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Blood that Binds Us

 
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armoredman
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Joined: 18 May 2008
Posts: 884
Location: AZ, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2010 8:25 am    Post subject: Blood that Binds Us Reply with quote

Introduction
I have had more than one person who plays Tinywarz tell me, "You put a human face on the game". Sometimes too human, maybe, for some who view the game as just a war game, kill enemies and steal thier stuff. Twisted Evil Regardless, I find writing this fan fiction to be a great deal of fun, whether or not many people read it, and consider this training for when I actually write a book. Yes, that is moving into the works, with my loving wife egging me on. Naturally, with TW being Frizz intellectual property, it will NOT be a TW based book. Crying or Very sad
This story showcases the character I introduced in the fan fic competetion entitled "Bandaid." This maybe one of those stories that puts too human a face on things. If pew pew is all you like, this might not be the one for you. This is just the opening, there is more tickling away in the backbrain, just worked on it longer than the others opening pages. It is...different...


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Blood that Binds Us

The shuffle and bustle of the receiving bay in the massive fortified asteroid was stunning to a figure just recovering from a long and strange flight. He flexed his massive muscles, and examined his thick wrists, still wearing faint marks from the shackles, removed days ago at Earth Port. He said nothing as others bustled and jostled him, running every which direction in a bewildering cacophony of uniforms and dress, voices calling, announcements ringing, and the rumbling of various unfamiliar machinery. A brilliantly colored diagram of the system he had arrived in dominated one wall of the uniformly white bay, showing the various planets and a demarcation line running straight through the primary, cutting the system in two. His eyes narrowed as he read printed above and below the line, “Life Side/Death Side” He shrugged; he was sure to learn what that meant if it was important enough, although he thought that the little yellow arrow with the “You are Here” sign pointing to the permanent location of the asteroid was rather funny.
The man reached down, and picked up his plain travelers bag, containing very few items, a toiletries package issued to him by the flight crew, a credit reader showing his pitiful balance at the KreidetBanque, what was left after the forced sale of his assets by court order so long ago. His thin grey shipsuit was worn and wrinkled, and slightly foul from a few days worn between washings. His hair was short and neat, that being the one thing he could afford to keep in order, with very little grey showing. The skin below it was dark with sun and heritage, thick black eyebrows shading eyes of pure black.
He shouldered his cheap bag, and looked around for somewhere to go, when he saw something so out pf place in the modern automated known space that it made him blink. A man in a strange brown and white uniform was behind a podium on a slightly raised platform, calling out names, without even a megaphone. He raised an eyebrow; a computer would have done the job cheaper. Then he realized with a start his was the name being called next. And, he mentally grimaced, mispronounced again.
“Iman Walker, Iman Walker!” he shouted, pronouncing it ‘ih-man’.
He shrugged his shoulders, and moved towards the speaker. He tried to be gentle when moving through knots of people, but they seemed to shrink away from him anyway, leaving his path free and uncluttered. He reached the little stage, and found to his amusement he was almost at eye level with the man.
“I am Iman Walker,” he rumbled, with the correct ‘eye man’ pronunciation.
The man seemed slightly taken aback, then smiled, a genuine smile, Iman noted with some surprise – minor functionaries, in his experience, were the most likely to shake you down for what little you might have left.
The man extended his hand with a slip of paper on it, and said, “Welcome to Armageddon and Tianwarz system. You didn’t place any skills on your resume, so we have assigned you to general crew. Your partner is already in the processing center.
An eyebrow raised, “Partner?”
“Of course, takes two, generally, to run a meka,” the man said casually.
A feeling of a chill ran down his spine, as ghosts played with his memories, “I...I wasn’t thinking I would be in one of the machines, maybe a mechanic, food technician, clerical or such…”
The man shook his head with a grin, “You don’t look like the data entry type to me. Besides, you have no listed skills, so the faction who hires you gets to place you where they will. You already got picked up; the Iron Wolves are your new home. Your partner is approximately forty five feet in that direction through those doors. Your crew name is the Flaming Squirrels.”
Both eyebrows raised, “Flaming Squirrels?”
The man laughed, and said, “Names are chosen by computer randomness. You should have seen the guys who got nailed with Puking Vultures!”
Iman did laugh at that one, “Flaming Squirrels it is, thank you. And what is my partner’s name?”
The man consulted an e-pad, “Looks like one Daniel Prophet. Remember, your past is your own, no one here needs to know your story, unless you want them too, and don’t ask anyone for theirs. We don’t have a whole lot of rules here, but that’s the big one. Good luck, Iman,” and he pronounced it correctly this time, while extending a hand. Iman shook it, bemused by the experience. One on hand, the feeling in this place wasn’t the general despair and hopelessness one felt in many of the transfer stations he had been forced through, and the friendliness seemed real. On the other hand, he was daunted by the prospect of fighting in one of the giant metal war machines, as he had seen in popular videos. Well, one thing at a time.
Iman Walker gathered up his bag from where he had laid it, and walked towards the indicated doors.

