Chapter Two: Encounters
Lorrik walked the stone halls of the Sith Academy on a mission. He intended to use every skill he had picked up in his studies to find and befriend one of the warriors. What better use of the talents cultivated by years of classroom attendance than to escape even more years of classroom attendance. There was nothing left to learn from the instructors. A true master to study under was needed.
The halls were permeated with students privy to the knowledge Lorrik needed. All that remained was the process of extracting that information. Anger, pain, fear, and aggression. Intimidation, violence, coercion, and terror. None of these would work for Lorrik.
Passing by the combat training wing, Lorrik saw that the dueling rings appeared livelier than usual. Crowds gathered as two heavy-cloaked, hooded figures stood watch over the bouts, one of whom towered over the surrounding students. A scream echoed from the area as a combatant was struck on the leg by a training saber.
Lorrik kept walking. He intended to gain information by turning in one of the various favors he had earned over his stay at the Academy, none of which were held by the more belligerent students.
In the commons area, Lorrik found his man. An acolyte once out of favor with his instructor, supplying him with a written dissertation regarding the Sith Code and its significance to the various Sith Orders over the past thousand years was enough put him in Lorrik’s, as well as his instructor’s, good graces. After a few quick words, Lorrik possessed as much information as the other inquisitors.
Four warriors. Nesk. Kar’ai. Jresh. Isorr. The first two were the cloaked watchers in the combat hall urging inquisitors to fight for their spot. The other two were seeking their partners in the lecture hall.
A quick thank you and shared nod later, Lorrik made his way to the scholar wing of the underhalls. His target was the circular forum, a lecturing room similar to a small amphitheater, though it certainly lacked an open ceiling. The hushed murmurs of gathered of acolytes reassured Lorrik that he had reached the correct destination. Passing through the threshold, the acolyte took his first step into the broad, high-ceilinged chamber.
A small raised dais in the center of the room was occupied by a cloaked figure similar to the ones in the combat chamber. Circular rows of seats surrounded the figure on all sides, broken only by the ascending stairways leading to each of the room’s entrances.
Renovated after the true Sith reclaimed the Academy from its previous owners, the lecture forum possesses some architectural innovations and departures from the other areas comprised solely of carved stone. Departures like chairs. Chairs that were mostly empty, as the gathering students opted to sit and kneel on the floor level adjacent to the speaking cloaked figure.
“How far the inquisitors have fallen,” Lorrik mumbled to himself. “All it takes is hooded cloak and suddenly these people aren’t acolytes anymore? It’s almost as if…hrm?
Lorrik’s musings were broken as he noticed the cloaked figure leaning against the wall a short distance away, next to the entrance. Of peculiar note was the fact that he seemed to be the only warrior with his hood down, face completely exposed. That, and the fact that he was a Sith Pureblood, one of the red-skinned offspring of the original Sith species that inhabited Korriban and the Dark Jedi that had conquered them.
The warrior lacked some of the more prominent features of his species. A pronounced brow and cheekbones in place of the usual boney protrusions. A pair of fleshy tendrils hung from said cheekbones and reached down to just above his jawline. A trio of similar, stubby growths extended from his chin, granting his a fleshy goatee. His skin was a deep-crimson and was accompanied by a matching set of irises. His head was topped with long black hair possessing a subtle, reddish tinge. The fibers extended and fell to his upper back in a restraining braid. The warrior listened to the proceedings below with a stern, but tranquil visage, his arms crossed and eyes closed.
The inquisitor stopped and stared, studying the Pureblood in silence. His garb placed him with the other warriors, but his positioning seemed counterintuitive to recruitment. And for a Sith expected to channel and sustain themselves with an unbridled rage, he seemed intensely calm. Lorrik didn’t know whether it came naturally for his species, or if he was at ease because he had already completely his task. Regardless, he would have little more time to ponder.
