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The Academy: Acolyte Ascension


Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
03.24.2013 , 09:27 PM | #121
Chapter Ten: Choices

Lorrik and Jresh made their way toward the dueling circle. There were no words. No thoughts. Only the simple pattering of feet against solid stone. The time for doubts or regret had passed. All that mattered now was action. The last two apprentices walked side by side, their master’s enduringly cold stare following them at every moment. The pair came to a stop a few meters away from the patient Sith Lord.

Even after three bouts, their master looked as ready as ever to continue. His stance was adamant, and his face was resolute. The students could only look upon their Lord with a newfound respect. He possessed a certain level of skill, and deemed them worthy of its witnessing. And now, it was Jresh and Lorrik’s turn to witness it firsthand. Their master readied his lightsaber, and the apprentices did the same.

Jresh retrieved the black hilt from his belt. It was utterly smooth aside from the clip near its base. Without an external activator, it was the ultimate expression of a personalized weapon. Its usage was dependent on the user’s ability to locate and telekinetically activate an internal mechanism. Jresh’s lightsaber was simultaneously the embodiment of simplicity and complexity, something he himself set out to accomplish.

As his partner’s crimson blade shined, the inquisitor readied his own weapon, producing the nonstandard blue beam. The pair was ready. At least, as ready as they could be. The Human and Pureblood adopted their battle stances, raising their guards and preparing their bodies and minds. Jresh kept a firm two-handed grip on his weapon, whilst Lorrik kept a free hand ready to channel the Force.

Both apprentices’ saber styles focused on defense, but after seeing what their master was capable of, they knew that attempting to outlast the Sith Lord would prove challenging. But Sith aren’t ones to shy away from a challenge. Lorrik could feel the subtle anticipation brewing within his partner. His wounds had only just healed, and his armor still bore the scratches and scars from his previous battle, but still he relished the challenge. He was confident, stalwart, and enduring. Things that in that moment, Lorrik wished he was.

“Begin,” Syrosk rasped.

The warrior had not broken eye contact with his master since he first entered the dueling circle, and didn’t break it as he charged forward. Syrosk didn’t move as the warrior fast approached, except to slightly shift his right leg back, digging himself into the ground. The Pureblood tightened his grip, raising his blade high as the gap between him and his opponent closed. Jresh brought down a powerful diagonal slash, and Syrosk replied with its exact counter.

The two connected, and for a brief moment, everything stalled. The wind ceased to blow. Every particulate of dust previously kicked up froze in place. The scene was suspended, frozen in time. And for the briefest of moments, the mountaintop was locked in an expression of serenity. One swiftly broken by the ensuing chaos.

Radiating from where the two figures clashed, a powerful Force wave pushed outward, shaking the very ground that rest beneath them. The wave washed over the other students rattling their clothes and kicking dust into their eyes. Lorrik himself was momentarily stunned as he stood near the dueling circle’s edge. He was astounded by his partner’s power, his ability to channel the Force through martial combat. It wasn’t a manifestation of wisdom, but the purest expression of a natural affinity. The body and spirit were not only connected, they were beginning to merge.

As evenly matched as the initial connection was, Syrosk would not let it remain that way for long. The Sith Lord pulled his blade back before delivering a series of powerful swings toward the Pureblood. The warrior defended, but the utter strength behind each swing began to drive him backward, step by step. Lorrik could sense his partner becoming overcome. He knew he had to act, regardless of his own well-being.

The inquisitor sought to intervene, reinforcing his companion’s flank. With three blades of superheated plasma swinging in such close proximity, total situational awareness was required. Lorrik moved in alongside his partner, the two moving without a single misstep between them. The two ducked and weaved, lashing out at their master. He in turn, effortlessly defended against his two apprentices.

The Pureblood was adamant and precise. The Human, however, was hesitant, light on his feet. While he focused his blade toward Jresh, Syrosk turned his free hand toward the inquisitor. Lorrik swung his weapon, and his master snatched it with the Force. Rather than find his blow redirected, it was hyperextended, swinging fast and wide and out of his control. His partner was out of harm’s way, but in his unwillingness to relinquish control of his saber, he followed the motion of his swing, stumbling away from the conflict. His back turned, Lorrik should have immediately remedied his stance, regained control, but he didn’t. His altered state was becoming more apparent with each passing moment.

Jresh saw his partner stumble and moved to hold his opponent’s attention, pressing the attack. The Pureblood was now on the offense, but he seemed to be making little progress in breaching the Sith Lord’s defenses. Regardless of his capability, he knew he had to give Lorrik time to recover. He willingly thrust himself into harm’s way, placing himself between his master and his partner.

The two melee combatants traded blows, the power behind each strike never lessening. Lorrik steadied himself as the exchange continued a few steps away. He thought to intercede, but was hesitant. The combined efforts of himself and his partner had been unable to surpass the skills of their master. The inquisitor had begun to believe his presence a hindrance rather than a boon. They had not achieved the same synchronization as Nesk and Vurt. They were not as evenly balanced as Isorr and Arlia. He could not summon lightning without utter concentration. He was beginning to question his reason for being there.

Syrosk swung his blade in a wide arc, coupling it with a powerful telekinetic wave. Jresh braced himself, blocking the blade with his own, but the following wave that washed over him shoved him back. Lorrik could only watch as his partner kept his composure even in the heat of battle against an insurmountable foe. He saw that the Pureblood was powerful, determined. Something he wasn’t. Something he could never be. He had nothing to offer. He had no place amongst his betters. He was worthless.

Then, in the midst of battle, did the inquisitor truly take pause. This wasn’t him. These weren’t his thoughts. He had faced what ought to have been certain death, only to walk away unscathed. He had conquered doubt, conquered fear. He realized his mind wasn’t only exhausted, it had been poisoned. He would have none of it.

Lorrik moved in to intercept his advancing master. Taking over for Jresh, the Human pressed the assault. His opponent was unshakable, but he didn’t care. His mind was betraying him, so he had to abandon it. He let his spirit guide him, relying on nothing more than the purest instincts to drive his motions. The inquisitor faced off against his master, blade against blade, delivering a few strikes before backing away, allowing Jresh to take his place.

The two apprentices combatted with their master, trading blows, making full use of the dueling circle’s area. The three figures darted across the mountaintop, the apprentices sharing their master’s attention equally. Seconds passed. Then minutes. The two apprentices were fast approaching the amount of time Arlia and Isorr had lasted. And just like them, their bodies were reaching their limits. Jresh found himself driven back more and more by his master’s strikes. Lorrik found himself barely able to escape the reach of his blade. But still they persisted, neither willing to concede.

Just as their bodies were reaching their limits, an odd opportunity had presented itself. Syrosk had set his eyes on the inquisitor, determining that it was time to bring the duel to a close. The Lord battered the inquisitor’s guard, delivering a series of powerful strikes one right after another. As the Human was slowly driven back, he found his arms growing weaker, his legs following soon after. Soon, his stance crumbled and he found himself on his knees, struggling to defend against the assault beating down upon him.

But Syrosk’s endeavor to end the duel was miscalculated. The Human should have been upon the ground by now, defeated. While he would not last much longer, he lasted just long enough to make his master regret turning his back on the warrior. The Pureblood would not idly sit back while his partner was in danger. Toward the Sith Lord’s flank he charged, raising his saber high, ready to bring his cascading blade down upon his master.

Syrosk sensed the warrior’s approach. Tearing his attention away to face the Pureblood, the Lord was shocked to see that he was already upon him. He couldn’t raise his blade fast enough to intercept the saber heading straight for his face. He stumbled, falling backward toward the kneeling inquisitor. In a moment of desperation, Syrosk flung his hands outward without style or form, releasing a powerful telekinetic surge. The Force wave crashed into the warrior, sending him flying as the Sith Lord almost fell upon his other apprentice.

Lorrik rolled out of the way of his falling master, only to bear witness to his companion’s treacherous flight. Time almost stood still as he saw his partner heading over the cliff’s edge. The Pureblood could do nothing to prevent his inevitable departure from the mountain peak. But Lorrik could.

Still driven purely by instinct, Lorrik acted without thought, without hesitation. He only sought to pull his companion back to safety. Lorrik released his grip on his lightsaber, instead thrusting his right hand toward his partner, clutching and clawing at the air in front of him. He expected to get a telekinetic grip on Jresh’s body, just enough of one to prevent him from going over the cliff. But it never manifested. Something else, however, did. A mysterious feeling was welling up within the inquisitor’s body. Some cold, dark energy flowed through him, looking for some way to escape. The Human was trapped in the instant, no longer in control of his body.

His right hand extended, what emerged from his palm wasn’t an invisible manifestation of the Force, but something much, much darker. Shadows given form began to spread out from his palm and encapsulate his hand. The flowing ichor pulsated and writhed, black tendrils rising from his flesh. Tenebrous ropes of dark side energy sprung from the inquisitor’s hand, stretching across the stilled scene. The black whips surged forward, wrapping themselves around Jresh’s left leg.

His companion now firmly within his grasp, Lorrik pulled his shadowed hand back, tugging upon the airborne Pureblood. The warrior’s flight was halted, and his path redirected back toward the dueling circle. Jresh’s body crashed onto the hard surface of the mountain peak, but it was a tolerable impact compared to what would have greeted him at the foot of the mountain.

The dark tendrils that connected the two apprentices released their grip and dissolved into a fine mist before disappearing completely. Only just now was Lorrik beginning to comprehend what exactly had taken place. He stared at his right hand, the shadows having receded. What they left in their place was pale flesh and a palm blackened, cracked, and charred. All of which was numb.

