Shadow and Ghost
Chapter 8: Family Ties
Thar’n-thwei’s laugh was rich and hearty, shaking his head at Bhu’ja, his grey dreads swaying behind his shoulders. “Sadly child, Anna held no affection for me as she did for my brother…twins we may be, but she could always tell us apart.”
Bhu’ja gave him a tentative smile. “If you’re my father’s twin…that would make you my uncle.”
“Yes. We are blood.” The Elder confirmed.
“It’s a little unnerving. You look just like him.” Bhu’ja said in awe.
“Hopefully not too much, I always fancied myself the better looking brother.” He quirked a mandible at her in a mock pout, before grinning, his eyes a touch shaded with loss. “I see him in you as well.” He gestured to her stripes. “Our Sire’s blood runs strong in you.”
Set’rath looked between them. “Well this explains a few confusions.” He grumbled.
“As it should.” Thar’n-thwei gestured for Set’rath to lead the way. “Come let us find a better room to sit. We have much to discuss before joining the clan.” Bhu’ja was stunned; her parents had never mentioned Thar’n-thwei was her uncle, let alone a twin brother to her father.
He had only been referred to as a ‘trusted friend’. “Why did my parents, or you for that matter, not tell me who you where?” Bhu’ja asked feeling the tendrils of anger creep in on her.
Thar’n-thwei regarded his niece with a tilted expression as they walked down the halls leading to the bridge. “Sly Hunter thought it best to keep our relation secret and when the corruption surrounding him began to surface he thought only of keeping you and your mother safe. I share is face, but as you can see,” He held his arms out. “I am quite capable at taking care of myself.”
As they entered the bridge of the Berserker’s hunting ship, Bhu’ja turned her anger on her uncle. “Did you know what my father had planned when he asked you to take us back to Earth?”
Thar’n-thwei casually took a seat and gesturing for her and Set’rath to do the same. Ignoring her agitation, he answered her question. “My brother asked a favor of me and I did it without question. Knowing what I know now, my Arbitrators will bring the traitorous clan to justice for their crimes.”
“What do you mean ‘clan’; I thought it was only the three?” Bhu’ja took a seat and noticed Set’rath sitting rather ridged and wondered just how much he had known and had not told her.
The elder continued. “When my brother and I became Blooded, we went to separate clans. I came here to become an Arbitrator, Sly Hunter wanted to gain honors in the hunt to one day take a political seat in the council.” Taking a deep breath, he continued. “My brother discovered his clan was rewriting the honor code, perverting it to a god complex.”
“That explains why one of the Berserkers on the planet called himself a god.” Bhu’ja commented looking briefly at Set’rath.
Thar’n-thwei nodded. “My brother was always an honorable hunter and came to me in secret when he learned they had set up game reserves for mass killings and that young Unblooded hunters where the prize kill. He came to me when his clan leader summoned him, and asked me to take you and your mother back to Earth…I fear he knew he would not survive long passed the pending conversation.”
Bhu’ja’s eyes darkened. “My mother claimed to feel his passing. She died within a year of returning. Do you know the clan leader’s name?”
Thar’n-thwei shook his head. “No the man is a ghost.”
“He doesn’t exist. Great…the last thing I want in common with a bad blood.” Bhu’ja grumbled under her breathe. She had desperately hoped that the threat the Brawler had issued before dying had been empty, but knowing there was an entire clan out there with the same messed up honor and ideals, made her believe the hunt had just begun with the hunting grounds growing exponentially.
Set’rath looked at his mate with a curious expression. “How did you know about the hunters on that planet?”
Thar’n-thwei tilted his head slightly and added to Set’rath’s curiosity. “That is curious. How did you get to one of their reserves?”
Bhu’ja pressed her lips together not wanting to pull up the old memories, but rolled her shoulders and sighed. “When my mother passed, she left me a key to a safe deposit box.” The males had confused looks on their faces. “It is a box to keep special items safe.” They nodded and she continued. “In the box was a letter from my father. He explained the treachery of his hunting brothers, which after I was taken I assumed where the three on the planet, and that if I was reading the letter he was dead. He also explained how to gain their attention if I wished revenge and what I would have to do if I wished to leave Earth since he knew the planet would begin to slowly kill me.” She looked off away from them at nothing in particular. “So for nineteen years I set myself up as desirable prey, putting myself into the perfect predator spotlight.” Shrugging as she chose not to elaborate further. “It paid off just in time. Father had guessed I only had between eighteen and twenty years, before Earth’s atmosphere would begin to take its toll on my lungs.”
“You have more than just ooman fighting skills.” Set’rath commented.
She nodded. “I should, we lived in space with my father for almost forty one years. He trained me and took me on many hunts with him.”
Set’rath looked confused. “Did he not give you armor?”
She laughed lightly. “Leave it to you to ask that. No, not this kind anyway, my father favored plate armor. I have never seen this type,” She touched the mesh running over her exposed stomach. “Until the planet.”
“You were not born in space then?” Set’rath asked indulging his curiosity.