“Inquisitor,” the warrior calmly spoke up without breaking his stance. His voice carried a deep, smooth tone capable of dominating the senses. The Human looked around for who the Pureblood might be talking to, not realizing he and the warrior were completely alone. “You can stop looking around. If you’re here about joining Lord Syrosk, you can head down and try your hand at impressing Isorr.”
“Isorr, huh? That would make you Jresh… correct?” Lorrik inquired with a positive tone. The Sith broke his relaxed stance for a moment to face the acolyte with his full attention.
“Correct. Jresh Takuul. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me how quickly the information spread amongst the inquisitors,” Jresh stated, returning to his previously composed position.
“Well, my name is Lorrik Velash, pleasure to meet-”
“He doesn’t care about names,” Jresh interrupted. “All Isorr cares about is that you are knowledgeable of the Code and a strict adherent to the Sith lifestyle. Hopefully that information proves advantageous.”
“What about you?” Lorrik asked, continuing his positive tone. “What do you care about?”
The Pureblood remained rigid. “Does it matter? I’ve informed you of the guidelines regarding the inquisitor the warrior below is seeking. You’ll no doubt have a speech ready by the time you reach the bottom of the steps.”
“Why should I approach him when you are right here?” Lorrik wittily asked.
“Because you know nothing about me? Take the easy route and try impressing Isorr,” Jresh advised.
“Taking the easy route teaches me nothing. I am a seeker of knowledge. I won’t achieve my goals by simply pretending to be some unwavering exponent of the Sith. I’m not going to throw away my principles for some shortcut towards apprenticeship.”
“Principles are a short road that inevitably leads to death.”
“You could say that about a lot of the paths Sith walk,” Lorrik said with a chuckle. There was a heavy silence as Jresh didn’t reciprocate the acolyte’s jocular mood. “You never did answer my question, regarding what you care about.”
“No, I didn’t. And there is a reason for that,” Jresh plainly stated, not even bothering to open his eyes when addressing the acolyte.
“What reason might that be?” Lorrik asked, continually goading the Pureblood. The warrior released a heavy sigh.
“Perhaps I do not wish for every inquisitor to know what I’m looking for in a partner,” Jresh gruffly stated.
“Oh, good. So you haven’t chosen your inquisitor yet,” Lorrik said with a grin. The acolyte could see the Pureblood’s cheek tendrils quivering.
“Why are you pestering me? Haven’t I made it clear I’m not like the other warriors?”
“That difference is why I’m interested. I’m not going to spout Sith tenants like some groveling student, and I’m not going to act like a duel is the only way to measure talent.”
“Are you not as capable with a lightsaber as your classmates? I have no use for a weakling, regardless of whatever principles you hold dear.”
“I’m more than capable in combat,” Lorrik heartily stated.
“Are you?” Jresh sternly asked. “Or are you simply stating whatever you feel garners you the highest chances of being picked as my partner? I don’t need someone who will tell me want I want to be told. I seek someone who will challenge me at every venture. Physically and mentally. Someone who is willing to go against me, and have the same done to them. That is how we gain strength. That is how we gain knowledge. Not the mindless competition the Academy would have you believe is the true path to greatness.”
Jresh finally opened his eyes, only to discover that Lorrik had vanished. “Hrmph. Moved on. Just like all the rest.”
“Actually,” Lorrik spoke up, on the opposite side of Jresh, “I just wanted to see if I could move around while you had your eyes closed and see if you noticed.” The Pureblood looked at the Human with a raised eyebrow.
“You certainly are different from the usual fodder that have approached me.”
“Two Sith, remarkably different from their peers. Sounds to me like a perfect match,” Lorrik said with a smile.
“Or a horrible one,” Jresh countered.
“Look, I’m sure if you just take at a look at the class rankings-”
“No need,” Jresh interrupted. “I memorized the names and standings of each of the inquisitor candidates. Thankfully, you were one of the few who introduced themselves by name. I know all about your qualifications.”
