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 Never Trust a Hope (Nom Anor/Niiriit Esh) [complete] 
Blue_but_beautiful


Joined: 01 Aug 2007
Posts: 86
Location: UK
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Title: Never Trust a Hope
Rating: G
Genre: Angst/ Romance
Timeframe:NJO - During the force heretic trilogy.
Summary: Forced into self imposed exile out of fear for his life, Nom Anor finds shelter in the most unlikely of places, with a group of shamed ones. Whilst there he quickly tries to establish a footing in the group, making an even unliklier friend in shamed warrior, Niiriit Esh.


Prologue

Never trust a hope.

Coruscant, for millennia the familiar sight of the world encompassing city, with it’s vast sectors and levels positively teeming with both artificial and organic, sentient life, had been the icon of the centre of the galaxy. Even those who had never set foot on it’s immense durasteel walkways, who had never inhaled a lung full of it’s recycled and processed air, could have told a convincing story of the capital.
For so many years Coruscant had stood tall, seeing through decades of the Old Republic, enduring the rein of Emperor Palpatine and the legacy spun by his Empire. It’s celestial form had survived all that and more, to become the capital of the New Republic.
It seemed that nothing, no power was strong enough to cease the beating of this world’s artificial heart.
That was until the Yuuzhan Vong war had brought the fight to the capital.

The invaders had swept down upon the abomination that was Coruscant like ravenous locusts to a field of greens. Had sewn the seeds of destruction to erase all that had been. Everything must go, and those of Coruscant’s former inhabitants unlucky enough to get stranded, were driven deeper into the decimated world’s remains. Resistance was only delaying the inevitable as far as the invaders were concerned. Eventually the seeds sewn by the Yuuzhan Vong ‘seed ship’ would multiply and spore. Given a few years, the city that once covered a world would soon be lost forever to the endless bio-technology and plant life the invaders had brought with them.

So too had Coruscant lost it’s very name. For this was now Yuuzhan’tar – crčche of the Gods- A new world for the Yuuzhan Vong to finally reside upon.
However, like all civilizations, this one too was not without it’s faults, and the long journey to Yuuzhan’tar had only been a distraction. Treachery, insubordination and outright back-stabbing were rife in Yuuzhan Vong society. So much so, that it was almost expected among those members of society who were true caste, especially those looking to become one of the elite.
Those who were openly traitorous against the good of the Yuuzhan Vong as a whole however, there was no reprieve for them, no. No way of going back – unless ‘back’ meant returning to the gods- Traitors were dealt with quickly and made to suffer the most ignoble and painful of deaths. All executions carried out with witnesses to spread the message that treachery of this kind would not be tolerated.

It was with this firmly in mind that the former executor- Nom Anor, had found himself in the bowels of Yuuzhan’tar, form disguising Ooglith masquer as his only means of a barrier between his true identity and the rest of the world. He had gone over the events that had lead to his self imposed exile time and time again, pawed over each variable about the Ebaq 9 disaster he had given ill advice to go ahead with. He cared not who he had inadvertently dragged down with him, nor about the fact his misinformation had lead to warmaster Tsavong Lah’s demise – there had never been any love lost there. He cared only about preserving his own life until an opportunity arose with which he could use as a means to either, preserve his life longer, or to aid his return from this grievous mistake.

And what an opportunity had presented it’s self to him, in the form of a rather pathetic, cowardly Shamed One who went by the name of Vuurok I’pan.
At first I’pan had been reluctant to show Nom Anor to the place where he and his fellow shamed ones dwelt, or indeed tell him what he was doing all the way down here so far from the surface.

The former executor had threatened and later viciously beaten I’pan into submission. It was with a great deal of uncertainty that Vuurok I’pan had lead Nom Anor to the hideaway he shared with a small underground group of shamed ones. It soon became apparent that they were no ordinary group either, they were heretics of a most peculiar nature.
It all appeared to be spun from a tale about a shamed warrior, Vua Rapuung, who fought side by side with the Jedi Anakin Solo, the upshot of all this being he was able to effectively redeem himself in a sense.

Knowing all too well how valuable this little group of shamed ones could be if used as a means for his own gain in finding the source of this tale, Nom Anor had stayed with the group, helping them build their new home, steal the supplies they needed to survive down here.
Naturally the group of Shamed ones had been wary of him at first, in particular two former members of the warrior caste, Kunra and Niiriit. The pair, it seemed, were not long shamed, they still bore somewhat healthy implants and their scars did not yet fester so much as appear incomplete.

