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The Academy: Acolyte Ascension


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Osetto
03.28.2012 , 05:47 AM | #11
Chapter Ten: Ideals

An hour had passed since the end of the last duel. All the students except for two had departed the mountaintop. Jresh stood resolute once more, showing no signs of discomfort from the previous quarrel. As the Pureblood stared out across the vista of Korriban’s jagged hills, Lorrik lied upon his back beside him, feet dangling as his knees bent over the cliff’s edge. Each acolyte appeared locked in their respective thoughts, though Lorrik appeared as if he could have been taking a nap. Whether or not that was in fact the case, the silence was soon broken by the standing Pureblood.

“Lorrik. I find it quite odd that you have remained silent this entire time,” Jresh said, not bothering to turn his gaze away from this distant horizon. Lorrik responded by opening a single eye before wincing under the light of the Korriban sun.

“I’ll admit, I do enjoy conversation more than your average Sith,” Lorrik stated, his eyes shut once more. “But I’m more than content to be left alone with my thoughts.”

Jresh looked to his partner for a moment before casting his gaze back toward the horizon. “Going by your interactions with the other students, you’ll have to understand my confusion.”

“With the other students, it’s more just me trying to get a reaction out of them,” Lorrik plainly offered. “It’s the inquisitor way. You’d be surprised how revealing a few simple words can be depending on how they are uttered.”

Jresh sharpened his eyes as he continued to pan his gaze across the distant mountaintops. “I wouldn’t be in the slightest. I fully understand the capabilities of your given sect. However, is that why you have chosen silence? Do you not wish to ‘get a reaction’ from me?”

“I suppose. We’re partners now. History has proven that the more I talk, the lower someone appreciates my presence. I’d like not to ruin what we have going for us because I accidentally mention you losing your duel or-”

“Stop right there,” Jresh sternly said.

“See?” Lorrik replied, once again opening a single eye. “That was only half-intentional.”

“I want you to understand something,” Jresh bluntly stated. “Here and now. If you ever think to bring up any perceived weaknesses or deficiencies in regards to my person… I implore you to do so.”

The Human opened both eyes in confusion.

“Come again?” Lorrik asked.

“Going forward, if there is one thing you must know about me, it is that I am not like my ilk. I do not come to anger at every affront to my ego. I do not ignore that which makes me weak. I do not deny my failures. I remember them. Embrace them. For that is the only way I will become stronger. Through triumph over defeat, not denial of it. Do not be afraid to confront me of my failures. In fact, to do so would be the greatest thing I could ask of you.”

Lorrik released a soft chuckle. “Of all the obligations I’ve had placed on me, this… this I will have no trouble with.”

“Good,” Jresh stated. “And expect the same from me to you. But in the meantime, so long as we are alone, do not feel the need to hold your tongue in my regard.”

The Human offered his partner a curious look. “Well, so long as you’re looking for tips… whenever you’re accepting any punishments in the near future, maybe drop the whole immortal persona and pretend you’re actually being punished.”

“It is not my fault your swings lack strength,” Jresh countered.

“Maybe I was trying not to severely injure my partner before a test of said strength,” Lorrik countered back.

Jresh offer a light scoff. “Do I look like someone who wishes to be coddled?”

“No,” Lorrik replied. “But you look like someone who wants to win. Its evidently hard to do that with a wounded sternum.”

“True victory lies not after a single battle,” Jresh offered.

“Yes, but an untrue defeat is still a defeat so long as it remains so in the eyes of the one person whose opinion matters in the end.”

“Yourself?”

“Lord Syrosk. Being a winner on the inside isn’t going to help us become apprentices.”

“Is such a thing all that matters to you?” Jresh asked.

“At this juncture? Yes. Very much.” Lorrik answered. “As acolytes, you and I are pretty much worthless. No amount of strength, skill, or knowledge will permit you greatness so long as you go unnoticed by your superiors.”

“You do indeed speak the truth. A Sith Lord needs to prove himself to those around him rather than sate his own ego. But to bend and grovel at the feet of my new master… that will not earn me strength.”

“I wouldn’t dare suggest such a thing. I sense that you are a strong and capable individual, but that can only get you so far in Sith society. You’ve reached the peak of what an acolyte can achieve, but if you intend to take things to the next level, you will require a certain… charisma.”

“And steadily lose whatever power I have gained whilst I become preoccupied with adopting a silver tongue? My body and mind have spent years under the brutal scrutiny of training. If I must rely on deceit to solve my problem, I am not worthy of calling myself a Sith.”

“That, my friend, is where you are wrong,” Lorrik warmly stated. “Ragnos. Sadow. Kressh. Nadd. Kun. Malak. Traya. Lords of the True Sith and its splintered sects. All of them knew that every problem could not be solved through genuine displays of strength and wit alone. A certain dark cunning will always be required for a Sith to prosper. Honestly, what were they teaching you back during your warrior training?”

“Most of the instructors could not care less of such prospects,” Jresh muttered. “We were conditioned for battle. Tests of strength and the merit gained with it. Matters of the past were of no concern to us. We sought only to look toward the future. Obviously the inquisitors received a different regiment.”

“Curiously enough, not that different. Matters of history were often painted with broad strokes, giving only enough insight to fuel visions toward the future. All of what I consider true knowledge and insight I had to learn from external sources… those datacards you saw.”

“I would say the same, but warriors ultimately lacked access to such things. Since the earliest years of my enrollment in the Academy, I have sought power away from the confines of the halls. I have sought knowledge away from the limited instructors. I knew that there was more to being a Sith than what was being presented to me after all these years. Having met you… and Lord Syrosk… it seems my worries were not unfounded. Do you recall, after manners of introductions and names, the first thing we spoke of?”

“I asked you what you cared about, didn’t I?”

“Correct. And we came to an understanding that neither or us sought the easy path to prominence. I asked for someone who could challenge me in a way that the instructors could not. And I accepted you, believing you could provide that challenge. I have had no regrets regarding that decision as of yet. But underlying that very interaction was another notion. The notion of what it means to be a Sith. I have found faults with this Academy. And its peoples. And its codes. I have witnessed you. Open-minded. Sociable. Caring. As we continue to proceed, I ask myself… are we Sith? It is a strange prospect. But to be a Sith is a strange thing in and of itself. Sith… is strength. Sith… is knowledge. Sith…. is freedom. Sith… is control. Sith… is history. Sith… is future. Sith… is fact. Sith… is fiction. Sith… is contradiction. Let me ask you this, if Lord Syrosk told you that your final task was to take my life, what would you do?”

Lorrik stirred as he lay against the dusty bed of stone beneath him. His relaxed visage had begun to pace between thoughts.

“I… I don’t know,” Lorrik muttered.

The Pureblood offered a firm nod. “Good. That I believe, is the answer of a true Sith. Not the absence of knowledge, but the presence of personal will. For each task given, there is no immediate answer. No pre-defined course of action. Every Sith must deal with each occurrence only after they themselves have weighed their options. Count your wants and needs. Direct yourself. That is what separates us from the Jedi. Beyond the politics. Beyond the philosophies. There is one simple distinction. They are bound. We are not. Jedi are bound by their codes, bound by their masters. Once they reject them, they can no longer call themselves Jedi. But us… to reject what makes someone a Sith, can in fact cement one’s status as Sith. We challenge. We overcome. When you attempt to supersede your master, are you cast out? Not if you are victorious. Instead, you are rewarded. Who’s to say the same won’t happen if we challenge the supposedly set in stone ideals that the Sith have followed for centuries. So long as we are victorious in the end, we are what defines being a Sith. That is why I have chosen an honorable path. It suits me. It gives me strength. And as long as that strength earns me victory, no one will dare say that I am not worthy of the Sith.”

“And what if along that path you find victory unattainable?” Lorrik asked with a hint of provocation. Jresh turned to his partner to see that he had risen from his flat stance, sitting up at the cliff’s edge. “The fact is, you aren’t the strongest. And I’ll admit I’m not the most knowledgeable. Alone, I’m just a guy with who has read a few books and attempts witty comments. And you’re just a guy with a code of honor who falls down a lot in battle.”

Jresh looked to his partner, offering the arch of his brow. “What are you trying to say?”

“That in the end, no matter how much you train, you’ll still be struck down by a better warrior. And no matter how much I study, I’ll be surpassed by a more ruthless inquisitor. Unless… unless we work together,” Lorrik stated.

“I assure you, I had no intention of working against our partnership,” Jresh replied.

“No. We need something more,” Lorrik said, lacking his usual warmth. “The other students, they just see their partners as tools to further their goals. If we want to achieve our goals, we cannot simply tolerate one another. We must work together at every turn. Share our knowledge. Share our power. Bolster each other while other acolytes are too busy playing games of pride.”

“A Sith willing to share his knowledge? You truly are different from the others.”

“Well, it’s like you said. From this point forth, we define what it means to be Sith. Together, we can achieve that which we never could alone.”

“So we are to rely on each other. I could only imagine how the instructors would respond to that notion,” Jresh muttered, showing a flair of positivity that Lorrik had not seen until this point.

“Other Sith refuse to rely on something because they don’t want to have to face the challenge of losing it. And yet, we rely on our lightsaber, because it makes us strong. We rely on the Force, because it makes us strong. Rely on me, Jresh, and I will help deliver you to greatness.” Lorrik ended his words by jutting his right fist for emphasis.

Jresh responded not with words, but with the subtle extension of his hand. The inquisitor took hold and raised himself alongside the warrior. Lorrik could see that the Pureblood possessed something almost resembling a smile.

“What are your intentions?” Jresh asked, eyes locked with his partner.

“What? You think I have an ulterior motive?” Lorrik replied.

“No, what is your goal? Working together, we must each have an objective. What is it you want most, years from now, when you have achieved greatness?”

The Human puzzled over the question in his head for a few moments. “To unlock the secrets of the Force. To eventually possess enough knowledge that I’ll finally be able to make a difference in this Empire.”

“A fine ambition.”

“And you?”

“Do you know of the Sith’ari?” Jresh asked. Lorrik was a little taken aback by the suggestion. The word held special meaning amongst any who would enter the Academy. Any who would call themselves Sith.

