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The Academy: Acolyte Ascension

Osetto's Avatar

03.23.2012 , 10:18 PM | #1
The Academy: Acolyte Ascension
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It has been over two decades since the start of the Great War, the enduring conflict between the resurgent Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic. The Sith's early goal of retaking their homeworld of Korriban and re-establishing the Academy to train their acolytes amongst the countless tombs of fallen Lords has long since been seen to fruition.

Force-sensitives throughout Imperial space are brought to the Academy to gain strength and to learn the ways of the Sith. Walking their path under the watchful eyes of instructors and overseers, these acolytes vie to prove themselves to their dark masters. But for every potential Sith Lord in waiting, there remained a plethora of far less worthy individuals. Typically, such failures would find themselves dead and forgotten, tossed into the nearest crags to be fed on by wandering Sith hounds.

But deep within the Academy's vast underground dwellings, a peculiar group of students learned and advanced amongst the rock and dust. Blood was spilled. Bones were broken. Spirits were tested. But none expired. None were expelled. Only the bare minimum of prospective talent was expected from the students within these halls. For what purpose, they did not know. In their minds, all was normal.

There was enough truth, enough tradition to entice and satiate the acolytes. Keeping them content with their position year after year even as they showed little progress. Their expectations aligned with reality in such a way that no singular facet could appear unusual. The strong trained as warriors, exponents of martial combat. The cunning trained as inquisitors, manipulators of the mind and Force. Yet neither would receive anything approaching the true Academy's trials. Only debased approximations.

The tenets of the Sith were present, but restrained. Held back. Chained. Competition and rivalry, without the true threat of death. Unlocked potential and uncovered secrets, whilst never fully achieving understanding. The thought that one day, they would be acolytes no longer, but apprentices to powerful Lords who would foster their rise to power. But the Lords never came. No masters arrived to free them from their classrooms, from their squalor, from their worthlessness. But none would give up hope. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. They knew their time would come.

To convince them otherwise would prove an impossible feat. Regardless of the intent of their superiors, the Sith Code lay embedded in their young minds. All they needed was strength. All they needed was power. Then, they could shape their destinies. Unfortunately, those with power enough already were shaping theirs.

But the acolytes would not give up, not until they had achieved ascension.

Table of Contents
-------------------- The Fan Fiction Index --------------------

Osetto's Avatar

03.23.2012 , 10:25 PM | #2
Act I: Initiations

Chapter One: Rumors

Holocrons. Immense repositories of the past, sealed away in the most insignificant of packages. Prisms of arcane knowledge. Sith secrets lie hidden within these crimson pyramids, unassuming to the untrained eye. But those who have studied the ways of dark, followed the teachings, pledged his or her life to the Empire, they knew the truth… that this was actually just a plasteel paperweight.

Occupying his quarters, which in reality amounted to little more than a desk, a couple of footlockers, and a rather uncomfortable bed, a young Sith acolyte lay in his dark, form-fitting robes, manipulating the handheld, ornately covered, pyramid-shaped trinket. Rather than tend to his studies, the Force-user opted for a bout of relaxation and drifting thoughts.

However, lying down and staring at the cold ceiling composed of the same featureless carved stones proved lacking in most aspects of mental provocation. Such was the entire design of this wing of the Academy. Dulled rock carved out centuries ago made up the walls, the floors, the ceilings. It was more a tomb than a genuine institution. But it was all the acolytes knew.

Surrounded by such mind-numbing surroundings, the young Human instead stared at the faux-holocron he slowly manipulated between his fingers, turning it over again and again, gazing at each individual facet. But with a sudden release, the Sith dropped his raised hand to his abdomen, where it could join with his left. As his hands lay interlocked, the reclined individual kept the trinket afloat in the air with mere thought, and began rotating it through a mental whim.

The young adult didn’t fit the description of your typical Sith, at least, not from the point of view of your typical Republic propaganda. Then again, the pasty and decrepit Sith Lords that did exist didn’t help the image. The Human did possess fair skin, but as a result of shunning the Korriban sun rather than dark side influence. The dark brown hair topping the Sith’s head was short and unkempt. His rather boyish face was adorned with a thin set of stubble from one ear to the next. Most peculiar was perhaps the uncharacteristic smile that separated the acolyte from his peers.

“Lorrik!” an excited female’s voice called out. Breaking his concentration, the floating holocron had no choice but to fall with one of its many points jabbing the startled Human in the eye. His trademark smile lost and right hand covering his injury, the acolyte sat up in his bed to address the intruder.

“Jora?” Lorrik spoke with a pleasant surprise. A classmate of his, the blonde Human poked her head around the stone corner that served as one of the quarter’s boundaries. Three walled inlets, the acolytes didn’t possess ‘rooms’ so much as delegated personal space. Coming fully into view, the similarly dressed acolyte passed the threshold of Lorrik’s private quarters.

“Did you hear?” Jora asked, seemingly giddy with anticipation.

“That all depends,” Lorrik replied, still holding his eye in higher regards than the conversation. The two acolytes were friends, or at least as close as two could get to being friends under the circumstances. The overly competitive atmosphere of their studies didn’t lend itself to needless cooperation and companionship. But still, neither wanted to see the other dead, which was as good a foundation for friendship as any.

“Word is, the Academy’s got a new Overseer,” Jora slyly explained. Suddenly the pain in Lorrik's eye faded. Overseers played an integral part in an acolytes progression. A new one arriving would enough to catch any student’s attention.

Force-sensitives came to Korriban as initiates, either willingly or by force. Once they had begun their institutional education and displayed rudimentary knowledge, they were upgraded to acolytes. For Lorrik and his classmates, this was the insurmountable wall when it came to progress. They learned from instructors amongst the underworkings of the Academy, around ten of them to a class and eight classes in total. For these students, things resembled little more than an amalgamate of primary, military, and religious education. But unlike other schools, there would be no graduation. The only way they were leaving their classrooms was if they were apprenticed by a Sith Lord. An unlikely prospect.

There process of moving from acolyte to apprentice was a simple one. Earn the favor of a Sith Lord such that they take responsibility for one’s further training. But simplicity did not spell ease. Especially for the classes in the halls below. The chances of a Sith Lord interacting with prospects themselves was slim to none. Instead, they worked through Overseers, whose duty was not to teach, but to weed out the weak from the strong. Groups of acolytes would be handed to them at the behest of a Sith Lord. They would be tested, and those who succeeded would be deemed worthy of apprenticeship. More often than not, success was measured by simply being the last person left standing.

But no Overseers ever chose from the classrooms beneath the Academy. No masters ever showed interest in them. They were isolated, fated to continue their menial lessons in obscurity.

“New Overseer, eh?” Lorrik muttered, trying his hardest to remain neutral. “What’re the chances this one will bother picking from our class?”

“Here’s the thing,” Jora softly stated, almost whispering. The woman leaned in closer, bubbling with intrigue. “In actuality, he’s a Sith Lord acting as his own Overseer.”

“What?” Lorrik balked. “Why would he subject himself to the process of picking through acolytes himself? I mean, unless he’s got a thing for torturing his subjects, you’d think his time would be better spent elsewhere. Do we know how many acolytes he plans to review?”

“He’s actually already chosen four from the warrior classrooms,” Jora stated. What remained of Lorrik’s smile quickly faded as he looked onward, dumbfounded. As a member of the inquisitor branch, he really saw no reason to seem overjoyed by this recent news.

The warriors and inquisitors represented two opposing, yet equally important ideologies of the Sith Empire and were different schools of learning entirely. The warrior: the clenched fist. The inquisitor: the sleight of hand. One an embodiment of physical technique, the other an embodiment of mental prowess. Both pride incarnate.

“Good for the warriors, then. It doesn’t exactly concern us though, does it?” Lorrik regretfully asked.

“Except it does,” Jora clarified. Lorrik offered only his continued, blank stare. “He’s also taking on four inquisitors from our classes.” The revelation was enough to elicit a confused slanting of the head from Lorrik.

“Eight students?” Lorrik muttered, trying to conceive of a possible explanation. “Not entirely unheard of for an Overseer, but he’d be dealing with two completely different types of acolytes. Even if the Lord planned on taking multiple apprentices, our kind don’t exactly work well with one another.” The contemplative Human scratched his chin as he remained locked in his own thoughts. Nothing was adding up, yet everything seems far too ludicrous to not be intentional. “How is he choosing the inquisitors?”

“He’s not. The warriors are. They already met with the Lord and have been given then their first task. Finding an inquisitor who would serve as their equal. A partner of sorts.”

“From our classes?” Lorrik asked. “All four of them?”

Jora offered a quick nod. “That’s right.”

“So that’s about a one in forty chance of being picked.”

“So it would seem.”

“But we’ll be forced to be tested alongside warriors,” Lorrik stated, gaze slowly drifting lower and lower.

Jora offered a brief shrug of her shoulders. “To be fair, they’ll be forced to be tested alongside inquisitors as well.”

“This Lord has chosen four from the ranks of the most single minded, prideful ranks of the Sith and forced them to interact with those from an opposing yet equally single minded and prideful sect,” Lorrik stated. “I’m having a hard time determining if this is brilliance or madness. Any word on who this new ‘Overseer’ slash ‘Sith Lord’ actually is?”

“His name is Syrosk, or so the warriors say. Word is, he’s a Sith Lord who’s been fighting in the war,” Jora stated, emphasizing the title rather than the name.

“Well, technically, aren’t all Sith but our fellow acolytes ‘Lords’ to us? I mean, we don’t exactly carry a rank of prestige,” Lorrik muttered.

When it came to the Empire’s social structure, rank and title reigned supreme. Acolytes sat at the bottom of the Sith Order. Apprentices above them. Lords above them. Darths above them. But even the lowliest Sith was viewed as superior to their Force-blind brothers and sisters within the Empire. Addressing a Force-sensitive with anything other than a ‘my lord’ after every sentence was a good way to seal one’s fate as sacrificial material.

“All I know is that to be allowed to do what he’s doing here, he’s definitely someone of prestige. The various ranks and positions between ‘Apprentice’ and ‘Darth’ always fluctuate when it comes to authority and number. But right here, right now, a certified Sith Lord is nothing to sneeze at,” Jora stated.

The other acolyte saw her point. About the sneezing. Lorrik once heard about a student who sneezed on a Sith Lord. Beheaded.

“But the war has shown no signs of ceasing anytime soon. You don't just let a Sith Lord abandon the battlefield to pursue personal ventures. This is why we have Overseers in the first place.”

Once more, Jora offered a brief shrug. “Maybe Syrosk is such a great influence that him training an apprentice is more than enough to make up for his momentary absence on the warfront.”

“Training an apprentice is anything but momentary,” Lorrik said with a light scoff. “Taking on students, sifting through acolytes himself to find someone worthy, that takes time. Unless, of course, he plans to use the war as a testing ground instead of Korriban. But you don’t take that many people looking to stab each other in the back onto an active battlefield. Maybe the reason they let him do whatever he plans to do is because he’s incompetent. This is a time sink to keep him away whilst not blatantly forcing him out. And besides that, what’s his motivation for all this? There are far easier ways to obtain an apprentice.”

“Do you really need to know a master’s motivations if it means finally getting a chance at knowledge, power, and authority?” Jora asked with a heavy sense of sarcasm.

Lorrik cracked a smile. “Ignoring a Sith’s motivations is worse than ignoring a K’lor’slug’s appetite.”

“So you won’t be seeking a position under him?” Jora asked, now the one probing the other for information.

“Oh no, I most definitely will,” Lorrik stated with renewed confidence. “I’m done being just a lowly acolyte.”

“Shame. I’ll miss having a classmate whom I know with absolute certainty won’t attack me in my sleep,” Jora joked.

“For all you know, my kindness and generosity has been a well-played ruse orchestrated for selfish gain,” Lorrik said with an uncharacteristically sinister tone.

“We’ve been in the Academy together for years now, I know you better than that. Plus, if your intention was to succeed, you’ve been doing a horrible job so far,” Jora stated, toying with the acolyte.

“You’ve got me there,” Lorrik muttered, not noticing the obvious insult at first. “Wait, what are you saying? I have some of the highest marks in our class.”

“And they’re probably the only reason you haven’t been exiled from the Academy,” Jora bluntly stated. “When it comes to ‘Sithiness’, you’re well behind the curve. I honestly don’t know how you plan on getting the support of one of the warriors.”

“Unlike most inquisitors, I know a thing or two about humility,” Lorrik said with a contradicting sense of pride.