While Kunra made it no secret that Nom Anor’s presence was unwanted, the former Executor had managed to win over Niiriit – their would-be leader- and had come to treat her with almost as much respect as he would those of true caste.
Of all the pitiful life down here, never had he imagined that he would find one as sharp and keen as her. He enjoyed the conversations they shared the most and they became a welcome respite from the gruelling task of building their home in the air ducts of a decaying infidel build-thing. Not to mention the fringe benefits their ‘friendship’ held also. Niiriit – to her credit- would also keep the young warrior, Kunra, off his back. His superior skills at talking his way out of many a sticky situation would do the rest. Yun-Harla –the trickster- it seemed, smiled upon Nom Anor once more.

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 Chapter 1 
Blue_but_beautiful


Joined: 01 Aug 2007
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Never trust a Hope

Chapter 1:

“It was then that Mezhan Kwaad raised her Shaper’s hand in defiance and exclaimed ‘There are no gods!”
The cowering, lanky form of Vuurok I’pan rose up dramatically, the shadow he cast in the bioluminescent glow of the globe lighting the dim space inside the shell-like structure they called home, was perhaps one slightly more formidable than he himself.
I’pan continued to mimic the actions told in the tale he spoke of, while the small audience of two listened intently. A third, namely Kunra, lurked in the shadows, choosing to remain contemptuously at a distance.
The story the Shamed One was repeating, was yet another new version of the Vua Rapuung legend at the request of Nom Anor. I’pan had been all too delighted to relay the story in his typically dramatic way. So much so that Nom Anor was forced to fight back the disgusted thought that Vuurok I’pan reminded him very much of a certain familiar in all his capering glory.

When the tale was at an end, I’pan looked on expectantly. Their long staying ‘guest’ normally had something to say on the events brought up in the tales he told. He was not to be disappointed.

“This is the version you say is most prominent among the workers?” Nom Anor asked quizzically. He had since given up trying to trace the tale’s origin, it was an almost impossible task. He would be long dead before word in his favour – or indeed word of the source – reached Supreme Overlord Shimrra’s ears.

Unsurprisingly, I’pan was all too eager to answer his question,
“It becomes more favoured by the cycle.” He added for good measure.

“Once again I thank you for sharing this with me.” Nom Anor responded, trying to evade the hint of forced speech betrayed in his voice.

I’pan shifted nervously from foot to foot, adding, “ I will tell you more as I hear them, though I imagine you shall hear more yourself if you truly have become one of…” He cut himself short not an instant too soon, an echo of a pain once so acute it had had him doubled over in pain. The memories brought to mind with it, the memories of what had befallen him the day he had stumbled into – quite literally – Nom Anor.
Fractures would mend, but not if he kept repeating his mistakes.
‘If one more word falls from your shamed tongue I shall rip it out and use it for my own sustainance.’

An unsettled growl from the shadows was all it took to send the gangly, gnarled I’pan scuttling back into his own sleeping chamber in a flurry of rags and whimpered apologies.
The noise it’s self had been issued from Kunra, who shot Nom Anor a warning glare before retreating to his own chambers also.
The former Executor had been sure not to break the warriors’ gaze as he retreated, but he turned and rose when he heard Niiriit rise from her position on the smooth shell of a floor.

“ You should get some rest.” She began “ You mentioned that you still have access to some of the more useful resources above, I wish you to take I’pan when you next go to recover provisions. “

Nom Anor regarded the former warrior for a moment. When he looked at her, it was hard to believe she had fallen as low as she had. And down to one of his own failings too, yet she had allowed him to stay here.
He would have betrayed the rest of this pathetic, snivelling bunch in a heartbeat, but strangely he could not imagine doing the same to her.
Niiriit smiled at him then, and for the second time since his arrival, he returned the gesture genuinely. It almost felt alien to him after all the years he had relied on façade and falseness. What became curious to him now, was how despite the fact their conversation was over, Niiriit lingered as thought waiting for something.
For several awkward moments, all that passed between them was the eerie sounds of the underworld, the creaks and groans of decaying duracrete, metal structures. The cries of some distant creature.
It was the former executor who broke the silence.

“ Very well, I will take I’pan with me, but he must watch his step, it will be no normal raid as I am sure you are all too well aware.”

