Skyborne is a work-in-progress science fiction dramedy about war, intrigue, love, and loyalty.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Database Entry: Summary of Tahara

Intro: Tahara is an independent moon world just beyond the outer limits of Federation territory. It had a local population and an ancient culture that has been thrown into political turmoil after being caught in the power struggles of the Federation and the neighboring super power of the Tautoans for the last eighty years.

(native religions)
Yatao Purism - The red gas giant worshipers. A 'back to our roots' movement that has did away with most of the ceremony. 
Yatao Orthodox - Worship the red gas giant with more emphasis on ceremony and tradition. They're known for killing goats, pouring out the blood in the square, and then holding a feast with the body. 
Yateo Absolutists - The fire sun worshipers. They build gigantic pyres to burn offerings. They're big social events. Cats are considered bad luck, burning bags of them is a recreational tradition.

Ha'jian Tribal - The native tribal language that has heavily incorporated alien trade languages.
Kartoa - The main trade language of the Arkold system.

Political Factions: 
People's Advocates - The PA tends to be more popular with the rural tribes; they officially stand for a strong tribal elder oligarchy. They control most of the arable lands and hold a monopoly on shroom exports to the Tautoans. They wield serious influence over the natives with their tuber monopoly. (PA farmers only sell to PA buyers.) They tend to rely on hired native militias and hired freelancers.
Freedom Fighter's Front - The 'triple F' tends to be more popular in the cities and slums; they officially stand for a representative republic with some wealth redistribution taken from the alien corporations. Their revenue is dependent on the diamond fields and to a lesser extent the slave trade.  
Neutral - The neutral villages are rapidly disappearing as they're forced to choose sides. Only the larger cities and tribes that are heavily relied upon by both factions can remain neutral. (Such as tribe Shroa.)

Ethnography: 26 million people
Mainlanders: 80%
Intro - The mainland tribes are the majority by far, they've assimilated most of alien cultures and technology. Though the population is gradually becoming more industrial, it's still predominately agrarian. Some minor industry is springing up, though most of it is from alien corporate interests.
- Native Taharans are taller, slimmer, and have long flowing black hair.
- Unmarried women tie their hair into a single long pony tail, while married women tie scores of small braids.
- In terms of numbers, the mainland tribes are fairly evenly split between the PA and triple F.
- Yatao Orthodox tends to be the common religion. Though atheism and other alien beliefs and faiths are gradually gaining a following in the cities. (Maddok Code, atheism, etc...)

Mountain tribes: 10%

Intro - The ferociously independent mountain tribes live in a scattered plethora of villages and towns across the mountain ranges to Tahara's north pole. They are considered the most technologically backward of the cultures.
- Non K tribes believe the PA and triple F are two sides of the same coin. They just want to be left alone, and for now they are.
- One very large tribe named the Kubeck have enthusiastically embraced an alien Clan religion (Maddok code). In the last thirty years they've expanded and conquered a dozen neighboring mountain and mainlander tribes.
- The reasons for Kubeck's power are twofold; they were first united and driven by their new religion.
- However, the FFF's main source of revenue - the diamond mines - are in this territory. And the few mountain tribes that do support the triple F are employed holding and working in this territory.
- Short with lightly colored skin and cropped black hair. Customarily shaved in the front.
- Many of these tribes are devout followers of Yateo Absolutism. The Yateo pyre offerings are usually associated with the mountain tribes.
- The only culture that practices polygamy.
- They speak a localized dialect of Ha'jian tribal almost exclusively. Just their merchants and dealers can speak Kartoa or the more standardized Ha'jian.

Islanders: 3%
Intro -
- The Islanders are fairly evenly divided between PA, triple F, and neutral tribes. Each small island is declared for one or the other.
- The Islander people have assimilated much of alien culture. They wear alien clothing and are big consumers of foreign tech. Though anti-alien sentiment is still strong, they embrace many things foreign.
- Much of the population is migrating to the mainland to find work. There's a severe overpopulation problem compounded by overfishing and poor soil.
- Known for being the shortest of the Taharans with long black hair like the mainlanders.
- Many Islanders speak Kartoa and Fed standard fluently.