“A prophesized figure. Perfect being. Fulfilled potential. Free of all restrictions. The Lord of Lords. The Sith to end all Sith. That Sith’ari?”

“Yes. I intend to take that title.”

Lorrik offered a quick chuckle. “You certainly don’t set your standards low.”

“Exactly. That is why I seek it,” Jresh confidently stated. “I have set upon myself a goal that most would deem impossible and could not even be validated until long after my death. Any less of a goal, and I could become content with its accomplishment, but not this one. With this, I have no peak. I have no final stretch. It will always be just beyond my grasp, and that is how I want it.”

“So you, the fabled Sith’ari. And me, securer of a high leveled position of power. Quite the ambitious duo. Though, some would prefer the term foolish.”

“Some of the greatest deeds throughout history have been fueled by foolishness.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Lorrik replied. Standing next to Jresh, the two looked out at the unforgiving terrain of Korriban that preceded their gaze. “So. This is the moment in which things finally change. Not the years of study, the countless trials, nor the promise of apprenticeship, but the pact between two Sith. It’s strange. All my life, I sought to leave this place. To ascend to the point in which I was never burdened by the guidance of others. Born into slavery and delivered to the Academy. Constantly seeking the approval of instructors. At no point in my life have I experienced anything close to resembling freedom. And yet here on this confined peak, after entering what amounts to a lifelong agreement with a fellow Sith, I feel most free.”

“If you seek freedom, I shall oblige you with that request,” Jresh stated. “For now, let us return to the Academy. We can eat and prepare for tomorrows trial.”

With one final moment of reflection, Lorrik turned away from the vista and accompanied his partner back to the halls of the Academy.

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Osetto
03.29.2012 , 09:24 AM | #12
Chapter Eleven: Partisans

Lorrik Velash’s Journal: Day Two, Entry One.

I’ve decided to take up a journal. Something in which to document my thoughts. Why? I’m not entirely sure. Curiously enough, I’ve never kept one before, and now that I actually have someone I know will listen to me, I still feel the need to make audio logs.

I had a hard time figuring out which dating system I was going to go by. The Galactic Standard and Korriban’s cycle have a tendency to get out of sync. Since this is a personal endeavor, I figured I would adopt a new system based on the first day of study under Lord Syrosk. This might complicate matters when the transition from acolyte to apprentice occurs, but who knows? I might not even have this journal by then.

It amuses me that I still think it is a given that I’ll achieve apprenticeship. After today’s show, I don’t think I garnered any favors with Lord Syrosk. But there’s this funny feeling inside. Today I was bluntly faced with my inadequacies. It took a lot out of me. But Jresh, he reignited something. Something I thought I had lost long ago. A drive.

Before, I was content with study, but never found myself thinking more than a week forward aside from the occasional drifting thoughts that popped up when daydreaming. But now, not only do I have a goal beyond getting off this rock, I have a friend. A friend who dreams of the impossible.

I can only assume Jresh knows the fullness of what the Sith’ari is supposed to be. I mean… it is HIS language. Beyond the notions of a perfect being, there is legend of its actions. To destroy the Sith, all in order to make it stronger. A curious notion. Especially in a time of war. Patriotism is certainly an odd thing for the Empire. At least, amongst the Force users. I suppose you promise someone enough reward and they can look past that whole ‘seize power at any opportunity’ thing that seems all the rage.

The Sith, the Empire, has provided me much throughout my life, and not everything good. I often imagine how my life might have differed if I had stayed a slave. Not knowing the potential that rested within me. Or if I had been ‘liberated’ by the Republic. Would I chasten myself amongst the Jedi? Would I drift amongst the lower realms of some ecumenopolis, garbed in rags? My life under the Sith has been brutal, but I can’t argue with some of the results. But I cannot in good conscience say they cannot be improved.

A great many confusing things dominate the realm of politics. I have studied, in passing, the circumstances of the Great War, as well as the characteristics of the two main participants. The more knowledge I manage to procure in regards to the war, the more I find myself surprised. The Galactic Republic should have easily been able to defeat its invaders through various actions not taken.

Incompetence amongst its policy makers. Indecision amongst its defenders. Seeing so mighty an Order unable to defend itself gives great cause for support in the Empire’s methods. Corruption spread amongst the weak-willed and covetous politicians. And the ‘incorruptible’ Knights of the Republic found themselves unable to protect their realm.

So here I am, faced with these facts. The Republic is flawed and weak. The Empire is flawed, but ultimately strong. If the Republic manages to win the war, my life will be in danger. If the Empire wins the war, my life will still be in danger. I’ve come to terms with this lifestyle.

In the end, how these events affect me matters little. I shall come to adapt to whatever comes my way. What is more important, is how I will affect these events. What are Lord Syrosk’s intentions regarding the conflict? Will we have a part to play in this war’s continuation or conclusion? How long will the war go on? Our training is far from complete, perhaps the war will be over before we can even get off Korriban. No one here is certain whether the war will last one year or one hundred.

Perhaps the war should continue. Makes it easier to rise through the ranks when your superiors die on the battlefield every so often. Might even open up a few seats on the Dark Council. Now that’s something I wouldn’t mind having. That’s practically the only moment in which you start having the capability to change the way this Empire works.

Is that what I’d have to get to in order to achieve my goal? A spot on the Dark Council? I’d say even that is optimistic. If we’re going to reformat the Sith, we need to go straight to the top. The Emperor himself. You know, only after say this all aloud do I truly realize the ridiculousness of what Jresh and I have set for ourselves. Then again that was probably his intention. Insurmountable goal. Never stop trying.

But how could you live knowing that you will devote your entire life to something you know you cannot obtain? Maybe he doesn’t know he cannot attain it. Or maybe he actually can. No. It’d be impossible. There’s not even such a thing as a Sith’ari. It’s just a meaningless title for powerful warriors to bicker over. But still, Jresh possesses a genuine ingenuity. Who am I to say he can’t accomplish what he has set out to do so long as he tries? A sane person. That’s who I am.

Maybe that’s the problem. This galaxy isn’t meant for the sane. Become a fool, and a fool’s errand is just another errand. If the task is impossible for him, then I shall render aid. I promised him support. Mostly just as sentiment. But what if?

In the very minor library of secrets I have procured, I have witnessed a vast array of capabilities with the Force. Maybe that is it? That is what will allow us to attain our goals. After all, it says it right there, ‘The Force shall free me’. And what is it I desire if not freedom? Knowledge. Yes. Definitely knowledge.

I will learn the secrets of the Force. Beyond what any sect or order could possibly teach me. I will share this knowledge with Jresh. I will forge him into something greater than this Academy or Syrosk could ever muster. I am content with study. It is the root of anything I could possibly consider power for myself. But Jresh, he’s got ambition. And honestly, I want to see where it takes him.

It’ll be entertaining none the less.

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
03.31.2012 , 07:29 PM | #13
Chapter Twelve: Musings

Jresh and Lorrik awoke the next morning to a curious advisement. A blinking notice on their datapads revealed a message from their master. A change of venue. It seemed the next meeting would be held instead in the lecture hall where the two Sith had first met. The warrior knew that full combat practices were forbidden within this particular venue, so the day’s challenge would be of a different nature than the previous one. The inquisitor’s thoughts could barely venture past the notion of a cooler venue than a hilltop exterior to the Academy. Still early in the morning, the acolytes readied themselves for the day ahead before meeting in the suite’s common room.

“The old lecture hall, huh,” Lorrik stated, sparking a conversation. “Wonder what trials are in store for us today.”

“Seeing as to how yesterday’s activities centered on our physical capabilities, I would assume our master has something more mental in store for us today,” Jresh replied.

“Makes sense. How are you doing by the way? All healed up?” Lorrik asked, expressing a genuine emotional investment.

“A little soreness persists, but a quick round of rest and meditation seems to have done away with most of my wounds.”

The Human gently scratched his chin. “Meditation, eh? Didn’t take you warriors for the meditative type. Usually it’s all rage and shouting with your kin.”

“It is something of a departure, I admit. I have always eschewed wearing my emotions as a mask, as the first thing people see. My passions are my own and I need not put them on display to prove myself Sith. I need not keep them at the surface to draw upon their strength.”

“Sounds like what Syrosk was trying to tell Nesk.”

“In a way, yes. I possess something of a distaste for chaos. Order. Control. I find power within these things.”

“A curious notion,” Lorrik stated. “Like you said, Sith is contradiction, as evident by its odd penchant for chaotic order.”

“Chaotic order,” Jresh repeated. “Yes, an apt description. Continuous change, guided by a maneuvering hand.”

“And there I find myself drawn back to our beginning. By almost all accounts, we aren’t fit to be Sith. No offense intended on your part. A calm, collected warrior and a kind, empathetic inquisitor.”

“The Sith breed conflict. Strife. Challenge. We are doing our part as much as any other acolyte. And in the end do we still not believe in the Sith code?”

“I suppose so, but with each passing day in the place I find less and less to believe in. I was lucky to have met you when I did, lest I lose any semblance of hope.”

“So what, at this very moment, do you believe in?” Jresh asked. The inquisitor met the question with an extended silence.

“Hey,” Lorrik began. “We have more than a few hours before we’re needed in the lecture hall. I don’t know about you, but I could use a meal. How about I cook up some morning foodstuffs, and we have something of a philosophical discussion. You know, to prepare us for our meeting later.”

The Pureblood gently stroked the fleshy tendril that hung from his cheek. “Syrosk did say we should get to know each other. I don’t know if that pertains to philosophy…”

“Answer me this. Do you find the discussion of the subject boring or tiresome?”

“Somewhat.”

“Then consider this me challenging you, in my own special way,” Lorrik warmly stated.

Jresh accepted Lorrik’s proposal with dutiful conviction. Reading his companion, the inquisitor hurriedly, and with glee, made his way to the suite’s kitchen area. Jresh took a seat at his desk, curiously watching the Human parade around the room as he made preparations.

“You seem rather excited, Lorrik,” Jresh stated, unable to particularly understand the inquisitor’s emotions.

“Did you ever get the chance to cook your own food in the years past?” Lorrik pleasantly asked as he peered into the conservator.

