Emerald Legion, Chapter eleven

“Way of the Warrior.” – being primarily a treatise on Kathooni ways




Rokk had spent the better part of the afternoon learning how to get Lydda’s hair just right, piling the many kilos of night-black hair into a towering mass that could likely repel blaster-fire.


“So, you’ve never considered doing a sort of page-boy thing?” Rokk mumbled around the mouthful of silver pins he was storing in his mouth while his hands worked frantically to stave off a structural failure to the port-side that threatened to set him back to square one,  “Crew-cuts are *very* military, and, and, very liberating!  I think you’d look very professional, very warrior-y, with a high-and-tight…”


Lydda just smiled, enjoying the touch of her lover’s hands as he worked, “A warrior does not cut her hair.  It invites possession by evil spirits, silly man.”


“Oh, yeah, that,” Rokk added, eye twitching involuntarily, “What *was* I thinking…”


Patiently, Lydda lifted a hand to ward off disaster.  “Twist,” she demonstrated, torqueing the queue with such tension that Rokk thought she was going to rip her scalp clean off, “Fold,” she curled the thick braid to that it settled around on itself, “Hold,” she secured it in place with a single finger, “Pin.”  She waited for him to produce a silver pin and lock the final piece of the intricate arrangement into place.


Whoah.” Rokk stepped back.  “I think it’s gonna hold this time,” he said in a weak but hopeful tone, having said this the three previous times he’d *thought* he’d gotten it right.


Lydda gracefully rose from her seat and leaned slowly back, so that her towering coiffure was a horizontal bar of black, and yet it held.  Rokk’s lip quivered.  If it collapsed this time, he was going to be the one sitting down in the middle of the floor and crying…


Lydda’s body suddenly twisted and she flipped effortlessly across the room in an acrobatic display that had less to do with agility and more to do with raw power.  Rokk winced as he realized that he would have torn every muscle in his body if his body every twisted like that, but as she landed, he noticed that, most importantly, her hair remained intact.


She crossed the room and took Rokk’s hands in her own larger, calloused ones.  “My outworlder Thall.  The males of my world train for years braiding each others hair, so that one day they will be able to please their mates.  I treasure your soft, clever hands.”


Rokk idly wondered what the Kathooni word for ‘emasculate’ was, but found himself distracted by the energetic kissing that then followed.


“And now, I shall show you how to decorate my skin.” Lydda said brightly, mistaking Rokk’s groan of frustration for enthusiasm.




Champion Krinn, came the Queen’s voice through his Ring.  Ambassador Marin commands your attendance.  You will follow her directions, without fail, and with that, the communication ended.


“Crap.” Rokk said and Lydda, who was busy explaining to him that all of her cosmetics must be laced with silver, and no other metal, to avoid offense to Clan, looked up concerned.


“Your Queen commands your attentions?”


“Yeah, how did you know?”


“The ring on your hand shone with green fire, and your eyes became distant.  You were hearing a witch-voice in your mind.  I know the signs.” Lydda explained.


“I’m not done with your makeup, ‘though…” Rokk said, not sure if Kathooni tradition had any protocol for males with jobs…


“Nonsense.  Allegiance to Clan always comes first.  Venegar is your Clan.  Attend to Clan.  I will return to my own duties, and you will come to *my* quarters when your own duties are done.”


“I’m not sure if that is the best idea…” Rokk started before Lydda placed a hand on his chest.


“But.  You will *not* leave my sight wearing *that.*” she pointed at his Champion’s Garb.


“What do you… Rokk began as Lydda snatched the half-empty container of spray-paint from the shelf and walked towards him, shaking the can purposefully.


“It’s an aerated dye-mixture, you don’t need to shake it…” Rokk said, lifting his arms and resigning himself to whatever sort of mark she was going to make upon him.  He’d already spent three years of his life sporting Blacksteel Cartel corporate branding on his stomach, so it wasn’t like he wasn’t used to being a walking billboard.  She carefully sprayed the lighter colored panel of forest green covering his stomach and crotch, so that it matched the darker panels on his shoulders, sides and outer limbs, and then spun him around and did the same to his backside.  The forest green panels on his inner forearms and thighs apparently got to remain.


“Now all will see that your manhood is claimed by another.”


