Two hulking males blocked Saria's access to the Kiburi. She had been summoned to the council chambers on this dry, dusty morning, scant days into the arid season- only to find the gates guarded, an unheralded situation, as the Kiburi was (ostensibly, she thought) always open to all. Today, however, there seemed no one about- especially not females, who would normally be prevalent in the village square at this hour of the day.
The lioness stood regally, firm in her resolve despite the circumstances which had led to this day. "I Will be allowed to enter."
The guards did not move. Each easily had a hundred pounds on her; each was a seasoned fighter.
And she was a pariah. Yet both wore an expression which clearly stated: we'd rather be anywhere else, than facing you.
Saria smiled, said smile becoming ever more toothy as the two began to shift uncomfortably-
Her faced turned stony as she turned to face the approaching Council chieftain, Makso, who was followed closely by the lesser council members, their retinue- and her brother.
Cold anger burned in her as she met her brother's eyes, his gaze unflinching despite his betrayal of her. The huge male- heavily scarred in face and body- now appeared to have a place at Makso's right hand. Of course he would stand with the Council!
Her gaze turned upon Makso. "You commanded my appearance here, yet I am barred from entry? How am I to plead my case before the comm-"
"Plead your case," Makso spat. "You sound like Ibso. You'll find he won't be speaking on your behalf either, today."
Ibso was a leading thinker among the Llew'n who had chosen to live in this out-of-the-way village, set as it was between the Savannah, and the very edge of the civilized world. He and a handful of others had, in recent years, led the way towards an enlightenment, a lifting out of the tribal ways which the Llew'n had practiced since time immemorial.
He had long advocated an end to the Uwanja- the ritual arena, where the males of the Llew'n decided all facets of life and culture. The Kiburi, or council, had been one of the earliest foundations in his attempt to put an end to the ancient customs, bring equality to females-
Makso owned the council members in the Kiburi. He very much believed in the Uwanja- And Saria had come perilously close to overturning the entire male-dominated village, in seeking to implement Ibso's ideas.
Makso cut her off as she made to speak, the big male towering over her- or trying to from a slight distance. "No more! I'll hear no more of your nonsense. You lost your right to speak when you lost in the Uwanja."
Saria's head dropped slightly as she tried not to snarl, hands closing into fists as she stared at him, the old ways silencing her despite her desire to speak out. The Uwanja still held some sway, even over her mind-
Her brother's eyes never wavered from her. He had returned after being missing for over a decade, his appearance vastly altered, having lived long in a place where the Uwanja was still fought with tooth and claw.
He had shown up just as her efforts to uplift the village's females to greater freedom had begun to make serious inroads. Saria had been challenged by several males who saw the threat to their dominance- and she had proven herself a far more capable fighter than any of them, preying on their arrogance and ignorance, both physical and mental.
And then this scarred, downtrodden, seemingly meek male, had appeared. It had made no sense to her at all, when, after a few weeks, he had challenged her- and proved to be her match, in dramatic confrontation in the Uwanja.
She'd lost, and in a most humiliating fashion. It was only when the scarred male himself offered to help her to her feet- that in itself an insult- that she'd come to realize he was not only her brother, but a ringer, chosen by Makso to take her down.
Of course he could beat her! Canno had grown up with her; they had always had a sibling rivalry going, Canno seeing her potential, and pushing her to attain it, even though some part of him still stood against it.
He had known how she fought, for she had fought him to many standstills in their youth, often using moves which would be considered extremely demeaning to her male superiors-
"Saria. Are you even paying attention?"
Her attention jerked back to Makso, the lion's expression one of undisguised contempt. "We summoned you here, yes. Not to speak, but to hear our Judgement." He was relishing the moment. "Saria, you are Banished from the Llew'n, entirely."
Eyes wide as saucers, Saria tried to speak, protest her situation. Exile, without so much as a chance to defend herself!
But after her humiliation in the Uwanja, it seemed as though the old ways had retaken hold of her. She fell silent, ears laid back, in the face of her superiors- even though she did not believe them to be so.
Makso had had more to say, a great deal more, the lioness closing her eyes, bearing it silently, though each phrase felt like the blow of a whip.
When she looked up again, Canno was nowhere to be seen.
The village's watch-guards herded her to the edge of the Savannah less than an hour later; Makso and the council followed at a short distance. Cowards.
Saria had not even been allowed to retrieve any of her belongings. Such were meager, but she understood: it was a further sign to all the other females.
Any and all losses they would now suffer, were on her shoulders.
The constant low rumble emanating from the lioness had even the toughest males surrounding her falling further and further back as they walked out into the fringe of the Savannah. She'd ruined half a dozen males in the Uwanja; they were not about to take any more risk than they had to.
The village was out of sight before they stopped, Makso stepping out some yards ahead of her, the spear he carried sporting a brightly colored swatch of material. "This, is your warning," he said, driving one spear deep into the ground. "Approach any closer than this, and we will kill you."
Her eyes were locked upon him. "You mean your guards will try."
There was a brief instant of fear in the male's eyes; then, Makso turned away from her, looked out over the Savannah, refusing to acknowledge her words. That only verified he was a coward. "Do not return, Saria."
