Thread: Second Chances
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ConspicuousTree
02.24.2012 , 02:31 PM | #3
Part 3: Strength and Honour

“I cannot allow it. She would make a mockery of the Sith!”

The overseer turned about on the spot and stared at the wall with a hefty sigh, with his hands clasped behind his back. He inhaled deeply and lowered his head once again to think. Was he really going to try defying him?

“My hands are tied, my Lord. If you want rid of her, you will have to do so legitimately.”

He could sense the mounting fury in the Sith pacing in front of his desk. It wasn’t even masked in his voice either.

“Legitimately?! She is weak!”

Finally. He’d said exactly what he needed him to say and the overseer span around and levelled a finger with the Lord. For one, they were both about to get their way as he was indeed well fed up with dealing with the giggling Twi’lek but he wasn’t about to have her assassinated – Korriban filtered weak from strong, however annoying the strong happened to be. And this Lord was clearly displeased that the aforementioned puerile Twi’lek had gotten as far as she had at all.

“This Academy butchers acolytes in their hundreds for their weakness. If you feel she is weak, I suggest you prove it. Maybe you should arrange her third trial.”


--


Na’sira sighed quietly as the lift trundled down and made a gentle thud as it met the metal platform at the bottom. She stepped off and started back toward the Academy; she was already wrestling with her doubts about whether to stick around enough without someone pledging to offer her a way out. But no – Korriban was her freedom, her right and privilege. She would dispatch her enemies as they expected her to and prove that she could stand alone. She’d had it with running and now she’d hold her own. As she slipped under the cover of the grand academy once more and made for the archives, she was stopped by an Imperial officer.

“Your presence is demanded, my lord.”

She wasn’t used to being referred to as such and wasn’t sure if she liked it anyway. She smiled broadly at the officer to allay the inherent fear that always permeated their expressions so far from their parental military.

“Lead on, my dear! I have all the time in the world!”

As it turned out, the academy was more labyrinthine than she had originally considered. She paid little heed to the route as the officer led her around a dozen corners and through innumerable doorways. At the end of the long walk, however, was an ominous red-marked doorway. Wall decorations in the hallway reminded her of the walk to the overseer’s office, and she wondered if she had been transferred to another.

The door slid open and the officer stood aside with his head bowed. It was another room unlike every other – clinically clean as ever of course, but devoid very noticeably of chairs. She half considered asking to have a purple ergonomic chair installed in her own lodgings when and if she ever got any. Perhaps, though, she would struggle to get such requests through the ruthless Imperial furniture machine.

A hooded man sat behind a desk at the far end of the room. Hatred was all that Na’sira could sense from him and it made her smile; if he thought that his loathing of her or her heritage was new or discouraging he was about to get a wake-up call. However, his tone was dulled, bland and without perceptible emotion. Perhaps he was intentionally concealing how much he wanted her dead?

“I will be seeing to your third trial. Your overseer will corroborate.”

He paused to read her reaction and grimaced away from the enormous grin plastered on her face. He gritted his teeth and continued.

“Remember, acolyte. Should you succeed, you will be Sith and required to find a master – or, more often than not, they will find you if you are worth their time.”

Na’sira scratched her nose. In fact, for a moment she feigned picking her nose – much to the Lord’s disgust. He turned around in his chair to await her response. After a minute or so of her absolute silence, she decided to humour him.

“They’ll be queuing up around the corridor!”

She could almost see the shiver of crawling irritation along his spine and but she felt the spike of anger in the Force was entirely more noticeable. Whoever he was – remaining nameless for now it seemed – thumped the table.

“Shut up, rat. Your trial.”

He drew in a breath, calming his irritation as he could do without electrocuting her on the spot this time around. But he had a plan settled and ready for this. He wouldn’t have to put up with it for too much longer.

“I will send you to a small plateau. Within it there is a circle of stones, and an ancient device that when activated lures Korriban’s many dangerous creatures to you.”

He hadn’t intended to pause and he regretted doing so as the Twi’lek bounced on the spot and clapped her hands with a laugh.

“I’ll look forward to seeing you there!”

It was fairly typical for Sith to approach breaking point with her, but the torrent of lightning that streamed past her cheek and into the far wall was a wake-up call. She fell silent, even if she continued to smile.

