§ 2020-12-27 00:00:00
[04:29] The only vaguely satisfying thing about the situation Asraaban was in, was that it went against the spirit of what Valcen had asked of him – but the spark that felt good about defying Valcen had little to say in light of the dangers ahead.
Once they were well out of earshot of the others, Evenatra asked: "Did Valcen have anything useful to say about the precise nature of the perimeter being drawn, or was it just vague allusions?" She wasn't expecting more information unless Valcen had deduced it. No doubt the Karesejat had shared only fragments with him.
§ 2020-12-31 17:29:07
[17:29] Asraaban grimaced. "Nothing about the immediate situation regarding you. A little more about the current plans for the humans – at least from his perspective – and a little about his long-term plans, but he only spoke OF the ambush, not of the structure of it."
[17:53] "Right," Evenatra responded flatly; she was predictably tense. Her attention was cast forward, cautiously scanning the landscape they were heading into. She wasn't shaking yet, but she looked as though she might start any time. "Stay behind me," she instructed; if they came across things hiding from the electromagnetic universe's sight, she at least had a chance at seeing them.
[18:32] It was a logical and practised formation. Evenatra had a better chance of spotting the traps, so she was to lead. His role was to help her if she missed one.
Of course, these were not usual circumstances. They would not have hours to untangle a mess, most likely minutes at best. His role could well be to distract Karesejat by any means necessary. Up to and including flinging himself into her jaws and trying to tear her mouthparts to shreds, no matter how upset Evenatra would be with his envenomated corpse.
[19:14] "Once we find the perimeter," Evenatra began. "I'll need your help in deconstructing the whole line, as far as we can go." Assuming it even exists. As Asraaban had said – it was one thing to believe that Valcen believed what he was saying and another to assume it was the actual truth. There was a chance they were simply being lured away from the humans.
§ 2021-01-16 14:34:34
[14:34] Standard procedure, although under a tighter timeframe than normal. That portion he did not have a problem with. It did seem that Evenatra was ignoring the hornface in the clearing. "I know we need to clear a path for the others, as much as possible. But if Valcen was being truthful and not misled, the Karesejat is in this immediate area. What is your plan for evasion should we encounter her, and what is my role in it?"
[15:57] Distract the Karesejat just long enough that you can run, then disconnect and build myself a different avatar later, some part of her wanted to respond in reflex, but she stopped herself in time – Asraaban would take it badly. Instead, she sunk into the customary kavkem habit of silent thinking, grateful that it was socially accepted to mull things over privately.
But her mind kept being pulled back in to it, inexorably.
"Your role is to follow your training," she said. "And do any damage you can to the array before withdrawing back out through the funnel." And I? What will I do in all this, other than quake in borrowed terror? "I'll see what damage I can do to slow her down, possibly cripple her. I won't get another opportunity like this, but I'll run if I don't get far with it."
'Opportunity' was one way of putting the odds. Realistically, it was one for Terenyira. The Karesejat certainly knew more about Evenatra than vice versa.
[17:15] Asraaban turned and gave Evenatra the incredulous stare she deserved for that. "You don't NEED another opportunity like this, with potential hostages that may not want to die. You've been running for centuries. You're the perfect bait. You can SET UP an ambush any time and place that's suitable, like around the flying egg the humans came in, and not fling yourself into HERS." It was a lifetime of training that kept his voice low, clipped words over snarls, because of all things Evenatra was she was possibly the least suicidal Shyilungadech he'd known, himself included.
Until today, apparently.
"You don't need to act as decoy to slow her down, she won't care about my existence while you're in range. If anything, I should be the one slowing her down while you run! The Karesejat will follow! She always does!"
[00:58] Evenatra stopped walking, her feathers in an ambiguous state for a moment, conveying nothing at all – confusion, irritation, aborted anger, regret, submission, building rage. She stared at Asraaban. The feathers settled, her posture finally speaking the language of a deep irritation.