The lioness shook herself, stood tall. Took one quick glance back over her shoulder: those behind her fell back a step, quite understanding the look she gave them.
She strode forward, passing within a few steps of Makso, smelling his fear though he held his ground.
Stopped for an instant, looking askance at him. "You are old, Makso. Your ways are old. You will see me again... and it will be the last time the world sees you. And your ways."
With such words- not deigning to see the expression on Makso's face- Saria stalked into the Savannah, stopping only for a moment, one hand brushing the cloth-bound spear.
Two years pass...
Saria had been stalking the rogue Tiku buck for weeks, carefully herding it, using it's own obstinate nature against it to keep it separated from the herd.
It was two full months into the arid season, many of the ungulates were looking a bit thin; Vegetation had almost died off for the season, and the herds were gathering to begin migration.
Saria had been grooming the rogue, seeing to it that this one had stayed in a sheltered region, where there was still a bit better grazing and water supply. She had learned a great deal about animal husbandry, having to build her life from scratch- Ibso would be proud to hear the new ideas she'd had, learned the hard way in exile.
Such thoughts were far from her mind at the moment, as the tawny lioness slunk through the tall, dry grasses, trailing the rogue buck by several score paces. It had taken a great deal of time to get the animal used to her being nearby, slowly closing the gap. Sometimes, it almost seemed to her as though the animal were not even aware of her existence.
Her stomach rumbled. She was growing hungry; was not about to break into the carefully hidden stores about her camp. Time for this buck to become jerky-
Saria's ears twitched, the lioness' head turning ever so slightly. Something else was moving close by.
Saria froze as a shift in the light wind brought her a totally alien, yet oddly familiar scent. Puzzling for long moments as she listened to its' own, careful moments... Aduu? Elements of the scent were very much like the Aduu. Could it be a member of one of the horse tribes to the south?
This wasn't making sense. A horse, stalking prey?
She sank flat to the ground, worming her way through the tall grass. Her sensitive ears told her it had entered a small, open area, not more than twenty paces ahead.
Saria lifted herself, mouth slightly open, panting in the late morning heat, prepared to move fast in any direction-
Stared in astonishment.
The creature crouched on its' haunches ahead of her was like no horse she had ever seen, twice as tall as any of the Aduu, easily as big, if not a bit bigger, than the males of her own kind!
Yet while it was clearly a horse, there were vast differences from the Aduu. This creature went about like her own kind: totally nude. The body was muscular, but not overly so, covered in a short, deep purple fur, which only seemed to accentuate the muscles. Further, the body was oddly striped, the stripes being of a somewhat lighter color, barely discernable. The tail... was unlike those of the Aduu: it appeared to be more like her own tail, though it was bushed out like a horse's. Like her own, it seemed to move constantly. There was an odd tuft to the end of it.
Her eyes followed the tail back up. The horse had a tight rump. In fact, it seemed as though, like herself, it sported little if any body fat.
Her eyes continued to trace those muscular curves-
It's ears swiveled and Saria dropped slightly as the creature turned somewhat towards her-
Kajm's eyes wandered across the landscape, empathics reaching out as he sought the odd echo that had impinged upon them. Something was nearby... yet all he could pick up, where the primitive thoughts and feelings of the buck, currently grazing on remnants of green growth along the edge of the receding pond.
He'd sensed for some time that he was not alone out here, yet repeated passive sweeps had not encountered anything. Almost as if there were a creature able to block psionic abilities. It wasn't the first time this morning: several times, as he had stalked the animal, he'd felt as though he had stepped into psionic dead zones. It was vaguely unnerving.
Yet in the few weeks since he had come to this world, none of the intelligent species he had met, showed any signs of the Powers. It was a fairly primitive world, save for the rising civilization of lions to the north; and after having rejected a score of worlds in his wanderings, Kajm felt this one could be a good candidate to spend some time upon, with his mate, Thunderwing.
But now something was putting a kink in that idea.
Kajm shook himself, his mane rippling across his shoulders. Another thought occurred: that he was looking too much to find something wrong with this world.
He sighed inwardly. They'd been looking for a place to settle for over a year. This world looked good. He needed to stop being paranoid.
But, just in case: Kajm ramped up his empathics a bit, sent out a pulse-
Saria had more details to drink in: The horse's head and face, were unlike those of the Aduu- he was, in fact, quite handsome, even to a lioness.
She noticed sweat running freely. Almost as if the creature was new to this environment, had yet to acclimate. She could not see it so much in his fur, but sweat was running off of his-
Oh! It, was a He. She stared: The horse was quite well endowed, the long, powerful legs framing it all nicely-
Saria's entire body twitched and the lioness dropped flat to the ground, a startled growl escaping her. Something had... seemingly stung her, and she was not impressed! But, neither could she tell where she had been struck.
Raising her head she saw the horse's ears flicker. He seemed to look directly at her for a long moment; then, he swung away from her, dropped to hands and knees, and vanished into the deep grass.
She growled again, anger stirring. He was a mystery she wanted to solve- but at the same time, he appeared to be after her prey! Bad enough that the males of her kind had made a point of hounding her the first year, bringing her to the edge of starvation by interfering with her hunts... until she'd done something about them.