“So you’ll be taken the groveling route?”

“It doesn’t sound as good when you put it like that,” Lorrik mumbled. “So, for all your interest towards the subject, you don’t exactly sound as if you’re too intent in joining this new Sith Lord.”

“It all depends. If you do end up submitting to one of the warriors, the entire ordeal might prove too easy, should we have to compete.”

“You wound me, Jora,” Lorrik stated, feigning extreme disappointment. “Then again, you’ve never been much for the easy route, have you?”

“No, I guess I haven’t. And neither have you,” Jora said as she turned away from the acolyte’s personal quarters. The female student paused just before she was out of sight. “Oh, and Lorrik… if my intention was to wound you, I would have done so long ago.”

With that, Lorrik was once again left alone with his thoughts, a slight curl on his lips. Picking the fallen holocron up from its resting place near his pillow, the acolyte held the trinket in his hand for a moment before rising from his seat. Kneeling down, the student slid the Holocron beneath his bed before setting out to secure his future. That is, until he stood frozen outside of his room.

“Really wish I had asked for names and locations.”

Osetto's Avatar

03.23.2012 , 11:23 PM | #3
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?”

Osetto's Avatar

03.24.2012 , 06:49 PM | #4
Chapter Three: Meetings

Day one of training. Korriban. Exterior. Midday. Pretty damn hot. Eight students of the Academy stood shoulder to shoulder, awaiting the arrival of their new master. They stood in a clearing atop the peak of one of the many mountains and ridges that surrounded the Sith Academy. Wind gently brushed the orange dirt beneath their feet, revealing intricate symbols and carvings lost to time. The eight prospects found themselves standing, unknowingly, near the boundaries of an ancient ring of battle, where tests of might were held during the Golden Age of the Sith.

Surrounded by steep cliffs, the disastrous falls they entailed, and subject to the intense scolding of the Korriban sun, the students waited, eyeing the singular return path back toward the Academy. And so the eight of them stood, resolved to show not a single ounce of weakness. Each warrior beside their inquisitor, arms folded behind their backs.

Lorrik stood furthest to the right, facing the Academy. As much as the acolyte despised outdoor activity when there was a perfectly good institution to accommodate them, he did take solace in the face that he and his fellow inquisitors were garbed in the traditional, two-layered, dark gray robes. While not the most suitable clothes for the occasion, they were certainly more comfortable without the black cloaks the warriors were sporting.

Jresh stood to his partner’s left, possessing the same stern face as before. At least this time he seemed to possess less notions of impatience and irritation than he did when he was scouting the Academy forum for an inquisitor. Subtle hints did suggest that the Sith did miss the act of leaning against a wall. But given the warrior’s nature, he most likely preferred the proving task of standing under the sun for an indeterminate amount of time.

Arlia was the inquisitor on Jresh’s other side. A female Twi’lek, her skin was a muted violet, free of any secondary markings. Instead, her lekku, that reached her mid-back, were wrapped in a dark cloth that encircled the twin head-tails from tip to base, culminating in a headband. Arlia belonged to a similar class as Lorrik’s, and possessed similar aptitude scores. Ever ambitious, she was a woman who knew what she wanted and how to get it. And as an attractive Twi’lek woman, there were few who would deny her. But woe to the man who suggested her robes could stand to bare more midriff.

Isorr was the warrior next to her. His hood since lowered, it could be seen that the lecturer from the forum before was in fact a male Zabrak, possessing a deep brown skin tone. Hairless, his head was instead topped with a crown a stubby horns, and his face was marked by black, thin-lined tattoos he received early in his life. An ardent follower of the teachings of the Sith, a ruthless fighter, and an equally intelligent thinker. It is unknown if he chose Arlia as his companion in spite of, or because of her manipulative nature.

Vurt was the next inquisitor. A male Nikto, he stood out from the others of his class in both looks and demeanor. His leathery skin was of a red-orange hue, and he lacked a traditional nose, instead bearing only a flat membrane of flesh between his eyes and mouth. Adjacent to each eye, three tiny horns jutted outward, accompanied by a similar pair of horns on his chin, and yet another at the base of his ridged forehead. Though somewhat muffled by his robes, a set of small organic respiratory tubes could be seen on both sides of his neck. Cold and brutal, he earned the reputation of a brutal sadist in classes he didn’t even belong to.

Nesk was Vurt’s partner, the towering cloaked warrior from before, now revealed to be a sandy-brown scaled Trandoshan male. Without the swarm of potential students crowding him, it could be seen that his robes ended their wrap just below the acolyte’s knees, allowing his clawed feet to bare themselves against the Korriban surface. A natural warrior, known for his fiery temper. Brash, combative, and a credit to his species, if not for the fact that he has all but replaced any semblance of Trandoshan culture with that of the Sith.

Ryloh was the male Twi’lek almost basking in the Trandoshan’s shadow. His skin possessed a light blue hue and his lekku were adorned with natural dark blue markings. An astute inquisitor, and a capable fighter, Ryloh was talented, but never possessed the raw determination to rise above his peers. Always willing to take the distanced route, rather the direct approach. His classmates could never decide whether he was simply a coward, or a brilliant calculator, always knowing the perfect way to hide his handsome face from a crowd. Yet something made him willing to fight his way into companionship of a warrior.

Kar’ai was that warrior, and a female Rattataki. Hairless, her pale white skin bared a series of intricate markings. Black cultural tattoos marked the entirety of her face and continued down to her body. Long lines of barbed tribal circles and barbed patterns wrapped around her torso and limbs, all hidden beneath her student robes. Aggressive and always looking forward to the thrill of battle. She believed there wasn’t a single conflict or quarrel that could not be decided by way of a duel. One of the top swordswomen in her class, she found weakness and quickly eliminated it.

“You know, now that you mention it, I’m kind of glad I don’t have to wear the cloak,” Lorrik said, breaking the silence.

“What are you talking about? No one mentioned anything,” Jresh sternly replied.

“Oh, you know, just making conversation,” Lorrik stated.

“Jresh, do try and keep your Human under control,” Isorr advised with a deep voice. Lorrik leaned forward from his far right position and examined the lineup before returning to his straight-standing stance.

“Hmm. It seems I am the only Human here. Not very Imperial of us,” Lorrik said to himself, before taking another look at the gathered students. “It would also seem that we are the only pair with any hair on their scalps so… go team. That’s one-zero. We’re already in the lead.”

“You certainly win the award for most annoying student,” Arlia stated, her sensuous voice riddled with annoyance.

“A victory’s a victory. That’s two-zero,” Lorrik countered.

“Do be quiet, I’d like to go one night without worrying about you being murdered in your sleep,” Jresh stated, his tone more tired than angry.

“I think we’ll be okay,” Lorrik said. “The only one I think we have to worry about is the Trandoshan. And so long as he doesn’t get snarly I think we should-”

“Make quiet, soft thing!” Nesk snarled in a hissy, debased form of Basic, not breaking his stance. The Human complied.

“If you all are finished… perhaps we can begin in earnest,” a mysterious voice spoke up from behind the lineup. The acolytes turned around to find their new master standing on the edge of the cliff, looking out across the vista with his back toward his students. The alien humanoid possessed a dark cloak much as the warriors did, hood lowered, but too far away for any discernible details to be seen. Though now turned around, no student dared approach the Sith Lord further without expressed permission. They did however, make passing glances to the surrounding area, looking for methods the Lord might have used to get behind them. They saw none.

The dark figure turn and walked toward his students revealing the armored garb beneath his open cloak. Chest plate, greaves, heavy boots and gauntlets, all there. Black plating, with red highlights, it was the outfit of a not just a warrior, but a soldier. Spots and lines of gray detailed the blaster marks and saber strikes endured during the Great War. But even with all the armor, the Lord did not cover his face.

Syrosk now stood only a few meters from his students. The alien male was of a species unfamiliar to Imperials and Sith. His entire visage was comprise of harsh features. His orange skin was rough and leathery, burdened by the additional wear and tear wrought though battle. Dual down-curved horns emerged from his cranium. Doubling the width of his head, they came down to a point under his chin, hovering a short distance in front of his chest. He stared down his students with a harsh visage.

“So these are the four chosen. I pray that you had not chosen them as mere trophies or pets. They will be your other half for your discernible future. Vital to your continued tutelage under myself,” Syrosk began, in a drawn out, raspy voice. The Sith Lord began pacing between the ends of the acolyte line up as he continued his speech.

“From this day forth, your training begins. You are my students. I am your master. However, do not be mistaken. You are not my apprentices. No. Not yet. Apprenticeship must be earned. From this day forth, you all are null. Whatever statistics, accomplishments, and feats you have attained or performed during your miserable attendance of this Academy is hereby forgotten and rendered inert.”

“I care not how high your class scores were. How many victories you obtained in your various practice bouts. How many arbitrary measurements of your inane actions that you believed to make you something more than the rest of the filth occupying this school. You were nothing. You are nothing. And from nothing I will create something of greatness. I will forge a greater Sith from the excuse for raw materials you call talent. And should the fires burned too hot, too bright. Should you begin to crack, and warp. I will toss you into the garbage and spit on the disgrace who bothered to waste my time.”

“Once you have proven yourself… then maybe you will have earned the right to call yourself my apprentice. Earned the right to take up a lightsaber. Earned the right to leave this Academy once and for all and prove your worth to the galaxy. If you are lucky, you might earn the privilege to call yourself my apprentice in as little as one year.” Making his way to the left flank of the lineup he addressed each acolyte, one by one. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, m’Lord,” Kar’ai answered with a bow of her head.

“Yes, my Lord,” Ryloh echoed.

“Yess, Masster,” Nesk replied.

Vurt offered a brief, but dutiful nod.

“Yes, Lord Syrosk,” Isorr declared.

“Of course, Master,” Arlia followed.

“Aye, Lord Syrosk,” Jresh stated.

“Did you mean a standard year or a Korriban year?” Lorrik asked. Suddenly the acolyte felt sixteen eyes figuratively searing his flesh. Though it certainly was possible one pair was literally doing so. “I mean… Yes, Lord Master Syrosk.”

The Sith Lord removed himself from the stare down and returned to his position in front of the lineup’s center. Syrosk closed his eyes and took a deep breath as the students looked onward in anticipation. A short exhale later and the alien was ready to continue.

“As my students you have already proven yourselves as better than those who would surround you not hours ago. Though you are still worth nothing in my eyes, the other acolytes are worth even less. You have all received new private quarters to accommodate your new status of ‘nothing’. Gather your things and talk to the quartermaster. He will provide you each with the keys to your new dwellings. Also speak with the weapons master. You will each receive a personal training saber. You are to treat it as a lightsaber, having it with you at all times and knowing that the consequences for losing it are just as dire. Know that me having provided you with this much means that your life is now worth less than your possessions.“

“I have but a single task to give you all, then you are dismissed until we reconvene at this exact spot, at this exact time tomorrow. Find whatever trinket or valuable you hold most dear, and give it to your companion, symbolizing the completed bond of your new partnership. Return tomorrow with your shared items. Dismissed,” Syrosk ended, turning his back toward his students and staring toward the distant horizon in silence.”

Each of the acolytes slowly bowed their heads toward their new master, before turning back toward the return patch down the mountain. The eight students made their way back to the Academy in near silence.

Jresh passed his gaze over his new partner before returned it to the path ahead. “Lorrik, do try to not get Force-choked by our new Lord.

“Yes, if I hear the Lord brutally killed you, I’d like the story to be one of mystery and intrigue, not your inability to hold your tongue,” Arlia offered.

“Inability to hold my tongue? What about you? We have certainly shared a conversation or two. We keep talking like this and your partner might think were conspiring against him,” Lorrik joked.

“No offense Jresh, but I doubt your partner is even capable of conspiracy,” Isorr coldly stated.

The Human’s face scrunched as he offered a quick glare toward the Zabrak. “You know, I’m right here. I’d rather not have disparaging remarks filtered through Jresh.”

“Pay them no attention, Lorrik. They will see the true nature of their egregious underestimations in time,” Jresh stated.

“That’s showing your Sith pride,” Lorrik said with a clenched fist. The eight continued to walk along the narrow and winding path back toward the Academy halls. “You know, it’s going to be awkward making the entire trip back in one large group like this.”