Niiriit nodded once for confirmation, a slight air of disappointment in her eyes.

“- Sleep well” Nom Anor finished, placing one hand on the ex-warrior’s shoulder in a gesture of admiration.

Despite it all, he thought, despite the shame, suffering and misery, Niiriit had picked herself up again and stood strong. She had courage where most would have crumbled. But not he, he thought to himself. These snivelers would be his key to success and no matter how much he may have perhaps admired Niiriit, she was still after all one of the shamed.

Niiriit looked on as she watched him leave for his sleeping chamber, before then turning sharply to head for her own. She had barely taken two steps when she found herself face to face with Kunra.
The ex-warrior male glowered at her when she started at his sudden appearance.

“Is there something you wish to discuss Kunra? If not, I would remind you that it is late, I wish to retire…Guvvuk.” Niiriit bit out a little defensively.

Kunra remained, stubbornly, where he was. Blocking her path.

“ He has barely been here a klekket and you trust him as you would trust Vuurok!”
A deep growl of irritation formed in her throat, but she held back, fighting among themselves was hardly constructive. They needed to preserve their numbers, together they were strong.

“I thought we had gone over this before, have we not? Challenging him is an insult to the truth!” She offered through gritted teeth and hushed tones.

Kunra folded his arms across his broad chest and grumbled something inaudible. Once more Niiriit tried to push past him, but was held firm when he grasped her shoulder suddenly.
Her dark, fiery gaze locked with his in seconds.

“I gave my word to Shoon-mi that I would keep you safe…” Kunra tried.

Shoon-mi, formerly of domain Esh, was Niiriit’s crčche brother. When she had fallen from grace, it was he who had saved her life. She owed all of what she had now to him, but refused to acknowledge her brother out of protest of the fact he still worked and associated with those who followed the Supreme Overlord’s commands blindly. He was not one of them yet.

Niiriit had been so lost in her thoughts, that she had not been fully paying attention to Kunra’s harsh words. But the last few words, however, captured her ears.

“ – Knowing he had a hand in your downfall, very nearly your death…and you throw yourself at him like some…some Tsup!”

She backhanded him then, catching him unprepared, he stumbled back in shock, hand raised to press his worn fingers to the spot he had felt his lip split open. Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth indignantly, he felt the small welt throb and ooze blood. Kunra did not break Niiriit’s gaze and in his eyes, Niiriit saw a deeper rooted pain.
As quickly as she had noticed it, it was soon gone, buried beneath a warrior’s pride. Some habits, she thought, were hard to break.
Kunra moved aside and let Niiriit pass reluctantly.

****

From his sleeping chamber across the way, Nom Anor lay awake in the darkness, listening to the commotion outside in the communal areas of their ‘home.’ Unable to overhear it all, he may have been. But he had a fair idea what the dispute had been about. He reached out into the darkness beside his sleeping mat made of a thick, fine moss, hand quickly finding the crude pommel of the coufee he had fashioned from a shard of yorik coral. He would still need to keep an eye on Kunra.
Pulling the coufee to within easy reach of his grasp, he set it down gently, before laying back and drifting into a restless half-sleep. He took great care to leave the eye socket containing the venom spitting Plaeryin bol open. If anyone had any foolish ideas about disposing of him, they too would receive a shock.

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 Chapter 2 
Blue_but_beautiful


Joined: 01 Aug 2007
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Location: UK
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Chapter 2

A barely audible shuffle in the enveloping darkness awoke the former executor from his light slumber. To anyone else, he was sure they might have dismissed the sounds as part of an overactive imagination, but Nom Anor had learned from an early age that nothing was best left to chance.
His one good eye adjusted to the darkness as he waited, poised, listening out for any sign that he was not alone. The coufee within grasping distance, the moment anyone took so much as a step, he would be on them. The sound of bare feet on the chitinous floor made themselves known barely perceivably and he leapt from his resting place at once. Crossing the small chambers’ floor in two strides he lashed outwards with the coufee then reaching out tried to grab at his would-be assassin to pull them towards the blade.
The sudden feint lights of a lambent crystal illuminated the face of the intruder then, flashing to life in sudden alarm, and Nom Anor barely held back the attack in time. Niiriit!

