Saga The Beginning of Honor (Rebels/Zeb backstory) Part Four 10/10/17

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Raissa Baiard, Jul 14, 2017.

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  1. Raissa Baiard Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 1999
    star 4
    Title:The Beginning of Honor
    Author:Raissa Baiard
    Genre: Family drama
    Timeframe: Saga OT, at the beginning of Rebels Season One, and Saga PT, approx. 25 BBY
    Characters: Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios, Ezra Bridger; OCs: Garashai Orrelios, Herleva Orrelios, various other Lasat, borrowed OC: Shulma Trilasha belongs to @Findswoman
    Notes: Part of the Lasan Series by @Raissa Baiard and @Findswoman

    Many, many thanks to my good friend @Findswoman, for beta-reading, collaborating on the Lasat fanon that forms the backbone of this story, and for letting me borrow her OC, Shulma Trilasha, for this story [:D] @};-

    ---------------------------------------------

    Part One

    “No, no, no!” Zeb crossed his arms over his chest and scowled at Hera. “I don’t want a cabin mate, especially not him!”

    She sighed. “I can’t very well put him in with Sabine, so that just leaves you.”

    “Stick him in with the Jedi!” Zeb pushed himself up off the acceleration couch and paced across the common room. “He's the one who’s gonna be dealing with the Loth-rat anyway.”

    “Zeb.” Hera’s mouth flattened into a reproving line. “He’s not a Loth-rat. His name is Ezra. And you know how touchy Kanan is about his privacy.”

    “What about my privacy?” If the little thief got into his stuff, started messing with his bo-rifle or spilled his bag of Lasan dust...Zeb was not going to responsible for what happened next.

    “Just give him a chance. He needs some guidance, someone to show him the ropes until he’s comfortable with all of us, until he’s comfortable with himself.” Hera sighed again and spread her hands. “As much as I love Kanan...sometimes he can be a little too serious. I really think you could be a good influence on Ezra, almost like an older brother for him.”

    Zeb spun back around, his upper lip curling back into the snarl that sent stormtroopers running for cover. “I can tell you already, it’s not gonna work!” He thumped a fist against the dejarik table. “It’s never gonna work!”

    She was too used to him by now to even twitch a lekku at this outburst. “Please, Zeb…”

    “Oh, fine. I’ll give it a try. But I’m tellin’ you, it’s not gonna work.” He’s never gonna be like a kid brother to me. Never.

    ----------------------

    The boy, Ezra, was already asleep when Zeb returned to his--their--cabin. He lay curled in a tight ball in the top bunk, and his sleep-softened features made him look younger and more vulnerable. His wild thatch of blue-black hair had fallen forward into his face, just the way Garashai’s used to and Zeb caught himself reaching out to smooth it back. This kid ain’t Shai, he reminded himself sternly, pulling his hand back. Shai was never this much trouble.

    Oh, really? a tart voice in the back of his mind demanded. How many times did he put scurry-lizards in the girls’ beds? How many times did you help him put those lizards there?

    Shai wasn’t a sneaking thief like this one.

    What about the time he “borrowed” Ma’s bo-rifle?

    This kid's not Shai. He’s not my brother. He’s never going to be family.

    As if that’s any excuse, Garazeb Avishai Orrelios. Another familiar, insistent voice intruded into Zeb’s thoughts; he could almost see his mother, arms crossed over her chest, scowling at him. If you can’t take care of one child, how can you still call yourself an Honor Guard? You should have learned by now that protecting those who can’t protect themselves is the beginning of honor. You should know by now what happens when you forget that…

    -----------

    It was Storms’ End, the Lasat holiday marking the end of the dust season and the beginning of a new year. Zeb’s entire family had gathered for the festival and the traditional giant Orrelios family feast. His mother, Gran, and his sister Signi had been in the kitchen since sunrise, working in a frenzy of stirring, chopping, and kneading. Dad and Uncle Nereshai were preparing to roast the prongbok and debating the best technique, whether bristlecone or geniper wood chips would give it the best flavor, and whether the boontaspice rub would complement Gran’s famous fire-pepper sauce. Their discussion was facilitated by large tankards of dark Lasan ale.

    For Zeb’s part, Storms’ End meant going to the festival, but this year he wasn’t just going for carnival games and fair food. This was his first year as an Honor Guard cadet, and he was eager to show off his new uniform. His sideburns were starting to fill in nicely, even if his beard was still a bit sparse, and he'd polished his armor until it was glossy. All in all, Zeb thought he cut quite a dashing figure. He was looking forward to competing in some of the sporting events this year, maybe spear throwing, rock climbing or marksmanship. There was a certain young female with a very fetching pattern of stripes-- a Shaman initiate named Shulma-- whom he hoped would be watching. Perhaps if he managed to place in one--or more!--of the competitions she’d be impressed enough to let him buy her a mug of cider at one of the booths.

    And then his mother said the words he’d been dreading: “Take Garashai with you.”

    Garashai--Shai for short--the youngest of the five Orrelios siblings, had just turned fourteen dust seasons old, almost six years younger than Zeb, and was possibly the peskiest kit on the face of Lasan. When he was born, Zeb went from being the annoying tag-along little brother to having an annoying tag-along little brother. He’d gained a partner in crime--and occasional scapegoat--in tormenting their three older sisters, as well as a fervent admirer who believed he could do no wrong--flattering, really, and so true. Lately, though, all that ever present enthusiasm was starting to get on Zeb’s nerves.

    “Aw, karabast, Ma…” He was never going to be able to make some time with Shulma with his stripeless kid brother in tow. “I’m a soldier now, not a babysitter! Why can’t one of the girls watch the kit?”

    His mother smacked him just hard enough on the back of the head. “You watch your language, Garazeb!” Herleva Orrelios had been a captain in the High Honor Guard in her youth, a gifted commander, and now she applied those skills--including the scowl that had subdued countless cadets--to managing her family. “Your sisters have their own responsibilities. Zefora’s got her hands full with her own kits this year. Signi’s helping Gran and me cook, and Priska’s working at the Honor Guard’s ale tent.” Her green eyes narrowed to dangerous slits. “And if you think being a cadet makes you too big to watch your brother, you just remember that I…”

    “Alright, alright,” Zeb muttered, before she could work her way up to full captain pitch. When Ma got on a tear, discretion was definitely the better part of valor. He stomped out of the kitchen, through the conversation circle, and out the door. Waiting, like his shadow, next to the beat-up old X-31 landspeeder was Shai, his green eyes peeking impishly from underneath an unruly thatch of dark purple hair.

    “I heard!” he exclaimed, with a grin that was too big for his face. He vaulted into the passenger seat. “C’mon, Zebby, let’s go! I saved up my credits all dust season! I’m gonna play ring toss and darts and buy a new belt knife, ooh, and get some mazna berry tarts and spiced nuts and…”

    “Yeah, sounds great.” If you were an immature kit with nothing better to do. “But first we’re gonna head over to the north end of the Parade Grounds. I wanna sign up for some of the games.”

    He expected Shai to protest the delay, but his brother lit up like a Solstice flare. “Aw, yeah! I almost forgot about them! Dad says they're just full of fool kits showing off these days. He and Uncle Nereshai spend the whole time yakking about how much better cadets were in their day. And last year, Uncle Nere bought me a dozen mazna berry tarts not to tell Gran how much he’d lost betting. Hey, bet I could win a few credits on the games! I’d bet on you, of course, ’cause you’re gonna win.”

    “Kid, no one’s going to let a stripeless kit like you bet on anything.” Zeb harrumphed. Was the kid gonna blabber on all the way to Lira Zel? It sure looked that way.

    “I'm not a kit!” Shai exclaimed, straightening up in his seat to look extra tall. “This was my fourteenth dust season! And my stripes are too coming in! Look, right there!” He pointed to a spot on his left cheek that might have been ever so slightly darker purple than the rest. “See!”

    “Yeah, you’re really something, Shai.” Zeb rolled his eyes. “Be growin’ a beard before you know it.”

    Shai beamed as they pulled into the speeder lot. “Then I’m gonna be in the Honor Guard just like you! And when you’re captain, I’ll be your lieutenant. Orrelios brothers together! Aw, yeah!” He leapt out of the speeder and pumped his fist with a kit-like enthusiasm.

    “Sure, kid, whatever.” Zeb hunched over, wishing he could hide from the curious eyes and knowing smiles of the other Lasat who were on their way to the festival.

