Just minutes before dawn, as the first hint of natural light began to supersede the artificial illumination, Laurel found herself sitting up in bed, ramrod straight and senses on full alert. Had there been a noise? Why was she awake? The hackles rose on the back of her neck. Her Inner Sight told her that the shadows in the room where not quite what they ought to be—
Instantly, she leapt from the covers and landed atop a dark, wiry, fur-covered creature. In the slow-growing light of the morning, the creature seemed to have no form—and claws in unexpected quarters.
By now Laurel was ready to wrestle the creature within reach of her knives, but then found herself with a face full of fur. The creature underneath her quickly twisted her arms, trapping them, while the heavy, furry covering on her head threatened to suffocate her unless she held still. If it was a creature on her face, it seemed to be sitting on her head with little intention of moving until she stopped struggling. Laurel immediately took the hint and lay still.
The furry lump moved off her face, and Laurel blinked as during the time she was blinded someone had turned on the lights. Her eyes finally adjusted, and she saw Renata cowering behind her blankets, and Carsius and Augustus grinning down at her. Standing right above her head (for he had been the one sitting on it) was a squat, furry, bear-like creature. Her limber assailant proved to be a four-limbed feline creature with dark fur and vivid green eyes, which glared down at her.
Augustus stepped into the room, chuckling as Laurel’s cheeks burned.
“I see you’ve met my allies,” he remarked, gesturing to the feline. Laurel sighed as the strange creature jumped to its feet, releasing her. Carsius rushed forward and helped her to her feet. The creature’s long claws had cut her in several places on her legs and arms, and Laurel felt the burning sting of a cut on her left cheek as well.
Augustus announced to his compatriots, “May I present Gorrmunsa Kisora, a Kytarr; and this is Deej Horuku,” he pointed to the short creature, who nodded in acknowledgement, “a most esteemed ancient Ewok from the planet Endor. These two are here to help us with our plans.”
|Gorrmunsa Kisora (*Not the |
original image; I could not find
the original, so I had to make
do with something else that still
sort of fit the description!)
“Need I remind you, hoyden,” the Kytarr hissed, “it was you who attacked us first.”
Laurel staggered to her feet in spite of her wounds, “I’ll show you hoyden, you—“
“Laurel!” Carsius laid a hand on the Elf’s shoulder. “Please try to behave. Kytarr rarely use doors, and certainly never on the ground floor if they can help it.”
“Doors are too dangerous,” Gorrmunsa muttered, flexing his long claws, “too many guards, too much security.”
“All the same, Gorrmunsa,” Carsius stood and faced the Kytarr, who towered a full head over him, “you knew that you were entering the private quarters of someone, stranger or no. You could have chosen another area by which to enter the house, that would not be so perceived as a threat to the safety of these people.”
Gorrmunsa bared his teeth, but tucked his tail between his legs submissively.
Laurel took the tin and smelled it, surprised that she recognized the scent. “Talatha?” she asked in amazement.
Deej nodded, pleased that she had identified the plant from which the paste was derived. “Talatha,” he confirmed. He gestured to her wounds. “glavaf oy talatha terriakelle oy ondyoruanaf,” he instructed in Andarian, accompanying his words with a spreading motion over each of the cuts.
Laurel was stunned; she had never heard a non-Elf speak her native tongue so perfectly. She immediately began spreading the talatha-balm over the cuts made by Gorrmunsa’s claws.
Meanwhile, Gorrmunsa busied himself with unpacking the pack he had carried on his back the whole way to Eillumaeia. He pulled out a small canister, and several prepared vials of liquid.
Augustus picked up one of the vials, ignoring the flicker of annoyance in Gorrmunsa’s eyes. “This is the althraxine that must be transformed into vapor?” he asked.
“That is the analthraxine,” the Kytarr corrected, snatching the vial back. He loaded the analthraxine into the top half of the canister, and a second vial into the base, “this one’s the althraxine. This is the dispersion device.” He held it up for the two men to see, but seemed reluctant to let them hold it just yet.
It was silver, roughly the size of an earthenware pot, seemingly split in half horizontally across the middle. A timer graced each half, next to an automatic valve.
“The althraxine must be released first,” Gorrmunsa explained, “so that’s the top half; when this timer runs down, the valve will seal tight, causing the pressure to build so much that all of the liquid is turned to vapor and explodes, releasing the pressurized vapor. Once this explodes, it will automatically trigger the second timer, set just long enough for the althraxine vapor to disperse, then comes a similar chain reaction to release the analthraxine, which should render all alternate neuro-systems invisible to the wyrts.”
“Hmph, should,” Laurel snorted. Everyone turned to her and she shook her head, “It will be a marvelous sight when a simple chemical reaction could bring the end of centuries of neural slavery.” She rolled her eyes.
Augustus waved her off, “What’s the range of these things, Gorrm?” he asked.
The Kytarr regarded the canister carefully and set it gently back into his pack. “Roughly a ten-kilometer radius, last I checked.”
Carsius pondered this, “So in order to cover the whole city of Eillumaeia, we would need—“
“A set at every point of the compass,” Laurel finished. “Better put it ten klicks away from the edge of town, just to cover everything,” her multicolored eyes danced, “not that it will work, anyhow.”
Carsius shook his head at her skepticism. “Perhaps we should even place a few canisters at the center of town, just to be safe? How many canisters do you have, Gorrmunsa?”
The Kytarr shrugged and glanced at his pack, “I have eight of these, but not enough vials to be able to set them right away. Deej has the mushrooms, I was going to ‘cook up’ more of both drugs when I got here. Deej!” Gorrmunsa called the Ewok away from where he was trying to become acquainted with Renata, who still did not know what to think of these newcomers, much less of the fact that the men were already dressed, but she and Laurel were still in their nightgowns.
“Deej, what did you do with the hourosh mushrooms?” Gorrmunsa rapped out in the Endo tongue.
Deej shook his silvery head, “Do not be so brash, my hasty friend! I have the fungi right here in my pack. You’re lucky they did not get crushed, the way you insisted on rushing helter-skelter across that intergalactic bridge!” The Ewok dug a small package out of his pack as he spoke, and at the first sight of the squashed, wrinkled, blackish-green-looking mushrooms, everyone expected a toxic smell and prepared to grimace, but the scent wafting from the small bits of fungi was more like the smell of freshly-turned dirt after a rainstorm.
Deej turned to Laurel, respectfully acknowledging her as the first tenant of the home. “Laiddrynn,” he used the Andarian term for “lady”, “does this house have a cooking pot of some sort?” he asked in what Carsius and Augustus recognized as English, but Laurel knew as the Murindan dialect.
Laurel considered, “I believe it does,” she said, “down in the kitchen.”
“Would you be so kind as to show me where it is, that I may prepare the mushrooms in the manner of my people to acquire the althraxine and the analthraxine?”
Laurel stood—and remembered that she was in her nightgown still. “Sure, I will show you,” she glanced up at Carsius, “and then Renata and I will get dressed, so all of you better move into the parlor.”
Gorrmunsa twitched his tail and cocked his head curiously. “Who is Renata?”
“I am,” the shy redhead answered from the bed.
Gorrmunsa sidled over to her. Her hair reminded him of a certain Kytarr with a red pelt he had once considered mating with—
“Gorrm,” Carsius had seen the fear in Renata’s eyes as the strange creature hovered closer.
Gorrmunsa left the room with the two men.