Now, she had to deal with this male.
The Tiku buck was in bliss, surrounded by all the forage it could ever want. Content to be away from the herd, oblivious to danger. Even the sounds of movement close by, did little to affect its' state of mind-
Until a great purple beast reared up out of the deep grasses. Panic exploded in the buck, its' forelegs already shoving it sideways as it made to run. But even as it turned, the beast was before it-
Kajm drove a massive fist down between its' eyes, cracking the skull, the shockwave pulverizing the brain within. Four hundred pounds of meat hit the ground like a sack of wet cement.
Kajm stood astride the body for a long moment, striking fist still raised, his tail lashing of its' own accord. Faintly puzzled: in the instant before he had made his appearance, he had sensed no fear in the animal. No watchful state, no nervousness, as if it were under instinctual disconnect from its' surroundings.
Again he shook himself. Something was decidedly interfering with his psionic abilities; there were dead spots all about him, forming a cancellation pattern in his mind. Ripples in a pond. And the animal he'd just taken down, seemed to be at the center of it. I really do Not need puzzles now.
Just one more day, and Thunderwing would be arriving, Ruhk in tow. Kajm had spent weeks feeding her details of this world, via the soul bond. He had shown her all the various intelligent species, sans the lions to the north, whom he had not yet met. She had seen the sweeping mountain ranges to the east through Kajm's eyes; Thunderwing had already chosen one particular mountain for her Eyrie. And he felt he could keep her from being too much trouble to the native races.
Now, if he could just settle what he'd been feeling all this morning. Kajm looked about, seeing only the tall grasses and the dusty sky. Nothing seemed near. He gathered his thoughts, focused, sent out a massive radar-like empathic pulse.
He sighed and bent to the task at hand: gutting and skinning the buck. The gift of meat upon his mates' arrival would be a fitting welcome to this world.
Kajm raised one hand, considering what he needed. A moment's concentration and the flesh of his hand turned transparent, the bones beginning to shift-
The horse lifted his head, stared at the big cat as she bounded towards him on all fours. Where the bloody Hell did you come fr- "Whoulff!"
Force of impact carried them both a dozen yards before the horse's back hit the ground; kicking his legs upward he somersaulted backwards with the impact, grabbing her about the waist as he came upright, tossing her to one side before he hit the ground again. A sideward shake of one leg changed his arc; the horse bounced once, dropped to his haunches, fist out to the sides, as the lioness slid to a three-point crouch facing him, snarling, tail lashing high in the air.
Kajm took her all in: muscular yet sleek; muscle contours suggesting a fighter. Tawny fur covered her body; he couldn't help but think how soft it looked... the tail was long, looked strong; no visible breasts, but she was very definitely female. As if her scent had not been enough to tell!
And very definitely, Unreadable save in the expression on her face. His ears swiveled towards her. "I take it we are not on good terms?"
The lioness launched to her feet, charged him, a low growl swiftly rising to a snarl- I really need to look deeper into my lunch dates.
The horse rose to his hooves with a fluid motion: a fighter! Saria gave him a fierce smile at the last instant, pulled up short hoping to draw a swing from him; he dropped suddenly, one long, powerful leg sweeping for her knees "Haaa!"
She hopped it easily, dropped in place, falling towards a crouch-
But the horse had used his leg sweep to turn him completely about, and now a fist was rocketing for her face!
Saria squawked, fell back on her hands as the fist passed through space her face had occupied. Lashed out with a kick across his nose, flipped backwards, rising swiftly to her feet-
The force of her kick almost took his head off! Kajm reared back as strained neck muscles healed, launched himself backwards several steps, arms rising in rapid response as she dashed in, launching a flurry of blows-
Pain exploded along his forearms as he blocked each strike, the force of each blow blasting his arms downward, sideways- with a startled snort the horse backpedaled. Good God you are strong!
The speed of her attack was not great; Kajm was able to counter each blow- but the impacts were sending painful shocks right down into his shoulders. How strong was she? It seemed almost Lir strength, more than enough to pulverize him if she got the chance.
Kajm snarled, began to weave and bob; this dance was going to be a bit different! Not that he cared: for whatever reason, she'd started the fight, and he was going to finish it, one way or the other!
Saria continued to force him back, aiming for his head and upper torso, throwing in several kicks for good measure; the horse's speed was beyond anything she'd ever seen, as he seemed to block or dodge everything she threw at him.
He was clearly feeling it when they did connect, that much she could tell. Yet she had the odd sensation that she could feel more from him, when they did connect. Disconcerting, a distraction, but Saria was nothing if not focused.
She noted the carcass of the Tiku buck behind him just as the horse stepped into it, stumbled; Saria swung her hands in and up, intent on throwing him over-
Kajm's hands swung up, clapped into hers, purple fists easily wrapping about her hands. Stumbled back another step, shoved back against her strength as hard as he could, hooves carving the ground as he ground to a halt, his nose almost touching hers as each leaned into the shoving match, the remains of the buck now between them. "Are we really going to fight over a carcass?"
