I slowly picked myself off the floor and made my way over to where I had dropped my robe. My mind a cacophony of scattered thoughts and painful memories, I reached down and picked it up, lay it over my right arm as I left the room. I wondered if I should report the incident to someone, try to ensure that Balek and Wydr’s bodies were treated with at least a modicum of respect. What would the point be, though? No one’ cared about them when they were alive, no one will care about them now that they are dead. They were simply more fodder for the Sith machine.
The academy was still fairly quiet as I returned to Harkun’s chamber, though the bloodstains on my hands and clothes attracted some attention from several passers-by. Only the acolytes, I noticed; the experienced Sith cared not a whit that a woman stained in blood was wandering through their school. Then again, they were probably used to the sight.
Zash had joined Harkun in his office while I was away, and they were having a heated discussion about something as I entered the room and they came into view. I cleared my throat to attract their attention. Zash looked slightly annoyed – whether at me or Harkun, I did not know – while Harkun looked about ready to burst that blood vessel over his eye. Normally that sight would have been a welcome one, but I was in no mood for games.
I slipped my mask back on, hoping neither had noticed.
“Good morning, Lord Zash.” I paused, giving Harkun a knowing glance and winking at him. “And you too, Overseer Harkun. I am ready for my next test.”
Zash raised an eyebrow and looked over at the man seated next to her. “Overseer, surely you did not send Acolyte Althe on the task without giving this student the same opportunity for success, did you?” Her tone was light, but with a faint undertone of menace.
“Of, of course not, my lord.” I had never seen Harkun this nervous before. “I simply had another task for her this morning, some physical training with the two other members of my group.”
“Indeed. I look forward to hearing about it.” There was a small flash of anger in her eyes as they shifted back to me, glancing up and down as if judging me. Well, you’ve got blood soaking through your top and pants, it’s not as if she doesn’t have a reason.
“Such a shame, then, that you sent off the other of your acolyte without allowing me to give them vital information for completing the task.” I enjoyed the note of humor in her voice. Perhaps Zash will make for an ally against Harkun for as long as I need one.
Harkun gulped nervously. “Of course Lord Zash. Feel free to inform this acolyte as you wish.”
Her steely eyes took him in; he quailed. “I shall. Perhaps it would be best if you attended to other matters, while we wait for the results of this exercise.” He nodded briskly, then beat a hasty retreat, exiting the door I had entered through.
Zash turned to me.
“I am seeking the contents of a chamber within the tomb of Naga Sadow. At present time, I am unaware of exactly what is inside the chamber, but I know that you will need to activate four keystones to even enter it, let alone deal with any further complications inside.” I remained silent during her brief pause for breath. “During my research, I did manage to acquire information on these keystones and how they are activated, information I brought to this meeting to provide to the acolytes who would be taking part. Ffon Althe has already left, thanks to Harkun’s interferences. It seems Balek and Wydr will not be attending, either.”
I remained silent.
“I shall take your silence for understanding. Good.” She unfurled a large parchment with four locations designated with marks. A map of the tomb, I gathered. “These are the keystones. They must be activated with the ritual words I have provided on this data pad. Since you are the only remaining acolyte to receive them, I present them to you. Good luck.”
She gave me a smile that might have been sincere if it had come from a normal person.
I bowed and accepted the datapad. “I thank you, Lord Zash. Rest assured, I will return successfully.” I paused, and allowed the mask to drop for a moment. “Thanks to Harkun, I have a good deal of experience navigating deadly Sith tombs full of deathtraps and unspeakable horrors.”
She smiled slightly and waved me away.
After I washed myself and changed into a robe not covered in blood, I made my way towards the tomb. The trip was a short one, slowed only by encountering Sentry Yashia outside. Yashia was one of the few at the academy that treated the acolytes like people rather than cannon fodder, and she had done her best to curb the abuses of her peers. It was the least I could do to hear her out when I saw how upset she was..
“Veres- err, Acolyte!”
I smiled gently. “You may call me Veresia if you wish, we are friends of a sort, no? Or perhaps you already bet on Ffon Althe to win our competition?”
"No, nothing like that Aco- Veresia." She blushed slightly, making me feel slightly uneasy. She almost reminded me of Kory at times “There was another, um, acolyte, who entered the tomb. I haven’t seen him for hours, and I am quite concerned. I was wondering if, um, perhaps you could see if he’s all right. He’s a nice boy and I would just like to be sure. ”
”A nice boy”. Of course.
I winced slightly; there was almost no chance anyone Yashia thought was nice would have survived being in a tomb for that long.
“That won’t be a problem at all, I will search for him.” Her face lit up, giving me hope that this might not end up being another terrible day of death and pain. “If I find anything out, I will inform you as soon as possible.” She smiled slightly and saluted. She always saluted, I never understood why.
I ventured into the tomb, passing small clusters of acolytes and apprentices congregated around various relics and objects. They talked in hushed whispers, as if afraid to be overheard, when what they should have been afraid of was the people they were talking to. I found Yashia’s friend about a quarter of the way into the tomb, torn apart by one of Korriban’s seemingly endless species of fanged and clawed predators.
