on the floorboards as she lands.
She is a warrior, slim and lean, and the infidel symmetry of her sharp cheekbones and straight nose is offset by scars and grazes, softened by the scatter of freckles across her face. But no Yuuzhan Vong could ever have hair that light, or eyes that bright.
All this is familiar, of course. We have met before. Those green eyes haunt my dreams.
Call it an obsession. Call it love. Call it madness.
A dream, perhaps, is the best word for it.
I recognize the familiar fierceness in her, and the beauty, and the poise with which she moves, but there is a leanness to her that is new, a sharp edge. She looks more like a Yuuzhan Vong than I remember.
Perhaps she has come here to kill me.
As I think these thoughts, I take two steps back, as though in surprise, and my eyes drop to the lightsaber at her belt. When I look back up at her, I feign wide-eyed shock.
“Jeedai,” I say, bowing and hiding my face behind crossed wrists. I shift to broken Basic. “I am not worthy. To what does this humble one owe such honour?”
I chance a glance from behind my folded arms. She is looking at me, green eyes glinting. Her lip twitches perhaps a smile, perhaps controlled grief. Perhaps both.
“Jeedai?” she asks. I smile. I like the way she pronounces the word, lightly mocking my attempt at subterfuge with the infidel inflection in her voice. “Don’t you Jeedai me, Anakin Solo.”
At that, I drop the pretence of deference, and stand up straight. If there is any doubt in her mind, my grin dispels it. She is grinning too.
“You got me,” I admit, betraying myself completely with an infidel shrug. “Figured it would be you. Sit down.”
She looks at me, shaking her head. For a moment, there is something wary and thoughtful in her eyes, but then she quirks a tentative smile, and walks across the rubble-strewn deck to join me. As she moves and she still moves beautifully she looks me up and down. Her eyes glint amused, perhaps, but critical, appraising. She doesn’t miss much.
I’m supposed to be five foot ten, human, a Jedi Knight, and two years dead.
Instead, she’s looking at six foot, seven inches of alien warrior very much alive, but for all my connection to the Force, you might as well swap me out for hard vacuum.
I owe her an explanation, I suppose. That, after all, is what she’s here for.
I’m not going to allow myself to hope for anything more.
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