“I was raised on Earth by my mother for my first twenty two years, then when I began to change,” She gestured to her markings. “She called for my father.” Changing subjects, Bhu’ja questioned her Uncle. “When will the Arbitrators begin their search for the rest of this clan?”
Set’rath cleared his throat and she looked back over at him when he spoke. “We have already been investigating…”
“Wait. You are an Arbitrator?” Bhu’ja crossed her arms and glared at him. “Just when where you planning on telling me that?”
Set’rath looked uncomfortable and Thar’n-thwei broke into another burst of hearty laughter. “You my boy, have your hands full with this one, I would sleep lightly tonight.” He jested.
Holding her hands up, Bhu’ja looked between the males. “Hold on. You two are awfully informal, is there anything I should be aware of here?”
“He is my son.” Thar’n-thwei stated simply.
“Oh no, no, no, no. Please tell me I did not mate with my cousin.” Bhu’ja felt sick.
Set’rath shook his head, chuckling softly. “No, we are not blood. Elder Strong Blood took me in when my dame died during my birth. My sire is unknown and if he still lives, has never risen to claim me as his blood.”
Sighing with relief Bhu’ja looked between them again and then asked Thar’n-thwei. “I admit to only remembering some of my father’s teachings, but I seem to recall males don’t typically raise pups.”
Thar’n-thwei nodded. “Typically, we don’t…but I have my reasons for taking him in. My brother was the one out of the two of us who could pass our sire’s blood along. I have built up honors to get where I am, but with no offspring, my line dies with me, unless I took in an orphan and now if allowed to claim my only known blood kin.”
Bhu’ja narrowed her eyes at him. “You are grooming him for clan leader then. That explains why he is such a young Arbitrator.”
“Correct. He is in a special situation and his place of honor is highly sought after…”
Set’rath huffed. “Do you two intend to talk about me as if I am not here?”
Bhu’ja raised a brow at him. “Yes.” Then continued talking with That’n-thwei. “What do you mean by highly sought after?”
The elder explained and as he spoke quirked a crooked grin at Set’rath. “If he was to take a life mate, commit to a pair bond, the female’s family would gain all his honor to their names as everything he has, he has earned through no pre-existing titles save for my own…and what honor is truly held by a male who cannot pass on his genetics?”
Set’rath did not like being talked about, but as he listened, the elder’s odd behavior, his push for him to pair bond with Bhu’ja, even the elder’s drive to adopt him so long ago was becoming clear. The three of them sat there together as a family of misfits with honors held, some higher than most, which they had earned and not inherited. Such things where rare and when a Yautja of such merit came about they were aggressively sought after to increase and perpetuate another family’s honor.
Bhu’ja pinched the bridge of her nose and then asked. “So am I correct to assume then, that we,” She gestured to herself and Set’rath. “Have cleverly been set up by my father and uncle to eventually be pair bonded?”
Thar’n-thwei had the decency to look guilty. “Not entirely, but it does work out to all of our favors that you two have committed.” He then raised a brow and asked both of them. “Does this new knowledge change what you feel for each other?”
In unison, they answered. “H’ko.” Meeting Set’rath in the eyes Bhu’ja admitted the new information changed nothing, he was hers and she would defend that fact to the death. Set’rath nodded at her knowingly before turning to Thar’n-thwei to ask. “Now that our family history has been examined, and our commitment to each other has not waivered, why are we still aboard this ship and not joining the clan yet?” Bhu’ja nodded in agreement.
Thar’n-thwei shook his dreads. “Though admittedly not as important as the traitors, Kha’cti-pa and her daughter are aboard and I needed to make sure that Cetanu’s Kiss is ready to defend your honor and her right to be your mate.”
Bhu’ja groaned. “Please call me Ghost; it will be awkward enough being a hybrid within the clan.”
Thar’n-thwei nodded slightly. “As you wish.”
“Who is this Kha’cti-pa, and why is she and her daughter a problem?” Bhu’ja had the gut feeling she wasn’t going to like the answer.
Set’rath shifted slightly and answered. “Reckless Spear has been trying to get me to agree to a pair bonding with D’lex-dekna so she can secure a seat on the council through my status and honors.”
“I take it then this will not be the first time these two have tried to ask you?” Bhu’ja asked, feeling the cold edge of jealousy creep in along her spine.
Thar’n-thwei confirmed. “These two are relentless in their pursuit of Deadly Shadow, I have headed them off the best I could, but they have learned of our rendezvous and arrived yesterday. Once your pair bonding is announced I am positive Reckless Spear will issue a challenge on her daughter’s behalf.”
Bhu’ja sat in thought for a moment before speaking up. “Is Metallic Eyes a Blooded hunter?”
“Not yet.” Thar’n-thwei admitted.
“Then why the push for her to pair bond? Something isn’t sitting right Uncle and by the look on your face, you agree with me.” Bhu’ja remembered enough from her father’s lectures to know that even her bonding with Set’rath would be called into question, without having passed a Chiva of her own she technically had no rights to him.
“Yes. But come.” Thar’n-thwei stood. “Let us join the clan; I have a new daughter to introduce, a son to welcome home and a Chiva to coordinate.”