Osetto's Avatar

03.24.2012 , 07:00 PM | #5
Chapter Four: Provisions

The eight acolytes arrived at the quartermaster’s desk at roughly the same time. And it was indeed awkward. Rather than wait around looking like a fool, the Trandoshan pushed past the group, receiving the quartermaster’s attention with his immense size.

“It has items from Lord Syrosk,” Nesk brokenly informed the lulled Human behind the counter. The quartermaster remained silent, slowly passing his dulled gaze over each individual acolyte.

“You belong to Syrosk? All eight of you?” the quartermaster slowly asked. He found his answer with the acolytes’ collective nods. “Hmm. Let’s see…”

The quartermaster drifted off as he ducked beneath the counter slowly retrieving a small handheld datapad.

“Your… master… has provided the following provisions,” the quartermaster said in an even more pacified tone than before, reading from the electronic tablet. “A new place of residence in one of the Saarai suites. A new datapad, containing the access codes to said residence and a redeeming voucher for a personal training saber. Within your quarters, you will find a new set of robes that will serve as your uniform.”

Returning to the depths below the desk, he gathered eight identical, palm-sized datapads, and arranged them on the countertop in four stacks of two.

“Nesk, Vurt. These two are yours,” the quartermaster stated, pointing toward the far stack without peeling his eyes from his personal datapad. The two acolytes quickly snatched the devices and began awkwardly manipulating them with their un-dexterous clawed digits.

“Kar’ai, Ryloh. The next set belongs to you.”

As the next two went to pick up their devices, Nesk could be heard growling at his. The trouble lied in Nesk and Vurt looking at the information regarding their new accommodations. Both datapads displayed the same room number. The couples were officially roommates.

“Explain meaning of thiss!” Nesk snarled.

“I know very little regarding your master’s intentions, but the Saarai suites are very large with multiple beds. To give one to a single occupant would be irresponsible,” the quartermaster stated, in as condescendingly a way possible.

“What’s the matter Nesky? Buyer’s remorse?” Kar’ai joked. As the Rattataki and blue Twi’lek retrieved their datapads, they showed no evidence of dampened spirits by the news.

“Isorr, Arlia. You’re next,” the quartermaster continued. Isorr was keeping his cool, showing neither positive of negative feelings toward the prospect of a roommate. Arlia also showed no change, bearing the same haughty expression as always. Wasting no time, the Zabrak beckoned his companion to follow and they made their way toward the new quarters.

“Jresh, Lorrik. The last two are yours,” the quartermaster stated. Picking up the devices, the duo wasted no time heading for their objective.

“You all are worth nothing! Here’s a bunch of free stuff!” Lorrik said to himself in his best Syrosk impersonation. “Certainly has a strange way of doing things. I mean, usually Overseers use the first day to run their students through the gauntlet, so to speak. Still, can’t wait to see the new accommodations.”

“We should make our way toward the weapons master first,” Jresh calmly stated. “The last thing we want is to be without a weapon after the master has given us all a free day.”

“What? Those six upstanding Sith? You’d think they’d try and establish their dominance this early in the training?” Lorrik asked, oozing with sarcasm.

“The warriors alone are bad enough, but with the inquisitors whispering in their ears…”

“Should I be whispering in your ears?”

“No. Anything that needs to be said to me can be said as such that everyone can hear it,” Jresh plainly stated.

Lorrik cracked a smile. “You’re going to regret saying that.”

The two made their way to the combat wing of the Academy. With the absence of the recruiting warriors, the student occupation levels died down back to normal. There were still duels to be had, but only amongst the riff-raff that warranted little to no observation by their peers. The weapons master operated behind an enclosed desk, much as the quartermaster had, located next to the main combat area for students.

The arena was little more than a large, rectangular room with floor markings designating different sorts dueling rings for acolytes who had requisitioned the space and a training saber from the weapons master. One group managed to catch the eye of the traveling duo, an instructor and a class of ten or so warriors who were currently missing one of their fellows. Two acolytes were battling it out within the borderless ring, while their instructor berated their technique from the sidelines.

As Jresh and Lorrik approached the weapons master’s counter, they noticed a familiar face on the Human tending the Sith armory. Specifically a face resembling the one they had just seen not a few moments ago on the quartermaster. In truth, the two were brothers. Family wasn’t something you saw often under the Sith. Perhaps doctrine never truly covered who was truly qualified to manage the storing and distribution of supplies.

Placing their brand new datapads on the counter, the weapons master looked at the two acolytes in silence, before taking a look at the devices’ screens. A final glance towards the students, and the Human drifted off into the hidden back room. Upon his return, he clutched a training saber in each hand.

Deactivated, the device was little more intricate than a silver and gold metallic pole with a hilt. Closer inspection revealed four thin, rectangular emitters spanning the length of the ‘blade’. When activated, they produced a white glow from the saber’s energy producing ‘edges’. Not hot enough to slice through anything an acolyte might wish to slice through, but the emitters caused enough pain from burns to teach the students the harsh reality of failure. And its material made it a more than capable bludgeoning instrument.

The two acolytes took their weapons and held them in their hands, knowing that for once they were never going to have to return them. A single hook hung out from the saber’s cross-guard, allowing easy attachment to one’s belt. The weapons bonded easily enough with the gray acolyte robes, but the warrior’s cloak was meant for concealing flesh and an actual lightsaber, not a full length blade.

Jresh removed his cumbersome black cloak without hesitance. Only needed for the initial recruitment phase, Syrosk cared not if he wore it after the meeting today. As such, the warrior thought to rid himself of the frivolous garment. He folded the cloak and held it within his arms, looking around for but a moment before setting off. Jresh approached the instructor watching over the dueling students not too far away.

Lorrik was outside of listening distance, but when Jresh returned, cloak-less, he could see the instructor holding up the garment in the distance, promising it to the last duelist standing. Reunited, the similarly dressed pair acolytes could now make their way throughout the Academy without being caught without a weapon.

“Lorrik,” Jresh began with his usual stern tone. The Human acolyte froze in place, unaware what would follow. The Pureblood could not help but raise an eyebrow at his wide-eyed partner. “Will you be okay gathering and moving your possessions to the new quarters?”

“Oh, uh, sure. No problem,” Lorrik stated with surprise. Jresh respectfully bowed his head and made his way toward the warrior quarters to pack his things. For once, Lorrik didn’t have a joke to tell. Rather, he did have one, but made the conscious decision to keep it to himself.

Lorrik made his way back to his personal inlet amongst the inquisitor quarters, and began rummaging through his rather limited possessions. He double checked the loose drawers of his desk and under the bed for any important pieces he may have left there during his previous studies. Nothing of importance except for his fake holocron. Only the contents of the locked footlocker at the end of the bed held anything of significance.

Kneeling in front of his bed, the acolyte punched a code into the container’s electronic keypad. Opening the lid only enough to allow sufficient amounts of light to reveal the locker’s innards, Lorrik quickly examined the container’s interior for any missing materials. A few extra sets of acolyte robes took up half of the container’s space.

The other half was occupied by a large, folding, dual-screened datapad, and a grand assortment of insert-able datacards. Opening the lid just enough, the acolyte tossed the pyramid-shaped paperweight amidst his other belongings. His attention so focus on his possessions, Lorrik did not notice the approach of one of his former inquisitor classmates. He didn’t even notice the subtle tug as his training saber became unhooked from his belt.

“So. Lorrik. I hear you’ve finally become an apprentice. That’s a surprise,” the male inquisitor spoke up, examining the weapon in his hand behind Lorrik’s back.

“Ornell,” Lorrik muttered as he shut the footlocker closed. Looking over his shoulder, Lorrik found the other acolyte leaning against the wall a short distance away, rotating the training saber in his hand. Familiar slicked back blonde hair. Familiar snidely face.

Ornell stood over the kneeling inquisitor, lips curled into a sharp smirk. “What I don’t understand is, why would they just give you a training lightsaber like the rest of us lowly acolytes? And dressed like us too? Tsk tsk.”

“Maybe it’s because I’m still technically an acolyte,” Lorrik state as he lifted himself from the floor. “Maybe it’s because even if I were an apprentice, one doesn’t just obtain their lightsaber in their first three hours. Maybe it’s because in the end it doesn’t come down to weapons and clothes, but knowledge and skill. Now give me back by saber, I must be leaving.” As he spoke, his eyes grew increasingly sharp, and his word increasingly hostile.

“Surely an acolyte of your caliber should be able to take back their saber, I mean you said it yourself right? It doesn’t come down to weapons, only knowledge and skill,” Ornell scornfully stated. “So go ahead. Knowledge and skill your way out of this.”

“I won’t validate your petty jealousies Ornell,” Lorrik countered. “You’ve always been envious of my talent, and now you just can’t handle the fact that my ascension has proven every inkling in the back of your mind that ever said I was better than you.”

“This proves nothing,” Ornell said with a snarl. “Have you heard the rumors of your new master? The Sith Lord from the Great War? Why do you think he’s returned here? Now? To take on students no less? The other Lords constantly question his authority. Some even say the war broke him. A shell of a Sith. Driven insane by his inability to cope with the conflict.”

“Ornell, if your wish is to drive me to anger, you surely must realize that insulting a man I only met hours ago is not the proper procedure,” Lorrik calmly stated.

“Oh, then what about the Pureblood that you seemed inseparable from for such a time?” Ornell asked. “To think an inquisitor sold himself out so easily to one of the brutes of the Academy. Lorrik. Apprentice to a false master. Slave to a mindless warrior.”

Lorrik remained silent for a beat. “That warrior, Jresh, in the few hours I have spent in his company, has already proven himself to be greater than anything our class, or any other class, could possibly muster. He has proven himself. As have I.”

“So you’ve gone soft for the swordsman,” Ornell stated as he readied the training saber in his right hand.

Lorrik stood silently, his head hung low. The other acolyte grew dismayed at the subdued reaction he was only able to get out of Lorrik. A flick of the switch later and the weapon ignited, energy bands lighting up. Ornell readied another insult, but it would not be heard that day.

Blue energy crackled around Lorrik’s right hand, arcing from fingertip to fingertip. Ornell only had time to raise a single eyebrow before the other inquisitor lunged at him. Lorrik’s left hand gripped the ‘blade’ of the training lightsaber. In shock, Ornell did not even notice the other charge straight for his face. Lorrik’s right hand surged forward, gripping the other inquisitor’s mouth and jaws.

Ornell watched with wide eyes as arcane energies crackled beneath his nose. With a surge of light, the lightning transferred from Lorrik’s hand to his enemy’s face. The target’s body convulsed as his eyes rolled to the back of his head. Retracting his hand, Lorrik watched the inquisitor slump to the ground, a gentle stream of smoke drifting outwards from his open maw.

Lorrik looked to his palms, each searing with pain from the separate burns he endured. Gently, he retrieved his saber from his unconscious foe, deactivated it, and carefully reattached it to his belt.

"Not quite Force lightning, but enough to put you in your place,” Lorrik addressed the unconscious inquisitor. “Have a nice nap.”

Lorrik returned to his footlocker and pulled out an extendable handle from the container’s side face. He tried gripping the handle with his saber-burnt hand, but it proved too painful. Gripping it with his Force-burnt hand was only slightly less excruciating, but he would have to endure.

Lifting the locker by the handle, Lorrik activated the micro-repulsors implanted in the container’s base. Allowing for ease of transportation in the absence of wheels, the footlocker’s lower end hovered a few centimeters from the ground. Giving his fallen foe a quick kick, Lorrik was finally ready to make his way toward his new quarters.

Osetto's Avatar

03.25.2012 , 01:22 PM | #6
Chapter Five: Accommodations

Lorrik managed to make his way to the new residence. The Saarai suites were housed in a completely different wing of the Academy than the students had previously studied. In fact it was in a wing the acolytes were rarely permitted to enter. Built since the reclamation of Korriban and its Academy by the true Sith, it was all new architecture featuring the most innovation you could find on the planet outside of the large planetary defense systems installed outside the borders of the school. High ceilings and wide halls replaced cramped pathways.

Cool, dark metals replaced carved stone. Lights of red, purple, and white lined the surfaces that embraced the advent of electronics and technology. Beautiful tile, smooth as the most luxurious starship deck, replaced the lackluster rock that once graced the undersides of the acolytes’ boots.

The biggest difference lied in the area’s general occupants. Instead of droves of gray acolytes, actual Imperial officers on Academy business bustled across the halls. A cloaked figure would emerge from a shadow only to disappear once again in another. The traveling inquisitor actually saw an honest to goodness red energy field blocking a doorway. Dragging his locker full of possessions, taking in the sights, Lorrik finally realized that he had finally moved up. In status and in literal terms. He had to ascend a stairway to find his new quarters.

