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The Man in the Woods

Posted on Thu Nov 25th, 2021 @ 6:02am by Captain Rhenora Kaylen & Chief Petty Officer Remal Kajun

Mission: *CD*
Location: Bajor

The service was in the village temple, a small stone crafted building only just large enough to house the worshippers within its walls. Jurel lay at the head of the pews, carefully adorned with the colours of Bajor and surrounded by local flowers. He looked at peace, any visible signs of his death carefully erased so that his final expression was neutral and relaxed. The temple was almost full, only a few spaces left at the rear which suited Rhenora just fine. She could watch and observe from here without being obvious. The service was about to start and they had only just arrived, making a back row location the logical choice.

“Your friend had a number of friends and family left who cared about him, it would seem.” Remal whispered under his breath. They were trying to keep a low profile afterall. “Recognize anyone?”

She looked around the congregation, easily picking a half dozen worn faces from the old days, however most were the local village folk of whom Rhenora didn’t recognise. “ There are a few here from our resistance cell, not many though, that being said not many are left alive” She admitted sagely, casting a wary eye around. If one was casing out their next victim, a funeral would be the ideal place to start. Follow them home and boom - another one gone.

“ We may be being watched, or at the very least our presence noted” Her eyes wandered the faces that lay sadly inspecting the minister and the dearly departed.

Whispering he commented, "I would expect nothing less. Perhaps we should have come wearing a disguise? Try not to worry. I'm sure if our perpetrator is discreet enough to pull off an assassination they wouldn't attempt it here in a crowd of onlookers." While he exuded confidence in his voice, events of late had him doubting his own words.

The service passed uneventfully, Rhenora taking the time to memorize as many faces as she could before they left. Most would be gathering later for drinks and a celebration of life but she was hesitant to attend. She felt the need to continue their search for answers, and a large group gathering was not the place for the conversations that needed to be had. She did however touch base with those left in her cell, promising to drop by in the next day or so to 'catch up'. It would be more like a warning to watch themselves than anything. She shivered, the cool air becoming cold as the afternoon gave way to evening.

The temple emptied slowly, many paying their last respects to Jurel before he was lowered into a grave next to his wife who had passed the year earlier. It was a romantic sentiment that tugged on Rhenora's heartstrings, and she hoped she and Remal would be laid to rest in a similar fashion. Together till the end of time.

He watched the group of strangers say goodbye to their friend one last time. He marveled at how precious life truly was and was grateful the weather had stayed away, only admitting a slight cool breeze. It was late spring, nearing summer, but the evenings were still chilly at times. This Province in particular was quite windy it seemed.

"So, where and who are these accommodations that you have organised?" She enquired, wrapping the long ochre shawl tighter to ward off the chill. She wasn't sure if it was the age or the hormones but she felt the cold more lately.

"Ah, just on the edge of the village. He owns a nice villa overlooking a pond. He enjoys the calmness of the water I think. Anyway," he looked about, "this way I think." He proclaimed while pointing down the cobbled street.

"Lead on then" she smiled, stifling a yawn that threatened to overtake her features. "I'm sorry, it's been a long day" she admitted as a tinge of red coloured her cheeks.

It wouldn’t be long and they would be nestled up inside a friend's house, maybe with a nice fire going. His thoughts fell to his friend, a former patient and what it may mean for him to house guests. Remal knew it wouldn’t be easy, but also knew their sessions never were. The man was having to learn how to live for the first time, apart from his squad. He wrapped his arm around Rhenora to keep her warm. “It’s okay, we’ll be inside soon enough. Think warm thoughts.”

“ So tell me about this patient of yours we will be staying with - you mentioned he needs to keep calm. Is he still recovering from the Occupation?” She asked as they walked, snuggling closer to Remal’s side for warmth.

Remal shifted slightly as he walked, trying to keep pace with someone shorter than himself. "Dominion war actually. Almost lost an arm and leg in a battle on Crimea Nine. His squad left him to die. From that point on he struggled to see the point of the war. He went AWOL at the first chance he had. When he landed here he sought counseling and seclusion and I was able to offer both." They came to a cross street, "Uh, this way, I think." He said pointing right towards a cluster of trees and a road into the dark overgrowth.

The light was starting to slowly fade, casting long shadows from the trees onto the ground like some kind of deranged horror holofilm. The houses here were sparse and few between, enjoying the languid nature of the terrain. A small river could be heard nearby, they were close.

"So are there any triggers I should avoid?" She asked seriously, knowing that mental health could be delicate at times, and also not wanting to make their host feel uncomfortable in any way.

“Honestly, loud noises, mostly talk about children and war in general. Though, I admit, he does not talk much. Strong silent type really. I haven’t seen him in two years so I can only hope he’s made progress.” They approached a stone walkway, lined with Rhenoras. At the end lay a small Villa with beautiful curved stone and clay architecture and a door with a single light, beckoning them in. “Um, keep your hands visible, just in case.”

Her eyes widened at his words and she carefully brought her hands in front of her, gently clasping them in front of her as they approached the front door. She took a step slightly behind Remal, allowing him to lead the conversation as they stopped before the door. Just what were they walking into?

Remal stepped up onto the stoop and pressed the chime. He waited only a moment before the hairs on his neck stood on end. They were being watched and someone was close. From behind Rhenora came a shimmering sound of a personal phase cloak and a deep voice asking, “Identify yourself and your purpose.”

Rhenora froze, fighting the urge to go on the defensive as the sound of the cloak appeared behind them. The curse was swallowed by her breath as she tried not to scream. She dare not turn, dared not breath until Remal said so.

Remal hung his head, “Remal Kajun, and my mate, Rhenora Kaylen. We seek shelter as requested. I seem to remember one seeking the same not so long ago.”

There was a moment of silence before a clear sound of a rifle being powered down split the tension. Remal turned. “Good to see you too, old friend.”

She turned, ever so slowly until she laid eyes on their host. Taking in the reptilian skin, the scales and ridges of one of the Federation’s greatest enemies, apparently now living in a semi-remote village on Bajor suffering the after effects of the terrible war that had scarred them all.

The soldier reached past Rhenora and clasped hands with Remal, “You are late, but…” he hesitated with a slight twitch of his face before continuing, “It is good to see you as well.”

Rhenora knew better than to trust her voice at the moment, staying close to Remal as an indescribable fear threatened to overtake her. Deep breaths calmed her body, but her mind still took her back to the Dominion War where they fought till the bitter end over and over again against this formidable foe.

“Ikar’Agal, I would like to introduce you to my mate, Captain Rhenora Kaylen, Rhenora, Ikar’Agal former Dominion Soldier and defender of Crimea Nine and Bajorans alike.” Remal took the opportunity to make introductions while keeping a firm eye on Ikar.

Ikar broke eye contact, turned to Rhenora and bowed slightly, “Pleasure. I’ve heard much in your favor.” He said simply. “Please, welcome to my abode.” He gestured them towards the door, which opened at his whimsy.

Scraping her mouth from the stones beneath her feet as her jaw dropped at the pleasantries she followed Remal inside, and into the strangest evening they had experienced in a very long time.

TBC

 

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