Her mind ran circles while she washed up and geared herself. In light of her future company, she spared extra time examining herself – an attempt to appear less like a ragged, dust-beaten and sun-ravaged, grunt; even so, there was little she could do with tattered composite armor and sun-bleached hair long neglected. The single comb she owned shattered against her tangled mess forcing her to resign to a quick braid and tail to appear remotely presentable.
Outside, Akmoya stood nearby, his arms crossed as he barked at a younger male with short and wild hair bright as the sun. The latter wore light armor which mirrored Ceccamun’s, however, his right arm bore a full-arm gauntlet with a pair of thin connectors running from an amplifier at the shoulder down to a rectangular protrusion at the forearm. His dark mischievous eyes locked onto the giant before him and he wrinkled his nose in a snarl.
Akmoya was practically yelling, “I’ve told ya, this ain’t the time! Maybe, if’n’ya trained as much as ya traipsed around, mouthin’ off, ya’d be half the Lancer she was!”
Ceccamun stepped out and rose her voice above their bickering, “Aggar? What’re y’all up in’na kizz about this time?”
The younger man’s eyes turned to her and he broke into a wild smile. He gave Ceccamun a once over before his expression melted down to curiosity and he tilted his head, “better I’d ask you. What’s with the half-assed gussy-up?” he motioned to her.
“What?” Her face flushed momentarily before rapidly descending into a glare. Aggar retreated a step backward and Akmoya stepped between the two, his eyes on the younger man.
“Mind your place, miish’keht.” He bore down on the boy, “quit shirkin’ around and focus on yer trainin’. If’n I see yer ass again, it’d better be for yer advancement test.” The two of them glared at each other momentarily until Aggar reluctantly nodded and passed a glance toward Ceccamun. Akmoya stepped around Aggar and walked toward the edges of the camp expecting Cec to follow.
“‘Portant business, huh?” Aggar inquired low as to not be overheard. “The ol’man’s been stompin’round all mornin’. More’n’usual, anyway.”
“T’isn’t none of yer business,” Cec retorted but then went on. “Something with the Kaizar,” she shrugged. Akmoya turned to peer at them before she could get out another word. She let out a sigh, “I’ll tell ya when it’s done, yeah?”
Ceccamun faked a jab to Aggar’s bare shoulder rousing a defensive flinch from him. As soon as he eased up, she struck him in earnest. Aggar answered with his own swing but Cec dodged away and retreated into Akmoya’s wake.
Ceccamun and Akmoya stepped from beneath the canopy into the direct light of the planet’s interdigitate suns. A handful of feathered serpentine creatures flew overhead, cutting through the air effortlessly, each with an individual rider straddling their shoulders. At the center of the encampment, a modest oasis served as a common stomping ground for these creature known as the etenpyr – once dreadfully ornery creatures long since domesticated. Tens played and bathed in cool waters. Sheltered beneath the shade of swaying leaves, a quarrelsome pair of etenpyr wrestled with one another, thrashing and splashing and creating quite the commotion against the otherwise serene watering hole: Zimyen and Khaliel were at it again.
Near the water’s edge, at the base of a great palmed tree, another, much larger, etenpyr lounged with its paws crossed and its head held high as it watched the friendly bout. He was a much older and horned beast named Taitama, Akmoya’s cohort. The elder etenpyr slowly turned its bearded face and acknowledge Ceccamun and Akmoya’s approach before standing. It made its way over to Akmoya and politely lowered its head and fore so that the Sevajj could mount its shoulders. Ceccamun was denied the chance to follow suit.
Both the fighting etenpyr took flight and streamed toward Cec, kicking up water and arid sand in their wake. The young warrior stood her ground in the face of charging creatures more than half her size and let out a sharp command and whistle ordering both to stop. One of them grounded, skidding to a halt just seconds away from colliding with her; the other, however, slammed into and flattened her in the sand, a huge cloud of dust kicking up around them. The large quadrupedal serpent pressed its weight on her and nuzzled her face with its snout.
“Yer crushin’ me, ya paunchy git.” Cec struggled with her breath and against the oafsome lizard . She pushed against the beast’s snout in hopes of freeing herself but her efforts fell flat. Ceccamun was ready to resign to her fate – death via crushing by overgrown, dimwitted, lizard – until the second of the rambunctious pair stepped in and pushed its sibling away. Cec took a huge breath as soon as she was able, enduring a minor coughing fit due to the dust and sand.
“Thanks, Khali.” She caught her breath and stood to pet the helpful etenpyr. A nudge at her back let her know that her attacker, Zimyen, was back on his feet and demanding as ever. She gave him a sharp look and berated him briefly but ruffled his plume with both hands and touched her forehead to his rigged snout.
Akmoya’s bark startled her. She pat Zimyen’s nose once more before turning to Khaliel and touching forehead to muzzle. “Stay here. I’ll be back. Try’n’keep outta trouble, yeah?” She glanced between the both before jogging over to Akmoya and climbing up on Taitama’s shoulders behind her mentor.