“It’s over! The duel is off!” Syrosk declared with an unfamiliar volume and expressiveness. The Sith Lord’s speech seemed almost worried. Regaining his senses, Lorrik looked up to see the other students rushing toward his fallen companion, Syrosk already kneeling by his side. Lorrik shook his head, trying to snap himself out of the stupor he found himself in.

The inquisitor raised himself from the ground and rushed toward Jresh, not even bothering to retrieve his weapon. As he approached, he heard soft whispers emanate from the students that circled around his partner. More predominantly, though, was the harsh sound of Jresh howling in pain. Lorrik closed in, pushing his way past the other apprentices, only to see his companion clutching at his leg. The eye was immediately drawn to the warrior’s left foot.

There were several deep gashes where the dark tendrils had wrapped themselves. They had managed to encircle the Pureblood’s foot, burn their way through the armored boot, and char the flesh beneath. The garish wounds he had inflicted upon his companion horrified the Human. His eyes began to dart up and down the warrior, from who he had never heard such cries before. His breaths began to quicken, and beads of sweat began to form upon his brow.

Lorrik lifted his gaze to see the other apprentices staring at him, each unsure of how to process what had transpired. A knot began to form within the inquisitor’s stomach. A coldness began to brew within, a void taking hold of his insides. His senses began to fade. His body felt numb. The whispers grew quiet. His vision darkened. The Human thought to speak, but the only thing to flow from his mouth was blood.

And an instant later, he collapsed.

----------

Nothing. Nothing as far as the eye could see. A blindingly white void. Lorrik lied upon his back, staring up into the nothingness. Unable to move. Unable to speak. He was numb. He was empty. He was nothing.

However, he was not alone. A dark figure stood over him, clad in black robes, a hood raised over his head. As the figure leaned over to reveal his face, it was the last person Lorrik expected. Himself. The dark caricature of himself. The two locked eyes, reveling in the silence. Lorrik was unable to object, to say or do anything. All he could do was wait for the figure to break his silence.

“I see you’ve finally made your choice,” the dark figure said.

Lorrik wanted to get up, to look around for any signs of his light counterpart. But it was useless. All he could do was lie there whilst the figure walked away. Before he could further dwell on his situation, the surface beneath him began to stir. The subtle vibrations soon turned to a violent quake. The white surface he rested upon began to crack and warp. Suddenly, the floor collapsed, and the Human fell through, into the darkness that dwelled beneath it.

The infinite pool of blackness. Dark waters that clutched at the inquisitor, dragging him deeper and deeper. Encircling him and crushing him under its oppressive weight. As he sank ever deeper, the light that existed beyond the pool’s surface began to fade, until there was nothing but blackness. He was blinded by the opaque waters, unable to move, unable to breath. But it mattered not. He was already dead.

But before the darkness could consume him, a light began to shine. Not one of hope. Not one of safety. The light began to expand, wiping away the smoky waters. It brought with it a vision. Lorrik no longer floated, but instead looked upon an expanding scene of destruction.

He stood amongst twisted metal, surrounded by towering buildings and a sky embroiled in flames. A proud figure walked amongst the countless fallen. A Sith. A single, solitary Sith. Human. Aged. Wrapped in black. Eyes of gold. Hands embracing an amulet that rest around his neck, glowing red and pulsing in sync with his own heart. A picture of destruction. Of victory. And just as soon as the image had formed, it had faded, the darkness clouding Lorrik’s vision once again.

He was once more alone with the darkness. The unforgiving, crushing darkness. But just as he was about to succumb to the black waters, he felt something. Something strong enough to overcome the overwhelming numbness that prevailed in his body. The tight grip around his wrist. The soft whisper in his ear.

“Lorrik… Lorrik…”

It was the voice he was most familiar with. The one most pleasant to his ears. The one of his partner, his companion. He could hear him softly calling to him. Feel his presence. It was an uplifting feeling, one strong enough to conquer the oppressive darkness. No longer did he sink. No longer did he despair. No longer was he numb. No longer did he not feel safe.

----------

Opening his eyes, Lorrik found himself resting in bed. An unfamiliar bed. One surrounded by various medical equipment and an immersive kolto tank. Various sensors monitored his life signs and relayed them back to him. He was alive, resting within an Academy medical bay. But more importantly, sitting to the left of his bed was Jresh. The Pureblood was asleep at his bedside, resting his head against the Human’s leg, hands enveloping the Human's wrist.

Lorrik smiled and moved his free hand to stroke his companion’s head, only to find it entirely wrapped in bandages. He stared at the white wrappings, subtly bending and articulating his fingers. Even as its parts moved, the hand felt cold and foreign. But he none the less was alive, with his partner by his side.

And in that moment, there was no place he’d rather be.

Rabbarabba's Avatar


Rabbarabba
04.14.2013 , 09:08 AM | #122
Goin on almost 20 days...im havin withdrawals guy

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
04.14.2013 , 05:07 PM | #123
Chapter Eleven: Visitors

The room was quiet. Serene. There had never been much to the Academy’s medical facilities. Treatments were reserved for faculty, staff, and security. Students could only expect the most basic triage. Acolytes were expected to prove themselves against the dangers of Korriban, and it’s hard for the overseers to send them to their deaths when they have a steady supply of kolto.

But the room Lorrik found himself in was not meant for a student, especially one who hadn’t even been admitted to the Academy proper. The structural design and the equipment it housed suggested he was in an area near the apprentices’ suites. And like the suites, Lorrik knew he was there at his master’s behest.

As his senses returned to him, the inquisitor’s overall stupor began to fade. And as it left him, a pain began to surface. What began as a feeling of hunger quickly turned into a sharp churning of his insides. As the pain persisted, Lorrik cringed, involuntarily shifting his legs. The resting Pureblood immediately stirred from his resting place, raising himself from his seat and talking hold of his partner’s shoulders.

“Lorrik! You’re awake! Are you okay?” Jresh hastily asked, shifting from surprise to excitement to concern in the span of a few seconds. Lorrik’s hands clutched at his gut as the pain slowly lessened, but never totally disappeared.

“Yeah, I’m… okay,” Lorrik replied, not entirely sure of his answer.

“You had us worried,” Jresh stated, calming himself and slowly lowering himself back to his bedside seat. Though he had resumed his usual stoicism, not was all right in the Pureblood’s eyes. His usual rigid and upright stance was lax as his head hung low.

The Human chuckled. “I’m sorry if I gave you a scare. To be fair, you had me worried too. But look, we’re both fine now.”

“Lorrik… that was five days ago,” Jresh hesitantly explained.

“Heh… good one,” Lorrik dismissed with another chuckle. As he continued to stare into his companion’s eyes, he slowly realized the Pureblood’s seriousness. Panning his gaze up and down, Lorrik only now noticed that Jresh had exchanged his battle attire for a set of casual robes. The inquisitor sank in his bed, staring blankly into the distance as his head fell to his pillow. “Five days? What happened after I blacked out?

“Syrosk carried you back to the Academy, managed to secure you this room,” Jresh answered.

“I guess he isn’t as detached as he says he is. So much for not caring if any of us die.”

“Here’s the thing, the Academy staff declared you dead on arrival,” Jresh explained, almost whispering. “You weren’t breathing. You had no pulse. Even Syrosk couldn’t sense any part of your mind. Everyone thought you were gone. Everyone except me.”

“Were you awake? Last I saw you were… screaming in pain,” Lorrik stated, a subtle whimper in his voice.

“It was nothing,” Jresh firmly said. “Pain fades. But as I was treated, I saw the medical staff giving up on you. They thought you dead, but I knew better. I could still sense your presence, however faint it was. I sensed your pain. Your numbness. I knew whatever transpired had taken its toll on your body, but you were not beyond saving.”

Lorrik rested in silence, expressionless eyes still transfixed upon some distant spot on the far wall. Eventually he muttered, “If it weren’t for you… I’d be dead.”

“My part was insignificant, it was your strength that allowed you to pull through,” Jresh assuaged.

“No. No it wasn’t. The only reason I’m alive right now is because of our bond. Through the Force, our lives are interconnected.”

“That’s truly remarkable,” Jresh admitted, unaware such a thing was possible.

“Yeah… remarkable,” Lorrik replied, lacking any modicum of enthusiasm.

“Did I forget to mention you’ve just come back from the dead? You seem rather displeased.”

“None of this this should have ever happened in the first place. I tapped into something beyond my control, and I was punished for it. And now you share that punishment. That… power… consumed parts of me, parts of you.”

“I already told you that you needn’t worry about me,” Jresh reminded. “Wounds heal.”

“Physical wounds, yes. I don’t know about these,” Lorrik admitted. “That was pure dark side energy, from a technique I hadn’t even realized I learned, from a holocron that almost broke my mind. I should have been able to predict this. But I let my lust for knowledge take control. I wanted to win, no matter the cost. I wanted to prove myself to Syrosk, the other students… and most of all, you. I didn’t want to be a disgrace during our first genuine bout with the master. I thought I was above that petty Sith nonsense… I guess not.”

The two apprentices heads dipped as the room was consumed by silence. For the first time, Lorrik had been utterly defeated. Jresh saw no vestige of his companion’s usual light. It had been darkened. Smothered. No more optimism. No more persistence. No more vigor. And the only person Jresh knew could lift someone from this state, was the afflicted himself.

“Lorrik. This is not the first challenged we’ve faced. And it will not be the last. We’ll get through this and move forward, just as we always do,” Jresh declared.

