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The Secrets of Esper
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June 2007
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LOST 3 (part 1)

Who: Kefka & Sigurd
When: The second day in the jungle
Where: at a native village
What: Getting captured. Revelations about Gear officers. A duel.
Warning: none
Status: part 1

"Do you think they consider eating us...?" Sigurd's voice was quiet, though it wasn't necessary - the natives escorting them, armed with spears and even whips apparently didn't speak the Gaian Common.

The two officers were continuing their way along the creek, trying to find a way to pass the water when suddenly, they found themselves surrounded by rather sparsely-clad, dark-skinned tribal warriors, who where looking at them with distrust in their wild eyes. After several failed attempts of communication, the supposed leader of the team signaled for the SOLDIERs to come along. The shiny spearheads pointing at their chests convinced them that resistance would meet extreme disapproval.

Perfect. Just bloody perfect. Kefka's jaw was locked tightly, his arms crossed over his chest, eyes hard, and posture rigid. Things could not get any worse. First, he'd woken that morning to breakfast and a lovey-dovey Mr. Harcourt cooing him awake, then he'd found that the handgun he'd used to.. persuade Sigurd the night before hadn't been turned off, so it lost all of its power. Then he realized that his boots were gone. His hairtie had disappeared, too. And after uncomfortably walking upriver, making idle chatter, they'd been ambushed. SOLDIER did not train its units to deal with this nonsense. "You are not helping, Sigurd. At all." he growled, glaring hatefully at the first bits of tribal civilization appeared up ahead. Until now, all he wanted to see was another human being. Not savages with a hunger for flesh.

Sigurd slapped himself mentally. "Sorry. It's so surreal, I can't take it too seriously I suppose. By the way... Did you notice their skin tone? It's just a little darker than mine. We might be kinsmen. Too sad I've never bothered to learn the language... I think if I get back, I'll place high priority on it. Professor Allegro will surely help."

The village was simple, but nicely organized; it appeared to be a permanent settlement with history - there were streets, cleared from grass by many feet. Children were playing about and they eyed the returning hunters curiously. Women stopped in their track, carrying baskets or jugs, regarding the foreign men with keen eyes.

Most probably, the end of the road would be the bigger building in the center - possibly the council's house with grass roof and painted walls. Sigurd could make out a few familiar figures - they were the Guardians.

That made sense enough... somewhat. Then again, in their day and age, what made sense about living in the wilderness with a bunch of spears? Weren't these people aware that they could move to the city and have better lives? That's probably what made them savages... Kefka swallowed at Sigurd's languid usage of 'if' instead of 'when', again faced with the harsh reality that they would most likely die in this hellish place. "I suppose so... maybe they will let us free if they think you are one of them.." he murmured hopefully, returning those curious and wary stares with a challenging glare of his own.

He didn't mind being stared at when he had actually brushed his hair and wore clothes that weren't tattered (it always meant people thought he was pretty when he looked like that), but he could only imagine how haggard he looked now. Oh, yes. He was a freak on display. "We mean you no harm," Kefka said with deliberate slowness once they were within earshot of these strange people. Best establish that he was sixty percent harmless while they still had a chance. "F.R.I.E.N.D. From the CITY."
His hands moved up a bit, to imitate the height of buildings. "Do you understand what I am telling you?"

"It's a lost case," Sigurd told him patiently. "They don't understand us, which is not surprising, or don't want to, in which case, we can't do anything. Though, I certainly won't give up without a fight." He eyed those whips. A good fast move and one was in his keeping and then... Sigurd trusted his skills and the mako in his system to make him a worthy opponent.

The journey indeed ended at the entrance of the village center. Three older tribespeople appeared in the door, two men and a woman. One of the men was clearly a warrior, somewhat past his prime but still proud and strong, with a straight back. The woman was most probably a priestess of sorts. The third member of the small welcoming committee stepped forward and said something - for city ears, it was merely gibberish. The leader of the hunters responded, and a conversation began.