    The southern part of the parade grounds were given over to the carnival games and booths, but the northern end hosted some of the festival’s sporting events, like wrestling and weight-lifting. Others, like the rock climbing, bo-rifle marksmanship, and javelin competitions were held in the canyons on the outskirts of Lira Zel, though the registration for all of them was held in the northwest corner. The Guard’s quartermaster, a scar-faced Lasat, was signing up competitors by event and age group. Cadets and guards, both male and female, gathered in clusters, discussing the games and their chances, subtly showing off for one another.

    “Orrelioooooos!”

    A strident voice called out from the crowd. Zeb looked over to see a tall, rangy young Lasat waving madly as he jogged towards him, followed by two others, one short and burly, built like a bantha, and the other just average, but already with an impressively full beard. Barogroz, Gunvar, and Velibor were all cadets in his class; Zeb wasn’t surprised to see them here. Groz was a natural at the javelin, and Gunvar almost certainly had a lock on weight-lifting and wrestling for the cadet category.

    “There you are,” Groz said. “Wonderin’ when you were gonna get here.” He grinned slyly. “We’re headed out to the Warrior this year, Zeb! You’ve got to come, too.”

    Zeb groaned. Like every other male Lasat his age, he’d been looking forward to the day he was old enough to try his luck at scaling the Warrior, the great rock spire that loomed over Lira Zel. It was considered an act of great prowess to climb the structure from its base to the needle of stone that towered forty meters high. Every year, young--and not so young--males competed to see who could climb the highest, in hopes of impressing the crowd of young--and not so young--females watching. It was finally his turn, and…

    “I can’t go. Ma stuck me babysitting.”

    His friends gave answering groans of sympathy. “C’mon, Zeb, the girls are going to be there!” Velibor, with his nattily trimmed facial hair, fancied himself quite the ladies’ man. He’d already hit on half the female cadets in their class (though Zeb had it on good authority that more than half of them had hit him--literally--for his advances). He raised one eyebrow at Zeb. “I bet she’ll be there.”

    “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

    “Yeah, you do...the one with the strrrrrrripes.” Velibor rolled the resh suggestively and waggled his eyebrows. “Bet they go all the way down, too!”

    “Ooh, look, he’s blushing like a little girl!” Gunvar slapped a boulder-sized hand against his knee with a deep, bellowing laugh. “Aw, don’t tell me you never thought of that!”

    Zeb glowered at them. Some friends. Even if he might have thought of Shulma that way--but there was no way he’d admit that to them--he definitely didn’t want them talking about her like that, especially not in front of his little brother! “Look, I can’t go. Ma would skin me alive if I took Shai all the way out to the Warrior. You know my mom; would you wanna get on her bad side?”

    “So leave him here to play all the kit games while we go.” Groz shook his head. “Seriously, Zeb, how much trouble can he get in at a Storms’ End carnival? There’re guards everywhere…”

    “And Ma would beat me and then skin me if I left him alone!"

    Gunvar threw up his meaty hands. “Zeb! The girls! The Warrior! Ditch the kit and let’s go!”

    Shai, who had been listening silently to their conversation, his face steadily darkening like a miniature purple thunderstorm, sprang in between Zeb and Gunvar. “I’m not a kit! I’m fourteen!” Next to Gunvar, Shai looked like a konculor cub facing down a bull bantha. He darted a fierce look back at his brother. “And Zebby wouldn’t do that to me!”

    “See, Zebby?” Velibor asked with a snickering smirk. “He’s not a kit. He’ll be fine.”

    “It’s Garazeb to you.” Zeb jabbed a finger into the other cadet’s chest. Just because he had that stupid beard and the bantha chops, Velibor thought he was so superior. Turning to his little brother, he dug into his belt pouch, and got out half the credits he’d brought for cider and pastries or whatever else Shulma might like. “Here, Shai, take these and have fun at the carnival. I’ll be back to pick you up in a couple hours, okay?”

    Shai looked down at the credits for a long moment. His face fell. For an instant Zeb thought the kit was about to burst into tears, but his downturned mouth stretched into a snarl. He slapped away Zeb’s hand and his credits. “Sure, whatever, Garazeb.” He stomped off into the crowd without a backwards glance.

    “Shai…!”

    Groz laid a hand on his shoulder before Zeb could go after him. “Aw, let him go, Zeb. He’s just a moody kit. We’ve got to get going if we want a turn before the sun gets high. You do want to impress Mistress Stripes, don’t you?”

    Zeb hesitated as Shai’s form disappeared into the throng of milling festival-goers. He knew he ought to go after the kit. Ma was going to kill him when she found out. But...the Warrior and Shulma…. It was the Storms’ End fair. Shai would play some games, have some fun, win some prizes. He’d get over it; he’d understand. And Shulma was probably already out at the Warrior with the other girls. Zeb thought about her masses of long, dark hair, her wavy stripes….

    “Yeah,” he sighed. “Yeah, let’s go.”

    ”Notes” (open)

    Notes: Lasat and Lasan fanon created by @Raissa Baiard and @Findswoman

    Juvenile Lasats are known as kits. A Lasat’s stripes begin to darken around puberty. Children have no stripes or very faint ones. Prominent stripes are considered attractive.

    Male siblings often have names beginning with the same prefix (e.g., Garazeb, Garashai). Male name suffixes (-zeb, -shai, -gron, -bor, etc.) are often passed down from one generation to the next; for example, three successive generations might be named Avishai, Nereshai, and Garashai.

    Climbing the rock spires is a rite of passage for Lasat youth; young males endeavor to climb the tallest spires possible, particularly the one known as the Warrior. During the Storms’ End Festival (see below) young males will often try to climb the Warrior in order to impress watching females.

    Storms’ End Festival
    Storms’ End festival marks the end of the Dust Season. In contrast to the Storm Solstice Festival, Storms’ End is joyful and celebratory. Thanks are given to the Ashla for seeing them through another Dust Season, and it is marked by family gatherings and feasts. Roasting an entire prongbok or sheep is a common part of these feasts. Many towns also host a Storms’ End carnival, with children's games and sporting contests, as well as booths selling food and wares from local vendors. Since the Lasat measure time in Dust Seasons, this is also the beginning of a new year on the Lasat calendar.

    Prongbok: an antelope-like creature well adapted to Lasan’s rocky terrain and arid climate. These quadrupeds are a bluish gray in color, with white fur on their rumps, sides, breasts, bellies, and across their throats. They have a dark blue blaze down their nose, and a dark patch under their chins. Both males and females have short, but sharp, pronged antlers above their eyes. Prongbok stand a little more than a meter tall and weigh 50-75 kg

    Bristlecone: a large, extremely long-lived conifer. These trees have twisting trunks and are often found clinging to rocky, inhospitable slopes. A symbol of longevity and perseverance.

    Geniper: a tree with small, waxy leaves and blue gray, cone-shaped fruit. The fruit is often distilled into liquor, and is also used in curing meat and flavoring food, particularly salads. The unprocessed fruit is said to taste like a cross between mint chewing gum and industrial glue.

    Mazna berries: a spreading, green leaved shrub with clusters of showy pink, urn shaped flowers. The flowers are followed by green berries which turn rusty red when ripe.

    Konculor: a large feline predator. Lavender-gray in color, a konculor can stand nearly a meter high at the shoulder, and can be over 2 meters long from nose to tail. They prey on prongbok, sheep, and rock goats, but are rarely seen near populated areas.
    Last edited by Raissa Baiard, Jul 15, 2017
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    Cool beginning! =D= Enjoyed the exchange between Zeb and Hera. You can see his instinctive protective reaching out to Ezra, then a withdrawal. Then the flashback [face_thinking] Apparently something tragic happened to his younger brother and Zeb feels guilty about it still, which affects his reactions to Ezra.
    Last edited by WarmNyota_SweetAyesha, Jul 15, 2017
  3. PlanetSmasher Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 14, 2017
    star 1
    That was a pretty good read. The way the chapter started, and the way it ended, makes me see warning flags all over the place. Waiting for your next chapter.
    Kahara, Ewok Poet, Findswoman and 3 others like this.
  4. AzureAngel2 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 14, 2005
    star 6
    I like the way Hera deals with all the males around her. She is somehow like a mother ship to all of them, trying them to be reasonable.

    And thanks for giving Zeb such a thoughtful background.
    Kahara, Ewok Poet, Findswoman and 2 others like this.
  5. Findswoman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 27, 2014
    star 5
    :zeb:! [face_love]!