“I can’t say I did.”

“Me neither.”

“Are you… capable of preparing a meal?”

“Oh, yeah! You see, over the course of my many years trying to collect various tomes of Sith and Force related knowledge, I came across some less than profound texts here and there. Of note, were the many cookbooks that seemed to fall in my lap. At an early age, I thought I would need a hobby to distract myself from the happenings of the Academy, and I figured cooking to be more than suitable to my tastes. If you’ll pardon the pun.”

The warrior watched his partner dash around the kitchen rummaging through wall-bound cabinets and pantries, taking in the information of all the ingredients as his disposal. “But have you actually prepared a meal?”

“A couple of times. But, as you can imagine resources are rather scarce for a lowly acolyte. Funny story. I once prepared a meal for a classmate. Jora. Cooked up some K’lor’slug eggs. Bad idea. Misread the data. Turns out their species’ poisonous parts develop rather early in the gestation period. It took a while to convince her I wasn’t actively trying to make her ill. Learned that around here, you need to learn what not to do wrong rather than what to do right much earlier.”

“So what do you plan of making today?” Jresh plainly asked.

“Not quite sure yet. Never had this much choice in my life. Oddly prudent. It seems we have the necessary ingredients for some flatcakes. Sound good?”

“I suppose,” Jresh replied, rather dubiously.

Lorrik went fast to work, with Jresh watching from across the suite with subtle curiosity. As time passed, Lorrik found himself utterly engrossed in his activities, drawing upon his own passions as he stove-cooked a thin layer of batter laying in a pan. After a predetermined amount of time, the inquisitor focused and flipped the half-cooked flatcake over telekinetically. Lorrik grinned at how effortlessly he was accomplishing the task he had set out upon. In the end, there rest two stacks of three flatcakes upon separate plates. Adorned with various imported fruits and accompanied with a dispenser of syrup, Lorrik was ready to serve his first true meal.

Jresh studied the dish laid before him. Squishy slabs of bread lay stacked on a black plate. Topped with a powdery substance and a selection of berries, the meal seemed to be trying its hardest to contradict its atmosphere. Eschewing his purely visual examination, the Sith grasped the top flatcake and gingerly lifted it to study what might rest between the breaded layers before being interrupted by Lorrik handing him a fork and container of syrup.

“I’m not sure what particular kind of syrup that is,” Lorrik stated. “So I wouldn’t go pouring it over the whole thing. Maybe put some in the corner and you can dip a bite in to see if you like it.” With his words of advice, the inquisitor placed his own food and fixings upon his desk, and set down ready to partake in his work.

Jresh grasped the fork in his hand with a clenched fist, unsure of how to partake in the food placed before him. Peering over, he closely studied the Human as he took his first bite. Seeing a look of delight grace the inquisitor’s face, the warrior decided to mimic the cook’s actions.

“So, how do you like it?” Lorrik asked, mouth half full of food.

Jresh offered no immediate response as he slowly churned the flatcakes within his mouth, carefully analyzing and processing the new sensory information that flooding his brain. Upon swallowing, the warrior seemed no less puzzled than in the moments leading up to the meal. “What is this powdery substance?”

“Sugar. I suppose acolytes don’t have much access to it.” A renewed smile graced Lorrik’s visage as he saw his companion slowly return to partaking in the meal he had prepared. The acolytes dug into their meal in silence for a few minutes before Lorrik chimed in.

“So. Philosophy,” Lorrik began, waving his fork around in lieu of hand gestures. “Where should we start? Sith code? Sounds good. So… peace is a lie, there is only passion. As good a foundation as any, but I see some problems with it.”

“Such as?”

“Well, peace. I’d say we’re pretty peaceful, by comparison anyway. I’m not one to pick fights. You have a knack for meditation. We seem to find an enjoyment in peace.”

“It all depends of how you define it. What is peace?” Jresh asked.

“Well, it’s a lie. It’s right there in the code, right? The infallible code,” Lorrik muttered.

“Since when do you believe in infallibility.”

“I don’t, but certain Sith of prominence certainly do.”

“We aren’t those Sith.”

“Right. We’re those other Sith. Those Sith who are Sith by nature of not being Sith.”

“You realized the more you say that the more it loses meaning.”

“And yet, that’s what we’re searching for. Meaning. What does it mean, peace is a lie? For us.”

“I don’t think peace is being calm and collected. I don’t think peace is restraint. Peace is merely the absence of conflict.”

“Makes sense,” Lorrik said. “The first to embrace the Sith doctrine were simply Dark Jedi who had turned away from the Order. In the beginning it was simply a reactionary response to the Jedi Code. They strive for peace. They elimination of conflict. We, on the other hand, enable conflict. And reap its rewards as well as its punishments.”

“Conflict is just as ill-defined a term as peace,” Jresh replied. “The mind of the average Sith immediately leaps to war, and the many instances of infighting and duels to the death that plague the system. Which I despise.”

“But not conflict.”

“Indeed. I believe that conflict breeds superior strength. I also believe that conflict can be brought about and controlled in such a way that it doesn’t inevitably destroy its instigator. I am not a simple minded killer. I do not murder my ‘allies’ in their sleep. I do not terminate every obstacle that lies in front of me.”

“So, if you met a Jedi on the battlefield, then what?” Lorrik asked.

“We would do battle until one of us could no longer continue,” Jresh answered. “If an enemy lie at my feet, broken and defeated on their knees, that it how I would leave them, not decapitated in a pool of their own blood.”

“But what if they should recover and seek revenge?”

“Good.”

“Good?”

“That is my vision of conflict,” Jresh bluntly stated. “Two forces come into contact. The superior force prevails while the weaker one retreats to rebuild its strength in the hopes of someday proving itself stronger in a future clash. Killing a strong enemy removes their influence from your life. Removes the countless challenges and conflicts that would bring to you. Only when my own life were in danger of being extinguished would I utterly strike down an opponent. Let them retreat. Let them fester in their hate and scheme of revenge. Let them continue to challenge me. As they gain strength, so do I.”

Lorrik offered a brief, subtle nod. “Peace is a lie, there is only passion. Peace inhibits emotion and evolution. Conflict promotes such things. With emotion comes the spark that drives progress and improvement. Through passion, I gain strength. I probably think of strength as you do with peace. An ill-defined term but infinitely sought after. I feel most Sith put an emphasis on physical strength. And those that do value mental acuity typically take it a few steps too far. Strength isn’t just the ability to overpower your opponent. I seek knowledge as my strength. But knowledge in and of itself is not strength, just as pure physical capability isn’t. There’s a culmination of the body, mind, and spirit. Physical, mental, and the connecting of them with personal skills.”

“Through strength, I gain power,” Jresh continued. “Power is freedom. Power is control.”

“Power is the ability to influence those around you. The ability to be strong enough to direct the action of others, while resisting the influence of those who would direct you.”

“Power pertains to the beginning of the self’s ability to shape the world around it,” Jresh explained. “Passion and strength are drawn from and consolidated in the person. Power is utilizing those internal aspects and manifesting them in the external realm. It is not as simple as the ability to defeat your enemies and keep your allies in line. It is understanding the forces that you encounter throughout your life, and driving those forces in the direction of your goals.”

“Through power, I gain victory,” Lorrik recited.

“Victory. Evidence of success.”

“Validation of one’s goals and desires. To be victorious is to prove your way of life is worth following. Worth continuing.”

“Defeat reveals our inadequacies,” Jresh stated. “And weakens the foundations of our tenets. Thus we must always strive for victory. Defeat is inevitable and cannot be utterly avoided.”

“But so long as we try. As we stay determined to prove ourselves. Our strength. Our power. Victory is never beyond our grasp,” Lorrik said with a confident smile.

“And therefore we must grasp it. Grasp victory and reap its rewards. Through victory, my chains are broken.”

“And whether we realize it or not. We are chained. By our masters. By the Empire. By the Republic. By ourselves. I was a born into slavery. Given a glimpse of hope when the Academy accepted me. I was promised that I could break my shackles by proving myself. By fighting. By learning. By ascending. With defeat, my mind is chained by the reemergence of every inadequacy that rested deep within my mental confines. But if I am victorious… I will be free.”

“And never doubt that you can be victorious. As a Pureblood I should have… I was born into place of prominence. Ready to rise through the ranks of the Academy and become a great warrior. But still I was chained. Limiters plagued my life. I could train. And train. And train. But still I would not be the strongest. If I am victorious, my chains will loosen. If I am defeated, the chains will tighten, pushing me to lash out and attain victory once again.”

“And I’ll be here to lend a hand. Together we’ll move forward. Bound, but not in chains. My strength is your strength. And yours is mine. Knowledge and skill reflecting upon one another until no mere chains can restrain us.”

“The Force shall set me free.”

“The Force shall set us free.”

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Sagehammer
03.31.2012 , 08:35 PM | #14
Good stuff mate. Keep it up.

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Osetto
04.01.2012 , 12:19 PM | #15
Chapter Thirteen: Reflections

Lorrik Velash’s Journal: Day Three, Entry Two.

Finished another day of training, if you can call it that. Had one of the best morning’s I think I’ve ever had in all my years of the Academy. Waking up in a soft bed. At a reasonable hour. Followed by a long, hot shower. Refreshing to say the least. And not just to my body. I’d say the last few days have had a most profoundly positive effect on my mental state.

It’s weird. Most of the time I managed to just skirt by, doing the bare minimum, saving my hide from expulsion or death. It’s been a while since I’ve been actually challenged and responded in earnest.

Yesterday brought about a cascade of emotions, both positive and negative. Having to strike Jresh, having watch his defeat, having to suffer my own. It brought about thoughts I thought I had long since laid to rest. Horrible thoughts. About myself. About my place in this world.

But in the end, I think it did me some good. It didn’t have what one might consider goals or ambitions. I simply thought, hey, if it can be learned maybe I’ll give it a look at some point. I would gather and examine holobooks, recordings, texts, for no real reason. I guess I was bettering myself in the process but the notion never really clicked in my mind.