Delta tribes: 7%

Intro - The swamplanders live in the mangrove marshes of the southern delta region. They have entire villages built out of woven reeds that float on the waterline hidden by the thick vegetation and canopy. They're a minority group of pastoralists that trade for crops and processed goods from mainlanders.
Culture Facts...
- The Deltas are staunchly FFF. During the revolution, the FFF supplied them with arms.
- Though not particularly territorial, they're ferociously protective of the food sources in the marshes. They've killed outsiders for picking berries. (You can travel through, just don't touch the flora or fauna.)
- There are intense rivalries and feuds with neighboring mainland farmers that have tried draining the swamps.
- The traditional garb for 'deltas' (both men and women) are manatee skin breeches with hanging decorations of guinea feathers. Though alien clothing have become extremely popular.
- Tall and skinny, tend to have darker skin and grow short brown hair.
- There's an old snake worshipping religion that has largely died out. Most marshlanders are split between Yatao orthodox and Purism.
- They were some of the most brutal executors of the Purge. The Deltas in particular had been oppressed by the Wueshi for decades.
- The Deltas were almost entirely pastoral, relying upon schools of manatees for their livelihood. But a culture shift has occurred in the last several decades pushing delta tribes to engage much more in commerce.
- Some 'Deltas' who've traditionally lived in the swamps have gradually been building 'soil houses' like the mainlanders in areas where the swamps have been receding.

Common Taharan worldviews;
- Racist sentiment against aliens is very common. They're considered to be inherently untrustworthy and greedy. Though they still rely on them for commerce.
- Taharans tend to view aliens as synonymous.
- Elders are venerated greatly. There are usually a few 'patriarchs' and 'matriarchs' who traditionally direct the lives of the household. Whether they earn their place through age, respect, or wealth, and exactly how much influence they have varies by tribe and culture. Many mainlanders don't hold to this custom anymore.
- It's a very common trans culture tradition for a boy to receive some sort of weapon from his parents to herald his entry into manhood. The general age and weapon varies from tribe to tribe.

Old Empire (1200/1450) - This was the height of Taharan civilization, when the whole moonworld was united by a single theocratic empire that built huge stone temples. 

Ten kingdoms era (1450/1700) - The 'time of ten kingdoms' period of Taharan history is often very romanticized. The culture was at its height as the rival kingdoms competed for supremacy for a few hundred years.

Dynastic era (1700/1970) - Another period of general unity, where the kingdoms coalesced into a ruling tribe that became the Taharan aristocracy. Dynasties came and went, lasting around 80 years each.

The Schism wars (1780/1830) - A brutal series of religious wars fought over Yatao/Yateo ideological differences.

The Wueshi Dynasty - This dynasty of Taharans ruled for a good 90 years, making it half the age of the Federation. The Feds enjoyed good relations with the ruling class and kept exclusive trading status until...

(Current events!)

Revolution 1967 - A grassroots freedom movement funded by the Tautoans appealed to the monarchy for institutional reform; they were promptly jailed and executed. Resulting in protests that grew increasingly violent until an outright revolution started. 

Rebel Factions - Most of the hundreds of different rebelling tribes and groups eventually coalesced into two main factions, the People's Advocates and the Freedom Fighter's Front

The Purge 1990 - Racial tensions and animosity against the old ruling class Wueshi continued to build until exploding into a murderous frenzy overnight. Sub groups within both factions orchestrated the killings. The Wueshi were disadvantaged by being spread out and having lost most of their wealth from the revolution. 'The Purge' became the most brutal massacre in Taharan history; a few smaller tribes rumored to be harboring Wueshi were also exterminated. Their surviving men mutilated, mass rapes of the women, and the children sold into slavery.  Over the course of two months, the 389,000 Wueshi dropped to about 5000 when the killing was finally ordered to cease. Most Wueshi who were left had either fled the moon, lived in hiding, or were sold/kept as sex slaves by party officers.

International Opinion - The genocide was largely ignored by the Federation, whose collective consciousness was focused on the Guhani war. The Tautoan Empire's media was likewise ordered to suppress news of it since colonial commitments were already very demanding. All other nations and groups didn't have enough economic stake in the relatively minor conflict to show concern. 

Hulihani Agreement - Tensions are rising between the PA and triple F. Small skirmishes and bar fights have become very common. Major business interests on Tahara brought the major leaders of the two factions together to sign an important economic pact: a strict ceasefire agreement in the cities and certain wealthy tribes. Severe punishment is dealt to all militia who violate it. Additionally, both factions start allowing alien aid workers to come in and start conducting humanitarian efforts. 

The Raids - Neutral villages are quickly taking sides to avoid being raided. Regimental commanders find some pretext to label a village as an enemy. Then burn a village to the ground, sell the survivors to the triple F slavers and keep the prettiest for themselves. 

International Opinion - A movement in the Federation is growing quickly. It's bringing attention to the particular war crimes of a mercenary officer with the PA (Ariseny) who has raided some of these villages and was possibly a big player back in the purge. The movement has pushed a bill through parliament to send an intervention force to Tahara on a humanitarian mission. The goals quickly expanded from simply putting Ariseny on trial to bringing peace and democracy to the whole moonworld. 
 A segment of the Fed's intelligence community has been working behind the scenes to try and back the triple F to bring reestablish Federation economic and security interests on Tahara. They tried to subvert the bill in parliament, but public opinion pushed it through. Suffice to say, they aren't happy with the situation.
 The Tautoan Empire has also been working behind the scenes to secure their interests on Tahara.

