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We were catching our breath prior to heading back to the city when the sound of voices reached us. The speakers couldn't see us because we were sheltered by a pile of boulders that formed a sort of natural alcove, the mouth of which looked back up the canyon toward the site of our 'hunt'. " Relax " one was saying " If that bull didn't get them and the avalanche we started didn't finish them off a night out here certainly will." " You heard him " another voice said nervously, " He wants to see bodies " "Bodies, he wants bodies " the first one mocked the other, " Well if he thinks for one minute that I'm gonna start digging 'em out from under a couple of tons of snow tonight and by hand he's crazier than his father was. " By this time the two of them had reached a point between us and the place we had battled the mogen. We could see their backs as they continued up the hill. We were all listening intently, waiting to hear their reaction when they saw the carcass. That they were looking for our 'bodies' was all to apparent. Why anyone would want us dead though was a mystery to me. Zhan and I hadn't had time to make any enemies here, hell, we had only just become friendly with Akoda Luran and... Suddenly the image of a boy bending a bow loaded with an arrow meant for the other's back came to mind, it wasn't us, as in Zhan and I, that they were after, it was Akoda Luran! We just happened to be there, and if we got in the way, well , no matter. We weren't anything as far as they were concerned, so what difference did it make if we died too? By this time they had come upon our 'kill' and the nervous one was the first to break the silence. " By my first ancestor!" He let out a low whistle, " Look at the size of it!" " Oh quit your gawking and see if you can find anyone" the first one shot at him irritable. " I want get this over with and get home, it's " H stopped suddenly calling the other one over. " Hey, Hal Jus, look here. I think the brute must have fallen on one of them, help me pull this out from under it." I assumed that they must have found my discarded harness and weapons. " What a magnificent sword" Hal Jus was saying " Yes, isn't it," The first one said as he examined it closely pulling the blade part way out, " I shall make good use of this" " Now wait just a minute Kouran Dai, what gives you any more claim to it than I?" Hal Jus seemed to forget his nervousness when loot was to be had. " Because I was the first to see it, that's why." Kouran Dai reminded his companion. "Besides, it's all just talk anyway, once our 'Lord' gets hold of it there's not much chance that either one of us will ever see it again. A damn shame too, it's such a fine blade." With that they started back down the trail. " Maybe we can tell him this was all that was left of them." Kouran Dai said apparently trying to look on the bright side. " and we won't have to dig through all that snow eh?" " Sure," Hal Jus agreed, "It's certainly worth a try." I had been so busy going over all that had happened in my mind that when Zhan touched my shoulder I must have jumped six inches. He signaled for me to keep silent and then with hand signs told me to set up am ambush for the two as they came back down. Neyal Troi came with me, handing me a tralgar, which could be used one handed. The tralgar, although small, is a rather formidable weapon. Designed specifically to be thrown, it has a weighted grip about 6 inches long, the blade is curved to give it a longer cutting edge. Properly wielded they can do an incredible amount of damage to who or what ever they are thrown at. We moved quickly and cautiously up the path to another group of rocks which would conceal us allowing them to pass back down without revealing our presence. With Zhan and the others set up as bait in plain sight Neyal Troi and I would be able to come out behind them when they spotted the trio. They passed within inches of us, our backs pressed tight against the shadow side of the boulders, it was then that I recognized them as the two guardians who had been with the disreputable looking fellow. The same one who had offered to go into the valley and drive the mogen up to us. How had they gotten out of the valley and around to this entrance so fast? I didn't have time to contemplate the possible answers because at that instant they spied our bait. Hal Jus was the first to see them, grabbing his companions arm and warning him to keep quiet. " Damn !" Kouran Dai whispered sourly, " Just when everything seemed to have gone so smoothly." The two had moved nearer the canyon wall, they were so close I didn't dare even breath. I don't know how they didn't see us. " Do you think they know we're here?" Hal Jus asked " I don't think so, but it doesn't matter anyhow because they'll all be dead in a few minutes." I saw that he had a phase, pistol in his hand, Quiel never fought one another with such weapons. We were taught from our earliest training that only through personal combat could both victor and vanquished gain honor. Quiel also fought only with a weapon equal to or lesser than that with which an opponent was armed. That way there was, we were taught, no shame in defeat, for we had met the challenger on his own terms. These two were a disgrace to the whole concept, to everything that was 'Quiel'. " But that's murder ! " Hal Jus said hesitantly. " And what was all that back there?" Kouran Dai said motioning back up the pass. He seemed to be loosing his patience with his companion. The fellow always spoke well but when it came time to do something he seemed to have no stomach for it. His face clearly showing his disgust with Hal Jus' sudden finding of conscience. They moved down the trail until they were about half way between us and our companions. At that point Akoda Luran took notice of them, seemingly for the first time. He called out a greeting and was answered with laser fire at close range. The look of astonishment on his face was unfeigned. Swords sung from their scabbards but we all knew that they would be less than useless against a laser. Neyal Troi and I chose that moment to stand and declare ourselves, calling for the two of them to yield and deliver up their arms. we too were rewarded with laser fire. The two of them now stood back to back so they could watch all of us at the same time. " I don't know about you Hal Jus, but I'm getting out of here." I thought I had misjudged the boastful Kouran Dai at first. I felt he was so self assured that he would try anything no matter what the odds, I certainly didn't take him for a coward, a fool yes but not a coward. I was wrong. He feinted right, getting off a shot at the trio below, Hal Jus firing on us at the same time. Neither one had a chance at a second shot. Kouran Dai died instantly, Fraka's tralgar had passed through his heart, several inches of the blade protruding from his back. Hal Jus wasn't so lucky. When I threw, my already strained muscles put me off balance. The razor sharp blade had ripped his abdomen open, gutting the unfortunate fellow. He would die and he knew it. The customs of the planet prevented me from doing anything for him. Even so I looked quickly at Zhan for his opinion but his eyes told me not to interfere. Hal Jus was after all a brave man, he never allowed a trace of the incredible pain he must have been feeling to show on his face. He closed his eyes for a moment as if to compose himself better, then he reached out toward his former companion. He grasped at the trailing end of my harness pulling it from beneath the others body. When it was within reach he took my sword and held it before him in both hands, offering it up to us. He didn't need to say anything, the gesture alone spoke his silent plea that one of us end his suffering. For what must have seemed like an eternity to him, but was in fact just seconds, none of us moved. Then Zhan reached for the proffered weapon, but as he took it Akoda Luran laid his hand on my master's arm. " He is of my world," he said gravely " it is for me to do." So saying he took the sword from Zhan, then Akoda Luran bowed formally to the dying man and drew the blade form it's scabbard. The weather had changed, and now from a break in the black snow laden clouds the sun blazed down on our grim little party. Akoda Luran suddenly drew a deep breath, then with all the grace and dignity he could muster, brought the polished steel down in a mighty arc. Just as it passed silently over Hal Jus' shoulders the light reflecting off of it seemed to set the whole world ablaze. He had, I felt, in the end died as a true Quiel, even if he hadn't lived as one. Although he never knew, it his passing had been honored beyond his station in life, having been witnessed by two men who were destined to be among the most respected, loved and feared warriors in our solar system...
writings from Ordeal on Loi Arda copyright 1984
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