But after today, I think I’ve finally come to the realization I had been searching for all this time. A purpose. I never really saw a place for me in the Empire, but I couldn’t see myself anywhere else either. Now, I see myself capable great deeds alongside Jresh.

Syrosk had gathered us into the lecture hall to test our mental acumen today. Walking away from it, it finally feels like me and Jresh came out ahead. Isorr and Arlia are knowledgeable in most matter Sith, but their words barely seemed capable of holding Syrosk’s attention. Nesk seemed utterly incapable of constructing a completed thought since he wasn’t being physically challenged. I think Vurt said all of ten words all day, none not addressing the master.

Kar’ai and Ryloh were a surprise though. The Rattataki seems a curious embodiment of the warrior spirit. It’s like she has little concern outside of matters of physicality. When questioned on codes, histories, and beliefs, she was utterly dismissive. However, there were moments when the situation arose that one of the other students would disagree with some minute thing she had said.

In that moment, something ignited within her visage. A spark of intrigue. She is a fighter in the basest of meanings. Kar’ai had little concern for discussions of philosophy or politics, until that is, she was challenged. At which she, she drew upon some hidden dispensary of knowledge, giving her some sort of insight that might allow her to ‘win’ an argument that didn’t involve the clashing of blades. Her Twi’lek partner fit into this equation with similar curiousness.

There were times when Kar’ai would find herself speechless, ignorant of whatever topic was currently being conversed. In those moments, Ryloh would offer hints, whispers into the warrior’s ears. What followed were oddly astute and academic observations stemming from the Rattataki’s lips.

Then Ryloh would return to obscurity. He wanted nothing of attention, praise, or acclamation. He would selflessly offer his knowledge to Kar’ai, and seemingly expect nothing in return. I suppose I am not as different from other students as I once expected. A curious development.

Ryloh belonged to a separate class of inquisitors than I. I had heard little of his accomplishments, and I made a habit of keeping tabs on the other students during my days as an acolyte. How he has managed to stay under the radar all these years is a matter than intrigues me. Handsome face. Overtly alien species. Sharp mind. Capable fighter.

These are not characteristics that go unnoticed by one’s classmates. Was Kar’ai the first to notice him? Truly appreciate his talents? Or was he the one who decided that after all this time he ought make himself known? Perhaps he was like me and sought something beyond the status of acolyte, intrigued by the prospect of an apprenticeship. Like me.

Is that where my intrigue lies? In someone who so remarkably mirrors my own situation leading up to and seemingly continuing under the training of a new master. What is his relationship with Kar’ai. Is she using him? Is he elevating her of his own accord? It would seem these two warrant my attention just as much, if not more than the more dangerous couples.

Speaking of which, Jresh and Isorr butt heads again. I have no doubt that Arlia and him will be our main competition for getting the apprenticeship. Nesk and Vurt seem too destructive to themselves to stay focused enough to earn Syrosk’s favor. But Isorr and Arlia are utterly capable of destruction, but possess the added benefit of cold, calculating minds powering their physically capable bodies.

The two warriors went at it much like their duel the other day. Brutal, impactful, dedicated. Yet simply with words did they fight, never rising from their seats, never raising their voice, never losing control. Any who looked upon them could see the passions flare as their each every word left their mouths with utter calculation, not one word misspoken.

Jresh raised points very similar to the ones we had discussed this morning over breakfast. Isorr was completely dedicated to his traditional interpretation of the Sith Code. Every once in a while there would be a break for me and Arlia to get our own words in. The sharp contrast in tone and emphasis with the warriors was almost staggering. Me and her had been involved in similar bouts before. It was in the nature of inquisitor training. At this point, battles of the spoken word are little more than games to us.

She is a peculiar one as well. I don’t think I’ve met as manipulative a student as Arlia. I’ve always been great at reading other people, seeing their emotional state, uncovering their intentions. But with her, I literally cannot tell the truth from fabrication. And that is something that scares me. Just as Jresh has met his physical match in the Zabrak, I have encountered my mental quarry. Normally I’d welcome any challenge of the mind, but there things I cannot wrap my head around.

Given the couple’s traditional Sith nature, it stands to reason that one of them is the dominant of the two. One of them had to have made concessions upon entering the partnership. But whom? Both of them exude the idea that they have allowed the other to partake in their excellence. Honestly, I’d prefer it if Isorr were the greater threat. Because of all I’ve seen, he’s honest. He’ll tell you how he feels about you to your face, often without provocation. Arlia, every word uttered carries an ulterior motive. A hidden meaning.

Which in the end, confounds me. What is her goal? If everything she has said and done was a fabrication, what truth lies underneath? Are all the lies and manipulations just a means to an end rather than an inherent personality. Are there truths in her lies. Lies in her truths. She’s combative one moment. Kind the next. Which is the true emotion? Maybe both. Maybe neither.

I should despise her. Yet, I respect her. I’ve seen the way the Academy and its student usually operate. She is performing at beyond the threshold of typical success. Regardless of the Empire’s views on lesser aliens, a female Twi’lek of her appearance could bend the wills of males with much quicker results than what she has done in the past. She has proven herself manipulative, yet has shown that some tactics appear completely absent from her repertoire. Why has someone who has shown that they would do anything to succeed, held something back?

This is the moment when things finally get real. Long have I thought myself capable of peering into the minds of others. Seeing what they see, knowing what they feel. Yet, here I stand, incapable of figuring out the other acolytes vying for Syrosk’s attention. All along I thought myself above the other acolytes in typical Sith fashion. But now I find myself surrounded by remarkable individuals, the master in particular.

Earlier in my attendance of the Academy, one always knew where they stood. Instructors made clear their favor of particular students, particular behaviors. Performances were graded. Practice battle had clear outcomes, with clear consequences. Debates and quizzes had clear right and wrong answers. But now, all of that has been thrown out for Syrosk’s training.

It’s difficult to read him, more so than the other students. Perhaps it is because of my limited interaction with Sith Lords, but he was not what I was expecting. His manner of testing feels nothing like what I had expected of him. And I still have trouble deciphering was he approves and disapproves of. The first day, when we all met, there was talk. Just talk. And then he gave us all a bunch of free stuff.

An apparent disconnect between his words and his actions are a strange mindset that I won’t be understanding anytime soon. Then we had the exchange of items. He would gaze upon a mere token, and gather from it in depth knowledge. In the end, even with my situation, he expressed little in the way of approval or disapproval.

Then came the duels. More words. More insight. More ambiguity. When he spoke with me, it felt almost like there was some negativity to his words. But also those of reinforcement, to push me on. Then the discussions today. He did little to make his own preferences and ideals known. He would just do his best to make sure there was never a lull in the conversation, probably to make sure we didn’t have time to plan responses.

He wanted to know how we truly felt and how we articulated those thoughts. Again, nothing we said garnered approval or disapproval. He most likely doesn’t want us to conform to his ideals. He wants to measure our capabilities in their rawest form, untouched by the idea of manipulation to gain the master’s favor.

The only reason I saw me and Jresh earn some points today was the way he watched us. He seemed to understand and digest the other students’ words with relative ease, but with us, it was like he was actively studying us. While I can’t say for certain such a thing is positive, from what little I know about the master, he seems to enjoy being surprised. Hopefully, we were able to keep his attention long enough to make up for our defeats the previous day.

Somewhat looking forward to tomorrow. Syrosk said that our bodies and minds had been tested, and now it was time for the same to be done with our spirits. If the test involves the Force, it seems the ball is yet again in the court of the inquisitors, but then again, nothing is ever what it seems with him.

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Sacrmeno
04.01.2012 , 02:09 PM | #16
Amazings
Tharbine Valros, Mandolore's Chosen--Darth Xodrai Valros-- Captain Carturio Valros-

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Osetto
04.03.2012 , 11:53 AM | #17
Chapter Fourteen: Forces

Day four of training. Korriban. Exterior. Midday. Tepid. The eight students stood in standard formation as they were burdened by the continuing stare of their master a short distance in front of them.

Lord Syrosk paced back and forth as he gathered his thoughts. “You all faced your first trial of the body. Some were victorious. Some were not. But in the end you were tested. You all faced your first trial of the mind. Some of you proved intelligent. Some wise. Others wallowed in silence. But in the end you were tested. Now. On this hill, you face your first trial of the spirit. I’m sure you all hold your individual outlook upon that word. Others know it by one of its numerous names. Spirit. Willpower. Soul. One’s connection to the Force. Like before, some of you will be victorious. Others will not. And in the end you will be tested.”

Without another word, the Sith Lord walked into the center of the ancient dueling circle that lay a short distance away. The students did not budge from their standing positions without expressed consent from their master.

“Everyone, make yourselves to the circle’s edge and stand there, equally spread out.”

The students hurriedly complied. Each duo took themselves to a cornered position before spreading out creating an octagonal pattern with each student standing on the precipice of the circle. Lorrik studied the peculiar situation. Jresh stood a short distance to his right. Isorr a short distance to his left. An equal distance separated each student, who stood the same distance from the master’s central point.

“A Sith must know how to draw upon forces that will ensure their victory,
Syrosk rasped. “Passions fuel our physical strength. Cunning broadens our mental capacities. But to bolster one’s spirit, one must meet a force with superior force. You must be challenged, and you must overcome said challenge. And I will be the one to challenge you. For the first time, I will be directly opposing you, not your fellow students. Your challenge, is to be the first to lay a hand upon my person. First to do so wins a free day for them and their companion. You may begin.”

The students all hesitated, unsure of how exactly to proceed. Seemingly a test of speed, but the acolytes knew better. The master was equally surrounded, and yet he stood with his usual casual pose, arms folded behind his back. Still the figures stood unmoving, no one willing to make the first motion, perhaps jeopardizing their chances of success.

Ryloh was the first to finally break the tension. One careful, calculated step toward Syrosk was all he could take before he found himself drug to the ground. As the Twi’lek lay flat on his front, he struggled to raise himself with his arms. As Kar’ai took a step forward to investigate, she too was overwhelmed by an oppressive downward force washing over her, bringing her to her knees.

One by one the acolytes entered the circle toward their master, only to be met with the same force. Looking up from the ground on which he now lay, Lorrik gazed into the visage of Syrosk. What he witnessed was a countenance of pure concentration. The Sith Lord was actively forcing the students down.