    YES, YES, YES, YES! It's up at last! I've been awaiting this story with great anticipation ever since you first mentioned your plans for it. I always love a good backstory of an interesting alien character, of course, and I just adore what you've done here to fill out Zeb's family background and bring his homeworld to life with all the details of the terrain and the festival and the custom of climbing the Warrior—a-ma-zing. (Given that Zeb is one of the main characters of Rebels, it always rather surprised me just how little development has been given to his species and homeworld thus far. )

    So, now, where even to start? Well, perhaps the obvious place, which is Shai. Oh my gosh, Shai is ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE. [face_love] Such a chattery little ball of enthusiasm and energy—I can totally also see where he's a total style crimp on a big brother dead-set on showing off his manliness. :p And especially cool and striking are the parallels between him and Ezra, Zeb's "little brother" on the Ghost, which the framing scene you've given at the beginning emphasizes all the more. Shai is the same age as Ezra is when we first meet him in Rebels; he's even got a similar impish expression and a mop of unruly dark hair (and I just love the moment when Zeb is about to smooth Ezra's hair back the way he used to Shai's... awwww!). And even Shai's hero-worship of his big brother "Zebby" ( [face_laugh] ) is not too far off from the way Ezra occasionally gets about Kanan. It all sheds a whole new light on the not-always-easy sibling-like relationship between Zeb and Ezra. (As well as being a cool story in and of itself!)

    As always, you're an ace at characterization. Zeb is very recognizably a younger, cockier version of the Zeb we know and love, karabasts and all. :p But even now his softer side is evident, as the pretty shaman with the strrrrrripes is already capturing his heart and bringing blushes to his craggy face (there's my girl! [face_love] ). You did a great job with his fellow cadets, too: they've got that unmistakable swagger and bravado, and I almost wonder if you've based them on anyone in particular.

    Of course all these things makes the end scene all the more heartbreaking, when Zeb goes ahead and does exactly what Shai just said Zebby would never do to him—namely, leave him behind. Just ouch. :( One really has to feel sorry for the poor kit, and I don’t blame him for feeling deeply angry and hurt. (I love, though, that he stands up to Gunvar for talking about him as though he’s not there—this kid/kit definitely does not lack gumption.) As others have said, there are warning flags galore here; it’s pretty clear that there are going to be some serious consequences, and that Zeb is going to learn some lessons the hard way—particularly the one that gives this story its title. But he will undoubtedly be a better Lasat for it in the end. :zeb:

    Thanks for this rich and thoughtful Zeb tale—so looking forward to more! @};-
    Last edited by Findswoman, Oct 14, 2017
  6. divapilot Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 30, 2005
    star 4
    uh oh.

    I can see this is the prologue to a Terrible Thing that is about to happen.

    That being said, I really like the flavor you've given to this family. They are all so recognizable - the oh-no-you-don't mom, the adoring but pesky little brother, even the dad and uncle given to talking about the good old days. The fanon here is great and your descriptions make it so vivid. I can tell how much Shai admires and emulates his big brother, and you can see that Zeb begrudgingly loves him too, even if Zeb claims he is doing it more out of fear of his mom than out of the goodness of his heart. I already really like this family and I'm very anxious about what will happen now that Zeb has ditched Shai to go off to impress some stripey girl.

    It's also really cool how Zeb's family mirrors the Ghost family. The in-charge mom, the annoying little brother, the sister off doing her own thing. Very nice parallel.

    Looking forward to the next chapter! :D[face_nail_biting]
  7. Ewok Poet Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2014
    star 5
    Fascinating comparison between Ezra and Garashai seems to be unfolding here. And the worldbuilding is just great - you and @Findswoman have come up with some amazing stuff and it feels so real - as if it had come straight out of profic. The Lasat festivities slightly remind me of the Ewok ones.

    Garashai himself reminds me of many of the "little orphan" type characters found in children's literature. Of course that he's not an orphan, but his idealism is all there. And he's adorbs, too.

    Zeb's friends sure are something, especially that ladies' man, Velibor. :p

    A part of me wants Zeb to impress the girl with the strrrrrrripes. A part of me thinks he deserves another slap on the back of his head for leaving Shai behind.
  8. Darth Osnil Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2016
    star 4
    Yes! I love Zeb as a character, and I really want an official novel detailing what happened to the Lasats, but this'll do nicely. Your FF will make a fine addition to my watch list. I eagerly await for more from this.
  9. DarthBreezy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 2002
    star 6
    Zeb is so under served in both fan fiction and the series (though Legends of Lastat gets better on subsequent views, and Inside man is pitch perfect) - I really think this is a wonderful work, and look forward to more (need[face_coffee] to be more verbose meself!)
  10. Raissa Baiard Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 1999
    star 4
    Thank you! When I was speculating about what sort of family Zeb might have, I could just see him with one of those big, messy sprawling families with lots of siblings and cousins and noise... and he loses all of them when the Empire invades Lasan and nearly exterminates the Lasat species :_| I thought that sort of loss would make it hard for Zeb to get close to anyone for a while, especially if that person reminded him strongly of one of his lost loved ones, in this case his little brother.
    Glad that you are enjoying it! Yes, Big Things are in store for Zeb and his family...
    [face_blush] Thank you so much. I feel like this is my first real stab at world building, so that's quite a compliment! I found an outdated article in the Alien Encounter Sourcebook and pick some details from there (though the Lasat in that article were at a Bronze Age technological level!), and I also borrowed a lot of details from the real life landscape of the American Southwest, particularly the state of Utah and its breathtaking Bryce Canyon National Park. That gave rise to the fantastic rock spires, perfect for the very nimble Lasat to climb. And coming from you any comparisons with Ewoks makes me :D

    Yep, he's got lots of pluck and optimism, the little chatterbox! I think he's pretty cute, too. I've been working on some fan art of him, too.

    They are, aren't they? A bunch of testosterone-laden young bucks out to show off for DA LADIEZ. :p Velibor is the worst of the lot, the Lasat answer to Lando Calrissian, but with maybe one tenth the charm. Mistress Strrrrrrrripes will appear further in the next chapter--but don't worry, Zeb will get what he deserves for ditching Shai.

    [face_blush] Well, thank you! I totally agree, Zeb deserves a novel or better yet, a backstory comic like Kanan's. Pretty please, Dave Filoni?

    Blushing again; that's quite a compliment from an ardent Rebelsfan like you! Zeb has such interesting possibilities. He can do everything from broad comedy to moving drama, and he's got such an intriguing history that just begs to be filled in. I'm really enjoying writing him and I'm glad you're enjoying the story so far.
    Thank you so much, but of course I couldn't have made Lasan as rich as it is without your help [:D] Bryce Canyon was an absolutely inspiring place to start (and if you look at the pictures, imagine it in shades of purple. That's how I picture Lasan!) Zeb's family owes a bit to my dad's family; like Zeb, Dad has three older sisters and younger brothers who are several years younger. Family reunions on that side were huge, noisy affairs where you never really knew everyone, even though you were related to them all! Hopefully, we'll get some more development of the Lasat in Season 4 or in comics and novels.

    I'm glad you like Shai; I must confess he's become one of my favorite OCs. When I was considering Zeb's family, one of my first thoughts was that he might have had some much younger siblings and how that might have affected his relationships with the younger crew members in light of his loss. Zeb and Sabine have always seemed to get along pretty well (thanks in part to a shared love of blowing stuff up), but Zeb and Ezra... like brothers they love and antagonize each other in equal proportions. ;) It was easy to imagine Zeb's chagrin when this new interloper reminds him of his own brother, right down to his appearance. As @Ewok Poet notes, Shai owes a lot to various plucky young heroes in literature, and a bit to my nephew, who had similar enthusiasm at that age.

    once again, thank you for letting me borrow the the lovely, stripey Shulma. I look forward to her official debut! [face_love] I've said in one of my other stories that I think Zeb could get into quite a bit of stupid poodoo in the name of love, and he's about to engage in some of it here! The other cadets...well, once again, life and art intersect here. My dad is a former U.S. Marine, and even though he wasn't career military, he always retained that "the few, the proud, the Marines" ethos. I think the Honor Guard would have that same pride in service--and in themselves! Boo-yah!--particularly the new cadets who are still full of late adolescent attitude and out to prove themselves.

    Zeb really does deserve that extra thump for the way he treats Shai. Yes, Zeb may learn his lesson, but it's not going to be fun for him...or for Shai:( But Shai does have plenty of gumption--he is an Orrelios brother, after all (aw, yeah!) and it's another area he's got in common with Ezra.
    Thank you! Creating the Orrelios family, it was both fun and bit heartbreaking to see them take shape, given what ultimately happens to the Lasat. Zeb really does love his little brother (and indeed, his whole family) no matter how much of a tough guy front he puts on...some things never change!

    You know, I didn't intend for there to be parallels between the crew and his family, other than Shai/Ezra, but now that you mention it, I can see it :D Priska and Sabine would probably enjoy blowing things up together, and while Herleva is more forceful than Hera, they're both the driving force of their families.

