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The Academy: Acolyte Ascension


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Osetto
10.18.2012 , 08:12 PM | #71
Act 0: Memories

Chapter One: Digs (Part One)

Don’t think. Just run.

The sun beat down on a vacant stretch of land. Flat. Sparse vegetation. Whatever life thrived here had long since moved on. Emerging from the flatlands, an imposing mountain range. And carved into the face of that mountain, a tunnel, not intended to reach the other side, but to traverse the depths below. The mouth of the man-made cave was wide and tall, granting passage not only to the denizens of the planet, but their wide assortment of tools. Resting mechanical excavators sat outside the mouth of the dig site as the indentured workforce toiled in the darkness below.

From the mouth emerged a figure. A child. Body in full motion, sprinting from the cave toward some intended location. Body and mind focused solely on one goal. Movement. Tucked beneath his arms, some round object wrapped in cloth. Arm waving, feet kicking up dust with each hasty step, the boy had his eyes set upon a lone building in the distance. As he continued to run, there was no one else behind him, but as he neared his target more and more people began to manifest.

Sprouting from the land of desolation, a lone monument to wealth and splendor rose and spread itself out for all to see. At its feet, a steady arrangement of armed guards surrounded it. Seeing the approaching boy, they raised their heads, but not their weapons. They were expecting him. Two men guarded the entrance to the palatial estate, each holding their hands out to halt the child. The boy was hunched over, panting, but kept the wrapped item raised, fully aware of its value. The two guardsmen shared a look before focusing on the package.

One of the guards reached out to take the item, but the boy quickly rescinded it, keeping it tucked close to his chest. The child would only part with it once it was in the hands of its intended recipient. The enforcers shared another look before hesitantly granting the boy entrance to the manor. The child walked with two armed escorts deeper into the halls of the luxurious palace. Utterly well kept, sculptures and artwork lined the walls on either side of the passing group. With each branch, each door, each new chamber, a guard was stationed, ever alert to any threats that might pass their way.

The boy kept his head down, knowing the honor of being granted access to the lord’s home, but also knowing the danger of overstaying his welcome. Reaching his intended destination, the boy marveled at the robust chamber he now stood at the precipice of. Rounded walls. High ceiling. A cruel joke of a facsimile to the caves in his mind. Standing within, eager, was Olto Yerrig. Human. Businessman. Slave Master.

The man’s chamber took a stern departure from the wanton halls before it, for it was a room of purpose. In the place of artwork were charts and maps. Geological surveys, market reports. A series of databanks and terminals were situated awkwardly against the rounded walls. Yerrig immediately took note of the boy entering his premises, and beckoned him with a flurried wave of his hand. The boy rushed forward, basking in the shadow of his master’s presence, the top of his head barely making it above the figure’s waist. The child dutifully presented his master the item he had so dearly held onto before. Yerrig unwrapped the object and his eyes lit up. Held ever so loftily in the child’s hands was a chunk of rock, embedded within were tiny golden crystals that shimmered in the room’s light.

Yerrig took the mineral from the boy, who took a step back, kept his arms by his side and his head bowed. “What is your name, boy?”

“L-Lorrik,” the child answered, keeping his eyes upon the floor.

“Right… Velash’s child. The Runner.”

“Yes, sir.”

Yerrig held the chunk of mineral between himself and the ceiling, turning it over and over within his hand, admiring it with absolute pride. “Run along, boy. You and your family don’t have to work for the next three days.”

“Thank you. Thank you, sir,” Lorrik offered alongside the repeated bows of his head. Yerrig shooed the boy away and he was escorted from the estate, leaving the man alone with his prize.

There were movements throughout the mining operation as the hours passed. Yerrig began moving and allocating his resources, checking and double checking the preparatory facets of the operation’s next stage. The mine was shut down for the day, and its workers left the caves only to see Yerrig’s men lining the entrance in greater force than usual. Each worker was stopped before they could return to the tenements, checked for any unsanctioned holdings. Yerrig would not abide by any of his possessions stealing any of his other possessions.

The day turned to night. Lorrik and his parents returning to their housing, a single room meant for two, packed in alongside hundreds more just like it. Table. Two chairs. Bunk bed. Simple. Sparse. Cheap.

The two Human adults, two ordinary plain folk, sat at the table, eating their allotted rations for the evening. Lorrik meanwhile had taken his place atop a layer of blankets placed upon the floor beneath his parents’ bed. Dark. Secluded. His sanctuary. He slowly munched on his rations, face lit by a compact generator hooked up to an electronic candle. The boy’s full interest lied not with his food, but in the book he was pouring over by candlelight. Contraband, but the kid knew how to keep it hidden.

“It seems Yerrig finally found was he was looking for,” the father whispered.

“You know what this means…” the mother whispered back, trying to hide her growing concern.

“Yeah… yeah, I know.”

“If he knows there’s something valuable down there, he’s going to push us even harder.”

“I know.”

“Lorrik’s birthday is coming up soon. He’ll be old enough to work in the mines.”

“I know. But no one else needs to. He still looks young. Maybe… maybe Yerrig will let him stay a runner,” the father reasoned. The mother took a hold of her husband’s hand. The two locked eyes, sharing a look that confirmed that both of them knew their son would be working alongside them soon. “We have a few days of rest. We shouldn’t waste them.”

“But we can’t just pretend like everything’s going to be okay.”

“I know that. But we need to be strong. For his sake. Together, we can make it through. We can survive.” The two shared a loving look before casting a sideward glance to their son, mind still locked in the pages of his book.

Lorrik knew better than to intrude on his parents conversations. As cramped as the domicile was, there were no secrets within, as much as they may have wanted to believe there were. Lorrik heard every word spoken by his mother and father. That night and each night before it. He knew what awaited him. He knew that it was he who would have to be strong. He didn’t desire to be a burden. He wanted to be able to lend his strength to his family.

The child held his prized book firmly within his hands. The thing was a peculiar piece. A bound volume, information printed upon thin durasheets, rather than stored within some datapad. Vulnerable to moisture, Lorrik took every precaution in handling it, lest its contents be ruined. Turning the page, he read on with fascination.

In bold letters, the top of the page read, ‘Chapter Three: Naga Sadow’.

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Osetto
10.20.2012 , 12:18 PM | #72
Chapter Two: Digs (Part Two)

Darkness overtakes the light.

The Velash family traversed deeper into Yerrig’s mine, accompanied by an assortment of fellow indentured laborers of various species. Mother and father walked shoulder to shoulder, their son directly in front of them. An armed escort led the line and closed off their tail. Black clad, faces like shadows, eyes like demons.

The lights lining the sides of the caves led the workforce deeper into the unnatural caverns. The lower they descended, the less ‘clean’ the shaping of the tunnel. They eventually turned down toward an expeditionary dig sit, where the only goal was to dig deeper, regardless of access or stability. The walls crept in on the inhabitants, threatening to crush, to suffocate. But deeper they went.

The group eventually made it to their designated dig site. They unpacked their tools under the watchful eyes of Yerrig’s enforcers. Compact, handheld mining lasers. Useful for cutting along natural faults, not as useful for armed revolutions. Yerrig was utterly invested in a long term operation, with as few bumps as possible.

The line dispersed as the workers took their places amongst the wall. The Velash family worked side by side, ready to cut into the softly glistening rock. The cutting laser was heavy in Lorrik’s hand, but the comforting hand of his father placed upon his shoulder offered him the strength to continue.

“Start low. Work your way up. You can rest the base on your knee,” the father whispered, calm and methodical. “Make as few trips to the cart as possible. Gauge what you can carry. Don’t overstrain your arms or your legs. Keep your balance. Understand?” The boy offered an affirming nod.

Work progressed without incident. Chunks of minerals were excised from the cavern walls and carted back to the surface. Everyone did their work, and they would retreat at the end of the day. But the work proved too much for one. Lorrik wasn’t used to working in the sparsely oxygenated environment, he was only ever forced to run between the top levels and the exterior of the dig site. His lungs were failing. His eyes stung from the mining laser’s harsh beam. His body grew weaker. Eventually, the boy went numb, his tool leaving his hand and impacting against the rocky floor, shattering the item’s casing.

Everyone around him took notice. The father attempted to rile the boy back to his feet, to no avail. One of the enforcers was approaching. The mother took over caring for the boy, as the father left his station to impede the guard.

“Get back to work,” the guard commanded of the father.

“In a moment, we just have to help our son.”

“We’ll deal with him. Return to your station!”

The father placed a gentle hand on the guard. “Please. He’s just a boy. If you hurt him, he won’t be able to work at all.”

The guard shoved the father back against the wall. “Don’t interfere!”

“Leave my son alone!” the father shouted, delivering a furious punch to the enforcer’s jaw. The guard reeled and stumbled a few steps back. The father found two rifles trained on him, and soon a third when the guard he struck recovered. He raised his hands in the air, surrendering himself. With all of Yerrig’s men focused on him, they had forgotten all about the collapsed child in the arms of his mother. Just what the father wanted.