As always, I value your time as a reader and would appreciate any comments, suggestions, observations, and predictions you have; so feel free to comment or message me!

Your Servant,
The Chivalrous Rogue

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Announcement: Title change and upcoming chapters...

Dear Readers,

 When I first started writing this novel,  Mercs, Feds, & Tribals was literally the first working title that popped into my head. Now I've settled upon Skyborne as a more fitting name. I'm going to go back throughout the blog and update the title.

My apologies for the inevitable minor confusion that this change will cause.

The new chapters are coming! The Chief and his crew will be engaging in a little firefight, you'll see more of Rachel, and shall meet the last important POV with the Federals.

Your Servant,
The Chivalrous Rogue

Monday, January 20, 2014

Announcement: Opening Details and Illustrations

Dear Readers,

 The blog migration is going to take a while. I'll continue posting chapters and whatnot here as usual until the new home of Mercs, Feds, & Tribals is ready. 

 In other news, I'm updating the chapter entries with more opening details and illustrations. Location, POV, time increments, and so forth. For example...

Sanduro system - Moonworld Nergovia - Outskirts: 3200 local time (almost midday). [0400. 14/3/2003 Omega time]
Phillip Raegas, foot officer of the Uewo Cartel.

System name - Planetary body - Onworld location: local time (reference). [Omega time, a 24hr international clock and day/month/year dating system.]
Character, their nationality and position.

 Omega time is just to keep you from going insane. Local times on the multitudes of moonworlds, earths, stations and the like can vary anywhere from 2 hour days to 64. I'll occasionally include them just to give an idea of what the local solar cycle is like.

 Also, keep in mind that events aren't necessarily unfolding strictly chronologically. I sometimes show one character's view of an event and then 'rewind' for another POV's reaction to it. It's straightforward and you'll have Omega time for reference.

 As always I value your time as a reader and appreciate any and all suggestions, observations, critiques, and predictions, so please comment! And if you're enjoying Mercs, Feds, & Tribals then don't forget to subscribe!

Your Servant,
The Chivalrous Rogue

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Announcement: Concerning copyrights and chapters

Dear Reader, This is just a quick announcement concerning copyrights. I've written everything here, all chapters, database entries, and so forth. However, all images are just really cool and fitting pictures I pulled from the internet.

 Ok? Images not mine, text is mine, ;) unless I reference otherwise.

  If you want to quote a few hundred words somewhere, that's fine. If you want to repost something, I'd appreciate it if you asked first. :)

 As for upcoming chapters, January's second installment will return to Rachel's perspective, and February will start with a serious action sequence with the Skylark.

 As always I value your time as readers and appreciate any suggestions, observations, critiques, and predictions that y'all have.
Your Servant,
The Chivalrous Rogue

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Database Entry: Newscast - Federation Imperialists

Winning the War: Imperialist news commentary

[Author's note - Cedrick Ronan is a news commentator for the Imperialist party in the Federation. He's wrong about most of his facts, I could write a step by step rebuttal of his assessment of the clans; however, that's not my purpose here, Ronan's segment Winning the War is indicative of the general attitude of the Federation and particularly the Imperialist party toward the Clans and the Auld League in general.]

Cedrick Ronan! The voice of the Imperialist party comes to you with an exclusive inside look at the ever growing threat of intergalactic war with the Auld League.

 Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to say that I must start this program with some very dire news:
 Yesterday, Parliament passed yet another spending cut to our nation's military, reducing the MoD's budget by over 50 billion credits. In the same session we can see that the 'Voices of Peace' held a five hundred thousand man protest outside Parliament pleading for 'reason' when it came to intergalactic wars. Rep Thinson assured the protesters that, "Parliament isn't going to commit to any new wars in this session, the next session, or the one after that. The Federation especially appreciates the good will that it shares will the other members of the Coalition, and our alien friends in the Auld League, the Democratic Republic of Disuka, the Shaoganate, and others."

 There’s something you absolutely have to understand about the clans in the Auld League. They are barbarians. They are savages. They cannot be reasoned with, and the only thing they’ve ever understood or ever will understand is power. I know these barbarians, and I’ve learned they are ridiculously violent, unbelievably violent. If you are a good educated citizen - which I know all of my dedicated viewers are - then you know about the horrific clan feuds. They go out and kill a rival family’s men, women, and children.

 But ladies and gentlemen, that barely scratches the surface of how evil these people are. I have a list here of some of their lesser known horrific practices. It’s a very disturbing list obviously, so I would advise viewer discretion; if you are sensitive to the suffering of others then please make sure your appropriate censorship setting is on.