“This is different. This isn’t something we can just casually overcome,” Lorrik muttered, turning his gaze toward his bandaged right hand. “What’s happened… what I’ve done… I don't know if we-”

“It’s in the past. Our pasts are merely a sequence of events that shape our path. They don’t define it. And they certainly don’t define us,” Jresh recited as he lifted himself from his bedside seat. “Get some rest, I’m sure everyone will want to know that you’re awake.”

The Pureblood laid a comforting hand on his partner’s wrist one final time before heading toward the exit. As Lorrik lifted his gaze he was greeted with the disconcerting sight of his companion’s gait. The physicality of his left foot was covered with garb, but the pain wrought with each step was readily apparent. Lorrik realized that he was responsible for the most lasting wound Jresh had ever suffered.

The inquisitor’s heart sunk. He had caused irreparable damage to both himself and his partner. With a deep sigh, Lorrik was alone, accompanied only by silence and his own thoughts. Thoughts that were almost universally directed toward his injured hand. The Human stared at the wrapping, contorting his covered fingers. He moved his free hand toward his forearm, scratching at the skin that bordered the bandages. Scratching turned to searching, and the inquisitor looked for a way to undo his wrappings. Starting at the base, he began to unfasten and unroll the fabric, working his way upward toward his hand. As more and more flesh was revealed, he saw a paleness begin to emerge. Paleness which eventually turned to calloused and cracked skin.

His hand fully revealed, Lorrik saw that he had suffered no ordinary wound. Dark lines were visible under his skin, branching and converging toward his fingers. But the most disconcerting thing of all rested in the palm of his hand. A large blot covered the interior of his hand. Not a scab, but a tainted blackness that appeared to have emerged from within.

As Lorrik rested in his bed, he couldn’t take his eyes off of the injured hand. Calming himself, he attempted to focus his mind. It was a wound. Wounds could be healed. The inquisitor attempted to channel healing energies through his right hand to no effect. It refused to shine with the usual radiant light, and no matter how hard he tried, it remained as pale and blackened as ever. Taking his mind off the injury, Lorrik tried the same with his other hand. He delighted as he saw his left hand glow with a soft light. With a deep breath, he guided it toward his injured hand, but the instant they touched, he experienced a sharp pain unlike any other. What was once numb reacted violently to the healing energies, forcing the Human to withdraw his other hand. As the pain subsided, Lorrik saw that his effort were for naught.

The inquisitor’s head sunk into its pillow as he rubbed his eyes with his normal hand, the other falling to his side. As the minutes passed, Lorrik sat in silence, trying his hardest to cull the thoughts brewing in his mind.

The silence persisted until there was a knock on the wall near the room’s entrance. Lorrik perked up to see Ryloh standing in the doorway. He waved the Twi’lek in, who took a seat in the bedside chair. The other inquisitor’s blue face attempted to convey a sense of comfort, but there was an underlying concern in his eyes.

“How are you doing, Lorrik?” Ryloh asked.

“I’m… fine,” Lorrik answered.

“No… you’re not,” Ryloh corrected. The Twi’lek tried to force a smile. “Remember, I’ve been in your position before. Out in the wastes, sacrificing my body and mind for the sake of my partner. You know, I never got around to thanking you.”

“For what?”

“For not telling Kar’ai the… details of what I did out there,” Ryloh clarified. “I wanted to tell her myself after we returned to the Academy. Didn’t want her to worry before we were safe.”

“How did she take it?” Lorrik asked.

“She was… surprised. She wasn’t used to other people going through so much for her benefit. We’re not really conditioned to appreciate sacrifice, are we? She chastised me, said I never should have done that, but eventually we both came to terms with what happened. She thought she owed me something, took a while to convince her she didn’t. But in the end, we were closer because of it.”

“So what are you saying, everything’s going to be just fine?” Lorrik muttered.

“No, it won’t. We both know we abandoned any hope of normalcy long ago. To this day, my mind has not fully recovered. I still suffer from bouts of pain, confusion, disorientation. But not for a moment do I regret my actions. I took on that pain because I knew it would spare Kar’ai.”

“And what if you discovered you didn’t spare her that pain? That despite all your sacrifice, you ended up making things worse?” Lorrik asked.

“Then I would endure until I set things right,” Ryloh answered.

“And what if things couldn’t be set right?”

“All things can be mended with time,” Ryloh declared as he raised himself from his seat. “It’s simply the nature of the mending that must adapt.”

As he exited the room, he shot the Human a quick smile before nodding toward the hall beyond the entrance. As Ryloh exited, his partner Kar’ai took his place, entering and approaching the inquisitor’s bed. She took a seat beside the inquisitor, locking her eyes with his.

“Lorrik,” she spoke up,

“Kar’ai,” Lorrik shot back.

“So you’re finally up… relatively speaking,” Kar’ai joked, an awkward chuckle punctuating the Rattataki’s words. “You know, we were genuinely worried that you had died. All of us, even the less than pleasant apprentices. Are you doing okay?”

“Well, aside from my insides being rearranged, and my hand…”

“I meant emotionally,” Kar’ai corrected.

“I don’t know. And I didn’t think you’d be the one to care,” Lorrik admitted.

“That’s understandable. You know how us warriors are,” Kar’ai stated. “I guess this is coming from a place of empathy. I think I understand some of the things you’re going through.”

“Do you?”

“The feeling of guilt, the feeling of hopelessness, the feeling that you should have been able to do more, do it better, do anything to change what had happened. Am I that far off?”

“I suppose not,” Lorrik quietly admitted. “So you’ve come to terms with what Ryloh did?”

“Crippling himself with pain so that I wouldn’t have to suffer through your healing methods? I guess I have. To be honest, I was furious with him when he told me. 'How could he put himself through that for me'? 'Why is he suffering when I’m perfectly fine'? Things you think are going through your partner’s head right now. You think you’ve burdened him with something.”

“Who’s to say I haven’t?” Lorrik stated. “This entire situation is my fault. It all could have been prevented if I had bothered to think for even a moment. Now I owe him my life and all he has to show for it is the loss of a functional leg.”

“We’ve been here, what, a decade? You’ve been partners with Jresh for almost two years now? Tell me, after all this time, how could you have forgotten something so simple? The fact that Jresh is a warrior.”

“I have not forgotten,” Lorrik muttered.

“You haven’t? Then you know that he doesn’t care about pain. He doesn’t care about injuries. Warriors care about one thing, and one thing only, and use their passion toward that thing to drive them forward regardless of whatever obstacles try to impede them. To give those obstacles a second thought, would be unbefitting a warrior. You could take so much away from him, and he would still only care about that one thing. No matter what happens, no matter what you do, you cannot stop him. If you knock him down, it’s up to you whether or not to pick him back up, but he will eventually rise, with or without you. But knowing Jresh, I think he’d vastly prefer it to be with you.”

Lorrik offered a solemn nod as Kar’ai raised herself from her seat. “I want to thank you and Ryloh for stopping by.”

“No problem, Lorrik,” Kar’ai declared as she headed out of the room. “But we’re not the only ones who came to see you.”

Without another word, the Rattataki exited, leaving a puzzled Human sitting in his bed. A few seconds later, however, and two new figures entered the room. Isorr and Arlia. The Zabrak and Twi’lek approached the Human, opting to stand, leaning casually against the wall nearest the patient.

“Didn’t expect to see you here,” Lorrik admitted.

“We could say the same,” Arlia joked. “We all thought you were dead. Well, all except Jresh. But then Ryloh starts trusting what your partner says, then Kar’ai starts believing him as well. Then Syrosk thinks you can be saved, so he dunks you in the kolto tank. Of course, your injuries were mostly internal so it required full immersion, but then again you weren’t using your lungs anyway.”

“Well, that’s always nice to hear,” Lorrik muttered.

“You know, you’re going to have to teach me that technique sometime. Never seen anything like it,” Arlia admitted, genuinely intrigued.

“To be honest, neither have I. But I’d avoid it if I were you. Rather unpleasant,” Lorrik admitted, raising his right hand. The two visitors look at the injured hand with wide eyes.

“I must say, Lorrik, I am impressed,” Isorr spoke up. “I’d wager even Syrosk isn’t capable of conjuring such power.”

“Given my current state, I’d say neither am I,” Lorrik stated. “It was more than my body could handle, and parts of it were consumed in the process.”

“Altered, not consumed,” Isorr offered. “The Sith are dynamic. That is what your partner once told me. Change in is the nature of the dark side, and it is in our nature as Sith to control it. You displayed great power, and have earned our respect for it.”

“Power? I crippled Jresh and left some of my insides out there on the dueling circle. You call that power?”

“I call it potential,” Isorr declared. “Potential I did not think you possessed prior.”

“You stop by to say all this?” Lorrik asked.

“To tell you the truth, Jresh asked us, well, told us to visit you,” Arlia informed. “We thought to object, but then again, we had nothing else to do. Our studies sort of hit a roadblock after your little ordeal.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, Syrosk hasn’t emerged from his quarters since he dropped you off here,” Arlia explained. “We’ve taken the initiative to meet up ourselves, us and the other students, have some light duels…”

“Jresh spent most of his time in here with you,” Isorr added. “Although he did manage show up for the second day.”

“You mean he was in fighting condition?” Lorrik asked, the most interested he had been all day.

“Turns out kolto can’t fully heal whatever it is that happened to you and him,” Arlia explained. “They took you out of the tank after you showed little improvement. Jresh though, he up and walked out of here after his first day of treatment. He favored the other leg but managed to do just as well in our practice bouts. Even Isorr couldn’t beat him.”

“They were practice bouts, it wasn’t about winning,” Isorr hastily defended. “Without training sabers, we seem to be a bit more cautious with one another…”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Arlia said, digging her elbow into her partner’s side.

