Chapter Twenty: Falls
Lorrik Velash’s Journal: Day Six, Entry Four.
Woke up this morning in a peculiar state. My mind was swarming with competing positive and negative emotions. Lord Syrosk ordered that we keep the weighted bands from yesterday’s training on the whole day, saying we could take them off at midnight. There was no threat if we didn’t, and no way for him to know within the privacy of our rooms, and yet we kept them on. Maybe we didn’t want to risk offending him with more deviant behavior considering our handling of the duels yesterday. Then again, he didn’t seem to mind how we handled them. After we won our duel with Arlia and Isorr, we delved into advanced saber training, focusing on refining our individual styles. Never did he speak ill of our actions. Rarely did he speak at all, unless to impart upon us some martial wisdoms. So we trained until we were sore. I went to bed, fully garbed and weighted down. Managed to forget about it overnight. Woke up in a heavy stupor. Feel embarrassed thinking about it.
Yesterday was a bit of fun for me and Jresh. We set out to accomplish a singular goal for the sole purpose of pride. If we’re going to improve, we’re going to have to be beaten down, face resistance, adapt. We took an easy route the other day to accomplish our goal, something I hadn’t thought possible of Jresh. Do I think it was a mistake? Not in the slightest. We’re in for a marathon of training. Forgoing a couple of duels isn’t going to inhibit us. In the end, I think it’ll prove to have been a good choice. While we may have missed out on a small bit of physical trauma, I think we struck a mental blow to our rivals. We showed that we are determined. That we will not back down if challenged. We beat Arlia and Isorr. They’ll have to live with that fact, no matter the circumstances.
But the circumstances are what allowed us to do what we did. Today’s trial did not allow for one iota of hesitation, indetermination, or fault.
As the students of Lord Syrosk gathered once more for their day of training, there was much amiss. In the student’s positions. In their numbers. Instead of their usual spot atop the traditional cliff, the four inquisitors stood at the base of the ridge, at the bottom of the sheer cliff face they had oft looked over in previous days. The four students stood alone, their partners and master absent, gazing upward at the precipitous peak. Side by side, the acolytes stood focused and patient, embodying the archetype they had studied before their tutelage under the Sith Lord.
“I sincerely hope this isn’t the master’s way of punishing us for yesterday’s stunt,” Lorrik muttered, not breaking his upward gaze.
“Us who? Us us, or you and your companion?” Arlia snidely asked, also not breaking her upward gaze.
“Well, I was thinking me and Jresh,” Lorrik said. “But considering we’re all doing this, I’d guess this is just another one of his training methods.”
The female Twi’lek let out a singular, sarcastic chuckle. “Yes, a Sith Lord would never zealously overreach when designing a punishment for a particular person.”
“If this was designed to punish me it was poorly conceived. I’m probably the most likely to succeed in this task,” Lorrik nonchalantly stated.
“Ugh. I liked you more when you were pitifully timid,” Arlia replied.
“If it means anything, I like you pretty much the same amount as I always have,” Lorrik offered, completely deadpan.
“I don’t know if I should be worried by that statement,” Arlia muttered.
“You needn’t worry about me harboring feelings for you, I’d sooner find companionship in Ryloh,” Lorrik plainly admitted.
The male Twi’lek broke his upward gaze to look toward the Human. “Thank… you?”
“You simply haven’t had any profound impact on me Arlia,” Lorrik stated.
“You know that’s not true,” Arlia countered.
“Do I? Do you?” Lorrik asked, testing his fellow inquisitor. “I don’t hate you as much as you might like me to. Then again, I don’t hate much of anything.”
Arlia offered a playful scoff. “What is a Sith without hate?”
The Human offered a slight shrug. “Whatever. Try not to slip up on your test.”
“You don’t have to worry about me,” Arlia admitted. “The others maybe, but not me.”
“You’re right,” Lorrik muttered. “Ryloh, you may want to take a step away from Vurt. If he fails, it could get messy for you.”
The blue Twi’lek looked to his left to see the orange Nikto staring upward with his traditional scowl, completely ignoring whatever banter proceeded around him.
