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Thoris Age 15-16

"Fools," the eyepatch-adorned villain snarled, "all of you. I am Krotus!" He hefted his massive hrisal and shook it at the quartet of heroes facing him, "I was the Conqueror once, and I will be once more!" Behind him, a great tower burned, bricks falling from its spire like rain. Snows swirled gently around them. Save for the tyrant's tower and the Great Crevasse nearly a hundred meters to the heroes' right, it couldn't have been a more stark, empty battlefield.

"You're mad, Krotus," Lar'pratha said calmly, though the tremble of her blade belied her reserve. "Your mothers named you poorly, but that is no excuse for what you've become."

Krotus smiled a mad, daring grin at her. Rexar snarled and tried to step between the pair, but Lar'pratha held him back with a gesture. "There is no linen here, but our blades will suffice. So will your blood," the warrior replied, pointing her hrisal at him. It no longer trembled.

With a howl that mixed glee and rage in equal parts, Krotus bore down on the heroine, wonder-blade clashing with bright sparks against wonder-blade. The olnava -- enchanted -- swords hummed through the air, seeming to leave cuts in it in their wake. Rexar and Lar'pratha's other two partners circled the dueling pair, watching for treachery from the one-eyed killer.

A kick from the powerful tyrant sent Lar'pratha sprawling. "Ha!" Krotus roared, leaping for his apparently defenseless foe. Instead, she brought up the olnava'hrisal and shifted in the snow, her blade going through Krotus' chest while his quivered in the ice a centimeter from her ear. Krotus gasped, a look of shock slowly spreading across his face. Then, to the heroes' surprise, he relaxed, sliding down the hrisal until he was almost antenna to antenna with the beautiful shanthola. "Heh. Nicely struck, champion." He patted her on the shoulder in a downright comradely fashion. "May you enjoy your victory for all this life. But where I go, I will be alone no more. When I return..." His breaths became shallow and his voice grew faint. "...my destiny will...return...with me..." He collapsed to one side, sword cutting through his unresisting body as he fell. A deep blue pool grew in the snow beneath him.

Lor'pratha glanced down sadly at the body, then at her comrades. They gathered around her, Rexar taking her hand, the other pointing their antennae towards her. She paused for a moment, then saluted Krotus' corpse by raising her blade. After a moment, though, she couldn't help the smile that exploded across her face. "Computer, end program!"

The snowy field, tower and chasm all vanished. The olnava'hrisal flickered and disappeared, except for their hilts. "Krotus" turned over and smiled proudly. "Nicely struck, birth-sister!" Thoris said.

Lelin laughed with delight. "For a knight of flame, you play the icy villain well, Thoris!" The other gamers and the few-dozen watching applauded while sister helped brother to his feet. "Now, though, let's eat. Saving worlds is hungry work!" She clapped him on the back. "Nitan?" she called, looking behind her. "Rexar" -- in truth, Thelnitan -- followed quickly, the other two gamers chuckling and trailing behind. "So," Lelin continued, guiding Thoris out of the holosuite, "what about tomorrow's holonovel?"

"What about Nitan?" Thoris replied with a grin.

Lelin rolled her eyes. "We'll play the epilogue next week. He can be all adoring and star-eyed then. We turn sixteen tomorrow! The whole family's coming down!" She hugged him ferociously, squeezing his shoulders. "Feasting, ice-sailing, hunting -- it's going to be great!" After they were out into the square, she leaned closer. "And since you mentioned Nitan, what do you have to say about playing the mailed knight in Curse of the War Devil, with Larthara as the captive Sheras Queen?"

Thoris' cheeks darkened a shade. "One of us has to be responsible about our relationships," he retorted coolly. Lelin only laughed more. "Tomorrow I may be a man by the Word of Lor'Vela," he continued doggedly, "but that doesn't mean I'm ready to do anything more than enjoy our birth celebration."

"Good," Lelin insisted, kissing him on the cheek. "You've gotten far too serious this last year."

They left the square, heading down a main street toward home. Small robots scraped ice off signs all through the shopping district. People bustled along, haggling passionately. Thoris shook his head. "All that trouble in the Klingon Empire...it kept seeming like war was going to break out."

"Oh for Umarin's sake!" Lelin blurted, releasing him almost explosively. "Klingons warring with one another? What are the chances?" Her tone was even more sarcastic than her words implied.

Thoris glanced at her in annoyance. "Haven't you followed the news even a little? Until the Enterprise stopped the Romulans, one of the Klingon factions was allied with them. The expansionist keth, Duras I think, was winning. A new Klingon-Romulan axis, like during the Eagle's time, aligned against the Federation." He grimaced. "And I can't apply for the Academy until I'm 18. It's racist, I tell you," he finished, muttering the last.

"Right," Lelin drawled. "That awful racist Federation. Come on, Thoris, the Clan Council set the age to match the human one. 'We lose enough of our best to Starfleet as it is' and all that." She rolled her eyes again, and Thoris couldn't help a chuckle.

"Yeah, well, the Kethni Vrinia can kiss my stalks," he quipped back. Lelin gaped for an instant, then laughed. "You're right. I'm pretty sure the Federation can manage without me a few more years." He clapped his sister on the back in turn. "Come on. It would be downright rude to keep Her Majesty waiting on that rescue."

  • * *

Thoris and Thara rested on the roof of the holosuite plaza, staring into the stars. "How does it feel?" Thara asked teasingly, her hand resting centimeters from his left antenna. "You are ghalev now, a true man." Her fingers twitched a moment, then her hand retreated to her abdomen, and she sighed dramatically. "I suppose you'll fly off to the stars on the morrow."

"I'll fly for the stars," Thoris almost growled, "but not yet, you sorceress." He pivoted onto his side, half-glaring, half-gazing at Thara. "What are you up to?"

Thara leaned over to face him and smiled winningly. "I'm enchanting you, my shanthosa." She began to play with his long hair, running two fingers through the ends. "Men like you don't appear every day. Clever, bold, noble...yet with the fire of the old heroes in you."

"Wow." Thoris smiled back, with just a hint of cunning to his regard. "That's very flattering. It's a good thing I'm not letting that go to my stalks...quite." He leaned back a fraction. "It is enough to make it difficult to recall your own charms." Thara gasped, then snarled and shoved him back. Thoris laughed. "What? I thought you were going to enchant me...remind me."

Still scowling just a bit, Thara slithered closer to him again. "Oh, I'll remind you of a few things, but I do thank you for reminding me that a woman should never let a man get too full of himself."

Thoris' smile vanished, and he caressed her hair in turn. "I'm no hero, Thara," he said gravely. "I play one fiercely in a holosuite, but turning sixteen didn't turn me into Borva."

Thara blinked at the young man for a moment, then shook her head and chuckled. "Ah, there's the Thoris I remember. 'Men's minds are as steady as stone, but their hearts are as fickle as flame.' Even yours, it seems."

"My heart is no more fickle than the sun," Thoris retorted, leaning forward, locking bright blue eyes with her indigo. "You shouldn't play games if you're afraid to lose."

Thara turned serious then as well. "There's only one thing I'm afraid to lose, Thoris." Her fingers stroked through his hair closer to the roots. "You are leaving, after all. Two years to the day. Your whole life planned out..." she gazed back at Thoris, matching his intensity to the last mote. "...is there any room for bright change?"

"For you? Always." Thoris tried to think of something more romantic to say, but no more words came. So he kissed her.

From her enthusiastic response, it worked. [To hell with the Klingons,] Thoris thought. [Today is a good day to live.] For a long time afterward, his thoughts didn't bother with words.