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(L,F&E 58) What do you do with a lost SIth seer?

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
(L,F&E 58) What do you do with a lost SIth seer?

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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 09:38 AM | #1
((This story starts a week after the events of Dancing on the Edge of a Blade))

Istara sat and tried not to grimace as she listened. Trugoy had surrendered to the Sitolon without a fight. After so many centuries of hunting him, the Sitolon had closure of a sort. But of course, anywhere where beings had free will, people would have differing opinions. The good news was that the queen bug’s word was law, even here. The bad news was that many of these beings were… well, incensed was the only proper word. At least every one of them was polite. But finally, Istara had sat long enough. When she stood, all eyes went to her. She bowed to Majistrona, who nodded to her. When Istara spoke it was quite, but strong.

“I have to go back. And so does he.” A hush swept through the cavernous egg room as Istara’s words flew. She continued. “I have to find Setsuna. And he, well…” Trugoy slumped where he sat but didn’t speak. Istara sighed and spoke again. “His clan still serves the Empire. If he were to disappear, what would happen to the others? I know they are not your clan, but they were mine.”

Mama Lizard leaned close to her, the Barabel’s face was hard to read, but her voice was gentle. “We ssstill are, girl, in every way that mattersss and don’t you dare deny it.”

Istara smiled and patted the Barabel’s hand, but her focus was on the humongous insect that loomed over all present. Majistrona looked…thoughtful. Of course it was very hard to tell with insects, but the feelings that Istara got were also of deep thought. Finally, Majistrona spoke. “What would you recommend, battle sister?”

Istara blinked and looked at the insect. That wasn’t what she had expected. Argument maybe, discussion maybe, these she had heard for the last three days. She did not expect acceptance. And why ask her? Nothing for it, she asked. “Why are you asking me, Majistrona? I am the youngest of the kin. I am the least experienced of your clan. I…” She broke off as she felt amusement from both Majistrona and Trugoy. Now that was odd, those two agreeing on anything.

There was a distinct undercurrent of amusement when Majistrona replied. “Wisdom comes from the strangest places, Istara. And you have perspective we lack. For so long, our focus was on hunting and killing. We need to find something else to do now. But…” She looked around the room to the group of Sitolon who just recently had been wrangling, oh so politely, with her. “Our battle sister’s blood kin requires our aid. What say you?” All of the assembled insects bowed. And each folded arms across their chest. Istara looked at Majistrona with confusion and Majistrona nodded to her. “Go. We shall aid you as we can, sister. However…” Istara felt the incandescent joy she had suddenly felt dim as the insect queen shook her head. “Trugoy will be your responsibility until we can decide as a whole what to do.”

At that, Istara felt the world beneath her feet crumble. She took a deep breath. “Majistrona… I… I am conflicted.” But surprisingly, it was Trugoy who spoke.

The small brown alien nodded from where he sat, apart from the others and unchained, but bowed by the weight of his deeds and his age. “Istara. Think, girl.” That was all he said, but Istara could see his hand flexing as if to chide her in his usual way. She snickered. The Sitolon might not understand him hitting with a lightsaber pommel. Then again... they might...

When Istara spoke it was rueful and held bubbled laughter. “Why do I keep getting the image of you with a ruler?” Trugoy just smiled at her and then she sighed. She bowed and crossed her arms so her tattoo was visible, it felt… right. “I will return to the Bladehome. Trugoy’s clan must continue to act as if nothing has changed. Or the Empire will react.”

Majistrona nodded. “Is there anything else you wish, sister?”

Istara thought for a moment, and then she nodded. “I will need a way to contact you. And I will take the children with me. We can get them to Tattooine. The clinic there has experience in treating this kind of abomination.” She looked to where several non insect forms sat nearby. “Jina?”

Jina Darkstorm, formerly Jedi Master Jina Darkstorm, shook her head. “I am still kind of wanted. And… there is a lot to learn here. And some I can teach.”

Majistrona bowed her head. “We would be honored.”

Istara smiled, but then her smile faltered. The other two were watching her closely. Blondie’s face was sad. The huge mountain of muscle that she had called brother from the time she had found him half buried in debris after a massive Republic attack was sad. He had been devastated by what he had learned about the Grandmaster of the order that had saved him. Istara stepped to where he sat and extended a hand. He took it and she drew him to his feet, although not effortlessly. He was large enough to fake being a Wookiee. But he relaxed as she enfolded him in a hug. “It will be all right, Blondie.”

He returned her hug gratefully, and she felt sadness and apprehension from him. He couldn’t talk due to the damage his throat had taken when he had been buried. But it didn’t stop him from being able to communicate. Only Ona, the Bladeborn’s medic, had more highly tuned empathic skills. And none of her old clan were better at telepathy. She gave him another squeeze and released him. Then she turned to the other.

Chari stared at her, wonder shone from the Twilek’s eyes and Istara bit back a groan. For as long as Istara could remember, the Lethan Twilek had been a competitor, a confidante, a friend, and a rock of stability in a very unstable galaxy. She was unshakable, totally devoted to the clan, and to her study of the sword. Until istara had returned that was. Now Chari’s single minded devotion seemed to have landed on Istara for some reason. Admittedly, Istara was now one of a very select minority in the galaxy.

The original Bladeborn Order had been followers of Ashla, what later became known as the Light Side of the Force. They had originated on Tython more than two hundred centuries previous, prior to the founding of the Sith, prior even to the Force Wars that had devastated Tython. They had played no small role in said Force Wars. And then they had disappeared. Istara had discovered that all but two had died. Most had been slaughtered by the small brown being that sat nearby. He had been possessed by a creature of pure dark side energy, and the result had been carnage. Only one other Bladeborn had survived the massacre, and she had driven herself to find Trugoy and exact revenge. But now, Jili’s decendants had chosen justice instead of revenge. And Istara approved. But that still left her with Chari staring at her like a star struck nerf.

Istara sighed. “Chari, I cannot be what you want me to be. I am a student, not a master.” She laughed sourly. “You know more than I do about the sword.” Once that had been a sore point, but not now.

Chari blinked. “Istara…I…” Istara drew the Twilek up into a hug that Chari returned.

Istara’s voice was husky. “I am not what you need Chari. I am not. But I think…” She looked to Majistrona who nodded. “I think you can learn here of you wish.”

Chari stared at her, not comprehending. Then suddenly, her face cleared and she looked dumbfounded. “You mean…?” The Twilek looked to where the queen bug sat and goggled as the insect nodded.

Majistrona’s voice was kind. “We would be honored.”

Chari froze solid, and Istara let her go. The Twilek’s voice was small when she spoke. “I… I don’t want to leave you, Shar, uh… Istara…”

Istara hugged her again. “Either works, Chari. Istara or Sharlina. I am both now. But you can learn from these beings. More than I could ever teach you.” Her grin turned wry. “I stink at teaching. Blondie?” he turned to the man mountain and he nodded as well. She extended an arm and he joined the embrace. Then he lifted both females effortlessly in his embrace. Istara grunted. “Oof… Lummox.” But she was grinning when she said it. He set them gently down and she turned to the being she had called mother for decades.

Mama Lizard hissed at her. “Don’t even think about it, girl. You will need me.”

Istara felt her eyes burning, but controlled herself before turning back to Majistrona. “How will I be able to contact you?”

Majistrona laughed softly. “Like we are going to let you out unsupervised and alone. Istara…” Istara had to smile at the comic disbelief in the insect’s words. But then Majistrona’s word became serious. “Ecien is the best of us. She knows how to be unobtrusive.” Istara looked to where the smaller insect stood, impassive. Ecien nodded slightly and Istara returned it. Majistrona spoke again. “She will be in contact with us at all times, but Istara…” Istara tensed. “We, the Sitolon, remand Trugoy into your custody until we can determine what to do with him. Which may take a while.”

Istara blinked. “Um… Humans don’t generally live more than a hundred years. Less if they have enemies, which I do.”

“Then you better look at finding a worthy successor, shouldn’t you?” Istara stared at her and Majistrona chuckled. “Get out of here, go find your sister. If we find anything, we will let you know.”

Istara bowed, and without a further word, turned and left the room.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 09:40 AM | #2
<At nearly the same time>

Commander Vorren, Cipher, Imperial Intelligence, was sure that something was wrong. Yes, the Bladeborn were just as polite as they had always been, and yes, the Grandmaster did not answer to anyone except the Emperor, but… Usually Trugoy didn’t just up and vanish with the rest of the leadership of the Order. Mama Lizard and Chari, the two others he had worked with, had both gone at the same time. And now, he couldn’t talk to Idjit? The guards at the Seer’s door stood stonefaced as he tried diplomacy and then less than veiled threats which he was sure simply amused them. After all, what could he do? Kill them? Their grandmaster could and would hurt them a lot worse than he could.