Standing atop the cliff, ever so close to the precipitous edge, the warriors stood with their master staring them down. Despite the more traditional training local, the warriors managed to outclass the inquisitors in peculiarity. They stood with their backs to the cliff’s edge, where their partners awaited them directly below, roughly a hundred meters of height separating them. Their stance was utterly and completely rigid, with their hands by their sides and their feet together, though not particularly by their own volition. This was due to each of the warriors being bound, from their chest to their knees, in tightly wound rope.
“Warriors, you stand here today… with your life not held in my hands, as you might have oft thought, but in the hands of your partners,” Syrosk explained with his usual cold, raspy delivery. “They were inquisitors in their training before mine. I shan’t depart from that formula. It was their purpose, to harness the raw energies of the Force. To rend enemies asunder with only their minds, sapping the life out of a foe before they could even draw their saber. The Force, however… the dark side, requires something extra to maximize on potential. The inquisitor must be driven, thriving off of emotions. The inquisitor must be dedicated, understanding exactly how much they must give to accomplish a task. They must appreciate… the consequences of failure. Unfortunately, it is rather hard to instill these axioms in the mind of the inquisitor. Therefore, in order to prompt them to reach their fullest potential, we’re going to give them a little push… by giving you a little push. Now, do we have any volunteers?”
The warriors were understandably silent. A creeping look of indecision graced the faces of the acolytes. Their heels all but hinged on the edge of the cliff, their backs to the treacherous fall that awaited them. Suddenly, one of the warriors mustered up the courage to speak.
“I… I volunteer,” Kar’ai meekly stated, struggling to call upon her usual boisterousness.
“Ah, for a moment I was almost disappointed in you. I was sure the tumultuous Kar’ai would want to go first, and you did not disappoint. It matters not, however. That was just a little something for me. You don’t actually get to decide who goes first,” Syrosk rasped.
“Then who does?” Kar’ai asked.
“I do,” Syrosk plainly stated.
“No, I meant, who goes first?” Kar’ai clarified.
“Oh, no one goes first,” Syrosk answered. The warriors puzzled for but a moment before they saw their master quickly jut his hand forward, sending the four over the cliff’s edge with a Force push.
The acolytes fell backward and began their accelerated plummet toward their partners below. At the ridge’s base, the inquisitor’s caught sight of the falling figures. The Korriban sun above them, the students had the luxury of standing in the cliff’s shade, allowing them to fully concentrate on catching their partners. Unanimously the inquisitors stretched their hands upward, attempting to slow their partners’ decent with the Force. The warriors, utterly bound and unable to break free, were forced to rely on the proficiency of their companions to save them from death as they fell head first toward the rocky canyon below.
Lorrik, like his fellows, was completely concentrated on his goal. Invisible waves of Force emanated from his palms, surging upward toward Jresh, pressing against him, embracing and wrapping around his body in its entirety. Though the Pureblood showed signs of slowing, the weight and momentum of his fall pressed back against the inquisitor, straining his hands, his mind, and his focus. Jresh meanwhile, adopted a serene visage, closing his eyes and slowing his breath, as if resigning his fate to his companion.
The warriors closed in on the grounds below, however, most of them were sufficiently slowed. The aberrant team was that of Vurt and Nesk. Though slowed to the point of survival, the Vurt was unable to completely stop the hefty Trandoshan before he came crashing down upon him. The pair was knocked to the ground, kicking up a small plume of dust. The thud was enough to distract the neighboring Ryloh, who lost his grip on floating Rattataki above. As Kar’ai zoomed toward the ground, she called out to her partner, who in a moment of panic, was able to fully stop her fall as her eyes became level with his.
“Fine work,” Kar’ai breathlessly said to Ryloh before stretching to plant a soft kiss on the Twi’lek’s forehead. Lorrik and Arlia managed to gracefully prevent the impact of their partners on the dusty canyon floor, telekinetically rotating them right-side up and gently planting their feet upon the ground.
Despite the ordeal, Jresh maintained his usual stoicism. “Good to see your study and knowledge of the Force transfers into application.”
“Thanks,” Lorrik replied. “You looked pretty calm. Glad to see you were confident in me.”
“I was actually concentrating in case I had to Force push against the ground to slow myself,” Jresh admitted.