“So why did you bother asking me about my skills with a lightsaber?” Lorrik asked, dumbfounded.
“You are an inquisitor are you not? Your kind are the epitome of manipulation and deceit,” Jresh bluntly stated.
“You’ve got me there. I’m no more or less manipulative than my peers… but at least I’m honest about it.” Lorrik said, almost prideful of his admission. The Pureblood stared down the acolyte, studying him.
“I don’t need a partner that will selfishly stab me in the back,” Jresh stated. “I need a partner that will selfishly stab me in the front.”
“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Lorrik heartily replied, extended his hand for a handshake.
“What makes you think I’ve decided to accept you?” Jresh asked, ignoring the acolyte’s hand.
“Nothing in particular,” Lorrik answered, refusing to redact his hand. “Except for maybe… that you’ve already seen my file, that I know more about you than any of the other inquisitors do, and that we’ve tolerated each other’s presence thus far. Oh, and I’m sure there are plenty of inquisitors who would love some of the information I’ve picked up regarding your search for a partner.”
“Inquisitors,” Jresh muttered.
“When I said I was honest about being manipulative… it wasn’t a lie.”
“You certainly know how to try my patience,” Jresh stated as he removed himself from the wall.
As the Pureblood left the lecture room, Lorrik finally conceded to withdraw his hand. His head hung low, the inquisitor began making his way down the steps toward the lecturing warrior below.
“Lorrik!” Jresh shouted from the hallway. “Are you coming or not?”
The inquisitor froze in his tracks. As his feeling of astonishment settled, the acolyte quickly made his way back up the step and out of the forum. Catching up with the his new partner, Lorrik walked by his side, taking careful notice to match his exact pace. The two walked in tandem through the halls. If there was a destination in mind, Lorrik did not know it.
“So, is it official? I mean, are you sure you want me as your partner?” Lorrik hesitantly asked.
“Truthfully?” Jresh replied, followed by a beat. “No. It won’t be official until we reconvene with our new Lord. Until then, I will entertain any applicants for the position, and you will defend yourself.”
Lorrik subtly bobbed his head in understanding. “When, exactly, are we reconvening?”
“Midday,” Jresh bluntly answered.
“Like, two hours from now, midday?” Lorrik stated in disbelief. “Syrosk didn’t exactly give you much time to select from the classes.”
“Yes, which is why I had hoped to take my time and not make any rash decisions. And yet, here I am, the first of the four to have chosen my Inquisitor.”
“I’m sure it was the right decision,” Lorrik assuaged.
“Do you believe in fate, Lorrik?” Jresh asked.
“Not entirely, no.”
“Good,” Jresh said, not pausing his advance. Lorrik listened closely for the explanation that he was sure would follow, but surprisingly found none. The two walked the halls in silence, garnering the attention of the passing students. As surreptitiously as he could, the inquisitor studied those who studied them, tabulating whether more eyes fell to him or his new partner. The majority looked to the Pureblood, but more than enough drifted toward the Human to sate his budding ego. Quickly losing track of time, the inquisitor snapped out of his daze, not realizing far he had been following the warrior.
“So. Any particular destination in mind?” Lorrik finally spoke up.
“No. I simply wanted to see how long you would follow me in obedient silence,” Jresh explained, not changing his pace. Lorrik continued to follow, but rubbed his forehead in frustration.
“I guess this sort of thing isn’t going to stop anytime soon,” Lorrik muttered.
“Correct,” Jresh replied in his usual taciturn way.
“Would you mind testing me somewhere closer to the mess hall? I usually respond better to mind games with a full stomach,” Lorrik joked.
“Very well,” Jresh said. Surprised the Sith took him seriously, Lorrik couldn’t help but grin. Not only did he consider getting what he wanted a small victory, but he was also getting some food, which was always a plus for him. The pair walked the halls much as they did before, but at least now they possessed some semblance of a destination.
“About those cloaks. Did the master mention anything… you know… about the inquisitors getting some?”