Kandar Episode 37 Path of the Breema
After a long debate with Jack about what was actually safe, prudent, and sane for a trained assassin, Jessie made it out of the house. Armed with his wrist and leg weights he headed north up the street, towards the wooded area just outside of the neighborhood. He had found a clearing in the woods that was just over three miles north. The spare bedroom was nice for calisthenics and weight training, but he needed more room to do his forms properly ad this worked perfectly. The main park, where the cook out was held, was more than large enough, but he preferred places of privacy. Even in the cities he often traveled through, he sought out abandoned warehouses or the like, instead of going to a local gym.
He had found the place on a satellite view of the area, then confirmed the location by foot. He had gauged that wearing 25lbs wrist and ankle weights along with a 75lbs weight vest serve as a good warm up on his jog there. There was even a convenient nature trail that lead into the woods from the main road. From there slipping off into the forest without being noticed would be easy.
Just two blocks from his house he was sure there was someone following him. He slowed his jog in a couple places and feigned looking at the houses or the landscaping around on the way to allow himself more chances to look around without being noticed, but he could not spot anyone, just a quick shadow here and there. It was enough to keep him on edge.
After a few turns and an extra lap around the block, and still catching the shadow, he moved onto the nature trail hoping the fallen leaves and dry grass would give away the shadow. Still no closer, Jessie headed into the wood and ran an irregular zig zag pattern through the trees. After a bit of no shadow or sounds from this tail, he headed on towards the clearing. ‘Maybe it was just an after effect of this incident and Jack’s added paranoia on top of my own that is making me see things,’ he wondered.
After reaching the clearing, he did some stretches and some basic warm ups shifting the direction he was facing constantly watching for someone or anything to come out of the woods at him. Deciding it was nothing but his mind playing tricks on him, Jessie began his forms.
Halfway into the first one he heard a sound in the direction of the neighborhood, though quick and faint, it answered the question firmly. Yes, there was someone there watching him, but the who and why still eluded him. He thought it could be his mark chasing him. He had no trouble envisioning that old Breema pulling a trick like a unknown mark that knows you just to test your skills. He slowed his form and readied himself for an attack. Time slowed to a crawl as he stretched his senses to their max trying to gleam a hint of where they would be coming from. He knew if he heard the sound, they would know he had and would certainly change position before advancing.
The leaves moved close behind him, not much more than a summer breeze would stir them, but there was no breeze this day. It was east and the neighborhood was south, so they did move. He spun around hands poised ready to strike, only to see Donnie leaning against a tree with his arms crossed, calmly watching him.
Jessie looked around for a moment before speaking. He was positive Donnie would know better than give himself away like that. He relaxed his stance and waited a moment still looking around before asking, "Just you brave enough to show yourself, or is your friend going to join us?"
Donnie’s eyes gleamed as he gave a big smile, exposing his long eye teeth. The left one was broken about a third of the way up. Jessie wondered why he left it like that, as it would not cost much at all the have it fixed. Donnie look to his right and up into the tree, then back at Jessie. His sleek tail swished back and forth playfully behind him and long, dark whiskers shook as he laughed. "Come on down," Donnie called up to the trees.
Kitara jumped down from a near by tree to stand next to Donnie. He made surprisingly little sound as he landed in the dry leaves. It was the first time Jessie had been in the presence of two Breema at the same time. Breema were something he had avoided until recently and as such he knew little about them. Most of what he knew was just hearsay and rumors. The old Breema, Socks, was a bit of a hard read and the time he actually spent face to face with him was limited.
Jessie noticed Donnie’s fur was a tortoiseshell pattern of mostly black like Socks, where Kitara’s was more of a patchwork of different colors and patterns. Both of them seemed to blend into the background of the forest like a natural camouflage. Where Kitara’s fur was sleek and full while Donnie’s had thin spots, even in the little he showed, that was most likely from battle scars. Even his ears and tail were a bit tattered compared to Kitara’s. Donnie was older and possible even fought in the war for sometime before the peace, while Kitara might even be younger than Jessie.
"Dude, you are really hard to follow without getting caught. You gotta tell me, how did you know I was there?" he asked confounded.