“Wait, so what has Syrosk been doing these past few days?” Lorrik asked.

“Honestly, we’re not sure,” Arlia admitted. “Maybe he’ll emerge now that you’re awake.”

“Hopefully. I’ll not see my training stalled because this one refuses to get up,” Isorr declared.

“Ah, there’s the Isorr we know and love,” Lorrik joked, regaining some of his usual vigor. “Well, as awkward as this must have been for you, I appreciate the visit.”

“Oh, if you think this was awkward,” Arlia chuckled as the two made their way out. Lorrik responded with the quick arch of his brow, followed by a widening of his eyes.

“Wait, you mean…” Lorrik started, before watching the last two apprentices walk in. Nesk and Vurt. The Trandoshan took his place against the wall whilst the Nikto took a seat at the bed’s side. Lorrik slowly panned his gaze between the two figures, both of whom offered their own cold stares in return.

The three apprentices remained silent for what seemed like a minute, before Lorrik finally spoke up. “Well, this has been great guys, but…”

“Lorrik,” Vurt finally spoke, to Lorrik's surprise. His voice was utterly deep, with a gravel that rivaled Syrosk’s raspy voice.

“I… honestly couldn’t remember if you spoke Basic…” Lorrik admitted.

“I have spoken to Syrosk when appropriate,” Vurt stated, each word drawn out and precise. “I speak only to those who have earned my respect. You are the fourth person to do so.”

“I… see.”

“Before coming to the Academy, I was born into a cult known as the Morgukai,” Vurt explained. “Nesk was brought up in a traditional Trandoshan hunting culture. Both belief systems call for a deeper understanding and appreciation for death than you might find in a typical Sith. You are the first being we have met capable of overcoming it. And for that you have our respect.”

“Well, uh, I’m honored, but really, I have Jresh to thank,” Lorrik admitted. “I think it was him calling to me that actually kept me alive.”

“Death is for the unwilling,” Vurt coldly stated. “Jresh alone could not have saved you. You are alive, because you willed it to be so. You could have given up. You could have ignored the call. But you didn’t. Jresh may have extended a hand, but it was you who took hold. You have unfinished business here, whether you realize it or not. Some part of you refused death.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Lorrik asked.

“Confidence is measured by merit,” Vurt declared. “We follow Syrosk, because he is strong. When he abandoned us to the wastes, we followed you, because you managed to prove yourself. Should we find ourselves abandoned again, we know who we will follow.”

Without another word, the two figure removed themselves from the room, offering one final nod of confidence to the Human as the departed.

“Well, I suppose that takes care of the visitors.”

----------

Outside the Academy halls, the lands that stretched before the facility found themselves burdened by the usual rays of sunlight and heat. Business proceeded as usual within the training grounds, acolytes vying for the attention of overseers, apprentices fulfilling the wishes of their masters. The activities continued uninterrupted even as a shuttle passed closely overhead. The gray passenger vessel touched down at the nearest landing pad, releasing a squeal as its landing gears pressed against the metallic platform. The ship’s doors opened and ramp extended, a new batch of acolytes slowly making their way off the ship. After them, however, a lone figure emerged, unique from those who preceded him.

The figure made his way toward the Academy with a casual pace, the tail of his vibrant red coat bouncing with each step.

Rabbarabba's Avatar


Rabbarabba
04.15.2013 , 01:54 AM | #124
Wow the timing for the last post was incredible

Do what ya gotta do IRL though... the fact that the wait is killing anyone only shows your a great writer

EpicJaisonLord's Avatar


EpicJaisonLord
04.19.2013 , 09:18 AM | #125
Awesome story, bro. I read it all, from Act 1 to now. I can't wait for more.

Adwynyth's Avatar


Adwynyth
04.21.2013 , 01:50 PM | #126
I haven't said it in a while, but now that I've caught up...

SQUEE

Horrendously bad fan fiction: Sith in a Pretty Dress

saywhatnow's Avatar


saywhatnow
04.23.2013 , 05:40 AM | #127
I have been reading this story for a while and just now resubscribed to the game and I think this story is awesome.

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
05.27.2013 , 01:34 AM | #128
Chapter Twelve: Movements

The halls of the Academy were calm as Jresh made his way toward his partner’s room, a tray of food held firmly in his hands. Along the way, he passed Nesk and Vurt who offered nothing but silent glances and a pair of subtle nods. They had visited with Lorrik as agreed, and were now set to fill the rest of the day in the absence of their master.

The Pureblood stalled as he stood in the doorway of his partner’s room. The Human was sitting upright in his bed, a smile on his face. He seemed calm, content. Jresh’s plan had worked. Stepping past the medical bay’s threshold, the warrior was greeted with wide eyes and a hearty chuckle.

“You know me way too well,” Lorrik said as he watched his companion approach. The tray in his hands held an arrangement of foods in various shapes and colors. That seemed to be the only way of accurately defining the assortment. The longer Lorrik stared at it, the more his smile shrank. “You know, I appreciate the sentiment, but…”

“I know it’s hard going back to eating food that you yourself haven’t had a hand in preparing, but you’re not exactly fit to cook,” Jresh advised. He carefully handed the tray to the bedridden inquisitor, noticing the pale, cracked right hand that took hold of it. The Pureblood struggled to maintain his stoic facade after seeing the extent of his partner’s injuries. “You need to get your strength back. There’s some meat here…”

“Which one of these is meat?” Lorrik asked as he stared at the tray’s contents. Jresh leaned in to get a closer look, carefully studying the arrangement, taking his time before giving an answer.

“I’m actually not sure.”

“Honestly, where did you get this?”

“I went to the old mess hall.”

“Well, that explains it,” Lorrik muttered. “I don’t think my stomach’s ready to handle Academy food, or worse, sub-Academy food. Do we have anything back at the suite?”

“Mostly basic ingredients. We’re coming up on restock day-“

“Ah, that’s it,” Lorrik interrupted. “You could talk to the quartermaster. I’m sure he could secure us some healthier foods.”

“I’m not sure that’s wise. Syrosk warned us to keep your stay here a secret. We have to be careful who we meet with until you’ve recovered,” Jresh explained.

“It’s okay, we can trust him.”

“Can we? You are aware whom everyone connected to the old classrooms serves, right?”

“He’s more trustworthy than anyone else who works in this place, genuine Academy staff included. He’s responsible for our extra food supplies. He’s responsible for my lightsaber’s construction. He’s helped us, even knowing that we know about Tash,” Lorrik explained.

“Very well. I trust your judgment,” Jresh stated with a dutiful nod. “I’ll be back with some better food. Don't go anywhere.”

The Pureblood smiled as his companion let out a soft chuckle. As far as jokes go, it was rather poor, but then again it was never the warrior’s strong suit. But none the less, it managed to raise the Human’s spirits greater than any medicine could. For the all the pain the two apprentices had gone through, and were still forced to deal with, they knew that it was incapable of stopping them. They would survive. They would persist. They would progress.

Jresh stepped out of the room with a subtle limp, leaving Lorrik alone with his meal. After a careful minute of close examination, the inquisitor slowly raised his left hand and offered a gentle prod to what he though was a slab of meat on his tray. The material could not maintain its shape under the weight on the Human’s inquiring finger, squishing as it slowly lost its consistency. Lorrik grimaced as the endeavor raised more questions than it could solve. With no further inquiries, the Human carefully moved the tray to the chair next to his bed, deciding himself capable of waiting for his partner’s return.

----------

The Pureblood carefully walked the halls of the Academy, hands filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables provided by the quartermaster. The exchange was brief and without difficulties, something the warrior thought an impossibility within the Academy. He had thought his companion overly optimistic, but he had truly forged an alliance with the quartermaster, however benign it was.

As the warrior made his way back toward his partner, he sensed something was amiss. He could sense worry. Panic. Fear. His eyes immediately sharpened as his heart began to beat ever faster. But his first thought would not drive him to action, for he knew these emotions weren’t coming from Lorrik. The bond that they shared meant he would have immediately sensed if his partner was in danger. And yet these feelings were emanating from someone with whom he did share some form of connection. The warrior received his answer when a black blur entered his line of sight.

“Syrosk?” Jresh muttered, dumfounded by the sight of his master, garbed in a set of simple black robes rather than in armored attire. The Sith Lord moved with a pace the warrior had never seen him use outside of battle. Nor had he known his master to be incapable of masking his emotional state. As soon as the Pureblood’s words left his lips, the alien stopped dead in his tracks. The horned head of the Sith Lord turned to face his apprentice, casting a sharp glare.

“Jresh! What are you doing out here? Why aren’t you with Lorrik?” Syrosk harshly rasped. So many questions began to fill the warrior’s head. Where had his master been for the past few days? What could cause him to emerge? Why question his presence? Most importantly, where was he going?

“I was getting Lorrik… some food,” Jresh answered. He knew no matter his answer, it would not assuage his master’s concerns. Concerns the warrior required insight into. “What is happening, Syrosk?”

The Sith Lord remained silent, turning his head back and forth between his apprentice and his prior path. With a wave of his hand, he beckoned the Pureblood to follow. As he continued his flight down the hallway, Jresh rushed to keep at his master’s side.

“Lorrik is in danger,” Syrosk plainly stated, his eyes fixated upon the path ahead.

“He’s been in danger these past few days!” Jresh countered, maintaining his pace. “And yet, you saw fit to hide yourself away. Now that he’s awake you finally emerge?”

“He has awoken?” Syrosk softly rasped, genuinely unaware of these event. The Sith Lord’s gaze fell as he gathered his thoughts, body still caught in the perpetuation of motion. “It will be for naught if we cannot get to him in time.”