“Wait, so you didn't think I could do this?” Lorrik asked, his ego sufficiently bruised.
“I would never bet my life on the outcome of a variable I could not control. I trust you, and I’d trust my life to you, but you can’t expect me to do nothing while I am capable of action, as incapable as I may appear at the moment.”
Arlia offered a bout of teasing laughter. “Looks like the ‘most likely to succeed’ required some assistance in his trial.”
“Isorr was doing the same,” Jresh bluntly stated. Arlia shot a frustrated look at her stone-faced companion.
“Do I look like someone who would ever allow his fate to be dictated by another?” Isorr coldly asked. Arlia let out a quieted scoff at the Zabrak’s brashness.
With all the students together once more, they attempted to recover from the ordeal in their own ways. Lorrik offered a laugh alongside the placid Jresh. Arlia barked at the tiring Isorr. Ryloh absorbed Kar’ai’s further words of praise with a reserved smile. Vurt stood over a still prone Nesk, who growled and squirmed against the dusty foundation.
“Well, that didn’t take up too much time. I wonder what the rest of the day’s training will entail,” Lorrik unknowingly muttered. As if on cue, the acolytes' master shouted down at them from the peak above.
“Excellent, I sense that you all remain amongst the living,” Syrosk stated, uncharacteristically loud, yet unable to shed his usual raspy cadence. “Your next trial is to join me and reconvene at the top of the cliff. With the warriors still bound, it will be up to the inquisitors to tend to their mobility.”
“Wait… does he mean…” Ryloh whispered.
“We have to carry them,” Arlia stated, planting her palm firmly over her face.
The inquisitors breathed a heavy sigh of exhaustion before their next trial had even properly begun. Bearing the burden of their partners upon their back, the paired acolytes slowly began their trek out of the canyon and back up toward their master.
That was a rather grueling task. I think I prefer the psychological games and intense trials presented in quick bursts rather than the prolonged physical trauma. Then again, training is training. I need to be in top physical condition if I am to outclass my fellow inquisitors or stand a chance going toe to toe with one of the warriors. Last thing I want is to be knocked out because Vurt gets in a good punch. And with the benefits I reaped from my ‘encounter’ with Ornell, trials of the body seem to be rather important in developing my mind and spirit as well.
Managed to get Jresh back up to the usual training grounds. Did most of the heavy lifting with the Force. As peculiar as the master’s methods seem to be at times, they all seemed grounded in traditional means of training adopted by the Sith. Perusing through some of the data logs I have in my collection, everything seems to sync up. Sustained use of Force lifting, like holding up a large rock for a prolonged period. We were holding up our partners for the long trip up the mountain. The drop off the cliff coincides with records of traumatic and shocking experiences triggering untapped power within a Force user.
It seems that Lord Syrosk has every intention of training us. Making us into actual Sith, or at least building us up until he can choose a proper set of apprentices. I don’t know if that should relieve or worry me. Such peculiarity in his previous actions. Why eight students? Why halves composed of separate teachings? Rarely does a Sith Lord move outside the realm of tradition unless intending to reap some untold reward, but I honestly can’t fathom what that might be for Syrosk. How could we be so special? What could we give him? I don’t know.
Today did shine some lights on a few things, luckily. I no longer believe Arlia and Isorr to be the prime threat to our apprenticeship. Isorr and Arlia are talented individuals, but they will always be just that. Individuals. They are too combative and counter-productive to one another, refusing to relinquish their selfishness. Vurt and Nesk still prove to be disjointed, primal in their attitudes and their techniques. A short-term danger if presented as opponents in combative trials, but nothing Jresh and I can’t overcome.
Kar’ai and Ryloh, however, prove to be an interesting pair. The interaction between the two show that there is a connection between them. Whether it is romantic or little more than playful back and forth is unknown, but as a team, they could prove to be a match for us. They thrive on emotions besides hatred and fury, finding joy in their activities. Kar’ai seems to be promoting and pushing Ryloh forward, bringing out something that might have never surfaced in other avenues. I can only guess that the same goes in the other direction. If they are indeed embracing this partnership, it would seem that they aren’t too different from me and Jresh.
As fascinating as it is troubling.