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
    Zeb’s technique for dealing with Shai’s fear owes a lot to my Dad, the ex-Marine’s, pep talks to my sister and I, which were not quite “suck it up, little soldier” but sometimes close :D But he and Zeb were both right that it helps to focus on something, particularly something you can do instead of your fear. With Shai wanting to be a Guard, it’s easier for Zeb to get him to be brave.
    It’s Zeb; he’ll get out of it in true Honor Guard form. Boo-yah!
    Thank you! This is one of those cases where fanfic lead me to research some strange things; living in Central Illinois, we don’t have many dust storms, so I combed the ‘net for information on dust storms in Arizona and re-read a chapter of a fantasy novel set in the pseudo-Sahara about six times. But now if I’m ever caught in a dust storm or sand storm, I’ll know what to do! ;)
    Yes, he fortunately has a chance to make things right and show that he possesses true honor. And with Zeb, can there be any doubt that he will?

    Thank you! :) Shai is one of those characters who just take a life of their own when you start writing, and I think he’s one of my favorite OC’s now. He owes a lot to my nephew and my Youngling for youthful enthusiasm and chattiness, and of course, there’s more than a passing similarity between him and a another scruffy-haired youngster whose exuberant attitude drives Zeb up a wall.

    I think that this Zeb ethos has been there in his heart all along, or at least it’s been building there, thanks to the redoubtable Herleva, but this is the first chance he’s really had to put it into practice. And it is awesome that he doesn’t shrink from his responsibility even though it means putting himself in harm’s way. That’s real honor, and Herleva will surely be proud.

    Yep, a real Honor Guard can solve any problem with spacer’s tape and ice-on-a-stick sticks...Zeb probably should have grabbed some while he was at it :D And Shulma...certainly her stripes are very attractive, but you know Zeb would never go for some shrinking violet type. Heck, he’s got to find a girl who can hold her own against the the strong women in his family! ;) Shulma’s resoluteness in the face of the storm shows she might just be one [face_love]

    BOO-YAH! Sir, yes, sir! (Insert “Halls of Montezuma” here)

    Hesitant as Velibor is, he’s at least willing to do the right thing in the end. That big bantha bull (headed) Gunvar is ready to leave Shai in the wilderness alone. He’s quite fortunate Zeb doesn’t have time to demonstrate another part of the Zeb ethos—bashing.

    At fourteen, I think Shai’s at that age where he is SO NOT A KIT, at least in his own eyes. But with everything that’s happened to him, with his carefree festival day shattered, he wants to reach out for help. His Zebby rejecting him for stupid friends and even stupider girls (sorry, Shulma) has hurt Shai terribly, though. And it occurs to me that Shai is what Ezra might have been if he’d had his family all along (go away, plot bunnies, I don’t need any more of you!)

    He really does love his big brother, even after everything that’s happened, and some of that Orrelios Honor lives in Shai’s heart, too. Greater love hath no Lasat... putting himself in between his helpless brother and the storm, Zeb becomes a living embodiment of the Honor Guard motto

    i endeavor to give satisfaction. ;) I knew all the vocabulary words I learned for the SAT would be useful someday.
    Findswoman likes this.
  2. Raissa Baiard Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 1999
    star 4
    First off, I apologize for taking so long between chapters. Darth Real Life has dumped a lot of stuff on me over the last couple months that has kept me from writing as much as I would have liked to. Hopefully, things are straightening out now, and I’ll be able to finish this story soon.

    Many, many thanks to @Findswoman for beta-reading and for gently prodding me along. All possible purple heart emojis here...[:D]

    Part 4

    The dust storm raged.

    Zeb had no idea how long he crouched there, trying to cram as much of himself as possible under the ledge, but it seemed like an eternity. None of the survival training he’d had in the Honor Guard, none of the aurek-besh-creshes of storms that had been drilled into him from the time he was a kit had prepared him for the reality of a dust storm assaulting the senses.

    The noise was like a plague of locusts droning incessantly, only a hundred times louder. It was deafening, maddening, enough to drive a Guardsman to tears. Conversation was impossible, not that Zeb could have said anything besides repeating “I’m sorry, Shai” endlessly.