The question actually caused Saria to ease off for a brief instant as she considered their combined stance. She thought about it for a few seconds. Then, with a sinuous wrench of her body, pulled both of them two steps to one side. Met his eyes again, one eyebrow raised, still nose to nose.
"You got the joke. I'm ImpresSHOUFF!"
Stars wheeled for both of them as she head-butted him, the horse snorting blue blood as his head flew back. Blue?
Kajm shoved as hard as he could, let go her hands, turned to his left, right hoof rising for her face. Saria bending backwards as it scythed the air; she leaned in as he turned, sank a fist into his lower back, the horse gasping for air as he staggered forward, off balance. Saria swiftly stepped in behind him, reaching for his shoulder-
The horse backed up suddenly, Saria rebounding as she bodily slammed into him, scent of sweaty horse filling her nostrils-
Breath was blasted out of her as he drove an elbow deep into her gut "Huuunggg!"
Saria's eyes popped wide as she staggered back, bent double, hands to her belly-
Still within reach, the horse swinging the other way, a back-hand left cracking across her face-
Saria knelt in the dust of the Uwanja, coughing, spittle dripping from her open mouth, the blow to her guts all but immobilizing her. The big, scarred male was approaching her again-
Kajm had been coming about to his right, knee rising for a kick- "Wha-?" Stumbled awkwardly out of position as the images struck him; recovered, took up a boxing stance, one hoof well back of the other, fists raised. The lioness appeared to be in a funk. "Saria? Is that your name? Saria?"
Wait. Was he... feeling emotion from her? Confusion, shock, anger?
Kajm reached out with his empathics-
The cat was in his face, lifting into the air with a powerful roundhouse kick across his head, sending him staggering to one side. Saria fell to the ground in a crouch, watching for a moment, enjoying the way his powerful thigh muscles moved-
Kajm shook himself, mane flying back and forth. He could see her watching that, too. In fact, he could feel her interest- Seriously?
His fists came up before his nose. "What's wrong, Saria? Afraid you'll lose again?"
She turned full glare upon him, rising regally to stalk towards him. "You dare-"
Well, considering... The horse waggled his hips. "I always dare."
She gaped as his genitals swung. Then she came in swinging.
Kajm bared his fangs as his head dropped, fists coming up, left hoof sliding outwards. Dropped to his left as a right hook slashed the air; drove an elbow back into her ribs in response. She caught him on the shoulder with her back swing, staggering the horse; he bounced forward, regaining his balance as she whirled, dropped down on her haunches-
The big cat sprang, yowling. Kajm sank down, her claws ripping at his shoulders as she missed; reached up, grabbing her tail close on the rump-
"YeeOuplh!" Saria pancaked before him, sliding on her belly. Came up spitting dust as she whirled upon him, more outraged than hurt-
The world turned around her, 180 degrees, 360, 440, ground once again rising to meet the side of her face that wasn't aching from the powerful fist which had met it. Set her hands as she recovered just as swiftly, lifted-
Hooves slammed down to either side of her hips as Kajm leapt in, doubled fists flattening her again; he gasped as she flipped on her back beneath him, lunging upwards, her fist finding a home in his scrotum "OOOoooofff-f-f-f!"
Six times she had been challenged, the males determined to defeat her new ideas in the only way they knew how- through violence.
She'd met each one head-on in the Uwanja, devastating each one in turn; several of them had been ruined by her strongest attack. Unable to reproduce, they had lost standing in the hierarchy. And her views gained power-
But only among the other females. Saria desperately needed to be able to address the Kiburi, get them to think-
Instead, they had pitted the scarred male against her. It had almost seemed unfair. Wherever he had come from, they had broken his tail many times: a stigma of disgrace. It would be a waste of time to fight him, what were they trying to prove?
She'd almost won. Almost... the big male was down on one knee, glowering at her, only moments after she'd delivered her most demeaning attack-
"I see you're still at it, sister. But you taught me better than that."
She blinked, looked up, startled, the horse's face right in hers as he stood doubled over before her. A damned interesting face-
"Who's Canno? Your bro-"
His jaw cracked, twisting with the punch, the horse flung violently up and over by the force of the blow, impacting on his shoulders an instant later.
And yet continued to roll, coming up on wide-spread hooves as she leapt after him! As if he had not even been hurt-
And yet, even as she again attacked, she could not help but admire that body, eyes following every twisting and turning, the play of his leg muscles, the scent of his sweat in her nostrils, the swing of his-
Saria ducked, the horse's right hook whistling overhead-
Slammed a fist up into ribs "I'd appreciate-"
Rammed a knee into his lower abdomen "If you stayed-"
Chopped hard into his neck "Out of my head Ooulllph!"
Kajm pulled his hoof out of her crotch, wishing she wasn't so much fun to watch-
Rocked her head back with an uppercut "I will say-"
Chopped both hands into her ribs "You've got a-"
Flat of the hand to her nose "Great-"
Knee to her hip "Dance style!"
Wait. What was that about being in her head?