Will they be better smoked? Oh, no. The little one would be best on a skewer... a Kef-ka-bob. Grill the other one. The blonde grimaced at his mind's translation of what they were probably saying to one another, now wishing for nothing more than a pistol in his hands and a fucking breath mint. Pale blue eyes bored into the head of the warrior, fixed firmly in one spot as he glared. And glared. And glared. Which one of them would be dessert? Or would they cook one while the other watched? Hopefully they wouldn't try to stuff either of them first--there was only so much that could be pleasant when pushed inside a nether region. "Are you kidding, Sigurd? The entire village could probably bring us down if we even looked like we wanted to fight one of these hunters..."

"You read too few old Gaian adventure novels. Also, you're pessimistic." Maybe it was a lighter case of some mental disorder with a pretty name, but Sigurd couldn't snap out of his perpetual calmness. "Who knows - maybe if we prove ourselves strong enough, they will let us free."

The conversation went on, the hunter a bit more heated, the elder more calm , apparently reasoning about something. The Elder Warrior chose to merely observe, while the woman, with her dark, shining eyes was measuring the two men, from head to toe. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, and suddenly, some fleeting, strange sensation swept over Sigurd, but it passed quickly. The priestess smiled knowingly and spoke up. The hunter and the other Elder - and advisor? - quieted and listened to the woman. Then, at once, they stared at the Gear officer, who blinked back. Eh...?

Oh, damn. The greatest cook in the village had spoken up. They were both probably going to be boiled so their skin came off easier. With a low groan, he let his eyes drift closed, reaching up to cradle his head. "I believe they want to eat you first, Sigurd."

Despite the serious situation, the pilot chuckled, trying to hide it somewhat... His good mood lessened a bit as the priestess walked up to him and placed a hand on his forehead. A heartbeat later, Sigurd's gem-blue eye opened wide and he stepped away with a gasp.

"Welcome, stray child. Where do you come from and what do you have to do on our land?"

The question was spoken on a clear voice, but the priestess never opened her mouth...! Her voice sounded in Sigurd's head and the officer couldn't help but feel nervous, frightened and very-very surprised. How was it possible? True, he heard voices... whispers on the edge of his consciousness since his early childhood, the murmurs lulling him into sleep, telling tales of the warriors, the Guardians, of love, life and death, but they never came to him when fully awake...! He glanced at the priestess uneasily and slowly inched back to her like a cautious child. 'I have no idea what's happening...' he thought and cringed as the instant reply came: "Well-well, you have the ability of the ancients, and yet, you don't know how to use it. A strange child you are, Silver-top."

As the woman approached, Kefka went on high alert. Every muscle on his body bowed out, that hateful stare moving from the warrior to the priestess; he'd be damned if anyone in this filthy village laid a harmful hand on his Sigurd! "Get away from him, you wretch," he growled, advancing on her with every intention of breaking her jaw or snapping her neck. Maybe both. "I told you once before: we are not here to hurt anyone, but I will murder you if you touch him again!"

One hand firmly grasped the officer's elbow, and with a light grunt, he pulled the other back toward him. "Sigurd, come on!"

"Release me!" The order came as a hiss, with a dangerous, bright flare in the jasper-blue orb. The dark arm was pulled out of Kefka's grasp firmly - for a fleeting moment, Sigurd looked so much like the hunters around them. But after the moment passed, the familiar, soft-spoken Gear pilot was back. "Kefka, calm down. She's... she's somehow able to talk to me. Don't ask, I can't explain, but I think I can discuss everything with her. Just wait it up, okay?" Running a hand down on the general's arm, the silvery-haired man smiled and turned back to the priestess. She settled down on the stairs leading up to the house's door, and Sigurd kneeled before her, this time obediently closing his eyes to be able to concentrate better. "What ability you speak about my lady...?"