Finally he sighed. “Look, I know you were given orders, but I have to talk to someone. And I understand Idjit is the only one here.” The guards didn’t react and Vorren sighed. This was not going to end well, he could just feel it, even without the Force. The Imperial agent didn’t want to kill the guards, even if he could, which was not a certainty. He stiffened as the hatch behind the guards opened.

Idjit’s voice came from the shadows. “Let him in.”

The guards looked at one another and Vorren hid a smile. What were they to do? Disobey the Grandmaster, who wasn’t there? Or disobey a masterblade, who was? Either carried a penalty of death. They finally looked through Vorren and stepped just far enough apart that he could squeeze between them and he carefully didn’t smile. He had been in that particular position himself in the past and it was no fun at all. He stepped into the compartment and stopped as the hatch hissed shut behind him. Whatever he had expected of a Seer’s quarters, this wasn’t it.

The room was dark of course. Being blind, Idjit had no use for lights. But from what he could see, it was completely bare. No mementos, no furniture other than a sparse pallet. More like a cell than a room. Then his eyes adjusted and he froze solid. Why the flarg was Idjit in chains? This was a cell.

The Seer sat in the middle of the floor, his wrists and ankles in binders. A device designed to interfere with the Force sparkled on his head and Vorren suddenly felt very, very alone. Idjit was, well, not a friend, Sith didn’t have friends, but… something like that.

"Idjit?" Vorren’s voice was hushed. “What the hell?”

Idjit smiled and indicated the floor beside him and after a moment, Vorren sat. When the seer spoke it was tired. “Hello Vorren. I uh… well… I am in a little bit of trouble.”

"A little?" Vorren stared at Idjit and an incredulous laugh partly escaped from his control. “A little? Idjit, what the frak is going on?”

"Long story." Idjit sighed. “Well, we have had some upheavals here recently.” He broke off and sighed again. “It’s complicated.”

Vorren stared at Idjit and his heart was like a pile of ice in his chest. The Bladeborn Order were nutcases, true. But their presence helped the Empire greatly. If they were to go through ‘upheavals’ or worse a coup, that would not be good. Bloodbath didn’t begin to describe it. And not just for them… Idjit waved his bound hands.

His voice was sad when he spoke. “No, no, nothing like that. It’s just… Well, you know about Istara- the woman who was Sharlina, right?”

Vorren nodded and then kicked himself. Without the Force Idjit couldn’t see him nod. “Yes. She cast herself out because of her sister, the one who escaped. The one the Emperor ordered turned over to Lord Darmuk.” Vorren couldn’t have missed the anger the crossed Idjit’s face if he himself had been blind. The Bladeborn did not like Lord Darmuk. Come to think of it, Vorren didn’t like the man much either. There was always something about the Sith Lord that just felt… off.

Idjit shook his head. “No, not… really. She cut off her brand, yes. Which ordinarily means she is cast out and will suicide. But… Ah…” He grimaced. “Like I said, it’s complicated.”

Vorren snorted. “It can’t be more complicated that trying to work my way through assorted levels of political garbage. But that is not why I am here. You have heard.” It wasn’t a question.

Idjit’s voice was quiet. “Yes, documented cases on three worlds. Undocumented cases on at least five more. It is no natural plague. It was engineered. That we are sure of. But by who, and how it is spread, that we haven’t been able to determine. And… We have lost kin to it already.”

Vorren nodded. “Well… It only seems to be targeting Force users. But that is not why I am here.”

Idjit tensed. “You found something?”

Vorren nodded again and kicked himself mentally again. “Yes. The Islanians definitely compromised our networks. They sent Kolan to Tython, and got him and his entire fleet killed trying to take out the Stormhawk. We always knew those blasted aliens could hack anything that they could access, one reason they trounced us so thoroughly every time we attacked them. But the kill order on Will, that was pushed through the administration verbally first. By a Moff named Gull.”

Idjit’s face furrowed in thought. “Gull? Never heard of him.”

Vorren sighed. “You wouldn’t have. He was a minor Moff in Logistics and Supply. And I do stress ‘was’.” Anyone determined by a Cipher to be a traitor was expendable. And Ciphers were nothing if not thorough. But… “Idjit… He laughed at me and exploded.” Ravishaw’s tactics…

Idjit stiffened into immobility. “One of Reekia’s?” The Wookiee Bladeborn was not one of Idjit’s favorite people, but she was his battle sister and she sat on the Sith council, advising the Emperor.

Vorren nodded again. “Yes.”

Idjit shook his head slowly. “If… If he was making a move on Reekia… Yes, then he would subvert one or two of her low level administrators. He can do that fairly easily. And once he had that one… Aw flarg Vorren, I am under house arrest, I can’t do anything…”

Vorren slumped. “Idjit… I came here because if I go talk to her, one of us is likely to die. And right now, the Empire has enough problems without a Sith Council member killing a Cipher or vice versa.”

Idkit put his manacled hands to his head and groaned. Bad didn’t BEGIN to cover that scenario. Imperial Intelligence, the Sith Council, the Moffs, the Bladeborn… He shook his head slowly. “Trugoy and Mama are gone and may not be back for a while. I can’t recall her, we are the same rank… But I know someone who can…”

He smiled thinly and for the first time in a while, Vorren allowed himself to feel hope.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 09:41 AM | #3
<A day later>

Reekia of the Bladeborn sighed as she sat in her shuttle and tried not to think too hard. Something was wrong, very wrong. Admittedly, with the disturbing reports of plague targeting Force users, she had wanted to talk to the healers of her kin and she had dearly wanted to speak with Ona again. But to be recalled like a servant…

Admittedly, Ona had the power, as chief healer of the Bladeborn, to do just that. And Reekia wouldn’t have wished for the burdens that came with that job for all the power in the galaxy. And Ona’s notice had been polite, concise and matter of fact. So why was she bothered by this?

Part of it had to be the decontamination procedures. With the Bladehome under quarantine, she had to go through a thorough cleaning before boarding the shuttle, which smelled strongly of chemicals. Her nose was sharper than a human’s but even a human would have found the smells overpowering. And she knew that once she got where she was going, she had another long bout of decontamination awaiting her. But that wasn’t what was bothering her. Was it? Something was wrong. For a moment, she thought she heard laughter, but then she shook her head and if it had been there, it faded.

The voice of her pilot came over the speaker. “Ten minutes Ma’am.”

She smiled as she checked over her datapads and gear, what there was of it. She had learned early to travel light. Mainly her harness with its hidden surprises and her massive warblade. She never had been able to discover where Trugoy had found the plans for such an odd weapon, but it fit her perfectly. Unsubtle, but undeniably effective at what it did, the warblade was two meters of pure efficiency in steel. More than one Sith, thinking her underarmed, had tried to cleave it with a lightsaber only to discover that the alchemical processes that the Sith had worked out so long ago when the Jedi had first invented lightsabers, worked for the Bladeborn’s swords just as well without dark side energy. The looks on their faces had been priceless when their energy blades had been stopped. She laid it aside and checked her other things. Hidden daggers, a lightsaber that she had drawn exactly twice in her career, a medkit, ration bars, all these were normal. It was the pair of datapads that were her most powerful weapons these days though.

When Trugoy had first suggested she join the Sith Council she had been both shocked and appalled. To have to sit and talk with people she detested was abhorrent to say the least. And it hadn’t gotten any better. To have to sit with people that she knew were plotting against her, her kin, the Empire… It went beyond duty, beyond loyalty. But the Emperor wanted one of his ‘hatchetmen’ -hatchetbeings?- to sit on the Council. Someone whose loyalty was without question. And Reekia knew that the Bladeborn’s loyalty to the Empire was absolute. She had never asked why, it had never occurred to her to think about it. It was just the way things were. But now, she had heard… disturbing things, from her own agents and from others. About the Bladeborn, about Shar.