    Hera is the Space!Mom, even to Zeb, who's older than her. But he needs that reasonable mother figure to point him in the right direction and get him thinking.

    Thank you! Zeb really deserves more stories about him. I hope we'll get the official version someday:zeb:
    Ewok Poet and Findswoman like this.
  11. Raissa Baiard Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 1999
    star 4
    Thanks as always to my good friend and fellow Lasat enthusiast, @Findswoman, for beta-reading, support, and suggestions regarding all things purple :zeb:

    Part Two

    The Warrior, the stone guardian of Lira Zel, stood several kilometers outside the city proper. Just reaching the imposing spire was a test, legend said, to keep the unworthy from scaling its sacred heights. The trail, such as it was, was prone to rockfalls and featured enough zigzagging switchbacks to confuse the careless hiker and a descent steep enough to make a rock goat wary. Even the wildlife was wilder along the trail. It was one of the haunts of the great konculor, the lavender-gray feline that was seldom seen this close to civilization, and the territory of its favorite prey, the mighty spear-boar.

    Zeb and his friends, of course, were not about to be deterred by any of these trifles, not when the honor of the climb lay before them--not to mention the girls! As Groz had predicted, there was already a crowd gathered at the Warrior’s base by the time the quartet of young males arrived. A number of other cadets and even some of the younger officers had staked their places next to a knot of burly miners. A few older males looking to beat their previous records were mixed in among the aspirants, and straggling at the back of the crowd was a cluster of Shaman-types, including one nervous, weedy-looking fellow who looked like he’d break in half in a strong wind. But like all the others waiting to climb, Master Weedy was darting hopeful looks at the girls.

    The girls! The bevy of young females was gathered in a loose semi-circle around the Warrior, dressed in their Storms’ End finest, colorful and lovely as the wildflowers that would soon be blooming along the slopes. They cheered and clapped as a muscular third-year cadet began his ascent, and some of the encouragement they called out was quite...er, enthusiastically appreciative. Zeb didn’t know whether or not to hope he got such a response when it was his turn. Maybe if Shulma was there…. He searched the crowd for her.

    There she was! How could he have missed her before? Her sunset red dress stood out among the sky blues and sunshine yellows that were traditional for Storms’ End. She was like a prongbok doe among a flock of goats. That hair, those stripes, those eyes! The girls next to her were clapping with gusto, but Shulma seemed little more than politely interested in the event. She glanced around...and her eyes widened as they met Zeb’s.

    And she smiled! She smiled at him and lifted a hand in a demure wave. Zeb felt his face grow warm, heating up all the way to the tips of his ears. He waved back, maybe a little too enthusiastically, and his grin was as face-splittingly huge as one of Shai’s.

    Shai…. Zeb’s smile faltered as he remembered his little brother’s stricken expression when he’d stormed off to the carnival. No, don’t think of that now, he told himself. Shai was probably off having a great time playing the games and stuffing himself full of some disgustingly deep-fried fair food right now. It wasn't that he didn’t love the kit, annoying as he was sometimes--but there were just times in a man’s life when he had to do, well, manly things. Someday, Shai would be here ready to climb, and then he’d understand. In the meantime, Zeb decided, he’d make it up to his brother--buy him an extra-large bag of spiced nuts or even the new belt knife he’d been wanting--but it would have to wait until after Zeb had his chance at the Warrior and maybe a chance to buy Shulma that cider.

    One eager young male after another scaled the Warrior’s imposing height, its lavender-gray stone variegated with a Lasat warrior’s deep violet stripes. Zeb passed the time critiquing the other climbers with Groz and Gunvar, while pointedly ignoring Velibor’s critiques of the girls (which fortunately for Velibor did not include Shulma). The miners had the arm-strength to pull themselves up rapidly, but lacked the agility to maneuver from one foothold to the next. The cadets and officers did better in this respect, they all agreed, but the Guardsmen were still not achieving the sort of heights that they ought to have to make a proper showing. It would be up to the four of them to rectify this situation, apparently. Good thing they were just the ones to do it!

    The sun crept higher and higher, its harsh rays reflecting off the canyon’s purple slopes, and the crowd began to thin out as the day grew hotter. Climbers who had taken their turn headed back to the fair for a congratulatory (or consolatory) tankard of ale with their mates, or, if they were lucky, one of the girls. The lanky young lieutenant who’d managed to climb higher than anyone that season had at least three admiring females trailing him as he swaggered up the trail, while the weedy-looking shaman passed out from a combination of the heat and nerves and had to be carried back ignominiously by a pair of his fellows.

    The wildflower field of girls in their festival finery slowly dwindled as their favorites climbed, but some seemed to be determined to watch every last climber before making any decisions. Zeb checked back to make sure Shulma was still among them as often as he could without drawing his friends’ attention. Once or twice, he caught her eye again, and received another smile that shone brighter than the sunrise over the cliffs of Lira Zel.

    He was just about to check again when Groz gave him a push towards the looming rock spire. “Hey, Zeb, you’re up!”

    Zeb staggered forward and wiped his suddenly sweaty palms against his pants as he eyed the north face of the Warrior. He spotted looking a likely looking hand-hold, jumped for it and dug his fingers into the crevice. He pulled himself up, prehensile toes scrabbling at the rock, digging for purchase in the cracks that time, wind, dust and a hundred generations of Lasat had worn in the mighty stone sentinel. A chorus of girlish whoops echoed through the canyon as he scaled from one hand-hold to the next. Was Shulma still there? Was she cheering for him? He almost ventured a glance back towards his audience to find out. No, he reminded himself, first rule of climbing: concentrate. Second rule: don’t look down. Zeb adjusted his hold, steadied himself, took a deep breath and looked up to find his next hold, squinting against the bright sun overhead.

    Almost directly overhead.

    It was almost noon--time for the family feast-- and Zeb was going to be late. By the time he got back to town, found Shai and drove home… Ma was going to beat him, skin him and leave the rest for the convorees!

    First rule of climbing broken, his nimble fingers faltered, skimming uselessly at the crevice he’d meant to lodge them in. His other hand clutched its hold, his toes dug in against the rough stone, but no use. Zeb slipped, grappling scrabbling with fingers and toes that couldn’t find any purchase. Somehow, he managed to keep himself pressed against the Warrior, managed not to plummet to the canyon floor. Instead he slid down gracelessly as goat in a rockslide to land on his posterior with a heavy thud. The landing juddered all the way up his spine and he sat dazed and breathless for a moment before he was able to gasp out, “Karabast…”

    “What the hell was that, Orrelios?!”

    Zeb was suddenly surrounded by a forest of striped legs, and rough hands hauled him up. Velibor, Gunvar and Groz ringed him; if he expected them to have any sympathy for him, he was wrong. “I’ve seen kits climbing their first bristlecone do better than that!” Gunvar grunted, sneering.

    Zeb shrugged off the other cadet’s meaty hands. “I’ve gotta get back!”

    “You can’t leave now!” Groz said. “We haven’t climbed yet!”

    “Take it up with my mother,” Zeb called back as he jogged up the trail. He caught a fleeting glimpse of Shulma’s astonished face as he ran past the remaining girls but he didn’t dare slow down, even though his toe pads, abraded from the long slide down the Warrior, throbbed with every step.

    The Storms’ End carnival was in full swing by the time Zeb reached the Royal Parade Grounds. He stopped near a spiced nut cart to catch his breath; there was stitch in his side from running all the way up the steep trail. The crowd jostled and bustled around him as he surveyed the fair, looking for his brother.

    There were kits everywhere: fidgeting in disorderly queues for the games, stuffing their stripeless faces full of gooey sweets, running around like startled rock goats shrieking at the top of their little lungs! How was he ever going to find Shai in this mess? Okay, think, Zeb ordered himself. Think like a Guard. It’s almost lunch; the kit’s probably hungry. So...check all the food stands. Start with the spiced nuts and the pastry sellers. Work your way from there. Armed with this logical plan of attack, he ventured into the crowd, shouldering his way past the crowd at the nearby ice-on-a-stick vendor.

    “GARAZEB AVISHAI ORRELIOS!”

    There was only one woman in all of Lira Zel with a voice like that. Queen Ingruna herself could not have been sounded more imperious. The crowd gave way to Herleva Orrelios, probably because it knew what was good for it. Small kits went scurrying to their mothers as she strode through the throng of startled revelers.

    Zeb’s older sister, Priska, sailed in their mother’s wake. Normally, she was his favorite of the girls, the one who was most likely to tell a joke or laugh at one of his, but today there was no laughter in her eyes. Her expression was Herleva all over again. Priska was also the sister most likely to thump Zeb for any stupidity and it looked like she was set to do just that.

