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The Academy: Acolyte Ascension


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Osetto
09.29.2012 , 04:30 PM | #61
Chapter Twenty: Doctrines

Holding his companion up in the air, the two apprentices continued to indulge in their merriment without a care in the world. If the other Sith amongst the Academy grounds were gazing upon their revelry, they did not know. Rather, they did not care. In the time of their brief separation, they realized fully their attachment to one another. And in that attachment, they saw not weakness, but an enduring strength. A bond.

Setting the inquisitor back upon the soles of his feet, the Pureblood attempted to straighten up his image, wiping the smile from his face. As hard as he tried to return to the stoicism he had so readily relied upon, there was still an aura of emotion about him. Lorrik expressed a quick chuckle as his partner’s lips struggled to straighten themselves and the warrior slowed his breaths.

“I was… worried I might have missed you,” Jresh admitted, prompting quick series of nods and a smirk from his companion.

“Oh, I know you would have missed me.”

“I meant…” Jresh continued, increasingly flustered.

Lorrik gave his partner a firm pat on the shoulder. “Don’t worry big guy. I know this emotional stuff doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue for you. We’ve got time, no need to rush things.”

“No. I can’t just keep putting things off,” Jresh stated. “When you left, I was certain it was because I had been dishonest. About my being here. About my past.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’re all figuring out our place in this Academy. In this Empire. Our pasts are behind us. Let’s focus on the future.”

“It’s not that easy. You brought up our lives before the Academy for discussion before, I evaded the topic. I was selfish. Concerned that my past would define me more than anything I’ve accomplished.”

“Nonsense!”

“Is it?” Jresh asked. “Isn’t that entire reason we’re in this situation? Why we were hidden away amongst the halls of the Academy rather than out here with the true acolytes? Slaves. Aliens. Impurities.”

“Our pasts are merely a sequence of events that shape our path. They don’t define it. And they certainly don’t define us,” Lorrik declared. “We can’t ignore our past. For all the painful, harmful memories, there is knowledge to be learned. There is strength to be drawn. And if I know you as well as I think I do, you’d never cast aside a potential source of strength. I’ll admit, we are not in the most prestigious of positions at the moment… but if given the choice, I’d not alter the path I’ve walked. We think the Academy a place of uplifting those who have proven their superiority, but we forget those cast down in the process. Or maybe we remember them and just think it a deserved fate. The Academy… it’s a horrible place. More so than we know. We haven’t faced what these acolyte’s have faced. Death was nonexistent amongst the classrooms. Out here… not so much. I could stand around, hating the years I’ve wasted under Tash’s instructors, but the fact is… I might not be alive right now had I been accepted as a traditional student.”

“I take it this has to do with the person I saw wearing your coat as they boarded the shuttle off world?”

“Yeah. Had a little talk with him. Younger than us and yet he’s been through things much worse. This Academy would have no doubt been the end of him,” Lorrik said as he gazed toward the landing pad. “I gave him my envelope. I saved his life.”

“A noble action.”

“He didn’t deserve to go through what he did. He didn’t ask to become a Sith. He was dragged here along with many others. Enslaved by the Sith, forced to earn their freedom from shackles they did not require. There is a path of ascension within the Academy, but it is buried under countless more that lead only to death and dismay. The Sith should be about freedom. We pursue the path we tread because it suits our goals, but we are the ones who should choose to pursue it! Our freedom is what sets us apart from the Jedi! The Academy is an institution of veiled enslavement, with true freedom reserved for select few. I cannot abide by this. We are Sith. We will not turn away from this path. But we cannot turn a blind eye to the contradictions… to the distortions placed upon that title. I used to think your idea of the Sith’ari as fantasy. Now, more than ever, I’d like to see that fantasy realized. I’ve moved past the manipulations of Darth Tash… of Lord Syrosk. My immediate thought this morning was to leave it all behind, but that would be putting my talents to waste. No. Instead, I will train. I will progress. And once I have achieved a sufficient level of power, I will mend this Empire. But alas, the foundations are much too warped. If we want to truly fix things, we’re going to have to break them in the process. Are you with me?”

“Yes,” Jresh adamantly answered. “Now and forever.”

Without another word, Lorrik wrapped his arms around his companion once more and squeezed him as much as his limbs would allow.

Releasing his grip, the Human wore a determined countenance. “Syrosk has a lesson for us. We shouldn’t miss it.”

“You’re right. Let us head back and prepare for the day ahead. You without a coat, and me without a weapon… it would be a rather embarrassing start for our new path, wouldn’t you say?”

“Well, at least we can rectify one of those…”

----------

The eight apprentices had reconvened later that day, standing atop the usual mountaintop with an odd sense of nostalgia. Situated in an orderly lineup, they stood within the stern, penetrating gaze of their master whom remained rigid at their opposite. Back in his usual armored getup, the intimidating figure panned his view from student to student, holding his eyes on one for a few moments before moving onto the next.

“Well, it seems all eight of you have opted to stay. Good,” Syrosk plainly spoke up. “Given that you all stand here unscathed, I also take it none of you went out of your way to disclose the nature of Darth Tash’s plotting to the Academy at large. We mustn’t diverge from that choice. He is a dangerous and powerful figure who knows I still oppose him and his ways and would no doubt order his forces to strike against us… if, however, he weren’t so caught up in his pride and sense of superiority. No, instead, we are currently beneath his notice. Partly by design, partly by fluke. But it is a factor that I plan to capitalize on. There is nothing simple about being a proper Sith. You must understand when and where to bare your teeth. I’ll not send you out to fight my enemies. I’ll not be using you as dispensable tools. I will be training you to be proper Sith. No one will know of your progress. No one will know of your strength. Not for quite some time. Put away your pride, your selfishness, your ego, unless they directly serve in your ability to better yourselves. Is that understood?”