"I have news for you," she said, her voice revealing a cold edge Asraaban had never witnessed before. "I've tried setting up an ambush for her on four separate occasions in the past and only barely escaped with my life in two of them." She neglected to mention that she had managed to damage Terenyira in the past – it seemed like a moot point given the ultimate result was still losing against her opponent. "The worst way I can approach Terenyira is by sitting myself somewhere and giving her all the time in the world to analyse how to crack open the defensive perimeter. Here? This? She won't expect an offence here. And I am sick of running from her.
"I should be able to take her down – so what's stopping me? Panic, caution, poor but not overall very informative past experiences," she hissed lowly, bristling – but the frustration seemed less directed at Asraaban than the stress of the situation, other parts of her posture still speaking the clear language of friendship.
§ 2021-01-24 05:05:42
[05:05] He froze. Well, THAT hadn't been shared amongst the shilyun. It... should it? 'Our leader is not just running, she is fighting' should be a moral boost, shouldn't it? But, then, 'our leader is putting her life in danger and failed to make an impact' could crush hope in many hearts, so perhaps others better inclined to psychological warfare had discussed the topic with Evenatra.
It certainly wasn't his field. Countering Hesh was his.
Asraaban dipped his snout in apology. "And if I cannot retreat – or if I cannot retreat immediately, or must force a distraction to open a path – is there anything I can do to aide you? Or is my best option to clear the field and perhaps tackle any Nayabaru accompanying her?" Evenatra knew him. The tackling may well be literal; sometimes the only way to counter a sleeping dart was to be too close for the Hesh to use it, and force them to fall back on instincts.
§ 2021-01-30 18:37:46
[18:37] "She hunts alone," Evenatra said, with a strange certainty for someone who had intentionally minimised being able to actually witness said hunt. "And while I appreciate the sentiment, from all I know of her, she will not yield to any attempted distraction. Simply do whatever damage you can to the array of traps, then retreat," she repeated, firmly.
§ 2021-01-31 04:40:53
[04:40] 'She hunts alone'. That was emphatic, and there was something about it he couldn't put his claw on.
...hunts. Not capture. Avoiding Hesh. Ability to destroy a Threadwielder. Destroy. The Nayabaru-that-wasn't.
"And do not expect her to use ANY tactic the Hesh use, or to follow their rules; she is a Weapon that destroys?" Asraaban murmured to himself.
[04:50] "Only me," Evenatra said lowly, with some regret in her voice. "Don't think she has that mercy for you." But they didn't really know.
Both Ysikary and Valcen were dead or incommunicado; it was impossible to tell which it was. Baishar's statements had elevated 'probably dead' to 'almost surely dead', but some doubt remained. And even if the Karesejat had killed Valcen, there was a chance that ve had managed to damage the weapon and that it was no longer capable of harming Threadwielders.
There was no guarantee that it was a murderous weapon – but the sensible thing to do was to assume it was. There was no guarantee it didn't kill kavkema – but the sensible thing to do was to assume so. There was no guarantee it was here now – but the sensible thing was to assume it was.
"But she will not follow the rules," Evenatra confirmed. "Although she may use some of the Hesha tactics, best not to rule them out entirely – she has, after all, taught them and made them what they are."
§ 2021-02-01 22:45:13
[23:22] Before Asraaban could react to Evenatra's latest remarks, something near-soundlessly darted through the shrubbery, coming in from behind and beside them – sufficiently unexpected that Evenatra whipped around as though expecting an assailant. But there was nothing of that size and speed except allies – or Valcen's converts, perhaps, but they were no real threat to a Threadwielder.
It was quick to resolve to a familiar sight: Yanaru, the mute Dynashgadech that Rakashei had brought to the group. It made sense that some of the fragments of their scattered group were coming together. From all Evenatra understood from the Yanaru-Kalina dynamic, Kalina was either nearby or in trouble; if it was former, this was a rare spark of good fortune.
Being mute, there wasn't much Yanaru could do but bob his head, fixing them with a stern gaze, tilting his muzzle quizzically. He knew how to make his body language unambiguous, but it still limited what he could say. Fortunately, what happened? Where are the alien visitors? was a fairly clear question.