Slowly being crushed under their own weight, each student tried their best to inch toward the master and grasp victory for themselves. The warriors proved less affected, able to stay standing or upon one knee, but could not hold to take more than a single step every several seconds. The inquisitors tried to move forward in their own special way. Keeping low, Vurt began to crawl ever so slowly. Arlia dug her training saber’s tip into the ground, using it as a lever to slowly drag herself forward.

Lorrik and Jresh moved forward, slowly and anything but surely. Jresh remained standing while his partner lie to his side, prone, his digits digging into the Korriban dirt. The oppressive weight upon them intensified as each student drew ever closer to the epicenter. Eventually, the force was too much to bear and Jresh was forced to the ground. Individually, each student tried their best to reach Syrosk, but none proved capable of surpassing the master’s superior will. As Lorrik lay next to his companion, he was all but sure that it was hopeless for him to continue forward, but still he looked on as Jresh clawed himself forward. Looking around, a feat he was barely capable of at the moment, Lorrik saw that Isorr and Nesk were ahead of them.

The inquisitor envisioned defeat, stewed the idea over in his mind’s eye. He would not have it this day. But Lorrik’s body was physically unable to continue. He knew that he had to rely on Jresh to succeed. And with that knowledge, came realization. Using his last bit of strength, Lorrik lay his outstretched hand upon his companion’s pant leg. Looking back, Jresh saw his partner bearing a determined look in his eye, and his mouth silently preparing him for an upcoming action.

The duo readied themselves. Lorrik concentrated and let loose a primal howl, thrusting his hands forward. Jresh matched his partner in voice, but not in action. The warrior instead put all his energy into one final surge forward. The inquisitor put all his energy into propelling his partner forward with the Force.

Finally, with his companion’s telekinetic assistance, Jresh flung past the final stretch and lay his right hand upon Syrosk’s right ankle. As soon at the contact was confirmed, the forceful field dissipated, each student writhing upon the ground as they regained control of their bodies.

“It would appear we have our winners,” Syrosk stated, his soft admission barely audible over the student’s exasperated breathing. “Rise my students.”

Slowly, each student arose, lest they attract the ire inherent in disobeying their master. Jresh returned to Lorrik’s side, not bearing any overt positive emotions, but definitely filled with a sense of accomplishment.

Syrosk cast his sharpened gaze upon the successful pair. “It would seem that these two have learned much from my teachings. Your test only required a single person to touch me to succeed, and yet you each pressed on as individuals. When Lorrik saw himself incapable of accomplishing a task, he lent his strength to the more powerful Jresh. In the end, it matters not if you hold on to your pride if you are unable to attain victory. As a Sith, you must be willing to do what it takes to succeed, even if it goes against your precious sense of self-importance. Now, we are going to try again, and now that you know the answer, expect the question to be much harder. Jresh, Lorrik, you may return to the Academy.”

“Sir,” Jresh spoke up. “I wish to train as much as possible. I would like to continue the trials up here rather than have a day off.”

“Who’s to say your training for the day is complete? You and your partner have simply moved beyond this task,” Syrosk firmly stated. “You have the day to yourselves, now your task is deciding on how to utilize it.”

Jresh hesitantly accepted his master’s wishes. With Lorrik by his side, the duo began walking the return path to the Academy as the other students reset to their positions surrounding the circle.

“Look, I understand how the prospect of free time is abhorrent to you, so what would you like to do for the rest of the day?” Lorrik asked with characteristic pleasantness.

“Today was a test of the spirit, it is only right that I continue along that line.”

“How do you suppose we do that?”

“I’m not sure. I will probably return to the suite to meditate.”

“That sounds reasonable. Might find some insight. Dwell on the Force. That sort of thing. I might join you later.”

“Later? You have plans?”

“Well, our kitchen stock wasn’t exactly plentiful. I was going to see if I could procure us some more supplies,” Lorrik said. Jresh emitted a soft hum of uncertainty. “Don’t worry. I’d be glad to join you in meditation afterwards. I’m not going to waste the day. I’m as serious as you about this training thing… okay, maybe not as serious as you, but pretty serious.”

----------

Lorrik walked the familiar halls of the Academy interior while Jresh returned to the suite. The inquisitor pondered how he might get his hands on supplies. It was something he never had to do in his years of study. Occasionally, he would barter or trade with a fellow student in order to procure a meaningful text or datacard. But foodstuffs were absolutely out of the hands of anyone Lorrik traditionally dealt with.

Korriban imported practically all of its edible supplies, which meant if he wanted something of significance, he would have to go to someone close enough to influence those dealings. The inquisitor tumbled the idea around in his head, and could only come up with one person who might fit that description. The quartermaster.

With calm, Lorrik approached the same quartermaster who oversaw the underhalls, the one who had given the eight acolytes their new accommodations. The dull Human still bore the same dull visage he had on that day as well as every other day. As Lorrik drew near, the inquisitor’s presence was enough to warrant the quartermaster’s attention.

“I remember you. Acolyte. Under Lord Syrosk. I see the robes were delivered successfully. Are you enjoying your new accommodations?” The Human’s words seemed almost hollow, the quartermaster putting as little effort into emoting as humanly possible.

“Yes, yes. Everything is going great. I do have some questions about the suite, and its supplies…”

“Amenities are restocked every ten days at midday,” the quartermaster plainly stated.

“I understand that, but I wanted to know more about the food-”

“Edible supplies are replenished as part of the standard restocking arrangement.”

“Yes, but the type of-”

“The varieties of food are dictated by Production and Logistics, specifically the Domestic Supply Office.”

“So you have no control over the resupplying process?”

“Now, I wouldn’t say that,” the quartermaster stated after a pause, practically dropping his monotonous facade. Panning his gaze around the Academy halls, the Human finally began to show some interested in his company. “What exactly are you trying to accomplish?”

“Well,” Lorrik began, “I’ve recently discovered my talents as a cook, and I was wondering if there was anything to be done that could maybe expand the supply of food that made its way to my suite.” The quartermaster stared at the acolyte for a brief moment before succumbing to a short fit of laughter.

“Ha! Is that it? I thought you were conspiring to poison someone’s food, or redirect some vital supplies. All you want to do is cook?”

“Well, when you put it that way…”

“Oh, the others are right, you are different.”

“Wait, others? Who’s been talking about me?”

“All of the students Syrosk took have become the hot topic around here. I hope you didn’t think your new position would go unnoticed.”

“I suppose I didn’t put too much thought into it. Oh, well, I suppose it was a stupid thing to ask.”

“Whoa, wait a moment, acolyte. I do have some influence over the moving and directing of supplies around here. If you want a few extra goods or something a bit exotic, I think I can send it your way.”

“Really?” Lorrik asked, giddy with delight overcoming any skepticism.

“Sure. It’s not often I’m privy to such un-malign machinations. I’m tired of having to deal with the usual miscreants the Academy sends my way. I’d be happy to give a favor for a favor.”

“Sure, what favor?”

“My brother, the weapons master, has been working on my lightsaber. Can’t leave my post, so it would be great if you could retrieve it for me.”

“That’s my mission? Fetch an item from someone a few halls down?”

“If you think it beneath you, oh great student of Lord Syrosk…”

“No, wait, I got it. Fetch your lightsaber… wait a minute, you’re a Sith?”

“Yeah, began my training back toward the beginning of the war. Wasn’t exactly fit for the frontlines and… they needed people to tend the Academy, so that’s how me and my brother ended up where we are. Honestly, if it weren’t for the Academy rules, we’d probably be the primary cause of death amongst annoying acolytes.”

Lorrik digested the quartermaster’s words with grim realization. The acolyte’s face prompted another bout of laughter from the Human.

“Don’t worry, it takes a lot to annoy us. We’re good though. We’ll be better if you can get me my saber. We’ll be even better if you send me down a meal once in a while.”

“Heh, you got yourself a deal,” Lorrik said, shaking the man’s hand.

Lorrik turned from the quartermaster with a grin upon his face. Amidst all the clashes and quarrels that happen within the confines of the Academy, the inquisitor was happy to make the acquaintance of someone not utterly corrupted by the place’s darker influences.

The acolyte continued his trek toward the dueling rings and the stationed weapons master. Passing through the narrow halls, Lorrik noticed that the Academy was sparsely populated at the time. Little of the hustle and bustle of students looking to prove themselves. No screaming or shouting of pains or pleasures.

Curiosity got the better of him, as Lorrik turned the corner he did not notice the figure to his back. He also did not notice the blow about to be delivered to the back of his head.

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
04.05.2012 , 12:44 PM | #18
Chapter Fifteen: Consequences

A forceful fist struck Lorrik on the back of his skull, sending the inquisitor tumbling forward to the ground. On his knees, the acolyte used one hand to steady himself whilst the other grasped his newfound wound.

“Ow. If that was intended to knock me unconscious, you need to do better than that,” Lorrik muttered through the pain, not bothering to look up from the floor.

“Oh, why would I want you unconscious?” a familiar voice resonated in the darkened halls. “Then you would be ignorant of all the pain you were about to suffer.”

“Ornell,” Lorrik whispered, clenched fists resting against the floor. “Well, if you knocked me unconscious so you could drag me back to your lair… oh wait, I forgot, you’re too much of a worthless insect to possess anything of the sort.”

Lorrik found his insults brought to an abrupt end as Ornell delivered a powerful kick to the inquisitor’s side. The injured acolyte rolled over with a muffled grunt of pain. Facing upwards, Lorrik could finally glimpse his attacker.

“No, I suppose I haven’t a lair yet, but I do have a legion,” Ornell enthusiastically stated, four classmates standing behind him trying their hardest to appear intimidating.

“Did the meaning of the word legion change while I’ve been gone?” Lorrik joked, before being stomped by the flustered acolyte once again. The injured Human writhed on the ground, trying to keep his smile through the fits of discomfort. “If this is how you plan on killing me, we’re going to be here all till sundown.”