He was too shocked to say anything for a moment, pale blue eyes wide and pink lips hanging agape. Did...Sigurd just snap at him?! No one raised their voice to Kefka Palazzo, especially not a person he was sleeping with. He was a General and a nobleman, not some trashy commoner... And when his beloved officer dared kneel before the woman, he felt his anger spike dangerously. This. Was. Stupid. The little blonde crossed his arms firmly over his chest, turned his back to Sigurd, picked out a random hunter from the group, and concentrated on trying to make his head explode via telekinesis. It didn't work, of course, but it was worth a try. It'd keep him from punching Sigurd in the head, anyhow.

The priestess didn't bother about the pouting general. "Our ancestors blessed us with the ability to be able to share and keep our thoughts in our minds, like in records. All of us have this ability. You seem to have it, too, but you're not skilled in using it. You seem alike to my tribespeople but you dress differently, and your companion takes after those men the hunters sometime see swarming around the metal road they're building."

"I am one of them," Sigurd admitted, somewhat feeling ashamed suddenly, he couldn't quite explain why. "But I did not come to do harm. We were hunting and accidentally ended up being swept away by the water. We're trying to find our way back, that's all."

"I see," the priestess nodded. "We can give you directions, and if you wish, Silver-top, I can show you how to use the mind records. After all, it's your birthright. I wonder-"

She was cut off, as the warrior elder, who stayed back silently until this, said something. Sigurd stirred, as he was able to make out a familiar word - a name... Shalimar.

"Sherik says you look a lot like his youngest sister," the priestess translated. "She was called Shalimar, and the metal-road building folk took her from us many years ago." Her dark eyes were fixed on the pilot's face, who felt his throat dry out.

"My mother... I have her dark skin and her name was indeed Shalimar."

The priestess nodded and shared the news with the elder. The result was a little unsettling - the natives started to discuss it excitedly, while Sherik's eyes widened. He straightened up, jaw set firmly and folded his arms, glaring at Sigurd, whose calm started to crack. This was... his home, sort of. These were his people, and the warrior glaring at him was his uncle. The Gear pilot never felt so small in his entire life. His heart was racing and he turned his eyes down, unable to look at the elder. The fact, that he knew he didn't do anything wrong, was not helping much.

What in the hell was going on? He'd never understand these savages, and once they went on their way, he'd be certain never to come near them again. Dirt streets, naked skin, houses with grass roofs... This had to be the underworld itself. There couldn't be an indoor toilet, plumbing, or a shower for hundreds of miles; no one here seemed to understand the fine art of shoes or glass in their windows. And they all stared. Certainly they'd seen a blonde before! And  his clothes were just as ragged as theirs (could one even call those clothes?), and most of the females were probably his size... it had to be the skin. Growling, he finally turned back, deciding to fix his glare on Sigurd again. That rat bastard...

And then they started babbling. The chatter went on for quite some time, but that didn't concern him. Oh no. It was the man staring Sigurd down that made Kefka's skin crawl. There was such intensity and malice in that gaze... "...what did she just tell him?"

"Truth," Sigurd mumbled and looked at his companion with a strange expression - both sad and happy, desperate and proud. "They... these are my people. This is my mother's tribe and the elder there is actually my uncle." He smoothed his hair back with a sigh. "This is what I secretly longed for since I got to know that the Harcourts weren't my biological parents. And yet, right now, I'm somewhat ashamed. I... don't belong here."

Meantime, the younger hunter, the elder and the priestess discussed something. They seemed to come to some kind of agreement, but whether it bode the soldiers well or ill, was still a secret.

Damn him. Damn him and that beautiful face, and those doleful eyes, and that miserably lovely expression upon his visage that made the blonde's heart skip a beat. Just one look was all it took for that fury to quell itself for the time being; with a small sigh, he inched forward, coming to stop just a few inches behind the officer. He wasn't sure how these natives felt about two males being affectionate (if they even realized that he was a male), so he decided to keep physical reassurance to a minimum. "They are your family... of course you belong here." His voice was soft and quiet, but his pale gaze hadn't lost its intensity in the least--he had taken to staring at the trio, just to make sure none of them suddenly lunged at his revenant Sigurd.