“In time for what? How is he in danger?” Jresh asked. “I sense nothing, nor does our bond tell me he is in harm’s way.”

“You want to know why I ‘hid myself away’? So that I could meditate. So that I could anticipate the inevitable threat that would befall us.”

“What inevitable threat?”

“Tash. I knew he had too many eyes and ears within the Academy for Lorrik’s state to go unreported. It was only a matter of how long it would take him to respond. And now, one of his agents managed to sneak onto Korriban, almost slipping completely beneath my notice.”

“Enough,” Jresh said. “If what you say is true, we mustn’t distract ourselves with incessant chatter.”

Syrosk offered Jresh a stern nod as the two powerful figures glided down the Academy halls, side by side, master and apprentice, rushing toward the unknown. As they neared the section of the Academy where Lorrik resided, a troubling feeling began to stir within the Pureblood’s gut. What manner of individual could manage to evade Syrosk’s usually impeccable insight? After all the apprentices had done to lay low, to not draw the ire of Syrosk’s rival, why would someone target Lorrik. The warrior drew solace from the fact that no matter what force may yet threaten his companion, the bond between them told him that Lorrik was safe for the time being. Which meant there was still time to reach him.

The pair drew closer and closer, eyes fixated only on the path in front of them. Each new object and figure that momentarily entered their view would be quickly passed and forgotten. And no person, no Sith, would stand in their way, for they knew better. Only a few halls rest between Jresh and his companion. The warrior’s senses told him that Lorrik’s position had not changed since his departure, but the same could not be said of his emotional state. There was an energy that wasn’t there before. Whether it was good or bad he could not tell. He could not parse his own feelings from his partner’s. Was the worry he sensed his own? And was it clouding his judgment? Or was he, in fact, too late?

The master and apprentice rounded the final corner, Lorrik’s room now firmly within their sights. Jresh overtook his master, rushing forth with an astounding burst of speed. The warrior burst into his companion’s room, Syrosk following soon after, only to discover that Lorrik was not alone. Jresh and his master were greeted with the sound of Lorrik crying out, not with screams or protests, but with laughter.

The inquisitor sat upright in his bed, all smiles, a similarly joyful Human sitting beside him. The older man held in one hand Lorrik’s previously discarded meal tray, the other deftly wielding a fork with a bit of food skewered upon its tip. Almost a decade had passed since their last meeting, but Jresh immediately recognized the individual who looked to be in his mid-thirties. His looks, his demeanor, his attire. They all pointed to one man: Vai Thorel.

“I think you’re right, that might not have been meat.” Thorel chuckled, looking up to see Jresh and Syrosk standing stupefied a short distance away. “Oh, hey! Visitors!”

“Lorrik… is everything alright?” Jresh cautiously asked, his guard not yet lowered.

“Of course!” Lorrik cheerfully replied. “You remember Vai, right? Vai, that’s-”

“Jresh Takuul,” Thorel interrupted, thrusting out his arms in a welcoming motion. The man hadn’t lost his smooth complexion, nor his equally smooth voice. “How could I forget the only Pureblood I brought to the Academy. But more importantly… Syrosk!”

The Human lifted himself from his seat, leaving the food tray behind as he circumvented the bed. With a brisk pace he approached the Sith Lord who retained his usual scowl, the tail of his red coat bouncing with each giddy step. Face to face with the old Lord, Thorel stretched his arms out wide. Syrosk’s stance remained rigid as he continued to cast a cold glare toward the Human.

“Come on Syrosk, how long has it been?” Thorel asked, dropping his arms. “Don’t tell me you aren’t excited to see me.”

“Given the intrinsic implications of your visit… I’m far from excited,” Syrosk rasped. Thorel’s spirits refused to damper as the two remained locked in silence. Jresh sidestepped the pair, edging closer to his companion. In his rush to return, the Pureblood had lost a few fruit, but the majority of his stock remained safely tucked within his arms. The sight of which filled Lorrik with renewed delight.

“Thank goodness. I was starving,” Lorrik spoke up. The inquisitor took one of the fruit from his partner and took a hearty bite, reveling in the first experience of bodily pleasantness since awakening. Jresh had not yet relaxed from his heightened state of awareness, his gaze passing cautiously between the actors that graced the room.

“Lorrik,” Jresh whispered. “I’m not usually one to question your ability to stay calm in adverse situations, but…”

“Adverse?” Lorrik replied, mouth filled with fruit. Turning his attention toward his visitor, he began waving his hand. “Hey Vai, want something to get that bad taste out of your mouth?”

“That’d be lovely,” Thorel declared, tearing himself away from the crotchety Lord. Lorrik tapped Jresh’s arm, signaling him to toss his visitor a piece. The Pureblood hesitantly complied, softly pitching a fruit to Thorel, who received it with a perfect catch. “Quite the apprentice you have here, Syrosk.”

The Sith Lord continued to stare down the red cloaked figure as he casually leaned against the wall near Lorrik. “What is your purpose here?”

Thorel offered a quick laugh. “I thought that’d be obvious. I’m just checking up on things for Tash.”

“Then why are you bothering one of my students?” Syrosk rasped. “My apprentices and I are no longer within his domain and no longer subject to his scrutiny.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m bothering anyone, right Lorrik?” Thorel warmly asked of the bedridden inquisitor.

“Syrosk… it’s okay. I’m okay,” Lorrik reassured. “We’ve just been partaking in some light conversation, nothing to worry about.”

“Need I remind you of the man this one serves?” Syrosk harshly asked.

“Perhaps you do,” Lorrik declared, his previous enthusiasm dropping. “We know next to nothing about Tash other than the warnings you’ve so sparingly doled out over our apprenticeship.”

“Well, that’s no good Syrosk,” Thorel jokingly offered. “Two years and you haven’t been able to instill a fear of my master in your students? I can understand the inherent difficulty, though. Any attempts to vilify Tash would either be disregarded or end up reflecting poorly upon yourself.”

“Tash does not need my help cementing his reputation,” Syrosk harshly declared. “The evidence rests in his mockery of the Sith Academy.”

“Mockery we both played an essential role in establishing if I recall correctly,” Thorel countered.

“Under false pretense,” Syrosk replied. “My goal was and still is to ensure the strength of the next generation of Sith, regardless of their perceived worth. But all Tash wants is control. He intends to use these students as he has all others, as mere tools. Just as had done to me. Just as he will do to you.”

“And to think, you two used to be the closest of friends,” Thorel morosely stated. Lorrik and Jresh offered only stunned silence in response to the unfolding conversation, panning their gaze back and forth before settling on their master. Noticing the apprentices’ reaction, the visitor couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. “You truly haven’t told them anything have you? You and Tash really aren’t that different after all.”

“I never went behind his back and murdered his master!” Syrosk exclaimed with a grim shout.

“If you knew the kind of man his master was, you would have,” Thorel explained, following up with a light sigh. “You still don’t realize he was doing you a favor.”

“A favor?” Syrosk shot back, enraged. “He took from me the only person who genuinely believed in my worth. The only person who saw me as more than a filthy alien. Because of him, I was not doomed to a short life on the streets of Dromund Kaas. Because of him, I was able to become a Sith Lord. He was like a father to me!”

“Exactly,” Thorel declared. “The way a father would approach his son is much more limited than the way a master would approach his apprentice. He wanted to protect you, so he held you back, made sure you did nothing to displease your fellow Sith. Had he survived, none of us would be here right now. You two would still be collecting the Empire’s chosen sons for training, ignoring the lesser beings you and Tash would send me to gather. You believe Tash to be controlling, but you cannot accept the fact that he was the one who freed you from Omnus’ control.”

“And what leads you to believe I desired such freedom?”

“The fact that you are Sith. Had you lacked the desire, such a title would be unfitting,” Thorel explained. “From what I know of your master, he was a good man. A good Sith. I admit, it is a shame Tash was forced to act in the manner he chose, but he was afraid you could not escape your master’s influence otherwise. Unfortunately, his influence proved rather deep seeded.”

“Tash was a fool if he thought I’d so readily cast aside my master’s wisdom,” Syrosk declared.

“Ah yes, the wisdom of the Seer,” Thorel toyed with the Sith Lord. “Considering you’ve left your apprentices in the dark regarding your role this institution, I’ll hazard a guess that they aren’t privy to the details regarding your falling out with Tash.”

The room fell silent. The two apprentices continued to stare toward their master, their faces revealing a wide array of internal feelings. They found themselves witness to a struggle beyond their understanding, from a time before they had ever set foot on Korriban. And as each new sliver of information came to light, the apprentices slowly realized that for all their time within the Academy halls, under the tutelage of their master, they were still being kept in the dark, left to uncover whatever they could themselves or wait for someone to graciously provide them answers to questions they hadn’t even asked.

“We always assumed the hatred stemmed from the death of his master,” Lorrik softly stated, almost struggling to get the words out.

“Oh, he didn’t even know my master was responsible for that until after the initial confrontation,” Thorel explained. “Go ahead Syrosk, tell them why you decided to oppose Tash.”

The Sith Lord remained silent, offering only his stern glare toward the provoking Human.

“Syrosk?” Lorrik hesitantly spoke up.