The apprentices all offered a steady stream of nods and affirmations.

“Good. One thing you all must understand is that you are not students of this Academy. You are students of a Sith Lord currently residing within the Academy, making use of its facilities and surroundings. As my apprentices, you have earned my respect, but I cannot say the same for the Academy staff and its acolytes. Lorrik and Jresh may have an easier time walking the amongst the populace without burden, but the rest of you will be looked down upon. Therefore, it is fitting that you possess something indicative of your status. A proper lightsaber.”

The students looked to one another with a budding pride, breaking from their disciplined formation at the thought of owning their very own weapon.

“With the traditional Force-user’s weapon at your hip, people will be wary of drawing you into open conflict, which is something we need to establish sooner, rather than later. Typically, a master would gift his apprentice a lightsaber upon achieving the proper rank. I do not have eight with which to part with each of you. I do not even own a second lightsaber from my own. This is by intention. In my spare time I could have easily acquired weapons to simply pass out, but that would not teach you to appreciate it. I simply gave you your personal training sabers, and I see that one of you has misplaced it.”

The others’ eyes fell upon the weaponless Jresh whose posture refused to budge even the slightest.

“It fell off a cliff, sir,” Jresh explained, his usual stoic self.

“No, it currently resides at the hip of Isorr. His lies twisted at the bottom of a darkened pit, not yours. Telepath, remember? After you all acquire your lightsabers, that will be the focus of our next training session. I may possess a gift for the art, but any Sith with sufficient training can dominate the mind of their opponent. Read it, control it, destroy it. Before we can continue, you all must be able to sufficiently defend yourself against the mental intrusions of your fellow Sith.”

The apprentices were in agreement with their master’s plan of action.

“Now, for your lightsabers, I can provide you the raw materials. Power cells. Lenses. Casings. Your responsibility will be acquisition of crystals. Fortunately, the Academy keeps a stock of such items. Unfortunately, they are kept remarkably expensive to keep them out the hands of lowly acolytes. Luckily, you all still possess the envelopes I presented to you yesterday, each with enough funds to purchase them.”

“Damn,” Lorrik muttered.

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Osetto
10.01.2012 , 07:01 PM | #62
Chapter Twenty One: Tools

Lorrik’s mind lapsed as Syrosk continued his speech. Words left his master’s lips and found purchase upon his own ears, but there was something preventing them from holding meaning. The Sith Lord offered brief, succinct directions for his students, detailing the process of requisitioning crystals from the Academy’s proper supply chain. The Human’s eyes were glazed over when the students were dismissed and the Lord made his way back toward the Academy. It took a firm shake of his arm to bring him back to the present. Wildly turning his head, Lorrik shifted to see his companion gazing upon him with an arched brow.

“I can guess what’s currently going through your mind at the moment,” Jresh admitted.

“That obvious?”

“Don’t need to be a telepath to see you’re in duress.”

“Duress is a… strong word.”

“For the predicament, I’d say it fits,” Jresh calmly stated. The pair watched the other students depart from the mountaintop without a fuss. “I’d say you’re alone in your lack of funds. Think we could get by with my allotment and some careful haggling?”

“I don’t know,” Lorrik admitted, his hand softly rubbing his brow. “Syrosk most likely gave us just enough credits to get our crystals.”

“Are you going to explain your situation to him?”

“He probably already knows. Hell, he probably knows about our entire conversation earlier today. The man is surprised by nothing.”

“He doesn’t come off as a man who knows his students plan on shaking the foundations of the Empire.”

“He doesn’t come off as anything,” Lorrik stated. “What you see is what you get, and all you see is a scowl and some horns.”

“What are you going to do?” Jresh asked.

“I don’t know,” Lorrik immediately replied. What followed was a heavy silence, broken only by the inquisitor’s heavy sigh as he scratched the back of his head. Just as he was about to turn and trudge his way back to the Academy, a spark appeared within Lorrik’s visage. “Go ahead and take care of your business. I’m going to make a… personal inquiry.”

“What are you planning?”

“You remember how Syrosk said not to interfere with Tash’s domain?”

“Quite.”

“Well…”

“Just one question. Are you going to need backup?”

“No. I got this.”

“Alright, then I’ll place my trust in you,” Jresh firmly stated. “Don’t die. Don’t do anything too disruptive.”

“What’s considered too disruptive?”

“Stomping about, making a mess of things.”

“Don’t worry. We inquisitors know how to utilize an indirect approach…”

----------

“So tell me about Darth Tash.”

The two brothers situated behind the requisitions counter within the lower halls looked up at the inquiring apprentice with pale faces. Paler than usual. The weapons master and quartermaster looked to each other without a shred of knowing how to proceed. Lorrik placed his hands on the counter and leaned forward with a confidence they had not seen before, not in him nor any of the usual acolytes that would grace their presence. That had witnessed bravado and stupidity, but not confidence. Especially in regard to their hidden master.

“Lorrik. It’s been a while. How goes the cooking?” the quartermaster spoke up, playing up a nonchalant demeanor.

“Honestly, the man knows about Darth Tash and your mind is on food?” the weapons master asked, refusing to face the inquisitor directly.

“So what if he knows? He’s outside the realm of influence.”

“No one is outside the realm of influence. Darth Tash considers half the galaxy within the realm of influence.”

“And he stops by for a status report how often? He was only here last week because one of the instructors called him in.”

“Whoa, wait a minute,” Lorrik interrupted. “He was here? Last week?”