The doors slid aside at his approach, clean and bright metal with an unusual hue, almost a rainbow effect shimmering under the surface. Iman noted this absentmindedly as he stepped into a room of orderly chaos, men and women still moving about with unknown purposes, but all the uniforms were brown and white. Others still in a variety of civilian dress sat at desks being interviewed by uniformed people, others stepping in and out of measuring booths, and at the far end, some were receiving bundles of mysterious objects from still more brown and white uniformed staff. He thought regretfully that maybe here would be a nice place to work, when a quiet voice at his elbow asked, “Iman Walker?”
He turned with a start, and the uniformed woman smiled, and gestured to a desk, “You were called next, please sit down.”
The young lady sat on the other side of the generic white desk, and lifted a terminal top to access the interface below, “Full name?”
“Iman Windspirit Walker,” he said, stressing the proper pronunciation.
“Iman, got it,” she said with a mischievous smile. Then she became businesslike, “Age?”
“Earth years, forty.”
The questioning was boring and repetitious, all very generic information, and he began to drift, until a question caused his eyes to snap open wide.
“Are your shackle galls causing any discomfort?”
He unconsciously rubbed his wrists, and muttered, “No, thank you.”
The lady smiled gently, “We have all the data from Earth Corrections Department, but don’t worry. None of that has any bearing on your stay in Tianwarz, we are extra-governmental, you might say.”
“Thank you,” he said quietly, meaning it.
“Welcome to the Tianwarz system, Iman, if you step into this booth, you will be measured for your factions clothing.”
He paused, “You read my files.”
“Yes.”
“I don’t know how well I will fit in, but this was the only place I could go. Nobody would take me.”
She smiled again, “I read your file, Iman, and you’ll do fine.”
He gave a weak half smile, and stepped into the booth. Sonic sensors measured him at the skin level, and beeped in his ears when done. He stepped out, uncertain, until the lady called again,” Down to the end, Iman, they’ll give you your bundle.”
“Thank you…” and he paused expectantly.
He was rewarded with a brighter smile, “Warrantor Sergeant Carlisle, Iman. Peace and hope to you.”
“Peace and hope,” he repeated automatically, and blinked. Peace and hope? In this place? He shook his head, and walked down to the long low white counter.
Another man in the same uniform, Warrantor uniform he remembered, was handing out bundles as they popped out a chute through a white painted wall.
“Walker, Flaming Squirrels?” he yelled, and a few of the new processees tittered at the name, until they saw Iman move to the counter, then the snickering stopped cold.
“I am he.”
The Warrantor grinned, “Glad we had sizes big enough for ya! Iron Wolves, so you get two shipsuits, boots, shipshoes, underwear, toiletries, and ceremonial cape.”
“Cape?”
“Every faction here has different customs and traditions, some of them strange, some pretty normal. The Iron Wolves aren’t bad, just a little different. Somewhat based around Norsemen of old Earth, but I think they get a lot of it jumbled.”
The man smiled while rapid firing his speech, and handed the bundle to Iman.
“There ya go, out that door, I think your partner is waiting for you.
“Thank you.”
Iman inclined his head to the younger man, turned and walked towards the doors, still somewhat off put by the speed and efficiency of the whole operation.
When the doors closed, he had to blink, as the light was very bright in the wide room.
“Gets ya, doesn’t it?”
He turned, and saw a thin older man clutching a bundle similar to his, looking up. He followed his gaze, and his jaw dropped. The ceiling above was many feet thick of transparent armor, but beyond was hard vacuum, and the brilliant flaming disk of Tianwarz tortured primary.
“It’s beautiful,” he rumbled.
“Bloody dangerous, if you ask me. Hey, are you Iman? I’m Dan, Dan Prophet. You and me get to team with these steel puppies, or whatever they are.”
“Iron Wolves,” Iman corrected, wary of the rapid fire words from the little man, whose eyes never seemed to stay in one place.
“Yeah, them. We’re gonna learn how to drive on of those big killer machines. Wish I’d had one of those in Toledo!” and he laughed, a short unpleasant sound.
“I doubt it would have been allowed,” Ian ventured, and the little man grimaced.
“Lots of what me and my buddies did wasn’t ‘allowed’, kinda of how I got here. Say, how did you get here?”
Iman shook his head, “Maybe some other time.”
“Sure, sure whatever you say. That last girl that went though here, and what a looker she was! Yeah, like I said, the last dame through here said we’ll get called for a Drop Ship by crew name. What the heck is a Drop Ship?”
Iman looked around the waiting area, seeing for the first time the iris hatch on the far wall, no, ‘bulkhead’ he mentally corrected himself, with a sign above that read “Docking Tube”. He also noticed there were several the other knots of people also standing and chatting.
“Well, since we cannot live on the planets, I would assume we have to drop to them in something, so that would be a Drop Ship?”
“Hey, we ain’t got mekas, or training, we can’t drop into no combat now!”
Iman realized he was beginning to dislike Daniel Prophet.
“They probably do all the transporting around here. We’ll see,” and he sat down in the nearest white plastic chair.
Daniel sat next to him, muttering, “Yeah, okay, I guess.”
A buzzer sounded, and a voice announced over hidden speakers, while the thick iris lock opened like a flower blossoming, revealing a tube like corridor, “The following crews will follow the light down the docking tube to the Drop Ship ‘The Wilderness’. Angry Walrus, Slow Dolphins, Flaming Squirrels, Dancing Bears, Leaping Tigers, and Vomiting Turtles.”
“Ew, what a name,” Daniel said, and Iman had to agree. Judging by the disgruntled looks of one pair of new crewpersons, he guessed they weren’t too amused either.
“Let’s go, Daniel” he said, and led the way into the tube.


The Drop Ship wasn’t new by any means, but it was obviously very well taken care of. Fresh paint glistened and polished brass fittings shone. The temporary decking placed in the cavernous bay made three separate decks for people, sparkling clean and well lit. Iman was impressed by the organization inherent in an operation like this one.
“Squirrels, Dolphins, Tigers, you’re for the Iron Wolves, muster on the second deck,” a bored looking Warrantor crewman announced, waving towards the ladders leading up the levels.
Iman made a point of nodding to the man, and rumbled, “Thank you.”
The crewman yawned impressively, and smiled, “You didn’t happen to sneak any coffee in here, didja?”
“Sorry, no.”
“Oh well, couldn’t hurt to ask. Up the ladder with ya. Good flight.”
“Thank you.”
Iman quickly swarmed up the ladder, remembering long ago deep space training, when he was young enough and stupid enough to go asteroid mining in The Belt, Sol System. Daniel came up slower, muttering and complaining the whole way.
“Dadgum, no lifts, old bones ain’t made to take this.”
Iman spared a glance down, and decided the best way to deal with the old man’s incessant whining was to tactfully ignore it.
“Now hear this, now hear this, all passengers are to strap in and remain in your seats, stand by for acceleration,” a voice on the intercom boomed, and Imnan moved quickly to a seat with an attached seat strap. Daniel never quit muttering the whole time as he was strapping in, and then a red light lit off. Iman braced for a jolt. He felt an oh-so-gentle tug towards the stern, and began to laugh softly.
Daniel looked hotly at him, “What’s the joke?”
Iman shook his head; it would take too long to explain.
The rest of the trip passed in silence.