"Enough!" Her backhand shut the horse's mouth, staggering him to one side. Saria leapt past him, swept back, right foot crashing into his ribs, shoving him the other way. With a skip and a leap she brought one fist down upon his skull, doubling him over, the horse staggering, hooves wide, his tail standing out behind as he tried to maintain his balance-
She dropped before him, fist swinging well back; launched a powerful haymaker right into his chin, lifting him clear off his feet, the horse's body plowing into the ground ten yards away.
The lioness stood for a long moment, panting, gathering herself, a rumble of discontent slowly winding down in her chest. Though she approached cautiously, the horse creature appeared quite unconscious.
Part of her preferred it stay that way. She didn't want to kill it. She wasn't even certain why she had even been trying to kill it.
At the same time, every other sense seemed to scream for its' blood!
The lioness jumped a bit as her foot connected with one great hoof; she looked down upon him, taking him all in. And decided that perhaps all her other senses were wrong-
She dropped to her haunches, eyes searching out every contour of his body.
Damned if there wasn't an ounce of fat on that body. The dark fur only seemed to accentuate the chiseled muscles... the long limbs only seemed to accentuate his powerful appearance.
He was quite a handsome creature, oddly attractive to her despite not being Llew'n.
Saria sank down on hands and knees, slinking forward, until her hands rested high on his inner thighs. Froze as the horse stirred briefly, his tail twitching out from under one leg.
Barely caught the whispered words: "Don't you... dare..."
The lioness smiled as a thought occurred to her. Sank carefully down upon her elbows, eyes locked upon his genitals. Leaned in a little further...
Blew a long, hot breath across his scrotum, then watched, fascinated, as scrotal flesh wrinkled and crawled, the horse's maleness stiffening, lengthening rapidly in response-
Kajm lurched into consciousness, lifting on his elbows, eyes wide and unfocused. Staring down his body for a long moment, the lioness swimming into view-
She'd dealt him a massive concussion, now rapidly healing; the last coherent thought before all went dark, was to wonder how she would kill him.
But in the past few moments his empathic abilities had kicked in, rising even before his mind had recovered- and all they had been giving him, was excited lion!
Focus returned, with it, awareness: he was flat on his back. There was a lioness between his legs. He was very solidly erect. And She was looking Very interested in doing something with it.
At that instant in the back of his mind, Kajm felt something spark, as his mate picked up on all of it through the soul bond, every detail of the last ten minutes, laid out vividly in her mind- Frig.
Kajm's eyes locked with Saria's. It wasn't the first time he'd have had his balls bitten off. Too bad that wasn't what she was thinking of doing!
Paused a moment. When had he started being able to hear her thoughts?
"Could you, maybe, have those for dessert After you kill me?"
She gave him a very cat-like look of puzzlement, head tilting to one side. Kajm's thigh muscles jumped as she sank claws into them, leaned in, mouth opening wide-
Powerful thighs wrapped about the lioness' head, pinning her, as the horse rolled, both of them appreciating the brief moment during which all his goods were pressed against her face; Saria found herself suddenly free, flung aside as Kajm rolled, bounced up on all fours facing her, wide-eyed, tail lashing the air. Damn it, he'd so far managed to not get sexual in this fight- "You did Not just try to fellatcio me!"
Saria blinked. The word itself made no sense, but the mental image behind it...
She wanted the horse, badly enough to squirm as she stared at him. The horse stared back, fascinated. And looking guilty about being fascinated.
Just as suddenly, however, all those other senses were screaming at her again, the anger she'd felt earlier bursting forth anew. "You would have at least died happy! Now you're just going to die, Hard!"
His maleness twitched. "No. Kidding!"
Great! My empathics are freaking her out, her telepathy is tripping my empathics, she wants my body and Thunderwing wants us Both dead!
Kajm shoved off, bouncing backwards once, twice, thrice, looking for an opening as the cat literally flew in screaming like an incoming shell.
Kajm's warrior mind appreciated that her anger did not cloud her judgement- but at ten times his own strength...!
He lunged side-wards at the last instant, the cat twisting in mid-air, claws slicing across his ribs; she hit the ground already turned towards him, sliding backwards on all fours, the horse pounding down on her position; Saria leapt straight into him, fist rocketing for his belly-
Kajm dropped on his left side, hands slapping the ground as he snapped out a kick, the foot-wide hoof planted deep in her stomach "HooOOomph!"
Saliva sprayed from her open jaws as she pancaked on her back twenty feet away-
The horse leaned in over her, one hand outstretched. "Saria! Our abilities are conflicting! We need to stop and Talk! I really don't want to hurt you, Are you alright?"
The image vanished as adrenaline surged; Saria kicked her knees up to her chest, threw herself forward to her feet; dropped to her haunches an instant later as the horse's fist whistled overhead. Snarling in pain and anger Saria lifted into him, driving an elbow deep into his side, hearing ribs crack "Guh!"
Spun to her right, left foot coming up to crack into a kidney as he passed-
The horse staggered away, Saria right behind, reaching out-
His right hand chopped back into her gut "OOmph!" the horse actually grabbing her belly fur, yanking her towards him as he turned, left knee rising to her clit "Aaaarrrgh!"
Kajm back-handed across her face "You"
Sank a fist into her gut (blinking as she sprayed him with saliva) "Are making"
Left cross to the chin "This"
Right hook "Difficult-"
Gasped as the lioness swept his hand aside.