“What, you weren’t here to see him force your master to his knees?” the weapons master coldly stated.

“I was… in the wastes…” Lorrik muttered, trailing to the point of being inaudible.

“Lucky you. Had you been with him you likely would have been made an example of as well,” the quartermaster explained.

“Though now, it’s technically our duty to report your activities to him,” the weapons master offered with no sense of urgency. “But…”

“But…?” Lorrik asked.

“But… that would require an effort neither of us are willing to make,” the quartermaster finished.

“Not interested in earning his favor? Offering details about the apprentice of his hated rival?” Lorrik suggested.

“Does he hate Lord Syrosk?” the quartermaster asked, turning to his brother.

“To hate would be admitting to being affected. He's much too prideful for that,” the brother answered.

“Yeah… we lean more towards the ‘getting by utterly unnoticed’ course of action. Darth Tash’s attention isn’t widely regarded as a boon.”

“You obviously aren’t trying to earn his favor, so why participate in his schemes?” Lorrik asked.

The weapons master released a quick chuckle. “You don’t seem to understand the nature of choice in this Academy.”

“We’re here because… if we weren’t, we’d be dead,” the quartermaster added. "We came to Korriban as regular students. Prime Force-sensitive Humans from families in good standing. Unfortunately, our survival skills didn’t exactly match our credentials. We were on our last legs as acolytes. Our deaths were certain. Darth Tash offered us a chance. We oversee some of the particulars of his personal wing of the Academy, we get to live outside all the ‘kill or be killed’ nonsense.”

“We don’t owe him. There’s no sense of duty. We just know what needs to be done to survive.”

“What about freedom?” Lorrik asked.

“What about it? It’s a fabrication. A lie. A cruel joke,” the weapons master declared. “I can show with my fingers the number of people in the Empire who are truly free. The rest of us are just trying to get by. Playing along with the schemes of deluded Sith.”

Lorrik leaned in close, speaking with a sly whisper. “How would you feel… about playing along with another?”

“What do you have in mind?”

“Just another scheme from one… little… deluded… Sith,” Lorrik calmly stated.

The inquisitor cracked a smile to the confusion of the two brothers. The pair shared moment of silent contemplation with each other before turning back to the apprentice.

“Explain…” the quartermaster softly directed.

“I’ve encountered a roadblock in my training with Lord Syrosk. He’s instructed us to acquire crystals for the construction of our lightsabers. We were supposed to use credits he provided to purchase said crystals from the Academy’s ‘true’ supply chain.”

“And the problem is?” the weapons master asked.

“I am no longer in possession of my allotted credits.”

“What happened?” the quartermaster asked. “Get mugged? Waste it on cooking supplies? Discover the cantina?”

“There’s a cantina… in the Academy?” Lorrik muttered before shaking his head. “No… no. I spent them smuggling a student off world, giving an acolyte a new life, outside all the ‘kill or be killed’ nonsense.”

The brothers shared yet another look.

“So. You’re in need of some free crystals. That might be out of our reach,” the quartermaster admitted.

“Am I right in assuming Darth Tash wasn’t behind that saber pike you had me fetch some time ago? And I know you have greater reach than one would assume, given that you provided me foodstuffs after I left Tash’s domain. How hard could crystals for one measly lightsaber be to acquire?” Lorrik casually suggested.

“Of all the things our superiors would take notice of, a missing crystal ranks pretty high,” the quartermaster explained. "We’ve been scrounging together parts as a pastime, over months. Years! If we could help you in any other way…”

“We can help you,” the weapons master bluntly stated.

Lorrik brightened up. “You can?”

“We can?” the quartermaster muttered as his brother offered a stern glare. “Oh… right. I had almost forgotten about that.”

“Care to explain?” Lorrik asked, completely lost in the brothers’ musings.

“We have been sitting on… something… for some time. Something that might serve your needs,” the quartermaster explained.

“Your delivery doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” Lorrik admitted.

“You’ve never been a big fan of tradition, have you?”

----------

Kneeling upon the meditation mat within his suite, Jresh gaze upon the finely cut crystal he had purchased from the proper supply channels. The bright crimson gem caught the light, seized it, refused to let it go. Grasping it within his ungloved hand, the crystal looked right at home amongst the Pureblood’s reddened skin. The warrior looked upon the item’s inherent magnificence, eager to see what would become of it.

A knock on the door interrupted his fascination. Raising himself from the mat, Jresh approached the suite’s entrance. Clutching the crystal firmly within his hand, he refused to allow it to slip from his grasp. With his free hand, he opened the door, revealing the return of his companion.

There were no words. Only the wide open smile stretched across the Human’s face. Within his hands, Lorrik loftily held a pristine blue crystal.

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Osetto
10.12.2012 , 10:34 PM | #63
Chapter Twenty Two: Bonds

Jresh eyed the blue crystal within his partner’s hands. “A curious choice, I must admit.”

“And I must admit that it wasn’t much of a choice,” Lorrik replied. “It’s all the quartermaster had.”

“The quartermaster? From our previous encounters? Did he give it to you… or did you have to take it?”

“No, it was given freely. No need to worry about consequences or retaliations…”

“I do hope you are not speaking generally.”

Lorrik offered a quick chuckle. “No need to worry about that either. I took a calculated risk, openly confronting those whom are under Darth Tash’s employ, but it paid off. I have what I need to continue my training proper, and I may have secured some valuable allies.”

“More promises of home cooked meals?”

“You make it sound as if that’s all I’m capable of offering.”

“I’m merely weighing past interactions, I know your proper skills lie beyond the culinary. In our unique positions, there’s very little we can actually offer these people beyond the use of our hands. No credits. No assets. No place in society…”

“All of which can be earned. In time, of course.”