Iman found himself actually dozing when he felt the Drop Ships engines change tempo, and he snapped full awake.
A Warrantor crewman stood at the end of their deck, calling out, “Iron Wolves battle station, docking in three.”
Iman stretched, and groaned. He looked over at the Warrantor, “Any way I can look at it?”
“Sure,” the man grinned, “Right there next to your chair, that little screen, just turn it on. If we had enough time, I’d take you up to the observation deck, but no time this trip.”
“Thanks,” and he flipped the oddly shaped switch. The screen lit up with a Christmas ornament; blue on the bottom half, wearing a symbol of a charging wolf and the upper half a bright orange, with a Yin/Yang symbol glowing on it. A Christmas ornament glowing with shield energies, and studded with defensive turrets, an ornament of lethality.
“Why the blue orange motif?” he wondered aloud, and nearly jumped when the crewman’s voice came in from about two feet away.
“Iron Wolves can’t afford their own station yet, so they split the rent with Faction Eyes of the Dragon. Another odd bunch, but you’ll only run into them on the Garage deck, most likely.”
“Interesting. Thank you.”
The crewman slapped Iman lightly on the shoulder, “Let’s go, big guy, time for you to meet your new buddies.”

Iman and the other new recruits walked down the docking tube clutching their bundles, and were brought up short at the end, by a man wearing a grey and black striped shipsuit, an animal skin cape of some kind that reached almost to the floor, and incredibly, a straight sword with a well worn leather wrapped hilt, resting in a wooden scabbard. The man also wore a scowl on his features above a thick black beard.
“You’re the fresh meat? Grab hearing protection, and wait for the door to open,” the man growled.
The new recruits picked up noise canceling headphones from the racks next to the door, and waited. The door slid back, and a wall of sound assaulted them.
“This is the Garage Deck,” Iman heard, and turned to see the caped warrior standing next to them, “The only time you will come here is now and when you finish your station training. If you’re found down here before that, you might get tossed out the Docking Tube, whether or not there’s Drop Ship on the end of it!”
He gestured towards a far wall in the noisy room, “Through that door, and MOVE IT!”
Iman was entranced, the giant room neatly split between orange clad faction members and grey clad, machinery rumbling and shrieking, giant war machines standing with hatches open, parts scattered, and shouting people jockeying un guessable items in and out of the huge mekas. One crew was peering in the front of a bipedal machine with rotating gun barrels for arms, gesturing and cursing. Iman realized with a start the cockpit area was blown open, blistered and smoke stained, with what appeared to be dried blood streaked down the worn paint.
“Yeah, meat, that was a good warrior there, not much left by the time the Warrantor medical shuttle got there. That’s you if you don’t pay attention!”
Iman looked over at their guide as they passed through the cacophony, “Was there none to help down there?”
A barked harsh laugh rang out, “Help, on the sands? You hit dirt on Aldus, Konu, Zedus, any planet but Hadeas, and you are on your own! Better get used to it, meat, or you’ll be the next slab we throw out the chute into the primary!”
Iman shut his mouth, beginning to regret taking that first passage out of the Empire of Man.
The little group passed through the door, and gratefully racked their headphones on the wall as the sliding metal door cut off the sound like a switch.
“Wait here,” and the guide tapped a control on his chest, “Great Jarl, the meat is here.”
A deep voice rumbled out of a tiny speaker, “Get them presentable, Warrior.”
“At once, Great Jarl.”
He turned to the men and women standing, and pointed to two doors, each bearing the age old male or female symbols, “In there, change into Iron Wolves shipsuits. Do NOT put on the capes, you have NOT earned the right! Five minutes, MOVE!”
They moved.
Iman found the grey shipsuit to be scratchy and tight over his massive frame, but it stretched enough for reasonably comfortable movement. Daniel kept up a running litany of complaints about the station, their greeting, the shipsuits, until Iman turned to him, and suggested gently, “If I were this outfit, I might have these areas bugged.”
“Yeah, so what?” Daniel eyed him suspiciously.
“Maybe they would like to see who doesn’t want to fit in?”
“Okay, yeah, gotcha.”
“Good, let’s go, we are finished.”
Outside in the corridor, which Iman noted were not nearly as clean as the Drop Ship, the intake waited in a ragged line, until the guide suddenly shouted, “Attention, the Great Jarl approaches!”
They straightened to various attempts at the position of attention as a man with a gold trimmed wolf skin cape rounded the corner. Iman noted the long grey beard was forked, and the ends weighted with gold beads. The straight sword was gold hilted, and arm bands of gold and platinum decorated the arms still bulging with muscles. The mans’ eyes were as grey as the ship suit he wore, and narrowed in disgust.
“Warrior, I said to have them presentable, what is this…line?”
The guide turned and began screaming in an unrecognizable tongue, prodding and pulling on the recruits until they stood in a straight line, backs straight, arms straight down, and eyes straight ahead, fixed on the far bulkhead.
“Better, Warrior, better.”
He began walking down the line, “I am Jaeger, the Great Jarl of the Iron Wolves. I decide whether you stay or go, live or die. I decide if you even exist. You only exist at this moment to serve the Iron Wolves, nothing else. You will do what you are told, when you are told, how you are told, immediately. You will stand at attention when any Blooded Iron Wolf speaks. A Blooded member will be wearing the cape of honor. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Great Jarl!” the guide howled, and turned expectantly to the recruits, who immediately shouted, “Yes, Great Jarl!”
“Good. Succeed, and you will become a Blooded Warrior, with all that goes with it. Fail, and you will either be lost to the bandits, or sent back to Armageddon in disgrace. Most likely dead or getting that way. “
Jaeger turned to the guide, and waved dismissively, “Get them out of my sight until the Blooding.”
“Yes Great Jarl!”
The guide Warrior immediately began screaming at the new recruits, forcing them into a jog through the station corridors, regretfully blurring most of the fascinating interior, Iman thought.
“Fall tube, jump up, grab the bar at level four, if you miss it you will regret it!”
The dark opening was slightly ominous to Iman, but watching the two in front of him, he aped their run and jump. The fall tube field wrapped loosely around him, and he felt himself draw gently upwards. He turned, feeling if he was standing on a level floor, and saw approaching openings, each with a grab bar next to it, large white painted numbers besides each opening. The first, marked “1”, flashed by at a faster speed than he though, so he moved closer to the openings. When “4” appeared, he reached out and easily snagged the bar. The field immediately quit drawing him up, and instead gently pushed him out the opening into a well lit room of waxed tiled decks and rows of double stacked bunks, almost like out of a very old war vid. He shrugged, and stepped through just in time to avoid Daniel smacking into his back.
“Gotta get through, come on, Iman, you’re too big to hog the door, sheesh what a place,” and Iman ignored the old man’s mutterings again.
Not so a man wearing the now familiar grey and black shipsuit and wolf skin cape, this bearded man carrying a blunt studded mace.
“You!” he screamed with a thick accent, pointing the mace at the still complaining Daniel,” you talk too much! Stuff shoe in your mouth, NOW!”
The little older man gaped, “What?”
The Warriors’ face began to purple with rage, “Stuff shoe in mouth, NOW, or I will stuff you out airlock!”
Daniel swiftly bent and removed his new and clean ship shoe, and as he brought it up, the Warrior sailed something through the air at him.
“Not that one, THIS one!”
The shoe was old, dirty, smelled like a dozen dead animals, and had some sort of strange goop on the sole.
“Are you serious?” Daniel demanded, and the Warrior screamed, swinging his mace. The weapon turned out to be made of rubber, but that didn’t save Daniel from a crackling bolt of electricity that dropped him to the deck in a heap.
“You!” he screamed, pointing the riot control mace at Iman, “Stuff shoe in his mouth, NOW!”
Iman bent over the older man, and said quietly, “Let’s get this over with.”
He slid the nasty slipper into the old mans mouth, and Daniel immediately began to retch.
“You puke, you lick it up!”
Iman thought furiously, don’t vomit, don’t vomit, and was rewarded as Daniel brought his reactions under control.
“Shoe stays in mouth until I am done! Step forward when crew name called. Slow Dolphins!”
A man stepped forward, “Warrior, my partner missed the grab bar, I think she is coming back down.”
The Warriors’ face was a work of frightful art, “THINK? YOU THINK? You don’t know? Go get partner, and wait here when you get back. Five minutes or out airlock you go!”
The now frightened man dove into the fall tube, and vanished.
“Leaping Tigers!”
Two lean and trim men stepped forward, and Iman could see the ease of former training in their stance. The Warrior noted it too, and his expression eased.
“What outfit?”
“Coveys Raiders, United Federation forces,” the taller of the two answered.
“When you address Blooded, you say SIR!” the man screamed.
The recruit flushed, snapped to a tight attention, and spoke clearly, “Sir, this recruit, and his partner were formerly with Coveys Raiders, United Federation forces!”
The warrior nodded, “Better, much better. You two watch this crew, learn. Tigers, first stack to left.”
“Sir, yes sir!”
The Warrior turned to Iman and a red faced and gagging Daniel, “You two must be Flaming Squirrels. Bunk next to Tigers. You, with shoe, spit out, give to me.”
Daniel immediately removed the nasty thing from a sore mouth, and ran a finger inside his lips, trying to clean it out.
“Talk when not talked to, and shoe stay in all day, understand?”
Daniel looked at Iman, and said, “Sir, uh, yeah, sir.”
“Sir YES, sir!”
Daniel tried to go to attention, and said, “Sir, yes sir!” in a high nasal whine.
The Warrior moved up and brought the riot control mace up to almost touching the smaller man’s stomach, “You think you smart guy, you be smarter. You, big ape, you watch partner.”
Iman felt relieved as the Warrior stalked towards the fall tube, then stiffened as he turned, “Ship day almost over, no meal, put away gear, go to bed. Get up early, start training. MOVE!”
He vanished into the fall tube.
Daniel spat into his hand, “Gar, that was foul, disgusting, what do these people think, this is frajjing wrong,”
“Daniel, quiet, unless you liked the shoe?”
The little man immediately shut up, and glanced over at the fall tube fearfully.
Iman mentally chuckled, and began to put his gear away in one battered locker, removing the neatly stacked sheets to later make his bed. He mused to himself, this could be interesting.