Sank a fist into his stomach "Then LET"
Slammed his mouth shut with a palm strike as he doubled over "me make"
Chopped both hands into his ribs "it Easier!"
Cracked a foot into his testicles "OOOfffff!"
Saria shoved the horse back as he doubled over, expecting him to fall-
The horses' head snapped up, his mane flaring with the movement, one purple fist arcing upwards with blinding speed "WAAUGGGH!"
The blow sank deep into her gut, lifting her a foot off the ground; spittle flew as she folded over his shoulder, wide-eyed. He continued to rise, lifting her up and over, sky, landscape, horse pinwheeling in her vision "Whumph!"
Flat on her back again, clouds of dust rising about her. Gasping for breath, her world reduced to the large knot of pain in her guts; she could swear she could still feel each knuckle, part of her absently noting there were only three-
Kajm strode up to her, reaching down to catch her behind the neck. He was right, she did have a scruff-
"You pulled your punches!"
She cried out as he lifted, threw her to sprawl on her side a dozen yards away. Stalking after her as she pulled herself up-
There hadn't been another memory burst when he'd struck her belly, and the last one, what was that about? "Get up, puss, we're having a fight here!"
The psionic connection between them had taken some new twist, he was sure of it. But he had to end this fight, first-
Saria reared back on her haunches as he approached, fists raised, gritting her teeth against the pain in her gut. She'd heard things break inside him several times, but there wasn't a mark on him! "How are you still standing? How is there not a mark on you?"
The horse stopped, hooves wide, in that odd fists-at-his-side stance. As though he had no qualms about leaving himself wide open to attack- "Ah, you have been paying attention!"
He lifted one hand, touching a finger to his right pectoral muscle. The fingertip... dissolved, became a blade of some bright, gleaming metal-
And he began to carve a bloody line across and down his chest, finishing on the abdomen.
But the incision was closing almost as fast as he'd cut it!
She'd been doing a lot of damage, but his healing factors more than made up for it- and Kajm was quite adept of fighting through, and hiding, the intense pains he often experienced in a fight. Still, if she kept pounding him- "You're stronger," Kajm said. "And you're a fairly good fighter. And I do appreciate your choice of targets," he smiled as her eyes dropped to his genitals. Yes, she did know exactly what he'd meant!
"But I'm thinking, this fight isn't supposed to be with me, is it? There's something in your past which is pushing this. I'm just the trigger-"
He held out one hand. "May we call this a draw, sit down-" he tossed his head in the direction of the fallen buck- "get some food into that empty stomach of yours, have a bit of a chat?"
And, without thinking it through, Kajm followed up his words with a deliberate, heavy, soporific burst of calming empathics-
Her eyes turned red. Oh, I did Not just do that-
Eyes wide as saucers, Saria stared as the incision zippered shut. What the Hells was this creature? Making blades out of its' fingers? Wounds healing in moments? Lifting memories straight from her mind?
Her eyes dropped at his sly remark, drifting down that taut body, locking on that magnificent set between his legs. How was it even possible to fight with an erection? And he enjoyed the attention?
She wanted to give him that attention, but not quite the way it was going-
Shook herself. Demon dogs! She'd all but killed several of the males pitted against her, having struck them in their pride. And that humiliation of the supposedly superior males, had caused Makso to pile it on, hoping to break her-
Until she'd found herself facing her brother.
"May we call this a draw?"
Vision, hearing, awareness; everything seemed to -Frizz- for an instant. Fury rose in her breast, and this horse was going to suffer for it!
"RAWWR!" Saria flew for him in a spitting frenzy, Kajm noting that anger did not at all seem to affect her judgement in a fight-
Bent backward, her claws shaving chest fur; jerked his hips back as she made a tight, spinning kick, claws close to disemboweling him-
She reversed, fist flying in from the left; Kajm countered, staggering away as he took the blow on his forearm Got to keep out of rea- "Ooomph!"
Saria's side-kick sent him tumbling, ribs caved in; Kajm recovered, rolled up on one knee as she came bounding in, lashing out a hoof at the last instant, clipping her hip as she turned aside-
In the instant she was staggering he spun away, came to his hooves, wincing as he took a deep breath to pop the healing ribs back into place. She'd come close to puncturing a lung-
Dodged a punch for his chin, grabbing her wrist as the blow skimmed past; yanked her arm back the other way as he slammed a hoof into her side-
Saria wrapped her arm about his ankle as the kick rebounded, swung his leg outward, a snap-kick flashing into his testicles "OOOOfffff-f-f-f!"
Surprised as he actually yanked his leg back, the horse dropping to a crouch before her, snarling-
Kajm launched head-first into her belly "Whuuuufff!"
Odd thought as she flew back He's got rock for a skull-
Ibso looked up from his writing, piles of parchment spread haphazardly across the desk, even under his elbows; some of the ink smeared as he moved. "But the Kiburi was created to give a voice to all. What of the other females-"
"That's just it!" Saria paced the chamber, tail lashing, almost literally bouncing off the walls. "The Kiburi is an empty shell. They put it up as a sop! No female can speak up for herself there; Makso's males ensure they remain intimidated. And each time I press for equal outcome, they point back to the Uwanja. They won't listen to anything beyond violence!"
