Obsidian Command

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Ibn Sharjar: Sunstorm truce

Posted on 01 Oct 2023 @ 2:19am by Atif ibn Sharjar - Merchant of the Al Ashar
Edited on on 04 Nov 2023 @ 7:42pm

Mission: Ongoing Mission - Planet Obsidian
Location: oasis of the Nine Stones
2249 words - 4.5 OF Standard Post Measure

.: [Oasis of the Nine Stones] :.

No sooner had their gaze crossed than the stranger’s glance moved on. If he had recognized Ibn Sharjar he did not betray it. For his own part Atif had no doubt it was the same fellow who had beaten his blood stained fist onto his cockpit window. As a trader he seldom forgot a face, particularly one whose owner had been part of a group trying to kill him.

Whether the man was some relation to the adolescent Jelik had killed he did not know, but they were of the same tribe and that alone was grounds for vengeance. Added to the generations of animosity between the Fraj-Senni and the Tej-Ka-Jalfa, going back to an event deep in the past, according to the recounted legends he had heard a few days ago, the man and his companion’s presence here could only mean bloodshed.

Jelik had turned from the visitors now, having dismounted, and was waving on other members of the column. “Hurry now, we must seek shelter soon”

Ibn Sharjar slid down from his saddle and moved along side him, leading Fifta by her antenna reins. He said quietly, “Do you often have traders from Ruj-Hadha, do you recognize any of them?”

Jelik continued waving other by, but gave the newcomers a quick glance. “Maybe very other year they come. I do not recognize these, but they are a large tribe. And they are wearing Ruj-Hadha robes.” He pointed with his chin. “The black and green strips on their shoulders. Why?”

“Do the Ruj-Hadha trade with the Frag-Senni?” Ibn Sharjar asked.

“They trade with many tribes, even the descendants of the traitor,” he spat. “We do not hold that against them. Again, Atif, why do you ask me this?”

“The leader was with the Frag-Senni who attacked us when we landed,” Ibn Sharjer informed him. “Before we took off, he came to the cockpit, he was the one who beat his fist on the windscreen.”

Jelik stopped, his brows furrowed. “You are sure?” His eyes darted towards the group at the gateway, his hand settling on his sword hilt.

“We were as close as you and I, only the screen between us. It is he, I am sure,” Atif confirmed solemnly.

Jelik gave him a long look and nodded. “I trust you Atif.”

He glanced again and counted aloud “..Nine ..ten ..eleven. Few for a raiding party but more than enough to be dangerous. They have not tried this in over thirty years, I was younger than Gebril when last they came. They are here for a blood-debt, for the one I killed.

Has the leader seen you back here?” he asked. They were perhaps fifteen meters from the gate. “Does he know you saw him?”

“I do not know, our gaze crossed but he did not react,” Atif replied honestly. “I was still mounted, but my face mask was up, he would have seen my face.”

And your off-worlder robes.” Gelik tapped Ibn Sharjar’s Thawb. “If he did see you and not react, he is cunning and even more dangerous.”

He reached up to Shasta’s saddle and quickly untied his bed roll, handing Atif a blanket, “Put this over your robes.”

While Ibn Sharjar wrapped the blanket around his shoulders Jelik scanned the passing column. There were only a few riders left as the rest hurried through the gateway. He pulled three over, one was Bredul, the father of the girl who liked Sasil; the next was the woman who had ridden next to Ibn Sharjar when the formed the wheel; the third he did not know, but the man was older and appeared seasoned.

Jelik quickly explained the situation to them. Bredul looked over the strangers. “I do not recognize any and I have traded with the Ruj-Hadha for over twenty years.”

Ahead Neifle and Selandra had now dismounted at the gateway. Neifle had joined her husband and the two elder greeting the newcomers, Selandra stood nearby.

“And look how they stand,” the older man noted quietly. “Those on the edge...”

Eight of the men were a little further back, standing near their mounts, but only two were holding reins, the other six were standing seemingly casually, but all had their robes cleared from their swords and the two at each end of the group were moving their heads back and forth, taking in the passing column, the gateway tower and their surroundings.

“… those are not traders, those are warriors,” he finished. “And one sees us!”

The stranger closest to them was now looking directly at them, they were all that was left of the column outside the gate now. The man had stopped his observations and his attention was solely on them.

Jelik quickly dropped to one knee and went to lift up one of Shasta’s massive feet, giving his beetle a little dig behind the knee with his thumb to get him to raise it. The others clustered around as though inspecting it with him, hidden from the man’s gaze by Shasta’s bulk.

“Do we challenge them now?” Bredul asked. “We are five, there should be six guards at the gate and tower, even numbers.”

“But what of Gebran, Neifle, Selandar and the elders?” The women asked. “We cannot risk harm to them.”

“We will not Delona,” Jelik began.

“Father?” Sasil had brought Hrada over to them. He and his brother peered down on them "Is Khasta lame?” Sasil asked.

“Just a stone, we will have it out momentarily,” Jelik replied loudly, raising his voice so that it traveled to the group ahead. "Go on home, stable Hrada and get indoors, Quickly now.”

“We will wait for y-“

“ -You will do as you are told my sons!” Jelik snapped back. “Do not stop at the gate, go directly home, now! Do not stop!”

Sasil opened his mouth, but then closed it and urged Hrada on. Gebril looked back at them from behind his brother, his expression confused as they bounced along.

Jelik held his breath as they neared the group of warriors at the gate but the boys rode past and down the trail out of sight. The warriors watched them past, then the closest one turned back to look at them again.

Jelik noted his returned attention and whispered. “Careful, Khasta is about to buck!”

He jammed his fingers in under one of the scales of Khasta’s leg joints. The beetle snorted and stomped, thrashing the leg around wildly and the group quickly backed up as he pranced around, kicking legs out in all directions.

