<<Janitza Mountains, Bajor, 2366, 2100 hours>>
As the sun sat over the Janitza Mountains and darkness descended on the Kaladrys Valley all sound ceased except for the soothing spatter of rain on bare rock. The wind had picked up and as it made its way through the rock spires of the canyon it added a somber drone to the rain's melody.
Zael Artori listened intently to the uniqueness of nature's song, its tempo and melody shifted subtly as the elements varied their intensity. Each storm made its own song, never to be heard again and he tried hard to let the chorus penetrate him so that he might remember it and carry its soothing sound with him through the next series of hardships.
The rest of his party, a resistance cell of nine members, rested within the confines of a cavern away from the elements but Artori had been heavily soiled from the day's travel and stood motionless as a cascade of water from the hillside above washed over him. The bare skin of his torso soaked up the moisture as the dirt was washed away and after a short time the young Bajoran felt refreshed. He hadn't noticed Nira Lirana approach from behind and was pleasantly startled when he felt her silken touch on his shoulders.
Lirana had quietly made her way over to Artori while the others relaxed. Knowing he would be concentrating on the storm, she lightly rested her fingers on his shoulders, then slid them down his arms as she leaned closer to his ear and said, "Enjoying the storm?"
Artori shivered slightly as he turned, and brought Linara into his arms. With her cheek against his shoulder he kissed her gently on the forehead, “I am now.”
A smile spread slowly across her face as she looked up at him, "We have a beautiful view here, Artori." Lirana didn't mention what was beyond; they all knew and there was no sense in spoiling these moments she shared with him. If only the moments would last forever, rather than the nightmare world they'd been born into.
“I know,” Artori replied wistfully, as much at the discomfort he perceived within her as her comment. “Someday, after the Cardassians have gone and the land is green again like the elders say it was before... I 'd like to build us a home here.”
Lirana's eyes moved across the landscape once again, imagining what it would be like to wake up there every morning, with Artori at her side. Sighing contentedly as she gently moved her fingers across his back, she replied, "I would like that."
Artori gently lifted Lirana's face toward his by the chin and kissed her. Staring into her emerald eyes, he vowed, “then you shall have it.”
Her eyes locked with his as she brought her hand back to stroke his cheek. Lirana glanced back at the cavern, "Should we head back?" Really, she hated to have their time end, but soon they would be missed.
“You're right” Artori conceded. “We should go.” After one last look over the darkening valley he let Lirana lead him back inside.
As Lirana's eyes adjusted to the darkness of the cavern, she led Artori further in, where the rest of the Cell members were, a few hundred feet in. At that point, the cavern opened up into an immense room; there were no stalctites or stalagmites this close to the entrance, but the rock formations were unique nonetheless.
The others had started a fire, the flickering flames casting intricate shadows on the walls of the cavern. A makeshift pot, which they had obtained from an abandoned home, was seated directly on the flames; presumably containing a stew of boiled roots and herbs.
"Decided to clean yourself up for our glamorous meal, Zael?" Jorak said as Lirana and Artori neared the rest of the group.
Artori smirked as he shuffled a small pile of weapons aside to make room for he and Lirana to sit. Shuffling his pile of belongings he retrieved his tattered tunic and began to lace it up, “Yes, that's exactly it Jorak.”
Jorak nodded with a knowing smile before glancing back at Awen, "How's it coming, little sister?"
Awen scowled at her brother. She'd told him a hundred times to quit calling her 'little sister' around the Resistance fighters. It did no good, so at this point she'd decided not to bother reacting to it. "It's ready now. If everyone's ready to eat... Nothing spectacular, but I found a few good herbs that should help it," Awen replied; it had been her turn to cook.
“I'm sure it's a far sight better than the shoe leather...” Artori's voice trailed off as he caught himself referring to the camp he had grown up in. It was agreed among the group that nobody needed a reminder of their suffrage but nobody had said anything to his slip. “It looks delicious Awen, thank you.”
Blushing slightly, Awen gave a slight smile, "I only hope it tastes as good as it looks." Spooning some into two bowls, the young Bajoran took them to Artori and Lirana. Artori was the leader of their Cell, such as it was, and Awen had to admit she was a bit jealous of Lirana. But they, as well as the others, were good people and had helped her feel like she belonged.
Lirana smiled at Jorak's sister as she took the bowl. She brought it to her lips and took a small sip of the hot liquid. "Don't worry, Awen, it tastes wonderful; nice job. I'd like to see what you'd do with even better ingredients. And compared to the meals that some prepare," Lirana let her voice trail off at the joke.
Artori shrugged with a smile, “How was I supposed to know that you can't eat Fernis root... It all looks the same...”
Jorak smiled faintly at the levity, but was distracted by his sister, more than once over the past couple of months he had caught Awen's gaze lingering over Artori, Lirana or both. On some level he could understand her fascination but as her brother he didn't want to see her hurt, he would have to keep a close eye on the girl.
Still filling bowls, Awen brought one over to her brother next. She waited as he stopped sharpening his knife and put it back in its place - strapped to his thigh - before handing him the stew. Once everyone else had been served, Awen took the last remaining bit and sat on the ground close to the fire.
Artori finished the contents of his bowl before the last had been served and after setting it aside took up a stolen Cardassian disruptor to clean it. “Awen,” he began without looking up. “Has Jorak begun training you to shoot?”
Awen looked up at Artori, slightly surprised, as he addressed her, "He started, Artori...but mostly he's been concentrating on hand to hand, or knife skills."
Artori only nodded at first then cast Jorak a sidelong glance, "Do you think she's ready?"
Jorak looked from his sister to Artori with a serious expression, he had wanted to hold off on ranged weapons as long as he could with the hope of keeping Awen out of the fray. His jaw tightened as he met Artori's gaze, he was the leader of the group but he had no right to put anyone on the spot. Jorak wanted to hit Artori at that moment, wanted to wipe his ever knowing expression off of his face but the anger needed to enact his desire never came. At last, Jorak admitted to himself that his sister was quickly becoming as much a fighter as anyone else in the group, why shouldn't she learn to shoot?
Without an answer Artori had already guessed what had gone through his friend's mind, glancing at Awen through strands of still damp hair Artori held out the disruptor rifle for her to take. "It's not much," he stated flatly. "But it's what we have; it's yours."
Having watched the exchange between her brother and Artori, Awen's eyes widened ever so slightly as she rose and stepped forward to take the disrupter rifle. She took it from him with reverence; in her mind, the gift was a rite of passage for the Cell. Now Awen was one of them.
Lirana smiled briefly as Awen took the weapon. She remembered the day that Artori had given her her first disruptor rifle. Knowing that she had gained his trust enough for him to give it to her had been an exciting moment...and having him show her how to use it had been another kind of exciting.
Several minutes of silence passed as the group soaked up the heat of the fire. Artori examined their new equipment, item by item, salvaging useful parts and cleaning the gear that still functioned. Awen studied her disruptor, running her fingers along its cold surface, feeling its weight and envisioning the dead Cardassian from who's hands it had been taken. Lirana sat quietly observing the others and thinking on Artori's words tried to envision a Bajor that was at peace again. Jorak brooded quietly as he watched his sister, imaginings of her death in combat shook his core and eying Artori he wondered if the right decision had been made.
"We have preparations to make," Artori spoke quietly, breaking the silence. "Jorak, Lirana. The rest of you, work out who's going to take watch and get some sleep."
Without another word the group split and settled in for a long night.
A post by:
played by: WO1C Kilana Nira
played by: WO1C Kilana Nira
played by: Lt.(Prov) Zael Artori