A True Yazirian

Khordiki brushed his mane by feel; his eyes were locked on the eyes of the yazirian in the reflection, staring deep into his sha-ka. Rhythmically, he went through the grooming, brushing, anointing with scented oils, dressing and finally affixing the spiked arm bands that were the symbol of his clan. All the while he meditated on his clan’s proud history, naming the heroes and events of that history using the sing song chant taught to him as a pup to ensure he forgot nothing. His was a proud clan of warriors from Hargut.

He finished his guttural sing-song and finally looked at himself. The outfit was extravagant and garish with its pointed stiff shoulder extending out like wings and the broad fanciful pleats of the belted robe. He had never played the role of Shingtaru nor Ninatu from the Noe Toe Vu. It was a great honor and he felt presumptuous just putting on the costume. Hykully had insisted that it was only fitting that he and Rejjack play Shingtaru and Ninatu since their clans had once been at feud.

It was hard to argue with him. There were only two hands full of yazirians in Klaeok system and none of them had the history that his and Rejjack’s clans had. This was the second time Hykully had organized a “clan meeting” of the yazirian population in the system. Normally clan meetings were for individual clans and a celebration of that clan’s history. Yet Hykully’s had devised a meeting for all the yazirians present despite clan affiliation. It was a chance for them to just celebrate being yazirian. Khordiki had doubted that it would succeeded but being so far from home the celebration had struck a powerful cord with all present last year.

This year was going to be bigger. Hykully had hit on the idea acting out the drama of the Noe Toe Vu. Not all clans did it these days but it was ancient and very traditional. Since the story was about the largely mythical figures of Shingtaru and Ninatu, the first clan leaders to peacefully coexist, it was somehow fitting that Khordiki, being from Khordova, and Rejjack, being from Shurkia, lead the drama. Decades ago Khordova and Shurkia had ended the violence between them even becoming close clan allies. He suspected that Hykully had not stopped simply at the drama but had some how smuggled in some of the “sweet meat” animals from home as that was also central to the drama. It would be silly to get the attendees worked up with the Noe Toe Vu and not have the killing of the sweet meats. Khordiki’s mouth watered at the thought.

He collected the oversized mask of Shingtaru and the blunt wooden prop sword before whispering a verse of praise for dead heroes and departed for Hykully’s.

Hykully had been a spacer when he came to the Rim but once here he had sunk his saved credits into a business venture with a local humma, becoming moderately successful. That was two decades ago. He routinely sent money back to the poor of his clan on Yast. A very traditional yazirian and yet he lived on the planet Point Go, which couldn’t be any further way from the centers of yazirian tradition.

Hykully’s home had the distinct look of an undersized clan hall. Khordiki suspected that the features that struck him as odd were probably peculiarities to Hykully’s Amona clan. No doubt he’d felt cut off from home and built it to soothe his inner sha-ka.

The air was permeated with the musty scent of incense and live animals. Three tables ringed the animal pit in a U shape. Before the tables were a knot of other yazirians but there was tension among them. Rejjeck was there too, resplendent in the red and black costume of Ninatu but he was clearly the most upset of all.

Khordiki wondered what could have stirred up the sha-ka of his friend; this was supposed to be a festivity. Being cut off from their clans meant they were cut off from all the normal yazirian festivities since they all centered on the clan. Last year had shown them all how important it was to come together irrespective of clan and celebrate being yazirian. What could derail the happy anticipation of another such celebration was beyond Khordiki.

“Brothers, brothers, what stirs the inner sha-ka bringing the rage close to your faces? Are we not here to celebrate? To soothe the sha-ka with the killing of the sweet meats, singing of old songs, and drinking the blood red wine?” asked Khordiki before exclaiming a non sequitor, “By the One! Those are wyvoles!”

In the pit were four snarling wyvoles. It should not have been a surprise, if any yazirian animal would be available for purchase in the Rim it would be the wyvole since the resurrected Bailorite religious rites called for their use as a sacrificial animal. The Family of One has staunchly condemned Bailorite practices as well as and trade in this animal forcing most breeders to move to non yazirian systems to ply their trade. Likely these came from a breeder supplying the crazy osakar who had adopted the ancient yazirian religion. Khordiki pushed aside the thought of roasted wyvole flank to re-focus on his brothers.

Most of the yazirians here had come to the Rim as mercenaries. Khordiki and Rejjack had come on the same contract and fallen in together like clan brothers and after five years and eight contracts Khordiki looked on Rejjack like a clan brother. He knew most of the others as well.

Rejjack hissed, “Hykully has invited this outcast’s son, how can we celebrate with that?”

He indicated a stunted newcomer. The body language was not proud but beaten, withdrawn and self effacing. His clothes, though clean looked subtly shabby as if he’d done his best to dress for the occasion but simply lacked the means. Understanding dawned on Khordiki; the new comer was a known entity, Dauk, the son of a disgraced outcast from their home world.