    The storm had sucked all the warmth from the day and the chill wind gusted around Zeb’s bare arms; the grit it carried stung and chafed them, like a giant was scrubbing him with Dad’s 30 grit sandpaper. It wasn’t just fine bits of soil and sand that the high winds carried, either. Twice something heavy hit Zeb’s head; a geniper branch struck him across the right side of his face from his temple to his cheek, and a fist-sized rock clocked him upside the head. He thought he’d wrapped the shawls around his head tightly, but the storm tore one corner free, leaving the tip of his left ear bare to the scouring wind. Dust worked its way into every fold and gap in the fabric; the musty smell was overwhelming. It tickled and itched in Zeb’s nostrils, making him want to cough, and left the flavor of dirt in his mouth.

    Sight, however, was useless. The storm had completely blocked out the sun, turning everything a dusky purple. Even Shai, less than half a meter from Zeb, was only a vague shape in front of him, huddled against the canyon wall. If he hadn't felt him leaning against his leg like a newborn rock goat kid quivering against its mother, he might not have been able to tell Shai was there at all.

    On and on the storm blew and droned and scoured, until slowly--so slowly Zeb thought he must have been imagining it--the winds began to abate. The deafening buzz of the storm died away, and the flying debris subsided to a few faint swirls of dust. Zeb straightened, or tried to, wincing. He muscles were stiff and clenched from being hunched over for who knew how long. He carefully unwound the shawls from his bloodied face, hissing as he pulled them away. As narrow as the gap between them had been, the dust had still worked its way in and scored a trail of stripes across his cheeks and nose.

    “Shai?” He gently nudged his brother, who was still huddled against him, and reached down to undo the wrappings that swathed his head. “We made it, Shai; the storm’s over.”

    Shai looked up, blinking slowly as if he was waking up from a nightmare. “We’re alive?”

    “Sure are. We beat the storm...Orrelios brothers together.” Zeb tousled Shai’s hair, already messy from being wrapped up in layers of shawls. “Now we just gotta get you home.”

    “Zebby, I can’t walk.”

    “Don’t worry kid; I got ya.” Zeb edged out from beneath the ledge, choking back several dozen “karabasts” at the pain that shot through his storm-abraded limbs. He maneuvered one arm under Shai’s knees, and Shai wrapped his arms around Zeb’s neck, like a kit who’d climbed his first bristlecone and couldn’t figure out how to get down. Zeb moved as slowly and carefully as he could but still managed to jostle Shai’s broken foot; he smashed his head against the ledge with a start at Shai’s yelp.

    Somehow, Zeb struggled upright with Shai in his arms and made his way up the steep slope. The trail was covered in a layer of dust and sand; the grit irritated his toe pads, already abraded from the scraping slide down the Warrior. Broken branches, pebbles, and bristlecone needles and cones littered the ground, and one venerable old bristlecone had succumbed to the storm winds and lay halfway across the trail. Zeb picked his way through the debris one painstaking step at a time, ignoring the protests of aching muscles and raw, stinging skin.

    He was halfway up the trail when he heard the shout: “It’s him! Karabast! It’s Orrelios and he’s got the boy with him!” A chorus of answering shouts echoed through the canyon. There was sound of running feet and suddenly Zeb was surrounded by Groz, Velibor and a bunch of other Guards he didn’t know, including one grizzled officer bearing the badge of a field medic.

    “Ashla! You did it! You found the kit, you karking lucky son-of-a-barve!” Groz whooped, while Velibor grinned widely, slapping Zeb heartily on the back.

    Shai scowled at the other cadets and tightened his grip on Zeb’s neck. “I told you, I’m not a kit! I made it all the way out here by myself. And you shouldn’t use that kind of language,” he informed them, sticking out his tongue. Zeb choked back a hysterical, snorting laugh; even a dust storm couldn’t wear down the kit’s….couldn’t wear down Shai’sspirit.

    “Here now, give them some space!” The medic bulled his way into the group of cadets, shoving Groz and Vel back. He regarded Zeb and Shai with a frown, looking them over with a practiced glance. “Hurt your leg, son?”

    Shai struggled to attention in Zeb’s arms. “My foot, sir. Broke it in a hole.”

    “Hmm.” The medic frowned, giving Shai another once-over. “Still, you don’t look too bad for having been out in a dust storm.”