Lorrik’s journey ended in a hallway possessing doors to rooms that seemed separated by vast amounts of space. He did not even need to look at his datapad to see which room was his, as Jresh leaning against the wall near one of the doors was enough of a hint.

“Is this it?” Lorrik asked, his attention focused on the immense door rather than his patiently waiting companion.

“Correct, I wanted to wait until you were here before venturing in,” Jresh stated.

The inquisitor contemplated what possible reasons his partner could have had for the stay of entrance. The bigger question on his mind, however, dealt with Jresh’s lack of belongings. The only things in his possession were the robes on his back and the training saber at his side.

“Didn’t you pack your things?” Lorrik asked.

The warrior lightly shook his head. “This is the start of a new life. All of my belongings were those of a lowly acolyte, no longer needed. I gave away anything of significance and left everything else where it was.” Removing himself from the wall, Jresh took note the luggage Lorrik had been dragging. “What did you bring?”

“The datapad and info cards I use for recreational study,” Lorrik answered. “Tomes of knowledge. Techniques and practices of various Sith arts. Anything regarding Sith Sorcery that I was able to procure over the years. That and some spare robes to keep things from rattling around in there.”

Jresh offered a quick, singular nod. “Well, I will not fault you for keeping such things.”

Relieved that his partner approved of his belongings, Lorrik approached the door. Stopping just short of the apartment’s control panel, the inquisitor looked at the similar doors further down the hallway.

“These rooms. Do you know if any belong to the other students?” Lorrik asked.

Jresh offered another quick nod. “Yes, I saw the others enter their respective rooms a short while ago. It seems our master has provided us all with adjacent residences. One to our left, and two across from us.”

“Hmm. First thing I’m doing inside ours is checking for air vents,” Lorrik said as he read the door code from his new datapad. The immense door rose into its ceiling recess, revealing the splendorous dwelling that waited behind its boundaries.

The word lavish immediately came to mind. Ornately designed tile and wall panels adorned with fantastically woven rugs and draperies. The entrance opened into a large common room, containing a meditation area and a set of desks. To the left, a kitchen and dining area. To the right, two bedrooms. Lorrik rushed into the main room with excitement, setting his baggage beside one of the desks before storming into each of the rooms. Jresh sauntered into the living room, even he unable to repress his look of surprise.

“Can you believe it? Our own rooms! Within our own quarters! Restrooms that aren’t fifty meters away from the bed!” Lorrik cheered as he dashed from one of the bedrooms.

Maintaining his calm, the warrior patiently surveyed the room, passing his gaze over the various amenities. “We should find everything there is two of, and decide which belongs to whom.”

“Look! A kitchen!” Lorrik shouted, ignoring his partner’s recommendation.

Jresh watched as the inquisitor darted into the quaint kitchen area, an overjoyed expression upon the Human’s face. “Lorrik, please calm yourself.”

“I’m sorry, but we never saw anything like this back in the inquisitors’ hall,” Lorrik stated. His eyes now set towards discovering the chilled mysteries resting within the confines of the kitchen’s conservator, the inquisitor lost his grip on his short-term memory. As Lorrik eagerly clutched the tall icebox’s handle with his right hand, he let out an awful yelp.

“What was that about?” Jresh asked, recovering from the assault that just beset his ears.

Lorrik returned to the main room, clutching his injured hand with his slightly less injured hand. “Minor burns, nothing to worry about.”

Jresh’s eyes widened for a brief moment before settling back to their normal state. “You burned your hand on a conservator? Syrosk has laid quite the devious trap.”

“No. These were from earlier. Had a quick run in with a petty acolyte back in my old quarters. Took my training saber, so I had to use these,” Lorrik explained showing his palms. “Burnt one with the saber, burnt the other with a Force technique.”

“Defended yourself against an armed opponent whilst you yourself were unarmed, did you? Good work,” Jresh offered, the smallest touch of warmth shining through his stoicism. Lorrik could not help but crack a smile. “Now I can forestall the duel I had planned to gauge your abilities.”

Suddenly, Lorrik’s smile faded.

“Are you done shouting yet?” a female’s voice shout from beyond the residence’s walls. It was that of Arlia in the next suite over.

Staring toward the bedrooms, Lorrik began gently scratching his chin. “Walls must be pretty thin if we can hear each other from here. Oh well. At least those two are our neighbors instead of the Lizard and Horn-face.”

“Horn-face isn’t the Zabrak?” Jresh asked.

“No, the Nikto.” Lorrik answered.

The Pureblood offered a subtle arch of his brow. “Perhaps you should put a little more thought into your nicknames, then.”

“Whatever you say, Whiskers,” Lorrik warmly replied . Jresh offered only a vacant stare. “Now you. Think of one for me.”

“I don’t know…”

“It’s okay. I give you permission to make fun of my species.”

“No, I meant that we don’t really resort to calling Humans derogatory names. You’re usually so unremarkable that we just let you belittle yourselves via your actions,” Jresh stated with an eerily positive tone.

“Funny,” Lorrik said, deadpan. “Especially coming from someone whose probably got plenty of Human blood in his ancestry.”

The Pureblood offered a quick shrug. “I am not entirely without humor or humility.”

“Considering we are of the two species that make up the majority of the Imperial populace, a little humility wouldn’t hurt. Well, how about we divide up the amenities?” Lorrik asked, jutting his thumb toward the desks along the back wall. Picking his luggage up from the floor, the inquisitor set it atop the left desk, closest to the kitchen area. “I’ll take this one.”

“Fine by me,” Jresh stated.

“Left desk, so I guess I’ll take the left bedroom as well. Keeps things even,” Lorrik said, pointing to the room closest to the back wall.

As the inquisitor lowered his hand, something caught his eye on the wall between the two bedrooms. An unassuming, yet substantially large, trunk rested on the floor. Twitching his head toward the container, Lorrik beckoned his companion to take a look with him. Containing no lock, all it required was a simple lift of the lid.

And lifted the lid was. A barely audible squeak emanated from Lorrik as he recognized the prizes inside. Robes. New outfits relevant to a new status. The black garments were quickly retrieved and studied by the two acolytes.

For the warrior, black with red trim. For the inquisitor, black with purple trim. By all accounts, the two outfits appeared relatively the same. Tight fitting robes, not dissimilar from his previous uniform, covered the torso and legs. The material, however, was much more resilient, but no less flexible, and utterly capable of conforming to any humanoid shape the Academy would harbor in its students.

The gloves and boots accompanying the robes were a fine departure. Pulled over the underlying garb, the accessories possessed moderate armoring, with disjointed plates providing ample protection. To top it all off, a coat to accentuate the outer layer. It was no cloak, with its sleeves ending at the elbow and tail bottoming out at the knees, but its neck went straight into a familiar hood. The outfit was finished with a sash to serve as the belt, to be used to bind the coat closed if so desired. Every fold or edge of cloth usually came with an adornment of colored trim.

Lorrik laid his new attire out on the floor, lining up the various garments as they would appear in relation to each other. Jresh, meanwhile, simply moves the folded clothes and accessories from the trunk to beside his bedroom entrance. The inquisitor gawked at his laid out attire, mouth agape in astonishment. For the first time, truly speechless. It didn’t last, however.

“He can say we’re not his apprentices yet all he wants, but these are not the clothes of an acolyte,” Lorrik stated. “I’m going to go try them on.”

The inquisitor was about to bend down to collect his new clothes, but suddenly rose as if stuck by realization. Rushing over to his own footlocker, the inquisitor quickly punched in the code to unlock it. Rooting around his belongings, the Human returned a moment later holding a trinket in his hand. The light caught the red pyramid in a such a way to aggrandize its appearance.

“You have a holocron?” Jresh asked, showing the first hint of genuine surprise Lorrik had ever seen from him. The inquisitor was tempted to play a quick game with his companion, but decided it was a time for honesty.

“No, it’s actually just a souvenir I picked up,” Lorrik stated, tapping the trinket’s surface with his finger, eliciting an sharp clink. “But, hey, I was thinking. You remember the task Lord Syrosk gave us?”

“Are you saying that fake holocron is something you hold dear?” Jresh asked.

“Well, it may not be worth anything really, but to me it represents my quest for knowledge. It’s one of the few things I’ve got, so I figure it’d be the best,” Lorrik said, somewhat abashedly.

“I applaud you for picking the object with sentimental value over your properties that possess actual worth,” Jresh stated. “If those datacards contain the types of information I assume they do, don’t let someone take them away from you. Not me. Not anybody.”

“Well considering those are the only things I own, it wasn’t much of a choice,” Lorrik plainly said. The inquisitor tilted his head as a new thought entered it. “Wait a sec. If you left all your belongings behind, you don’t have anything to give me do you?”

The Pureblood remained rigid, stoic, as he gazed upon his inquisitive partner. “I guess not.”

“That was part of the reason you did it, right?” Lorrik asked, seeking to confirm his suspicions.

“Correct. While I have nothing physical to give you, I hope you realize you have my respect and trust for the time being,” Jresh stated. “As for the task, I have nothing to give you, so you will have nothing to present to our master, and that is how it will have to be.”

“Now that you think about it, Sith training and all, that’s probably the way to go about it,” Lorrik said, looking dearly at the holocron in his hand. After a deep breath, the inquisitor tossed the trinket to his partner. “Oh well. At least this way, one of us will be correct. If one half of the team must succeed, it may as well be you.”

As the room fell quiet, Lorrik gathered his belongings and relocated to his new bedroom. Jresh stood in silence for but a moment before retreated to his bedroom as well, new robes in tow. Passing though the automatic door, the warrior partially understood the excitement Lorrik possessed. The room was a thing of luxury, at least for anyone who had spent numerous years as a lowly acolyte. A full-sized bed, covered with ornately designed sheets, softer than anything the warrior had ever touched in his recent life.

To the left of the room’s entrance, a closet nearly stretching the entirety of the wall’s length. To the right, the chamber’s private bathroom, containing a tub, toilet, and additional standing-glass shower. The black tiles, wall panels, and equipment of the room further served the quarter’s darkened aesthetic. Placing his new set of robes in the proper recess, Jresh returned to the suite’s main room.

In the center of the common room, the open area between the wall near the entrance and the far wall occupied by desks, there rest a single circular rug. Magnificent in size and decoration, the dark mat bore countless Sith sigils and patterns in bright red. Standing in its center, Jresh couldn’t help but feel odd. It prompted equal parts peace and chaos. Provoked and invoked thought.

Now kneeling, the warrior unhooked the training saber from his belt and laid it in front of him. After a pause, he also placed the gifted holocron before him as well. On his knees, Jresh neatly folded his hands upon his lap and closed his eyes. Ignoring what sounded like a faucet from Lorrik’s room, the Pureblood became rapt in meditation. Time slowed in the meditator’s mind and his surroundings washed away. Alone, in an empty realm, Jresh was at peace.

After a quick shower, Lorrik felt the cleanest he had been in quite some time. Rejuvenated, the inquisitor promptly began dressing himself with his new robes. More complex that he had originally foreseen, the entire process proved to be rather time consuming, but Lorrik would not stop until his clothes were perfectly set.

The underlying robes felt awkward as the inquisitor adorned them using the same technique as his regular acolyte robes. Realizing different folds in different directions were needed, he eventually reached a point where they felt flawless. Next came the coat. No buttons or fasteners meant it had to be worn completely open, or secured by the provided sash. Coat on, hood up, and belt applied. The opening on the coat appeared as an upside-down teardrop, with the interior trim rounding around the wearer’s face and tapering toward a point behind the sash, beneath which the coat continued to the knees.

The gloves and boots possessed the most weight to them. The material was thick, but not thick enough to inherently limit the wearer’s dexterity. The back of the hand was protected by a black armored plate covering the area between the knuckles and the wrist. The glove continued close to the elbow, where belted fasteners on the forearm could secure the loose material, keeping the gloves from slipping off.

The boots slipped on easily enough, becoming snug only after the attached buckles were manipulated to remove the slack. More plates covered the boots’ toes and shins. The shin guards extended past the actual boot material, protecting the wearer’s knees. Suited up, the inquisitor moved awkwardly as he got used to the additional weight at the end of his limbs.