“Great.” Rokk thought sourly.  ‘And if it soaks through and dyes my skin, it should only be a month or so before it wears off…’




Lydda had ripped down the paint-darkened curtain that served as Rokk’s ‘door,’ and had flung it over herself to block the sun’s rays as she dashed to the vehicle that Rokk had summoned.  He closed the door behind her and got in beside her, surprised to note that even this brief exposure had left her exposed hands warm to the touch, as if her body had somehow absorbed the light striking her body.


Quadplex central six.  And can you make sure we come in from the east side?” Rokk requested and the cab-bot blinked its ascent as the vehicle smoothly pivoted in place and leapt into the traffic lanes.


“I am concerned that the Ambassador wishes to speak with you.  What if she disapproves of our mating agreement?  I am her vassal, she could dissolve the contract…” Lydda fretted, while Rokk attempted to allay her fears.


“I’m sure it’s nothing, hon.  Maybe she just wants to meet me, or give me her blessing?” even *he* couldn’t believe that, unless ‘her blessing’ involved jumping through hoops of burning plasma or defeating a clawed tusk-horn with a pointed stick.  His limited understanding of Karthooni culture suggested that, ‘challenge-to-the-death to prove worthiness’ was more up these people’s alley than, ‘welcome to the family, sit down and pretend that you’re interested in my father’s boring stories!’


Arriving at their destination, Rokk made sure that Lydda was under her impromptu sun-shade and then opened the door and they dashed into the building, protected by the afternoon shade.


Moving down the hall, Lydda made a noise of disapproval as they reached the Kathooni delegate’s quarters, and moved to the other side of the hall and stuck her blade into the light-fixture.  It sputtered and died.  “Our enemies seek to restrict our movements,” she explained matter-of-factly, and Rokk smiled as he felt an EM signal go out to the building’s repair droid.


“Those bastards.  That’ll show them.” Rokk said agreeably as the portal cycled open and they stepped into darkness.


Jath!  You yet live!”


“I told you that she would drag the male back for punishment,” another voice smugly affirmed.


“And you thought the outworlder sun would be the death of her.  I will have my crystal now,” another said in the back of the room.


Rokk could feel the presence of armored figures moving in the darkness, and after learning about cosmetics from Lydda, could feel the iron-laced facial-markings of a Sangti, and the traces of gold decorating the nails of the Auri.  He didn’t know their names, but he could feel their Clans, based on the elements they used as decoration.


“Your hair is acceptable.  Surely the male did not…”


Lydda’s voice cut through the chatter.  “He is an outworlder.  Outworlder males have clever hands.”  Lydda punctuated her statement by taking Rokk’s hand in her own and leading him through the darkened room to another chamber, and as the portal closed, leaving the other warriors behind him, Lydda whispered.  “The Ambassador holds our fate in her hands.  Do not babble.”


Rokk became aware of the Ambassador, or, at least, of a figure draped in copper ornaments, but wearing no steel armor.  ‘Clan Cupri,’ he remembered from his crash course. 


Jath.  You will rest.” a surprisingly feminine voice declared.


Rokk felt Lydda stiffen, and her hand left his and he felt them cross across her chest as she knelt on the floor.


“Ly…  Jath?” he whispered, touching her shoulder, but got no response.


“She but sleeps.  My words are for you alone, outworlder.” the voice stated flatly, and he could hear the jingling of copper trinkets as the figure adjusted herself in her seat.


“You are outworlder, and Jath has made a hasty decision, as is typical for a warrior.”  Rokk was attempting to come up with a retort to that, but the voice continued on, “I have no doubt that there have already been many miscommunications between the pair of you, because of her rash choice, and I will give you the choice now to walk away from this thing with no shame upon your Clan.  I will inform Jath that I forbade this thing on grounds of tradition, and she will grow angry with me, but accept my authority.  You will not speak to her again.”


“No wait a minute, you can’t do this…” Rokk said, bristling at the thought of being ordered away.


“I most certainly can.  I see that I must educate you.  Firstly, I am mortal, like you, and at times, I must draw breath to continue speaking.  You are not to mistake these pauses in my words as an invitation for you to fill the air with your own chatter.  I am a Seer.  I bear the knowledge and wisdom of my people, and have no need to hear whatever thoughts burn behind your devil-eyes.”