    “Yes, sir.” Shai sat up even straighter and flashed one of his widest grins, his eyes--or what was visible of them beneath his unruly hair--practically glowing. “That's because Zebby stayed between me and the storm the whole time.”

    “Did he, now?” The medic’s grizzled eyebrows shot up, and his gaze slid to Zeb, who tried not to squirm under that appraising glance. He was surprised when the medic offered him a tight nod of approval. “Good job, Cadet. But I wouldn’t expect any less of an Orrelios. Speaking of which, we need to get you back to base before your mother blisters the stripes off Captain Porifiros.” He snorted. “Retired captain my left foot! The day Herleva Orrelios isn’t an Honor Guard is the day there isn’t an Honor Guard. Let’s get you to the transport. Move it out, Guards!”

    The transport speeder was waiting at the mouth of the trail. Zeb sank down onto one of the benches that lined either side of its bed, grateful for a chance to be off his sore, abraded feet. Shai was still on his lap; despite all his protests that he was most definitely not a kit, he seemed disinclined to move from that spot. In fact, spent from the excitement of the day and lulled by the hum of the speeder, Shai was soon dozing against Zeb’s shoulder, though it could hardly have been comfortable with his armor.

    Zeb looked down at his brother; Shai’s sleep-softened features made him look younger and more vulnerable. His wild thatch of purple-black hair had fallen forward into his face, and Zeb reached down and gently brushed it back. Shai’s arms and legs were only slightly abraded by the flying storm-grit; his face was untouched except for one thin stripe across his cheek. Zebby stayed between me and the storm the whole time. Zeb shifted uneasily. He didn’t deserve the hero worship that had been in his brother’s voice. He was no hero, especially not when it was his fault Shai had been lost and injured. He deserved for Shai to hate him, for his mother--his whole family--to hate him for failing his duty in the first place.

    And it wasn’t just his little brother who seemed to think he was some sort of hero now. Groz and Velibor were looking at him as if he was Baldomero the Bold from those comic books they used to read and not Zeb Orrelios, Lasan’s biggest nerf-brain, who’d just proven he was a worse babysitter than your average adolescent girl. A couple of the other cadets were whispering and occasionally shooting admiring glances at him, and even the gruff field medic smiled at him when Zeb looked his way.

    Zeb squirmed beneath the weight of all this undeserved attention and looked out towards the storm-ravaged landscape. The speeder made its way past more toppled bristlecones and several minor rockslides. Nor was it just the canyons and wild trails that had suffered; as they approached Lira Zel, Zeb saw the havoc the storm had wreaked on the holiday festivities. The gaily colored banners and awnings were hanging in tatters from the skeletal remains of the carnival booths. The convorees were already eagerly feasting on the spilled nuts and squashed pastries that littered the ground.

    Zeb had never been so glad to see the plain, squat buildings of the Honor Guard’s base. As the transport pulled up outside the infirmary, a team of medics wheeling stretchers swarmed out. Zeb struggled to his feet again, cradling Shai, who was somehow still drowsing against his shoulder.

    “I’ll take the boy for you, Cadet,” one of the medics said, stepping forward. “You need to get on the stretcher.”

    “No, sir. I’ve got him.” Zeb waved the medics away and pushed past all the unnecessary fuss and bother. He didn’t need a stretcher; he was an Honor Guard. And he wasn’t letting go of Shai until he got his little brother to safety.

    The medic with the stretcher looked annoyed, but the field medic who’d brought Zeb in just chuckled. “This way, Orrelios,” he said, steering Zeb into a curtained examination area.

    No sooner had Zeb set foot in the exam room than his mother swept in like a sirocco through the canyons. “Garashai! Oh, Ashla be praised!” Tears rained down her cheeks as she covered Shai with kisses. “Oh, my Shai, my boy! Thank the Ashla you’re safe!”

    “Aw, Ma…” Shai protested groggily, squirming in Zeb’s arms as he tried to wriggle out from under her enthusiastic ministrations. “I’m fine...well, except for my foot. But I was alright in the storm, because Zebby was was there, and he kept the wind off me the whole time.”