 First, their Chieftains are total despots, they rule over their clan with an iron fist. They have total control over what their people do or say. They tell their people who they can marry, what job they’re going to take, everything they do is for ‘clan céan,’ that’s a Maddok word meaning ‘clan first.’ It refers to this absolute concept that the good of the clan always comes first. They can’t even think for themselves, just for the clan.

 Next, they are one of few peoples that actively practice something called ‘quality control eugenics,’ that means if you’re born with down syndrome, they kill you in the womb. Even the evil Tautoan empire doesn’t do that. And if they kill you in the womb, what’s to say their Chieftains who have total control over everything else in their life can’t kill them any other time? These despots probably kill whoever they want whenever they want if they can kill children in the womb.

 Again, to talk about just how much control these Chieftains have. According to their code, both parties have to be virgins when they're married. Do you understand that? They don't let the kids have their fun. Even after they become independent adults, they're still under the threat of punishment if they just get laid! My god, no wonder they're so violent considering just how sexually repressed they must be!

 And now the one you knew was coming, their blood sports. My god they love their blood sports. The clans compete against each other, putting contestants forward to fight to the death! Who knows how many millions could be dying from that?

 Their language is riddled with signs of their despicable violence. We have like seven different words for peace. In their language, they have fifteen different words for war, and over five hundred different words for sword. I did not believe my ears when I first heard that. Over five hundred. Ladies and gentlemen, that just reveals how obsessed with violence the clans are.

 This next one really gets to me, one of the biggest sports in the clans is dog fighting. The Society for Animal Life estimates that over thirty million dogs are killed in these fighting pits each year. And these savages love it.

 Ladies and gentlemen, this stirs two feelings in me. I am sickened that a barbarian society like this can exist in today’s universe. But I’m also relieved, relieved that you and I live in the greatest nation that ever was; a nation that firmly stands behind essential, humanitarian values to preserve life and bring wealth and peace to the universe. It is evil forces like the clans who stand for everything we hate. The clans are a threat to our way of life, they are a threat to life itself. I cannot fathom how the Eggies and Plebs (Egalitarians and Plebians) can possibly think we can reason with these barbarians. They are a race of psychopaths. That is foolish, that is irresponsible madness at the highest level. These sexually repressed savages love killing and hate us; why do they hate us? They hate us because they hate us. They only understand power. They only understand strength.

 For Pete’s sake, we must build our military back up to its former glory and support it in a crusade against these clans. Their coward leaders know that they can’t take us in an open honest battle, so they hide behind the mercenary’s neutrality and chip away at us a little by little; while the Eggies and Plebs are letting them! Our military is being gutted at home as they try to appease the forces of evil.

 You can’t appease them forever! It must come to a decisive war if we are to survive. Remember the Guhani disaster! We would’ve walked over that tiny insurrectionist mining colony if they hadn’t hired Clan Doglos to ambush our brave men and women. That is a prime example of Eggie weakness, that is national suicide.

 The Federation and the Coalition in general need to do three things if we’re to continue to thrive against the evil forces in this universe.
 First, we must rearm. We have to raise taxes and at least triple the size of our military, the nuclear arsenal, and bring back the dominator corps.
 Secondly, we must face down the clans; they hate us because they hate us. We will crush them on the battlefield. But only if we return our military to its former glory and return this nation to its Imperialist foundations.
 Thirdly, and I'll leave you with this: We as a people need to replace our trust in our leaders and our grand machine.

 As always I appreciate your time and would love to hear your critiques, suggestions, observations, and predictions. So feel free to comment or message me. And if you're enjoying Mercs, Feds, and Tribals, then don't forget to subscribe!

Your Servant,
The Chivalrous Rogue

(5) Tribals: Family

Arkold system - Moonworld Tahara - Shakalassa Ridgeline: 0730 local time. [2300. 13/3/2003 Omega time]
Tawal and Vean Tahli of tribe Shroa.


 The deer were tiny, barely knee high; their almond colored coats were covered with black and dull emerald spots. The scores of rounded, plump bodies flitted surprisingly quickly on skinny legs through the dense olive green underbrush. The crashing foliage and light thunder of hundreds of small hooves pounding against the dry and sandy soil. The herd rapidly changed direction again as another sharp crack sounded.
One stumbling buck emerged from the rear of the fleeing herd. It repeatedly fell to its knees, the stubby antlers scratching up tufts of sand as it flailed about to keep running.
Another crack brought the buck to its side, panicked breaths coursed through a dying body with the rapid rise and fall of its belly.

 Small spittles of blood collected on silent, coal black lips as jungle eyes wildly searched the dense vegetation; the prey searched for his hunter.