Jessie smiled at Kitara. "I never actually caught sight of you, just a shadow darting behind things here and there. For most people in my old line of work, thats enough. However,” Jessie smiled “when you opened your Holocom, I heard it beep."
Donnie glared sideways at Kitara, who just bowed his head in shame. "You should know better than that Kitara, on both accounts."
Jessie studied them both for a moment, as there seemed to be an unspoken conversation going on between them that he was not privy to. As their ears and tails twitch and shifted position he noticed that Donnie’s ears also had a couple of bullet holes in them. ‘I’m sure he has seen more than a few battles’ Jessie contemplated. When it appeared that they had stopped Jessie took the chance to ask the question that was troubling him most, "Kitara, why were you following me to begin with?"
There was a glance at Donnie before he spoke like he was asking permission to speak. "I was really just testing my skills. I can tail everyone in the neighborhood with ease, save the older Breema, and you as it turns out." Kitara answered sheepishly. "After Donnie recognized you as a warrior, I thought you would be a good test to follow around. I didn't mean to spook you or anything, just wanted to see if I could do it."
Jessie read the concern on Donnie's face and wanted to defuse the situation a bit. These guys were an inside line on Breema information that he needed. Spooked or not a calm stance here would be his best move."It never hurts a warrior to try to better themselves. In this case, no harm, no foul." Jessie extended a hand to Kitara.
With a nod from Donnie, Kitara extended his hand, but was a bit taken when Jessie reached straight to a warrior's pass. "You honor me, Jessie," he managed to stammer out astonished.
"Nonsense, you are a Breema," Jessie replied.
"In training," Donnie added quickly. "We don't want any bad blood here. We do test each others skills by doing this, however, I promise you the next time he tails anyone else for sport or training, he will let them know he is going to try ahead of time." He turned from Jessie to give Kitara a stern look with his ears folded back. "Right?" He commanded more than asked.
"Yes, sir." Kitara's ears were slouched forward and his tail was low, just barely moving. Body language was a large part of the Kandar culture, even today. Donnie’s stood out to Jessie as them seemed to be forced. He wondered why he had not caught that before now.
"I can't say that it doesn't make me a bit jumpy because of my past,” Jessie submitted. “But, I will trust your word here. You are his... master?" Donnie nodded an agreement. Jessie was working this angle as best he could to his advantage. "So, in return I would like to ask, why he needed to call you here? I really doubt he felt threatened by me."
Donnie's eyes widened and that big smile came across his face again. "Because you were doing a Chestafol, or gun kata in the common tongue. We have been talking about them recently and he was asking me which one it was that you were doing. I was not getting much from his description so, I came over to see for myself." A slight look of surprise came over Jessie's face at this comment and did not go unnoticed by Donnie. "Honestly, I didn't recognize that one. I only know a few myself, but I have seen most of the others, so..."
"Wait! What?” Jessie cut him off, his excitement getting the better of him. “There are others? How many others?"
"Well, yes. Where did you learn that one from?" Donnie asked, but was met with a serious look from Jessie. Donnie held his hand directly in front of himself, with the palms up saying "Rock for rock..." This was on an old term used to ask for an honest trade for thousands of years. Initially It was just information at an honest level, but later people used it to mean honest trade of any kind. Donnie's curiosity was peaked and he wanted to test Jessie a little more.
Jessie extended his hands out with his palms down and spoke the words "And tree for tree." The second part was no long custom, telling Donnie that Jessie was taught in an old and honorable path of a warrior. "You have a deal, and since you have offered the plate, I will fill it." Another old phrase that made Donnie smile. He knew whoever was teaching Jessie was very old traditionalist. "Though, I don't think you will like my answer.” Jessie hesitated before continuing “I invented it.” Both Donnie and Kitara looked at him perplexed. “With Jack’s help, we used the recordings of several close quarters fights I had been in to compile the best and most useful movements with needed movement for strength, speed and congruent flow of battle. Then worked to find sequence flow for them that fit together."