With all the attention placed on the father, no one noticed one of the other slaves holding a large chunk of rock in his hands. Not what the father wanted.

One of the two guards at the site’s entrance found the back of his skull caved in by a stone wielding Evocii. The standing enforcer fired a shot from his blaster rifle, dropping the rebellious slave. More of the workers stepped from their stations, the two remaining guards ordering them to halt. The father returned to his family, crouching, shielding his child.

Lorrik slowly came out of his stupor, blinking erratically, seeing and hearing the signs of struggle unfolding at the dig site. One of the workers was wrestling with the entrance guard. The two both had their hands on the weapon between them. A bolt rang out, impacting against the cavern walls. Another rang out. Then another. Then a howl of pain rang in Lorrik’s ear. His mother was clutching at her arm, blood pouring down it.

“No! Nononono!” the father rambled, looking at his wife’s wound. Lorrik was lightheaded. Everything around him was moving too fast. Then, too slow. Sight was replaced with a blur. Sound was replaced with a muddled hum. Until it was interrupted by a loud bang. Another bolt rang out from the guard’s weapon, hitting a piece of larger mining equipment against the wall. The fuel source ignited. The machine exploded, knocking the inhabitants of the dig site to the ground. The ones who survived the blast, at least.

Lorrik emerged from his father’s embrace to see the dig site had stilled. Bodies populated the ground, unmoving. The silence, and the stillness, was cut short when the foundations beneath him began to shake. The explosion had upset the dig site’s stability. Lorrik found himself being dragged to his feet by his father, a stream of blood pouring over his right eye. The father then turned his attention to the mother, carefully lifting her by her good arm.

The three were alone in a collapsing corridor deep below ground. The father had lost an eye. The mother had lost an arm. The son was losing everything. The three moved out of their dig area with a careful haste as the walls and ceilings began to lose their structural integrity. The father knew that they would eventually reach the main tunnel connecting the entire operation, where there would be plenty of guards and plenty of questions. The family edged their way forward, uplifting one another along the way.

Stones began to fall from the ceiling behind them. Their pace was insufficient, more and more of the path behind them succumbing to the falling debris. The child stumbled, sending the entire family to the ground. Unable to rise, the parents instead spent their last moments embracing their child as the world crumbled around them. As the rocks above them loosened, the family bowed their heads and said their last goodbyes to one another before the final stone fell.

Lorrik was tucked beneath his parents. He knew they intended to shield him, his body and his eyes, so that he didn’t have to witness what was to come. But there was a crack in the shadows. A glimpse upward. A view of a boulder, hovering just above his family. Lorrik’s parents were confused, rather than relieved, when they found that death had not come. Breaking their embrace to look up, they were astounded to see the rock that had threatened to crush them was hovering of its own accord above their heads. Snatching their child by the arm, they moved out from under the stone just as it continued its resounding fall to where they once huddled.

The caves had ceased their tremors. An eerie silence permeated the corridor as the Velash family looked upon the stone riddled path they had just escaped. They had survived, but only just, and by seemingly miraculous means. Before they could ponder their position any further, Lorrik passed out in his parents’ arms.

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Osetto
10.21.2012 , 07:42 PM | #73
Chapter Three: Digs (Part Three)

“Can anyone explain to me… just what the hell is going on?”

Yerrig’s words stung the ears of every enforcer wearing a comm, the majority of which had gathered at the mouth of the excavation site. The mountain had quieted, but the workforce had not. Panicked slaves rushed from the opening into the sights of the armed guards. Their weapons raised alongside their extended palms, the escaping individuals had no choice but to stop.

The sparks of revolution died in Sector Dorn along with the majority of its inhabitants, but the explosive shock affected the other sectors, shaking their foundations and crumbling their supports. No one was sure of the cause, only that to remain underground meant death. The enforcers eagerly eyed the entrance to the mines, pouring over every detail of every individual that passed into their sights. When two battered and bleeding adults emerged alongside their child, the guards believed they could get some answers.

And enforcer cast his helmed gaze upon the Velash family. “You three!”

“Please, you have to help them,” the father begged.

“Not until we get some answers. Yerrig’s orders.”

“They are in no condition to answer questions!” the father declared through gritted teeth. “We are the last survivors of Sector Dorn. If want information, you get them some damned help!”

The guard gave in to the father’s demand, leading them away from the bedlam to a place of care. A feeling of relief washed over the father, even if he began to see the world around him blur. His feet ached against the stern ground, but he’d not falter before he knew his family was out of harm’s way. But he knew the threat of harm still loomed over them all, so long as Yerrig had questions.

----------

Lorrik’s eyes opened, the unnatural light of the iridescent ceiling lights beaming down upon him. The flat of his back rested uncomfortably against a medical bed inside an unfamiliar room. Regaining his senses, the boy looked to his right to see his mother resting, a bandage encircling her left arm. He looked to his left to see only an empty bed. Hushed murmurs emanated from the hall outside. A frosted window made up the majority of the wall lying beyond the child’s feet. Lorrik counted four figures. As the child struggled to sit up, one of the figures was being escorted away by the other three. In no time, no one remained. Only his mother and himself, and the silence.

----------

Lorrik’s father sat in a darkened room, beset by armed guards behind his uncomfortable chair. He had been waiting, basking in silence and shadows. Stewing in them. Bandages wrapped his cranium, covering his right eye. With his left, the father saw his silhouette planted upon the wall when the door behind him crept open with a shrill squeak. Slow, measured footsteps impacted against the hard floor one by one until a man stood directly in front of the father’s gaze. It was Yerrig.

“I want to know… EXACTLY… what happened in the mines today.”

The father kept his good eye straightened, “Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We followed the line. We worked on the line. Everything was going fine, until…”

“Until?”

“Until I dropped my mining tool,” the father explained. “It struck the ground, shattered its casing. The ordeal caught the guards’ attention. One of the others took advantage. Took a chunk of rock. Assaulted a guard. Others joined in. I just wanted to protect my family.”

“One of my men is assaulted with a rock… OF COURSE! That explains why there were reports of cave ins in three different sectors! You’re not giving be anything here Velash!”

“One of the men attacking the guards, tried to take his blaster, they fought over it, blindly fired around them, accidentally struck a power cell, it must have been placed near a fault, thing explodes, caves start shaking, rocks start falling, my family barely makes it out alive. There! That’s all I know!”

“How do I know you and your family didn’t have anything to do with this little… uprising in Sector Dorn…”

“We were just transferred to the line! It was our son’s first day, we wouldn’t do anything to risk-”

“Exactly. Father, wants to see his son protected. Colludes with fellow slaves to stage a rebellion. Isn’t that right?”

“I would never-”

The father reeled as Yerrig’s back hand struck his cheek. “Do NOT lie to me.” Yerrig placed a hand to his ear. “Everyone. Search the homes of every worker assigned to Sector Dorn. Now!” Yerrig returned to the father, gripping the arms of his chair, staring the man directly in the eye. “I will find out if there’s more to this than you are saying. I will find out if-”

Yerrig stopped. There was a chatter in his ear. “Sir, there’s an unscheduled vessel landing outside.”

“Outside? What do you mean?”

----------

Yerrig stormed from his domicile into the company of his league of enforcers, who had their weapons trained on the starship that had inconveniently landed in his courtyard. Large and imposing. Black and gray. A Fury-class interceptor.

The entrance ramp lowered, and a lone figure began his casual descent. A Human in a vibrant red coat over a suit of battle armor. The young adult possessed a pristine image in both garb and face, fair skin unburdened by toil, short blond hair unburned by the passing breeze.

A pair of Yerrig's enforcers surged forward, intent on impeding the intruder’s advance. The man in the red coat slipped between them, politely pushing them aside with his hands, caring little for their threats, or their weapons. The intruder calmly pressed forward, spotting Olto Yerrig amongst his entourage.

“I presume you to be in charge of this operation,” the advancing figure stated. He was utterly smooth and polite. Soft yet utterly dominating in his tone and presence.

“I don’t know who you are, but-” Yerrig spoke up.

“Oh, you know exactly who I am. The more prudent question would be, why am I here? Well, I am here representing a very powerful man. A man interested in peacefully acquiring one of your assets.”

“A Sith. You must be interested in my crystals.”

The red-coated Human let out a soft chuckle. “Whatever it is you’re digging for, it serves us no purpose. What you seek is deemed valuable in measures of pithy factors, not true merit. No, my master is interested in something else. Someone else.”

“We’re in the middle of something here. I’ll kindly ask you to leave, before my men are forced to do something most unkind,” Yerrig threatened. A smile refused to leave the Sith’s face.

“Tell me about the incident, earlier today.”

“I never mentioned any incident.”

“No. No you didn’t. I’d like to meet with the survivors.”