The look of horror on Niiriit’s face was only made too apparent by the small illuminated crystal that she clutched to for dear life. But that expression was soon replaced by one of pure emotional hurting. Shucking herself free of his grasp while he still started in astonishment, she fled the chamber without word or so much as a backward glance.

Nom Anor staggered back once the beating of his heart calmed some. Leaning back against the cold surface of the chamber wall for support, realization hit him like a speeding Yorik-et.
Niiriit had almost certainly been unarmed.
‘ You throw yourself at him like some tsup!’ – Kunra’s outburst stabbed at the back of his mind with all the fury of a mighty Vua’sa. He clenched his fists so tight that he could feel the tendons in his forearms stretch to snapping point.

“You fool!” He cursed aloud.

He had come so close to ruining his own plans before they had really begun.
And if Niiriit breathed word of this to the others…

Within minutes of the episode, Nom Anor found himself at the threshold of Niiriit’s chamber. From within the confines of the shell, he could hear faint curses uttered in almost anguished tones.
This was a testing point, Nom Anor realized well the risks he took now.
If he entered and Niitiit attacked, he would have little choice but to kill her, and with no suitable story to cover her disappearance, suspicion would turn on him fast. It all came down to his skill with words – and of that he had plenty- if she let him pass.

The entrance membrane to the chamber dilated to let him through to let him through into the dull light within. The lambent crystal the ex- warrior still held in her scarred hands, was the only light in the entire space, but served as light enough so he did not stumble into things.
Niiriit looked up, casting her severely embarrassed gaze elsewhere when she heard him speak.

“Niiriit, I thought….” He paused as though searching for the words to speak, “….I thought you were – “

“Why are you here?”

He had expected anger, but not the faint sense of unwarranted accusation he felt in her tone too.

“ You know why I am here, I have told you all that has brought me here. I wish to stay a while and learn about this ‘message’ of yours…” He waited once more, sensing an answer was about to fall from her tongue.

“ Not that.” She began “ Why are you here…now?”

Still she refused to meet his gaze, seeming to prefer the floor to look at rather than make eye contact. A trait many of their kind would have associated with subservience, not one he would have liked to see a warrior display. It was a weakness. Where was the proud warrior of domain Esh now? He wondered. And then he was forced to remember where they were. Ah yes…such was befitting of those who were shamed.

“I thought….I thought you…” Niiriit fumbled for words as she toyed idly with the lambent in her hands. “ Kunra was right.” She surmised more for her own benefit than anyone else.

This sent alarms ringing in the former executors head, he would have to recover the situation and fast if he stood a chance at keeping Niiriit on side.
Crossing the chamber careful, he seated himself beside the form of the agitated female. From here he could clearly see, even in this poor light, the fire of emotion that burned in her dark eyes.

“ Was he indeed?” Nom Anor offered.

Niiriit looked almost surprised as she finally cast him an uncertain glance.

“ What his concerns are, I can fully understand and can only offer my word and continual reassurance that my being here is no word of a lie. I stand to gain nothing other than what has been given or offered to me by yourselves.” He lied. “And once again I ask only for your help in teaching me this message of the Jedi, the message that you hold in such high regard.” He finished.

“ Is that so?” She spoke, then silently added ‘I have been such a fool’

Niiriit knew fine well that this display of emotion, however little, would be viewed as completely unacceptable if she had still been of true caste. But life down here had changed them, changed her, all irreversibly to some degree. She had perhaps expected this change least when regarding herself, and certainly not of the former executor.
He was looking at her now, that familiar unreadable expression upon his face. Taking a deep breath, she allowed the façade of year’s worth of conditioning to seep into her tone.

“ You already know that is not what I was questioning Nom Anor…speak.”

At that he quirked a brow.

“ You do realise, I can be somewhat more dangerous up close.” He responded silkily.

Niiriit raised her chin slightly in mock defiance, as if to suggest she was not afraid of the unknown. Like any true warrior of domain Esh should have.

“So I noticed,” She quipped, which drew out a slight smirk from the former member of the Intendant caste.

So he was amused, if Niiriit had not been so caught by his unwavering gaze, she may have found cause to take offence at the fact his amusement was slightly at her expense.

“ I suppose the burning question is, Niiriit Esh, would you run out of fear from the unknown? Or would you embrace what danger may bring with it?”

The sudden use of her domain name caused a spark of delicious emotional pain to ignite somewhere in the black depths of her mind. He had always spoken to her thus, treated her with the respect that she once had as a proud warrior of domain Esh. For small offering like this, Niiriit was grateful, undoubtedly so.