“What do you think?” Lorrik asked, emerging from his quarters. As the inquisitor awaited a response, he saw his kneeling companion take a deep breath. In front of the meditating Sith, a training sabre hovered completely vertical, with an upside down holocron balancing on the upper tip. Slowly opening his eyes, the warrior brought the floating objects to a rest on the ground before him.

When Jresh finally turned toward his companion, he could see him frozen in front of the doorway, striking a pose. The inquisitor was turned to his side, with hands raised like claws, mentally prepared to unleash a torrent of Force energy.

Jresh slowly looked up and down his partner’s posed figure. “’What do I think?’ You are definitely going to have to be more specific.”

Osetto's Avatar

03.25.2012 , 07:48 PM | #7
Chapter Six: Tests

Day two of training. Korriban. Exterior. Midday. Just as hot as the day before. Once more the eight students of Lord Syrosk found themselves upon one of Korriban’s local peaks. This time however, they each wore the robes that had been gifted to them, with their training sabers at their sides. Four warriors in black and red. Four inquisitors in black and purple.

Going from one set of uniforms to two only took several years, but the students were optimistic that apprenticeship would spell an even greater increase in individuality. Though it was hard for one of the students to not stand out from his peers. The relatively one-size-fits-all uniforms apparently didn’t for the Trandoshan. Sans boots and gloves entirely, sleeves rolled up, and his outer coat worn completely open, his clothing possessed equal parts too loose and too tight.

The eight students stood side by side in the same formation and order as the day before. This time, however, they waited facing forward, toward the cliff’s edge hoping to catch their master’s arrival should he use the same technique as the day before.

“You know, now that you mention it, the black clothes and hood don’t seem much hotter than the regular acolyte robes,” Lorrik stated, once again breaking the silence. “I guess it has to do with frame of mind more than anything. Or maybe the materials-”

“Not this again,” Jresh muttered.

“Honestly, there are Academy instructors who talk less than you,” Arlia said with a hint of animosity. Lorrik leaned forward to issue a harsh squint at his verbal attacker, prompting a grin from the haughty Twi’lek. “If you think staring at me is going to accomplish anything… well, you wouldn’t be the first, but you’d be just as wrong.”

“There’s a different between the idle gawkers disrobing you with their eyes and someone staring down his opponent,” Lorrik stated, still leaning forward.

“If you think you can affect my well-being with a harsh gaze, you’ve been sorely misled,” Arlia taunted.

Lorrik let out a light chuckle before returning to his regular standing position. “Give it time.”

“Time,” a raspy voice arose from behind the students, “is not something that should be readily given.”

Turning around, the acolytes discovered the Sith Lord standing only a few meters away. Once again he had managed to approach the mountain peak in silence.

“No… no… go back to the way you were facing,” Syrosk said as he circumvented the lineup of students. The acolytes complied, but at a slow enough pace that they could still watch their master’s every move around them.

The Sith Lord wore the same suit of armor beset by a heavy cloak as the day before. His hands folded behind his back, hidden beneath his sleeves, Syrosk slowly sauntered in front of the students before coming to a stop toward their median. His eyes drifted from acolyte to acolyte, as if studying them.

“Let’s see, since we started on the left last time,” Syrosk began, “it only makes sense that, today, we start on the left side again.”

The students were having trouble in masking their confusion regarding their new master’s eccentricities.

“Your task was to give your companion something of importance, and bring your received items here,” Syrosk stated as he made his way toward the edge of the lineup.

Once again he found himself in front of Kar’ai. Without words, the Sith Lord prompted the Rattataki to present her item. As the first to proceed, she was not entirely sure what the Lord was expecting, but her pride would not permit her to ask questions of him. Instead, she retrieved a simple silver locket from her pocket and placed in her raised palms for her master’s scrutiny whilst her head lay bowed. The size and shape of a large coin, though much thicker, the locket sans chain opened to reveal a portrait of Ryloh. The Sith Lord leaned forward slightly to examine the piece, but not actually touch it.

“Hmm, a locket bearing your partner’s image. Shows a genuine amount of care for the gift recipient, while also managing to keep the item fundamentally about the gift giver. Selfishly selfless,” Syrosk rasped. “Material and roughly cut photograph suggest it was a spur of the moment creation in response to the task given, not something held on to for years. Still, a picture in lieu of hologram indicates a taste for antiquity… or frugality. Overall, a fine sentiment.”

The Sith Lord paused as he waited from the acolyte to raise her head.

“Now destroy it,” Syrosk said.

The acolyte dared not question her master, but she couldn’t help but pass a glance toward Ryloh. Understandingly, the blue Twi’lek signaled for her to proceed. With a nod of her own, Kar’ai held the locket in her enclosed hand, audibly bending metal and shattering glass as she tightened her grip. As she relaxed her clutch, only a twisted bit of scrap lay in her palm. It was enough to earn an approving nod from her master.

Taking a step sideward, the Sith Lord found himself in front of the light blue Twi’lek, who was trying his hardest to keep a stern visage in light of what had just transpired. Syrosk produced the same silent glare as before, signaling for Ryloh to make his presentation. He followed his companion’s actions, retrieving a red ribbon from his pocket and laying it in the flat of his palm.

“Hmm, now this is different. A Korriban Academy Acclamation Ribbon. Rewarded to Kar’ai Tjensi for excellence in swordsmanship. Obtained during one of the annual tourneys by the instructors of your classrooms. Something that cannot simply be made, but must be earned. A declaration of skill to all who see it,” Syrosk evaluated. “As such, by giving it to your companion, you have proven yourself beyond keeping such petty qualifiers, yet each time your partner looks at it they will be reminded of your skill.”

Once more the Sith Lord paused.

“Now destroy it.”

Ryloh promptly ripped the ribbon into several thin strips before releasing them into the wind. With a nod, the Sith Lord continued down the line. One after another the acolytes would present their items, and the Sith Lord would analyze what it meant for the contributor and the recipient. Then promptly tell them to destroy it.

The Trandoshan smashed Vurt’s music box beneath his clawed foot. The Nikto snapped Nesk’s fang necklace, a prized hunting trophy. The Zabrak crushed Arlia’s ampoule of Ryll, a type of spice mined from her species’ homeworld. The violet Twi’lek held Isorr’s procured Sith Medallion, an archaic form of entry into the Korriban Academy, in her hand. Unable to break the medal with her bare hands, she decided that throwing the trinket over the nearby cliff would suffice.

“If that lands on anything important, you are taking responsibility,” Syrosk stated in his usual raspy tone, before moving on to the Pureblood.

Jresh followed the standard procedure, placing his companion’s holocron in his hand, ready for the master’s examination. Of peculiar note was the fact that this was the first item the Sith Lord felt the need to examine with his hands. Having manipulated it in silence, the horned alien ended his inspection with a ghastly chuckle before returning it to Jresh.

“It is a useless trinket of no significant monetary worth,” Jresh stated, offering his own analysis before the Sith Lord could offer his. “However, it does symbolize my partner’s ideals and motives regarding his quest for knowledge. It is the guiding principle of Lorrik’s continued studies at this Academy, and by giving it to me, he trusts me with a glimpse into his prolonged intentions and the inner machination of his psyche.”

A heavy silence fell across the mountain peak as the winds themselves stopped blowing.

“Hmm, not what I would have said, but that will suffice. You did leave off a bit at the end, however,” Syrosk rasped. “Shall I say it, or-”

Jresh clenched his gloved fist before the Sith Lord could finish, collapsing the hollow trinket onto itself. Syrosk let out another grisly chortle as he approached the last acolyte. One final silent look, as Lorrik was ordered to offer his item. He complied by showing his empty palms.

“You’ll have to forgive an old man’s eyesight, but I do believe your hands are empty acolyte.”

“Exactly,” Lorrik stated.

“Did your companion deem you not worthy of his possessions?” Syrosk asked in a rather accusatory tone.

“Not at all,” Lorrik stated. “It’s just that he had no possessions to give. He gave away his belongings, signaling the beginning of a new life under the training of a new master.”

“Oh? Did he give them away before or after I gave you this task?” Syrosk asked.

“Afterwards,” Lorrik answered with slight hesitance.

The Sith Lord persisted. “He could not save even the tiniest of items for you? He wanted to start his new life, but not have you be a single part of it? He had all day to procure something in his ‘new life’ to give you.”

The Human’s head dipped. “It’s not like that.”

“It’s not?” Syrosk asked.

“He didn’t give me anything physical, but he did give me his respect and his trust. It is the intangible that proves the lasting bonds of a partnership. You cannot simply order me to destroy respect or trust,” Lorrik firmly stated.

“You would not believe how wrong that statement is,” Syrosk quietly rasped. “And what of respect? Is it truly as effective a measure of connectivity as you presume?”

“It must be earned.”

“But how easily is it earned? I respect the Emperor. I respect the Jedi Grand Master. I respect my students,” Syrosk listed. “It is but the lowest indicator of having proved oneself.”

“Even so, trust is not as easily attainable.”

“How so? I’m sure you promised not to stab him in the back, and now he trusts you. Simple as that. Whatever he may have told you, it matters not. What you hold in your hands does represent something your partner has given you, that much is true. However, it is not trust, or respect. It is evidence, of the selfishness and the willingness to permit you no power in holding anything he could possible find attachment to.”

The inquisitor’s nostrils flared. “That’s not true.”

“It is true,” Jresh spoke up. Confusion dwelled beneath the outermost layer of Lorrik’s visage. Taking a few steps sideward, the Sith Lord once again found himself in front of the Pureblood. The horned alien’s piercing eyes pleaded for the acolyte to continue. “To give my partner an item of significant worth would have given him control over a part of me. If I am going to advance as a Sith I cannot allow such weakness to influence me.”

“That, is the correct answer,” Syrosk expectantly said with an expression only slightly resembling a smile. “As Sith, we are taught that allowing ourselves to controlled and manipulated will prohibit the attainment of power that will inevitably allow us to control and manipulate the unworthy. However…”

The Sith Lord’s half-smile quickly faded.

“The correct answer in not always the right answer. Or rather, it is not the best possible answer.”

Jresh’s eyes sharpened as he digested his master’s words. Uncertainty persisted not only in the warrior, but in his partner as well. Syrosk continually glanced between the two acolytes in front of him. Only the soft whispers of the Korriban winds could be heard, softly knocking at the acolytes’ ankles with the drifting sands carried therein.

The Sith Lord turned his back to the pair, longingly staring at the cliff’s edge. “The task I gave you was a direct order, from master to student. From judge to contender. As an acolyte it is your duty to follow through with it. Even if it makes you hurt. Even if it makes you yearn. Even if it makes you weak. If you have the nerve to stand up for yourself, to disobey me, you had better possess the will to directly oppose me. Maybe someday, as an apprentice, I will allow you to provide insights and objections. For now however, you are far too weak to possibly challenge me or influence my decisions.“

The Sith Lord turned around to directly address his student.

“You were true to the Sith way of life. Good,” Syrosk rasped. “You disobeyed a direct order from your master. Bad. However, by doing so you showed true strength. Good. However, by doing so you took away my chance at destroying something precious to you. Bad.”

The Sith Lord then directed his attention toward Lorrik.

“Not to mention, poor Lorrik was the only acolyte who didn’t get the chance to crush something of his partner’s.”

Before the inquisitor could reply, Syrosk raised a single gauntleted hand, ordering silence.

“If you would be so kind, could you unhook your saber Lorrik?” Syrosk not so much asked, but insisted. The inquisitor complied, though with substantial hesitance. The Sith Lord stared down the acolyte as he held the training saber loosely in his hand. “Jresh has proven that the thing he values greatest is himself. Therefore for the purposes of the previously issued task, his body will act as a substitute for his given item.”

A deep shiver ran down the inquisitor’ spine, almost making him drop his weapon.

“If the others could take a few steps back,” Syrosk requested, shooing the other six acolytes away. They promptly complied. “Now, take your saber, and strike your partner with the same conviction the others had in completing their task.”

Lorrik stood, unmoving, in a daze, unsure of how to proceed.

“Lorrik, this is a punishment for not following an order. Are you telling me that you too are going to disobey me? The alternative is me enacting the punishment myself.”

With those words, Lorrik had no choice but to step forward. Turning to his right, he locked eyes with the warrior for but a second. Jresh took a deep breath and closed his eyes, having accepted his fate. Holding the inactive training saber with two hands, Lorrik followed his companions lead before letting lose a swing toward the Pureblood’s chest. The strike connected. But lacked even sufficient force to cause Jresh to shift from his spot in the slightest.