A few hours later, Iman roused in the darkness to the sounds of people crawling noisily. He rolled over in his bunk, and saw the emergency light by the fall tube illuminate two people crawling on hands and knees towards the bunks. They were obviously exhausted. He took a chance, and sat up, careful not to crack his head on Daniels bunk above him.
“Slow Dolphins?” he called softly and the two stopped, weaving back and forth as if about to collapse.
A mans voice muttered, “That dirty frajjing, son of a dung eater, oh, he said we should find our way back the long way, so we’d never get lost again. On our hands and knees. Down emergency stairs, and crawl tubes. While people kicked us and threw garbage on us.”
Iman heard a sniffling sound, and realized the young woman was crying.
“They kept beating her on the rear with short pieces of fire hoses, and me on the back. Alla time, they kept yelling ‘fresh meat.’ If I’d known, I’d never have come here.”
The crying quieted, and the girls head slipped down to gently touch the floor. The mans head slowly followed.
“Get into bed, you two need sleep.”
His answer was a snore, and he realized with a start the two had fallen into an exhausted sleep in that position, heads cradled on folded arms. Iman grimaced, threw his covers back and padded over on bare feet to the two snoring recruits.
“Whatcha doin’, you’ll get us in trouble!” he heard a nasal hiss from Daniels bunk. He gently picked up the girl, ignoring the stained and reeking shipsuit, turned, and laid her tenderly on the nearest unmade bunk A quick shake of a stored sheet, and she was covered up, rolling over on her side in her sleep.
“Human decency seems to be in short supply here, just trying to make up the difference. If you don’t like it, you can certainly ask to leave.”
A grumpy huff sounded as Daniel rolled over in his bunk.
Iman carried the snoring man up to his rack, and covered him up, brushing some of the garbage stains on the ship suit into his hand, then neatly into a waste can. He padded into the small bathroom, washed his hands and returned to the berthing are, to hear nothing but snores.
Iman climbed back into his bunk, and sighed in the darkness. At this point even his old cramped grey cell would have been comforting.

“AWAKE!”
The yell echoed down the bay, as the six people jolted upright in their racks, two of them being somewhat surprised to be IN a bed.
“UNDRESS, GET IN SHOWER!”
Iman paused; there was one woman in the crowd, but when he saw her peeling off the filthy ship suit she had slept in, he shrugged, and began stripping. Billowing steam came out of the bathroom area, and he realized the back wall had rolled back to expose an area with twelve shower heads, water roaring out of the nozzles, recessed areas with dripping soap nozzles. He felt a moment of indecision, and then dove into the nearest stream. The simple feeling of lathering was relaxing and awakening at the same time, until he heard a man cry out, and a woman snarl.
He turned, blinking away the steam, to see Daniel crowded up against a slick wall, holding one wrist, and the nude young woman standing in a trained martial arts stance.
“Touch me again, and I'll kill you!” she growled again.
“STOP!”
The water abruptly shut off, and the fully dressed Warrior from the night before strode in, heedless of their nakedness.
“ALL will live and fight TOGETHER! Lesson, all are equal!
The rubber headed riot mace swung, current crackled, and the young woman collapsed in a heap, screaming.
“NO ONE threatens another on this station! Teammates stand by each other ALL the time!”
The mace swung again, and Daniel fell against the tiled wall, sobbing as the electricity seared his bare anatomy.
“Lesson, NOBODY touches any one else unless ordered to do so! Anyone caught touching will be thrown out Docking Tube. Naked.”
“RESUME!” and he stalked out just as the water started up again.