 The crashing herd faded as that vegetation parted to reveal the hunter; a tall Taharan 23 year old man casually walked forward, a badly pitted and rusted AKM held at a low ready. His skin was a dark bronze, long locks of thinly braided black hair hanging about a chinless beard; the typical tone and cut of men of the lowlander tribes. He wore a heavily dusted and grass stained light cotton shirt that hung loosely over a lean and muscular frame; a decades old slogan from some League corporation was once printed in Aethereen script, though now it was faded beyond comprehension by years of wind and wear. Not that the hunter could’ve read it anyway.  The original bleach white color had similarly evolved into a light green and beige splash. But the hunter didn’t care, that color worked better for the underbrush anyway. His ancient large running shoes were both soaked with water from some stream he’d leapt through.
Behind the man followed a ten year old boy with a familiar face and height if leaner build. His hair was shorter, barely falling below his ears in a tangled mass that hid vividly green eyes. Those eyes darted from hunter to prey with the excited anticipation of a cub.

 The hunter approached the fallen buck and quickly tapped one, then a second round into the back of its head; the prey jerked twice before stilling. He slung the rifle over his shoulder as he knelt, his fingers felt the thick throat and side of the carcass.

 “Son, come see.” The hunter spoke Kartoa with a very heavy native Taharan accent that rounded broadly about vowels. He had a paternal baritone.

 The boy quickly ran forward and stood next to the hunter, drawing a large knife with a rope wrapped handle in his left hand. The boy halted in his steps when the hunter raised his hand. The boy’s face fell into disappointment as he spoke in Ha’jiam, “I can clean it Dad, you said if I did a good job you’d let me go hunting.”

 “In Kahtowa, you will learn the alien’s tongue.”
 The boy looked down and nodded his head.

 “And so you will, but first come and see.”
 The boy kept the knife in his hand as he scrutinized the body.

 This is a test. Gotta get this right. Dad’s pointing out something, something. Gotta sound smart, gotta bullseye it on the first try, gotta sound smart.

 The boy nervously fingered the knife in his hand.
 “Uh… It’s a buck?”

 Damn it!

 The father’s smile cracked into a soft chuckle, “Yeesss, it’s a buck. Anything else?”


 “It’s a yearling.”
 “We only kill yearlings for special meals.”
 “Such as?”
 “New babies, somebody dies, or gets married, sacrifices. Stuff like that.”
 “And why did we kill this one?”
 “Because Granddad made a big business deal.”
 “And would you ever kill a yearling?”
 “Only if you told me to.”

 The father smiled and grabbed the two front legs of the buck, easily hoisting the animal over his shoulders while getting to his feet. The boy smiled proudly,.

 My Dad is the strongest in the tribe… Well, maybe not the tribe. Hutyan is a lot bigger, but he’s definitely the best fighter. NOBODY can beat my Dad. Nobody on the whole world.

 “We’re going to string it up at the house, you can field dress it there.”

 The boy tucked his knife back into a crudely stitched - but secure - sleeve of his pants.

 “You’re going to be thorough, I don’t want to see a single calorie of meat wasted.”
 “It’ll be the cleanest body ever.”

 Father and son casually walk through the jungle, brushing through immense ferns, branches, and vines. Moving around the thickly twisted trees with roots upraised like some tentacled sea beast writhing in mid frenzy. Yet the overhead canopy was sparse, at least when compared to the thicker inland tracts of the Moon Tahara; sunlight penetrated almost unheeded, casting a strangely patchwork contrast of dark shadow and bright tropical floor. Massive beige boulders towered over the pair. The intense heat was somewhat relieved under the guard of the trees.

 The natural sounds quickly returned as the minutes ticked by from the hunt, tan and brown birds flitted about in the canopy while the smaller ground bound mammals and reptiles slithered and prowled about their way, hidden by the foliage. Hidden to sight that is, but the boy knew that his father would still know them all by their scent. A nine kilogram knight rat was watching them warily from the underbrush, his overlapping armored plates of black grey bone that gave him his name blended well in the background. Those rats were alien pests brought to this world by Clan breeders. A two meter long brown arrowbacked viper almost woke from its month-long slumberous roost. A small flock of green and brown Guineas huddled together in fear. A spike backed lizard fled before them with an impressive burst of speed, its grainy green hide vanishing in a blur. Overhead, another sort of lizard clasped closer to its low hanging branch, its thin brown skin flushing into a luscious emerald. The air was filled with the buzz of Cicalas and other insects; a thirty centimeter long turquoise and black dragonfly flitted past on huge silvery wings, strange since they usually stuck to the mangroves nearer the coast.

 The land was alive today.

 The pair walked just under a kilometer through this scene before crossing the game trail they sought. The barely meter wide path formed after decades of little feet pounding the earth below. They changed their course to follow this trail up a sharply inclining mountain. It crossed over a steadily trickling bright azure stream of water several times, where both father and son stooped to gulp down and soak their faces in the rejuvenating life before moving on again. The path took them under arching roots and between large boulders. It started to switchback and forth as the climb became nearly vertical, yet the natives easily pressed upward; even the boy’s nimble feet had walked this way hundreds of times.