“Now, now, that’ll never work,” Syrosk stated, shaking his head. “You are right handed, are you not? Your swing should have more impact from the other side. Try again.”

His head lowered, Lorrik relocated to Jresh’s right side. Eyes still shut, the warrior waited patiently for the next blow. Another swing, this time strong enough to force Jresh to take a single step back. Looking to his master, Lorrik saw the Sith Lord baring a displeased expression.

“If you are too weak to leave a proper impression ,you could always activate the saber’s energy array,” Syrosk coldly offered.

Emotions began to rise from the bottom of the inquisitor’s heart. Anger. Rage. Fury. At his master. At his companion. At himself. Not even thinking, Lorrik swung once more with passion, letting out a righteous battle cry. The saber came into contact hard with Jresh’s shoulder and chest, forcing the warrior to take a knee.

“Good. Good,” Syrosk said.

Lorrik bent down to render aid to his partner, but Jresh brushed the inquisitor away. Re-hooking his saber to his belt, Lorrik couldn’t help but notice the other acolytes silently whispering amongst themselves a short distance away.

“Oh? I ask my students to take a few steps back and suddenly they think they think the lesson is over,” Syrosk rasped as he peered toward the uncouth gathering.

Without hesitation, any slack in the other acolytes’ postures was immediately remedied as the students stood once more at full attention. His master’s attention elsewhere, Lorrik offered a hand of assistance to his partially felled companion. Jresh merely batted the hand away once more as he arose of his own accord. The warrior’s piercing eyes seemed to lash out at the surrounding scenery, but they harbored no ill intentions toward the progenitor of his wounds, instead bearing a sense of intense determination.

Standing once more, Jresh brushed the dust from his knee and ventured toward the gathering of students. Lorrik remained frozen in place, until the warrior beckoned him to follow with a subtle wave. The inquisitor heeded his companion’s call, but certainly lacked the exuberant presence that was his norm. Once more, the Sith Lord and his students were all together, ready to continue.

“Day one was special,” Syrosk stated. “From here on out we will train. Day in. Day out. Even during your spare time, your bodies, minds, and skills will be put to the test, whether you all know it or not. Regarding your first test, I now possess first-hand knowledge of how each and every one of you thinks. Now, the time has come for you to prove yourselves to me in combat.”

Osetto's Avatar

03.26.2012 , 04:16 PM | #8
Chapter Seven: Duelists

Sweeter words could not have been spoken for some of the acolytes. Smiles even graced the faces of the more combative students, relishing the fact that they could prove themselves in a fight rather than with arbitrary mind games. Jresh managed to preserve his stern expression through the news and his injuries. Lorrik meanwhile, was less than thrilled at the entire prospect.

“I suppose, as this is the first of many times you shall fight in my presence, I should keep this first trial simple,” Syrosk stated. “A series of duels. warrior versus warrior. inquisitor versus inquisitor. Repeat. Now, since you managed to break up the convenient line formation you had going earlier, I am without a suitable form of deciding who should go first. I suppose volunteering would be-”

“I volunteer to go first, my Lord,” Kar’ai enthusiastically interrupted.

“I suppose volunteering would be the best way to proceed,” Syrosk repeated, managing to finish this time. The Sith Lord stared at the Rattataki warrior with an extremely dull expression.

“Oh, it would appear we have our first volunteer,” Syrosk stated, oozing with faux excitement. “Would anyone else like to-”

“I will face her!” Nesk snarled. After a pause, the Sith Lord released the heaviest of sighs towards the Trandoshan.

“Very well, we have our first set of combatants,” Syrosk said in a rather unenthusiastic tone. “Allow me to set forth some rules. Not just for this duel. But for your continued tutelage under myself.”

“Number one: Do not attempt to kill your opponent in my presence. I possess a very precise set of methods that will transform you all into worthy Sith, but it requires patience and the continued existence of your peers to bring out your true potential for the time being. That being said, outside of my presence, Academy rules still hold true… so be prepared to defend yourself to your last breath at all times.”

“Number two: Do not deviate from the rule sets I put forth during any and all trials. I have designed the tasks I assign with the utmost meticulousness. To break free from the confines I provide is to incur my wrath. But that rule was sufficiently explained mere moments ago was it not?”

“Number three: Do. Not. Inter. Rupt. Me. When. I. Am. Talking. Do. I. Make. My. Self. Clear?”

The petrified students could barely nod in agreement, but they did so as if their lives depended on it, because is all fairness, it very well could have.

“Simple enough, yes? Now, I believe there was word of two volunteers. Step forward.”

Kar’ai and Nesk shared a combative glance as they removed themselves from the crowd of acolytes.

“The rest of you, remain silent and watch the proceeding fights very carefully. On one hand, you just might learn something yourselves. On the other, I don’t want to be distracted by petty sideline banter. Understood?”

Once more, the students answered with a quick nod.

Syrosk walked toward the center of what appeared to be the remnants of a ring carved into the flat mountaintop. The dueling warriors began to follow him, but were motioned to stay put towards the circle’s edge. In his intended position, the Sith Lord took a deep breath as he focused his energies.

With an exhale, and the quick jut of a hand, an invisible energy radiated from the horned alien’s body. Like a violent yet perfectly oriented wind, the shockwave blew away all traces of overlaying dust that had nearly concealed the markings of the ancient arena.

“Before you, rests an ancient Sith dueling circle,” Syrosk stated. “Small enough to always keep you but a short distance away from your death. Large enough to accommodate even the most agile and acrobatic of combatants. The petty rings you may have used to duel within the halls of the Academy were nothing compared to the wonder you see before you. These shallow carvings have endured thousands of years of natural erosion. Endured the various planetary occupations and desertions. It is as much an artifact as any weapon or trinket held by a Dark Lord of the Sith. It demands your sacrifice. Your blood. Your pain. Your life. Therefore, in order to prove yourselves as my students, you must possess at least what little power is required to disregard the demands of stone.”

With no more words to give, the Sith Lord summoned forth the two dueling warriors. They were directed to opposing edges of the ring, twenty meters apart. The two combatants simultaneously adopted their unique battle stances as they activated their training sabers. Nesk stood tall, holding his weapon at his side, pointed toward the ground. Kar’ai gripped her weapon with two hands, its tip pointing toward the sky, legs slightly bent as she readied herself to pounce.

“Why so eager to face me, Nesk?” Kar’ai asked, a confident grin gracing her lips.

“Settling its argument from yesterday,” Nesk answered.

“There was an argument? All I remember is you refusing to admit I was the better duelist,” Kar’ai toyed.

“It lacked proof!” Nesk snarled.

“Well, the torn ribbon that’s probably resting at the bottom of the mountain right now was a good indicator,” Kar’ai smugly replied.

“Not fair! Was dissqualified from tourney!” Nesk shouted.

“I’m sure you’ll come up with just as good an excuse for when you lose this duel,” Kar’ai stated. The primal glare Nesk had directed toward his opponent reached its peak. The match was about to begin, regardless of their master’s position between them.

Syrosk raised a hand, prompting the students to hold whilst he exited the ring. Once beyond the boundaries of the circle, the Sith Lord cut the air with his falling hand, signaling the warriors to begin. The signal did not go unheeded, as Kar’ai rushed toward her unmoving opponent. Only at the last moment did Nesk bother raising his saber. The Trandoshan’s own physical strength was more than capable of permitting the effortless blocking of the initial strike. The colossal warrior stood less of a chance, however, in countering the Rattataki’s blistering speed.

Utilizing the push back from her opponent’s blade, Kar’ai maneuvered toward Nesk’s flank. The follow-up backhand swing of her training saber was only barely defended against by the Trandoshan. Weapons crossed, Nesk let out a forceful snarl as he shoved the other warrior away. Pushed back, Kar’ai now found herself on the defense. Unable to block Nesk’s bold attacks with physical strength alone, she relief on utilizing her greater maneuverability.

The Trandoshan lashed out continuously with erratic attacks, fury the driving force behind each strike. Nearing the edge of the dueling ring, Kar’ai was forced to directly block one of her opponents powerful strikes. With a downward swing, Nesk was able to bring the Rattataki to her knee as their sabers clashed. Locked together, Kar’ai was barely able to roll to the side as her opponent’s clawed foot raced toward her.

The two warriors continued their bout with fairly predictable form. Their techniques were honed by the years of study and practice they had received at the Academy, but certainly lacking in refinement. Nesk relied on strength and endurance. Kar’ai, on dexterity and agility. The other students watched in awe as the talented contenders went on for minutes, neither seemingly holding an advantage over the other. The fighters themselves seemed to be reveling in the match themselves as passionate expressions graced their uncloaked faces. Their master watched patiently, noting every movement partaken by his students.

There was a lull in the conflict as the combatants found a widening gap of a few meters between them. Utilizing this space, Kar’ai leapt at her opponent intending on bringing her saber down with the mightiest of strikes. The other students could have sworn the ground itself shook when the two sabers connected. As if floating, the Rattataki had no footing to dodge Nesk’s twist of the blade, driving his saber’s handle into her face. The blow to the cheek connected with enough force to send the female warrior tumbling to the ground, putting an end to her acrobatic grace.

Nesk looked to his master, who’s expression bared no desire for the warriors to cease their match. With a nod, the lumbering Trandoshan approached the felled Rattataki. A sweeping leg from the fallen Kar’ai attempted to trip the warrior by her feet, but was unable to budge the firmly planted Trandoshan. Instead, Nesk ignored the trivial kick to his lower leg, gripping the Rattataki by her throat with his clawed hand. With his right hand holding his saber at his side, Nesk raised his opponent into the air with his left. Kar’ai’s weapon fell from her hand as she struggled to breath whilst hoisted in the air.

“Is it finished? Not impressed,” Nesk snarled.

Whilst gasping for air, sparse words seemed to emanate from the Rattataki’s lips.

“Oh? It tries to speak?” Nesk asked, slightly shifting his grip.

“I said… just needed… reach,” Kar’ai managed to mutter. Suddenly the Rattataki’s left leg stretched toward the sky. Nesk was only able to look up for but a moment before Kar’ai brought her heel down, smashing in the Trandoshan’s snout. Dazed, Nesk fell forward, releasing his grip on Kar’ai. Her opponent now lying face down in the dusty surface below, she promptly retrieved her training saber from where it fell. The Trandoshan could not recover in time to avoid the ignited weapon’s tip hovering only a short distance from the back of his neck.

From the sidelines, Syrosk initiated a round of slow applause for the warriors. With the Sith Lord’s normally sluggish movements, the students were not entirely sure whether his clapping was genuine or bordering on facetious. The horned alien bid the two combatants to rise and relax at their leisure.

“Well done my students,” Syrosk offered as the two warriors shuffled back toward the group. Ryloh seemed absolutely thrilled at his partner’s apparent victory. Complimentary remarks oozed from his lips as he affirmed his companion. Lorrik couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the positive display. Meanwhile, Vurt watched his partner’s return with the same permanently cold expression he always bore.

“Kar’ai,” Syrosk began, directing his full attention toward the Rattataki. “You were both the initiator and the concluder. You began strong and fast, and refused to let your opponents physical superiority deteriorate your flow. The embodiment of aggression. You show skill in a style of combat that would quickly drain others, but like all things, there is room for improvement. In your haste, and your reliance on acrobatics, you must ensure that you are never not in control of the situation. You must command your body in its entirety, whether it is on the ground, or in the air. Do not ‘jump at’ your opponent, for you can be stopped. Rather, aim to ‘jump through’ your opponent.”

“Nesk,” Syrosk continued, changing his focus to the Trandoshan still clutching his nose. “Though lacking the raw movement shown by your opponent, you fought with just as much energy. Bold and direct, yet equally chaotic. Though slow, you made up for it with powerful blows and a penchant for unpredictable behavior. The embodiment of ferocity. You draw upon an infinitely renewable emotional fuel to empower your attacks. That is where your greatest strength lies. But it is also your greatest limiter until you can master it. You must draw from your internal emotions. When you scream and shout on the battlefield, you are letting your true power slip away from you. The pressure inside of you lessens, preventing you from reaching your true potential. Your fury is your own. Let your opponent not see it in your face, but in your blade.”

“Overall, an adequate show from the warriors,” Syrosk continued, scanning the group from side to side. “Let us see how the inquisitors do. Would the partners of the two previous combatants please step forward.”