    “Garazeb Avishai Orrelios!” his mother repeated as she jabbed a finger into the center of his chest, her eyes flashing like lightning over Mount Straga. “Where in the name of the Ashla is your brother?”

    “Er…” Zeb hunched his shoulders, feeling five dust seasons old and caught frantically trying to put his mother’s bo-rifle back into collapsed mode again.

    “Wrong answer, Cadet.” When his mother said “Cadet” said in that tone, it was worse than being called by all three names together--maybe half a step above that wizened old shaman, Chava, using his ritual name. Maybe. It meant he was going to be sleeping with the massiffs tonight.

    Herleva’s eyes narrowed, and she moved in closer to Zeb until they were almost nose to nose. “I gave you one simple thing to do today, and you left your brother so you could go show off like a fool.”

    “But…”

    “You think you’re an Honor Guard?” Her voice rose, taking on the pitch and tone of a master sergeant dressing down her most bantha-headed cadet, and around them, fair goers took notice. Zeb garnered looks of pity, amusement, embarrassment, even a few of contempt. Some of the nearby Lasat watched with morbid fascination, as if witnessing a repulsortrain crash; others hurried past, looking anywhere but at Zeb.. “How can you protect Lasan when you can’t even take care of one kit?”

    “I…”

    “Tell me, Cadet, why are we called the Honor Guard?” Herleva demanded, emphasizing each word with a sharp jab to his sternum.

    “Because...because we serve with Honor, ma’am?”

    “And what is the beginning of Honor?”

    Aw, karabast...that was one of those things his instructors were always going on about. Something something something...was the beginning of honor. It was right there on the Honor Guard medallion, but karked if he could remember it now. “Er...following orders?”

    His mother’s absolute lack of expression told Zeb he’d gotten it wrong. Only her eyes shifted sideways towards Priska. “Lieutenant Orrelios, can you enlighten your brother?”

    Priska snapped to attention like a good soldier--chin up, chest out, shoulders back, stomach in. Eyes front, expression blank, she answered in a ringing voice, “Protecting those who cannot protect themselves is the beginning of honor, ma’am!”

    “Very good, Lieutenant.” Herleva gave Priska a tight nod, then turned her best Captain’s scowl towards Zeb. “At least one of my children was listening during basic training.” She waved a brusque hand towards Priska. "Tell your brother what you told me.”

    Fixing Zeb with a withering glance only slightly less compelling than their mother’s, Priska stepped forward. Now that Herleva had finished, it was apparently her turn to have a go at Zeb. “I saw Shai wandering through the fair, looking like he’d been kicked by a bantha. He told me you left him to go show off for the girls at the Warrior.” Priska’s tone, harsh as the storm winds scouring the canyons, left no doubt what she thought of Zeb for that. “I told him I’d take him around after my shift and stuck him at a table with a couple of old-timers. I thought they could tell him some stories while I was busy, but when I came back, Shai was gone. They said...they said he’d gone to the Warrior. He planned to climb it himself and show you he wasn’t just a stupid kit anymore.” Her hands bunched into fists. “If they weren’t my superiors, I’d thump the lot of them, encouraging such fool-headed nonsense, and Shai just fourteen! So I guess I’ll just have to settle for thumping you instead, Garazeb!”

    “You’re sure Shai’s not here?” he asked, avoiding her accusing stare. “I mean, I just came from the Warrior and didn’t see him there or on the trail. Maybe he’s just in the porta-’freshers or somethin’.”

    “You don’t think I’d have checked everywhere I could before I called Ma?” Priska sniffed. “Little brother, you need to get your posterior back down that trail and make double sure Shai’s not there. You know how that trail can play tricks if you’re not careful.” And careful was not exactly Shai’s middle name.

    Zeb nodded--not much else he could do. So much for his glorious debut as an Honor Guard; this Storms’ End had gone straight down the ’fresher faster than a boulder plummeting down a mine shaft. Flubbed his first big climb up the Warrior in front of Shulma, chewed out by Ma in front of half of Lira Zel, lost his kid brother on the most treacherous trail around. But at least things couldn’t get any worse.

    Then things got worse.

    The ear-piercing wail of siren suddenly blared out over the parade grounds, rising and falling in a pattern that every Lasat knew, even the smallest kit--dust storm warning! Take cover now!

    Heads snapped up all over the fair. It wasn’t unknown for freak dust storms to blow up even after the end of the Dust Season proper, but it was considered the worst of luck for one to happen on Storms’ End. Zeb had never seen it happen before now.
    “They spotted a dust storm over by Bristlecone Gap!” the ice-on-a-stick vendor called out, weather comm pressed to one ear. “Wind’s moving it this way!”

    The festivities broke up in chaos. Mothers grabbed at their kits, who were wailing along with the emergency siren, and started hustling them towards the speeder lots as fast as they could. Vendors began clearing their wares away into bags and boxes, because anything left out would be scoured by the dust and debris borne by the storm winds.

    And Shai was out there somewhere, alone.

    Herleva sagged against Priska, sketching the triangle--Fool, Child, and Warrior--over her breast. “Ashla watch over my boy!” she whispered, all the forcefulness gone from her voice.

    Zeb had never seen his mother like this before. He was used to her being a force of nature unstoppable as any dust storm, but now she looked pale and frightened. He straightened. Right. He was an Honor Guard now, and it was his job--his duty--to protect the helpless. And...it was his fault in the first place; he had to make things right.

    “You and Ma double-check for Shai here before this lot stampedes! I’m headed out to the Warrior,” he told Priska, shaking his head when she opened her mouth to protest the danger. He grasped both of his mother’s hands and squeezed them tight. “Don’t worry, Ma, I’ll find Shai and bring him home before the storm hits.”

    She looked up at him, and there were tears in her green eyes. “You had better, Garazeb Orrelios. You had just better!”
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    The venture to impress the ladies fell down with a dull thud, didn't it? And then Zeb got a dressing-down in public and with all his given names. Seems that's universal for "You are hip-deep in trouble." :p Wow, a storm-end storm. Not good. Freaky and dangerous. [face_nail_biting]
  13. DarthBreezy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 2002
    star 6
    OOOOOOOOH! Someone's rolling in the deep poodoo here!!

    Beautiful world building! Such richness here! Even if 'Alls well', I sense this is going to leave a lasting mark...
  14. Darth Osnil Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2016
    star 4
    *sigh* Never show off to the ladies, Zeb.

    In all seriousness, this chapter was thoroughly enjoyable. Do you plan on using the priestess from that one episode in Rebels?
    Ewok Poet and Findswoman like this.
  15. PlanetSmasher Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 14, 2017
    star 1
    It's a nail biter of an ending. Such anticipation to climb up that rock, only to have his adventure end so poorly. I was so glad that Priska found Shai and stuck him with some elders to keep an eye on him, but then became worried again when it turned out he'd gone to The Warrior to emulate his brother.... As rare as was described, sightings of konculors so close to town was, that's the first thought that came to mind. Shai would have to pass through that area.... Oh my! And now the dust storm!

    Yeah, this was an edge of the seat, leaning forward chapter. Good stuff. Look forward to more.
  16. divapilot Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 30, 2005
    star 4
    oh boy, Zeb is in it now. I just hope he can find Shai and get him home safely! The poor little kit! Trying to go off to the Warrior to find Zeb all by himself, and it's such a dangerous trail. Shai would be in danger under the best of circumstances, and now there is a dust storm! I really hope that Zeb can find him before it's too late! (His "friends" who talked him into ditching ought to be helping out to find him. Really, that would impress the ladies more than some dumb "look at me cliimb this pole" stunt.)

    Love mamma here. She loves her kids so fiercely! Another thing I really like is the religious beliefs here; Ma's prayer to Ashla feels so right. You've created a great culture in this story.

    Waiting for the next post...[face_worried]
  17. Findswoman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 27, 2014
    star 5
    The richness continues! Such wonderful descriptions of the terrain, the wildlife, the Warrior (and how awesome that it actually looks like a Lasat warrior itself, with its own strrripes), the treacherous trail leading to it (holding that thought), the young men from so many different walks of life preparing to climb (and yep, that weedy shaman looks very familiar ;) ), the wildflower-like girls watching and cheering, the climb, the fall, the mother who’s a force of nature… you present us with such an immersive world here. This is just the kind of story I love!