The next few shipdays were a blur, calisthenics in the morning, and entering the silver faceted training room in the afternoon, to learn to use the molecular imaging system, and be introduced to the training meka of choice, the diminutive Gunslinger. Iman found it slightly ridiculous looking, but Daniel fell in love.
"Anything with that many guns GOTTA be taken serious! That woulda ruled in Toledo!"
"Fortunately, you are not in Toledo, Daniel."
"YOU, you want shoe again? Stop talking!"
The other recruits, cowed by the barely controlled level of violence in their teacher, kept quiet to the point of failing to ask vital questions about their new gear. Simulated mekas stumbled into each other, shot each other in the back, and fell flat on their metal faces, until their Warrior would stand in front of the monitoring screen of the simulator, dancing and tugging at his hair.
One day after a simulation that went almost halfway decent sitting in the training rooms eating their compressed food bars, all they had been given for three days, the Warrior training them strode in, and shouted, "UP! Go get cleaned, dressed in good suit, go eat with Warriors today! Big honor, MOVE!"

The recruits stood in line, thin plastic trays in their hands, waiting for the line in the cafeteria to move. The Warriors ahead and behind them snickered, made jokes, pointed and laughed. One began to make a joke about Iman’s groin, when the bigger man casually looked at him. The Warrior flushed, and fell silent. Iman said nothing and swung his gaze back to the line ahead.
The line shuffled forward slowly, and when the recruits came into sight of the food, their mouths began salivating. Steaks, lobster tails, looking very real, and many goodies filled the trays ahead. The young woman was directly ahead of Iman, and next to be served when the serving person noticed she was there. A flush of the others features, and the tray flew out of the young woman’s hands as the server snatched it. Two slabs of a dark red bricklike substance appeared from nowhere, plus a clear plastic water bottle.
“Meat don’t get meat!”
Iman sighed again; he recognized the deep space survival rations, having lived on them for three months once, awaiting a rescue ship. They weren’t tasty, but they would sustain life.
The young recruit looked back at Iman with frightened eyes, and he simply nodded, and pushed gently forward.
She followed the Warrior in front of her towards the tables, until he turned suddenly, and snarled, “Meat, you stink! You don’t sit at the tables, you stand, over there!”
She looked around wildly, and spied a counter set against a wall in the dim back of the room.
Iman gently took her by the elbow, and pushed her towards the counter. Daniel, mouth magically still, eyes rolling. The young woman’s partner shuffled along behind, eyes lowered, but the Tigers walked in step, even and measured. The Warriors comments were far milder as they went by.
She looked up at Iman, “Why are they doing this?” she asked in a hoarse whisper.
“Standard breakdown of the individual, forms the tribe, forms the unit. Remove the person, replace with the Warrior.”
She looked up at him eyes uncomprehending, and he just gave her a half smile, “It won’t last forever. Hang in there.”
She turned back to her food, and whispered, “My name is Kathy.”
“Iman”
Daniel muttered, “Wish I had some salt.”

The recruits stood along the wall, eating in silence, until a shout from the main entrance got their attention.
“MEAT! OUTSIDE NOW!”
They hurriedly stuffed the last of the dry and tasteless rations and stale water, and ran towards the door, sliding the trays in the reclamation slot on the way, while the Blooded Warriors laughed. One stuck a foot out to trip Daniel, but Iman reached out, picked up the smaller man, and bounced over the outstretched leg as if it wasn’t there.
A mutter ran through the seated Warriors as they realized a recruit had gotten the best of one of them. A huge Warrior, cape studded with golden nail heads, stood, and yelled, “MEAT!”
The room stilled, expectant.
The Warrior in charge of them slowly entered, and inclined his head, “Lesser Jarl, these are fresh, unworthy of your attention,”
“Shut mouth,” the other man said, and their keeper flushed, stepping back.
Iman sighed, and gave Daniel a gentle push towards where the others stood in a protective huddle. He turned towards the other man, and gave a respectful half bow.
“Forgive me if I offend, great Warrior,” he said quietly.
“Forgive?” the other man said with a snarl, kicking a chair out of the way as he moved closer, “Forgive? You have no forgiveness here, this is IRON WOLVES! What you get is a beating, you understand?”
Iman nodded. He pretty much understood the game, but he felt a small red spot growing behind his eyes. He willed it to stop, but the coal grew stronger.
The Lesser Jarl reached out, and roughly grabbed Kathy by one arm, yanking her from the group, as she yelled in fear. The Warrior grabbed one of her breasts with one huge hand, “Meat here is ours to play with, until you win right to wear cape of honor! But you, you will not, I will destroy you now, before you become Warrior.”
Kathy moaned, eyes closed, certain she was about to be raped and murdered, and fell in a surprised heap as the Warrior shoved her away, his snarling visage never leaving Iman’s eyes.
The red spot grew to a small fire, and Iman tried breathing deeply to cool its fan of emotion. This caused the other man’s face to smile.
“You scared, good, this maybe go easier for you…maybe.”
“Lesser Jarl,” their keeper tried again, and the bigger man swiveled to snarl at him, “You forget your place, keeper of fresh meat! Step back!”
The flame began to burn higher, and deep in his mind he heard drums, wild chants sung around campfires as painted men danced and sang to the frosted moon, thrusting spears and bows towards the skies. His hands knotted and massive muscles rippled.
The Lesser Jarl turned back to Iman, and growled, “I was wrong, you now stand and die.”
He swung one scarred fist, and Iman moved. Twin slabs of iron grasped the Warriors arm, pulling him off his feet and flying through the air to thud into a bulkhead fifteen feet behind him, upside down. The cafeteria was total silence as the Lesser Jarl slid down the wall to flop onto the floor.
Iman felt the sinking feeling in his stomach even as the fires burned higher, and he felt/saw ancestors smiling.
The Lesser Jarl righted himself, and slowly stood, while Iman stood ready, hands and feet loose.
The man stepped forward, and then howled like a wolf to the overhead. Gesturing, he screamed, “Wolflings, packmates, take down the bear!”
Iman knew it was over then, but he gave better than he got, as the Iron Wolves swarmed off their chairs, grappling, punching, and screaming. He felt the others bones snap as he surrendered to the bonfire in his soul, until a descending boot cut off his vision for good.