Ibso sat silent for long moments, considering, as Saria fretted about the room. Then: "And? After you win, Saria, then what? What do you say? What do you do?"
He leaned forward. "I witnessed your last two challenges, Saria. Why did you not help them up afterwards?"
Confusion. "But... they were beaten. They were not my reason for being there! I needed to-"
"Help them," Ibso interjected. "They are Not the enemy, Saria. I saw the Triumph in your expression, as you took vengeance on mere pawns."
"But! Where was your grace in victory, Saria? Were you an Equal, or a conqueror?
You needed to show them Kindness. How do you reach the minds you wish to change-"
The horse fell full-length atop her as the two hit the ground, blasting out what little breath she had left.
Saria lay there for a long moment, gagging, her bruised abdomen aching from diaphragm to crotch. The horse moved first, pushing off, rearing back on his haunches, knees wide.
Every muscle in her body protested as she lurched up on her elbows, staring quizzically at the horse. He was fun to look at, but: Did he not care that he left himself wide open? Or, maybe-
Saria winced as the horse flung one arm outward, pointing. Turned her head to see three Yenne hunters poking at the carcass of the buck-
The hyenas stared back, caught in the act.
"Yeah, You! That's ours-"
He shot her a glare. "We're discussing it, aren't we? Hey!"
The hyenas froze again, having begun to drag the carcass away. "Move it one more inch, I'm going to make lop-ears there skin you other two before I kill him!"
Two sets of eyes of flashed to the Yenne in question; all three turned back to Kajm. The horse made an odd gesture, as though tugging at something-
The lop-eared hyena stumbled into the other two, as though he'd been shoved!
The ensuing scramble to escape kicked up a fair amount of dust. "A lotta nerve, Not!" Kajm chuckled.
Saria raised questioning eyes to the horse. "How-"
He looked down at her. "Hmm?"
"How could they understand you, you weren't-"
"I don't speak Your language, either," he smiled.
Saria slammed a fist into his scrotum, driving his hips back. Kajm yelped, cracked a fist across her face. "Ibso would not be pleased with you!"
Before she could respond he literally grabbed her by the face, lifted her into the air as he stood. Dropped her on her feet-
"I don't have all the pieces yet, could we Please just taOOUUUPH!"
The knee thrust to his genitals lifted him clear off his hooves. "No."
She heard bones cracking as his wrist met her incoming swing, the horse punching her in the face with that hand anyway.
That was annoying.
"What-" uppercut to the ribs-
"Does it take-"
Short, sharp blow to the stomach, doubling him over-
"To put you-"
Left hook to the jaw-
Saria slammed a knuckled fist down between his eyes-
Kajm dropped to one knee, vision twinned, eyes crossing. Healing factors working on a ruptured stomach; intercostal muscles pulsing, setting cracked ribs back into place. His whole body trembled.
It didn't make sense. He was feeling it more than he ought to, had the fight really been all that bad? Was it possible he was experiencing a fluctuation in his abilities...?
The lioness stumbled against him, braced herself against his shoulder, scents of her body filling his nostrils. She's feeling it also. Fingers wove into his mane; she wrenched his head back as she leaned in, snarling in his face.
And an odd wave of weakness passed through him.
Oh. I see it now.
Kajm spoke even as she took a deep breath. "You are stuck in the Uwanja."
Saria gulped whatever she'd intended to say. "What?"
Her guts clenched as he smiled.
Saria gaped, breathless, as his fist found her clitoris with pinpoint precision. "I said-"
He lifted into her, shoulder ramming up into her belly "Oooooumph!"
He dropped slightly, reared up, his head slamming into her jaw-
Blackness rimmed her sight as she rocked forward, staggering, tasting bile. Time seemed to have slowed. The horse dropped backwards before her, falling back on hands and hooves; drew one knee back to his chest *WHOMP!*
There didn't seem room for both his hoof and her stomach; it didn't seem possible to ride that hoof as long as it felt; Blue sky pinwheeled, turned the color of dirt as it came up to meet her face-
The lioness bounced, rolled, still somehow came up on her hands and knees, body tightly hunched over her agony, muddy spittle dripping from her open mouth.
Kajm dropped to a sitting position, drawing his knees up, allowed his head to droop between them. Time to do some healing. "In the past, Saria," He muttered. "Did I mention, you were stuck in the past?"
"We have a problem, you and I."
The lioness jerked at the words, awareness returning in the form of unrelenting, throbbing pain; it was many long moments before Saria understood she was feeling her own pulse, pounding through her roiling guts-
"Consider yourself fortunate. I had done damage. But I'm not going to let you die for a fight that I started."
"Rrrr?" She opened her eyes, or tried to, finding them plastered shut by a mixture of dirt and tears.
Saria discovered she was yet crouched on knees and elbows, hunched up about her pain, throat dry and raw. Muscles screamed protest as she shifted, fell heavily upon her side "Umphhh! Ooooh-h-h-h..."