As Rokk bit his tongue and did not interrupt her again, she continued, “Since we were children, Jath has been a warrior in spirit, if not in truth.  One time, a building caught fire, and while true Warriors stood paralyzed with fright at the sight of the blinding fires, Jath rushed in and pulled another child out of the flames.  When the Clans were forced to rally forces against the Great Beast, Jath was the one who insisted on playing the role of bait, to lure it into our blades, and hers was the first to draw blood.  Ever she has seen the thing she fears, and rushed towards it instead of away.  Were she a Seer, she would be deemed a fool.  Were she Commonfolk, she would be called mad.  But she is a Warrior, and so her nature is called bravery, and it is her gift to us all.  And so it came as no surprise when she came of Age, and walked into the caves to seek out the gods’ challenge.  Less than one in a hundred women of Kathoon choose to enter the caves, and of those, only one in four pass the challenges, and return with sanity, health or life intact.  Upon passing the challenges set down by our ancestors, we are offered a choosing.  A few choose to seek the wisdom of the past, and become Seers, as did I.  The greater portion recognize, as Jath did, that their nature is that of the Warrior, and so the ancestors forge a pact with them, and lend the strength of a thousand Warriors past to their limbs.”


Rokk felt his eyebrows raise.  He’d known that Lydda was strong, stronger than anyone he’d met, but this sounded impossible!


“And now, it should come as no surprise to me that she took one look at the death shining from your face and has, once again, rushed towards her fears, blades flashing.”


“I don’t think it’s just that…” Rokk began, only to be cut off quickly.


“I can not state with enough force how little I care for your thoughts.  The wisdom of a hundred lifetimes whispers within my soul, and you are but an outworlder child.  I see past the horror of your eyes, to that which burns within you.  I see that you are unsure of your place in the world, are unsure of your feelings for Jath and that you protest me out of stubborn pride.  You have not felt the sting of love in your breast, and your alien body burns with forces that have burned away much of what made you mortal.  I can see you as you are, Rokk Krinn, Champion of Venegar.  You are no more Braalian than I, and as your flesh fails, your will grows stronger.  You are of flesh, but also of energy, and I see you as a hint of the future of us all, a thousand, thousand years hence, when the many children of Earth fly the stars on wings of spirit, and the way of flesh has long since fled the universe.”


Rokk shook his head at her words, a soundless denial frozen on his lips.


“Do not deny my words, child.  You do not know me.  You do not even know yourself.  How can you know Jath?  She is a Warrior.  A thousand passions burn in her blood, and she has devoted her life to containing these feelings, to tap their ancient strength in defense of her people.  It is a lonely life, the Warrior’s way, and for many generations, Clans found themselves looking the other way when the mates of Warriors were found maimed or slain by the terrible rages that burn in a Warrior soul.  They hauled their broken bodies away, and selected new mates, rationalizing it as a necessary sacrifice to have the power of a Warrior standing at their side, all too unwilling to recognize the terrible cost taken by the Warriors themselves, ever to see the things they love destroyed at their own hands.”


“Are you still so sure that you would know Jath?  Will you love her, even as she rages?  Will your magnetic sorcery serve to defend you from her blows?  Has she chosen more wisely than even I can foresee?”


Rokk had focused his awareness on Lydda, still crouched and motionless, like a statue, as he considered the Ambassadors words.  For the first time ever, Lydda seemed small and fragile, all folded up and awaiting a fate that she could not contest.


He made his decision and stepped up to Ambassador Marin, stopping only when he could see the reflection of his eyes in the copper triangles descending from her ears, feeling a thrill as he heard her hiss and pull back from his approach.  “I’m Rokk Krinn, and I *never* lose.  I will never give up on Jath.  And *nothing* will stop me from being with her as long as *she* wants to be with me.”


He felt the Ambassadors many-ringed hand on his chest, but her touch was light as she pushed him back down a step.


“A Warrior choosing another Warrior.  It is without precedent.” her voice softened.  “I will not forbid it.”  Rokk could feel her adjust again in her seat, regaining her composure as he stepped back.  Jath.  Arise, but remain silent.”


Lydda got to her feet smoothly and moved to stand beside Rokk, and he reached out in the darkness to take hold of her hand, which was clenching and unclenching nervously.  He massaged the back of her hand, attempting to convey silent reassurance.  He felt the circuits of a datapad hum into life in the Ambassador’s hand, and, in a business-like tone, she said, “Venegar.”  A few moments later he heard Queen Sarya’s voice, Ambassador Marin.  Always a pleasure.”


“As well.  I seek to purchase quarters in your Embassy.  As you know, Kathoon has no Embassy as of yet, and it is displeasingly crowded in these quarters.”


The Queen’s voice sounded amused, I have a room in mind.  For payment, I would ask for service of one of those delightful Warriors that serve you.  I find them most impressive.  The one named Jath, perhaps?”