“ I thought it was I who had asked the question?” She returned, sounding a little cautious. She had suffered enough embarrassment for one night without his amused sounding quips.

Nom Anor leaned in close to her, and lowered his tone.
“ Indeed, and to you I would say that perhaps you already know the answer.”

They were so close now that he was almost out of focus to her and Niiriit could clearly feel the warmth of his breath on her own scarred lips as the words fell from his mouth. It sought to tempt her and yet torment her. Why couldn’t he just have given her a straight answer? Any warrior would have. Perhaps this, she wondered, was one of the many reasons the warrior and intendant castes so famously clashed?
Yet how had he not given her an answer? Did his actions not speak for him? If she were wrong…
Niiriit knew that if she wasted anymore time on foolish speculation and wonder, her chance to act and know for certain would be gone forever.
Temptation coiled around her mind and soul as if to emphasize urgency. He was clearly delighting in this, she could tell by the way he evaded her questions clearly knowing their meaning, yet kept up the pretence of innocence. Was he waiting to see how far he could push her perhaps? He was about to find out.

Niiriit leaned in and closed the gap between them, her lips seeking and meeting his for a surprisingly, tantalizingly passionate kiss. Her head swam, for several sublime moments and she lost herself in the very alien sensation of pleasure. Such affections were not common among the caste she had once been a part of, but that did not mean she was bereft of feeling, far from it.
When they drew apart, Niiriit was somewhat astounded to hear Nom Anor lost for words. She had expected him to voice some musing.

“ This must be the first time I have ever encountered a speechless Intendant.” She spoke softly, with a mild amusement.

He had possibly been about to counter with one of his own quips, but the barely audible sound of the entrance to the chamber irising open caught both their attention.

“Niiriit! I thought that now would be a…..” Kunra had begun as he breezed into the chamber without so much as a care to ask permission and with all the gusto of the warrior he might have once been.
When his dark eyes caught sight of the pair sitting on the moss mat before him, his neutral expression transformed into one of disdain and confusion. He turned his gaze on Niiriit then, accusation boiling in the depths of his anger soaked mind. But all he could manage, voice a hoarse whisper, was to utter her name in confusion.
“Niiriit?”

Niiriit herself, kept silent. She merely remained where she was, preparing to move to intercept Kunra should he attempt to make good of the challenge she had so adamantly disagreed with weeks earlier. In Kunra’s eyes burned a pain-born fury, his fists clenched and muscles tense. Nom anor knew all too well that if Kunra chose to make good of his threats, there would be little he could do to stop him. The plaeryin bol in his right eye socket twitched in sympathy, he couldn’t kill Kunra, not in front of Niiriit.

The tension in the air became so thick, any one of them could have sliced it with a coufee. Kunra’s gaze shifted between Nom Anor and Niiriit, as if deciding which one of them to tackle first. Niiriit remained steadfast, a grim expression set upon her face. Something would have to give sooner or later.

“Kunra…” She spoke in warning tones.
In her mind she knew, if Nom Anor had chosen to speak up first, Kunra surely would have acted on impulse and may well have killed the former executor where he sat. Though the case could have been vice versa also, Niiriit wished neither of them such a death.
Kunra’s gaze switched back to her, a glimmer of questioning visible in his dark eyes, How could this have happened, How could he LET this happen?!
Niiriit’s words of warning to him, seeped back into his memories. If he was one of them now, he must reject the old ways, the conditioning he had been brought up to believe was right and just. And that included making good of challenges such as the one he had tried to issue against Nom Anor.
Niiriit’s eyes appealed to him, silently pleading for him to back down as she would never have voiced.
He would relent. He would relent for her sake and not his own.
Glancing contemptuously at Nom Anor, he turned his back sharply announcing,
“I will lead the group to meet Shoon-mi and the others…” and without further word, he departed in silence. His expression hidden behind a curtain of lank, patchy hair that clung loosely to his face due to the humidity.

Niiriit waited until he was far enough out of earshot before letting out a tense sigh.

“ Perhaps I should leave?” Nom Anor asked.

“No,” Niiriit was quick to respond, she looked somewhat more forlorn than she had moments earlier, “I will come with you, we can plan this raid of yours.”