“Of that I’m certain, we must simply be aware of our restrictions going forward, lest we miss any opportunities to shed them.”

“That’s the kind of tempered determination I’ve come to expect from you.”

“Someone needs to keep you in line.”

“Whatever, Sith’ari,” Lorrik teased. Venturing deeper into the suite, the inquisitor peered into his opened bedroom, witnessing a scene of rife with past rifling.

“You should know I went into your room this morning… when I realized you weren’t here," Jresh admitted.

“Did you think I was hiding in the drawers?” Lorrik joked, eyes fixed on the ransacked night table.

“I also found your journal,” Jresh spoke up.

Lorrik took only the slightest of pauses. “Listen to any of it?”

“The first few entries. I was… in a peculiar state of mind when I thought you had left for good,” Jresh admitted. “I was distraught. I wanted some modicum of insight into where you had gone, what you were thinking.”

“As long as we’re being honest, I would have liked to have known what I was thinking this morning as well. I’d like to say I never intended to leave, but I don’t know what I would have done had I not come across that other student.”

“Well, like you said, remember the past, but don’t dwell on it.”

“Right, if there was ever a time to keep our wits about us, it’d be now.”

“Really? Not when we were walking across the blasted wasteland or face to face with a terentatek?”

“And if there was ever a sign that things had returned to normal, it’d be you calling me out on all the stupid things I say.”

“Now, now, there aren’t enough hours in the day to call you out on all the stupid things you say,” Jresh offered with the slight upturn of his lips.

The inquisitor let out a soft chuckle. “Hi. I’m sorry, have you seen a Pureblood by the name of Jresh? Big. Red. Stoic. Likes leaning against walls with his arms crossed. Befuddled by the concept of humor. I heard he was around here somewhere?”

“Given what we’re expected to go up against, I doubt there will be any shortage of seriousness in the days ahead. You’ll have to forgive me if I try and keep things lighthearted within our residence.”

“This is it then. The moment everything changes.”

“Lorrik, I do believe we are well past that point. Change is in our nature. Each day at this Academy will prove to distinguish itself from the preceding one. We’ve faced some harsh trials recently. Harsh revelations. And moving forward, I expect we’ll face even more. Some will be easier… some will be much, much more difficult.”

“But we’ll face them together… right?”

“Of course we will.”

“Then I look forward to it,” Lorrik declared. “What do you suppose our next trial will be?”

“Can’t say for certain. Though most likely yours will be facing the ridicule of the other students for possessing a blue lightsaber crystal.”

“You don’t think they’ll give me much grief over it do you?” Lorrik asked, his face scrunched in a seemingly genuine concern.

“A Sith… with a blue lightsaber…”

“Hey, our roots belong to the Dark Jedi who left their order. If anything, I’m a hyper-traditionalist.”

“An anti-slavery, anti-discriminatory, anti-Sith Sith traditionalist. It’s as if you’re trying to offend the people you surround yourself with.”

“Have I offended you?”

“Absolutely not. Just know that the boundary between harmless jibes and grievous offenses is relatively thin for most Sith.”

“It's almost as if you believe the denizens of this establishment are prone to overblown retaliations for any perceived slight. Outrageous. Not these fine, upstanding, murdering, subjugating, manipulating-”

“I have no problem with any new challenges that should come our way, just… like I said, someone needs to keep you in line.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m not worried. I bet no one even notices anything tomorrow.”

----------

“I feel like everyone is looking at me,” Lorrik cautiously muttered through clenched teeth. The students had returned to their typical spot atop the mountaintop, each palming their acquired crystals within their hands. Eight apprentices situated in a familiar line across from their discerning master.

“To be fair, I don’t think they’re looking at you so much as your peculiar item,” Jresh replied.

Lorrik pursed his lips as he struggled not to turn and face his fellows directly. Instead he kept his gaze upon his master, who was most assuredly staring directly into his eyes. “He’s reading my mind. I just know it.”

“To be fair, he’s only a short distance away, he can probably just hear you.”

“Stop saying ‘to be fair’!” Lorrik harshly whispered, followed by a loud, drawn out clearing of the throat from the opposing Sith Lord. Immediately the inquisitor succumbed to silence as he softly bowed his head.

“Students,” Syrosk began. “I see that all of you were successful in completing your task. You’re all one step closer to possessing the proper weapon of a Force-user. It is, however, only one of many steps. And seven of you are ready to proceed to the next step.” Lorrik’s heart immediately sunk as the Sith Lord refused to break eye contact with him. “A lightsaber is merely one tool in the Sith’s arsenal. One just as potent, just as dangerous, is the Sith’s mind. Despite your flawed education of many years, it has served in bettering your martial skills. The same cannot be said for your mental aptitude. The acquisition process for your lightsabers will not be quick. You will design them. Construct them. Deconstruct them. Reconstruct them. Imbue them with the power of the Force. In the end, it will not be something you hold within your hand, it will be an extension of that hand. You will forge a bond. One of many bonds crucial to your progress. Considering the fact that this will be a long and arduous process, there will be… gaps… in your training. Gaps I don’t intend to waste.”

Moving closer to his students, Lord Syrosk panned his gaze from one end of the line-up to the other and back again, pausing his cold eyes upon each individual for the longest instant before moving on. The apprentices remained rigid in their stances, eyes forward, and minds clear.