Reekia bowed her huge head and sighed. She had always liked that human woman. Sharlina had always had the fire… The woman had always personified the spark that made a being great. Although in Sharlina’s cae it was more like an electrical storm than a spark. Which made the reports of the agents that the Council had on Tython… disturbing to say the least. To have Sharlina simply leave was one thing. After reading the reports that Trugoy had sent the Council, Reekia had agreed that Sharlina had done the only thing she could. Cutting off her brand, while extreme, did give her the freedom to do what she needed to do. Save her sister. But to go to Tython of all places, to be seen talking to Jedi. To be seen learning from Jedi…

Reekia sighed. Of all the people she might have expected to be a traitor, Sharlina or whatever she was calling herself now, was probably the farthest from the top of the list. This would only end one way, and Reekia dreaded it. She had already wronged Sharlina once. She had reacted with her accustomed severity when Shar had been reported as a traitor first. When the woman had been brought to her, she had acted as she should. The Wookiee hadn’t known the whole story and once she did find out, well, Sharlina was gone. There was no way to make up for her lapses in judgment. She had been angry, yes, but in none of her wildest imaginings would she had subjected Shar to what happened to the woman in the prison Reekia had sent her to. She would have killed Shar, slowly and painfully perhaps, but not tortured her for the sake of it. And she wouldn’t have let that perverted Warden…

She growled and cut off that line of thought. She couldn’t help Shar now. For just a moment, Reekia wondered what life might have been like if she had been different, if she hadn’t been born in a slaver stockade, if she had been born on Kashyykk. Then she shook her head, woolgathering was pointless. She had her life, she had her kin, she had her honor. That was all that mattered. Again, she thought she heard an echo of laughter that chilled her. She had never faced the laughing maniac, but the few Bladeborn who had and survived had always spoke of his laughter. So why was she imagining it? Was she? She needed to talk to Mama or Trugoy. She really looked forward to seeing both of them again. It had been… a long time…

<An hour later>

Decontamination was just as disgusting and humiliating as Reekia had expected. But at least Ona was good company. The Wookiee stood patiently as Ona lathered her yet again. The Bothan was wearing a full envirosuit, showing just how seriously she took this plague. Which from the reports that Reekia had seen was a full blown horror that only targeted Force users. But the Bothan’s hands were gentle, even if the chemicals were not. Reekia sneezed and growled softly.

Ona was apologetic. “I am sorry, Reekia, but you know we can’t take any chances with this...” Reekia sighed and nodded. Then she stepped to the shower and hit the controls again. Only for the fifth time. At least the water was warm, even if it too, smelled of chemicals. At least Ona understood Shirwook.

The Wookiee’s words, here with no witnesses besides the surveillance cameras, was sad. <I know, Ona, I know. It’s just a pain. And I know I am clean.>

The Bothan turned to face her and Reekia felt the medic’s disdain. “Who is the medic here?” The Bothan’s words were tart and Reekia nodded. The Wookiee finished rinsing off the residue and turned back to the Bothan who nodded towards a set of scanners. Reekia sighed and stepped into them. They stared up with a whirr and she felt… something from Ona. Probably a Force scan of some kind. And then…Fear? Reekia turned her head to where Ona stood, and the Bothan seemed petrified.

<Ona?” The Wookiee’s word was quiet, worried and Ona nodded slowly.

The Bothan’s words were clear and precise. “Reekia, I need you to lie down.”

Reekia stared at her. <Why?>

The Bothan shook her head. “Reekia…Please…” The entreaty, the outright fear in the Bothan’s word shook the Wookiee. And it wasn’t fear for herself, no, it was fear for Reekia? The Wookiee stared at the Bothan for a moment, and then did as instructed.

The Bothan came up and knelt beside her sister. “Sleep Reekia, we won’t let him have you. We won’t!” The sting of a hypo and Reekia was floating, but behind Ona’s words Reekia heard louder laughter and she was afraid. But then she heard Ona speak again. She couldn’t make out the words but they comforted her as she lost consciousness.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 09:43 AM | #4
<About thirty minutes later>

Vorren wore an unaccustomed look of worry. “Are you sure about this?” The Imperial Agent’s quiet words had Ona snarling.

The Bothan rounded on him, looking away from the scans of her sister, who lay ready for surgery. “No, but what choice do I have? If we don’t take those things out… She goes mad… Or worse.” She slumped. “We have to take the implants out.” She tapped the screen and it focused on two parts of the slumbering Wookiee’s body. The internal scans showed metal in two places. One in Reekia’s abdomen. The other inside her head.

Vorren licked his lips. “We know the bomb is active. We can jam the activation signal for it. But… I don’t know if I can disarm it while it’s inside her body. And I do know that if I try to remove it before it has been disarmed…”

Ona sighed. “It goes off, I know.”

Ravishaw and his minions had done exactly this kind of thing before and it had nearly cost Ona her life when she had tried to remove the bomb the last time. She had lost a brother that day and try as she might, she couldn’t get his face out of her mind now. His name had been Loi. An up and coming brother, until he had been taken and… tampered with.

She took several deep breaths and focused herself. The bomb was secreted inside Reekia’s abdomen, buried in the Wookiee’s intestine. It was the other one that worried Ona more however. Bombs were fairly straightforward, touch the wrong thing and boom. The other implant was more insidious. Despite lots of attempts at study, none of the Bladeborn or their affiliated science types had been able to figure out exactly how it worked. What it did was fairly straightforward. It secreted chemicals that did a number of things causing hallucinations and dulling the mind among other things, but that wasn’t the worst part. The really horrific part was that it created a link between Reekia’s mind and the mind of another, in this case, probably Ravishaw himself. She knew that Ravishaw could see, hear and feel through his slaves. But Reekia wasn’t that far gone yet, was she? She looked to the other being in the room and nodded. “We are ready.”

Idjit nodded and moved to a chair that sat beside the table Reekia was laid out on. He took a deep breath and then touched her temple. Ona felt his focus go elsewhere and then she nodded to Vorren as she pulled her tool tray close. They only had a short amount of time.

<Somewhere outside of time and space>

Reekia snarled as the man who held her in unbreakable bonds giggled again. His voice was mocking. “Oh, yes, struggle. Please. Fight, beast. I want this to be hard.”

She hadn’t known what to expect. She had been here before, and it was the same grey featureless plain as it had been the last time, but this time, when she had materialized, she had been surrounded by black cloaked forms. All laughing. She had fought of course, using all of her skill, fury and power, and now, she just panted, spent. The shimmering energy that held her in place hurt and she drew on the power of that pain to resist the subtle and not so subtle intrusions into her mind. His hands on her temple were cold, but the searing pulses of power that tore through her were anything but.

She bit out words. <You will not own me, Ravishaw!>

Bt the Sith just giggled louder. “Ah, my dear Reekia, I already do. Funny, a drugged ration bar, a quick trip to a autodoc and you are mine in every way. Just give in, drop your shields… It won’t hurt I promise. You will find parts of it, quite enjoyable.” Everything stopped as another voice was heard. Idjit!

The seer’s voice was cold, but sad. “Every time I think I have seen the lowest depths of depravity you can sink to, Ravishaw, you find something worse.” The cloud that was Idjit formed nearby. Reekia struggled against the bonds that held her, but they were too strong. She couldn’t even talk now.

Ravishaw giggled again. “Ah, the game is afoot. Hello, Lickspittle. Ready to serve me?”

Now Idjit’s voice was colder than space itself. “Only in your dreams loser.” And with that, he attacked.

Reekia was not used to feeling awe, but the way her brother fought was… well, it was definitely different. Something was different about him. Where before he would throw himself into the fray with abandon, losing himself in the glorious power that was the Dark Side, now, he was not. His attacks, those she could see, were perfectly balanced, his defense likewise. Nothing Ravishaw did seemed to get through and the Sith Lord was visibly getting aggravated.

Ravishaw bound Idjit’s blade at one point and snarled at him. “You fight like a Jedi, Idjit!”

Idjit broke the lock and the cloud flowed back a couple of steps. When he spoke, his voice was quiet and calm. “No, no I don’t.” To Reekia’s amazement, the cloud form that he had always worn while on the plain vanished and in its place was his human shape. His eyes, not bandaged here, glowed, but not red, no… Blue!

Ravishaw stared at him. “You stupid little…”

Reekia screamed as Idjit’s form exploded with energy, blinding her. She braced herself for pain, instead of hurting her, the bonds that held her vanished. And the power that washed over her felt… good… When she could see again, she stared around, but the black cloaked form was gone and Idjit’s form lay on the surface of the plain and it glowed slightly blue. She ran to him.

She took him in her arms carefully. <Idjit…What…?>

His voice was almost inaudible. “I am sorry Reekia. For before. I should have understood. It was my fault. I was too focused on Shar. I didn’t mean to insult you. I…”

Reekia shook her head savagely. <We were all much younger, and far less wise. What did you do?>

Idjit grinned slightly. “You look as I always thought you would… You are gorgeous. But my heart was always taken. Tell Shar… I…” His form convulsed and then she stared as another form, this one transparent appeared beside them. The female Twilek in Jedi robes touched him on the shoulder and his body vanished.

The Twilek slumped. “Idiot boy…”

Reekia jumped back and somehow her blade was in hand. <Who are you?>

The specter didn’t move, and her face was sad. “My name is Ulaha, Reekia of the Bladeborn and we are not enemies.”

Reekia wasn’t mollified, if anything she was more incensed. <What did you do to my brother?>

Ulaha sighed. “Nothing. He did it to himself. And now… Matters are worse.”