Donnie stood there a moment in awe, then his curious nature kicked in. 'I need to draw him in closer so he will open up some more. I cannot shake this feeling about him, and he just confirmed to me that he is not some run of the mill, new age, wanna be, warrior,' he lamented. "You made your own gun kata? I am impressed by you, for the second time today. You are a true gun slinger of the old world. So, in return, I will fill your plate, to the rim. There are 8 forms with 8 katas to each, Four live animals and 4 mystical. At least as far as the Kandar go. History says there was most likely more at the start of the war, but so much has been lost in fray i cannot not attest to that one way or the other."
"I don't really consider myself a gunslinger, I am more of a long range guy. I do however, use hand guns in close combat. I just never thought that made me a gunslinger, per say." He regretted saying that as soon as he said it. He still did not know who his target was and as such was giving away too much about him self. He needed this in with the Breema, so he justified it to himself as a necessary and worthy bet. "Eight for each, you say?" scratched his left ear in thought. "I only did four. You say you know a few, do you know also know where I could see or even learn these other katas or are they secret?"
Again Donnie was slow to answer as he studied Jessie. He wanted to make sure he read him correctly and did not give away so much that his own master would be upset with him. The Breema were famous for keeping most details about themselves, to themselves. "Did your master not teach you any history with your arts?"
Jessie shook his head no. "I have had only random instructors and a few passing mentors, no masters, although, you told me that is what I have been calling Eldritch."
"Ahh. So, you have been back down there since your Rite of Passage?" Donnie grinned having gleamed another piece of Jessie history from him.
Jessie left mouth gapping open,'Damn it!' he screamed inside his mind.'How does he do that to me?' He had to make a quick recovery or lose more here than he felt he could afford. "Well, if that's what you want to call what he and his torture squad did to me...Yes, a few times."
Donnie watched his reaction to the question, but was not sure if he was hiding something there or just that he had spent a lifetime playing his pieces from a closed hand. Either way, what information he had about the gun kata was not that great a secret to the Breema save one certain kata that he knew. So, he thought he would open up a little. He needed to get a little closer to Jessie to really see what he was hiding, and gauge if he was a threat to the Queen, the Princess, or both. "At the start of the war, the gun katas were used by gunslingers of both sides. They kinda fell by the wayside with bigger and better ships, tanks and such being invented on both sides. Today there are few left that know whole systems. Most of those, that I know of anyway, are Temple Breema. I myself, as I stated before, only know a few katas and most are from different systems. My master wanted everyone to learn a little bit of everything, before choosing their weapon or style of mastery. I tried a few different ones before going with a more traditional weapon."
Jessie sensed a change as Donnie offered more information than asked and decided to push that line a bit to see what he could get. "You did this rite with Eldritch also, is he then your master too? Sorry, I have more questions for you than I have answers."
"Oh, I'm sure I could come up with a few extra questions for you." He gave Jessie a knowing wink before continuing, "But, we drift from our subject at hand. I have nothing to hide there. Yes, Eldritch is my current master. My original master was also his, however he was killed in the war. Which is just one of many reasons Eldritch hates Humans so much." He paused a moment and his ears twitched just for a second. Donnie grabbed Kitara by the shoulder suddenly. Kitara had been quietly watching and listening, content to be only a witness, practically jumped out of his fur at the unanticipated contact. "Jessie,” Donnie continued “how much do you know about the Breema?"
"Enough to know to keep a safe distance in combat from them, like, far sniper rage of two or three miles."
Donnie had a good laugh at that comment. He knew only a few Breema had been taken down by snipers since the end of the war. Also, there was a short list of snipers that could pull off a two to three mile shot. Was Jessie one of these? Or just joking around about how far away he felt safe? "Now, it will be Kitara's turn to offer something to this barter. He has heard our truths, now we shall hear his. Kitara here will offer some common Kandar knowledge about the Breema, that most humans don't know." Kitara looked at Donnie completely lost. "Start with the the three paths. I think he will find it interesting."
"Yes sir. Ummm...yeah...ok." He took a deep breath looking back and forth from Donnie to Jessie a few times before starting. "Common Kandar knowledge on Breema paths, right. First there is the Horde: Long ago in the days of Donnie's youth they..." There was an audible smack and Kitara winced. Donnie had slapped him on the back of the head pretty hard. "Ok, ok, ok, damn take a joke, will ya?"
"You need to be serious here, cub." Donnie gave him a stern look with his ears folded back.