    This is the moment Zeb has been waiting for—and of course you have built up our anticipation as readers right along with his. There he is, about to get his big break as a Guard and as a man in this age-old rite of passage… it’s up to him to rectify the situation and bring the Guardsmen back to the top

    And this, oh, well, you know why I adore this…

    Oh, there just aren’t enough "[face_love]“ icons in the world. “A prongbok doe among a flock of goats”—what an image, and it has that Song of Songs resonance just like “a lily among thorns,” “an apple tree among the trees of the forest,” and of course even the infamous “your hair is like a flock of goats.” ;) You are doing such a beautiful job with this little OC of mine. And wow, if Zeb is heating up all the way to the tips of his ears… well, with ears like his, that’s pretty warm indeed! Velibor is very lucky indeed he wasn’t making any of his tacky comments about her, because I shudder to think what Zeb would have done to him if so. :p

    Of corse, that same bright moment is also where the misgivings begin to creep in—leading to all sorts of very in-character late-adolescent rationalizations about doing MANLY THINGS. I know you were concerned earlier on about getting Zeb’s emotional transitions right, but I think they came off great—both here and at the fateful moment when Zeb realizes how late it’s gotten and that he needs to go back and get Shai. And just then long anticipated climb—also fantastically described—goes bust and Our Hero falls ignominiously and painfully to the ground—owwwwwwch! :( What a fall, after all the anticipation that was built up! And naturally his comrades have to be pills about the whole thing. Thanks a lot, guys! [face_mad]

    Then when Ma and Big Sis appear on the scene… oh, Zebby, Zebby… “sleeping with the massiffs” does not even begin to cover it. Wow, that was one absolutely epic Standpauke from both Herleva and Priska (and of course I’m stoked to see that the title of this story is actually part of one of the chief principles of the Honor Guard—that’s perfect). Zeb is certainly surrounded by strong, forceful women, and although he's understandably a bit cowed now, I'm sure someday he will be very grateful for that fact.

    A Storms’ End storm does indeed seem like bad luck, after they've just celebrated a whole long season of having to stay inside.* From what little I know of dust storms here on earth, they're extremely scary events—not only can you not see inches in front of your face, but the air is literally attacking you! But it’s so much to Zeb’s credit that he takes swift, decisive action to make things right again once the going gets really rough. There really is a sense of honor lurking underneath all that late-teen bravado; I have no doubt that he’s 100% sincere in wanting to do all he can to rescue Shai. (Who wouldn't want to rescue that dear boy! [face_love]) And similarly, we see that Herleva has a softer side beneath that drill-sergeant exterior as she prays to the Ashla to protect her youngest (the Triangle is a wonderful touch). What a cliffhanger indeed—be safe out there, Zebby! You know I can't wait to see where you'll take this wonderful tale next.

    Asterisk (open)

    I wonder if even at this early stage this freak storm can be read as a premonition of disaster ahead for Lasan in general...?
  18. Raissa Baiard Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 1999
    star 4
    It certainly did! So much for Zeb showing off his manliness ! :p And, yep, the Full Name o'Doom crosses all universes and most species. ;)
    Zeb is in it so deep, he'll need a shovel to get out. :D Glad you're enjoying this take on Lasan. I don't want to spoil things, but I think it's fair to say that, yes, this incident is going to create an impression on Zeb.
    I know, right? Showing off never ends well. :p

    Thanks so much! Chava the Wise isn't going to appear here...but my good friend and collaborator on the Lasat/Lasan fanon, @Findswoman, is working on a story that features her (along with a certain shaman initiate with very fetching strrrripes).
    Shai is a lot like his older brother--so full of determination that it leads him to do things he shouldn't. He's got the guts to try, but the Warrior trail may prove too much for someone who's inexperienced and going off half-cocked. And you're so right about impressing the ladies; athletic, rock-climbing guys might be nice, but guys who do the right thing and protect lost kits? Irresistible! ;)

    Thank you! Zeb's whole family really just took on lives of their own, especially Shai and Herleva. Herleva is a great big purple mama grizzly bear; do not mess with her cubs. She will take you down. She an Honor Guard through and through, too, emphasis on "Honor." So Zeb has just committed the worst possible combination of sins by losing Shai.

    Religion isn't something we get to see a lot of in the GFFA, so it's kind of cool that we do get a little glimpse of Lasat religion and their Force tradition in Rebels. @Findswoman developed a lot of the religious aspects in our Fanon, but I added the sign of the Triangle. I wanted a sort of reflexive, ingrained gesture of faith, similar to the way Christians (particularly Catholics--or in my case, slightly lapsed Episcopalians) will cross themselves when they hear bad news. Herleva knows she can't do anything to help her lost son except invoke the Ashla's protection on him--pretty much every mom's nightmare.:( But Zeb will do his best to make things right.
    Well, thank you! And thank you for letting me borrow your lovely, stripey Shulma (and that weedy, fainting shaman;) ) The Warrior and its surroundings owe so much to the otherworldly landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah. Unfortunately, the stone spire that inspired the Warrior toppled several years ago, due to the natural forces of erosion and weathering, but its memory lives on proudly here.

    Yes! Manly man that he is Garazeb Orrelios will redeem the good name of the Honor Guard...and impress his lady at the same time!

    Zebby is one smitten pittin! :zeb: [face_love] All of those lovely comparisons (yes, even the one about goats!) inspired me. No offense, @Ewok Poet, goats are nice creatures, but they're not as svelte and graceful as deer. And so is Shulma more beautiful in Zeb's eyes. That Velibor doesn't see it is probably a good thing in the long run :D I'm happy you feel I'm doing a good job with her! I can't wait for her official debut!

    Too bad pesky little things like responsibilities and reality have to intrude on Zeb's moment!;) The realization brings him back down to earth, literally and painfully. He knows he's in for it--and how!

    The German language has some wonderful words! That one really applies here. Zeb gets it from both sides. Herleva takes the "honor" partbof being an Honor Guard very seriously. The tenet about the beginning of honor hearkens back to the Code of Chivalry, and indeed most religions include admonitions to take care of the helpless--the widows and orphans.

    Zeb does have a good heart underneath all the bluster, even at this age. Hey, his mother raised him well; you know she's been instilling those Honor Guard values in him since he was a wee kit himself. :) (I don't know if anyone besides @Ewok Poet remembers a cartoon called Taz-Mania, but Taz's younger sister would always tell him, in a sort of annoyed tone, when she would do something nice for him: "because you're my BROTHER. And I. LOVE. You." Zeb might phrase it thusly, but he does love Shai, however much kid brother might crimp his style at times. :D[/i]
    Last edited by Raissa Baiard, Aug 14, 2017
    divapilot, Ewok Poet and Findswoman like this.
  19. Raissa Baiard Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 1999
    star 4
    Many thanks to @Findswoman, for beta-reading and support, and many [:D] and ZEBSPRESSO's :zeb:

    Part Three

    Zeb jogged double-time across the parade grounds as the emergency siren continued to wail, or at least he tried to. He was fighting his way against the crowd fleeing the opposite way, running into the gusting wind and towards the purplish haze that loomed on the horizon. Every instinct he had was screaming at him you’re going the wrong way, lunkhead!

    All right, slow down, Zeb finally told himself. You’re goin’ off half-cocked and that’s a good way to get killed. So think. Search and rescue protocol. Dust storm survival. You were payin’ attention during those lessons, right? Right.

    Gear. He ought to have gear in case he and Shai were still out there when the storm hit. Goggles and masks would be good, but there was no time to get any, not even the emergency pair in the speeder’s hatch. Something to cover their faces, then. He spotted a nearby vendor who was cramming her fluttering embroidered shawls into a packing crate beneath her stand. Zeb jogged up and grabbed a handful of the shawls, ignoring the vendor’s protests. “I don’t have time for this! Here!” He emptied his belt pouch onto the stand. “If that’s not enough, send the bill to Garazeb Orrelios at the Honor Guard base. My kid brother’s out there somewhere!”

    “Your brother?” The shawl vendor signed the Triangle over her heart. “Ashla forfend! Go!”

    Zeb saluted her, stuffed the shawls into his belt pouch in a messy wad, and took off towards the Warrior. “Outta my way!” he shouted into the crowd, making his voice his best imitation of his mother’s. “Honor Guard rescue patrol, comin’ through!” He must have done a passable job of sounding like Herleva, because around him startled fair goers scattered.

    He picked up his pace; every moment’s delay brought the dust storm that much closer. His toe-pads protested the rough treatment, and Zeb told them to shut up. He was an Honor Guard and Guards didn’t let piddling things like throbbing toes stop them. A real Guard could run from here to the Northern Plateaus with a broken leg, a concussion and a gut wound if he had to! Go! he urged himself. Move it, Orrelios! Move! Move! Move!

    Even jogging at top speed, it seemed to take him an eternity to reach the trail’s head. The haze seemed to have grown thicker, becoming a definite cloud by the time he arrived. A cluster of young Lasat were hustling up the steep trail like a herd of migrating prongbok. Groz, Gunvar, and Velibor, along with a few other climbers, were shepherding the last of the girls up the path. Some of the girls were pale-faced, clinging to the men; Zeb spotted Shulma in her red dress among them, her face resolute.