“You want the truth? Fine,” Syrosk softly rasped. “Years ago, Tash and I were allies, friends even. Our masters operated within similar spheres, so we were acquainted at an early age. We would share resources, train one another, eliminating whatever weakness our masters couldn’t. When Tash’s master died, his assets and position were assumed by his apprentice. When my master died, I was left with nothing. Alone and an outcast within my own order, I sought out the only person I thought I could trust. Tash. He proposed the idea of establishing new classrooms within the Academy, one accepting of all Force-sensitives regardless of status, using my visions to locate and gather children across the galaxy. He appealed to my faltering faith in the Empire, promised me that we would usher in a new era for the Sith. But after the last child had been collected, I was granted one last vision. One that spoke of Tash’s inevitable betrayal. I saw my own life extinguished by his hand. So I confronted him. Demanded an explanation, to which he provided none. I had served my purpose in finding him a batch of young Force-users, so he had no qualms severing his ties with me. Once more I was alone. An outcast. Worthless. Without the backing of someone of repute, the title of Sith Lord was meaningless when worn by an alien like me. But I was given clear insight into our fates. That is why I challenged him. That is why I continue to challenge him. Until the day I perish.”

“And that… is the influence you could not be ridded of,” Thorel plainly offered. “We thought your master was the only thing controlling you, but there was something else. Something far more destructive. Your ‘visions’. They weren’t a talent, nor a gift, but a crutch, one that supported the entire weight of your being. You could not comprehend the possibility that you made a mistake. You could not believe in the slightest of chances that you had misinterpreted a vision.”

“There was no room for misinterpretation, Thorel,” Syrosk deliberately stated. “I saw with utter, uncompromised clarity.”

“Of course you did,” Thorel dismissed. “After all, Seers gonna see.”

“I can’t believe it,” Lorrik softly muttered to himself. The others turned to see the inquisitor looking down, eyes wide, hands shaking. “Not just the past few months… but the past ten years of my life have been a lie.”

“Your reaction is justified, Lorrik,” Syrosk admitted. “I never should have kept you in the dark regarding myself and Tash.”

“I couldn’t care less about whatever problems you two have with one another,” Lorrik emphatically declared.

Slowly, the inquisitor began to shift his position, hanging his legs over the side of the bed. His body was heavy, and his movements were strained, but the Human forced himself to get up. As Lorrik’s bare feet graced the cold floor, Jresh quickly rushed to his side to offer assistance, dropping what remained of the produce tucked within his arms. As the Pureblood’s steadying hand graced his companion’s shoulder, Lorrik offered his appreciation, but gently removed it to stand of his own accord . The warrior offered a knowing nod and stepped away.

“No, what I can’t believe, is that the freedom I was promised is nothing but a lie,” Lorrik said, taking a careful step toward his master. “Vai. Leave us.”

The visitor took one final glance between the Sith Lord and his apprentices before offering a solitary nod. “If you ever want to talk, you can always find me.”

Without another word, Vai Thorel removed himself from the wall and made his way toward the exit, offering one last wink to Syrosk and taking a bite of his fruit before vacating the room.

“How dare you call yourself a Sith,” Lorrik muttered as he trudged ever closer to his master. “How could you hope to give your students freedom, when you haven’t earned it yourself? Everything that has transpired, has been because of your ‘visions’. Our survival, our progression… you’re telling me these weren’t born out of skill or determination or sacrifice… but rather fate? You’re telling me that every challenge, every trial, every life, every death… is predetermined?”

“No… I am not,” Syrosk coldly answered.

“Then why? Why would you risk throwing everything away because of one simple vision,” Lorrik taunted, taking hold of his master’s horns, bringing him and his master face to face. Jresh kept his distance, but watched the scene unfold with a careful eye. “All this trouble we find ourselves in now, is because you didn’t even think to alter the outcome. If the answer you are given is wrong, you don’t just accept it, you correct it!”

“What would you suggest?” Syrosk countered. “Just ignore my vision, remain blissfully unaware of the truth behind my master’s demise, follow Tash with the same blind devotion as his underlings whilst the doubt continued to erode at my mind? You don’t understand what it’s like to see your own death! You would not be able to just let that go!”

Lorrik stared deep into his master’s eyes, before darting his gaze toward the room’s exit. Silence dominated the room for what felt like an eternity. Without warning, the inquisitor relinquished his grip on his master’s appendages, the anger slowly fading from his face.

“Alright, Vai’s far enough away that I needn’t keep this up,” Lorrik admitted, taking an exhausted step backward.

“What are you talking about?” Syrosk asked, genuinely confused.

“Come on Syrosk, I’ve been around long enough to know when I’m being manipulated,” Lorrik explained. “Vai wanted to create a rift between us. I thought I’d let him leave thinking he was successful.”

The Sith Lord's eyes widened as he slowly wound down from his previous exchange. “I must say I’m… impressed, apprentice. You give a very… convincing performance.”

“That’s because I meant every word I said, I merely enhanced my tone,” Lorrik admitted. “You made us your apprentices, you promised us answers, and yet we’re still learning things we should have known long ago. Look, I get it, you’ve had your reasons for doing everything you done… which you probably can’t say about most Sith. But can you honestly say you still think you’re doing the right thing?”

“You don’t understand-“

“That’s your problem!” Lorrik chastised. “You think you’re in some unique position, that no one could possibly understand or relate to what you’ve been through. Well, you’re wrong. You were the one who found us in the first place, right? So you know our histories. Slaves. Aliens. Outcasts. You thought us capable of trusting our partners, but you didn’t think we would trust you? All we’ve given you these past months is trust! Despite all the hardships, the grievances, the uncertainty, we still followed you. Not out of blind faith, but because we respected your teachings. We respected you. We believed in you. At the very least, you could do the same for your apprentices. You’ve seen what we’ve accomplished. You’ve seen what we’re capable of. You still think there is such a thing an inevitability? Well, you shouldn’t. Only the weak and the easily frightened thinks something cannot be overcome. The Syrosk I know is neither of those things. And by the way, you think you’re the only the one with visions? You think you’re the only one whose seen his own death? Well, you’re not!”

Lorrik’s speech was cut short as a sharp pain formed in the pit of his stomach. The Human fell to his knee, clutching at his gut as his companion rushed over to steady him. The inquisitor slowly raised himself back up as the Pureblood grasped his shoulders.

“You’re speaking of this affliction?” Syrosk asked.

“No,” Lorrik softly answered as Jresh led him back to his bed. “Although, in retrospect, I should have foreseen this consequence… I had no prior knowledge of the events that would surround it.” Lorrik took his seat on the edge of the bed, the internal pain slowly subsiding. After a few deep breaths, he had returned to normal. “No, I saw my end in one of the tombs, in the Valley of Forgotten Lords. The vision I received came to me before you had even sent us into the wastes. It showed a monstrous being effortlessly snapping my neck inside of a tomb, the very same creature we would encounter the day you sent us to plunder those tombs. And the moment I realized I now stood face to face with my demise, I was afraid. Utterly, utterly afraid. Because in that instant, I thought believing in myself meant believing my vision had to be true. But I could not accept that fate, not as long as I knew there was work to be done, so long as I knew there were people who thought my life worth preserving. It was because of that encounter that I realized the importance of the bond between Jresh and myself. Whatever ‘fates’ we possessed as individuals no longer exist. Why can’t you see that same applies to you.”

Syrosk’s eyes drifted to the floor. “In my attempts to avoid my master’s mistakes… I’ve been unable to avoid making new ones. While I believed my fate to be sealed, I thought you all could be free of Tash’s schemes. It would seem I merely placed you within one of my own. I thought I was preparing you for the day you would succeed me, as is a masters’ duty. I thought I could do it in a way that was above the other petty Sith nonsense. In the end, my attempts were… misguided. It turns out the realms of guidance and manipulation have some overlap.”

“It’s time to forget about the past, and focus on the future. The REAL future,” Lorrik declared.

“I agree, the question is, where do we go from here?” Syrosk asked.

“We train. As we always have,” Lorrik answered.

“I meant about Tash, about Thorel,” Syrosk clarified. “As we speak, he’s likely conversing with the other apprentices. They’ll want answers.”

“And they’ll get them. They deserve that much,” Lorrik declared. “Vai will say his piece, check up on Tash’s holdings, and report back to his master. Nothing we can do to stop it. We’ll just pick up training once he leaves Korriban.”

“Assuming none of the other apprentices leave with him,” Syrosk stated.

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Lorrik replied, cracking a smile.

“Really? You seemed quite enamored with him. He rescued you and the others from their past lives. I cannot deny that his words carry much weight.”

“True, their source is credible, but the words themselves speak for his master, not Vai himself. Regardless of your part in events recent or long since passed, our years in his classrooms have not left a good impression of Tash. You see, now we know the real you. We cannot say the same about him. And that is why we will never join him. But that is also why we will not blindly oppose him. But you two possess a bond. An imperfect bond, but a bond nonetheless. You two are connected, and while I don’t believe in inevitability, I do know that we will be forced to deal with him so long as we remain your students. You want to know where we go from here? We’re going to have to find out who the real Tash is. Not the one you despise. Not the one his students revere. Not the one his underlings fear. The real Tash. And there’s only one person who can tell us who that is.”

“And it’s not his apprentice,” Syrosk offered, his hand lightly scratching his chin. “The man will not willing reveal his intensions.”

“Since when have Sith cared about willingness?” Lorrik joked. “Everyone has a breaking point. We’ll provoke him, make him angry, do everything Vai did to loosen your tongue. We'll see him for who he truly is. Then, and only then, will we choose to oppose him.”

“I doubt he’ll grace us with his presence anytime soon,” Syrosk rasped.

“Then we’ll simply have to judge him by how he reacts… when he starts slowly losing control of his Academy,” Lorrik declared. Steadily, the Human lifted himself from his seat on the edge of the bed. “The next time we meet, you tell your apprentices everything. The history. The visions. The truth. All of it. I told the others a while ago that I’d get some answers out of you. I’d like to remain a man of my word. Until then, I’ll be getting some needed rest in a room with actual amenities.”