 As the climb became close to vertical, they broke free of the over head canopy; only the smallest of trees and shrubs clung to the side of the small mountain. From this side of the ridge they could easily see much higher mountains to the north west before they wrapped around the moon at the close horizon. The furiously red gas giant Hannok swallowed most of the light blue sky above them. Tahara’s sun shined comparatively distantly as it nearly met Hannok’s horizon. The boy looked up at the sky, Gonna be dark soon.

 Tahara had a complicated solar cycle, since it was orbiting the gas giant Hannok which in turn orbited the system’s sun. Tahara itself had regular twelve hour days amid month long alternating intervals of near constant light or darkness. Corresponding to whether the sun was facing Tahara, or eclipsed by the gas giant. The native calender maintained by the older shamans recorded ten light months to ten dark months. The red glare from Hannok created a strange nocturnal world that emerged during the dark months. The vipers and bats came from their roosts and reigned in the darkness, subverting and replacing the animals that lived in the times of bright.

 Two villagers hold a doe before the head shaman; the shaman holds aloft the ritual machete while chanting to Yatao, then bringing it down severing the head from the body. The blood surges forth, pouring onto the earth from the neck like a hose. As the villagers drag the body around the square under the stark night red light from Yatao. Then Yateo’s sacrifice; the second doe tossed into the flames, pinned by a shaman with a fire pole till the doe’s frenzied screams faded away. “Red shadow, gold light; Yatao’s reign, Yateo’s reign.” 

 I like Yatao’s sacrifices more, we get to eat it after.

 The boy shuddered thinking of the two gods that ruled over Tahara. The storming great red gas giant called Yatao - that aliens called Hannok - was obviously the more powerful one. His little brother Yateo - what they had long since learned was a sun - was the much smaller object in the sky that would blind you if you looked too close.

 The pair climbed another few kilometers, the buck and AK slung over the father’s broad shoulders. They finally crossed over the crest of the ridge to follow the trail in a sharp series of switchbacks downward. On this side of the ridge you could see the many rivers and creeks that ran toward and from the great lake to the south. Gigantic white clouds loomed to the south, the misty white seemingly frozen outline of rain was outlined from them down to the jungle. One of those rivers came up to form a small lake down below at the foot of the ridge. A few motor boats and canoes were running down there now.

 They look so tiny. Like little ants I can squish with my fingertip.

 The boy looked over to see several trails of smoke emerge from a clearing in the canopy just below.

 Home. Rang both within the boy’s and his father’s minds at the sight. Tribe Shroa

 Home gradually became clearer through the treeline. Four mudbrick and cob buildings stood in in a flattened clearing on the side of the ridge. The largest family house was four levels tall, a mansion by Taharan standards. The second and third were both just one level carports storing several trucks, speeders, and ATV’s. The fourth was just a small cinder block shed with a tin roof. On the roofs of the first three structures rested dozens of water drums, a few of which were hooked into a pipeline that ran into the house below. A large net dish was setup on the roof of the family house. The first three houses all had overhangs made from tin and thatch, various chairs, logs, benches, and crates were hauled in the shade.

 Over a dozen children were playing kickball in the dusty square, a few mothers and older children sat on the family house’s front porch shucking the rough husks of roadfruit into large tin wash basins. A few old Shaog bolt action rifles leaned against the porch railing just within easy reach of the women. The mothers’ long black hair were tied into many small braids, while the couple young women present had theirs tied back into a single cord of hair. As per the general custom for women in the lowlander and lakeside tribes. Some had receivers, and all were chatting in Ha’jiam.

 Why do they all talk at once?

 Several old men and young boys were also lounging about in the shade, Disukan made Machine pistols in their laps. A couple were on also on receivers, but for the most part they were napping in the afternoon heat. The game trail finally emerged past another large boulder into the sun baked dust of home.
“Tawal! Little Vean!” A fifteen year old woman waved over to them, she sat aside the roadfruit and sprang to her feet just as the hunter dropped the buck onto the wooden slats of the front porch. She wore a more traditional feminine Taharan garb, flowing white robes bound up by an embroidered sash. She somehow managed to hug them both, drawing them into a tightly familial embrace.

 Don’t call me ‘little’ Aunt Ilani, that’s for babies! You’re only five years older than me! Stop kissing me! The boy wanted to say, but he knew his father Tawal might slap him for it later. Instead, he just prickled a bit, casting a quick look at the other boys to see if they heard her. One of the boys had forgotten the game and was already sneering in his direction.
Hanan did hear, DAMN. 

 Vean glared at the other boy through Ilani’s hug, but neither she nor Tawal noticed. She brushed cheek to cheek with Tawal before planting several kisses on Vean’s head.