He slowly realized he was alive, even if every inch hurt. His eyes were crusted shut, and it was with some difficulty he managed to get one open. He wished he hadn’t.
He lay naked on a metal table, strapped down with bands of iron even his great strength could not snap. Wires attached to several points on his body, and he resigned himself to what was certain to come. The drums were silent, the visions gone, the ancestors would not watch.
“Ah, you are awake, good.”
The frail voice belonged to a kindly looking old man, who wore antique glasses perched on his boney nose.
“I was told to wait for you to awaken. Would you like some water?”
Iman was wary, but raging thirst awoke in him, and he nodded. The other man smiled, and held a small plastic bottle to his lips. Iman sucked the bottle dry.
“Good, that will help you. Now I must explain what is happening.”
He turned to a small console, and pointed to the display, “This console controls the leads you are wearing. It will deliver electric shocks in increasing strength and length, at random intervals, random locations. This will continue until you die. I am sorry.”
Iman found his voice, and he said very softly, “I forgive you.”
The man looked startled, and then smiled, “Thank you; you are the first to say that. I will turn the machine on and leave. The point is that you are to die alone, naked and helpless. The other is that no Iron Wolves attend to you, as you did not die fighting for the Pack, but as an intruder, so your death is without dignity or stature.”
The man reached over, and touched the screen. Iman grunted as a mild shock ran up his left leg, and the man smiled sadly, “I am truly sorry, May your spirit find a better resting place.”
Another shock crossed his genitals, and his mouth opened at the pain.
The other ducked his head, stepped out the door, and closed it with a click.
The first scream ripped out of Iman’s throat.

“I am going.”
Kathy looked small and frail, but the length of steel she had pried from the bed frame was sharp and lethal.
Daniel snorted, “Go getcher self kilt, if you want! Me, I am staying right here until they tell me to move!”
The recruits had been left alone in their bunkroom since the fight, with no watchers.
Kathy swore at Daniel, “You spitless swine, stay here, then."
She swung to the Tigers, who were silent any time not actually in training, 'And you, great soldiers of the United Federation? You gonna just sit here?"
"Girl," the top one said in a deep voice, "You'll gain nothing, and lose everything. They control everything. We screw up, they kill us and toss the debris into the sun. Not interested."
She looked sideways, where her own partner lay on his bunk, feigning sleep.
"Fine, "she snarled, then I'll get killed, fine, anything is better than living like this. I'd heard people could start a new life out here; I was wrong. If I can't get out, I'll dive in the damn star myself. Now get out of my way."
Daniel sniveled, "How are you gonna even find him?"
"I heard that freak in charge of us say where the pain room is. I was a Pathfinder on Procyon Three, I can find things. Now sit down and shut up."
One of the Tigers snorted, "You, a Pathfinder? You looked like you were going to fill your pants in that cafeteria!"
"Procyon Pathfinders aren't military, we're civilian search and rescue, so no, I wasn't prepared for any of this, or that. But what we are is very good is finding people who need help. Maybe you don't care, but I do."
She went to her locker, smoothed her shipsuit, pulled out the neatly folded Warrior cape, and affixed it to her neck. Daniels' eye grew wide.
"You ain't allowed to wear that yet!"
She shot him a dagger look, "I need to blend in, and besides, I don't plan on surviving much afterwards, so who cares?"
"Suitcherself," the older man muttered, turning away. The Tigers pointedly moved to their bunks, and began studying schematics of an Iron Wolves Gatlinger meka.
Her eyes narrowed, "Be damned to you all," and dove into the fall tube.

She walked through endless grey painted corridors, avoiding eye contact with any Warriors she met. Most ignored her completely, though one or two gave her a curious look. The mental map in her head, gleaned from a two second look at a wall diagram, burned like fire behind her eyes, guided by the half heard remembered mutters of a hateful man.
Another turn, and the corridor became dustier, as if disused, and left alone. She drew her makeshift weapon from her belt, and held it concealed under the cloak. Then her nerves jangled like alarm bells as she heard a man's scream echo down the hallway.
She began moving down, looking for a door, when the ragged howl rang out again and again, as if the owner was dying in mortal agony. She made a choice, and drawing the bed frame part, ran down the dusty tracked floor.
A door lay open a crack, light spilling out, and the scream echoed again from beyond it. Drawing every bit of courage from her soul, she threw open the door, weapon at the ready, and drew up short.
The Great Jarl, the Lesser Jarl, a short older bespectacled man in a white lab coat stood around a metal table where Iman lay, covered in sweat, eyes closed and thrashing against heavy metal bonds.
She raised her weapon when the Great Jarl turned to her, removed the ancient reading glasses from his face, and said casually, "Good, we we're wondering when you'd get here."

