The Ze’hirixss surrounded the warriors, and primarily Thrak. They pointed their spears, like one giant porcupine. The pointy tips jutted out from every angle. The largest of the lizardfolk broke off from the others and pushed it’s way to the front. It had a red crest atop it’s head, which ran down the rest of it’s spine. It’s eyes narrowed and it’s mouth snarled. “Who is the leader of your tribe? Speak humanssssss!!!”
Without waiting for an answer, it pointed it’s weapon at Thrak, and jabbed it at him, piercing his leg flesh. Thrak did not wince or make a noise. The other creatures seemed to take note of this, and Thrak swiveled his neck towards his attacker. Silent, he waited.
“Who are you to travel with the enemy? Who are you, traitor?! Do you even speak our tongue, or mussssst I speak to you in the slaver speech?
“Thrak Yak!” Roared Thrak. And although Thrak had raged and roared and charged into battle in ways they could have once never imagined, he was reserved, and regal even. They had never seen him quite like this. Iricah recalled later, it was like seeing him belong, even as he was being tortured.
“Thrak! You scaly bastard, what are they doing? Who is he?” shot Frank.
“Quiet, you humannssss. Quiet!!! Thrak handlesssss this one. And besides, he is a ssshe.”
“Ex-girlfriend, Thrak?” asked Frank.
“Quiet you fool,” Thrak grunted. The other lizardfolk watched and listened to his every action. They circled him menacingly.
“Not a very nice way to thank us, really,” sighed Areia.
“WHO ISSSS YOUR LEADER?” said the warrior again.
“I AM.” Raged Thrak! He had never looked more noble. His scales pushed back spears as he stood tall, his tail wagging behind him. “I am the leader of thesssseee tribe of humansssss and I will be your leader. For I now challenge her. I CALL FOR A CONTESSSST!!!!”
Instantly, dozens and dozens of spears broke off from the group surrounding Thrak and surrounded each of them now. Areia had one placed a bit too close. “Hey there fella, that’s a place where I don’t prefer spears.” She looked towards the others, who were currently having their hands tied. “I guess it’s going to come down to some kind of freaky battle royale, huh guys?” She could tell the others were considering their options here. She, like the rest, knew they could try and escape now, but they didn’t think that was going to help. Besides, they could not have gotten their ship off without having to take on the entire tribe of lizardfolk. And that wasn’t a battle they would win.
Zy’an and Frank looked as though they were thinking the same thing, while several of the large creatures moved behind them.
“Good luck Thrak,” smiled Iricah halfheartedly. Her hands were being tied behind her back by several pairs of strong claws. She turned towards Areia.
“Don’t look at me, dear, I specialize in escaping rope ties and I have a magical teleportation flute, but I’m pretty sure you guys are screwed if big stinky over there loses.” She winked.
“Thrak!!!!!!” Called Iricah.
While Thrak was being decorated in some form of what looked like intestines from some animal, their hands were bound to the trunks of thick wooden poles, stuck firmly in the sand below. A rope of some sinewy fiber was placed over their forehead, holding their head up. This Thrak knew was custom. It was tradition. Should he win, the tribe was under his leadership. He could then explain that Celns and Sassers were two different things. He might even convince them that he was here to help them.
Should he fail though, they would watch, and then, as was tradition as well, they would join him, in a pit. Or, depending on the tribes tastes, in their stew. Some tribes took fingers during this portion of the contest. Luckily for them, this tribe had already found a few snacks after the beach battle.
A conch shell blew loudly and the lizardfolk pulled back. They dropped the ends of their spears into the sands and stood silently made a wide circle around the two in the middle. Thrak and the red crested warrior. She was far larger than he was, and more massively muscled. Iricah thought it was so strange to see Thrak amongst so many of his kin like this. She had never realized that he was, for all intents and purposes, a runt.
She reminded herself that if they survived this, she probably shouldn’t put that out.
“I’ve got the deed to a small harbor town that the runt beats Red Crest,” laughed Frank. For there wasn’t anything else to do or say but a jest. He thought of Hojo, who had taught him that.. “Any takers?”
“I’ll raise you my life,” sighed Iricah.
The two warriors ceremoniously took their arms and armors and items and placed them in a pit in the middle of the battle area on the sand. Not until both were completely unclad did they then back up. Tails wagging behind them, the two stared at each other. They clawed the air, and slashed the sand with their taloned feet. Thrak was far more animal now. Red Crest dragged a claw across her arm scales and held it up in the wind. Those around sniffed the air as if searching for a scent. She called out something that they couldn’t understand. Thrak then did too. And presently, from all around them answered the calls of the tribe in the strange hissing language of the lizard peoples.
The fight had begun!
It was clear from the beginning that this was not going to be a long drawn out affair. It just wasn’t the way that these creatures were. Red Crest lunged off the sand almost instantly after dropping back, and clawed Thrak across the chest and face. Blood spurted from his wounds, great gashes dribbling blood. Steams of it ran into his beady little eyes. He nearly fell but managed to keep his ground, just. Thrak slunk back, shaking his head. He hadn’t even gotten an attack. He wouldn’t take another either. It looked hopeless.
And then the beast began to chant!
“Lovely,” whispered Zy’an against the post, “She’s a spell caster.”
Long tendrils of something alive began to curl from under the sand, searching out for Thrak. He tried to kick them away and move through them. He stuttered, just rising off the sand enough to sidestep a powerful vine of some kind. It twisted magically up to grab him. Red Crest sensed a time to strike and went for the kill. Her mouth open, she lunged at Thrak’s jugular!