“The first step, in a series of steps separate from those regarding your lightsaber, will involve one on one training sessions, in which we will focus on training your minds,” Syrosk detailed. “Strengthening your resolve. Fortifying your defenses. Honing your capabilities. Securing your thoughts from prying individuals. Your minds will be trained just as your bodies were. They will be broken down, so that they can be rebuilt upon firmer foundations. And like your lightsabers, this building process will not be quick, and it will not be simple. When the body wants to overcome pain, it relies on the mind to trick it. When the mind wants to overcome pain, it has only itself to rely upon. This leads to delusions, misconceptions, and weakness. All of which must be overcome. Seven of you will spend the rest of the day researching designs for your lightsaber. One of you will accompany me to my chambers for training. Lorrik. That privilege falls to you.”

The Human’s heart sunk even lower than before. His eyes danced against the distant horizon as his vision began to blur. Indistinct vibrations pounded against his eardrums. Murmurs. Declarations. Instructions. Everything cleared when the inquisitor felt a firm hand upon his shoulder. The gloved hand of his partner felt heavy against his robe, but amongst the weighted burden there was relief.

“Good luck,” Jresh directly spoke into Lorrik’s ear before taking a step back toward the Academy. The Human saw the other seven apprentices had begun walking down the return path, leaving only himself and Lord Syrosk standing atop the mountain as the Korriban sun hovered over them.

“So, what’s the thought process behind this choice? Does it have to do with my crystal, or are we starting with the person with the most potential… the least potential…?”

“We’re starting with the mind I’d least appreciate the contents of which being uncovered by unscrupulous parties.”

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Osetto
10.13.2012 , 08:51 PM | #64
Chapter Twenty Three: Layers

Two figures walked the halls of the Academy, side by side, master and apprentice. Lord Syrosk lead. Lorrik followed. The two Sith walked in silence, the other denizens of the establishment passing them by, casting the occasional glance. It was a strange feeling for the student. He wasn’t used to being alone with his master. The only previous one on one time was spent tucked away, where the Sith Lord might impart his knowledge in relative peace. During such times, however, the only topic up for discussion was in regards to lightsaber forms and martial tactics. There were only a limited number of ways that information could be imparted upon a student. The same could not be said of what was in store for Lorrik this day.

The inquisitor had grown used to being in the dark. Accepted it as a way of life. But there was always a pool of underlying knowledge to draw upon. Lorrik knew that with each new day, Lord Syrosk would find some fascinatingly unique way to test and train his students. But in the end there was simplicity. Do this. Don’t do this. Expect pain and hardship and the threat of death. Simple. And for all the mind games and spiritual tests, they were always physical trials to be passed.

Mental trials. Mental trials were complicated. Not because the inquisitor knew nothing of them. No, it was within the inquisitor’s purview to know all too much about them. And yet for all he knew, he was still in the dark. Matters of a Force-user’s mind dwell between the simply complicated and the complicatedly simple. There were knowns, unknowns, and far too many contradictions. He didn’t know exactly what he was getting into, but he knew to be cautious. This was something new, yet just as much the same as everything else he’d faced.

“I sense a hesitation brewing within you,” Syrosk rasped, eyes and legs continually focused on the path ahead. Lorrik remained quiet, intent on preventing any peculiar outbursts in the company of his master. “It is, however, the only thing I can sense at the moment. This is good. If I could readily peer into your deeper thoughts without effort, I would be distinctly troubled.”

The inquisitor took a deep breath. “Emotive states are the outermost and most easily accessed layer of the sense-able mind. Any sufficiently trained Force-user can sense what someone is feeling, even if they do not know what exactly they are thinking. This, of course, isn’t taking into account defenses, falsifications, and the seemingly emotionless Jedi.”

“I see your training as an inquisitor wasn’t for not,” Syrosk stated, not turning to face his apprentice. “Then you are familiar with the five layers?”

“The surface, housing emotions and abstract feelings. Next, deep thoughts and inner dialogue. Then comes past knowledge, memories. After that, the internal thought processes that shape future actions. And finally, direct control.”

“The first three pertain to knowledge. The last two pertain to actions. I have access to the first three, assuming the individual isn’t sufficiently trained in keeping out intruders.”

“What of the deeper layers?”

“You of course know of the Jedi Mind Trick and the somewhat more… sinister… variants employed by the Sith. Allows for the manipulation of the deepest layers for a brief amount of time. Long term control against powerful subjects is reserved for only the most powerful Force-users.”

“I was asking if you had access to those layers.”

“I possess a certain distaste for such hands-on manipulations.”

“That still doesn’t answer my question.”

“No. It doesn’t.”

“What about Darth Tash? If you two are rivals, I suspect you’d have similar capabilities.”

“Yes and no. We didn’t share a master, but we followed similar doctrines and were in contact with each other some years ago. As a Human, he never possessed the inherent talent for telepathy I did. You could almost say it was because of me that he put so much effort into strengthening his mind. It remains one of the most well-guarded I’ve ever encountered. But all his efforts have been focused on fortification. When it comes to outward manipulation, it’s one of the few things he is incapable of. At least, when it concerns the Force. You know just how capable he is of manipulating the minds he surrounds himself with.”

“It makes sense. Use the Force to pry into someone’s mind, you risk being stopped, found out, or even beaten. Better to keep things analogue.”

“Appealing to emotion, ambition, pride, greed. Why force others to follow you when they’ll do it willingly? That’s what makes him so dangerous.”

“But it seems that for the moment, we’re outside the realm of his direct influence. And if he isn’t a capable telepath, why are focusing on defending against a tool he doesn’t possess?”

“I can account for Tash’s capabilities,” Syrosk admitted. “I cannot do the same for his agents. Of which there are many. None worth worrying about within the Academy staff, but moving forward, we cannot risk a compromise. Also… the most important thing to keep in mind… is to not focus on one thing so much that you become blind to all else. You think Tash is the only person who will ever want you dead? This is the Empire, boy. We are Sith. And I can tell you right now, you don’t want any third party learning what you’re… plans… for the future are.”