Reekia stared at her, not lowering her blade. <Where is he?>

Ulaha shrugged. “I don’t know. I will look for him. But you need to wake up. Wake up…”

Reekia fought, howling her rage, but she was pulled away.

<The real world>

Reekia woke up suddenly and completely. She felt fear, but let it come and rode it. She felt pain and used that likewise. She looked around and Ona was there with a glass. She held it out to Reekia and the Wookiee took it. She drank slowly and carefully, aware now that her head hurt as did her stomach. Finally Reekia finished the drink and spoke slowly.

The Wookiee’s words were calm and considered. <What happened?>

Ona smiled. “We got the implants out. You will be fine.” But there was something behind the Bothan’s eyes.

Reekia looked Ona in the eyes and spoke slowly. <What happened to Idjit?>

Ona slumped. “We don’t know… He... He didn’t come back…” Reekia’s eyes went wide as she saw another bed in the medical bay with a figure in black robes lying on it. From the monitors, there was no brain activity whatsoever.

Reekia growled. <Oh… Crap...>
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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 09:47 AM | #5
<Tattooine, a bit later>

Istara sighed in relief as the last of the children was bundled into the landspeeder van for transport to the clinic. None of the rescued waifs were what anyone would call robust, and a couple of them were so frail as to have to be carried. Again, she wished to have one of the scum in front of her, just for a moment and her sword in hand. But then she allowed the feelings to pass her by. She wasn’t a Sith any more. She didn’t need anger to use the Force any more. But she was responsible for these children so she would see them to safety and then return to the ship that even now sat quiet behind them. And after that, back to the Bladehome to see about hunting for Setsuna. She took her seat and smiled at the driver who nodded. It wasn’t very expensive to hire people on Tattooine. But hiring competent people? That tended to get a bit expensive, unless you knew the right name to drop. And Cranna was well known. Cranna’s clinic had sent a team of medics as well as the van as soon as Istara had explained the situation. So that at least was under control. It was not a long trip from the landing area to the clinic, just not through town. So why was her Force danger sense starting to go nuts?

She didn’t relax as the van started off, conscious of the precious cargo that sat quietly for the most part, bar the one who was sobbing quietly. She reached over and stroked the girl’s short hair and the girl smiled though tears at her, but Istara’s gaze was on the road ahead of them. Something…

Her guts seemed to freeze as five forms became visible blocking the road ahead. Five forms in brown robes. She shook her head slowly and the driver, seeing the forms, slowed. Istara looked at the driver and then at the surrounding terrain. It looked forbidding to say the least. The road was really the only landmark. Off the road, the desert extended to the horizons, partly dunes, partly rocky. All uninviting.

“Joy…” Her quiet word had the driver looking at her and the medics who sat in back as well. Istara leaned close to the driver and spoke softly. “Go ahead and stop well away from them. I will try and talk to them. If that doesn’t work, I will get their attention and you get the kids out of here.” The driver shook her head and uncovered the handle of a blaster rifle that sat in a holster beside her seat, but Istara was having none of it. “The kids are more important. They need to get to the clinic. The Jedi won’t kill me. At least, I don’t think so…”

The driver looked at her, caution warring with the need to help. “Ma’am…”

Istara shook her head and when the van slowed to a stop, was out the passenger door in an instant. The van idled behind her as she strode toward the waiting forms. Her voice was cool when she spoke, but her hand wasn’t on her sword. “You are blocking the road.”

Instead of answering, the five forms spread out. She sighed. At least none of them drew their lightsabers. One of them stepped forward. He threw back his hood and Istara nodded in acknowledgement. Male human, obviously a Jedi from the attire and the saber at his belt. And this close, she could sense his worry as well as his determination and her heart fell a few notches.

The human Jedi spoke. “Istara Andal, by Order of the Jedi Council, you are under arrest.”

Istara just sighed. She could see where this was going. “Am I now?” She asked with just a little bit of humor in her words. “The entire Council or was it one or another of them?”

The Jedi looked at each other and then at Istara. The spokeshuman spoke again. “You are going to come with us.”

Istara just sighed again. “Oh I am, am I?” She made no threatening gesture, but suddenly the hot Tattooine day seemed to chill, just a bit. She shook her head, just a little. “Let the van go and we can argue about whatever you want.”

The Jedi shook his head. “All of your confederates are also to be detained.” At his words Istara growled dangerously.

“My… confederates? You moron.” Now her tone was biting, cold and clear and more than one of the Jedi flinched back from her regard. She wasn’t angry, no, but tightly focused. Mainly on the Jedi in front of her. His stance told her he was skilled in lightsaber fighting. Two of the others stood as if they knew what they were doing with sabers as well, the other two stood as if ready to use the Force. Istara spoke again, and now she spoke as if to a not quite bright child.

“Let me make this clear. I have no confederates here. In the van are two medics and a driver, as well as five children, most of whom were hurt by a rogue operation within Republic Intelligence…” She smiled thinly as the spokesman flinched. “Oh yes, I know about that, I destroyed several of their bases, idiot. Of course I know about that. And I know that certain members of the Jedi Order were involved. You are not taking these kids anywhere. They are going straight to Cranna’s clinic. What you are going to do, is clear the road and let the van pass, and then we can discuss what you want from me.”

The Jedi shook his head. “We can’t do that.”

Now Istara snarled. “Who said you had a choice?” She made a small gesture and the ground shook. “You do not want to push me on this.” Five lightsabers ignited around her and she shook her head slowly. “Fine, be that way…

<Ten minutes later>

“Quit whining, Jedi, you are supposed to be able to pass beyond your pain.” Istara knelt beside the only conscious form and skillfully gave a quick yank. With a quick touch of the Force, the broken femur slid back into position. The Jedi bit back a scream and then slumped unconscious. Istara bound it in place, splinting it against the whole leg before standing and sighing as she looked around the small battlefield. She was very glad she had studied healing while with the Jedi on Tython. But never in her worst nightmares would she had expected this. All of the Jedi still breathed, and while she had burns in more than a few places, she was still fully capable. The Force –No, Ashla- flowed in her like never before, but she ignored it. It was a temptation she knew well. It had been a seriously unfair fight. The Jedi had been well trained, well disciplined and well instructed on her obviously. And they hadn’t had a chance against her. Between her old skill with the sword and her new skill with Ashla, none of them had managed to do more than score her skin. While the Jedi had focused on her, the van had fled, and Istara sighed deeper. She hoped it had made it where it was going, but she couldn’t just leave these Jedi out in the suns. Even if they had been morons.

She spent a few minutes setting up a hasty shelter before dragging the unconscious forms out of the sun. She was careful with the one who had caught a Force punch square. If the idiot girl hadn’t rolled with it, she would have broken her neck on landing. As it was, the girl would have a sore neck, but there was no discoloration, no swelling. She seemed to be lucky. Hell, they all were lucky. Istara didn’t want to kill Jedi. She really didn’t. If she had cut loose… She slumped. There was no honor in fighting those who couldn’t fight back. It might be good tactics, but it just felt wrong. She made the pile of bodies as comfortable as she could and then, with a flip that turned her hood up, stepped off towards Anchorhead and Cranna’s clinic.

She had gone maybe two klicks along the road when another landspeeder approached from the direction of town. She blinked, but then paused to let it close. But then she sighed. Typical. Her life simply refused to let anything around he be easy. It stopped and robed forms jumped out of the passenger area and off the flat bed. A bunch of them this time. She shook her head and started towards them. “You better not have stopped that van…”

Her cold words had more than one of the Jedi flinching back. But then one of them strode forward. Istara felt her guts freeze when she saw the recognizable form of a Togruta under the robe. Master Ashla Ti, Jedi Seer, dropped her hood and shook her head. “No. We have no quarrel with injured children. Our quarrel is with you.”

Istara shook her head. “Well I have no quarrel with you. Your friends back there are all alive. If a bit broken around the edges.” She jerked her head back the way she had come.

Ashla Ti nodded. “Thank you for that, at least. But we cannot allow you to go.”

Istara sighed, but then she smiled thinly. A rock behind the Jedi had moved, just a little. Istara shook her head. “Let me guess… This is about what you think Jina and I are involved in.”

Ashla Ti stared at the younger human. “You have seen Jina? Talked to her? Is she…” The Togruta shook herself and sighed. “Istara… See it from our point of view. You are dangerous. Not even many Sith would be able to take five Jedi at once. I know you have fought ten lightsaber wielders at once, but please… Don’t make us fight you.”

Istara smiled sadly. “It won’t be much of a fight. You are strong, fast and skilled. But you all have blinders on. I can do things you can’t. Please, Ashla Ti, step aside.”