 “Careful Ilani, don’t get blood on your dress.” Tawal said, some small blood stains had trickled over his shoulders from where the buck’s mouth had been lagging.
 “I don’t care! It’s a beautiful buck! You know Kovono loves venison at his feasts! Would you like me to clean it for you?”
 “I was actually going to see if Vean can do a good job.”
 “Ooohh!” Ilani gushed, turning to her nephew, “Vean is going to dress it? That’s a big responsibility to clean a yearling buck!”
 Vean grinned triumphantly at Hanan before turning to Ilani, “And I’ll do it perfect too!”
 Tawal opened his mouth to remind him, but Vean remembered and quickly restated his sentence in Kartoa.  “And I do it great too.”
 “And you will do it great too.” Tawal corrected anyway. “You need help moving the buck?”

 “No,” Vean quickly replied, “I’m strong enough.” He pointedly said in Hanan’s direction. He looked down at the buck that Tawal had carried for several kilometers over the ridge. I got this. He grabbed the buck and tried to heave it onto his back, but only made it halfway before he lost momentum and it slid back down to the ground.

 Damn, Damn, Damn! 

 Hanan’s laughter racked through his brain.
 “You sure son?”
 Vean didn’t reply, he just dragged the buck onto a nearby chair and knelt down under it. Now he’s just able to struggle to his feet, the buck slumped awkwardly over his head. He started walking toward the meat shed, one careful step at a time, trying to ignore the other boys. The other children kept after the ball with rapt focus, even little Oshta - another of Kovono’s grandchildren - waddled after the ball, squealing with delight when she neared it.

 Ilani looked toward Tawal with a slightly concerned look on her face, “Ashara’s not going to be happy that you’re teaching him the alien’s tongue.”
 “I don’t care what Ashara thinks.”
 His reply caused some of the nearby chatter to drop into shocked silence before the busy whispering started. Tawal had always hated that, but at least they hadn’t waited for him to turn his back before talking about him.
 “Where is Sali?”
 “She’s… um.” Ilani’s gaze turned away.
 Tawal didn’t detect any trouble, but he definitely wasn’t going to like what he heard. He asked the question again, gently enunciating each word.

 “She’s working down in the bar, cleaning dishes I think.”

 Tawal’s brow furrowed in anger, “How long?”
 “Since this morning I think, please don’t tell Ashara I told you!”
 Tawal stormed off toward the auto-shed, hopping onto an ATV and revving it to life. He roared across the yard, slowing down and steering carefully around the children, and squeezed the throttle down the winding single road that led to the foot of the ridge and the bar.

 Tawal sighed at the name of the matriarch of Shroa: Ashara. They had always been at odds. Ever since he had defied her marriage arrangement and eloped with Sali at fifteen - a year before the customary age. Ever since he’d gone out of his way to learn the alien tongue and encouraged its use across the tribe. He hated the old way of tribal patriarchs and matriarchs, it wasn’t right for the new generation to be at the beck and call of the old. He was the rising young warrior that everyone knew would lead the tribe one day; he flaunted his independence and Ashara hated him for it. Tawal wielded a lot of clout with the tribe. And she more usually than not took it out on Sali.  Singling her out to work in the steaming hot kitchen of the bar while most of the women were up here.

 Ashara loves to boss Sali around whenever I’m gone. It’s going to stop. 

 He was frustrated with Sali as well, she wasn’t stupid or intimidated easily; far from it. So why did she just keep smiling and curb to whatever Ashara wants? It wasn’t fair.

 Tawal roared from the house road to the main road, a couple dozen other homes and buildings surrounded the bar on the main road in front of the lake. Darkness was quickly starting to set in as first night was coming; the sun was creeping behind the red mass of Yatao, the dimmer red light quickly falling upon the world. A small wharf filled with returning boats and Shroa tribesmen waved to him. He waved back as he pulled up in front of the bar. It was a very broad three level structure bustling with activity as more tribesmen were coming in tired and leaving in various states of inebriation.

 He curtly responded to a few greetings as he strode to the open front doors. By the time he reached it, the full darkness of first night hit, so he was illuminated against the inward light of the bar.

 The bar was packed - as usual - with about seventy patrons, most of which were Shroa. These were the night owls who staid up through much of the four hour eclipse would spend most of that time drinking here. The dull red light filtered through a few cracks and open windows in the thick mud brick walls; the scarlet rays reflected off the faint haze of pipe smoke that filled the air. The scent was powerful to those unaccustomed to it. Extinguished kerosene lamps were spaced around a score of tables of a dozen different makes. The variety is outdone by the seats thereof, everything from ancient handmade wicker rocking chairs to empty shipping crates are propped haphazardly around.