Rokk felt the world spinning around him as he realized that the Queen had yet again outmaneuvered him.


“This is agreeable.” Marin acceded.  “If Jath were to reside in the quarters you have selected, it would leave more room for my business here.  It is an auspicious arrangement.  I will order it so.  Good hunting, Venegar.” and the communication ended.


Rokk could feel Lydda’s hand tighten uncomfortably as she absorbed the implications of this exchange.


Jath.  You are now on detached assignment.  Until I say otherwise, you will follow the commands of Sarya of Venegar as if they were my own.  Do not bring shame to our people, or to your Clan, by giving her reason to regret her choice.  I have also secured quarters for you…,” and she paused and he heard copper trinkets jingle as she set down her datapad.  “And your mate.”


“Ready your things, the detachment begins immediately.  Dismissed.”


Rokk was still blinking at the suddenness of the exchange, and the Ambassador impatiently repeated.  “Dismissed!  That means you leave now.”


Lydda all-but dragged him to the doorway.  The Ambassador’s voice came again, sounding amused this time, “Jath.  Outworlder or no, remember that he is only male.  They are as children.  Do not grow frustrated if you have to tell him everything twice.”


Rokk’s jaw worked soundlessly, but the door opened and Lydda pulled him out of the room before he could come up with an appropriately scathing response.  After the doors closed she squealed and leapt up into his arms, bringing them both crashing to the floor.


Ow.” Rokk protested, but again was distracted by the enthusiastic kissing, until he felt the presence of other armored figures pressing around to watch and heard the exchange of crystals as they wagered on how long he would remain conscious this time…




Lydda tore through the chambers, wrapping up blades and armor and skin-suits and other strange items into a large square of cloth.  Rokk had taken to waiting outside, as many of the things she was gathering contained no metal, and so were effectively invisible to him.  He could feel the presence of an iron-clad Sangti hovering near him, but she seemed content simply to stand there, arms-crossed, radiating contempt.


Jath has chosen poorly.  You are small and weak.”


Another voice came from behind the sullen Warrior, and Rokk recognized the resonance of gold.  “He is larger and stronger than the males of homeworld, Kand.  You are just angry that Jath will not be here to arrange your hair.”


He could feel this ‘Kand,’ reaching for a blade, resting her arm on the sheath, and noticed that the gold-adorned Auri had done likewise.  He backed away slightly, not wanting to get in the middle of a duel.


“See, he cringes from the threat of steel.  Ha!  He is no sorcerer.  A male cannot be a Warrior, he offends us all by wearing metal above his station,” He could smell Kand’s breath as she advanced upon him and his eyes closed to slits as he sent a pulse of energy into Kand’s knife.


“Draw steel and find out, Sangti.”  Rokk knew enough to know that referring to Kand by the name of her Clan was an insult, and sure enough he felt her strain to pull her blade.  His eyes shone more brightly as he redoubled his magnetic pull on her blade, trying to hold it in the sheath against the monstrous force she was exerting.  With an audible snap, the handle of the knife broke off, and Kand was left holding a chunk of ivory, the metal of her blade still securely within its’ sheath.


“Ha!” said the Auri, and then commented to the entire room tauntingly, “Kand has forgotten how to use a blade!”


Her hand shot forward in a blur, and Rokk thought she was going to pull his head directly from his body as she flung the knife-handle away with her other hand.  He shot every ounce of magnetic force forward, using her armor to throw her away from him, while stabilizing himself with his Champion’s Ring.  She flew across the room like a missile and clanged loudly against the wall, and yet he could feel her staggering unsteadily to her feet, growling incoherently.


Lydda came dashing into the room from behind Rokk, a blade in each hand, just as the portal to the Ambassador’s quarters whirred open.


“Cease!” came the Ambassador’s delicate voice and every Warrior kneeled in place.  “Witness.” The Ambassador said sharply and each of Warrior women got to their feet.  The hands of the other four Warriors in the room raised and pointed towards Kand.  Kand.  Do you wish me to release you from service, so that you pursue blood-vengeance?”


Kand’s voice was made of strangled fury, “No Seer.  I serve only you.”


“Then this is done,” and the Ambassador closed the portal with a clang.


Rokk couldn’t help but notice that the other four Warriors pointedly stood between Kand and them as they left, and was grateful for their silent support.