The inquisitor made his way toward the room’s exit, Jresh following shortly after. As much injury as their bodies had sustained, in that moment, there was no evidence of the fact. The two apprentices were utterly confident, uncompromised figures. As the pair silently made their exit, the Pureblood stopped to shoot one final glance to his master. The two shared a brief exchange of stoicism, each sharpening their eyes as they gazed into one another’s. The warrior felt compelled to remain silent for the entire exchange, and felt no reason to compromise that silence now.

Lorrik and Jresh left their master to his own devices, heading back to their home. To recover from what had transpired. To prepare for what was to come.

Adwynyth's Avatar


Adwynyth
05.27.2013 , 09:40 AM | #129
SQUEE
Horrendously bad fan fiction: Sith in a Pretty Dress

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
06.13.2013 , 12:16 AM | #130
Chapter Thirteen: Lessons

As the Human and Pureblood walked the halls of the Academy they were met with little traffic, and much silence. Silence that would be broken by their hushed whispers.

“Lorrik, is everything okay?” Jresh asked.

The Human let out a soft chuckle. “When has everything ever been okay?” Lorrik muttered. The inquisitor looked to his companion before letting out a soft sigh. “I’m sorry. Yeah, everything’s fine. My insides are still a little jumbled, just need a little time to fully recuperate.”

“As nice as that is to hear, I was concerned with more than just your physicality,” Jresh added.

“Me? What about you? You were pretty quiet in there,” Lorrik replied.

“Considering the conversation you had with our master, it seemed the smart choice,” Jresh admitted.

“You don’t seem too upset by the recent turn of events,” Lorrik stated.

“I guess my time here has desensitized me to such revelations,” Jresh declared. “We always believed Syrosk to be withholding information. We always believed there to be deeper motivations driving the actions of our superiors. All we’ve learned is that Syrosk is no longer the only person who sees the value of our strength.”

“Just because a Sith finds value in something, doesn’t mean he won’t exploit it,” Lorrik explained.

“And you believe Tash means to exploit us?”

“Us. The other students. Even his own apprentice,” Lorrik offered. “There is a… genuineness to Vai, unlike any other Sith I have ever met. Every word he speaks is without malice, without venom, without falsehoods. I mean, we both know someone can mask their truest intentions, but Vai reads like an open book. A man with nothing to hide, nothing to prove. Honest and kind to a fault.”

“See bits of yourself in him?”

“Actually, yes,” Lorrik admitted. “I mean, he was the first Sith I had ever met, and he left a lasting impression. The first few years of the Academy, the instructors tried to reinforce the ideas of what it meant to be Sith. But I knew that strength was not reliant on selfishness and cruelty, because of him.”

“And yet, you do not take him at his word about Tash. If the man is as honest as you say, why not believe what he says about his master.”

“Because, not all falsehoods are lies,” Lorrik explained. “I believe that he believes every words he says.”

“And what do you truly believe about Tash?”

“Nothing. And that is deeply disconcerting,” Lorrik declared. “Over time, I’ve come to know you, you’ve come to know me. We both know the other students, our master, even those who themselves work under Tash. But with each new detail, each new piece of insight, how much do we learn about Tash? He is loved, he is hated, he is trusted, he is feared. He is everywhere, he is nowhere. He knows everything, he knows nothing. He has made it so that the only person who can truly give us answers, is the man himself, and if it weren’t for Syrosk or Vai, we wouldn’t even have confirmation of his existence.”

“Perhaps he doesn’t exist, and this is just some sort of running joke.”

“It’s not as ridiculous as you might think,” Lorrik stated. “There is strength in non-existence. The ability to act without repercussion. Power sourced from belief and credulity. The man has chosen his enemies carefully. The only one to speak against him is a lone Sith Lord of alien blood. No one else has any reason to.”

“I’d say our tenure in the classrooms is reason enough,” Jresh declared.

“Is it? I mean, if anything he kept us alive. I’m not sure I would have survived the Academy proper, and I certainly wouldn’t have survived if I had never been picked up from my home planet,” Lorrik stated. “But had he and Syrosk never split, would any of that be the same? Everything that he has done has been neither good nor bad, simply different. So that’s why I ask, what is it that he truly desires? We don’t know. Syrosk doesn’t know. His underlings don’t know. We have no reason to help him or hinder him, and yet our paths continually align regardless of our attempts to steer clear. And quite frankly, I’m tired of it. So we’re going to push him, until he reveals his true self.”

“A man doesn’t go pushing around Darths to satisfy mere curiosity,” Jresh replied.

“This is about more than just getting some answers, this is about finally earning my freedom,” Lorrik declared. “All the strength, all the knowledge we possess is worthless if we cannot escape the workings of our superiors, and I do not take Tash for a man to let things slip from his grasp. The man embodies control… the very thing we seek to liberate ourselves from…”

“How can you be sure of this?”

“I can't. But I have reason for my suspicions. In my talk with Syrosk I… wasn’t the most forthcoming,” Lorrik hesitantly admitted.

“Really? I thought you to be rather direct,” Jresh stated.

“Direct, yes, but I left out one particular bit of information in our talk of visions,” Lorrik revealed. “I had another one, whilst on the brink of death. Between my collapse during the duel and my awakening, I was almost suffocated by darkness. The days I was out passed in a matter of moments, but I saw a glimpse of the future. An aged Human, standing amidst a scene of death and destruction. A Sith I’d not laid eyes on before. But it felt real. Realer than anything I felt before.”

“You believe this figure to be Tash,” Jresh questioned.

“I believe there to be a chance,” Lorrik answered. “But unlike Syrosk, I don’t intend to let such visions control me, to dictate my fate.”

“Neither do you intend to totally ignore them.”

“We survived the encounter with the entombed Massassi, but only barely,” Lorrik admitted. “I believe we can change the future, but I do not believe it to be a simple task.”

“But that is assuming the future you’ve seen is worth changing,” Jresh replied. “You’ve no proof of the man in your vision’s identity. You’ve no context to the death that surrounds him. They could allies or enemies. So long as you call yourself Sith, you will see death. More than you might care to.”

“I know. And I know that Syrosk’s mistake was his failure to contextualize and interpret his vision,” Lorrik admitted. “Which is why our current course of action is to figure out the truth, once and for all. The only way this conflict can truly end is with the revelation of the involved parties’ true selves. Then, and only then, will we know how to achieve true freedom.”

“And which ‘true selves’ would you consider to have been revealed thus far?” Jresh asked

“We and the other apprentices pretty much have each other figured out,” Lorrik suggested. “And Syrosk… Syrosk I feel will divulge such information himself.”

“And what of Tash’s apprentice,” Jresh inquired. “Do you have full confidence in your assessment of him.”

“I do,” Lorrik bluntly stated.

“Then that just leaves Tash himself.”

“Well, Tash, his instructors, miscellaneous Academy staff, Academy personnel outside Tash’s realm of influence, and just about every other Imperial and or Sith on Korriban,” Lorrik jokingly listed. “But all things in time.”

“Speaking of time, you need to spend yours recovering,” Jresh advised. “All the visions and careful planning in the world can’t help you if your body remains in its current state.”

“Well, that’s debatable, but I understand your point,” Lorrik said with a smile. “A couple days of meditation and healing, and all my insides should be in their proper place.”

“What about your hand?” Jresh asked, a sliver of concern slipping through in his voice.

“Ah yes, the arm,” Lorrik muttered, looking at his cracked and blackened palm. “I’m afraid that may be beyond healing… which means the same for your leg, I’m afraid. But don’t worry, I’m sure there’s an answer somewhere. I’ll find a technique that’s able to-”

Jresh raised a comforting hand. “Don’t worry yourself, Lorrik. All things in time.”

Lorrik felt lifted by his companion’s resolve. “The famed resilience of Jresh Takuul. Which will likely come in handy, considering you might be facing the other apprentices alone while I recover.”

“Assuming they all decide to continue their training under Syrosk.”

“I have a feeling they’ll not be going anywhere.”

“I’d not underestimate their willingness to sever ties with Syrosk,” Jresh declared.

“I’d not overestimate it either,” Lorrik replied. “We all believe in Syrosk. We may find faults in some of his methods, his behaviors, his ideas, but we respect the man himself. And after today, that’s who we finally get to interact with. Since the earliest days of our training, we believed in him, and he believed in us, despite either side’s protests to that fact. Through his lessons we learned to believe in ourselves. It’s time we teach him to believe in himself. In the end, we all become stronger.”

“So that was the purpose of your speech? To boost a Sith Lord’s confidence?” Jresh asked.

Lorrik offered a reserved laugh. “In plainest term, I suppose so. It’s a student’s duty to ensure their master’s competence.”

As the two apprentices neared their home's entrance, Jresh hastily moved to open the door for his weakened companion. The inquisitor offered an appreciative chuckle to his gallant partner before entering the apartment. The serene living quarters that greeted him were a sight for sore eyes, offering a place of comfort to recover.

“I kept your lightsaber safe inside your desk,” Jresh explained.

“That’s good to hear,” Lorrik said as he headed into the kitchen. “I was afraid it had been left out on the cliff.

“Syrosk picked it up alongside your unconscious body when he carried you back to the Academy.

The inquisitor replied with a silent nod of his head as he reached for the conservator handle. “See? I knew he cared. Hopefully the others will come around to-waah!” Lorrik elicited a harsh shriek as he jumped at the sight of the container’s frigid contents. Upon the center shelf rested the severed black hand of the Massassi. “Why is that in there?”