“You’ve obviously… taken a recent peak or two into my mind…”

“Quite. I appreciate the ambition without the bloodlust. Just know that people much more powerful than you have failed trying to do much less.”

Lorrik’s stance loosened up. “I like to think it keeps me grounded.”

“Humor can be an ally should you learn to properly utilize it. It promotes a steady state of mind, makes keeping your wits about you simpler. There are other methods to accomplish the same, but… it seems to come naturally to you. Understanding the intricacies of your mind is the first step to defending it.”

“You should know that an endorsement of my habits could lead to strained relations with the other students.”

“Then don’t tell them. And I’ll know if you do.”

The two had reached Lord Syrosk’s chambers within the Academy. Nestled deeper within and less exposed than the students’ arrangement, the locked door the two found themselves in front of was rather unassuming. As much reverence he had placed in his master, Lorrik had forgotten that Syrosk wasn’t exactly in a place of high regard within the Academy. When the Sith Lord opened the door, the interior didn’t depart much from its exterior design.

The initial chamber was barren. Of furniture, of additions of any sort. Merely a compact room composed entirely of gray surfaces. The metallic walls offered no recesses, no shadows from the dim light in the ceiling’s center, merely two doors leading to unknown extensions of the Sith’s dwelling.

“I like what you’ve done with the place,” Lorrik joked.

“Sit down. There, in the center,” Syrosk directed, paying no attention to the Human’s jibe.

The inquisitor complied without another word. He slowly lowered himself upon the cold, smooth floor. He bent his knees in the traditional meditative stance and kept his attention focused ahead, awaiting further instruction. In the center of the small chamber, Lorrik waited patiently for his master to walk into view, but eventually found that he had no intention of doing so. He puzzled over the matter as the Sith Lord hid, lurked, in a place smaller than his own bedroom. Lorrik thought to turn his head, but steadied himself, keeping his eyes and mind utterly focused.

“Now, close your eyes,” Syrosk instructed.

Lorrik complied.

“Now, open your eyes.”

Lorrik complied once more. However, upon opening his eyes, Lorrik found himself not within the dark, compact chamber, but within a vast, unending, white void.

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Osetto
10.15.2012 , 06:54 PM | #65
Chapter Twenty Four: Minds

Emptiness. Nothingness. An enduring, unceasing blankness in all directions. Looking down, Lorrik cast no shadow, but stood on solid footing upon some perfect surface. Some immaculate material. Like something out of his dreams.

Lorrik looked around, seeing his master calming standing behind him. “Where are we?”

“Our bodies are still within my chambers,” Syrosk explained. “This is the realm of the mind.”

“Whose mind? Yours or mine?

“Good question.”

Lord Syrosk approached his apprentice, each step of his armored boots echoing, pounding against the inquisitor’s senses. In no time, the Sith Lord was directly in front of him, his vision blocked by the master’s chest plate.

“Should I-” Lorrik began before being interrupted by an armored fist being driven across his cheek, sending him crashing to the floor.

The apprentice stumbled upon the ground, arms struggling to lift himself from the perfectly smooth terrain. A cough followed. Then blood. Lorrik spit out a good pool of it, staining the white surface beneath him. His arms straightened, locked in place beneath his body as he stared at the red splotch.

Syrosk lowered himself, crouching next to the floored Human. “Why are you bleeding? Why are you in pain? This isn’t your actual body. This is all an illusion. A manifestation of the mind.”

The Sith Lord raised himself, then delivered a heavy kick to the apprentice’s gut, eliciting a sharp yelp from the inquisitor as he rolled away, cradling his abdomen. Writhing on the ground, his vision began to blur. Things went dark. His eyes closed. His ears began to pick up the signs of faint whispers. Murmurs. Opening his eyes, he saw a blurred figure standing over him. The image cleared. It wasn’t Syrosk. It was his partner.

“Jresh…”

The warrior extended a hand. The inquisitor accepted it. With a firm bond secured between companions, Lorrik raised himself as Jresh pulled him up. Just as the Human was about to regain his footing, the warrior offered a smile before offering his free hand in the form of a punch to the gut. His reflex was to bend forward, but was incapable as the Pureblood gripped the back of his head and pulled it back.

“You have no friends here!” Syrosk’s raspy voice emanated from Jresh’s mouth.

Lorrik grabbed and slapped at the arm tugging his hairs to no avail. Releasing his grip, the warrior shoved the inquisitor away with the flat of his boot. Lorrik shuffled off, taking disheveled steps with legs that threatened to collapse at any moment. He came to a halt. Steadied himself. Looked back to see Syrosk staring at him with his usual cold, eternal stare.

“Your mind has been compromised,” Syrosk explained. “You cannot trust your senses. Your memories. Your feelings. Until you are able to fight… until you are able to gain control of your mind… there is nothing but hardship. Nothing but pain. Your opponent will turn good thoughts into bad ones. Bad ones into worse ones. Pain of mind will translate to pain of body. You die here…”

Syrosk’s hand swung from his waist. From it extended the crimson blade of his lightsaber.

“I die for real…” Lorrik muttered, tired, exasperated.

“Precisely. And you’ve nothing to rely on but yourself.”

Without another word, Syrosk charged his apprentice. Lorrik panicked, reaching for a weapon of his own. There was none. His training saber hadn’t made the transition from his master’s chambers to his mindscape, no matter how much he wished it had. Lorrik had no means of defending himself, and the Sith Lord was already bearing down upon him.