The pilot smiled and nodded, feeling relieved at the words - Kefka was rarely this nice, and his claim warmed Sigurd's heart up.

The priestess turned back to the silvery-haired man finally. "Sherik and the young Nathee agree that they'd like to see if you really are Shalimar's son, a stray child of our tribe. Nathee wants to challenge you for a duel. If you win, we'll show you the way and two hunters will even escort you for a while. But, if you loose... Well, you won't have to worry for your future, then. Your mate, however, might be in trouble. Nathee thinks she's lovely."

Sigurd refrained from pointing out the mistake about his companion's gender. He just nodded. "I accept the challenge. How will we fight?"

At the priestess' gesture, the young hunter tossed a whip to Sigurd. The officer, as the familiar weapon was in his hands, felt a lot better - Nathee was apparently a good fighter, but he was an ordinary human, and he couldn't know about the mako. Sigurd straightened and nodded.

His heart dropped into the pit of his stomach, even though he had no clue exactly what was being said. All he had to see was the whip in Sigurd's hands, and he immediately knew what was going on: they were going to fight. And judging from the barbarity of their surroundings, it was most likely a fight to the death. How many would he be forced to face? Two? Three? Twelve, thirteen? The blond man swallowed nervously, but kept his expression in check; for both their sakes, he couldn't look frightened. He trusted Sigurd's skills, but if this was going to be a handicap match, he didn't know just how safe his... lover would be. "Sigurd, wait!" He crossed the distance between them, gently cupping one of the officer's hands in his own; he didn't know what he'd do if something happened to Sigurd out here. "Please be careful. If things start to go sour, give me a sign... something, anything. Promise me."

It felt... Well, it felt so fucking damn nice, to be worried about and be the big, strong man who's going to fight to save his companion's life as well as his own. The pilot gave Kefka a warm smile and kissed his forehead. "If I loose, dash. The hunter has eyes on you. But let's hope I will not loose - then, they'll help us. Just stay calm and keep your fingers crossed for me. I got all my ranks for a reason."

The place in front of the council house was cleared, the villagers pulled away, leaving a wide enough circle for the fighters. Nathee cracked the whip a few times, clearly showing off - his movements were of a good warrior's. Sigurd knew that he'll very likely get a few injuries - the whips both had metal tips, not like his own back home. Moreover, the only person he ever fought both of them having the same weapon was Bart. But still, Nathee could only kill him if the strap wounds around Sigurd's neck, or somehow, the hunter manages to get him to the ground, finishing the duel with a knife. The chances were even at worst. The officer didn't plan on giving up easily.

The first strike came a bit unexpected, and as the pilot evaded, the metal spike still tore at his clothes, the cut seeping a few drops of blood. Sigurd didn’t let the cheering faze him though; he countered, and the narrowing of Nathee's eyes pleased him much. The fighters started to circle around each other.

He felt a little better when he saw a smile across the other's face, but it wasn't enough. If Sigurd fell, Kefka knew that he would be too distraught to run. He could not go back to the city without Sigurd. He wouldn't even try. He'd been without the man for extended periods of time before, but at least he'd always known that he was all right. If he died here today, if any one of these bastards cut him down, they would take away the only piece of stability that his tormented mind had; Kefka would rather die than live without him. For the first time since his childhood, the nobleman looked scared, but he still pulled back with the rest of the villagers, looking on with terrified eyes. He felt no rage when blood was drawn, only more fear.

His fingers wrapped tightly around his own arms, the general hugging himself as he willed whatever spirits of this planet to take heed of one repeated request: Please don't take him from me... Please don't take him from me...