“You were in a coma, and I didn’t know what to do with it,” Jresh bluntly admitted. “I made sure it didn’t touch anything, so to speak, not that we have much in the way of food in there anyway.”

Retrieving the chilled paw, Lorrik grasped ahold of it with his right hand, miming a mock handshake. Aside from the slight coldness permeating through his numbed hand, the beast’s limb had not changed since the Human last laid eyes on it. Turning it over, the inquisitor remarked, “You know, for an abhorrent piece of corrupted flesh, I must commend the craftsmanship of the outer material. I wonder if it has to be fused to the subject’s skin, or if it could work as a coating…”

“I’d advise caution if you plan on delving into that holocron again,” Jresh said from across the room. “Your first attempt didn’t exactly leave a good impression.”

Looking into the living area, Lorrik saw the pyramid-shaped artifact resting atop his desk where he had left it. “Don’t worry. My inquisitiveness has its limits. I know better than to put either of us in danger again.”

“We’re Sith. Putting ourselves in danger is part of our craft,” Jresh admitted. “What’s important is knowing how to get out of it.”

“The famed wisdom of Jresh Takuul,” Lorrik offered, tossing the severed hand back into the conservator and shutting the door. “When is restock day?”

“Tomorrow,” Jresh answered.

“Ah. Hey, if I was unconscious this week, where did all our supplies go? You weren’t stress easting were you?” Lorrik jokingly asked.

“Remember last week? When you went through our weekly stock early and asked for this week’s supplies in advance?”

“Maybe.”

“And you remember how you went through most of those trying out your new ‘recipes’?”

“Oh, yeah… hey, I was technically momentarily dead, you can cut me some slack in the memory department.” The inquisitor saw his companion looking back at him, struggling to maintain his stoic visage. “I’m sorry. Probably not the best topic to joke about.”

“It’s okay,” Jresh stated. “I’m just happy to see you back to your old self. Now I just have to wait for your body to recover. Regardless of the outcome with Syrosk and the other apprentices, the trials to come will require bodies and minds be at their peak.”

“Yeah, only now that’s true for Syrosk as well,” Lorrik said. “He’s been training us under the assumption that we’ll succeed him after his inevitable death, which while technically falling in line with traditional Sith doctrine, has been misguided.”

“But not anymore, right? It’s not enough for the eight of us to become stronger, he must as well.”

Lorrik made his way across the living area and toward his bedroom. “Yup. I’d say it’s time we became the teachers.”

----------

“It’s time you became the teachers,” Syrosk rasped.

Upon the cliff top, Syrosk stood under the early morning sun across from his apprentices. All eight of them. The day following the arrival of Vai Thorel, the eight students had heard the words of their master weighed against that of Tash’s apprentice, and subsequently chosen their place. A place upon which they stood adamantly amongst the swirling machinations of competing Sith Lords, confident in their renewed self-worth. However, even the most grizzled countenance faltered at their master’s peculiar suggestion.

“You all have come far in the past months, further than I had ever expected,” Syrosk continued. “Your bodies, minds, and spirits have shown progress unbefitting the lowly acolytes the other denizens of Korriban would see you as. Potential yet remains within you all, ready to be unlocked, but that will have to wait for another day. A unique set of circumstances has allowed for the orchestration of your next trial. Today, you all will be teachers, instructors, masters. Vai Thorel has not yet left Korriban. In fact, today he meets with those who teach Tash’s classrooms. Outside of said classrooms, of course. The students have the day off, to leisure about the lower halls of the Academy as you all were once accustomed to. However, should the students be convinced to attend class, they would find themselves in need of a substitute.”

“Wait a minute, you want us to take over the old classrooms for a day?” Arlia asked with disbelief.

“Yes,” Syrosk rasped. “However, I would like you to address the others students with your partners, so you will only be meeting with four of the classrooms. But with time, whatever impact you have today will spread by the actions and words of those you have addressed. I have taught you. You will teach them. And they will teach others.”

“What exactly are we supposed to teach them?” Kar’ai asked.

“That is for you to decide,” Syrosk answered. “Force them to worship the group you walk on. Tell them to love or hate me or Tash. Do nothing but stare at them for an hour, I honestly don’t care.”

“Then why make us do it?” Isorr asked.

“One, it shows Tash that his domain is not indomitable nor untouchable,” Syrosk replied. “Tash regardless of his wants and desires has looked upon the Academy from afar for too long. If he wants to operate on Korriban, he’ll have to do so through means other than proxy by way of apprentice. And two, wisdom cannot be taught, it must be earned. It can however, be earned by teaching. And three, it gives me the day to attend to other Academy business.”

“This isn’t another one of those, ‘hide us away while you deal with something important’ kinds of business is it?” Lorrik asked.

“If I desired to hide you, I would not do so in the heart of the Academy,” Syrosk rasped.

“Technically, I think the old classrooms are closer to its bowels than its heart, but point taken,” Lorrik joked.

Arlia offered an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “Oh, is your class in for a treat.”

“Do we get to pick the classes, or are they predetermined?” Ryloh spoke up.

“You and your partner will be teaching Kar’ai’s former classroom,” Syrosk began. “Isorr will teach his former class with Arlia. Lorrik will teach his former class with Jresh. Vurt will teach his former class with Nesk. Any questions?”

“Yeah, if our trial is in the Academy classrooms, why did we meet out here?”

“I’m a creature of habit,” Syrosk offered, completely deadpan. “You’re all dismissed.”

The eights students of Lord Syrosk left their master alone on the Korriban peak as they began their bemused trek back to the Academy. They had been given a time, a place, and a task. However, only two of those three had been adequately defined. The apprentices would be returning to the very classrooms they left behind many months ago.

Traversing the path back to the Academy, none of the students had a solid plan of action. Whereas in the past, even though each new trial proved a surprise, the first and last goal was survival. No longer was that the case. The apprentices had surpassed the point in which each and every day was a life threatening experience. They had conquered the harshest wastes of Korriban. They had proven themselves capable of going toe to toe with a Sith Lord in full combat. They had pushed their bodies, minds, and spirits past their believed limits. And now, they found themselves stalled by the simple task of giving a lecture.

But as most of the students focused on the task ahead, one still found his thoughts thoroughly embedded in the present. As the eight apprentices walked together under the Korriban sun, Lorrik passed his warm gaze from student to student. Only now was it setting in that the other six stood by his side. With bright eyes, the Human held his head high as he approached the distant Academy.

“Let me guess, surprised we all decided to stay?” Arlia teased, picking up on her fellow inquisitor’s mindset.

“As much as I’d like to say no…” Lorrik admitted.

“Well, we were given the same opportunity when we came back from the wastes,” Ryloh reminded. “Stay with Syrosk, or completely sever our ties. We chose Syrosk then. We choice Syrosk this time.”

“Yeah, but last time, it was deciding between Syrosk and an entirely new life,” Lorrik said. “This time around, it was a choice between two paths. Paths that proceed toward the same destination. Paths that will inevitably cross one another.”

“We stuck with what we knew,” Isorr declared.

“More like we stuck with what we knew you would do,” Arlia corrected. “Then again, from what Syrosk told us, you and Jresh were sticking by his side before we even knew that there was a choice to be made.”

“Yeah, you were the first to decide, so I guess we just went along with you,” Kar’ai added.

“Wow,” Lorrik muttered, genuinely astonished. “I didn’t think we’d have that much of an influence.”

“Before you let it go to your head, you should know that we just didn’t feel like splitting up the group,” Arlia admitted. “Vai said we could continue our apprenticeship under Tash, pick up right where we left off. Promised us a place alongside a master with actual stature in the Empire. All in all, it sounded like a pretty good deal.”

“And you know what they say about Sith Lords offering good deals,” Isorr added.

“What?” Ryloh asked.

“Nothing. Because they don’t exist,” Isorr declared.

“In the end, things probably wouldn’t be that different if we joined Tash,” Arlia stated. “We’d be given trials. We’d become stronger. We’d be kept in the dark regarding our master's deeper intentions. Same old stuff. But if we split up, it would only be a matter of time before we would be forced to kill one another, and we thought it prudent to avoid that.”

“Aw, it’s always nice to hear that you care, Arlia,” Lorrik joked.

“I wouldn’t mind the killing. And in your current state it would really only be Jresh we’d have to worry about,” Arlia admitted. “It’s just that I’d rather not eliminate someone of relatively equal standing at the word the man who waited this long to consider us worthy of his attention. Say what you will about Syrosk, but he’s one of the few people who genuinely couldn’t care less about our species or background.”

“It doesn’t matter who we serve, we’ll likely never escape the scrutiny afforded to us by our blood,” Kar’ai offered. “Our master could sit on the Dark Council and it wouldn’t free us from the burden of prejudice. In the end, Tash couldn’t offer us anything we couldn’t earn ourselves. He certainly couldn’t offer us anything worth splitting up the eight of us. And since you stayed with Syrosk, we stayed as well.”

Lorrik absorbed the words of his fellow apprentices. He realized that they all had broken free of the institutions the Academy had tried to drill into them from the earliest of ages. The reverence of their elders. The student blindly following the master. They stood as independents. Even as they forged bonds with one another, even as they owed their current status to Syrosk, they were freer than most who called Korriban home. They had been awakened to the truth of Darths and Sith Lords, and chosen to believe in the self, rather than aggrandize the influence of their superiors.

Together, the eight apprentices entered the halls of the Academy. Together, they traversed its many corridors, moving deeper and deeper into the belly of the institution. The time in which the four classes would convene was fast approaching. The four pairs offered their goodbyes and put on a brave face for the unknowns that awaited them.