Finally prying her eyes open, Saria found the horse to be kneeling close by, in the process of gutting the buck. A moment later she caught the rich scents of blood and bile, feeling her stomach clench up even tighter.
He spared her a glance as he worked. "Not to worry. Half of this is yours. Here, let me show you-"
He lifted to his hooves, stepping back, one arm rising high-
As it swept down it... changed, elongated, flattened, turned to metal-
The carcass was halved from throat to crotch, the blade thudding into the soil below. The horse eyeing her again as he shook the appendage loose; Saria staring in astonishment, as it swiftly shrank back into a flesh-and-bone arm. "Fun, hey?"
The lioness pushed up to a sitting position, the pain in her midriff dulled by a rush of adrenaline. There was not a mark on him. He claimed not to be speaking her language; the Yenne had understood him despite his not speaking in their tongue, either. He could reshape his limbs. He could see into her mind. What in the gods....!
Kajm went about his work as she sat, stunned, pondering what he was. "You begin to see my point, don't you? At least, half of it. And that means, I've got to stick around here. You need proper teaching. And I, need to understand just what is different about your powers-"
"Are you... A'Pedei?"
Kajm cocked his head to one side. "That word is... familiar." As she watched he bent to retrieve something on the far side of the carcass- thin, broad slices of tree bark. And now, looking about, she discovered that he'd been peeling the nearby trees-
"Won't make the best wrap for the meat, but until I find better-" He dropped back to his haunches over the carcass. That was when she noticed he'd lost his erection.
Kajm snorted in annoyance, his ears twitching as he picked up on her thoughts. "Seriously? I swear to God, I'm made of catnip... God! Gods, yes, that's what your word means. Definite corruption of a very much older word... No, I'm not a god." He began carefully wrapping bark about one half of the carcass, paused again as he looked to her. "No. I'm older than the gods. I... have distant memories of the ones you are thinking of. I may... possibly... have taught them how to use the Powers, as they arose in them. Now, I need to teach you."
Her head swam at the words. Ohhhh, the confusion was not going to pass any time soon! "What... do you mean?"
"I have powers, abilities. Healing. Speech that all can understand. I am a shape-shifter-" He lifted one hand, the fingers rapidly passing through a series of odd transformations. "I can hear your thoughts. You, can hear mine. You have abilities. They are just beginning to rise.
And I suspect they are what made you so terrifying to the males of your village." He looked over at her. "You know, you ought to drag yourself over to the water, get a drink and wash up. You look like someone beat you up."
Saria snarled at him- and was surprised to hear a note of amusement within it. "Alright."
Pushed to her feet, pondering as she made her way- slowly- to the water's edge. "I... don't understand everything you are saying-"
"But you are working on it." Kajm watched her as she moved, the lioness maintaining that silky, regal movement even in her pummeled state. "And we have much to discuss. But I cannot, right now. My mate arrives on this world soon-"
Water blew out of her nose at those words, Saria rearing back from the water's edge, having been mid-drink. She glared at him. "Older than the gods? From another world? You have a lot to say, but you're going to make me wait? I need to understand now-"
Teeth filled her vision, teeth longer than her hands, framed by a great, gleaming-blue face, angry golden-yellow eyes locked upon hers-
She was lying full-length in the muck of the pond, water threatening to overflow her face. The mud was cool against her body. It seemed like a good place to be, just at the moment.
"That's my mate." Kajm had projected the image straight into Saria's mind. "And she's quite aware of everything that happened between you and me. I'm going to be some time convincing her to Not turn you into a rug."
".... I think I can wait for an explanation."
Kajm chuckled quietly as he dropped to his haunches at the edge of the water. "I'm sorry, Saria. You need teaching. And I'm the one who needs to do it. But we can't start just yet."
He reached a hand out to her. After a long moment, Saria reached out, took it, the horse hauling her to a sitting position.
She shook herself, spattering him with mud. "But I need to understand now-"
He held a hand up. "I know. You only have half an idea of what you can do. You want to know if any others of your kind, can do such things, too. And especially, what it means for your goals among your people.
But I need to settle things on my end first. It could take months, at the very least. So I need you to please do something for me... Find your way to Ibso."
Her heart sank. "But, I am exiled-"
"Can't be helped. You have to find a way. I only picked up fragments about him, but if anyone can guide you in this for the nonce, it will be him."
As she sat watching him, cool mud drying on her back, Kajm went to gather up his half of the carcass. Shouldering it he turned towards her, nudged the other half with his hoof. "Better get this home and smoked, first." He raised an eyebrow. "And I do mean, now. Pay attention to what you need to do, rather than watching my ass as I walk away. You keep thinking such things, you will see those teeth for real."
Saria opened her mouth in retort- closed it again as she eyed him. Exile was one thing; what do with this insane mess? Then: "Do you always complicate people's lives so?"
Kajm smiled. "My whole existence is a complication. Wait for my signal to come, Saria. You'll know it when you see it. Oh hey, watch this-"
The lioness lurched to her feet as the horse faded, like smoke.
Thought about it for a few minutes. Oh. I see.
Dispelled the illusion with her own ability. He was already disappearing into the tall grass some distance away.
She learned fast. Stop staring...