    “Zeb!” Groz did a double take when he saw his fellow cadet descending. “What are you doing? Didn’t you hear there’s a dust storm on the way?”

    “I know, and my brother’s out here somewhere! He was on his way out to the Warrior; said he was gonna climb it!”

    “Shai’s out here? Karabast!” Groz swore with feeling. Behind him, some of the girls gasped, and Shulma signed the Triangle over her heart.

    Gunvar snorted, shaking his head, and pushed past Zeb, a girl hanging on each of his burly arms. “You might as well go back. “We didn’t see hide or hair of the fool kit coming up. And if he is lost on this trail, you’ll never find him in time!”

    Zeb’s hands clenched at his sides, and he narrowly refrained from punching the other cadet in the stomach. He didn’t have time for a fight, and he’d probably just break his knuckles on the boulder-like slab of Gunvar’s mid-section. “I karking well better find him!” he snarled. “What kind of Guard am I if I can’t take care of my brother? If I don’t find him and bring him back in one piece….” If I don’t, Ma won’t have to feed me to the convorees, I’ll feed myself to ’em.

    “We’ll help,” Groz offered, though he looked far from certain. “We’re...uh, we’re Honor Guards, too. Right, Vel?” Velibor startled and went a bit pale beneath his bushy bantha-chops, but nodded.

    “No. You haven’t got any gear; you’ll just wind up with half a kiloton of dust up your nose and another ton in your ears!” Zeb omitted the fact that his emergency gear was improvised from ladies’ shawls. Better than the nothing they had. No sense in them all risking it in the storm, not when this was his mess anyway. “Get the girls to safety.”

    “You sure, Zeb? How’re you gonna…”

    “Get goin’! I don’t have time to stand here blabbing all day, and neither do you!” He headed down the trail without waiting for a reply. “Go!

    “We’ll send help from the base!” Velibor called. Zeb waved, not looking back. Help would never get here in time and they all knew it. It was up to him to find his brother somewhere among the false trails and dead ends and bring him home safe. Somehow...

    “Shai! Shaaaaaaai!” Zeb put his hands to his mouth and shouted. He stopped to listen for any response, but no answering call came, just the sound of squabbling birds--convorees fighting over something.

    A feeling of dread settled in the pit of Zeb’s stomach. The little birds were often seen as a bad omen by superstitious Guardsmen, heralding looming disaster. Convorees might look sweet, but would eat anything they could get their little beaks onto--insects, rodents, eggs, even carrion. Especially carrion. “Karabast!” Zeb took off in the direction of the squawking as fast as his aching feet would go.

    A flock of the inauspicious birds was gathered just where the trail proper angled off sharply to the east. If you weren’t looking closely enough--if you were, say, a distracted, disgruntled kit out to prove yourself--you might think the trail continued down into a narrow side canyon instead of switchbacking off unexpectedly the way it did. As Zeb jogged up, the convorees left off their enthusiastic squabbling and scattered. To his great relief, they hadn’t been pecking at something dead.

    That relief was short-lived, though. Spiced warra nuts, Shai’s favorite, were spilled on the canyon floor where the ground abruptly pitched down into a steep curve, the tattered remains of a bright blue flimsi bag among them. Zeb reached down for it before the rising wind blew it away, and saw a scuffed, sliding track in the soil. A metallic glint, half hidden beneath a scrubby geniper bush, caught his eye.

    A belt knife.

    Shai’s knife--Zeb recognized the pattern of leaping prongboks worked into the leather wrapping on the hilt and the notch in the blade from the time when Shai was eight and he’d tried to pry open a packing crate full of tinsel bombs for Lira Zel’s Life Day fireworks with it. They’d both gotten in so much trouble for that one! Ma had them peeling topatoes and cleaning the ‘freshers for months afterwards.

    “Shai! Garashai! Where are you?” He held his breath, praying to the Ashla there’d be an answer this time.

    “Zebby?” Shai’s voice came from beyond the sharp bend in the path, faint and quavery. “I’m here!” There was a scrabbling sound and suddenly a high pitched yelp and a sob. “Zeb, I can’t…”

    “Stay right there! I’m comin’!” Zeb forced himself to go slowly, carefully picking his way down the incline, much as he wanted to run. Whatever had happened to Shai, he wasn't going to make it any better by pitching himself down the slope, too.

    Shai was at the bottom hunched in a miserable heap clutching his right leg. His new Storms’ End tunic, which had been spotless sky blue and leaf green that morning, was now ripped in several places and streaked purple with dirt. His hair was coated with trail dust, too, sticking out in all directions with a few twigs from a nearby geniper bush lodged in it. He looked smaller than Zeb remembered him being.

    “Shai!” Relief flooded Zeb. He fell to his knees and down gathered his and little brother in a rough hug. “Are you okay? What happened?”

    “No, I’m not okay! Do I look okay?!” Shai pushed his way out of Zeb’s arms, the effect of his defiant glare ruined by the rivulets of tears making tracks in the grime on his face. He scrubbed the them away with the back of one hand, which only smeared the dirt more. “You left me! You ditched me to go off with your stupid friends and show off for the stupid girls!”

    “Shai, I’m…”

    “I was gonna climb the Warrior and show you!” Shai’s voice rose to a shout, and he pushed his unruly purple hair out of his face, the better to glare at Zeb. “The old guys at the ale tent said that would be a sure way to prove I wasn’t a kit anymore. That once you climb the Warrior, you’re really a man! I got all the way out here by myself. But then I took the wrong trail and it just...dropped off under me. I fell and rolled all the way down, and I lost all my spiced nuts and my belt knife, and I crashed into the geniper bush, and when I got up, my foot got stuck in that hole and...and it broke! I broke my foot, Zeb!” Shai gestured forcefully to his right leg, and his shouting took on a hysterical note. “I broke it and I couldn’t get back up the trail! I yelled and yelled for help, but no one came! I figured I was gonna be stuck out here forever and die and no one would ever know!” Shai finally paused for breath, panting a little, now that all the resentment he’d built up since storming off at the Parade Grounds had run its course.

    Guilt poured over Zeb like a rainy-season deluge. His fault. His fault all this had happened--that Shai had gotten lost and gotten hurt. His fault because he hadn’t done his duty in the first place and stayed with Shai like Ma told him to. All his fault… Zeb resisted the urge to hug the kit again, knowing it would more than likely get him slugged this time. “It’s okay,” he assured his brother. “I’m gonna get you home. Don’t worry. Let’s see your foot.”

    Shai jerked away from him. “I don't need you!” He struggled to rise, only to break off with another agonized cry. “Okay, okay,” he said, panting with the sudden pain. “I guess I'll just have to crawl out, but I can totally do this by myself!”

    Zeb shook his head; Shai was an Orrelios, all right. He might have been impressed by the kid’s grit, except that they didn’t have time for this poodoo. “Shai, listen! There’s a dust storm coming…”

    “Dust storm?!?” Shai’s green eyes widened with the fear that was instilled in every Lasat from the time they were old enough to understand what a dust storm was. He stared up at the sky, where the advancing storm now looked like a dark, solid wall of purple-gray to the east. The bluster went out of him and he deflated back into the miserable heap of earlier. “Aw, karabast...I really am gonna die here....”

    Zeb set his hands on his brother’s shoulders. “You’re not gonna die. I’m not gonna let that happen.”

    “But… look at it, Zeb!” Shai’s hand shot skyward. The fear in his eyes was edging into panic and terror. “We don’t have masks! We’re gonna choke and die with dust up our noses and in our eyes and ears! And it’s gonna scrub all our fur off and they’ll just find a couple skeletons out here with the convorees picking at ’em, and--”

    “Shai!” Zeb gripped his shoulders harder, giving a quick shake to snap him out of his frantic outburst. “I’m an Honor Guard; takes more than a little dust storm to stop me! And you’re going to be my lieutenant someday, so this is just...advance training, right?”

    “R-right…” Shai stammered. He was still pale and his eyes were still wide, but he straightened, schooling his features into a look of determination.

    “There you go, kid. Spoken like a real Honor Guard.” Zeb punched him lightly on the shoulder. “Anyway, don’t they teach you kits the aurek-besh-creshes of dust storms anymore?”

    “Yeah, but…”

    “Okay, so what’s aurek?”

    “Zebby…”

    “What’s aurek?” Zeb insisted. He had to keep Shai focused, keep him from giving in to panic again. That was the kind of thing that got you into trouble in situations like this. Maybe got you killed.