The Togruta shook her head and made a small gesture. Istara froze into immobility and Ashla Ti slumped. “You leave us no choice Istara. You will feel no pain, I swear it. But we cannot let you…” She broke off and blanched as Istara shrugged negligently and the the stasis field around the Bladeborn shattered.

Istara didn’t move from her spot. But her form seemed to be glowing faintly in the bright Tattooine sunlight. Her voice was cold, clear and precise. “Now, that was uncivilized. And stupid.” One of the Jedi made a motion, and a large rock flew towards her. Without her looking at it, the rock slowed, stopped and then reversed course quickly. The Jedi and the two near her jumped aside as it thudded into the ground. “So was that.” All of the Jedi had their sabers out and ignited now and Istara shook her head. Everything seemed to stop as her blade simply appeared in her hand. “You have my word I won’t kill any of you if I can help it...”
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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 09:49 AM | #6
<A while later>

Istara came back to herself leaning against something solid. She groaned and the object she was leaning against moved, just a bit and something cool and wet wiped her face. She shook her head slowly, but let the unseen person clean her.

A familiar voice spoke from somewhere nearby. “And you call the Jedi dumb? Istara, Istara, Istara, what are we going to do with you?”

Istara sighed. “I didn’t have a lot of choice, either time. They didn’t want to talk, just detain me. Or worse.” She looked up into an insect’s face and smiled. “Thanks for the rescue, Ecien.”

"Idiot child." The large insect sighed in a very human expression. “Istara, you cannot push yourself that way. You do not have the power reserves to do that. If you drain yourself dry of Ashla in that way, you will die.”

"Yeah." Istara nodded and then grimaced. Her head felt like pair of shockboxers were going at it inside. She slumped. “I know, Ecien, I know. But… what choice did I have?”

"Choice?" Ecien snorted, another very human sounding noise. “You knew I was here. You could have waited until we could challenge them together. Even fighting nonlethally, we could have taken them easily.”

Istara looked around at the bodies scattered around the area and winced. “I don’t think letting them know about you and your people is a good idea, Ecien. Did I…?”

Ecien shook her tiny head. “No, none of them are dead. But the secret, such as it was, is out…”

Istara looked to where Ecien pointed and froze on meeting the eyes of Ashla Ti. The Jedi Seer sat with an obviously broken arm staring at Istara and Ecien. The fear on the Jedi’s face was palpable as was her Force sense. Istara shook her head. “Why Ashla Ti? I am not your enemy. Why do you want to make me one?”

Ashla Ti tore her gaze from Ecien’s bulk and focused on Istara. “You don’t understand, Istara. We are trying to stop it from happening.”

Ecien shook her head. “You Jedi. Always so sure your way is the only one. And you call yourself a seer.” The insect’s tone was derisive. “You don’t 'see' very well do you? Even when something is right in front of your face.”

Ashla Ti stared at the insect, her face puzzled. “What do you mean?”

"Istara is not the problem and you very well know it." Ecien said with a sigh. “Or you would, if you could get it through your head that sometimes she actually does know some of what she talks about.”

Istara bristled. “Hey!”

Ecien ignored her and focused on Ashla Ti. “You know what I am, Jedi.” Ashla Ti nodded. “You know my people have little love for your Order.”

Ashla Ti nodded carefully. “I know, and… I understand your people’s animosity towards us, but…” She shuddered. “All we have seen is the grey devouring everything. And the figures in silver armor who start it.” Istara blanched at that, but Ecien just sighed.

Ecien shook her head. “Then you have missed something very important. Something incredibly important. It has already started.” Istara froze at that and Ashla Ti blanched. “Almost three hundred and seventy five of your years ago, a human opened a door that should have remained closed. He was seeking power, and he found it. But the power he found destroyed him. It destroyed the continent the door was on, and then it destroyed the planet, and then it destroyed the system. And now, it is spreading out. Slowly, but inexorably, it is growing. As near as we can determine, it is using the power of the star in that system to propel itself outwards. It will reach its nearest space neighbor, if nothing speeds it up, in approximately four years. We do not dare observe to closely. But it has begun.”

While Ecien had been speaking, Ashla Ti had grown more and more pale. “How do you know this?”

Ecien turned away, and her Force sense was sad. “Because two of my kin were on the planet trying to stop him when he opened the door. It is not something I ever want to feel again. They were eaten. Alive.” Istara blanched. Ecien’s people communicated mind to mind. To feel that as if it was happening to oneself… Ecien shook herself. “But that is not the worst.”

Istara stared at the insect and Ecien just looked at the Jedi. “You know, don’t you?” Ashla Ti nodded. Ecien looked at Istara and Istara felt compassion in the insect’s regard. “The human… We never found out his name. He didn’t die.”

Istara felt all the blood leave her face, but then she shook her head. “That… That isn’t possible. You said the human was destroyed.”

Ashla Ti slumped. “With the Force, almost anything is possible, but what we have sensed is outside the Force. But it can still manipulate it. Somehow, the intelligence behind the grey reanimated him. It turned him into the perfect agent of subversion. A being who exists to corrupt others, to take control of them and manipulate them. It is what he does. And that man has since accumulated forces to act on his behalf. One of whom is the Sith you know as Ravishaw. We thought you and Jina were working for him. The visions we, I, have had… They were not clear on that.”

Istara physically recoiled from the Jedi’s words. “What? There is no way at all I would work for him. Or anyone connected to him. You know that.”

Ecien shook her head. “I know Istara. But if they get hold of you, do you remember what Jainine said? She was probably the best of you at the time and she was taken with ease. If he had managed to hold her spirit form, she would be his now, body and soul. If they take you; that is the fate that awaits you.”

Istara shook her head. “Never.”

Ashla Ti sighed, then grimaced and held her arm close. “Go, both of you. I will clean this up. For what it is worth, Istara, I am sorry I doubted you. Farrah didn’t and she is going to be very annoyed with us.”

Istara snorted. “Better not tell Yeri.”

Ashla Ti laughed. “Do I look that crazy? Get out of here before any of the others wake up. We won’t follow you.”

Istara stood on unsteady feet and Ecien steadied her a bit as they walked off. They had a bit of a hike ahead of them. Just another day in the life of a Bladeborn.
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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 09:52 AM | #7
<Later, hyperspace>

Istara was grateful for the quiet. It had been… eventful. So much had happened she could barely wrap her mind around it. But she had done what she set out to do. The kids were safe. Well, as safe as anyone could be in this galaxy. Cranna’s clinic was probably one of the most secure places in existence, even if the Hutt wasn’t there. Istara had been hoping to talk to Cranna, and finding her gone had been a shock. When asked, the director of the clinic had said something about another Hutt wanting to start a war. So it was probably a good thing that the strange Hutt was not there. Truth be told, Istara was really looking forward to some downtime. She had stretched her body to the limits. While she had defeated the five Jedi and then the ten, she had used almost all of her body’s reserves in doing so. It would have been so much easier to…

She snarled at herself and pushed that thought away. It was beneath her to contemplate slaying opponents when she didn’t have to. What was worse was that it was a strong temptation, but one she knew well. After all, she had spent most of her life fighting with the Dark Side, and it still dominated her mind and thoughts. But she was strong; she would not let it rule her as it had. She didn’t need it. Not now. The light of Ashla flowed through her and she could hear the music of the chant the spirits on Tython had taught her even now. And it felt good. A few minutes of chanting and her mind cleared, leaving her sharp and focused.

This ship was a little larger, and that was a good thing. Each passenger had their own space to meditate and think. But Istara didn’t like what she was thinking. She didn’t like where her mind was taking this scenario. The Bladeborn that she knew were slaves to the Empire. They had been since their inception. And the Emperor would NOT take kindly to some of his most powerful slaves up and leaving on him. She needed information though and there was really only one person she could ask.

<A few minutes later>

“I wondered when you would come.” The small brown from sat in the middle of the floor of the room in meditative posture. His eyes were closed, but Istara knew that was a deception. He was totally aware of her, of what she was and what she wanted. Istara mimicked him, sitting cross legged on the floor, moving her sword so it was out of the way, but easy to reach and draw. Yes, he had surrendered, yes, he was probably sincere now. But she couldn’t take the chance. Not now. Trugoy smiled. “Good girl… Do not trust me.”

Istara felt her heart sink. “Trugoy, I… What can we do? The Empire owns your clan.”

Trugoy shook his head slowly. “Istara, it is not that simple. The Empire needs us.” Istara blinked at him but didn’t speak, waiting for him to continue and after a moment, he did. “You have wondered how I fell, why I wound up working for the Emperor instead of the Republic or the Jedi.”

Istara nodded slowly. “Yes, from what I gathered, when you were… Well, before you left Tython, you served the Light of Ashla.”