"WHAT?" she screamed, still ready to plunge her weapon in the first approaching heart.
The Great Jarl gestured to the white coated man, who went to a screen, and touched a control. Iman stopped moving, and lay still, sweat pooling off his limbs, eyes tightly closed. The Lesser Jarl held an air spray to the inside of Iman's arm, and she heard the hiss of a drug being applied.
She stepped back in confusion, lowering the piece of metal, to which the Lesser Jarl laughed, "I told you she'd be the one to find it, Karl. I never pick 'em wrong."
The Great Jarl shook his head, smiling ruefully, "I lose the bet. I could've sworn those arrogant Tigers would be here trying to prove themselves. Go figure."
Kathy looked back and forth in complete confusion, and the Great Jarl took pity.
"Kathryn Hafner, we take a very practical view of combat. If a crew cannot stay together, fight together, willing to die for each other, then they are no use to us on the sands. We are a smaller faction, and we need the fiercest and most loyal warriors we can find. We have no fancy testing to find out who can do what, so we force the issue."
He gestured at the peaceful Iman, "He was told he was going to be slowly electrocuted to death for attacking my poor second in command here. The good doctor here gave him some water, the last bit of human kindness he would ever receive. What he had no way of knowing is the liquid was laced with a hypnotic, and he was eased into a chemically induced dream state. He was never in any real pain, it was all in his own mind. Hiemdall there has given him the antidote, and he will recover fully."
The Great Jarl turned fully to her, "He passed his test, defending a man who he personally dislikes, to protect him from an unjust attack. We didn't expect him to be quite so hard to take down, and four Warriors will be in the infirmary for a while. No hard feelings, though, all part of the process."
"No hard feelings? He grabbed me, threw me, was going to kill him, just for a game?!?"
The Great Jarl shook his head, "Heimdall would not have harmed you, and you may have noticed, after he made the sexually revolting move, to enrage Walker here, he let you go. He would have just knocked him unconscious, still to end up here, but no real damage."
She turned to the lesser Jarl, "All part of an act? And what about this?" she demanded, shaking the bed frame piece.
Heimdall laughed, "We put that in the recruits quarters every time, and usually the rescuer finds it. It's real, very real, we lost a Warrior once to an overzealous rescuer, but we proved the point again."
The man softened his tone, "You passed your test, going to almost certain death to try a wild save for a man who had done nothing to be executed, and had personally helped you. The scene in your quarters after you and your worthless ex-partner crawled in was priceless. Everything was bugged, of course."
Kathy stood, bemused, trying to absorb it all, when one thing he'd said hit her, "Ex partner?"
"Daniel Prophet, your former partner Rick Jones, and both members of the Leaping Tigers are being escorted to the Drop Ship Gettysburg, going back to Armageddon. We have no use for them here."
The metal piece fell clattering to the deck, and she felt like her world was tipping sideways. The doctor moved swiftly, and caught her before she could crumple, "Always the same, adrenaline release. Sit here, my dear, relax."
She sat in the chair, her eyes fastened on Iman's now peaceful visage, watching the massive chest rise and fall gently. One hand moved up blindly to the fastening of her wolf skin cloak.
"I suppose I should take this off, then."
Both Jarls smiled.
"No," the Great Jarl said, "You passed your test, and when you emerge from training, you will be officially Blooded. But you may wear the cloak, you and your partner, here, for you have passed your first tests. There will be no more deliberate harassment, no assaults, and you will be able to use the other shower, the one with the doors that close, too."
She sat there, and nodded slowly, as the energy ran from over taught nerves to drain into the steel deck.
"Well," she said very softly, "I'd better wait here for him to wake up. He's going to want the truth from somebody he can trust."

Iman swam to consciousness slowly. Gradually the senses came back online, as if a tiny list was being followed, 'Hearing, check! Taste, check! Smell, check!'
He felt the rustle of sheets over him, and decided that whatever afterlife his ancestors had arranged for him, it wasn't starting off too bad. The pillow was soft, and supportive. He considered not opening his eyes, but decided that would be rude to whoever or whatever was watching over him. His eyes opened.
"Hey stranger," the young woman said to him with a smile. He frowned, she was not quite part of the program. He tried to speak, and his voice croaked like a frog.
"Are...argh, are you dead too? Did I fail?"
Kathy smiled, leaned forward, and wiped his forehead with a small white towel, "No, I'm not dead, and neither are you. Let me explain what happened, and just relax."
AS she spoke, Iman experienced states of joy, rage, and confusion, sometimes combined. When she had finished, he was left thoughtful, "That is...interesting. So you and I are partners now?"
She nodded, a nervous smile playing across her lips, "That is, if your culture can handle a woman as an equal?"
He looked up at the cool white ceiling, "The culture of my grandfather's grandfather would not. however, I am somewhat more advanced than they were."
"So, I was right," she said quietly, "You are American Indian."
"No," he corrected, "Part Navajo, but not full blood. An ancestor in my past, a medicine man, committed an offense, and was labeled a skin walker, a shape shifter. The tribe was more 'enlightened' at that time in history, so instead of killing him, they exiled the whole family. This was my root. Also why my name is Walker, as my ancestor decided that if that was what they wanted to see, he would accommodate them. I have researched some of my past, and ancestors, but I can never claim membership in any tribe."
"I'm sorry."
He shook his head, smiling slightly, "Don't be. My ancestors have found me, sometimes, so I feel a kinship to them. I simply have no claim on the living."
She cocked her head, "Ancestors? I thought Amerind worshipped the Great Spirit or something?"
"My own personal beliefs have migrated to something akin Buddhism, but that is just me, not an indication of an entire people. And you?"
She grinned mischievously, "Right now I feel like worshipping a beer bottle. Up for it?"
"It is allowed?"
"It is."
She grabbed one massive forearm and yanked, a compact car trying to tow a main battle tank.
"C'mon, the Lesser Jarl said he's buying."
"Then we mustn't be late, he owes me more than one."
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x34ds
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i would like to say again, your writing is amazing Smile you have real talent, im glad your planning on writing a book Very Happy