“If you think you can just-” Yerrig mumbled before the Sith planting his firm hand upon his shoulder. The entourage immediately reacted, raising and aiming their weapons at the Sith.

The red-coated figure tightened his grip. “If you want to keep your loses for today confined to your workforce,” the Sith whispered, “I’d suggest you take me to the survivors.”

Yerrig hesitantly waved for his men to lower their weapons.

----------

The father saw his outline planted upon the wall once more when the door behind him crept open with a shrill squeak. Slow, measured footsteps impacted against the hard floor one by one until a man stood directly in front of the father’s gaze. It was someone unfamiliar. A lithe, vibrantly garbed Human knelt down in front of him, locked his gaze with his own.

“I'd like to know more about your son.”

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Osetto
10.22.2012 , 07:27 PM | #74
Chapter Four: Digs (Part Four)

“My name is Vai Thorel. I represent Lord Tash, a very powerful figure in the Sith Empire. I’m not sure what a man in your position knows of galactic affairs…”

“I know who you people are,” the father softly admitted.

“That is good. Then we can jump right into why I am here. We have reason to believe, that there is a child here of remarkable talents. A child who is gifted, in the ways of the Force. Your child.”

The father’s eye shifted. “It’s only been a couple of hours, how could you possibly…”

“My master and his associates are gifted with certain… insights… into events of great importance. Premonitions,” Thorel explained, “that led us here. We saw a child. Beset by chaos, danger, and death. And resting within, was the power to stop it. You and your family were the only survivors of a catastrophic event. And not by chance. Your son saved you, didn’t he?”

The father’s eye shifted once more. “I can’t explain what happened. We were trying to escape the mines, but the ceiling was caving in all around us. When we were about to be crushed… the rocks stopped falling. One, remained suspended in mid-air. I didn’t know what to make of it.”

“That… is the power of the Force. Your son is special, Mr. Velash. He possesses an affinity, one that my master would like to see nurtured.”

“I know of the Sith. I know what they are capable of. Death and pain…”

“What we offer is freedom. How your child utilizes it is up to him. We intend to enroll him into the Korriban Academy, a place of honor amongst the Sith Order, where his abilities will be honed and trained, so that he might find his own place in the galaxy, free of restrictions. I’ve met with Yerrig. Whatever actions to come regarding your family will not be pleasant. With us, your child will be safe. Your child will no longer be a slave. Do what is best for your child.”

----------

Lorrik sat at the side of his medical bed, legs hanging over the edge as he worriedly watched his mother rest. His heart began to race when he noticed two figures approaching on the other side of the glass. When the door to the room opened, panic turned to energetic relief at the sight of his father entering. Jumping from his bed, Lorrik rushed forward and wrapped his arms around his father, ignoring the unfamiliar figure trailing him.

The father guided the son to his mother’s bedside. As she slowly wakened from her slumber, a smile overcame her face at the sight of her family being okay, relatively speaking. She looked around for any of Yerrig’s men, seeing only the peculiar armored and robed figure who had taken an observatory position leaning against the door.

“Garen… who is…” the mother softly muttered.

“Meylin, save your strength,” the father replied, gently brushing the hair from his wife’s forehead. “There is someone here, who is interested in our son.”

“Our son… what do you…”

“You saw what happened in the mines. We were saved from certain death. And we both know how. Our son is gifted.”

The mother looked to Garen’s side, where a curious Lorrik stood in silent observation. Patting her son on the head with her good arm, the mother struggled to retain her smile. “Lorrik could have died today… he needs to recover. He’s in no condition to leave…”

“He’s in no condition to stay either. Yerrig will not forgive us for what happened in our sector. We can’t be sure of how he’ll react, but we can ensure our son’s safety.”

“So we just give him to the first mysterious figure who offers to take him off our hands? This is our son,” Meylin offered with a hushed declaration.

“That is exactly why I am doing this. This man can give our son a new life. He’ll finally have his freedom. He won’t have to toil in the mines for ten more years.”

“I don’t want to lose my son,” the mother stated, almost whimpering.

“Neither do I,” the father whispered. The two parents locked eyes as tears begun to form beneath them. The mother looked to her side, only to see Lorrik had slipped away. Peering beyond the father, Meylin saw her son standing directly in front of the mysterious figure.

“You’re a Sith, aren’t you?” Lorrik directly asked the man in the red coat.

The Sith knelt down and greeted the child with a warm smile. “That’s correct. Are you familiar with us?”

“A little bit,” the boy bashfully admitted. “I have a history book. It talks about old Sith Lords and their adventures hundreds of years ago.”

“Really? What kind of adventures?” Thorel asked with a tone of genuine interest.

“Well, I just finished a chapter… on Naga Shadow.”

“Oh, Lord Sadow. He is an interesting one,” Thorel replied, straightening his posture. “Did your parents get you that book?”

“No. I got it from one of the other workers. I had to learn how to read first… which took a while since my parents couldn’t teach me.”

“You’ve an inquisitive mind. One that yearns for knowledge. A valuable trait.”

“I really like reading, even though dad says we aren’t supposed to have any books,” Lorrik admitted. “But I keep it hidden under by bed.”

“Oh no.” Garen raised himself from his wife’s side. “Yerrig’s men are searching our home. If they find Lorrik’s book, they might think we were involved in the uprising! We have to-”

Thorel placed a firm hand on the father’s shoulders, looking him directly in the eyes. “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine. Stay with your wife. I’ll take care of this.” Returning to Lorrik, the Sith knelt down to his level. “Can you take me to your home?”

Lorrik nodded and extended his hand, prompting the Sith to take hold. The child led the way, escorting the red-coated figure from the premises with haste. Garen, meanwhile, took a knee by his wife’s side and took a soft hold of her hand.

“Everything… everything will be fine,” the father whispered, pressing the back of his wife’s hand to his lips.

----------

Lorrik led Thorel by the hand down the thin corridor that ran outside the minimalistic rooms the workers called their homes. Doors were opened on either side of the running pair, enforcers rummaging through the sparse belongings of the late workers of Sector Dorn. Fast approaching his own home, Lorrik saw a guard wielding a blaster rifle stationed directly outside his domicile. The guard raised a hand, intent on stopping the two individuals. Lorrik’s movement ceased. Those of the Sith did not. The enforcer raised his weapon, but found its path inhibited by Thorel’s hand gripping it by the barrel. The Sith closed in on the guard, and stared into his eyes with a cold, unceasing stare. The enforcer was frozen, unable to act.

“Leave,” Thorel directed, and not a moment after relinquishing his grip, the enforcer complied. A second guard emerged from the room, grasping the child’s book in his hand.

“Hey! Give that back!” Lorrik shouted at the perceived thief.

Focusing the entirety of his attention on the child, the enforcer knocked the boy back with the foot of his boot, sending him crumbling to the floor. The guard took another step toward the child before succumbing to an intense pressure forming at his neck. Lorrik watched as his book fell from the enforcers hand as he used it instead to furiously grip at his own throat. His breaths became more and more struggled, until the man collapsed, granting the child a full view of the Sith standing behind him, hand extended in a clawed motion. Lorrik shuffled on the ground to retrieved his prized book, holding it close as the Sith knelt next to him once more.

“You and I possess the same gift. Within you, there is an untapped power dwelling, waiting to be released. Within you, rests the potential to become a Sith. The potential to break your shackles and finally be free. Does that sound like something that would interest you?” Lorrik hesitantly nodded his head. “I can take you to the Korriban Academy, where you will learn the ways of the Sith Order, where you will have untold amounts of knowledge at your fingertips.”

“What about my parents?”

“I can only take you from this place. But if you agree to come with me, I can ensure they are taken care of.”

“Okay,” Lorrik replied, offering his hand once more to the Sith.

Thorel looked at the book tucked beneath the child’s other arm. A children’s book. A glamorized look at the history of the Sith. A thing of colorful lies, meant for lowly, malleable minds.

“Come on. Let’s go,” the Sith directed with a cheerful smile.

----------

Lorrik and the Sith returned to Garen and Meylin, where the family trio exchanged their final goodbyes, each individual believing themselves to be doing what was best for the other. The parents wanted to see their son off to a better life, the son wanted to see his parents treated better within the life they couldn’t escape. Thorel departed with the son alongside one last declaration that he was good to his word.

Venturing back toward his starship, Yerrig remained amongst his entourage outside in the plaza. Alone with the Sith’s ship, they should have been in a place of power, and yet, found themselves utterly submissive to the intruder’s will. Thorel gently waved for the child board the ship while he calmly approached the discontented businessman.

