Chapter Twenty Two: Companions
Day seventeen of training. Korriban. Exterior. Midday. The temperature had no place in the acolytes’ minds. Their concentration was completely and utterly focused on their trial. The task for the day had been set. By the decree of Lord Syrosk, one on one duels would take place, between the warriors and their allied inquisitors. Isorr versus Arlia. Kar’ai versus Ryloh. Nesk versus Vurt. Jresh versus Lorrik.
Each duel had been held in isolation, no others taking place alongside it, allowing the Sith Lord and the resting acolytes to gaze upon the proceedings with watchful eyes. And watch they did. To the slight detriment of Lorrik's confidence. As each duel took place, it did not carry a beneficial trend. In almost all contests the warrior bested their partner, with the exception of Vurt claiming slight victory over the Trandoshan.
The time had come for Jresh and Lorrik to finally duel. The finality rested not just with that day, but with the entirety of the students’ training under Lord Syrosk. Lorrik knew this day was coming, sooner or later. Honestly, the inquisitor thought it would come at the behest of Jresh rather than their master, and much closer to their first day together.
The walk into the ancient dueling circle had seemed bordering on an eternity for Lorrik. The same couldn’t be said for Jresh. For the warrior, this was just another opponent he had not yet tested himself against. A foe he had not yet the pleasure of engaging in martial combat. Someone he had only been able to gauge through his eyes instead of the competing clash of the blade. Improvement required one to be tested, and pushed to the limit. If such events could not occur for one, it could certainly for the other. The perfect design in Jresh’s mind. There was not a single negative aspect he could draw upon when it came to dueling his ally. His partner. His friend.
The two acolytes looked upon one another on opposing ends of the dueling circle, both possessing utterly calm and focused visages. As much as he didn’t relish the idea of charging straightforward into pain, Lorrik knew worse would befall him if he could not supply his partner with a proper duel.
“Lorrik. I hope I do not need to ask you to not take it easy on me,” Jresh calmly spoke up, his quiet voice easily carrying itself across the arena.
“Don’t worry Jresh, I know better than to try and go easy on you,” Lorrik calmly replied, masking any hidden hesitance that might yet remain within him.
“Good. I hope I also do not need to remind you that I will not be holding back,” Jresh further explained.
“I hear you loud and clear, partner,” Lorrik said, forcing out a certain degree of positivity. Situated between the duelists and their colleagues, Syrosk stood with his bitter gaze upon the two acolytes.
“Students! Prepare yourselves,” Syrosk called out in his usual tone. The acolytes complied, each adopting their preferred stance and igniting their training sabers. Lorrik raised his saber and directed its tip toward Jresh, sliding his right foot backward, his free hand raised parallel with the blade and possessing an open palm. Jresh gripped his training saber with both hands, but kept his guard low and at his front, rather than his usual high guarded stance. Already Lorrik had already begun to process the data of battle within his head as he studied his opponent. With a drop of his hand, Lord Syrosk had signaled for the duel to begin in earnest.
Expecting Jresh to remain still, with the idea of refusing to allow Lorrik the ability to study and counteract his opponent, the inquisitor was unable to retaliate when Jresh immediately rejected this plan, deciding to instead charge down on his partner at full speed. Trying to quickly reinforce his guard with his free hand, the inquisitor failed to adequately guard against the warrior’s first strike. Instead of a traditional swing, Jresh used the entirety of his weight supplemented by a Force-accelerated charge to drive his shoulder into Lorrik, tackling him and sending him tumbling across the dusty foundation. After a few bounces on the dirt, the fallen acolyte managed to cut his journey just short of dueling circle’s outer boundary.
Lorrik looked up to see his companion had not taken a moment of pause, charging down upon his person yet again, this time intending to bring his saber down upon him. Pushing himself off the ground, the inquisitor met with Jresh, clashing their sabers against each other's. Knowing he was outmatched strength-wise, Lorrik ceded the contest, allowing Jresh to push his blade forward. Ducking to the side, Lorrik maneuvered to his flank as the Pureblood’s momentum keep him moving forward. The inquisitor attempted to bring his saber down upon his partner’s back, but instead found his action interrupted by Jresh jutting his foot back, knocking the Human’s leg out from under him.
Tumbling to the ground once more, Lorrik lifted his face from the dust to see another boot about to impact against him. The warrior intently pursued the dexterous inquisitor as he attempted to roll away. As Jresh once more swung his saber down, Lorrik batted it out of the way with his own, causing the Pureblood to stumble downward himself. Capitalizing on the movement, Lorrik thrust the tip of his saber upward, digging it into the warrior stomach. As Jresh rolled away in pain, Lorrik was able to return to his feet. It wasn’t long before his partner attempted to do the same.
Going on the offensive, the inquisitor swung his saber down upon a kneeling Jresh. The warrior deflected with a twist of his blade, and delivered a staggering uppercut with the pommel of his weapon to Lorrik’s chin. Still reeling, Lorrik was unable to avoid Jresh sweeping his leg out from under him. Impacting hard against the flat of his back, Lorrik watched as Jresh raised a boot to stomp his chest. With his free hand, the Human drove a fist into the firmly planted leg of the Pureblood. Destabilized, the warrior fell forward intending to land the sum total of his weight on top of the fallen inquisitor. As his partner was falling, Lorrik let go of his saber and let loose a powerful telekinetic thrust from his coupled hands. Jresh immediately went flying through the air, landing hard against the dirt on the other side of the arena.