Trugoy sighed. “I still do. It’s dimmer now than it was. But I do still serve the Light.”

Istara shook her head, perplexed. “But you use the Dark Side, I have seen you…”

Trugoy snorted. “Yes, and therein lies the most grand deception of all time. And for wonder, it wasn’t mine.” He sobered and opened his eyes. His blue eyes met Istara’s brown ones. “I am going to tell you something that makes no sense. But you need to hear it.” Istara blinked and then nodded slowly. “The Force is neither Light nor Dark. Light and Dark were simple concepts used to teach students.” Istara looked confused and Trugoy nodded. “The actual truth is far, far harder to grasp. Sith are taught that the Dark Side is stronger.”

"I was taught that." Istara shook her head. “But I don’t think it is. It’s easier to access, faster, but stronger? I don’t know… I have seen some incredible uses of Light Side power.”

Trugoy laughed sourly. “You have done some incredible uses of Light Side power. The sheer power it took to utterly destroy that soul catcher was phenomenal, to say the least. I thought you had killed yourself.” He shook his head. “Dark and light, opposites and equals. Neither side is more powerful. In all things, they balance. Or, they are supposed to.”

Istara blinked, stunned. “You mean…” But she broke off as Trugoy leaned forward.

His voice was concerned now. “Istara, be very careful. I always knew you had a lot of power, which was why I wanted you to focus on other things. If the Empire had known you were that powerful, nothing would have stopped the Emperor from taking you and using you for his own ends.” He sighed. “And you are needed, now more than ever.”

Istara shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

Trugoy nodded. “Istara… You are the one the Sitolon have been waiting for. The fourth. The guardian.”

Istara recoiled at that. “How did you… Never mind, I don’t think I want to know.”

Trugoy nodded. “You don’t. I have done many terrible things. What I did to you and your sister was bad, but nowhere near the worst. But for each evil I did, I tried to do good as well. To remain in balance.”

Istara shook her head slowly. “And the Emperor allowed this?”

Trugoy laughed at that. “The Emperor demanded it.”

At THAT, Istara felt her eyes grow as large as dinner plates. “What?”

Trugoy sighed. “I had been running for so long. Jili’s people were everywhere. Every time I showed myself they would appear shortly afterward. I killed many, but they just kept coming. I had to disappear. So I did.”

Istara nodded slowly. “A stasis pod.”

Trugoy nodded. ‘Yes, a hidden one, in the absolute last place anyone would look for an Ashla Force user who was on the run.”

Istara blinked and then her mouth twitched. “Korriban.”

Trugoy nodded. “Yes, it wasn’t the Sith tomb world back then. It was actually fairly nice, if dark and shrouded. I… I hadn’t planned on waking. Ever. That was to be my penance, cast through time, forgotten. But the Emperor found me. Somehow. I don’t know how. He took the pod I was in to Druumond Kaas. He woke me there.” Istara nodded slowly. She had been to Druumond Kaas once, and the memories of it still haunted her. “But he didn’t try and turn me. No, he offered me a job. An offer I couldn’t very well refuse. Even if I hadn’t been chained to a wall in his dungeon at the time.”

“To do… what?” Istara asked cautiously.

Trugoy sighed and sat back. “The Sith are unstable. Their entire hierarchy is designed that way. The strong always fighting for control and the weaker scrambling to survive and becoming strong by doing so. And truth be told, most of the time, it works, mostly. But every so often, something comes along that shatters the system, threatens to tear everything apart. Like Revan. Like Amirg was trying to do to you and others. The Emperor needed someone whose loyalty he could absolutely guarantee, someone outside the Sith hierarchy. Which was why he didn't have me killed when he found me. He needed me, and I needed a place to hide and something to do to keep from going more insane.”

Istara felt her guts clench. “And that is why your Order began?”

Trugoy nodded. “I hadn’t planned on it. It just sort of happened. I was on a mission and I found a lost child, hurt and alone. She was Force sensitive and near death from starvation. I don’t know what I was planning at the time. But she wound up almost a daughter and I… I liked it. She gave me a purpose beyond killing arrogant scum who reached beyond their stations. When asked, I said she would be an asset and the Emperor agreed. Her name was Kiana.”

Istara nodded slowly. That name was well known in the histories she had been taught as a student Bladeborn. A warrior who had served faithfully and died well. “Kiana… I see. So… what now?”

Trugoy sighed. “The Empire needs us, Istara. They do.”

“I can’t serve the Empire, Trugoy. Not now. I serve the Light of Ashla, I cannot be part of the Sith Empire.” Istara’s voice was quiet, hushed even.

“I know, Istara. I know…”
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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 09:55 AM | #8
<Thirty minutes after arriving on the Bladehome>

Istara was sure her expression was not diplomatic, but at the moment, she couldn’t have cared less. More than one of the watching Bladeborn looked at her expression and flinched a little. When she spoke, however, it was careful.

“Let me be sure I have this straight, Cipher Vorren. You are ‘ordering’ me to submit myself to Imperial review.” Her eyes were locked onto the eyes of the Imperial Intelligence agent who stood nearby. For his part, he looked uneasy, and who could blame him? Basically, she was being named a traitor and was ordered to submit to a horrific slow death. A death that could take weeks. Istara turned her gaze to where Trugoy was sitting and her face was impassive now. “And your position in this?”

“I would say this is your first official command decision, Istara. Choose carefully.” Trugoy’s voice hushed the few murmurs that had started. The Barabel known to the Bladeborn as Mama Lizard stood nearby, her hands were on her belt, but anyone who knew her knew that it was the work of milliseconds for her to reach up and draw her axes. And as still as she was standing… Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all. And the agent’s hands were hidden under his cloak. That was also not a good sign.

Istara sighed and spoke softly, but clearly and everyone in the large assembly hall could hear her easily. “Everyone calm down and relax. I don’t want to fight. Not here and now. It would serve no purpose.” She met the agent’s eyes. “Commander Vorren. I am not your enemy. I am not the Empire’s enemy. Unless you make me one. I don’t think you want to do that.” Her voice was cool and matter of fact and Vorren nodded slowly.

His voice was just as cool and matter of fact. “I don’t. But my orders are clear. You were seen on Tython, studying with the Jedi. That means only one thing. And there is only one punishment.”

Istara thought for a long moment before responding. “It normally means only one thing. But I did not betray the Empire or Trugoy’s clan.”

Vorren shook his head slightly, but his eyes never left Istara’s. “I wish I could believe that, Ma’am. But there is no way they would have let you leave. Not being… what you were.”

A growl swept the room, but Istara’s raised hand silenced it. Her voice was thoughtful now. “Agent Vorren, we seem to be at an impasse. I have no wish to submit myself for torture and execution for something I didn’t do. But at the same time, I can see your dilemma as well.” She shook her head slowly. “This is not a matter that you and I will be able to settle.”

Vorren actually blinked at that. His voice held confusion now. “What?”

Istara sighed, but her voice held a small amount of humor when she spoke again. “Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Above your pay grade’? Cipher rank agents are entrusted with a high degree of autonomy. The Bladeborn that I served also have a certain latitude. But…” She pursed her lips and thought hard for a long minute. Then she shook her head. “You cannot know that what I say is true. And if I submit myself to you, I am dead. And if that hand comes out from under that cloak with a weapon…” Vorren froze at her cold words. “…You will not live long enough to use it.”

Vorren sighed, but he didn’t move his hand either. “Ma’am. My orders are clear.”

Istara nodded slowly. “Then we need to get your orders changed.” Vorren stared at her and Istara smiled thinly. She looked at Trugoy who was also smiling, just as thinly. The other Bladeborn in the area….relaxed and Reekia, who had just been released from Medical, was smiling openly.

Trugoy nodded and activated to a comlink. “Cole, set our course for Drumond Kaas. Max speed available.”

The ship vibrated as the engine kicked in stronger than usual and Vorren stared first at Istara, then at Trugoy and then back at Istara, who shrugged. “When in doubt, go straight to the top.”

Vorren’s eyes widened just a bit as he took her meaning. Only one being had the authority to supersede both the Bladeborn and Imperial Intelligence. The Emperor. “If you can get there. And if you can get an audience...”

At his words all of the Bladeborn laughed as one and Istara smiled. Her voice held just a hint of dark humor still. “Who are you talking to, Agent?”

Vorren snorted as he suppressed his own laughter. She had done just that before, they still told stories among the Sith bureaucracy of how she had carved her way up the chain to gain an audience with the Emperor himself. They had lost count of how many functionaries she had slaughtered, and the blood and guts had been knee deep in places. He shook his head and then his hands came out from under his cloak, empty. “Point taken, Ma’am. Point taken. I will reserve judgment, pending review by higher authority.”