“Silence! You will defeat whatever comes, or you will die! Now go!”


--

The trek was long. Na’sira’s main gripe with it was that it was like every other trial so far; in fact she was sure half of the decrepit statues she drifted past she had seen twice before. But another feeling, a fairly unfamiliar one, started to well up inside her. However curious as to why a Sith Lord was orchestrating her last trial as opposed to the overseer, she was filled with anticipation. This was it – the last trial. It was earlier than normal by far and none of the circumstances were anything but lacking in suspiciousness. And yet – not a care was given that day.

The mountainous, rocky ground started to level out and the hot sun beat down on Na’sira as she came out into the broad plateau. But now she noticed something was wrong – very wrong. The entire ground was covered in fresh tuk’ata and k’lor slug corpses. Someone had gotten here first and it all started to come together. He didn’t tell her to bring any proof – it’s as if he would know. As if he would have people watching her. For once a serious air came over her and she clenched her fists. Resolve and purpose filled her; she would walk into this trap and she would come out. That would be the ultimate proof.

She sauntered to the old stone construct in front of her, just on the edge of the ring; by the worn metal cabling it may have been a pulley system. She nodded and threw the lever. She closed her eyes as the cable rapidly uncoiled and a deep, resonating thud sounded from beneath as if a giant boulder had crashed into the ground. She pondered – perhaps that was what it was, in some deep cavern. And indeed, surely, had such a deep and loud sound been emitted before the beasts were all slain, it would have lured them. But this was different.

Lightsabers. She discerned the sound of three separate lightsabers activating and the three wielders stepped into the ring. She drew a heavy, heavy breath. This could be ugly. This could be very, very ugly. An insane resolve possessed her and she grinned, drawing her own. She wasn’t meant to have one, she smuggled it in, but either they’d leave in body bags and that secret with it or she would be too dead to receive the slap on the wrist. She inhaled and grasped the hilt in both hands, holding it down at an angle to her right. ‘Niman, don’t fail me now,’ was all she could think.

It was almost instantly certain she wasn’t going to hold her own. Her usual practice of relying on parries and follow-ups wasn’t working at all, especially as she was scarcely avoiding many of the strikes. It was only the blur of red blades interrupting each other that protected her. She inhaled as she retreated with a skip and for once, her happiness... Took a back seat. She coughed sand and felt the sweat streaming down her skin already; the three masked Sith didn’t look even slightly tired and her limbs were already weary.

She skipped backwards with a giggle, narrowly avoiding losing a hand and a foot from the blizzard of red carving the air in front of her. She panted frantically, with some desperation starting to seep in. She couldn’t land a single blow. She wasn’t good enough; she actually couldn’t do it, she didn’t possess the knowledge of lightsaber finesse to fight three well-trained enemies at once. She briefly pondered how she’d gotten this far. Then she remembered. Opportunism.

Now at a distance, she wrenched a rock from the ground with her free hand and hurled it at one of the Sith, charging the farthest one with her lightsaber; she drew him in with the Force while he was distracted for just a second, and lunged to carve into him with her lightsaber in a classic Niman technique; he parried high and her eyes widened with déjà vu. She threw all of her might forward, shoving his lightsaber right and slapping him so hard across the face, delivering the lightning straight to his nervous system.

He was by no means dead as he clattered to the floor in a spasm, but she hadn’t the chance to finish him as the other two were upon her. She trusted in her reflexes and lashed out with a foot, kicking one in the side of the knee to take him out of the fight just long enough to Force-push her third assailant away. Unfortunately, she had planned to finish the floored Sith now but he had already recovered and barrelled into her with his sizeable weight. She crashed into the dirt and her lightsaber left her hand, clattering across the dusty rock.

Her ears rang and she could almost feel death creeping over her as the humming executioner loomed above her. But at the last moment – a voice. One word was all she heard.

“COWARDS!”

Blue light flared just above her nose as the red clashed into it. Na’sira opened her eyes, and wasted no time. She rolled out of her predicament and pulled her lightsaber to hand, leaping to her feet and engaging it again. One glance to her saviour was enough to take in the appearance; she was a proud, tall pureblood Sith woman with two blue lightsabers flaring brightly; they were spinning through the air and it was a mere second before their wielder was as well, leaping triumphantly through the air and unleashing a battering assault on the startled defences of one of the Sith. They had made a crucial error in switching their attention solely to the acrobatic pureblood.