“Ho! Ho! Steady!” Jelik called loudly. “Help me hold him!” he hauled on Khasta’s reins and steadied the beetle. The rest of them gathered around again, putting on a show of helping calm the big Eraulsu down.

“So do we challenge or not?” Bredul repeated, once they were bent over, all apparently inspecting Khasta’s foot again.

“Turuk?” Jelik asked the older man. “You are senior here.”

The man thought for a moment, looked up at the sky. The air was almost crackling now, a staticky, itchy feeling, carried on the waves of heat that Loki poured gleefully down on them. In his robe Atif felt his tricorder vibrating, as it sensed the incoming deadly radiation.

Turuk shook his head. “They are ready for a fight, only we know who they are. So it will be five against eleven! We would have to protect Gebran, Neifle and the others, until the tower guards join us.

The sunstorm is almost here, and others who would help are riding for their homes, there is no time before the Trickster’s hammer falls upon us. And Gebran has accepted their truce, it cannot be broken, even with the Frag-Senni!”

“But they lied, they claimed to be Ruj-Hadha!” the women protested. “We cannot do nothing!”

“It is the one and only common law of the tribes! You all know that and the truce has been accepted! The sunstorm will kill them, and us, as quickly as a sword” Jebril said. "They know it too, they will not seek a fight until it, and the truce, is over.

They are beyond contempt, they are the sons of betrayers, the sons of those who killed Tej-Selkar, who cut her face with the scars we now bear in remembrance! But the Frag-Senni will not break the truce and neither will the Tej-Ka-Jalfa!”

Jelik looked around the group, locking eyes with each, until they nodded acceptance of his words. Ibn Sharjar nodded with the rest.

“They will not venture out before the storm is over. I propose we let them in, they will be taken to the cavern for the night for shelter. Once they are in the cavern, we will have time to deal with them.”

"You are risking much on that Jelik, the lives of your kin and our elders,” Bredul said. Gebran and Neifle were Jelik's uncle and aunt.

“When they came thirty years ago, that time were none left alive.” Jelik gritted his teeth and spoke with venom. “Though they killed twenty nine, including my mother, before they fell. They will not kill any of us again, I swear it.”

“They are remounting!” Delona hissed. By the gateway the strangers were clambering back on to their Eralsu, they had twenty of the animals, a mount each and three pack trains of three.

Gebran, Neifle, Selandra and the two elders also mounted their own rides. They moved forward and the strangers fell in behind, quickly increasing their pace to a canter to race the storm. One of them was looking back over his shoulder, still watching.

“What do we do?” she asked.

“We will follow them to the cavern. You will alert the tower guards, then get to shelter,” Jelik instructed. “Tell all you see the Frag-Senni are here! When the sunstorm passes, and the truce ends, we must be ready to deal with them! Now quickly, mount up before the hammer comes!”

They ran back to their Eraulsu, clambered into the saddles and pushed forward. Ahead, two guards were urging them on, waiting to shut the gate and get to shelter themselves. They galloped through the gateway, Delona skidded her Eraulsu to a halt, jumped to the ground and ran back to help close the gate, then followed the guards inside.

Ibn Sharjar gripped the blanket around him with one hand and held the reins in the other, in his haste he had not tightened the waist strap and he bounced around in the saddle alarmingly, as Fifta thundered along down the path. The Frag-Senni and tribal leaders were out of sight now, only the swirls of their dust trail lingered in the crackling super-heated air.

As they reached the bottom of the descent, down through the gorge to the oasis floor, Jelik called to Bredul and Toruk “Fall out, tell your neighbors the Frag-Senni are here and get to shelter, be ready the moment the storm ends!”

They waved and each peeled off, racing towards their homes. Jelik urged Khasta onwards, Ibn Sharjar and Fifta struggled to keep up. They thundered along the pathway, passing the oasis and his ship, landed on the far side.

He realized Frag-Senni would have seen it and would knew he was still here. An involuntary shudder ran though him as he recalled the naked hatred in the man’s eyes. If the raiding party were here for revenge, he knew as an off-worlder and the one who had brought death to their lands, he would be high on their list. Even the knowlege of the phaser in his saddlebag gave him little comfort.

Khasta had pulled ahead, Fifta was puffing and heaving, now, nearly winded, her age and the long, hard ride home were taking their toll. She stumbled and lurched, caught herself, then three paces later stumbled again, nearly throwing him from the saddle. He had no choice but to pull up, he reluctantly slowed her to walk. She gratefully settled into a steady plod, her sides heaving with effort and her breathing ragged though she kept going with a will.

In his robe, his tricorder was buzzing frantically now. He hauled it out, the readings were rising rapidly, they would reach dangerous levels in less than six minutes. If he was not under cover, preferably his ship, he would be risking potentially lethal doses shortly thereafter.

Ahead, he saw Jelik rounding a building near the towering wall of obsidian ringing the oasis and he disappeared from sight, Ibn Sharjar urged the flagging Fifta on. When he rounded the corner there was an open area behind the building, it extended back into the wall of glass and almost like the opal mines he had visited the day after his arrival, it ended in a dark tunnel.

There was no sign of the Frag-Senni, or their mounts. But Khasta stood to one side, his rider was being restrained by Gebran, Selandar and the two elders.

Jelik was fighting against them, trying to break away towards the tunnel into the obsidian cliff. He was roaring in pain and anger. “Let me go! Let me go!”

Ibn Sharjar jumped from Fifta’s saddle and ran forward. “What is going on?”

“Kniva is in the cavern!” Jelik cried out, struggling with those who held him. “Kniva and Neifle are in the cavern, with the Frag-Senni!”


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