Istara nodded and then with a nod to Trugoy, left the assembly hall. She had someone to see.

<A few minutes later>

Istara sat beside Idjit’s bed and tried not to cry. He wasn’t there. His body was alive, and in perfect shape, except for his eyes of course. But his mind… it wasn’t. She held his hand in hers and focused her mind, trying to see him, trying to find where he had gone, but all she got for her trouble was a headache. A gentle voice came from nearby.

“Istara.” She turned to find Ecien standing in a corner. The insect’s sense in the Force was wary. And Istara could relate. Finding an agent of Imperial Intelligence aboard was bad enough. But now…

“You are going to have to hide yourself, Ecien. And you can’t come down with us. We are going to be watched closely.” Istara broke off as Ecien snorted.

“Teach your grandma to suck eggs, Istara. I know what to do, and more importantly, what not to do.” The insect moved closer and laid a gentle claw on Istara’s shoulder. Istara leaned into it and savored the feel of her battle sister’s living armor. “You are walking into a predator’s den and you have to do it alone. I can’t help you.”

Istara shook her head slowly. “Yes, you can. And… I think… I think we will need you to come at some point.” Ecien recoiled a bit at that, but Istara continued. “Hiding won’t work, not in the heart of Imperial Intelligence’s power. So our best policy…” She broke off as Ecien nodded.

Ecien’s voice was thoughtful and worried. “…is honesty. Full disclosure?”

Istara nodded, but then frowned. “To the Emperor only. And… We will remain neutral. Possibly allied with Trugoy’s Bladeborn in some way, possibly not. But not servants of the Empire.”

Ecien snorted. “And that will go over well?”

Istara laughed. “No. I expect to have to talk very fast to keep my head on my shoulders. But it is the only choice I can see that works for you and your people as well as keeping me from having to kill all of Imperial Intelligence. Because that would hurt the Empire. And I am still loyal to the Empire.” She laughed sourly. “Go figure. They abused me, threw me away, imprisoned and tortured me and I am still ready to die for them…” Istara broke off as the door to the room opened and a large form stood there. “Hello, Reekia.”

The Wookiee stalked in, looked Ecien over and then focused on Istara. When she spoke it was slow and careful. <What you are doing is insane.>

“Give me another alternative and I will gladly take it, Council Member.” Istara’s voice may have been a shade cooler, but then again, it had been on Reekia’s orders that Istara had been imprisoned and tortured. For doing the right thing.

Reekia sighed deeply. <We have a past, Istara Sharlina Andal. I did not know the whole story. You disobeyed an Imperial Edict. But when he was told why… The Emperor had ordered you executed. But then we got the final report you gave the clan, and… he agreed with my assessment.” Istara stared at the Wookiee. “You did the right thing and you paid for it. That information couldn’t wind up in the hands of someone like Lords Darmuk or Vorax. I didn’t know what the Warden was doing to you. I never would have agreed with what he did.>

Istara shook her head slowly. “The survivors of the Rancor’s Bite had done nothing but acquit themselves with honor. They had served me well. And for that, he burned them all alive.” Ecien touched Istara’s shoulder again and the human took a moment to focus herself, to move beyond her anger. “I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive that, Reekia. I do know I will never be able to forget it.”

Reekia nodded. <For what it is worth, Bladeborn…> She bowed to both of them, the human and the insect. <…you have my support and counsel. Not that you need it Istara. You might make a heck of a council member yourself someday.> With that, she turned and left the room, leaving Istara to stare after her in wonder.

She has got to be kidding…
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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 09:58 AM | #9
<Two days later>

Istara stood impassive as Trugoy tried to reason with the flunky in front of them. She hadn’t really expected anything else. It wasn’t that often that Bladeborn came to Drumond Kaas after all. There really wasn’t much call for them to be here after all. Their principle purpose, to keep possibly disloyal Sith in line, precluded their spending a lot of time on the Sith capital planet. As a matter of fact, the last Bladeborn to visit Drumond Kaas, had been her almost fourteen years previous. So… it wasn’t surprising that the bureaucrat in front of them didn’t want to let them pass. But eventually, she had waited long enough. She walked up to where Trugoy was explaining, for the third time, that yes, he did have authorization to land a shuttle in that slot.

“..and since you have not yet filled out a form 386c901i, you have to go to Immigration to be cleared.” The voice of the human behind the desk was in some ways polite. If bored and obnoxious could be called that in any way shape or form. Istara walked up to the pair and shook her head. Trugoy looked at her and shrugged.

Istara’s voice was cool when she spoke. “So… You are not going to let us do what we need to do.” It wasn’t a question and the flunky shook his head.

His gaze traveled up and down Istara before dismissing her. “Until you have the proper forms filled out, I cannot help you.” He stopped talking as Istara smiled thinly.

Her voice held something. Something odd and hard to define. “You haven’t been on this job long, have you?”

The flunky sneered at her. “I am a servant to the Emperor, you have to…Urk!” He broke off again as the point of Istara’s sword caressed his throat.

Istara’s voice was almost kind. Almost. “My name is Sharlina.” The flunky’s eyes went so wide that for a moment, Istara wondered if they would fall right out of his head. And she heard recognizable noises and smelled recognizable things. But she kept her voice kind. “But you really don’t want to be in my way, do you? I would hate to have to reprise my earlier performance… It was such a mess…” The flunky nodded so fast that Istara had to withdrawn her sword a bit so he wouldn’t cut himself. Istara nodded as she sheathed her sword. The flunky hit buttons so fast his hands seemed to fly. And then he waved Istara and Trugoy through the bustle that had stopped when Istara had drawn her blade. A murmur went around the forms that had crowded the room. Bladeborn… None of them dared to come close to Istara or Trugoy now.

As they walked into the depths of Imperial power, Tugoy smiled and spoke for Istara’s ears alone. “You enjoyed that. Making that poor fool soil himself. That wasn’t very nice.”

Istara grinned. “What can I say? I am not a nice person.” Trugoy laughed, and then they walked further into the darkness ahead of them.

<A few minutes later>

“I should have known.” The cold voice had Istara and Trugoy stop in their tracks. “Sharlina of the Bladeborn, no one else would have dared.”

Istara sighed, and here her day had been going so well too. “Underattache Goss, what a… displeasure.” Trugoy looked at her and she shrugged. “Still trying to get favors for jumping people in the queue?” Her voice was cool and conveyed disgust.

The human in the ornate suit snarled at Istara. “It is Moff Goss now. Sharlina, you should leave now. You will go no further.” A squad of soldiers in full armor approached from a side corridor. Just looking at them, they were well armed for fighting Force users, with disruptors and sonic pulsars instead of blasters.

Istara sighed. “Underattache Goss…” Goss bristled as she didn’t call him by his new title. “…you seem to have forgotten what I told you last time.”

Goss smiled evilly. “You wouldn’t dare. I am a Moff now.”

Istara continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “It was fourteen years ago, so you may have difficulty remembering. Of course, you are such a cretin I doubt you could remember your name if it wasn’t stitched to your shirt. I told you, that you would hit the floor in three pieces if you stayed in my way. Move. Now.” Her voice was almost kind again and her hand was not on her sword hilt. Trugoy didn’t move, but a small smile played across his face.

Goss snarled. “You are the one who is leaving-” He stopped talking. Having a sword slice through one’s vocal cords did that to a being. But he was already dead by then. Indeed, Istara’s first strike had cut the man’s torso in half, and her second removed his head from his shoulders. And then her sword was back in its sheath. What was terrifying was that her facial expression didn’t change in the whole time which may have been the space of about three seconds. His body hit the floor with three loud thumps that echoed through the hallways.

The approaching soldiers lowered their weapons into ready position, but Istara just sighed and shrugged. “I warned him…”

The sergeant in command of the squad laughed and her voice merry. “That you did, Bladeborn. Thank you, you saved me the trouble of killing him. He had to know what the Emperor’s wishes were. And he just insisted on getting in your way. Idiots like him we can do without.” Istara inclined her head and the sergeant nodded. “We are your escort, to save you from fatiguing yourself carving your way up like you did last time. I don’t know what this scum was thinking.” She kicked the head and it rolled several feet before stopping at a wall.

Istara nodded. But her voice was thoughtful when she spoke. “Just out of curiosity, what would happen if I did want to continue on my way, without an escort?”

The sergeant met her gaze impassively. “I am afraid I would have to insist.” The soldiers didn’t move and Istara just grinned.

“Well, then it’s a good thing I don’t mind an escort. If just to keep from fouling the Palace like I did last time.” She and Trugoy nodded to their escort and waited for the troops to move. It was the polite thing to do. And it made sense with so many guns on them. And those were just the visible ones. There had to be others covering them from hidden apertures. This was a highly secure area after all.