As I leaned over him to pick up his identity card, he stirred slightly. He reached out and gripped the sleeve of my robe weakly. “Yashia?” His voice was faint. He didn’t have much time.
“No, not her,” I said apologetically. “But she sent me to find you. She was always thinking of you”
He managed a slmall smile before what little will he had left gave out. He let out a weak, hacking, cough out and then lay still. I grit my teeth and forced myself to move on; I didn’t need to dwell on another death.
The first keystone was only a room further into the tomb, an unimpressive green stone with Sith markings around it. I recited the words Zash had written down. Almost imperceptibly, the stone shifted slightly in its socket and faced a different direction. I suppose that’s that for this one.
I repeated the procedure for the second and third stones. The task was proving almost tedious, all things considered.
That feeling died when I encountered Ffon Althe in front of the last. He drew his vibro-sword instantly, and his face twisted into an almost-parody of a raging Sith. “You! Worm! How dare you intrude in this place!”
“I’m only sightseeing, Ffon, I had no idea you were interested in cultural anthropology as well.” I favored him with an innocent smile. “Though, I must say, you look awfully overworked for a tourist. Breathing heavily, sweating profusely….perhaps you ought to be more concerned about your diet?”
His nostrils flared. “I have had enough
of your insolence. Soon, you’ll be as dead as your friend.”
“You seem upset, Ffon. Tut, tut
. Your emotions only give you strength if you maintain control, otherwise you are nothing more than a mindless beast.” I gave him a long, deliberate, look up and down. “Perhaps that is what you enjoy being, though. Harkun’s little lapdog barking at his every command.”
Ffon charged forward with a primal scream, blade raised above his head. He never made it.
I gripped him around the throat with the Force, lifting him off the ground. He dropped his blade, and reached for his throat, for as little good as it would do him. His legs dangled helplessly as I closed the distance between us…and closed my grip around his throat.
“You are a murderer, a monster, a blight upon the galaxy. Not just you, but all of your kind as well. You view other beings as nothing more than trophies to be mounted on your wall and stepping stones for your own personal gain.” His eyes, panicked now, met mine. “You are the epitome of why the Sith are a threat, why they are evil, and why they must be stopped.”
He made a supreme effort and managed a few words. “Please, mercy. I know you are not a true Sith.”
“You’re right, I’m not.” His eyes followed me as I circled him. “My father would have spared you, but he was a Jedi, and a man who had trained and lived as a servant of the Force. I am no Jedi, just what’s left of a girl whose life was destroyed by your masters and their servants. Any mercy I might have had for you died with her.”
I flicked my wrist to the side and sent a wave of Force energy towards him. He thrashed for a moment before I hurled him against the far wall. The collision shattered an ancient statue that must have been created eons ago, and broke Ffon’s neck with a satisfying crack. I felt his presence in the Force fade away.
“I shall give my condolences to Harkun. You two did make such a lovely couple.”
For once, Ffon had no pithy comment in response; I liked him better already.
Once the initial rush wore off, though, I sank back and rested against a wall. I could feel my blood rushing even as my anger subsided; part of it felt so good that I didn’t want to let go of the feeling…but I had to. Spindrall and Ffon had deserved death but I had to maintain control. I am no Jedi, but if I simply kill all that anger me, I *will* be a Sith
. I took several long breaths to get myself back under control, then made my way to the fourth keystone to finish the ritual.
After completing the fourth incantation, I backtracked several rooms to return to the intersection of several of the major corridors. According to Zash’s map, the chamber containing whatever the artifact was would now be possible to enter. I moved forward, cloaking my presence in the Force as best I could to avoid detection. Ffon Althe was not the only danger to me, and certainly not the greatest.
The entrance was far more obvious than I could have guessed, and the chamber itself proved to be guarded by little more than a skeleton group of ancient battle droids. Some deranged mind had decided to have a large chasm make up much of the central area of the room, so it was simple enough to hurl the droids to their demise in whatever lay at the bottom below. The most interesting part of the chamber was the ‘artifact’. Not some relic or statue or weapon; it was a creature
, towering over me as it floated in suspended animation.
I activated the controls on the machine holding the creature, and began the process of reanimating it. I looked over it – scarred gray skin pockmarked with what looked like battle wounds, fearsome-looking face. A Sith
beast, no doubt. I moved back and waited for it to recover from waking up; after some time, it straightened itself and stared at me.
The creature spoke, an ancient language that I somehow still managed to understand. It must be through the Force, somehow
<I am Khem Val, and I am a servant of the true Lord of the Sith, Tulak Hord.>
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it yet.
“Yes, that sounds quite nice, but we’ve got an appointment at the Sith Academy and I make it a habit to be on time. You wouldn't believe the amount of work that goes into getting an appointment at the hair customization kiosk.”
It stared at me, eyes unblinking. Then it roared with almost enough force to knock me off my feet.
This should prove interesting.
I drew my weapon and waited.