WEEK #1 PROMPT Title: Ki Murangen (Kessel Run Challenge Week 1 prompt) Author: rktho Timeline: Aftermath of the Bitthævrian-Kaleesh war Characters: Original characters Genre: Challenge Summary: After a hard-fought war alongside the Jedi, a soldier in the kolkpravis bids farewell to her dearest comrade. — Saying goodbye was never easy, but she couldn’t put it off any longer. If she was going to do it, she had to do it now or she’d never get the chance again. The Jedi had ordered the Kaleesh to be ready to board the shuttles in one standard hour. Bilga didn’t know exactly how long a standard hour was, but the way time seemed to be moving, it could’ve been a year and still felt like a minute. Bilga swallowed the lump in her throat, gripping the strap of her trusty slugthrower rifle for support as she steeled herself to approach her comrade, who was sitting next to a rock beside his tethered steed, polishing one of his swords, his bone mask pushed up over his forehead, his dark brown mop spilling from its teeth. Even though they were several feet away from each other, he seemed to notice her gazing at him and looked up. He cracked a smile. “Ushtuku!” Bilga walked over, heart pounding as he grinned at her. “Hey, Mesh.” “You walk over here to tell me another secret?” He flashed his immaculate pointy teeth. Bilga flushed deep. “N— No. No more secrets.” Mesh chuckled and shook his head. “Good. I’m terrible at keeping them anyway.” “It’s not your fault,” Bilga smiled shyly, scratching the thick dark locks tied at the back of her head. “You didn’t break my mask.” Mesh smirked and leaned back against the rock, setting his Lig sword in his lap. “Bilga…” He sighed the name wonderingly. “I like it better than PePe. Was that really the best you could come up with?” “I’ll have you know, Mesh jai Dagreem, that Penzuur is a perfectly respectable male name in the Ausez Steppes,” Bilga retorted, raising an eyebrow. “You are so full of tokin droppings, Ushtuku,” Mesh laughed. “No grown man in his right mind would ever answer to PePe. That’s exactly how I knew.” Bilga rolled her eyes. Mesh had, in fact, nearly shrieked with shock when he had undressed her to treat her battle wounds. She’d almost had to strangle him into silence before he calmed down and agreed to protect her from the Khan. She sighed. “Thank you. For keeping my secret, as long as you could. And… for being a good friend.” “You’re a good soldier, Ushtuku,” Mesh replied. “You fight just as well as any man here and better than half of them.” “Including you,” Bilga quipped wryly. Mesh nodded wryly. “Sure. Even me.” Mesh rose with a grunt, sheathing his Lig sword. His shoulders sagged with exhaustion as the weight of the hard-won war set in. He rested a hand against the flank of his mount. For a while, they just stood, silently waiting for the other one to pick up the conversation again. Mesh’s steed glanced at both of them and chuffed, flicking its tail with boredom. Mesh traced the dirt with his middle toe. “So… You stop by the roggwart cages yet?” “I’ve gotten as close to a roggwart as I ever want to be,” Bilga shuddered. “Fair enough,” Mesh coughed. They stood in silence for a little while longer. “Your dad’s probably going to kill you for breaking his mask,” said Mesh. Bilga swallowed, but not because of the fear of her father. “Probably.” Mesh looked as though he had something to say. Bilga waited, half-hoping that maybe she wouldn’t get the chance to say what she wanted to tell him. The odor of their mingling scents hanging in the air grew thicker with each passing moment of silence. “I guess this is goodbye,” Mesh mumbled to the ground. “Looks like it,” Bilga murmured. Mesh extended his hand in a warrior’s salute. Bilga grasped his arm and shook it firmly. Their claws lingered on each other’s wrists. As their grips parted, Bilga felt a twinge in her chest. “Hey, Mesh…” “Yeah, Ushtuku?” Mesh’s eyes flicked up. “I…” Her voice caught in her throat as she looked into his eyes. What was the point? He didn’t need to know. Better to leave those memories of camaraderie uncolored by a last-minute revelation. “…I’m going to miss you.” Mesh nodded. “I’m going to miss you too, Ushtuku. Hope your village throws you a party when you get back.” Bilga nodded, swallowing. The Jedi’s loud tower announced in broken Kaleesh that the shuttles would be departing from Guiteica in thirty minutes. Mesh pulled his mask over his face, nodded to her, and uprooted the stake where his mount was tied. With one last backward glance, he took the reins of his steed and began leading it to the ships. As Bilga watched him go, her heart screamed in her chest. She couldn’t follow him, no matter how much she wanted to. She had a family to return to, spoils to bring to her village. She couldn’t abandon them after all she had sacrificed for them. As Bilga turned and walked toward the shuttle, she heard a voice directly behind her. “Bilga.” Bilga nearly jumped and whirled around to see Mesh. Before she could say anything, he gripped her temples in his hands and pressed his unmasked forehead against hers. Bilga’s shocked eyes fluttered under the dizzying scent of his musk. His claws brushed her ears as she stood, heart pounding. His breath blew warm in her nostrils. “I’ll come visit you.” A blissful smile spread across her face. “I’d like that.” Spoiler: Notes The Kaleesh-Bitthævrian war was a proxy war fought between the Republic and the Bitthævrians. The Republic convinced the Kaleesh the Bitthævrians were a threat, sending Jedi to train the Kaleesh to use Czerka Outland slugthrower rifles and other relatively modern technology to fight their enemies. The names used here (as well as the story's title) are taken from Sumerian. Most notably, Bilga and Mesh form the name Bilgameš, which is the original spelling of Gilgamesh, the name of the legendary hero, and it means "the ancestor is a hero." The line of Bilga lil Ushtuku and Mesh jai Dagreem eventually produce one legendary descendant. Bilga's alias, PePe, is a reference to PePe Rossh, a ridiculously-named Kaleesh spacer from James Luceno's Plagueis novel.