The sergeant laughed again and the troops formed into escort formation. The sergeant started them off and then spoke to Istara. “I am glad Ma’am. I was a raw recruit when you came through last time and they made us clean up your mess. But efficiency did go through the roof for a while. And all of the functionaries were very polite for a while too.”

Istara sighed. “It never lasts, unfortunately.”

The sergeant shook her head. “Nope, but hey, this visit should at least improve some things. If just the politeness factors.” Istara snorted at that and then followed the sergeant towards the elevator that would take them to the highest levels of the Sith Palace. And the Emperor.
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kalenath
07.02.2012 , 10:00 AM | #10
<A few minutes and many levels later>

It seemed that some things never changed. Istara looked around and nodded slightly as she and Trugoy were ushered politely through a door. The door looked exactly the same as all the others they had passed. But looks could be deceiving. And as soon as the mismatched pair had passed the threshold, the light disappeared. Istara looked at Trugoy who nodded and both of them walked to the circle of while light that shone on the floor ahead. When they reached it, Trugoy knelt, Istara did not. And something… Something changed. All around them soft motion was heard. But it stopped when a voice spoke.

“I remember you, Sharlina of the Bladeborn. You are bound and determined to get yourself killed aren’t you?” Istara shivered at the dark humor in the voice, as well as the palpable waves of Dark Side energy that swept over her. Whether he was physically there or not wasn’t important. The Emperor’s gaze was on her and it was all she could do not to fall on the floor and curl up into a fetal position. But she didn’t.

Instead, when Istara spoke, it was calm, clear and matter of fact. “Things have changed, Your Majesty.” She kept her eyes fixed on the floor a few paces in front of her, better not to seem insolent, but at the same time, she couldn’t seem subservient. Not now.

The Emperor’s voice was thoughtful. “Have they? How so?”

Istara nodded slowly. “Your agents reported me studying on Tython, but I did not join the Jedi.”

A sigh echoed through the chamber. It was impossible to tell how large the area was, but it seemed huge. “You defied my forces, defied my decree that none of your kind go to Tython, consorted with our enemies, and now you expect to believe that you did not?” Istara shook her head and the voice held curiosity now. “What then?”

“Your Majesty, I was caught between duty and honor. I chose duty. I went to Tython to learn to keep Ravishaw out of my head.” At that name a growl came from the hidden voice.

“Ravishaw…” The anger in the voice vanished however and the Emperor, if this was him, continued. “Did you?”

Istara nodded. “Things… were complicated, Your Majesty. If I may touch my left arm?”

The disembodied voice sounded a little perplexed now. “You cut off your brand. You fled the Bladeborn, because of the brat that Darmuk seeks. But as you wish.”

Istara acknowledged the surge of anger that surfaced when the Emperor dismissed Setsuna as a brat and let it pass. She nodded. She reached up with her right hand and undid her sleeve. When she pulled back the sleeve, the silence in the room became a stillness. She held her arm with its mark, so like and yet, so unlike the brands of Trugoy’s Bladeborn, up for the Emperor’s inspection. But whatever she had expected, she was not expecting the Emperor to laugh.

The dark voice was part rueful and apart admiring. “I see. So you are Bladeborn once more.”

Istara nodded. “I am. But my sect is not affiliated with Trugoy.” At that, the darkness came alive as lightsabers ignited all around the pair in the light circle. She looked to the one spot where no light shone and spoke evenly as the lightsabers approached. “May I ask you to hear me out, Your Majesty?”

“Stop.” The quiet word had all the sabers freeze in place, their wielders almost impossible to see in the oppressive gloom. “Talk fast, Sharlina of the Baldeborn, my patience is finite.”

Istara nodded politely. “My name is Istara Sharlina Andal. I have served the Empire loyally, until my duty and honor conflicted. And even then, my oath to serve bound me. The Jedi asked me no questions about the Empire for they knew I would not answer. They asked about my training, some of which I could answer. And when I said no to some questions, they did not press. And then…” She glanced towards where Trugoy knelt still as a statue. “Then I found out the truth about the Bladeborn Order. I undertook an ancient trial and succeeded. I am now a follower of Ashla, both Dark and Light reside in me. In balance.”

A deep sigh resounded through the chamber and when the disembodied voice spoke again it was sour. “Andal. Why am I not surprised? Like mother, like daughter. Your mother was a real pain in the shebs too.” Istara blinked at the mild profanity, but didn’t move otherwise. The Emperor sighed again. “So… What? You wish to serve me?”

Istara shook her head. “I cannot. My oath precludes serving anything but Ashla. However, the oath says nothing of alliances.”

The darkness pressed in on her, trying to cloud her mind, prying, seeping, but finding no holes in her mental defenses, no chips in her mind’s armor. Finally, the Emperor spoke, thoughtful. “You are powerful. Far more powerful than you were the last time. So why…?” He broke off and suddenly Istara felt something she hadn’t expected. Incredulity. “Leave us.”

Istara blinked as the lightsabers that surrounded her and Trugoy vanished. The shadowy presences that had held the sabers also vanished, leaving her and Trugoy alone. But… not. She kept her eyes on the floor as an extremely dark something approached. At one point she saw what might have been a boot but whoever it was, although she had a fair guess, stayed out of her line of sight. And a good thing, people who saw the Emperor in the flesh usually didn’t live very long.

Now the voice came from very close by and Istara couldn’t repress a shudder at the sheer dark power that radiated from it. “So, the ones who hunted Trugoy live yet. Unexpected. Even more unexpected is that you have not slain him, for the dishonesties that were told to you, or the crimes he committed in the distant past.”

Istara nodded slightly. “My sect has judged him. We have found him innocent of the slaughter. He was possessed of a Bogan creature of pure energy. But you knew that.” Her soft tone wasn’t a question.

The Emperor, for this had to be him, spoke in the royal plural now. “We suspected.” The dark voice caressed her slightly. And something brushed her hair, maybe a physical touch, maybe just a hint of the Force- it was impossible to tell. Istara nodded, controlling a flinch. As powerful as she was now, this being was far, far more powerful and could end her existence with a thought. “And his other crimes?”

None of her fear showed in her tone however when she spoke again. “My people are deliberating. It may take some time to reach a consensus.” The Emperor snorted sourly.

“Some things never change.” Istara nodded. And then she froze. That WAS a physical touch. A hand touched her head and Dark Side energy burned through her like fire. But she repelled it, as only a true follower of Ashla could, she let it pass through her, not fighting it, but let it flow in and then out of her without resisting it. Then with a pulse of power she cleansed herself quickly. The hand withdrew. “You are indeed what you seem.” The voice seemed to withdraw and then, she blinked as the presence vanished. Then she shut her eyes as light erupted around her, but then realized that it had just been the room’s lights turning on. “Look at us, Istara Sharlina Andal, of the sect Born of Blades.”

An intake of breath from Trugoy had Istara tensing, but, when the Sith Emperor commanded, anyone sane obeyed. She looked up, into the eyes of a hologram. The form was cloaked and cowled, but parts were visible as were the life support devices attached to him. The man on the throne’s face was in shadow but his mouth was visible and he was smiling thinly. “You place us in a difficult position. You were seen consorting with enemies of the Empire. Yet… as you say… You were not affiliated with the Empire at the time, indeed, you were… what was your phrase? ‘A dead woman walking’.” Istara froze. She had only used that phrase once. The emperor chuckled darkly. “We would have been fools and more than fools not to keep tabs on you.” Istara nodded slightly and the holo sighed. “Come.”

Istara blinked as a door opened and two figures walked in. Imperial Cipher Vorren was impassive as always. And Reekia was a tightly controlled as always, but something about the Wookiee spoke of barely repressed joy. The Emperor spoke again. “An alliance with the followers of Ashla would be beneficial to the Empire. At the very least a non-aggression pact would probably be a good idea.” He snorted sourly. “If only to keep the carpets in the palace from having to be replaced every week.”

“Sorry about that...” Istara began, but the Emperor just chuckled.

“Goss was a fool, and the fact that he ‘opportuned’ supplicants for my attention, female ones only, had bothered our court for some time. But he was always careful to avoid our direct notice. He had patrons, who will be less than pleased with your actions. But our court thanks you.” Istara clasped her hands in front of her and bowed slightly. “Now…” He turned his head to Vorren who stiffened to a tauter attention. “Imperial Cipher Vorren, the kill order on Istara Sharlina Andal is hereby rescinded. You are reassigned. She will need an official liaison and you are it. Your investigation into Ravishaw’s activities and her own path will coincide likely. Better you work together than slaughtering each other.” Vorren nodded but didn’t speak. “Find him and do something about him. Something permanent.” Both Vorren and Istara nodded. Then the hologram winked out.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here