Yerrig’s eye began to twitch. “If you think you can just walk away from this…”

“Shut up,” Thorel stoically directed. “I can offer you a sum of credits for the child. Usual going rate for a healthy young boy. In exchange, your independent operation here will remain independent, with no interference from the Sith Empire. There are, however, some conditions that you will need to uphold. Most importantly, no harm is to come to the boy’s parents. Ever. From now until the end of time. They will not die in a mining accident, they will not succumb to disease, they will not be victims of some unfortunate accident. You will not trade them. You will not give them away. You will keep them here. Even if the excavation fails. Even if the mine is emptied. They do not step off this planet. If you fail to do so, the full force of my master’s fury will come down upon your insignificant little operation and everything you know and love with be burned until they are less than mere cinders. I control their lives, do… you… understand… me?”

Yerrig offered only the stunned movement slightly resembling a nod.

“Good. My master may have further interest in your mining. We’ll stay in contact.”

The Sith boarded the vessel with no further complication, departing the planet as Yerrig remained utterly frozen and speechless. Lorrik was heading for the Academy.

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Osetto
10.27.2012 , 10:02 PM | #75
Chapter Five: Secrets (Part One)

The sky is on fire.

Over the battleground of a contested ordinance world, Imperial starfighters howled above the heads of marching ground forces. The heavy treads of armored crawlers dug into the mud as they led the forward charge against a weapons depot. Bolts of energy from opposing troopers darted back and forth as the Imperials pressed the retreating Republic line.

Atop a distant hill, an armored figure watched over the unfolding battle through a telescopic visor held to her eyes. The warrior was clad in black plates beset by a matching cloak, only the crimson flesh of her face remaining uncovered. Lowering the binoculars, the Pureblood warrior took the entire scene in as the lambent flames of destruction warmed her young, but determined face. Turning upon her heels, the Sith tossed the visor to the ground, focusing her attention on the facility that stood in front of her. The building had been emptied of its personnel long ago, but not of its contents.

Reaching to her belt, the warrior retrieved not a weapon, but a compact holocommunicator. Holding the device in her palm, the digital image of her superior appeared. Human. Male. Supremely her elder. Layers upon layers of dark and extravagant robes.

“Master, I’ve arrived at the munitions depot,” the Pureblood calmly stated. “The Republic forces have fortified their position, but I’ll have the facility secured shortly.”

“Wait, my apprentice, Ravek is finishing his task in the adjacent sector,” the master slowly rasped. “He can join you in your siege.”

“I can handle this myself, Lord Zyos,” the Pureblood quick replied, shutting off the comm.

Walking past the threshold of the munitions depot, the warrior calmly made her way deeper into the unpopulated facility. Past the first hall, she entered a stockroom with crates of weaponry and explosive ordinance stacked high and lining each wall. Miniature devices baring flashing red lights had been affixed to the containers at random intervals only minutes prior.

Shedding her outer coat, she laid the garment at her feet before retrieving the lightsaber from her waist. Rotating the weapon in her hand, she offered it a longing stare before tossing it into the center of the storeroom. As the cylinder clanged and slid across the metallic floor, the Pureblood once more turned her attention to her comm device. Turning back toward the entrance, the warrior twisted a dial before setting the comm on a shelf and walking away. The device joined its flashing and beeping compatriots as it began to flash a warning light.

“Liasha, are you in trouble?” a voice called out from the communicator. “We’re picking up a distress beacon.”

Liasha continued her calm and composed exit out of the facility, free of physical and emotional burden. The Pureblood retained possession of only one single item. Held within her hand, a metallic cylinder far too compact to be a proper weapon. Instead, the nondescript device possessed only a single, vibrant, red button upon its tip.

Once more standing upon the hill overlooking the Imperial invasion, the sights and sounds of war were dying down, though the flames of destruction still lashed out at the sky alongside pillars of black smoke. They’d soon have company. Holding the cylinder within her hand, the warrior took in one last deep breath before triggering the detonator.

Explosions rang out one right after another from deep within the bowels of the munitions depot, consuming the facility in an unrelenting fire that conformed and contorted to the sprawling interior, before releasing a deadly exhaust from the building’s mouth. Not a moment later, the depot collapsed upon itself, trapping and sealing any evidence of past occurrences within.

The fire once more warmed the warrior’s face as she looked upon her work, basking in the heat emanating from her supposed burial site. Crushing the detonator in her hand, she tossed the wrecked device with a furious throw over the edge of the overlook, where it would land amongst the tracks and footprints of the emptied battlefield below.

Liasha only had so much time to gaze upon the remarkable scene. Keeping her feet upon sturdy ground, the warrior abandoned the premises with haste, making her way toward a nondescript shuttle she had tucked away. The Sith had cut her ties. She had died, so that she might start a new life.

----------

Over the gentle hills of a fringe Republic colonial world, a flock of migrating birds flapped their wings above a quaint homestead. Constructed upon a serene knoll, the discreet house offered respite amongst the flowing greens that surrounded it. The picturesque home was compact in its design, its interior possessing minimal rooms and partitions.

Entered into by way of the front door, the main living area was populated with sparse sitting arrangements and a circular rug, upon which sat a child. The young boy propped himself up upon his knees, making whooshing noises with his mouth as he waved around a toy starship held within his grasp. Sitting in an armchair in the same room, the boy’s father observed the child play with a reserved smile, eyes occasionally darting to the door before returning to his son. The boy possessed a vibrant red skin tone, while his father’s was a more muted orange. The elder possessed muted features and a thin build atypical of his heritage. The two were Sith. But not Sith. Not in creed. Not in status. Not in makeup.

The two Purebloods jumped when they heard a knock on the door. The boy hopped to his feet with a wide smile, while the father rose with a more tempered haste. Bringing his finger to his mouth, the father silently hushed his son as he made his way toward the door. Putting his eye to the entrance’s viewport, the man breathed a sigh of relief. Opening the door, the man adopted a smile as vibrant as his son’s when he laid eyes upon a woman with the same.

“Liasha…” the man muttered as he swung the door open, wrapping his arms around his beloved as they succumbed to an enduring embrace.

“Orbek… it is done. It’s finally over,” Liasha declared.

“Truly?” Orbek asked with wondrous disbelief.

“Yes,” Liasha admitted as the two broke off their tender cuddle. “Zyos and his other apprentices believe I perished in the last campaign. They won’t be a bother to us anymore. We’ve finally escaped the watchful eyes of the Sith. We can finally live a proper life together, with our son.”

“Mom!” the child shouted with joy as he ran toward his mother.

“Jresh!” the mother shouted back, catching the boy mid sprint and hoisting him up into the air. Hugging her son close, she gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek before setting him back on the ground. “It’s good to be home.”

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Osetto
10.31.2012 , 05:17 PM | #76
Chapter Six: Secrets (Part Two)

The day was growing short as the sky over the homestead adopted a soft orange hue. Inside, the family finished their evening meal, the son retreating to his bedroom whilst the parents remained at the table. Their plates empty and stomachs full, the two shared a moment of contentment as they looked into one another’s eyes.

“Still can’t believe I’m here to stay, can you?” Liasha said with a warm smile. Having shed her battle attire, the woman actually possessed a gentle aura about her that overpowered even her sturdy, athletic build. As sculpted as she was for conflict, within her own home, she was capable of relaxation. Capable of peace.

The husband took a tender hold of his wife’s hand.

“It’s understandable, is it not?” Orbek replied, matching his wife’s smile. “Then again, I’d have a hard time believing any of the last decade had I not experienced them first hand. At least the worst part is finally over. No more waiting. No more wondering if you were even alive out there. Now we can focus on raising Jresh.”

Liasha’s gaze lowered to focus on their bonded hands. “You know things will never be simple. For us. For Jresh. We remain on precipitous standings. The Republic fears our kind, and I’ve not yet fully turned my back on the Empire.”

“You didn’t make things easier for yourself when you chose to marry the impure Pureblood whose grandfather was exiled for treason.” Orbek grinned, whilst the smile faded from Liasha’s face.

“Have you… noticed anything with Jresh, yet?” the mother calmly asked.

“No… no signs of Force-sensitivity. Just like his dad,” Orbek admitted. “Are you disappointed?”

“No, of course not,” Liasha replied, gently rubbing her husband’s hand. “But we must know for sure, so that we can take extra precautions.”

“If he actually does take after me… at least he should have an easier time fitting in with the colonists.”

Liasha hesitated. “We can’t be sure of that. People will see the red skin. The budding features upon his face. They’ll know from whom he descended. They’ll fear him regardless of whether or not he can use the Force.”

“Sadly, I think you’re right. We’ve been isolated ever since you left. We’ve spent the credits you’d send having supplies delivered out here. The boy still hasn’t set foot outside the homestead.”

“You’ve done a good job protecting him all this time, physically and emotionally, but we cannot keep hiding forever.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“I left so that we could start a new life. But a life lived in fear is no life at all. You’ve been strong to endure everything that’s been thrust upon you. Jresh must be strong as well. I will train him. Force-sensitive or not.”

“But he’s still just a boy.”