As the heavy door cycled open, the Warriors hissed and drew back as the light-fixture directly across the hall having already been repaired by building maintenance.  Rokk stepped across and smashed it with his fist, satisfied when it sparked once and died.  A localized EMpulse disabled the signaling device, so that the maintenance droid wouldn’t become aware of the damage for some time.  As the doorway cycled shut he could hear the Auri and Ungste Warriors voices loudly proclaiming from the darkened room


“Well struck, Champion!”


“A righteous blow against our enemies!”




Sarya made a show of welcoming Jath to her service, presenting her with a dark-green bodysuit to replace her previous black suit, and a set of jade-green tinted lenses that wrapped over her eyes, and replaced the paint-marked aviator’s goggles.  Jath handed the goggles back to Garth, who accepted them with a passing attempt at good grace and then Sarya showed them to Jath’s quarters, which were half-again the size of Rokk’s room.  Rokk was not surprised to note that his own belongings had been placed within Jath’s quarters while they were away, and shrugged his shoulders at the inevitability of it all.


“You honor me with these quarters, Highness.” Jath said, bowing her head to Sarya, who neatly sidestepped to avoid being struck in the face by the half-meter-high arrangement of hair.


“Ambassador Marin explained to me your requirements.  I would not want to make you appear incapable of providing appropriate shelter for your mate, the Queen said, with a raised eyebrow towards Rokk before making her exit.


Lydda had finished examining the fixtures, and finally noticed the hammock, lying amidst Rokk’s possession.  “I will get no rest tied up in that thing.  We will sleep on cushions.”


Rokk examined the room and produced a pad, quickly sketching out his ideas.  “We can compromise.  You like to sleep on something soft, I like to sleep up above the ground.”  He handed her the pad, showing a loft built into one corner and Jath scowled.


“Your ways are madness.  There is no room for games of love.” She quickly pointed at the image of the loft.  “You will lie here.  I will be here,” ‘on top, obviously,’ Rokk thought, “I will arc my back like this,” she demonstrated, thrusting her armor-plated breasts into his face, “and I will strike my head on the ceiling.”  She flung the pad back into the pile of possessions yet to be sorted.  “We will sleep on many soft cushions,” she pointed into the corner, “there.  Flung onto the floor, we shall nestle into them like puppies against their mothers’ warm belly.”  That settled, Lydda turned and began arranging her weapons on the wall.


‘Home, sweet home,’ Rokk thought with a grin, moving to begin unpacking.




“So ‘Jath’ is the name her Clan gave her, and ‘Genti’ is the name of her Clan itself?” Garth clarified, as he checked out Rokk’s new quarters.


“Yeah.  She has another name, but it’s a personal thing, and only family are supposed to know it, so if I sprock up and call her something else, just pretend you didn’t hear it, ‘cause I have no idea how she’ll react if she thinks I’ve told other people…” Rokk said, voice lowered, as if she might come around the corner at any moment.


“Check.  No using the pet name.” Garth said, checking out the hammock in the discard box.  “No more swinging from the rafters, I see.”


Rokk pointed at the enormous pile of pillows taking up the corner of the room.  “’Where we shall nestle like puppies against the belly of their mother,’” he air-quoted.


“Looks cozy.”  Eyeing the arrangement critically.  “No blankets?”


“No, you just pull pillows over yourself until all anyone can see is a pile of pillows with two heads sticking out.”


“Sounds like you’ve got it all worked out.” Garth said with a grin.


Rokk sat down on a cushion and put his head in his hands.  “I have no sprocking idea what I’m doing.” Garth frowned at the sudden change.  “I’m eighteen years old, light-years from the only life and home I’ve ever known, and *married* to someone I’m not sure I’ll ever understand!  What the hell was I thinking?!”


Rokk…” Garth began, only to trail off as Rokk kept talking, looking despondently at the floor.


“All my life, it’s been me, me, me.  Focus, training, discipline, always moving ahead like a dune-shark, never looking back.  Every tryout, every match, I saw hundreds of people desperately trying to be like me, to reach what I had, and I stepped over every single one of them without once thinking of them as people.  And then life on Braal gets less fun, and I’m moving on again, my family, my career, my trainers, the corporation, all left behind to pick up the pieces, yet more wreckage in the wake of my *selfish* life.” Rokk’s fist slammed into the wall behind him in frustration.


“What if I do it again?” Rokk looked up, eyes imploring, “What if I sprock this up and run away again, and Jath becomes just another broken thing I’ve left behind?”


