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04.05.2012 , 09:59 AM | #3
Record 002: Dromund Kaas

Adrenaline still singing in her veins, Kjara tried hard to concentrate on the Wookiee Huntmaster's speech. The groaning, growling language was difficult to pick up at any time, but she had other things on her mind at the moment besides the Huntmaster's elaborate congratulations.

All of us fighting over this last spot in the Great Hunt — we're the small fry, the ones who couldn't get in on our reps or on the backs of bigger sponsors. Besides the Mandos, who else is in? What other sorts of hunters am I up against? Not that the other hunters in the melee had given her much trouble, but again, that only made her the biggest fish in a small pond. What else lurked in the wider sea?

"This is simply ridiculous."

The sneering, arrogant tone broke through the Huntmaster's recital and set Kjara's teeth on edge. When Crysta had said that Tarro Blood had spread the word that the Chiss hunter was out of the fight, she hadn't quite realized that her handler meant he was here. Had he been watching in the arena during the melee, waiting to size up his future competition? I hope he was. And I hope all his plans went to hell when I walked in.

"I mean, really. This needs to stop right now." Bold as bronzium, Blood strode into the room, stopping several paces away from the Chiss hunter as she slowly turned to face him. His gaze was on Assistant Huntmaster Lek, but quickly flicked back to Kjara as she drew her blaster and pointed it at his face.

"Oh, is the hunt starting already?" she asked coldly. He met her glare with a smirk and made no move to defend himself. It was the first time they'd seen each other face-to-face since Nar Shaddaa, but there was no particular recognition or acknowledgment in his expression, just hostility and that damnable arrogance.

"No, no! No unsanctioned kills in the Great Hunt!" Lek bellowed. As Kjara reluctantly lowered her pistol, Blood's smirk widened into a malevolent grin for just a moment before he turned his attention back to the Mandalorian authorities.

"You see? That's a perfect example," the Alderaanian hunter said in a tone dripping with disdain. "I must object to this farce. That... thing does not deserve to enter the Great Hunt."

His scornful words hit Kjara like a slap in the face, and beyond the anger, she felt... shame. A thing? I was more than good enough for you on Nar Shaddaa, and now I'm a thing? You chakaaryc son of a rancor...

That line of thought brought her to a realization, though, one that nearly prompted her to instinctively back away from him. If he brings that up... She'd look like a foolish little girl in front of the Huntmaster, and Mako... Flames, Mako would lose it. The former was simply bad for her reputation, but the latter... She and the slicer were becoming friends as well as teammates, but given Mako's hatred for Blood, that nascent friendship could be shattered with a few choice words from the Alderaanian. And in a purely practical sense, losing Mako would ruin her chances at the Great Hunt. They were already down to a team of two; they'd been lucky so far, finding help in unexpected places, but she couldn't count on that in the future. Especially if she was alone.

Her hand clenched tightly on the grip of her blaster. She prayed she wasn't visibly shaking, if only because she'd rather die than give Blood the satisfaction of rattling her so badly.

But he was too busy making his case to pay attention to her. "Her credentials are a lie, fabricated by her little gutter-rat of a sidekick," he declared, contemptuously pointing at Mako with his thumb. "She deserves no honors."

"You lying, cheating, murdering scum!" Mako shouted furiously. Tarro didn't even acknowledge her with a glance, as if denying her right to be heard here. Kjara imagined that the girl would have liked nothing better than to pummel that condescending expression off of his face with her own two hands.

"We know this hunter's history, Blood," Lek said firmly, before any more insults could be thrown. "The Huntmaster has ruled."

"You fools," Blood growled, his anger at being thwarted finally showing through his mask of cool hauteur. "This is a place of honor, a competition of elites. Mandalore will hear of this!"

"Aww, everyone's not seeing things your way?" Kjara cooed in a mocking, saccharine tone, as if soothing a child having a tantrum. Blood's gaze snapped back to her, hate sparking in his eyes; in response, she crossed her arms and regarded him with the most contemptuous look she could muster. "I sure hope you aren't gonna cry."

"Enough!" the Alderaanian snapped, making a sharp cutting-off gesture in the air. He closed the distance between Kjara and himself, coming well within arm's reach, and pinned her with a laser-hot glare. Again, she forced herself to not step back as he loomed over her in his full beskar'gam. "Before this Great Hunt is over," he said in a tone that was all the more menacing for its calmness, "I will have your skull in my hands."

—hands, callused from years of fighting and weapons work, cradled her face, capturing her for another breathless kiss. She could feel the strength there, coiled like a spring but held in check... for now. Usually she was the hunter, but tonight she was the hunted, the prey, and that vulnerability brought on a new sense of exhilaration—

Kjara swallowed hard as the memory came, unbidden. Could he see, somehow, what she was thinking? But as his hazel eyes bored into her, she saw nothing but the threat, one hunter to another: while you stalk your quarry, I'll be stalking you.

Before she could muster up some bravado-filled response, Blood turned on his heel and strode out of the room, his footfalls ringing loudly in the silence.

"Well," the Assistant Huntmaster said after a moment, his tone speculative, "the Great Hunt just got way more interesting."
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