"Yes, sir." He turns his attention back to Jessie who, is was unsure if it would be ok to laugh and was trying his best to hold it in. "In ancient time they were just that, a horde, now they are called the Commandos. They are the military side of the Breema. They are like the Kandar version of the humans special forces or black ops guys. They focus on the physical aspects and ballistics weaponry. They can drive or fly anything that moves with great proficiency. Many weapons and vehicles have been designed just for them. They are often found guarding royal family members and their leader is called the Commandant. He is also part of the Great Kandar Council." He paused a moment eying Donnie like he was about to pull another joke, but thought better of it.
"The next would be the Temple. These guys focus on the mental or spiritual side of things. They are hand to hand specialist know as the keepers of faith and form. Meaning they are all very Orthodox and where you, well a Breema, could go and learn all the known forms of any fighting style we know. They are also a great resource to help work on learning the uses of Sol, what you humans call Chi or Spiritual energy. All Breema are said to be able to use it in some aspect. The Temple Elders tend to keep to the Temples where they teach. The younger ones venture out often for experience in life and to do things for the temples. Their leader is called the Abbot, he stays out of politics altogether."
"Last, would be us," he pointed to Donnie and himself, "The Mystics, or Mystic Warriors. Our path is somewhere in between the two other. The balanced path of physical and spiritual force. Wisdom is sought through experience, guidance, and discipline. Ours is said to be the oldest path going back to the birth of the Breema at the dawn of time."
We, all Breema, all paths, are the protectors of the Kandar. Our honor is not measured by how many we have killed, but by how many we have saved." He looked over at Donnie for approval.
"Thats good. I see you have paid attention. Now, our ranking."
He gave Donnie a look that said 'Are you sure?' Donnie gave him an approving nod in return. Jessie thought there seemed to be some other unspoken words there, but he was not sure what. "All Breema” Kitara continued “regardless of path, follow the same ranking system. The Goddess choices you and you are born Breema. Any family, any species, male or female are born Breema, though Breema are, by a large margin, male. There is no rhyme or reason to our births, only the Goddess herself knows why and who. We all feel the calling to a master, so to speak. There are those that come up from gangs or out in the wilderness, but they too usually reach a point where by chance or design they find a master to lead them. Tales do exist of rouge Breema, but little is written about them. All Breema seem to naturally want to protect and save all Kandar, even at the cost of our own lives."
"You start as a cub, and move up to squire then sword. Normally at puberty your master or parents will take you to a rites master for your right of passage. The Horde have a drooling week long physical test of strength and endurance that takes you to the edge of your limits and then some. Running, swimming, climbing, shooting, sparring. The temple tests your spiritual might and will by maxing your use of Sol for days on end while you fast...I know sounds horrible. The Mystics use the old way of pain and temptation, followed by a spiritual cleansing and a vision quest. It is suppose to test your will and constitution. A very long, drawn out process that you have completed the first part of, based on your markings." Kitara pointed at Jessie's ribs, remembering the dark scars he saw in Jessie's garage.
"Staying inside of our information swap," Donnie interjected, "if you would be willing to teach my pupils and myself your gun katas, I will teach you, and my pupils, mine. It could be a great chance to get to know each other better, show more solidarity between the Kandar and Humans, plus it would be a great chance for them to start learning some gun katas."
"I get the feeling you don't like guns, Donnie."
"It’s not that I don’t like guns, it’s that I like swords more, and swords do not run out of bullets."
"Bullets have a greater range, and its better to show up at a knife fight with a gun, than gun fight with a knife."
"I suppose that depends on how good you are with a sword." They all chuckled at that one. "So, do we have a deal Jessie?" Donnie extended a hand to Jessie. Jessie took Donnie's arm in a warriors pass accepting the deal. Both thought this would be a great opportunity to get to know the other and learn a new style on the way. "Morning training starts at dawn in the main park. We don't need to hide, and nobody will bother us there. At that time of day, there is only a few runners and they stay on the paths. That is if it's not to early for you."
"Sounds great to me. Can we start tomorrow?" Jessie smiled with a feeling he had won a round against Donnie.
"I'll pass the word along to the rest of my students." Donnie smiled with a feeling he had won a round against Jessie.