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 Chapter 3 
Blue_but_beautiful


Joined: 01 Aug 2007
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Location: UK
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Chapter 3:

Darkness, it seemed, was never ending this deep in Yuuzhan’tar. But it was a darkness Kunra had become all too accustomed to during his life aboard worldships. It was almost comforting in a sense, as much as the bioluminescent glow of fungi that grew on the interior of worldship walls – more recently their new home-.
But this night, his heart was heavy and his warriors mind baying for the blood of the object of his woes.
‘You are no longer one of them, you are shamed, you have no right to consider yourself anything but shamed…’ He chided himself inwardly. ‘Why would Niiriit be interested in you? You pale in significance to one such as he.’

“The others brought enough supplies?”
The sudden sound of Niiriit’s voice caught Kunra by surprise as he rose from the floor of the communal area. This in the centre of their home.
He nodded once, stiffly,
“Yes, combined with what Vuurok and Nom Anor found on their journey to the surface, we should have enough to last us several cycles, perhaps longer.” He responded.

Niiriit made an affirmative gesture and continued, “ Kunra, what you said to me, about Shoon-mi’s asking you to keep me safe…I would not have you carry that burden, I can keep myself.”

Kunra looked toward her, but Niiriit could not see the anger nor the hurt she had expected to see in his eyes. There was something quite different that relinquished there.

“It is no burden, and I would continue to do what Shoon-mi asked of me, regardless”
While the concept of helping each other down here was unlike that of the surface dwelling Yuuzhan Vong, Niiriit could not suppress the silent snarl from creeping into her expression. How she wished Kunra would grow a backbone!
The ex-warrior male seemed oblivious to the thought behind the expression and said no more on the subject as though he had said all he needed to in order to make her understand.

“I can keep myself.” Niiriit repeated more firmly than she had before.

Kunra nodded once more, his expression betraying none of the fire he felt engulf his heart. He turned to take his leave then, but barely made it two paces across the living floor before a shrill, strangled cry of pain met his ears. His gaze snapped round to Niiriit as quickly as he dropped into a defensive stance. She too had heard it then. Her eyes were wide with shock and yet clouded with suspicion. Who had lead them here? Who had betrayed them?
Both the ex-warriors knew that the death cry had come from the shamed shaper they had left on guard duty at the entrance to their home. Barely a second later, the sound of many footfalls on shell flooring echoed ominously through the narrow passageway that lead to where Kunra and Niiriit now stood. Both knew the sound of familiar cursing and chants. Prayers to Yun-Yammka, the slayer. Prayers that told of imminent deaths to come.
Niiriit’s mind had no time to race, one thought dominated all else, survival. She had no time to fall back to her sleeping chamber to retrieve a weapon either. If she entered there she would be trapped in a smaller enclosed space than the one she was already in. She had only what she carried with her, a poorly nourished Yorik-coufee. Then there was of course, the knowledge that all were not lost if someone were able to escape, was that not what the Jeedai did? Sacrificed themselves to save others?

The first group of warriors came, amphistaffs lashing like vicious whips in uncoiled, fluid motion. Pure, fanatical hatred burned in their eyes, the shamed would find no mercy there.
The group fanned out to make room for the rest of the troop still finding their way up the narrow dark passage. Their commander, a rather haggard and aging warrior, barked out orders, sending his group into the vast tunnels and spiralling shell interior to slaughter all they happened upon. For all intense purposes, it appeared the commander had forgotten about the two shamed before him – no doubt not considering them worth acknowledging- but his attention soon returned to the foreground.
Five warriors had remained behind to flank him; each held their amphistaffs ready, uncoiled.

“Wretched snivelers! Your heresy has cost you your lives as well as the scrap of dignity Yun Shuno may have granted you in your death!” One of the warriors snarled contemptuously, “ You do not deserve to die at our hands.”

Another warrior seemed to be eyeing up his prey, his gaze drifting between Kunra and Niiriit accordingly. Soon enough he spoke also.
“Your domain’s shall suffer for your misplaced faith.”

Kunra’s legs felt as fluid as water and he could feel the bile rise in his throat, he was so close to the tunnel that lead to the duracrete eating chuk’a . If he could make a desperate dash for it…
But what about Niiriit? She stood firm, not attacking as any devoted warrior of the Yuuzhan Vong would have, but waiting for them to make their move. In that sickening moment, Kunra realized that Niiriit had no intention of fleeing. She would sacrifice herself to save the others, to give them more time to escape.
She looked back at them then, eyes shining with fury, was he with her?