“What makes you think I have any intention of killing you, Lorrik?” Ornell asked, kneeling closer to the grounded acolyte’s face. “Are we not still bound by Academy law? I’m sure if you screamed loud enough, someone would hear you. That’s all it would take to put a stop to this. So go ahead, beg for mercy.”

“Pass,” Lorrik bluntly said. Ornell’s visage twitched in anger before he promptly struck the prone inquisitor’s face with his clenched fist. Rising, Ornell paced in a small circle with his hand stroking his jaw.

“You know, that wasn’t nice what you did the other day. Still don’t think I’m back to tasting things right.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Lorrik stated with faux compassion. “If you’d like, I could cook you up something to accommodate your particular tastes.”

Ornell’s pacing increased as he became more and more visibly displeased, eventually getting right in the fallen Human’s face. “Why? Why are you like this?”

“I figured if I’m going to be the one on the floor, I might as well do anything that would prevent you from deriving any pleasure from this experience,” Lorrik warmly stated.

“Oh. No. It’s quite alright if you stay silent,” Ornell whispered, his breath warming the other Human’s ear. “This is nothing. I’ll show you pain. Real pain. We’ll see how long you can hold your tongue.”

“Since when have I been holding my tongue?”

“Make your jokes. Soon, you’ll understand the cost of your actions.”

“Is it still against Academy rules if I die of boredom?”

Lorrik provoked a primal response from Ornell as the enraged acolyte stomped on the fallen inquisitor’s torso. Collecting himself, the instigator turned his back on the writhing acolyte.

“Rough him up,” Ornell called out. The lackeys who had since only stood by with quiet contemplation began to move. With no weapons, the four plainly robed Humans went about continuing their boss’s work, delivering kick after kick to the already brutalized inquisitor.

The beating continued for what seemed like ages to Lorrik. Pain exuded from every nerve of his body. But aside of the wayward grunt of exhaustion, the inquisitor remained silent.

Only after Lorrik lay sufficiently battered, bruised, and bloodied, did Ornell recall his henchmen. “Come on, we’re done here.”

The lowly acolytes offered their own quick scoffs toward the broken inquisitor before returning to their master. The one nearest Lorrik did notice the hand grasping at his right ankle. The retreating aggressor stopped to look down, and was met with the sight of a soft blue light emanating from the inquisitor’s hand.

Sparks crackled for but a moment, before surging through Lorrik’s contact point. In a flash, the standing acolyte’s body had become wrapped in short arcs of Force lightning. The victim stiffened as the energies coursed through his body, before slumping to the ground unconscious.

“One down,” Lorrik muttered, still prone, head raised only enough to make eye contact with Ornell.

Finishing his words, Lorrik spat a glob of blood from his mouth onto the floor in front of him before succumbing to several fits of coughing. Ornell scoffed before he continued to go about his business, walking away from the inquisitor and his single fallen lackey.

As Ornell turned the corner, Lorrik rolled onto his back to gather himself. Looking up at the ceiling he found it hard to gather his thoughts through his own heavy breathing. Grasping his yet unhooked saber, Lorrik used it as leverage to pull himself up off of the ground.

Slowly but surely straightening himself out, Lorrik gathered enough strength to stand straight. Slightly twisting his neck, and emoting with his jaw, the inquisitor made sure all of his parts were still sufficiently functioning. He still tasted the presence of blood as he licked his lips, but was unsure if the source was his mouth or the thin strip stemming from his nose.

Wiping his face, Lorrik saw that his gloved palm received a brush of red. The sight provoked a slight grimace as the inquisitor hesitated to wipe the fluid onto his pant leg. With a heavy sigh, Lorrik propelled himself forward, intent on finishing the task he had been given.

----------

Tending to some supplies behind his counter, the Academy quartermaster hadn’t noticed the figure approaching him. The slamming of something solid on the counter’s surface caught his attention. Turning around, the quartermaster saw Lorrik had completed the task he had been given, albeit returning in a rather haggard condition. The person, that is. The weapon held within his grasp showed no marks of disuse.

Lorrik released his grip on the peculiar weapon he had retrieved for the quartermaster. Like nothing the acolyte had seen firsthand, the weapon was actually a long pole arm matching his height in length, similar to the pikes and staves he had associated with some members of the Imperial Guard.

“I spoke to your brother… asked him for your saber… gave me this… maybe he misheard me… or wanted you to have this instead,” Lorrik sluggishly explained.

The quartermaster studied the bloodied and exhausted acolyte before him. “I didn’t expect so simple a task to prove so hazardous for you.

“Oh, this… this was nothing. Something else. So… uh… is this what you wanted?”

“This is fine, Lorrik. Consider yourself a favor owed,” the quartermaster stated, retrieving the weapon and putting it in a secure area below the counter. “Would you like to request a med-kit?”

“No… no. I’ll be fine. It’s been a pleasure…”

“Well, I somehow doubt that. Take care of yourself, acolyte.”

“Will do,” Lorrik said, turning away from the quartermaster with a slight slump in his stature. The inquisitor forged a new path returning to his suite, his gait almost returning to normal, but still marred by the presence of a limp.

“Yes... quite different.”

----------

When Lorrik made it back to his dwelling, he fiddled with the door panel for a moment, wanting nothing more than to lie down in his comfortable bed and rest. As the door parted, Lorrik saw Jresh meditating on the inscribed circular mat as he was prone to do. Sensing the intrusion, the warrior broke his stance to gaze at his partner. His brow furrowed at the sight of his companion’s condition.

“Do you plan on explaining your current status?” Jresh stoically asked, not budging from his kneeling position.

“Backroom beatings and inflated egos, standard Academy behavior. You know how it is,” Lorrik said as he trudged toward his room.

“No, I’m afraid I do not ‘know how it is’. Did you initiate a confrontation? Was this the work of Syrosk’s students?”

“No… no. A, uh, regular acolyte and a few flunkies. Something of a conflict that was from before our training under Syrosk.”

“What exactly happened?” Jresh asked, an atypical level of investment in his inquiry.

The inquisitor paused outside his room, staring at the door. “I was doing a favor for the quartermaster, during which I was struck on the back of the head by an acolyte. Then him and his gang proceeded to knock me around a bit.”

“Did you fight back?”

Lorrik turned toward his partner, carefully leaning against the nearby wall. “Not really. It would have accomplished nothing. If I took them down, I’d just be the guy who was picking on lowly acolytes since entering the training of a Sith Lord. If I cried out, I’d have given him the satisfaction of seeing me beg for mercy or hiding behind Academy rules. All of which would have reflected poorly on me… and you.”

“Weakness,” Jresh muttered, fists clenching his pant legs.

“I’m sorry?” Lorrik asked, taken aback.

“These other students. Their actions contained no merit. They had no clear goal with which they could accomplish. If they were trying to do something of significance, I might understand the overpowering numbers, but to use such force to try and belittle someone such as yourself…”

“That almost sounded like an insult.”

“The actions you have described are the actions of weak, foolish cowards.”

“They probably weren’t trying to prove how ‘strong’ they are. They just wanted to send a message.”

The Pureblood quickly picked himself up off the meditation mat. “Consider that message received. Can you give me the names of the assailants?”

“Whoa, these guys are beneath you. They didn’t accomplish anything, it’s best not to waste your time with them.”

“I will not stand idly by whilst rodents nip at my heels,” Jresh firmly stated. “Every message deserves a response.”

The Human hesitantly scratch the back of his bruised and bleeding head. “I don’t know…”

“Lorrik. I promised to lend you my strength. Just as you promised to lend me yours. You proved yourself today. What other might consider weakness, I consider fortitude. Syrosk told you to test your limits, to endure whatever came at you. And you did just that. You gave me insight into your beliefs, your psyche. You’ve broadened my horizons, proving that I was not a fool for turning away from the simplistic mindset that the Academy expected from warrior like myself. The least you could do, is allow me to defend you from those who would see you beaten down.”

“And here I thought you’d expect me to defend myself.”

“I do,” Jresh plainly stated. “There will be times when we are separated. When you will be forced to rely only on yourself. I expect you to be fully capable of staying alive by yourself. But in this instance, you chose not to retaliate. I know what you are capable of. I know that you made a conscious decision to act as you did. But while we are together, we are one. An attack on you is an attack on myself. And I cannot abide by that. If it makes you feel better, consider this an act of selfishness.”

Lorrik took a couple of deep, careful breaths. “You truly plan to act on this?”

“I am nothing if not determined. Now, I’m going to need names and faces.”

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Osetto
04.11.2012 , 01:55 PM | #19
Chapter Sixteen: Retaliations

Jresh briskly exited the suite, leaving Lorrik behind to recover. The inquisitor sat on his knees, staring at the door with growing concern. For once in his life, he had no clue or estimations of what events would transpire in the near future. He sat amongst the quiet room. Everything was still, calm, and peaceful. But in the inquisitor’s mind, only chaos. Feelings and concerns flooded his conscience. Questions circulated over and over in his mind.

What if? What will be? How, and most importantly, who? The Academy had finally left its mark on the student, physically and emotionally. And yet, here he remained, unable to reciprocate. Unable, or unwanting? He did not know. He had allowed Jresh to charge off on his own. He didn’t want to burden his partner. But deep within his mind, he wanted revenge. He wanted the pain he felt to be met and repaid in full.

Lorrik wanted peace, balance, and whatever else he might need to reach an enlightenment capable of separating himself from this accursed Academy. He wanted knowledge, power, and the ability to control his own freedom. He simply wanted. A wont for want defined him. Burdened him. Peace, yet emotion. Contradictories plagued his mindset.

Slowly, the inquisitor raised himself from the floor and steadily walked toward his room. As he passed the threshold of his personal quarters, he began to shed the outer layers of his robe. Unbuckling various fasteners, the Human haphazardly flung the gloves and boots from his limbs, and let his outer coat messily fall to the floor. Limping to the bathroom, Lorrik examined his reflection on the sizable mirror mounted upon the wall.

Splotches of red and purple marred his visage. Long since dried blood ran from the corners of his mouth, from his nostrils. Bruises dotted the rest of his remarkably swollen face. Despite his injuries, the inquisitor had moved beyond the pain. He could no longer gaze upon his face and see the individual cuts and bruises. Now, he could only see the captured image of his entire countenance. A portrait. A painting that held many facets, and many meanings.