A wide swing of the blade. Lorrik ducked. Another. Lorrik ducked again. With each subsequent swing, the treacherous beam of death inched closer and closer. The dexterity of inquisitor’s battered torso had reached its limits. The Human instead focused on running. His back toward his master, Lorrik began to run as fast as he could. Limbs flailing, lungs failing, the inquisitor didn’t know where he was going or how long he could keep it up. The vast whiteness that surrounded him didn’t alter with his movement. Checking his flank for the slightest of moments, Lorrik found himself without a pursuer. No one… nothing behind him.

When his eyes returned forward, they were blinded by the crimson light fast approaching his face. Sliding to the ground, Lorrik narrowly missed the attack of his materialized master. At the imposing figure’s feet, Lorrik looked up with fear, like a bug beneath his master’s crushing foot. Another swipe of the blade came down on him, carving an arc into the pristine ground as he rolled away. The inquisitor raised himself with haste, promptly returning to his retreat.

“You must take control!” Syrosk shouted at him. “You cannot take control by running away!”

Lorrik stopped dead in his tracks. He began to take in deep breaths. The expected pain in his expanding lungs never manifested. The taste of blood was gone from his mouth. His legs straightened. Then his torso. His stance was rigid. Adamant. Renewed. Slowly, he turned to face his master. The two figures stood, opposing one another. No words. No movements. Just two Sith. Two forces.

The Sith Lord stood with his saber at his side. Lorrik still possessed no weapon, but he exuded confidence. Syrosk charged at the inquisitor with one final maneuver. Raising his weapon high, the Sith Lord brought down the crimson blade with all his power. Lorrik didn’t step aside. Didn’t dodge. Instead, he closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was greeted with a smiling master. Looking up, Lorrik saw his right hand raised above his head, gripping the blade of the ignited saber, impeding its path.

“A lightsaber is merely one tool in the Sith’s arsenal…” Syrosk began.

“One just as potent, is the Sith’s mind,” Lorrik finished. Relinquishing his grip, Lorrik pulled his two hands in tightly, before shoving them forward, releasing a tremendous Force wave, sending his master flying backward. Just as he was about to land, however, Lorrik puzzled as Syrosk instead disappeared entirely without a trace. Desperately looking around, the inquisitor saw that he was completely alone. Surrounded by the vast nothingness alongside no one else. “Did I do it? Did I win?”

“You tell us.”

A voice. A familiar voice. A much too familiar voice. Lorrik shot around to see two figures standing side by side. One garbed in white robes, the other in black, their faces concealed by raised hoods. The figures raised their heads and locked eyes with the inquisitor. Lorrik was starting himself in the eyes. Twice over.

“Who are you?” Lorrik asked.

“We are you,” said the figures in unison.

“There are infinite paths open to you,” said the white.

“And yet there are only two,” said the black.

“The path of light.”

“And the path of darkness.”

“Though the paths may cross and intercede.”

“They are wholly separate… and incompatible.”

“The light burns the darkness.”

“The darkness consumes the light.”

“Two forces, locked in eternal conflict.”

“If you welcome both, you will be destroyed.”

“You must choose.”

“You must choose.”

“Submit to the light.”

“Give in to the darkness.”

“There is no good.”

“No evil.”

“Only the Force,” the two said in unison. “We offer you the choice.”

“Serve the Force. Serve the light.”

“Serve the Force. Serve the darkness.”

Lorrik’s gaze darted between the two figures, staring them down with a harsh glare. “I am Sith. I do not serve the Force… the Force serves me!”

“That is not an option,” the two declared. The two figures reached for their belts in unison, each unhooking a lightsaber. Light brandished a blue blade. Darkness a red one. “You must choose whom you serve.”

“Whom I serve? You two obviously aren’t me,” Lorrik muttered, closing his eyes. With a deep breath Lorrik reached for his waist. Something new was there. Something metallic. Something personal. In one deft motion, Lorrik whipped the object from his belt and with a flick of his wrist the sound of a lightsaber igniting resonated in his ears. Opening his eyes, the sharp glow of the purple blade extended from his hand, bringing with it a continuous hum. “If you knew anything about me… you’d know don't have a high opinion of servitude.”

Black made the first move. A quick thrust of the saber, intending to pierce Lorrik’s heart. Deflected. White followed. A whirling strike, more flashy than effective. He locked sabers with the inquisitor as Black regained his footing. Electricity began to arc between the dark one’s fingertips. He held his hand close before jutting out his clawed digits, a torrent of electric energy surging toward Lorrik. Shoving White back, the inquisitor intercepted the lightning with the tip of his saber. With a forceful push of his free hand, Lorrik sent the dark one backward, breaking the energetic chain. White was back, lashing out with a serene flurry of blows. The crashing sounds of saber on saber contact resonated throughout the void. Black recovered, and returned to the fray with a leaping charge.

The three figures combated, two against one. White striking with smooth, wide arcs and showy acrobatics. Black striking with quick, lethal jabs and furious movements. Lorrik countering every move with haste and utmost skill. Calm and collected. Fierce and determined. Attacking. Defending. In total control. With no progress being made, the two attackers backed off. The three had returned to simply staring at one another. The two figures disengaged, sheathing their lightsabers. Lorrik did the same. The duo wasn’t finished, however. They each extended their right hands, and Lorrik felt an invisible Force weighing down on him, growing more powerful with each passing second.

It was too much. The combined efforts of the beings of light and darkness had overcome the inquisitor’s defenses. A great weight beat down on his shoulders and eventually covered his entire body. His feet were firmly planted, but the Human’s stance could remain adamant no longer. Slowly, he began to bend. Began to crumble under the pressure. Lower, and lower his head fell. His legs began to bend, until finally he was forced to his knees.