The warriors lunged then, twirling their amphistaffs to bring the sharp edges sown upon the unarmoured shamed ones. Both were quick, but not quick enough. When Kunra brought his arm up to shield his head from a downward blow, he felt the searing pain of an amphistaff blade dig deep to make contact with the bone of his muscular forearm. Blood, black as the night, began to seep and then pour from the wound, the force of the blow causing him to fall back sharply. Drawing his knees up toward his chest, Kunra struck out with both legs to shove the advancing warrior away before they struck the final blow.
The ex-warrior looked around wildly for anything he could use to defend himself and once again caught sight of Niiriit just in time to see one of the warriors stagger back from her form, coufee stuck firmly in the side of their neck.
Niiriit herself was not fairing much better than Kunra, blood seeped through the rags she wore, indicating a deep wound beneath that hindered her movement some.
Kunra’s attention was, however, quickly returned to his own dire situation, as the now deeply angered warrior lunged forward to attack again. This time Kunra was ready for him, time among the warrior caste had served him well in some respects it seemed. As he rose, he brought one leg round in an arc of sweeping motion, in turn causing the other warriors legs to be knocked out from under him. Despite it’s simplicity it worked like fluid perfection, the disorientated warrior’s back impacted hard upon the ground beneath him, his Voduun Crab armour making a sickening crack as the two living surfaced collided.
Kunra snatched at the warriors amphistaff, freeing it from the downed one’s grip. He pulled it up high above his head until the creature responded accordingly, going rigid, then in half the time drove it back down again, deep into the warriors throat.
Kunra’s gaze barely lingered on the wildly thrashing body beneath the weapon, he looked now in horror at the sight beyond the communal area, in the hazy darkness of the tunnel beyond. More of them, more warriors headed this way, they were hopelessly outnumbered, they would all perish here if they did not go now!

A startled cry jolted him from his panic stricken thoughts..’Niiriit!’
The ex-warrior female had fallen to her knees, a look of pained astonishment in the dark orbs of her eyes. As Kunra lowered his gaze, he could clearly see the puncture wounds to her neck that told of the vicious bite from the serpentine head of a vicious amphistaff.
Several of the warriors leered down at her, mocking Niiriit in what would undoubtedly be her last moments.
She paid them no mind, the poison now coursing through her veins was slowly devouring her nerve endings, shredding them into fiery, agonizing oblivion. Despite it all, she found the will to slowly meet Kunra’s horror stricken eyes. And in return Kunra saw what he thought he never would. Fear, pure and raw, uncertainty.

He bolted for the spiralling ramp that lead back to the sleeping chambers, not looking back once. Fear drove his legs onwards, all around him he could hear the cries and agonized moans of others from the entrances to those chambers the warriors had managed to break into.
All around him the stench of death was in the air. At his back, one sound threatened to cause him to falter perilously and would, no doubt, haunt him forever in his sleep. The sound of Niiriit’s anguished death cry.
Kunra stumbled into someone in the darkness amid his pained mental anguish for the loss of his friend. It could have been a warrior, it could have been a shamed one, Kunra simply did not care nor hang around to find out. He had to escape, he had to live. Pushing himself onwards, he ran.

*****

Nom Anor felt the wind forced from his lungs barely a second after he had heard the blood chilling screams from the chamber above. As he coughed and choked for air, he absent mindedly cursed the one who had jarred him from his shock and confusion.
‘I’pan! That fool would run from a brenzlit pup if it so much as sniffed in his direction.’ He spared the shamed one no further thought as the alien sense of grief threatened to stranglehold his senses. That scream had come from Niiriit Esh. It had most certainly been her last, he had heard such screams before on more than one occasion, but never had it had such a profound effect as to immobilize him thus. Niiriit would have fought every last warrior with every fibre of her being if she could have. She would have fought for glory, honour, yun-yammka…
Who had betrayed them? Had Shimrra finally come for him?
Nom Anor realized then, with a heavy heart that he was again thinking with a mindset of the true caste. Niiriit was as shamed one, she had lived the life these past few months as a shamed one and she had died, shamed.
‘Not this shamed one’
He regained his breath, though the cold sense of dread did not fade. When screams close by met his ears, Nom Anor too found reason to flee.

END.

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"You can run, but you'll only die tired."
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