Vurt promptly left the side of his companion with his head held high. Ryloh was less than enthused. The two had seen each other fight for the favor of the warriors back at the Academy, leading to some predetermined estimation when it came the each other’s skill. The Twi'lek saw the Nikto shatter a student’s leg just the other day. The hesitance could be seen in Ryloh’s shuffle toward the dueling circle.

The two acolytes found themselves opposite each other, drawing their training saber’s at their master’s behest. The golden energy bands crackled as the sabers activated, eliciting a hum that would replace that of the passing winds. Syrosk raised a hand into the air, prompting the students to ready themselves for the ensuing battle.

Osetto's Avatar

03.26.2012 , 09:57 PM | #9
Chapter Eight: Clashes

The two inquisitors readied themselves in silence. No words. No taunts. No insults. Only the shuffling of material as the acolytes awaited the dropping of their master’s hand. Vurt adopted a low guard, his weapon held in his right hand. Ryloh kept his feet firmly planted below him, saber held high with both hands.

The two mirrored the positions of the warriors who came before them, though with a veneer of overbearing calm instead of the ferocity that came beforehand. Both stood unmoving, in regards to Vurt’s lack of emotion, and Ryloh’s lack of wanting to move from his spot.

“Begin,” Syrosk called out, dropping his raised hand. By appearances, it could have seemed that neither of the combatants had heard their master. But in truth, this match would be vastly different from the once preceding it. The two acolytes watched each other, examining every minute movement and technique.

Slowly, the inquisitors began their approach toward the center of the ring. Step after step was taken in moderation. Once finally together, Ryloh was the first to strike out. A wide diagonal slash came down upon his opponent, but was promptly deflected. The move’s intention was not to harm, but to gauge the opponent. Vurt was known to be as close to a true duelists as an inquisitor could get, and his actions did nothing to dissuade the notion in Ryloh’s mind.

The duel continued like this for quite some time. One would let out an attack and the other would defend, each never breaking eye contact. Eventually the pace would increase, bit by bit, until the match had escalated to its peak. Attack and counterattack would transpire within a period of a single second, only to be followed by a new set the second after.

Ryloh utilized long, flowing arc movements. Vurt utilized short, precise actions. Both acted and responded with utmost fluidity. The two circled each other, never moving more than a few meters from the ring’s center.

To the untrained eye, it appeared that the acolytes had reached a stalemate, but any true saber duelist could see Vurt had the advantage, which he was pressing at every opportune moment.

This advantage seemed to have run its course however, when Ryloh found the perfect moment to strike. After an attack, the Nikto had left the hand gripping his saber completely exposed. The Twi’lek knew the duel would be over if he could just damage his opponents dominant hand.

Unfortunately, Vurt was aware of this fact as well. In fact, he was even aware that Ryloh aware of this fact. It was all a feint by the Nikto, driving his opponent toward an apparent weak point. Ryloh’s training saber was able to contact the other inquisitor’s hand, however without proper footing, he was forced to rely on the blade’s energy field to do the majority of the damage. And as Vurt expected, the blade did little more than leave a dark scorch mark on the surface of the reinforced gauntlet.

Vurt, however, was able to do much more than leave a surface mark as he responded with a proper upswing toward the Twi’lek’s torso. Possessing more than enough power behind his swing, the Nikto was able to drive his blow past the layered robes covering his opponents body. Ryloh was forced to endure a pain much like Jresh had endured earlier, only this time complimented by the searing energy of the activated training saber. Ryloh’s saber fell to the ground as he was forced to clutch his wounded stomach and chest.

“Looks like I’ll be sending up replacement robes sooner than expected,” Syrosk rasped. Vurt had already begun his silent approach back toward the group, without any signal from his master, but the Sith Lord offered no objections. The victor of the match was clear.

Ryloh managed to bring himself to his feet, a diagonal line burnt into his torso, past the robes and onto his once blueish skin. He retrieved his weapon and returned to the side of his companion, attempting to withhold any expressions of pain or anguish. Though disappointed in his defeat, Kar’ai couldn’t help but respect her partner’s display of skill and endurance. Meanwhile, Vurt merely shot a glance toward his partner, bearing heavy notions of ‘that is how you do it’.

“Vurt,” Syrosk began, directing himself toward the impersonal acolyte. “You showed great promise in your skills with a saber. On par with, and perhaps even surpassing, the talents of some of the warriors. A proper offense. A proper defense. A proper duelist. What might appear as hesitance was merely a matter of judging your opponent and reacting appropriately. You were one with your weapon, holding it near the blade, ensuring you would sooner lose your entire hand rather than let go of your saber. Living for the fight. The embodiment of contention. However, your reliance on your saber skills will eventually betray you. There will always be a stronger foe. There will be attacks you cannot defend and guards you cannot pierce. As an inquisitor, it is your duty to never rely on a single font of power.”

“Ryloh,” Syrosk continued, directing his attention toward the wounded, but upright, acolyte. “You failed. And yet, you succeeded. We saw it in the beginning didn’t we? Any experienced Force-user should have. You were no match for your opponent to begin with. It was not a question of would you win, but how long would the duel last? And you did not disappoint. You fought whilst outmatched. You studied your opponents techniques. You continued. The embodiment of determination. I have seen your kind. The watcher. Never the first to strike without already being five steps ahead. Planning. Reacting. You possess a skill and technique with a saber that one would expect of any initiate given any set of proper training. The basics strikes and flourishes every student of the Academy learns, but you have refined them to a point resembling an actual fighting style. Be warned, however. All the planning in the world will not save you from defeat at the hands of someone wielding raw power.”

“A fine display from the two pairs. Then again it was to be expected. I know of the warriors’ backgrounds and the measures which they used to select their partners. A lackluster performance from you four would have nullified any excuse for your continued existence.” There was a pause as the Sith Lord studied his students for a moment. “Let us see how the warriors who fancy themselves ‘thinkers’ handle themselves in combat. Isorr. Jresh. You two are up.”

As the Zabrak made his way toward the circle, Lorrik noticed that his partner was still in pain. Without thinking, the inquisitor took a step forward, ready to unleash a comment, but was cut short by the hand of Jresh resting upon his shoulder. With a turn, Lorrik saw his companion subtly shaking his head.

“If you are hoping to delay my match in the hopes that I have more time to recover, you needn’t bother,” Jresh calmly said. “It matters not if I go into battle sooner rather than later. The damage has been done. Show that you respect me enough to allow me to fight for myself this one time.”

Lorrik responded with a dutiful nod. With that, the Pureblood flexed his shoulders before continuing toward the arena. Jresh’s stride yielded no overt signs of injury, but Lorrik knew he was not operating at peak performance. But the warrior would hear none of it. The two warriors faced off in the ring as the others did before them. In silence, they ignited their weapons.

Jresh gripped his saber tightly with both hands even with his eye line, angling the blade back as if ready to deal a crushing blow on any who would dare to take advantage of his wounded torso. Isorr stance countered his opponent, opting to keep a low two-handed guard in front of himself. Syrosk examined the two’s more subtle movements before finally calling for the match to begin.

The warriors closed in on each other, awaiting the inevitable confrontation in the center of the ring. They simultaneously struck out, Jresh bringing down his saber like an avalanche and Isorr sweeping upwards like a powerful gust. When the two connected, it brought about one of the greatest clashes the dueling circle had recently experienced. But instead of an explosive outburst, the connection brought stillness. For even the dust and the wind refused to budge until one of the warriors removed their weapon from the lock.

Jresh was the first to step back, adopting a defensive stance as Isorr pressed forward. The Pureblood blocked blow after blow, waiting for the perfect opportunity to parry and go on the offensive. But no such opportunity came. Even with his superior strength, the ache developing in his shoulder prevented Jresh from successfully overpowering his opponent. Instead, the defender steeled his defenses, reserving his energies.

Rather than continue a relentless assault, Isorr took a leap back. Seeing an opportunity, Jresh pressed forward with an attack. Unfortunately, the Zabrak did the same, only with a Force-assisted dash. This time, when the sabers connected, Isorr’s blow had enough power to drive past Jresh’s guard. While his own weapon may not have landed a blow, he did succeed in driving the Pureblood’s weapon against its wielder, and straight into his wounded shoulder. Before Jresh could properly recover, Isorr sought to capitalize on the situation with a downward swing.

His saber lowered due to his wound, Jresh could not provide a proper counter. So an improper one would have to suffice. Using his well-protected hand, he opted to swat his opponents saber to the side with his left gauntlet. His right fist followed with a blow to Isorr face, not bothering to waste time with a swing of the blade. The Zabrak spun away from his opponent after the hit. Using his free hand, Isorr thrust his open palm downward, telekinetically causing a plume of dust to rise between the two combatants.

Jresh threw out a quick shockwave of his own to clear the inhibiting cloud, just in time to see Isorr performing another dash. This time, the Pureblood was capable of defending without injuring himself, though only barely. With an upward block, Jresh sent his opponent soaring past him while he was brought down to the flat of his back. With a cartwheel, Isorr managed to recover first. As Jresh struggled to pull himself off of the ground, he found himself moving against his will. The Zabrak clenched his fist tight as he telekinetically drug his foe toward him. In mere moments, the Pureblood lay at his feet.

Before he could bring his saber down upon his opponent, Isorr found himself compelled downward. Jresh Force-pulled his opponent toward his grounded state, but interrupted his fall with a swift kick of his boot. Releasing his grip, the Pureblood found his opponent staggered. Spinning from his grounded position, Jresh swept Isorr’s leg with his own. Rather than avoid falling, the Zabrak brought himself down with all his might, delivering a strike with his elbow against his foe’s chest. As Jresh writhed in pain, Isorr was able to regain his footing, and his dominance over his opponent. With a training saber directed toward his face, Jresh had finally lost the match. The slow clap emanating from the sideline signaled the true cessation of the duel.

“Congratulations. You two have earned the honor of doing the most damage to each other sans weapons,” Syrosk stated. Isorr managed to make his way back to the group with relative ease, thought his entire body seemed to ache with each passing moment. Jresh on the other hand, rested firmly in his spot on the ground. When Lorrik went over to help him, he saw the most pondering look of serenity on his companion’s face as he gazed upwards toward the Korriban sky.

“That was impressive,” Lorrik complimented his fallen friend.

The warrior merely closed his eyes with a sigh. “It was never my intention to impress you.”

“Great! You’re succeeding at things without even trying,” Lorrik joked as he extended his hand.

Jresh stared at the hand with a few long, hard moments before finally accepting it. The inquisitor slowly helped his companion to his feet. Jresh promptly began dusting off his robes until he was overcome with a searing pain in his chest and left shoulder. Clutching at the singed fibers on his torso, he made his way back to the group with Lorrik by his side. The Sith Lord offered a curious stare at the duo as they integrated with group’s ranks.

“Isorr,” Syrosk began, focusing his attention toward the victor. “You obviously had the upper hand going into this duel. It would be foolish to say that this didn’t affect your fighting style. Just as it would be foolish had you not permitted your fighting style be affected. You adapted to the situation as you saw fit, not focusing on a single technique for more than a moment. You attacked and defended when it proved prudent. You used not only your saber, but your entire body and spirit. The embodiment of moderation. You relied on intuition and adaptation. However, will such a reliance aid or hinder you? There will come a day when creativity will not breach your opponent’s defenses. When quick thinking will not prevent a blade from plunging through your chest. Just as one must not rely on a single skill, one also mustn’t expect the sum of all their efforts to unanimously push them in the right direction. A warrior must be ready to end any confrontation in a single move.”

“Jresh,” Syrosk continued, focusing on the heavily breathing warrior. “You had the misfortune of entering battle while injured, disabling you from fighting at your best. Luckily, you have learned one of the most valuable lesson a Sith can learn. You will never be without your flaws. Some will be your own fault, but most will come from those who wish to keep you down. And you will meet many of such people in your lifetime. You will be beaten mercilessly. Time after time. In rapid succession. In war, the only true preparation comes from knowing that you will always be unprepared. All of you should heed this lesson well. Fortunately, it only took the beating of one student to illustrate it. Although, I will happily repeat the lesson myself lest any of you forget it.”

“But alas, such musings actually have little to do with how you performed in the duel,” Syrosk continued. “You were injured. Your swings lacked backing. Your guard lacked fortitude. But you continued. You bided your time, waiting for the opportune moment to block, parry, and strike. Unfortunately that moment never rightfully came. But still you did not yield. The embodiment of perseverance. However, one can only persevere whilst they hold enough power to do so. The second your attacks begin to weaken, or your body begins to tire, or your mind begins to falter… you’ve already lost.”