Lorrik gazed at his reflection. He saw weakness, someone utterly incapable of defending himself. He saw strength, someone capable of enduring previously unmatched levels of pain. Beyond the anguish, the inquisitor eventually came across a realization. He wanted this. He needed this. Because in the end, he was feeling something. Pain, assuredly, but also a well of emotion and confusing thought. It was invigorating for the inquisitor.

Lorrik continued to stare at his reflection, and watched as he slowly adopted a smile. He saw potential. He saw a challenge. Exiting the bathroom, the inquisitor carried himself to the center of his bed. But instead of falling prone and resting, he adopted a meditative position, sitting upright with his legs crossed above the plush covers that lay beneath him. Closing his eyes, Lorrik brought his hands together, as the air surrounding him vibrated ever so slightly, producing a visible aura that seemed to emanate from his person.

----------

Jresh, meanwhile, walked the halls of the Academy with purpose. Brisk and dedicated, the warrior moved with an atypically fast pace, though still falling short of a jog. In reality, he was marching, marching toward a sure destination where sure actions were to take place.

Not bothering to utilize the hood of his robes, all who gazed upon the warrior as he made his way toward the classrooms saw a fierce dedication. Whichever students populated the halls that Jresh currently walked through, quickly altered their position, lest they actively impede the warrior. Two students however, made no such effort. Isorr and Arlia were walking back to their suite, having successfully completed their master’s exercise.

Seeing the Pureblood marching toward them alone, Arlia couldn’t help but release a snide comment at the warrior. “Well, what do you know? Those two aren’t physically latched on to one another.”

Arlia was momentarily confused when the Pureblood offered absolutely no response. She was unsure if he merely hadn’t heard her, or if he was actively ignoring her. The Twi’lek didn’t have time for another comment, as Jresh passed through the minimal gap that separated the duo without a single word or wayward glance. The two students continued to gaze at the stalwart warrior as he continued his trek toward the lower halls.

“That was peculiar,” Arlia said, puzzling over the Sith’s presence. As she turned to face her partner, she saw the Zabrak bearing a peculiar smirk. “What’s got you so giddy, Isorr?”

The Zabrak kept his eyes affixed to the marching warrior. “I know that look.”

“Oh, and what look might that be?”

“The look of pain and hatred. The look of death." There was a paused as Isorr watched the Pureblood turned a corner. "Good.”

“Good?”

“I was beginning to think the Human was having an adverse effect on the warrior. Weakening him. However, it looks like I still possess a worthy opponent in him.”

Arlia could not reciprocate her partner’s musings of worthiness.

Reaching the lecture wing of the lower halls, Jresh ventured passed the area where he had first met his companion. It was there that he came across a classroom in the middle of its studies. The number etched onto the wall next to the door matched the one Lorrik had described. As the warrior approached, the metallic door lifted itself into its upper recess in response to the Sith’s presence.

Inside the classroom, the students and instructor were sufficiently interrupted by the intruding warrior. There was a clear path from the door to the classroom’s instructor, who currently stood behind a lectern, and in front of a wall with various Sith writings etched onto its surface.

To the left and right, two sitting areas. Cold, brutal seating, lacking in any ergonomically pleasing design, was situated in tiered rows, each row sitting at a slightly higher elevation the closer to the door it was. Jresh pressed onward into the confines of the room, garnering the attention of the less than pleased instructor.

“I’m sorry… my lord… but might you explain why you are interrupting my lecture?” the instructor asked, balancing respect and disapproval. Jresh offered the older Human no response as he continued forward. Finally, adjacent to the instructor, the warrior leaned in close and whispered into the teacher’s ear. The plainly robed Human paused for but a moment before leaving the classroom without a word.

Jresh now stood behind the lectern, gazing out toward the students that populated the room. As he panned his gaze across the gathered students, Jresh unhooked his saber and placed it at the base of the lectern.

“I require a word with a student named Ornell and anyone who would care to associate with him. Everyone else… leave. Now.”

The warrior’s words shook the students to the core, and they promptly complied. As the mostly Human group vacated the room, only a few figures yet remained, matching the descriptions Lorrik had given of his aggressors.

“Look, you may have tricked the instructor into thinking you're someone of rank, but we know you’re just a student here,” a sufficiently smug Human said from the front row.

The commenting student was trying his hardest to adopt an aloof stance and appear unfazed by the warrior’s intrusion. Jresh studied the individual. It was definitely Ornell. Abandoning the lectern, Jresh made his way toward the student’s position.

“Hey, we both know there's nothing you can-” Ornell began, before Jresh promptly gripped the student by his blonde hair, and slammed his head into the sturdy desktop in front of him. As Ornell recoiled in pain, the three students that had opted to remain leapt to his defense.

Weaponless, they opted to bring down the warrior with their bare hands. They failed. The first to enter Jresh’s reach found himself incapacitated with a quick jab to his throat. The next managed to grab a hold on the warrior’s exterior robes, and the Pureblood responded by simply driving his own skull into the student’s nose. The last defender leapt at the Sith from one of the back rows. The Pureblood grabbed the jumper in mid-air before slamming his body to the ground at his feet. As the student writhed on the ground, Jresh forcefully directed his heel down onto the fallen student’s chest, knocking whatever air remained out of his lungs. Ornell, clutching the side of his head, had not even begun to process the events that had just transpired.

“What do you think you’re-” Ornell began, before he found himself gripped by the robes near his chest. The warrior lifted the inquisitor in training and flung him over the desk, sending him sliding toward the lectern. As Ornell impacted against the solid fixture, he began to scuttle and panic, unsure of any way to escape. On instinct, he grasped the training saber Jresh had left at the base of the lectern, activated it, and pointed it at the warrior. Jresh merely stared down his opponent, watching as the weapon trembled in the wielder’s right hand.

“Y-you m-messed up!” Ornell shouted, desperation oozing from every syllable that left his mouth. “N-now I’ve… I’ve got your weapon!”

The Pureblood approached the frightened student with one slow step after another.

“Yes… yes you do,” Jresh plainly stated, before he batted the weapon free of Ornell’s grip with a powerful backward swing of his gloved hand. “You’ve also revealed your dominant hand.”

The warrior closed whatever gap remained and lifted the student by his neck before flattening him against the ground. As Ornell lied sprawled at his feet, Jresh planted a boot on the student’s chest, keeping him pinned to the ground.

“P-please! You can’t kill me!” Ornell desperately cried out.

“Oh, I most definitely can,” Jresh coldly stated, leaning downward closer to his victim’s face. “But, I won’t.” The warrior, still pinning the inquisitor to the ground, reached down and grasped the student’s right hand by the wrist. “You committed a great grievance against Lorrik Velash, and in turn, committed a great grievance against myself.”

Gripping Ornell’s hand with one of his, Jresh used his other to grasp the student’s index finger. In one single motion, he bent the digit back until an audible snap wrung out, followed by Ornell’s howls of pain.

“That… was for Lorrik.”

Jresh moved on to the middle finger, and repeated the action. Ornell repeated his response with more unintelligible shrieks.

“That… was for me.”

Jresh released the inquisitor’s hand and removed his foot from the student’s chest. Ornell clutched his abused hand, writhing on the ground in agony. The warrior took a knee, and clutched Ornell’s jaw with his hand. Directing the student’s head, he made sure Ornell’s gaze met with his own.

“The consequences of your actions have been dealt. So long as you do not continue to harass myself or my partner, no more harm will be departed upon you. You are free to wander these halls without fear of further retaliation. However, if our gazes ever meet again, you will have exactly five seconds to make yourself disappear. Or else. Do I make myself clear?”

Ornell nodded, his eyes glazed over in tears. Without another word, Jresh retrieved his training saber, attached it to his belt, and departed the classroom, passing the still prone group of students that had opposed him. Exiting the room, the class instructor leaned against the wall adjacent to the door. Jresh had no words for him, or anyone else, and began his solemn trek back to the suite.

----------

Back at the suite, Lorrik entered his bathroom yet again, having exited his meditative trance. Gazing at his reflection, the inquisitor examined every extremity of his face. No cuts. No bruises. Lorrik emoted in a wide range, stretching and flexing each facial muscle and offering the occasional inquisitive poke and prod with his finger. Everything had apparently returned to normal. The pain was nothing but a memory. Lorrik pumped his fist into the air, overtly excited with the success of his new Force technique.

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Osetto
04.17.2012 , 06:40 PM | #20
Chapter Seventeen: Dreams

With a deep breath, Jresh entered the door code to his suite and entered, baring a peculiar serenity in his visage. More than the usual calmness and blankness that graced his face. His expression told of a strange sense of fulfillment that was not the standard. A sense of satisfaction, of actions taken, of conditional delight. Passing the threshold of the warrior’s home, Jresh noticed that the same feeling could be extrapolated from the suite itself. As the warrior walked toward the bedrooms, there appeared to be no evidence of the anguish that populated the area a short while ago.

Stopping the warrior dead in his stride, was the emergence of Lorrik from his bedroom, garbed in a casual set of backup robes. Jresh puzzled as he gazed upon his companion's unblemished face, seeing no scars, only a peculiar smile, even for Lorrik.

The Pureblood softly furrowed his brow. “What happened to your wounds?”

“I know, awesome right?” Lorrik heartily replied. “Force healing. Never had the chance to try it before. Didn’t even think I would be able to do it.”

“Upon what source did you siphon sustenance from?” Jresh asked.

“None. I thought, hey, Jresh meditates and finds peace and what have you. Why can’t I? And I did.”

“When I meditate, I lock myself in with my own thoughts, and set out to achieve a certain understanding of the internal forces that make up my body and mind. What you did, sounds like drawing upon the light side of the Force. You’ll understand why I consider the act something of peculiarity for a Sith acolyte. I know your demeanor doesn’t match the other students, but this… this is quite different.”