iman certainly seems like an interesting character, looking forward to seeing him more Smile
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armoredman
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2010 10:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The two entered the double doors marked in gold, “Valhalla”, with painted Valkries, fighting Norse warriors and shield maidens on the walls outside. Inside was darkness, swirling lights, pulse pounding music at least one if not two centuries out of date, and everywhere the grey wolf cloaks of the Iron Wolves as the faction members played various games while drinking deep. Iman fingered the cloak he wore, slightly amused that while the others swept the floor, his barely reached his calves. Kathy tugged at his forearm again, and he allowed himself to be pulled in.
“There he is,” she half shouted in his ears, pointing at a table near the middle, where armor clad serving maids passed drinks and snacks, winged steel helmets on their heads, and the grey head of the Great Jarl sat in the middle of the crush.
“I see the help is better protected than we are,” he shouted back, and she giggled, “They probably need it!”
They began to wend their way through the crowd, when the music suddenly stopped, and an undulating siren sounded. Twin bright spotlights came on, pinning them beneath their brilliance like bugs on a slide. Iman tensed, ready for a fight, when he heard a voice.
It was rich and slow, full of feeling, “Wolflings, Warriors all, we have two cubs in our midst. They have passed their Tests, and are ready to be accepted as cubs, Shall we accept them, here in Valhalla, my fellow Warriors?”
A great shouted echoed throughout the room, loud enough to make Kathy wince, “AYE!”
The spots swung away, and the room lights came up to a low level, as Warriors, servers, and others began crowding towards the two.
A Warrior with a grey triple forked beard was first, and he thrust out one scarred hand, “Welcome, cub. I remember my own Test, and I know how you feel. Welcome!”
Iman shook his hand in semi shock, and was equally surprised when the greybeard thrust a full tankard of genuine silver in his hands, full of what could only be mead.
He had to drain it quickly, as he could see that the whole room was in two lines, coming forward to congratulate and give gifts of mead.
The Great Jarl stood nearby, watching and smiling, as the two shook hand after hand, drained tankard after tankard, and the room laughed good-naturedly when Kathy slipped to a chair, eyes rolling, pleasantly hammered.
Iman merely grinned, since he figured many here expected his American Indian ancestry to fall quickly to the alcohol. He smiled inside – they haven’t learned the whole truth yet.
After the last well wisher stepped away, he could feel his head being rather clouded, with so many tankards of good honey mead in him. He looked over, and saw Kathy snoring, her head cradled in her arms.
“Your partner has fallen to the drink, I’d say, Iman, my cub,” the Great Jarl spoke, looking down on the sleeping woman kindly.
“Yes, Great Jarl, we weren’t quite expecting this, this welcome.”
“Of course not, but it is the reward of passing your test. Sit down, here, let’s use this table. Don’t worry, the servers are used to handling the passed-out around here.”
As if to suit action to works, two of the light armor clad serving maids appeared with a pillow for her arms, and a light blanket over her shoulders.
“If she’s still passed out by closing time, they’ll make sure she gets to bed safely.”
“Thank you, Great Jarl.”
The older man cocked one bushy eyebrow, “I am surprised. I know you are far larger than her, but I wondered,”
“Why the red man didn’t fall to the fire water?” Iman finished with a slow smile.
The Great Jarl laughed, “Rather prejudiced, wasn’t it. Yes, okay, that would be the truth.”
Iman shook his head, “I am only half American Indian, the other half is Russian, actually directly related to the Cossacks.”
“And your first name, Russian or Indian?”
The smile ran away from Iman’s face, and he glanced over to the snoring Kathy, “Neither. I believe my mother tried to say ‘Ivan’, but the beating my father gave her for daring to deliver me when he wanted to go get drunk apparently left several teeth missing, and her lips smashed. She never had a chance to correct it. She died the next day, and I was given to my grandfather to foster.”
The old leader of the Iron Wolves raised his tankard, “Sorrow for your loss, cub.”
Iman raised his in response, “Thank you, Great Jarl, but she has been gone many years now, and my father as well.”
Karl cocked his head over, “Every man’s past is his own here, and I have been too nosey today, but I have to know what caliber of man or woman I am hiring. So I will ask this, here in this very informal setting. Was the death of your father the reason you came here?”
“Iman shook his head, “No, Great Jarl, he died of natural causes. I would prefer not to speak of my recent past, if I may.”
The Great Jarl nodded, “Of course. We will speak formally in the days to come. If you wish to talk, let me know. Now that you have been tested, you may speak to any Warrior, and may apply to speak to me. When you are Blooded, well, let’s assault that holding when we come to it.”
“Yes, Great Jarl,” and Iman realized his head was becoming lighter, “I do believe the mead is getting to me finally, what a wonderful mix, with apples and rose hips…”
His head fell forwards onto his arms, and a snore rumbled from underneath them.
Karl stood up, and gestured to the servers, “Take them to their quarters, and make them comfortable, the usual.”
He smiled, and anyone looking would have seen a hint of bared teeth as he spoke quietly to himself, “I may need you soon, my cub.”
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kunjuro
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 06, 2010 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can't wait for the next chapter mate Smile Awesome read so far....
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Iman stepped to the edge of the massive platform, crisp grey shipsuit stretched tight over slab like muscles, the breeze of a thousands breaths blowing back the hair he was finally letting grow out. A sharp Earth style salute snapped to his brow as he faced the Great Jarl, resplendent in spotless ermine cape and formal tunic of cloth of gold, the sword replaced with a massive double bladed war ax that Iman privately doubted his own ability to lift. The Garage Deck, silent with this most formal of ceremonies, was a moment out of time as serried ranks of the thousand members of the Iron Wolves watched in total silence.

Iman held his salute while the Great Jarl regarded him impassively. Iman felt rather than saw Kathy rigidly by his side, her arms held stiffly in the Procyon formal greeting stance.

Abruptly the older man threw his arms to the dimmed overhead and howled. A thousand howls answered him, and Iman felt his blood chill and yet stir at that elemental sound.

"Wolves! Two cubs we have, who have passed their Tests! What say you?"

A solid wave of sound battered Iman as if a single voice from a thousand throats shouted, "WELCOME!"

The Great Jarl threw back his cloak over his shoulders baring the massive muscles of his rock like shoulders, and laid one gnarled hand on the haft of the giant ax.

"Wolves! These two cubs have defeated their enemies in fair combat, and have petitioned to enter our holding! Wolves, what say you?"

The sound was a live thing, "BLOOD BINDS US!"

The Great Jarl turned to face the two and casually withdrew the massive primitive weapons from his thick leather belt one handed, a move that made Imans' eyes widen.

"Indeed, " he rumbled in a gravel voice that nonetheless carried throughout the giant chamber, "Indeed, blood binds us, feeds us, makes us what we are. The blood of the wolf, the blood of the ox, the blood of the great gods, all bind us here, in this space, in this time, before ourselves. When wolves for a pack, blood binds and ties the Pack together, a binding of iron and sinew."

He spun and faced the ranks of Warriors, hefting the massive ax high, "BLOOD!"

The howl of the crowd raised the hair on the back of Iman's neck, "BLOOD BINDS US!"

The Great Jarl turned back, and almost conversationally said, "Hold out you right arms."

Iman dropped his salute, and extended his arm with no small trepidation. In his peripheral vision, Kathy's small arm extended quickly, though her caught the tremors she fought to hide.

The Great Jarl threw his head back and howled, "THE BLOOD THAT BINDS US!!" and swung the ax with a blinding speed that. The blade unerringly grazed the tops of their outstretched forearms like a whisper of a wind, the razor sharp edge leaving only a thin line that began welling droplets of blood. Iman had to fight to keep his jaw up; the amount of precision and control the older man had used was simply incredible.

The ax swung down to the Great Jarls side, and into a golden cradle that fit the war blades perfectly. A crimson light glowed from the cradle as the slick sides drank the thin trickle of blood to deep within itself, and the Great Jarl raised his arms above his head again.

"The offering has been accepted, the gods smile! These are cubs no more, but Warrior trainees, to be taught and nurtured, to fight at our sides, live with us, and die with us! Wolves! What SAY YOU ?"

This time Iman moved a half step back at the shock wave of approval, "WELCOME, WOLVES!"

Maybe he had found a home again.
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