Lorrik’s hands clenched into fists, then they violently snapped open. Thrusting his arms forward, his clawed hands reached out toward the two figures. Slowly, the beings of light and darkness found it harder to focus their energies upon Lorrik. Their outstretched hands rescinded, turning their attention instead to their own throats. Tugging at the collars of their robes, the two figures made gasping and choking motions. Lorrik rose from his knees, and the duo rose with him, their feet leaving the ground as they clutched at their necks. The inquisitor offered one final look into each of their eyes before he clenched his hands and sent the two figures crashing into the ground. Lorrik watched as the beings of light and darkness dissolved, leaving only their empty robes behind.

The inquisitor turned his head when the felt a hand being placed on his shoulder. It was the armored glove of Lord Syrosk. “That… is how you take control.”

“Is that it?” Lorrik asked, catching his breath. “Our training over for the day?”

Syrosk let out one of his usual chortles. “Oh my, no. We’ve only been here roughly twenty seconds. In real world time anyway. We’re not leaving until we’ve had a full day’s training.”

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Osetto
10.17.2012 , 02:13 PM | #66
Chapter Twenty Five: Achievements

The day was coming to an end. Jresh sat alone in the suite, until a firm series of knocks on the door broke his meditation. The Pureblood was quick to rise and answer the call. As the door rescinded, the warrior was greeted with the imposing sight of his master standing directly in front of him. More harrowing was the robed figure he had draped over his shoulder. It was Lorrik.

Without a word, Lord Syrosk unslung the unconscious apprentice and tossed him into the arms of his companion. Jresh deftly caught the inquisitor, and gently laid his limp body down a short distance into the suite. Looking up, the Pureblood found the cold stare of his master beating down upon him.

“Get some rest. You’ll face the same tomorrow,” Syrosk informed and retreated from view.

Jresh focused the entirety of his attention on his fallen partner. “Lorrik! Lorrik are you okay?”

A soft voice rung out within his head. “Never been better.” It was Lorrik’s. Jresh watched a smile crept onto the inquisitor’s face, and matched it with one of his own.

----------

The process continued with each new day. An apprentice would enter their master’s chambers whilst the rest waited and planned for the future. Each day, a student would submit themselves to Syrosk’s mental training, and each day a new student would emerge taking their place. Increased strength. Increased willpower. A new outlook. Each would face their master. Face themselves. Face their past, their future.

The initial round of training was complete, and the apprentices had begun construction of a potent tool in their arsenals. One that would not be alone. In the following months, the students would come to possess their own personal lightsabers. Proper implementation came with proper planning. The students weren’t allowed to touch any more materials until they had presented their master a proper set of plans. Length, width, style. Power cells, handgrips, adjustors. Everything accounted for in their construction.

Each apprentice forged a weapon as much an individual as they were. Unique in their function and makeup. The result of one’s pouring their heart and soul into their craftsmanship. Each lightsaber a manifestation of its wielders physical and mental capabilities. Each a symbol of their personality. A weapon as stern as its master. As stylish. As smooth. As brutal.

Training was kicking into high gear. With each new trial, Lord Syrosk pushed the limits of his students even further, edging them closer to exhaustion and death than the day before. And through their pain and anguish, the apprentices connected with their partners. Bonded. Shared knowledge and secrets. Pushed each other forward. Picked each other up when they faltered.

For months, they trained. For months, they endured. For months, they thrived.

Gone were the eight students, lost amongst the Academy workings. Nameless. Faceless.

Now, they had advanced to a state worthy of their hardships.

No more uniforms. No more hiding. No more fear.

They had achieved control. They had achieved freedom. They had achieved ascension.



End of Act II

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Adwynyth
10.17.2012 , 07:51 PM | #67
SQUEE



Ready whenever the words pour forth from your keyboard.
Horrendously bad fan fiction: Sith in a Pretty Dress

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FlashDeShiro
10.18.2012 , 12:22 AM | #68
these stories of yours are awesome and i just got to the point in the seven where it mentions this story and i was like no way!!!!!!!! i absolutely love ascension i cant wait to see what you have in store

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Osetto
10.18.2012 , 04:03 PM | #69
Quote: Originally Posted by Adwynyth View Post
SQUEE



Ready whenever the words pour forth from your keyboard.
Always happy to see you're still enjoying things. Although there may be less opportunity for 'squee's in Act III... things might get a little dark. Maybe that'll be offset by a look into the protagonists' childhoods. Then again, these people don't exactly have the fondest of memories from their youths.

Quote: Originally Posted by FlashDeShiro View Post
these stories of yours are awesome and i just got to the point in the seven where it mentions this story and i was like no way!!!!!!!! i absolutely love ascension i cant wait to see what you have in store
Thank you very much for the added motivation to keep going. Aye, Lorrik and Jresh are doing something on Tatooine a year after this particularly story is supposed to conclude, which was something I was hesitant to write just for the sake of a cameo. So we know at least they survive for the time being. But I like to think it isn't the threat of characters dying that makes a story interesting, it's the threat of characters having to continue living.



In other news, I've had a change of heart regarding the "Intermission". It'll now be "Act 0". What was planned to be roughly two chapters may now be closer to ten. Lorrik and Jresh shouldn't have all the spotlight. If you were wondering how Nesk came to be a student in one of Tash's classrooms, its involves one tough Wookiee.

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FlashDeShiro
10.18.2012 , 07:25 PM | #70
put as much back story into this as you want i dont think any of us would complain im very interested to read what their stories would be