Of course, mute was not deaf. Evenatra addressed Yanaru to summarise: "We have intelligence that there is an array of traps ahead that the landscape is funneling us toward. The others are falling back on a controlled, hopefully safe trajectory, following Athechelt's lead. You should go, too. Asraaban and I will try to take care of it."
A pause, perhaps to wait to see whether Yanaru was digesting the news, but it was impossible to tell whether his agitation wasn't simply his baseline Dynash energy in this given situation or a reaction to the threat. No matter. "Are you alone?"
Yanaru instantly flicked his muzzle upward – no – then shot a glance through the thicket toward where he had come from indicatively, before puffing himself up a little before Asraaban and Evenatra. There was a playful undercurrent to the gesture, taking the threatening edge off it, but it still made a clear statement:
Fall back? No. Dynash does not 'fall back'; Dynash destroys. We will help you destroy the traps.
"No, you don't understand," Evenatra said in the tone of patience. "The Karesejat is here, this is not a threat you want to engage with."
§ 2021-02-08 21:10:56
[21:10] The leaves parted from near where Yanaru entered the scene, and a muzzle poked out. "On the contrary; we do wish to face such a threat," spoke Kalina. Her words were smooth and confident. They seemed to emulate Yanaru's assertive body language. Kalina strode over to stand near Yanaru. "We didn't come this far just to fall back. Besides, we bring more eyes to see with, and more claws to aid with. Do you know how many traps there are? Or perhaps what kind? Working as a team is a better idea."
[21:18] For a moment, Evenatra bristled as though to protest, frozen in the gesture as some unspoken thought travelled through her. Then her posture slackened a little. Resignation, acceptance. No doubt she realised that arguing with Dynash on the opportunity of Nayabaru sabotage would be like trying to get blood from a stone.
Yanaru bumped his muzzle against Kalina's shoulder in a fleeting gesture of affection, then fixed the Shyilungadecha with his mute stare, fire in his eyes.
"We know staggeringly little about the dangers ahead," Evenatra revealed, reluctantly cooperating. "The information we have are vague, second-hand, and possibly misleading or false, if not intentionally so." Fantastic prospects. "Be very sure before you aid us; you may lose your deaths to this. Are you willing to take that risk?"
§ 2021-02-13 03:25:49
[03:25] Well, that was the traps taken care of, Asraaban found himself thinking. Few were better at handling them than Dynash. In exchange, should one of them be trapped... well. He was Shilyun. He had granted others their lost deaths before. Although once the Karesejat appeared – he was not going to trust their luck that she would not, he reserved all hope for their ability to survive such encounter – he expected all plans to become chaos.
"We do not know how to fight the Karesjat, but she knows how to fight us. So if she appears, we are best served to abandon subtlety and destroy anything we can, and hinder her that way," Asraaban admitted.
§ 2021-02-15 19:57:13
[18:24] Kalina reciprocated the affection from Yanaru, then turned to focus on Evenatra then Asraaban as they spoke. "We are prepared," she said. "We wouldn't be here otherwise." The unknown was daunting, certainly. However, there was always the chance of snatching success from the unknown, and the opportunity to do what Dynash do best. "We appreciate the warnings, but I am afraid we cannot heed them. Besides, if the time comes to abandon subtlety and destroy everything we can, then you will likely benefit from our assistance a great deal." Kalina felt a flicker of excitement when discussing sabotage. She glanced between Asraaban and Evenatra again, and nodded. "Let us undertake this together. More claws make for less work."
[23:21] For someone who had just been offered help, Evenatra looked rather unhappy, but unwilling to argue her case any further. And why would she? Time was not a luxury in their current situation – wasting it with bickering was one of the best ways to get caught by their powerful enemy.
If, indeed, she was anywhere nearby.
"Then let's go," Evenatra declared, resuming her forward stride. "If you change your mind, leave any time," she added, a little more softly, but still clearly audible to Kalina and Yanaru.
Yanaru's feathers puffed a little, combining with his body language to express a reckless enthusiasm, and he bounded after Evenatra until he was near her side, showing that he was willing to share the danger of those first in line.