“Awesome.” Garth said, looking down at his friend as he folded his arms and leaned back against the wall.




“All these times you’ve had to pull my head out of my ass, and I finally get to return the favor.”


“I’m so sprocking happy that my total nervous breakdown is amusing you…” Rokk said bitterly, hauling himself to his feet and heading for the door.


Garth jerked forward and grabbed ahold of Rokk’s shoulder, and there was a moment when it looked like Rokk was going to hit him, but the moment passed.  “*If* you were half the self-centered jerk you’ve just described, you would never have said any of that.  You wouldn’t care if Jath got hurt, you wouldn’t be worrying about sprocking things up.”  Garth turned him around, so that they were face to face, but Rokk was looking down now, unwilling to face his friend.  “Yeah, you’ve made a choice I don’t think I’ll *ever* understand, but you’ve never backed down in your life.  You didn’t ‘give up’ on Braal, you moved on because it didn’t have anything left for you.  What, were you going to become a miner?  Maybe live off of sponsorship residuals for the rest of your life, a washed-up has-been former sports-star, wallowing in disgrace?  I don’t think so.  You’re right Rokk, you’re only eighteen years old, but your life is nowhere near over.  It’s just beginning, and it wasn’t going to be on Braal.”


“You said it wasn’t my fault, the choices that Ayla made, the choices that Mekt made.  You were right.  And it isn’t your fault that all those people you beat *weren’t good enough.*  Do you really think that creep who drugged you would have felt guilty if he kicked your ass in the championships?  Do you think he’s got a list somewhere of all the people he stepped over to get to that championship match?”


Rokk nodded in the negative when it became clear that Garth was waiting for an answer.


“You said that I was smarter than you…” Garth began, but was cut off as Rokk raised a hand in protest, “Oh no, I categorically deny saying anything of the sort.”


“Yeah, well, maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t, but I hear your story about running away and leaving wreckage in your wake, and I think of this other guy who ran away from his home-world, and left behind a promising career and a loving, if somewhat messed-up, family.  Maybe you’re not the only one who looks back and sees things he’d wish he’d done differently, but unless you’ve got a time-travel machine, we’ve got to move forward, and try not to repeat the mistakes of the past.” Garth could see that Rokk was more relaxed now, and grinned as he pointed at the regen-pack leaning against the shelf, “And what the sprock are you thinking, letting a woman who can tear steel with her bare hands touch your body?  Are you nuts?  I thought I was insane, dating a telepath, but you had to be all competitive and do something even crazier…”


Rokk laughed, tension evaporating out of him visibly, “Yeah, there’s a whole ‘woman of steel, man of tissue paper’ thing going on, but we’re working on it.”


“More information than I need, thanks…” Garth said, stepping back towards the doorway.  “I’ve gotta meet said telepath for lunch, wanna join us?”


“Nah, Jath should be back any time now, and I should be here.”


“You’re crazy, man.  If psycho-woman tears off anything important, I’m gonna be there saying, ‘I told you so.’”


“Yeah, well, your girlfriend can tear apart your *brain,* so don’t be late.”


Garth’s shot Rokk a dubious expression, “I really hadn’t thought of it that way…” and turned around to see Jath standing in the doorway.


“Uh, hi.” Garth said lamely, moving to one side and then the other, but unable to exit while Jath was blocking the doorway.  “Nice to see you.”


Lydda walked past him into the room.  “No it isn’t.  You do not like me.  I do not like you.  Do me the kindness of being honest, and I will respect your honesty.” She said curtly to Garth, before pointing to the door.  “Now go dine with your mate, and whisper of I am a rude barbarian.  I will dine with my mate, and we shall speak of you not at all.”


Wincing at this blunt, and unfortunately accurate, description of the last few days, Garth beat a hasty retreat.


“He really doesn’t mean anything by it, hon,” Rokk began, but Lydda cut him off.  “Yes he does.  And it does not concern me.  He is your friend, and it seems that he is a good friend, to you.  That is acceptable.  There is a saying among my people.  ‘The louder the family protests, the stronger the pairing.’  My kin do not approve of you, and the family you have chosen for yourself does not approve of me.  It is fitting.”


Satisfied that the discussion was over, Lydda produced a bag full of cheesy crab-puffs.  “The hunt was successful, although the vendor was unable to adequately describe what sort of beast has such a crunchy, yet delicate, hide and such flavorful innards.”

Rokk smiled and sat down with his wife, to explain the wonders of puff-pastry.