“I was but a girl when I was trained in the way of the Sith,” Liasha admitted. “He can’t remain sheltered. Better he learn the harsh realities of the galaxy from the ones he loves.”

Orbek’s gaze drifted lower and lower. “I thought all of this was so that we wouldn’t have our lives dictated by Imperial standards.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll not force him to endure the things I endured at the Academy. Just enough to set him on the right path.”

“A path dominated by pain and hardship,” Orbek muttered.

“Pain… is having that which you care about taken away. Hardship… is knowing that there are those who would see you never know love,” Liasha explained. “I’ll not have my son be a victim. I want him to live, love, and dream, all without fear. But such is not possible without strength. Not in this galaxy…”

The husband let out a soft sigh. “I understand. I more than understand. I guess I just wanted to put off introducing him to all the nonsense that surrounds us for as long as I could.”

“The Empire may have turned its back on you, and yours on it, but it has much to teach us. Good and bad. Same with the Republic. But ignoring that which is wrong doesn’t make it go away. It’s up to us to foster the strength needed to change it.”

“You’re right,” Orbek said with a smile. “I know you only want what’s best for Jresh.”

“And I know you’ll help me in figuring out what’s best. You’ve been a good father. No reason that should change now.”

With the day’s tasks behind them, the husband and wife would retreat to their bedroom as night fell upon the homestead. An unclear future laid ahead of them, but even as darkness surrounded them, they took solace in each other’s presence. The cares of the world began to fade away as the couple spent their first night together in a long time.

----------

Days turned to weeks. Weeks into months. The trio of Sith spent their time together as a loving family, constructing the foundations for their continued living. The father would eventually come to venture outside the homestead’s perimeter, walking the streets of the rural colony that neighbored it under the shroud of a heavy cloak and hood. His muted Pureblood features and cloaked visage allow him to travel without being properly identified, but the populace supplied their fair share of wayward looks and glances.

Back at the homestead, Liasha and Jresh stood amidst the grassy field in front of their house, the green blades wafting amidst the gentle breeze. The mother and her child stood opposing one another. While not donning her previous suit of battle gear, Liasha was garbed in form-fitting robes intended for martial applications. Her son possessed a similar outfitting.

With a deep breath, Liasha signaled for Jresh to start. The boy ran forward, letting out a harsh battle cry as he did so. Closing the gap between himself and his mother, the child threw his first punch. Deftly, the mother intercepted and deflected it single-handedly, her other hand remaining behind her back. Jresh offered another blow just to have it suffer the same fate. His motions were turned against him as any move he made was promptly misdirected away. The ineffective exchange continued until the boy finally backed off, heavily panting as he rested his hands upon his thighs.

“You still do not understand. Strength is not raw power. It is control,” Liasha instructed. “Fueled by passions but never defined by them. You must control yourself. Then you might control your surroundings. Be at peace with your emotions, and you can draw from them at your own accord. Then you can find your strength.”

“But we gain strength so that we can fight… and fighting is the opposite of peace… so shouldn’t peace be the opposite of strength?” Jresh asked.

Liasha let of a soft chuckle. “You’ve certainly Sith blood running through your veins.” Jresh dipped his head in embarrassment, only to find a hand lifting his chin. As he looked up, the warm visage of his mother gazed upon him, lifting his spirits. “Just because two things are opposites, doesn’t mean they cannot cooperate. There will always be conflict in the galaxy. It is a way of life. The trick is ensuring that conflict benefits you. Those with dark hearts know this well, but I believe it can be utilized for good. Conflict is merely the opposition of forces. We are the ones who assign meaning and intent. Conflict forces us to adapt, become stronger. It is also a source of much pain, sorrow, and death. But I don’t think it has to be that way. There is a deeper understanding to be gained, but we cannot achieve it whilst we are at battle with ourselves. Inner peace. Outer conflict. That is how we gain strength. Remember that.”

The wind surrounding the pair violently picked up. Raising her gaze, Liasha witnessed a starship zoom by over their heads. Black and gray. Utterly imposing. The mother immediately recognized the model. Imperial interceptor. Fury-class.

“Jresh… get inside. NOW!”

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Osetto
11.05.2012 , 05:11 PM | #77
Chapter Seven: Secrets (Part Three)

The vessel touched down amidst the vibrant flatlands of the homestead. As the entrance ramp descended, three figures emerged from the Fury-class starship. Three dark figures. A pair of masked enforcers headed by an armored warrior. Without a helm, the Pureblood male’s scarred visage presented itself for all to see as he scanned the expanse that stretched before him.

From atop a distant hill, a different armored figure gazed upon the landing trio through the lens of a telescopic visor. The Human seemed rather unfazed by the arriving Sith as his red overcoat swayed amidst the passing breeze.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” the figure muttered, lowering his binoculars and raising his holocommunicator. “Lord Tash, this is Vai.”

After a pause, the blue image of an elderly Human emanated from the device and began speaking with an utterly calm, utterly smooth voice. “I’m receiving your signal, my apprentice. Have you a status update?”

“Yeah, Zyos’s men have arrived as predicted. Well… we didn’t predict they’d just casually land in an Imperial ship this close to a Republic colony, but they’re here all right.”

“Then you may proceed as planned,” Tash declared.

“I’m sorry master, but I’m not quite sure why I’m here,” Thorel admitted. “The boy hardly meets any of the qualifications for enrollment. It seems more trouble than it’s worth, interfering with the business of another Lord over an unessential asset.”

“Noted. You can blame Syrosk for this venture. He has his heart, or rather his mind, set on recruiting the Pureblood. The sooner we oblige him, the sooner we can continue to other candidates.”

“Okay… okay. I’ll observe the proceedings and see if his vision pans out.”

The trio whom served Lord Zyos casually made their way toward the front door of the quaint home, in front of which stood the defiantly defensive Liasha. The Pureblood leading the group paused a sizable distance in front of the robed woman, the two imposing figures taking the moment to stare one another down.

“Ravek,” Liasha muttered.

Ravek balked. “That’s it? I was expecting a ‘what are you doing here?’ Or at least a, ‘how did you find me?’ Regardless, may we step inside?”

“You’ll not take another step closer,” Liasha declared.

“Now, now, Liasha. You’re not really in a position to be making threats. Unarmed… Outnumbered…”

“I don’t need a weapon to end you.”

Ravek offered a conceding nod. “Probably true. But I can keep you occupied long enough for my men to deal with whomever you have hiding inside. Instead, I suggest we have a talk.”

“Fine. Talk.”

Ravek let out a petulant sigh. “Master Zyos was rather disappointed when you’d perished in a freak warehouse explosion. That disappointment turned to a bit of anger when he realized it was a ruse. Now, if I were you, I would have left a few bodies strewn about before I detonated the cache…”

“What is it you want?”

“Well, what I want, is to sate my, and your former, master. Zyos is a man who doesn’t care for loose ends. Given your previous record and talents, he’s graciously invited you to return to serve him once more. The alternative…”

“You kill me.”

“Well, yes,” Ravek admitted. “Of course, there is a third option, if you’ll indulge me. My men can wait outside while we have a one on one chat.”

Liasha’s harsh stare did not lessen, but she knew she couldn’t risk discarding any possibilities. Hesitantly, she waved her once fellow apprentice to proceed. Liasha retreated into the home, with Ravek following closely after, the two masked warriors remaining outside.

“Sit!” Liasha directed, her finger defiantly thrust toward the living room seating. Ravek complied, taking his place upon a comfortable armchair.

“When you first disappeared, what was it? More than a decade ago?” Ravek asked, an unusually warm candor emanating from the otherwise intimidating warrior. “Gone for two years, then suddenly you return. Zyos, in all his Sith wisdom, figured you were secretly constructing some sort of power base. I knew there to be a simpler explanation.”

“Oh?”

“Someone wanted a family.”

“And what makes you say that?”

“Well, for one… you’re a woman. The desire is as built into you as your Force-sensitivity,” Ravek offered. “The original disappearance was long enough to cultivate and recover from a pregnancy. Or at least partake in one worthwhile romance. After Zyos took you back, whatever credits earned were never spent, yet they never amassed. So you must have been sending them somewhere. Or to someone.”

“Maybe I just wanted a nice place for myself. And decided I was much better off without any of you.”

“A Sith doesn’t choose a Republic colony for solitude. You needed that right mixture of hiding in plain sight and being able to start a new life for yourself.”

“Your right. For myself.”

“Come now, Liasha. I spent enough time in your company to know you’d never defend purely material possessions from someone like myself the way you did. You’re hiding someone here. A husband. A child. Perhaps a parent or sibling.”

Liasha maintained her calm. “Do you sense anyone else here?”

“I’ll admit, you’ve got me there. I doubt you’d consort with those powerful enough to mask their presence. However, the opposite is entirely possible. Those so weak I’d not be able to sense them.”

Ravek’s head panned as he took in his surroundings, his eyes slowly passing from the living room, to the kitchen, to Jresh’s bedroom.