Dauk was typical of his Rojoran clan, an artist who had bounced around the Rim earning a living as a singer and entertainer. Unfortunately, for him, he came from a disgraced clan and was the son of an outcast. Khordiki, winced, he actually felt sorry for him as traditional yazirian society only forgave outcast through the shedding of blood. Dauk as the son of an outcast would always bear the taint till the offense that he had nothing to do with until it was expunged. Unfortunately, Rejjack was a very conservative yazirian.

Looking, around the assembled yazirians, Khordiki could see that at least half had a hardened disapproving look that spoke their agreement with Rejjack’s voiced objection. It was Hykully’s party and he would not retract his invitation lest it dishonor his reputation as a host. In all likelihood, Dauk would simply leave of his own accord a beaten and defeated spirit, rejected by the only vestiges of his race in this obscure system on the backside of no where.

Khordiki, felt sorry for Dauk. He felt sorry for Hykully too, knowing that the host was trying to forge a new spirit of community among the scattered yazirians out here irrespective of clan affiliation and this confrontation would derail that goal. He felt sorry for himself, knowing that his heart would not be in the celebration tonight after this. It was likely everyone would act as if nothing happened and try to make up for the dulled spirit of the affair with increased consumption of alcohol.

Khordiki hung his head. He had so looked forward to this and now it looked like the evening’s festivities would taste like rotten meat to him. He knew not what to do and confusion clouded his mind. Some of the other guests were raising their voices now.

Unbidden, came the voice of a clan elder from a life time ago into his mind, “When the path ahead is tangled and your sha-ka is confused meditate on the code of your clan. The honor code is like a bush knife to clear a path and cut through entangling vines that will divert you from a straight and honorable path.”

Silently, Khordiki began the sing song chant that many a clan elder had taught to many a clan pup when instructing them in the honor code. He began reciting the Way of the Warrior. When he reached the phrase, ‘the strongest forgive,’ he lifted his head and looked around. That same phrase was part of the drama that Khordiki and Rejjack were dressed to enact. Yet he somehow knew that forgiveness for Rejjack would not come easy as Dauk’s disgraced clan had had dealings with Rejjack’s.

It was time to act; to save the festivities, to save the spirit of this meager community of yazirians, to save Dauk himself. Khordiki launched into the drama. It was not the proper time but it was the only thing he could think of. He cut to the heart of the drama, the point when Shingtaru nor Ninatu confronted each other in combat. Rejjack was focused on Dauk but ever the warrior he instinctively he parried Khordiki’s thrust with the stage prop of a dull wooden sword.

Rejjack stepped back with a confused and angry look but Khordiki shouted his lines and struck again with the wooden sword. It took Rejjack several seconds to shift gears and begin to give a good account of his lines from the Noe Toe Vu but his swordsmanship was spot on. This was not a mock battle for a drama, Rejjack was angry and going to take it out on his friend for diverting him from his conflict with Hykully and Dauk.

Quickly the other guest realized that the battle was real and formed a loose semi circle around the combatants. Hykully wrapped an arm around Dauk’s shoulder and prevented him from leavening. The crack of wooden swords was sharp with strike parry and counter strike and the shouted lines of the drama rung air violently.

For centuries a shorter stylized version of the Noe Toe Vu had been acted out by most yazirians. The whole story involved young rival clan members that had become friends and hunting mates and maintained that friendship in spite of the animosity of their clan elders for one another. Eventually, the young hunters are found out and by trial of honor and blood they won the approval of their clan elders who made peace. At some point someone had condensed the drama to focus on the clan elders lest clan youth be inspired to think they could teach the elders. It was silly in light of the fact that everyone knew the full story since it was a central religious myth to all yazirians.

Khordiki decided to modify the drama further. He changed his dialog to reflect the most widely used honor code, the Code of Innesti.

“A warrior who does not contemplate is an unworthy savage. Anger is best addressed by peace. When anger rules you, your rage is weak; when peace rules you your rage is pure. The strong fight bravely, but only the strongest forgive.”

Rejjack paused but then countered with part of the code, “The enemy of my clan is my enemy!”

Khordiki nodded to himself, as that quote was from the chapter called, Council of the Clan. He in turned countered with a line from the Perfection of Honor, “The disinherited deserve an honest hearing. Remember the unjustly disinherited…”

His voiced trailed off knowing instantly what Rejjact would counter with, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of shame.”

There it was; the first and the greatest tenet from the Perfection of Honor within the Code of Innesti. What could Khordiki say to that? He knew in his inner most sha-ka that no one present would accept Dauk after this. Shame would only be forgiven through the shedding of blood. Centuries ago, during the clan wars the disgraced were allowed to redeem themselves by honor combat which usually entailed charging the enemy while your clan looked on. Most died but they were judged to have died honorably and a good death in this fashion could rouse the rage within their clan so that the whole clan would enter the battle rage that always lurks in the yazirian sha-ka. Battle rage was a powerful tool that gave the clan that could rouse its members to it a tremendous edge in combat.

The disgrace of Dauk’s clan had never been answered with blood. If that’s what it would take then blood would be shed. Today would be Dauk’s day. He would redeem himself in the eyes of everyone present or slink away a disgraced and defeated animal unworthy to be called a yazirian. Khordiki hoped that the inner sha-ka of Dauk burned with the rage of their race. It was the only thing that could save him now. Perhaps even save them all.