Grabbing his saber and returning to his feet, Lorrik was greeted to the light smattering of applause to his rear from three of his fellows. It had seemed the division between warrior and inquisitor had now taken precedence over competing partnerships. Enamored by the delightful display, Lorrik missed the upright Pureblood approaching him. Raising his guard, the Human was only barely able to bear the downward swing Jresh furiously brought upon his partner. The next was even less defended against. And the next even less. One after another, Jresh raised his blade before promptly bringing it back down upon the now kneeling opponent, bashing away at the depleting guard. With one final swing, Jresh pressed through impacting his saber against Lorrik’s shoulder.
Intending to end the duel, Jresh offered one more strike against the downed inquisitor. Ducking to the side, Lorrik was able to dodge out of the way, giving him the time and room to swing his blade at the Pureblood’s side, impacting against his hip. Still upon the ground, Lorrik unable to dodge the retaliatory boot to the gut that sent the Human rolling away as the warrior clutched his side. Steadying himself, Lorrik found himself incapable of firmly grasping his saber with both hand due to his injured shoulder. Jresh appeared no worse for wear, fully masking any detriment he might possibly be experiencing.
But Lorrik knew better. Jresh’s form had always relatively lacked mobility. With an injured hip, that weakness could be exploited. Lorrik made his way toward Jresh, directing the tip of his saber toward his opponent. His foe charging, Jresh did little to prepare himself or guard against the attack, barely raising his saber from his side. Now upon the warrior, Lorrik drew his saber back, intent on delivering a piercing thrust of his weapon. However, his want would have to go unfulfilled. With a deep breath Jresh let loose a primal shout toward his opponent. Coupled with an exertion of the Force, the powerful, deafening voice impacted against the entirety of Lorrik’s body, churning his insides and sending him stumbling back.
Walking forward, Jresh swung his saber horizontally at the inquisitor. The Human attempted to raised his guard, but when the two sabers impacted against one another, Lorrik’s went flying out of his hand, eventually landing outside the confines of the dueling circle. Defenseless, the inquisitor was unable to counter the warrior’s backhanded strike against his cheek, flooring the Human and sending him face first into the dirt. Slowly the fallen acolyte squirmed amongst the dust, eagerly trying to raise himself. His hands pressing against the surface below him, he slowly lifted himself off of the ground, until Jresh drove him back to his belly with a kick of his boot. Turning over, Lorrik saw the tip of his partner’s saber hovering only a sliver away from his face.
“Yield?” Jresh calmly asked. Rather than speak, Lorrik supplied his answer by gripping the ignited training saber, his gloves absorbing most of the heat, and drug his partner downward. His partner falling once more, Lorrik thrust his right hand forward until it touched his partner’s chest. His palm resting against the Pureblood’s sternum, the inquisitor unleashed a powerful torrent of telekinetic energy. As the Force wave passed through the warrior’s chest, he fell over, the entirety of his breath vacated from his lungs.
Trying his hardest to breath, Jresh relinquished the grip on his saber, allowing Lorrik to pick it up as he regained his footing. The powerful shockwave he emitted had actually torn the glove material from his hand, leaving only tatters of black cloth surrounding the inquisitor’s right wrist. Gripping the saber with his ungloved hand, the inquisitor directed its tip toward the face of his fallen companion.
“Yield?” Lorrik asked, breathing heavy and utterly exasperated. Rather than speak, Jresh supplied his answer by batting the saber out of his face with the back of his hand. Once more the saber flew from the confines of the dueling arena. Rising from the dust, Jresh and Lorrik now stared each other down, each without their saber. Jresh was the first to raise his fists, but Lorrik promptly followed. Creeping ever closer, the two were within each other’s reach.
Jresh threw the first punch. It passed by Lorrik’s head as he ducked out of the way. The inquisitor offered his own punch directed toward the warrior’s already injured hip. The hit landed, causing the Pureblood to yelp in pain. Jresh offered a retaliatory backhand that impacted against Lorrik’s already injured shoulder. Dropping to a knee, the inquisitor thrust his elbow into Jresh’s gut. Bending over, the warrior clasped his hands together and brought them down upon the back of Lorrik’s neck.
The Pureblood lifted a boot only to have the other one swept out from under him. The two struggled against one another on the ground, kicking up a small cloud of dust as they flailed their failing limbs against one another. Finally rolling away from each other, the two put some distance between them and slowly but surely rose to their feet. The two locked their gazes, each utterly committed to ending the duel. And end it would, as the two figures charged toward one another.
As they neared, about to trade blows one last time, Lorrik altered his course slightly to the side. Grabbing ahold of his partner’s shoulder, the Human swung around to the Pureblood’s flank. With one hand over the left shoulder and gripping his opponent’s robes, Lorrik wrapped the other around the opposite shoulder, placing his ungloved hand over Jresh’s mouth. Hooking his legs to the warrior’s waist, the inquisitor had locked himself in place. Jresh was only able to process the attack for a moment, before a sudden surge of electricity transferred from Lorrik’s hand to his mouth. It wasn’t long before arcs of Force lightning sparked across the warrior’s entire body.
Yet Jresh remained standing, enduring the debilitating attack. Lorrik renewed his attacked pumping his partner full of more crackling energy. Eventually the inquisitor stopped and the warrior remained standing rigid, a small stream of smoke emitting from his mouth and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. Lorrik removed his hand from his companion’s face and raised it into the air in victory. This managed to offset the duo’s balance enough that the two fell backward, impacting against the ground with the entirety of Jresh landing on top of Lorrik.
On the sidelines, the entirety of the gathered acolytes looked onward speechlessly. Even Syrosk could not think of the words he might deliver in his usual sardonically raspy manner. The seven onlookers watched intently, waiting for either person to move. Several seconds passed. Silence. Nothing but the flowing winds gently passing dust over the two fallen acolytes on the top of the Korriban cliff.
“Alright,” Syrosk finally spoke up. “Someone go check on them.”