    One of Herleva’s eyebrows shot upwards. She stepped back and regarded Zeb, lips pursed and hands on her hips. Her eyes scanned him from head to toe, her inspection far more thorough than the field medic’s once-over had been. Zeb was suddenly aware of how he must look to his mother: covered in scrapes and scratches from the tips of his ears to the bottom of his toe pads. The new armor that he had polished so lovingly only that morning was now worn and pitted, the shiny gloss scrubbed away by sand and dust. The edge of one shawl, the lacy fringe matted and grubby, hung out of his belt satchel. And he was holding the brother who’d gotten lost and injured when Zeb was supposed to have been watching him. His mother shook her head, a peculiar expression on her face. “Garazeb… look at you.”

    Zeb hunched his shoulders. This was where she let him have it, all right. “I know. I’m a bloody kar…. I’m a right mess, and my armor’s a disgrace to…”

    “Is that what you think?” Herleva’s lips quirked into something that looked almost like a smile. “Do you know what I see when I look at you? An Honor Guard.”

    “Wha--?” Zeb nearly dropped Shai, who gave a startled yelp, and stared at his mother, certain he hadn’t heard that right. Had Ma just called him an Honor Guard? After the way he’d ruined the festival for his entire family? Shirked his responsibility and failed his duty? “But… I...my armor...and his foot...and…”

    “Do you what kind of Guard always has shiny armor? The kind that never leaves the parade grounds. You be proud of those marks, Garazeb--every scratch, every scrape, every scar.” She traced a finger down one of the thin stripes that the storm grit had scored across his face. “They’re badges of honor, and you earned every one.”

    “But...but I screwed everything up! I failed!” How could he have earned anything except a swift kick in the posterior for his actions? “I left Shai alone. He got hurt, and he coulda got killed, too, if I hadn’t found him. I was a stupid, bantha-headed idiot….”

    Herleva cut him off. “Yes, you were. And then you gave everything you had to keep your brother safe. You used yourself as a storm break and didn’t think twice about the risk to you. And that, Garazeb, is what makes a guard an Honor Guard.”

    Zeb opened his mouth, shook his head, and closed it again. There was a lump in in his throat and he was afraid if he said anything, he was going to squeak like a little kit instead of sounding like an Honor Guard. “Yes, ma’am,” he finally managed in a hoarse whisper.

    His mother didn’t smile often, and when she did it was usually so slight you could miss it if you didn’t look at just the right angle. But this time her smile bloomed slowly, like a rare and elusive wildflower. “Good.” Herleva leaned forward to ease Shai from his arms, stretching up to plant a kiss on Zeb’s cheek as she did. “Now you go with Lieutenant Esclepios and get cleaned up. No arguments, Cadet; a Guard has to take care of himself, too.”

    “Yes, ma’am.” Zeb followed Lt. Esclepios into another exam room, where the field medic made him strip to his skivvies, put on a horribly ill-fitting gown, and endure all the poking and prodding a proper medical exam entailed. He proceeded to scrub the dirt and grime off Zeb’s already raw sand-scoured skin with a disinfectant that smelled like Dad’s geniper brew and stung like a million pinch beetles attacking him at once. After that, Esclepios slathered him with sickly smelling bacta paste, and slapped layers of bacta pads all over Zeb’s arms, legs, feet and face. But Zeb bore it all with only a wince and a hastily stifled growl here and there, because he was, after all, an Honor Guard.

    Once he’d finished torturing—er, treating— Zeb, the lieutenant led him to a double room upstairs. Shai was already there, in the bed nearest the door. He looked so small there, his leg encased in a heavy cast up past his ankle. The twigs and dust had been combed from his hair, but it still refused to stay in any kind of order. His eyes were heavy-lidded and a bit unfocused from the painkillers he’d been given, but he struggled upright when Zeb entered the room. “Zebby!”

    “Hey, kid.” Zeb tousled his brother’s dark purple hair, and Shai immediately scowled and pushed his hair back the way it had been. “So, worst Storms’ End ever, huh?”

    “Yeah. I spilled all my warra nuts, I lost my belt knife and I never got to play any of the games.” He sighed and flopped back down to his pillow before brightening again. “But, hey, I bet none of the other guys at school have ever been out in a storm! That stupid Dagrivar thinks he’s something because he hiked the Swamp Canyon trail, but that’s nothin’ compared to surviving a dust storm! Oh, and Zebby, look! The medic’s assistant signed my cast--and she had some really nice stripes!”