“I think it fits perfectly with what we are trying to accomplish, procuring knowledge and techniques from any source so long as it increases our combined power. I mean, when you were injured on our second day of training, you eventually healed yourself over a long period with meditation. Imagine if I could have mended your wound on the spot. I mean, I'm not able to channel this power yet, to my knowledge, but given time and training…”

“I feel that such a course of action might be counter intuitive. If whatever injuries I sustain are immediately remedied, how will I be able to dwell upon then, learn from them, draw from them.”

“A good point, but think about it. How do we gain strength?” Lorrik asked. “We push our bodies to the limit, breaking down what makes us up so that it can repair itself and come back stronger. I think I’ve found a way to expedite the process. Regardless of your toughness, which I will admit is remarkably high, you will eventually find your actions limited by a fear of being incapacitated. Only a complete fool would possess absolutely no qualms about being injured. But now, with this knowledge, this power, we can push ourselves even further. We can press forward, beyond the other students, and ensure our continued success in the future to come.”

Jresh scratched his chin, as intrigued as he was reticent. “I understand your reasoning Lorrik, and I won’t presume to have as in depth a knowledge of the Force as you do, but everything I’ve known and experienced in this Academy up until this point unfortunately casts some doubts on this occurrence. As much as we differ from our peers by way of mentality, we still draw our power from the dark side.”

“That we do. I merely believe in diversification.”

“The dark and the light will always oppose one another. One will dominate the other or they will inevitably cancel each other out. Trying to utilize both will either render your power inert, or destroy you.”

“That is what we’ve always been taught, but then again, think of all the things the Academy has tried to push on us. Who’s to say the Academy and the Sith aren’t trying to impose some sort of artificial weakness on us? The Jedi keep their initiates hidden away from the influences of the dark side’s power. Maybe the opposite is true for us.”

“It is not a completely unthinkable prospect,” Jresh stated, still unsure of his companion’s thoughts.

“Hey, how about another chat session, like the other day. We’ll meditate, and I’ll explain all the crazy philosophies I got going on in my mind on this subject,” Lorrik calmly said, stepping toward the meditation mat in the center of the room.

Jresh stood in silence for a short moment before finally conceding to the inquisitor’s plan, joining him. Instead of sitting in the rug’s center, the two took opposing positions on the outer rim, facing inward and toward one another. Jresh unhooked his saber and laid it gently upon the ground next to him as he knelt across from Lorrik.

“So, early in my studies,” Lorrik began, “I came across numerous accounts of techniques created, lost, and rediscovered by various Sith throughout the ages. This process was only spurred on by the various wars and conflicts between Force-users in the past. Jedi. Dark Jedi. Sith. As a whole, each would follow a certain doctrine, and draw upon an equally powerful power source. The light side of the Force provided stability, preserved balance, offered bastion. The dark side of the Force provided power, enabled change, and always pressed forward.”

“The two sides of the Force opposed one another, in its base form and in its various wielders,” Lorrik continued. “But there was little in the form of exclusivity between the two forces. When each side witnessed a powerful Force technique, they would copy it, either exactly, or producing a purified or corrupted version of it. Jedi would use techniques thought only to be driven by hatred and fear, yet remained utterly calm and composed. Sith now are able to quickly heal grave injuries by drawing upon dark emotions, or siphoning energy from another living creature. This leads me to believe a few things. First and foremost, that regardless of the separation of light and dark, there is still just the Force.”

“Are you saying that the two sides of the Force are inconsequential?” Jresh asked.

“No. No. The Force now is absolutely divided. In ancient times there may have simply been one Force, the light and dark together and indistinguishable, but I doubt that lasted long, especially as soon as any living creatures started utilizing it. I merely believe that despite the divide, the two sides are still connected. Think about it. Throughout the entirety of our known history, the light and the dark have existed. Never has one side utterly compromised or defeated the other. Darkness would yet remain in the hearts of a galaxy guided by the light. A light would still flicker when utterly surrounded by darkness. The two sides continue to exist, and must exist. Together.”

“It is one thing to understand both sides of the Force,” Jresh admitted, “but to properly utilize both of them… that is something I don’t think anyone has been able to properly accomplish. As you said, when one side copied the techniques of the other, it was in the form of debased, altered versions.”

“I agree that it would prove to be a monumental task, drawing strength from both the light and the dark simultaneously. It would require an individual to possess the utmost connection between their body, their mind, and their spirit. None of these aspects could falter, or give way, otherwise the internal conflict would destroy the user from within.”

“You think yourself capable of such a feat?”

“I think myself capable of trying.”

“So the Sith’ari’s ambitions were suddenly matched,” Jresh muttered, the closest thing to a joke the Sith could muster.

“Early in my training, I had a dream," Lorrik explained. "I was far too inexperienced to consider it some sort of vision, but it has none the less guided me, and continues to guide my thought processes when it comes to training and acquiring knowledge.”

“A dream?” Jresh asked.

“Yes,” Lorrik emphatically stated. “Close your eyes, and see if you can picture it. I would fall asleep, and awake standing in a peculiar void. I was standing on a path that continued forever forward, stretching onward past the horizon. The sky was nothing but an unblemished white blankness. The path was made of immaculate material, not bearing a single crack or flaw, and was no wider than a meter. To my left, and my right, there existed not land, but two equally infinite pools of calm water, separated by the impermeable barrier that was the path I currently walked. The left pool, a completely opaque expanse of blackness. The right pool, completely clear, extending eternally yet offering a glimpse into the white void that surrounded it.”

“I knelt at the precipice of the black pool, and cupped my hand into the dark waters. Looking at the liquid that remained in my hand, at its thinnest point it possessed an almost reddish tinge. At its deepest, a tenebrous dancing appeared to be taking place in the murky depths, enticing and captivating me. It begged me to partake in it, and I complied, bringing my hand and its bounty to my lips. Drinking the dark water, the tongue immediately rejected the utter bitterness of it. But everything else wanted more. It burned the throat as it continued its travels, but still the body wanted more. The dark water seemed to provide an unknown sustenance. Gazing into the greater pool, the opaque waters spoke to me, beckoning me to dive into its depths. It promised pain. It promised relief. It offered hunger, only to sate it. It gave itself to me, yet expected me to give myself to it.”

“I resisted the call, though only barely, and turned and knelt at the opposite edge of the divide. Scooping the clear liquid into my hand, the liquid slowly vibrated in my cusp. It produced a sort of divine radiance in its edges, something capable of surpassing even the utterly white void that dominated the scene. The waters begged me to drink, just as the others had. And like with the others, I did. It was cool, and temporarily sated the burning sensation wrought by the dark pool. As it filled me, it also offered relief from the hunger the darkness had perpetuated. But it was fleeting. The pool begged me to dive in, offering more relief in its depths. Peace. Serenity. Absolution. As I scooped another hand into the clear waters, I was horrified to see the small amount of water resting in my hands slowly lost its radiance, turning into dull ordinary liquid.”

“That was when I knew that as different as the two sides were, there were exactly the same. They each wanted me to commit to them, offering true solace and sustenance somewhere hidden far out and deep, where I would have to forever turn my back on the other pool. It was at that point that I realized, devoting myself to either the darkness or the light, meant losing myself. I would no longer exist in my current form, I would become a slave. The darkness would grant me its power, only to eventually eat away at every fiber of my being. The light would grant me peace, only if I were completely and utterly dedicated to it.”

“And so I stood, and I walked forward, continuing along the immaculate path that divided the two pools. I would later partake in the two waters, and discover that further down the path, the darkness renewed its sustenance, and the light did not turn dull. So I continued, instead of diving deep into one of the pools, I would move forward along the path, taking in each side, one scoop at a time, until that spot would no longer provide for me. But no side ever abandoned its ambitions. They each tried to pull me toward their depths, knowing that refusing me their bounty even while still on the path meant that I would have no choice but to go to the other side.”

“I continued forward, believing that I had outwitted the two forces. That is when I started to notice, the path was ever so slowly narrowing as I moved forward. But I could not stop, as each pool would refuse me further sustenance and delight from a single spot for too long. So I vowed to press on, no matter what. The path continued, and still stretched eternally into the unapproachable horizon. But it became harder and harder to drink from the two pools. Putting one foot in front of the other, I was forced to achieve total balance to stay upright, knowing that one misstep would send me tumbling into one of the pools. And at this point, if either force could wrap itself around me, I knew it would not let me go. So I continued. Utterly focused. Keeping my body, mind, and spirit all devoted to the singular cause of progress.”

“The path still narrows as I moved forward. Eventually, it was as if I was balancing barefoot on the edge of a razor. Moving forward, the path that once offered protection from the two forces, now cut at the soles of my feet. Cut after cut delivered itself into the bottom of my foot. Looking down, I saw droplets of blood drip into each pool. The darkness welcomed it, almost as if feeding on me as it has always wanted. The light dissolved it, leaving practically no visible trace of its presence in the pool. Balancing on one foot, I hesitantly dipped the other into the darkness. I felt a slight tug, as if the pool was now drinking from me. But the pain from the cuts were numbed. Dipping the foot into the light, the pain returned, intensified. The dark waters that yet remained on my foot were purified. As I rescinded my foot, I discovered that not a single cut remained.”

“I continued my trek forward, replicating the actions I had previously taken. Cutting my feet, numbing the pain, and repairing the damage. I found I no longer required the ingestion of the waters to indulge in their benefits. I achieved a greater understanding. And still I continued. I faced pain. And continued to face pain. But I knew so much more about the two pools of water than when I had first started. The two sides were different, yet the same. They opposed one another, and always sought to strike out at the other. And me, in the middle of that conflict, bore witness, experienced the strife, and in the end, profited on the conflict.”

“My body, mind, and spirit had been strengthened, because they had systematically been broken down and repaired. This entire sequence, I believe, is readily transferable into the material world. That is why I am the way I am, believe the way I believe, and act the way I act. It is not a quick strategy. It is something that can only hope to be accomplished over an entire lifetime, and maybe longer. But I vow I will not give up in this endeavor.”

Lorrik had finished his thoughts with a deep breath. Looking forward, he saw that Jresh was in fact utterly devoted in meditation, digesting every single word the inquisitor had offer him. Upon opening his eyes, the warrior stared directly into those of his companion.

“I guess we’re not as dissimilar as I had once thought,” Jresh said, almost adopting a grin.