    Shai sighed. “Stay alert.”

    “Right. And what’s besh?”

    “Bundle up. But we don’t have…”

    “Yes, we do. Here.” Zeb forestalled Shai’s anxious objection by pulling the tangled wad of shawls from his belt pouch and dumping them in his brother's lap.

    Shai stared down at the fancy embroidery work and lacy tassels as if Zeb had deposited a pile of goat droppings there. “Zeb! These are for girls!”

    Zeb grabbed a shawl stitched with a pattern of canyon paintbrush flowers and wrapped it around his own head, making sure to cover his ears. He picked up a second shawl and started to wind it around the lower half of his face. “You’d rather choke with dust up your nose?” he asked pointedly.

    Shai huffed. “No.” He gingerly picked up a shawl with delicate blue starflowers on it, holding it out like it was a dead giju. Zeb pulled it out of Shai’s reluctant grip and tied it low across the kit’s brow. Shai wriggled in protest as he tied another just below, leaving only a narrow slit for his eyes. Zeb wrapped them around Shai's neck and stuffed the loose ends into the collar of his shirt. “I look stupid,” Shai muttered through all the layers. “If we die anyway, and they find me wearing this, I’m gonna come back and haunt you!”

    “How’re you gonna haunt me, if I’m dead, too?”

    “I’ll find a way,” he promised darkly.

    Zeb snorted, finishing his own head wraps, and just in time. The wind was gusting badly now, and the temperature had dropped, all the warmth of the day gone. Darkness was creeping over the canyon, and Zeb could hear the faint shoosh of the flying dust as the storm neared. “Sure, kid. Now for cresh...take cover.” He scanned the area and found what he was looking for. “There’s a ledge over there; can you walk at all?”

    Sudden tears, barely visible through the narrow gap between the shawls, glittered in Shai's eyes. There was a moment of hesitation, but he gave a decisive nod, and struggled to his feet. “I...yeah. I can make it.” It was hard to tell through the shawls, but Zeb thought that Shai clenched his teeth over another sob. He leaned heavily on Zeb, as he limped the few agonizing steps across the narrow canyon, only a few muffled whimpers betraying the pain he must have felt.

    The darkness was almost absolute when they reached the low overhang and Shai realized what Zeb had known all along. “Zebby, you can’t fit under here!”

    Zeb nudged Shai towards the ledge. “S’okay, kid; I’m gonna be keepin’ the wind off of you.”

    “Zebby! No!” He hung onto Zeb like he was a bristlecone he meant to climb. “You'll be…”

    Zeb disengaged his brother and pushed him back towards the ledge, a little more firmly this time, forcing Shai to duck into the small space underneath it. There was just enough room for the kit to sit there, knees drawn up under his chin. Zeb straightened up and put on his best Guard face, even though it was hidden by all the shawls that swathed his head. “I’m an Honor Guard, remember? We eat dust storms for breakfast.” And protecting those who cannot protect themselves is the beginning of Honor...especially when it’s my own karking fault you need protecting.

    “No, I won’t let you!” Shai's voice broke off with a wail, and he clutched desperately at Zeb’s hand. The shawl covering his lower face was wet with tears, and his chest heaved with convulsive sobs. “You can’t--”

    But there was no more time to protest; the hiss of the storm overtook Shai’s outcry. Zeb hunkered down in front of the ledge, crouched with his head down and his legs drawn up, making a wall between Shai and the rising wind just as the dust began to rush and roar around him.


    Notes:
    Convorees: Wookieepedia mentions they eat “insects and small rodents” and they often seem to be harbingers of disaster. I’ve kind of extrapolated from there, by using blue jays as a model. They look like songbirds, but they’re related to crows and ravens and will eat just about anything, and even attack and eat the nestlings of other birds if they can.
    Kahara, Darth Osnil and Findswoman like this.
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    [face_relieved] !!!!!! So much that Shai is alive. Seems injured, but thankfully not fatally. Understand his blowing up at Zeb. And how Zeb gets him to "be brave" and display "honor". Hope the storm blows over quick so they can return to the family. I'm sure they're probably on pins and needles worried about both of them.

    What is nice overall is that Zeb learned a valuable lesson without horrifically tragic consequences. @};-
    Findswoman and Raissa Baiard like this.
  21. Darth Osnil Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2016
    star 4
    So excited to see the new chapter! How is Zeb gonna get himself outta this mess?
    Findswoman and Raissa Baiard like this.
  22. divapilot Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 30, 2005
    star 4
    Yay Shai is alive! Injured, but he's alive and Zeb found him before the storm came. This will be an ordeal neither of them will forget. Zeb has a chance to redeem himself by protecting his little brother at his own expense. He truly has to "protect those who cannot protect themselves" here.

    I liked the sense of urgency you have here. Zeb's ability to get Shai to focus on the aurek-besh-cresh of survival in dust storms was great. I also like how you've made their personalities so vivid. Poor Shai, despairing that he's going to die in the dust storm while wearing a lady's shawl on his face. Oh the humiliation! Luckily Zeb understands that survival trumps fashion, and they would rather be alive with ladies' shawls to protect them than to be dead and exposed.

    Great chapter, vivid descriptions and wonderful suspense.
  23. DarthBreezy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 2002
    star 6
    Lovely again! So much life for Zeb and Shai and Zeb is proving himself truly worthy!
  24. PlanetSmasher Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 14, 2017
    star 1
    The suspense! The cliff hanger! Arrrggg!!!! Good read! I could see the storm nearing, and I could hear the winds picking up, and could smell the sent of dust in the air!!! Well done! =D=

    I'm so glad he found Shai.... But the way the first chapter started.... I'm still worried about what may yet transpire... :(
  25. Findswoman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 27, 2014
    star 5
    Oh my, how the dramatic tension is building here, right along with the storm! This is definitely the Zeb we know and love, unafraid to take full responsibility and rush headlong into danger if it means even the smallest chance of helping someone close to him. And what’s extra awesome? We are are witnessing, in this story, in this chapter even, the origins of that whole Zeb ethos. :zeb:

    But he’s not just rushing in: we seem him taking the time to think through a plan of action, to think back to what he’s learned in basic training, to think like an Honor Guard. You do the best with what you can in the time that you have. And if what you have is ladies’ shawls with pretty embroidered flowers on them? Well, you still do the best with them—it’s better than having your facial features scoured off by flying high-pressure grit! (Actually I think the shawls are kind of a cool juxtaposition, given the feminine element that motivated so much of the story’s action to begin with. ;) And there, incidentally, is my girl, brave as ever even as the storm approaches… methinks it’s not just her pretty stripes that Zeb is attracted to. [face_love] )

    Incidentally, from passages like this—

    —yep, it’s clear that you know Marines and the Marine ethos well. :D

    It's somehow not surprising that all of Zeb's swaggering comrades are suddenly all fearful and fatalistic—especially that dandy Velibor, going all pale under his fluffly facial hair. Y-yes, w-we are Honor G-guards, r-right? :p With an attitude like that, they’d probably just be a hindrance to Zeb if they went with him.

    What a huge relief that Zeb finds Shai as quickly as he did, given how dangerous conditions are becoming. There were some tense moments there, and your descriptions remind us that this dust isn't just the light feathery kind that builds up on mantelpieces or bookcases. Shai is such a lovable, fun little guy when we first meet him that it’s downright heartbreaking to see him here all scraped up and scared and crying—hovering very believably between his anger at his big brother and his need for help. His whole “GOWAY I CAN TOTES DO THIS MYSELF!1!” attitude is yet another aspect of him that is very Ezra-like. :ezra: (I know you were concerned earlier on that he was too much a copy of Ezra, but I don’t think he is at all; his happy-go-lucky, emotive nature is quite different from that whole faux-hardboiled street-rat act that Ezra puts on in the very early episodes.)

    And yet we can see him softening here, too, just starting to see that his big brother really is completely serious about rescuing him from danger. (Which even leads to him, namely Shai, warning Zeb about the danger of what he’s doing! He can’t help but still love his Zebby.)

    Finally, what an amazing closing image: Zeb bodily shielding his little brother from the storm. Just wow. That’s true grit (in the face of literal grit, no less!). Of course I’m waiting on tenterhooks to see how they will come through this, what it will mean for their relationship as brothers, and how it will affect Zeb’s attitude toward his new “little brother” on the Ghost—but I’m pretty sure Shai will not be able to be mad at Zeb much longer, to put it lightly. @};-

    And as if this chapter and this story and these characters weren’t already awesome enough, you went and employed the word "forfend.” Just the sort of thing that brings that extra little smile to my sesquipedalian heart. :D
    Last edited by Findswoman, Sep 6, 2017
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