    “I bet she did!” Zeb laughed as he sat down on the other bed. “Since you didn’t get to buy that belt knife, I’ve got a little somethin’ to make it up it to you.” He picked up the bag marked “patient’s effects,” which contained all of his clothes and armor, from the foot of the bed, and rummaged through until he found his own knife and sheath. He brushed some of the remaining storm grit off it and handed it to Shai. “Here you go, kid; it’s all yours.”

    Shai’s eyes widened to the size of Gran’s good saucers. He stared down at it reverently. “Zebby, this is your real Honor Guard knife! I can’t take this!”

    “Sure you can; you earned it. Even those old duffers from the ale tent haven’t been through a dust storm and lived to tell about it, but you did. It’s yours now; you keep it until you get your own and become my lieutenant.” He ruffled his little brother’s hair affectionately. “Orrelios brothers together.”

    “Aw, yeah...” Shai smiled as he stroked the leather sheath and settled it next to him in the hospital bed. “I’ll always keep it, Zeb, even then.”

    —————————————————

    And he had. Lieutenant First Class Garashai Orrelios had been wearing his brother's belt knife the day the Empire invaded Lasan. Zeb had ordered Shai to fall back to protect the Inner Court of the Royal Palace while he stayed at the gates, because the only way the Imps and their bucket heads were getting through those gates was over his dead body.

    Except Zeb hadn’t died that day, and he’d failed the Honor Guard, failed to protect the Royal Family…and Shai. Wandering the wreckage of the court, he’d found Shai’s bo-rifle, broken and abandoned, and his knife, buried up to its hilt in the neck of an ISB agent, but he’d never found any trace of Shai. Zeb had wondered as he’d yanked the knife free whether that desperate act had won his brother a few extra moments of life or a gruesome end from the Imperials’ disruptor rifles.

    Zeb had tossed his own knife into the rubble, wiped the gore off Shai’s knife and sheathed it, promising his brother, wherever his spirit was, that he’d always keep it to remember him...and to remember that protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves was the beginning of honor.

    To Be Concluded…
    Last edited by Raissa Baiard, Oct 10, 2017
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    =D= =D= Shai with Zeb was so endearing & Herleva's assurances -- splentabulous!

    Then we get the flash-forward -- :eek:

    Quite the reveal there. [face_thinking] But you can see the selfless bravery of both Shai and Zeb. @};-
    Kahara, Raissa Baiard and Findswoman like this.
  4. PlanetSmasher Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 14, 2017
    star 1
    That was so awesome! =D= Then the break line, and the fast forward... That was so sad!!! :_|

    On the one hand, I understand where the story started, so we have to flash forward, sometime. On the other hand, I want to see Shai grow up and be that Lieutenant that supported his older brother, Zeb.

    I shed some tears. I'm not gonna lie... I am SO looking forward to the next chapter.
    Kahara, Findswoman and Raissa Baiard like this.
  5. Kahara Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 4
    This was amazing, and I'm really curious to see what happens in the epilogue. =D=

    More and more, I seem to have become a setting junkie -- not just for actual scenery, but for details that give a really grounded sense of a character's life. And this story provides that in spades for one of the least-explored of the Rebels. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the festival, the customs around climbing the Warrior, and the way that Zeb sees his family and his identity as a Guardsman (and how he initially doesn't get that he can't shove away the responsibilities of one of those and do justice to the other).

    The dust storm was really scary; while they're generally not very dangerous here, I'm more than familiar with the sense of creeping unease that can come with rising wind and the funny quality that the light takes on. (Certainly not the time to go rock-climbing! :eek:) I was worried with him when Zeb realized just how dangerous of a situation Shai had stumbled into because of his abandonment. While we know Zeb made it out, I wasn't too sure about his little brother. I was so relieved when they both made it through the whole harrowing experience! Herleva was wonderful, and I loved her conversation with Zeb at the end. He's impulsive and stubborn (even many years later :p), but he has heart and will always come through for those who need his help. [face_love]

    The end was painful to contemplate, even though I had expected it at the beginning. But then, I hadn't gone and gotten attached to Shai then. The lack of closure with never knowing exactly what happened has to be especially difficult for Zeb. :(
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