Ruth means Compassion: A warrior’s tale
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08.11.2012 , 07:33 PM |
Line 3. Protection, 4
July, 28 ATC – 17 years after the confirmation of the Wrath
Ruth’s awareness fell into a place that felt separate from the physical throne room. Larr Gith’s presence was bright gold here, imbued with something stronger and steadier than Ruth had ever sensed from her before. Scourge was a hungering darkness with a tinge like dried blood. The Emperor was deeper than black, a cold hole in the world.
She flung her will at him. She sensed surprise, a sharp pleasure that almost instantly turned to concern, while she pressed her attack into the Emperor’s essence. Everything around her was fuel for this fire, this hatred. Everything within her, too.
His counterattack lashed at her, cutting her with a pain more than physical. His will was ancient, malevolent, strong as the ages. Hers joined with Scourge’s and Larr Gith’s, determined. No, more than determined. Her companions weren’t doing enough. Ruth threw more of herself into the assault. She felt herself warping, blurring into the darkness before her, but her will was hurting him more than he could hurt her. She would tear him apart.
“Be careful,” cried Larr Gith.
“Burn him,” urged Lord Scourge. “Burn him to ash.”
Ruth felt the Emperor’s darkness stripping away her very sense of self, layer upon cracking, crumbling layer. She went on screaming her hate, pouring it into shredding his mind. Her comrades worked their tiny attacks; they didn’t matter. She held the Emperor’s attention and broke him apart, piece by piece, feeling every painful snap as he did the same to her. He was weakening. Every wrong he had done her, every life he had taken, every day he had congratulated himself for controlling her, she hated him for it. He had corrupted her husband and claimed her son. She would avenge what it was too late to protect.
While her enemy crumbled, Ruth kept screaming. She thought at some point her physical form joined in.
Quinn dropped what he was doing when he heard Ruth's scream. Hurriedly he recovered, finished the minimum treatment necessary to stabilize Rylon, then ran to kneel where Ruth had just collapsed in a thin, rapidly dissipating puff of the Emperor’s binding shadows. She lay motionless with an expression of almost comically light concern on her face. Quinn started checking for life signs.
The stone Rakatan trap was shaking. Larr and Scourge stood on opposite sides of it, mesmerized by the darkness between them, concentrating, doing something the Force-blinds couldn’t perceive.
Then the trap flashed once, brilliant white, and fell to the ground, inert. Scourge fell to his knees. Larr reeled but stayed upright. “There,” she gasped.
Wynston burst in, blaster rifle in hand. “I felt the…something…from out there. Is it clear now?”
“It is done,” said Scourge. “I sensed a core we could not destroy, but the Wrath scoured it to nearly nothing. What remains is both crippled and trapped.”
Wynston looked to Ruth. His expression froze. He moved to kneel opposite Quinn, leaning over the still form. Quinn swallowed hard but didn’t block the false-faced man from touching her cheek, her throat, the bandages that Quinn had pointlessly applied to the worst of her physical wounds. “Quickly,” said Wynston. He fumbled in his satchel. “A resuscitation stim, something.”
“Do you think I didn’t try?” said Quinn hoarsely, gesturing at his own open supply bag. “She’s dead. She died believing I had betrayed her again.”
Wynston met his eyes, briefly, then looked down. “I see.” He stroked her hair, then snatched his hand back. Half a minute or more passed. “She was my oldest friend.”
“She is my wife.”
Rylon was crawling a little unsteadily toward where Quinn and Wynston flanked Ruth. “Mom?” he said. He settled at her head and stared down at her, looking confused. “Mom. Mom?”
“Rylon,” said Quinn helplessly.
All trace of arrogance had drained from the teenager. “She looks…I didn’t think…Mom, no. I didn’t mean it. Not like this. Mom, get up.”
Quinn sought his son’s hand and took it.
“Stars. Dad, I tried to kill her.”
“I tried to save her,” said Quinn leadenly. “I’m sorry I couldn’t.”
The others filed in: Vette, Jaesa, Kira, Pierce, a scorched-looking T7-01.
“So,” called Vette brassily, “did we win?”
“Yes,” said Wynston. “We won.” Quinn shot him a venomous look, but said nothing.
Vette noticed what they were gathered around. “Oh. Oh, jeez.”
Jaesa covered her mouth and looked away. Kira studied the three gathered around Ruth as if hoping to find something she could do. Pierce clenched and unclenched his fists and tried to look calm.
Larr Gith knelt by the emaciated man the others hadn’t noticed and propped him up in her arms. He looked up at her with a sleepy smile. “Hey. Beautiful. I had the strangest dream.”
Larr hugged him tighter. “You’re safe now.”
He noticed the voices from over by Ruth and looked at the trio gathered around her. “Oh. Friend of yours?”
“Yes,” said Larr quietly.
“Thanks. At least she managed to bail you out.”
“Only one I see bailing me out here is you, gorgeous.”
Larr Gith smiled. “Well, I helped. A little bit.”
“The lady shares credit,” he murmured. “What will they think of next.”
“The Emperor,” said Scourge in a voice pitched to carry. Everyone but Rylon and Quinn looked up at him. “I will take charge of the mind trap and hide it where it will be well guarded. He will not be freed in my lifetime.”
“Take it and go, Scourge,” said Wynston wearily. “Thank you for…for bringing us this far.”
Scourge looked down at the other center of attention. “She died a warrior,” he said calmly. “And the people she fought for are safe. All two of them.”
“She fought for more than that,” said Kira.
“Don’t be so quick to idolize, Jedi.” He hefted the stone device. “Then again, don’t dismiss the love of one or two. Now, I will find my own way off. You will not see me again.”
T7-01 beeped diffidently.
This place = unsafe // Heroes = go home
“You’re right,” said Kira. “We should get back to the ship, guys.”
Quinn nodded jerkily. “Yes. I need to get her home.”
The others gave him space when he took Ruth up in his arms and started back toward the hangar.
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