The sheer glee, relief and happiness that she had a saviour and a friend only mounted the amount of energy she could muster. Lightning forked at all three of her assailants and struck them in their exposed sides; they stumbled and the two flashes of blue soon cleft through their unprotected legs – and then their throats. The one remaining one – who just so happened to be the one she had shocked previously – stumbled back. The woman with the two lightsabers bowed her head and stood back.

“The honour is yours, Na’sira. Prove you are Sith.”

Now it was a one-on-one duel again. One to another, her yellow blade clashed with the red; she was tired, but he had been electrocuted twice. The flurry of colour and sharp noises as energy exchanged and curses spat between the two. An attempt at a sneaky foot-stomp missed and chucked up a cloud of thick red dust into the air. She slammed her blade into the broadside of his directly (as it was practically all she could see anyway) and unleashed a viciously nasty knee for his gut; a move he may have predicted but could not prevent. He doubled over and Na’sira mercilessly ploughed the blade clumsily through his shoulder and into whatever other organs lay in the way. She listened to the sudden silence for all but the lightsaber hum and the sizzle. She withdrew it and breathed hard. She panted.

A crimson skinned hand rested on her shoulder, followed by the pureblood’s voice.

“Hello again, Na’sira.”

She slumped onto her knees to gather her breath, but smiled up at her in recognition.

“Corsie! I was hoping I’d bump into you!”

The black-haired pureblood smiled thoughtfully and gestured vaguely.

“May I be permitted to, as you put it, “talk a lot”? And please – it’s Corsula.”

Na’sira chuckled and slumped back against one of the rocks of the circle and nodded cheerfully, letting her lekku rest along the back of the soothingly warm stone. Corsula knelt down to her and furrowed her brow.

“I hope you do not mind my intervention. But it is not a test of strength to throw three trained Sith at an acolyte that – as far as they know and care – does not even have a lightsaber. It is a badly disguised execution and the perpetrator is a coward.”

She paused, and her sincerity permeated Na’sira’s mind. Normally, sincerity came in the form of joyless fury and poorly masked reservoirs of hatred and despair. But she had sincerity in purpose; surely as greater a master of her emotions as any Sith, but did not let them get in the way of her principles. And in this she could feel the determination. Corsula closed her eyes and sighed quietly.

“We will get you your first lightsaber, Na’sira. I am your overseer and the task I will accompany you on your true final trial. It is not officially true, but trust in my conviction that you will not be questioned. The Lord who sent you here must die. But before this, my acolyte, my friend – you must tell me why.”

Na’sira inhaled quietly. She smiled softly, she knew Corsula well and exactly what she wanted to hear. How dearly her mind urged her to jest, but her saviour deserved better.

“He betrayed the Sith with his cowardice, and it is my right and privilege to have vengeance.”

The pureblood raised her eyebrows but nodded firmly. She rested her hands on Na’sira’s shoulders.

“It means a lot to hear you understand. Harness that vengeance, Na’sira.”

It took a minute for her to realise just what she had just gotten herself into. She was going to what, murder a Sith Lord in the middle of the Korriban Academy? Her doubts were strangely short-lived – it would be a terrible lie if she said she didn’t want vengeance. She was cheerful as ever and prepared to giggle at everyone’s expense, but for once, she was driven by a dislike or disapproval of someone else. She was certain that her watcher in the Inquisition would at least call that progress.

The pureblood clenched her fists and led the sweat-drenched Twi’lek to a parked speeder fairly nearby – so near, in fact, she was surprised none of them had noticed her arrive. Perhaps she had waited until she knew her intervention was needed? As they sped off into the distance back toward the Academy that sense of anticipation was back. Her age of servitude could be just about over. At long last, perhaps only the Force would be there to tell her where and where not she should go. She grasped at the small chain of silver around her neck and bowed her head. She whispered softly.

“For you, Nerra.”

End of Part 3

{ { I pass along my compliments to mousestalker and their hilarious thread here: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=280941 which inspired me to make the Lord's room chairless in homage. } }