The warrior accepted his master’s lesson with a dutiful nod. Lorrik could not help but feel proud for his partner, at least until he realized it was now his turn to duel, at which point that became the sole focus of his mind.

Osetto's Avatar

03.27.2012 , 12:15 PM | #10
Chapter Nine: Validations

The time had finally come for Lorrik to prove himself in battle. To his new master and to his companion. As inevitable as the occurrence was, the inquisitor found himself hesitant. Not because of fear. His many years in the Academy had accustomed Lorrik to the usual hardships the life of a Sith.

He knew of pain. He knew of suffering. He knew of betrayal. Such things no longer left incurable wounds. Instead, self-inflicted matters bore the most influence. For deep within his mind, Lorrik still possessed one of the Sith’s greatest limiters. Doubt.

Even the rigorous upbringing of years past could not erase it. Perhaps, because it was never intended to be fully erased. Years were spent in combat, but only with fellow students and the occasional instructor. There was no power in proving yourself against your ‘equals’. No knowledge in the studying presented materials.

The Sith preached strength, but the classrooms demanded control. They could not allow mere acolytes to gain true power, true insight, lest they turn against their superiors. Notions of betrayal and usurpation worked finely as ideals, but not as a means of ensuring attendance. And so, the artificial weakness remained. The reliance. The doubt. The need for training replacing the want.

Every day they plotted their master’s downfall, but still they postponed any actions, lest they waste any potential not yet wrung from their tutor. That was the way of the acolyte. The way of the apprentice, however, trounced such notions, allowing selfish gleams of hope to permeate the mind and drive the young Sith forward.

But here, these eight student stood as enigmas, unsure of their own place in the system. They seem to have escaped the drudge of acolytes under paltry instructors incapable of becoming true Sith. And yet, by their new master’s own admission, they were not yet apprentices. There existed two paths for each student.

Rejection: to be cast back into the deep waters of worthlessness. Promise: to be deemed worthy. Not worthy of education. Not worthy of training. But worthy of apprenticeship. For that word held untold power in the hearts and minds of any student of the Academy. But alas, one unshakable force lingered. Doubt.

Doubt. The great snare of progress. And it gripped Lorrik’s soul now more than ever. For years, the only person he truly had to prove himself to was, in fact, himself. The instructors could threaten exile, torture, and death until their faces were as red as their Sith superiors. But such fates felt so unlikely that it eventually became a joke amongst the students.

Each student who possessed enough inkling of skill, it was simply a matter of persisting. But now, Lorrik had to prove himself not only to his new master, but his new partner as well. For the first time in his attendance of the Academy, the inquisitor actually found himself caring about what others thought of him.

“Well, we’ve but one duel left, I see no reason to simply stand around,” Syrosk rasped. “Arlia. Lorrik. Into the circle.”

The inquisitors shared a passing glance before making their way to the dueling arena side by side. An awkward silence persisted as each combatant awaited the other’s inevitable pre-battle taunts. Oddly, none were made before the two separated into their opposing positions within the circle. Even the most vocal of students knew when silence and preparation were most prudent.

The two ignited their training sabers and adopted their opening stances, with Arlia mimicking the one-handed low guard of her companion. Lorrik slid his right foot backward and his saber followed. His right hand gripping the weapon, he directed its tip directly toward his opponent. His left hand jut forward, parallel to his saber, adopting a clawed appearance.

One final drop of the Sith Lord’s hand signaled the duel’s start. Arlia would be the instigator, launching toward her opponent. Lorrik tried to keep his cool and study the charging Twi’lek in the mere moments he had before reacting. Arlia was using a very similar style as her companion, though failing to see each and every difference would prove disastrous. Subtle variations in footwork, her saber trailed her gait, her free hand instead leading the charge. Two seconds had not yet passed and the first move of the match was revealed. And it was not a mere swing of a training saber.

Arlia rescinded her outstretched hand with a frightfully quick gesture, attempting to telekinetically draw her opponent closer to her. Lorrik could not rightfully guard against the forceful tug of his entire person, upsetting his balance. The Human could only bring his saber in close, limiting the exposure of his torso. Weapons clashed in earnest, with Lorrik establishing a footing at just the precise moment. The Twi’lek withdrew, only to strike again a moment later.

She was faster than her considerably quick companion. Swings and strikes from all angles slowly encroached on Lorrik’s tightened defenses. Things appeared to take a turn for the worse for the Human when the barrage sent him to one of his knees. Capitalizing on her opponent’s weakened stance, she readied a finishing overhead swing. However, at the apex of her weapon’s rise, Lorrik let out a powerful Force-push up from his free hand, sending Arlia stumbling backward.

Rather than fight her movements, Arlia carried herself with the momentum, rolling backward until she could rise again within the blink of an eye. She sprung to her feet ready to face the advancing foe she had expected, but instead found something much different. Lorrik stood only a few meters away, unmoving, awaiting the Twi’lek’s recovery in a guarded stance.

Arlia renewed her assault, switching from wide swings to jabbing attacks. Precision was met with precision. Subtle parries and sidesteps ensured that nothing breached the Human’s defenses. The two combatants continued as such for minutes. Arlia would attack. Lorrik would defend. The roles would never change. A curious pause fell upon the arena once Arlia withdrew her assault. Once more, the two inquisitors found themselves staring at each other silence, though the silence could not last.

“Why aren’t you attacking?” Arlia harshly asked, showing signs of exhaustion.

“I’m just doing what I’m good at,” Lorrik casually answered.

The Twi’lek furrowed her brow as she gritted her teeth. “How?”

“Um, with this,” Lorrik said, gently waving his training saber in front of himself. “I thought that was pretty obvious.”

“No! I mean, how are you this good at something?” Arlia countered.

“When you’re as skilled at attracting the ire of classmates as I am, you learn a thing or two about defense,” Lorrik casually stated.

Arlia offered an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “Congratulations, you managed to draw some form of strength from your inherent weakness.”

The Human countered with a shrug. “It doesn’t look like weakness on my end.”

“Oh, then why don’t you bother attacking?” Arlia taunted through drawn out breaths. “Scared to swing your saber at someone who actually has a chance to retaliate?”

Lorrik only offered a jocular scoff.

“Would you like for me to stand still?” Arlia asked. "Maybe close my eyes? Put my hands behind my back? Maybe then you could actually take me down, I mean, you’ve done that before haven’t you?”

The Human couldn’t help but have his mind wander to his partner’s condition. Though seemingly recovered, the Pureblood remained slightly slouched on the sidelines, his normally prideful stance missing.

“If it makes you feel better... even after you lose, you will have technically defeated at least one person today. Granted it was your own partner-”

“Are you done yet?” Lorrik asked, finally showing signs of depleted resolve.

“I don’t know, am I?” Arlia countered. The Human found a genuine hate brewing in his innards. Once more he directed his saber’s tip toward his opponent. The Twi’lek resumed her combat stance as well, though certainly lacking the eagerness she displayed before.

Once more, Lorrik studied his opponent. He noticed a subtle bobbing in her training saber’s guard, evidence that he had finally driven her to exhaustion. Finally sensing an opportunity, Lorrik rushed forward, bringing his weapon down from above. Arlia’s guard suddenly raised in retaliation and the Human’s swing was promptly parried.

Realizing he had horribly misjudged his opponent, Lorrik drew his saber closer for a tight defense. Predicting this action, Arlia closed the gap between the two, grabbing her foe’s weapon hand and maneuvering herself to his back. Tightening her grip, the Twi’lek pinned the Human’s weapon hand to his chest, his free hand caught underneath. Bringing her own right hand around his other shoulder, Lorrik found two sabers crossed directly below his neck.

Lorrik was trapped. Bound by Arlia’s grip, the Human dared not move lest he be scorched by one of the two sabers caught beneath his vision. In a desperate position, Lorrik could only think of one means of escape. His gaze turned to his opponent’s hand griping his own. He focused his mind. All the anger that had been building up. His contempt for his opponent. His disappointment in himself. His regret. Lorrik lashed out at the vile hand that still trapped his with all his emotion in his mind.

Then suddenly, with a crackling shock… absolutely nothing. No matter how hard he tried, nothing came. His form stayed as it had been, and would persist like that for however long Arlia wished it to. Lorrik had been utterly defeated.

“Next time you try and play mind games with someone, make sure you’re not completely outmatched,” Arlia whispered, having dropped her faux-exhaustion. With the beckoning of her master, the Twi’lek released her grip and shoved the Human away before making her way toward the gathering of students. With hesitance, Lorrik deactivated his training saber and followed suit.

“Arlia,” Syrosk began. “It would seem that Isorr made an excellent choice in his partnership. You possessed skill enough to break the unbreakable. Capable in areas of strength, speed, and defense, but ultimately it was your cunning and the combination of your skills that saw you through to victory. The embodiment of moderation, much like your partner. Whereas you might lack the raw strength of a warrior, you possess an mind capable of great tactical prowess. However, while your mind may be your greatest strength, it is also your greatest weakness. You seek control, for control is what will decide your battles. The second you lose even a single facet of that control, others will follow. It is one thing to fool your opponent. It is another to fool yourself. Don’t tell yourself that you are unaffected by notions of thought that are counterproductive to your goals. Doubt stalls those who see it within themselves. It destroys those who don’t.”

“Lorrik,” Syrosk continued, diverting his gaze toward the defeated inquisitor. “You would do well to heed those words as well. For the most part, you were carrying out your intentions with a fine degree of success. You defended. And defended. And defended. A fine tactic to wear out the rather inordinate amount of overly-hasty opponents you might face. You do not strike out of turn. You do not make unnecessary moves. You keep your guard closed and your mind open. The embodiment of resilience. But perhaps you kept your mind just a little too open. Your ability to block and parry a saber will do you no good if you are still susceptible to a sharpened tongue. If you wish follow the path of resilience… you must know what it is to persist. Your body must fail you. Your mind must falter. Your spirit must waver. Only then can you recover… learn… persist. You must suffer before you may endure. And after said suffering, you will still find yourself incapable of striking out against your foes in any meaningful manner. Ask yourself… is that a path worth following? Is it a path you are even capable of?”

Lorrik did not know how to take his master’s words. He had failed. Perhaps failure could lead to knowledge and improvement, but it was also a sign of weakness. Could strength born from fault be considered true strength at all? It would have to be. Lorrik desired strength. He needed strength. For strength was the only way anyone could make a difference within the Empire.

Because of that fact, Lorrik would persist. Endure. Survive. He didn’t know how, but he would. And for the first time he saw promise from external sources. His master was no mere Academy instructor. His companion was no mere Sith hopeful. But much more work would be required. Years of study yet remained until he would consider himself a worthy Sith.

With all of the duels out of the way, Syrosk looked over his students one by one in silence. The majority of them has lost the vigor and poise they had once possessed in their stances. Even some of the victors were drawing heavy breaths and bore sweat upon their brows.

Student after student tensed for a brief moment as they found their master’s scrutinizing eyes pass over them. Eagerly, they awaited whatever words of wisdom the Sith Lord must have been formulating in his head. Instead, they received a rather casual dismissal.

“That was a fine display from all of you,” Syrosk stated, drawing from no apparent pool of enthusiasm. “Class dismissed.”

The students glanced at each other in confusion. The day was still young. They still stood upright. This was far from the manner of teaching they expected from their new ,aster. The Sith Lord took a few steps toward the cliff’s return path before stopping.

“Something tells me you expected more,” Syrosk rasped, not bothering to face his students. “I suppose I could throw together some more physical trials. Make you run to the Academy and back, throw the slowest from the edge of the cliff. But I am not in the mood for such things. Your bouts today were for my own benefit. Not yours. I wanted to see what your bodies were capable of. Any experience or knowledge gained from these exercises were a mere bonus. My intentions rested solely in gathering information to be used in the months to come regarding your training. There is little more I could learn from you all in your various conditions, so I grant you the rest of the day to yourselves. Another test will be ready by the next midday. I would advise you to take this time to get to know your partner. Such a course of action would prove prudent for tomorrow.”

With that, the Sith Lord silently made his way back to the Academy, hands resting together behind his back. Some of the students began to follow, but deemed it awkward to be forced to pass their master, or match his slow pace. But such an act of avoidance only led to an equally awkward silence persisting between the eight students. With half having just been defeated by the other half, desire for pleasantries was understandably low.

Instead they divided into their various duos and recuperated their psyche while awaiting the initiative to descend the mountain.