 The patrons were of two types, some wore the diversely patterned multi-colored Taharan robes of the Shroa. Though most were wearing cheaper t shirts and shorts or tunics from various alien cultures. Most were armed with some sort of firearm that were only as diverse as they were collectively worn and rusted. Fourteen tribeswomen in a corner were from the Cartel’s mushroom plant down the road smoking their pipes; it was good work that brought a nice income to their families. In another were the muddy diamond divers that worked for the Freedom Fighter’s Front in the diamond fields to the south. They took 4 day shifts at a time before walking home.

 Tawal drew stares when he entered the room, stares that quickly returned to their drinks at his stern expression.

 The Shroa tribe fear you Matriarch Ashara? They fear me too. 

 He strode across the room straight to the kitchen, moving around the bar till one of the bouncers named Hanyuk stood in his path; he was a huge man, taller than Tawal. He wasn’t armed, but in the crowded spaces of the bar and his usually unfocused opponents it wasn’t really necessary. Yet the expression on his face was uncertainty, out of place on a face which was always certain. To the side a bargirl named Kallia watched with a frightened expression on her face.
“Hanyuk, step aside.”
“Ashara told me to not let you pass.”
“Hanyuk, step aside."
 “Yes Tawal.”
 Tawal gently but firmly brushed Hanyuk aside and moved to the kitchen door, thrusting it open violently as he entered.

 The unbearable heat blew over him; sixteen different workers were deep in the large metal sinks, washing cups, mugs, tankards, and glasses in a mass of bubbly froth. His entry drew several startled stares from those workers, he studied their faces for a moment before he recognized his wife. Her face and shirt were sopping with sweat, her arms red and pruny from being in the rinse water all day. Yet she didn’t seem to know it.
Sali smiled at him fondly while shaking off the bubbles and drying her arms with a dishrag, “Never mind ladies, my husband loves dramatic entrances.”
 “How long have you been working here?”
 “Since last night, a good day’s work to nurse the soul.”
 “You’re on permanent break now; come on, I’m taking you back to the house.”
 “If you insist.” Sali tossed the dishrag onto the sink and walked over to Tawal, planting a wet kiss on his lips as she took his arm.
 “By Yatao, you’re as sweaty as I am!”
 “Had a good day’s hunt.” Tawal commented as he walked back out of the kitchen into the bar. Tawal started walking straight for the door till Sali turned him back to a few empty bar chairs. “Sit, we could both use a quick drink before heading back.” He obeyed without protest.

 Sali hopped onto a chair by the bar as she beckoned to Kallia for two drinks. She was thin as a stick but unusually tall. The bargirl moved quickly to pour them, looking apologetic then relieved when Sali smiled at her. Tawal took the seat next to his wife, watching the bar door. Sali sat silently for a minute before asking,
 “So I trust you ran into little Hannu up at the house?”
 “No, Sakea looking after him?”
 “Yep, Sakea and Ilani, I can barely pry him from them. Ilani’s going to make a great mother."
 Tawal didn't comment, Sali fingered her drink for a moment.
"How did Vean do on the hunt?”
“He did good, kept up well enough and didn’t complain.”
 Sali left a moment’s pause, “You know, he’s been talking about running off with the PA when he turns twelve.”
 Tawal finally took a swig from his tankard on the bar. “Few months ago he was talking about leaving Tahara and becoming a pilot in the alien’s army. Before that it was joining the diamond divers with the triple F. He’s still a boy.”
 Sali shrugged her shoulders, “Either way he’s still going to want that SKS when he turns twelve, like all the other boys.” She had that particularly patient voice.
“He’ll get a rifle, I just want him hunting with it, not running off to get himself killed with the PA. We keep him here he’ll stay alive like the rest of us.”
“Your father is quite the diplomat,” Sali emptied her tankard and tapped the bar for a refill. “I didn’t think anyone else could keep Shroa neutral between the triple F and the PA.”
“He has a lot of friends in both, and he keeps them happy.”
“Yes, he does…” Tawal caught the faintly disapproving tone behind Sila’s smile, understandable.

 The tide of chatter dimmed down slightly, immediately drawing Tawal’s gaze to the door. A tall and powerful woman stalked into the bar. Streaks of grey shone in her hair, the braids hung before a scarred eye socket and one intense blue eye.

 The matriarch’s here.

 Sila smiled and toasted her entrance, “Good evening Ashara!”

 Ashara walked up to the bar and tapped for a drink. She glared at Hutyan before turning to Tawal and speaking with perfectly articulated Ha’jiam.

 “Good evening son.”

 Tawal stiffly nodded his head in bare recognition,

 As always I appreciate your time and would love to hear your critiques, suggestions, observations, and predictions. So feel free to comment or message me. And if you're enjoying Mercs, Feds, and Tribals, then don't forget to subscribe!

Your Servant,
The Chivalrous Rogue