“The third option,” Liasha spoke up.

“Hrm?”

“You mentioned a third option, what was it?”

“Well, we both know that these kinds of situations can’t be resolved without someone dying. If you refuse to return, that’ll be you. If you do return, Zyos will want whatever you’ve been dealing with behind his back destroyed, which means whomever you’re living with here will have to die. The third option… we kill Zyos.”

“What’s the matter, can’t do it by yourself?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. As his apprentice, it is my duty to end him at some point. His teachings have somewhat stalled, so I’d like to see that moment expedited. I am not here to destroy everything you’ve created. You're strong enough to have earned whatever it is you desire out here. Join me, and we can put an end to his inquiries. He’ll not be able to trouble you or your family any longer. You’ll be free to tend to your assets while I take control of his.”

“What about your two men outside?” Liasha asked.

“Like I said. With all options… someone has to die. We can walk out, act like you’re returning to Zyos, see if we can’t trick one into giving you a lightsaber, and the rest is self-explanatory.”

“Alright,” Liasha muttered with a heavy hesitance. “I’ll help you kill Zyos. Then you never contact me again.”

“Wonderful,” Ravek stated as he rose from his seat. The two Purebloods cautiously vacated the home, leaving the living room stagnant and silent. Peering in from the cracked doorway of his bedroom, Jresh watched, heart racing, as his mother and the stranger removed themselves from the house. He jumped as he heard the sharp howl of his mother from outside.

“Orbek!” Liasha shouted as she stepped from her home.

Ahead of her, the two masked accompaniers of Ravek had her husband upon his knees between them. Returned from his venture to the nearby colony, the defenseless Pureblood could do nothing to prevent or protest his capture. Liasha’s face snarled at the state of her beloved, and she readied herself to charge, only to be interrupted by Zyos’s apprentice.

“Wait,” Ravek whispered. “We can use this to our advantage. Trust me.” The apprentice began walking toward the kneeled captive a wide, toothy smirk upon his face. “Well, well, well. It would seem I was correct about you fostering a family.” The warrior now stood in front of the husband, lowering himself to get a good look as his lowered visage. “Poor thing, I can’t sense the tiniest bit of Force potential in his blood. This is what you’d turned your back on Zyos for?”

Orbek remained silent, his head bowed, refusing to give any of the Sith the satisfaction of his words. Straightening himself, the apprentice addressed his cohorts.

“Gentlemen. Liasha has agreed to accept Zyos gracious invitation," Ravek declared. "I do not believe, however, that he would permit her return were he to know of this particular individual. Zyos accepts only the strong, and if she has forged a bond with this weakling, his weakness is hers. Therefore in order to have a place under Lord Zyos, she must sever that bond.” Ravek thrust his finger at the leftward warrior. “You there. Give Liasha your saber.”

The masked warrior stared blankly at Ravek beneath his mask, before finally succumbing to the demand. Taking a step from the captive, the figure unhooked his lightsaber and handed it to the seemingly despondent woman. With a flick of her wrist, she ignited the weapon, baring its crimson blade.

“Go ahead, Liasha. Earn what it is you desire,” Ravek directed.

Liasha composed herself. She closed her eyes as she took a deep breath. An exhale later, she gazed upon the determined face of her captive husband. The two locked eyes, sharing a moment of infinite clarity.

The wife took a powerful step forward, mightily swinging the blade of her weapon at the defenseless masked warrior, raking the red plasma across his chest. The warrior fell lifelessly to the ground as his cohort drew his lightsaber. Intending to deal with his captive first, the second masked warrior raised his weapon before bringing it down toward the kneeling Pureblood.

The warrior was baffled to see his strike miss as the captive was tugged from his spot by an invisible force. Looking up, the aggressor saw the retracting motion of Ravek’s clenched fist as the husband now lay at his feet. His eyes fixated on the betrayer, the masked warrior could not react to the piercing beam thrust into his chest by Liasha.

The two masked followers of Zyos had been neutralized. As they lay motionless upon the soft ground, Liasha turned to rush toward her husband. Lifting him from the ground, she stabilized him upon his feet, where the two would lose themselves in each other’s eyes as tears began to form. The husband and wife embraced, squeezing each other tightly, clenching their arms and their eyes shut as they rest their heads upon each other’s shoulders. Their racing hearts began to stabilize. Their minds relaxed. As the soft winds enveloped them, they lost their senses to the superior force of love. Finally it was over.

The couple’s eyes rushed open. A piercing hum rang out in their ears. An intolerable pain penetrated their stomachs. Liasha struggled to lift her head. Gazing over her partner’s shoulder, she saw the tip of the crimson blade that had been thrust through them. In a flash, Ravek withdrew his saber, and the pair crumbled to the ground.

The two landed on their sides, eyes still locked with one another. However, Orbek’s were utterly vacant as the color drained from his face. He was already gone. Liasha writhed on her back, tears streaming down her face, as she saw the traitorous Ravek standing over her.

Carefully, he shut off his saber and knelt down as close as he could to Liasha’s face. “I knew you’d grown weak. Your love for this filth made you blind. You’d believe anything, do anything, to protect him. Such sacrifice is unbecoming of a Sith. You don’t deserve Zyos’s mercy. Instead, you’ll die here, while I return as his favored apprentice.”

The warrior thought to continue gloating but he was interrupted when a muffle shriek sounded out from his rear. Looking over his shoulder, he had just caught the brief sight of the house’s front door slamming shut.

A smirk overtook the Pureblood’s visage as he slowly straightened his posture and began making his way toward the home. Liasha stirred upon the ground, trying to grab at the warrior, trying to grab at any of the nearby weapons, but her body was failing her. She was in pain. She had no control of her lower body. She couldn’t even scream. All she could do was lay there as a murderous Sith made his way toward her son as the life slowly crept from her body.

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Osetto
11.08.2012 , 10:55 PM | #78
Chapter Eight: Secrets (Part Four)

Blue skies. White clouds. Golden sun. Liasha rested upon the flat of her back, hands clutching at her abdomen, eyes staring at the peaceful scene above. She had hoped to spend the last moments of her life at peace, but there wasn’t a single facet of her mind that would allow it at this point. Her husband lay dead by her side. Her son hid in the house whilst her former ally searched for him. And she was powerless to stop it.

Her clear vision was interrupted by the arrival of a dark figure hovering over her. Her vision cleared as the light settled behind the man, revealing the visage of an unfamiliar face. Slowly, the Human with the red coat knelt down beside her. Liasha didn’t know what to do. What to say. She didn’t know the stranger, but that wouldn’t deter her from reaching out.

“Please… my son,” Liasha muttered, the taste of blood overtaking her senses. “You… you have to…”

The Human brought a finger to his lips, accompanied by a soft hushing sound. “My name is Vai Thorel. I represent Lord Tash, a very powerful figure in the Sith Empire. We know about you, your family, and your past with Lord Zyos. Our interest lies in your son, whom we would like to bring to the Korriban Academy.”

“But he’s not… how could you know…” Liasha struggled to speak.

“We’ve an ally with a particular talent for finding Force-sensitive children.”

“You mean… Jresh is… for sure…”

“Yes. It would seem your son has the gift after all. One we would like to see flourish. I can save your son and deliver him to the Academy safe and sound. There Zyos won't be able to touch him.”

The mother remained silent, breaking eye contact as she turned her head away from the Human. “Korriban…”

“A harsh life, as I’m sure you’re aware of. But a life of trials is better than an early death. Which would you like for your son?” Thorel asked. Liasha’s head swayed against the grass beneath it as she struggled to think. “The balance tips toward death the longer I stay out here.”

“Go… save Jresh,” Liasha finally whispered. With a nod of his head, Thorel raised himself and took his first step toward the home. “Tell him… tell him to be strong.”

With that, the mother fell silent and still, gaze eternally locked staring toward the front door of her once home.

“Of course,” Thorel said.

Inside the house, Ravek slowly and methodically made his way through the rooms, lightsaber drawn and ignited, its tip playfully nicking the furniture and walls to the warrior’s side.

“Come on out,” Ravek taunted. “I know you’re in here somewhere. You think you’re safe. You think I can’t find you. But with each passing second, the fear inside of you is growing. I’ll sniff you out, like a tuk’ata stalking its prey. It’s only a matter of time.”

Ravek came to a stop in front of a door that remained slightly cracked open. Slipping his free hand into the gap, the warrior then mightily pushed the door ajar. He had found his target. A boy, cowering under a desk at the far end of the study. The room was almost bare, giving Ravek a clear path to his next victim. The Pureblood entered the room with a single calculated step. He did not rush things. He savored the moment, drawing upon the child’s fear as he continued to cower, aware of the warrior's presence but unable to do anything to escape. Another step, and Ravek held the saber at his side, blade glowing with an angry red hue.