Khordiki locked swords with Rejjack and face to face with him asked, “Are you a Yaz!”

Rejjack roared back, “I am Rejjack of Clan Shurkia! I AM A YAZIRIAN!”

The rage was evident in Rejjack. Khordiki could feel its resonance in the sha-kas of all present. He pushed Rejjack back and advanced on the nearest watcher. Within centimeters of that yazirian’s face, closer than politeness dictated, he roared, “Are you a Yaz!”

As each attendee roared back at him in the same manner as Rejjack he turned to another and roared the same question. At last he came to Dauk. His roar was met with a tentative nod so Khordiki grabbed him by his clothes and roared the question again. His breathe and flecks of saliva hot on Dauk’s face.

The small yazirian swelled with anger at the insult and roared back his answer, “I am Dauk! I AM A YAZIRIAN!”

“Does your sha-ka burn with the rage of a yazirian?”

“YES! I burn with the rage! I burn from a shame not my own but I am a YAZIRIAN!”

“For the yaz, honor is not satisfied without the shedding of blood. Before these assembled yaz, show us your rage! Show us your sha-ka! Show us your honor!”

Khordiki reached out to the nearby banquet table. On it were blades intended for the killing and butchering of the sweet meats. He grabbed two zamiras, the honor weapon of the yazirian, and presented these to Dauk. Dauk slid his long slender fingers into the holes at the center of the disk like blades. A roar boiled up from his chest and erupted like a volcano from his throat. He leapt up on the banquet table and ran its length to gain momentum before leaping into the air for more height. At the apex of his jump he snapped the patagium skin flaps between his arms and legs taut and banked to glide down into the animal pit toward the waiting wyvoles.

Everyone hurried to the pit’s edge and Khordiki felt Hykully whisper in his earn, “You just killed him you know?”

Khordiki nodded. Wyvoles were a pack hunting carnivore and four of them were sure to rip Dauk to shreds. He had become carried away with the spirit of the moment and not fully thought things out.

To Hykully he simply whispered back, “Maybe, but he’s a singer and perhaps he’s studied the art of the zamira like the warrior bards of old.”

Dauk could feel rage within. It coursed with power and triggered changes in his blood chemistry. His mind focused on the wyvoles shutting out everything else as he banked in a tight spiral. His right arm snapped the disk blade of a zamira to bounce beneath the chin of a wyvole and rebound into its neck. Arterial blood spurted. It was an impressive throw but it also allowed air to spill from beneath his skin flaps and he dropped fast. The wyvoles also possessed patagium and were intuitive gliders. They were already moving to where their animal brains told them he would land. However, Dauk turned the air spill from his throw into a controlled crash and landed hard on a wyvole, slashing it with the other zamira.

Hoots and roars were going up from the assembled watchers. Yazirians are a bloody race that lived for combat and lightly cooked meat dripping with blood. The smell of blood in the air was near intoxicating and Dauk’s skill with the honor blade made them cheer.

The battle was not one sided and the wyvoles had their turn. Dauk had managed to kill two but he was weakening and the last two were working together. Everyone knew that Dauk would not survive though he had recovered his honor. Hykully made to jump in an assist but Khordiki restrained him.

“It’s not your place. Only the one that called for blood can intervene.”

Rejjack overheard the exchange and cast a sharp look at them. Many others heard as well and nodded encouragement to him. Anger was evident in his face. There was a war going on within his sha-ka. He wanted to forgive but tradition demanded that he hate the dishonored clan that had gone back on its word to his clan. He also knew that if Dauk died he’d loose face with those present but he just could not find the serenity in his heart to forgive.

Khordiki looked at his friend searchingly then said, “The strong fight bravely, but only the strongest forgive.”

With that Rejjack erupted in a roar and Khordiki wondered that he might attack him. Instead, Rejjack leapt into the pit with his wooden prop sword and attacked one of the wyvoles. In short order the last wyvoles gave up their sha-ka and two blood covered yazirians stood in the fighting pit.

Rejjack turned to Dauk, placing his hands on his shoulders and said, “Dauk, you are indeed a yazirian. I embrace you like a brother.”

As Rejjack wrapped him in an embrace the assembled yazirians hooted and cheered with wild abandon. That night was filled with much song, much barbeque, and too much blood wine.

In the decades after, the yearly festivities at Hykully’s were the talk of all yazirian’s living in that distant sector of space. To those that had been there that night there was an unspoken understanding that they had become an informal clan unto themselves. They were all brothers, not from the same clan but simply brother yazirians. Rejjack and Khordiki eventually returned to their clans on Hargut but Dauk and Hykully remained in the Rim.

Decades past and the day came when Dauk did returned to the yazirian colonies. As he stepped from the star liner onto the deck of the space station over the planet Yast, Rejjack was there to meet him. Dauk bore some of the ashes from Hykully’s funeral pier and was bringing them to his home clan.

Later, with a few other aged yazirians that had been at Hykully’s, they sang songs and drank blood wine and told old tales like true yazirians.