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Orphans & Outcasts: Chapter Six

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NORTHERN TOWER – private communication linkage –

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Illustration of Messenger Hunter Titus Timothy Telvon
Titus Timothy Telvon

The remains of the happy little camp Jarvis had left earlier that morning was strewn around his feet. His optical analysis came up with nothing as he scanned the globular trees by the lagoon, searching for any sign of life. The damage to his systems prohibited a deeper search. He knelt, fingers trembling as he picked up Ki’b’s herbal kit. He had bought the little boxes for her at the border town between Pennadot and Utillia, and the delight on her face had been brighter than any Sunrise. Now they were slick with blue-tinted blood. It had to be Khwaja Denvy’s.

Carefully he pieced the kit back together, stowing it in his hip-bags.

The thought of his orphan siblings alone and hurt again—he wanted to panic, to rush around, calling out their names. But none of it would help. That much he had learnt. Panicking would be of no aid to anyone and, besides, he could barely stand.

On shaking legs, he heaved himself to his feet, crossing wearily to where Titus crouched over a slain Kelib. Jarvis covered his mouth and nose at the foul stench emanating from the corpse.

“Surely the bodies haven’t started decomposing already?” he muttered.

“Actually they’re…” Titus plucked at the leathery shirt the Kelib male wore. “Cannibals.”

Jarvis’s mouth went dry. Without Khwaja Denvy’s presence in their little prison perhaps even he—Jarvis shook his head—no—he had promised he would stop thinking this way. The moment they had broken out of the box, and light had flooded his eyes once more, he had been reborn. He was not that boy in a box anymore.

“We call them poachers.” Aaldryn approached, dragging another corpse along behind him. He flung it over the other. “They’re utter scum. You mentioned you have an Obilb in your family? And your old Kattamont is golden furred?”

Jarvis nodded.

“Rythrya Stones be blessed there were only three poachers. They usually hunt in far larger packs.” Aaldryn glanced around with a frown. “They can take down a Kattamont queen if they’re in the mood, and I have heard of them killing brotherhoods for sport.”

“Why?” Jarvis spluttered out.

“Our fur. Our tail feathers. Also, apparently there is some kind of trade with the Batitics for our…ah…hmmm…” Aaldryn rubbed his chin. “Maybe I’ll tell you about it later.”

Jarvis paled. “I don’t think I even want to know!”

“Perhaps not.”

Jarvis pointed at the dead poachers with his good arm. “But they’re wearing Human skins.”

Aaldryn shrugged. “Of course. Humans are far easier to kill. Obilb skin is highly prized. Very, very pretty.”

Jarvis grabbed Titus’ arm. “Penny!”

“Don’t worry.” Aaldryn kicked over one of the bodies, revealing an arrow. It had to be nearly the length of Jarvis’ arm. It was fletched with the same bright azure feathers as Aaldryn’s tail. The Kattamont grinned.

“This belongs to my mate. I provide the tail feathers for her arrows. It is likely your family were taken back to our sand-ship. They will be safe with my Mother and my mate. She said our sand-ship is docked off the island—likely around the other side, away from the null-zone.”

“But all the blood.” Jarvis gestured to the patch in the clover-grass. “It belongs to Khwaja Denvy!”

Titus touched his shoulder, trying to urge him to calm. But he simply could not still his racing heartbeat. Something had triggered it and sweat was pooling in the nape of his neck.

“Yeh know the old man, Little Weasel. He’s lived a long life. If he knows he has children ta safeguard, he’ll always keep fighting.”

Jarvis bowed his head. It was true. Khwaja Denvy seemed to have no choice but to try and protect them. It was part of his nature. Titus moved off to collect Penny and Clive’s packs, but he heard his master mutter.

“Besides, the old man has far too much Zaprex in him ta abandon anyone by dying.”

Jarvis rubbed the scar across his arm where the protector bot had savagely slashed him and contaminated him with philepcon liquid. He understood the drive, the intense desire, the need to protect.

He could not deny how very Zaprex it was.

The walk across the small island should not have been difficult, not compared to scaling the heights of the Ovin-tu Mountains in a blizzard, but Jarvis felt himself lagging with each step, his heart racing in overdrive, sweat collecting under his collar. His feet slipped beneath him. Red warning signals flickered across his optical screens as his vision fizzed. He gritted his teeth, ignoring the annoying flashes to focus on Titus ahead of him. The bleeding hole in his chest ached and throbbed, but surely it was fine—his master had patched it up.

Or—maybe it was not all right.

The single thought froze in his mind.

Blaring, sharp pain speared up his spine, snapping every limb into a tight lock and Jarvis felt himself drop. Had he hit something solid, not soft grass, he was sure he would have sounded metallic, landing with a heavy clunk.

“Jarvis!” Titus’ voice was a sharp twang through his skull. “Holy Sun, Jarvis!”

He sensed his master over him, soon joined by Aaldryn. He was pretty sure he grumbled something out, actually he must have sworn, for a moment later his ear was boxed sharply by his master.

“Don’ yeh use that language on me!”

That was rich, coming from his foul-mouthed master.

“You should have said something earlier.” Aaldryn began to cut through his shirt, tugging at the bandage. “Pushing yourself only makes things worse.” The Kattamont pulled out a new wad of sticky padding from the medical kit before pouring something over the bleeding wound, something that made it burn. Jarvis sat up abruptly.

“Holy Sun!”

Titus pushed him back down. “We have ta clean the wound again.”

“I don’t care! You’re making it worse.”

Aaldryn slapped the patch across the hole in his chest. “For someone with a bullet wedged in one of his lungs, you’re doing a lot of yelling.” Aaldryn turned to Titus. “We have to get the bullet out. There is no telling how much longer the philepcon liquid is going to keep flooding the system. I had hoped it might dissolve, but it doesn’t look like it will.”

“Can you do that?” Titus had a vice grip on Jarvis’ shoulders, though Jarvis doubted he could move even if he wished to. Aaldryn should not have mentioned his lung. Now that he focused on it, he could feel the little piece of metal, sitting there, wedged inside his chest and it was making everything scream.

“No, I can’t,” Aaldryn was still talking, “but my blood-brother is a Rune Doctor. He should be able to do something about this.”

Jarvis groaned in protest as Titus lifted him, cradling him against his chest.

“He better be good, this blood-brother of yours.”

Aaldryn’s foot-paws sounded ahead of them. “He’s the best doctor you’ll ever find.”

“Put me down,” Jarvis protested weakly.

Titus glared at him. “Learn ta accept help when yeh get it, laddie. It won’ always be there.”

Rough sketch of Jarvis
Rough sketch of Jarvis

This was when I was still trying to figure out the hairstyle I was going to give Jarvis. In the end I decided to settle on giving him the hairstyle of a betrothed Kelib boy - since he considers himself betrothed to Ki'b under the laws of her people - so I thought it would be a cute gesture if he kept a hairstyle befitting of that status.

These are sketches from way back in 2016 - when I first started working up the storyline for Sekhmet and Nefertem. I sorta wish I'd kept Nefertem's long hair in it's design - I may just bring that back. ^_^; And yes, if you're curious, the Twelve Original Zaprexes are all named after Egyptian gods, and if you're cluey about their mythoes, you might get some of the references I drop from time to time. For example, Sekhmet is known to like beer as an offering. Sekhmet is also a goddess of war, and is usually associated with felines. Something to keep in mind when reading Dynasty of Earth and Stars is Sekhmet's affiliation for basically being the right-hand weapon of the Sun God Ra.

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