“It’s over boy. Accept your fate and join the rest of your pitiful, worthless family,” Ravek snarled. “You’re a disgrace to the Sith. An affront to your bloodline. This galaxy will be better off… without…y-y-you…”

Jresh raised his head and opened his eyes to see the approaching killer had stalled. His stance appeared locked as his head tilted back. His limbs struggled to move, but one of his hands managed to grasp at his throat. Eventually, some invisible force completely overtook the warrior’s body. His legs bent, sending Ravek to his knees. His arms stiffened, locking them in place by his side. His head remained motionless, whilst his eyes began to dart across the room. The lightsaber fell from his hand, shutting off as it struck the floor. The metallic cylinder began to roll ever closer to the child, until it came to a stop directly in front of him.

“Take it,” an unfamiliar voice rang out in his head.

The worried look had not yet left the child’s face, but Jresh refused to take his eyes off of the weapon. Without any further hesitation, the boy took ahold of the lightsaber, gripping it firmly with his hands.

“Red button. Point the emitter away from your face,” the voice continued.

Jresh complied, jumping when the weapon flashed its crimson blade of plasma. Lifting himself from his cowered position beneath the desk, the boy stood in front of the frozen aggressor, the saber in his hand making subtle noises as it struggled to stay still in the child’s hands.

“Use it. This man is responsible for the deaths of your mother and father. Do what needs to be done.”

Jresh stared at the man fixed to his knees. He didn’t know what to do. Everything felt heavy. His hands. His head. His heart. He felt like collapsing, but still he remained standing, as frozen in place as the man responsible for his parents’ demise.

“You’re afraid. But you’re also angry. One emotion will hold you back. One will set you free. Use your anger. Strike him down. Avenge your family. Be strong.”

Jresh closed his eyes. Took a deep breath. And with no further hesitation, plunged the lightsaber into the chest of Ravek. Whatever force had been holding the warrior dissipated. His arms and jaw dropped, one last breath escaping his maw as his eyes finally stopped their panicked darting. The body began to fall forward, prompting Jresh to withdraw the weapon and take a step back before the torso collided with the hard floor with a resounding thud. The boy looked upon the motionless warrior, not noticing the intruder standing in the doorway.

“You did it. Good.”

It was the same voice as the one in his head, this time finding its way to the child’s ears. A startled Jresh lifted his gaze and his weapon, pointing the lightsaber toward the unfamiliar Human.

“Now, now. Settle down. It’s all over,” Thorel said in a comforting tone. Jresh hesitantly deactivated his weapon, then lowered his gaze as he continued to stare at the corpse of Ravek. “I’m Vai Thorel. A Sith. Like your mother. Like this man. If it weren’t for me, there would have been nothing to stop him from ending your life.”

“Why would you save me?” Jresh muttered, tears softly flowing down his face.

“Well, because your mother asked me to,” Thorel admitted. “She held on to that last bit of life just long enough to make sure you would be okay.

“Why were you even here?”

“I was hoping to talk with your mother about you. It’s really a shame I couldn’t have arrived earlier.”

“Why would you want to talk about me?”

“Because you’re special Jresh. Like me. Like your mother. You’ve the power of the Force flowing through your veins.”

“That’s not true,” Jresh firmly stated, his sight glued to the floor. “I’m just like my father. Powerless.”

“There is no single way for the Force to manifest itself. You’ve the potential resting inside of you. You simply need someone to bring it out. That’s why I’m here. I want to bring you to the Korriban Academy. The same place your mother received her training.”

“Mom said that place is bad.”

“Because it is,” Thorel admitted. “It’s a bad place filled with bad people doing bad things. But it’s that way for a reason. It tests those who enter it. It reacts to those within it. It is a product of its students, and its students a product of it. It doesn’t care about your past, only your strength. It requires it. Desires it. Cultivates and motivates it. You mother’s last words were to tell you to be strong. Come to Korriban, and you’ll be given the tools necessary to become the strongest being in the galaxy.”

“Can I… can I see my parents one last time?” Jresh asked.

“Of course,” Thorel said.

The boy relinquished his grip on the lightsaber, where it would clang against the floor to rest with its previous owner. The boy and Thorel exited the home, side by side, to the scene of passing. Underneath the soft rays of the planet’s sun, Jresh looked upon his mother and father who lay side by side. Kneeling between them, Jresh clenched his eyes amidst the clenching of his fists as more tears ran down his cheeks.

The boy mourned the loss of his family as uncertainty wracked his mind. He did not know how to proceed in the slightest. He thought to give his parents a proper burial, but the thought of laying his hands upon them rattled his psyche. He was the last of his bloodline. The son of a lost warrior and an impurity. Jresh had nothing to bring with him as he began his new life, only the last words of his departed mother.

Eventually, the boy rose from his parents’ side, and joined Via Thorel as they made their way toward the nearby colony’s starport. Jresh was heading for the Academy.

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Osetto
11.09.2012 , 10:52 PM | #79
Chapter Nine: Fighters

Rattatak. A harsh world of stone, unable to create or sustain life. But its peoples endured, thrived, off the sustenance of battle. Of conflict. Of pain. Their pale hands not meant to create, only to crush and destroy. Their structures not crafted, but carved from the rocky terrain. And carved into a mountain bordering a small village was an example of Rattataki splendor. A coliseum. Where the warriors’ warriors would meet in combat to the delight of onlookers.

Rows of seats encircled the rounded arena, where the majority of the village congregated in anticipation of the next match. The white-skinned Rattataki numbered over one hundred, each marked with a unique set of tribal tattoos indicative of their accomplishments and legacy.

But a single figure stood out from the others. Sitting alone, a Human watched over the proceedings, donned in a vibrant red coat that clashed with the dullness that surrounded him, but was right at home amongst the blood stains that populated the arena.

The crowd began to stir when one of the entrances to the lower floor opened. The voice of an announcer began to ring out across the arena. “Are you ready to see some action?” The crowd unanimously replied with an affirming cheer. “Then let’s get started! This man needs no introduction. You know him. You love him. He’s your champion… the Jagged Tempest… the Ardent Razor… Kar’jek Tjensi!”

The stirring crowd turned into one of absolute fervor when a man emerged from the shadowed hallway below. The figure’s gait exuded confidence. He raised his arms as well as the audience’s spirits as he approached the floor’s center. The crowd went wild at the gladiator’s presence, especially one little girl who violently cheered from the front row.

The man was immediately recognizable as a warrior, despite being completely unarmored. The Rattataki moved with pride, showing off the numerous black cultural tattoos that marked the entirety of his face and continued down to his body. Long lines of barbed tribal circles and curved patterns wrapped around his naked torso and arms. At his waist, two pristinely silver swords rested, each capable of wreaking destruction without the help of energized edges or vibrating cores.

“And the challenger... a man who doesn’t know the meaning of the word unscathed… the last man standing in the last battle royal… ‘Stoneskin’ Ukajj!”

Opposite the champion, a new figure emerged. A giant of a man, even for a Rattataki. With a powerful, lumbering gait the gladiator approached the center of the arena, where he would stand over two heads taller than his opponent. His bared torso was utterly marred with an equal combination of tattoos and scars from previous battles. But more intimidating than his stature and appearance, was the large, two-handed metallic mallet he rested upon his shoulder.

The announcer’s voice started up once more as the two gladiators stared each other down. “As you all know, the champion is set to defend his title against three opponents in three successive matches. Each match will end when someone yields… or dies. In the event of an incapacitation, the person left standing decides the other’s fate. Warriors… are you ready?”

Kar’jek unsheathed his swords and adopted his usual battle stance, rotating his body and directing the points of his blades toward his opponent. Ukajj merely lifted the weapon from his shoulder before striking the mallet’s head upon the ground with a resounding thud.

“Let the match… begin!”

Kar’jek took the initiative, rushing toward his stalwart opponent, thrusting his swords forward before the giant could even lift his weapon off the ground. Resolute, Ukajj pivoted his weapon upon the mallet’s head, deflecting the strike with the long handle. Following through, Kar’jek used the deflection to his advantage, maintaining his momentum. The swordsman kept the giant on the defensive, lashing out before he could get a proper grip on his own weapon.

The crowd cheered as the two did battle, everyone rapt in emotional interest. All except one, however. The Human audience member was content to watch the proceedings with a reserved smile. The two gladiators combatted one another in an escalating series of maneuvers and strikes. As dexterous as the swordsman was, the giant was fully capable of defending himself. As Ukajj finally got a firm grip on his weapon, he went on the offensive.

The crowd hollered as the giant brought his mallet down upon Kar’jek, only for the swordsman to escape at the last moment. The massive weapon would impact against the ground, wracking the stone foundation with thunderous cracks. Watching the battle unfold with a keen eye, the Human started speaking to himself.

“The father is a rather capable fighter. I think he might have actually once been one of Darth Vich’s crop,” Thorel said.