Her teeth shone in the midday sun and her tongue snaked out seeking his throat.
But the runty lizardman surprised her at just the last moment! His tail planted behind him and he used it to quickly sidestep the thing. He drove a massive leg around and kicked it aside where it fell upon the sand. Thrak roared and leaped on top of her. He savagely clawed the creature, again and again. Red Crest tried to rise, but each time, Thrak had the advantage. He pummeled his rival into the sand. again and again, he landed blows, and bit her muscled arms from atop her.
Until, she became still. And when she had, he withdrew, and spat blood from his mouth. He turned in a circle, looking them all in the eyes!
And then, he spoke, but not in a voice they understood. His call was ravenous. Like a beast. The Thrak, savage yet maintained, they knew was gone. What was left, this animal, was now in charge. The others knew it too. Thrak the Mighty had finally taken his place.
The other beasts moved to the urchins, at Thrak’s urging. For a split second, Zy’an saw not the Thrak who had guarded him, but a monster. And he wondered, only briefly, what command he had given his new tribe. But then, he knew, and felt guilt for the thought that it would be anything but what he knew would happen. For one thing he knew of Thrak was that when push came to shove, Thrak was loyal. To his very lizard core.
Soon, all were released of their bindings. Thrak, now decorated and in the centre of the throng called out in a battle cry, and before him the tribe fell upon their knees.
“We’ve created a monster,” sighed Areia. She looked around and took a knee with the others too. They all did.
“I am sssseeevveee!!!! Roared Thrak.
“SEEEEVEEE!!!!” Roared the others.
I think they’re trying to say chief thought Zy’an.
Thrak stood proudly among the tribe, and before his friends as well.
“I am sssseeeve. And this warrior,” he pointed to his fallen rival, “is part of that our tribe. She isss needed against our enemy. And she will live!”
There was a great commotion amongst the tribe, for this was not their way. Thrak though was adamant, and eventually, the others moved while Thrak spoke to them of slaves and slavers and of the darkness to come. While Frank and Iricah bound her wounds, he spoke to his tribe. This, he would learn, was not that from which he himself was once taken. Not from where he came. But they were his now. He, in some way, had made it home, at last.
For several days, Thrak and his comrades were made quests of the tribe. A bond, unlike any that they had heard of before, was sealed in those days. And then, it was time to leave. Thrak made a pact, leaving Red Crest in his stead. Although not custom, the tribe accepted under terms.
“The tribe is now a powerful ally for us in a time of great need,” said Zy’an. “You have done well, Master Thrak.”
Later, as they equipped their ship and repaired it in the small cove, Zy’an searched among the slaver ship. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he supposed what he found there did not surprise him. Iricah joined him, as usual, curious as ever.
“I see now why Borindin wanted information about their ships. This is construction beyond a level I have seen in any Cillandrial vessel.”
“Indeed,” said the monk. “I am more concerned about how they fight. Iricah, do they telecommunicate? Share one mind? How are they coordinated? What is this host?”
“I do not know, Zy’an. But whatever the Sassers are appears to me as nothing more than slavery. And every slave must have a master.”
Eventually, several cannon were taken, as well as some charts and other items they hadn’t seen before. He showed them to Iricah who then disappeared into her onboard study with them.
Thrak carried the last of the sacks aboard himself. The sails were being aired out. It was time to go. With wind filling the sails, he stared back at the folk standing proudly on the sand. These were his people now. His people, too. Too, he thought. Then, he looked back and saw the humans, the Celns waiting for him. Was it possible to have two homes? He didn’t know. And perhaps, it was beyond him.
He figured he sort of liked it that way.
“Master Thrak,” said Ariea. “Come to the prow with us, I wish to show you something.” He walked down the ladder and fell upon the sand. Her tone had suddenly grown strange. Thrak had never heard her take that kind of tone before. It sounded a lot like when the other humans were serious. “Master Thrak,” she said again, once more in the strange tone. “It has come to our attention that no Celn vessel has ever been recognized nor named after a member of your race.”
Thrak just looked puzzled. He stared at them all, through much of the poultice Iricah had made for him. It was planted on the scar above his eyes. “I do not underssstand, you Celns.”
“What I am trying to say,” said Areia, far less in this new tone now. She then moved to the right, while the others moved to the left. Thrak looked at the ship. It’s side had once read “Areia’s Wake.” It now read, “Thrak’s Rage”.
Thrak still looked puzzled.
“The ship, Thrak. The ship is now named after you! Don’t you get it? We honor you, friend! it is the first Celn ship to be named after a member of the lizardfolk tribes.” She, like the others had clearly forgotten that the warrior did not read.
“Good,” said the lizard man. He hopped up above the sign, grabbed onto a rope and climbed over the railing. He extended a claw from above to the others to join him. “Then when you decide on it’s name, you can keep it to yourselves. I have no need of honor.”
“And what do you have need for, Master Thrak?” Said Frank from below. He like the others were smiling. Thrak’s ability to cause humor out of ignorance was becoming legend.
“Snacks,” said Thrak. He gripped his little sack and crept off to sleep belowdecks.
“There’s no honor among Seeves,” sighed Areia.
“Hypocrite,” yawned Frank. And he followed his runty friend up the ladder, onto the ship and then went belowdecks, his mace glowing at his side.