“Ah yes, Darth Vich,” Tash’s voice rang out in Thorel’s earpiece. “The man who discovered the Rattataki and decided to turn them into his own personal army.”

“Followed by a bit of insurrection, death, and enslavement courtesy of the Dark Council. I do hope you aren’t planning on achieving similar results.”

“I’m not known for making mistakes, apprentice.”

“Right.”

The fight below was reaching a climax. Slowly but surely, Kar’jek chipped away at Ukajj’s defenses. Through a chaotic grace, the swordsman lashed out with a flurry of blows, slicing into the giant’s flesh little by little. As blood began to pour from the gladiator’s wounds, Ukajj found it harder and harder to lift his massive weapon. Moving to his opponent’s flank, Kar’jek struck the back of the giant’s legs, forcing him to his knees. Not a moment later, Ukajj found two blades crossed beneath his neck. And not a moment after that, the first match was over, as the giant formally yielded.

The crowd erupted in jubilant cheers as the winning gladiator basked in the revelry, gifting a smile to the young girl who jumped and shouted from the front row.

“That concludes the first match! Victor… Kar’jek Tjensi!” the announcer declared. “But the show’s not over folks. We still have two matches to go!”

A trio of nondescript Rattataki emerged from the arena’s entrance to escort the first combatant from the floor. Slowly, they managed to drag the massive gladiator and his weapon back into the arena’s underworkings. Kar’jek meanwhile, remained undeterred in his presence, standing as if he hadn’t just spent the last few minutes in martial combat.

“Our next combatant… a rising star in the gladiator circuit. The Cloaked Dagger. The Masked Terror. Rejj Daiden!”

Emerging from the entrance like a walking shadow, the lithe Rattataki that walked out covered the majority of his flesh with tight, black clothes. His face was concealed beneath a featureless mask, a simple plate held in place by a wrapped cloth, only a single slit cut across it to grant its wearer sight.

The cloaked Rattataki gripped within his hands two black daggers, not letting his guard down even as he entered the arena. Cautiously he made his way toward the floor’s center, to stand opposite Kar’jek. The cold glare of the masked gladiator cast itself upon the champion as the two awaited the start of their match. The two did not have to wait long as the announcer declared the battle commenced.

The two dashed at each other, both gladiators wielding a weapon in each hand. As the four blades lashed out at one another with utmost skill, Kar’jek appeared to pull out an early lead. The swordsman capitalized on the superior reach of his weapons, keeping a safe distance between himself and his opponent as they exchanged blows. The crowd’s cheers hushed as they focused all of their attention on analyzing the two combatants.

The exchange of blades continued with no sign of either gladiator making a remarkable impact on the other. Eventually, the masked warrior stopped playing it safe. Charging forward, the dagger wielding gladiator lashed out at his opponent, slicing Kar’jek across the chest. But for his one wound, the swordsman reciprocated three upon his foe. A muffled howl rang out from beneath the gladiator’s mask as he stumbled past Kar’jek, three diagonal slashes cut into his chest.

As Kar’jek turned, his looked upon his opponent with a snide grin, unfazed by the thin gash across his chest. The swordsman readied his weapons, intent on pressing his assault. Rejj focused on defense, dodging and parrying the swordsman’s attacks, but never returning one of his own. The crowd returned to their boisterous cheering as their champion lashed out at the masked challenger.

Rejj dodged yet another strike, leaping backward to put a sizable distance between himself and his opponent. Just as Kar’jek was about to renew his offense, his left leg stumbled as he took a step forward. As the swordsman looked down, his vision began to blur. Shaking his head, the champion tried to focus as the crowd looked on with a hushed wonder.

“Come on, Dad! You can do it!” the young girl shouted from the sidelines. The swordsman could have sworn he heard something, but all that registered in his ears was a steady ringing.

As Kar’jek steadied his stance, he found himself under attack. A flurry of blurred daggers lashed out at him, to which he was unable to properly defend himself. Another gash opened across the swordsman’s chest. Then another. One by one, Kar’jek’s senses were failing him. His mind wanted to speak, but his mouth wouldn’t allow him. Everything grew heavy. Everything began to fade. Looking down, Kar’jek saw the dagger that had been plunged into his chest. His swords dropped. His body followed. The roar of the crowd turned to murmurs. Then silence.

“We have a new champion!” the announcer broke the silence. “Rejj Daiden!”

“NO!” the girl in the front row screamed. “It can’t be! He cheated!”

As the girl stood on the precipice of sobbing, she lost it at the sight of the arena attendants stepping out to retrieve her father’s corpse. Jumping over the barrier separating the ground floor and the rows of seating, the girl rushed toward the fallen champion. Sliding to her knees, she gazed upon her father’s body, dagger still sticking out of his chest. She reached out toward the weapon, when a sharp voice pounded at her senses.

“Don’t touch that,” the voice directed. “There’s likely still venom on the dagger, as well as the wounds.”

The girl immediately rose to her feet, turning upon her heels as she looked for the source of the voice. With her back turned, the attendant began to drag her father by his feet back to the underworkings of the arena. The daughter shouted a protest that fell on deaf ears. She turned her attention to the masked killer who cast his cold gaze upon her. She took a step toward him, only to find herself being dragged from the arena by an attendant. She flailed her limbs and tried to break free, but to no avail.

“With a new champion, the third match will be postponed until later in the day. Come back to see if the Masked Terror is capable of defending his new title!” the announcer declared. As the crowd lifted itself from its seating and vacated the arena, the Human watched as the cloaked victor did the same, but not before the two locked their gazes for the briefest of moments. The Human kept his subtle grin as he removed himself from the arena seating.

----------

In one of the back rooms of the arena’s underworkings, Kar’jek Tjensi’s body lay upon a rocky slab. Beside him, his daughter rest on her knees, head buried in her hands as she lamented the loss of her father.

“It's not fair,” the girl sobbed. Lifting her head, she slammed one of her fists against the slab. “You didn’t deserve this.”

Her gaze transitioned to her father’s swords that leaned against the slab beside her. She reached to one, taking hold of the hilt. Even as she gripped the weapon with both of her hands, she struggled to lift the dense blade. But ever determined, she drug herself and the sword toward the room’s exit.

“One should really choose the right weapon if they intend to kill,” a voice rang out, the same one that had reached out to her before. This time emanating from the doorway to the rest of the arena underworkings. Though surprised, the girl kept her cool, staring at the stranger, resolute in her stance. “I’m not going to stop you, but you need to think. What kind of man killed your father? Quick. Agile. Cunning. You’ll not get very far with a weapon that size. Here…” Reaching for his belt, the Human unhooked a metallic cylinder and tossed it toward the child. The girl dropped the sword just in time to catch the object. “Now careful with that. Point that end this way, and press that button…”

The girl complied, jumping when the crimson blade of energy sprung out from the handle.

“Now that, that is a proper weapon. The weapon of a warrior. That blade can cut through just about any material imaginable. Now… would you like to borrow it?”

The girl nodded.

“Alright then. Where does the champion go after a match?”

----------

The Human and the girl walked out of the carved mountain together, lightsaber returned to its owner, the deed done. The arena was lacking a champion.

“There’s a strength in you unlike anyone else in this village,” Thorel stated as the pair walked. “We can ensure that strength is tested against others like yourself. Persevere, and you’ll become a warrior capable of anything.” The Human looked to his follower, whose gaze remained determinedly affixed ahead of her. “I think you’ll like Korriban. You’ll feel right at home.”

The two continued their walk toward Thorel’s parked shuttle a short distance away in silence. Kar’ai was heading for the Academy.

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Osetto
11.11.2012 , 07:54 PM | #80
Chapter Ten: Colors


Black.

The darkness offers safety. In the shadows, men fear to trek and sights fail to track.

The hunters hunt and the seekers seek. The children of Ryloth are removed from the pack.

The exotic prize, beings of purple, pink, and blue. Passed by hands from here to there, and there and back.

The Twi’lek buried by burdens. Women under the lustful gaze, men under the whip’s crack.


Blue.

The child finds solace in the shadows. They offer safety for the boy with no family, no home to return to.

The darkness knows no masters. The child moves within it, the clans and their slavers holding nary a clue.

The boy is alone. No friends nor enemies. Forever unnoticed, nothing is owed, nothing is due.

The days are long. The nights longer. The child runs and hides, plotting his next moments hidden from view.


Red.

The coated stranger arrives on Ryloth, searching amongst shadows with neither fear nor dread.

The two meet amidst the darkness, the boy standing his ground when he thought to have fled.

The Sith speaks of the Twi’lek’s gift, his potential, and all that needed to be said.

The tears to be shed. The fluids to be bled. The ever-present threat to become one with the dead.

The most important prospect, however, to rattle the boy’s head, was the future gift of his very own bed.


With the aspect of knowledge and power and the promise to be free, Ryloh was heading for the Academy.